Saturday, 19 December 2009

Do I still belong here?

It was our office Christmas party last night.  It's a good evening normally.  They're pretty generous, so there are drinks with sparkly wine, and then a proper dinner and dancing.  Oh and the revue.  A highlight of the office calendar, when the junior members of staff put on a sketch show about the last year. Sounds horrendous, and kind of is (and I'm extremely glad I never have to do it again), but also normally very funny.

Last night was no exception. Everyone looking their best (apart from some of the longer-standing members of staff who hold it a point of principle not to have fun at something that is, essentially work.  As though dressing up were an indication of unwarranted frivolity.  Christmas? Bah humbug!)  The food was good, the wine plentiful and the revue well rehearsed and, in parts, hilarious.

But I felt totally out of place.  And I suddenly feel that this job, this building, these people who have been an enormous part of my life for the last nearly ten years, are no longer where I belong.

I walked into the room, was handed a glass, looked around and realised I knew barely half the people there.  I don't know who these other people are, or where they've come from, but I do know that this time five years ago there wouldn't have been a person in the room I didn't know and who didn't know me, and it's an office of 300 or so.  I had a lovely time chatting to the people I do know, and of whom I am very fond, but I'm not at the centre of things any more. I'm on the outside, looking in, and I'm not sure I even want to be there.

The revue was, as I said, great.  But I didn't get most of the jokes.  Topical comedy only really works if you know what they're talking about, and having only been in the office for ten months of the last three years,  I'm like someone who returns from a weekend break in Bhutan and is then surprised when they don't find Mock the Week terribly amusing.

And it got me to wondering:  is this because I'm getting older and more set in my ways? Is it because of all the maternity leave I seem to have wangled? Or is it just that, in my head at least, I've moved on? That I have more important things and people in my life now, and work, which was once so central, is now less so.

I talked a lot to the people I was sitting with about our plans, and our scheme to move to Middle of Nowhere and for me to work as a consultant from there.  All of which still feels miraculously lucky and like I don't deserve it, and they all said how much they'd miss me and how it wouldn't feel like the same place without me, but I know that's not true.  They will miss me, I'm sure, but I also know that in three years time many of them will be hard pushed to remember who I am. It's like leaving school. The institution is bigger than the individuals that make it up, and when one person moves on, the water closes over her head.  Some people make bigger ripples than others, but eventually everyone is forgotten.  The firm I work for has been going for over three hundred years.  My ten don't amount to a great deal in comparison.

I've been struggling with my job since I went back to work: finding it terribly hard to be a good mother and a good worker.  But I've found the idea of giving up my job (and, it feels, my identity) equally hard to contemplate. The things is, maybe my job is ready to give me up too. Maybe we all have places, people or things that are right for us at particular points in our lives.  And I'm beginning to think that at this point in my life my job and I don't belong together any more


And in other news:  off to Canada this afternoon. Wish us luck...  And if I can't post from there: Merry Christmas one and all!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Scandal in the toy box

The Fisher Price Mummy went missing a number of months ago. Since then the Daddy and the baby have been getting along very nicely thank you. But now Mr Noah too is nowhere to be found. Mrs Noah is putting on a brave face, but I can see she has her suspicions...

Where on earth do they go? I have checked everywhere, including turning out the bins. It's clearly the parental version of the missing sock in the washing machine.  And just as irritating.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

I hate you

I had one of those out-of-body perfect-mother moments the other day. You know the ones: when just for five minutes (seconds?) no-one is screaming, no-one smells of poo, there is baby mush brewing deliciously on the stove, your children are all playing beautifully together, and in your head you're wearing white linen, miraculously uncrushed...

Anyway, L, who has recently discovered her imagination, was playing with two of her teddies.  The teddies were having a lovely time, having a party if I remember rightly, and talking about their forthcoming trip to Canada.  I watched, indulgently, thinking "isn't she cute" sort of thoughts, when one teddy turned to the other and said:

"I hate you".

I crashed out of my white-linen-festooned reverie with a bang.

L knows about hate.  And hating.  And she's heard, in her cushioned, cocooned, cushy life, someone say to someone else, "I hate you".  And she's internalised it sufficiently that her teddies are now saying it to each other.

And it made me realise that I don't want my daughter to know about hate.  I want to protect her from hate and hating and people who hate.  I want to teach her that there are more powerful, and much, much more important things than hate.

Hearing those words from L gave them astonishing force.  I felt just as shocked as if she'd sworn.  So I sat her down and we had a serious chat about not hating, and how that was not a nice thing to say, and how I didn't want to hear her saying it again.

And then this evening I found myself announcing to the world that I hate sorting out the laundry...  Whoops.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

A proper mother always gives her children a healthy, home-cooked meal.

L's friend D came round for some lunch today.  I made a big pasta bake; with a proper soffrito (ooh, get me) and everything.

Then I overheard this conversation:

D:  L, do you like pasta?
L:  I like it at nursery but I don't like it at home.

Beans on toast for supper.

Friday, 11 December 2009

365 days in.

Well. Breathe in. Breathe out. Take another sip of (pink) champagne.  We've done it. We've survived the first year (and the birthday party).

A and S are one.

Things I remember from this time last year:

The utter strangeness of leaving the house while it was still dark knowing that when we came back we'd have two babies with us; kissing L goodbye as we left, and looking at her, fast asleep and oblivious of how much her world was going to change;  the extraordinary speed and calmness of an elective c-s (complete contrast to the first (natural) time); the relief of hearing the cries (that was the same as the first time, only this time there were two); the amazement of holding my baby, and then looking at B and realising that he was holding one too;  just how tiny babies (even perfectly formed, and perfectly healthy babies) born at 36 weeks really are...

And as I look back on the last 365 days I think that despite the tough bits (the morning, 10 days in, when we'd had them, we'd breastfed them, we'd got them to Edinburgh, we'd survived (nay, enjoyed) my brother-in-law's wedding, and then the adrenaline wore off...; the few weeks at about four months when I really, really thought I wasn't going to cope;  the first month or so of being back at work; the last few days), we've had a wonderful time, and we have, in the spirit of counting my blessings, been blessed.

We've been blessed by the moments, not so few and far between, when all three of our beautiful girls are happy and giggling together; by the times we leave their room to put them down for a sleep and hear more giggles from behind the door (I'm sure they get up to all sorts in there once the lights go off);  by the amazement of watching them learn about themselves and each other;by the S-faces (will post a picture one day); by the fact that A can shake her head but not nod and S can nod but not shake hers; by the cuddles (L wasn't a cuddly baby, S and A more than make up for it); by the coos, and oohs, and "oh, haven't you got your hands full?"s that I claim to hate, but actually give me an enormous glow of pride - such that when I'm out on my own and people don't stop me in the street to tell me how lucky/brave/stupid I am I feel as though something's missing (because it is); by watching A learn to walk (while pushing a trolley, but still); by the (more) pride of having exclusively breast fed them for six months;  by getting to know these two amazingly identical and astonishingly different people, and by knowing that there is so much more to learn.

Darling A, and Gorgeous S, we are so lucky to have you.  Happy birthday, my beautiful girls.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

A whinge and a worry

Apologies in advance. If you want to read something cheery and non-self-pitying look away now...

A whinge:

Here is my to do list:
Finish three weeks's worth of work on a ridiculously complicated spreadsheet that I just know isn't going to balance (and no, I'm not an accountant) by tomorrow pm when my boss goes on holiday.  She's lovely but she doesn't understand spreadsheets, so when she asked me to do it, she had (and I think still has) no idea quite how much work it is.
Do all the rest of the work that's been piling up on my desk since I started on the spreadsheet (probably by last week, I don't know, I haven't looked at it)
Organise a party for eight babies (by Friday)
Organise a birthday for two babies (by Friday)
Organise a Christening (Sunday)
Organise a party for 18 adults and I'm still not sure how many babies (Sunday, after the Christening)

Decide what I still need to get for Canada and buy it
Pack for five people to go to Canada including all the Christmas presents but within (of course) the luggage allowance (by about ten minutes before we need to leave for the airport probably)
Sort out a Christmas present for B. Somehow I've done all of Rabbit's friends and relations, but B, love of my life, hasn't made the cut.  This is worrying me more than much of the rest put together, even though I know (because I've told him) that he won't mind.
Make a t-shirt for a paying customer by Friday week (I'm not complaining, really I'm not, I'm delighted to have a proper customer, but I do rather wish she didn't need it by Christmas...)
Arrange A&S's one year jabs (next week, otherwise I'll forget)
Buy a house (before we get kicked out of this one)
Oh, and, do all the usual laundry, tidying, sorting out, cooking, ferrying to nursery, shopping etc that usually fills my few non-working days, with the added bonus that B is going to be in Warsaw next week so can't help.

I burst into tears in the doctor's today.

I didn't mean to. I didn't think I was that stressed. But she asked me how I was and somehow I went to say ok, only something else came out.

Once I'd calmed down she confirmed that I've got high blood pressure (this is the worry).  And I can't make myself believe it's a coincidence that I didn't have high blood pressure when it was checked the week before I went back to work, and I do now.  Not going to kill me tomorrow high, but high enough that she doesn't want me "wandering around with it until [your] life sorts itself out".  So drugs it is.  Which doesn't exactly reduce the stress either. 

I left the doctor and tried to do a lightning strike on Oxford Street (need to buy a t-shirt to decorate for that paying customer).  Oxford Street's a mistake when you're feeling a bit wobbly.  If you were shopping this afternoon and noticed a bedraggled girl in a glamorous cream coat (Primark) huddled in one of those side-alleys in floods of tears, I'm sorry. I'm not usually like that. Honest.

And sitting here, girls asleep, B writing the Christmas cards (you'll note they aren't on my list), I do know that this too will pass.  I am, really, very very lucky and am well aware of all my blessings - and if anyone's still reading, that's just one more!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

I love you Mummy...

... and I don't want Daddy.

L is going through a phase.  And it's a phase that's making all of us miserable (including S&A who don't like crossness and crying - who does?).

To put it simply: she doesn't want Daddy. Ever.

The other morning, when we woke up, B was first in to her room.  L took one look at him, screamed "Go away! I want mummy!" and slapped him in the face. This is not an isolated incident.

Let me put this into context.  B is an awesome father. A friend of mine was telling me this morning about something she'd read in a (nameless, sorry, I didn't catch a name) blog about whether you married a good husband or a good father. I'm either really lucky or really good at choosing, because I got both. B is amazing. he's hands-on, patient (mostly) and prepared to be climbed on, puked on, and generally run ragged.  Even better, he works from home, so he's here all the time.

But L doesn't want him.  In the end I refused to come downstairs until she decided to be nice to Daddy, and eventually that worked. But it's horrid. I don't like being cross with her; she can't, surely, like screaming and shouting; and it's really, unbelievably, hurtful for B who utterly adores her.  It's also knackering for me, because guess who has to put on all the pairs of shoes, get all the cups of milk, read all the stories, fetch all the toys that she's left elsewhere, push all the pushchairs and, of course, empty all the potties...?

I realise it's just, as I said, a phase, and somehow I found it heartening to discover during a whingy phone call that my friend LC is going through the same thing with her daughter, so it's clearly not just us.  But this really isn't one that I, or B, want, or have the heart, to wait out.

ps. I started this yesterday, and never got round to posting it.  Of course last night, she and B were absolutely best of friends.  Just by force of circumstance he ended up doing her bath while I was with A&S, and they had a wonderful time during that, and stories and into bed.  I heaved a huge sigh of relief, only to wake up to her demanding Mummy again this morning....

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Her own sense of style

Allegedly Suri Cruise, aged 3, has her "own sense of style".  In Suri's case, this apparently means she chooses to wear button-up shoes and lovely coats with velvet collars, and always looks beautifully put together in a manner reminiscent of those pictures of your granny in about 1932.

L also has her own sense of style and chooses to wear, well, ahem, this:

Possibly they get it from their mothers.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

BMB craft market

Stop Press!

The BMB craft market group, for designers, makers and shoppers is now open for business here.  Spread the word!  The more the merrier.

Oh, and especial thanks to Brit in Bosnia for the idea. 

Plan B - children's t-shirts - the details

I've (very flatteringly, thank you all so much) had a couple of queries on the t-shirts. So here's the small print.

I can make them in any size you like. I get the t-shirts, or vests (for babies) from John Lewis so they're good quality and wash well.

The fabric is all Liberty print (I'm not sure if you can see that in the pictures, but it is) and so basically you can specify any colour you like and I'll just make sure I've got something appropriate, or I'd happily do something specific (spots, stripes etc) if anyone had any great ideas.

I could, also, by discussion, do other items too (I've done a duvet cover for L with a big flower on it, and another friend has suggested towels which I think would be rather nice).

Basically the sky's the limit and I'm happy to do whatever people want.  Three hitches:

1. I can't do anything before Christmas... I'd love to but I've got to do some for S and A (who will be one on Friday!) on top of everything else.
2. The timescale is two weeks from order to delivery.
3.  If anyone has a particuarly long name we may have to think creatively - so all you Persephones out there, would initials do instead? Or long sleeves and the name down the arm? 

And the real nitty gritty.  The price. I'm just going to go with what they set at the shop which is £25.99.  Part of me is aghast, part is delighted that they think that's what they're worth, but either way, I've said I won't undercut them.  Things other than t-shirts by negotiation.

Oh, and if you're still reading. At Brit in Bosnia's suggestion I'm going to set up a BMB group for crafty mums selling crafty things.  One for this evening when I haven't got babies who need getting up, but I'll let you know when it's up and running so let me know if you're interested in joining.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Plan B - Children's T-shirts

You read it here first.  The one and only original, Plan B hand-embellished children's t-shirts are now on sale at a shop near you.  Well, they are if you live near the Fulham Road in London. Otherwise they're not, but I've got to start somewhere.

And I actually started with making a t-shirt for L for her birthday.  When I say "making" what I actually mean is "buying from John Lewis and applique-ing her name on the back".  But I was rather pleased with it so then I made some for my nieces (more identical twins - allegedly it's not hereditary, but...). And my sister-in-law is friends with the lady who owns the shop and....

....the rest is history.

To be honest, I never actually thought it would happen.  No false modesty here, but these are not professionally-made t-shirts.  They  have the charm of the genuinely home made... or something, so I got an incredible sense of achievement yesterday when I was told they were on the shop floor of what is, in all honesty, a very posh and not at all "delightfully amateurish" shop.

Now, I realise I'm not going to make my fortune making children's t-shirts from the comfort of my kitchen table with the sewing machine I got as a present for passing my GCSE's, but I am so excited by this.  It feels like a real step towards finding something that I can do that is mine, and isn't just washing clothes, wiping noses or waiting for my children to grow up.

So cross your fingers for me and wish me luck.  All we need now is for someone to buy one!

Oh, and ps, although I know some of you might disapprove of this, clearly if anyone does want one, you know where I am...

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

By George, I think she's got it!

I'm almost afraid to post this one in case I jinx it, but we might, just might, be there with the potty training...

We left L, the Sunday before last, insisting that she didn't want to wear a nappy because "Molly doesn't wear a nappy in bed".  And the thing is, she hasn't worn one since.  And the last two nights - she's been dry!

I don't know if we just hit the right thing at the right time, or whether the tip from Potty Mummy to buy her a new potty (which we did that afternoon) was the right one, or whether, perhaps more likely, she, all machiavellian, power-hungry, two and a half years of her, simply decided that she'd had enough of toying with us, but somehow, suddenly, it seems to be working.

She's pooing in the (new, Thomas) potty (why did no-one tell me how much more gross poo is when smeared all over a potty than when smeared all over your delicious daughter?) and telling me when she needs to go. ("Mummy, I don't feel very well" seems to be the phrase of choice, quite why, I have no idea).

And, as I say, we're putting her to bed with no nappy on, lifting her for a wee when we go to bed, and then she is (or has been for the last two nights) dry in the morning.  After six months of swearing and of half-believing she'd never do it I feel like I've won the lottery.  Admittedly dry sheets and no nappies aren't going to buy me the entirely new wardrobe I'd like, but for the moment, I'll take them.

What shall we do with the poorly baby?

Or perhaps, more accurately, what shall we do with the perfectly ok, if disgustingly snotty, other two?

We've got a cold.  It's just a cold. It's not flu, swine or otherwise, it's not norovirus (incidentally when did that stop being "stomach flu"? It sounds much more scary these days, and I'm pretty sure it's basically the same thing) and its certainly not any one of the millions of terrifying afflictions which seem, at 3 am, to lurk out there in wait for my children.

But while A and L are combining being full of snot with being equally full of beans, S is feeling miserable.  She's fevery and tired and wabbit (great word that. B uses it. I don't know if it's Scottish or just in-law-ish, but I love it) and what she really wants to do is be cuddled.  Constantly.

But I can't. Because I have L and A, and what they want to do is play, and argue, and snatch toys from each other, and giggle at each other and go out "Mummy, pleeeeeease", and play somewhere that isn't our living room, and shout.  And I can't see a way to make the two combine.

At the moment, of course, they're all in bed. But I am girding myself for the moment of wakefulness and the juggling act that is normality.  With an added dose of cold.