Christmas 2013? I like the cut of your jib!

Well, here we are. The first of December. Are you quaking in your boots or dancing in your shoes? Are you a cynical old Scrooge or a big, silly kid? I’m a big, silly kid through and through, and I’m gearing up for a month of singing along merrily to Now That’s What I Call Christmas and Bing Crosby in the car and a diet consisting mainly of mince pies, satsumas and chocolate money. That should cover all the major food groups.

To kick it all off, yesterday, my beloved husband and I took the children to watch the Christmas lights get turned in in our local town and sing a few carols. The afternoon was such a muddled concoction of good and bad, festive and foul, quaking and dancing, that I barely know where to begin. It was lovely (always start on a high, I say) to hear our local band sawing and tootling away while our local choir wailed Silent Night and our local crazies caterwauled various descant versions of Oh, Come All Yea Faithful. Like sick cats. It was charming to see our local children smiling gleefully up as the lights went on and it was delightful to witness our local Peppa Pig (yes, really) throw her Santa hat into a crowd of small, screaming, fainting fans. Daisy nearly cried with joy. On the other hand, it was less than lovely to witness our local, slightly tubby, police officers chasing down our local drunk who was pilfering bottles of beer from our local brewery’s stall. Equally unappealing were the teenagers loitering on every corner, mostly dressed (apparently) for prostitution and sneering at the festivities. I was less than charmed by the jostling crowds of people, and completely undelighted by the smokers wandering along blowing smoke into Guy’s pushchair (an occupational hazard for any baby in a crowd is getting a faceful of smoke while sitting in their pushchair in a crowd. They’re at exactly the wrong height). It was mildly less than impressive when about 20% of the Christmas town lights failed to come on altogether and it was vaguely disappointing to witness the sheer materialistic devouring of cheap plastic glow sticks and slightly flaccid helium balloons that seemed to be the flavour of the day. All in all, a very standard Christmas Festival afternoon in a local British town, I imagine.

And yet….

And yet I came home yesterday feeling decidedly festive. I had a silly grin on my face that nothing, not even a very farty Labrador, could shift. I still had a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye from singing carols (especially Silent Night) and I just couldn’t help but feel just a little bit very extremely excited about Christmas.

I’m a Christmas devotee, you see. I love it. Don’t think me completely potty; I’m not completely doolally about it all. I don’t look forward to it all year long, and I never buy or decorate the tree until the 14th December at the very earliest (I can’t deal with the pine needles for more than two weeks tops. That, coupled with pregnancy, would send my OCD into overdrive and I might start mauling small children). I get very cross if I see decorations up anywhere before the 1st December, and I can’t bear to see the shops cashing in, but give me a carol to sing or a mince pie to eat, show me a child waving a cheap, shitty plastic glow stick and fawning up at Peppa Pig in her Santa hat and I just can’t help but feel the Christmas vibe. I love it, I really do. Father Christmas? I hope your knee is feeling sturdy, because you might just find a Loulou perched on it one of these days.

My beloved husband is less of a fan. He came along yesterday under sufferance (extreme duress, more like it). He’s just not a Christmas fan. This is in spite of sharing the last 9 (I think that’s right) Christmasses with me. You’d think some of my good cheer might have rubbed off on him. On one of those Christmas days I even proposed to him. You’d really think that might have helped Christmas’s case, wouldn’t you? But no, he’s just not the Christmas type. Anyway, he did his bit yesterday. I did throw the pregnancy card at him to get him to come, which was perhaps a bit sneaky, but fair’s fair. He got to watch Aliona in a little (very little) sailor suit on Strictly later on so I really don’t think he was too hard done by.

Meanwhile, I’m still feeling a little bit festive. No matter that it’s 4.43am and I’ve been awake since 2am (a snotty nose, a burgeoning tummy bump and a restless toddler has all put paid to a good night’s sleep. Again). Today it’s the 1st December. In a few hour’s time, Daisy will open the first (non-chocolate) door of her advent calendar (she’s 10 but, being Daisy, hasn’t yet cottoned on to the existence of chocolate advent calendars. Thankfully) and I will eat a mince pie for breakfast.

Happy December, peeps. Ho ho ho.

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The Top Five Things You Should Never, Never Say To A Pregnant Woman

Outside my local Waitrose there is a busker, an old boy, who plays the accordion. Day in, day out he sits there, playing jolly tunes and generally making the rest of us feel a bit guilty if we don’t give him money. He’s always smiling. He reminds me of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, only rather older and with a more realistic English accent. He must be 70 if he’s a day, and he’s sort of part of the furniture of my local town. Sometimes he migrates up to the Waterstones in the highstreet, but mostly his spot is by Waitrose and there he can usually be found. Until about 18 months ago, he was, to me, a welcome sight on my weekly shop. Until, that is, he made a fatal error and fell from my grace forever.

I was, at the time, fairly heavily pregnant with Guy. On walking past Mr Accordion Man, I threw a few coins into his case (as I often do) and was rewarded by a smile, a glance at my tummy and a “Not long now, eh?” So far, so good. I smiled and said something along the lines of, “Yes, nearly there”. It was then that Mr Accordion Man dropped like a stone in my estimation. “Twins?” he enquired. Ummmmm, NO! Since then, I’ve stopped giving him any money at all. I avoid catching his eye. Actually, I go to Sainsburys a lot more than I used to. Anyway, he probably only wants to buy White Lightening Cider. I’ve decided that I intensely dislike the accordion and that all buskers should be confined to Covent Garden and never be allowed anywhere else. As I said, he dropped, ahem, a notch or two on my personal barometer.

As any pregnant woman will tell you, pregnancy is not when a girl feels her most confident or sexy. The vaguely elephantine state in which one finds oneself does not lend itself well to boosting a girl’s confidence in the way that she looks. Even when we are sailing serenely through, with glossy hair and very strong fingernails, the enormous tummy, gargantuan boobs and (in my case, anyhow) sizeable bottom that goes hand in hand with pregnancy somehow doesn’t sit at all well with body confidence. So, to be told that you look as if you’re having twins, even by someone who has absolutely zero idea what they’re talking about, will never do much for a girl’s self-esteem. So, right at the very top of my Top Five Things You Should Never, Never Say To A Pregnant Woman list, is “Twins?” Don’t ever go there. Not if you value your life. Or your accordion.

Second on the list is, “Oooh! Get lots of sleep while you can!” Tsk and double Tsk. Sleep? I’ve already got two fairly nocturnal children, so telling me to get plenty of sleep while I can is like telling Mr Accordion Man to stop smiling. Furthermore, once you wave goodbye to the first trimester, sleep seems harder and harder to track down. I’m up half the night peeing, and the rest of the time, when I’m not settling my existing nocturnal offspring, I’m trying to find a position that doesn’t feel like I’ve got a bowling ball sitting on top of me or underneath me. So, don’t tell me to sleep while I can or I’ll bite you. Hard.

Thirdly, do NOT make any comments along the lines of, “Two babies under two? Gosh, that sounds like fun (hahaha)”. Believe me, I have considered this, I’ve pondered over it at length. How about two babies under two, plus Daisy, who’s far from straight-forward, plus (just for added entertainment value) my two step-children at the weekends. Five in total. I just don’t need to be reminded. I know it’s conceivable that it won’t always be plain sailing, and I know that I might question my sanity at times, but I really, really can’t wait, all the same. Without wanting to get all mushy, I’m actually feeling very lucky and blessed. How about replacing, “Two babies under two? Gosh, that sounds like fun (hahaha)” with, “I will bring you chocolate and carrot cake whenever you need it most”. Now, that I would thank you for.

Number four is very important. Don’t, under any circumstances, offer unsolicited advice on any aspect of pregnancy, birth or babies. I’m feeling emotional, dammit, and I can’t and won’t be held responsible for my actions if somebody tells me to consider whale music in the bath or suggests that I cut down on my chocolate consumption or (holy cow, no!) recommends a pregnancy yoga class. And if you even think about discussing a birth plan with me, I shall feed you to my dog. I’ll be lucky (and absolutely over the moon) if I get to 35 weeks for a planned Caesarian so please don’t mention pain relief or natural delivery to me. My dog will say, “Pass the ketchup, please”, and I will oblige him.

Number five. This is not so much something you shouldn’t say as something you absolutely MUST say. Tell me I’m pretty, goddamn. Tell me I’m blooming and gorgeous and tell me how much pregnancy suits me, even if I really look like fat roadkill after a night necking sambuca. Then, buy me something adorable and thoughtful (a Milky Way counts, although jewellery is even better) and take my existing children to the park for the afternoon.

That’s it. My Top Five Things You Must Never, Never Say To A Pregnant Woman. As you may have established, I’m expecting again. So, by all means, continue to follow my blog, but, I’m warning you, do so wisely, and, if necessary, refer frequently back to this entry. Oh, and Milky Ways can be delivered to the above address.

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Fings What I Like And Fings What I Don’t Like

This morning we have a guest blogger. Please welcome GHS Garton, aged nearly 16 months.

My mummy has asked me to tell you all about fings what I like and fings what I don’t like. I can’t type yet, so mummy is helping me with that bit, but I can tell you what I like and what I doesn’t like. That is easy peasy.

The first one I didn’t even have to fink about very much. I like fruit. I like it a lot. I fink that my mummy wrote a blog fingy about how much I like fruit. What is good about fruit is that it’s yummy and mummy says it’s good for me. That is good. What I don’t like about fruit (I is learning that life is full of downsides) is kiwi seeds and strawberry seeds in my poo. They makes my nappies yukky because they is sticky and that makes my mummy go, “Eeeeew”.

Another fing that is my favourite fing is sisters. I is got 3 sisters (which is quite enough) but I loves them all so much. I want to play with them all the time. They make good climbing frames and they tickle me and make me laugh. What I don’t like about sisters is when they go to school and leave me at home or when they don’t want to play with me and I want to play with them. Then they get grumpy with me. That is not very good about sisters.

Dogs and cats. They is very, very good. I fink that I is related to them. Perhaps I even am a dog. Woof. Yes, I almost certainly is a dog. Mummy says she’s written a blog fingy about this, too. I like it when they jump around and are bouncy (just like me) and I like eating their food. Mummy says that dog and cat biscuits is not for little boys, but that is ok cos I is not a little boy, I is a dog. What I doesn’t like is when they run away when I pull their tails or their ears. I is not knowing why they do run away. I is only playing. Tsk.

I fink Molly Moocow is one of my best fings. She is a cow called Molly who moooo’s and I sing and dance wiv her at my music class. She’s got a fly on her nose. That must tickle a lot. Sometimes I don’t want to sing or dance; I do want to climb furniture what mummy says is not for climbing and eat the mats what we sit on. Yum. I always want to give Molly a cuddle, though. That is somefing that I really love. Somefing I don’t love is when it’s time to go home after Molly. That does make me sad. I’d like to stay wiv Molly and Leigh. Leigh is Molly’s mummy (I fink) but she’s not a cow. I love her, too.

Stairs are anovver fing what I like quite a lot. They is good for climbing fun. Mummy says that they are not for climbing fun, but she is wrong. What I doesn’t like quite a lot is stair-gates, although I is getting good at climbing them, too. Stair-gates is also good for posting fings froo, too. Actually, I is changed my mind; stair-gates are somefing I like, actually.

My mummy and daddy. They is somefing what I love. I fink that if they wasn’t around and about I would get in a muddle. That is why they is a fing what I love so much. By the way, mummy didn’t make me say that. Mummy is just typing, not talking at all. She is quiet like a mouse.

Squeak.

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Watch out, Usain; you’ve got competition.

Guy was born last Summer on the opening day of the London Olympics 2012, so he is destined (I’ve decided) to be a great athlete. It now seems that he has chosen his discipline at the tender age of 15 months. The 100 Metre Sprint. He’s been practicing hard every day. Never one for taking things slowly or safely or remotely sensibly, he’s climbed, scrabbled, bounced and lurched his way through the last 3 or 4 months. Now, it seems, he’s ready to run and a silly, insignificant thing like not being able to walk properly yet is not going to hold him back. No, sir. He’s off, and the bruises on his forehead and his cheekbone and the split lip are testament to this rugged determination to run like the wind.

This, mostly, just adds a previously-unexplored level of entertainment to my daily life. Watching Guy, his little legs pedalling away, eyes down, arms flailing, watching his sheer determination to sprint from one side of the room to the other, regardless of whatever obstacles may be in his path, is usually just very amusing. Even when he falls (which he invariably does every time after about 8 steps) he does it with a comic twist (as everyone knows: babies do mostly bounce) that brings a smile to my face. His fearlessness and dogged-like determination is admirable and very funny, in equal measures.

There are times, though, when the positives of running before you can walk are, frankly, outweighed by the negatives. First and foremost, it just doesn’t work, little chap. Call is evolution, call it physics, call it a pain in the ass, call it whatever you will; walking comes first, no matter how much you decree that it is otherwise. Secondly, running before walking is not recommended for the simple and inescapable fact that, most likely and rather more often than not, it’s going to end in tears. Especially if you run into an immovable object such as a chair or a door or a lazy Labrador. Even a Fisher Price train will stop you dead in your tracks when you’re only two and a half feet tall or thereabouts. Thirdly, you’re fast. Speedy like quicksilver, and frankly, mummy would rather you walked first so that she can keep up with you. Leave the 100 meters to Usain for now, little boy: I’ll buy you some trainers in a few years time (I’ll buy myself some at the same time).

None of this is holding him back, though. Guy is laughing in the face of physics, common sense and multiple bumps. Olympics 2032 here we come. On he goes, lurching at full speed from one immoveable object to the next, accumulating nasty bruises and split lips galore. He’s certainly more colourful for it. My language is more colourful, too.

I shall be most upset and not a bit surprised if Guy’s first sentence (aside from “Woof, woof”, obviously) is, “Oh, bugger, not again!”

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Things That Go Bump In The Night.

When I say ‘things’ that go bump, I mean, of course, ‘babies’ that go bump (although not usually literally). In this case, a small, noisy boy child called Guy. Remember him? The sleepless one? Yes, that’s the one. Or so it once was. Now, however, Guy, bless his heart, has finally untwisted his knickers and decided that sleeping at night probably makes fairly good sense. For the last couple of weeks, more or less, he’s been sleeping through until 6.30 and Mummy Feels Better.
So why am I writing this blog entry at 4.07am? You may well ask.
The problem is, on the relatively rare occasion when he does wake up now, I am indignant, horrified, taken completely by surprise and utterly unable to get back to sleep again afterwards. It’s like a mad, bad combination of two previous blog entries; ‘Just how much sleep does a mummy need anyway’ and ‘Insomnia, thou art not welcome’.
Tonight, the 3.40am bump in the night is I think tooth-related. It’s taken a while to settle him, not to mention a hefty dose of Calpol (for ‘hefty’, read ‘prescribed’. I’m medicating him, not sedating him, I promise) and a long drawn-out period of cuddles, but he seems to be quiet. At least it’s been ten minutes or so since the baby monitor flashed at me, which is not a cast iron indication that he’s asleep (he might just be gearing himself up for bump number two) but he seems to be quiet.
And yet…and yet… Here I am, under the duvet so as not to disturb my beloved husband who’s gently snoring beside me, feeling like a naughty kid reading by torch light, tapping away manically on my iPhone and absolutely as awake as a chipmunk on speed.

There are a number of bump in the night /insomnia related ruses that I employ on a fairly regular basis to try and get back to sleep. One, of course, is blogging. Another is solitaire, but I seem to have gone off the boil on that one a bit at the moment. Another is that trusty stalwart known as reading a book, but I’m reading a Stephen King book at the moment and it’s too scary to read in the dark so that’s out. I should really keep a Jilly Cooper or something equally trashy on standby for night time reading, but I’d certainly not go to sleep reading Riders: I’d be up all night completely hooked. Rupert Campbell-Black doesn’t make me feel sleepy at all. Bless you, Jilly.

(Break for a sleep-attempt)

Ho hum, mum. It’s now 4.38 and I’ve just spent the last 20 minutes trying to will myself to sleep.  (Gotosleepgotosleepgotosleeeeeeeep). Firstly, I couldn’t get comfy. None of my usual sleeping positions seem to fit me tonight. They never do in the small hours. Then, I curled up next to my beloved husband, hoping for a cuddle. He responded by saying “Hrumpfffffump” and wriggling away from me. I lay there, and it slowly dawned on me that every muscle in my body was on alert; absolutely rigid and really for action. What am I? A fireman on duty? A paramedic? For goodness sake, I do not need to be in a constant state of readiness, children or no children. Not sleep-friendly at all. I forced myself to relax, from the toes up, thinking happy and calming thoughts. That felt momentarily quite nice, but it didn’t really work. Obviously it didn’t work or I wouldn’t still be spouting random crap at you 25 minutes later.
At least Guy is mercifully quiet and seems to have settled down for the rest of the night…

(Another sleep-attempt)

I think I dosed a little bit that time. Perhaps I just imagined it, but I’m pretty sure I actually had to open my eyes when the baby monitor started chirping.

Anyway, now it’s 5.35 and the boy child is awake again. Now, I consider anything before 6am to be a form of torture. Guy doesn’t (clearly) but perhaps he’s just too little to read the memo. He’s not crying, though, just mumbling loudly (and a bit sadly) and banging his feet against his cot bars. Like it’s a prison. Which, of course, it effectively is. I’m studiously ignoring it until I can see light at the edge of the curtains…

It’s now 9.21am. Daisy has gone off to school and Mummy doesn’t feel remotely like a chipmunk on speed any more. I wish I did. Instead I feel like there’s a hole of sleeplessness and discontent inside me that no amount of Fruit n Fibre can fill. Carrot cake might just do the job, but Fruit n Fibre just isn’t cutting the mustard this morning.

As for my thing that goes bump in the night? He’s tucked up in bed, completely shattered, where he will no doubt make up admirably for his busy night with a good long 2 hour nap.

As my beloved husband is fond of saying, “Hrumpfffffump”.

A nasty dose of holiday-itis

Aaah, holiday-itis. The debilitating disease that leaves me feeling flustered, bothered and generally thoroughly outside my comfort zone. I’m sure many of you have come across this illness, although you may know it by a different name. However you refer to it, though, the symptoms remain much the same. Dusty furniture, vaguely opaque windows, mucky, hairy carpets and grimy bathtubs. Our poor homes are beset by these, and other, even more icky symptoms (cobwebbed doesn’t begin to describe the state of my conservatory) every time the children are on holiday. The kids come home and our poor, lovely homes are overrun by this most awful of diseases; holiday-itis.

My house has, this last week, had a truly horrific attack of holiday-itis. It hasn’t yet even really begun to recover. The disease is always worse, of course, when the kids can’t play outside all day. (Again, I ask, WHY is it considered SO wrong to fling your children out into the garden when it’s blowing a hurricane or we’re in the middle of a plague of frogs or something? Tsk). Anyway, my kids, who clearly take great delight in inflicting holiday-itis on their home, went to considerable lengths to make sure it was a really nasty dose this time.

Holiday-itis, of course, is incurable, and the only way to control it is to be constantly on the alert, armed with a duster, a Hoover, a large bottle of Dettol and a j-cloth, like a sort of domestic superman (minus the underpants as overpants, unless you really, really want to). The problem is, these weapons against holiday-itis can’t be easily activated with children present, and this is why the disease tends to flare up so badly during the holidays.

On a similar note (I promise this is relevant) I saw a sign in a shop window the other day which said,

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Well, thought I, mentally patting myself on the back, that makes me mum of the bloody year, I reckon. I looked around eagerly for my prize and my certificate. There were none forthcoming. My house was groaning and begging me for a bit of all-purpose Flash and maybe a stiff drink and my children were leaping around joyfully, thoroughly entertained (and often entertaining) and enjoying their holiday. It set me to thinking. I love having both children at home, I really do. I love it much more than term time (mostly). I love the holidays, and I adore being with my children and playing with them, but does it make me a bad mum if I secretly, a little tiny bit, look forward to the kids going back to school so I can clean the house from top to bottom? Does it make me an unfit parent if I’m really, really looking forward to cleaning the kitchen floor and dusting the pictures? Surely I can be forgiven for preferring my kitchen to be a room for cooking in, rather than a racing track for small plastic cars? I think I’d sacrifice my ‘Mum Of The Year’ prize for a clean house, free from holiday-itis, as long as the children are basically content. I’d settle for ‘She’s A Mum Who Does Her Best And Loves The Smell of Pledge’. Does such a prize exist? If it doesn’t, it really should, because I’d win it hands down, and I like winning prizes.

So, here I am. In my Marigolds. My week is well underway, packed as it is with cleaning and scrubbing and generally administering the correct dose of medicine to combat this latest bout of holiday-itis. I’m having fun, I really, really am. There’s a lot you can squeeze into a couple of hours while the baby is asleep. Yesterday, I tackled the kitchen and the living room and gave the hoover an excellent and extended work-out. Today, I plan on blitzing the bedrooms and, after donning protective clothing against the cobwebs who, presumably, have some large and hairy inhabitants, I shall give the conservatory an extra large dose of holiday-itis medicine. By Friday, I’ll be feeling right at home again. Holiday-itis will be a distant, hazy memory, and every time Guy drops a biscuit or Daisy comes home from school and tracks mud in on her shoes, I shall jump six feet in the air, then take a deep breath and go and polish my ‘She’s A Mum Who Does Her Best And Loves The Smell Of Pledge’ award.

Now…where’s my duster?

The Back To School Blues

Dum de dum de dum de dum,

Dum de dum de dum de dum.

 

Early one Monday morning

I’m feelin’ awful bad.

The holiday is over

Oooh, I’m feelin’ real sad.

 

I got the back to school blues (ooooh, oooh, oooooh)

I got em real, real bad.

 

I get the sleepin’ children up

And make a cup of tea.

It’s hard to feel all full o’ beans

When you’re feelin’ 93.

 

I got the back to school blues (ooooh, oooh, oooooh)

I got em real, real bad. (Oh, yeah, baby)

 

The rush is on, we’re runnin’ late,

I’m tearin’ out ma hair.

Guy is screamin’ down the house

It’s all a real nightmare.

 

I got the back to school blues (ooooh, oooh, oooooh)

I got em real, real bad.

 

The mornin’ stretches out in front

A long and lonely way.

Daisy’s gone, she’s on her bus

It’s shapin’ up to be a sad, sad day.

 

I got the back to school blues (ooooh, oooh, oooooh)

I got em real, real bad. (I cain’t hear ya, baby!)

 

Guy’s gone back to bed to sleep

The house looks like a war zone.

I gotta tidy, clean and scrub

Now I got me some time alone.

 

I got the back to school blues (ooooh, oooh, oooooh)

I got em real, real bad.

 

Lemme hear ya, baby!

 

(Instrumental)

Wa Wawawa waaaaaaa! Wawa wawa wa wawawaaaa! Doobee doobee doooooo…Wo woo woo wowo wooooo….

 

The mornin’s passed, the day draws on

The rain is fallin’ down.

I wanna walk the dogs awhile

But I don’t wanna drown.

 

I got the back to school blues (ooooh, oooh, oooooh)

I got em real, real bad.

 

Daisy’s home, she’s tired and cross.

Tea time will sure be fun.

Only three more hours to go

Before the day is done.

 

I got the back to school blues (ooooh, oooh, oooooh)

I got em real, real bad. (Oh, yeah, it hurts, baby).

 

The kids go up and have a bath,

Then fall right into bed.

This Monday’s through, Oh, whoopy doo,

It’s been messin’ with my head.

 

I got the back to school blues (ooooh, oooh, oooooh)

I got em real, real oh so baaaaaaaad.

The Upsides, Downsides, and Eat-Your-Own-Left-Arm-Sides To Having A Baby Brother

This morning, purely in the interests of research you understand, I asked Daisy what was she liked and what she didn’t like about having a little brother. I had to prod her a bit to get any sensible sort of response, but, with some gentle encouragement, I sort of got what I was after. We had a rocky start. When I asked Daisy what she liked about having a little brother, she replied, “He’s very stinky sometimes, mummy”. I’m not at all sure that she understood the question, but I persevered. I explained that this was probably something that she didn’t like very much about her brother (she agreed) and asked her what else she didn’t like. Well, she quickly got into her stride. “I don’t like the crying and the screaming. I don’t like it when he licks my toys. I don’t like it when he climbs on me, mummy. I don’t like it when he hits me, mummy”. Well, poor Daisy. Feeling strangely guilty, I asked her what she liked about her baby brother. She pondered this for quite a while, so I prompted her; “He’s quite sweet, isn’t he, Daisy?” “Yes, mummy. He’s a little bit sweet”. That was it. That, right there, is the sum total of what Daisy likes about her little baby brother.

Now, firstly, as you probably know, Daisy has fairly severe learning disabilities so getting reliable answers which weren’t led by me was always going to be a challenge and, secondly, I know for a fact that Daisy actually adores her little brother (most of the time) and he, in turn, hero-worships her. It’s true that all the screaming and crying can be a bit wearing (especially for Daisy, who doesn’t tolerate loud noises very well) and I can see that it must be a right old pain when he “licks her toys”, but they do entertain each other endlessly by playing chase (crawling, of course) around the house, and I think you could argue that Daisy’s most favourite activity in the world is pushing the buggy, with or without the baby inside it, but ideally, with the baby inside it (firmly strapped in, I might add, as Daisy is sometimes a little bit, ummm, exuberant in her buggy pushing). So, there are some things to be said for having a little baby brother. It’s not solely that he’s a little bit sweet (I hope).

I do see, though, that, even for a child like Daisy, the last year and a half have been quite a big ask. For 9 years, apart from her step-sisters at the weekend (who she adores) it was just her. The main focus for me was Daisy. All the time. She’s not spoilt (we simply can’t afford to spoil her) but she has been able to bask in my love and attention without really having to share it with anybody else. Suddenly, a small, noisy, impatient, grouchy little nugget of a boy comes along and, what do you know? She’s having to share her mummy, and her toys are getting licked by someone other than herself. It’s just not cricket. For the first 6 months of Guy’s life, at least, Daisy was minxy to say the least. Uncooperative, grumpy, sometimes downright rude. Of course, it was an understandable reaction to having to share me and adjust to life with a baby around, and she had no way of expressing how hard this was for her, so it all came out in Daisy the Minx. It made for some fairly testing moments, I can tell you.
Now, of course, he’s nearly a year and a half old and it’s impossible to imagine what life would be like without him, and I’m quite sure that Daisy, could she express this, feels exactly the same. This baby brother business, on the whole, I think she’d say, is a Good Thing. It’s really almost impossible to know what Daisy is thinking or feeling, and she can’t really tell me, so I’m slightly guessing here, but I’m pretty sure that there are more upsides than downsides (and very few eat-your-own-left-arm-sides) to having a baby brother on the scene.

This morning, though, having been grilled by me and having shared her thoughts about having a baby brother, she did have one last tiny thing of her own to add. “Mummy?” (she said) “Next time, can you buy me a baby stister, please?”

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To baby-proof or not to baby-proof…

…that, my dear hearts, is the question. We didn’t go to much effort for Guy, frankly, and I’m pretty sure we missed a trick, there. We’ve got stair gates and a few randomly placed plug socket covers, and stashed away in a drawer somewhere are lots and lots of cupboard locks (blatantly not locking any cupboards) but that’s about it. The thing is, if ever there was a baby who needed his environment proofed against him, it’s Guy. He is into everything, quite literally. He’s as fast as quicksilver and as crafty as a fox. Nothing is safe from my explorative little chap. I often imagine that this is what it must be like living with Ralph Fiennes. Any and all unexplored territory must be quickly explored and conquered, chaps, and don’t spare the horses.

There was method behind the original madness of not madly baby-proofing everything.  The thinking was, it is better to teach my son not to go into Domestos-saturated cupboards from an early age rather than just making certain areas no-go zones. How very naive I was. You’d have though, wouldn’t you, that I’d have known better. After all, he’s not my first child. I have since discovered that teaching Guy that some areas are less safe than others is like training a Border Terrier to not bark. The dog is untrainable, and so, apparently, is the baby. (If you remember, there are clear and uncanny similarities between my dog and my baby which I highlighted in my post Four Legs=Good, Two Legs=Bad and this is just another example of my son’s canine tendencies).

The other, marginally more honest, reason why I didn’t baby-proof the house into submission is laziness. Well, I’m paying for that laziness now, because I can’t take my eyes off him for a second. There’s no, “Aaaah, how nice! I can sit down for 5 minutes while my lovely sweet and completely tame baby is happily playing with his toys” because the aforementioned ‘tame’ baby is most likely using his toy box as an improvised step ladder to climb as far up the wall as he possibly can in order to grab a nice bit of art work or a couple of strategically placed photo frames. Laziness is no longer an option if I want my ‘tame’ baby safe, sound and fully intact. Another excellent example of this: all babies can be kept fairly quiet with a couple of Tupperware bowls, a wooden spoon, a baking tray and a silicone spatula (heaven for babies, right there). Mine is content with this for about 1 and a half minutes tops, before he is off to explore what else is lurking in the cupboards from whence this bounty came. And, of course, with no cupboard locks, the kitchen is his very own playground. Lucky boy. Silly (not at all lazy) mummy.

The biggest baby-proofing problem that I face on a daily basis, though, is The Hatch. Built into the wall between the living room and the kitchen, The Hatch is a very convenient and useful hole through which food can be passed, conversations can be held, TV can be watched, and babies can clamber. Oh, the joy of it. Nothing, apparently, beats hauling one’s self up onto the sofa, scrabbling up the back of the sofa and wriggling gleefully though The Hatch onto the kitchen counter on the other side. Which, of course, comes complete with a not inconsiderable drop onto the hard stone kitchen floor. He can accomplish this in the blink of an eye. Believe me, it takes a heartbeat. He’s been practicing, and he’s getting faster all the time! Actually, forget Ralph Fiennes, it’s more like living with a Chimpanzee. Anyway, following another near-miss, I’ve moved the sofa away from its spot under The Hatch. There’s really nowhere else the poor sofa can sensibly live, and in its current resting place, it looks awkward, abashed and slightly ashamed of itself. Like a wallflower at a dance. It knows it doesn’t belong there, and so do I: we can’t watch the television comfortably and it just doesn’t feel right. Guy, predictably, is very cross about the whole thing, and is busy scouting around looking, I suppose, for another route through The Hatch or just another baby-sized mountain to scale. The bookcase is looking like quite a good bet for a good bit of Ralph-style mountaineering but, then again, he’s been eyeing up the armchair as a prospective ladder up to The Hatch. If only he could get the cat to vacate the armchair for long enough, I’m quite sure that The Hatch would be back on the agenda.

I think, really, I’ve answered my own question posed at the beginning of this ramble. To baby-proof or not to baby-proof is, indeed, the question. The answer, my dear hearts, is DO! Especially if you have a son who’s name begins with a G, finishes with a Y and has a U sandwiched in the middle. My mission for today is calling my wonderful builder and odd-job man Peter and begging him to come and make two little doors (with a lock) for The Hatch.

The sofa will be delighted.

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Winter? Gimme All You Got!

I don’t know about you, but I’m sort of ready for winter now. We seem to be stuck in a sort of post-summer, pre-autumn no-man’s land at the moment. I’m sitting here at my kitchen table looking out of the window and it certainly looks like autumn. The leaves are all turning brown, there’s a sliver of morning mist drifting through the trees and, although the sky is blue, it’s an chilly blue; more iceberg blue than summer’s proverbial duck-egg. Also, it’s the tail end of October, the clocks go back this weekend and we’re gearing up for Halloween and Bonfire Night. The problem is, I know that today is going to be a mild 17 degrees and if I wear a coat to walk the dog, I’ll be whipping it off and wishing I’d remembered my sunglasses before I’m even off the beaten track.

I’m a Summer Girl at heart. I don’t do cold very well; I’m not generally a fan of frosty mornings and early evenings. I’d much rather wear a bikini than a snow suit (although I’m quite sure the rest of the world would rather I was in a snow suit than a bikini). For a short while, when Daisy was little, we lived in Bahrain, and that suited me very well indeed. Every morning, be it August or be it January, you could wake up and pretty much be guaranteed a day of sunshine and shorts and t-shirts. Another day by the poolside? Well, don’t mind if I do!

This, however, isn’t Bahrain. Not by any stretch. We’re quite a long way from the desert, really, I’m sure you’ll agree (unless you count Staines). Here in England we have a proper winter, a winter we can be proud of, with snow and everything (sometimes). So I say, if we’ve got to have a winter, if we’re gonna do it, we may as well get started, seeing as it’s October and all that. Let’s get on with it. By my humble estimation, by the time the leaves are drifting in the garden, by the time it’s getting dark when the children have their supper, by the time you run the risk of being bopped on the head by a conker every time you venture outside, it’s time to pop the heating on, wrap up in a jumper and dig your winter boots out of hibernation. It’s the arse end of October, for goodness sake; it just doesn’t feel right to wear a t-shirt, thank you very much.

So, I’m starting a crusade. I reckon that, if we all dig out our winter coats, pull on a pair of gloves, dust off our winter boots, bang up the heating and start scoffing comfort food, whoever it is who controls the weather will just have to sit up and take some notice.

Who’s with me? I’m sitting here, wrapped up snug in cashmere, polishing off a bowl of porridge and contemplating a dog walk in my bobble hat. C’mon, winter! The clocks go back this weekend! Show yourself! Make my bobble hat-wearing madness worthwhile! All I need is a sliver of winter, a touch of frost, a glimpse of cold winter sunshine and then I can justify big fat heating bills and comfort food galore.

Sooner or later, I just know it, if everyone hops on my crusade train, it’s going to be the weather man who’s feeling really silly, not me.

(By the way, if it’s snowing by next tuesday; sorry).

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