Organisation, how I love thee

Today, on a keeping in touch day at work, I got to do something I have been yearning…nay DESPERATE to do for a long, long time. I cleaned, tidied and organised the storage cupboard.

Here’s the thing, Art teachers such as myself are usually cast as flaky, untidy, tie-dye wearing, coffee loving weirdos who work in a mountain of unnamed work, empty mugs and unwashed paint palettes. However, for every rule there is an exception. In our art department, my boss, our lovely colleague Kate and myself are all neatness and organisation freaks. During a Health and Safety visit a few years ago, the inspector told us we had the tidiest Art department in the South West, and naturally we wear that like a badge of honour.

There’s just something lovely about knowing where stuff is. I can leave something in one place, come in the next day and know exactly where it is, and not in an ‘organised chaos’ kind of way but in a ‘it’s been meticulously placed there for a very good reason’ kind of way.

My heart did a little skippy thing when I first saw this…just wow.

My house is not as tidy as it was before the girl descended on us with her bouncy chairs and 5 types of skin cream. But it’s a level of tidy that I can control and feel comfortable with because it’s organised. Her wipes, rash cream, nappies, nappy bags, muslins and change mat are all stored together because if a poonami happens, you can be sure as shit that I will not be stumbling around with crap on my hands, fumbling open a bag of nappies while she rolls her legs in a whole load of luminous yellow poop.

In her bedroom she has a trolley next to her bed with all of the changing paraphernalia stacked on it, I can see when we’re low on anything and I love restocking it. Hell, if shelf stacking paid a decent wage I’d be thrilled to do it full time for a living. There’s just something so satisfying and reassuring about refilling something and knowing you have plenty left. Unpacking the shopping is one of my most virtuous pleasures in life. If my poor husband starts to unpack he is hastily shunted out of the way so I can take control and work to my system. Bless him, he tries.

When we bought our current house, I busily set about planning how we could add built-in storage space, because I actually love storage more than life itself. Our new kitchen has a pull-out larder cupboard type thing, which is the best invention in the world ever. We had built-in wardrobes installed in our bedroom with shelves, hanging space and a chest of drawers. We are planning a bathroom remodel at the moment, and all I can think is ‘how can we add more storage space?’. I also have a Pinterest page just for clever storage solutions. Yes. I AM that sad.

The single most pleasurable thing about my small business (aside from helping poor babies soothe their gums with my beautiful teething creations…just a small plug, sorry not sorry) is that when an order comes in I get to unpack all the beads, sort them, organise them by colour or type and put them away in my little grey ombre storage trolley *sigh*.

I think the antithesis of my organisation addiction is the addiction of others to hoard things. I feel very sorry for them. Not just because they often live in such awful conditions but because something terrible has likely happened to them to make them feel like they have to hold on to every last little scrap of anything. I almost want to be the person that goes in and makes it all tidy again and I gain quite an immense pleasure from watching TV programmes of that ilk because I know that at the end of it, they almost always come out of it with a liveable space again, and that feels quite satisfying even if I haven’t done it myself.

Actually makes me itchy just looking at it.

I often wonder if my need to organise stuff is down to feeling a lack of control in other aspects of my life. I’m not a control freak, but some things that I can’t seem to change can get me down, and having total control over organisation allows me to gain back a sense of power.

So today, being back at work and knowing I’m back full time next week made me feel a little powerless because financially, like so many other families, we have no choice. So, in a small act of regaining control, tidying our scruffy cupboard was the best thing I could think of. And by gosh it worked. I had a sense of accomplishment, completion and felt good that I did something useful that would benefit others too.

I will return to work a little lighter in step next week and I’m really looking forward to working with my wonderful organisational comrades in arms once again.

This blog is dedicated to my wonderful art department colleagues, Claire and Kate, I don’t know what I’d do without your awesome support, sympathy and wicked-good organisational skills.

N xxx

All the women…

After my recent post about going back to work, I had so many supportive messages. All of them were from strong, awesome ladies who took the time to share their words of wisdom and helped me to gain some perspective. Genuinely, this outpouring of help and encouragement made me feel better and gave me strength, and I realised that this kind of network of women is something I never thought I’d have, but feel incredibly lucky to be a recipient of.

I’ve always been a bit socially awkward. I was brought up in a street where our best mates were boys who built dens, played with Ghostbusters figures and played penalty shoot-out in the local field. So naturally I did those things too, and not because I didn’t feel like I had a choice, but because I enjoyed them. Who doesn’t love nicking bits of wood from the neighbouring street’s kids to add to your tree house? My hair never sat right and whether my clothes matched or not was something I just didn’t give a crap about. (Although I desperately wanted those Clark’s school shoes with the little see-through compartment with the key in, my one ‘girly’ concession).

Just…so…awesome

I wasn’t a ‘girly girl’ who would hug her girl mates and plait hair. My best friends were smart (and many of my closest friends at Primary school became teachers too…I think that means we were all geeks) or strong, or tomboys and I was a tomboy too and totally proud of it.

I moved from Devon to Gloucestershire half way through year 7, so I got to start big scary secondary school twice (yay!). All the friends I had moved with to Secondary school were but a memory and I had to negotiate my way around already established cliques, while getting used to a new school, new teachers and a new life with absolutely no friends anywhere within reach. It was shit, for quite a long time. I was a bit like Lisa Simpson, but with rubbish hair.

I really tried to make friends. Everyone thought I was posh (with a Plymouth accent, no idea why) and I used long words in an attempt to show people that I was intelligent, as this is what I’d always fallen back on to seek out others of a similar mind. One weekend I invited a load of girls (whose friendship group I’d managed to sneak into the periphery of) to my house for the afternoon to hang out. I tidied diligently, laid out snacks and cushions and thought of topics of conversation to bring up. I’d had lots of girls tell me they were coming. The afternoon ticked by and…no-one came. My mum has told me since that she wanted to cry for me at this point and I think she despaired that I couldn’t make any proper friends. From what I remember, I expected it, but I still felt incredibly lonely and started to believe that I would just live out my school life as a hermit, hunched over a book in the corner of the library and swatting angrily at anyone that came close.

One sports day, I was competing in the ‘welly wanging’ competition (Yes, exactly as daft as it sounds) and I’d thought a few girls were going to come and watch me to support me as part of their tutor team, but they didn’t. At this point, I was so upset by being ignored that I had a go at one girl, and was promptly told by another that it wasn’t any surprise they didn’t come to watch me because I was a ‘bad tempered boffin’. Now I’ve been called a lot of things in my time (as a teacher it’s inevitable) but I think that comment hurt me worse than anything else. But I knew that if I didn’t apologise, I’d never have an ‘in’ with this group of girls and I desperately wanted friends, so I sucked it up and I apologised. Amazingly, it worked.

It’s definitely a thing…there’s even a world championship!

Almost 20 years later and 3 of the girls from that group are now 3 of my closest friends, and were bridesmaids at my wedding. They are the kind of friends who you might not see from one month to the next, but when we meet up it’s just so easy and fun and you forget that you’re all grown up with kids and a mortgage, or an expensive personal trainer/dining out habit.

My bestie and I bonded through a mutual love of Tank Girl and rock music. We lived together for a few years and had babies about 6 weeks apart. Every time I see her I feel lifted, lighter and happier and she’s just as much of a tomboy as I am. I wish I’d known her when I was 12, life would have been so much easier and maybe I’d be less of a goody goody.

I’ve also grown closer to my sister as we’ve got older. We were a bit like ships passing in the night during our teens but as we’ve become adults and then parents, our commonalities have brought us closer together and I love her tenacity and perfectionism. If my sister wants something, she usually gets it. You have to respect that kind of power!

Not forgetting my Mum, who over the years has become more like a friend. We’ve spent many nights watching horror films and necking cheap Liebfraumilch, and discussing murderers and the paranormal (beginning to see why I’m socially awkward…) She’s one of my biggest supporters and she gave us a wonderful childhood, full of family traditions that I will pass on to my own children.

Then there’s my awesome team at work, my amazing Mother-in-Law, my fabulous antenatal group friends, countless other colleagues, ex-colleagues, other school friends and wider acquaintances that form the complex and brilliant network of ladies I know will help me and inspire me when I need it. I feel lucky to know so many wonderful women, and counting them as friends, after a lot of years not really feeling like I belonged.

Women get a lot of flak for judging each other and comparing, but this ignores the amazing community that women can create so effortlessly. Tell them that you’re worried and they’ll support you, complement their top in a club toilet and you’ll make a temporary best mate, have a question about pretty much anything and the women of the internet will respond in droves to help you out.

So, incredibly, I’ve grown to be someone who enjoys occasionally being a ‘girly girl’, who loves spending time with other women and even air kisses and hugs. Who knew!

Ladies in my life, thank you for your endless support.

N xxx

 

 

 

Going back to work.

In less than three weeks’ time, my reverie will end, my mornings will darken and I will follow the footsteps of millions of women who have gone before me. I am going back to work.

Every time I think about it for more than a few minutes my eyes well up and I have to stop thinking about it, lest I drown in my own tears. My husband will tell you that I became a gibbering wreck when he thoughtfully asked me if I was ok once I had written my official ‘return to work’ letter for payroll purposes. Clearly, I was not.

It’s not the work part of it that’s the issue. I love the team I work with; my work is generally pretty good (aside from the usual teacher moans about workload exceeding numbers of hours in the day etc). I like the structure of work and, of course, the money. My boss is better than sliced bread and has negotiated for my cover to stay for a week with me to make my transition as easy as possible. I know this and yet I cry.

I’ve had the luxury of spending 6 months with my little girl, getting to know her and what makes her laugh. Spending hours just smiling at her to try and elicit a goofy grin back. Quiet hours spent cradling her and feeding her from my own body. Seeing her develop and grow and turn into a delightful little person who I adore sharing my every waking hour with. We read books together, watch the fish in the fish tank, play with the cats, go for walks around the park and myriad other things to fill our days. It’s been so wonderful.

It’s been tiring too, don’t get me wrong. And sometimes I am desperate for my husband to get home, cursing every minute he takes to get changed and go to the loo because it’s another minute that I can’t get have a break for. But, overall, I have loved my time with her.

I’m crying as I write this, and I knew I would because it comes right from the very heart of me. And it makes my heart hurt, knowing that instead of spending those hours a day with her, I’ll now be spending them teaching someone else’s children instead of my own.

Other people will take over my role. My dad will be looking after her for 2 days a week and a childminder for the other 3. Other people will essentially be raising my daughter for the first few years of her life and it makes my heart ache to know this. With every fibre of my being I feel it should be me with her. Me to see her firsts. Me to comfort her when she is sick and sad, in the way that immediately makes her stop crying. Me to cuddle her awake when she has been asleep and is disoriented. I feel sick just thinking about it, knowing that I can’t be there.

I know I should pull myself together and remember that so many others have already blazed this trail, long before me. But knowing that others have already gone through this doesn’t make ME hurt any less.

I was always proud of being the main wage earner in our house, but now it feels like a burden, because we can’t afford for me to stop working or go part time, we rely on my wage.

I knew this was coming, but knowing hasn’t helped me to prepare for it. I feel like a huge hole has opened in my stomach and the closer it gets, the rawer it feels.

I also know that this probably feels worse now because I’m thinking about it and not doing it. Once I am doing it and I am in a routine I expect I’ll be ok and we’ll just have to make the most of the scant hours we get together before bedtime. School work will have to wait until she has gone to bed so I can soak up every single second I can get with her.

I have 18 days left to fill with fun and laughter before it all hits home, and I intend to make the most of each and every one.

N xxx

A catalogue of horrors

The last few days have been a bit shitty. Not awful…nobody died, I didn’t go bankrupt and no-one I knew was injured or anything of that ilk. No. But there were a series of crappy events that has led to this Saturday night malaise and general feeling of ick and meh. So, I have decided to catalogue for you the series of shitty events, if for no other reason than catharsis, perspective and to make you feel a little better if you’ve also had a bitch of a week.

  1. Thursday-Had to miss a nice walk with my bestie after not seeing her for ages as girly was full of cold, teething and it was pissing down. No-one likes a wet humid walk with a snotty grumpy baby.
  2. Feel shitty about rain-checking my friend. Feel like a bad friend.
  3. Bathroom quote guy doesn’t arrive for appointment. Later texts to say he got 2 appointments mixed up. Rebook for Friday. Not overwhelmed by his organisation skills.
  4. Friday-Girly is more pukey than normal. She pukes all over me, I have to change.
  5. She then pukes all over herself-I have to change her. Everything has an aroma of vomit.
  6. She poops, it leaks though her clothes. I change her again and wash her clothes. Now everything smells like shit and vomit.
  7. I have an appointment for something I’m really looking forward to at 1pm. My Dad who is supposed to be minding girly is 15 mins late. I call the house-no answer. 5 mins later, still no Dad. Panicking as still no answer at house and he doesn’t have a mobile. Visions of him lying dead at his house run through my head. Wonder who to call if he’s already dead-would be wasting ambulance time surely? Figure that the emergency services call receiver knows best. Call and cancel my appointment. Minutes later he calls to apologise, he’d gone to the tip and got stuck in traffic due to an accident. Fuming.
  8. Man is supposed to arrive for cancelled bathroom quote appointment, he cancels again because his wife is stuck at work and he has to do the school run. Quick deliberation with husband, we decide to give him a third chance. Spoiler alert-that was a mistake.
  9. I made a hasty slow cooker dinner. I fucked it up, it tasted awful. Dinner was Mexican rice with 3 fried eggs on top. Friday night-woo.
  10. Saturday-Baby does a stealthy poop. It leaks through her clothes. While her Dad is changing her, she pees which runs off the changing mat and soaks into the sofa. Now the sofa smells like piss.
  11. The bathroom quote man texts me at 11.04 (He was supposed to arrive at 11) telling me he’ll be here in 20 minutes. He doesn’t turn up. No response to text, no phone call. At some time after 12 we call it quits and go out. Ghosted by a fucking plumber. What. An. Asshole.
  12. Trying out a new car seat in the car, Mothercare lady wants to put girly in it to check position etc. Girly pukes a substantial amount all over herself and the car seat before I can even buckle her in. Awesome.
  13. We buy a car seat. £300 which is with a £100 discount. Daylight robbery. Maternity savings account is dwindling.
  14. She poops again. It leaks through her clothes again. I change her again. I should take out shares in washing liquid. The house smells like crap again.
  15. I’m feeding baby her bedtime feed, the room is dark and she’s sleepy and husband has gone to a party. Cat comes in. Pukes on the floor. Hear him puke twice more out in the hallway. Have to wait 30 mins for girly to finish her feed, all the while knowing that the cat vom is soaking into the carpet. Fan-fucking-tastic.
  16. Realise I also really need to poo all of a sudden, so much that it’s making my stomach hurt. Have to wait for girly to finish feeding.
  17. Clean said cat vom (after a trip to the loo) using the torch on my phone and wipes as girly is now asleep and I don’t want to wake her up. Realise that it looks exactly the same as when it went into the bowl.
  18. Finally get downstairs, wash all the dishes, sit down with a glass of wine…and notice baby sick on the sofa, probably from this morning. Ace.
Said car seat, expensive but at least she looks comfortable!

So, there you have it.

Hoping you had a better weekend!

N xxx

Cats – Assholes or adorable?

I used to hate cats. Or at least I thought I did. But it wasn’t because of a bad encounter or mishap, a half-eaten mouse in my shoe or needle-sharp claws to the face. I think it was because of the public perception that cats were aloof assholes who’d almost certainly eat your eyeballs if you happened to die and they ran out of food.

I was also highly allergic to cats. You just had to show me a cat and I would be reduced to a sniffing, sneezing, snot-dribbling heap. It’s like they could sense it too and would purposefully jump up and rub themselves all over me like a hooker on a rich guy until my eyes were red rimmed and streaming. Cats were dicks as far as I was concerned.

Then I realised that somewhere along the line, since my ‘see a cat and sneeze’ days I had outgrown my allergy. This happened at about the same time as the internet started to fill up with tiny mewing saucer-eyed bundles of fluff. The public opinion had shifted. Cats were now hip and stupidly cute, and videos of their floofy gorgeousness now saturated all platforms of social media. You couldn’t scroll for more than a few seconds without seeing a cat playing a piano or shooting rainbows out of its ass while it flew through space ensconced in a strawberry pop tart.

Our adopted boys in a rare snuggly moment

As a long time appreciator of small cute things, and someone who is ridiculously easily influenced by advertising (just show me a doughnut and that’s all I’ll think about until I absolutely MUST have one, I’m an ad-guys dream) I didn’t stand a chance.

However, the real change came when I met my husband. Until Nick came along with his feline friendly ways I’d personally owned nothing more demanding than a dickhole Angel fish called Rorschach. I certainly never entertained the idea of owning a cat. But his wistful reminiscing of his cats gone by made me curious.

So, when we moved in together, into a house with a small garden and a cat flap, I knew I was about to become a cat owner.

We adopted our two boys (who are brothers) and after much deliberation at the local pub and many vetoed suggestions, we settled on the obvious name choice; Thor and Loki.

Loki

I can honestly say that it’s one of the best decisions I have ever made. These two moggies bring me joy every single day and I can’t help but feel a pang of pride each time we are presented with a little dead token of affection. Sometimes we get moss, leaves or bits of ivy instead because Thor seems to be a pacifist…or is just shit at hunting. Though he’ll gleefully toss his brother’s spoils around the garden.

They fight like actual brothers, proper tale swishing scrappy brawls which leave them scratched and missing the odd tuft of fur. Yet they also occasionally sit close beside each other as they look out into the night together.

Their personalities are very different. Thor, who is more my cat, is a snuggly, head smushing, tiny purry little dude. He’s smaller than the average cat and when he trots across the garden he has a weird bulldog swagger. He’s a total wuss, throwing himself on his back to any cat that crosses his path. He tends to stay close to home and can usually be found sleeping on our bed.

Thor

His brother is more independent. More Nick’s cat, he can disappear for a whole day after ranging god knows where. He’s the alpha predator and the stronger, faster cat in a fight. He has scratches on his nose that lend him an air of a swarthy war vet and he’s a bit skittish if stroked when he wasn’t expecting it. He can also be affectionate and drools big drippy splotches of saliva when he’s content. He likes to sit on the shed and watch the cat flap in case the black and white intruder cat from 2 doors down tries to sneak in (which happens almost daily).

Their relationship with the girl is becoming more obvious now. They seem to have accepted her into their tribe and they’ll nuzzle her hands and knead her legs, and occasionally sniff and look like they’re kissing her head. It’s just too cute.

So yeah, cats are dickheads, but that’s part of their appeal and just makes them even cuter when they are being sweet. If you’re not sure if you want a cat, get one anyway-they’re hella fun! And on a serious note, make sure you adopt, don’t shop.

N xxx

My Mummy Manifesto

Before I became a parent, I decided on certain things that I would do/not do to ensure that my children don’t become spoilt brats and instead turn out to be upstanding members of society/humanitarian geniuses (Geniuses? Genii?)/entrepreneurial prodigies…or at least have a sense of humour and don’t live off Dominoes and cheap gin (no judgement if you live off Dominoes and cheap Gin, it’s better than Strongbow and Mayfair cigarettes).

(No judgement if you live off Strongbow and Mayfair cigarettes).

So, in my mind I created a rough-hewn ‘Mummy Manifesto’. I’m going to document it here, partly to see how well I have stuck to this ideology thus far (all 4.5 months into motherhood), and as a hysterical historical tome for my children to look back on in future, when they are probably speaking to their therapists about their asshole mother who brazenly slapped so many features of their precious childhood all over the internet. Sorry, kids.

  1. I promise to read to you, with you and around

Seems a little odd to start with this, but MAN it’s such an important one. When teaching, the kids that have been reading since year dot stand out a mile for their eloquence, impressive vocabulary and ability to construct a sentence without using the word ‘like’ unless it’s actually necessary. Modelling reading is important too. I do read to you pretty much daily (big tick, we’ll see if I can keep that up). I also try to read in front of you, sadly it’s mostly on the phone but I do also read actual books occasionally and have a stack on the side table. I will try harder at this as the stack growing at an alarming rate.

All the books I’m currently reading….running out of space rapidly.
  1. I promise to talk to you often and not have the TV on too much.

Kids learn language by hearing you speak to them and around them. They apparently do this less when you sit, slack jawed, watching Homes under the hammer (to the tune of about 200 fewer words per hour) as Dion Dublin discusses the potential yield of renting a property in Warrington. Who knew? So, I am making a conscious effort to not have the TV on too much and speak to you about EVERYTHING I’m doing. I’m tempted to just read the dictionary to you until your eyes glaze over. You will shine with language goddamn it. You are going to be SO sick of my voice. You’ll thank me when you win that Booker prize.

  1. I promise to feed you healthy stuff when you start eating solid food.

I have just made my first batch of purees for weaning; Broccoli and Cauliflower. You tried the Cauliflower and almost choked as it was a bit grainy and not watery enough. Mummy decided to use Ella’s Kitchen purees instead until she gets the hang of it, lest you perish due to inhaling an errant broccoli floret that I neglected to properly blitz. I’m half way there. Thank Christ for Ella’s Kitchen is the moral of this one.

  1. I promise to give you fresh air and exercise daily (or at least regularly).

I’m a fair-weather mummy, I’ll admit it. I just don’t fancy pushing a pram around in the pissing rain while my hair slowly becomes more and more Monica before the Bo Derek hair-do and my jeans begin absorbing a bath’s worth of puddle water. I do take you out almost every day, even if it’s just to get you to sleep because you’re fighting your lunchtime nap and mummy needs some respite (see blog: Walking back to sanity). I do also try to get you to exercise; you go hell for leather trying to crawl when we do tummy time. You thrash around pretty good at bath time too (much to my chagrin when daddy wets himself laughing at how much water you drench me with) and you laugh your ass off when I make your squishy little leggies do the can-can while mummy sings it in her dodgy offkey voice (thank you Cherie’s Cherubs for teaching us this in Baby Yoga, this absolutely guarantees a giggling fit from her and almost always cheers her up when she’s in a grump).

  1. I promise to get you into a good routine.

I am a slave to a routine. It’s basically a CV-worthy skill to be able to pee at the same time every day because it coincides with your break times as a teacher. I would also be a complete wreck by the time I got to work if I didn’t follow a good morning routine. It makes me sound like a boring killjoy but I care not, because when you have to get up at 6.20am and be perky by 8am for your first parent meeting of the day, ‘I didn’t get up in time’ doesn’t cut it. So, thus far we have a nice bedtime routine and you do go to sleep by around 20.15 each evening. However, you also seem to have adopted your own routine of waking up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5.15 each morning…guess who’s not feeling so smug now?

  1. I promise to hug and kiss you, a lot.

Hugs are good for you. Science says so. And besides that, you’re adorably squishy and hugging you is one of my most favourite things, ever. You fit so comfortably into my arms and your substantial weight is comforting on my chest as I nuzzle into your sweet (but slightly sicky) smelling neck. I also want to EAT your gigantic chubby hamster cheeks, but I’ll make do with kissing them liberally instead. You don’t seem to mind so I’ll carry on smothering you with hugs and kisses for as many years as you’ll allow. Because Science. And I love you.

Those cheeks…
  1. I promise to teach you to use your manners.

Manners means a lot to me (see blog: Why manners matter) so naturally a rude child I will not abide! It’s a little early to see if I have done this effectively yet, given that you can’t talk and all, but what I can do is model good manners and let you see and hear me saying please and thank you, excuse me and generally being a nice human being to everyone I meet. I do this anyway, I am the master of manners. Therefore you, my offspring, will also master this. Or you WILL spend the entirety of your formative years grounded.

  1. I promise to bring you up to admire strong women.

You already have 2 books about kick-ass historical women (which was an education for me too-every day is a school day!) and you do enjoy me reading them to you. You will watch Wonder Woman, Rogue One and A Force Awakens when you’re older and I will force you to watch TV and films that pass the Bechdel test. You will read literature written by awesome ladies and I will do my best to be a good role model by working hard in my career and being a good mum and all-round superhero (I will most definitely fail at elements of this, just remember I’m human ok? And also, that I pay your pocket money so no smart-arse remarks about me drinking too much Sauvignon blanc). I want you to aspire to be like great women, but more than that, I want you to carve out your own niche and be a great woman in your own right. I’m already so proud of you (me…choking up. Perhaps just a tad).

  1. I promise to avoid gender stereotypes.

Not just in your clothing and toys, but in your bedroom décor, the language I use around you and in every way that I am consciously aware of. Your bedroom is already blue and grey with mountains and Star Wars space crafts on the wall. Your attire comes in a variety of all colours (in fact if you have a little brother, we’d probably manage to get enough clothes for him from your existing collection). I want you to aim for the stars and not have your life-trajectory determined by what you happened to be born with between your legs. You are your own person and you can be whatever you want to be. Also, I’m not a big fan of pink.

  1. I promise to say no.

This sounds like an odd one, but one of the best things I can do is to say no sometimes. Whether it’s to reading a story for the 90millionth time in an evening, or to a huge slab of chocolate for breakfast, being a parent means saying no. It’s being cruel to be kind because in the big wide world you will be met with ‘no’ situations, and you need to learn how to handle disappointment. Equally you will not always win and I will cuddle and soothe you when you don’t but I will let you lose because losing gracefully is a skill you’ll need to be taught. I will also not be bailing you out of detentions of your own making (plus if you get any detentions, as the daughter of a teacher, I might just have to kick your ass) and I will not be apologising to people for your behaviour. It’s your behaviour, you need to own it.

  1. I promise to laugh with you every day.

This one is easy, you’re hilarious and your mum will do virtually anything to elicit a laugh. Including putting Daddy’s (clean) pants on her head and looking out the pee hole while we put away the washing. (Shhhhhhhh, don’t tell Daddy).

So, when you’re old enough, you can read this back and either laugh at the piss-poor job we did of raising you or pat us on the back for raising a kick-ass daughter.

Be awesome little Padawan.

Love, your Mummy xxx

 

 

 

 

Walking back to sanity

The other day I’d had it. I was royally pissed off about a situation that I felt stuck in and this pissed-offedness (that’s an actual term) just led to more and more situations for me to feel rage about, you know how these things snowball.

The girl, probably sensing my pissyness, became grizzly and whiny. Now my tolerance for this is usually at Mary Poppins levels of saintliness (10 years of teaching stroppy teenagers will do that to you), but today my inner Poppins was no-where to be found. My tolerance had done a bunk. Bastard.

Next, some yogurt I was trying to open spilled all over the floor. Undoubtedly this was because I was angrily handling it without thought or care and instead of lovingly peeling back the foil lid like the Scherzingers of this world, I tore at it like a rabid beast because I had to pour it down my throat quickly so I could get back to comforting my miserable baby. My hotly anticipated vanilla with chocolate sprinkles ended up coating the floor, my hands and some of the kitchen cabinet. This did not go down well.

The final shred of sanity exited the building when my girl, already moody, decided to unleash a poonami of epic proportions. The shit was quite literally seeping through her brand new and utterly gorgeous Jojo maman bebe top. It was so plentiful that it soaked through 2 layers of clothing, plastered her back and shoulders and gave her changing mat a nice thick coating of bright yellow poo paint too. At this point I somehow mustered my inner chi or something, whatever it was it enabled me to clean everything up, but I was at the point of losing my shit.

I could physically feel the anger rising in me, thick like tar in my chest and stuck like a piece of barely-chewed steak. Usually at this point I’d be half way into a bottle of cheap Sauvignon blanc to drown my sorrows. I apparently am not just an emotional eater. But these days a hangover is not conducive to breastfeeding at 3am so I had to find another outlet for my fury. So, I bundled the girl up into her pram, wrestled with her straps that just would not budge and eventually gave up and stormed out onto the poor unsuspecting world with only my keys shoved into my back pocket.

And I walked.

Some people run, some people shoot up, I used to drink, but these days the only way I can release my pent-up wrath is to pound the pavement. This works well for the girl. She gets some fresh air and eventually falls asleep and when we arrive home and she wakes up, she gets a fresh mother too.

I don’t quite know what it is about walking that does it. I suspect that it gives me time outside of my own over-crowded head and allows me to put things into perspective. Alongside the change of scenery, lovely countryside, fresh air and endorphins from the brisk walking. It gave me an opportunity to sanely think through a plan of action to address the original reason for my irritation, without the unwashed dishes, dirty washing, cleaning and so on clogging up my headspace.

It took a while, but by the time I got home around 40 minutes later, I was once again serene. My inner Poppins had been restored and more importantly, my sanity was no longer only holding on by a massively frayed thread. The girl had a good long nap and so she was much happier and it was a completely free and a healthy activity to boot. (Don’t worry, I’m not about to go all ‘Exercise guru’ on you guys, I like pizza too much).

I’m not much of a runner but I can see the appeal given my toned-down version has such a positive effect. So, to try and keep the peace, within my own head at least, I will try to walk more often and hopefully reason will be re-established once more.

N xx

My Fat Baby

*As featured by Cheltenham Maman: http://cheltenhammaman.co.uk/my-fat-baby/

Having a big baby is like having an ice-cream sundae with extra helpings of everything. It’s every bit as tempting and delicious as a smaller portion, but there’s just more of it.

My daughter was a totally average 7lb 5oz when she was born (sorry kg folks, I only work in old money here). My husband and I are neither very short nor very tall, we are in fact also quite average. I carry a few extra pounds here and there but nothing alarming and my husband is annoyingly slim (though he’d like it pointed out at this point that he is not THAT slim, he is wrong). So, it took us more than a little by surprise when we realised that we have a >99.6th on our hands.

For those not in the know, and those who care, on a percentile chart >99.6 is the highest possible point. This means that in a room filled with 99 other girl babies born at the same time, our girl would be the heaviest. However, this did not just apply to her weight, as she is in the highest possible percentile for her length too. We have one great big baby on all counts it seems.

She didn’t gain weight immediately, losing a standard 7.7% of her body weight in the days after her birth, now that she was no longer intravenously fed on a steady diet of cake, crisps and pasta, but within 10 days she has regained the weight lost and more. ‘Great!’ I thought, ‘a healthy little girly.’

Not long after, her new-born clothes were getting a worryingly tight and her weigh-in with the midwife put her at around the 91st percentile. ‘OK’, I thought, ‘So she’s gaining lots of weight, that’ll be good for insulation in the winter and it means my milk bags are doing their job efficiently.’ However, it quickly became apparent that she wasn’t going to stop at the 91st percentile, oh no, our girl was heading for the top at a frightening pace.

My roly poly beaut.

She is just over 3 months old at the time of writing, and she is so far off the chart that she wouldn’t just be the heaviest in a room full of babies, but she’d give some stocky pre-schoolers a run for their money. This week we were at a play group, having a lovely time in a local park, when I met a mum with their own little one who was just 6 days younger than our girl. I kid you not when I say girly looked like she had eaten this other child. This delicate and petite little girl was so small by comparison that to me she looked like a new-born. My friend who had invited me to the group commented that her little girl and mine looked almost the same size. I laughed and she laughed and then we got to talking about weights. I stopped laughing when we realised that my girl weighed almost the same as her daughter, except hers was a full year older. What. The. Actual.

Am I producing gold top? Do I feed her too much? Questions and concerns raced through my mind, but after a bit of extensive research I took comfort in the fact that as an almost exclusively breast-fed baby, it’s pretty impossible to overfeed her, and instead I have decided to wholeheartedly embrace her chunky lusciousness. I will also embrace her perpetually wanting open mouth, that makes her look like one of those little fish in that game where you had to try and catch them with a magnet on a stick.

I hope that she keeps up her roly-poly disposition because, as my nephew whispered conspiratorially to me one day, he prefers chubby babies. There is something reassuringly robust about endless fat rolls and plump thighs, which, when mixed with that intoxicating smell that only babies and expensive candles possess, is completely spellbinding.

She has been mistaken for a boy on more than one occasion, and I had to explain to the nice restaurant manager that ‘Buster’ was in fact a girl. Embarrassed, he quickly changed tact and suddenly she was a little princess instead. Only if sumo wrestlers can also be princesses pal. But I love that she could end up taking on Gwendoline Christie-type proportions, because as a self-confessed tomboy I’d love nothing more than my girl becoming the knight in shining armour rather than the distressed princess. (As a side note, if you don’t know who Gwendoline Christie is A-where have you been?  And B-think tall, strong and incredibly striking. Or do a Google search, whatever.)

So, to conclude I have some practical advice. For those of you that find yourself with deliciously chubby cherubs, these are the 3 things you should know:

  1. The ‘lifting with your legs’ malarkey goes awry when your heavy load is squirmier than a greased-up squid. Be prepared for back pain. Do yourself a favour and get massaged regularly. Preferably by someone who knows what they are doing.
  2. Forget buying clothes ahead of time. Seriously. You’ll be planning a seasonal wardrobe but by August the little darling will be perspiring like the proverbial porker in jumpers, coats and mittens when your baby suddenly condenses 3 months of growth into 3 weeks; and you decide that they simply must get some wear out of their clothes. The past 3 months have raced by in a blur of beautiful unworn dresses, stretched sleepsuits and useless trousers that just couldn’t fit over her thighs. Buy as you go, and buy baggy.
  3. Nappy rash doesn’t just occur on the bottom. Nope. Hotspots include; armpits, under the adorable third chin and especially between the rolls of fat (more rolls than the Staypuft Marshmallow man of Ghostbusters lore). So, slather on a bit of barrier cream and don’t be surprised if those bits smell super cheesy if you forget to clean and dry them properly. Yum!

 

Nadine x

Why manners matter

‘Manners maketh man’ is a phrase that I 100% appreciate and agree with. It takes so little effort to be polite and mind your Ps and Qs that I find it utterly astounding that there are so many assholes out there in the big wide world who cannot muster a simple ‘thank you’ and I instantly judge someone who doesn’t demonstrate that they are a reasonable human being.

I’ve heard that to highlight one’s annoyance at someone’s lack of manners in a typically passive-aggressive (and therefore British) way is to coolly say, ‘You’re welcome’ at people who have failed to thank you appropriately. You won’t find me doing that though, oh no, because essentially, I’m a massive chicken and I don’t like confrontation. No, instead I’ll complain about it passive-aggressively in a pissy blog post-I am still British after all.

A recent example of contrasted responses happened a few days ago, do stay a while as I recount my tale of woe. The first encounter took place at the end of my road. I wanted to cross the motorway bridge but the path leading to it is so narrow that it can only have been conceived by Jack Sprat in an attempt to shake off his rotund wife. Thus, the path can only be attempted by single individuals. I had my pushchair, and coming the other way was an elderly man in a mobility scooter. He started on the path first, so naturally I stood aside to let him pass because of the unspoken rule of queueing. He got there first therefore he gets right of way. When he came to the exit to the bridge he actually stopped and looked at me, in my face (remarkable, strangers really do this?!) and thanked me warmly, called me a ‘Real Lady’ and told me that apparently there are not many of those around these days. It was a warm and fuzzy kind of exchange that required little effort on both our parts but left us both feeling a little happier for the rest of the day (I’m assuming on his end anyway).

The next encounter was not so happy. I was walking back from our trundle to the shops, warm from the polite exchange of not 45 minutes before when I came upon a bus stop. (I’ve provided a diagram because as any Mumsnetter worth their salt will tell you, you must have a diagram). There were 3 youngish ladies waiting for the bus with pushchairs, eyes glazed, slack jawed and with a gaggle of (admittedly well-behaved) children. The bus was stationed and picking up customers and they were queueing to get onto the bus. The 3 ladies were standing in my path as they waited. I was clearly walking in the opposite direction and wanting to pass. Let’s play a little game and see if you can guess what happened next. Did they A) move a little closer to the road to let me pass B) apologised for blocking my path and just asked me to wait for a little while for them to board the bus C) lined up in single file to allow me to pass D) looked vacuously into the middle distance and made no attempt to move. Did you get it? That’s CORRECT, it was D!!! You win absolutely nothing!  They made me fucking wait there with my own baby in the pushchair while they got on the bus. They did not apologise. They did not even look at me. They were rude, inconsiderate assholes.

Was I being unreasonable? I think not.

You may be asking ‘But why didn’t you ask them to move, you goddamn moron?’ well, dear reader, I’m British. I don’t DO that sort of thing. Instead I stood there silently fuming and expecting them to, at any minute, snap out of their reverie and see me, realise that I needed to get past and utter a half-hearted ‘Sorry love’. But I didn’t get that. I got to wait.

Sadly, this kind of occurrence is all too common. But I get particularly riled when people are rude while driving. This is because you have no opportunity for any kind of lengthy verbal exchange so a simple hand gesture is all you need. Literally the flick of a finger and you’ve just acknowledged that the other driver has done something nice that has made your life just that little bit better and your day a bit nicer. What could be easier than that? Well, apparently not flicking your finger is easier, or at least I assume so since so many tossers fail to do it. That isn’t the extent of the assholery though. On my drive to work I pass several fields. In hay fever season, this is a bit traumatic and one day I had a particularly bad and continuous sneezing fit, so I slowed down a jot (and I mean by 5mph max on a 60 road). Now some rabid dickwad behind me decided to use this opportunity to beep as loudly as mechanically possible, whilst driving right up my ass because how dare I try to avoid ending up as a fiery ball of flesh and metal by taking my foot ever so slightly off the gas! How dare I stop them from reaching their destination 0.5 seconds faster! What was I fucking thinking??

Really, all I want is for people to be the old dude in the mobility scooter. Notice people being helpful and thank them if it has helped you. Give that driver a little wave if they’ve just waited to let you pass. Don’t be a dick to someone if they inadvertently hold you up-you don’t know their story. If we were all just a bit more polite and a little more aware of what others are doing around us, then the world would be just a little less shitty. And who doesn’t want a less shitty world?

So, manners matter people. Thank you for reading, please come again soon and excuse all the expletives!

N xxx

Parenting-Then and now

Things have changed in parenting and I’m so very thankful for that. We have disposable nappies, something that the Terry cloth era would have killed to get their hands on (despite being terrible for the environment). We have up to date nutritional advice about what to eat and drink to maximise the health of our children, which is based on hard science. We now know much more about vaccinations and their role in safeguarding our children’s futures. All of this is vital, important or useful. But to some, usually from the older generations (and only a minority), it’s seen as an attack on the way they parented their own children.

Oh! The washing!

I have read on numerous forums (but have not experienced myself) the concerns of new mums being told by Grandmothers, Mothers and other interested parties to give their new baby water, or to let them ‘cry it out’ and other pieces of advice that are now redundant and in some cases dangerous to a child’s health and development.

Things have progressed a great deal from when these women were parents and that’s a good thing as it ensured the health of our children. But when provided with the new information and paediatrician-approved guidelines, some of these well-meaning ladies can become defensive and say ‘well I did it with you and you’re alive aren’t you?’. Now you can’t argue with that logic, but it’s not enough merely to survive. Part of the purpose of becoming a parent, for me, is to produce offspring who are BETTER. Healthier, more intelligent, more compassionate and driven. So, although they aren’t wrong, it’s the research we need to listen to in order to further progress the human race as a species.

A horrible burden on the environment but SO much easier.

Now that’s not to say that all advice given to us by our elders and those with experience is bunk, not at all. I’m lucky enough to have several women in my family who have given me solid gold advice and support in my dark days and I am very grateful for it. Experience is a boon, not a barrier in the majority of cases.

I firmly believe that if they’d had this information in their early motherhood, they’d also want to follow it to do the best for their children, and indeed they did follow the guidelines at the time. The problem arises when the information given then and now differs so dramatically that they feel defensive, as though they are being accused of doing something wrong. But as a mum now, I can tell them that we don’t think you’ve done anything wrong and we are not doubting your ability as parents, we just know more now. I don’t doubt that in 30 years’ time, if my children have children, the advice will have changed again to reflect the most up to date scientific research. And I promise, daughter of mine, if you choose to have children, I will not be one of those women.

N xxx