Thursday, 27 June 2013

Running Wild

I spent some time in the garden at Faulty Towers this week.  The top half of it has been given over to pallets of bricks, huge steel beams and a cheap plastic table and chairs to be used for builder's tea breaks. The remainder has been left to run wild. Mother Nature has taken full advantage of the free rein she has been given, has not held back from spreading her green fingers, infiltrating each and every inch to create carpets and canopies of green.

I rather like it.  Manicured lawns and borders are not my thing (much to Husband’s disgust.) I like jungly, adventurous gardens; perhaps that’s reflective of the fact that I’m not much of a gardener and why untamed appeals to me.

The garden is like a meadow now. Grass calf high, studded with hundreds of daisies and little blue flowers.  

The borders are wild.  A few flowers bloom, a deep pink shrub here, some red roses there.  If I was there to water and look after them, perhaps they would survive a little longer, but as I'm not there, raindrops will be the only water they get - unless the builders decide to water them - which is highly unlikely.

The apple trees seem to be faring well.  The plum tree promises a good harvest and is currently laden with unripened fruit.  I am not allowing myself to get excited though, especially after last year’s Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Plums.  Really, it seems that it's down to luck whether I get any plums at all. Me vs the Parakeets; current score 0:1.

The archway to the secret garden is getting overgrown now.  Branches block the way. A fox has designated it his toilet area.  A few lone Kent Bells can be seen, about to open, and a small forest of ferns.  It is starting to look and smell unloved.

We need to decide what we are going to do with our garden, how we make it compliment the newly renovated house.  Husband has big plans, he talks of 'hard landscaping', dreams of a pizza oven and an outdoor kitchen. (I stress - dreams.)  I on the other hand, am just keen to preserve my plum tree, my apple trees and the two self seeded oaks right at the bottom. I do love a good tree. They look so lovely and take so little work, with the added bonus of being great climbing apparatus - some of my favourite pictures of Pip are of him in the apple tree.  

Linking up with Mammasaurus and How does your garden grow?
Mammasaurus - How Does Your Garden Grow?

Friday, 21 June 2013

About A Boy

4 years old today.  No vestiges of toddler left now; you are a proper boy. The fine down of baby blond has gone, now you have a head of thick flaxen hair. Your body is long and lean, your legs have grown so much that only last week you yourself said; “Look how far my legs come out of my shorts.” Oh the irony; that we have always called you Pip, when in fact you stand loftily over all your peers. You are growing up - in every way.

You are every inch a boy; turbo charged and raring to go. Flashing lights in the soles of your trainers, chasing through packs of pigeons in the park, causing them to flap and fluster in heavy flight. Racing, chasing - as long as it’s fast - you’re happy. EB and I race you with the pram whilst you hurtle alongside on your scooter. "Let's pretend it's sports day" you say. You have developed a competitive edge and you like to win; thank goodness you’re happy to wear a safety helmet.

Right now, you love the Octonauts. You are an expert on each and every episode and every featured sea creature.  Spiderman is also a big hit with you, your polyester muscle suit is your favourite thing to dress up in; as far as you’re concerned, it is the only acceptable attire to wear for parties or for visiting Grandma; chinos and smart shirts are not ‘cool’.

Your favourite food is pasta. Or pancakes (for breakfast).  And cake; we share a love of cake. On many a shopping trip you and I end up in an M&S cafe with a slice of Victoria sponge to share. Your growth can be measured in your upped cake consumption. I always used to be able to guarantee myself 2/3rds of the slice. These days I have to argue for my fair share of fork time and I get to share half the slice if I’m lucky.  At some point in the future I may even have to consider buying you your own.

Your imagination is fabulous. You love building huge towers out of building blocks or creating something from a cardboard box. You love role play and dress up. Tuesday is your favourite school day because it’s drama club. I love seeing the creative side of you develop, it’s the one thing about you that is most like me. I like seeing a small glimmer of myself in you, especially when in nearly every other way, you are like your Dad.  

"One day I'm going to be really big and strong and climb mountains just like Daddy." You tell me this often. A photo of your father sits on your bedside table, your hero, pictured with Everest in the background; you love it. Only now I realise, that I haven't pointed out to you that it was Mummy taking the photo; that mummies can (and frequently do) climb mountains too.

This year I have noticed you becoming increasingly independent. ‘I can do it myself’ is now one of your stock phrases. You get frustrated if I try to help you complete a task you’ve set your mind to doing alone.  You are forming your own opinions now too;  after years of choosing your clothes, I find my selections are sometimes now rejected. “No Mummy, that shirt has flowers on it”. “Not really, they look more like leaves to me darling..” I say as I try to cajole you into it. “No Mummy. Boys don’t wear flowers.” You know your own mind.

Despite your increasing independence, you still cling to the long standing associations of your babyhood. Monkey is still blessed with a place in your bed, though some nights now ignored.  Warm milk still helps you sleep at night.  Sometimes you still want your ‘snuggly blanket’.  You like to sleep with your ‘ele’ night light on.  Last night I found you sleeping with Peso penguin wrapped tightly in your fist, you had gone to sleep whilst playing with him.

At bedtime, after lights out, you like me to cuddle up and we make up stories together. With pirates; Peg Leg Pete and Peg Leg Paul, Sabre Tooth Sammy and Red Beard Rob.  You are always the hero who foils the terrible pirates (again), with the help of your crocodile friends. These moments by dim lamp light I cherish. We cuddle up close and as you get drawn into the story you start to embellish it yourself, eyes wide with excitement, tapping on your headboard to signal that the peg leg pirates are making their way into the narrative.

Six months ago you became a big brother. After 3.5 years as an only child, it was quite an adjustment for you to get used to sharing Mummy and Daddy.  3 months after EB was born, we moved out of our house and somewhere else, another big change.  You’ve coped admirably and with a maturity I did not expect, but have been very grateful for.

EB adores you. You make him laugh. You’re his hero, his eyes smile when he looks at you.  It’s wonderful to witness. You enjoy playing the joker - and he is the butt of some of your jokes - but to be fair, he doesn’t seem to mind; even yesterday when I caught you putting a small colander on his head and pretending it was a hat.

I often think about the years I had alone with you before EB was born and I feel very lucky.  These days, moments together just you and I, are infrequent, but we still have special times.  A little while ago I told you; “ I love it when you hold my hand.” I’ve noticed you hold it more often now. Thank you. I’m making the most of it whilst I still can.

You like to pick me flowers from the garden to wear in my hair, a daisy or a dandelion, sometimes a buttercup. Without fail, you’ll tell me; “Mummy, you look beautiful’.   I love the way you offer up your flowers and then admire the way they look.  There are some things about you I hope will never change. I hope you pick me flowers forever.

You may not be a baby or toddler anymore but you are still relatively untouched by the world. Still pure. Your teeth the brightest white, your skin still silky soft, not yet scarred. Big Boy school is calling - beckoning us to September. I know these last few months will pass in a flash.  I want to cherish each and every lasting moment, to make the last of you as you are now, untainted by multiple external influences.    You are ready; I can see that. “Can I go to school now I’m four?” you ask. “The ‘Big Boys’ can’t wait for me to get there, Mummy” you say as we drive past.  I’m pleased that you are excited about going to school, that you’re approaching it with such confidence.  I don’t often give myself a pat on the back, but it comforts me to see it, makes me feel that somewhere in the midst of muddling through motherhood, I have done something right.

I can’t believe how much you’ve grown, how these short years, have already flown. My first born boy, my pride and joy, I’m so proud of you and I love you very much. Happy Birthday. xxx

*Published slightly after Pip's birthday - just because that's what life is like right now.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013


The letter from the electricity board read; ‘ Notice of disconnection’.  As I stared at it I wondered when things had got quite so out of control. I hadn’t set up a direct debit, it didn’t seem necessary for the length of time we plan to be here. As I result, I’d simply forgotten to pay it. I wasn’t surprised, on the adrenalin richter scale it didn’t even bother me greatly; it was just another curve ball thrown into the spiralling chaos of everyday life. 

Trying to keep on top of every aspect of life right now is a plate spinning challenge of Olympic proportions.  Managing a house renovation project and two small young children is proving to be a monumental challenge. Cramped into our small rental property surrounded by boxes that there’s no space to unpack, I feel that I am living in a permanent state of disarray. Piles of paper, (bills that need to be paid) get filed somewhere ‘safe’ and then disappear (get forgotten) under yet more piles of paper. Ditto registration forms for swimming lessons and forms for Pip’s school.  Dust is piling up on skirting boards, since I parted company with our cleaner; our finances are tighter than my pre-maternity tights and it seemed ridiculous to pay for a cleaner that couldn’t clean. 

The architect and builder are becoming increasingly demanding. I am thankful we chose to rent so close to Faulty Towers.  EB regularly gets pushed into the building site, a shroud placed over his pram to protect him from the dust.  Suddenly life has become punctuated by many decisions. All needing to be made yesterday. We’ve been planning this forever, but there is something about finalising decisions; accepting responsibility, that makes me second guess myself and doubt my judgement.  There are many choices, too many choices and they all need to be made at once.  Husband is consulted each night from 9-10pm, when after a late supper I download the day’s progress and discuss any decisions that need to be made.

Annabel Karmel’s recipe book sits perched atop bathroom and tile brochures on the kitchen worktop juxtaposed against pouches of Ella’s kitchen; a reminder of good intentions amidst the benefits of time saving convenience. Every time I look at them, I feel a pang of guilt, that EB’s weaning is not as ‘wholesome‘ as his brothers, who only ate homemade food for the first year of his life. Yet I have to accept I just can’t do it all, I’m struggling as it is;  any free time is taken up with tile showrooms and bathroom shops (much to EB’s disgust). I would dearly like to write about this project on my blog, but there just never seems to be the time or the head space. Some days I find it hard to even remember what day it actually is.  Sleepless nights with a suckling, teething babe attached to my breast coupled with long frenetic days have made my head a fuzzy mess.

Last week we took a holiday with friends.  A crazy thing to do, given our current circumstances and finances, but, it had been booked and paid for a year ago. We hoped it would offer some sanity saving respite, if only temporary.

I had forgotten just exactly how much time it takes to pack up a family of four for a holiday.  The Friday before we left was bedlam, from it’s 6am start we didn’t stop; watching 7m steels be delivered to the house on a crane at 9am I felt that half the day must surely have passed already.  By 8.30pm that evening when the baptism visitors arrived to discuss EB’s christening I was exhausted. My weariness must have been self-evident, they didn’t stay long.  At 10.30pm I finished writing emails to the architect and continued packing.  At 11.30pm I had a shower.  At 1am after making sure we had everything we needed and sending yet a few more emails, I rolled into bed, knowing that a taxi would be picking us up in 4 hours time.

I wondered how many more weeks I could take like that one. Surely the holiday week would be less stressful. 

It was, to a degree. But still the calls came, conferencing with the architect or the builder on Husband’s phone.  And still the adrenalin pumped and still I postulated and deliberated about each decision.  EB decided sleeping at night was for wimps so I found myself up nearly every hour in the night, placating him with breast far too regularly in an attempt to at least keep his older brother asleep.  By the end of the week I was producing enough milk to start a dairy, evidenced by the number of times my friends or husband would whisper; "You’re leaking"  as I sported wet patches on my t-shirt for the umpteenth time.

I returned home no more rested. Both eyes have developed twitches, my head aches.  Stress or brick dust? Who knows. A house to rebuild, a 4 year old birthday and party, a christening, a weeks worth of washing, a leak in the rental property, more unpaid bills. The to-do list seems endless.  I like life to be busy but this is ridiculous. Perhaps the letter from the electricity board was a sign, an omen of some sort.  I need to find a way of balancing things better - before I become disconnected myself.

How do you hold it all together?