Sunday, 27 July 2014

Week 148- Tetris, wedgies and panicking the relatives...

It never ceases to amaze me how much paraphernalia you need with children. The sheer amount of stuff that accompanies them would rival a Mariah Carey entourage. 

I'm not sure if we just expand into the amount of room we have available. We had a three-door car with our daughter and would go on long journeys that involved me having to sit in the passenger seat while luggage was strategically packed around me. There was no need for an air bag in the unfortunate case of an accident as I was so tightly packed in I literally couldn't move a muscle for the duration of the journey. 

Before having our son we took what felt like a massively grown up step and bought a second-hand estate car for three hundred quid. The thinking was we'd have more than enough space for a family of four. 

What idiots. 

It turns out we just find more things to drive around with. It becomes a Tetris-style challenge. I see an inch of space and think, fantastic, you could definitely ram a scooter in that gap.  

On a recent trip to show off our new baby to the family, the car struggled to go above 60 miles an hour, creaking under the immense weight of our belongings.

As we turn up at relatives' houses you can see the panic in their eyes. When we start to unpack, it looks like we're never going to leave. First out the boot comes the three massive rucksacks, followed shortly by the baby gym, toys, potty, toilet training seat, plastic bags full of emergency food, half a library of children's books... the list goes on. 

The thing is, once it's all out of the car I can't find anything I need anyway, and the thought of having to unpack three rucksacks of clothes to find a muslin cloth makes me want to punch myself in my own face with frustration. 

I like to bill myself as a bit of an expert when it comes to packing for three people. The reality is, I get all the stuff I need for the children and throw whatever is closest to hand in a bag for me about 30 seconds before we leave the house.  

Unfortunately this means that, whilst both kids have enough clothes to last them until Christmas, I only have one pair of pants, no pyjamas, an empty can of deodorant and a pair of shorts that are so tight they'd make Miley Cyrus blush.

We have an estate car full of belongings but I still have to buy deodorant and supermarket jeans so I don't have to go around stinking of BO with a wedgy for the entirety of our trip. 

Perhaps our next vehicle purchase should be a double-decker bus. 

Maybe then I'd manage to pack enough underwear to see me through a weekend. 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Week 147- Bros, ginger biscuits and virtual keep-fit...

I think I’m more of a virtual keep-fit kind of person that an actual, real life, trainers-and-sweat woman. I could spend hours online researching ways to get your pre-baby figure back, while sitting on the sofa eating lasagne between meals.

The thing is, I thought I might have been able to get into at least one pair of trousers that I wore pre-pregnancy by now just through the power of positive thinking.

But alas, no.

Actually that’s not entirely true.

I have a pair of denim cut-off jeans circa 1993 that I can just about squeeze into, which are so awful even the Goss twins would think twice about wearing them. They’re so low-slung that I only need to bend over very slightly and I have a total builder’s behind.

 

Not ideal, but at least they’re not maternity jeans.

I feel a little like I’ve been holding my breath, waiting for this miraculous body transformation to just happen. And then I can start wearing all the titchy clothes I bid for on e-bay in the middle of the night while feeding my son.

Part of the problem is that I know that you burn off more calories when breastfeeding, but I can’t remember how many, so I’ve just rounded it up to the nearest thousand.

I think I got into bad eating habits during pregnancy, because a part of me thought ‘I’ve spent the majority of my adult life being conscious of what I’m eating, developing a slightly unhealthy relationship with food- so here was the chance to have nine months of eating whatever I want, bar a few soft cheeses.’

And I rose to the challenge with the enthusiasm of a two-year-old girl watching Frozen for the hundredth time.

Sadly those bi-hourly Twirls I inhaled for the best part of forty weeks are a bit tougher to shift at the other end.

It’s normally during the 2am feed that I have a moment of inspiration and start Googling mother-and-baby aerobic classes. There have been mornings when I have had at least three emails from personal trainers responding to my enquiries.

But then there’s always a reason to talk myself out of it. The weather’s been totally Biblical recently, so there’s no way I’m traipsing off to the park with a buggy to do plunges in a tropical storm.

And then there’s the Monday excuse. There’s no point in starting anything until Monday. Diets. Exercise. Financial planning. Anything, really.

So it only takes one mid-week rogue ginger biscuit and I think, ‘Right, that’s this week’s healthy living out the window. But next Monday, I’m going to totally nail it.’  

With all that it mind, I’ve recently turned my e-bay attention to fitness videos. I figured, if I can’t make it the 100 yards to the local park to join an exercise class, then I should attempt to do it in the front room instead.

I currently have two DVDs, and another coming soon in the post. The 30 Day Shred looks so terrifying I haven’t even taken the cellophane off yet.

I’ve also downloaded a range of apps that suggest different routines and ask you to submit your daily calorie intake and weekly weight.

I’ve done this religiously. Logging all the runs I planned to go on, but didn’t, and imaginary carb-free dinners I would have cooked if I’d had the time.

In a virtual fitness world, I’m totally on fire at the moment.

In fact according to My Fitness Pal I’ve lost 10 % of my body weight in the last two weeks.

I just need to transfer some of this into real life, but for the moment, well done to the virtual me!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Week 146- scurvy, ugly crying and The Goslinator's having a baby...

So. It's happened. I knew it would eventually. I was hoping it wouldn’t be while I was a hormonal, sleep-deprived mess, but there you go.

I found out at 4am, on Facebook of all things, while feeding my son.

It just made it feel so cheap.

RYAN GOSLING IS GOING TO HAVE A BABY.
  

And worst of all, I thought he’d split up with his girlfriend so I wasn’t even a bit prepared for the devastating news. Damn you, Google.

Now. I’m not a total psycho. I didn’t actually believe that I was going to meet/date/get married to/have children with The Goslinator.

But he has been a bit of a constant crush throughout parenthood.

I’d seen The Notebook like the rest of the female population several years ago.

But it wasn’t until I rewatched it when four months pregnant with my daughter that I had massive hormone rush, ugly cried for a good hour after the film had finished and thought it would be a constructive use of my time to watch the whole back catalogue of Goslo films.

My daughter’s early years are somehow interwoven with his silver screen appearances.

The first time she took a step was round the same time I watched Drive. I went to the cinema to watch Only God Forgives after her third set of injections. A friend and I saw The Place Beyond the Pines when she’d started sleeping through the night.

The list goes on.

But I knew this couldn’t go on for forever. Partly because I need to grow up and mainly because he’s stopped starring in films.

So, it’s time to man up and get over it.

I have two children. I’m attempting to write a play when they’re both asleep. I have a flat that seems to haemorrhage dirt and dust the moment I leave a room. I need to learn how to cook something other than pasta and pesto before everyone under our roof gets scurvy.

I don’t really have time for a Hollywood crush.

But it suddenly dawned on me that he had been my guilty pleasure. In the same way that, pre-children, it had been smoking/binge-drinking/dancing in clubs to bad 80s music.

And that to balance being a parent with not going nuts, I was going to have to find another ‘hobby’.

So I’ve subscribed to Netflix and am going to watch the whole of Orange is the New Black on my own.

It’s no Prisoner Cell Block H but I do feel a bit better.

And if I ever DO meet The Goslotron, we will now have parenthood in common so it’s not the end of the world.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Week 145- kissing strangers, WWF moves and learning to be a big sister...

I want to invent a piece of equipment that shouts out the warning, ‘DON’T TOUCH HIS HEAD,’ every time my daughter comes near my son. Because that would save me from repeating it about a hundred times an hour.

It’s an interesting dynamic, watching a relationship develop between siblings.

Well, it’s interesting watching how the older one reacts. The baby just has to lie there and hope that he doesn’t get squashed/ suffocated/ fed toys/sat on.

Now, I know it must be a total head-melter to be the centre of your parent’s world since birth and then suddenly, to be told: “Taa daaa, here’s a brand new human being to share your home and your parents attention with.”

But the real challenge must be the realisation that it’s not for a few days, which in the life of a two-year-old must feel like forever anyway, but that it’s permanent.

I think having a baby around was a bit of a novelty to start with.

My daughter would invite strangers in the queue of the Post Office to meet her new baby brother. She’d ask people sat on tables near us in cafes if they wanted to kiss him. Luckily no-one ever took her up on her invitation, especially as she’s totally indiscriminate when it comes to who she approaches; in fact her policy seems to be the weirder the better.

She’d been excited about his arrival from about month three of pregnancy; the childminder had been told by her about the imminent arrival before we’d even gone public (we received a sensitively written e-mail tentatively congratulating us).

But two months in, and I think she’s starting to get a tad bored. Or maybe not bored, but wanting things to hurry up a little bit. She’s been promised a brother who will play with her and so far all he’s done is lie around, smile a bit, sleep and feed.

As we were about to leave the house the other day, she suggested that it would be better if he stayed at home on his own to look after her plastic Peppa Pig guys as ‘he’ll only sleep and won’t have fun’. And the affectionate hugs are now getting a bit more like WWF moves.  
 
My younger sister used to drive me absolutely mental when we were little but now I speak to her every day and can’t imagine my life without her - from having a buddy on the never-ending camping trips every school holiday to having someone who can understand the complexities of your family in a way that no-one else in the world ever can.

A friend told me that giving my daughter a sibling was the best gift you can ever give.

I’ll just have to remind her of that when she’s trying to sit on his head for the millionth time.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Week 144- heat waves, clammy jeans and going to London...

I’ve done it. I’ve been to London with a nine-week old baby. And it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I’d expected.

Actually, that last bit’s a lie.
To start with, there was the matter of what to wear.

I was going to meet an ├╝ber-glamorous old friend from home. We had arranged to meet on the South Bank outside the Tate Modern. This wasn’t a trip to the park over the road or singing nursery rhymes in a community centre.
This was my reintroduction to civilisation.

I’ve got one pair of size 16 stretchy jeans that I’ve been living in since giving birth to my son. I panic my face off when they have to go in the wash as it means either promoting a pair of jogging bottoms I normally wear in bed to ‘day wear’ or hair-drying the jeans to a clammy level of dampness and wearing them straight from the machine.
As a consequence they’re totally filthy, as it’s easier to just sponge off sick/milk/pasta sauce than risk catching pneumonia.

And then there’s the double top conundrum.
The only way to successfully breastfeed without exposing your entire stretch-marked midriff to anyone within a 10-metre radius is to wear another top underneath the one you’re going to be hoiking up.

Now, that was fine when I was breastfeeding my daughter, as it was a cold autumn and the more layers the better. But this time round we’re in the midst of a near-daily heatwave so wearing an extra layer is like walking around in a bodysuit made of electric blankets.
So, having unsuccessfully tried on numerous pre-baby clothes, I had to admit defeat, sponge off the jeans, and shove on two T-shirts. Then we set out in the 26+ degree heat for our trip to London.

The trick is to go to an access-friendly station when travelling in London with a child.
That way you just hop in the lift and it’s job done.

Or, you can unknowingly go to an access-friendly station, get some poor woman to help you carry a pram down and up several flights of stairs and only then realise there’s a lift.

That’s an alternative, and one that definitely doesn’t help solve the two-tops/sweat problem.
But we got there.

I’d forgotten how beautiful London is. How impressive it is to walk along the river. And what a joy it is to just sit off, have a coffee with an old friend and remember some of the things you enjoy doing as well as being a parent.
I’d also forgotten what time rush hour is.

Having been off work for the best part of four months, my brain has now defaulted to key times for children. So at 5.30pm I said my goodbyes, doing the maths that if I caught the 5.40 from Blackfriars I would be home in time for my daughter’s bath.
But obviously the rest of London was making their way home after work.

What had, up until that point, felt like a mega success, suddenly fell apart as train after packed train pulled up at the station. People were literally hurling themselves at carriages to get on. I couldn’t really see how they’d feasible manage to squeeze one more person in, let alone me and a pram the size of Fiat Panda.
So we waited. And waited. And my son got hungrier and grumpier.

And finally we got on a train. The wrong train. Of course. So had to get off at Gatwick and wait for a connection to Brighton. Then all the trains south were delayed due to signal failure.
Two and a half hours later, the train, which normally takes 50 minutes, pulled up in Brighton.

I could have let it defeat me. It was tempting. I felt like the walking dead and by this stage was starting to smell a bit trampy.
But instead, I picked up my sleeping son’s hand and made him high-five me.

London. Done.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Week 143- lollies, limping and Keyser Soze...

My daughter can smell out junk food in the same way that babies can allegedly smell their mother’s milk up to 20 feet away.

You only have to rustle a Snickers wrapper in your bag, and she’s asking, ‘mummy what’s that?’

I think I’ve brought this on myself.
 
It started with a bit of harmless bribery to get us all out of the house. ‘If you put your shoes on, we’ll see about getting you a treat when we’re out.’

But I was clever enough to be non-specific about the ‘treat.’

We’d get to the park and she’d ask me what she’d be getting and I’d wing in, telling her the act of going to the park was the treat. Or a carton of juice. Or a banana.

But she’s not a total idiot.

I couldn’t keep on passing off the stuff she was going to be getting anyway as a treat for long before she wised up to it.

And soon we were back to square one, with me attempting to negotiate her out the house while having an eight-week-old strapped to my front like a fat suit.

So I had to raise my game.

I realised the trick was hold a couple of cards back, don’t give the game away entirely.

 You can offer chocolate. Just don’t say what kind so you can then present a titchy bit without not being true to your word.

Or crisps that turn out to be the ones from the healthfood shop and are virtually air.

Or a lolly that’s made out of 100% juice so it’s just a drink really.

I thought I’d got it nailed, until the other day it dawned on me that she’d been playing me at my own game.

That she’d become a bit of an expert at manipulation, and I hadn’t even seen it was happening right under my nose.

We were in the park. It was hot. She hadn’t had a nap and I was feeling more than a bit ratty.

As my daughter ran round the park she inevitably fell over, being all knackered and disorientated. It wasn’t a nasty fall. Just a tumble. But still. She said she’d hurt her leg, and started limping. I checked and it didn’t look like she’d done any damage, but then she asked, ‘can I have a treat for being brave?’

I faltered. She could see the weakness. And she was limping.

And then a friend who was also in the park with her children called over that she’d been to Aldi and bought lollies for all the children and did my daughter want one?

She heard the magic words and I watched as started first to limp over to her, and then slowly she broke into a fast trot, finally breaking into an arm-waving sprint.

No sight of an injury.

I was watching Keyser Soze from The Usual Suspects.

She’d totally played me. And the little girl with the total inability to fib?

As Kevin Spacey would say, ‘like that, she was gone.’ 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Week 142- Darcy Bussell, Rastamouse and dancing to car alarms...

There are many things I’ve gained since becoming a parent.

An ability to love someone unconditionally, even when they are screaming themselves purple literally inches away from my face, for one. 

For another, resilience to personal criticism. ('Mummy, why is your stomach so wobbly/ your trousers so big/ your legs so spiky?'; 'Please don’t sing/ talk/ help me/ walk next to me.' That kind of thing.)

But most significantly, I think I’ve gained the power to become impervious to embarrassment.

I don’t know whether this is a bi-product of sleep deprivation or that the majority of my day is spend talking to someone who is too young to answer back so I forget how to behave in the ‘real’ world, but I’ve noticed that more and more frequently I am in situations where, pre-children, it would have been a bit toe-curling, but now, I don’t even bat an eyelid.

For example, I used to be a slightly self-conscious dancer. I don’t think I was ever bad at it, I was no Darcy Bussell, granted, but I think it was more that overwhelming awareness that other people were much better. Or had more rhythm. Or a more mature taste in music. (‘No I really do like Girls Aloud, I wasn’t being ironic.’)

But now, I would literally dance to a car alarm.

I think this happens from being socially and culturally starved when you first have babies. Weeks if not months go by when you don’t see anyone other than your partner in the evening. And your musical references are mainly nursery rhymes or the theme tune from Rastamouse.

So given an opportunity to dance to something/ anything these days, I’ll now grab it.

There was a celebration event on The Level this weekend to mark the first anniversary of its revamp. It was formerly a recreation ground for heavy drinkers, but the place has now been reclaimed by parents and young children.

Part of the entertainment was a selection of live bands. They must have only just started tuning up when me and several other mums were on our feet, poised, ready to pull some moves.

As the music started, we instantly began properly dancing, not shuffling appreciatively, but going for it like we were out and five pints into the evening.

I looked around and all the rest of the audience were stood still, whereas the mums were all giving it large (do people still say that? Did they ever used to say that?).

Why? Because God knows when we would next listen to loud music that didn’t sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks again. And afterwards, I felt rejuvenated. It wasn’t exactly nightclubbing but it was the closest I’m going to get for some time.

My children have striped me of my dignity and with that, every shred of self-consciousness.

Thank goodness.

Maybe we can start to have some fun now.