A Man’s Home is His Castle

Super Daddy is the man in our house, here and as the saying goes ‘A man’s home is his castle.’ Or in our case, pills his toy factory, playground, soft play and personal zoo, especially at feeding time.  It’s not that his table manners are that appalling, he does just like to throw his dinner on the floor every night then when he gets out of his chair he’ll scoop up and eat the more interesting looking elements of the food debris– oh, I’m talking Little Monster Blue now, and not Super Daddy, although he did eat a kebab off the floor of our car after dropping it at his feet on the way home after a very drunken night out…..

So, I’m off to visit a new friend on Thursday night, a fabulous lady and super working mum of two herself, who I have known through a mutual friend for over 4 years but only just sat down and eyeballed her over coffee for the first time a few months ago. I’ve never been to her house before, our ‘dates’ have so far been on neutral territory. But on Thursday, I’m off to her abode for a wee glass of wine.  We had an email exchange today which confirmed my attendance on Thursday (though we’re not being too formal!) and I asked for her postcode given my geographic abilities are somewhat limited without the aid of my trusty sat nav. Postcode provided, looking forward to seeing you pleasantries extended, then a heavily laden warning of ‘take the house as you find it, I refuse to decorate until No.2 is older.’  Oh, I hear you, loud and clear.

We’ve lived in our current home for just over 7 years, taking a fairly big jump up at the time in order to buy a house that would become our family home. We had visions of a home we would grow into, which would be filled with the love and warmth that a little family brings.  We didn’t bank on the huge amounts of paraphernalia that would take over our home as that little family grew.  Initially, when Little Princess Pink was a baby, her nursery was the focal point for all things child-oriented, with just one small cupboard in the kitchen being allocated as storage for bottles, sterilising equipment, formula powder, measuring spoons, then progressing to teething rings, then finger foods, weaning spoons and bowls, Annabel Karmel cookbooks and the odd ready prepared jar of baby food (or ten). Then slowly water squirting toys started popping up in the bathroom, board books found their way to the pile at the side of our bed, a toy box in the corner of the dining room and eventually a ball pool in the living room…

There does not remain one room in our house that has been untouched by the littlies.  My idea of tidy has morphed from a minimalist, clean, clutter free living space, with plumped up cushions and perfectly aligned curtains to an overflowing toy box pushed as far behind the side of the sofa as it can possibly go, with a myriad of toys piled precariously on top so that none of them are lying on the floor and the ball pool pushed neatly against the radiator under the window, which is actually still in the middle of the floor. Where the storage in my bathroom once had a lovely stacking unit which housed my Clarins Gentle Foaming Cleanser with Shea Butter for Dry / Sensitive skin and the oh-so-wonderful Hydra Quench Rich Cream and Ultra-Matte Rebalancing lotion, it now contains baby shampoo, bath cleanser for eczema prone skin, which resembles lard, three small plastic boats (one with Igglepiggle in it) Foam Letters N, G, X, F, H, Z, O and P (we once had a full complement of 26 but who knows where they’ve ended up – I should probably check LMB’s laundry basket) and a sparkly mermaid bathtime book – which LMB loves. Hhhmm.

The rustic solid wooden table and chairs in our dining room have slowly edged towards the wall on one side of the room and the remaining floor space has been commandeered by Rose Cottage (aka a full size Wendy House), a toy box containing puzzles, another toy box containing wooden toys and games, a bookcase (supplementing the bookcases in each of LPPs and LMBs bedrooms)  a toy box containing musical instruments, a toy box with puppets, yet another toy box containing those bigger chunky toys that don’t really have a ‘category’(!) – you know, shape sorters, a pirate ship, a fire station, Noahs Ark,  a Barbie Unicorn, a Farm, an abacus; a toy box filled with the plastic characters  from the aforementioned articles – pirates, a parrot, a farmer, a sheep, a chicken, a cow, a pig,  Noah and Mrs Noah, Lion (x2), Hippo (x2), Giraffe (x2)……and a cuddly toy (or ten.)

In addition to the toys, games and books that have become part of the furniture in our home (literally – as I did catch myself going into the playroom the other night to get the Dora the Explorer stool for the piano in order to use it as a footstool) so too have the reams and reams of artwork our children have crafted and created on a daily basis.  The side of our fridge is adorned with first finger paintings, little cards with gummed paper circles and feathers stuck on, glittery and sparkly collages, LPPs first proper drawing of an animal, along with a photo of her drawing it, and sticking her tongue out in concentration like her Daddy does. Our mantelpiece has various sizes of haphazardly cut cards (with safety scissors!) all with the drawing of the moment on the front – which is LPP on the waterslide on our holidays and a dolphin.  Although on Friday we did get a drawing of a fairy castle with LPP in the turret, and a prince in the garden below carrying a lollipop for her. Like her concentration face, she clearly gets her romantic cues from her Daddy. Our shelves in the kitchen house a variety of ‘junk modelling’ creations, or ‘art projects’ as we call them in this house – the latest addition was a paper aquarium which took an eternity to make and I ended up doing the bulk of the colouring, cutting and gluing and LPP got the good ‘decorating with sequins at the end’ part (Thank you Auntie Joanne and Auntie Lottie!)  In both the kids bedrooms, a mini canvas hangs on the walls with a pink handprint and a blue footprint, made in February 2009 – a lasting memory of the teeny size of my babies, and a reminder that they are getting very big, very quickly.  And in the hallway, right at the bottom of the stairs about a quarter of a metre high, is a large orange squiggle, created by little hands – probably an early attempt at a dolphin and a waterslide. I might just have to put a frame round it, because like my new friend – I refuse to decorate, probably until my no. 2 is at least 18.

So if a man’s home really is his castle, then ours is one made out of yoghurt pots and cereal boxes decorated with smudgy fingerprints on mirrors and orange squiggles in the strangest of places, there’s three day old toast on the floor under the kitchen table and a toy pink flamingo which has been on the stairs for over a week now, but it’s our home and its filled to the brim with sparkles and memories and lots and lots of love and laughter.

Jingle Bells in July

At my last count, nurse there were another five months to go until the big guy in the red suit would be taking that dangerously tight  squeeze down our chimney, cialis yet in the past few weeks the Christmas references have been in greater abundance than the number of old drunk Aunties round the dinner table on the 25th December (or is that just my family?)

We overhauled Little Princess Pinks bookcase recently as it was quite literally bursting at the seams. Naturally Little Monster Blue inherited a huge proportion of the books that were deigned far too babyish by the 4 going on 14 year old. One such book was The Nativity. I’m not sure there is an average age by which a child outgrows The Nativity story, but given most seem to have written off Santa Claus by the time they reach 8, perhaps one of the oldest tales in the world does have a shelf life. As this version of The Nativity was an Usbourne touchy feely, I allowed it to be placed on the shelf in LMBs bedroom. And there I expected it to stay until the 1st December at least. But not so.

LMB is just getting to that stage where he likes to choose the three books we read each bedtime,’Baby Zoo’, ‘That’s not my Monkey’ and ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’ have been on his short list for some time now. But that all changed with the arrival of new books on the block, The Nativity coming out tops. For the last week and a half.

At first I tried to discourage him, suggesting ‘The Tiger who came to Tea’ was much more exciting, and even had a tiger who drank all the water in the taps in it,  but that didn’t hold the same appeal as a lady in a blue dress on a donkey. So, The Nativity it was. More for my own sanitythan anything else, I tried to tell the story with minimal Christmas references, which is pretty hard when you’re faced with an angel, three wise men and the baby Jesus himself. I tried to focus just on the animals in the story, and at one point deviated to sing Old MacDonald had a farm (predominantly with sheep and a donkey). Then I tried the Twinkle Twinkle Little Star route when we got to the page where the three wise men followed the star to Bethlehem. But nothing could detract from the fact that we were reading The Nativity. In July.

At the same time we made the discovery of The Nativity book, so too did we find ‘Mr Men – Mr Christmas Saves the Day’.  A fun story about Mr Christmas being drafted in to help the real Father Christmas who was way behind on the Christmas preparations due to playing too much golf and drinking too much beer (okay, I made that last bit up, but in the story he had being playing too much golf – probably a discussion point in many a household.) It’s a colourful, brightly illustrated board book,and great for little hands to turn the pages, oh and just perfect for little fingers pressing the ever so slightly annoying musical button which plays Jingle Bells. Over and over.

Then as if entering a bizarre parallel universe I logged on to my PC to get my daily fix of mini-blogging – i.e. Facebook – only to find that on the 25th July (officially smack bang in the middle of summer)  one of my friends was wishing everyone a Merry Christmas…you know who you are Mrs W – being Down Under is no excuse!  Further facebook updates have followed with friends having bought presents already to hide in the wardrobe / under the bed / in a safe place only to forget where they are and have to go and buy replacements when they can’t be found (probably just me again on that one – we’re still missing a Teletubby from 2006…)

Finally, to top it all off, I opened the free local newspaper which pops through the letter box every Friday, to be faced with a centre page double spread of Christmas Party Night adverts and sample Christmas Lunch Menus. The pages were decorated with the dark green holly and deep red berry colours of Christmas, there were flutterings of little fake snowdrops making their way down the pages, a shot of a wonderfully lit Christmas tree, stacked high with ornate decorations and packed underneath with shiny foil wrapped presents tied in great big bows. The Christmas menus couldn’t have been any more traditional – turkey with all the trimmings, brussell sprouts with chestnuts, roast potatoes oozing in goose fat, and Christmas Pudding with brandy ice-cream.  There were cheesy pictures of couples snogging under huge bunches of mistletoe, hazy photos of little children sitting at the feet of Father Christmas, looking at him with awe and wonder in their eyes.  I mean come on. It’s July. There’s five months to go…….

Hhhhmmmm, though a brandy and a mince pie might just go down a treat right now….

The arrival of Little Monster Blue.

It’s fair to say the arrival of Little Monster Blue turned our world upside down, buy viagra inside out, grabbed us by the proverbials and shook us so violently that we lost all sense of who were and what our lives used to be like.

Little Princess Pink was approaching her 2nd birthday when we felt the time was right to think about number two.  Super Daddy was delighted as bedroom activity increased accordingly. We were both shocked but over the moon when we realised Super Daddy pretty much just had to look at me and I was pregnant (him more so, as this was clearly obvious proof of his Super Man status.)

Despite my tiredness, the dreadful morning sickness and the random and very inconvenient cravings for the crunchiness of ice-cubes, I loved every moment my pregnancy and couldn’t wait to become a mum for the second time.

Five days before he was due to arrive, things started kicking off in a big way and it was clear LMB was going to be a February baby and not the March one that we’d expected. But we were organised, and we knew what to expect, after all we’d done it before, we knew what to expect, right? Wrong.

The ‘second labours are quicker’ statement was a blatant lie as far as my experience went.  Fifteen hours later, an emergency dash to theatre and one unexpected and highly grudged c-section, and LMB had arrived.  When I look back now, I should have known from that moment that this would be a sign of things to come.

That first moment I held him was magical, we were as proud as punch to have our little boy in our arms, and although I had much trepidation about how our LPP would take to her baby brother, I knew his arrival had completed our family in the loveliest of ways.

The first few weeks went by in a haze of feeding, changing nappies, cleaning up projectile style baby vomit, sleeping, crying (both him and me) and wondering when on earth things were going to get back to normal.  Slowly it started to dawn on me that this was the new normal. This was our life. One where the tiniest person in the house dictated when we ate, when we slept and when we paced the floor for nigh on four hours at a time.  One where the comfortably predictable routine we’d gotten into with LPP was pulled from beneath our feet. And the guilt and dread started to set in.

I’d be lying if I said LPP loved her baby brother from the moment she laid eyes on him. Yes, we have those first photos of us as a family of four, and LPP is kissing her brother on the forehead and looking at him with awe and wonder. Yet seconds after those photos were taken, she was pushing us both away and telling me she wished her brother would go back inside my tummy. I struggle to describe how bereft I felt in those early months after LMB came along. I wept buckets at the loss of the close relationship I had with my girl.  I never thought it possible to love someone beyond words, yet despise them at the same time.

I remember the first time I said out loud that I hated the decision I made, that I hated my baby son.  Even writing those words now makes me recoil – what mother says that about the child she carried for 9 months and brought into this world to love, nuture, grow and cherish? But it is the truth.  The first year of his life was easily the worst year of our lives.

But I look back at it now as the year that really defined me as a person.  I saw flashes of a person I intensely disliked within myself.  I craved for the days when I could sit for hours with LPP reading to her, building castles with mega blocks, playing ring-a-ring a roses without having to balance that with 4 hourly feeding schedules and trying to settle a baby who fought his sleep with the aplomb of Ricky Hatton. We lived our lives looking out to the next phase that would move things forward in a positive way, when he’s sleeping though the night things will be better, when he moves onto solids, things will be better, when he starts to crawl, when he starts to walk…..when he goes to university!  We were wishing away those early days that we would never get back.

At about 5 months old, the onset of his eczema began. It was awful.  My poor little man was hot, and itchy and sore, and red and raw, and I would have given anything to take away every ounce of pain and discomfort from him. We had endless trips to the health visitor, GP and dermatology clinics, and endless trials of lotions, emollients, bath additives, horrendously pungent zinc and paraffin pastes. It got so bad we progressed to steroid creams and having to wrap the little guy in bandages night after night to stop him clawing himself senseless. Then we hit upon his tomato allergy, so terrifying and shocking when his lips started to swell and he became violently ill. It wore us all down. Our family fuel tank was running low.

To the untrained eye, we were ticked every box in the ‘perfect family unit’ But when the doors were closed, we did a lot of weeping and wailing.

But slowly, things did start to change for the better.  The stomach-churningly stinky zinc paste worked wonders on LMB’s skin and we started to get his eczema under control. LPP continued to flourish and grow and became very accepting of her little brother, occasionally giving him a hug without that final squeeze which had previously been just a little too aggressive. We’re growing out of the tomato allergy and now have no scary reactions, just a controllable flare up of his skin. And boy, is LMB starting to find himself!

We quickly found we had a huge repository of nicknames for the little guy – Corporal Chaos, Captain Commotion, Mr Mischief, The Terror Hawk, The Horror – to name but a few. He’s been on his feet since 11 months old, and prefers the toilet brush to a teddy bear, he’d rather eat slugs in the back garden than the casserole I slaved over for hours. He waits until his sister is settled quietly doing a puzzle or colouring in and only then will he creep up behind her and lamp her over the head with the plastic cauliflower from the play market stall. He has a penchant for a sweeping brush, or a mop, and is a big fan of the vacuum cleaner (which worries one of my mum friends who has a 7 year nephew with a serious Hoover obsession and a request for the new Dyson City model on his Christmas list.)  Within 5 seconds flat LMB can empty the entire contents of the kitchen cupboards, and can upend a vase of flowers on the highest shelf just by bouncing a bit too exuberantly underneath them. Oh, but he has the cheekiest grins, emphasised by his ever so slightly wonky teeth, which just make him even more adorable, his giggles are more contagious than chicken pox in a childrens’ nursery  and he adores his big sister in a way that makes my heart melt.He has an incredible liking for taking random items from around the house and hiding them in his laundry basket…………..which probably explains why I’ve just found two plastic forks and LPP’s toothbrush in the washing machine!

The Working Mothers’ Guilt Trip.

“Bye-bye Mummy.” the little voice whispers in my ear.  I inhale deeply and take in the scent of baby shampoo mixed with coco-pops and that smell that can’t be described in any way other than that which always reminds me of my beautiful children. I plant yet another kiss on her soft cheek, generic cialis and gently untangle myself from her tightly clasped arms around my neck. She looks at me wide-eyed, viagra sales listening intently to me promising her that I’ll be back very soon and reassuring her that she will have lots of fun.

“Come on then, darling.” calls a chirpy, upbeat voice, and a tall smiling woman comes and takes the hand of my daughter, my little girl, my little princess and takes her off to the window to look out at the birds in the garden.

I retreat slowly, calling my good-byes with the facade of a woman without a care in the world, but as I step out of the door, and pull it closed softly behind me, throwing a quick glance back into the brightly coloured world of day nursery, the tears well in my eyes like puddles on a rainy day and a lump the size of an apple lodges in my throat.

It’s a working day, which means it’s a nursery day, which means nine long hours away from my precious girl.

But that’s the choice I make. Yes, I choose to go to work, against the will of so many others who show no restraint in holding back their, often narrow-minded, views that in the early years of our childrens’ lives, a mothers place is in the home.

Little Princess Pink was 6 months old when I returned to work.  I will never forget the emotion I felt that first day when I left her in the care of the nursery for little more than an hour as I prepared myself for the transition back into corporateville and office politics. I felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest.  I looked back on the first 6 months of her life, and reflected on the little world we’d created for ourselves, just the two of us in the day whilst Super Daddy went to work, finding our way together – her in this new big world, full of colour and noise, and me in the little bubble of motherhood which was my sole focus every day, every night, round the clock.  I reflected on those momentous milestones we’d reached in just that short space of time – sleeping through the night, smiling, babbling noises, her first taste of pureed carrot, our first girly shopping expedition (shoes for me, bootees for her) and I worried myself senseless about those moments I was going to miss by choosing to go back to work.

Yet, still I returned to work. And eventually I increased my hours. But each day, come 5.30pm, when I walked through the door of the nursery room and saw her little face light up as she realised it was her mummy this time, progressing to the days where she commando crawled at lightning speed across the floor to get to me, to the days where she toddled unsteadily at first with her chubby arms outstretched for a mummy hug,  eventually progressing to the days where she categorically stated in no uncertain terms that she was having too much fun and was not coming home with me, the message hit home that this was good for her. It was good for us both.

Like all mums, I’m biased. I think LPP is the cleverest girl in the world, and she amazes me on a daily basis with her achievements. She is a confident, outgoing and bubbly girl, who is independent and sure of herself. She is a caring and considerate person, who understands the importance of sharing and being kind to others.  She articulates herself clearly and has a thirst for learning.  But she is 4, and like all 4 year olds, she does have her moments where she chooses not to share the toy that she had first, or who gets horrendously and dramatically cross if you ask her what her drawing is when it is  very clearly her coming down a waterslide with a dolphin. And, I’m taking a little credit for having got to this stage and being able to say all these wonderful things about my daughter.  I’m not for one minute saying her attending nursery for the last 3 and a half years has been the sole influence on the well-rounded character that she is developing.  In fact, I’m taking more than just a little credit, I’m taking a lot, because I spend quality time with my girl.  I have a positive influence on her character. We read together every night, we draw, we laugh, we talk about our days (she asks if I played in the sand-tray at work or if I just did some typing on my computer) we go on treasure hunts in the back garden, and dance around the kitchen to Paulo Nutini. We make cards for Super Daddy, and jewellery boxes out of old cereal boxes. We bake cakes and we often lick the bowl and the spoon too. We visit friends, we go swimming, we go to the zoo, we cuddle up on the sofa and watch Princess movies, we take all the cushions off the sofa and make our very own soft play. We sing, we do maths puzzles, we fall out with one another occasionally, and she tells me ‘I’m not your best friend.’  But we learn the lesson that not speaking to one another isn’t a nice feeling, and learn how to get along better.  We practice roller skating, we pretend we work in an ice-cream parlour,  we have picnics on the living room floor.

So yes, I work. But I haven’t missed a thing. Her first word was ‘Daddy’ (naturally), and we both heard it through the baby monitor (which was great as for the first time I was able to elbow Super Daddy and say ‘You better get up, its you she’s wanting!’). She took her first steps across our living room floor on the 16th August 2007, and it was my arms she clambered into, giggling her head off at the thrill of finding some freedom at last.  She drew her first smiley face on the blackboard she got for Christmas in 2008, and first properly wrote her name at our kitchen  table.  I don’t think I’m missing out.

But even when all that is said and done, there is still the daily guilt trip.  And it is daily.  There are mornings when she is whisked from her slumber, bleary eyed and sporting serious bed head, she is washed, dressed and has her teeth brushed in 5 minutes flat and bundled into the car with a half a  slice of toast and a banana. And her t-shirt on back to front. There are mornings when she asks if it’s a play day at home, and her shoulders slump ever so slightly when I tell her it’s a nursery day. And there are the days where I’m ashamed to say, and I know with certainty that I’m not alone, where I sense she is slightly under the weather, but I dispense a spoonful of Calpol and coax her into going off to nursery, knowing she’ll be fine by the time she gets there, and at the very least allowing me to get to the office to grab those reports that absolutely must be signed-off today before the call comes from nursery to say her fever has spiked and I best go collect her.

And this guilt trip I talk of, isn’t just a single route, there are a fair few turnings at jealousy junction.

There are moments where I sit in meetings getting increasingly annoyed by petty politics, or no movement on key projects and I wonder why I bust my ass to line the coffers of the ‘high heid yins’ as my Father would say, when I could be at home making farm animals out of playdough and singing endless renditions of ‘there’s a worm at the bottom of my garden’. There are times when I catch myself looking at the clock knowing my fellow mum friends who don’t work will just be heading to feed the ducks with the littlies, before grabbing coffee and cake and letting the nippers run off their energies in the soft play.

Yet, I still choose to work.

Even when Little Monster Blue made his appearance in February 2009, I knew I would follow the same route with him as with LPP.  After a year of maternity leave, I planned my return to work, and went through the same rollercoaster of emotions on that very first day when I left him in the same baby room that I left LPP 3 and half years ago.  But this time, I found I could step away a little more quickly, because I knew he would be just fine.  He’s only been there for 6 months, and we’ve rapidly progressed from the tears and the tug of war we had when I first started leaving him there, to the place where he now pushes me out of the door the minute we arrive and runs off to grab the sweeping brush from the house corner. Yeah, I know.  We’re working on macho-ing him up a bit.

So please, fellow mums, when I stand up, take a deep breath and say ‘My name is Julie-Ann, and I’m a working mother’ don’t shoot me down in flames for choosing to work, don’t look at me with disdain, or worse, pity me.  I have the right balance for me, for my kids and for my sanity, even if I still take a road trip to guilt city every now and then.

There’s no place like home.

When I returned to work after maternity leave I enforced a strict no travel rule on myself, for sale vowing that unless it was critical to my corporate survival I’d manage just fine from my little desk in Edinburgh Thank You Very Much. Yet this morning I find myself onboard the BA8703 to London City for a 2 and a half hour meeting that I probably could have had over the telephone.

I don’t mind the travel so much, recipe it’s not that I go to far flung places but sometimes a wander round duty free when you’re not actually off on a proper holiday can feel like a bit of a treat. And it’s not that I have to sit beside lots of ‘big wigs’ on the flights who you know only read the business pages in The Telegraph when they are on a work trip, when their usual reading fodder is The Sun.

It’s the organisation and immense logistic planning that has to go on in our household to make it happen.

Me: “Think I’ll need to go to London next week.”
Super Daddy : “Can’t be Wednesday, I need to go to Belfast.”
Me: “Fine. I can probably go the following week.”
Super Daddy: “Hhm. Can’t be Thursday, I might need to go to London.”
Me: “Fine, I’ll just go next week, and I’ll go Tuesday.”
Super Daddy: “Remember I’ll need to leave sharp for boys football.”
Me: “Fine, I’ll plan an early meeting so I can get an early flight back.”
Super Daddy : “Okay, but I can’t do nursery drop off in the morning as I have an 8am call.”
Me : “Fine. I’ll sort flights and see if your sister will come after work to sit with kids whilst you go to football.”
Super Daddy : “Cool.”

So I call in a babysitting favour, which is really to allow Super Daddy to get to boys football and not to allow me to get to London, but that’s how I position it, so wonderful sister-in-law agrees, and commiserates that it sucks that I need to go to London and thought I wasn’t travelling with work anymore, yadda yadda yadda.

The night before I’m due to go, all of our clothes are laid out for the next day, so there are no last minute “Where are my tights?” incidents that may jeopardise an early arrival at the airport.  Little Princess Pink carefully chooses her outfit for the next day and assures me this dress is her favourite and she won’t get paint on it at pre-school. Little Monster Blue would happily to go nursery in his pyjamas, so there is no great debate about his styling for the next day.

Lunches are made, bags are packed, boarding passes and meeting papers are put into my bag, breakfast things are put on the table and the alarm is set.  I go to bed feeling exhausted and fall asleep after reading the same 6 and a half lines of my book that I read last night.

Surprisingly, all goes to plan the following morning – LMB sleeps a little longer than he ususally would, which has me all annoyed as he wouldn’t do that on a weekend – but we still all make it out of the door by 7.20am with breakfast done and no missing underwear incidents, ready for the day ahead. LPP is a bit disappointed not to see the aeroplane in our driveway.  I explained that yes, I am off to London for work today, and yes I am going to fly there, but I have to drive to the airport first.  So I kiss them all Good-Bye, they go off in Super Daddys’ car and I head straight for the airport.

I reach the motorway, have a quick glance in the eastbound direction, see that traffic is moving rather nicely, and take the sliproad, thinking at this rate I can probably sit and have a latte and maybe even a  read of the newspaper before my flight is called.  I smugly turn up the volume on the radio, start to have a little sing song to myself and then something just clicks and I realise I didn’t bring my photo id.  Great.

I think my driving licence is in my purse, but thats in my maiden name (even though I got married in 2004) but with a little bit of luck, I figure I could show my licence, and my work id badge, hope for a male security dude and give him a little wink.  With one hand on the steering wheel and the other rumaging around in my bag I remember my driving licence is still sitting on the scanner back home from when I had to send the details over for my new car….6 weeks ago.

Don’t panic, I think to myself. A quick glance at the clock confirms that I could exit at the next junction (which is actually the junction for the airport) do an about turn, get back home to grab my passport and with the wind behind me, get back to the airport with roughly 5 minutes to spare.  So off I go.  I’m actually very surprised that I remained so calm. Normally any deviation from a plan gets me all a flutter,  but recently I’ve become and advocate of the ‘Whats the worst that can happen?’ philosophy and it seems to have paid off.  25 minutes later, and I’m pulling into the airport with 18 minutes until the gate closes.  I reach the short stay carpark, and get behind the line of cars also waiting to park.  Then I notice the diversion signs.  Then I notice everyone else is moving into the left lane and not going towards the carpark anymore, so like a sheep I follow on without properly reading any signs. And end up stuck behind in the one-way system through the drop-off and pick-up point.  Aaaaargh!

I watch impatiently as loved ones get out and help fellow loved one with suitcases, and then give them hugs that last just a little too long for my liking. But I stay calm.  And I carry on.  With a sense of dejavu, I find myself back in the line for the short stay car park, now with 12 minutes until the gate closes.  Except upon closer inspection, this doesn’t appear to be a car waiting for the entrance barrier on the short stay car park to lift. No, this just appears to be a car.  Sitting.  Not moving. Not waiting to enter. Just sitting.  I gesticulate wildly towards the car, which is simply an over exertion of energy I could have saved for shouting as the silly woman – yes woman – sitting in the car couldn’t see me behind her and I had to blast my horn loudly and open my door to shout at her.  But still she sat there. She waited until I took off my seatbelt, got out of the car started to walk towards her before she decided to attempt a very bizarre maneourve which I’m sure she would have failed her driving test for. But then sitting stationary at the entrance to a car park with no apparent inclination to enter it was probably a driving test fail point too.  She moves. I drive. I park. I run.  I get to security.  It’s a man. I don’t need my photo id. I swear under my breath. I take off my belt. I take off my beads. I take off my chunky bangle. I take off my high heels at the request of a very miserable security attendant, and I walk through the scanners.

Of course, it beeps.

It would appear the underwiring in my bra has triggered the alarm, though thankfully there is no request on the part of the miserable security attendant for me to take that off.  A smiley lady (thankfully) body sweeps me and gives me the once over with the electric wand thingie.  6 minutes until the gate closes.

“Is this your bag dear?” another security person asks me.

Of course, it was.

“I’ll just be a minute.” she says.  And then conducts what I can only describe as a swab test on my bag.  Using a huge pair of metal tongs, she rubs my bag with what looks like a giant baby wipe, then passes the wipe under some UV type scanner.

“Clean.”

Clean?! She actually said that. Without time to wonder what she expected to be on my bag. I put on my heels, throw on my bangles,  fasten my belt on and stuff my chunky beads into my clean bag. And run.

No time to buy a newspaper and no time for latte, I run straight to the gate and am proud that I’m actually the second last person to board. Window seat 20D is waiting for me, beside a rather bored looking woman with odd-caramel coloured shoes and bad fake tan stains on her feet.  I take my seat, fasten my seatbelt, look down and realise I have a ladder down the front of my tights……

Deservedly so, the rest of the day goes rather well (apart from the fire alarm in the terminal building as soon as we touched down in City airport which meant a further 20 minutes sitting on the tarmac ) But  my meeting is a huge success, and I’m glad I made the trip. There were no ‘I’m on the blue line and should be on the red line’ tube moments and I even had time for a quick scoot around duty free and a latte whilst I waited for my return flight.

Yet when I arrive back in Edinburgh, I am exhausted.  It’s only 6pm, but I just want to crawl into bed with my book. I’m keen to read at least another 5 lines before flaking out.

I arrive home, to find wonderful sister-in-law rolling on the livingroom floor with LPP and LMB clambering all over her. I relieve her from her duties, which she stresses was all her pleasure, and take up her position on the floor. An elbow in the face, shrieking and giggling in my ear and lots of wet slobbery kisses from LMB and I’m back right where I should be. In the chaos and mayhem of our little world, and there’s no where else I’d rather be.

No hummous please, we’re 4.

It’s birthday party season amidst my mummy circle and it was the turn of Little Princess Pink on Saturday. LPP was quite clear on her requirements for party food. We had to have marshmallows, sildenafil dipped in chocolate with a lurid coloured smartie on top. We couldn’t go without strawberries dipped in chocolate with a coating of rainbow bright hundreds and thousands, and we just had to have white chocolate crispie cakes with pink marshmallows mixed in. These were her specific requests and being her 4th birthday, I didn’t want to disappoint. So Friday morning was spent melting and mixing, melting and dipping and melting and licking.

“Oops.” said LPP. “That one touched my mouth mummy.” refering to the 3rd pink marshmallow that had managed to touch her mouth or  fall on the floor or  not look quite as squishy as the others and therefore be fit only for LPP consumption.

So, we melted and we dipped and we mixed and we moulded until three perfectly formed trays of chocolate and marshmallow based offerings were ready to be chilled in the fridge. Pleased as punch that the food was organised, LPP happily retreated to the playroom to count the number of princess balloons waiting to be inflated. My guess was 8 as that’s how many were there when she counted them an hour and 26 minutes ago.

So, there I stood in the kitchen, milk chocolate solidifying on my left cheek mentally checking off all other food and drink stuffs for the big event.

Wine for the Mummies. Check.

Burgers, Spicy Tomato Relish, Chilli & Ginger Relish, Hot Hot African Chakalka Relish, some kind of Pepper & Corn relish (Spicy) for the Daddies. Check.

Tea & cupcakes for the Grannies and Grandads. Check.

Pringles, Kettle Chips, Doritos and Mini Magnums for the Tweenagers. Check.

Carrotty Wotsit Type Crisps and Gingerbread men for the 1+’s. Check.

Chocolate & Marshmallows for the 4 year olds. Check. Oh and Hot Dogs.

Hhhhmm.

Now this is where my quandry began.

My memories of birthday parties growing up were coloured with musical statues, musical bumps, smarties, dancing competitons, bowlfuls and bowlfuls of jelly and ice-cream, more dancing, slices of birthday cake with luminous icing, musical chairs, more musical bumps, a race round the garden and then someone puking on the livingroom carpet.

But, oh were they fun. And the food was the highlight. We didn’t get to eat jelly and ice-cream on regular Saturdays. We sometimes got smarties, but my sister and I had to share a tube. And we certainly didn’t get cake with icing you could see from space.

So as much as the mind of mummy who likes her little ones to get at least 3 of their 5 a day before they leave the house in the morning was telling me we should  balance the birthday buffet table with some grapes, carrot sticks, cucumber fingers and maybe some hummous for dipping; the mummy who remembers the excitement of choosing only the orange smarties and swishing the jelly between her teeth and getting a cold head from the ice-cream was telling me that hot dogs, and chocolate and marshmallows would suffice………………..even if I might puke on the livingroom carpet again!

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