Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Week That Was

It's been a manic week and far too alcohol sodden for January, but what can you do when lots of your friends have January birthdays? I've committed to my health kick beginning in February.

I want to try some new things on my blog this year so thought I'd try joining up with 'The Week That Was: Captured'. I've rather enjoyed documenting my week in photographs.  Here's a visual snippet of my life from the last week.

1. A spot of brunch whilst shopping for new sofas. 2. Light Lust. I’m searching for a long light for our double height landing. I love this Bocci light. Alas, I tripped the light fantastic when I discovered the prices (albeit for a much smaller version) 3. A trip to the Fashion Galore exhibition at Somerset House. An amazingly well curated collection of McQueen and Phillip Tracey. Just. Awesome. Felt inspired to follow my long held dream of signing myself up for a millinery course. 4. A 40th birthday celebration and a hangover. 5. A walk - blowing the cobwebs away. 6. Comfort food. 7. An afternoon of slapstick with Tom and Jerry. 8. EB models his new boy tights. 9. A splash of colour and a reminder spring will soon be on the way. 10. That’s not my...EB’s new favourite thing is pointing to the little mouse on each page of these books.  So sweet!  11. Examining cheaper alternatives to try and make my own Bocci imitation light. 12. Shopping for fabrics (a lot of procrastinating...) 13 &14. EB helps out around the house - babygros in the pan drawer. Of course.  15/16. A night out with the girls and a much needed sausage sandwich the morning after.

Linking up with the lovely Hannah at Make Do and Push.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Shades of Grey

We’ve reached the stage in the building project where we need to make decisions about the interior decor.   Time to make those aspirational pin interest boards come to life.  The task of decorating a whole house at once (and at speed) is proving daunting, especially for a procrastinator.  My default position thus far when the builder has asked for paint colours has been to utter the words ‘white’ and run away clutching my paint swatch cards.  

The original plan was to have a consistent colour scheme running throughout the house, creating some continuation between the rooms.  As a general rule, I like life to be bright and cheerful, (my wardrobe for example) yet I wouldn’t dream of painting a wall red or purple. Instead I prefer to add these as accents or accessories against a neutral colour palette. ( The thing is, I do fear that neutral is rather boring. Neutral; a word guaranteed to conjure up a lack of excitement. Neutral; the blah blah blah of the colour palette. Hmmmm.

Husband has issued an edict - no more white. It’s been stressful. In recent days, Farrow and Ball have come to my rescue. Their website has a helpful section on how light affects colour. For an east facing property like ours, colours with underlying green and blue hues are suggested as good options. The only problem being, I'm not sure I want to live in a green or blue house so, grateful for their advice, I have (sort of) ignored it and examined the options available in grey and white palettes with undertones of these colours instead.

Forbidden to paint the whole house white, I’ve settled on Pavilion Grey. Sounds rather grand doesn’t it? (Certainly better than the alternative of ‘Mole’s Breath’. Ugh). I like it’s taupe, almost (but not quite) greeny undertones. It feels a peaceful colour to me. I hope so; currently two sets of wardrobes, the kitchen cupboards, the staircase and some panelling in the downstairs loo are going to be painted with it.  The grey will be offset with um... white (obviously Husband is not aware of this yet) but mostly in higher areas, those that are above the head height of two small boys with very sticky fingers.

If you’d told me two years ago that I would consider painting any element of my house grey I would have shuddered in disbelief.  Yet, modern, architectural grey has enjoyed something of a renaissance in the past couple of years. I’d like to think my taste is individual enough to be uninfluenced by trends, but given my recent colour preferences I am not so sure.

On trend, off trend, do I really care? I don’t think so. Pantone have recently revealed their colour of the year. Radiant Orchid.  I like it, but perhaps as a nail varnish or for a summer handbag. Not to have as a major feature inside my home.

In the meantime, I’m sticking with grey. To match my hair.  Finding colours for the house is a little like getting my highlights done (incidentally, long overdue); it’s very difficult to find something I'm really happy with.

Do you have a colour scheme running through your house? Which colours have you used in your living spaces? Do you have a favourite paint colour or a scheme that worked particularly well in one room?  I’d love to hear.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Some Days Are Just Like That

At 5.45am EB was ready to start the day. I snuggled him into the bed next me in the hope of an extra forty winks. We lay cuddling in the dark, EB’s body still heavy with the residues of slumber, murmuring slightly. I sensed sleep may still be within his reach.  Optimistic, I lay silently stroking his hair, praying for an extra half hour before we had to descend into the fridge like zone of downstairs.  It was not meant to be. At 6am Pip entered the room clutching a small glow in the dark globe of New York City.  "Is Daddy in bed or getting up yet?" "Where exactly is his office?" "Is his hotel here near the park?" Questions and more questions. EB and I squinted in the white glare of Pip’s orb. 

"Would you like to go downstairs and play Snakes and Ladders, Mummy?”

Not really.
But, by 6.30am that is exactly what I was doing.

Husband normally plays with the kids for the first hour of their day, it’s often the only time they get to see him as EB is usually in bed by the time he gets home, Pip sometimes too.  They love their time with him, but when Daddy’s not at home, Mummy is expected to fill the breach - and it seems, in exactly the same way.

I was quite enjoying myself until 7am.  At which time, Pip decided to have the mother of all strops because he hadn’t won the game. "Ah well, it’s only a game; time to tidy away and have breakfast". Pip was having none of it.  In the end I left him to it, sat on the sofa in his helicopter pyjamas elevating himself into a frenzy and took EB into the kitchen.  Fifteen minutes later, after an explanation that Snakes and Ladders requires no skill whatsoever and is a game of luck, plus a further stand off involving a brioche, Pip finally ate some breakfast.

The morning continued in the same vein before school. Tears, strops, meltdowns over the tiniest of things. "You haven’t warmed my clothes on the radiator, Mummy" (I never normally do that) but still, that was a cause for tears today. By 9am when I dropped Pip off,  I felt frazzled.

“He’s been a bit teary” I said to the teaching assistant as I handed him over. To my horror, I found myself welling up too. Not for the first time since Pip started school; there was a similar incident at parent’s evening, when they told me what a 'well mannered, thoughtful, kind child' he was.  The school must think I’m the most emotionally overwrought mother they’ve ever come across. 

Post drop off, I spent an hour and a half tidying the house. In the meantime, EB toddled round like a miniature wrecking ball - causing havoc in his wake.  Shredding toilet roll into a million confetti like pieces and trying demolish Pip’s Lego train - the one that took two days to build over Christmas, before making a secret mission to the small cloakroom and attempting to sabotage the toilet brush, en route, emptying all the waste bins he could find.

Meetings aplenty to have regarding Faulty Towers, I left the house at 10.30am, hoping that EB would sleep as usual, in his buggy. Which he did, for precisely fifteen minutes. Pressing on, I hoped he would go back to sleep. Stressed and desperate to sort out my kitchen worktops I proffered a croissant from a bakery.  He proceeded to cover himself in a million flakes of pastry as he got slowly more and more tired and fed up, whilst steadfastly refusing to go to sleep.  By the time I got to the shop to discuss the worktops, EB was in no mood to listen to the benefits of quartz vs corian. Ratcheting up the decibel level he ensured it was impossible to have a conversation. 'I really don’t mind' said the shop owner, clearly desperate for business. But I did. I couldn't even hear myself think. Plus, EB was shedding croissant all over his immaculate showroom floor.

Mission incomplete (and wondering how I was going to square that with the builder) we made our way out into the cold. As we walked back down the High road, EB put on the show of all shows for all and sundry to see. Passers by didn’t even attempt to avert their eyes.  Removing him from the buggy only made matters worse and I couldn’t carry him all the way home.  So I soldiered on. And EB carried on and on and on; until he was beside himself. Each pair of eyes that passed us, I felt judged by.  Mother guilt scorched my every step. For whatever reason, the normal routine hadn't worked today. It wasn't my fault, but it wasn't his either.

In the supermarket, the mature checkout lady and the woman at the front of the queue exchanged knowing looks. The cashier on the checkout next door swivelled in her seat to see what all the fuss was about. I felt like shouting. MOVE ALONG. NOTHING TO SEE HERE. JUST A CRYING BABY AND A STRESSED OUT MOTHER.  I felt like leaving, but I toughed it out, all the time feeling like they thought I was the worst mother in the world because I couldn’t stop my son crying.

Back home, lunchtime was a disaster. EB threw most of his food on the floor and decided to use his sippy cup as a watering can.  After lunch he still refused to sleep so instead, I found myself reading Dear Zoo on repeat.  Husband rang up from New York, having viewed various emails about the house and we argued the toss about the optimal dimensions of the kitchen sink. (I wish I were joking).

As I picked Pip (in a better mood) up from school, the heavens opened and we got drenched. I felt that this was not one of my best days ever.

Some days are just like that.

Yet as the day wore on, there were silver linings.  Post school we dropped in to a friend’s house for tea and cake.  It turned into an impromptu gathering of a few more friends and their kids. Bedlam and chocolate brownies. An hour of much needed company. Friends who can make you laugh. Mothers who understand other mothers.

At bedtime, EB placed his arms around my neck, shut his eyes, nuzzled in tight and in his sleepy voice murmured; 'Mama, Mama, Mama’.  The stress of earlier seemed miles away.

As I cuddled up to Pip in bed, we continued to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Tonight, in chapter 11, Charlie Bucket found a golden ticket. Pip’s engagement with the story was a joy. As he bounced on the bed with excitement, I found myself choked - yet again. The morning’s outbursts long forgotten.

As I sit here now, home alone with two sleeping boys in bed, and a glass of wine in hand. I conclude, that some days are just like that. And tomorrow is another day.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Looking Forward, Looking Back

Looking Back....2013

At the start of last year I had a one month old baby and was about to embark on a major house renovation project. I decided not to make any resolutions, I wrote here that all I wanted was to get to the end of 2013 as a happy family unit with a new (non leaky) roof over our heads.

The good news; we are a happy family unit. The not so good news, our project ran behind, 6th December (our finish date) came and went and we did not spend Christmas in our house. A shame, but Christmas was perfectly lovely anyway.

A word cloud describing my 2013 would feature busy, stressful and chaotic in bold type.  I consider myself to be a professional plate spinner, but last year was ridiculous - even for me.  Yet, I managed. Kept on keeping on.  Laughed (mostly) through the stress of the build (and rebuild), kept calm when dealing with the unexpected delays and costs. I fell to pieces a couple of times; ‘fence-gate’ was a low point, as was the builder coming to blows with the landscape gardener, and finally there was a large parcel load of pre-Christmas stress when the kitchen cupboard sample arrived on the 23rd December resembling something found in the cabinet war rooms as opposed to a modern day kitchen.  Still, with the help of wine and a sense of humour, we muddled through.

In the midst of the chaos, two small boys were loved, nurtured and developed. Pip started school (and loved it) and EB, transformed himself from a small baby lying in a Moses basket next to the Christmas tree a year ago, to this Christmas, a toddling one year old pulling every single bauble off it.

2013 was a seat of the pants type of year. We stretched ourselves financially, physically and emotionally like we never have before.  It was hard work, but I’m proud of how Husband and I stuck together and supported each other.  I’m thankful for my family who not only assisted with valuable advice on all matters Faulty Towers (thank god they’re so practical), but also, for two sets of very willing babysitters, in the children’s Grandparents. An unexpected bonus of 2013 was the strengthening of bonds with our parents.  Seeing the pleasure they get from visiting and spending time with us all (particularly the boys) made me very happy. And to be honest, I don’t think I’d have got through the last year without them.

Looking back, at times I struggled last year. With the relentlessness of it all, the constant, all consuming stress of project managing the house, of our dilapidated rental place, of trying to maintain a calm and consistent routine for the boys through it all.  In the autumn months, my heart felt heavy some days, weighty,  like the sodden leaves on the ground.  The lack of any ‘me’ time got to me. The infrequency of having time and space to relax and empty my head of grout, bricks, kitchens and window frames wore me down.

I’m an optimist at heart. I knew then, as I know now, we'd get to the end. That I just had to battle on. That I’ll look back on 2013 and laugh.  That in time, the stress inflicted scars will fade and this project will be haloed with a rose tinted nostalgic haze.  It’s not over yet. The latest estimate from the builder is four months more. By then we’ll have been out of our home for fourteen months. That’s a long time, for us, for Pip. I often repeat the words below in my head, they’ve been my mantra for the last year and will be so for the first few months of 2014 too.
Image courtesy of Pin Interest

Looking Forward -2014

I have no big, meaty resolutions this year, just some good intentions. They definitely don’t include giving up alcohol. That would be insanity. The next few months are going to be far too stressful. My good intentions are:

To focus on my health Am I the only person in the world who buys up massive supplies of vitamin and mineral supplements and then forgets to take them? This is going to be the year I remember. (3 days in, so far so good). And early nights - I need to force myself to go to bed before 11.30pm some nights, I feel so much better for it.  This year I’m going to make an effort to get some proper sleep one or two nights a week.  Exercise? Yes, that too. Starting with the free gym membership I won in a Christmas raffle. (I just need to find time to actually go.)

We time - Coming out of the first year of EB’s babyhood, he’s walking, he’s sleeping better and it feels like things are getting easier. I want to spend some quality time with my husband this year; step away from the sofa and get out and about, just the two of us. We deserve it.

To celebrate life - I’ve decreed the second half of 2014 year is going to be our time as a family to have fun. I’m looking forward to moving back to our home in the spring, and for the remainder of the year I’m saying ‘no’ to anything remotely stressful and looking forward to some ‘feet up’ time with my family. The last fourteen months will have been an endurance test for all of us - from May onwards I want us to reap the rewards. We’ve got a pizza oven we need to learn how to use, a garden that needs replanting and rooms that need to be filled with laughter.  That's one resolution I hope I find easy to keep.
Have you made any resolutions for 2014? 
Wishing you a wonderful year.