Posted in busyness, daddy, family, parenting

#toomanychildren

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Me, at about 10am.
It’s not that I don’t love them all. I do – madly. But there are a lot of them. Maybe they seem more numerous because all of them are so very small – of course lots of people cope admirably with 5+ kids, so why should I be complaining at having merely four to raise? The fact that, laid end-to-end, they would barely reach the length of our living room perhaps gives the feeling that they are more than their sum.

Maybe it also has something to do with both me and the hubster being raised in smaller families. Whilst I have two siblings, the age gap is so great that I was effectively raised as an only child – and hubby has just the one sibling. Nowadays, when he’s asked how it’s all going with our newly-expanded family, this man who, in another life, would have been perfectly happy as a childless batchelor replies dryly, “Yep, it’s going great. I think we’ve both got used to having too many children”.

We were at a party the other week and, at any one time, I only knew where maximum 3 of my kids were. I’m not lying. Because when our sociable, food-loving kids are in an environment where there are lots of people and scones, how is it even possible to keep track?If God had meant families to have more children than parents, then He could at least have designed us with more eyes and arms.

The other day, someone asked me how it was going, and I was explaining that it was generally OK, but pretty non-stop from 7am-11pm. “Oh yeah,” he said, “because I guess in the evenings you have the next day to prepare for.” Honestly? I would love to live in the sort of world where I could afford an evening’s preparation for the next day. I can see it perfectly: there’s me, peacefully ironing school uniform while the last of the evening sun glimmers in through the window and Radio 4 murmurs in the background. Then I’m putting together nutritiously balanced packed-lunches, and making a mental note that we’re running out of quinoa. Finally I’m Pinteresting messy play ideas for toddlers, finding one my boys will love, and gathering together everything needed from my well-stocked and well-ordered craft cupboard. And then, of course, it’s bed by 10, so that I can be well-refreshed for the day. Yep, right. This is a reality that will, sadly, never be mine. Evenings are spent clearing up the day’s detritus. Scraping hardened Weetabix off the dining floor with my fingernails. Emptying the overflowing nappy bin into the washing machine. Retrieving my stilettos from Missy’s bedroom.

Friends are like, “How do you cope?” and I’m all “But no, you don’t get it, I really don’t.” Our house is an excellent advert for contraception. There is Stuff everywhere, including in the toilet. Laundry bins are rarely emptied. (And, when they are, you can bet your last pound that this momentous achievement will be followed by a bed-wetting event. The other time bed-wetting occurs is the night after you’ve changed the bed linen.) Mealtimes feel like a military procedure – in a regiment where your soldiers need to be asked a question 17 times in order to respond: Do you want ketchup or mayo? Ketchup or mayo? KETCHUP OR MAYO OR BOTH???? I assure you, it’s only by the grace of God that we all end up in our own beds under the same roof each night.

Do you want to know how it’s done? Two simple steps which, being the generous soul that I am, I’m going to share with you. Forget your parenting courses, it’s all here:

  1. Ignorance. Pick any minute of any day, and there are usually three kids being ignored. I call it character-building. By the age of 7, each of them will be able to prepare their own snacks, dress their own wounds and reach their own footballs down from the garage roof. 21st-century kids are far too molly-coddled.
  2. Lower standards. Facebook pictures of my friends’ newborn babies, sleeping sweetly in the cutest outfit, with a beautiful hand-knitted blanket, and just the right filter to make the picture canvas-worthy – this, my friend, is not a world that I inhabit. The older two dress themselves – they have to – which inevitably means Mister ends up in a blue T-shirt and muddy blue tracksuit bottoms, despite having patiently and repeatedly given him the fashion advice that blue and blue do not go together, and asked him kindly every night since he was 5 to please put your dirty clothes in the laundry bin – and Missy ends up wearing trousers, a skirt and a dress, topped off with a tiara, sunglasses and wellies. The younger two get dressed by me or Desert Dad – but, since we are both so dog-tired, our ability to put an outfit together which is a) clean, b) hole-free, and c) well-fitting is, quite frankly, non-existent.

So, despite my general hatred of hashtags, #toomanychildren is one which is here to stay. The noise, the mess, the anecdotes that we will share over dinner parties when we are old and grey, the memories we’re apparently making, the sleep deficit we’re building up – it’s here to stay.

And, it pains this organisational-freak to say it, but I actually love it.

Posted in Uncategorized

dear long-neglected blog

It is, of course, incredibly bad taste to assume a higher position in life, society or social media than that which one actually occupies – but allow me a *small* head-swelling moment. More than a few people have noticed the absence of desertmum blog posts over the last three months. (They’ve actually noticed! Noticed and commented! And even a few titterings suggesting they’re looking forward to the return of desertmum blogs!)

Three months! (And a day, to be precise.) Wow – where did that go? My answer is simple: 6-4-1-1. I’ve taken to using the ages of my children as an excuse for any lapses in my correspondence, diary planning or general organisation. It works brilliantly for all ages/numbers of kids – I dare you to try it. “I’m so sorry I double booked for this weekend…8-5-3” or “Did I forget that meeting? It’s just because, you know…15-13” or “It’s our anniversary???? You expected me to remember?? Yeah right… 3 month old.” And so on.

So that’s my excuse. It’s not that there haven’t been any ideas, or even draft posts. (One on the stubbornness of my daughter, one on the pyromania of my son, and another on how I totally can’t do this parenting thing. Connected? Maybe.) But I don’t like to publish anything I’m not happy with, and somehow when you’re trying to do a gazillion jobs fuelled by chocolate rather than sleep, the words just don’t seem to come out right.

Therefore, please find below a grovelling apology of a blog post, where I attempt to bring you up to speed with what’s been going on over the last three months. Some of these ideas, I’m sure, will become recurrent themes on the blog, so see it as a little taster, if you like, of what’s to come. (Because there will be more posts to come, and I will not leave it three months again.)

I hate to admit it, but I’ve become a little obsessed with Pitch Perfect, its sequel and both soundtracksA large part of my time this year has been spent vocalising, harmonising, learning beat-box, and annoying my kids in the car with random vocal sounds, although at one point Mister was joining me in learning beat-box, and it was most satisfying to pass his bedroom one night and hear him beat-boxing to Bob Dylan as he drifted off to sleep. I’ve been constructing vocal arrangements in my head, scouring YouTube for good songs to arrange, and wondering how possible it would be to do something like this actually, in real life. Oh, and if you haven’t seen the film – you must!

I’ve been exposed to the Zero Waste movement through my student friend Abi (read her blog here), and inspired that it can work even for families through my friend Nicola. I’ve started to get mad over excessive packaging, and was totally flummoxed when my bananas arrived yesterday in bubble wrap. I mean – what???!!!

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If you’re on the same wavelength, please take a moment to sign Abi’s petition for supermarkets to offer non-packaged options for the items they sell. We get charged 5p a bag, but what incentive do they, and their suppliers, have for cutting down plastic waste?

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Our garden has taken up some time. You definitely wouldn’t call me green-fingered, but we had a huge hedge taken down a few months ago, leaving a very sorry mess behind, so someone needed to do something. Luckily we’ve employed our friend to do the heavy root-digging, and I’ve been able to do the fun stuff like extend the lawn, plant herbs and shrubs and (eventually) cultivate some veg. Not to brag or anything, but in the last few months I’ve built a sandpit and junior picnic bench using a power tool.

We had our beautiful boys dedicated, and it was just brilliant. Actually, the day in itself was stressful as one of them was off-colour, restless, grumpy; the weather misbehaved; and I forgot to put out as many flakes as people wanted with their ice cream. But actually doesn’t that just reflect the daily ups and downs of parenting? It was brilliant to be able to dedicate them, to have so many wonderful friends and family there to witness it, and to have the excuse for a good old party. And, as there was just NO WAY I was going to let all that hard work go to waste, I made people sit in the garden regardless of weather. Mwahaha!!

What else? Oh, I’ve started to exercise. This is not a lie. I’ve been going great guns with Davina’s 15 minute work outs, I’ve started tennis lessons, and I’m in the early days of a 30 day abs and squat challenge. I don’t even know what that means, but I’m loving it. The Facebook group I’m part of is full of people using lots of exclamation marks and phrases like “Smashed it!!!!!” with a whole load of emoticons (are they still called that?) of muscly-arms and trophies and bikini bodies. Honestly, it is a world I don’t understand, and a language I’ll never speak. But there’s something about hitting my mid-thirties that makes me realise that if I don’t do it now, I’m probably going to lose any possibility of doing it in the future. Yeah!!!!!!!!! Go me!!!!!!!!!!!!! We can DO THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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The kids and I combined our love of Lego and Uno by coming up with a new game: Leguno – see picture. Doesn’t make much sense without the rules, but life is too short and this blog is already too long to explain.

I’ve read some good stuff in the last few months – predominantly things people have linked to from Facebook because, book-wise, I’m still trawling my way through the impressive but LONG Animal, Vegetable, Miracle which was recommended to me by my friend Kirsty during my 2015 Year of Books. (I asked for short, pithy, easy-to-read things – Kirsty clearly didn’t get the memo. I’ve literally been reading this book for a year.)

The articles/blog posts which come to mind as being thought-provoking, interesting, good or all three are:

Why boarding schools produce bad leaders – the reality, I’m guessing, is more nuanced than this, but some interesting thoughts, none the less.

This brilliant blog post about how we need to support the marriages of our missionary friends.

My friend Suzy’s honest and brave declaration of trusting God with her family on the mission field.

This excellent parody of the government’s ridiculous new rules about punctuation and grammar.

And that’s about it, save that I have no idea about the EU Referendum, and really need to be doing some reading up on that.

What have you been up to?