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Why didn’t I think of this before?

I don’t know if it’s typical of three year old boys, or just mine, but concentration span is an issue.

I do remember mum frequently asking me, when I was wee, whether I had ants in my pants, so maybe it’s typical of small children full stop.

The wee man is a ball of energy. “Full of beans” is the standard nursery report.

“He’s been into everything,” the creche supervisor told me today.

“He’s non-stop,” my mum frequently agrees when I phone her in weary triumph, having finally packed him off to bed.

But today at 5.30am I made a break through – and now I’m wondering why the hell I didn’t think of this before.

It’s called Play-Doh.

mummykimmy playdoh

He’d received a four-pot-pack for his birthday two months ago and I’d thrown it into the bag when I was packing toys to amuse him while we were at Mum and Dad’s holiday house. (If only I’d thought to pack the black-out curtains we wouldn’t have been sitting waiting for the cartoons to begin at half five in the morning, but I digress.)

I’d pulled it out in the ambitious hope it would keep him  quiet until the magical hour of 6am.

It absolutely did – and the best bit was I enjoyed playing with it as much as he did!

The smell when I peeled back the first lid immediately awakened a very old, childish excitement and the sight of the perfect, untouched block was ridiculously tempting. We rolled and squidged and pressed and pulled and smacked and stuck the shapes together, laughing and passing the lumps back and forth, using the pots and lids and various bits of cutlery to make shapes. He copied my movements as I shaped the dough and gleefully destroyed all the little animals I built for him.

As it began to dawn on me what a long time had passed without a complaint, I remembered a client telling me about her new product, Jumping Clay. She was using it to hold classes for children with additional support needs and had some interesting observations about the power of clay. The senses it appealed to and the concentration it inspired, the skills it helped to teach and the calmness it promoted were just some of the reasons she said it was so effective with this particular group. I was seeing first hand how universal these qualities were – we were both engrossed and happy. I kicked myself for not connecting the dots before.

He did lose interest eventually and wander off to watch cartoons, but he came back to the table looking for the Play-Doh on three other occasions throughout the day. I need to watch he stays at the table and the wee bits don’t stray to the carpet or any other soft furnishings – and I pretty much have to sit there playing alongside him, but I’m still delighted we’ve discovered such an absorbing activity.

I have now put a pot into his wee rucksack and will consider it as essential as the iPad when it comes to keeping him entertained in public places.

playdoh bear

My Play-Doh bear in the three seconds it survived before being gleefully squashed

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Lucky number three

I have somehow become the mother of a three year old.

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I haven’t blogged for a while because I’ve been finding things tough and anything I tried to write just came off like a huge moan. Who wants to read that? It wasn’t even anything serious, just a bout of illness, a crazy work schedule for both parents and the trials and tribulations of switching from a cot to a bed.

Now, though, the Terrible Twos are Officially Over.

Every since he turned three on Friday, the wee man has been on sparkling form. He didn’t even scream when I got him dressed this morning (usually an epic battle). We had some wonderful, quality, family time for three days, first with Daddy being off work, then with both sets of grandparents and an auntie visiting from Glasgow for the weekend. He just loved it. He adored having his daddy wind him up, his auntie dance around with him and his grandparents spoil him – and no doubt a relaxed and happy mummy had an effect too.

We spent Friday at Edinburgh zoo – an absolute five star hit for a small child obsessed with animals. My slight trepidation, based on an upsetting experience at Barcelona zoo last year, was quickly allayed by the focus on conservation and the wonderful design of many of the enclosures. The new chimpanzee house was a particular highlight, the wee man pressed his face against the glass, waving and mimicking the noisy chimps – though he did just about sh*t himself when they got rowdy and started banging on the glass. He stood in awe in the bird enclosure as they flew around him and squawked at him from nearby branches and tried to catch one as it hopped by his feet. The penguins were a big hit, especially when they paraded past, and he roared at the tiger and lions, even though they were sleeping and couldn’t care less.

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We met my friend Karrie and her gorgeous wee girl at a local Italian for dinner afterwards – both kids were very well-behaved and totally fascinated with each other. The wee man only thew one thing at her, and it was a cuddly panda he’d chosen for her at the gift shop, so she didn’t really mind.

The rest of the weekend was spent just hanging out with our family and anticipating his birthday party on the Sunday afternoon. We went for an early dinner on the Saturday at a Thai restaurant and a lovely Mother’s Day lunch on Sunday. Both times he sat at the table for more than an hour and a half without protest, playing with his sticker book or colouring-in or watching Toy Story on the iPad. We were very pleasantly surprised by his good behaviour. Was it the fact he was surrounded by parents and grandparents? Was it the fact his mum and dad were more relaxed? Or is he just growing up?…

The party on Sunday was a triumph, even if I do say so myself! We’d arranged to rent the local community centre, a lovely new building with a huge hall and a nice cafe for the birthday tea. We hired a bouncy castle and ball pool, borrowed all the cars, scooters, soft play blocks, slides and climbing frames from the toddler group and just let the kids run free. 15 of them played beautifully, no fights or tantrums, and sat very nicely for the pizza we ordered from across the road and sandwiches we’d bought in M&S. Mum had made a couple of dozen cupcakes and we stuck in the candles and sang Happy Birthday as the wee man blew them out one by one. I didn’t even cry –  I was just so happy that everything had gone according to plan, everyone was having a good time and the wee man was content.

I really think this is a bit of a turning point – even if only in my own head. He’s growing up and becoming more of his own person every day. This morning he woke up, trotted through with some sticklebricks and a huge grin and climbed into bed beside me, giving me a huge cuddle and lying happily in the crook of my arm as he pulled the bricks apart and reassembled them for five minutes. I think it was one of the nicest ways to start my day. I hope we can have lots more moments like this and the battles will become less and less frequent…

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Happy Birthday Boy

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Testing, testing, count to 3

I was just telling my mum, when she visited last week, that I thought we were getting over the Terrible Twos and making real progress…

Then yesterday happened.

super-strength or just grim determination?

super-strength or just grim determination?

I think a devil must have temporarily possessed the wee man , because he has never behaved so badly for such a sustained period as he did on Thursday 28 November. He pulled the curtain off the wall for God’s sake! All I had done was put him down for a nap, at the usual time, after a busy, energetic morning. He should have been tired. Instead, he cried angry tears for half an hour, so I went in thinking he’d maybe thrown his favourite toy out. Instead I was confronted with a tear-stained toddler, his trousers round his ankles and the curtain hanging by a thread.

I had really needed him to nap. We’d spent the morning at the beach and play park – a treat I had thought. But no, he had moaned and cried and ripped off his gloves and hat and refused to walk beside me. He hadn’t even wanted to pick up shells and throw them in the waves for long. In fact, he was only happy when I gave him crisps.

all smiles now...

all smiles now…

So after the non-nap I decided there was no point taking him to the park (he’d be cold) or soft play (he’d misbehave) and bundled him into the car to go to the shopping centre. At least there he’d be warm and strapped into a buggy. He sat beautifully, I got lots of Christmas shopping done and I thought we were over it.

I made him cottage pie for dinner and we sat at the table. He pushed it away. He wanted juice. He tried a mouthful. He spat it out. He wanted more juice. He threw a carrot on the floor. He screamed for juice. He threw his fork on the floor. I tried the aeroplane trick – he swiped the spoon and sent it flying. I refused to refill the juice. He screamed. I tried to cajole him. He pressed his mouth tight shut. I turned away to get the juice. He picked up the bowl and hurled it against the wall. It smashed. Cottage pie splattered. I lost it.

“THAT WAS VERY NAUGHTY” I yelled. He burst into noisy tears. I lifted him up and placed him very gently (so as to prove to myself I was still in control, when I didn’t feel like it) on the naughty spot and told him through clenched teeth why he was there. I then walked to the sink and stood taking deep breaths and counting to ten, while he screamed blue murder. For the next fifteen minutes I avoided all eye contact and just replaced him, time and again, on the naughty spot. I cleaned up the mess and loaded the dishwasher. I wiped down the counter and tidied. Eventually, in our own ways, we calmed down, he sat for the two minutes and I went over to him.

“Mummy put you here because… look at mummy” He did. “Mummy put you here because you threw your plate at the wall. That was very naughty. You don’t throw your dinner. You eat nicely at the table. Do you understand?” He nodded. “Now say sorry”

He leaped into my arms, squeezing me tight and wiping snot all over my shoulder. I hugged him back and kissed his head.

Then I put the cartoons on and opened a bottle of wine.

 

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In praise of the Whirligig

The bane of my life, as a working mum

Is laundry. It’s such a pain in the bum.

Yet something exists whose effects are quite big

The wonderful, functional Whirligig

 

My granny had one, but my mum never did

A clothes line is what I would see as a kid

“The garden’s for flowers” she’d say and she’d dig

So blind to the glorious Whirligig

 

My friend bought a house with one in the front

As builders began the poor thing got the shunt

But oblivious Sarah did not give a fig:

“I’m not 80, I don’t need a Whirligig”

 

I moved to a house as a wife and a mother

Adjusted to life lived on top of each other

When chores finally ended, I’d do a wee jig

While still unaware of the Whirligig

 

My son got more mobile, the pile of mess grew

The washing and ironing was all I would do

With clothes drying all over, I lived like a pig

If only I’d known of the Whirligig

 

We moved to the north and searched high and low

For somewhere to live where our family would grow

On moving day, opened the wine, took a swig

Gasped :“What’s that – out back – it’s a Whirligig!”

 

My life is transformed and my time is my own

On laundry day never again will I moan

I hang out the washing, run round playing ‘tig’,

As it spins, flutters, dries on the Whirligig

 

My house is so tidy, the heaters are bare

There’s no smell of damp or dead flowers in the air

I’ve time to blow dry! Hair sits good as a wig

All thanks to my fabulous Whirligig

 

If you’re reading and thinking this woman’s gone mad

Don’t diss me, dismiss me as really quite sad.

Who wants to do chores? Feel light as a twig!

Go get yourself one – praise the Whirligig!

whirligig

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Protected: In which we make a new home

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Protected: Goodbye house

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Muffies – an easy to ignore recipe

IMG_4680My sister and I were moaning that we had no cakes or biscuits to munch after dinner last night.

“Let’s make some!” she said. So we did. Kind of. Here’s the recipe for Muffies:

You will need:

• to unpack a smoothie machine from the boxes as the food processor will be too far down

• An incomplete set of mixing spoons – mls are the same as grams after all

• to set the oven at 160 then ignore all further instructions

Ingredients: 

150ml of self raising flour

some cocoa powder

a cup of unsalted butter (but Lurpak will do)

half a cup Muscovado sugar (brown sugar will do)

Chocolate buttons (chopped Cadbury’s fingers will do)

One egg (or two)

Porridge oats (not really, but we had oatsosimple apple and cinnamon ones which fell in)

Instructions:

Fling everything in the smoothie maker. Don’t worry if some of the butter splatters on the wall, you’re only renting the house, not selling it.

Turn smoothie maker on long enough to wake a child, but not long enough to mix any ingredients

Insert plastic mixing rod (but not while blades are spinning)

Empty unmixed contents into washed salad bowl

Use a whisk

“Double” all ingredients. Ish

Add more flour to poo-like mixture

Add more flour

Add Nutella. Why not

Add another egg

Add more flour

Abandon whisk

Get in amongst it with your fingers

Freak out because mixture is under your nails

Add more flour

Decide it’s fine, they’ll be muffins, not cookies. Muffies.

Unearth muffin tin

[Here you may like to hold some water in your mouth and play innunendo bingo]

Spoon mixture into tin but don’t let it touch the sides, it will expand.

You’ll get slimy fingers but it will be worth it.

Add a dollop of Nutella to centre of each muffie then add a lid

Prick the muffies

Cook for about 20 mins. Or so.

biscuit making

Taste.

Vom

Add nutella (too much flour)

Eat with a cup of tea

Decide they’re delicious and mourn the fact the process can never truly be repeated.

dough

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Self-help

Mum bought me a self-help book for Christmas. We all got one. I think she worries I worry too much (wonder where I get that from?) I’m not normally into that kind of stuff but I don’t have a book on the go right now so I’ve put it on my bedside table and I dip in and out. It’s well written, the tone is light and it’s not patronising. In fact, it’s quite funny in places and it’s written by a Brit, so it’s not too schmaltzy.

Last night I got quite engrossed in the chapter about how we all live in a prison we build for ourselves – Cell Block A is self-doubt, Cell Block B is fear and so on. I was surprised to discover that one of the ‘cell blocks’ was seriousness. Hmmm. I didn’t know that was something to avoid. It’s definitely something I’m guilty of though. Apparently we’re being slowly squashed by the weight of public health messages and government advice; eat well, exercise, work hard, recycle, be a good neighbour, save money… The result is that we care too much about too many things.

That’s why you’re working too hard to keep the whole show on the road; that’s why you’re stressing so much about bits of the show breaking down.

You know when you read something that just strikes a chord? I put the book down and repeated this to myself. I am so stressed about bits of the show breaking down. Yesterday I had to ask mum to keep the wee man overnight so I could work right through til bedtime. There just aren’t enough hours in my day to run my business, keep on top of the housework and look after a toddler. I mean, how do single parents do it?! Thank God Rod’s back tonight and we have a day off tomorrow. I knew I wouldn’t be able to relax unless I had my two big projects completed and I knew my pride wouldn’t allow my husband to come back to a messy, dirty house.

Yes, I am my own jailer.

The book’s solution to this state of affairs? It’s very simple and very effective. It’s the title of the book. F**k it.

Isn’t that brilliant? I’ve said it out loud a few times today and it’s made me smile. I need to care less about things that don’t matter that much. So it’s taken me half a day instead of half a minute to reply to an email. F**k it. So my hair is a bit flat and there’s a photographer coming because I’ve agreed to contribute to a feature last minute. Dry shampoo. F**k it. So the wee man’s not eating his fruit and I have to give him another yogurt. F**k it. He’ll survive. So the move in date on our Aberdeen pad has been put back ten days. It’s a pain in my ass but f**k it, we’ll go up anyway and stay in the serviced apartments for a while.

It’s so liberating – try it!

So the house is a mess... F**k it, he's having a blast!

So the house is a mess… F**k it, he’s having a blast!

So he's trying to drink beer... Actually, wait, is there really beer in there?

So he’s trying to drink beer… Actually, wait, is there really beer in there?

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Filed under home, work

In which we move to Aberdeen

I wonder how many mums – or women for that matter – have had a wee snottery bubble this month? Mine happened on the morning of Tuesday 18th December. The slipper boot wouldn’t fit in the washing machine, I broke a nail trying to force it and then I had a coughing fit. I felt pathetic and had a proper wail on the kitchen floor.

This December has been particularly crazy. Rod was offered a six month secondment to Aberdeen and three days later he was there. The wee man and I stayed in Glasgow, buying and wrapping presents, writing and posting Christmas cards, dealing with the flu which became a chest infection and searching the internet for a suitable place to rent. I’m quite proud that a few hoarse sobs in front of the washing machine were all that happened.

Eventually Friday arrived and we could drive up to Aberdeen and view a few properties. By a magical stroke of luck, we found the ideal home –  a new build in a lovely area, close to colleagues of Rod’s and with a playpark nearby for the wee man. He surveyed his new territory with approval

Finlay at window

 

We get the keys mid-January so now we can finally relax and enjoy Christmas. We’re well again, we’re organised and we have so many lovely plans with friends and family. I wonder how many people are feeling this way today?

Meanwhile the wee man’s been preparing too. He’s working on a musical number for the post-feast entertainment

piano

 

He’s been helping me tidy the house

loo roll

 

And he’s learned a new skill which makes him even harder to contain.

door

 

Here’s to a wonderful Christmas and a very prosperous 2013 for all of us! x

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The lesson of the Big Blue Sack

We don’t have a laundry basket, we have a big, blue Ikea sack that sits on the floor of a walk-in cupboard in the bedroom.

When we’re tired and lazy we fling our dirty washing at the bag and don’t much care if it goes in. If one of us has put a towel in the sack we don’t even aim. The pile annoys me for a few days until I finally get round to hauling it out, hunting for all the socks and pants and separating the whites from the darks.

Rod likes his work shirts washed separately and there are usually those towels and bits of handwashing left over, but occasionally the bag is empty and I see blue. I open it out as far as it will go and put it back in the cupboard, wondering if this time we’ll keep it all tidy.

Going to bed with the knowledge there’s an empty sack in the cupboard is a good feeling.

When the fridge is empty and I’m tired, I do a small shop at the local Spar, knowing that eventually I’ll need to sit at my computer and order the big online grocery shop. When my car gets messier and filled with more stuff, I grab a few empty water bottles on my way out and make a mental note to hoover it at the weekend. When business is busy and childcare is limited, I hit the deadlines and answer the emails knowing that one day I’m going to have to organize those receipts, file those papers and get back to the business plan.

The joy of the full fridge, spotless car mat and organized office is sweet and brief because I know, soon, it’s going to start up all over again. I’ve decided that’s OK.

Short cuts are supposed to be hard. If they weren’t, they’d just be The Way. And as we all know, it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey.

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