Sobs, splits and super sweet blogs

Tired, snot-filled children, new routines, mountains of ironing, brain-ache logistical juggling. School’s back and don’t I know it.

I was very much looking forward to Littlest H starting nursery school last week. Dare I admit I was desperate for it.  Not only have I survived nine months full-time mum-ing (yay, I can do it), but (wait for it) I’ve actually enjoyed it.  But by the end of the summer holidays, I was definitely ready for a breather; some time-out from being just Mummy and Queen of my Domestic Realm.

Littlest H is so ready for nursery,” I told myself. “And he’ll love it – all his friends are going, he’ll see Little H at playtime, he’ll do cool new stuff, learn social skills away from me, etc. etc.

For someone who is supposedly of reasonable intelligence, I really do a great line in failing to think.  Or, at least, to think through. Usually at the very, very last moment, or, come to think of it, once something has just happened, I suddenly work it through in my head and realise it had consequences I wasn’t ready for.  I honestly try hard to learn from this, yet continually manage not to.

And so it was with nursery.  I rocked up with Littlest H on day 1, ready to drop and run with a cheery ‘see you later, gorgeous’ and a big hug.  Imagine my surprise when he clung like a limpet, had to be prised off me by his teacher, and wailed at top volume as he ran full pelt after me into the playground.  Versions of that have played out every day since – heart-wrenching sobs from him followed by slightly pathetic, trying-to-hide-it sobs from me round the corner.  They don’t make it easy for us, these little people. I know it’s good for him and his social skills / school readiness, I know he is fine a few minutes later, I know his anxiety won’t last forever.  But in the meantime, it’s a bit of a downer on the otherwise miraculous sudden appearance of that most precious parental commodity: Time To Oneself.

Funny how opening that pandora’s box almost makes having a couple of hours a day to myself feel worse than none.  It’s a bit like when you’re hunkered down in a massively busy work period and there’s no option, you just have to get on with it.  Once it’s over, the blinkers fall away and you see what a mess your life is in.  Having some quality me-time seems to have opened up a sealed away part of me and made me want more, almost (but not quite) to the point of resenting the kids once they are back again from midday onwards.  Weird, I know.  That too will pass.

I’m not complaining, mind you. It’s many years since I could attempt to train with any likelihood of actually achieving my aims.  I dutifully record my running split times and heart rate, noting how little my pace changes, how close to my max heart rate I normally am, and feeling slightly over-awed by trying to do anything about either.  I’m ruefully realising how long it is since I pushed myself out of my comfort zone physically. It’s easy enough to be all gung-ho in theory – talking a good game, signing up for races, downloading training plans, buying kit.  But getting out there and going faster for longer and more often than is enjoyable, hurts.  Really hurts. And my nearly 40 year old body is complaining. The knee support is back on, my feet are sore, my left hip aches.  Mental toughness seems to have seeped away as comfortably active years have sidled on.  I do have a pin up spurring me on though.

Look at those legs! That stomach!  Wow. I know, I know.  Aiming at an Olympic cyclist’s body is a teeny bit unrealistic, but hey, whatever keeps me going. (Picture: Guy Levy/BBC/PA)

And then there’s a gem of a surprise, a nomination from fellow blogger, Mrs D’s Maunderings, for a Super Sweet Blogger award.  Me? Really? Cool :-).  Apparently I, in return, have to answer a few questions and nominate my own bountiful bloggers – a happy virtuous circle of a process.  So see below for more on that, and wishing you happy days till next time.

1. Cookies or Cake – Cake all the way.  Home-made, moist, preferably a big wedge of it with a really good coffee. Often swayed by weird combos – last one was orange, pistachio and polenta.  Yum.

2. Chocolate or Vanilla – Tough call.  Really good vanilla is a total delight.  But then again…

3. What is your favourite sweet treat? – Too many to choose.  Most anticipated and savoured: a sweetly tart lemon tart, a warm, gooey chocolate brownie with ice-cream, crunchy, tart fruit crumble with custard… I’ll stop or I won’t be able to.

4. When do you crave sweet things the most? – 3 or 4 in the afternoon.  A lifetime of tea-time I can’t escape.

5. If you had a sweet nickname what would it be? – Little Miss Variety.  Nothing gets me more ridiculously excited than trying something new and exotic-sounding.

And … drum roll…my Baker’s Dozen super sweet blog nominees are…

Keeping up with the Holsbys for tasty treats and parental / general life chuckles

MrsMcIndoe for cool crafts and how they happen

A Detailed House for a plethora of house do-er up-er ideas, both cute and cool

The Book Sniffer for fab children’s picture book reviews. Find the new stuff before it’s even out there.

Playing by the Book for more cool kids books coupled with crafty fun to complement them

World Moms Blog for wonderfully diverse international takes on motherhood

The Bumble Files for posts that resonate and amuse

Brute Reason for an invariably forthright, often thought-provoking read

ClotildaJamCracker for hilarious, off-the-wall stories

Diapers or Wine, a recent discovery that I’m enjoying very much

Suburbia Interrupted for five kids craziness, and posts unafraid to tackle the underbelly of family life and relationships with humour and candour

From Mouths of Babes another recent find I’m enjoying getting into


And the Bad Daughter-in-law Award goes to…

Dear readers, I hang my head in shame.


Well, firstly, I under-estimated my parents-in-law (see here if you missed the incriminating post).  The courgette soup went down a storm, no unfinished bowls in sight.  Check out the recipe – it’s delicious.  I am particularly chuffed with the number of home-grown ingredients in my own effort – the garlic, onion, herbs, potato and courgette.  All we need is a cow for the cream and cheese and we’d be living ‘The Good Life’ all the way.




Secondly, so what that it took me an hour to find a menu that fit their needs?  Having a reason to do a proper search meant I worked hard to find something suitable and tasty that I wanted to cook.  The pleasure it gave them (and us) was worth it too – as it would be for any guest when they know you’ve made special effort to find something that suits their diet.  I should know – I’m pretty special needs myself, being wheat-free (mostly anyway) and preferrably limited dairy while I’m at it.  I don’t resent my friends who have restricted diets either, so why my parents-in-law, nurturers of my lovely hubbie?  Clearly, I’m just a horrible person.  Ten lashings to me.

Thirdly, grumpy daughter-in-law that I am, I grumpily omitted to reflect on the fact that they do at least try other foods, it’s just they’re not to their taste.  Who am I to judge that, hard though I clearly find it not to?  Yes, their tastes have undoubtedly been created by a lifetime of eating the same things, but that’s more about circumstance than anything else.  Doesn’t stop them being good people, they just are who they are.

Fourthly, I feel particularly mean given my father-in-law brought us such a beautiful sign for our allotment, hand-crafted by him using a rusty metal bird and flower we found in it when we first took the site on. It’s really lovely.  Now I have to get the allotment to live up to it.  (Check out the bounty of raspberries carried by Little H, too – yum!)

To turn my own knife in my own wound, he also spent all morning tearing down a dilapidated shed on the allotment, clearing up the mess and even sorting me out with a bench into the bargain.  My mother-in-law labelled all my daughter’s school clothes (yay, an evening telly job I don’t have to do before Wednesday).  You’d think I’d find it in my heart not to winge on about their food needs.  More lashings for me.

Finally, methinks I committed a cardinal blogging sin. Don’t write something you mind someone you know reading.  As a raised eyebrow-ed Mr H pointed out, I’ve made a pretty big assumption that my parents-in-law, or come to think of it all the other in-laws, don’t find my blog.  Let’s hope for my sake they don’t get lessons from my mum and turn into silver surfers.  Then I’m really in trouble.

Interestingly, I just read Surburbia Interrupted’s latest post musing on the opposite –keeping her blog readership specific so she can spout forth freely.  That made me ponder, but on further reflection I think I feel more comfortable applying one of the lessons of my working life: leave as few enemies as you can, you never know who will be your next boss or HR hiring manager.  Worth testing yourself out on these principles I think – let’s just hope I haven’t lead myself to divorce in the process…

Feeding time at the in-law zoo

Prosciutto wrapped chicken stuffed with herbs, courgette and tomato gratin, baby roast potatoes.  Sound good? It bloomin’ well better, it took at least an hour to come up with.

Only the in-laws coming to stay, but my fingers are increasingly worn by thumbing a mousepad or recipe books in preparation.  Finding a tasty meal I haven’t cooked for them a million times before that has no rice, no pasta, no couscous, no spice or heat, no fish, no vegetarian…  Phew – what’s left?  Red meat or chicken with pastry, potato or bread.  Crikey.  I’m bored just writing it let alone eating it for a lifetime.

I remember the first time they came for supper at our flat in London.  Mr H told me to keep it simple.  So I wracked my Jamie Oliver-addled brain and came up with mozzarella and tomato salad to start with, some kind of chicken with roast vegetables for main and who knows what for dessert.  Turns out that was the first ever taste of mozzarella for my now father-in-law. Lucky for me he loved it and apparently it became a firm favourite.  Bless them for keeping schtum for fear of offending their number one son’s new laydee.

Time has resulted in more honesty, or at least, more obvious signals.  I guess that’s good.  I don’t want them dreading coming to stay for fear of what I might put in front of them.   I did contemplate a chicken tagine this morning, wondering for a moment if cous cous might past muster.  Thankfully I saw sense.  Using up my bounty of potatoes from the allotment will be far more satisfying anyway.  I am insisting on putting courgette and potato soup onto them, though, which I’m pretty sure won’t become a favourite.  But we have marrows bigger than our kids’ legs to use up – I’ll risk unfinished bowls for getting the damn things off the kitchen windowsill.

How on earth can people survive with so much delicious food off the menu?  What on earth do they eat?!  Traditional simple British food – that oft maligned creature, dare I say it, with good reason.  It’s not that I don’t love the old classics, but I just can’t imagine not eating anything else.  Love the in-laws as I do, I find their food habits, well, a bit boring.  I probably have to ‘fess up to being a bit of a crazy one myself, loving rabbit food for breakfast, and generally salivating over health food shops and stupidly priced, funkily packaged ‘health foods’.   I’m obsessed with coffee and cake.  For a gal who shouldn’t eat wheat, I sure eat a lot of cake. And cookies. Gotta love the cookies.

Crazy how differently Mr H and I ate growing up and yet here we are, sharing a life, feeding our kids balsamic vinegar and vine-ripened tomatoes, curries and stir fries, pasta and parmesan.  Their idea of simple is home made pizza or fish fingers with home made potato wedges and carrots from the garden.  Not a white bread chip butty in sight.

What will they think of our eating habits when they become adults?  Will they look at us and shake their heads?  Will Jamie Oliver’s job be done in a generation’s time, or is that a middle class view of the world, where making meals fresh from scratch is the norm and ready meals a guilty secret?  I’d like to think so.  But the spread of obesity doesn’t suggest things are getting better.  Health scares seem to suggest virtually anything you eat will be bad for you in the end.  So what’s best?  Maybe it is about eating food you enjoy, enjoying the food you eat.  Within moderation of course. Or if not, then with exercise – you can’t beat the old energy in = energy out, however much I might try to sometimes.

And as for the kids, hopefully if we continue to give them tasty, varied fresh food without being militant about chips and chocolate, they will grow up to love the taste of food, enjoy trying new food, and even better to enjoy cooking for themselves and others.  We will see.  Time to go salt the marrows.