I hate this question….

bo at clumber
What a terribly lonely child…or not

 

I have one child. I love her completely, she fills my life with fun and joy. She has made me a better person. I would never want to be without her………Do I want another child?

DEFINATLEY NOT!

Why do people think it’s ok to ask this question?
Sometimes people ask if you are having a second child when you are carrying your first out of the maternity ward. Some people wait until your child gets to school age. Then they think the empty nest syndrome will kick in and you’ll need to fill your dull and empty life with another small being quickly, because God forbid you should want any time to yourself.

It irritates me immensely. Forget the fact that David took ten years to convince me to have a baby, and the fact we went through an awful round of unsuccessful IVF before we had Harry.  I just don’t get why people expect mums to have more than one child.

If you have no children…good for you. You don’t have to, it’s your choice. The last thing you want are people badgering you about it. You may desperately want a child, and are going through the very painful process of trying to no avail…..people don’t think about that with their throw away ‘no kids yet?’ comment.
You can be perfectly happy without children. Your womb will not ache when you see a baby in its pram. You may think all the drool and nappies and sleepless nights aren’t for you…That’s fine. Enjoy your disposable income and line free face my friends. Ignore those who whisper ‘it’s such a shame’ behind your back.

Every week I take Harriet to play and the cheery girl behind the counter says ‘still just the one then?’ I chortle politely, but now after a good six months of the question, I want to slap her. ‘Yes lady, just the one forever. I could give you the arduous back story behind this child but I’m sure that’s not what you made the glib comment for’.

Some people may be happy to have seventeen children. Good for them. If you choose to have many children so be it. If you choose to have none, good for you….enjoy your nice holidays in posh hotels.

It’s no one’s choice or business but your own.

me n dave
Child free. Abroad and youthful

 

Sometimes people will casually comment to my friend ‘Ooo three boys, are you trying for a girl?’ Like the last boy must’ve been a massive disappointment. If I were her I’d comment back ‘Yes. Actually we are just going to throw little Freddie in the sea as we only have room for three children and I was crushed when I saw a third penis’.

I know a lot of people think children lose out when they don’t have a sibling. That maybe I should do it for Harriet. Well, I’m an only child and I ruddy loved it! Am I a bit spoilt because I was an only child…..Well ….. yes but hey ho!

Children take up so much time and love and energy …oh and money. If you feel you have enough for a tribe, go ahead and be my guest.

I for one am too old and too poor to take care of more little ones.

Party Party: The stresses and strains of planning a five year old’s shindig.

bo at party
Unbridled Haribo Driven Birthday Joy

Around the first week in January,  I’ll meet up with my super organised mum friend and she’ll always ask me the same question.  It’s a question that fills me with panic, dread and guilt in equal measure.  She asks; ‘So, what are you planning for Harriet’s birthday this year?’ 

my answer is usually vague and evasive as:

  1. I haven’t even considered Harriets birthday party….and…
  2. I have no intentions of even starting to think about it until at least May.

Harriet’s birthday is at the end of July and has always been a terribly elaborate affair.  To be honest, I set the bar too high very early on and now have sleepless nights over how to make the events compare to last one.

In the past we’ve had play centres, bouncy castles, face painters and even bloody ponies…The outdoor pony party was the year it completely pissed it down obviously.

Contrary to the above we are not made of money and this year worried me a tad as Harry had started school.  That meant she had sixty children in her year, plus all the other friends she’s made from various hobbies and social gatherings.

When I first started mooting the idea of this years party (like I said, in May, like a sane person) I questioned if I should invite sixty plus kids and have a free for all in the local leisure centre.  I quickly decided not to invite sixty plus kids, as this would be heresy and to be honest, I struggle with more than one child at a time let alone a tribe.

To save my sanity my mother in law ‘helpfully’ suggested I had a smaller party in my own home.  I’m surprised that this suggestion didn’t make me spit out my tea. Even the thought of entertaining fifteen five year olds at home makes me shudder. I’ve got a lovely home and secretly I don’t even like most peoples kids that much.

It was decided that we would host the party at the Acacia Centre again. I’ve had three parties there already due to the fact it is familiar and I am exceptionally lazy (I’m there twice a week anyway for Harriet’s Gymnastics lessons).  I’d invite Harriets class and some other friends, equalling around 35 children.  I would then cross my fingers that at least a quarter of those would have other plans and take the number down to around 25.

When booking the party I did realise that people do indeed book stuff ridiculously early as a couple of the slots I would have preferred had gone. Booking a child’s party at a suitable establishment is indeed akin to getting in to a Heston Blumenthall eatery. You try getting a plum spot at Jimmy Beans.  If you’re not booking that at least six months in advance you have no chance.

Then there is the buying of party wares.  Plates, cups, balloons, invites.  All bought with a tinge of sadness knowing they are going to be used for exactly twenty seconds before being thrown into a rubbish bag.

One thing I do refuse to buy are party bags.  I dislike party bags enormously. The stress of having to fill thirty shitty bags with tiny plastic crap, lollipops and mini Haribo does not please me.  

By the time you’ve purchased stickers, pencils, kazoos and bouncy balls you’ve spent eighty quid to send a child home with a sugar rush and more bin fodder.  Inevitably though, every party I have a small group of children that will come and ask for a party bag.  When I explain that I don’t do party bags they momentarily look at me like I’ve told them Santa doesn’t exist.  I’m not a monster though.  I don’t go round crushing a child’s hopes by way of not producing party bags. Each child went home with a proper sized bag of sweets and a bubble wand.

Bouncy castle hired, face painter booked and we are good to go…..Now just the food.

Normally I let the venue see to the food…like I said, lazy.  But due to the prospective numbers my in-laws suggested we cater ourselves to save at least a couple of pence.  Now the thought of catering for five year olds made me shit myself and the offer of help (or basically ‘doing it for me’) was more than welcome.

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it wasn’t all party rings and sausage rolls. Please note the fruit platter.(Thanks Lynne and Leanne, you did a better job than I could ever have done)

I went and purchased all the necessary foodstuffs for the big day the day before.  Wotsits, sausage rolls, Party rings (which are compulsory as they have the word ‘Party’ in their name) and then token fruit and salad that I have to put on so it looks like I’m a good health conscious mother.

On the day,  all went really well.  Harriet was super excited.  She scaled the bouncy castle, went missing for just long enough to give me a heart attack and was so filled with joy when all her friends sang happy birthday to her whist she was presented with her cake that it made all the time, stress and money worthwhile.  Even the extremely curmudgeonly staff member couldn’t dampen our birthday spirits (though she had a good go).

After what I think was a successful party we went home satisfied she had had a great time and I swore that parties would now be downsized for the next few years…again my mother in law suggested ‘something at home’ …..does she never learn?!

I could now reach for the gin and not think of Harriets party again until the next new year meet up.

So maybe we did spoil her……but then if you can’t spoil her on her birthday when can you?

me and bo at party
Matching dresses. not at all uncool!

 

Happy Holidays!

Bo On donkey

My happiest childhood memories are of being on my summer holidays. Every year we’d book two weeks in a caravan at Skegness. I’d enjoy every single day. Fish and chips, sandcastles, prize bingo, waking up to the smell of bacon and the sound of seagulls’ tap dancing on the roof. They were the best of times and I’m pretty sure the whole holiday was entirely for me.

As I grew up, the seaside holiday became a bit low brow for me. Suddenly I wanted to get a passport and see the world. We’d always be off on city breaks, be it the culture of Rome or the weed of Amsterdam (I could claim it was for the culture, It would be a lie). We gambled in Vegas and I lost my front tooth in a mountain in Austria. Proper grown up holidays in proper grown up hotels.

venice
A typical pre-child holiday.

Italy became my favourite place. We even got married in Italy, Lake Garda. Brilliant memories, and a great way to not have to pay for other people to eat at a buffet in a function room at your cost.

After becoming pregnant David and I had a ‘babymoon’ in the Cotswolds. We had all become terribly middle class about the whole holiday scene.

After Harry of course holidays completely changed again. My passport has cobwebs on it and I’m forgetting my broken Italian through lack of use.

When you go on holiday with a baby you have to take a trailer just for the stuff you have to take with you and you have to start looking for places proudly proclaiming ‘family friendly’ which normally means surrounded by gaudy plastic slides and serves chips.

Center Parcs became a go to place for us. We’d gone from jet setting thousands of miles to pootling twenty minutes up the road (so if we’d forgot the steriliser we could just nip home). Centre Parcs is like a bit of a posh Butlins. You hear people shouting ridiculously named children, ‘Tarragon, come here and eat your quinoa’ and they offer prosecco in your cabin for when you get there if you’re willing to pay £7000.

I decided though thanks to my sunny nostalgia that I must take Harriet on the caravan seaside holidays I loved so much.
A two hour trip to Skegness becomes a three hour trip due to several wee stops, and the whole ‘are we nearly there yet’ routine gets old by the time you’ve reached the top of your street.
Even though I’m not the slightest bit religious I’d pray for sunshine as four days with only travel scrabble and Cbeebies can send the most stable person insane. Luckily we got sunshine, unluckily this turns the temperature of a glass and plastic house into that akin to a volcano.
I realised that for the parents, this isn’t a holiday at all. It’s cooking and washing up somewhere smaller. Going on the beach isn’t a frolic in and out of the waves but a never ending cycle of sun cream, getting covered in sand, brushing off the sand, going paddling in freezing cold sewerage, sun cream…

In the evening you go to ‘The Club’ where families drink overpriced Fosters and watch teenagers with an over inflated ego (or Redcoats as they’re sometimes known) do party dances with a terrifying 6ft pink elephant (any Haven fans out there know who thought it was a good idea to call their elephant Anxious??).
My misty eyed nostalgia means secretly I still love all this stuff. My childhood love of the seaside flowed over into my adult life and I ended up doing a summer season in Ingoldmells. One of the best six months of my life, at least I think it was…

bo in yarmouthI did drink an awful lot that summer.

 

 

 

Last year we went to Yarmouth. We had a great time and filled it with golden childhood memories for Harriet. There were donkeys, fun fairs, candyfloss the hokey cokey, everything.

 

You ask Harriet what she can remember about that holiday and she’ll tell you she got so hot she was sick. It’s literally the only thing she recalls.

 

 

 I’m hoping though when she looks back she has as fond memories as I do about the tacky overpriced place that brings so much joy.

Anxiety and Me…Why it’s ok not to be ok.

I’ve never made it a secret that I’ve suffered with anxiety and depression. In fact, now I just accept it as a part of who I am and continue to remain fabulous whenever I can be.

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My depression and anxiety started at a young age, 19 and at that time I was not equipped to cope with it at all.  I let the whole thing possess me and I have a list as long as my arm of bosses and friends I should probably apologise to for being a complete wreck of a human being from 1997- 2010.  Thanks to those who stood by me. You know who you are. Those who didn’t, screw you!

Then I realised, I am not alone. I am one of many.  
I have so many friends who have some form of mental illness or another and they are some of the most creative, interesting, hilarious people I know.  They are the first there to help others when they are feeling low as they know how shitty it feels.  
We don’t sit crying each night, there is no visible cloud above our heads. We just have an internal dialogue constantly nagging at ourselves, telling us we need to be better, when actually we are more than good enough.  In fact we are usually brilliant at some things because we can’t stop trying so damn hard. We also become the master of disguise, so that no one would ever know.

If anything Harriet has made my anxiety better.  I follow her example of not caring what others think, having fun regardless of what we look like and doing things you ruddy well enjoy. My anxiety is now focused more on her. Am I being a good enough mother, Do I love her enough, should I be going out tonight……

‘Should’. There’s a dangerous word. I constantly tell myself I ‘should’ feel like this or I ‘should’ be doing that. Avoid should statements people. They are the road to an unquiet mind.

For years I held myself back due to depression. The voice in my head would tell me to quit whilst I was ahead, before everyone else realised how stupid I was. I’d never say no, because then people would hate me. I feared to rock to boat in case it made me look egotistical or arrogant, stupid or ridiculous. My mind was one big contradiction.
I feared what would happen if I did things. I cancelled trips. Big trips, Like one to South Africa the day before. I walked out of exams, gave in courses and failed to speak up when opportunities arose.

 I’ve read enough self help books to write my own self help book on using self help books….most of which are not helpful.

So I have decided to take a deep breath (well as deep as you can when your chest feels like it’s being crushed) and do things.

No one had ever really read my stuff. I still can’t be in the same room when someone reads it. No one has ever seen me dance…something else I propose to change. I’m saying yes more and the more I say yes, the more happens for me. Posting these blogs is pretty scary for me and my inner brain tells me no one cares and they are no good. I’m faking it ‘till I’m making it.

My depression and anxiety has been the hardest illness I’ve ever had to battle. Nothing else comes close (and i’ve had other ails) but would I even be me without it? It definitley drives me to be a better mother. i’ve toughened up no end and I don’t think my dark sense of humour would be so prevalent without it.

So heres to my friends who suffer. Who are brilliant, funny, interesting and creative. We should start a club. The happy place for depressed people.

I’m going to pretend I’m not stressed about my new direction. I’m going to fake not caring if people like what I do. I’m feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

Kids tv the necessary evil

Tea calms Britons
Because drinking a hot cup of tea becomes a life goal.

 

Ahhh the things you say before you have children. Maybe you’ve heard the old quote ‘Everyone is a perfect parent before they have a child of their own’. Never a truer word has been spoken.

All the different things I swore I’d do or not do. I don’t think I’ve kept my word on a single one.

Take watching kids tv for instance. I said I wouldn’t let Harriet watch TV as it would ‘rot the brain’, I would show her flash cards and prep her for a PhD in Philosophy. I steadfastly stuck to this rule until she started walking at 10 months. Then I realised If I was ever to drink a hot cup of tea again I needed to utilise the power of Cbeebies.

Cbeebies if an odd little channel full of characters I love and despise in equal measure. It’s all held together with Prozac infused presenters who really wanted to do Shakespeare.  If you see me about on the street I’m often dressed similarly to a kids tv presenter. Red trousers, primary coloured top, part of the ‘I’m well cheerful me’ uniform.

Lots of Cbeebies programmes send out a weird message. That parents are either absent (Where are Charlie and Lola’s mum and dad?) or another specie (like Flop in Bing, is he his dad, guardian? No idea) and that parents never ever lose their shit. Topsy and Tim are tiny arseholes forever breaking vases, dropping cakes and bringing stray animals into their room, but the parents, who must be in some kind of Valium induced  stupor do not bat an eyelid. They didn’t even punch the neighbour when he bought the kids a rabbit as a leaving gift. They let the whole class come to their house for photo day…which by the way was a nursery photo which I don’t believe for one minute as those kids are at least 26 years old….Oh and finally, what sort of name is Topsy? David and I have surmised its short for Topsington…..Also a friend asked me to point out that Topsy wears a clip on fringe…you’ll never be able to un-notice that now.

Controversial I know but l I really dislike Bing too. What a whiny bunny he is. Just go down the f**king slide Bing you big wuss and get your Panda mate to put some pants on.

Some programmes teach kids that you can do a really bad job at work without consequence. I’m thinking Postman Pat, who should’ve been fired years ago. ‘No Pat, you were supposed to deliver a £65,000 specially commissioned stained glass window. A shitty collage from the local school won’t do……And whist we’re at it why did you use the helicopter to deliver a hamster to Mrs Goggins???’ All of Greendale are inept as it goes.

Why is Cbeebies so formal with the men in their shows too? Mr Tumble, Mr Maker, Mr Bloom. Why can’t it just be old Phil maker making something crap with an old yoghurt pot?

Don’t get me wrong. I love some shows like Hey Duggee and Go Jetters. Go Jetters once had a samba-ing unicorn in it and TV doesn’t get much better than that.

There are channels I still don’t approve of. Pop is full of silly cartoons and Power Rangers. The thing I hate the most is all the adverts. The toys look amazing and Harriet will ask for every single thing that comes on…Mostly my reply is ‘nope’. The reality of those toys is always a disappointment. I’m pleased to say we don’t have Sky or cable so I avoid a lot of the channels on offer.

Harriet’s got to the age now which gives me a twinge of sadness. She says that most of the things on Cbeebies are ‘for babies’ and won’t entertain them, I could’ve cried when she first snubbed Night Garden. There endeth my baby.

The plus side means I get to watch CBBC which has taught me more stuff than school ever did. I’m turning into a Horrible Histories super fan. Watching a Charles Dickens parody in the style of Morrisey is awesome.

I think I’ve got many more blogs in me about things I wasn’t going to let Harriet do. Then again without kids TV I’m not sure I’d ever have written a single thing. So cheers Cbeebies just cancel Bing will you?

 

Be a square peg in a world full of round holes.

me n bo

I’m a bit odd. I don’t quite fit in….and that’s ok. I don’t really mind!
It took a long time for me to become comfortable with my little bit of weird, but now I try to embrace it and I will encourage Harriet to do the same.

Last week I found myself buying matching dresses for Harriet and I. As I did, I heard a voice in my head say ‘Hang on….is this a cool thing to do?’  I faltered momentarily, thinking how this would look to ‘other people’ before remembering I’ve never been cool my entire life, so I  shouldn’t start worrying about it now.

Harriet’s still at that wonderful age where she does what she wants, wears what she wants and says what she wants. I am very aware thamad bot this is fast approaching its demise. As she grows up she’ll be surrounded by peer pressure, media and all sorts of lifestyle bullshit that shouldn’t (and doesn’t) really matter but somehow in everyone’s mind does.

I am going to try my very best to make sure she is completely comfortable with who she is. She is a little firecracker with plenty of weird and I’d love to see her grow up with that strong inside her. She’ll have to grow a hard shell though and I’ll help her by letting her know how fabulous she is every day.

For years I was acutely aware I didn’t quite fit in. Don’t get me wrong I had good friends, but I mostly went round feeling a little bit awkward. I was the girl that bought a bunch of daffodils to school, who wore pink gingham well into her late teens and who once got the piss taken out of her mercilessly because she was wearing jazz shoes in school (I was in a dance lesson for God’s sake).

At my freestyle dance class I really stood out as the weird kid. They were all uber trendy with their eyeliner, perms and neon cycling shorts. I was the ballroom dancing geek (because this was before the ‘Strictly’ era) who ‘couldn’t even go into a backwards crab’ (it mattered for some reason). I remember them having a summer fancy dress thing and everyone came as a slutty (insert noble profession here), I went as a non slutty Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. That kind of summed my time up there really.

Even in my adult life I’ve always worried about what people would think of me, but I’ve never quite worried enough to change. I can honestly say I don’t bow to peer pressure and I don’t follow the crowd, but this still doesn’t sit easily with me. I want to be invited on the nights out I wouldn’t really want to go to. I want to join in the dreary conversation about something crap on TV I didn’t even watch. I want to belong, even though I don’t belong.

After years of worrying that I don’t act the same or look the same as everyone else, I started to realise this is a good thing. The friends you do make are genuine as they like you just as you are no pretending involved.
These days I may call you up to ask what you’re wearing, because old habits die hard, but really I won’t give a shit that I don’t look the same as you.

I’m going to wear my cat ear headband or fancy buckle shoes. It’s not because I want to say ‘Hey look at me!’ it’s simply because it’s what I like. I might not quite know what to say when invited to a girly night because I can’t really keep up with all that girly crap that comes with it, but I can probably interject with an inappropriate comment every now and then.

My conscience often likes to remind me that I’m probably making a fool of myself. My brain still has the teenage angst of people looking at me. I need to throw myself into things as whole heartedly as I can and break through the self-conscious barrier that has built up over so many years.

The main reason I’m trying to be more comfortable with who I am is so I can be a great example to Harry. I can show her you can remain weird throughout your teens, through plenty of workplaces and social situations and people will like you because of it not in spite of it and you’ll get a good collection of fellow wierdos to call your own too.

Who wants to be like everyone else anyway.

The house that became a shrine… …to tiny plastic crap.

toys

When David and I first moved in to our own home it was filled with a mish-mash of furniture. Things people had given us paired with Ikea specials. We were so pleased with our little house and over the years we made it perfect.
One by one the hand-me-down furniture got replaced with plush settees, sleek units and beautiful objet d’art. We had cream carpets and bedding. It was spotlessly clean and surfaces were clear of clutter.

When we had Harriet, we quickly realised that our little two up two down wasn’t quite big enough to accommodate all the stuff that comes with a baby. The clear surfaces slowly started filling up with sterilisers, blenders and all sorts of paraphernalia. The once spacious kitchen was half occupied by a gigantic jumperoo that we had to squeeze around. As for the cream carpets… let’s just say they didn’t stay cream for long.

I informed everyone that Harriet would have tasteful wooden toys that matched our décor and beautiful patchwork teddies that would sit at the end of the pristine cot… Of course this doesn’t happen, as your small child grows so does the amount of shit you have to accommodate, mostly it’s plastic shit… unmissable plastic shit.
Firstly, at Christmas and birthdays, people who you thought were friends start to buy your child gaudy plastic toys, normally noisy too with flashing lights. Harriet wanted to play with those, not the wooden train or patchwork bunny. Often the shiny noisy toys would get ‘lost’ or ‘run out of battery’ very quickly… who knows how??

The cot got covered with Frozen stickers and felt tip. The amount of cleaning I did halved. Mainly due to parental guilt, also to do with being knackered.

When Harriet turned three we decided it was time to move into a bigger property so we could reclaim the room we had lost to plastic kiddy shite. The new house had a bigger garden, a second lounge and an

lego Llamaextra floor. Surely she couldn’t fill this.
After 18 months the house was full. We have a lurid pink play kitchen in the lounge. A huge craft chest stuffed next to the settee and more wicker baskets than I can shake a stick at. They are full of cuddly toys (which loom at you from all directions), dressing up clothes and board games.  
I’ve also found out that the general rule is – the bigger the child gets, the smaller the toys become. My Little Ponies live in their plastic castle surrounded by their minuscule accessories. Lego gets scattered around all three floors and you always miss a bit when tidying up. You find it when it jabs in the foot when you are going to the loo at 3am. 
 Carpets are never really clean again as they have been embedded so deeply with glitter and play doh.
Then there’s Shopkins (which I refuse to buy, but there you go with presents again…) tiny plastic pieces of crap that look like shopping. How mundane – there will be toy gas bills soon! Then party bag nonsense and free gifts off the front of magazines, all designed to break, get lost and litter your once beautiful home.

The bigger garden is now dominated by an adventure playground. Harriet’s Daddy built it with love and she’ll play on it daily, but it does mean I have to avoid the slide when I’m pegging washing out and sunbathe below the monkey bars. Navigating my garden has become like a physical challenge from the Crystal maze !!

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I’d already like to move in to a bigger house, but actually I know the shiny plastic crap would come with and just breed to fit it (Shopkins are randy little buggers!).

Let’s get physical. A foray into the sweaty world of excersise

yoga

Exercise is a tricky one. I exercise and I enjoy it. I’m fairly fit now, but it’s not always been the case….

As a child I danced, but when I stopped, the weight started to creep on.
I think most people want to be a little slimmer or more toned and so did I. The problem I had is that I really liked food. Giving up cake was never an option. So over the years I’ve dabbled with a fair few exercise regimens.
There was the phase where I joined the gym. It was a chore. I disliked the communal changing rooms, the pumping music, and the mirrors. What’s with all the mirrors?
The only thing I liked about the gym was the toasties, and the fact I could snigger at the Zen like yoga teacher.
I tried to follow the whole ‘fake it till you make it’ ethos and pretended to get into it.

One evening the gym was bustling and I found my way on to the only free treadmill. I started at a walk, then picked the pace up ‘till I was doing a fancy little trot (because I can’t run). ‘
Yeah!’ I thought. ‘I’m looking good’.
Suddenly I felt something working their way down my trouser leg. Before I could do anything ,a pair of renegade pants broke free, sped down the treadmill and flew on to the mirrored wall behind me. They slid into an inelegant heap on the floor, next to the busy water cooler.
I nonchalantly stopped the treadmill, picked up the pants (realising I had nowhere to put them) and made a swift exit.
After that, I didn’t really want to venture back.
 The valuable lesson I learned was to give your laundry a good shake when you get it out of the dryer.

I swam for a while, but the local swimming baths are full of floating plasters and the threat of verrucas. Normally a small child would dive bomb on my head. The sight of some of the people in there meant that David and I were well aware we were probably swimming in an elaborate testicle soup. We stopped going before we succumbed to dysentery.
I tried step classes. I managed three. I was genuinely convinced that it could only end in a snapped ankle. Not the up-down, up-down I was expecting. It was a mental foray of skippy moves. Leaping over this big grey hulk of plastic like a bleedin’ leprechaun.
When spinning became a thing I was rather hoping it would involve twirling around in circles with a 90’s Head bag, much like I did at school, but no. Spinning involved going on a bike and literally going nowhere…except maybe to Hell.
A short stout man who looked much like Dominic Littlewood barked orders at you from the front, which I chose to ignore. ‘Take it up a notch’…nope. ‘Stand up’…..nope.
At the end of the hour I thought I was going to pass out. 
`
As I stood, tactfully telling my friend I probably wouldn’t be joining her again, the Dom-a-like strode up to me looking triumphant. ‘Enjoy it did ya?’ he laughed. Before I could respond with a non-offensive reply, he grabbed my hips, wobbled them like they were some kind of pink blancmange and proclaimed ‘You’ll soon get rid of this’.
Stunned and still wobbling slightly, I backed off.
On a positive note, my friend fully understood why I didn’t want to return.
Cheeky bugger. I was thinner than he was!

Several more failed gym attempts, bike rides that ended with me being in a ditch of nettles and soul destroying classes. I decided to stop trying.

football
By this point David and I had decided to try for a baby. This wasn’t straightforward, as a genetic disorder meant we’d need a rare kind of IVF called PGD. There’s a whole different blog for this, and now isn’t the time. The first attempt failed and we had to go for a debrief at Guys Hospital. The doctor said ‘All I can suggest, is you get as fit and healthy as you can, and be happy’.

I remember driving home with David saying ‘what can I do? What do I enjoy that will keep me fit?’ and out of nowhere David stated the obvious ‘You used to dance right?’ Of course I used to dance!

Starting dancing again was one of the best things I had ever done for myself.
Why do we give up childhood hobbies? Life gets in the way of what is fun and before you know it, you’re robot just getting by.
Dancing helps me get my identity back. When I am there, I am Paula, not just Harriet’s Mum, or Dave’s wife or ‘That librarian, who won’t let me eat crisps’.
I’ve met some lovely people and I enjoy every second. It can be hard, I can wake up aching all over, but it’s totally worth the pain.
I’ve been turning up for over six years now, so I think it’s a stayer. Also it made me fit, healthy and happy which meant my second round of IVF worked.

At Christmas I received a Fitbit, which was a bloody good job as I’d been hinting for one for quite some time.
I decided in a fit of enthusiasm to start jogging. After thirty seconds pounding the icy streets, I had to slow to a walk. ‘No worries’ I thought. ‘I’ll build up’.
Still buoyant I purchased some fancy trainers online.
The next time I ran, I realised I wasn’t enjoying it at all and that I should only run if it’s away from an angry dog or towards an ice cream van.
If anyone wants to buy some fancy running trainers they’re yours for £20 as new.
Six months on and I still wear my Fitbit. It nags me to walk more and I have upped my steppage because of it. I also monitor my workouts at dancing and Zumba. I can totally see why I dropped two stone when I first started going. I suppose that’s the obvious trick to exercise isn’t it. Do something you enjoy in the first place and it’s not even like work. So if you are thinking of starting some new fitness thing, think back to your childhood. Go dancing or ice skating, play netball or just skip around. It’s a whole lot better than losing your pants at the gym.

The fable of the perfect parent

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Harriet started school this year, which means I come in to contact with a lot more parents than I ever did before. I like talking to other parents. I also enjoy seeing all the different types of people and their relationships with their children. Clingy mums, shouty mums, busy mums, cheery mums, perfect mums and my favourite, flawed mums. No judgement of any, at some point we are all of these things and more.
When Harry was little I took her to various baby groups. I was always shocked to see how well presented some of these mothers were. One mum rocked up to every session in six inch heels, flawless makeup and bejewelled cardigans, not a hair out of place. How the hell did she find the time to do that?! She turned up in her sparkling clean car with her perfectly turned out child and spoke of delightful baking days, crafting and no T.V ever. I used to leave feeling like a failure. I’d not managed a shower, these jeans were out of the wash basket and Harriet was ripping the fire extinguisher off the wall. In my warped brain, I was meant to be like glamorous mum too.

I am not organised. I thought having a child would somehow have a chemical reaction on my brain which would change this. It did not. I am still not organised and now I have more things to forget. I would leave the house without wipes, changes of clothes, snacks….the list went on and on. I relied on organised mums to lend me stuff. One friend even loaned me her ‘third spare buggy’ on one trip. I couldn’t even remember to bring one!
I’m pretty sure the reason I breastfed for so long was because at least I couldn’t leave the house without my boobs (nipple pads on the other hand).

To me, other mums had it all sorted out. When they baked flour didn’t end up in every single room of the house, eggs got cracked perfectly into the bowl and their child never ever ate all the mixture before it got anywhere near the oven. Crafting days were contained to a kitchen table, probably covered with a wipeable Cath Kidston tablecloth. Glitter was never spilled, sequins stayed in their little pots and glue was used responsibly. Other mums didn’t go on Facebook and let their child binge on Cbeebies, and they all made their children eat organic quinoa which they gobbled up.….no, not gobbled, because they had impeccable table manners. Other mums didn’t stop visiting Supermarkets because it was too much of a rigmarole and never wanted to run away and have two minutes peace so they could eat their child’s chocolate.

I drove myself crazy trying to be the perfect mother. Trying to do everything. Until eventually I realised there’s no such thing as a perfect mother, just the illusion. Looking like you know what you’re doing is all smoke and mirrors, some people are just better at pretending than others.

That’s why I like the obviously flawed mums. They make me feel better about life and they aren’t pretending. Every morning I see the same family running down the street to school, pink faced and breathless, sometimes a child is crying, sometimes the cardigan is buttoned up wrong. That family make me smile and I love seeing them. You’re awesome nearly late woman!
I like to see people having to physically drag their children down from trees, or embarrassed because their child has just called someone something inappropriate.

At baby group I wanted to talk to the woman with a bit of sick on her shoulder who looked like she’d not slept for a week. I enjoy hearing funny stories and exchanging embarrassing anecdotes. I firstly warmed to one woman because her hair looked a bit greasy and I felt a solidarity with her as my hair was being held together with dry hair shampoo.

It’s great not being perfect and it great to not pretend. I find people with stories the most fascinating, funny and relatable people I know. I like that we can go out for drinks together, lose half the night to Prosecco and admit the next day that we pretended to be asleep so the husbands would have to get up early. I like hearing stories about the time you totally lost your shit because the Play Doh got trod into the new carpet or bloody glitter got bloody everywhere and you ended up in a job interview sparkling like a Twilight Vampire.

As for the uber perfect Mums all I can say is, calm down a bit love, Shakespeare was wrong, the worlds not a stage. Leave the eyeliner and Gucci bag at home sometimes and admit you feed your child fish fingers. That way we’ll all feel better.

 

I Dream of Sleep.

Bo's Bed

 

I’ve never been the world’s best sleeper. My brain has always liked to gently nudge me awake at 3am to remind me of all the things I could have said or done differently over the past thirty years. Some of the witty retorts my sleepy brain has produced are pure brilliance. If I only had a time machine, that person in 1994 would get the clever put down they deserved.

I have a hazy recollection of thinking up the premise to some fantastic story during one sleepless night. I got all excited. This was dynamite. J.K Rowling would’ve had nothing on me! I got to the point where I was thinking about what I would spend my film royalties on before I fell back to sleep, confident this piece of literary gold would still be in my head by the morning. Of course when I woke, it had disappeared along with the night. I really should take a pen and paper to bed, or a Dictaphone in case I’ve been lying on my writing hand funny.

Even though I’ve always been a light sleeper, it’s become much worse since having Harriet. Anyone with children will know that sleep is greatly affected once you’ve had a child. First its night feeds, crying and getting used to those weird dinosaur sounds babies make that no one tells you about.  Eventually you fall in to one of two camps. The first camp have children that sleep. They like to brag about it on social media, ‘look at me. Fresh as a daisy with my sleepy little cherub, still snoozing at 9am’.  It’s just smug. The second type, have children who refuse to sleep for allll time. It leaves you foggy brained, sleepy eyed and a wreck of a human being.  The stringing together of an intelligible sentence requires real effort and you may leave the house with your skirt tucked in your pants.

At around six months old Harriet put a self-imposed embargo on sleep. I’ve been told this will end at a few points over the last few years…when she stops night feeds, when she starts nursery and the Holy Grail ‘She’ll sleep when she starts school’. Does she buggery. When Harriet goes to bed, she is still full of energy. She’ll demand drinks and request toilet visits to stall for time. The bedtime story has become longer and longer until I’m basically reading War and Peace before she settles down.  An hour later, I triumphantly creep out of the room and head downstairs for a celebratory cup of tea. On occasions Harriet has been known to silently leave her room.  A while later, I’ll open the lounge door and shit myself as I am faced with her standing motionless and menacing on the stairs, like she’s an extra in The Shining. I’ll ask her, ‘what are you doing out of bed’ and she’ll reply in an ethereal sing song voice ‘I want you to stay with me, forever and ever’. That’s my restful night’s sleep gone for another week. Children are creepy at times.

Harriet never sleeps in her own bed all night. She has the most beautiful, hand crafted fairy bed to sleep in. It was a labour of love by her father, especially done to encourage magical slumber in her own room. Awesome bed or not, at some point during the night she’ll wake up and tiptoe into our room. However such a small child takes up so much space in a big bed is beyond me, but she’ll soon starfish her way to a good two thirds of the mattress, by which time David is hanging off the edge and I’m squished between the two of them, normally with Harriet’s toe in my ear, or elbow in my ribs. My legs are so bruised from all the night time fidgetiness that they look a bit like an inner city road map. I’ve even tried moving beds in the middle of the night to avoid the situation, but needless to say the next morning, I have my spiky little companion kicking me in the shins and winning the duvet war. On the very rare occasion Harriet does sleep in her own bed. I awake with mild panic as to why she isn’t there, and normally end up going in to her room and unintentionally poking her awake to make sure she’s ok.

I can’t remember the last time I woke up refreshed. I sleep so badly I am now ageing in dog years and there are occasions when I’ve recoiled in horror at the mirror and wondered who the hell summoned Beetlejuice during the night. Normally my morning routine will consist of me jabbing at my face with various make up brushes until I look less like the living dead, drinking coffee and handling an exuberant four year old, whilst I feel like dying of tiredness is an actual possibility. Sometimes my first thought in a morning is ‘I can’t wait to go to bed tonight’ not that that works, as soon as my head hits the pillow, old brain is there with replays of unfortunate incidences past.

I’m sure in time Harriet will stop wanting to come in to our room and I’m certain I’ll end up missing her terribly. Mind you, then I’ll have no one but myself to blame for my poor sleep. Maybe I’ll have to try lavender baths and copious amounts gin.