Tuesday, 30 August 2011

I Can't Take Me Anywhere

I have frequently left the house with yoghurt / milk stains on my left shoulder. I have been out with dried puree in my hair. I have done an entire Sainsbury's shop with a small, pink Hello Kitty grip in my fringe. But never before have I had a 20 minute chat with our elderly neighbours - outside the front door - forgetting entirely that I am wearing a T-shirt with the words SUGAR TITS across the front.

I am mortified. Our neighbours are in their sixties, kind, gentle, unassuming, fond of the children and - perhaps until now - always complimentary of our approach to parenting. And I should point out, this is not a T-shirt which could be missed or mis-read. It is navy with its SUGAR TITS logo in large, shocking pink capitals.

You see, since I woke up this morning and someone replaced Summer with Autumn, I thought the kids and I would have a lazy day in the house. So on went the slipper boots and some cosy inside-only clothes. Having spent all afternoon safely ensconced indoors, I'd become immune to my non-public-appearance outfit and, since my three year old can't read, no one pointed out to me that even a trip out to the wheelie bin with a dirty nappy could be dangerous. Living in a terrace, we're talking neighbours of close proximity where it would be churlish not to chat when popping out front, and we often do. I did have an inkling during this evening's chat that Mrs Neighbour seemed keener than usual to get back indoors, but just assumed she wanted to get on with the dinner and so I continued chatting to Mr Neighbour for at least another five.

It was only when The Husband arrived home this evening and directed some dirty comment at my chest that the penny dropped. He of course has found the whole thing utterly hilarious. Particularly as the T-shirt was an Anniversary present from him on our second (cotton) year of Marriage. I remember it well - giggling at the gift I went to try it on, only to discover that tragically my tits (10 months into breastfeeding at the time) hung a good 2-3 inches below the logo.

So, this evening I've decided the T-shirt is cursed and I shall re-home it to some pert twenty-something who will wear it somewhere more fabulous. And in the meantime, in a bid to clawback my neighbours' respect, I shall be dressing in entirely age appropriate attire and mostly avoiding the wheelie bin. I just hope they're not down with Da Kids and following me on Twitter or reading this blog.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Poxy Pox

I am on holiday this week, house-borrowing in Bray. It's very middle-class, full of yummier mummies than me and occasionally you hear the whirring of a helicopter landing a celebrity to dine at The Fat Duck.

Whilst I sit here fantasising that Robbie (still old-skool in my crushes) might be slipping oysters down his gullet a mere hundred metres away, the reality is that it's raining, it has rained a lot since we arrived, The Husband is watching a 'Very Important' Arsenal match, and the children have behaved like little shits today.

I decided not to blog this week, as there's only a crumbly dial-up connection which will leave me feeling like I want to rip it out before it gets going (not the most patient person, me) and, of course I want to spend some Quality Time with my lovely family (and can't keep banging on at The Husband to put his Twitter feed down if I'm doing much the same).

But since the wine is poured and The Very Important Match still has 20 minutes to run, I wanted to share some quick advice on Chicken Pox. Random I know, but a good friend of mine rang earlier to ask for help, since my two kids sailed through it without too much bother. So, for anyone who hasn't had to endure The Pox yet, here's my (fairly) failsafe guide:

You Need:

Rhus Tox - a homeopathic remedy, by Nelsons, which is said to dramatically reduce the symptoms, especially the itching. The sooner you start giving it the better. It worked wonders (particularly on my son who took it before the first spots appeared).

ViraSoothe - fairly new to market, it's a gel which applies really easily and stays on - unlike Calamine lotion which is impossible and gets everywhere. If you insist on Calamine, get the cream which is mixed with Glycerin (I think?) so at least it sticks.

Dead Sea Magik Bath Salts (Boots do these) - pricey but worth it.

Bicarbonate of Soda.

Bath every morning and every evening in two big scoops of the bath salts plus a good tablespoon of Bicarbonate of Soda. The two really work well to dry out the spots and speed up the process.

I know none of these things are new, wizardly solutions (except perhaps the Rhus Tox), but the combination honestly seemed to make the experience fairly easy for me. And with two naturally dramatic children, I'm not saying that lightly.

Thankfully Arsenal are currently 2-1 up, which should deliver The Husband back to me in a happy state, so I will leave you with my Poxy advice and get back to the red. Get well soon, E.D x

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Muffin Top? Yes, melted cheese please.

For some reason, I always leave a Pilates class feeling like I want to slap Gwyneth Paltrow. I'm sure she's lovely, but it's all just a bit too pure and wholesome for me. I can't help but walk out with an overwhelming desire to put all the toxins straight back in.

I have a similar problem with yoga. I've never been able to take it seriously since a friend of mine once let out a loud fanny fart whilst going in to Downward Facing Dog, so I have a Pavlovian giggly response the minute I'm in a class. Besides, I can never seem to manage the 'focus the mind' bit, and end up wondering what I might have for dinner. Not very Zen.

I've tried aerobics, but at 37 years of age I’ve STILL never managed to do The Grapevine. I simply don’t have the co-ordination for it. I can only assume that gene was replaced with a fabulous ability to seek out a bargain in Topshop. Personally I think the latter is far more useful and better to pass down to the children.

Since I stopped breastfeeding a year ago, my body responded as if it was one of those instant inflatables and up (and out) I went. Earlier this week, the words Muffin Top exited from my three year old's mouth and, given it’s probably a little un-PC for him to have picked up from Charlie & Lola, I imagine it's something he's heard me muttering under my breath. Not good.

So rather than just whinge at The Husband, I've decided that I should probably do something about it and that body pump will be my exercise class of choice. Largely because the loud, shouty music makes me feel like I’m on a night out, so it sort of acts like a double whammy for me (tragic as that may be). Although, am I the only one who looks like a complete prat when doing squats? Certain women seem to perfect that bum out 'as if you’re sitting down on a shelf' motion and still look sort of sportily sexy, whereas I just look like I’m trying to locate a loo.

Happily, amidst this week's soul searching for the right biscuit vs body pump balance, some lovely people have sent me a 'miracle' tummy flattening cream to review on my blog. Like a timely Fairy Godmother. It looks, and sounds amazing, and is apparently so effective that Boots are selling 100,000 tubes of the stuff every half an hour! It's called NIP+FAB (www.nipandfab.com) and contains something called AmaraShape which helps to break down fat cells and generally tighten the skin around your wobbly bits, so mums are swearing by it for post baby tummies. Apparently I can literally lose inches from my waist, whilst sitting down and enjoying a cup of tea, which definitely sounds more appealing than abdominal crunches. I should see some results within six weeks so will be re-blogging how I get on. In the meantime, perhaps body pump can wait for another week...

So this evening, in my slightly bloated PMT state, whilst my head is saying go and exercise, my heart is saying go and eat some saturated fat. I have chosen the latter and am off to a friend's house to drink Rioja, eat cheese and maybe even have a naughty rollie. Sorry Gwyneth, not very pure, not very macrobiotic, possibly not even organic. But better for the soul (mine at least).

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Go the F**k to Sleep

The baby monitor is showing me a single, serene, green light. My favourite light. The light that denotes successful routine management by me and obedient sleeping by my child.

As someone who lived my professional pre-children life with (mostly) highly-perfected control, how to ‘Manage’ sleep became my number one agenda point when my newborn arrived. I naively expected my baby's sleep patterns to fall beautifully into line like cascading numbers on an Excel spreadsheet. Ahhh...that pre-motherhood naivety.

For the two weeks after we brought him home from hospital, the ONLY place my son would sleep was in his Moses basket. What’s wrong with that you might ask? Well, nothing – except that said Moses basket had to be placed on our bed in between us before he would even consider dropping off. This left me and The Husband approximately six inches of mattress each either side. And as if this wasn’t enough, the boy would only settle after being given a sort of Indian head massage from my side of the 12 inch bed. I was torn between admiration that he had the self-confidence to enter the world making such demands from the off, and a sense of bewilderment that my child could be so imperious at less than a week old.

When he was around four months old and still in the sort of non-routine-Routine that would have Gina Ford in a cold sweat, I was invited out to some birthday drinks. The Husband was gallivanting somewhere in Wales on a Stag Do, so I decided to go anyway and just take the boy with me. At around 9pm he took one look at me from his car seat, nestled amongst Mulberrys and Chloes on the floor of the bar, as if to say ‘Why are you nursing that glass of Sauvignon instead of putting me to bed with some warm milk and a story?’ I left immediately and decided from that moment it was time to introduce a proper bedtime routine, like the ones I’d read about.

Surely it couldn’t be that hard – after all, I was in control (wasn’t I?) So the next night I gave him a warm bath, a little massage, read him The Very Hungry Caterpillar, sang him a lullaby in my best X Factor-auditions-style voice, gently laid him in his cot and tiptoed out of the room. Easy.

In spite of my best text-book efforts, the story I’d chosen served only to stir in him a deep feeling of empathy with the caterpillar and so he woke hourly claiming he was STILL hungry. The Husband and I persevered with the nightly routine and yo-yoed up and down the landing for weeks, tiptoeing out of the nursery like a bizarre version of backwards Grandmother’s footsteps.

Battle-scarred from the experiences of our son's sleeping habits, we were armed and dangerous when our second child arrived, and quickly jostled her into a routine of sorts. Which means at least I know she's going to sleep in the day for a couple of hours, allowing me to try and re-discover my brain or just stare blankly at a wall for a bit. But is it me or is there a cruel irony to this napping lark? When I need her to wake up because I’ve planned to do something, she sleeps for three hours leaving me pacing around the house - all surfaces cleaned, two washing loads done and hung up, dishwasher empty, emails answered - feeling like the embodiment of the Power Mum, but with no one to show off to. When I really want her to sleep, she decides she only needs an hour, rudely awaking in the middle of Loose Women.

Talking of which, you’ll have to excuse me, my monitor has replaced its serene green with the flickering Lights of Doom...

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Perfect Mothers, Perfect Friends & Not-So-Perfect Children

I am ALMOST 'The Perfect Mother'. Its as if...my intentions are good and I get everything ever-so-nearly right...but never quite manage to pull it off. For instance, this morning I answered the front door, as my son skirted around my ankles in a smart little Breton top, happily munching an organic apple he clutched in one fist. I beamed at the postman, enjoying a little swell of Good Mother pride as my son peered up at him. Only to look down and spot Id completely forgotten to dress his bottom half and his other hand was wrapped tightly around a plastic medicine syringe.

And the proximity to perfection goes on...my kitchen is spotless apart from the large pile of papers, plastic Iggle Piggles and single socks that sit expectantly in the corner waiting for a home; my flapjacks taste great but always have to be chiselled out of the tray and caught whilst flying across the room; I'm excellent at reading Bear Hunt for the five-hundredth time, until we get to Swirling Whirling Snowstorm, when I always start drifting off and dreaming of exotic holidays before having my concentration sharply re-set by a tetchy toddler.

If ever there is an opportunity to suggest I am NOT the Perfect Mother, my children enjoy taking it. Being under five, they understand there are boundaries...and that boundaries are there to be pushed and tested (as are mothers). And arent children clever? They've perfected the art of acting like little darlings when youre home alone with no one to show off to, yet the minute you get in front of the in-laws or your 'Perfect Friend' (we've all got one), you end up boring yourself with the number of times you desperately say "he's never like this", "she's usually got such good manners".

My Perfect Friend came to stay one day when we went to the Bristol Food & Wine fair. Having behaved beautifully all morning, my son decided to go for an Oscar performance at the entrance to the fair (nice and public, you see), all because of The Buggy Battle. Hes inherited my dramatic gene and therefore any tantrum sounds rather more alarming and sinister than it actually is. Quite used to the hyperventilating wails, my husband and I battled on regardless against the 98th percentile force, and tried to locate some straps from under his bottom whilst shoe horning him into the seat. At which point a yellow-jacketed security steward hurried up with a face full of concern and asked if wed like him to escort us to the First Aid tent. I laughed before realising he was entirely serious and calmly explained that this was neither health nor life-threatening, but entirely normal (to us at least).

And that's just it. We can only truly judge ourselves by our own benchmarks - those that are closely guarded behind our own front door - and not by the standards we set ourselves based on how well we think everyone else is managing this motherhood lark. There IS no such thing as The Perfect Mother, but it would make parenting a darn site easier if we were all a bit more honest about where we go right, where we go wrong and what sometimes keeps us awake at night (as well as trying to have a giggle at the same time). And that's why I've started this blog.