Disconnected snippets (again)

– Dear advertisers on the TV, radio, billboards, via email, all telling me to treat my dad on Father’s Day: Shut the **** up and go away. And don’t come back next year. No love, me.

– Still absolutely loving my job. I love the child I work with; I love the school; I love the staff; I love shrieking with laughter in the staffroom at lunchtime. I still can’t believe I’m actually employed. I still can’t believe I’m in such a perfect situation for myself. I still don’t take going to work every day even one tiny bit slightly for granted. Doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated, exhausted and look forward to weekends and holidays – but even with the knackeredness and the inevitable flies in the ointment here and there, I am just so bloody, bloody lucky to be there and I love it.

– It was parents evening this week for Three. I noticed the usual facebook status updates among local parents lauding their amazing children with their wonderful reports and excellent work and behaviour. That’s brilliant (and I know it’s been me in the past!). This year I’m heading up the army of parents who didn’t post their children’s achievements on facebook. My child: has great potential but worries too much, is distracted and not concentrating much of the time; we’re really quite worried about her, oh and by the way did you get the letter about headlice? We think she’s got them…. (It’s ok: I’m now very much on the case on both counts!).

– It’s the weekend! Hurrah. I planned a barbecue for today’s main meal, and am now looking rather skeptically at the weather. (sceptic or skeptic?) skeptic looks wrong to me, but sceptic has a red wiggly line under it.

– The house is a total tip again and once I’ve finished this blog post (which many would say is clearly displacement activity – they would be quite right) I’m going to get off my backside and do something about it so we’re not living in squalor for the whole weekend (squalor? squalour? The curse of the red wiggly line again – I was sure I could spell! Is the spellchecker American or am I losing the plot?)

– Two came home from school on Wednesday with curry from lunchtime all down his uniform polo top. I spent ages attacking it to get the lovely yellow stains out and was very proud of my efforts. Sent him off to school the next day in his (almost dry) beautifully clean shirt. He returned that afternoon having had a leaky pen thrown at him. The dark blue mess was incredible. I cried. (It’s almost all come out but there is a small blue stain right in the middle which I think is there for ever). Wouldn’t be so bad but this is a replacement shirt given to him by the pastoral manager because his previous one was so full of unwashable pen stains that he got into trouble for looking scruffy.

– I’m not likely to win any Mother of the Year awards any time soon from either of my kids’ schools, am I? 😉

– I’m so busy and tired at the moment that I’m finding real life social interaction quite difficult. I’ve stopped answering the phone altogether, even to my mum. Texting, email and instant messaging is all I can manage right now. I’m ok during work and can chatter away to everyone at breaktimes, but at home I’m finding being a parent is taking up every single ounce of the energy I possess and I just have no resources left for anyone else. This is normal for a single parent, right? It won’t last for ever? And how come everyone else seems to have it all together and be able to do amazing things like go out to meetings in the evening or volunteer with guides/scouts/at church etc? (on reflection, maybe I need to stop reading facebook status updates altogether for a while…!)

– This blog post is brought to you by honesty and imperfection. None of it is meant as a moan. I’m really happy and content with life at the moment. But I think it’s really important to keep it real. No picture perfect snapshots here. Just life, warts and all.

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Nine.

My youngest child is nine today. NINE. Where did it all go?

By no stretch of the imagination can I even think of her as my ‘baby’ any more. And to be fair, nor do I much want to – it’s fab having older children and I’m not much of a one for hankering after the toddler days. I adore the young person Three is turning into – my quirky, sensitive, articulate, girl with a certain wisdom beyond her years and a very macabre sense of humour!

She has had a lovely day. Thrilled with all of her presents, enjoyed being sung to at school and had a family tea (including Dad and Grandma) with a Minecraft Creeper cake (made and iced by me, and cut into pieces successfully by her!) She went to bed at 8, which is her new bedtime now she has attained another year of age.

I am SO TIRED. This is the first birthday I’ve organised since going back to work. It was all rather last minute but everything kind of fell together successfully. I’ve had a different day at work as my 1:1 child was off ill, so I worked with other SEN children – quite nice to have a change but more tiring than usual as I got to know children I’m not so familiar with, and worked in a class I haven’t been in before.

I’ve now delivered Grandma back to her house and Two to youth club. I’ve collapsed onto the sofa for a quick, but huge, mug of tea. Soon I will go out again to the supermarket to buy essentials for packed lunches and the meal ingredients to get us through to the weekend, and then collect Two at 9.30.

I’d quite like to go to bed right now, if only that option was available! My head is pounding but the responsibilities of a single parent never seem to end (or at least, there is nobody to delegate to!)

I’m so glad Three has had a good day. It was her day and we made it fab for her. She is revelling in the very nine-ness of nine. It suits her, somehow. 🙂

Still in shock!

Son went to his dad’s for the weekend.

Before he went, he looked like this:

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He hasn’t let anyone near his hair for a very long time. Its length was massively important to him. Last time I cut it to tidy it up (a year ago) it involved heart rending screaming and sobbing, having actually run away beforehand at the thought of having it cut.

He appeared after school today looking like this:

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I was so surprised I couldn’t speak for at least 5 minutes!

He likes it. So do I when I get used to it! My boy is growing up.

More change is afoot for me and this boy. I’m still coming to terms with a lot of it and his hair is just the start. There are tears in my future and I have to remember that wherever he is living, he’s still my amazing, unique son.

And he’s so neat and tidy! Bless him.

Our Day Out

One and I went to Liverpool on the train this afternoon. It was a bit of an impulse trip, planned only yesterday and on condition that we were both feeling up to it. We were. Hurrah!

I seem to have got out of the habit of taking the kids out and about. Their dad does a lot of that sort of stuff when they are staying with him, and for a long time I didn’t have the money or the mental resources to somehow bring myself to plan trips. Unemployment and depression are a bugger. I’m feeling better now and have a teeny weeny bit more disposable income, but seem to be finding it really difficult to get past that mental block which has stopped me taking the children anywhere more interesting or further afield than the local park.

Just taking one child is a good way back in, I’m finding. This afternoon was an absolute pleasure. We more or less ran to the station in order to catch the 11.57, which turned out to be firstly hugely delayed once we got there, and then simply cancelled by the time we’d bought the tickets! Ended up sitting on the platform for 40 minutes catching our breath…

Once in Liverpool we found Pizza Hut and indulged in their weekday buffet lunch. Again, far more affordable for only two of us than it would have been with four. Eldest daughter is tremendous company and we laughed our way through the meal, which was delicious and filling!

We headed to the Walker Art Gallery by mutual consent and had a good time looking at the pictures (and making up silly captions for some of them); particularly enjoying the special exhibitions and more modern art. Having been starting to draw during this past week, mostly through the marvellous medium of Zentangle, I looked at the pictures with a slightly different eye than previously. Bought myself a cheap sketchbook in the shop and have already started using it. Not sure what has set off this sudden craze for drawing, but I’m loving it. I feel like I’m moving in new directions with my creativity for the first time in years, and it’s really exciting. Is it an allegory for my life moving in new directions, due to starting work this year? Who knows? I’ll just go with the flow!

On the train journey home there was a lady with her almost 2 year old daughter in our bit of the carriage. They were delightful. The little girl was so enthusiastic about absolutely everything, and so very, very, TWO. A TWOness I remember well from my own children back in the day. The mum was very hands on, playing with her, chatting to her, interacting with the rest of us too; it really brightened up our journey.

It gave me pause for thought about how things have changed for us since One was that age (at which point I had a teeny baby Two as well!) I had almost forgotten what it was like to spend my days with such a small person; the total full on hands on parenting that has to be done; the exhausting, relentless, delightful chatter; the handing over of the bunch of keys, the remote control, the empty crackly bag, whatever will divert and amuse the child for the next one and a half minutes before the next excitement needs to be produced.

My youngest is almost nine now, and the oldest is getting on for fifteen. It’s a very different experience these days. Travelling today with One was just the same as it would be travelling with another adult. The pleasure of her company was totally equal to the delight the lady in our carriage was showing in her own daughter, but it was expressed in a totally different way. I could read my Kindle all the way to Liverpool and all the way back. I didn’t have to cope with a pushchair, a changing bag, several snacks to be brought out at predetermined times (though we did have to use the lift in the art gallery due to One’s dodgy ankle and she was lamenting the lack of a wheelchair to push her around in!)

My friend Serendipturas posted on a similar theme to this the other day and I feel as though I’m copying – but it really was the small child and her mum on the train, as I was travelling with my much bigger child, that sparked off this reminiscence – maybe N’s post was in the back of my mind already.

I loved being a mum to littlies. I love being a mum to these much larger people now too. It’s a very different experience. I’m not needed any less, but I’m needed in a different way and there are times when I can actually do my own thing (like reading a trashy chick-lit novel on my Kindle instead of providing constant exciting entertainment on the train!).

It’s been a good day. Fun, with excellent company (love that eldest daughter of mine  and our identical warped sense of humour!). Exciting with the different view this sudden drawing bug has given me. And thought provoking about the way my life as a mother has gradually changed in the past fourteen years.

Still not sure I’m feeling ready to take all three of them on an expedition at the same time yet, but this was a good start. 🙂

Tough week

If I was still volunteering, I would be giving myself a ‘mental health day’ off today.

As I now work for money, instead of the above I am giving myself a shower, a big breakfast and a stern talking to.

This week, balancing work and home life has fallen apart and everything feels impossibly tricky.

If you know a single working parent who appears to have it all together, be kind to them today. Just in case, like me, they’re secretly floundering a bit.

I know this is totally normal. By next week I’ll probably feel on top of things again for a while. I’m holding out for the Easter holidays to catch up on the admin and phone calls I’m too mentally exhausted and busy to achieve when I get home from work each day.

But today, this is my blog and I’m telling it like it is. And this week, how it is feels almost impossible!

Portrait of a weekend

Me. Two girls.

Takeaway. Comic Relief. Deliciousness; laughter; no washing up required.

The sleep of the truly tired after a week at work.

Laundry. Hanging; sorting; folding; putting away.

Bin bags. Tidy rooms. Huge sense of accomplishment all round.

More laundry. Huge pile of it in a queue for the machine.

Visit from Grandma bearing gifts of clean washing and new mirror. Cuppa; chat; more laughter.

Hanging the mirror. Tidy bedroom yet more enhanced.

Very late night. Tears. Talking. Honesty. Cuddles. Love; lots and lots of that will get us through a time of potential change and upheaval (again).

More tidying. More binbags. More laundry.

Lots of tea and sofa time.

Pancakes.

I’m typing this post while cooking the pancakes. Who knows what Sunday evening will bring? I’m hoping for more of the same: peace, calm, harmony, pride. And above all  a sense of a weekend well done.

Parenting: taking the rough with the smooth

Picture the scene: It’s after 5pm. I’ve just lugged six full, heavy bags for life into the kitchen following the weekly grocery shop. (Disclaimer: actually Two and Three lugged some of them). I’m looking at them wearily, making a mental list of everything that needs to happen all at once, right now.

Snapshot of my brain at that moment:

– Unpack the shopping, targeting the things I bought for tonight’s meal first as I need to start cooking it NOW.

– Why didn’t I have the sense to put tonight’s ingredients all together in one bag?

– Oh bugger. I bought frozen puff pastry, like I always do, but I need it right now. I knew I needed it right now. Why didn’t it occur to me it would still be frozen ten minutes after I bought it…?

– Right. Defrost programme on the microwave. Go.

– Keep unpacking bags. Good grief, this kitchen is a mess. Put the oven on. Get out the flour. Run a load of water in the bowl for washing up all the stuff I left earlier on. What are the kids bickering about in the other room?

Sudden high pitched, over dramatic scream that could only have come from Three. Loud sobbing.

I leave my multitasking in the kitchen and go to find out what is going on. Two has hit her with his cardboard axe. I gather he was doing it as a joke but she overreacted somewhat which then wound him up.

In my tired and frazzled state, I get cross. “Why on EARTH did you hit your sister?” My voice sounds frustrated, unsympathetic.

I expect a response along the lines of ‘well, she started it… etc etc’. Instead, he loses his temper spectacularly, puts his face right up to hers, squeals at full volume, then hits her again with the cardboard axe so hard that it breaks and the cardboard axe head falls to the floor.

I march him out of the door and send him upstairs. He stomps off and slams his door.

I spend a little longer placating the cardboardly wounded eight year old, who isn’t actually hurt, just horribly upset (and definitely a drama queen), before retiring back to the kitchen to contemplate the million and one things I was trying to do, nerves shattered, all semblance of calm vanished.

Some days I swear I can feel my hair turning grey, strand by strand, under the purple dye.

I had already told the children in no uncertain terms that no way were they allowed to have any chocolate before their tea. I broke my own rules and broke into my own chocolate as I rolled pastry, chopped vegetables, opened tins, washed the pots, put away the rest of the shopping and vented on Twitter (my goodness, Twitter is FABULOUS for venting in 140 characters).

Half an hour later, the food was cooking, the chocolate was a few squares smaller, the kitchen was tidyish and my equilibrium was restored.

By the time we all sat down to tea, I had come up with a plan for bribery incentive.

“RIGHT. As you all know, I’ve bought Belgian waffles for pudding, to have with ice cream, golden syrup and chocolate sauce. If everyone can sit around the table and eat harmoniously, we will all enjoy that. If we can’t do that, then they can easily wait for another day…”

I had uttered the magic words.

Everyone was nice to each other. We chatted, we smiled, Three offered to mend Two’s cardboard axe for him (he decided he’d rather do it himself, but it was a kind gesture under the circumstances!).

At one point towards the end of the main course, someone said something slightly pointed to someone else. I now can’t remember who or what.

“Remember everyone, we need HARMONY…” I prompted them.

Without pause for breath, all three children instantly began to sing ‘aaaaaaaaaaaaaah’ – settling swiftly into a tuneful triad chord.

I collapsed in giggles over my almost empty plate. Everyone else started to giggle as well. They think it is hilarious when I sink into mock despair.

“Mum”, said One, “You do have the most awesome children ever, don’t you?”

Yep. I can only agree.

We had our Belgian waffles. The evening was turned around completely and everyone went to bed smiling.

As will I, shortly, when I’ve finished this mug of tea.