Something I am very conscious of is trying to Do the Right Thing and Set a Good Example with and for my children; part of that is instilling in them proper manners, such as saying excuse me, saying please and saying thank you - and meaning all of them. Thank you in particular is a big one for us - because we haven't much ourselves and have a very loving and generous circle of friends and family around us who regularly hand down items for our boys or buy them gifts - and do the same for Alex and I. This is something that is very, very much appreciated. There is one problem though - thank you cards. The cards themselves aren't a problem - my distribution of them is - or rather my failure to distribute them!
I start out with good intentions - I buy the cards (I've even been known to make them) and I write them out - I often even address them - but I absolutely fail at the last, vital step - posting them. I forget - I forget to buy stamps, I forget that the post office is on my list of 'to do' for the day. I forget that they're in my handbag. I forget to PUT them in my handbag. Then someone mentions that they've not had the card I promised yet and it gets a little embarrassing. Then a month has gone by without them being sent and it's VERY embarrassing. Then it's been a couple of months and people have forgotten what they gave - or think I have - and I still haven't done it and by now I'm putting off doing it because it'll be mortifying when they arrive and people call to thank me for their thank you card...
It's not that I'm not grateful - I'm horribly grateful, I'm aware that we're very lucky to be as loved as we are and for people to spent their time and energy, as well as their money, on things for us and thinking of us when they're going about their business - that's very special and makes us pretty damned lucky - and it 's not at all that I'm one of those who expects that people ought to give us things, quite the opposite - I'm always thrilled and a little surprised to be honest. It's just that I am useless. Absolutely 100% useless.
I wasn't brought up doing thank you cards - we were taught gratitude, and expressing it, and were taught to say thank you very nicely for gifts or visits or cards; when we received anything we were to say thank you as nicely as possible the very next time we saw or spoke to the person who gave the gift. Phone calls, text messages, emails, eventually facebook comments or messages were encouraged and carried out properly to thank people for things. Actual cards though, never, that I can recall. I think in part it was seen as a bit wasteful to send a card that would be thrown away simply to say 'Thank you' which had been said in person and I think in larger part it was down to my Mum (and her Mum before her) being the same as me - forgetful and then embarrassed by the process! As a result we didn't do cards.
My husband, however, is from a far politer, more organised family to whom a facebook comment is a bit of a cop out - he was raised to do PROPER thank you cards and we have received many from his family, even for visits, which I've very much enjoyed receiving (and I've kept many of them, dispelling my previously held idea that they would go directly in the bin - if they mean enough to ME to keep why would they mean less to someone who received one FROM me?!) and I know the cards mean a great deal more to them than they do to my own family (who, as I've mentioned, just don't do them). This is a bit of a problem because, being the wife, the responsibility for the thank you cards (and Christmas cards, birthday cards, Mother's day cards) has become mine. This means that they either arrive horribly late or it gets so mortifyingly late that I simply don't send them and I give them in person six months later when I SEE the people or I just don't give them at all. This is NOT because I'm ungrateful, far far from it - it's just because it's a ridiculously big task for someone as disorganised and bubble headed as I am!
Before Jasper was born I ordered the thank you cards for the gifts we would receive when he arrived - they are, for the most part, still in their packaging, aside from the ones that Roman coloured in which were thrown away. Not because we received nothing, nor because I'm ungrateful for the things received, simply because I am utterly useless. On moving I found cards, written very nicely, thanking people for Roman's first Christmas presents. And for the gifts from when he was born. Two years ago. I also found a pile of very nicely home made Christmas cards from two Christmasses ago and a couple of wedding invites that never quite made it out (though the people they were intended for made it to the wedding, thankfully!) I also found the insides (with the details of where and when the wedding was to happen) from some of the cards I did send - clearly just empty cards because I didn't realise I hadn't stuck the details inside. Spectacular.
To anyone who has ever been hurt by my failings, I apologise most profusely - please don't think we take your kindness for granted, nor that we haven't thought to thank you - we are thrilled by everything done and given; we're just awful at saying so in the proper manner! If you add me as a friend on facebook I promise to post gratitude on your wall!
When it comes to thank you cards, though, I think I might have to give up even trying - and for never learning the habit I blame my Mother - who will read this and tell me to blame hers. She'd be right, too!
If that's really true I'm on a bullet train to hell - I am SO messy. I like to think I'm not dirty - I like the smell of bleach too much not to use it regularly (on everything, including the walls - you'd be surprised how dirty your walls get!) but dear me I'm messy. Unfortunately I live with people who are even messier than me so I have to be the tidy one who picks up after the rest of the household; my parents probably winced reading that sentence - they remember my room, and the trail of destruction I left in my wake passing through the house to GET to my room. My Mum always used to say (with a kind of horrified, irrational look on her face) that I 'shed' as I passed through a room - that I might not even look like I was carrying anything but could leave a path of mess and destruction from entrance to exit and not even realise I was doing it. I *used* to think she was talking utter nonsense - then I met my husband.
I get it now. He is WORSE.
He has a special skill and doesn't seem to realise it - or how negatively it effects his own day to day life. If he did realise he might stop and his life would be easier!
He comes home, he steps through the door, he kicks off one shoe, but is already thinking about something he needs to be doing, so he doesn't put it where the shoes go, he just kicks it off - he doesn't take the other shoe off at the same time so that they're at least dumped together, he walks into another part of the house and kicks it off there, leaving his tie somewhere in between either on the floor or draped over a chair or on the bookcase. He then takes off his trousers and leaves them wherever he's got to by now - leaving them in a heap so they get crumpled and look horrific when he puts them on next. He's usually left his phone, glasses and keys somewhere now - in the dining room, or on the microwave, or upstairs in the study - possibly in the bathroom if he needed the loo when he got home. His briefcase could be anywhere - halfway up the stairs, beside the sofa, behind the TV (don't ask me, it made sense to him!) or on top of the fridge. He picks up his post, takes off his shirt, drops it where he's standing then finds somewhere to sit, in his pants, as he reads his mail, which he then puts on the arm of the sofa or on the floor and it gets knocked off/under/behind the sofa and we can't find the important bits of paper when we need them. Then he'll start looking for something - some mail from a previous day, his trainers, some comfy jogging bottoms, whatever - and looks for it by throwing everything on the surface he thinks might contain the thing he wants on to the floor, which is where he leaves it. Then he stands on something sharp (because he just dumped it there) and gets mad. Then he kicks something and stubs his toe (because he just dumped it there) and gets madder - then he either refuses to touch the things on the floor because he's mad at them, or he gathers them all up in a bunch and throws them in a drawer where they get crumpled, muddled, damaged or lost entirely. Then he can't find something, and the process starts again. Nothing ever goes back in it's box, nothing ever goes back where it came from and in the morning as he gets ready for work I field lots of "where's my...." or "have you seen the..." and he usually leaves without something vital.
His other neat trick is to leave things DIRECTLY IN THE DOORWAY so that you can't get in. This was most apparent just recently as we were packing the house ready to move - he packed boxes and we'd decided to use the dining room to store the packed boxes for ease on moving day; this meant that he brought bags-for-life stuffed with our belongings (having decided he has something against packing into boxes which he insists is less efficient) and left them, four at a time, in the doorway to the dining room - which meant that it was blocked so when he arrived with four more and couldn't get into the room he just put them in the OTHER doorway, blocking that too. Then he needed something from one of the bags, but couldn't remember which, so emptied 5 of them out to find it, found it, and left them unpacked. Infuriating.
I'm sure there are lots of people either saying "Yep, I have one like that at home" or "Dear lord, how do you put up with it?!" but we have an even bigger issue in our house. I can't complain about it. Partly because I actually find it horribly endearing - particularly the lost little boy look on his face when you catch him in the act - and it's one of the things I fell in love with him for. More than that though, complaining would make me a horrible hypocrite because, as my parents will vouch for, I'm EXACTLY the same. Exactly.
Our poor children don't stand a chance!
Thank you to everyone who is visiting and commenting, I love hearing from all of you.
The blog has taken off far more than I expected so I've moved to a new web address - the old posts are all there so you can rummage through my archives (ooh er!) and new posts and reviews are going up every day - thank you all for reading!
You can now find us at http://www.mommatwo.com
see you there!
Being ill when you've a new baby to feed and care for, and a toddler to entertain and stop from throwing himself down the stairs or off the back of the sofa, is not fun.
When you're the Mummy there isn't a day off - there's nobody you can call to say "I'm not well so I'm staying in bed today, see you tomorrow" because the children, unfortunately, won't let you shove them in a cupboard and come back to them in the morning.
When you wake up with a throat that feels like it's filled with shards of glass, eyes full of itching powder, Barry White's voice, a cough that sounds like you've chainsmoked for 35 years and someone replaced your bones with hot rubber in the night you know you're in for a tough day. When your husband has to be a proper grown up and go out to work because he has meetings even though you're giving him your best puppy eyes and growling "pleeeeeease be me for the day, I can't" you know you have to man up. When your head feels like the insides are going to pound their way out and the toddler is using his special, ultra awful shrill shriek because his jigsaw pieces won't fit together (IT'S THE WRONG PIECE ROMAN IT'S THE WRONG BLOODY PIECE STOP SCREAMING!) you just have to cope.
Three mugs of mocha, two paracetamol and two ibruprufen and you're curled up on the sofa with your douvet and a pile of books to read to the biggun, whilst littlun is attached for a day of endless feeds, you're trying to interest biggun in "The Jungle Book" which seems to hold very little appeal - you're trying not to cry - then miracle of miracles, the big one falls asleep! Just like that! No battles, no demands for "milk milk Mummy!" no wrestling, he's asleep! Quick Mummy, close your eyes, snuggle down, hurrah!
Somehow you get through the rest of the day - the toddler sleeps for a couple of hours, so you can too, and everyone wakes up feeling marginally less unwell. Eventually, three hundred years after he set off to work, your husband arrives home with ice cream for your throat, a magazine for the toddler for being such a good boy (whether he was or not, we didn't kill each other, it's a good result for the day) and maoam to make you smile, he runs you a bath then lets you doze whilst he gives a bath to both your sons then cooks you dinner - you survive, but only because he came home.
When you're the Mummy and you're poorly you can't just turn off - you have to keep going, even at minimum capacity, and hope that your children are content with a quiet, inside day - but you miss being the child, and your Mummy tucking you up on the sofa with a bag of mint imperials and a bottle of lucozade.
Mummies are superhuman. They just never feel it!
Yes, that's me. Yes, that's a shaved head. Yes, I'm 14. Yes, it seemed like a great idea at the time. Yes, I'd love to do it again. No, my husband isn't keen....
That's my friend Carman with me - she's moved back to Hong Kong now, but regularly tortures us all by posting pictures like the above on Facebook and tagging me so that all the friends I've made since school get to see what a trogolodyte I truly was. Goodtimes.
Being a full time Mummy is the hardest job I've ever had - and by far the most rewarding. Something I'm very guilty of, though, is my constant urge to 'go it alone' to prove to everyone (not that anyone's looking) how well I can cope - which usually leads to my being unable to cope.
For a lot of SAHMs the isolation is the killer. You're stuck at home all day with tiny people who don't speak the same language and who rely on you for EVERYTHING and who can, guaranteed, stay away for three entire days just when you're coming down with a stinking cold and need extra sleep. They are champions of testing your patience and the absolute limits of what you can deal with on a daily basis - then just as you're losing your mind they give you a sticky kiss, fall asleep on your knee and give you their last rolo* and suddenly it's all ok.
Sometimes though, when you're too tired and grumpy, and they're screaming like banshees, you just want to hibernate - you want to stay in your jim jams, close the curtains, take the phone off the hook and slob in front of the telly ALL DAY eating crisps.
That right there is the day you go out. Go on, get up, brush your hair, put on something you don't feel like a bag lady wearing and GET OUT. Do not underestimate the magical powers of "Out Of The House". That can mean a walk to the shop, to the park with a ball, to the playground for the swings, to see a friend or your Mum (I wish she lived close enough!) or to a playgroup. Whichever it is I guarantee that by the time you head home again you'll feel at least 673% better**. Fresh air, a bit of exercise and letting the kids run it off a bit will soothe everyone's tempers - even in the rain (which is smashing to go out in because kids LOVE umbrellas and jumping in puddles in wellies! Mind you - so does this particular Mummy...)
Better than all that though is the playgroups. The kids get social interraction, get to play, learn new skills and get to learn all about sharing (this is a steep learning curve - most are initially VERY bad at it - they'll learn, don't be embarassed, every kid there did the screaming bit) and YOU get to speak to some grown ups. Grown ups who can use real words. Grown ups who know what you're going through. Grown ups who understand and who can help you to laugh at the bad days and give you a hug when you need one. Grown ups who are like you, and who will like you. It might take a bit of trial and error to find the groups you like and where you'll make real friends, so go to everything. If you think it seems cliquey when you get there it's not - it's just that they're real friends and know each other - so don't stop going, KEEP going and in a few weeks they'll know you too and you'll be an insider. Go to them all, keep going to the best ones and soon you'll have a busy social life and lots of friends you can call on the days where you really aren't going to get out of your jim jams.
It also means that by the time your kids are ready to start school (or preschool or nursery or daycare) they're used to being around groups of people and already know some of the kids there and will settle in much easier. See, by seeing other grown ups and drinking coffee and eating cake you are helping your child and their happiness - win win!
When I moved here (to Dorset) I didn't know anyone and I felt pretty blooming lonely at the start - I was a long way from home, my husband was away a lot training for his new job and I had ten thousand new hormones raging through my heavily pregnant body making everything seem hard.
So I went to some groups. I even stalked the WI briefly - then remembered I don't like old ladies. It was the best thing I ever did - I made a whole new group of friends that I see weekly, and not just at groups, I built a whole new support network and I know now that if I'm having a hard day there's someone nearby I can turn to. If it's a nice day there's someone to meet for a walk in the sun. If it's raining there's someone who'll invite us over to play. My children have friends the same age and so do I - and it's a great feeling.
So to those SAHMs who are lonely, fed up and watching yet another repeat on Cbeebies turn the telly off, put your shoes on and GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT!
Check out your local sure start centres and libraries for groups and activities before the big bad lame-ass government close them all down
*nobody EVER gives away the last rolo. My brother always used to open his packet at 'the wrong end' and give our Mum his first rolo because he 'loved her the best' - but never enough to watch her eat the final vestiges of his hard earned sweeties!
**This figure may or may not be made up.
When we were young we spent a number of years living at my Grandparent's house with my Mum, it was a very happy time there (at least all my memories of that time are happy) and my Grandmother - known to all my friends as 'Nanny B' - and I were very close. I moved back in with them in my later teenage years and our relationship got even closer. Nanny B was a most incredible woman and a great friend.
Through my childhood she did the odd bit of freelance art work (probably far more than I was aware of) and absolutely no cooking. Cooking was my Grampa's job (known to everyone, family, friends and colleagues as PB) she also ran her own clothing company from the garage, making clothes for children and, oddly, collectable bears. We were always dressed for school in Nanny B's creations - cue sailor suits and twee dresses, mine made to match the ones my Dolly - funnily enough named "Little Lizzie" - wore daily. Oh how I love to choose our outfit for the day!
When I was very young I knew Nanny B was brilliant to us and lots of fun to be around, and spoiled us rotten, but I didn't realise until much later how incredible she just was, altogether.
In the early 1990s in Cumbria there was no real source for aftercare for anyone who had suffered sexual abuse - the view of the police force was that no such service was required as "That kind of thing simple doesn't happen in Cumbria".
How ridiculous. Where there are people, sadly, that kind of thing happens. It shouldn't, not anywhere, but it does - and for the people who suffer there needs to be some kind of help. Nanny B knew that and using her wits and her slightly overwhelming personality she managed to encourage some funding and, qualifying as a psychotherapist, she founded the "South Cumbria Rape and Abuse Service". She and a few friends ran the service from a room atop a cramped building in Kendal and provided councelling for victims of rape and abuse, as adults or as children, FOR adults and children. The service was very quickly overwhelmed by people who needed their help, so Nanny B did a bit more work and got more funding, another office and more staff, all working voluntarily as far as possible.
In 1994 Nanny B won the Cumbrian Woman of the Year award for what she'd already achieved. Her work and that of SCRAS were vital to so many people and changed, and saved, so many lives. Nanny B was loved by everyone who met her and taught me a lot about working harder, standing up for yourself and what is right, and feminism. She had her own very unique sense of humour and sharp wit and had very little time for other people's flaws - either fix it or fight it seemed to be her view; self pity wasn't allowed because YOU have the strength to change and improve your situation, nobody will do it for you (unless she could, in which case she would, no questions asked!) and she taught me, and a whole bunch of my friends, to be independent and believe in our own intelligence.
She also made Cumbria and a whole generation aware of the risks of date rape and date rape drugs at a time when they were becoming rife but not widely spoken about. She and her colleagues at SCRAS gave talks at every school and youth group they could get to to educate young people about the dangers and about what is and isn't acceptable in their sexual relationships - ie you CAN say no, you CAN change your mind, you CAN report it and you DON'T deserve it if something happens that you didn't invite. She taught us all to stick together on nights out, to buy drinks in bottles and to keep it where you could see it so nobody could spike you. She taught us not to take drinks from strangers, not just for the risk of them being spiked but also because some people expect something in return, and I don't mean another drink!
She also taught me that being perfect isn't possible, being flawed is ok, and working with your strengths makes up for where you go wrong.
In 2006 Nanny B died, and her loss was felt by a huge number of people. Her illness was thankfully brief but we lost her far too young, far too quickly, and most of us still find it hard to talk about her because the loss is so great. The day she died my brother came to collect me from work because my family knew that nobody else could look after me well enough after hearing those words. She died two days after I graduated my degree - which I was close to quitting a great many times, but Nanny B talked me down and convinced me to stick it out. Thanks to her I did, and she got to see me achieve it, for which I'll always be grateful.
Her funeral was the hardest, and most touching, experience of my life. So many beautiful words were spoken about her and so many people had been touched by her work and life.
That year the SCRAS service she'd founded was renamed as the Christine Birchall Trust in her honour.
I am proud of a great many things and of a number of people for the things they achieved - but most of all I am proud of my Grandmother, of what she achieved, and that she was mine.
You can support the Trust - still registered here under the original name - by donating here
At the moment, for both boys, I'm addicted to the prefolds - they're the easiest to use, quickest to change and most retro looking so I like them best! I'm loving nappy nippas - a genius invention that removes my fear of giving them some kind of massively inappropriate genital piercing - and just look how very scrumptious my chunky wee boy is!
At the moment for nappy covers I'm using our birth-to-potty pocket nappys with no stuffing just as a cover over the prefolds - it means less laundry and thus I don't have to spend more pennies (though I'd love to!) at 5 1/2 weeks Jasper *should* be on the smallest fitting still - but prefolds are big, and he's a massive big fat chunk (13lb at 5 weeks - what a boom boom!) so he's on the middle one - I just have to put bigger trousers on to fit his massive butt!
As a bonus - though it's nothing to do with nappies - look at his super cute socks!
We popped to the library today - something we normally do a lot but which I'd avoided for a while due to massive fines (books that were meant to be back when I was stuck in a wheelchair and then in hospital) - today we took a box of chocolates to thank the wonderful lady who works in our local library because she helped us to fill in a couple of forms explaining our recent circumstances to the big mysterious library bosses - and they waived the fines (around £30 in total) so that we can continue using the library. This is the second time she's done it for us this year, saving us around £45 altogether in fines which is just brilliant (and perhaps now I'll stop returning things so late? Or letting Roman at them with a sharpie?! Hmm...)
The handover of the chocolates and the thanking went fine - then lovely lady and I had a chat, then another regular came over to coo over Jasper. Said regular is around a thousand years old and is taken to the library by taxi once a week. I've seen her many times and she plays peepo with Roman a lot but we'd never spoken. Today she asked his name - when I told her she said "Oh dear me, why on earth would you call him that? It's horrible!" - I was absolutely gobsmacked! This is another example where I'd like to point out that being old does not mean you get to be obnoxious - the same rules of society still apply, manners being one of the important ones. If you can't say anything nice, shut the heck up! She spent a few more minutes slating his name ("ugly" and "Ridiculous" also being uttered) then asked Jasper's name...cue "Oh dear - well, it's better than Roman I suppose!".
By that point I was quite tempted to bash her with my pushchair so lovely library lady stepped in and told her how pleased she was to see us out and about as my pregnancy had made me quite unwell and I'd been in a wheelchair. "You've no stamina for it these days you see. I had ten myself, in fifteen years, and they all still visit (of course they do, you're their Mummy!)".
I asked the standard "How on earth did you cope with ten?" and she said the only thing I didn't find offensive of the whole exchange;
"Well, it's hard - but it's hard with one, you just cope. My husband was away with the navy a lot so I had no choice but to cope. The only alternative is to give someone else your baby. Would you give someone your baby? No. And if you had to, how would you choose which? Exactly. So you just cope."
Fair point, nasty old lady, well said.
One poorly toddler, one quiet half hour, one very interesting story (mainly consisting of "Roro colouritin" - colour it in is all one word!)