Grumpolina

Not a long lost cousin of Cinderella or a new vegan rice based dessert. No. This is me today. Tired. Bit of a cold. Zero makeup. Looking like a bag lady. E has fallen asleep , catching up on the zzzz’s he missed last night from crying and being upset.

I’ve taken this morning off work to hang out with E. He’s the original Petri dish of germs. This week it’s a stinker of a cold. Last week it was something else. The week before probably something poo-related. As we have our own biz I don’t need to ask permission to take time off to look after him, or book time off in advance. I’m very lucky. We look at what work we’ve got, what are the priorities and divvy it up accordingly. We then sensibly discuss who’s going to look after child and there we are. Simple and straightforward.

No.

That’s what I would like to think I’d do.

Instead I can only describe my actions and attitude to this week as Britney Spears-Esque just before she went a bit buzz cut happy with the clippers.

I’ve churned over mistakes I’ve made not only over the last few days but possibly life choices I’ve made over the last 20 years. I’ve instantly put myself in the bad mother box for not really prioritising time with poorly boy but instead fretted over deadlines, clients, cleaning and chuffing Slimming World. I’ve been horrible to be around and have questioned my motives for all things.

The actual truth is, now that I can take a breath to think about it, is that I’m just a bit tired and have a cold too. E only wants me when he’s poorly and that, like his cold, won’t last for much longer.

We started this biz so we could do what we love, with people we like doing it with on the terms we want to work to. We’re good at what we do. But it’s easy to feel the polar opposite of that when you’re feeling a bit blue.

This afternoon I’ll hand E over to T while I trot off to London for a meeting. It’s taking place in one of my fave venues and I’ll be meeting with people I genuinely like talking about issues I’m passionate about.

Sometimes it can all feel a bit overwhelming. But a lot of the time it’s just a case of pressing Control, Alt, Delete and resetting your Applications.

Apologies to anyone I’ve snapped at this week. Including Alexa. Which I may have called a ****ing useless piece of ****.

Findus and custard

Crikey, it’s been a week. A strong, positive Monday can set the tone for the rest of the week. If Monday’s go a bit pear shaped I tend to follow suit. With my childbearing hips this can mean navigating myself sideways through the child safety gate.  It was going to be a week of sidewinding.

When you see your child’s school telephone number pop up a whole host of rapid-fire questions come to mind. What’s she done? What’s been done to her? Did I remember to take her to school? I’ve got a Skype call in an hour how am I going to juggle this one? A mix of ‘good’ questions – those that show motherly concern and general ‘sheeeeet’ !

Another aggressive game of Tig had resulted in S rolling her ankle yet again, the same ankle she broke about this time last year. A trip to A&E is a pretty standard affair now. We know where to go, what they’ll ask and are au fait with X-ray procedure. The upshot was another fracture, another moonboot, another 4 weeks of not being about to play outside with her pals. Her Monday was decidedly worse than mine.

Fast forward to Friday night (taking into consideration an awards night, a new client visit, a week of broken sleep etc) and I’m shagged but not in the Biblical sense. The kids are fractious, hungry and tired. A bit like me. I’ve whacked a ready-made Shepherd’s pie in the oven. They’ve picked at it and now want pudding. When I say ‘want’ pudding I mean they’re on the verge of going feral. There is literally nothing in the cupboards, or is there? As a child of the (early) 70’s, I was raised with an interesting mix of food. Convenience food had really started to take hold and Mum was all about the rehydrating, ‘pinging’ was a few years off but freezer food was a pretty big deal. I bloody loved Findus pancakes (‘chicken/horse and mushroom a clear fave) followed by an Angel Delight and I’d be happy.

I decided to take a leaf out out of my Mum’s Bero cookbook (kindof) and make chocolate custard.  I had custard powder, I had drinking chocolate, I had a glass of wine in hand. I was going to make something amazing.

custard 1

custard 2

Oddly enough amazing turned out to be gopping. In later years my children would be right in describing my cooking as ‘brown and a bit shit’. What I made for them resembled sludge, a consistancy that of about-to-set ‘Plaster of Paris.’ I tried to polish this particular food turd with sprinkles. It made no difference. They rejected my offering and instead asked for Greek yogurt and honey, reassuring me that they are far more capable to making good food choices that I am, even today.

Pass the Smash.

The night I got away

It’s the dream. A night of uninterrupted sleep, toileting and possibly a hot cup of tea or even (holds breath) a grownup meal.

The prospect of a massive drive to a Friday morning meeting could have gone two ways. Up and at ’em in scraggy pjs and crossing fingers that I wouldn’t get caught up in traffic or heading off the night before to be fresh faced and customer facing (ie Boots cosmetic counter levels of makeup applied in natural light).

In the morning husband had gently commented that I looked tired. My face resembled the lost maps of Atlantis after they’d be dried in the sun for a few days. Nights of broken sleep thanks to E and generally ‘having a lot on’ meant that I was a bit knackered. Unfortunately it showed. Being the good egg that he is husband suggested that I drive up the night before the meeting. The words were still mid-air when I said ‘yes, that would be great.’

It’s never a case of shove clothes in bag and set off listening to all the Ted talks I’d promised myself I’d listen to. It’s a bit like leaving the house before going away on holiday or handing over to a babysitter.

Things to consider:

Has S got a clean and ironed uniform for the morning? Yes, it’s the first week of term so for once I’ve got that sorted.

Has all the washing been done? No. This never ends.

Is the bathroom clean and have the loo’s been bleached? I’ll just give them another once over.

Does husband know exactly how E likes to have his tally egg? He likes it hardboiled, cooled, then the crack the egg, then the shell removing and the yolk then the white replacing in the egg cup with a good sprinkling on Malden sea salt on the side (do not use free flowing salt) on his monkey plate on the green tray.

How to soothe E in the middle of the night.

Is the garage locked?

Are my dish clothes bleached?

In a unnecessary hurry I pack a bag and realise that I’ll have to take S’s toothpaste as husband will need real stuff in the morning. Toothbrush gets wrapped up in a nappy bag for transportation. It’s hardly Conde Nast Traveller.

Fast forward to Premier Inn Huddersfield. Table for 1. Decent enough fodder, catch up on work stuff, throw back a large PG. Although eating alone is more commonplace than it once was you’re still regarded as a bit of an oddity.

Are you waiting for someone? No.

Are you being stood up? No.

Are you a Russian spy? Het. (Thanks Google translate)

Are you reviewing this Toby Norris? Absolutely not.

Where to sit is the first hurdle. There’s no way you can leisurely asses the room. You have to make a decision pronto. What you want is a small alcove, enough lighting that you don’t stab yourself in the eye with a fork, but not so much that you look like you’re about to narrate an episode of Tales of the Unexpected. What you sometimes get is an empty table for 5 with a Reserved notice on it, but you were flapping so much you just parked your arse there in the hope you’d be somehow get this table for free, no questions asked. You desperately try to spread yourself out, one area for the menu, one for the wine list, (drop the Reserved card on the floor), one area for the handbag, laptop and notebook. Take that chuffing Instagram. I styled the table! The reality is that a very pleasant but be-spotted oik shuffles over to tell you that you can’t sit there. It’s Reserved. Of course it is. How silly of me. So sorry.

At this point it’s a semi-scene. Not a Dynasty scene just a ‘oh look, she’s here on her own. Must be stood up’. Time to order the fastest menu-to-ping thing on the list and exit.

Night time is spent checking emails, socials, and regular updates from home. Before you know it the early night you so desperately needed has now turned into 11:30pm.

You go to bed grateful that you’ve got the opportunity to be ‘ on your own’, but the reality is that you fill that time doing all the other stuff you’ve been trying to do without two kids hanging off your neck. En route to bed I’ve passed a sign with a kid asking me to be quiet. She’s got an uncanny resemblance to S and you get a stab of guilt. I shouldn’t be tired, I shouldn’t need a night off. Suck it up, this is as the kids seem to say ‘adulting’.

Then I remember that she’d never tell me to shush, she’d be the first one jumping up and down on the bed and encouraging E to do the same. All of a sudden the guilt disappears and I can go to bed with a cup of Yorkshire tea (teabags from home) and listen to the hum of the M-whaterthesatnavsaid and be asleep within seconds.

Tomorrow is another day.

Bacon, eggs and Highland Toffee

As a child Dad always used to take me and my brother Paul to the swimming pool every Saturday morning. It was always a lot of fun and something I really looked forward to. I’ve always loved being in the water. It didn’t matter if it was the bath, the pool or the sea it was a genuinely happy place for me to be. Mum never ventured into the pool. She wasn’t a confident swimmer and never liked to get her hair wet. The only time I did see her swim was in Corfu where the water was very warm and shallow. Even then she managed to elongate her neck to giraffe-like status in order to save her hair. She’s better on dry land.

When we came back from swimming Dad always treated us to bacon and eggs. The taste of Highland Toffee from the swimming pool vending machine was by now a distant memory so Dad always set about the frying pan like a man with a purpose. These were different times. He fried the bacon in lard and the eggs glistened in their sunny side up state as the bacon crisped up. If there’d been such things as smoke alarms in those times  our house would have been deafening the street with a high pitch shrill.

toffee

Making sure that my kids could swim and be safe and confident in the water was just a matter of course. I assumed that both would take it to it, quite literally, like ducks to water. S went to baby swimming classes and seemed to share my love of being in the water. She’d go out of her depth, pretend sharks were chasing her, do cartwheels in the water etc. It was easy. E, on the other hand, was like trying to drag Dracula on to a sun lounger in the Costa Del Sol. There were times we didn’t even get into the water. His distress was audible and real. Thankfully after three different swimming clubs and god knows how much cash he finally likes swimming.

Now that E is happier to be in the pool it’s meant that we can go swimming as a family. In theory, this should make things quicker, easier and on the whole less stressful. It doesn’t. Before we even get to the pool there seem to be a thousand things that need to be prepared:

  • Has everyone had a wee?
  • Does everyone have a towel? Not one that’s just been picked up off the bathroom floor and is still covered in toothpaste (or worse).
  • Goggles, armbands, noodles, and plasters (wonderfully represented in Motherland episode on BBC).
  • Talc
  • Change for lockers
  • Swim nappies
  • Make sure cossies on before leaving the house*

*For husband and children, this is very easy. For me, it’s the time that I realise I’ve not shaved in 6 months and although not a single person will be looking I instantly feel the need to blow off the dust from my old Bic razor and dry shave legs, pits, and beaver. This results in skin resembling that of a recently plucked battery farm chicken.

bic

By the time we get there, shove clothes and bags into small and stinky locker I’m already thinking why are we bothering. Even then after we’ve squelched our way through to the actual pool I can see that T is very accustomed to the temperature of the water. He has, after all, been in the water for ten mins by now.

We’re in the pool, S is halfway through a synchronised swimming routine within seconds of getting her hair wet and I’ve managed to prize E from around my neck. It’s at that point I look at all the women coming out of the changing room and standing at the edge of the pool. They all have that look in their eye. They’re not looking for their partners in the pool. In their heads, they’re working out the exit routine. The time where they’ll have to stand freezing with their one piece around their ankles as they struggle to get a towel around their toddlers to prevent hypothermia. The days of having a private cubicle are long gone. They’re thinking about how to stop their kids from running in the changing room, slipping and breaking a bone. They’re wondering if the swimming pool water really does go a different colour if one of their kids does do a wee in the pool. They’re thinking about the problems facing them now and within the next 60 mins.

Looking at them I wonder if my Dad ever had any of those thoughts, or if like the fry-up it is a case of ‘different times’.

It’s at that point, when my hair’s all wet and my mascara has run down my cheeks that E will turn to me and say, ‘I need a poo’.

 

 

 

Three is the magic number

I’ve just tucked E into bed. I’ve kissed him, wished him sweet dreams and said ‘see you in the morning’, in a deluded hope that he’ll not wake up before the alarm goes off. This is his last sleep as a two year old. And I can say hand on heart he’s been the epitome of a terrible two.

It’s unfair to compare siblings but inevitable. S had a few wobbles, she wasn’t unaccustomed the the naughty step. She tried our patience and tested our willpower, but it was barely noticeable. She seemed to sail from baby to toddler to child (and now teenager at the age of 7) effortlessly, full of humour and on the whole good manners. She slept through the night, toilet training was easy and ate every single morsel of food presented to her.

E is another kettle of fish entirely. Let’s take his manner. To say he’s surly would be an understatement. He basically scowls most of the time. You feel like you’re being judged from the minute you clap eyes on him. Instead of using the naughty step as directed, you just mention it and he takes himself there. He’ll wee on the loo but refuses to have a poo. I’ve had to literally pick poo up and out of places I can never unsee. Food wise unless it’s chocolate or covered in sugar he’s not interested. Scratch that. He’ll eat light coloured food. Eggs, but only if you take the yolk out. Sweetcorn but only if it’s cold. Cucumber but only the watery seedy bit in the middle. The staff at nursery always say he eats everything, even pilchard wheels whateverthehell they are. So it seems that it’s only when he’s home that he can let his inner dictator out.

When they’re babies you’re so hellbent on reaching various, ridiculous milestones: first smile, first laugh, first look of recognition. It’s a time full of firsts. You’re filled with wonder which is heavily outweighed with ‘yay, we’ve managed to keep him/her relatively safe, fed and seemingly healthy ‘. You’re preoccupied with wondering how quickly you can get to the next milestone with the hope that by that time comes along you may have slept a bit and can take it in. You can’t. They’re not designed like that. Or rather I haven’t been. Once you’ve cracked the baby scene you move on to toddlerdome and all the new firsts that come with that; speech, walking, real engagement. You’re no longer their whole world. There’s life beyond mummy and daddy and to be fair it’s properly interesting.

That’s when you realise it. That’s when you know but for whatever reason don’t really register it. The firsts now start to turn into the lasts. The last time they hold your hand when you’re going for a walk. The last time they’ll want to cuddle on the sofa with just you and you alone because you’re all they want. The last time they have a drink from a sippy cup, the last time you’ll need to cut up their sausage.

So, while I’m delighted that we’re waving goodbye to Elliot being a strong willed 2 year old, I know that in his ‘throttleme threes’ there’ll be more lasts to come. I hope I’ll be able to recognise them this time around, in between him trying to break our spirit.

Easter aka ‘that’s enough’

Most of the year you try and monitor how many chocolates and sweets your children have. You’re worried about tooth decay, childhood obesity and the biggest one of all that they’ll not eat their tea.

But wait, what is this? Easter? Whooothere. Let’s just bribe them leading up to Easter Sunday ‘if you’re naughty you won’t get any chocolate from the Easter Bunny’, then when the big day comes it’s a whole new world of mixed messages and inconsistency.

The night before we create the equivalent of a shop window of chocolate decoration, fear we haven’t bought enough and go to bed dreaming of chocolate bunnies and wondering if we’ve got enough Cilit Bang for cleaning up the sofa.

The next morning kids wake up overjoyed that they can see mountains of chocolate. Then you make the mistake of agreeing to chocolate for breakfast. Kids unwrap eggs at warp speed and quite literally inhale milk chocolate goodness not really giving a hoot about the shape, size or construction of the egg.

Within minutes you decide to pull rank, telling your children to stop eating chocolate because they’ll be sick. You expect that you can take all the chocolate and sweeties away based on the idea that you’re saving them from themselves. Deluded. You are deluded.

Why give kids what they want, stop them halfway and then expect them to behave in order to get their swag back? Can you imagine what would happen if you were offered the adult equivalent?

‘Here are the keys to the pub, it’s yours for the day. It’s all free and no one else will pop in. You get a free and personalised bar for the day. ‘

One hour later.

‘We’re going to temporarily close the bar for a few hours. We’ll let you know when you can come back, but don’t hold your breath.’

Anarchy would ensue.

Adults and especially parents are weird. And as for the Easter Bunny.

Blogging in the dark

Saturday nights are a pretty standard affair. The usual bedtime routine is followed by a small frisson of excitement that it’s Saturday night. Not a school night, not a Sunday night and all the jobs which could have been done on Friday night in order to make Sunday night a nice chilled out affair. No, this is Saturday night and by God, children or not, we’re going to enjoy.

First up is how quickly the children decide to go to sleep. If it’s a short affair then we gain an extra 45-hour of extra time. Not to be sniffed at. If it’s a long ass, drawn out affair then you might as well go to bed now. If you have anything to eat it’s too late and will give you indigestion, if you decide to have a drink you’ll only manage ‘3 fingers’ before you have to hit the hay. Don’t bother, just pass Go, collect £200 and go to bed.

Tonight was an example of a fabulous bedtime. Both kids have been full on physical activities all day. E pooped, S practically asleep before her head hit the pillow. Bliss.

T cooked lovely dinner, just started to watch a film and then it started. The illness rattle of E. He started coughing, screaming, raging. He’s fought a cold off for the last few days. So now he’s in our bed, where his 2 feet are resting on my squidgy belly and all of a sudden it sounds like I’ve taken up with Darth Vader. T will now make me a cup of tea, my g+t abandoned in the living room, along with the film on Netflix.

Saturday night is not exactly about keeping it real anymore. It’s about comforting when they’re ill, soothing when they’re screaming and always, always watching a film in at least 8-10 sittings.