Growth Spurts – Not Just For Newborns

If there was one thing I wished someone had warned me about before I had children, it would have been growth spurts. Because when Big Girl arrived, they were the biggest shock of all.

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And yes, I do mean even more shocking than the realisation of how it feels to birth a baby. So you know I’m talking about some serious shit right here.

I had pethidine when I was in labour with her, so for a couple of days she was a bit sleepy. She still woke for feeds every two hours or so, but in between she would slip into a deep sleep. I could even put her down in the hospital crib, and she wouldn’t make a peep.

It was awesome. Well, maybe not awesome, exactly. I felt like I’d been hit by a bus, and getting up from a sitting position resulted in an unpleasant inward shifting sensation that, dear God, I wish I could forget.

But still, a newborn baby that fed and slept, not too bad. I couldn’t shake a stick at that.

Then, day 4 happened.

And I discovered that the previous few days had given me absolutely zero preparation for the veritable shitstorm that was about to ensue.

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Oh. My. God.

Here’s how day 4 went. We woke up, and Big Girl latched on. The end.

Ok, possibly it didn’t go 100% like that. I’m sure there were breaks for pooping, and nappy changing, and outbursts of crying for no apparent reason.

I was talking about the baby, actually. I cry about as much as it rains over the Sahara.

Ahem. Moving on!

Anyway, that’s what it felt like. Big Girl turned into an insatiable demon, who could only be satisfied by a never-ending river of breastmilk. And that’s how it continued for the next seven weeks.

I became closely acquainted with the contours of my couch, and got plenty of practice in feeding one-handed. Well, a keyboard’s not going to type itself now, is it?

I wouldn’t be lying if I said that one of the first things I Googled after coming home from the hospital was, ‘baby breastfeeding all of the time.’ And I’m glad I did. Finally, I had found an explanation for this wriggling, mewling infant who screamed herself purple the second her back hit the Moses basket’s mattress and rooted frantically on any millimetre of bare skin she could find.

Fucking growth spurts.

Suddenly, everything made sense.

Although there was one bit of information which I had to respectfully disagree with. According to the many websites I read on this issue, growth spurts happen numerous times in the first six weeks of a baby’s life, and last about 2-3 days or as much as a week.

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ORLY?

Because as far as I can remember, Big Girl had only one growth spurt. And it lasted approximately seven weeks.

I’m serious.

Despite being armed with the knowledge I gleaned from the holy god of Google, it was bloody hard going. Some days, I barely made it off the couch. I ate what I could grab out of the cupboard and throw down my neck one-handed.

Oh, and I felt like a shrivelled-up raisin that had been forgotten at the back of the cupboard. (You all find those raisins, right?)

But we made it through. And although I’m sure she had a few more growth spurts during her first year, either I’ve lost them in the haze of sleep deprivation, or they weren’t that bad.

Now, Little Girl and Squeak’s growth spurts. Well, I can’t really remember them at all! In my defence in the case of Little Girl, I’m surprised that I can remember anything about her first year. I definitely remember the fuzzy-head, almost drunken sensation of surviving on two hours sleep a night, but growth spurts? Not so much. By the time Squeak came along, I was just shoving her up my top at the slightest peep, and promptly forgetting  about her until she vomited spectacularly into my crotch.

Do you know, as I typed that I recalled exactly the toe-curling, revolting sensation of pooling milk sick as it cools in your crevices. Shudder.

So there was no clock-watching, or noting down of feed times. Hell, I didn’t even try to remember which boob’s turn it was to be fed off. I just plugged her in and got on with the requisite arse-wiping, packet-opening, fighting-children-separating and nose-wiping that comes with having older kids.

I’m sure they happened, like. I just didn’t really notice. In my defence, she fed soooooo much that I’m not sure it would have been possible for her to cram in any more feeding time.

Well, that’s baby growth spurts covered. They occur numerous times during a child’s first year of life, and then everything is just peachy.

But no. For as the years have passed, I have come to a realisation. A horrible, demand-causing, purse-squeezing realisation.

There are child growth spurts too.

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I. Know. Right?

Never before did I think I would grow to appreciate the growth spurts of a newborn. Because breastmilk? That shit is free. When you’ve got a desperate six year old ransacking the cupboards before, after… hell, during meals, you got problems.

Big Girl seems to be on a permanent growth spurt at the moment. It all started last year.

You see, today marks the passing of a year since Big Girl was hospitalised with Guillain-Barre syndrome. It’s hard to believe that such a short time ago she was stuck in a hospital bed, unable to walk, sit up or use her hands properly. I am thankful every day that she appears to have made a complete recovery.

But I am not thankful for the growth spurt that has resulted.

You see, she was ill with a virus for over three weeks before being admitted to hospital. Obviously she couldn’t eat much, as she was lethargic and battling a high temperature. Once you factor in that time, plus the hospital time and the recovery time afterwards, she didn’t really eat properly for two months.

Boy, has she been making up for it though.

It was at its worst once she began to feel better. This kid was having three massive meals a day, and snacking twice between each meal. And still she complained of being hungry! At one point she was eating more than me, and guys, I can put away a shitload of food.

Obviously it isn’t as intense now as it was. But Big Girl lives for food. She can inhale a plate of pasta in second, and beg for more. I don’t know where she puts it, as she’s pretty skinny. She is growing upwards like a tomato plant in a heap of cowshit though.

And my fruit bowl is permanently in need of replenishment, the cupboards are frequently bare long before I’d contemplated shopping again, and I never have leftovers to shove in the freezer.

Please God, let Little Girl sidestep this stage, because I don’t think I could inflate my food budget enough to cover that much food!

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The Hazards Of The Fitness DVD

I am rocking a very motivated attitude this week. And I’m pretty happy about that.

I have about 1.5 stones to lose to get down to my ideal weight. It was 2 stones, but apparently the ‘scorned woman’ weight loss plan is really fucking good.

In this burst of motivation, I have decided to do what I can to wave goodbye to this excess weight. I want to feel fit and healthy, and I want to look good in my clothes.

So I have been eating healthily. This is the easy bit, because I just eat what the kids eat. Bar the biscuits I throw to them to silence the incessant nagging.

That doesn’t happen that often. Honest.

It’s going well. But last night, I tried something new.

The fitness DVD.

This is the obvious choice of exercise for a woman stuck at home in the evening with three sleeping children. I mean, I know I’m already running around all day, and speed walking up to school because I left the house late. Again. But I think I need an extra push in the right direction.

I did the 30 Day Shred years ago, and thought it was awesome. So I picked it up, dusted off the cover (which was exercise in itself!) and switched it on.

The point of the 30 Day Shred is that you can fit a whole workout into twenty minutes. So it’s more than a little intense. But you know, I could hack it.

Right?

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Well, I did finish it. But, as I’m sure you can guess, that is not the whole story.

It started off well. It turns out that I’m actually fitter than I thought, and I got through the first bit no problem. I was amazing!

Then, it started to burn.

I pushed on, breath coming in strangled gasps. Grunting like an overexcited pig. I couldn’t see my face (thank God!) but I’m sure it was probably a fetching shade of purple. I was clicking in places I wasn’t even aware were supposed to have rotational capabilities. And there was a considerable amount of sweating.

Basically, it was really fucking gross.

But I wasn’t going to quit there. I am a tough, powerful woman, and I wasn’t going to be beaten by Jillian Michaels.

It started to get near the end of the DVD. Five minutes to go. I could do that.

Then, Squeak woke up.

Pling!

Pling!

For those of you who don’t know, Squeak doesn’t sleep in a cot. Frankly, she doesn’t really sleep anywhere! But for those moments when she engages in an extended blink, she parks herself on my bed. Which is, currently, a mattress on my bedroom floor.

Sounds a lot more bohemian than it actually is. To be honest, it just makes my room look like a squatter’s paradise.

Not all that desirable.

But anyway, this means that when I hear her outraged, needy squawks through the baby monitor, I kind of have to go. Like, now.

Despite my bedroom being a (fairly) safe, secure environment, the idea of a free range baby anywhere where I am not fills me with approximately no amount of joy.

I was rather pissed off. I mean, is twenty minutes of peace really too much to ask for?

Ha, seriously?

Ha, seriously?

Well yes, obviously it is.

I assessed her cry, and decided that it was more of a, “Hellooooo, anyone there?” cry than an, “Oh my God, I have ruptured my femoral artery and I’m bleeding out!” one. So I carried on, hoping and praying that I would get to the end of the workout before her screeches became more urgent.

It would have felt like cheating to stop then.

I can’t say exercise becomes any more enjoyable with a backing track of, “Wuh wuh wuh, waaaaah!” Of course, that opens up the debate of whether it was all that fun in the first place. Right now, as I type with aching, strained arms, I’m on the ‘fuck no’ side.

Creak.

I reached the end, skipped the cool down bit and legged it upstairs to feed Squeak. It was lovely to horizontalise after all that work. Aahhhhhhh.

She took a touch longer than normal to settle than usual, and didn’t slip into unconsciousness until almost half an hour had passed by. I rolled silently away, stood up…

And promptly collapsed back onto the floor.

I guess you could say that muscle fatigue had set in. Unbelievably, Squeak didn’t react to my inelegant vertical fail. She didn’t even stir. I normally can’t even sigh next to this kid, or scratch my nose.

Yes, I am serious.

Cautiously, I navigated the stairs on a pair of epically wibbly legs, and flopped onto the couch.

Holy shit! Still, with an effect like that it’ll work a treat, amirite?

Um....

Um….

It bloody better had, I’m subjecting myself to it again tonight.

Ugh.

Things I Have Learned This Week

So I think it’s safe to say that the last almost-fortnight has been a bit of a learning curve for me. I have tapped into wells of strength within me I didn’t know existed, and begun to adapt and adjust our routine to work with only one adult in the house.

With that has come an unexpected education. I’d like to say I was learning about myself and growing as a person, but honestly, when the fuck did you think I’d manage to fit that in? No, I’m talking about the small things, the little discoveries I have made along the way. Some of them have been taught to me by the hellcats I call ‘my children,’ but some of them are all mine.

Here’s a few for you to sink your teeth into. (And by a few, I mean I was too lazy to count how many there are. Deal with it.)

Three In A Bath = A Soaking

This was my first welcome into our new routine. And holy hell, did it throw me in at the deep end (such a shit pun, sorry, but I can’t think of anything else to replace it with!) Big Girl and Little Girl used to be showered by their dad while I swished Squeak round in the kitchen sink. As much as showers are quick and convenient, this was never going to work now. I needed to switch it up, so all of them were trapped in the same place.

Did not anticipate how much more work three kids were in a bath.

I’ve bathed two before, many times. Yeah, it was splashy and stuff, but it had nothing on throwing an extra one into the mix. I have been fucking drenched every. single. night.

I don’t even know how it happens. They spend the whole time sitting down, playing with a few toys. There are no cannonballs into the tub, and certainly none of the sliding down the slanted side me and my sister used to do as kids. (Thank God!) But by the end of it, my glasses are misted with a thousand droplets of water and I need a full change of clothes.

And somehow, perplexingly, the girls’ hair is still dry at the end of it.

How? Just how?

You Can Turn A Grape Into A Raisin In Your Own Home

This one comes from the quirky brain of Big Girl. Although I suspect you guys may have already guessed that.

Just before Christmas, Big Girl took rather a shine to a grape at breakfast. She called it Pea, and stored it in an empty Christmas card box. You’ll note that I say this as if it was entirely normal. Well, I guess ‘normal’ is slightly skewed in our house, because it didn’t raise half an ounce of surprise in me.

Being the responsible mother that I am, I probably should have checked for mould, or some shit like that. But um, I forgot. So… yeah.

She checked it regularly for signs of dehydration, in the manner of a teeny tiny scientist. Surprisingly, it did not decompose, or sprout orange fuzz. In fact, it looks like an enormous raisin.

Big Girl is rather proud of her Pea’s achievement. It is no longer relegated to a dark cardboard box,  but has pride of place in a little tub on the kitchen counter. It has been joined by two green companions, but I’m not sure if they have names. Yet.

So it turns out that it takes almost two months for a grape to turn into a raisin without applying heat or whatever magic they do to make them shrivel up into rabbit droppings. Interesting.

Just one problem. Now, she wants to eat it.

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After Ten Comes…

Little Girl has been learning about letters and numbers at preschool. She’s doing great with the letters. She can recognise them all, make the sounds, sing the fucking annoying but irresistably cute Jolly Phonics rhymes for each one, and has even started trying to read a few simple words. For a child who still isn’t sure of the answer to, “Do you need the toilet?” I’m quite impressed.

But when it comes to the numbers, I’m not entirely convinced that she is paying attention. She knows them up to ten, and can show me the right amount of fingers for each one. But after ten, it all starts to get a bit… squiggly.

Instead of trying to explain it to you, I’ll just give you a direct quote. “Eight, nine, ten, one-teen, two-teen, swee-teen…” Hmm, not quite.

And you’d think she was sorted after that, because the next numbers at least follow the rule she’s established in her head. But no. Fourteen doesn’t exist anymore. Fifteen occasionally makes an appearance, and after that she just babbles nonsense until she gets the giggles.

We’ll work on the counting thing.

There Is No Time To Relax

Here’s one from me. It is something which is really confusing me, to be honest.

I have no time to sit down in the evening. At all. Except for the time I’m taking out to write this for you lucky people, and I think I may regret it when I have to stay up late to get everything ready for school tomorrow.

I don’t get it. I used to watch films, and play games, and sit staring at a computer screen for hours with my feet up and a nutritionally invalid snack beside me. Yet somehow the house was still passably tidy, and everything got done.

Now, I’m running around as soon as the kids have settled down, until it’s time to collapse into bed next to a baby who I swear can smell me. It’s quite shit, actually.

I am hoping that once my routine is all figured out I’ll get a bit more time to vegetate a little. I am not naturally inclined to constant physical activity. In fact, I am positively activity-averse. So this set-up is not exactly working out for me right now.

It’s doing wonders for my muscles though. I’m going to be so freaking ripped in next to no time.

<flex>

Benefits Forms Are Epic

You know when you plan to have kids, and you work out how your house is going to work, and who is going to do what? Well, we agreed that I would be a stay at home mum, while the kids were small.

Well, when this kind of shit happens, that means that you’re entirely fucked over. Three children (and the accompanying phenomenal childcare bill that would go with them) and six years out of the workplace are not exactly an attractive employment prospect. I had planned to start looking for a job pretty soon but that, along with all of my other plans, is now on hold.

And so I have had to take the only option available to me, and claim benefits. And frankly, it really pisses me off. This is not how I expected my life to turn out. But when it’s a choice between eating and not, you just have to suck it up.

So I did all the right things, made all the phone calls and so on. And what landed on my doorstep but a couple of copies of War And Peace, or so it seemed. I’m serious. I could wallpaper the bathroom with the forms I was sent over the past few days. I mean, it’d look shit, but there’d be good coverage.

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And some of the questions are so confusing! I pride myself on being quite a smart person, but I was just baffled. Luckily, I have a couple of friends ‘in the know,’ who guided me through the process.

Now I’m just playing the waiting game as I hoard the money I have.

Lentils for tea, kids?

Squeak Can Understand “Sit Down”

I am blown away at the moment by the sheer amount of language Squeak can understand. My last experience of this stage of development was with Little Girl, who gave it a big “Fuck you,” and did her own thing. But Squeak gets so much. She knows when it’s dinnertime, and when I want a kiss, and I know she understands when I say I’m going to get her coat because she legs it away as fast as she can and hides behind the arm of the couch. (Hint, kid: you’re taller than the couch. I can see you.)

One of the things Squeak is really into at the moment is her ‘dooz.’ In people-who-don’t-shit-their-pants language, that means shoes, by the way. She loves her shoes. She fetches them herself every day and waves them in front of my face until I put them on her. And because of that, she now understands when I ask her to sit down. Incentivised learning, anyone?

It would probably be more successful if she was actually any good at sitting down. But she isn’t. She just bends her knees and prays that she will land on her bottom, rather than face-planting on the carpet.

Ouch.

Face-planting aside, it’s really fucking cute. But that is not what I’m talking about here.

The other day, I discovered that Squeak is capable to transferring her sitting down skill to other situations. More specifically, the situation where I inwardly shriek, “Oh my shit! The safety gate fell off the kitchen doorway again and she’s about to fall head first down the step! Fuuuuuuuuck! Sit down! Sit down! Sit down!”

Ok, the last bit was not shrieked inwardly.

But I can now say that Squeak can get down the kitchen step safely, thanks to her goddamn ‘dooz.’

Yay for Squeak.

Having No One To Say Good Night To Sucks

Go on, get your tissues out for this sad fucker!

Seriously though, don’t get to feeling sorry for me now. It’s not good for my image. And this is more of a little niggle than anything else.

Every evening, I put the kids to bed. I come downstairs and put some music on to keep me company while I do the thousand tasks that need doing. When they are done, I switch off the music.

And it is quiet.

All of the children are sleeping. The house is silent. I don’t even have a small bird cheeping in my ear any more.

I turn out the lights and head upstairs. Still silent. I tuck the girls in and kiss their foreheads, and slide into bed next to Squeak. She looks like she’s sleeping, but I know she’s faking it.

It’s not that different to how it used to be. But it is, just a little bit. And that little bit is just enough to make me feel a little maudlin, and lonely.

It is nice to have someone to say good night to.

People Are Wonderful

This is probably my most favourite discoveries I have made in the last two weeks. I knew that I had some fantastic friends and family, but I guess you never really know how good they are until your back is against the wall and you feel as if your world has fallen apart.

The support I have had from everyone I know, including you lovely people, has kept me going recently. I feel safe. I know that if I fall apart, I have people ready and willing to pick me up, dust me off and help me to start again. It is a very empowering feeling. I am stronger as a result of it. I can keep on keeping on because, all of the time, I remember the supportive messages, the hugs and the tears.

Thank you.

Laughter Really Is Medicinal

When I found out that my relationship was over, I thought I would never laugh again. My heart felt dead. I was sure that never again could I feel any joy, never.

How fucking wrong was I?

I have laughed every day. It helps that the children are amazingly funny. I can’t help but take pleasure in the little things they do. The jokes, the funny faces, the dances and the general silliness.

For example, tonight Squeak experienced a touch of frustration, which led to her letting out an almighty yell and launching a maraca across the room. Big Girl took one look at her, raised an eyebrow and without missing a beat, said, “Think you’re angry? You’re hilarious!”

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Ahem. Someone’s been listening to her mother.

I can’t help but giggle at them. And I feel a little lighter every time I laugh. My body relaxes, my brow unfurrows and I genuinely feel happiness.

Also, it appears that I often use humour to get me through the tough times. I guess I just never noticed.

Tell me you spot the sarcasm there. Please.

So I can’t help but crack jokes and laugh with friends. It’s good because it’s normal. I don’t have to act differently, or be treated differently. I am still me, and I like funny shit.

There’s one other thing that is truly medicinal. Hugs. The feel of the girls’ arms tightly clasped around my neck, their cheeks against mine, the warmth of their breath tickling my ear… it’s just the most beautiful sensation in the world. And then there are the hugs from friends. I can feel their emotion and their love for me in them, and that makes me feel pretty damn good.

Thanks again.

Fingers Have Names

I’m going to close with another little lesson from Little Girl. I have noticed that at their preschool they have taught them the names of each finger. No, I don’t mean they call them Dave or something. I’m talking ring finger and all that here.

Well today, Little Girl decided to educate me a bit on the different fingers on her hand. Which led to her striding around the living room, middle finger up on each hand like some kind of miniature Eminem, chanting, “Dese are da middle ones!”

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I’m not going to forget that one in a hurry.

On Courting Disaster

People often say that bad things come in threes. I disagree. I would say they come in eleventy-millions. That’s how it feels at the moment, anyway.

In my opinion, going through such a trauma as what happened last week should give me and the girls a get-out-of-jail-free pass for… oh, a few millenia or so? But life doesn’t work that way. In fact, I’m starting to think that there is a seriously vindictive bastard out there somewhere, whose sole job is to fuck with me.

And I'm not even talking about the kids, this time.

And I’m not even talking about the kids, this time.

On Friday morning our pet budgie chose, with impeccable timing, to die. Half an hour before school. I mean, what the fuck? Cut a woman some slack here! Of course Big Girl and Little Girl found him, I expect you guessed that. What a fucking shitstorm.

Somehow I managed, tearfully, to get them into school. I was tempted to just keep them off, but I figured that they’d at least be busy and distracted all day. And it left me with only one child to occupy while I engaged in Operation Bird Removal.

Now there’s a job I would have usually passed over to my partner. But not any more!

I wouldn’t allow myself to be bested by an animal that doesn’t even have opposable thumbs. Not even if I loved him. So, through floods of tears, I slowly dismantled his cage. I sniffed and I sobbed and I howled. Was I crying about the bird? A little bit. But I suspect that mostly I was releasing a lot of the pain I was feeling about the loss of the life I had hoped and planned for.

Never did I think being a funeral director for an animal could be so therapeutic.

I placed him on a kitchen roll bed in a shoe box, and left him in the corner of the kitchen until the girls came home from school. That evening, we had a little birdie funeral. They drew him pictures, and we said our goodbyes. It was so fucking sad. But they were so brave, and just wonderful. When we were done, I pulled them into a soggy floor-cuddle, and there we stayed for a while. Then Big Girl looked at me and said, “I don’t want to cry any more. It makes my throat hurt.”

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Kid, I fucking hear you!

I am finding that I am really missing that little bird. Sure, he was a grumpy little shit who never let the theme tune of my favourite programmes go by without squawking his damn head off, but he was mine.

The next story is a touch funnier, although it wasn’t at the time! On Sunday morning, I took the kids out shopping for the usual mundane crap: milk, washing powder, yawn. Our little shopping centre has a bit of raised flooring, with steps and slopes and handrails. Remember the handrails, they play a big role in this.

So we got all the stuff we needed, and began to make our way home. The girls always want to go up the steps and run down the slope. It was quiet, so I just left them to it. Big Girl made it down with no problem. But not Little Girl…

Can you see where this is going?

I was chatting with Big Girl when I heard a shriek of epic proportions. I looked up, hoping and praying that, just this one time, the sun would shine on me and give me a break.

Nope, still cloudy.

At first, it was hard to see what the matter was. So Little Girl helpfully clarified with a high-pitched yell of, “I STUUUUUCK!!!”

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Fucking hell.

She had decided that, instead of running down the slope, it would be an excellent idea to walk between the handrail and the wall. It was not an excellent idea. It was a spectacularly shitty idea, in fact.

But I think she’d worked that out for herself by then. Because she was absolutely and completely wedged in there.

It was at that exact moment that I decided that someone, somewhere, seriously had it in for me.

I tried to calm her, but she was freaking out. I tried to get her head out, but it was really stuck in there. And how many genius ideas did I have to fix this problem?

None. My mind was completely blank. All I could think of was the humiliation of having her cut free by firemen. I know a few of my friends would be positively delighted with that occurrence, but that’s just not how I roll.

Thankfully, someone with a functioning brain passed by, and suggested that I walk her backwards until the gap widened a bit and she could escape. Which was really fucking obvious, actually. I mean, she had to get in there somehow, right? So we did it.

And, thank God, it worked. She sobbed and clung to me, and I may have shed a few tears as well.

Now just to put up with the four months of repetitive telling of the story from Little Girl, every time we go shopping.

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Yay.

There was one more, fairly trivial but extremely irritating thing which happened this week. My hoover developed reflux.

Yes, reflux. Oh, you know what I mean. You spend ages hoovering the carpet. Then you stand back to admire your handiwork, turn off the hoover, and sigh as everything you just picked up is regurgitated from the end of the nozzle.

So fucking annoying.

I wasn’t going to let a little plastic piece of crap get one over on me, though. My carpet is clean now, and the hoover has been relegated to the rapidly expanding rubbish pile.

This much.

Fuck you, hoover.

As much as I feel buried under the enormous, cascading pile of shit that has been thrown on me recently, I will endure and try to focus on the positives. There are small victories, and I am grabbing them and holding them close to me to keep me going. Here is one.

Little Girl really, really hates mushrooms. With a passion. If one accidentally passes her lips, it results in a reaction akin to cyanide poisoning. Retching, gagging, the works. (I’m pretty sure that’s not how people react to cyanide poisoning, but take a look and see if I care.)

Well, I wrote that a bit wrong. Little Girl hated mushrooms.

The other day, I made a lasagne. And I put loads of mushrooms in, because Big Girl and I love them and it just wouldn’t be the same without them. I think she can always pick them out if she hates them so much.

That day, however, she surprised me. She shoved a mushroom in her mouth, chewed, swallowed and declared, “I like mushrooms now!”

Man, my kids are so fucking awesome.

Just like their mum.

Just like their mum.

Now We Are Four

Hello, everybody! You may have noticed that Awesome Parenting Is Not What I Do has been unusually quiet this week. Well, we have been going through some rather dramatic and unexpected changes.

I’m not going to hash out the gory details, but I am now a single mother to Big Girl, Little Girl and Squeak. Their father has left our home, to live with another woman.

This was something I could never have predicted. Less than a week ago, I was making plans for our future, and slogging through our daily routine with a smile on my face. I did not ignore the warnings because there weren’t any. So you can understand that I am in shock. As are my poor children.

I know that some of you will be shocked as well, because you know all of us. All I can say is, sorry! If I’d known I woulda clued you in.

But this post is not about him, so I’m not going to go on about that bit. It is about me, and my wonderful daughters.

Before this week, I would have said that there was no way that I would be able to cope as a single mother. I needed the support of a partner to survive. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how I would juggle all of their needs and safeguard their emotional wellbeing.

As usual, I was full of shit.

Because I am being fucking awesome at it. The girls are fed, clean and attending school on time. They are still smiling and playing, and have gone to bed without a peep since he left. My house is tidy, the washing is done. I have begun to apply for all of the money that I am entitled to, as much as it irks me that I have to.

I am not saying that everything is fine. Everything is far from fine. My entire world has been ripped apart, and I feel like I’ve been hit with a brick. If I was alone, I can guarantee that I would have fallen apart by now. I would be collapsed on the couch in three-day-old clothes, weeping my heart out and listening to some blubby love songs from Cher, or some shit.

Thankfully, I can’t do that. And more importantly, I don’t want to. Because I am surrounded by three needy, funny, odd, intense children.

And by surrounded, I mean like a team of fucking snipers. Duck!

I cannot press pause on my life. They need to eat, and bathe, and be read to. Homework has to be done and lunchboxes filled. And that’s just the practical shit. On top of that, I have to deal with all of the emotional fallout from them. The tears, the questions, the insecurities.

That is hard. Fucking hard. I would never do anything to hurt them and yet here I am, bolstering their self-esteem and showing them how much I love them.

There’s a good bit though. Children are really resilient, and even when faced with an enormous change they can still find it within them to be fun, to play and to laugh. And I get to see all of that. It is a warm bath for my poor broken heart when they say something funny, or do a funny walk, or throw their little arms around my neck and squeeze.

I’m talking about hugs, dude. They’re not trying to kill me!

This time.

You’ll be happy to know, I still have some funny shit to talk about. Even in the middle of a disaster, stuff happens that makes me laugh my ass off! For example, the story of the first triple child bath.

I haven’t run the bath in my house for fucking ages. Mark used to shower the big girls and I would bath Squeak in the kitchen sink, as it was easier. And by easier, I mean there was less chance of discarded food showering my carpet as I legged it to the bathroom.

Just so ya know.

But it’s not that hard, right?

  1. Turn on taps to correct temperature
  2. Put in plug
  3. Wait until water fills to correct depth
  4. Switch taps off

I fucked up at around about point 3. I just forgot babies were so goddamn short! When I put her in, the water reached almost up to her armpits. Probably at this point, I should have poured some water out before continuing. But do you know what? I’m just a bit bloody laissez-faire, I guess, and I figured it was only going to be for a few minutes.

And it was totally fine, for the few minutes. It all unravelled when I decided to wash her hair.

Squeak is at that blissful stage which is only a few steps up from completely bald. Her hair is thin, wispy and grows straight upwards in the middle of her head. But it means that all I have to do is dump a few handfuls of water on top of her head and it is clean.

So, that is what I did.

But you know when you do that, and they duck their heads when the water trickles onto their faces? Yeah, that happened.

Unfortunately for Squeak, rather than ducking into a pocket of air, she sploshed her face directly into the water.

Oops.

She recoiled from the water with a porcine grunt. Then repeated it as the water trickled on her face. I swear to God, she did it about five times before I called it quits on the whole hair thing. Snort, recoil, snort, recoil, snort, recoil. Over and over again.

Fucking hilarious.

Um, I mean, totally not gonna do that again!

And let’s not even mention that yesterday Squeak insisted on bringing a fart machine on the school run with her. Flatulent echoes battered my eardrums as I prayed that she would fall asleep before we reached the school gates. She did, thank fuck!

So, here I am. My old identity is gone. I am not who I thought I was last week. And that is going to take a fair bit of getting used to. But I am going to carve a brand new identity for myself, right here in my safe haven with my beloved daughters. This week has shown me that I am strong, strong beyond measure. Strong enough to shoulder their pain and mine, without crumbling. Strong enough to push on when I feel like crawling under my duvet and hiding for a while.

And through the tears which I shed at random throughout the day, I am smiling. Because I have some really good shit going here. I have my daughters around me, who adore me and keep me going when the day seems dark. I am making new plans, and dreaming of a new future. One where I will feel less vulnerable and hurt and confused.

I am a strong woman, surrounded by strong women (and a few strong men as well!). Never in my life have I had greater support from my friends and family. I am not alone. I know that every step I take, someone is behind me urging me on, with arms waiting to catch me if I fall. Together we can laugh, and cry, and rage. And somehow, I will get through this.

I feel like Awesome Parenting Is Not What I Do may take a slightly different turn from now on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to write the funny shit you guys all love. In fact, I have one such post currently swirling around in my mind tubes, waiting to be created when I sit down for long enough!

But also, I will be talking about my life, and what is happening, and how I am feeling. Because this blog is my life. And sometimes life just isn’t fucking funny. I am hoping, though, that it’ll help me to pick out the funny bits. To laugh and enjoy the small achievements and hilarities.

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That’s what life is about, isn’t it?

The Quiz Of Awesome Parenting

When I was a kid, there was nothing that excited me more than coming across a multiple choice quiz in a magazine.

Why yes, I was an extremely pathetic kid. Thanks so much for noticing that.

I would reach for my pen and begin scribbling, desperate to know what my perfect pet would be, or which member of Backstreet Boys I should go on a date with.

Seriously?

Seriously?

You can roll your eyes as much as you want, ok? It was fucking fun.

Inevitably I grew up. Now, I’m a big old groany grown-up, with responsibilities and stretch marks, and all that shit. But I have to admit, I still love a good quiz.

So, just for you, I have created a quiz for adults. It’s about awesome parenting, obviously.

If you’ve been following the blog for a while (or frankly, if you looked at the top of the page before you started reading), then you know that awesome parenting is not what I do. And if you’ve hung around, then you probably have an inkling that you don’t always do it either. What you don’t know is, how much of a not awesome parent you are.

Until now, anyway.

Because now, in just a few minutes, you can discover whether you have what it takes to be inducted into the cult of Not Awesome Parents. I know, an exciting moment, right?

Where are you going wrong? What are you kicking ass at? And do you know your t shirt is inside out?

Read on to find out. (Apart from the last one. You’re just going to have to check that one out for yourself.)

Disclaimer – Do NOT mark your answers with a pen. We’re not in the 90s any more, folks. If you damage your screen, you’re on your own.

1. You realise that your precious baby, who is cradled in your arms, has just unleashed several putrid Golgothans into his nappy. Do you:

a) Retire immediately to the changing table in the (decorated) nursery and clean the baby’s bottom lovingly with cottonwool and water;

b) Plop him on a secondhand plastic changing mat on the floor of the living room and reach for the packet of baby wipes;

c) Waft him in the general direction of his other parent and feign an urgent need to use the facilities yourself?

2. Your toddler is mid-apple when she drops it on the floor. Do you:

a) Throw it in the bin right away and replace it with a new one;

b) Give it a quick rinse under the tap and hand it back;

c) Blow on it and return it to her without looking too closely?

3.  Your child has fallen over while running around at the park. Do you:

a) Wrap him up in a big cuddle and empathise with his distress before cleaning the wounds and applying a colourful plaster;

b) Give him a quick kiss better and send him on his way;

c) Attempting comforting cuddle, aim badly and instead stab him in the ear with your fingernail? (Bonus points if you then engage in a bout of high-pitched, nervous laughter.)

4. Your toddler is throwing an epic, unrelenting tantrum in the middle of the floor at home. Do you:

a) Get down on her level and talk it out;

b) Step over her and enjoy the scant few minutes that she doesn’t want to be right in your face;

c) Laugh your fucking ass off because angry toddlers are hee-larious?

5. Your child is getting dressed to go out. Do you:

a) Encourage him to do as much as he can by himself before helping him with the rest and giving praise for his efforts;

b) Lay out the clothes and set a timer to motivate him to get dressed quickly;

c) Threaten to take him outside in bare feet and actually open the front door?

Let’s take a quick break. How are you doing so far? Are you berating yourself yet? Or maybe you’re giving your ‘Awesomest Parent In The World’ crown a bit of a polish?

*So* freaking winning.

*So* freaking winning.

Personally, I’m just picking the answers that make me look good.

What, you mean you were telling the truth? That’s not how quizzes work, folks.

Anyway, onward we go!

6. Your child sits down in the middle of the pavement and refuses to move. Do you:

a) Offer to carry her the rest of the way;

b) Strap her into the pushchair that you remembered to bring along;

c) Start walking away in the hope that her survival instinct will kick in and she will run after you?

7. Your child draws on his face with a permanent marker. Do you:

a) Look up the top tip for removal you pinned on Pinterest and apply it with great success;

b) Scrub the marks with a baby wipe and hope for the best;

c) Shrug and think, It’ll fade eventually. Besides, he makes a damn cute cat?

8. Your baby begins to scream for milk right in the middle of the supermarket shop. Do you:

a) Feed her whilst simultaneously steering a heavy trolley (oooh, get you!);

b) Find a comfortable place to sit and feed her as soon as you can;

c) Rush around grabbing the rest of the shopping, red-faced and close to tears, before feeding her in a bus stop on the main road (this was not me*)?

9. Your child asks to watch some TV. Do you:

a) What? You don’t have a TV!

b) Do a mental check of his screen time allowance to see if he has any time left over;

c) <push button>?

10. Your child picks the longest book in the history of the world to read for a bedtime story. Do you:

a) Read the whole thing. With voices;

b) Skip a couple of pages and hope she doesn’t notice;

c) Spend ages negotiating for a shorter book, before realising it would have been quicker to read the fucking long one in the first place?

Are you done? Awesome. Ok, make a note of the most frequent answer you circled (in your head because you did not write on your screen).

Got it? Then scroll on down to the results!

If you circled mostly As – What the fuck are you doing here? This blog is for parents who spend most of their time getting it wrong. Stop making us look bad!

(Seriously though, good job.)

If you circled mostly Bs – I guess you’re doing ok. I mean sure, there’s room for improvement, but there’s also a whole other level you could sink to. If you fancy it.

Or not, as the case may be.

If you circled mostly Cs – Are you me? Congratulations, you’re about as awesome at parenting as I am. Which is not much, didn’t you read the name of the blog?

Hmm, maybe I should have written ‘commiserations.’

So tell me (if you’re not rapidly clicking the cross whilst feeling intense shame), how did you measure up?

Well?

Well?

*Ok, it was me.