Alice? Who the…

Meet Alice:

 

She’s Lola’s new companion – hopefully. I had a horrible moment this morning when I went to feed Lola and there was no movement in her hutch. I gently tapped her little house and there was no response. I told everyone she’d died as well, including the girls. R and G didn’t believe me so I took them out to show them the lack of activity in Lola’s house. At that moment, a black twitchy nose appeared and Lola scampered over to munch some hay. Relief!

Anyway, one of the signs of guinea pig depression is lethargy and Lola is definitely suffering from that, although she is still eating well. Dh and the girls bought Alice (named, according to G, after Alice the camel who lives in wonderland) home this afternoon and she’s in the indoor cage for now while she gets used to us. Dh told the girls to be quiet, so they decided to dress up in pseudo-Halloween costumes and ran around the house howling like ghosts at the tops of their voices.

We’re going to introduce Alice and Lola to each other slowly, as they may fight to start with. Hopefully things will work out and Lola will start to feel a bit happier.

Sleepover

Another rite of passage for R and G: they had their first sleepover on Saturday night. Dh and I had been invited to a wedding and while family children were invited, friends’ children weren’t. We asked one of the girls’ friends’ parents if they could possibly…and amazingly they offered to help us out.

I waited for them to regret their rashness and claim a prior engagement but they were dead set on having the girls over. R and G were whisked away after ballet on Saturday morning. I must have looked slightly tragic when they left as my friend sent me a text to reassure me that the girls had arrived safety and I was to go and have a wonderful time.

Dh and I took them at their word. The wedding was wonderful and it was great for us to catch up with old friends (Dh’s really but I’m the longest standing WAG so it’s nice for me to see them too) and spend some time together without the girls. I haven’t been drinking since my health scares earlier in the year but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a glass or two of fizz and there were – thankfully – no after-effects. I made an absolute show of myself on the dance floor and barely left it all evening. It’s nice to let your hair down once in a while. Dh and I went to bed at the thoroughly dirty stop out time of 2am and woke just after 8am, so it wasn’t exactly restful but it was great fun.

On Sunday lunchtime we went to collect the girls in fear and trepidation. Had they slept? Had they wet their beds? Had the parents run away to Peru in horror? After a few false starts and a couple of logistical bed moves they slept well. They woke once in the night to tell our friends that their daughter was crying (she’s a sleep talker) and their beds were both dry in the morning.

I predicted that R might go a little wobbly at bedtime, but she was absolutely fine (and was described as an angel) and G had a little quiet moment on Saturday afternoon but claimed she was sad because someone was blocking her view of the TV.

We were greeted with excited squeals. G came to me first and R went to Dh. R was more reluctant to give me a hug but when she thought dh’s back was turned she gave me such a tight hug that I swear I stopped breathing for a second.

Whenever I go away for a day or two I find chat I’m fine during the event for which I’m actually away, but the moment it’s over I have to get home. The invisible thread develops a stronger pull. I like having a bit of freedom but I like balancing it with the responsibility of having children.

We have told our friends that we owe them a night away. Someone joked (I think…) that for every night we give the girls to someone, they should get two nights from us in return. It’s easier for us to host sleepovers (in theory – we haven’t actually done it yet) because going from 2 to 3 children doesn’t feel like much of a stretch. For them, going from 1 to 3 children must be more of a challenge.

Now I realise we missed a trick by not nominating any of our friends to be godparents. One of the main functions of godparents is to host sleepovers, right? Is it too late to nominate a few people? 😉

The end of 46 Days 2012

46 days ago I wrote this:

“Expect missives about education, pre-school, primary school, phonics (theme developing already), book groups, parties, 4 year old wobblers, dressing up, reading, twin-ness and the fact that I’ve changed my name to Penny and Dh is now called Elvis…I’ll still be doing the One Born… liveblogs and might resurrect the Friday Photo, plus anything that pops into my brain over the next month and a half”

Here’s what happened, in numbers:

1 new book group set up

1 whinge about nursery

1 massive night out with the nursery mums

1 trip to the Zoo

1 trip in an ambulance to A&E

2 nights without Dh while he attended a stag do

2 book groups attended

2 triplet incidents

5Fourth birthday parties attended

5 days of rest

6 One Born Every Minute liveblogs

6 ballet & tap parent coffee mornings hosted

7 Friday photo posts

Numerous whinges

Numerous ‘I’m so lucky’ posts

46 blog posts written and posted

I definitely got back into the swing of blogging and didn’t find it a chore to do. I recorded lots of things in the last six weeks that I wouldn’t have done normally as I ‘had’ to find something to write about every day. Luckily R and G provide me with plenty of ‘fodder’ as do the general ups and downs of family life. It’s not been the best time for me health-wise (as well as my A&E dramas in March I’ve been ill for the last 24 hours) and I hate anything that interferes with my family life or my work life. I don’t have time to be ill! I bemoaned the many moods of R and G but I think that..maybe…just maybe they’re settling down a bit. I may be proved wrong on that!

I don’t know much (if any) chocolate I’ll feel up to eating tomorrow – I’ll make up for it at some point – but I’ll celebrate writing 46 posts in as many days in some small way.

Next for us is Primary School admissions day on the 18th April and I need to get myself better for the Summer.

Roots

When I was but a callow youth I started researching my family’s history. It was a natural extension of my interest in 19th century British history at the time (and may explain why I had no friends). When exams and coursework took over my life my Mum took up the search and 12 or so years later she’s now a fully paid-up member of the Ancestry brigade. She’s managed to trace one line back to 1684 – my 7th Great-Grandfather and is currently working on six other branches of the family simultaneously.

I love looking not only at the dates and names, but also the stories of my ancestors, especially the women. I’m going to focus on two particular female relatives in this post:

Annie Harriet Humphreys

Annie is my great-grandmother (my Mum’s Mum’s Mum) and she was born in 1887 in Aldgate, London into a working-class family. At the age of 15 she attended the School of Domestic Economy which was part of the Sir John Cass Technical Institute (now part of London Metropolitan University). After completing her cookery course she worked first as a kitchen maid and then as a cook for the Cement Marketing Company. She lived in Peabody Buildings in Whitechapel, which was a housing complex for the ‘aspiring’ working classes who had a respectable trade.

Annie worked as a cook until she married my Great Grandfather, William Hanson, in 1921. Annie was 34 when she married William. William was 21. However, to make the age gap slightly less obvious she knocked two years off her age and he added two years on so their marriage certificate records them as being 32 and 23 respectively.

Annie and William had five children (three boys, two girls), the eldest of whom is my grandmother. Annie outlived William by four years. He died in 1976 at the age of 77. Annie died in 1980 at the age of 92, a month after I was born.

I love Annie for three reasons:

  1. She got herself an education and a career
  2. She married a man 13 years her junior
  3. She lived into her 90s.

G’s middle name is Harriet to honour her (frankly awesome) Great-Great Grandmother.

Hannah Blowman

Hannah is my 3rd Great Grandmother on my Dad’s side of the family. She was born in 1819 in Yorkshire and married by 3rd Great Grandfather, Francis Dry when she was 18. Francis was a Draper by trade and there is evidence that Hannah was also involved in the family drapers’ business, travelling with her husband to London and back to Yorkshire at regular intervals.

Francis and Hannah had 17 children (9 girls and 8 boys), starting their family with Margaret in 1838 and ending with Louisa in 1864. Seven of the children died before their 4th birthday, three of whom died when they were a year old. However, most of the others lived long lives: several lived into their nineties. Hannah had her first child when she was 19 and her last when she was 45. Bearing (and losing) so many children didn’t seem to adversely affect her health. Hannah died in 1911 at the age of 92.

Having large families was fairly typical of the time and so was losing children in infancy. Hannah and Francis started re-using names after a while. The first Charlotte Dry was born in 1843 and died in 1846. The second Charlotte was born in 1848 and died in 1851. The same fate befell two George’s and two John’s.

Hannah outlived Francis by 29 years and he left her and his two sons that followed him into the family business a significant sum of money in his will, which would have made them extremely comfortable.

Hannah’s life amazes me because:

  1. She popped out 17 children over a significant period of time
  2. She was involved in the family business
  3. She lived into her 90s

Hannah and Annie aren’t isolated cases either. My family is littered with strong, independent, feisty women and there are stories worth telling in every branch of every tree. We have always been extremely pro-girls in my family, helped in no small part by the fact that my parents had two daughters and I have in turn produced two girls. I think it is incredibly important to remember the amazing women that came before and paved the way for the life we enjoy now.

At some point in the future I’ll be telling R and G the stories of their ancestors and I hope that they are as proud of their family as I am.

Mothering Sunday

Dh-less this weekend, I didn’t get a lie in (unless 7.15am counts as one) and I cooked a Sunday roast for my Mum and Dad who came down for the day.

R and G followed Dh’s strict instructions to the letter and located the gifts and cards that had been squirrelled away for me. I got a lovely new bathrobe and this:

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I’ll be requesting my lie-in next weekend.

Hubster on the Loose

Dh is going to The North for a stag do tomorrow. For three days. The last time he went on a stag weekend (to Barce-fricking-LONA!) the girls were four months old and ill. I sent him off with my blessing and cursed him loudly on his return.

Four years on…R and G aren’t ill (yet), I’m significantly less sleep-deprived (and mental) that I was back then and I’ve called in reinforcements. The girls and I have plans on Saturday (fingers crossed) and Sunday (pretty much nailed on) and as I have the car for the weekend I’ll probably take them out tomorrow afternoon to get Mother’s Day bits and pieces.

Dh forwarded me the itinerary for the weekend and it is, frankly, terrifying. It’s also extremely organised: travel, drink, eat, drink, sleep, eat, go kart, drink, eat, drink, sleep, eat, travel, DIE. I’ll expect an extremely sleep-deprived, smelly and hungover husk of a husband back on Sunday evening and will immediately let the children loose on him.

I suspect that the girls will be a bit grumpy when he departs tomorrow afternoon and R might have moments of sadness throughout the weekend (she has a tendency to go quiet for a bit, snuggle up to me and whisper ‘I miss Daddy’ when he’s not here) but G is more accepting of change so I think she’ll be ok.  Hopefully keeping them (and me) nice and busy all weekend will help.

Ducks and kites

Dh bought a kite for the girls so we thought we would head over to ‘Da Heath’ try it out. We also took some bread with us to feed the local ducks.

It was a glorious afternoon – weather-wise at least.Best laid plans and all that…

R and G lobbed some bits of bread at the ducks and they promptly ingored it. I suspect they are more used to artisan loaves and croissants and were turning up their bills at our slightly stale supermarket-bought Hovis.The girls gave up on them and started nibbling the bread themselves.

Da Heath is ALWAYS windy…except today when it was as still as I’ve ever seen it. A few other people were trying to launch kites with limited success. With grim determination, Dh unravelled the string and told me to hoick the kite upwards. I did as instructed and the kite whirled around at waist-height for a few seconds before tumbling pathetically to the ground.

People stuck in the traffic jam adjacent to the grass gawped at Dh and I as we took it in turns to hold the string and flick the kite into the air with absolutely zero success. We were probably good value for passers-by as we were in full ‘Well, if you’re so good why don’t YOU try and fly it?’ mode.

The girls got tangled up in the string and tail of the kite a few times and Dh started to get cross. They (wisely) distanced themselves from their parents and took it in turns to be the bear in their ongoing re-enactment of ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’. Dh eventually conceded defeat (and we wonder where R gets her competitve streak from…) and we took the kite home.

Dh has told the girls that he wants to take the kite out again during the week. I’m very glad that I’ll be at work…

Bon Voyage Aunty J

My fabulous sister is travelling to Sri Lanka this evening and will be spending a month there travelling around and watching the first two England v Sri Lanka tests with the rest of the nutters supporters that follow the England cricket team around the world.

It was her birthday in the week so she booked lunch for 7 of us (Dh was working) today at a pub (The Belgian Arms) in deepest, darkest Berkshire. Despite my grumbling at having to chauffeur two slightly grumpy post-ballet 4 year olds around the M25 on a Saturday morning on my own, the trip was totally worth it. The food was amazing, the staff were really helpful and everyone was amazingly tolerant of the girls as they hooted with laughter at J’s antics.

J has a habit of ending up on television when they broadcast cricket from far-flung places (particularly when she joins in with belting out the National Anthem pre-game) and this time she and a friend have constructed a massive banner to make themselves just a little bit more recognisable.

She was in Australia for the Ashes a year or so ago and was occasionally able to Skype. She’s not taking her laptop this time so won’t be able to get in contact with us quite as easily, although she does keep in contact with her long-suffering boyfriend (who doesn’t travel with her) and our parents via text message and brief phone calls.

The girls don’t quite ‘get’ what travelling abroad really means. They’re fascinated by aeroplanes but haven’t been in one yet because we’re not brave enough . It’s something we’re saving for when they’re older and can amuse themselves with a DS or iPod.

It was lovely to see J before she went. The girls completely adore her so she had better come back in one piece…

Life is what happens to you…

…while you’re busy making other plans*.

We had no firm plans for today. Dh had mentioned vaguely last night that we should go to the park and it was a good choice because as I ran around it at 7am (I know! Running! Me! I’m surprised at myself) it was apparent that it was going to be a lovely day. As we were getting ready to go out Dh and I discussed what we would do for lunch (our lives basically revolve around meals) and decided that we would go out somewhere after we’d let the girls loose in the playground for an hour or two.

The playground was already heaving with people at 11am, all making the most of the first truly bright and warm day of the year. The girls sat on adjacent swings and suddenly shouted across as they spied one of their friends from nursery trotting into the park with his Mum. We said hellos and chatted briefly before going our separate ways.

We’re lucky to be blessed with lots of places to eat in the area and we happened to choose the museum café today. As we were munching our lunch the same little boy (J) we’d spotted earlier appeared with his Dad. J squeezed himself onto the bench that R and G were sitting on and promptly made himself at home. It was clear that J didn’t want to join his Mum who was sitting outside having five minutes peace while her family fetched her lunch so I said they were welcome to join us. We ended up having lunch with J and his parents and the three children ran riot (almost) around the museum afterwards while us parents chatted and acted as unofficial crowd control.

After an hour or two we parted ways and were just leaving the park when we bumped into another family we know from nursery. They were on their way to meet up with some friends so we chatted for a couple of minutes and parted with an invitation from us to come over for a playdate in a couple of weeks.

R and G were a little fractious by this stage and were getting antsy about the bus ride and walk home so in a moment of ‘Let’s do the show right here’ parenting, I mentioned that we should really return the hair slide that their ballet friend C left at their house after a playdate a few weeks ago. C was very sad to lose the slide because it was a present from her beloved Granny, so we were very pleased when G located it during a tidying up session.

I thought that C and her parents wouldn’t be at home when we knocked on the door but they duly answered and ushered us in. I said we wouldn’t invade and would only stay for a few minutes but they offered Dh a beer and a chance to watch the rugby and then they invited us to stay for tea…which was a full Sunday roast. I protested that we should leave them to enjoy their family Sunday for…ooh…about five seconds before they told me to shut up and peel some potatoes. We all mucked in with the chopping and peeling and the girls helped to make apple and rhubarb crumble. The three girls had a wonderful time and we finally left their house at 7.30pm after rocking up on spec at 3pm to drop a small item off.

As we walked home, I turned to Dh who was carrying a very droopy R and said ‘I love our life’. It sounds terribly smug but I think we’re very lucky to live in a nice area and to have built up a network of friends that we can bump into randomly and have a really nice time with. Living in London, I didn’t ever think I’d get to a point where I could turn up on someone’s doorstep and be invited in for the afternoon. I’m used to making dates and plans with people and it’s so nice that we’re now in a position to drop in and out without anyone raising an eyebrow. I still get a bit jumpy if someone knocks on the door and I’m not expecting anyone, but I’m learning to live with the fact that it might just be someone who’s passing and wants to say hello.

I still think of myself as the gawky, uber geeky, quiet as a mouse teenager with no friends and no life and occasionally sit back and marvel at how far I’ve come. Yes, I’m still a total geek but I’m an awful lot louder these days. It’s yet another thing I’m grateful to R and G for. They have finally given me (and Dh) a happy, friendly, sociable life that I previously could scarcely have dreamed of.

*from Beautiful Boy by John Lennon

Precious memories

R and G took part in their nativity at Christmas. I lost count of the number of people in the run up to the big day that asked me if we were allowed to photograph and film the play. It didn’t occur to me at any point that we wouldn’t be able to and I was proved right. Every single parent had their camera or phone out (in our case Dh had the video camera and I had the camera) and there were so many flashes that it was like a film premiere.

At the unofficial after-party one of the parents got out her laptop and we gathered round it to ooh and aah at our children. When we got home Dh put our video onto his computer and uploaded it to YouTube but made it a private video so that we could send the link to family and friends but no-one else could see it otherwise. I put the photos up on my (locked down) Facebook account, to be viewed by my friends only and I haven’t put any on HoT. I imagine that most of the other parents have done the same.

I’m quite horrified to hear that some parents demand (not ones that I know, but friends in other parts of the country have experienced this) that their little darlings faces are blanked or pixelated out of photos and videos…and I’m not talking things that are publicly available on YouTube here. These are things on locked-down social networking accounts. They are not available to the great unwashed that roam the wilds of the Internet looking for pictures of random cute children and doing god knows what with them.

There seems to be a tension between those parents that choose to put their child’s life online and those that refuse to. The former camp (and I include myself in this) are happy to blog and post photos and videos of their children, although I do have some self-imposed limits on the amount of information I put. For example, I rarely put the girls’ full names online, I don’t mention any of their friends explicitly and certainly not by name and I don’t mention the area we live in because, frankly, I don’t want to get burgled when we go on holiday. (In any case, the house isn’t ours and we don’t have anything worth stealing). I have set my own sharing parameters, based on what I feel comfortable with for my family

The latter camp includes some of the most tech-savvy people I know but they have made a decision to not put their child’s life online. This is sometimes done for perfectly sound reasons e.g. children that have been removed from their parents and are now in foster care placements or have been adopted, so it makes absolute sense for them to be wary about broadcasting a child’s life online. The same goes for fractured or estranged families. I’m talking about the ones who make a deliberate choice for their child without any of these caveats.

Do they genuinely think their child is more precious and special than other children? Are they saying that their child is so wonderful that they arrogantly assume that every single paedophile will be really, really interested in their offspring? Does it say more about the parents’ predilections than anything else? Taking this example to its logical conclusion, do these parents refuse to take their precious offspring to the supermarket for fear that a random stranger will dare to glance at them? Heaven forbid! I’m playing devil’s advocate here but you can probably see what I’m getting it.

I grew up in a world without social networking. I guess I could describe myself as an analogue/digital hybrid. Computers didn’t really feature in my life until I was about 8 years old. I didn’t get my own PC until I was 17. I typed my first year A-Level coursework on an electric typewriter after painstakingly writing it out in longhand. Facebook, Flicker, blogs and Twitter were all yet to come in an unimaginable future.

R and G were born into, and are growing up in, a world where the television programmes they want to watch are available on demand. They know that if Mummy takes a picture of them on her touch-screen phone, she will send it to Daddy and Nanny to see and they’ll probably reply in a matter of minutes. They know to swipe the screen of a smartphone to scroll through pictures of themselves. They can see pictures of their friends at parties on Mummy’s laptop (they’ve finally stopped calling it a Poncuter, sadly) and they’ve watched the hundreds of videos that we’ve taken of them over the last four years.

Of course, they don’t know that Mummy writes a warts ‘n’ all blog about them and that a random video of them babbling when they were 8 months old has had 669,000 views on YouTube in the last year, but there’s plenty of time for that. Their short lives have been documented through various social media platforms, but in a reasonably controlled way. How is Precious Child X going to feel when they reach the age where they understand social media and ask Mummy and Daddy why their faces were blanked out of that nativity video that all their little friends were in? At certain, more sensitive moments in my formative years I would have assumed that it was because I was so hideous that I had been hidden from view for my own good. What about their parents’ Facebook photos? There are lots of pictures of Mummy and Daddy and their family and friends, but the child doesn’t feature at all. I’d feel like I had been written out of my parents’ history.

The childhood narrative has changed since we were growing up. Our digital native offspring will expect to see their lives documented online in some form or other and if they aren’t, they are probably going to wonder why. I’m not arguing that the naysayers are necessarily wrong, but that they are going to have some interesting questions to deal with in a few years’ time. Childhood is changing and we as parents need to keep up with the latest developments.