Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Open letter: To the men who laughed

Hi, I don't know you.  In fact I've never even set eyes on you before.

I was walking with my two youngest into down, down our road.  My three year old was holding my hand, chatting away and I had my toddler on my back, wrapped in a sling.

You were sitting, two of you in a van and one on a stool outside, eating your lunch and talking between yourselves.

As I walked passed you burst into hysterical laughter, turning around to catch another glance and when seeing I'd noticed, hastily turning away.

Can you imagine what was going through my mind....What were you laughing at?
My weight?
My clothes?
My looks?
My hair?
My lack of make-up?

.....hey, that's social anxiety for you....

Then I realised what it was.

You were laughing at me carrying my baby...and you know what...that doesn't touch my anxiety in the slightest.

I'm incredibly proud to baby wear.  To keep my little boy close and warm against my body.  To always have that connection with him when we're out.  To have both hands free for my older children.

I'm proud because what you don't know is after he was born I got extremely ill.  I had to learn to breathe, lift my head, hold a spoon, move my arms, sit up...even walk again.  I couldn't pick up my baby for months.  Even at 4lbs I had to have him handed to me and my arms propped up.

So for me to be able to wrap my little boy and leave the house, without even thinking about it, it a huge accomplishment for me....and something I think about every time I pick him up.

Something I'm incredibly grateful for.

So no...I don't feel upset about your narrow mindedness.  But I do feel annoyed.

You coloured a lovely occasion with my children.  It was just a little moment...an ordinary moment.  Walking down the street, chatting to my 3 year old about foxes and hot cocoa.

But when you laughed at me my blood ran cold.  The anxiety took over and I wanted to hide.  I wanted to cry.

Even when I realised why you were laughing, the adrenaline was still there.  The lump in the throat.

...and I wanted to confront you.

But I didn't.

Why didn't I?

Well, partly I didn't want to say anything in front of my boys.  I didn't want them to question why I stopped to talk to the men.

...Also...I'm kind of a coward.

What would you have done?  What would you have said to justify laughing at a complete stranger?

You wouldn't have had an answer, would you?

You are three grown men, giggling like school girls about someone travelling with a baby.


...Can't you see how ridiculous that it?

Would you have laughed at me if I'd been pushing a pushchair?

No.  Probably not.

Perhaps you should educate yourselves.  You are likely to become fathers in the future.  Or perhaps you already are fathers.  Educate yourself.  Carrying your baby in a wrap or a sling is a wonderful experience.  No, it's not uncomfortable.  Yes, my toddler loves it just as much as I do.  No they're not heavy.  No, it doesn't mean I'm a baby wearing, flaxseed eating, yoga doing, rainbow worshiping hippy (although I do eat flaxseed...my bad...).  I don't give two hoots if you carry or use a pushchair (I don't have anywhere to stow bags of shopping, so who's laughing then.)

It means I like wrapping my baby.
I like the closeness.
I like not having to struggle with a cumbersome pushchair through shop doors and around people in the street.
I like the pretty colours....like they're really pretty. (Google Oscha......go on, I dare you.)
I'm going to continue to use this method to travel with my boy until he decides he's ready.

So in the future, please smile nicely and control yourselves.  By all means, whisper like you're by the water cooler.  That way you get your little gossip and I can carry on my day oblivious to your narrow minded bull shit.

If you ignore me, then I'll ignore the fact that you can't park for toffee....just saying...

Best wishes, and all that Jazz

Monday, 25 January 2016

Chance encounters

After a thoroughly miserable few days, cold enough to give you frostbite and wet enough to consider buying a boat, we have sunshine.


And I'm feeling shiny.

What made this sunglasses weather even better was that the playground at the back of our house is finally completed and away came all the safety fences in time for Saturday.  The boys were slightly put out that the diggers had gone (who doesn't love a large machine?) but somewhere new to play kind of makes up for that.....Boy 2 took a while to be convinced of that though.

And there, at the park, I met a very interesting fellow...

Whilst the boys were playing on obstacle courses and jumping over lava, being dinosaurs and experimenting with bouncy flooring (<--Rupert), this old gentleman was walking past and exclaimed to me how wonderful the new playground was compared to the old one.

He asked me which mine were so I pointed at them and said "The three blonde-ish boys". 
"All boys?" he asked...."I thought this wee one was a girl with all that hair".  
Oh Hugo...no matter...nothing will make me cut it off.

We got chatting and I learned his life story...and a very interesting one it was too, but that's not why I'm writing about our encounter.

It turns out that he knew my Grandpa.  My wonderful, kind, generous Grandpa.  It was such a special moment, having this man who I'd never met tell me what a great man he was.

What a rock to the community he was.

How he looked out for those who needed it most.

How highly thought of he was.

How respected.

How missed he is.

I've always known that my Grandpa was a great man.  But to hear it from someone completely detached from me....that was a wonderful thing and I'll hold it with me forever.

Isn't is funny...if we'd gone to the park 30 minutes after we had then I'd never have met him.  If I hadn't walked over to talk to him then I'd never have known what he had to say.  I'm not sure I believe in fate, but it was definitely a pretty awesome happenstance.

I spent the rest of the day feeling warm and fuzzy inside....and still do when I think about it.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The weekend

What day are we on...?


...Ah, balls...not exactly close to the weekend just past, but oh well.

We had a lovely weekend, a rare one with Mr B home on Sunday.  We had lots of plans to go out and about, have a walk, go to somewhere National Trusty.

But it was cold....my god it was cold, so all those plans were forgotten.

Instead we played lego and read magazines....which was dangerous as my two big boys wanted to read the Lego catalogues that drop on the doormat every couple of months and drive me insane with requests for every single piece of lego they make.  We people watched out the window (well, Rupert did...it's his favourite past time).  Us big people drank a heck of a lot of tea and I risked hypothermia taking Lucy on a much needed romp.

A joyous hour and a half, just me and my dog.

We walked down the heath until we could go no further and the fields nearby weren't full of horses, but sheep.

Lucy did her best impression of a racehorse, galloping all over the place, never straying far, always aware of me.

We walked in mostly silence and didn't see a soul other than far in the distance.

My goodness I needed that walk.  It really shows me how little time I spend without at least one child with me.  I'm constantly exhausted...a grit in the eyes exhausted.  I needed to blow away the cobwebs.  I needed that distance to not be mummy, not be constantly aware of where they are, what they're doing, what they want.

I needed silence.

I needed to rest.

I needed to be me!

So I walked as far as I could, away from the mess, the noise, the responsibility.

...and then I turned around and home I came.

Before I'd fully opened the door I was accosted by two of my three little boys.  Clambering over each other to hug me first.

"Mummy's back, daddy."
"Mummy, I missed you."
"Mummy, can I have a banana?" (Perhaps that's why he missed me.)

Then we sat...cat purring on my lap, reading our magazines, drinking our tea in mostly quiet.

And whilst I'm glad I managed some time alone...I was glad to be home, with my little family.

To be their mummy.


Friday, 15 January 2016

The warehouse of dreams: Ikea haul

Wednesday Mr B and I made the impromptu decision to go to the blue and yellow warehouse of dreams...A certain Swedish furniture store.  I even left a freshly made cup of tea on the kitchen table....it killed me to do so.  Within 10 minutes of deciding we were going we'd bundled Rupert in the car and off we went.

Here comes the confession...I haven't been to an IKEA for years.  Over my renting and home owning years we've done a couple of furniture shops there but having big, bulky items we've always had it delivered for ease.  Of course that also means that you don't have the temptation of 200 food saver clips, enough tumblers to quench the thirst of an army, or a mini greenhouse for your windowsill, which you really don't need because you've never kept an indoor plant alive for a week before.

I'd forgotten how magical it is.  It has whole apartments set up and about 4000 kitchens for you to pretend to make dinner in.  I very quickly I decided that we needed ALL THE THINGS and had to be physically restrained by Mr B, who held the purse strings for the shopping trip.

Brought back down to earth I was very sensible, I'll have you know.  (Although, as you might have guessed, I did succumb to the mini greenhouse, and don't regret it for a second.)

So, what did we buy?  We've been making a list for months about what we needed.

  • We got a rug for the sitting room. 
  • A mirror for over the fireplace (not that we have a fireplace yet)
  • A coffee table.  Our old one was long and narrow and because the sofas are two meters apart it not only looked a bit stupid, but was useless as it's original purpose because no one could actually reach it when sitting down.
  • Two bedside tables.  Mr B and I haven't had space for our old ones since we moved, which hasn't been ideal.
  • A floor lamp, because....light...!
  • Three reduced stacking stools to use as side tables.  They were £3.90 each in the reduced section, so were a far better deal than getting actual side tables.
  •  A chest of drawers for the TV to sit on.  It was really reduced so is perfect for now.  It doesn't completely fit my vision for the room so will be replaced when I think of what I want there, but will be reused in a child's room.
  • The mini greenhouse (yes, purely because it was pretty and I had a case of the "I wants".
  • Two big drum lampshades for in the sitting room.

It required a certain amount of tetris to fit everything in the car (and we have a people carrier) but we managed it without breaking anything.

....although I may have almost broken the mirror once...

Oh hi there Paw patrol.  You are the bane of my life...just saying...

I'm starting to really love our sitting room, as we decorate it to our tastes.  (although have just noticed how far forward the right hand sofa has drifted and it's really annoying me...not enough to move it and then take another picture though....)  

It really feels like home...which is pretty much all I want from my house.

The next thing we need to work on is the fireplace.  I want to reinstate it at some point as this house gets absolutely freezing with it's single glazed windows...although they are the beautiful original sash windows so we'll overlook that...and some days I long for a fire, but having it reinstated will be costly as who knows what we'll have to do to the chimney.  

So for now we're going to focus on getting a fire surround in keeping with the house's Victorian roots, and a cast iron insert and will look into getting it working later.  The wall just looks so silly with nothing there.

I also want to smarten up the shelves in both the sitting area and the play area (behind the right hand sofa).  Maybe add some cupboards to keep the board games and puzzles hidden, with a narrower bookshelf above.  Possibly we'll remove the shelving in sitting area alcove and make better use of both of the alcoves in the play area.  It might help bring the spaces together...but that would depend on how much we can utilise the space for many, many books.

I do love Ikea...I don't trust people who don't.  You know what you're getting will be well made and will stand the test of three small boys, and can get what you need on a reasonably small budget.  No, it's not a beautiful vintage mango wood side table, but I have three young children.  They are constantly covered in food, using the first thing they find to wipe their sticky fingers on; are clumsy so knocks and spills happen...a lot; and certain three year olds don't think twice about drawing on furniture if there's no paper right in front of where they're sitting.  It's not worth the worry at this point in our lives.  There'll be lots of time for antique persian rugs and expensive olive wood but now is not that time.

...and I tell you what....I'll still be firmly in the flat pack furniture brigade, when I'm 90.


Monday, 11 January 2016

Twenty sixteen

We're in the second week of January and I've thrown myself headlong into my resolutions. 

They're the usual ones...you know...healthier body....healthier mind.  I'm also planning on really throwing myself into my blog.  (Well, not literally...I'm not sure my computer would recover from me smashing my body into it... but I plan on posting more often, not just here and there.)

As you can see I've done really well with that last one, it being the 11th today and my first post of the year. 

Gold star to me.

I'm really not a fan of Winter....I mean, I love the Christmas part, New Year and Oliver's birthday but after that I want to hibernate until Spring is well and truly here.  I missed part of our family Christmas due to my own illness and then New Year because of Oliver's. It was just me, a bottle of Prosecco, some fondant cave people and chunky the death cat. 

...That's "Chunky the death cat" (and yes, that cave lady is missing an arm and a leg....whether it was Chunky or the Stegosaurus, everyone's keeping shtum about it.)

...Whereas this is the regular cat.

...Not that there's anything regular about him.  

He ate a raw aubergine the other day.  

True story.  

Also, you know the cucumber challenge....he ate that too.

Anyway, I'm babbling...

So...really not a fan of the cold, the dark or all the bloody rain.  

I'm not a fan that the timer on our boiler randomly stops so I have had to get out of bed in the freezing cold of our single glazed bedroom in the mornings.  I know, I know...#firstworldproblems...I'm a terrible person.

Or that moment when you've had a shower and have to reach for your towel in sub zero temperatures, afraid you'll get frost bite.  

Or the rate that tea cools down.  I can usually trust my judgement, but the number of lukewarm teas I've had recently is depressing.

I know I shouldn't be wishing time away but I long for Spring.  But then again, when Spring comes it means my babies will turn two and four and that just seems far too grown up (says she with an eight year old).

I know I'm complaining but in all honesty we have a rather exciting year ahead of us.  We're sorting out our house, having a holiday with my parents and siblings and are thinking about another dog.  Hugo is going to start school (although is that exciting or heart wrenching?)

Oh...and our house.....our lovely little house.  I'm well and truly in love with it.  Even the way the back door sticks so permanently has a draught.  The half finished hall floor (I promise I'll finish it soon Mr B....promise).  The wonky walls.  All of it. ...other than the cold...

So...I'll be back soon...it's a resolution, don't you know?  If I don't then who knows what will happen.

Perhaps the planets will misalign and it'll be the start of the apocalypse?

Perhaps I'll be doomed to cold tea for the rest of my life?

Or perhaps I'll just be mildly disappointed in myself.

Who knows...It's not a risk I'm willing to take, given the likelihood of disaster.  I'm not a statistician but it seems pretty high.

So for now, but not for long...Toodle pip.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Hello from number 24

It's been nearly three weeks since we moved and whilst we're still surrounded by a mountain of boxes, albeit an ever diminishing mountain, we couldn't feel more at home.

I love it more than I can express.  Daily I have moments of incredulity that we live here....that we own it.  I spin around the kitchen singing Disney songs (sometimes not even with the boys...ok, a lot of the time.)  

After a week of contemplating putting them on Ebay (never move just before half term...or just generally with children) the boys have settled in and feel truly at home here.  They are playing so nicely together.  All three of them.  They have enough space that they don't feel on top of each other and can either play together or alongside each other without a problem.  What's more....I can have some space away if I need to (the perils of open plan living meaning I couldn't in our old house); I can take Rupert away when the older two are playing something complicated and intricate; and I can use the threat of putting them in the cellar if they're naughty (I'm joking....don't call social services).  There's a park right outside our house.  Perfect for three small boys and a frazzled mummy.

We've had more guests (well, more varied guests) over in three weeks than in 3 years in our old house.  I'm not embarrassed by the state of it.  Everyone is welcome....not just the select few who know us enough to not care what state my house is in.  No quick last minute clean up before people arrive (although, early days, early days...)

The kitchen.....oh the kitchen....let's just say that it's already been used to it's full potential for both baking and cooking.

The neighbours have been so lovely.  We've already had some over for a glass of wine (or three.....when I then went to have a look around their house and embarrassingly didn't realise they had three steps up to their door so fell flat on my bum....great impression...totes awkward and balance based, not vino based....promise!  It was the second time in three days I'd ended up on the floor before I realised...).  We've been brought over a cake as a welcome to the neighbourhood.  We've had our bins brought back in and the promise of a cup of tea after thanking them.  Our old neighbourhood was incredibly close knit and I know I've made friends for life there (you know who you are).

We just fit here.  Our furniture....our furries.....it's just us.

So yes, we're happy....which is good because I can't imagine the stress of moving ever again.  So happy.  Major, major thanks to my parents....you know why.  We're extremely lucky and I know it.  I can think of the future with a smile on my face with the knowledge that my boys will get to grow up in a house that I can think of as being our "Family house"....not just a house our family are living in.

Also huge thanks to Susie B for being proactive and taking the majority of these pictures and for OUR gingerbread house.  That's actually our house.....in gingerbread!!  Thank you to everyone who's kept the boys amused whilst we have doggedly gone through box after box.  Thank you for our guests and the lovely flowers I'm trying to keep alive.  Thank you for the well wishes.  Thank you for the people on Facebook for putting up with inane "I'm so happy" posts.  Just thank you....!

....and everyone is welcome for a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

Friday, 16 October 2015


Whether you say houmous, hummus, hummous or any of the many different derivatives (all are correct, I checked) doesn't matter.  Houmous is practically a mealtime god, as far as I'm concerned.  

I've resigned myself to the fact that there are only two ways to get the humble chickpea into my family, and that's through falafel and houmous, and when they eat it and ask for seconds I feel like a food ninja.  

Mwahaha, small people, I've tricked you with my devious ways of preparing food.  In your face!
....*ahem*...sorry, let me adult...

I'm very glad you like it darling.  Shall we have it more often?

This is my "no measure" recipe (partly because I'm lazy, partly because who really likes measuring?  Ok, mostly because I'm lazy.)

  • 1 can chickpeas (Keep the water to one side.  Yes, it looks horrible)
  • A glug of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp(ish) tahini
  • The juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1tsp(ish) ground cumin
  • 1tsp(ish) ground coriander
  • 1tsp(ish) smoked paprika
  • salt to taste
  • Coriander leaves and stalks

Chuck everything into the food processor (or use a hand blender) until it's all blended.  As you go add some of the chickpea water as you go to make it the consistency you want.

Chop up some veggies, toast some pitta and you're good to go.   Or you could add it to a falafel wrap with spinach and tzatziki.  ....Hugo has been known to eat it with banana....no, I have no idea why.

Lots of recipes I read up on use so much oil, but I've found it really isn't necessary, as is using too much tahini.  Plus....fewer calories isn't a bad thing.  Also.....don't do as I did the first time I made it and add 3 cloves of garlic.  Remember it is raw, and whilst you may generally add way more than other recipes suggest, it being raw is a different ball game.
It's one of the only meat free meals (the other is dhal) where I don't get asked "Where's the meat?" or "Is this vegetarian?" with a disappointed look, by Mr B.  

The only problem is you'll never be able to eat shop bought houmous again without being mildly disappointed.  But is that really a down point?

Thursday, 15 October 2015

It's a school knock out

I don't know what I was expecting when I had a letter from Oliver's school about their "It's a knock out" inter house competition, with proceeds going towards the Syrian refugees.

See, I've never watched It's a Knock out.  I had no idea what it would entail (although hopefully not children boxing).  Oliver couldn't help enlighten me either.  When I asked what they'd be doing he said that he had no idea but his team was the best because it was a Phoenix banner.   ...Glad we cleared that one up. 

(Spoiler alert....they lost)

They had a very impressive banner though.

He excitedly told me that there was a parents race and asked if I'd do it.

So naturally I laughed in his face, then got uncomfortable and mumbled something about having Rupert with me and that I was sure no one could possibly hold him for me whilst I raced.  I'd noticed that there was a baking competition a'la country shows, so promised a cake in lieu of my sporting prowess.

I arrived, boy strapped to my back (there was no way I was going to give anyone an excuse to get me embroiled in the parents race.) and cursed myself for not bringing sunglasses, a coat or umbrella.  The weather was so changeable that it was bright sunshine one moment and pouring rain the next.  One thing it was consistent on was that it was bloody freezing.

I put my cake on a table full of cakes with quiet confidence that I was totally going to win this thing.    Sure, it was a bit rough around the edges but taste wise, I was on the money.  After all...what sick and twisted judge wouldn't like lemon cake?  I gave my £5 entry fee and slowly the horror dawned that no, this was not the quaint competition I was promised......I'd just paid for sticky children to sell my cake at 50p a slice.....the cake I had in the oven before I'd started my morning coffee....It was worth at least 70p a slice.  There would be no giant silver cup with my name engraved medal or honour.

So being terrifically English, I smiled at them and walked away, quietly crying inside.

There were some absolutely fantastic cakes brought in.  Our house team's table was definitely filled with the most (and best) cakes.  It even had one emblazoned with the house initial.  They take their house teams very seriously.

 I was confused from the very beginning.  It started with cheerleaders from the house teams.  There wasn't much coordination, but who doesn't love animal onesies, boys in skirts and stockings, cartwheels and jumping, all brought together by shaking it off to Taylor swift. .......FOUR times.  The teachers had just as much fun with the fancy dress box and face paint.

The races confused me even more.  I was expecting it to be akin to sports day, but no sports day I've ever been to has involved balloons filled with water, having to put on 387 items of clothing, shaving foam on the head, brazen cheating and no one knowing what on earth they were meant to be doing.

There were twelve races, but the ones I had the slightest inkling of what was going on are as follows. 

  • Passing a balloon from under your chin to the next person, using your hands when you're sure no one is looking, and then realising you're losing and giving up, letting your balloon float away.
  • Taking an item of clothing to a person, them having to put it on....and repeat until they can't move, when they have to wriggle about, not knowing which direction to go.
  • Throwing balloons filled with water to (NOT AT) the next team mate, up a line of people.  When you realise that the person you're throwing to is a terrible catch you end up running with the balloon to the next person...when they still drop the balloon with that method you throw all caution to the wind and lob it to the end of the line, soaking everyone when they unreasonably didn't realise they were meant to catch it.
  • A three legged race (now that's one that I've heard of).  It was male/female parings for the most part and there seemed to be an unwritten rule that you were meant to act like magnets and had to be as far away from your partner as possible whilst still being attached at the ankle.
  • Something involving tennis balls.  ....No idea...
  • Plank walking (no not into a shark infested pit of water, although that might have been fun to watch).  Most teams seemed to adopt the tactic of, when they realised that half of them knew their lefts and rights, so they were going nowhere, that taking your feet off the planks and pretending was a much more efficient system.
  • Shaving foam was squirted on the head of the first runner, they ran to the opposite side and had to take the shaving foam off their head and onto the next person's head.  That person's head was then topped up with shaving foam because carrying shaving foam on your head is an inefficient method of passing it from person to person and they ran to the next person.

Then there was the parents race.  There they were, trainers and active wear, limbering up with stretches and star jumps.  I'm pretty sure someone was wearing spiked trainers for extra grip (or to tackle another parent if they were winning).  I was asked if I was going to take part.  "Oh what a shame, I have Rupert wrapped to me and I have temporarily forgotten how to untie it.  I'll have to sit this one out".  Also, I'd seen the buckets of water......Nope, nope, nopity nope!!   

There was a hockey stick and two buckets full of water for each team.  They had to carry the buckets like a milk maid and run with it.  They got points for how much water they had left and how many "passes" they managed.  There were two tactics....run full tilt and get soaked, losing all the water with the first couple of people, but managing more passes, or going slower, keeping more water, but meaning everyone in the team got wet. (For reference, I'd have gone with the second option....no way I'm taking it for the team when it was that cold outside).

And with that, a double rainbow appeared and it was all over (I'm not sure if that part was orchestrated by the school, but if it was then I'm incredibly impressed...)

As I was walking up to collect an exhausted, sticky, cold and wet boy from his classroom I heard it described as organised chaos.  I'd say it was more like your bog standard, regular chaos, but there's no denying that it was, as another parent described it, jolly good fun.

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