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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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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.

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

Ups and downs, highs and lows

Sometimes I watch as you amuse yourselves building rockets out of bricks and think yes, we’re all doing ok. You play, you build, you feel proud. You are loved, you are warm, you are fed. But then a few minutes later, it all falls apart – one of you wants to build a monster, another wants to build a zoo. Nothing is fair, it’s all his fault. Mummy tell him!……TELL HIM OFF! 

And I realise I was getting cocky. I let myself think too soon that it was all going well.

Sometimes I feel like I can’t stand any more squabbles over whose turn it is to help get the breakfast ready. One of you sobs your heart out and tells me it is definitely YOUR turn, definitely. You haven’t done it for AGES. But then there is your brother……No, mummy…..I haven’t done it for ages. It is definitely MY turn, mummy. Please mummy. PLEEEEEAASE.

And I don’t know how I’ll get through a day with this going on in the background.

Sometimes I watch the three of you sitting down happily poring over a book. And I think yes, this is just as it should be. Look at you, content just being together – nothing makes me happier than this. And then you all need something from me at exactly the same time; and suddenly I feel totally inadequate. I realise I’m not doing the right thing by anyone – half-heartedly answering a question for one boy while I attempt to draw a gingerbread man with another and stick a plastic bottle onto a margarine tub with the third.

Sometimes I watch you all walking along together: chasing each other, hiding, laughing; occasionally holding hands. My little unit. And it makes my heart sing.

And other times I see everything start to unravel and I wonder why you are suddenly so ANGRY. What is behind your rage? Is it something I’ve done? Is it something I’m doing? At those times, my evenings are spent Googling ‘Angry 5 year old‘ and my head is full of strategies and tactics; but I know that the next morning I’ll be watching you again as you happily potter around with those bricks, and all those worries will melt away.

Sometimes it hits me how grown up you suddenly seem. We can have proper conversations. You are interested and interesting. And then out of nowhere you urgently need to know how scaffolding is erected. Scaffolding. It is not satisfactory that I have absolutely no idea. And we’re walking along a busy street so I just can’t find out for you right now. But apparently I am not understanding your question. I need to LISTEN to you; I’m not LISTENING.

I am listening to you, I promise; but I still don’t know anything about scaffolding.

And that makes me feel inadequate too – I don’t think I ever realised that I wouldn’t have all the answers for you. Or maybe I imagined us sitting down quietly to look up the answers together…..which just isn’t possible when you’re walking along a busy street; or when there is always another child demanding time, energy and answers to different questions.

Sometimes I realise how behind I am with everything. That I’ve missed a birthday. That I haven’t replied to a text. That I haven’t read the latest school newsletter or seen the list of upcoming events.

Sometimes I see the pile of laundry and just want to weep.

Sometimes, like this morning, I open a drawer and it falls apart. And all I wanted to do was put clothes away.

Sometimes, in fact most of the time, I vow that I will start going to bed earlier. I know that will help me to deal with the challenges in the daytime. But then I also know how impossible I find it to give up my evening. My time to just be, without all the noise. Without the mummy, mummy, mummy demands.

Sometimes, I realise that I really had no idea what a rollercoaster this whole thing would be. I knew there would be challenging times, but I had no clue that I would regularly experience the whole spectrum of emotions over the course of one day, or even one hour. I had no idea that my heart would swell with love and pride one minute, and that I would be tearing my hair out with frustration the next. I had no idea that sometimes, I would feel like every  last bit of goodness had drained out of me by midday….or earlier.

Sometimes…..well sometimes raising children is just a bit overwhelming. There are up-and-down days, seemingly impossible days; but then there are also days when I see my boys kicking their way through leaves or marching along happily with a giant stick. Hooray for those days – those are the good ones. And when we look back at these days in a few years…..well, hopefully we’ll have forgotten that mummy didn’t have any of the answers to your questions about scaffolding.

boy with a giant stick.jpg

My little boy with a giant stick. Because a giant stick makes everything better.

 

 

 

 

 

The only sober one at the party (Or…..me, attempting to put exhausted children to bed)

There you are on the bathroom floor, spinning around on your back. Your little break-dancing move. Naked obviously; and shouting ‘Tickets please!‘ This is one of the funniest things In The World. Your brother can hardly contain himself, he is laughing so much. And once you’ve both had enough of that one, you move on to ‘You like CO-CO?’, which apparently is even funnier.

And here I am once again – the only sober person at the party; wondering what everybody else is finding so funny. Desperate to get this job done, because I know how long it all takes when you reach this slightly hysterical level of tiredness.

For the 28th time, I ask you to stand up and perhaps put your pyjamas on, but apparently this is too difficult. You can’t do it, you are too tired……’TOO TIRED’, you say…….‘Tickets please! Haaaahaaaaheeeeheeeee, you are soooooo funny. And I am sooooooooooo funny. Aren’t I, mummy? Weeeeeeeeee! Look at me spinning mummy. You like CO-CO?’

There are a few obvious differences between attempting to get my overtired children into bed and being the only sober person dealing with a drunken band of friends. You boys are smaller. You don’t smell of beer. Your language is clean and innocent.

But……well, there are some striking similarities too.

Standing up on two feet is just not possible, and so asking you to do it is, obviously, totally unreasonable. You can’t do it, you need help. ‘NEEEEEED HELLLLP!’ When I eventually manage to get you upright, you rock around unsteadily on those little feet of yours. You spin, rock, jump, hop, balance on one leg – anything rather than stand still.

Your already limited co-ordination skills have shut down for the day – the straightforward-sounding task of putting your pyjamas on has you totally flummoxed. I mean, you just can’t find them, to start with…..those pyjamas that mummy told you she was putting down right there……right in front of you. ‘I CAN’T FIND MY PYJAMAS! ……But I didn’t KNOW, mummy….You didn’t tell me where they WERE!’ But you’ve found them now which is a relief. Phew. And you get on with putting the trousers on your head and the top on like it’s a skirt. This is almost as funny as ‘You like CO-CO?‘ Obviously you have just about enough energy to run around and show everyone your new look pyjamas….before needing to flop back on the floor again.

You require constant direction, as if I’m having to walk you home. If I take my guiding hands off you for a moment, you are wandering aimlessly with no idea of where you are going or what your current task is. You require constant reminders of what it is you are supposed to be doing – ‘come on, stay with me, let’s stay on task. Remember what we’re doing. We’re brushing our teeth…..BRUSHING OUR TEETH. You don’t need to wander into your brother’s room to BRUSH YOUR TEETH. And you can’t do it while you’re lying on the floor either. Let’s get back into the bathroom and brush our teeth, shall we. Remember we’re trying to stand on TWO feet, we don’t need to do balancing right now.

You talk jibberish and burst into song out of nowhere…… and if a tired mummy who really wants to get you to bed isn’t the best audience you’ve ever had; well no matter, because you know that one or both of your brothers will find it all HILARIOUS. Mummy is so unreasonable at bedtime. Such a fun-spoiler…..I mean, she doesn’t even understand why ‘You like CO-CO?’ is so funny. And she’s always asking you to do unreasonable things like put your pyjamas on or brush your teeth so that you can get into that nice cosy bed. It’s not surprising you get so cross with her, really.

When I say cross, I mean you’re cross with her one minute but giving her a huge spontaneous cuddle the next. Because your mood switches within seconds – from being the fun joker to having a sudden outburst over why you still have your blue toothbrush when you REALLY NEED A NEW ONE! From giving spontaneous cuddles and kisses to suddenly needing to hit and cry and lash out.

The mood swings are sudden and messy and unpredictable; and they remind me just how much you need your beds. Even though you’re doing everything you can to resist.

Later on, when you are all safely tucked up, I pop in and check on you. And then I feel bad for being the fun-spoiler. For always seeming to hurry you along. For constantly asking you to stop this and stop that. I feel guilty that our hour before bed is so fractious and……well, the total opposite of calm and peaceful. But then I look at you fast asleep and realise we’re all ok. You’re in your beds, and that’s where you need to be.

Thankfully, there will be no hangovers for you in the morning. You won’t wake up feeling embarrassed at what happened the night before. You’ll get on happily with your day…..and then you’ll do it all again the next night. With that fun-spoiling mummy, guiding you towards your pyjamas and bed.

‘You like CO-CO?’

Bedtime feet

 

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.

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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.