Category Archives: home

It’s like living with chimps…

It was while I was fitting a Houdini clip to KD’s carseat that the Wee Man escaped.

The neighbour rang the doorbell and returned my free-spirited six year old – not for the first time.

“Your side gate is open,” she explained, smiling sympathetically.

“How did he…” I trailed off, laughing because I was embarrassed, torn between admiration for the Wee Man’s skills and sheer exasperation.

He had pulled over his bike, climbed up on it and pulled back the latch.

I am beginning to resign myself to the fact I have two sons.

It’s taken me six years, but three smashed tellies, four indelibly marked walls and a stained carpet later I’m losing my fight for domestic bliss. I can no longer afford to replace expensive things in the vain hope that destruction was a one-off accident. I’m getting fed up cleaning for hours only for mud to be traipsed through the house, juice to be dropped and Hula Hoops to be joyously stamped on the minute they come home from school and nursery. I’ve tried for years to discipline them, ration them, deprive them, ban them – my house still gets trashed.

Don’t misunderstand, I am no pushover. We have a zero tolerance policy on bad behaviour, a zealously-enforced naughty step procedure and a highly effective cold shoulder when all the low-level naughtiness mounts and I silently lose my shit. I say silently because I have found, over the years, that shouting at them only escalates a bad situation. It makes them cry louder, slam more and generally prolongs the hell.

I’m adjusting. Places like the playroom get a cursory tidy and a weekly hoover. Rooms like my bedroom get a lock. The kitchen is a constant sweep-wipe-mop cycle and the bathrooms get a daily spray and wipe due to two little toilet-trained willies now misfiring. Nothing gets left lying that has the potential to cause mischief (knives, pens, expensive digital equipment) and any work bags get dropped in the dining room, not the hall, as it too has a lock. The garden, much as I would love to landscape it, is their domain. They can drop gravel on the grass, stamp PlayDoh into the patio and pull out the remains of the daffodils to their hearts’ content. Why? Because they’re outside, happy and exploring in a safe environment – thanks to our expensive but effective new fence – and that means a few minutes of peace for me.

The gap between the slats is exactly half the width of KD’s leg

One day I will live in a house with white sofas, plush carpets and a ladies-only bathroom full of expensive products that no one will squirt down the toilet. But until that day, I shall muddle along in my noisy, vibrant semi-detached – which may not stand up to Instagram standards, but which is full of laughter and love.

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Filed under Edinburgh, home

20 life hacks for stressed out mums

1 Clothes pegs to keep boots together

If your cloakroom/under stairs cupboard is a riot of wellies and waterproofs and things your other half has “tidied away”, like mine, I find pegging boots together an absolute sanity saver.

2 Ikea pockets

In the same kind of vein, little feet tend to shed shoes all over the house and who has time to hunt for them? Especially when you’re already late for school and they’re knocking lumps out of each other. I hung up an Ikea pocket hanger on the back of the door so now I can *almost* always find a matching pair per child.

3 Newspaper at the bottom of your bin

Simple really, soaks up all the liquid that comes from who knows where and makes changing bin bags slightly less disgusting. I mean it should really be a blue job…

4 Crocs by the back door

Once you get over the shame of actually buying them, you realise they cost the same as a large Starbucks and prevent little dirty stockinged feet traipsing mud into your carpet. They can also usually put them on without help.

5 The sacred comb

If, like me, your kids have unruly wavy hair and risk being dispatched to nursery/school looking like ragamuffins, you need a sacred comb. It lives downstairs in a nominated cupboard and never shall it be moved. Ever.

6 The 5 minute menu

Here’s a two-for-one life hack. Do your grocery shopping online (saving the list in “favourites” saves even more time each week) then as you unpack it, scribble down the use-by dates. Voila. Menu for the week.

7 Stock up on yoghurts

They’re usually on special offer so just buy more than any human could possibly consume in a week. Then, when they throw your painstakingly made lasagne at the wall or turn their noses up at that thing they loved last week, you can stuff them full of Yeo Valley. Also very useful for disguising any medications.

8 Use the time delay

One of my kids is such a light sleeper he’ll be up if a mouse farts, so I can’t do washing after 8pm. The machine’s time delay – a new revelation when we moved house – means I can load it up at night and set it to come on at 6.30am and if I’m REALLY organised, hang it out before we go to school. Just make sure your other half doesn’t hit the off switch in a fit of fire-safety smugness before he goes to bed. Sigh.

9 Embrace tupperware

I mean don’t go to a party or anything, just buy tonnes of matching ones from Ikea or B&M so that ALL THE LIDS FIT.

10 Have a Sharpie handy but for god’s sake out of reach

Mine lives above the oven and is used for just about everything in the world from naming clothing to marking those tupperware to signing parents’ slips.

11 Buy this stamp

12 Put a lock on your bedroom door

Enough said.

13 Invest in a good quality vinyl tablecloth

Not a £3 stretch of cow print plastic from eBay that neither covers the whole table nor withstands sharp pencil points, but a proper, huge, maybe even £15, tablecloth. Then tape it down.

14 Have a no-banana rule in carpeted rooms

When it dries in, it looks like shit.

15 Always carry wipes

Even when your kids are out of nappies, hell, even when you’re going to a business meeting, carry wipes for snotty noses, grazed knees and that moment when you realise there’s banana (or is it shit) on your suit sleeve.

16 Get one of those magic erasers for walls

They’re pretty good on scuff marks and not-too-aggressive colouring pencil. On pen and on tantrum-induced expressions of rage, not so great.

17 Teach your kids to pair socks

Turn it into a massive game and sit back and watch while the worst chore of them all is taken care of.

18 Find 5 good babysitters who drive

Save their numbers on your phone and don’t share them with anyone. Pay them well and leave them brilliant snacks.

19 Double up

Sometimes, hell quite a lot of the time, you have to throw money at a problem. If you’re constantly transferring things – shampoo from shower to gym bag, car seats between cars, the good water bottle from the school bag to the weekend bag – just buy more. Use Gumtree or Ikea or whatever but seriously, make life easier for yourself.

20 ALWAYS KEEP THE IPAD CHARGED

Add your own life hacks in the comments and let’s save our sanity together x

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Edinburgh renovation project

Day 3 in the Big Other house…

My eyes are burning because I’ve been bleaching for the last two hours.

The noise of weeds being scraped off the driveway has mysteriously stopped.

I plunge my Marigolded hand into the oven to scoop out the first layer of dissolved gunk. I make a mental note to buy another can of oven cleaner.

I rinse the cloth, scoop a few more times then decide I really must find out where my driveway weed scraper has gone.

I step outside into the sunshine, hear voices and look over the saggy fence to spy Rod sitting with our 97 year old neighbour.

“Don’t lean on that fence!” she warns me as I drape my yellow hands over it and fix Rod with a look. He’s unrepentant. He and his new pal have been having a grand old time chewing the fat. “Er, I really must get back to the garden,” he eventually says.

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We got the keys three days ago after the 3rd longest 9-month period of my life. I’ve already had two driveway specialists in to quote and Marc has roared in. Remember Marc? So far he has stripped the wallpaper in two rooms – this one:Mummykimmy dining room

and this one:

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Today he called in some guys he knew and suddenly a builder is coming tomorrow to create a door where there was previously wall. A new patio door has been measured and ordered. He knows a driveway guy. I swear, this man has superpowers. I’m so so happy he’s my project manager and painter and decorator and joiner and designer and entertainer.

He came later today so Rod and I got on with the clearing and cleaning. The kitchen is now spotless and I’ve bleached the tiles in preparation for a coat of white tile paint. The bathroom is sparkling, the driveway is merely crazy paving, and we’ve figured out that a ratchet should remove the railing the previous owners installed for an infirm family member.

I found three sets of rusted shears in the tumbledown shed and managed to get one of them to cut back some of the overgrown bushes in the back. We’ve decided to rent a small digger to level the garden and are trying to figure out if we can afford artificial grass. Rod saw a huge roll of the stuff in B&Q today and we both got quite excited until he decided he quite likes mowing grass so maybe we’ll get turf instead.

I got to choose some wallpaper today which was fun. I’ve been really stuck for our bedroom. The one I wanted was £110 a roll from Matthew Williamson:

mummykimmy peacock wallpaper

The one I got was £12 a roll from B&Q:

mummykimmy feather wallpaper

The toilet downstairs was very bright and quite blue. I would rather it were very chic and black and white. So I’ve bought awesome striped wallpaper, a minimalist mirrored cabinet and some new taps. Together with black lino, black splashback, black skirting and a black radiator it could become my favourite room in the house.

Considering we bought the house after one viewing – you have to move fast in Edinburgh – it’s been full of wonderful surprises. Gorgeous wooden floorboards under the carpet; high quality thermal underlay under stained carpets; wooden internal doors on the fitted wardrobes which precisely fit the four doorways we needed new doors for (mirrored wardrobe doors are much cheaper); treasures in the shed; a Smeg hob and a cupboard under the stairs which even Harry Potter would be happy to sleep in.

Mummykimmy understairs cupboard

I think the aspect that makes me happiest is the fact Rod has finally seen the potential and even got a little bit excited about the house. I had to really twist his arm to buy it and then reassure him for weeks that we’d done the right thing.

If you’re interested how our wee renovation project unfolds then click FOLLOW up there in the top right – or on mobile scroll down to click Follow – thank you!

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Mummy martyrdom and the wonderful day

It was the apologetic post about being a “Smug and Judgemental Mother of Girls” that made me fall in love a little bit.

I’ve been reading the Facebook updates from Peter and Jane for a few weeks now and I’m convinced the author and I would be best friends. From her “Fuck It All Friday” to her mentions of the “bastarding summer holidays”, she pretty much nails it every day as far as mother martyrdom goes.

And yet.

After I’ve snorted and chortled and liked and commented, I can’t help but hope her children don’t read what she writes. My mum always said the first day of the summer holidays were her favourite and she was really sad when we all went back in August. She has come out with things like “I never wanted you girls to go to the kids clubs on holidays – I wanted to spend the time with you” and she will sob every time my sister goes home to London. I quite like it.

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My family ❤

So either she’s an excellent liar or my sisters and I were angel children or she really did – and does – enjoy hanging out with us. I also suspect, not that I’d ever tell her, that life was a little bit simpler 30 years ago. No mobile phones, more community spirit, less financial pressure and so on.

I have three separate friends who’ve used the line “to save our marriage” over the last few months. These are solid couples – they’re just parents of small children. The lack of sleep, the endless noise, the relentless pace, the MESS will wear down even the most devoted childhood sweethearts. We LOVE to read bloggers who voice our innermost rantings because it reassures us it’s normal to find it all so difficult.

But I think we need to keep it in perspective.

Today, for example, was a wonderful day. It really was.

mummykimmy rucksack

Rod took the Wee Man off on An Adventure. They packed a rucksack full of gluten-free sandwiches and marched off into the Pentlands. KD and I tidied the house then met a friend for a very civilised Morningside brunch. He slept for an hour afterwards, allowing me to weed the driveway jungle, and when the adventurers returned, exhausted, we had a lovely quiet half hour playing with Play Doh.

It wasn’t even three o’clock so we casually got into the car and headed west, kind of maybe looking for an ice cream shop, but actually finding a National Trust garden which we had to ourselves. I took my shoes off, walked in the spongy grass and thought “Gosh this is nice. We’re all quite chilled out.” That is not a feeling I am overly familiar with.

mummykimmy garden

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We had dinner all together – an awesome recipe I’ll share at the end of the post because it’s such a sneaky way to get veg into your children – and the bath and bedtime routine was a bearable decibel level. So here I am and Rod’s gone off for a swim and actually, life’s not too bad.

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Recipe for hidden veg pasta:

Fry a diced onion in olive oil. Add a squidge of garlic paste.Throw in a small diced courgette, four or five broccoli heads that have already been steamed, half a red chilli (deseeded and finely chopped), a few chopped up sticks of celery and half a chopped red pepper. Once they’re soft, squidge in some tomato paste and then a tin of chopped tomatoes. Mix well then put the lid on and leave it over a low heat for a few minutes. Meanwhile, boil your chosen pasta (gluten-free in our house). When the veg mix is ready transfer it into a plastic bowl and blitz it with a hand-held blender or, if you’re fancy, put it in the food processor. Mix it into your drained pasta that you’ve put back into the pot then throw in a handful of spinach. It takes about two minutes to cook. Transfer to whichever plastic plate the child insists upon then drop some tomberries (ickle tiny tomatoes I found in Sainsbury’s) and shredded ham hock (again, packet from Sainsbo’s) on top to make it look cool. Voila.

 

 

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Filed under Edinburgh, entertainment, home, KD, play, Uncategorized

On the move again

I’ll need to change the blog tag to: Mummykimmy – a Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh blog.

On Monday we get the keys to our temporary new home in the capital and I am very nearly excited.

See, I thought we were doing it the right way this time, with Rod taking some time off between jobs and our Little Orange Book of Lists keeping us right. But life is what happens when you’re making other plans.

We haven’t sold the house yet, we only sorted the lease on the rented house today and my youngest child swallowed a glass pebble yesterday so we had an unscheduled overnight at the children’s hospital in Glasgow. We’ve also spent rather more time planning our social engagements than our packing schedule – do you think I could ask the babysitter to empty a few cupboards once the boys are asleep?

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Bright as a button after the glass pebble was removed under general anaesthetic

Basically it’s all on Rod. In a dramatic role reversal, I will be in the office tomorrow while he stays at home organising. He loves a trip to the dump so I’m prepared for some of our stuff to disappear forever. He also thinks packing just means chucking everything in boxes so I’m prepared for some of our stuff to get crushed and destroyed. Other than that, I’m delighted he’s doing all the heavy lifting while I have a farewell office lunch and get my nails done.

I feel I deserve this day – I did all the groundwork after all. I found the rental, the nursery and the gym, our top three priorities and only descending slightly in difficulty. The rental had to be in the catchment for the right school, be on the right side of the city, have three bedrooms, not cost the earth and be available this month on a 6 month lease. Tick – we’ve got a lovely, tiny, semi-detached in Colinton. The nursery had to be excellent, nearby and with availability for two children before Christmas. Tick  – we’ve enrolled the boys in a super friendly nursery a fifteen minute walk away. And the gym, well, it has to be David Lloyd, which has a creche.

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I’ll have this one please – it’s only £2m

Driving around Colinton last time I was down made me so happy. I still can’t really believe it’s going to be our home. Our plan is to buy a place in the area (if we ever sell up here) and I got quite carried away driving along Spylaw spending Monopoly money on a mansion overlooking the river. Just being in the capital, with its ridiculously located castle, its impenetrable traffic system and its boutique businesses in abundance, made me convinced the hassle is worth it.

Five days to go.

 

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They grow up so fast…

Until recently I could have happily throttled anyone who dared say that cliche to my face.

The wee man turned four last month and I was like “Only four? Shouldn’t he be about 12 by now?”

Six month old KD, on the other hand, has been quietly morphing into a giant in the background. He’s bursting out of his 9-12 month clothes, he’s rolling so far and fast that I’ve sold the cot top changer and he no longer fits into the beautiful pram. I picked up a brand new City Mini today and was Christmas-Day-excited –  until I realised he’d be facing the other way. Why did this break my heart? I mean, I didn’t even cry on his first day at nursery.

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Maybe it’s finally dawning on me that this isn’t actually forever, no matter how much like Groundhog Day it can sometimes feel. These days in sole charge of my two boys may be draining, but they’re also enriching. With every minute that passes they are learning and growing. Every small battle actually moulds them into future adults, so that one day they can fly the nest and make their own mark on the world. It’s the most intensive learning experience there is – like getting a law degree inside a month.

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I had never understood friends who wailed “but one day they’ll grow up and leave me!” I mean, do you want them to live with you forever? Because that’s a thing now. I certainly wouldn’t want two stinky boys hanging around my house too late into their twenties. But who knows? That’s a long way away. Right now I struggle to think past tomorrow, and I only do that because I need to be a few steps ahead with clean trousers for the mud-loving big one and clean bottles for the milk-guzzling small one.

We’re also pretty sure we’re stopping at two. The joy of donating, selling or simply chucking out things as KD expands has started to become kind of poignant. I am literally binning a huge part of my life. Time has become tangible. I’m finding this odd as I’m always moaning about time – either not having enough of it to accomplish my endless list of tasks, or having far too much of it as a rainy afternoon with two crabbit children gapes in front of me.

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The one thing I can say with confidence is I’m getting better at it. I’m getting pretty good at pre-empting dangerous situations. I am stricter about discipline with the big one and routine with the small one as it’s the only way to have any kind of control. I’m coping pretty well with the sleep deprivation. I’m less precious about the soft furnishings. I’m less guilty about the time the wee man spends in nursery. I hope I’m more chilled out with Rod – though he may disagree.

I suppose the boys aren’t the only ones growing and learning. I am definitely more compassionate and more patient. I judge people less – in fact – I don’t judge people at all. I take every chance to say “God, I’ve been there, do you need a hand?” I wave at my elderly neighbours and chat to that annoying woman with the dog because these things take a few minutes but make a difference. They make me feel good.

I’m also aware how lucky I am. I may spend a lot of my day repeating myself, cleaning up poo, cooking while singing while confiscating knives while sterilising bottles while rocking the bouncer chair with my foot while not tripping on the toy cars, lifting, tidying, washing and repeating myself – but I have two beautiful boys who make my heart burst when they kiss and cuddle me. Ahhhh, they grow up so fast.

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Filed under Aberdeen, home, play

New room for the baby

Our spare room has always annoyed me.

It was originally designed as a garage, although the first owners 25 years ago had no car so it was built as a reception room. They had it as a dining room three steps down from the living room, then the guy we bought the house from put up a partition wall and made it a bedroom. The only thing is, he left the steps and just stuck up some shelves. It always felt a bit unfinished, but was a perfectly usable spare room after a coat of paint.

As a baby’s room though, we knew it needed some TLC.

Finding a joiner in Aberdeen was my first challenge – the first guy came round, spent half an hour advising me – and then never even sent through a quote! Two others scared the beejesus out of me with their figures – and then I found Zsolt. He was recommended by my accountant, who told me he submitted the tidiest books she’d ever seen, so that was a good omen. His quote was very reasonable, he was pleasant, he called and arrived when he said he would, so we were happy to give him the job – and what a gem he turned out to be! Reliable, tidy, and a real perfectionist – I am absolutely delighted with the work he and his assistant carried out.

They pulled back two walls where, as we suspected, we found the insulation was completely inadequate and showing signs of mould. An unexpected concrete column didn’t allow any space for insulation, hence the draft and condensation we always found in that corner. Zsolt built the wall out two inches to allow him to insulate around it, then put up new plasterboard and taped and filled it – no need for plaster and the three-day-drying-out period.

The old frame before it was built out slightly to allow insulation around the stone column

The old frame before it was built out slightly to allow insulation around the stone column

Insulation around the window was also woeful - I'm so glad we fixed it!

Insulation around the window was also woeful – I’m so glad we fixed it!

It was the solution to the weird steps-and-shelves arrangement that made me happiest. Turns out Zsolt is a master craftsman and a carpenter to trade – his real passion is building furniture. The wardrobe he fashioned out of the space is just beautiful. He also suggested a hanging rail which could be pulled down for easier access, and gave me lots of options for shelving in the other half. So we went from this:

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to this:

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then this:

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and this:

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How gorgeous is that?

To finish off a great job, they painted the whole room white, including all the woodwork around the window and the skirtings and then, because he had half an hour before he had to leave, Zsolt went round all the doors in my house adjusting hinges and shaving bases so that they all now close silently.

Did I hit the jackpot or what? It was the least I could do to hand him a cheque before he left. As a self-employed person myself I reckon prompt payment is the best way to show your appreciation for a job well done. I am also going to keep in touch so that in the new year, when he finishes a big restoration project, I can get him some press coverage and redesign his website. Rod and I are also now seriously considering building an extension rather than moving – if Zsolt is in charge, it will be a work of art.

The carpet arrived yesterday, the new single bed is coming tomorrow and a blackout blind is being fitted next week. We’ll build the cot and put up some pictures, fill the wardrobe with all the freshly washed and folded baby clothes and see if we can even fit the rocking chair in.

I’m due in three weeks – and I’m more excited than ever to spend lots of time in my beautiful new room.

Complete with new carpet - just some furniture and a blind to come and we're ready for you, baby!

Complete with new carpet – just some furniture and a blind to come and we’re ready for you, baby!

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