An update

It’s been a long time since I’ve published anything here – although not a long time since I’ve written anything – and my friends have convinced me that it’s not disloyal to write about the things we’ve been experiencing. Originally I started the blog to ask the questions no one else wanted to admit they were asking and to connect with other people who were going through the same thing. My friends suggested that maybe that’s even more important when things are ‘different’ in some way.

I’ve spoken before about Ted’s speech and language delay. I can’t remember how much I’ve said about trying to get help, but it’s been a long process. Ted’s also now been diagnosed with epilepsy and I intend to write more about that, the tests he had and the ways it’s affected us all. We’re going through the school admissions process too so there’s plenty more to say.

Throughout all of these battles we’ve got Ben developing at a rate of knots, running circles around us and driving us all crazy. He’s clever and mischievous and stealthy and fearless. He spends his time climbing things, taking toys off his brother and taunting him with them, and bringing me books to read. He’s so different from his brother.

I’ve promised my friends I’ll write again and so this is the proof that I intend to do it.

Soon, I promise.

Soon.

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New Year’s Eve

I don’t usually mark New Year but this year has seen a lot happen to us and I haven’t found (or made) time to record it.

I do intend to write about the things we’ve been going through – I have several posts started, actually – but for now I just wanted to say that I am still here, I hope you have fun celebrating or get a good night’s sleep if you’re not, and I’ll be back in 2015.

I hope 2014 has treated you well more often than not.

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Silent Sunday

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Working and parenting and stressing and worrying

You may have noticed (or more likely have not) that I haven’t updated this blog for a long time, short of a few silent sundays. The reason is that I’ve gone back to work. And gone through the horribly stressful process of applying for another job and taking it on as an addition to my previous one.

I’ve gone from having decided, when Ben was around four or five months old, not to work at all to having two jobs seven or eight months later.

My first job was two and a half days and this new one has taken me to four days, but as it’s a teaching position it also brings with it the planning, marking and paperwork I had happily left behind when I was pregnant with Ben.

I feel very conflicted because I need the experience in order to be able to relocate in a couple of years (primarily for the boys’ education), the money is obviously particularly helpful with two boys and it makes me feel like a well-rounded adult with more to think about than nappies and potties, but then I’m away from the boys a lot even when I’m at home.

And, honestly, even when I am at home I’m so tired I find it difficult to entertain them as much as I’d like.

I spend as much time in the day at work as I can so that I don’t have to bring too much home but as term had started three weeks before I did, and as there was no one to take over from, I’m still catching up on the planning and paperwork that would usually have taken place over the summer.

The boys are looked after by daddy, nanna and nursery during the four days I’m at work and they’re all mine on the day I’m not. At the weekends we see various relatives, go swimming and to the park, and generally roll around on the floor as much as we (I) can stand. There’s also telly. Good old telly.

I don’t have anywhere to call a study or an office. I don’t have a desk. There’s not even space for a mess of organised chaos. Everything has to get stacked up and put out of reach of young boys and then pulled out again in the evenings when they’ve gone to bed.

I’ll admit it’s hard work. Hence no writing here for a while.

I get the itch. I see things in the news and I want to come here and write about it. I think of a milestone one of the boys has reached (Ben’s pulling up, Ted’s starting to speak more) and I want to share it, or to complain about the Health Visitor’s view of it, and I want to praise the people who are giving me so much support (big up the SureStart centre!) but I barely have time to wash my hair anymore. Even dry shampoo can’t save me.

But I generally love it. I might say I don’t and I might cry (a lot) when I realise just how much I need to do, but I do know how lucky I am to be able to do this and to have people around who can make it possible.

So I’ve got a dirty kitchen floor. I haven’t read a book in the bath in months. I can’t be there for all of the bumps and scrapes and tears.

But I will be able to afford the occasional trip to the zoo. So long as they can wait til the summer holidays…

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Silent Sunday

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Sometimes I’m a terrible parent

When I used to dream about becoming a Mum – and I did, regularly – I had something of a romantic vision of myself as fiercely protective and tirelessly supportive. I knew it was going to be hard at times but I also knew I was going to be good at it because it was what I was made for; all I’ve ever wanted.

Fast forward however many years and I have two boys who compose the very soul of me. The thought of being parted from them brings on such a desperate tightness that I can’t even begin to try to make sensible plans for emergencies. I love them so much I not only can’t put it into words but I can’t even comprehend it. All of the cliches are true.

Except the one we’re supposed to subscribe to about how natural motherhood is. That one is just a big fat lie.

There are, of course, lots of things that are blindingly obvious and that we can’t fail to get right: remembering not to leave them on the bus, for example. (Although, actually, I do know someone who didn’t manage that… Maybe these things aren’t universal.)

But in reality parenting isn’t all instinctive. We learn a lot from our own childhood and our experience of being parented, or not. We learn from other parents around us, even if what we’re learning is what not to do. We learn, or we think we learn, the standards we’re going to raise our children by long before we have them, and then we realise how wrong we were to think parenting was going to be quite that black and white once they’re there to be parented.

I knew there would be days when I wouldn’t give the boys my full attention or I wouldn’t want to take them to playgroup or I wouldn’t cook them three meals from scratch and I thought that was going to be my experience of bad parenting. Now any or all of those things can happen in any given day and I don’t even blink. It’s not terrible parenting to have to do other things: it’s real life.

Now the times I feel like a terrible parent are the times when a film finishes and even though we’ve all been plonked in front of it for an hour I still put it back on when Ted asks to see it again, and we still don’t move for another hour because I just can’t find the energy or the inclination; or the times when I not only cook chips and turkey dinosaurs for Ted but also give them to Ben; or the times when I’ve been pushed and pushed to my breaking point and I’ve snapped at one or both of them and then pretended to need the toilet while I sob into the loo roll.

I was talking to a friend recently about how much we hide. I’ve always tried to write honestly in this blog because that was the whole reason I started it: to tell the truth about pregnancy, childbirth and parenting. I don’t know whether it’s the same for Dads (although I suspect it’s somewhat easier for them to admit their self-perceived “failings” by referring to the stereotypical expectations of the bumbling father) but we seem to expect Mums to just know what they need to do and get on with it, even if they’ve got a headache or they’re exhausted or they’re just plain pissed off. We’re supposed to put our own feelings aside while we fight for our offspring and shine with an inner strength that’s somehow instilled in us during magical pregnancies.

I can’t always do that. I can’t live up to those ridiculously high expectations and I don’t think I’d be a great parent if I could; I think I’d be an exhausted emotional wreck.

My friend and I, after many confessions and “I do that too!” exclamations, concluded that we’re definitely not the only ones saying our kids had tomato pasta when they had spaghetti hoops or that we’ve sat and watched the Lego Movie together when it’s actually been playing on a loop and we haven’t got dressed for three days.

What it leads me to suspect is that either we’re all terrible parents or, actually, that none of us are.

I’ll never be perfect but, as I said recently, there are days when OFSTED would label my attempts as ‘Good with Outstanding elements’.

And if all else fails at least I’ll always have my friend’s reassurance that my parenting is, at the very least, no worse than hers.

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Birthday banners

It’s Ted’s third birthday tomorrow. I don’t even know where to begin with that. 20140721-184413-67453408.jpg
We’re having a party in a local Scout hut this weekend (I just have too many nephews to fit everyone in my tiny house) and so to make it look a bit more like a party than a Scout hut Ted and I have been making banners.

We’ve tried a couple of different methods of mess-making but this has to be my favourite so far: spray painting. Not with spray cans; just paint mixed with water in spray bottles. 20140721-104138-38498411.jpg
We started off with a small pump-action spray bottle from a travel set but although it worked well Ted found it really difficult to actually use the pump. The best way he could do it was to turn it upside down and bash it. You can imagine how accurate that was. 20140721-184637-67597530.jpg
Yesterday I had a look in Jysk, a store I actually dislike immensely, and discovered some little coloured spray bottles for 50p each. I bought one of each colour, poured in some paint and added water. I have no idea what kind of measurements I used as I just made it up as I went along. It really depends what kind of effect you want, although the thickest one was about three parts paint to one part water and works really well.

I cut out a big number three and used the rubbish kind of glue stick you can pick up in bargain packs of about fifty for a pound. This is what I use when I do template painting on a smaller scale and use both the backing and the numbers/letters, but actually I found Pritt Stick better on this large scale when I did it again later.

Next I stuck the big piece of paper with the big number three to the outside wall of my house and stuck a carrier bag underneath to catch the drips. 20140721-185138-67898771.jpgTed currently loves nothing more than being in the garden in a tshirt and pants so that was perfect for the mess-making experience. 20140721-103506-38106168.jpgNext we simply shook the bottles up and got on with spraying. I tried to wipe any splashes off the upvc as quickly as possible but I found that it was only the purple that was a problem. It might be worth testing this out on the surface you’re going to use if you decide to try this.

20140721-103622-38182763.jpgThe pictures we made with the small bottle came out better because they were done flat on the floor but I wanted to see what the drips would look like with these thinner paints. I couldn’t use the numbers themselves, although if they’d been made of card they might have been better, because the paints were watered down to such an extent that they just fell apart when I peeled them off. If you use thicker paint you can peel them off in one piece if you do it as soon as you’ve finished and you’re really careful.

20140721-103938-38378483.jpgBecause I’d wanted to experiment with drips the shape didn’t hold too well but it’s clear enough to use. The thicker paint in the smaller bottle and the paper laid flat worked much better.
Later we decided to try these watered down spray paints again with the paper flat on the floor and it definitely worked better, although I think Ted did find it easier when it was on the wall.

20140721-185749-68269504.jpgMy favourite so far has been using the letter templates from our earliest attempts (with the pump action spray) to make a hanging banner. I took the letters and stuck them on to pieces of file dividers so I could use the punched holes to thread ribbon to hang them. I can’t wait to see how this looks (it had better work!)

20140721-190000-68400817.jpgWe got in a real mess making these banners and we’ve made plenty more too. We started a couple of weeks ago so there was no pressure and we’ve had a lot of fun getting paint everywhere.

20140721-190109-68469598.jpgLuckily we’ve had beautiful sunshine recently and we’ve been able to take our mess outside. And what better way to get clean than in a giant bucket of water?

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Happy birthday, big Ted. They’ve been the best three years of my life. 20140721-200232-72152286.jpg

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Silent Sunday

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Silent Sunday

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Silent sunday

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