Learning with Lily

Learning with Lily

About Me

After a failed IVF in 2007 I thought I'd never be a mother. Then our second IVF worked and Lily was born in December of that year. Twins Tim and Joe followed shortly after (again via IVF) in March 2012.

Then - against all odds - I conceived a natural 'surprise' baby no.4 in early 2013... Evie was born in October of that year.

What else is interesting? I am an ex sufferer of anxiety and depression, my hubby is 28 years older than me (but I'm not weird... honest)... well, not that weird anyway

Gill Harvey

Follow me on Twitter: @4TinyTearaways

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Time to stop moaning and start moving... and dawn of a new era

Two things happened this week that made me think...

The first was seeing a poor man who'd collapsed in the market square the other day (an ambulance had been called; he seemed to have rallied, so not too shocking).

The second was trying to get my jeans on and realising they'd gone from 'snug' to ssnnnnnuggggg ahhh.

It occurred to me that (1) crap things happen to people ALL the time.  Therefore the fact that I've had some weird depression, anxiety, eating-disorder stylie events in my life doesn't make me unusual or particularly unlucky.  Just ordinary. And - compared to some people - very lucky indeed.


(2) I've been blogging about what is probably only half a stone of excess weight and a wobbly bum for - what?  Eight, nine months?  It's a "problem" (if problem isn't too strong a word) that I could sort in 2, 3 weeks.


(3) I need to streamline my shape AND my life.  No more trying to juggle too many things!

So, a new era dawns.  Mummy is going to meet a few targets:

1.  Get diet and wobbly tendencies sorted out.
2.  Get back to writing book.
3.  Get on top of house work.
4.  ORGANISE myself (everything from my inbox to my online files are in a higgledy-piggledy state.

(Interesting fact - higgledy is on spellcheck, but piggledy is not... when does one use one without t'other I ask myself?!)

Things that will help. 
We have our 'garde a domicile' or childminder starting on Monday, four days a week.  I'll still be looking after Evie most of the time, but should have time to (a) breathe (b) dust (c) write.

I've quit my admin job (I was working a couple of mornings a week for a UK company).

So now, I have two roles. Mummy and Writer; Writer and Mummy.  A Mummy Wot Writes or a Writer Wot Muvvas.

Even I can juggle two balls...

Saturday, 12 July 2014

5 Reasons I'm a BAD MOTHER (and 5 things that mean it's OK)

1.  I'm crap at playing. 
I'm not talking about playing an actual board game, or (some) sports... I'm talking about imaginative play.  You'd think (what with me being a writer n all) that I'd be pretty good at it.  Not so.  "Ooh, here comes dolly!"  "Hello Miss Dolly!" "Hmmm. Shall we do something else?"  To be frank, this kind of play is very cute to watch but very dull to participate in.  See?  Crap mother.

2.  I say "yes" too often.
I know it's character building to say no.  I WANT to say no. I WANT to stick by my guns. And I have seen what happens during the teenage years when parents are too permissive.  BUT, if Timmy cries because he wants to take his bottle on the trampoline, or Lily wants just "one more" cupcake, then I find myself going against my judgement, looking at their beautiful (manipulative) eyes and saying.  "OK, just this once..."

3.  I take Happy Pills.
Which means - gasp - I suppose "on paper" I have a mental health problem.  Although the term "Happy Pills" is always a bit of an insult. Feeling Happy when your mindset is a little too tipped in favour of "low mood" takes a great deal more than a sugar-coated smartie full of mind altering chemicals, let me tell you!

4.  I long for bedtime.
Yep.  Both mine, and THEIRS.  I love the evenings when I can relax (ish), get work done, TIDY up, have a cup of tea and not worry about where I put it while it's hot.  Sometimes when it gets to 7.00pm I feel as if I've won the lottery.  OK, well, maybe a mediocre raffle... but you know what I mean.

5.  I've just employed a Nanny
Or 'Garde a Domicile' for those who live in France.  4 days a week 9-4pm to help out.  So yes, I'm farming off the twins while Lily's at school.  Hardly supermum!

Why it's OK.

But... in my defence:
1.   I'm great at teaching, at drawing with the children, at taking them on trips out. In the future, I'll probably be much more useful than I am now. 

2.  At least I'm AWARE that I'm being too permissive.  I'll work on it... just maybe not today?

3.  It takes more strength than people realise to admit you need a little help.  And a little extra serotonin benefits the whole family!

4.  I'm tired. Did I say TIRED?  Make that KNACKERED.  Plus, I like tea...  Plus, when I sit there in the evenings, I kind of wish they'd all wake up again. The great parental irony...

5.  4 years and 6 months of full on childcare, four kids four and under, barely a night slept in the whole time... A twin pregnancy and two single ones... several bouts of PND.  And an occupation that I love and is fulfilling  (plus state subsidies for childcare).  Why the hell not!  Now we can take the boys swimming, for trips out, as well as get our work done and have proper time to spend with them.

Bad mother?

Normal mother.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

In and Out of Consciousness

I've had a weird day.  Something's out of whack.

It's like I've not quite woken up from that 'between sleep and waking' feeling you get when you come around from a deep sleep.

The kids slept last night, I staggered around for a bit this morning, managed to take Lily swimming (somehow) then went back to bed for a few ... HOURS! (Thanks Ray).

It wasn't just the deep sleep of the generally exhausted (I'm used to that). This was a complete compulsion to sleep, and one that I'm fighting with difficulty now.  In fact, as I drifted off this afternoon, I had a strange feeling that I might wake up in hospital... or not at all.

In reality, I was woken up by Lily, peering into my face and telling me that Timmy had hit her and daddy wouldn't let her watch 'Tom and Jerry.'

In the absence of any other symptoms, I'm going to assume that I've been gifted one of the kids' recent viruses, and that I'll probably shake it off in a day or so.

But it's weird - with most illnesses (mild ones) as an adult, you know what you're dealing with.  Sore throat - probably 3 days, cold, a couple of weeks maybe, but only a day or so of "hell" (after which it's just inconvenient).

This strange lurgy is uncharted territory.  I sleepwalk through most days as it is... but I can't afford to actually sleep!

The good news from the weekend is that I finally exposed my wobbly flesh to the world!  No... no, it is a good thing!  "Bare" with me... 

OK, it wasn't "the world" and it wasn't "all" my flesh.

Alright, alright, I just went to the swimming pool - OK?

But for me - a MAJOR breakthrough.  I sourced a swimming costume that hid as many sins as possible without being a wetsuit, and finally took Lily to Eymoutiers swimming pool.

And I wasn't embarrassed of my wobbly bits.

This was helped by the fact that, apart from two lifeguards and a receptionist, the pool was empty.

But still.

In years gone by I was always so body conscious, which meant I ran and exercised myself into as toned a state as possible. 

In years gone by, I'd always waited until things were perfect.

Now, I've realised that being a perfect (or good enough) mother is about doing it anyway.

The fact I went to bed for about three hours afterwards is neither here nor there...!

Saturday, 28 June 2014

On Being Married to an OAP (almost)...

I was watching 'One Born Every Minute' the other night (no, don't worry, I wasn't inspired to have another baby!) and there was a couple on there who - gasp! - had an age-gap relationship.  There was (wait for it) 12 years between them.

Watching them together on the VT, I couldn't help but think they looked a bit 'odd' together. He looked... well - old. She looked about 16.

I tried to imagine how Ray and I must look to the outside world.

Ray's age (currently (it's his birthday tomorrow)) is 63.  Mine is 36.  At the moment we mirror each other, at least numerically.  I commented to Ray today that the next time we mirror each other, I'll be 47 and he'll be 74. Then we realised it would also be 58 and 85, and (god help us) 69 and 96 (and let's just leave it there) - there are 28 years between us, but obviously (if anyone's doing the maths) during the month between our birthdays, there are 27 - hence the mirroring.

My point is, we probably go past people in the street and they assume either (a) he's my dad, (b) he's rich, or (c) he's well endowed. 

Well, readers, I'm glad to say (a) is wrong, sad to say (b) is wrong and as for (c) let's just say a lady never tells...

Before I got myself into this relationship, I wasn't into sugar daddies; I didn't hang around the old people's home hoping for a glimpse of a rippling torso (skin, not muscle).  And I certainly didn't volunteer for meals on wheels in the hope of a romantic dinner for two.  My other 'boyfriends' were the same age as me, more or less.

I didn't see Ray across the staffroom at the school we worked at and say 'he's the one'.  (Unless I said, "he's the one in charge of Year 11" or some such).

In fact, my first memory of Ray is when I got very, VERY drunk at the pub after school and remember talking and talking and TALKING to him.  And just not wanting to stop.  But I thought he was married and - as he was so much older (and I was engaged) - didn't think of him in any other way than a good friend.

I didn't know at the time, but Ray and his wife were going through a divorce, and he was looking for another house and moving out/on.

That summer - my first 6 weeker as a bona-fide teacher - I sat (again in the pub) with a group of teacher-friends including Ray.  He put his arm around me for a photo.

And I'm not kidding, it was like an electrical charge ran through me.


That summer, I realised I had feelings for him. I broke off my engagement - not to get together with Ray (still thought he was too old) but because I knew if I could feel THAT way about another man, then the one I was with was not the one.

And then, over the summer Ray and I fell in love.

Two years later we were married.

There were lots of hurdles to get over in between - getting approval from family (or at least acceptance), overcoming rumours and sniggers at school (from staff and kids!).  But, at the age of 26, I married a man more than twice my age.

Not just a man.

A rock.

Ray isn't (to me) like other men I've dated. He's dependable, he's great with the kids, he's stuck through me through my ups and downs; even the worst of the downs.  He's funny, he gets on my nerves sometimes, and his sense of humour doesn't always hit the mark.

But there is no doubt in my mind that we're meant to be together.

I do worry about the future; I wonder what it would be like if we were the same age (would it be easier?  Probably in some ways). I realise that there may be a time when things aren't "ideal."

But this year is our 10 year anniversary.

We may be 36 and 63, but our hearts are 1.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Why MORE can sometimes mean LESS

Logic dictates that the more children you have the more you will have of the following:
  • sleepless nights
  • overdraft fees
  • stress headaches
  • saggy stomach skin
  • monthly food spend
  • cuddles and love (see?  SEE?  It's not all bad!)

However, after around four and a half years of sleep deprivation, 27 months of pregnancy (not consecutive months, but still equating to over two years' worth), countless stitches, baby sick gracing the shoulder of pretty much ALL of my clothes, and a sickening number of stinky nappies, the numbers have started to work in my favour.

Last year, weekends and holiday days were a whirlwind.  The boys, as yet, not walking but still ridiculously ambitious in what they tried to climb/eat/fall over (delete as appropriate), needed constant rescuing.  Lily was bored.  Evie - still in my tummy - made entertaining Lily/rescuing boys harder than it would have been otherwise.

Last year, I realised that the best way to 'cope' was to ensure we had lots of entertainment in the form of friends over to play or trips to the soft-play centre or park. It was exhausting, but it was still easier than the alternative: Lily was entertained, the boys were safer/happier, and I sometimes got to swig a gulp of decaf coffee (yey! go me!).

This year, suddenly MORE has become LESS.

Because we don't need to rush around anymore.  We love seeing friends, but don't need company 24/7. 

The kids are becoming self-sufficient.  They play together, screaming and laughing in the paddling pool, or playing "ducky fall over" (don't ask) on the trampoline.  Ray and I are always present, but often with laptop on the go, or sipping a cup of tea (or being the duck in ducky fall over (honestly, you really don't want to know)).

In short, we've created a little troop of playmates who are starting to become more interesting to each other.

Even Evie now joins in with the dancing (in her baby walker).  Every time a song comes on the TV, they're all up wiggling their little bottoms; and although there is still the odd tumble (usually Joe), fight (usually Tim and Lily) or stolen toy (3 out of 4), the laughter is starting to outweigh the crying.

And I'm not just talking about mine. 

Even the kids seem happy.

Friday, 13 June 2014

A tour of my (sticky) house

I once went around a friend's house once (a friend who has several children), and remarked to Ray (smug in our 'only-have-one-child-but-know-everything-about-perfect-parenting' ignorance) "the thing about it, is that you can tell that the kids have won."

What did I mean?  There's a point at which a house tips from being a slightly cluttered home where children obviously live, to a home that is 'sticky' on a good day and down and dirty on a bad one.

I have to say it. 

We're sticky...

So - come on over.  I'll give you a tour...

Enter the slightly grubby hallway, noting the brown fingerprints around the door handle and on the lower half of the door (note: these are probably chocolate).  To the left you will find a family bathroom, with toilet, in which (if you care or dare to glance) you may or may not find an entire toilet roll. 

Why not relax in the white bathtub, with its special collection of scabby bath-toys, and miscellaneous plug-surrounding debris?  Or simply take a quick shower, covering your modesty in the white shower curtain, with its special 'artist' mould print.

For the more discerning food lover, there's no better place than the playroom, in which you will find traces of food from the healthy (apple core, half-bitten banana) to the decadent (brownie crumbs, half-eaten cookie). 

Having dined in style, stop to marvel at the original art work on the walls, the floor, the chairs and even etched onto the table top.

After indulging in culture, why not relax in the living room? Note, the sofas are cleverly designed to not only function as somewhere to sit, but as storage places for: glasses, sweet wrappers, crumbs, old tissues and, of course, toy cars.  Run your hand down the gap between the cushions for your own personal lucky dip - go on "it could be YOU"

Nature lovers will gasp at the collection of rare bacteria clustering in the kitchen, on sponges, bottle lids and, of course, the due-for-a-mop floor.  For the more discerning animal-lover, ants can be found in the cupboard under the sink.


And so it goes on.  The thing is, I do believe that if I could Just. Get. On. Top. Of. It. I could keep on top of it!! The backlog of scrubbing has come from a combination of unexpected babies, PND, overwork, exhaustion and chaos.  I don't plan on having any more babies, I am tired of course - but the thyroid's been medicated and Evie has slept through the night a couple of times, so on the home stretch (I hope), chaos, well - I can cope with that.

So, do I hire a cleaner to scrub it all spotless for a couple of days and go from there...?  Or try to tackle it myself, room by room???

It's enough to make anyone exhausted.

Better recharge the batteries with some nutritious snacks.

I'm off to the playroom...

Thursday, 5 June 2014

OMG Surely Not a Summer? And Why I Don't Understand Mental Health Problems

Although I do love it when the weather starts to brighten up, and feel my mood instantly lift, I have to say that last summer was an absolute nightmare.  Why?  Because with one year old twins not yet able to walk precariously stumbling around the garden in a kind of mobile 'downward dog', a three year old not danger aware enough to worry if they were stumbling towards the steps, a paddling pool constantly up and a baby bump to boot, let's just say it was hardly "relaxing."

In fact, I must have spent more time waddling after the twins and lifting them up than I did sitting in the sun, sweating, swearing and swatting midges.  I was a bundle of cumbersome, boiling and irritable flesh, cooking in my own body fluids.  In short, it wasn't clever and it definitely wasn't pretty.

This year, a couple of stone lighter (having de-babied rather than dieted) and with two boys who are more than competent on their feet, I wondered whether summer might be altogether more pleasant and relaxing.

Today was the proof of the pudding!  I sat for an hour this afternoon reading a mag, watching my boys giggle and run in the sunlit garden.  My little independent lads then split up - Tim in the playroom, roaring with laughter over his toy trains and Joe in the garden - under daddy's supervision - running around with a pushchair containing a duck.  I was in the kitchen happily peeling potatoes (which to anyone not a parent to very young children counts as LEISURE TIME!).

Dare I hope that this summer, I might be able to spend a little time relaxing!? 

I read a study this week that concluded that stress can have a negative impact on babies in the womb.  "Oh. Thankyou Science.  Thanks.  I'll stop being stressed SHALL I?" I hear countless women around the country cry.

If that's true, the poor boys must have got a lot of negative vibes from me when I battled anxiety and depression during my pregnancy with them and had to be hospitalised.

That said, I read a feature today about a lady whose twins had been born at 24 weeks and survived only a few days. My little boys may have been "stressed" but I was SO lucky that they stayed put.  Negative impact is a relative term, that's for sure.

The weird thing is, when I'm not in a depression (and hopefully now my thyroid's being kicked into check it might NOT HAPPEN AGAIN) I can't understand the disease. I think "why couldn't I just have 'snapped out of it'?"  I know, deep down, that it was physically impossible to make myself better that quickly, and that I've done really well to get better as quickly as I have.

But no wonder people can't understand mental illness if I - she of the crazy brain - can't understand it myself.

One thing I do know is a good way to make the stress-prone stressed, is by telling them that stress may harm their unborn baby.

All I can say is, anyone who's worried should remember that the brain continues to develop for years after a child is born.  So if the twins had a bit of angst in my tummy, they've had nothing but smiles and laughter (both real and faked) since they've been out. 

Hopefully, that will redress any negative impact.

If not, I'll just have to continue working on my Time Machine...