Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Surprises

We got more than we bargained for in our yuletide surprises this year when surviving Christmas took on completely new meaning. WE got through the day itself in one piece, despite almost exploding from overeating and almost imploding from the joy of seeing the girls faces after Santa’s sortie, we had a much more serious dapple with death the next day. Icy relations with the in-laws warmed dramatically when the icy roads nearly ended all relations. We drove up the Wicklow mountains for lunch and the girls entertained us (and everyone else) with a few renditions of Rudolf. …like one of those scenes in a film where everyone is happy and laughing, minutes before disaster strikes. The roads had become quite treacherous and as I cautiously drove down the mountain, I clung desperately to the steering wheel as if holding it tightly would somehow grip the wheels to the perilous path. With hubby ahead with his mum and aunt, I followed behind with the girls and grandpa. Suddenly we came to an empasse, cars approaching and all of us slowing to nearly stop as we passed each other. As hubby slowed, I braked and my first surprise happened. The car speeded up.
With an increasingly increasing speed, an icy downhill, and hubby’s bumper bouncing towards me I had about 3 seconds to make a decision. And this was surprise number two. In three seconds this is what I was able to think:
“Shit! I’m not going to stop. Here are my choices. I can keep going and hit hubby, and maybe push him off the mountian. I can avoid him to the left and head straight off the edge ourselves. I can veer right into the oncoming cars. Or I can pull hard left and drive into that handy 20foot pile of logged trees there. “
I opted for the latter. And so, three seconds later I had time to yell “we’re going to crash!” before we……. well, crashed. Head on into a very high, very solid, wall of wood. And here was surprise number three. It made a bloody big bang. I dread to think how loud a fast crash is. And here is surprise number four. We all survived, we all had a cry and then we all had a laugh about it. Isn’t the human spirit amazing? (OK, the car in banjexed but who cares?)
After a rather lacklustre table chat over Christmas, suddenly Boxing night was full of life, and laughter. And there was my final surprise. A brush with death brings a family to life. Not recommending it of course…. But still, I hugged my girls a little closer, and I laughed a little louder. And that was my best Christmas present of all…….. what was yours??[1]

[1] Christmas Surprises
29th Decemeber 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Letter to Santa

Christmas Eve. Its here at last. I can almost hear the distant “Ho Ho Ho” over the crinkling of wrapping paper as stockings are stocked and stuffed.

Have I been a good girl? Well, let’s see. According to the good behaviour rules that my children would recognise, lets take a look:
Saying please and thank you – yep.
Flush the toilet – yep.
Eat up my dinner – no problem
No biting anyone – yep.
Sharing my toys – yep.

Great – so now we’ve established I’m a good girl what can I ask from Santa?
I’m a simple girl, I don’t want (many) diamonds

Dear Santa,
1. Another hour in the day please. Just so I can read the mountain of books I have waiting for me.
2. A tape (see previous post!)
3. A computer that doesn’t freeze every ten minutes forcing me (against my will) to swear in front of my children.
4. A lever on my fridge (just like the one you push to get ice) that delivers home-made nutritious delicious kids food three times a day.
5. A Government scheme to pay work-at-home mums a decent wage so I can buy a pair of boots (or even a bra) without my husband knowing. Or without me having to ask.
6. An Orla Kiely bag. (It’s always on my lists)
7. Some sun. Just a little. I know we chose to live in Ireland but really, just a little?
8. A memory stick for my brain, so I can remember every single second of my girl’s childhood, especially this day.
9. A self-slapping machine that gives me a good whack whenever I forget how lucky I am, and start whining about stupid crap that is totally meaningless.
10. And finally Santa, if I may be so bold, can you arrange it so that next Christmas we have a third little stocking hanging on the mantelpiece?

Thanks Santa, and good luck tonight. I know what it feels like to have everyone expecting stuff from you, and not enough hours to deliver them in.

You can see from the picture that Daisy and Poppy have made you a cookie and some milk … and a carrot for Rudolf. It’s by the fire. Oh, and watch out for Smeagal my cat – he might get a fright when you land down the chimney. But a quick tickle under the chin should put him right. I won’t come down and see you, I’ll be upstairs with my girls, awake with anticipation of the day to come.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Loving Christmas

Ah Christmas…..always loved it. All that glitter and glutton. All that ho ho ho and he he he. All those presents wrapped under the tree, all those presents hidden in the cupboard waiting to be stuffed into expectant stockings. Little eyes glittering brighter than the lights on the sweet smelling tree.

But, now, I have a new glorious reason to love Christmas…. It’s Monday morning and I’m lying in bed enjoying my cup of tea. I haven’t said ‘hurry up’ once. Not once! Normally by 7.12am I’ve said it 14 times. The kids hardly know which way to turn with no-one barking directions at them, so they run around in every direction, giddy with the freedom of a silent mummy.

Yes, my new reason for loving Christmas is the Christmas holidays. Three weeks of not having to start my day as a military major on speed. So as a little treat to myself, I’ve come up with a cunning plan to keep the calmness continuing into the new year.

I’m making a tape. The tape will run for an hour and a half and be played from 7am each morning, Monday to Friday. You see, we’ve been doing this routine every morning for over a year, yet every time I say “Clean your teeth”, or “get dressed” they look at me as if they’ve never been asked to do it before in their lives. So next year, it’s going to be different. At 7am I’ll press play and lie back with my cup of tea. I might even read the paper. And let the tape run: “Get, up, hurry up, downstairs, hurry up, eat up, hurry up, come on eat your porridge, hurry up, now drink your smoothie, hurry up, COME ON, hurry up, now upstairs quickly, hurry up, into the bathroom, hurry up, no the bathroom, hurry up, no out of the spare room, hurry up, stop jumping on the bed, hurry up, clean your teeth, hurry up, don’t forget those back ones, hurry up, now get dressed, hurry up, put your pyjamas under your pillow, hurry up, no not on the floor, giddy up, hurry up, no you can’t wear your tutu, hurry up, no you definitely can’t wear your swimming costume, hurry up, now come on, stay still while I brush your hair, hurry up, HURRY UP, now downstairs, hurry up, shoes on, hurry up, SHOES ON, hurry up, out of the playroom, hurry up, now put your coats on, hurry up, hats and scarves, hurry up, yes you have to wear the hat, its snowing, HURRY UP, HURRY UP, HURRY UUUUUUUUUUUPPPPPPPPP!”

Until then, I’ll be snuggling under the duvet for another half hour. The girls might even join me. Loving Christmas. What's your favourite thing about Christmas??

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Testing Times

I’ll never forget the shock and surprise when the first blue line changed my life forever. And the rollercoaster ride we embarked on, first with Daisy and then Poppy, was a journey like no other. But never did I think our journey would end here. In a waiting room getting ready for tests to try and answer the questions I have constantly whirling round my head: why have I lost three babies; will I have another? But no-one can tell us.

So this morning I found myself sitting in the clinic of a new hospital – I couldn’t face my old hospital having walked out there empty-bellied and empty-handed three times, the joyous memories of my two glorious girls there diminished. Pouring grains of rock salt into my raw wounds (my last miscarriage was only 5 weeks ago), two women sit in the clinic with me waiting for their newborn’s checkups, their post-baby bellies exulting their triumphs, while my flat stomach hosts only my grief. It doesn’t matter that I have two beautiful babies, they and any subsequent babies will never rub out the loss of my other three. All I have of two of them are the scans, and the sound of their heartbeats still thudding in the dark of the night as I lie awake, wondering.

I have nothing from the third. It was announced with a blue line on the day my previous pregnancy was due. But six weeks later it was gone. Like a new mother, I am intimate with the long lost hours of the night, sleepless as if my brain is expecting to be woken through the night, in denial that I have no baby to soothe. So instead I go and check on my girls, my glorious girls, and their sleeping smiles soothe me. Grief is the loneliest emotion. I cannot share it, I cannot explain it. It just is.

And suddenly I am lifted. A new doctor, and new face. She is kind and patient and authoritative and just what I need. We will have tests – antibodies, chromosomal, bloods, scans, but more importantly we have a plan. I’m not going into this alone. It may only be aspirin and hormones, but it feels as though I am doing something positive. It may lead to more heartbreak, but it may lead to a new wonderful life, and either way I’ll know we tried everything we could. It may be another rollercoaster, but I’m ready for the journey.

I promise to return to a more jolly festive fever soon…..

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Role Reversal

The girls may be responsible for most of my exhaustion (indirectly at least), but they also are my rainbow at the end of a crap day.

Yesterday I hit the wall. Up again most of the night with various coughs and complaints (and one lost Pinkie, Poppy’s can’t-sleep-without-toy) I could barely muster the energy to get out of bed. This has probably only happened about 3 times in my life. When daisy announced she was too sick to go to school, I jumped at the chance and jumped back under the duvet. Our usual morning military mania is up at 7, downstairs (me dressed) by half past, breakfast and cleared up by eight, dressed and teeth cleaned by twenty past, coats on and pram out by half past and walk to school in 25 minutes. Exactly. Instead this morning, the girls clambered into bed with milk and breadsticks (and a nice cuppa for me, thanks hubby) and we read stories for a while before breakfast. I cancelled everything. All my manic plans for school, Claphandies, dance class, visiting, shopping, and posting all postponed. I haven’t left the house. In truth, I actually couldn’t leave the house. I’m tired to my very bones. When hubby kindly offers me a night in the spare room so I can sleep, I feel like yelling “this is not a one-night’s sleep tiredness!” This is three miscarriages in a row, months of early pregnancy exhaustion, Christmas carryon, endless hospitality, chronic sleeplessness, and two lively girls who hang off me every second of the day and most of the night tiredness. I cook and bake and clean and shop and wrap and plan and wash and tidy and write and play and read and draw and paint Santas because if I stop the cog for one second, I might just fall apart in the vacuum. Every minute I am aware of the missing stockings that should be hanging on the mantelpiece.

And so as I lay in bed this morning, my eyes leaden and laden with exhaustion, I suddenly felt a little butterfly on my cheek. I opened one eye to find Poppy stroking my hair, smiling and whispering “There there mummy, it’ll be ok”. And she kissed me again. She then hugged me and stretched over to get my brush and began brushing my hair. I closed my eyes, the love from her overwhelming me, until I felt something soft being nestled under my arm. My other eye opened to see her giving me Pinky to cuddle. Her Pinkie. The most precious thing in her life. Then Daisy got her medical kit and checked me over – my reflexes, my ears, my tongue and finally she listened to my heart. I’m not sure what my heart told her, but she seemed very clear about what I needed.
“Mummy, you are very sick, and you need 20 years in bed with us.”
I think she might be right.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Overwhelmed and underperforming

I feel a bit of a cheat. My last blog obviously gave the impression I was some sort of smiling Stepford wife, happily baking and whipping up a trifle whilst knocking the oven door shut with my hip, loaf cooking and emitting Nigella warm and cosy smells into the kitchen, while the children play happily at my feet, all Walton-like and wholesome.

Yes, indeed, our house has turned into a hotel for the foreseeable future. And yes, I am prone to the odd bit of home baking. Last week I even skinned a salmon (won’t be doing that again). Waltons, however, we are not. There are no sweet serenades at the end of the evening, as we sing Goodnight to each other through the walls. “Goodnight Johnboy” is now a rather a high pitched “GO TO BED” as I collapse onto the sofa to write the 150 Christmas cards I’ve just made on the computer. Yesterday I actually (really, actually) thought I was going to have a heart attack as I raced from a meeting with Poppy under one arm (try trying to look like a professional with your toddler in tow because the childminder you have for a whole 3 hours a week cancelled), and her lunch under the other as I had to feed her in the car on the way to pick up Daisy who I was late for and had to call another mother to hold onto her for me till I got there, so that I could put Poppy to sleep as soon as we got home, so I could make the mince pies for the freezer, so I could get Poppy up and Daisy and I out to the shopping centre to get all the stuff I need for this weekend’s visitors, and back in time to give them their tea so I could get the presents wrapped and the lists done for four days of Xmas meals around Christmas so I could order the turkey and ham today and get the cards printed so I could write them today so I can post them tomorrow (50 done, 100 to go), so I could change the sheets because my mum was down last night and my father-in-law is over tomorrow and we only have one set, and then Daisy wet the bed last night at 3am and I had to get up and change it and so I had to get the waterproof sheet dried to go back on the bed tonight, and shit, I haven’t hovered, but I might have time tomorrow after I’ve dropped Daisy to school and taken Poppy to ClapHandies and walked home and made the dessert for dinner before getting Daisy up and taking her to dance class at 4.30pm on a Friday afternoon at the other end of town but she likes it and all her old friends are there from our old house so we go there instead of the one down the road with no friends and then get back about 6.30pm and try and feed, bath and TV them before 7pm, when I am supposed to then get my novel out and get inspired and write for 3 hours, but usually only manage the sofa and a box of Black Magic. Did i mention I shout a lot?

Can someone please tell me why I can’t make life easier for myself? Why can’t I just go to the bloody shops and buy a packet of biscuits? Why can I not relax and enjoy the moment? Today, I took my mum and the two girls to the National Concert Hall to watch the Snowman, while the orchestra play the score live and a choir sings. It was stunning and beautiful and special. And I almost didn’t enjoy it because I was so stressed about the fact Poppy didn’t sleep in the car on the way, and my well-planned, well-ordered day was at risk of falling apart. Thankfully at one point, I rested my head on my mum’s shoulder as Daisy sat mesmerised holding my hand, and Poppy nestled into my chest and I took a deep breath. It was a good moment. Why can’t I take more deep breaths? Is it just me? I don’t think so…. Why are we so pulled apart from every day living? Why is motherhood so hard? When am I going to be able to take a deep breath, and when oh when did it all get so bloody complicated? Even the girls are finding Christmas too much! I think all I want from Santa is a day off.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Feast or Famine

There are several advantages of not having family living nearby…… no over-enthusiastic visiting from mums and mother-in-laws; no loosing your husband to Saturday DIY sessions at the grandparent’s house; no Sunday lunch obligations; no cousin babysitting. Of course the disadvantage list is longer with no free babysitting taking the top three spots. Actually, the top five.

Somehow when our families were settling down everyone had a philosophy of “pick a country, any country” and therefore ended up flung around Ireland and Britain like children playing hide and seek in a large house. Our kids don’t have a single relation living in their own country – grandparents in Northern Ireland, Vietnam and England, cousins in Scotland and Brighton. In our family, we don’t have get-togethers, we have invasions. Take this Christmas – our first in our new house. “Come see us” we offered excitedly in our drunken champagne exuberance of actually owning a family home. And so this Christmas our family festivities are a bit like the proverbial bus – we don’t see them for months, and then they all arrive together.

This weekend my parents drove down from Belfast and my brother’s family flew in from Scotland. And it all sort of whizzed past me in a blur of noise – 6 adults and 5 children shouting, screaming, laughing, pushing, shoving, eating drinking, talking, and eating and drinking some more. And suddenly as quickly as they all arrived, they’ve all gone, leaving the house shell-shocked and me wondering if it actually all happened. The Christmas tree is about the only thing left standing, and even it looks pretty dazed.

Last weekend it was my husband’s brother and all his kids. Next weekend it’s his dad. Christmas is his mum, step-dad and Aunt and at New Year we have 18 (yes… count them with me – 8 adults and 10 children including us) for three days. I feel like I’m on some sort of entertainment rollercoaster where life has become a cycle of shopping, cleaning and changing beds followed by a manic three days of not seeing my own children while up to my eyeballs in whatever breakfast, lunch and dinner I’m trying to conjure up to feed the masses, following by the shopping, cleaning and changing beds again.

Hubby and I have a dream of someday opening a small but quaint B&B by the sea… I’m beginning to loose my enthusiasm. Anyway, must dash… got the beds to change..……

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Movie Star Syndrome

The last couple of days I’ve felt like a movie star. OK, I regularly feel like a movie star…. Matt Damon, Ryan Gossling, Matt Damon… but I mean it differently this time. This time I felt like two movie stars… sadly though, neither was exactly glamorous.

On Sunday, I was Mary Poppins. Without the flying umbrella. It rained, it poured and as the Old Man snored off his hangover, I hung out with the girls, making pancakes, singing carols and even making curtains for their playroom. Then, as the thunder rolled, we pulled the curtains at 2pm (how gorgeously winter), lit the fire (how gorgeously Christmassy), cuddled up on the sofa (how gorgeously gorgeous) with a large bowl of sweets, and watched Happy Feet. A perfect day…. (rounded off rather deliciously once the kids were in bed with a bottle of wine and a double dose of X-Factor…)

Yesterday however, I turned into Cruella de Ville. With a chirpy smile on my face to lull them into a false sense of security I took them to the local hospital for their Swine Flu Jab. As we queued and filled in forms, they danced and laughed and played – oblivious to the outraged screams of pain coming from the other room. Pale faced parents carried red faced children back through our room, but my girls danced away, blissfully happy in the trust they have that I will never cause them harm. I did try to explain, but there’s a fine line between a warning and scaring the beejaysus out of them.

So they led us into the room and behind the curtain. And now I had to make a choice. Who was going to go first? Who would be braver? I opted for little Poppy to have the blissful ignorance, judging I could rationalise better with Daisy. As the needle plunged into her podgy thigh, she screamed, her shocked eyes wide and accusing. No-one was laughing now. Especially Daisy. She now knew what was coming, and she was intent on going. She made a run for it but I managed to pull her out from under the table, desperately trying to ignore her wretched cries “Please mummy, don’t let her hurt me! I don’t want a hole in my leg!” I soothed her with (false, let’s face it) words of comfort but it still took me and another nurse to hold her down while the second took the plunge.

In fairness they recovered as soon as soon as two lollipops made an appearance, but as we sat in the recovery room (I have no doubt this is in fact for the parents to have time to get their legs to stop shaking rather than to see if the children have a reaction) Daisy looked quite determined, hands on hip, stamping of foot. “I am never coming back here again!”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her she would be… round two is in three weeks. Oh joy.