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

The Gallery: Family

Even though we spent five years feeling perfectly satisfied with having an only child – and, in fact, for at least four of those, thought we’d stick with just the one – there was one thing that always rankled. And that was the way that other people seemed to consider us ‘less of a family’ than those with two or more children.

No one ever said it outright, but it was implicit in people’s attitudes. I felt they didn’t consider me a sufficiently experienced mum because I was raising a single child rather than a brood. I often felt we were expected to go further out of our way for get-togethers and outings than other families, because it was theoretically easier for us to get up and go. I found myself giving endless lifts to parties and playdates just because there was more space in our car, and no younger sibling to make alternative arrangements for.  Continue reading

The Gallery: Picture postcard

I’m going to let you into a secret. A secret that is, it seems, as shameful as admitting that you enjoy kicking kittens, or would rather eat vegetables than chocolate.

Here goes…

I don’t like travelling.

I know, it’s terrible, isn’t it? But it’s true. When all my sixth-form friends were pondering their gap year options, I just couldn’t wait to get to university. When, on the forums I frequented at the time, fellow wedding planners were booking their honeymoons to Australia, Borneo and NYC, I was looking at the Thomas Cook brochure for the Dominican Republic. And now, I see my friends taking their children to Florida, the Jordan, Namibia, while the furthest I’ll go with mine is the Med.

Don’t get me wrong, I love holidays. But for me, a holiday is about getting somewhere as quickly as possible and staying there – with perhaps a day out or two. On top of that, I have *absolutely* no idea where I would start with booking an unpackaged holiday. I wouldn’t even know how to rent a car at my chosen destination, let alone book a flight, source a suitable, uninfested apartment and transport a family of four between those two locations.

My lack of wanderlust makes me feel incredibly unsophisticated and unworthy. As far as I can tell, admitting that you don’t like travelling marks you out as the worst sort of ignoramus. But I can’t help it. And my family is no better. Both husband and son travel incredibly badly, and given the performance The Baby puts in when strapped into her car seat, I’m guessing she’ll be no better.

So shoot me. We’re not as uncultured as our propensity to picking holidays from the Thomson brochure would imply. We’re bright people, we read, we talk, we watch QI, for goodness sake. We just don’t travel (unless you count Center Parcs…).

This all makes this week’s Gallery a bit of a challenge – especially as I prefer to photograph people than landscapes – but I do have evidence that holidays in the UK can be good. Not as good as Africa or the Middle East, for sure, but good enough for us.

Isle of Wight, summer 2011

Sunset at West Bay Club, summer 2011

Isle of Wight Steam Railway, summer 2012

The Gallery: Morning

The other day, I blogged about how I’m not a morning person – but my children are. In a former life, 7am was classed as an early start; now, it’s a veritable lie-in.

I shouldn’t be surprised, really. Because right from day one, my children *have* been morning people.

The Boy was born at 7.35am. It was a long, tough labour. I was suffering from an acute ear infection when I started contracting, so I spent the entire labour in (almost) as much pain from my eardrum as from my uterus, and 50 per cent deaf, too.

I was group B strep positive, so was admitted to hospital and hooked up to a drip as soon as I was 3cm dilated. It took another 56 hours before, with the ‘help’ of syntocinon and ventouse, The Boy was dragged out by the head, at exactly the time I would usually have been hauling myself out of bed to get ready for work. My first photo with my firstborn child ranks as one of the worst ever taken of me, but after two and a half days of hospital-based labour, the camera (sadly) wasn’t lying.

The Baby’s birth was somewhat different. Free this time from group B strep (hooray!) I was cleared to use the birth centre, and determined to stay at home for as long as possible. So when I felt the first twinges at around 5am, two days after my due date, I was confident that labour was starting – but also that it was in its very early stages.

It was probably my biggest error of judgement ever. To cut a long story short, I got up, had a bath, realised the contractions were coming every 90 seconds, got out of the bath, got DH to phone the birth centre, threw the phone back at him when he tried to make me speak to them, gasped that I needed to push, and ended up with two on-call midwives delivering The Baby onto my own bed at 8.22am, in an entirely unplanned home birth.

So while I hate mornings – always have, always will – my two beautiful children clearly set their own agenda from the moment of birth. And while I’ll admit to selective deafness and hiding under the duvet before 7am, I’ll also concede that if I *have* to get up in the morning, then these two are the best motivation a girl can get.

This is my entry to The Gallery: Morning. Read more blogs here.

The Gallery: Easter

It was a weird one for us, this Easter.

Actually, no. It was a weird one for me. Because as a Christian, Easter is a pretty big deal. Usually, I go to our church’s open-air service on Good Friday, and then on Easter morning, there’s a family breakfast at church, followed by a wonderful, uplifting morning service. But this year, for a variety of reasons (a spot of free childcare, a visit from the other half’s 91-year-old grandmother), we spent the Easter weekend not at home, but staying with my parents, and spending time with them and with the in-laws, who live a few miles apart. It wasn’t weird at all for the husband, who never willingly sets foot in a church, but it felt odd to me.

Of course, I went to church on Sunday morning; there is no way on earth that I’d miss the Easter service. But my mum’s church (mean age approximately 75) is a very different beast from my own, where the congregation encompasses everyone from newborn to 90+. I spent the whole service anxiously trying to hush one child or another, while my toes curled involuntarily at the massacre of yet another hymn. And I utterly confused the minister by refusing to let my six-year-old take communion…

Anyway. My heart tells me that a Gallery post bearing the Easter label should allude to the real meaning of Easter, and it feels a bit wrong to post bunnies and chocolate instead. But bunnies and chocolate are all I have.

Oh… Unless you count a small girl chuffed to within an inch of her life at her new-found walking ability (even if it does involve a tractor for support).

Happy Easter, everyone.

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This is my entry for this week’s Gallery at http://stickyfingers1.blogspot.co.uk/