The home exchange

We moved house 5 days before Christmas. It wasn’t as mad as it seems on paper. Three gents and two mothers came to help and we left one house and entered another in the space of five hours.

It is the house you draw as a child. Red bricks with four windows at the front and a red door. And we never saw it coming. Sure you see it clearly when you come off the nearby dual carriageway but we never imagined we would live here.

And I never saw myself as a cleaner either. I don’t know if it comes with the home exchange but I’ve never cleaned a kitchen like I clean this new kitchen. After every meal time, once the dishes are away, I grab the lemon spray out of the cupboard like a crooked gangster holds a machine gun. I turn towards the side boards with a menacing grin and shoot lemon zest all over each side. Grease, grime, alpha-bites what ever the stain it quivers in my wake. I wipe each piece of marble with the intensity of a Scots man in the olympics during a curling match. Once that’s done I come at it with a secondary spray that turns the marble into a mirror.

Tonight I even cleaned the cupboard doors. Up and down I went like I was in an aerobics class. The unborn child within my rounded belly jiggled within and I swear I could hear a giggle. As I stood back panting looking at the shining sage doors I realised it was my inner self laughing hysterically at what I had become. A clean freak?! House proud?! Not words I would have added to my personality list but stranger things have happened at sea, so they say.

The rest of the house, I’m afraid, is as much under attack by chemicals as the kitchen is. Let’s just say Harpic is my new best friend and no toilet under-goes a bowel movement without a swift following of thick blue bleach. My hands are now like sandpaper and it seems if this cleaning frenzy continues I shall be taking out stocks in hand cream. Maybe it’s just a phase but with ambi pure plug-ins and candles lit at the slightest hint of dusk my new home is smelling as sweet as roses.

Cleaning Day

I was cleaning in vain today – of course it was in vain, I was cleaning with two small children but what I mean is that my ‘veins’ were literally pulsating in my neck. My fitness level is zero and I can tell you hauling a hover up the stairs with a toddler under one arm while encouraging the three year old not to play with bleach is no mean feet. By time I had commissioned the three year old with his mission of wiping mirrors and distracted the baby from using her endless curls as a toilet brush we looked in good shape. Ten minutes later the three year old was bored and had run away with the polish and the toddler had followed with the cloth, I could only assume they had gotten the ‘cleaning bug’ and had gone to restore order in another room. Meanwhile I hovered the rest of the house.

My main objective when ‘cleaning’ is to involve the children as much as possible. They have to tidy away their playroom each night and each morning leave their bedrooms in an acceptable manor. The slogan I regularly holler is that ‘Mother is not your slave’ although I’m thinking of making posters as the message is not being received.

The result I expect from a cleaning spree is that the hover is used to some degree. I cannot tell you it is always used as created – often it is a horse or a stand for a den, and that there has been a spritz of polish in every room. I have come to expect that the smell of cleaning products will have to do over any actual scrubbing. I especially encourage the polish scent over any doorway much like a ceremonial anointing of oil to keep the spirits at bay, I squirt polish over thresholds to trick visitors into thinking there is cleanliness present. The dust merely smirks at me from each room; ” At ease boys, she’s not gonna get us today”

Now I don’t want you thinking I am some kind of work shy cleaning fop. There have been times when I have cleaned so thoroughly that even the fridge has been moved from its dust lain foundations. There have been plaques erected in honour of those days but i do try and clean as often as I can.

Yet as you can surely imagine it is not easy to keep on top of three children, two adults and two kittens, who are temporarily using a box in the kitchen as a toilet. But I also refuse to be one of those people who clean more than they sit. I like sitting. I like sitting with my children, my husband and the kittens. I have come to realise that cleaning in my house is usually reserved for when guests come. Much like the opening scene in Home Alone when they’re late for the airport, we all zoom around the house in fast-forward tucking things under things, throwing toys in boxes and ceremonially squirting polish upon door-frames. We want our house to be a home where everyone is welcome, family mess and all.

I am she.

I am a Mother.

This realisation only came to me a couple of weeks ago. I have been a mummy for five years now but somehow I have never fully embraced nor understood the responsibility of being a ‘Mother’. Any woman can be a mummy but to become a Mother is a whole new challenge.

When I picture a ‘Mother’ I don’t see myself. I see a burly Italian woman in a kitchen. She has a full figure that is pinched in at the waist by her apron. She juggles huge pans of homemade spaghetti Bolognese that creates a steam that glosses her skin to give her the appearance of a teenager. Outside on the line float the families washing and the table is set with fresh green salad and tomato’s from her garden. Rich red wine is poured into goblets from the family vineyard and her cheeks glow with the gratitude she receives from her family.

While this image maybe fictional or perhaps the norm in Italy where the sky is blue and the land is warm it certainly isn’t the picture in my kitchen in Preston.

Bumf what a rough landing.

Yes the picture in my Lancashire kitchen is a far cry from the romantic scene I described above. My svelte figure is pinched in by a pair of old black leggings with a hole in one buttock. The steam comes from the babies face as she’s being ignored watching me throw a jar of shop bought Bolognese onto burning mince. The family washing is on the line but the rain is turning Lenor fresh dresses into rags.

It was this wildly different image of myself and the robust woman I lust after that got me thinking until a familiar word dropped into my mind, and it’s one that is slowly changing the way I am thinking.

The word is: Perspective.

What if being a Mother isn’t about how well I can multitask in the kitchen? What if it isn’t about getting the washing done on time? Sure these things all contribute and are all considered in the prize for ‘mum of the year’ but what if it’s about more? What if it’s about presence?

I have been guilty of trying to fast forward my season. I have been frustrated by the waddling, podgy toes that just won’t stabilise and walk on my baby. I’ve been frustrated my boy isn’t in the education slip stream yet and I’ve been irritated my older girl can’t drive herself to school already. What am I doing? If that’s how I’m going to live them I simply don’t deserve my children.

Perspective is changing me.

Perspective took me on a journey like Ebenezer Scrooge through the ‘What could be’s’, the ‘What if’s’ and the ‘Why’s’ of my life. In my haste to get on with my life I realised I didn’t see a school letter telling of a fancy dress day at school. My girl had to borrow a school dress – thankfully she was very happy with it. I didn’t listen to the nursery teacher telling me of a show and tell. My boy went without. I was so busy writing that I didn’t see the toothy grin of my baby get up and waddle unsteadily towards me. With my head pushed so far up my posterior I was unable to see anything that was happening around me.

I spoke to God about it and after a friendly Father / daughter exchange the heart break set in. The realisation of what was going on around me hit like the number 10 bus. Square in the face and flattening me. I am missing this. Who cares if I don’t shower today? Who cares if mould is taking over my bathroom like a virus? Who cares if so much Weetabix is sticking to the table it’ll end up looking like the leaning tower of Pisa? Yes it’s all a problem and I will get to it in time but if I’m so caught up in that and all the perfect pieces of who I want to become then I will never win.

I will never be Nigella Lawson in the kitchen nor Monty Don in the garden. I will never have the wit of a stand up comedian nor the grace of a Strictly Come Dancing star. What I will have is the embrace and affection of three imperfect children given to a desperately imperfect woman who lusts after perfect homemade spaghetti Bolognese and fresh tomatoes. Life is what we make it and I implore you dear reader don’t lust after what you can’t have instead be thankful for all that remains in your sight. Be thankful and hold it dear until it screams to be released.

Perspective is my new friend and it tells me right now I am a Mother. I am already she.

Reasons to donate your organs after you die

Because you donated a cardigan to charity once and it felt really good

Because you hate waste

Because you seek opportunities to hold doors open for the elderly

Because when you don’t have the kids in the car you park in a normal space not the parent-child space

Because your sister borrowed your favourite top once but you got over it

Because you watched the movie ‘Pay it forward’ and wanted to try it

Because you had a flat tyre and that man with the tie helped you

Because you stopped a child running into the road and they called you a hero

Because the teacher praised you for lending your pen once

Because you have a thing for Egyptian burials

Because you have a strong scientific curiosity

Because you begged the pizza delivery man to give you more tomato sauce for free and he did

Because you look delightful naked and you’d hope the NHS would appreciate that

Because you like giving gifts

Because you have a feeling you drink too much and may need a new liver soon

Because if a family member needed life saving tissue, blood or an organ today you would wish you could go back in time and make your friend sign up

Because you would not just save one life but up to eight!

Sign up today and tell your family you’d now like a hero’s funeral because you are one:

A little give

Today was the second time I let my two children scoot home alone.

My big girl is four and my boy is three (big girl is five soon lest you think I’m completely insane) When I say they scooted home alone I don’t mean they were all alone.

Walking home from school, once we’re past the parade of shops and away from the main road, I tell them the rules; watch for cars, stop – look & listen before crossing each road, then I tell them I’ll see them at home.

They are only ever a corner ahead of me but the sense of responsibility and freedom they get is evident in how they scoot. They are faster than normal (racing each other) Yet considered. They slow before each road end and their heads swivel so much to check for traffic I swear they’ll pop off.

Just to put your minds at ease and so you don’t think I’m some reckless halfwitted mother who lets mere toddlers on the road alone. The roads by our house are so quiet hedgehogs stop in the middle for a chat. Chickens don’t bother crossing because there is no challenge. Our road is occupied by people aged 70 and up. We are the rif-raf on the street and the only young family within a mile.

I read about ‘helicopter mums’ in a magazine lately. Apparently there is an uprising of super protective mothers who spray Dettol like perfume and only let their children out of the their sight on special occasions, like going to nursery. Personally I don’t know any mums like this but never the less I refuse to be one.

In my mind that means giving them responsibility on small things here and there, like scooting a little way home alone. I want them to know where they live, that they can remember their address. When we go shopping I lay out the type of behaviour I expect from them. I give them responsibility and roles to full fill, like finding certain items for me when we are out. When we’re at home each meal time we lay out and clean the table away together. We do the dishwasher together. I’m giving them skills they can use for life and also drilling the message home that mummy isn’t their slave, she’s just mummy.

We only get 18 summers with them and I want to pack all the love and real life into them while I am still the voice they listen to. I want to trust my children. I want to build them up to be successful in this life. I won’t be around forever neither will my husband so we need to leave a legacy that goes beyond us and will see our babies in good stead when they go off and have their own babies. It’s all about a little give.

A laborious task.

I was recently regaling a friend, who is expecting her first baby, with the story of my three pregnancies and three labours. I was trying to make it light and jovial as appose to what it actually is.

With two of my labours I had to be induced which I liken to telling Usain Bolt to run the 100 metres in 9 seconds in his slippers, having just eating a full English breakfast and having not worked out in 6 months. His body would be severely unprepared yet he could do it since that’s what he was created for. That’s how being induced felt. My body going from zero to hero in 60 seconds, yet I was created to do it.

With my kidney transplant they categorised me as ‘high risk’ which meant I was constantly monitored with extra scans, midwife appointments and given a date for induction. 35 weeks seemed to be a date everyone could agree on. The Midwife’s were happy with baby’s health and renal were happy with mine. Everyone was fairly sure kidney, baby and I wouldn’t fair well if they let me go longer. It’s one of those things, no-ones ever been able to live and tell the tale of a kidney transplant and going full term with a baby. I wasn’t thrilled about being a guinea pig so I surrendered to the medical professionals. 35 weeks it was.

With any ‘first’ experience you are always nervous and un sure of how the course of the day will turn out. If someone had told me the course of my day would involve various meetings being held in or around my vagina I may have called in sick that day.

With baby no.1 I was started off with various tampons and gels being inserted here there, then I had a lovely bath, a walk to the ducks and a bounce on the ball. I was told if nothing was doing in 48 hours they would mark me up and pull baby out of the sun roof – so to speak.

That’s when I called in the big guns. I vividly remember lying in bed asking God to break my waters. I really didn’t want to have a C-section and add another scar to the trophy case. Within seconds of my plea a sharp tug was felt and a release, much like a bath plug being unplugged. I was drenched. Swimming to the top of my bed I pulled the magical red cord that brought in an gang of midwives. I was lifted from my waters and placed on the toilet while they cleaned and made my bed again.

The next morning with still no baby they put me on the fondly named, ‘Go-Go juice’. This is the stuff that takes your body from woman to mother. From untrained rookie to gold medal winner in less than 5 hours.

Baby no.2 was helped by little more than a crochet hook to break my waters. The attending midwife didn’t believe me when I told her the contractions had started right away. I mean why would you? Yet there I was just two hours later jumping out of the supposed “calming bath” (it’s amazing what adrenaline can do, I’ve not jumped in years) that I looked at myself in the mirror all sweaty, red faced, hair and nipples sticking out at all angles, that I announced under smothered breath; “it’s coming”.

Behold a boy dropped into our lives. I waddled smugly back to my bed like John Wayne having lost his horse. With my boy wrapped safely in my arms I looked toward the unused midwife and machinery.

So impressed was the midwife with my labouring skills that she dangled the carrot of ‘birthing suite’ to me. In hindsight she may been rubbing salt into the womb as my notes and ‘high risk’ factors very much disallowed me into the heavenly suite of lovely labours, baths, double beds and low lighting.

By number three we were back to the machines and wires except the freshly anointed midwife forbid me sitting down lest gravity didn’t have its fair share of turns in getting this one out. After hours of swaying and bouncing to ‘Boogie Wonderland’ on repeat we went with the inducing ‘Go-Go’ juice. Sixteen hours and a professional finger wiggle here and there and number three was out.

The sweetest moment that I tried to encourage my friend with wasn’t the pink screaming ball of loveliness that is lumped into your arms after all of the drama, but the true reward given to any worthy untrained marathon runner; the NHS standard tea and toast.

After each of my babies had been born and the feeling of ten double decker buses reverse parking over my body had passed, I sat in a numb post-labour glow. It feels a bit like when the war is over and you’re waiting for the dust to settle. Sat there assessing the damage when an angel walks over to me, all golden rings and everything. She delivers unto me over-buttered toast and highly sugary tepid tea. Chomping down on the only solid matter I’ve had in 48 hours it is utter bliss. A smug sense of achievement falls over me as I look over at my husband holding my tiny premature baby. Of course the real work begins once the squishy love ball is born, any sucker can give birth but becoming a mother is a work of heart. Let the real fun begin!


You know you’re getting old when;

You find a grey hair in your eyebrows…

Finding grey hairs in the hairline is one thing … of which I have many, but finding a grey in the eyebrows is just insulting. I tend to perk mine up with a little colour if I’m going out but one blessed day I saw it. It was practically doing the Macarena in front of me. Gloating, showing off, making its presence known. It took me a good half hour to decapitate it but I know all I did was poke the bear.

You try and do a sexy dance for your husband and your hips click…

We had some good times, my hips and I. Mine don’t lie and they were reliable but one night … a few gins in, I tried my best Shakira moves to entice my beloved and all that was heard was click, click, click. It was like a Big Ben symphony and left us in fits of laughter not amor.

Nothing excites quite like an early night…

After half term and the whirlwind of seeing friends and going on adventures with my kids, the routine of ‘back to school’ meant silence from 7pm. I would potter, do the washing, the ironing but always keeping one eye on the clock. Once striking 9pm it would become a beacon for me, calling me in. I would become like the unseen – ugly version of Cinderella. My belly would turn into the size of a pumpkin. My face would grow long like a horse’s and I scurry upstairs to my bed like a little mouse.

I am well aware of the ageing process but I didn’t think I would begin to look so age-ed so soon! My soul feels like a spritely twenty-one year old. I remember my thirtieth birthday party like it was yesterday. I don’t recall giving my body permission to disown me like this. I feel like a love struck teenager in one of my day dreams, where I am being gently let down by a famous boy band member; “it’s not you it’s me”, except it’s reality and my body is letting me down.

I remember a time in my teens when I was dancing every day and my tummy was flat, my arms were tight and my bottom was behind me. These days, after three babies, my tummy looks more like a deflated bouncy castle. My arm skin has unrolled to reveal bat like wings. I nearly took my child’s eye out the other day with an extensive arm gesture! And my bottom, well don’t get me started, I noticed in the mirror it’s started making a break for it and is now slipping down into my thighs, if I’m not careful I won’t be able to bend next week. Best start working out again…I’ll go after this gin.