Saturday, 19 December 2009

Do I still belong here?

It was our office Christmas party last night.  It's a good evening normally.  They're pretty generous, so there are drinks with sparkly wine, and then a proper dinner and dancing.  Oh and the revue.  A highlight of the office calendar, when the junior members of staff put on a sketch show about the last year. Sounds horrendous, and kind of is (and I'm extremely glad I never have to do it again), but also normally very funny.

Last night was no exception. Everyone looking their best (apart from some of the longer-standing members of staff who hold it a point of principle not to have fun at something that is, essentially work.  As though dressing up were an indication of unwarranted frivolity.  Christmas? Bah humbug!)  The food was good, the wine plentiful and the revue well rehearsed and, in parts, hilarious.

But I felt totally out of place.  And I suddenly feel that this job, this building, these people who have been an enormous part of my life for the last nearly ten years, are no longer where I belong.

I walked into the room, was handed a glass, looked around and realised I knew barely half the people there.  I don't know who these other people are, or where they've come from, but I do know that this time five years ago there wouldn't have been a person in the room I didn't know and who didn't know me, and it's an office of 300 or so.  I had a lovely time chatting to the people I do know, and of whom I am very fond, but I'm not at the centre of things any more. I'm on the outside, looking in, and I'm not sure I even want to be there.

The revue was, as I said, great.  But I didn't get most of the jokes.  Topical comedy only really works if you know what they're talking about, and having only been in the office for ten months of the last three years,  I'm like someone who returns from a weekend break in Bhutan and is then surprised when they don't find Mock the Week terribly amusing.

And it got me to wondering:  is this because I'm getting older and more set in my ways? Is it because of all the maternity leave I seem to have wangled? Or is it just that, in my head at least, I've moved on? That I have more important things and people in my life now, and work, which was once so central, is now less so.

I talked a lot to the people I was sitting with about our plans, and our scheme to move to Middle of Nowhere and for me to work as a consultant from there.  All of which still feels miraculously lucky and like I don't deserve it, and they all said how much they'd miss me and how it wouldn't feel like the same place without me, but I know that's not true.  They will miss me, I'm sure, but I also know that in three years time many of them will be hard pushed to remember who I am. It's like leaving school. The institution is bigger than the individuals that make it up, and when one person moves on, the water closes over her head.  Some people make bigger ripples than others, but eventually everyone is forgotten.  The firm I work for has been going for over three hundred years.  My ten don't amount to a great deal in comparison.

I've been struggling with my job since I went back to work: finding it terribly hard to be a good mother and a good worker.  But I've found the idea of giving up my job (and, it feels, my identity) equally hard to contemplate. The things is, maybe my job is ready to give me up too. Maybe we all have places, people or things that are right for us at particular points in our lives.  And I'm beginning to think that at this point in my life my job and I don't belong together any more


And in other news:  off to Canada this afternoon. Wish us luck...  And if I can't post from there: Merry Christmas one and all!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Scandal in the toy box

The Fisher Price Mummy went missing a number of months ago. Since then the Daddy and the baby have been getting along very nicely thank you. But now Mr Noah too is nowhere to be found. Mrs Noah is putting on a brave face, but I can see she has her suspicions...

Where on earth do they go? I have checked everywhere, including turning out the bins. It's clearly the parental version of the missing sock in the washing machine.  And just as irritating.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

I hate you

I had one of those out-of-body perfect-mother moments the other day. You know the ones: when just for five minutes (seconds?) no-one is screaming, no-one smells of poo, there is baby mush brewing deliciously on the stove, your children are all playing beautifully together, and in your head you're wearing white linen, miraculously uncrushed...

Anyway, L, who has recently discovered her imagination, was playing with two of her teddies.  The teddies were having a lovely time, having a party if I remember rightly, and talking about their forthcoming trip to Canada.  I watched, indulgently, thinking "isn't she cute" sort of thoughts, when one teddy turned to the other and said:

"I hate you".

I crashed out of my white-linen-festooned reverie with a bang.

L knows about hate.  And hating.  And she's heard, in her cushioned, cocooned, cushy life, someone say to someone else, "I hate you".  And she's internalised it sufficiently that her teddies are now saying it to each other.

And it made me realise that I don't want my daughter to know about hate.  I want to protect her from hate and hating and people who hate.  I want to teach her that there are more powerful, and much, much more important things than hate.

Hearing those words from L gave them astonishing force.  I felt just as shocked as if she'd sworn.  So I sat her down and we had a serious chat about not hating, and how that was not a nice thing to say, and how I didn't want to hear her saying it again.

And then this evening I found myself announcing to the world that I hate sorting out the laundry...  Whoops.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

A proper mother always gives her children a healthy, home-cooked meal.

L's friend D came round for some lunch today.  I made a big pasta bake; with a proper soffrito (ooh, get me) and everything.

Then I overheard this conversation:

D:  L, do you like pasta?
L:  I like it at nursery but I don't like it at home.

Beans on toast for supper.

Friday, 11 December 2009

365 days in.

Well. Breathe in. Breathe out. Take another sip of (pink) champagne.  We've done it. We've survived the first year (and the birthday party).

A and S are one.

Things I remember from this time last year:

The utter strangeness of leaving the house while it was still dark knowing that when we came back we'd have two babies with us; kissing L goodbye as we left, and looking at her, fast asleep and oblivious of how much her world was going to change;  the extraordinary speed and calmness of an elective c-s (complete contrast to the first (natural) time); the relief of hearing the cries (that was the same as the first time, only this time there were two); the amazement of holding my baby, and then looking at B and realising that he was holding one too;  just how tiny babies (even perfectly formed, and perfectly healthy babies) born at 36 weeks really are...

And as I look back on the last 365 days I think that despite the tough bits (the morning, 10 days in, when we'd had them, we'd breastfed them, we'd got them to Edinburgh, we'd survived (nay, enjoyed) my brother-in-law's wedding, and then the adrenaline wore off...; the few weeks at about four months when I really, really thought I wasn't going to cope;  the first month or so of being back at work; the last few days), we've had a wonderful time, and we have, in the spirit of counting my blessings, been blessed.

We've been blessed by the moments, not so few and far between, when all three of our beautiful girls are happy and giggling together; by the times we leave their room to put them down for a sleep and hear more giggles from behind the door (I'm sure they get up to all sorts in there once the lights go off);  by the amazement of watching them learn about themselves and each other;by the S-faces (will post a picture one day); by the fact that A can shake her head but not nod and S can nod but not shake hers; by the cuddles (L wasn't a cuddly baby, S and A more than make up for it); by the coos, and oohs, and "oh, haven't you got your hands full?"s that I claim to hate, but actually give me an enormous glow of pride - such that when I'm out on my own and people don't stop me in the street to tell me how lucky/brave/stupid I am I feel as though something's missing (because it is); by watching A learn to walk (while pushing a trolley, but still); by the (more) pride of having exclusively breast fed them for six months;  by getting to know these two amazingly identical and astonishingly different people, and by knowing that there is so much more to learn.

Darling A, and Gorgeous S, we are so lucky to have you.  Happy birthday, my beautiful girls.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

A whinge and a worry

Apologies in advance. If you want to read something cheery and non-self-pitying look away now...

A whinge:

Here is my to do list:
Finish three weeks's worth of work on a ridiculously complicated spreadsheet that I just know isn't going to balance (and no, I'm not an accountant) by tomorrow pm when my boss goes on holiday.  She's lovely but she doesn't understand spreadsheets, so when she asked me to do it, she had (and I think still has) no idea quite how much work it is.
Do all the rest of the work that's been piling up on my desk since I started on the spreadsheet (probably by last week, I don't know, I haven't looked at it)
Organise a party for eight babies (by Friday)
Organise a birthday for two babies (by Friday)
Organise a Christening (Sunday)
Organise a party for 18 adults and I'm still not sure how many babies (Sunday, after the Christening)

Decide what I still need to get for Canada and buy it
Pack for five people to go to Canada including all the Christmas presents but within (of course) the luggage allowance (by about ten minutes before we need to leave for the airport probably)
Sort out a Christmas present for B. Somehow I've done all of Rabbit's friends and relations, but B, love of my life, hasn't made the cut.  This is worrying me more than much of the rest put together, even though I know (because I've told him) that he won't mind.
Make a t-shirt for a paying customer by Friday week (I'm not complaining, really I'm not, I'm delighted to have a proper customer, but I do rather wish she didn't need it by Christmas...)
Arrange A&S's one year jabs (next week, otherwise I'll forget)
Buy a house (before we get kicked out of this one)
Oh, and, do all the usual laundry, tidying, sorting out, cooking, ferrying to nursery, shopping etc that usually fills my few non-working days, with the added bonus that B is going to be in Warsaw next week so can't help.

I burst into tears in the doctor's today.

I didn't mean to. I didn't think I was that stressed. But she asked me how I was and somehow I went to say ok, only something else came out.

Once I'd calmed down she confirmed that I've got high blood pressure (this is the worry).  And I can't make myself believe it's a coincidence that I didn't have high blood pressure when it was checked the week before I went back to work, and I do now.  Not going to kill me tomorrow high, but high enough that she doesn't want me "wandering around with it until [your] life sorts itself out".  So drugs it is.  Which doesn't exactly reduce the stress either. 

I left the doctor and tried to do a lightning strike on Oxford Street (need to buy a t-shirt to decorate for that paying customer).  Oxford Street's a mistake when you're feeling a bit wobbly.  If you were shopping this afternoon and noticed a bedraggled girl in a glamorous cream coat (Primark) huddled in one of those side-alleys in floods of tears, I'm sorry. I'm not usually like that. Honest.

And sitting here, girls asleep, B writing the Christmas cards (you'll note they aren't on my list), I do know that this too will pass.  I am, really, very very lucky and am well aware of all my blessings - and if anyone's still reading, that's just one more!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

I love you Mummy...

... and I don't want Daddy.

L is going through a phase.  And it's a phase that's making all of us miserable (including S&A who don't like crossness and crying - who does?).

To put it simply: she doesn't want Daddy. Ever.

The other morning, when we woke up, B was first in to her room.  L took one look at him, screamed "Go away! I want mummy!" and slapped him in the face. This is not an isolated incident.

Let me put this into context.  B is an awesome father. A friend of mine was telling me this morning about something she'd read in a (nameless, sorry, I didn't catch a name) blog about whether you married a good husband or a good father. I'm either really lucky or really good at choosing, because I got both. B is amazing. he's hands-on, patient (mostly) and prepared to be climbed on, puked on, and generally run ragged.  Even better, he works from home, so he's here all the time.

But L doesn't want him.  In the end I refused to come downstairs until she decided to be nice to Daddy, and eventually that worked. But it's horrid. I don't like being cross with her; she can't, surely, like screaming and shouting; and it's really, unbelievably, hurtful for B who utterly adores her.  It's also knackering for me, because guess who has to put on all the pairs of shoes, get all the cups of milk, read all the stories, fetch all the toys that she's left elsewhere, push all the pushchairs and, of course, empty all the potties...?

I realise it's just, as I said, a phase, and somehow I found it heartening to discover during a whingy phone call that my friend LC is going through the same thing with her daughter, so it's clearly not just us.  But this really isn't one that I, or B, want, or have the heart, to wait out.

ps. I started this yesterday, and never got round to posting it.  Of course last night, she and B were absolutely best of friends.  Just by force of circumstance he ended up doing her bath while I was with A&S, and they had a wonderful time during that, and stories and into bed.  I heaved a huge sigh of relief, only to wake up to her demanding Mummy again this morning....

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Her own sense of style

Allegedly Suri Cruise, aged 3, has her "own sense of style".  In Suri's case, this apparently means she chooses to wear button-up shoes and lovely coats with velvet collars, and always looks beautifully put together in a manner reminiscent of those pictures of your granny in about 1932.

L also has her own sense of style and chooses to wear, well, ahem, this:

Possibly they get it from their mothers.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

BMB craft market

Stop Press!

The BMB craft market group, for designers, makers and shoppers is now open for business here.  Spread the word!  The more the merrier.

Oh, and especial thanks to Brit in Bosnia for the idea. 

Plan B - children's t-shirts - the details

I've (very flatteringly, thank you all so much) had a couple of queries on the t-shirts. So here's the small print.

I can make them in any size you like. I get the t-shirts, or vests (for babies) from John Lewis so they're good quality and wash well.

The fabric is all Liberty print (I'm not sure if you can see that in the pictures, but it is) and so basically you can specify any colour you like and I'll just make sure I've got something appropriate, or I'd happily do something specific (spots, stripes etc) if anyone had any great ideas.

I could, also, by discussion, do other items too (I've done a duvet cover for L with a big flower on it, and another friend has suggested towels which I think would be rather nice).

Basically the sky's the limit and I'm happy to do whatever people want.  Three hitches:

1. I can't do anything before Christmas... I'd love to but I've got to do some for S and A (who will be one on Friday!) on top of everything else.
2. The timescale is two weeks from order to delivery.
3.  If anyone has a particuarly long name we may have to think creatively - so all you Persephones out there, would initials do instead? Or long sleeves and the name down the arm? 

And the real nitty gritty.  The price. I'm just going to go with what they set at the shop which is £25.99.  Part of me is aghast, part is delighted that they think that's what they're worth, but either way, I've said I won't undercut them.  Things other than t-shirts by negotiation.

Oh, and if you're still reading. At Brit in Bosnia's suggestion I'm going to set up a BMB group for crafty mums selling crafty things.  One for this evening when I haven't got babies who need getting up, but I'll let you know when it's up and running so let me know if you're interested in joining.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Plan B - Children's T-shirts

You read it here first.  The one and only original, Plan B hand-embellished children's t-shirts are now on sale at a shop near you.  Well, they are if you live near the Fulham Road in London. Otherwise they're not, but I've got to start somewhere.

And I actually started with making a t-shirt for L for her birthday.  When I say "making" what I actually mean is "buying from John Lewis and applique-ing her name on the back".  But I was rather pleased with it so then I made some for my nieces (more identical twins - allegedly it's not hereditary, but...). And my sister-in-law is friends with the lady who owns the shop and....

....the rest is history.

To be honest, I never actually thought it would happen.  No false modesty here, but these are not professionally-made t-shirts.  They  have the charm of the genuinely home made... or something, so I got an incredible sense of achievement yesterday when I was told they were on the shop floor of what is, in all honesty, a very posh and not at all "delightfully amateurish" shop.

Now, I realise I'm not going to make my fortune making children's t-shirts from the comfort of my kitchen table with the sewing machine I got as a present for passing my GCSE's, but I am so excited by this.  It feels like a real step towards finding something that I can do that is mine, and isn't just washing clothes, wiping noses or waiting for my children to grow up.

So cross your fingers for me and wish me luck.  All we need now is for someone to buy one!

Oh, and ps, although I know some of you might disapprove of this, clearly if anyone does want one, you know where I am...

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

By George, I think she's got it!

I'm almost afraid to post this one in case I jinx it, but we might, just might, be there with the potty training...

We left L, the Sunday before last, insisting that she didn't want to wear a nappy because "Molly doesn't wear a nappy in bed".  And the thing is, she hasn't worn one since.  And the last two nights - she's been dry!

I don't know if we just hit the right thing at the right time, or whether the tip from Potty Mummy to buy her a new potty (which we did that afternoon) was the right one, or whether, perhaps more likely, she, all machiavellian, power-hungry, two and a half years of her, simply decided that she'd had enough of toying with us, but somehow, suddenly, it seems to be working.

She's pooing in the (new, Thomas) potty (why did no-one tell me how much more gross poo is when smeared all over a potty than when smeared all over your delicious daughter?) and telling me when she needs to go. ("Mummy, I don't feel very well" seems to be the phrase of choice, quite why, I have no idea).

And, as I say, we're putting her to bed with no nappy on, lifting her for a wee when we go to bed, and then she is (or has been for the last two nights) dry in the morning.  After six months of swearing and of half-believing she'd never do it I feel like I've won the lottery.  Admittedly dry sheets and no nappies aren't going to buy me the entirely new wardrobe I'd like, but for the moment, I'll take them.

What shall we do with the poorly baby?

Or perhaps, more accurately, what shall we do with the perfectly ok, if disgustingly snotty, other two?

We've got a cold.  It's just a cold. It's not flu, swine or otherwise, it's not norovirus (incidentally when did that stop being "stomach flu"? It sounds much more scary these days, and I'm pretty sure it's basically the same thing) and its certainly not any one of the millions of terrifying afflictions which seem, at 3 am, to lurk out there in wait for my children.

But while A and L are combining being full of snot with being equally full of beans, S is feeling miserable.  She's fevery and tired and wabbit (great word that. B uses it. I don't know if it's Scottish or just in-law-ish, but I love it) and what she really wants to do is be cuddled.  Constantly.

But I can't. Because I have L and A, and what they want to do is play, and argue, and snatch toys from each other, and giggle at each other and go out "Mummy, pleeeeeease", and play somewhere that isn't our living room, and shout.  And I can't see a way to make the two combine.

At the moment, of course, they're all in bed. But I am girding myself for the moment of wakefulness and the juggling act that is normality.  With an added dose of cold.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Life's not a competition (allegedly)

Let me start with a confession.  I only do things I'm good at and I only attempt things I think I might be good at.  Seriously.  Among the things I won't do are: play tennis, play Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit, karaoke  (except under extreme duress), speak in public, wear fancy dress, mountain climb (or abseil) or attempt to speak (not even one word) any foreign language other than French or Russian (and I've got a degree in those two).

There is only one reason for this. I'm rubbish (or I think I would be rubbish) at all of them. And somehow, somewhere, I've got into my head that life is a competition, and if I know I'm not in with a chance of winning, I just won't try.

So what about blogging?  Given just how technologically useless I am, I should have decided in advance that I'd be rubbish at blogging and never got started in the first place.  But I did, and I am, and I've realised that blogging (at least the mummy version of it) really isn't a competition.  People have all sorts of stories and all sorts of ways of expressing them and the only universal trait is the support out there.  It's not about who's better or worse or even different from whom. It's about saying what you need to say for the reasons you need to say it.

But I still want to know how I'm doing.  Perhaps especially because I'm still hoping that somewhere along the line the blog will help me find my plan b.    I get very excited by awards, comments, new followers and the British Mummy Blogger of the Week.  (This week's is awesome by the way).  And now I've been reading Sally at Who's the Mummy's posts about the Tots 100 list.  I realise I'm a way off that yet, but (is this an admission you'll all hate me for making?) I'm aiming for it.  I haven't put myself forward yet - as I said, I don't do things I might fail at - but I've done what Sally says, and put myself on Technorati.  I don't really know what it does, and I'm not sure I've done the right thing (I've "claimed" my blog but that might not be right at all).  Anyway they want me to put this code 82R87DV3BSVW into a blog post so they can check that I am who I say I am...

I realise that in the wonderfully supportive blogosphere in which I find myself, perhaps admitting to competitive thoughts is akin to admitting in an NCT class that you're having an elective cs and don't want to breastfeed, but it is, I'm afraid, just who I am. Forgive me?

If I really loved my babies....

....surely I wouldn't seriously be considering not buying them any birthday presents.  Would I?

This time 377 days ago, I had twelve days until I became a mum of three.  Now I have twelve days to organise a first birthday party for two babies.

I've also got ten days to organise a birthday present for my mum, thirteen days to organise a Christening, fourteen days to organise a birthday present for my brother, nineteen days to organise Christmas (that's when we fly to Canada and if it's not done by then....) and a house that is stuffed to the gunwales with toys.

So I'm thinking - Do S & A really need presents? Or at least do they need presents from us? They're getting not one, but two, parties and will doubtless get spoiled rotten at those.  They're only (nearly) one and have no idea what presents, or indeed birthdays, are, so they're not going to care, and anyway, anything that I would want to buy them, someone probably bought L for her first birthday nineteen short months ago.

So why do I feel like a bad mother for even considering it? And what am I going to say when they ask me, in years to come, what I bought them for their birthdays?

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Today's top tip

Don't give a toddler couscous for supper the day your cleaner's been...

Monday, 23 November 2009

A cup of coffee, a panic, an ambulance and the advice that saved my baby.

Yesterday morning wasn't good.  Yesterday afternoon was worse.

We had promised L that we would go and buy her some new knickers and a new potty. So off we went, bundled into the car, for a couple of hours of joy at the retail park.  While there we seized the opportunity also to buy L some new shoes.  She is clearly a changeling because she doesn't appear to enjoy buying shoes (am also wondering if she's really female) so was bribed into it with the promise of cake (more good parenting there).

So off we went to M&S (this being the only retail park in the Western Hemisphere with no Starbucks) for a reviving coffee and cake. 

Picture the scene.  B doing the hunter-gathery stuff at the counter. Me and L sitting on the bench on one side of the table, S and A in highchairs on the other side, all waving to each other and showing each other how clever we are because we can clap.  I wanted to bottle the scene and take it out in years (or hours) to come to remind me of how perfect my girls can be and how lucky I am.

Until B came back with the food and drinks, unloaded them onto the table and went to put the tray away. And A grabbed the full cup of coffee and tipped it all over herself.

It probably didn't happen in slow motion, but it felt like it did.

And in my head was the voice of my lovely friend SVS, saying to me not four weeks ago "I remember when G (her youngest) tipped a pot of tea all over herself. Fortunately I knew exactly what to do.  I ripped her clothes off and charged through the cafe into the ladies and stuck her in the sink and kept her there until the ambulance came.  She's fine now".

I didn't know exactly what to do. I had no idea what to do.  But somehow I heard SVS.  And though I was shaking and crying and yelling for B, together we ripped (literally - we have lost several buttons) her clothes off and B grabbed her and got her in the sink. 

The staff called the ambulance and between us we managed to keep the other two entertained, and A's tummy and chest covered with cold compresses until they got there.  They took us off to the hospital where the doctor told me that due to our prompt action in doing exactly the right thing, she has suffered no serious damage.  Had we not done so it could have been a very different story.  We were home again later on the same day.  A is now clearly feeling a bit sore at times, but she is (and will be) fine.

So anyway, the point of this post is threefold:

First; to thank SVS for her incredibly timely advice (even though she had no idea she was giving advice at the time) and to thank the amazing staff at M&S in Kew.  They were utterly utterly brilliant.  We walked away with new clothes for A, a jigsaw to keep L happy, a towel to wrap A in and they even (bizarrely) refunded all the drinks. They also kept a very stressed and worried pair of parents calm with their sensible and friendly advice and approach.  I've written to them and to their head office, but I also wanted to say it on here.

Second; because this is what I seem to use my blog for a lot of the time, to revisit that panic and fear and to remind myself, in writing, that it is all ok and she (and we) are all fine.

And, most importantly, third; in the hope that others will read this, and if and when (and sadly it's more likely to be when rather than if where babies are concerned), someone else's child grabs something hot, maybe they too will be lucky enough to have a little voice in their head telling them what to do.  And hopefully they too will be fine.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

How to lose friends and alienate an entire Boeing 747

First a word of warning: If you are flying to Vancouver this Christmas and are planning on sitting in economy on the daytime flight on 19 December with BA you might want to change your flights.

(voice of doom)

Because we are going to be on it.

And when I say "we", let's not forget that that includes two just-one-year-olds and a partially potty trained toddler.

By way of background, and before you think I'm insane or ridiculously extravagant to be even thinking of doing such a thing, my brother and his wife now live on Vancouver Island.  We haven't seen them (obviously) since they went in August and I'm missing them.  Plus (and here's where the not ridiculously extravagant bit comes in) if we go now, when S and A are under 2, we don't have to pay for them.  This is a big deal, so with trepidation and gritted teeth, we've booked.

It's going to be amazing.  Be prepared to be jealous, because my lovely parents have booked a chalet in Whistler for the first week and then we've got a few more days with S'n'T (brother and sister-in-law) in their house.

But first we've got to get there.  I think that I've done everything right so far.  I've pre-booked the seats, so that B, L, I and my very long-suffering sister are in a block of four, with S&A on the drop down bassinet/bouncy chair things in front of us (my parents, wisely, are flying business). I've checked whether I can take "proper" milk through security (I can't, so I think I'm going to have to come up with some scheme involving empty water bottles and a rather odd request at Pret). I've got L excited about the flight and being able to watch lots of telly (all normal rules clearly out of the window). My friend KH is going to lend me her flying bag of goodies (she's South African and has done this lots with her 2-year-old).  I've got a shopping list of stickers and new books and colouring pens...

So that's L sorted.  But what about S&A?  They'll be just one.  Very active, very mobile (though not walking) and very likely to get very bored very quickly.

I've already decided I'm going to have to

a) dress them identically in the hope we can play on the cuteidenticaltwins thing and
b) apologise in advance to the entire plane in the hope that that draws their fire.

But what else? How on earth do you entertain two one year olds for ten hours....?

How to un-potty-train a toddler and make an entire family miserable in under three hours.

Today (so far) has not been my proudest day of parenting.

I've written before about how L was (and is) half potty trained.  She wees on the loo, but she poos (deliberately and in a totally in control of her bowels manner) in her nappy.  No nappy, no poo.

I've had lots of good advice about this, both through the blog and otherwise, and the general gist was: don't stress about it; she'll do it when she's good and ready.  Did I take this good and wise advice? Did I hell...  It's a bit like waiting for nail polish to dry, or a scab to heal - you know you should leave it alone and let it do its own thing but somehow you always end up with smeared nail polish, oozing scabs and an un-potty-trained toddler.

So anyway, this morning we took some of the more practical advice:

Us:  Ok L, where do big girls do their poos?
L: On the loo.
Us: and where do babies do their poos?
L: In a nappy
Us: and where do you do your poos?
L: In a nappy
Us:  So you're a baby then are you?
L: No
Us: Well if you do your poos in a nappy you must be a baby.  Do you want to wear a nappy the whole time? (Tee hee, of course she won't, we've won! Hooray!)
L: Yes.


So anyway we put her in a nappy (good parents are always consistent), and spent the next three hours telling her that she still could do wees on the loo ("I don't want a wee") and not letting her do what she wanted because:

Babies don't get to choose their own socks ("Do you want to put your knickers on?" "No")
Babies don't get to walk to the swings ("Do you want to put your knickers on?" "No No")
Babies don't knock on the knocker when we get home ("Do you want to put your knickers on? "NONONO")
Babies aren't allowed to play with playdough ("Do you want to put your knickers on?" "NO!!!!!")
Babies don't get stories read to them ("Nononononononononononononononononononononononononn")

Of course we (like the good parents we are) remained calm and good natured throughout.  So calm and good natured in fact that the morning culminated in her being marched upstairs, forced into her pyjamas (still in the (weed in by this time, naturally) nappy, and shut into her bedroom (babies have their door shut) without any lunch.  S and A decided to join in with the wailing. I considered doing likewise.

The story ends (or perhaps middles) happily though.  She is now in bed (with no nappy on* - like I said, consistency, that's the secret of good parenting), chatting happily to her "friends", with the promise of a trip to Mothercare world to choose a new potty specially for poos and some new knickers when she wakes up.

Wish us luck.

*Actually, after all the above, the no nappy is her choice because "Molly doesn't wear a nappy in bed".  Molly is four.  I think we may be seeing a lot more of Molly in the weeks to come.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Gah! Post! Rubbish! Grrr!

Until about 10.15 this morning I was broadly supportive of the Royal Mail strike action.  I mean, clearly I don't actually know anything about this:  we buy the papers at the weekend but I can't say that I tend to spend the ten minutes I (on average) have actually to read them studying the ins and outs of postal industrial action. I'm more of a skim through the political stuff, read the family section, cut out the recipe sort of girl.  Don't bother with the fashion any more either, but that's probably another story.

Anyway, as I say, from a position of very little knowledge I kind of felt sorry for your average postie. I'd read a couple of articles (see? I do know something about it!) by posties putting their point of view (significantly more articulately than our personal postie would have done mind) and I could see where the grievances came from.  I sympathised with the "last mile" predicament, and I'd huffed and puffed about the inaccurate techniques for measuring the weight they're carrying. I even felt strongly enough in support of them to have a mild disagreement with my friend EB about it.  She won; but then she normally does.

Well not any more.

I came downstairs at 10.10 this morning to find one of those little red cards on the doormat:

"Sorry, you were out. We called at 10.15".

Well, sorry too, but we weren't and you didn't. We were here, all five of us.  Admittedly upstairs, but the house isn't so big you don't hear the thunderous battering ram knock of your average postman wherever you are. And there was no knock.

And, quite frankly, nor did you call at 10.15.  Unless that little red van is also a time machine.  Because it's not actually 10.15 yet, sunshine, and I've been standing here for at least a minute swearing at the thought of having to take three small children up to the "conveniently located" delivery office a 45 minute walk away on Monday morning.

So I thought I'd stick my head out to see, if, perchance, the chronologically-challenged one was still there.  He was, idling away in his red time machine just outside our door.  I shrieked and waved (in a ladylike manner naturally).  Only to watch him drive away.  Taking my parcel with him.

Or not. If you believe, which I am rapidly learning to, that they never have the parcels with them anyway.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Plan B - moving house

This morning I posted about how we weren't going to buy the house we wanted to buy.

This afternoon I accepted an offer on our house.

Now we really need to find somewhere to live.

Revenge is a dish best eaten innocently

Once upon a time there was a house.  It was a beautiful house, in a little village just on the outskirts of Middle-of-Nowhere.  It had been built many years ago in a time when, maybe, houses were a little more elegant than they are these days, and it wore its age with grace.  It was a white house, with roses growing over the door and it had lots of rooms inside for guests to come and stay in , for Middle-of-Nowhere was not the sort of place that people tended to pass through, and just drop in.  If they came, they came to stay.  Children loved the house, and especially its garden; full of flowers and vegetables and secret hidey-holes.

There was a man who lived in the house.  He lived there all alone; but the house didn't want to be lived in by just one man, so it spoke to him and told him to find a family to live in it.  So the man went and talked to another man, whose name was Malcolm, and asked him to find a family who could live in his house.

But Malcolm didn't do very well and so the man got cross with him and told him to go away, and decided that he would find a family to live in his house himself.  This was a good thing because anyway, if Malcolm had found the family, the man would have had to pay him lots of money and he didn't really want to do this.

As if by magic, in the height of Summer, a family appeared.  There were five of them and they loved the house but they weren't sure that they could buy it because there weren't any jobs for the Mummy in Middle-of-Nowhere and she wasn't yet ready to decide to leave the job she already had in Big Smoke.  They said that they would make a decision in the Winter, and the man was happy with this, because if he sold the house before the snow came he would still have to pay Malcolm, and he really didn't want to do this.

Summer passed, and Autumn came, and the Mummy and Daddy decided that they did want to move to Middle-of-Nowhere.  So they talked to the man and he said he would still sell them his house but that there were some people from across the sea who might want to buy it.  Now the Mummy and Daddy wanted to go and see the house again before they decided to buy it, but Middle-of-Nowhere is not easy to get to so they couldn't go straight away.  And the man said that that was fine, and he promised not to sell the house to the people from across the sea (we will call them the Van Hoobie Doobies) in the meantime.

So the Mummy and Daddy went to look at the house, and the man was very kind to them and very keen that they should live in the house.  And the house was just as beautiful as they remembered. So they said to the man that they wanted to buy it.  And he went all weird on them and wouldn't say anything.

So the Mummy and Daddy went back to Big Smoke, very sad and confused, and did everything they could think of that might make the man stop being weird and sell them his house.  They rang their bank, and they talked to their work, and they found a friend for Malcolm who could sell their little house in Big Smoke, and they telephoned the man and said all this and he still wouldn't say anything.

So they found a lawyer, and asked him to find out what was going on.  And he spoke to another lawyer, who spoke to another lawyer, who said "Oh, well he's sold it to the Van Hoobie Doobies already".  So the Mummy and Daddy spoke to the man and asked him why he had let them come all the way to Middle-of-Nowhere if he had already sold the house to someone else and he said that he didn't realise he had.  The Mummy and Daddy weren't entirely convinced by this but they had to accept it and go sadly on with their lives in Big Smoke.   They wondered about telling Malcolm that the man had sold the house before the snow came but didn't.  Instead they consoled themselves with strolling on a nearby hill, Moral High Ground, telling each other that it would all turn out for the best.

But... the Mummy and Daddy had liked Middle-of-Nowhere, with its beautiful scenery, its good schools and its big houses very much so they decided that they would telephone all of Malcolm's friends in and around Middle-of-Nowhere, to see if there were any other houses.  And so, eventually, they talked to Malcolm himself. And they said to themselves that they wouldn't mention the house to Malcolm, but Malcolm mentioned the house to them and said that he would call the man and see if he might still want to sell the house to the Mummy and Daddy.

And the Mummy and Daddy thought about lying to Malcolm, and not telling him that they already knew the house, and already loved it.  But Malcolm is, despite his profession, a nice man, and they decided that this wasn't fair.  So they told Malcolm the whole story.  And the thing is, Malcolm knew the Van Hoobie Doobies too. In fact, he had introduced the Van Hoobie Doobies to the house, and to the man.  And in fact the man had agreed to sell his house to the Van Hoobie Doobies in the Spring, long before the Mummy and Daddy had even heard of the house, but he hadn't told Malcolm, and he hadn't told the Mummy and Daddy. He had just lied to them all throughout, and told them all that the house had not been sold, and was still looking for a family, and that Malcolm was a nasty man, because he didn't want to pay Malcolm his money.

But now Malcolm knows. 

So the house is still sold, and the Mummy and Daddy will have to find somewhere else to live, but the man will have to pay Malcolm his money which will make him very cross.  And in the meantime the Mummy and Daddy will continue to stroll on the (lower slopes perhaps) of Moral High Ground.

Oh, and if the twee fairy tale version irritates, believe me, it's much better than the expletive laden one I wrote first...

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

An update and an (well two really) award

I mentioned, a while back, that S and A had had their first day apart.  But I never wrote anything about how it went.  That's mostly because, as I probably could have guessed, it was a bit of an anti-climax.  A and I had a lovely day and I think she loved spending time with just me.  S? Well...  Actually, S also had a lovely day and according to the people at nursery didn't seem to notice A wasn't there at all.  When we went to pick her up she was much more excited to see me than she was to see A.  Hey ho.  That twin bond. It's a very special thing.

While I'm doing the update, I thought I'd revisit the smack .  I thought people might have strong opinions on this one and it turns out I was right.  Well, day five of not smacking and, funnily enough, I haven't done it again.  L, incidentally, didn't even realise I had smacked her.

Before I leave that subject altogether though, I must say a specific thanks to Grit who wrote a very long and thoughtful comment, which seemed to me to hit (deliberate choice of words there!) right to the heart of the whole issue. She makes the point that we can't define the relationship with the children we love so much by isolated incidents, because it, and we, and they are so much more than that.  So thank you.

Oh, and on the job front, I'm going down to two days a week in January.  Wish me luck.  I may be clamouring to get back to work after the first week...

All that aside, this week I've had my first blogging award.  It's the not entirely flattering Honest Scrap award and I have been given it twice, by the lovely Babyrambles and MuddynoSugar.

Here are the rules:

1. ‘The Honest Scrap Blogger Award’ must be shared.

(Babyrambles shared with 10 people, but I'm going with MuddynoSugar's rules here), so the lucky five are:

Baby Baby
Not wrong, Just different
Today I think I want
Carrot in Mum's hair
Potty Mummy

And if they've already been the lucky recipients well then, like me, they're twice the honest scrap!

2. The recipient has to tell 10 (true) things about themselves that no one else knows.

Ten things you didn't know about me (I'm assuming when we say "you" we don't include people I'm married to, because there's not much he doesn't know. Never sure whether that's a good thing or not).

1. I used to be a Samaritan
2. But I stopped because I found myself wanting to tell them to SHUT UP, PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER AND STOP WHINGING
3. I once got detained by the KGB (or FSB, modern inheritor thereof).  I hadn't done anything wrong. Honest.
4. On the blogging front, I have no idea what a meme is.
5. I was the person who always broke the chain letter, or the chain email, or the chain post a pair of knickers back to the first person on the list (and yes, that really existed), so it's a miracle that I'm doing this.
6.  I've made a resolution not to break any blogging award "chains".
7.  None of my suits really fit round the waist but I'm too stingy to buy any new ones.  Because after all, it's only work.
8. I don't really like coffee. I just drink it because I'm a grown up and I feel it's the sort of thing grown ups like.
9. I own every mystery Agatha Christie wrote.
10. I sort of want another baby

Friday, 13 November 2009

I just smacked my daughter.

There.  I've said it.  I've put it out in the world.  I honestly don't know whether I'm expecting vitriol, empathy or the "knock, knock" on the door of the socialservicesautomaticallygoingtotakeallyourchildrenawaypolice that I torture myself with every time I'm a bad parent.

I never thought I'd be writing this.  I never thought I'd need to.  And anyway so much other stuff has gone on this week I thought I'd be writing about that.

But I'm not.  I'm writing about how I hit my daughter.  And left a big red hand print, with white bits between the marks of my fingers, on her perfect, naked, 2 and a half year old bottom.

She bit me, you see. B has gone out for a  pre-stag dinner (he can't go to the actual stag which is tomorrow) and so he was getting ready while I was in charge of the bath. I was trying to carry S into the bathroom and L wanted to be carried too. I can't really manage them both at once any more, and I told her that.  So she bit me.  Hard. On the shoulder.  There's a red mark there too, and the white imprint of twenty tiny teeth.

Years ago, I taught for a while in a school in Nepal.  Corporal punishment was the norm there and I was horrified.  I swore to myself I'd never hit a child.  But I did. Because they expected it, and when they discovered that I wouldn't hit them, they acted up. So I did.  But it escalates.  You start off doing it lightly and then they realise it doesn't hurt, so they do whatever it is they were doing again, and then you get angry and before you know it you've hit a child hard in anger.  And they're still misbehaving.  So I learned, quite quickly, that it doesn't work to hit a child.

Yet I have. And I did it consciously.  She bit me, I yelled in shock and pain, I paused, and then I smacked her.  I don't know that I thought it through, but in that pause I could have stopped myself and I didn't.  I think, if I try and analyse it now, I wanted her to feel as shocked as I was.

And the really frightening thing? It worked.  She cried, but B came downstairs and picked her up and she said she wanted to say sorry to Mummy.  So she came into the bathroom where I was bathing A and S and she apologised.  We talked about how biting was a naughty thing to do, and then she was lovely.  We had the best bath- and bedtime we've had in weeks. No complaining, no whinging; lovely stories, lovely cuddles; lots of giggling and very proudly putting her own pjs on; "I love you Mummy".

I realise that the reason it worked, if indeed it did work and wasn't just a coincidence, was the shock:  I suspect that she doesn't actually understand what happened.  So there's no point in doing it again, even if I wanted to. Which I don't. I'm hoping and planning that in twenty years time I'll be able to say "I only hit you once, you were two and a half and you bit me."

But then I never hoped or planned to hit her in the first place.  And yet, I don't feel that guilty about it either.

Friday, 6 November 2009

What a waste?

My parents came to stay last night.  This happens quite frequently because my mum, who is a saint in human form*, comes up once a week to help me take A&S swimming and my dad, who isn't very well, prefers to be where she is (bless!).

So anyway, last night, my dad had some dinner for his old cricket team (he hasn't played cricket since about 1975 but still), so we had the pleasure of my mum's company for the evening.

We were talking about my current dilemmas, options and choices when she said "funny really; after all that expensive education you're going to throw it all away to make hats. Ha ha."

That was a joke by the way.

Except I didn't find it terribly amusing.  Because, guess what, that's occurred to me too.  I am ridiculously expensively- and well-educated. My dad worked long hours in a stressful job to pay for this and my siblings and I did what we were "supposed" to do by going on to good universities, getting good degrees, and good jobs. Now here I am; with (allegedly) potential to go "all the way" in my Proper Job, and I'm talking about walking away from it to look after my children.  Is that a waste of my education?  Apparently my father thinks so.  And although it was a "joke", I suspect my mother's not far away.

Now I don't want to go through this all again because even I'm bored of it and I've come to the conclusion that I've got to do what feels right for me and my family, even if I don't yet know what that is.  But what worries me is that if even my own parents don't understand that what hope have I got that anyone else will?

* and, like, I imagine, most saints, she makes mere mortals (including yours truly) feel guilty and irritable much of the time...

Thursday, 5 November 2009

In it for the money

I, (like many others it seems) have noticed recently a lot of blogs out there asking if mummy blogging has become too commercialised and whether we're all just in it for the money.  For two great examples have a look at Iota's post here and Susanna's at A Modern Mother here.  So, for what it's worth, as a newbie to the blogging scene.  I thought I'd throw in my twopence hap'orth (sorry, just a phrase I've always wanted to use).

So here's a confession.  I started this blog for the money.  I've mentioned before that I'd never read a blog before my friend AK encouraged me to start one. Her advice, when I said I was looking for a Plan B, was to start a blog because:

"All you need is a good hook, some knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO), and basic design skills and you're off to the races. Mommy blogs are all the rage here and the mommies behind the most popular blogs can make thousands of dollars a week in ad revenue, plus they get lots of free products to "test.""

AK is, in case you hadn't guessed, American.  I replied with words along the lines of "I don't know what a blog is, I don't imagine anyone would want to read my witterings anyway,  and really, honestly, who's going to pay for them?  If I'd thought I could write well enough to get paid for it I'd have become a journalist.  And I lack any knowledge of any of the stuff you mention to boot".

But, nonetheless, I did it.  I started a blog.  Because why not? And to my amazement there are a small and select number of people out there who do want to read it.  They don't pay for it, and I can't imagine they ever will. But that's ok, because I've realised, in the space of a few short weeks, that maybe I'm not in it for the money after all.  Because I get so much more out of it than money.

For the first week or so I really was doing it for me.  No-one else was reading it.  But that in itself was good.  I hadn't realised how much writing down what I was feeling would help.  And just settling down, in my own space, for ten minutes every couple of days gave me a sense of being my own person and doing something just for me that I don't think I've felt in about 2 1/2 years. 

The first time a miracle occurred and someone I hadn't met commented on my blog, I got a huge glow of pride and and a boost of confidence.  I'm not alone!  There are people out there who are interested in me!  They care about what I'm writing! They think I write well!  For a woman who was questioning her ability to do anything well that was, and is, a huge support.

Then there's the advice.  People have said all sorts of sensible things in response to my idiocies, and some of them we have acted upon. Some of them have worked too.  And those that are still a work in progress.... well, we'll see...

And then I outed myself.  Nominally this blog is still anonymous though I don't imagine it would be too difficult for someone who really wanted to to work out who I am.  Nonetheless I hadn't told any of my friends I was doing it because I was embarrassed.  But then, (back to the pride and the confidence) Potty Mummy chose me as the blogger of the week.  Now I know, out there in the real world, that's maybe not a very big thing. But it was to me.  So I put it on my facebook status

Lots of people said lovely things.  But the two that have meant most to me are from the two Susannas.  I've known both of them for years.    But I've sort of lost touch with them both recently.  Now they've both read my blog and they've taken the time to send me messages of support and love, with some wise advice thrown in.  And as a result I feel as though I am better friends with them both.  And that has a value that can't be counted.

Blogging has given me an outlet for my stresses and dithers, confidence, time for me,  new friends and even old friends.  Yes, a book deal would be great.  But while I'm waiting I'll settle for what I've got.

Madeleine McCann

As I'm sure you all know, Madeleine vanished in May 2007.  She will now be 6 years old. A new appeal is being launched, including age-enhanced pictures of how she might look now.  Social networkers and bloggers are being asked to spread the video below in the hope that someone, somewhere knows something that will help Madeleine's family find her.

Please watch it and pass it on.

Separation anxiety

I said yesterday that work were very understanding about this whole beingamother thing.  Well, second test today.  A is ill.

So this means two things:

1.  I am at home (again) on a day when I should be working; and (more importantly)
2.  A and S are spending a day apart.  For the first time ever.

They are nearly 11 months old and they've never spent more than half an hour apart in their lives.  B left with S and L about ten minutes ago and so far so fine.  A is pulling herself up on the DVD player (favourite trick) and babbling away to herself (she's not very ill, clearly); she doesn't seem to have noticed, or maybe doesn't care, that her sister isn't here.

But I do.  I feel like I've done something simultaneously unimportant and momentous.  One of them is ill, the other isn't so clearly one should go to nursery and the other should stay at home. I didn't even think about keeping L at home because A is poorly, so why should it be any different for S?  What's the fuss all about?

At the same time, this is a very important moment in their lives and as a result I am feeling very wobbly about it.  I try to avoid parenting books, but one of the twin mantras I've absorbed over the last 18 or so months since I discovered I was having identical twins is the importance of giving each of them their own identity.  And a  big part of that must be allowing them to realise that they can, and should, be able to spend time apart from each other.  This is the first hurdle on the road to independence from each other and, dare I say it, from me.

So it feels like a big deal.  It could go one of two ways.  They (or one of them) will be fine. Or they won't.  Watch this space...

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Too much choice!

In one of my earliest posts (she says as though she's been blogging for years; when in fact she means "about four weeks ago") I commented on how maybe having all the choices the modern woman has (to work, to look after the children, to do a bit of both in whatever fashion that works for you) isn't all it's cracked up to be.  And maybe it would be easier just to be told what to do and have done with it.

Well, having thought I had two, maybe three choices, I now discover they are (or feel as though they are) infinite.  The problem is I now have to decide what I want.

I had an awful day at work on Friday.  I ended up in tears of mixed rage and frustration on a colleague which is never the most professional of looks, and only narrowly avoided throwing my letter of resignation at anyone who'd catch it and marching out (probably to Scotland, but then that's another story), never to return.  I thought I'd calmed down, but I got wound up enough last night about having to go to work today that, in a manner reminiscent of my elder daughter, I refused to go to bed because then I'd have to get up in the morning and I picked a huge fight with an innocent bystander (aka husband) about (of all things) karaoke.

I woke up this morning thinking "this is it. I've got to do something before I drive my marriage into the ground and myself into the local psychiatric ward".

I've done very little work today because I've mostly been in meetings with much-maligned, but if today's experience is anything to go by, utterly sympathetic and wonderful HR people.  And it turns out that having felt unloved, unwanted and unsupported, I am anything but.  It transpires that I'm good at my Proper Job.  Good enough that they will do anything they can to keep me.  I can go one day a week, or two, or do a totally different job within the same organisation, or be a consultant and only work when I want to and they want me to, or stop altogether and work out as much or as little notice as I like.

I cried.  Again.  Still not very professional but they seemed to understand.

So now I have to decide what I want.  I can stay, or I can go.  And I feel very lucky and privileged that (unlike, I imagine, most women in my shoes) whatever I decide, the people for whom I have worked for the last nine years will support me.

Doesn't make the choice any easier though.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Moved to tears...

... by two things, one in the mummyblogosphere and one tangentially so.

I'm not sure if there's a copyright (or etiquette) related issue why I shouldn't do this, so apologies if so, but I have to highlight Gaby Hinsliff's article in yesterday's Observer.  Gaby is, or used to be, the political editor of the paper and she has just given up to be with her son.  She writes wonderfully, movingly, well about her emotions, motivations and doubts.

We buy a paper every week, just so we can look as though we still have interests outside the four walls of our home, the tube and the office, but this is the first time in weeks I've actually read it.  And even then, I was interrupted by two calls from work and one poo from L - which I think says it all about this working mum thing.  I am so glad I did.  Gaby has articulated so many of the thoughts that have been hurtling round this thing I have that used to be a brain, and if I do eventually decide to hand in my notice, a copy of her article will be attached to my resignation letter...

If you haven't read it, do, and then have a look at Gaby's blog, but if you haven't time, here is the bit that did it for me:

"I don't honestly believe that either [work/childcare] suffered from the other.  But what got lost in the rush was a life, if a life means having time for the people you love, engaging with the world around you, making a home rather than just running a household."

When someone else is putting it as wonderfully as that, I wonder why I am scratching away at my keyboard, failing to put into words the same thoughts.

But, just as I was about to lose faith in my blog, I saw this and was moved to tears again (possibly I may be a little hormonal at the moment)  I am officially the British Mummy Blogger of the week!  Is it pathetic to be this proud and delighted?  Thank you very much to Potty Mummy for giving me the confidence to keep going.  I am loving blogging, and if I do ever decide to show my copy of Gaby's article to my boss, at least I will have my blog to keep those little grey cells (or lack thereof) ticking over.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Poo - viewers of a sensitive nature may find some scenes distressing

I'm not sure what the dictionary definition of "potty-trained" is, but assuming it's along the lines of "has control of bowel and bladder movements and can relieve oneself when and where one wants",  L is potty trained.

It's just not working out quite how I'd like.

We did it in June - we were staying in a house with a downstairs loo and no carpets so it seemed wise.  She was great.  We cracked the wees pretty much straightaway with the help of some haute couture Iggle Piggle pants, and the poos seemed fine too.  She's still in a nappy for her nap and at night so the fact that we occasionally had a poo in a nappy didn't seem to be a problem.

Only now it's the end of October, and we don't seem to have got any further.  It's not that she can't control it,  she's in 100% control (which I think maybe the driving force behind it), it's just that she does her poos where and when she'd like (in her nappy, five minutes after I've put her to bed) and not where and when I'd like (on the loo, at a time of her choosing).  Oh and yesterday she tried to clean herself up too....

I've resorted to the parenting books (not normally my preferred reading unless I want to feel more guilty than I already do), and they say helpful things like "it is important to find out the reason your child is doing this".  How do you do that with a 2 year old?  L is pretty articulate, but I don't think she knows why she's doing it, much less has the vocabulary, or self-awareness to put it into words.

We've had lots of conversations about it, so she knows that she's a big girl, and big girls use the loo and she knows that babies use a nappy, and she's not a baby, and that her friends use the loo; and she agrees and smiles and goes on her own merry way.  We even resorted to bribery:

Me: "L, what could I give you that would make you do a poo on the loo"
L: (thinks hard, for the most outlandish and exotic thing she can imagine) "a lollipop"
Me: (very relieved, having been slightly concerned at having to explain acquisition of a puppy to non-dog-loving husband) "well, as it so happens I have a lollipop downstairs, if you do a poo on the loo, you can have a lollipop"
L: "I don't want a lollipop".


I know, because I've learned this over the last 2 1/2 years, that this too will pass, and when she's 15 she won't still be in nappies, but I just can't see how. Presumably at some point she will just decide that she's ready, but oh, don't I wish she'd do so soon!

Plan B - first attempt - millinery

I may, today, have taken my first teeny steps to an alternative way of life (sounds like I'm going to live up a tree, but you know what I mean).

I've signed up for a millinery course. Evenings, of course, and only one of them a week, so it'll probably take me about ten years finally to finish one hat, but if I like it and if I'm good at it, who knows what might happen...

And when I'm a milliner to the stars, remember you read it here first.

In the meanwhile, here's a picture of the only hat I've made so far.  The dress was navy and white if anyone's interested.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Baby weight

Not mine.  S and A's.  They're ten months old and I'm worrying about their weight...

When they were born, they were seven ounces apart.  Whenever I've had them weighed A has been heavier, but never by much.  The last time was at their ten month check. To nobody's great surprise, A was still heavier, by 11 ounces.  Which isn't much, even if you only weigh 20 pounds...

They're identical, so I could sit here wondering why A is always heavier, but it's not very complicated:  she eats more.

Now if I had just one baby and she ate like A, I'd think "great, she eats plenty"; and if I had just one baby and she ate like S, I'd think "great, she eats plenty".  But now I'm fretting about how much A eats.

Why? Because I really, really don't want her to be "the fat one".

Neither B nor I are what you might call slender, and we both come from families where doctors look at you slightly disapprovingly and say "well, you could do with losing....", so none of my girls is ever likely to be naturally slim.  But that's fine. It's taken me a long time to accept that I'm ok as I am, extra half stone or no, and I am adamant that one of the things I most want to teach the girls is to have the mythical healthy relationship with food:  to eat when they're hungry, and not eat when they're not, and to be happy with the way they look.

And it seems to me, that if you've got a pair of identical twins and one regularly eats more than the other, that's going to show, and then that's going to become the distinguishing feature.  And I'm not sure how you teach a girl to have my idealised "healthy relationship" with food if she's constantly referred to as "fat" for being a few pounds (or ounces) heavier than her sister...

But then nor do I want to put a ten month old baby, or indeed a child of any age, on a diet.  So I guess I just have to let nature, and their natures, take its course.  And hope I can give them both the confidence just to be who they are.  Help!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Fertility on show

One of the good things about going back to work is that I get to go on the tube again.  Tubes aren't designed for harrassed mothers with three small children all intent on getting really close to the mouse they can see "down there, in the hole, mummy".  This means I get to find out what's happening in the world.  Because I see the ads for it.

Clearly I'll never go and see any of the films, or buy any of the stuff, they're advertising. I'm out of the target market these days.  The ads they aim at me are the ones that come on between Property Ladder and the X Factor, not the ones for people who go out.

Anyway, one of the ads that has caught my eye now that I am allowed out of the house is the one for the "Fertility Show".  At Olympia.  Two days and 80 exhibitors.

Now, I realise that I have absolutely no right at all to comment on this, because we, and I am eternally grateful for this, to my great astonishment and despite my PCOS, didn't need any help to conceive.  So bear with me while I comment and forgive me if I say something insenstive or inappropriate.

But surely, the point of the various "shows" (Baby Show, Wedding Show, Bike Show, Tinned Soup Show whatever) is that they're not "shows", they're trade fairs.  They are designed for people to market stuff they want to sell, and to sucker in the punters into thinking that yes they really do need to give everyone who comes to their wedding a box of matches with the date on it. 

And it seems to me that there is something very wrong about treating fertility (or, let's be honest, infertility) as just another opportunity to make money . However much people are prepared to pay.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Working mum again - week 2

Week two starts tomorrow (yes, I know it's a Wednesday, that's when my week starts.)

I've had a really lovely couple of days with the girls on my own. We've done nothing very exciting, but it's been fun, and as calm as life ever gets around here.  Even L's monumental tantrum on being woken up in our bed (she was still asleep at 4pm and even I, a firm believer in don'twakethebabyupever, decided enough was enough) somehow didn't faze me.

So is that because I'm back at work and 2 days with the children is easier than 5?  Or am I beginning to see that childcare can be a choice, and a choice I can choose to enjoy?

I didn't mind my two days at work last week (let's be honest, three years ago a two day week would have been, literally, a holiday),  but I didn't actively enjoy being there.  Good things: sitting on the tube reading my book, several cups of coffee, several conversations that didn't have to get interrupted to wipe someone's bottom/nose, having to think about what I wanted to do next and being able to choose, a whole day with no sick on my clothes...

The problem is that none of these are directly related to my job.  They're just more about having some space for me.

Let's see how I feel tomorrow.

Monday, 19 October 2009

The Twin Thing

I'm not a student of marketing or economics, but even I, fountain-pen using, non-i-phone-owning dinosaur that I am, have noticed that everything now seems to have a "USP".

And if this blog has a USP, to separate it from the hundreds of other "mommy blogs" that are apparently out there, I suppose it's the twin thing.  I don't know how many women out there are fretting about the same decisions as me, but it's probably tens of thousands, if only a small percentage of them blog, an even smaller percentage (presumably 1.25% or the one in eighty pregnancies which is twins) will also have twins.

Yet, I haven't, as yet, blogged about the twins.  Why not?  Well, the pc answer is because they're not "the twins", they're A and S and should be treated, by their mother possibly above all other people, as the individuals they are.

Sadly the true answer is probably closer to: "because I'm selfish and so far have pretty much only blogged about memememememememe"; the girls, whether twins or not, have only been mentioned in passing.

So here we go: my first blog exclusively on the subject of twins.  Here's the stuff I should print out and hand to everyone who shows the whites of their eyes when they see me, before stuttering out "goodness, you've got your hands full":

  • No, twins don't run in my family.  Or at least they do, but that's not why I had S and A.  They're identical and identicals aren't (or at least aren't thought to be) hereditary.  That said, my dad's a non-identical twin and my brother- and sister-in-law also have identical girls.  Seems unlikely that that's not hereditary? Statistically it must happen every now and then (someone else can do that bit of maths).
  • Their mother can't "always tell them apart". It took me about seven months to be able to do it all the time and I still make the occasional mistake.  Small rant alert: it is not in any way helpful to the new mother of twins who's already comprised entirely of maternal guilt and stress to say "oh, well of course you can tell them apart".  She probably can't and even if she can she'll have got it wrong at least once a day since they were born.  All you're doing is making her feel like a cr@p mother.
  • That said, I am 100% certain that A is A and S is S.  A has nail polish on one of her toes, and has done since day 1.
  • It is most definitely not "2 for the price of 1". It's 2 for the price of 2.  Or, more often, more expensive than that because all the stuff that you bought for number one child thinking you could use it again for number 2 you have to buy all over again because number 3 wants to use it at the same time.
  • They don't wake each other up.  This is amazing and astounding and utterly, utterly, brilliant.  Ours shared a cot (snazzy modern parenting lingo: "co-slept") for about six months until they got too big for the cot, and one of them could be screaming her little head off while the other slept on, stirring only to breathe.  I never worked out in those situations which one of them was "sleeping like a baby".
  • I, for one, never get bored of talking about them.  They're two of the three-equal-best babies in the world, how could I?  
  • Parents, and families, of identical twins find them just as fascinating as the rest of the world. It doesn't get less interesting and amazing when you see them every day.  It gets more.  How can they be so alike and so different?  S and A are genetically identical, and, at least at the moment, eat and do pretty much the same stuff at the same times, yet they need totally differing amounts of sleep.  How does that work? And why does A have a double crown and S not?  Surely that at least must be genetic - they can't blame our parenting for that one, can they?
  • Not all twin pregnancies end in total bed-rest, can't move, can't walk, can't eat, major high-risk delivery panic panic horror.... despite what the consultants say, and whatever happened to your neighbour's sister-in-law's second cousin once removed. I know I was very, very lucky because I've met lots of twin mums who have had an awful time, and I am wordlessly grateful for it,  but despite being 4 foot round the waist, I was mobile, comfortable and happy right up to the day they emerged wailing, through the sunroof (am too posh to push, naturally), with everything where it was supposed to be. We were home in 2 days.
And now here we are, ten months later, still very definitely learning about these two astoundingly different, astonishingly similar little people.  Every day they amaze me, and every day they make me smile. Sometimes they even let me write things like this. Can't complain really.

The missing super-toddler

L still has a sleep during the day.  Often it's not a sleep as such but "playing quietly with [her] friends" (of the small and stuffed variety).  Today she really didn't want to go but I dumped her into bed anyway, because this is MY time.  Since then, I've washed up, cleared up and even had a look at some property porn on the web.  No noise from upstairs.

A has just woken up and started wimpering, so I went up to get her (S sleeps on, oblivious). I popped my head into L's room to check she was asleep and she wasn't there!

Cue bemused, supressed, panic.  She's not there, she's not in A and S's room, but she can't have left the house, so where is she...?

Answer: in our room, in our bed, fast asleep with her head under the pillow (if you'd just walked in and weren't looking for her you wouldn't even have noticed she was in there), and her pants on (back to front, of course) over her pyjamas.  Supertoddler, always there to keep you on your toes....

Thursday, 15 October 2009

What's the point?

I've been wondering why I'm bothering to do this. 

The thing is, I'm mortifyingly, cringingly, horrendously embarrassed that I've got a blog.  If the point of having a blog is for people to read it, then you have, presumably, to tell them that you're doing it.  Only I can't bring myself to do so.  So they aren't, and unless I start telling them, they won't.

So then why am I bothering?

This isn't, to be fair, my idea.  My friend AK came up with it, and she's American... but I think the point is that here I am, endlessly rotating the same questions, choices and arguments in my head:  to work, not to work, to look after the children, to get someone else to do it, to find an intellectual pursuit, to enjoy yourself, to be fulfilled, to have a happy marriage, to be so bored you argue with your other half just for something to do, to do what you were trained to do, to follow your heart... and somehow I have to resolve them into a plan that's right for me and my family, regardless of what my parents, my friends, my employers, or society at large may think.

And somehow, I get the feeling I'm not alone.

It's a bit teenage to write down all your thoughts and feelings, and my days of doodling little hearts above my "i"s are long behind me, but perhaps by committing them to type, I can work out how I feel and get myself on the track to that elusive Plan B; a nirvana in which I am happy and fulfilled, still manage to bring some income into the house and have time to give my husband and children the attention and love they deserve.

So maybe this is just a cheap (and silent) therapist and life coach. 

But if I am right and there are other mums out there feeling the same way, maybe it could be that, and more, for all of us.  Maybe I'm doing it in the hope, despite the luddite shame, that it will be read.  And maybe, if it is read, those others out there can help me (and I them) towards our own individual Plans B.  With (hopefully) some ranting and swearing along the way.

Nursery v. Nanny

Of course it could be argued that part (or all) of today's problems are caused by our (admittedly unusual) decision to send three children to nursery rather than get a nanny.  If there were a nanny, L wouldn't have to go anywhere so wouldn't kick up a fuss (this is ignoring the fact that she's two so is perfectly capable of kicking up a fuss about being given the wrong pair of socks, much less being left with a nany), and S & A could stay home with the nanny and their conjunctivitis, while Mummy swans off to her Proper Job.

Which is perfectly true.

So did we make the wrong decision?  I'm still not sure.

L has been in nursery for over a year now.  She was there when I went back to work before I had A and S and we kept her there for a couple of days a week when I was off with them.  She loves it, she has lots of friends and she does stuff there that I just wouldn't or couldn't do with her - I can't play pass the parcel with just her and me, and I won't upend a tin of beans on the floor and let her squish her feet in them (maybe I'm a bad mummy, but...).   Despite this, when we first started thinking about childcare for three we just assumed we'd get a nanny.

We did the whole advertise, interview, offer the job, get turned down, advertise again, offer the job thing and found someone lovely and experienced.  Not Mary Poppins, but nearly.  And then I changed my mind.

Weirdly, although nursery is more expensive, it was sort of about the money.  Nannies in London want £10 net an hour.  That sounds not unreasonable until you realise that you also have to pay her tax and national insurance.  When you've done that you actually end up paying £14 an hour. Or £140 a day.  Plus heat and light and food and activities...  Even ignoring the latter, if I were to pay my nanny £10 net an hour, I worked out I would be earning £5 net an hour.

Somehow I just couldn't get my head around the fact that my nanny was going to be taking home twice as much as me for doing my job.  And when I thought about it it did feel like my job and I suddenly couldn't bear the idea that there would be someone else in my house looking after my children.

Which is a silly and emotional reaction, but there it is. 

So we approached the nursery, who've come up with a fantastic deal. I can't reproach them as they've been great.  They're still more expensive (I'm earning £2.50 an hour - about which inevitably more later) but we do feel that the girls will get more from the nursery than they would from a nanny.  If I were a marketing nonsense person I'd talk about costs and benefits.  There's a greater cost but I think the benefits are greater.

But, as I'm rapidly discovering, there appears to be a downside too.

It's not going as well as I thought it would.

Here we are, day 2.

If you'd asked me, three days ago, what were the things that I thought could potentially go wrong with this whole workingmumof3 thing I'd have said:

  • I might not like my job any more; or
  • One or all of the girls might get ill and then I can't go to work because I have to stay home and look after them; or
  • One or all of the girls might be difficult about nursery
We haven't quite hit the jackpot yet, but by 6pm yesterday we'd got two, maybe two and a half going strong...

Work was ok, dull but ok. My big boss is on holiday so there isn't really much for me to do at the moment which is probably a good thing as I think I've forgotten most of what I ever knew.  It was nice to see people, but I can't say I was filled with delight at being there.  It was just a job. 

So that's maybe half.

And the other two we've got right on the money: L is acting up big time; she refused to come home from nusery last night and refused to go there this morning.  She made her feelings clear as only a two-year-old can.  And A and S have conjunctivitis, are on antibiotics and not allowed in the nursery.

So hence here I am, 10 am, day 2 of my resumed career, sitting at home on the sofa with flip flops on.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Plan A - or where we are now.

I'm going back to work tomorrow.  I've had eleven months off: a roller coaster of love, misery, panic, and all the things that come out of various bits of babies.

I never questioned the wisdom of going back to work before.  After L I had thirteen months off, went back without looking back and loved it.  Of course I was only there for seven months which may have helped, but still.  This time round I'm having second thoughts. Or third.  Or fifty-seventh.

If I were my grandmother, I wouldn't be having this debate with myself (not to mention anyone else who'll stay still long enough to listen).  I wouldn't have had a choice; I'd have got married, and if I'd had a job I'd have given it up then and there.  If I were really unusual, I'd have hung on with my job until I got pregnant, but then that would be it.  Full-time motherhood the only option.  Instead, and courtesy of the women who flung themselves under horses, tied themselves to lamp-posts and burned their bras, I'm boring even myself with the endless question of what is right: for the girls, for me, for us as a family, for rabbit's friends and relations...

Sometimes I wonder if choice is all it's cracked up to be.

So here I am, going back to work. Because I have a job, and it's a good one.  A Proper Job, with an office and a secretary and everything. I even have to wear a suit.  I have a degree too, and somewhere in there the remnants and remininscences of a brain.  So clearly my only option is to use them. 

And I'm going to.  Roll on tomorrow.

If this is Plan A, what's Plan B?

When you're standing in the queue in M&S with three screaming children, and you haven't got any spare nappies or snacks and you then realise they're going to charge you for a plastic bag, you don't mind, or at least not much, because it's for Plan A.

Because there is no Plan B.

Which is kind of a problem from where I'm coming from...

Plan A: Go to school, go to university, get a degree, get a Proper Job, find a lovely man, get married, get a house (not necessarily in that order), get pregnant, get pregnant again, get twins, get back to work, get juggling, get tired and stressed and confused about whether this really is it.

Or Plan B: ...

Erm well, that's the problem, there doesn't yet appear to be a Plan B.

So here I am. Starting a blog in the hope, probably faint, that it will be my first teetering, tentative step on the path to Plan B. Whatever that may be...