Saturday, 31 March 2012

New lease of life

I'm feeling pleased with myself today.  Having given a new lease of life to this:

It's a Welsh Dresser.  In two pieces on the floor.  One of the doors has had it's first coat of paint.

I stumbled across this dresser accidentally.  The last thing we need in our house is more furniture so I wasn't looking (promise!).  Sometimes things find us though, don't you think?  Like puppies.  And Cats.  And Welsh Dressers?! 

The Baby and I were out on one of our afternoon strolls in the sunshine.  There we were, minding our own business - me, thinking, The Baby, sleeping- making our way around the usual circuit where I seek out the quiter roads so that there is more chance of The (light sleeping) Baby staying in his slumber for longer.

I had passed the house with the for sale sign in the garden many times before.  The house, now sold, had a skip on the driveway.  I stopped for a nosey in the skip as we passed by. Obviously.  There was nothing to be salvaged.  Only then did I notice the handwritten list of items for sale which had been pinned to the 'For Sale' sign.  One of those items just so happened to be this very same Welsh Dresser.

Knowing we didn't need or have room for any more furniture I pulled myself back to the task in hand and went on my way.  Too late! The idea of looking at the dresser was in my mind and the £20 price tag was doing nothing to deter my interest.

A few days later, out walking again, The Baby and me found ourselves inside a very nice lady's house measuring up the dresser that is now sitting in our very own dining room!!

It looks a little different now though:

A few coats of eggshell paint have transformed it from it's serious and sombre self so that it can be completely at home with the rest of our 'stuff'.

Saturday is caption day!

The Eight Year Old suggested we use this photo so knock yourselves out people by coming up with a caption for this which was captured during our last supermarket shopping expedition:

Captions in the comments box below please!

For more Saturday Caption fun get yourselves over to Mammasaurus blog by clicking here.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Snippets of everyday conversation #11

The one where The Eight Year Old tidies his bedroom...

The Eight Year Old:  "Mummy, I'm tidying my bedroom".

Me:  "Wow.  Really? Fantastic".

The Eight Year Old:  "I haven't finished. It's quite messy at the  minute".

Me:  "Well, it can often get worse before it gets better when it comes to tidying".

The Eight Year Old:  "Yes. I'm sorting all my books out on the shelf. Like a library.  So you can find the book you want easier.  So I had to take everything off the shelves first". 

Me:  "Ok".

The Eight Year Old:  "Do you want to come up and see?"

Me:  "Yes, why not".

The Eight Year Old  "Remember it's not finished though".

As we approach The Eight Year Old's bedroom door, the cardboard skeleton that hangs there looks on mockingly...

The Eight Year Old:  "It's not finished remember so  I've made a little walk-way through so that I can get into bed".

The Eight Year Old (proudly): "And now it's going to be easy to find any book we're looking for!"

Me:  "Well yes, there is that".  *walks calmly out of the room taking deep breaths*.

The Eight Year Old (calls after me):  "I'm going to finish it off tomorrow".

In the meantime, The Eight Year Old has, this morning, gone to school delighted to be wearing his pyjamas -for the cost of only 50p to the charity 'Shelter', all the children and teachers can wear their pyjamas today.

The Eight Year Old has, of course, taken things a step wearing his dressing gown too.  Is it possible to be eccentric at the age of eight?  He's certainly giving it a good go!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Breakfast at Brown's

In this weeks ArtIHeart link up with Midlife Singlemum (pop over there to see more art!) I present to you a painting which was given to me as a present by one of The (very special) Friends, by way of marking my 40th birthday (yes, I'm still bleating on about being 40!).

The painting is the work of my friends Dad, the one and only, very talented, Peter Drury. I love Peter's work because it is witty and clever as well as being beautifully painted.

This piece pictures Audry Hepburn - who I've always had a bit of a 'thing' about - as she appears iconically in Breakfast at Tifanny's.  Only here, she just so happens to be crossing the road in my home city. Brilliant!

To see more of Peter Drury's work you can go to his upcoming exhibition:-

Icons & Legends Art Exhibition

Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at 11:00 AM - Sunday, April 8, 2012 at 8:00 PM (PT)

London, United Kingdom

Icons & Legends Art Exhibition
“People make icons…Death makes legends”
"Icons and legends remain and endure after they are no longer with us in the flesh or materially. They have successfully made the journey from celebrity (a transient state) to permanence. They are now instantly recognisable to the many rather than just “those in the know”. In musical and artistic terms they continue to entertain and influence others long after they have gone."
With the support of the Amy Winehouse Foundation, The Icons and Legends exhibition by Peter Drury will be on display from Wednesday April 4th - Sunday April 8th at The Gallery On The Corner, 155 Battersea Park Road, London, SW8 4BU
The exhibition is open to the public each day from 11am - 8pm, with proceeds from sales and donations benefiting the Amy Winehouse Foundation.
For further details please contact Mr A Kappas on 07762 700 339

Monday, 26 March 2012

Snippets of everyday conversation #10

The Eight Year Old:  "I know of three jobs I'd like to do when I'm a grown-up"

Me:  "Tell me more"

The Eight Year Old:  "Scientist.  Photographer.  Bank Manager"

Me:  "That's quite a range.  Are you aware of how a Bank Manager spends his time each day?  I think there'd be a lot of time spent in an offfice and in meetings"

The next day...

The Eight Year Old:  "I've got three jobs I'd like to do when I grow up"

Me: "And what are those?"

The Eight Year Old:  "Scientist.  Photographer.  Chocolate maker - like Willy Wonka".

Friday, 23 March 2012

Fabulous Friday

So what's fabulous this week?  It has to be this:-

A fantastic new play by theatre company Clever as Clever, a member of whom is one of my very good friends - the bestest - Kamaal Hussain (aka 'Fool').

I'm sad that I can't get to see the production due to currently being pretty much tied to The Baby who is still refusing to drink milk from anything but me.  And so instead, I advice anyone who is reading this to do themselves a favour, take a trip into 'Fancy London Town' to see this fabulous play which is receiving amazing reviews!

Thursday, 22 March 2012


Do you ever get the feeling that you don't really know where you fit in?  I've had that feeling on and off throughout my life.  Sometimes it's been an uncomfortable feeling - during the teenage years at school for example when it didn't always feel easy to slot into a particular group.  Or at various workplaces when my face just didn't seem to fit-in with the 'in-crowd'. 

At other times I relish the feeling of being a bit different from what may be expected even if this does mean that people don't always seem to know what to do with me, where to place me, not quite being able to work out who I am.  I also love that I am now in a happy and confident place surrounded by a whole bunch of random lovelies, all misfits in their own special way.

I therefore found it to be quite unexpected to be feeling as if I needed to fit-in in a new situation quite recently.   This new misfit feeling began when I started blogging.  I didn't set out to write a 'parenting blog', it was more that I wanted to get a bit of focus during the early months at home with the baby   I was spending a lot of time sat on the sofa with The Baby either sleeping on my lap or feeding and the idea of writing up some thoughts appealed to me.  I had no idea that there approximately three hundred million  bloggers are already out there doing the same thing. 

Now, this shouldn't make any difference to me but I found myself propelled into a flat spin about where my blog fitted in to this existing community.  More to the point, I became concerned about where I fitted in to this existing community.  Was I good enough?  Funny enough?  Twee enough?  Expert enough?  Cool enough?

I joined a few blogging networking sites and attempted to make new 'friends' on Twitter - where incidentally, I more often than not find myself watching with interest from the sidelines as the 'in-crowd' converse using their shared 'cool' language.

I found myself becoming a bit hung up about the page view stats of my blog and how many - or more accurately, how few - followers had signed up, compared to other sites.  It's odd really 'cos I didn't set out to begin writing for any reason other than for myself and yet here I was feeling like I was now in some competitive arena.

As I'd never had a 'game plan' - had given the blog title and aim very little thought and hadn't set out to be a blog that ran competitions or reviewed products - then I'm not sure why I felt any pressure to be anything in particular.  But I did.

"I don't even know why I'm wasting my time writing the stupid thing " I bleated to The Husband.

"I like reading it" he atttempted supportively. 

"well you can hear it all directly from the horses mouth" I ranted back at him

And then a funny thing happened.  When I thought I'd not bother blogging anymore I realised I'd really miss it.  Ok. so I may not be part of the blogging in-crowd.  I may not fit into a parenting-blog model.  My followers may be hard won,  But you know what, I like writing it. I really enjoy it. And I get a real buzz when someone leaves a comment or signs up as a follower.  I also find it fascinating that I seem to have regular readers from across the globe - "hello Russia" :)  *waves and smiles*.   Keeping the blog makes me happy.

It also pleases me that by naively entering into 'blogsphere' I have discovered some great writing out there and have come across other misfits.  Which is always nice.  Occasionally, I 'link up' with another blogger and was even 'tagged' to join in a so-called 'Meme'.  Once (!).  It made me feel a bit more accepted as being part of this strange online blogging world.  Ok. So I may have crossed the line by going on to 'tag' some well established, popular bloggers - some of whom kindly played along and others who were happy to completely ignore the cheeky 'who does she think she is' new girl.

For now, I'll continue doing my own thing just 'cos I like it.  Will I feel left out and threatened when I hear about all the other parent bloggers out there attending the upcoming blog conferences and award events that I shan't be attending?  Meeting each other and enjoying their mutual appreciation societies?  Yes, I probably will feel a bit left out.  It's human nature isn't it to want to fit in with the crowd whilst still maintaining our individuality and different-ness? 

Instead of dwelling though I shall remember that  I've never considered myself as someone who would hold mass appeal for the majority.  Aside from anything else I can be far too upfront about my opinions which - as you might expect - doesn't always work for everyone. I'm a bit like marmite, you tend to either love me or loathe me. 

So, why start worrying about about fitting in with the 'popular kids' now?  As I said to The Eight Year Old last night when we were discussing a negative playground encounter at school that day, "not everyone will like you just as you won't like everyone else, and that's ok. It's more than ok.  It's the way of the world.  As long as you like you, and those you love and respect, like you, then you're doing ok." 

And based on that.  I'm doing ok :)

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Baby in charge

At seven and a half months old, The Baby suddenly seems a lot stronger and much more active.  His occasional roll, which took a lot of effort, is now performed regularly with ease as he manouvers his way across the living room floor in search of anything that isn't a safe toy that belongs to him.

We're at the stage where it feels too risky to leave the room, even for a minute, after carefully placing down on his playmat for fear of him headbutting the fireplace or some other hard and potentially damaging object, at the other end of the room.

The Baby is also putting his two teeth to good use in trying to chew anything and everything.  He is incredibly strong in his legs and is also making attempts to pull himself up to sitting, getting cross when his attempts don't quite pay off..

He is becoming increasingly choosy of who he wants to spend time with and is starting to become quite demanding if The Husband, The Eight Year Old or me leave the room when he would rather that we didn't.

As I sit watching him playing on the floor now he is laid on his back, banging the heels of his feet so hard on the floor that he made The Eight Year Old jump as he thought somone was coming down the stairs.  The Baby just beams up at us proudly.

Anyway, off to bed for us soon.  As ridiculous as it may sound I currently go to bed at the same as The Baby and The Eight Year Old.  I can hardly remember the last time I was up beyond 9pm.  It's the only way I can survive the ongoing night feeding - still unpredictable, one feed one night, five feeds (snacks?) the next...this is one baby who doesn't seem to care much about routine.

Thankfully I'm avoiding the likes of Gina Ford who will do all they can to make me feel like I'm a failure of a Mother for not getting us all working to a strict schedule.

I realise that I most probably need to make some attempt to iron out some of this unpredicability soon, if only so that we can all get a better nights sleep but for now, well I'm just too sleepy... night night all :)

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


In the UK today it is officially the first day of Spring. And happily, the weather has really been playing along with this specified date. 

The Baby and I ventured out for a walk in the sunshine this morning, capturing a few images of spring along the way...

So there you have it.  The sky is blue, the cherry blossom is a-blossoming, the daffs are in full flower  - but then we knew that because it's been Mothers Day already and it's the law that daffodils have to be flowering for then. 

I even had to reomove my jacket today.  As I'm usually the coldest person in the room at any given time then it must have been seriously warm-ish.

It's official people.  Spring has sprung!

Monday, 19 March 2012

Snippets of everyday conversation #9

Me and The Husband have been discussing potential (low key) plans for The Baby's first birthday - it's still five months away (yes, I agree, ridiculous conversation to be having to have this far in advance) but it clashes with other family celebrations currently in the planning, hence this alamingly premature chat. 

The Eight Year Old has been busily, and loudly, playing with Batman Lego - imagine full scale Bat-war.

The Eight Year Old - "Get him! said Riddler.  Did someone say cake?"

Friday, 16 March 2012

Friday fabulousness

After a couple of non-fabulous-friday weeks where the time has escaped me and I have failed to flag-up the fabulous, I am today, finding that I have too much fabulousness to choose from.

Do I go with the beautiful and genius 'sewing free' blankets which were handmade for The Baby and The Eight Year Old by my two creative and thoughtful Sisters-in-law who gave them to us last weekend?

Or do I choose my goregeous nephew who has been visiting from America?  At eighteen months he is just adorable and has been making us giggle with the way he copies words - there's been a lot of "oooops" after the many tumbles and bumps that accompany toddler-dom.  There have also been lots of cheeky smiles and it's been lovely getting to know him better.

Or do I choose the family time we enjoyed last weekend.  These times with the (US) Sister-in-law (usually along with her husband who couldn't make the trip this time around and was greatly missed) and our nephew are as precious as they are limited.

Or do I choose these...

Sometimes it all comes down to the simple things in life.  We may still be without a working bath or shower but we now have a choice of two loos to use as and when the need takes us!  For anyone who hasn't felt the pain of our ongoing bathroom renevations read this.

If I have to choose just one thing then of course the cheeky adorable nephew would win hands down, closely followed by the family time. 

As it is, I don't have to choose just one thing and so I present to you all of the above in all of their fabulousness!

Happy weekend people!

Snippets of everyday conversation #8

The Husband, watching the tv quiz show The Chase and answering a question about 'bones' correctly:

"I knew doing this course would pay off!" 

He's currently studying to become a Radiographer.

Me: "Terrific.  Remind me of that when we're surviving on baked beans for the next few least we'll know the answers to 'bone questions' on tv quiz shows".

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Art for all ages

My second week in the ArtIHeart link up with Midlife Singlemum Blog.

This picture hangs on a wall in the corridor between our hallway and kitchen.  The artists are The Eight Year Old - at the time he was The Five Year Old - and The Husband.  They sat and drew his picture when we were on the train heading to Windsor and, more importantly, to Legoland for the first time!  It was our first overnight trip as a family of three (before The Baby was even a thought in our minds)  .  The picture, for me, holds all the fun of that trip and all the optimism of our future together.

Want to see more art?  Pop yousrself over to Midlife Singlemum's blog by clicking here.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Weekend round-up

Over the weekend I was mainly:-
  •  in the company of my gorgeous nephew and his mum (The (US) sister-in-law); my (UK)Sister-in-law - who had found us a great place to stay and did a brilliant job of getting us organised on the food front; her husband - who was chief washer-upper and breakfast cook my mother and father in law (who were, for once able to relax and take it easy) The Husband, The Baby and The Eight Year Old

  • celebrating the 40th wedding anniversay of The Mother -in-law and Father-in-law .(the first of a few celebrations of the event over the next few months - we're a family who like to party!
  • enjoying lots of delicious homecooked food
  • making the most of the early spring sunshine on a walk around a beautiful resevoir that I can't remember the name of

  • taking long hot showers and using the loo willy-nilly whenever the need took me. Confused?  Read this 
  • eating cake

  • thinking how lucky I am to have The Husband in my life - I started thinking this once I'd got over my tantrum about us forgetting essential baby kit that I thought I'd put in a prominent place ready for packing...
  • being thankful for my beautiful children who were both on good form!

Ps.  There was also some moose head dressing...

    Friday, 9 March 2012

    Things I have learnt

    If you are one of the select few avid readers of this blog - and , may I add, what a discerning bunch you are people  ;)  - then you may well be aware that me and The Baby are currently spending a large part of our days camped out in the living room so as not to interfere with the extensive work of the two plumbers/bathroom-fitters-extroidinare who are in our house fitting a shower room and refitting our bathroom (on a budget....apparently). 

    The work was due to take about a week but, unforseen complications - asbestos shelving and weird previous pipework, not to mention falling down walls - have caused this job to now be stretching well into week two.  In reality it's looking as if we'll be lucky if it is complete by the end of week two - which is Wednesday lunchtime of next week so watch this space.

    Throughout this experience so far, here is what I have learnt:

    1.  It is possible to cross your legs and hold in that desperate wee for longer than you would ever imagine possible.

    2.  I now reckon I could, using the tips I've picked up in the last week , tackle the tiling of a floor.

    3.  Our plulmbers like to drink as much tea as we do.  That is a lot of tea.

    4.  I do not like feeling like I am in the way in my own home.

    5.  There is nothing good about being without a shower or bath for the best part of a week.

    6.  Asking permission to use your own toilet is not good.

    7.  Knowing someone you hardly know is stood right outside the bathroom as you use your very own loo and can hear EVERYTHING is not good.

    8.  The Eight Year Old thinks it's funny to have to clean your teeth at the kitchen sink.

    9.  Washing your hair in the kitchen sink isn't ideal.

    10.  Nor is a daily sink wash.

    11.  The Baby fits into the kitchen sink perfectly.

    And there we have it, eleven things I have learnt in the last ten days.


    Happy weekend people!  We're heading off for a weekend away in the nearby Peak District where we will  be staying with The Husbands family in a very floral rented cottage. More about that next week.

    Thursday, 8 March 2012

    The other woman

    For the past year there has been another woman in The Eight Year Old's life.  He talks about her often.  He spends almost as much time with her as he does with me.  They go on day trips and holidays together, she cooks for him, helps him with his homework, they talk about stuff.  She plays a major role in his life.  He likes her a lot.

    I've never met this woman. We've spoken on the phone a few times though.  She seems nice.  Sensible, but fun. A good influence.

    For years, I've wondered how I would respond when the day came along that The Eight Year Old's Dad met someone who he would have a serious relationship with.  Someone who would live with my son during the times he is away from me.  How would I feel?  Would I be jealous? Would I feel threatened?

    As it turns out, I feel relieved.  Relieved that my son likes this woman as much as he does.  I'm glad that she's having a positive effect on both The Eight Year Old, and his Dad, who now appears to be happier than I've seen him in a long time.  We're now on an even playing field - both of us have moved on with our lives and are happily settled.  And we all form part of The Eight Year Old's family.  A family who love him deeply and who work together to make him happy in life.

    So does it bother me that this other woman speaks French fluently, can play the clarinet and is more than ten years younger than my good self?  C'est le vie ;)

    Wednesday, 7 March 2012

    Snippets of everyday conversation #7

    Me - "Do you have much homework to do?  Do we need to practise tables? 3, 6, 9, 12, 15..."

    The Eight Year Old - "Did you ever notice that Lego people don't have noses?"

    The Husband looks on grinning.

    Around the world in 80 words #3

    Arriving at 9pm one balmy August evening we discovered the Roman City of Nimes in South West France had a real buzz about it. Failure to pre-book accommodation was a mistake. A quick hike around the city confirmed that steeped in art and culture it may be, but there were no rooms free. There were also no trains departing until 7am the next morning. The floor of the station didn't provide the best nights sleep a girl could hope for.

    This is a link up with SAHDANDPROUD where you will find lots of other fabulous destinations summed up in 80 words - I can't be sure the link is still open as it's not working for may be that everyone else has given up and gone home leaving us travelling alone.  Either way, I like it so we may just carry on regardless!

    Tuesday, 6 March 2012

    In the light of now

    This is part of the "Art I Heart" link up over at Midlife Singlemum blog. 

    Aplogies to Midlife Singlemum before I say this but to be completely honest I cringe a little bit at the use of 'heart" instead of love - whenever it used, not just in this instance.  I'm not sure why but it's one of those things that makes my toes curl up a little.  However, on this occasion I choose to overlook my toe curling because I really like the idea of sharing, in the words of Midlife Singlemum, "the art you love from your walls, a birthday card, what your child drew at school, that you saw in The National Gallery in London..." 

    I really like the bredth of the notion of what art is rather than being all 'sniffy sniffy' about it as can often be the way in the art world - or at least it seems to be the way in some of the glimses of the art world I've encountered.  Also, the walls of our home are heaving with works of art with personal meaning attached so how lovely to now have the perfect excuse to share some of them. 

    I'm starting off with this...

    A painting entitled ' In the light of now'    .  I bought it - at a heavily discounted rate :) - from ny beautiful and talented friend Sara Davies (formerly Sara Pirie).   It currently hangs in the living room of my home.  I am told it is inspired by a photograph of that captures a moment in time when  a string of lights 'danced' against the backdrop of the sea. 

    I love being by the sea and this painting transports me to a deserted night time beach each time I look at it.  It is quite a dark, moody piece with a haunting quality about it.  There is a lighter side to it though, it also reminds of my friend and of the time when I selected this painting (from a whole collectio) to buy.  It was, to say the least, under ridiculous circumstances.  My friend was taking part in an exhibition of local artists and I had agreed to go along to help her to set up in the hall of small local surburban theatre. 

    We arrived on the evening before the exhibition opened.  All other artists had already been and gone.  It was a wet and windy halloween a few years ago.  As we drove along the dark and winding driveway to the theatre we laughed nervously about how spooky it all felt.  We weren't entirely sure about where we were heading.  We needed to park up around the back of the hall and locate the caretakers house in an adjacent buliding in order to get the key to give us access to the exhibition space.   Realising we had gone too far into the darkness and now appeared to be driving through someones garden having left the driveway in our wake, my friend quickly reversed the car.  A loud scraping sound from beneath the car signalled our swift halt.  We nervously stepped out of the car to investigate.

    We had somehow driven onto a lawned area and had mounted the car - weighted down with paintings and easels - onto a  large ornamental rock.  The car was now well and truly stuck.  Oh dear.  A number of possible responses to this situation spring to mind.  the response we went with was hysterical laughter.  After several attempts to dislodge the car we realised we needed assistance and abandoned the vehicle to go in search of the unsuspecting caretaker who we were, by this time, imagining to be some kind of haunted house butler type.  The poor man who returned to the car with us was bemused to say the least.  As he helped me to push the car, with my friend in the drivers seat, off the rock, it really shouldn't have been funny that he slipped on the muddy grass.  As I tried to gather myself to go to his aid, fearing he had twisted his ankle, his only cry of concern was that he'd only bought 'these b****y new shoes' that very same day.  I could tell from the shaking of my friends shoulders that she was now rendered incapable of stopping the laughter, tears were rolling down her face, it was infectious and I felt the familiar uncontrollable laughter building in my stomach demanding to be released.  We quickly thanked the man for helping us off the rock (?!) , apologised for our childish behaviour and scuttled off into the exhibition hall to set up, giggling all the way. 
    Soon after, I selected 'In the light of now' to buy.

    All of that held within this one painting.  I love the fact that this serious, surreal looking painting also contains (for me) all the fun of the random and ridiculous times I share with my friend - two grown up women who should probably know better but who hopefully never will :)

    Don't forget to pop on over to Midlife Singlemum's blog to see more art.

    Monday, 5 March 2012

    Snippets of everyday conversation #6

    Me (standing in the kitchen calling to the plumber who is stood in the hallway by the front door) - "Do you know there's water currently dripping through the kitchen ceiling?"

    Plumber - "Yes"

    Silence before I hear the plumber going up the stairs.

    Is that it? Is a 'yes' all we get?  No explanation. No reassurance.  And why aren't I asking for futher informatiion?  I am outnumbered 2 to 1 by plumbers, too intimidated in my own home to ask a futile water leaking question.  Me and The Baby make a swift retreat to hide out in the living room trying to pretend none of this is happening.  I remind myself that it will all be worth it once we have a new shower room and bathroom.

    Friday, 2 March 2012

    Snippets of everyday conversation #5

    We're currently having our bathroom refitted and a shower room installed.  We're working to a tight and relativey small budget. 

    The plumber - "Can I have a word"

    Me - "Of course"

    The plumber - "Now don't panic when I tell you this"

    Me (begining to panic and imagining they've uncovered human remains under the floorboards) - "OK"

    The plumber - "We've found asbestos lining the shelf where the old watertank sat"

    Me - "I see"

    The plumber - "We need to send it for testing before it can be removed.  If it's the 'not too bad' sort it'll cost around £500 to remove it"

    Me - "How much???!"

    The plumber - "And if it's the bad sort it'll be more like £1000"

    I go pale and smile weakly.  We are now waiting for the test results.  At least we're not waiting for a police investigation.  Every cloud and all that...

    The whole truth - part two

    Yesterday I was talking about how as parents we often seem keener to share either the horror stories - "look how hard we had it" - or a picture of 'perfect family life' - 'we're so good and capable and brilliant that we found all to be just wonderful" - when we are talking to other parents and no more so than when we are talking to expectant parents as we relish our role as the 'font of all knowledge'.

    When we were away last weekend with two of The Friends who are expecting their first child in three months time, we got to talking about what to expect from the first few weeks after the baby is born.  They have been told time and time again from other parents about how 'hard' this time will be.  Is this an accuarate description though?  Is it 'hard'? What does 'hard' mean?  The vagueness of the description together with it's negative implications don't exactly provide a helpful picture to someone who is bracing themselves for what will happen once their little person has arrived into the world.

    I imagine that everyone will have a different experience of this time, but looking back, this is how I found it. The first time round I was shocked at how little I felt prepared for having the baby here as an acutal living breathing thing. The reality of this new responsibility hit me during the overnight stay I had in hospital after the delivery.  With that very long labour I'd had pain relief which wore off just as The Eight Year Old's Dad was forced to leave the hospital for night leaving me with the realisation that I was now the person in sole charge of this brand new person.  When I needed the loo I wondered whether I should take the baby with me or leave him on the ward.  With few staff around to ask and feeling my question wasn't worthy of ringing the call alarm button I'd been left with (surely I should know what to do?) I shuffled off to the bathroom wheeling the cumbersome hospital crib in which my little one slept.  That was the first of many situations I would face not knowing what I was 'supposed' to do.

    Of course we'd prepared on a practical level in terms of buying a whole load of baby equipment that we envisaged needing but on an emotional level I wasn't really ready for how all-consuming it would be or how little control I would have over daily life.  I think the most useful advice to me at this time would have been if somone had told me to 'let go' of what I thought I should be doing each day and to try to relax and trust my instinct.  During the first couple of weeks new parents have a full time job of caring for their newborn and so feeling as if we should be doing other things is an unnecessary pressure.  If all you feel like doing is sitting on the sofa for a couple of weeks (as I did!) and watching TV and napping inbetween the almost constant feeding and changing demanded by a newborn then just go with it. So what if the house is a mess - actually I cared, and then I got a grip on myself and realised that a messy house would probably be a way of life for some time to come!.   

    In order to try to gain some control over my new life when The (now) Eight Year Old entered into my world, I did my usual trick of reading up.  Unfortunately I made the mistake of some of that reading being the rigid - and in my opinion, unrealistic - regime of the one and only Gina Ford.  I can honestly say this woman almost caused me to have a nervous breakdown, such a failure did I feel at not being able to make Ms Ford's prescribed baby routine work. I felt so much better when I eased up on myself and realised that we're all different - parents and babies alike - and as such, it's not a case of 'one size fits all'.  Some babies like to sleep, it turns out mine didn't!  Some babies get colic (one of mine did), some don't! Some babies snack all the time, others are happy with fewer bigger feeds! Some Mum's are able to breastfeed, some can't (or don't want to), and that's ok, it's YOUR decision.  I also felt better once I'd ripped up the Gina Ford book and put it in the bin - I didn't want to risk another new parent finding it in a charity shop!

    This time round with The Baby (who's now seven months), well, our lack of respect for routine - in both the early weeks and to a lesser extent now - would have Gina Ford rolling her eyes and having us carted away by the 'routine-police'.  Having the benefit of already living in the chaos of family life meant  that it was much less of a shock to the system to introduce another family member into the mix.  I've put much less pressure on myself to 'do the right thing' and instead we've gone with a 'doing what feels right to us at any given time' sort of approach.  As for the state of our house...most of the time it looks as if a bomb's just gone off, I try to ignore it, which sometimes works.  Mainly, I try to be nice to myself whilst doing my best to look after my boys - I am not some kind of superhero-woman who needs to do it all, it's ok just being 'good enough'.

    So is it 'hard' looking after a new baby?  Hard doesn't cover it really.  At times it is draining, frustrating, anxiety inducing, mind boggling, relentless. Coping with the lack of sleep and rollercoaster of emotions can be a killer. And that's if things are straightforward! But you know what, it can also be wonderful and magical. During those early precious weeks as you start getting to know each other, it's a bit like being in a bubble. and before you know it, the 'bubble' bursts and you're back in the real world. 

    Thursday, 1 March 2012

    The whole truth

    Last weekend we spent a lovely couple of days staying with some of The Friends on the Norfolk Coast.  One of the couples are expecting their first baby in three months time.  We were there with The (seven month old) Baby and The Eight Year Old and another couple with their son who is 15 months.  As you would imagine, there was more than a little talk of pregnancy and parenting and it got me thinking about the stories us parents like to share - and the bits we choose not too.

    Parenting stories, more often than not, fall into one of two categories.  Horror stories or 'perfect world' accounts of family life.  It starts with pregnancy and childbirth.  Have you ever noticed how it seems to be human nature to compete with each other when sharing stories of illness or injuries we've encountered?  There seems to be nothing we like more than to provide all the graphic details of our suffering.  Well, pregnancy and childbirth can take this competition and sharing to a whole new level.  I'm guilty of it myself as times...wearing the birth of The Eight Year Old and The Baby like a badge of honour.  On saying that, I would like to think I at least attempt to give an honest and balanced account when asked about these experiences, along the lines of....

    Pregnancy - Yes, it's a magical, wonderful thing.  Yes, it's a little bit weird to have a whole another person growing right there inside of you, taking over your body.  No, it's not an illness but if you suffer any, or all, of the common pregnancy ailments then it can feel worse than any illness you've known before - anyone who's suffered with the constant nausea of so called morning sickness will know that there's nothing 'natural' about feeling like that. Yes, it feels a bit like you have lost control over your own body.  Yes, the miraculous fact that you are able to 'grow' an actual mini-human being in there is simply amazing and this alone, makes all pregnant ladies amazing.  Feeling your baby move around is both lovely and a little bit odd, until they are getting ready to come out and then it's like having someone in their practising their boxing moves against your ribs.  I have nothing positive to say about the nine months of not drinking and avoiding some of the foods you may love.

    Childbirth - Yes, it is intense.  Yes it is hard work (the clue is in the label - 'labour').  Yes it is painful.  Yes, it can unpredictable (both times for me, each in very different ways).  Yes, it can be an incredible bonding experience between you and your  partner.  Yes, it is amazing to meet your baby's knowing you have protected them whilst they grew until they were ready to face the world. And in retrospect, I found it was empowering - although I'm no 'earth mother' who felt empowered at the time let me tell you that for nothing right now!

    One thing is for sure though, each pregnancy and labour is different for each person each time.  And so whilst it can be helpful to hear the stories of others in preparing ourselves for our own personal experience, it's important to not build expectations based on the things others tell us.  One of The Friends tried to make me feel better about the pending birth of The (now) Eight Year Old when she told me that thinking back to the birth of her daughter she'd 'had worse visits to the dentist'.  To this day I still ask her about what sort of b****y dentist she must go to!!!

    Speaking, as we were earlier,  of that mighty fine thing we call retrospect I would add that looking back at the pregnancies and births of my two boys, they were relatively short lived in exchange for the little people they produced.  And it's true what they say (whoever 'they' are), the pain and discomfort is soon forgotten.  Mind you, it may just be that once your baby arrives you're simply too tired to remember anything much at all....but more about that tomorrow.