Becoming

Not to be confused with Michelle Obama’s masterpiece (sorry Mrs O) but I needed a big old “B”title because this is a big old post…

Apologies for the radio silence for the past few months. I haven’t stopped parenting or writing imaginary posts in my head, I still have two very energetic, charismatic littles and a hefty, full time job: I went into serious survival mode and had to reduce screen time, and increase sleep and sustenance (beige food) time. That’s right folks… we have some news: we are in the process of becoming the FFF. The FF Five. Or FF cinq if you want to ruin the alliteration. You read correctly, ‘we’ have launched into the journey that is growing another little (and final, insofar as my manufacturing unit is concerned) addition to our family. And let’s be honest, by ‘we’ I, of course, mean mostly moi.

Anna Lewis the Sketchy Muma extraordinaire, also responsible for the Feature Pic. Love her work.

Why?! Mon dieu! Are you CRAZY? People have already asked when, at about 2 minutes pregnant I looked about 6 months gone… THREE!! Yes, we are cognisant that 2 + 1 newbie takes us to the momentous number of 3… but just as a quick refresher of the incredible journey we’ve been on, there was a time, not that long ago in the grand scheme of our lives, that we thought we might never be parents. We were not going to have our own babes and we were seriously exploring whether we could be candidates for taking care of someone that didn’t already have what we hoped we could give. That feels like a lifetime ago. Look at us now. Grateful and blessed doesn’t even begin to cut it… Anna Lewis nails it every time:

The amazing Sketchy Muma Anna Lewis

Chaos shall continue to reign supreme in our house for another 5 years or so. Nappies shall be strewn everywhere, along with odd socks and milky-smelling muslins. And we clearly don’t care for the environment … cheers for that HRH Sussex family. By the way we really do- and as a side note question to you parents out there: how do you communicate environmental responsibility to small kids? No matter what I say, Big Bro doesn’t understand that there isn’t an infinite supply of bath water, toilet paper and food in the world for him. “That’s a tree!” I cry in despair as he puts half a roll of toilet paper into the toilet. “No it’s not Mummy?! It’s toilet papier. Trees are much bigger. And green. Silly!” Ok “but where did that paper come from?” “The shop. Next question please.” Smarty pants. Any tips or book recommendations would be very welcome.

Anyway, back to being pregnant and slowly starting to contemplate the practical logistics of 3 under 5s. Panic face. It seems we need a new car? Or a bus? I’ve seen there are some sort of magical car seat inserts for most types of car, but anyone wiser and more experienced than me on this business, I would appreciate any guidance…

I can’t even contemplate a triple buggy! Is that a thing? Big Bro is going to have to deploy his most walky of walking legs at all times going forwards.

We’ve had a few incidents in the past weeks that just make me feel waves of panic about next year. Simple recognition that I don’t have enough hands. Or body strength to lift 3 humans. And what sort of gargantuan energy reserve can I call on to survive sleepless nights plus the intensity of the conversation topics we have these days around the table. How on earth will we get them all to go to bed? Bedtime has a tendency to be like a circus performance at the moment, minus the jazzy special effects, and plus an exhausted Mama who isn’t exaggerating when she offers to switch places and climbs into bed instead of the kids. Bedtime is question time in our house, and questions can come in thick and fast “why is two minutes too many Mummy?” Literally no idea what you’re talking about Big Bro. “But if a whale is swimming and you touch it’s nose, and then, well, a fish might go past.” Right. Then “but Mummy how does the baby come out? Is it from your belly bottom?” Can I save the answer until later? “Aii aiii aii blanky mulk, ans Bababaaaa blahb sheeeeep.” Bebette’s input.

By the way, this pregnancy journey has been hard so far. Wow I’ve been so tired, so so sick, and despite my very best intentions to be a fit and healthy mama to be, trying to maintain some semblance of my former self like the pregnancy unicorns out there that continue their regular exercise habits in their normal leggings… no chance. My maternity ones already look like they are ready to give up. The first three months I just about managed to get to the toilet, the kids beds, my computer to get my job done, and then the sofa. I was useless. I was unpleasant to be around. I was vomiting all the time. More than ever before. And I really didn’t know if I would make it through each day. Madness now to think that, as I feel so much better. Those first months are so all consuming. And you just have to keep every part of you crossed that you will get the opportunity to see it through.

This is not my first rodeo (ok I’m not technically qualified to say that as I’ve never been to a rodeo – Texas friends help a girl out)- but I have been pregnant a few times. I should know how to handle this. But seriously, I struggled. I am struggling. The backlog of 3.5 years of exhaustion, the ongoing physicality of toddlers and working, plus co-running a house, was almost too much. Almost. Why? Monsieur FF pulled me from the edge of my cliff of despair, and took on the lion’s share of whatever he was able. I know if he could he would co-carry this babe with me. Kudos, again, to you Mr FF. You put the “TEA” and most of the “M” in TEAM – and I appreciate it, even if it was a struggle to shout it from the toilet.

We have also been extraordinarily lucky to have extra hands from our respective parents, and despite them being far afield, they’ve stepped in to offer extra care for the kids, and ensure we are nourished and enjoying basic survival during those first tough months of pregnancy. Thank you and Merci if you are reading. We are so so lucky to have our parents and sisters and brothers.

Things I had forgotten about the early stages of pregnancy, just as a quick recap:

  1. Every morning feels like you have a massive hangover. It is not remedied with a Burrito. And at no point are you pleasantly tipsy.
  2. Within seconds of peeing on the stick, I start to bloat and nothing fits me. For some reason, my babies start growing in my upper arms and thighs. And then spread to my whole legs and don’t even start on the derrière.
  3. I am acutely aware of my expanding shape and spend a lot of time rounding weeks up until my size feels proportionate to pregnancy level. So around 8 months I’ll be fine.
  4. I’m not exactly body confident at the best of times but pregnancy often has me avoiding my own reflection. It’s a shame as it’s such a huge honour and so blinking amazing, but I struggle not to see a pregnancy rhino. This is not helped with comments from friendly persons who remark on size of bump, and the age old “are you sure it’s only one?” – yes nowadays the scanning technology is pretty accurate. Thank you. After highlighting boys tend to be neat little bumps, “It must be a girl!” Cheers.
  5. Everything feels heavy. Especially my eyelids around 5pm.
  6. The smell of coffee, the thing that usually has me jumping out of bed in the morning, is enough to trigger a toilet dash. Going to Starbucks is like the equivalent of going to the Jorvik Viking Centre also known as Britain’s smelliest attraction. Perfume has me choking and any smell is too much smell. Which makes it hard to function with little people who walk around with pee in their pants and my own body struggling to adapt to the newly expanded bat wings and associated heat retention they bring.

You get the impression. That’s it for now folks. I’m back in the game, so more to follow soon. Meanwhile please do share with me any hints, tips or sanity checks you can as we toddle onwards into the heart of the chaotic storm that is FFF!

Boyzilla – the story of a threenager

A few weeks ago I thought about starting this post and simply didn’t know where to begin. I was truly starting to wonder if we had a serious problem. I don’t know, because I haven’t done this before, but just how naughty can little boys actually be?

Big Brother has been playing up, and down, and all around. He’s been causing havoc, and chaos, and red cheeks all over the place. The naughtiness scale has been exceeded multiple times. Per day. Even the wondrous human beings that dedicate their days to caring for him and his comrades have been getting to the very, very end of their tethers. Never have I had to apologise so much to so many people for things I genuinely didn’t do and had no input into whatsoever.

How big is the apology today!?

Where to start… the funniest and most ridiculous recent example of his cheeky character was when I put him in the naughty corner for being rude and not listening; after a tirade of various poo-based insults and tongue waving at me, interspersed with wild giggling, he looked me right in the eye, swung around, stuck his bottom out, wiggled it at me, and then – after a dramatic pause – actually did a fart. Genuinely. I really struggled not to split my sides with laughter and most importantly keep a straight face. It can be so hard. It takes some attitude and character to come up with some of his retorts, and his quite extensive energy levels really add something to the mix.

It has been standard for him to be screaming PooPooPants in response to just about anything, except when it actually relates to the state of his pants, he has been refusing to sit down, refusing to get in the car, refusing to get out of the car, hitting and kicking and dribbling profusely, shouting NOOOOOOOO at most everything I ask or offer except if I tried to, dare I say, trick him (unexpectedly, do you want… chocolate??) and then he picks it up straight away and demands the chocolate and nothing but chocolate forever more, because I offered it didn’t I?? merci beaucoup.

Plotting and planning to get all the chocolate

In fact he has been so ridiculous of late, unpredictable, opinionated, playing parental politics, I was fully anticipating a call from a certain president of a few States to recruit him as the next VP…

But just when I thought we were calling in the riot police, we turned a corner.

Suddenly we have a little boy in our midst. A boy who asks to get down from the table. Please Mama. A boy who tells his mama she is his best mummy and she looks “pretty” (and then says it to Papa and slightly ruins the moment). A boy who wants to be a daddy when he grows up. A boy who wants to put his own socks and pants on. A boy who can almost go to the toilet himself. A boy who can read himself a story and nod off to sleep. A boy who waits outside his Grandma’s room until she’s ready to see him.

And then, of course, he shouts POO POO PANTS at the top of his voice, because that, it seems, does not expire at the ripe old age of three.

Big Brother has come up with some absolute corkers of late. One of my favourites is the inevitable obsession with the fact he has a “willy” and Bebette has a “pajina”. He concentrates hard furrowing his brow when he wants to remember the magic word. It sounds a bit like a pyjama and makes me laugh every time he says it. He also talks a lot about what he will do in the future “when I’m a daddy”. He obviously wants to be taller and stronger and we often have to test his muscle growth during dinner time to ensure the spinach is going exactly where it’s supposed to go. He likes us to check his elbow as that has a particularly strong feel to it.

Muscle levels: off the scale

He’s getting wiser to the world, so curious, and has so many questions. Not a sentence goes by without a probing look and a big old “why?”. And when I return the favour and ask him a clarification question, he comes up with some sort of genius comment. “Mmmm! yummy pain au chocolat! Where do we normally eat delicious, fresh pain au chocolats little guy?” Withering regard: “At the table Mummy.”

Number of pain au chocs mummy ate earlier

Brilliant. He’s just as cheeky as ever but taking the chat up a notch. He wants to help with everything, mix up the eggs, carry the plates to the table, and if you dare to even consider opening the door before he gets to it when the doorbell rings, well then prepare for a meltdown of exponential proportions. One does not simply open the door at the FF house. Non non non.

‘Didn’t get to open the door’ face

And then, just as we start to get our little smirky faces back, the ones we had right before the terrible twos set in, when we thought we had somehow ‘avoided it’, before we started to experience real toddlerhood, we hear a little rustle from the other side of the room. Like the horror films that end with the final survivor furtively peering out into the empty road, and then closing their door behind them, locking it, multiple times, and as they walk down the hallway towards peace, and you breathe a sigh of relief, you suddenly catch sight of a little, knife-wielding-blood-splattered-monster grinning from the stairs…. we have another terrible twoer fresh on the heels of her Big Bro and, judging by the temper tantrums and crocodile tears, we are in for a ride.

Fasten your seatbelt Papa FF.

EEEeEeseeeeee

BB is fast asleep, time to blow him a little raspberry of sibling love

Bumping and Groaning

OOF. I want to start by noting that time is absolutely flying, so much so I will have to interrupt my third instalment on Texas travels to blogulate about being preggo. Sorry about that. Mais why? Because I’m seven months in to this surprise pregnancy already. SEVEN MONTHS. Once Bebe FF2 arrives I suspect, for a short while at least, I will struggle to find the brain power required to even find my blog, let alone write it. So I need to get a pregnancy blog in pronto. Especially since this blog didn’t exist last time I was up the duff, so there’s a fairly important part of the mamahood journey missing from our story. HOWEVER – important note – seven months in I may be, but as you probably well know, that means I’ve got a good 2-3 months to go. Even writing it makes me want to cry a little bit. That’s right people, pregnancy isn’t just 9 months! It’s more like Harry Potter style 9 3/4. And what’s the big deal with those last months? Well it’s hot. We live in a country that is not accustomed to very much heat and that’s problematic when you’re lugging around a hot water bottle in your belly. I’m melting and sweaty and bloated *already* and it’s only going to get worse. I don’t remember it being this crazy last time – but that’s probably because Bebe FF was born at the end of winter, and the only complicated thing about that was finding a jacket and warm shoes that could circumnavigate the belleh and cankles. I could hide under layers and enjoy hot chocolates and mince pies galore. This time I need to find things that are floaty and light, but keep me decent and cover up the numerous areas of my body that are trying to compete with our forever friend Free Willy.  That essentially means the clothes can double up as a (king) bed sheet or a mammouth tent for Bebe FF to play with. (Side note: I should start calling him Boddler FF now.)

Trying to explain to Boddler FF that there’s another Bebe coming to join him is quite a challenge at 17 months. When I ask “where’s the Bebe?” he gleefully points to himself. Specifically his belly (I guess it does sound like “Bebe”) which btw isn’t totally disproportionate to mine considering his tiny stature. Eek. Non little guy – you’re going to be a BIG BROTHER! He grins again. Super. Don’t know what that is but it sounds like it will be delicious.

How can we prepare for a new Bebe with a Boddler requiring all our attention and full time jobs “in-between”?! I think it’s fair to say you can never prepare for a bebe. First or fourth it’s going to be a shock to the system and a momentous life changer. We are trying not to get too lost in the specifics and just take one step at a time. At least we have a vague idea of what lies ahead…

One advantage of the timing here is we have a lot of  the critical equipment  required that’s still in good working order and has not accumulated too much dust. Bottle sterilisers, baby sleep devices, slings… I almost have no excuse to shop… *almost, Monsieur FF, but not quite*.  There is the rather mad question of double buggys. Those things do not fill me with joy. The idea of lugging one around and trying to get in a shop door and not quite being able to make it through is quite traumatic. Imagine if it was a cake shop??! That would be like a form of torture. Sorry no cake for you lady, if you can’t get in you can’t get served. Panic face. So no, I have not got a double buggy and I intend to try and avoid having one at all cost. If I did get one it would be the baby jogger city stroller. But what I’m going to try to do is wear the new Bebe and push the Boddler. And the Boddler will have a little buggy board so in alternative circumstances Bebe will be in the Babyzen Yoyo+ 0+ (can’t wait to test it with a new Bebe) and Boddler will be boarding along. Obviously I will update on how that works out.

As to the pregnancy, for someone that loved every moment first time round, this pregnancy has certainly been a different adventure so far. It’s an absolute miracle, but it’s strange when you have someone you want to devote all your energy to, and yet you are being zapped from the inside in order to build another human being. It’s bloody brilliant that I can do this. I still feel rather superhuman.  But I was not prepared for this on any level. So despite being 7 months in I confess I’m still in shock. I also didn’t have time to kiss goodbye to wine, carpaccio and goat’s cheese so that’s been a bit harder this time round. Right now Bebe is growing into the rather alarming winter squash size, and is almost at the point where a good jab in the ribs and bladder are possible simultaneously. My actual size is probably at least a month bigger than I was with Boddler FF. I am generally more swollen and don’t know if that’s the summer, the type of Bebe or the fact it’s number 2. In all cases I’m not at my most beauteous… The nausea has been more constant and the cravings less severe which is actually a bit less fun – who doesn’t want to do a KFC dash for chicken and gravy on a Sunday afternoon?! This new Bebe apparently.  But I tell you what’s really annoying and got me last time as well: maternity clothes. That’s right, the tents with the tapered side to “flatter your bump”.  Just to be clear, ‘bump flattering’ clothing doesn’t magically transform you into Kristen Cavallari. It makes you look a tiny bit more like a half human half whale than just going for two dress sizes bigger and looking potentially pure whale.

There are some people in this world that are pregnancy unicorns. I’m talking in particular about the media savvy, possibly photoshopped beauties that grace the pages of women’s mags, that women with high hormonal levels naturally turn to for comfort “reading” (why do we torture ourselves?!). True unicorns. They don’t swell or bloat or get extra cellulite. In fact, because they are pregnant they are even more radiant than ever and no doubt have a special healthcare regime, including having a minion work moisturising bear cub milk into their eyelashes, slowly massage placenta-boosting, ultra nourishing essential oil-infused baby dinosaur sponges around their lower backs whilst they are fed omega 3 rich nutrition cookies. These are the ladies that work out happily throughout their pregnancy, and naturally have the full extra-stretchy new gym kit to accommodate their tiny, neat baby bumps, as well as the requisite energy levels. These ladies lose weight and gain muscle during pregnancy. At least that’s what we are led to believe. Not to mention they spend their spare, non-workout time walking around the luxury babe shops in vertiginous heels which for most people on a good, non-pregnant day would require at least serious blister protection. But not for these ladies – they are practically dancing whilst toting the latest must-have bag no doubt filled with healthy almond-based energy balls.  Here are a few examples:

Urgh. Beautiful. Now let’s talk about reality.  At least the experience for most of the normal human population, myself included. My thighs don’t normally rub … well, they didn’t. Pregnancy gives me a special extra layer of thickness all around my thighs. “Pregnancy” or perhaps the food I’m eating or exercise I’m not doing…. it’s all same same. Why? Does the baby swim down there occasionally for a change of scenery? Er NO. Is it providing extra warmth? Yes. In summer. Just what I need. And what about my arms? Previously manageable bingo wings are now like giant eagle wings, they could knock a person out if they get too close. Am I storing milk in them? Not that I’m aware of. And a new one for me for the summer: double cankles. That’s right. I can’t blame pregnancy for my cankles which I proudly inherit from a line of strong (therefore thick-ankled ladies), but I had not appreciated they could expand further and start to engulf my feet. Heat plus pregnancy = canklesquared. So those shoes that the ladies above are trotting around in would literally not go over one of my toes right now. Not to mention the fact the heel would immediately splinter into a thousand pieces. Boom.

Maternity clothes for the normal pregnant lady that are big, floaty, eagle-wing, cankle-covering…. where does one find these delights? Can someone please tell me why maternity clothes are not available to  try in stores? Is it because they take up too much space in the store? Is it because they are so horrific and eye-offending that it’s best to make them available only online? Is it because stores are embarrassed about the lack of effort they’ve put into their maternity range? Or perhaps it’s because it’s not the most lucrative product in store – after all it requires double the amount of material and triple stitching to prevent popping. Perhaps that’s why they use the worst, most garish fabrics in the history of the world? I did a brief stint as a fashion lawyer but surprisingly I don’t recall particular legal battles around this highly important issue. That said it was for one of the few stores that actually bothers to stock clothes in store so big kudos to Topshop.

The one time I really need to try stuff on because I have no clue what maternity size I am, I can’t. Maternity size may mean the same size as pre-pregnancy but just with the elastic magic, ot you could suddenly find yourself going up 1-3 dress sizes. Luckily I’ve never had an issue with the number inside my clothes, provided it fits right and is comfortable I don’t care if it says 8 or 18. However in pregnancy attire, at a time of particular self-consciousness, going for maternity XL does make me rather nervous… have I really gone too far this time with the peanut butter on butter on toast? Am I growing a giant… logical next thought is how the heck do I get it out?!

This time round I’ve learnt to spend a bit more on a few nice pieces and accept the fact I will wear them repeatedly. Last time I made some bad choices late into my pregnancy, panic buying items that were nasty material, colours (poo brown anyone?) or that bobbled straight away. Last time I lived in H+M jeans, another store that, at least in London, bothers to stock in store. Thank you H+M. I also had a lot of GAP shirts and tees and Seraphine work items. The GAP stuff in particular was very comfortable and durable. Useful as this is the most effort I’ve ever put my clothes through!  This time I’ve tried out the pricey but high quality Isabella Oliver and got some more Seraphine dresses, as well as one of my favourites Mamalicious available on Asos. I have to say I don’t really recommend the Asos branded stuff itself as it seems pretty low quality, not up to the job, although I don’t love Asos generally so that could just be me. Asos is however very easy and it does provide helpful essentials like bump bands, tights and tees. It’s also the one stop shop for plenty of other brands e.g. New Look which also has some good basics – I’ve often been recommended their jeans.

If anyone is reading this in the fashion biz, please take note. We may only be pregnant for a short period of time in the grand scheme of life, but anything you can do to make this crazy time more comfortable and less eye-offending would be amazing. Merci!

Ps Happy Bastille x

Bye bye 2016: the year of the Bébé

Quelle année! In many ways 2016 has been a pretty epic fail; democratic delirium and disturbing deaths to highlight but a couple of reasons this has been THE annus horibilus. However, something very special happened to us this year that made this the best year of my grown-up life: like a shining star of hope and joy, firing out of my nether regions, Bebe FF dramatically entered the world and our lives in February and we haven’t looked back. Mainly because we literally haven’t had time and I can’t locate my glasses 😬

Since becoming a mother I’ve changed in so many ways, mostly good and a few bad (spaniel’s ears anyone?!)… I’ve learnt much about washing machines, controlling milk leakages, swaddling, hair styles for the great unwashed, yog-filled hair, baby eczema solutions, mushing food up, wiping food off the wall, cutting tiny baby fingernails, getting a poo nappy away from a wriggly baby before they put their hand in it, and extracting bogeys from a bebe – which by the way, somewhat ironically becomes far too easy as they grow and you might actually find yourself considering how on earth to keep all the snot in rather than it leaking out all over the babe’s face and your clean jacket) – all pretty critical life skills.

I’ve learnt that tiredness can indeed cause accidents…like a fist accidentally powering rapidly towards certain individual’s rib area in the middle of the night when Bebe needs attention but you are physically incapable of anything (except aforementioned punch), or the slightly unfortunate feeling of putting your pants on back to front.  I have a couple of times nearly applied nail varnish remover to my face, brushed my hair with a toothbrush and possibly only put one contact lens in (still not sure what happened…) and I’ve eaten far too much mushy food out of a sense of duty rather than because I desperately craved an apple, beetroot and turnip slush-puppy.

img_6893

Notwithstanding a few unfortunate moments, this year had by far been the most rewarding and challenging of my life. I have never felt so delighted and fulfilled as I did when Bebe FF was handed to me in those first seconds after birth, when he latched and started gulping away, when he smiled for the first time, then he giggled, then he got teeth and started crawling, saying “mama” and “dada” or “papa” (depends on his mood) and then stood up… basically he’s destined for a Nobel prize in the next few months. When he does something new, I’m like the cat that got the cream. I’m sorry, but it’s bloody brilliant. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is not a day that goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars for him and for my family, for our family. The love and support has been just tremendous. The challenging aspects of parenthood are largely between the parents. Nappies aren’t that bad. You have to have a pretty solid foundation to battle through the months of sleeplessness and exhaustion with mutual love and respect. Mr FF has been a superstar, and is the most fantastic dad. I am insanely lucky. But don’t be fooled, we have screamed and eyeballed each other more in the last 10 months than ever before. Without food or coffee OR sleep, hanger becomes a highly dangerous state of EXHANGERSAUSTIPATED and that shizzle is scary. Faites attention.

Going back to work compounds the problem; there is even less time to recoup and get organised. Pyjama parties are involuntary events caused by a failure to wash your work clothes, or set the alarm, rather than a fun activity mit bebe, cake and Netflix.

So what lies ahead? What will Bebe FF have in store for us for 2017? What will the world have in store for us all? A sobering thought. Next year, i.e. Starting tomorrow, I intend to spend at least 15 minutes per day reflecting on how lucky I am and what I can do to make life slightly better for others and slightly calmer for us. I suspect the former will be on ze toilette (less vulgar if en français) and the latter will involve me clearing some serious clutter (agghhhhhhhhhh), sharing joy and possibly moving to the Maldives. I also endeavour to get my cook on, now Bebe FF is loving his food, I won’t have to throw it away or – worse – eat it myself. And this may be the year that the bilingual babbling really begins. But who knows. Bilinguals can take a little longer to get going, but I’m fairly sure when Bebe FF finds his voice we will know about it! And last on the list for now will be more travel, because who said you can’t travel to the Lone Star State with a boddler?!!

Happy new year and bonne année to you one and all

The FFs x