Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Mother's pride

Every Friday you ask me to attend the celebration assembly at school and every week I dutifully turn up and try to catch your attention so you can see me there and when you do, the smile and wave I get it so worth it.

So I join in with the hymn and sing happy birthday to those celebrating and smile as all the teachers hand out certificates to their favourites. Each week I sit there and think about all the wonderful things you have done this week and hope it's your turn.

I think about how the other morning you saw a younger boy crying in the playground before school and went over to see if he was ok. I then watched you take Billy over to play a game to cheer him up.

I remember that day when a new child started and he was upset about his dad leaving him and you invited him over to join you and your friends to play football and showed him the ropes as the new kid.

I was there when you handed in your precious picture for the Christmas competition having taken time to carefully design it and thinking about all the detail and colours you used.

I know that when we talked about giving toys to children who had none you wanted to give even more than I had expected as you wanted to make sure other children would get to have something nice for Christmas.

I've seen you gently stroke Neo and keeping him company when the fireworks were frightening him and you read him a story to help keep calm.

I swelled with pride when you were struggling during the park run on a freezing cold morning, but you kept going and I watched your face break into a huge smile when you made it over the finish line.

So you see when they call out another child's name and I see your shoulders fall in disappointment I am right there with you. I am smiling, but I'm feeling sad for you too. It makes sense that you are wondering why it isn't you. I think the same. Still we put on our best smiles and are happy for those who get the praise that you don't get. I've applauded when other children get recognition for:

Swimming a width of the pool - when we both know you can now swim a length without help and on both your front and back (that took a lot of work)

Taking another child under their wing - when I know you've made time for other children to help them feel welcome or to cheer them up

Writing a whole page - when you write pages and pages of news and stories and lovely notes - in your best writing

Being kind - when I have seen how much it took for you to share your home and family with Blue Bear and now you are fiercely loyal to him as he is to you

We will always smile and be happy for others and applaud their achievements. I will be there to give you a big hug afterwards and bring a snack for the ride home.

You see I do know all these wonderful things you do. I remember every little thing you do that makes me proud and I tell you. Just because it's not in front of the school doesn't make you any less than a kind, caring, loving, bright, boy who does his best.

You and me kid - we know.

Friday, 25 November 2016

A crazy little thing called love

Blue Bear woke up crying and upset this evening. He was shaking and incoherent so I talked to him softly and held him until he calmed down. As I tucked him back into bed I reassured him that Mummy and Daddy are here to protect him and take care of him. Brown Bear chimed in to say that if Blue Bear cries he will rush in to look after his brother too. This from a boy who wasn't feeling all that well himself either, but seeing his brother upset he stepped up. If that isn't love I don't know what is.

Love is being not saying. Even though Blue Bear now says, "Bye Daddy. Later. Wuv yoo." as he leaves for work (Hubbie, not my baby boy) and it's the cutest thing ever, it's not necessarily the gold standard of expressing love in this house.

Maybe it's because I'm raising boys, but I'm not exactly overwhelmed with declarations of love every day. Instead I value the slight and almost imperceptible acts of love.

A hug when I'm not expecting it - Blue Bear was sitting next to me on the sofa the other day and he leaned over and gave me a hug then sat back down on his side. 

Random notes telling me nice things - after sitting with Brown Bear one morning and drinking a cup of tea while he ate breakfast (something I never get to do usually) he wrote me this note:

Being nice to the cat - both my boys respond to Neo's pleading for food with an immediate proffering of cat food or biscuits. Tonight Brown Bear whispered, "Mummy let me show you where Neo is hiding." He was under the rocking chair and Brown Bear was delighted to have the cat in his room.

There are days when it's just too tiring. The running around, the picking up boy socks, the smells. Oh my the smells. Some days it's hard to feel love never mind show it. 

Then one of the boys will do something lovely and it's all ok. I think they get it from their Father. 

Monday, 21 November 2016

Me before you (my boys)

Before I became a Mum:

I earned money

I trawled travel websites for holidays 

I could book to go away for a long weekend and then go 

I had clothes for 'best' - they got worn 

I often had time to just 'do nothing' 

I wouldn't call my family for days / weeks at a time 

There were times I'd look for ways to spend the days as I had no plans 

I'd clean my house and it would look pristine for days afterwards 

I could go without talking to anyone some weekends (before I met Daddy) 

I only bought things for myself; shoes, clothes, handbags, music, movies. 

I'd go to the theatre, cinema, live gigs.

I could read a whole book and more than one at once.

In essence before my kids:

My house was cleaner

My pockets were fuller

My appearance was smarter

My days were my own

I thought about myself more

However since I've been a parent:

I love unconditionally

I care passionately

I laugh uncontrollably

I cry without shame

Being a parent is much harder than I ever imagined.

I wouldn't change a thing.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Mirror mirror...

I'm sick to death of how much I hate my body.

Of the shame of red marks where clothes are too tight.

Of being unable to bring trousers up to fit.

Of not being able to fasten buttons or zips because of my size.

Of the disappointment at clothes I used to wear just not fitting any more.

Of avoiding looking in the mirror because I know I don't want to see what I've become.

Of seeing a huge fat woman where I want there to be just a woman, a mother, a wife, a yoga teacher.

Of not knowing what to do to make this better.

Of walking, swimming, running and still not changing my body shape even a tiny bit.

Of thinking this is just how it is from now on.

I find it hard to accept that this is me.

How can I learn to love myself at this size when it disgusts me.

This body that grew a baby, birthed him, fed him and held him.

That continues to hold, and care for both my boys.

This body that I rely on, that I compare with others and find lacking.

That doesn't look the way it's 'supposed' to.

So this is my pledge:

To learn to look in a mirror and see the real me.

To not judge and despise the woman before me.

To be kinder to her and try to look at her more often.

To take care of her, choose her nice clothes and make up

To stop hiding.

I pledge to be real 

I created this post as a competition entry in support of Dove and the Be Real Body Image Pledge

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

So this is Christmas...

We're going away for xmas. It's been decided and it's booked. Not just anywhere mind - oh no. It's the  ultimate Christmas destination for a family like ours. We've booked a big lodge with woodburner and playroom. There's a train in the afternoons and animal feed run in the morning, loads of space to play outdoors and inside and there is even a visit from the big man on Christmas Eve. Yes we're back at Coombe Mill for our first official Christmas as a family of four.

Last year we had hoped that the adoption would be signed off before Christmas so Blue Bear would officially be part of our family. In the end it didn't happen due to a tiny technicality. The date was postponed until January. It was pretty disappointing and we had a quiet Christmas at home. We still did all the fun things, but having the adoption hearing hanging over us did overshadow things somewhat.

This year we are all one family and Brown Bear is an old hand with Christmas so he can show Blue Bear the ropes around Coombe Mill too. I imagine that we will take it in turns with the feedrun as Brown Bear isn't really interested in the feeding as much as driving the tractor. The games room might be more his thing now he's older too so I think I might take him there if he's bored.

So preparations have begun in earnest. I've already told Hubbie that now there's a Waitrose in Truro we are definitely getting our Christmas food from there. He always prepares the meal and I keep the boys occupied while he cooks. It's easy to keep busy on the farm so we can go and see the animals or go for a bounce on the trampolines. Or as John Lewis would have it we could watch the animals having a bounce instead !

I'm not great at Christmas - I like the planning ahead and then it all gets on top of me. My lovely in-laws don't open presents until late afternoon and my family open them first thing. When we are with family there is a constant flow of food and we all eat too much and aren't hungry by the time dinner is ready. Being away means I don't have to worry about any of that. We can do things to our own timetable and eat when we like. If the boys are getting rowdy - who am I kidding, if ? more like when ! - there is space for them to let off steam and also a change of scene.

In the last few years I've been making Christmas Eve boxes for the boys filled with things like new pyjamas, a story book, a Christmas DVD and some things to play with. I often include a soft toy and a snow globe too. I know this is becoming a pretty popular thing so I might even do them for me and Hubbie. New snuggly pyjamas, mint thins, a bottle of something festive and a Christmas movie - what's not to like ?

Christmas morning is a pretty laid back event for us - once the madness of present opening is done that is. We love to go for a family walk after our meal and being at Coombe Mill means we get to explore the farm and see the animals or go to the play areas. Last time we visited the llamas - maybe this year we can venture a bit further maybe to see the deer or donkeys ?

Now that we have a plan for Christmas I can get excited about it. We don't have to carry a bajillion gifts but we will take some decorations for the tree that Farmer Nick will kindly put in the lodge for us. I can book some lovely activities for us to do as a family and hopefully even get some down time while we're there. I can't wait.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

It's ok I think I have a plan

I think it's been pretty much universally agreed that this has been a difficult and sad year already. 

David Bowie died and the world remembered that his music and influence have been immense. Prince died alone and under circumstances that weren't entirely clear and long before his time. Mohammed Ali passed away and right there a legend was gone. So many people have that iconic image on their wall of him as a young boxer and that is how many will choose to remember him. I will think of the man who emereged from years out of the public eye to light the Olympic flame at Atlanta. Seeing him diminished by Parkinson's disease reduced an entire world audience to tears. Victoria Wood died quietly and privately as did Caroline Aherne and we were treated to some of the best written comedy of many generations in tribute. This makes it even more shameful that 'women in comedy' are still considered outliers. Alan Rickman with his melifluous tones and Terry Wogan with his instantly recognisable voice were also lost to us. Then only recently Pete Burns and a few months before Alexis Arquette died at a young age. It's been a long list of losses this year. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but to name everyone would take so long and my tears would drench the keyboard. To honour their lives I play the music of Bowie and Prince to my children. It's my way of giving them a taste of what it meant to me. We watch comedies and talk to each other in soundbites that made us laugh or impersonate Wogan or Rickman in homage. It's so sad to lose them, but also wonderful to have great memories to share. The warmth that comes from having a positive to think about helps move grief along. 

Then we had the EU referendum and it was painful to hear my five year old ask, "Do we have to move away now ?" I don't know how you explain to a child the climate of fear that was all around them at that time. We did our best and moved on from it. Now I find myself filled with a new dread. 

My son came home from school yesterday talking about the US election and quoted how many seats Trump had won versus how many Hillary had won. We talked about it and he was baffled at why adults aren't so happy about the man who won. He thinks about these things a lot so I don't want to lie to him, but the truth is just too harsh. 

You see the president-elect is a man who mocked a journalist with a disability and lied about it. My son has a respectful attitude towards disabled people and understands that it is better to ask than presume when you do not understand something. 

The man who will occupy the White House has incited hatred towards millions of people and entire nations based on ignorance and fear. I am raising my boys to understand that race, ethnicity and accident of birth are no justifications for fear or bullying. 

This wealthy man has openly boasted about sexually assaulting women and getting away with it because he can do what he likes. I talk to my son's about consent even at their young age. It's important that they show respect, but also that they do not allow others to disrespect them or their bodies. 

How do I tell my sons, my beautiful non-white children who I am raising to be kind and considerate men that this president talks about people like us in ways that are not nice ? That maybe going to New York to see your best friend who now lives there isn't such a great idea until this president understands that not all brown people are dangerous. 

These boys who will not tolerate homophobia because they know that it's just not right. My older son knows that marriage can be between two men, two women or a man and a woman. They recognise that families are varied and vibrant and not all the same. That some children don't have as much as they do so they have donated toys and we have taken clothes and food to a refugee centre and local charities. 

I am raising men - not boys. Men who are kind, considerate, respectful, strong and will speak out for those who cannot do it themselves. They will be the positive change to counteract this hateful, narcissistic, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic leader whose only qualification seems to be that his extreme wealth makes him untouchable. 

How do I know that my sons are going to do this ? On a day when 7 people died in a tragic accident a few miles from our home and so many people were thrown into turmoil for a day I went to an interview in the lashing rain, arriving windswept, exhausted, damp and as I took out my notes for the interview I saw this in my folder. 

That's how I know. 

Saturday, 5 November 2016

See that gap in the crowd there ? That's me that is.

I am short. I've not grown since the age of 12 - seriously. When my six year old points out how tall he is growing and shows me where he reaches on me (awkwardly he's at boob height now) I say he's going to be as tall as me by the time he is ten years old. I know this and I accept this. There are times when being vertically challenged can be especially trying and the main one is when it comes to gigs.

Being a fan of theatre I am well versed in the head tilt. You know when the person in front is tall, or has big hair or in the case of Rocky Horror is wearing headgear so you have to keep tilting your head to see the stage. I have watched entire shows in two parts. It's not the best. On one memorable occasion I went to watch a film during the day and sat in a seat on the left side in an entirely empty cinema. Two people came in and sat in the seats right in front of me. In a completely empty cinema !! Actually they did me a favour as the movie was terrible, but that's hardly the point here.

I've been a keen gig goer for decades now and I've yet to find a venue that considers the needs of short audience members. Not one. Brixton academy is my personal hell (for so many reasons) and I only go there if absolutely necessary. Hubbie is a normal height person so for him it's not an issue. He is happy to stand where I can see and we have been to most venues at least once so now I know where to aim for so I can a) see the stage and b) not get crushed.

The latter is a genuine issue as on two occasions I'm convinced I've been pretty close to being trampled. The first was at a Metallica gig at the NEC Birmingham (on my 20th birthday) where we arrived early enough to get in front of the barrier (which unbeknownst to me was the mosh pit) before they stopped letting people in there. I twisted bits of toilet paper into makeshift earplugs as advised and suddenly there was a surge of people who had broken through and were making for the stage. I ran to the side and a little while later Neil found me.  Simon had taken an 'every man for himself' stance and was nowhere to be seen - typical ! The second time was at Aston Villa Leisure Centre where I went to see the Pixies with Neil - a pattern is forming here ! We made our way to the front and I could feel the crowd starting to mosh which was ok - to a point. Bear in mind I was the smallest person there and as I had insanely long hair back then I was getting a bit claustraphobic as it was getting pulled and I was being crushed. I put my arms up - the international signal for "small person in need of rescuing down here please security" and got taken out of the crowd. I found a safe spot high up enough to see the stage and stood there until the end of the night. Neil emerged from the sweaty mosh drenched and as he found me I held up the new t-shirt he'd bought at the start of the gig. All was well.

So why does it matter ? Well, here is my usual view at a gig. I've chosen my spot because I can see the stage and Hubbie is also happy there and then the tallest man in the venue just stands right in front of me. What a gent !

I can see the band 
thanks mate

In case you're thinking it's just because it's dark and he just didn't see the small woman standing right there in that spot that he aimed for in the crowd that looked like a gap, it also happens in daylight: 

Ahem *coughs*
Oh there is a band there after all 

I've also been at outdoor events where - unless it's the Milton Keynes Bowl, with it's terribly convenient curvature enabling the most height disadvantaged of us to see the stage - my view is pretty much this:

Can you see who it is yet ? 

So I am hereby sharing the idea I've been considering for many, many years now. If it gets traction I'm going to take it to Dragon's Den - or not. Whatever.

Height ordered venues. I know you've got many questions, but I'll deal with the main ones to start with. If you are under a certain height you get to sit or stand (depending on the gig / venue) in the front portion of the venue. The taller you are the further back your ticket is. That way I don't have big tall man standing right in front of me and he also gets to see the stage perfectly well.

But what if you are short and your partner is not ? I hear you ask. Well, I'm glad you've asked me that actually. You have a choice. If you are here to listen to the music or watch the show you can stand/sit where you can see or you can choose to join your taller partner in their area. Personally so long as I see him in the interval I am fine with not standing next to Hubbie while the band are on. Don't tell him though.

So that's my solution. It's imperfect I'll grant you, but until someone comes up with something better it's the best I've got. Unless I carry around the step my almost 3 year old uses to stand on when he brushes his teeth. He won't need it soon anyway as he's going to be taller than me before long. 

Oh well, at least the next gig I'm going to isn't at Brixton.