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Saturday, 17 November 2012

A love story

I've been very much enjoying reading Lauren's blog posts with the story of her meeting and marrying her husband, and their life together. 

I've tweeted a few times about our proposal story and promised many people I would blog the full details and share the tale - and have put it off many times, with no good reason. 

Having smiled once again at Lauren's story I thought it was time I shared our own, with the world at large, as it's a story that should not be kept to ourselves. 

It is romantic, of course - but more than that it is HILARIOUS. 

We had only been together 5 months when I fell pregnant with Jellybean, but I had already left my shared house in York and moved to live with Daddytwo in Hertfordshire, before we moved to our own flat in London. 

We had discussed getting married pretty much from our first date onwards, and knew we would do it as soon as we were able. We had originally said that we would like to get married, in a very small ceremony, the same year that we met (we got together in January 2008) but when we found I was pregnant I told him that I didn't want to get married that quickly, because I didn't want people to think that he was marrying me because I was pregnant - I wanted everyone to know that we were getting married because we are crazy about each other. 

I had also, in one of our conversations about our future, very early into our relationship, once said that he didn't ever need to think he had to spend thousands of pounds on a flashy engagement ring for me, I would actually be happy with a five pound ring from Elizabeth Duke as long as I got to be his real, actual, furreals wife for the rest of our lives. 

We were staying at his Mum's one weekend towards the end of the year, and it was a dry but very cold day. I was very pregnant, and very grumpy about it that particular day. 

Daddytwo had just heard that he had got a new job that he'd recently applied for, and that morning he took delivery of his new company car. 


The car, a peugeot 207 SW (look at me being able to google the right car) had a panoramic roof - meaning that you could perform some voodoo inside and the whole roof of the car was one big windscreen from bonnet to boot. Which was pretty cool.

Daddytwo said that we were going to take a drive out later that day, but that first I had to go and have a nice bath. 

I was, of course, spectacularly grumpy about this. I did NOT want to go for a drive (I get travel sick, and I get sick a lot when I'm pregnant - so going for a drive when I was pregnant was HORRIBLE) but I knew he was excited so agreed (with zero grace or manners) to go. 

I climbed painfully into the bath (dodgy hips, lots of whinging) and then tried to settle back and relax with the pile of crap magazines that Daddytwo had set me up with. 

Only every three minutes he would burst in, all noise and clumsiness and loud, asking if I needed anything, if I wanted anything, did I want a cup of herbal tea, did I need a drink, could he pass me another magazine, should he turn the tap on and top the warm water up, did I need him to bring anything...it was SO ANNOYING - here I was trying to enjoy a nice bath before being dragged into a swishy, vomit inducing car journey from hell to make him happy, and he couldn't even leave me alone to enjoy it and get a wash!

I had no idea that he was acting so strange because he'd called my Dad, to ask for his permission to marry me, but had had to leave a voice mail and was waiting for my Dad to call back! (My Dad did, whilst I was in the bath, and I believe his answer was something along the lines of "too bloody right you will, she's pregnant!") but all I knew was that just as I'd managed a full ten minutes of peace in the bath (whilst he was on the phone, of course) he came bursting back in and insisted I get out now, because he wanted to get going. 

He had packed a little picnic up and once I was dressed he bundled me into the car with this and a flask of tea, and off we went. 

I didn't know where we were going, but he drove FOR ALL TIME and I complained a lot about feeling sick and whinged about wanting to know where we were going so I knew how much longer I had to put up with it for. 

He was acting very strange, and kept babbling and giggling about random things, and I was getting more and more grumpy. 

Eventually we were driving through some beautiful forested areas and he pointed out a car park and asked if I would like to stop there. I grew up in the countryside and often said that the only thing I missed about it was walking through the woods in the wintery weather, crunching the leaves and smelling the smells of it all. He had taken me to the most perfectly beautiful area, and he parked the car, helped me out and we went for a crunchy, lovely walk. 

I managed to stop whinging for a while, and was enjoying walking and talking and smelling the smells of the woodland and was asking him some inane questions about who even knows what when I realised that he wasn't walking beside me any more. 

I turned around and was all prepared to snap something mean at him for dawdling or not listening, then saw him kneeling on the ground. My initial response was to think that he'd fallen over, or was picking some kind of plant to show me, but then I realised he was holding a tiny little box, and crying. 

I burst out crying too, when I clicked what was about to happen, and he told me that he loved me, started crying harder, and asked me if I would be his wife, forever and ever. 

I cried and cried and cried, and somehow must have managed to say yes, because then he was standing, and opening the box, and reminding me of the day I'd said that being his wife mattered more than bling. There in the box was a five pound ring, from Elizabeth Duke, which symbolised to us just how perfect we are together, and just what it meant to get engaged, for us to promise to get married and be together forever. 

After a lot more crying, hugging and kissing we made our way back to our car, shivering and giddy with the excitement of it. 

We clambered in, and were very cold, so agreed that we would drink our tea and turn the car on to get the heat blowing through and warm us up before we set off to get dinner somewhere nice. 

We thought it would be romantic to look at the stars as we celebrated getting engaged with our flask of tea, and we rolled our seats back and performed the voodoo that meant the roof was a window, and we pointed out the stars we knew, talked about our ideas for our wedding, grinned a lot and giggled, cuddled and kissed some more, and generally felt very soppy. 

Whilst we were doing that I noticed, rather distantly, that another car had parked right beside ours, and that the guy inside had his lights on still. I thought that was odd, and thought how strange it was that he'd parked right beside us when there was a whole big car park.

I didn't think anything else of it, though, until another car came and did the same on the other side. Parked right beside us, with his headlights shining into our car, lighting us up. 

Once again I was a bit annoyed. Here we were trying to have a romantic moment, and there was a whole huge car park and these guys were parking RIGHT BESIDE us, and why the hell didn't they turn off their lights?

I asked Daddytwo if he could see them, and said how stupid they were for parking so close. 

Then one of them got out of his car. He came closer to ours, and stood at the front of his own car, leaning on the bonnet. That made me really uncomfortable and I said:

"Why are they acting so weird? Why have they parked right beside us? There's a whole car park and they're looking right at us! OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, HE'S WANKING - DRIVE DRIVE DRIVE DRIVE DRIVE!"


It turns out that we'd gone to Epping Forest. Apparently it's a dogging hotspot. The cars either side were there for a show, and because we had been lying with our seats back and kissing when they arrived they clearly thought we were it! 

And that is the story of our proposal, accidental dogging and all! 



(images from http://www.blogcdn.com/www.autoblog.com/media/2007/02/207swoutdr_lo_05.jpg
http://www.urban75.org/london/images/epping14.jpg
http://images.icnetwork.co.uk/upl/sundaysun/jun2012/3/7/st-mary-s-lighthouse-image-1-380813234.jpg)

Learn from them all

The best advice I was ever given came from my Grandmother (Nanny B) who said "You don't have to make all the mistakes yourself, child, it's totally acceptable to learn from other people's too."

She was totally right, and it's something I've tried to keep in mind since passing messily through my turbulent teenage years and something I want to pass on to my own children. 

I feel, often - as I'm sure we all do - distinctly flawed, and like I'm failing at this being a parent thing. At being a good friend. At being a nice wife. 

Recently I saw someone tweet a link to an article in the Daily Mail written by a woman who, after beginning to feel somewhat dissatisfied in her marriage, had decided to simply be nicer to her husband. To stop snapping at him, making demands as soon as he got home, to make more effort to speak to him about things, and to just generally be nicer to him. Unsurprisingly the knock on effect was that he was, in turn, nicer to her, their children were nicer to each other and generally the overall feel of the house was far happier - and far from being bored of her marriage she remembered all the things she fell in love with, and she and her husband made time for one another again. 

The story seemed quite straightforward, and after a stressful summer and some long talks here it felt familiar. Not that my husband and I were bored of one another, or that we were close to breaking up - not at all - but we had a long year and were tired, and had been going through the motions of our days without making the time to cuddle and laugh together, and it was beginning to show. 

We, too, had made the choice to spend more time together, to make more effort to speak to and communicate with and enjoy the company of each other. It instantly made our home feel home again, and the children can see the difference and talk to us more. 

We hadn't slid far enough for there to be real cracks, but looking at how we were (or rather weren't) communicating I could see how couples can begin to slide apart without even noticing it happen. 

So reading the article I remembered Nanny B's wise words, and learned from someone else's journey - and have been trying to be a nicer wife, more conscious of my husband and how his day has been rather than expecting him to take over if mine has been hard and being irritated if he feels tired himself! 

In all the stories, the wedding is the happy ending - the couple just drift away to some magical world of happy ever after - but that's such nonsense. The wedding is the beginning, the story happens after that - and you have to take care to be active in the story of your life, or it happens around you and somehow you get left out of your own tale, and none of your characters see you.

This is how I want to parent, too. I want to be an active, interested, caring parent. There are days when it's all too easy to put on the TV and get on with the endless lists of housework, food shopping, cooking, menial tasks that can take the entire day and seem pointless because they are following you around making more mess and getting hungry all over again, and though you're all in the house together you haven't really spent any TIME TOGETHER. 

I see myself doing it and make excuses, and it makes me sad because my children are such great company, so whilst I know that all those jobs need to be done I am making more effort to play, to listen to them, to talk to them, to be involved and interested in their games. 

I want to be an active participant in my life - and it's so easy to be too busy for that. 

image from http://www.hellocrazy.com/reserved/cards/200504201331310.mumDog.jpg


Thursday, 15 November 2012

The things you swear you will NEVER do...

Before I had children there was a list as long as my arm of the things I would never, ever do. 

No TV, no sweets, no crisps or cakes or sugar or junk, lots of organic veg and one to one time and reading and classical music. 

I would teach them the wonders of natural, wholesome living, I would love every second of being with them, I wouldn't ever complain about being woken in the night because every second with them is a joy and I would breastfeed until they turned two. 

I wouldn't buy them cheap clothes or toys, only the best. I would never, ever give in to a tantrum - but they wouldn't have them anyway because we would have this amazing, earth mother bond where they never heard or knew about shouting or crying and I interpreted their needs before they ever got distressed. 

I would use cloth nappies and do elimination communication. 

I would expose them to the theatre and live music, which they would sit quietly through and appreciate. 

I would never, ever smack them, ever ever ever. 

If you've had kids you'll know how well we did with that list. You'll have had one similar, no doubt, and you'll have gone through the same STEEP learning curve that we did, and realised that actually you'll do just about the opposite to everything on that list. 

Right now, as I type, my kids are watching cartoons and eating a biscuit, and drinking orange squash with god only knows what chemical sweetners, and they are happy, and I am drinking a cup of tea that is STILL HOT and nobody has shouted yet. Yet. 

However there was one thing on that list that I still swore by and tried my hardest to stick to.

I will never, ever smack - ever, ever, ever. 

I will admit that I have lapsed - I have, on occasion, slapped a hand - away from a hot oven, a hot drink, my eyeball when the nails are digging in, the inside of the loo, a strange dog. I am not proud of it but admit that it has happened. 

I will also admit that on even fewer occasions there has been a smack - just one - on a bottom (padded by clothing, and not hard enough for them to even NOTICE, never mind cry about) for heinous crimes.

This week, though, there was The Spanking. 

This week I, for the first time in my parenting life, genuinely spanked Jellybean.

We're lucky - for all that they have their moments and push their luck sometimes, or play up when they're tired, we have good kids who know when to stop playing up and shush. We've got nice boys - boys, and sods on occasion, but overall nice boys.

This week though Jellybean has been NAUGHTY. 

The highlight - or rather the lowlight - was on Tuesday. We went to the library. I had to go and do something boring at the bank first and because they had been so good whilst I did that and waited so nicely we went to the library - a joy and wonder - to choose TEN WHOLE BOOKS to take home for a week. 

There was lots of laughing, and reading, and slight rowdiness and shushing, then lots of picking books, laughing more, charming the librarian and being excited by getting these new books home to read even more. 

Then I looked down to put my card in my purse and pick up the books from the desk. 

When I looked up, three seconds later, Jellybean was gone. I guessed he'd headed for the door outside because Midget Gem was heading that way, laughing his head off (his usual reaction to Jellybean doing something naughty). I couldn't see Jellybean. 

With my heart in my mouth and a sudden sweat I ran for the door, grabbed Midget Gem and burst outside. I looked left, I looked right, I couldn't see him. Running towards me a young man in headphones. "Another boy? Red top?" - "YES - WHERE?" 

He pointed around the corner - towards the road. I dropped the books, I ran. I caught Jellybean about to step into the road at the crossing (which had A RED MAN, NOT A GREEN MAN) and he saw me coming - laughed - and tried to run away. 

I saw red, I grabbed him and lifted him by one arm into the sky and SHOUTED at him - oh boy was I angry. So angry. He laughed. "Don't you DARE laugh, you NEVER, EVER run away, you NEVER go on the road alone, EVER, you could get KILLED".

Did he say sorry? Did he look upset at the shouting? Did he hell. He laughed at me again, and spat at me. 

Well. 

I do not think smacking a child is right - but at that moment I pulled him across my knees, crouched by that road, and I spanked him. I spanked him, with Midget Gem standing beside me and headphone man bringing me the books I'd dropped. I spanked him with a street full of strangers watching, and judging me. I spanked him and if he did the same again I would spank him all over again. 

Sorry, me before kids. How little you knew. How young you were. 

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Silent Sunday


Silent Sunday - created by Mocha Bean Mummy, now hosted on Love All Blogs

So, Liz Jones then.

Today twitter (and no doubt Mumsnet) and bloggers across the UK are ENRAGED by that there Liz Jones, queen of the daily fail, champion of internet trolling. 

This weekend Mumsnet hosted their first (I think) blogging conference for parent bloggers. These are always a big hit, always packed, and always contain SOME controversy among the thousands of tweets, blogs and opinions. 

Rather cleverly, Liz Jones managed to get herself invited (despite being neither Mum nor blogger) and, rather predictably, scored herself the content of yet another massively controversial, and massively successful, daily mail article.

Now. The fact that she writes for that rag is in itself enough to show that she lacks considerably in the 'morals' and 'decency' departments. 

But come on. The woman is a genius. 

Her job is to write coherent (just) content for a newspaper who rely on hits to their pages to increase their revenue from advertising. Mumsnet have, coincidentally, a similar deal - the more people who visit their websites the more money they make. 

Thus the more traffic that Liz Jones brings to her page the more likely it is that they will give her more money to produce even more vitriol and drivel at a later point. 

The thing is that she is GREAT at this. I mean, she sold her soul to make a living, but she does it well. She knew her audience, she knew which buttons to press, and she knew who to target to bring the most attention. 

She knew exactly what patronising, childish statements to make to enrage the crowd she was discussing. She knew what interests to belittle. What topics of conversation to scorn. 

She ridiculed our interests, our activities, our family lives, our children, our every single action, as a collective. 

It worked. This morning ALL of us were talking about her. All of us read it. Everyone has an opinion. 

My opinion might not be popular - and it's this: she's great. Awful, but great at what she does. She is utterly brilliant at her job. 

It's just a shame that it still fails to make her happy. Ah well. 

Chocolate Christmas cake recipe


I've never made a fruit cake, or a Christmas cake, before - and I decided that this year I would make my first ever. 
Flicking through the Sainsbury's magazine (which, to my embarrassment, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE) I spotted an advert from Dr. Oetker for various items from their range, with a recipe for a chocolate Christmas cake. 

Well. I love Christmas cake. I love chocolate. Who wouldn't want a mixture of the two?!

I had most of the things it asked for in the house, and with a couple of minor edits to the recipe could go right ahead and make it - so that was that decided! 


What the recipe asked for:

200g (1 cup) of dark muscovado sugar
175g (1 cup) chopped butter
500g (1 ready measured big bag, handy! Or 2 big heaped cups) of posh mixed dried fruits. 
100g (half a pot, or quarter of a cup) of halved glace cherries
Zest and juice of one orange
100ml of brandy
100g (half a cup) chopped pecans
100g (half a cup) ground almonds
3 large eggs
200g (2 bars, or 1 cup) melted dark chocolate
200g (1 cup) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground mixed spices
1 tsp ground cinnamon


What I actually used:

1 cup dark muscavado sugar (phew, had some) 
1 cup chopped butter (always)
500g fancy dried fruits (thank you recent health kick and porridge addiction)
1 pot of glace cherries, not halved (too sticky, and a nice bonus when eating it at Christmas) minus the few Midget Gem stole as I baked
100 ml calvados (apple brandy) and a big slosh of port (which is just like orange juice, right?) 
100g sliced almonds, crumbled up a bit
100g chopped walnuts
200g melted dark chocolate (weeping as I did so for the lack of evening munching later) 
1 big cup of plain flour (sieved by Jellybean, so messy) 
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground allspice (that's the same as mixed spice, is it? Who knows) 
1 and a half tsp cinnamon (I wobbled) 


The method:

In a large, heavy bottomed pan mix the sugar, butter, fruit, cherries, (orange juice and zest) port and brandy. Stir on a high heat until it begins to boil, then reduce so it's simmering. Keep stirring for ten minutes. Enjoy the delicious smell. Feel Christmassy and like a PROPER WIFE AND MOTHER. 

Turn the heat off and leave it to cool down for 20 minutes. In this time watch Eastenders on Iplayer and make lunch for small shouting humans. Drink coffee. Sneak a tot of brandy in to your mug. (What?! I was TESTING it!) 

In a big bowl mix the (pecans) walnuts, (ground) almonds, eggs, and melted chocolate. Try to resist a big spoonful (raw eggs are bad for you, or something) have a small spoonful (mmmmmmm).

Dump that into your pan of delicious boozy fruits and stir in well. Add the flour, baking powder and spices and fold together carefully. Let your toddler stir. Wipe the surface. And his hands and face.

Preheat the oven to 140c. (Line a 20cm square tin with two layers of brown paper.) Realise you have no idea how big your square tin is. Assume it's about right. Realise too late you have no brown paper. Improvise with that magic non stick brown thingy you got in the pound shop that stops things sticking to baking trays. 

Pour your mixture into the prepared tin. Swear a bit when the lining stuff folds over and you slop cake mix all over the outside. Rescue it. Pour the rest of the cake mix in. Use your very exciting new bendy spatula to scrape the pan out so that all the mix makes it into the tin. Flatten the top carefully. (Add a layer of brown paper over the top with a 2cm hole in the centre so it won't burn as it cooks) hope it won't burn as it cooks. 

Try to pop the tin in the oven. Swear a little again. Get your oven gloves on and move the shelves in the hot oven so that the tin will fit. Leave it there for two and a half hours. 

Go for a walk with your young children. Carry them home when they decide they've walked too far. Get a stitch, and be kicked in the hips trying to carry an ungrateful toddler. Insist it's lovely to your husband, who is being kicked by the other ungrateful toddler. Get home to a house which smells delicious, just in time to remove the cake from the oven. 

Remove it, leave it for five minutes on the side as you de-welly and coat the small people, hand them juice and biscuits and get your cooling rack out of the cupboard. 

Place the cake on the cooling rack. 

When it's cool the recipe says to cut it into four and ice and decorate it, all ready for Christmas. I'm going to pop it in a tin with a lid and repeatedly sneak more booze into it weekly in the lead up to Christmas, and a week before the big day I'll cut it into four, decorate them and distribute them. In the meantime I will make another, tomorrow, for us to keep. I can't wait! 

Enjoy!