Every single night at about 11pm I tiptoe quietly into the bedroom next to mine. I go to Hux first, who is always lying on his tummy, with his nose snuggled into his favourite smelly old muslin cloth. He has a little boy bed head and I bend down to sniff it and kiss his lovely little ears. 50% of the time his head will make it onto the pillow but the rest of the time he’ll be awkwardly sprawled width-ways across the cot. The bedclothes have always been kicked off so I try to tuck them tightly back around his little body without waking him up. The little houdini has worked out how to escape his pyjamas (and nappy!) so I’ve been putting him to sleep in vests and tshirts and I don’t want him to get cold. Raaraa is always there, as is whichever teddy Elfie has decided to gift him with that evening from her large collection.
I turn off the string of car night lights next to his bed and move over to Elfie next. I gently remove whichever object she’s taken to bed with her (last week it was a sketch book, yesterday her purse full of coppers) and make sure she has her favourite bunny within arms reach. She tells me every night before she goes to bed, ‘mummy you MUST kiss me on the forehead FORTY FIVE TIMES’, so I do what I’m told.
I scoot her over to the side of the bed nearest the wall because she has a tendency to roll herself out of bed with a thump and a wail; I shouldn’t laugh at this but it’s kind of funny. Her fairy lights remain on, and if they don’t she is happy to wake you at 5am to demand you jolly well sort it out.
When it comes to parenting for me this 11pm ritual is the most precious time of all. The house is quiet, there’s no pressure to cook dinner, make the school run on time, practice writing (Elfie, not me), reply to emails hoover up crumbs. Our days are busy and it’s time to take a bit of time to relax, reflect on the day and enjoy the silence.
There’s a quote I heard once when I first became a mother and didn’t pay much attention to, but as I travel further down this road of motherhood I come back to it time and time again:
The days are long but the years are short.
At the moment for me there is nothing truer than this phrase. I might begin our days at 6am feeling grumpy and short-changed on sleep and finish them at midnight after ploughing through work in the only bit of free time I have but these precious moments, they won’t last forever. Looking back at just how small my babies were only a year ago it astounds me how much they’ve grown: how far we have all come.
This is why I have vowed to always take that extra ten minutes every night to stroke my babies’ chubby cheeks, enjoy their sleepy breaths and think about how much I love each little rumpled hair on their head. The days are long but the years are short.
I’ve never been one of those mums, you know, who are really in to their prams. I’ve go a couple of friends who go through a different pram every six months but for me it’s never been that important (changing bags, on the other hand…). I had my Bugaboo Bee+ for Elfie and when Hux arrive the fleet expanded by a double Phil + Teds. I’ve always been pretty happy with these two, they get the job done without any fuss – what more could we want?
So when Cosatto got in touch a couple of months ago to ask if I’d want to sample their new model, the Ooba, I was a little hesitant. Could it improve on what were my two totally adequate prams? Turned out that yes, yes it absolutely could.
The day it arrived I was pretty excited. It matched my carpet! Look at that print! The beautiful blues! You can’t deny this is one good looking pram. I set about unboxing and building it, something I managed on my own and with minimal fuss (score one Ooba, the Bugaboo was not this easy).
The Ooba comes with two parts, the carrycot which is suitable from birth (and absolutely gorgeous… almost enough to make me want a newborn to put in it) (HAHAHAH oh god I need a stiff drink just at the thought) and the seat which is where King Hux would be sitting. This photograph was taken as he was crying and desperately claw his way into the pram which says it all. The kid loves it, what can I say?
The Ooba also comes with a matching nappy bag which fits into the generous basket underneath the buggy, along with your toddler if you so wish (this probably isn’t recommended. Probably).
So, first impressions? Like I said, this is a looker of a pram. If it were a man it would be a Bradley Cooper.
One of the first things that struck me about the pram is how high up the seat is, and this has made such a big difference. Both the Bugaboo and Phil + Teds have low seats and I’ve really enjoyed Hux being that little bit closer to me. We can chatter a lot more and if I’m sitting for lunch or to have a coffee there’s not as much need to lift him out and into a highchair.
I like the fact the basket is only really accessible from the back and the parts of the pram are easy to click and clonk into place. If you’ve ever got your fingers stuck in the mechanism of a Maclaren you’ll know exactly what I mean.
The seat is incredibly comfy and the straps easy to do up, a must when you’re wearing gloves/have cold hands/a wriggly toddler. Because Hux is a stubborn thing and doesn’t like to sleep when he’s in the pram (he prefers to grumble annoyingly because Mama is trying on yet another pair of jeans) we haven’t tested the recline capability so much, but Elfie loves to ‘pretend’ with it.
A couple of blustery walks to the park over gravel, grass, woodchips and mud and I can confirm this buggy is a joy to handle. My Bugaboo, it’s built for city living so is not great dealing with different terrains but the Ooba has no issues with this at all. It’s mostly a pleasure when I’m shopping or on a flat surface; it’s such a pleasure to scoot the pram around and it goes quickly too. I’ve out-walked more than one OAP on a mobility scooter with this bad boy.
In a nutshell: so far, so good. The Ooba looks fantastic, is a pleasure to push and does the job. Full marks. Stay tuned for the next stage of our Very Scientific testing method, which involves a day out (possibly with sand?), a time trial for folding/unfolding and more info on just how well those glorious white wheels are holding up.
Included with the Ooba (£800) is:
- Chassis, carrycot and seat unit
- Cosy Toes with reversible zip off liner
- Coordinating changing bag with changing mat and messy bag
- Patterned raincovers for pushchair seat and carrycot
- Spacious storage basket
- Hold car seat adaptors (Hold car seat sold separately)
Thank-you so much to Cosatto for letting us trial this beauty of a pram. We’re having a blast doing it!
The parenting of little girls is a job that is so special. Boys are boys and boys are awesome, but compared to our daughters they really are as different as slugs, snails and puppy dog tails.
Yesterday I did something that doesn’t happen enough in our house; I took Elfie on a little day out, just the two of us. We had an appointment with her new consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital – and as an aside, what a wonderful place this is. I thank heavens every day that we have the NHS and such open access to brilliant doctors in places like this (ours is a Professor, oooh fancy). Anyway, I’d promised her a lovely meal out afterwards and as she can’t get enough of public transport I made sure we went on both a tube, a bus, and then in a black cab for good measure.
We had a brilliant time together, and for me the day brought home how precious and important this time with my little girl is. Elfie is such a deep thinker, a deep feeler and her mind is more than inquisitive, it’s a sobering thought that it is up to me to shape this into the person she will one day become.
I like to think I bring my children up pretty equally. There’s not a lot of gender stereotyping that goes on in our house: Hux has pink chinos, Elfie has blue ones. They both play with cars (E’s very much into Hot Wheels right now) and they both play with handbags. Elfie asked for her nails to be painted pink this week and so did Hux (I did him one fingernail and one toenail. It was cute, OK?!). I try to buy them gender neutral toys that they are both able to enjoy together or apart.
But in their thoughts, feelings and emotions they are poles apart. Hux barrels into everything, probably picking his nose and giving himself a black eye in the process. Elfie stands back, she observes a situation before deciding what she’s going to do. With school looming on the horizon I’ve been trying to teach her how to hold her own a little more with her peers, so she’s able to tell them if she isn’t happy. But she is so precious and I guess eager to be liked and kind to her friends she’s finding it hard. We are making progress – I heard her say the magic phrase “don’t do that, I don’t like it” to Hux without being prompted last week – and she’s getting more confident at holding her own with the older boys at softplay.
As her mother I want my little girl to grow up knowing she has me always on her side, ready to protect her at any minute. But I also need her to know how important it is that she is capable and able to be strong of her own accord, that she can do anything she puts her mind to. I’m lucky that I grew up thinking this (thanks mum and dad!), only doubting myself very rarely, so I hope to pass on some of my strength and bloody mindedness to her.
These times, when I’m feeling all introspective about raising daughters, this is when I reach for the poem B, by Sarah Key. It makes me weep, makes me smile, but most importantly it makes me think: yeah… we’re doing OK here.
Point B – Sarah Key
If I should have a daughter, instead of “Mom,” she’s going to call me, “Point B.”
Because that way she knows that no matter what happens, at least she can always find her way to me.
And I’m going to paint the solar systems on the backs of her hands, so she has to learn the entire universe before she can say, “Oh, I know that like the back of my hand.”
And she’s going to learn that this life will hit you, hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up just so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.
There is hurt, here, that cannot be fixed by band-aids or poetry, so the first time she realizes that Wonder Woman isn’t coming, I’ll make sure she knows she doesn’t have to wear the cape all by herself. Because no matter how wide you stretch your fingers, your hands will always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal. Believe me, I’ve tried.
“And baby,” I’ll tell her, “Don’t keep your nose up in the air like that. I know that trick. I’ve done it a million times. You’re just smelling for smoke so you can follow the trail back to a burning house, so you can find the boy who lost everything in the fire to see if you can save him. Or else, find the boy who lit the fire in the first place, to see if you can change him.”
But I know she will anyway, so instead, I’ll always keep an extra supply of chocolate and rainboots nearby. Because there’s no heartbreak that chocolate can’t fix.
Okay, there’s a few heartbreaks that chocolate can’t fix. But that’s what the rainboots are for. Because rain will wash away everything if you let it.
I want her to look at the world through the underside of a glass bottom boat. To look through a microscope at the galaxies that exist on the pinpoint of a human mind. Because that’s the way my mom taught me. That there’ll be days like this, “There’ll be days like this,” my mama said. When you open your hands to catch and wind up with only blisters and bruises. When you step out of the phone booth and try to fly, and the very people you want to save are the ones standing on your cape. When your boots will fill with rain, and you’ll be up to your knees in disappointment, and those are the very days you have all the more reason to say, “Thank you.” Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shore line, no matter how many times it’s sent away.
You will put the “wind” in “winsome… lose some.” You will put the “star” in “starting over… and over…” And no matter how many land mines erupt in a minute, be sure your mind lands on the beauty of this funny place called life.
And yes, on a scale from one to over-trusting, I am pretty damn naive. But I want her to know that this world is made out of sugar. It can crumble so easily, but don’t be afraid to stick your tongue out and taste it.
“Baby,” I’ll tell her, “Remember, your mama is a worrier, and your papa is a warrior, and you are the girl with small hands and big eyes who never stops asking for more. Remember that good things come in threes, and so do bad things, and always apologize when you’ve done something wrong. But don’t you EVER apologize for the way your eyes refuse to stop shining.
Your voice is small, but don’t ever stop singing. And when they finally hand you heartache, when they slip war and hatred under your door and offer you handouts on street corners of cynicism and defeat, you tell them that they really ought to meet your mother.
“You’re a stay at home mum… so what do you DO all day?”
If I had a pound for every time someone had said that to me then I would have, well, a lot of pounds. But I don’t, I just have a lot of urges to clock acquaintances who ask me annoying questions in the face. Where did the idea come from that mums who work in the home spend their days on the sofa watching Jeremy Kyle? The kids won’t feed themselves and the house won’t clean itself. Shit needs to get DONE people, and very often the only person to do it is mum.
Mums wear a lot of hats. Educator, cook, cleaner, laundry maid, chauffeur, disciplinarian. But it’s not just as simple as that; not only do we have to perform in all these roles but we have to try as hard as we can at them. The pressure is on to cook well-balanced, healthy meals from scratch (tough when your kid will only eat white pasta, bananas and avocados). We have to teach them the ‘right’ things (Montessori? Phonetics? I need to Google all these words). And then, still some of us have to hold down jobs, progress in careers, keep other halves happy. It’s exhausting.
So here it is: this is a run-down of exactly what I did one day last week. And the next time someone asks me that question I am referring them straight here… right after punching them in the face.
- Got myself and the kids up. This involves tactical negotiations over exactly what cup our milk will be drank from and intense decisions over Weetabix, Shreddies or toast. I’m not kidding, the UN’s negotiators have nothing on me.
- Prepared everyone to leave the house. Three year olds aren’t rational, they will insist on wearing a summer dress and they won’t understand when you explain why this is most definitely not possible because it’s 2 degrees outside. Oh and cardigans? Only idiots wear cardigans, apparently.
- Drive Elfie to pre-school. Do you know how many times you can listen to Katy Perry ‘Roar’ on a 10 minute car journey? Three, but it will feel like twelve.
- Took Hux to creche. Sometimes fine but mostly heartbreaking. A three year old clutching on to your leg crying ‘Mama! Mama! Cuddle!’? ARGH.
- Went to the gym. My favourite time (I’m mental), but it’s the time I get that’s not for work, not for children, not for anyone else but me. 20 minutes on the cross trainer, 20 minutes on all the weight machine thingys then 10 stretching and admiring myself in the massive mirror ;) We all do it when we have muscles, right?
- Designed a blog. I’ve been doing a bit of blog design work recently and there’s nothing I’d rather do after the gym than a couple of hours of coding CSS. I’m not even joking here.
- Did three loads of washing. Though my two are little, one of them attracts paint like there’s no tomorrow and the other likes eating soup with his hands. I basically get through a lot of Fairy Non-Bio (which I buy and use because it reminds me of having newborns :’)
- Cooked, photographed and wrote a recipe. I needed to eat lunch and because the light was on my side I photographed the recipe – sticky chicken cashew salad – for a new website I’m launching about my Paleo journey. Because I don’t have enough on my metaphorical plate.
- Wrote an article about iPhone photography. I’m working with a new client (details coming soon!) and getting to do a lot of work about photography which has been fantastic.
- The kids came home! Always a lovely time. Although today they brought cake, definitely not Paleo.
- Met a friend for a playdate. I think it’s really important to socialise – not just the children, but me as well. Because I work at home in funny snatches of time I don’t always get to see many people so I like to meet up with my friends when I can. Today we went to IKEA to meet our lovely new pre-school friend Amy: we get meatballs and the kids get to tire themselves out playing the ‘Arrow Game’! This is a genius invention (all Amy’s): the kids run from arrow to arrow throughout IKEA… they aren’t allowed to move on from one arrow to the next until we get to them so they stay within sight yet still have a good old run around. Brilliant! I buy a bath mat, loo brush and a candle, because I challenge anybody to go to IKEA and not purchase a candle.
- Get home in time for a bath. Elfie doesn’t like the bath after a busy day. She doesn’t like to get her hair wet and she is always worried that Hux is going to poo in there (a valid concern, admittedly). Sometimes I have to bring out my negotiation skills again but this day she actually managed to let me wash her hair without a fuss. Success!
- Put the kids to bed. Bedtime is one of my favourite times of all. The children are clean, cuddly and smell delicious and everyone is happy after a busy day. We read a book (usually Hairy McLairy) and then Hux is the first to get tucked in with his muslin and RaaRaa the lion while Elfie and I have fifteen minutes alone for a cuddle on the sofa.
- Write a blog post. The evenings I have dinner with the kids are brilliant because it means I can spend an extra half an hour or so working rather than cooking. I’m sometimes too tired to sit down and write a blog post but I like to try and get some ideas down at least. Plus if I’ve poured myself a glass of wine I suddenly start to find my own writing rather hilarious.
- Go through my emails. The one thing I’m really bad at is not replying to emails that aren’t urgent. I’m trying to make myself spend an hour on them each evening but it’s hard. I’ll get there.
- Fall into bed. I usually remember I have a washing machine full of wet clothes waiting to go in the tumble dryer AFTER I’ve gone to bed. It’s good it keeps me on my toes.
So, Mr ‘What do you do all day’… This is what I do. What did YOU get done today?
Hux is turning into a real character. At the grand old age of 1 year and 9 months he’s proving to be quite the cheeky little thing, always a smile and a wave for everyone. He’s been walking for about six weeks now and is still ever so proud of his little legs; staggering around like an old man who’s spent the day sinking whisky (but not smelling the same), taking off in pursuit of anything more exciting than his mum is his new favourite activity. You name it, he’s chased it.
He can talk now, no more than one and a half garbled words at once but hearing him make sense of the world around him is pretty awesome. His favourite words are: “CAKE!” (always shouted), “loola” (lolly), “Mama” (heart melt), “RaaRaa”, “‘poon” (spoon), “UP!” (cuddle time), “baby” and “pay” (boy loves his ca$h). He also does a great line in vehicles: tractor, bus, car, plane. And he can count to three! Boy’s obviously a borderline genius. I’m on the phone to Mensa as we speak.
One of Hux’s favourite games is to spend time with me in my bedroom when I get ready for the day. He’s a real magpie, loves adorning himself with my big blingy necklaces and bracelets and staggering about the bedroom with a handbag. He enjoys slinging things around his neck (supervised, obviously) and ‘getting dressed’ by wearing my bra as a necklace. He also has a real thing for hats and is never happier than when removing his socks to wear on his hands.
He’s also a real tomboy. Always banging into things, throwing himself around and enjoying as much rough and tumble as possible. He’s currently sporting two face bruises (door accidents) and a knee scrape (unknown origin). I love that he’s so fearless and enjoys being so physical: future rugby star in the making for sure.
He gets these little obsessions, too. He once carried my toothbrush around for two days straight, using it to clean the carpet, gag. Thanks Hux. He adores his RaaRaa book and we must read it at least six times a day. And most recently we’ve been obsessed with a spoon (or a ‘POON!).
It’s not a real spoon, but please don’t tell Hux that. It’s actually some kind of mirrored implement that came with the doctor’s kit I bought Elfie for Christmas this year. Huxley seems to have adopted this ‘poon as his dearest friend, his closest confidante, his security blanket. It’s with him from morning through to night; he uses it to eat his meals, it splashes water in the bath and is clutched in his tight little fists while he drifts off to sleep. One of the reasons I love my children so much is for these wonderful little idiosyncrasies. I mean, I would love to know what Hux was thinking when he chose his spoon as his new best friend, or when he spent those couple of days with my toothbrush. I don’t remember Elfie going in for obsessions with such aplomb but how wonderful is it to see the differences between my two as they grow up? Like my mum said as I sent her the photograph of Hux sleeping with his ‘poon: these two, they’re like chalk and cheese. Yes I said, Hux is the chalk and Elfie’s the cheese :)
I posted one of many photographs of Hux and his spoon on Facebook this weekend. I was really sad when a friend of mine who has a son who is a year younger than Elfie messaged me: she said she was pleased to see me show Hux and his ‘POON because her son has shown similar traits when it comes to these little obsessions. What got to me was that she said because of this some friends have been questioning her about her son, asking her if she thinks there’s something wrong with him. Maybe he has Autism? they’ve said. My friend says that when she tells one of her son’s quirky stories she gets ‘that look’ from other mums (come on, we all know how it goes when you get ‘that look’) and questions about him being assessed.
I was like, WTF? People have actually said that to you?
I was outraged on her behalf. Firstly, I will never understand why other mothers think that just because they had a child extracted from their body it gives them the right to pass judgement on others’ parenting. I’m tarring a large group with the same brush here but it’s something we’ve all experienced and such judgement is one reason I can be a little wary of forming friendships with other mothers. Secondly, what should it matter? Unless there is something developmentally wrong with my son I see nothing wrong with he fact he spends his days clutching a big ‘poon. He likes it, OK? As long as he’s happy, loved and healthy that should be all that matters. If he’s autistic, artistic or green in colour I don’t really care. All I care about is that he enjoys being a toddler and gets to do what makes him smile, and if that is walking around with a spoon in hand that is fine with me.
I tell you, if anyone dared to suggest that I should take my son to be assessed because of a couple of little quirks then they’d know about it (although they probably wouldn’t, what with me being British and having a stiff upper lip and all). Hey, you know what else? Maybe he’ll be gay because I let him dress up in my jewellery and clothes? That’s another label for you, society.
In all seriousness though, it seems to be a must in this modern life for us to label the world around us and the people in it. Stay at home mum, work at home mum, single mum (raises hand). It’s sad that we can’t just get on with life without these labels; it’s as if putting us all in different boxes brings comfort to others. It’s sad to me that we can’t be more accepting of others and the way they want to live their lives without having to define what they are. We’re all humans, that should be enough definition for anyone.
Hux could grow up to BE a spoon for all it matters to me. I don’t want him to ever think I’m defining who or what he is because of the pressure from society: his and Elflie’s happiness, that’s really all that matters. And ‘My Son The Spoon’? That’d make a great blog post.
When I had Elfie I was determined that I wouldn’t change as a person. I knew some things would be different – I wouldn’t be able to go out on a whim, would be a bit thicker round the middle for a few months, might lose a bit of sleep and there’d be a new little person around the place, but essentially I was determined that life as I knew it would remain the same. How different could things get, right?
Let’s take stock, shall we?
Weird things happen to your body. I’ve carried two children which obviously has put a strain on various parts of me and it shows: I have a spare tyre that I’m currently working on (getting rid of it, not keeping it), my boobs will never be the same and my feet GREW when I was pregnant. I have a funny bulgey vain at the back of my right knee and I won’t go into details because I want some of you to be able to look me in the eye again but: PILES. No 25 year old thinks she’s going to have to worry about piles. Think again.
Unless you have a child or have perhaps been tortured you DO NOT know sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is not being able to think, converse, cook, walk, function. I have had days when I’ve reclined on my sofa and wept feeling so unable to do anything at all: it’s a terrible feeling and is surely the worst thing about motherhood. When you’re in the middle of it you can feel like you’re never getting out of it and you want to punch the well wishers with their pointless advice on how to make your baby sleep (how do they not realise you’ve already tried it ALL?). Also: never tell a new mum she looks tired. Never ever ever.
Something must happen to your sense of smell during birth because you suddenly become totally immune to the smell of poo. Your child can be sitting right next to you and for some reason you have to place your nose to their arse and take a big whiff to decide whether or not they require a nappy change. If you want to make doubly sure you can use your index finger to pull at the back of their trousers and nappy and do a visual check. Pure glamour.
Last night I had a spectacular fail on the shit-whiff front. I did the cursory nose-based check of Hux’s bum as I was filling up the bath: nothing. I sat him on my knee, whipped his clothes and nappy off and plonked him in the bath. With an almighty crap clamped between his bum cheeks. Have you ever seen a bath with a full-length skidmark? My tub spent the day simmering under an inch of bleach but to be frank, I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to relax with bath oils and a couple of candles in there ever again. Thanks for nothing, sense of smell.
The Gross Things
Situations that would otherwise turn your stomach really don’t phase you anymore. I’m talking vomit (OH, the vomit…), poo, snot. Just today I have: dealt with a middle of the night nappy leak, picked a hardened bogey out of my son’s hair, retrieved a half-masticated piece of cucumber off the floor, held a toddler’s hand on the toilet and wiped two bums. I basically wash my hands a lot.
As soon as I had Elfie I developed ALL the emotions. And they never left. I will cry at the drop of a hat these days and have particular things that make me weep more than others. The sickly sweet Dinosaur Train on Nick Jr “I’ll always been your Mom”. WEEP. Any and all charity TV adverts (even the donkey ones). Love stories (The Undateables kills me). Don’t even think about Comic Relief/Children In Need. I even have issues with the X Factor final.