A Sister for an Only Child

I am an only child. I think I fit all the stereotypes of an only child; I’m spoilt, I like my own way – I don’t like to share and I adore my own company. I never felt sad about being the only child in the house. I never felt lonely. I never felt as though I was missing out. At Christmas I had a hundred presents under the tree and I got my mum’s undivided attention. All was pretty good in my life – I had no complaints.

But I did have a cousin. Her name is Ellie. Unless she’s in trouble – then it’s Eleanor.

I’m on the left

She had long straight blonde hair like the princesses in Disney films – while I had untamed curls in a boyish cut. She wore beautiful dresses while I ran about in shorts and she was confident while I was painfully shy.

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When we were little we spent pretty much every single weekend together. I stayed at her house and went to church with her on a Sunday morning. We ate mountains of Ice cream and watched Beetlejuice till we knew every line. We could re-enact the whole of The Lion King. When we went to the beach she would sit on a rock and sing “Part of Your World” in the style of Ariel – I was Flounder.

probably talking about a little mermaid

We were obsessed with East 17, Disney and singing and dancing. I played on her Nintendo and we belted out “You’re so Vain” on her karaoke machine. When she stayed at my house we would giggle so loudly at night that my mum would constantly shout whisper at us “The neighbours! The neighbours!” which made us howl even more. We used to steal my dad’s letter opener and pretend we were Indiana Jones.

We used to believe that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were real and below every drain we saw. We repeatedly watched Tremors and ate bon bons. We went swimming and pretended to be French in the changing rooms nattering in our made up Allo Allo gibberish, “Regarde les bibliotheque couson Ellie!”

oh to have this figure again

We watched Romeo and Juliet again. and again. and again. We talked about boys.

We went on holidays together to Keycamp in France nearly every summer. We took her to Greece and my uncle and auntie took me to Greece too! Every single October half term her parents took us to Devon where we stayed on a Stoney beach trying to terrify each other for Halloween. We always dressed up   – it was the tradition.

As we grew up I started to become overwhelmingly jealous of her. She probably doesn’t know this to this day. To me she was always the pretty one. Boys liked her, reader: they did not like me. To give you a sense of how pretty she was, once in Greece a boy drove ACROSS Kefalonia (an entire island) to track our car after looking at her. My mum ran around shooing men away from her; “She’s fourteen! Get lost!” No one noticed me.

I wished I could be just like Ellie. The only thing I was better at was eating everything off my plate – something I’m still great at to this day.

As we got older, got boyfriends and went to University we drifted apart and she settled in Leeds. Of course we saw each other at the Christmas do – or on our birthdays – or for her wedding – but we weren’t as close as we were.

When, five years ago, my now husband and I wanted to move from Birmingham – I picked Leeds. “Ellie is there” I thought!

Over the next five years we saw more and more of each other and I finally feel like we are back to where we were. I love her with all my heart. I can tell her anything. She’s the most generous person I know and also completely potty in the most endearing way. My little boy idolises her. Special Auntie Ellie.

So even though I never got a sister – I sort of did. Ellie is my sister – and she always will be.

Yesterday she took me out for birthday drinks, because now we drink wine on roof terraces and talk about adulting. Underneath we will always be those two girls, drinking Ice cream soda singing the song from Beetlejuice, making up dance routines to ‘We are Family’.  I’m so thankful this only child got a sister after all.

my wedding day

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The Grandparent – Toddler Handover Notes

Usual Disclaimer: Gee…I sure am lucky to live so near to my parents! We are so lucky my son has his grandparents in his life. I sure don’t know what we would do without them.

But I could do without the handover notes.

Which usually go a bit like this:

Toddler is thrust back into the house, after our much needed time off, looking rosy cheeked and full of gusto with a new attitude of “well now I know who’s really boss”.

Grandparents give me a carrier bag of half eaten brioches, soggy biscuits and a cup of squash that looks like it has been dragged through several puddles of manure.

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And the Toddler Grandparent handover notes commence:

1. First and foremost – we are told how much our son did not want to come home to us in any way, shape or form. We are told how miserable he is at Departure Grandparents, Arrival parents; You know – the ones who look after him 24 hours a day and the woman who barely survived a three day labour.

We are told that he started protesting and weeping merely at the thought of coming home to us when he reached our block – as soon as he saw the familiar streets leading up to this house – well, he had a breakdown. The poor soul. How awful for him.

2. Secondly – we are told a list of information about his bowels. If he has gone, when he went, what the poo was like! Shape, smell, consistency. What they did about it – never a straight forward: “Oh we simply changed his nappy, like you do 76 times a week.” No, no, always something elaborate because there was some sort of shit based disaster that meant he had to be hosed down in the bath like an incontinent Rhino.

“And you know, there’s something wrong with those nappies you gave us, or we might have put it on backwards and inside out – or on his head – we just can’t figure them out.”

3.  Accompanied by something they have ‘spotted’ while he has had his clothes off that is a major cause for concern. A pimple or a red raw arse (according to them) or a jutting out bone or a scaly patch.

“Have you seen it? I really think you should have seen it? Do you ever look at his body? And we are sure he needs to go to the doctors asap about it, or A&E. Are you bathing him enough?”

4. A detailed description of how much he ate while he was with them – Veg! Yogurt! An adult portion of Fish and Chips! Juice, more juice! And pudding (“although you know, I want to get him some vitamin C supplements because of the tone under his eyes and how he obviously doesn’t get what he needs when he’s with you”) and

“we can’t understand what you mean when you say he will only eat egg! He seems to eat everything when he’s with us. Ha … Ha…. Ha.”

5. A list of perfectly easy and simple things they couldn’t do when they were out with him.

“We just couldn’t fold down that pushchair after all, so we have had to leave it at the train station in Scarborough. We couldn’t figure out how to fasten those reigns….that nappy…that coat. We couldn’t figure out which shoe went on which foot. We couldn’t adjust the car seat so your Grandfather just held onto him for the journey!” (no of course the last one is a joke)

6. A detailed description of how much he achieved when he was with them. “He was obviously just in the best environment for personal growth”.

“I know you say he can’t walk, talk, read, count… but when he was with us today he ran ten metres, said Grandma and Grandpa repeatedly and counted to eight in Russian.”

7. A detailed description of how much fun he had with them.

“You know dear, I don’t think I have ever, in my life, seen him so happy! It’s such a pity that you can’t do things like this with him all the time! Such a shame he has had to come back to you – look how upset he is! Poor Sod.”

And they leave.

Us waving and nodding at the door, and promising that we will give him another bath to get rid of any encrusted poo, we will get that spot checked out, we will feed him more broccoli and have more fun with him.

“Take him out in the fresh air every single day and play with him. Don’t just neglect him! Poor bugger!”

They drive off happily.

Toddler screams and wails and stamps whole body onto the floor. I gear myself up for the long evening counting the minutes before I can put him to bed and have some rest.

Once in my bed I close my eyes and hear the tick tock of the clock counting down to the next time he can go to his grandparents.

Repeated Disclaimer: Gee…we sure are lucky to live so near to my parents. Grandparents are the best and we don’t know what we would do without them.

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Oh the fun we’ll have this Easter : Hoppy Easter with Matalan

I might have considered Easter fun for our family as solely involving chocolate eggs and desperately trying to fashion garish bonnets and then forcing my son’s to wear them … but that was before Matalan kindly sent our family a huge bumper box of fun; Easter style – no chocolate in sight (but I won’t hold that against them).

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I have grouped the Matalan Easter Package into three categories that I’m excited to share with my three year old son over Easter.

Category 1: In the kitchen

The first two products that caught my eye were the Hoppy Easter cake accessories kit which includes cute cup cake bases and miniature flags to place on the top with carrots, bunnies and chicks on them.

As well as this there is a set of Hoppy Easter Cookie cutters with bunny, chick and egg shapes. I have done barely any baking with my son since his birth (Alas – I’m not one of those pinterest mums with immaculate shots of flour covered children grinning behind a gluten free Victoria sponge) but this has inspired me to give it a go this Easter. How hard can it be to make biscuits? And cup cakes? I’m sure there must be ready made packets – and I am sure my three year old would love12422340_662714813866722_21320537_o it – and we would all love eating them, that’s for sure!

Category 2: Arts and crafts, Easter style.

The Matalan Easter fun package also includes a set of decorate your own’ easter eggs with paints and stickers and a handy leaflet of how you can decorate the eggs – A wonderful idea for messy play.

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As well as this was a set of kids colouring pencils and a colour therapy colouring book. I have become hooked on colouring in to relieve stress over the last few weeks thanks to this book. So it’s not just the three year old having all the fun.

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Category 3: In the garden (spring has sprung)

Perhaps the most eggciting (I apologise) part of this Matalan Easter fun package has been the possibilities for fun in the garden now that spring is on its way and the weather is picking up.

Firstly it contained a gorgeous picnic blanket and cooler bag. We are in the process of moving house and will have a garden for the first time in years. The package also included a frisbee and a bubble set conjuring images of my boys having lots of fun in our new garden. The baby (eight months) will love the bubbles – I can’t wait.

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Even more exciting (and my favourite part of the set) was the garden magnifier and a bug keeper. Thanks to ‘what the ladybird heard’ and ‘superworm’ by Julia Donaldson, my three year old is quite taken with insects and tiny creatures. I can’t wait to explore our new garden with him and study the nature in it.

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Finally the Matalan Easter package has a large Easter Egg Hunt kit that includes bunnies with flags, four eggs, assorted flags and wooden sticks for setting up a super eggstravaganza of Easter egg hunt fun (apologies).

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Our house has been in turmoil over the last couple of weeks with illness and our impending house move – this package has given me lots of ideas to spend quality time with both my boys over the weekend, do things we have not done, and really enjoy Easter as a family – something which I am pretty sure I would not have thought about doing before.

That’s my Easter weekend sorted – Now I just need to go and buy some chocolate eggs and some cake mix for dummies! Thanks Matalan

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The rules of ill – when you have children

The real problem with not being very well off is that you don’t have the money to separate yourself from the other sick people in your house – or as some like to call them – the family.

It’s all about sharing – sharing without your consent. Sharing germs, sharing beds, sharing air, sharing bathrooms. You’re all sick, exhausted and horrendously unattractive and holed up in a house of shit like the last few humans hiding away during a zombie apocalypse.

The “ill” will more than likely originate from the child in the family – if you have a toddler who has a social life, basically, you’re screwed. He’s a little germ dealer you see. He will spend his time licking floor jigsaw puzzles, door handles and sticking his fingers in other children’s noses. While he’s out he will collect as many different strains of a virus as he can and settle down on your sofa before unleashing them into your household.

I never feel like a ‘mum’ – that title still doesn’t sit well on my shoulders. Until my child is ill. Suddenly a small person is vomiting all over my large textured rug, and over my duvet, and over the cat and I start screaming “it’s ok sweetie, it’s ok sweetie” running from wall to wall frantically looking for help and realising that no one is coming to help me. I’m it. I’m the mum. It’s my job, and mine alone – to mop up this spew and burn the rug and hose him down and throw out the cat.

You find yourself dealing with all manners of horror that you never thought you would be able to do before becoming a parent, and that are, by the way, never any less disgusting.

The next ten hours are a rollercoaster of emotions. You’ll go from assuming it’s just one of those things that children get, to Googling symptoms and terrifying yourself, to calling 111 in tears explaining that you really don’t want to bother anyone.

You’ll sit by their side with a thermometer testing their temperature every twenty minutes absolutely terrified that it’s something more sinister than a cold and wondering if you have any of this ‘mother’s instinct’ everyone bangs on about but you’re sure you don’t possess.

You get a Doctor’s appointment, which is a miracle in itself, because you have a tiny sick person as collateral. The doctor is lovely and you sob again because you’re exhausted from worrying. You feel like being a mother never gets easier – and here you are again dealing with a situation you have no qualifications to deal with.

It’s just a viral infection and it’ll pass in a couple of days.

A couple of days pass and you start to wonder if the little one is starting to milk this as it looks like a pretty nice life lying on the sofa all day, sipping strawberry milk, watching Peppa Pig on repeat.

And then you cough. The bastard has got you.

You feel wretched. You have complete sympathy with the toddler. You just want to crawl into bed and slowly die – but you can’t, because you’re the bloody mum. Who is there to make your chocolate milk and let you watch The Good Wife on repeat? No one.

Wait! I know who will look after me. My parents! They always looked after me when I was sick. So I call them – and prepare myself for the waves of sympathy that are about to wash over me. But – they have none.

They just ask if the children are ok and order me to bleach my surfaces. Not a euphemism.

So I look to my husband for sympathy and I may get a cup of tea and, if the stars align, a nap. Maybe we’ll get through this after all.

And then the husband comes down with the same thing. And once daddy pig gets it – you’re all doomed.

Don’t forget – the particular strain the man of the house gets is much more potent and deadly than yours or the children. You might have all been a little bit sick – but he has version 3.0 which is your minor illness times 987%.

The poor little lamb.

If you can survive this sick time together without clobbering your other half to death with a bottle of junior calpol then you can survive pretty much anything.

Weirdly the baby – the second born – will remain entirely unaffected during the entire sick period. He will bomb about with a grin on his face proving further that he’s not entirely human and has been sent to destroy you all.

Cough, sneeze, splutter.