Tag Archives: children

A weekend away

Hi blog, how I’ve missed you.  I have a list of half-written blog posts that I’ll complete at some point.  Anyway, it’s spring, the sun is out, daffodils are smiling at me from the window sill and I feel like I could actually finish a blog post.  Spring madness.  So here goes…

We’ve just had a big family celebration and have been up north for a birthday party and family meal.  The plan started out simple enough, with an intention to get the train on Saturday morning, meaning a 2 hour journey, rather than a 4 hour drive, stay in a premier inn, get a taxi to and from the party, walk to the family meal in town the next day and hop back on the train.  Easy.  We did this last year for another family celebration and it worked fine – for me.

However, OH is still having nightmare flashbacks from that journey as our youngest was travel sick on the train – all over daddy.  So, it was decided that we would drive.  Eight hours of driving in one weekend with three small people, two of which are travel sick, is always going to take the edge off a celebration, but not to worry, we’ve done this journey many times.  It’ll be fine.  I use the word ‘fine’ a lot – it’s a way of convincing myself it really is all fine.

The car element meant that the plans started to grow.  We were now going for two nights and staying in different houses, first visiting the in-laws, distributing Easter eggs to the many nieces and nephews, most of them are nearby and were coming to visit for a few hours before we set off to the opposite side of Manchester to my brother’s house, which has been newly fitted with electrics and has the bare plaster decor to prove it.  A busy weekend was getting busier.

Mid way through the car journey from south to north, we realised that neither of us had put in any shoes for the small people.  We’d put them in the car in pjs and slippers.  Now, a few years ago, I reckon I could have got away with just the slippers, but there was no way my little ladies were going to accept them as appropriate accessories to sparkly party dresses.  We now needed to fit in a visit to a discount shoe store somewhere in the itinery.  Found one.  £27 and three pairs of shoes later – which I’d had to hope would fit, as no one would come out of the car in slippers to try them on – we were on route to my brother’s house.  I’m feeling slightly mixed about the price of the shoes; on the one hand, amazing bargain hunting and they all fit, and on the other, I feel it’s safe to assume that whoever made them wasn’t paid the living wage.  However, it was an ’emergency’ although admittedly in a #firstworldproblems only way.  I got a loyalty card for the shoe store anyway.  This could so happen again.

Right, arrived at brothers.  Time to blow up four airbeds, unpack smart party clothes and shake out the creases.  The children were super excited at the blow-up beds and so his front room quickly became a trampolining arena.  I have no idea how none of them popped.   Some screen time was needed to calm them down, but he’s only just moved in and doesn’t have a great TV signal sorted yet – out came the Thundercats boxset.  the schedule started to runaway a little as we all got a bit caught up in the Thubdercats boxset. My children have been running around ever since shouting ‘Thundercats HOOOOOOO!’  Ah, one of the great catchphrases of the 80’s, I believe.

The double air bed was the last to be blown up and as we opened it, we realised why we’d got such a bargain online.  It didn’t have a UK plug.  The only adaptors on hand were the ones you take on holiday to convert a UK plug into an international one, not the other way around, for obvious reasons.  So, my brother has bought my grandmas house, which means we were able to climb over enough stuff in the spare room to find a mattress that we think once belong to my great grandma.  Having rescued it from the room and beaten the dust off, we then realised that we I hadn’t packed any bedding… Well, we didn’t need it last year in the Premier Inn.  We’d have to bring some back from the party at my parents house later.

Time to get decked out in party clothes, which is followed by the soundtrack of myself appealing to the small people not to drop food or drink on their clothes, wee in them, mess up their hair or rip anything.

Party time.  By now, my youngest two are bouncing off the walls – I mean actually bouncing off the walls, using sofas to propel themselves the highest.  I quickly nipped that little activity in the bud and whisked them into another room.  Twenty minutes later, all three had fallen asleep – before the food came out.  My shoulders can finally drop from my ears, and a few glasses of wine enjoyed – definitely more than was wise.  It’s tricky at a house party, people re-fill your drink without you noticing, and then I seem to drink more  wthout noticing.  Anyway, it was a lovely evening catching up with family and freinds that we hadn’t seen for a while, before the scooping up three sleepy children with a midnight feast from the buffet into a taxi home.  For bedding, we’d found a car blanket as a bottom sheet and borrowed a sleeping bag from my parents, as a duvet.  The sleeping bag turned out to be one I’d had 25 years ago and had the unmistakable pattern of the 80s: think dark grey background, with tiny polka dots, finished off with bright splashes of colour.  It’s from the time of Thundercats – this weekend had taken on an 80s theme.  So, not the comfiest sleeping set-up, but turns out I can fall into a deep sleep under any circumstances these days, so it was fine.

The next day began slowly, but with more Thundercats, and some dressing up as my brother is an entertainer / magician professionally, so the children were having the time of their life in his circus room.  A circus room is something every house should have, of course.

Next, it was time for more smart clothes for the birthday Sunday Lunch, bags needed to be re-packed, the children had to be coaxed out of the circus room, three airbeds were let down and rolled back up into the tiny bags they are meant to fit in, the car was packed and we headed out for a ‘leisurely’ Sunday lunch, before the long drive home.  Longer on a Sunday afternoon as it turned out.  We arrived home shortly before 9pm after five hours of ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ and ‘I need the toilet,’ followed by ‘No, we’ve ages to go. Why don’t you go to sleep?’ and ‘Well, for Heavens sake, why didn’t you go at the services 10 minutes ago?’  We then unpacked and got everything ready for Monday morning, which would sadly be happening in a few short hours.  We climbed into bed, exhausted, shadows of the people we were on Friday night, and ready for the enquiries into how was our lovely weekend away.  It was lovely, I just now need a lot of sleep and have a laundry basket that’s threatening to take over the upstairs.  If I could just get to a place where I can close it by the end of the week, I’ll feel like I’ve achieved something.  But, Rome wasn’t built in a day, I think I need to keep my ambitions more realistic.

It’s taken me 4 days to finish this post.  I still can’t close the laundry basket.  It will soon be time to pack again for trips over Easter.   Must remember shoes, must remember shoes, must remember shoes…

I’d really like to sleep for a while longer.  Keep smiling at me daffodils, keep smiling.

Community spirit will get us through

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been thoroughly down in the dumps since the election results.  Everything’s been said, the analysis and new leadership battles will go on – and so will ‘austerity’, which is basically code for the social cleansing.

Every person for themselves – well not here in Tooting!  To cheer ourselves up, we went to a non-political community day at the weekend.  Although nothing at all to do with politics, it did give me that warm feeling of being around people who are willing to give their time just to get a community event going, and all in the name of creating fun for everyone else.  I imagine there was nothing in it for them except a lot of emailing, phone calls, being ignored, more emailing and phone calls, more being ignored, then chasing people up for responses, pinning up posters, organising flyers, being avoided on the street when on the lookout for volunteers, relentless hassling for bits of funding, crowd-funding and lots of donation bucket shaking on the day.

However, unperturbed by these many obstacles, it all went ahead.  It was a story-telling event themed around the Pied Piper and there was a parade to the local common where the main event was happening.  Off we went, with a Maypole, a giant mayor (from the Pied Piper), a storyteller, lots of props for said story, and various brightly coloured, homemade streamers, paper-mache creations, decorated branches and of course pretend rats.  A few of these props got stuck in trees along the way, but most made it there in one piece.

Here’s a few things that I learnt on the day:

1.  If there’s a May Day parade and you have children, no matter how cool or unwilling you think you are, you will be taking part in that parade. (I’m thinking of a few other parents, me and the husband have long dispensed with any pretence that we are cool.)

2. It is impossible not to grin stupidly whilst carrying a streamer in a parade.  Seriously, try it.  Even the sourest of souls won’t be able to resist in this situation.

3.  London drivers really are a grumpy lot.  Whilst waiting for giant story characters, an over-sized trumpet, which needed two people to carry it and lots of happy, smiling children skipping across the road at the pedestrian crossing, the second the lights turned green, there was a great deal of angry beeping.  Really?  Shame. On. You.

4. It is impossible to stand still whilst steel drums are playing.  Impossible.  Try it, but you won’t be able to stop moving.  Many moons ago we lived in a flat across the road from a hall where a local steel drum group practised for three hours every night throughout summer.  It was a relief when their annual appearance in the Notting Hill carnival was over, so we could sit down again in an evening without toe-tapping and shoulder movements.

5.  This was a surprise, but never under-estimate the waiting time to buy a wrap.  They were nice, but 45 minutes was too much of a build up.  Of course, they’d run out of most fillings by the time we got to the front.  Note to self: next year take a picnic.

6. Children can find a great deal of patience and willingness to queue when face painting is on offer.  If only this were a transferable skill.  However, “Mummy, mummy, muummmmyyyy.  Now, mummy!” is a familiar soundtrack to my days.  Hmm, do I need to learn face painting?

7. Once you’ve waited 30 minutes for face painting, at least one child will always desperately need a wee when they are next in the queue.

8.  Even with an African drum and an African trying to teach me to drum, I still can’t look cool – or drum.

9. Despite our very urban geographical situation, Tooting has a troupe of people that know how to Maypole dance.  Adults, not children.  They had clearly been practising, had matching hats with feathers in and sang as well, accompanied by an accordion.  Brilliant.

10. I have the most uncanny ability of choosing exactly the wrong time to take my children to craft making stalls.  We will get there just at the moment they are closing for 15 minutes to clear up.

11.  I now know how to make a paper hat.

12. Finally, a beer tent, complete with hay bales for sitting on, looks very inviting on a warm day.  I was driving and in charge of three small people, so merely took in the view.  That’s fine, I have other treasures.  Really, it’s fine.

A life in boxes.

So, it struck me recently that I’ve spent an awful lot of my life packing my things into boxes and moving them places.  Even though, we’ve lived in the same place for nearly a decade, this still keeps happening.

You see, we’re having a sort out.  Not just any old sort out, but a massive home overhaul.  This is due to turning our loft space into bedrooms and having to face the reality of the small village we’ve managed to put up there, piece by piece over the years.  I’ve been a bit too well-trained by my grandma’s post-rationing need to hang onto everything in case it comes in, and my OH, well let’s just say he’s not one for throwing things away, either.

We have accumulated five spare wardrobes, four beds, four prams, two cots, too many toys to list (but they fill one of the wardrobes), three car seats, two tables and roughly nine sets of shelving, a large amount of old computers or bits of them anyway, a friend’s printer which I’m assuming they’ve forgotten lending us, a huge fan, boxes of cables and lots of cutting edge technology from previous decades such as old video players, tape recorders one of those CD players that you could load 25 CDs into, a ball-bearing clock and a machine that plays something called a mini-disc.  How very useful.  That’s before we get onto The Hi-Fi.  A multi-decked towering item, circa 1989, standing almost a metre high with a record player, duel cassette deck, CD deck and a no expenses spared dashboard of graphic equalisers.  It also has two speakers each a similar size to The Hi-Fi, standing proudly beside it.  To be clear, this isn’t mine.

There’s also a spare clothing rail, and boxes and boxes of stuff.  Boxes with more boxes in, boxes of bits and bobs, boxes of ‘desperately important’ memorabilia, that neither of us can throw away.  Too many happy memories and proof there was once days without the school run, nappy changing, tantrum placating, sleep and potty training, laundry, food shopping and cooking.  Ok, i suppose I’ve always done the last three things on that list, but it never took up so much time looking after just me.

During the building work, we managed to fill a storage unit the size of a small garage with all these treasures and are now having to empty said storage unit – and fast, before it bankrupts us and we have to sell one of the children.  It’s an expensive business having too much stuff.

For years, each time another item was made redundant, it went into the loft, for when it ‘came in’, or we had time to fix it.  I have too many well-intentioned ideas for the thrifty re-use of items, but with three small children, work and a house in constant chaos, it’s possible that most of it will disintegrate before I get round to making these wonderful new pieces of furniture, that I’ve created in my mind.  The dust was so thick on some stuff, it took sometime to work out what it once had been.  Now, we just have to face facts – it’s all got to go.

Would it be very wrong to invite people round, sneak off with their car keys and shove a load of stuff in their boot when they weren’t looking?  Drop a few items into the bags of unsuspecting visitors that have come on foot?  Yes, it probably would be.  I suppose.  But…tempting.

Or, perhaps the next time a party candidate comes knocking on the door for our vote, I’ll just say ‘yes’ i’ll vote for you, just take this wardrobe away.  Oh, you’re UKIP – sorry this is all foreign imports entering the country via IKEA.  Next!

And so, at the end of a bank holiday weekend spent entirely at home sorting through our impressive collection of important junk, we are nearly there.  We still have a loft space, although greatly reduced in size and so we’ve had to be ruthless, yet it’s funny the things that get kept.  There’s a few boxes full of files from my degree, that I can’t bear to part with – when am I ever going to need to know what i thought of Pinter at the age of 21?  It doesn’t matter, it’s staying.  Also, a bag of cheese cloth skirts (don’t ask, but they were so important that I’ve kept them in a box in the loft for 15 years and still haven’t thrown them away) and finally, my beloved old DMs.  They are staying with me for the long-haul.

There’s actually a bit of space left – we’ve obviously thrown too much away…hmmm, maybe I should go back through it all and see what else i need to keep.

A daring moment in the adventures of parenting…

Impulsive and daring. Once upon a time, I used these words about wearing something ‘outrageous’, a last minute decision for a big night out, going on a blind date, leaving the country for a year, getting onto the news, abseiling, quitting a job, heading off into the unknown on the back of a motorbike. Now, it’s how I describe trying to have an afternoon nap.

This is life with three small children. The sad thing is, it genuinely felt like a dare. A crazy, risky thing to do, full of high excitement and thrill.

The 4 & 2 year old were absorbed in their own game. I edged away to do a few chores. A few minutes later they hadn’t noticed I’d left, and were still happily playing. I got bolder and edged further away, and then a little further. Like a cat burglar in my own house.

Safely sneaked into sanctuary, I found myself unable to resist a call to lie down. There was a pillow and a duvet actually saying my name, I’m sure of it. On impulse, I set my alarm for 20 minutes time, so as not to miss the school run, (we don’t want to get too crazy here) and lay down. The sun streamed through the window and warmed my face, I could have been on a beach. As that beautiful feeling of warmth and comfort was beginning to envelope me, heavy eyelids closed, I felt myself drift, weightless, resting…

CRASH! Smash! Scream! More screaming. They were onto me. The delayed ‘mummy’s missing for more than five seconds’ radar had kicked in. The game had taken a more destructive turn. It sounded like every box of lego, building blocks, dolls accessories, jigsaws, games (especially the ones with lots of pieces) were being upturned all over the house.

So, it would probably have been a good idea to head back downstairs at this point and gain control. I didn’t do that. To be honest, it sounded scary downstairs and judging by the noise, the damage was done. Best to get that bit of rest and deal with it in a better mood. The children felt differently. A screaming competition broke out, which is a really pleasant noise and I winced, hoping the neighbours were at work and not having a day off.   This had clearly become a battle of wills, ‘Who does mummy think she is not spending her every waking moment watching over us?’

I started to break. Pitifully, opting for a halfway house solution, I summoned my best middle-class mum voice ‘Everything ok sweethearts? Please stop screaming. Mummy doesn’t like it.’ They only ever get called names like ‘sweetheart’ and ‘darling’ when I’m inwardly seething and desperately trying to put my best ‘I’m not at all phased by your behavior as I’m clearly the one in charge here’ voice on.

Silence followed. Damn, I’d given my location away. Could I sneak into the bathroom and lock the door before they got to me? Will I fit underneath the chest of drawers? No, probably not. Or maybe I could hide in a wardrobe? With a few cushions, I could nod off again and no one would know, although I’d probably freak my OH out when he got back from work later and found me there. I’d spent too much time deliberating, their hands were on the door. It opened, I’d say in slow motion to create a more cinematic image, but it was instant.

I pretended to be asleep, maybe they won’t want to disturb me. (Who was I trying to kid?) As the thought popped into my mind, my eyelid was forced open. ‘Found you!’ Two, beautiful, grinning faces with whom, despite physical and mental exhaustion, I am completely in love, and by whom my existence appears to be defined.

The dream was over. The impulse had not paid off. There was going to be no napping.

I headed downstairs to put the house back together, gather bags for swimming classes and find shoes for the school run to get number three.  Something started making a noise. I hunted through the toys, desperately trying to find the offending piece of plastic and rip out its batteries.

But the noise was following me around. ‘Beep beep beep’.

It got louder.  ‘BEEP, BEEP, BEEP’.

Ah, it was my alarm.