Bye Bye Baby

Everyone seems to have differing views as to when a baby becomes a toddler. Some seem to class their baby days as being over as soon as that first year is done, others when a child actually starts toddling or perhaps when they turn two. For me, it’s the absence of certain things. At two, Lady Mck was still feeding and in nappies and in a cot. I still kept the pushchair in the boot. In my mind I still thought of her as the baby.

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Six months later it has become clear to me that we are no longer a household with a baby. She stopped feeding three months ago and a month later was out of nappies. I found an old bib in a bag the other day and went to put it in the wash and it suddenly occurred to me that she hasn’t worn a bib for months and so I binned it, with a whimsical sigh.

I felt the lasts from the moment she was born. I can remember, as my uterus painfully shrunk back to it’s ‘no baby’ size that I would never experience childbirth again, that I would never have that feeling of a person moving inside of me. An odd and unusual feeling and something that is hard to remember after the fact.

It’s a little bittersweet, but mostly I find the prospect of no more babies is something I feel fine about. As I edited thousands of old photos a few weeks ago, I found myself wondering where the time has gone and yearning to hold them all as tiny babies, once more. I find it so hard to hold on to this stuff in my memory. I guess that early time goes so fast, because we are gripped in a rollercoaster of love and transition, hormones and tiredness. It takes on a dreamlike state as I look back. I have become that woman who overly coos at random newborns and their parents and I really must get a a grip on that.

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However, mostly, I find that I am loving this new stage of our family. By the time the boys were the age that Lady Mck is now, they had a younger sibling, or one was imminent. I have never had an older toddler at home by themselves and it is a real treat. We no longer have to think about pushchairs and changing facilities and the lack of the buggy in my car means we can actually fit the shopping in now! Lady Mck is able to play and learn and she is soaking up life. During school hours I don’t feel I am corralling a herd of children, it’s just she and I. When we wait for Nano to finish his drama class, she will happily do a sticker book, or play with a quiet, small toy. Stacking, threading, sorting, drawing and sticking can all amuse her for longer now. I am just holding out for the colouring stage and hoping she gets the bug, like her eldest brother did.

Despite, the odd yearning for a tiny new life, I know in my head and in my heart that we are done. Three is enough. In fact, I’ll be honest and say that three is hard, much harder than I imagined, but it is the right number for us. A few weeks ago, Nano was asking for more babies and Mckdad cruelly played along. My reaction to the idea of a fourth was telling and enfatic. It was a big NO from me.

And so, when those yearning come, I know that they are really just yearnings for time to slow down a bit, they are not real. What is happening now is what is real.

What I did this summer…..

Hello friends! Long time, no speak. How are you all? How was your summer? My blog break went on a little longer than I intended, mainly because I had lots of good intentions to write and finish off posts ready for publishing in September and do you know what I did instead? NOTHING! Not a word escaped my keyboard or pen and I switched off completely. It was a nice break, but the thing I missed the most was the connections. I miss my ‘people’. I found that by switching off my blog brain, it also switched off my social media brain and in the whole of August I posted only nine pictures to Instagram. I missed hearing about your lives and reading your blogs and I missed sharing the details of mine. It began to feel I would never want to write in this space again, but then, just as quickly as I needed a break, I suddenly felt ideas seeping into my brain and quickly wrote them down and then it just seemed easy to sit in front of the screen again. 

So, if I wasn’t noodling my time away on-line, what did I do this summer? And, as I’ve missed you all so much, what did you do? 

This summer I camped……

We kept our holiday low key this year. We’d really like to get a trailer for our camping stuff in time for next summer and take the plunge with a nice, long European trip, so this year we wanted to keep costs low and we couldn’t all fit in one car anyway. So, we took ourselves off to our favourite campsite, which is only 45 minutes away. We are so lucky to live where we do. As you will probably guess from my Instagram, I love living in Norwich, but we are so fortunate to be so close to the beautiful North Norfolk coast as well. We went twice for five days at a time. The first time with some lovely friends from school. A gaggle of crazy boys and our girl, who adored them all and we had a fabulous time. Then, we returned for some time with just the five of us. We were treated to the most glorious weather and truly felt there had been no need for us to venture further a field. 



This summer I watched a lot of Gilmore Girls…….and I mean a lot….

I had never watched a whole episode of Gilmore Girls until this summer. I had seen the odd bit on E4 over the years and had always found it deeply irritating. The quirky, fast, wise cracking way of talking seemed so contrived and I just never got it. However, so many people who I love, love it. People who definitely share my taste in TV and I just kept thinking that if they love it, surely I should. So, much like some unwelcome homework project, I decided I needed to give it a proper chance and watch some, from the beginning on Netflix. I am now totally hooked and was so after the first few episodes. I am no embarking on the last series. Yes, that’s right, I have watched six series of twenty two episodes! See, I told you, I watched a lot of Gilmore Girls.

This summer I crossed things of our big list…..

Last summer was the summer of painting after our loft conversions. What felt like acres of bare plastered wall that needed to be covered. This summer, we didn’t have a huge project. I’m not sure quite how I feel about that. There’s still so much we need to do in our house. I would love to wave a magic wand and have it all done, but sadly that’s not going to happen. However, this summer, we didn’t feel up for a big decorating project and so we made a effort to do some finishing off. We put things on the wall, we put up bookshelves, Mckdad made some more progress on his office, with shelves and lighting to make it a workable space. We tidied our shed…..a huge job and tidied the toy cupboard again. As a result of all this I bought lots of house plants. In fact, buying house plants should almost have a section to itself! 



This summer I pootled and pottered….

Six lovely weeks of mostly dry, sunny weather and very little in the way of plans was just what we all needed to recharge ourselves. We spent lots of those days pooling around at home, with some members of the family (Nano) deciding on these days that wearing clothes is so last year. We planned small, close to home activities. Mornings in the park, bike rides into the city, chips from the market, a morning at the allotment. We reminded ourselves that our children don’t need and we don’t want, great, expensive excursions and to be entertained every day they are not at school. We put the TV away and the lack of temptation meant that they all found other things to fill their time. We arranged for grandparents to have one or two of them and these changes in our family dynamic for a few hours were like a breath of fresh air. 

When I look back at our summer break, it’s hard to put my finger on what we really did do. In fact, it makes me a little sad that I didn’t take more photos. I know it was a good one, but in years to come, it’ll be the photos that remind me of why. You see, regardless of it’s bad reputation, social media has it’s place, at least it does for me and I imagine for you too? 


Taking a break

I’ve decided to take a summer blogging break. I know, I know, with the scarcity of posts that I publish these days, you’re thinking that you won’t even notice my break. However, even when I’m not writing here, I’m thinking about writing here. I’m feeling that I am neglecting my lovely online space. I’m thinking about how I’ve fallen out of love with it a little and feeling lots of self-doubt about what I share and how I share it. 

This year has been so busy for us and yes, I work in academic years, much more than I do calendar years. Mckdad started a new job and while it’s been amazing to see him finally be somewhere that he is appreciated and his skills and strengths are recognised, it’s involved an awful lot more work for him and subsequently an awful lot of work for me. We know that perhaps we haven’t got the balance quite right and that we need to change that. 

I thought things would be a little easier with Nano at school now, but Lady Mck is growing up. She needs more input from me and sleeps less in the day. She also makes more mess, as toddlers are designed to do. I envy those who are able to write or photograph for their blog during the day and as much as I aim to do this too, I am left with the scarce free, grown up hours in the evening to write and by then I often find I am too tired and uninspired. 

The summer holidays do give me a chance to write, but frankly, no-one is reading blogs in the summer and so I fear that any effort I put in would just end up making me feel deflated. I’m not really sure where I fit anymore in this ever-evolving blogging world. That may not matter. I am not sure that every blog has to have a mission or a ‘brand’, but if it doesn’t matter, I need to come to terms with that. I need to believe that it doesn’t matter and get back to writing about the topics that I want to write about, rather than feeling nothing I have is worth sharing. 

So, I am taking a break. I am not sure for how long. I may try to write some stuff ready for my return. I may just have a complete break. I can’t imagine that I will stop forever, although maybe some distance will result in me deciding I have blogged for long enough. What I hope is that a break from publishing will reinvigorate my enthusiasm for blogging. 

In the meantime, we are leaving for a a few days camping today and on our return we have lots of things we want to do with this much needed summer break. I am looking forward to switching off and having some thinking time, some much needed brain space for things to permeate. I hope you have an amazing summer, whatever your plans are and I will see you back here, hopefully, when the nights start to draw in and we can feel that early autumn chill in the air. 

This girl can……wear a tiara

When I had a daughter, something that still seems a surprise to me, I felt an extra responsibility that I’d not experienced with either of the boys. I knew that as she moved through life she would have more challenges to negotiate, more hills to climb. I was always relived I didn’t have to fight against the sea of pink for the boys, although it annoyed me that it wasn’t long before they identified it as a ‘girl’s colour’. The pinkness of girlhood is only the start of it. Telling girls what they can be starts at a young age and it’s pervasive in our culture. I knew I’d have to fight against that and I do.

However, as Lady Mck got older she began to get her own ideas about what she likes and what she wants. She began to put the boy’s doll in the wooden block truck and take it for a walk and I knew she’d love a pushchair of her own for Christmas, but I resisted. I dismissed it as too girly.

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Then, it occurred to me that this was wrong too. Why should she be put in any box? Wasn’t I doing just the thing I hated? I realised that if the boys had ever done the same with their doll, I would have gladly bought them a pushchair. I was deciding for her how she should express herself, how she should be. So, we found a pushchair at the car boot sale, it was blue (Yes! *punches air*) and the boys gave it to her for Christmas and she loves it. She also got a shopping bag and the first thing she did was hook it over the handle, put her doll in the seat and walk around the house like this for most of the day.

She runs, she climbs. She has no fear. She is known in the school playground for falling over, getting up, dusting her knees and carrying on. She might grow up to be girly girl, she might not, but in a house where she will always be told she can do whatever she wants, where she will be shown that she has choices in what she wears, plays with and how she decorates her room and what she is interested in, she deserves to be given the full choices.

Telling her that everything deemed to be female is to be avoided is limiting her choices and who am I to do that? I am sure I will still encourage her to look wider than the ‘pink’ choice, because if you went along with what we are shown and what we are sold you would think there was no other colour for girls, in a way that doesn’t happen with blue and boys, but I will let her choose the pushchair, or the princess tiara. I will just make sure that we at least call in a Queen tiara. If we’re going down that road she may as well be the boss!

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We still live in a world where being a woman makes everything just that little bit harder, where traditionally female responsibilities are thought of as lesser, whether they are done by a woman or a man and I refuse to add to this by giving my daughter the impression that her choices are wrong. That’s not the answer. Making sure she has a choice and sees all the colours, is.

I love…..for a 5th birthday. 

It feels a little wrong to start an ‘I love’ post with a caveat, but in this case it also feels wrong not to. Many of the things that I love about Nano, also, in the heat of the moment enrage and frustrate me. He was such a serene and easy baby and toddler, but for last couple of years he has been the one that gives me the most worry. The one who I feel I am failing. We are all trying hard to be better and I know this is a phase, albeit a rather long one, but for today I wanted to celebrate that stuff that often makes him hard to parent and I wanted to be honest about it. It could so easily be read and taken that I am a perfect zen mother, professing to love those things that we all know can cause conflict and frustration. Far from it. Love me when I least deserve it, as that is when I need it most is a Swedish expression that springs to mind with this boy. This is unashamedly blogging my highlight reel and I make no apology for that, because who shouldn’t be told they’re amazing to mark their birthday. 

I love how gregarious you are. Settling into school this year has been a complete breeze for you. I love that as we walk through the playground, your classmates shout out your name. I love that parents always tell me that their child talks about you a lot. Everybody wants to be your friend. I love that you hug your friends, actually you hug everyone. You show your emotions, both good and bad.

I love how brilliantly you have taken to wearing glasses. Having been warned you might resist it complain, you have been a dream. I love that you chose them yourself and picked the best pair. They look so fab. I love how you dance, with a rhythm that you feel in your bones. You want to sing and dance and play. I love that you ask me everyday whether it is drama class day, even after starting months ago.

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I love how you play with your sister. You take her along in your crazy ride of imagination and she follows you gladly. She does everything you tell her to do and you enjoy this to it’s full advantage, especially when the two of you are up to mischief. I love how you play alone, detailed, crazy games that just have to be finished before you can move onto the next thing.

I love how determined you are in everything you do. Nothing can stand in your way when you have an idea in your head. It doesn’t always fit with our family life, but I cannot help but marvel at your single-mindedness. Don’t lose that, it will help you through all of your life. I love that you don’t care what anyone thinks of you. For someone so young, you have a confidence at your core that I can only marvel at. These two things together make you different to other kids. You walk your own path or perhaps more accurately you run your own path.

I love your passion for knowledge. You love books about space and will ask questions for weeks afterwards and many times in different ways until you have a concept in your mind and yes, one day the world will explode, but no, you won’t be alive, so don’t worry about it. I love how clever you are, but that you hold back until you feel you will be able to do something. You were slow to start talking, but when you did the words came out strong and fully formed. You were slow to start drawing, but again it was like you were storing the information until you were ready to let rip.

I love how funny you are. You make us all laugh every day, your clever, quick mind entertains us. And when you laugh, you really laugh, an infectious giggle that turns into a cackle right down to your belly. Nothing is half measure with you, nothing.

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Everything is big with you. You love fiercely, you rage strongly. You question big. You live in the moment and huge. You have no fear and you will not be told no. It makes being your parent a big job, but oh, my love, imagine a man who lives big, who loves big and who has his own mind and won’t be blown off his chosen course. A man who uses this stuff for good could live a big, amazing life.

The Perfect Storm

Hello Friends. Are you up for a bit of a ramble? I started an Instagram post today and the words underneath became so long, I thought perhaps I should just write a blog. Sometimes there is just too many words in our heads for microblogging. I’m never really sure whether to publish my ran some brain dumps, but it always makes me feel clearer and I remind myself that you don’t visit for a magazine read, or at least I assume you don’t.

Today seems to be The Perfect Storm for a day filled with anxiety. One of the boys has been having some minor friendship troubles this week. Something we haven’t really had to face before. It occurs to me that the true challenge of parenting, is that it is always new. A new situation or with a different child makes us feel that we are on a high wire, with no training. I’m not sure that feeling ever really goes away and trying to guide our children through rocky waters, when frankly, I still feel I’m working this stuff out for myself is stressful.

We had a night of broken sleep last night, Lady Mck awake for nearly two hours at 1am and Nano up at 2am, then up for the day at 5:30. It’s amazing how many years of my life I have been woken several times a night for many nights in succession and have handled it admirably. Today, after only one night, I feel broken. Add to this a hormonal time of the month and a big Brexit ‘hangover’ to the point where I can’t really process what seems to be happening to our little country just now, every day the news becomes more upsetting. So, I can feel the tiredness and anxiety coursing through me. With a solo bedtime ahead I am steeling myself for a long day.

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Brexit badge available from HelloDODO’s Etsy shop

However, I managed to get everyone out of the house, with everything they needed and deliver the boys to school, on time, with no shouting at any of them. I only wish I could display as much self-control on a ‘normal’day. I guess, sometimes, when we know what is really driving our reactions, we rise to the challenge. I know that letting my emotions rule today is not going to end well, so I reach a level of calm that I don’t usually display. I only hope I can keep it going until the children are all in bed.

So, today is for the small victories. It’s not for trying to be Superwoman. There will be no big cleaning or decluttering. Today is a day for simply keeping on top of the washing and wishing I had a tumble dryer, because, British Summer. Today is for making sure we all eat and that I am thinking of the next thing coming up. Today is for tidying as I go and keeping the train on the tracks. Today is for making sure I drink enough water and coffee, but not too much coffee. Today is for grabbing five minutes to knit a row or tow, to feel yarn through my fingers and today is a day for kittens, there’s always kittens.

Today is for understanding. Understanding why I feel the way I do, why I want to react the way I do. Understanding that I am not the only one who is tired and that they need to me to help them deal with their emotions. Understanding that I can’t fix everything.

And today is most definitely a day for an early night

A time to speak

I wrote this on Friday. My emotions were raw and I just wrote, but reading it back today, on the eve of the most important of democratic votes, my feelings are the same. I know that many of you don’t come here for politics, but sometimes it is time to speak, however we choose to do so and this is how I speak. 

I am writing this on the train, on the way to Blogtacular, ready for a weekend of work, friends and inspiration and I am excited, but I have also spent this last day, randomly shedding a few tears when I hear the news or log on to social media. Things that have made me sad for months have come to a head with the tragic news of MP Jo Cox’s brutal murder in the street, in her constituency. So often when big things like this occur and I feel I have things to say, I stop myself. Who am I to profess sadness and shock over the death of someone I never knew, but there’s something today that tells me I want my voice to be out there, however small it might be, I want to be heard.

 

Of course, we don’t know why the man who murdered her did this, we can guess, we can read the press, but we don’t know. What we do know is that she was an MP, doing her work, in a time where the political rhetoric in our country is as divisive and hateful as I can ever remember and when you consider that English Football fans have been taunting Muslim children in France, you can’t help thinking that being told our country is being stolen from us is having an effect, greater than we and even the people who spout this stuff could imagine.

Sometimes I feel that I am living in a comfortable, liberal, tolerant bubble. Naturally, we gravitate towards those who think like us. Most of the right-wing, xenophobic, intolerant stuff I hear about is shared by people who like me, are rolling their eyes and shaking their heads and it’s easy to imagine that everyone is doing this. But the General Election result proved that this isn’t the case. That there are many who believe what they are told and vote accordingly.

 
It seems to me that it is the hateful, scaremongering voices that are shouting the loudest. Katie Hopkins shouts, Nigel Farage shouts, The Daily Mail shouts and the sensible voices are drowned out. The facts are drowned out and it makes me feel helpless and hopeless.

 
I always come back to thinking about what I can do. Of course, I can raise my children to be tolerant and welcoming to diversity. I can model kindness and compassion. I can talk to them about those less fortunate and encourage them to notice and care, but that doesn’t feel like it’s enough against this barrage of shouting.

 
But I can do this. I can use my quiet, tiny blog to say that I don’t want this. I don’t want to live in a country where national pride means not giving a shit for others and putting up our barriers to anything that isn’t white, middle-class. I want our pride to be that we welcome diversity, that we see how it can make our country greater than it was before. I want to live in a country where we value everyone and not just those who fit into the “hard-working families” category. I want to live in a country where we put our arms around those that need help and not simply punish them. I want our children to be able to be children, to be able to enjoy and relish their education, rather than being treated as a number on a spreadsheet. I want our public servants to be valued for the amazing jobs that they do, instead of being told that they are greedy, lazy and failing us.

 
Today, I feel so sad at what we have become. She was my age, she had young children, she went to work yesterday morning and it was good work. She simply went to work. Somehow, we have to raise our compassionate voices above the shouting. There need to be more of us that speak, that say “we don’t want this”