The Mum Cold 

The Girl got a cold. She attended preschool which is just an enormous incubator for germ proliferation.  The children were then released, the perfect vectors for disease, swarming in to their native environments to share their overflowing Petri dishes. 
And share she did. 

Her affectionate cuddles were just a snot smearing exercise, her attempts to cover her mouth when coughing did nothing but create a wind tunnel to direct phlegm towards the uninfected, and her sneezes were like a glorious fountain of misery. 

Phil succumbed first. So he was banished to the spare room for a night in an attempt to isolate and limit the spread of disease, as well as to facilitate a good nights sleep in an effort to rid himself of the lurgy ASAP. It didn’t work. But did mean that I had a night of responding to both children’s needs and guaranteeing that I was so run down I also contracted the disease. 

So, now the household is riddled with disease. Phil has taken his to work, filling his surgical mask with snot while operating (fear not, the operating field remained sterile). The Girl, after a few days off, returned to the incubator to no doubt pick up another one to follow. The Boy, is producing such vast quantities of snot his cot sheets need changing like nappies, his dummy gets fired out of his mouth with each cough and the battle of the dummy vs breathing ensures that sleeping is nothing but a pipe dream. 

And me, I have The Mum Cold. The snot is torrential and my time is spent trying to catch it before it lands on a child or soft furnishing. Tissues are always slightly out of reach to me- but obviously not to The Boy who is frequently found trying to get a snot rag into his mouth. 

The cough is guaranteed to happen just as The Boy is falling asleep and will therefore startle him ensuring he will be awake for another hour, making sure that I maintain my sleep deprived state, prolonging the agony. At this point I’m grateful to be married to a urologist who has been only to happy to remind me to perform my pelvic floor exercises, and back up his “friendly” reminders with tales of incontinence and intimate medical investigations. So at least I’m not peeing myself too- bonus. 

The main challenge of The Mum Cold is the lack of day off or recuperation. Phil has delivered me a honey and lemon (pretty sure this is not evidenced based medicine) and toddled off to work. I drag my aching carcass out of bed to get breakfast which turns into some sort of porridge and snot wrestling championship, and get The Girl to preschool. The cupboards are barren, there is not a vitamin in sight and the only paracetamol has decongestant added to it, which was great for The Man Cold but apparently not ideal for my lactating knockers. 

So we venture to the supermarket, without a list or a meal plan and my current state of mind means that I spend a fortune – on nothing much and far too many “treats”. The diet is screwed but that’s a worry for another day. Right now I need to work out what I’m feeding the children, how I’m going to clean up the kitchen and remove the porridge which had been sprayed so liberally on the walls it looks like we have textured wallpaper, and how I can possibly create a team nap environment this afternoon. 

There is no team nap. Instead we are all sneezing so vigorously our sofa resembles the bellagio fountains, in a sea of snotty tissues, with a cough ensemble backing track. 

Phil is welcomed home to the disease ridden house by shrieks of joy from The Girl, and a huge snotty grin from The Boy (a welcome but brief pause in the whining) and me, un-showered, stinking of Vicks and olbas oil and wearing clothes covered in snail trails of snot. 

Phil looks at me and clearly my face says it all. He knows his working day is not done, he has done 12 hours but there’s another 12 in the day. He has returned to 3 more patients. Phil is clearly still not feeling great but makes a great decision. Without out me saying a word he, decides on balance that struggling through bath time (without his surgical mask, so improvising with tissue shoved up his nostrils) is far preferable to the exhausted, hormonal, diseased, has-spent-all-day-being-mauled-by-children, outburst that will follow if he even sneezes in a manner suggesting he isn’t going to immediately take on full dad and husband duties.

Honestly he really is quite perceptive sometimes. 

So yes, I’ve got The Mum Cold. But Phil, well he has The Dad Cold. You know which is worse?

We’re in it together, knee deep in snot, more fatigued than we thought humanly possible, both spending our days dealing with bodily fluids, our evenings wallowing in cold and flu remedies (of absolutely no benefit), snapping away at each other, firing out passive aggressive comments and willing the other one to get out of bed and respond to the child this time.

This is the side of family life they don’t warn you about, it doesn’t get put on an NCT leaflet, it’s not the front cover of a parenting book, it’s not reminisced over by parents across the land. This is the dark side. But this is what happens when you decide to breed sexually transmitted parasites. This is parenting reality, and we are lucky to have it. Although it might not feel like it right at this specific moment…

Yesterday’s News…

I have once again found an unintended series link on my TV. Not sure which incompetent remote user is guilty. The contenders are:

1) The Girl (3 yrs old) most likely would have been done while using remote as a phone. 

2) The Boy (9 months old),most likely would have been done with his mouth, or a vigorous pelvic thrust. 

3) The Grandad (68 yrs), most likely would have been done while trying to change channel and refusing to give said remote to a more experienced user. 

Regardless, I can safely say I will not be keeping “The News at 10” to catch up on at a later date. 

Not So Yummy Mummy…

Today it’s Babysensory. The only baby class which The Boy gets to go to- being the second child. The Girl went to several in an effort to keep the ‘new-mum-me’ sane but now I take The Boy to just one – to alleviate the guilt of always partially neglecting him- this is his one hour of intense attention. 

So the class is great but it is full of yummy mummies, the ones with their toned tummies, full face of make up, freshly washed hair and designer clothes. Needless to say I don’t really fit in with the particular aesthetics of this group, tucking my mum tum in to my Sainsbury’s jeans, on a good day I manage to wear a little mascara and because the class is at 9.30am my hair remains very much unwashed again today. So in an effort to make my sleep deprived self feel better in attending this class, I crack out the dry shampoo and then delve around in my make up draw to find some hairspray. I tip my head upside down and spray freely- confident can work the ‘just got out of bed look’. 

Only to realise it wasn’t hair spray, it was Phil’s antiperspirant. 

So not only do I look rough with lank and greasy hair, but I now smell like a man. 

Watch out everyone- yummy mummy coming through…

An Eggcellent Achievement…

I did it. I only went and got Slimmer of the Week, dream achieved, goal accomplished. 

This basically means that out of the people who weighed in today (and who stayed to group- which I do in order to take advantage of the free child care), I had lost the most weight. 
Not only did I get rewarded with a round of applause, there was a sticker (yes, like my preschool child, I was rewarded with a sticker- it was shiny too) and a certificate of such a snazzy design it rivals The Girl’s “I got dressed myself today” certificate, to put on the fridge. However, beyond the celebration suitable for a 3 year old (but strangely acceptable) there is also “The Box”.

Each week you are asked to take something healthy to put in the box then the ‘slimmer of the week’ gets to take the contents of the box home. Now, I normally take a few bits of fruit, once when I had not been shopping and we were living out of cupboards I took a tin of tuna. You get the idea. It’s not a treat box- it’s a carry on getting skinny box. Or so I thought. 

The contents of my winning box were somewhat questionable. 

There were:

– Satsumas, and a few bits of fruit. I suspect these were from “The Consultant”. 

– 6, yes 6 chocolate bars. Special skinny ones but still, not quite a piece of fruit. 

– A Curly Wurly. Because that’s diet food right there. 

– 2 packets of Super Noodles, now this diet is fairly forgiving but super noodles serve no purpose other than to replenish salt levels in a student with a mighty hangover.

– A tin of sardines. In fairness it’s in keeping with the diet, just not top of my desirables list.

– An egg. I assumed, wrongly, it would be hard boiled but no, a straight up raw egg. Just one. Not in its box, just loose amongst the calorie laden snacks. 

I can’t help but think that now there are perhaps some undertones of hostility within the group. This box definitely didn’t say to me “well done and carry on getting skinny”.

This box said : “We hate you. We are bitter that you are getting skinny and we are trying to throw you off track by filling your house with anti slimming goods … and a raw egg”.

I think it’s the raw egg that got to me the most. But not to be defeated by the bullies, I nestled this lone egg in the bottom of The Boy’s foot muff on the pram, got it home in one piece, and had myself a well deserved egg bap.

You will never guess what I’m contributing to the box next week…

Leaf Well Alone… 

Our drive is directly adjacent to The Deputy’s drive, with no fence or wall between the two (it’s that sort of a neighbourhood) so on occasion, The Girl may have wandered on to The Deputy’s drive, but generally we accept the little line between the well kept and frequently resurfaced tarmac, and the cracking, mossy, in need of repair tarmac, as the perimeter marker of each other’s estates.

So, imagine my surprise when I come home from the preschool run this lunchtime, turn in to the close, and discover The Deputy standing in the middle of my drive dressed astoundingly like a cheap imitation ghostbuster, in his brown boiler suit with an industrial sized leaf blower slung across his body, blowing away on my drive. Now, being as I am I smiled nicely and waited on the road while he scuttled around, dragging the seemingly endless flex of his blower off my drive. When I do finally manage to park my car on my drive I get out and look to say hello to The Deputy and await his explanation as to his presence blowing leaves on my driveway. 

But The Deputy is nowhere to be seen. His bright orange flex is leading around to the far side of his house, and the deafening noise of the leaf blower still in action suggests he isn’t looking for conversation. Which is unusual. In fact this is the very first time in the 3 years we have lived here that we have both been outside and I have not been cornered for conversation. However, the relief of a clear run to my front door, at this point outweighs the suspicion. 

Actually, I already know the explanation he will offer, as he has several times before been caught on our property, once before picking up the leaves on our drive his reason being:

“due to the prevailing wind being in a westerly direction”

Which is the direction of his house from ours. Hence, when we don’t keep on top of our dandelions it plays havoc with his lawn (yes, this was explained when he was asking me to weed our lawn “or at least just remove the heads before they go to seed.”). 

But as it turns out the explanation wouldn’t work this time, as The Deputy was just blowing leaves, not sucking them up as he has done previously (and subsequently informed me with great pride of his actions). This time he was just blowing, blowing them away from HIS property and on to mine!! Hence him scampering off like a naughty school boy caught in the act when I arrived home. 

Now, especially bearing in mind that we are lucky enough to be surrounded by trees on our estate, having leaves on the front lawn really doesn’t bother me. In fact it probably wouldn’t have even dawned on me what he was doing if he hadn’t avoided eye contact, blushed and hidden around the corner, but it matters to The Deputy. It really matters. This evening his lawn is impeccably clean. 

Not a stray leaf in sight. 


And all I can think about is quietly, under the cover of darkness, assisting the prevailing wind in its natural phenomenon of redistributing the leaves over that line on our drives. In fact I’m almost feeling childish enough to consider getting a rake out so that in the morning when The Deputy opens his curtains and surveys the street, he will find that not only has the pile of leaves he left on my drive been blown over on to his, but by some magical quirk of Mother Nature our lawn is leaf free. 


Parenting is One Thing, Pets Are Another…. 

“Mummy we need to talk about Santa”

It’s November, The Girl is 3.5 years old and just like in the film Love Actually, Christmas is indeed all around us. So, unlike when this was suggested to me in October, I agree to engage in the discussion. 

“I would like a pet please mummy” my heart sinks. Don’t get me wrong I am a huge fan of other people having pets and completely understand why people do, but it’s just not for us. Phil and I just aren’t really animal people. 

We tried. We once had a house rabbit called Clive, he lived in the dining room of our pre-baby house. He was fab, he was toilet trained and would jump in to his cage when the bell was rung. 

He also chewed everything in sight, malted hair everywhere, grew viciously long claws that were impossible to cut (it was definitely easier to anaesthetise a person than to snip his talons) and would sprint into the back corner of his cage the instant you tried to show any affection toward him. 

We put in the effort, I read every book about caring for animals, I googled house rabbit questions like a new mum googles “how to make my baby sleep” but Clive just didn’t want to play. All in all, perhaps not the most rewarding of pets. 

When the Girl was about 8weeks old, I was upstairs trying to feed her in to a milk induced coma when Phil comes in and in a panicked whisper says “I think Clive is dead”. 

“What do you mean you ‘think’ Clive is dead?” 

“Well he isn’t moving, breathing,responding or opening his eyes” And there speaks a doctor, someone who can confirm human death with certainty but stands in front of me questioning the vitality of our 4 yr old rabbit despite all the signs suggesting, with absolute certainty that Clive is dead. 

So our ‘dwarf’ rabbit who was nearly 2ft long when stretched out, with his feet behind him and his ‘hands’ in front (his favourite position to be in) had died. In said position. Meaning he was twice the size of a shoe box and the small animal carrier, and bigger than any other box we happened to have in the house. We didn’t know what to do, we had never before been in this position, we didn’t know what to do with a dead animal. 

So we called Clegg. Our friend who lived about 200 yards away and is some sort of animal whisperer (although not once they are dead it turns out). With her history of having had several rabbits who have lived and died she was the woman we needed. Phil explained the predicament of an appropriate vessel to take the recently deceased Clive to the vets in (and the fact phil was freaked out by dead Clive and didn’t want to touch him) and Clegg came to the rescue. With a large box. A box to transport our enormous, dead and fully stretched out rabbit, to the waiting room of the vets. The waiting room which would be filled with passionate animal lovers and their very much alive pets. So Clive’s final journey was in a Kenwood food processor box complete with pictures of raw meat on the side.

I don’t think Clive would have minded- sure he was a vegetarian and sure, any contact with a food processor in his living days would have been some sort of terrifying torture situation and clearly not the path he was meant to take, but I like to think he was fairly open minded and ultimately a box is a box. Or that’s what we told Clegg as she heroically volunteered to take him to the vets, as I was only just capable of leaving the house with The Girl, never mind The Girl and an oversized food processor box containing dead Clive. 

So with this experience in mind I know The Girl is going to be disappointed as Santa will not be bringing her a pet, but I entertain the discussion for a little longer asking what sort of pet she would like…

“A crocodile mummy, and if I can’t have a crocodile then 3 caterpillars please” 

Well, unexpected options but perhaps possible, and she did say please….

Good Neighbours Become Good Friends…

The Deputy is our lovely neighbour; nosey, slightly over-bearing with far too much time on his retired hands but lovely. Called The Deputy (not to his face) due to his senior position in the local neighbourhood watch scheme and as such, he is concerned about all things neighbourly.

To put him in a little context, we live on a 1970’s cul-de-sac of 9 houses. Of the 9 houses 5 of these have only ever had one owner and are therefore occupied by OAPs. “The Originals” as The Deputy calls himself and the others who have lived there for 43 years, like to instil a sense of community. Or rather they like to know exactly what is going on at all times with everyone on the close. 

Phil and I moved on to the close at the age of 29 with The Girl, then aged 18months.  One of the neighbours (who it turns out is nicknamed “The General and his wife” by one of our newbie neighbours) came to introduce themselves and were visibly surprised when laying eyes on us. 

“Oh we were expecting someone more mature.” 

” Erm, you mean older?” I reply

“No. More mature.”

I won’t lie, I felt pretty mature, what with being married, a mother, a doctor, now a home owner and living on a cul-de-sac. But sure, they were expecting more maturity. 

So the other day The Deputy sees me pulling up to the house having successfully negotiated the preschool run and he nips out to ‘say hello’. Only it isn’t hello that he has come to say, he has come to investigate why I am driving Phil’s car. So I offer a brief and totally uninteresting answer explaining about it needing a service and it can’t do any more miles until the end of the month to avoid invalidating the warrantee. This is a phenomenon that the Deputy is unfamiliar with (being that his car is only used for a weekly shopping trip and an annual holiday) and so he hangs on my every word. 

“Haven’t seen much of Phil recently…”

Hmm, now my cynical self is wondering if he is prying for knowledge into the state of our marriage, but giving him the benefit of the doubt I explain that Phil is just working long hours. 

“Where is Phil based these days?” 

So I explain that he is now at a hospital which is approximately a 30mile and 90mins round trip (a vast improvement from last years 52 mile and 2.5hour commute) and the job is busy. And, because I know what is coming next, I go on to explain exactly how busy, that he leaves the house at 7am and on a good day gets home around 7pm, but when on call (which is every Tuesday) he does 24hrs and rarely comes home at all, deciding not to risk driving so tired and instead sleeps in a grotty on-call room in a single bed with a plastic mattress (I do spare The Deputy some of the finer details). Oh, and one weekend a month he is on call too so rarely makes it home then either, for 3 nights in a row. With which I conclude my sob story and await The Deputy’s response. 

“I couldn’t help but notice your front lawn is looking rather long….” 

There it is. This is the bomb I knew he was trying to drop from the start. He wants our lawn mowed as he thinks it’s making the close look untidy. He has told me before that he doesn’t believe lawn mowing is a job for a lady, and he nearly died when he saw me mowing the back lawn with The Boy on my hip and The Girl helping me push (it wasn’t ideal but it was the situation I found myself in). 

Now you may be picturing a lawn so unruly that you could wade through it like you’re on a bear hunt and would need a freshly sharpened scythe to hack through its dense undergrowth (in which case, perhaps reasonable to mention it). But actually it’s just a tad too long, it was mowed 3 weeks ago and sure, it could do with a little trim but it’s winter and I very much doubt that anyone else considers it an issue. So I’m a little tiny bit mad, and consequently I’m not likely to respond to this additional job being added to my to-do list in a positive or polite manner, so I don’t. 

I don’t respond at all. 

I just stand there. 

I stand there long enough for it to register with The Deputy that this maybe wasn’t the best thing to say. I stand there long enough that The Deputy then says…

“Mind if I mow it for you?” 

Which is how I come to be sat in my lounge with the blinds closed, as much as I think I can get away with in the middle of the day, in an attempt to hide from my elderly, hunched over neighbour in a boiler suit mowing my front lawn. 


Fat Club: Weigh In Day

I’ve been to the bathroom, I’m thirsty, I’ve fed the baby, I’m wearing the same thing as last week, my pockets are empty (so is my wallet having paid for the pleasure) the baby is off my hip and I get on the scales. 

5 lbs. I’m 5lbs lighter. I experience the sort of satisfaction previously achieved by reaching the required 50% in an anatomy test. That’s right I followed instructions, I got a sneak peak of the question and it’s true, the answers were all in the book. 

I stay “to group” and in turn people’s weight change was announced. Those that “under achieved” had chance to discuss what went wrong. The culprits were many and varied; A Chinese take-away, an all inclusive holiday, a drunkenly consumed McDonald’s, an accidentally consumed large chocolate bar, and the covering all bases reply of “I just keep putting the wrong things in my mouth” at which point The Boy blows a massive raspberry and laughs hysterically. Obviously, I then lose it and sit shaking in silent laughter with tears rolling down my face. Fortunately a likeminded slimmer also finds this amusing and like the naughty kids on the back row we chuckle through the next few mins until suddenly it’s my turn. And then “Helen, 5lbs! Congratulations, tell us, what did you do?” 

Well, having been off work for 6 months and previously being a “career woman” I treated it like a new assignment at work. Like any good Junior Doctor, I had sat through an induction, been given instructions by a “consultant” (albeit a slimming “consultant”…) and had dutifully followed them. I was provided with a protocol, I didn’t have to think for myself, I was given multiple choice scenarios and selected the one closest to what I thought would give me the desired outcome. And, I had meal planned. I had meal planned like a boss. I had meal planned like someone who used to work 60 hour weeks and was currently unemployed. I had meal planned like someone who should really go back to work – although I won’t admit this to myself and certainly won’t mention this to my better half.
But what actually came out of my deeply blushing face while the quiet round of applause continued was a mumble under my breath of “I just followed the plan the really…” and rapidly the focus of attention moved on to the next slimmer…. 
So I survived, and did so feeling pretty smug on the inside and being 5lb lighter on the outside. So with a spring in my step I strode home to get planning next weeks meals, but not before rewarding myself with a sweet treat… 

Trick or Treat – Please!

Phil bought a pumpkin for “us” to carve (because it’s not like I have already carved one this year and have a to-do list as long as my arm or anything). 

The Girl demanded a witch then lost interest so I have dutifully carved said witch and put it in our porch – to tempt trick or treaters to visit (in the hope they will clear out the sweet treat supply in our house and save me from myself). 

Needless to say, living on a cul-de-sac of retirees it’s not really attracting a big crowd. 

Good Morning…

It’s 5am and after listening to the 7month olds “singing” for 20 mins I give in and enter his room, knowing my exit attempts will be more challenging than an automatic lock in on the crystal maze. The offer of a dummy is met with grinning and laughing in my face so I succumb and give him an early first breakfast of boob milk, in the dark, being entirely silent in the hope of inducing sleep again. It works for one of us, despite the thumping of my chest with his tiny fists I doze in fits and starts until finally I’m released by The Boy doing an excellent impression of a sleeping baby. I attempt the transfer of said tiny person to the cot and sneak back to bed. Immediately I hear the baby chat starting again, but then, just briefly, there is silence.

So of course, the alarm goes off. It’s 6am, so it’s Phil’s “first alarm”, the alarm that says “you don’t actually have to get up yet, just letting you know that in 20 mins you do. So I’m just going to trade some of your restful deep sleep for lighter broken sleep accompanied by sighing and tutting from your wife because she is pretty hacked off that you insist on setting the alarm unnecessarily early and really wishes you would just set one alarm and get the hell out of bed”

But before I can begin to vocalise my already well known (but ignored) feelings, I hear through the walls, the dulcet Brummie tones of our angelic 3 year old – “I need a wee!!!! Why is my clock not yellow?!! Mummy!!!! Daddy!!!…. I need a wee NOW!!!”

So, with the alarm already having gone off and bearing in mind I’ve only just got back into bed I think it would be reasonable to assume that Phil will spring out of bed to attend to our little darling, but instead he waits for me to huff and sigh and roll over (in a manner suggesting I’m about to get up – but actually have no intention of leaving the bed as this one is definitely all his) before he finally takes the hint, gives in, and heads out the door.

I hear the negotiations taking place to convince The Girl to get back in to bed – trying to get those extra 5mins out of her. It’s futile, we all know who’s winning this one. Of course this process also ensures that The Boy is wide awake and ready to play. So within moments my attempted slumber is well and truly destroyed as The Boy is delivered to the bed and makes an immediate attempted to crawl off the side (again), The Girl marches in (complete with blanket, metallic and fluffy unicorn, clucky ducky and a pasta necklace) and just to really guarantee we are all wide awake Phil’s sodding alarm goes off again.

Phil, realising his presence in my company is entirely unwelcome, busies himself getting ready for work, delivering me a guilt cuppa and heading out of the door. Once at a safe distance he reminds me he has clinic this afternoon which reliably doesn’t finish until 7pm and there is, for the 4th time in as many days, zero chance he will be home to see the kids or assist with bath time.

So I am abandoned, with the 3yr old screeching for my phone (to play the CBeebies game on) and the 7m old practising crawling by humping the metallic and fluffy unicorn with such vigour he proceeds to vomit on the freshly changed bed linen.

Good morning everyone it’s 7am, and in the most grateful way possible, I’m counting down to bedtime, or to my return to work, or to gin.

Mainly the gin.

Definitely the gin.

A metallic and fluffy unicorn; A welcome addition to any bed I’m sure you will agree…