The trials and tribulations of a family cat

We knew our cat was a softy when we got her. The Boy was three and a half at the time, so much as I wanted a cute fluffy kitten, our top priority was a mog who would be tolerant with children. When we met 18-month-old Poppy at the Cats Protection centre, and she immediately prostrated herself at The Boy’s feet, we had a pretty good idea that she’d be good with kids. We weren’t wrong.

Typically, for all his begging and pleading, the novelty of having a cat wore off very quickly for The Boy. DH has never liked her – he’s allergic to cats, and while he’s desensitised to Pops, he resents her on principle. I *do* like her, but I could live without the muddy footprints, wilful destruction of doorframes, dead squirrels and moulting (never get a monochrome cat; they shed white fur when you’re wearing black, and black when you’re wearing white). Continue reading

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Mind the gap…

Once upon a time, back in my staffer days, I remember writing a feature about the best age gap to leave between having children. I vaguely recall one of the experts I interviewed postulating that the best gaps are either less than 18 months (eek!) or over three years. These gaps, the expert said, were the most likely to lead to harmonious sibling relationships, unburdened by jealousy and rivalry.

With my five and a quarter year gap, I should, then, be onto a winner. And indeed, for the first, what, 14 months of The Baby’s life, the relationship between my children was pretty much perfect. Yes, there was the occasional wail of, ‘Stop her eating my Lego!’ but in general, brother and sister were the best of friends.  Continue reading

The Gallery: Hands

They were so tiny, once. So precious.

I so clearly remember taking my babies to have their hand and footprints taken in John Lewis when they were just a few weeks old. I remember having second thoughts about the expense, especially when The Boy was newborn and I hadn’t got my head around my future work plans and where – if anywhere – the money would come from. The Boy slept through his imprinting, even when we took his sock off and shoved it into the cold clay; The Baby, however, screamed, writhed and clenched her fists. It was stressful. I was convinced her prints would be a write-off, but they turned out fine. Continue reading

New shoes

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I was so excited (and disbelieving) when I found out at 24 weeks that I was expecting a baby girl. I love my son to bits, but after five years of trains, tractors and mud, I couldn’t wait to have a house full of pink. I was a very girlie girl myself, growing up. Okay, I did go through a (long) Goth phase in my teens, but up to that point, I was all about dolls, ballet and pretty things. I was still playing with my Barbies when I started secondary school, for goodness sake.

I was so looking forward to indulging my love of all things girlie with my daughter, but what I didn’t consider was that she’d be a proper little tomboy. Whether it’s the big brother influence or just in her nature, who knows, but it’s blindingly obvious that she’s much happier playing with cars, balls and Lego than dolls.

She does, however, have one concession to girliness – and that’s shoes.

I vaguely remember The Boy going through a phase where he was obsessed with shoes, but that was with chewing them, not wearing them. The Baby, in contrast, just loves shoes. Her favourite pastime is sitting beside the shoe rack, trying on a selection of footwear belonging to other members of the family. If she’s barefoot, she’ll often go and find a pair of her own shoes and try to put them on. She even tries to put the laundry liquid dispenser pots on her feet.

Unsurprisingly, then, this morning’s trip to get The Baby’s feet measured was a big success. It probably ranks up there as one of the best experiences of her 16-month life so far. When she was first fitted with shoes, two months ago, she measured up as a dinky size two, and so it was cruisers or nothing. But now that she’s walking confidently (including backwards), I wanted to get her some proper walkers.

We’d already been to Boots for eye drops for The Boy, John Lewis to browse the sale, and Primark to pick up some vests and socks before we hit the shoe shop, and The Baby was beginning to get grumpy. But as we entered Shoe Mecca, her face lit up. ‘Shooooooe!’ she cried, straining at the straps of her pushchair. ‘Shooooooooooooe!’

For the next half-hour, The Baby was in her element. She tried on pair after pair of shoes. She ran up and down the shop. She sat down and admired each style option, and gazed at herself in the mirror. She methodically took every pair off the lower shelf of the sale rack and lined them up on the floor. All while squealing, ‘shoooooooe!’

But despite her evident delight at being surrounded by such objects of beauty, shoe-shopping with The Baby was no mean feat (excuse the pun). Because she’s inherited her mummy’s tiny feet. My childhood was blighted by small, narrow and shallow feet that meant I always had to have boring, fitted, near-orthopaedic styles, while my normal-footed friends got to wear those pretty Mary-Janes with the strap that you could slide back over the heel to convert them to slip-ons; remember those? And after visiting two shoe shops, and pushing our car parking ticket into the third hour, we’d discovered that proper walking shoes are hard to come by if you’re a teeny tiny size three. Most styles, it transpires, start at a four.

But all was not lost. After exhausting our options in the big high street chain stores, we had a last-resort look in the expensive independent shoe shop. It yielded two possibilities; both white (*sigh*), but one more robust-looking than the other.

Of course, The Baby didn’t want the sturdy, sensible shoes. Oh no. She shoved them out of the way in favour of the white pearlescent Italian designer leather pair with glittery red hearts. So scuffable. So impractical. So expensive, at £25 in the half-price sale.

But her luck was in. The more practical pair gaped when she walked, while the designer efforts fit like the proverbial glove. And with them adorning her minuscule feet, The Baby was *not* taking them off again. I left the shop £25 lighter, with The Baby positively beaming about her pretty new ‘shoooooooes.’

They do look pretty. And my inner girlie-girl is secretly pleased that my little tomboy does have a feminine side. But I’m not entirely sure how her beautiful designer shoes are going to stand up to playing football in the mud…

Not enough hours…

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I’m pretty sure that just about every mother on the face of this earth would bite your hand off for an extra three hours in the day. I know I would. But at the moment, I think I’d probably need more like another 12 to get through everything I have to do.

That photo up there is what my desk looks like right now. And the only thing I like on it is the glass of wine. It also features a BlackBerry flashing away to alert me to my unanswered emails (186 in my inbox at this precise moment), a pad full of shorthand notes yet to be transcribed, another pad with details of my year-end accounts which *really* need sorting out, my passport, which needs renewing (by August 9th; no pressure), the booking form for the school table-top sale, where I intend to try to shift our outgrown baby gear, and, and, and… Continue reading

The witching hour

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Every home has a witching hour. That hour when everyone in the house is tired, hungry and fractious. When you have a newborn, it usually falls between six and seven in the evening, when you have Had Enough of the constant baby-wrangling and are desperate to hand your precious bundle over to someone else. When you have school-age children, the morning rush tends to be the time when tempers fray and eventually snap.

For us, the witching hour occurs between getting home from the afternoon school run and the children’s teatime, at 5pm. Continue reading

I love fluff

Cloth nappies are funny things. Or rather, people’s attitudes towards cloth nappies are funny. I’m a clothie (well, The Baby is; childbirth didn’t have *that* big an effect on my pelvic floor, thankfully), and I’ve noticed that in the nappy game, other mums fall into two firmly opposing camps.

On the one side, there are the families who wouldn’t dream of using cloth. Why would you, when you have disposables at your, well, disposal? All that extra washing and drying, the grim reality of scraping poo out of nappies, having to change your baby more often… No, thanks. These people, no doubt, have me pegged as an eco freak, an earth mother, or worse, a sanctimonious do-gooder. Continue reading