Tuesday, 30 December 2014

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

SPOILER ALERT.

I am Father Christmas.

And it's the best fucking thing EVER.

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

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

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

Our Christmas Eve's were properly messy.

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

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

Seriously. How could you top that?

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

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

I wouldn't have changed the situation. 

Of course I wouldn't. 


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

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

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

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

Then, THEN, it starts to get good.

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

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

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

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




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

She looked like she was going to combust.

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

And I thought, this is the business.

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

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

I am Father Christmas.

And may many years pass before my children find out.




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




Monday, 22 December 2014

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

Hangovers and small children, eh?

They're fun, aren't they?

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

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

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

Communal singing is evocative at the best of times. 

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

It was something else.

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

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

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

I was crying. 

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

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

That finished me off. 

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

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

Be brave. 

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

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

Sunday, 14 December 2014

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

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

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

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

Seriously?

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




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

Her list for Father Christmas is innocently short.

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Week 167- They're boobs. Get over it.

What is the obsession with breastfeeding mothers?

Seriously.

Everywhere you look it seems someone’s banging on about whether women should cover up, be more discreet, or sit in a corner to feed their child.

How’s about we just don’t say anything.

Don’t cast judgement.

Don’t offer up alternatives, like covering a breastfeeding mother with what looks like a massive tablecloth as a waiter recently did to a mum feeding her 12-week-old baby in Claridge’s.

Don’t make stupid comparisons like the King of Neanderthals, Jeremy Clarkson, who likened breastfeeding in public to taking a piss in full view of the general public.

Just don’t. Say. Anything.

Anyone who’s breastfed a child knows it can be a nightmare.

You’re desperate for your baby to latch on, but the chances are that your nipples are blistered at best; bleeding and infected at worst.

Before you’ve even left the hospital, the breastfeeding police have been round to check you’re doing it right, and often won’t let you go home until you’ve ‘proved’ you’ve got the hang of it. 

So there’s that.

There’s also the slight disadvantage that you can’t negotiate with a baby.

You can’t say, ‘hang on a minute mate, I know you’re hungry, but how’s about holding on for a minute until I can find an appropriate, inoffensive corner to sit in to feed you?’

It can be a messy, uncomfortable experience, punctuated with milk-soaked breast pads and cheesy smelling bras if you’ve stumbled in a knackered fug from day-to-night wearing the same nursing bra until you realise the bottom-of-the-fridge smell that’s been following you round is actually you.

And when you do get the hang of it, there’s no guarantee that your baby is going to stay feeding for any length of time once they’ve started.

I have, on more than one occasion, been feeding my son whilst messing about on my phone or reading a magazine in a café, only to realise that he’s nodded off and I’m sitting there, tits out.

The point is, and I know this is so painfully obvious it makes me want to shoot myself in my own face for even having to say it, but breastfeeding is natural.

It is feeding. 

Feeding a baby that would otherwise be hungry.

Women are not getting their breasts out for the sexual gratification of men. I mean, seriously, who gets a boner over that?

Women are not doing it to offend other people. Or to make a statement.

They are simply feeding their children when they are hungry.

So, Jeremy Clarkson, Nigel Farage, Claridge’s staff and anyone else for that matter who wants to pass judgement on breastfeeding women.

Try saying nothing. This isn’t the 70’s. You’re not Benny Hill.

When the thought pops into your head to open your mouth or put pen to paper. 

Don’t.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Week 166- Heart FM, service stations and rediculously long car journeys....

We've been on a car journey today that took seven hours when really it should have taken five, at worst. 

Over an hour and a half of this was spent in a service station negotiating with a three-year-old that if she needed the loo, now would be the time to go and not when we were back on the M1.

But the thing that made me feel like my brain was going to melt out my ear was the relentless questions. 

Well, one question in particular.

'Are we nearly there yet?'

OH. MY. GOD.

I thought it was a cliche that children asked that. On repeat. Continuously. 

Turns out it's not. 

Thank God for Heart FM and ear phones. 

Sunday, 23 November 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I stumble from one overly familiar situation to another. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We play a pitiful number of games on rotation. 

There are three parks we go to. 

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

I need to mix it up a bit.

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

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

Sunday, 16 November 2014

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

Weaning a second child should be a doddle. 

You've already done it once. 

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

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

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

Nope.

It's worse. 

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

'Let me hold his spoon.'

'Can I try it?'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Week 163- duping your kids by mistake...

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

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

She now thinks all churches are gymnasiums.

Monday, 3 November 2014

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

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

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

It's 2 o'clock.

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

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

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

So they've organised discos for kids in pubs.

On paper, this sounds immense. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the whole thing is finished by 4pm.

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

Sunday, 26 October 2014

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

Dear passengers of the number 1a bus,

Firstly, sorry for dropping the F bomb.

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

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

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

But just a note for next time.

Staring doesn’t help. 

Ever.

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

Don’t tut. 

Just don’t. 

That doesn’t help much either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I dropped the F bomb at you. 

All of you.

And I’m sorry.

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

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

Thanks,

Anna

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

Sunday, 19 October 2014

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

I have an idea for an invention. 

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

I don't want any money for the idea. 

I just want one.

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

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

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

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

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

Time. And space. 

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

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

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

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



Sunday, 12 October 2014

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

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

This can be brilliant.

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

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

Being constantly with children also means there is always noise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I guess it’s a win all round.





Sunday, 5 October 2014

Week 158- newborns, ugly crying and growing up fast...

My newborn baby is five months old. How did that happen? 

People were always telling me when I had my daughter, 'enjoy it, it goes so fast.' 

But time seemed to stand still with my first baby. Sometimes minutes felt like hours, hours like days as I tried to make the adjustment from just being me to being someone's mum. 

But with my son, it feels like I've only just started to get my head round the fact I have two children and he's already rolling over, and ready to start weaning.

I saw a woman in a cafe today with a baby who must have been days old. He was asleep on his mum's chest; his legs curled under him, frog-like, as he would have been in the womb. I looked at his tiny, squashed-up red face resting on his mother's shoulder and I had a totally unexpected, huge, shuddering hormone rush. 

The milk gushed into my boobs at 100 miles an hour and I burst into shoulder-shaking sobs. 

I ugly cried onto the top of my son's head as it dawned on me that my children will never be that little again.

Now, I don't want to romanticise my pregnancies. I was grumpy throughout both, beyond tired with my daughter and a walking advert for Gaviscon with my son. 

But there were amazing moments as well. 

That feeling that you were never alone. 

That you were carrying around your buddy. That you could talk out loud and there was a titchy person who could hear and recognise your voice. The first time you hear a heart beat, the first flutter that definitely isn't wind. Seeing your stomach change shape when you lie down and a rogue hand or foot pushes against your taut belly. 

I want to stop time. 

To just stare at my children. To memorise their faces, how they look right now. Today.

To sniff them, properly inhale the smell of the top of their heads while they both still smell like little children. 

Because I've been walking around thinking I have a tiny baby. 

To my surprise, I find I have a five-month old son.