Saturday, 29 December 2012


So what happened then? This blog was going so well and then it came to a sudden halt as life simply got in the way.  You know what it is like I am sure, the best laid plans of mice and men and all that...I guess being a Mummy of five kept me busier than even I thought because I have not been able to find the time to write. My thanks to those of you who have asked me about it and encouraged me to carry on, your kind words have meant so much.

 I have thought about writing so often, words streaming into my head like long ribbons, rattling around the all too empty space between my ears begging me to apply them to paper. The trouble is all too often when this happens I am busy doing something else and my hands are not free to pick up a pen, I can easily think of things to write about when I am pushing the pram along the prom or filling the washing machine or washing dishes or wandering the aisles of the supermarket trying desperately to remember what I wanted to buy or what I've got at home already. 
Yes, I write lists, I write them in abundance all over the place. I have lists of the children's shoe sizes in case I spot a bargain while I am shopping, I have lists of dates, times and places where we need to be and why we need to be there, my problem is I never seem to have the right list handy when I need it. Maybe being more organised should be my New Year's Resolution, which brings me handily to my reasons for resurrecting this blog. 

It is the end of the year 2012, and a time for reflecting on the year gone by and a time to make plans for the coming year 2013. In 2012 we welcomed our beautiful baby daughter Lucy, I admit to feeling overwhelmed by the thought of another addition to our family but as soon as we met I knew she was meant to be with us. She makes me smile everyday even in the early hours of the morning when she wakes for snuggles, curling up in my arms to go back to sleep. Now just a few days before her First Birthday she has celebrated her very First Christmas with us and she has been our very own Christmas Star. 

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Olympic Inspiration

So the London 2012 Olympics officially began with a lavish and exciting opening ceremony. For me, I don't think they could top James Bond escorting The Queen to the venue, I mean who else fictional or not could be relied upon to get her there safely? On Her Majesty's Secret Service indeed! It was just brilliant - the whole thing kept me on the edge of my seat waiting to see what Danny Boyle would throw at us next.

Who else but J K Rowling who has inspired a whole generation of children to read,  should be chosen to  read us our bedtime story, and who other than Mary Poppins could rescue us from our childhood nightmares?
 Kenneth Branagh led us through yards of British history seamlessly woven into one colourful blanket of entertainment culminating in the lighting of that amazing flame which has travelled the length and breadth of the country carried by people from all walks of life. With the same lack of ego the chance to light the flame was given to our young up and coming athletes, this was truly a momentous occasion.

Meanwhile some days later back in Mummyoffive HQ, Chloe is acting as team coach as Kerrie takes part in the women's gymnastics competition. Resplendent in her pink ballet leotard and using a scarf as a twirling ribbon, she is prancing around the floor, pointing her toes and spinning in the way that she sees the gymnast's perform on the TV screen above her. Ever observant she sees and copies minute details of their performance that would pass me by entirely. Toes pointed, legs straight, arms raised and a big smile at the end.

As the gymnasts sit down between events she too needs a chair. They drink from sports bottles and so she drinks too. I am grateful she is happy to pretend to coat her little hands in talc as I rush to make sure Lucy's baby powder is well hidden from Kerrie's eager eyes. The scarf is now folded on the floor to become the high beam and I am encouraged to 'look at my cartwheel, mummy' I of course am happy to oblige, stifling a chuckle and surreptitiously winking at Chloe as Kerrie performs a cross between a wobbly handstand and a forward roll landing on the floor in a giggling heap. She stands up, takes a bow and thanks us for watching!

I am not a sports fan by any stretch of the imagination, when I was in school PE lessons were frankly my idea of hell, I wasn't very good at it and so I couldn't see the fun in participating.  However I am happy to say that my children all love to play and enjoy a wide variety of sports. There seems to be a much wider range of activities for them to take part in than when I was a child.  I am enjoying supporting Team GB in the Olympics and especially watching it through their eyes, Kerrie has certainly been inspired by the gymnasts!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

I am always suspicious when it goes quiet...........

Well lets face it with five children of varying ages living in the same house silence is something of a novelty. Our home is always busy, just the way we like it. There is always something going on, lots of activity, most of the time several different things are happening at once so it is a good job we are both well practised in the art of multi-tasking or we would never manage to keep up. When it goes quiet, now that is when I worry! If there is not a sound to be heard and they are not asleep then someone must be up to something and if they are quiet then that usually means they are in mischief.

Tonight while I was busy feeding Lucy, Kerrie went very quiet. I settled Lucy for a nap and went upstairs to get Kerrie ready for bed. She had somehow and we are still unsure about how she managed this, got hold of a tube of black mascara and she was running around giggling wearing nothing but a liberal stripey coating of Boots No7! She had managed to spread it on her arms and legs with some glittery lip gloss layered around her bellybutton for good measure. With her red hair she looked like a sparkly tiger cub. There was nothing for it but to pop her in the bath and hose her down an outcome which of course she was delighted with. Her doll or to be more accurate my doll which she now plays with, had to be bathed and shampooed too. Kerrie kept up her usual running commentary as these events unfolded. 'Can I go in the bath mummy?, I'm climbing in mummy, don't get dolly wet mummy, oh can we wash her hair?, can I wash her hair too? Ha ha my tummy is all soapy' etc etc etc.

The funny thing was that although she knew that she shouldn't be messing around with the make up she was so proud of herself for putting it on. She wants to be just like her sisters. Chloe is nearly twelve. She has just started wearing a bit of makeup, we have agreed limits and I see no reason to not allow her to experiment with cosmetics as all her friends are too.
 Elisha also has a few bits and pieces which she is allowed to wear for school disco's or when they play at giving makeovers. I rarely wear makeup. To be honest I don't really have time but I do have a full makeup bag for equally rare nights out which the girls love to raid.

 Elisha also wants to copy her older sister which is all well and good until we have days like the one recently when she was quietly getting ready for school........or so I thought. You see I told you it is bad when they go quiet. I wish someone had taken a picture of the look on my face when she came down the stairs in her full regalia complete with plastic tiara, it really set off her school uniform a treat! I am still surprised that she didn't add a pair of plastic earrings and a fairy wand to accompany the full face of make up which greeted me just five minutes before she was supposed to depart for school. On that occasion a quick swipe with a flannel had to suffice.  What made her think it would be acceptable to go to school with her face coated in glitter and shimmer powder I do not know. I must have missed that page of the prospectus. However between you and me and only if you promise not to tell her I will admit that she did make me chuckle......Little monkey!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Days where we can just be......

It is almost the start of the Summer Holidays! My second favourite time of year, my first being Christmas, I have always loved Christmas, all my children home snuggled up together, good food, good company and presents too, what's not to love?
Chloe and Elisha both celebrate their birthdays in August so summer is a happy time for us. James loves being at home whatever the reason and for Kerrie this will be her last summer at home before she starts school in September. As for Lucy well she is a sociable little creature who loves to watch her brother and sisters so I am sure she will be happy to have so much entertainment on hand.

 Chloe has four days left in school owing to her having had a long weekend with no school on the Friday and the Monday  due to two teacher training days. I have no idea why they could not simply tag them onto the holiday as the Primary School has done. James and Elisha both have just two days of term left.

 I am lucky enough to be at home with the children so I don't have to juggle childcare. It can't be at all easy for those parents who will end up needing childcare for some of their family because the schools break up on different days, not to mention the teachers whose children finish before they do.
Why can't they keep these things simple for all of us with standard term dates but then again things which seem simple enough to us mere mortals rarely seem simple to the decision makers. Why does giving humans a bit of power always seem to bring out the worst in their human nature? The mind boggles at some of the nonsense they come up, I'm not going to start ranting though or I will be here all day, suffice to say I may have to stop watching the news for the sake of my blood pressure!

So back to the fast approaching holidays......

I love this time of year, all of our children at home together, much less rushing around having to get to this place and that place and time, time to just be! I suppose they would call it 'downtime' now. It doesn't have to be relaxing in fact we might well end up being much more active than we are during term time but time to be together, play games, have fun and just enjoy each others company. I have a list of activities and days out planned to keep us all entertained. It is hard to find time to be together when everyone has to be somewhere different, it just feels like one long merry go round that wont stop and just keeps on spinning faster and faster. In real terms this is the point when I start to oversleep as I did twice this week. I forget to write things on the calendar. I drop the bat and the fabric of our lives starts to unravel. 'You can tell it nearly the holidays' I can be heard to exclaim several times a day.  Summer is a chance to pick up that golden thread which interweaves our lives with it's rich colour and repair those damaged stitches. We put ourselves back together both physically and mentally and take a break to prepare ourselves for the new term ahead.

The rain has been so abundant this year that I am already planning lots of indoor activities just in case the garden has to stay off limits for much of the holidays. If we can't play outdoors we will play indoors. Out will come the scissors and glue, paint and paper, the scrapbooks and craft. We have plenty of books, games and toys to rediscover. I have bookmarked interesting child friendly websites we might like to explore further. We can bake treats and make play dough.  Dens can be built indoors, picnics can be eaten on a blanket in the living room and I have a feeling the wii and wii fit will be well used this summer so I have plenty of batteries in stock already. Luckily we all have wellies and raincoats so walks involving splashing in puddles can be arranged for when we all get fed up of the four walls. As you can see even the holidays take some forward planning when you have a houseful of children to consider.

 Last year Chloe had lots of friends here much of the time, our home became a sort of half way house for the holidays, I didn't mind at all. I love having a busy bustling house full of noise and laughter, a good job really I mean no one has five children if they relish peace and quiet do they!
Her friends were very good at involving the little ones too when they were here, during one sleepover I popped upstairs to check on Elisha to discover her sat on a stool surrounded by Chloe and her friends who were each painting the nails on either her hands or feet. She looked like the queen and was very much enjoying the attention!

During last summer I was pregnant and still feeling rather sick quite often, between the sickness and the sciatica doing anything was rather an effort and a strain. This year I am most definitely not pregnant and so I am looking forward to being able to enjoy the holidays and some summer food whether the sun decides to join us or not! I am hoping to record our summer adventures here so stay with us and see how we fill those lazy summer days.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

That Friday feeling.............

It is Friday tomorrow thank goodness!

One of the things which I like best about Friday is that I get to turn off the alarm on my phone until Sunday night. Admittedly I might not get to wake up totally naturally when I am good and ready because in all likelihood I will get woken up by Lucy at some unearthly hour and, it is also quite likely that one of the other kids will decide to wake us up in the morning but that I can cope with. That will be much gentler than the dreaded beep beep beep of the alarm which jolts me from my slumber on weekdays.
This is one of the reasons why I am looking forward to the summer holidays. Six weeks of waking up when I am ready, my eyes opening of their own accord, brain allowed to kick in slowly, kids permitting of course! Bliss!
 I love the slow moving mornings and I love being able to have an extra cup of tea because we wont have to get ready to go anywhere, not unless we choose to that is.

 My summer 'to do' list has now become even longer. Chloe and Elisha both celebrate their birthdays in the summer holiday and as Elisha reminded me today I did promise them they could get their ears pierced if they still wish. So now I need to add this to the calendar and sort out a date when we can get this done as it is better to do this over the long holidays to give them chance to heal. Elisha asked me today if it hurts, erm only for a minute I answered not sure whether I should tell her that it took me till I was twenty one to have mine done and I won't be repeating the experience anytime soon, best keep quiet about that I think..... then there is uniform, bags, equipment, lunchboxes and school shoes for four to sort out, will put this out of my mind for the moment though, I don't think my addled brain can cope with it all just yet.

 Today has been a strange day, the weather has been very unpredictable with rain, thunder and lightning, well ok rain in Wales is to be expected but the noise from the sudden torrential downpour  this morning made my ears hurt, and lets face it with five children I am used to noise! I know that some parts of the country have suffered more flooding, looking at the sheer amount of water hitting the road outside I was getting worried myself wondering if the drainage system could or would cope.

 Kerrie was enthralled looking out of the window watching the water hit the decking as we sang nursery rhymes involving rain. Lucy was giggling throughout and it seems that Incy Wincy Spider is already a favourite of hers. She is growing so fast and changing so much. She will be six months old next week and I can't believe that time has gone so quickly.
 She is always giggling and babbling to herself and her toys. Lucy reaches for anything which catches her eye and she takes great delight in snatching up her clean clothes if I make the mistake of leaving them too close to her when I am changing her nappy. She can hold things properly in her hands now and can pick things up as opposed to just batting at them hopefully when she saw something she wanted.

 I love the happy look of recognition in her eyes and the big smile when I hand her one of her favourite toys or cover her in her nanny blanket. My mum has crocheted blankets in the same style for each of the children, they all have their different colours but they are fondly refered to as nanny blankets, my own nanny blanket is huge and covers our sofa (if you have 'Liked' our facebook page it is in the picture at the top of the page, all the kids are sat on it.) 

 James went on a school trip today, he says he had a great time although as usual I can't get much detail out of him other than he 'fed animals' and he sat by his friend Alex on the coach. He found it very funny that I could guess who some of the other children had chosen to partner on the trip. Obviously he thinks I sleepwalk through the school run/kids parties/our conversations about school, paying no attention to his little stories and tales, not actually true I might add. James also made me laugh recently when he saw some cakes I had baked. He said 'you are a good cooker mum, maybe when you grow up you could have a restaraunt!' I will keep that in mind for when I grow up..........

Tomorrow he is going to the beach with school for a summer suprise so I really hope the sun decides to shine for them. Elisha is also going to the beach with her class as part of the Forest Schools Programme although in this case it will be Beach School. They are both very excited, their buckets and spades are at the ready. Chloe is less than impressed because they didn't do either when she was a pupil. I have a feeling this will be a familiar theme as the year continues.

It is also cake day again at school so I have made flapjacks this time and they are currently cooling in the kitchen. I don't know how they will turn out because I have not made this specific recipe before but they certainly smell good so here is hoping they taste good too. I am waiting for them to cool now so I can cut them and get them boxed up before I go to bed.  I might have to make a cuppa and test them out, just to check them of course! Night all!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Wasting time online

Lately we seem to be drowning in paperwork. Since three of our children are already in school and Kerrie is due to start in September we receive letters home on most weekdays, often in duplicate and sometimes by the handful.  Forms for school trips and outings, fund raising events, after school clubs, questionnaires, news, and adverts. I understand from the schools point of view that there is a lot going on and they have a vast amount of information to impart, believe me I am not complaining at this sudden burst of communication since I would be the first to complain if we as parents were not kept updated. In fact I very much like it.

 The primary school produces a fantastic newsletter, implemented by the new Headteacher which we can choose to have as either an email or a paper copy. It contains so much information about all sorts of things happening during the school day which we would, under the previous regime have known nothing about. Chloe went up to High School last September just as our new Head arrived so I have had several years of her attending Primary school to be able to compare this to.
 In the past I often felt that what happened during school hours was very much kept in the classroom and we shouldn't really be asking now I am pleased to see we are expected to want to know what our children have been doing with their days, isn't that as it should be?

 Elisha brought home a copy of the latest newsletter on Friday and Chloe picked it up to read. She looked sad and I asked her what was wrong. She replied that she wished she could go back to the Junior school because it looked fun. She was bemoaning the fact that she missed out on so many of the activities which Elisha gets to take part in. Her keen eyes had noticed that Elisha and James are being offered so many more opportunities than she was given during her time there.  I couldn't really offer another viewpoint as although she took part in quite a lot of activities having seen the other side of the coin I am rather inclined to agree with her.

 It is lovely to see so many pictures of the children taking part in such varied activities. Now, it is not just the proud parents of the 'Worker of the week' 'Star of the week' etc who hear their child's news, all the other parents get to hear about it too. It is of course lovely to see my own children being singled out for their achievements,  but it is also very nice to see the other children's own special moments too. I have known many of the  pupils since they were babies, I have watched them grow up and it is lovely to see them do well. The email can be forwarded to grandparents and relatives to show them and for me the on line format is easy to keep track of and it also means that I don't have yet another piece of paper to lose!

The downside of all this information being available  is that in a converse way it can be very hard to keep up with all that is going on.   I try and keep all the letters from school in the same place so I can make sure it all gets dealt with on time. Lately though my days are crammed with the ever changing needs of a small baby and a very active toddler that so much is just not getting done at home.
Bits of paper are thrust into my hands when they arrive home from school and I put them down to deal with later, the trouble is 'later' something else happens which I have to deal with and the pile of letters gets put to one side to deal with 'tomorrow' I then end up riffling through it in a mad hurry to deal with the most urgent things as the children are heading out of the door, not good. What is worse is that I now have three 'to be dealt with' piles of paper and they are stacked in three different  locations due to the need to keep them all out of Kerrie's reach. In other words they are spread around the house.

So today I decided that enough was enough. Deep down I am actually quite organised, no seriously I am! I'm a huge fan of lists and notebooks, I love my calendar, and on days out I am the one carrying the plasters, (what do you expect I was a Girl Guide you know!) so it is very frustrating for me to be juggling such a mess. I needed to do something about it and today came my opportunity.  Kerrie and Lucy very kindly both had a nap at the same time so I grabbed the laptop, calendar and the most recent stack of missives to try and play catch up, well I did say try!

In reality...........

Chloe attends the local high school which tends to post most of it's information and updates in on line newsletters. I had received a text from them (days ago......) informing me that a newsletter was available but I had chosen to ignore it until now bemoaning a lack of time.
 I switched on the laptop and was making a studious attempt to avoid Facebook which I love even though it is the greatest time waster ever.  I logged onto the high school website to check the newsletter which it has to be said contained hardly anything of any real use. It then advises me that for the latest info I should 'like' their Facebook page, in doing so I am of course re-directed to the very place I am trying to avoid - is there a conspiracy going on here?  Back to the job in hand then? Oh stuff it maybe I should just make a cup of tea and check my news feed while I procrastinate some more................

Monday, 18 June 2012

Busy Monday

Monday seems to be coming around very quickly lately. It must be that time of year, we are hurtling towards the start of the summer holidays like an out of control space shuttle.
 I don't know where this year has gone to it certainly seems to be speeding away faster than usual although I am convinced that starting the year off with a new baby and watching her progress is the reason why. Babies grow up so quickly, too quickly I feel, so we just kept having them to repeat the fun all over again.........I jest of course!

  For us the summer holidays herald birthdays for both Chloe and Elisha as well as getting all the back to school uniforms and other things bought and prepared. It is both a busy and an expensive time for us.
 This time Kerrie will start in the school nursery class part time so we will have four of our five going to school. I have already worked out that it will be the year 2023 when Lucy goes to high school. I have also discovered that if she chooses to stay on for Sixth Form I will be fifty-one years old, I am thirty-three now so that is a sobering thought indeed. More soberingly still Steve will be Sixty-one!

So better move on from that thought and look at today. With so many children doing so many different things it is fair to say we always have a lot of things to prepare. The girls enjoy quite a few after school activities and James is starting to join in too. Between them in varying amounts they attend Ballet and  Street Dance classes, Gymnastics, Brownies, and a youth club out of school plus netball and football lessons which are organised through their schools taking place at the end of the  day.
 Some days they do more than others, today was one of those days where I certainly needed a list to get everything ready.
Elisha alone needed seven, yes seven changes of clothes today and that didn't include pyjamas. No wonder I can't keep up with the laundry! The list was as follows

1) School Uniform
2) Swimming Kit - school swimming lesson
3) PE kit - to wear to have her photo taken with the Olympic Torch (which she didn't need in the end)
4) Outfit to wear for the School Talent Competition Final (Her group came second, well done girls!)
5) Gymnastics Kit - Gym Club
6) Brownie Uniform
7) More swimming kit plus jelly shoes for the Brownies to go to the local paddling pool.

Phew on top of all that they all have packed lunches and James started gym class today so he needed clothes for that too. Steve decided to take him and Chloe to the paddling pool too so more swimming gear and crocs required - big thank you to the not so happy souls who sometimes feel the need to deposit broken glass in the pool making footwear a necessity.

One Friday not so long ago Steve got up early to wake up three kids and get them into uniform and ready for school as usual. Total confusion reigned when they informed him that one was staying home as it was a teacher training day, one had to dress up for world book day and the other was in his own clothes for forest schools and needed his wellies. This is why I couldn't function without my calendar, kids lives are complicated!

It used to be that the last couple of weeks before the Summer and Christmas holidays were extremely busy with so much to remember, now with so many more activities on offer they do seem to have upped the ante so now most weeks are like that. I am not complaining I think it is lovely that they are afforded so many opportunities to try different things. James however is not always so keen. He told me last week that he did not want to go to school anymore. He wasn't upset and I know from speaking to his teacher that he is perfectly happy in school but still I asked him why. He replied that school takes up too much of the day!
 In James' world he simply has better things to do with his time and school interrupts that. He loves the weekends and half term to him is heaven. His days are punctuated by things which in his mind are unnecessary interruption's to his fun such as getting dressed!  He is in Reception Class now where much of his learning is still play based. Not quite sure what he is going to make of the next class when things become more formal. I suspect there will be many more 'I don't want to go to school days'.

Hopefully my day is starting to draw to a close as it has been rather a long one and Tuesdays are also a long day around here with dance classes after school so tomorrow will be busy too. I have just finished my evening meal having finally been able to sit down to eat, it has been one of those days (Jacket potato with lashings of Welsh butter, cherry tomatoes and soft cheese just in case you were wondering!)

 Lucy is bouncing in her chair at my feet but she is starting to get restless so I think it is time to get her into her pj's before her last feed. I treasure our evening snuggles as I know it wont be long before she will be dashing off to explore her world along with her brother and sisters. they are all growing up so quickly and time really does fly so fast!

On that note I am going to spend some quality time with my youngest so I will bid you all goodnight xxx

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

So much time and so little to do, strike that reverse it!

My apologies to those of you who have told me you have been missing my ramblings. Kerrie has been taking up most of my time lately. She used to go to bed nicely till half term when she learned how to 'escape' from her bedroom so we moved her in with the girls and gave James his own bedroom again. The trouble is now she is staying awake much later and keeping the rest of the house awake too. When she isn't asleep she is enjoying being a one child demolition crew, roll on September when she is due to start school, she is ready and frankly so am I!

She can be a little angel, we sat and made paper flowers together yesterday while Lucy had a nap and she was as good as gold, she loved it and we both really enjoyed crafting together. It is all about attention. If she is getting my complete attention she is fine but the second I turn my back to feed Lucy or make lunch or do anything else she takes it as her cue to cause as much mayhem as possible. She is so intelligent but she is also very mischievous which makes one lethal combination.

The trouble is that with other children to care for she can't have all my attention all the time and at the moment I am getting very little done despite being at home most of the time. There are plenty of things she can help with but the constant patience needed for this is exhausting especially when she is keeping us all awake at night too. She is much better at the weekends because the other children are home and they entertain her, sometimes without actually intending to. Sometimes she entertains them without intending to. There were peals of laughter from them all during breakfast when she asked me for bread, I thought she meant toast and as I started to make it she yelled 'No, don't toaster it mummy!'

My  parents very kindly took her out for a while today so after a hurried cup of tea while I fed and settled Lucy for a nap I was able to take some time to tackle a job which has been bugging me for ages. My wardrobe. I haven't been able to hang my clothes up properly for about the last two years. Everything that has been without a proper home has been chucked into the bottom of the wardrobe until a later date when I could sort it out.  That day finally came today.
 I am amazed at some of the junk I have felt the need to keep. Letters from school, receipts, the Boots Christmas catalogue from two years ago and so on.  After working for one hour solid my wardrobe is now home to my clothes, shoes and a couple of handbags and nothing else! I had managed to fill two bin bags and I discovered loads of reusable carrier bags as a bonus. (For anyone who doesn't live in Wales the days of the free carrier bag are over, we are now charged if we need a bag when shopping.) In such a small house with so many of us living here we cannot afford to waste space so the urge to declutter the rest of it is very strong.

 Meanwhile my to do list is getting longer by the day. In addition to the usual weekly routine I have to alter the elastic on Elisha's ballet shoes, again! Make appointments for the little ones to have their vaccinations, the girls room still needs sorting out, there are stacks of clothes everywhere which need putting away,  Chloe managed to make holes in both legs of her new ballet tights so they need replacing, I need to find things for the kids to take to school for the tombola at the school fair, find change for Elisha to take to the school disco, buy presents for Father's day for Steve and both our Dad's plus two of the kids friends who are both having birthday parties over the weekend,  submit meter readings on line, sort the calendar out because half the school events which need to be on there have not been copied over plus 101 other things which my frazzled brain is desperately trying to keep up with. Elisha brought three letters home from school today alone, it is that time of year, the run up to the summer holidays is always much like the run up to Christmas, frantic and complicated.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

How basic is basic?

This morning's post brought two letter's addressed to the parents of Lucy Kate.  Steve and I opened one each joking that they would probably be the same, they were. They both contained a leaflet from the Welsh arm of the Basic Skills Agency and an invitation to Language and Play sessions run by the Education Department of our local council.
 I am sure it would probably be a lovely course and entirely enjoyable for other mums. Unfortunately it would not be so for me because I would have to take both Kerrie and Lucy. Juggling a wayward toddler and a young baby would rate high on the how to stress mummy out scale which I doubt would be the effect they are looking for.

Can someone please tell me why these things are always run with the assumption that we all have only one child? This really does aggravate me. The anonymous 'they' who plan these courses always seem to assume that all parents have only one child and that they all drive. The local baby clinic always seems to run on the same basis. I have lost count of the number of times they have sent me appointments for 2:30pm for a clinic which is always running late leaving me dashing to collect the other children from school. I have now given up pointing this out and after discussion with my Health Visitor choose to ignore the reminders and make appointments with the practise nurse at a more convenient time.

In this case the sessions run from 1pm till 2:30pm and they are located two towns away, I am a non driver. If I get the bus it wouldn't leave enough time for me to get back for the school run. It also wouldn't give me enough time to give Lucy her usual top up feed before the said school run unless I give it during the play session which means I would be trying to keep track of Kerrie the Houdini style escape artist in an unfamiliar environment while feeding Lucy and then dashing off to get the bus juggling both the baby and the toddler and a pram which they will probably want me to fold up because it wont fit on the bus and even after five children I have yet to work out how to fold a pram which needs both hands while also holding a baby and hanging onto a toddler, and lets not forget I would also be juggling a changing bag and bus fares.
 I will be late to pick the other kids up from school due to the bus route going past two local high schools at chucking out time and therefore that time of day being the worst time of day to travel anywhere  thus rendering myself mightily unpopular with my children's teachers.
 Are you knackered just thinking about it because I know I am. It certainly wipes out any benefit we might gain from attending doesn't it. Forget that idea then how about we stay at home and sing several repetitions of  'The Wheels On The Bus' and 'Wind The Bobbin Up' and have a nice cuppa instead? Yes shock horror I do sing to my kids without needing the intervention of the basic skills agency, admittedly I don't sing well which probably accounts for all the rain we see in Wales but my kids don't care and I am careful not to sing in public, I don't see why anyone else should have to suffer.

OK, so we have established that this course of play sessions is not for us this time. I did however read the leaflet which promised to explain the Language and Play sessions in more detail, well as I thought you never know who might be interested in this sort of thing and I might be able to pass the information on. One of the side effects of having so many children is that everyone expects me to know what is going on locally so I looked at the leaflet which turned out to be the most patronising piece of twaddle I think I have ever had the misfortune to read. The leaflet was split into sections headed by questions about the programme. The final section headed 'Why is it important?' read as follows.

"Being a parent is the most important and challenging job in your life. We believe you are your child's first and most important educator. We want to share some ideas that will make a real difference to both you and your baby or young child. To give your child a great start, try cuddles, talk, rhymes, sharing a story each day and playing together. All of these are absolutely free! Making the most of ordinary situations can change your child's life. You are in the best position to give time, stimulation and warmth. Why is it important to do this? Because you're worth it!"

I found the whole thing to be totally patronising. If they do as they claim see us as our child's first educator then they clearly don't have much faith in our abilities if they feel we all need to be told to cuddle and talk to our babies. James was four years old when Lucy was born when she cried he sang to her, we didn't suggest this to him, it was instinct pure and simple. His response to her distress was to try and soothe her. If such a young child can work this out then why does the basic skills agency think we are all so incapable of using our common sense?

I would go so far as to say that while I recognise that some parents for various reasons do need extra help with a new baby, generally speaking a parent who doesn't instinctively recognise that babies like to be cuddled should not be allowed within an inch of Mothercare's automatic doors. Why do they think we can't even manage to cuddle and talk to our offspring? I know that life in Britain is not that great at present but are things actually that bad that parents en masse must be talked down to? Does every iota of literature intended for us have to be dumbed down to such a level that it can be clearly understood by the Jeremy Kyle generation? My mind boggled as I read the kind of ideas they were so eager to suggest as something new that would not have occurred to us. Cuddles, talking and playing together, give me strength these are not new ideas, this is what should come naturally surely? Talk about stating the obvious!  The writer of this leaflet excitedly imparts this information with all the joy of someone finding the Holy Grail, right down to the L'orealesque line 'Because you are worth it' although surely in this case it should have read 'Because your child is worth it'?

  I am honestly not being snobby. I grew up on a council estate, went to the local schools and I chose not to go to university in favour of going straight into the workplace. I know that being a parent is the hardest job I will ever do and that is OK, no one ever said this would be easy but as I am often heard to say I made my bed and I will lay in it, I might be found to be banging my head against a brick wall sometimes but hey ho such is life. If I need help with something I will find it but please give me some credit for having a few brain cells left yes even after having five babies I still have one or two chunks of the old grey matter rattling around in my head. Sending leaflets with such content does not help me be a better parent, it just made me cross for both myself and my fellow parents. To add insult to injury they sent us two copies as if we couldn't possibly be expected to understand it first time around. Dumbing down Britain, just how basic do we have to get?

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Hair today gone tomorrow!

As if Mother Nature hasn't already had enough opportunities for fun at my expense during six pregnancies with hyperemesis, precipitate labours, sciatic pain, a cracking varicose vein (which thankfully has decided not to stay as a permanent fixture) and a lovely hour long run of agonising contractions after Lucy was born being just a few of her highlights she has decided she has not finished with me yet. Although I was officially discharged from maternity care the better part of twelve weeks ago now I am still experiencing a few of the delights of being postnatal. Oh deep joy!

Now since our hair is constantly replenishing itself it runs in a cycle of growing then falling out to be replaced by new hair we all lose a few hairs when we brush and this is not usually a problem. However during pregnancy this cycle slows down and our hair stops falling out. We are rewarded with thicker more lustrous hair which is all very well and good until about three months after our baby is born then comes the not so fun part as the cycle catches up with itself and all those extra hairs start to fall out, rapidly! Lucy is now four and a half months old  so my hair is falling out in handfuls every time I brush. This has been going on for a few weeks now. Luckily I have plenty of hair so it is not noticeable except to me as I am finding I am leaving bits of my DNA where ever I go. Every time I wash my hair it looks like I have caught a rat in the plughole. This is not great but what is worse is that in place of all the hair I am losing my scalp is desperately trying to fill the gaps so I have wirey and very curly hairs sprouting out of the top of my head.

I was born with jet black curly hair, well according to my mum I was anyway and I suggest like me you take her word for it since I am in no position to argue, I was a newborn how the hell am I supposed to remember? I certainly couldn't see the top of my own head and if I could have I probably wouldn't have been able to focus on it.
 Anyway as babies do I rubbed off a lot of my first hair and in it's place grew blonde wavy hair which is what I had through most of my childhood, it became darker as I grew older. After each pregnancy the hair which has grown back has strangely been much darker, some jet black and very curly just like my very first hair. The lighter finer hair still remains though so as usual my hair can't make up it's mind what it is doing. It  ends up half curly and half straight which is just weird.  I have always said I have chameleon hair, see even my hair is bonkers!

My skin is still going crazy thanks to all the hormones which must be still milling around my body, am trying to remember to plaster on the moisturiser but come on I have five kids prority plastering in this house involves sun cream and elastoplast not Boots No7!

Talking of sunshine I am loving the brightness but sadly not the heat. We had a mad dash to Asda today to buy Lucy some sunhats. OK I admit to being caught unawares but come on we live in Wales packamacs come as standard! We only see the sun once every three years and even then it is only for a long weekend. I think the only time we  have actually got to the bottom of a bottle of suncream before the summer holidays was due to our eldest daughter generously sharing it with her classmates, yes because it is not like I don't have enough children to buy it for is it?.................

I don't worship the sun at all so I have spent the last two days in my usual jeans and trainers, my concession to the unusually high temperatures was to go outside without a coat! I finally decided that this was not just an odd fluke of nature and so I had better dig out my summer clothes, I had spent the last two nights sleeping on top of the duvet too. I usually follow the well known saying 'ne'er cast a clout till May is out' but I think if I stay in my winter clothes any longer I may well melt so out come the milk bottle legs. Sun glasses on my friends for your own protection! You have been warned.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Mother Bear has a sore head........

Ugh! Do you have those days when by the time the alarm screams at you to wake up you feel like you have already done your day already? The sun is shining and I am counting the hours till it goes down. Yes Mummy of five is grumpy today!

 Last night Lucy decided that first she was hungry and cold because she had kicked her covers off so she let me know about it at 3am. I had only been asleep for three hours and had been unusually restless for most of that time so I tucked her back in bed with me and fed her. Since I was boiling I covered myself in a blanket and threw the quilt back out of the way. Lucy as usual had her own blanket. We both went back to sleep. Normally we would both wake up again around 6:30/7am.  Around 5 am she woke again and we had an hour of her fidgeting next to me, after another feed I decided she was just fed up of something. I gave up and popped her back into her crib to see if that  would improve did, she sighed and went straight back to sleep, as it turns out it was me she was fed up of!

 Shattered after such an interupted night I stumbled back into bed and snuggled under my blanket again until a rude awakening just before 7am when Steve left for work. James decided he didn't want his dad to go to work and he decided to wake us all up to tell us, loudly! This in turn woke Kerrie up who immediately proclaimed that she wanted to go and sit at the table for breakfast and Lucy who was not hungry just objecting very loudly to being unceremoniously woken up before she was good and ready.  Having already been woke up a couple of times in the night it is fair to say that I was not at all happy about being jolted from my slumber in such a way. OK my alarm would have actually gone off a few minutes later anyway but that would have been a much gentler awakening compared to the voices of three small people all yelling at once.

  After a night of being too hot now I was too cold. I shivered into my dressing gown and calling to James and Kerrie that I was on my way I stumbled across the room to Lucy's crib. She was quite happy to go straight back to sleep on being handed her favourite toy and a dummy to soothe her.  Lucy, long may the days reign when handing you a toy octopus can cure all that is troubling you!
The effect was instantaneous.   I don't mind admitting I was quite jealous! I was contemplating ringing my Mum to see if she could bring me a dummy and a teddy so I could go back to sleep too. Even my foggy brain was capable of realising that had I done so she would have thought I had actually lost the plot and she would not have been amused at being woken so early either.  So putting all thoughts of more sleep aside I told the kids to get dressed except Kerrie, she had decided to get back in bed where she promptly went back to sleep. I can see my smallest two have brains. I somehow and I am still not sure how, made my way in the direction of the kettle. A very large cup of tea was needed this morning, two cups of tea later I am still not  properly awake. Two slices of toast with proper Welsh butter and half an hours peace to write this while the three eldest have gone to school and the smallest two are fast asleep has still not been enough to wake my brain up. I have a feeling that this is going to be a very long day indeed.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Even our belongings are nuts!

I don't know if it is just in our home but it is not only the people who live here who make it a madhouse. Our inanimate objects are also entirely bonkers. Seriously, I can't work out if there is some sort of glitch in our system which makes everything about this house slightly odd or whether it is just how they make things nowadays. It is bizarre, akin to living in the fun house. When my Mum comes to babysit I have to leave her a list of instructions so she can work everything.

We have the front door which will only open if you turn the key at exactly the right angle, to open it when you are inside you have to push on the door in the right place.  Visitors only come here once then they can't get back out again.
Talking of not being able too get out again we have safety gates everywhere to entertain Kerrie and each one opens in a slightly different way, it is like trying to get through a maze only there is no prize waiting for you at the end. Kerrie watches me struggle then effortlessly opens them herself with a look that can only mean Ha!

 The TV only works if you press number six before you do anything else. The phone cables which were connected to the sky box never worked properly despite being looked at by three different engineers and fully replaced three times with three different boxes used over the course of a few years. Last month I gave up cancelled the second box and unplugged both phone cables, the initial idea was to shave some money of our rather extortionate monthly bill, seconded by noticing the clever monkeys were putting the same channel on both boxes at once so that as they were playing in both rooms they didn't miss anything. The idea behind getting multi room was so that we could have one TV for grown ups and one for kids, this idea had long since died a death as the kids had taken over both sets.  It was our one luxury since we don't get out much in the evening with five kids but we found that the only time we get to watch anything is when they are all in bed so we don't need two sets then. An added bonus is with no longer having multi room we don't have to keep the phone line plugged in. Happy days as my husband says.

We have a little old portable TV in our bedroom connected to a free view box on an indoor aerial, this works fairly well despite the on line free view pages telling me it wont because we need an aerial on the roof. I only really use it at night while I am sat feeding Lucy but for the first few evenings I couldn't work out why it would give up and the screen would freeze usually around eight thirty or nine'o'clock. This was getting annoying since most programmes that I watch are on for an hour and so I kept missing the end.  Eventually I worked out that this co-incided with Chloe going to bed and further investigation revealed that she was lying in bed texting her friends from her mobile when she should have been going to sleep.  It appears the free view box does not like mobile phones, neither do I when they mean bleary eyed kids in the morning!

 The cooker timer is stuck so every time we flick the power button it buzzes loudly until you can manage to hit three buttons all at exactly the same time. We can't leave it switched on all the time because we have Kerrie, enough said!  The catch on the tumble dryer door is broken, it works but only if you wibble it, bit like my brain in the morning........

 The sky plus box is temperamental as was its predecessor which died with a full planner of things I had recorded but not had chance to watch yet - good job I am far too busy to remember what was actually on there! Actually this one makes me laugh, I know that the box takes a good ten minutes to warm up when I switch it on in the morning so my usual practise is to switch it onto standby and then make a brew, when I get back it will be ready to go, ask it to work any sooner and it goes all stubborn and refuses to work at all. It is mine what do you expect!
I live here so I am used to it, however whenever I have cause to phone sky for help the first thing they ask me to do is switch the box off and then turn it back on. I always explain that it will take an age to come back on and I've already tried this being familiar with the routine. They never believe me so I go ahead and switch it off, then back on.........they wait and they wait and they wait then they start insisting it must be back on now, erm no actually it is stuck on standby, do they actually thing that I like paying their inflated call rates so much that I would pretend it is not working just so I could have a chat with their call centre staff? Hmmmm what shall I do today ooh I know I will call sky because I am bored!

The toaster finally gave up the ghost last week after one side of it died an unexplained death a few weeks ago. Maybe they are overworked in this house but we seem to be buying a new kettle and toaster roughly every twelve months. We have tried mid range and we have tried cheap versions and they both last the same length of time. We have resigned ourselves to buying a cheap kettle and toaster and expect to replace it yearly. One day I will actually get organised and buy a spare in preparation, well you know how I love my cup of tea. It is truly a bad day when I wake up to find the kettle wont work. My lovely friend was once on her way here for a brew, as usual she kindly rang me to ask if there was anything I needed, she meant cake, cheesecake or cream cake we are not fussy as long as cake is mentioned somewhere in the item description. She was slightly surprised when I asked to buy a kettle as ours had zonked yet again. Very good timing on her part as I was just resorting to boiling water in a pan when she phoned.

  The toaster I could cope without because we do have a grill that is if I can move all the oven trays and clutter we keep in the top oven to use it. That is the trouble with this house whatever you want to use you have to move ten other things first. Steve decided to buy a new toaster so at least one thing in this house is all shiny and new and working for the timebeing. (way to go Helen, just jinxed it!)

I could keep going but at this point I am not sure whether to laugh at this daily interaction with everything going it's own sweet way regardless of what it is actually supposed to do or I could get rather depressed that nothing wants to work the way it should.  I think however that I shall pop downstairs and make myself a nice cuppa and some toast.........assuming I can open all the gates and get the kettle and toaster to play fair that is!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Shopping madness!

One of the challenges of having so many children is feeding them all. In our house this is not helped by most of them being fussy eaters. Despite my best efforts with home made purees in some cases and baby led weaning in others I might add! They didn't start out that way but as each child has grown and witnessed their older siblings faddiness they have joined in too. We have worked hard to make sure that each child will eat at least some fruit and veg but it has been a long road and very wearing at times. Things are getting better though, a roast dinner which used to be a nightmare with all their likes and dislikes is now one of the meals where they will all eat most of it. Elisha even asked me for gravy last week which she has always refused. There is hope for them all!

  Kerrie will luckily eat almost anything and since the other children are at school most of the day their fussiness is off view so Lucy has a good chance of eating properly without witnessing their strange habits. Hopefully she will enjoy a wide variety of food too.
Yesterday Kerrie enjoyed the same lunch as I did. Pitta bread filled with chicken, tomato, lettuce and coleslaw followed by a banana.
 Kerrie would live off bananas if we let her. I am convinced she is part monkey, she can scale any obstruction put in her path, she loves to climb. In fact she is climbing all the time at the moment, she is driving us all nuts so that banana mountain we buy each week could well come in handy!

I am waiting for Tesco to deliver the next van load of supplies. Considering our children are all so tiny I fail to understand how we can go through so much food! I am starting to think I should go directly to the warehouse and cut out the middleman.

The amount of milk we go through we should certainly buy a cow. During the recent panic buying of petrol it was embarrassing to go shopping to buy our usual weekend supplies of bread and milk, we looked like we were supplying the whole street. My self-conscious comments to the checkout operator about having five children to feed may have seemed a little more realistic and less like an excuse to stockpile had we have actually had them all with us.
We have learnt over the years though for the sake of our own sanity that it is best to do grocery shopping with as few children as possible so we try and go when most of them are safely ensconced in school.
 I have said it before and I will say it again I love all my children dearly I don't love herding them all around the supermarket.

 To be fair they are usually fairly well behaved but the combination of keeping an eye on three sets of small feet, keeping them all walking in the right direction, pushing a pram/entertaining the baby so she stays happy, fighting with an unwieldy trolley - why do I always get the one with a mind of it's own? keeping Kerrie sat down and amused for the duration in said mad trolley, trying to remember what I need despite the list which resembles an essay, in a building the size of an aircraft hanger with thousands of products on display, most of which I have never bought and suspect I will never actually ever need to, avoiding the strange behaviour of those people who frankly shouldn't be left in charge of themselves let alone a vehicle with four wheels! (Why do people feel the need to leave their trolley in the middle of the aisle while they wander away for their solitary tin of beans?) ......and breathe! Is all just a little too much for me. - try our instore cafe......are you kidding me? After that fun hour I need a vodka straight without the ice and a nice lie down, preferably away from all other forms of life human or otherwise!

This is why I love online shopping. I sit down and order when they are all asleep. I choose what we need and review at the end instead of slinging things in the trolley like a woman possessed in my haste to get the hell out of there and then on unpacking at home wonder how I am going to make meals out of the curious assortment of items I chose.  I sit nice and calm with a cuppa and a list, a mealplan and sometimes I even sleep on it before paying so I can make sure I have got it right. Then a nice man brings it to my door at a timeslot I have chosen again based on the easiest time for me to get it all unpacked and put away i.e when they are all in school! Job done!

My other store of choice has to be Aldi. I love Aldi! It is simple, it is quick, it is cheap and everything is easy to find without having to hunt through a million and one other things to find a jar of jam. Genius! Better still it is usually so quick and easy I can leave Daddy in charge of the children in the car while I dash in and shop in peace. Bliss!

The truth is that we couldn't have bought any extra anyway because we wouldn't have had anywhere to store it. We are having to be very inventive as it is. Our kitchen is very small, so small in fact that our fridge freezer lives in the dining room, the cereal boxes live on top of this so they don't take up valuable cupboard space in the kitchen. This does have the added benefit of being handy at breakfast time. There is so little work surface in the kitchen that we often resort to lining up the plates on the ironing board when we are dishing up meals. Well we rarely use it anyway, the iron makes a useful doorstop too! Large family, small house and right on time here is Mr Tesco, I had better go and find somewhere to stash the goodies before several sets of eager eyes see them, hands off the half price Ben and Jerry's kids it is all mine!

Monday, 14 May 2012

That Monday morning feeling..........

I've got the blues, I've got those back to school blues! OK I overslept, we all overslept. It was nearly eight 'o'clock when I woke up. Oops, Chloe usually leaves for the bus at that time. Elisha has swimming so she needs to be at school earlier than usual, double oops, and my poor James as explained in an earlier post hates to be turfed out of bed with no ceremony. A triple oops with no bonus points, collect your P45 Mummy You're Fired!

 Monday, the traditional start of the week starting off on the wrong foot does not bode well. With so many little people with so many places to get to and so many things to get ready Monday morning is at the best of times a struggle. It is a challenge to be got through and it needs to go well or it doesn't 'go' at all. Factor in 'Mummy chief little people organiser' getting up late and it is akin to watching a disaster unfold before your very eyes. If this was on reality tv they would be calling it a car crash!

Today has the makings of an epic fail. Even the laptop is refusing to work properly. When I switched it on it decided to add an update before it even got going, never a good sign. It spent an age telling me that it was 'preparing my desktop' so all I could see was a blank screen behind which I could imagine all the icons rushing around like the playing cards from Alice in Wonderland trying to assemble themselves in time for the Queen. Oh hell she is up, we are not ready! Where is my hat? Has anyone seen my coat? How can I have overslept and so on!

When it finally woke up it couldn't locate windows and so I had to shut it all down and start again which thankfully this time it did, properly. Maybe the icons had all had their morning coffee by this time. Trying to get online had it's own problems. Internet explorer did not want to wake up either, having bolted out of bed this morning in a blind panic I know just how he feels! Yes I am sorry for the sexism I do refer to IE as male. I also refer to the laptop as male, fun to play with but at times a little difficult! usual I digress!

 I wouldn't mind but we did as much as possible last night. Steve makes their packed lunches at night while I am putting the little ones to bed. School uniform for three, swimming kit for one, gym kit, a Brownie Uniform and school bags all prepared. Poor Elisha looks like a packhorse going to school most mornings although admittedly she likes to add a whole host of un-needed clutter to her bags, most mornings I have to frisk her for contraband. She is seven so I am pretty sure that they have not changed the timetable so much since I was a pupil that it would require her to take make up, cd's, sunglasses and six dolls along with their various assorted accessories to school.

  As for Chloe her backpack is nearly as big as she is. We met her in town on Friday when she had finished school because she needed new school shoes. (That story would warrant a post all of it's own!) The lovely ladies in the Clarks shop could not believe the weight of her school bag. I retain a permenantly damaged shoulder from trailing the halls of the local high school with a bag of textbooks the eqivalent of a sack of spuds. I suspect sadly she may be going down the same path. The pharmecutical industry could be missing a trick here - not like them is it! They could be handing out discount vouchers for a tin of Ralgex spray with every school bag or Deep Heat lets not be selective here.

Today Chloe also has a cookery lesson and after the previous attempts at food education I use the word cookery very loosely indeed. I told you all about the crumble debacle (If you don't know what I am ranting on about the post entitled 'Crumble Theory' will explain all) then we had fruit salad which was to be fair very nice. We then had scones which for some bizarre reason only beknown to the teacher had to be prepared on the Monday and then left in school till the Thursday to be baked the mix left to sit for four days, I am always baffled! I was also a little concerned as they made them with milk. If time was that short why did they not just send them home to be baked like the crumble?
Then came the leek and potato soup which was to be fair delicious and was actually prepared from scratch. All well and good except I can only assume the teacher is the size of a gnat. I am all for portion control but seriously the dribble of soup which slowly came out of the flask was about three desert spoonsful.
 In case you are wondering no Chloe hadn't had a quick snack on the way home, I know this because she can't stand the stuff. After making and eating it in Junior school she ended up having a quick conversation on the great white telephone to God.

 Today is Bara Brith Muffins. She is making this with a partner so the fruit and brown sugar were seeped in cold tea overnight and I await the arrival of the muffins with excitedly dancing taste buds...................probably a week next Tuesday!

The spell check is now refusing to work and after only having one cup of tea so far my eyelids are still half glued together and my brain is meerly laughing at me when I ask it to co-operate fully, therefore please excuse any errors, they are as usual all my own.

Keep your fingers crossed for me for the rest of the day, I suspect it may well be a long one!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Why I put the blame firmly at Shaky's Green Door!

I know I know I said we were stopping when we had four children, I told anyone who would listen and anyone who dared to ask that we were done. The truth was that we really had decided to stop.  Four children were plenty, four children were enough. We were so lucky to be blessed with our four beautiful children and that was that we decided. But then I discovered we were expecting Lucy.

 For this wonderful event I blame Shakin Stevens.  Before anyone gets overexcited or thinks I've gone delusional I am not claiming that he is actually responsible for one thing I am happily married, to a bloke who funnily enough is called Steve,  for another I have never actually met Shaky and as my dad pointed out he is old enough to be my dad.
 No, it is Shaky's fault because last February after being a fan for 30 years I finally realised my dream  to see him in concert. Now if you waited for 30 years for something I am sure it would leave you in quite a good mood for sometime afterwards. I couldn't stop smiling after seeing Shaky sing live. I am sure that my month long 'good mood' resulted in the beautiful little bundle of joy who is curled up fast asleep alongside me. That is why I am blaming Shaky!

I have been a fan of Shakin Stevens for virtually my whole life. I owned my first ever single at the tender age of two it was a vinyl copy of Shaky's Its Raining which I am proud to say I still have. The funny thing was whenever I played it as a child it always rained. Since we don't have a record player I can't actually play it any more and I have since replaced my records with Cd's and mp3's but I am keeping all my records because one day I will play them again.

Despite being a fan for so long, despite having his posters on my wall as a teen, despite enduring years of stick for being a fan when it was considered so untrendy I had never actually been to a Shaky concert. This was to be rectified when my Aunt wrote to me enclosing a leaflet detailing up and coming events at a theatre venue not so far away from us. She had spotted a Shakin Stevens concert and knowing that I was a fan she kindly decided to forward it to me. I was on the phone to book the tickets before you could wonder what was behind the green door! In my haste  I forgot to ask Steve if he would come too, I just booked the tickets and hoped he would agree!  I managed to get seats in the centre of the second row right in front of the stage.  Oh how happy I was, I could not stop smiling. The concert was supposed to take place in November but was postponed till February owing to Shaky's health scare.  

  A couple of weeks before my 32nd Birthday I finally went to a Shakin Steven's concert. It felt like I had waited for a very long time. Well I had waited thirty years. I spent the whole night with a huge smile on my face, Steve kept laughing at me because I was smiling so much.   I smiled so much that my cheekbones ached for a week! I smiled so much that Shaky even smiled back at me a couple of times, OK the lights were bright and he might not have been able to see the audience but I am convinced he did smile at me and you will not tell me otherwise.  He probably thought it wise to since I was sat there with an inane grin on my face the entire time he was on stage.  My hands clapped, my feet tapped and in the end we stood up and danced. It was brilliant, a night I will remember all my life.

The best bit was that I was able to hear him sing a fantastic version of 'It's Raining' live and true to form as we left the theatre it was raining. Shaky is amazing, fair play he kept us all entertained and I loved every moment.  I wonder if Lady Gaga will still be performing to packed out venues when she is in her sixties?

So when people congratulate us on our beautiful new arrival and mention as they do that they thought we were stopping at four I tell them it's not our fault just blame Shaky!

Monday, 7 May 2012

I knew cleaning was bad for your health!

Lucy has just turned four months old. She is in more of a routine now although it is not completely predictable. She does settle for a couple of long sleeps in the day which gives me time to get a few more things done around the house. Kerrie on the other hand is rivalling David Blaine in her desire to entertain us with her antics in escapology. Put a gate in her way and she will simply climb over it or in the case of the stair and kitchen gates she puts her feet under the gate and pushes upwards, open pops the gate and away she goes, rather proudly I might add.  Kerrie dashes around the house like a mini tornado opening cupboards, emptying drawers and toy boxes leaving a path of destruction in her wake. She is naturally inquisitive, she wants to explore her surroundings. She wants to press buttons and open boxes. She wants to try Chloe's shoes on, she wants to test out their toys, she wants to look at their books.  She wants to do everything she sees the other kids do and she has a million questions to go with her journey.

When Kerrie wakes up in the morning it is exactly as if someone has pushed her ON switch. She comes to life straight away, no warm up required, totally unlike James who needs a good hour at least to come around in the morning. I pity James on the odd days I oversleep. If there is one thing he loathes it is a mad dash in the morning. The poor boy does not like to be rushed, he likes to wake up slowly taking his own sweet time. He will be ready when he is ready and any attempt to make him move faster results in the opposite effect.

 We have tended to restrict Kerrie to the living room most of the time, we keep that room very baby and toddler friendly.  Toys with small parts such as Lego, jigsaws,  board games and art materials are kept in the dining room so she can't get hold of them unless she is supervised. The dining room is also home for a lot of toys such as the farm animals, cars and the play food which are taken into the living room to be played with as there is more space to play on the floor.

This has worked well until now that Kerrie can escape the confines of the living room but at only just three she still does not understand why she can't play with everything the older children play with. Her speech is excellent but her reasoning and understanding still have a long way to go. I decided that if she is going to be spending more time in the dining room now it would need a bit of rearranging so as to keep the smaller toys out of her reach.  I also decided that this would be the ideal opportunity to give the room a spring clean. I should have known that this would be a bad idea.

I don't like cleaning, well it's not that I don't like it as such it's just that I can think of so many other things I could be doing instead so I begrudge the time spent. However I last time I gave the room a really good clean was at Christmas when I was still pregnant and nesting so after 4 months of only a cat lick and a promise it really did need a good deep clean.

So I set to work. I started in the corner with the computer cupboard. The aim was to make the room Kerrie friendly so that she would think she was allowed to play with much more while everything she shouldn't touch would be out of her reach. Henry the hoover was brought out of the darkness of the  under stairs cupboard and all was going well until I hit upon the idea of hoovering the computer keyboard and two of the letters disappeared up the curly pipe, oops! While I was mentally handing myself a virtual award for stupid idea of the day in walks Steve. Fair play to him he resisted the urge to laugh and instead helped me search through  the very dusty contents of the hoover bag to find the lost letters, I and O in case you were wondering.

 Of course the hoover bag was full, this is me we are talking about here but he did actually manage to find the I key. As for the O well sadly no such luck there and so our keyboard is now missing a letter. The space where the O should be stands as a permanent reminder to me for when I next get the urge to spring clean. Since all I ended up with was a wheeze from all the dust we had to search through and a broken keyboard to boot next time I should leave well alone!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The hazards of the Postnatal Ward

 It is raining again. This is Wales so admittedly this is hardly a newsflash although if it gets any worse I hear that midwives are planning on issuing all Welsh newborns with a cagoule...........Yes I am joking but wouldn't it make an interesting talking point on the postnatal ward? So much nicer than having to discuss the lady in the next bed's stitches or the contents of her baby's nappy  'should it be that colour?' Look, I know I am sleep deprived too but I am pretty sure I managed to put my pyjamas on after the birth and not a set of scrubs.

No, of course I didn't say that outright, I was far too nice to come out with any of my immediate thoughts so keeping them to myself I went with my second choice of smiling, while clucking soothingly. I then nipped out ostensibly to go to the loo whilst in reality I was commandeering the nearest staff member and propelling her in 'New Mum's'   direction to give her a few hints about which way up to hold her firstborn.  Lost looking inmate in the next bed got some in my opinion much needed help and I went back to putting my feet up with my cup of tea and the latest Martina Cole novel job done! (In case you are wondering my baby was fed changed and asleep - I had done this before you know!)

I know my friends, I love them dearly. They are the people I choose to spend time with so I am happy to have a cuppa and answer their questions about all things pregnancy, babies and breastfeeding.  I am delighted to share the knowledge I have gained, if it is of any use to you then you are welcome to it. If you want to follow my advice then please do and if it sounds like a load of old tosh then feel free to go your own merry way. I won't ever be offended because I pick and choose which advice I follow myself in the same way. Frankly I am touched that my friends ask however I am not the fountain of all knowledge, I am still learning too so if I do not know I will say so and I do not claim to always get things right.

 I am sure the bunch of strangers I have been bundled with are all lovely people in their own right but I have just given birth too, I am dealing with my own postnatal hormones right now and unlike them I know just how 'fun' that is going to get so please just leave me in the corner bed to work through it with a nice comforting box of Kleenex, I will be fine. Thank you!

And now having said that I am going to impart one very important piece of advice for after you have your second baby which for your own benefit you should choose to follow!

Seriously, never, ever under any circumstances let a ward full of first time mums know that you have already had a baby. When your children come to visit claim they are close relations but never admit to them being your own offspring. I know that temporarily disowning your firstborn does seem a tad cruel but this is self preservation, survival of the fittest and as the Greek proverb goes 'In the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed man is king' which roughly means that even if somebody is not perfect in something, in comparison to others who are worse than her, she is going to be considered the best!

 I warn you now if you let them in on this little detail you risk an onslaught of questions that an immigration officer would be proud of. A verbal battering to your eardrums all I might say while your own beautiful newborn is sound asleep because you do know which end to put the nappy on!

In prison you would be the top dog, on a postnatal ward you are considered a pro, an expert, she who has done it before and therefore can answer all the questions. It doesn't matter that you are as exhausted as they are probably even more so seeing as you already have children.   It also doesn't matter that you have forgotten most of what you learnt the first time around or you are just too knackered to remember it! The other members of the ward do not know that and so they charge round your bed like the Light Brigade in full force. If this was a post apocalyptic drama you would be their appointed leader. Oh goody!

 At any other time in my life I would have been thrilled to be so popular, right now no. I can honestly take my Head Girl hat off and tell you that I draw the line at discussing your 'ahem' vaginal loss before breakfast. Yes that is a true recollection. Over the course of three days I must have considered the consistency of more bodily fluids then your average pathologist. I only wish I was joking!

I as a second time Mummy have done this already, the novelty has worn off and I know that I am going home to a double workload. Two little people will be dependant on me and I have with that final push officially run out of hands. I know that when I get home I will be answering the calls of both baby and toddler in the night. I will be juggling a double buggy and a basket should I ever get brave enough to venture out to the shops and I may never drink an entire cup of tea before it gets cold so please forgive my selfishness in hoping that if your newborn is not enough to keep you occupied, the contents of your bounty pack might entertain you for ooh just five minutes because I deliberately left my child at home. Harsh, hell yes, As I've already told you this is self preservation.

Excuse me while I chuckle at the contents of the postnatal exercise sheet, amuse yourselves quietly while I take a quick shower, I know it is the last time I will get chance to shower in peace without said toddler trying to climb in too. The same goes for mealtimes, yes it has to be said hospital food is not the nicest but on the plus side it is a meal I have not had to cook for myself and I have the chance to eat it while it is hot so I am going to do just that. You can tell your visitors all about your piles/sore nipples or whatever other delights you feel unable to keep to yourself.  I do not want to know. I am busy enjoying a millisecond of peace and quiet before I return to my reality.

It is entirely possible that the second time mum decides on a hospital birth because it is the one time when you are guaranteed to get the bed to yourself. OK the baby might be there with you too but only if invited. I have yet to see a newborn clamber out of it's perspex crib and into your bed in the middle of the night. Toddlers yes they run to a different set of rules, toddlers are self centred. It is not your bed at all, it is their bed the instant they climb in and they merely allow you try and sleep there while they go through an aerobics routine that Mr Motivator would be proud of.

 Of course you can try and co-sleep with your newborn in hospital go on I dare you, it is a health and safety nightmare. The powers that be are so convinced the baby is going to fall out of bed that they insisted on one of those bed guards for keeping toddlers safe at night. I kid you not! This was taken out of a cupboard and attached to one side of the bed, the side I was feeding from. Baby fed, baby went to sleep, so did Mummy.......until a couple of hours later when baby woke up hungry, the first stage of a hungry baby being the ever so cute slight snuffling sound as she moves her head from side to side rooting for a breast.
Did Mummy drift out of her slumber just long enough to move baby onto the other side of the bed and offer the other boob as she would in the delightful privacy of her own home? No, because said Mummy was  under strict orders to call the Midwife and wait for her to move the bed guard to the other side of the bed.
 At home no one else is disturbed, in hospital my baby objecting at the delay has loudly just woken up half the ward and I am sure there are much more pressing matters for the Midwife to deal with too. What a palaver! Frankly I was too tired to object, I lay down and did as I was told resolving to get the hell out of there as soon as possible. Is it any wonder I favour home birth?

I have co-slept with all my babies at home. I refuse to apologise for this, I like my sleep. I am not going to and never have as one older mum told me I would, mislaid the baby in the bed. Neither have I ever woke up to find the baby on the floor.
 I have other children to care for, I need to be awake enough to get them to school without walking them all in front of a moving bus. I need some sleep to function just enough to get through the day relatively unscathed.
 As for the rest of you, well you can do as you jolly well please, if you don't like the idea then don't do it. Your baby your choice. I on the other hand won't care whatever you decide to do because I will be curled up with my baby enjoying a well earned snooze!

Monday, 30 April 2012

Talk about a wet weekend......

  Funny how they only have to mention the word 'drought' on the news and it is enough to spur the rainclouds into action. You know it is really wet outside when even the kids realise that there is no point asking to go out to play and neither do they want to. Even Chloe who has cabin fever seemingly from the moment she gets out of bed was not at all inclined to venture outside.

I am of the cynical opinion that it is all part of a sinister plan to charge us yet more money for our water rates. How can the UK be suffering from a lack of rainfall when I spend a major part of the year soaked to the skin as soon as I dare to exit the front door. They say the land is dry but the large box of wellingtons under my stairs and the huge pile of kids umbrellas beg to differ!
 I don't actually own an umbrella myself since the last two I dared to buy have fallen apart. The first was a nice little Totes version which I thought would be a good investment, sadly I was wrong, so I bought a cheap one from the pound shop, again it did not last long. Actually come to think of it the nice printed umbrella which Chloe chose from Debenhams had a disastrous first outing when the handle fell off. Considering we live in a Country famed for its notoriously bad weather you would think someone could invent an umbrella which is actually up to the job.

Despite the almost constant rainfall this weekend we have still been busy.  Kerrie celebrated her 3rd birthday on Friday.  By some way of a minor miracle we managed to get the whole brood up and organised so that she could open some of her presents before they went to school. They all sat at the table eating their breakfast while she covered their cereal in hastily discarded gift wrap.   I wont bore you with the present list but suffice to say that the small Peppa pig and George beanies which we bought as last minute extras were easily the most popular toys. This is often the case in our house. Sometimes I do wonder why we spend so much time and money on their presents when in reality the most loved gift is usually of very little value and purchased in a hurry!

Several members of our family came over for an afternoon tea party with pink wafers as standard. A birthday is not a birthday in this house without pink wafers and party rings! Chocolate fingers and fairy cakes are also expected and it is considered a poor show if you do not provide a plate of egg butties. Lashings of ginger beer a la Enid Blyton are not required although if you could have seen my sister and I bouncing up and down the dining room with Peppa pig party blowers in our mouths while we did loud impressions of penguins you would be forgiven for thinking we were still enjoying our childhood.  On reflection perhaps it is best that there were no witnesses, well apart from our dad and to be fair he already knows that we are both nuts.

Kerrie had a fantastic birthday. She proudly informed me in the morning that because she was three she could go to school soon which was all very well and good until she appeared to change her mind announcing at bedtime that she is not going to school because she is going to stay in the 'living loon' instead.......yes this is how Kerrie says 'living room' and it is not just my dodgy typing although in this house it could well have been a Freudian slip on her part.

The rest of the weekend passed us by in a whirlwind of meals, laundry, and judging by all the toys I picked up over the weekend they must have played with everything they own. James went to a fantastic birthday party for two of his little school friends. He had a great time going down the local dry ski slope on a rubber ring - yes it was a new one on me too. Apparently he was supposed to make his own way up to the top for the next ride but cheeky monkey or clever depending on your viewpoint, had one of the dad's pull him and his rubber ring back up to the top instead to the great amusement of Steve. I managed to see all my siblings over the weekend despite it being neither Christmas nor Easter ;-)

Sunday as the rain continued to fall I decided to make good use of my time stuck indoors and bake.  Armed with Chloe my willing assistant we went a bit mad with some pastry and Steve has been sent to work with a homemade meat and potato pasty decorated with hearts and a little man. If his workmates take the mickey it is all my fault. I text him at lunchtime and lovingly suggested that the little man on his pasty is my way of giving him a hug to which he replied 'I've just bit his head off' Who said romance is dead eh!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Pre-loved is pretty damn fabulous!

The local NCT Nearly New Sale took place on Saturday. This is a brilliant idea where parents can sell their unwanted toys, books, equipment, and clothing for babies and children as well as maternity clothes and parenting books. The NCT Charity takes a percentage of the selling price in return for handling the sales. Then buyers can choose from a veritable smorgasbord of goods all displayed  under one roof. Anything left unsold is returned to the buyer at the end of the sale along with a nice cheque in exchange for items sold. For the most part items are clean and in very good condition, if you don't like it you don't have to buy it and there is so much to choose from. It is like having all the best bits of the baby and kids sections of each well known store in one big hall.

 Everything is displayed on rails and tables in sections labelled according to ages. They hand you a large shopping bag and away you go elbows at the ready, the one downside of this sale is it's popularity, it gets very busy and therefore very crowded. I had to take Lucy with me so I went for the sensible option of using the baby sling to keep my hands free and took my Mum along to help, this coupled with two lovely friends who offered to drop my bags off on the way home to save us carrying it made it easy. The silly lady who decided to sit on the floor under the very busy toy table went un-noticed by me until I nearly fell over her, but try as we might we can't expect everyone to use their brains can we?

When I was a child secondhand often meant second best or in a lot of cases past its best! By the time items were handed down to younger children they were often out of fashion and well worn. Clothes were much more expensive and needed to last so much longer.  Now the secondhand market is thriving. Everyone is feeling the effects of the harsh economic climate, everyone's budget is having to go that little bit further, for many people it needs to stretch a lot further. As food and petrol prices increase, living costs go up and our disposable income goes down. For some it is plummeting at an alarming rate. Most of us can't buy everything new so sales like these are ideal.

When I was a child things were passed down quietly, people did not shout about their charity shop finds or brag about their children wearing something pre-loved. As a child who often wore hand me downs frankly it was embarrassing and other kids would comment.   Now thanks to the likes of EBay and Amazon Marketplace it is normal practise, indeed considered a clever find and thrifty to buy secondhand. We are all expected to recycle waste and do our bit for the environment. Children grow so quickly that they outgrow their clothes before they are worn out so it makes sense to either sell it or donate it to another family.

Which brings me nicely on to the numerous lovely mums and indeed dads, even sometimes their kids who often turn up on my doorstep with their generous donations. I won't embarrass you by naming you here, you know who you are and I thank you all.  To my lovely lady who sends parcels to a family she has not met, you will never know what that means to me  xxx

  'You won't be offended will you?' is their oft asked question, offended me? Never! Touched, deeply grateful, Yes. I am very happy to accept on the understanding that anything we do not need or cannot use can be passed on to someone else who needs it. Pay it forward.

 I am often astounded to see the same items passed on to me are still being sold in the local shops. Kerrie is currently running around in a brightly coloured Peppa pig top which if you saw it you would have no idea that it had been passed down from another family. She loves Peppa, she was so excited she actually kept it on all day, Kerrie is a child who doesn't like staying dressed so for our little stripper this was quite an achievement. If she doesn't like it then she is not going to wear it. The bags arrive and the kids ask if there is anything in there for them, they love it, if they don't like something or it is not their style I wont make them wear it, it can be passed on to someone else instead. We buy new clothes on their Birthday's and at Christmas, new underwear and tights and anything urgent otherwise things are passed up and down, back and forth, sometimes I forget which item belongs to which child, sometimes they do too.

 There is something lovely about passing things round in this way. The carrycot which we bought new for Chloe to sleep in was then sent from friend to friend to use for their babies, at the last count eight babies had slept in it at one time or another, eight babies! The brightly coloured Lamaze play mat Lucy loves to lie on while watching the mobile above is on loan from a friend. Baby equipment is so expensive and used for a relatively short amount of time so why not pass things around and share both the benefit and the expense.

So after an interesting afternoon choosing from the wide variety of items on offer at it must be said very reasonable prices and having a friendly chat with so many friends and local parents and grandparents all with the same mindset, we took my two overflowing bags to the till. I must say quick hello to Ally who was working very hard,  it was very nice to see you! I left with a considerably lighter purse but in the long run I will have saved a fortune against the price of buying new.

 I bought a huge pile of books which will hopefully satisfy Elisha's insatiable appetite for reading for a little while, a gorgeous snow suit which looked unworn to keep Lucy warm next winter. Lucy also benefited from beautiful party dresses and velvet skirts from Next and Debenhams, proper little cotton pyjama's, well spotted by my Mum, along with the softest, snuggliest little coat and a pair of tiny pink ugg style pram boots which gained many complements the following day. We found a lovely raincoat for Kerrie and James was very happy with transformers toys and a cars duvet set. It is harder to find things for older children but this time I got lucky with a couple of bits for Chloe too.

A very happy mummy and very happy children, the next sale is in September, I will be looking forward to it.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Has Britain really gone off the boil?

Regular readers, family and friends all know how important my cup of tea is. I can't start my day properly without a panad. A day that begins without a brew does not bode well at all. Speak to me before I have had a brew and you can expect nothing more than a cursory response, my eyelids will be mostly still glued shut, I just let enough light in to allow me to locate the kettle. Not only does my day begin with a cuppa, it ends with one too. Curled up in bed with an abundance of pillows behind me as my brain tries to remember everything I need to do the next day.

So when I saw an advert online offering the chance to sample two different types of Twining's Tea - I jumped at the chance. I love a freebie and I like trying new things so I filled out the online form, chose my teabags and a few days later they arrived.

I wasn't struck on the peppermint tea so we will gloss over that but the other had me at the first sip. Twining's Blossom Earl Grey. Wow this was lovely, my taste buds were dancing! This tea was limited edition so I was happy to find it in the Co-op.  I admit that these teabags are expensive compared to my usual bulk bought brand but since I only drink the odd cup as a treat it didn't matter. The tea as I said was limited edition and after the Co-op ran out I couldn't find it again. On their boxes along with the Royal Warrant, (yes get me I've gone all posh!) was a little section suggesting customers contact them to 'talk about tea' .......offering me a chance to talk, red rag to a bull! So I decided to email their customer services to ask where I could buy more.

 I know what it is like to deal with customer requests (a long story which I will save for another day) so I decided to jazz up my request a bit, OK I obviously have too much time on my hands but I thought it might just entertain someone. So I wrote a poem/rhyme/ditty all about my search for their teabags, emailed it to them and awaited a response. Here it is, it was just a bit of fun but see what you think.

I answered an offer to try something new today choosing to sample your Blossom Earl Grey.
My sample arrived and duly I took my first nervous and tentative sup.
Your tea was delicious, a delight, a revelation, no nicer drink since the dawn of creation!

I am a proud Welsh girl so I am sure you can see just how important tea is to me.
A cup when I wake is an essential, I crawl out of bed and on goes the kettle.
With five children to care for, a husband, a home, not far from a teacup do I ever roam.

Tea helps my sleep deprived brain to function,
It is so much more than a beverage to accompany luncheon.
When I fall into bed at the end of the day, I love to relax with my Blossom Earl Grey.

Still I’ve encountered a problem and help me; I hope you will do, because,
I can’t find more of your delicate brew.
Limited Edition the package did say, so where can I find more Blossom Earl Grey?

I’ve bought every box in my local Co-Op, to my dismay, no more do they stock!
Believe me I’ve tried, I’ve looked and I’ve looked.
Help me Twining’s I beg of you Today, I need to locate more Blossom Earl Grey.

Do you know what they thought? Absolutely nothing! I received a standard, bland reply thanking me for my email with an accompanying list of retailers phone numbers. They did mention that due to customer demand they had decided to add this tea to their range which was good news but that was it. Not even a pat on the back for my effort. I didn't want a freebie, I had already enjoyed the sample but from the company who invites us to contact them because in their words they love to talk about tea, would it have hurt them to have laughed? Do their customer services staff really take themselves that seriously? Mary Portas keeps encouraging us to buy British. When British companies have lost their sense of humour have we simply gone off the boil?