Standing there alone

Dear dads in the playground,

I see you standing there and I know by your body language that you feel a bit awkward and out of place. Like you don’t really belong, because all around you is a sea of mums. We’ve had some kind of progress over the last ten years, but you’re still a minority here.

Don’t stand there on your own, though. Come and talk to me. Because you might feel like an outsider, but I feel like an imposter.

Sure, I’m the same gender as most of the other parents here, but I don’t think of myself as one of them. We have the same credentials on paper, which is to say that we are mothers and we are here to collect our children. But I look at these other women and I don’t feel like I’m part of the clan.

It’s hard to explain why that is, really. I could say it’s because I’m a “young mum”, but I’m not far off turning 30 now and I don’t really think that applies anymore. Maybe it’s because I perceive these other women to be more successful than I am, both as mothers and in their working lives. It could even simply be the fact that they look like they’ve got their shit together and I don’t feel like I ever will.

Or it might just be the difference between their expensive Ugg boots and my battered Converse.

But the thing is, you dads make me feel at ease. I don’t struggle to make conversation with you. When you’re having a shit time and you’re tired and running out of patience, you don’t grit your teeth and pretend everything’s fine. You own it. You’re not in competition with anybody, but I feel like us mums always are. We are always trying to be better than the mum next to us.

I mean, that’s not the case once you’ve scratched the surface and cultivated a proper friendship with a fellow mum. Then the warts-and-all of motherhood comes out and I feel like it’s okay to admit that some days I struggle. But when you’re just chatting in the playground, you laugh off the fact that your toddler has scribbled all over your linoleum floor, even though you feel like you’re dying a little bit inside every time you look at it. You don’t admit that you’ve ever lost your shit and shouted, or wondered for just a fleeting second if it was such a good idea to have children after all.

But you dads do, and I admire you so much for that. Here are three recent conversations I’ve had with dads:

Dad 1: “I’m so tired I feel like my eyelids are turning inside out. When is he ever going to just sleep through the night?!”

Dad 2: “How was your summer? Ours was looooooonnnngggg.”

Dad 3: “I know all of the parenting books tell you that you shouldn’t do it and it doesn’t work and it’s the worst parenting fail ever… but the only time he listens to me is when I shout at him!”

I’ve never heard any of the mums in the playground say any of those things to each other. And it’s not that I don’t think they ever do, it’s just that they do it in the evening over dinner with their partners or during a rare outing for drinks with their trusted mum confidantes. But I’m not like them; I’m more like you. I don’t see the point in pretending, because I don’t understand why we perpetuate this competitive culture.

So come and talk to me. Tell me you’re tired and struggling and your kids drove you to despair last night when they flatly refused to get out of the bath and go to bed. I won’t judge you; I’ll empathise completely. I love my children. I love them so much that when they hug me, I never want to let them go. I look forward to seeing their faces and hearing their little voices every single morning when I wake up.

But I am not sailing through this and I can’t be bothered to try and keep up the facade that I am.

You’re all brilliant dads, and I can see that you love your children just as fiercely as I do my own. I can see it in their faces when they are so delighted that daddy is picking them up today, and in your own when you sweep them up into your arms. But your honesty comforts me, and I hate to see you standing there alone.

And if you’re reading this as a fellow mum and you feel like you don’t belong, it’s not just you; I’m right there with you. I’ll be the awkward to your uncomfortable, if you like.

We’re all in this together, aren’t we?

Yours,

Davina

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The Alternative Motherhood Challenge

Does everybody remember the Motherhood Challenge? That whole thing where you got tagged by a fellow mother (I never did, by the way) and had to post a certain number of photos to social media showing why you loved being a mother? You were then supposed to nominate a bunch of your “awesome mummy friends” to take part as some kind of dubious accolade. Suffice it to say that I didn’t really get it. For me, the real challenge of Motherhood is not found in posed photographs of my offspring (although it is a challenge to get them to stay still), but in the other myriad shit that comes along with the job title. 

So! Without further ado, this is a collection of photographs from my Alternative Motherhood Challenge.

Dry-wipe pens: These bastard things. I know they’re washable, but they don’t come out of the fucking carpet. Believe me. And I can’t even take them away because they are part of a very useful educational tool. Fuck these things. This is why kids in my day only had pencils.
Potties: You wouldn’t think there’d be anything more gag-worthy than a shitty nappy, would you? Especially one of those really sticky, smeary ones. But then there’s the potty, in the bottom of which sits a freshly dropped turd that you are going to have to now watch slide gracelessly into the toilet, leaving a nice, long skid mark. So now you have to wipe the potty and wash it out. Not a whole lot different from wiping caked-on crap off your kid’s bum, really. Even worse when your curious toddler decides to fill it with toys and present it to you like a particularly horrible and unsanitary gift.


Sippy cup valves: You know that moment when your kid tips up the sippy cup, waterboards himself and then sits blinking, spluttering and glaring at you with an impressive degree of loathing? That’s the precise moment when you realise you forgot to put that clever little valve back in the lid of the cup after you spent three hours mucking it out with a pipe cleaner. Just three seconds later than you probably should have remembered.


The Favourite Cuddly: Its bedtime and your kid’s favourite snuggly creature/blanket is nowhere to be found. You’ve looked behind the curtains, under the sofa and in the washing machine. You’ve even gingerly lifted the lid and peered into the toilet, just in case. But the thing has completely fucking vanished. It has left planet Earth. It will never be seen again and your child will never, ever stop crying about it. You’re actually crying yourself as you sink onto the sofa after spending two and a half hours rocking your bereft baby to sleep. Wait, why is this seat so lumpy? Is that…? Ah. There it is. It was behind the bloody cushion all along. Attachment objects are, of course, an absolute essential for any child, but can they just remember where they’ve put them every once in a while? I’m so sick of wandering around the house at 9pm muttering “where the actual fuck is the bloody fucking bunny?!” to myself on repeat every other night. Oh, and don’t even think about washing it. Just accept the fact that your child is dragging a germ-rag around and tell yourself it’s good for their immune system.


Of course, there’re also stickers, tantrums, hidden shoes and when the car seat straps get twisted and you have to take the whole buggering thing apart to fix it, but the four things I’ve chosen here are the ones that get on my tits the most.

It’s a good job they’re cute, isn’t it?


I’d love to hear about your Alternative Motherhood Challenge, so feel free to get in touch on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or leave me a comment on this post.

This is real life

I can’t quite believe that it is November already. It doesn’t feel like more than five minutes have passed since we were last here, gearing up for Christmas and hiding the Argos catalogue from our children.

Our year has passed in a blur of breakthroughs and setbacks, from the triumph of watching O settle gradually into school after a rocky start, to the misery of seeing F continue with his food struggles. This is the nature of family life, of parenting children with different personalities and issues. O can suffer from social anxiety. F may well feel the reverberations of his battle with reflux for the rest of his life. But we do the best we can. As parents, I believe we all repeat the same mantra to ourselves at irregular intervals: It will get better. We tell ourselves that nothing can be challenging or worrying or downright shit forever.

When O clung to me, sobbing, as we walked through the school gates at the beginning of his third week, his anxiety and sadness unchanged from the previous two, I told myself: It will get better. And it did. Now he runs to join his friends with barely a backward glance. He’s part of a trio of boys who are all mischievous, buoyant and sharp as tacks. He is learning to read and write, he brings home artwork and stories of the games he has played and new skills he has learnt. He is happy and settled in his new school, and I am content to have become a background character in this chapter of his life.

It got better.

When I finally realised that F was vomiting during mealtimes not because he couldn’t stop himself, but because he didn’t want the food I had put in front of him, I told myself – through my horror that a child would do such a thing to himself – It will get better. And it has. Ish. Mealtimes are still a battleground and my victories are few, but that there are any victories at all is progress itself. Once there was nothing I could do to persuade him that food was not his enemy. Now he will try new things. Last week he finally started eating porridge and I felt elated. At last, a good start to the day! It was such a small thing. It was the biggest thing in the world.

It is getting better.

Life with children is a kaleidoscope; colourful and changeable in equal measure. There are blissful moments, snapshots of our expectations as parents. A Sunday morning cuddle in bed with both kids, both cats and nobody fighting. A walk through the woods, kicking up the Autumn leaves and collecting conkers to be preserved in a jar as a physical reminder of a magical afternoon. A peaceful hour as my children play happily together while I claw back some time to put the house in order or catch up on laundry. In these moments, we could be a family from a photograph in a magazine. In these moments, we are the family I always imagined I would have.

Our autumn adventures

Then there are the other moments, far less blissful and, currently, much more numerous. My kids rolling around on the floor, beating the shit out of each other as my attempts to referee fall on deaf ears. An epic tantrum in the middle of Sainsbury’s over who gets to carry the receipt back to the car. The flooded bathroom floor. Again. These moments often happen all in the same day and leave me exhausted and wondering if I’m really cut out for this whole motherhood thing. But these moments are also totally eclipsed by the love I feel for and joy I find in my children.

The truth is that I probably recite my mantra at least a few times a day, every single day. Sometimes it is not easy. Sometimes as I close their bedroom doors at the end of a long day, I breathe a sigh of relief. Sometimes I just wish they would stop fucking winding each other up all the time.

But they are still so little. Their emotions and ability to handle life’s complications are still developing. For them right now, being given something different for breakfast than what they were expecting is a big deal. For them, it’s not unreasonable to throw a blistering wobbly because they got Rice Crispies when they blatantly asked for Coco Pops.

This is life with young children.

There will be bad days.

It will get – and is getting – better.

In which F turns two

Tomorrow is a big day.

Tomorrow my little one, my baby, turns two.

There are two things about this that I find strange.

The first is directly linked to how very, painfully clearly I remember the first few days and months after we brought him home. I suffered hard with the “baby blues” about three days after he was born. The sleep deprivation was catching up with me and I was just so fucking tired. I couldn’t imagine a time when I wouldn’t be just exhausted.

Then the other stuff came. The reflux. The flat refusal to feed at 1am. The vomit-soaked sheets at 3am. The endless crying through the night. By the time F was two months old I was bewilderedly wondering what the fuck I’d done to my life by deciding to have a second child.

It felt like it would never, ever end.

You know the story. We got help. We got it via A&E on a dismal Sunday afternoon and we left without our son in the early hours of the following morning, but we got help. Things got better, slowly at first and then with gathering momentum. The cute, heart-melting moments gradually began to outstrip the moments of panic and strangulating fear.

By F’s first birthday, I was more in love with him than I could ever have imagined in those early, awful months.

That love has only grown as I’ve watched him change and develop. He has a cheeky wit and a fierce stubbornness that both amuses and infuriates me in equal measure. I love him. I love the life out of him, the very bones of him, every little thing that makes him who he is.

But a part of me also feels sad tonight, which brings me to the other strange thing:

The fact that my youngest child is now two.

By this milestone in his brother’s life, I was halfway through my second pregnancy. And I know that I’m not going to have any more babies. Which means that all of the cute things that F is doing now, all of the first times, the hilariously mispronounced words, the post-nap snuggles… all of those things are gradually going to stop. And then I’ll have to navigate life with older boys, who don’t want to cuddle me so much, who don’t need me to reassure them when they go someplace new, and who won’t tell me, “I yoooooooove yoooooo!” with reckless abandon.

And I know I can’t stop them from growing up. I don’t want to stop them; I want them to go ahead and become whoever it is that they’re going to be, because they will be brilliant no matter what.

But…

Can we just stop? Just for a tiny, little while? Can we keep these moments for just a little longer?

My mom used to tell me, “I wish that I could pickle these cuddles and keep them in a jar.” I always thought she was so weird when she said that.

Now I know exactly what she meant.

Happy birthday, F. You wonderful, brave, strong and very special little boy, you.

Topsy & Tim book review

This week we’ve been sent a new range of Topsy and Tim books to review and I hope that they will help O with the transition to “Big School. We have two “wipe clean” books – First Spellings and First Sums – and one sticker book –First Words -, both of which support Key Stage 1 learning. We’ve had a go with wipe clean books before and they’re great for helping pre-schoolers and new starters learn how to write.

“Topsy and Tim have all sorts of new experiences – just like you!

Jean and Gareth Adamson have sold over 21 million copies in fifty years of their iconic Topsy and Tim books, the most popular titles were re-issued in April 2008. Topsy and Tim help guide children through various ‘new experiences’, such as starting school in Topsy and Tim Start School, a new baby in Topsy and Tim: The New Baby and recycling in Topsy and Tim Go Green, with captivating storylines fun characters and engaging pictures.”

We’ll start with the First Spellings book:

The book is split into sections:

Fill in the gaps, where the child has to choose the correct vowel to complete the word. There are pictures to help and also a space for more advanced children to write the whole word again once they’ve filled in the gaps with the right letter

Family and People is, as the title suggests, a list of family members and types of people (boy, girl, baby, etc) with the words dotted for the child to trace.


Spelling patterns identifies words with letters occurring in the same places, such as “rain” and “paint”.

Numbers shows the child how to write numbers by tracing the word, and there is a space for them to write it again.

Question words shows each question word (Why, What, When, Where, Who, Which, How) in a box at the top of the page and then has a list of questions for the child to decide the correct prefix.

Colours is a page with a small box at the bottom with the name of each colour and a star in the corresponding colour to help the child identify it. There are 11 pictures of various objects (green tractor, red satchel, etc) with a space beside them to write the correct colour.

Shapes has large, colourful shapes in the middle of the page with the corresponding names in a box below. Once the child has identified which word is right for which shape, they can write them inside the shape.

Tricky words is a list of words that are hard to sound out with phonics such as “their” and “only” for the child to trace and then write again in the space at the side of each word.

Nouns and Verbs are laid out on facing pages with pictures to help and spaces to trace and rewrite each word.

At the end is a page for practising words, whether those are some of the trickier words in the book or spellings sent home from school.


I think O enjoyed what he was able to do of this book, but only having turned four in June he still has quite a short attention span for anything that feels a bit too much like hard work. He actually spent quite a long time on the Family page though, and we helped him to identify each word as he wrote it by saying things like “I am your-” and pointing to the word “mum”. We will definitely keep using this book to help him learn how words looks on the page, but also as a way of practising his handwriting. The words to trace are a reasonable size, but they are smaller than O is used to writing right now (like most four year-olds, he can fill a page just writing his name) and I think they will help him control his handwriting better as he gets more used to the letters.

The First Sums book was a real success with O. Unlike me, he seems to really enjoy and understand numbers. Like the First Spellings book, this one is also split into sections.

There are pages at the beginning for Adding up to 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. These consist of four simple sums for each number and there are pictures to help. For example, the sum is represented in a box above with cats and dogs (4 cats + 2 dogs = 6).

1 more and 1 less has shapes with numbers for the child to trace and asks them to write in a box below either 1 more or 1 less. There is a number line at the bottom of the page to help them identify the correct number.

2 more and 2 less is the same kind of thing, but with -2 sums and no numbers to trace, presumably as this is for children who are more familiar with subtraction.

Tidy up and take away represents the sums with toys that Topsy and Tim are tidying up. In order to find the correct answer to the sum, the child is asked to cross out the number of toys that have been tidied away and count the remaining toys to find the answer to the sums.

Seaside subtractions uses things like sandcastles and seagulls to represent numbers, so there are questions like “Draw 5 sandcastles. 3 get knocked over. How many are left?” The pictures can be drawn on the page and then rubbed out, which also encourages a little creative flair to keep things interesting.

Sums to 10 shows all the ways to make 10 in the form of sums to complete with the reverse subtractions. It’s quite tricky for a child just getting used to numbers, but the print on these pages is large and there are numbers to trace to help the child commit them to memory.


O had so much fun with this book, although we used toy blocks to help him with the sums so he had something physically in front of him to help him. Once we introduced the blocks he got really into this and we spent quite a lot of time on it and I think it will really help him to understand simple sums and hopefully make it easier for him to grasp the concept of basic math when he starts learning it at school.

We also recorded the First Words sticker activity book, which helps children learn every day words, such as mum, dad, cat, mug, boat, etc. O really enjoyed this because he loves sticker books and he already knew all of the words, so he found it really easy to identify which stickers he needed. Each of the spaces for stickers has a “shadow” of the correct sticker to make it easier for the child to find the right one if they don’t yet know the words by sight.


Overall, we had lots of fun with these books. There were parts of them that were beyond O at the moment, but he has a real thirst for knowledge, so I imagine if we get them out again in a few weeks he will probably surprise me with how much he knows! I think they’re both great books for introducing pre-school children and new starters to spelling and maths, and they are challenging enough that they could quite easily be useful learning aids throughout the first and probably even second year of primary school.

All of these books are available from the Penguin website and there is also an App available for iOS. You can also find Laybird on Twitter @Ladybirdbooks.

Disclaimer: These books were sent to me by Penguin in return for this review. The above review is a true and honest reflection of my experience (and O’s) of these products and all opinions expressed herein are my own.

It’s NOT okay. Okay?

When I tell nosey people who ask when I’m “having another one” that I can’t have any more babies, they unanimously do this incredibly fucking rude thing where they ask “WHY?” whilst salivating over the possibility of a story about some peculiar uterine wasting disease which has rendered me infertile. So I suppose it’s kind of disappointing when I explain, through gritted teeth, that my husband has had a vasectomy. But then they bypass social etiquette altogether and say – with a cheeky wink that never fails to make me feel sick – “HE can’t have any more children, but YOU can!” Are you fucking kidding me? In what universe is it okay to even vaguely suggest that I might as well just go ahead and get myself knocked up by someone – anyone, apparently – other than my husband? Thanks and everything, but no. JUST NO.

Of course, the next thing they ask me is, “Don’t you want any more babies?” You know what? Yes. YES. I DO want more babies. In fact, whenever I think about the fact that I’m not going to have any more babies, I feel a certain sense of grief. But there’s a difference between what I want and what I know is good for me and my family. So, Random Stranger full of personal questions, thanks a fucking bunch for that. I didn’t get sad and wistful about it quite enough by myself.

And then there’s my favourite question:

“So why did your husband have a vasectomy if you wanted another baby?”

Really? You really want to talk about this? Alright. I’ll bite. Let’s do this.

Because we both have shitty jobs and we can’t afford another baby.

Because our house is too small and we don’t really want to move ’cause we’ve spent a fuckload of money on this one.

Because I like my car and I don’t want a people carrier.

Because SPD and constant nausea aren’t really my idea of a good time.

Because the first six months of F’s life passed in a blur of misery and sleeplessness and, although I’ve tried really hard to block it all out, I know I’ll never quite forget how shit it really was.

Because we might actually get divorced next time.

The truth, Random Stranger, is that my husband and I made the decision for him to have a vasectomy together. But he walked into that procedure room alone, both physically and mentally. I, on the other hand, sat in the waiting room trying to write and occupy my mind while it screamed things like “you’ll never feel a baby move inside you again” and “you’ll never see your newborn for the first time again” and, my personal favourite, “you’ll never have another chance to put right everything you did wrong”.

Do I want to talk about it? Do I want to tell you all of this? Do I think you need to know? No, no and er, NO. And I wonder, if I did have three children, would you still ask? At what point do I have enough offspring for you to just stop fucking asking already?

I don’t know what it is about motherhood that makes it perfectly acceptable for everyone to make such blunt, frankly unacceptable statements with nothing short of aplomb. It’s not like anyone has ever asked me what position I conceived my babies in or whether I did that legs-up-in-the-air thing afterwards. But I’m not really sure why the Personal Inquisition Squad get that those aren’t appropriate questions and yet see nothing wrong with suggesting that I start shagging random men in the name of completing my family. Whatever the fuck that means.

So, do you know what? I’m changing my story, Random Stranger. I just need to come up with a realistic-sounding name for a fictional uterine wasting disease first…

The monster under the bed

I want to talk about phobias today, so I want to warn you that this post could be triggering for those of you who are battling one – or more – of your own. If that applies to you, please proceed with caution.

Phobias are life-limiting. On the darkest of days, if you let them, they can consume you. I know this because I have a phobia that I battle with every single day of my life. Sometimes this phobia makes crazy thoughts appear in my head. The only reason, I believe, that it hasn’t yet taken over my life is that I know that allowing it to do so would actually be crazy. But that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t tried more than once. And, if I am completely honest, it does stop me from living a strictly normal life. It does mean that many of my days are tinged with an undertone of worry.

I am emetophobic.

For anyone who doesn’t know, that means I have a fear of vomiting. For me, it is specifically a fear of vomiting myself. For others, it covers anything and everything to do with the subject. So I suppose, in a warped kind of way, I should consider myself lucky in the grand scheme of things.

There’s a backstory here, of course. Phobias, I have learnt, don’t just come out of nowhere. Something triggers them.

Last May O had an asthma attack serious enough to land him in hospital. For most of the day I sat with him and he talked to me through an oxygen mask. After nine hours of this, N came to take over for the night and I went home to look after F. When I left there was talk of intravenous steroids and I walked out of the hospital feeling tight-chested and haunted.

In the very early hours of the following morning I started throwing up. Looking back, I think it was the shock. It only lasted a couple of hours, but at some point I got something lodged in my windpipe and started to choke. I very clearly remember thinking, “So this is how I’m going to die; on my bathroom floor covered in puke”. In those few seconds, I just kept coming back to how ridiculous it was that this would happen on the one night when there was no one there to help me. I was desperate and terrified and I guess my survival instinct just took over. I used the very last of the air in my lungs to cough hard, knowing that it was over if that didn’t work. When you truly and honestly think you’re going to die, it’s amazing how strong your will to live becomes.

Obviously the coughing worked and I am still here. But even now, I can’t think about that night too much without feeling the fear of what could have been. Of the fact that F could have woken up later that morning and had no idea why his cries went unanswered. Of what N and O could have found when they came home. It sounds dramatic, even as I type the words. The whole thing sounds like the kind of story that makes you want to roll your eyes a little bit. To be honest with you, sometimes I wonder if it truly was as desperate as I thought it was. But all I really know is that I was so, so scared that night.

So now I’m afraid of it happening again. And, as any parent knows, kids pick up a lot of bugs. If my boys come home with snotty noses, aside from the fact that I hate to see them suffer, I am not in the least bit bothered. I will let them wipe their little snouts all over me and not give a damn when I inevitably get a scratchy throat a few days later. But if either one of them throws up and I know there’s no possible explanation other than a stomach bug, I am immediately almost paralysed with fear. I will clean them up with a pounding heart and shaking hands while crazy thoughts of surgical masks and latex gloves spiral through my head. And it’s not the vomit itself that bothers me; it’s the fact that I know I might be next.

This also means that soft play centres are a horror story waiting to happen for me. When O was about 18 months old he caught norovirus from a soft play centre, which N and I also came down with a few days later. So I know that they are breeding grounds for the dreaded stomach bugs and I find myself feeling panicky every time we go to one, which usually results in me avoiding food for a few days afterwards while I wait to see if anyone has picked up a virus. If I could avoid the wretched places, I would. But one thing I am utterly determined about is that this phobia is not going to rule my children’s lives the same way that it tries to rule mine. It is not going to stop me from being the mother they deserve, no matter how scared I am.

The thing is, whenever I’ve tried to explain this phobia to anyone, they’ve pretty much looked at me like I’m crazy and said, “Nobody likes being sick!” which is, to be blunt, just about the worst possible thing you can say to an emetophobe. Because it’s not that I “don’t like” being sick. It’s not even that I absolutely detest being sick, in fact. It’s that I am utterly petrified of it. And sometimes I wonder, when fears of spiders and flying and the dark are perfectly legitimate phobias… How come my fear – a fear with a very solid foundation – is somehow less believable or “normal” than any other, more common phobia? Because every time I think about what could have happened last year, I get this horrible falling sensation and I know that what I am feeling is not just fear; it is terror itself.

So… That’s me. That’s my daily struggle. Thanks for sticking with me.

Review: Baker Days Letterbox Cake

It’s been a tricky few weeks with one thing and another, so when Baker Days contacted me on Twitter to ask if I would like to review their Letterbox Gift Cake, I couldn’t say yes fast enough! You know what they say: When the going gets tough, the tough eat cake. They do say that… Right? Anyway, I popped them a quick email with a few details on Friday and by Monday morning I had a confirmation email in my inbox.

 

I expected delivery to take a few days, so imagine my thorough delight when my cake turned up the very next day! O took delivery of it from the postman and jumped up and down next to me – “Can we eat it? Can we eat it? Canweeatitnowmummy?!?!?!” – while I opened it and was very disappointed when I told him he would have to wait a couple of days until I had some time to write a blog.

 

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After the kids had both had their tea tonight, I opened up the cute little cake tin and very carefully unwrapped my lovely cake. The Letterbox Cake is a wee little 5 inch cake, which the baker days website says will provide 3-4 portions, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to get a few more out of it since I don’t want the boys bouncing off the walls anymore than usual in the final week of the summer holidays! There are loads of cakes to choose from – you can even order cupcakes -, but this particular cake is priced at £14.99 and comes with the added convenience of being able to fit through the letterbox so you don’t even need to be at home to take delivery of it. The cakes come well packaged in a box and tin, and you even get some candles, balloons and a party horn.

 

I cut O a slice while he jigged about with excitement next me, then he rushed off and started stuffing his face before I even had chance to grab my phone and get a photo. I did manage to get a picture of him mid-bite and he assured me after he was done scoffing, “I liked it. It was a very good cake.” Nothing quite like the endorsement of a child when it comes to cake, right?

 

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Next it was my turn:

 

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I didn’t really eat the rest of the cake. Not yet anyway. But both of the kids are in bed now, so it’s probably only a matter of time…

 

I don’t know about you, but I really like cake. Cake is the answer to most of life’s problems, I’ve discovered. And this was really nice cake. The great thing about a cake this size is that you can only really have a small slice, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I found that the cake was nice and light and the frosting was sweet and filling, so I didn’t feel like I was missing out by only having a small cake.

 

I think the size of these cakes makes them a really handy way of letting someone know you’re thinking of them, because you can pick a theme or have a full photo cake like I did – the possibilities are pretty much endless!

 

Baker Days deliver six days a week and, if you order before 2pm, your cake can be with you the very next day. So, if you’re anything like me and you end up forgetting birthdays and anniversaries pretty much every year, you’re covered!

 

If you fancy ordering a cake for yourself – or someone else if you like anyone enough to give away cake – pop over to the Baker Days website and have a look around. You can also find Baker Days on Facebook and Twitter.

 

AND if you’d like to be in with a chance of winning* a Letterbox Cake, head over to the Motherhood IRL Twitter, follow me and retweet the pinned tweet at the top of my profile. I’ll be running the giveaway until next Friday when I will pick a winner at random.

 

*The giveaway is open to UK and Northern Ireland residents only and  you will need to be comfortable with DM-ing me your email address for me to forward onto Baker Days.

 

DISCLAIMER: I received this Letterbox Gift Cake in exchange for a review on my blog and hosting a giveaway. The above review is a true and honest reflection of my opinion (and O’s)  on and experience of the product provided by Baker Days.

Come September

Dear O,

I don’t write about you as much as I should, but the truth is that you’ve never given me a whole lot of trouble. You were a textbook baby and now you’re a wilful, determined and joyful four-year-old. Sometimes I wonder if your tantrums and your pickiness about food are normal or if I’m actually a really terrible mother, but most of the time I know that you’re doing okay.

Only… now you’re starting school. And I’ve watched the kids from up the street heading off to school with their parents and siblings a thousand times from our kitchen window, but I never really thought about the day when you would join them.

When we moved here, you were less than two months old. I scrubbed and painted this house with you growing and kicking inside me. Those children seemed lightyears away from the tiny baby I rocked and bathed and tickled and loved in our little cocoon. That you should be on the cusp of becoming one of them is unfathomable to me.

Sometimes I look at you and I watch you playing and I listen to the stories you make up as you play and I think… How did we get here? How do you know those words? Where did that wild imagination come from? And when did you get to be so big?

People tell you that the years go fast, but they don’t tell you how fast. They don’t tell you that one day you’ll be grimacing your way through another poonami and the next you’ll be saying goodbye at the school gates for the first time. They don’t tell you that your children will be a tiny bit different every single day and you won’t even notice until you look back at the old photos and videos.

They also didn’t tell me how choked up I would get when I think about you starting school. Because I want so much for you to grow and learn and discover new things and have wonderful adventures, but my heart feels just a little bit too full sometimes when I picture the boy you already are and the man you will one day become.

I remember your first proper day at playgroup and how hard I found it to leave you that morning. You were only two and looked so tiny compared to the other children. You found a tractor and sat yourself at a table with it, holding it out to show me. My heart felt strangled by the confused look on your face when I told you it was time for me to go and that I would see you at lunchtime. In fact, just thinking about that moment makes me tearful. As I walked out to the gate with your daddy, I turned to him and said “I can’t believe I left him” with tears streaming down my face. I’d never trusted anyone except family to look after you, and I knew you didn’t understand why I wasn’t staying with you. It broke my heart, but it was a moment that all parents have to go through as they help their children to navigate the world.

I wish I could tell you that I won’t cry when I leave you at your classroom for the first time in September. You won’t know, of course, whether or not I do because I will not let you see. I will not let you see how hard it is sometimes to know that you are growing up. That you are not mine anymore in the same way that you used to be. That you have only ever been on loan to me, when all is said and done.

I hope that you will love your school. I hope that you will find good friends and delight in learning new things. I hope that you will come home and tell me breathless, emphatic stories about your day.

I love you, O. More than I could ever tell you. Enough to stand aside and allow you grow up. Enough to let you go.

If I can just have you back for the odd cuddle every now and again, of course.

Mummy

X

image

From baby to big boy, I don’t know how we got here.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

“Romantic” city break

Over the last four years, N and I have been a bit hit and miss about spending time together as a couple. It’s not that we don’t want to, it’s just that having kids makes it difficult. But, when I saw that my favourite author was holding a book signing and Q&A in Manchester, N suggested that we book tickets and make a romantic break of it.

You know how this is going to go, don’t you? Because this is me, and this blog is basically just a comprehensive list of my failures and/or disasters.

So, the first thing was that N was just getting over a rotten cold and I was just starting with it. Which led to me driving up the M62 with a raging fever, a runny nose and a horrible sore throat. N slept for some of the journey, so I was also fucking bored and kept incrementally turning the volume up on the car stereo to try and wake him up.

sleeping husband

In 7 years, he has never stayed awake for a whole car journey

Then we got into the city centre and the GPS confidently directed me to a dingy back-alley, whereupon it jubilantly announced, “you have reached your destination on the left”. Unless I’m sleeping in a Biffa bin for the next two nights, you’ve lost your fucking mind. Obviously this was wrong, so N calmly loaded up Google Maps and we were redirected to our actual destination, a car park where we could dump The Smurf for the next two days without having to worry about it.

Of course, now we are those people navigating an unfamiliar city with a phone giving us directions. We are those people having an argument about the fact that the Google Maps app keeps crashing and why the fuck didn’t we just bring an actual map. We are those people arriving crossly at our hotel with sore feet and the dire need for five minutes of peace from each other. Which is difficult when you have to share one room.

Anyway. We checked into the hotel – “your room number is 237, dial 0 for reception, etc, etc” – and headed for the lifts. As we got into the lift I didn’t really think much of our room number. I expected that there would probably be about 50 rooms on each floor. Then we got to the second floor and we got out of the lift and there was a sign on the wall. “Rooms 203 to 237” with an arrow pointing around the corner. And I got that kind of creeping sense of dread that you sometimes get when you realise that your room is the last one at the end of the corridor. Like the cleaners might finish the penultimate room, turn to room 237 and think nah, fuck it and not bother changing the sheets. We trudged up the corridor, and as we trudged we dropped off the wifi. It was like entering the Dark Zone.

long corridor

The long walk to our room in the hotel sticks

The bathroom in the room was less of a bathroom and more of a sanitation capsule. The shower didn’t connect properly to the wall, so water sprayed out of the botched plumbing in all directions. There was only the memory of a nightstand on my side of the bed, which is to say that there were still screw holes in the wall where it had once been. And the bed. My God, THE BED. The bed was a rock hard contraption made not even the least bit softer by a rock hard mattress topper. The pillows may actually have been stuffed with gravel. How we laughed, and how I died a little inside at the thought of how little sleep I might actually get.

I let N book the hotel because he likes doing that kind of thing and I find it unbearably boring. I vaguely recall him offering me the choice between a four star hotel with a spa and a two star hotel without one and that was kind of the whole conversation we had about it. Back in 2009, we went to Sheffield for a weekend break and stayed in a hotel with a spa, which we only actually used in the end because we felt like we should. So this time I vetoed the spa hotel. I mean, it was also a whole lot more expensive than where we ended up, but I’m fairly certain there was probably a middle ground Premier Inn option.

At about 5am the next morning, after a turbulent night trying to find a comfortable position on the rock hard mattress topper, I was woken from one of my brief periods of sleep by a lot of noise from somewhere near the door. My knackered and befuddled brain eventually managed to organise itself enough to understand that this was the sound of water hitting carpet, at which point I muttered “you have got to be fucking kidding me” and got out of bed(rock) to investigate. I found wet carpet and prayed that I wasn’t being dripped on by waste water from a flushed toilet, then went back to bed to half-heartedly search Late Rooms for a viable alternative to Chinese water torture.

Flu Buster

This “Flu Buster” got me through the morning

It’s worth pointing out here that I was still sick – and getting sicker – with the awful cold, which was quickly turning into a chest infection, so on Monday morning I was GRUMPY. N and I went separate ways in Primark so we could shop without annoying each other, but I hate shopping. Really hate it. I just can’t be bothered with it at all. So I bought a few t-shirts for myself and spent a whole lot more on the boys and then I tried to call N. But he was on the basement floor and had no signal, so I then spent a whole hour looking for him. And he eventually rocked up like, “Why do you look so pissed off?” Seriously.

manchester rain

Watching the rain from Primark

We took a nap later before the book signing and then it was a monumental effort to get back up and drag N up and walk the ten minutes to the library. But it was worth it, because this particular author is my hero and it was a really unique experience. Of course, N really didn’t want to hang around for the signing afterwards – having spent the best part of an hour and a half surrounded by women, most of them more than a decade younger than us -, so he headed off to the pub while I chatted with a lovely girl, Ellie, who I met on Instagram before the signing. We exchanged numbers after the signing, so I hope we’ll keep in touch for book discussions in the future.

Meeting Maggie Steifvater

Talking Gansey with Maggie Steifvater

So, I should probably mention this whole aspect of a “romantic city break”, which is the pressure to have sex. I’ve already posted about sex between N and I, so I don’t really need to go into any unnecessary detail here, but the thing about being away is that none of the usual restrictions apply. There aren’t likely to be any disruptions (unless the beleaguered air con unit fell off the wall right in the middle of things) and being tired usually wouldn’t be the same kind of issue. Except that it was, because I was fucking exhausted and really, really sick. So N kind of hopefully mentioned sex on Monday morning and I coughed a lot and it pretty much wasn’t brought up again after that.

I mean, this all sounds like a total nightmare of a romantic break, but what I came away from it with is this: N is still my best friend. He’s still the person I most enjoy spending my time with. And, on top of that, I realised how lucky we really are. We have a good marriage and we have two beautiful children and we are so, so fortunate.

I also really missed the kids and was super happy to see them when we got home, even though F was mad at me for leaving him and didn’t want anything at all to do with me for a good hour after he got up from his nap. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how wonderful my boys are when they’re wearing me out and driving me crazy. But they are wonderful, and they fill my heart right up.

I’m happy.

Thanks for another great adventure, hubs. We fucked it up in our own specific way and I had a lot of fun.

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