To the People in Morrisons Today

Dear Shoppers

I apologise for shopping alongside you all today. I apologise even more for bringing my 2-year-old son with me. (Unfortunately it’s frowned upon to leave toddlers by at home alone as a supermarket shop is so much easier without kids, but I don’t make the rules.)

I would like to reassure all of you who took time out of your little bubbles to give us a cold, hard stare, that he is fine. He wasn’t in pain, I hadn’t hurt him. He was simply having a temper tantrum at being taken shopping rather than sitting watching the trains come and go at the station.

Not that I’d even been such a harsh mum to deny him any enjoyment at the station at all. We’d just spent 15 minutes there watching the train come in. (Yesterday we sat on the station platform four times too.) He wanted to wait for the train to leave again and wave it goodbye. I didn’t have half an hour to spare. I had to still buy tonight’s dinner and then pick up my daughter from her after-school club. Life doesn’t always work the way a 2-year-old would like it. It’s a tough lesson to learn. By the looks on some of your faces, I’m not sure if it’s a life lesson you’ve learnt yourselves. We didn’t come into the store in full voice just to spoil your day. It wasn’t my intention to bring him into the store kicking and screaming. We just happened to cross paths and I’d rather he wasn’t screaming so loudly too. Again, I’m really sorry. Still, there was no need for you to look at us with such utter disdain.

I agree, it wasn’t a pleasant noise. But count yourselves lucky. You only had to put up with his yelling and screaming for less than a minute at close range; I had it up close and deafening for the whole of our 15 minutes shopping experience (including queueing at the ‘express’ check-out) plus another onslaught for a good 30 minutes once we got home.

I’m not quite sure what you wanted me to do about it either. Disappear into a vortex? Believe me, if I could have I would have. Anything to have spared myself your looks of icy judgement. Unfortunately, the toddler tantrum has been a long-known phenomenon (quite possibly you used to have them yourselves – I believe we were all children once) but no one has yet found a fail-safe solution, especially when out in public. Personally I think I was doing quite well to remain calm and not join him in his shouting. That definitely would have given you something to raise your eyebrows about.

Maybe my son and I should simply remain inside at all times and I could do my shopping online in case we should ever offend anyone’s sensibilities? But that seems like a defeatist attitude to me. Most of the time there’s no problem. When there is, sometimes you just have to suck it up.

To the old lady who managed to smile at my son, thank you so much. If it wasn’t for you I would have left the store in tears.

To everyone else, I just want to let you know that my shopping experience was every bit as bad as yours. Actually, mine was possibly worse as you didn’t leave feeling utterly humiliated.

May we never have to meet again under such circumstances.

Yours sincerely
The Gluestick Mum

Sod Lena Dunham, Crystal Main is My Body Heroine

Since I had Boo its fair to say I’ve had body issues. Whereas with the twins when everything just popped back into place, after Boo it all just hung around. It only got worse after Noodles. I’m still in the healthy section of the Body Mass Index, but only just. Several times people – both acquaintances and strangers – have mistaken me as being pregnant. Even when I’ve been trying to suck my gut in. At school I was always skinny, even through puberty. I longed for curves. As ever you should be careful what you wish for as now I have them. They’re just in the wrong places. I’m now the big girl, the fat one. And yet in my head I’m still skinny, so it’s doubly painful when I look in the mirror or stand on the scales or someone offers me a seat on the Tube.

There’s been a lot written about Lena Dunham and her body. To be fair, anyone whose tuned into more than five minutes of Girls has likely seen quite a lot of it. It can surely only be positive to have a woman show so demonstrably that she’s comfortable in her own skin, even though it’s not the perfect body that we have drummed into us. And yet…when I watch the show I know that her body is closer to mine, but I still covet the lithe proportions of the other girls more. So for me personally it highlights my flaws, rather than affirming them.

However, last night my perception of the ideal body image shifted. I watched the dance show Licence To Thrill, starring Brendan Cole and Aliona Vilani. It was phenomenal. I’m now officially in love with Brendan and Aliona was such a beautiful dancer and so goddess-like in her appearance I can only assume that she’s from another planet.

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But the biggest revelation was another dancer in the troupe: Crystal Main. Sparky, flirty and sexy as hell. And not the size 6 you’d normally expect, but, I’d guess, a UK size 10. (Not especially large, but definitely bigger than your typical dancer.) I barely registered the other blonde dancer, Crystal drew all the focus and she wiggled and shimmied and stretched and purred around the floor. She looked amazing in the costumes, her curves accentuated to the max and by the twinkle in her eye you knew she wasn’t bothered by cellulite or a tummy. Instead she oozed fun and sexiness and you knew anyone would have fun in her company. She’d be the girl who’d clear her plate and have pudding, would shun an early night in favour of some fun and to whom everyone would be drawn. I may be projecting this onto her, but she’s now my hero.

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So tonight, as I shook my way around my jazz class I tried to pull off my inner Crystal Main, rather than worrying about how big my bum might look to the woman behind me. I may not have pulled it off, but I came out feeling happy and energised. So, Crystal, thank you. For your amazing energy and positive vibe. Not just in dance, but any time I feel body conscious I shall aspire to think ‘What would Crystal do?’ I’m sure the outcome can only be positive.

Ah, Spa

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I’ve been a lucky girl this week. It’s been half term, school’s been out, and the hum-drum has been replaced with a chance for a bit of fun.

Not that sitting behind lorry after lorry on the A17, heading to Manchester is fun. Average speed to Manchester: 37mph. Child-related vomiting incidents: 2.

But it meant that I got to lounge in various pools and steam rooms with my sister at a country club spa. If Richard Herring’s mate is right and heaven turns out to be a personalised version of what you would like it to be then mine will definitely include a bubbly outdoor infinity pool and heated sun loungers. It’s rather a shame that I’m an atheist so if Richard Herring’s mate is right I also won’t actually get to go there.

Still, I got to indulge in my heaven for six hours. Oh so many ways to get wet. Indoor pool, outdoor pool, jacuzzi, outdoor jacuzzi infinity pool, pools with fountains, water jets, showers, and room after room of steam. And to dry off, the option of sitting in a fluffy robe on the heated loungers or popping in the sauna. What hardships!

Add to that some fun with mud, a massage that had my shoulders clicking quite alarmingly, but felt marvellous and a most delicious lunch with champagne. So indulgent. I didn’t miss the kids for a second.

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Sadly we had to hand the fluffy robes back and step away from the bubbling water. But we felt refreshed and revitalised, with skin silky and glowing.

Unfortunately the tension soon crept back. Actually, not so much crept as leapt on my back like a panther released from a very small cage. I had to be back home on time the next day to catch the train to Cambridge with Husband to see Richard Herring and his We’re All Going To Die comedy tour. Not ideal then to leave later than planned and then sit in a traffic jam. Also not ideal to have the windscreen wiper blades come loose whilst crossing the Pennines in the rain. Noodles napped through lunchtime and then we seemed too close to home to consider stopping. Except the A17 is a tease, East Anglia’s personal Bermuda Triangle. At one point you’re told King’s Lynn is 60 miles away, four miles down the road you still have 58 miles to go. When you’ve got a bored child and a grizzly toddler in the back and a deadline and a queue of HGVs ahead as far as the eye can see (and across the Fens that’s some distance) it’s enough to break the soul. I could feel knots of tension returning.

On a good day you can do Manchester to King’s Lynn in 3 hours. It wasn’t a good day. We did it in four.

We pulled down the street. No parking spaces. I pulled into the double yellow lines, unloaded the kids and my dad. Then the luggage. Backwards and forwards to the house. One suitcase, one holdall, one bag of toys, another of snacks, a massive bag of bedding, the buggy. The buggy wouldn’t unfold. I tried calm, trying rationally to work out what was catching. It didn’t work. I tried just shaking it. Not budging.

Then, a miracle. Not with the buggy, that was still stuck tight, but a space in the street! I bundled the buggy back in the car and headed off around the one-way system. Red light. Red light. Red light. Please still be a space. Please still be a space. Please still be a space. More shoulder knots returned. The space was still there, but the damage was done. I was as tense as I was before my day of luxury. Only it now seemed worse as utter bliss was such a short time ago.

It was Bedlam in the house too. Apparently it had been decided in my absence that Husband’s mate would arrive to plaster our dining area. There were excess chairs all over the lounge. And in the middle of it a midwife weighing the baby.

No time for niceties though. I had an hour until the train and a family to feed. And as it wouldn’t ever occur to Husband to get any food in, a trip to the shop was needed too. No time to pander to the faddiness of individuals, dinner had to be fast and unfussy. Eggs, bacon and chips all round. A new DVD for Boo to off-set being babysat. ‘Ooh, it’s just like being at the cinema,’ she declared, eating her food from her lap. At which cinema do you get a cooked breakfast?! I might try to smuggle a bacon sandwich into the next film I go to see to find out if it really works better than popcorn as an in-flight snack.

Randomly, whilst I was cooking, my aunt popped by. My aunt never pops by. Normally it would be a pleasure and a joy. This time it meant I didn’t get time to change or do my hair or get ready to go out in any way shape or form. A rare night out with Husband and instead of looking gorgeous and glamorous after my day of pampering I smelt of bacon and had chocolate smudges courtesy of Noodles on my top. It was a good job we were going to sit in a darkened room.

Richard Herring was a joy. I shall never be able to contemplate Hamlet’s soliloquy with such solemnity again: ‘You want to know about death’s dreams and what happens in the after-life, Hamlet, why not ask your dad? He’s been hanging around as a ghost for the past fortnight after all.’

But I do feel as though I could do with another dip in some bubbly water. It’s Mother’s Day next month. I don’t suppose another spa voucher could turn up with my card, please? Although preferably with less of a trek and someone to deal with the demands of real-life afterwards. Just so that feeling of bliss can last for longer than five minutes next time.

Him

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Spike Jonze’s film, Her, is currently on general release around the UK and is showing at our local cinema. Not that I shall get to see it. Cinema is one of those things I’ve more or less  had to give up since having Boo and even more so since Noodles’ arrival. Kids’ films not withstanding (I could do a Mastermind round on Disney princesses) I’ve been once in the past year. Start times clash with the bedtime routine and it doesn’t seem fair to inflict that hell on anyone else. Besides which, given the chance to spend a couple of hours in a darkened room I’d rather sleep in it, but the cinema is far too booming for that. (The last proper film I saw was Gravity and thanks to the incessant booming from the speakers I came out hunched over and more stressed than I can remember being in the real world.)

Instead I form my opinion through reviews so that I can keep up if ever involved in grown-up conversations, when opinions on CBeebies just gets you a withering glance and you’re left out on your own. I want to be best mates with Claudia Winkleman and adore Danny Leigh, so Film 2014 is practically part of my social life. In my Bubble World (the place in my head where everything is shiny and fun and I look like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) the conversation isn’t conducted through the medium of TV, but over several rounds in a pub. Obviously in Bubble World hangovers don’t exist.

In large part thanks to Claudia and Danny, my original scepticism about the film was overturned. Initially it seemed ridiculous that someone could fall in love with an operating system, even if it did sound like Scarlett Johansson. But Claudia and Danny loved the film. Everyone loved the film. It got me thinking and started to make sense once I realised:

Falling In Love With My Computer Would Be Better Than Being Married To My Husband.

1) It could sound like George Clooney. The aural equivalent to the most luxuriously creamy-yet-bitter Belgian chocolate, that melts over my brain. Mmmmmm. It wouldn’t put on a fake Cockney (Mockney?) accent when talking to mates in a bid to sound hard. Or slip into a dodgy Russian accent for no reason at all.

2) Husband spends all of his spare time on his computer, ignoring the rest of us. Having a relationship with the computer would mean I would get more of a meaningful conversation. From my preference settings it would know what would interest me and wouldn’t just point out stories about killer spiders invading Britain.

3) It would actually register the things that I said. (Although it would mean I could no longer get away with claiming that I’d mentioned something previously when I hadn’t – eg ‘But I told you I was going out with my friends last week and you agreed to babysit,’ or ‘What this top? No, it’s not new, I’ve had it for ages.’)

4) It could also be relied upon to remember birthdays, addresses, friends’ partner’s/kids’ names, rather than it always being me whose expected to remember.

5) If we disagreed I could just switch it off.

6) I wouldn’t expect it to do anything practical around the house, such as help with childcare, DIY or housework, so I wouldn’t be disappointed when it didn’t.

7) But then I’d have more free time for the kids, DIY and housework since I wouldn’t have to clear away after it.

8) It also wouldn’t have any stuff so the wardrobe would be completely mine again.

9) And it wouldn’t hog the duvet or use my towel after a shower.

10) It wouldn’t pass comment on what I eat or pinch food from my plate or help itself to my was-meant-to-be-secret-and-for-emergency-use-only chocolate stash.

11) Birthday/Christmas presents would no longer be epic fails. I’d just order my own gift. Reaction: ‘Ah, just what I wanted.’

12) It would never get stuck in its ways, always happy to upgrade. And if it did become annoyingly slow and unresponsive I could start again with a shinier, brighter, newer model.

The more I think about it, the more I think Joaquin Phoenix’s character was onto something. Does anyone know where I can get Husband 2.0?

Dreaming of a Good Night’s Sleep

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I have a confession to make. When Husband said that he was concerned about a friend I too was concerned and wanted him to be able to do appropriate good friend duties and visit him. But a selfish part of me also jumped for joy at the prospect of Husband being away for the night. Not for anything nefarious. I really don’t have the energy for anything like that. But rather for the chance to have the bed to myself. It’s a rare luxury to be able to indulge in nocturnal space and duvet cocooning.

Usually not only do I share the bed with Husband, but also the cat and usually with an addition of a small human from some point in the early hours. And why is it small children always sleep horizontally across any bed, regardless of original orientation? It’s not a great set-up.

Because I’m the one who tends to the nocturnal needs of younger family members and therefore spend a good part of my night playing Musical Beds, I swear Husband and the cat have made a pact when it comes to matters of the duvet. In my absence the cat anchors herself firmly to the midpoint of my side of the bed. To move her is to risk attack to the toes. So instead I s-bend around her like a Tetris block, guaranteeing my spine and my legs hate me in the morning. Meanwhile Husband performs an act of duvet redistribution (without disturbing the cat – see, it IS a pact!). He winches the duvet around himself, cocooning himself in warmth, leaving me with the very edge of the sheet, which is usually bereft of duvet filling.

Our home is cold. I hate being cold. Toastie is the temperature of choice for me, so the situation disgruntles me on a nightly basis. Not only is Husband’s sleep less disturbed than mine, but also more comfortable. It’s enough to have me craving a bed of my own.

There’s an article from The Guardian published last year that I keep next to the bed. It certainly struck a chord when I read it. ‘Is it time for separate beds for the sake of a good night’s sleep?’ The answer, if you want physical, mental and emotional well-being, is a resounding ‘YES!’ Poor sleep can increase the risk of depression, stroke, heart disease and respiratory failure. And if that wasn’t enough to have you reaching for the Nytol, a 2005 study showed that women were a third more likely to put on at least 33lbs more than her rested counterparts. And there I was thinking it was over-eating and a lack of exercise that were responsible for my wobbly bum. Never before have I wanted to be Sleeping Beauty so much.

So separate beds could make me happier, healthier and skinnier? It’s enough to have me swapping the king-size divan for two singles quicker than you can say ‘Ikea’.

Except, even better, could I have separate rooms too? When I read Fifty Shades of Grey I wasn’t so much enamoured with the idea of the Red Room of Pain, but rather with Anna having her own room in Christian’s luxury apartment where he promises she’ll be completely undisturbed. Oh, yes, yes, YES!

In the States separate beds are becoming increasingly popular. By next year 60% of new builds are expected to feature dual master bedrooms. Would emigration be an extreme step to take for some decent kip? Especially if a change of a change of timezones realigned Noodles’ body clock to more appropriate waking hours. I can only imagined being bothered by neither Husband nor child. Where are our passports?

Or maybe I should take the advice given to an equally sleep-deprived friend by her 5-year-old daughter. Driving past a Premier Inn the little girl pipes up ‘Oh, Mummy, you should go there – they guarantee a good night’s sleep!’ Sadly I don’t think the guarantee covers disturbances from
partners or children.

For tonight though I shall kick the cat out, hope I’ve done enough to exhaust Noodles (aka the Duracell Bunny) and try to appreciate every inch of the bed. I do hope Husband’s friend is ok. But I also hope I get my best night’s sleep for many a month.

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Boo’s Valentine

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Boo has a crush. On an older boy too. He’s 10. I don’t know if the feeling is mutual or even if he knows she exists beyond her working next to him in cookery club. He did give her one of his biscuits the other week though, which is when her infatuation started. Food isn’t only the way to a man’s heart. A girl’s head can be turned by a boy who can cook. It was what won me over with my first boyfriend too. It was just a shame he turned out to be a manipulative bully. All be it a manipulative bully who knew his way around a kitchen.

But thankfully the object of Boo’s affection seems more adorable all round. According to Boo, he’s sensible ‘which a lot of boys aren’t – instead they’re just silly and mess around all the time’ (how true – and not just the little boys, but the grown-up ones too). And he’s good at helping. He sounds like a keeper to me!

Now, Valentine’s isn’t as big a deal in the UK as it is in the States. But according to Boo’s learning journal they’ve been discussing love in class. So last week she wondered if she might get any Valentines, especially from her would-be boyfriend.

Experience has taught me to assume that any occasion that requires a card probably hasn’t registered on the mind of a large proportion of the male population. It also seemed likely that even if the unsuspecting lad was geared to making a Valentine’s statement it would more likely be to a girl in Year 6 than to one in Year 2. Ultimately it seemed unlikely that a card would wing its way from him to her. But I didn’t want her to be heartbroken at the prospect of a snub. So I sent her a card myself. Slipped into her school bag with the same sleight of hand that’s exchanged tooth for coin and filled stockings hanging on bedposts, she was genuinely taken in and over the moon.

‘Oh no! They’ve only signed it with a question mark. That’s going to make it harder to work out who it’s from.’

(Well, obviously! Surely that’s the fun? And it means I haven’t, actually, technically lied. The same as I haven’t technically lied about Santa. I’ve told her stories about Santa, but his name never appears on the presents. She just puts two and two together and assumes it was him.)

But the question mark means that we’ve had an evening of her doing a 6-year-old’s version of detective work. It had to be someone who could get to her school bag. And a boy. (I thought I’d save the ‘girls can love other girls’ talk for another time. Although hopefully I won’t be put in the same position as I was when the twins were 10 and I was asked ‘Mummy, what’s a lesbian?’ As we walked down the High Street!) And it can’t have been Daddy because he always puts him name. The boy from cookery club is in the running and she’s smitten.

Luckily there’s no school next week so, hopefully, she won’t confront him when they next meet. There’s no chance of Santa ever stopping by to say ‘Actually, I never put those presents under your tree,’ so it’s ok to allow her to attribute the credit to him. (No, Santa is always happy to take the credit for others’ work.) But if Boo confronts her supposed Valentine and he (understandably) denies all knowledge she’d be gutted. A week of half term fun should be enough for the card to be forgotten about.

Although if she does ask him and he says no, the question mark still allows her the satisfaction of knowing someone out there loves her. Which is true. I love Boo, unconditionally to the bottom of my heart, just as I do all my children. And loving and being loved is what Valentine’s is all about, isn’t it? And if that question mark makes it more exciting, then all the better. Because it doesn’t take long for the excitement to become tainted with angst and then, even worse, expectation and mundanity.

I wish I had the same excitement as a 6-year-old. Long may it last for Boo.

❤ Happy Valentine’s Day ❤

House of Tears

I think I’m going to take out shares in Kleenex. There seems to be a flood of tears in our house at the moment. Our tissue consumption is definitely inflated and that’s without considering the impact of cold and flu season. Yep, Kleenex are cleaning up with us.

The tears are going to result in more grey hairs, I feel. Early hours crying from the wee one leads to sobbing from Eve. Amongst all the breastfeeding literature and talks no one mentions how over-whelming it feels to be solely responsible for the well-being of a little one who can only let you know his needs by squeaking. Especially when it’s all harder than the photos of established feeding in the pamphlets. They don’t tell you of the constant demand, what to do when engorgement makes the perfect latch impossible, the frustration of leaking with a baby that doesn’t seem to be feeding well. And, with all things child-related, it always seems to be worse at night. Add sleep deprivation, hormones and adjusting to such a seismic lifestyle shift alongside a boyfriend who has no qualms about getting plenty of rest himself it’s no wonder she’s sobbing.

Walking the tightrope between offering advice and making things worse by interfering is hard. I can only go on how it all felt for me. Making sure she eats and drinks well, holding the baby so she can nap, but not to the extent that I’m taking over or making her feel as though she’s doing it wrong. To give her a shoulder to cry on and offer up the Kleenex seems to be my best tactic.

At least she’s accepting of the tissues. It’s far harder to wipe up the tears and snot from a toddler tantrum of epic proportions. Anything can trigger one: going out, staying in, getting dressed, tripping over, being stopped from tripping, not getting to go up the escalator in the supermarket, shoes. Ironically, the biggest cause of excessive facial fluid is an attempt to wipe up the mess from the last tantrum. Wailing, flailing, rolling on the floor. I expect blood to trickle from my ears at the aural assault. If children’s screams were truly an energy source just as they were in Monsters Inc then we’d not having to be attached to the National Grid. We would a single-handed power station.

And then Boo comes home from school, a face like thunder.

‘What’s wrong?’

‘Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh.’

‘Woah. Deep breath. Then tell me.’

‘Weeeeeeeep, ma-ma squeeeeeeeeak.’

At which point I usually lose my temper, growl at her a bit about pulling herself together and then have to take a deep breath myself because my irritation doesn’t help matters and the whine becomes even higher pitched.

It turns out that whatever’s caused her pain is minor. On Monday her hair clip had broken. On Tuesday an elastic band had broken on the buggy she built in a day-long workshop, meaning she didn’t come far up the field in the race. Today it was because she’d grazed her knee at lunchtime and then had to do PE. Anyone would think she was made to do an assault course after a double amputation.

This week the days are filled with tears…and it’s only Wednesday!

Gales are forecast for tonight. By morning the roof is likely to be leaking into the kitchen and utility room. Even the house is ready to weep.

And yet contrary to my normal usual disposition towards a good blub myself (no prizes for guessing where my children get it from) I actually feel quite strong. This could all change in a heartbeat, but for now I’m the matriarch; the rock to which all hands cling as they weather their storms. Maybe it’s because a crumbling rock is no good to anyone. Maybe it was that second glass of Rioja.

Who knows what crisis may befall us tomorrow, but my emotional first-aid kit is ready and waiting. A sturdy shoulder that doesn’t mind the damp, something chilling in the fridge and, of course, the box of tissues.