Sunday, 23 November 2014

Week 165- boring games, payday loans and babyccinos...

I used to think people who went to the same places on holiday every year were completely unimaginative. 

Why would you want to stay in the same hotel, see the same staff, eat in the same cafés and visit the same beaches year on year? 

Because it's easy and there are no surprises. I now get it.

I have, without realising it, become a complete creature of habit since having children. 

Unfortunately my habits don't stretch to an annual trip to Marbella.

I just go to the same cafés and sit at the same tables and order the same drinks.

It's like lack of sleep (aaaaahhh! Not the dreaded sleep deprivation chat again...) has sucked out any ability to think creatively. 

So I stumble from one overly familiar situation to another. 

For example, there's a new market that's opened near our house. Its full of exciting, interesting stalls and shops.

On the first day I went to have an explore with the children. 

We sat at the first cafe we came to and had a coffee and a babyccino (I feel a deep self-loathing every time I ask for a babyccino, like I've got 'TWAT' tattooed across my forehead.) 

This is now the cafe we go to every time we visit the market. 

It turns out, out of the 10 or so other cafés in the 20 metre radius, this one is by far the most expensive, with a cheese sandwich coming in at a payday-loan high of 5 pounds.  

But I can't make my brain deactivate and sit anywhere else.

The poor children have become a product of this inability to think creatively. If at all.

We play a pitiful number of games on rotation. 

There are three parks we go to. 

Meals are beyond dull, and I've inadvertently ignored 90% of their story books in favour of a small number of tales which my daughter now knows off-by-heart and corrects me when I miss a word out.

I need to mix it up a bit.

I'm not talking skydiving for kids, but I need to break some routines before we all die of boredom.

Either that or take out a second mortgage to afford the lunches in the most expensive cafe in Brighton. 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Week 164- weaning, vomitting and the yoga teacher voice...

Weaning a second child should be a doddle. 

You've already done it once. 

Gone through the huge panics that they will never digest a full meal. Watched in horror as they, for the seventh consecutive day, suck in their lips so you're basically smearing puréed butternut squash all over their face in the hope that by some miracle a dust-mite sized molecule may get ingested.  

Not this time, I told myself. This time it's going to be different. 

I will be the epitome of calm. They embodiment of the chilled mother who just takes it her stride. The woman with the patience of a saint and the voice of a yoga teacher.

Nope.

It's worse. 

So much worse this time because as you are trying to effortlessly cram baby rice, which incidentally is the consistency of sick and smells totally rank, into a six-month-old's face, the three-year-old is watching over proceedings attempting to help.

'Let me hold his spoon.'

'Can I try it?'

'He doesn't like it mummy, he told me he doesn't like it.'

'HE'S DROPPED IT, IT'S ALL DOWN HIS CHIN MUMMY, LOOOOOOOK.'

The meals are never ending. It's like no-one's ever full. We sit down for breakfast and I feel like I've only just cleared away the bowls when it's time to start thinking about lunch time for them both. 

My three-year-old is living on a rotation of ham sandwiches and pasta and pesto, while my son hasn't eaten anything other than jarred food since we started this whole process. I wanted to cook for him, I really did, but I've no idea where to find the time.

And the one time I did make him some sweet potato, he vommed it back into the bowl almost immediately. 

On top of that, I just can't be bothered to let him get messy. I know that sounds mean spirited, but it's true.

With my daughter it was all about exploring food. Her having the time to try out different stuff, hold things, throw them around, get used to it.

But this time, if I had to change my son's clothes after each meal, we literally would never leave the house.

I forget how easy just breastfeeding can be. You're basically a walking pantry. 

Also, my boobs have lost so much elasticity after feeding two children that I can literally feed my son discreetly while he's strapped to me in the sling. I can be in BHS at the checkout and to the untrained eye, I have a sleeping baby, but actually he's having his lunch. 

I'm kind of hoping this will sort itself out. 

One day I'll wake up and he'll be like, 'hey mum, what's for breakfast? I quite fancy some Sugar Puffs.'

Either that or I'm going to turn into Mrs Rochester and will spend the next decade stuck in the house. 

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Week 163- duping your kids by mistake...

There comes a point in parenting when you realise that you have made a choice that has affected your child's outlook on life. 

I take my daughter to a gymnastics class once a week held in an old church. 

She now thinks all churches are gymnasiums.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Week 162- dancing, screaming and Come Dine with Me...

I'm in a pub function room dancing to Thriller. It's dark. The floor's sticky with spilt drinks. And everyone's going mental. Like properly crazy- screaming, stamping feet, the works.

It's a Halloween party and people have made some serious effort with their costumes. There's devils, witches, fairies; you name it.

It's 2 o'clock.

That's 2 in the afternoon and I'm with my three year old daughter. 

Everyone knows that your social life takes a bit of a battering when you have kids. Alongside that, I feel like my musical references are now almost entirely drawn from an eclectic mix of Steve Wright in the Afternoon and Peppa Pig's Madame Gazelle. 

And companies have started to capitalise on this. They can smell the desperation of mums who haven't been out for weeks, possibly months, potentially years. 

So they've organised discos for kids in pubs.

On paper, this sounds immense. 

You get to go out, listen to loud music, have a shandy and entertain your child at the same time.

But the reality is the people who have organised them have almost definitely never had children. 

A tad unfair maybe, but if I was going to put on a do for mums and kids there are several things I'd do:

1. Clean the fag butts up from outside. There's nothing grimmer that your child presenting you with a dog end as a gift.

2. Serve food that isn't going to make kids go totally crackers. If you say you're going to provide a buffet, don't just serve jelly as the main course. And three year old don't get the concept of using a skewer for a chocolate fountain. It's more of a massive chocolate tap to them.

3. Play music that people born in the late 70s/ early 80s can enjoy. My daughter literally doesn't give two shits what she listens to. Her repertoire includes Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Wind the Bobbin Up and The Wheels on the Bus. Great for a sing along to in a community centre but none of them have a floor-shaking bass. Whereas I would kill to listen to  'You've got the Love' on louder than volume 5 on our rubbish, tinny stereo. 

But it's not all bad. I'm in the pub. I'm with my friends. I might only be listening to five Halloween themed songs on loop. But then 'Ghostbusters' is a classic. Who wouldn't want to listen to it 4 times an hour? 

Another bonus is you're not going to get the impending sense of doom the following morning when you wake up and find a wallet full of receipts for drinks you've bought in the pub. 

It's hard to spend more the a fiver on a round of orange squashes. 

And the whole thing is finished by 4pm.

So, practically speaking, you can have a dance, an activity for the children, and still be home in time for Come Dine with Me. 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Week 161- tutters, starers and dropping the F bomb...

Dear passengers of the number 1a bus,

Firstly, sorry for dropping the F bomb.

I don’t normally, well not usually, when I have both children, but sometimes, just sometimes, everything stacks up until you feel like you’re going to explode.

And to be honest, none of you really helped the situation. Not one of you.

I know it’s not really your job to help stressed out mums who have two kids who are going mental on the bus. 

But just a note for next time.

Staring doesn’t help. 

Ever.

And when I got my six-month-old son out of the bottom bit of the pram and attempted to strap him into the sling when he was bucking around like a dog in a bath and I couldn’t find the clip to secure him in. 

Don’t tut. 

Just don’t. 

That doesn’t help much either.

We’d had a bad night. You weren’t to know that. And even if you did, why would you care? I get that. My children are my responsibility. 

But still. It doesn’t hurt to show a bit of empathy now and then does it? 

Don’t tell me you haven’t had the odd off day.

Now. To the woman who’s leg I rammed with the pram wheel as I attempted to get off the bus. 

I’m sorry. I truly am. I’ve no idea how I managed to get the buggy jammed so tightly between the pole and you. And once it was stuck, I panicked. The pole wouldn’t move but your leg would. A bit. So, sorry about that. I understand why you got mad. I would have been cross too.

But to everyone else, as I then eventually tried to get the pram off the bus, shouting ‘THE BRAKE'S ON’ in an accusatory way isn’t going to make the situation better. I knew it was on. It’s my pram. The brake’s stiff. And it sometimes takes a second to take it off.

I know there were people standing in the rain waiting for me to get off before they could get on but I was trying my best.

I had a crying baby strapped to my chest. A screaming toddler in the buggy. A cross woman with a sore leg. And a bus full of tutters shouting about the brake.

So I dropped the F bomb at you. 

All of you.

And I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that my children heard me get so wound up by people who think that it’s a spectators sport to see someone struggle.

But next time remember, it’s OK to see if someone needs help. Or if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, then give them a smile.

Thanks,

Anna

PS. Also sorry to the guy who’s foot I ran over when I eventually got off the bus. You were collateral damage.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Week 160- soft focus, 70s films and sitting on heads...

I have an idea for an invention. 

It is, of course, entirely impossible to make, but if there is even the titchiest chance that it could be created, either now or some time in the future, please, someone make me one. 

I don't want any money for the idea. 

I just want one.

So. Basically, it's a pop-up, transparent room, which, a bit like the Tardis, is massive on the inside without actually taking up any room outside. This means you can erect it in your front room even if it's the size of an old 50p. You don't have to clear a space, and it will easily sit on top of Lego bricks, bits of old food or Sophie the giraffe, and the floor inside is still super flat and completely soft. Like the inside of a kitten's ear. I imagine. And soft focus. The cube has a kind of wash, giving everything you see a calming 70s film sheen.

The room, or 'cube of calm' as it will be called, is soundproof. You can't hear a thing that's happening outside, but maybe there's some soothing music that's filtered softly inside. Whale sounds. Or the kind of chanting that's played in treatment rooms. 

You can see what's going on outside the cube of calm as you have a 360 degree view of your home, and, this is the clever bit, if it looks like things are kicking off, you can just freeze time and change the scenario.

So, for example, a three-year-old is about to sit on a baby's head, then you press a button and she freezes, bum hovering mid-air, and you just step outside and move the child from underneath her. Or little fingers are clutching onto the hinge of a door as someone is about to open it; instead of hearing the crunch of infant digits, you just press the button, remove said hand, and, job done. All from the calming comfort of your cube. Nerves aren't frayed. Voices aren't raised. It's all tremendously civilised. 

The cube of calm will give you the two things that instantly disappear the moment you have children. 

Time. And space. 

Actually, if I can invent anything, maybe I'm setting the bar a bit low with a static, blow-up Pope-mobile type structure, that basically enables you to spy on your family and manipulate them without their knowledge. 

Come to think of it, it sounds a bit weird. 

Maybe I'll just settle for an extra hour in the day that's all mine to sneak off for an undisturbed power nap. 

If someone could invent that, I'd be eternally grateful.  



Sunday, 12 October 2014

Week 159- Travelodges, clean underwear and zen-like calm...

Having children means you're never alone. You always have your buddy with you.

This can be brilliant.

You rarely crave human contact because it's available. All the time.

Whether it be a three-year-old launching themselves at your back and clinging to your neck like Batman’s cape, or a five-month-old discovering that if they clench their gums and throw their head back whilst feeding they can stretch your nipple to three times its original size.

Being constantly with children also means there is always noise.

It can be gentle noise. The panty breath of a sleeping baby. Or the ear-bleeding screech of a toddler who has been denied a fourth Peppa Pig yoghurt. Noise is absolutely synonymous with small people. And the lack of it can be unnerving.

If I’m driving and both children have fallen to sleep in the back, I have to reach round behind me and panickingly feel for two sets of feet because, although I know that I would never have left either of them on the pavement, there is always that millisecond of doubt that creeps in.

But the thing is, from time to time all you want is quiet. And to not be touched. If only for 10 minutes. And if you can get that, then you become a more tolerant person the rest of the time.

I regard myself as a loud person who hugs people for too long. Even on first meeting I have been known to go in for the bearhug, much to the surprise of the recipient. 

So I was mildly shocked to discover that, since children, I sometimes crave silence and solitude. 

In fact I dream of occasionally booking myself into a hotel for the night on my own. 

It doesn’t have to be a posh hotel. A Travelodge on the outskirts of Scunthorpe would do. 

But a space where I can lie completely still and not be woken at 4am by a three-year-old touching my face with clammy hands, and shouting ‘Mummy, is it wakey up time yet?’

Given that this isn’t going to happen anytime soon, I have had to be inventive when seeking moments to myself.

Today I took myself to the launderette down the bottom of our road as a treat. 

As Ben fed the children, I took two loads of washing, Heat magazine and a Dairy Milk and spent half an hour waiting for our clothes to dry in the industrial dryers.

Now, this doesn’t bring on the kind of zen-like calm you experience after a spa weekend, but it's just about enough to have a quick power recharge before going home, ready to be leap on/ squeezed/ prodded/ kneaded.

And on top of that, everyone now has clean undies.

So I guess it’s a win all round.