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Monday, 30 December 2013

Christmas Unwrapped

 
 
This Christmas was special; full of excitement, magic and smiling happy faces. I was as drunk with anticipation as Pip by bedtime on Christmas Eve.  I’d found myself unable to sing the carols at the crib service with a dry eye, a lump in my throat as Pip, dressed as a shepherd, stood next to his best friend at the front of the church and sang Away in a Manger. Despite my corrections, the art of lip synching proved he was still singing it with his own particular wording; "No crim for a bed" and "The little lord Jesus asleep on his head".  If the vicar noticed, he let it pass.

Pre-bedtime was so much fun. We prepared some food for Rudolph; oats with glitter sprinkled inside and a couple of rubbery old carrots (no point giving him the good ones). A mince pie and some red wine for Father Christmas, (and at Pip’s insistence, a chocolate too. ) Finally, we hung the stockings by the fire and sprinkled red glitter up the garden path, to make sure that Rudolph could see us from the sky.  Amazingly Pip went to bed without too much fuss; he bought into the fact that Santa couldn’t set off to visit us until all the children in the world were asleep.  With two boys sleeping peacefully, all we had to do was wait.

Ridiculously, I found I was the one who couldn’t sleep. It was almost a relief when EB awoke at 6am.  Husband and I smuggled him downstairs and gave him some milk to quiet him, hoping Pip would stay asleep a little longer. EB was poorly, full of snot and barking like a proverbial dog .  At 6.30am after a coughing fit, he projectile vomited his milk all over Husband and the kitchen floor.  The mop bucket and a bottle of Dettol were not part of my Xmas morning plan.  At 6.45am cleaned up and with a considerably more chirpy EB, we enjoyed a cup of tea.  At 7am we sat twiddling our thumbs, wanting to get the party started. Should we wake Pip up?  At 7.15 we could wait no more, I retrieved a bell stick from EB’s stocking and conjured up some sleigh bell noises. Pip shot down the stairs like a Christmas rocket.

In those next few hours, I saw wonder, awe and amazement in Pip’s little face. The light bulb in the lounge went, we could’t find another, so we opened our presents just by the twinkling light of the Christmas tree. It didn’t do much for the quality of my photos, but then, these things are sometimes best remembered in one’s head.  Pip surprised me with his self control. We managed to stop for a breakfast of pancakes whilst parcels still lay unopened under the tree.  Pancakes with fresh fruit, golden syrup and creme fraiche made a delicious start to Christmas morning.

Later, I noticed how neatly Pip had put all his presents in a pile. How he stood back looking at the collective swag, taking it all in, and I was reminded of how I used to do exactly the same thing as a girl.

Mid morning we departed to my Mum’s for her traditional turkey and all the trimmings. The rest of the day was spent assembling pretty much each and every gift Pip received. Lego, Playmobil, more Lego, more Lego and even more Lego.  Whilst I’d ensured I’d purchased every battery type possible prior to Christmas, what I hadn’t legislated for was the time it was going to take to actually make some of Pip’s gifts.  Lego Cargo Train...2 hours to make the engine.  Thank goodness for my Dad. Although frankly, I think assembling a Lego City train and track was the highlight of his December.

In the meantime, we busied ourselves with Beetle Drive and Guess Who, and the surprise hit of Christmas for Pip, the R2D2 (Star Wars) version of Operation. We played them all. Such fun. Christmas felt old school, like it did when I was a kid.  The only thing missing was the huge tin of Quality Street. ( Must remember that for next year.)

The day passed so quickly, the TV didn’t even go on and I forgot to Sky Plus Downton. (Having now watched it on catch up, don’t think I missed much.) The day ended much as it started, with poor EB, after a valiant effort all day, being sick in his cot. Except this time I found myself grappling with mince pie infused vomit. Lovely.

Despite EB being off colour, it was still a very lovely Christmas. Arguably, we tried to pack a little too much into Xmas eve, left a few too many things until the last minute, could have done with having some spare light bulbs in the house and being a little better briefed on the assembly times required for some of Pip’s new toys. Yet, overall our first Christmas morning alone as a four was fab.  Aside from feeling that I’ve eaten far too much and need to fast forward straight to a health kick, I’m rather sad it’s over. In fact, I’m already looking forward to Christmas 2014. Roll on the New Year.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

December

My favourite month of the year; a month of preparation, anticipation; things to make, decorate, wrap and post. Social calendars crammed with commitments, never ending to-do lists and a stoical resolve to get things done.  Twinkling lights inside and out. Baubles, berries, garlands and seasonal nick naks that would never normally grace our shelves add cheerfulness and colour to an otherwise stark winter world. Wood smoke, chestnuts roasting, gingerbread, clementines, mulled wine, homemade puds and locally made sloe gin; for me, all part of the magic of Christmas.

This year will be our first year waking up on our own, as a family of four on Christmas morning. It feels like I’m finally a grown up. I can't wait. Pip at aged 4.5 has hit the sweet spot for belief in Santa Claus and all things Christmas. As we count down the days I can see the magic fizzling inside him; he jumps around excitedly like the doe eyed dear on a bottle of Babycham.  EB hasn’t got a clue, but his recent birthday illustrated just how fun climbing on piles of boxes and messing about with piles of paper can be when you’ve just turned one.

A new baby, the house project, Pip starting school; this year has been non stop busy.  Most of the time, I’ve been in headless chicken mode, but as the year draws to a close (and truth be told, as the builders leave and take a two week break), I have found the time to ease off, to relax and immerse myself in the festive spirit.  It’s been wonderful.  I know I can never get these years back with Pip and with EB, that these are the years to really cherish and I intend to embrace every wide eyed, amazing moment that Christmas offers.

We’ve crafted; home made recycled decorations for the tree, we’ve baked, for the cake stall at the school fair, we’ve sung the songs from Pip’s nativity play time and time again, and rejoiced in him being the best camel that surely ever made it’s way to Bethlehem.  The cards are now sent, the presents wrapped.  Writing his letter to Santa, I asked Pip what he hoped the big man in red would bring him.  "A Lego train set", "A jumper"  ‘Some wine for when I am a Daddy’ (When I suggested this might be a long time I was told that he planned to 'save' it.) and finally,  "Some earrings for you, Mummy". Such a thoughtful soul he is.

This year, as I took charge of decorating the tree, I tried to overcome my controlling ways and make it a family affair. Pip proved himself a worthy wing man, and certainly, a far speedier tree decorator than I have ever been. "But we don’t have candy canes, Mummy" he said, as we stood back admiring our handy work as the day drew to a close. “Doesn’t a tree have candy canes?”  Now ours does. A new tradition, voted for by Pip. Albeit rather high up, so EB can’t reach them.

This December I’ve found time for a little sparkle, dug out some fancy Choos from c. 2009 and even been to a party. ( A proper grown up party - one without 20 screaming 4 year olds and a harassed looking entertainer. One with canapes and bubbles. Lovely). I even rocked a bit of bling.  As EB turned one at the end of November (and breastfeeding finally ceased) I've planned some days and nights out with Husband.  A touch of Christmas shopping and afternoon tea in the West End was a fabulous way to ease us into the end of the 2013.  “How would you describe this year?” I asked Husband as we sat caked up to our eyeballs and awash with tea. "Very busy" came the minimalist reply.  Understatement of the year.


In these last few days before Christmas we will be visiting Santa in his grotto, celebrating our wedding anniversary and bestowing gifts on our neighbours to thank them for their patience during a year when they’ve put up with incessant drilling and excessive brick dust.  On Christmas eve, we'll be visiting Daddy’s office (Pip is beside himself with excitement at this) going out for lunch and then heading back west via a boat trip down the Thames to attend the afternoon crib service at our local church.  After putting the children to bed I am looking forward to sitting quietly, a glass of wine in hand, arranging the presents and stockings in front of the tree and making it look magical. I’m going to savour the calm before the unwrapping storm and come 5.30am (ish) let the party begin.
 
Thank you for reading in 2013. Happy Christmas! x

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

My Bed

In my mid twenties I became very particular about my bed. The turning point came when I was finally earning enough money to stop living like a student and start enjoying some of life’s little luxuries. My weakness; Egyptian cotton sheets and feather filled accoutrements; feather duvet (goose down not duck), feather pillows (Hungarian goose down),  feather filled ‘occasional’ pillows for reading or sitting up. I loved the soft, downy comfort of it all, the fact that my bed resembled one you’d find in a luxury boutique hotel. I regularly spent a fortune in the John Lewis bedding department - but it was worth it.

Mornings started with my bed making ritual.  The bottom sheet was swept and smoothed in a certain direction, the pillows fluffed, the duvet shaken and aired.  My obsession with my inner sanctum being a place of perfect cleanliness became such that I also started showering in the evenings despite having also showered that morning. The bottom sheet would be given a second smooth down before I got in. Nothing could be allowed to contaminate the purity of my white sheeted haven. (Future husband being the only exception.)

Oh how disappointed I was when Tracey Emin revealed her unmade bed. I felt she was letting the side down. Her bed was a disgrace. Worse still, people wanted to give her a prize for it.  Just wrong.

Then I had children. And everything changed.

Why did no one warn me I should get a plastic sheet to protect my own mattress, not just one for the baby’s cot? The first time my mattress caught the full force of a child’s projectile vomit I almost hyperventilated;  my quilted mattress protector was no match for the contents of Pip’s stomach.  Years later, it still pains me to look at the watermark left on my Vi Sprung Earl Deluxe when I change the sheets.

My morning bed making ritual has become an impossibility since having children.  Instead of smoothing down Egyptian cotton sheets, I am lost in the haze of 5.30am starts and a mountain of laundry so colossal that a fresh change of sheets is usually not a priority until I’ve at least pared the wash pile back from it’s summit size peak to a more manageable base camp level.  These days, I am lucky if I’ve made the bed before I get into it.  My bed is no longer the sanctuary it once was.  Take a couple of weeks ago; the six children visiting with their mothers on a play date were nowhere to be found. "I think I’ll just go upstairs and look for them," I mumbled nervously.  All six were found in my bed; now a pirate ship, complete with duvet mast propped up with a child’s broom.  "Out" I squealed,  pointing to the door as they abandoned ship one by one. The last one, a toddler, left the waft of dirty nappy in my wake as he disappeared out the door, seemingly oblivious to the sacrilegious act he had just committed. *Shudders*

This weekend Husband asked; "Would you like me to look after the kids whilst you change the bed?”. Believe it or not, this gesture was meant as an act of kindness - he knows how much I love my clean sheets. Possibly, he could have offered to do it for me, but knowing my perfectionist tendencies, correctly decided the offer of childcare whilst I performed this important task myself would be preferred. I bolted to the sanctity of my linen cupboard, fingering my freshly pressed sheets. (There are some perks to having a cleaner.)  An early night beckoned.

Oh how good it felt, as I slipped into bed, my skin being gently stroked by a 200 thread count.  How fresh my lovely bed smelt, how crease free and smooth it’s sheets.  A little bit of old-time luxury.  At 5.30am my blissful slumber was interrupted by EB who with a few foghorn like blasts announced it was time to start the day.    Husband begrudgingly kindly got up with him and I settled myself down for an extra hour.  Ten minutes later, Pip emerged, having been woken by the roar of his younger brother.  “Come and get into bed with Mummy” I mumbled, not realising he had already been downstairs.

My sweet boy got into bed, cuddling up;

“Mummy, I’ve got a secret with Daddy” 
“Lovely Darling, it’s still night time, back to sleep now.” 
“I told Daddy I couldn’t go back to sleep because I was so hungry. Mummy, let me whisper the secret.”  
“OK Pip, then you must go back to sleep.”
“Come closer, Mummy.”

I shuffled over to be imparted with the top secret information:

“Daddy gave me a Jammy Dodger”

Grrrr...clearly Husband had decided a bribe to get Pip back to bed was preferable to building Lego towers at 5.30am.  I filed his parenting crime in the ‘deal with later’ drawer to discuss over breakfast.

CRUNCH. 

I knew the truth without opening my eyes.  Yes, the bed was being shared by me, Pip and a BLOODY BISCUIT. Crumbs galore, one night into my virgin sheets.  I could barely stop myself from weeping as the jammy bit ‘got lost’ and was found semi smeared (courtesy of Pip’s head) into my pillow.

Just the start of another normal parenting day.

I’m in the market for a new bed for when we move back to Faulty Towers.  Something sumptuous and grand, something that makes the mere thought of slumber exciting.   I’m reclaiming the sanctity of my bed,  turning over a new sheet and making it mine again. Woe betide anyone who brings a Jammy Dodger near it. 


Friday, 29 November 2013

One

Eyes like autumn. Still changing. At birth; dark, muddy puddles with a touch of grey.  This summer, reflecting green, sometimes with a hint of amber. Now, on your birthday, a rich warmth, hazelnut brown.  Autumn eyes. "Where did he get those from?" asks Grandma, observing that she is usually surrounded only by green and blue eyed folk.  Someone, somewhere in your genetic lineage has bequeathed you different eyes to the rest of us.  I never really liked brown eyes before yours.  But, now I think differently about brown eyes, I find them enchanting. I could gaze quite happily into your smiling Nutella orbs forever. 

Your first year has passed so very fast.   Those early months are now a blur.  Photographs remind me of how you were; valued prompts to jog my sleep deprived memory.  The calendar on the kitchen wall shows a picture of you at birth, this time last year. It’s hard to believe the little person opening every pan drawer and creating havoc all around me, has grown so big so quick.

Your personality is still revealing itself, surprising me with the unexpected as the days and months go by. Right from the start, you were and still are, the most social baby.  From early days, you would reach out your arm with a splayed hand in greeting to passers by, giving them ‘The Starfish’, as I liked to refer to it.  Your wave, (perfected at around 10 months), reminds me of the lucky gold cats with automatic waving arms that are found in Chinese restaurants. Once you start waving, you don’t stop; not until the world around you breaks into smiles.  And you’re still the champion of Koala hugs.  Climb up and nuzzle in, burying your head into my neck with your arms holding tight. I love your hugs so very much.

These past few months you have shown yourself to be a determined little soul.  Finally, I understand the meaning of ‘baby lead weaning’. You steadfastly refuse to let me feed you anything from a spoon. Either wrestling it from me in a vice like grip, or simply rejecting anything that you cannot put in your mouth yourself.  Physically, your strength amazes me. You are strong. You are agile. You are Houdini like - a restaurant high chair is the perfect opportunity for you to practise your escape techniques. If I turn my back for one second, you’ll be half way across the table. It must be said, we eat out far less regularly these days.

You are loud. You have a belter of a voice. The whole world knows when you’re not happy.  That said, you rarely grumble.  You have a sunny personality and a wonderful sense of humour. You laugh from your belly; a deep guffaw. I think you may well turn out to be the joker of our pack. You like nothing more than trying on all the hats in the fancy dress box, laughing at yourself, and me, as we do it.

You’re a turbo crawler, racing down the hall at top speed, laughing your head off all the way.  I was convinced you’d be walking by now, but now you’ve discovered your boost button, you seem to have stopped trying. A couple of times I’ve caught you cruising the furniture and taking one or two steps alone, then you check yourself and sit down; giving me a sly sideways grin, as if to say; ‘Not yet Mum, not yet’.  You’re such a tease.

Your vocabulary is understood only by you. Your babbalogues are wonderful, I just wish I were able to translate more.  Of the two discernible words you can say, ‘Mama’ comes and goes but the most frequently offered up word is ‘hot’.  I hear this about fifty times a day, even for things that aren’t hot.  It is very helpful in coffee shops though, and does endear you to random members of the public as you point at their cups and issue your safety warning with the most serious of faces. ‘Hot’.

Your favourite food is bananas. You love swimming. You like putting pegs in holes, letters in postboxes, things inside things. You like playing with balls. You like making noise; shaking a maraca, banging a drum. You like peering inside dustbins, you like trying to pull the plug out of the shower tray and you are fascinated by the inside of the toilet bowl (and dropping things in it).  You love the swings, the slide at the park, and will happily throw yourself down it without any supervision.  Your favourite person in the whole wide world...

is Pip.

It makes my heart sing to see you look at your brother with such adoration.  Perhaps for a little while after your arrival, he felt slightly displaced. You had to work hard (on occasions) to wheedle your way into his heart. Ever resilient, you gently elbowed your way in and found some room. From there on, your relationship has blossomed. He loves you very much; calls you ‘little guy’. You get excited about going to collect him from school each day. He lets you wear his cap on the way home and you smile with delight as you pull it around your head. Watching the brotherly bond develop between you makes me very happy.

My sweet boy, what a wonderful year it has been, I feel blessed to have you. ( Even if you do persist in getting up at 5.30am). Happy first birthday.  xxx

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Through The Keyhole: Part Two

 
A digger inside your house. Completely normal.


My sanity is hanging from a thread.   In the past few weeks, I have wondered many times why we thought it was a good idea to start this project when EB was only 3 months old. Eight months in, I am feeling the strain.

You only have to look at me to see it. A cold sore the size of the Grand Canyon under my nose isn’t helping; I’ve never felt so self conscious. Last week, over coffee, a friend started to issue not so subtle tips about how to get rid of eye bags. Lots of sleep she suggested helpfully, will avoid one’s face looking like the Heathrow baggage department. Alas,  sleep is hard to come by for me right now - EB still wakes regularly at 2.30 am and at 5.30 am each morning wants to get up.  I should go to bed earlier, but from 9 - 11pm my evenings are spent researching fireplaces/ tiles/ kitchens/taps/fences. When I do actually go to bed, I lie awake thinking about how long my to do list is, stressing about decisions that need to be made (or indeed second guessing those that have already been made.)  It is all consuming.

Days are spent dashing to and fro from the school drop off, then onwards to the house, or the architect, or to meeting the builder or to showrooms/ shops/ suppliers.  The grandparents have visited and stayed regularly to try and help with childcare for EB and to allow me the odd hour here or there to get things done. They’ve been fabulous, embracing the opportunity to get to know their second grandson better, but alas, EB is getting a tad fed up of it all now. He cries every time I leave the room, wailing ‘Mama, Mama’ as I walk out the door. It’s heartbreaking.  Managing the house project has turned into a full time job - the only problem being, I already have one of those - as a full time stay at home mother.

I had hoped to publish a series about our house renovations here, but the fact is, I barely have the time to write it.  Since I discovered blogging, it has become one of my favourite ways to spend ‘me time’ but, right now, there is no me time whatsoever. A spa voucher gifted for my birthday at the start of the year sits on the dresser past it’s expiry date and with no booking made.  I know I should ring them, to discuss extending it, but it gets pushed to the bottom of the pile as each and every day is spent focussing on the urgent, important must - do tasks.

The rebuild is currently running two months behind. Hopes of being back in our house for Christmas were dashed some time ago and are now forgotten.   Unpicking the house at the start was exciting; the demolition derby a quick process. The rebuilding - not so quick. Unforeseen complications (the collapse of the front gable) slowed initial progress considerably.  A small glimmer of hope has been seen in the past week or so.  Floor boards have been laid, walls are being re-erected, the structural glazing has been fitted in the new extension and the house is now water tight again - thankfully, given the current weather.  The ‘new’ house is coming to life in terms of structure and after so long it is great to see some real progress and (with some imagination) glimpse the end result.

There have been a few difficult conversations with the neighbours;  now commonly referred to as ‘Wall-Gate' and 'Fence-Gate’. As a result of this project I consider myself well practised in the art of difficult conversation, yet, fence-gate threatened to push even me over the edge. The intricacies of fencing etiquette are a minefield. Like everything else, we came through the other side, but resolving these situations in order to try and maintain a happy equilibrium with those around us I have found especially draining. 

Stress now manifests daily in the form of decision making. As we approach the latter stage of the build, there are a host of questions daily about finish and design.  Some have long been decided; flooring. Others; paint colours, designs for fitted furniture and a new staircase, haven’t.  I wish I had more time to consider choices, look at options and re-look. I love nothing more than to procrastinate. Yet I can’t. I simply don’t have time. Once one set of decisions are made, I can’t revisit them, because hundreds more need to be made.  Some days my head feels like it might explode with it all.

Of course, it will be worth it in the end. I know it will, and we are so lucky to be able to put our own stamp on our property. But right now, it feels like hard work. Right now, I understand the grey pallor you see on the faces of individuals featured on Grand Designs.  Right now, it's sapping me of every shred of energy I have.




So, if you’re wondering why it’s been a bit quiet here - now you know. Hopefully normal(ish) service will resume again soon. 

Monday, 30 September 2013

Boy In A Dress

One hundred years old; maybe a little older. Cotton so thin in places, I worried that you would put your foot through it as you tried to wriggle free.  I chose ‘heritage green’ ribbon for around the chest and arms. Pip had blue, but somehow, green seemed right for you.

I was worried it wouldn’t fit. But it did. As though it were meant for you. As though, at whatever point you put it on, it would always seek to fit you, to gather round you and embrace you. The gown worn by all the males in my family; you, Pip, my brothers and countless others.  Names and dates, embroidered around the hem with my mother’s hand; a visual genealogy, sewn with love.

As we stood at the font I felt overcome. Tears pricked my eyes and I had to blink hard to stop them flowing. As I handed you to Mother M, there was a lump in my throat as I said your name aloud, the only audible sound in an otherwise silent church; a life affirming reminder that you, like a rainbow that follows rainy days, are here - and that we are blessed.

Your godparents, the same as Pip’s. How could I choose anyone else? Innately good, kind, compassionate people. Friends since the start of adulthood. Twenty years on, they stood by my side, by your side; family in all but name.  How lucky you are to have them.

Afterwards, a celebration lunch, then later, tea and cake. I must have been feeling especially pious, or else, the champagne holy oils had gone to my head; I offered our guests ‘vicarage sponge’ all afternoon.

The autumn sun shone and you smiled, chuckled, wooed and cooed, looking as angelic as the blonde hair on your head. In our small garden, the atmosphere was alive, with warmth, good will and love.  It was a perfect day, celebrating you. My darling boy.




Friday, 20 September 2013

School Daze

It has been just over two weeks since Pip started school.  His energy and enthusiasm have been wonderful, he can’t wait to get there each day.  I am amazed at how well he has coped with the transition; the new routine, new rules and regulations, the new repertoire of foods served up at lunchtime by the school’s kitchen. My previously picky son even declared this week that oriental noodles with salmon were ‘quite nice’.  A plate which I’m sure, only two weeks ago would have caused a hysterical reaction by it’s mere appearance at the table. Who’d have thought it?

In stark contrast to Pip, I have found getting used to our new routine rather tricky.  In order to ensure we are in the playground for 8.30am when the bell rings each day, my bedside alarm is now set for 6.35am each morning. This is the time I need to get up if I want to have a shower and make some attempt to make myself look as if I haven’t been dragged through a hedge backwards. If I rise past 7am, there just isn’t time. Pip likes to coax himself into the day S.L.O.W.L.Y.  He has to be cajoled to eat breakfast - every spoonful is a victory. My worries about him not eating the school lunch have meant I’ve been encouraging him even more than usual to eat well at the start of the day. The kitchen has become an early morning cafe; pancakes one morning, bacon sandwiches another, poached eggs another. Thank goodness for my husband and his culinary skills. 

I am trying hard to be organised.  To lay all the uniform out the night before, to put the book bag with all it’s necessary pieces of paper by the front door, yet, despite all this, despite getting up two hours before we need to be at school, it is still a rush.  Two weeks in; this morning I found myself at the school gate with unwashed hair, no make up and EB in his babygro (counterbalanced with the poshest cardigan I could find so he didn’t look completely unloved.) Pip looked spotless but otherwise I, and my toast encrusted baby, looked rather dishevelled.  I saw a couple of mothers looking at EB in his babygro; I wondered if they disapproved.  Yet, I refused to feel guilty, refused to feel inadequate.  I am not going to succumb to school gate pressure. I’m determined to keep it real. Sometimes (like last night) you are up half the night with a crying teething baby. Sometimes it is really hard to get two children out the house for 8am. Sometimes I will turn up looking presentable, and other days, like today, a mad haired zombie. 

Getting to school on time is only half my challenge; it’s all the other things that I need to remember too.  Games on Monday; take the kit to school and get changed. Games on Thursday; wear the kit to school and stay in it all day. Different days of the week for library books, phonics, word strips, show and tell. And so it goes on.  In the past week timetables have attached themselves to kitchen cupboards and phonics strips have sprouted from the fridge door.  It’s a new world - one I’m struggling to get to grips with far more than Pip is. 

Last week there was a curriculum evening at the school, a chance to hear about the different focus areas for the year and see some of the work the children had produced in their first week or so in class. I was heartened to see that many of the things that Pip is going to be doing in his first year are a continuation of the topics studied at his pre-school.  That it won’t all be new to him, that some things will get the chance to bed in further.  The solidification of existing knowledge rather than 100% new knowledge in itself.   This past couple of weeks have made me realise how important pre-school is in preparing children properly for school.  Pip’s carefree, happy disposition each morning, is I’m sure, partly due to his positive pre-school experience.

In the classroom examples of the work the children had completed were on show. Hand drawn pictures and examples of, ‘gluing and sticking’ as Pip refers to it.  I was struck by the huge gulf in the abilities of the children, evident from the work exhibited.  Pip is a June baby and one of the younger children in his class, and it shows.  The gulf in fine motor skills, in being able to hold a pencil properly, even, being able to concentrate for a prolonged period of time.  Heartening, in the sense one can see how much more a child of 9 months older can do. I found it hard to look at all the work on show, Pip's name with some of the letters written back to front in places and not compare, not worry.  Not think, will the other children be mean to him if he isn’t as good at them at this stage? 

I peered through the window one morning after drop off, and he had started colouring the letters on a pamphlet. I noted, he was doing it upside down. Concentrating deeply, his tongue waggling side to side, as it does when he concentrates.   A little boy sat down to him, his Mother settling him in, and as I watched, I lip read their conversation; "Look Mummy, that boy is doing it wrong. He’s doing it upside down". "He's doing it how he wants to do it" said the mother.  My heart ached slightly for Pip. But so deep in concentration, he was oblivious to anyone else’s observations and I was glad. I don’t want him to worry about what he can’t do, just to enjoy learning all the new things that he can do.

These are new days for all of us. For Pip, for me, for us as a family.  In the past two weeks Pip already seems to have grown so much; the effect of new influences showing themselves positively in manners and remembering to wash one's hands, and in talk of  'light savers' (I think he means lightsabers) and 'Power Strangers'. As I wave the phonics book at Pip nightly, I wonder, are we doing too much homework or just the right measure? I want to help him learn, but I don’t want to be overbearing.  Am I pronouncing the phonics correctly? Am I sounding out the spellings correctly? All things I wonder - nightly.  I didn't expect Pip's school life to consume me as much as it is.

Letter after letter arrive from the school via the ‘book bag’.  A fancy dress outfit for when?  Wear jeans on Friday and take £1? A food contribution for Harvest festival? Here's how you can help out with the school charities. There’s a lot of stuff for this mother to remember.  


I’ve bought a diary - forget school gate style - I just need to  get seriously organised.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Summer In The City

Airplane jet streams leave a trail of white through a cornflower blue sky as they to and fro from Heathrow.   The city suburbs slow as people depart.  No Londoner wants to spend their summer days on a packed commuter train in conditions akin to a cattle transporter, or sleep at night in 30 degree heat in a poorly ventilated loft conversion. Those that can, leave.  Those that stay accept their fate; the close, concrete absorbing heat rarely tempered by breeze,  the news articles that talk of reflections from skyscrapers melting cars, the standard TV bulletin on the hottest day of the year showing an egg frying on the pavement.
 
In commuterville there is a feeling of peace. Even a sense of relief, that some have left, creating extra space for those that have stayed.  Those that stay, make the most of it;  city parks with parched grass become beaches; bikini clad women and bare chested men lounging on towels as if in the Med.  Al fresco eating becomes the norm, as pavement cafes and pub gardens brim and overflow with people, whilst indoor restaurant spaces appear grey and empty.

Many families in these parts depart to second homes in the ‘Country’.  “We’re off to the Country” is a phrase I’ve heard surprisingly often.  I've never quite worked out where the country is.  A loose term seemingly only understandable by those privileged enough to be in the second home club.  Suffolk, Dorset, The Cotswolds, perhaps.  I’ve never experienced these houses; but I imagine them to be rather grand, red brick piles, with sweeping driveways and meadows full of cows surrounding them.

It’s never bothered me spending the summer in London.  It's home.  That’s not to say I don’t crave the great outdoors, don’t wish sometimes that I was in the ‘Country’, under a canopy of trees or enjoying watching butterflies dance together on a country lane abundant with wild flowers.  But I have found that even in London, it is possible to leave behind the greyness, the concrete monoliths, to find plenty of green and open spaces. One just has to try a little bit harder.

Pip, EB and I spent countless days at Kew Gardens this summer.  The Incredibles exhibition was indeed, incredible.  Pineapple Island, a feature in the lake, became one of Pip’s favourite things. He loved hiring a boat and wearing 3D glasses to sail through the grotto underneath.  I loved the edible table with trees growing through it’s centre and it’s bespoke informative crockery. We all loved watching the various vegetables grow, as we meandered there throughout the summer. The wonderful straw mushrooms - the perfect prop for photographing little ones.


On other days we ventured to Richmond, to the park to search for deer, or climb trees, or to forage for blackberries.  Stopping to take a short break for tea and cake at Petersham Nurseries - after which, I stood open mouthed wondering who on earth can afford to buy the items from their shabby chic shop.


If we were feeling lazy, even the local meadow with splash pond and adventure playground was enough. A picnic tea on the grass with friends, and we were done.  Or a small paddling pool in the garden, filled with stacking cups. Watching EB good naturedly gulp and gasp whilst his older brother poured yet another cupful of water over his head...and laughed.

For the most part, summer in the city seemed easy. We got to green spaces, it didn’t feel claustrophobic. We got away too, for a week to coast / country. We came and went, and I surprised myself, as sole charge of two small children, how easily I rolled along, how easy the days seemed.  Managing the house project in tandem was tricky, but do-able.  Perhaps it was the sunshine that made the difference.

Yet shadowy thoughts crept in, framing the corners of my mind. Like a softly dripping tap, doubts gathering in a small puddle of water.   

'London, I love you so much.  Don’t do this to me now, not 12 years in - I thought we were in it for the long game?'

Some things took their toll this summer.

The relentlessness of salesmen knocking on the door; "I’m homeless", "I’m unemployed, can you take a look at my basket?"  £5 for a shoe shine or some micro fibre cloths.  Expensive by high street standards.  Backchat when you don’t buy. A feeling of being intimidated at your own door.  Suspicious looking individuals claiming they were raising money for a charity bike ride, and then not calling at any of the other houses on the street (I noticed.)

"Would you like a door intercom?" asked the architect.  I wondered; if these people are just faceless voices, will they be less intimidating? And then I wondered - what does this say about the world we live in? When people cease to answer their own front door and just talk to callers (known or unknown) from a phone inside their house?

Opportunists with ill intent.  My elderly neighbour was visited by a man who claimed he had just fumigated our property. (Not so). He was told he needed to pay half of the £4000 costs there and then, in cash. Another neighbour, an older woman on her own, answered the door  to a man with a tall story about a cat on her roof and also had a narrow escape.

My father’s car was broken into when he visited.  His retirement present of gardening vouchers stolen from the glove box.  The travel sweets from the tin scattered down the road, a taunting trail of boiled sugar in red and yellow shouting; ‘You can’t catch me’.

The suicide of a stranger; seconds before I was due to walk past,  jumping from a roof, adjacent to a London square.  Twenty minutes or more for an ambulance to come, and behind box hedges all the while, Londoners continued to laugh as they sunbathed and sipped iced lattes, oblivious.  It seemed wrong. All summer I was unable to shake the memory of it from my head.

The closure of Pip’s local play park, and the realities of living in a big city.


Two sides of the same coin. 

London, I love you, but city life lost some of it's shine for me this summer.  Autumn is your time to woo me back again.


Linking up with the very talented Older Mum in a Muddle for her #oneweek series.

one week

Monday, 9 September 2013

This Was The Summer...

This was the summer of dandelion clocks, we adventured in parks and grass covered lands and blew away seed heads, holding time in our hands.

This was the summer of games in the park, of picnic teas outside as the nights weren’t dark. Of ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf’, and ‘Duck, Duck, Goose’, of chasing, racing, letting loose.

This was the summer of carefree days in the sun; Kew Gardens, the beach, the cinema; one to one.

This was the summer a large box of clothes came through the post; with smart blazer and cap and the tie you loved most.

"When am I going to big school, Mum?"  "Soon my darling, the summer’s nearly done."

This was the summer I wanted to last longer, the summer I felt our bond become stronger.  Proper conversations, an inquisitive mind; a companion like you is hard to find. 
    
This was the summer you seemed so tall, but at the end, in your uniform, you looked so small.  Knobbly knees and unscuffed toes, and at the last minute, a runny nose. 

On Thursday, a car journey and a scoot through the park, and then there we were; at the start.  A hug and a kiss, then you walked through the door, with one backward glance and no more.

I thought about you every second of the day, on this, your first big step away. Away from the mother ship, away from the summer. To autumn leaves and spending all day in the care of another.

At the end of this summer I allowed myself to cry, in recognition of saying goodbye.  To  four years of binding love, four years of fun, four years at home as mother and son.

My darling Pip, they were my only tears.  You’re ready and raring to enjoy these school years.  Be bold, be brave, be happy and have fun. I’ll be at the school gate each day when you’re done. 


Always by your side...

For little Pip, who became a ‘Big Boy’ quicker than I could ever have imagined.

Linking up with the One Week series at Older Mum in a Muddle; a seasonal linky on the theme of summer. 

one week

And also linking up with #magicmoments

Monday, 2 September 2013

Custodian of Old, Harbinger of New

I like old things. Antique and vintage have an appeal for me. I like things to have a patina to them, to wonder about where they’ve been, the stories they might have to tell.  I like old, historic buildings, particularly Victorian ones; London is a fantastic place to live from that perspective.  The Natural History museum is one of my favourite buildings; the exquisite blue-grey brick detailing of the outside, the stunning, stunning stone carvings on the inside.  When I take Pip to the dinosaur exhibit I barely look at the dinosaurs; as he marvels at T-Rex, I admire the animals and plants ornately carved in columns, in awe of the craftsmanship and technique.   Likewise, I love the magnificent stained glass in the domed cafe at the V&A museum. I could sit quietly there (with a good cappuccino) soaking up it’s intricate detail for hours. The Victorians knew how to build things, to make things, their attention to detail was fabulous.  The Gherkin, The Shard, may be held up as examples of modern day great architecture, but for me, they hold nothing on the V&A or the Natural History Museum.  I prefer the craftsmanship of bygone years.

It’s probably no accident that all the properties I’ve owned have been Victorian. I like the character features Victorian properties offer. Our first flat, a conversion in a Victorian church, our first house; a Victorian mid terrace, and now Faulty Towers; another Victorian abode.

It’s fair to say, that whilst some Victorian houses have been preserved in all their finest detail, Faulty Towers has not. Some of it’s original features have been ripped out by someone attempting to modernise (badly),  or damaged and not repaired.  Others; original cornicing, wardrobes and stained glass have been left in disrepair and are in dire need of some TLC. 

Whilst I love ‘original’ features and the patina of old, I am not prepared to live with them at any cost.  I’m done living with draughty windows (however nice the stained glass may be) or keeping a cornice that is cracked and crumbling beyond repair. And whilst I like the character features that yesteryear’s house can offer, I am rather a minimalist when it comes to interiors. Alcove shelves? Forget it. I’m a put it in a cupboard and shut the door kind of girl.

This has left me with rather a dilemma when thinking about the design and feel of our home.  In some ways, I want to rip out everything, the crust and scum of the last 140 years, and start again from scratch with a totally blank canvas. The problem is, my conscience won’t let me.  The stained glass, the fireplaces, the hall floor. The wonderful heavy wood front door, built to last with a quality you just don’t find in manufactured doors today.  I feel that I owe it to this old house to give those things back, to polish and restore them, to make them shiny and new. That they’re not mine to take out, that after so many years of being there,  I am merely a custodian.  Yet I wonder how they will sit side by side by my dream of a minimalist white kitchen.  Bravely, we have decided to mix the old with the new.  Mixing two styles is not easy, but I am committed to making the design work. Heaven forbid that I end up creating a ‘pastiche’;  it seems to me your grand design has failed if that’s how Kevin McCloud describes it.  



Regular readers will know that we are currently in the process of renovating our house.  I thought I would try to document some of the ups and downs here. Juggling life and this project is proving to a challenge, but I hope to provide a monthly update of how the project is progressing. Welcome to my new series; Through the Keyhole.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Three Good Things #3

We spent last week away enjoying the type of British seaside holiday I remember having when I was a child. Bucket and spade holidays on rocky, beachy shores peering in rock pools are the stuff memories are made of.  Last week I sought to bank some for Pip, on the Jurassic coast. He absolutely loved it; proof that you don’t need to travel far for kids to have a good time. My three good things this week are about our holiday.

One.


Beside the Sea. I love the Dorset coast; the undulating up and down of the hills, the spectacular views. I particularly like Lyme Regis. It’s a quaint old place. I like the pretty painted cottages along the seafront, the gift shops on the hilly high street, the curve of the bay, the boats bobbing in the water by The Cobb.  Our cottage was close to the beach. Each day would start with the seagulls cawing on the roof at dawn.  Usually by then I was awake with EB anyway, I rather liked it;  a nice reminder each morning that we were beside the sea.  We were also lucky enough to have access to a beach hut for the week. In one week I have become a complete convert to beach hut living, or rather, nuts about huts. I'm sure it's a peculiarly British thing but I just found something immensely enjoyable about setting up camp there for a day.  On our final night we took a bottle of champagne down to the hut early evening and sat and watched the sun go down - it was a lovely way to end our week.


 Two.


Gone Fishing. Pip experienced his first ever fishing trip courtesy of Daddy and Grandpa.  I’ll never forget the look on his face as he ran back along The Cobb with his haul of ten mackerel swinging from his lifted hand. Happiness shone from him. Barbecued for tea with some herbs from the garden plus some lemon and chilli, they tasted rather good.

Three.


A lesson in preparing pizza. Regular readers will know that we are planning to install a pizza oven in our garden shortly. As an induction to this, Husband, Pip and I headed off to River Cottage for a morning to participate in their pizza making course. It was a great experience and lovely to do something with Pip on his own. We all thoroughly enjoyed it, from making the dough and kneading it, to placing the toppings on and eating.  Suffice to say, the pizza oven project is now progressing with renewed fervour.  Looking at  the abundance of home grown produce in our tour of the River cottage gardens was a treat too - and has inspired me to grow some of my own herbs and vegetables when we return back to our house next year. 

I'm linking this post up to the #threegoodthings linky over at Margot and Barbara. What are your three good things from the last week?

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Three Good Things #2

The sunshine continues (aside from one torrential downpour this week) and life feels good. Dare I say it? At just over the half way point, the summer holidays are turning out to be just fine.*  It really does seem to me that good weather can make life feel easier.

The last week has been brimming with many good things; these are my top three:

One.

Where I live.  Summer in the city can be hard work; hot and sticky, with little breeze. Sometimes it feels as though there’s not enough air, that in the heat, the melting pavements and sky high buildings have sucked it all away.  I’m grateful that we live in a green part of London, with wide, open spaces, plenty of play parks, an outdoor splash pool and that we are within a stone's throw of the Thames.  We’ve lived here thirteen years now and finally, I  feel part of a community. I see people I know on the street, I stop and chat. This is now the place I call home - and I love it.



Two.

We Are Lucky.  Today I managed to escape for a couple of hours without the children to view the We Are Lucky exhibition at Chris Beetles Fine Photographs in Mayfair.  I have been following the We Are Lucky project for a while now - a modern philanthropy project with a twist.  We Are Lucky came about when one man came into a considerable amount of money and decided to do something good with it.  He decided to pass his good luck on, giving £1000 a day away to complete strangers, the only condition behind the gift, that they had to do something positive with the cash, (and allow him to take a few photos, ask a few questions and build a portfolio of stories.).  The website detailing the stories of individuals who have taken part is fascinating; visiting the exhibition equally so.  I think the story behind this project would make a fabulous script for a film. I spent a very happy morning lost in wonderment this morning in Mayfair.


Three.

 
Living Colour. In the last couple of weeks, Pip has begun to show lots of interest in colouring and drawing.  After a year of undecipherable squiggles in only black or green (“It’s a volcano, Mummy.”) I am now the recipient of multi-coloured pictures and something more than a basic man (a basic Thomas the Tank engine). Finally, his name is being written in legible format (albeit in font size 100). This makes me incredibly happy given that he will shortly be starting school. Even the fact that he is happy to sit still for 20 minutes or so, and focus himself on a drawing activity is a massive step change.  Proof again, that like most other things with Pip, he’ll do it when he’s ready - and not before. 

That’s my three good things for this week.  What would yours be? You can link up with the Three Good Things series at Margot and Barbara.



*obviously I've totally jinxed the remainder of the summer holidays now...

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Three Good Things #1

I'm slowing down for the summer. In the recent heat I haven't been able to string coherent posts together. Words aren't flowing freely, instead they float slowly to the surface and then melt away, like unfinished ice lollies, before I've had a chance to use them. 

For some reason, I am reluctant to let go of the blog altogether this summer. Who knows, if I do, I might never come back.  Given my current inability to write much, I've decided to try and link up with the Three Good Things series at Margot and Barbara during August.   (If you haven't had a chance to check out this blog before - do; it's fabulous. I especially love Liz's 'about me' page.)

Three Good Things is a gratitude project.  The premise is simple, each Wednesday you share three good things that have happened in your life in the past week.  Here's mine:

One. 


I love the Isabella plantation in Richmond Park. It’s so peaceful and tranquil; a relaxing place to be. I like the fact you have to park further up the hill from it and make your way there on foot; and that once there, it’s impossible to hear the hum of traffic.  That there is no cafe, no chink of coffee cups and clattering of spoons so normally found in close proximity to such places in London. It’s just trees, streams, stepping stones, flowers and foliage.  The perfect place to escape from the metropolis and wile away a few hours.  I walked here last Saturday. I felt so calm and at peace, I didn't want to leave. It was a lovely day.


Two.

Outsider Tart. This is one of my favourite cake shops.  Run by two American bakers, they make the best brownies and tray bake cakes I have ever tasted (not to mention splendid coffee too.) Husband’s birthday last week was the perfect excuse to indulge in chocolate and walnut, snickers and white chocolate cheesecake brownies. I lost myself in cakey goodness.  Such a shame that in my keen-ness to eat them I forgot to take a photo.



Three. 


Appreciation. Last week I was the recipient of an unexpected gift. I LOVE unexpected gifts. Husband arrived home with this book for me. I haven’t read it yet. The good thing about it? The sentiment with which it was given.  He’d decided I sounded ‘rather frazzled’ when we’d spoken on the phone earlier that day. (Let’s face it, looking after two kids all day in 30 degree heat does have it’s moments). But it was good to know that that in the midst of his busy day, he’d thought about me and popped to the shop and bought this gift. I’m not sure when I’ll get the time to read it but that’s not the point - the point is - a little appreciation goes a long way. It's good to know that someone cares.


I actually meant to post this last week but life just got in the way. They're still good things though. What are your three good things this week?




Friday, 19 July 2013

A Week of Firsts and Lasts

Pip’s first sports day - Adorably cute.  A dressing up race, complete with mask and floppy straw hat, a race rolling a huge watermelon down a long line, followed by another funny fruit race and a good old fashioned 100m sprint. Fun and games - good natured, not taken too seriously. The only goal of the little people, seemingly to cross the finish line, not to worry about the order they did it in.

EB’s first tooth - The beginning of the week; tears, a temperature, snot, dribble, more dribble. Fretful, restless nights. Then finally, just before the weekend, a breakthrough, a small opening in the gum, sight of what lay beneath;  a lone white monolith in a landscape of pink.  I lifted my hands to the heavens and thanked God for ending the pain and grizzling, hopeful that we would all now get a better night's sleep.

EB’s first crawl - What a determined little soul he is, my second son.  After weeks of trying to make himself mobile, he wobbled along the length of the living room rug this week.  In the space of two days he’s now into everything - and thinks it’s hilarious.

EB’s first night in his own room - It was decided last week that it was time for EB to move into his own room.  With some sadness I watched Husband dismantle his cot from beside our bed, and move it to the spare room.   Yet, when it was reassembled, and sat there against the wall, it looked right somehow, like it should always have been there.  I wondered if EB would object. Cry. He has not been good at going down recently.  I was determined, he must not fall asleep on the breast, now he’s in his own room, he must go into the cot awake. And so he did. And he fussed a little, but not too much, and then I watched (peeking around the door) and he went to sleep. All by himself.

Pip’s last day at pre-school.  A leavers’ assembly; a song, a prayer, the children all wearing the uniform of their ‘new’ schools.  Tears streamed down my face, as Pip and his friends sang a song about ‘saying goodbye to their friends’ ‘going on with confidence’  being ‘proud of what they’d done and all the happy songs they’d sung’.  The photo badge that had sat above his coat peg for the last eighteen months told the story of how much he’s grown. Still a toddler then - now a boy.  It was impossible not to feel bitter sweet as I realised how quickly time is flying by. 

Firsts and Lasts; all magic moments, each and every one of them. When they are both driving me crazy this holiday (as I’m sure they will at some point) I pledge to take a deep breath, think back to these moments...and smile.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

A Summer Plan

In the past week, I have been faced with a stark realisation. The first, that Pip finishes pre-school tomorrow.  The second, that I then have 7 weeks of summer to fill before he starts school. I am not panicking. I am calm. I am swan like. I can do this.  We are going to have the best summer ever. *Mutters ad infinitum whilst silently stressing.*

How am I going to ensure a stress free summer with a four year old and a seven month old?  It’s going to present challenges - one wants to run off in each and every direction, the other can’t run at all, but is desperate to crawl and determined to not sit in his buggy.  I need a plan.  A master plan.

Two of my favourite bloggers recently detailed their plans for summer. You can read them here and here. I thoroughly enjoyed reading theirs, so thought I would share mine. It’s always good to commit to (virtual) paper one’s best intentions; so here it is, my five point plan for summer.  Some things I plan to do for my children - and for myself.

1. Enjoying time with my boys

Organised Activities - I’ve given up on mother guilt for the summer. It’s not going to do me any good, and a hair shirt is far too uncomfortable to wear in this heat. I’ve arranged a number of holiday camps, gym activities and a drama workshop for Pip to do throughout the summer.  There was a time that I might have felt guilty about this, but I’m over that.  Seven weeks of only me to entertain him and he will be bored out of his brain.  All of the things he’s doing are at locations and with organisations known to him and I know he will love them.  It will give me some intermittent (and probably much needed) breaks and leave me revived for the afternoons and days we spend together.

Picnics and Playdates -I’ve surprised myself by being organised enough to doodle the local mum’s with a list of dates we can all get together and picnic at some local landmarks and enjoy a multiple play date.   Chuck all the kids together with a ball and some trees to climb and the day seems to pass quite easily. Plus, I find a group of children is much easier to look after if you’re with a group of mothers.
 
A 'Back Up' List - Invariably there will be days when we will be footloose and fancy free. Sometimes those days are nice to have, on other occasions I am sure I will wonder how I am going to get to the end of the day.  When I feel this way I sometimes find it hard to find the inspiration to get myself out of the rut.  With this in mind I’ve stockpiled a few rabbits that I can pull out of the proverbial hat if I really need to.  A Mister Maker kit with various craft activities, a bow and arrow (child friendly), a box of (new) Lego stashed in the cupboard. And a multitude of yoghurt pots, egg boxes and washing up bottles for a touch of junk modelling.  Freestyle crafting -  that’s my type of creative activity.

2. A change of scene

Summer in London can feel oppressive when the mercury rises.  The lack of open space, the poor air quality, sometimes make it feel difficult to breathe.  I find I start to crave watery landscapes; lakes or the cooling breeze of sea. The desire to desert the melting pavements becomes overwhelming. For one week in August, we’re leaving London and  heading to Dorset;  to feel the sand between our toes, the cold salty water of the sea and catch crabs. The icing on the cake; we’re taking my parents with us. I am hoping their willingness to babysit will mean I get to spend some well overdue one to one time with Husband.

3. Getting Pip school ready

Pip starts school in September. I want to use the summer holidays to ensure he feels happy with some of the things that will be expected of him come September.  Since we moved into our rented place, he won’t take himself to the toilet on his own. He likes one of us to go with him, whether this is the house or a way of still asserting dependence; ‘ I need you just as much as EB', I don’t know. He is perfectly capable of taking himself to the toilet as he used to do it all the time. It’s something we need to work on. Likewise, his knife and fork skills and his ability to sit (relatively) still at the table at lunchtime.  We’ll also be practising doing up all those tricky little buttons on his school shirts.
 
I am also hoping to spend some time quality time alone with him. To relish his company and his pure and innocent take on the world before he jumps on the rapid elevator to maturity once he starts school. I have a couple of day trips out planned for just the two of us. I’m really looking forward to them.

4. Capturing moments with my camera

I haven’t been taking many photographs recently. Pip is going through a camera shy phase (refusing to look at the camera 99% of the time).  As yet, a good photograph of both Pip and EB together has eluded me. The poor light of the rainy spring months and the fact EB was too small to sit by himself until recently, has meant my recent portfolio of shots has  been limited to indoors snaps using flash. I’m hoping to remedy that this summer with some great natural shots using daylight as we enjoy days out. Hopefully I’ll even catch a couple with big brother smiling too.

I also have a photo project I’ve been working on which I’m hoping to find time to format and continue.  More about this at a later date.

5. Summer of Words

With everything going on in our lives right now, I’m possibly slightly insane for wanting to attempt this, but I would love to join up with the Summer of Words linky over at All at Sea.  It’s an aspiration, but I think they’re good to have. We all need something for ourselves. Watch this space to see if I find the time to write a little something creative and manage to link up.

What are you doing this summer? Do you have a plan or are you going freestyle? 

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Night Visitors

They come in the dead of night to awaken me from slumber. Although truth be told, nowadays I sleep lighter; waiting, one ear listening out. The first appears some time after 12am and before 3.  A local fox regularly serenades the neighbourhood at 1am, crying like a baby, and I wonder if this is a subliminal trigger - inciting the involuntary motion of small feet; magically causing them to rise from the bed and climb the stairs.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Not so light of foot these days.  He appears in the bedroom doorway, silhouetted by the light from the landing. Usually he wears the guise of a superhero (minus his cape - superhero pyjamas don’t have capes.)  Always the same direction around the bed. Always the same creak of the same floorboard; a warning (if we weren’t awake) - I’m coming. He completes the obstacle course - climbing over the sleeping mountain that is his father and burrows deep into the middle of the bed between us. 

A small voice in the darkness.

“I want milkies”

I nudge Husband; shake him awake.  Within moments they disappear. Pip clings like a monkey to his father, head buried into his shoulder.  The floor board creaks again as they depart.

I am alone in the bed.  I can stretch out luxuriously, I can savour the stillness of night.

Ah... *ears prick up*

No. I can’t.

Downstairs I hear Pip wailing, resisting his father’s attempts to put him back into his own bed in his own room. The novelty of his Octonauts duvet cover did not last long.  Alas, neither did the novelty of being four and a Big Boy. So much for big boys staying in their own bed all night long.

It is quiet. I hear a ping from the microwave downstairs. I lie still, acknowledging that Pip will now be glugging a cup of milk, his eyes already shut, drifting off to sleep in the spare bed next to his father who will already have returned to the land of nod.

Waaaah.”

Goodbye silence.

My second visitor.  This one has been invading my sleep all night.  This is the fourth time.  It’s now 4am. I’m starting to feel desperate.  I am exhausted. Tonight I cannot settle him. I think I can feel a tooth trying to push it’s way through his bottom gum.  He is also trying desperately to crawl, even in the cot, when waking at night. Frustration is his middle name.

I lift EB from the cot, plump up the pillows behind me. He latches for my breast instantly, wanting to suckle himself for comfort. I know he doesn’t need feeding, but I am too tired to care. It’s the path of least resistance.  I just want to get to sleep.

As he gets older he seems to be spending longer on the breast at night.  It is not milk he wants though, I know that. I have become a human dummy.

The hazy light of dawn outlines the bedroom blind. The world outside is coming to life; ready to start a new day.   I’m not ready for the day to start. I have barely been asleep. I look at the empty space in the bed next to me and I feel alone. I wish Husband was next to me, for moral support.  I envy him sleeping downstairs in the spare bed with Pip.

We can’t go on like this.  We have to fix it. 

Pre - EB I put Pip’s bad sleeping down to coincidence. 'Just one of those things' I’d say;   'Some people get good sleepers, some don’t.'  Now I’m not so sure.  I think it must be something I’m doing.  Doing wrong.  I look at EB’s current sleeping habits and the sense of de ja vu is remarkable.  Will EB still be waking in the night at age 4?  Please no.

I’ve tried hard with both my boys to give them a good bedtime routine.  Give clear cues - ‘It’s bedtime in 15 minutes’. A bath, a story (or two). Then; “Lights off. Time for sleep. Night Night.” Pip at least, will go to bed without too much resistance. EB right now, has to be coaxed.  As for being through the night sleepers - forget it, on both counts.

When Pip was eighteen months I called a sleep consultant.  He wouldn't go to bed (without Mama) and he wouldn't stay in bed. I reached rock bottom. Controlled crying was not an option, but I found someone who used gentle methods in dealing with sleep problems.  It took a little while to get results but Pip’s sleeping improved considerably. 

Why didn’t I put her number on my speed dial? 

How have we regressed to giving him milk in the early hours of the morning? My NCT friends would be horrified if they knew. 

It’s like a dirty secret. One that makes me feel I fall short as a mother.

We’re caught in a circle of sleep deprived hell. When you’re really tired, all you want is to find the yellow brick road to slumbertown - as quickly as possible. I know what I’m doing wrong, and I tell myself when I have more energy, I’ll deal with it. But that time never seems to come, there’s always something that means the status quo of night milkies, bed hopping and interrupted sleep continues.

Husband thinks that EB needs to leave our room.  That being in the same room as us is not helping him to settle himself.  He is probably right. EB is 7 months now. Small things; the creaking floorboards, Pip coming and going, me - getting up to go to the toilet, wake him.  I don’t want to let him go. I like the reassurance of having him close.  Come morning, when he wakes for the day at 5.30 or 6am and peeks at me through the bars of the cot, his face is like sunshine; bright, radiant. He has the biggest beaming smile.  Whatever has befallen us the night before, however many hours he has had me awake, he has my instant forgiveness.  There is nothing that his smile and Touche Eclat cannot solve.

Is there?

I’m not sure.

Right now I am a lactating zombie.  My words are becoming muddled when I speak, I keep getting people’s names wrong.  I cannot read more than a few paragraphs of a book without forgetting what I’ve already read. Yesterday I took the dry washing off the line and put it straight back in the washing machine. I can’t function. No amount of make up is going to change that. I have to do something.

The sleep consultant’s book has been retrieved from the bookshelf. We have to commit ourselves to a plan and stick to it.  It’s going to get worse before it gets better, but I can see no other way. 


All words of wisdom on getting night wakers to sleep through the night (especially 4 year olds) are gratefully received.