Tag Archives: children

Three IS a Crowd

3 kids

I never expected to have a big family.  In fact, I didn’t expect to have children at all after medical experts had told me as much.  How wrong they were (thankfully) as I am now a proud Mum of three, my eldest son is 12 and I have boy/girl twins who are almost 9.  However, more than two children can be a struggle, so for those of you who are in the same boat with multiple children, or if you are considering opting for a third let me fill you in on what a challenge it can be!

One Set of Hands is Never Enough

With three children, one always has to hold an elbow at some point.  A double buggy is tricky on its own without an extra child hanging off the side and how can people use buggy boards without 8ft long arms?!

When I had the twins my eldest son was only 3 years old, past the age of reins but still needing to be kept in line from running amok and so needed a hand to hold.  It may sound silly, but two hands just are not enough when you have three children.  With a twin baby in each arm, I became quite adept at using other body parts to do simple tasks. My feet became more dextrous than a chimpanzee at picking up items from the floor, I had to rely on the strength of my teeth to grab stuff and balancing became an art form when trying to hold children whilst simultaneously opening a door with a phone cradled under my ear.  In fact, multi-tasking is now an essential way of life, whilst talking to a friend on the phone I can sort a washload, find a missing Barbie hairbrush, clear up a mountain of Lego and make a cup of tea, albeit whilst sounding like a person living with Tourette’s by shouting “Don’t lick that!” at the same time as catching up on gossip with my friend.

Not Built For a Family of Five

Cars, hotel rooms, rollercoasters, bus seats, the list goes on of places that are created for a family of four.   When I had my first scan and was given the very unexpected news that twins were on the way, hubby’s first words were ‘We need a bigger car’… Bigger car! I’ve got to grow two babies!! But he was right.  Our beloved four seater car just wouldn’t cut it for a toddler and two baby seats.  And now that we have a bigger car it is a constant battle to persuade one of the children to sit in the middle seat as they all fake car sickness to be by the window.

A day out to a funfair/theme park often creates a situation of ‘taking it in turns’ to sit next to each other on the rides whilst me or hubby fill the seat next to third child, which is normally hubby as I can’t deal with the motion sickness these days.  There has been many a situation where I have shoehorned the three of them into a two seater dodgem/rollercoaster car to save on arguments/queueing which also doubles up as an extra security measure as they can’t actually move their limbs!

Late For Everything

Three or more children can mean that one to one time with a child becomes near on impossible! Before the arrival of the twins, me and my son used to go everywhere together. I’d prepare a packed lunch for us, sling on a backpack and venture out somewhere for the day with him.  When three children are in the mix then a day out can look like you’re preparing for a school trip with packed lunches, coats, toys, etc.  Just finding three pairs of matching shoes is an impossible task. In fact, spending a night away as a family of five is equivalent of a week’s holiday in stuff to pack.

Parent Guilt x 3

I often spend a sleepless night worrying about how I should be playing with the children more.  How I need to be making the most of every minute because it goes so quick and that I really should be playing imagination games with the twins, making Lego creations with my youngest son, making art collages with my daughter or talking through feelings with my eldest.  Yet, each day is filled with cooking, cleaning, washing (endless washing), school runs, cooking, finding shoes/school books/special toys, cooking, cleaning, drop offs to brownies/football/tennis, washing, homework, cooking…. Where is there time for ‘special time’?!

Budgeting is Impossible

I feel flush for exactly four days after payday then the money disappears.  A ‘big ‘shop often costs the same as a European City Break.  A full cupboard never lasts and a packet of biscuits disappears within a day.  However, having to constantly put your hand in your pocket does mean you find ways to become thrifty.  I have often been left with the challenge of creating three lunchboxes on a school morning when I discover that there is no bread and I will have to fashion a lunchbox out of cold pasta, cut up cheese, raisins and unwanted flavoured crisps.

I Want to Be Alone!

Beds, bathrooms and kitchens are all places that I miss spending time in by myself.  I gave up having a solitary wee or a bed with less than three bodies in it a long time ago.  Date nights are few and far between and cost a fortune in babysitting.  Thankfully I have a very supportive family, but a night away with the hubby loses its appeal when you come home to find exhausted parents surrounded by chaotic children. I constantly moan about needing some ‘me time’ but when I went away for a girls weekend last December I felt a constant emptiness (between the mojitos!) and found myself looking at pictures of my little family before I went to sleep.

It is hard/expensive/exhausting having a big family but every now and then, when we are walking in our group across the park or all squeezed together on the sofa laughing at a movie my insides go all squishy with love looking at my three gorgeous children, all unique in their own little way and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

3s

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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!

 

Looking For Jimmy

As I sit here and type, my feet are throbbing, my head is pounding and my stress levels are just starting to calm down from their earlier crazed state.  Along with this feeling of utter exhaustion, I also now have a new-found respect for teachers, teaching assistants and any member of staff that deal with children as a job.  The reason for my current state of mental and physical health is due to the fact I have just returned from a school trip with my 6-year-old twins class to the Tower of London!

As most of you know I have twins, a boy and a girl.  Non-identical, in looks and definitely personalities.  As their class approaches the end of the infants they were treated to a big excursion with the whole of their year.  An educational visit to the Tower of London.  We live in a London Borough, so it’s a fairly manageable journey of around 45 minutes to our destination and with it being the last school trip of their young years before Juniors, I decided to put myself forward as a volunteer.  I have attended a few school trips in my time as a parent but not many ‘big trips’ as my eldest was in infants when the twins were babies so I missed out quite a bit.  However, I still fully expected that today I would mainly be coasting along behind the teachers, able to look at the various exhibitions with my only responsibility being the holder of the coats or something similar.  How wrong I was!

Heading to the Tower!

Heading to the Tower!

Each parent helper were given a team of 6 children and my team included my twins.  I knew the other kids in my team by name but not much more than that. As they eyed me up to see what sort of ‘helper’ I was going to be, I also had a split second decision to see what type of ‘helper’ I would decide to be. Should I allow them to use my Christian name? Was I expected to be authoritarian or more ‘down with the kids’? How much can you raise your voice at a child that isn’t your offspring and how much ‘knowledge of history’ was I expected to impart with them?  First job was to assemble my team into pairs, this was no mean feat despite it appearing an easy task.  Firstly, I had 3 girls and 3 boys so one pair would have to be mixed, this was a no deal situation with my daughter! Secondly, I was hoping to sit my son with the most immaculately behaved child in the year as once he has an audience he will perform his best material be it a dance, a song or a joke to get a laugh.  Finally, I picked the pairs that seemed to work for me and then the children rearranged themselves anyway!

We are very lucky as the children have exceptional teaching staff, they are well organised, sympathetic, have a constant air of control and good humour, perhaps an intravenous drip of Valium as well? There were plenty of teachers and parent helpers amongst the children so we were capable in numbers and headed off up to the big smoke on our local council coach AKA a sauna on wheels.  The journey was fairly pain-free, managed to resist the urge to eat the packed lunch on the way there and avoid vomiting into the seat tidy.  Thankfully, the kids were fine as well!

My hubby is a police officer in the bomb squad and in his 20 year career he has made a wide circle of work mates.  This can be good and bad in equal measures.  A bad example would be when we had our mini-honeymoon in a posh hotel in Kent (as we had 3 month old twins and a 4-year-old so had to put a proper honeymoon on hold).  This night away was the weekend after our wedding, where as parents of twins we hadn’t slept a whole night in 3 months so really really needed it!  So when we entered the hotel restaurant I wasn’t my usual cheery self when greeted with a Policeman’s Ball and lots of hubby’s mates joining us for drinks!  However, a  good perk would be that an ex-copper mate of hubby’s, called Jimmy, is now a Beefeater at the Tower of London, which meant hubby gave him the nod about our visit and we were able to arrange for the children to meet and greet with him.

We arrived at the Tower and it was hot! As usual us Brits constantly moan about the lack of good weather and the minute the sun peeks out of the clouds we all melt. But the Tower was breathtaking and we soon soldiered on.  I found myself trying to engage my group with nuggets of history as they all started to give me the slip with the expanse of the River Thames beside them.  I managed to lead them over to Traitors Gate, which was in the general direction we wanted to be heading towards and explained to them (wrongly probably) how crooks were taken through here by boat to the dungeons. With their interest back in play, I waffled on about some other exaggerated facts and we safely made it inside the castle walls.

Our first stop was the darkly lit rooms containing the Crown Jewels.  As we queued to get to the main attraction, again, I treated my team to interesting (hopefully true) facts about how King Charles and fellow gentleman of his time grew their hair as a sign of wealth. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before the crowds of tourists and other schools made their way through the corridors so we could feast our eyes on Her Maj’s best bling.  There was lots of oohs and aahs, mainly from the parents, but the children were impressed too and we found a dusty corner to draw some pictures of the crowns for their fact files.  I was feeling fairly confident with my team.  I had raised my voice a few times as they tried to disperse and found my best option was to guide them much like sheep with outstretched arms in order to keep them in check. I swear one of the little girls was wearing an invisibility cloak because as soon as I did my headcount of 6 she was always missing and when I frantically called her name she appeared next to my elbow as if she had been there the whole time!

Hubby’s friend Jimmy became a bit of wild goose chase. Having only his name and the knowledge of his job title, I was left to harass other Beefeaters, asking them if they were Jimmy and they in turn sent me onto the next one.  Eventually, the children were just randomly shouting ‘Jimmy’ at anyone in uniform hoping that he would appear.  I was starting to think that he had got wind of 90 children on his tail and was hiding out in the staff room but thankfully he did find us during our lunchtime on the grass and he was great with the kids.  Especially as they were instructed by their fact files to ask a Beefeater a question, Jimmy was then treated to a Spanish inquisition 10 minutes of random questions fired at him such as, “Where is your gun?”, “What would you do with a sword?” and “Do you eat only beef?”. Reading through one of my teams factfiles she had put down as her question to the Beefeater : Question- Where is Jimmy? Answer-At the West Gate. I asked her about it and she said that was the question she had asked the first Beefeater on the way in!

It was a super informative day and I think although the kids were a bit overwhelmed with history, they enjoyed it too.  My team was great, even though my son does tend to take on a Tasmanian Devil approach to historical places with me removing him from various sculptures and my daughter always gets a bit tearful with loud noise/crowds/not having the partner she feels entitled to and I had to then walk the rest of the way round with her attached to my leg whilst trying to continue my sheep herding technique with my team. I did spend a portion of my day shouting out the 6 names in my group, not that they misbehaved much, but with big crowds there are always opportunities to get lost. I now feel like I have form of Tourette’s and even though I’m at home now, I still feel the impulse to shout their names every 5 minutes and to keep checking for the little invisible girl.  I’m sure this effect will die down eventually.  All in all, it was a very successful day and if you ever find yourself at the Tower for a school trip and the children’s interest is wavering, just bring up Henry VIII, tales of beheaded wives always holds their interest!

Has Spring Sprung?

In the last few weeks, Spring has emerged with beautiful sunshine against a flawless blue sky. I am so pleased with this turn of events I have felt like channelling my inner Noddy Holder and shouting ‘Its Springtime!”. Following a very wet winter, with a majority of the UK starting to grow webbed feet, we longed for some dry weather and here it is with sun to boot.

I love Spring. It is definitely my favourite season. Summer is a contender, but last year it was super hot and with three children consisting of my 10-year-old son suffering from early sulky teenager syndrome, my 6 year-old boy/girl twins with polar opposite personalities (aka difficult to please) and an overheated dog, it was challenging to say the least. Autumn can be pretty with its vibrant coloured trees and carpets of conkers, but it is also the time of increased spider activity and those particular creepy crawlies just spoil the whole season for me, leaving Winter which is cold or wet and feels constantly dark. But Spring has all the makings of perfect for me, the weather is mild enough that I can rid myself of the abominable snowman look I have been sporting over winter and I no longer have the stressful school run activity of locating missing gloves and trying to persuade my daughter to wear mismatched woollen accessories.

Spring has the whole rebirth thing going on as well, nature has woken up and the children are back out in the garden acting as if they have just been released back into the wild. We currently have blue tits in the nesting box in our garden, which is fascinating my daughter who has now taken to digging up worms and leaving them on the tree for the ‘blue tit babies’, I have tried to dissuade her from this activity and that worms have feelings too but she is on a mission as an adoptive parent to her new bird family. I love the emerging blossom on the trees transforming our ordinarily drab street to something much prettier, along with hardcore daffodils popping up in odd places such as dual carriageways and roundabouts.

Gorgeous mini triffids

Gorgeous mini triffids

I’m probably enjoying the long-awaited burst of flora more than others, hayfever sufferers I sympathise. The minute the first bud pops up on a tree my poor Mum is sneezy, drowsy, teary and other such dwarf names. While I’m taking pleasurable inhalations of freshly mowed lawns she is bah humbugging the misery of the production of pollen.

Woohoo trees are pretty again!

Woohoo trees are pretty again!

For me, Spring impels me to think about diets more so than in January. With a bit of decent weather, some of the general public (you know who you are) decide to flash the flesh in summery ensembles, far too early in the year and looking a tad unprepared for them. My youngest son is definitely of this ilk, if there is the teeniest bit of sunshine, even if the temperature is chilly, he kits himself out in shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops despite the shade of blue he is turning on the trampoline. The minute I decide to don some sort of skirt/dress garment that will expose my unprepared pins, I inevitably will bang into a table and produce a huge bruise on my calf, thus limiting my anticipated flesh baring for at least a month to avoid looking like I have been kicked by a horse.

Spring is also the misconceived time for cleaning. Who ever decided the concept of ‘Spring Cleaning’ should feel rather guilty about it. Just as the weather is improving and nature is bursting with life we are expected to shut ourselves away and start cleaning our skirting boards. Personally, I have surface cleaning down to a fine art, thorough cleaning is just not in my make up. With three children and a young Labrador there is often little point in trying to keep order of my household chores, I would much rather play cars with my youngest son or allow my daughter free rein of her paints on the kitchen table. However, I have started to make out I’m more of a clean freak for my oldest son’s benefit, to encourage him to be more tidy and at the very least for him to see his pants on his bedroom floor as a faux pas.

As a Spring fan (careful not to say Springsteen there) I would like to encourage others to feel the same as me. For hayfever sufferers, try not to look at it as a time of pollen induced stress but embrace the antihistamine and move on. For all of us, forget about cleaning out your kitchen cupboards and go for a walk in the sunshine instead. Embrace your obscure summer fashion choices of yesteryear and not stress about the pallor of your skin, remember we are in it together. Most importantly, we need to see Spring through the eyes of our children, my three little ones also love this time of year, from finally getting out and about in the great outdoors without the need for fifteen layers along with the reintroduction of ice-cream on a sunny afternoon, as well as being able to appreciate the beauty of nature whilst seeing creatures emerge from their winter slumber.

I was hoping to end on a quote from my favourite quote bank, aka Ferris Bueller, but instead I turn to published poet and author Margaret Attwood:

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

Tis the Season to be Jolly..Stressed

In the words of Noddy Holder… “Iiiiiiiit’s Christmas!!!”. Well in a few days it will be, but thanks to marketing mayhem it has been the run-up to Christmas for about a month now! I do like Christmas, I have three children so its hard not to get caught up in their excitement of it all and the impending Santa visit, but I also find it just a little exhausting, frustrating and overwhelming at times.

It seems that the shops are on steroids with their extended opening times that appear to be geared around the eve of an apocalypse rather than a day of celebration. My hubby was up and out at 7.30am this morning to do the food shop and still had to queue for over an hour to get into our normally quiet supermarket car park. Isn’t Christmas dinner just a glorified roast dinner? Why do we see this one day as the reason to eat a huge dinner, buying too much meat per family member along with extra food for leftovers in the evening as part of a buffet, we never eat this way any other time? We have eleven guests for Christmas dinner at our house, along with two dogs and I am really excited about it. I do think Christmas should be about family as it is the only time you can wedge your dining table into the living room and use garden furniture to sit on without it seeming weird.

Santa Chester - Sorry was unable to airbrush out the hands.

Santa Chester – Sorry for grainy quality but it was probably the most difficult picture I have ever taken, hence the poised hands after the 50th attempt of getting the hat on his head!

My three children have been in a state of high excitement for about three weeks now, writing their unachievable letters to Father Christmas on the basis that “the elves can make the toys so we can put expensive things such as computers and game consoles down”. I have tactfully looked at shopping websites with them steering their interest to more affordable toys that we can buy on behalf of the man in the red suit. Then it is the yearly dilemma of how to give the presents, which ones are from us and which are from Santa. This is a subject that I think should be covered in ante-natal classes as every parent seems to do it differently. Many parents will say all of the presents are from the big man which I worry will leave us parents looking a bit mean with grandparents arriving armed with toys and that we haven’t bothered. Me and hubby tend to do half and half, we give them a big present each from us and the rest of the achievable part of their lists comes from Santa, but this leaves us quite out-of-pocket having to buy extra.

I don’t wish to come across all Scrooge about it. I love how excited the kids are about the big event. My eldest appeared in two Christmas concerts at our local church and they felt very festive, even though it does make me feel like a bit of a hypocrite every year as I say hello to the local vicar aware that I’m only his house of worship for my own means and not as one of his congregation. This feeling of guilt and awkwardness extends through his opening sermon as I uncomfortably get into my prayer position and mumble Amen at the end of his prayer. As you can probably tell I’m not really religious, I have no objections to other churchgoers as I’m sure it can provide a source of comfort to many but I feel a bit too cynical to believe in a lot of the bible stories. I understand you do not have to take a lot of the stories literally but discover the true meaning behind the lavish storylines, but it all seems a bit too far-fetched a lot of the time. I mean wasn’t Joseph a little suspicious about the whole ‘the baby is the son of God’ story that Mary gave him. Did they even know who God was back then?

The twins also had their Nativity this week and this was a very traditional affair with my son playing a shepherd and my daughter playing the part of a door… well to be more precise she was an innkeeper but had a cardboard door she stood behind amongst other door holders and shook her head when Mary and Joseph came a knocking. She had been in character for days as she is a real method actor and the day prior was mute and would only answer us when we knocked on the ‘door’ first! The nativity was lovely and the minute the children sang their first word I was a mess, trying to stifle a sob and discreetly wipe my eyes unable to speak for fear of bawling. Joseph was a little stage shy and stomped off screaming after they had settled in the stable, leaving Mary a single mother clutching her plastic baby upside down by its feet. Still, as true professionals the children brought home the message of Christmas to a standing ovation, which was actually parents standing up and elbowing each other in a bid to achieve the best photograph they could of their little star. After the children had taken their applause, a couple of young chaps were introduced by our Headteacher as local Christians. The lads then asked that ‘J-dog’ and ‘the main dude’ should not be forgotten at Christmas. It was like witnessing a scene from The Book of Mormon as they ‘got down with the kids’ to try to entice their young impressionable interest into Christianity. As I cringed at their youthful approach to bible studies, I did feel that maybe I should feel a bit guilty, they were at least celebrating the alleged reason behind Christmas when all I wanted was to gloss past that bit and talk more about Santa to my kids. Christmas is more about Father Christmas then Jesus in our house even though both are perhaps mythical beings created in some sort of storybooks.

Our Kids Only decorated Christmas tree. We did have to help with the top half - the out of reach bit.

Our Kids Only decorated Christmas tree. We did have to help with the top half – the out of reach bit.

Whether you celebrate Christmas for ‘J-dog’s’ birthday, or for the sole purpose of having ‘Father Christmas’ deliver presents to your children, it does seem that we all lose the message of Christmas sometimes. Christmas means family to me, a time that we can all spend together, buy things to please each other and try to help others. However, it also means a massive earning potential for huge corporations, a career revival for Cliff Richard and a strong possibility of piling on unwanted weight, but where there’s a Ying, there’s a Yang I suppose. Merry Christmas everyone!

My Neighbouring Set of (Not So) Desperate Housewives

We live in a heavily populated residential area, about 15 miles from the centre of London, in a charming county few have heard of for the right reasons, Essex.

As a child I grew up in a street very similar to where I live now. My parents, me and my older brother inhabited a semi-detached house with carbon copied houses either side of our road. The area was friendly, close to our school and a few alley way walks to the local park. Our street being situated in this family friendly environment, was full of other families funnily enough and we forged friendships with many of our neighbours. My parents had other couples who they became close friends with and whom we would visit on a Saturday night and be allowed to stay up late while they ate fondue and drank Baby Cham (I was born in the 70s!). Our next door but one neighbour was my Mum’s best friend and I later married her son, not sure if it counts as bigamy actually and should tell my current hubby about it really. I’m sure the marriage could be annulled as we were 6 at the time and my cat played the part of the vicar along with my Sindy dolls as witnesses. Along with my first husband, we had a gang of kids that me and my big bro hung out with down our street, as long as we stayed on our side of the road and didn’t go past No. 21 that is. We met up constantly at weekends and school holidays, with us girls practising our roller skating stunts to the sounds of 5 Star while the boys pulled the legs of daddy-long-legs and chased us with them. There were many happy days in the six week holidays spent around each others houses as the only way our parents could often socialise was to take us with them.

Now I’m a grown up and find myself in a very similar situation. We have the fortune of having met a number of other couples in our street that we not only have the common factor of young children with, but also the appreciation of wine as well. The women of the group I now count as close of friends of mine and we are not only on hand to help cover each others kids/dogs but also to pop in to borrow an onion or an extension lead when desperate. Having spent a few drunken nights in each others company and then having to witness each others hangovers the next morning while pegging out the washing or loading the car up, has meant we have become very comfortable in our warts and all friendships.

However, not every neighbour is the type of person you would cut a spare key for and I have plenty that I would happily swerve a conversation with or rather not take a package in for. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t say I have the likes of Fred and Rose West nearby (as far as I can tell) but there are a few unusual characters too close for comfort. We have an agoraphobic who lives opposite who never leaves the house and only makes herself visible when the pizza/Tesco delivery arrives when a vision of Demis Roussos answers the door and then scurries back inside. Another neighbour on the other side of my road has a forecourt front garden with his and hers flash sports cars, along with landscaped gardens complete with hot tub, yet on a monthly basis the lady of the house and her partner will get drunk, shout at each other in the street and one will fly off in one of their cars returning the next day as if nothing has happened. A few doors from us we had neighbours who recently moved out whose party trick was to have BBQ’s late at night in all weathers while their teenage son revved his scooter in the back garden or drove it full pelt up the service road at the back of our house. My hubby decided to knock at their door to complain one day after we were fed up with our washing being covered in diesel fumes and our twins (then babies) suffering from a constantly disturbed nap time.  The Mother of the scooter deviant answered the door and then suggested hubby talk some sense into her son as she had given up!

You eventually learn to live amongst the stranger neighbours when there is a balance of nicer ones as well. Me and my other three neighbouring friends now talk about the goings on in the street by always starting the sentence with, ‘the other day when I was folding my washing’ as if our bout of snooping was unintentional, which of course it is!

Unlike the many soap operas on television, our neighbour friends are unlikely to bury each other under the patio or sabotage each others relationships, but we can count on each other for help or a natter between deadlines, school runs and dinner preparations. When hubby is working a late or night shift, at least once a month, me and my neighbouring friends will try to have a girls night in at mine, which has now become a necessary part of our schedules. It will often involve a bitch about the other neighbours, but it is also a chance to offload about our problems and concerns and receive an unbiased piece of advice in return. It seems that Ramsey Street had it right after all, sing along if you can “…It’s when good neighbours become good friends….”

The Power of 1-2-3

My five-year old son, how can I put it nicely, is a spirited child. He has the most angelic face with very enviable long eyelashes. He is very funny, lively, cheeky and kind-hearted. He also has a bad case of selective hearing, can’t help but run everywhere without any regard for other pedestrians and has a million and one excuses on why he can’t sleep. Each afternoon on the way back from school I attempt to engage him in conversation to improve our sometimes volatile relationship, but normally only receive one word answers or grunts as a reply before I have to restrain him from speeding off down the road. Get to bedtime however and I can’t get a word in, he is totally up for a chat with Mum in a sleep avoidance technique he has expertly developed, but I’m wise to it. Last nights debate consisted of; Is Spiderman called Peter Spiderman or Peter Parker-Spiderman? How does Spiderman go to the toilet in his suit? Does Superman fly because of his cape? And although I’d quite like to know the answers to these weighty questions myself, I just really need him to sleep. In fact, no matter how much begging and pleading or blackmailing I do, when my son doesn’t want to do something, I have a battle on my hands. The strange thing is the only way in which he will listen is if I threaten him with counting to 3.

countvoncount

The counting to 3 method is like a superpower for parents. I don’t know why it works. I can say to any of my little angels, eat your greens or else no football/tv/treats and they will eyeball me to see if my threat is empty or not. If I try to dissuade them from any possible danger such as jumping off the sofa/climbing the wardrobe/putting their hands in the dog’s mouth, I know that what they really hear is the muffled voice of the teacher from Snoopy. But if I am at the end of my tether and annoying myself with the sound of my own voice, I know its time to pull out the big guns with the ultimate of countdowns.

stressed mum 3

When I start the sentence, “I’m going to count to 3, 1, 2…”, I only ever reach 2 before my children leap into action. I don’t know what they expect to happen when I reach 3, trouble is I don’t know what will happen if I ever do reach 3. It is an unspoken rule in life that something happens at the number of 3. If you were about to jump off a bungee you would probably count to 3, in a running race you wait to hear ‘on your marks – get set – go’. Counting to 3 is as second nature to us as queueing and moaning about the weather. So use it wisely and say it proudly, if you have to shout the count to 3 in the supermarket post school run, I will sympathise and give you a knowing smile. Just don’t tell my children that I don’t have a back-up plan if I ever reach the number 3.