Sunday, 10 December 2017

It must just be something about me

So, having bleated about my idiocy in making cakes for the PTA Christmas fair, despite not needing to, and blaming it all on an utterly misplaced and pointless sense of parental guilt...

... this evening I found myself making a batch of Christmassy cupcakes to take to work. Just because I felt like it.

Christmassy cupcakes

I even treated them with (edible) shiny gold glitter spray.

From which I can only conclude that a) I'm a glutton for punishment and b) I just quite like making cakes anyway.

Now if only I'd managed to get my favourite tupperware box back from the PTA at the end of the Christmas fair, I'd have somewhere to put them.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Christmas crises

I started out feeling moderately organised for this Christmas. I'd even bought my first Christmas present in October, which is unheard of for me. We made a plan to spend Christmas at the family cottage in the Lake District, and thus also be able to visit the Northern BearFamily on the way there. Or back. Or both.

This all seems remarkably splendid and well-planned.

Except... reality is now beginning to bite. For one thing there's the reality that I intend to spend five days at Christmas in a cottage with no heating. And in winter it's not uncommon for the electricity to get cut off by falling trees or other natural disasters. And the nature of the pump that brings water into the area is that if the electricity fails, approximately 24 hours later the tank on the hillside is finally empty and there's no water either. Admittedly it probably won't happen like that, but there's still that whole heating thing.

And then there's the food. By a quirk of incompetence, I failed to get a grocery order booked in time, and there are no slots available. So I'm left with two options: take the food with us, or try and buy it on the way. On the 23rd December. You can stop laughing now. We're taking the food with us. And the bedding, towels, thermals, waterproofs, walking boots, Christmas tree, decorations, advent calendars, presents, toys, games, books, computers and all other forms of entertainment, heat and happiness. In a small hatchback. No, really, I said you could stop laughing.

I've been offered the loan of a roof box for my car, which sort of seems like a good idea, but also feels like an admission of failure, as there are only two and half of us, and it's only five days. And I'd need to buy and fit roof bars to my car to be able to use the roof box. I made an appointment to have roof bars fitted at the local motoring emporium tomorrow morning.

But then... we hummed and hah-ed about the point of spending £145 just in case we couldn't fit everything in, and decided to cancel the order. We can deposit presents and some clothes at Grandma and GrandadBear's house on the way north, replace the space they were occupying with food, and continue, with potatoes in our laps if necessary, for the last 84 miles. And then, cold, weary, and possibly unwashed, we can return to Grandma and GrandadBear's house for a second wave of Christmas and be reunited with normal clothes and the remaining presents.

There was a moment in the previous paragraph that I skipped lightly over... "decided to cancel the order". Cancelling the order involved phoning the shop. I don't like phoning. I'd already had to speak to them when they phoned me to confirm details and book a fitting time. They'd been so nice, so friendly, so helpful. Wait! What? Surely that would make it easier to phone? You'd think so wouldn't you? But not in my twisted little mind. In my mind, the fact that Nice Man Mike had been so nice meant I would be personally affronting him by cancelling the order. In fact, I was essentially duty-bound to spend £145 I didn't want to spend, just to avoid upsetting Nice Man Mike. And he might turn into Mean Mike if I told him I didn't want his roof bars.

Those of you who have not experienced my battles with phone calls might find it hard to believe that I was on the verge of tears this morning while contemplating making this phone call. And it only got worse, since by the time I'd psyched myself up to do it, I had to leave work, collect LittleBear, deposit cakes at the cake stall, spend an hour and a half at the school Christmas fair (while carrying 37 precious objects for LittleBear) and then get us, and our 37 precious objects home. And then phone the motoring emporium. While LittleBear asked me to watch a battle between a cheetah, a wild dog and a hammerhead shark.

Mike answered.

My heart sank.

I explained I needed to cancel an order, as our plans had changed and I no longer needed to carry the heavy load I thought I would need.

"Your husband doesn't have to go on the roof then?" quipped Mike.

"No problem love, I'll cancel that for you."

Just like that. He was still Nice Man Mike. In fact, he could probably do without faffing around fitting roof bars to someone's car on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Now I just have to try and plan whether I can buy only foods with nice square edges that will pack into boxes really efficiently. Weetabix, potato waffles and cheese for five days I think.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Making life harder than it needs to be

Today is a day for revisiting the spectre of the guilt of the working mother. Which is completely different from the guilt of the stay at home mother, or the guilt of the trying-to-have-it-all mother. Because I know my particular flavour of guilt is only one of many, and if I arranged my life differently, I'd find different ways to feel deficient, less-than, and guilty.

This evening, at 9:30pm, I finished making Christmas-themed cupcakes for the PTA cake sale. I could have done what any sensible, right-thinking, normal human being would do. I could have just bought some. It's really not going to make any difference to the children, or the other parents, or the teachers, or the amount of money the PTA raise at the Christmas Fair tomorrow. I don't need to prove anything. Except to myself.

Every week there's an email or a Facebook request, or a letter in the school bag - asking for volunteers to help in the garden, or to man a stall at a fair, or to walk the children round the village, or to help out at the film night, or to wrap presents, or to do a host of other helpful things to raise money or enable activities to take place. And I never sign up. I feel I ought to. I know LittleBear would love me to. He wants me to come and help in the garden next term, but I can't. I work. If I take time off for term-time activities, then what will happen in the holidays?

So instead, I need to prove that I care. Need to prove that I am a good enough mother, that I too can devote time and energy to the extra activities at school. Even though nobody else cares, it salves my conscience. And it's a bloody ridiculous thing to do. Because I'm already tired, and I have a list of Things To Do that actually need doing, but instead of doing them, I've devoted an evening to a pointless exercise in maternal guilt management.

I think I need my head examining...

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Too tired to even be deranged

It is possible that at some point I will write about how awesome my son is, and how much fun we had at London Zoo. I might find the energy to write about him coping on the tube, even when Camden Town station was so over-crowded they were closing the gates and only letting a trainful into the building at a time. I might write about how much he loved seeing all his favourite snakes, not to mention penguins and wild dogs and meerkats and lemurs. I might write about  how I, Johnny-Morris-like, provided voices for all the animals we saw, no matter how stupid I looked in front of all the other, more normal, adults around me. I might write about LittleBear eating a packet of hula hoops, a banana and a chocolate brownie for lunch. In the rain. With his gloves on.

Or I might just leave you with that cluster of images and tell you that I lay awake from 4am to 6am, worrying about how to acquire a cuddly stingray for my son. And then, even though my lovely friend has offered to try and acquire one when she went into work, I decided to run back to the museum to be there when it opened, queue up, dash round three museum shops to find one of the last remaining stingrays and then run back to the hotel. And before undertaking this absurd performance, I shattered the childhood dream of surprises at Christmas by gently explaining to my son the impossibility of purchasing his heart's desire anywhere other than actually in the museum, and that he needed to decide if he really, really, really wanted it. As you can surmise from the outcome, he concurred that he did really, really, really want it, more than anything in the world, and that he was prepared to sacrifice time in the zoo in return.

So here we are, back home again, with our eyelids drooping closed, the cat frantically over-excited to see us again, and a sense of deep relief to be out of the seething mass of humanity that is London.

And I think I was a better mother today. Whether it was the warm glow of knowing I had a cuddly stingray in my bag, or the calming and reassuring presence of BigBear to take the stress out of solo responsibility, or the additional sleep that LittleBear had had, or a combination of all three, I don't know. Suffice to say, I was much more patient, much more loving and much more kind today. And LittleBear made me so very, very proud by being the best little bear in the world.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Sleep-deprived and deranged

I spoke too soon.

I may have had a bed to myself, but that only marginally improved the quantity and quality of sleep I obtained. There were two factors involved. Firstly, the hotel room was, as they so often are, far too hot and far too dry. This led to me succumbing to the one-glass-hangover, and waking feeling utterly, utterly wretched. Secondly, LittleBear woke at 5:30, instead of his more usual 6:45. In truth, "secondly" may also have been caused by "firstly", as I can't imagine he was much more comfortable than me, even without having consumed wine.

And thus it was that at 6:45 I was being regaled with statistics from the Guinness Book of Formula One Records with a pounding headache. Living the dream. Or perhaps the nightmare.

I managed to stave off actually emerging from my bed for another half hour or so, at which point I found ibuprofen and coffee, and introduced LittleBear to what probably still counts as the parenting highlight of the day - I'd remembered to bring his advent calendar with me, and remembered to put chocolates in the first two pockets at least. And because I wasn't up for any kind of battle, he had today's chocolate in bed. And in many respects, my parenting went downhill from there.

Breakfast sustained me with industrial quantities of coffee and fried foods, which layered on top of the ibuprofen nicely to render me more or less human. Though, sadly, not any less tired. LittleBear, meanwhile, chomped his way through two bowls of fruit, a massive doorstop of buttered toast, and a croissant. And I introduced him to Nutella on his croissant. The individual packets are relatively generous, and it only took about half a pot to comfortably daub every chunk of croissant. Which is how I came to allow LittleBear to eat the rest of the pot with a teaspoon. Like I said, my parenting was nose-diving.

Since the Natural History Museum doesn't open until 10, and our hotel was only a few minutes down the road, we returned to our room to play a few swift games of "Uno" before tackling the rest of the day. And I made the classic error or winning the first one, leading to a small (and under-slept) small boy lying on his front sobbing that he was never, ever, ever going to play, ever, ever, ever again. Nose-diving.

Despite such traumas, we still made it to the museum in time to queue up and be among the first to get in for the day, allowing us plenty of time and space in the all-important dinosaur galleries first. The route round seems to have changed in the last two years, which was when we came on our Big Day Out. Aside from the fact that, obviously, dinosaurs are awesome, there were two major things that struck me - firstly, it was very disappointing not to be able to walk along the elevated gantry, and it felt as though we actually saw far fewer skeletons; secondly, LittleBear remembered around which corner he would encounter the meteorite on a stand that he could touch, two years after he last saw it. I think I have spawned a freak.

The museum was as awesome as ever, though we did need to stop intermittently to curl up in a cuddle on a handy bench with a nanoo. There were several more parenting nadirs however...

...for instance...

... while playing with the demonstration of the difference between a horse's leg and an elephant's leg, and watching LittleBear bounce up and down with a metal post under his chin, I found myself saying, "If you knock your teeth out and there's blood everywhere, I won't be sympathetic and cuddle you!" The devastated tearful collapse then warranted some serious apologising and the assurance that I would always, always, always care if he was hurt, and always, always, always try and make it better.

I even managed to hold firm to my injunction that coming to London, and staying in a hotel, and eating in restaurants and going to the museum and the zoo were treats, and that I wasn't buying anything in the shop. I didn't manage to resist imprecations to visit the various museum shops (for they are many and scattered). And LittleBear and I both fell in love with a beautiful, soft, cuddly ray. And I assured him that it would go on his Christmas list, and that as long as we knew if was what he really, really wanted, there'd be a good chance he could have it. So every time we passed a shop, we popped in to cuddle a ray. And I knew that the museum has an online shop, and buying one would be easy. Oh foolish me. It does not exist in the online shop. It was been discontinued by the manufacturer. I have as good as promised my son something I cannot provide. I hadn't thought my parenting could go much further downhill today.

I have one possibility, and that is my friend who works in the museum, who if I beg and plead and cajole, might be imposed upon to cross the boundary from back-room to front-of-house and buy one on my behalf, before the world's supply of adorable cuddly blue-spotted rays dries up completely.

In the gaps between visiting shops to cuddle rays, we covered a lot of territory, though by the end we were resorting to the lift to descend from the mineral collection to the ground floor, before ascending into the From The Beginning Gallery. As we paused (again) to extract nanoo from my bag to have a sustaining cuddle on my lap, I suggested maybe we should head back to the hotel... "But we haven't been to the Human Body yet". So off we went... and I was relieved that LittleBear was already almost comatose, as I could lead him swiftly through the details of human reproduction and into senses and memory. There is rarely a day when I do feel like explaining about sperm and how they get where they're going. But there are some days when I am even less keen than other days. This was, in case you hadn't guessed, one of the latter.

After six hours, we did finally stumble back to our hotel. And I've probably made it sound as though I was mostly a splendid Mummy with one or two moments of vexation, but it feels a lot more as though I was a vexed Mummy with one or two moments of being almost human. And I'm finding myself genuinely (and perhaps disproportionately) worried and upset about failing to buy the coveted ray when I had a chance. BigBear arrived this evening, and his rather more robust view is to simply tell LittleBear that he can't have it. He's probably right. But he didn't see the utter adoration that LittleBear heaped upon this creature. And he didn't almost-promise that LittleBear could have one for Christmas.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Derangement relieved

Here I sit, in the dark, in a hotel room in central London, trying to type quietly while LittleBear snores beside me.

The last time I took LittleBear away to a hotel was our road trip to Lyme Regis, and I have to say, that a mere five hours in, and I've already made some better decisions about this excursion:

  • we came by train, and thus LittleBear was not sick
  • I have booked a hotel room with two double beds, and therefore I do not have to spend the night being kicked by a small wrigglesome creature
  • I have discovered* that my laptop has a little light that can shine upon my keyboard, so I can even see to type in the dark

I was feeling more than a little trepidatious today about this whole expedition, starting with the idea of whisking LittleBear straight home from school with no dithering in time for a 3:30 taxi and hoping the taxi would get us through school-rush-hour traffic to the station on the other side of town for a 4:15 train. To my utter astonishment, this worked seamlessly. And the train was almost empty, and LittleBear was good, and helpful and listened to me, and didn't behave like a lunatic.

My trepidation extended to the idea of London underground with a six year old at 5pm, so I made the profligate decision to catch a cab, and we thus traversed London (slowly) above ground, but without being trampled on or squashed or terrified. And then the hotel restaurant, despite alarmingly declaring itself to only be Asian fusion cuisine, turned out to do pizza and fishfingers and other child-friendly (and LittleBear friendly) delectables, so we didn't even have to leave the building to find dinner, which was something of a relief with an exhausted boy in tow. And I got to have Nasi goreng and a glass of wine, which was a bonus.

Now all we have to do is get enough sleep that we don't both sit on the floor and sob in the Natural History Museum tomorrow. I probably haven't mentioned the middle--of-the-night requirement for Emergency Mummy Cuddles last night have I? They happened. Which has probably contributed to LittleBear falling asleep so quickly in strange surroundings, and also to my general zombie-like state. In fact, it's entirely possible that even though it's only just past 9pm, I might go to bed myself more or less nowish...

* BigBear explained this feature to me after I complained in my blog about not being able to see to type. I felt like a Bear of Very Little Brain after that.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Another deranged plan

This time tomorrow, LittleBear and I (all being well) will be safely ensconced in a hotel in central London, in preparation for a Wildly Exciting Adventure. On Friday, LittleBear's school has a teacher-training day, so we're going to take the opportunity of hoping that the Natural History Museum will be not quite as insanely busy as it is at the weekend, and spend the day there. And since we're going all the way to London, we're then going to go to London Zoo on Saturday. I must be insane.

To give you a minor insight into the exact levels of my insanity, here's a selection of the things that I've packed:

- three sets of pyjamas
- an encyclopedia of animals
- a packet of cheese biscuits
- steri-strips and surgical dressings
- a laptop, a tablet and a smartphone
- chocolate fingers
- mouth ulcer gel
- three toy sharks
- two cuddly sharks

There are perils in packing when feeling tired and stressed. It would be fair to say I may not be at my most rational.

If I survive the experience, I may even tell you about it. Watch this space...