A Beginner’s Guide to Taking Care of Children

I write this on the sofa, with Husband and the kids nearby in the kitchen and garden. There is A LOT of shouting and shrieking. If you lived next door, you may even be tempted to think that there were six or seven kids being tortured. There is fighting and crying and the yelling of ‘Mama Mama’. Now, I love being a Stay-At-Home-Mum but at the weekends I do like an hour to myself on the computer.

Maybe I should hide in the guest room, but I don’t. I stay in the living room (our sofa is really comfy) and listen to World War 3. Husband says that it is not his fault. He is not used to taking care of the kids. He does not know how to handle the kids like I do. The children do not listen to him like they listen to me. So, this post is dedicated to my Husband. If any of you go through a similar issue, please feel free to pass this on to your partner. This obviously isn’t just for dads, but for the parent who spends less time with the kids.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Taking Care of Children

1. Put Down Your iPhone/Smart Phone/Newspaper. It is tough taking care of children if you are not paying attention to what they are doing.
2. When you see your children misbehaving, kindly ask them to stop. Perhaps offer them instruction on how to act nicely.
3. Take note of the time of day that your children eat every weekend. Your toddler might be less grumpy if you don’t wait until 1pm to figure out what to make them for lunch.
4. Children require a certain amount of water to stay hydrated. Expect some lethargy and leg pains come bedtime if they only drink one glass of water during the day.
5. Although children love fruit shoots and crisps, this does not constitute a healthy meal. Children should be given fruit and vegetables. Really. They. Should.
6. You may be tired from working all week, but you are not the only one. Do more than your share, without being pestered nagged asked.
7. There is no need to shout at the kids. Yes, it has been a trying weekend of activities, tantrums and lack of sleep. But the shouting leads to crying which leads to the yelling of ‘Mama Mama’. This leads to Mama getting grumpy.
 8. Children do not need to watch television constantly. They actually enjoy drawing, or playing in the garden, amongst many other things.
9. Learn where your children’s clothes are kept. Is there anything more annoying than your partner asking where the kids’ pyjamas are located? I think not.
10. After spending a day/weekend helping take care of the children, do not make any comments about how you are looking forward to going back to work on Monday. Not. Funny. At. All.


How NOT to Raise a Mummy’s Boy

Have any of you ladies ever dated a Mummy’s boy (that’s Mama’s boy for my American peeps)? Maybe you even married one? Well, I dated one for almost a year and it was one of the worst relationships I have ever been in. Part of it was that he was an arse, but another part was that he was a mummy’s boy. He was 25 and still living with his mother. Nowadays, due to the high cost of housing, this is more common. But it wasn’t so cool back then. I can’t express how I loathed my morning walks of shame.

And now I have a son of my own. A sweet, affectionate, clingy mummy’s boy. I know I must do whatever I can to help him grow up into his own man. I will be doing him a disservice if he cannot love another woman as much as he loves me. Obviously if he is gay, then this is a moot point as I will remain his number one gal. *smiles longingly*  So I thought I would write a guide to not raising a mummy’s boy. I have no expertise, just a lot of natural know-it-all ways.

raising boys

How Not To Raise a Momma’s Boy (or The Dos and Don’ts of Raising a Good Boyfriend)
1. Don’t continually tell your son that no woman will ever love him as much as you do.
2. Don’t keep wiping your son’s ass/nose even though he is 10 years old.
3. Do teach your son how to cook and how to wash his own clothes. There is nothing like the gift of self-dependency. On a related not, teach him how to make a killer cocktail.
4. Don’t iron your son’s underpants. This is something no boy/man should ever get accustomed to.
5. Do not let your son think it is okay to wear white socks with dress shoes. This will never be in fashion. Never, I say.
6. Do teach your son the importance of foot rubs. If your son insists on watching sports, teach him that each match/game watched equates to one foot rub to be given. Obviously your son will need to practice on you so that he perfects his foot massage techniques. You are welcome future girlfriends/boyfriends!
7. Do let your son know that it is okay to cry or show emotion in front of others. It’s a new age people. Men no longer have to be strong and silent. BUT, it is not okay to cry if you see a spider.
8. Do teach your son to compliment others. Whether you are being wooed or have been together 20 years, a lady likes to hear that she looks pretty. Do teach your son how to compliment. Acceptable: ‘that’s a nice dress, you look beautiful’. Not Acceptable: ‘you’re pretty, for a bigger girl’.
9. Do teach your son that only babies should act like babies. Babytalk is not cool. Unless you are a baby. Hearing a teenage boy talk to his mother in babytalk (or vice versa) makes me physically ill.
10. Do teach your son that there is no one like his mother. No point looking for perfection. 😉 But if he looks real hard, he may find someone pretty darn nice.


The Know-It-All Mum

You are probably expecting that I will tell you about a mum who was acting like a know-it-all, or maybe I’m writing about an overall loathing of parents who act like they are walking parenting books. But alas my friends, this post is about me. I am the know-it-all. *looks down in shame* I used to dole out advice about sleeping and eating and discipline as if I was the reincarnated Dr Spock.

When I had my daughter, just over six years ago, I found the first three months to be quite stressful. But then at 11 weeks old, Moozles began sleeping through the night (in her cot in her own room). It was amazing. And when I began weaning her at 5 1/2 months, she took to eating without any problems. She ate just about everything, practically every meat and every vegetable. She began talking at 20 months, and by the age of two she knew all the colours and could count to 10. She skipped the Terrible Twos entirely. There were no tantrums. We used to take her to very nice restaurants where she would eat from the adult menu, sit nicely, do some colouring and not make a mess. She was such a ‘good’ child. And I surmised that I was obviously a good parent.

Boy, was I wrong. What I was, was lucky. Two years ago we had our darling son, Dubz. And now the truth has finally sunk in. Dubz did not sleep through the night til he was 10 months old. Although he ate everything at first, he is quite picky, even sometimes turning his nose up at pizza. Pizza! Some days he will eat broccoli, some days he won’t. Most of his food ends up on the floor. He began his foray in the Terrible Twos at 22 months old. He will shout and shriek and hit. We have occasionally gone out for meals at Pizza Express and Wagamama but have spent the entire time counting down until we can leave.

But Dubz is not bad. And I am not a bad parent. Every child is different. This is the biggest lesson I have learned since having two children. There is no good or bad. Some children are more spirited. Then again, Moozles has more than made up for her lack of Terribles Twos by having an extreme case of the Ferocious Fives. 

So the next time you feel like giving someone parenting advice, ask yourself if the advice is needed. You do not have a perfect child. There is no perfect child. Some children sleep better than others. Some eat everything, and some only eat bread or sausages. Sometimes we genuinely need advice. But sometimes we all appreciate some understanding when we are complaining about our children. Advice is not always wanted. 

10 Years of Wedded Bliss (Mostly, Cause Sometimes I Want to Murder Him)

10 Years of Wedded Bliss (Mostly, Cause Sometimes I Want to Murder Him)

Today is my 10-year wedding anniversary, so I thought I would take a trip down memory lane. People often ask me how I met my British husband so I thought I would write a post chronicling how I convinced Husband that he couldn’t live without me.

In April 2000, I left San Diego, California to study for a Master’s degree in Paris. To be perfectly honest, it was not the studying that interested me. I was 24 and wanted an adventure. And I fancied a romance with a Parisian man. I lived in a dorm-type accommodation with other foreign students. I stopped attending classes after a couple of weeks. I partied with my new friends. I spent my days exploring Paris and practicing my French. I did lots of flirting and even had a date with a Frenchman (who was so boring I had to dodge his phone calls for weeks after). 

But at the dorm, I had met a boy. A British boy. And a boy he was. He was 22, scruffy and awkward. But he was witty and funny and cute and sweet and generous. His room was three doors down from mine so we would chat and hang out loads. But I was too afraid to ruin our friendship, so I did not tell him how I felt. I did instigate a pact where we agreed to marry if we were still single when I turned 40 (and he turned 38), so I figured I could someday make him mine. I only lived in Paris for four months. My dad was having some health problems so I flew back to California, in July 2000, to be with him and my mom. The night before I flew back to the USA, after everyone was partied out, we were the last two awake. For hours. And for hours we talked, but nothing else. I kicked myself later for not being brave enough to kiss him.

We remained friends and emailed often. In June 2001, my British friend came to visit me in San Diego. There were so many butterflies when I saw him. But again, I was not brave enough to tell him how I felt. A few days after his arrival, we went to Arizona to visit another friend we had made in Paris. And there, my now-husband was fueled and emboldened by his birthday drinks, and kissed me. Apparently he had had a crush on me since Paris but had been worried about destroying our friendship.

We did the long-distance thing for 10 months, which included daily phone calls and three visits. In that time, I managed to finagle a two-year working holidaymaker visa. Before I moved to London in May 2002, Husband and I agreed that we would stay in the UK for three years then we would move to California. I am obviously not called Californian Mom in California, so you see how the story went.

Husband and I got married in 2004, at Coombe Abbey in Warwickshire. I can’t believe I managed to plan our wedding in eight months, while working full-time and getting my Master’s part-time. But it was lovely, and we enjoyed sharing such a special day with our family and friends.

We married on the day my visa expired. This probably looked more than a bit dodgy. And since my visa had expired, I had to leave the UK to get a spousal visa. So we had a mini-honeymoon in Vienna (we had our proper honeymoon in July, during my university holidays, in Kenya). After a nerve-wracking interview at the British Embassy, where I was terrifyingly quizzed on my new-Husband  (by myself in a tiny room, behind glass), I was granted a visa (despite not knowing the law qualification that Husband had attained).

Ten years after we were married, I am still madly in love with Husband. He is a wonderful friend and father. And despite sometimes wanting to murder him (like when I’m picking his pants up from the floor or when I’m trying to sleep and he’s snoring like a bear), I look forward to many more years with him.

10 Years of Wedded Bliss (Mostly, Cause Sometimes I Want to Murder Him) 10 Years of Wedded Bliss (Mostly, Cause Sometimes I Want to Murder Him)

Going On Holiday with a Toddler

I booked this week’s holiday to Dorset about two months ago. We didn’t have a holiday last year so this break was much-needed. The trouble is, when you haven’t been away in a while, is that you forget the difficulties of a holiday. Gone are the non-children-having holidays. I used to pack for my husband and myself before jetting off to somewhere cool and hip. Then we’d eat all our meals out, drink lots of booze, have lots of sex and sleep-in. 

Oh, how times have changed. These days my poor old Husband must pack for himself because I have to pack for myself and both kids. I also have to pack snacks and various essential items. I almost never forget anything for the kids. But I often forget things that I need. This trip, I forgot to pack socks and panties for myself. Ugh.

So if you are pregnant, or have a baby, and want to know what to really expect from your holiday with a toddler, here it goes:

1. Most likely, you will stay in the country as you can’t face to take your toddler on an airplane. Not all toddlers are terrors when flying. By the time my daughter was four, we had taken her to the USA twice, The Seychelles, Spain, Malta and Guam. My son, who is 23 months old, doesn’t even have a passport. The thought of taking him on an airplane sends shivers down my spine.
2. Rather than going to a cool, boutique hotel, you will be staying in a self-catering cottage/apartment/caravan.

3. There is NO sleeping in. You will wake up at your usual time of 6.00am because that is when your children will wake up. You could try alternating sleeping-in with your partner, but the shrieks will keep you from falling back to sleep. However, your partner will be able to sleep through the cries, as always. My husband actually sleeps better as he can then sleep diagonally across the bed.
4. Rather than wandering around the area aimlessly or going shopping or looking at art galleries, you are exploring all the nearest farms and playgrounds.

Who has time to sightsee, we have playgrounds to discover?!

5. You will then rush back to your ‘home’ so that the toddler can nap in their travel cot in the afternoon. If you have just the one child, this is when you can relax. If you have another/more children, then it’s time for more ‘fun’. 
I don’t want to nap, I want to play all day long.
6. You will eat most of your meals at your holiday home. Not to save money, but to save the embarrassment.
Yes, I’m normally quite a greedy toddler but I’ll just play with Daddy’s wallet on the restaurant floor then demand food when we get into the car.
7. You won’t be packing lingerie for this trip – but you will need plenty of nappies, wet wipes, games and books.

8. There are no boozy late nights. No lie-ins. No sex. But there is ice-cream. *sobs into ice-cream* 
9. You are having fun and making lovely family memories. There’ll be time for the ‘other stuff’ when the kids are teenagers and no longer want to go on holiday with us. And by then, I should be well into menopause so no worrying about birth control. Silver linings, people. Silver linings!


The Stinky Truth about Parenting

As parents, we are quick to offer guidance to other parents. We want to impart our knowledge and help others prepare for the rigours of raising children. Take potty training. Everyone has some advice on it. But I feel that there is something no one is talking about. After one’s child is potty trained, parents act like there are no more issues with poo. I wish this was the case.

We eat out as a family often, probably once a week at the weekends. But in all the pics of our family meals that I post on Facebook, there is one thing I leave out. 
During this meal
and during that one.

Inevitably, halfway during my main course, my daughter Moozles (who is almost six), informs me that she needs to do a poo. So down goes the fork or chopsticks. And I brace myself. In the toilet, I am required to stand in my daughter’s stall. And I must listen and watch and smell. Finally we are able to return to our table. But it is very difficult to enjoy my food now. The sounds and smells are so fresh in my mind.

So the next time you are at a restaurant with your family, and you see a glum mum going to the loo with her child, think of me and be glad that you get to sit and enjoy your meal.

So, I Have Two Kids, What On Earth Do I Do Now?

So, I Have Two Kids, What Do I Do Now?Continuing from my previous post, So you are thinking about having a second child?, today I am helping you navigate the murky waters of what you do once you actually have two children. 

So, I have two kids, what on earth DO I do now?

1. Don’t panic. Your partner’s leave is over and you find yourself alone. But. Not. Alone. Never. Alone. It’s okay, they’re not the enemy, they are the beautiful human beings that you made/adopted/won in a poker game.

2. Be organised. That means you know what you will be feeding your eldest for lunch and dinner, before they have eaten their breakfast. I was lucky enough to have a husband who would cook our dinners – he make extra which I would then feed our daughter the next day. This would make life a lot easier the next evening. The more organised you are, the less stressed you will feel. Have nappies, wipes and spare baby clothes in several rooms of your home.

3. Never run out of food or nappies. If you live near a shop, that could mean a daily walk for groceries. If you have to drive or take public transport, it can be a faff (especially in those first days) to do food shopping. Get your food delivered. Or have your partner go to the shops a couple of times a week. Just make sure that you never run out.

4. While we’re talking about food, always have plenty of snacks. Especially if you are breastfeeding, but also for your eldest (who is bound to feel starving as soon as you start breastfeeding/changing a nappy). When you get groceries in, make sure you put together snack boxes of cut up fruit or veg ready in the fridge. And oatcakes. Oatcakes have saved the day many times in our house.

5. Don’t do too much. You might be used to taking your eldest to a different playgroup/class everyday, but times have changed. Pick his/her favourite activity and spend the other quietly and casually, especially in the first couple of months. You’re not going to scar your eldest by having a quieter life. Promise.

6. Don’t try to be a superhero or a martyr. There are no points for taking care of two kids, cleaning the house and having dinner ready on the table for your partner. There will be days when you will wear your pyjamas all day. There are days you get dressed, but forget to brush your teeth or hair. There will be days when you eat take-away or ready meals. And feel free to let your partner come home from work and cook dinner while you put your feet up/shower.

7. Don’t be afraid to put on the telly. I was so strict about my daughter watching television. But when her baby brother arrived, I realised I needed a diversion tactic for the MANY hours I spent breastfeeding.

8. Give your eldest quality time. When you have one baby, you can catch up on rest, sleep or housework during his/her nap times. But those nap times become the quality time you spend with your eldest. Ensure you have games and crafts handy. But if you are desperate for a catnap or shower, put on your old friend the television and don’t beat yourself up about it.

9. Take photos of BOTH kids. Not just the cute little baby. Remember, there’s someone there who is used to being the main focus in your pictures. 

10. Never leave your baby alone with your eldest child unless said child is at least four years old. I know several people who have found their two-year old sticking strange food/toys in their baby’s mouth. They’re just trying to be helpful, but you need to keep an eye on them.

11. Kids don’t need bathing every day. Fact. I remember my then four-year old in the bathtub splashing me, while I sat on the floor of the bathroom breastfeeding my newborn. Not comfy. And the post-bath drying/dressing can be so stressful.  My daughter never complained when she lost her daily baths, and she never started to smell stinky. And the change in routine did not keep her from going to sleep. I now give the kids a joint bath mid-week and then their daddy gives them a bath at the weekend. Two baths=my sanity.

12. Remember, you KNOW what you are doing. You have had a baby before. Trust your instincts. You got this. So enjoy this time. And remember you haven’t just brought home a new child for you, but a best friend for your first-born.

So, I Have Two Kids, What Do I Do Now?

So, you are thinking about having a second child?

So, you are thinking about having a second child?I have two wonderful little terrors children. Moozles will turn six in April and Dubz will turn two in May. The four-year age gap is a result of the indecision relating to having a second child (blogged about here). In the end, it has worked out well for us. But life is much trickier with two rather than just one child (I don’t even know how those of you with three or more children handle it–you’re basically superheroes in my eyes). 
But I thought I could offer a checklist to help those of you who are considering trying for another baby.
So, You are Thinking about Having a Second Child?
1. Do you enjoy regular trips to the grocery store? Four people eat A LOT more food than three people. And since my youngest boy is greedy a good eater, we have really noticed a huge difference in our grocery bill in the past year. During a normal week, I go food shopping three or four times.
2. Do you enjoy catering to the whims of not one, but two, egocentric people? More kids mean more people trying to boss you around and demanding more pudding.
3. Do you like not having spare cash? More kids mean more bills. Although many people resume working after they have a second child, some of us don’t. And when you subsist on one salary, there is rarely extra money for spa days and Jimmy Choos. And even if you go back to work, you’re spending loads of money on childcare and all the extra cash goes on the kids to help assuage your feelings of guilt.
4. Speaking of guilt, do you enjoy feeling guilty? Once there is more than one child in the mix, you start worrying about whether you are giving them the same amount of attention and trying to ensure that they both feel equally loved.
5. Do you like having a hectic schedule? More kids mean more schedules. Conflicting schedules. One wants to play (loudly) while the other wants to nap. One wants to sleep in, but you have to take the other to school. 
6. Do you enjoy feeling tired? You’ve finally started getting 7-8 hours sleep, then a freight train in the shape of a little baby runs over you. Back to the middle-of-the-night feedings and enduring teething pain-related grumpiness.
7. Do you like hearing the phrase ‘But Mummy, that’s MY toy!’? You will hear it. Often. Like really a lot.

8. Do you like having infrequent dates with your partner? Husband and I used to go on a date once a month when we only had our daughter. Since Dubz has come along, we maybe manage once every other month. And we used to go on a 3-4 day foreign mini-break once a year on our own. We managed one night last year. To Warwickshire. *sigh*
9. Do you enjoy lots of cuddles and kisses? When you have two, there always seems to be someone around who wants a cuddle and/or a kiss. Sometimes it’s lovely and sweet. Sometimes you are kissing the ouchy on a dirty foot. Okay, still sweet.

10. Speaking of cuddles, do you like children fighting over who gets a cuddle? Even if one is happily playing, if they see the other getting a cuddle then they come over to get in on the cuddling action. One good thing about having two kids, they fit quite nicely, one on each lap. Though there have been some instances of Dubz pulling his big sister’s hair and trying to push her off my lap so he can have me all to himself. I just remind myself that one day my kids will think they are too cool to cuddle me.

11. Do you enjoy some occasional quiet time to hop on Twitter or read some blogs? If you have two kids, they often play together and leave you in peace. Woohoo!

If you have answered yes to four or more questions, then toss those condoms, or bin those pills, because you are ready to have a second child!