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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 while we 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. 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

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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.

 

 

One of those weeks

Sometimes you have one of those weeks.

One of those weeks when the dishwasher is broken and you forget your son’s doctor’s appointment and everyone is getting ill.

One of those weeks when your husband can barely move because of his bad back and then discovers he can no longer work from home on his working from home/doing the school run day, which means you have to leave work early even though though you have a mountain piling up on your desk which you were really hoping to get through.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you’ve left work early to pick up the children, but then get home and realise you’ve locked yourself out. You empty out your handbag and your pockets in a desperate hunt for your keys and you try your neighbours who have a spare; but the neighbours aren’t in and you really need to go and get the children from school….even though you’re not sure where you’re actually going to take them once you’ve got them. So you set off for school ready to break the news and you look around for a friendly face and try to think of a plan. And you try to communicate with your husband to say there’s a little, actually quite a big problem and is there any chance he might be home a little bit earlier like he suggested this morning so that he could let you in the house; but he’s locked away working on high security things with no access to a phone, and the neighbours are out looking after their grandaughters and right now you have no way of getting into your house. Thankfully there are plenty of friendly faces and soon you are sitting down with a cup of tea and the children are on an unexpected playdate; but you’re still not sure how or when you’re going to get back home and you’re running out of answers for your children and your eldest one keeps reminding you that you promised him a new pack of MatchAttax and you try to tell him that MatchAttax aren’t your priority right at this moment.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you have to call your mum-in-law and say I’m-so-sorry-but-we’re-locked-out-and-the-neighbours-aren’t-in-and-your-son-can’t-get-home-and-please-could-you-drive-to-our-house-during-rush-hour-and-let-us-in.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you wonder whether there was some ‘how to be a proper grown-up’ test that you forgot to take because right now it doesn’t really feel like you’re doing a very good job at it.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you forget a doctor’s appointment and your dishwasher is broken and you lock yourself out of your house and work is non-stop…….and then your eldest child sits staring at his breakfast and announces he is too poorly to go to school. Just as you’re about to leave the house for work. And you thought you’d be on time today…..maybe even early. But now you’re in a panic and can your mum-in-law possibly look after him and how much more are you going to ask of your mum-in-law this week?

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you are behind at work and behind at home and then you open the book bags to discover you need to produce two robot costumes for the Christmas play.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when no-one will co-operate and get ready for school and you’ve had enough of hearing ‘He hit me with BATMAN‘ and no-one understands that you really need to leave the house NOW right NOW…..there is actually no more time to be building train tracks. You are shouting ‘SHOES‘ and ‘COATS‘ and ‘HATS‘ and ‘BOOKBAGS‘ but you might as well be shouting into the abyss because no-one is listening. And finally you’re by the door and about to leave when the 5 year old who has just been to the toilet looks at you anxiously and says he really needs to go again right NOW, he’s DESPERATE. So you shout even though you know you shouldn’t because you’re meant to be the calm one in all this craziness, and now you feel bad about shouting as well as feeling bad about running late. And you run to school and the boy who needed the toilet falls over and his brother has a stone in his shoe and you tell him you’re sorry but that will have to wait.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you get home from the manic school run and realise that the zip on your very favourite pair of boots has broken and that really is the last straw. Everyone knows how much you love your comfiest boots in the world ever. You really want to sit down and weep but you can’t because the dishwasher man is at the door ready to fix the broken dishwasher. So you let him in and make the coffee and find out that the dishwasher will cost £220.00 to repair. And as it’s been one of those weeks, this makes total sense.

But the worst thing is still the boots.

It’s been one of those weeks.

one of those weeks

Mummy away / Mummy at home – a tale in two parts

Part 1 – Away

Mummy is lucky enough to be having a weekend away. No husband, no children……just mummy and some friends.

Mummy sits down on the train and thinks about the fact that she has two whole days ahead of her which will not require her to be a human vending machine, or to attempt to answer three questions at once, or to repeatedly ask boys to blow their nose.

Mummy considers the fact that her bags contain her things, and her things only.

Mummy considers the fact that she will be able to talk freely and finish conversations.

Mummy considers the fact that her friends are unlikely to feel the need to pull on her arms or shout her name over and over if they want to get her attention.

Mummy considers the fact that she might even be able to read more than half a paragraph of her book in one go.

Mummy’s head isn’t spinning.

Mummy revels in the freedom, but also sends her husband numerous messages to check that he is doing things more or less exactly as she would do them. Mummy has been known to get irritated with daddy for not using his initiative; however, if daddy chooses to use his initiative but then does things in a way that mummy doesn’t approve of, mummy reserves the right to be furious.

Mummy acknowledges that daddy has a difficult task ahead of him this weekend.*

Mummy and her friends agree that they would like to spend some time pottering round the shops, because they absolutely never do this in their normal lives. Six hours later, the carefree foursome are still happily pottering. They have tried on things they don’t need, spent time examining things they are never going to buy; and marvelled at the joy of wandering unhurried around the shops, without the fear of anyone attempting to dismantle the displays.

Mummy is oblivious to the Saturday crowds. Saturday crowds mean nothing when you are used to having three small children hanging off your arm and clamouring to be heard.

Mummy feels a bit like she is 15 again……at the shops, with her friends.

Having eaten too much, shopped too much, wandered leisurely around a museum and finished more conversations than she can remember having finished in the last seven years, mummy gets the train home. Mummy has coffee and a mince pie, nobody on her lap and, in the space of an hour, reads more of her book than she is likely to read for the next two weeks.

Part 2 – Home

Mummy walks through the door. Mummy’s children are happy, noisy and excited; and the smallest ones are overjoyed that mummy happened to pick up the Go Jetters magazine complete with a Grandmaster Glitch figure.

Mummy has been away for two whole nights which means that right now, mummy is a novelty. Three boys are eager to tell mummy every single thing that comes into their heads, all at once and in no particular order. They watched Star Wars with Jar Jar Binx and Qui-Gon / they watched some fruit fall off the minions’ heads / Strictly was in BLACKPOOL / Claudia had a seagull on her head / Blackpool is really huge / they played Strictly with their great-grandma / they scored 17 goals at football.

Mummy is quite enjoying being a novelty and being surrounded by children who don’t appear to be cross with her.

15 minutes have now passed and mummy is no longer a novelty. Mummy was actually surprised that her novelty status lasted for as long as it did. Mummy is required to answer a series of quickfire questions that are in no way linked to anything that has just been discussed…..such as what colour is petrol, and if you’re invisible can you see melted ice-cream.  Out of nowhere, Boy 3 is sobbing because both his brothers got to ‘speak to Tess’ when he didn’t; and Boy 2 is shouting something about his brother having stolen Grandmaster Glitch’s wheel…..turns out Grandmaster Glitch didn’t even have a wheel.

Mummy has ‘Go go, go go, Go Jetters‘ going round and round her head, and threatens to confiscate Grandmaster Glitch whilst wiping away Boy 3’s tears and promising that he’ll be able to speak to Tess next week.

Mummy is home. And her head is spinning once more.

Mummy away

What a peaceful scene

 

*Turns out, daddy uses his initiative pretty well.

Our new happy hour – weekly one-to-ones

Banana ice-cream was what you wanted. ‘Isn’t it a bit cold for ice-cream?’ I asked. But apparently not. You were adamant – chilly day or not, you would absolutely love an ice-cream.

You declared it the best ice-cream you had ever had. I’m not sure it was really, but perhaps the happy circumstances made it seem that way.

You were out with mummy. Just you. No big brother and no twin. No-one influencing your choices. No-one telling you not to interrupt or asking you to wait your turn.

Just you and mummy on a cold day in the park cafe. A good tempered, calm mummy for once, because she hadn’t gone through the trauma of getting three boys out of the door.

We have realised, perhaps a little late, that regular one-to-one time has become very necessary…..for you twin boys in particular. It is important for your big brother too, but he tends to get this naturally as a result of being a different age, having different friends and taking part in different activities. It’s not that there aren’t huge advantages to being a twin. I often look at the two of you and think how lucky you are to have each other – a buddy who is there with you at every milestone. But equally, I know that being a twin brings challenges and that there are things you miss out on as a result of being one of two……mainly, attention.

If you read anything about parenting multiples, the standard advice is to separate them every so often; but for us it just wasn’t a priority in the early days. Perhaps we were wrong, but it just didn’t really occur to us at weekends to schedule time to split everyone up. You boys were generally happy together, so we were happy to let you be together.

And then we realised that regular time on your own was something you desperately needed, and that we needed to ensure you got. Time to be yourselves. To remember that you are important individually and not simply as a unit. Space to make your own choices. To be listened to properly rather than by a parent who also has an eye and ear on what the other two are up to. It wouldn’t be anything grand, just time. And I really mean nothing grand – for Twin 2’s outing, we went to Tesco. I know. We chose Halloween hats and had a coffee/smoothie and a pain au raisin. It was such a treat (it really was).

And then last weekend, Twin 1 and I went to the park. It seemed strange seeing you racing around on your own; but I don’t think it occurred to you to be lonely. Mummy wasn’t distracted. You climbed and mummy watched. You spoke and no-one interrupted.

I wasn’t surprised you were sad when I said it was time to go home. But then the joy on your twin’s face when we got home made the brief separation worth it too. It was as though you’d been apart for days. And, surveying the calm atmosphere at home, it occurred to me that actually, this is special time for everyone……not just for the boy who is taken out. Taking one out of the equation means those left at home also get more attention. There are fewer siblings available for a squabble. There is less noise. The parent left at home is less stressed. It is a win-win situation.

It feels like we have had a hard few weeks, but being out with just one boy helps me to remember the things I love about being a mum. It has made me realise that around 90% of what I do when I’m in charge of three children is crowd-control, only about 10% is actual parenting. Please don’t do that. Please get off him. Why have you taken that off him? Is that a kind thing to do? Why are you poking him? If you get your hands off him, then he won’t get irritated.  And I know all about the benefits of having siblings; but still, sometimes children need a reminder that who they are and what they have to say is important. They need to choose their own ice-cream without a sibling’s input. They need to see a parent enjoying their company; without being distracted by cries of ‘He is talking to me in a MEAN way‘ and ‘He stood on me‘ and ‘I’ve lost Spiderman’s head AGAIN, mummy‘.

It’s only for an hour or so. But what a happy hour it is.

boy in leaves