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.

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Damn unpretty

There’s been an awful lot of debate on the social networks over the last few days about a particular newspaper article that I’m not going to reference here because I don’t want to give the paper any more advertising revenue or publicity than they have already (cleverly) generated. It’s that one written by the woman about her looks.

Allow me to present something written from the other end of the spectrum.

I am not good looking. On my better days I look presentable. The rest of the time I can barely look at myself in the mirror. I’m not saying this to garner any well-meaning sympathy. I am merely stating facts.

When I found out that I was having girls I was terrified that they would look like me. I didn’t want them to suffer the abuse and ridicule that I have suffered for years. I could cite hundreds of examples here but I’m only going to give you one.

A few years ago, pre-children, I was walking home from the gym. We only lived a short walk away from the gym so I used to walk home in my workout gear and shower in (relative) comfort rather than risk the communal showers. I was trotting home one day along a reasonably busy road when the traffic lights ahead changed to red and the traffic stopped. As I walked past a stationary van the window wound down and the driver decided to ‘have a chat’ with me:

“YOU’RE A FAHKIN’ DOG BUT YOU COULD AT LEAST MAKE A FAHKIN’ EFFORT”.

At that point the lights changed and he sped off before I had a chance to retaliate. Although even if I had used my right to reply, I’m not sure what I would have said. I have tried many different approaches to this over the years (I’ve had a fair few opportunities to practice), from giving them both barrels back (usually met with ‘Don’t have a fit luv’ or ‘Ooh language’), to performing a two-fingered salute (greeted with gales of laughter) to my current approach, staring straight ahead, pretending I haven’t heard and not responding. I don’t think there’s an adequate response that would make me feel any better about it.

When I was a teenager, I figured that success would make me immune to such abuse. I hoped that living well (said to be the best revenge) and getting educated, meeting someone and getting married, having children and having a good career and lovely friends and family would render me immune to the White Van Wankers (Ooh language!) but it doesn’t.

One effect of this is that I now can’t leave the house without a full face of make-up, hair blow-dried and straightened and clothes immaculate. Even my ‘casual’ clothes are carefully considered. I make the best of what I do have and wear dresses to work most days. This isn’t vanity, it’s self-preservation.

I envy naturally beautiful girls that can slouch around in trackie bottoms, Uggs and messy hair and still look fabulous. I simply couldn’t get away with that in public without attracting ridicule (believe me, I’ve tried).

As the months and years pass and the girls get older, I breathe a huge sigh of relief that the girls look like Dh with their fair hair and green eyes. They haven’t (yet) developed my too large for my face nose and they have something resembling a chin, which I definitely don’t. (I went on a date once that was going well until the guy looked at me carefully and said ‘Your nose it too big and you’re quite plain, but I like you. You won’t be shocked to learn that there wasn’t a second date).

I’m incredibly lucky because Dh tells me I’m beautiful every day – and after nearly 12 years I think he probably means it! R and G aren’t of an age yet where they notice prettiness or ugliness, but they have noticed my make-up ritual, the length of time it takes me to get ready in the morning and my array of dresses and pretty scarves. Of course, I think the girls are gorgeous but I’m biased because I’m their mother. However, I’m relieved that they don’t look like me. I’m told that there are elements of me in them, expressions and frowns (frowns mostly) but they look more like Dh and my sister than me.

I don’t want R and G to ever experience what I and other women that don’t conform to normal boundaries of beauty go through at the hands of thoughtless, mindless morons*

*I like to think that they have small penises, or are in fact as smooth as Action Men.

One Born Every Minute liveblog 4/4/2012

…and now…the end is near…and so we face…the final curtain…it’s the final episode of series 3 (surely there will be more?) of One Born Every Minute tonight. Wait! They’re doing a what happened next programme tomorrow! Only it doesn’t feature any of my favourite families/births (and actually features one that made me want to pull my own arm off so I had something to hurl at the television) and I’m out tomorrow night (I know!) anyway so I’m not fussed about that…

Last week I said I’d watch the finale with mozzarella-based snacks and a cheeky glass of fizz. Sadly I have neither, although I’m fairly sure I spotted a bottle of Pinot in the fridge so I may have to have a glass (or two) to celebrate the end of 14 weeks of liveblogging mad skillz.

See you back here for bumps, blood, bottoms, boobs, births and babies at 9pm.

21.01 Bit late. Just kissing Dh before he disappears off to bed (early shift at work this week) but I’M HEEEEEEERE!

21.03 Midwifery really is a job for life. Very few vocations like that these days. If the Tories stay in power in five years time babies will be delivered by volunteers.Can you imagine? ‘Sorry, you can’t have your baby today because your community volunteer has decided to go to the beach. Hold it in and pop back next week’.

21.06 Some men are complete fuckers aren’t they?

21.08 I totally sympathise with her. My fanjo felt like it was on fire every time I had an internal. I should’ve kicked the doctor that looked like Ravi Bopara in the face when I had the chance…might have helped his cricket…

21.10 It’s stuff like this that reinforces my belief in fate and things that are ‘meant’ to happen. I’m not religious but I genuinely believe that things happen for a reason and certain people are destined to meet.

21.18 I envy the cameraderie that the midwives have. They genuinely make a difference to people’s lives and, as they said, they’re the first to put a hand on a new baby. Must be an amazing buzz, regardless of how many years you’ve been doing it.

21.20 Oh. Oh. I remember sobbing the first month that we tried and I had my period and it was really awful. I was lucky enough to fall pregnant the second month. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have years and years of trying and no baby. I feel like a bitch for even whingeing about my two. I don’t know I’m bloody (One) born.

21.25 It may be the Pinot I’m drinking but I feel a bit weepy. No-one should be alone whilst in labour.

21.27 I like the fact that she sounds really Canadian and then she sounds really Yorkshire. Loovleh.

21.33 I wish my Mum had been there when I had the girls. Not necessarily in the operating theatre, but at the hospital. It’s my fault for being so insular about it all. I feel bad for depriving her of the chance to be there on the day I gave birth.

21.35 It’s so sad that the father of the child has not interest, and that his family aren’t supporting her in any way. The thought of her printing off a picture of the father and putting it in a memory box for the child makes me want to weep (again).

21.37 Ooh! She’s got herself a new buff man. At least, I hope it’s a man. It might be a spaniel.

21.42 CROSS BABY ALERT! Isla’s a lovely name though 🙂 I do like a wobbly-faced new Dad. Their face changes the moment the baby is born and it’s so lovely to watch.

21.50 Girls! We run the world! Girls! We run this mutha. Yeah! *puts wine glass down*

21.53 Isabel Esme *nods approvingly*

21.56 Plinky plonky birth music time. She’s spelt Isabel wrong though *pedantic face*

22.00 There we have it. Two more babies born, lives changed forever, one midwife retiring. I love One Born…no, I ADORE One Born. My two are growing up rapidly and the pregnancy, birth and newborn baby days are now an increasingly distant memory. I’m not broody anymore and I know that I’m not going to have any more babies of my own but I love watching other people’s lives change in the same way that ours did back in 2007.

If Channel 4 don’t do another series I’m going to camp out at their headquarters in Horseferry Road with placards until they change their minds.

p.s. Can future revisit shows feature Joy and Fabio and Janet and Ralph please? Pretty please? 🙂

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.

Education begins at home

I was really intrigued by this article that I read at the weekend. If you can’t bothered to read it, it basically says that toddlers and preschoolers from poorer backgrounds that enjoy dressing-up and imaginative play, experience a high level of parental involvement in their young lives and are encouraged to do number and letter games are more likely to do well at school.

My first thought was ‘Well, duh’. It makes total sense that children are more likely to do well at school if they are encouraged to learn and use their imaginations at home. Shouldn’t every parent, regardless of education, wealth and background, be doing all of that anyway? It’s basic common sense isn’t it?

Then I took my Mum hat (fez) off put my work hat (sombrero) on and remembered that far too many children aren’t given even the most basic opportunities to learn and create. The research looks at children from poorer backgrounds but I’m sure there are plenty of uninvolved parents at the other end of the wealth scale.That’s a whole other level of emotional neglect that is incredibly hard to quantify.

I have to confess that I have started getting a little fed-up with the girls wearing a variety of dressing up outfits every single day. For the first time in ages they decided not to be Tinkerbell (sorry – it’s actually a Silvermist costume as G keeps reminding me), Alice, Cinderella or Snow White today and actually wore normal clothes to nursery. Well, they always wear normal clothes but they are usually obscured by a large flouncy costume and fairy wings.Their dressing up clothes are falling apart but their nice tops, skirts and tights are fairly pristine, aside from the cuffs which are wrecked.

The lack of dressing up didn’t inhibit their imaginations one bit though. On our way to nursery this morning R announced that she was Fawn (they haven’t even seen the Tinkerbell movie yet the know all the fairy names) and I can’t recall who G was, possibly one of the girls from Fireman Sam but it was early…

One of the advantages of being a twin is that you’ve always got someone to bounce your ideas off. If G wants to play imaginative games she’s got a natural partner in crime in R. The girls aren’t always reliant on us to be a fairy, a princess or a firefighter. In any case, the dressing up outfits don’t come in my size – at least, not in a ‘suitable for viewing by small children’ way…

One of the things that I need to think about, though (and this article has reinforced it) is that I tend to ‘teach’ the girls things at the same time. For example, I bought some Oxford Reading Tree phonics books and before I read them aloud to the girls I ask them to identify the letters in the words that form the title of the book. One of them is clearly much better at this than the other (it doesn’t feel fair to identify which one is which at this stage) so I need to separate them for this activity in order to boost the confidence of the one that finds it harder and ensure that the other is learning at the correct speed. I need to do the same with the number and letter flashcards and games.

Dh tends to do number-based activities with the girls but he’s also very proud of his ‘Letter of the Week’ initiative, which I picked up from a parent friend who has an early years teaching qualification and suggested to him. Once he’d finished rolling his eyes he started with A and every Wednesday he and the girls sit at the computer and use Google Images to identify items beginning with a particular letter. Then they drag the images into a Powerpoint presentation with R and G getting a slide each for their chosen pictures, with the text underneath. They print the pictures out and stick them up in the dining room and their on bedroom walls. Dh has created a file on the computer so that the pictures can be re-used. He also prints off pictures of the actual letters so that the girls can colour them in. It’s all about familiarity at this stage and the information seems to be lodging in there somewhere.

I always think there’s more that we could do, but the girls seem happy enough with the learning activities we do with themand I’m also keen not to push them too much at this stage. If they say no to a particular activity one day I don’t push it with them. I also like to rotate the things we do with them, so they don’t always expect one of us to do letter-writing and the other one to do arts and crafts. One of the huge benefits of dh being around so much is that we can share the activities out.

You can probably gather from all of this that I (and – I think Dh) am really enjoying this stage with the girls. We’re not at the point of worrying about targets, school reports, SATS or homework yet so we can do things at our own pace. That will come in time. For now, I want the girls to enjoy learning new things and using their imaginations. Hopefully this will set them up for the future.

 

 

Yummy Mummy dying swans

The parents are invited to watch the last ballet and tap class of every term. This usually involves us perching on teeny tiny chairs around the of the hall and giggling watching proudly as our darling daughters harrumph around a church hall in the name of dance.

Yesterday’s ‘Watch Day’ was a little different. We were invited to make a small contribution to charity and had to pay £2 to watch the class or £1 to take part. We all paid the £2 and settled down to watch…

…until the children were asked to find a partner for the tap side-step and G was left on her own in the middle of the floor. She looked over at me, mournfully (she’ll win an Oscar one day) and I had to go and help her out. She and I galloped up and down together like characters from a Jane Austen novel (I’m so going to be Mrs Bennett from Pride and Prejudice in a few years), only in skinny jeans and a scarf (me) and mad hair (G). When the sequence was over I sat down again, ignoring the smirks of our parent friends.

The children put their tap shoes away and got out the ballet shoes for the second half of the class. One of our mum friends leapt up and said ‘C’mon Jo’ as she motioned towards the dance floor. I muttered swear words (extremely) under my breath and joined the others. It was SO much fun. We did first position, plie, jete and skipping. One of our dad friends joined in and was greeted with hoots of laughter as he turned his toes out. His daughter looked mortified and ordered him to sit down immediately. He skulked off back to his seat as the rest of us tried gamely to balance on one leg.

We’re now thinking of setting up a legs-akimbo style dance troupe for elderly yummy mummies in order to extract maximum embarrassment from our daughters.

As I skipped around the hall, scarf flying behind me and hair all over the place, I passed Dh and hissed – loudly – next time it’s YOUR turn. He was too busy capturing the moment on his phone.

No I won’t be posting the photos – or videos – on here.