In This Year of Turning 40…

We have been enjoying a large number of exciting turning 40 related events this year and last. Many of our good friends are also turning 40 – this has been by design (old school friends of the same age) and by coincidence (friends we have made along the way who happened to be doing the same stuff at the same time we were, and then we discovered we had been doing it like that for years, just without knowing each other).

So far we have managed the following:

1) Epic gift giving and receiving. I have very much enjoyed the looks on good friends faces when I have given them something I know they really want, or something they were not expecting at all. After six years of rolling around in loads of unbridled present-related-child-joy since J and S were born, it is equally magical to watch a grown man or woman look at you with total amazement and happiness in their eyes, because they are enjoying a moment of unexpected special attention. Its not all about the stuff but after years of hasty present buying and telling myself the grown ups don’t count on the present front, (Christmas is for kids and Christians. Birthdays are for the Queen and people that reach 100), its really nice to be doing it right for a change.

2) Epic Dancing. We have been to lots of parties – more in the last year than in the previous five, and it has been brilliant.I am not sure I will ever get to the stage where I can truly dance like no-one is watching…. (truly awful body popping and even more awful moon walking moves), but I have enjoyed some serious moshing, pogo-ing and air punching. Sad to report that twenty years since these things were first happening to me there are two new phenomena to contend with. When I was 18 and moshing, I only remember my boobs bouncing happily along in time with the music. Now every part of me from my crepey throat to my saggy knees seems to oscillate with terrible harmonic frequency. This in turn leads to much trouser shifting and on one memorable occasion, a partial trouser-falling-down-incident. This in turn led to much joy for everyone else and it is a universally agreed truth that there is not much that is funnier in the world than the trousers of an old woman falling down on a dance floor.

3) Exciting trips. Big J and I went to Venice for his birthday treat – I saved for MONTHS, and then his wonderful family gave us a big-night-out on them to enjoy as well so we had the best of times, going for cocktails, eating out and generally acting like grown ups. Venice was beautiful and ruined and moving and sad and I knew within an hour of arriving that I would be going back. Given that I can count the countries I have visited on one hand, this is probably not much of a recommendation but I loved it and as much as we missed the children , I didn’t want to come home…… But we did.

I am also lucky enough to be going to Barcelona with a few friends who are turning 40 this year. Some of us are very excited and some of us are VERY organised. Group mummy (Or “Ubergruppenfuhrer” as she is now known) has been nominated to keep us all under control and thank god for her or I would probably turn up at the airport on the wrong day. And then fly to Botswana. Last week we were issued with regulation clear plastic bags for our toiletries, so we could check our stuff would fit in advance of packing. Luckily, I am sharing with someone who intends to only bring Vagisil and Swarfega as she believes these can address most feminine hygiene issues, so I won’t be the only one representing England badly. I want us stepping off the plane to be like a scene from Sex and the City. I am imagining maxi dresses, great nails, shiny hair, aviators and raffia platforms. The reality will be sweat stains, tiny amounts of leaked wee due to one gin and tonic on the plane and the almost certain loss of my car keys down the first Spanish drain we stand over. Followed by more leaked wee.

5) The business of turning 40 itself….I know it sounds twee to be so very self obsessed that you congratulate yourself for reaching a certain age – lets face it – I didn’t really have that much control over how my body coped with 40 years of mild abuse and a good deal of neglect, BUT I am so happy to be alive and to have made it his far. When I was little 40 seemed properly ancient. The 40 year old ladies I knew had grey hair (or excellent genes), they wore patterned “frocks” (no casual layering and considered accessorizing for my female role models…) and they did NOT mind if they had pot bellies, muffin tops and a headscarf instead of done hair. The women in my life, were too busy counting green shield stamps and fantasising about giving it all up to go to Greenham Common to care about which fake tan was the most appropriate for covering thread veins.

Forty for us is completely different and frankly a little confusing. When I find myself jumping up and down to the “Whole of the Moon”, being nineteen is far more vivid to me than being 38 ever was. My husband is a fifteen year old boy trapped inside a man’s body and bears absolutely no resemblance to the 40 year old men I remember growing up. To say 40 is the new 30 is overstating it but there is something in the idea that we are staying younger for longer and we seem to be squandering our youth.

I have been loving this year of reminiscing and experiencing things that turning 40 gives you permission to try, and I think when I look back on this little patch of time, the year I turned 40 will shine out . We are saving our big party for 2013 so we can turn 41 with a blast as marking the passage of years instead of allowing them to run through our fingers has done us all the world of good. Without the vivid memories of brilliant shared experiences what is there to help us celebrate and capture the passing of time? (Apart from the sad stuff..?)

I spent years trying to ignore my birthdays in hopes that that would slow time down…thanks to this year, I’m starting to realise that exactly the reverse is true.




Juggling – What to do when your balls drop…

So this week has not been great on the health front. I am posting this on a Thursday so its safe to say I am assuming it will not improve sufficiently over the next few days for that to become an overstatement.

It has however been a great week…..and here’s why….

I had a lot of things going on – work, home, family, friends – the usual stuff – nothing that everyone else doesn’t have to cope with…then the children got ill, then I got ill and then everything stopped.

The first thing that went was the work. I couldn’t post orders, reply to e-mails or do any of the long and meandering To Do list that I have proudly spent the last six years building up and have no intention completing or what-on-earth-would-I-do-with-myself? (The important thing is not to complete tasks efficiently, but to keep adding them in at the bottom so you appear useful to yourself).

I missed two social engagements and immediately panicked that I would never be asked anywhere again – its worse than calling in sick at work – is she really ill or just bored of our company…? I never liked her anyway….who else can we ask…?

I then missed two 40th birthdays – I forgot to check to send cards. This year almost everyone in England is turning 40 and now I have forgotten to tell two of them that they are old and congratulations for it. I think they may be secretly happier for receiving one less smug card but who knows. I shall probably be excommunicated.

Rapidly on the heels of that went the cooking, shopping and general going out-ness. The pyjamas stayed on, the drugs came out and a surprising number of blankets appeared in the front room for us to crawl under. Luckily it was only colds – so we were able to self medicate and after six years in the game (*in*), I did not panic and take everyone to casualty as soon as the first temperature crept above 41degrees. Firstly because I know that I am rubbish at taking temperatures and the last time I reported myself to the doctor with a suspected temperature of 43 it turned out to be 38 and I immediately felt well on hearing the numbers (sometimes I wonder if he was lying, but hey ho – it worked!).

The other reason we do not fly off to put ourselves in the hands of the medical professionals is that the last two times we have done so, I swear they have been responsible for making my children more ill. In the nicest possible way…..

The triage system in play in our local hospital meant that Seren was woken up to be examined by no less than five different people from the admissions nurse to the head of paediatrics on our last four hour trip to casualty. Now I didn’t go to medical school but I know that being woken up five times in four hours (in the middle of the night) and being asked the same question by strangers while they shine lights in your eyes and try to get you to wee in a cup is NOT going to make things better in the world of a sickly three year old. So in the end I thanked them kindly for their  input and took her home none the wiser. She slept for 13hours and was right as rain. The second time we braved casualty she had opened up her face falling over and as long as I live I will never forget the Irish doctor sticking her little finger IN TO the hole in her forehead and saying “Sure – she seems pretty hardy!”…She is extremely hardy and now she has a hole in her forehead where your finger has been. No stitches or pain relief and a year on, you can still see where the finger went in and she flinches if you touch it…..I’m going to stick with voodoo and positive thinking next time anything serious happens.

Once we got comfy under the blankies everything slowed down. No-one was properly hungry so we had toast and honey and lots of it. We watched back to back films and in between the cold sweats, hacking coughs and large volumes of phlegm, it was properly lovely. It must be the first normal week-day in 6 years that I haven’t worried about getting to the post office  before 5.30pm to get the orders shipped because I was being cuddled simultaneously by two hot little miseries….

And then it occurred to me – we should get ill more often! Not really. That would be stupid.

But I loved these days with my children, we had cuddles, we relaxed and for all the wrong reasons, I loved that they needed me.

If I’m honest, apart from the need to earn money, and to keep busy, I spend alot of this time building up my business and making myself as valuable as I can to other people so that it won’t hurt so much when the children decide they can manage on their own. I know they are only 6 and 3 and nothing stops me from being there for them now – that was the whole point of giving up the big job and doing things from home and to suit family life BUT they are only on loan to me and one day, someone else will be bringing them honey on toast (if they are lucky and can afford a butler), and I might not even get to hear they have been ill.

One sad day, I’ll get a cold and find myself under the blankie all alone and weeping into my tissues whilst watching “Mr Poppers Penguins”  (it’s truly awful – I shall be crying for so many reasons)….Its not often you find yourself hoping a cold will hang around for just a little bit longer…

New Years Resolutions

Making new year’s resolutions has always felt like the perfect opportunity to let myself down – if I haven’t managed to achieve the thing in question thus far then what is going to magically work on Jan 1st at one minute past midnight….the champagne? Possibly….the hangover certainly won’t help though…

Putting aside the idea of allowing alcohol to fuel all of my planning, I think there is room for some resolutions this year. We have had a very tough year and next year’s business plans are very structured and uncompromising. But the thing about being a mumpreneur is that at the heart of the business there is a mummy, and she may not always feel like responding to a structured and powerful business plan when life throws the other stuff at her….

I am going to use my New Year’s Resolutions to cushion the business plan with thoughts, feelings and reminders that will help me when the going gets tough next year…. In the absence of something more rigid to guide me, I think a resolution or two could help…:

1)      Look after my health

Recently I managed to make time for some serious regular exercise – after saying all year long I needed to do it, I finally committed over November and December. It has been wonderful. I am energised, happier, more relaxed and far more efficient. Next year, when my motivation wanes and other things start to eat away at my time, I will read this paragraph and remind myself why for me, a crucial aspect of functioning well, is making time to exercise.

2)      Look after my family

My new year’s resolution for my family is going to revolve around food….Instead of grabbing something from the freezer, sticking it in the oven and rushing the children through it so I can get back to work while they watch telly, I am going to cook at least one meal from scratch and eat it slowly with them. Every single day. Without the radio on and with the phone switched off….Better dust off that Annabel Karmel book….

3)      Look after My Parents

I have spent all year resisting the fact that both of my parents need a good degree of support. It has felt inconvenient and restrictive and to be brutally honest I have felt resentful that they need this level of help when my children are both still so young and I am trying to keep my business going. Then I waste time feeling guilty for not being more understanding. Someone much wiser than me once said “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. I need to get on with the business of accepting this situation for what it is. If I can’t help them with good grace and patience, then I shouldn’t be trying to do it at all.

4)      Accept My Family as it is

I spent a lot of 2011 wishing for another baby. It’s not that I can’t have one, but my husband sees our family as complete. I also get extremely ill when I’m pregnant (hospital features heavily, as does a lot of lying down, some crying and a GREAT deal of vomit). He would have to look after me, my parents, my children and the dog for months, whilst holding down his job and pretending to be pleased that I am bringing another little person in to the world against his better judgement. I have wasted a lot of time being sad, angry, resentful and ashamed at myself for all of the above feelings and we are no further forward. It seems to me, I can allow the sadness to pervade my otherwise happy life, or I can choose to get on with enjoying what I DO have. Guess which one I am going to try for in 2012.

5)      Lighten Up

Some days, this year, it has felt as though I have to remember to be happy. I now realise that with exercise, good food, the odd reminder of the brighter side and a gentle-telling-off-of-myself when I start to wallow, that happiness does not become a conscious decision. It just happens. The business has been very challenging this year and for a while I forgot why I was doing it. I also forgot to enjoy it. I want 2012 to be the year that we remember when laughing our heads off was the norm and being stressed or angry was unusual. I plan to maintain that mindfulness and accept control of it. Wish me luck – this could be the best year of our lives if I let it …..

Christmas Carol Service……

We had our school Christmas Carol Service this week.

Its always held in a church around the corner from school and starts at the mind-bogglingly inconvenient time of 9.30am. I say this for PURELY selfish reasons because I understand completely that it can’t be in the evenings as the little ones would fall asleep and it can’t be any earlier as the vicar would, but 9.30am is slap bang in the middle of my daughters morning nursery session, so we go to the carol service, I drop her back at school and then about thirty seconds later I go and pick her up having blown another morning of work.

I appreciate it is voluntary and no-one is forcing me to attend. I could stay at home and power through my To Do list safe in the knowledge that she and her slightly bigger brother are singing up a storm without my teary eyes looking on. But I go, every year, and I cry a little bit at the loveliness of it all, get cold feet in the old church, feel guilty for not spending more time there and then sing “O Come All Ye Faithful” at the top of my voice and feel much better about life in general.

This year, my daughter decided she didn’t need to learn the words to the songs. After the thirtieth session of singing Little Donkey in the car, by myself, while she glowered out of the window and mumbled about my singing scaring the little donkey, I figured it would be better for all of us if I let it go. Who needs to know the words to the carols anyway? Its once a year and the made-up versions are far funnier. The hooting that goes on around the dinner table after one verse of “We three kings in Leicester Square”…that’s comedy gold for a 3 year old. Especially after the 6 year old has explained that they aren’t actually the words at all! Imagine!

However, my plan of nonchalance backfired horribly when she decided not to remain silent and po-faced as per our practices, but to ad-lib her way out of trouble….The three year old logic kicked in and she decided, “We’re in church….the Baby Jesus gets a lot of mentions….I figure that’s safe ground….I know, I’ll shout “Jesus!” in  time with the music and stamp my feet to draw extra attention to myself!! This plan cannot fail!”

I was too far away and to be honest, too lost in the carol to realise at first that the ungodly shouting was coming from my daughter and she appeared to be cursing someone in loud and ringing tones. I was reminded of every DIY session “Jesus! James! That’s my finger!”, every time the dog has accidentally bitten me “Jesus! Flapjack! That’s my bum!” and every time one of the children has thrown water on the laptop for no apparent reason “JESUS! You two!! That’s it – I’m off to the Travelodge!!”

I should be grateful that she didn’t elaborate and stuck to the simple but arresting lyric of “Jesus!”, and when the vicar finally intervened (I was too far away to politely rugby tackle her to the ground and cover her head with something woolly), she seemed very pleased with herself  that her own lyrics had garnered such attention from all the important people in the room – the vicar, the headmaster and the baby Jesus himself.

Next year we are going to start practising the words in August, and if it looks at all dodgy on the lyrics front, I will be working at  home that morning and singing “While Shepherds Washed Their Socks By Night” to my computer….Just to be safe, Seren will be tied up in the under-stairs cupboard until it is all over.