Friday, 30 September 2011

You're It!

Lately, a game of 'tag' has been afoot in the blogosphere, which goes a bit like this: you find a blog which makes you giggle, cry, think a little or a lot and then you choose to present said blog with a Versatile Blogger Award, as follows (ta dah!):


During a week or so of loveliness, I have been given the award three times. I'm not going to go all Kate Winslet in my thank you speech as I currently have PMT and could quite easily end up crying all over The Husband's MacBook, but I definitely do need to say a big thank you to the very talented bloggers who directed some more people my way - A Thoroughly Modern Mummy, Living It Little and Rollercoaster Mum. Please go and have a read of them when you have a moment. 

So, the rules are I must share 7 things about myself and then pass the award on to 5 other newly discovered blogs. Here goes:

1. I can't eat food off other people's plates, or share cutlery (even with The Husband)
2. I love Derren Brown (yes, in THAT way)
3. I am a middle child, and every text book character trait that comes with it
4. I once did a handstand in the school playground and had forgotten to put knickers on that day 
5. I am a Scorpio, and every text book character trait that comes with it
6. I have bunions (born with them, not due to a love of fabulous but impractical shoes)
7. I am currently plotting a way to get Gary Barlow to leave his wife. The Husband doesn't know this yet

And here are the following brilliant blogs who I'm passing on The Versatile Blogging award to:


Happy Friday! x

Monday, 26 September 2011

Newborn Nuggets

Some good friends of ours have just had their first baby. News which has left me all gooey and sentimental.

So I am writing today’s blog post for all those new mothers out there – and if you know anyone who’s just given birth or is about to, be sure to pass it on. The following is actually taken from a card I wrote to a very good friend of mine (she knows who she is), when she had her first baby:

I still have days when I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing with this motherhood lark, but here are ten little things I’ve learnt along the way, which might be of some help to you and your little one.

  1. Always carry a spare pair of breast pads in your handbag (believe me, you don’t want to get caught short in public….I’m speaking from experience)
  2. You can never have too many muslins.
  3. Don’t be alarmed by a sudden onset of emotion around day five. I was pretty much inconsolable during an entire two hour Christmas final of X Factor. Luckily, the midwife had warned The Husband.
  4. Gripe water is brilliant.
  5. Avoid ‘Smug Mothers’ (there were babies allegedly learning French before mine could even walk).
  6. Always ensure you’re in possession of some expensive foundation and truck loads of Touche Eclat. Within two minutes you can look vaguely human, possibly even radiant, despite two hours sleep.
  7. Just when you start getting a little tired of giving out unconditional love and not getting a great deal back, your baby will smile at you for the first time and it’ll instantly recharge your batteries.
  8. If in doubt, feed (the baby, not the father).
  9. Sometimes you may cry for no reason, or eat an entire packet of chocolate Hobnobs in one day. Both are entirely normal.
  10. You start to see your mum in a whole new light, because you suddenly ‘get it’.
And now for the soppy and sentimental bit….despite some of the more challenging times, and moments in the middle of the night when you feel like you’re the only one in the world awake, being a mother is the most wonderful, fulfilling, incredible privilege. Don’t worry about what’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, or what other parents are doing. Follow your instincts, love your baby, and look after him/her as well as you possibly can. And that’s the best you can do.

Most of all enjoy it. These days go so quickly and are so, so special.

Monday, 19 September 2011

The Play House

This morning I found Iggle Piggle in my knicker drawer. I don’t recall reading that he’s a cross-dresser. Perhaps he was looking for The Tombliboos' trousers.

In the bathroom, my entire collection of candles had been lined up along the edge of the bath, with a single Immac upper lip wax strip balanced carefully on top of each one.

In the garden for most of this summer, approximately 20 plastic clothes pegs (‘Boats’) lay across the decking, each gripping a leaf of varying size (‘Sails’).

This is the work of the little people. And I am not allowed to touch.

I don’t know if it’s just my children, but there seems to be a constant Arrangement of something somewhere, which uses a combination of their toys and my household objects, and which is usually very precisely laid out. There is huge imagination at play here and I am loathed to disrupt or untumble one of these carefully constructed scenarios, just because I really could do with my spatula back. On the one hand I love witnessing the creative expression, the scientific experimentation, the way the inanimate can animate their little, new minds. On the other hand, my OCD tendancies are going into overdrive and I just want to get hold of all the bloody Stuff and put it back into piles and boxes.

It’s when their play area pervades ours that perhaps my tolerance is most tested. Pre-children, I’ve always maintained that the bedroom should be a serene sanctuary – absolutely NO television, stylish d├ęcor, scented candles and beautiful bed linen. These days, it’s not unusual to find a plastic pony poking into my back during The Act, or to glance over The Husband’s shoulder to see The Gruffalo peering out at me from under the duvet.

The Husband says that all this chaos makes the house looked lived-in and gives it soul. I am certainly aware that our ‘Beautifully appointed Victorian terrace’ which we bought as DINKs from another couple of DINKs would now be described as a ‘Much loved family home, in need of some attention’. But honestly? I rather like that the chips in the skirting are from where Thomas' wheels hit the edge during a particularly fast race, that the scratches on the leather sofa are from a 'real dinosaur fight' and that the biro swirls by the front door were our daughter’s first drawing.

Perhaps because they serve as little memory nuggets of days already gone by. Days when they are little. Days which we won’t get back. The house bears the scars of their childhood – proudly - and that’s exactly what a family home should do.

And anyway, the plastic takeover that comes to us all does no real harm. Iggle Piggle looked quite content nestled amongst my M&S cotton pants (I’d love to say frilly French lace but The Husband follows this blog and is likely to post a comment exposing me as a bare-faced liar). And you never know, perhaps The Gruffalo even enjoyed his threesome.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Ab Fab

A few weeks ago, in 'Muffin Top? Yes, melted cheese please', I did some shameless product placement about something called NIP+FAB.

The claims are: if you're in hot pursuit of a flatter, more toned tummy, but working up a sweat every day just isn't an option, this 'clinically proven' gel will help to tone, smooth and tighten your full-fat muffin top into more of a skinny one.

I must admit I'm a bit of a cynic when it comes to lotions and potions, but frankly I'll try anything which allows me to swap the stepper for the sofa, so I've been following the instructions, morning and night, for the last few weeks.

Ladies, it works.

Okay so I'm not quite ready for Strictly, and there's still a little duvet on top of my stomach muscles, but let's just say the cover looks like it's had a good iron.

Here's the science: apparently, it's to do with something called AmaraShape, which contains caffeine and synephrine. Both ingredients activate the breakdown of lipids in fat cells within the body, meaning you can pretty much leave the little beauties to it whilst you enjoy ogling at Gary.

This product is perfect for me and I'm only half way through the tube, so perhaps in another month I'll even be mistaken for Gwyneth. So, if you're looking for something with minimal effort but a certain 'Je ne sais quoi', NIP+FAB tummy fix is it.  As it happens, in preparation for a girlie weekend sans les enfants in Paris (more on that later), I'm reading a book called 'Two lipsticks and a lover' all about how French women pull off that effortlessly chic look.

And I was pleased to read that apparently les madames don't exercise at all, they just move around more. I like the sound of that very much. Wonder of it matters if my movements are mostly back and forth to the Chablis in the fridge?

Monday, 12 September 2011

...and Three's a Crowd

I think I may have seen The Light. The Light of hope and promise that people talk about when your second child turns two. The Light you think about when you're pacing the landing with your crying baby, knowing your older child will be up at six. I think I've had a glimpse of it.

My children have been playing together for 45 minutes. All by themselves. Upstairs. Knowing that absent, quiet children under five usually means mischief, I have been to check. They have not climbed onto something they shouldn't. They have not found my Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream and squeezed it along the bathroom tiles 'Like little worms, Mummy'. They are playing nicely. Properly playing and talking to each other. As I write, I can hear the cadence of their little voices and, so far, not once have I heard the shout of 'MINE!' I have tidied the kitchen, had a proper plunge coffee and read The Week cover to cover. For the first time in nearly four years, I'm actually feeling a little surplus to (their) requirements.

I'm almost reluctant to write this down for fear of setting off some sort of Sod's Law alarm which'll rattle me out of my smugness. But I think we might have arrived at the elusive 'There'. This is where people with The Knowledge promised me and The Husband we would get to, when we appeared grey faced and red eyed on most public outings during the first year of two children.

And if we are 'There', where things get a little more manageable, perhaps we can start some of those things we promised ourselves we'd do and get back some of that stuff we once did. Inside my mind is now a mini-landslide of excitement - might we soon be able to go for brunch with the Sunday papers whilst the children chat happily to each other? Could we possibly both get a weekend lie-in beyond 8am, if we leave out some raisin boxes and a selection of lurid plastic toys on the kitchen table?

But then a little voice says, if we are ALREADY Here, at 'There', it means our children are growing up. And all that Knowledge does is make me want another baby.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Learning to Loiter

I am scared of The School Gates. This is not a rational apprehension because my son is starting school this week and the very fact is causing me nervous, sleepless nights. No, my son starts school exactly a year from now. This is an irrational anxiety based on events so far in the future I can't control. My favourite. The angst I do best.

The thing is, I'm not very good at loitering on my own whilst still looking friendly and approachable (which is precisely the balance I understand one needs to perfect at The School Gates). Instead, I appear stern, a bit frowny and pretend to be busy fiddling with something terribly important. So people tend to avoid me. In actual fact, I'm concentrating very hard on looking like I don't really feel uncomfortable in the slightest (when really I do) and quietly hoping someone might come and start a conversation. Which they don't. And there you have it - a whole bucket load of ironies.

After all, what we mums really want in these enforced-loitering situations is to meet other mums, with like-minded outlooks and reasonably clean children. At the moment, my only experience of loitering is at the practice 'School Gates' (my son's nursery) which I'm treating as a sort of apprenticeship to see what skills I can learn over the coming months. Mostly, I look for completely shallow clues as to who might make a nice friend, so I spend a lot of time checking out 'the wheels' of other mothers. For me, it's a bit like the mum's version of 'What car do you drive?' and what it says about you. If I see a Mamas & Papas Pliko Pramette, I know I'm on fairly safe territory.

But then you have to add the children into the mix. Or as a friend pointed out to me the other day, it should really be about the children: which ones my son enjoys spending time with and who he might like to invite home. But when he selects a kindred spirit and then asks to have them over for the dreaded first play date, it all feels a bit like blind dating on my part; door bell rings, mouth goes dry and you pretty much know within seconds if you're going to get on with this mother, or if it's going to be an hour of stilted conversation about which type of weaning you did and when your baby first slept through the bloody night (I can always lose that one, hands down). Equally, I've spotted mums I like the look of, loitering in their skinny J Brands and Uggs, and have been about to bound over to them like an excitable puppy, only to see their child is the snotty nosed grubby little urchin whose just hit mine over the head.

Like so much of life, I guess the politics of The School Gates is a fine balance. It's a bit about the mothers, it's a bit about the children. It's about making an effort without trying too hard. It's about smiling sincerely not grinning desperately (or frowning sternly!) It's about learning to loiter with dignity and intent.

Since our local primary is in an area where there are more Boden mums than you can shake a catalogue at, I definitely need to be wary of my school run attire before stepping out of the house (see August's 'I Can't Take Me Anywhere' post). So, I have exactly a year to perfect the understated, not-made-an-effort look (which takes more effort than any other look). Oh, and to learn how to smile in public.

Wish me luck.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Smiley Face Time (FREE GIVEAWAY ALERT!)

It's that time of year: Autumn's around the corner, X Factor's back on TV (OMG Gary Barlow) and the nights will soon be drawing in.

To me, this means hot Radox baths and going to bed at 9pm to devour a good book or to pick out AW/11 essentials in Grazia.

To The Husband, it means one thing. More sex.

There is one time when you can guarantee our libidos are entirely in balance, and that's when we're trying for a baby. On both occasions we conceived, I vowed to be relaxed and Zen about the whole thing but in fact my style was more military than missionary. Before too long I was taking my temperature and weeing on sticks at every opportunity, then demanding The Husband comes to bed in the middle of Top Gear.

Recognising how the 'trying for a baby' process may wrestle with my impatient gene, The Husband bought me a job lot of ovulation and pregnancy tests from eBay (TOP TIP - they are super cheap, you can buy stacks at once and they work just fine). Which meant I could test for eggs or babies pretty much daily and the only cost was the complete Mind F**k it was causing me.

So, for all you Autumnal baby-bonkers out there, I've got some freebies to give away:

10 boxes of First Response Easy-Read Ovulation Tests (each box contains 5 tests plus a free pregnancy test)

Plus

A Positive Pregnancy relaxation CD by Andrew Johnson http://www.withandrewjohnson.com/

To win, just mention me on Twitter @NPMother or leave a comment here. The best comment will win the CD as well as a box of the tests. Good luck!

As for me, I'll just be watching X Factor and having an early night with a good book.