The art of tidying up

I am rubbish at keeping on top of things around the house. It does not come naturally to me. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love it when it is tidy and I am on top of things. I’m just not organised enough to keep it there. 

Kids don’t make it easy either. One of them needs me, or food, or changing, or somebody to play with. Constantly. I’ve now reached a point where I don’t have a little tiny baby or a big pregnant belly for the first time in three years though, and with Iris spending two mornings a week at nursery and Astrid sleeping much better, I finally feel I can tackle it. 

We need a massive declutter. Our house isn’t cluttered enough to make it on to one of those TV shows about hoarding. I’m not naturally a hoarder. I used to move house a lot when I was single, and it made sense to travel light. Trev has been in the house a long time though, so has acquired quite a lot of stuff. Plus there’s all the baby stuff, the outgrown clothes, and the toys. Oh, and my craft stuff. I own a lot of yarn. 

So I’ve made a start. Trevor doesn’t really know what to make of it, but I think he’s enjoying the results. I didn’t really start out with a plan, I just started. The toys in the living room were the biggest hurdle so I started there. We had so many toys in our alcove (that kind of acts like a teeny tiny play room) that nobody had played with in years. Three huge bin bags full actually. I’ve snuck them out to the charity shop to avoid any children claiming that something they never play with has become their most favourite toy ever. The baby toys and rattles filled another bag which went to my sister for my tiny niece. Broken toys, of which there were many, went in the recycling. 

Next came the various other piles of junk around the room. Some things were kept, but moved away. I’m trying to sell some stuff. 

My living room looks great! We actually have bare surfaces, and a place for everything to live. I can see the pictures on my mantelpiece because there is no clutter in front of them. The children can easily get to their toys and can find things quickly as they know where everything lives. 

Now I’m addicted. 

I keep coming across things that I didn’t know were bugging me and just doing them. Not putting them off. 

Seriously, it’s amazing. Try it! I want to get the whole house done by Christmas, but that’s probably not realistic! 

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Embracing Christmas in November 

Around this time last year I wrote this old post about Christmas in November. It’s grumpy. I’m my defence I was very very very pregnant. 

Actually, I still agree with some of it. I hate that it’s just a big push to get us to spend more and more money. Toy adverts are the worst! And don’t even get me started on Black Friday. Bleaugh! 

I do feel quite differently this year though. Maybe because I’m not pregnant and uncomfortable, but also because Iris is really getting into to. For the first time, she’s old enough to have an understanding of it all. We’ve not talked much about presents, but she’s been chatting about Christmas trees and sparkly lights and Santa for a couple of weeks now. She’s even got a part in her nursery show. She’s going to be a star! 

Astrid will turn one just after Christmas, so she’s not a teeny baby anymore either. She obviously has no idea what Christmas is, but she’s definitely old enough to really enjoy it. She’s much more sociable than Iris was as a baby, and loves being surrounded by people. I’m a bit scared she’s going to pull the Christmas tree over, but I think Christmas with her around is going to be a lot of fun! 

I’m not even slightly miffed by the two houses in our street that already have decorations up, and I’ve already bought some presents! I might even let the kids put the tree up early! This picture is from last Christmas, and that is water in Iris’s glass! 

Staying in hospital with a toddler

photo-11-11-2016-11-09-22It was obvious when I picked Iris up from nursery on the Tuesday morning that she was ill. She came out after her 2 and a half hour session looking absolutely wrecked. I put it down to her getting up at 4:30 that morning and the beginnings of a cold. We hadn’t been out anywhere since the weekend and I was desperate to get out of the house and get some fresh air, but that didn’t seem fair on Iris so we stayed at home, and she slept. On Wednesday she seemed to have a full blown cold so we didn’t do very much. We watched movies under blankets and I got a bit of housework done. On Thursday she was worse again. My nap-avoiding toddler had a huge nap in the morning, and another one in the afternoon then asked to go to bed at 6:30. In between times she wanted to watch films, which was great but she was feeling very sensitive and kept getting very upset at the sad bits. I was even beginning to miss Peppa Pig, because nobody ever gets their heart frozen by their sister in Peppa Pig.

I took her up to bed. She was asleep quickly, but I noticed that she seemed to be struggling to breathe. She hadn’t eaten a thing or drank much all day, and she’d slept so much. I decided to try to wake her only to find that I couldn’t. She would briefly open her eyes and glance at me before closing them again. She was all limp. Her chest looked weird, like it was caving in every time she took a breath. I remembered her asking for the living room lights to be turned down earlier in the evening, and suddenly I panicked.

What if she has meningitis? A friend of Iris’s contracted meningitis at the beginning of this year. He was in hospital for about 4 months, most of which was spent clinging on to life and only just. He survived, but it was touch and go for a long time. Now he’s learning to walk again on a prosthetic leg. He’s not even 2. Him and Iris missed out on the new vaccine by just months, and I keep feeling guilty that we haven’t managed to find the money to have it done privately.

I text Trevor, who was downstairs with Astrid asleep on his lap, and he came up. We called the NHS advice number, but waiting for an answer I nearly gave in and got Trevor to just drive us to A&E. They answered, asked questions, and tried to get me to wake her while I was on the line. I couldn’t. So they sent an ambulance.

Iris loves ambulances. Fire engines and bin lorries and tractors too. Had she been awake she’d have loved the ambulance, but she missed the whole thing. She slept on my lap and we were strapped onto a bed. The blue lights were flashing. I was terrified, but couldn’t stop thinking about how strange it feels to be in a moving vehicle and not be able to see where you are going.

In A&E, Trevor and Astrid (who had stayed asleep, thankfully) found us. We waited on a chair in the corridor as there were no beds free. A doctor called us into a room and checked her over. They gave her more Calpol and she came around a little bit. The doctor suspected pneumonia, and sent us off to X-ray. Trevor took her in because Astrid woke and wanted to be fed, and he said she just cooperated. She’s not one for cooperating usually, so she was definitely not right! Thankfully the X-ray looked pretty clear and she definitely didn’t have pneumonia. What a relief! She still wasn’t really with it, and was red hot, so I was quite worried when the doctor said we could leave. A lovely nurse wasn’t happy with how she looked and did her obs one last time before we could leave, and thank goodness she did. 

She wasn’t happy, and requested a second opinion. I wish I’d caught her name because I’d love to thank her. I dread to think how much worse Iris could have got if we’d just gone home. 

On the children’s ward, Iris was immediately admitted. After examination she was given an inhaler and put on a course of nebulisers, one every 20 minutes. The first one was easy, because Iris was so drowsy. She fought the second one and cried quite a lot. She was clearly terrified. However, she perked up immediately afterwards and even said she was hungry. She wolfed down half a sandwich, more than she’s eaten in 2 days. The doctor said that she was barely aware of her surroundings previously because it was taking all of her effort to just breathe, and the nebulisers  and inhalers had opened her up and made it easier. They weren’t happy with her oxygen levels though, so she’d have to spend the night on oxygen. My poor little darling fought the tubes so hard. The nurse took a long time to get the tubes taped to her little cheeks and it broke my heart to see her so scared. 

She fell asleep not long after, but wasn’t allowed to just sleep. She had nebulisers hourly through the night, and for every one I had to hold her still with all my strength while gently trying to convince her that she was safe and the mask was making her better. I’m not sure she believed me! In between nebulisers she kept waking up and crying, while trying to pull the tubes from her nose. She gave herself a nosebleed in the process. 

It all worked though. Although she was shattered the next morning, she had improved loads. So much so that they decided to stop the nebulisers all together and see how she got on without. They decided it was probably a severe chest infection and gave her antibiotics. One dose a day for three days. It was a huge relief to here chest infection instead of pneumonia or meningitis or any of the other really scary things. Not that chest infections aren’t scary. I was certainly scared, and so was Iris. 

She still wouldn’t eat, and wouldn’t drink without lots of persuasion. She hadn’t done a wee all night so dehydration was a worry. Because she was wired up to oxygen and a monitor she couldn’t use the loo, so I’d put her in a nappy. I think that was the problem, because at 1pm when they decided to try her without oxygen for a bit and I could take her to the loo, she did the biggest wee ever. I was as relieved as she was. 

A nurse told us that if she could keep the oxygen number on the screen above 92 for 24 hours she could probably go home. It was only at that point that I realised we were definitely in for another night. The monitor was attached to Iris’s toe (that she later started referring to as her ‘magic toe’) but as the day went on they let her take it off in between having her obs done. She could go and play! 

Parents of patients don’t get fed, and no hot drinks are allowed on the ward. I was so tired, and had a pretty bad caffeine withdrawal headache. Trevor and Astrid needed lunch so fetched me some of those cold coffees in cans. They saved the day for me, and kept me going. Well, combined with lots of biscuits they did anyway. 

I was feeling incredibly guilty (I still am actually) for being away from 10 month old Astrid for two whole nights. I knew she was fine with Trevor, and thankfully we had enough expressed milk in the freezer. She breastfeeds all through the night usually, so I knew she’d find it hard. After not leaving the hospital with Trevor until around midnight she had slept pretty well and taken some milk from a cup. Little monster still won’t take a bottle. I’ve only ever left Iris for one night (when I was in labour!) so knowing I’d be leaving Astrid for a second night was getting to me. 

Iris slept a lot through the day on the Friday, but her stats stayed up and she continued to improve. I watched the monitor really closely, and although her heart rate was still quite high she maintained a great oxygen level without the tubes. By the evening she was running around and playing with the other children. Trevor and Astrid left as Iris’s dinner arrived (that she didn’t eat) and I attempted to get a shattered Iris to sleep. 

I failed. She kept getting into bed, demanding the curtains be closed, and closing her eyes. A few minutes later she’d leap up and ask to go and play. She was tired. So tired. But wanted to make up for days of not being able to play, and I could understand that! I was fed up with being stuck indoors doing nothing too. She eventually nodded off 20 minutes before the nurse had said she’d be round to check her stats, which obviously meant they’d wake her again! 

The ward was really noisy until after 11, but when it went quiet it was a quieter night. The snoring parent that had annoyed me so much the first night wasn’t there, and there were only toddlers. No babies. Apart from being woken often when they took Iris’s stats, we slept. Squeezing into a tiny single hospital bed with Iris, who sleeps in starfish position, wasn’t great. She wouldn’t let me sleep on the parent chair bed thingy, and I really wanted to hold her anyway. 

You can imagine how annoyed I was when at 8:30 the next morning, they turned the big lights on and opened our curtain all the way around. It wasn’t the nicest wake up and Iris was quite upset! 

She didn’t touch breakfast again, but nibbled on a couple of cookies and had started to drink a bit more. She was still coughing and breathing heavily, but was clearly itching to get home. Thankfully the doctor immediately discharged her. A dad of a little boy on the ward started up a game of ‘where is Postman Pat?’ and all four children on the ward got involved while we waited for Iris prescription to arrive so that we could go home.  

By lunchtime, we were in the van on our way home. 

The whole experience left Iris tired and tearful for days afterwards. She’s only just getting her appetite and her energy back now, two weeks later. 

Thank you 

I just wanted to say thank you to everybody who has wished Iris well. She’s off the oxygen and nebulisers, and the antibiotics seem to be working. She’s been running around the ward playing tonight and feels much much better. If all goes well overnight we should be going home tomorrow. 

Not a normal Thursday evening 

I can’t sleep. 

Sharing a narrow single bed with a toddler is never easy. It’s even harder when there’s a machine next to the bed that beeps every time your toddler struggles to breathe. Which is quite a lot. 

There’s also another parent behind the curtain opposite ours that is snoring loudly. I am both jealous of their ability to sleep and cross because I’d have a better chance if they shut the hell up. 

Iris is asleep. Sort of. She’s coughing and wheezing and struggling for breath, but she’s so tired that it can’t keep her awake. 

The ‘cold’ Iris developed on Tuesday evening isn’t actually a cold. It’s some sort of respitory infection. 

She’s been lying on the sofa for two whole days watching various films and getting herself into a state every time there’s a sad bit. I’ve been trying to convince her that the mammoth in Ice Age 4 does find her daddy mammoth in the end, and Elsa and Anna make up and nobody melts, Woody and Buzz become friends, and they definitely do find Nemo. She doesn’t believe me until she sees it for herself. 

Usually I can’t get her to stay still long enough to watch a whole episode of Octonauts, let alone a film. 

Her high temperature stopped dipping after Calpol, and as the second day of her bug went on she just got worse. She didn’t eat a thing all day and barely drank either. She had two long naps and then asked to go to bed at 6:30. With an empty belly. 

She wasn’t right. 

Then her breathing got faster, and shallower, and it was clear she was struggling to breathe. But I couldn’t wake her. She was too sleepy. 

Time to make the call. 

We came to hospital in an ambulance. Had Iris not been so sleepy she’d have loved that. She loves an ambulance. When they go by with lights flashing she cheers and I feel guilty about her finding joy in somebody else’s misery. 

A chest X-ray thankfully revealed that the doctor was wrong about pneumonia. Phew. 

But she was still struggling, and was still pretty lifeless. So off we went to a ward. 

After a nebuliser, she perked up a bit and even asked for food. She wolfed down half a sandwich and some crisps before her monitors started beeping again. After another nebuliser she’s now on oxygen for the night. 

It’s so weird seeing tubes taped to her face. She’s such a healthy, energetic girl. She’s never ill, and even when she is it never holds her back. 

I can’t sleep. 

Every now and then she wakes up slightly and tries to pull the tubes from her nose. Every hour all night long she’ll need a nebuliser. 

We could go home tomorrow morning or we could be here for days. Nobody can tell. 

It’s not meningitis or pneumonia or any number of other scary things. It’s just a chest infection, probably. But oh my goodness I was so scared there for a bit. 

It takes a village 

DSCF1482.JPGThat’s the saying, isn’t it? I think long ago parents did have a village, living close to their own parents and siblings and other members of the extended family. I often wonder how things would be different for me if I’d had my children in Bristol. I suspect my kids and my sister’s kids would spend a lot of time together. I imagine shared babysitting duties meaning we’d all get a bit more time off. I’d have my mum too, and my little ones would probably have sleepovers at her house the way my sister’s children do.

That’s not how it worked out for me though, and two years and five months into parenting I’ve just realised that I do have a village. Right here in the valleys.

Parenting can be isolating. I often wonder if I’d actually be happier if I had a job outside the home. Would the contact with other adult humans make me feel better? In reality, I doubt it. I have no idea what I’d do. I wouldn’t earn enough to cover childcare for two making it pointless from a financial point of view. Plus, I actually really do love that I can spend all of my days with my children until they go to school.

We’re good, me and my two, at getting out of the house. Between playgroups, going to the library, having lunch in a cafe occasionally and spending as much time as we can outdoors in all weathers, we don’t sit around the house much at all. Now that Iris is in nursery two mornings a week, I get some time alone with Astrid. I have some time alone with Iris during Astrid’s many naps. Things are calmer. We still have horrendous days when I just can’t cope with them at all (last Monday was a real bitch) but generally I’m not stressed out or struggling to get through the days.

Last week I went to see a show. Ballet and circus skills and beautiful music. It was so beautiful. It was written by a friend I met through breastfeeding group, and so many of us turned up for it. To support her. That’s when I realised that they’d turn up for me too. These wonderful women are my village. Some of them brought gifts when Astrid was born. A few offered to bring us cooked meals. One looked after our guinea pig when we were away. We’ve been away camping with some of them. They’ve passed on clothes and toys when they don’t need them anymore, and we’ve passed ours on too. We started a crochet club and taught each other.

More than anything though, I’m so grateful for them just being there. 

We set up a private Facebook group last year, with just a handful of mums in it. I know I can post about anything in there. Even if it’s just a little rant about lack of sleep, or advice about weaning or nappies or something. Somebody will reply. Every time.

You need other parents when you become a parent. Well, I did anyway. I was sure my current friends would do just fine after having kids, but actually I did need the ones who had kids more. You can’t understand the guilt or the worry or the love before your children come along. I thought you could, but you definitely can’t.

I know I’m not the only parent who quietly bubbles with anger when a childless person says they are tired.

You can’t bother your childless friends at 3am when your baby won’t sleep and you’ve worked yourself up into a bit of a state. At least one of your parent friends will be up anyway, in a similar boat. You can’t worry about breastfeeding, weaning, nappy rash, school applications, birthday parties, not being the weirdo mum at the school gate, teething or potty training with somebody without kids. You’ll just bore them to sleep. I know, because I used to be bored by parents and how much they talk about their little ones.

It’d be really  wonderful to have my mum, my sister, my best friends and their kids all on my doorstep. There have been so many occasions when I’ve longed for that, and even a few times when I’ve got overwhelmed and gone back for a bit of a break. I imagine I’ll always feel like that to some extent. Last week my closest friends ever made the drive over the bridge and hanging out with them and their little ones was just so great. I will always always wish we could do that more often.

But we can do it. Not every week because the trains are expensive and so is the bridge toll. But it is possible.

And even when we can’t, I have my new village now. A village within a town in the valleys of South Wales.

It feels like home.