Recap – Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Christmas II (aka Boxing Day)

You made it. The last chapter of my long overdue novella, the Christmas of Yesteryear. Let’s do this!

 

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Christmas Eve was chilled. We hit up the soft play to run some energy out of the littles and instead managed to cave to buying a slush and paid for it by having them totally ruin a lovely game of penguin ludo.

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We cut our losses and put on the jammies and the Christmas films til bedtime.

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The kids got the tray out and filled it with treat for Santa and the reindeer.

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The placed it carefully under the tree…

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… next to their pillow cases for Santa to fill.

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We went to bed and the next morning around 5am Sandy woke up, I went in to cuddle him and he fell back asleep in my arms. About half six he roused again and I saw his little face all pouty by the door in our bedroom telling me, “Mummy, you went away! You left me all. on. my. own!” I asked him “Sandy, what day is it?” and he replied “Christmas Eve”. “Not any more Sandy, it’s…” “…CHRISTMAS DAY!!!” he realised, “has Santa been?!” I told him to check the stockings we’d hung on the door frame and right enough the big man had delivered. Sandy ran into Roslyn’s room as we listened to hear him say “Roslyn! Roslyn! Santa’s been! He has filled our stockings! Wake up!” and she dutifully did, running through, rubbing her eyes with one hand, cradling her stocking in the other. As is tradition we opened our stockings in our bed before heading downstairs to see what had been left under the tree…

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…they were both very pleased to see that Santa and the reindeer had partaken in refreshments.

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Roslyn was delighted with her main gift – a new baby, as requested.

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Sandy finally got the shuttle part of his Playmobile space set he’d been after since his birthday.

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And of course the packaging was well loved too.

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This year Christmas was split over two days for us so everything took a far more leisurely pace. It was lovely to be able to relax in the house not having to rush out.

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They each found a bell from Santa’s reindeer’s harnesses, a la Polar Express, after being captivated by the film this year.

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Sandy was delighted and it seemed to make up for not having been invited on the actual train in the night!

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We got dressed for the day and snapped a family picture before heading out to Stuart’s parents house.

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The kids were thoroughly spoiled and delighted by their gifts there…

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It was lovely to be able to take our time at Stuart’s parents house too.

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We got our annual Findlay/MacNicol Group shot again – a cracker (pun intended).

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After Roslyn’s nap we headed home to meet up with my parents and brothers for a mini Christmas dinner before the main meal the next day.

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We got a little group shot here too but I think the candid one is better!

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Christmas dinner was a hit thanks to the team effort of Jamie (starter) Mum (trimmings) and me (bird and dessert). And the drinks were faithfully covered by Pa.

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Check out anna and elsa’s subtle photobomb in the above picture ^^

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I was especially proud of my pudding. I love the look, smell and general tradition of Christmas pudding but just can’t abide the taste. I want to like it, but I don’t. Peel isn’t the bit you eat, IMO. So I recreated a steamed pudding – honey and cinnamon – and put in charms too, like my Gran used to. It was perfect and Sandy kept going on about how much he loved it which meant a lot.

The next day (Boxing Day) we headed to Gourock and my Aunts’ new flat where we partied it up again…

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Class Acts.

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We got another fabulous family picture too!

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Dinner was perfect and we all had such a nice time. It was great to spread the fun over two days and get to spend more time with everyone.

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We plan to do the same next year and I’m sure it will be just as good.

Well, there’s the end of the saga, festive feeling in February can recede now, and I’m happy not to force Tartan on the kids again til St. Andrews. Maybe.

Forest

Recently Stuart made a gate on our back fence. It leads to a field which leads to a clearing which leads to a hill progressing into woods and a burn. Sandy calls it our forest and in the nice weather we adventured down, a little further each time, until we had an afternoon picnic on the banks of the water.

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Sandy and Rozzie loved throwing stones in the burn to make splashes, and attracted the attention of a magpie. We listend for bird calls and silence and ate less than romantic children’s food on our blanket.

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We love living here. It’s the perfect mix of rural and suburban, a stark change to Glasgow three years ago with troublesome neighbours, marching season and human waste in our doorway.

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To say 2016 has been tumultous for us is an understatement. Stuart paraphrases Sandy’s favourite singer, Ezra Furman, saying that its been a restless year. The bad times have been receding yet still there are bumps in the road. My PhD. for example. It’s a tale for another time but the long and short of it is that if I want to complete it I’m facing another year’s work, another year’s research. No funding + full time work + family + PhD = ? Well, I’m really not sure that I want to find out.

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But importantly, I have a plan. I know what I will be doing come October, should all be well with my registration. I will be a childminder. I’ve been submerged in induction training and registration forms, policies and procedures and GIRFEC. I’ve made more forms that I ever have in my life and undertaking home risk assessments, not to mention emergency evacuation plans, with floorplans. Yep.

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The end of the hard work will hopefully be my own little business, where I can spend time with my children whilst working and make great experiences not only for my own children but those that I hopefully mind.

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There are downsides: inconsistent earnings, a lack of career progression, having to do tax returns… but they seem to be outweighed by the plus points. Every time I think about it I feel positive and I’m going to try my utmost to make it a success.

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So much of the narrative between Stuart and I of late refers to happiness, and family, and what’s actually important in life. We work for the majority of our life and why would we want to do something that makes us unhappy, or where we have to hold back our own characters? For money, success, status? Perhaps I just don’t have what it takes, but I can’t seem to get on with the career thing.

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It’s the same for the PhD. What would my reasons for continuing be? To say I did it? So I didn’t have to say I didn’t? To tick the ‘Dr’ box on forms? It certainly isn’t for career advancement because – as far as I can tell – having a PhD gains you no experience or employability. Rather it detracts by making you seem overqualified and under experienced, unless you choose to try and stay in academia, which from my solitary experience requires far too much in the way of people pleasing and “networking” – code for a high school style navigation of egotistical waters. Why would I continue? Professional pride and a fear of having wasted the last four years. But wasn’t a waste! It truly wasn’t. These pictures attest to such.

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So I think I will leave it behind. I’ll let go of that dream for one more modest. One where I can control my own fate and determine my own success, where hopefully my work ethic and enthusiasm are enough.

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I’ll keep up to date of my progress into childminding and hopefully start converting the blog into this new route too.

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Something has changed in the last month for Stuart and I both, and it’s a shift in outlook that we are now making into practice. Hopefully it will make things better for our whole family.

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Pass the Wine

With young children it is often “one of those days”. In fact, sometimes a week can be made of more days like that than ones you commit to the internet archives of happy family life blogging. These kind of days will invariably start before 5am, and usually see multiple uneaten breakfasts at the side of the sink by half 6. There will be shouting and a fair deal of crying. Undoubtedly something will get thrown (food, shoes, tantrums). You will avoid going out and taking the circus sideshow of your life on the road, and then regret that decision immensely once it is too late to do it and cabin fever sets in. These days consistently end in a forced early bed time despite the inevitable impact it will have on tomorrow’s waking hour; but that’s the next day’s problem (good luck future me).

You know your friends have had these types of days as you go on social media by their comments, statuses or as they all indicate the need for alcohol to be administered quickly. By the number of days like this I get in a week it is no wonder my feed is always full of “pass the wine”, “where’s the gin?” and “prosecco o’clock”. And it’s completely understandable.

But what of us who don’t drink? How do we unwind from a day of being wound up by the tyrannical little copies of our DNA we thought it was a fabulous idea to make?

I advise that the following slogans be adopted on social media for the parents of young children who don’t drink. Be you a former alcoholic, allergic to said substances, or just allergic to the helicopter head and hangovers which seem to follow any form of drinking these days (me), embrace these as your own ways to cope with the trials of toddlerhood.

1.Pass me £15 worth of chocolate

You know, so you can gorge yourself silly and then spend the only child free time you have that day feeling like you are going to puke then feel remorseful about your actions grabbing your pot belly in front of the mirror the next morning. Negatives aside there is something deeply satisfying about taking your adult money that you made doing adult pursuits and spending an irrationally large amount of it on the one thing you weren’t allowed much of at the same age as your children are now. You may be able to break me, young charges, but you can’t eat three double deckers in one sitting like me.

2. Where’s my Phone?

You need it to text my ever-faithful partner about how goddamn awful it is being a slave to two little dictators who will send back their lunch order of “NO! I WANT TOAST!” three times due to “no butter”, “too much butter”, and “I no like butter”. And also, to remind him that HE is the lucky one, sitting in a chair as much as he likes at work, fetching a hot drink at his leisure , getting a LUNCH BREAK and not having to clean anything at all. Including bums. Your phone is also necessary to send him your harshest thoughts about your darling offspring in order that you don’t actually vent these thoughts to them and send them into a lifetime of counselling, oh and to repeatedly google “why won’t my bloody toddler nap” and “child won’t stop screaming” as a last attempt at some miraculous cure for a stubborn personality the internet has kept hidden from you for over three years now.#

3. Drive Round the Block in Protest O’clock

When things just get too much and simply going into the bathroom and locking the door so you can scream into a hand towel while listening to your kids harmonising the word “muuuummmmmeeeee” from through two inches of wood won’t work, it’s time to storm out. Adding a phrase of discontent usually gives context to your beautiful family: “I HAVE TO GET OUT OF THIS HOUSE!”; “I CAN’T TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”; or “I’M NEVER COMING BACK!”. Of course you get outside onto the estate looking like a deranged scarecrow, dressed at best in filthy clothes covered in your own tears, and at worst pyjamas minus a bra. So you get straight into your car and think ‘I’m just going to DRIVE AWAY”. By the time you’ve gotten to the end of your estate though it’s time to go home and forgive and forget, or at least go to the shop and look into option 1 (above).

So as you can you really don’t need to force yourself to drink alcohol in order to illustrate that you have a breaking point and need to unwind after one of those days. You merely need to channel your inner sociopath! It’s the way we parents cope with the stress of toddlerhood and come out the other end of bad days with an Instagram feed full of glorious pictures of our perfect and happy family to pass on to our loved ones to show just how cherished our little people are. And you know what, despite the bad days, they really are worth it.

Sandy’s 3rd Birthday: A Day Out with Thomas!

The day after Sandy’s third birthday party we celebrated his actual birthday.

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He awoke in the morning to a little pile of presents and balloons.

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Roslyn helped him open his gifts…

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… and by helped of course I mean try and destroy things. Cheeky babe.

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The photo says it all when it comes to Sandy’s reaction to our main gift to him; Tidmouth sheds to add to his train set. We advised any lovely gift buyers that more track and pieces for his brio was the best present. He’s so into his trains and the brio set is such a lovely toy to build.

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We got started on a mega track…

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And soon it was time for cake again!!

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Sandy blew out his candle…

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… and promptly stuck his face right in the cake, as is his tradition!

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Rozzie got some too and then it was time to get ready to leave for the other part of his birthday present…

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… a Day Out with Thomas at Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway!

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We spotted Duck steaming along while we waited for our ride.

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And you can just see the fat controller in the background here.

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And of course the main man was waiting at the station to see us…

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Then it was time for our train ride pulled by Hiro I believe.

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Cheeky chops enjoyed the ride just as much as her brother and was even wearing one of his Thomas shirts for the occasion. We will need to get her one of her own!

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When we got off at the other end of the journey – having watched the steam and been in the dark tunnel! – we found a chair swing ride, home baking stall, thomas face painting and temp tattoos and a puppet show all waiting on us.

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Sandy loved the chair swing and went on twice. Roslyn and I got tattoos and Roslyn’s lasted several weeks somehow, making her look mega macho. Sandy watched the puppet show on Daddy’s shoulders enthralled by the whole thing, laughing away at Mr Punch, which was so very cute. He’s such his own person now, and growing far too fast (as following nursery posts will attest to!)

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Happy Birthday to our little Sandy, the best boy a Mummy could ask for.

The Problem With ‘This Too Shall Pass’

‘This too shall pass’ has become one of the cornerstones of parenting mantradom. Ask for advice or express concern about anything your child is doing or not doing and you are bound to be told that it’s a phase and that it will pass. Your child is screaming all day? This too shall pass. Won’t eat anything except butter out the tub? This too shall pass. Keeps on getting ill with one bug running into the next? This too shall pass.

It’s supposed to be a supportive encouragement to give you the strength to keep going until the unpleasantness ends, and when people say it I have no doubt that they are trying to be helpful. But in many circumstances, ‘this too shall pass’ is actually quite demoralising.

An example: Your baby won’t sleep. It’s been 6 or 8 or 18 months and they still wake up every two hours at least in the night, and naps longer than 20 minutes are nonexistent. You feel like your very soul has been worn away with the patience and resilience required every single night to be constantly woken and spend hours soothing and rocking and cajoling. You creep out of rooms and fall asleep sitting up and scream with rage when you head hits the pillow and the crying starts again. It’s really, really hard. You are at that stage where it is so difficult to cope that you begin to worry that you are actually depressed.

You then express this disappointment to someone. Maybe its a family member, or your friend, or the woman at the checkout who asks if you have a good baby. You tell them that you are knackered and they don’t sleep. That you’ve tried everything and nothing worked. That you know people with ones that have slept through from six weeks and that it just seems horribly, horribly unfair…

‘This too shall pass’

It’s like banging your head against a wall.

I mean, deep down you know that they mean it well but they may as well have told you: ‘suck it up’ or ‘tough s**t’
This too shall pass doesn’t give any practical or emotional help. It just reiterates that you are well and truly trapped. And also, you do know it will pass. You know that they will be lazy teenagers and you will be struggling to get them out of bed for school one day, but you know what? Right now that seems like a long way away. Because it is.

This too shall pass is okay for, say, their routine vaccinations. No it’s not nice to have to see them cry, but it will pass. And it’s fine for that phase of blowing raspberries with the spoon of food at their lips. That will pass. But when it comes to something as life altering as having no more than two hours of consecutive sleep for a year? This too will pass is like a smack in the face. I mean, they’d never say ‘don’t worry, they will sleep in a couple of years’ time’ and expect you to take solace in that.

It doesn’t matter how long it takes for something to pass, if it’s hard it’s hard, and even if it goes away eventually it doesn’t change the fact that the very act of going through it is horrible, and wearing, and sometimes traumatic.

So I’m going to try hard never to tell someone that it will pass, or that something is a phase that needs waited out. The chances are I’d have been told because they are struggling with it, and if I don’t have any direct advice or solutions, I will try offering practical help in another way. Get them some time to themselves, or a cup of tea, or a night out. And at the very least I will commiserate, tell them you can see it is hard and agree it’s unfair and let them feel crap because it probably is. And I will never, ever, EVER tell them about how I never dealt with that particular problem, because that would be the worst thing to hear of all.

Hospitalization (Round Two) and the Future

Apologies for the radio silence, but as you may have gathered from the title we’ve been in the wars again. A week and a half ago Roslyn got a minor cold. Sandy got it too and it was literally just a runny nose for him, but it went straight to Roslyn’s chest, as I later learned is common following a rough bout of bronchiolitis (which she had at the end of November). The other reason I could tell she wasn’t right was that she slept all night with only one wake up. Stuart was delighted and remarked that she was probably coming down with something. Too right.

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So this happened. Again.

We got her up in the morning and as soon as I picked her out her cot I could feel the effort she was exerting to breathe. I took her downstairs and went to feed her and she refused, another warning sign, though not as scary as last time as she had fed well all day and the night prior. Then I undressed her and saw a chest recession the size of a golf ball and it was on the phone to 111 who sent an ambulance. Sandy was pretty jealous of mummy going in the neenaw. Roslyn got some oxygen in the ambulance and was coping okay until we got to a&e and a million nurses descended in an unfamiliar room and tried to put IVs and tubes all over her and (quite rightly) she freaked out. You could see the abject terror in her eyes and her breathing worsened. The pediatric doctor arrived just as she was starting to turn a tinge blue and ordered space and quiet for her immediately. We moved her to the recus room and she got a nebuliser mask with the kind of drugs you get in inhalers. It wasn’t long until she was breathing a lot easier thankfully. Apparently it was a scary time but I don’t feel that scared looking back. Perhaps it was the calmness of the pediatric doctor or maybe it was the same mode I went into when Sandy went missing briefly in the park that time, where you know getting scared isn’t going to benefit anyone and just focus on the task in hand. Either way, I’m glad it wasn’t too traumatic. Luckily I was prepared for the inevitable hospital stay that followed, but glad she bounced back much quicker (largely due to it being post viral induced wheeze and not the horrible RSV bug) and we were only in two nights this time.

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Sandy coped far better this time too, mostly because he was well this time and also because we maintained his routine, consistency and I was at home more, letting family and Stuart watch Roslyn while I spent time with Sandy (and, realistically, the housework). We went to macdonalds for a treat on the afternoon I was with him and then to the hospital where I fed Roslyn while he played with the toy spaceship on the ward. I marveled at just how easy looking after only one child is!

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I was able to put Sandy to bed then Stuart came home and I went back to hospital. Roslyn was largely unsettled at night waking due to the noise and the disruption of the oxygen prongs up her nose. She wasn’t able to sleep on her front which didn’t help any either. I gave up trying to sleep between the 30 minutes where she did and ended up just reading for my PhD.

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After her first night she was much more herself and as she woke after the second night she ate her breakfast and played and generally proved she was ready to go home.

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So we got sent off with an inhaler and the happy feeling of a sleep in my own bed that was impending. That said there was still that familiar safety of the ward at night, the feeling of other people all going through the same and never being the only one up. It was coupled with the few nurses who remembered us and I felt quite surprised and warmed by it, that they cared to know us even though we were but a passing group of many surrounding sick babies in winter.

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So that accounts for some missed blogging. The rest of it comes under either job hunting or PhD completing, as well of course as being with these beauties.

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I’m in the home stretch now. As January comes to a close I’ve had the sudden realisation that not only do I need to finish a 100,000 thesis now, but that my funding runs out at the end of march, meaning I have two short months to find employment. I have applied for one job and I am applying for several more this afternoon. I am trying so hard to find something where I can afford to work part-time, so I can still be with Sandy and specifically Roslyn (who is very much a mummy’s girl and facing my working far younger than Sandy) on at least one day of the working week. I have the problem of not knowing how much of a salary to be shooting for, what is a PhD worth in this job market? It’s hard to tell.

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As for the PhD itself I have one chapter left to finish before only my introductory chapter and conclusion remain. This week will see the completion of that remaining chapter come hell or high water and then it’s some reading and onto the intro. I hope to have a full draft submitted by the end of February with then a month to review and format the final thing. I highly doubt it will be that seamless (though I hasten to add not through my own lack of timekeeping) but having the work done for when I hope to be starting a new job would be ideal. And thus closes my essay of why I’ve not been blogging.

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In other news little miss Rozzie has cut her first tooth, it poking through rather anti-climatically amid the hospital stay. She’s not been too bothered by it and a little ibuprofen here and there has helped. I’m surprised because Sandy’s first tooth didn’t come until he was 11 months old, and it was a top one, but Roslyn’s bottom left (her left) is there at the end of her eighth month. Speaking of months, she is almost nine months, which means she will soon have been out longer than she was in, which is quite a milestone, one I can’t believe has happened so fast. *Insert other growing up cliches here*

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On the 2nd of February our little man will be 2.5 years old. We celebrated 18 months yet it seems a bit weird to celebrate 30 months, but we will nonetheless. He’s such a boy now it’s untrue. I look at our canvas on the wall of him when Roslyn was brand new and his arms are still chubby and his face is still baby. Then I look at him now and he is lean and wise and grown. I can’t quite understand what happened but I love it. He makes me ridiculously happy each day with his love, humour and excitement.

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Apart from that we are enjoying once again settling back into normality with play…

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…routines…

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…fun…

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…and cuddles.

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I’m trying so hard to soak up every moment with them now, knowing the clock is ticking on my stay at home mum status. I wish so hard that I could just stay with them forever. It’s two and a half years since I became a mum and part of me doesn’t want to go back to being just me. But on the other hand I know nothing lasts forever and even if I feel it is a tad premature for Roslyn, there is independence there and I need to find some myself. I’m grateful to have made it this far with my study but so relieved that once I have completed the PhD it will be done and I can put a lid on this era of my life. A PhD and two kids is anything but easy, but I never expected it to be. I’m glad to be leaving research behind me and moving onto something new, and challenging, though I will undoubtedly mourn the loss of being with my babies every single day.

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I’m so grateful for the summer we had, our trips, the fun, the three of us. And for the winter with its snow, cosy times at home and a wonderful christmas.

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And as this weekend past proved it’s not the end of everything. There is still the weekend and much fun to be had. The prospect of holidays and days away.

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I can’t wait.

The 5 Phases of Toddler Illness

Phase one: Denial

Did you hear that cough? Something probably went down the wrong way. He has a runny nose… Hopefully it’s teething. He feels a bit warm, better turn the heating down. That could be teething too. That’s probably it. He’s fine. Yep. No need to worry. Oh, is that snot yellow?

Phase two: Super Mum

Ok I’ve got a poor baby on my hands. My little angel is sick, and I’m going to cure him with LOVE. Let’s get some oranges, and orange juice, and whatever else vitamin C lives in. Now, a bed on the couch, extra comfy pillows, lavender spray, dummies when awake. Lots and lots of cbeebies, stat. Would you like a blanket dear? Hot water bottle? Warm juice? Cold juice? A bath? Here, slather on this Vicks, and get this calpol in you. Olbas oil EVERYWHERE. I love you darling, you’re so brave, cuddles, cuddles, cuddles, more cuddles? Ok, more cuddles….

Phase three: The Trough

He’s still sick. He wants to be glued to me. But I have a baby too, and there is a distinctly fluorescent tone to the goo coming from her nose. Oh and the baby doesn’t sleep anywhere but on me at the best of times. Can I have her on my chest and him in my other arm? NO WAY NO WAY NO BABEE MUMMMMMEEEEEHHEEHEHEEEE. Ok I’ll put her down, come hear darling. WAAAHHH oh good, crying baby. Right, let appease him with something… toy story? No way! Chocolate? No way! Juice? No way! Pa? Would you like your pa? No way! (WTAF!?) Ok. Fine. Pick up baby, ok now they are both crying and I can’t take this anymore. Now we are all crying. Screw it. Jam them both in the car and just drive…

Phase four: The Breakthrough

Green car. What was that!?! Green car! Oh my god he’s back, he cares about cars! Hallelujah! Gingerly pass a bowl of cereal… Holy crap he ate some! Thank god! Feel forehead, woohoo! The fever has passed! No more straight jacketing him to force in calpol! And he’s napped! In his bed! *HAPPY DANCE*

Phase five: Recovery

Yep, he’s officially better. He’s bouncing off the walls (thanks, calpol). There are toys EVERYWHERE. The kitchen is a riot because he’s eaten 1/20th of fifteen requested meals in the last hour. He wants out. Mummy’s car! Mummy’s car! Tractors! Pa’s van! Tate’s house! Shop… For ice cream!! He appears in front of me with his Wellies on the wrong feet… Garden! This is great, yet why doesn’t it feel great? Is it because I don’t feel great? *blows nose* is that snot yellow?

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