Reaching normality?

Breakfast in bed Recently, my fiancée said to me “it feels a bit more normal now, doesn’t it?”.

This was following an afternoon where I had been out for a friend’s birthday, leaving him with the children. Now, a year or two ago this event would have been accompanied by a set of instructions.  Sometimes, these would even be written down, forming a ‘schedule’.

It would look something like this:

  • 2pm: Afternoon bottle.  7 oz.
  • 3pm: Oldest may want a snack.  These are in the snack box, which is in the changing bag.  Check little one’s nappy.
  • 3:30pm: Nap time.  Place littlest one in pram – she will need rocking.  Usually has 40 mins.
  • 4pm: Start preparing tea – easiest to do this whilst littlest one is still asleep.  Pasta and pesto for ease.  Little one will follow with baby yoghurt – in fridge.

…and so on. This weekend, we both realised that I had just gone out.  With no, or very little, instructions.

Now they’re nearly 4 and nearly 2 they’re a lot more independent and can just get on with things. They had a fab time that afternoon – they went to the shop to pick up some items we’d ordered, watched a film and had a lovely tea. They were – the shock of it – even half ready for bed when I got in! They had freshly washed hair!

Not that I’ve been previously unconfident in my fiancée’s ability. I currently work part time so I’ve been the one who’s more familiar with the routine.  When fiancée was suddenly plonked in the middle of it, it was daunting.  Now, we don’t need so much of a routine to keep everyone happy.  We can muddle along ok!

We’ve noticed other things that have become easier. The house is a lot tidier these days, with fewer toys strewn around our lovely lounge. It’s less of a flap to go out in the evenings when we have a babysitter, and I’m not on pins anymore, wondering if the baby has woken up and started screaming.  They can communicate now – if they need something they can just ask the babysitter.  (Interesting point here – I told this to my nearly-4 year old and she promptly appeared at the top of the stairs after we’d gone out, shouting to the babysitter “I NEED SOMETHING!”).

It feels like the beginning of a new stage and new adventures – with I’m sure many obstacles and issues along the way, but it feels good. My eldest girl starts pre-school in September which will be a big change for all of us, but she’s ready for it, and we feel ready for our new beginnings as a family.

Forget-me-not-Friday #58

Forget-me-not-Friday

I’ve had a few weeks off Forget-me-not-Friday, mainly due to wedding planning taking up all of my time! It’s only 6 weeks away. My nearly-4 year old in particular is very excited about ‘her wedding’.

Anyway, this week she has been contemplating the issue of spiders…

Nearly 4 year old, screaming and pointing at something in the garden: “Mummy!! It’s a spider!!”

Me: “Well it’s ok, it’s not going to hurt you. It’s friendly!!

Nearly 4 year old: “It is not!”

Me: “I promise you it is.”

Nearly 4 year old: “It is NOT friendly! It doesn’t even shake hands with me!!”

10 restaurant-survival tips for anguished parents

How to survive restaurants with children

I’m no expert at attending restaurants with small children, but I have had a reasonable amount of experience.

Some of this experience has involved considering locking myself in the restaurant loos and pretending I don’t exist, if only for a few brief minutes of heavenly respite. Sometimes, I find myself so stuck in my own personal hell that I don’t realise that the whole place is staring at me, as I’m scrabbling under the table to retrieve that cutlery yet again whilst shouting “If I have to do this one more time, you’ve lost one story at bedtime!”

Recently, our skills as a family on the restaurant-attendance front seem to have marginally improved. This may be partly due to the age of my children – now almost 4 and 2 – but I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned over the past few years that make family restaurant outings less like taking a couple of stray cats to a mouse farm.

  1. Take a bag of anguish-limiting ammunition.  I tend to take an ‘activity’ bag. Obviously don’t put paints and play dough in it unless you want to be banned for life – I tend to take a few colouring pencils and activity books.
  2. Learn about the ‘restaurant stealth schedule’.  The trick is, not to give them everything at once. At no point must they have access to ‘the bag’.  I have learnt to have an eagle eye for spotting when they’re just beginning to get bored with the last task, so I can reveal the next…
  3. Indulge in napkin origami/sugar packet sculpture making.  Sugar packet sculpture making was an invention of my nearly-4-year-old who likes to lay out her napkin and arrange them into shapes upon it, making ‘pretty pictures’.  I’m not sure if the restaurateurs actually like this, but I do as it means I can drink my latte in relative peace.
  4. Download a few apps.  I’m unsure if I’ve shot myself in the foot here, as my youngest is now totally obsessed with my phone and says “I wanna draw” about 5 times an hour, pointing at my phone desperately.  However, I have several drawing apps and a couple of early years games apps which will provide a good 15 minutes of occupation.
  5. Go for ‘the walk’.  Taking a trip around the restaurant, if only for 1 minute, causes distraction.  There are always new things to look at – a plant or picture, maybe even a fish tank if you’re lucky. Which leads me onto…
  6. Explore the ‘adventure toilets’.  To a small child, a restaurant toilet is basically a wondrous adventure park.  For my two, a trip to toilet heaven will distract them from the chaos they were just thinking about causing.
  7. Pizza or cheesy toast is your best friend.  We do experiment with different foods with our children.  They both love a child’s Sunday roast, for example.  But you can’t fail with pizza (or cheesy toast if you’re at a café for lunch).  The fact that mine love it so much means that they will sit still and eat it for a while.
  8. …as is ice cream.  We’re nearly at the end of the meal by this stage.  They’ve started to go feral.  Until the ice cream arrives. Then you’re sorted.
  9. The waiter/waitress ‘stun gun’.  This is particularly effective in Italian restaurants, where children are often made to feel really welcome.  The waiter comes over and starts making a fuss of the children – they are instantly stunned into a)shy silence or b)the need to tell the waiter everything they’ve been doing that day/yesterday/in their whole life.  Thus diverting attention from yourself, as you try and eat your dinner.
  10. Ignoring them.  This is a last resort but one to hold in reserve.  Ignore them? Pretend they aren’t yours?  You could always feign a look of shock as if to say “where did these children appear from?”, “why are they sat at my table when I’m trying to eat??”

Last weekend, I even enjoyed a calming glass of wine with my lunch, in reasonable peace. Here’s hoping it lasts…

Dear man who pulled a moony, we’re sorry if we embarrassed you but…

I’m a 38 year old mother of two pre-schoolers. I should know better.

Yet it was my hen party, after all.

I first glanced at the ‘task list’ my chief bridesmaid presented to me at the outset of my hen party, the majority of which took place at Revolucion de Cuba in Manchester last Saturday evening, and thought “naaah, that’s too silly for me – I’ll never do most of those”.

I did all but two of them it would seem – and only because we ran out of time!

Hen party moonyI do have to qualify this by telling you that the evening was reasonably sophisticated – it involved a cocktail masterclass which was really good fun, nobody got stupidly drunk (ok maybe ‘elatedly drunk’ but not stupidly) and we were actually home by midnight (I had been drinking for over 12 hours by then – albeit pacing oneself).

I’ve had little flashbacks over the week of the silliest things that took place. These were:

- getting a piggyback around the (otherwise very cool) dancefloor by my friend
- taking a selfie with the (bemused and only participating to get rid of me) bouncer
- convincing an unsuspecting punter to pull a moony to our group of 20 women (and standing next to him and having a photograph taken)
- telling a specifically chosen very unfunny, loserish joke to the two coolest dudes in there, who in fact turned out to be the DJ for the evening and his hype man
- doing a chicken dance around the bar

I can see you cringing. I have no defence other than hen parties do this to people. More than that, it was the best fun and took me back to my school days when work/parenting/life had not yet taken over and we were mostly carefree and – silly! It was an evening of utter freedom and harmless fun and I loved every minute of it.

Actually, I don’t think the man who pulled a moony was that embarrassed, come to think of it – he did it twice!

 

Thoughts on turning 38

Thoughts on turning 38So, if I double my age I would be 76. Phew! This is always my benchmark for whether or not I’m ‘too old’. If I can live my whole life again and still be potentially still around, I’m ok.

Last year, I wrote quite a lengthy post on 37 reasons to love life, now I’m 37. I loved writing that post – it sets out lots of key elements of my life that I love, namely my children and family, achieving and learning new things, and things that are just ‘me’, like scaring myself stupid and being a total coffee addict.

Yesterday, my birthday came around again. This year has been mad and very busy but totally exciting. Mr EC and I got engaged at New Year and have been busy wedding planning for August. We’ve also organised lots of work on our house to get it to a stage where we can really love it as our family home. Our eldest girl starts preschool in September which is also the beginning of a new journey.

This is why I thought the image above of the swan and her cygnets was just perfect. The swan has had her brood and is moving forward purposefully on their adventures together.

The other week, I was moaning to someone about turning 38 and she turned to me and rightly said “but life’s just taking off”. She was right and I’ve reflected on her words ever since.

They say life begins at 40, but 38 feels like a year of new beginnings for me.

Getting extremely wet and other funny traits: my 20-month old

My 20 month old having funIt’s interesting watching my littlest one grow up, particularly in the context of having an older sibling to compare her to.  I remember being amazed when my eldest, now 3 1/2, began to develop her own distinct character.  It sounds silly, and I don’t know what I expected – a mini us? In fact, I was in a constant state of amazement about the whole pregnancy and childbirth thing – about how my body can produce a child who then grows up to be her very own person.

Now I’m even more amazed by the fact my littlest one is developing some very funny and individual traits, which are so different from her sister’s – or indeed the rest of us! I thought now would be the time to reflect and choose some of those that I find the most endearing, or just funny.  Or bonkers.

  1. Getting extremely wet. 20-month old LOVES getting wet, muddy and as unkempt as possible. She’s going to be my little Glasto girl. If I attempt to put the raincover over her in the pram, she will defiantly sit up, pull it to one side and stick her head out, thus allowing the glorious rain to wet her through until she’s so soaked it would take me about a week to get her dry. In fact the last time I had to wash all pram covers, which smelt of wet dog (maybe she liked that – see later point) and it did indeed take me a week to get them dry. Puddles are to her as coffee is to me – the most exciting and rewarding commodity she’s ever come across.
  2. Barricading. This is a recent emerging trait. She doesn’t like to see me leaving the house. Yesterday, as I was trying to leave for work and collecting my things in the kitchen, I turned to see her stood with her back to the kitchen door, which she’d closed, palms flat against it and facing me, with a look on her face that said “you’re not going anywhere, lady!”
  3. Being an iPhone genius. I swear she’s almost as good as me. She can now scroll to the correct menu screen for her favourite app, press the correct folder and then choose the correct app (which incidentally is one called Colour Drops). She’s so dexterous and clever in that respect for her age.
  4. Dog chasing. We’ve never had a dog, but my 20-month old instantly hit it off with them. Surely most little girls her age would be a little scared if a dog that’s bigger than her was leaping up at her face and generally being boisterous around her? Not so my littlest one. This is almost as good as puddles. The downside is that whenever she sees a dog in the park she chases after it, meaning that I in turn must chase her, like Benny Hill or something.
  5. Cuddling/sitting still. My 3 1/2 year old is a powerhouse of energy, rarely sitting still and always running, bouncing or scootering around the house. If she sits still, she’s either exhausted or ill. 20-month old, however, whilst also full of energy, will have distinct interludes which involve sitting on my knee, cuddling and maybe even reading a whole book when it’s not bedtime. This is also possibly the reason she’s so good with my iPhone – she will sit and look at it, maybe watch what I’m doing, and then work it out for herself.

So looking at the above 5 individualities my youngest daughter demonstrates, it looks like I may have a British-festival-loving device entrepreneur and dog lover with a brilliant attention span and the occasional stint at protest marches?! Sounds good to me!

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