If you’d asked me five years ago to make a list of the places I’d like to live it probably would have gone a bit like this: London, Brighton, Liverpool (I love Liverpool. Brilliant city). Short and to the point. Milton Keynes wouldn’t have been on that list, in fact when I was a teenager I remember categorically telling my mum I thought it was weird that people wanted to live here. I always saw it as an odd town, it had no discernible centre, no history. Why would someone want to live in a place like that? Fast-forward ten years and here I am. Not only am I actually living in Milton Keynes (though if you’re feeling posh you’re allowed to tell people you live in ‘North Bucks, darling’) but I’m a fully paid-up member of the MK Fan Club. Not that one exists. But I’d definitely be on the committee if it did. Let me explain. Milton Keynes is a big town made up of lots of new estates, old villages and smaller towns (Wolverton, Bletchley, Stony Stratford). 34 square miles to be exact. It was designated a ‘new town’ in 1967 and we are 45 miles north-west of London. The city centre consists of a shopping mall, entertainment district, complex with indoor ski slope/skydiving and theatre. It takes 30 minutes to get into London on the fast train which is comparable to places like St Albans and Chesham – but way cheaper! Our lovely little house is on one of the newer estates near the M1, a really quick 5 minute drive from the train station which is useful for travelling into London. We have an absolutely massive park a 10 minute walk down the road which is where we spent a blustery Saturday morning a couple of weekends ago watching my mum run her first ever 5k race. What you can see up there is an aerial wakeboarding set-up on the lake though you’ve got to be pretty mental to be doing that in March (nuff people are mental round here and they always look FREEZING). See? It’s lovely and green round here. Miles and miles of gorgeous Teletubby land-esque parkland to march the kids round. It’s all really pram and bike friendly; MK has 272kms of ‘redways’ which are designated walking/cycling paths so you don’t have to ride your bike on the busy roads (and all those bloody roundabouts). The shopping centre here is ace. You’ve got all the high street clothes shops you need (though I mostly spend all my time and money in Gap cos I’m getting OLD) and you can visit all the shops while staying undercover. Perfect for the winter; who has time to be taking their heavy cold weather coats on and off each time they step into a shop? Naaahh. One thing I love about the area that I live in is its approximation to the places I spend most time. Our house is five minutes from the city centre, three from our health club and five from Waitrose. Plus we’re a short stroll from loads of parks, one of which has a pirate shop which is insanely awesome. Unless you get sea sick, like me. Speaking of the health club, I bloody love that place. Indoor and outdoor pools, sauna, steamroom, jacuzzi, gym, tennis courts, softplay, BAR. I’ve been 4 times already this week: I definitely get my money’s worth. And it’s 0.4 miles away :D Hux is handsomely modelling Muddy Puddles’ Peak Ski jacket in all these photos which was kindly sent for us to try out. We have the Salopettes too, and though we haven’t had any snow this year they’ve been invaluable to us on our walks in the biting wind. Their products are such great value compared to some others on the market: we’re converts! Check out their blog for some great family fun ideas. One thing MK is lacking is more of a food scene. We’re crying out for some decent eateries round this way: most restaurants here are mediocre chains (HI Cafe Rouge, Zizzi etc). We have recently been gifted with a Byron (HOORAH) and Carluccios’ lunch menu is always quite solid but it is a massive pain having to trek into London each time you want a proper feed. One of the most important factors in my enjoyment of life here I guess are the friends we’ve made. Elfie’s pre-school (and first school-to-be) is absolutely lovely and through that (and Twitter!) I’ve stumbled upon local friendships that I’m sure are for life. Five years ago I might not have thought twice about living in Milton Keynes but I can’t imagine myself living anywhere else five years from now. Want to join my fan club?
Do you know how it feels to be really really tired? I thought I did when I was younger. But when I had kids I discovered that wasn’t tiredness, that was a hangover, or a slight sleepiness from getting up at 4am to go on holiday. My heart bleeds for my poor young clueless self who wouldn’t know proper exhaustion if it punched her in the face.
Last week my lovely little two reminded me just how it really feels to be tired. Tired in the sense that I can’t form a sentences when I’m writing emails, so tired that my eyeballs itch, so tired that all I want to do is eat Dominos (that happened) and weep (that also happened). Last week was basically really sodding hard, mostly thank to Elfie who suddenly decided that 5am was morning play time time. 3 days in a row.
But to be fair, she keeps telling me that it’s not long to go til Christmas, so I think I need to work less on writing her name and more about the passage of time. And early mornings. ENOUGH EARLY MORNINGS.
I like to think that when it comes to parenting I am pretty level-headed. I don’t get mad that often, if I’m cross with anything the kids have done I try to give myself a bit of a time out until I’ve calmed down again. But the morning Elfie jumped into Hux’s bed to play with him at 5.15 when it was still dark – I nearly lost it. I was so mad at all my lost sleep I had to put my head under my pillow and have a big ARRGHH.
This is why you should be married when you have kids. You need another person to share the torture with.
Being so tired – for me, anyway – renders me unable to do anything of importance. I lack inspiration so find it impossible to cook things I want to eat and therefore end up eating crap (hence the Domino’s). Work is a challenge when half of my vocabulary has deserted me. Parenting feels a bit impossible when I can’t think about anything apart from the next sleep I might get.
You might think that in these situations it would be nice to have an easy sleepy day at home with the kids, which was my train of thought on Sunday. They hadn’t slept much either, how about we all snuggle up together on the sofa and watch a bit of Disney? WRONG. Neither of my children has a concentration span longer than 7 minutes (which I guess is why Peppa Pig episodes are only five?), which meant that Ariel the mermaid ceased to be interesting as soon as the humans were on the scene. A shame, I was really getting into it.
We tried to make peanut butter cookies instead – and on the whole they turned out really well – but the portion that Elfie worked on ended up stuck to the wall. Next we tried adventuring into the garden but it was raining and cold and those are two things I really don’t like – and I’m the super tired one here, right? We lasted twenty minutes before the whining started and we (I) had to retreat indoors.
Anyway, Sunday ended with us all more annoyed than ever. I recommend forgetting about Disney if you have a day like this and getting the hell out of the house, somewhere that will entertain the kids. Like to soft play, but not one of those super busy soft plays. A friend’s house? But a friend who won’t mind if you moan and whinge about being so tired, so preferably a mum. But not Waitrose… there are lots of sniffy customers at Waitrose who won’t be impressed when your overtired children are screaming in tandem.
This week is shaping up slightly better. Elfie is waking up a whole hour later (6am, I never thought I’d be so happy to see you), I’ve been to the gym and am finally able to string sentences together – though the vocabulary is still not what it was. Took me a whole minute to think of the word ‘Authority’ yesterday. It feels pretty good to be back in the land of the humans who don’t feel like they’re about to poke their own eyeballs out.
I still fancy another Domino’s though.
“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?
There is something about being ill that makes me terribly introspective. Maybe it’s something about feeling the absolute lowest of the low, so miserable and poorly that you can’t even watch box sets all day, to woeful to read a book. Last week this house was struck by the flu and we went down like bowling pins, one by one. Elfie was first and she handled it like a champ, with lots of nose-wiping requests and Peppa sodding Pig on repeat. I was next to succumb to the lurgey and felt so ill that I had to call in back-up in the form of the ex, shipping the kids off with him as I literally couldn’t get out of bed.
I lay there for three days, getting stuck inside my own head because there was literally nothing else to do. I wanted to watch Grey’s Anatomy but my poor fuddled brain couldn’t concentrate, the energy to lie on the sofa rather than bed just wasn’t there and work was totally out of the question. I missed the kids something awful; because my illness fell right in the middle of when the children were on their pre-arranged daddy time they were away for five days in total.They might not sleep much but cor I hated them not being around.
When you are ill you really start to appreciate the little things in your life. You realise how much you take for granted the fact you can get up in the morning, hop in your car and run your kids to school. I missed wandering round the aisles of Waitrose (my happy place) with a cup of tea, choosing between obscure salts to season the evening’s meal. I was distraught I couldn’t muster up the brain power to write emails, blog posts or book ideas and the first shower I managed to take made me feel superhuman.
The diet went to pot and all I wanted to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner was Marmite on white toast (I had SIX SLICES, screw you, paleo). I festered in bed for days on end (real time: two days) spilling clementine juice on the sheets and littering the floor with fusty tissues. All visitors were banned because an ill Alice = a moody Alice and nobody wants to be growled at by me.
Thankful for the NHS and their friendly phone-wielding doctors (I had a rash along with my flu-symptoms which made me convinced I was dying and googling for info about Health on Line didn’t help) I soon had a diagnosis of simple flu and a viral rash. Liquids, rest and paracetamol were the orders.
Nothing made me happier than waking up on my fourth day of illness and actually wanting to get up in the morning. Actually, getting the kids back that day made me the happiest, especially because Elfie got all her Doctor’s garb out (pig mask included) and made me better by vigorously poking at my mouth with a large plastic syringe. In her world doctors closely inspect their patients with a magnifying glass and temperatures are taken via the palm of your hand. It’s awesome.
Hux is still dealing with the tail end of flu: he went down with it the day after me and has a chesty cough that would make any 60-a-day smoker proud. But I’m nearly back to normal: a little bit more grateful for our health and our little lives that we have going on here. Let’s hope this urge to live life with that little bit more vigour lasts longer than my flu did, knackered or not.This post was written in association with Health on Line but I promise they didn’t give me the flu. For more info you can take a look at my Disclosure.
Every time I sit down to write I get a bit stuck. A bit like I’ve forgotten how to write. Misery seemed to have fed my creativity quite well, and now I’m enjoying every little minute of life (fancy that!) the words have dried up. This is writers block, I suppose?
My mum, aka the childminder, is still laid up with her broken ribs after the accident so I’ve been on mummy duty 24/7, focussing on getting out each and every day with the babies. We’ve been discovering mum groups, parks, shops, kitchen dance parties, nursery rhymes. I haven’t done much work but the satisfaction I’ve felt seeing the children bloom and grow has been amazing. They are happy, very happy. They see their dad a couple of times a week and love the time they spend with him (also: I love my time off!). Being the only parent to deal with 5.30am wakeups, not so much, but it’s JUST A PHASE, JUST A PHASE.
Though I haven’t been writing as much I have been squirrelling away experiences and factoids to be brought out soon, when the dust has settled a bit. Like experiences from dates (dating is definitely the best thing about being single), the judgement I’ve felt from other women as a single mother (what about the sisterhood?!), the bad bits and the good bits of solo parenting. Spoiler: it is not as awful as you might think though I am not enjoying the feeling of being so skint.
So that’s me. Standby for some salacious tales coming your way in the next few weeks, and in the meantime go and have a read of my good friend Ruth’s new blog. It’s epic, you won’t regret it.
The thing about writing a blog that prides itself on its honesty and ‘bare-all’ attitude is that sometimes you have to draw a line. This writing I do right here is so very important to me and has shaped me in a way I never felt possible. It’s helped me through hard times and cheered me through happy ones; blogging is a part of my life that is so important I can barely articulate what it means to me. It’s not only my job but my life, my friends, my happy place.
Because of the nature of my oversharing on my blog I am naturally going to come up against obstacles sometimes. Some things that are huge parts of my life, no matter how much I’d like to write about them, are off-limits because they also involve other people. I hate finding myself in these situations because my default coping mechanism is to write, so when that’s not possible I feel stifled and bunged up.
I’m going through one of those times now. In the last few days I’ve gone through a real spectrum of emotions: heartbreak, anger, feeling alone, sad and despondent. A peek of happiness and relief. I’ve tried to keep away from my computer because all I want to do is sit and write and get it out but I can’t.
So instead I’ve been back in the garden, digging dirt and replacing with the happiness that the colour of spring flowers bring. I’ve been cooking with my beautiful little girl and scooping the crusty bits out my poorly little boy’s eyes (surprise surprise, we’re back to the doctor’s this afternoon). I’ve cried over glasses of wine with my mum and cackled over G&Ts with my friends. I’ve said this many times but it remains true: it takes a really rocky patch for you to appreciate and understand how important and wonderful your family and friends are.
So, in a nutshell: god, things get tough as a grown-up don’t they? These decisions you have to make and experiences you must go through, they can really take it out of a person. I’m consoling myself with the thought at the moment that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and as tough as I may be finding life right now it will make me a better person, one way or another.
Another huge big consolation to me was the news that this year I have been shortlisted for a BritMums Brilliance In Blogging award, in the Lifestyle category! I am completely over the moon to have been recognised and I would like to thank everyone who nominated me from the bottom of my heart. I managed to drink a whole bottle of Prosecco at the awards ceremony last year before making some very lewd comments about the Butlers In The Buff who were in attendance. If I were to make it through to that stage this year I promise you much more of the same.
If I could implore you to head this way to the voting form and select ‘More Than Toast‘ in the Lifestyle category you would make this over-sharer extremely happy indeed. You can vote in only one category if you like (though you should vote in more as there are some fantastic blogs in there!). Thank-you!