Thursday, 24 December 2015

Monday, 21 December 2015

Why I'm 'Buying In To' The Magic of Christmas

This year, for the first time, I have done a 'Christmas Eve Box' for my children. It contains new pyjamas, a Christmas film, popcorn, 'reindeer food', a book, Santa's Magic Key, a Christmas activity book and some sweets (thanks for the ideas Pinterest). It's the first time I've done it because our eldest is finally, at the grand old age of 3, old enough to appreciate it and because it's our first Christmas with both of our children (and we're not having any more because I would like a full night's sleep at some point in the next five years).

I was excitedly telling someone about my Christmas Eve Box (not a euphemism - see above) the other day to which they responded;

"Oh so you've bought into all that have you? We never used to make such a big deal of it all and we still had great Christmasses."

To which I didn't really have a response (I've got sh*tloads now but at the time, no appropriate words were forthcoming).

But it made me think; am I just making a big deal of it all? We're not a particularly religious family. Am I just jumping on the bandwagon to give myself a great time?

Err no. Because actually some of it is rather stressful. Like the idea to write a letter from an elf everyday of Advent (a bit like Elf on the Shelf except they freak me out a little bit and I suspect they would freak out the three year old). Merry McJingles (yep - totally proud of the name) leaves our boys a letter every day. Which was great in the beginning. But it started to get difficult around Day 15 when I couldn't think of much more to tell them about the North Pole, except the fact that it's cold and the elves are wrapping presents and giving Rudolph a bath. It also didn't help that I thought I would make the letters look oh-so-authentic by sealing them with actual. red. wax. This was a ridiculous idea for two main reasons; number one, the children have no idea about wax seals because they were only born a few minutes ago. The three year old calls them 'stickers' (should've just used stickers) and the ten month old tries to eat them. And number two, getting a perfect circle of wax in the correct place on the seal of an envelope is bloody hard! I was peeling wax off my kitchen work tops, my fingers, my dressing gown and out of my hair for days after my first attempts (ok, not days but definitely a few minutes).


Advent calendar and the first letter from Merry McJingles

But you know what the three year old rushes to find every morning? The sweets in his advent calendar? No. His letter from Merry McJingles. He truly believes that one of Santa's elves is writing to him personally and is delivering him letters, to our house, specially for Christmas. His face when he finds the letters is amazing and completely magical. It makes the stupid wax idea totally worth it.

And that's the same reason I've made up a Christmas Eve Box. Not to spoil my children. Not to jump on a bandwagon.

But because Christmas, for me is about spending time with my family. Giving so much more than presents. Giving time. Giving appreciation for each other. Giving love and cuddles. Giving back to people who have given so much to us in the past and continue to do so (thanks Mum and Dad).

My Christmasses as a child were always magical. If I could somehow still believe in Santa I would. No, we didn't have a Christmas Eve Box and an elf didn't write to us. But we always had a new story for Dad to read to us on Christmas Eve (personal highlight - a signed copy of The Jolly Christmas Postman - who doesn't love a book where you get to open envelopes?!) And at the end of Christmas Day, there was always a new game waiting for us right at the back of the tree. Me and my sister would open it and we would all play it as a family. We began to anticipate this gift but never expect it, because we were brought up to understand that Christmas was about more than just presents. It was about making memories of good times with family and friends.

And that's what I hope to teach my children. When they are thirty and they look back on childhood Christmasses, I want them to remember, not that they got a big pile of stuff on Christmas Eve in a special box, but that, as a family, we put on our pyjamas, opened the popcorn and watched a movie together, all snuggled on the sofa, before sprinkling reindeer food on the front lawn, having their new bedtime story and falling asleep for Santa to come.

I'm not buying into a fad or consumerism. I am making memories for my children.

And I am continuing the family tradition of having a game right at the back of the Christmas tree, to play together as a family before bedtime on Christmas Day.

So to the lady who told me I was buying into it; I think the way you see it says a lot more about you than it does about me. Because the way I see it is this: Family. Traditions. Memories.

Now I'm sorry but I have to dash and find a good hiding place for Merry McJingle's next letter. I may have a glass of Baileys too.

Happy Christmas.

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Friday, 18 December 2015

Monday, 23 November 2015

The Gruffalo and Other Parenting Disappointments




Before I became a parent, I had very idealistic ideas about how I would spend my days with my children.

If you type into Google Images 'Mother baking with children', 'mother at the park' and 'mother shopping with kids', you will see all these ideas in their full, unapologetic naivety.

In short, our days would be filled with bread making, painting and dancing around the living room like the family at the end of the Disney film Enchanted (if you haven't seen it, the fact that it's a Disney film should give you some idea. As a brief synopsis; no magnetic trains strewn across the floor or playdough trodden into the carpet. No Bing on the TV. Both parents look the opposite of tired and stressed out. The daughter is twirling and dancing about and definitely not saying things like “come and look at my big poo” (a genuine request of my husband, from our eldest, yesterday)).

Anyway I digress.

Apart from the fact that I never realised parenthood would involve invites to stare down the toilet at my children's excrement, there have been some huge disappointments for me in this whole parenting lark:

1. The Gruffalo. Now it's not The Gruffalo himself who is the disappointment. But, as a teacher, and really, a human, I adore the story of The Gruffalo. And having taught it and read it for years to the point where I can recite it off the top of my head, I have never met a child who doesn't like it.
Enter child number one. Who hates The Gruffalo. Who is scared of the Gruffalo. Who will happily read all the other pages of the book, except the ones on which there is an illustration of The Gruffalo. Who, therefore, will not entertain notions of The Gruffalo's Child. Grrrrrrr.

2. Baking. Now perhaps it is just my child. But we have only just got to the point, at three years old, where baking lasts more than ten minutes and the boy shows enthusiasm for more than just the eating part. Previous to, pretty much this week, baking had involved the following steps:

a) Me saying “shall we bake biscuits?”

b) R hearing 'biscuits' and saying a very enthusiastic “yes”

c) Me gathering all ingredients and weighing them out whilst...

d) R plays with the biscuit cutters and asks “how many minutes?”

e) R pouring ingredients into bowl, spilling a lot on the floor/ worktop/ himself/ me

f) R asking “how many minutes?”

g) R stirring ingredients around bowl, spilling a lot on the floor/ worktop/ himself/ me

h) Me stirring and bringing the dough together whilst...

i) R dips his finger in the bowl and tastes the dough repeatedly

j) Me shaking flour onto the worktop

k) R spreading flour all over the worktop/ floor/ himself/ me.......

And so on. He used to get ridiculously bored after flicking flour all over the kitchen. Then I cleaned it all up. Then he ate the biscuits.

3. Crafts. Specifically painting. I always envisaged that this would take up a good hour of our (sometimes seemingly never ending) days. In reality it takes more time to get all the sodding stuff out than it does to actually produce the painting. To add to the joy of crafts with a toddler, I'm a Virgo which means I'm a bit of a perfectionist. So when R is painting and chooses to dip the paintbrush in every colour before applying the greying-browny mess to the paper, or mixes the playdough colours (*gasp*) I have to stamp all over my inner OCD goddess and remind myself that he's only three and he's just exploring. But still. It is not the mother, son painting extravanganzas I see on Google Images.

4. Soft Play. If you read my recent soft play post, you'll know how much I enjoy (ahem) soft play. The main issue with my parenting expectation versus parenting reality of soft play is actually me. My parenting expectation was that I would be positively thrilled and beside myself with glee, running through the too-small foam tunnels and diving into too-shallow ball pits. The reality is that I'm effing tired and the whole reason I go to soft play is for the big padded maze to entertain my children whilst I try not to fall asleep over my latte because the baby is teething and is a bit anti-sleep at the moment.

Thankfully there is one hugely important aspect of parenting which has not disappointed me and has more than made up for the fact that I do not look like a sultry-but-cute Nigella Lawson when cooking with my kids:

My kids.

They make me tired. They make me frustrated. They make me yearn for a wee in peace and for the Tweenies to retire.

But they also make me smile. They make me happy. They make me proud.

And maybe, one day, they might even like the Gruffalo.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Why I'll Let My Children Cry



The other evening, my three year old screamed and screamed at me. He refused to move from the pile of washing I was trying to put into the washing machine.

I asked him nicely.

Then I gave him a reminder.

Then I gave him a warning.

And finally I got out.......THE TIMER!

Now, just to clarify, 'the timer' is a rubbishy little wooden thing that you'd use for cooking. We don't sit our three year old in a particular place to endure the timer, but we do ignore him for the duration of the whole three minutes.

But, for some reason (probably the fact we ignore him and don't give him any attention), he detests the timer. We have had it out on only three occasions and each time he kicks it, pushes it over and cries until it runs out.

But then?

We stop ignoring him. We cuddle him and we explain why we are sad. We hug him so so tight.

And guess what he does?

He says sorry. He acknowledges that he didn't do as he was asked.

Would it matter if he didn't move from my pile of washing? Of course not. But if he doesn't learn to do as we ask when we want him to move off the washing, will he learn to listen when we ask him to stop running into the road on our next trip to the shop? Will he learn to do as we ask when we ask him to stop jumping innocently on his brother who, at nine months, is unable to hold up his own body weight, let alone anyone else's?

We are not trying to make him submissive (if we are, we are failing miserably because he is a feisty little thing who makes demands of us daily like “fetch me some ice water” - actual words which have left his mouth).

But we are trying to teach him boundaries. And these are mostly a) for his safety and b) to make him a nice person who thinks about his actions affect others.

We have a wonderfully stubborn little boy (don't know where he gets that from....ahem....Daddy) and he is very much 'give an inch, take a mile'. So we have to be strict with ourselves too.

And sometimes, this means we have to let him cry and scream round Aldi because they have only got Haribo mix bags and not huge packs of just Haribo cola bottles. How dare they?!

So, if our babies are hurt or sad or need us for whatever reason, we will be there to dry their tears.

But if our babies are crying because we have refused to buy them six iced buns to eat round Sainsbury? Unfortunately, we will let them cry.

Because we are teaching them boundaries.

And sometimes they don't like that.

We all know how they feel. I hate people telling me what to do. But it is a fact of life that I constantly follow rules. I follow rules at work. I follow the laws of society.

Though it still totally sucks when someone wont let you have six iced buns.

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A Bit Of Everything

Mummy Guilt: Let It Go

 
The other day, I had a visit from a friend who had a month old baby. As she left, I told her to take care of herself and sleep when she could.

She replied “I'll try. And I'll try to stop feeling so guilty that the eldest is watching so much iPad”.

I remember texting another friend almost exactly the same after the birth of my second.

And there it is; constant Mummy guilt.

We feel guilty about everything.

About not spending as much time with the eldest when the second baby arrives.

About not spending as much one on one time with the youngest as we were able to with the eldest.

About going back to work.

About not going back to work and not contributing financially to the household.

About leaving the kids in front of the TV for an hour so we can make a lasagne from scratch.

About giving them McDonalds for dinner again.

About letting them watch too much 'crazy-lady-opening-Kinder-eggs' on YouTube.

About finding the eldest dancing on the dining table whilst the youngest naps, because we've nodded off on the sofa through sleep deprivation. (This is actually not my story but my Mother's. The 'eldest' is me at three years old. In her defence, she only had four TV channels, none of which were showing kids programmes. YouTube wasn't even a 'thing', so no chance of having 'crazy-lady-opening-Kinder-eggs' babysit whilst she closed her eyes. Parents now - we don't know we're born).

But you know what we should do?

In the words of Elsa.......


“LET IT GO! LET IT GO!”


Seriously. I am not scarred for life because, as a three year old, I tapped out a dance routine on the dining table whilst no one paid me the slightest bit of attention. My eldest does not appear emotionally damaged because I returned to work when he was ten months old.

Children need love and affection, boundaries and cuddles. Life is about balance. If your child has worn pyjamas for two weeks and has been fed KFC for every meal then maybe stand back and take stock. Ask for help.

But if you've spent the baby's nap time snuggling on the sofa with the eldest, watching Ice Age again instead of painting up a storm or making playdough; THAT'S OK. You are doing a fantastic job and your child is enjoying cuddles and love and affection.

So, about that guilt?

Let it go.
 
My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows

Who Do I Love Most?

As I sit here on a weekend break with my husband, kissing like teenagers (not literally as I type!), enjoying each other's company and remembering why we had our children in the first place, I'm reminded of an article I read just after having our first child.

You see, I'm also missing our children. Really missing them. Totally enjoying the hot tub, not watching cBeebies and looking forward to the full night's sleep. But missing them.

And I remember reading an article a few months after the birth of our first child, written by a woman who was wondering whether she was suffering with postnatal depression. And one of the motivations for her wondering this, was that she felt she loved her husband more than her newborn baby.

And so I sit here, sipping Cava and snacking on olives, child free and tired at 6pm, wondering......

Who do I love more?

My husband came first. Without Mr H there would be no children. The love I feel for him was the catalyst for having children. After three weeks of seeing him, I told one of my best friends; “I'm going to marry him.”

But it took less than three seconds to know I'd die for my children.

Does this mean I love them more? Because I felt love more quickly for them? Because I carried them inside me? Because they are literally a part of me?

Well, no.

Does it mean that I should love my husband more because he 'got there first'? Because I loved him more than I'd ever loved anyone before?

Well, no.

Because what I've realised is that it's perfectly natural and normal to love in different ways.

My relationship with my husband is based on mutual love, understanding, lust (sorry Mum!) and the fact that we are individual souls, consciously entering into this union. We didn't choose to fall in love but we did choose to maintain independence, interests and friendships exclusive of our relationship.

But with my children? They are totally dependent on me. They rely on me entirely and, without me, they would fail to thrive. I have to provide for them; physically and emotionally. When I gave birth to them it became my job to give them everything they need.

And it is the best job in the world. It is frustrating, tiring and challenging. But rewarding and wonderful all at the some time.

My relationship with my children is one of responsibility (mine), dependency (theirs) and love (both).

My relationship with my husband is one of co-responsibility (both), co-dependency ( both) and love (both).

Who do I love more?

No contest.

It's a different kind of love. But its always from the bottom of my heart, with every fibre of my being.

Husband, baby one, baby two; I love you all equally, in totally differently wonderful ways.

Because you are all equal.

All different.

All wonderful.




Pink Pear Bear


Run Jump Scrap!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Making Waves

I want my children to know they can do anything. So I wrote this for them:




Cuddle Fairy

To My Children, After Paris

Sometimes, my darling children, things will happen in this world
Things which make us terrified and sad
It's not my job to shield you from these horrifying truths
But to show you good will ALWAYS conquer bad.

For sometimes small minorities will choose to do great wrong
And when they do brave innocents will fall
But watch the vast majority when all these things occur,
You'll see the world is standing strong and tall.

For in the aftermath of bad, when evil's left its mark
And hopes to grow and spread and breed contempt,
You'll hear the personal stories of the people who survived
Tales of life and love not hate and death.

Sometimes people lose their lives through evil circumstance
But rest assured their deaths are not in vain
This world will always stand up and unite against the bad
And kindness, love and goodness WILL prevail.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Things That Are Better With Children

The other day we went on a family day out to the zoo. On the way home, both children fell asleep in the back of the car and me and Mr H basked in the silence, held hands and just enjoyed the 'two-ness' of our journey.

Then we broke the silence and started to reminisce about the old days, pre-children, when we would return from a day out (not at the zoo. Somewhere very grown up and sophisticated. Like The Range), and only have three things to do: put on the tv, the kettle and pyjamas.

We would not have to move or speak for the remainder of the day, except maybe to order takeaway or stick a pizza in the oven. Bliss.

Then we talked about the imminent arrival home in five minutes, when both children would wake up at the ceasing of the engine, to demand we watch CBeebies, get them a drink and make them something to eat. Then, after a couple of hours of playing car races, hide and seek and trains, the bedtime routine would begin and play out before they were both asleep four hours after returning from the zoo. Four hours after getting home we would finally be able to put on pyjamas and order a takeaway.

Which got me thinking; returning from days out are definitely not better with children. But, luckily, there are lots of things which are.....

  • Household snacks: before children we never bought biscuits. Only if we had guests. Biscuits were a treat because we knew if we had biscuits at home I would eat a packet a day. Now? Biscuits are an excellent child bribe. In fact we are currently using "stay in bed all night and you can have two biscuits immediately on rising." Which is not good parenting admittedly but tiredness can do funny things to your morals and your best intentions. The bonus is that when I'm really tired and can't be bothered to make myself a healthy lunch - biscuits.
  • Walks: not if you're in a rush. But if you don't have to hurry, a walk with young children becomes a magical journey of awe and wonder rather a quick dash to Tesco Express for milk. They find magic in things we now take for granted; things we no longer see the magic in unless we really stop to look and see it; the way dew settles on a spider web, the changing colours of the leaves, the clouds. Autumn walks are especially good for this. I have now taken to choosing five things we have to look out for on our walks and making a checklist for the toddler who loves to 'tick' them off as we find them. It makes him really look and explore his surroundings. I only do five objects though as we are rarely in a huge rush but we would like to return home before dark.
Sticks, trees and wellies. The perfect walk for little ones.

  • Relationships: all relationships seem to be magnified by love when you have children. Not every second of course. Me and Mr H exchange many a short sharp word about important things like the recycling after a terrible night's sleep. But the big stuff? We're a team. I love him all the more for being a wonderful father to our children. Likewise my parents and parents-in-law. To watch them as grandparents gives us such an appreciation for them in a way we didn't have before (this is especially true when they babysit!). But possibly my favourite relationship of all is the one between my boys.
  • Christmas: I love Christmas. I have always loved the magic of it. But now we have children? It is ultra magical. From the build up (it's so much more acceptable to visit Santa when you have children), to buying presents, to Christmas Eve and finally opening the presents on Christmas Day. It's THE BEST feeling to be surrounded by your family, with the fire blazing and the children playing with their newly opened toys. And drinking mulled wine. Obvs.
Christmas jumpers for the children are a given!
  • Life: don't worry, you don't need a sick bucket - I am not going to wax lyrical about how children make everything in life delightful (see 'returning from an outing' above). Also sleep; sleep is categorically not better with children. But, as Mr H said, as he tickled both our boys as they lay on the bed, giggling and cuddling each other yesterday, their smiles, giggles and their ever growing personalities make it all worth it. All the sleepless nights and busy afternoons. We wouldn't have it any other way.
Just kidding. We would like some more sleep please children. Love you

Two Tiny Hands

My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows

Thursday, 22 October 2015

My Italian Kitchen

This is not as glamorous as it sounds. My kitchen is not filled with homemade pasta and lattes frothing in a coffee machine whilst I spin pizza dough around my head.

My kitchen has its own landmark. I like to call it The Leaning Tower of Coffee Pots.



Also known as "Why Can't You Just Put Them In The Effing Bin?"



brummymummyof2

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Improving Soft Play



I have a love/hate relationship with soft play.

I love it because, in my head, I get to sit and have a coffee whilst the baby sits on the floor banging a rattle contentedly for half an hour and the toddler amuses himself on the slides and in the ball pool.

I hate it because THIS NEVER HAPPENS.

What happens is I remove my shoes immediately upon entering the establishment because I know it is only a matter of time (usually approximately one whole minute) until I am instructed to join the toddler in the soft play area. This would not be so bad if they didn't have those horizontal rollers which are probably most enjoyable to roll through when you are five. But when you are over thirty and still carrying some baby weight (I hate you jeggings, for lulling me into a false sense of security), they are uncomfortable at best (i.e you make it through them) and embarrassing at worst (i.e you get stuck).

There are so many things I dislike about soft play. I keep going because I am ever hopeful that each visit will be the one where I can sit blissfully with my book whilst the toddler runs off through the rollers and over the foam wedges for an hour or two (I actually once saw a woman reading a book at soft play. I aspire to that. And also, lucky cow). But until that day comes I will just have to put up with it (if it ever comes - my kids seem to love burying me in the ball pit - it was fun the first time but it's one of those many parenthood mistakes I've made - NEVER do anything you are not willing to repeat a million times. Because kids love repetition - especially when the situation puts you in false peril and makes them laugh. And when an eight year old dive bombs on you because you are so well hidden).

However, on a visit to soft play this week, I realised that, with a few tweaks, it could be drastically improved:

1. Alcohol. Soft play areas should serve wine. The soft play would not change but my level of 'giving a rat's ass' about kids climbing up the slide would. Which leads me nicely to.......

2. The Slides. My eldest is so pre-occupied by the slides that, if there wasn't one, I wouldn't waste part of the mortgage on a visit to soft play. However, whenever we are going to a soft play area, he constantly asks: "will there be a slide there?" and it takes all my self control to not reply "yes darling but there will also be at least one little sod CLIMBING UP it whilst his mum drowns in cappuccino three yards away completely oblivious to the fact that her precious child is committing one of the ultimate soft play no-nos." Soft play slides always have a sign saying 'don't climb up the slide'. These are clearly ineffective as EVERY TIME I go to soft play there are numerous perpetrators of this rule. Someone needs to invent some sort of slide similar to those weird walkways in airports where you can go through but not back. Once you reach the end, you are unable to return back the way you came. This, for me, would make soft play a thousand times better. If not a bit 'Big Brother'.

3. The Staff. Soft play is full of parents desperate for a break. I am lucky in that my husband works from home so I often have a wing man when going to soft play which helpfully means we can take turns 'enjoying' the indoor obstacle course maze prison that is a soft play area. However, I have been to soft play on my own with two children. I love my husband to the ends of the Earth, but if the guy on the door looked like Jon Snow (from Game of Thrones, not Channel 4 News), it would make my visit a little more enjoyable. Similarly, I'm sure if the girl serving coffee resembled Kirsty Gallacher, my husband would be high on caffeine by the time we left.

4. Removing other people's children. I don't mean children who are playing nicely or children of friends who I might frequent a soft play area with. I mean the children lobbing plastic balls at my three year old as he enters the playground. I do not pay good money for my child to run a gauntlet just to haul himself up some huge foam steps. I am also referring to the child who must have been at least four in the baby area the other day who was, and there is no better word than this, terrorising the babies in the ball pit. As a teacher, a parent and a human, I am not good with children who do not demonstrate kindness, care and compassion for others. I am not ashamed to admit that I tell them off. I would just complain to their parents but they're often nowhere to be seen, probably drowning in cappuccinos at a nearby table.

5. Make it cheaper. We have a few soft play areas near us, of varying qualities. One is great and really good value. One is good value but quite a drive and you're only allowed an hour so we spend more time in the car there and back than we do actually at the soft play. And there is a very good one which costs an arm and a leg. Plus we have to buy ourselves coffee and crisps to make the whole experience more bearable.

If only they sold wine.......


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www.ethannevelyn.com

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Do You Ever Wonder Whether You're Cut Out For This?

Some days I feel like I'm doing really well at Motherhood. The days when I am calm and patient. The days when we bake and go to the park and make our own play dough.

Some days I feel what's probably best described as mediocre. We survive the day. We are fed, watered, clothed and sheltered and I may have even taken the children on a little walk.

And there are some days when I just feel like I'm not cut out for this. These days always follow a poor night's sleep, but as I said in my Bad Mummy post a couple of weeks ago, this is the reason; it's not an excuse.

It's not even my behaviour that gives me this impression - it's just how I feel. I sit and wallow in how tired I feel and how I keep getting up every day, exhausting myself, even without really doing anything. I look at other mummies and wonder if they're as tired as me or whether they feel as helpless when their toddler has a tantrum because, despite being a teacher, none of the techniques I try for dealing with these tantrums seem to work.

I have always wanted children - they have always been part of the plan. And literally every day I look at them, adore them and feel ridiculously blessed to have them. I love them a stupid amount.

And I suppose that's why I know that, despite feeling like I can't be cut out for this when I want to put them to bed at midday, I am cut out for this.

Because, by definition, a mother (as a noun), is someone who has children (tick✓). I am definitely managing that one.

But, more importantly, to mother (as a verb) means to bring up with care and affection.

And it makes me realise that, just because I didn't make lavender scented play dough one day and just because we stayed at home all day and barely left the living room, it doesn't mean I'm not cut out for motherhood.

Just because I'm tired, I am desperate for some 'me' time and I sometimes wish I could have a week day off, it doesn't mean I am not a good mother.

Every day  I tell them I love them. I cuddle them. I check the weather every morning to make sure I don't dress them to be too cold or too hot.

Some days I cry. I get frustrated and fed up. Some days I get angry.

But I am a mother. And not just the noun. A noun implies a lifeless, inanimate 'thing'. Being a mummy is active. It is an intense response and reaction to the most challenging, most rewarding people in your world.

It is a verb. It is active. Like love.

No. It is love.

When a picture melts your heart, you know you must be cut out for this.
 
A Bit Of Everything
My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Listen

I'm off to visit a friend today who has just started maternity leave for her second child. We will probably talk about our children a lot, as well as things like our houses, husbands, jobs (we're both teachers).

But I'm determined to be really mindful when she talks about her pregnancy and her wishes for when the baby arrives.

Because if there was ever a topic to make anyone a self proclaimed expert, I think it has to be parenting. We all like to think we know what we're doing, that we're doing it right and that everyone should follow our example (even though we spend most of our time making it up as we go along, worrying we're not doing anything right and looking at what everyone else is doing and wondering if we should try that!)

So I don't want to be that cocky expert, talking as if I know exactly what I'm talking about. If she asks, I'll be honest about having two children: I am totally making it up as I go along. I'm trying everything. I find things that work and tings that don't. But most importantly, I'm not going to bombard her with my version of everything, or about the time my baby met his sibling for the first time, or about my labour second time around - unless she asks.

Because all too often in life when we just want to talk and have our feelings heard, there is someone offering their ideas, advice and anecdotes. And it's all completely well meant. But sometimes, e just want someone to LISTEN. Which is why I love this quote:

 
 
I also love it as a teacher - but that's for totally different reasons!
 
 

Cuddle Fairy

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Things a New Mum Should Not Do - But Will Anyway!

Being a new Mum is hard - whether it's the first, second or tenth time you're doing it. There are so many things I did as a new mum with my first child that I knew I shouldn't when I became a Mum for the second time.

But these things are just so hard to avoid!

If you're a new Mum (or a soon-to-become-one), and you have more willpower than me, these are the things you really shouldn't do. But that you'll go ahead and do anyway.....

1. Google.

You will Google everything ("how long did your postpartum bleeding last, when will my baby sleep through the night, what temperature should my baby be, when did your periods return, how long after the birth until you had sex, when should my baby roll over?" etc etc etc times a million). Google will helpfully give you a myriad of answers but your paranoid new Mummy brain will automatically be drawn to the most sombre option. And then despite reading hundreds of contradictory statements, you will only fixate on the one which puts you and your baby in mortal danger. You will lose all rational thought and will assume, thanks to Google, that the reason your baby is a little bit hot is clearly the result of a horrendous illness and not the six layers of clothes you've dressed him in.

2. Compare yourself to others.

You will do this. No matter how self assured and happy with your choices and intents, you will compare yourself to fellow Mums. Naturally, after two months of sleepless nights, when you choose to give up breastfeeding because you're physically and emotionally exhausted, you will head to Tesco Express in your pyjama bottoms to buy formula and wine, and who will you see? You will see a fellow new Mum pushing her double pram (yes, she had twins), in her leather jacket, skinny jeans and heels with perfectly coiffed hair and manicured nails, buying organic water because she's managing to feed not one, but two babies. You will feel categorically crap.

Please Note: This new Mum is undoubtedly amazing for feeding twins, but they are her fourth and fifth babies and she is a lactation consultant. She has just spent two hours at the salon whilst the twins had an afternoon with Nanny and you didn't see her buy four boxes of Jaffa Cakes yesterday and consume them in their entirety last night.

Please Note: You will not take note at all and will still feel shite.

3. Compare your baby to others.

This has the added feel-good value of directly contributing to point 2. In fact, when you compare your baby, you will actually then of course fully take responsibility for whatever it is your baby is/is not doing. You will catch up with all your new Mum mates who will chat happily about the eight hours solid sleep they are getting each night, how their little one is rolling over ("he just wont stay on his front for tummy time!" - fake annoyance to actually demonstrate how ahead her child is). They will sit their babies up whilst yours still resembles a Weeble except he wobbles and he does fall down. They will demonstrate to claps and shrieks from fellow adoring mummies how their little girl can 'clap, clap, clap, clap' (the repetition is necessary to really hammer home how clever she is).

You will then go home and do nothing but practise rolling, sitting and clapping and you will Google over and over (see point 1) "how can I get my baby to sleep for eight hours?" Rest assured, as a teacher of Early Years, I have yet to encounter a four year old who couldn't roll over, sit up or clap. They will do it when they are ready.

4. Moan.

I remember being pregnant with my first and feeling so incredibly blessed to be so. I watched a segment on This Morning with a woman who couldn't conceive. She was arguing that women with children have no right to moan or complain because they are so lucky to have children. I remember thinking "I totally agree with you lady - I will never moan about my children."

Ahem. It turns out I was a bit of an idiot. I have realised that this mind frame is a little bit ridiculous. It's like saying "You can't moan about your job because you're lucky to have one" or "You can't complain about your house because so many people would love to own their own house." Or "You shouldn't moan about your other half because some people would give anything to have someone to share their life with." All valid, but totally unrealistic, points.

Us new Mums are so lucky to have our little ones. We really shouldn't moan. But we do. Because we are so bloody tired. And also because raising humans is hard bloody work.

5. Buy stuff you don't need.

And by 'you' I mean 'the baby'. He can't walk, even though Billy from antenatal can (see point 3). But you're going to spend £10 on a pair of the most adorable shoes from Next because they are adorable and your baby will look adorable in them. Until they remove them and chew them. Ditto dressing gowns. They shouldn't even make these for six month olds (yep, I own a 6-9 month dressing gown) because how many six month olds just lounge around in their pyjamas for hours getting chilly? They don't. They sleep in pyjamas and then they wake up and you dress them (probably because they've peed, or worse, over said pyjamas). If they're cold, you put a blanket over them or shove another layer on. You do not put a dressing gown on them. If ever there was an item of clothing more impractical for a six month old than a dressing gown, please let me know. Answers on a postcard.

6. Post surplus baby photos on social media.

Many new Mums actually do manage this - but I presume it takes immense self control not to post photos every. single. day. Because your own baby is literally the cutest baby that has ever been born in the history of the world. And even though us new Mums know that Derek from work doesn't really want, or need, to see a picture of Sonny's first ever bath, we post pictures anyway because we just cannot help ourselves.

Who doesn't love a first bath pic?!

Actually this last point isn't only specific to new Mums. You only have to look at the thousands of 'first day of school' photos on Facebook and Twitter in recent years.

But I think we can forgive ourselves this one. No. We can allow ourselves this one. Because we only do this because we are so damn proud.

Even if our baby is the last one at baby sensory to bloody crawl.
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Friday, 9 October 2015

Autumn Playdough Play

I'm not really one for posts about doing crafts and activities with my kids, mostly because sometimes watching 'Mister Maker' is our craft time, and the rest of the time we just do ordinary, boring painting and stuff. I don't usually do anything ground breaking or overly exciting.

Usually.

But this weekend we went for a family walk to a gorgeous park near us. We collected conkers and acorns and looked at how the leaves were different colours. And it sounds so cheesy but it inspired me.

So on Tuesday when Daddy took the eldest to swimming lessons, I made Autumn play dough - pale orange and scented with vanilla, and I set up the play dough table to inspire R when he got home:

 
I gathered some petals from a vase of flowers which were past their best and collected some leaves from the garden:
 


 
He was so excited when he got home! He started playing with it straight away. Naturally I wanted to join in too so I showed him how we could use the different objects to create representations of other animals and objects. This is what we produced together:
 
 
Then I left it up to him. He took all the objects out and rolled the play dough back up into a ball. Then he used a rolling pin to flatten it and enjoyed pressing the conkers and acorns into the dough.
 
 
 
He just enjoyed the texture and the process of pushing them into the play dough. Then he got everything else and poured it over the top, announcing that he'd made Daddy a birthday cake!
 
But that wasn't the end. He put it away for that day but has had it out everyday since. The day after, he took out the play dough again and, this time, experimented with different objects and how he could combine these with the play dough.
 
 
 
I felt a bit like Mum of the Year that day, especially when, instead of being a miserable old bag about the inclement weather (i.e it was pissing it down), I actually embraced it and encouraged R to come with me on a 'rainy adventure' to jump in puddles. 
 
Normal business has since resumed. CBeebies is on again.

 
 

Parenting According to Sod's Law



Parenting is tricky. It is full of challenges and paradoxes (I recently wrote a post about all the paradoxes we encounter through parenting - you can read it here).

And sometimes, the Law of Sod decides to make it just that little bit harder for us. Yesterday I went in to work for the day. Now every day my children are both up by 6am. 6.10am if we are extra lucky. But yesterday when I had to get up for work and leave by 7.15? They slept until 6.45am. Sod's Law at his finest. Today? Toddler threw the tantrum of all tantrums at 2AM!!! Yes, that is not a typo. And both were still awake by 6.05am. Did I have to get up today? Could I have had a lie in? Yep. Did Sod's Law want to allow that today? No. Of course not.

Sod's Law doesn't just like to tinker around with the time you get up in the morning. Oh no. Let's say your child has the tantrum of all tantrums at 2am (I'm not over it yet - this is  my therapy - hopefully the more I write it, the quicker it will be erased from memory). You then get back into bed, wide awake and begin redesigning your kitchen/planning Christmas/singing children's TV theme tunes in your head for hours whilst your little one goes almost straight back to sleep. Then just as you drift off, having done all your Christmas shopping in your head for the past three hours, your child decides it's time to get up for the day. It's times like these I tend to mutter "FFS" under my breath. I've realised I'm muttering at Sod's Law for keeping me awake choosing new crockery for my dream kitchen, rather than my child who has slept soundly since his epic tantrum*

*I'll try not mention the tantrum again. I can't promise anything.

What I love most about Sod's Law is it's ability to make you look like a massive melodramatic liar. The baby (8 months) had been going through a clingy, whiney phase about a month ago. I had not had my hair cut for over 8 months (no award for figuring out why). So I booked to have a real good cut and colour. It took three and a half hours. I left baby with Daddy, stressing that he would be a nightmare and just wouldn't give my other half a break all morning. When I got home?

"He's been brilliant. He had a two hour nap." WHAT??!!! Little Sod (the law, not the baby).

It's not just sleep or rational behaviour which Sod's Law robs us of though. It has robbed me of actual money before. You know, when your child becomes obsessed with a certain food, let's say raisins. So next time you do your weekly shop, you buy 72 mini boxes of raisins because, even though you know that averaging ten boxes of raisins a day would cause some serious toileting issues, that your toddler does actually eat other food and that they actually sell them at the Tesco Express which you can spit at from your own house, you decide you must stock pile raisins as if you're expecting some sort of apocalypse. Then you get home, give your toddler a box of raisins, and he doesn't like raisins anymore! I think we've still got boxes lurking somewhere in the pantry. If there's an apocalypse, our family will last at least five days on raisins alone.

Mr Sod also has a lovely way of catching us out and he especially loves to do it in public. When your baby is tiny, wherever you go, you take four wardrobe changes because, well......poo. When they're little it gets everywhere. But there comes a point when you need to pack a few toys in the bag which, unfortunately, has only its size in common with Mary Poppins' bag and not that amazing ability to hold everything including a huge lamp and a really irritating parrot. So you begin to downscale the outfit changes to just three, then two, then one. But always one. And as long as you have that one outfit, you wont need it. Baby is weaning so poos are more solid and he fills his nappies better so that there are less horrendous explosions which render all clothes useless and bin-worthy.

But if you haven't got that one outfit? You know the time the bottle of milk spills all over the bag and you have to empty it? And when you re-pack it, you forget an outfit? Guess what happens whilst you're having coffee in John Lewis? Yep - the worst nappy explosion ever**.

**this is even worse once your toddler is potty trained and you think you're safe to go out without spare pants and trousers. The problem with a toddler is that you can't just wrap him in a muslin like a tiny Julius Caesar. He will protest.

If you've read The Parenting Paradox mentioned above, you'll know what I'm referring to when I say that Sod's Law loves a good bit of profanity. Your child learns to talk. You say all sorts of words every day like 'Mummy', 'Daddy', 'dog', 'Peppa Pig'. But when does your child repeat you? When you say 'fuck', 'shit', 'piss' or 'bollocks' probably.

So there it is. Bloody Sod's Law. But the ultimate Law of Sod is when you have wine in the house all week whilst your kids are being little angels. But when you run out? They'll be little sods. Guaranteed.

www.ethannevelyn.com
My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows