Sunday, 25 January 2015

Week 172- settling in, using your brain and smelling your children...

I am going back to work in one week.

Seven days.

I have approximately 168 hours to get the old grey matter fired up again.

For the last 10 months I have been living moment-by-moment.

Working out how you live day-to-day in the world with a toddler and a baby. How it is humanly possible to feed and clothe them both and still find the time to brush your own teeth and cram in the occasional round of Marmite on toast.

These have been months of looking inwards. Of focusing on my family. Of changing nappies, wiping tears, rubbing bumps and carrying children on a cocked hip. 

Now going to have to shift that focus.

Look out to the world again.

And speak to adults.

And I am excited and utterly petrified in equal measure.

I took my son for his first settling-in session last week.

I thought I'd be the mother of all cool about it. We've done this before. I am an old hand at giving my kids to other people to look after. The childminder is beyond brilliant (seriously - anyone who would regularly look after more than their own children deserves a knighthood).

My daughter has been going there for over two years.

A settling-in session should be viewed as a free half-hour to have a coffee without children.

Easy.

But as I approached the door with both children I suddenly, completely unexpectedly, got a massive, all-encompassing, head-to-toe rush of panic.

How has the time passed so quickly?

It felt like only yesterday that I was shouting at the midwife, 'I'M DOING A POO!'

For her to calmly respond, 'I can see the top of his head. It's not a poo. It's your baby.'

And now he's starting childcare?

I had a super-quick ugly cry on the doorstep.

Then rang the bell.

And thirty minutes later I picked them both up, neither of them having noticed I'd gone.

Which, although I should have been reassured, was a tad disappointing.

I have, for the last nine months, provided pretty much round-the-clock care. I've just shoulder-cried when dropping you off. Come on son, at least a momentary wonder as to where your mum's gone wouldn't be out the question, would it?

But two days later and it's the big guns.

The two-hour settling in session.

And I'm ready.

In fact I'm more than ready.

I've got so much stuff to do in those 120 minutes that I literally pass the children, rugby-ball style, to the childminder and start to address the small matter of sorting out my life before rejoining the workforce.

See, that's the thing with being a parent. You're constantly in flux.

Within an hour, you can go from having the most absorbing, calming time passing a piece of Duplo to and from a baby, to listening to two children scream so loudly from tiredness, you feel like your ears may bleed.

So maybe going back to work will be the best thing all round.

It will be the opportunity to commit to one thing. To finish a sentence. To go to the loo without someone watching me. To be asked my opinion on matters other than, 'what's your favourite colour, pink or dark pink?' between 9- 5.

And come 6pm, I will hold my children tighter than they'd like.

And inhale them.

Like they're the best smell in the world.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Week 171- bear hugs, separation anxiety and Carol Vorderman’s Better Homes...

It’s amazing how quickly you can adapt to your surroundings.

We moved into our new house four days ago.

When the last van full of belongings had been unloaded I looked round and thought, right, I am going to nail this. I’m going to make this house look immense. 

How hard can it be to give a place a lick of paint, pull up the carpets and sand the floorboards?

Surely it’s just a matter of replacing the old-woman-style chandeliers with posh Habitat lampshades?

I was a runner on Carol Vorderman’s Better Homes about ten years ago.



We transformed two next-door-neighbours’ houses in a week. We knocked down walls, wallpapered, landscaped the garden. The works. When the women saw their new homes they ugly-cried for absolutely ages. Marion, the 72-year-old who'd fostered over 40 children, had Carol Vorderman in such a tight bear hug that it took two producers to loosen her grip.

So I have the experience. You could say I'm a house-transforming-veteran.

The two major differences this time are:
1. I am not trying to make a lasting impression on a humourless producer in the hope that I might get a job in telly instead of the actual reality of lugging round wheelbarrows full of rubble for a week for zero pay.
2. I have a baby stuck to me 24/7 who is suffering from a major case of separation anxiety.

Every time I put my son down he cries himself purple.

Or pulls himself up on my trousers and clings on whilst sobbing.

There is very little you can get done in a house full of boxes when you've got a nine-month-old permanently attached to your hip.

No one else can placate him.

On one hand, it's amazing to be that loved by a little person that they'd prefer to be dangled upside down in a sling while I hoover than be cuddled up with anyone else.

At the same time it can be so massively claustrophobic that I would trade anything for an hour alone in a dark room.  

In fact it doesn't have to be dark.

Or even a room.

I have, in four days, managed to unpack the grand total of half a box of t-shirts and as a consequence have been wearing the same clothes for several days now.

So I've had to have a rethink on the house front for the foreseeable future.

I realise now that the painting and sanding might have been a tad ambitious.

I'm now going for a kind of industrial inspired theme mainly consisting of half filled cardboard boxes everywhere.

It looks more ‘packing area in Lidl’ than ‘Grand Designs.’

But it might catch on.


Don’t miss the next You Can Take Her Home Now post: 

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Week 170- rice cakes, weaning and eating receipts...

I know that my son will have to give up breastfeeding during the day when I go back to work soon.

I know it.

But I don’t quite believe it.

We were doing moderately well on the weaning front.

By ‘well’ I mean I had developed a system where I’d tap him gently on the back of his neck whilst making loud clucking noises and he’d get distracted enough to open his mouth very slightly for a millisecond, where by I’d post a smear of baby food into his mouth.

That ship has sailed.

He now favours a diet of mainly paper, which he finds on the floor and fills his face with until the entire roof of his mouth is paper mache.

Which would be fine if there was any kind of nutritional value in an Aldi receipt.

Alternatively he'll eat the odd rice cake.

Only if he's found it under the table, it's been there for at least a day and is covered in fluff and hair.

But give him breast milk and he's a different boy. 

He'll drink until he's full then be all laughs and baby giggles.

Instead of bucking like a dog in the bath when he's in his high chair, wearing a Joker-style smile of Greek yoghurt from where he's shaken his head repeatedly whilst I've held a spoon to his mouth.



Now, I know the health visitors give it all the, 'food is fun until they're one,' mantra.

But that's no use if you're going back to work when they're nine months old.

However much 'fun' food is meant to be, it's not going to be that much of a laugh if you refuse it eight hours a day whilst you wait for the walking milk bar to return from work.

So I've just got to hang in there and hope that we turn a corner in the next couple of weeks.

My daughter refused a bottle until literally the night before I returned to work, which felt like the mother of all practical jokes.

Maybe my son has the same hilarious sense of humour and will wait until the Sunday night before I go to work to give it the big thumbs down to breast milk and opt for a roast with all the trimmings instead. 

Don’t miss the next You Can Take Her Home Now post: 

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Week 169- Deirdre Barlow, Poundshop Barbies and moving home...

I am never going to move house again.

Ever.

How have I managed to accrue so much crap over the last three years? 

Answer: I had children.

It’s not just the big stuff we’ve acquired like a sofa, beds, cots, changing tables, 5 million Ikea Billy bookshelves, baby baths etc.

It’s all the really titchy, sharp, plastic things that find a home in the crevices of the flat, waiting patiently for you to tread on them when you’ve got no shoes and socks on.

I made the error of attempting to pack up my three-year-old daughter’s room whilst she was home.

Big mistake.

EVERYTHING is important to her.

Literally everything.

I tried to chuck out the ripped back cover of a CBeebies magazine from November 2013. Apparently it’s her absolute favourite page from her absolute favourite magazine.

So that’s had to go in the moving box.

Along with a broken yoyo, which has great sentimental value.

An imitation Barbie from the Poundshop with one leg missing called Rosie.

An instruction manual for Corgi boilers.

And a babygro which, not only has a massive shit stain up the back, but I don’t think was even ours in the first place.

And this is the FIRST box I’ve packed.

I had visions of the next place we live in being Scandinavian inspired.

Clean lines, white furniture and sanded floorboards.

It would be clutter-free with industrial lighting and large leafy plants in big terracotta pots.

Instead, we’re going to end up living in some hoarders paradise that would make a good basis for a Channel 5 documentary.

And it’s not just the ballache of having to pack up four lives into cardboard boxes.

It’s the emotional wrench of leaving the flat.

It’s like when I go to get my haircut.

For weeks I’ll look like Deirdre Barlow circa 1980 so I book myself in for a cut.



But the morning of the appointment, my hair suddenly seems to behave.

Instead of looking like an early 80s perm, it’s sleek, all Yasmin Le Bon.

And I think, maybe I don’t want to get it cut after all.

Maybe it’s fine as it is.

Our flat is suddenly looking a bit Le Bon.

I’m walking around it, and instead of wanting to move, I’m remembering the first time we brought both our babies home.

How my daughter took her first steps here.

How my son has just learnt to crawl.

And then the whole place becomes a Neighbours-style montage of soft focus memories.

It’s time to move on.

I do know that. 

That I have to power on through the sentimentality and get cracking on packing up the kitchen.

Because once we’ve boxed up all our belongings, it will just be an empty flat.

When you take the people out of it, it’s just bricks and mortar.

It will become our 80s bad hair day, waiting for another family to come and tame.

And we will have a new home to give a Brian May-esque make over to.



(Too many tenuous perm-based metaphors? Nope. Course not.)

Don’t miss the next You Can Take Her Home Now post: 

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Week 168- X Factor, smoking in pubs and being Father Christmas...

SPOILER ALERT.

I am Father Christmas.

And it's the best fucking thing EVER.

To be honest, I used to think people who went on about how Christmas was so much better with children were a bit wet. 

Talking about how brilliant they thought Christmas Eve was, putting out a mince pie for FC and a carrot for Rudolph. How they got caught up in the excitement of their children on Christmas morning as they raced down to see if there was anything in their stocking.

I just assumed it was cos they had dull mates or didn't have a good local to go to.

Our Christmas Eve's were properly messy.

Shots. Smoking on the sly in the pub long after the ban had come in. Seeing old mates you hadn't seen since, well, the previous Christmas Eve.

It was eight plus pints, a 12 inch pizza and then back to my mate's who lived opposite the pub, loaded up with as much take-out as we could carry, ready to dance in her front room to her back-catalogue of early 90s Britpop until the neighbours complained.

Seriously. How could you top that?

I pined for it the first Christmas Eve with my daughter in 2011.

She was three months old; oblivious to what was going on. And I was having a light beer sat on the sofa watching Gavin and Stacey.

I wouldn't have changed the situation. 

Of course I wouldn't. 


But I would have liked to duplicate myself, and my double go out on the lash whilst I sat off eating cheesy Doritos as a festive treat.

The thing is, it's never going to be massively entertaining if your child isn't even old enough to eat the wrapping paper. 

If you're having to muster up the enthusiasm for them as well yourself as they look at you blankly, waiting for their next milk injection.

But. Once they're old enough to get excited about Christmas. Once the threat of Santa not coming if they're naughty is real. Once they've written their shopping list for the big bearded guy.

Then, THEN, it starts to get good.

On Christmas Eve my daughter went to bed at 7pm without complaint.

The girl who normally won't even consider shutting her eyes without at least two stories and a song, got into bed and requested that we skip both so morning would come more quickly.

And at 7am I reminded her what day it was and I can genuinely say I've never seen a person more excited.

And that includes the Irish presenter from Milkshake and the last decade of X Factor finalists.




But the best bit was when she saw that the mince pie had been eaten, sherry drunk and there were distinct reindeer bites out of the carrot.

She looked like she was going to combust.

She went bright pink and couldn't get her words out.

And I thought, this is the business.

I can forsake the boozy night out if this is the pay off.

I now hold the greatest annual responsibility awarded to any adult.

I am Father Christmas.

And may many years pass before my children find out.




Don’t miss the next You Can Take Her Home Now post: 




Monday, 22 December 2014

Week 167- communal singing, Frozen and drinking on a school night...

Hangovers and small children, eh?

They're fun, aren't they?

So I'm sitting off in the cinema with my three year old, watching Frozen. The sing along version. 

The only difference between this and the original is the karaoke style words at the bottom of the screen. 

Oh. And it's a fiver more expensive than normal screenings.

Communal singing is evocative at the best of times. 

But imagine a cinema full of under 10s, all unselfconsciously belting out the sound track to their short lives.

It was something else.

And when 'Let It Go' started, two girls no older than six, both dressed in identical Elsa dresses, pushed passed their mums and, drawn like moths to light, ran towards the screen.

They were not only singing, but miming all the actions. Throwing their imaginary cloaks off. Fashioning themselves a dress of ice. Stamping their feet as they built a majestic ice castle. 

It was then that I realised that, two days after having a few festive drinks, I still hadn't shaken off the hangover.

I was crying. 

Like literally blubbing my face off as I watched two children I didn't know reenact a film I've seen at least 50 times.

And then I turned to my daughter. And she was singing with her eyes closed. 

That finished me off. 

I was having a shoulder-shaking beal, totally overwhelmed by how wonderful it was to see children as yet unaffected by embarrassment. Or judgement. Who were having the absolute time of their lives singing to their favourite songs.

And I thought that I should make a New Years resolution to join a choir. 

Be brave. 

Be inspired by these brilliant little people who take such joy in just singing their hearts out.

Either that or I should stop drinking Sambuca on a school night. 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Week 168- Fagin, Christmas wish lists and Barbie dog turds...

I am overwhelmed by the sheer volume of crap that’s being advertised on TV for children this Christmas.

In between Peppa Pig and Toby’s Travelling Circus, there is a stream of not-so-subliminal messages telling my daughter how much happier she’d be if she was the proud owner of a whole heap of brightly coloured, plastic landfill debris.

From princess dresses made with material so cheap that you can’t stand anywhere near an open flame, to Barbie dolls complete with handbag, dogs that shit and an accompanying pooper-scooper accessory, with the strapline ‘Anything is possible’.

Seriously?

Picking up Barbie’s dog turd is meant to pass as entertainment these days?




Luckily, my daughter is just a tad too young to realise that she is the target audience and they’re trying to sell her stuff. She watches with frustration while complaining, ‘We’ve seen this programme, mummy.’

Her list for Father Christmas is innocently short.

She wants a pink yoyo and a packet of Smarties. Oh, and a green yoyo for her baby brother for when he’s older.

Although I feel like Fagin in the festive cheer stakes, I’m just going to suck it up this year.

I can’t imagine there are going to be too many more Christmases when I can trade good behaviour for a present so small that they don’t even charge P and P for delivery on Amazon.

Don’t miss the next You Can Take Her Home Now post: