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Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Big Pink Taxi

Tomorrow seemed so far away when the consultant told us in the new year that Ava had to have another eye operation. But it's already upon us.
At work, the week has been a bit frenetic. I was helping to oganise an industry seminar on top of my usual workload, which, combined with some late night business negotiations meant I was asleep on Paul's shoulder, snoring into his ear before 10pm last night. And then there's been all the frenzied speculation and, finally, the revelations about Apple's new iPad, which promises some interesting competition for Amazon's Kindle with its iBooks platform. Just keeping on top of all the news in digital technologies and their impact on books and reading would be a full time job for anyone.
It's all fading fast now as I try to stop my stomach churning, thinking about how tomorrow I'll have to look on again while my little girl is wheeled away under general anaesthetic to the operating theatre. At bed time, I reminded Ava we'd be off early tomorrow morning to the hospital. 'You're going to have another magic sleep, remember?' I said gently as I stroked her long, fine brown hair off her forehead. 'And they're going to have another go at fixing your broken eye.' She stares at me and does a big pout. Then she starts reading her Alice in Wonderland book again.
'We'll be going in a big taxi again, early in the morning! And you'll be able to play with all the lovely toys at the hospital while we wait for the doctors!"
"I want a pink taxi," she insists. "And I don't want eye drops."
I am laughing now.
"You must look after me and never leave me," she suddenly says, and her eyes are wet. So are mine.
"I never will," I say. I take a deep breath and kiss her head and I leave the room quietly.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Of Iron Man and other Super Heroes

Blimey. January is one looooooong month. It takes the will of a superhero simply doggedly to navigate ones way through all the never-ending days: the cold, the severe shortage of available cash, the numerous lurgies (all involving copious runny noses and accompanying face rashes), the challengingly long 'to do' list that appears every New Year inspired by a Christmas holiday in which one spends a great deal of time thinking about how 'next year, I will get more organised.'
Whilst at work, it simply feels like someone hit the accelerator while I wasn't looking. Did January always feel this busy? How can I still have so much to do when there are just so many damn days in this month?
If January feels this excruciatingly long to me, I wonder how long it seems in kid time? To keep January blues at bay, the whole family is looking towards Spring, when we will be undertaking an epic adventure: three weeks 'down under', one in Sydney (I'll be talking at the Sydney Writer's Festival) and two travelling the coast north of Sydney in a camper van. Nath (nearly 5) is particularly excited about the camper van idea, evidenced by the fact that he asks me every morning as he raises his tousled head from the pillow, 'Are we going in the camper van today, Mummy?'
'Not today, darling', I apologise, daily. 'It's a few weeks away yet.' I have sixteen more weeks of this, and wonder whether it was wise to show him maps of Australia and pictures of kangaroos, koalas and the rolling Blue Mountains quite this far ahead of the trip.
More immediately, his 5th Birthday is fast approaching. This is his other daily topic of conversation. As in, 'Mummy, is it my party today?' 'Not today, darling', etc. Nath would dearly love an 'Iron Man' party, which we rashly promised we would produce (well, what could be easier?) Except since Marvel sold out to Disney all the merchandising licenses are clearly in some sort of corporate buyout limbo so that every web site promising 'Iron Man party packs only £29.99!', thus getting you all excited (I know, s'funny what gets me all excited these days) actually takes you to a page announcing 'This range has been discontinued.'
Paul (husband), at the same time as feeling justifiable rage at the impact some stupid greedy corporation can have on an ordinary boy's innocent desires, enthusiastically suggests we could 'make our own Iron Man party gear!' then looks at my face and starts to back peddle, fast.
So, I am fed up with January and desperately seeking Iron Man Party Accessories, on which the happiness of my nearly-five year old depends. Any Super Heroes out there willing to help?

Friday, 8 January 2010

Not waving but drowning. And some news.

It's 2010 and I'll be the first to admit it. The blog was, how shall we put it, a little thin on the ground in 2009. I have no particularly convincing excuse for this other than the fact that 2009 was quite possibly my busiest and most stressful year ever. This was partly due to the ongoing situation with Ava's eyes, her surgery and the lengthy aftercare that involved, but also to do with my news. See below.
At several points between October and December I held ideas in my head for blog postings for ooh, minutes at least, before something else popped up to bite me on the backside and demand my attention more urgently. At one point I said to a friend that I felt I was 'careering' towards Christmas, half-crazed, and I held up my hand at a 45 degree angle to illustrate how, metaphorically at least, I felt I was running at an insane tilt towards the holiday season. In 2009, I arrived at the week before Christmas faintly surprised to have survived the year, and shocked to find that somehow I had bought everyone a present and even baked some cookies to give to the neighbours. It was almost as if someone else had occupied my body and done everything that had to be done, whilst I looked on like a vacant old lady, wonderingly.
Anyway. The good news is that it appears quite a few people really missed Babyjuggler, and so it is that in response to the many emails I've had asking whether I might take up my blog with a little more gusto again this year, I have made just a single New Year's Resolution: blog more!
But now for my news.
No. I am not pregnant (Yes I still do think about it sometimes, but that's about as far as it gets).
But I am bringing a different kind of baby into the world: a book! Of course, being the Digital Director at a trade publishing house, my baby will be born digital. It will be published on 29th January this year as an audio download (available via iTunes and Audible, amongst others) and an ebook. And yes, I am pathetically excited (and terrified of bad reviews). I feel like a proper, real life author!
The Babyjuggler is being published by a fabulous company called Creative Content, and the audio edition has been read by the wonderful Adjoa Andoh. Watch this space for news on publication, and don't tell me if you read a horrid review.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Having a smashing time

One of the phrases friends use about me most is 'spinning plates', as in, 'Sars, I know you're spinning plates right now, but do you think you could ... [insert appropriate request / favour]'. This year, the plates seem to have been spinning faster, and there seem to have been more of them, so that rather than spinning 'em I feel more like I've been smashing them all over the floor. Everyone assures me I'm doing an okay job, but I'm sure I can still hear the sound of tinkling china echoing in my ears. I can hardly recall everything we've been up to since I last uploaded a blog post, though I can say it has involved new beginnings - Ava learning about life through seeing eyes; all of us becoming camping addicts (even Paul!!); Ava returning to nursery, Nath starting in reception and lots, lots more. I can't believe it is already half term, that Nath is now firmly settled into life at school, that Ava is properly on her way to a normalised existence, and that we have all emerged from a pretty hellish first two thirds of the year relatively unscathed. I still feel tears spring to my eyes every time I cut up greens (don't ask me why, but the action of doing it, the sight and the smell of chopped, raw cabbage just reminds me of the particular way my Nan used to chonk it down in the collander with a plate, one of the plates I have now inherited, and carries associations with all the roast dinners dished up to me, and then my family, by my Nanna, who died this year in April) and I still find myself peering into Ava's eyes every time I dress her to check they look okay... But yes, I think to myself, basically, things are okay again. Paul and I passed a milestone in July with our fifteenth wedding anniversary, and now, belatedly, we are going to celebrate, with three days in Madrid... without the children. Of course, there is no such thing as unadulterated pleasure. The organisation and planning to enable three small children to spend three days with their grandparents seems phenomenal, and then there's the guilt about leaving them and the wondering how we'll manage just the two of us, away for only the second time in eight years for more than a night on our own.... But surely, it's got to be good, hasn't it?

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Naughty but nice

I'm sure it wasn't quite proper to be SO excited about spending an afternoon with eight other chicks (okay, I know 'chicks' is a stretch, but indulge me, just this once) topped off by an evening singing along excessively loudly, waving one's arms, scream lasciviously and generally behaving like lunatics let out of the asylum for a day at the TAKE THAT GIG AT WEMBLEY the other weekend.... But to hell with it. Yes, verily, I kid you not, I went to a Take That gig, something I would never have done when they really were a boy band, but now seem to think is perfectly acceptable. The first time they came round they crossed my radar only so far as for me to sniff at them; I still pretended a certain amount of musical snobbery. Now that I'm nearly forty and have three kids, I have developed this ability basically not to give a shit what anyone else thinks of my taste, just as long as I am having fun. For having fun, as Paul rather sweetly pointed out to Eden the other night, is not something Mummy often gets time to do; not in an independent, non-child-related kind of a way (this was in the context of reminding her she shouldn't moan about Mummy taking one afternoon and evening off in about, ooh, five years or so). And when the eight not-so-secret-anymore Take That fans got together on Saturday, we all agreed that it was just this kind of feel-good pop that we all needed, along with an excuse to compare notes on which of 'the boys' we thought was dishiest and compete for the loudest scream prize.
And as antidotes for two or three months of stress go, it was just perfect.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009


Ava made it through her two operations. She has emerged ever bouncier, seemingly energised by the ability to run with her head held high, looking to the horizon, rather than peering at the ground to check her steps; even chattier (if that were possible) as she engages even more energetically with the world around her, and, importantly, able to take her rightful place on the (new!) enormous family sofa, Simpsons-style with the rest of us, to watch TV, instead of standing directly beneath the screen, staring intently upwards. Whether I have emerged with my sanity is debatable (ask Paul, or my team at work, but please don't tell me what they say) and I definitely failed the numerous tests on my patience which Ava managed to pass with flying colours. Waiting with a two year old forbidden to eat and drink before an operation is possibly the longest wait you'll ever endure, except for the wait once you've kissed them goodbye as they fall asleep at the hands of the anaesthetist. But try helping four nurses and doctors to hold your baby down while they kick and scream and cry and almost faint with the hysteria as their eye is cleaned out if you really want to feel like you're finally cracking up. Ava's right eye had a harder job healing than the left. The stitches became inflamed and we spent a nail-biting couple of weeks as we and the doctors tried to ward off the now high risk of infection. Infection that would lead to her sight being irreparably damaged. I'm not prone to flights of fancy but I swear I began to imagine things every time I looked at her eye. And when Ava fell down the stairs - all the way from top to bottom - between the two operations, guess who cried harder, me or her? Yes, Ava has been a trooper, and I have been a certifiable flake. She's bounced back after every setback and charmed every nurse, surgeon and optometrist in the place. Last Monday, she started to turn a corner and by the time we went for her check-up on Tuesday, she got the thumbs up. The eye patches are still on, but we're down to only four lots of eye drops a day (!) and one of ointment (which I quickly learned to administer after she had fallen asleep at night). Her eyes, when they flash with fun, sparkle darkly, the cloudy patches gone. Importantly, her shiny, new, magenta pink, square-framed glasses will be arriving later this week. She will be the envy of all her friends.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Entering the fray

Ava is soundly asleep and joyously unaware of exactly what's in store for her tomorrow. She has a very chic new 'princess haircut' (ie one which involves a fringe which won't go in her eyes), a bright new bunny rabbit to hold (thanks to our very lovely neighbours) and is looking forward with great excitement to "going in a taxi to the hopital to fix my broken eyes." Meanwhile, I am half way through my second glass of red wine and wondering why all rational powers of thought seem to have deserted me. So, think of us tomorrow, as we set off towards Moorfields Eye Hospital in the grey of dawn, and pray that I won't actually be sick when they apply the general anaesthetic.