A Room of One’s Own

“What’s this? A shrine to 44 years ago?” BUB.1 was watching me sort through boxes of old school work, vinyl albums, Smash Hits yearbooks and photos that had finally, at the age of 44, made it out of my parents’ loft and into mine. But not before I had relived the memories and kept a few in sight.

My whopping new 182cm x 182cm Ikea Kallax (the furniture WW resists but cannot deny saves my sanity) was up in my office, with 25 boxes to be filled. I felt like a kid at Christmas. A few hours to wallow in two of my favourite things, nostalgia and organising. So in between the new filing drawers (‘School’ ‘Important things’ ‘To do’ etc.) and a box for chargers, a box for stationery and other important things that we lose daily, I fitted in my Smash Hits yearbooks, my photos, all the books that make me inspired or happy. My diaries, my old work clippings, and still lots of boxes to fill.

BUB.1 was right in a way. Standing there, laughing at all my old stuff. My peanuts book, my Muppet Fun Book, my Just Seventeens and my Wham! Make it Big album. My Creative Writing folder from when I was not much older than he is, my project on volcanoes, a topic his class is studying now.

I keep seeing man sheds springing up, but maybe women need women caves too. It doesn’t have to be an entire room. It could be a little pop up desk with a couple of shelves in the bedroom. While men sit playing video games or using their tools, forgetting the grown up world back in the house, women can read, write, create, build or just listen to George Michael (or whoever tickles their fancy) and wallow in a time before they had the responsibilities of a family. They can just be themselves. People go on about having children changing you completely. It widens your perspective and it alters your daily tasks but I don’t think it changes the core you. I’ve said it before, there is nothing quite as therapeutic as remembering what it was like when there was just you.

The beauty of both women and men having their own caves is that no one is interrupted by the dishwasher bleeping to be emptied. Everyone is off duty. Everyone escapes.

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Exploding sprinkles

A while back I thought I was having a bad day: leaky milk bottle in school bags, wee in the car seat until, at tea time, the sprinkles exploded.So, with keeping a tidy, clean home in order obviously at the front of my mind, here are 10 confessions of a true scummy mummy.

Two days ago I wrote a blog called 5 Tricks To Get You Through The Day which was  a five-point plan for survival at home with small kids: Tea, Radio, Podcasts, Loud Music and Wine (not necessarily in that order). One of my friends commented that one of her tricks is to squirt bleach down the toilets to give the overall feeling of having cleaned the entire house. To her, wiping boys’ wee off toilet seats restores a sense of calm. On the same day I read this fantastic Peter and Jane post about the state of Mummy’s car. I feel it. Three days ago a Petit Filous was tipped upside down into the drinks/coin holder between the front seats where it is currently cultivating. A while back I thought I was having a bad day: leaky milk bottle in school bags, wee in the car seat until, at tea time, the sprinkles exploded.

I sometimes clean the entire house using just baby wipes. This is particularly true if visitors are unexpectedly coming.

No matter how many times I tidy up, there is always an adult male sock somewhere on the living room carpet.

I once found Sesame Street’s Beaker lurking in my knicker drawer. To be honest, he looked more surprised than I did.

My entire house used to be a car park. Sinks were ramps, taps were car washes, kitchen drawers were garages, windowsills were speedways. This has all thankfully ended now.
It’s now Jurassic Park.

Like a catastrophic game of Kerplunk, the BUBs love to ‘play’ with dried spaghetti, in an unauthorised attack on my sanity.

Whenever I clear the car of toys, tissues, wrappers and rubble in preparation for a clean, Mr Potato Head and his many accroutrements will sneak in.

I once had to surgically remove a pair of meerkats from a beaker.

You know you’ve come unstuck when you have to use baby wipes to wipe the packet of baby wipes that have become suspiciously sticky.

What happens when men tidy up is you find a screwdriver in your knicker drawer.

After months of delay, I cleaned my bag out. I put the bugger through the washing machine. The next day a packet of Walkers French Fries emptied into the pocket. Five days later it was still there.

BUT…whenever the state of the house gets too much, I remember the day BUB.3 returned from her first morning at preschool. She ran in and hugged the walls.

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5 Tricks To Get You Through The Day

The hideous cacophony of household appliances, voices and thuds, the constant litter picking, the ceaseless searching for things and the endless supply of defrosted sausages to cook. It’s what known as the Day That Lasts Forever But Actually Nothing Gets Done and it happens when you are a parent to small children and spend time in your own home.

You know it. The hideous cacophony of household appliances, shouts and songs, the constant litter picking, the ceaseless searching for things and the endless supply of defrosted sausages to cook. It’s what’s known as the Day That Lasts Forever But Actually Nothing Gets Done and it happens when you are a parent to small children and spend time in your own home. It took me a while to get a handle on these days. These days used to haunt my soul. But as the years have gone along, I have learnt my own Tricks To Get Me Through The Day.

1. Tea. I neck the first cup of tea of the day and the one directly before bathtime like it’s a tequila on a bad date.

2. Radio: It might add to the cacophony but the days I forget or am too busy to switch the radio on are the days I literally lose my mind. I never switch on the TV. Voices, talking, music, joy comes from the background noise of radio, not daytime TV presenters.

3. Podcasts: I don’t mind putting laundry away if Russell Brand is buffering on my bed. Likewise, podcasts like Serial, Invisibilia and Scummy Mummies have literally kept me sane and helped me drown out Peppa’s annoying whine. Sometimes something as simple as a quick listen to an archived Dustin Hoffman’s Desert Island Discs can make the day swim along much more merrily.

4. Loud music: The louder the better and nothing with a child’s voice in it or mention of animals or wheels.

5. Wine. You know those people who fall in love in a romantic sense with the Golden Gate Bridge or a bannister rail? I feel that way about Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc.

My list is simple. I’m open to hearing of any other tricks. Sometimes even the Big Five can’t swing it.

 

 

The Wife of Bath: the sequel.

Four years ago I wrote a blog called The Wife of Bath in which I explained why I get in the bath with my small kids. BUB.3 was still a twinkle, the first two were 1 and 3. Today they are 3, 5 and 7. Looking through my list of 8 reasons that I used to swill about in the muck of my children, it’s clear why this no longer happens.
1) I don’t always require a complete change of clothes at bath time. Now only my socks get wet.
2) I’m not so dirty anymore. They, on the other hand, just get filthier with each year that passes. Mostly exploded yogurt and marker pen.
3) Bath time without me just sounds a bit sad. It’s still my favourite time with them. Weird, I know.
4) They still love it. But they’re bigger. And sometimes they try to drown each other. Or they’re pretending to smoke.
5) I’ve invested in a Lifeproof iPhone cover. From someone who has dropped previous phones in pineapple juice, prune juice, down several toilets, through a 90 degree washing machine cycle and into a bowl of chicken soup, I’m the ultimate test for this thing and this thing lives on where others have not been so lucky.
6) They would hate me to get into the bath with them now. I would be insulted like the time BUB.1 told me I looked like a gorilla who had lost all of its hair apart from its armpits.
7) I never care about what I’m wearing anymore. I’ve accepted my uniform of shrunken long-sleeved stretchy black top and bulging jeans. I’m OK with it.
8) I no longer have to worry about them weeing in my bath because I tend to now sneak in before them. Invariably the moment my shoulders hit the hot water one of them wants an immediate poo. I don’t know which is worse. The kid who immediately wants me to leave the bathroom (and therefore extract myself from a lovely hot bath I have been in for 5 seconds) or the kid who wants me to stay. THIS is just one of the infinite philosophical “caught between a rock and a hard place” questions that dominate parenthood. You can never really win with kids. There’s always a trade off.
But one thing never changes from the time I wrote this blog post. The last line. That is and always will be so very, very true.

Black Sunday

These things take their toll on your creativity. I want to post slow cooker recipes and camping stove bakes, I really do, but yesterday completely demonstrates why I haven’t been able to post a letter, let alone a blog about the kitchen renovation.

I SO* wanted to be one of those bloggers who goes through a home renovation, documenting it in an inspiring and humorous way and weaving something creative and uplifting out of a frustrating and challenging situation. I truly had no idea I’d be without a kitchen for over a year. We ripped ours out in September last year and WW’s Dad is currently fitting our new one. Between then and now we’ve knocked a wall down, had a beautiful roof lantern and bi-fold doors fitted and we’re going to have a lovely family space at the end of it. It’s just, for a variety of reasons, taken forever.

I’ve been washing up in a makeshift plastic sink in our very narrow utility which has also become my kitchen (with camping stove, slow cooker, microwave and kettle) which also, as it turns out, has become my shower room because our upstairs bath is leaking when we shower in it. So we’re basically cooking in our utility with adjoining (by a rickety sliding door) toilet and shower, and have been for a year.

These things take their toll on your creativity. I want to post slow cooker recipes and camping stove bakes, I really do**, but yesterday completely demonstrates why I haven’t been able to post a letter, let alone a blog about the kitchen renovation.

So to yesterday, Sunday, a day when WW was helping his Dad with the kitchen. BUB.2 has been begging me for a lattice-topped blackberry pie since he saw something similar in the movie Zootropolis. I had some blackberries in the freezer which we stewed with apples on the the camping stove hob, three little IKEA chairs pushed up against a counter no wider than one chair. We moved to Kitchen B (my old office which has become a sandwich making/cereal pouring/lunchbox making zone this year) to roll out the pre-made pastry. All good until we discovered we didn’t have enough pastry for the all-important lattice top so off to the shop we went, BUB.2 on his bike, me striding behind, feeling like we could do this.

On our return I heard an almighty crash from the Toilet Kitchen. Running in, I discovered my colander of stewed blackberries and apples in a heap on the Toilet Kitchen floor, with splattered blackberry juice all over the pile of white washing (Judo kits & white bed sheets) that were at our feet as we baked. Toilet Kitchen is not only the toilet, shower and kitchen but also the laundry room. The washing machine had vibrated the colander off of the top of the camping stove (the only spare place I had to put it) and onto the floor. At this moment WW asked me what I thought about the positioning of the cooker hood in the Future Kitchen. My reply was curt and turned the air bluer than than the blackberry juice.

Then, just to cap it, I burnt my flapjacks, a side project I had undertaken because I am a masochist. After three days sugar-free, and a week alcohol-free, I was to be found moments later hunched over, scooping great spoonfuls of crumbled, burnt, sugary oats into my mouth and opening a bottle of Brancott Estate with my other hand.

Fortunately I had some frozen Aldi berries in the freezer and the kids like granola. And I had wine. The children got their pie.

But this is why I haven’t blogged about this magical adventure, or much else for that matter. Because mostly I’ve been too busy ricocheting between chaotic rooms looking for things in my house (we decided to also knock through a bedroom at the same time because we are mentally unstable), stress-eating sugary snacks and cooking in the toilet.

*I didn’t at all really.

**I don’t.

Mumzilla

Blue birds

Painting up the old shed we inherited when we bought our house made it one thousand times nicer . An old door knocker that Willy Wonka has been storing for years, a painted bird box and some new windows (once we’d discounted the idea of turning it into a bar at the bottom of the garden…).

 

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KERBOOM birthday cake

imageIn the future, if I ever struggle to remember what it was like to have a three-year-old child, I will just look at a photo of the birthday cake I made BUB.2 for his fourth birthday.

He had seen similar cakes on the internet when I was searching for dinosaur cakes and said he wanted one just like it. So a volcano it was. I’m not a cake-maker and time is of the vanilla essence, so I roped my Mum into making the chocolate sponges. I chose this chocolate madeira cake recipe, because madeira is a firmer sponge, less likely to crumble when being formed into a volcano.

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For the crater I decided it would be best to bake the sponge in a Pyrex measuring jug, to give the right sort of shape. I had seen volcano cakes that had been created using a dome-shaped cake tin, but I’m afraid that results in more of a Christmas pudding effect than a volcano.

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Next, I covered the entire cake in chocolate buttercream icing, using rough strokes to achieve the look of a craggy, lava-eroded mountain. Nothing Christmas-puddingy about this monster.

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And then I went a *little* crazy over the decoration.

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Strawberry laces, jelly beans and coloured fondant icing for the lava, mini Toblerones, fudge and chocolate chunks for the tumbling rocks and popping candy and sparklers for the KERBOOM.

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We decided to use mini toy dinosaurs on a grassy edge rather than attempting to fashion them out of fondant icing. I have my limits. BUB.1 came up with the idea of using Cadbury mini eggs for dinosaur eggs. I liked it.

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One minute happy, playing dinosaurs and the next moment, often without warning, KERBOOM, an almighty explosion.

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And that, in a nutshell, is being three.

Pink Pear Bear
Pink Pear Bear