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Ok, so it’s a normal morning in our house. Kai and I are playing, making all the farm animals kiss each other and the little construction people (yes I know, condoning bestiality to a one year old, good god my immorality knows no bounds – there may even been some bull on bull kissing action going on). We then get bored of all the kissing and decide to do some jigsaws instead when suddenly I have a LIFE CHANGING REVELATION!!! Yes. For once the capital letters and multiple exclamation marks are justified… (as is the dramatic pause… have you noticed I tend to do them a lot too?)

You see I’ve always been under the impression that I was a bit of a free spirit. My house is cluttered in a kind of hippy disregard for authority (and Pledge) kind of way, my clothes rarely match. I quite often go the entire morning not knowing what I’m going to have for lunch until just before when I will impulsively throw something together and go A-HA! Pizza toast! My friends would probably describe me as creative and pretty random, and I have always been rather proud of that.

But no. My revelation this morning proves that all this is but a facade, an illusion, and that beneath it’s dippy, slightly unkempt exterior lies a deeper, darker side to myself. One I am not so proud of.

I like order. And rules. And boundaries. And safe, predictable things.

I know. Isn’t is awful??

Yes, I know there were clues. The pregnancy file and labour sign were probably two biggies. As is the fact that I frequently spend my evenings doing mathematics FOR FUN as a way of preparing for my degree in the autumn, and that I mark my own answers with large self-satisfying ticks while saying things like “algebra really is brilliant you know”.

And yet this morning still came as something to a surprise to me when my ability to embrace all things chaotic and random was tested and found severely wanting. Not only was a perturbed, I was positively DISTURBED.

By what? Well, by the following:

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By all extents and purposes a harmless, fun jigsaw. But no. Look closer people.

First it lulls you in to a false sense of security. “Oooh shapes and colours” you say. “I understand. One of each shape and one of each colour. Just as it should be. Look Kai lets put the orange circle in the orange circle hole” (good pagan child that he is, the circle is his favourite).

Spurred on by the reassuring logic your brain keeps going. Shapes and colours, yep, and oh look! Animals and counting! Perfect!

Two cats, three zebra, four dogs, four rabbits….wait…that’s not right… we have two fours? And hold on a second, where’s one? Ok I’m feeling a little shaken but I’ll keep going.

And then five. Which cored me to my very marrow. Five…what the hell is this?? Five AMOEBA?

What kind of devil jigsaw is this????

Deep breaths Josie. It’s just a bit of a disordered jigsaw. And that’s ok. We like disorder!

NO WE DON’T!! WE HATE IT! I need to my child’s toys to be predictable and apply the rule of logic! Else where will it all end? Alphabet books that miss out the M and Q?? Madness!!

I’M SCARED KAI!! All my so righteously held convictions are crumbling around me!!

………..

Needless to say I’m ok now. Kai held my hand through my angst, we finished the jigsaw and put it away.

But I fear a part of me has been changed forever. The curtain to my soul has been tweeked aside and for a second I have seen the darkness within.

Perhaps this is only the beginning of a deeper corruption. Today crying over jigsaws, what about tomorrow? Ironing my jeans? Voting Conservative??

*sob*

WHO THE HELL AM I??

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Shhh…. I should be doing housework. But after a few halfhearted attempts I have given up. In the aftermath of birthday celebrations my (extremely small) house looks like a Toys ‘R’ Us, complete with the hyperactive child, harried looking parent and the evoctive smell of sick and wee.

We have a ball-pool. We have TWO play tents and a tunnel. We have a pirate-ship shaped helium balloon three times the size of it’s recipient. And we have several hundred toys that all play different annoyingly shrill sounds and/or songs. Pre-Kai we were always that smug childless couple who gleefully picked out the largest most irritating toy to bequeath on their friend’s offspring. I think it’s safe to say they’ve successfully got their own back.

When phoning our house at the mo you’d be mistaken for thinking you’d accidentally interrupted some kind of farm yard massacre. On a building site. Next to a railway line. With emergency service back-up. Interspersed with the profound and inspirational insights of Thomas the Tank Engine (“Number 1 always comes first”) and Small Digger Man #2 (“Let’s get DIGGING!!) you may also hear the soft thump thump thump as I bang my head repeatedly against the wall.

The fact that the toy manufacturers of most of these toys have mercilessly omitted an off switch is possibly the most concrete proof for the existence of the Devil (and so God) that I have ever come across. Can I hear you say ‘Ei I Ei I Oh?’

In addition to the new toys we also have, of course, THE TRIKE (assembled by AN ADULT of course – with absolutely no swearing whatsoever). Idol of worship, adoration and excitement. The most well received birthday present by a one year old in possibly the history of time. The epic tale of this boy’s love for his bike will no doubt be the stuff of poetry, ballads and multi-million dollar movies for centuries to come. If he had the strength, Kai would certainly have carried it up to bed with him for his nap just now and fallen asleep with his head nestled lovingly on it’s well assembled plastic seat.

When buying said trike however I forgot that we do not have a garage or a shed or any other kind of outside storage apart from a falling down out-house that is already full of washing machine. So we may have to start putting the trike in Kai’s bed cause to be honest I’m don’t know where the hell else we are going to keep it. Or the ball pool. Or the tents. Or the pushchair. Oh or the sand and water table – did I mention that one?

Sitting here and surveying the carnage I’m thinking some kind of Ikea-esque self assembly storage solution type jobby may be in order. Or possibly a new house.

Or a bonfire.

I shall leave you with some photos from Kai’s birthday celebrations, which I’m sure everyone who played some part in it would agree, broke all records for fun, excitement and pirate-related mayhem.

It’s been fab. Just a rather consumerist, halving the living space of my house kind of fab.

Has anyone got any aspirin?

birthday montage

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Sat here with a headache and a sore throat trying not to think about the possibility that we might make it a hat-trick and personal family record and have all three of us ill within a fortnight. Bleugh. 

So instead of facing the inevitable and going to bed here is my account of one of the best and worst aspects of being a new mum. The world of OTHER MUMS.

You see, it turns out that when you become a mother, along with stretchmarks and the jelly-belly and the end of wearing clothes that have NOT been smeared with food/sick/snot, you get exclusive membership into a new and powerful club. The Mommy Elite.

Upon having a baby I found myself thrust into this shadowy world, unprepared and inexperienced. The world of play-dates and coffee dates and baby groups and salsa and tupperware parties and all the rest suddenly filled my life and my schedule. After previously being rather flat and uneventful, my social life suddenly took on astronomical proportions. I started to have to plan my days weeks in advance in order to schedule in all of my new friends and activities. 

 It was wonderful. But also one of the most overwhelming, stress inducing experinces of my life.

Because there isn’t just one club. Oh no. There are factions. Types of mothers who tend to hang around together forming powerful and impenetrable cliques. To which did I belong?? All of a sudden I’m back at school and wondering whether I’m a geek or trendy (geek) and worrying that my clothes are crap and dress sense a bit questionable and whether anyone actually likes me at all.

So, after that rather lengthy intro, here they are. Over the next few days I will bring you the truth of the Mommy Elite. The Mom Files.

 

Competitive Mom

I’ll start with this one cause this is be far the most pervasive type I’ve come across. Of course, we all display this tendency from time to time, being as we are so incredibly proud of our gorgeous offspring. And rightly so. Sometimes the desire to tell the world precisely what our (obviously gifted) child has done that morning overwhelms us and before you can say ‘facebook’ we have joyously boasted of the fact that Junior just said ‘cat’.

But the Competitive Mom  takes this to a whole new level. Facebook is a good environment in which to spot a Competitive Mom. You can even lay a trap for them to lure them out out into the open. Tell your friends that your baby took their first steps today and the Competitive Moms will be quick to reply and tell you that THEIR child took their first steps two weeks ago. Tell them your baby waved goodbye to their dad this morning, Competitive Mom will be promptly respond with “Aww how cute! Tarquin waves AND says ‘bye bye’ now!”

When meeting for coffee, every sentence you utter regarding your child will be instantly bettered by the eager competitive mum. EVERYTHING becomes source for competitiveness. Who crawled first, who’s crawling style was obviously more efficient, who eats better, who sleeps better (always an easy win when talking to us). Every achievement a victory to be lorded over your opponent, and an OBVIOUS indicator that you are both a better mother and that your child will grow up to be a nuclear physicistwhile Mr Bum Shuffler will have to face an inevitable future of shelf stacking at Tesco’s

One friend once gleefully reported a conversation she had with a Competitive Mom (CM). CM noticed that little Freddie (names changed for anonimity) had two bottom teeth. “Has Daisy got any teeth yet?” my friend asked innocently. “No” CM replied shrilly “But she’s VERY advanced in other ways!!!!”

Yes that’s right. Because teeth are obviously an indicator of intelligence. You stupid woman.

Of course it’s all very well meaning. They don’t MEAN to be stupid, these mummys. Their usually just insecure and desperate to prove their doing a good job. It’s a reflex, I don’t think they even realise they’re doing it.

But excuses aside, it’s still annoying. So quit it please. And leave the rest of us with our wonderfully average babies to let them get on with things when they bloody well choose.

 

Next time: The Earth Mother

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Add…

  • 1 sick husband.

Ok, a genuinely sick and suffering husband with 24 hour migraine and all night vomit-a-thon, poor love, but also A MAN with all the associated brave sighs and whimpers and inability to do a thing for himself. Thus systematically removing what little help I get during an average day and depriving me of the small amount of free time/space to do important tasks like take a shower, make a sandwich, and have an uninterupted wee without a child trying to bite my knees.

 

  • 360 nights of very broken sleep

Which coincidently corresponds with the number of nights since baby bear made his grand appearance. He didn’t sleep the first night, or the 359 that followed. Being woken between approximately every hour, to an hour and a half for almost a year would probably be considered to be some form of torture by the International Court of Human Rights were it not delivered by a innocent, hyper-active, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHY WON’T YOU SLEEP small child. He is getting better. Just V-E-R-Y slowly. Apparently I didn’t sleep well as a child either so quite possibly this is all just the universe extracting a horrible revenge on behalf of my parents. How I am still alive some days is a complete mystery to me. I think chocolate can be held mostly responsible.

 

  • 2 unbelievably early starts

5.45am this morning. 4.30am yesterday. Apparently Kai operates in a different time zone to the rest of us and thinks these are very good times to get up. Mummy disagrees.

 

  • 1 horribly untidy house

In desperate need of cleaning, decluttering  and/or quite possibly razing to the ground and starting over. And absolutely no time/energy/inclination to do it.

 

  • Absolutely no nice clothes

That fit or make you feel even remotely attractive.

 

  • Agitate for 90 minutes while you try and get your maniac son to lie still long enough to go to sleep.

 

  • Cook in a pressure cooker of an old house in the middle of a UK heatwave at 30 degrees C.

 

  • Repeat until sanity is a long-distant memory and the men in white coats arrive.

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… Lying cheek-to-cheek on the grass under a tree in the park with my almost-toddler, one week before his first birthday.

Looking up at the blue, blue sky peeping through the branches, and watching the leaves dance and shake in the wind, and said almost-toddler pointing and pointing at the patterns and turning his face to grin at me and give me kisses. Telling me the secrets of the universe through noncensical words of two syllables, laden with meaning and expression and delight.

My bright, vivacious, exhausting, miraculous boy. Let me see you grow and change and flourish and ripen. But please, please, please stay exactly as you are. Smiling at the clouds and smelling of strawberrys.

 

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Howdy all. It’s been an eventful few days in our house. Kai started the beginning of last week very under the weather and bad tempered, lots of very cross crying, even less sleep than usual. He cried through the whole of Father’s Day meal, sobbed at playgroup, threw tantrums in his pushchair – was generally just delightful really. I put it down to teething as usual but Friday he started running a fever which by the night had spiked at 39 degrees C (that’s 102F for all my American readers…I’m sure there are hundreds of you). Slightly worrying. And were we imagining things or could we see the beginning of some spots? Ever so slightly more worrying.

I am, by nature, an incredibly neurotic mother trying desperately not to be and although tempted to phone an ambulance at the first sign of a sniffle am definitely getting better and stronger at fending off unnecessary panic. So I tried not to. Very hard. The temperature, although high, came down with cold flannels and Neurofen and sleep, and although the poor mite was obviously feeling grotty he wasn’t THAT ill, still managing to eat his body weight in food and continue his ongoing preoccupation with crawling round at high speed like a maniac and come up with new and interesting ways to maim himself. I’d heard that Chicken Pox had been doing the rounds and wondered vaguely whether this might be it. The spots didn’t LOOK like the pox though, very small and fine and showing no signs of blistering. So we decided to give it 24 hours, keep Kai at home, and see what happened.

Well, by Saturday teatime he was COVERED. Head, chest, tummy, back, arms, legs, face, hands, feet, bottom. You name it. Hundreds and hundreds of little red spots. And he still had a temperature.

 Shit.

What was it I was supposed to do? Press a cold glass against them? You try that with a wiggly baby! And did they ‘blanch’? WHAT DOES ‘BLANCH’ MEAN??! Ok I’m not panicking. Look Kai is fine, busy trying to eat the contents of the magazine rack. But this can’t be right.

DSCF3106 DSCF3109 DSCF3115

(Can you even SEE the spots on these photos?! They are there I promise)

So I resorted to my old reliable. NHS direct. The haven of all neurotic first time parents not quite neurotic enough to phone the doctor but not quite confident enough to do nothing. For my thousands of American readers (as I’m sure there are by now after this thrilling narrative), NHS direct is our National Health Service telephone helpline where you can phone for info and have your medical problems assessed over the phone and advice offered. Normally you get a call back fairly quickly but we are, of course, in the middle of Swine Flu hysteria so I was advised it would be slightly longer.

It was two hours. A tired nurse asked the same few questions over and over again. Has he got a headache? (asked three times) Does the light seem to hurt his eyes? (asked twice) Does he seem anymore sleepy than usual? (asked three times). I dutifully repeated my answers over and over, stressing that he seemed fine. He was just hot and spotty. The answer, in the end, was that it was probably a mild virus of some sort but as she couldn’t see the rash we should pop down the road to the chemist and have the pharmacist have a look at it. They’re good with rashes apparently.

It’s after teatime by now by the way so we get Kai in his PJs and trundle off down to Asda to see the Pharmacist. Who panicked. Now we’d been quite calm up till now really (well, Ant had) but the poor Pharmacist was not. Kai was a baby. Kai had a temperature. Kai had a rash. It was time to call the doctor he says, looking very worried. “I think it’s probably ok cause the rash blanches (??) but I can’t be sure – you need to phone now”.

Shit.Shit.

So we phone the doctor’s out of hours service from the car and repeat the same spot story that we must have told twenty times already down the phone. We are told we have been put in a triage system and will be be called back by a doctor. In two hours. But the rash is getting worse and now I’m really worried.

By this time it’s 7pm and Kai is shattered. We go home and put him to bed, only to phoned an hour later by the doctor saying we need to go up to the hospital. So we wake up a very bleary eyed and confused Kai (who seemed very excited by the prospect of a late night road trip and not at all poorly whatsoever) and off we go to the hospital.

Of course Kai was fine. The doctor took one look at him, checked him all over, reassured us it WASN’T meningitis and just a virus of some sort. Bless him, he was lovely. And yet there was that slight look in his eye. You know the one… the ‘neurotic parents overreacting as usual’ look. “But I didn’t panic!” I felt like shouting, “It was the Pharmacist! I just nonchalantly phoned a helpline! I’m not quite sure what happened…”

Home to bed and panic over. Except of course, baby bear is wired from all the excitement and won’t go back to sleep. Till 10.30pm. And then wanting to get up at 5am.

Urgh.

He’s perked up loads since then. Still covered in spots but temperature’s down. Just annoyed at being kept inside (which I think is probably the responsible thing to do till his spots have cleared up) so is even more destructive than usual.

Anyone fancy coming and rescuing me? I have Orios?!

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Here it is.

A comprehensive list of all the things making me laugh hysterically and feel full to the brim of magical rainbow-filled joy, AND all the things making me sob till I feel consumed by the evil quagmire of despair. Both can come within minutes of each other so, as you can imagine, our house is a rather unstable place to be right now. Poor Ant. And he thought it was bad when I was pregnant…

 

GOOD – “I see you baby…”

Now whenever music plays, a little look of glee crosses the baby bear’s face, he scuttles over and stands up against the nearest standing apparatus, assumes the position of legs spread wide a feet planted firm, and proceeds to shake his baby ass.

Yes, that’s right. Kai has discovered dancing. Love it.

Variations of the ass-shake include the bob (bobbing up and down while sitting), the wiggle, and a kind of gentle sway, often accompanied by arm flapping and clapping. Oh and singing! That’s right, he’ll kind of hum along now too! Ant swears Kai once hummed the ‘In the Night Garden’ tune along with the music but I don’t believe him…

 

BAD – “Don’t Stop Me Now”

Like most first-time parents, I eagerly anticipated Kai learning to crawl, worrying that he wasn’t doing it soon enough, or in the ‘right way’ (he favoured rambo style ‘floor swimming’ at first, achieving motion on his tummy through the frantic propulsion of arms and feet). He seemed so frustrated not being able to get about, requiring constant entertaining. “Everything will be different when he can crawl!”, I would exclaim, dreaming of a quiet, contented baby who would happily play and amuse himself for hours on end.

Oh Boy. Well I was right on one score at least: everything IS different. Except now Kai has got the hang of crawling that is all he wants to do. All the time. Every waking moment. At high speed. And of course with the crawling comes the pulling himself up, cruising and climbing. Nothing is safe and I can’t take my eyes of him for a second. Toys? Playing? Pah! Why play when you can shred (and eat) every piece of paper product in the house, attempt to pull over everything that may squash and kill you (pushchair/highchair/dining chairs/ huge pieces of furniture), and systematically dismantle and destroy every object within reach (which is pretty much everything unless on a very high shelf).

And, of course, our tiny house is not good enough for the Kai-ranasaurus Wrecks. No. He wants to be ‘outside’ (frantic door pointing). And pushchairs and carseats? Well there no good because they require Kai to be stationary for more then five minutes. Initiatate melt-down sequence, high pitched screaming and back arching. He only stays in his highchair because there is food there to bribe and distract him.

I am exhausted.

Needless to say I am now NOT in ANY hurry for Kai to learn to walk. And rather worryingly he looks like he’s not far off. God help us all.

 

GOOD– ” And I…..ee….I…Will Always Love Youuuu”

Kai has always been a very tactile baby, wanting lots of holding and touch-time but up till now it’s always been a bit more of a ‘wrestle’ than a ‘cuddle’. But now he’s really getting the hang of cuddling. Now, when tired or just wanting a bit of reassurance, he’ll put his little arms around your neck, nuzzle his head into your neck and rest it on your shoulder, and go very, very still. For about 30 seconds.

I love it. Makes my heart go ‘whoofph’ everytime. Long may it continue.

 

BAD – “I’m Talking ‘Bout The MOM In The Mirror”

Not a Kai thing but a me thing for once. I seem to have developed a very annoying raging insecurity and self-doubt problem. I am convinced everyone hates me, that I am useless and worthless and a dreadful mother, that I should be doing SOMETHING more with my life and am wasting away my potential, that I HAVE no potential and am no good at anything, that Ant is unhappy with me, that I am ugly and haggard and look like a teenage boy. The list goes on.

I know none of these things are true really (except maybe the last one). And yet this is how I find myself thinking most of the time. It monumentally pisses me off.

I also find myself more and more dissatisfied and wanting more and more. I want desperately to move to a nicer area with more than a few stunted trees nearby. I want a clean tidy house and the time and energy to maintain in. I want a dishwasher and a tumble drier and a kitchen with more than half a square meter of work surfaces and two cupboards. I want to travel and show Kai the world. I want more money. I want another baby (although know it’s completely not practical at the moment – don’t worry Ant!)

I hate this. I hate not being satisfied and not able to just ‘be’ and enjoy where I am. Because I am SO lucky and I have so much.

Grrrr….. snap out of it stupid.

 

There is more but Kai’s woken up so looks like that’s it for now. Smell you later xx

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