Tuesday, 9 August 2016

What having kids is actually like.

It's weird but cool having a second baby, because you don't have so much of the newness to contend with. Pre-babies, I had no idea what it was like to actually be a parent. I had an idea of how much work little kids are (nursery nurses reading this will be nodding their heads) but no idea really what it was like to have one of my own.

Sometimes people ask me (out of curiosity, not in a disparaging way, although how much sleep I have had the night before determines how well I take these questions) what I do all day. And I remember I used to wonder: what is it actually like to have kids?

It looks a bit like this:

You wipe noses and bottoms. You scrub shampoo into hair and brush little teeth and rub suncream into soft, pale skin. You clip toenails and fingernails and use your entire body to do it (ever tried cutting the miniscule toenails of an extremely ticklish toddler? It's a challenge). You make meals and snacks and more meals and more snacks that may or may not be eaten. You clean up sick. You clean up poo. You clean up dribbly leftover yogurt. You clean the floors. Again and again and again. You wash clothes and dry them and immediately have to wash them again.

You ask your health visitor things like 'when will the umbilical cord stump drop off?' and then get squeamish when it actually happens. You eat one-handed. You drink lukewarm drinks for approximately six months to a year (maybe even longer). You Google 'six week old projectile vomiting' and you call your Mum to ask how to get the sick smell out of your sofa. You add safety latches to all your doors and you inspect toys for small parts and you start eyeing the toilets and the plug sockets in a new, suspicious way. You sometimes go hours and hours without eating or drinking by accident.

You temporarily do not recognise your own body. You panic when your hair falls out in clumps in the shower. You wonder how you will find clothes that don't look weird on you anymore (this bit is kind of Mum-specific).

You have toilet trips and showers observed by small, bossy people. You learn that no subject is off limits for discussion. You clean up cuts and grazes and kiss bumped heads and bruised knees.

You explain every concept under the sun, from where birds live to how plants grow to the fact that limbs will, no matter how hard you bumped them, not just randomly drop off when you hurt them, to whether or not monsters actually exist.

You buy clothes for them and not for yourself.

You run baths and get splashed so much that you may as well have jumped in anyway.

You think of them constantly. Ideas for birthdays and Christmas presents; activities they would enjoy; books they would like, what school they will end up in. You worry and dream and plan for every aspect of their future.

You survive on three hours of broken sleep night after night.

You steer them through things they don't want to do. Vaccinations, sending them to childcare ... you absorb all their fears and sadness and more because you wish you could do it for them instead. But you can't. So you live with all the feelings because it's your job to do this stuff and you hide how scared you are in the doctors' waiting room and you say 'you're so brave!' and smile even though you want to burst into tears.

You shush babies and pat bottoms and sway them to sleep. You snuggle them close to your skin, let them feel your heart beat. You reassure and cuddle and try to kiss away their fears.

You count to three a lot. You ignore a lot of tantrums. You praise the littlest things. You use the phrase 'well done!' as well as 'that's not nice'. A lot.

You swallow whatever stress you're feeling so they won't feel it. And when you're upset, you think of a child-friendly way to explain it so they don't have to be worried about you.

Sometimes, the constant demands on every aspect of your being will make you so stressed you want to drink an entire bottle of wine. Or eat a whole bag of Kettle chips. Or go on holiday for a while. By yourself.

You show them the world. You observe trees and insects and creatures. You pack a huge bag of supplies for every day trip because the one thing you forget is the one thing you'll definitely need. You deal with all sorts of obscure requests ('Please you draw a dragon?' 'Make up a story about lions.') and you name all the dollies in the shop because they want to know the name of each and every one. You make up silly songs and you do crazy dancing and you sing loudly on the way to the supermarket.

You make trips to doctors offices and dental surgeries and, very occasionally, hospital visits (incidentally these will be the most terrifying times of your life). You might even end up trying to persuade a hyperventilating toddler to use their inhaler and you talk them through it like people did to you when you were in labour. Deep breaths, deep breaths. In and out.

Sometimes you put them to bed and wonder where you'll muster up the energy to wash the bottles/get the washing in/mop the floors/have a shower/clean up the kitchen/empty the bins. But you find it and do it.

Then you give time to your equally frazzled husband/wife/partner because they need you and you need them back.

Then you answer messages and phone calls because other people need you too.

Then you go to bed and you're not sure you will actually get much sleep.

And then ...

Then, your child wakes in the night, upset about something. They fall asleep next to you. And you are totally taken aback by joy and wonder at the sight of them. You know that taking a picture will be pointless, because no picture could ever capture the gorgeousness of that perfect little pout, those long dark eyelashes, that milky skin, that hair damp from tossing and turning in their beds. So you just soak them in. The love that overcomes you is totally overwhelming and unlike anything else in the world. Watching them safely sleeping is like stepping into a bath after a long day but also a bit terrifying because of the force of how much you love them and how vulnerable they are.

And then you wake up the next day and you make a very large coffee and you do it all again.

And, just when you get the hang of it, they grow up a bit more and you realise you have no idea how to deal with what's coming next.

That's what its like.

But you still don't really know until it happens.

So if you're reading this and about to have your first: it is scary and precious and wonderful and awesome and sometimes you'll despair but mostly you'll love it.

And if like me you are about to embark upon having your second, or third, or fourth, and about to realise you'll probably have to re-learn a whole load of stuff again (are you crazy?): good luck!


I've been on a blogging hiatus. But I'm back.

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Pick N Mix Fridays

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Only silly people do housework during a heatwave, and other realisations

It's so flipping flopping hot.

Why am I always pregnant when there's a heatwave? Last year, I can't remember there being a heatwave like this. Or the year before that. 2013, though? Heatwave. When I was eight months pregnant and working full time in a nursery on my feet all day feeling like I was slowly suffocating minute by minute.

This year? Pregnant. Heatwave.

I actually haven't been coping too badly this time, mainly because I have been able to stay at home, and therefore wander around in minimal clothing, and because we have a paddling pool, which is currently my favourite thing that we own. I'm also only just twenty weeks pregnant, meaning that I'm not yet at the stage where I feel like I'm carrying around a giant watermelon in my belly. Which helps.

Yes of course you can use my legs as a water slide for your toys. Anything you like. Just don't make me move from here ever.

Speaking of. I convinced myself that my twenty week scan was on Wednesday. It was actually on Tuesday. I realised this on Tuesday about ten minutes before I had to leap in a taxi to go there.

Yet another spectacularly stupid pregnancy brain moment.

This baby looks like Jellybean did in her twenty week scan (I thought, as I lay on the bed, sweating and getting over a minor quick-we've-got-ten-minutes-to-get-out-of-the-house panic attack). Same lips, same nose (what I saw of them). Which is lovely, and suddenly the whole thing seems very real and it also seems a million years until it is actually born. Jellybean feels the same way. She made this very clear when she threw herself onto our bed the evening after the scan and started moaning whyyyy isn't it Christmas time when the baby is coming TOMORROW?

People laugh at us in England because we spend approximately 95% of the time whinging about how cold it is. The other 5% we reserve for moaning about how hot it is. But seriously, we aren't built for any kind of extreme weather. Nowhere has air conditioning. When you do find a place with air con, you see loads of people lingering around making excuses to stay longer. Or you see people hanging around for an unreasonably long time in the freezer aisles in supermarkets. Because they are the only cool places in the world.

It is seriously hot though. Last night I was lying perfectly still, like a statue, and I was still covered in a sheen of sweat.

It is the opposite of fun at night. It is unfun.

Anyway, I caught myself doing housework today. Non-essential housework. (Cleaning the kitchen a bit and spilling up puddles so no one slips over is, in my mind, essential housework. Also washing because it's warm and all our clothes dry fast). Then I thought: why? Why am I doing this? Will the house fall down if I don't do this? No. So don't do it.

I seriously need to get rid of this stupid idea that my brain has, where I can't relax until the house looks reasonably tidy. It is July. I am trying to write a novel in a month. I'm having to keep my own bad temper in check whilst dealing with a grumpy overheated toddler. Also, my pelvic joint pain is back, meaning that at any moment, my leg feels like it might just go numb and collapse from underneath me. Collapsing in any way, shape, or form, is not ideal whilst carrying a person inside you.

So anyway, I told myself off. Shut up, brain. No housework on stupidly hot days for anyone. It is just not worth the extra movement. I give you all permission to do the same. Flop on the sofa in your pants and eat a Solero or something. It's all about survival, people!

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Summer reading list 2016!

Hey! I recently treated myself to a new book or seven and so I thought it might be a good time to do a little summer reading list. Long, hazy (and probably rainy) days are perfect for reading, right? Mind you I think ALL days are perfect for reading no matter what's going on around me. Anyway, I love reading these posts on other people's blogs. I like sharing in other people's happy reading-planning-joy. So here's mine:

1. Acceptance by Jeff Vandermeer

Annoyingly this is not the cover I have for this book! My covers look like this:

Beautiful, beautiful books.

Acceptance is the final part of a sci-fi trilogy about Area X, a mysterious wilderness shut off from the general public. One by one, a secret agency called the Southern Reach send teams of investigators into the area to discover its secrets, and quickly discover that they are fighting a losing battle with something way more powerful than they could have imagined.

The first book in this series, Annihilation, had my heart racing the entire time. The second, Authority, dragged on a little bit but had genuinely terrifying moments. I have high hopes for the finale!

2. Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey

I read another book by Bessey, Jesus Feminist, earlier this year, and it had a profoundly healing impact on me. Out of Sorts discusses what happens when your faith evolves into something different than it was before - on how to handle the journey. I've started to read it already and even the introduction had me welling up. What I love about Bessey is that she is so kind-hearted and gentle, that even when she is speaking strongly and passionately about things she cares about, she still manages to exude grace and love.

I only wish I'd downloaded it a year ago!

3. The Surf Guru Stories by Doug Dorst

Doug Dorst is the writer of S, a book I recently wrote a lengthy and excited review of. This is a collection of short stories written by him. I really enjoyed Dorst's writing style, so I'm looking forward to getting stuck into these.

4. Becoming Unbecoming by Una

This year I really wanted to get into graphic novels, because it turns out there's a world of them out there that aren't to do with a) superheroes or b) zombies. Becoming Unbecoming has been on my list since before Christmas, and I picked it up in Foyles last week for my birthday. 

To give you an idea of what it looks like:

Amazon describes it as 'a devastating personal account of gender violence', one woman's (true, real life) journey in a world where violence against women is both accepted and normalised. Not an easy read, but an important one.

5. I'll Give You The Sun - Jandy Nelson

It's not a summer reading list without a bit of YA, right? 

I'll Give You the Sun tells the story of Jude and Noah, twins driven apart by a tragedy. The book chronicles their journey to reconciliation (at least that's what it looks like anyway). It's been described as 'blazing' 'dazzling' and 'heartbreakingly honest' and I expect I'll finish it in a day because I can't put these kind of books down once I start them.

6. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I know next to nothing about this book other than the fact that is a) supposed to be thrilling and b) topping every best seller list at the moment. I nearly picked it up on holiday and chose a Dawn French book instead which I hated (oh the regret!). It is a psychological thriller about a girl. On a train. Can't wait to find out what all the fuss is about.

7. The Fringe Hours by Jessica N. Turner

Ever feel like every day is the same and you just don't have enough time in the day to do anything for yourself? Have you hit the point where you feel so ground down by meeting everyone's needs that you've forgotten what yours are?

This book may well be for you.

Written for busy, exhausted people, The Fringe Hours is described as a 'permission slip to carve out some space in your day for the things that give you joy and feed your soul'. It is apparently packed with tips and creative ideas to do with time management and prioritising. Which sounds very useful to me.

8 The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf

This is a feminist classic, the kind of book that crops up in every blog post and discussion I read about standards of beauty and the pressures women face to look perfect. I've wanted to read this for so long, but never got round to ordering it, and then realised there is a short edition on the Kindle for £3.49, so I'm going to give it a go.

Wolf explores the topics of beauty, youthfulness and the pressure to conform to impossible beauty standards. I expect to come away from this book feeling fired up.

So, have you got any books picked out for the summer? Let me know what you're reading!

Linking up with:

Pink Pear Bear

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