Parenthood is…

Anecdotes from the chaotic world that orbits a modern and extremely busy mum of four.

Bendy with a side order of sore knees!!

In 18 weeks’ time I will hopefully just have finished my Ben Nevis Challenge and will be tucking into a celebratory breakfast (who doesn’t love a celebratory breakfast?!). The reality is starting to feel a little less daunting (only a LITTLE mind!!), mostly because I have ramped-up the training in the last week or so and have surprised myself with how quickly I have started to feel the benefits. I have noticed an increase in my fitness already, I am more bendy (aka less stiff!!) and have more energy. This bodes well I feel!! The most shocking discovery is that I have been ENJOYING it!! Yes, you read right, a life-long critic of the exercise movement (!!) and I’ve been finding myself smiling the entire time!! I even enjoyed it when it rained – and then still when it hailed…!! What is that about?! A friend told me she thought it was a good way to keep me safe from the loons – make them think I am more insane than them!! I’m wondering if, in fact, I AM more insane than previously thought (I feel “even more insane” would be more appropriate there!)…? I am, too, loving the music I have popped on my ipod for my training – though do find that it tends to distract me into a bit of dancing when I should be running, power-walking or doing stairs work (yep, definitely “EVEN more insane”!!)

Quick aside… I had a surreal moment out at the woods earlier in the week – an older man winked at me! Very surprising – especially as I do not generally look my best when exercising out at the woods – picture a woman, grinning in a slightly deranged manner, with a bright beetroot face and wearing Simon’s jogging clothes (really must get myself some training gear – preferably from the women’s section of the shop!!). Maybe he thought I was actually slightly unhinged so was being sympathetic?! (Two things to clarify – when I say older man, he was probably a similar age to myself as I have found that I have reached the age where I see someone as older, forgetting that I am actually that age too! Also, it was not a pervy “let’s get to it” wink, but a friendly “this is more a habit than a direct comment on you”, hello kind of wink!) It was so fabulously old-school! Like whistling. And infinitely less eyebrow-raising than the “Hello Miss!” I got in town yesterday from a man old enough to be my grandad (and I was not being delusional about my age in that instance!)!! I digress (quite significantly!)…

In general, I’m pleased with how training is going – though I have found my knees getting a bit sore so my mission this week is to try to ramp it up another notch but in a low-impact way so as to let my knees get used to the new demands being placed on them. I also really need to make a start on the “overnight” training – I had totally forgotten about this element until I was reading my old posts this morning! (Stuff just doesn’t stay lodged in my brain for more than a few seconds – I’m worse than the fish I STILL haven’t yet got around to putting in my now 3 months old fish tank, also now known as my “pet water”!!) Distracted by a brief, two-day resurrection of my social-life, my diet has also had a ropey time over the last few days so I really need to get back on top of that this week – oh joy!

So, in short (not my forte!) – a good effort this week but still improvements to be made!

p.s. Don’t forget to sponsor me (pretty please!): http://www.justgiving.com/Charlotte-Browning

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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One down, twenty to go…

Well the first week is done – and it didn’t go too badly. I started my training and did some walking/running up and down the stairs (for 30 minutes) and went for two walks, each of about 2 miles. I feel like I didn’t do enough but, reading all the advice, I think not rushing into it headlong is probably sensible considering that I am just not used to masses of exercise. (After all, that was one of the reasons for doing this, to make me get myself fit!) But I do need to make sure I build on that this week – more stairs work and at least two more walks, of at least 3 miles each….

The food side of things was a very mixed bag – I had a great start but then had 5th birthday celebrations (and I cannot be strong-willed when Cadbury chocolate fingers are involved!!) and then pancake day so the latter half of the week has more than done for the good start!! But, not one to give up at the first hurdle, tomorrow is the start of Lent and this year I am giving-up procrastination, defeatism (think I may have just made that word up…?!) and laziness and, instead, I AM going to replace them with optimism, motivation and determination. I think! (😉) So tonight I will shortly be puffing and panting up and down the stairs and tomorrow I will once again look at food as fuel not comfort… (apparently!!)

An interesting realisation also happened this week – in an attempt to get the house ship-shape for the aforementioned birthday celebrations, I started to pull an all-nighter but, about 3.30am, started to feel dizzy and had to go to bed. It made me realise that it is not going to be enough to get fit and eat well, I need to also train my body &brain to function well on no sleep. (I can function on no sleep – I’ve had eight years of training for that one! But functioning WELL is an entirely new ball-game…!!) Sooo, with that in mind, I am going to start incorporating some “overnight” training into the schedule – just once a week have a night where I get little or no sleep, instead staying active, just so I can start to get used to properly and effectively functioning at night…. That’s the plan anyway…! You never know, I could end up with a clean house…?! No, I doubt it too!!! 😉

Oooh, and I finally created my JustGiving page so can start to collect some sponsors – with a bit of luck and a following wind (and some gentle persuasion?!)…. Which reminds me – just in case you feel like giving your plastic some exercise for a great cause: http://www.justgiving.com/charlotte-browning !! 😉

So it feels like a not-too-bad-but-could-do-better kind of start and I did today feel a few twangs of excitement so who knows, I could actually do this!! Onwards and upwards! 😊

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She’ll be coming round the mountain…

It has long since been an ambition of mine to climb Kilimanjaro – you know, one of those things you think “I’d love to do that… one day”. Well, on Friday I watched a programme where Rhod Gilbert did it. I sat there thinking “I really want to do it – but I have four children and I’m nearly 40, it’ll just be another something I don’t get to do”. Then an old school friend mentioned that she did it a few years back. And that was the turning point. All weekend I thought about it and read about it… and decided that I WILL do it – next year, to mark my 40th!!

And then I found The Ben Nevis Midnight Challenge… What a brilliant thing to do in its own right – and what a fantastic way to test myself, to see if I have what it takes! By Monday afternoon I’d registered for it! And promptly started to feel ridiculously unsure – and sick! From pathetically unfit to fit enough to climb Britain’s highest mountain (at midnight!) in 5 months / 20 weeks?! What on earth had I done?! To make sure I couldn’t act on my apprehension, I gave myself no option but to do it – I told the children! And then I booked the flights. And announced it on Facebook. And now I’m writing this. So, in short, if I don’t do it now, I’ll hugely disappoint my children, I’ll lose money AND I’ll have to admit my failings to all my friends and family. (I feel I am a little extreme at times?!) So, no going back then!!

I have decided to hijack my bad-parenting blog for the cause and will TRY to keep a fairly regular diary of my training – so I apologise now if the next 20 weeks bring you more than you have ever wished to know about walking, walking and more walking! I will aim to intersperse it with tales of the ghastly things my babies do, just so you don’t think I’ve gone all capable on you!! 😊

Wish me luck! 😲

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Sick, sick, sick and a bit more sick besides!

Before having children I had genuinely believed that you were only ever sick for one of four reasons – you had a tummy bug, you were drunk, you’d eaten something dodgy or you were pregnant.  Therefore, if I knew someone had blown chunks and they were not obviously pregnant or slurring, I’d convince myself that they were contagious and that I was now DEFINITELY going to be ill – and would immediately start feeling sick accordingly!

Then I had children.

It still amazes me the seemingly endless reasoning behind a child vomming.

Noah has been known to resort to the “uh-oh, I’ve eaten too much – here comes the blow-back” spew on occasion. (OK, have to fess, I’ve done that a couple of times too – I still have some trouble looking an enchilada in the eye after one particular over-eating incident I shan’t dwell upon any further…!)

Isly is a particular fan of the “you made me eat something I didn’t want to” puke.  I’m actually quite envious of her cunning – no parent wants to induce a barf if they can possibly help it – wish I’d thought of it with my mum’s “risotto” aka dodgy ‘special’ (eyebrows raised) fried rice… 😉  Sorry Mum!!  xx
(Just going to quickly digress – I mentioned this dish to my mum a while back and she has absolutely no recollection of it – whereas I am haunted by it forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ha ha  Sorry Mum – again!!  xx)

Gabriel, thankfully, (to-date) is not a major player in the technicolour yodelling championships. To-date.  (VERY important not to tempt fate about these things!!)

And Tobs, well, he’ll choose any reason he pleases – he’s a bit hot, he’s got a cough, he just felt like it…!  He’s a great believer in partaking in an in-car chunder – I have had to de-sick a car seat more times with him than all the rest of the children put together (and he’s not even 2 yet!).

Whatever the reason, I think it is fair to say that clearing-up after a projectile ralph is one of the more grizzly parenting jobs on offer!  If the child has done a good job, there is inevitably a brief moment where you pause in the wake of the vomit tsunami and just think “Where the f*** do I start?!”.  You look at your now-crying, possibly near-hysterical, child and see their saturated, chunk-covered clothes and the now-matted hair and think “that’s going to need a bath and hair-wash”, knowing that the last thing the ill-feeling child wants is to have a bath.  You look down at the floor and think “oh b*ll*cks, it’s missed the (washing-machinable) rug, that’s going to be a ‘hands-and-knees scrubbing the carpet’ job”.  You look at the bed or car seat and think “that’s going to need a complete strip-down”.  And then you realise that your top and legs are damp and you think “and I really just want a shower and a glass of wine!”!!

It only takes a few seconds for you to think all this and jump into action, working methodically through the tasks in whatever order suits you best (I favour the run a highly-scented-bubble-bath bath & plonk them in while I strip everything, then get them into clean clothes / bedding before shoving all I can into the washing machine and then tending to the floor / car / car seat, etc. – then finally having a shower when the sick has all been banished – IF I get time before the next wave flows, that is…!)

But, I’m very relieved to say, sick no longer phases me and I can deal with the aftermath without feeling ill myself.  Obviously, in a few of the more disgusting cases my body can’t resist a dry-heave or two, but I no longer feel sick myself and my brain has stopped trying to convince itself that I’m obviously now going to be ill too!  My children have taught me that the a tummy bug is actually one of the rarer reasons to drive the porcelain bus or pray to the porcelain gods….!!

(And yes, I have been trying to use as many different ways of saying ‘sick’ as I could think of – but failed to get ‘pavement pizza’ in there – gutted!  😉 )

Here are some other ‘sick truths’ I have learnt along the way:
#1  A child will generally (always?) vomit at precisely the moment where you think you have it all in hand (e.g. when you’re reading the last story to the last of your sweetly-smelling, bathed & pyjama’d babies and have just found yourself thinking “nearly there”… or when you’ve just got everything loaded into/out of the car and everyone is finally ready to head off… then, at exactly those moments, that’s when the vomming will start!).
#2  The faint smell of ‘eau de puke’ will linger in an infant’s hair / on their neck for approximately four days or four thorough baths & hair-washes, whichever is longer.
#3  Pink sick stains like a bitch.  In fact, any food that would stain if spilt, will stain like a bitch when packed in a chunder-blast.
#4  When undertaking the Krypton Factor puzzle that is stripping-down a sick-soaked car-seat, the most sick will be lodged in the most difficult parts to detach, therefore guaranteeing that the sick gets a chance to properly permeate into your skin.  This results in the “lasting memory effect” –  every time you doing anything at all over the coming two weeks, you will get the merest whiff of sick.
#5  Your child will be sick in your car exactly 24 hours after you have looked at your car and thought “crikey, stuff’s built up in here again, I’d better have a clear-out” (and, of course, before you’ve actually got round to acting on your observations of the previous day).
#6  A projectile vom / the sick spatter will ALWAYS have gone farther and wider than you initially thought.
#7  When cleaning-up, you will always miss some somewhere….!
#8  Towels take just as much washing as bedding (and actually take longer to dry) – yet we cover the bedding in towels “in case”.
#9  Even if you cover the bed, floors, toys, etc. in towels, the sick WILL find the one small area you’ve not covered.
#10  Every family has a designated “sick bowl” under the sink!  Ours is a ‘Celebrations’ tub – what’s yours..?!

And on that note, I need to head to bed – though I have a slight feeling of dread as I just heard myself thinking about the feeling of satisfaction I have after finishing cleaning-up Toby’s earlier in-car chunder!  Must stop feeling in control (quick, look at the mess in the living room!! 😉 ).  So here’s hoping for a quiet night tonight….  Fingers crossed!
Nighty bless.
xxxx

 

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A gentle introduction to ecology for four & two year olds

I try to take my youngest two boys to the woods and beach at least once a week. In recent weeks, the woods trips have included a “gentle introduction to basic ecology for four & two year olds” (I was an ecologist BC!) – just very basic chatting / observing as we walk round.

In the car, on route, we were talking about food chains and hedgerows and blackberry bushes –
Me: Sun & mineral-rich water feed…?
Gabriel: Blackberry bushes.
Me: And what eats blackberry bushes? (followed by various clues describing a mouse)….
Gabriel: A mouse!
Me: And what might eat the mouse?
Gabriel: A gruffalo!!

Then, when walking round, we were talking about plants and trees. Gabriel picked a leaf –
Me: “What kind of leaf is it? It’s a leaf from an…?”
Gabriel: “Teak?!”

I fear that modern-day popular culture may be having a greater impact on my children than I’d previously thought!!

I then spotted a heron so showed both boys and then talked a bit about how it eats fish and how it stands in water, on its long legs, and watches for fish which it then catches in it’s sharp beak, etc.

Just before the end of the walk I ask Gabriel what we’d seen on our walk and he remembers the heron. I ask him what the heron eats, he answers ‘fish’. I ask him if he remembered how the heron catches the fish. At this point Gabriel fixes me with a look and grins, before reeling out a range of methods for catching fish, from the sensible like using a rod/net to the obscure such as using a pair of glasses to scoop them out of the water and even catching them on a squirrel’s bushy tail.

Out-smarted-arsed by a four year old. Again. I give up!

(I did get the last laugh though when I later overheard him telling Isly about the heron he’d seen and about how “it stands on its long legs to catch fish in its long beak by bending its long neck”. Job done. xx)

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Me & my ‘phone

Those who know me well will know that I am not the most reliable phone-keeper in the world – I often forget to charge it and my favourite party trick is mis-placing it first thing in the morning, before I’ve taken it off silent! Add four young children to the mix and my relationship with it is fairly doomed (my previous phone died when it was slobbered to death by a teething child!)…

On Wednesday morning, my ‘phone went M.I.A. sometime during the school-run rush. When I got to work I gave my handbag a thorough check and came to the conclusion I’d left it on the side somewhere at home. I got home that evening and couldn’t see it anywhere obvious so tried the usual “call myself and see if I can hear it ringing” approach – promptly followed by the realisation that I had, of course, not taken it off silent before it went A.W.O.L. Of course! Cue the “call myself and listen really, really hard to see if I can hear a faint buzzing, somewhere in the house, over the noise of the children” method of unsuccessfully finding a lost phone on silent. As usual, I gave up pretty quickly (knowing it would turn up sooner or later).

Thursday morning came, still no sign of the missing ‘phone. I gave the car a thorough check as I remembered that Isly had been rooting in my handbag just before we left for school on the morning it went missing – but nothing.

Thursday tea-time, I’m just about to leave work when I suddenly hear buzzing on my desk. My ‘phone! It was in my handbag all along – obviously! I search my bag – but no, no ‘phone. By this time the buzzing has, of course, stopped! ‘Luckily’ (?!), the caller is persistent and tries again. I look all over my desk but can’t see it anywhere – why would I, it went missing before I’d got to work on Wednesday. But the desk is definitely buzzing – even my ruler is shaking in the pen-pot. I’m stumped: “Where the f*** is it if it’s not in my bag, my bag is the only thing that is from home in the office…?!”

And then I spy something, remember something and it all clicks into place. Earlier that afternoon I’d had a fit of sneezes so had brought in a box of tissues from the car – the box of tissues that had been right next to Isly when she’d been rooting through my bag…

And so I am, once again, temporarily re-united with my ‘phone. I knew it’d turn up sooner or later!!

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The differences between Charlotte BC and Charlotte AC…. (this is what parenthood does to a woman!) #2 – Friday nights…

Friday nights BC –
Getting-on something small & pretty then heading-out for a night of dancing, drinking, chatting, laughing, etc. Even a quiet night would be lots of food, chatting, drink…

Friday nights AC –
Sitting by a toilet for 3 hours trying to coax a constipated child into finally letting go! (And then doing the washing!!)
Rock. And. Roll.

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Is nothing sacred?!

Anyone else have children that chew?!  I’ve just gone to plug my laptop in and noticed bite-marks in the rubber insulation on the bit that pokes into the computer (I’m so technically-minded!!) – a. when?! b. why?! and c. just generally wtf?!

It’s not the first time my children have chewed odd items – a while back I noticed a perfect crescent-shaped bite-mark in my pumice! (That’s quite eeuuww, when I think of what I do with that thing!) Think shark-bite on a surf board and you’re pretty much there. This week, I noticed a second bite-mark has appeared and is now keeping the first one company. Was the pumice really that tasty?! Well the youngest two – who are my main suspects – do love cheese….

(eeeuuuww, ok, that was a bit gross even for me! 😉 )

 

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Simplification – not so simple.

During the first few weeks / months / year of parenthood, you gradually build-up an ‘essential kit bag’ of all the stuff you MIGHT need when (if?!) you make it out of the house – nappies, wipes, nappy cream, change mat, change of clothes, warmer clothes / cooler clothes, muslin(s), calpol sachets, favourite toys, spare toys, etc. etc. etc… You take everything and anything, JUST IN CASE, because it makes you less stressed while out if you think you are prepared for every eventuality. Once you walk out that door, you can breathe easy knowing you’ve got it covered!

You then spend the next few years gradually learning what, really, you can actually do without and what really IS essential! Why? Because you have learnt that, while carting around four tonnes of baby paraphernalia may make being out and about less stressful, WHILE YOU’RE OUT, getting it all ready and trying to not to forget Red Bear (which your baby chews slightly more often than Blue Bear and, therefore, following your hormone-fuelled powers of deduction, must be his favourite…!?) causes more stress than being potentially under-prepared by not taking the ‘mega kit bag’!

I have now, after nearly 8 years of parenthood, got my ‘kit bag’ down to as close to the bare bones as I’m willing to go! A few weeks ago I took the boys onto the beach for a play before nursery / work – they wore their hats and I took one nappy and some wipes. OK, so when I changed Toby’s nappy after he inevitably did a “you’re in a place you’d really rather not have to change a dirty nappy so I’ll do a really grizzly one just because it’s great sport and, well, because I can” poo he did get a bit sandy around his nethers (the amount of sand he ate while on the beach, his nethers were going to be getting sandy sooner or later anyway!), but, in reality, I didn’t need the change mat or cream or any of the other nappy-change-related items I would have taken in the early days. No disaster occurred because I didn’t have anything more than the essentials and it meant that we were able to just get out of the car, get onto the beach for a play in the sand and a paddle and then get back in the car with an absolute minimum of fuss. And it means we often have time to do little trips to the beach or the woods between the school run and nursery / work because the preparation time is negligible.

So why am I seemingly unable to simplify everything in the same way that I’ve slimmed-down the kit bag? Nearly 40 years into life and I still feel like I have to carry around the mega kit bag for life, just in case. If anything, I’m still adding stuff to it. Why is my house literally bursting at the seems with items I don’t need or use, just in case one day I might? Why do I juggle three different childcare providers so that I can work in a job that doesn’t even cover the cost of one of them, just in case I would become unemployable if I gave up work for any length of time? Why am I doing yet another course for yet another qualification when I don’t even have time to shower every day, just in case I want to change career? I think I am now finally at the realisation point that I need to start simplifying my life and slimming-down the mega kit, so as to free-up time for the important things in life. I am just hoping that the build-up to slim-down ratio is going to be different for my life than it was for my essentials kit – otherwise I’ve got a 280 year wait before my life is simple!! 🙂

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The differences between Charlotte BC and Charlotte AC…. (this is what parenthood does to a woman!) #1

I recently stubbed my toe in a rather spectacular way (involving a broken bathroom door knob and a Beckham-style booting). It REALLY hurt and I thought I had broken it (I’m still not convinced I hadn’t as it continued to hurt for about 10 days – I digress!). But, my four babies were in bed so I found myself thinking “If I can just get upstairs to bed, I am at least upstairs if one of them needs me”.

Getting upstairs was harder than I’d thought and involved having to limply hobble on the side of my foot so as to get to the stairs, then sit on the stairs and use my arms & ‘good’ foot to pull / push myself up each step. I then had to decide whether I REALLY needed the loo before bed as it would involve a diversion of an extra four or five metres (approximately equal to 15-20 extra winces, “owwwww”s and “for f*ck’s sake”s….) I decided I could hold ’til morning.

I managed to get into bed but had to stick my foot out the side of the bed so the covers wouldn’t touch the offending toe (at this point I actually thought it was two toes involved, but it was the next day that I realised it was just one, shouting very loudly!). I had to lie on my left side as any other position made it throb even more.

It was at this point, as I lay there in agony, that I realised that I wasn’t upset about being damaged / in pain, but rather I was absolutely furious that this had happened because I just don’t have time for injury or illness! And then I started panicking about what I would do if I couldn’t drive in the morning – so I instantly started making in-head plans about who I needed to phone first thing to make alternative arrangements, if needs be.

At 5am, when I was again awake, in pain, I started trying to do practice clutch-pressing, trying to work out if I’d be ok to do the school / nursery / work run whilst mentally calculating how many days’ leave I have left and whether, if I took a day, I’d have enough left for the summer holidays….

And then it struck me like a bell – this is what it means to be “Charlotte After Children”. “Charlotte Before Children” would have gone to a doctor / A&E straight after it happened; she would have had an x-ray, her foot bound and been prescribed strong painkillers; she’d have had time & spare leave to take a few days to rest her foot as inevitably instructed. “Charlotte AC” took herself to bed and used the pain-induced insomnia to mentally re-schedule the next week while pressing an imaginary clutch!

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