Dereliction & A Crumbling

The kids were restless.
Please, can we go on our bikes.

It should be simple. Ideally we’d have one of those bikeracks fitted neatly onto the back of our car & off we’d all troop for a blissfully peaceful afternoon of cycling.

Problem one. No bike rack
Problem two. Littliest doesn’t ride yet & isn’t a big fan of his scooter.

The compromise is walk a little way to the local park & the olders ride & the littliest runs. The park is, how shall I put it. Not entirely stress free. There are problematic roamers in merry groups in their dull in dark uniform ‘uniform’. There are sometimes unsavoury unsafe items left in the grass & coupled with a noisy & rambuctious crowd at the pop-up ‘mini theme-park’ I decided to go a different route.

We went right.
I’ve never been right before.
Ahead of me stood an imposing building with some beautiful architectural details

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It wouldn’t have been out of place in a Harry Potter set. My interest piqued, I looked into it (via my phone) & found it was originally an orphanage & then transferred to become a hospital.
It was so beautiful, a little eerie & hopelessly abandoned. A shadow of its former self.

As I looked, I contrasted it to me.
(& no, I’m not always this reflective or introspective).

As a Mum, I’ve not been ‘just me’ for a long time. I look at myself post 6 babies & it’s not entirely a pretty sight. Some would have me believe that I’m crumbling- all this time spent raising kids has caused me to ‘crumble’. I’ve simply not pursued my own dreams & put myself first.
Am I a more derelict version of the original me?

Sometimes it’s easy to lose yourself in a mountain of washing, deadlines, housework, homework & wonder quite how exactly you arrived at this point. For more seconds than I’m happy with, I wonder whether I’ve missed something.

Then common sense overtakes me.
Are you kidding?
Yes, I’ve scars to prove my entry to this motherhood sorority.
Scars, literal and figurative.
I hope I’m better for being worse (if you follow),
I cannot even on my very worst parenting day, during the most heinous of unwise mum decisions, seriously regret it.

I’m no martyr.
I should be celebrating the fact that I’ve had my ‘best years’ being priveleged enough to be a mother, and steering these unique children.
We all have our down days, the times we hold our hands up and freely admit we really don’t know what we’re doing.
As a mum with faith, I’m glad I’ve a trust in One who helps me make sense of it all.
But as for the crumbling?…

I’ll keep crumbling. I reckon it’s better to accept I don’t know it all, that the whole Mom thing does require me to take a back seat on a regular basis. But it will be worth it.
We have to stick together. This motherhood lark was never for the fainthearted.
We are in a massive global community that instead of doing the whole ‘snare of compare’ thing, should be helping each other through the crumbly days & the times when I feel like boarding the ‘windows’ and retreating.

Oh,..and crumbly immediately makes me think of biscuits, particularly the chocolate covered ones.
And they are no bad things!

See you when I’ve oiled a few of my squeaky hinges!! x

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Tweens & Those Tricky Little Questions!

There are some skills that my kids don’t seem to have managed to imbue into me. The chief of all lacking skills is my inability to read their mind.
It would be incredibly helpful for me to understand both the root cause of their feelings and more importantly WHAT they are actually feeling.

A case in point.
Your tween wanders down the stairs and presents themselves to you whilst you’re busy making breakfast. I use the term ‘making’ in a falsely grand way. If you can describe plopping bread in a toaster & sorting out cereal as creating breakfast, then I was certainly rocking it.
A schoolboy error- which I haven’t quite eradicated, is the not paying attention at always the most inconveninent of times to you. These very times are in fact often the one and only time that your kids want to unburden themselves and woe betide if you get that one wrong.
You’ve missed the moment.
You may not get to hear it.

This day, I’d got past the first test, I’d turned and was listening.
A killer question came.
The Mount Vesuvius of tricky conundrums was pouring forth from their lips.

‘Do I look silly in this’.
Now it is not quite akin to us women asking our other halves whether our ‘derrieres’ look big in this! If they think that’s a toughie- let them try & free themselves from a question so fraught of difficulty that even the fantastic Mr Goodwin would have trouble.

There are several responses. Responses that had I even a NVQ level 1 in mind reading, I’d probably ace. Sadly I can’t even muster Year 2 SAT passes in that one.
The first reponse is to look lovingly (or slightly incredulously) at them and say ‘of course you don’t honey, you look great’.
There is a major flaw to this strategy. Firstly- if they do happen to look a little odd, you lose all integrity by commenting otherwise. For those that this isn’t an issue to, there is a slightly more pressing issue.
If said child actually thinks they look a little unusual & you tell them that they look fine, a strange and unmarvellous thing happens. They lose immediate faith in your opinion & what’s worse their little brain click, click, clicks back over the past few months and does an elemenetary maths equation.
‘ok, if mum has just said I look fine, & I patently do not, that means that I went out to Bodrin’s party looking a sight & I can’t imagine how bad I looked last Saturday.’
All previous encouragements are tarnished, all prior conversations count for little. They can’t see that you’re trying to be kind on this occasion, you’ve just been flaky for longer than they care to remember.

So, onto plan B. You can try and diplomatically tell the truth.
Oh, I’ve tried.
I’ve racked my brains to creatively and gently suggest a way of telling them that their dress sense is unique.
Sometimes I’ve done ok. Other times I have bombed.
The problem is that if they think that they look fabulous & you tell them otherwise, you’re guaranteeed flouncing, upset or major waterworks.

You may actually hit it spot on- they were asking for your genuine opnion & you gave them the correct answer & they relievedly run upstairs and change.

Except, you’re playing Russian Roulette. How do you know when they need brutal honesty wrapped up in sugar coated words or whether this is the occasion that less words are more, & gentle encouragement of their creativity in dressing is what is needed.

Well today- I scored an unknowing blinder. I asked a question.
I’m learning that asking questions after being asked a question has saved my bacon on many an occasion.
So, I enquired ‘do you like it?’
‘Ermm, no not really. What do you think?’
Aha, it’s the ‘pleasetellmehonestlybutgently’ situation.
‘Well, it’s quite different’, I replied.

Off she trotted. Happy that I gave her the confidence to go and change. And this is from the girl who likes to look different and slightly kooky.

What questions do you get asked that stump you or floor you?

Well, need to go & find some suitable shoes to wear. Maybe I should ask the kids!! x

Long Journeys & Long Faces!

I’m a little worried that by writing this post I may unleash some extremely stressful memories.

The particular journey in question was a short drive from Liverpool to Dover, to Paris.. and back 4 days later.

The reason I’m telling you this story is simply to weave in some tips (& don’t-do tips) in response to Travel Supermarket’s Jolly Journeys competition. Part of me would quite like the free printed sunshield that is offered to all competition entries by http://www.travelsupermarket.com/c/cheap-car-hire/uk/ which is their low cost car hire. I had envisaged a sun shield with a picture of me and hubby kissing to act as the ultimate in entertaining (or rather getting the children to behave).

‘Amuse yourselves or we’ll put up the sunshield!!’

Obviously that’s not a very good tip.

Long trips do require planning. And lots of it.

For littlies I used to have snack packs. If in doubt feed them. Not sweets- obviously. Not if you don’t want large amounts of ‘travelsickness’ (for want of a better word!). When they were tiny babies we simply reconfigured the seating arrangements so I would sit in the back with toys & I had a couple of simple homemade shakey or noisy things to bring out. I did in fact look for a multifunctional toy for my twins when they were babies with the reckoning that one smaller toy with peep holes, things to find & different textures was preferable to a whole bag full. Checking out the charity shops and even swapping toys temporarily with friends is a great way to introduce some excitement to the babies.

Just stop. A lot. Screaming little ones due to heat, boredom or needing a nappy change is akin to slow torture and will inevitably set your holiday off to a fabulous start.

Not.

Buy some new music. Beg or borrow it. The sort to drive you utterly bonkers but will quickly hook your kids- and what doesn’t say ‘childhood holidays’ more than a bunch of littlies singing/screaming ridiculous songs over and over again. True, there is only so much of ‘I’ve got a song that will get on your nerves’ you can stand..but most nearly anything is better than whining and crying.

So, back to our holiday. We at that point had a 2 year old, 6 year old, 8 year old, 12 & 13 year old. I had packed like there was no tomorrow. In fact, we help them pack their car bags.

There had to be- pencils (that worked & were sharp). Felt-tips are always going to end up colouring in your upholstery. Trust me.

There was a book or two, paper & a few print out colouring sheets of favourite characters (see the web for free printables). The critical thing is to pique their excitement. Always have a ‘reserve bag’. That bag containing the best colouring books the pound shop can offer. Even novelty cheap pencils & a rubber are enough to entertain. I’d have spare water bottles, some snacks that take a long time to eat..raisins, Rainbow drops- you get the gist, & look out for scratch card type puzzles, wordsearch books (depending on the age of the child) & little toy cars. Cheap Snap-type games are brilliant too.

Back to the story. Liverpool to Dover is a drive and a half. We had taken a picnic & made sure we found somewhere there was grass at a time of day when the kids still had daylight to run around and about and not tread in dog muck or trip over half drunk cans. The problem is that your kiddos are often so wound up with excitement, that they’ll not always entertain themselves well. We’ve done the eye spy. (not good for a two year old), spot a ‘….’. We’ve even had highly successful week long competitions where we had a Landrover versus Defender spotting contest. (Not so good when travelling in France).

Once we’d got to Dover, we’d made such excellent time, we decided to try and get an earlier Channel crossing. After all , our plan was that we’d save money by travelling through the night, the kids would sleep & everything would be wonderful. Us parents would be wasted, but it would help with boredom for the kids at least. There’s another one- if you’ve got littlies who will sleep- try travelling when they sleep- but you risk what happened to us.

We were merrily travelling on the EuroTunnel. It’s not a place to unleash 5 kids. Not if you want to see them in a hurry. We kept them inside the car. The car was truly jammed. 7 people in a Landrover. Plenty of luggage on the roof. Kids were packed in like sardines.

It was now exceedingly late. Way past everyone’s bedtime (including mine). Tempers were frayed; not even the ‘reserve’ bag held any appeal. We pulled into a service station hoping to try and get everyone to sleep. My hubby was exhausted. Seats were wound back, kids squished into the best sleeping positions we could muster & we all went to sleep.

Except we didn’t.

Nobody did. Some started giggling. Hysteria crept in.

Some started to fight. The prospect of sleeping in such close proximity to one another was beyond what they could cope with. ‘He’s got his legs in my tummy’. ‘She’s sniffinfg too loudly’…

World war 3 was looming on the horizon.

Just don’t do it. Let this be a cautionary tale.

Book yourself into a motel. A hotel. A hole. Anywhere with a bed.

After 40 minutes of extreme torment. We waved the white flag. We frogmarched them all out of the car & wandered around the now deserted French service station. Beautifully manicured & elegantly dressed women looked at our bedraggled crew. I’d never felt so English in all my life.

10 minutes later we went back out. There was nothing to do and nowhere to go. You cannot play I-Spy in pitch darkness. Nearly every car was a Peugeot & there wasn’t enough light to do puzzles or draw. Our nerves were too jangled to listen to a jolly kids song CD & if they’d eaten anymore, they’d have been sick.

We even saw a one man tent next to a rubbish bin. The wind was howling & I wondered how the occupant hadn’t been taken airborne with the gusts. Right then, being in a tiny fabric tent was preferable to this nightmare.

So we drove. There was no entertaining going on. Severe lack of sleep & utter boredom gave way to a restless silence.

We arrived at EuroDisney & I pleaded for a place to stay.

I’d have sold my husband for a bed at that point- & I’m sure he felt that way too.

They took pity on us, charging us extra for the luxury of 7 beds. 1 hour later we finally succumbed to sleep.

The moral of the tale?

Don’t do it.

Don’t take your family to the edge of sanity & expect a bunch of beautifully behaved, well rested, super entertained kids. It is so not going to happen.

Save up. stop often & get sleep. You’ll thank me, honestly.

Oh, and maybe get a funny or embarrassing sunshade that you can threaten your teenagers with!

NaPoWriMo -or Words as Therapy

Don’t think that I’ll be posting this regularly-

it just so happens that this post at Verily, Victoria Vocalises struck a chord.

More precisely, a gong.

When something hits you smack bang in the face & compels you to respond. Quite like the clarion call of an early rising child in our household; ..’Mum, mum, mum, MUM, MUMMMM.. in ever increasing decibel levels’.

Except this is different. This one’s from the heart.

I’m not for writing prose, in fact- I don’t think I have since secondary school. I do love words. I could sit all day typing. Aside from the fact I’ve a squillion jobs to do and would probably end up with RSI, I’d happily wax lyrical (if I understood exactly what that entailed!).

Victoria’s prose is beautiful and heartfelt and if you read her post, is in reponse to a really tragic situation that I too learned about on Twitter earlier this week. Whilst I couldn’t attempt to do what she has done, I have a different angle. My heart yearns for his family. I’ve trod in similar shoes.

Not the same. I wouldn’t be arrogant enough to say I understand.

I can’t – it’s never the same. But, losing a child is something that joins you to a club- a unique, exclusive band of wounded souls that you never wanted to join, but thankfully reach out to those ‘others’ that have a inkling how you feel.

So, I’m thinking of his parents and family.

 

It started as an ordinary day.

No-one ever imagined it would be anything otherwise.

A meeting with their friend.

The meeting ended with the shortening of his life.

An ending that signals the beginning of a new journey.

A new path.

A slow and hard walk that will demand all of their strength.

It will take them to places they never wanted to go & surprise them by the love of others.

Friends will be made & changed.

Memories suddenly become all the more precious. A struggle to remember them all.

Some will be written down. Some encapsulated by camera.

Strive to remember. Talk. Share.

Their wider family and friends will need to listen & be patient.

Letting them cry, letting them shout. Allowing them space and silence.

Space to grow stronger together.

Together through the tragedy.

They will come through. They can make it.

They will be irrevocably changed. Lessons forged indelibly in the furnace of grief.

It’s not all without hope.

 

Spring is coming.

They may just have wait & be kind to themselves. Patiently allowing themselves to grieve and heal.

Watch out for them.

Pray for them.

Care for them.

Don’t be embarrassed by their silences.

Ask them if they want to talk.

You cannot increase their pain by talking about the one they’ve lost. You can diminish a little of their anguish by remembering with them.

They want to know that you haven’t forgotten.

They never will.

 

Never.

Not even for one day.

 

 

(remembering him, and our Natalie).

A New Blog & An Old Me..

Hey!

Welcome to here, to me, plus lots of kids.

I have a craft blog..here & I add lots of family funnies and snippets of everyday life. The thing is, not everyone likes crafty stuff- one of my friends says ‘I just ignore the card & race to the end to see what crazy stuff you’ve been up to’.

Yesterday, I was linking up with a certain post & the lovely @sarahMo3W on Twitter said really  I needed to ditch the craft as otherwise it wouldn’t really fit the link. (in a much more lovely set of vocabulary)

Story of my life.

Wouldn’t fit.

Have you any idea just how times having 5 kids ‘doesn’t fit’?

Doesn’t fit…social stereotypes… Give me a quid for the amount of times that jaws have dropped once I tell them ‘how many kids’ & they quickly recover with a joke that goes along the lines of ‘oh, you’ve worked out how you make them now then?!’ or  that old chestnut ‘do you not have a TV in your household then’?

Funny (& awkwardly shocking) the first few times. Now, I have a poker face that I bring out on those occasions. I combine it with a wry smile because obviously I don’t want to antagonise every new person I meet.

I was somewhat mortified when in the wonderful city of Liverpool (that often has few subtleties) I heard a man shouting. I ignored it for a while then realised he was shouting at me ;’do you not have a telly in your house?’. I went the colour of oxygenated blood & stuck my head down and ran along. AND I only had 4 kids at the time.

Possibly the worst was when I was asked ‘are they all yours?’. This is another common one. So many many times I’ve wanted to utter something sarcastic like (no, I found them hanging around outside- or, yes, and I’ve another 15 at home). I replied politely (I’m not good at public grating sarcastic responses) that they were indeed ALL mine.

The reply was even more insulting “well do they have the same Dad?’

Well, I was speechless.

I muttered something to the affirmative whilst obviously having a face that showed righteous indignation. The cheek.

The kids just looked at me. Thankfully they’re quite blase about it. Bless them. It is entirely normal to them that we are a big family & they cannot understand why others would have such an issue.

I’m grateful they’re much more grounded than I sometimes am.

We also don’t fit..in most holiday destinations.

Have you ever tried booking a hotel/room for 5 kiddos? Just take out a second mortgage.

‘It’s ok, Mrs Baker, we can give you an adjoining room”. Umm no. I don’t have an ‘adjoining room budget’ & even Travelodge won’t allow 2 teenagers to share the sofa bed. I’d happily sleep on the floor with a sleeping bag but can’t lie to them about the room occupancy. Anyhow can you imagine trying to sneak noisy kids into the Travelodge without them noticing?

Even if you just go out for a coffee and a cake- you can kiss goodbye to £30.

And before someone worries we’re another family procreating at the behest of the Welfare state’s uber-generous benefit incentive (???)- we haven’t. My hubby works..very hard. As do I.

6 kids were a choice. A blessing. A very fine & slightly bonkers situation.

I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Hope you’ll share our journey with us. Can’t promise you that it will be devoid of blood, sweat or tears. There’ll be heaps of mistakes that you might learn to avoid. I can promise you a smile, which, in most of my days is such a joy. Whether I’m failing miserably & tottering on the edge of balance, it would be nice to think that you are with me!

See you when I’ve created a free activity for us all to enjoy that suited every single child (…in a fair while then!!) xx