Monday, 30 May 2016

Knowing you Hubbie, knowing me Mutley... Aha.

We were out for a meal at the weekend to celebrate my birthday and after a little while an older couple were seated at the table next to ours. From the conversation it appeared they were on a first date. He had been a pilot, had been married, lost a lot to his ex-wife in the divorce, likes romantic novels and is a fan of Scandi dramas. She is from New Zealand. As you can tell he monopolised the conversation and she listened attentively (as did I evidently). We left before they did, but it appeared to be going well. I can't imagine how difficult it is dating when you've already had a life, a family and a history before you meet.

Hubbie and I met in our 30s so we had already had serious relationships. In the early days of dating we went out to eat and drink a lot and didn't put pressure on ourselves to expect a big future. It felt natural to spend time together and we didn't struggle to be in each other's company, so we just decided to see how it went.

When you're first dating it's the time you find out the things you need to know whether or not it's going to last. Not the, 'what I do for a living' or 'where I grew up' stuff. This is more the, 'will wait patiently while I try on multiple versions of the same shoes before deciding not to buy any' or 'is polite in the face of being shoved' and - most importantly - 'will say something when pushed in front of in a queue.'

These are things that can be discovered on the first date, but often we're being our best, fake selves so maybe it's not an accurate assessment. For example I didn't know for a long time that we have opposite attitudes to instructions. I see them as a hindrance and he sees them as essential. Hubbie buys guidebooks for holidays and I just wander around idly looking for inspiration to strike - often getting lost in the process. I see something in a magazine and decide I have to buy it, he will do a comprehensive check using consumer reports and reviews before making a purchase. I have also recently realised that far from being the strict disciplinarian parent that I thought I was I'm a pushover and he's the one who operates a zero tolerance approach. I will make idle threats like, "ok, that's the last time you ever eat chocolate ever again." and he'll say, "No chocolate after 6pm."

It's possible that meeting someone and knowing their best and worst features is the way to form lifelong relationships. However, random factors might be more important in ensuring longevity.  Like when we popped into The Pier as they had a closing down sale and I spotted a table I just had to have. "It's only £10 can I buy it ?" I pleaded. "How will we get it home ?" he said. "On the bus ?" I may have fluttered eyelashes or heaved my bosom to persuade him. So we carried it Laurel and Hardy style through Croydon and put it down at the stop to sit on while we waited for the bus.

You see it's not the big stuff that keeps us together, it's the daft and everday. The times he's made a terrible joke and I've found it funny. His impersonations of politicians and people we know that make me weep with laughter. How he makes excuses for my doing something stupid or just takes the mickey out of me. That he calls me Mutley when I laugh and Cloth-ears when I mishear something. I don't think I would have found out any of those things on a first date.

The most important thing I know that will keep us together - however - is that he makes a fine cup of tea. Like I said, it's the basics.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Older, but definitely not wiser.

I recently had my hair cut shorter and have found it suits me better, is far more practical when swimming and has garnered some compliments. The other thing I noticed was that I can now spot the odd white hair along the front hairline. For years I asked my hairdresser if I was going grey and he insisted that I wasn't. I suspect he was sparing my feelings, but I also put it down to a mythical family trait that I had told myself existed.

You see I was convinced for years that my Mum didn't go grey until she was in her forties. She had been colouring her hair, but I was pretty sure she wasn't anything like as grey as other people of her age. Now I'm wondering if I was right after all. I mean it isn't bad to be on the cusp of my late '40s and only just noticing silver wisps is it ? I'm almost proud. Not quite, but almost.

Ageing is inevitable, but some do it better than others. It's become pretty standard to watch people in the public eye get shinier and tighter as they grow older. In real life things sag and droop, but we try and defy any signs that we're getting on a bit. A lot of the people who swim at the pool I go to are much older than me and are super fit. Maybe they would have been anyway, but the swimming probably helps.

It's ok for men to get older, they are described as 'distinguished,' but women aren't treated the same way are we ? It's like wearing glasses. Hubbie eschews contact lenses because he knows that glasses suit him. I've never quite managed to shake off the idea that, 'boys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses.' I know women who look fantastic in specs, but I'm just not one of them. In my final year at Uni I decided to wear glasses to look clever in the hope they would confer intelligence on me by stealth. No such luck.

I'm not entirely sure how I'm supposed to behave. Do I stop wearing t-shirts emblazoned with band names and logos on them ? Do I listen to serious music instead of the tunes that make my children laugh and sing along ? Do I watch my cholesterol and take preventative measures ? Do I take up soothing pastimes and start collecting things ? Or do I continue as I am. Dancing in the car and the kitchen with my kids and Hubbie. Hiding sweets from party bags that the kids bring home so that we can eat them to 'protect their precious teeth' ?

What I am going to do is all the things I enjoy:

  • go swimming
  • go out to eat with Hubbie
  • have a lovely pampering treatment
  • present my radio show
  • see friends and have my hair done. 

Then when it's all done I'll take a look at the 'silver' hair on my head and consider myself lucky.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

From stressed to blessed

When I get stressed I'm going to remember I'm blessed.

The crumbs on the carpet indicate that we have plenty to eat.

Toys strewn about the floor tell me that I have children who play and have fun.

My bathroom looking like a swamp reminds me that we have clean, running water inside our home.

Shouting and arguing are the signs that my children are free to express their emotions in a safe space.

Piles of clothes needing to be washed or folded also keep my family warm and dry.

Always having rooms to clean means we have plenty of space to live - if not time to clean it.

It's difficult to see the positives right now, but I'm making a promise to myself to try.

After all, I have so much to be grateful for. 

Monday, 16 May 2016

I'm a walking...

I went for a walk yesterday evening to clear my head. I find that by the time I'm walking back up the hill the original thought has long passed and I'm pondering less stressful matters. By the time I got home I was almost ready to celebrate the little things that have cheered me up recently.

Brown Bear really enjoys forest school and Blue Bear is fascinated by insects and minibeasts so I bought this insect and bee house for the garden. It doesn't have any occupants yet, but we are keeping a close eye to see if any take up residence. 

Neo loves the sunshine and it's one of my favourite pastimes to try and spot him during the day. Thanks to the overgrown front garden it took me a little while to spot him at the weekend.

This is possibly the most beautiful cinema foyer I have ever seen - it's the Picturehouse on Shaftesbury Avenue and I'll definitely be going there again. 

Brown Bear is obsessed with Star Wars and at the weekend we went to a Star Wars party. I love this action shot of him with the entertainer.

This really baffled me the other day. When we visited Kerala we were greeted at the hotel with fresh coconut with a straw in the top so we could have a drink. The natural step from all that faffing about cutting a hole in the top is - of course - to add a ring pull. Isn't it ? No it's not.

Anyway, just thought I'd share :)

Thursday, 12 May 2016

I went to Cornwall and found my bliss

As a family we absolutely love visiting Cornwall, so when my lovely friend Pippa told me she was arranging a Mama's retreat I was very interested. It's my birthday soon and Hubbie asked if I'd like to go as an early birthday gift. He booked annual leave to do the school and nursery runs and assured me it would all be fine if I went. So I packed the car on Tuesday and tuned into Radio 4 for the 5 hour drive to visit my lovely friend Penny the night before the retreat started.

I've spent three days child free and enjoyed the company of friends old and new. I've been nourished in so many ways: physically with a facial, a massage and reflexology, emotionally by taking time for myself and actually with wonderful food. I'm feeling so blissed out I wanted to share some photos to give you an idea of what the experience was like.

We ate delicious vegetarian food:

Pea and Mint Fritatta
Courgette and lime cake 

We created things from nature:

Lovely inspirational messages

My interpretation of the cove

We walked and admired the beautiful Prussia Cove:

Off for a meditative walk

It's a stunning place 

A bit steep 

We enjoyed a lovely, relaxing yoga practice:

A beautiful room for yoga

Pink flamingo nails 

I've come home energised and refreshed and am looking forward to seeing my beloved boys in the morning. I can't believe I was even worried about going !

I hope the bliss lasts.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Presenting my boys - the Indestructibles

Following the drama of Blue Bear sustaining a head injury earlier in the week I thought I was done. Then on Friday afternoon I had to deal with Brown Bear shoving a sticking plaster up his nostril, which as an airway required medical intervention. Sort of. I wasn't going to spend my Friday evening at A & E so I decided to take Mum action. Nostril free of obstruction I hoped to catch a break. What was I thinking ? These are my boys we're talking about. 

They think they're indestructible. 

And that's the problem. I'm currently channelling fear, panic and guilt because I'm booked in for a two day retreat this week. Is it completely irresponsible to leave my boys behind and go away to sleep alone, meditate, be creative and practise yoga ? Don't get me wrong, I'm excited that I can go to the toilet without someone asking me where I am or following me in crying because I left them alone for 20 seconds. I can sit and read, or write, or do nothing at all instead of waiting until late at night when the kids are asleep and I'm tired and drained of energy. 

Hubbie is taking care of the Bears and the cat while I lounge around, sleep in, have a facial, a massage and reflexology. I trust him completely - he's a fantastic father. The problem is the kids have no concept of danger. They throw themselves headlong at things, off things, into things. We barely keep them alive when it's two of us doing it. When we're a (wo)man down the stakes are just too high. Parenting my 5 yr old and 2 yr old is a constant cycle of running interference, being one step ahead and being able to stand the sight of blood (or worse - have you seen a plaster come back out of a child's nostril ?) when you've misjudged it. 

The so-called parenting experts (Supernanny, Gina Ford) made great claims about what parents should do without having been parents themselves. They gave credance to their rules and advice by insisting that they had cared for many children over the years. Yes, cared for. Been paid to look after. Not been subjected to 24 hours a day - day after day - of relentless tantrums, fighting, food refusal, selective hearing and seeming desire to break the people charged with keeping them alive. We do this because - despite everything - we love our kids.

Movie treats for Mummy & Son

This weekend I've been spoiling Brown Bear to help boost his 'Mummy love tanks' (it was in a book about love languages - stop looking at me like that.) Movies, popcorn, ice cream, lots of attention just for him and Hubbie has been spending time with Blue Bear. I had hoped that it would be special and wonderful and we would connect and he'd see that I love him so very much. At times he is so jealous that it feels like I can't do right by him. He demands all my attention and deems any time I don't devote to him as neglect or proof that I love his brother more. 

So, this magical Mummy / Son time I envisaged just didn't happen. He carried on as usual and I felt like I'd been taken for a dope. I can't point to one thing as there is so much, but the overriding one is he just won't listen. You warn him not to run in the house just as he slams into a door and screams like he's lost a limb. You ask him not to stick his foot out to trip up his brother and then he stubs his toe or Blue Bear bites him in retaliation. Cue another bloodcurdling yell. He emits a series of high pitched squeaks and squeals - much like a human fax machine. This is the worst as I have hyperacusis and every sound is like a fine knitting needle being pushed into my ear. 

I'll be getting an honest to goodness break from being Mum. Hubbie gets to experience hell for three days without his wing (wo)man. So I'm taking my time out with good grace and gratitude. Yes I'm very, very lucky. I'm also realising that I deserve it. I mean the boys are still alive aren't they ? That's got to be worth something. 

Thank you Hubbie. I love you. I wish you luck. If you need me I'll be chanting in Cornwall. 

Om Shanti

Friday, 6 May 2016

In at the deep end

The Big Idea:

I know I'll take the kids swimming after school. Hubbie has a thing after work so he's going to be out until after their bedtime. This way I can tire them out and make sure they conk out and are washed all at the same time. I am a parenting genius. (high fives self)

The Preparation: 

Ok, I've got all the swimming kits in the car. I've been to vote already so that's taken care of. Have to make sure everyone has eaten as soon as they get home from school and have packed snacks for the inevitable post swimming cry of, "Mummy I'm hungry." Check off all of the above.

The Mission: 

So, the boys are fed. Well sort of. Brown Bear scoffed the pizza he made at school today, then ate both hot dogs I put on his plate. Blue Bear deconstructed his hot dog and left it on the plate looking like it had undergone a forensic exam. I've told them they can wear crocs to the pool as I know it's faster to put them on than socks and shoes and I need all the time savings I can get.

The Success Part:

Oh this is wonderful, the boys are splashing around and having fun. Brown Bear can jump confidently in at the deep end and is doing forward rolls in the water. Blue Bear is having a whale of a time practising how to get in and out using the steps and jumping up and down in the small pool. I've totally nailed this. I can't believe I was even worried about taking them on my own. Bring on the awards, Mum of the Year right here folks.

The Failure Learning Part: 

Ok, it's time to get out now boys. No you can't jump in just one more time. I've said it three times now. Remember what we talked about before we came to the pool about listening first time ? Under the showers please. Hold onto my hand Blue Bear. (He slips and falls. Screaming ensues). It's ok baby. I know it hurts, I'm sorry. Oh that is a nasty bump isn't it ? Let's go and get an ice pack from the lifeguards. I know your tummy hurts Brown Bear. Go the the toilet and you will feel better. Ok then go again and see if it helps. I'm going to get an ice pack and I'll be back. Can you get dressed while I'm doing that please ? (Ice pack administered). Brown Bear what do you mean your pants are wet ? Did you put wet trunks on top of them by mistake ? Well, that won't do you any harm, I promise. Let's get going home shall we ? I know your tummy still hurts. Maybe it'll feel better when we get home.

The Afterparty: 

Who wants Haribo snowmen and who wants the stars ? Yes I think they will help your tummy. Definitely. You've both been so well behaved at the pool it's a treat to say thanks for helping me. (and bribery to stop crying of course). It's ok Blue Bear it's almost time for bed. Yes you can watch Peppa Pig until you finish your milk. Brown Bear why is your towel still dry ? Did you have a shower at the pool ? Are you sure ? Well, have one now please just to be safe.

The Guilt:

What if Blue Bear has concussion ? Goodness I've had wine, if anything happens I won't even be able to take him to the hospital. I hope Brown Bear doesn't throw up in his bed. I'd better check on them every ten minutes. I'm such a rubbish parent. Not fit to care for my lovely, wonderful children. What if they decided we're incapable of keeping Blue Bear ? I don't know who 'they' are. Anyway, I have to make sure they're both alive and well so that when Hubbie gets home he doesn't suspect I've broken them.

The Confession: 

I'm sure the sausage chappati was delicious. Did you have a good evening Hubbie ? Good. Yes the boys are asleep. Yes I broke the baby, but to be fair he slipped and fell. Brown Bear always swallows loads of pool water, but I think it was worse than usual today. I suspect part of it was that Blue Bear was injured and Brown Bear wanted some of the attention too. Anyway, now you're home we can take turns in doing the concussion and vomit check.

I think I'll go back to swimming on my own tomorrow.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

May the fourth be with you

It's all about Star Wars in our house these days. "Mummy can I play with the lightsabers please ? " is a frequent cry I hear from Brown Bear.  As he grows up he will realise the significance of today.

I've gone retro because, let's face it, they're the best ones anyway. If you need me I'll be in the kitchen with cinnamon buns on my ears :)