The Children earning their keep!

Carry On Glamping

My hubby is buying camping gear again.  He is studying the screen of his iPad as if his life depended on it, scanning the various deals on Ebay and bidding against other Dad campers looking for the best price in portable gas cookers or enamel mugs.  It has become an addiction of his ever since I begrudgingly agreed to ‘give camping a go’. Apparently, sleeping in a home decked out in waterproof material in the Great Outdoors is fun! It will reconnect us with nature, he says, make me appreciate the peace and quiet around me and help us embrace back to basics living.  I, however, envisage a weekend of living like a survivor from The Walking Dead, looking grubby all weekend, not bothering to change out of my pyjama’s during the day and trying to make a family meal out of a can of beans and a pack of sausages.

When the whole camping holiday idea was put on the table last year it was laughed out of the room by me and my 7-year-old daughter.  Sleep in a tent? Wee in the woods? My daughter won’t even use a public toilet without moaning about the state of the facilities.  However, with two sons aged 7 and 11 with a reason to behave like Bear Grylls on holiday, not having to wash much and being allowed to wee in the woods, us girls were outnumbered and the camping gear started arriving in the post.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, for hubby’s birthday in April, I booked us 5 and our golden Labrador Chester on a ‘Glamping’ holiday.  It would be 3 days in a “luxurious home from home canvas retreat”, basically a posh tent with wooden floors, proper beds, working toilet, a shower and a kitchen.  This is how camping is meant to be done, as if I am a member of royalty on safari in Africa.  If I could hack this and actually enjoy myself then I would definitely slum it on a normal camping holiday after.

Out of Africa and into a Chicken Farm in Suffolk!

Out of Africa and into a Chicken Farm in Suffolk!

There were 5 tents situated in a large farmers field on a working chicken farm.  Thankfully, a free range egg farm, with about 3,000 chickens happily scratching about in a neighbouring field.  The tent was love at first sight with oak wood floors, thick canvas on the outer walls with huge tapestries hanging from the inner walls. The tent was decked out in shabby chic furniture and the beds were beautifully made with plenty of hanging space for our clothes.  It was, however, definitely back to basics as my eldest discovered whilst trying to plug in his iPhone.  There was no electric hook-up and our only source of heat was the Aga in our lounge area, but we did have running water which was a bonus.  I was already picturing myself in a scene from Poldark, making pies for the Aga, trying my hand at needlework in front of the fire and taking a turn round the room with hubby in the evening.

In the tent next to us, we thankfully had neighbours consisting of a family of five like us with children of similar ages to ours and even a dog for Chester to harass.  Kids being kids struck up a friendship with each other after about 7 minutes whilst us grown ups just waved and made a bit of small talk about the weather.  Despite my fears of the children moaning constantly about being bored, they instead become feral quite quickly and proceeded to build dens and climb trees and introduce themselves to the farmer all within the first few hours of arrival.  All was hunky dory as we settled down for our pasta evening meal that I had prepared on our two gas ring stove (planning on cooking my Poldark pies on the Aga tomorrow, might even bake some bread).  Hubby had got the Aga fire burning to its maximum capability and we hoped that soon the tent would warm up nicely for our first nights sleep.

After an hour or two, we realised that the heat output generated by the Aga was not really going to warm up any part of the tent and that it was mainly for show.  As the kids started to shiver and put their coats back on in the tent, I realised then that all was not well, that in fact there was quite a strong breeze coming through the gaps in the lovingly sanded wooden floors and that the sheer size of the tent meant that any heat generated was never going to be distributed.  As it was only 7.30pm we couldn’t really go to bed to warm up, so brought ALL of the quilts into the lounge to play Scrabble.  As a westerly breeze blew through the lounge, we wrapped the kids up with hats and gloves and starting to unpack our clothes so we could wear all of them.  Chester, who normally will happily sleep at our feet, climbed on top of our quilts and moaned.  The dog was even cold, this was not boding well!

We sent the kids to bed in as many layers as possible and wished them goodnight whilst trying to laugh off the fact that they could actually see the breath leave our mouths from the cold environment around us.  I was now refusing any offers of wine as I was too cold to visit the loo and against medical advice, was dehydrating myself in a bid not to have to undress at any point.  Me and hubby took our turn around the room, however, we had to do it with the throws from the couch wrapped around us and it was more of a shuffle and a shiver then a pleasant stroll.  Luckily, hubby had brought hot water bottles which was the only reason I didn’t cry when inserting myself into the freezing cold bedding.  We prayed for a sunny morning and hoped we would make it through the night without frostbite.

The Children earning their keep!

The Children earning their keep!

The following morning, we were all up bright and early.  Our neighbours had literally moved into their car so they could put their heater on.  Thankfully, the sun came out and we were able to defrost a bit. We headed off to the local supermarket and as well as our planned shopping list, stocked up on firelighters and even managed to find some long johns in the sale section. We spent all day out and about visiting the Suffolk coast and basking in the sunshine, trying not to think about another cold night in the tent.  When we returned ‘home’, Chester point blanked refused to enter the tent as if the tent had transformed into the vets.  Our host, the farmer, walked over to see us and in true British fashion we told her how settled we felt and how well we had slept, with no intention to complain, stiff upper lip and all that.  She told us of a dog friendly/child friendly pub in walking distance that we could visit that evening and with the promise of a real open fire we decided it was the best bet.

After trying to persuade the local publican to let us sleep in the pub and despite being joined by my daughter who was too cold to sleep alone and Chester who looked like he was silently weeping, we made it through our last night. As we packed up on the final day, my last glimmer of hope was that this might have put hubby off the whole camping lark.  We weren’t campers, we couldn’t even glamp! Unfortunately, it had made him more ambitious to see it through with the reasoning that normal camping is warmer!  So, in 3 weeks time, we will be taking our Ebay purchased tent and accessories and sleeping in a different field and apparently doing that whole embracing nature thing again.  Oh well, at least I have my long johns now!

Let’s Get Physical

Keep Fit.  Ever noticed how the phrase ‘Keep Fit’ sounds like a command? How Nike tells us to “Just Do It” and Adidas insists that “Impossible is Nothing”.   I’m sure most people find these slogans inspiring but I tend to find them a bit bossy!  Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means a couch potato.  As most of you know I own a demented golden Labrador called Chester who I have to chase daily over the park to retrieve him from bothering other dogs/members of the public and his most recent pastime of disrupting outdoor Boot Camp classes (they pull tyres along a park, what do they expect? It’s catnip for dogs!).

However, aside from my dog walking exercise regime I am also a member of a gym.  When we moved recently, we decided it would be a nice ‘family’ endeavour to become members of our local leisure centre, we could take the kids swimming once a week and hubby and I could take it in turns to hit the treadmills and join in on the many exercise classes on offer.  This little plan of ours started last September and we were very committed for about erm…. 2 weeks, but things have slipped a little over the last 5 months or so!

In my late teens, me and my mates donned our leg warmers to eagerly jump along to my Mum’s Jane Fonda Workout VHS.  Anyone else remember Leslie singing her “Do It” song where Jane instructed us to ‘sing along to if we knew our breathing well enough’? Which was easier said then done when you are trying to follow her jumping jacks whilst whooping and high fiving each other!

Nowadays, I try to move out of the living room and into the gym itself.  When we joined our new gym I avoided the induction on offer as I tend to have a weird goldfish memory when it comes to being shown gym equipment. By the time they have talked me through how to ‘work on my abs’ or ‘boost my biceps’ with what looks like Medieval torture equipment, I have completely forgotten where I should put my peg on the weights or how to adjust the seat.  Then there is the intimidation of the masses, the other gym people who seem to look like they instinctively know what they’re doing whilst I’m desperately trying not to slide off the treadmill while jabbing at buttons to incline or speed up my pace.  With every session I tried to be bold and brave the weights or Stairmaster but normally end up in my comfort zone of using an exercise bike whilst watching This Morning.

Intimidating sight!

Intimidating sight!

But it’s OK, I don’t need to go to the gym, I can do exercise classes instead, this will maximise my monthly direct debit membership that I really can’t afford.  I started off gradually with a few Yoga and Pilates classes, stretching and meditating my way through the week.  Then decided I ought to be increasing my workout beyond working on my wellbeing and actually shift some calories.  Spinning looks too hard, particularly as you have to wheel the static bikes in and out of the classroom before and after the lesson!  Body Pump involves aerobics and weights, I have dabbled in this class before in my 20s and remember the John Wayne walk I adopted from ripping my muscles and I’m just not that committed to gaining with pain just yet.

I drag hubby along to a Body Combat class one morning which is good but too exhausting for 9am on a Monday morning, jab jab, run round the room, kick, jab, run on the spot…. Phew!  So I decide to drag my friend along to try out Zumba.  What’s not to love, twerking and shimmying for an hour without judgement!  It is fun, exhausting, challenging yes, but enjoyable.  Me and my friend hide at the back, pretty much keeping up with the quite tricky dance moves, throwing in a bit of freestyling when I lose my place but generally feeling quite good.  When Beyonce’s Crazy In Love starts pumping, I’m fairly certain I am now resembling one of her backing dances, until that is I catch a glimpse of myself in the surrounding mirrors and decide not to make any career changes just yet!

I love Yoga.  It’s the one exercise class literally anyone can do.  The best Yoga class I ever attended was with my Mum where I used to live.  As it was during the working day at an Adult Education Centre it mainly consisted of retired folk with the odd youngish Mum like me attending.  On my first lesson, it did seem to resemble a scene from Cocoon, lots of silver-haired folk who seemed strangely so much more agile and energetic than me.  I had no idea how old anyone was as they looked so youthful and were so capable of every exercise that I was still trying to get to grips with.  I have been to numerous Yoga classes over the years but none quite like this one, not only did we start with 30 minutes meditation but ended with at least 30 minutes of meditation.  Two hours of Yoga and meditation, pure bliss and well worth clearing my work schedule each week for.  I have found Yoga at my new gym but as soon as I settle down for my expected long stint of meditation, after 5 minutes the lights are back on and the next class is piling in.

My Downward (Chester) Dog!

My Downward (Chester) Dog!

 

However, today I discovered Hot Yoga.  This is not a kind of cocktail or a spa treatment, but an actual exercise class.  It is basically Yoga with the central heating on full, which I’m sure has some sort of scientific reasoning behind it, but just made me want to adopt the foetal position and sleep.

So, whether you’re a gym bunny who actually knows what to do with a medicine ball, a Zumba devotee who can get your Salsa on at any given moment, or you are closing your living room curtains so you can jump about to a Celeb fitness video, I have come to the conclusion that you must do what makes you happy as long as it makes a difference in the end.  As Jane would say “Feel the Burn!”

Joyless January

Click on me: Diet Picture Courtesy of ProPicture Plus

January oh January! This month many people are embarking on their doomed to fail resolutions, myself included! I have promised to do a dry January even with the lure of half a bottle of Bailey’s leftover from Christmas, as well as cut down on sugar and other bad stuff, lose weight, budget my finances, ya da ya da ya da. In fact, this week kicked off with ‘Blue Monday’, which is apparently the most depressing day of the year as most of us are either halfway through our resolutions and feeling deprived or we have failed them and are back to supping the wine and neglecting calorie counting. It is also really cold and you are having to wear lots of layers whilst dealing with chapped dry skin and payday feels like eons away.  But we must not let this dampen our spirits.  We must embrace our stiff upper lips and battle on through our ambitious resolutions and if you have slipped then just jump back on track. Here are my top 5 tips to see you through the last week of your hopefully not too dreadful January:

1. DIETING KNOW HOW  

Please forgive me but I’m about to quote Katie Hopkins. Her philosophy for losing weight is eat less and move more, which seems pretty obvious but she maintains 10,000 steps a day on a pedometer is the trick to making it work. So my hubby has been my lab rat this week and hitting the 10,000 a day target and it appears to be working. It may mean ditching the car and walking instead or a lot of going up and down stairs, or perhaps an impromptu rave in your lounge would help, but get those steps clocking up and see the difference.  Furthermore, chew each mouthful 40 times, I know it sounds a bit Rainman, but it will seriously help your digestive system from having to break down large particles of food as well as tricking your brain into thinking you’re fuller quicker.

2. BALANCE THE BUDGET

Every month my outgoings far outweigh my income so my tip is to have two spend free days a week. Leave your purse/wallet at home, take a packed lunch and flask of coffee/water bottle to work. It may mean at some point you will be scrabbling through your change pot in the car but try not to be tempted to have a debit card with you.

3. COUNTING SHEEP

I’m a part-time insomniac, some nights I sleep like I’m in a coma and other nights I fidget about wide awake watching the clock tick by. It’s frustrating and completely floors me the next day. According to experts, to be a better sleeper you have to train your mind by sticking to a routine with the same bedtime each night and make sure you wake up the same time each day. This means no late nights and no lie-ins at weekends, set your alarm (mine is child shouting in ear alarm) and read in bed/watch TV if necessary but don’t sleep in, eventually your body will be conditioned to sleep well during those regular hours.

4. IS BREAD BAD NEWS?

Bread gets a bad review from dieters but if you are dieting don’t completely turn your back on bread. I did earlier this week and found myself literally drooling at the window of my local bakers. According to those experts again, it is OK to eat bread if it is home-baked or sourced well as mass-produced bread has lots of nasty additives. So no more just sniffing that freshly baked loaf to get your fix but treat yourself to a slice instead (just the one slice though!).

5. SUGAR ADDICT

Sugar is bad for you, like really bad, as addictive as cocaine apparently. I mean there are times I could easily scour the streets for a fix at any price, even lowering myself to a Bounty bar if desperate. But we need to quit or massively cut down to avoid a future blighted with health problems. Guidelines recommend 5-6 teaspoons a day for women and 7-8 teaspoons for men and that includes hidden sugars in processed food. Cold turkey here I come!

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen 2014!

As you stuff down the remnants of your Christmas cheese board, all washed down with your novelty flavoured Bailey’s and the promise of a diet/detox/new you as of tomorrow, I would like to take you back through some of the events of the past year.

Just as I did last year, (http://anounceofme.com/2014/01/01/well-hello-2014/), I find it amazing that another year has passed by in a nanosecond.  My personal year has been fairly life changing, we moved our family to the countryside and the kids into new schools and I appeared on Sky News being interviewed by Eamonn Holmes as a ‘parent expert’ on technology.  The weirdest part of the experience was eating porridge in a green room at 5.30am alongside Katie Hopkins and Tony Blackburn.  But in the real world it was quite a year!

A WORLD GONE MAD

Faster Faster!

Faster Faster!

There has been many a news story this year that has tried my faith in the world.  Firstly, the ongoing horrific outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, I donated, I did as I was told by Sir Bob and downloaded the Band Aid single, then asked my 11-year-old son who half the people were and in turn explained who Sinead O’Connor and Seal were to him.  We learned that evil exists in the form of ISIS and their relentless beheading of innocent people as we continue to live in fear of their threats.  Borders in countries throughout the world were fought over and torn apart, even in the UK we watched with anticipation as Scotland voted to stay and allegedly caused the Queen to purr in pleasure of the news.  Kim Jong Un continued to pop up on the news as a feared dictator, even though whenever I see him he appears to be visiting a cake factory.  There has been a spate of plane crashes, devastating towns with hundreds of people vanishing from the skies and leaving us with the feeling that flying is not the safest way to travel.  And Operation Yewtree continued to lock up dirty old celebrities with Rolf Harris being incarcerated for his perverted actions…. Rolf Harris! Putting a whole new meaning to his catchphrase “Can you see what it is yet?”.

THE WORLD CUP RUMBA

My 6-year-old son became this man's biggest fan during Brazil 2014.

My 6-year-old son became this man’s biggest fan during Brazil 2014.

Brazil hosted the World Cup in the summer and us Brits actually were quite realistic about our chances this time round.  Only a few St Georges flags adorned houses and we were not plagued by an unmemorable football song telling us ‘it was our 1966′, in fact my two sons already had their back-up teams ready in case England went out early.  We lasted 6 days!  Most of the England fans hadn’t actually arrived in Brazil and we were already out of the competition.  You can read my blog about it (http://anounceofme.com/2014/06/20/footballs-coming-home-again/) but suffice to say we were rubbish, we lost 2-1 to Italy then lost 2-1 to Uruguay and couldn’t even hide behind Luis Suarez biting one of our players, we finished our reign of hopelessness with a goalless draw against Costa Rica, Costa who??  However, despite our early departure I enjoyed this World Cup more than any others.  The Brazilian crowd were lively and engaging, even the television coverage had catchy theme tunes.  I was almost joining the Brazilian population in tears when Germany destroyed them with a 7-1 semi-final victory and then went onto win against Argentina.  Faith in humanity was restored when it was revealed that German football star Mesut Ozil donated his prize money totaling $400,000 to Brazilian charities as a thank you.

STUPID DEATHS

The Loss of Legends

The Loss of Legends

We lost some great people this year, Lauren Bacall, Richard Attenborough and Rik Mayall to name but a few.  However, there were two passing’s that affected me greatly.  In February, one of my favourite actors Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead following a drug overdose. A waste of a huge talent and at just 46 he had so much more to offer.  A man who had battled drug addiction in his youth and had been sober for 23 years before massively slipping off the wagon and ending it all in a heroin binge during one fateful night.  In August, we received the shocking news that comedic legend Robin Williams had taken his own life.  Nothing prepared me for how I felt about this sad news.  Robin Williams was a big part of my growing up from Mork and Mindy being on the TV when I was a child to his numerous acting roles in some of my favourite films.  I consumed every news article on his suicide, unable to process the news or to understand how such a hilarious energetic man could be so sad in his private life.

AND FINALLY

Millionaires were made overnight (with a little help from my offspring) with the release of the Disney film Frozen becoming the highest grossest animation in history.  I have now watched it with my 7-year-old daughter at least 117 times, have the words to ‘Let it Go’ imprinted onto my memory and enough merchandise to start our own shop.  Also a big hit in our house and many others was the invention of loom bands, annoying little elastic bands of various colours with crochet style hooks and fastenings that captured even my 10-year-old sons imagination as he constructed all manner of bracelets, flags, ropes, etc.  Us parents in turn entered a battle of clogging up our hoovers, trying to stop small children and dogs from eating them and adopting an ever-changing impressed reaction to the many designs thrust in our direction.  I found myself on a night out putting on a nice dress, heels and then being given a guilt trip into wearing a collection of vivid loom band jewellery to complete my outfit.

Whatever your plans are for tonight, a New Year is almost upon us.  It is time to bid farewell to the woes of 2014 and look forward to the promise of 2015.  Be merry, be hopeful and try to avoid any “conscious uncoupling”!

Happy New Year!

Double Trouble – Pregnancy and Beyond

“We’re twins, and so we love each other more than other people.”  – Louisa May Alcott

Our eldest son will be 11 next month and our boy/girl twins are now 7 and fully fledged junior school attendees.  It is honestly crazy how quickly the time goes by, it only seems like yesterday that we were trying to get our heads around the news that two babies were heading our way.  Dealing with newborn twins was no mean feat and pretty much eradicated any broodiness I may have felt beforehand.  It was certainly a journey but I wouldn’t change it for the world.  I have decided to share with you over the next few posts my twin experiences.

When our eldest son turned 2 we decided that it would be nice to add another sibling to our family unit. It took a while to happen and as often is the case, once we ‘stopped trying’ I fell pregnant. Trouble is, after giving up on baby Number 2 in the November, we had booked our wedding for the following December.  When I found out that a baby was on the way it was too late to cancel the wedding and stupidly thought ‘how hard can a 3 month old baby at a wedding be?’ Perhaps hindsight is a useful tool, but at this point we didn’t realise that two stowaways were growing within!

At my first scan the nurse gave me an excited grin telling me she “had a surprise for me” and promptly turned the screen to show me two alien looking beings sitting back to back. Shock was an understated feeling that I experienced in that moment.  With my now tear-streaked Mum sat holding my 3-year-old son, I tried to reason there must be some mistake, could she scan again as twins are not in my family, must be a computer error?  With a ‘You Mums’ knowing smile she ignored this request, congratulated me and sent me on my way clutching a photograph of the phenomenon that was now occurring inside of me. My little lad was seriously confused after only just getting his head around the fact he was going to have a baby brother or sister and now it seems he was being given a bonus one! I then proceeded to tell random strangers in the hospital that “I have two babies in my belly…TWO!” as if I was some miracle mum having to bear twins for the first time in history.  As hubby was unable to make the appointment due to work commitments (he is a police officer in London) I phoned him with the news saying “They are OK, the babies, we have two of them!”  He decided it must be a wind up as my Mystic Mum had a dream that we were expecting twins and here I was making the dream a reality.  He started babbling about space in the car and about buying a new one. Car? Car! I was going to be growing two human beings in my body and providing them with their airport lounge for departure! I couldn’t think of practicalities at this point!

Being pregnant with twins is a bit like waking up one day and deciding to emulate Demis Roussos’s fashion sense. Goodbye to the funky elasticated panelled maternity jeans I wore with my firstborn and hello to kaftans and non-restrictive garments. At 6 months pregnant, when I had to give up driving as was unable to fit my ever-expanding belly behind the drivers wheel, I was often asked “how many days/weeks I had left” to which I would answer “Still have 3 months to go! There are two in there!” This answer was met with a look of horror and a glare at my stomach. Yes it really will get bigger!

Movement becomes very laboured in the final trimester, the trimester they call the ‘nesting period’ where you fix up the nursery or go shopping for baby clothes.  However, with a twin trimester I needed a cat nap after just managing to get to the top of the stairs to use the loo.  To add insult to my swollen ankles, I had my beloved and oh so energetic 3-year-old son to care for.  Not wanting to make him feel less loved I had to slap on the air hostess smile, strap on my hipflask of Gaviscon and play whatever game he wanted for hours on end. He took to asking me to lay with him at bedtime to help ‘look after the babies’.  Not one to pass up the opportunity of a nap I happily agreed.  One evening, whilst I squashed myself into his tiny bed, my phone rang downstairs, then my mobile in the next room, then the house phone again. I knew it was my Dad checking up on me whilst hubby was on nights. Trouble being I was now like a beetle stuck on my back, unable to roll over the top of my child for fear of crushing him and with no other way to pull my massive stomach into a seated position, I just had to lie there helplessly. Eventually, I heard my Dad’s car screech to a halt outside, his spare key in my lock and me shouting “I’m OK, just stuck!” to his relief. He hauled me out of the bed in a similar fashion to those diet shows where the overeater gets stuck on the sofa and they have to remove the side of the house.

The twins grew daily and I had to switch to eating little and often as my stomach (and bladder) were now squashed flat with all the room they were taking up.  One day, as I neared the light at the end of the tunnel, my daughter was on the move, my son’s head had engaged so he was in the cockpit ready for launch, but my daughter had decided to head the other way, perhaps to use my tonsils as a chew toy as she had exhausted my other organs. This, however, meant that she had pushed herself under my ribcage and I couldn’t actually take deep breaths without excruciating pain. I had to spend a whole day in the pre-maternity ward begging passing midwives to “get these babies out please” in an ever-increasing panicked voice.  My Obstetrician, who obviously had to fill her monthly quota, asked me (from a distance) to “hang in there as you are only 35 weeks and we are going to get you to at least 37 weeks”.  We? WE!! I don’t see anyone else enduring this pity party of never-ending months of pregnancy.  Thankfully, she ignored my hormone induced rants and my daughter eventually wiggled herself away from my ribcage and allowed me to breathe again.

The next two weeks went very slowly but I managed to make it to 37 weeks. I developed an amazing knack for doing things with my feet.  It was impossible to try to bend down to pick things up, or get off the floor again if I did, so my toes became very dexterous. My eldest son had become used to the hippo that was formally his Mum who now cried at most things on the television and resembled a narcoleptic most afternoons.  My bag was packed with my birth plan which pretty much read ‘Who the hell knows what will go down?’ and we were off.

I will spare you the gory details of my D-Day, apart from the fact that I pushed those creatures out naturally, pat on the back for me!  I had taken a lot of drugs, along with my hubby who was experimenting with the gas and air between my early contractions. As natural births with twins are quite rare I was asked if I would mind some student midwives observing. Obviously, asking me after drugging me meant I agreed and when it all kicked off I felt a bit like a stand-up comedian with a room full of people willing me on. My son came first and he was so tiny that the hat I brought for him was too big and he looked like a little elf. He was shown to me like a prize and then taken away as I set about getting my daughter out. However, my daughter now sensing the extra room decided to do some back flips and the nurses starting prepping me theatre and I don’t mean the kind that puts on shows. “No way Jose! You made me wait for this natural birth now let’s get her out!” So whilst hubby looked on desperately as I almost bit off my on tongue, our little lady finally arrived naturally. I was finally allowed to hold them both. It really hit me then, I have two babies, oh Jeez, how wonderful, but oh god this is going to be a challenge!

Stay tuned for my next twin instalment!

Upping Sticks

My blog has returned! No longer is it pushed to the depths of my endless to-do list, but back for your (hopeful) enjoyment for the foreseeable future.

See, the reason for my complete lack of blogging of late is because we have moved house. Yes, we have upped sticks, packed up the house, the kids and the dog to move away from the hustle and bustle of living in London, for a quieter life in the countryside. It has been about five years in the planning, three of which were fraught with ‘shall we, shan’t we’ conversations and in the last year it has been the head mash that comes with selling and buying your home.

We lived in our last house for eleven years, our three children have been born there (not literally) and our family of five has acquired ten tonnes of clutter along the way. With our eldest boy about to embark on Year 6 and our twins heading into Year 3 of juniors, we felt that the time was right to make this move.  However, it is no mean feat trying to relocate five lives (plus a dog, although to be fair he really only needed his blanket packed).  Not only did we have to find someone to buy our house, we had to find a house we liked enough to buy, find three school places and work out hubby’s new commute.

Selling our house was an experience I wouldn’t wish to repeat anytime soon.  As a serial renter before me and hubby bought our now former family home, the whole selling house business was something I viewed on TV with the likes of Kirstie and Phil seemingly completing the process in a day. It didn’t look that hard, I just needed to adopt a loud assertive voice and a confident sales patter. Or so I thought. When the droves of buyers (seriously there were a lot) decided to invade our home I found myself acting more Gollam than Kirstie, gathering up my ‘precious things’ and muttering under my breath when prospective purchasers turned their noses up at our choice of décor.  The first few buyers through our door I practically hugged, offered homemade cookies and a spreadsheet of the pros and cons of living in our street. As the numbers went up and no offers were on the table, my sales approach become a little lacklustre.  I no longer felt impelled to gush about my happy home but instead allowed them to show themselves around and have free reign in looking through my cupboards.

I think my lack of enthusiasm came after the many frustrating questions such as ‘its quite small for a box room isn’t it?’ or ‘your stairs are a bit steep aren’t they?’ or ‘why isn’t there a downstairs toilet?’ (which was asked whilst rooting through my understairs cupboard, presumably looking for Harry Potter).  One delightful purchaser asked hubby ‘where the stink pipe was?’ whilst examining our decked patio, not really sure what her intentions were but each to their own! One couple who seemed very interested and who I actually mouthed “its in the bag” to hubby about, said they would have bought it but were put off by the view of houses across the street.  Erm..this is a London Borough and not the rolling hills of Wales!

No turning back now!

No turning back now!

However, our saving grace came one Sunday afternoon whilst I was sitting at the dining table with the children doing homework, a roast dinner emitting delectable smells around the house and I was channelling my inner Mary Poppins, with much less singing involved.  Our Estate Agent had done their usual Crystal Maze style challenge of a 10 minute warning of an impending viewing, meaning we had to ready the house in record time and hide the dog in the neighbour’s garden.  The prospective purchasers arrived whilst I bribed the kids not to talk under any circumstances as they have a tendency to point out flaws. Example, buyer will compliment wallpaper, child will explain Daddy had to cover something up. Buyer will point out fence panels, child will own up to the ‘quick job’ they overheard from their parents. Thankfully, the buyers this day were a very keen young couple embarking on their first home and hubby and I were both on a mission to get our house sold! While hubby bombarded them with information on loft insulation and ‘reliable boiler systems’, I was retelling all the happy memories that had occurred in this home and what a good vibe it has! And despite our dog actually breaking through the fence to say hello, the couple made an offer the following morning!

Many people informed me over the weeks following our sale that moving house was ‘the most stressful thing you can do in life’.  Now, as a mother to twins I reckon I can turn my hand to most pressured situations so I smiled my reply and promised to ‘prepare myself’ all the while feeling smug that I had it in the bag! Yeah right. For anyone who has moved, they will know that it is not a stress free experience. Firstly, even after we had majorly decluttered, had a boot sale and carried out numerous trips to the charity shops with unwanted goods, it dawns on you how much stuff you actually own. I became so intimidated about packing it all up that I literally hid the moving boxes and found a million reasons not to embark on the process. Finally, a good friend of mine couldn’t stand it any longer and came round to get me started.  After a full day of wrapping, boxing and ridiculing my possessions, we had only actually packed up half of my kitchen! It’s then that I realised the enormity of the task in hand.  And if it was going to take me that long to pack up our house, how long would it take to unpack at the new house!

Moving day came around far too quickly and after shipping the kids off to my parents, hubby and I spent our last night in what was now someone else’s home.  I expected to feel sad and a sense of attachment, but without the children at home and our belongings all packed up, plus sleeping on a mattress in a bare room looking much like a squat, it didn’t feel like home anymore. I was ready and excited for our next step. And apart from leaving our family, friends and the best neighbours ever behind, I couldn’t wait to embark on our next chapter.

We have been in our new home for almost three months now which is hard to believe.  The time has flown by. The children have settled into school and made friends. Hubby has become a long haul commuter and is actually reading real books again (so proud) and me and Chester are settling in with the thoroughbred country dogs over our local park as he tries to repress his hooligan side. Lets just say you can take the dog out of the City but you can’t take the City out of the dog!

 

I Am Never Drinking Again….

Hangover
noun: hangover; plural noun: hangovers
  1. 1.
    a severe headache or other after-effects caused by drinking an excess of alcohol.
Today, I am suffering with my second day of a hangover and I am definitely feeling the alcohol blues!  I know its self-inflicted and I shouldn’t expect sympathy, but I didn’t intend to end up feeling this way!
On Saturday I had a girls night out to mark the occasion of my leaving do.  You see, me, hubby and the kids are moving to the country in a few weeks time and to celebrate/commiserate my departure I decided to invite my local ladies to come have a glass of something with me.  The danger of this is that a lot of us ladies are Mum’s, who not able to have much of a social life any longer, so tend to unleash hell when we are allowed out to play.
From what started as a few cocktails in the first bar, soon moved onto Rose Tequila shots in the second bar! From my initial plan of sipping a few glasses of vino whilst sitting down and chatting with the gals, ended up with us arms around each other screeching along to the resident band.
This is all fine and dandy.  It does us good to let our hair down and enjoy ourselves every now and then but we always forget about the morning after.  The moment you wake up not quite remembering how you got home, you piece together the night before with the aid of debit card receipts from the bar you ended up in once the cash ran out. You struggle to lift your head from the pillow, realising you are still wearing the top from the night before and your bedroom floor resembles a French noir film with clothes strewn from bathroom to bed, not from passion but from drunken undressing.
For me, my hangover starts in the middle of the night, my dreams are filled with images of people handing me tiny teacups of water that I can never quite reach to my mouth.  From this, I will wake up with an insatiable thirst as if my mouth is full of sand but I still haven’t quite got the energy to reach out to grab the bottle of water beside my bed. My sleep after this is seriously staggered, a term I like to call Winesomnia, when the dehydration and lack of body salts or whatever it is that makes you feel as if you have had your organs removed, will cause you to lay awake feeling completely exhausted.
When I finally drag myself out of my deranged slumber, I find that I’m walking like Mrs Overall, not able to straighten my back, my head is pounding and the nausea is kicking in.  I decide to use the shower as a recovery tool but find myself slumped in the corner almost rocking as if I’m a victim in a thriller having just witnessed a murder.  Post shower, I find myself applying moisturiser about 5 times, to which it instantly disappears as my skin is crying out for dehydration alongside my liver and kidneys.
As the thought of even sipping water makes me feel like I want to hurl, I chastise myself for overindulging the night before. Why couldn’t I switch to soft drinks at the second bar, why did I have to drink shots, what the heck was in those cocktails? I send out my very sympathetic hubby for my not very healthy hangover cure of can of coke and salted crisps. I think it’s the sugar, caffeine and salt that is appealing and I feel that it is my only hope now between me functioning as a normal human being or my children thinking I have been possessed by some alien being with crazy hair (haven’t quite got the nerve up to brush it yet!).
The coke and crisps help a tad. It means I can now talk in two-syllable answers and my shuffle has become a little more upright but beyond having a movie afternoon, I feel like I have the mothering skills of Mrs Hannigan. In fact, I can still only whisper the contents of what I drank the night before as the memory is still turning me green.
As the evening draws near and I finally have to stop wearing my sunglasses in the house, I have an insatiable need to eat stodge.  I am scavenging in my kitchen cupboards for high calorie carbs, I am desperate for melted cheese or chips or a combination of both. At last tea is starting to taste less like vodka and there are glimpses of the old me returning.  As the kids head to bed with promises that ‘Mummy will be better tomorrow’, I am hit hard with the alcohol blues, the last and most dreaded part of my hangover when my mind is racing with feelings of woe. This is the time I need to hit the sack and remember that next time there is an offer of a night out that I will be the sensible one.
So here are my new rules for surviving a hangover:
  1. Make sure you have absolutely no plans for the day after the night before.  It is very important that you keep conversations to a minimum until you learn the ability of speech again.
  2. Try and eat when you come home from the pub. I know this is sometimes tricky when inebriated but believe me if you can negotiate a sandwich making session you could soak up some of that alcohol.
  3. Drink a glass of water in between alcoholic drinks during the evening out. It really works as proven at boozy dinners when there are jugs of water on the table, much less wine is consumed. If you are a vodka drinker its easy to just have the mixer in between the vodka fuelled version of the drink.
  4. Apparently it is not advisable to start your hangover with painkillers but instead with a multivitamin as this will help replace those nutrients you wiped out with your cocktails last night.
  5. Finally, and most importantly for me, designate a close friend to be in charge of your desire for shots. The minute you suggest a round of shots, she/he is allowed to slap your hand or confiscate your purse for a half hour time out session.
Should be an obligatory test in between rounds to see whether you have had enough to drink!

Should be an obligatory test in between rounds to see whether you have had too much to drink!