Monday 26 March 2018

Chicken Pox: The Tenth Circle Of Hell

Everyone kept telling me that the second sibling always gets chicken pox worse. I thought they were just being dicks. You know like when you’re pregnant for the first time and tired and people say, ‘ha! This is nothing, just you wait.’ Or you’re pregnant with your second and all anyone says is, ‘God, it is SO MUCH harder with two.’ Or when anything in your life seems hard and everyone says you know nothing, you haven’t seen pain but you’re going to and it will be terrible. Why do you all do that, by the way, you bunch of dicks.

Ebony was totally fine with the chicken pox. She barely mentioned having it, the pox completed their life cycle was little upset and have since faded into insignificance. The experience lulled me into a false sense of security. I thought chicken pox was easy. I thought it was no big deal. I thought I could handle it. Then Ember got it.

I have learnt three things from the experience:
  • 18 months is a bad age to get the chicken pox 
  • Siblings really do get a worse dose of it 
  • I do not cope well with being quarantined

Five days is a long time to be stuck in the house waiting for the spots to blister over. I actually managed to quarantine us for a few extra days because I was so sure the pox was going to come, so I have currently been stuck in the house for about nine days. We could probably have re-entered society on Thursday, but I couldn’t be bothered following her round playgroup explaining to the terrified looking mothers clutching their precious first-borns that, actually, she wasn’t contagious anymore. And then we could have gone out yesterday, but Ebony was ill, so I have been stuck indoors for way longer than was strictly necessary.

I have learnt a lot about the chicken pox. Here are the symptoms I noticed Ember exhibiting:
  • A slight fever Red spots that turned to blisters and then scabbed over 
  • An incurable anger 
  • An unwillingness to be put down even momentarily 
  • Complete indifference to all food except junk food 
  • An inexplicable need to peel but not eat many bananas 
  • Non-stop crying between the hours of 11pm and 4am 
  • Maternal insanity

Just looking at her made me feel itchy. Her tummy and back were covered in big red pox and her face reminded me of the more unfortunate kids from high school. She was itchy and angry. And it’s actually very hard to stop an 18-month-old from scratching her spots. I have no control over my toddler, I am willing to admit that. I can, on occasion, manipulate her into doing what I want but mostly I just chase after her muttering ‘fuck sake’ to myself while she does whatever the hell she wants. This usually works pretty well as a way of getting my steps up and ensuring she doesn’t throw tantrums.

It doesn’t work when she has chicken pox and an urge to scratch because, um, I actually have to stop her doing that. There is a risk of infection and scarring and also, it’s just gross. I found that keeping her fully dressed at all times helped. One problem we had was that she doesn’t really wear vests anymore, she’s usually in knickers now so we don’t have much need for vests and so she has outgrown pretty much all of them. She has three that fit but when they were in the wash she was forced to wear too-small vests that fit like crop tops, looked ridiculous and offered little protection to the angry bumps on her tummy. A lot of them got scratched. Some became inflamed and had angry red rings around them. I developed an obsession with sepsis and spent a lot of the week being worried. This is about as far as my maternal anxiety goes. I didn’t check her temperature or anything, I just worried lazily.

The nightly crying interfered with her sleep and meant she was taking huge naps in the day. Usually, I would be all for this because I would get some work done. But when I have had four hours sleep and haven’t spoken to an adult for five days, I’m not really in the mood for writing. And any writing I did do would probably just be an incoherent ramble of every thought I’d had since I last saw an adult which would not make for interesting reading and would potentially lead to uncomfortable conversations about my mental state.

So, for the past week, I have done no work. I have not had many conversations with grown-ups. I have slowly felt my mind crumble. I have worried that I was going insane. I have cried about how little sleep I have had. I have cried because I needed to make dinner with just one hand. I have cried because Ebony came in and started peeling the carrots so I could make dinner. I have eaten a lot of chocolate some of which was meant for Easter. In summary, it had not been a good week for any of us.

Thursday 22 March 2018

5 Fun Gifts For Feminist Kids

As the mother of two young girls, I can tell you that girls get a lot of princess crap for their birthday. Books and jigsaws and Playdoh kits, all Princess themed, as though girls couldn’t possibly be interested in anything without the help of a glittery tiara. It’s somewhat depressing. And I say that as somebody who is openly anti-Princess, so I imagine other girls get even more Princess stuff without being held back by their feminist mothers.

If you’re looking for something a little more imaginative, perhaps something that will help the little girl in your life grow into a fierce woman, here are a few suggestions for gifts for feminist kids:

Every house should have a copy of the Rebel Girls books. In fact, hotels should have a copy in the bedside drawer. Rebel Girls is the bible for modern young feminists. Each book features 100 inspiring women from all walks of life. Whether you’re a budding mathematician, the next Beyonce, or hoping to save the world from climate change, you’ll find women to inspire and amaze you.

The young feminists in your life probably already have the first book, but the sequel has only recently hit the shelves in the UK so this would make an excellent gift.

Shuri is sassy, clever, brave and strong. She’s arguably a pretty radical feminist role model. Superhero games are always popular on the playground and it’s not hard to see why. Superheroes have magical powers and spend their lives battling evil, so it’s no wonder kids like pretending to be their favourite superheroes. This Pop Vinyl Shuri figurine will help your budding feminist to get lost in imaginative play.

Lego is brilliant for inspiring creativity, play and building know-how. By the time girls leave primary school, most have already decided they’re no good at maths and science. Not because it’s true, but because these beliefs are widely held in society and they filter down to kids. This sought-after Lego kit celebrates inspiring women from Nasa including Sally Ride who famously did not need 100 tampons for her six day mission in space (best story ever).

4. A Microscope
All budding feminists need a microscope. They can be used for scientific research, for animal tracking and to play spies with. They are an essential piece of kit to any young feminist. Ebony got one for Christmas along with a bunch of spare slides so she can collect things to look at. There are loads of different microscopes on the market so make sure you read the reviews to pick the one that sounds best suited to your mini-feminist.

If we want to get more women into STEM jobs, we need to encourage little girls to love science, maths and problem-solving. Luckily, little girls already love these things, it’s just unfortunate that society tells them they shouldn’t. This game encourages kids to use their maths know-how, teaches them new skills and proves that maths can be fun.

This is a collaborative post.

Sunday 11 March 2018

Mother's Day Feels

I always get emotional on the big days. Birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day, you name it, I cry on it. Not tears of sadness or tears of joy, but tears of feeling overwhelmed, I guess. On birthdays, it’s the realisation that life is slipping through my fingers, that I can’t stop time and that one day, scarily soon, these days will be a distant memory. On Christmas, it’s probably the amaretto mixed with the relief of months of planning paying off and feeling like I have my shit together even if the carrots are raw and I forgot about some of the Christmas presents. On Mother’s Day, it’s the weight of being a mother.

It’s big, isn’t it? It’s an important job, I have real responsibilities. Those little faces looking up at me and I am in charge of them. Not just on a day-to-day level, but I’m responsible for helping them to grow. I have to feed them well, wash them, make sure they’re dressed. And then I have to help them deal with their emotions, teach them to stand up for themselves and instil in them a compassion for those around them. These aren’t little things, they’re huge.

Those little girls depend on me for everything. They want me to cuddle them when they are hurt, they want to snuggle up on my knee while I read them stories, they want me to watch their new tricks and show an interest in what they’re doing. If I snap at them, they are crushed. I see it in their faces, all they want is to be loved and accepted and feel safe and I am in charge of making that so. It is my job to love them unconditionally, to hold them close and tell them I love them so that they are ready to go out and take the world by storm. I’m their safe place, that’s my job. I’m their little patch of evergreen comfort amidst an untidy and unpredictable world.

It’s a lot of responsibility building the next generation of women. I want them to be tough and brave and loud and compassionate and opinionated and fierce. I want them to believe they can do anything, to push boundaries and climb mountains and aim high. I want them to love without holding back, to laugh loudly and to chase happiness wherever it takes them. But it’s hard, isn’t it?

It’s hard to find them time to give them both my full attention. It’s hard to get everything we need to do done while still finding time for the things we want to do. It’s hard to be calm and patient when I’ve had no sleep (and I never get any sleep). Motherhood is a big deal and it deserves my full attention, but I don’t often get chance to give it the time and energy it deserves. Life gets in the way. I want to be the best mum I can be, but I don’t always feel that I have enough time to manage that (I’m too busy or too drained or too exhausted).

These days won’t last forever, that much is painfully obvious. Ebony has grown up so much recently. We were walking along today and she said, “Hey, mummy, look at my shadow, it looks like the shadow of a teenager.” And just like that I could see her, painfully embarrassed to be around me, desperate to impress her friends, full of teenage angst. Motherhood is giving your everything to a new little person who grows further and further away from you. I’m still in the needed stage, I’m their hero, they depend on me and love me unconditionally. But they won’t forever, and knowing that makes my heart hurt.

I only have one chance to get this right. If I’m not the best mother I can be now, I’ve messed it up. I’ve missed my chance. Ebony will only want to read her books to me for a few more months, then she’ll be holed up in her room reading to herself. Ember’s sloppy kisses and bear hugs won’t be offered indefinitely, I need to soak those up while I can. Motherhood can be tiring and draining, but it’s also the best thing that has ever happened to me. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without those girls, they changed everything and made me the happiest I’ve ever been.

Friday 9 March 2018

What I Want For Mother's Day

Another Mother’s Day, another gift guide. I took my mum out for afternoon tea for Mother’s Day. I will probably write about it soon because the vegan option was uh-mazing. I don’t know what I’m doing yet. Ebony wasn’t well today but she was stood fully dressed at the door at 8:50 am this morning sobbing because she couldn’t go to school. She kept saying she needed to go because of ‘a secret’ which I think was the Mother’s Day stall they have at school. So now I won’t get my £2 beaded bookmark this year which is, obviously, disappointing.

Instead, I would accept any of the following:

Oh my God, this stuff is so good. I had it instead of an advent calendar and I cannot stress how amazing it was. The chocolates are so tasty. So delicious. So wonderful. All vegans need some of these in their life, trust me.

Ebony loves nothing more than matching. I love nothing more than homemade gifts. I would love a customised t-shirt designed by Ebony. And it would be even cuter if she had a matching tee. I’m not saying I’d wear it to the pub, but I’d definitely wear it to bed.

I need this stuff. My skin is ageing, I am ageing, life is terrible. I am suddenly feeling very old and I need some amazing foundation to make me look at least slightly airbrushed. I’ve never used Cover FX but it’s supposed to be amazing. And it’s all vegan and cruelty-free, obviously. I was meant to get some for my birthday last year but only House of Fraser sell it in Manchester and that’s just so far… so I got something from Debenhams instead. This year I am haggard enough to need to walk the extra distance.

I am in desperate need of a big handbag. My bag doesn’t fit books in so I am forever carrying a paperback which makes me look like a really lame, middle-aged attempt at a hipster. I need to get a bigger bag so I can stop worrying about misplacing my reading material. I like this one in yellow. All my bags are yellow.

This is a collaborative post.

Monday 5 March 2018

The Chicken Pox Diaries: Day 3 - 6

Day 3 
Ebony woke up with 130 spots, mostly small red dots but the occasional (vom) blister. Some of the earliest blisters have started to scab over already. Ebony doesn't really seem to notice them and rarely complains of itching. 

Another skipped day of school that didn't really count because the school was closed because of the weather. My parents came over to hang out with us all for the afternoon. My mum brought homemade soup and some craft sets. They offered to take Ember out for a couple of hours so she could remember life before quarantine, but the wind chill meant it was freezing outside and Ember is not a fan of cold weather (or warm clothing). Instead, they entertained both girls while I got some work done. We waved them off at 3 pm and then settled down to watch a movie. 

It was a pretty uneventful day, with Ebony barely noticing she had chicken pox. I am still not allowed to refer to her as 'Poxo' or 'Mrs Poxy', she is very firm on this. She had a bicarbonate of soda bath before bed and then I applied calamine cream to all 150 of her spots. Most of them are little red spots, tiny bumps under the surface, they don't look like chicken pox yet but I fear they will tomorrow.

Ebony went to bed ok but woke up an hour later. Then 15 minutes after that. Then 10 minutes after that. She wanted me to stay with her so, in the end, I ignored the fact it was Friday night and just got into bed with her. She slept ok after that.  

Day 4
I wasn't around for day 4. I went to Manchester for the day with my Mum. I was worried this would be the tough day that everybody warned me about, and waited for a text from Laurie saying things weren't going well. No text came, in the end, he messaged to say he didn't think she remembered she had chicken pox because she hadn't mentioned it all day. 

Day 5
Day five of the pox meant four whole days at home for Ebony. I thought she'd be tearing her hair out by now but she seemed relieved to have an excuse to hide from the cold. Ember, on the other hand, was a big ball of energy with no outlet. So, to make life easier and give her a little rest from her hermit life, Laurie took her out for a soft play. They were gone for a few hours, leaving me and Ebony alone to do toddler-free things. We painted, we made a Lego palace, and we ate iced buns (and then we tidied, but that doesn't sound very exciting so I left it off the list). It was nice to spend some time just with her, and she didn't mention the pox at all.

Day 6
I'd already decided to keep Ebony off on Monday but, to be honest, I think she'd probably have been ok to go in. I just don't want to be the dick who times things wrong and infects the other half of the class with chicken pox. So she stayed home one last day and spent most of the day saying she wanted to have chicken pox forever because then she could always hang out with her family. We watched TV, she played insane imagination games with (or, more accurately, around) her sister, and she did a lot of dressing up.

To conclude, chicken pox was not at all stressful or terrible or what I was expecting. She has about 20 spots now, well, scabs, most of the others disappeared into nothing (I don't know why). They're all scabbed over and healing well, so she's ready to re-enter society. She's done her reading, her homework and she's ready to go and continue her elaborate game of chase with the boys from reception. 

ps. This is Ebony's painting. It is some daffodils and a watering can. Yeah, a watering can. 

Thursday 1 March 2018

The Chicken Pox Diaries: Days 1 & 2

Day 1

Well, it has finally happened. After years of waiting and wondering, chicken pox has finally invaded my home. I’m relieved, to be honest, it will stop my annual pre-holiday panic that chicken pox is going to stop us going on holiday.

Chicken pox is doing the rounds at school. So much so that they sent a printed letter home about chicken pox with my pox-ridden child yesterday. I didn’t know she had it until she was snuggled up next to me on the sofa and I noticed she felt a little warm. I lifted her top up to reveal a smattering of twelve spots across her chest and tummy. A glance at her back revealed a couple of blisters.

“You’ve got chicken pox?” I said.

“No I haven’t.” She insisted, staring at me with dead eyes.

“You do, look.”

“No.” She said, clamping her arms over her chest.

Then, five seconds later, she was ‘so itchy’. Um.

I sent Laurie to the pharmacy for supplies. I ran Ebony a bath with bicarbonate of soda in and tried and failed to find her some matching pyjamas. We never have matching pyjamas, or socks, in this house.

Despite her heartbreak at missing World Book Day (she was going to be Matilda), she seems indifferent to the pox. After some initial denial, she has now thrown herself into life with the pox. One of them itches, apparently, but only one of them. She will probably need to watch lots of movies, she thinks.

My main concern as far as the chicken pox is concerned is actually for Ember. She does not have the chicken pox, but she does have the abundant energy of an 18-month-old and so the thought of being stuck indoors with her for close to a week is less than thrilling. She already punched me in the face this morning because playgroup was cancelled thanks to the snow. I am already nervous about telling her we can’t go tomorrow.

Ebony insisted on separate baths because she was worried Ember would poke her pox. I think this was very wise because Ember is exactly the kind of sociopath that would deliberately hurt a poorly person (remember when she punched me in the face because playgroup was cancelled?).

Day 2
Ebony woke up this morning with 14 spots, she went to bed with 63. They’re starting to itch now but so far I haven’t seen her scratching. She has been enjoying the excuse to watch lots of television and do some crafts. She has looked exhausted all day but didn’t nap, just stayed awake in a dazed state.

I applied a cream to all of her pox just before bed. The blisters are gross but they are on her back so she has no idea the level of mothering I’m achieving by touching them.

I tried to take them in the garden to play in the snow, but that very quickly ended in tears. Ebony hurt her finger when it got trapped between the sledge and a little wall. Ember thought the snow was too cold and burst into tears. It took longer to heave the sledge from under the stairs than we spent playing outside. Will not be attempting outdoor play again to pass the time.

Ebony is quickly tiring of me counting her spots. And the doesn’t want me to call her ‘poxy’ anymore. Chicken pox makes her quite grumpy. A day of trying to get inventive with the bare kitchen cupboards improved when the Ocado shop arrived. I made vegan coleslaw and Ebony loved it, she thinks we should send the recipe in for the dinner ladies at her school, I’m sure they would love that.

Ember is going to all lengths to compete for my attention now that Ebony is both off school and poorly. So far, she has:
Licked all the shoes
Fallen face first off the sofa
Battered the TV
Shoved her sister away from me
Pooped on the floor
Pooped in the bath
Pulled everything out of the kitchen cupboards

Day two was better than expected. I worry about my sanity tomorrow though.

5 Perfect Staycation Holiday Destinations

My parents bought a motorhome five years ago and have been travelling Europe in it ever since (ok, they come home sometimes). They made it very clear when they bought it that we were free to borrow it (whilst also looking in horror at the mess Ebony makes when she eats any kind of coloured food). We borrowed it for a week once and went down to Brighton to visit friends, but we haven’t taken it anywhere else. This year we’re planning on borrowing it for two weeks over the summer so we can have a cheap holiday during the school holidays. With that in mind, I’ve been looking at family-friendly staycation destinations, here are some of the ones that made it onto my bucket list:

1. Guernsey
Guernsey is located just off the coast of Normandy so it’s a sneaky staycation and would probably feel a little more like a holiday than the other places on this list. It has beautiful beaches and sweet architecture and looks like an amazing destination for a family holiday. There is lots of family-friendly accommodation on the island, from self-catering apartments to campsites and luxury hotels. A quick search for summer holidays to Guernsey throws up lots of results to suit any budget.

2. Cornwall
I’ve been to Cornwall quite a few times but not since I was a child. My memories of those holidays include breathtaking beaches, amazing ice-creams and, um, rain. I have wanted to take a family holiday to Cornwall for a few years but the drive has been putting me off. It’s pretty far from Manchester, but this year we’re taking the plunge. We’re going to borrow my parents’ motorhome and make our way down there slowly, stopping in a couple of places along the way. I am desperate to take Ebony to the Monkey Sanctuary, she’s never seen a monkey in real life. We don’t visit zoos, but the Monkey Sanctuary is an ethical sanctuary that I’m excited to go visit. I also can’t wait to finally visit the Eden Project, it looks so beautiful.

3. Scotland
When planning our Cornwall trip, I did briefly consider Scotland. I would love to go and explore the islands around Scotland and visit the friends we have living in Edinburgh and Glasgow. In the end, though, the weather put me off. Maybe next year, when I’m not as desperate for sun, sea and sand (I realise Cornwall is probably not the best place for this either…). We’ve decided to try and make more use of my parents’ motorhome so Scotland is definitely on the cards at some point soon. Camping in Scotland just sounds a bit risky, doesn’t it? I’m not convinced our tent would cope well with Scotland’s summer (rain and wind).

4. Scilly Isles
I saw a blog post about Fritha’s trip to The Scilly Isles a couple of years ago and it looked amazing. There are no cars on the island so it sounds like such a perfect place to visit with young children. The photos were gorgeous and I think it would be so peaceful to get away from the hum of traffic. They’re located just off the coast of Cornwall so it would be a bit of a trek for us to get to, but it’s definitely on my wishlist of places to visit when the kids are young.

5. Ireland
I’ve only ever been to Ireland once for an overnight stay in Dublin back when we were young and carefree. We went to the Guinness Factory (obviously) and went for drinks in Dublin and that’s pretty much all we did, I think. I’d love to go and visit the country properly and spend time in the countryside. It always looks so beautiful and green. This would be another great place to visit in the motorhome because we could get the ferry across easily enough. It’s not exactly a staycation destination, but sort of… right?

This is a collaborative post.

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