The best day of my life

The Man and I have an ongoing in-joke about various TV programmes hitting certain cliches: a catch-phrase bingo as it were. Reality TV shows are the best for this. Take Strictly Come Dancing, for example (and this is the best known)”It’s been an amazing journey”, plus “I think this will be the best ever year”, “He’s such a fantastic partner, I think we’ll always be friends”, “I know we say this every year, but this year it really is too close to call” etc. (The X Factor is known in our house for the ‘dead Granny’ card – see if you can figure that one out).

The one that always makes me twitch a bit is the line “I think this has been the best day/experience of my life.” Not so much because of the exaggeration, after all, I haven’t walked in their shoes, perhaps it truly is the best day of their life. It’s because me makes me think of what people normally cite as being the best days of their life: their wedding day, the day their children are born.

Now, my wedding day is still the best, most memorable day of my life but, despite the fact that having each of them has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me, the days my children were born are the two worst days of my life. Without question, equivocation or exception. The very worst days of my life. The day my son was born was the day I felt most violated and under threat, the day my daughter was born was the day she and I nearly died.

Do people just say that the day their children were born is the best day of their life because they feel they should say it? Because they’re talking about the eventual outcome rather than the day itself? Or is this just something I’ve missed out on? Can you let me know? Please…

Don’t feel too bad for me, though, because although my wedding day has been my most memorable best, I have had many many ordinary days of love and fun and family since then and I anticipate many many more. It’s not about where you start, is it, but the journey, and this is such an amazing journey.

Bingo!

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Messy play and muddy walks – fun in the country

I was challenged to write a post about messy play with my children (if you enjoy it please vote for me here, I’d be super duper grateful)- how I did laugh. It would strain my capabilities far more to find some non-messy play to write about in this house! Life with a three year old is basically one of containment and crisis management. From the time he discovered an open bag of flour on a low shelf to the time he realised you could colour the kitchen floor in with a green sharpie (don’t. Just… don’t. The memory still makes me shudder) I spend my life cleaning up messes and trying to stop the laundry basket overflowing to the point where the entire landing  becomes the laundry basket.

From playdough jam tarts (green is such an appetising colour, no?)
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to baking (licking the bowl is the best bit, right?) our every day lived experience is messy play.

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With that in mind I actually didn’t need to set up a special messy play session, however, living in the countryside, muddy walks are actually our default position when we need something to do. We usually do three or four a week when the smalls are up to it, but The Girl is Les Miz at the moment and The Boy is currently suffering from ‘Old legs’ (a consequence of shooting up 2cm in the space of a week I suspect) so we’re confined to barracks far more than normal.

When we head out we have a litany of songs to sing (as well as full, head-to-toe waterproofs, I’m not silly. Also useful when he spills his thermos of hot chocolate down his front, which seems to be unavoidable), favourite of which is “The Hippopotamus ” by Flanders & Swann.

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Here he is actually sitting in a muddy puddle. Go figure.

Here’s The Boy bellowing as he stomps, unfortunately (?) not the most impressive mud we’ve encountered, but c’est la vie.

We also like to give voice to a series of other relevant ditties (song and rhyme), a list of which follows, but do let me know if you have any more suggestions as we’re always looking to add to our repertoire:
– The sun has got his hat on
– It’s raining, it’s pouring
– You are my sunshine
– Rain rain go away  (noticing a theme here? We are in England after all, home of the changeable weather front)
– There’s a worm at the bottom of my garden
– Incy wincy spider

And when we resume our walks we’ll be launching into some nice seasonal favourites too, like Frosty the Snowman, Snowflake and Nick Cope’s fabulous It’s a Snowman Kinda Day.

The straight back home for a nice hose-down in the back garden!

Make your own cheapie fleece liners for reusable cloth nappies

I have made a massive, bargainous, money-saving, effort saving attempt this week. I have made my own fleece nappy liners and it has cost me less than £2 for 12 – it’s £7.50 for 10 if you buy them ready made – and they’re so bloody simple and easy that I am making the effort to do a blog tutorial so others can benefit, even though it makes me seem like a total hippy saddo.

Whilst The Girl has been joining us for meals for a few months now, it’s only been recently that she’s actually started eating any substantial amount of solids and – please excuse the tmi – she’s now doing substantial poos to match. Cloth nappies have many benefits, but scraping actual grown-up-person shit off before they can go in the machine is seriously not one of them. I used the disposable paper liners with The Boy, but they were notoriously rubbish: crinkling up into his butt crack and utterly failing at their designed purpose. On a girl this is exacerbated even further by the extra creases it can work its way into.

Liners are useful for a number of reasons and whilst the biggest reason – clean up after a poo-nami – may seem to make a ‘chuck it down the loo’ dispoable the obvious choice, fleece liners may have the edge in other ways: more likely to stay in place, thus catching the poo. You can then just rinse it in the loo; protecting expensive natural-fibre nappies from bottom creams, thus maintaining their absorbency and protecting delicate derrières from wash-roughened sodden cotton inserts.

I was in a well known low-cost supermarket branch two days ago (starts with an ‘A’ ) and, I dunno, think they might have been running a baby event or something, but they were flogging a fleece blanket for £1.75 (marked down from a pricey £2.something) and on the spur of the moment decided to grab one to make fleece liners.

By God it was complicated. I had to trim off the hemming (why do they hem fleece blankets? It’s not like they fray or roll), then use an insert as a template and cut it up into pieces. Done. Bish bash bosh. I may have been lying about the complexity level. No sewing, no fancy stuff, no messing. 12 inserts for £1.75. That’s roughly 15p per liner. Bargain!

If it’s not too inestimably dull I’ll let you know how they work out.

Stupid stuff I beat myself up about on a daily basis

I think we all have this, don’t we? Us parents, anyway. Things we promise ourselves we’ll do better, or at all, and then we don’t prioritise it and it just becomes a niggling worry eating away at our sanity until it keeps us awake until 3am fretting over whether anything is actually going mouldy in the bottom of the washing basket, only to go back to sleep promising you’ll definitely, 100%, absolutely do something about it tomorrow, but you spend all night dreaming you’re trying to do it whilst endless obstacles prevent you until you wake, three hours later, too exhausted to do other than the very bare minimum to keep everything ticking over.

Or is that just me?

1- The laundry basket having, um, well, laundry in it.  With a family of four, including a pukey, newly-weaning baby in cloth nappies, a three-year who magnetises mud and has had a slight continence regression and a husband who cycles to work and spends his spare time tinkering with car engines, the laundry is plentiful, varied and never-ending. The only way I could ever possibly get to the bottom of it would be to make them all move out.  Families make washing. If I can ever learn to accept this my life would be infinitely less stressful.

2- My son’s ’show and tell diary’.  This is a handy journal to help join up what’s going on at home with what’s going on at preschool, but I never remember to write in the damn thing. I do, however, collar the supervisor or The Boy’s keyworker at the door most mornings and have an intense Q&A session with them about the latest biting incident or the fact he’s learnt to, I dunno, write his own name or whatever. I will not get social services knocking at the door because I haven’t stuck in his latest piece of ‘art’ work.

3- The fact I didn’t cook broccoli with dinner last night.  I did, however, feed them shepherd’s pie with grated courgette in – and chopped carrot, too, for that matter. The fact there’s no vegetable also on the side of the plate does NOT mean my kids will get scurvy. Even if they got scrmabled eggs on toast for dinner for a week they would still not get scurvy, rickets, or any other kind of malutrition-related illness. As long as I don’t feed them generic fast-food and milkshakes week in, week out, they will grow up strong and healthy.

4- That I have a friend coming and haven’t cleaned up yet. She’s known me for 21 years now. She knows I favour the chaos-theory style of living. She will be fed and entertained (if you can call being sent to retrieve a rogue three year old from t’other side of the park and forced to critique Strictly with me ‘entertained’) and will not judge me if I haven’t hoovered. Plus we all know I’ll run around cleaning like a blue-arsed fly on Saturday morning whilst the baby is asleep and The Boy is zombified in front of a DVD.

5- That I still don’t have a job lined up for when The Girl starts school (four years hence I might add), or any work experience to switch into broadcasting like I want to, or a life plan in general other than ‘keep myself and my children alive until they’re old enough to do it for themselves’.

So there you go – five of my current brain farts. What kind of stupid stuff keeps you awake at night?

NaNoWriMo rides again

So, November is fast approaching, which for some of the foolhardy amongst us (well, it is foolhardy when you have two children and no childcare) means NaNoWriMo is almost upon us. Despite not having taken part in National Novel Writing Month for several years I have participated – and ‘won’ (ie- reached 50k words in a month) before, so I know it’s possible. That was long before children, though, and during a bout of unemployment, so the challenges will be that much greater this time.

I may not complete the challenge. I may only manage a few thousand words. I may be entirely silent on my blog whilst I struggle once more with the fictional word. I will never know until I try.

Things to my benefit – I have far greater life experience now. Nothing like having babies and a run-in with a life or death situation to broaden your horizon. I also have almost no free time, which ought to focus the mind. What is it they say? If you want something done then give it to a busy person? Well I’m busy alright.

Anybody else thinking of taking part?

5 top tips to marriage – advice for a life together

This weekend just gone The Man, The Girl and I were at a wedding. The guest book was a lovely departure from the norm of intimidatingly blank pages and provided a series of ‘prompts’ to answer, with glue dots to attach them and stickers to decorate. I am not very happy with the prompt I chose and the answer I gave. I was tired and distracted with an over-stimulated baby wailing on my back and have been kicking myself ever since. The one I should have answered was “What 3 pieces of advice would you give us for a happy future together”. Well, after 11 years together, seven of them trapped joined in marriage, I’d like to think I have a little bit to say on this topic, so R & K, this blog post is for you…

1 – Always be quick to apologise. Even if you don’t think it was your fault. Even if you were both in the wrong. Take the first step to saying sorry, and you’ll be able to have a real conversation from there and, hopefully, resolve whatever required an apology in the first place. If you’ve married the right person then they’ll apologise too if they were in the wrong.
If you really really weren’t in the wrong then you can still find something to apologise for. Example: “I’m really sorry I started crying and walked away. I just needed some time to calm down. Can we talk now?”

2 – Don’t make unilateral decisions. You were hopefully a team before you got married, but you’re legally committed to each other now and are responsible for each others’ decisions, so make sure you talk about them. I mean, you know, not about whether you wear the blue dress or the red dress to his mother’s party (unless there’s a ‘thing’ with his mum, obvs) but the big stuff like having children, buying a new car or stringing the Christmas tree with white or coloured lights (that’s a big cultural preference y’know. The Man and I still agree to disagree on this).

3 – Have faith in each other.  This is bigger than just trusting each other – that’s only about monogamy. No, having faith in each other is trusting that the other has your best interests at heart and has your back. Having faith in each other means trusting that your spouse is doing their very best, trying their very hardest, even if you feel they’re not entirely doing their fair share.  In return you need to be deserving of that same faith: have your spouse’s best interests at heart and have their back at all times.  Always try your very hardest.

4 – Look after each other. This is a reciprocal arrangement, a little like number 3. If you always go that extra mile to look after them, and they always do the same in return, then both of you will always feel – and be – cared for. Make them that cup of tea, buy them that unexpected present, let them have a lie-in when the kids get you up at 4am.

5 – Have fun together. Life is serious and no-one gets out alive. Take time to be silly together. Have in-jokes, act childish, splash each other in the sea, goose each other, play kiss chase, hold hands. Don’t let the daily grind grind your spirit to dust before your body gets there. Enjoy the life you have together.

marriagetipsThese are the five tips I would give anybody embarking on a life together.  I wish I had written them in that book. On the way home from the wedding I confessed as much to The Man who turned to me with a smile and told me that he had gone back later and written something for a change and which one had he chosen? The three tips: have fun together, be quick to apologise, have faith in each other…

I don’t know if that explains the strong marriage, or is the result of 11 years mind-meld 😉

Winter is here – fab fairisle photoshoot

I don’t think I’m alone in frequently dressing myself and my children in matchy matchy clothes. One hardly ever means to, unless you’re slightly freakish, but you just wake up in the mood for turquoise, or navy blue and white stripes with red, or jeans and a white Tee. If you’re choosing everyone’s clothes it’s no wonder you all co-ordinate. Well The Boy was recently bought a new jumper from Sainsburys which he insisted on wearing today and it was only after he came downstairs that I realised both he and The Girl were in Fairisle and looked like they’d stepped out of a knitwear catalogue.

They looked so damn cute I had to take some photos – well please remind me next time that no matter how stressful it is to try and get a decent photo of one small child, trying to get two of them to co-operate is one of the most stressful undertakings you can volunteer yourself for – kudos to professional photographers! We had blurring, funny faces, crying, disappearing children, half-in-half-out of frame and multiple photobombings of each other’s photos, but I got a few real corkers and I thought you might like seeing them. Please excuse the watermarking – I don’t want them being used without my permission.fairisleshoot1

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Visiting a new mum – come bearing gifts

visiting a new mumSo, in a fine display of blog wankery I turned up at my friend’s house to visit her and her lovely new wee baby but before I did anything else had to take a photograph of all the stuff I brought over for her so I could put it on this blog. My initial plan for this post was to prove that I practice what I preach and, when going to visit a new mum, took over the recommended present for baby, present for older sibling, a meal and cake for the family. However, I was rendered so horrified by my display of blog-mindedness that I had to share how much it’s taken over my thoughts!

feetsI also had to share this photo of his little tiny feet – aren’t they lush?

Anyway – chickpea and lentil curry, cumin seed pan bread, chocolate crispie cakes, a handmade crocheted ripple blanket for the wee man and a set of dolly baby clothes for the new big sister. My job here is done.

It’s never too late

How many times can you microwave a cup of tea before you should just give up and bin the whole idea of a hot drink altogether?  I’m currently on my third go round and, undoubtedly, something will happen to stop me drinking it this time, too. The way my day’s shaping up I suspect this post will be written in small chunks!  Life as a mum is fairly relentless, but at the end of the day, you look around and you realise – you may as well have just sat on your arse all day for all the noticeable difference you made.

Seriously. I was talking to a chum yesterday about how I should pin that internet meme ‘what did you do all day today?‘ on the front door, because I swear The Man doesn’t quite realise how much running it takes just to stand still when you have a three year old in the house!

I think the main problem right now, though, is that I’ve finished the large project I was working on whenever I got a few moments to myself (usually engineered with the help of CBeebies during The Girl’s nap) and now I feel all ho-hum glum because I haven’t got it to work with. I mean, I still have UFOs, naturally. Goes without saying. But that’s the one I was really into.  On the plus side – it was the painting for my blog header and, now it’s all done, the shiny new look for my blog is on its way. Just need to scan in the image and completely rehaul the whole blog, you know, nothing much!

Now, instead of doing the washing up, I think I’m going to write a treatise on how one should do the washing up, if one is to do it correctly. (Hrm, this is what happens when you save drafts for later publication – I’ve already done the one on washing up!)

It’s never too late to procrastinate!

Run Spider, Run. The joys of foraging

So about this time every year, except the two I was pregnant (pregnancy sickness/tiredness and foraging do not go), since 2009 I have started collecting elderberries to make my tried and tested home-cure cold remedy: elderberry cordial.  With The Boy about to commence his second winter at preschool I am even more keen than usual to have large stocks of this anti-viral wonder in my ‘pantry’ (no. I don’t have an actual pantry, but I always wanted one so I like to throw the word around for fun. They’ll probably be stored in the garage.)
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So anyway, today The Boy, The Girl, The Mater and I went on a brief ramble to see what we could grab before the kids started wailing. I’ll probably expand on this at some point in the future as we did rather well and I’d like to brag a bit, but right now I’m halfway through prepping elderberries – the most tedious, thankless, spidery task ever – and I need to get back to it.  As soon as I lifted the lid from the box leggy bastards rose from the depths and started sprinting across my kitchen table, dangling from my fork (you need a fork to remove the berries from the stalks).  There were also aphids, thunderbugs, unidentifiable mini-beasts and even one <shudder> earwig. But mostly there were spiders.

I saved as many as I could because I like spiders… in principle. Not so much in my house, but oh well.  I feel all shuddery and itchy now. Ugh. Time to get this finished up so I can freeze the berries until a more convenient time to turn them into syrup.