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:


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.


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.


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.


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.