On Patience

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It’s such a worthy and passive virtue isn’t it? Up there with decency, tolerance and honour, especially when viewed through the lens of our young and active selves. I remember when I was in Adland and having to describe myself in three words, I’d choose between sexy adjectives like ambitious, courageous, spirited, driven, adventurous…

Jon has often commented on my patience with the girls, and I’ve just thanked him, and continued with whatever particularly tricky Lego construction I was working on with them. But I’ve been musing on Patience, and I’ve realised that actually it’s maybe the biggest compliment he could pay me.

Patience isn’t sighing and whisking a crying child into the buggy to walk off their upset; it’s taking the time to cuddle them and work out what they’re looking at, what they’re desperate to communicate but don’t have the words, and discovering – of course! – it’s because one of the toy spiders has fallen off the mantelpiece.

Patience is never ending a snuggle on the sofa yourself, but waiting for them to spy something more interesting than your arms.

Patience isn’t putting Radio 1 on full blast to drown out the distress on the back seat; it’s singing Incy Wincy 17,000 times, complete with actions, until the distress has turned into giggles.

It’s laughing along with them when they keep trying to post a square through a blatantly triangular hole, and gently showing them the error of their ways.

It’s holding two little hands and doing endless toddling circuits of the living room, until they decide it’s time to stop.

Patience is being in full agreement with the twins that going Peekaboo round the curtain of the den is as funny the hundredth time as it was the first, in the same way ‘Guess How Much I Love You’ deserves reading ten times in a row.

And it reaps its rewards. After a full month of the daily heartbreak of sobs as I abandon them at nursery in the morning (both mine and theirs) I was waved off this morning with smiles and blown kisses.

Essentially, Patience is revelling in the now. It’s not wishing the hours away, hours that crumble through your fingers like butterfly wings, forever gone. It’s resisting spending time thinking how lovely it will be when they can walk, when they’re at ballet, our first horse ride; Patience is looking at that smile – those little teeth that will only look exactly that way for this one moment in time – and grinning back at its transient beauty.

It’s therefore NOT the dictionary definition of enduring difficulties, because that would be to see the cries and the strops and the stumbles as a negative, when actually they are all little miracles of growth. My girls cry because they want to say or do something and they can’t. It’s their ambition, courage, spirit, drive and adventurousness in action, but frustrated.

But Patience has a remit beyond mothering, and applies equally to the adult world. It’s telling that, whilst there are Greek gods for everything down to messaging and metalwork, there was none for Patience. Because in ancient times it wasn’t a virtue you aspired to, you simply had to be. In fact, Old English had no word for Patience. Its nearest equivalent would be ‘belaefan’ or ‘to be living’, the very definition of the present continuous, in the now. And therefore it’s very close to believing: an acceptance that we’re not in control, and that, if we allow life time, it will fall into place.

patience3The reason I think it’s one of the greatest compliments Jon could pay me is that it’s a quality I generally struggle with. I have been ill for some time now but am finally on the mend. I have noticed, as I can feel normal service resuming, I am champing like an over excited horse to get out the gates. My things to do list stretches to pages. I have accepted not just one voluntary job but TWO (and for one of them I get to wear a genuine NHS badge, OMG!) I’ve bought practically every book going on Psychology and am already thinking beyond the MSc to what further courses and training I can do. I run the risk of being the most academically over qualified psychologist to never practice, though that doesn’t stop me fantasising about being promoted to Head of Department within a year of qualifying…I’m plotting redecoration schemes of multiple houses we might buy and garden offices and joining the WI and learning how to make the perfect apple pie and being a school governor and organising a theoretical babysitting circle in a village near a place we might move to and heck why stop at that, why not set up a whole Saughall Pound and then become a Councillor off the back of it. I’m whizzing round the Wirral in MY CAR and planning adventures I can go on. I’ve researched horse riding stables and walks and retracing the local Viking heritage and going on a Mummy and Joe trip to the Faroes or Ladakh in search of the snow leopard…STOP.

I am doing exactly what I have always done.

How many times did I wish that I could stay at home with four year old Joe and roll around on the carpet and make dens and paint our faces and just BE? To have the time to sketch murals on his wall and make cushions for the sofa and then just relax on those cushions and enjoy them? To finish the Sunday papers? To look long enough at a rainbow to realise it has a twin? To not be so focussed on the future that I was blind to the wonder of what was happening right here, right now?

None of this is to say I shouldn’t go back to work. I need to, and I will. But I have had so many lessons during my life on getting priorities right; it’s time I reread my notes. I should be there for the girls, and for Jon, and for Joe. Not just to make them happy, but to keep ME happy. That’s not simply about balancing family life and a career; it’s about balancing my brain, so that whilst I must – and will – plan, much more mental space is devoted to the need to ‘belaefan’.

It’s about growing up. Realising that Patience is infinitely more important than ambition, courage, spirit, drive and adventurousness. It’s actually the most active virtue there is.

Because what is Patience, but another word for Love?

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Welsh gourmet break in Tyddyn Llan…

…because I love the ladies very much. But sometimes, just sometimes, it’s nice to dump and run.

We’ve just had a glorious weekend of eating – walking it off – putting it all back on again at the idyllically situated Tyddyn Llan in Llandrillo, North Wales. This was last year’s Christmas present from Jon. What could possibly have made us too busy to take it till now?!

Bryan Webb is chef here, along with his wife Susan in charge of front of house, having decamped from Hilaire in South Kensington. It describes itself as a restaurant with rooms, but really is a bijou country house hotel with an exceptional kitchen. It made for a very interesting comparison with the set up at the similarly remote L’Enclume.

The hotel is picture perfect, with lovely grounds, and very comfortable rooms.

We had the ALC on the first night. A freebie of Wirral watercress soup was the very essence of watercress, and a revelation for Jon who had thought he hated the stuff. I then had one of Brian’s signature dishes. A crisp-skinned, moist-fleshed fillet of red mullet on aubergine puree and chilli oil. Stunning. Jon had a simple crab salad, which was very generous (a theme which was to continue). He followed with a plate of all things piggy, appropriately enough – belly layered with crackling and black pudding, melting cheek and fillet. I had a HUGE plate of venison in an elderberry and port sauce with potato and goats cheese ”gnocchi’. A hefty slab of chocolate cheesecake for him and a pistachio creme brulee for me the size of a cheese plate. Not to forget the fudge/truffle/toscana petits fours.

We rolled into bed, only to drag ourselves down for the breakfast refuelling. A very hearty full Welsh breakfast which included laverbread cakes. And picked up our packed lunch which included what may have been the world’s biggest cheese/ham/pickle sandwich.

???????????????????????????????There are some gorgeous walks to do nearby. We did a 2 hour one up to Moel ty Uchaf, a 3000 year old, perfectly preserved stone circle with stunning views of the Dee Valley. En route, we saw what may have been the whitest sheep I have ever seen. I have never really focussed much on the cleanliness of sheep. But they were most pleasing.

???????????????????????????????We also DROVE (with me driving, in my car, woo) to Llangar Chapel, at the confluence of the Alwen and Dee rivers. Postcard pretty. Sadly it’s shut from September to April but we could spy 14th century frescoes through the window. We also stopped off in Ruthin, a lovely market town, to stock up on Welsh Cakes for the girls, which serve as currency in this house, as per I can buy ten minutes’ peaceful chomping…

??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????Back in time for afternoon tea, including a slice of bara brith in the cosy lounge. And then the tasting menu. Obviously kicked off with cocktails and canapes (scotch eggs, yeehaw) in the lounge.

Here’s where the L’Enclume comparison made me laugh. Whereas the tasting menu there is a procession of tiny plates, all designed to be served as such, Bryan’s tasting menu is basically everything he loves on his ALC, cut in half. Or even sometimes served just as is. I don’t think I have ever been more full. Where other restaurants kick off with puffs and clouds and foams, we had pea and ham broth. Then a langoustine and crab mayonnaise, which was normal size. Then a normal brioche toast with foie gras. A single (phew) scallop with cauliflower, raisin and pancetta (beautifully cooked but a bit one dimensional). A leek and truffle risotto (mercifully ‘only’ 10 spoons). Wild sea bass with laverbread beurre blanc (he really is brilliant with fish). Four lamb chops (I jest not) rolled in tapenade with dauphinoise potato. A groaning cheese plate including Waterloo, Wigmore, Stichelton, Caerphilly, Ardnahan (lovely Cork cheese) and Red Leicester. A damson soup with cinnamon ice cream (yum) and a rhubarb and champagne trifle. And then petits fours.

bass 1328490534_leek-risotto-tyddyn-llan-300x250I almost didn’t manage breakfast the next day but, you know what, I managed to force myself 😉

Bryan, when he can, uses local ingredients. They are only a few miles from the famous Rhug estate, the UK’s first organic farm. And we saw a pheasant shoot in action on our walk so doubtless some of the fruits from that will make their way onto the plate. But he’s not a slave to it, so uses fish from the south west, and cheese from wherever’s jolly good at making cheese.

The only slight negative is the service which is a couple of rungs below the food. When we arrived after a long and tiring drive, we were ‘greeted’ by one of the French waiters who, without looking up, barked ‘name?’ and then ‘phone number?’ I was half expecting him to follow with ‘bra size? favourite colour?’ He then literally ran up to our room with us, not offering to carry bags or even hold doors open for us.

The pre-dinner system needs a bit of thought. Everyone is invited for cocktails and canapes in the large, comfy lounge before, where you sit, and sit. Susan seems to be the only one who takes food orders. It was probably a good hour from us arriving in the lounge before we got the first course. We therefore asked the morning after when would be best for us to come down for the tasting menu, would earlier or later suit Bryan? We were told it didn’t matter, so arrived at 8 and, again, sat for ages, meaning we didn’t conclude the menu until the dining room was empty and bed was beckoning, A little niggle.

Similarly, as evil smokers, we were caught out three times. Each time we asked our waiter whether it was OK to go outside, we’d be 5 minutes, when the plates from the previous course were still on our table, only then to be summoned back in by Susan like naughty children to be told our food was on the table.

But those are really only minor grumbles. I think Tyddyn Llan is the very archetype of the country weekend foodie break. It was just sumptuous, it really was. It’s not L’Enclume. I don’t think I saw a single swoosh or smear. It’s grown up, accomplished cooking, heroing simple and exceptional ingredients, only three or four on a plate, cooked respectfully, and served generously.

Go. It’s only an hour from us so you can always pop in for more food afterwards!

On which note, I also drove us back. On the same morning as the Welsh Rally was passing through Llandrillo. Mostly sat behind me in a long and grumpy queue…

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Sofa, so good

Call me Mrs Judgy Pants, but I am a tad concerned about a family the twins and I know.

I know dirt is good and all that, but IN MODERATION. The children are positively encouraged to jump in puddles and are permanently mud-splattered. The little girl – maybe 4? – is a self-entitled little MADAM. She is bossy beyond belief, has verbal diarrhea and runs roughshod over her little brother. He is cowed into silence and his obvious discomfort is evident by the fact he bursts into tears at the drop of a hat (usually by his sister, on his foot). I think he may have a touch of the SNs. He is surgically attached to his dinosaur, almost as if he’s using it as a defence against the world?

The father is obese, and everyone treats it as a JOKE. It’s not. What sort of example are they setting for the children? It does seem to be having an impact because the little boy hardly eats at all. Not even lettuce.

Daddy is also the perennial butt of all humour and the mother seems to encourage her children to call him silly. I just don’t think that’s healthy. Where’s the parental respect? Talking of which, the children are offloaded onto the grandparents on a daily basis. Unpaid, and unthanked childcare.

Don’t even get me STARTED on the complete lack of booster seats in the family car and the fact it seems to be missing a roof.

And this family’s daily exploits are relayed to us every day on the reality show that is Peppa Pig. Shocked and appalled…

Yes, the girls (and possibly even the Mummy) are officially obsessed with Peppa. Throughout the scrape with death that has been the Slapped Cheek Virus, Peppa has kept us sane. Sort of. I cannot tell you how excited I was to discover a) there is an actual Peppa Pig World and b) it is within an easy drive of the grandparents!!! That’s next summer sorted then.

I do think it’s been one of the things that has (relatively speaking) helped ease the girls into Nursery – they have a gigantic Peppa mural and a complete set of cuddly figures. So they can’t be ALL bad.

On which note, the kind folk at Argos have just sent us a Peppa Pig mini sofa.

??????????????????????????????? I cannot tell you what a success this has been during The Great Plague. They even love the box! It has pictures! It took me all of a minute to blow up. It comes with a cosy cover (I’d been worried it would be like those plastic Simpsons chairs and they’d just slide off, but it’s exactly like a normal sofa).

???????????????????????????????We have been relaxing on it to watch more Peppa, with our snacks and drinks and our very own remote control to hand (and how brave are the girls that despite being Just So Very Ill they are still managing to shove down elephant biscuits). It has let me have some precious moments of quiet (when I am not considering calling Social Services about the Family Pig). I’m also looking forward to them having their first friend over for a sleepover as it folds down to make a little bed. Perfect.

???????????????????????????????It normally retails at £29.99 and I think would make a lovely Christmas present. I’ve got my eye on some of Argos’ other Peppa toys, especially the hair set (given how many hair slides we seem to lose on a daily basis), and I think the travelling colouring book might serve us well when we fly off to Portugal again next year.

???????????????????????????????Now all that remains is to see whether our own Daddy Pig can actually fit on it. Charlotte most graciously permitted me to sit next to her yesterday and given even I was half on, half off..!

 

This post was written in collaboration with Argos. 

Imperialist Lactivism

maryI have waited a few days since the news broke about the breast feeding incentive scheme, whereby mothers get £200 vouchers for Matalan (presumably deliberately chosen by some well meaning busybody because that’s where Poor People Shop, isn’t it) if they breastfeed till 6 months. That is because I am so splenetically ANGRY and I wanted to introduce some measure of calm and reason into my post. I’m not sure I will be entirely successful. Because to me this is a case of Nero-like, patronising and doxastic (excellent new word Joe taught me!) fiddling while, to be blunt, children die.

  1. Most women stop breastfeeding in the first 6 weeks and, within that, in the first few days. So those women have TRIED and it hasn’t worked. They’ve not gone ‘oh, I can’t be arsed, I’d rather shove a bottle in its gob and pop down Matalan’. They’ve stopped because their baby is crying with hunger and losing weight. So we penalise that act of love? Going against your own wishes in order to SAVE THE BABY’S LIFE?
  2. The 6 weeks drop-off also correlates with the date at which maternity pay plunges from 90% of your salary to £136 a week and those unlucky enough not to have a high earning partner or sufficient savings have to go back to work. Now, of course, you can express milk. But rare must be the bovine marvel who can express an entire day’s worth overnight, or has a workplace understanding enough that she can nip off to the loo every few hours and attach herself to a pump.
  3. Exactly how will this be policed? Are we to have benefit spies and an incentivised neighbourhood watch scheme with local biddies pressing their noses up to your windows to see when and if you get your norks out?
  4. What about those who mixed feed? Is this an all or nothing approach? Given the lobby’s purist evangelism I strongly suspect the latter.
  5. Writing with a degree of bias, naturally…but what about multiples? I was a rare beast in managing to feed the girls (until 5 months, so would have missed out, unworthy soul that I am). It is just bloomin’ tricky breastfeeding twins and I imagine nigh on impossible with triplets. Multiples parents are already financially penalised as it is. Double money trouble.
  6. Talking of which, there is already in place a strong financial incentive to breastfeed. Which is the cartel-like price of formula. We were spending over £20 a week on it. That’s over £1000 up to the point they went onto cows’ milk. And then there’s the bottles, the sterilising equipment etc. It would have been lovely to have £1000 to splurge, even in Matalan.
  7. Finally, as the excellent http://trouble-doubled.blogspot.co.uk/ points out, behavioural economics would imply that this scheme will have precisely the opposite effect. Those of you who have read Freakonomics will recall the example of the nursery who started setting a fine for parents who were habitually late in collecting their children. What happened? A sharp increase in late pick ups. By assigning a monetary value to something that should come naturally to parents, the guilt was removed and it became transactional. They got an extra half hour of childcare for a fiver. This incentive for breastfeeding runs the real risk of being similarly self-defeating because of simple psychology. If you’re paying me £200, it must be hard, mustn’t it? An unattractive prospect for a mother to feed her own child naturally. So that gives me a get-out. It removes guilt – I’ll make a financial sacrifice instead. Any emotional pressure is removed from the thought process and it becomes monetary instead. You know what? I think I can do without some Matalan tat if it means I’m not having to dart into a grubby public toilet because my baby needs feeding.

To me, that’s the bigger picture, and if I were in charge of breastfeeding I would do two things (and incidentally, isn’t an individual mother in charge of breastfeeding? Whyohwhy do we have to have state interference? What’s next? A Tit Tzar?):

  1. Provide more support on maternity wards
  2. Provide more feeding facilities on the outside

I’ve written about it before, but our experience in hospital when it came to breastfeeding was HORRENDOUS. There are breastfeeding assistants, but they seemed to be voluntary, and only there during the day. Babies feed at night too. I got about 5 minutes with one. I remember, at 2am, trying to haul the twins out of their cot and position them either side when my abdomen had just been sliced open and I hadn’t slept for 72 hours. And then the next afternoon, when Charlotte’s blood sugar had dropped, we were frogmarched up to neonatal care, made to feel our baby was dying, that I was a rubbish mother, only for her to be given a bottle of formula and immediately rally. There was a complete lack of empathy. Or even basic biological understanding – with premature babies, and a C section, it takes a while for the mother’s milk to come in. Charlotte could have been given a bottle on the ward. Or, do you know what, we could actually have waited a while. I’d also pre-warn mothers that IT BLOODY HURTS. Most of the breastfeeding liturgy is soft focus proselytising about the lovely bonding, and all about the baby…but in the first few days it can feel like shards of glass are being driven into your nipples. Seeing my own blood around Romilly’s mouth wasn’t a particularly ‘bonding’ experience. I’d have nipple shields and jellonet on wards as standard. They’d be a lot cheaper as a one-off NHS purchase than an ongoing supply of Aptamil.

Secondly, I’d make breastfeeding in public just a slightly less grim experience. Possibly even fining the tutters, which could help finance my first suggestion. I remember vividly being sat in front of a painting of the Madonna and Child in the Ashmolean, feeding Joe (who would have screamed the place down else, shattering the peaceful contemplation of the other visitors) and an elderly gentleman muttering ‘disgusting’. Because the Baby Jesus was fed on Cow & Gate, wasn’t he? As breastfeeding Mums, unless we are to be housebound for the first 6 months, we are in a Catch 22: whip ‘em out in public, and risk condemnation, or skulk in a germ-infested bog, and risk the baby’s health.

And I just rankle at the utter condescension of it all. A financial gold star. Are we going to get more vouchers if we spend an hour a day doing arts and crafts with our children? If they’re early walkers? If they can speak fluent Mandarin by the age of two? The implication is that the State knows better than you what’s right for your baby. £200 from Matalan? Oh, breastmilk must be good for them then. That had never occurred to me. I thought my boobs were just for builders to leer at. I wondered what that white stuff dripping out was.

Most of all, it is just so BLOODY TYPICAL of a State that also thinks blowing billions on making Birmingham twenty minutes closer to London is a priority. The news of the breastfeeding vouchers came the same week we had the inquiry into the death from starvation of little Hamzah, a death that remained undetected FOR TWO YEARS. Can we please spend MY MONEY on preventing children dying? Babies don’t die due to being formula fed. At least they’re actually FED. There are 700,000 children born each year in the UK. A nationwide voucher scheme would cost £140m. Surely that could be better spent on employing more – and better – social workers and a more joined up system?

Or what about the amount of mothers and babies who still die in childbirth in this supposedly developed country? Maternal deaths have doubled in the past five years; you’re less likely to die in Albania. And 5000 infant deaths, the majority of which could have been avoided if they’d had better antenatal care and qualified attention in labour. British maternity wards are closing their doors 1000 times a year, due to lack of beds and staff. 1700 women in labour were refused entry last year and had to travel up to 100 miles to another hospital or risk an unplanned home delivery. The Royal College of Midwives reports that we are currently 5000 midwives short. It costs £27,000 to train a midwife. For the £140m projected cost of the voucher scheme that’s 5185 new midwives.

But no, let’s just give it all to that well known charity, Matalan*.

And breathe…

 

*owned by John Hargreaves, whose personal net worth is valued by the Sunday Times at £1.3 billion.

Poorly Princesses

??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????Joy of Joys, the girls have Slapped Cheek. Before you call the NSPCC, this is the common name for the parvovirus, so called because usually the first you know about it is a bright red rash on their cheeks which looks like Mummy has finally flipped over THE AMOUNT OF FOOD THAT GEST FLUNG ON THE FLOOR AT MEALTIMES WHICH COULD FEED AN UN-SMALL AFRICAN VILLAGE.

NB I haven’t. Yet…

The rash is now over both their top halves, and they’re hot and bothered and achey and even (this is when I knew something really was amiss) off their jelly. But nothing to be done apart from Calpol (Charlotte can now say Calpol, and Romilly loves playing with the empty syringe, I’m not sure this is entirely healthy!) And as soon as the rash appears, they’re not infectious, so hopefully they’ll be back at nursery by the end of the week.

In the meantime it’s the beanbag and Peter Rabbit on repeat and cuddles on demand. The real killer is they’re not sleeping properly. Hourly waking during the night. God it makes me realise how utterly blessed we’ve been that they’ve slept right through from a few weeks. I have been completely useless today. I shudder to think what life would have been like if that had been a regular occurrence and my heart goes out to those of you who suffer!

You have NO IDEA how exhausting nursery is...

You have NO IDEA how exhausting nursery is…

So it only took a month from starting at nursery to begin the long and inevitable run of every single childhood infection. Given Slapped Cheek incubates for 21 days they pretty much got it on Day One. I was rereading Saint Gina Ford last night who, hilariously, counsels keeping twins’ feeding/bathing/cleaning/etc equipment separate at all times to avoid cross infection, not just when they’re ill. Like that would be worth the effort. Given modern nurseries are now sterilised to the hilt, and they still pass on everything to each other, short of keeping the girls on different floors of the house in oxygen bubbles, I’m not sure what can be done.

I just wish they were big enough that I could explain to them what was going on, and not to be scared. That’s the bit that’s tough. Joe was 4 when he got chickenpox so he could understand and the stoical soldier resisted scratching the spots until the very last one. Which sadly was right in the middle of his forehead. He still has a nude ‘bindi’ 15 years later!

They’re crotchety, so there have been random outbreaks of twin on twin violence (and I’m not hard hearted enough to utilise my usual discipline of playpen banishment given they’re crook). And they’ve also, theory-of-mind style, started teasing each other. So they’ll dangle a piece of banana at their sister, who reaches out and goes ‘pleeeeeease’, and then snatch it away, cackling. But also some hyper cute sharing of cuddly toys and stroking. They genuinely get concerned when the other one is upset.

On which note, I don’t think I have ever been more proud than yesterday at nursery. They’re still screaming the place down each morning when I drop them off.  But a new baby started, and her harassed Dad, and she was sobbing her heart out. The twins both stopped crying and stared at her for a minute, then handed her the dollies they were holding. Little lambs.

We’re still not toddling; am hoping nursery will inspire them because otherwise I am going to have to bite my lip and count to 1000 at the next health visit when she witters on about physiotherapist checks. They’ll walk when they’re ready! They’re twins! They walk later! And Romilly’s a bottom shuffler! They average 22 months! But, eesh, GET A MOVE ON GIRLS! Both can stumble along unaided now with the bricks trolley, and if they have both hands held, and will cruise round furniture. And Charlotte can manage the stairs. But I can see why, frankly, they can’t be bothered. I’m always down on the floor with them, their sister’s on the floor, their toys are on the floor. Maybe I should start suspending everything from the ceiling!

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My angels have developed their own heavenly glow

My angels have developed their own heavenly glow

So that’s them. On the Mummy front, gosh, it’s been a newsy week.

I passed my driving test!!!!!!!! I was in a complete borderline panic attack beforehand, but it suddenly occurred to me just to forget about the whole ‘test’ thing and to pretend I was driving the girls for the first time, and that someone was there to check/help me. None of that’s lunacy – I HAVE to make sure I’m confidently safe with them. And it really helped with things like observations when doing manoeuvres. They can be a bit of an abstract routine. But if you’re thinking ‘ I’d rather something didn’t smash into the back doors’  then which way to look becomes quite natural!

It is going to revolutionise my life. Even just driving to nursery will be brilliant. Yesterday I had to brave the hill (that’s the 1:3 Very Long Hill!) THREE times in the rain with my two heffalumps and their juggernaut of a buggy – nursery, GP, and then back to the GP because SOMEONE had dropped Charlie Bear en route.

Except I still haven’t plucked up the courage to go out for a drive on my own. Am now using the excuse of waiting for my P Plates…

I’ve also applied for a part time voluntary job with Addaction in Liverpool, helping addicts, the mentally ill and the homeless. AND have just pressed ‘send’ on my form to do the Psychology Masters at Chester University, starting next Autumn. It only takes 12 months, and then the plan would be to do my Doctorate and combine working in one of the local hospitals with private consultancy. All fitted nicely round the girls. In my dreams…

Oh, and I THINK I have found our new house. Just the perfect, rambling, slightly higgledy piggledy, packed-with-storage, large family home on the edge of a Cheshire village with cows in the next door fields and – wait for it – a WI IN THE VILLAGE! Fingers crossed. Jon hasn’t seen it yet but I may just buy it as a nice surprise. What could possibly go wrong with that?! It is slightly concerning me how under priced it is, so am expecting to find a hidden sewage works on the next viewing. Or that it’s on the HS2 route. Actually, there’s a thought…

Right. Afternoon unpaid healthcare assistant duties beckons. Call me the Mummy with the Lamp. And of course we won’t mention the fact that I HAVE IT TOO!!!

 

Pants on Fire

diary1 (1) diary2Herewith photographic evidence of my children’s MENDACITY. These are their diaries from nursery. The morning screaming when I abandon them to the cruel witches that are their ‘keyworkers’ is continuing. Yet here they are, beaming, and cuddling said witches minutes later. Harrumf.

And doesn’t Charlotte look grown up? It’s a little glimpse of how she’s going to look as a teenager. My girls are sooooo beautiful, and I know I’m biased, but they really are. We are having lots of fun now they actually have hair (it’s so curly! And long!), though we do seem to go through a pack of bands and clips a week as they all disappear into the same space-time wormhole that holds all the world’s pens and lighters. It’s Jon’s favourite thing to do, combing their hair. He’s less good when it comes to bunches. But bless.

It’s got me thinking about the future, and what they might be. I get a fiver (index linked) if these predictions come true.

Romilly’s career choices currently are:

  • Cleaning lady (she deliberately spills things so she can wipe them up)
  • Waitress (she serves everyone at nursery)
  • Artist (her best bestest thing is colouring)
  • Engineer (genius with the Duplo)
  • Dancer

 

Charlotte:

  • Athlete/mountaineer (she loves doing press ups, climbs anything and everything)
  • Chef (we like our food, we like our nice full tummy, she may specialise in patisserie…)
  • Author
  • Singer
  • Vet (she’s obsessed with the cat, the cat is less obsessed with her)

We’ll see!

cuddleThe reason I put ‘author’ for Charlotte is she’s the one who’s first to experiment with words, loves mimicking, and is really pleased when she learns a new one, which Romilly smiles at benignly and sometimes copies. It’s like the twins exist as an evolutionary unit: one pushes the boundaries, and the other follows. So it’s Romilly that tries new foods, for example, and has been the first to walk holding hands (though Charlotte can now walk unaided with the bricks trolley, and loves pushing her sister around on it, like a Roman empress). Romilly loves anything creative (so playdough, painting, dressing up, building things etc); Charlotte is more verbal and literal.

Charlotte’s new words include potato, oh God (my fault!), peas, cheese, spider, ear, eye, nose, hair, home, ham, toes, owl, see saw, bee, eeyore, tick tock, all gone and then a cacophony of animal noises, her favourite being the loud howl of a wolf. She says thank you, and Romilly says please so, again, they can be polite, but only as a unit!

Talking of evolution, there’s been an interesting development with Romilly this past couple of weeks, in that this avowed bottom shuffler is crawling. I thought that wasn’t meant to happen! All the literature says that shufflers never crawl and instead go straight to walking. She beams from ear to ear when she does it and gets applauded. Not wanting to be left out Charlotte then does ‘extreme crawling’ eg making herself into a hump backed bridge and crawling diagonally, as if to say ‘look, I’ve been doing this for a YEAR!’

???????????????????????????????Our latest obsession is spiders. I have no idea why. Romilly, who is usually the brave one when it comes to things like swings (I think Charlotte has general motion sickness as she’s still barfing on 15 minute road trips if we don’t drug her) and Daddy throwing her up in the air, is very cautious, and will hide behind my legs, peeking out, but Charlotte picks them up, dismembers them, tries to eat them…I’ve exploited the Hallowe’en sales and we now have a plague of plastic spiders dotted around the place.

Charlotte gets very upset when she’s NOT allowed to eat the spiders. In fact, we both get upset a lot at Mummy’s capricious discipline. The indignation when they are not allowed to eat crayons, take teddies into the bath, pull the cat’s tail, slide down the stairs, lick the plug sockets, pull each other’s hair, scratch each other, slap each other, eat playdough, dive off the changing table, remain naked for the day/spend it all in a dirty nappy, draw on books, rip books, steal each other’s food, spill milk on the carpet, pull cables and wires, suck cables and wires…

I’m an old meanie, I really am. But they loves me. And gosh it’s selfish, but that’s been one of the biggest and most pleasing of the changes. I am getting showered with affection, particularly from Charlotte. I guess it’s tied into nursery and they think if they spend all day nuzzling me and going ‘ahhh’ I’ll stop taking them…but I am made of sterner stuff. Most of the time. They were both sat either side of me on the sofa the other day, stroking my hands, with their little downy heads on my shoulders, and my heart melted right through my shoes and I thought how nice it would be to snuggle with them in bed, forever. My little lovebugs.

Their cunning plan might just work…

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Starting (and back to) school

???????????????????????????????Separation anxiety. It’s a killer. And not particularly pleasant for the children either…

The twins have started at nursery, for three mornings a week. They don’t actually NEED to, as I’m still at home (more on that anon), but we thought it would help to have regular contact with other children, especially because of The Twin Thing, as at the moment they’re just copying each other, plus it gives me a precious four hours off, when I can do exciting things like tidying and batch cooking.

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It’s a wonderful nursery that just feels squidgy and homely. Most of the helpers are Mums too, which I think makes such a difference. My only objection is that they invite everyone in for hot dogs on Fathers’ Day whereas it’s just tea on Mothers’ Day…

But oh my goodness it’s traumatic. I have to get the girls up half an hour earlier, so that makes them cry. Then get them both dressed, whereas usually they have breakfast in their pyjamas, so that makes them cry. Then we have to do hair and put shoes on, which makes them cry. Then push them twenty minutes up a 1:3 hill, which makes me cry. Then take one in whilst leaving one in the buggy, which makes them both cry. Then leave one on the floor, to fetch the other, which makes them both cry. Then take their coats off and kiss them goodbye, which makes them cry. Then walk out the door to the sound of them crying, which makes me cry.

You get the picture!

They are little tinkers though. Because when I go back to collect them at lunch, I spy on them through the window and they’re both playing very happily. And then when I walk through the door, they clock me, and start crying, in a blatant attempt at guilt tripping me. So I will be strong and ignore the manipulative minxes! It is all giving me the faint chill of dread though. Because these rushed and anxious mornings…well, that’s it for the next 18 years isn’t it! It’s not exactly as if it was ever a complete joy getting Joe out of bed and off to do his A Levels! Sorry Joe…

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Crying aside though, they seem to be loving nursery. Charlotte always wants to be with me, whereas Romilly wants to BE me. She just loves doing anything she sees Mummy doing. A lot of cleaning is happening. In fact she now deliberately spills things so she can ask for a wipe. Her favourite toy at nursery is an old handbag, which she slings over her shoulder and shuffles around with. Apparently at lunch the other day she handed out everyone’s bibs, and cutlery. She then tried to cut up her (bigger) friend’s food for her. And then held everyone’s beakers for them to make sure they were drinking enough. In fact she was so busy fussing over everyone else she didn’t actually eat anything herself! Charlotte on the other hand, well, I will let her diary speak for her: “I ate ¼ of my roast turkey dinner but ALL of my seasonal crumble and custard.”

On which note Romilly is still sticking religiously to her 25th centile; Charlotte has jumped from the 50th to the 65th. This is mostly pudding. Romilly will eat practically anything savoury; Charlotte is sweetness embodied. They can eat a full meal as a unit, just not individually!

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But they are cream crackered after nursery. Apparently four hours of art, music and choosing which exciting new toy to play with is EXHAUSTING. I’ve had to reintroduce their afternoon nap. They’re going to bed half an hour earlier. And they’re still tired two days later. I have tried explaining to them that this is NOTHING and just wait until they have an essay crisis, but that didn’t seem to sink in.

And then there’s me. Those precious ‘free’ hours have given me not just time to get on with chores, but also the head space to think about trivia like, oo, the rest of my life.

The obvious choice would be to go back into advertising or marketing. But – call me a snob – the Manchester scene just isn’t London. It would feel a bit of a sideways/backwards move. And Jon’s kinda got the nicest marketing job in our hood! Plus it’s a young person’s game isn’t it. I don’t know what happens to people over 40 in advertising. I think there’s some back room they all get shunted into. And then there’s the hours, and the travel. It used to kill me leaving Joe all the time, and I don’t want to do that again.

I do wonder whether if they’d sat me down at school and explained properly about careers, and the importance, especially as a woman, of training in something and acquiring qualifications and skills that a) were portable, so that you can work wherever your family is b) could survive a career break for kids c) would mean you could have hours that would fit with family life d) would let you work right up to retirement…would I have listened? I have been thinking how much easier it would have been if I were a GP or a lawyer. Yes, I’ve had two decades of a brilliant career, that’s been financially very rewarding, but now I’m a bit stuck.

And then I remembered a conversation a while ago, when we were discussing what we’d do if we won the lottery, and I said I’d do an OU Psychology degree, because I’ve always been fascinated by it. In a way, a lot of the literary criticism I did in English was about the psychology of characters and in marketing, well, it was about understanding people, their wants and needs and behaviour.

Now, I’ve not won the lottery. But the living costs are low enough here that we can afford for me not to work. I think that would be dangerous – I can already feel my brain mushing and (whisper this) sometimes making playdough spiders is just a bit boring. Plus I need to know, and be proud of, who I am. I have been writing, yes, and will continue to do so, but it’s another solitary pursuit, and one of the things this break has taught me is that I am a social animal.

So, putting that altogether, I have a meeting at our local Uni next week to discuss doing an MSc conversion in Psycology. I’d then do work experience for a couple of years before, hopefully, being accepted onto a clinical doctorate. It’s a big commitment, because I’ll be in my mid 40s before I can start practising. But the theory is it’ll give me a trade I can use right up to retirement. It’s portable, so I can work wherever Jon is. It gives me financial independence and a massive esteem injection. Plus I get to be ‘Doctor Mummy’…

??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????And that’s an important point. I want the girls to see their mother work. To know that they can do whatever they put their mind to. To understand the importance of gaining skills. Of financial independence. The reward of helping others. And that you can have different careers throughout your life.

My Grandpa was an amazing doctor. He made such a difference to so many lives. I always felt guilty that all I was doing was peddling Stella and Quality Street to people who already had a bit too much of both. I was so proud of him, and I’d love the girls, and Jon, and Joe to be proud of me. And for me to be proud of me.

Obviously the real reason behind all this is that I will be able to out-certificate Jon in our Downstairs Toilet of Achievement. Beat that, Grade 5 Trumpet.