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


When Big Ben chimes again

Hello 2021. This is summer 2017.

I wanted to write a little note because, according to the news this week, 2021 is when we will next hear Big Ben chime out across London…..apart from very special occasions, that is. And whilst the silencing of Big Ben really isn’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, things like this do make me stop and think about time. So as we listened to the (mainly Big Ben related) news a few days ago, and confused little boys struggled to understand why Big Ben was chiming constantly on the radio when it wasn’t supposed to be chiming any more; I kept thinking about what life will look like 4 years from now. In 2021.

In 2021, I will have an 11 year old and two 9 year olds. I find this almost impossible to imagine.

In 2021 we will, apparently, be out of the EU. I find this almost impossible to imagine too.

And in 2021 I will be 41 going on 42…….and probably still talking about what I’d like to be when I’m a proper grown up.

I suspect our lives will be very different the next time we hear Big Ben ring out, so I wanted to try and capture a bit of us now; in the summer of 2017.

We are in what I’m sure I will look back on as a rather blissful, innocent stage free from the pressures that things like mobile phones and gaming can bring. Our house is full of Lego, fancy dress, books, games, cars, trains and dinosaurs; all of which still keep you boys happily occupied. Something tells me this won’t be the case in 2021, and just the thought of navigating the pre-teen landscape makes me anxious.

You are also still, thankfully, at an age at which you enjoy being with your parents …..most of the time at least. And when spending time with your parents isn’t quite exciting enough, thankfully spending time with your grandparents is just about the best thing imaginable.

Summer 2017 has flown by. We holidayed in beautiful Pembrokeshire, you boys spent a happy week on a performing arts summer school; we have wandered through woods, sat in traffic jams, splashed in splash parks, fed our neighbours’ cats, picnicked in the rain, celebrated birthdays, had some tennis lessons, and generally loved the feeling of freedom that comes with the summer holidays. We have squabbled too….. Squabbled over who gets to open the first packet of cat food, who called who poo, whose turn it is to get the breakfast ready, who gets to sit next to mummy at lunch time, whose turn it is to wear the Iron Man socks and who gets to choose the music in the car. I have frequently wanted to hide away in a dark, quiet corner; made what feels like 20,000 packed lunches, and almost lost the will to live over the twice-a-day battle of getting Twin 2 to brush his teeth rather than simply stand on his head with a toothbrush in his mouth.

The laundry has been never ending. That is one thing that I am pretty sure won’t have changed by 2021. And getting you all out of the house still gives me far more grey hairs than I feel it should. I’m hoping that might change.

But I have also tried to remind myself that you boys won’t want to spend your summer holidays pottering about with me forever. And that these times are hard, yes, but also special.

The time has flown, and yet school feels like a whole world away. We all need to get back into routine, although I’m not sure any of us is ready to quite yet. But we are taking small strides, and this week has largely been about doing little things to prepare for the new term. You, Eldest Boy, are starting Juniors in September, which means new uniform and new equipment for your pencil case. You have been diligently doing your ‘button practice’ every day, in readiness for wearing a shirt rather than polo shirt. The other day you tried on your new uniform, including tie, and suddenly looked about 17. We went stationery shopping too this week, and you then spent much of the rest of the afternoon staring happily at your new pens. You are so proud.

In four years time you will be about to start senior school, so perhaps 2021 will see us doing exactly the same thing. Only time will tell if your enthusiasm, and pride in your pencil case, will remain. I desperately hope so.

You are 118cm tall and have lost four teeth so far. We have just bought new school shoes – size 11.5. Having resolutely stayed the same size for at least 18 months, your feet are finally having a growth spurt. For your birthday we bought you a CD player – you love the independence this gives you and have no idea that actually, no-one really has a CD player anymore. You are beautifully indiscriminate in your music choices and are enjoying going through mummy and daddy’s old CD collection – right now, there is nothing remotely embarrassing about this. David Gray is a current favourite – you are possibly the only 7 year old out there listening to This Year’s Love as you sort through your Match Attax cards.

You are on a mission to get your little brothers to try mushy peas. I am on a mission just to get them to eat peas. Or, in fact, anything green.

Twins 1 and 2, you are 112cm and 114cm tall respectively, with size 10.5 and size 11 feet. You haven’t lost any teeth yet. At the moment, life is all about superheroes, Star Wars, fire engines, your new walkie-talkies and singing ‘I like to move it move it‘. You have moved up to two-wheeled scooters with no problems, but have not quite mastered your new roller boots….. yet. You have loved feeding our neighbours’ cats over the last few weeks and will miss your little summer job hugely now it has come to an end. If it wasn’t for the fact that you have two allergic parents, I would consider getting a cat.

But you do have two allergic parents, so I’m really not.

You are valiantly ploughing through your birthday thank you cards, and it has been an almighty struggle. But you are doing them, and when I think about how far you have come in a year, I am ridiculously proud of your just-about-legible scrawls.

And finally, finally; this summer you got your bunk beds – you have been asking for bunk beds for at least two years now. This week I made the mistake of taking you along to the shop to choose some new bedding and we came home with the most garish Avengers duvet covers imaginable. I really should have known better.

The delay in getting your bunk beds is characteristic of mummy & daddy’s rather sloppy approach to getting anything done in the house. We have needed new blinds for the last 7 years at least, and this summer we finally got round to measuring up and even looking at fabric…..but no further than that. It is entirely possible that we still won’t have our new blinds when Big Ben chimes again. In fact, I am pretty confident that our house will exist in the same state of chaos as it does currently.

But aside from a cluttered house, shabby blinds, and never-ending laundry; I have no idea what our lives will look like in 2021. What you boys might be reading, watching, or listening to. Whether you’ll have realised that CD players are no longer the thing to have. And whether or not you little ones will finally have been convinced to try mushy peas.

But this has been us in summer 2017; and we’ll just have to see where life takes us between now and that very famous bell chiming again.





As you turn 7 and 5 – a birthday post

How many sleeps until our party, mummy? / How many sleeps until our birthday, mummy? / And how many sleeps until MY party, mummy?

This has been the soundtrack in our house for the last couple of weeks at least. Three little boys, with birthdays two days apart – the first being tomorrow.  Piled in the corner of my bedroom are party bags, pass the parcel fillers, presents and cards. There is a giant penguin cake under several sheets of foil in the kitchen, and another cake waiting to be transformed into a space rocket.

Birthday season is well and truly underway – one little boy is approaching 7, and two are approaching 5.

7 and 5.

7 and 5!

I am having a bit of trouble with this one – these ages sound…..well, not grown up; but not really like I still have little ones. In my head, it feels like the baby/toddler years weren’t that long ago, but then when I’m out and I see mums with change bags and prams, mums trying to get babies to sleep, mums heading off to baby massage classes, mums lugging around car seats and mums putting babies in highchairs I realise that yes, we are well and truly in a different stage now.

Part of me still misses the baby and toddler days, but then another part of me loves the ages we are at right now. I feel I spend a lot of time either looking back, feeling apprehensive about the future, or attempting to cling onto the present (only the good bits, obviously).

So this is my attempt to cling onto the right now – little snapshots of you, my three beautiful boys, as you approach 7 and 5.

Eldest boy:

You are: 

Confident in your own quiet way, cautious, determined, hungry for knowledge, routine-loving, easily pleased, inquisitive, uncoordinated; an old-fashioned soul in a fast-moving world.eldest boy reading

You love: 

Books, maps, train timetables, names, lists, dates, football, kings, queens, dates of birth, a family tree, cosy jumpers, a hearty meal, twiddling your hair, school, answers to questions, Christine and the Queens; days at home with a pen in your hand, books and plenty of paper.

You can often be found: 

At a table with a pen and reams of paper, making lists.

Sitting on your bedroom floor surrounded by books.

In the garden playing football with your own running commentary and a list of scores by the door ready to update when necessary.

Likely to say: 

‘I have made up a new train line, mummy. It goes from Chorleywood to Aston Clinton.’

‘I’m going to draw another map of my made up town, North Moor.’

‘How many caps did Luther Blissett get for England, daddy?’

‘I still have quite a bit of my work to do you know, mummy.’ (Your work being your lists, charts, maps and tables – it is never-ending.)

Nightmare scenarios: 

Practising bike-riding. Again.

Not having time to finish your ‘work’.

Special skills: 

Keeping yourself amused.

Plotting train routes.

Inventing towns.

Recalling the dates of birth of family members, the Royal Family, and 85% of Watford FC’s players.

Twin 1:

You are: 

A beautiful, affectionate, eager, sensitive, messy, cuddly whirlwind of emotions. Happy to be looked after, always ready for a cuddle.

Twin 1 climbing

You love: 

Roast potatoes, chipped potatoes, most other potatoes, climbing, dancing, superheroes, big drums, motorbikes, skateboards, funny voices, fast slides, funny faces, cake, biscuits, ice-cream in a cone.

Can often be found: 

Climbing to the top of something.

Likely to say: 

‘Mummy, when can I have a skateboard?……. And what about a surfboard?’

‘I tried peas mummy and I like them. But I am only eating ONE.’

‘Can I have some more roast potatoes, please?’

‘I am NOT tired.’

Nightmare scenarios: 

A grazed knee.

A bowl of greens.

Your very precious skateboard top being in the wash.

Being told there are no more roast potatoes.

Special skills: 

Eating all the roast potatoes.

A continually grubby face, whatever the activity.

Twin 2:

You are:  

Helpful, earnest, observant, loyal, stubborn, growing so so fast, cuddly, affectionate, independent but not keen on being alone, a snazzy dresser; sometimes shy, sometimes a performer…..And absolutely never, ever in any rush. Twin 2 fireman

You love:

Observing your surroundings, parsnips, creepy crawlies, helping with jobs, feeling like a grown up, undivided attention, holding open doors, pulling funny faces, emergency vehicles, fancy dress, dot-to-dots, custard tarts, mummy’s necklaces / watch / rings /  buttons; bow ties, smart hats, flamboyant shirts, doors, locks, hand-dryers, a sensor flush.

Can often be found: 

Still sitting at the table long after everyone else has finished.

Drifting along at the back of a group.

Holding open doors.

Testing out toilet doors / locks / flushing mechanisms and the pedals on sanitary bins.

Likely to say: 

‘But I don’t want to be LAST FOR MY MIIIIILLLLLKKKKK.’

‘Can I help you, mummy?’

‘But I can carry it all by myself!’ 

‘Mummy, do you remember that day when we went to the park and there were three tunnels and we saw a blue bin and two ladybirds and a butterfly?’ 

Nightmare scenarios: 

Being the last one to put milk on your cereal in the mornings.

Being interrupted.

Feeling like you’re not being listened to.

Special skills: 

An incredible eye for detail – you notice everything.

Happily spending an hour over your breakfast.

three boys at the seaside

Happy birthday to you, little ones, as you move into your new, more grown-up sounding ages.

Let’s see what 7 and 5 have in store.

Wobbly teeth and growing up

Things are changing, 6 year old, in so many ways.

Your face has changed – everyone says it. It has slimmed out, become more boy-like. Your skin is still lovely and downy and soft but the baby look and those chubby cheeks have gone. You look more grown up now, that’s what people say. More like a schoolboy. And people are right, you do.

And not only do you look more grown up, but you’re becoming more grown up too. You still look like a little one to me, especially when I see you with some of the older children from your class. You still hold my hand; and apparently you will never want to work to school by yourself. But bit by bit, you are becoming more independent, growing in confidence, and developing yourself away from mummy.

You don’t need me to hang around at the classroom door at school drop off time. You resist if I offer to help you with your things. Instead you struggle in, with your book bag and your homework and your water bottle and violin. You’re ok, you tell me. You still ask for a kiss before you go, but not the 5 kisses that you used to have. It’s a quick peck, it’s no longer a big bear hug. You don’t look back and you don’t need an extra wave. You just go.

When you get home you play mainly in your room. You read or make lists or draw maps. You have your own little projects you’re working on. You need minimal input from mummy or daddy.

You read to yourself at bedtime. One of us will sit with you, but the days of mummy or daddy reading you a story are long since behind us. Every night now, you ask for some extra time to read to yourself. I still come in after this to say goodnight and turn out your light, but I know this won’t last long. Soon you’ll be turning out your own light.

And as you’ve lost your baby look, so you’ve developed a real sense of identity and of where you belong. This is your life, right here. This is school and these are your friends and these are all the local landmarks that you see day in day out. This is your community, and this is where you feel comfortable. 

And now, at last, two wobbly teeth, and two big teeth coming through behind them. This is the milestone you’ve been waiting for. You’ve watched so many friends come into school bubbling over with excitement about the tooth fairy’s visit, or showing off a wobbly tooth that is hanging off by a thread. I have seen your bottom lip wobble and your eyes fill with tears as you wondered when you would have a wobbly tooth of your own. And now you have. I find it hard to imagine how the arrival of your big teeth will change your whole face. Your little teeth, well they are a part of you; they are your smile. But they’re not a part of the big you, and the big you is what is appearing now. The big you who is gaining in independence, who reads to himself and chuckles away at his books, and who strides into school without looking back.

There are so many more changes to come, I know that. More changes, more wobbly teeth, and a few more little steps away from mummy. It pulls at my heartstrings, but at the same time I know that I wouldn’t want it any other way.


As you turn 6 and 4

Today, Eldest Boy, is what I call your Birthday Eve. Tomorrow, you turn 6. Two days later, your brothers turn 4. August is always full-on and slightly overwhelming, but this year it is even more full-on than usual. For the first time ever, we are away for your birthdays; and we have a packed schedule. Over 6 nights we are staying in 3 places, attending 1 wedding and of course celebrating one turning 6 and two turning 4. Daddy also has Best Man duties to perform and a speech to perfect. Our car is packed to the brim as it always is when we go away; but this time there are also wedding outfits, mummy’s new shoes, birthday cards and presents.

So as we continue our little road trip; here you are, boys, as you turn 6 and 4.

Eldest boy

You are: 

Growing in confidence, gentle, your own boy, innocent, imaginative, inquisitive, brave, impatient, a bookworm, on a mission to protect the world’s endangered species.

You love: 

Books, maps, animals of the world, structure, school, nature, lists, problems to solve, answers to questions, a hearty meal, dates, times, football scores, custard, flags, days at home surrounded by your books.

You can often be found: 

Sitting on your bedroom floor with a selection of atlases, drawing maps, compiling lists, reading, writing out imaginary football scores, swotting up on animals and their habitats.

Likely to say: 

‘I really love learning the Cyrillic alphabet, mummy. In fact, I wish we were Cyrillic. Or Russian, I mean.’

‘I would love to be a brown rat because brown rats eat anything they find.’

Special skill: 

Retaining and recalling information – the diet of an Arctic fox, the preferred habitat of a ring-tailed lemur. You read it and somehow it stays there.

Nightmare scenario: 

Being hurried when engrossed in a book.

Eldest boy note

Twin 1

You are: 

Joyful, sensitive, headstrong, eager, jaunty, impatient, adventurous, sociable, shy, cuddly, a whirlwind, the first to wake up every morning.

You love: 

Running, climbing, performing, leaping, racing, wrestling, scooting, making friends, being praised, cake, ice-cream in a cone, one more sweetie.

Can often be found: 

Forcing your way to the front door determined to open it first.

Likely to say: 

‘Stop saying those RUDE things, mummy’

(Anything you don’t want to hear is, apparently, a ‘rude thing’.)

Special skill: 

Winning people over with your big brown eyes. And they are big.

Nightmare scenarios: 

Ambiguous answers. Unfortunately, the answer is sometimes ‘maybe’, and you don’t like that at all.

Your scooter blowing away, a bag being put on the ground, your brother running on ahead of you. You have quite a few nightmare scenarios at the moment my lovely, you are going through a bit of an anxious phase.

Twin 1

Twin 2

You are:  

Observant, defiant, unsure, shy, master of voices, growing so fast that I can’t buy new clothes quickly enough, sometimes earnest, sometimes jokey, often moody; never in any rush.

You love:

Creepy crawlies, flamboyant accessories, funny faces, taking your time over meals, crackers, silly voices, ice lollies, fancy dress, finding feathers, playing make-believe.

Can often be found: 

At the table, still finishing a meal.

Watching snails. Or ants.

Playing mummies and daddies and babies.

Likely to say: 

‘I can see a dead woodlouse.’

‘You know mummy, yesterday a few weeks ago I found a smelly sock on the way home from school…… And a glove.’

‘I need a cuddle.’

Special skill: 

The ability to spot ants, snails, slugs, feathers and abandoned socks and gloves from a great distance.

Nightmare scenario: 

A stepped-on snail.

No more snacks.

Twin 2 fancy dress2

New adventures

As you turn 6 and 4, the year to come is a big one for us all – this time next month I will have three little schoolboys.

Yes, you are still hard work. The days are still relentless, getting us all out of the house saps me of all of my energy, and the thought of a glass of wine carries me through bathtime and bedtime. But boys, you are magnificent and along with the chaos you bring us bucket loads of laughter and fun. Long may that continue.

Happy birthday xxx