Sunday, 30 December 2012

Week 69- The Royle Family, Harveys Bristol Cream and bum explosions on trains

There's certain stuff that you should never risk leaving the house without when going anywhere with a one year old:
1. Nappies
2. Wipes
3. Nappy bags
4. A book with pages that don't rip, or a toy that makes annoying noises
5. A plastic box of random food that can stay in the bottom of a bag for ages without going off.

So taking a five hour journey home with none of these things was a bit of an oversight. Especially when someone's got diarrhea.

Not me.

According to the the telly, Christmas is all, sitting off round an open fire and eating roasted chestnuts, while tucking into a turkey the size of Luxembourg.

At no point does anyone mention the ridiculous number of miles you have to cover to hang out with family if you don't all live round the corner from each other.

We'd done the Oasis scale tour of the north, but with Ben working the day after Boxing Day, I thought Nancy and I could kick around my mum's house for another couple of days, take advantage of a possible lie in, and then get the train home.

I thought I'd been mega organised. Washed and tumble dried all our stuff. Made sandwiches to take with us to avoid the train trolley man.

But turns out if had all gone to shit.


The first massive bum explosion happened while waiting on the platform at the station for the train.

It was then I realised I'd left all bar two nappies and everything else that might have been useful, on my mum's kitchen table.

We'd only been on the train ten minutes when Nancy let rip again.

This was during her signature move of cruising up and down the carriage, trying to get the attention and possible smiles of passengers, most of whom are minding their own business.

Only this time she was skunking everyone on route.

That's the other thing that Morrisons/Asda/M and S don't seem to highlight while we're all supposedly making snowmen in our new cashmere sweaters.

Christmas makes everyone ill.

I don't want to sound all bah humbug, because I love Christmas.

I love hanging out with my family. My extended family. The Royle Family. I love the meals that go right. The ones that go wrong. I love guilt free telly in the day. Constant tins of chocolates. Harveys Bristol Cream. Cracker jokes. Roast potatoes. Bubble and squeak. Red wine. White wine. Sparkly wine.

I love it all.

It just seems a tad unfair that the pay off is conjunctivitis, diarrhea, sore throats, flemmy coughs and never ending snotty noses.

But I guess if you've got all the stuff to self medicate then you go some way to sorting this. A spare nappy on a long journey would be a start.

Next year will be different.

I'm going to be so on it.

I'm going to be motivated and driven. I'm going to be focused and organised.

I'm not going to recognise myself in 2013.

But for now, I'm going to remember to leave the house with the change bag.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Week 68- The Graduate, having favourites and dancing with dinner ladies

Nancy likes hanging out with Ben more than me.

I'm not being paranoid.

She does.

When it's just her and me we still have a nice time.

I make her laugh by blowing raspberries on her tummy. We can spend ages both shaking our heads to whatever Ken Bruce is playing in the morning. And there's nothing better than sitting on the floor, Nancy picking up a book from her shelf and climbing into my lap for me to read to her.

But if Ben's around, then it's game over.

I'd be lying if I didn't say it was a little bit heart breaking when she hears him in another room, immediately starts crying for him, then goes to the glass kitchen door and starts beating it with her little fists, The Graduate style.

There was a time when Ben would head out to work, and Nancy and I would happily wave him off, she'd forget moments later who she was waving at. Then, bam. She's hanging out with her number one bestie and having the time of her life.

Now, I have to prise her off Ben, finger by finger, as she arches her back and screams. Real tears rolling down her cheeks.

And she's formulated her first sentence. 'Bye bye Daddy.' She repeats it for anything up to an hour after he's left.

I know that it's just something that children do.

But seriously.

Can we have a bit of loyalty here.

I carried her for nine months. I've got stretch marks that a lifetimes supply of Bio Oil couldn't fix. I wasn't able to sit down for a month after birth. And my boobs still look like deflated water balloons.

I'm not saying I should be her favourite because my body carried the war wounds of pregnancy. But surely there was some serious bonding that went on when she was growing inside me, that must count for something.

The other day, as she and Ben were playing, she saw me approaching, and closed the door. It was like being at primary school all over again, and having to pair up with the dinner lady during country dancing cos no-one wanted to be my partner.

So I'm taking action.

I'm going to get some shit hot games for us to play. I've signed us up for another course of swimming lessons in the new year. And I'm going to start carrying a cash 'n' carry size bag of raisins with me at all times, as its the only food she'll willingly eat.

I'm going to pull a right number on her. She'll not know what's hit her. It's going to be funamundo.

I'll make her like hanging out with me again if it's the last thing of 2012 I do.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Week 67- conjunctivitis, grumpy shoppers and lifts from angels

At the point when I'd decided that Christmas spirit was running a bit thin on the ground, I met an angel.

I've got to be honest, I haven't been feeling very ho ho ho.

I've obviously had the standard cry at the new John Lewis advert. 

Advent calendar, sans chocolate, opened. 

Pictures of Nancy printed, ready to send to people we can't afford presents for.

But with just over two weeks to go, I haven't been feeling all that Christmassy.

And every time I venture into town, I'm met with an army of determined shoppers who don't open doors for you when you've got a pram anymore, cos they're on a mission.

Or willingly move out of the buggie spot on the bus cos they're sat there surrounded by bags of shopping.

Or, and this is just plain annoying, crowd the lift in Boots cos they're laden with presents, when there's a perfectly good set of escalators 2 seconds away.

To my embarrassment I gave the 'disappointed' head shake to a lift full of pramless shoppers the other day, only to have to queue with them for the best part of 20 minutes when I did eventually get to the right floor.

So after another unsuccessful shopping trip with an understandably frustrated Nancy, I wasn't surprised that things went nuclear when we got home.

But on closer inspection it turned out that it wasn't so much tears, as weeping eyes, and after a squizz at the NHS direct website, I was 99% certain that Nancy wasn't rubbing her eyes cos she was tired, but cos she had an eye infection.

Now, with near apocalyptic weather at the moment, and about 20 minutes until the doctor's shut, I strapped Nancy to me and pegged it down the street to the surgery at the bottom of the road.

The hot doctor confirmed that Nancy had conjunctivitis and we went to the pharmacist around the corner to get her drops.

The rain started to get a bit heavier, and then as we went into the health food shop for a look at stuff we can't afford and a sniff of goodness, the heavens opened.

I mean literally sheet rain.

Like you had a film of scum over your eyes and everything's in soft focus.

All out of ideas, and Nancy's bedtime creeping up, I though we were going to have to both get soaked to the skin and then risk Nancy getting a massive cold on top of her crusty eyes.

And then a customer in the shop said, 'I know that it's weird for strangers to offer you a lift, but can I drop you home?'

'No, it's fine, we'll be OK in a tick,' I Britishly muttered.

'I wouldn't normally ask, but you've got a baby, as have I, and you're going to get drenched.'

I told her where I lived, which was close, but not loads to her house. But completely unfazed, she assured me it was no problem.

And minutes later she dropped us right outside our flat. Gave me a wave, then bezzed off into the rain.

I didn't even catch her name. She just did something nice. Really nice. Because she was a nice person.

She made me want to be nicer.

Maybe next time the lift's full in Boots, I'll just let it go. Or not be so grumpy with the person sat in the pram part of the bus.

Cos let's be honest, when someone's nice to you, it can totally turn your day around.

The lady in the car made me want to be a better person.

I probably won't be.

But she made me think about being one.

And that's got to be a start.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Week 66- ball pools, rainy days and Jeremy Kyle

There is literally nothing to do with a one year old when the weather's rubbish, and you have a flat the size of an old 50p.

Nancy's got her own cupboard. Which is a no expense spared collection of Tupperware and old magazines, which she empties, I refill, she empties, and repeat until she's bored.

That's fun for about 10 minutes.

And then there's the 30 second cruise around the flat.

A visit to the bathroom to chuck all her toys in the bath tub, as well as the candles I used to use when having a soak in another lifetime.

And finally, and I usually hold out until things are really reaching breaking point, a play on the TV remote control.

That's a total of about 23 minutes. Then we've got about another eight hours to fill.

So, Ulrika and I decided to take the girls to a soft play area.

At three quid fifty, I wasn't expecting luxury on tap, but basically, if I owned a disused air hangar, I'd stick a ball pool in it, wrap scaffolding with foam and drop leaflets round all the mums groups advertising a new funplex.

It was so cold that you can see your own breath, and when we look up, it's clear why.

Half the roof is missing. There's literally cracks in the corrugated plastic panels. You need to keep your coat on inside.

Unless you're sat in the cafe, where the strip heaters are turned up so high that you'd at best get a sun tan, and at worst, melt all your skin off.

At least it's somewhere for them to bezz about for a bit.

And Nancy looks like she's having more fun that she's had with me for days.

But after a little while it becomes clear that quite a lot of the parents of the under threes have gone AWOL, and left their children to play off on their own.

Which would be fine, if half of them weren't complete bullies.

When is it acceptable to tell off someone else's child?

When they grab a toy from your daughter?

When they push her over?

Or when they literally launch themselves through the window of the plastic car, landing on your little girl and totally squashing her, cos they can't wait two minutes for her to get out?

I know it's obviously not on to tell a three year old to bugger off, but you do want the parent to step in at some point, instead of having to explain to the little boy yourself that there are lots of cars they can sit in that are empty, and can he say sorry to Nancy for making her cry.

And then I see his parents and I think, poor little guy, he never really stood a chance on the manners stakes.

They look like they've walked straight off the Jezzer Kyle stage.

The dad, who at a guess is about thirty stone and is tucking into multiple kids meals, nods at me as I'm squatting down with his son.

To be honest, I don't know what I'd do if another parent was telling Nancy off. Ben. Fine obviously. Family, as well, no probs. Close friends, yep. Go for it.

But a total stranger? It feels a bit weird, like what they're really saying is, what a shit job of parenting your doing.

Please, please can Nancy grow up to be well mannered, kind and thoughtful, all of her own doing, so I don't have to ever deal with it?

But in the meantime, roll on summer, so we can hang out outside.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Week 65 - Marks and Sparks and drum 'n' bass

There's a point when you suddenly feel grown up.

A freeze frame, when you realise it wasn't recently that you were in the sixth from. Even if you still call the teachers Mr or Mrs so and so instead of their Christian name. 

But it was actually fifteen years ago.


My freeze frame came last Saturday, when in town with Nancy, I went on autopilot and got the lift up to the cafe in M and S to have a pit stop.

I live in the town of a thousand cool cafes. Most of them child friendly. All of them the kind of places that play cool music, have lists upon lists of fruit teas, smell a bit joss sticky and the staff are sickeningly gorgeous, despite a face full of piercings and dreadlocks.

And I go to Marks and middle aged Sparks. And if that wasn't bad enough, I had a pot of tea and a scone.

As Nancy was shredding her ham sandwich and lobbing it all over the floor, I had a total 'punch me in the face with the mid thirties fist' moment.

This wasn't helped by the fact that my only purchase was a sensible bra.

By sensible I mean the kind of thing you definitely wouldn't wear on a first date.

Or second.

If fact you'd probably go for a dump with the bathroom door open in front of your boyfriend before you dragged out this sexless boulder holder.

And to add insult to injury, it's not to compliment a drawer full of saucy undies.

It's instead of.

I've got rid of all my pre Nancy clothes now. I couldn't bear every time I got dressed having to sift though things that, realistically, I was never going to wear again.

In fact, the only person who gets any wear out of my bras is Nancy, who likes to put them on her head.

So, as we sat amongst the table hogging grandmas, foreign exchange students, and mothers who I thought were definitely older than me, (they were probably in my school year), I spotted a familiar face.

A man was sat off with his mum, having a similar afternoon snack.

He was wearing a hoodie and jacket inside, even though it was totally sweltering.

He nodded at me, and as I nodded back, I wracked my brains as to where I knew him from.

And then it hit me.

He ran the drum 'n' bass night I used to go to when I was a student, at a grubby, sweaty ceilinged club. I used to have a bit of a crush on him, and would get a bit loud and show offy when he'd give me a flyer in the street.

He always had good looking women and cool men hanging off his every word.

And here we both were.

Eating scones in Marks and Spencer's.

As I put Nancy in her pram, and walked past him on the way out, I said, louder than necessary to Nancy, 'let's go and find your dad in the record shop.'

I feel a bit prickly skinned embarrassed when thinking about it. As it was clear I was fibbing.

I don't know why I said it.

Well I do. So I didn't feel like the kind of woman who wears bras made out of T shirts and hangs out in M and S.

It'd be just my luck to see him there again next Saturday.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Week 64- Sinead O'Connor, bucking donkeys and prison hunger strikes

How did Nancy learn to make herself cry proper tears on demand?

She gets herself in a flap about something, and then it's like watching in slow motion as her face crumples, she has a little think about it, then literally squeezes out a tear, Sinead O'Connor style.

One of the main causes of the complete meltdown is lunch.

Breakfast is OK. Nancy will eat a few spoonfuls of porridge. Or, if she doesn't, then she'll happily wash her hands in the milk in my bowl of cereal, like at the end of a Chinese meal. And pick out the odd bit of fruit 'n' fibre to chew on.

But come midday, something changes.

Like she's wised up to what's going on.

I try and get her into the high chair but she literally goes rigid. And the best I can do is get one leg in so she's kind of half straddling the table. She arches her back and throws her head back. It's like wrestling with a bucking donkey.

This normally takes the best part of ten minutes.

And it's a daily gamble as to who's will is going to break first. If I win, she refuses food sitting in the high chair, if she wins, she refuses food sitting on the kitchen floor.

I don't want to panic, because she's no smaller than other children her age, and she's full of energy. But seriously, how can she not be hungry when she just eats individual peas and then swipes the rest of her food onto the floor?

And then the tears start.

It's just noise to start with. But as she gets into her stride. She balls her fists up, screws up her face, you can almost hear, 'I went to the doctor's and guess what he told me, guess what he told me,' as one solitary tear rolls down her cheek.

I find myself looking enviously at other children of a similar age eating, when  we're out. That sounds awful, because I wouldn't wish this on other mums, but if I see a little person eating a sandwich, or sucking on a pouch of something that often looks and smells like it's gone round once already, I want to stop the parent and hysterically ask, 'How did you make them do that? HOW DID YOU MAKE THEM DO THAT??'

Nancy can hold cucumber in her cheeks for hours, then regurgitate it when you'd forgotten she's even eaten it.

There's a very small number of things she might eat. Unsurprisingly, nothing I've made for her. It's mainly super expensive ready made stuff. Or food off my plate.

I worry that I just project food anxiety onto her every time I open the fridge.

My voice is saying 'come on darling, open up,' whereas my face is saying,'please don't be weird about food. Please don't have a bad relationship with it like me and virtually every woman I know.'

But then her resistance goes beyond food.

Nancy used to love going in the bath, and I'd say 'kick kick kick' to her and she'd splash the water around. But over the last few days, she's stood up and literally tried to climb out. Or gripped my arm and balanced on one leg, Mr Miyagi style.

It sometimes feels a bit like a baby protest Groundhog Day. Nancy's having a great time, running in between the sofa and the armchair opposite, throwing herself at them head first.

Then I open the fridge or turn on the tap in the bathroom, and everything goes nuclear.

Someone told me when Nancy was very small, not to panic about things, because it's all just a phase.

And nothing lasts more than three xx.

And I can't remember what the xx was, as I was probably panicking my face off at the time because she wouldn't breast feed, or sleep, or her poo was a weird colour.

And I'm hoping that xx was weeks, not months.

Because weeks of food refusal is not great, but we'll get through it.

Months is more like some kind of prison hunger strike.

And it's going to be me crying my face off if that's what we're looking at.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Week 63- Daily Mail readers, massive dogs and smiling at strangers

I used to love travelling on the train.

Get a window seat and a Boots meal deal. Maybe a miniature bottle of Chardonnay from the trolley if it was a special occasion. Flick through Grazia, skimming over the more heavy articles, then read Chat cover to cover.

It was a good opportunity to catch up on a snooze or have a text off with mates I haven’t spoken to for yonks.
Just as the lie in is a thing of the past. So, it turns out, is the relaxing train journey.
Nancy and I were taking a solo trip up north to see my folks. This is the first time we’ve travelled any distance since she’s become mobile.
And it has to be up with an afternoon of non-stop spin classes on the knackering scale.
The way up was OK.
We were in a virtually empty carriage, except for a middle aged Daily Mail reading, McEwans drinking man, who chose to sit right behind us, and tut loudly at Nancy every time she tried to engage him in peek a boo over the top of the seat. I kept wondering why if you hated children so much, you’d decide to sit so close instead of choosing one of the other two hundred empty seats?
But Nancy isn’t happy with just looking out of the window like she used to last time we went any distance on the train. Instead she wants to walk up and down the aisle.
For about four hours.

But after three days of an average of 5 hours sleep a night at my mum’s, due to Nancy waking herself coughing, and only settling if she was in bed with me, wedged right into my armpit, I wasn’t really looking forward to the two trains/ tube/ bus combo for six hours to get back to Brighton.
I’d also done myself a mischief on the Friday by taking full advantage of a babysitting opportunity, downing a bottle of wine with an old friend and miming to Rage Against the Machine until gone midnight. Ace fun at the time, but the recovery period was still in operation two days later.  
The first train was like a childcare dream, overall. With a party of trainee nursery nurses sat around us, and a woman with a bloody big child loving dog - I felt like the responsibility was kind of shared between about ten adults. Nancy cruised up and down the train, smiling at strangers and gripping their knees for support. Which was met with mixed reactions.
But by the second train, Nancy had rightly had enough. I’d totally pushed my luck with her by stopping off to meet a friend for a coffee in Kings Cross.
You could see the look on the faces of the other passengers when she started to grumble. But seriously, what do people want me to do? She’s one. She’s poorly, tired, and to be honest, I’d probably kick off if I was strapped in virtually horizontal to a chair when everyone round me looked like they were having a much better time.
I’d used all my tricks up too early. She’d had two bottles of milk, we’d sang all the songs I could think off, much to the absolute disapproval of the gang of 15 year olds who were sat near us, and as a desperate plea, taken her shoes and socks off as a treat, even though it was absolutely freezing.
A little girl came down the train to show Nancy her equestrian book, rosette and catalogue of show jumps, which Nancy enthusiastically ripped.
And when the girl started to cry, Nancy went nuclear.
The 15 year olds whispered loudly about ‘keeping the fucking noise down,’ and the equestrian’s mother disapprovingly hugged her crying daughter.
And I decided then that there is no good way to travel with a one year old.
Unless you’ve got back up.
There’s obviously no guarantee of a party of childcare workers and a massive dog on every journey, so next time we either take eight pints of full fat milk.
Or wait for people to visit us.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Week 62- first words, David Gray and strong-willed women

Nancy has started to speak.


According to the childminder, her vocab is now up to three words. Shoe. Spoon. And no. The first word she uttered being no. I don't think I'm going to put that one in the baby book.

Thing is, I haven't heard her say any of them.

The other morning she said something that sounded a bit like 'yes boy', in a Jamaican accent.

And then as I asked her what she thought of her tea the other day, and she said what I thought was 'shit.' But maybe I was looking out for that one, as it was crumpets and cucumber. Which, lets be frank, is a shit tea.

She babbles all the time. And I think she might understand what I say a bit.

'No' has definitely gone in. Not that she takes any notice of me. And when I say 'nose' she sticks a finger up her nostril.

But I don't understand what she's saying to me.

I was in a cafe the other day, and a couple were sat on a table behind me with their daughter, who I reckon was about Nancy's age. She was making a right racket, screaming and squirming around. And her mum, instead of getting stressed out, spoke to her softly, her daughter calmed immediately, started babbling away, and the mum said to the dad, 'she just wants some bread.'

When he came back with it, the little girl was happy and laughing. The dad commented how he wished he could understand his daughter like she did.

And I was thinking, how did you get that from what she just said? Seriously? At what point did she say bread?

I instinctively know when Nancy wants something. But that's just being her mum. And knowing her. But I can't decipher words. Actual words. We haven't developed some kind of language that only we understand.

We blow raspberries at each other. Which is kind of like chatting.

And Ben, Nancy and I sometimes all shake our heads at the same time, David Gray style. But that's more for a laugh than because we're discussing our days.

I'm desperate to find out what she's saying. What's going on in her head. Because I suspect she's going to be a really strong willed person. I can't wait to find out what she thinks about stuff. To have a proper conversation with her. And I think I'm going to have the mother of all cries the first time she tells me she loves me.

But to be honest, right now, I'd just be happy to hear her say spoon.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Week 61- asymmetrical fringes, police warnings and Of Mice and Men

Nancy's had her first haircut. And it's not great.
I now realise why my sister and I looked a bit simple in early pictures. It's because we had matching home-styled 'Lennie from Of Mice and Men' barnets.

It's virtually impossible to keep a one year old still for long enough to trust yourself with a razor-sharp implement right next to their eyes.

After attempt three of her thrashing around and trying to make a grab for the scissors, I bribed her with milk and set to with what turned out to be completely blunt implements that would probably only bend paper.
So, having tried another pair on my own hair, and cutting a chunk off which will definitely be missed as it's getting thinner and duller by the day, we went in for round four.

I've got a bit of a history of cutting my friends' hair.
And not in a good way.
It started at school when I cut my mates' shoulder-length hair into a bob, when the brief was very specifically only a trim. I'd started at one end and kept going round and up, until it was a centimetre shorter on the left, and half a foot less on the right.

This was followed by a period of self-employed hair braiding, or 'twat wrapping' as it became known, wrapping embroidery thread around thinly plaited hair, while sitting off on a tie-dye throw outside the Happy Hippy Hut in Lincoln. This vocation was cut short when the police informed me that I'd be arrested for tax evasion if I didn't stop trading.
Which was a bit harsh seeing as I only made about seven pounds a day.

But university was when I really came into my own as far as hairdressing went. I would cut and colour badly. From ginger that was intended to be blonde to green that was meant to be ginger. And fringes so short they'd take months and months to grow out.

But my best worst cut was an attempted crop, which went so disasterously wrong that my friend had to take matters into her own hands and visit the professionals. The hairdresser was so appalled at what had happened, and the cut took so long to rectify, that by the end they had arranged to go out for a drink.

Several years and two children later, they are now happily married. I'm not taking credit for any of it, but I suspect the dodge haircut may have helped in a very tiny way.

So as I confidently took to Nancy's hair, it was no surprise that she ended up with an asymmetrical fringe, making her look a tad like Marcus from About a Boy.

Never mind. It'll grow back. (A phrase very familiar to anyone who's had the pleasure of one of my haircuts.)

And if history is anything to go by, it could be the start of something beautiful.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Week 60- neck skin, Final Destination 2 and crossing on the green man

I used to wonder who ever phones the numbers on back of lorries that say stuff like, 'how's my driving?'

Turns out it's me.

Nancy's sleeping has taken a turn for the worse, with 5.30am being the new seven. And when I bring her into our bed, the only way she seems to ever get back to sleep is if she snuggles right into my neck.

Which is lovely.

And pinches the skin on my throat.

Which is not.

There comes a point in sleep deprivation, when you get past the soft focus, half dream like fug. And just turn into a short tempered, miserable old bastard.

Which is no fun for you, or anyone around you for that matter.

Luckily for them, there seems to be an unprecedented number of rubbish drivers on the road who ride around with their bosses numbers painted on the side, which seemed like a brilliant outlet for the ongoing grumpiness.

So far, I've complained about a bus driver, two lorry drivers and a taxi driver.

The complaining started with letters to companies when products had stopped working.

I imagine the customer services department think you'll give up after two emails. But on an average of four hours sleep, I could happily write everyday until the kettle/ straighteners/ coffee machine gets replaced.

And then I was pushing Nancy into town, and crossing a road on the green man. And a local bus took the corner far too quickly, didn't slow for me and Nancy, and as I raced to the pavement, and shouted that it was on green, he shrugged and shook his head.

Bad move.

It felt very unBritish the first time ringing up the company to tell them about it. And I was very apologetic. But I genuinely worried for other people. You also can't run that fast with a pram.

And he did do that head shaking thing, which is blood boilingly annoying.

When the lorry cut me and Nancy up on the pavement and then laughed when he caught my furious eye, I didn't think twice about ringing his boss.

And then I was on a roll. One lorry driver and a taxi later, I can't work out whether I'm on a road safety crusade. Or just venting at someone other than my long suffering boyfriend.

Either way. I've never felt more vulnerable than pushing Nancy around.

And I don't want to live in fear that every time we leave the front door there's going to be some kind of Final Destination 2 pile up cos people can't be bothered to use their mirrors to spot a mardy woman and baby waiting on the curb.

And if you're going to piss someone off, best not to choose someone whose hanging in there by a thread.

That, or drive a bit better if you're going to put your bloody number on your van.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Week 59- posh coffee, Chanel make-up and split lips

So, I had a proper ladies day in London with my mum. Nancy was with the childminder and I'd taken the day off work.

I met mum in Knightsbridge and we had coffee at the Mandarin Oriental. Pretended we were posh. Ignored the fact it was a fiver for a flat white. Seriously. A fiver? I know I don't go out much/ ever. But wow.

And then went to Harvey Nicks, where we talked about our skin routines to a hot Russian lady from the Channel concession. Not revealing mine is just using Nancy's wet wipes. Before she lathered us in mega expensive creams. I'm talking, up of a hundred smackers for the stuff that only goes under your eyes.

We sat off upstairs, drank wine and ate sushi from a revolving table.

And it felt ace.

I wasn't the mum who was covered in snot (well I was a bit)/ wearing pyjamas to the shop round the corner/ or planning another quorn based tea that could be chilli, could be spaghetti bolognese, depending on if you put the big light on or not.

I was a 34 year old woman in a dress and heels who was having lunch in Harvey Nichols on a Wednesday, like it's the most normal thing to be doing when most people were at work.

At one point I was laughing with my mum as the waiter had offered her children's chop sticks, which meant a spoon.

And then my phone beeps.

And it's the childminder.

And Nancy's fallen on her face and split her lip.


What do you do with that info when it was just an FYI text in the first place.

If I was working round the corner, and not in London a bit tipsy with my mum, I still wouldn't go and get her. Cos the residing overtone was,  'she's fine, don't panic, just don't be shocked when you pick up Rocky Balboa.'

But as I'm a walk/ tube/ train/ taxi away from her- the shit mum siren goes off in my head.

And I wonder when that will silence.

 I know I can't be there to catch Nancy's every fall. Although I really wish they would happen less regularly. I realise she's pushing her boundaries, and exploring new territories. But she doesn't have to keep doing it face first.

She is a law unto herself now. You can almost see the cogs working in her brain as I say 'no!' as she goes to throw yet another meal over the side of her high chair. She maintains eye contact as her little hand slowly moves, she releases her grip, and half a lasagne falls on the floor.

Or strategically pulls every wet wipe out of the packet, one by one, with absolute concentration, disgarding them over her shoulder as she goes. While all the wooden toys remain untouched in the corner.

And she's started trying my clothes and jewellery on. By trying on I mean wrapping them around her neck and crawling off with them.

But still.

And I think, I've got all this to come with my daughter. The days out together. The lunches and laughter.

As I stood off in the railway station on the way home, eating my second pudding that evening of Upper Crust croissant, a grey haired, orange faced man on the platform winked at me.

And just as I double checked it wasn't a tick, he did it again.

I've had a Chanel make-over. I'm dressed in an outfit that I'm sure I've worn to at least one wedding. And I get winked at by David Dickinson.

I guess that's my trade off. Worrying about a little person on a daily basis obviously doesn't promote youthfulness. Even with two hundred quid eye cream on.

But as I look in on Nancy when I get home, sleeping on her front with her bum in the air, completely unbothered by the welt on her lip which isn't a bit as bad as I'd imagined it to be, it's worth it.

Nancy can always buy me the Chanel face cream for Christmas.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Week 58- odd shaped vegetables, cheese strings and beer injuries

We're giving up our allotment. It hasn't been an easy decision. Well, it hasn't been an easy decision for Ben, who has done all the hard graft over the last two years.

But turns out you can't do everything.

And be Felicity Kendal.

I don't get how people do it. Work. Have a tidy house. A garden with stuff growing in it other than weeds. And a family.

They must hire people to do some of it. There's only 24 hours in the day, even for the richest, most successful people.

The allotment was a step too far. I loved the idea of being self sufficient. Of having people over for dinner and being like, yep, grew that, grew that, bought that but it was locally sourced from the health food shop down the road, grew that.

But the reality was I forgot about the allotment, remembered, felt guilty, popped up there and looked at our kingdom which was armpit high grass, cut it with shears which were so blunt I might as well have used nail sissors, felt overwhelmed, and then didn't go up for months again.

I sometimes find the way you want to live, and the reality, are two totally different things. Especially when it comes to children.

I want to get up with Nancy when she wakes at 5.30 and be full of energy and fun, playing games involving cornflour and water, stuff like that. The reality is, I know the morning kids TV schedule by heart. (Cloudbabies, Postman Pat, Bob the Builder, Everything's Rosie, in case you're wondering.)

I want to bound back from work, and be able to effortlessly change heads from being a professional, to being a mum. Not be knackered, not be grumpy or stressed out, but be the person Nancy can't wait to leave the childminder's to hang out with.

But the reality is somedays I'd give my right arm to sit off and watch Home and Away and Neighbours when I get in. Have toast and Marmite for dinner, without having to think about cooking or feeding anyone else. Go out with a moments notice and have a night out I can only piece together through beer injuries and pub receipts.

I want to cook Nancy ace dinners, from stuff I've grown, or a recipe I found in the Observer Magazine. The reality is, I'm so delighted if she eats anything these days, that I don't care if she eats at the table, or for that matter, if it's another Petits Filous tea, as long as she swallows it.

The worst recent tea was when Nancy refused everything, apart from one of those cheese stringy things. But only if it was separated out, and was carefully dangled over the handle of her walker, so she could push it round, and stop for a snack when she fancied it. That was a bit of a culinary low point.

But more than anything, I want Nancy to know that she always comes first. And that's never going to happen if we have committed to so many things that we don't really have time to do any of them.

So, maybe we'll get another allotment when Nancy's old enough to enjoy it too, instead of being strapped in her pram watching us dig in vain.

And in the meantime, we can always buy odd shaped vegetables from the overpriced health food shop and pretend we grew them ourselves.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Week 57- grown up Zumba, sports bras and Man in The Mirror

I am a 34 year old mum who goes to keep fit classes wearing stained t-shirts and glasses.

And it kills me a little bit.
When Nancy and I went to the baby Zumba class together, it was ace. I could keep up with the routines, kind of. I knew the music, well who doesnt know Tinas Rolling on the River?
And to top it off, two of the mums had asked me if Id taken dance classes before.
Thats all the confidence boost I needed to be convinced, that, yes, Zumba was the sport for me. And that, in months, if not weeks, Nancy would no longer be able to knead my tummy like dough.
So it was a bit of a shocker when Ulrika and I turned up to grown up Zumba, and it was like watching a fitness video on fast forward.
The first challenge was the routine. Now, I'm no Darcey Bussell, I did get an A in dance A level, mind, (who takes dance A level?), but suffice to say that this was a whole new realm of moves.
With boob shaking, early 80's whooping, and samba legs going all over the shop, all to full on Brazilian music, it was worlds away from the gentle dance off we'd done at mum and baby Zumba.
It was a bit of awake up call. I'm at the back of a Zumba class unable to keep up what I thought was really complicated, fast steps, but turns out to just be the warm up.
The second challenge was the wall length mirror.
 I genuinely didnt recognise myself to start with.
As I scanned the slim, young women, searching for my reflection, I was more than a bit surprised to see myself in an oversized red and white stripy nighty, and the glasses I wear for driving. It was like looking at a middle aged Where's Wally. When did this happen?  When did I swap camps from ticking the 20- 30 category, to the 34- retired?
I was never uber trendy. But I think I used to be passable. When Ben and I were in Thailand, a hippy told us we were the coolest people hed ever met. I think he was on drugs at the time, but still.
And now I'm closer in style, age and dance moves, to the middle-aged women who click their fingers or swing their arms when the routine cranks up, instead of the svelte, bendy sixth formers.
I don't want to be the mum that Nancy cringes at at weddings, when I start doing my Man in The Mirror impression, or know the whole Ice Ice Baby rap.
So. it's time to man up. Knuckle down. Buy a sports bra. And learn the routines.

Otherwise I might as well throw in the towel, and join the over 60's water aerobics class.


Sunday, 30 September 2012

Week 56- knowledgeable nods, swimming trials and Gary Barlow's advice

I dread people asking my opinion on stuff. Whether it be the presidential elections. Or what kind of music I listen to.

Cos the truth is I'm not sure anymore.

I can't remember the last time I sat down and read the papers. Or watched something other than X Factor on the telly. My cultural references are determined by what Gary Barlow says.

I've become an expert at the knowledgeable nod. Combining the authoritative 'ummm', when I find myself, sometimes for the fourth or fifth time that day, totally out of my depth.

The best line of defence, I've found, is just don't say anything, otherwise you get your self into a complete conversational cul de sac.

I'm sure I used to have opinions about stuff other than whether Tyrone should leave Kirsty if she doesn't go to a counsellor on Corrie.

For the meantime, maybe what Nancy and I need is a bit of variety. A greater wealth of collective experience to draw from when I try and cover up the vacuum if someone attempts to engage me in conversation about something current.

My dad gave Nancy some money for her birthday and suggested we do something nice for her instead of putting it in her bank account.

So I thought I'd get her posh swimming lessons.

That way she gets to go in a pool that isn't sub zero temperatures. And I get to take her to somewhere once a week that isn't Card Factory, Boots, or Aldi.

So I rang up to book her in.

And the woman asked how experienced Nancy was at swimming.

And I asked her what she meant.

And she said, what's her ability.

And I lied.

I said she'd been to loads more lessons than she actually has.

And now she has a trial. She's one and she has a trial to see how good she is at something.

She's one, and she's being tested against other one year olds.

I thought the main hurdle with posh swimming lessons was finding the money to pay 12 quid for half an hour every week.

Not testing her to see if she's the next Michael Phelps.

Have I inadvertently become a pushy mum? I genuinely only wanted Nancy and I to have a nice time for thirty minutes every Thursday morning.

Now I'm nervous for her that she won't remember how to cling onto the side of the pool. Or might freak out if they try to dunk her underwater.

To be frank, it's sometimes a complete ball bag trying to work out what kind of person you are after having a child, let alone, what kind of a parent you want to be.

I know I don't want to be shouty mum. Or a mum who tries too hard to be down with the kids. I want to be able to cook. Not just hummus on toast, but stuff that looks good, smells nice, and takes longer than 2 minutes to make.

I want to know enough about politics that I don't embarrass myself if Nancy asks a question.

I want to feel driven by work, committed to my family and know more about what's going on in the world than who Nicole Scherzinger's mentoring this year.

But for the meantime, I want Nancy to be a one year old who doesn't have to meet anyone's expectations, other than to be happy and healthy.

And especially not when it's costing twelve quid every half hour for the privilege.

But, in the words of Gary Barlow, 'I don't think you'll ever be happy about anything unless you've done it.' Wise words Gaz.

Mind you, he did also say, 'After a gig I get to the hotel all psyched-up from being on stage and get stuck into 'Homes and Interiors' magazine.'

I guess it's difficult to know who to take advice from these days.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Week 55- dairylea triangles, Kelly Holmes and doing the sniff test

The 4.30am starts have now become so regular that I walk round in such a fug that I can't work out if I've said things out loud to people, or just shouted them in my head.

I think it's because Nancy's teething again. Now, I can't begin to imagine how painful it is to have razor sharp teeth slicing through gums, and it must be a royal pain in the arse when you cry and scream, and it takes someone to clumsily ram a finger in your mouth to suss out what the problem is.

But seriously, how many teeth is she going to have?

Surely, she can just get on with the existing seven. I mean, it's not like she's grinding raw meat. It's all I can do to convince Nancy to suck a dairylea triangle.

But she seems to have found something that relieves her discomfort. Pulling up my t-shirt, finding the most wobbly, malleable bit of my tummy, and throwing her head at it.

This started off as a bit of a laugh a couple of weeks ago.

But it's happening when ever I sit down now.

She drags her walker round till it's pointing in my direction, gets a determined look in her eye and starts waddling at speed towards me.

And she's getting strong. Now, I don't claim to be Siobhan Hyland (Britian's strongest woman, who used to be a fatty, I totally looked her up on Wikepedia), but I thought I could at least hold my own against a one year old.

Turns out I can't.

I can't get her to ungrip my t-shirt before she gives her teeth a work out on my stomach. I can't unpick her fingers from the cupboard door full of plastic boxes and potatoes before she scatters them all over the floor. And I can't get a pen out of her hand if she's mad keen on crawling round the house with it.

I think there's a moment of clarify after your child turns one when you realise you've got to get a grip. That you're not going to get more sleep, more of a social life or more svelte unless you get a plan together.

And that it's not OK to wander round the house in something that narrowly passes the sniff test, because you assume that no-one will drop by.

I had one such moment this week.

Nancy's teething has given her the most awful tummy, poor girl. I mean bum explosions of such epic proportions that Ben panic carried her through the flat to the bathroom leaving a Hansel and Gretel path of diarrhoea behind him.

And as I washed Nancy clean, Ben set to saving the carpet with a cloth and Vanish.

Now the eureka moment was when I saw that he'd used the plastic box I give the childminder Nancy's sandwiches in, to fill with water to clean the floor. And I started going on about how I would have to go to Argos to buy a new one.

And then I caught a glimpse of myself in the window.

I was wearing a t-shirt I'd worn the day before, slept in, and was strongly considering wearing for another day. Jogging bottoms that had so little elastic in the waist that Nancy only needs to give them a gentle tug and they're round my ankles. And I was getting cross about Tupperware.

So. I'm chucking out all my pre-Nancy clothes that make me look pregnant/ too old/ too young / too cheap/ too wacky in an ex-art student way.

And I'm going to get fit.

Or at least commit to wearing the slendertone though the whole of X Factor.

Kelly Holmes was 34 when she won the 800 and 1500m.

I'm 34 now.

I've probably not given myself enough time to train for that.

But I can at least do enough sit ups that Nancy's face doesn't entirely disappear next time she's looking for a bit of respite for her gums.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Week 54- Jamie Oliver, lentil farts and daytime drinking

I know Nancy won't remember anything about her first birthday, other than what we tell her, and the hundreds of pictures that we took. But then, I'm not even sure if the first birthday is for your baby. Or if it's a day to celebrate that you've done it. You've got through a whole year.

The entire day was overwhelmingly emotional. I hadn't really expected that whenever anyone asked how I was doing, or what we'd have be up to this time last year, I'd start having a shoulder shaking, ugly faced cry.

I think it's because you don't ever think about what it is to give birth after its happened.

Not really.

You share your birth stories with other new mums in the months shortly after your baby's born. And maybe have a quick reminisce when you have a look at early day pictures.

But the day your baby is born is probably the only day in your whole life where you know exactly what you're doing virtually minute by minute.

And you don't have the headspace to think about it at all after it's happened.

We went to the park round the corner for Nancy's party, and strung up some bunting between trees in the playground. Ten of her friends, who are coincidently children of our friends, came to hang out with her.

Turns out Nancy has got a lot more adventurous since the last time we went for a play there. I thought she was still at the 'push gently on the swings' stage, but as I took my eyes off her to unpack the muesli mum style picnic of cucumber sticks, hummus, oat cakes and sultanas, Nancy sped off towards the climbing frame and clambered up the wooden steps and fearlessly disappeared into a tunnel.

She must have been doing loads of stuff with the childminder while I have been inadvertently stunting her development by mollycoddling her.

I thought it would be a cracking idea to bake her a sugar free cake.

Now, I'm no Jamie Oliver, but I've come to the thinking that banana isn't a good substitute for good old fashioned sugar. Or butter for that matter. Mind, I think that was a bit of an oversight on my part.

I thought I might have ballsed it up when the recipe said to pour the mixture out of the bowl, and I had to scoop it out with my hands and pat it into the tin like putty.

So the morning of Nancy's birthday, I went back to the supermarket to rebuy all the ingredients, and made another mediocre cake. It was the kind of thing one of mum's friends who owned a health food shop used to offer us when I was little, when we went round to their house that smelt of lentils and farts.

Thankfully, Ulrika had made the most beautiful chocolate cake with Nancy's name written in baubles. And the children and parents let out a collective sigh of relief.

Then three days later it was my birthday, and Nancy was with the childminder.

So, Ben and I tried to cram everything non-child friendly into eight hours.

I wore totally inappropriate clothes for a midweek daytime. A dress that wouldn't be out of place at a wedding, and high heels that shouldn't really be worn outside the bedroom if you were that way inclined.

I looked more like I was doing the walk of shame, instead of celebrating my 34th birthday.

We went to the pictures at 11am to watch a thoroughly depressing film about prostitution and failing schools.

Had a paddle in the sea.

And most importantly, went to the pub in the day.

Seems our days of daytime drinking are on hold for the time being. After pint one there was talk of going for a snooze. Pint two and it felt like the hangover was creeping up. And then we had to go pick Nancy up from the childminder.

I know we pay for Nancy to be looked after, but there was still that bunked off school and don't want to get dun feeling as we chewed on gum on the bus so we didn't stink of beer when we knocked on the door.

All in all it felt like a valiant attempt at a grown up birthday with children. Good job I wasn't thinking of having an all singing one this year, as Nancy's taken to sucking my mobile. The dribble/electrical appliances combo hasn't worked out brilliantly, and all the numbers have deleted, the ringtone has defaulted to some old school dance music that wouldn't be out of place at a 1998 free party, and to end a call with someone you need to take the battery out the back.

So even if I had decided to go mental, find a babysitter for the first time, and stay out past 10.30pm, it wouldn't matter anyway, as I don't have anyone's numbers now to invite them out.

On the plus side, two birthdays in one week does have its advantages. We only have to cellotape the happy birthday banner to the wall once.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Week 53- breast pads, spin classes and the arrival of Pootle

My contractions started early in the morning on 10 September 2011 .

I'd woken up in bed with a mixture of excitement and complete fear, as I took a deep breath and tried to work out whether the low pain deep in my gut was a baby on its way. Or wind.

I got up and walked around a bit, leaving Ben to sleep as it was the middle of the night.

And I sat off on the sofa and thought about how life would be in a day's time.

And I couldn't.

No amount of shopping for baby gros and washing them in non-bio powder, or watching One Born Every Minute, or stocking up on breast pads, or writing and rewriting my birth plan, could have prepared me for that moment.

For ten years it had just been the two of us. Getting pissed. Going to festivals. Jumping in the car at weekends to go away and see mates. Making split decisions about what we were going to do that week or that year.

And in a day all that was going to change. There was going to be three of us. A brand new person.

I could feel Pootle's head deep down in my pelvis as another throbbing wave came over me.

I knew I should sleep because I was about to embark on the most physical, violent, messy, emotionally draining experience of my life.

I'd never even done a spin class properly. When the trainer used to shout out to crank up the resistance, I used to pretend to turn the dial, and then spend the next 20 minutes free-wheeling.

And soon, I would be pushing an entire human being out of me and into the world.

I started panicking that I wasn't ready for all this. That we hadn't had long enough as just Ben and me. That we wouldn't know how to cope with another person in our life. That there wasn't enough space in our flat or in our hearts.

And on cue Pootle stretched, bringing things back into focus, and I wondered what the baby would look like. And whether it would be an Arthur or a Nancy.

I hung out in Pootle's yellow room, and tried to imagine what the Moses basket would look like with someone in it.

Since we'd found out I was pregnant, we'd started to get our act together, without even realising we were doing it.

We'd moved twice, so we could buy a flat, which, disappointingly, had stunk of fags and wet dog when we first moved in. But we'd painted it, and cleaned it, and got new carpets. Learnt how to bleed a radiator, bought a Quentin Blake picture of the BFG for Pootle's room, and mowed the grass.

And this was what it was all for.

I sat for a bit longer. It was still dark outside, and completely still, with only the occasional sound of a car driving by. And I thought for one last moment about how life had been up until now in our bubble of two. And how we were going to have a son or daughter who would be in our lives for the rest of our lives.

And then I felt an unfamiliar tightening deep in my core that momentarily took my breath.

And I went to wake Ben to tell him our baby was on its way.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Week 52- first steps, Beetlejuice and Mary Jane shoes

Nancy's taken her first step. Two, if you're counting. And more like a lurch and a panicky, arms flapping fall into my arms, if we're getting into specifics. But nevertheless, this seemed like the moment to crank things up a gear, and get her her first pair of shoes.

Now, maybe I'm a traditionalist, or just completely out of the loop as to where you buy stuff for children over the age of 11 months, but Clarks seemed to be the only place I could think of to go to.

And mid-week on a sunny day seemed like a sensible time to go, when half of Brighton was at work, and the other half seem to be lying on the beach.

Clarks looked like a vision of calm. With three shop assistants idly lurking around. So I went up to one of them and proudly announced that we were here to buy Nancy's first pair of proper shoes.

She gave me an unexplained sympathetic smile and pointed me towards the lift to the first floor.

As the doors opened, I understood the smile.

I was looking at what could only be described as a riot.

There was well over 60 kids of varying ages screaming and running around. Every one of the tens of massive poufs were occupied by zozzled looking parents.

And in the middle of it, a woman in her 50s was frantically shouting out numbers. She gave me a deli style ticket with 105 written on it. The number on the electronic board read 70.

It felt like sitting in the waiting room at end of Beetlejuice, sans the guy with the shrunken head.

I'd totally forgotten it was the week before school started, and parents throughout East Sussex had come in their hundreds to kit out their kids.

And to make matters worse, everyone had at least two children.

The woman stood next to me held ticket number 112. She had three children, aged between about 4 and 7, who kept running off and returning with shoes that sparkled and flashed. She was totally at her wits end, as they were there to buy androgynous black school shoes.

She looked at me, then Nancy, and said, 'don't buy them shoes until they really need them, seriously, don't. This trip is going to cost me over a hundred quid.'

But after forty minutes, Nancy eventually had her feet measured, and we had a look at pink, purple and brown cruising shoes. (Cruising shoes? How wrong does that sound?) We went for the purple ones.

And then got stung for the first time. Twenty five quid. Whaaaat?

And just as I'm recovering from that blow, the shop assistant took a picture of Nancy wearing her new shoes, which was nice, gave it to me, then, POW. Blow number two. She suggested that we should come back in six weeks to see if she needs a new pair if her toes touched the end. SIX WEEKS?

Twenty five quid for a pair of shoes that are only going to last six weeks. Are you shitting me? I could get three pairs of vintage Mary Jane's from eBay for that price.

But I guess this is just the start. The first six months of her life, all Nancy needed was breastmilk, a clean nappy and a babygro that wasn't covered in sick.

Now shes a little girl, one who helps me take her clothes off at bed time by putting her hands in the air. Who wears proper shoes to cruise in. That's never going to sound right, however many times say it.

But for the moment, I can comfort myself in the knowledge that it's me that chooses what she's wearing everyday. In fact more often than not, we leave the house Danny De Vito and Arnie style, both clad in Breton stripes.

And at least we've got Nancy's first birthday present sorted then. Eight new pairs of shoes over the next 12 months.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Week 51- gastric bands, king size Mars bars and the last breastfeed

I have stopped breast feeding Nancy. And I feel disproportionally emotional about it.

Especially given that she's got six teeth now, so it's a bit like being attacked by a human version of one of the grabber machines on Brighton Pier. And that coupled with her pinching my other boob, and holding the skin tightly in her fist while feeding, was starting to make it an all round torturous experience.

I guess I feel sad because, really, she's no longer dependent on me. Anyone can give her milk from a bottle, or feed her cottage cheese.

But I was the only one to breastfeed her. Obviously. This isn't The Hand That Rocks The Cradle.

Saturday was the last feed. I tried to lock it memory, but it was 5.30am and she was doing some kind of downward dog move while clamped down on my boob, so to be honest I was quite relieved when she'd finished.

But then it was over. And I realised I will never feed her like that again.

I just need to remind myself that it's not like it was when she was tiny, and I used to feed her till she nodded off at the pictures. All warm with a milk drunk face.

Now she kind of takes aim and throws her head at me, often ending in tears if she misses and catches a rib instead.

And she's going to be one in two weeks. So it seems like the right time for her.

One of the consequences of not breastfeeding, is that I obviously don't need as many calories.

So I think I'm going to have to either crank up the number of minutes I sit off with the slendertone electrocuting me, buy some kind of horrendous fitness video where you watch a Z list celebrity who actually had a gastric band tell you how to do plunges, or resume the jog of shame in my pyjamas around the park.

While visiting the in-laws I had a bash on their WII fitness game. Well, I tried to. Nancy went mental every time I stood on the plastic white thing, so I ended up having to hold her while air hoola hooping. And standing on one leg was a bit tricky, while the computer worked out my fitness age.

Anyway. Turns out its in the region of 48. Which isn't ideal, seeing as I'm 34 in a couple of weeks.

I was also going to write a strongly worded email to Weight Watchers about how ineffective their website was, and how, I'm actually fatter, thanks to them, (and a bit thanks to the volume of cheese I eat and the 'glass' of red wine a night, that's out of a vase sized vessel so is more like 3/4 a bottle.)

I was kind of sticking to the points they'd recommended. But getting heavier and heavier each week.

And then I realised that it's because I'm eating as if I've got a new born baby. One that needs feeding every hour, instead of a token gesture in the morning. And I hadn't altered the settings on my profile.

So now it turns out I'm meant to be eating half what I have been doing.


It's almost worth having another baby just so I can eat a guilt free king size Mars bar a day.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Week 50- date cake, cheap birthdays and Emily from Coronation Street

Nancy will be one in three weeks time. I will have a one year old daughter. This, somehow, feels far more grown up than having a baby, even though we're talking about the same person.

Maybe it's because she feels like a proper little girl now, with her own take on life.

She chats to me. A high pitched 'ning ning ning' for when she's a bit pissed off, or I'm not doing something right, like feeding her yoghurt too slowly.

And 'yama yama yama' for when all's good with the world.

I realise that the excuses I used for buggering things up when she was a little baby, don't really apply any more. I should be able to get out the house with her in twenty minutes because, let's be honest, if we can't get it together now, we're never going to.

I think now it's not about finding ways to cope with lack of sleep and no social life anymore. Although I would like to go out for the odd pint now and then without it being such a long time in between that the cost of a beer has gone up by about a quid.

It's about learning how to function as a family. For the rest of our life.

And thinking about all of us. Instead of just me.

It's my birthday three days after Nancy's. And usually I make an absolutely massive deal about it. Telling people about it about eight weeks in advance. Gentle reminders to start with. And then just going on about it loads in the three weeks beforehand.

So this is kind of the beginning of my aggressive birthday marketing campaign, which ends with about four different events, going out for tea, to the pub, maybe the beach, and a picnic during the day.

But I haven't even thought about what to do this year. This isn't because I've become more selfless. It just seems that Nancy's birthday is a bigger reason to celebrate, as we've got through a whole year unscathed and still, on the whole, smiling.

Thing is, I'm not too sure what you're meant to do for a one year olds birthday. And what you buy for a little person, who really, isn't going to remember.

I'm not very good at cooking, we have a flat the size of a generous doctors waiting room, and we're on a crippling budget.

Hen dos. No problem. I've organised two brill ones and another in the pipeline. Surprise birthdays as well, I'm rocking at that.

But is inviting a load of your mates with kids to the park, which you'd probably normally do anyway, considered an OK birthday do, or is it just a bit tight and unimaginative?

There's so much more to organise as well. Sending out proper invites instead of just inviting people via Facebook. Making a cake that doesn't taste gross but is made up mainly of dates and dried apricots, and other disappointing stuff for a birthday cake. And bagsying a good spot in the park before all the other univited parents and kids turn up for a play.

I know she won't remember it. But I will.

Normally, birthdays come and it's a bit difficult to remember what you've done in the last year, unless you've moved, or got a new job, or had a lovely holiday. But even then, there's sometimes a bit of  'was that this year or last year, I can't remember...'

But I know EXACTLY what I've done over the last year. I know how many times I've seen my mum, how many trips we've taken to London. I remember the number of times I've been swimming, with and without Nancy. I know exactly how much weight I've lost. And put back on again. I know the plays I've seen, the clothes I've bought, the books I've read.

But mainly, I know that I've spent everyday with a brand new person. One that we made. The thought of which still makes my brain feel like its going to explode if I think about it too much.

I know how her face has changed from a scrunched up mewing baby, with wrinkly fingers that flex and unfurl like fern leaves. To a little girl who head butts me affectionately, laughs when you tickle her, and has six gappy teeth and a hairdo that looks a bit like its been blowdryed and set, like Emily's from Coronation Street.

I've gone from having no structure and no real plans past the weekend. To not leaving the house without the changing bag, two bottles of formula, an emergency bag of raisins, the rain cover and factor 50+ sun cream.

I've got a new boss who's less than a year old. Whose birthday will be more important than mine for the rest of my life.

And she doesn't even know it yet.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Week 49- family camping, disposable BBQs and boxes of wine

So, our first trip camping with Nancy.

Ben and I are quite hardy campers. By that I mean it's always been the cheap holiday option. Not that we know what we're doing.

Our style was more a case of pitch your tent up anywhere as quickly as you can, so you can crack open the beers. Don't bother with a sleeping bag, just take your duvet off the bed, and use your coat rolled up as a pillow.

Get too drunk to care that it's not pegged in properly and the canvas is only about four inches above your head.

Wake up in the baking heat, totally dehydrated, in the clothes from the previous night, smelling a bit of stale booze, fags and bonfires, and see if a shower can make you feel normal again.

Before realising that you haven't brought any food and the disposable BBQ was used the previous night.

Family camping is a whole new planning experience.

Firstly, we had to buy about two hundred quids worth of stuff before we'd even left Brighton. A stove. Sleeping bags. A cool box. Those canvas chairs you can put your drinks it the arm of. And a tent. Cos a travel cot won't fit into a self erecting two man dome tent it turns out.

And you have to think about what to eat. Plan meals. Buy boxes of wine instead of bottles as they last longer. Put the ice packs in the freezer for the cool box. The kind of practical stuff that I have vague recollections of my own parents doing before the annual two week camping holidays in France.

The car looked like we were moving house instead of going away for two nights, with Nancy packed in with stuff piled high around her.

We were camping with family, who have children a couple of years older than Nancy, so it meant we could see how the experts do it. And work out how we make the transition from piss head campers to family camping.

Turns out that the principles are still the same, except you wash up everything you've used that night, and brush your teeth before bed.

I wish I hadn't shown off that I only now breastfeed Nancy a bit in the morning, as experience has proved that I'm asking for it to go tits up. And at 2am, as Nancy screamed the campsite down, the only thing I could think it do was feed her to sleep.

As she nodded off on my arm, I couldn't do the sleeping bag up again without waking her. So, half frozen, dead armed, bursting for a wee, with Ben contentedly snoring beside me, the thought did cross my mind that we had a perfectly good flat with a roof and a comfy bed.

But, seeing Nancy playing with her three year old twin cousins in a field, made it all worth it. Her cousins call her 'babycousinNancy,' (one word) and dote on her. And in return she laughs with them and let's them try to pick her up.

They also kindly fed her their M and M's, but I managed to retrieve most of them from her mouth, sans the colouring.

I realise now that the reason I was brought up on a strict diet of thrice yearly camping trips during school holidays, is not because my parents necessarily enjoyed being in such close proximity to me and my sister. Squatting down and cooking from a calor gas stove every evening.

But because at a tenner a night for a family of four, you can't afford not to.

So now it's going to be camptastic from now on.

And Nancy will grow to love it, as I did. Because. Let's face it, we're not going to be able to afford a holiday abroad for the next eighteen years any other way.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Week 48- old school dance offs, baby zumba and 87 year old pals

We've started a baby zumba class. They're two words you don't often hear in the same sentence. Baby. Zumba.

Unless it's, 'I was thinking about doing a class, as I haven't done any exercise in the best part of two years, and I was toying with zumba. Mind you, I don't know if I can stand shaking all the wobbly bits I've developed since having a baby.'

The' baby' bit of the class was that you brought one along, and they sat on the floor while you had a dance.

I don't think we'd thought this part through, as Ulrika and I hadn't brought anything for Nancy and Ebba to play with, so ended up giving them our water bottles to push round the floor.

There were about ten mums, and we all stood around apprehensively, split into two aesthetic camps- those who'd gone out and bought a whole new sports outfit, Lyra top, leggings, headband. The works.

And those of us that were wearing what we usually sleep in.

But as the dance coach cranked up Beyonce's Crazy in Love, we were suddenly a team, training for the dance off of our lives, in a kind of Step Up, back street gym style.

And it was brilliant. Like being at a disco, except it was in the middle of the day in a church hall, and I had Nancy with me.

Nancy was the first to start crying, as one of the other babies hit her in the face with a rattle. And like dominoes, one by one they all started. Mums stopped mid routine to pick up their child, and attempted to shake their shoulders provocatively, while an 11 month old pulled their top up and stuck a finger up their nose.

The best bit though had to be when the class was split in two, and we had an old school dance off.

I totally got into the zone. Imagining steam coming from drains, flickering street lights and distant sounds of police cars, as we battled it out to see who was top dog of the St Michael's Church Hall.

One half of the mums were instructed to give it some attitude, and threaten the other 'dancers' space, accompanied by Dizzy Rascal's Bonkers. Only for the other mums to then reciprocate by ass dancing in response.

In reality, it looked more like a Jeremy Kyle esque chav fight, than a Jets and Sharks scene. As if all the mums had come out to have a row in the street, bouncing a baby on one hip, while giving the talk to the hand.

Ben wondered if we should be going at all. If it wouldn't have been more appropriate to don a white outfit, get the roller blades out, and take a dog for a walk on the sea front while holding a balloon.

Because after nearly 20 months, my periods have started again.

Now, that's a part of your body going back to normal I could do without. Actually, it's more the emotional stuff that goes with it.

The days leading up to it, I thought I was going mental. I couldn't stop crying. About anything. And I couldn't understand why. Everything just felt out of control.

Now, some things were justifiable.

Who didn't have a bit of a blub when Britain won the women's rowing? And you'd have to be made of stone not to get a bit teary to some of Steve Wright's dedications on Love Hour.

But forgetting to empty tissues out of a pair of jeans when they went through the wash had me literally inconsolable.

And I found a letter from an old lady I'd met on a train. We write to each other as pen pals, in fact she's the only person I really write to. Which is a bit weird, I guess, as she's 87, and I only met her for two hours between Kings Cross and Peterborough.

Anyway, I realised it'd been months since she'd written. And I started panicking she was dead.

And then I couldn't stop crying.

Then two days later the old periodicals start again and it all made sense.

Mind, I hope this is just a back log of 20 months of hormone related blubbing, and not a sign of things to come.

Or it's going to a right laugh in our house every four weeks.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Week 47- the Olympic Torch, singing with your eyes shut and local heroes

The Olympics seems to have been coming up for what seems like forever, so I was a bit surprised when it was suddenly here.

The torch was passing the bottom of our road and I had big plans to take Nancy. Thinking I could tell her in years to come about how we cheered as a local hero jogged passed us. Get a picture of her with crowds behind us, that kind of thing.

Unfortunately it didn't quite work out. What with the 4.30am start, I thought we'd be well in time.

But it's funny how the first two hours, when it's eye pricklingly early, can take about a week to creep by. When I can't think of anything to do to occupy Nancy, other than sing badly at her with my eyes shut. Hoping that she'll drop off instead of sticking one finger up my nostril and and another in my mouth, which is her latest trick.

And then 6.30am comes along, and I realise there's only an hour until we have to be out the house.

Nancy does a massive poo after I've just got her dressed.

And I realise there's no food to give to the childminder. Which in itself is becoming a bit embarrassing, as I don't want to keep giving her jars, as it looks like I never make Nancy anything. But when I have given the childminder home cooked food, she said Nancy spat it out. Not refused it. But spat it out. I know I'm no Delia, but come on.

So we do an emergency change. Go to the shop round the corner for an over priced jar of baby cottage pie.

And then it turns out the torch has already gone by.

But the total Olympics blunder had to be going to visit an old friend who has just had a baby in London. North East London. Or more specifically two stops on from Stratford. On the day of the Opening Ceremony.

How have I become so far removed from what's going on that I had no idea where the Olympic village is, or when everything was kicking off?

The journey there was fine.

But coming back I started panicking my face off. Imagining getting stuck with 80,000 people.

The only way, it seems, to tackle large crowd on the underground is to take the baby sling and have Nancy strapped to me, while pushing the pram along with all Nancy's stuff in it, pretending it's a baby.

That way people move out the way a bit, but I'm not shitting myself that someone's going to drop a can of Coke on Nancy's head.

So we saw the stadium. Ish. While being shepherded along by hundreds of stewards.

I felt like a bit of a prat, to be honest. Getting that close to the Olympics and not having a clue it was going on.

Well at least I can tell Nancy that she might have missed the torch, but she was at the Olympic village for the Opening Ceremony.

Kind of.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Week 46- skinny jeans, Kit Kats and going back to work

Nancy has started going to the childminder this week. And I fluctuate between being really happy that they're getting on, to feeling a bit wounded and half hoping that Nancy will reject her and only ever love me.

The weird thing is, she's only been with her for three days, but Nancy seems bigger. Physically. I think. But definitely more grown up.

And her face seems to have changed. She looks more and more like a little girl, like I can imagine what she'll look like when she's 4. Or 12.

It might be because it's the longest we've been apart from each other, and I'm starting to see her as other people might, instead of a mini extension of me.

So. Day one was doable. As we've had lots of days apart from each other.

Day two felt like a little bit of a strain. And I kept wondering what she was doing every other minute.

But by the end of day three, I was definitely ready for the working week to end and to get some hanging out with her. I hugged her too tightly when I picked her up from the childminder and made her cry a little bit which was a tad embarassing. And then without thinking I gave her an almighty, eye closing sniff.

The actual going back go work bit has been a suprisingly easy adjustment. In fact more than easy. Enjoyable. It's amazing how much you can get done in three days, when you're not with a little person.

I think your brain is reprogrammed with children to get things done really quickly, as normally you only have about a window of opportunity of about 45 minutes to do stuff when they're asleep.

So, given straight 8 hours is almost like a pre-Nancy full working week.

Unfortunately, I dont look really like I'd envisaged I would heading back to work. I had visions of being all kind of like city girlesque.

Saying goodbye to my daughter, then swanning off in my skinny jeans and tailored jacket with a cool hair do to go and embrace the working day.

But the clothes I bought from eBay to wear are now straining at the seams. It turns out the weight you lose when breastfeeding just piles back on when you cut right back or stop. I guess part of it is changing your diet. I probably don't needs a four finger Kit Kat to keep me going at 10am in the same way I did when feeding Nancy 10 times a day.

So the anchor breastfeeding top is still very much a wardrobe staple, and is probably the best eight pounds I ever spent.

And the 5.30am starts are beginning to take their toll.

It's not possible to attempt to lead a pre-Nancy life in the evenings it turns out- drinking half a bottle or wine, or staying up to watch Line of Duty, and function properly ther next day.

Something's got to give.

To start with it was having to go to bed earlier. Instead of staying up, deliriously tired under the premise that we were having a bit of grown up time.

Which grow ups lie on the sofa, not finishing sentences because they're so tired they can't remember how they started, and watching the first 20 minutes of any TV programme , falling asleep only to catch the end credits? Fine with something like Eastenders. Not so great with Lewis.

So we decided a happy compromise is if we take it turns to get up with her at the weekend. Giving the other person a 'lie in.'

8.30am as a lie in.


If my now self could meet my 20 year old self and explain that getting up at 8.30am was a luxury I think we'd have problems.