Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

Bedtime

The evening becomes a disaster around the time of the Poo Incident.  Big Girl says that she wants a poo.  But no, she actually wants to keep eating her toast.  Or something. And then she looks agitated in that way that suggests she might be pooing.  And the smell – it’s a bit of a giveaway.

So I get her onto the potty.  Little Girl is crying so I bring her into the lounge.  I remove the pooey knickers and put the contents into a nappy bag and take the knickers into the kitchen to go in the wash.  On my return, Little Girl, demonstrating her new-found turn of speed, has crawled over and is reaching into the nappy bag in that way that suggests she’s found a tasty new snack.  So I move her back into the lounge and try to clean the poo up, which is everywhere – jeans, jumper, legs, potty, bum, floor.  Little Girl comes over to investigate again and in desperation I put her over the kitchen stair-gate.  She starts crying, sounding like a poor neglected baby.  So we’re done with dinner, which has over-run massively, and it’s time to go upstairs, possibly ditching the idea of bathtime altogether.

On nights like this, bath-time is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s part of their routine.  They like it and find it relaxing and it helps them know it’s time to go to sleep, and if they don’t have a bath they tend to be harder to settle.  On the other hand, when Big Girl is behaving like she has tonight, she’s as likely to just stand in the bath and scream if I try to put her in.  It’s a hard one to call.

So I tell Big Girl it was time to go upstairs and she starts screaming about her toast, that toast she had been eating for an hour.  I take Little Girl upstairs first and come back down for Big Girl, who meanwhile has made some play cups of tea, dropped them on the floor and is crying about it.  Due to Little Girl’s crawling prowess, I have put her in Big Girl’s cot as a temporary safety measure and so she is screaming about that.  I ask Big Girl if she wants to walk upstairs herself or wants carrying (Give her a choice! It works every time!  Except, um, this time).  She claims that she wants to walk by herself, but her lack of walking suggests otherwise.  So I carry her.  Total meltdown.

At this point, everything goes to shit.  Little Girl is screaming in the cot.  Big Girl is lying on the floor shrieking “I tired! I tired!’.  I get Little Girl out of the cot.  She crawls round screaming.  Big Girl wants a bath.  She doesn’t want a bath.  She’s tired.  She doesn’t want her pyjamas on.  She wants her pyjamas on.  She doesn’t want to wear a nappy.  All this is communicated through the medium of crying and lying on the floor writhing. She is a big two year old and it’s quite hard to wrestle her into a nappy or pyjamas.  By ‘quite hard’ I mean ‘nearly fucking impossible’.  Please note, I am only swearing in my head, not to my children.  Or at them.  This is only because I am awesome.

So finally Big Girl is in a nappy.  Little Girl is still screaming.  Even if I’m holding her, she is screaming like she is being neglected. I think about my neighbours, who have threatened to call social services because I am leaving her to cry for long periods at all times of day and night (because they have x-ray eyes and can tell if she’s screaming in her cot, neglected, or screaming while being held due to having painful wind. Obviously).  I think, I sound like a terrible parent, with my two screaming children.  I convince Big Girl to drink her milk, and for one small blissful minute, only have one screaming child.  Normality resumes when I once again attempt to introduce the idea of pyjamas.

Eventually, I put Big Girl in her cot.  I ask her if she wants to put her top or bottom on first.  She screams some more.  Little Girl is clinging to my leg, standing up, screaming.  Eventually I tell her that she can either have her pyjamas on or not have her pyjamas on.  She refuses the pyjamas.  I start to leave.  She wants her pyjamas on. Finally, she is in her pyjamas, with Pink Rabbit, her blanket and her duvet. She’s not lying down but she’s as in bed as I can manage.  Little Girl, still screaming, and I head for bedtime round 2.  This is easier because she is little.  She carries on screaming while I change her nappy, put her pyjamas on (she employs the ‘kick and wriggle’ technique which makes the trousers a bit of a challenge) and start feeding her.  After about an hour and a half of feeding, she is finally asleep.  It’s half past ten. I am relieved to find that Big Girl is fast asleep and has not removed her pyjamas and nappy, as I feared she might.

Fortunately, most nights are not like this.

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Finally…

… I finished my current sewing project.  It’s a bag from Cath Kidston’s book.  It’s a shopping bag like this:

and then, if you want to, you can unfold it – tada!

I made it for my best friend who gave me the Cath Kidston book, to encourage me in my sewing endeavours, and she has declared herself very pleased with it. It’s actually bigger than I expected, so I wonder what you’d need a bag quite that big for, but it’s a nice idea. You can go out shopping with your reasonably-normal-sized bag and then if someone ambushes you with a bunch of flowers, you can extend your bag to fit them in.

So, I’ve learnt a lot through making this bag.  I’ve learnt that it is actually important to copy your pattern accurately and then cut the fabric out accurately or else you have to do a bit of botching together.  I’ve learnt that I’m not particularly good at accurate measuring or straight lines (actually, I already knew that.  It’s just been reinforced).  I learnt about bias binding (using it, not making it.  I’m not crazy).  I learnt that if you have a bit of trouble with your sewing machine tension, you might run out of the thread which matches your fabric and have to pretend you’re doing some seams in a contrasting colour for the aesthetics rather than because you swore to yourself that you definitely would finish making the damn thing this weekend, and you can’t go out to buy sewing thread in your pyjamas. Um, and I had a lot of fun.

 

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What it’s like when my children are away

First, there’s the waiting for Ex-Husband to arrive.  I don’t want them to go, but if they have to, I’d like to get it over with. Big Girl is excited and keeps asking where Daddy is.  But I think she’s also a little bit anxious, so she pushes Little Girl over, falls over, cries.

Then he’s here and they’re gone.  It’s quiet.  I am not sure what to do with myself, by myself.  Sometimes I’m rushing out and have plans.  Sometimes I’ve jobs to do which I then put off. Wasting time is a luxury for me now.  And so the day goes on.  I have that strange feeling, as if there’s something I’ve forgotten to do, but try as I might, I can’t remember it.  It’s my children.  They aren’t here.  It feels as if I’ve left a parcel on the bus.  I don’t really know where they are, who they are with, what they are doing.  Do they miss me?  Are they eating enough? Are they safe?

I usually go out in the evening, when they are away overnight.  It’s exciting.  I get to be a grown up. I get to drink without needing to worry about squashing Little Girl while we sleep.  My alcohol tolerance is pretty poor now but I do my best.  And then I come home.  I come home when I want.  For the first time in ten years, no-one is really that interested in where I am or what time I’m back.  I can stay out all night if I want.  Obviously I don’t want to.  I want to sleep.  But it’s liberating.  And just a little frightening.

And then I get up.  I do more stuff.  I eat badly – fry-ups, chocolate.  I like not having to think of anyone else.  Suddenly it’s starting to get towards time for them to return.  I crave their return.  I have missed their little selves.  I have missed who they are, their presence.  But I also feel the clock ticking, stealing away my time to do the things I want to, the things I need to, the jobs I recklessly put off yesterday.  And I find myself wishing for just another hour, although I desperately want my babies back.

They’re home. Little Girl is glad to be back, smiles at me.  Big Girl is glad to see me again but doesn’t want Daddy to leave.  She cries.  He goes.  She cries piteously.  “Daddy.  Dadddeeeee. My Daddeeeeeeee”.  I cuddle her.  At bedtime I tell her that I missed her.  Did she miss me? Never ask this question, I have learnt.  I am glad to have my girls home.

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I’m back! Did you miss me?

I have been on holiday.  With Big Girl, Little Girl, my mum and dad, my sister and brother-in-law, my brother and my other sister’s little boy.  Yes, that’s a lot of people to be on holiday with.

We went to a Haven site in the Lakes. Well, they say in the Lakes.  We say ‘just below the Lakes’  But let’s not quibble over geography.  I’d never been to Haven before.  My sister is just a little bit obsessed with them. I’m not entirely sure why – I think she’s living some sort of childhood dream, which may tell you a lot about my childhood.

So, we stayed in a static caravan.  I quite like static caravans.  It’s like living in a miniature bungalow.  And it feels like an upgrade from the trailer tent we holidayed in as children.  My parents clearly don’t think so as they chose to take their trailer tent.  Wisely, they now have one which only sleeps two, so we can’t sneak our way into their holidays.

And there was heating in my room, which was nice, and I got to share a double bed with Little Girl, so I think I got the best accommodation.  Big Girl shared with her cousin, which she was very excited about.  He was less enamoured with the idea after she spent the first night turning the light switch by the bed on and off repeatedly.  I think toddlers in escapable beds are not a good idea but there was no room for a cot.  The next night he was put to bed in my sister’s bed and then moved into his own when she went to bed.  And then finally, when my brother went home a night early, the sister and brother-in-law slept in the lounge and my nephew slept in their room and peace reigned.

Haven is one of those weird places that, a bit like soft play places, you never really imagine going to until you have children. And then you can see why you might go, even if you don’t really like it yourself.  There’s as much free swimming as you want (or, in Big Girl’s case, as much walking round the edge of the swimming pool repeatedly as you want).  There’s children’s entertainment – crafts, discos, all sorts of things.  There’s a playground. There’s crazy golf, trampolines and arcades. There are activities to do – I tried archery with my brother-in-law, although it was dismal.  The arrows were mostly bent (more so by the time I’d boomeranged a couple of them back at myself) and missing flights and the instructor clearly had a hangover and didn’t give a shit.  But they’re there and presumably usually better than that.  But still, I can imagine in a couple of years, when my girls are old enough to make the most of it and I can sit around reading, it will be more like a proper holiday.

But I think the problem for me, and I feel so ungrateful writing this after my family all came on holiday with me, helped with my children and tried to make sure I actually had a holiday, was that it just wasn’t what I wanted.  Ex-Husband and I didn’t go on holiday often or for long, but when we did, we’d worked out what we liked to do and we did it.  A B&B, some castles, perhaps a walk, dinner, visits to tea-shops and museums (and no, I’m not actually middle-aged) – this wasn’t it. And I still feel like a failure.  At Christmas I felt like I was slinking back to my parents’ house, tail between my legs, a single mum with two children and a failed marriage.  And I think I felt like I was on holiday, a single mum , with my family, because my husband no longer wanted to be with me or go on holiday with me.  I feel so lucky to have my family, and we did have a good time, and I like being with my family because there’s nothing as familiar as family – but I’m still grieving for what I have lost.

And actually, it was my first proper holiday with children.  We’d had one small holiday with Big Girl when I was pregnant again, and it was hard work.  We had to plan our lives around Big Girl’s needs and watch her all the time.  It was exhausting.  This time I had double the children and, although I had a lot of help from my family, I had sole responsibility. Holidays with children are about the children having fun and doing lots of hard work in a different place, and enjoying the change which is alleged to be as good as a rest.

So maybe sometimes it’s not about what you think it’s about.  Yes, it was my first holiday without Ex-Husband, and that was always going to be hard.  But it was my first holiday with two small children, one of whom has just learnt to crawl so is now a danger to herself and a menace to her sister.  That was never going to be easy either.

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Six months on…

It’s six months today since Ex-Husband left me.  Last week I had a bit of a wobble. But you know what?  I’m actually doing really well.  When he first left I wanted to die because it hurt so much – I did not know it was possible to be so badly hurt.  Now I am glad I didn’t die. Here are some good things that have happened over the past six months:

  1. I have bought some new crockery, decided I’m not that keen on it but not really wasted that much time worrying about it.  One day I’ll buy some more, and hopefully I’ll make a better choice.
  2. I have started going climbing.
  3. I have learnt how to love being with my two children most of the time.
  4. I’ve worked out, all by myself (oh, and with advice from most of my friends on Facebook), how to get Little Girl to sleep
  5. I have learnt to pick my battles – and to fight them.
  6. I have discovered, and been overwhelmed by, the number of people who care about me and quite how much they are willing to do to help me.
  7. I have cried while pushing a pram along the street, half way up some stairs in a church and in the kitchen at work.  I have cried as often and as loudly as I damn well pleased.  My tear ducts are impressively clean.
  8. I’ve made a sewing room.  I don’t really have time to use it but I like to know it’s there.
  9. I’ve been to a poetry reading.  I quite liked it.
  10. I’ve worked out how to replace a toilet seat, how to fix a blind and how to lower a cot base.
  11. I’ve finally decided which oven I want to buy to replace the one in my kitchen which has never worked properly in the six years I’ve owned this house.  And I have a plan (two, actually) for finding someone to fit it.
  12. I’ve had a Christmas party. Just because I wanted to
  13. I’ve lost weight.  I wouldn’t recommend this diet, but it’s definitely a benefit.
  14. I’ve dealt with juggling breastfeeding a baby and vomiting.  Twice.  Seriously, once you can get through that, you can get through anything.  I am invincible.

And there are a lot of people I want to thank: the friends who, when Ex-Husband first left and I kept telling them it was all my fault, kept arguing with me until I finally got it. It wasn’t all my fault.  The friends who listened to me talk about what happened and how I felt about it repeatedly.  The friends who looked after my children so I could sleep or go to mediation with Ex-Husband.  My Home Start volunteer.  My friends who have invited me to stay.  My friend who came and cleaned my house for me.  The friends who brought me chocolate in the early days and lasagne more recently.  The friends who talked to Ex-Husband and tried to convince him to try and make our marriage work.  The friends who got incredibly angry on my behalf. My parents.  And my best friend.  And everyone who has read this blog, commented on it, told me that they like reading it.  Thanks.  I like writing it.  It helps me to reframe things more positively, encourages me to stick to my goals; and helps me make sense of my life.

Here’s to the next six months!

 

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Suburban mum

I look like the perfect suburban mum. Probably a poor suburban mum – I’m in New Look rather than Next today, and certainly not Boden, or whatever it is that proper Yummy Mummies wear. But we’re in Ikea, I’ve got my Phil & Teds pushchair and my two beautiful children are behaving pretty well. Big Girl has been hiding in wardrobes and emptying kitchen cupboards, but I’m pretty sure that’s acceptable behaviour from a 2-year-old.

I’m trying to make decisions. I need a new oven because mine doesn’t really work. Ikea has 25% off for family card members during April, so it seems like a good idea to look. But it feels complicated because I also need to sort out installation, and I might want to get a double oven, in which case I’d need bits of my kitchen units cutting off.

And then I might need to get a new bed. The one I am currently sleeping in was on loan and needs to go back. The double bed in the attic, currently the spare bed, could be brought down into my room. But it was the bed we were given when we got married and I think I’d like a new bed for my new life.

However, I need to think about future sleeping arrangements. Big Girl is in the small bedroom by herself at the moment, and Little Girl is still in the big bedroom with me, and most nights in bed with me. I have this vague idea that at some point I’ll put Big Girl in the big bedroom with Small Girl, and I’ll inhabit the attic room, which is not actually a proper bedroom and has narrow stairs and no door, but would be beautiful. And I like the idea of having a new room, one I never shared with Ex-Husband, and making it my own.

But if I buy a new bed now, I would have to be sure it could be dismantled and reassembled upstairs. I have to think about whether to get a double or king size – I fully expect to have two children in bed with me fairly frequently. I have to make decisions based on a future which doesn’t feel very clear at the moment, and make them all by myself.

But still, it could be much worse. I’m in Ikea with my two beautiful children and I realise that I do feel like I’m living the perfect suburban life. For this afternoon, anyway.

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Crashing, burning, and rising, phoenix-like, from the ashes

Monday is the six-month anniversary of Ex-Husband leaving. I was building up to a triumphant post about how far I’ve come, what I’ve achieved, just how amazing my life is and how happy I am.

Unfortunately, the past couple of days have been shitty. I had my hopes raised and smashed, and got quite badly hurt. I think I thought I was impervious to more hurt. I’m not.

So what do you do when you get hurt again? First of all you cry. In the kitchen. At work. Then you go home and put your children to bed. Then you cry some more, ring your best friend and tell her how shit life is, and how unfair it is. Then you reflect on how doing things to make your life better doesn’t necessarily make you feel better. And then you wonder what to do next.

Well, I did plan to go climbing tonight. I didn’t exactly want to, as work is really tiring, but there’s free coaching and I didn’t want to not go in case I just never went again. And then one of my friends mentioned an event he’s organised at Blackwell’s bookshop at Manchester Uni. He organises events every so often and I can’t go because I have the children. Tonight I don’t have children.

So I’m going to listen to some poets I have never heard of and not drink free beer (because I don’t like beer – what are the chances of there being free mojitos too?) and mix with the Manchester literati, who can marvel at my eclectic dress sense – what happens when you mix work clothes and climbing clothes… I’m hoping to have fun, and maybe even buy a book.

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fitter, healthier and more productive

I’ve just read Seaswift’s post about housework and I love it.  It’s not just tips to make your house tidier – it’s a whole different mindset – being efficient and doing the little things which have a big effect.  I quite like being inefficient and a bit slack (I’m not really prepared to describe myself as lazy any more.  Apparently some people consider it a perjorative term).  I like wasting time on the internet.  I like wasting time reading magazines on the toilet.  I like putting off things which really need doing by doing things which don’t really need doing. However, unfortunately, I don’t have time to waste at the moment.  As I posted recently, I feel like I’m barely coping and it’s the fear of everything falling to bits which is the problem.  I think Seaswift’s tips would give an illusion of competency and control, which could make all the difference.  By ‘all the difference’, I mean ‘a bit of difference’. Obviously.

I’ve also got hold of a copy of ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’.  My thought was that I’d read a chapter a week and try to put the habits into practice and perhaps write here about the impact it has on my effectiveness.  However, I haven’t had chance to even read it yet.  Plumping cushions and wiping worktops may be an easier way to start.

 

I considered titling this “A pig in a cage on antibiotics” but decided that would be just a bit too obscure.  Look at me with my Radiohead references!

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If only this was just about vomit

So, on Tuesday night I was getting ready for work and suddenly realised I needed to make an Easter bonnet for Big Girl’s Easter Bonnet Parade at nursery.  I made possibly the lamest Easter Bonnet of all time.  She’s old enough to know she’s missing out if everyone else has one and she doesn’t. But she’s not old enough to realise hers is not as good as everyone else’s. I posted a picture on Facebook, adding, sadly, that I had failed to make any food to go in the slow cooker for the next day’s dinner or to do my washing up – both parts of my back-to-work plan.  My kind friend R texted and offered to bring me round a lasagne the next day.

Image

I went into work.  I did shed a few sneaky tears in the toilet when I missed Little Girl, who I left crying at nursery.  The two days were actually ok and I was very grateful for the bank holiday. It was almost fun. I sit opposite one of my friends, we had chips for lunch, no-one had really noticed I was back so I didn’t have much work to do, I eased myself back in gently. I think I could quite like this.

Thursday night: I put the girls to bed.  Everything seemed fine.  I felt a bit rough so I went to bed. I woke up at 3am feeling sick. Experience has taught me that if you are wondering about getting a sick bowl, you probably won’t really regret doing it (in the same category: if you think, was that a small contraction? Should I put a waterproof sheet on the bed? Do it).  I threw up.  Right next to Little Girl’s head.  She woke up and cried.  I cleared up the mess.  I fed her.  I went back to bed.  I felt like shit.

My personal philosophy is that if you are sick because you’ve drunk too much, you should clean it up yourself. If you are sick because you are poorly, someone else should clean it up for you.  I do resent the fact that I have to juggle breastfeeding and vomiting.  I got food poisoning shortly after Ex-Husband left and at one point was desperately trying to hold some sick down because small girl was so nearly back to sleep and I didn’t want to wake her. To me, this is wrong.

I got up in the morning and felt no better.  I threw up.  I got Big Girl up. I lay on the bathroom floor for a little while.  I got Little Girl up and we went downstairs.  I put her in the lounge waiting for a nappy change and gave Big Girl some breakfast.  I felt faint, lay on the floor for a while and then threw up – on the floor, in my hair, on my dressing gown – and did… erm… other, less mentionable things.  Little Girl was still crying. Big Girl was less than happy with these events.  I sorted myself out.  I sorted them both out.  And felt like shit.

Then I texted my lovely friend Y.  Could she come and look after the girls so I could sleep? I’ve had some awful nights with Little Girl recently and I think the lack of sleep has contributed to my vomitousness.  She rang me back, came over and took my girls away for the rest of the day.  I went to bed and slept.  I woke up when they came back at 6pm, put them to bed and slept.  I woke up at 5am for about half an hour and slept some more.  I woke up to a load of texts and facebook messages checking I was ok and offering help.

I got up this morning feeling better.  My best friend came over with her three boys and her husband.  They brought lunch and dinner, did all the washing up and cleaned my whole kitchen for me.

What I want to say is that being a single parent is rubbish sometimes, especially at times like this. No-one should be choosing between cleaning up their own crap and changing their baby’s nappy. But I feel so lucky to have the friends I have, to know that there are people out there who will do their best to help me and who keep doing their best to help me.

Happy Easter.

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Hi ho, hi ho…

Little Girl has chosen a bad night to show no interest in going to sleep.  I have given up and left her playing in her cot.  I have to run around packing things together, making a packed lunch, finding my work mobile phone, getting nursery things together – it’s the last day of my maternity leave.

I’m not sure how I feel about going back to work. On the one hand, I look forward to seeing adults on a regular basis, making a to do list and doing it (rather than getting halfway through the first thing and then stopping to empty a potty while consoling a crying baby), drinking a whole cup of tea while sitting down, and spending as long on the toilet as I like.  On the other hand, I have really enjoyed being on maternity leave (yes, really. If you ignore the whole ‘marriage breakdown’ thing, that is) and enjoy being with my children and doing all the things I do during the day – largely to do with the NCT branch I’ve set up during this maternity leave.

And I don’t want to be away from my children, particularly as I’ll not only be away from them during the three days I work but then they will also be away from me at other times when they are with Ex-Husband. I just like them. They are funny and interesting and I like looking after them.  And I just think my life is going to get really complicated.  On working days I will have to get up, get washed and dressed, stuff them into some suitable clothes, throw them into the pram and sling, gather up my things and leg it to work, do a full day’s varied, challenging and unpredictable work with people who sometimes get cross, occasionally reasonable so and sometimes because it’s my fault, then leg it to nursery, collect them, bring them home and feed them, bathe them and get them to sleep.

Alternatively, I’ll wait for Ex-Husband to pick them up (hoping he’s on time), then leg it to work, leg it home, eat something, wait for my precious babies to return to me already fed, chuck them in the bath and deposit them in bed.  I seem to remember from my time at work after maternity leave with Big Girl that the evenings were stressful and bedtime was quite often difficult.  I can’t imagine that and extra child and one less adult will make this easier for me, but at least I’ve become more awesome since then.  After that I will have to rush around doing housework and getting things ready for the next day, then go to bed and get as much sleep as I can before starting the whole process again.  There’s just nothing about the process that sounds like fun.  But that’s the joys of single parenthood.

And speaking of the joys of singleness, I read this article in Saturday’s Guardian Weekend magazine on the rise in the numbers of people living alone and felt incredibly excited.  I particularly loved Colm Tóibín’s description of his single life.  Just now, living alone is incredibly hard because I’m dealing with a lot of hurt and looking after two incredibly small and demanding children. But I can imagine a day when I relish my singleness: finding things where I put them, being accountable to no-one, having a whole room full of books, evenings to myself – already I marvel, every other weekend, at being able to go where I want, stay out as late as I want, having to plan around no-one but myself. I haven’t had this freedom for 11 years and I really really like it.  This article gave me hope for a fabulous future.

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