Wednesday, 30 December 2009

My best present

Look away now if your children aren't great sleepers as today my boys - aged 6, 4 and 10 months - gave their parents the best Christmas present they could ever have dreamed up. They let us sleep until we were woken by a phone call at 10am. To anyone who is not a parent to small children this might seem like a very small gift, but to those of us more accustomed to being roused from our slumbers by a tiny body launching itself onto our head in the early hours of the morning, those extra hours of sleep were the most priceless treasure.

After what seems like aeons of mass catering and all the attendant tidying up, we are both exhausted, with that pleasant grey tinge to our pallor that hospitality mixed with children seems to bring on. But today it seems to have faded to a far paler, more elegant shade and the bags under my eyes have shrunk back to mere suitcases, as opposed to a trunk large enough to pack to emigrate to the other side of the world.

Still these are not the only gifts that have been bestowed on us this festive season, the babies have been full of the spirit of giving and have divvied up the following tricks to delight us:

Twin 1 has added sitting up from the crawling position to his battery of activities, though his crawl action is still stuck in commando mode. He has also developed a new skill as a human vacuum and has been found sucking up wax, pieces of wood, tinsel and dropped Christmas pudding over the past week. The upshot of this is that I have to manically sweep up after everyone in an attempt to keep him alive until his first birthday. However, he does help me with this, following me around like a lame puppy picking up all the dirt I have missed on the front of his clothes.

Twin 2 is still firmly resisting the urge to move, as he spreads his arms octopus-like, around him to sweep up whatever object he desires. If it lies outside his reach he simply resorts to screaming until one of his slaves provides it for him. This seems to be a highly effective method.

To reward us for his labours he will bestow upon us either his brand new, regal wave, which sees him twirling his baby hand at the wrist just like a real monarch, or he will look at us with his piercing sapphire blue eyes, and slowly blink them closed. To behold this is a pearl beyond price and no matter how many times I try to persuade him to to blink to order he's having none of it, he does it in his own time when he feels one of his subjects deserves the honour.

The older two have been most gracious in actually playing with most of the toys they have been given, rather than just dumping them in a pile and returning to their favourite past times which include beating each other up, having screaming rows, whinging for the TV and running around the house yelling like banshees. Though there has been plenty of time for all the latter activities in between unpacking the contents of a cargo ship from China and making copious trips to the dump to rid ourselves of a small village of impenetrable packaging.

Overall, a good time has been had by all though I have been feeling a little melancholic about the fact that this is the last Christmas I will spend in the company of babies, as by next year the twins will surely be up and running (though I shan't count on it with twin 2), and wreaking an all new, toddler version of havoc to compliment their big brothers' antics.

Having said that when I thought son number two would be my last, every milestone he reached filled me with sadness and nostalgia, whereas with the twins this is watered down to a mere twinge, and much soothed by the idea that this is also a journey that will see me change my last nappy, shove mush into my last ravening maw, fight my last battle with a pushchair and eventually leave the house without lugging half of its contents with me. So although it was fun holding twin one back from ingesting pine needles and small baubles, or dangling twin two from my hip as I attempted to stuff turkey and ice a cake, I am well over my desire to add more babies to the mix.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Merry Christmas

I have decided the only way to snatch five minutes peace amidst the festive mayhem is to hide in my office and pen a post. I have spent the day coughing away with a seasonal cold as I variously helped my husband clear out our garage to make it into a cosy little bolt hole for my parents to stay in over Christmas (it was either that or they would have to drive around the ice rink of the North Circular to a godforsaken Travel Lodge), prepped enough food to feed an army of relatives, dandled babies to stop the incessant screams and pondered on all the things I am sure I have forgotten.

Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas, but from one year to the next the sheer scale of work it involves seems to be wiped from my mind, a bit like the pain of labour slips away once the baby is out, enabling you to contemplate having more than one offspring. I also find myself feeling flustered at the very concept of managing the timing of the day. I normally do get everything onto the table and cooked in time, but each year I set myself a new challenge, like adding an extra recipe or a complicated array of vegetables, just to spice things up a bit.

This year I have decided (rather indecisively) on three types of stuffing, because they all look so nice and I want to try them, I have also whipped up two extra desserts, one a decadent Bouche de Noel for Christmas Eve (a nod to my European years) and the other a chocolate confection for those who don't like the traditional pud. Not to mention the ham that is bubbling away on the stove as I type and the 9kg turkey resting resplendent in the fridge. It makes me tired just thinking about it.

I think that despite the inordinate amount of calories packed onto a Christmas plate it's actually the most slimming meal of the year. I spend so long rushing around preparing everything from cranberry sauce to brussels with chestnuts from scratch that (a) by the time I come to attempt to eat it I can't bear the sight of it and (b) I have expended more calories shopping and cooking for this meal than any other the whole year round.

Still the house has got a warm and Christmassy feel to it, with the grandparents safely here and installed, the children bouncing off all four walls and sneaking forbidden peeks at the mysterious packages secreted under the tree, the smells of Christmas cooking wafting around the house and a weariness in my limbs induced by hard work expended make our house as hospitable as possible at this special time of year.

I think it must be time to start cracking open one of those many bottles of Christmas spirit and really getting into the swing of things. I doubt I will be able to sneak off again before the big day so I will take this chance to wish all of you a Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

U-turns and tinsel

Am pink of cheeks as I retract my last blog post. It seems we are not ones for big life changes after all and are rather fond of our little rut. After what seems like aeons of soul searching we decided to stick with plan A at least until the children are able to fend for themselves a little better. To be honest the family are all pretty settled, the boys love their school and the babies are happy with my new nanny, work is going fine for me, so my other half didn't want to rock the boat for purely self gratifying motives.

It's much harder for him to admit that he is having to postpone his dreams, and I really feel for him. I admire him for putting his needs last and the family's first. I hope that he can be happy in making this selfless move so that we can all remain blissfully static. I guess this means I will have to be nice to him for a while. Or at least ply him with alcohol on a regular basis.

Anyway, back to the much more important issue in hand. It's almost Christmas, and although work is insisting on continuing up to the bitter end all this freezing weather is putting me in a festive frame of mood. I am a little disappointed by the poor show of nativity plays, son number two did a fifteen minute display that saw the little ones warble a few verses of Merry Christmas and Jingle Bells before being hustled off stage to spare the tinies from getting too bored. I felt short changed as he is leaving this nursery at the end of term so this was his last nursery nativity.

Still at least he got to do one, eldest son has been deemed too old for the three kings and all that jazz, so it's no Christmas play at all. Apparently us parents have to be content with the harvest assembly they did earlier in the year. Still it's better than a friend's daughter whose school decided that the most festive party piece they could put on was a rendition of The Godfather. Presumably the seasonal twist was that it was a reindeer rather than a horses' head that found its way under the covers?

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Brave new world

I was up until 3am this morning having what I think is termed a life changing conversation with my husband. No, we are not divorcing, but he is walking out on his job of the last six years and that seems to be almost as traumatic. To cut a long story short he's fed up to the back teeth of his daily grind, I am finding it hard to work with four kids, so we've decided to combine forces and try to find a way to create that elusive life work balance.

I am in equal parts terrified and elated. We are both poorly fitted to 9-5 jobs, being far too interested in spending time with our children rather than locked on the tube or in a traffic jam. Sadly no one was cut out to be the breadwinner, but that essential bread still needs to be won. The idea is that by splitting our time between family and work we can do both more justice, and if that pans out I will be the happiest girl in town, of course the 3am chat was more about what happens if Plan A goes tits up and we end up trying out cardboard boxes for six.

Trouble is that sometimes in life you have to take a risk to have a hope of getting what you want in life, yet I hate any hint of change, even if ultimately it might be for the better. I am a yellow-bellied coward and my glass is forever half empty, yet I don't want to constantly pour the cold water from said glass all over my husband's plans and enthusiasm as he will need all of his get up and go to kick start a brand new career.

I guess I will just have to put my strong and supportive head on and hope like hell that it all works out and I will look back on this particular life choice as one of the few that made sense. Wish me luck, I fear I may need it.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Blog blues

My blog is my indulgence. I love to write, but mostly I am a gun for hire, writing what other people commission me to, some of it is interesting, some of it isn't, but it pays the bills which is the main thing. My blog on the other hand is my place to write about whatever the hell I like. If people read it, it gives me a warm feeling inside, but if they don't I still enjoy the process, so it's a win win situation.

Of course this probably means my blog will never make me a penny, but never mind. It also means that my blog tends to be shoved to one side whenever a paying writing job comes along, which is why it's pages have been rather blank of late. As a freelance journalist you have to take work whenever it comes up, and sometimes that means you are faced with many deadlines all crowding around you for your attention. Of course these are the good times, as when you can't see a deadline for dust you know you are in trouble.

I suppose that means my blog is a bit like my mother used to describe my sister, it only hears from me when I am in trouble! That's not strictly true, but in my ideal world I would spend far more time blogging and far less working, but until my lottery numbers come up it will have to take it's place at the back of the queue.

But one of the main reasons I try to keep my blog up to date is to keep a record of my growing boys, and to that end I must report on a development on the movement front. My twins are pretty slow to get on the move, which as I am terrified of the havoc they will wreak once they start perambulating, is no bad thing. But twin one has now developed his own unique means of transport.

He has taken to dragging himself along by one elbow in the manner of a wounded soldier hauling himself off the battlefield, hence his brand new nick name of commando. Despite looking most cumbersome he can get around using this strange motion and now follows me around the kitchen seeking out places to injure himself. Last week he was sporting a real shiner thanks to falling head first into the fire place, which was hastily hidden by a cushion after he pointed out it's potential for danger in such a dramatic fashion.

I think his rule of thumb is that if it has the potential to maim or kill it must be interesting. Toys are swept aside as he shuffles off towards a lit oven, muddy shoes, the cat's bowl and the cleaning cupboard and if you have the temerity to try to save his little life you are met with wails of frustration. I think it will be soon time to instigate a twin cage (otherwise know as play pen) so when I can't keep my eagle eye on him, I can lock him away from harm.

His brother is still contentedly sitting down playing with toys, looking on with detached amusement as his twin struggles around. I think he's like my eldest who spent months pondering movement, before simply starting to crawl and walk perfectly, so one day he will just appear at my heels without all the ungainly shuffling and struggling suffered by his more thrusting double.

Both the twins are now well into the separation anxiety phase, so every time I leave a room I am followed by a cacophony of disgruntled screaming as they are convinced I will never return. Surely they should learn that the more the scream the more likely their prophecy is to come true?

So now the exploits of the twins Commando and Sitting Bull are committed to memory and my blog I must go back to work once again.