Tuesday, 31 May 2011

All by myself

After our holiday I needed a break, so as soon as we arrived back home I booked both kids in for an impromptu day at pre-school.  This was Dolly's first time going for a full day (and my first day on my own for several years), and so when I dropped them off, I was apprehensive; but by the time I had reached my car, having left them stabbing some play dough with scissors, I was over it.

I sat at the wheel, engine revving, MY music playing, and my mind racing.  Desperate not to lose a single minute, I frantically went through all the exciting things I could do for the next six hours - it felt like the sky was my limit.  Some time later, realisiung that I was still sitting in the pre-school car park, I aimlessly drove away.

I ended up at Sainsburys, half an hour away.  I glided into the parking space, turned the engine off and sat in my own thoughts, for about twenty minutes.  I then simply got out of the car, locked it, and effortlessly walked to the shop entrance, with my tiny bag over my shoulder, my arms swinging freely by my sides, and the Postman Pat ride not even getting a sideways glance.

Once inside, I slowly ambled up and down the aisles, with the trolley so light and undemanding, it practically pushed itself.  I saw things on the shelves I had never noticed before - lovely grown-up treaty things, all of which seemed to jump onto the conveyor belt at the till, and I casually browsed through a magazine while I waited my turn to pay.

I got back to my car, and with just one door to open, in I got, as quickly and as easy as that, and popped my little bag of shopping next to me on the passenger seat.  I sat for another twenty minutes in silence, just because I could, and then drove away calmly.

This time I ended up back at home.  I wandered freely round the house for a bit, and then I had chocolate for lunch. It was all very liberating.  I wrote a few tweets, sent a few emails, and then sat on the sofa and read a magazine.  Then I did a bit of hoovering.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Celebration Sunday

Sundays have always been, and always will be, a slightly odd, lethargic day of the week, with Monday looming, and you still hankering after Saturday. You wake up and try and have a lie-in like in the old days, watching telly in bed and eating peanut butter on toast, while flicking through Heat magazine looking at pictures of size 6 celebs banging on about their berry and cider vinegar breakfasts. Then the miniature beings appear on the scene, in their pyjamas, bright eyed, and say 'What are you watching this for? Come on, let's put CBeebies on'. Then they start jumping up and down on your head, shouting 'We want to go to the playground!'

What a contrast with your fomer life, being able to do whatever you liked with your Sunday. Most weeks, of course, you would eat cold sweet and sour pork in bed, with a hangover, watch Friends til lunchtime, and wonder what virtuous thing to do for the rest of the day. Often the best idea you could think of, with your wine stained lips and MSG dripping down your chin, is a trip to the local swimming baths, followed by watching the omnibus edition of Eastenders, and eating an entire box of Maltesers.

It's true, you rarely get a 'real' lie-in these days, but your kids make Sundays go round. They say, and do that funny thing, and they have such energy and enthusiasm. They make you think that Sundays aren't so bad after all, in fact it becomes a day to be positively celebrated.
Now please excuse me while I get back to drinking my tea in bed, and having my arms wrenched out of their sockets by a two year old.

Friday, 27 May 2011

My new baby

I have got a new phone. From what I can work out it can do virtually anything - even things I previously only ever thought possible in my wildest dreams. It is a far cry from those jolly little Nokias we all seemed to have about ten years ago, where texting and phoning were the only things on offer (that, and the thrills of Snake of course). I am obsessed, blown away, in love...

Gone are the days when I would happily let my kids use my phone as a toy just to get some peace, and then not be able to find it for days. This phone gets locked away in a cupboard during the day - I cannot take any risks - specially with Dolly who would track it down and sabotage it within seconds.

Tom asked me if he could look at it the other day. I reluctantly handed it over, but experienced the same feelings as when I handed over my precious newborn babies to visitors for the first time - I didn't take my eyes off it for a second and all I wanted to do was grab it back immediately and clasp it to my bosom.

Tom is concerned, and had to phone me up the other evening just so that he could get to talk to me. 'I think you are spending too much time on that thing and not getting your priorities right' he said, his voice trembling with emotion. 'Yes I know' I agreed, feeling a little bit annoyed that he had interupted me from an international GPS experiment, 'I feel like I have been really neglecting my laptop since I got this phone'.

Thursday, 26 May 2011


The following items did not come on holiday with us, but came back with us:

  • Several bamboo canes dug up (by him) from the roadside near a cheese-making shop
  • A ridiculously massive slab of cheese, from the above shop
  • A mint plant, secretly dug up (by him, using Betty and Dolly as diversion aids), from a herb garden open to the public.  He said something like: 'Well if they will charge £6 entrance fee...'
  • Two big sacks of dried seaweed from the beach [for the chickens apparently]
  • Three large potted plants of mint of different varieties - paid for this time
  • A large potted black bamboo plant which cost 30 bloody quid, and was placed in between Betty and Dolly on the way home, and when it wasn't poking them in the eyes and making them cry, they were tearing it apart.
  • A job lot of tent pegs
  • Some cuttlefish shells
  • A book entitled 'Why office work is bad for us and why it's good to fix things'
  • A red spade
  • Shells
  • Stones
  • Sand
  • A blue spade
  • A toy truck
  • A stick

    Sunday, 22 May 2011


    At the beginning of our holiday, I felt quite smug, thinking that we Buttons were becoming a functional family at last. By that, I mean that we have now left the baby days behind us: no more being bound by milk feeds, nap times, early bedtimes, regular meals, random unfathomable crying, incomprehensible chatter, and cumbersome baby equipment/toys/babies.

    While packing up the car before we left home, Tom remarked that the car seemed unnervingly empty: suitcases check, kids check, food check, buckets and spades check, and ready for the off, just like that, easy.

    On the holiday, instead of putting the kids to bed at their usual time, and then spending a bit of time whispering to Tom in the sitting room next door, getting bored and going to bed at 8pm ourselves, we spent long evenings in the beer gardens of Pembrokeshire. Betty and Dolly happily ran around and played together, with only half the time being taken up with fights breaking out between them, while Tom and I were able to kick back with our drinks, and have a conversation, or just stare blankly into space. We were beginning to feel far more free, in that if we wanted to all sit round the kitchen table eating fish, chips and mushy pea at 10 o'clock at night, then that's what we did (only on holiday mind).

    However a few days in, it became abundantly clear that the kids getting older doesn't necessarily equal things getting easier. With their blossoming maturity also comes them having their own (very forthright) opinions about, well, everything: what they wear, what we eat, where we go and what we do. Where we used to be able to bundle them in the car and do what WE wanted to do, and they would be none the wiser, we now have a little dictatorship going on in the back seat of the car yelling 'WE WANT TO GO TO THE BEACH', and they whinge and sulk and say 'I'm booored' if the beach hasn't been factored into our immediate plans.

    Don't get me wrong, I love the beach, but by the fifth day on the trot, being in the rain and wind, watching them get cold and wet and dirty, with Tom next to me annoyed that he's going to have to carry an angry, shivering Dolly, two buckets and spades, and four layers of discarded clothing up a slippery cliff path back to the car, things start to get a bit wearing.

    A far cry from feeling more free, Tom and I have been feeling pretty trapped; trapped at the beach, trapped in pasta and sausages, and trapped in 'let's not let Mummy and Daddy even go to the loo without having an opinion about it'.

    I tried to have a reasoned conversation with Betty about the whole thing, and she replied: 'But Mummy, I know that this holiday is for grown-ups too. And I really don't mind you taking me to grown-up places and things, like churches or houses. I will let you do that Mummy'.

    No prizes for guessing where we ended up this morning.

    Wednesday, 18 May 2011

    I am a finalist!

    It's 4am and I am sitting in the kitchen of our holiday cottage, in the dark. The rain is lashing outside and I can see the flickering of the lighthouse - it is all very romantic. I am writing this post now because it is the only chance I will get, in peace, to do it - Tom disapproves of me having my laptop (and phone) on holiday, Dolly would want to break it, and Betty would want to use Paint. Up here in the Welsh hills there is no internet connection so I will have to wait until the morning to publish it (when we all go to a cafe I sussed out earlier, that has Wi-Fi, under the pretense of having a full English, to keep Tom happy).

    Yesterday we all went to a museum. A little bored with looking at Welsh farm machinery, and clocking two whole bars of signal strength on my phone, I had a sneaky look on Facebook. I noticed that the MAD blog award finalists had been announced, and was interested to see who they were. I clicked on the link, but my phone started wavering in and out of signal, and Tom was heading my way with a child under each arm, shaking his head. The odds of successfully getting onto the website were against me. However, a few more hasty clicks of my phone, and there I saw it - my blog in the list of finalists! I wasn't sure if my phone was playing mind games with me - these new phones can pretty much do anything nowadays - and if it was real or not, and then my signal completely disappeared again.

    With mixed feelings of nerves and excitement, and still unsure what was going on, I told the other three Buttons we were leaving to find a Wi-Fi connection immediately (it so happened that I had my laptop in the boot of the car). We screeched into the carpark of a very posh hotel and in I charged, looking slightly crazed, clutching my laptop, leaving my bemused, slightly irritated family in the car.

    Back in civilisation, I was now able to get onto the MAD blog awards website with ease. And to my absolute genuine astonishment, there I was, listed as a finalist in two categories: Family Life, and Pre-School Fun.

    I would like to say a huge big THANK YOU!!! to all those who nominated me - I am so totally thrilled, and touched, and it was totally unexpected!

    Now there is just one last thing to do... I would really LOVE it if you could now go and vote for me to win in one or both of the categories!


    I really do need to go back to bed now, where Betty is lying star-shaped across the mattress, after waking from a bad dream (about a 'rusty old light') in her own bed.

    Tuesday, 17 May 2011

    The ace of spades

    Every single time we go away on holiday, we forget to take the buckets and spades for the kids. Their sandpit at home is now jam-packed with all the ones we have had to buy, in every colour and size. This time I was determined not to forget, so asked both girls to go into the garden and choose a bucket and spade each, from their collection, and leave them on the doorstep; which they did.

    Our first afternoon on the beach yesterday, we realised that we had packed the buckets but not the spades. 'This is progress' Tom said. I took Betty and Dolly to the carpark beach shop and they chose yet another spade each, and while we were there, on a whim, I bought a massive toy shovel for Tom.

    For the next couple of hours, Betty and Tom happily dug and built, Dolly carried unnervingly large rocks around the beach, and I took photo after photo of them all without them even realising, with my large zoom lens - a purchase necessary to get nice photos of my kids, and my husband. Tom accused me of 'papping my own kids' and later when he looked back through the photos he despairingly said it was like watching the afternoon in real-time.

    Towards the end of the afternoon, I put the camera away and took part in the beach activities. I noticed that when Tom wasn't doing his Tai Chi to the sea, he had been busy building an extraordinary sand construction- it was a large elevated star shape, totally symetrical,and with cleverly balanced rock towers at each point - a man with a large spade on the beach, and a personal rock carrier (Dolly) is unstoppable. He remarked on how much he loved his new spade. Meanwhile Betty had dug an impressively large hole.

    I decided that as the beach was deserted, I would go for a 'run'. But as I headed off towards the shoreline, I heard two hysterical children (mine) running behind me, laughing at my 'funny running'; and they soon over took me, still laughing. The three of us stood at the edge of the sea in the soggy sand. Tom was drawing giant letters in the sand with his giant spade. A gentle wave came towards us, about an inch high, and while Betty let it ripple over her toes, I saw the look of panic on Dolly's face (normally the action hero). And instead of turning around and walking away from the wave, she just fell backwards into the water. A cross, soaked, fully clothed Dolly with a sea-drenched nappy hanging down to her knees, marked the end of our afternoon on the beach. When we arrived back at the holiday cottage, Dolly proudly produced the original spades from the washing machine.


    Wednesday, 11 May 2011

    Mother's ruin

    Dolly has got her very first morning at pre-school tomorrow; these are the thoughts I have had in the last hour:
    • Gin without tonic is hard on the stomach
    • I've now got to make two packed lunches instead of just one
    • My nose feels hot
    • What the hell am I going to do tomorrow with no kids, for three whole hours?
    • This sausage stew I just made is disgusting
    • I hope Dolly behaves herself tomorrow
    • Perhaps Tom and I could go for a long leisurely breakfast with newspapers
    • I will find an empty house very weird
    • I can so see why women keep having babies
    • I need another gin
    • I will need to start thinking about getting a job
    • There are bits of dried mud all over the carpet
    • Maybe I should have another baby
    • I wonder if Dolly will miss me
    • An iPad would cheer me up
    • This gin is horrible
    • Betty will look after her

    Under investigation

    One of the chickens' redeeming features was that they were producing delicious fresh eggs every morning - that, and the kids and Tom love them.  But they have now stopped laying.

    Our farmer friend suggested that it may be magpies or rats coming in and stealing the eggs. He then went into animated detail about how to train rats to turn against each other, thus producing one killer rat who keeps all the other rats at bay.  'Oh right' was all I could muster in response.  He also suggested that the hens might be laying the eggs and then eating them themselves - and if that were the case he would 'wring their bloody necks' for us.

    I wondered whether Betty and Dolly had traumatised them by trying to stab them with a garden fork (it's a game).  Or whether the culprit might be the bogeyman who lives in the hedge with his axe - you know, the one that terrifies me at night when I am home alone.

    I was eager to set up my camcorder in the coop and catch whatever it was, but my mum told me it might scar me for life if I saw what went on in there, away from prying eyes.  I am unsure exactly what she meant, but I promptly shelved the idea anyway.

    Yesterday (while Tom was out) I did an experiment and I kept them locked in their little house until lunchtime, so that, firstly they would get bored and lay some eggs because there was nothing else to do, and secondly we would be able keep the egg-stealer out, and thus work out whether it was someone/something stealing the eggs or if the chickens just were not laying.   When I let them out at 1pm there was one egg,  four really angry hens, and a very hot, smelly hen house.  I was none the wiser.

    My friend came over to identify how old the chickens are - she can do this by looking at their legs - she said that the smooth, slender appearance of their pins meant that they were all quite young and should be in their egg-laying prime.

    So, in a last ditch attempt to get to the bottom of what the heck is happening, I have just placed some shop bought eggs in their laying box - if they disappear then there is an egg-loving criminal mastermind at work, and if they don't disappear then the hens were never laying the eggs in the first place.  The suspense...

    Sunday, 8 May 2011

    Never again

    I recently convinced myself that taking our kids to a very large theme park would be a good idea, and on a bank holiday, what's more.  Tom was harder to convince, but we ended up going anyway.

    Once on site, I insisted that Betty and I went on the first ride we came to.  We queued for an agonising hour and twenty minutes, behind a lady that Betty couldn't take her eyes off.  I feared she was going to give loud judgements on what this lady was wearing/saying at any given moment, and get us beaten up.  When we finally got to the front, I rationalised that to queue for this long, the ride must be bloody amazing.  'Hold onto your hat' I told Betty, as our carriage pulled away.  'Why are we going so slowly?' Betty asked, 'Is the ride broken?'  I was embarrassed, and even more so when literally 30 seconds later we were back at the beginning, and I had to break it to Betty that after all that standing in a line it was time to find something else to do.  'Isn't this all such fun' I said faux-cheefully.  Betty looked intensely annoyed.

    From then on, the day just got worse: Dolly got bellowed at by another child who said 'I don't want you here, go away', Betty became increasingly frustrated/upset that she couldn't go on most of the rides, Dolly lost her sacred rabbit comforter, my new shoes were killing my feet, Tom had gone into a depressive state and wouldn't talk, it was hot, and busy, and Betty got temporarily lost.  It was at this point, once we had found her, all of us in tears, tensions at an all time high, we decided to throw in the towel and go home. 

    As we sat in traffic on the M25 in uncharacteristic stunned silence, Tom announced: 'I am taking out that National Trust annual membership as soon as we get home'.

    [This is not a sponsored post]

    Friday, 6 May 2011

    Defeated at this job

    I saw a friend on Tuesday evening; she said: 'So... two things happened today...'  I asked her to write it all down and share it:

    I keep waiting for the moment, like in a new job, when I feel I have cracked this little job called parenting.

    The other day my two-year-old locked herself in our new-ish car. I say locked herself because that’s exactly what happened – she waited for the exact right moment and having wiggled out of her car-seat (courtesy of four-year-old accomplice), crawled through the gap between the front seats, pressing the all-lock button as she went.

    I watched, dry throated, as the windows all shut too.

    The keys were in the ignition and I was locked out of the house with the four-year-old.

    We banged on the windows, gesticulating dramatically while Issy selected the CDs she had been waiting to listen to, unencumbered by other passengers' chatter. She appeared to be laughing at us.

    Having locked myself out on previous occasions I have a spare key with a neighbour so we did manage to get into our house and find the spare car-keys.

    Phew. I pressed the button but no ‘plip’ – the keys in the ignition obviously override any exterior instructions. My heart began to beat faster – we were now in an official pickle.

    Back, more comfortable, in her own car-seat Issy was still smiling along to the music.

    Inspired I rang the dealership from where I had proudly driven my car months earlier.

    Spluttering over my words, I explained to the nice man on the end of the line my predicament.

    “Have you tried using the key in the lock?” he asked calmly.

    Embarrassed, I realised how quickly I had forgotten the purpose of an actual key. Of course it worked, the door opened and Issy’s face fell. Her game was over.

    “Thank you,” I said to the man.

    “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” he professionally followed up.

    “Well there is this matter of trying to lose a bit of weight…” I ventured, having regained my sense of humour.

    “That, madam, I can’t help you with,” he cheerfully replied.

    While I recovered from this frantic half-hour (it had taken a while for my neighbour’s husband to find our key) and made myself a cup of tea I let both girls play in their room. I reconstructed Isabel’s opportunistic strike in my mind, and convinced myself she had been planning it for weeks – she loves the car, and being in it unrestrained.

    Tea made I realised how quiet things had got – rarely a good sign.

    As I turned the corner into our bedroom I saw Bethan in the process of bathing her little sister, quite well as it happens.

    Of course my mind ran into over-ride – scalding, drowning or perhaps, worst of all, hypothermia.

    “It’s OK Mum,” Bethan said, “I didn’t let Issy use the hot tap.”

    Having calmly pulled the plug and explained in controlled tones the potential to drown in 3 inches of water (or is it less?) I let Bethan get her sister out of the bath and put a nappy on her (the bit I dread most).

    I felt defeated and like I'd failed but at least it was nearly the end of my shift.

    Wednesday, 4 May 2011

    Imparting wisdom

    After hearing the cuckoo for the first time this year:

    Me: That was the cuckoo - this means that it is definitely Spring!
    Betty: Why does it mean it is Spring?
    Me: Because the cuckoo comes in Spring
    Betty: Why does he come in Spring?
    Me: Because of all the pretty flowers
    Dolly: Cuckoo
    Betty: Where does he come from?
    Me: From far away
    Betty: Where?
    Me: There it is again... did you hear it?
    Betty: Yes. Where is the cuckoo?
    Me: In the woods over there
    Betty: Why is he in the woods?
    Me: Because that's where he likes to be
    Betty: Why?
    Me: Because he likes woods
    Dolly: Cuckoo
    Betty: But why?
    Me: Umm.... because he likes trees
    Betty: Likes trees? Why does he like trees?
    Me: Because they protect him from the sun
    Betty: Why doesn't he like the sun?
    Me: Because it is hot
    Betty: Where does he go in the Summer?
    Me: Far far away
    Betty: Where?
    Me: To another country
    Betty: Which country?
    Me: One across the sea
    Betty: So where does he go in the Winter?
    Me: Another country
    Betty: The same country as in Summer?
    Me: I have absolutely no idea

    Tuesday, 3 May 2011


    Now that Dolly is older, long car journeys have become more bearable of late, and while the kids happily play with some plastic battery-operated gadget or other, and eat their way through copious amounts of snacks (starting from uber healthy to downright bad by the time we reach our destination), I mess around on my mobile phone and give mundane Facebook status updates about where we are on the M4 (purely for the novelty factor; I only ever write status updates on car journeys).  And all is tranquil.

    However, just as I had become lulled into smug feelings of happy-journey security, on our last long journey to London at the weekend, the kids' antennae came out and they obviously sensed me being far too relaxed for their liking.
    There we were, about 2.5 miles into our journey, me happily telling my Facebook friends exactly that, Tom with his slightly gormless driving expression, and the girls smiling sweetly while they ate their raspberries.  When...

    'Mummy, I hate your music, please can you put our music on?' said Betty.  'No your music Mummy' said Dolly crossly.  After trying to negotiate with them and teach them the concept of 'fair', I turned Lily Allen off and put on the 'The Wheels on the Bus' CD.  Tom's expression went from gormless to despairing.  To distract myself from the slightly crazed singers on this CD (which has probably been played about 50,000 times), I phoned a friend.  'Me talk phone' said Dolly crossly, over and over.  'Don't talk on the phone Mummy, I cannot hear my music' said Betty. 

    And this set the tone for the entire four hour journey to London.  Even when they were gorging on chocolate, I couldn't scratch my leg, look in my bag, have a drink of water, gaze out of the window, touch my phone, talk to Tom, breath or think, without being severely reprimanded.  That'll teach me to think that I can look at an old Tesco receipt found in the glove compartment, in peace.

    I shall now be avoiding confined spaces with my sweet children for any length of time, and however much I love London, I don't love it enough...