Sunday, 30 October 2011

How to lose the baby weight

There is no doubt about it, having a baby changes your body for the worse. Bits droop that shouldn't droop, things leak that shouldn't leak, lines appear all over as if you were sponsored by A-Z maps; it's not pleasant.

My theory is that Mother Nature does this to mothers to make sure that no-one (except the father of the child in less serious cases) ever sees her naked again, thereby ensuring a stable relationship for one's offspring.
Mother Nature is warped in the head.

Before your baby is a year old, as a new mother you will find yourself in one of two places:

First, the gym where you will compete with a whole bunch of beautiful, single women, and men who are waaay out of your league, if you had the energy to care. You will stand in front of a wall of full length mirrors, dressed in a baggy tracksuit with an elasticated waist, and a greying t-shirt with sick on it. Why women think this experience will boost their self esteem is beyond me.

The second place you may end up is the Diet Club. These days there are many diets to choose from, each more faddy than the last. You can try the cabbage diet, the red/green diet, the yogurt and fruit diet, the milkshake diet, the Fab lolly name it there is a diet for it.

I chose the second option after birthing my kids and trotted off to Fat Club. To be honest it was more like a maths class. I had to add up points and calories, then add a percentage for every kilogram I was over a certain weight, then convert this weight into pounds as I don't understand kilograms. It was all very complicated. My waistline stayed the same, but I came out with an A-Level in advanced mathematics.

The trouble with diet clubs, for me, is that they bring out the feminist in me. I found myself reassuring women that they are beautiful as they are, and ranting about how today's ideal body is hairless and straight up-and-down, i.e. the body of a prepubescent girl. I urged women to embrace their womanhood, curves and all. They did, gained confidence and left Fat Club. I wasn't very popular...

I think there must be a special school where the women who run these Fat Clubs go to learn 'motivational' slogans. Two which stood out for me were:

"Now, you could have this fat and calorie laden fry-up ("Mmm...yes please!" think I) or you could swap it for this just as delicious tinned tomatoes on toast." Just as delicious? Really...?

And my all time favourite (in an Essex accent for full effect):

"All that glitters is NOT gold girls. IT'S FAT!!"

If you have joined a Fat Club and have stuck to it, well done you. However, I would rather stick to my own diet which I call the comparative diet. It works like this:

You can eat what ever you like, for example a huge piece of chocolate cake, provided that you can persuade your best friend to eat double. That way, you'll always be the thin friend. Works a charm!

Today: It ain't over yet
Peter was playing a card game with my dad, and winning (just).
My dad: Don't get too excited Peter. The game's not over 'til the fat lady sings.
Peter: Grandma, quick! Sing something!!

Mama Jax

Saturday, 29 October 2011

How to get an extra hour's sleep

The clocks go back tonight, meaning that technically we should all get an extra hour in bed. Not so if you have small people. It's basic mathematics: If your small person usually wakes up at 6.30am, when the clocks go back they will wake up at 5.30am meaning that you actually LOSE AN HOUR'S SLEEP!!!!

I would like to implore the government to please stop messing around with time. Stuff the farmers- I need my beauty sleep!!! And believe me, as I'm getting older I need a lot more beauty sleep than I used to. These days it takes a good 10 hours to get me from 'Hallowe'en nightmare' to 'extra in a slightly scary black and white movie.' All the hypo-glycaemic-regenerous-wrinklefirmer-aloevera cream in the world will not be enough to persuade the Sag Fairy to put away her wand and allow me to be pert once more.

Anyone who uses the phrase 'sleeps like a baby' obviously doesn't have one. After about a month, a baby will make you look as if you are a member of an aging rock band, only without the money and the rock 'n' roll memories. To anyone who looks at a baby and thinks, "Ahh.I would love one of those," I would say stop looking at the baby and look at the mum. You'll soon change your mind.

Out of my 3, Bobby was definitely the worst sleeper. She would wake every couple of hours. By the time she was about 4 she would sleep for around 5 hours a night in total. I was torn between crying, and thinking, "Hmm she might be Prime Minister one day. I could use this to my advantage mwah ha ha!"
She would wake me up regularly throughout the night, mainly with, "Mummy I'm scared. Mummy there's a monster under my bed. Mummy there's a ghost knocking on my window." I tried all the gentle, patient parenting techniques- nightlights, fairydust, plastic swords under her pillow- but nothing would keep my child in her bed. (If you are in this position, Velcro pyjamas work, although they are frowned upon in most cultures. Simply dress your child in the pyjamas and slam-dunk them into bed, where they will stay stuck 'til morning.)

After several months of no sleep, I was propping my eyelids open with metaphorical matchsticks and sobbing, "Lack of sleep is used in wars as a form of torture wa-ah wa-ah!" That night Bobby came into my room as usual, "Mummy I'm scared. There's a monster under my bed." My tired self took over and smothered the rational me with a pillow.
"Nothing in your room," I growled, "Will be half as scary as me if you WAKE ME UP AGAIN!!!!!" Problem solved. She risks the monsters...

Today: Feeling hard done by?
If you feel it's not fair that we lose an hour's sleep, take heart. In 6 months the clocks go forward and you can relish the fact that your small one will stay asleep until 7.30am. Unless they invariably choose that day to come down with chicken pox.

Mama Jax

Friday, 28 October 2011

How to survive your gene pool: My Grandad

My mum's side of the family are very middle class. We were taught etiquette, good grammar and 'How now brown cow'.

Every Christmas, the whole family- mum, dad, me, my 2 brothers and my grandparents- would go to church for the morning service. It was the same every year; same carols, same prayers, same readings, but I liked the predictability of it. It was part of a family tradition, and traditions are important at Christmas. My dad invariably wore a musical tie or socks, which he would set off in the prayers. He would then turn around and tut disapprovingly at the people behind us, who would then look confused and embarassed as the tutting spread...

Every member of my mum's church was also very middle class, and incredibly well mannered. One Christmas we were all sitting in our pew, heads down during the prayers, when the lady behind tapped my mum on the shoulder.
"Excuse me, is that your father?" she whispered, indicating my grandad.
"Yes," mum replied, "I'll introduce you at the end."
Mum went back to head down praying. The lady tapped again.
"I'm so sorry to keep disturbing you," she persisted, "Only I think he may be on fire..."

We looked up at my grandad who had smoke billowing from his suit jacket. My dad rushed him outside and patted him out; my grandad had put a lit cigarette in his pocket to save for later, my family motto being 'Waste not, want not.'

Panic over, they returned to our pew. Middle England did not bat an eyelid but continued to celebrate the birth of Our Lord in a way which was right and proper and had nothing to do with grandparents on fire.

I have since adapted our family motto slightly: I waste, I want, but I have never as yet been on fire. Gene pool, part 1, survived.

Today: Wise words from Joni Mitchell
If you have crazy, embarassing family members (and let's face it, who doesn't?!) go and give them a big hug while you still can, and tell them how much you love them.
As Joni Mitchell sang: "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."

Mama Jax

Thursday, 27 October 2011

How to tell the difference between boys and girls

As every new mum knows, the moment they place that little bundle of joy in your arms you fall instantly in love. If you are a mum in an advert, that is. Sometimes it happens instantaneously, but more often than not it takes a while. The 'whoop' new parents give when the midwife says, "It's a boy/girl!" has nothing to do with being pleased to have a boy/girl, but is rather sheer relief that the whole hideous process is over. The midwife would get the same 'whoop' were he/she to announce, "It's a rabbit."

When Bobby was born, she was bright red, weighed nearly 9lb and had a shock of thick black hair, punked up like Rod Stewart. I remember looking at this angry tomato-baby, then looking at the 6lb peaches-and-cream baby in the next cot and thinking, "Hmm...I want that one."

I soon got into the swing of motherhood; however being an ardent feminist I ran into the dilemma of how to dress my girl. I alternated between pretty dresses and practical play clothes (pink and punk!) and gave her a variety of toys so as not to force her onto a particular path. It is probably partly my fault that she made people call her Tom until she was 5 and went to church every week dressed as Luke Skywalker.

It goes against all my principles, but having had 3 children, I would recommend sticking with the traditional pink or blue purely because it is very irritating to be asked all the time, "Boy or girl?" I have a friend who had a little girl, Sarah, and to avoid this question dressed her head to toe in pink, had a pink buggy, pink accessories and I'm sure, if she could, would have had a neon sign flashing across the baby's head saying, "I'm a girl!!" She was stopped by a lady in the supermarket once when Sarah was a few weeks old:
Lady: Ah what a beautiful little boy.
Friend (Looking at all the pink): It's a girl.
Lady: What's his name?
Friend: It's a girl. Her name is Sarah.
Lady: That's a funny name for a boy.

There's no hope for some people...

Today: Advice on the subject by Phyllis
Phyllis came home from school with a picture of a dragon. Her homework was to use adjectives to describe the picture. I prompted her to start by asking if it was a boy dragon or a girl dragon.
"Oh I don't know," she replied, peering at the picture,"Let me see if it has lipstick on."

So now you know how to tell the difference between boys and girls- it's all in the pout!

Mama Jax

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

How to teach your kids to have a questioning mind

My kids question everything they hear. They challenge facts, test theories and ask for proof. Teachers think they're marvellous and a joy to teach.

How did I raise such marvellous joy-to-teach children? Well, I come from a long line of jokers; my kids have learned not to take anything at face value.

My grandma, before she died, managed to convince the kids next door that she was really a fairy. My grandma was 88 and a size 26. She was so convincing that the kids used to leave her little gifts and write wishes to her.

My dad, one April Fool's Day, told his next door neighbour that the UK would be changing to the continental way of driving, and that our little town had been chosen as a pilot town. He told the neighbour that the council were sending workmen out through the night to change all the signs and road markings. The neighbour was up in arms and after a good 20 minutes ranting with my dad stormed inside to write a stern letter to the local paper.

So you see, my kids didn't stand a chance really. Jokes are swimming around in their gene pool, freaking out the life guards by pretending to drown and telling other genes that the waters are shark infested.

Here are a few of my favourite jokes. Feel free to try them out on your own children, for educational purposes of course...

1. Driving past Stone Henge Peter commented on what a shame it was that people couldn't go up to the stones anymore.

Me: Do you remember those little pebbles in jars you can get from the sweet shops by the seaside? Well, that's what Stone Henge is made of.

Peter: Oh, so that's why people aren't allowed near it anymore. People kept taking bites from the stones.

Me: Well, not biting them, but licking them. They were getting very sticky and attracting wasps. Health and safety- you know.

Peter: Stupid health and safety. It spoils all our fun.

2. On the wedding of Prince William and Kate:

Phyllis: Mummy, when you and daddy got married, were there things in the shops with your picture on them, like tea towels and things?

Me (never one to miss an opportunity): Of course, darling.

Phyllis: Well where are they now then?

Me: Well, mummy looked soooo beautiful that everything sold out in seconds.

Phyllis: Oh, ok.
(I love that my daughter thinks this is possible!)

3. At school, arriving an hour late because of a hospital appointment:

Child: Miss, where were you this morning?

Me: Well you see I'm actually not just a teacher, I'm also a spy for the government. This morning I had to fly out to see the president in America for a meeting. The meeting overran a bit.

Child (already starting to question): How did you get back so quick?

Me: In a helicopter of course!

4. On a school trip:

Child: It's not fair. That coach is going faster than our coach.

Me: It's because of the design. If you look on the side of each coach, the faster one has straight lines which makes it more aerodynamic. Our coach has wavy lines which slow it down.

Other members of staff couldn't understand why, on the return journey, all the kids were clamouring to get on the 'fast' coach. Oops!

Today: An inspirational genius
I read recently of a teacher who convinced a whole class of Year 10 pupils (that's the 4th year to anyone over the age of 25) that you could change your star sign by going to the post office and filling out a form. I don't know this teacher, but whoever you are, I salute you!

Mama Jax

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

How to get the most from your cat flap

Our house, while lovely, is full'flaws'. Windows don't fit, ceilings are falling down, carpets are beyond help and don't even get me started on the state of the bathroom! Still, it is well loved.

One of the 'flaws' is the front door. Although you can open it from the inside, for some reason known only to itself, it refuses to open from the outside. This means that to get in we have to go through the back door.

One night I had all 3 kids, the 'big shop' (Lidl, obviously), it was dark, it was cold, it was raining. Now I am usually a cheery and patient person- Waitrose fishwife incident aside- but sometimes the fates just seem to have it in for you.
"Oh look!" they say, "She's cold, wet and laden. Let's have some fun with that!" before cursing the back door so it refused to open. I wiggled the key, talked nicely to it, threatened it, then had a bit of a Tourette's moment to relieve my feelings. We were all getting colder and wetter, except for the frozen stuff which ironically was warming and thawing nicely thank you very much.

So, what does one do in this situation? The only thing one can do: choose the smallest child and post them through the cat flap.

Once inside, Phyllis jumped up saying, "I'm a cat! I'm a cat! Miaow, miaow!" to which I responded, "Darling, go and open the front door for mummy."
"I can't, I'm a cat! Miaow, miaow!"
"Darling, please open the door for mummy, we're all getting cold and wet."
I'm paraphrasing of course. I am, after all, a Lidl mummy not a Waitrose mummy.

Eventually Phyllis agreed to let us in, in return for some milk.

A few days later I was upstairs when I heard Peter shouting for me in some distress. I rushed down to see what was wrong to find him in a heap on the kitchen floor.
"Don't worry mum, I'm ok now. I just wanted to see if I could fit through the cat flap too. The answer is...not quite."
I suspect Bobby has had a secret try too when I'm not around.
(So have I! Shh!!!)

Today: Does giving birth really hurt?
This is a question I'm often asked by teens. Here's what I tell them: imagine the baby as Hagrid (Harry Potter) and your vagina as a cat flap and you're some way to figuring out the answer... If they're still keen on having babies after that, try posting them through a cat flap. It usually cures them.

Mama Jax

Monday, 24 October 2011

How to survive the supermarket shop

If you don't yet have kids and are thinking of joining the ranks let me just warn you of one thing:
You will never again shop in Marks and Spencers food hall!

There is a hierarchy in supermarkets which subliminally dictates who they welcome. M&S with kids? Forget it. Waitrose? Possibly if you have a nanny and have called your child Tarquin or Jamesina.

I tried Waitrose once. Whoever came up with the idea of mini trolleys for kids obviously didn't have them. Tarquin and Jamesina will enjoy the trolleys. They will walk next to their adult, reading words like 'Kumquat' from the shopping list whilst mentally totting up the nutritional value of each food item.
My kids pretended the trolleys were bumper cars. I spent 10 minutes trying to be a Waitrose mum before cracking with, "Darlings, please come here. You are making me SCREAM LIKE A FISHWIFE!!!!!" I went scuttling back to Asda where I belong.

When Peter was smaller I took him with me to Asda and took my eyes off him for a second. BIG MISTAKE! Children, like Doctor Who's Weeping Angels, should always be watched. Don't even blink. In that second, Peter had legged it round the corner straight into a display of cut price wine. Much of what happened next is blanked from my traumatised mind, except for the part where I'm holding a screaming Peter whilst hysterically repeating, "I'll pay! I'll pay! I'll pay" as if on a loop system. The manager was very calm. "It's fine madam, we'll sort it. You can go..." Oh the shame!

I've now found my comfort zone with Lidl. However I am very aware that I am one tantrum away from having to rummage through skips for food whilst my kids graffiti misspelled swe
ar words on the wall. I wonder if the same hierarchy exists for supermarket skips? I might end up a Waitrose mum after all!

My tips for how to survive the supermarket shop? Leave them at home. Or bribe them to behave with sweets and comics. Not the best parenting technique, but let's face it, it works.

Today: Manners make all the difference...
Overheard in a supermarket (I'll leave you to guess which one):
Kids (about 1000 of them it seemed...): Giz it 'ere! Giz it 'ere! It's mine! Giz it 'ere!!!
Fraught mum: 'ow many times do I 'ave to tell yiz?? It ain't "Giz it 'ere!" It's "Giz it 'ere...ta!"

Mama Jax

Sunday, 23 October 2011

How to get a teenager to go to bed

If any of you like me have a teen, you will know how difficult it is to have some time to yourself. You can't say to a teenager, "Come on, it's bedtime now," without being called lame, or having a HUGE list of whinges and arguments which would fluster an experienced lawyer.

I would like to share with you how I managed to get some alone time for me and my husband. My 16 and 13 year olds go upstairs at 9pm like clockwork, without a murmur, and don't come down at all. They are allowed to read or (16 year old) go on the computer until 10pm at which time, lights out.How did I achieve this minor miracle? Well, after a couple of weeks of constant battling I reached the end of my tether. The conversation went something like this:

Bobby: You're so lame, none of my friends go to bed before midnight, I'll be bullied at school if anyone finds out, blah, blah, blah...
Me: Ok let me put it this way. At 9pm, me and your dad are going to get naked and have sex on the couch whether you're here or not.

You have never seen teenagers move so quickly!!!

Mama Jax

My Small Fry: The Railway Children

I call my kids the railway children, after the children in the book by E. Nesbit. There is a line in the book that says:

"Mothers never have favourites, but if their Mother had had a favourite, it might have been Roberta."

Well that's my eldest- my 'Bobby' as I like to call her. Always there, works hard, has her moments but generally not too bad! (I actually say to all my children, "You're my favourite...but don't tell the others!" If they ever discuss and find out I've said it to all 3 of them, well they should have done what Mama Jax told them and kept quiet!)
The middle child in the book is Peter, a bit obsessive and rather odd, just like my 'Peter'. My Peter has autism, and that's a blog of it's own! He, like many boys his age, is obsessed with Doctor Who but unlike most boys he can tell you anything and everything about any given episode. Go on- comment a question and test him!
My little 'Phyllis' is the diva of the family (I can't think who she gets it from- I blame her dad!) She's taken to replying to me with, "Whatever...Girlfriend!" complete with clicks.

I have worked with challenging kids for over 6 years now, and I love every minute of it! It's toughened me up that's for sure!!! In this blog I hope to share with you my parenting highs and low. Parenting is hard enough, without having to struggle on your own, so feel free to share your worries, difficulties, tips and successes.

Today, a little laughter...
Me: Peter, the clocks go back next weekend.
Peter: Back where?

Mama Jax