mummy is always tired

In Which We Celebrate Our Greedy Dog

We have a dog.  A long suffering (he’s only three) very patient, very passive black Labrador called Otis.  He is the best dog in the world.  Like most Labradors, Otis is driven by his stomach and the need to fill it…..all the time.  He thinks about food all day, literally from the moment he wakes up to the moment we switch off the lights downstairs and head off to bed.  He follows me to the kitchen on the off chance that some tiny morsel might come his way; the size of the prize is not important.  He withstands the fiercest prods, pats and pokes from our two small children with quiet dignity and selflessness.  Although I’m sure this is all a small price to pay for living in a house with two children who more than occasionally drop food on to the floor by accident (or on purpose as I have observed on occasion).

Having Otis is brilliant, he is my unofficial vacuum cleaner.  The children can throw as many half eaten mouthfuls on the floor as they please, I can always rely on Otis to silently work his way through the mess.  He is keenly tuned in to mealtimes, the trigger is seeing me bring out the highchair tray for my youngest.  Even before I have finished clipping it on, Otis has taken up his standard position as close to the front of the highchair as he can get.  He sits in what must be the most uncomfortable set up for a large dog, he is cramped underneath the table between the highchair and the central pedestal of the dining table but he is waiting……patiently……for food.  Sometimes, if we are having one of his favourites, he cannot control himself and he will start to drool rather unattractively on to my lovely new rug.  This is not so endearing and if this happens he gets told off and tail between his legs he mooches off to his bed, however, like all Labradors, he is an optimist and 10 seconds later he is back, standing guard underneath the table.  I have also caught my eldest and Otis sharing food – biscuits usually, perhaps not the most hygienic but it all adds to strengthening the immune system.

Otis has also proven his worth when it comes to clearing up less than delightful delicacies.  Please stop reading if you are eating.  Because, you see, part of being a Labrador is to have the ability to find EVERYTHING a gastronomic pleasure, this extends to masticated spat out food, snot laced biscuit remnants and on occasion – sick (milky or with lumps).  Most of the time I turn a blind eye, I am secretly overjoyed that I don’t have to deal with too much yucky stuff to clear up – this is especially true with the vomit.  When our children were very tiny, watching the avid licking up of milky spew wasn’t too bad,  Otis relished this, he would lie on the floor for hours, licking away at the carpet, eager not to let one ounce of regurgitated breast milk go to waste.   However as the girls have got older the milky sick stage has passed to be replaced with that bile ridden lumpy chunder we all dread.  It smells bad, it looks terrible and it’s nightmare to clean – where do you start?  Otis! Yes, I am not ashamed to admit that I have often called upon his services to remove the offending partially digested contents of my childrens’ tummies.  Yum.

But we don’t just measure our dog’s worth by how much vomit he can eat, he provides endless entertainment.  He is the short horse that willingly if clumsily can be ridden around the kitchen, he is the funny shaped teddy bear that barks at unknown visitors, he is our hairy third child who does tricks for food (perhaps something we could train our human children to do).  Otis also provides us with everything we need to teach biology – more specifically –  his bottom does.  Our eldest has a keen fascination with what comes out of his rear end, we have a game called ‘find the poo’ which we like to play in the summer.  I hasten to add that it was our eldest that started this game and so far she has yet to tire of it.  Child number 1 is the poo spotter, child number 2 has yet to start playing this game and we, the adults have the grand task of picking up any identified poo.  Whilst I admit it’s not a conventional game it certainly gets us all outdoors.  This game was especially relevant when it came to teaching her the difference between wee-wees and poo-poos.

So there we have it, our lovely Otis is an essential and much loved member of our family – vacuum cleaner, sick mopper upper, biscuit sharing child entertainer, where would we be without him? Probably drowning in cookie crumbs, half eaten food and dried up vomit and I’m absolutely certain about one thing – my carpets wouldn’t still be cream.

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In Which We Remember The Terrible Twos

This month our eldest turned 3, a milestone if only because it should mean the end of the ‘terrible twos’.  I suspect though the only difference between the terrible twos and three is that they can now supposedly articulate their frustrations rather than resorting to fist pounding and foot stamping or in our case – resorting to that silent screaming that precedes a noise so terrible that our dog cowers in fear.  But to be fair we haven’t had it all that bad, the terrible twos have not left so indelible a mark that we are scarred forever.

Looking back there was the time at a certain peri peri chicken restaurant when our eldest, not quite understanding the ordering concept hollered “daddeeeeeeeee”, “daddeeeee”,  “I want my daddeeeeeeeeeeee” halfway across the restaurant.  As if this verbal outburst wasn’t quite enough, in her two year old brain the logical next step was to try and mount the table in an attempt to leap off it and in to her daddy’s arms.  Clearly this was never going to work, meanwhile I’m struggling to quieten our then newborn who had decided to join in the screaming contest.  It was then I realised, in that moment, at that single point in time, we were that family.  The family that cannot control its children, the family that everyone tuts at, the family that disturbs the peace – oh the shame of it, to this day I can’t walk past a Nando’s without slightly shuddering at the memory.

Or there was the time at Jersey airport when, laden with hand luggage and a 14 month old we didn’t have enough arms to carry a tired and grumpy 2 ¾ year old. The result was a miserable, snot encrusted, wailing wretch trailing several metres behind us as we disembarked and made our way to the baggage carousel.  I lost count of the heads that turned in either disbelief or despair or the sympathetic half nods of fellow parents, yes, they seemed to say, we understand.   Then there was the time at airport security when the beloved Woody doll had to go through screening.  Not content with screaming ‘I want my Woody back’ our eldest – quicker than lightening had run through the metal detector, grabbed Woody and run back through the security gate.  Pleased as Punch she was, I on the other hand, was not.

So, it is with some joy that I wave goodbye to the terrible twos and with some trepidation that I welcome this next stage and with it, my eldest’s new found articulation.  With her increasing verbal skills comes the drawback of answering back, because clearly the voice of reason does not belong to two adults with a combined planetary existence of 74 years but to a gangly legged, slightly runny nosed 3 year old.  Some of the comments we’ve had, have without a doubt been corkers.  We tried to dissuade her from drinking the bath water: “it’s full of your sister’s dirty wee-wee”, we cried.  “No,” was the reply, “it’s not my sister’s dirty wee-wee, it’s my wee-wee!”  We have also had to deal with the occasional toddler put down: “I have 8 fingers and 2 thumbs, how many fingers and thumbs do you have?” I asked one evening, “I have hands, mummy” came the rather smug reply as if my understanding of human biology needed some work.

Now to mark this third milestone  we decided to have a party.   Partly due to guilt because we’d not done anything the previous years and partly because we felt she was now old enough to appreciate and understand what the baffling combination of balloons, presents and cake actually means.  Everything was as it should be, enough friends to make it enjoyable but not so many as to make it daunting, an entertainer to occupy the children and lighten the load on us and more importantly enough jelly to appease even our youngest, it was (we thought) a lovely afternoon.  So came the post party critique and with it the toddler put down to trump all the others so far: “Did you like the entertainer, was she lots of fun?” we confidently asked, “No” came the thoughtful but firm reply……”she was too noisy”

And there we have it, so for her next birthday I think we’ll just be staying in.


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The one in which we talk about wee-wees and poo-poos

Joy to the world – our eldest has now been potty trained.  When I say potty trained, I mean during the day and up until yesterday just number ones.  Overall the transition was smooth but perhaps this was due to the chocolaty rewards that ensued after each potty captured wee-wee.  To be honest, it wasn’t an experience I was looking forward to, in fact I did everything I could think of to put it off, not because our eldest wasn’t ready it was probably more that I wasn’t.  I didn’t relish the thought of trying to memorize where every child friendly toilet in the town centre was, or having to deal with any ‘accidents’ in public places – who wants to peel off wee soaked pants in the middle of Sainsbury’s?

Although I needn’t have worried, in those early few days, my eldest demonstrated a bladder of steel.  Almost the whole day would pass before any sign of liquid gold being released.  By day 4 though the skill had been mastered, I’m not sure we did everything ‘by the book’ though, I don’t think chocolate covered mini biscuits are recommended rewards but whatever works, right?  ‘This is easy’ my other half jubilantly praised, ‘we should’ve done it ages ago’ (our eldest is the last of our ‘group’ to be potty trained by some distance), ‘hmmm’ I replied – and just how many poos and wees have you had to clean up I thought.

Success aside, there were obviously hilarities that occurred – though at the time hilarity wasn’t the word that sprung to mind.  There was the time after a long Sunday walk where my eldest ran into the house and couldn’t quite reach the potty in time – the result? Wellies filled to the brim with wee – ‘they’ll dry out’ said the other half – 5 weeks later they are still languishing in the utility room and even after this lengthy time I’m not quite sure if it’s the smell of urine or rubber that is most prevalent.

The time after that there was an incident with the ‘number two’.  Needless to say, the other half was nowhere in sight – he was actually out on the town, cleverly having planned Christmas drinks out with friends on Christmas Eve no less, but this is a WHOLE other story! So our eldest felt the urge and pushed before realising oops, there’s no nappy and started screaming as she realised that the offending number two would dirty her new Peppa Pig pants.  So alarming was this thought, said pushing stopped before the full deposit had made its way out.  Half in and half out, what do I do? I spent a panicked few seconds running around thinking about how to tackle this one, I was quite tempted to use one of the dog’s poop bags but thought that might send out the wrong message to my already distressed child.  But after countless wet wipes and cuddles later the situation was under control.

The one public accident we had was on an aeroplane.  That’s right, why have an accident on the ground, when you can have one thousands of miles in the air and where the only toilets are ones that are tiny and shared between hundreds of other people…..and usually engaged.  Anyway, this was my time to sit back, after all I had our youngest on my lap, let’s see how daddy copes with this one I thought. And actually, he coped really rather well, quick thinking and reflexes saw him whip a nappy under her bottom to catch the excess, a quick wipe down and a change of clothes later, all was calm again.  Although, we apologise if someone sat on a rather damp 28c seat back.

That brings us up to date and to yesterday which saw the first number two successfully (and safely) deposited in potty.  Hurrah!

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What do we want? When do we want it? Who knows?

Every morning I wake to the gentle lapping of waves and the light from the sun flickering on my eyelids.  Then comes the realisation that the gentle lapping is actually the wake sound setting on my alarm clock and that gentle sun? is in fact the light from my Lumie lamp. The reality is, that it’s 6.30am, freezing cold and pitch black. The next hour is a blur of waking and dressing two children under 3. We are all bundled out of the house by 7.40am at the latest to drop off at nursery then the 50 minute drive for me to work (on a good traffic day).

I’m not going to moan about how hard it is being a full time working mum because the reality is, thousands of women around the country work hard every day. It is just a fact of life. What would be good though is to actually be able to balance that without feeling like something is missing. But what? – is it that whole heartedness of doing a job you love and being able to do it well or is it the effort of trying to reconcile the guilt of the dump and run exercise at nursery that leaves a big black hole inside me?

I used to love my job, when I had motivation and ambition. Now I stumble into work, vaguely aware that somewhere on my laundered clothes are the snot marks from little noses being wiped across me. I sit through meetings, phone on silent glancing down every few minutes to make sure the nursery aren’t trying to get hold of me. But what is the alternative, the actual reality of that alternative? The truth is, if I stayed at home, my bundles of joy would drive me insane. I have learnt patience, but it is a new skill for me and one that would be tested in the extreme. I did my year maternity in each case and loved all of it, but was that because it was always a finite arrangement?

But everywhere I look, other mummies seem to have it sorted. Either happy in work or happy to be at home either way, there is happiness galore. But why aren’t I? What is it I want? The truth is, I don’t know anymore. I made the fatal mistake of looking up an old friend on Facebook, only by chance but I shouldn’t have done it. Its the social media equivalent of picking a scab. Here was the perfect example of someone who had it nailed. She is a senior lecturer (fits in well with child care), lives and works in a beautiful European city and she looks radiant. As silly and as self indulgent it is, I felt like even more of a failure – stuck in a self inflicted rut with no idea of how to get out. I am goalless – lost in a fog of endless work, toddler demands and dirty laundry.

I certainly don’t want to come across as a humbug, I have two healthy, happy children and I have a secure job, which is nothing to be sniffy about. Work and life though are not a balance if it were would I feel like I’ve been dragged through that proverbial hedge every day? would I feel that void brought on by being pulled in all directions but my own? But then I remember my 17 month old doing her newly mastered monkey impression in the bath last night and suddenly tomorrow seems like it might be a better day after all.

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