Frightened of the Frog

Every evening, when it gets dark, Léonie (2) points to the window, shivers and says “Mummy, me frightened of the frog.” Tommy (5) and I always chip in to check we understand what she means, “do you mean frightened of the dark?”. She nods and replies, “Yes. Me frightened of the frog.” So we just assume she is mis-pronouncing the word dark.

But maybe we are wrong.

Maybe there is a gigantic, drooling frog out there in the garden, one who creeps up from the valley every night and waits for me to feed the cats outside or get the laundry in, ready to leap on me and suffocate me in his frog slime, or simply blight me with his dreaded frog curse: “You will never EVER return to the stage again, NEVER! You will forever be wiping bottoms and carrying potties in your handbag and will never EVER get to sit down to eat a meal without getting up every 90 seconds to get a spoon/the ketchup/more kitchen paper. Your eyes will forever look tired and your eardrums will suffer permanent damage from toddler screams. Your friends in the theatre and film world will drift away, referring to you as ‘The Lost One’, you will end up filming yourself in character and putting the videos on YouTube in a sad attempt to continue acting, but NEVER EVER AGAIN will you reboot your career. HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAAAA!!!”

Blimey. Now I’m frightened of the frog.

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Blogfast

For those of you that receive my blog posts automatically, this one may come as a surprise, as you probably assumed that having spent so many months with only under-5’s and sheep for company, I had lost the faculty for writing. But no. I have been on a blog fast.

A blog fast is the direct opposite of a Blogfest. A Blogfest involves hundreds, nay thousands of bloggers, all writing furiously, whereas a blog fast involves just me, not writing anything at all.

It was not intentional. I just had too many things going in my life that I simply could not write about. Things that were either too personal, or too boring, or too grim, or too involved with famous people (no names mentioned but he is the best children’s illustrator ever), or too involved with close family members, or too incriminating of other family members… my family members are now all sitting up straight, spilling hot tea in their laps, going “Who?!” “Me?!”… yes you, I might be talking about you, watch out, and send me a Cadbury’s Flake and some nice pants just to cover your backs.

Speaking of pants…

Léonie has decided she has had enough of nappies and wants to wear pants. The ‘had enough of nappies’ bit is fine, as long as she stays butt naked, as then she remembers to go and sit on the potty for her pee. However, with pants on, the sensation must be very nappy-like, especially when she wears six pairs of pants at the same time, which is her current desire, so she just ends up peeing through six pairs of pants. Today it was warm and sunny so I persuaded her to play outside with nothing on her bottom and she delighted in sitting on the potty in the sunshine. I only tell you this as I just discovered the UK is swamped in snow and ice and I want to make you jealous. Let’s face it, the climate difference is probably the only thing you might feel envious about where my life is concerned, so I’m going to make the most of it.

More on the theme of undergarments… (me? trying desperately to find a through line for this blog post? never). We watched Mary Poppins yesterday and this morning Tommy was singing “Let’s go fly a kite” at the top of his voice. Here is his version of the song:

Let’s go fly a kite
Up up, in the sky!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it boring,
Up through the underwear
Up where the air is air,
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!

Cowgirl and her faithful potty.

Cowgirl and her faithful potty.

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Six pairs of pants. Layering is in.

All that just to say, I’ve finished my blog fast and am now crossing my fingers to make it to a Blogfest.

Someone (else) is wearing the (very small) trousers.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

A blood-curdling scream rips through our home. The kind that turns your heart inside out and liquidizes your stomach and has you dropping everything and running towards the source of the scream because a small child is in mortal pain, accidentally burnt or broken and close to death.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

WHAT HAS HAPPENED THIS TIME??!!

Socks.

Léonie does not want to put on her socks.

She wants to go outside, she has managed to put her Crocs on, but she does not want to put on her socks.

“It’s cold outside.” I tell her. “You can wear your crocs if you really want, but you need socks on to keep your feet warm!”

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

“Okay, okay! Then no socks, but that means no crocs either! We’re going to the farm, you will walk in wet grass and some sort of poo and it will go through the holes in your crocs and then your feet will be cold, wet and pooey! Take the crocs off and put your fleecy boots on instead.”

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!  (throwing of fleecy boots across kitchen, re-throwing of socks, kicking of cartons-to-be-recycled.)

“Okay. Fine. Wear your crocs without socks. We have to leave right now or we’ll miss the post office. Come on, move it, let’s go!”

I bundle Léonie into Tommy’s red puffa jacket (because that’s what she has chosen as a coat), carry her out of the kitchen and down the stairs and try heading for the post office.

“Bike, Mummy! Bike! BIKE! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!! BIKE!!

And so I strap her into the babyseat on my bike, put her helmet on and we bike up the hill, with the parcel I’m sending in my mouth, my teeth clenching onto it for dear life. We make it to the post office just before it shuts at midday, I hurl the parcel at our postmistress and off we bike down the hill towards the farm, Léonie singing quite happily behind me.

We visit the pigs, who look pissed off because today we didn’t bring anything for them to eat, then we visit the sheep and the hens and even the people because they are very nice farmers indeed. Often they’ll invite us in and Léonie will raid their baguette box (the Brits have breadboxes, the French have baguette boxes), a trick taught to her by her elder brother (we must owe them a couple of hundred euros in bread) and I’ll buy some eggs, but not today because Léonie has walked through wet grass and some sort of poo and her feet are cold and wet and pooey. And now she wants to be carried and I have no desire whatsoever to carry her with her pooey crocs on as they will wipe across my jeans and jumper rendering me pooey too. So I put her back on the bike and we’re just about to head off when the farmer’s charming son pops out of his essential oils boutique and I ask him whether he saw L’Homme’s show in Lyon and he says yes and starts to tell me about the evening he spent at the theatre but Léonie is ready to go home because her feet are cold and wet and pooey so she bangs on my bike saddle shouting “Mummy! Mummy! MummyMummyMummyMummyMummyMUMMYMUMMYMUMMYMUMMYMUMMY MUMMYMUMMYMUMMYMUMMYMUMMYMUMMYMUMMYMUMMYMUMMYMUMMY!!!!!!!    EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! and that works a treat, I start pedaling straight back up the hill.

Just another morning in my life as a stay-at-home mummy in the middle of the French countryside.

WordPress what happened?

I just wrote a huge long blog post, the first in ages, and the WordPress format for writing it was different, so I just assumed things had changed while I’d been away and this was the new set-up for writing posts. There was no “Save Draft” button though. I assumed it was saving it automatically. I finished writing, added a photo (all that set-up was new too), hit “publish” and WordPress just published the photo. 800 words and 20 minutes of precious Léonie’s naptime down the drain. That really pisses me off so I’m not writing anything ever again, ever, and that’ll show WordPress. Harumph.

Here’s the photo. It came at the end of a paragraph where I blathered on about how much I HATE Ryanair but even that gives them publicity so I’m definitely not writing anything else about those incompetent tossers.

Thank goodness Léonie weighs under 10 kilos. They let her on.

PS: oh alright, I’ll write something tomorrow. Except L’Homme will be back by then and he frowns at me if I spend more than seven minutes on my computer, despite him spending bloody hours on his iphone reading Le Monde and that other internationally renowned intellectual website, ebay.

The Greatest Gift in the World…

… is a holiday. At least, it is at the moment, for me. I am utterly exhausted, wiped out, end-of-tethered, squishmazzled. It is even official. Medically certified. I saw a doctor on Friday who confirmed that I am not going crazy for feeling so knackered, that it is normal for a mother of two little non-sleepers/big-breast-feeders (as in, big on feeding, not big breasts, although once upon a time they were indeed quite big… sniff) to feel this way and that I am probably anaemic, de-mineralised, lacking in vitamins and oligo-elements and losing brain cells fast. The latter is almost certainly true as I recently noticed I can no longer do basic addition whereas I used to be a whizz at maths. 77 + 77? I came up with 144. The Post Office lady looked at me with pity. I pretended it was a language thing and that I was merely on holiday here in France, not a full-time inhabitant and garlic obsessive since 1995. But anyway, my entire body and brain is worn out and I need a break. Not the sort of break when you go away with your children and end up doing pretty much what you do at home but with the added danger of drowning, sunstroke and not having the right sort if breakfast cereal, no, I mean a real break from round-the-clock childcare, child protection and child entertainment. One where you get up when you want, go to bed when you want and fill your days with just doing what you want, generally involving a lot of lying horizontally, swimming, reading books, eating good food and messing about with friends you’ve known long enough to not care what you look like.
And this, Dear Reader, is exactly the sort of holiday I’m about to have.

About a month ago L’Homme announced that he had changed my summer plans. “Look on the fridge” he said, which was not down to his dodgy English but because our calendar is on the fridge. Pencilled across the 21st of August was “Claire – Italie”. Return date : the 28th. He had borrowed some money and booked plane tickets for Puglia where we holidayed last year. my heart leapt with excitement and then plummeted straight back down as panic struck me at the idea of being away from Léonie for a whole week. I mumbled “erm, without Léonie?”. I was worried I might not seem very grateful nor appreciative of his generous, thoughtful gesture. “No Léonie. Just you.” he replied, “tu as besoin des vraies vacances.” Oh. A real holiday. Just me. With friends. In one of my favourite places in the world.

I am sitting in Orly airport, just outside Paris. I have spent the last few weeks looking forward to this. I have also spent the last few weeks agonising over the thought of leaving Léonie, and even Tommy, for 8 whole days. A few days ago I felt so guilty about going that I went a bit mad and angrily declared that I would NOT leave my baby girl and would be booking her onto the flight with me. I sulked with everyone that day and breastfed Léonie whenever she signed ‘milk’ at me, which meant every 30 minutes. I slept in her room and consequently was woken up twice and then far too early. In the morning I was a wreck. I did the maths: 2 x 9 months of pregnancy + 18 months of breastfeeding Tommy + 20 months of breastfeeding Léonie + nearly 4 years of broken sleep In the last 5 years = mother’s body and mind totally and utterly frazzled. I’m surprised I can even write this. In fact, I’m going to stop, buy myself a coffee and go back to my book. My holiday has already started and I’m going to make the most of each second. The kids are perfectly fine with L’Homme, I’m not indispensable to their survival, this week is going to be good for all of us. So off I fly, with just one bag, a phone full of photos of the kids and the reassuring knowledge that a week away doesn’t mean the end of breastfeeding… unless Léonie doesn’t ask when I get back. This time tomorrow I will be covered in sea salt from my morning swim in the Adriatic sea, full of lunch and Italian coffee, asleep in the hammock.

THANK YOU L’HOMME.

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The Pirate Returns

At last. He escaped. Captain Tommy Sparrow, or Pirate Peg-Leg as he is now known, managed to flee the clutches of Le Hospital and swim back to his own ship. He got away the day before yesterday and is still hopping around the house ship, bravely battling on, never giving up, despite foul poison being poured down his throat twice a day by the dreaded Captain Mummy.

We have warned Pirate Peg-Leg that we are planning on selling our house ship but nothing phases him now. He is looking forward to making new pirate friends on strange seas. Plus there’s a castle in the town we’d like to move to. With treasure hidden in one of the walls. I know this because when we visited it a few weeks ago, when Pirate Peg-Leg still had two fully working legs, I found him scraping at a 400 year old wall with a stick. I had to hide a fifty pence piece of eight in the grounds of the castle so that he could find some treasure before we left the castle, to avoid him bringing a turret down.

He is still limping and hopping and regularly falling over, yet doggedly continues his pirate cutlass training. His sister is simultaneously thrilled to have him home and also a wee bit jealous of all the attention he is getting. She has taken to opera screeching in order to remind us that she is still here. She is even letting me put pretty dresses on her rather than refusing to wear anything but her “My Pop is Da Bomb” t-shirt (a hand-me-down from 23 cousins) as she knows we will coo and aaahh every time she walks into the room. I took the opportunity to take a photo but she continued her opera squealing.

(NB: the dress is from Heavens-to-Betsy in case you were wondering.)

Laboratory Larks

“I’ll stay with Tommy another day ” L’Homme said to me yesterday evening, down the phone from the hospital. “You stay at home with Léonie and have a day off. No driving 50km in the blazing sun, no hospital, no dodgy camp-bed, no nurses coming in all night. I’ll stay here with Tommy. You can take over on Saturday.”

Hoorah, I thought, and considered keeping L’Homme for another few years. His thoughtful side is coming out now he’s 35. I flopped down on the sofa, weary from a day at the hospital and the long drive home, relieved not to have to do it again the next day. I wrote a list of things to do, with or without Léonie, in or out of the shade, during naptime or during wide-awake time, and then I went to bed.

I was woken up at 8 a.m. (erm, not counting the two Léonie awakenings in the night), “MUMMY! MUUUMMMMYYYY!” and I went to get my little girl out of her cot. She was standing up, bouncing about, desperate to jump into my arms. I took her back into my room, keeping the shutters closed and waited for her to stare at me with those huge blue eyes of hers and start flashing her fingers from fists to star hands and back again which of course means “milk”. So I fed her and sat her back on the pillow on L’Homme’s side of the bed, listening to her babble. But it wasn’t just her mouth babbling. A funny gurgling sound was coming from her tummy, a churning, burbling sound. Before I could react, she was sick all over the sheets. Once… twice… and a third time all over me as by then I had her in my arms and was cuddling her. When she had finished being sick and was just hiccuping, I stripped the bed and carried her and the sheets down to the kitchen. She was thirsty so she had a glass of water, looked at me, blinked and promptly filled her nappy up with what I could only imagine was the equivalent of the glass of water but a different colour. I took her into the bathroom, stood her in the shower and took her nappy off. Indeed. Diarrhea explosion. I gave her a shower, wrapped her up in a towel and called the doctor.

This morning was the third time she had been sick in the last ten days and she has had diarrhea for nearly a week. I had hoped it was just a tummy bug that would clear up on its own but it’s just getting worse and she is getting thinner. And so the day unfolded: doctor’s clinic, laboratory (try to get a urine sample from a 19 month old – it took us 2 hours) and even hospital to visit Tommy seeing as the lab is just over the road. Léonie went through 9 nappies (we had to steal some from the hospital) and I became a dab hand at dealing with stinky mud landslides in public places, not to mention applying mini pee bags onto a mini fanny. I also discovered how to get a small child to have a pee when you want them to: you play “Sip & Ah’ which involves each of you taking turns having a sip of water and then exclaiming “AH!” afterwards. After at least 3 cupfuls of water have been downed, you then wait a bit and move onto the game “Cold Water Feet” where you sit your child on the edge of a sink (it’s easier if it’s a sink that’s just sunk into a surface) and you run cold water onto his/her feet. This is a surefire way of making them have a pee. Do not say you never learn anything from my blog. One day you will thank me for this.

Cold Water Feet

Oh and here’s another tip: when your toddler opens up the cupboard beneath the sink and discovers all the test tubes and needles and special sterilised equipment, distract him/her by taking a latex glove from the box of 1000 latex gloves, blowing it up and making it into a punk/a chicken/a cow’s udder.

Punk is alive and rocking in a medical lab in the Ardèche.

CHOP!

That’s it! I can’t take it anymore! I’m getting my hair all chopped off again! I just can’t get through the growing-it-out stage! Look! I’m even using exclamation marks everywhere!!!! (my personal rule of thumb when writing: NEVER use more than one exclamation mark per 20 sentences.) AAARRRGGGHHH!!!!!!!!!

I just came across this photo.

Yes, it’s blurry, which helps me look good, but even if it was in focus I still look a lot better than I do with this hair-helmet I’ve been wearing for over five months now. I can’t take it anymore. I’m sure this was what tipped me over the edge recently when I had a spell of feeling thoroughly depressed. So tomorrow morning I’m phoning Vincent  at “Le Salon” and booking an appointment with him and his shears. Don’t try to stop me.

(NB: I was about to write “I just can’t hack it” but realised this would have been a cringey pun. So I have spared you of such pain.)

Ruched flowery knickers

I often wish I was younger for many reasons. Less lines. Softer skin. More time to become a world famous film star. But mostly because I would like to be able to wear knickers like these.

 

Alas. In real life this is no longer possible. Or it is, but they would have to be hidden beneath outer garments, which means there’s no point in wearing them whatsoever. These knickers should be worn to be seen. Which is why I am contemplating doing a solo show as a girly clown. Just so that I can wear those knickers and show them to the 23 people in the audience whole wide world.

On My Own

I am in a train. I am on my own. Well, there are other passengers in the train but what I mean is, I am travelling unaccompanied. No Léonie. No Tommy. No nappy bag sippy cup biscuits banana apples crayons dinosaurs pirates playmobil figures spare babygro wipes tissues cuddly toys dog or donkey. Just me, a tiny suitcase on wheels and a nearly empty handbag. This is a new experience. Not brand new, but one I haven’t had for a year and a half, when Léonie was born. I was really looking forward to it but now I’m here, in a comfortable train on my own with loads of time to read, doze, listen to music, phone friends, I’m not doing any of those things and instead am feeling a little lost.

Hum ho.

And this is just the beginning. I’ll be On My Own until Thursday evening when I get home. Blimey, I’m already thinking about getting home. This is ridiculous. Hopefully I’ll get used to this feeling of lightness and freedom fast. My yearning to be back with Léonie and Tommy should fade when I get to Paris and see friends. Tomorrow I’ll be working in a recording studio all day (sounds very glamourous but it isn’t really, I promise) so that should keep me occupied, and in the evening I’m going to the theatre. Thursday I’ll be busy doing more recording work, having a drink at Gare de Lyon with @Rosbif and then jumping on the evening train home. If I stay busy maybe I won’t miss the kids too much. Just one hitch. The Milk Thing.

Léonie is still breastfeeding. Quite a lot. She is going to have to make do without me and my milk for a couple of days, which she might not like but it won’t harm her. However, it might harm me. Or anyone sitting within spurting distance around about this time tomorrow which is when I reckon things are going to get out of hand, and out of nipple. I could take someone’s eye out if I’m not careful. By Thursday morning I could probably hit the top of the Eiffel Tower if I aim well. And by the evening when I get the train home I may well flood the Gare de Lyon. Parisians, beware. Colleagues in the recording studio, do not be surprised if you get milky coffee from the expresso machine. Just me expressing myself. If you see what I mean.

Hum ho. Still here. In the train. On my own. Oh for goodness sake, I should make the most of this and sit back for a snooze. Or daydream as I watch the countryside roll by. Off I go.

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