Am I ready for school?

We’re taking the girls to meet their Reception teachers tomorrow, as we missed the proper welcome tea party and parents evening last week. The one week of the year we go on holiday…

I have filled out the school forms (endless paperwork and I had to do two sets of course) and Dh has double-checked them. The school sent through two welcome packs last week which included the various blank forms, information about the Early Years Foundation Stage, letters from older children to R and G welcoming them to the school (one of them told R not to be scared and I started crying as i read it out to her) and a booklet of self-portraits by all of the girls’ new classmates (as they’re in separate classes we now know the names of every child in the Reception year), which made me fret approximately 98% less than I had been as the girls can actually write their names and some of their classmates can’t. Naturally, there are some that have better handwriting than me, so you can’t have everything.

The girls and I went to the school fete a couple of weeks ago and picked up some second-hand school uniform. The school colours are yellow and blue, so R is going to wear yellow tops, gingham summer dresses and sweatshirts and G is going to wear the corresponding items in blue. In Winter they’ll swap the summer dresses for grey pinafore dresses. The PE kit is non-branded and consists of white tops and dark shorts or jogging bottoms.

The girls are very excited about meeting their teachers tomorrow. As Dh and I are both on leave until next week, we’re both able to attend. I’m really pleased as we’ll be sharing the pick ups and drop offs as we do now. Dh is keen on becoming a parent helper and reading with the children, so he’s going to ask about doing that. I think he’d be great as he’s extremely patient (let’s face it, in this house he has to be) and it’ll be good for the boys to have a man helping them with their reading as often it’s the mums that go in.

After-school club is sorted, for this year at least. I have already filled in forms to get the logoed bits of the school uniform and will be raiding M&S for the other clothing. Dh and I have bashed diaries and are able to juggle the staggered start dates and finish dates for the first two weeks of term between us (lots of people are complaining about this. I have lost count of the number of times someone has said ‘Just chuck ’em in!!’. It’s certainly a pain in the arse for us working parents.)

The girls are ready. Dh is fine about it all. Me? I feel oddly bereft already and they don’t start until September. That’s the thing with this one-shot parenting lark – once the girls are at school that’s it. They don’t have younger siblings to follow in their footsteps.

So, one phase of the girls’ life is ending and another one is about to begin. I think I’m scared because I didn’t have the easiest time at school. Some of it was of my own making, some of it was just…horrible and even now, 20-odd years later I find it hard to revisit. I can’t bear the thought of R or G going through some of the things that I did. They are their own people of course and they are a million times more confident than I was at their age. It’s that twin thing again…it seems to protect them from certain things but may yet cause other issues. They have also been at nursery since they were 5 months old, so they’re used to interacting and socialising with children of their own age. They won’t be daunted by the other children.

We don’t quite know what the next months and years will bring, but from September life is going to get that little bit more different again.

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.

Swimsuit

I used to be a bikini girl.

I was a ridiculously shy teenager and covered myself up as much as I possibly could. Even my swimsuit was one of those ‘hide everything and no-one will notice me’ affairs and, looking back, I had nothing to be ashamed of. I was slim and had a lovely flat stomach. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I stopped hiding myself away when I met dh. I used to buy tiny little bikinis from H&M and loved wearing them. I don’t think they ever saw much water but they looked nice.

I took up swimming (as opposed to posing and sunbathing) the year before I got pregnant and bought a suitably sporty one-piece to enable my progress through the water. As soon as I got a bump I stopped swimming.

Then the stretch marks appeared. Thin silvery lines across my stomach. My bellybutton went wrinkly. I went back to my pre-pregnancy size 12 within a month of giving birth but I no longer felt comfortable with my new, stretched body. With a heavy sigh I consigned my much-loved bikinis to the bin and mourned the loss of my lovely tummy.

(I know this is a ‘first world’ problem, but work with me here…)

The week before we went on holiday I went swimsuit shopping. I went after work. I was tired and stressed. I bought a hideous granny suit that was so awful I nearly cried. Some friends recommended that I try a tankini soI took the granny suit back and bought one, as well a much more flattering one-piece.

As soon as I stepped out of the changing rooms at Center Parcs I realised what an idiot I had been. There were literally ALL shapes and sizes in the pool, all happy to bear themselves in a way that I wasn’t. Women with far worse stretch marks than me were wearing the skimpiest of bikinis. As for the men….MY EYES! MY EYES!

My bikini-wearing days are definitely over, but I don’t feel quite as self-conscious about my figure now. In any case, I’m blind as a bat and don’t wear contacts so I have to wear my glasses in the swimming pool. I look like a total moron.

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!

Mother’s Day

A small confession: I’m not particularly fond of Mother’s Day.

Heresy!

I’d put it the ‘hugely overrated event’ bracket with New Year’s Eve. Everyone gets quite worked up about it and I can’t really work out why. I’m sure many people would say that Valentine’s Day is similar, but I rather like V-Day. You and your partner can choose to opt in or out of it. We are all forced to ‘do’ Mothering Sunday. It’s the element of forced jollity and unbearable one-upmanship  that bugs me.

I used to work in a <insert name of major high street catalogue store here> shop and the Saturday before Mother’s Day was always a nightmare. Pissed blokes would stagger into the shop at 4.45pm with wild panic in their eyes clutching a hastily bought (or stolen) bunch of flowers and paw uselessly at the ‘Laminated book of dreams’ (copyright Bill Bailey) until they found the page of foot spas. They would then lurch up to the counter, buy said overpriced foot care gadget and dribble on the till while they waited for the monkeys in the warehouse to swing over to the relevant dusty shelf and hurl the box towards the bored till girls. Bloke would then stagger out of shop, drooping flowers in one hand and foot spa in the other. Sometimes they would stop at the door, come back in, grab the first person in a grey uniform them came across and shout ‘OI LUV/MATE! YOU SELL CARDS?’ I always wondered what their poor mothers thought of their gifts. I don’t think that many were ever returned. Maybe they had spare rooms full of foot spas that they didn’t have the heart to return, sell on or give away to other people.

My Mum is marvellous (she puts up with me for a start) and I try and let her know on more than just one day a year. Yes, she always gets a card and sometimes a present and/or flowers and she certainly deserves them, but I buy her bits and pieces during the year as well. When we visit I’ll take along flowers, a plant or some home-made cakes or biscuits. I think…I hope she knows how much I appreciate her.

I thought that becoming a Mother would change my perspective but it hasn’t really. While I’m not going to turn down cards and gifts because I’m not completely ungrateful and stupid, I know that dh and the girls appreciate me most the time anyway. This year I got a gorgeous new watch chosen by dh and R and given to me more than a month ago because my beloved old watch had broken. The girls gave me a card each and dh bought a bunch of flowers back with the food shop this morning. I got a lie in (much needed as I was very ill last night. Bloody IBS.) and a lamb roast and I even got to have a nap this afternoon because I felt totally washed-out from the return visit(s) of yesterday’s food. It was lovely (apart from being ill), but I was still cleaning out the guinea pigs and tidying up and changing beds, etc. Life goes on and all that.

A Mum is for life, not just for Mother’s Day.

The Full-time father

Today’s post has been inspired by something that a friend shared with me (thanks T!) on the definition of a Full-Time Mother. The crux of the article was that whether we are stay-at-home mums or working mums, there’s no time at which we stop being a mother.

(It’s here is you want to have a read: http://thefeministbreeder.com/whether-you-work-for-pay-or-work-for-your-family-we-are-all-full-time-mothers/)

This got me thinking.  Does the same apply to Dads? I haven’t heard anyone use the phrase ‘Full-time Father’, yet surely men don’t stop being dads when they are at work or away from their children in the same way that mothers do? Or am I extremely naïve?

Maybe my perspective has been skewed (in a good way) by Dh. From the outset he’s been an extremely involved father. Partly this has been down to necessity. Becoming a father to twins and a having a wife that works means that he can’t easily absolve himself of all parenting responsibility. Plus, he really wanted to be a hands-on father. We’ve always worked as a team and consider ourselves to be co-primary carers to R and G.

It’s raised a few eyebrows over the years though. I remember getting quite angry with the health visitor that paid no attention to Dh on her (brief) visits when the girls were tiny and addressed the answer to any question he posed to me. Friends and acquaintances of ours have been quite surprised that not only does he know the exact size clothes and shoes that the girls wear, but he happily buys them items of clothing without my say-so and I don’t throw my hands up in horror when he arrives home. He’s got pretty good taste actually. He’s taken them to the supermarket on his own countless times – I’ve only been brave enough to do it once. On days where I’m at work and he’s on a rest day and the girls are at home, he’ll take them to the zoo or the park with the minimum of fuss.

Of course, the girls drive him mad at times. There are times when the girls are in uber-herbert mode that he looks visibly relieved to be going to work so that he can escape the madness for a few hours. He’s not a saint for goodness sake, and nor would I expect him to be. It would be a hell of a lot for me to live up to for a start. There have been times when he’s had a bad day with the girls and I’ve dispatched him to B&Q (his favourite shop) to look at manly things like screw-heads and hammers and things.  He’s not a wet lettuce either. He can do DIY, likes sport, plays extremely violent computer games (when the girls are in bed) and works in a pretty much exclusively male environment. Also, he puts up with me and I’m extremely high maintenance!

We’ve had glimpses of what a ‘traditional’ family set-up might be over the years. There have been (rare) times where he’s worked a normal day shift and I’ve been on leave. I thought he might really enjoy coming home to a clean house, quiet children and dinner on the table but while the novelty of the latter held some appeal, he confessed to finding it ‘a bit weird’. Of course, it works for plenty of families and that’s great. It just wouldn’t work for us.

I can’t quite work out if our situation is unusual or not. We live in supposedly enlightened times but I know plenty of men that would run a mile at the sight of a smelly bulging nappy and are genuinely surprised when they are informed that their lives are going to change dramatically when the baby arrives. I know that dh doesn’t stop being a father when he’s at work or out drinking with his friends. I wouldn’t dare to suggest for even a second that he’s a part-time father.

I think the difference is that there’s a perception that a man can ‘walk away’ from fatherhood but that a woman can’t stop being a mother. In my experience this is entirely wrong. Therefore, I believe that Dh can describe himself as a full-time father, as can every other committed dad. It’s doing them a disservice to suggest otherwise.

My November Wobbler

Since 2007, every year without fail I go a bit wobbly in November. I don’t plan to do it, but without fail it happens. I don’t know whether it’s the clocks going back, the change in the seasons or the girls’ impending birthday but I have a mini crisis, which makes me irrational and prone to random outbursts of emotion (no change there, then…)

I find I now measure the year in milestones that revolve around R and G. 12th April: positive pregnancy test. 11th June: 1st scan, found out it was twins. 17th August: 2nd scan, found out we were having girls. 6th October: went on maternity leave. 12th December: birth date. I take a moment on the 12th of every month to marvel that the girls are a tiny bit older.

My first wobbler happened in November 2007. I had finished work a month before. I was hugely pregnant, miserable and suffering from severe cabin fever because I was so enormous I couldn’t leave the house without an escort and spent most of my time going backwards and forwards to the hospital for scans, check-ups and random appointments. The hospital waiting room was my social life. I went through that awful phase that all heavily pregnant women go though, where they heave themselves up, look down at their bump and decide that they are never, ever going to actually give birth. They’ll just have a bump that will grow larger and larger until it eventually eats them. Dh and I resolved this by going out for lunch a lot and shopping.

Every November since I’ve had a hissy fit of some description or other, mostly variations on my usual theme of I’M A F*****G USELESS PARENT. THE GIRLS DESERVE BETTER. WHY AM I SO RUBBISH AT THIS? WHY ISN’T IT GETTING ANY EASIER? Etc, etc, etc. By December I’m so caught up in the Advent, Birthday, Christmas thing that I barely pause for breath but I always find November hard.

Over the years, I’ve got better at recognising the signs and taking positive action during my November Wobbler. When I feel myself on the verge of losing it I do one (or more) of the following things:

1.       Go for a long soak in the bath (if dh is home or the girls are in bed, of course)

2.       Buy a trashy magazine go to my local Starbucks for a grande skinny hot chocolate, no cream and a cupcake for half an hour (ditto)

3.       I’m taking a week off work (starts next Monday) so concentrate on preparations for December and to have some proper me, dh and me, the girls and me, and me and my Mum time. I’m generally pretty good at the whole juggling, working mum of twins thing but sometimes I need to concentrate on my non-work life.

None of this solves the November Wobbler but it at least makes it easier for everyone around me to deal with.