20 whole years

It was a Friday night, and I was on my way to meet two friends in London. The plan was to meet for a quick drink and then have dinner, but then Friend A calls to say that the pubs are full of PEOPLE……young people at that. There is loud MUSIC and she can’t hear a thing. What’s more…..there are no SEATS. None of this will do at all – we are in our late 30s and beyond standing up in crowded pubs. And Friend B is really quite pregnant.

We agree just to meet at the restaurant. This suits me fine because as well as my handbag, I have a big bag for life full of children’s puzzles and games….and if there is no room to sit down in the crowded pubs then there’s definitely no room for my giant bag. The full bag for life is now customary whenever I meet these particular friends – Friend A has two children a bit younger than mine, and is therefore the recipient of many of my boys’ old clothes, shoes and toys.

I arrive at the restaurant, and Friend A is also clutching a bag which isn’t a handbag. Her bag contains a mobile (a hanging thing, that is…..not a phone) which was a gift when my biggest boy arrived (from Friend B and another friend, as it happens). I passed the mobile onto Friend A once we had finished with it, and she is now passing it back to Friend B; so it has gone full circle which is rather lovely.

I met these girls when we started university back in 1998, and now here we are in 2018 – 20 years later – swapping bags for life containing Orchard toys and baby mobiles and discussing children’s toileting habits as if this is a totally normal topic of conversation (which it is, isn’t it?).

On the one hand, I’m sure I can’t be old enough to be able to talk about a significant event having happened 20 years ago; but then when I think about Friend A calling to say that perhaps the pubs were too BUSY and too NOISY for a pre-dinner drink, I can’t deny that times have changed. Because 20 years ago, noise and too many people were actually quite appealing.

As the years have passed, we have gone from meeting for drinks to meeting for dinner; from venturing out with a little handbag to venturing out with a handbag, plus extra bags full of children’s clothes/games or baby equipment; from attempting to work out what we want to do career-wise, to realising that perhaps we’ll never work this out but will instead end up in jobs that probably wouldn’t have entered our heads 20 years ago because this is just where life has taken us. We have bought houses and found our little patches to call home. It feels like everything and nothing has changed.  To me, none of my friends from this time in my life look much different or seem particularly different – it just so happens that 20 years have passed and we now seem to fill our time doing grown up things.

I have a house, a job, and three little people who need me, and yet I frequently feel like I’m just playing at this being-a-grown-up malarkey and that one day I’ll be found out. A generation has been born and crossed over into adulthood since 1998, but to me my university days still feel relevant, important; and like they didn’t happen that long ago. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be back then, and actually……I’m still not too sure; but if I attempted to work this out now, it would fall very much into the bracket of ‘she’s approaching 40 / having a mid-life crisis‘ rather than ‘oh, she’s just taken a little while [like 20 years] to work out what she wants to be‘.

I seem to have a lot of big milestones approaching in the next year or so……20 years since starting university, 10 year wedding anniversary, 40th birthday. And big milestones make you think. They make you think about how one minute you are putting up posters in your student flat/house and then before you know it you seem to have acquired a house / flat / children / partner / National Trust membership; and started drinking a lot more tea……And about how you now sound like your mum, grandma, aunt and every other adult who, back when you were a very young person, used to tell you this very thing.

three boys and a tree

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Be gone, sickness bug

Twin 1

I’m home from school. I just want to play by myself. This isn’t like me…..I don’t usually want to play by myself. Why am I so quiet?

I feel sick. That’s what’s wrong. I feel sick.

Mummy! I don’t feel very well. My tummy feels sick.

I need a cuddle. And look how sad my face is. No, I don’t want anything for tea……or maybe just a plain breadstick.

Oh no. Oh no. I’m going to be sick.

Daddy

He’s going to be sick.

Twin 1

Poor me. I need another cuddle.

Twin 2

What’s that? He’s sick? And he’s just having a breadstick for tea?

What is for tea, mummy? Pasta and cheese sauce? But I’m POORLY, mummy! I AM POORLY! I just want a BREADSTICK, mummy! Only a BREADSTICK! I’m poorly and also I don’t LIKE the pasta!

Mummy

Oh no, please not sick.

Oh yes, sick.

But I have to be at work tomorrow. And I can’t catch this either. I really can’t. I can’t be ill.

And dinner’s ready. Is anyone going to want dinner?

No no you’re not sick, sweetheart. That’s your brother. You were poorly yesterday, remember? You’re feeling better today. No, you’re not just having a breadstick for your tea. You can have a breadstick with your tea. Now sit down please. Is anyone else coming?

Eldest boy

“Yes yes, I’m here! What is it? Ooh yes, yum. Pasta and cheese sauce, I love that…… What??? Sick??? Oh no. Oh no. I can’t stay at the table. I can’t be near him. I might catch it. What if I CATCH IT?! The last time I was sick, daddy caught it from me and then I caught it back from him and then daddy caught it back from me. I’m not going near him. I need to stay at least 15cm away from him at all times. At least 15cm

Mummy

He’s going to miss his superhero day at school tomorrow. How am I going to tell him this? He’s going to miss his superhero day, and I also really really need to go to work.

I’m so sorry, sweetheart, but you won’t be able to go to school tomorrow for Superhero Day. I know that’s going to be really disappointing.

Twin 1 

I’m so sad, all I can do is wobble my bottom lip and bury my head into mummy.

Mummy

This is rather lovely when he just wants to bury his head into me and have cuddles. It’s just a shame he’s sick.

Twin 2

Oh yes…..Superhero Day. Superhero Day tomorrow. I definitely don’t want to miss Superhero Day. So maybe I’m not poorly after all. But then I would quite like just breadsticks for my tea. This is impossible.

And look, now he’s sitting on mummy’s lap. This isn’t fair at all. I need mummy’s lap. I need to sit there right now. I’m just going to start clambering on top of him because I’m not well either. Although I will definitely be going to Superhero Day.

Mummy

There is a sick boy sitting on my lap. It’s a lovely cuddle but am I going to catch this? Are we all going to catch this? In fact, am I already feeling ill? I think I might be. Or is it just because I’m thinking about sick children? Is he going to be up in the night? Please say he’s not going to be up in the night. I know that’s selfish but can I do that, really? Being up in the night clearing up sick……I don’t know if I can. And I’ve got this work event on tomorrow too. It’s not his fault I know. It’s nobody’s fault. Shall I have a glass of wine? Will that take my mind off feeling sick? And what about Friday? I’m actually going out on Friday to one of my favourite ever places. I’ve got tickets. I’ve been looking forward to it for months. Please please please please, I CAN’T CATCH IT. Really just can’t…..or not in the next few days anyway. And preferably not next week either as that’s half term. Can willpower alone stop me from catching it?

Twin 1

It was my brother who made me feel sick, mummy. He did it at school.

Twin 2

Pleeeeeeeeeeeeease let me have just a breadstick for tea.

Daddy

Well if no-one else is going to eat it I might as well have that pasta. Then I’m getting ready for football.

Mummy

Oh let’s just pour the wine and hope for the best.

Get well soon, little one x

cuddlies.jpg

And let’s hope these little ones don’t catch it either.

The many faces of mum

The tears are great, huge puddles. Those tears you can see when they land. You can’t look at them, or you’ll start crying them too.

It is 7.45am and you know this mood – this mood that starts shortly after your child gets out of bed. This mood that nothing can calm until it decides it’s ready to calm itself. It might come before a big event – the first day back at school after the holidays, for example. Or, like today, the morning of a sharing assembly.

This morning, everything is wrong. Your already teary child misses his chance to lay the table because he is too busy crying over this morning’s choice of cereal. Then his brothers dare to get their own spoons out even though it is HIS turn to get everyone’s spoons. Then he is the last to get the fruit to go with his cereal, because he has been too busy crying over the spoon situation. Then there aren’t enough raisins in the bowl full of raisins. Then he realises that he won’t have time to play after breakfast because he has spent all of breakfast time and more crying over everything and nothing.

You try your hardest to stay calm – you are marginally better at this in the mornings than you are in the evenings. You try to be calm and firm and sympathetic all at once. You take him away from the situation but he won’t have it – he is wriggling and sobbing and fighting to escape as you try to give him a cuddle. And you sit at the bottom of the stairs struggling with a 5 year old, hoping that your other children will just sort themselves out and wondering whether this will be the morning that you have to phone the school and say I’m sorry, but I am actually incapable of getting my children out of the door.

You give up the struggle and he calms down a fraction, until it starts again over something else. And you try to find out whether there is something worrying him, but he says there’s NOT; it is just MUMMY making everything go wrong with his BREAKFAST. It is just all MUMMY’S fault.

Of course. At least now you know what the problem is.

And you need to get ready for work but you feel like you have done at least a day’s work already and no-one has even gone anywhere yet.

You would love to curl up and get back into bed. But everyone’s got to get to school and there’s the assembly to watch, and then it’s straight to work for you so there is no giving up and definitely no going back to bed.

The upset child drives some toy cars around and calms himself down – once his moment is over he is relatively quick to recover. It’s just that the moment itself lasts quite a long time.

You put on your ‘Morning! Yes we’re fine thanks‘ face as you leave the house; even though you feel like you’ve been put through a spin cycle and hung out to dry. But your children have got their coats, hats, book bags and water bottles; and they are happily walking to school. They are fine, you know that. But you also know that this slightly knotted up feeling right there, in the pit of your stomach, will be with you all day.

And your little ones give you the biggest hugs and say ‘See you at assembly, mummy‘. You see – everything is fine. No-one would even know about the heartache and the upset over a bowl of raisins and not having laid out the spoons.

Then you go into assembly and wear your proud but also slightly teary face, because you are convinced that this is what it was all about. It wasn’t about the raisins at all. And the assembly is joyful and brilliant and your children say their little lines and you just want to wrap them up in the biggest hug.

Then you get in the car and drive to work; and you allow yourself a little cry. Because so far today you’ve worn the I’m-doing-my-best-to-stay-calm face, the sympathetic face, the firm face, the ‘Morning! Yes, we’re fine thanks‘ face; and the proud-mum face and sometimes it just feels like too many faces.

Because you remember those big puddle tears and those angry little limbs.

Because you’ve got 5 minutes to yourself, and you can.

And then you get a tissue, dry the tears; and put on your work face. And you start the day again.

school run boys

Home

You ran into the house all excited with your little friend, who had come to play after school. As he walked through the door, the first thing you told him was that we had new blinds. These new blinds have been such a big event in our house, I don’t know why I’m surprised that you think everyone else will interested in them too.

When it comes to home improvements, we’re just…..well, a bit rubbish really. It is partly that we’re not much good at doing things ourselves, but also that we aren’t very good at picking up the phone and calling someone to do jobs for us either…..and that the thought of disrupting our routine to have a new kitchen fitted just seems a bit daunting. I know it’s possible to juggle work and family and house renovations, but it’s just not something that we do. So while we’re faffing about trying to make decisions over a couple of sets of blinds, friends are having walls knocked down, extensions put on, new kitchens, new doors, two rooms knocked into one…..you know, they are generally busy making their homes look lovely. Whereas I look at our house and think about all the things we could do if we put our minds to it; before sitting back down on the sofa.

I have been thinking about our home a lot lately and wanted to try and capture it for you. Because yes it is a bit cosy and noisy and chaotic; but we also love it. So this is it, boys, this is where we live…..

You walk in the front door to our slightly too narrow hallway, where you all fall over each other as you take your shoes off. Some people have lovely spacious hallways with tables and shoe storage and things…..well that is the dream, but for now we make do with tripping over each other and squabbling over who gets to open the front door. The walls are grubby and need a new coat of paint, but the hallway opens onto the dining room and the staircase and everywhere else so painting the hallway sometimes seems like too big a job because it involves painting half the house. So for now, the walls stay grubby.

If you turn right off the hall, that is our sitting room. This would be our logical mess-free grown-up space but it isn’t, because we’re not quite organised enough for that. There are various toys strewn across the floor, a beanbag which doesn’t have anywhere proper to live, and half a dozen soft toys which have made the beanbag their home. There are nice little features which we haven’t really managed to make a feature of, because they are too full of Lego and Playmobil and crates and boxes.

Leading straight off the hall is what should be a dining room, but what we call the middle room. I am looking around the middle room now. On the floor is a giant storm trooper helmet, two light sabers, a Brio bridge, tunnel and station, and Dog Bingo laid out as we are mid-way through a game. There is a dining table – occasionally this is used for eating at, but more often it is a dumping ground for unopened post, drawings, Bird Bingo, lists, reminders, water bottles, spare dressing up clothes and anything else which we plonk there ‘temporarily’. The middle room also contains a piano, which there isn’t really space for. The piano was given to us for free by someone who was moving to Australia, so it seemed too good an offer to turn down despite the fact that we had nowhere to put it. It desperately needs tuning – this has been on the to-do list for about three years. When the piano first arrived, mummy asked that it wasn’t used as another place to pile papers. The piano is, largely, used as another place to pile papers.

Under the stairs is the dream storage unit. The dream storage is often admired, and I feel quite proud of it – it is one of the only major things that we have had done to the house since we moved in (not that I installed it or anything, obviously). We thought the dream storage would solve all our storage issues; but we still don’t have anywhere to put anything.

And at the back of the house is the kitchen. When we first moved into this house, it felt like the dream kitchen. There was an island, and room for a table. I imagined clear worktops, space to bake, and a KitchenAid. And now, the island is an island of clutter. As well as the fruit bowl, scales and giant bell which we use to announce mealtimes because we got so fed up of no-one listening to us when we actually spoke; there are tins of biscuits, a panettone, treat tins, a jar containing conkers and pine cones, and, as of this week, two potatoes with googly eyes, and cocktail sticks sticking out of them. You 5 year olds have been making ‘Supertatoes’ at school…..I wasn’t anticipating you bringing them home.

In the corner of the kitchen is our kitchen table. This is where we eat most of our meals. Mealtimes at the kitchen table are generally full of squabbles about who is touching whose foot. On the wall by our kitchen table are a variety of vintage-y posters and postcards because we like that sort of thing. There is also a weekly to-do list which has never been filled in and which you boys are desperate for us to start using. You don’t understand why it is up when we never write anything on it……and you have a point. And there is a blue wooden plaque that says ‘Anyone can be a father. It takes someone special to be a dad.’ This is not our sort of thing at all – we are not into overly soppy statements. But eldest boy, you are a sweetheart and you chose it from your school ‘Secrets Room’ for Father’s Day…..so it is up. You think we love these, so much so that wesoppy words.jpg have two more upstairs: another one for daddy, and one for me which thanks me for always being there to pick up the pieces.

Above our kitchen window is some bunting which we put up when our friend was over from America. That was almost two years ago. We haven’t quite got round to taking it down.

Our fridge is covered in photos of nieces, nephews and friends’ children – they go up on the fridge and never come down. Some of these children are practically adults now. There are also key words, drawings of robots, and a Pudsey bear which the eldest boy coloured in about three years ago. Stuck up on our cupboards are drawings and paintings you boys have done – every so often I look at them and realise they desperately need updating now that you are capable of something a bit more visually pleasing than a splodge of paint on a piece of paper.

But let’s leave the kitchen and go upstairs, past the gallery of photos which are also desperately in need of updating as well as always being knocked off the wall. One frame got broken and hasn’t yet been replaced, so for now we just have the photo hook to admire instead. At the top of the stairs is where you boys like to fling yourselves down dramatically, exhausted after the tiring walk up the stairs. The second boy up will always trip over the one who has flung himself down, and then the boy who has flung himself down will scream that he’s been TRODDEN ON! I am always asking you not to fling yourselves down at the top of the stairs, but you all do it anyway. And here we are, outside our only bathroom. Every so often, you ask why we don’t have a downstairs toilet – this is another dream, along with the larger hall and new kitchen. I just hadn’t anticipated how much of an effort stairs would seem to small children who needed a wee. I’m sorry about that.

There are various posters along the landing, including a Blue Planet poster courtesy of the OU, a scratch-off map of the world, and our height chart. Height-wise, in January 2018 you are as follows:

  • Eldest boy – the longest green bean ever grown
  • Twin 1 – a munchkin
  • Twin 2 – a grass snake.

You boys have lovely bedrooms – bright and cosy and busy. Eldest boy, for 2018 you have a Planet Earth calendar, and 5 year olds you have a penguin calendar. The day I gave you your new calendars you reacted like I had given you the world. That made me happy. There are, however, little things in your rooms that need addressing. Eldest boy, your floor is covered in books – you desperately need some new book storage, as well as a wardrobe. Littlest boys, the bottom drawer of your chest of drawers has completely come apart. We are sorry about this, and at some point we will think about taking some action.

And now onto our room. I love the idea of a peaceful haven where I can relax after a tiring day. A room with crisp bedsheets and lovely lamps and a clear bedside table with nothing but a journal, a nice pen and the book I’m currently reading. We have not yet achieved this ideal. A key feature of our bedroom is the ever full laundry basket, which is a constant reminder of all the washing waiting to be folded/sorted and put away. Just behind the laundry basket is the giant bag of too-small-clothes to be sorted out. And just under the window is the enormous Christmas box, which hasn’t yet made it back up into the loft. We do, however, have new blinds in here too…..which I look at when the laundry basket is getting me down.

My dressing table has two giant piles of papers, unopened letters and cards made by you boys. I feel strongly that none of this should be thrown away, but not strongly enough to have sorted through it yet. I like to tackle it at the manageable pace of one item a day, but have realised that this doesn’t work when you are adding more than one item a day to the pile. Daddy’s bedside drawer is full of mysterious plugs, adapters, wires, earphones and more. I do not go near this drawer.

Everywhere I look in our house there are wicker baskets and plastic boxes and piles of papers to be sorted and put away…..only I’m not sure where. There is a whole drawer dedicated to takeaway menus (why, when we only ever really use two of them); and another full of instruction booklets for equipment we no longer own.

I would love someone to come and tell me how to organise our house. To tell me where we should put all the drawings and the crafts and the junk modelling and the photos. But also, well…..I also sort of love the chaos of our house. I love the fact that there is bunting up from two years ago. I love the fact that there are little stories practically everywhere I look.

And if I need to look at something perfect, well then I’ll just admire the blinds.

blinds

Back to school we go

It is back to school today, and the 5 year old twins have been asked to take in something that will remind them of their Christmas holiday.

“I am taking a pompom from New Year”, says Twin 1.

“I am taking a mask from New Year”, says Twin 2.

“But what do I say about my pompom, mummy?” asks Twin 1.

“Well why don’t you get dressed and then we can talk about it?”, mummy suggests.

“But I don’t know what I’m SAYING!!!” says Twin 1 as he rolls around on the floor.

“Just say what the pompom reminds you of, sweetheart. You danced with it at our little new year’s party, and you had your friend to stay – you remember. Now, why don’t you put your pants on?”

“But I can’t REMEMBER that, mummy. I can’t remember ANY of it.”

“I can’t remember how to do my tie up, mummy”, says the eldest boy with tears in his eyes.

“We’ll help you with your tie in just a minute, sweetheart.” says mummy to the eldest boy; before turning to Twin 1 and requesting that for now he concentrates on putting his pants on, and puts the Christmas holiday task out of his head.

Mummy is doing her best to use her most patient new-year-new-voice, voice.

“I’m going to take my finger torch as well” announces Twin 1.

“And I’m taking my finger torch”, says Twin 2.

“That’s not FAIR, he’s COPYING me!”, says Twin 1.

“I’m NOT copying you!” insists Twin 2. “It’s just a really good idea – I like it. It’s not because I’m copying you, I just want to take it.”

“Why are you discussing the Christmas task with them?” booms daddy, who is just about to leave for work. “Why don’t they just get dressed?”

“I am trying to get them to get dressed”, says mummy through gritted teeth and in her slightly less patient new year voice. “I didn’t bring up the Christmas task, they did.”

Mummy returns to the subject of pants with Twin 1, who is on the floor sobbing about pompoms and finger torches. Mummy understands that Twin 1 is feeling anxious about going back to school and that he is expressing this through his outburst about the Christmas task. She would still like him to put his pants on.

Mummy announces that no-one is taking finger torches and adds an imaginary line to the note that came home from school. The imaginary line states that twins must not take in the same item as each other.

Mummy then separates the twin boys in a bid to speed up the getting dressed process.

“But mummy!”, shouts Twin 1. “I can’t remember ANYTHING, mummy! NOTHING is going to remind me of my Christmas holiday!”

“Ok darling. Well just tell your teacher that then. Just say that you’ve forgotten all about your Christmas holiday and nothing will remind you of it” suggests mummy. “Shall we go and have some breakfast?”

“I’m going to take the tiger mask, mummy”, announces Twin 2. “Actually, the elephant. Or what about the lion? I’m putting my tiger mask on now. Do I look like a tiger, mummy?” he asks.

“Yes you do, darling”, says mummy.

“No he DOESN’T!” bellows Twin 1. Because he has BROWN HAIR, and he’s wearing TROUSERS! And he doesn’t have white paws.”

“Did you know that no two tigers are the same?” asks the eldest boy. “Like ladybirds.”

Everyone takes a moment to process this information. Mummy then prepares the breakfast and explains to her children that going back to school or work after a break is sometimes hard and that we all have to be kind to each other to make it easier.

The eldest boy and Twin 1 kick each other under the table and call each other names as mummy is explaining about being kind.

“If I take my tiger mask then I can tell everyone about my tiger onesie, can’t I mummy?” says Twin 2. “I know I can’t take my tiger onesie though”, he adds.

“That’s right, sweetheart”, says mummy.

“Wait a minute!” says Twin 2 urgently.”Or can I take my tiger onesie?”

“No onesies allowed, darling”, says mummy. “Shall we all put our shoes on?”

The children start putting their shoes on after at least 87 requests from mummy. Twin 2 announces that his shoes are too small, and the eldest boy panics about what to do with his playtime trainers – should they be in a bag or not in a bag? Should he take them out of the bag when he gets to school? He doesn’t need the bag as this will just be an extra item on his peg, so how will he get the bag back to mummy?

Mummy and her children leave the house.

“I am just going to say I did dancing with my pompom, mummy.” says Twin 1 as he walks down the path in his bobble hat. “That is all I’m going to say.”

Mummy’s heart breaks a little bit.

back to school

 

2017 was…..

I like to write an end of year post. Last year’s post ended ‘here’s hoping that 2017’s summary will be a bit more straightforward.

HA!

I won’t be writing that again.

Yet again, I struggled to know where to start with this one. Because, whatever was going on inside my own home, things outside mainly felt wobbly and uncertain.

This was the year that people were shaken, careful, and hyper-aware of what was happening and what might still happen in cities they knew and loved.

This was the year that we were once again reminded how lucky we are to have a roof, four walls, and warm beds. The year that you, Twin 1, regularly asked me what had happened to the people from the tower who had lost their homes. The year that you made me cry by asking me what those people from the tower would have for breakfast and where they could go for it. When you stood outside the house your friend was moving out of, and asked whether some of the people who had lost their homes would be able to move in.

Life isn’t quite as simple as you feel it ought to be.

2017 was the year that I occasionally ran out of patience whenever you commented that things ‘weren’t fair’. I know it’s not your fault – you can’t help the fact that you have a comfortable frame of reference.

And, although 18 whole months have passed since that referendum vote, still out of nowhere you, Eldest boy, ask me why and how it happened. And still I struggle to give you an answer. While you are pondering that, your little brothers are pondering ‘the wall’ – will Donald Trump really build it? Will anybody help him? What if the police find out?

But against the background of uncertainty, normal life went a bit like this….

About you:

This year, you turned 7 and 5.

For Christmas, Twin 1 you hoped for Star Wars figures. Twin 2 you hoped for a bobble hat. And Eldest boy, well you didn’t mind; but you got a Harry Potter hoodie and some games, which you declared ‘a dream come true’.

Eldest boy, you moved up to Junior School in September, and finally got the hang of your buttons and even your tie. Our next challenge is shoelaces….and your bike, in which you still have limited interest. This was the year you started your three year journal, which asks you a question every day. This has given me a fascinating insight into what goes on in that head of yours; my favourite being your answer to ‘Nobody knows that I…………’, to which you answered ‘don’t like pastrami‘.

It made me happy to think that this was your biggest secret.

You decided that duvet covers with cars and dinosaurs were too childish for you, and should be replaced by grown-up duvet covers with checks and stripes.

You continue to keep yourself amused primarily with a paper and pen – anything with potential for lists and tables is bound to be a hit. Your new interest this year was kings and queens. Your little brothers have tried to show an interest too, regularly asking whether Henry VIII is still alive, and whether Prince William chops people’s heads off.

You have a huge collection of train timetables, and draw endless maps of real and invented places – North Moor, Upper Moor, Ratford. There are so many imaginary worlds whizzing round your head.

Twin 1 and Twin 2 – you moved up to Year 1 in September, and for you school is still mainly about Lego, helicopters, and playing hide & seek at lunchtime. You have started calling each other ‘dude’, ‘bud’, ‘buddy’ and ‘mate’. You look embarrassed when you spot me listening, as if I’m intruding on your secret little buddy world.

Twin 1, you announced the other day that your first favourite thing is Elvis Presley, and your next favourite thing is roast potatoes. Well done Elvis for knocking potatoes off the top spot – that’s not an easy thing to do.

Twin 2, you are still my chief helper and an earnest little soul. The first to rush to my side whenever I ask for anyone to lay the table, or for help with the washing up.

2017 has been the year that you little boys have properly discovered Lego. Particularly you, Twin 1. You love to sit with your giant box of bricks constructing huge towers. Or houses. Or a vehicle with 15 sirens. I’m not really sure that school is your thing; but Lego definitely is.

And, having never been boys who enjoyed colouring, crafts or any sitting activities; this was the year that these suddenly clicked too – particularly for you, Twin 2. You now have a room full of rockets, ships and helicopters made out of cereal boxes and toilet rolls. I know that the moment I throw one away you will instantly ask for it, so for now they continue to take over the house.

Things you watched:

As well as watching Mary Poppins over and over and over, daddy introduced you to the Star Wars films. Now, your chatter is full of references to Darth Maul and Qui-Gon Jinn; and you littlest boys have talking Darth Vader and Stormtrooper helmets – Christmas gifts from your uncle and auntie – which are a little disconcerting when I am caught unawares.

We loved Paddington 2. In particular, I loved Paddington 2. If you haven’t seen it, you must. With children, without children. It is perfect.

But as well as Star Wars, Paddington and Mary Poppins; 2017 was your big Strictly Come Dancing year. You had never watched it before – mummy had always put you to bed and then watched it later – but this year we decided to do the whole ‘Saturday night family viewing’ thing. And oh my, how you loved it. You now play Strictly regularly, and squabble over who gets to be Craig ‘Gravel-Hall’ and whose turn it is to be Head Judge Shirley. I regularly find you practising your Viennese Waltz or your Charleston swivels, or standing at the bottom of the stairs saying ‘Here come our Strictly stars!‘ I once got told off by you, Twin 2, for not calling you ‘Giovanni’ when we were performing our jive. Strictly has taken over the last 3 months or so, and I have loved seeing how it has captured your imaginations.

Things you read:

This was the year that you, Eldest boy, discovered Harry Potter. You knew nothing of all the hype that surrounded these books, but were instantly sucked in. Just as I was beginning to fear that you might be starting to veer away from story books, it was a joy to see you reading first thing in the morning and then picking up your book again the moment you got home from school. Aged 38, I am now reading them to catch up with you.

We have tried to slow you down (you are itching to start Book 4), so you started the Narnia books. Magical worlds seem to be your thing – you wouldn’t put those down either.

And little boys, for you the reading has finally started to click this year. You often want to read your own books at bedtime – I am trying my hardest to be patient and let you. Some nights this is easier than others.

Out and about

We have loved running free in open space. I have realised how much you need this – more than playgrounds or structured activities; you need fields, hills, hedges, trees and sticks. We have explored woods and gardens. We have got ourselves up and out for early morning walks – as if we have a dog……which we don’t. We have done fun runs, children’s boot camps; and our new Sunday morning routine is Junior Park-Run. I have realised how much energy you need to burn in order for our days to be a success, and if this also involves fresh air then that’s even better.

Mummy’s year

The constant ‘I’m tellin mummy‘, ‘He called me a blue wacky doodah‘, ‘Mummy, he just said ‘oh my hecko‘ and ‘mummy, mummy, MUMMYYYYYYY’ has occasionally got too much this year, so I have attempted to do plenty of things that remind me of who I am outside of this chaotic house. I decided that 2017 should be a ‘book it’ year. Going to see things – plays, concerts, ballet – was a huge part of who I was pre-children…..and this would be the year I would start to get it back.  We even booked a spur of the moment mini-break – it might have rained (in Portugal), but it did make me realise that many of the things we used to enjoy are do-able again. Even if they are not quite as relaxing.

I finally got into the routine of taking my vitamins (resolution from two years ago, I think); and, having talked about it for at least seven years, we finally ordered our new blinds and ALMOST managed to get them fitted by the end of the year…..except that John Lewis had to re-schedule our fitting. At least it wasn’t our fault. I’m feeling semi-triumphant about the blinds; and my mission for 2018 is a new carpet for the living room. I don’t believe in big resolutions – I just end up letting myself down.

Thank you for reading this year, and here’s to a happy and peaceful 2018. Who knows what the new year will hold, but if you haven’t seen Paddington 2 – consider making that your resolution. I’ll be getting it on DVD.

The gift of a snow day

Many countries experience snow as an unremarkable part of winter. Daily life and routines continue as normal. But this is not the case in the UK, or in the south east of England at least, where snow is a major event – we walk around obsessively taking photos of it, we talk to passers-by about it. It even makes the news headlines.

Something funny happens on a snow day in the UK. Time seems to stand still. The streets are deserted. Cars are few and far between, as are people – so much so that they actually acknowledge each other with a nod and a smile when they do cross paths…..maybe even with words. Everyone expects everything to be cancelled, or at the very least extremely problematic. If you do make it to wherever you’re supposed to be going, people congratulate you and tell you how well you’ve done….which is quite nice. You feel like you’ve achieved something significant just by walking round the corner.

The whole day has a not-quite-real feeling about it. And, if you don’t have anywhere super-important that you need to be; if you’re not a shift worker or stuck on gridlocked roads trying to get home then actually, having your day wiped clear for reasons beyond your control can be quite refreshing……You’re not surprised to hear that your shopping won’t be delivered during your requested time-slot, and it doesn’t even really matter  – no, you’re not sure what you’re going to eat but everything is a bit of an adventure, your children are outside and happy and no-one really knows what the time is anyway. Your normal routine is temporarily suspended and, after weeks of rushing around with a thousand and one things in your head – costumes to make and raffle tickets to buy, Christmas fairs and carol concerts, end of term parties and preformances – what a pleasant change to be reminded that, for one day at least, none of it matters that much. How refreshing to remember that sometimes things are beyond our control. That we might not be able to do all the things we had planned but life goes on quite happily regardless. For a day at least, all that matters is building snowmen (or watching your children build snowmen); keeping warm and drinking tea.

Shutting down used to be what Sundays were for – the shops weren’t open, things actually stopped. But these days we never shut down. We keep going all week at an often unsustainable pace, unless we’re so ill we can’t move (and even then, we’ll do our best); or there’s a snow day. In this age of never shutting down or even slowing down, then perhaps having a snow day forced upon us occasionally is no bad thing.

So although it is seen as a bit of a joke that this country grinds to a halt at the very sight of snow, yesterday I was actually quite grateful for it. I was grateful to forget our plans and to watch my children throw and build and laugh and fling themselves down in this white, powdery, very cold stuff which falls so rarely. I was happy to warm up with a mulled wine as I watched them whizz down our slide in the garden into a pile of snow. I was happy that my biggest boy got to curl up on the sofa with his book without being rushed anywhere.  I enjoyed not knowing or really caring what the time was. And I was grateful for the reminder that very few of the things we rush around for actually matter that much.

We need to make the most of these days when time seems to be gifted to us; because before we know it, we’re back in the real world again. Racing around until the next snow day comes along.

snow day 1

PS If you did have somewhere very important that you needed to be, or if you were stuck on gridlocked and dangerous roads; then yes, I agree – the snow is a total pain.