I was woken this morning by a tuneless strumming. Eventually I drag myself out of bed and put my head around Small Sprogs bedroom door. "Did you like it?" He says, smiling a big smile.
"Lovely!" I reply sleepily.
I look in on Tall Girl. He face says 'grump' all over it. I give her a wide and exaggerated smile and a jolly "Good morning!"
"Great noise to be woken up by" Was her retort as she nuzzled down in her bean bag, eyes glazing over, back to the land of MSN. Surely there can't be anyone online already?
Last night, whilst tidying up in the kitchen, I had put on an old CD. By coincidence it was called 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps', yes really! It has loads of old guitar tunes on, a few of which remind me of being at school, and I rediscovered it recently when looking for something else.
Small Sprog came into the kitchen and his eyes lit up. Minutes later he was back with his new Guitar. He drew up a chair, plonked himself on it and started to strum along. Track three came on. "I know this one!" He shrieked excitedly. I have no idea how he knew the words, it is almost as old as me, but anyway we both sang along together while he strummed and Jerry Rafferty valiantly attempted to keep us in key!
"Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you!" We pointed at each other and laughed. When the track ended Small Sprog put it on again and again. We kept singing, he strummed, it all got a bit raucous.
Tall girl appeared, having heard the noise, she managed to drag herself away from her computer. Normally she is my singing and dancing partner in the kitchen. She looked on in amazement. "Come and sing" I pleaded with her, holding my mobile up like a microphone, "Come on it's fun" She just laughed and went back up to her room. Small Sprog and I are no contender for MSN. It seems I have a new partner to be silly with.
Husband was the next one to join us in the kitchen. He surveyed the scene and then the CD cover with slight contempt. "Play this one" He says to Small Sprog as he changes the tune mid track.
"I don't like that one" Small Sprog complains
"It's a great track" Continues Husband, as he goes on playing bits and pieces of lots of different tracks, changing over and over again. All his favourites but not Small Sprogs.
Small Sprog looses interest and comes to look at a video I had taken of him earlier on the laptop. "I can't hear it on there" He says to me, and then he shouts to Husband "Can you turn the CD down?" But Husband refuses. Small Sprog looks disappointed. "Its ok" I say to him. "We'll look at it together later"
Eventually Small Sprog gets back control of the CD and puts his favourite track back on. We sing some more before bed, but the spell had been broken a little.
Later that night I run through the scenario in my head, Husbands behaviour, thoughtlessness and total lack of understanding that he is not the only person who has an opinion. It used to be a regular occurrence. Not in the same way, but the whole attitude, lack of thought for others and total disregard, although in his defence, I don't think he always realises that he is doing it.
For all of this year I have known that I am doing the right thing, but seeing him squash a happy Small Sprog, as he had crushed me in so many small ways before, just reinforced the confidence that I have that it is, and has been for so long, over. We all need to move on.
We visited a local farm yesterday, it used to be a favourite heaven for us but closed down sometime ago. We were all so pleased to see it had reopened recently.
Before going though, we went to the guitar shop to buy Small Sprog a guitar. He is starting lessons after half term and already has his sights set on setting up a band with his best friend who plays drums.
Anyway, he was as pleased as punch as the lovely man who owned the shop, sat him down and gave him a little lesson on how to sit and how to look after it properly. He took it all very seriously, and as we left the shop, I noticed how carefully was carrying it. When we reached the car he asked me to pass it to him, after he'd negotiated climbing into the back. He really did look as though he cared about his new guitar, bless him. Long may it last.
All the way out of Bristol though, Tall Girl and I were serenaded. It wasn't too bad, no where near as bad as someone learning to play the violin, but by the time we'd cleared the city and were heading out to the country Tall Girl was eager (desperate) to turn on the radio. When we arrived at the farm Small Sprog, ever so carefully, slipped it back into its case and ordered me to put his precious guitar in the boot. "And don't blame me if it gets stolen!" He said as I stashed it safely away. I assured him I wouldn't.
We had a great time at the farm, falling in love with pot bellied pigs and feeding Shetland ponies. As we ate our picnic, a little robin flew onto our table and stole some crumbs, right before our eyes, it felt a little magical. "Where's the robin now?" I asked a little later
"In the bush" Small Sprog replied
"The green one"
"They're all green!" I exclaimed as I looked around at several holly bushes. Was he joking, you never can tell?
As I took the Mr. Kipling's Halloween Fondant Fancies out of the bag and offered them around, Small Sprog looked at them longingly and chirped up "Not one trick but allll treat!"
"Did you get that off the telly?" I asked
He shook his head. I'm still not convinced, it seemed like such a good advertising line. Perhaps he'll be 'big' in marketing one day, that or Guitar Rock Hero I guess!
PS. I am at mums until Sunday, so unless I can sort out her Internet it's withdrawal symptoms for Tall Girl and I! See you soon I hope.
I have spent roughly two hours cleaning Tall Girls stinky pre-teen bedroom this morning, I have cleaned, dusted, tidied, organised and hoovered. It looks and smells much sweeter now.
I cajoled her into the shower sometime later, and feeling that my work was done, came downstairs for a welcome cup of tea. Oh the joy of having a messy teenager!
After pottering around downstairs for a while I decided to go and have another look at my mornings work, sometimes it is satisfying to survey the scene. However there were already clothes on the floor together with her towel and PJ's. Should I get her back upstairs to put it all away? I didn't have the strength.
As I picked up her towel I noticed her mobile phone was underneath. I looked at it a moment. Just one little look?
Now I have to explain, and think I may have done before, that when I was about her age I kept a diary, a very personal one, full of teen angst and boyfriends, until my step father took it and read it. It led to endless arguments and accusations, everything was held against me. I never kept a diary again, until now. So, knowing how it feels to be violated like that, I have always vowed never to do such a thing. But as I saw her phone I hesitated. Just one little look?
Sometimes I leave my phone lying around, though mostly it is close by. I rarely delete texts, unless my phone is full. Most of them are from the same sender, my other life. Some of them say...
Just one little look? I couldn't help myself. I picked up her phone, selected messages, then 'In box' and scrolled down. Jack. Jack. Jack.... All from the same sender. I select one to read.
"Be on line in 10. Ly" I caught my breath, smiled and put down her phone. It felt so familiar. It is so strange. She is a dark horse. I am still smiling inside.
Our day out yesterday seemed to go pleasantly on forever. We walked, talked and picnicked in the sun. The younger children took off their wellies and socks and paddled about in muddy puddles, hands went in too. I relish the way they are free to play like this. The older two strutted about a bit, as is their pre teenage way, they too would have paddled in muddy pools, once.
Later we bonded over the dining table, 8 of us happily eating together, no formalities, no pretence, confident in
each others company.
By the time Tall Girl, Small Sprog and I returned home it was dark and I couldn't wait to get Small Sprog in the bath to scrub off the mud. There is a certain joy, from a mothers point of view, of having a clean Small Sprog! Once clean and out though, he was off and looking for fun. It was nearly bedtime but I did have one thing waiting to do with him. I produced two yogurt pots and some string. He smiled gleefully, he'd been asking to do
this for ages, we made holes and attached the string.
His face lit up when it worked, string stretched tightly, him in the hall and me in the kitchen. We played for a while, then suddenly he said
"Just a minute"
"What's the matter" I asked, and then I realised.
He put his yogurt pot on his bottom and farted into it!
Can you believe it? A massive great big one.
And do you know what? It resounded in my ear as
though I was right next to him. Lovely. I suspect he's
As I write I can hear Small Sprog, upstairs, singing at the top of his voice. He is happy.
I was unpacking the shopping in the kitchen earlier and a whole lot of chocolates fell out. His eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. I have probably eaten half my body weight in chocolate this weekend, force fed obviously, but he suddenly looks as if he hasn't eaten a sweet for weeks. He pounced on them. "Where did you get them from?" He asked
"Where I have been this weekend" I replied. He was satisfied, he gazed at the brilliant shiny wrappers.
"What's in this one?" He said, and I went through each, guessing at what was inside, toffee, fudge, caramel. He took a toffee one, grinning from ear to ear.
"I hoovered the hall yesterday" he said through a mouthful of toffee and chocolate. He looked pleased with himself
"Gosh, did you?"
"It was fun"
Perhaps I should get him to do it regularly.
"Can I sweep the floor now?"
I look at the kitchen floor. It certainly hadn't been swept for a good few days. "OK" I reply.
So he zooms around on his broom, sweeping frantically backwards and forwards.
"Can you just sweep in one direction?" I pleaded, as the debris was swept from one end of the kitchen to the other. He got the hang of it in the end, almost.
Tall Girl shouts from upstairs "Smaaaaaaall Sprog"
"Tall Girl has put the shower on for you" I state, relieved that I can now sort out the sweeping. So off he runs. I hear him burst into the bathroom. I breath deeply.
It wasn't long before I heard him burst back out. "Muuuuuummy!"
"There's a spider under my dressing gown"
As I climb the stairs I wonder if this is a 'real' emergency or whether he has rediscovered his stash of plastic spiders. I look him in the eye as I get to the top of the stairs. He face is alight, animated and bright. I give him the same look, and we both giggle as we enter into the bathroom together.......
I texted my daughter this morning to find out what she was up to while I'm away. She and Small Sprog are with their father this weekend. "I am ok. Daddy is still ill" was about the gist of it. I am hoping I will not have to go home because he cannot cope.
Daddy is still ill. This time, as often happens, it is his stomach. He is hungry but won't eat, therefore it is a self fulfilling prophesy. I have been waiting for this to happen. It is a little early but, at the same time, a predictable event, which could almost be calculated on the kitchen calender. Daddy is ill, it may last sometime.
I'm not sure the children really notice, a year is a long time when you are their age, but it has been a regular event roughly since Tall Girl was born. The 'illness' starts around Tall Girls birthday, or the clocks changing and it lasts until just after Christmas. Each year it is different, more severe some years than others. I believe it is all in his head, brought on from echos of childhood events, yet he barely seems to remember being ill at the same time the previous year.
This was last years event. I'm not sure how this years one will pan out. He is stressed, we are all stressed, living there together. I am hoping against hope that his mood may spur him into making the required change, but really I know that depression immobilises you and makes decisions difficult. I find myself out of control of my own life again. I wonder what will happen?
Yay! It's nearly the weekend and schools out! Well almost out, as we have an inset day tomorrow. Husband is having the children this weekend and I'm looking forward to some time away, although looking forward is often the hard bit. When you're single you can plan ahead, I so want to plan ahead and look forward, but once children come into the equation it's different. What happens if they're ill, or need me or... Anyway, I am looking on the bight side and hoping things will be fine. I am very much looking forward to my weekend.
Next week, when Husband has returned to work, my children are mine, all mine. We haven't got much planned, just tentative arrangements with friends, but I am looking forward to a fair few days of not having to be on the hamster wheel, no early mornings, no school pick-ups, no after school events. Just time. Time to spend doing not much in fact. I think all our batteries need recharging, and Tall Girl is hormonal now, so hopefully she can take that out on her dad and will be fine by the time I get her!
"What are you going to do for Christmas" My mother asks for the umpteenth time.
"I have no idea" I reply truthfully, for I really don't. I live a week at a time right now. I cannot plan, so much is beyond my control, or so it seems.
"Well you know you are welcome" She says soothingly. Yet it does not sooth.
For as long as I have had children I have tried to avoid being at home for Christmas Day. It is all to do with my Step Father, I do not wish to spend it with him, especially with my children. He drinks, he becomes inappropriate, I do not wish to be there.
For years I have beaten around the bush. I have never really said outright that I don't want to spend Christmas at home. I have used the children as an excuse. They need to be in their own home, I would say, as indeed they do.
The consequence of this is that Mum has always come to me for Christmas, leaving my Step Father at home, because even if asked, he would never come. Doing so would mean my mother would make him drive and then he couldn't drink.
However this means she comes alone on Christmas Eve and goes home to cook dinner with him at about 3pm on Christmas Day. It has worked, in the past, but I know it is not her ideal Christmas. She has always wanted to do the Whole Family Celebration in her home. Part of me has always wanted to point out that she made her bed therefore has to lie in it! But I have not.
I can't believe she thinks I would rather be in her house. Even though there is a very real possibility that Husband and I may be here together, which is unthinkable in it's self, even so I still have no wish to run to her house. And anyway, I can't take the children away from their father on Christmas Day, unless we have negotiated it. Which we have not, yet.
I grab the bull by the horns "We won't be with you Christmas Morning" I say, assertively "But you know you are still welcome here"
I know she won't come here, we have already discussed it. She avoids Husband at all costs. "I don't like being anywhere where there is an atmosphere" She states
"I have to put up with it all the time" I say bitterly.
I feel unsupported by her. Perhaps I am being unfair.
She looks disappointed, she has always seen her grandchildren on Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning. I think about the alternative, I know I cannot do it. "Most Grandparents see their grandchildren in their own home some Christmases" She says petulantly.
I am reminded that we are, both of us, 'Only Children'.
I have to state my case "But what about Dad?" I say, I do call him that, funny really "He won't be able to cope with the children, there will be breakfast at a certain time, dinner at a certain time. We like to take the day as it comes, sometimes we're still in our pyjamas until lunchtime! I want to be able to relax" There, I've said it.
She is Hurt. I should make her feel better but I have no wish to. I feel selfish. Again. I know that if I do as she wants I will feel very, very lonely in her house on Christmas Day, it is all about self preservation, but I cannot say that, I cannot make her feel better. Sometimes I don't think she has any grasp of how I feel and what major stuff I need to deal with before I get to where I want to be; divorced and independent. Perhaps I am being too harsh?
When she has gone I ask the children if they want to spend Christmas with Granny, I thought that perhaps I should. "No" They chorus. At least I have done the right thing for them.
Sometimes I worry abut what I am doing to my children. I worry about what memories they will grow up with, memories about me, about their life. Will they remember this last 9 months above all else? Will they remember how mummy goes away a lot now? Will they remember me being cross? Will they feel abandoned?
Today I am torn. Husband is away, as he was last weekend and I have the opportunity to spend 3 nights in with my children and 2 sunny days together. Last night we watched a film and had popcorn together, but today they don't seem at all bothered about what they do, they are happy to sit around watching TV, and Tall Girl is happy on her PC as I am on mine. But I am torn. Shouldn't I be 'entertaining' them? I have suggested various outings. They don't seem to mind what they do, but I feel guilty if I don't 'provide' them with a lasting and fun memory.
Later today mum is coming to visit. Part of me wishes she wasn't. I am torn again, trying to 'entertain' her and also 'be there' for the children. She wants to sit and chat, I feel I should be 'doing something' with Small Sprog and Tall Girl.
Mum is coming primarily to babysit so that I can go out tonight. Yesterday I broke the news to Tall Girl "But it's X Factor on Saturday night" She moans "I want to watch it with you"
"Well I'll watch the first half with you before I go out, and you can watch the end with Granny"
"But I want to watch all of it with you, it won't be the same with Granny"
And I know what she means. And I feel guilty. I should be here for her. Husband is rarely away and I don't get the chance to sit with her in front of the TV very often.
But I want to go out, I want to live my life, yet at the same time, I am acknowledging that I do that often these days. I feel selfish. I feel I am doing the wrong thing for everyone. And even as I am writing this I know I am just seeking permission.
PS. I went out, after putting Small Sprog to bed, leaving Tall Girl happily tucked up on the sofa with her Granny. She was happy, I was free.
Tall Girl made Guacamole tonight to go with Fajitas for dinner. She is quite adept in the kitchen now, and can follow a simple recipe without help or fuss. She's even got over her fear of sharp knives! I like having her company in the kitchen, we have fun.
She didn't even moan tonight when the onions made her eyes water, though it made quite a mess of her mascara! Gosh, mascara on a Friday night on MSN. I fear there is a boy involved!
Anyway, as she was whizzing up the ingredients in the mini food processor, I was suddenly taken aback. It only seems like yesterday that I went to buy the mini processor, bought especially to liquidise her baby food, all lovingly home cooked and mashed to a pulp just for her. I was barely a mother then, practicing on her, my first born, and not always getting it right. I'm sure her fussiness with food is because I liquidised everything for far too long!
And here I am still practising, yet there she is, so confident and full of youth and promise.
The hypochondriac in me reared its ugly head last night and lured me into the twilight world of NHS Direct! I should not have succumbed. I blame my mother really, well when all else fails, who else is there to blame?!
I have been feeling pretty exhausted over the last few days and can't shake off my cold and I was saying as much to mum on the phone. She mentioned seeing the Dr. I said that I thought I was more likely to catch something worse if I sat in the waiting room for hours, so she mentioned the NHS direct alternative.
So, later in the evening, when I noticed nasty spots on the back of my throat, the thought was already in my head. I know, I thought, I'll ring NHS Direct. So I did, and after some consultation the lovely lady, (She was not a nurse, I hadn't got that far into the system) on the end of the phone, directed me to the Pandemic Flu website.
'But I haven't got flu' I said.
'Try them anyway' she answered 'I think you should'.
At the website you have to fill in a questionnaire about symptoms. While I was doing it I was also on the phone, perhaps I should have concentrated a little more. At the end of the form I was told I had flu and it gave me a unique code to pick up some antivirals. 'I don't need antivirals!' I said to the screen, but under the code, in highlighted writing, it said that it if you didn't pick them up, you wouldn't be offered them a second time, naughty girl. Well it didn't say that exactly but...
Bum, I thought. So I rang the help line. The lovely man told me that if I didn't pick them up, but then needed them at a later date, I'd had my chips. Only one chance per person.
'Even though I don't need them now?'
'Even though you don't need them now' He repeated
So, next time you hear the news about the rapid rise in swine flu statistics, don't believe a word of it, anyone can self diagnose on the website and be counted in as squealing like a little piggy!!
Today I went off to my nearest collection point, driving licence in hand, to collect my Tamiflu. I felt a complete fraud. All I wanted was something for a sore throat! Although, I have to say, the hypochondriac in me is feeling very smug about being prepared! Black market Tamiflu anyone?!
It is my mothers birthday today, Tall Girl had a great idea of what to do with her on her special day. Fame (I'm gonna live forever... quite apt for a birthday don't you think?!), at the local cinema. Mum was thrilled, she loved the original and was very happy with Tall Girls suggestion. I should have let them go alone really!
For a start, there was poor Small Sprog. Well there was no one else to leave him with, so he had to go too. He was very good, he suffered in almost complete silence! That is the second film I've had to drag him to for my mums sake. I bought him a large carton of sweets as compensation and prayed that he didn't throw up before the final credits.
As for me, I am still feeling under the weather with a cold type thingy, and it is making me feel a bit 'low', so I sobbed through most of it!! Yes, sobbed. Thank goodness I sob quietly, I mean for goodness sake, what on earth is there to cry about in Fame (I'm gonna live forever...)? Luckily I could sob into my hankie without too much of a problem, blaming my cold for the runny eyes and nose blowing. How embarrassing. I fear there is just too much emotion flying about at the moment. Either that or I am slowly tipping over the edge...
You would have thought I would have learnt by now. I have made many 'notes to self' about it, DO NOT ring mother when fed up!
It's hard to break the habit though. When I was younger, I often turned to her for support, now I am aware she is judging me, not really understanding, and then worrying about me worrying!
"When you write your Christmas cards" She says, her voice on a high note, under the deluded impression that talking about Christmas might cheer me up. "When you write your Christmas cards..."
What?! I want to shout, Christmas, CHRISTMAS? I nearly drop the phone! How can she expect me to even be thinking of Christmas yet? I am trying to ignore it for as long as possible this year, the whole fortnight of festivities, all here together in the house, well, it's just unthinkable. Yet I know it will come about, and it will have to be negotiated. At the moment I can only think about one thing at a time, and Christmas cards are way down the list, believe me.
"When you write your Christmas cards to Auntie Never-was and Uncle Not-relateds, do you think you can sign them ambiguously?"
"Well, I haven't told them you see, about your divorce. I'll tell them when it's all over, I don't want to bother them with it now"
Oh for goodness sake is on the tip of my tongue!
For a start, Auntie Never-was and Uncle Not-related and their various clones are all long standing friends of my mothers and nothing very much to do with me. We have exchanged cards for as long as I can remember, and it is only 'tradition' that keeps them on the card list, year after year. They all became Aunties and Uncles when I was old enough to speak my first words and it was impolite to use Christian names when you were little, all that time ago. I'm sure you have some of them somewhere yourself? A dying generation of un-relateds. Thank goodness my children will never have any of them, just first names here!
She doesn't want to bother them with it? I can feel my patience dwindling. "What do you want me to write then?" I retort through gritted teeth.
"Instead of using all your names" She suggested "How about 'from all of us' that would cover a multitude"
The phrase reeled off her tongue in a trice, an instant solution! It was then that I realised that she had had it all planned out! I had been 'Tangoed'! All she was waiting for was my call. The most pressing item on her agenda for the day was 'Suburbias Embarrassing Situation'! Harrumph!
Do you think you can you just pass me that unopened packet of Christmas Cheer please? Now what was that phrase again?
I have enjoyed some quality time with Tall Girl today, we have been out and about together, having dropped Small Sprog at his very best friends house. I love time with TG. She is great company when she is not hormonal!
I also find that time in the car, en route to somewhere, is a good time to talk things over. We spoke about the current situation at home, which, I have to say, she seems to be coping with admirably. We discussed moving house (I now know that we cannot stay in our house as it needs to be sold for the divorce settlement) and we looked at some prospective areas of Bristol, weighing up their various advantages and disadvantages.
When we arrived home this evening, just the two of us, she said that she was really looking forward to moving house! She said that she had told her friends as much (I am thankful that she has friends to share her troubles with) and she said that they were surprised. We both acknowledged that living as we do was not conducive to a happy life. I explained that we could only move if Daddy put the house on the market, and that I'd asked him to do it soon.
As an aside, I have explored renting and the cost would be far more than I earn a month, so I would have to pay for the rent with savings, however I can't touch them, because they are part of the settlement. What a vicious circle? At the same time, I can't get housing benefit, because the savings are in my name for tax purposes. At the moment, I have discovered, we are stuck.
Anyway, we wait on Husband to put the house on the market. If he does not, we are very, very stuck, and I don't know what I will do.
However, I didn't say all of this to Tall Girl, I tried to be positive.
''You get on so much better with Daddy now don't you?'' I said '' You do so much more together that you did before'' He was never really involved in family life at weekends unless we all four went out on a day trip together.
''Yes'' She said with a smile ''I used to be scared of him''
Scared of him? She said it in a matter of fact way. It took me by surprise, I always felt that I was the peace keeper, he was often sharp, but I had no idea she had felt like this. The more I contemplate it the more I am shocked. It sounds so Victorian, to be frightened of your father.
They do seem to get on well now. She is his confidante, at last he can see and appreciate her worth.
But the more I think about it the more it worries me. A leopard never changes his spots. How long will it be before he reverts to type? How long will it take before he gets fed up with her?
In the future I will not be there with them both to calm the waters. I hope, as she matures, she can stand up for herself, though I fear she may not as I am not good at it with him. I hope she will not just see him out of duty. I hope she tells me if things aren't right.
Last night, Small Sprog was pestering me to play conkers with him. ''Just once'' I say, because I'm tired and seem to have a never ending list of chores to do, and things on my mind. I feel guilty for not really wanting to. He seems pleased that I have agreed to play. Perhaps this is because he knows that once he engages my attention, I will actually enjoy it and forget my tiredness. Perhaps he has seen me down a few glasses of wine, knowing that soon they will take effect and I will be as happy and silly as him!
He wanders off into the kitchen
I can hear him scrabbling about in the Kitchen drawers. I know he is trying to make a hole in my conker, so that he can fix the string. I know I should help.
I am tired.
There are some banging and scraping noises in the other room, lots of grunting and a bit of sawing. There is silence and then more banging, some scrabbling around, but no cries for help! After a few minutes I stop what I am doing and go reluctantly into the kitchen.........just in case.
But no need. He has successfully made a hole and a knot and presents me with my prize winning conker. I look at his tools. The end of the whisk from the electric mixer, a huge carving fork, scissors and a knife. There is no blood. There is not even a scratch on the worktop, he has used a chopping board! He has grown up, and I hardly noticed.
We played conkers - his way - and as the wine began to unwind my soul, we abandoned the conkers and played air guitar to very loud music. We had fun.