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?

Dear School..............

I love my children, I truly do, each and every one. I love them all in different ways. I love their quirks and their funny personalities, some of which are only just beginning to emerge. I love that our home is a madhouse full of laughter and fun. I love that when our brood have their friends to play my workload is not increased because I am used to making a mountain of meals and drinks. I love that their friends choose this house to congregate in. In summer our home resembled a half way house most days but that is fine by me.  I love the busy days filled with activity and chaos. I can honestly say I am never bored!

There are days when I am sure everyone has gone bonkers. I heard Steve shouting one day so I went into the kitchen asking him what the matter was, he replied that he was just shouting at the cutlery! No, I still have no idea either but this sort of thing happens here all the time . At the same moment  Elisha was prowling the house declaring that she wished she was mad making us all suspect she actually is........... Then again I have regular nutty days.  We all do.  I think the only way to survive living here is to join in, sink or swim. I think sanity is overrated anyway after all it is only a state of mind.

However I am after all only human. To my lovely mummy friend who recently referred to me as Mary Poppins, I most certainly am not but the mere suggestion made me chuckle.  I try my best to be patient and to understand that with so many people living together in a relatively small space personalities are bound to clash. There are some days when it all comes crashing down.  Some days when it does feel like everyone has got out of the wrong side of the bed. Some days I get them all up and immediately want to put them all back to bed again, the days when you wonder just how long it is until bedtime! Some days the solution is to plonk them all in front of the telly to chill out and calm down or play loud music and all dance madly until good humour is restored.

 I have never made a secret of my opinion that school days are a necessary evil. I did not enjoy school myself but I am very happy that on the whole they are all enjoying going to school. I would have kept them all at home and home schooled however this would not have been what is best for them. They enjoy school, they love the social side of school, the sports, games and activities that I can't offer them in the same way at home.  So off to school they go. They have their own lives a huge part of the day which I am not involved with and have very little control over or input. I am learning to live with this for their benefit. (Yes Dad there is my inner control freak!) I love the holidays when they are all home together and look forward to them with a passion.

As I have said though I am only human, there are occasional days when from the moment they get up nothing appears to be right, nothing I do for them is right and being only human these are the days I am secretly a bit happy to be sending them all to school for someone else to deal with for just a little while. So this was originally my Facebook status on one of those days.

Dear School,

My children all seem to have got out of the wrong side of their beds today, either that or they neglected to tell me they are auditioning as Snow White's dwarfs, but seriously Grumpy, Sleepy and Whatisname' have nothing on this lot!
 Therefore, if you need me I shall be found rocking slowly back and forth in the corner, lovingly cradling the gin bottle and contemplating the perversity of human nature.
 Otherwise please don't send them back before home time and may I offer you 'the very best of British!'
 Fondest regards,

 Their Ever Loving Mother xxx

Monday, 23 April 2012

Big brother is watching.

Lucy is three and a half months old. She is now smiling and giggling, especially at James. She honoured him with her first smile and her first giggle. He is a very proud big brother and she in turn adores him. The two of them bonded immediately probably owing to her recognising his total devotion to her from the moment they met.

He chose her name when we struggled to decide. Well in fairness we had named three girls already. She was due on Christmas Day but we didn't want to choose an obviously festive name. When we were unable to agree on a name we asked the children for their suggestions.  He named her after his little friend at school, the same beautiful little girl who walked up to me yesterday and spontaneously hugged baby Lucy, rather tricky for her as she was strapped to my front in the baby sling at the time.  This simple but lovely act earned her a huge smile from Lucy and was so sweet it made my eyes want to water.

Christmas has always been my favourite time of year. As a child I would spend hours reading my huge stack of books about the festive season and how it is celebrated, both here and around the world. One of my favourite books told of Christmas in Scandinavia, where they celebrate Santa Lucia or Saint Lucy.  As the eldest of four, I loved to read about the eldest daughter of the household waking her family with coffee and special buns made with saffron. She would dress up in a white robe with a wreath of candles in her hair. I am pretty sure that I never tried to recreate this though as frankly the thought of walking around with candles on my head would have scared the life out of me!

 My Mum has now stopped asking me if I would like to take the girls to the Christingle Service.  When I was little the probably all of five minutes the candles were lit for seemed like an eternity. I wanted to blow the candle out so I could sneakily eat the dried fruit and dolly mixtures which some kind soul had spent an age sticking into a ribbon wrapped orange.
 Now I am all grown up that five minutes seems like an eternity as I am consumed by the silent panic that my kids will inadvertantly set fire to the person next to them or infront of them as they wave their candle about during the hymn. Yes, I am sure that the church does look very pretty swathed in candlelight. Yes, it looks beautiful a sight to behold now can we please blow them all out before that wobbly lady in the next pew who can it has to be said, barely stand upright sends up her neighbour's polyester.  As for all the long hair and winter scarves flowing around don't even get me started, it is a nightmare waiting to happen. Everyone knows I am a hopeless worrywort. Just pass me a valium and sit me in the corner I will be fine!

Oops,  I have digressed yet again. Back to James and Lucy. She has ended up with a festive name even though it is not imediately obvious and it is one which gives me special reminders of my childhood as a bonus.  Moral of this story, just leave it to the kids, job done!

James stands over Lucy as she sleeps, watching her and rushing to tell me when she awakes or needs my attention. If I have my hands full he sings to her until I can get to her, he sings to her anyway just to entertain her. She has her own special song, he made it up all by himself when she was only a few days old. It consists of a few simple words.

'Lucy is cute, Lucy is cute, La la la la, la la la la, Lucy is cute. (And repeat!)

He started singing this to her when she cried, now he sings it to her all the time, the other kids have started singing it too. I have even heard him singing it when she is not with him. I pity any boy brave enough to come to our door to take her out, her big brother will be watching.  He is her greatest protector and her biggest fan.  Not bad for someone who demanded a baby brother!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Crumble theory.......

Chloe, our eldest daughter, started high school last September.  This has been an interesting time for us as parents because we both attended the same school. Owing to the ten year age gap between Steve and I we were not there at the same time so we both have very different memories of school life, the teachers even the buildings. To make matters more confusing for us this particular high school has completely changed the way they teach their Year 7 pupils. They are mostly segregated from the rest of the school in separate buildings. Their lessons consist of a series of projects which encompass the more traditional subjects of Humanities, Languages, Science, Maths and so on. The projects seem interesting and varied and Chloe certainly seems to be enjoying them which is fantastic after all disinterest is a huge barrier to learning anything.

 My own opinions on education generally I will save for another day. Suffice to say that having come out of the other side of the education system, and having survived life up until now, working and then raising a family,  I am still frustrated by the amount of time schools spend teaching topics which have no real use to the majority in real life. For example unless you are going to be a mathematician or teach maths when are you ever going to do long division after you have left school? I didn't understand the point back then, I certainly don't understand it now.
 There is logic in teaching pupils how to balance a budget, how to open a bank account and how to look after their finances, there is no logic in wasting time teaching things which the majority of the class are never going to use after they leave the classroom. I mean isn't the whole idea of education to prepare us for our lives ahead?

On this note I was pleased when Chloe told me she would need to take some ingredients for a cookery lesson the following week. I replied that I was going to the shops the next day so if she gave me a list I would buy them and then asked her what she would be making. An apple crumble she proudly replied, so my mouth already watering we set about checking off her list of ingredients to see if there was anything I needed to buy.

Flour - we have plenty in the cupboard
Block marg or butter - in fridge
Oats - In stock
Sugar - we have plenty of that too
A tin of stewed apple

"Sorry Chloe say that again" thinking I must have misheard her.  "A tin of stewed apple" she repeated. She then told me her teacher had even given them the relevant aisle number in asda to assist us with finding this tin of fruit, not sure if she is on commission I thought as I imagined thirty  confused parents wandering the aisles of Asda in search of this delicacy.

 Now I have lots of mouths to feed and we do use quite a few tins for convenience when preparing meals so I am by no means a purist, but come on, surely the point of a cookery lesson is to teach them to actually cook! Chopping up some apples and cooking them down for a simple crumble is hardly rocket science is it? To my mind you need to be able to cook properly then by all means you can use shortcuts to save time but you do need to master the basics first. I don't think it is just me, Delia Smith had a whole series and several books based around this concept.

 I also considered preparing the apple filling with her at home and sending it to school in a nice piece of lidded tupperware but my anxiety about making her stand out came to the fore so the said tin of fruit was purchased (From Morrison's - sorry about your commission Miss it was closer!) and the night before her lesson we assembled her ingredients.

She then informed me she needed to weigh everything at home into separate bags, so out came the scales and she carefully weighed everything out.  Then she needed a suitable dish to cook the  crumble in. A dish was found and carefully wrapped in a clean tea towel. She has to come home on the bus so I suggested that she could used the tea towel to wrap the dish and crumble in on the way home to save burning herself if it was still a bit hot since I had given her a cloth shopping bag to carry it all in. She smiled as she replied "Oh, we're not cooking it in school, we wont have time"  "You wont have time" came my incredulous reply "How can you not have time? You've weighed all the ingredients at home, you only have to open the tin and make the crumble, that is not going to take long" "Oh but we have to plan it and evaluate it as well as wash up." She informed me.
 Dear God please give me strength! Is it just me or oh forget it I don't even have the words!

So after weighing all the ingredients out at home, separating them out into little bags and sending in a tin of fruit she assembled the crumble in school and brought it home to heat and it was delicious. 

Last night when Steve came home from work I told him I was just taking Chloe down the village to fetch some fruit for her cookery lesson. "What is she making this week?" he asked "Fruit Salad" I replied. Quick as a flash he came back with "why don't you just buy her a tin of fruit cocktail to take in?"  

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Kerrie's world

Kerrie will start school in September, Nursery class for half a day. I am not sure quite what the school will make of her, this could be fun.

Kerrie is the centre of her own universe. She was ahead of her game when she was born and she has kept ahead ever since. At her six week check our GP was astounded to see her trying to crawl. She pulled her little legs up under her body and moved forwards up the examination couch. Kerrie had been watching the others, she knew where she was going to go and she was determined to get there.

 I am such a chatterbox that anyone who knows me will know that none of my children were ever going to struggle with speech. Each child has been talked to from the first little blue line appearing. Kerrie has followed my lead. We are treated to a running commentary from the moment she wakes up till the moment she falls asleep. I have been known to have small conversations with her during her sleep. If she has no one to talk to she talks to her toys, her ponies, the birds outside the window, anyone and anything. When visitors come to the door, strangers or friends they are greeted with 'Hello my name is Kerrie'  She has been a fluent talker since she could first speak.

'Morning everyone, what about me?, can I sit at the table?, where is my breakfast?, where is Jamesy?, hello Jamesy. hello Lucy, mummy is Lucy awake? can I have blackcurrant, can I have a straw? I've got Shreddies, mummy can you get me a drink? Chloe do you have breakfast? I'm sitting at the table, I'm having breakfast too, I'm going to get my ponies, my ponies want their breakfast too,  I want to sit at the table now, can you play ponies mummy............and on and on she goes in a great long stream of words punctuated by the mischief she causes all around her. She is obsessed with whatever is happening and by whatever should be happening.   I have no doubt that Kerrie will be telling her teacher exactly what is supposed to happen next in the classroom.

Kerrie's nickname is Houdini, she can escape from anything and everything. She climbs on the windowsills, we stop her, she finds another way. Yesterday she told me she was going to take her plate to the kitchen like a big girl, she has seen the other kids take their plates at the end of the meal. I watched her walk up to the kitchen safety gate, in place to keep her out of the kitchen. She realised she needed both hands so she popped her plate onto the floor then proceeded to proudly open the gate! Security breeched she then took her plate into the kitchen and placed it on the worktop. She then walked back out of the kitchen closing the gate behind her.........................I don't think she sees the gate as being there to keep her out at all, she was simply copying our actions. She did the same with the stair gate the previous morning.

High chair straps don't keep her down for long, she can escape baby reins and pram harnesses, perhaps she is Harry Houdini reincarnated, who knows but one thing is certain, the teachers are going to have some fun with her when she gets to school.

Dirty ovens, sticky floors and happy kids!

So we have already established that with five children to take care of, time is a luxury. How I spend my day is very important because, with so many peoples lives to keep organised there is rarely enough time to achieve much more than the basics. If everyone is clean, well fed and watered, having been escorted too and from their various destinations it can be considered a good day anything else is a bonus.

There are things which must be done which are essential to our lives. Meals must be made, food must be purchased, clothes must be washed. We can't go hungry, we must shop in order to eat. We can't walk around naked - well OK we could but trust me this village is never going to be ready to witness that not so delightful sight and anyway do you know how cold and wet it is around here, icicles hanging off nipples not a good fashion choice for anyone - again I digress!

Cleaning however is not to my mind an essential task. Yes it makes the place look pretty and yes OK there is the hygiene aspect but Granny used to say 'you've got to eat a peck of dirt before you die' and we all know that Granny knew best.

The problem with cleaning when you have lots of kids is it is just so demoralising, I mean you start cleaning one spot and by the time you have finished they have reeked their own particular brand of havoc on another three. It is like painting the Forth Bridge, by the time you have finished it is time to start all over again. I can think of so many better ways to occupy my time than constantly cleaning things for them to immediately dirty, if it never looks like I have cleaned it why not just leave it dirty and have done with it. Hell, I could sit down and have a nice cup of tea instead, if I could actually find space to sit down!"

I did try following Flylady once, for those who don't know this is a website designed to break us all out of our 'no time to clean' rut. Flylady suggests baby steps of small tasks which you build up slowly into a routine.  The first idea was that every night if you do nothing else you must shine your sink. She says that in the morning when you see your clean sink it is like getting a hug from yourself. Hmmmm. Well I gave it a go, you can't say I didn't try. I shined the damn sink. I went to bed knackered and got up the next morning ready to feel the hug as I saw the shine..........................thud! As I saw Steve's early morning cuppa and the dregs of his brew blighting my lovely stainless steel I realised that this only works if you are the last to bed, first to rise and even then someone will find a way to thwart your efforts. If you are currently single with no children then please by all means carry on, but for me Flylady is not to be. It's like those bleach block loo cleaners you put down the loo last thing at night which supposedly clean the loo while you sleep so you wake up to a sparkling pan with no effort required. How come in my house someone always needs the loo at 3am? Thwarted again!

There are so many times when the kids ask to do something and my reply has to be 'in a minute, 'maybe later', or 'we can do that when we have more time.' Certain things can't be put off, cleaning can be. I put off enough fun stuff as it is, anymore and there will be no point in getting out of bed.  To my mind anyway. I certainly don't want to wake up one day and wonder when my kids grew up and how I missed it because I was spending all my time in the company of Mr Muscle and Mr Pledge.

My friends know my opinions about cleaning. When we moved into this house some lovely friends came to help us. One of them put the cleaning box (yes I do have one circa 1999 and I'm still not sure what is in it) on a high shelf in the kitchen. Another friend pointed out that me being only 5ft 2ins would not be able to reach it. The reply was 'it's OK Helen doesn't clean'  A fair point.

Actually that is a little unfair, I do clean sometimes, occasionally, before family parties, Birthdays and a token gesture at Christmas, I also clean frantically when pregnant which is apparently why Steve has fathered so many children. When the house goes from generally messy to disaster zone he suggests another baby - two birds one stone - job done!

So if when you call round our home is a mess, if it really doesn't look it's best. I apologise in advance for the carnage you see, I was busy enjoying my kids, too busy to clean.

Ode to Lucy

All babies are different in their own way. I believe that you can have indications of their personality even when they are still in the womb. Some traits are fairly obvious, a baby who is more active at night will probably be a night owl, an active kicker is likely to be a little wriggler and so on. Our baby who refused to turn for the sonographer became Kerrie our three year old and easily our most stubborn character. Chloe our eldest would wake up and kick so hard the mattress would shake disturbing Steve, funnily enough she is like me a night owl.  Tiny clues start to make sense as a baby's personality begins to shine through.

Lucy was nine days late. Due on Christmas Day, she made us wait for her.  After two false starts she made her speedy entrance with aplomb, shocking us all with her arrival. She broke the accepted 'rules' right from the beginning. Cold from her sudden birth she was wrapped up well and then placed under the duvet with me. She remained prone to sudden drops in her temperature, when sleeping she would become so still and cold. She had the whole family checking her often as she slept so soundly. Several times I had to rush to pick her up and warm her. We spent most of her first ten days curled up in bed together, I believe she needed this time to recover, I think we both did.

 Changing times were a nightmare, she hated being undressed. She flinched when items of clothing were put on over her head. No fussy clothes for Lucy, she stayed in sleep suits most of the time, she needed the security.  She needed very gentle handling, more so than any of the others. They were all happy to be passed around like a little parcel. This little one would only oblige for a short while, she knew where her bread was buttered, she wanted her mum. My own mum tells me a wise child knows it's mother, on that basis Lucy is very wise indeed.  Our babies have always been happy to sleep in their pram during a walk. Lucy wanted to be held, she took a dislike to her car seat too.

Slowly she has got used to us, she will lay in her pram for a short while and be entertained by a toy or mobile. She is smiling at strangers and is much happier to be held. I suspect if we hadn't have responded to her needs in the beginning she would still be struggling. She is happy, she is doing well and she lets us know it. I've said from her birth, there is something very special about this little one. My mum says she has been here before, perhaps she has. Either way this is my Ode to Lucy.

This child is different, I knew right from the start.
This little one has her own place deep inside my heart.

Our baby needs a gentle touch, my arms are all she craves.
Do everything slowly lest she flinches at your rush.

Frightened by the slightest noise, your voice you must not raise.
Snuggled up beside my breast is where she spends her days.

The one who kept us waiting ,the gift we all adore.
She knows the world already, she has been here before.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

An illicit cup of tea............

I know what you are thinking, how can an innocent, frankly relatively boring cup of tea ever be described as illicit? No, I am not trying to 'sex up' the humble teabag! The sad truth of the matter is that with five children consuming anything whilst it is still hot can be quite a challenge. I am well known for forgetting I've even put the kettle on to boil, if I actually get past this point there is a high likelihood I will only drink half my cuppa possibly even forgetting about it altogether as I answer the requests of my various offspring.

'Mum, can you put the wii on?'
'Mum, I can't find my book/DS/pen/jumper/trainers' delete as applicable
'Mum, Kerrie is pulling the wallpaper off........'
'Mum can I have something to eat/drink'

I am sure you get the idea and you probably recognise the pattern. My cooling mug abandoned as I see to their ever changing needs. But, I am Welsh, I need my cup of tea. Coffee will not do, coffee belongs in cakes, in my world coffee is reserved for the tongue tingling crunchy iced topping of Cafe Noir biscuits, I am still bemoaning the demise of coffee flavoured iced gems - anyway I digress as I often do.

I need my cup of tea, I am addicted. I admit it, I need a cuppa when I wake, breakfast I can postpone but a cup of tea is an essential. I don't do mornings, I am a night owl at heart, I often stay up way too late so this simple act helps my poor brain cells adjust to the shock of waking up and prepares me for the challenges of the day ahead. Equilibrium restored.

It must be a family trait because if my parents or siblings phone me or arrive on our doorstep early-ish in the morning to be greeted by my scatty or befuddled state my simple explanation of 'I haven't had my brew yet' is enough, they understand.
We are all from the same stable, tea flows through our veins like water through The Thames. Two of my siblings even have their own mugs here. We all have our individual preferences but it is tea all the same. Just for the record in case you are ever making it mine is milk, no sugar and if I really get to be fussy it is Co-op 99 teabags unless I'm having a posh day then Earl Grey, yes I have my odd delusions of grandeur.  Then we get to the most important bit, you must only allow the teabag and water to greet each other ' cup teabag- teabag cup' then out, no further conversation necessary. Perfect!

So we have established that my cuppa is important to me, if I ever go off tea I am ill, or pregnant.
Moving swiftly on, at the weekend I awoke bright and early, very odd for me but occasionally it has been known to happen. Lucy was asleep beside me so I popped her back into her crib and crept downstairs and put the kettle on.

There is something deliciously naughty about sneaking downstairs in the early hours, before they all awake to have a sneaky cup of tea. Not a hasty brew whilst getting on with cooking a meal or doing the washing up, but a blissful solo encounter with a cup of that divine amber liquid consumed in peace and quiet before the days activity begins. The hustle and bustle of family life forgotten for just a moment as I enjoy the luxury of drinking my cuppa whilst it is still hot.

Illicit encounters, I have five kids this is as good as it is going to get but this is bliss.

I suppose I have to start somewhere.......

So here I am, staring at a blank page!

Lets start at the very beginning after all, as Julie Andrews once sang, it is a very good place to start.

I am Helen, married to Steve and we are the proud if a little bemused at times parents of Chloe age 11, Elisha 7, James 5, Kerrie 3 and our newest member of the family Lucy who is a mere 3 months old. Yes you did count that up correctly we have five children, five beautiful, clever, bright and utterly bonkers children. Four daughters and one son.

When we visit the local shops or walk on the promenade, or go anywhere en masse, We invariably encounter someone who will ask the usual impertinent questions so for those who will wonder I will just get the following out of the way.

Yes - we do know what causes it, well by the time we had the first two we had worked it out. (Yes I am joking!)

Yes - we do have a telly, two in fact, with this many in the house it saves so many arguments.

Yes - we have our hands full, that's the way we like it.

Yes - I know I said we were having no more last time (and the time before) but I am exercising the ladies prerogative and anyway do I ask you to explain your life decisions in the supermarket, on the school playground, or on the bus? No funnily enough I don't because that would be jolly rude......

To those who tell me they don't know how I do it my reply is always the same. 'You know the proverbial duck swimming serenely across the water while underneath the surface its legs are flapping like crazy, well that is me.' We just work on the basis of dealing with one thing at a time and everything else has to wait. Sometimes this approach works, sometimes not but we try and that is as much as anyone can do. We also have the luxury of a large and very supportive family which makes a big difference to our lives.

The way I see it all mums are busy and they all have different things to deal with. Some work, some don't, some are in good health, some have chronic illness to cope with, some have one child, some have more but this is my bed, I chose to make it and I will lay in it, figuratively speaking of course I mean I have five kids, what is a lie in?