Monday, 7 April 2014

The Pink Ribbons

As I enter the house it hits me like a wave, silence. Closing the door behind me there is no need for my usual plea of ‘Please take off your shoes’ or ‘who left their bag in the door way?’ There is nothing, just me. My girls are with their other family. Thoughts flash through my mind of them eating tea, having a bath, a bed time story and cuddles. But it is not with me. I try to push them away but they persist, reminding me that someone else is in my place. My girls are making memories with another family, memories I will never be a part of. I want to cling to my daughters, never let them go, but it is too late, they are already gone.

Walking into the kitchen I see the usual jobs to do, the dishwasher to empty, washing to go in the drier, but there is no need to rush today. I could sit down with a cup of tea, read a book, maybe watch some TV. There is no panic for tea, no complaining of hungry tummies and tired cries. The jobs could wait. I feel lost, my direction unclear. I simply stand, listening to the quiet, hearing only the soft hum of the fridge and the rain drops gently tapping on the window.

Then I catch sight of the little pink ribbons. They are tied to the cupboard doors. The memory of IK, the day before, carefully cutting the delicate pieces of fabric and fastening them to the handles floods through me. ‘So you remember me whilst I’m with Daddy’ she had told me. ‘I could never forget you’ I had replied. The she hugged my so tightly, as if she was trying to cram a weeks worth of cuddles into one precious moment. I held her closely, breathing in the warmth of her little body and the smell of her strawberry shampoo. Then she was gone, back to her task of leaving me little reminders. Looking at them now I can see her smile and my heart aches for her.

I shift my mind into doing mode. Experience has taught me to keep busy, make the most of this quiet time, not to dwell. The images of their other family threaten to surface again so I start to tidy away; crayons, dolls, a dinosaur all in the wrong place. Socks, jumpers and hairbrushes discarded earlier in the rush to leave. Picking up a pile of books a scrap of the pink ribbon falls away, too small to have been tied up, it gently floats to the floor. It was probably saved for a picture or a treasure box, perhaps to put in a dolls hair.  It future purpose would have been important to her, or so I tell myself. I will keep this precious piece safe till she returns, hoping, as always the other family will the do same with her. 

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Word of the Week - 29th March 2014

The Reading Residence

I have read and enjoyed a few Word of the Week blog posts recently, including my sister-in-laws, and it is such a lovely idea I wanted to join in. (For those who don’t know Word of the Week is a weekly linky were you can reflect back on the past week and sum it up in one word).

So my first word of the week is:


And my goodness me have I needed a lot of it this week. As mothers I think we all know that we could do with an unending supply, however this week has been a true test.

First CJ has been poorly. Always horrible when one of them is struck down by a bug, and time at nursery means they seem to be coming thick and fast. This time started with a phone call to come and collect her after a projectile vomit incident. Fever, lack of appetite and restless sleep have left her feel understandably miserable, and has made my already demanding 2 year old, exceptionally needy.

So it is not just me who has needed extra patience this week, IK has too. I always find it hard splitting my time fairly between the two girls, but when one is poorly and in need of extra attention, it becomes even more challenging. My big girl has coped admirably though, understanding the need to wait. She has learned over the past 20 months that I might not be able to help her immediately, but it will always get to her turn. She is also very good at helping me with little jobs, so she can have what she wants quicker!

One of my favourite quotes at the moment is

“Patience is not our ability to wait, but how we behave whilst we are waiting”

I think patience is such an important skill for my girls to learn. So much of what we want in life requires it to some degree or another, yet despite the frequent opportunities we get to practice it, how many of us can truly say we are patient? I know I am not. However, I want to be and I know that the best way to teach my children anything is by example.

Whether it has been waiting for the delivery man with the new bed, waiting on hold for plusnet to resolve my problem (which they haven’t!), or waiting for the girls to put their shoes on so we can leave the house, I have made a conscious effort to be calmer, to practice patience. So even after a stressful week at work, a poorly child and yet more wrangling with various organisations I feel surprisingly calm and in control, an unexpected outcome of trying to be more patient.   

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Today was the Day

Today was the day shower was icy cold and I had to clamber into the loft to fiddle with the boiler

Today was the day I spilt the bag of used cat litter on the kitchen floor

Today was the day I left the five year old sobbing at the school gate, over emotional having been told off for pushing her sister off the step

Today was the day my tights got stuck by the velcroe on the five year old’s book bag, leaving a big hole.

Today was the day the nursery worker had to peal the two year old from me, screaming ‘mummy don’t leave me’ as I walked out the door.

Today was the day I forgot my coat in the rush to leave the house and then it poured with rain at School pick up time

Today was the day the two year old shredded half a roll of toilet paper

Today was the day she then scooped out the lip balm and smeared it round the toilet

Today was the day I bought the washing in wetter than in went out

Today was the day the two year old fell asleep on the sofa at 4pm

Today was the day more tea went in the bin than into tummies

Today was the day both girls went bed at 6pm

Today was the day the two year old decided that crying would be more fun than sleeping, before eventually nodding off on the landing.

Today was the day I decided having a glass of wine in the week was ok

Monday, 17 March 2014

A Change of Address

Moving in Stressful…..there are no two ways about it. It is well discussed and possibly the only thing in life I have experience that is worse,  is divorce. Last time I moved I was doing both. When the girls and I relocated one hundred and twenty miles north it was in the immediate aftermath of my marriage break up so the actual move was a drop in the ocean of my stress levels. I packed what we wanted and simply left the rest for the ex to do with as he pleased. That whole period of my life was such an emotional strain that I rather foolishly believed this move would be relatively stress-less, after all this was a move for all the right reason, something I had chosen to do, a positive step forward. Oh how I was wrong.

Our previous home was a blessing at the time. Facing the prospect of living alone with the girls, I wanted to be closer to my family. Relocating meant I had to leave my job so buying again so simply was not an option. What I hadn’t counted on when applying for rental properties was the stigma attached to being a single mum supported by benefits. Overnight I had become a stereotype, not desirable to rent to and seemingly no longer socially acceptable. The experience was both humiliating and humbling. So when my previous landlord said he was happy for us to live there, I was grateful and relieved in equal measures.

Three doors away from a pub, on a busy road, no garden, only two bedrooms and in serious need of some TLC, it was a long way from the beautiful house we left. But I had no other options. My wonderful family worked tirelessly in the weeks before we moved in to make it a nice home for us. So despite it being far from perfect I was very grateful for it and we have some lovely memories there. However after our second Christmas I knew the time was right for us to move on. I could live with the noisy neighbours, the 1970’s stone fireplace, the random concertina bathroom door and even the small courtyard but in my heart it would always be the house we had to live in, not the one we wanted to.

As soon as I saw our new house listed on the internet I knew I wanted it to be our new home but the timing was dreadful. I have been very busy at work doing extra hours to get an important project done, CJ had chicken pox and we had a week to Disney booked (more about that next time) all in the month before we moved. I was therefore much less organised than I would have liked and the actual move became quite chaotic. I had a lot more ‘stuff’ than I had first thought. I am not a horder but even so we do not ‘live lightly’. In addition I now have twice as much furniture, it really is amazing how much you can fit into a small house. Once again, my long suffering family were there to help, with only the promise of a Chinese to soften the blow. 10 van loads later and everything was in our new place, but that is really just the start of what needs doing.

I have never listened to so much hold music in my life, I have wrangled with the phone company about why they have given me a new phone number when they said I was keeping the old one; the electricity company about how I wouldn’t be paying a £100 bill for the month before I moved in; the council about the council tax bill, which at the third issue is still wrong and currys about why my brand new dishwasher didn’t work. The boiler decided to stop heating the house, some of the sockets don’t work and the previous occupants removed the pluming for the washing machine. And obviously there is still the Mummy ‘business as usual’ to carry on with; the school run, swimming lessons, ballet classes, reading, spellings, washing, ironing, food shopping, cooking……

Despite the niggles and the seemingly endless ‘to do’ lists, life in our new home is great. We have a drive, which after 18 months of on street parking with two little ones is wonderful, a downstairs toilet complete with a sink the girls can reach and by far and away the best part; the garden. This week I have been cooking tea, watching the girls play in the spring sunshine, a complete joy. But my happiness is not just in our new physical surroundings. Yes they are making our day to day living lovely, but it is also the satisfaction of knowing my hard work has bought us here. I made the decisions, dealt with the stress and solved the problems, alone. Now, more than ever, I truly believe I can build a strong and happy life for my family of three, and I don’t need a fourth person to do it.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Valentines Day…..The Single Mum Way

That day of the year that all single girls hate (whether they will admit it or not) Valentines Day, was upon us again. Loved up couples seem to be everywhere you look and it can be hard to retain your resolve that single life is perfectly ok when it feels as though everyone else around you is part of a happy twosome..

So what are a single girls choices for valentines day? Go out with other single friends, bravely declaring ‘we don’t need men’ whilst downing shots and surreptitiously eyeing up that bloke at the bar who gets better looking with every short of tequila. Or sit at home with the every reliable combination of wine, chocolate & Bridget Jones’ diary. I am not officially too old for shots and as much as I love Bridget, I do just want to tell her to pull herself together. So how does a single mum spend Valentines Day?

Well my day started at 4.30 with CJ coming into my bed, followed closely by the cat. They both quickly fell to sleep, I did not. 6.00  and I hear IK talking to herself and realised we are going to all be up long before the sun appears on the gro clock. 10 minuets later and IK joins us in bed complete with blanket, books, a doll and snotty kisses. And so beings another normal day, apart from a trip to the out of hours doctor with IK meaning by the time I make it to bed I have been awake for a full 24 hours. #exhausted

An important rule for all single people should be Stay Off Facebook. It is full of pictures of flowers, chocolates, sweets, romantic meals that have been cooked and couples tagging each other in gushy status updates. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m truly not bitter or annoyed with anyone who is in a relationship, in fact it is quite the contrary, I am genuinely pleased that so many of my friends are happy, but an entire news feed of slushy updates and pictures of teddies holding hearts is a bit nauseating.

So my rainy valentines day simply involved lots of cuddles with the two people I love most in the world, chocolates (provided by me which meant I got what I wanted and I didn’t have to share them) and lots of giggles with two good, and single, friends. Not about how we don’t need men but randomly about mix tapes and sandwich fillings..

Being single can be tough, but then I also know being in a relationship can be hard work. Its would be easy to get into the ‘grass is greener’ mentality but the truth is it usually isn’t and being with the wrong person can be a very lonely place to be. Plus, there are a lot of things about being single that I like; I don’t have to share my chocolate buttons, I don’t have to watch any sport, or anything on Dave, I am more independent, better(ish) at making decisions and I also believe I am now a better mum..

So, would it have been nice yesterday to have been spoilt by that special someone? Absolutely. Am I sad and lonely? Definitely not, I may be single but I am certainly not alone.  

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

"I'm back......

… let you know, I can really shake ‘em down."

Unfortunately, unlike the lyrics to the song, I still can’t dance, except after a few glasses of wine, when obviously I become awesome. But by popular demand, ok two people casually mentioned it, I am back blogging.

I’ll be completely honest; I have lacked the motivation for anything recently. The changes in our lives with work, school and the girls spending less time with their Dad have taken all of us time to get used to. Life suddenly feels like Groundhog Day. Alarm, bath (shower is broken) girls up, battle getting them dressed and hair done, breakfast, battle over getting teeth cleaned /shoes on / coat on, walk to school battle over walking quicker / holding hands / not stepping in the dog poo. Work. Pick girls up from school. Home, reading, spellings,  battle over how much TV they can watch / who’s turn it is with the light up Cinderella doll / who’s the red monkey is. Cook tea, battle with CJ over getting tea eaten, wash up, bath, bedtime, tackle washing / ironing / tiding, lay face down on the sofa wondering why I’m so tired & stressed. Go to bed and set the alarm. Sound familiar?

Settling in for another night of TV and chocolate buttons, I feel a new guilt and anxiety that I should be using my child free time to better use. Surely I could be doing something productive (because I now seem to think the first 12 hours of my day haven’t been productive enough) I should be working towards providing the girls and I with a better future, because I know no one else will.

I have, however, become very good at convincing myself I don’t have the time / I’m too tired / its ok to just relax after I’ve been working all day together with the old favourites of I’m just not good enough and I’m being totally ridiculous.

But then I was given a little reminder of how to achieve a goal. I dropped and this time completely smashed my phone. Granted this was annoying but it forced to sort out the thousands of pictures and videos that were on there. There were three of CJ leaning crawl, then stand, then walk. Watching them made me think, how is it my child knows the key to success and I don’t. She knows its all about perseverance, getting up when she fell and trying again. I, it seems, have forgotten. As adults how often do we fall, or even just stumble and then sit on our arses and not bother even trying to get up? The even bigger question is what will I regret more, the criticism, the potential failure or not having given it a damn good try?

So this is me, metaphorically, getting off my arse, because if I want to write, I have to, well write. There will undoubtedly be days when the sofa and naff TV will win over doing something more productive, or when what I write may only be good for the bin, but I have two of the best reasons in the world to achieve my goals. So I will keep on getting up, and not just to get more chocolate buttons.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Used Cars and Shiny Suits

Buy a used car as a single woman? I think I’d rather go skydiving.

That moment when something goes wrong with your car, whether it is a complete breakdown on the motorway or a funny knocking sound coming from the engine area, you know it’s going to be a pain, and you know it’s going to be expensive.

Recently my car has been making more weird noises, things that are supposed to open don’t and intermittently where there should be a digital dashboard there is only darkness. The dilemma – do I fix the things that are wrong or do I cut and run, part exchange it whilst the faults are still relatively minor?

My car is a family wagon, 7 seats of fun with all the cubby holes, cup holders, tray tables, high road tax, massive petrol bill and poor manoeuvrability your average family could want. (ok so that last one is more about the driver, but it’s big and hard to park) It made sense when we were a family of four plus dog. Now we are a family of three it doesn’t seem to fit with us anymore. This could be down to its size but I suspect it has more to do with the fact the Ex chose it.

So decision one made, the beast has to go. Decision two, what to replace it with? As images of slimy car sales men, dodgy back street ‘Eastender style’ garages and trawling Autotrader flash through my mind I start to feel a bit perturbed. Being a single woman the chances of being ripped off seem inordinately high. I could ask my Dad to come with me, I know he would but he is so busy I would feel guilty. I could ask the man in my life but as I don’t think we are at the ‘car shopping’ stage that’s a no. I could ask my brother, but as he is currently a 40 hour and four plane journey away, this is not a viable option either. I guess it’s just me then.

Bull-by-the-horns style I set off to look at used cars. My criteria: 5 doors, room for the pushchair and shopping, cheap road tax and must look pretty. Now scoff at the last one if you will, but I want something I like after driving round for two years in the ugly monstrosity the Ex’s kindly picked for me. A few helpful sales men later and I see it. Shimmering red, cute and slightly under my budget, it meets all the requirements. A test drive later and I’m sold so the Sales Manager and I set about the merry dance that is negotiation.

He is wearing a shiny suit I can only assume he bought from Car Sales Men R’Us, informing me of how much he has spent on new tyres and the extra warranty. I look disappointed at the amount he offers for my car, he points out the dent in the back bumper (don’t know when I did that) and the fact he is offering 12 months tax. We finally meet in the middle, but something stops me from signing on the dotted line. I tell the shiny suit I’ll think it over and get back to him.

Prudence is no bad thing but this is more that that, this is indecision. Something is bothering me that I can’t put my finger on. A cup of tea and half an hour of chewing my mum’s ear off about the pros and cons of it all and I realise what it is. It’s not the car or the deal, it’s me. The responsibility of making all the decisions for our family can be a heavy burden. Everything from what we eat, to where we live is down to me. It can be great, there is no compromise but there is also no support and reassurance of the eventual choice.  Whilst I am not walking my life’s path alone, the two little hands that hold mine look to me for guidance. It can be daunting but I have to trust my own judgment, accept that I won’t always get it right and forgive myself the mistakes I make.

Driving my shiny new car home I feel a bit of pride at the deal I negotiated.  It’s another miles stone (no pun intended) in my single life. Another thing I have proved to myself I can do. Now fingers crossed everyone I haven’t just bought a lemon.