Thursday, 29 September 2016

Autumn '16

So, they are all back at school. No. 4 is now no longer under my control for most of the week and is getting on brilliantly - far above my expectations. Bea is also getting on wonderfully well at her secondary school. By the end of the first day her tears and tantrums from the term before were forgotten and she was brimming with its brilliance. The school is very strict and has a weird policy regarding the compulsory wearing of tights if you wear a skirt - regardless of temperature - and there is an awful lot more homework and hard work, but on the whole she likes her teachers, loves her new friends and has entirely forgiven me 'ruining her life' by sending her to a different school to her primary school friends. Even the boys are happy, (for now). G is happily reunited with his friends and and Ted's class tables are helpfully named after different types of sharks which are his current obsession. And both boys have been voted by their classmates to be School Councillors which is rather lovely as there are only two per year so I was most proud.  I can't pretend that everyone is happy every day but, on the whole, the new school term has not been quite the trauma I had feared for anyone.

Cybs isn't screaming and clinging on to me every morning and sits on the mat with the other children with very little fuss. I am quite amazed by it all. I don't know quite what I was expecting but that wasn't it. It was me that cried on the first day and had to escape quickly to ensure that she didn't see me. It is quite unlike me to cry about such things - I certainly didn't for the last two. But as she is a summer baby she seems so much smaller and more baby like. I think that, combined with the lovely summer, made leaving her that much harder. I'm pretty sure the worst thing about a child starting school is that having known every little detail of their life, from how much liquid they've ingested to how much poo they have ejected, you suddenly don't know anything about six hours of their day. Other people are now far more involved in their lives and you are just 'the mum' - the teacher even refers to them as 'her children' which for some reason struck me on Cybil's first day. Also they are assessed for various things from the moment they arrive on site and although I am more than happy to point out the children's faults and moan and write about them, the moment anyone else does it I become immediately defensive and pretty annoyed. After a few days of Cybs being at school it dawned on me that any minute now I will have to sign a form allowing her to be weighed as part of the government screening programme and yet again I will get a letter home telling me she is bloody obese. I HATE THESE. I know it's important, there's an epidemic blah blah blah. But I already know she's heavy. I think it's delicious, as I did with G before her. I will do my best as a responsible parent to ensure she doesn't end up with Type 2 Diabetes and using a mobility scooter at 16 because her bones can't carry her heft but I really don't want anyone else to point it out to me and include helpful 'tips and ideas' for small changes - "Don't give them cans of coke - why not swap it for a lovely glass of water?" NO SHIT. Why don't they extend the whole monitoring thing to more important stuff, like personality. Why don't other people get letters home telling them that their child has almost no personality and is borderline thick as shit. HUH? But no, it's how heavy you are that seems to be all that matters. I have no idea where I need to send it but I have taken the time to re-write the letter they send out to the parents of those children who have a little more meat to their bones in order to soften the blow a bit. It is far more useful than their current standard correspondence.

Dear parents of X
We had the pleasure of meeting your child, X, last week who is obviously a very enthusiastic and happy child. One of the many things we noticed was her great love of food. This is a wonderful aspect to her multi faceted personality and may well lead her on to an exciting career in catering in later years, however we think it might help her in the future if she enjoyed a little less food in the present. I'm sure you're already well aware of this and have plans in place, we just bring it to your attention on the off chance you were blind or thick as two short planks, which is actually more common that you might think! Please don't worry about it as it won't take too much to make a huge difference. If you can't think of any changes we have helpfully included 'An idiots guide' to feeding children and exercise.
All the best
Govt people

Interestingly, my ability to adjust to her being at school every day is remarkable. It is quiet at home, yes, but Dot is more than happy to make up for that and create quite a lot of noise and mess so I don't feel too bereft at the loss. She is happy to empty absolutely every cupboard and drawer in the kitchen and I have just spent half an hour recovering bits of Weetabix that she had thoughtfully scattered throughout the downstairs. She's also a big fan of spending hours on end moving things that belong in one room to another room where they most definitely do not belong. And she gets pretty pissed off when you don't give her what she wants, the minute she wants it. Mainly food and my iPhone. I had, once again, planned to achieve an awful lot in the weeks where I only have one at home. So far the six years of thank you notes I need to write/the children need to write have gone unwritten. Photobooks have also not been lovingly created from the million or so photos I am keen to organise. Clothes remain unsorted and exercise remains very much not undertaken. However I HAVE managed to organise the kitchen cupboards and my scary coat cupboard which was waist high with absolutely everything you can ever imagine. It is now possible to not only find coats/shoes/cleaning equipment with exceptional ease BUT you can also walk in to the cupboard and reach the far end. It is miraculous.

My sudden urge to sort and tidy has been precipitated by my selfish solo departure this weekend. It is just basic science that the further you go from your home and the more selfish the reason for the trip, then the more likely you are die. It's basically D (distance) + S (selfishness) = % chance of death. So, if you have to go somewhere locally for work, all good. If you go to Barbados for two weeks of indulgence and decadence then it's curtains for sure.  I am only going to Kent for two nights of old-school-friend fun so I think it's pretty much 50:50. I'm not a massive fan of those odds so I am making sure that the children know that I love them, the house is tidy and that all the tupperware, shoes and coats are sorted and easy to find. It's bad enough that K will suddenly be left in charge of five grieving children without struggling to find a plastic container with a lid that fits in the mayhem of the school mornings. As I haven't managed to sort the photos into photobooks or albums it is imperative that in the event of my death my Facebook page is made in to a memorial site as they are currently the only photo albums in existence for 90% of the children's lives.  Just in case anything does happen I'll let you guys know that the rest of the photos are on my phone/external hard drive and a few laptops - the hard drive is in my underwear drawer - I keep it there to hide it from burglars, obviously and the passwords for the laptops are Alicia0. If I don't die this weekend and go on to win the lottery and therefore able to build my 'dream' house it would contain a dedicated photo room - just for photo albums, photo filing cabinets, photo printing, photo framing, photo sorting and its walls would be adorned with photo wallpaper. I would also hire a photo archivist to do all of the above - I just thought I'd share that with you.

It's funny but with every stage of baby/childhood you inevitably end up looking forward to the next stage. Even from the very first day when I am deeply in love and hormonally 'high' I look forward to the milk coming in so that I can properly feed and for the days my bits feel slightly less battered. Then I start looking forward to the days when they have a regular sleep and are able to go more than an hour or so without my boob in their mouth. Then it's the days when they will go to bed at bedtime and I can have my evenings back, then the days you can bribe them with chocolate, drop them off at nursery/school and have time to sort the washing and pair up socks etc etc. But with every stage I find that you gain and lose in equal measure. Obviously it comes with a whole new heap of utter cuteness or useful independence (depending on the age) but it also comes with a whole new host of problems. When Dot started talking I was so excited. "Cat". I was so pleased she was an early talker and the children and I were keen to get her to say it over and over again for our own amusement and to show off her obvious brilliance to others. Fast forward a month or so and dear god it has lost its appeal. It doesn't help that she is scared of the cat so whilst she might spend the day in search of the 'cat' and then pointing at it and saying 'cat' over and over and over again, as soon as it moves or comes near her she screams and yells CAT because, ultimately, she doesn't actually want the fricking cat. She also says Ted. But he has a tendency to play with her in a 'boy' way which usually means shouting in her face or throwing stuff and this tends to result in her crying so, again, she says Ted over and over and over again, finds him, and then cries. It is pretty annoying. (He has also helpfully taught her to say 'shake that booty' and then filmed it for hilarity's sake - which is exceedingly 'boy' of him). Same with any stage to be honest. The excitement at them all growing up and the changes this brings to us as a family, also throws up new issues you hadn't thought about. Instagram, homework, boys, girls, friendship woes, willies, bits (I'm still not ok with the whole labia/vagina thing - I don't care what 'right on' folks say - I don't ask if the children want to urinate or defecate or to wipe their anus - I don't think all things need to be bloody anatomically correct so I will still use 'bits' until I find a suitable alternative)  puberty, freedom, choices, future - and we're only twelve years in. I can't imagine how much life is going to change in the next twelve years - Dot will be a teenager then and Bea will be 24 - this is all unimaginable right now. My greatest fear though, is the fear that I might not get to see it. I think it is every mothers fear.  I think that is why we go a bit crazy worrying about stuff and trying to control everything. I think. Or it is age or the fact that we are turning in to our mothers. Either way, I shall be driving extremely carefully all the way to Kent and back.

Until the next time (if all goes well). 

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx






Saturday, 10 September 2016

Summer '16


Time and Money. I struggle with both. The minute I know I have a lot of either coming my way I get terrifically over excited and spend the lead up to their arrival imagining all the wonderful things I will do with them. I research lots of things I will buy with the money - totally forgetting all the things I have already committed to, cheques I have written or tedious direct debits I choose to pretend don't exist.  I buy the things/pay for the things I've been looking forward to with the sudden influx of money and when it is all gone (which it all does, in around 24 hours), I suddenly remember all the mundane things the money should have been used for and become quite depressed about the fact that I have no way of meeting the commitments and then the realisation that I will have to break the news to K that he will have to meet them instead, and then he becomes pretty annoyed and normally tells me he doesn't have any money either. The same is true of time. Six weeks of summer holidays sounds like a blissful amount of time. I researched all the things we could do, planned and promised all sorts of day trips, cinema trips and play dates. I achieved a mere fraction of them. I am genuinely shocked that the six weeks went by so bloody quickly. I find myself wishing we had two more weeks which is a first. I can only conclude that the sun has made the difference. 

We have had such a wonderful summer holiday it seems cruel that it should all come to such an abrupt end. Obviously it hasn't all been sunshine and lollipops, there has been plenty of shouting and ranting and threats to kill people to boot but on the whole, it has been stupendous but we have seen lots of lovely people, been to lovely places and swum in the lovely and bracing British sea lots and lots and lots. I even managed to get the boys out of the house time and time again thanks to the wonderful Pok√©mon Go. I will not hear a word against it. Even going in to town to run the dullest of errands was met with joyous excitement (and intense argument over who was going to hold the phone first) because they were happy to search for new pokemon and pokeballs to add to their virtual collection. Such a nice change to Minecraft which has them sitting down for hours on end and then having real life fisticuffs over people invading each other's virtual 'worlds' and ruining virtual buildings with virtual TNT.

Our family holiday to the Isle of Wight was a stupendous success. We managed to actually enjoy large parts of the week even with five children, the British weather and that I had paid scant attention to the finer details in regards to the house we hired, and only realised the day before that it was a three bed, not the four beds I had planned and that it wasn't actually suitable for small children. None of it hampered the week as badly as I feared. I just kept a closer eye on Dot than I would normally and we spent lots of time out and about, even enjoying a day at a theme park - which isn't a sentence I thought I would ever utter. The ferry crossing there and back gave the children a sufficient enough experience of 'travel' and the long car journey on the mainland was more than enough to convince the adults that any ideas of driving to foreign lands would have to wait for several years thanks to a two hour traffic jam and copious sick. G is not a great traveller and half way through the stop/starting two hour M25 'fun' the complaints of his tummy ache reached an interesting climax when he began to spray everything within a few feet of his mouth with the eclectic contents of his stomach. I was in the front, driving and was lucky enough to have him sitting next to me in the passenger seat so I had the unenviable task of trying to clear up the mess/stem the flow whilst driving forward a few metres every few minutes. K had come up with the genius idea of sitting in the very back of our people carrier to better 'control' the children en route (I suspect it was also to fit in a long nap, which he commenced after about half an hour in to the five hour journey) and was therefore unable to be any use to us other than to dry heave at the smell and  yell for the windows to be opened permanently. Due to the jam, we managed to miss our allotted ferry time but luckily made it on the very next one and I cleaned G and the car up sufficiently enough to be able to continue our journey onwards once we made it on to the island. Although I couldn't have predicted that he would then be sick yet again, but by that point I really had gone past the point of caring about the damage/smell and just concentrated on getting us to the house and the washing machine it housed, as quickly as possible. The journey home was mercifully sick free although still long but an awful lot quieter and more pleasant smelling.

Starting the holidays with our holiday, was, in hindsight, a master move. The end of the school year was incredibly bitter sweet as Beatrice had to say goodbye to her beloved school. The tears flowed at her leavers' ceremony and even I welled up at one point - thanks to a few hundred children singing about seasons changing and people growing and time passing etc. Bea absolutely loved that school and her happiness has been infectious. Her sadness at leaving such a happy place left me feeling uneasy and equally sad. I have chosen to send her to a different school to the one that almost all of her classmates are going to move on to so not only did she feel the loss of her beloved school but 99% of her friends as well. I do feel a bit guilty for tearing her away but she'll get over it and like most parental decisions, I have done it in the belief that it is in her best interest. Anyway, the fact that we immediately left on a family holiday helped her not to sit and brood and actually meant that the children had to get on with one another straight away and not spend any time getting used to being in each other's company constantly. It was lovely to witness actually. Other than the usual petty squabbles and silliness, B and G got on beautifully and G and Ted were thick as thieves as they realised the benefit in having each other now that they are outnumbered by girls. The little girls slept unexpectedly well as well - even though they were sharing a room - Dot started sleeping through the night in her borrowed travel cot and even Cybs stayed in her own bed a few times - a hitherto unheard of event. As soon as we got home we made the same changes - put her in a single bed as opposed to a toddler bed and bought a big travel cot for Dot and shoved her in the room too. So far, so good. Cybs still comes in to my bed every night but now, more often than not, Dot does not, and if she does it is well past midnight which has made life far more enjoyable and bearable for me.

Another life changing event has been the loss of Cybil's bloody dummies. I have no idea how we managed to get to her being four years old with her still insisting on taking one everywhere, but we did and my happiness at their demise is untold. As luck would have it I didn't even have to go through the rigmarole/expense of the dummy fairy to do it which adds to my happiness. On our second break of the holidays - to a lovely little holiday let in Spexhall next to the house of some friends of ours - I was left in charge as K sadly had to return to work for the last few days. I soothed my despair with wine and totally neglected the children and their bedtime needs as I indulged in a lovely grown up BBQ. By 9.30 pm and after a fruitless search for the sodding dummy, I allowed Cybs to fall asleep on the sofa in front of the TV in return for not crying about the lack of a silicone teat between her teeth. She happily agreed and the rest, as they say, is history. Sometimes neglect really is the way forward. Just in time actually as she is about to start school. I can't quite believe it. She is my first summer baby (she turned 4 at the beginning of August) so I'm not used to sending them in to full time education at such a ridiculously young age. My mother is convinced I should have tried to keep her off for another year so that she could start her reception year as the oldest, not the youngest. I wasn't convinced that that was any better an option than being the youngest so Monday it is. She will be leaving me. Initially for four days a week but then eventually the full five days a week. It seems an impossible thing but I know that it will be possible and it will happen. I'm not looking forward to it. Just me and Dot five days a week seems equally as odd and impossible. I've said it before I know, but how on earth I will actually send Dot to school so that I am here all alone five days a week - I have no idea. It is not something I can currently contemplate. I think I may just hate being alone. Even though I crave small pockets of time alone, great acres of time is not on my wish list. Maybe that is why I keep having babies.

I think it is also because on the whole, I genuinely enjoy the company of children. Again, I do not mean all of the time - I really do have times when I would like it to be ok to kick them because I am so unbearably frustrated at their behaviour, but, more often than not, doing stuff with them is pretty fun.  One of the absolute best of the best things about parenting is watching your children being joyful. All consuming, natural joy from something that hasn't been bought. Like watching Bea prance around in the shallow clear sea water of the Isle of Wight and performing endless hand stands and cartwheels, or them all playing a game together or when they realise Dot has learnt a new word (cat is pretty big news right now). It is what I find keeps me going and helps me deep breathe through the ridiculous fighting and whining and moaning and haranguing that I have relentlessly endured for six weeks. That is the greatest thing about the holidays. Watching the children playing happily, running around outside, in the sun, with other children and being childishly happy about it all is why the summer holidays are so much better with the sun and why I couldn't have planned what was going to happen to my time and money this summer because I quite simply couldn't have planned it better.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Wouldn't change a thing

The Easter holidays are well and truly over and the summer holidays are fast approaching once again. I love and loathe the school holidays. Love, because there are no fraught mornings, no urgent uniform requirements, no homework, no bloody packed lunches, no tired and angry children to pick up at home time; Loathe, because there is just an endless expanse of time in which to fill, occupy, feed and tidy up after five small people.

I have, as I am told on an incredibly frequent basis, got my hands full. That frequency increases tenfold during the holidays when I am with them almost all of the time. I have heard 'you've got your hands full' more often that I think it is possible to imagine. My new response is 'so I'm told'. Before Dot was born I used to get blessed. A lot. As if I had the Pope with me on work experience (presumably so he could see first hand that encouraging people to keep procreating regardless of circumstances, might be a little bit stupid.) I think it is a Suffolk thing. I got 'ahh bless ya' from midwives, teachers, strangers, cleaners and many, many mothers when they found out that the baby I was housing/had just had was my fifth. Throughout the summer holidays shortly after her birth I got 'How old is she? Are they all yours? you've got your hands full, ahhh bless ya'. I am not saying it isn't always welcome, there are times when I am bored at the park or in a queue when I am happy to while away a few minutes with the '10 months, yes, so I'm told, thanks' responses but sometimes at the supermarket checkout whilst I'm trying to keep them all vaguely under control whilst packing bags it can sound suspiciously like I am failing to manage which I am less keen on. A number of times it is followed with 'But I bet you wouldn't change it for the world wouldya'. I SO WOULD.

"I wouldn't change a thing". Who came up with that?! I would SO change things. Oh man, given the choice, my list of things 'to change' would be extensive (18 pages FRONT AND BACK - Ross v Rachel 'on a break' etc). There are loads of great things about children and babies - obviously - otherwise I would be insane, but ye gods are there a million things I would rather were different. Here are a few:

Sleep
FACT: I love the children at least 25 times more when they are asleep (actually about 25000 times more than that last hour before bed when in all honestly most days I could happily walk away and never come back). When I have slept I am at least 25 times nicer than days when I haven't slept the night before. Sleep is transformative. If I could change just ONE thing about babies/children it would be that they sleep for between 12-20 hours a day  - 20 for newborns then gradually down to 12 hours from 10 years onwards until they leave home. If they came out pre-programmed to sleep from at least 7pm-7am imagine how much nicer the world would be? There would be no arguments between mothers about who was doing it 'right', parents wouldn't argue over who was more tired, people wouldn't accidentally leave babies in shops due to sleep deprivation or do the school run in their slippers etc Older children wouldn't hang around in the evenings driving you mad well in to adult/drinking/inappropriate eating time. (It is impossible to lecture on good eating practises and then tuck in to a packet of crisps and chocolate biscuits with your glass of wine whilst you're waiting for your supper to cook). I mean, don't get me wrong, if they are in a good mood and they are willing to fetch your wine and snacks for you then all is good. BUT if they are nosey or vocal or anything other than a silent presence then really, it's just too much after a long day with children. Bea and I have managed to agree on a happy hour where we watch crap reality programmes on TLC (Say yes to the dress, Kate plus 8 etc) but she knows I can quite often be grumpy during this time and is very good at keeping her head down. But pre-programmed children wouldn't argue about bed times, wouldn't fight over who was allowed to stay up until when, wouldn't keep yelling for drinks/light/dark/medicine hours after you put them to bed. It would mean that whatever happened during the day, whatever fights were going on, mess being made, food being thrown blah blah blah - you would know that there was a nice early 'end' to it all coming your way shortly.

Also, it would put an end to the weird evil baby voodoo nonsense that curses you the minute you make the mistake of even THINKING how well they are sleeping at the moment or stupidly mentioning it to someone. The minute you think, mention or linger over their sleeping bodies thinking about how fabulous they are then their evil voodoo sensors kick in to action and BOOM, awake every hour for absolutely no reason whatsoever, sucking bottles/boobs dry time and time again just to teach you the lesson you should have learnt a thousand times over already. It would also put pay to those hideous 'post sleepover days' - where your usually even tempered and fairly compliant child is transformed in to some kind of possessed demonic arsehole of a human being, and depending on how little sleep they managed, it can take days for the possession to wear off. Imagine the joy and brilliance of being able to say 'yes' every time they ask for a sleepover because the sleeping part of the arrangement would actually be adhered to. 

Hunger
DEAR GOD after 17 days of the Easter holidays it was like I was in charge of 5 giant rats. They just spent each and every sodding day telling me they were hungry. They eat, shit, eat, wee, eat, eat, eat and eat. WHAT THE HELL?! As you know I love to eat, but these guys take it to another level. Days out, Days in, I am expected to provide a constant stream of snacks and meals that they deem suitable. This last week alone I have spent £300 on food and drink from three different supermarkets (YES including bloody Aldi - it makes no sodding difference), in an attempt to keep them filled with a vaguely healthy variety of food. The boys are the worst. Dot and Cybs are close behind. It is impossible to keep them topped up. We went for a lovely walk along Southbank on our recent trip to London and if G and Ted told me they were hungry once, they told me a trillion times. G was quite close to death at one point. Not from strangulation, as I have spent many years learning not to put my hands around their throats, but from his near starvation from going without food for four and a half hours. It made me ponder how on earth they get on at school where one presumes the teachers are not providing drinks and snacks every half an hour. No wonder the boys come out of school at the end of the day in the foulest of moods - it has been a full two and a half hours since they have eaten anything. I am shocked they aren't keeled over, shaking and writhing on the floor with the intense pain of hunger. In an ideal world, children would only require one main meal a day and then some light and healthy snacks at other non fixed times of the day. I am incredibly 'over' preparing food for them and then tidying up afterwards. Some of them eat like rats as well. The mess after each meal has to be seen to be believed. One of their favourite meals is risotto but I won't feed it to them unless the cleaners are coming the next day because otherwise I spend all night on my hands and knees picking up bits of sodding rice.

Mythical beings
MAN I wish these guys were real. If the Tooth fairy, Easter Bunny and big FC were real, my life would be immeasurably easier. I forget the tooth fairy constantly. Luckily Bea knows the truth after finding a text message on my phone telling K not to forget when she was 9. The others are sadly not so clued up which means that the pressure is on. Poor G had terrible baby teeth - we're not sure why but they started to decay quite badly from a very young age and last year two of them were in a bit of a state so he ended up having them out under GA (mercifully K dealt with it and yes, I am part of the 'worrying statistics' on children's teeth. BITE ME with your immaculate teeth. It's not like I send him to him bed with a bottle of coke) and after a pretty terrible time, G was looking forward to his reward from the tooth fairy and put his rotten teeth safely under his pillow. Four nights he waited. FOUR. In the end he sadly concluded that because he had to have them pulled out and due to their condition, the tooth fairy had decided his teeth were not worthy of payment. Although for once that meant I looked pretty awesome as I bought him a £60 lego set to cheer him up and that silly cow bag of a tooth fairy couldn't even find him £2.

The Easter bunny this year was pretty disappointing as well. I had great intentions in the lead up to the event and even bought the eggs well in advance AND I checked the official Coeliac Society list before buying Bea's and everything. I was so pleased with myself I managed to 'park' Easter in my brain under 'no further action required'. The night before Easter, Easter Eve if you will, I spent the evening downloading pictures from Bea's phone on to the laptop so that she had enough space to take a zillion pictures of Little Mix at their concert the following day. I was pretty tired after I'd managed it all, bid K goodnight and fell fast asleep. At 5.45 am the next day Cybs woke me up and asked for some milk. I lay back down thinking how lovely it was I didn't have to get up and do anything when I had that stomach punch of a realisation that it was in fact, Easter and all the Easter eggs were in K's car boot and in the cupboard under the stairs. My mind raced - can I tell them it's tomorrow, can I hide them in the garden (they normally get them at the end of their bed), can we ignore it completely? I panicked, I tried to wake K with whispered shouting, then slightly louder whispering and then eventual hard kicking to rouse him enough to fill him in on the situation. I ran downstairs and passed the boys beginning to stir in their room, I whisper-shouted that it wasn't the morning and to go back to bed, I grabbed the eggs from under the stairs and had to quickly decide what to do with them, I opted for a Christmas version and put them in front of the fireplace. K ran out to the car in just his pants to gather the rest. I ran back upstairs and got back in to bed with Cybs and Dot to complete the illusion. The boys asked what had gone on and I said I thought I was going to be sick and Dad had come down to check on me. Then  they decided it couldn't be Easter as there were no eggs in their room. They went downstairs shortly afterwards and discovered the bunny had been but left the eggs in the wrong place. Bea was upset. She wanted bigger eggs and didn't like Aero and why the hell were the eggs in the living room??

Spirits rallied with a shed load of chocolate so I decided to make things more 'magical' with an Easter egg hunt in the garden now that we have a garden suitable for egg hunting. Sadly I put one of G's in a bush and it fell down. I didn't really think at the time that that would be a problem until he stuck his hand in and I remembered it was a rose bush and he cut his hand several times on all of the thorns. Luckily, Grandma saved the day and managed a far better egg hunt in her garden with cousins to enjoy it with whilst K drove off to London with an incredibly excited Bea. I later found a lovely note complete with illustrations she had written for the Easter Bunny asking him/her (sexless?) to leave the eggs 'here' and hoping they were well and had had a safe journey. I did feel a TAD guilty and her anger on the day was slightly more understandable after that but I do find it quite hard to believe that she still believes in a magical rabbit. SO, all in all, the Easter Bunny was a crushing disappointment but they still ended up with enough chocolate to give sugar purists a heart attack. (Luckily, K is a chocoholic and as per most years, stealthily hoovered up the excess over the following week - hopefully meaning the children won't be included in any other 'worrying epidemics').

And well, if the big FC was real, December would actually be a flipping joyous time for me and man, how I would treat myself to some lovely things with all the lovely money I would save. A new laptop for one - I am currently sat with the screen held up by a pile of cushions because it has broken free of its supports and is only held on to the keyboard thanks to the wires. My November and December would be pure heaven as I wafted from one social engagement to another with only a few family and friends to buy for - no managing of child expectations, no mad bidding for a stupid light up unicorn on ebay thanks to selfish far sighted bastards who bought them all up in October. It would also mean that faulty/easily broken gifts were much easier to return as well. I am yet to replace Ted's rather awesome shark beanbag that broke within half an hour of ownership thanks to a faulty seam.

Proportionate behaviour
It would be utterly amazing if their behaviour was directly proportionate to the amount of time/effort/money you spent on them. One of the things K finds hardest to cope with is the seeming ingratitude that bad behaviour implies when we are making a concerted effort to have fun - meals out/days out/family activities - anything that is out of the 'ordinary' should be rewarded with exemplary behaviour.  No strops in the gift shop at the end of the day because you refuse to buy a £20 stuffed panda, (What the hell is that btw - we go to the zoo/legoland/cutty sark etc and pay a fortune to get in, fortune for drinks and food and guides etc and then you have to pay to leave the place with some kind of toy/branded plastic as a 'memory' of the day - I appreciate I could be strong and say no but that isn't exactly my forte), no sibling fights, no whining, no parental arguing over acceptable reactions to bad behaviour, no constant demands for food, just happy, smiley and grateful faces from morning til night. Like real life facebook pictures all day long. Amazing.

Illness
I'm not saying it's particularly fun for them but good lord I do not enjoy ill children. I mean one day is understandable, acceptable and sometimes even enjoyable - an excuse for a legitimate day on the sofa is all good as long as I had nothing else planned (it is so rare for me to have anything on but it can happen once every blue moon) but any longer and it is just bloody dull and a pain in the rear. Dot and Cybs enjoyed a week long illness over the Easter holidays which I could well have done without. A cough and cold is currently going around and this is also incredibly painful. Illness doesn't just ruin your days it also blights nights as well - broken sleep, crying, coughing and puke are regular occurrences. One morning in the holidays I started my day breast feeding Dot in bed whilst lying on my side with Cybil lying behind me on my other side. She started coughing so badly she was sick, the milk she had just downed had all come straight back up again - all over my hair and back. Due to the exceedingly early hour of the morning I couldn't move because I was very desperate to keep Dot asleep as she would cry an awful lot and very loudly were I to remove the boob from her mouth, and that would wake up the other three so, I just had to lay there as I felt the regurgitated milk trickle down my back and tried to calm Cybs down who was upright and startled. I kicked and kicked K until he finally awoke and passed us a towel. My efforts to keep Dot asleep throughout all this failed and I eventually gave up and got in the shower-  only for Dot to cry so much due to my absence that I had to welcome her in to my shower and hold her, fully clothed with one hand and wash my hair with the other. But at least I was clothed and sick free for the Sainsbury's delivery when it arrived shortly afterwards.

And the rest
Back answering, knowing it all, not listening, mess, money, noise and neediness. Most days I would change it all to make it easier for me. But one of the main things I would change is how quick it all is, how fast they grow, how days turn in to weeks which turn to months and years and then suddenly your newborn is a toddler and then at school and then at secondary school and then a teenager. I panic that I am going to forget it all, I worry about how I will cope when they aren't all little enough to need me all the time, I panic over not remembering how they smelt and felt as tiny babies and sometimes I rack my brain to try and remember the hilarious thing they said the week before that I wanted to write down so I never forgot. I take pictures, millions of pictures, in the vain hope that seeing the pictures in years to come will sufficiently jog my memory. I try to take enough video footage that we can see what they were all like and remember all the sleeplessness/fighting/mess when there is only sleep/calm and tidiness. If I could change one thing, it would be to remember it all perfectly, the good, the bad the ugly. I wish I could make my brain in to a video camera so that I could recall it all in perfect detail whenever I wanted. Even the sleeplessness. Particularly that actually because one day I might get enough sleep to think having another might be a good idea and as much as I love babies, I really do not want to raise or pay for another child. Enough is really enough.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Number Four

THE SUFFOLK SECTION

Bonjour! and welcome back after my sabbatical. It has flown by. Turns out five is quite a lot of work and there hasn't really been many spare hours to sit and write. However, the baby is now nine months old and, as of the last few nights, has been sleeping in her cot from early evening which means I am finally able to sit down and fill you in on some of the last six months.

Right now, I am wrapped in a blanket and a cashmere jumper in front of a roaring fire (I love fires so much - I take ridiculous levels of pride in each one and I encourage the children to gaze in wonder at the soaring flames and listen to the beautiful crackling sound and bask in the warmth it emits - you'd be shocked to learn of some of their unenthusiastic responses) because the boiler isn't working. This is symptomatic of things in general. As we approach our Suffolkaversary all the things we bought/had serviced when we arrived have started to stop working. The shine is very much not rubbing off of our new shiny life, it's just there are now quite a few irritants in it. My much coveted Dyson handheld (the glamour) will not charge, the smart remote for our smart TV won't work so the Tv is now just of average intelligence, we're at least one sky remote down, the bath leaks, the shower in our ensuite is stuck on 'very hot' and we have an awful lot of ants who have decided that our kitchen is their new home. (Ummmm as a postscript the boiler wasn't broken - it actually appears that oil is far too easy to use up and despite a relatively recent delivery of it, we had run out. The poor boiler man turned up only to tell me that we had run out of oil. But then he had to come back and fix the boiler because if you run out, the boiler sucks in air, and apparently this is bad for boilers. It has cost quite a lot of money to find all of this out.)

So, boiler, ants and broken stuff aside all is well avec nous. The BIG news is that today I dropped four children off at ONE SCHOOL. Yes, finally, a few weeks ago some awesome little dude called Dexter who I will never meet, left with his family for pastures new so Ted joined his brother and sister at the local school and today was Cybil's trial session at the nursery. Happiness level peaked when we also found out that Bea had been given her first choice of secondary school. Although it is a slight worry as it is a brand new school, it isn't even built yet, it's not full and it's not the school all of Bea's friends are going to, so I have sort of gone out on a limb with choosing it - only time will tell if it was the right decision but I still remain hopeful. At the very least with such a small year (it's not full and there were only 120 spaces) Bea has much more chance of becoming head girl/prefect when the time comes. Not that I am insistent on her living my dreams for me, but I was the only person in my group of friends not to become a prefect and that has stayed with me. I am also a secret wannabe dancer which is why she is still 'encouraged' to weekly dancing lessons...

As you might imagine, an awful lot has happened since we last met but do not fret, I don't intend to regale you with every minute detail. We have had many birthdays and many parties, many, many play dates, spent an awful lot of money, done Christmas plays/concerts/carols, had nits, fleas, flu, sick bugs, coughs that won't end, trips to London, filled in thousands of forms and loaded and unloaded the dishwasher approximately a million times. The children are thriving, K is working all hours 5/6 days a week and I have made some lovely friends to whom I moan to about K working all hours and so all in all life has settled down to 'normal' after all the excitement of last year. It is in fact, gloriously boring and I love it.

Before Christmas, mother was working five days a week and so I was pretty much on my own when it came to school runs/tidying/cooking/childcare/present buying etc. It was busy. Since Christmas, mother hasn't been working at all so that means we have been seeing a lot more of her. This has pros and cons. The benefits are her being able to do the odd school run, or taking Cybil for a few hours and she is very partial to busying herself in my kitchen preparing food or 'clearing my sink'. I like to think I am helping to keep her busy and she likes to think I couldn't manage without her. Even though I have. The down side to her being around all the time is she does not agree with a lot of my parenting methods. Not that I have a method in particular. It is mainly just 'getting through'. She rang me recently, to tell me she 'knew what I was doing'. She had read about it in the Telegraph. Apparently it is 'Positive Parenting'. I am not a fan of this whole labelling thing. Gentle bloody parenting, helicopter, tiger, attachment, baby led weaning blah blah blah. She is wrong, as it happens - I am not positive parenting, I am 'Wrong parenting'. The thing I have learnt, is that whatever you do, however you do it, someone (or many) believes it is the wrong way. And therefore, we are all doing it 'wrong'.

For example, pink. 'People' hate the idea of girls wearing/loving pink, as if the colour alone is anti-feminist. I like pink. I'd like my boys to wear pink, but sadly they won't, Cybil loves pink, I let her wear it. I don't really care if this is bad. It makes her happy. She likes other colours too. This is also ok. She is also a kick arse, scary mother-fo when she wants to be and has recently taken to threatening to punch people in the face if they cross her path. She also loves to get messy, playing with dirt, is a speed freak, brave and many, many other things besides. Her loving pink doesn't make her a 'princess' so I don't really understand why we have to programme her to hate it. I wouldn't replace a toy we already had with a 'pink' version but I also wouldn't refuse to buy her something just because it was pink.

Rolemodel
I am, according to many, a terrible role model for my daughters. I do not have a job/career. I am unlikely to rush out and find work just to rectify this. If our economic survival depended upon it, I would obviously rush out and find paid employment, but whilst we can get by, I shall stay here. And probably while we can't actually. I'm not really good for much at the moment anyway. I'm totally institutionalised. A few weeks ago I went to pick up my first prescription of antibiotics for many years (mastitis - first ever bout - nine months in to the fifth breastfed baby - I have no idea why) and I genuinely thought they would be giving me 'banana medicine' or the liquid solution I usually pick up for the children - I put it upright in my bag and everything. I had also imagined where I would put it in the fridge, next to K's beer, so that he would see that I had penicillin and therefore hopefully feel guilty for paying absolutely NO attention to my pain and suffering. It was a total shock when I realised that what I had was pills - the sort of things they give grown ups. It also put paid to my genius idea to make K worry about me. He has STILL not mentioned it and I have since had a second course when the mastitis helpfully joined me on the other boob. Feeding a toothy baby off a sodding sore boob is the kind of sacrifice not many would make willingly, but 'ability to take pain in the name of job' is not something I could put on a CV so I worry I'm pretty much unemployable aside from in the child sector and if I do return to work, I really don't want it to involve children. Although my ability to catch sick and wipe poo without gagging would make me a good carer. But I really don't want to do that either. Therefore I shall remain a terrible role model for my daughters as I lazily and selfishly devote all my time to their care. (It annoys me - only because i would NEVER say I thought a mother was a bad role model for going to work and leaving her daughter/s in the care of others and yet I sometimes feel like it's open season for stay at homers. For the record I think working mothers are superheroes and I often tell them so. Why can't we just live and let live people)

Sugar
I don't mind it. I haven't spent years researching the affect it has on mutating cells in the body, or its affiliation with the devil or anything, so my opinion on it is really just personal and not based on anything, but I like it. It makes things taste nice. I don't think we should have a plate of it morning, noon and night with a coke to wash it down with, but I don't live in fear of it. I don't panic if my children are given Haribo at school by other children to celebrate their birthday. I don't freak out if they drink apple juice. I actually buy them sweets and chocolate and apple juice. Same with carbs and fat and salt. I feed it all to them. Maybe they will live ten years less than their non sugar eating counterparts. But that's their issue, not mine. I'll be dead. I'm ok with that. As a 'nod' to the current sugar hysteria and my mother's helpful insistence that my children will all lose limbs to Type 2 diabetes, I have switched to the 'reduce sugar and salt' tomato ketchup and made G swap to corn flakes instead of coco pops. I can't say I've noticed a difference.

Shouting
I shout. It's cathartic, helpful and extremely rarely it is life saving. People who parent 'gently' do not shout, or use 'time out', or any such things. They most probably take time to sit down and talk everthing through in a calm and gentle way. I think that is ok for them to do, it is probably really nice of them. They think I am wrong. I'm more than happy about that. I couldn't give a flying fig. The world is noisy. I believe it is best to prepare children for that noise by being noisy. Also if I didn't expel my pent up agression, angst and exceedingly high levels of annoyance by raising my voice to a shout, then I would be sitting in a corner somewhere rocking gently whilst emitting a low and constant humming noise. Also, what is so wrong with getting angry. FFS, I am a bit fed up with all this, 'be calm and serene and gentle' crap. Get fricking angry people. Not all the time, not every single day, not over small crap, but what's wrong with anger? If people didn't get angry we'd still have the fricking poll tax - let's raise angry people, let them get bloody angry with arseholes who cut disability benefits, maybe they'll change the world. Or maybe not. I'm also pretty lazy and my children have inherited it, so maybe they'll just do what I do and get angry, shout about it, but then be very ineffectual about putting any of their shouty threats in to practise.

TV
They watch it. I watch it. My little sister and I watched it lots when we were young. I am fat, she is not. I do not worry that watching the TV makes you fat or stupid. Eating too much and not doing enough makes you fat. The TV is educational. The stuff G comes out with is amazing. And then when I express amazement at his worldly knowledge and ask where he learnt it from, he repeats the line from Matilda 'All I learnt I learnt from telly'. It is also great at teaching children patience when the adverts come on. From a very young age my children are aware that if they just wait for the adverts to finish, their chosen programme will eventually appear. It is also a great help when it comes to Christmas shopping - just one advert break combined with an amazon order can completely sort out one child.

Children
Population matters people believe that I shouldn't have even had most of my children. Therefore I am in the wrong for having them, let alone how I choose to raise them. Ideally no one would have children and we would leave the world to go back to how it was before we raped and pillaged it for our own end. To them I say, I'm sorry, but again, tough shit. If we all die, who is here to appreciate the earth as a planet anyway? If all humanity dies then it is just a planet in the solar system and in the event of its extinction, no one on Mars is going to cry about it. So, again, sorry, sorry, sorry. But I've had them now, if I kill them to make you all happy then I will go to prison and also it's really just not very nice. So stop making me feel bad with your FB posts about how awful I am. I haven't been on a plane in ten years, I recycle and I eat local produce (sometimes). I'm trying to make amends, I know it's not enough and I am partially directly responsible for the early demise of this great planet, but, it's done now. I promise not to have anymore. Pinky promise. Babies are incredibly labour intensive and as much as I do absolutely adore them, I really cannot be arsed to do it anymore.

Weight
Tonight, Cybil stood up at the table and announced that Dottie was getting a fat tummy from all the food she was eating and now she looks like a mummy, 'like you, mummy'.  According to all 'studies' fat people are basically responsible for all evil, so I can only conclude that her knowing I am fat is a terrible thing. My obesity will not only make my children obese, it will also cause my untimely death from a whole host of hideous diseases. It has probably already caused a million terrible things for my children's future as I over ate when pregnant and breast feeding. The catch 22 with this is that because I have daughters I am not meant to draw attention to the fact that I am fat, or that I am in any way unhappy with my appearance. I keep reading all of these features about how I am meant to 'not mention' my weight, or losing weight, I am also not meant to draw attention to my daughters' weight. Most recently, I learnt that I am to compliment them without mentioning their beauty or size. Instead I am meant to say they look 'strong' and 'confident'. Now. Imagine for a minute that you (supposing you are a female) had spent an hour or so getting ready, you were wearing your favourite outfit, most beautiful shoes and you had tried out a new make up technique and had spent extra special amounts of time on your normally wayward hair. Imagine then, you descend the stairs to see the person who is special to you or you meet up with your friend/date and they greet you with the words, "WOW! you look so amazingly strong and healthy! You exude a great confidence". I'm quite sure I wouldn't be the only person who would be greatly pissed off.  Being called strong and healthy in my eyes is another way of saying you are looking a bit porky. I'm sorry if this is wrong, and potentially this is what we're meant to be working to change, but what the hell is wrong with saying someone is beautiful? No one looks at the Daffodils, snowdrops and crocuses and comments on their apparent strength (I am quite countrified now - I stop the car to admire these flowers which are currently in bloom and making the countryside even more beautiful) so why can't I tell my beautiful babies how beautiful I believe them to be? I also tell them how brilliant they are and clever and annoying and all those other things a mother should think. But there is no harm in being beauitful. As long as it's not all you are.

Just so you know, I am back at weight watchers and am much less obese than I was. I mean, I couldn't guarantee it wasn't still 'morbid' or something equally as attractive sounding, but it is less, and that is surely what counts. And Bea knows I go. And George. Bea and my mother are the only ones that remember to ask how I got on. I officially apologise if this insight in to my life has far reaching and negative affects on their future lives. I'm unlikely to lose any sleep over it. I'm too tired.

So, there you have it, my life is boring and I'm parenting the 'wrong' way. I couldn't recommend it highly enough.

I shall be back to tell you more whenever I think of something more interesting to tell you. 

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx






Friday, 25 September 2015

The Modern Guide to Returning From Work To a Stay at Home Parent

My take on the 1950s housewifery guide on how a woman should greet her husband upon his return from a hard day's toil in the office. No ribbons in the hair, clean children or supper in the oven on this one:

The Modern Guide to Returning From Work To a Stay at Home Parent

Upon your return from work, please remember that the partner you left behind in the morning may well have had a lovely day with your offspring - drinking coffee and tea, baking cakes, visiting museums, swinging on swings in the park and generally making hay in the sunshine. However he/she may well have had a day that would test the patience of every saint living or dead. And they may be hanging on to their sanity by little more than a thread. And so, as you gingerly open the front door to see what lays in store, please try and keep in mind this brief guide on what not to do/say upon your return in case any or all of it has happened to them during the day.
  • Do not wipe your nose on their clothing whilst pretending to hug them
  • Do not say 'You Know' in response to anything they say to you, even if it is telling you your own name, just thank them for the information they have provided
  • Do not say anything is unfair
  • Do not use the term 'everyone else does' in response to anything, but especially not in a bid to win an argument
  • Do not throw up on them
  • Do not get ill
  • Do not cry
  • If you get in the car with them, do not fight to the death over where you sit in the car
  • Do not suddenly decide you hate all food you have previously liked
  • Do not say you are hungry
  • Do not ask for any food
  • Do not spend hours asking repeatedly for the sweets you know are in the kitchen but have thus far been denied to you
  • Do not wee in your pants
  • Do not cry because you cannot find your kindle/ipad 
  • Do not cry because you can't find the charger to your kindle/ipad
  • Do not cry because your kindle/ipad is not working
  • Do not cry/fight because someone entered your minecraft world and killed the minecraft 'you'
  • Do not cry/fight because someone entered your minecraft world and blew up your village
  • Do not say you have looked everywhere for something you desperately want to find when you haven't even vaguely looked anywhere
  • Do not cry if someone touches your lego creation
  • Do not cry if someone breaks your lego creation
  • Do not cry because you don't have any lego
  • Do not ask if there is another baby in their tummy
  • Do not ask why their tummy still looks like there is another baby in it
  • Do not ask them to download an app, especially if they are feeding a baby and sitting on the loo
  • Do not try and find them when they are on the loo
  • Do not accompany them to the loo/help them to 'wipe'
  • Do not complain of tummy ache
  • Do not find a twig/feather/scrap of paper and then fight to the death over it 
  • Do not ask where a piece of paper is after you left it on the floor a week ago
  • Do not have a tantrum over a lost piece of paper
  • Do not pretend you can't hear them yelling your name
  • Do not refuse to wear underwear
  • Do not draw on the walls
  • Do not ignore everything they say as a matter of course
  • Do not crush up a pack of biscuits and scatter the crumbs everywhere
  • Do not take all of your anger and frustrations from the day out on them with verbal abuse
  • Do not hit them
  • Do not kick them
  • Do not insist you can do things on your own and then spend pain staking minutes attempting to do so even though you know everyone needs to leave the house immediately
  • Do not insist you can do something on your own that you patently cannot and then attempt to do so whilst risking your life and the lives of others
  • Do not refuse to leave the house without a bag full of crap that you have decided is vital right at the last minute thereby making you late for the event you were leaving the house for
  • Do not ask if they were alive in the first world war
  • Do not be surprised to learn that cars and televisions had been invented, even when they were a child
  • Do not spend hours crazing to play with a toy/game with a million different pieces and then empty it all out on to the floor, then lose interest and walk off
  • Do not hit/bite anyone
  • Do not refuse to leave the house
  • Do not refuse to return to the house if you leave
  • Do not throw yourself to the ground and scream if you are refused something
  • Do not pull their clothing
  • Do not deliberately do something naughty and then shrug and say 'sorry' whilst smiling
  • Do not refuse to get dressed
  • Do not refuse to get undressed
  • Do not refuse to get in the bath
  • Do not refuse to get out of the bath
  • Do not become hyperactive after your bath and run around the house naked and screaming 
  • Do not refuse to get in to bed
  • Do not tease them about your reluctance to get in to bed
  • Do not promise to go to sleep if they read 'just one more' story even though they are clearly about to cry with hunger, tiredness and the previous ten stories they have just read you spurred on by the very same promise
  • Do not whine
  • Do not drink their wine
And, finally, in response to them complaining of exhaustion from the day, NEVER, EVER, advise them to have an early night. Sleeping will just bring about the next day whereas staying up means more time to eat, drink, bathe and generally bask in the beauty and glory of the silence that late night brings. Et voila. You can't go wrong.



Thursday, 6 August 2015

Number Three

THE SUFFOLK SECTION

Bonjourno. Four months in and nine weeks after the birth of Dottie Dot the Full Stop it is time to take down the New Home and New Baby cards and admit that nothing is very 'new' any more. K's new job is four weeks in and I have survived. He seems to like it. I think. I get a very descriptive 'Yeah it's all right' when I enquire as to his daily grind. I still don't like him being away all day and being tired when he is home but he is resolutely refusing to gain 10 stone so that we might be able to claim disability benefits for being too fat to work. Such a shame because I am dangerously close and I think with five children we could really rake it in. He keeps wittering on about self respect but I'm totally over that.

So, that is all old. What is new is the pool. It is up and running and quite frankly fabulous. I realise that this is all quite temporary as it is just the novelty of it all but the children are loving it. It is really helping with the summer holidays which I think I might have found even more taxing if it wasn't for the fact that for hours on end they can amuse themselves in our back garden. Mother is still very concerned for their lives as we don't have a 'walk on' cover at the moment but as Cybs can stand up in it and Dot can't currently move I am less worried than I was. Only today mother was telling me how I would be aghast at the cost of a funeral.  Because naturally, if we lost a child, THAT would be what we would be most worried about.

Although the pool has claimed one victim - I managed to drop the exceedingly heavy wooden beam which forms part of our temporary cover, directly on to my foot. The pain was pretty magnificent. I have become a bit of a pompous twit about pain since Dot's birth. I have been known, on one or two occasions, to tell the child making a big fuss about some pain I deem trivial to 'try giving birth to a baby bottom first'. However, the pain of the beam on my foot was pretty close. I managed with nurofen and frozen peas initially, but after a few days the swelling and the pain hadn't subsided enough to enable me to walk properly so I took myself off to A and E. On what turned out to be my final morning without any older children thanks to a delightful sick bug which started the summer holidays a few days earlier than planned. Cybs was FINALLY enjoying a full morning session at nursery after an epic two months settling in period. I have become firm friends with a number of 3 and 4 year olds, mainly girls, who have watched me breastfeed Dot twice a week, every week for a whole half term. Lily, Sophia, Josie - we are all great mates - I was entrusted with their dolls, told of their weekend activities and moving house excitement whilst they waited patiently for a 'turn' with Dot. Never has a child been so gently eased in to a few flipping hours without their mother.

So, I spent my only and final few hours of the summer term having an x ray and awaiting the results. I breastfed and waited. I was secretly hoping that someone might object to me breastfeeding. I have always hoped for this. Just so I could reply with some witty and scathing retort - although I would probably do what most other people do and clam up and feel embarrassed. The problem I have with breastfeeding in public is not nipple flashing or worrying about other people being offended or upset at seeing my unwieldy infant trying to latch on to my giant boobs, my worry is trying to abide by the fat person's code - not upsetting normal sized people by revealing my unholy amount of fatty flesh.  Being fat brings on a whole new aspect to public breastfeeding. It can make the whole thing quite  a spectacle - although the recent addition to my wardrobe of breastfeeding tops thanks to a very generous friend who gifted me all of hers, has gone quite a long way towards simplifying the process.

It's not just when I am feeding actually. I do not enjoy being fat, but I enjoy eating lots. Post baby and in the middle of full on breastfeeding mode, I can't stop eating. I think it is a disease. Abiding by the fat persons code becomes harder and harder. Especially in the heat. Some days I worry more than others about it. Some days I cover all but the socially acceptable parts of my body - ankles and lower arms - and some days I throw caution to the wind and reveal my upper arms and lower legs (gasp).  In the past I have assumed I am a lot thinner than I actually am post baby - I realise now that this was because I didn't have a full length mirror when we lived in London. The best mirror in the house was in the bathroom and the sink unit cleverly covered my lower body, so I never realised the true horror. In this house there are a number of full length mirrors and one is opposite Dot's changing unit so I will suddenly catch a glimpse of myself before I have a chance to breathe in or pose in a way that softens the blow. It is probably for the best - it does stop me eating the whole pack of biscuits and only eating half a cheesecake at a time.

Luckily, the foot was not broken. Just badly bruised. Thank goodness. The idea of being here without the ability to drive is unfathomable. And no one asked me to spare their blushes by covering up my boob or my stomach. People are usually too polite to make a fuss anyway. Last week I took Bea for a physiotherapy session back at the hospital (boring issue with leg pain) and managed to replace the wrong flap on my breastfeeding top in my hurry to stand up when Bea's name was called, so I accidentally greeted the lovely student physio with my nipple poking out, loud and proud, as if a feature of the top. Luckily he seemed largely unphased and I acted as if nothing had happened as policy dictates, and quickly replaced the correct flap and bra over the offending boob and we managed to get through it without note. 

The summer holidays at home on my own are something I have never tried before. I have always run away to Suffolk to enjoy a bit of a break from all the cooking, cleaning and childcare. However now that we are in Suffolk I have nowhere to run. I am here and in charge of five children all day, every day. K now works six days every other week as well, so it is pretty full on. Hence yet another long silence from me. The silence of the evenings with just the whirring of the machines is something I crave for most of the day and doing anything else but eating and falling asleep is asking too much. I spend almost all day saying 'in a minute', 'hang on', 'wait', 'IN A MINUTE', 'don't fight', 'stop fighting', 'get off me', 'you cannot be hungry I fed you five minutes ago', 'no', 'I said no', 'I SAID NO',  'who's done this??!' and 'IN A BLOODY MINUTE'. I have largely given up with worrying what is right and wrong with raising children and just try to keep them alive. (purely to save on funeral costs). They get up and come downstairs before I have finished feeding Dot woken up in the morning and so Ted has been having a lot of ice creams for breakfast and he's also been handing them out to Cybs. The first fight of the day has often taken place before I am fully conscious. Cybs has taken to wiping her bottom with her clothing. G has worked out most of my threats are meaningless and therefore acts accordingly and is encouraging others to do so as well - I heard him tell Ted not to do as I had told him because there was no way I would actually cancel his friend coming over. The boys have collectively decided that living in squalor is actually fun so leave every item of clothing they have worn, thought about wearing or just come vaguely in to contact with, on the floor. Bea has decided she is now fully grown up and is in need of pierced ears, a bank account and a mobile phone. So, whilst I keep them alive and their clothes washed and dried, I have decided to become obsessed with the health of the pool and leave them to it. The temperature of the pool is now so interlinked with my mood and general well being that I am becoming concerned. It is MEANT to be able to get to 40 degrees but at the moment I can't get it beyond 27/28 which is maddening. I have also been known to tell the children that they can't get in the pool in case it gets too cold with the cover off or they splash so much I have to top it up with cold water.....

I am missing my friends so much at the moment. It has been four months now and the reality of not having them around all the time is setting in. I am very lucky to already have lots of shiny new friends, it's not that I am lonely, it is just that I miss my grubby old friends being nearby and the ease of the friendship.  I am not able to keep up with almost anything I want to at the moment as I seem to be permanently trying to achieve things and not managing and before I know it a whole day has gone by again. This includes updating this, writing thank you cards, emailing/writing to friends and trying to keep the old folks from over the road in London up to date with 'their' babies who have up and left them. I am lucky that a lot of good pals have made the trip up here already and more are planned so I do not fear being forgotten or losing a friend, and obviously lovely FB keeps me up to date with most things, but there is no replacement for seeing someone every day or every week, or popping to their house for a cuppa or meeting for lunch etc.  I know it is still early days in my 'new' life and eventually it will all fall in to place and soon feel 'old' but even planning birthday parties is a whole new ball game here. Although I am quite friendly with Cybs' pals from nursery, I don't know the parents at all so wasn't properly able to organise her party before the end of term which means she has a fairly random mix of children attending her party tomorrow. Only two of the children are even vaguely her age. Not that she will care. There is a bouncy castle and bunting and a lot of children so she is unlikely to notice. Oh! There will also be balloons.  You will all be relieved to know that I have managed to locate a local balloon person who will deliver all that we require in the way of helium filled celebratory shapes. The first party kicks off tomorrow and then it's the first birthday of the season for Cybs before we leave for two weeks at the coast. I can't wait. I don't think I have ever looked forward to a holiday more. For one thing I will finally have K back for two weeks. I may even find out how is job is going.

I shall update you all as soon as the opportunity next presents itself. If it does.

Until then. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Number Two

THE SUFFOLK SECTION

Hello!  Thank you for your patience it has taken me a magnificently long time to get on here and get it all written down.

So she is out. And she is a she. Dorothea Honor or Dottie for short, finally touched down on June 2nd. Again, I didn't manage the home birth we wanted (I am now 3 for 3 on having girls in hospital and 2 for 2 on the boys at home). But this was actually quite lucky as she not only surprised us by getting in there in the first place but also gave us quite a shock in how she came out.

I don't have an awful lot of time to fill you in, as you might imagine/know, having four children and a newborn is pretty exhausting. But here we go:

After being slightly scathing of local midwives, I went along to a 'VBAC' appointment (vaginal birth after c section for those not in the know and apologies for the use of the word 'vaginal' if, like K, you object to me using an official term and not 'down there') and met one who appeared to be very much on my side and who set forth a plan to help get the baby out 'on time'. She agreed I wasn't actually high risk and that I was more than likely to have a normal delivery so suggested they start twice weekly stretch and sweeps from 37 weeks to ensure that I didn't go overdue and would hopefully have the home birth I wanted and all would be dandy. This was all very positive and I was very excited by the possibility of missing out on the last heinous few weeks of pregnancy and having a smaller baby than usual.

Fast forward to 41 weeks and I was at the hospital meeting the VBAC Consultant for my EIGHTH stretch and sweep and a discussion on what should be done moving forward. At nearly every one of the preceding seven painful encounters with midwives (again, for those not in the know a stretch and sweep isn't the most pleasant thing ever - google it if you have no idea) they assured me that the baby would be out shortly, they made appointments for the next S+S saying how unlikely it would be that I would need it and I became well acquainted with a number of midwives and their living situations as we chatted about that night's arrangements and who was on call, in case our encounter that day elicited the desired results. After a number of the sweeps I got some contractions, sometimes there was even a run of them over a few hours, but other times there were none at all and eventually they all came to nothing. So, I ended up at the 'over due' appointment at the hospital with the consultant who explained my options.

The consultant sent me away with an appointment for the following morning to have my waters broken and yet again, reassurances that I was unlikely to need it as I would no doubt have the baby that evening as her sweeps were, according to her, 'legendary'. And it was indeed the most painful one I have ever had. And I did indeed have a number of painful contractions for the rest of the day. So much so, that K was quite insistent that I sit on a tarpaulin in his car just in case my waters broke. He was very concerned that the liquid could seep in to the stitches and leather and he would never get the smell out of his car. He tried to get the tarpaulin out of the boot and was desperately trying to 'sell' the idea to me but it actually just made me want to leak amniotic fluid all over his leather interior all the more.

We had left Cybs with mum and the big children were back at school after the half term so it was just K and I, awaiting the contractions to get serious. We went in to town to pick up my repaired iphone (the screen had been repaired for the second time in a month). I wanted to be distracted from the wait and the occasional contractions with a slap up meal and champagne but K had just paid for my phone so decided he would 'treat' me to a Burger King meal instead. He did say I was able to choose anything I wanted from the menu though.....

Anyhoo, my waters remained intact for the rest of the day so his car seats and Burger King were spared any fluid disasters. We collected the children from school and still nothing happened. Nothing happened that night either so the following morning I rang labour ward and confirmed I would be in for my waters to be broken. I made three packed lunches, got the children ready, finished writing Ted's book he really wanted finished in time for school, dropped them off at their respective schools, returned home, packed my bag and off we went. The consultant had persuaded me to go ahead with the induction because she said that unlike my previous experience at King's, I would be given 24 hours to go in to labour after the breaking of waters and if I wanted, I would be allowed to go home afterwards so that I could wait for labour to begin. She also insinuated that 'should' I not be able to get back in to the hospital in time for the birth, then there was nothing anyone could do and the midwives would have to come out to me so that I would wind up having my home birth as I planned. This had all seemed like a great idea the day before.

However. My determination to have a home birth was already waning on the way in to the hospital. I had worked myself in to a bit of a state worrying about the pain of contractions. The pain of Cybs' birth was over two and a half years before but it was remarkably fresh in my memory and I was terribly worried that I might have such a quick labour (the eight stretch and sweeps and the fact that it was my fifth meant that I was already 3cms dilated and fully effaced so that when labour did eventually start, it was likely to be quick) that I might not be near gas and air or the gas and air might never arrive and I would be stuck with K as my only form of pain relief and comfort. He was also very worried about me returning home in his car with freshly broken waters..... so by the time we got in to our room I was pretty sure we were going nowhere and the final baby, like the first, would be born in West Suffolk Hospital. 

The labour ward was mercifully quiet and our allocated midwife was very lovely. All seemed well. I was hopeful we could get the waters broken and the baby out quickly. I hadn't at that point arranged anyone to pick up the children from their schools. Labour had started with Cybs three hours after they broke my waters so I was sure I could pop this one out even sooner. Sure enough, when the midwife did break them at 11 am I started having contractions almost straight away.  Each one pushed more water out of me. At one point a small flood ensued which then created a smelly waterfall over the edge of the hospital bed. We called the lovely midwife back in who very sweetly started cleaning it up for me as I apologised profusely (for something I had no control over - but I am British so therefore one must apologise for such things). Laughing at the situation also made me leak more fluid and at one point the midwife was unfortunately positioned as I laughed and a small gush splashed her. This made me laugh more. Other than that high point it was a very dull few hours - the 'view' from my room was a wall with some very noisy machinery behind it which made a loud bang when it kicked in every 15 minutes. K who had been finding various reasons to nip out for errands eventually settled in his comfy chair and became very sleepy as, like all hospitals, the room was very warm and there was also a loud humming noise coming from the building opposite in between the loud bangs which lulled him into a deep slumber.

I continued to contract infrequently and sporadically as he slept. Some were uncomfortable so I began to use the tens machine. However nothing much else happened and the midwife, when she popped in to check on progress, remained unimpressed with my 'progression'. So much so, that after four hours of non standard contractioning I was chucked out of the labour ward and relegated to the antenatal ward. This was not in my plan. I had waited a jolly long time for this baby, I had even been waiting patiently as I wasn't as fussed about it getting out as I had been with Cybil where I had driven myself half mad with it. This time around I was almost happy for her to stay in, if it hadn't been for the constant need to wee and the inability to plan anything I would have quite happily continued being pregnant for at least another week. With children who need to be taken to school and Cybil in need of childcare in the event of labour, it wasn't particularly helpful not to be able to plan when the baby would come out. I had thought that finally forcing the issue by having my waters broken would mean we would have the baby that day and that would put an end to the speculation, planning and back up planning that had preceded induction day for weeks. I felt particularly guilty about half term where we could only really work on things on a day to day basis as we had no idea what would happen over night. Mother had taken various days off work 'in case' and even stopped drinking in the evenings in case we needed her urgently. When you 'fail' to go in to labour you can feel like your body is letting you down and you are in turn letting everyone else down by not making things easy and just bloody well getting on with it. People always talk about keeping the sex of the baby a 'surprise' as it's the biggest surprise you get in life - I would argue that labour is a bit of a shock as that really has so many variables - there are only two possible options on the sex front so it isn't a massive surprise.

Back to antenatal ward. I was NOT happy. Not only do I hate wards but I hate other people in wards with me - even though they are no doubt delightful people out of the hospital, I hate having to share rooms with strangers. Particularly when I am leaking water, attached to a tens machine, having contractions and in a bad mood. The flimsy curtains that surround each bed are no protection against the sound of people burping, eating and my all time least favourite, talking. I realise I am not the most interesting of people, but when I am in a bad mood and in occasional pain, I really don't want to listen to other people talking about crap. The view was at least better, I could see a road and some trees and a small building that was no longer in use. I spent a long time looking out of that window so that there was no chance the other two residents of my 'bay' would engage me in conversation. It was unlikely anyway. It was clear I thought myself to be too good for the 'waiting' ward. Or maybe that was just my paranoia because I really did think I was too good for the waiting ward. This was my fifth sodding baby for christ's sake - I had been told it would come tumbling out as I was so 'favourable' and yet here I was, hours and hours after induction and I was no better than the woman on her first over the aisle to me bouncing on her sodding ball and heavy breathing. I became slightly belligerent at this stage in the process. Particularly because the communal loo (which was, like the rest of the loos I encountered, brand new back in the 70s, so gave the air of an old boarding school which badly needed funds to renovate) was a good walk away from my bed. When you are constantly leaking, the need to be near a nice comfortable loo really cannot be over rated. Especially when you have to carry a Tena Lady pant with you for changing purposes. (OMG if you are ever in a similar situation and have had your waters broken, you MUST invest in some tena lady pants - they are amazing. I mean truly. No more waterfalls over the bed or water down the leg. These things are the bees knees when it comes to saturation.)

Fast forward some more boring hours, K left and collected children from a friend's house and deposited them with mum along with their swimming stuff for the morning and returned with 'food' - I asked him to get some because I was obviously not going to eat the 'slop' the hospital was offering. He returned with about 10 packets of crisps, 5 chocolate bars and a chicken wrap - I became paranoid people would look at this haul and think 'no wonder she's so fat'. He had a sleep. I read more of my book (Paradise City by Elizabeth Day - another recommendation - it kept me going through the whole thing). They ran a trace and noticed my 'tightenings' - also known as contractions if they are happening in your uterus. I got fed up. We went for a walk when K awoke. We returned and I informed the midwife that I intended to leave. I was going to self discharge and get in my own bath and my own bed and come back in the morning. Unsurprisingly they were not keen. Another midwife came back to try and dissuade me. K was on their side. He didn't say it but he was entirely unkeen to take a leaky wife back in his car (the leather) and then potentially have her give birth whilst he was the only other person around. Just as I was wavering and having just had another large contraction, he asked if I could be put in a private room. The midwife was thrilled with this compromise. I relented and ten minutes later we were shown to our new quarters. Still no flipping ensuite, although the communal loo was at least right next door. By this time it was gone 7 pm and K was getting quite itchy to leave for the evening now that he had procured me suitable accommodation for the night. He set off to find me a tv viewing card and came back with enough credit on the card to keep me goggle boxing for a month. I refused to let him leave immediately and so he sat down and read his book. I sat on the bed and began my evening's viewing, occasionally holding on to his hand if there was a contraction that hurt. By this stage they were still not at all regular, not that frequent and also varied wildly in strength. I set about furious texting complaining about the 'very un-Portland like facilities' and stupid baby that wouldn't come out. I watched Phil and Kirsty's 'Love it or List it' programme, waited to see the end, put the red hot phone down and visited the communal facilities next door.

From this point it all became very surreal. No sooner did my Tena lady's hit the floor and my bottom the seat, I felt a very odd sensation. One I had felt a number of times before but not in this situation. I put my fingers down to check and my suspicions were confirmed, the baby was coming out. I also felt that it was not the head that was leading the charge, it was in fact, a squishy bottom. I yelled incredibly loudly at this point. K came running as did a charge of midwives. I apologised profusely (obviously - I am British and I had stupidly not realised I was fully dilated and I had my tena lady pants around my ankles and I had yelled). They said I needed to get back on the bed for them to see what was happening, I said I needed to wash my hands first (MRSA and all that). I got on the bed, spread my legs and then the sides of the bed were up, a sheet was put over me to cover my dignity and the bed was being moved at a brisk speed over to labour ward. I will admit that I was highly scared at this point. Not only because the risk to the baby was huge but because I had had no drugs, was as alert as it is possible to be and I didn't think that pushing a folded up baby out of a small space would be that comfortable. In seconds we were in a labour room filled with midwives and doctors. I apologised to all of them, obviously. They used 'calm' voices to tell me not to panic but that time was very much of the essence and I had to do exactly as I was told. I apologised. Obviously. I did exactly as I was told. I moved myself on to the bed, put my feet in stirrups and pushed so hard I thought I might split in two. The second push was quite honesty the worst pain I have ever experienced. I swore badly. I said I couldn't do it. I asked for gas and air. I apologised. No gas and air was allowed. I delivered the body. More calm voice instructions from the amazing old school midwife sitting front and centre of all the action. She told me that it was vital to deliver the head as quickly as we could. I pushed for the third time and out came the head. As I had been warned, the baby was quiet and lifeless when she was put on to me. Being told something doesn't necessarily make it any less scary though and I was convinced she wasn't in a good way. 'They' took her over in to the corner to check on her and get her life like. It seems like quite a long time when you are waiting for that all important first cry, the confirmation that you have done your job and delivered your offspring 'safely'. It did finally come though and suddenly it all seemed wonderful. K and I were a bit high from the drama of it all. I KEPT saying 'I was just watching kirsty and phil'. I was in such shock. I have never been fully dilated and in minimal pain or able to walk and talk and focus on a tv programme and texting before. I have never had an undiagnosed breach baby and I have never been the one to diagnose it. It was a lot of firsts. And she was perfect, as they always seem to the euphoric and relieved parents. I did want to then find the three midwives I had been involved with over the course of the day and yell "I TOLD YOU THEY WERE CONTRACTIONS AND NOT FLIPPING TIGHTENINGS. WHY DIDN'T YOU EXAMINE ME YOU IDIOTS". But I did not. I just kept on apologising to anyone who would listen for 'all the fuss'.

Twelve hours after they broke my waters and two hours after she was born, I was wheeled back to our private room without ensuite facilities and K was told to go home. West Suffolk hospital has an odd policy which decrees that partners are not allowed on the ward between the hours of 9pm and 11am. That is an exceedingly long time in the life of a newborn baby. It also would have meant that if we had adhered to the rules, K would have missed the birth. (They had actually been yelling for all partners to leave whilst I was busy watching Kirsty and Phil but we had assumed that it couldn't possibly be applicable to us as a) I was having contractions and b) we were in a room and not on the ward - it turns out we were entirely wrong and he should have left just as I was discovering my undiagnosed breach baby was trying to enter the world). However I didn't mind him leaving as the baby, by this point, was very sleepy and so was I. I was also 'buzzing' a bit from the shock and drama of it all and the tea they had given me with about four sugars in it after the birth so needed time to calm down. Although in the morning 11am felt like a very long time coming. I really can't think that such a draconian policy is entirely necessary..... 

So, there you have it. By and large. The safe arrival of our little Dot. Dotster or Dottie. Or, as she is most commonly referred to - the New Baby.  The children were all so thrilled to meet her when I got home - even Cybil.  Her reaction was my main concern, obviously, but then and even now, her main concern seems to be the baby and her well being. She even sings when Dottie cries. 'Don't cry ickle baby, don't cry ickle baby, mummy's coming' that kind of thing. And my boobs which have belonged to cybs for the last two and half years have been permitted to nurse The New Baby and if Cybs still wants to cop a hold she very kindly holds the one not in use at the time. More of a shock was G's reaction to her. I have never really seen him go all soft over babies but he holds her and even kisses her when he thinks no one is looking. Ted has his usual exuberance for all things in life and can't contain his love and affection for the New Baby. If I pick him up from school he runs out and yells 'the New Baby' as if it is the first time he's seen her. Bea was extremely keen for about a week. Now she is quite variable, sometimes keen and sometimes exceedingly not so. Unless there is someone from outside the family around when she becomes overcome with love and affection for the baby and demands to hold her - purely for acclaim on her mothering skills. I suppose this is precisely why nature didn't intend for 10 year olds to have babies. To be fair, a crying baby is an annoying noise and both her and G have realised that if you get 'stuck' holding a baby you are unable to do anything else, so their desperation to have a 'go' holding her has waned. So, other than not really having any time to do anything other than essential housework and child maintenance because of her, Dot has fitted in well to family life.  There have been times when I have questioned how on earth this is all going to work, particularly as K has very selfishly found paid employment and is leaving us to start it in just over a week. I have also spent some time in tears at the enormity of how I am now in charge of an awful lot of shit. Literal and metaphorical. But I have also had an amazing few weeks. Ten days after Dot was born (and one of the main reasons I decided to have an induction) I went down to London to enjoy a fabulous lunch with my SE23 mum chums, who showered me with gifts, cards and cake, and then I had the pleasure of going back to the old school playground to deposit Bea and G with their respective friends so they could go off on their sleepovers. It was indescribably lovely to be able to see lots of old friends and show Dot off to all and sundry. Then I carried on to Kent with Dot and we spent a fabulous weekend in Herne Bay with ten old school friends in a gorgeous house right opposite the sea. It was quite honestly the best thing I have ever done with a newborn. Like Tena Lady pants and a good book in labour, a weekend by the sea with excellent friends and food when you need a rest, is hard to beat. Dottie was held almost all weekend and before we left, two very clever people were left in charge of her whilst I retrieved the car and when I returned she was fast asleep after a bit of a scream and she continued to sleep the entire way home - via London for two pick ups and then on to Suffolk. Four hours in total. Bea and G were shattered and happy from all the fun they had had with their friends and slept too. I had a blissful few hours alone with my thoughts and my music. It was the perfect end to the perfect weekend.

More apologies. This has become rather long. I have more to say but shall save it for next time.
Enjoy the sun whilst you can, our pool is nearing completion and from then on it will no doubt be constant cold and wet weather. I apologise for that too.

A toute a l'heure. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx