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!

bye bye boddler, hello toddler

Jeez what is happening with time? I know everyone says it flies, but this is like an extended wedding day on steroids! You blink and you’ve not only missed it, but there’s a trail of destruction to show you just what you missed.  We are 14 months in and Bebe FF is now a demi-man. That’s right. I can call him boddler to hold on to that baby “B”… but really he’s a toddler. I could even say he’s heading rapidly into terrible twos, based on the face-slapping I received last night…Ok it was couched either side with a bisous baveux (dribble kiss – sounds fractionally nicer in French right?!) but still. It has begun. He has a mind of his own and he’s not afraid to let us know about it.

So now is the time for discipline. According to wise ones (aka grandmas) this has to be done by the age of 2 -otherwise you’re in trouble. Right. How hard can it be to say “no” to a little person?? Presumably he can’t outsmart us? We adults are in charge, obviously! Right? Wrong. Actually it is quite hard to discipline it turns out. And this in my limited experience so far. Heaven knows what lies ahead. Mais why is it so hard?

1. You say “NO” *all the time*. It gets boring. No you can’t touch the charger, no you can’t have my phone, no you can’t throw your food on the floor. No! please don’t stand up in the bath! Stop! Do not eat that dirt etc. I vaguely recall once reading something that said “don’t say “no” too much, find a different way to send the message.” But which way? Absent some kind of telepathic skills I don’t possess, I can’t find any other way to communicate “No”. “Errr not really?” Or “maybe don’t do that” are not quite as effective. And tbh “no” isn’t exactly 100% success rate… Any tips gratefully received!

2. You sometimes kinda want to say “go on then, just do it” … but that would be irresponsible. Go on then, eat the dirt, and the little worm, in some places that would be a delicacy. But you can guarantee that will be the moment he starts to speak… “mummy said I could eat the dirt!” Or that there is a cat turd right there in the dirt and then, well, irresponsible.

3. It’s so hard to keep a serious face. There are so many exciting things to eat and lick, and if you go at the toilet bowl with your tongue hanging out, making a deliriously excited Gaga noise, I obviously don’t want you to lick it but it’s kind of hilarious that you even want to. No, you should not try to eat a tissue but it’s funny that you will have a go (and yet not eat mummy’s homemade yoghurt surprise?!).  Saying “no” without laughing is particularly tough. Grandma F tells me I have to adopt a strict tone. A strong “NO BÉBÉ!”. But what I actually do is “bebeeeeeee…. nnnn…. pleurghhhffhhh ….. Monsieur FF have you seen this little monkey?!!” It doesn’t help that Bebe FF has rapidly developed a very cheeky grin which he usually gives us as a quick warning he’s about to do a naughty – but being kind, he will give us rookie parents a chance to react. He goes for the phone charger, dangles it alluringly infront of his tongue, then turns to us, with that grin. “Hey, guys, just checking you’re watching me? Ok good. Here I go!”

4. You love them more than anything and don’t want to be mean. I knew this would be hard but never anticipated quite how hard. When you love a little person you don’t want to make them cry. You want to give them everything they want. Chargers and phones and dirt galore. You want to be the best parent ever. But we know that to be that parent, the Bebe has got to understand there are rules and appreciate who is in charge, for now at least. But it’s hard. Those eyes …

IMG_1016

 

Birthdays

Blinking heck. It has been a whole year since Bébé FF exploded on the scene. A YEAR. 365 days of love, laughs, amazement, bewilderment, exhaustion, nappies, poonamis, sicky yogs, impromptu wee showers, emergency clean up showers, gallons of milk, gorgeous little giggles, gurgles, tears, screams, bogeys, farts, food throwing, food spitting, choking, splashing, crawling, brushing (willy included), standing, pottering, big old belly laughs, face plants, stair climbing and in the last few days stumbling steps of independence….

And I must not forget the grinning. On my face. All day every day with Bébé FF I’m grinning. Like the cat that got the cream. Except the cream has wild hair and a very cute little bottom.

So he’s been on the outside for almost a year. It’s time to celebrate. As is customary (ok, this is the first one, but I hereby announce it to be a forward-looking custom) this is not only a time to celebrate the fact Bebe FF has made it a whole year, and the fact he exists which, to be honest, we celebrate every day (at least that’s how we justify the champagne …. just kidding!) Let’s also celebrate the fact that mummy and daddy have managed to keep their sh1t sufficiently together to get to this point. Let’s celebrate the fact we’ve been a family for a year. Let’s celebrate our special friends that we made when we were preparing to become a family and who have been there for all the milestones this year. Let’s celebrate the endless support from our family and friends around us. And let’s celebrate the fact that my body, that grew and kept you Bebe FF safe for all those months, has just about recovered to the point where I don’t get offered a priority seat on the train anymore. Winning! No, wait….

In the past year I’ve learnt a lot about myself and Mr FF, as well as starting to see the character traits of the little person we’ve created. We’ve become more of a unit, and less independent. We want to be at home in our sanctuary, together, and not out on the tiles (ok, that’s a little bit obligatory). We sometimes don’t talk to each other, but through le petit, and we are occasionally guilty of extreme bouts of hanger when we haven’t managed quite to plan dinner. But we know each other so well we can immediately resolve the problem (pasta pesto – BOOM) and we are a bloody brilliant team. We take it in turns to share the jobs and the joys. And there are plenty. Of both.

As to the Bébé we can see he’s curious and charming (read: flirt) stubborn and strong, bloody fast at getting away if you try to grab him. He’s a bit fussy and a lot sensitive. He gets scared but he’s also brave. I wouldn’t say he’s fashion conscious, but if he’s not keen on an outfit he sure knows how to power poo his way out of it. He has a sense of timing similar to his daddy, especially if running late he will always find a way to make us just that little bit later. He also shares with his papa a strong desire to talk all the time. Like his mama he loves bread, and painting, and peering into people’s eyes. He also has similar wardrobe filling skills although admittedly that is directly my doing. Cache tout avant que papa arrive!

Now what lies ahead in the next year? Eating solid food and not spitting out the “hard” bits? Blinking hope so! A haircut? Rather pressing. More teeth? The nappy activity suggests sooner rather than later. Talking? We are getting dangerously close. Tantrums,… quite possibly if the reaction to “no you can’t put your hand in the bin” is anything to go by. Whatever lies ahead I can’t wait. But to you, first year, I bid you a fond and emotional farewell. You have been epic. You have lived up to all my expectations and more. You have toute à la flûte nailed it and I am just gutted that you flew by so quickly. But I thank you for all the memories. Onwards and upwards.

img_8721

the FFs 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