Thursday, 21 April 2011


Not four children, although that day is not far off.  (Five weeks today, if you believe the doctors).

Just the one child.


Today she is four.  If I can get the delayed posting thing to work, when this goes live she will be exactly four years old.  Four years from 11.52pm on Saturday 21 April 2007.

She has driven me absolutely insane today.  I have been to the end of my tether and back again, but I still wouldn't change a single cell of her exasperating, irritating, obstinate, argumentative, bright, sparky, beautiful, determined, inquisitive, talkative, engaging, loving little body.

Happy Birthday, beautiful girl.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The Gallery - My blog

This is my blog.  It is a friend. Or maybe a cousin.  Or a sister.  But either way, a friend.  One of those friends or relations you have known from childhood, maybe all your life.

The sort of friend who you don't have to explain things to, because she has been there too, and she understands.  The sort of cousin who you can tell anything to, not because she won't judge, but because she will, and although you might hate what she says at the time, and get all defensive and grumpy,  and maybe even a bit teary, you will know she is right and is only telling you because she cares.  The sort of sister who is so much a part of your life and your furniture that your memories are her memories and you have both forgotten why or how she came to be there, but just that she is.

The sort of friend that sometimes you don't really like very much.  Sometimes she embarrasses you. Sometimes you think she doesn't really represent the person you'd like to be, although, in your heart of hearts, you admit, if only to yourself, she represents the person you actually are.   Sometimes you feel she makes you do, or say, things that you wish you hadn't done or said.   Sometimes you feel you hide behind her, letting her take the lead, when you should have the courage to come out and say things out loud instead.

Sometimes you wish you could just walk away. That you could take back the admissions you've made to her; admissions you've made because talking to her is like talking to yourself.  That you'd never met her in the first place. But you can't.

Because no matter how much she irritates, or embarrasses, or is not what you'd always want her to be, you'd miss her if she weren't there.  And your life would be immeasurably poorer without her.


This post is, as posts often are on a Wednesday, for Tara's Gallery.  Find out what everyone else thinks their blogs are like here.

Friday, 15 April 2011

The last kiss goodnight

Imagine the scene:

You are staying at your parents'.  The children were in bed hours ago and are sound asleep, probably with arms flung above heads and covers wrunkled round feet. You've had a pleasant meal, maybe a glass of wine, definitely a splendid pudding, and you're off to bed.  You say goodnight and head upstairs with your best beloved.

You creep into the children's rooms, tucking them in and kissing each of them, relishing that sleepy baby breathing. You clean your teeth, wash your face, climb into bed and do whatever it is the pair of you do next (in my case, whinge about being uncomfortable, read a couple of pages of a book and warm my feet on the back of his legs (he loves that, by the way)), before turning the light off and settling down to sleep.

The door creaks open, light spills in from the hallway. In creeps your mum. She leans over the bed and gives you a gentle kiss on the forehead, brushing your hair out of your eyes.  "Night, night, darling. I love you. I'll see you in the morning".

Or not.

Because funnily enough neither of my parents comes in to give me a goodnight kiss any more. I'd find it more than a little odd if they did.

But when did they stop?  Because the goodnight kiss, the sleepy baby, the hunt for the lost Bunny in the darkened room, the tucking in of the tiny hands are all an essential part of my bedtime routine.  I would be significantly more likely to go to bed without cleaning my teeth than I would without kissing my children. 

But mine are (nearly) 4 and 2. So I can do that.  They go to bed before me. They are asleep. They expect me to creep in, to tuck, to stroke, to kiss.  And I know that I won't when they are 24 and 22.  But what about when they are 14 and 12?  Will they then be too cool? Too awake?  Too grumpy?

When does it stop?  When is the last kiss goodnight? How long have I got? Will I recognise it when it comes?  Because I'm going to miss it when it's gone and I want to savour it until it is.

Thursday, 14 April 2011


This time last year there was an election going on.

Actually there were two. But there was only one I really cared about.

The MAD blog awards.  I remember the astonishment and delight I felt at discovering I'd been nominated in not one, but several categories, especially when I realised the nominations weren't just from my husband and my mum...

But what I didn't do, then, was actually come out and say "VOTE FOR ME". I sat, and I watched Dave, and Gordon, and Nick work the streets, shake the hands and kiss the babies, and thought, "Well, of course if you want people to vote for you, you have to ask them", but I was too British, and embarrassed, to come out and say it myself.

This year though, I'm casting aside my Britishness, and my shame, and asking...

Go on, nominate me, (you don't have to be a blogger, a mum, or a dad by the way, they all count) and if not me, nominate someone else. There's a great list of fantastic blogs on the right hand side of this page. Pick one of them.  Just do it before next Friday when the nominations close.

And if, having had a look at them, you still like me, I think I'm eligible for the following:

Blogger of the Year
Best writer (ha!)
Post of the year.  I like this one, but you may disagree.
Best pregnancy blog
Most MAD family life (surely we qualify for that one?)
Most inspiring (double ha!)
Best pre-school fun blog

Oh, and if you are my mum, or my husband, you know where your duty lies...

And ps, if you have already nominated me, because someone has, a very big virtual kiss is coming your way.  Thank you!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Movers and shakers

My dad is a mover and a shaker.

Or rather he's not.  He doesn't shake and he can't move.

He has Parkinson's Disease.

A little while ago, a friend of mine asked if my father was dead.  Apparently I don't talk about him much. And it made me realise that I tend to use the collective noun "my mum" when I really mean "my parents".

And, mostly, Parkinson's is why.

When he was diagnosed I was about twenty and he was fifty-five.  That's early-ish for a diagnosis, but not unheard of and doesn't put him in the Michael J Fox category of early-onset Parkinson's at all.  We are lucky.  To be honest it was a relief. I'd noticed things were wrong and although I'd never have said it out loud for fear of making it true, I thought it was Alzheimer's or a brain tumour, or something, I thought, truly debilitating and awful.

Something that was going to take away my dad.

Which is ironic.  Because that's precisely what Parkinson's is doing.  Slowly, yes, but inexorably nonetheless.

As I say, he's neither a mover nor a shaker.  If you think of Parkinson's you probably think of old men with wobbly hands.  He doesn't do that. He doesn't have a tremor, doesn't shake or shudder.  Instead he has a freeze.  The messages from his brain to his legs just don't get through and so, from time to time, three or four times a day, he can't move.  He's stuck,  for minutes rather than hours, but long, agonising, frustrating minutes while he counts, out loud, like a toddler with a new skill, willing his feet to carry him where he wants to go, his knees to bend, his legs to swing at the hip as they used to so thoughtlessly.

And it's not just his legs messages don't get to.  His hands don't really work either. His writing, never what you might call legible, is now spidery: weak and nearly as painful to read as it must be to write.  His mouth doesn't work, so he mumbles, and dribbles, and makes people shy away from him in the street, or look the other way, or just get cross and frustrated as he holds up an entire conversation trying to get the right words out at a level that can be heard.  In the night, when he stops taking the two-hourly drugs that make any movement possible, all movement ceases, and he is totally reliant on my mum, a carer rather than a wife.

He doesn't read this blog and I wouldn't be saying any of this if he did.  But he isn't, in so many ways, my dad any more.  He's my dad, so obviously he's always been annoying and frustrating and embarrassing.  But he was also charming and witty and sparky, given to random flights of fancy and appalling puns.  He's still the same, but he's lost the ability to communicate the spark that made him such great company.  His dad jokes are inaudible, his frolics of imagination unfollowable.  He's an unbelievably adoring grandfather, but one who can't pick them up for fear of dropping them.  

And if he's been taken from me and my children, how much more has he been taken from my mother, at a stage of their lives where they were looking forward to his retirement and freedom from children?  I asked her once, early on, how she felt.  She said, "I promised to love him for better or worse, in sickness and in health.   We didn't plan for this, we didn't want it, but I made a promise and I'm going to keep it". 

Parkinson's is not fatal. He could, and should, live a normal life span.  It is his seventieth birthday this year, his allotted three score years and ten, and we have a big party planned.  He will be brilliant, I know.  All his effort will go into hiding, as much as possible, the effects of this disease.  He will, insofar as possible, speak up, not mumble, stand straight, take the drugs that keep him moving, and this will, in the days that follow, take its toll.  And we will watch, and worry and try not to think about the Parkinson's related dementia that might, one day, add another symptom to his personal list.

I realise, even in writing this, that I am lucky.  It is just Parkinson's.  It won't kill him, and for the moment, it isn't taking his mind. But it is taking his body and his spirit, and it has already taken the dad I knew growing up.   

Apparently I don't talk about my dad much, but then if I don't, who will?



This week is Parkinson's awareness week.  One person in 500 in the UK has Parkinson's. Even if you or they don't know it, you will know someone with it. It may be more or less debilitating than it is for my dad, but it will, regardless, have changed their lives and the lives of everyone who knows them.  It will therefore come as no surprise to you that my charity for this month is the Cure Parkinson's Trust. You may well have heard of The Parkinson's Disease Society which does an amazing job of raising awareness and supporting my dad and others with the disease, but wouldn't it be amazing if their support wasn't needed ever again? 

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Soundtrack to our Son.

Did you give birth to music?

I flatly refused the first time. B was keen on the idea. He would be. He likes a constant backdrop of anything from Charles Ives to Charles Aznavour, but I know myself and I realised that in the stress and pain of labour, the wrong song could be fatal to my irritation levels, and there was then a distinct possibility that the cd player might end up being used as an offensive weapon.

So L was born only to the melodious tones of her mother's voice.  Apparently I swore. A lot.

When it came to A and S though, we were firmly told by the surgeon that we really ought to bring in a cd, as otherwise our daughters would be born to magic fm.   Now I don't want to be rude about magic fm which has, after all, brought me hours of cheesy listening pleasure, but it is certainly true to say that it has the shortest playlist of any radio station I've ever listened to and Celine Dion is always on it.  Even I wasn't prepared to have the girls' first auditory experience of the outside world be that horrendous.

So B made a playlist.  Weeks of thought went into it, culminating a heated debate of the irrational sort that only a woman 35-weeks pregnant with twins can achieve.  B wanted the Killers.  I refused to have my babies born to the line, "Are we human?"   I still maintain it was the right decision. The first song ended up being Here come the girls (Ernie K Doe, not the Sugababes, although EMI have taken it off YouTube so I can't link to it, sorry), which gave the anaesthetist the giggles, (not such a good thing given he was waving a large needle at my spine at the time) and they were actually born to Aretha (sorry Celine....)

Two and a bit years later, here we are again.  And if baby T* has turned, which we will find out on Friday, then silence and swearing will once again hold sway. But if he hasn't, he'll be coming out of the sunroof, and, on the basis that  Radio Borders is not much better than magic, we'll need a soundtrack.  So far, it goes something like this...

Here comes the "sun"
He ain't heavy, he's my brother
Baby love
Boys, boys, boys (although actually I've just listened to it for the first time since about 1986 and it's awful, so maybe not.  You have been warned).
Mad about the boy
And maybe, optimistically, a new dawn, a new day, a new life... Feeling Good.

My gut instinct (which isn't really in my gut so much as kicking at my ribs) is that he has turned, and so the chances are this list will never be required, but in the meantime I'm going to have fun adding to it...

*T.  To follow on from L, A and S.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Lies, damn lies, and small children

Scene 1. Our house.

L pushes A.  A screams.  I enter, in time to catch the gist, but slightly too late to see the offence.

Me (cuddling A) : L, what happened? Why is she crying?
L: I don't know.
Me: Did you hurt her?
L: No
Me: A, sweetheart,  where does it hurt? What happened?
A: L push
Me: Did L push you?
A: Yes
Me: L, did you push your sister?
L: No.
Me: Are you lying to me?
L (compounding the crime, in my opinion). No.

Repeat ad boredom

Scene 2.  Our car. Me looking in rear view mirror, in time to see L hit S.  S cries.

Me:  L, that was very naughty.  Don't hit your sister.
L: I didn't. 
Me: Yes you did. I saw you.
L: How?
Me: In the mirror. That's not the point. Don't hit your sister. That's a naughty thing to do.
L: I didn't.
Me: Yes you did. And now you're lying to me.
L: No I'm not.

Scene 3.  Our living room.  A sitting on yellow cushion.  I leave the room.  A starts crying. I return. L is now sitting on yellow cushion.

Me: L, did you take her cushion?
L: No

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

So what do we do? Because, let's be honest, if I were nearly four, I'd do exactly the same thing. She's done something wrong. She knows it's wrong. Why would she own up? Because for all that I say "I won't be cross with you if you tell the truth" we both know that if she's hurt her sisters I'm going to be cross, otherwise I'm effectively saying it's ok to do so, as long as she tells me about it, which seems pretty shaky moral ground.

So how do I teach her not to lie? I can tell her that lying is not a good thing to do, but every now and then it probably works and she gets away with whatever it is she's done, so she's going to keep doing it, isn't she?

Not-so-innocent Queen of P(ee) (featuring a competition!)

When innocent asked me to be their Queen of P, quite frankly I thought the P was precisely what they were taking...

Because at the moment, mid-twin-training, I am undoubtedly the Queen of Pee.  And Poo.  And Potties.  And Pants.  And washing, but that doesn't start with P.

But then I realised they wanted me, along with 25 other lucky bloggers, to Post a Picture, nay, a Photograph, featuring one of their new range of magnets.  And I got P.

And I thought about Pee, and Poo, and Pants, and Potties, and Pictures, and Photographs, and Pickles (which is the nicest word I called my children when they dropped the P magnet (it would be that one wouldn't it?) down the back of the radiator), and Picnics and Parties and all sorts of other more or less interesting words beginning with P, before I realised there was only one I could use.

Because, when I look back at April 2011, in one, or five, or fifty years time, this is the P I'll think of:

 Although I'm not sure you'd call it innocent...


Innocent did, perhaps obviously, send me a bunch of lovely stuff when they asked me to do this, for which we are very grateful.  It included three lovely P t-shirts.  L has adopted one, as modelled left, but the other two are way too big for S and A, and so innocent have kindly said I can pass them on to any Poppies, Peters, or indeed Hermiones, Harries or Rons out there.

So, if you'd like a brand spanking new P t-shirt to fit a 3-6 year old-ish ( L will be four this month and is, I think, pretty tall for her age) , just leave a comment before next Sunday (17th) and my beautiful assistant will pick a two names out of the hat then.

You can find out more about the Innocent A-Z (and win more t-shirts with different letters and in different sizes) on their website or twitter by clicking on the links.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Are you going to watch the Royal Wedding?

In July 1981 I looked like this:

What I wanted to look like, of course, was this:

Disappointingly the numbers of available bridesmaids in North Essex were limited and I hadn't (then) met my prince...

But I remember it so well. I was four and a half, and as far as I was concerned it was the most exciting thing that had ever happened. There was absolutely no question that I, my bridesmaid, and our parents would sit solemnly through the entire thing, live, on our new telly.

Fast forward thirty years, and I think I'd sort of imagined that L, six months younger now than I was then, would be similarly excited; and that I'd have to find out if I loved her enough to adapt my wedding dress (strapless doesn't work so well on the genuinely flat-chested) so that she and her sisters could play princesses-to-be in their turn.

But she's not going to. Not only does she not know there's a wedding happening, but she's probably never going to, because while however many thousand of their close friends are filing into Westminster Abbey and Wills and Kate are saying I do, we are going to be profiting from an extra-long weekend with no compulsion to visit family (they're coming for Easter) and heading South to catch up with various friends.  I'm enormously looking forward to it, and have no regrets whatsoever about not catching the live nuptials.  I'm pretty certain the papers the next day will show me what the dress looked like after all...

But will I regret it? Am I alone?  Are the heralded street parties actually happening (they don't seem to be here)?  Are your children wandering around with bits of net on their heads, and bouquets of daisies in their hands?  Does that weekend mean more to you than it does to us?

Are you going to watch?  And do you think I'm missing out for not doing so?

Sunday, 3 April 2011

How shopping made me love my baby

I admit it, that's a slightly over-dramatic title, but it's also sort of true.

Because however much I wanted (and still want this baby), since the moment I discovered I was pregnant there's been a little niggly voice inside me saying
"You're not going to sleep. You're not going to be able to play with the others. You're not going to fit them all in the car. The builders won't have finished. You have no idea what to do with a boy.  Four children is greedy/ecologically criminal/insane.  You won't be able to leave the house for the next five years.  YOU AREN'T GOING TO COPE"
The odd thing is that B is the opposite.  He was very cautious about going in to this; kept coming up with all sorts of reasons why we really should stick at three, but the minute that line went blue, he's been over-joyed.  He's not worried. We'll cope.  And how wonderfully exciting is it going to be to have a baby?!

And I say the right things and I smile and I nod, and inside I keep thinking "What on earth are we doing?  I'm not going to cope".  And where with the others I loved being pregnant and talking about being pregnant and being excited about being pregnant, this time I'm playing the very British jaded-mother-of-three-already card, and saying things like "Well, clearly we're insane, but..." and changing the subject.

Until yesterday.  When I took L to a birthday party and seized the opportunity to nip into mothercare while we were going past and came out with this lot:

And it's tiny, and it's new, and it's blue....*

And the odd thing is, the minute I walked in there, and saw the tiny baby clothes, and the new baby nappies (yes even those), I started smiling.  And that pile of stuff, which is sitting on the landing until we have somewhere better to put it (note to self, must remember to sort that out before going into labour) is still making me smile.

Because more than all the worry and the practicalities and the uncertainty, there's a baby.  And it took shopping for him to make me realise how wonderfully excited too I am about that.

*I did also buy an armful of waterproof sheets and a new potty, but oddly they're not doing it for me in quite the same way...