Sunday, 10 September 2017

End of summer

We had a lovely time in the West country. My sister's kids were there, the eldest two are teenagers, and it was a genuine pleasure to spend the week with them. They are so kind and funny, cool without knowing it, and ridiculously intelligent, with the kind of razorsharpness that I left  in a club circa 1999.

It was also slightly strange at times, as my sister and her husband were not there, so it was me and my parents, with the five kids. And I got a glimpse into the world of multiple kids - the sympathetic, or disapproving looks from strangers; the kind bus driver who almost certainly let one kid on free; the waiter who gave me a free shot of liqueur after lunch, because I must have looked like I needed it.

It made me slightly sad too, looking at how nicely my sister's three kids interact with each other (after a lot of shouting in the early years, I might add!). D is still no keener on a third; I still feel slightly incomplete without one. We are both from three-children families. (Go figure!)

It rained much of the week so we went to @Bristol science centre, the Roman Baths, the Costume Museum, and ate in the lovely art deco Boston Tea party. On T's birthday we went to Bath Park and the amazing (and super friendly) Real Italian Pizza company. I have never seen a child more excited than T on his birthday. Everything was the best present ever, even a Minions pen. He was so happy, and is very excited to be number four.

Being an August baby, we had his party when we got back from holiday ("Mummy am I number 5 now?") and it was the most enjoyable, least stressful party I have ever done. Soft play, ten kids, they did the party bags and I just turned up with a Blaze and the Monster machine birthday cake which a lovely lady in Asda emergency reserved for me when I panic called her from Swansea services the day before.

Our week in Wales was so nice. It was the first holiday since having kids that, for me at least, was semi-relaxing and therefore actually quite enjoyable. (Not camping helped!). After a summer of rain we had beautiful weather. We went to a little village where we used to go every year as a child. Our cottage overlooked the bay I used to play in when I was little, fishing boats waiting for the tide, cows in the distance. We went to 'our' cove, very quiet, with rocks to climb, and secret cliffs to explore. Friendly people everywhere. We bought a dinghy, which the kids loved. We sat at the Point pub admiring the view, remembering days of bottles of coke and salt and vinegar crisps. Memories everywhere I turned, and my kids made new ones for themselves.

Saturday, 12 August 2017


We are having a nice summer holiday so far despite the (pouring) rain. It has been relaxed, without too much planned, a bit see how we feel. That has been nice. C did a drama summer workshop one week with friends, and was high on the excitement of packed lunches and new friends. We have done the odd day out, had friends over, been for a bike ride (when I discovered you can't 'just pop out' to do a bike ride, especially when the bikes don't actually fit in your car, and also that kids may not mention when their brakes have failed), and had a day out at the beach and in London. C has sometimes been bored, has built dens, conjured up picnics for her and T in the garden, tried to force him to play boarding schools (unsuccessfully) and helped herself to craft stuff.

I found the last half term of the year really busy. I pretty much lost the plot, organisation-wise. It was full-on, with C leaving her infant school, and a bit emotional at times. I did feel quite tearful at her leaver's assembly (did we ever have such things?) and so proud of her, beaming over at me, at how confident she is, how happy she has been at her school, how it was absolutely the right choice for her, and how lucky she was with her lovely, amazing teachers.

Mostly though, it felt busy. The height of the busyness was turning up at an ill-planned cinema trip straight from C's soft play leaver's party, via an impromptu Happymeal stop, with a toothbrush and toothpaste shoved in my handbag, and having posh crisps and a prosecco for tea.

So it has been nice to have some time to ourselves, to chill out. I have even (just about) caught up on my washing. It has reminded me of the long lazy days before school began. We have another trip West next week followed by a week in Wales. I am sure the sun will have come out by then.

Friday, 14 July 2017


I often think about things to blog about when I am going about my daily life, but my mind seems to be all over the place at the moment, not helped by the end of summer onslaught that is school and clubs.

My week started with a last minute dash to Skoolkit for a PE t-shirt for Best of Health week (apparently the T-shirt with sparkles and diamonds on it that I had been trying to get away with until the end of term wasn't appropriate).

Since then I have forgotten at least one thing every day. Today's lost bookbag turned up in an Ikea bag full of PTA second hand uniform in my loft I stupidly agreed to be the caretaker of. Yesterday I forgot to send in C's packed lunch. On Tuesday we didn't have a hairnet or hairgel for her dance rehearsal. I still haven't bought the gel, now needed tonight. Or hung up her washed but wet t-shirt (must go and do that).

Today, I have a rare child-free 'errand day' (aka faffing around on the laptop and accidentally ordering a MOTHER sweatshirt, which was on sale and is for charity so is technically a worthy diversion). Among a million other jobs I am putting off and blogging about instead, I will (probably) post two people who deserve nice, thoughtfully-picked Waitrose cards some ones from the Card Factory which will have to do. And Amazon Prime their presents.

Yesterday I hung up some washing I did two days before. Amazingly, it didn't smell of mould. Today we have no water thanks to a burst water pipe. This was nothing to do with me of course, but when my neighbour, who was unaffected, asked me if I would like some of her water I went over with a small jug with only my need for a cup of coffee in mind. She promptly fetched me a bucket, correctly thinking that I may need slightly more than that!

I sometimes think about the name of my blog, and how I called it that because ever since I entered 'adult' life (basically from when I met D who was vastly more grown up than me - pre that, in my twenties, I was essentially an overgrown student) I have been baffled at how other people hold their shit together when it comes to running a house. How people just seem to know all this stuff, like that mould comes off a window easily with a wetwipe (which I found out only last month). I didn't/(still don't) have a clue. I remember, aged about 29, googling 'how to clean a toilet' thinking 'bloody hell, is this what my life has come to?!'. Except that I genuinely wanted to know, because mine was covered with limescale and why didn't I know about Harpic?

I would quiz people 'So, how do you clean your toilet?', fascinated that one of them lets the water out and scrubs it with a scourer. (I do not do this - you may choose not to come and visit).

I would ask people what their clothes washing routine was, and then try it for a day and not stick to it. Only the other day I cottoned on about fabric conditioner (it really does make clothes soft you know!). That was on the day I realised I had been putting the washing liquid in the wrong tray for five years...

I would ask people which supermarket they shopped in, what they bought, how long it took them, how much their shopping bill was. We still survive on occasional Asda orders, popping into shops for 'bits' and a veg delivery (I still have no idea what to do with fennel).

I would write down people's weekly meal plans and try and write my own, but in truth I rarely think about tea until about 5pm when my kids are grumpy and I am going insane. I order my veg box for purely lazy reasons, so that it will just turn up, and I stuff my freezer full of easy stuff to go with them, and my cupboard full of pasta and beans and tomatoes. I am quite interested in cooking and food in theory, but in reality I never get round to doing anything fancy and my cooking has only moved on two steps from my days of chucking a tin of tomatoes over some pasta.

And I still run out of bread and loo roll (Tesco express dash planned after just one more coffee...)

Monday, 5 June 2017

Rainy night

The rain is lashing against my window, my kids were miraculously in bed relatively easily, and D is out at football so I am sat in a nice cosy bed with a cup of tea.

I am never really sure whether to write about news events. I want my blog to be an escape and about places we go and funny things my kids did or said that I can look back on. But when I was younger and I wrote a diary my uncle, who is a historian, said to me I shouldn't just write about things that happened, I should write what I think of them.

I don't know what to think half the time. I have woken up several times over the past year with a pit of fear in my stomach, about stuff in the news. I feel more and more scared of the world, but maybe that is partly because I am a parent so I am seeing it on behalf of my children who have to grow up in it. I get riled up about things that I never gave a second thought as a student or a self-involved twenty-something, when I was more worried about unsuitable boyfriends than politics. "Is there a big bad wolf in my world" my three-year old son asks me, and I want to hug him and cry but I laugh and say "No, that is just in the pretend world".

What I do find myself thinking about a lot is women from the past. My Gran had her first baby right in the middle of the war. My Gran would get worried if she was on the platform only 40 minutes before her train in case she missed it so I can't imagine what must have gone through her head when she was a first-time mum. Her own mum had her during the first-world war. I sometimes wonder what on earth possessed them to choose the middle of two world wars to procreate for the first time (not that they could have known it was the middle of course), but I imagine that people just had to get on with their lives to get through it.

My other grandmother was in first London, and then Coventry, when they were blitzed. That was bad luck. She must have been so brave but she didn't know it. She was anxious of everything - noise, TVs, frozen peas. When frightening events happen my gut reaction is to want to hide myself away or Rightmove Scotland (my default reaction to most things at the moment). I wanted to spend Sunday morning in my kitchen scouring the news but my daughter wanted me to take her out. I got dressed, aching with sadness for those people in London while she, blissfully unaware, sang 'We're the chipmunks!' in an American accent at the top of her voice until I was ready. And then we went out and watched the Smurfs.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Moors Valley

We have had a couple of fab days out recently at Moors Valley country park in Dorset. I was surprised to find out it was only half an hour from my house, it having been one of those places I knew was great but thought was miles away. Now I have found it I don't want to go anywhere else! It is a great, whole day out.

The park is huge. It has two large play areas, one of which is entirely covered by sand (reminding me of holidays in French campsites). My kids could have spent hours there. There is also a lake and barbecue area, and a nature walk. We haven't seen any of those things yet, because the forest play trail is amazing so we have just headed there.

It took us four hours both times (at a slow pace, admittedly) to do the whole thing. The play things are brilliant, and my kids spent ages on each one - they include a treetop walk, a giant ants nest, and den-building. We stopped for a picnic lunch, and then cake. There is no cafĂ© nor loos on the play trail, and I would probably bring a flask of coffee next time. Or maybe some prosecco.

There is also a Go-Ape trail there, and people whizzing around on strange two wheeled bike things. Plus lots of actual bikes. It costs £10 to park in summer, but there is no other cost to get in. It is cheaper at other things of the year, and you can get a parking pass if you go there lots for about £50 (ish). They seemed to be doing lots of half-term activities, like den-building and bug walks. If we lived closer we'd be there every day.

The only thing is it makes everywhere else we go almost pale into comparison! Plus, it could do with a tea shack on the play trail. And a loo. And there are no bins, anywhere. Other than that, it is just great.

We were out 9 hours yesterday doing that, and according to D's fit bit walked 7 miles, so I felt quite weary today when I met a friend today, but she was also shattered, and her kids were also driving her crazy. So they climbed trees and argued and we drank tea and averted meltdowns with ice-creams. Heading 'home' to the west tomorrow, with more jam-packed, tiring (but fun?) days ahead.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Rainy day

I love rainy days. They make me think of wellies and brollies and being bundled up in an anorak. Or being inside a tent with the rain pelting down (this is less fun as a parent).  And being cosy inside listening to it pelting down on the window.

Today I was at work nursing cups of tea and then  I left early and took T to an appointment at the hospital.  It was a follow up appointment  and I was expecting no concerns, and was right. So it was just a bit of an adventure for me and T. I packed a bag full of snacks and iPad (and he demanded cheesy wotsits upon arrival - his bribe for, um, getting out of the car). There were so many people and umbrellas everywhere and the waiting room had a rocking horse in. And we saw the doctor and all was fine and it was all a bit Topsy and Tim.

Now I am sat with a glass of wine staring at my garden and my wet cat outside. C and D are out and T is watching Go-Jetters and refusing to eat his dinner (because he  would prefer to have toast - he hasn't given up on this for approx. an hour now) and it amazing how peaceful it is... And I really should be doing the washing or dishwasher but I really don't want to.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Anxiety and 'stuff'

Last week was maternal mental health week and I read some really great blog posts about it, including one by Amy Ransom, whose honest and funny blog I enjoy following

Like many people I have had my brushes with mental health issues which I have written about before, especially after C was born. The anxiety and paranoia, and inability to switch off, even at night - the hours spent lying awake, going to bed wishing it was already morning so I didn't have to go through the ordeal that was a restless night of worry. Sitting bolt upright in bed in a panic, scaring the crap out of D in the process. The inexplicable (and unreasonable) anger towards my people, notably D and my parents, who were just trying to help. Basic tasks seeming insurmountable due to brain fog. And feeling the loneliest I have ever felt in my life, yet feeling unable to make friends due to a crippling social anxiety.

I look back at how I was during my pregnancies and after C was born, and how up together I tried to make myself look in front of midwives and doctors, and how underneath I felt like I was completely falling apart. I remember sitting in the corner of the health visitors clinic, feeling at my most awful, feeling physically sick after putting her on the scales - and feeling desperately ill with mastitis. But I would just summon up enough energy to smile politely at the health visitors, who did not ask me about how I was feeling beyond that first questionnaire during the first two weeks when to be honest, it had not yet hit me.

I got better and I had some lovely days with my baby, wandering around and taking the world in, but I had this underlying angst that wouldn't go away and when C was one I had CBT which helped a bit. During my second pregnancy it came back with a vengeance, I had some free counselling for parents at a children's centre which also helped - C was three then. At the same time I went to my doctor wondering why I felt so constantly ill and being told there was nothing wrong with me and to pull myself together. But I probably hadn't connected the reasons I had sought counselling with how I was feeling physically, and that 'understanding' doctor certainly didn't do it for me.

I was more relaxed when T was born. It really helped that I met some lovely people (both on and offline!) around that pregnancy, despite my social anxiety (which almost led me to close myself off again). Since then I have felt connected, and that was maybe the crux of my problem. Before T I was living somewhere I didn't know many people, and then having met one or two friends we moved yet again. I didn't feel like I had my 'village'.

Amy's post coincided with a particularly stressful time for me lately. I have been pretty happy since T was born, but I am still an anxious mum. Not being able to switch off at night being the main thing. This was manageable (apart from being constantly shattered) until the last few weeks, when a family thing happened and my anxiety returned and completely floored me. I have felt literally sick with worry, lying awake all night and my appetite went completely. Amy's post really resonated as it made me realise that it is such a common thing. A lot of mums like me are on anti-depressants for similar reasons. Maybe I have previously just been too polite with doctors for them to spot that I am often on the verge of doing a Michael Douglas in Falling Down?

Anyway, I feel a bit better now, and my appetite has returned (thank goodness! You know things are bad when you can't eat biscuits) but it has made me think more about things I can do to help myself. I think one of the factors is that I have just taken on too much lately. Those casual conversations where I say "Sure, I'll help with that", or when I agree to come in to work for an extra day, have snowballed. Then all the house stuff (and just general life with small people I have to repeat myself to eighty four times a day) builds up and I just feel overwhelmed. Having reduced my days at work to be able to cope better, I have accidentally sleep-walked into a load of other commitments that I lie awake at night feeling guilty about. The other night I was up at 1:30am putting together a quiz on endangered animals for Rainbows while my house lay in tatters around it. What am I doing?!

So I am going to give some things up. Volunteering can wait until I don't spend all evening getting my kids to sleep (or flaking out exhausted having done so), and actually have the time (and energy) to hang up a load of washing, or just bake some fairy cakes with my kids and play with them. I just have to work out how to say 'Sorry, I can't do that anymore'. Hmm....