Idyll

The (belated) arrival of the warm weather means that the children can play on the field adjacent to the nursery in the evenings. I love the fact that they can spend nearly an hour leaping around on what is essentially a sandy mound at the edge of a rugby pitch with kids that they’ve spent the last three years with, getting absolutely filthy, while the parents stand in the sunshine and chat. We eventually drag them home after a series of five, four, three, two, one minute warnings and they chuck themselves in the bath, passing out in bed after the requisite amount of bedtime stories are read to them.

At weekends we tend to hang out with the ballet and tap crowd, having children over to play and vice versa. On a couple of occasions we’ve looked after an additional child for an hour or two and the girls love being part of a triplet team. It’s not much of a stretch for dh and I to take on an extra child for a bit. I don’t envy those that, when they take on our two, go from one to three children…

As I’ve become more involved with our local book group the girls have met some of the children. They have fallen hopelessly in love (R particularly) with a six year old girl on our road who they now regard as the COOLEST GIRL IN THE WORLD. She attends the school that the girls will be going to and R is convinced that she’ll be able to play with her every day. Dh has had a fatherly word and intimated that N may not want to play with younger children like R and G, but the girls are having none of it.

We popped round to see N and her parents re: her old playhouse (which now has a new home in our garden) and R got a little chilly so her mum dug out an old hoodie of N’s to wear. R was allowed to keep said hoodie and has regarded it as a precious gift ever since. I’m amazed we’re even permitted to touch it, let alone wash the thing. When R wears the hoodie she transforms, superhero-style into N because, apparently, when you’re six you can do ANYTHING – drive cards, go to school on your own, watch Spongebob Squarepants, cook dinner…the list goes on.

I was chatting to one of the nursery (BIG STARS, silly billy!!) mums the other night and she reflected that the children have a wonderful life. They have a lovely group of friends, they want for nothing, they are loved and cared for and they are comforted by the fact that they have a loving, supportive network around them.

It’s such a change from where Dh and I were when the girls were small. I felt so isolated and looking back, it’s no wonder that I went a bit nutty for a while. We’re a good, self-sufficient team but it’s good to have other people locally that we can call on when we need them.

I have also become more relaxed about the school readiness thing. I don’t need to teach the girls to to read before they start school. Last Friday afternoon the girls and I went to the ice cream parlour in the village (awesome) and ran about on the Heath like loons afterwards until we were breathless and hysterical with laughter. I didn’t ask them to identify numbers or letters. I didn’t make them talk about experiences. I didn’t test their ability to do anything. I just let them be for a bit.

I hope R and G look back on this time in their lives when they are older and remember it as a happy, fun, idyllic stage in their lives. School is going to come quickly enough. For this summer, I just want to let them enjoy themselves.

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So that was Christmas…

…and what have we done? Another year over. A new one just begun*

I haven’t managed to blog for almost a month because I’ve just been too darned busy living my ‘real life’. There was the girls’ 4th Birthday. All four parts of it – the party with friends, the lunch with my family, the actual day and the taking cake and fruit into nursery day. I decided to make hand-made Christmas cards…but only started doing them on 10th December so most of my evenings were spent sitting on a beanbag in front of the TV, watching Masterchef: The Professionals (Young Steve was ROBBED) while I glued bits of card to my hands and covered the coffee table in sticky fixers. I single-handedly wrapped 3 million Christmas presents (I was helping FC and the Elves out). I worked up until 23rd December. I got shitfaced quite merry at my work Christmas ‘do. The girls performed in their first nativity play at nursery and we had to deal with our first instance of proper sibling rivalry. The girls and I painted a ‘Teapot for the Insane’ as part of my sisters’ Christmas present.

I haven’t even got to Christmas yet…

My In-Laws arrived on the 23rd. They babysat that night so that Dh and I could go out for drinks and enormous Argentinian steaks. My SIL, her partner and daughter arrived on the 24th. Dh and I slept on a blow-up bed in the playroom. I did a Christmas Eve buffet for 9 people, Christmas Lunch for 12 people (my parents and sister came down for the day), Christmas Day buffet tea for 12 people and a Boxing Day cooked lunch for 9 people. I made eleventy million cups of tea and I don’t even drink the ruddy stuff.

Everyone went home on Boxing Day. R and G watched Fireman bloody Sam while I blitzed the house, did countless loads of washing, refilled the dishwasher 54 times, etc.The girls and I watched The Lion King for the first time and I had to answer A LOT of philosophical questions about life, death, relationships, etc.

I had a birthday, which was lovely. I am still in my ‘early thirties’. Round here I am still the young parent of the gang, which blows my tiny mind in quite a good way. In an attempt to reinforce my ‘down with da kidz’ credentials we bought a new stereo with an iPod dock and subwoofers. I have spent the last two weeks playing snatches of early 90s dance tracks and shouting LISTEN TO THE BASS ON THAT! I’m such an embarrassing mother.

We forced ourselves upon visited lots of people. Dh was ill (exhausted) over the New Year period so I was looking after two extremely hyperactive children and nursing him. I don’t like NYE anyway, so went to bed at 10.30pm with my new Kindle**.

Oh and the girls decided they wanted to wear their new knickers (Christmas presents) at night so they have been night training for the past week.G is doing pretty well (4 completely dry nights so far) and R is struggling with it a bit (1 dry night) so we’re doing lots of bed changes at 3am, lots of extra washing, etc.

I went back to work yesterday. My Head of Dept said I looked ‘genuinely relieved’ to be back in the office***

*Ta John and Yoko. Just be grateful you can’t hear me doing my highly questionable Yoko Ono impression.

**I adore my Kindle. It may change my life as much as my iPhone did…

***I’m not going to lie to you, I was nice to sit down in a good chair with a Starbucks hot chocolate, not talk to anyone for an hour or two and answer e-mails.

In short, I’m FECKING EXHAUSTED. The main thing is that everyone else (with the exception of Dh at New Year) had a brilliant time and as I’ve learned over the last four years, it’s not about me any more.

Happy New Year!

Predictable

As sure as eggs is eggs, it’s November 2nd and I have already had my first November Wobbler of the month. It’s not like I plan them. I don’t sit with my diary on 31st October, cackling as I fix a time and date to hurl an inanimate object at a wall, massively overreact to something relatively minor or break down in tears for no obvious reason. It’s certainly not an enjoyable time for me, or anyone that has to live with me during this ridiculous period.

I have also been waking up in cold sweats – literally – the last few nights. I jolt awake at some ungodly hour of the morning and realise that I am dripping with sweat (practically soaked through and no, we don’t have the heating on yet) and have clearly emerged from some terrible nightmare…although I cannot recall the details after. Probably for the best as the content clearly has an adverse effect on me.

It’s all very odd and there’s absolutely no reason for it. G is…[searches for polite term] challenging at the moment but she’s been the same since the day she was born and is unlikely to change any time soon. People keep telling me she’s bright, which I think is code for ‘Annoying little sod’. R is mostly delightful, apart from when she’s tired and we all have to suffer with her. Dh is lovely and sends me Emergency Jackman pictures when I’m feeling blue. Dh is a keeper and I’m punching well above my weight with him! Work is mostly good. I have a reasonably active social life and lots of lovely friends and a nice family.

I reckon the clock change is the root of it. Like most people, I absolutely HATE going to and from work in the dark in the Winter. I haven’t ever experienced jet lag, but I just want to hunker down indoors, wear pyjamas, eat lots of food and watch The Only Way is Essex (don’t judge me) at the moment.

I’m doing my classic thing of taking on lots of extra tasks, like making the invitations for the girls’ birthday party (final count = 21 hand-made unique invites), joining a professional development group and becoming Secretary at the first meeting I attended and finally committing my long-overdue romance novel to screen as part of NaNoWriMo.

Lest anyone think I’m neglecting my children (heaven forbid!) I am squeezing these extra-curricular hours into the evenings, when R and G are tucked up in bed asleep. Dh works in the evening every other week and I don’t want to sit in front of the television every night watching TOWIE on catch-up and eating chocolate, so I like doing creative stuff. It’s cheap therapy, basically.

I did something today that I would never normally do. I reached out and took help from a friend. I have become really good friends with one of the the girls’ friends’ Mum (tortured grammar there, but you see what I’m getting it) as she and I are really similar. We’re both perfectionists and over-achievers and regard even the merest slip in our impossibly high standards as a massive failure and fall apart. The girls and I went to their house for Sunday lunch a couple of weeks ago and during a post-lunch walk on the Common, I poured my heart out to her. Normally I ignore the ‘If you ever need anything…’ platitudes from friends but she has been checking in with me regularly ever since to make sure that I’m ok. When I reached meltdown this morning I sent her a text and couple of minutes later my phone rang. I sobbed at her for a few minutes while she made soothing noises (she was on the bus at the time – it must have sounded like she was making a booty call). She couldn’t do anything practical to help, but she listened and didn’t offer spurious advice or ‘You’re brilliant and you’ll be fine’ cliches. By the end of the call I felt much better, although I started fretting that I had become a leech and was taking too much of her valuable time – she assures me that I haven’t.

This is a real change for me. I absolutely loathe taking help from anyone and regard it as a failure on my part if I have to do so. However, I keep being told that I don’t need to bear this alone so I’m making a real effort to accept help and not feel like I’m being a terrible burden to anyone. I spent several months shouldering this – anxiety? –  on my own when the girls were small and it did me no good at all. Along with the self-management plan I devised last year, I need to learn to reach out for assistance when I need it.

Hopefully normal service will resume soon.

Forest

We’ve just had a fantastic first family holiday at Center Parcs and I had to be dragged home kicking and screaming. The girls loved their ‘New’ house and were slightly grumpy about returning to their ‘Old’ house, until they ran back through the door and saw their toys. I’m still slightly about being home and not having access to a massive water slide whenever I feel the urge to do something mildly dangerous.

We went to the Longleat ‘branch’(?). I adore Wiltshire and would happily up sticks and move there given half a chance. Dh has said that if I’m made redundant we can ‘maybe consider it’…but that’s something he says to R and G to placate them when they’re in a bad mood so I’m not holding out much hope.

I was apprehensive about the holiday beforehand but it was simply wonderful. I could bore you with the details at this point but I’ll just say that the girls loved the activities we arranged for them – the ballet and tennis lessons and the Pirates & Princesses party went down a treat – and we spent an awful lot of time in the swimming pool. I’m already nagging/asking dh if we can go back next year…or maybe for a weekend in the Autumn…

The end of 46 Days

At the beginning of March I had a crazy idea. Instead of giving something up for Lent, I would try to do something every day. The idea for 46 Days came from there. Today is the 46th and last day.

I thought I’d have a look back through the last 45 days and see what’s happened:

0 people offended (that I’m aware of…)

1 holiday booked

1 disastrous week of night training

1 graduation attended

1 Margot Leadbetter moments

2 bouts of nostalgia

2 guinea pigs (Charlie and Lola) arrived

2 fish (Eddie and Bob) bought

3 fish (Maisy, Eddie and Bob) died

3 Easter bonnets made

4 3rd birthday parties attended

4 One Born Every Minute liveblogs

5 separate illnesses (2 for me, 2 for G, 1 for R)

6 twinny observations (I could have written hundreds of posts on this)

7 Friday photos

8 rants (I’m amazed there aren’t many more)

That’s a fairly average seven or so weeks in the HoT. Ok, so you don’t buy guinea pigs and kill off goldfish every day, but everything else was pretty normal…for us at least. It’s a nice little snapshot of our lives.

I only missed one night – when I was away for work – and I made up for it the next night with two long posts.  I have to say, as the weather improved dramatically in April I found it much harder to generate enough enthusiasm to sit down every night and write a blog post. Last night I ‘cheated’ and uploaded the Friday photos from my iphone whilst slumped on the sofa after another busy day. Thank Steve Jobs for the WordPress app!

I speculated at the beginning of all this that a period of sustained creativity might make me want to do some creative writing. It hasn’t, but only because I haven’t had time after writing 46 Days posts. There are a couple of ideas percolating in my brain but I can’t commit them to screen just yet.

Instead I’ve been exploiting my creative mind in different ways. I’m really into card-making at the moment. If there’s an event coming up I’ve probably made a card for it! My cards aren’t going to make me rich and they definitely look ‘home made’ but I hope people appreciate the effort. I attempted my first scrapbook – a graduation present for my Mum. I love getting creative with photos, bit of paper, a stack of embellishments and a ton of pritt stick. I have also made great progress with my latest cross-stitch and am already thinking about the next stitching project. I might do something really challenging this time…

As I get older I can no longer sit in front of the telly of an evening once the girls are in bed. I have to be doing other things, so that I feel my evenings aren’t wasted. That reminds me…I have very strict rules on my ‘me time’ activities. They are all done in the evening in the precious few hours I have when the girls are asleep and before I go to bed. During the day I’m either spending time with the girls or working.

I’m looking forward to having a few nights off (maybe even a week or two) from blogging – or the tyranny of the blank page (which only affected me twice in 46 days) and the feeling that I ‘have’ to write something. I might try something similar later in the year. November is my bogey-month so I might try 30 Days or something like that to ward off the SAD.

That’s all in the future. Now, I’m off to make a Mojito and await our take-away delivery.

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Home and community

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of creating a home and becoming part of a community recently.

Just after my 30th birthday I felt a need to build a home for my family. No, I didn’t retrain as a hod carrier and get busy with bricks and cement! I’ve lived in plenty of ‘places’ over the years but none of them has really been a home. I still refer to my parents’ house as my home in conversation and I haven’t lived there since I was 19. Since I left home I’ve lived in (deep breath) four different halls of residence, two different shared student houses, a one bed flat, a two bed house and now a three bed house. Until our current house, they all felt quite transitory. I knew that at some point we’d be moving on again. That hasn’t necessarily changed with this house but I feel differently about it.

I didn’t ever care that much about furniture and decoration – things like CDs, books, clothes and DVDs mattered hugely, but the big grown-up stuff didn’t really bother me. In the nesting phase of my pregnancy I used to take the Ikea catalogue to bed with me every night. I still get quite giddy at the thought of ‘storage solutions’. It’s not the ‘stuff’ that makes a home though. It’s the feel of the place. As the girls get older they are marking their territory (not literally, thankfully) and we now have certain things because they’re here: toys, picture books, teddies and more kiddie kit than I can possibly list here.

People that know me well were quite shocked when we started accumulating pets recently. To them I didn’t seem like a pet person. However, I think they help to make our house a home and Maisy, Eddie, Charlie and Lola are already part of our extended family. I was saying to my Mum the other day that I’d happily have a house and garden full of pets. This is a huge shift for me. I think I’m going soft in my old age…

An extension of that is my new-found interest in our local community. I’m a passionate advocate for my area of London and if I hear of anyone that’s thinking of moving to our patch I practically put them in a headlock and tell them how wonderful it is until they agree with me. The girls’ nursery is in the process of setting up a PTA/committee and I want to be involved in it. Through R and G we’ve developed a local network of like-minded parents who have become friends. My Dad asked me who would look after the piggies if we went on holiday. I think he was reassured by the list of names I reeled off!

We’ve lived in this area for nearly four years now and we’re now on nodding terms with lots of people, including those that work in the local shops. It freaks me out no end when I pop out to buy a pint of milk or a loaf of bread and someone random (but clearly not a stranger) asks me where I’ve left the girls. It’s a level of recognition I quite like. I couldn’t quite cope with everyone in the vicinity knowing what I had for breakfast before I’d even eaten it.

While I don’t quite see myself as a Midsomer Murders-style local busybody yet (give me time) I now realise the importance of making connections with the local community and becoming part of something. Londoners are notorious for not speaking to their neighbours but owning a. children and b. pets changes that. You have to build relationships or you would go mad. That, or start baiting people on online forums and I really, really don’t recommend that to anyone.

I think I can attribute this sea-change in attitude to R and G – another thing to be grateful to them for! Dh and I had a lovely time together before they were born but we led quite a solitary life, in our own loved-up bubble. Thanks to R and G we now connect with the world beyond our very happy, and very loving, home.