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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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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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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** Breaking news **

** BREAKING NEWS **

Yesterday there was an explosion in the Hovis factory!

Oh no, my mistake, the flour and dough EVERWHERE are just the after effects of Simon cooking “Roman” bread with Isly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ll just clear that little lot up then (after I’ve been at work all day, got all the children fed, bathed & in bed and then cooked tea), shall I?!

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Mirror, mirror….

Becoming a parent teaches you so many things about yourself – it opens your eyes to see the person you really are. This is not always a comfortable thing, mind you – having children is like having the most honest mirror possible and incessantly asking it “Mirror mirror on the wall, what is the most hideous thing about me, pray, tell me all?!”

Example 1 –
Isly was dawdling while doing her morning teeth, face, hands so I was chivvying her. She turned to me and said “You’re a very grumpy Mummy”. Obviously not happy that she’d been quite wounding enough, she paused to think, then corrected herself: “No, you’re a very OLD, grumpy Mummy!”!! Alas, the girl speaks the truth – tiredness (and heel-dragging children) make me grumpy and time has made me old!!

Example 2 –
After a particularly tasty Sunday roast a few weeks ago, I had (I blush to admit!) particularly stinky wind the next day. Upon giving the children breakfast, I accidentally let one slip. Gabriel promptly burst into the most heartfelt tears, declaring “I don’t want my breakfast any more” and running from the room to the sanctuary of ‘Animal Blankie’ and the bottom of the stairs. I am, apparently, THAT repulsive after stuffing!! (It took some time, much apologising, even more coaxing and a lot of fresh air to restore him to the breakfast table and his usual good-humour.)

It is not, however, just the children that tell me how it is – my subconscious is a great fan of pointing out my failings and the less-delectable elements of my life:

Example 3 –
The other night I dreamt that I was making a youtube guide to changing an exploded nappy – so it seems that even in my dreams, where my imagination could take me to anywhere it wants, I am still just wiping crap off someone else’s backside!!!!

My children and subconscious can rest easy though, I do know my short-comings – as a parent in particular, and as a human being in general!

Example 4 –
I recently went to a wedding. For once I got to put on a dress, some jewellery and, really pushing the boat out, I thought I’d even pretty myself up with some face paint (not actual face paint, I think I’d better clarify – not that that would be totally out of character – nowadays, with the near-insanity that parenthood brings, I could quite easily imagine myself thinking it a good idea to turn up at a social event painted as a butterfly – or a tiger – or perhaps it’d be fun to go as a dragon..?! – but literally just some lipstick, eye make up and face powder). I didn’t get a chance to get the make-up on before the taxi arrived (if you’re a parent, you will know that it is nigh-on impossible to get fully ready for anything if you have children running round your feet!) so put it on in the taxi, using a small hand-held mirror. I was quite pleased with how I looked, felt almost a little glam. The first indication that I was NOT looking quite as I imagined came when I realised that the pearl lariat I was wearing (imagine a necklace you wear like a scarf), was swaying violently from side to side whenever I walked, almost to the point that I was in danger of taking a fellow guest’s eye out! I tried to adjust it, thinking maybe I’d got it draped a bit one-sided, but it again did its best to wound anyone in close proximity! And that was when it occurred to me – it was swaying because I was waddling! It seems years of pregnancy have made my “there’s a baby’s head in my pelvis” waddle permanent! But, my appearance-epiphany did not stop at my walk resembling that of a fatted goose, no – it got worse when I popped to the loo upon arriving at the reception and happened to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror! My reflection was so bad I actually did a double-take! The make-up I had so painstakingly applied had not, as I had believed, rolled back the years to reveal a fresh-faced twenty-something – instead, the powder had served as a highlighter to every single wrinkle and crinkle, the lipstick had run making me look like I’d just devoured some raw flesh and the mascara had turned my eyelashes into a set of over-dark charred twigs! In short, my face looked like a witch’s mask! I promptly tried to remove as much make-up as I could and remained self-conscious for the rest of the day!!

But it is not all bad – I also know my strengths! Ingenuity and multi-tasking being two such attributes:

Example 5 –
Quite a while ago the toilet pipe started leaking in the middle of the night – we had no plumbing tape and no DIY shop was open at that time, so I tried to think of what might act as a good substitute, from all the things we had in the house. Instead of heading for the tool box, however, as most would probably do, I headed instead for the medicine cabinet! I grabbed a roll of medical tape and started winding it round the leaking seal, just as if bandaging a wound. It stopped leaking and, (touching so much wood right now!), has held up ever since…. (I have so tempted fate there!)

Example 6 –
The night before Toby’s Christening, I needed the loo at about 4.30 in the morning. Sitting there, I suddenly thought, “hmm, I need to wax my legs – I’ll do it now while I’m sat here anyway…!” So, I spent the next 20 minutes listening to the dawn chorus (another one to cross off the ‘to-do’ list!), ripping the hair from my legs and doing as nature intended. It’s a little thing I like to call “me time” (it’s as close as I get nowadays!)!!

I’m just so damn rock ‘n’ roll! 🙂
xx

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Setting my own trends… or not!

It has long been established that I am no fashionista – I just do not have a knack with clothes – but even I have to admit that my recent appearance has proven that my dress-sense has sunk to an all-time low!

Take last week – in the cold weather I left the house thinking “at least when it’s freezing you get to put on cold weather gear which is meant to look a little mismatched” (*ahem*). It was only when we arrived at the nursery and I was greeted with a horrifying reflection (that I didn’t immediately recognise as myself) in ‘The Glass Door’* that I realised the extent of my delusion – I did not, as I had believed, look a little cookily mis-matched – no, I looked like I’d been dressed by a two year old… who hates me!! I had on a purple fleece hat I bought in my early 20’s, a khaki & olive puffa that used to be my Dad’s, a pink stripey scarf (that has a series of knots in the tassels that I tied when pregnant with Noah so now won’t un-tie in case it attracts some terrible karma! I know!!), beige linen trousers that were once my aunt’s and then my mum’s before they became mine (very suitable for freezing conditions!) and grey & black trainers that I also inherited from my mum!! (Kate Moss eat your heart out!)

It gets worse…

On Monday, ‘The Glass Door’ revealed a rather brutally honest reflection that informed me that I looked like one of those puzzles where you match the head / body / legs up to create either normal or amusing combinations (I was obviously unwittingly gunning for a look that fitted the latter category)! I was wearing a purple coat that would clearly look a lot more pleased with its lot if it were sat on the shoulders of a tartan-shopping-trolley-wielding 70 year old, a brown & white floral maternity top (and no, I am not pregnant again!), a pair of my mother-in-law’s old work trousers (smart navy trousers!) and the aforementioned grey & black trainers.

On Tuesday and Wednesday (yes, grizzly, I know, wearing the same clothes two days running – dare I reveal the really disgraceful fact that I also wore the top to bed on the night in-between…??!!), I was looking a little more co-ordinated (relatively speaking!), wearing a brown top, long brown cardigan, the smart trousers again (ok, so they got three days’ wear – I feel I’m digging my hole deeper as I go here…!!) and, once again, you’ve guessed it, the grey & black trainers!! But, although, trainers aside, my “outfit” looked like it could actually be conceived as an outfit and not just random clothes thrown at me, it is possibly worth mentioning that these clothes are now all too big for me and so were, literally, hanging off me – and not in an elegant, casual-wear kind of way, but more of a “Dali’s melting clocks / I stole these from Pavaroti’s larger twin sister / these may fall off me at any moment” kind of way!!

(It is probably worth noting that I am not deliberately choosing these clothes so as to look this way – these are just the nearest clean clothes I find in the mornings….!! And, in my fatigue-induced delirium, I find myself believing that the clothes I’ve thrown on do actually look pretty good….! Until ‘The Glass Door’ tells me like it is, of course!)

And let’s not mention my underwear – so many holes it could be believed I’m wearing bondage gear (I’m not!). I even found a piece of a rapidly-disintegrating maternity bra in Toby’s cot the other morning – it would appear my dress sense has become so bad that even my clothes are trying to jump ship!!!!

And of course, need I say that most of my clothes now have rather fetching adornments and embellishments that the children so thoughtfully give me on a daily basis – such as porridgey handprints, circles of dried, milky dribble, felt tip pen….!

So it would appear that I have lost, amongst many other things, the ability to properly dress myself! But the really shocking thing is that I am only a little bit bothered by it and feel relatively little shame when walking around looking like I’ve raided Oxfam’s bins! I personally blame childbirth – once you’ve gone through the associated humiliations of bringing a baby into the world, bad clothes just don’t even register on the Richter Scale of embarrassment! Other than when ‘The Glass Door’ shouts at me, of course!!

All I can say is – Trinny & Susannah, where are you?!

*’The Glass Door’ is a full-length glass door I have to walk towards when taking Gabriel to nursery and it serves as a rather cruel mirror on nursery mornings!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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