The C Word

Is it too early for a Christmas post? Should I really not be allowed to mention the C word before the 1st of December, like radio stations playing Mariah Carey? Well I can’t help it, I can feel it building. I am thinking about it. I’m thinking about what to buy people. I have started lists. I am stocking up on tins of biscuits and BOGOF’s. I am planning how to spend my Boots Advantage card points that I save all year, hoping I’ll get to buy pots of body cream and not wrapping paper like I did last year. The boy is getting twitchy about not having a turkey ordered yet.

Christmas Fireplace

I am a big fan of Christmas. Home Alone, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Trading Places are some of my favourite films. Red is our family’s favourite colour. I love the smell of real pine trees. It’s the only time of year I’ll eat warm raisins and not spit them out and ask what the feck they’re doing in my food. Eating a selection box for breakfast is all good for me.

I think you’re probably a fan of one or another, Christmas or New Year, rarely both and Hogmanay for me is always a bit of a let down. An anticlimax. It’s yet to live up to When Harry Met Sally expectations. I have never worn a shimmery black evening dress, coiffed champagne and been sashayed across the dancefloor. Back in the day when I used to at least pretend to make an effort my memories are more plastic pint glasses, sweaty rugby blokes trying to cop a feel in a busy street and walking home, freezing, having failed to hail a taxi, desperate to take my high shoes off and get my comfy draws on.

I’ve always felt like the only sober person surrounded by drunks, trying to smile and stay awake so I could say I was out for the bells. I don’t bother pretending anymore, I just stay in and grumble about what’s on telly. I mean, every year it’s the same old crap, programs attempting to whip you into a midnight frenzy, trying to make you feel like you’re out at a party enjoying yourselves. If we wanted to be at a party enjoying ourselves, we’d have gone out. Films. Just put on a few good films, that’s all I ask.

But Christmas also brings my annual angst about how it’s all a little excessive, obscene even.

I love having the holidays off and spending time with the family, our own little one and our extended ones too. We’re pretty honest and a bit selfish when it comes to what we do, and are lucky that we’ve never made plans out of obligation. I buy Good Housekeeping, pretend it’s a gift for my Mum as I’m clearly to young for such a mag, and try and bake seasonal things. The boy, who loves Christmas even more than me, gets excited about mid-November. One year he woke me at 4am and wanted to wake Miss L up to get cracking on the presents.

The whole present thing stresses me out. Miss L and Little P need nothing. At all. They have everything a four and two year old could ever wish for. Well, Miss L needs some bigger vests but still. I wrangle with how much to spend, I am the ying to my boy’s yang. He is a five star operation, with good taste and generousity. Without me acting as the social and budgetary conscious, we’d be knee deep in gorgeous lovely things. But I feel it’s my duty to haggle him down from such expensive designer gear to a half price toy from Tesco. Why, I have no idea.

I do struggle with the meaning of it all. Although I love love love it, I wonder if I have a right to. Am I just gate-crashing someone else’s party? I have no religion, I would struggle to explain the story of baby Jesus if I’m honest. I know the rough idea but the details are hazy.

But although it’s not about a named religion for me, it is about something other than presents. It’s a time for reflection. For spending happy time with the people that I love. To take a moment to pause from the hectic day to day pace. For sitting back and smelling the mulled wine. For noticing how lucky you are in life and reminded yourself how you should do it more often throughout the coming year.

And chocolate, obviously chocolate!

#Live in the now dude

It’s been a year since we moved into our fancy house out of town. And, as I knew would happen, it doesn’t feel so fancy anymore. In a good way. We’ve grown into it, filled it and it’s now simply our home.

fancy home

I can remember moving into our first ever home together and it was like a castle compared to our one bedroom flat, it felt vast. We spent the first night shouting out to each other, ‘Where are you?’ ‘I’m upstairs in the other toilet!’. It echoed for many years until the babies came home and it was filled up with all the guff that comes with them.

Miss L has settled better than I could have expected. I have to remind myself about her sweet group of nursery friends and how scared and worried I was that she’d not cope without them. Being in the big school nursery is really getting her used to going to into the school building every morning, it’s a great first step towards the Big First Day in August. I’ve started dropping it into conversations about starting school and sometimes she can be excited and all ‘Yeah, whatevs’ and other times she looks a little freaked out ‘Will I have to go every day?’

I can feel myself starting to worry already about how she’ll cope, and I’ll admit to being terrified about the whole girls-are-bitchy vibe. Alpha girls that struggle for power, not caring who they crush on their way there. I’d dread it if she became one. What would you do if your child turned into a Mean Girl?

No parent wants that but it must happen to nice normal folk like me, their kids turn into little shits. I shudder at the thought.

But until school she’s still my dramatic little baby, all arms and legs, brown as a nut and getting more gorgeous with every day.

Being big sister is flavour of the month right now. She loves the grown up role, enjoys teaching, explaining to Little P.

‘Boys and girls are a bit different. Boys have a willy at the front. But they have the same back bottoms. But boys’ ones are hairier.’

They continue to play endless imaginary role play games, families, doctors, schools, cafés. Playing happily for a long time,minimal bickering, as long as Miss L’s rules are kept to and Little P gets the pink buggy.

But she’s also getting a bit sneaky with the influence she has over her little sister. Last week I heard her through the monitor at stupid o’clock in the middle of the night whispering instructions.

‘Go through and wake Mummy. Ask her for a cuddle’

Little P tottered through and reported back to her sister. ‘I did it.’

Silence.

‘Now ask for a cuddle and a kiss.’

For now at least Little P is happy to oblige.

Little P did her first pee in the loo a couple of days ago. For three days I’d been taking her nappy off and seeing how it went. And basically she just happily peed and pooed in her draws. Shameless, not giving a damn. She’d just shout after a while ‘Mum, I’ve done a poo in ma pants. ’I was spoilt with Miss L, she just decided at the age of two that she’d no longer be wearing nappies day or night, thank you and good night. No accidents, no fuss, job done. Now I’ll need to see if a.) the pees were a fluke and b.) I can be bothered to go for it.

She definitely knows her mind and that stubborn attitude borders on grumpiness some days. Not in a nasty way but she’s certainly inherited ‘The Look’ from me. ‘The Look’ is one grade up from your common or garden Dirty Look. It’s more cutting. I believe my Mum once described it as ‘looking at me like I’m a piece of shit on your shoe’. A wonderful inheritance for my young daughter I’m sure you’ll agree.

Some of my most favourite things about her right now are;

1. Her hair. It’s mesmerising in it’s wildness. Like it’s forever static.

2. That she sleeps in in the morning and stumbles through all surprised that everyone else is up and what did I miss?

3. When she asks for a cuddle, slaps me on the back Neighbours style and tells me she lubs me.

BB. Before Blogging

As I snuck into bed next to my lovely warm sleeping husband the other night I realised two things.

blogging1. It was after midnight and I was still awake.
2. I was the last one going to bed.

Wind the clock back eighteen months and these occurrences would never have happened.

Eighteen months ago I was the one that started thinking about bed at 8.45pm,first yawn at 9.15pm,made my excuses by 9.45pm and tucked in with my minty fresh breath by 10.00pm ready for an episode of Criminal Minds. Sometimes with The Boy beside me, but often with him finishing off a game of football on the PS3 downstairs or reading a ‘Top Ten Cool Gadgets You Can’t Afford Anymore ‘Cause You’ve Got Kids’ article in Stuff.

But that was Before. Before I started writing.

You see, not to sound too sad or knobby but my life has changed since I started writing. Not in a ‘I’ve got a regular features column and have given up my day job’-type of change. But it fills every minute of my free time. Fills my head all of the time. It occupies my mind. It niggles me.

And, like anything, I now can’t remember what my brain did Before.

It’s like when you’re wedding planning, every conversation is about ‘it’, everyone asks about ‘it’. You think about it night and day. Or babies. Whether it’s when you’re desperately trying to make one or desperately trying to stop one crying. And houses in my experience are the worst of all. Selling, looking, buying or moving, houses can take over your life, your sanity and your bowels.

When you’re in the midst of any of these things you can’t imagine being without that focus. What did we even think about before? Can we please try and not speak about ‘it’ for a whole day?

That’s what I feel like with writing. I can’t remember what I used to do with my spare time before blogging, tweeting, my shiny laptop.

I started out wanting to write a book, an easy to read real-life non-fiction book about how in hell you’re supposed to cope with a second baby. I researched. I wrote a draft chapter. I sent it to about seven publishers. I waited.

I started this blog. And it’s taken me down a new road. I took an unknown detour and learnt about a whole lifestyle I hadn’t known existed. I’ve found the blogging world inclusive and encouraging, always opinionated and sometimes a bit much. It’s given me new contacts, made me some money and most importantly I’ve made some friends. Before Blogging that would have sounded insane. The Boy still thinks it is insane.

Online friends = Loser.

Not so for me. Most are people I’d say I ‘know’ but there are a handful who I’d call my friends. I chat with them, know what’s happening in their lives, say hi, check they’re doing ok and I’d certainly get in touch if I ever needed their help. Yes I’ve never met them but that no longer seems to be a prerequisite of my friendships. Call me trusting but I’m pretty sure they’re real people and not someone called Dave who’s sitting in a cellar in rubber shorts stroking his ginger beard and howling at the sky.

So I don’t know where this’ll end, or should that be where this’ll begin? It could be with me taking a leap of self belief and changing my career. Equally I could lose interest, find another hobby.

Actually I’m not usually one for hobbies, I’ve never stuck at much come to think about it. Apart from collecting cool Hello Kitty-type stickers when we lived abroad. I found them a few years ago and still couldn’t bare to throw them out.

Or maybe neither and I’ll just stick with trying to juggle Scribbling Mum with my real life truly.

Who knows. But I for one am impressed that I can now stay up past midnight on a school night.

‘Frosty Fanny’ and ‘The Snowflake Died’

Its been a top Christmas. Perfect actually. The day before Christmas Eve our whole street got snowed in. All morning we watched from our bedroom window as all the neighbours try to drive up the hill, each car slipping from side to side until the driver gave up. The men seemed to take it as a personal challenge, whether they could mount the hill successfully. One shameless, and rather large, neighbour even squeezed himself into his wife’s tiny Fiat 500 in an attempt to be the one who made it to the other side. But even he failed, slipping miserably backwards down the hill.

snow fun

So, we went with it. Embraced being in our own little snowglobe and wrapped up the kids, dragged them around in a sledge, built snowmen, baked biscuits for Santa and watched festive films on the telly. When I called the farm to explain we couldn’t come and pick up our turkey they amazingly delivered it to our door in their 4×4. If this wasn’t enough to make me feel all warm and fuzzy, I then watched a group of teenagers stop shoving snow down each others pants to join the gang of grown up men-folk who were pushing a van out of the snow. Although it made me smile I did start to wonder why one time of year should be so different. Why can’t everyone be nice every day?

My eldest daughter, at 3,has been controlled in her excitement of the season. This finally bubbled over when her Nana and Granda arrived complete with a truck full of gifts on Boxing Day. By far my most dreaded present for her was, true to form, her most favourite. An electric keyboard, complete with stool,microphone and record facility. Every parents nightmare. Needless to say I have spent a large part of today in the kitchen,busying myself whilst my front room is like a scene from Peter Kay’s ‘The Phoenix Club’ with a tone deaf, loud, toddler as compere. We were treated to all the usual seasonal hits with a couple of improvs;‘Frosty Fanny’ and ‘The Snowflake Died’ which were hilarious and more than made up for my bleeding ears.

I know I will be bored of the snow by tommorow, and the Christmas cards falling over with really start to annoy me, but for now I intend to get another glass of red, get my comfy trousers on and drool over my new Mac notebook. I am sooo glad my husband never listens to my annual ‘don’t go crazy this year’ chat.

The Grudge

Quasimondo Devil Child

grudge

Me and my big mouth. ‘My daughter used to have tantrums, but she’s over that now.’ You think I’d learn wouldn’t you. The red mist has been returning more frequently over the last few weeks, little patterns creeping back in again. Take Sunday. You know Sunday, right? The day of rest, peace and quiet?

9.30am. The gentle beginning.

Miss L:‘I don’t waaaant to go for a walk.’ Whinged.

Me: ‘Ok, we’ll stay at home then.’ Why am I giving in? I want to get some fresh air,the sun is shining, it’s Sunday and I want the papers.

Miss L:‘But I waaaant to go to the shop’. Shouted. Throws self on floor.

Me: ‘Well get your shoes on then.’

Miss L: ‘I don’t waaaant to put my shoes on’. Cries. Writhes about on floor.

9.35am. Tactics.

Try to stay calm. Breath. You can still recover this. Quick, distract her.

Me: ‘If you get your shoes on now, and there’s no more mucking about, you can take your scooter.’

Momentary silence whilst she mulls the offer over.

Miss L:‘I want to wear thooooose shoes’ Points to high heeled, open toe-d, Belle sling backs.

Me: ‘No. Put your proper shoes on.’

Miss L:‘Noooooo.’ Crying steps up a gear, arms start flayling, feet kicking the wall.

After much ‘ignoring’ (or pretending to ignore) on my part and wrestling of feet, we make it to the driveway with proper shoes on.

Baby P is waiting there for us. All happy, bopping about pointing at her big sister; ‘Crying. Crying. Crying.’

9.45am. The fatal mistake.

Miss L:‘I want to take my scooter.’

Me:‘No, not after that behaviour.’

Miss L:‘Noooooooooo’ Screams. Really screams. Ear splitting screaming. Neighbours coming to the windows to check what’s happened kind of screaming. Involuntary spitting kind of screaming. Looks a bit mental kind of screaming.

9.47am. The point of no return.

Me: ‘Right. That’s it. We’ll stay at home,you guys go on.’

Incredibly she finds a higher, louder pitch getting redder, furious, scratchy throat screams.

I lift the thrashing four year old off the pavement, arms and legs everywhere, and carry her into the house.

Time out.

I go and lie on my bed and switch on Hollyoaks omnibus, volume up to 35 to try and drown out the screaming.

Five minutes pass. Still screaming. Angry,angry screaming.

And I lie there thinking, could I have turned that around? Should I have said she could wear her heels and scoot? Was it worth this?

Should I go in now and tell her it’s all going to be fine? That I’ll carry her to the shops and buy her chocolate when we get there? That it’s ok to hit Mummy, it really wasn’t that sore anyway? Would that be the better move?

At the time I think of all the things that I could have done differently. I’m a Mum of two halves. For the most part I am consistent, give clear boundaries, praise positive behaviour and say when behaviour is not on. The other part of me wants an easy life, no fussing and is tempted by the path of least resistance.

Don’t hold a grudge. That’s what ‘they’ say. Once it’s done, leave it, kiss and make up and move on. But it pisses me off, makes me sad. She looks hurt afterwards,embarrassed even and we don’t talk much as I strip the bed linen. But when I do dig deep and offer some conversation, she grasps at it, desperate to make it up to me. She can see the tears waiting in my eyes. And I feel better. Better that I could swallow my anger and hurt, have a big squeezy hug, smile and be a good Mum after all.

The Only Pink in a Blue House

Today’s guest post is by Alison who is an Australian freelance writer who also writes at Life in a Pink Fibro, is mum to two and dreams of being a novelist.

guest post

When I gave birth to my second son, I inevitably got the ‘so you’ll be going again then’ statement. Going again? Why in the name of God would I do that? ‘You’ll want a girl.’ Never a question, always a statement.

And my response? Always the same. ‘I like boys. I’m happy.’

And I am. I have a home full of cars and tractors, building tools and Bakugan, Lego and… er, Lego (does the stuff breed while I’m not watching?). We watch the rugby league on Friday nights and go to soccer on Saturday mornings. We have outings to air museums, fire engine museums, building museums and dinosaur museums. We ride our bikes and kick a ball and take our scooters to the skate park.

Do I miss the ‘pink’ stuff? I don’t think so. I can’t be 100 per cent certain because I’ve never had it. But I’m not a particularly girly girl – my shopping trips are quick, my make-up is nonexistent most days basic – so I can’t say I miss having to wrangle a little girl’s hair every morning, nor do I have to cope with the explosion of pink that seems to erupt in little girls’ bedrooms.

But there is one thing I will never get about my house of boys. The wrestling. When my husband comes home in the afternoon, the living room is immediately transformed in a World Series Wrestling ring, complete with small thunderbolts leaping from the sofa, rolling on the mat and accompanying shouts of ‘hi-YAH!’. They all seem to love it. I watch on in amazement, or leave the room to read a book until it’s over.

I remember reading a description in a book once, long before I had my family, that really resonated with me. It basically described a woman as having the kind of calm that only came with being a mother of five boys. I don’t have five, but I’m beginning to understand the development of that calm.

You learn early with boys not to over-react to every scrape and bump – there will be many more. You learn to find your happy place in a room that vibrates with energy and noise and levitating children. You realise that working in open-plan offices was merely excellent training for being able to concentrate and focus on day-to-day tasks when your boys have their friends over.

And you learn to soak up, with every fibre of your being, those random moments when they sit still long enough to hold you tight and plant sloppy, little boy kisses on you.

Do you have boys or girls, or both? Do you ever wish things were different?

Hangovers are No Fun Anymore!

For the first time in I can’t remember how long, this weekend I had a hangover. My night out had been organised for weeks but as I’d forgotten to put it on the kitchen calendar, which controls our lives, my boy had arranged to go out on the same night. There seems to be an unwritten rule that writing on this calendar is part of my job description, not his, along with ensuring that the children are fully vaccinated and our family and friends get birthday cards.

hangover

When it comes to nights on the town, our ideas of fun are very different. I don’t dance, he finds the highest speaker and commandeers it as his podium. I have a built in switch that informs me I have drank enough and to move to water, his tells him he’s had enough beer and to move to whisky. I am one of the first to leave, he is the ring leader of the gang who are still dancing when the lights go up. I call a cab, he starts walking. Over the years we have come to learn that every once in a while we are just best to go our separate ways and meet up later and compare notes.

With my Mum looking after the kids, safe in the knowledge that either he or I would be back by the stroke of midnight, I met the girls for a couple of pre-dinner French Martinis. Time with girl friends is so important isn’t it? I know that sounds cheesy and all ‘Sex and the City’ but I mean it. I feel a bit sad sometimes that boys don’t have relationships like that with their friends, it just seems different for them. I couldn’t do without my friends, knowing that no matter what they would drop everything for me and be there if I needed them. We had a great evening; we ate, drank and laughed, laughed, laughed.

Throughout the course of the evening, by our texts back and forth, it became apparent that I would be first home. No surprise there then. Probably just as well. After a night out the boy’s been known to strip off in the hall so he makes less noise when he falls into bed. I’m not sure Mum could take that, she got enough of an eye full at our wedding when he was taking part in a dance-off and performed the caterpillar manouvere wearing his kilt.

Although I’d had a fair bit I knew I hadn’t had too much drink as I didn’t end up on the bathroom floor. Sometimes I’m not even sick I just like to lie next to the loo, especially if the floor is tiled and cold. I find it strangely comforting. Sadly I’d obviously had enough to warrant the hangover that kicked in just about the time that the boy returned home in the early hours, all danced out.

Miss L showed up at the side of our bed in what felt like a few short hours later and we started the silent battle. You know the one where you both pretend you’re asleep and see who can ignore the children the longest. Even though the law was on my side, as it was my weekly Saturday lie-in, I gave in first and stomped downstairs to get Baby P her bottle. I allowed them 30 minutes of flopping about the bed being cute before I threw them out into the safe custody of their Dad who I couldn’t be sure wasn’t actually still drunk.

When I came downstairs an hour or so later I found the living room looking like a dirty bomb had gone off, every toy out of its box, even the messy ones reserved for rainy days, and lovely boy lying on the sofa squinting in the uncharacteristic sunny Scottish sunshine. Everything was too noisy, it all made my head rattle.

In need of fresh bakery produce to go with my big coffee I pulled on jeans and a hoody, threw the girls in the car and hit Sainsburys. I don’t know why but I don’t see a problem with nipping out at the weekend to get the papers with no underwear on. My Mum always said to make sure that we had clean pants on incase we ever got knocked over by a car. ‘Yes Doctor, she has a fractured pelvis and two broken legs. But never mind that, did you see the state of her draws?’ Luckily nobody noticed me as they were too busy checking out Miss L strutting down the aisles with a flamenco dancing dress and Belle high heeled shoes on. She asked me half way round why people were looking at her and smiling, bless. Handing over the £1 for our lottery ticket, with not a hint of humour, the assistant said she couldn’t accept the money from Miss L as she was clearly underage and it was against the law. Whether it was the reek of garlic and gin, the glint in my eye or she just knew better than to mess with a lady with no bra but she forced a bitter smile and put it through.

Then came the best part of the whole weekend. My sister offered to take both girls away for a couple of hours. Didn’t have to ask me twice. As soon as we’d waved them off and shut the door we went back to bed. At midday. On a sunny day. It felt wrong, but oh so right. As we lay there we realised that what we heard was silence. Not silence like when Peppa Pig is on and no-one is talking. Or when they’re eating chocolate. No, just complete and utter silence.

When we both woke with a jolt a couple of hours later it wasn’t in a ‘where are the children?’ panic. It was more a ‘have we slept too long, pushed our luck and she’ll not offer to take them again?’ panic. Hangovers I can take. Hangovers with two children? Not so much.

Family Pets. A Good Thing?

I’m thinking about getting a cat.

You’ll note that I said ‘I’m thinking’ and not ‘We’re thinking’. The boy isn’t quite there, but he’s the closest I’ve seen him yet.

And I know my mother in law will be reading this shouting ‘Noooo! Don’t do it!’ She hates cats. When we visited my sister’s house once I could see her stiffen as Pepper entered the room. Pepper sensed her fear, likes a challenge, and jumped straight up on her lap to say hi.

My sister’s cat Pepper is pretty near my perfect cat; independent but not aloof, enjoys a cuddle, loves toast and last week ate my niece’s homework, no joke.

I’ve been thinking about it since we moved house to a more rural setting. But after spending a bit of time with my family’s pets the other day it’s reminded me how nice it can be. I watched as Little P stroked Pepper so gently, whispered to her and followed her in and out of different rooms. She hung herself round Stella and Rosie’s necks, my Mum’s lanky rescue greyhounds, kissing their wet noses.

Miss L is less sure but she’s being somewhat shamed into being more brave by her little sister. And this makes me think even more that it’d be a good idea.

When I was growing up my family weren’t huge on pets but we’ve had a few. I’m probably more of an animal liker than a lover. I don’t approve of dog clothes and don’t do animal kisses. It’s not kissing, its licking. And we all know what else they lick.

1. Brig

A cairn terrier with a rotten arse, all he did was fart. And sleep. And fart.

We got him as a puppy when my parents were together, us sneaky females went out and bought him unbeknownst to my Dad and placed him at the door to the living room. Brig waddled in and pissed on the carpet.

Bless him, he was very sweet but had some incredibly unsavoury habits included humping the draft excluder and eating cat poo from the litter tray. Cat litter would stick to his moustache, dead give away, and he’d be all like ‘What? It wasn’t me.‘

He’d frequently get poo stuck to his kilt-like undercarriage that’d need cut out. My Mum, sister and I would draw straws for who’d get the head end, tail end or the scissors. Oh the humiliation for poor Brig.

When my parents seperated and we moved to a flat with no garden, we all agreed it wasn’t fair to keep him. We re-homed him with a farmer and the little shit never even glanced back as he ran off with his new owner.

2. George

My sister’s hamster named after her sweetheart Mr Michael.

His heart finally gave up after one too many games of Ball of Fear where we’d put in him plastic exercise ball and encourage Brig to chase it, batting it along with his nose. My sister was distraught but my Dad promised her that he would make sure he gave George a proper burial, leave it to me he said.

Unluckily for him it was winter so when she looked out the back window she saw his foot prints in the snow leading from the kitchen step to the dustbin where George lay wrapped in a piece of toilet paper.

3. Gable and Monroe

My birthday presents, bought during my obsession for old black and white movies, two rescue cats that were sold to my gullable Mum as an inseparable BOGOF deal, ‘Cannae split them up Hen, they’re like brother and sister’.

In reality Gable couldn’t give a toot about Monroe. He’d pin her down with his paw so he could eat her dinner before starting on his own. Monroe exit stage left.

Gable stayed with us for years, a handsome grey blue short hair with an incredibly loud purr, a mute miaow, he liked to stick his head inside lampshades and lick hot lightbulbs and had a special talent for vomiting.

His top ten of vomiting spots included inside a shoe, over a set of keys, in my jumper hood and from a great height off the kitchen cabinets for maximum surface coverage. One time it hit the open door on the way down, shooting vomit deep into the cooker. But it wasn’t so bad, most of the time Brig and his moustache got there first to clean it up.

I liked Gable very much.

4. Some fish. Names forgotten. But I can remember the burial of one, we placed it’s cold gold body in a small pink plastic soap container and dug a spot in the back garden. 3 weeks later we got curious about what it’d look like and dug it up. It wasn’t fragrant.

So, now I need to start writing my pros and cons list, visiting our local cat rescues and see where we go from there. Key outstanding questions…..

Do you need to have a litter tray?

Is it mandatory to hoover every day once you have a cat? And is it wrong to shave them so they don’t shed hair?

Could we train it to become, eh, top dog in the street so it could beat up the other cats if they poo-ed on our lawn?

And the critical one. What would we call it? Current favourite with the girls is ‘Pink’. Oh yes, I can just see that.

Exercise Smexercise

I don’t enjoy exercise. Never have. At school I would fib and say that I had my period so that I wouldn’t have to run round the playing field. It bores me. I’d rather have a nice walk on the beach, or sit on a park bench, anything but get sweaty and have sore bits the next morning. Apart from when I was pregnant with Miss L. Then, I dreamt of having a toned body. Of being Heidi Klum. Of being able to star jump and land without a wobble. I made bargains with myself; you can eat another mini magnum but you’ll have to do sit ups when you can get off the floor without assistance and a winch.

exercise

With my nine pound two and a half baby girl safely delivered I couldn’t give a shit how wobbly my tummy was. I was smitten. Knackered, but utterly in awe of the squishy little creature attached to my gigantic boobs. This is what I look like now. I’m the same but different. Everything’s a bit looser, a bit softer. It’s my new ‘I’m a Mum’ body, how exciting.

Then I went to M&S to get fitted for a nursing bra. ‘When’s the baby due?‘ asked the young assistant. Didn’t she know what nursing meant? Hadn’t she seen the baby in the buggy outside my cubicle?

Damn it.

Just what did Heidi do to get back in shape after popping out her latest superbaby?

Swimming? Impossible to do lengths with small baby. Exercise classes? Too tired by the time baby is in bed. Join a gym? Too expensive and all of the above. I’m very good at excuses when it comes to exercise.

Running? Running’s free. My sister suggested we train together, a charity 5k was coming up, it’d give us focus. I’ve never ‘trained’ for anything in my life but I did have a pair of lycra trousers left over from the one pilates class (too tricky), one yoga class (someone farted) and the one where we mainly just grape-vined in time to techno (gotta love a grapevine). Maybe, just maybe, it’d work.

As I started to jog away from the house I felt all smug. This is easy isn’t it? What’s all the fuss about, piece of piss this running malarky.

Piss being the operative word as it turns out.

With every bounce I cursed myself for thinking I was better than pelvic floor exercises. If there was ever one exercise that I should have stuck with, it’s those. God, can everyone see? Luckily the shiny lycra material offered some camouflage. A good three minutes in, I shifted down a gear, crossed my hands casually over my crotch and pretended that I was actually just out for a gentle evening stroll. With my glowing red face and pissy pants I was fooling no-one.

For once in my life though, I did stick with it. For a bit. We did the 5k and incredibly a 10k after that. But I’ll be honest, it’s not for me. I’ve yet to find an exercise that is. I heard that Anna Friel used a machine where you put on a large wet suit and get sort of steamed, to achieve her post-baby body*. I like the sound of that.

Miss L wibbled my bottom once and a few seconds later said, ‘It’s still going Mum’. Baby P patted my pants and shouted ‘Bum’. She looked again and did two further pats and shouts, either side of my pants on the surplus bottom bits that’d escaped. The kid thinks I have three bums. Maybe that’s a sign it’s time to wring out my lycra trousers and start pounding the streets again.

* That’s a vague memory, possibly a dream. I’ve no doubt she actually achieved it through a balanced diet and regular exercise.

This post was inspired by Josie at ‘Sleep is for the weak’ writing workshop, my chosen prompt word was ‘Running’.

Does Routine Make You a Bit Dull?

5 o’clock dinner. 6 o’clock bath time. 7 o’clock stories and bed.

daily-routinesIt’s been like that, pretty much, for the last four years. Not exactly like clockwork, but not a kick in the arse of it. We have these magic numbers in the back of our heads when we make plans. Miss L likes routine and Baby P has known nothing else. But what about me? Is forever looking at my watch, frantically trying to stay one step ahead at all times, making me a bit dull?

Routine was a new word for me when I became a Mum. It was the word. It’s what you’re told is the ultimate goal. Strangers question you about whether you have one yet. ‘Experts’ preach the benefits of them. Other Mums seem to have brilliant ones, magic ones, ones that worked miracles. Without one you’re an oddity.

I wanted to rebel, to tell people that I didn’t need one. That I flew by the seat of my mummy pants. But, really, I wanted one. You see I believe that children respond well to them, Miss L certainly does. I’ve told you about her traits before, and a big part of her is her craving for a plan, needing to know what every second of every day will hold.

And so we slipped into having one, it worked, we stuck with it.

But does having a routine mean that, by definition, you lose your spontaneity? Hell, I’ve sea kayaked through Costa Rican caves, potholed in Wales and walked up Table Mountain without a bra on. I wouldn’t recommend that. Especially on a hot day, with a hangover and only half a bottle of water. It seemed like a good idea at the time but we hadn’t read the guidebook and imagined it would a gentle stroll that’d clear our fuzzy heads.

I have no desire to start throwing myself out of a plane but equally I don’t like feeling that I couldn’t if I wanted to.

This week, feeling a little oppressed by the routine, I called the boy and told him to go to the swimming pool instead of coming straight home. Instead of having dinner together we all went for a swim together. Hardly wild I know, but it showed me that we don’t have to be bound by routine all the time. That it does you good to break habits. The children survived on bread sticks for dinner and no bath.

I’ve no doubt I’m easier to please the older I get. I crave simple things; peace, time, rest. And there are things that I used to do as a matter of course, dead normal stuff, that I miss.

Like…

Falling asleep when I’m tired. Not when I know I should go to bed as I’ve got to get up in six hours. Or just in case someone wakes me in the night.

Eating when I’m hungry. Just opening the fridge and eating when I want. Without hiding it from view. Without interruption or questioning. Actually, it’s more than that. It’s buying and eating the food that I want to eat, not what’ll cause least fussing or time to cook heat.

Leaving the house when I want, quickly. No throwing together a bag with stuff I may need for the journey, snack-bars, raisins or water bottles. Just open the door and walk out.

I’m fed up looking at my watch. It’s not even like it makes me on time, I’m still late. Last week I had a meeting with someone I’d not met before and I was on time. When I met him the first thing I shouted out, grinning like a fool, was ‘I was on time.’ He congratulated me and offered to leave me for another five minutes so I could enjoy my special moment a bit longer.

Maybe I should just take my watch off for a week and see how I get on. Or keep mixing it up a bit and read stories before bath time. Now that’s just crazy chat.