Yep, this post is about sick. Actual vomit. Don’t read this if you are feeling queasy.
I had forgotten how utterly repulsive that sick smell is. Not just the smell, it’s very existence. Now we’ve been reacquainted by a 7 year old vomiting volcano who has erupted across my house. I’ve realised that it is my parental duty to make sure my offspring learns some clear rules about being sick – behaviours that I had previously just assumed were natural instinct. Apparently they are not.
My little boy is 7 and has hardly ever been poorly. He loves his food and (before this episode) I actually can’t remember the last time he parted with any unwillingly. He must have been very small. Luckily me. Yay. Ah but there is a flip side, because now he’s a much grown child with a stomach capacity for a high-volume vomit. And he hasn’t yet learned the ‘Rules’.
He doesn’t know…
1. That a person who feels sick should head towards the bathroom / sink / easily wipeable surfaces. Not, most certainly NOT carpeted stairs, near a doorway with fancy woodwork ‘crevices’.
2. That once vomiting has occurred it is possible, if not probable, that you will do it again, so fucking STAY in an easily-cleanable area. Do not move to another room that you think would benefit from a pebble-dash-pasta paint effect on the walls, skirting and floor.
3. That whilst mummy loves you more than the world, there are some times that she would rather not wrap you in her arms and snuggle into your face. Those times include occasions when you are literally dripping from your nose to your toes in your own vomit.(But of course when you stand sobbing in an ever spreading pool of sick, with your arms outstretched, mum will OF COURSE run to you, skidding the final inches and almost taking you down like a bowling ball, so that she can comfort you. She will not intend to have a look of disgust on her face as she holds you and tries not to breathe through her nose.)
And also, there are things that I had forgotten.
1. Kids time sickness to perfection. They wait until Dad is out for the evening and Mum has just settled down in the sofa with a nice hot cup of tea and her favourite TV programme.
2. That it is wise to keep carpet cleaner in the house at all times. For fucks sake. Of all the times to run out.
3. That it’s slippy. Yes I slipped in it, yes I put my hand in it and yes I nearly threw my own guts up straight over the top.
4. That THAT smell won’t go away. Even when you’ve washed your hands 15 times, finally acquired carpet cleaner and wiped down/ soaked / boil washed everything in your house, that stench is now embedded in your nostrils. Forever.
Thankfully my little vomiting volcano is feeling much better now.
But sod that cold tea, where’s that bottle opener.
I love Christmas songs, I really do. The carols, the pop songs, the kids songs. Pretty much all of them. So I thought I’d have some fun updating the lyrics of some classics from my Christmas playlist, so they feel more relevant to life as I know it now – as a knackered mother…
1. To the tune of ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’
You better watch out, she might start to cry Can’t believe all the shit still to buy We’re all on the Christmas count down
She’s making a list and checking it twice Goose fat and cranberry, carrots with spice We’re all on the Christmas count down
She panics when she’s sleeping She’ll soon jump wide awake That present’s not arrived yet Now she’s screaming “for fuck’s sake!”
Oh, you better watch out, get out of her way Wrapping and cleaning and swearing all day We’re all on the Christmas count down.
2. To the tune of ‘Last Christmas’
Last Christmas I sent loads of cards
But the postage I paid, just seemed such a waste This year to save me some time I’ll just post a pic on Facebook (Facebook) oh oh.
(Merry Christmas) I wrote them all and sent them With a note saying “Love from…” and I meant it But now you know, that you won’t get a card You haven’t pissed me off, I haven’t lost your address.
Last Christmas I sent loads of cards Now the postage I saved, will not go to waste This year, to charity sent So they can do something special (spe-e-cial).
3. Sing this one like Bing
(Remembering Christmases when I lived with my parents and had no real responsibilities)
I’m dreaming of a boozy Christmas Just like when I still lived at home Where my mum did the shopping, so there’d be no stopping, My after-work drinks and late night discos
I’m dreaming of a drunk Christmas Before I had kids of my own May your children sleep right through the niiiight And may all your hangovers be light.
This is a real modern day Christmas song by my favourite comedian, Tim Minchin. I listen to this every year and it gets me every time.
It’s a beautiful song about his love of Christmas because it’s when his family comes together in Australia. Please give it a play, listen to the words (and maybe grab a tissue if you’re as sentimental as me!)…
Whether you celebrate Christmas in the snow or the sun Whether you are a dad, a sister, a brother, a mum Whether you believe in Jesus or just the family traditions… I hope your Christmas is magical, fun, sentimental and filled with love.
And perhaps Unbalanced for all the good reasons!
Merry Christmas xxx
Link to White Wine in the Sun on YouTube: https://youtu.be/fCNvZqpa-7Q
Since going to see the film ‘Bad Moms’ I’ve been thinking about which stereotype of the mums I most relate to. Stay at Home Mum; Working Mum; Single Mum; Yummy Mummy etc etc. I’ve decided none of them sound quite right for me. So how about a new one… The Tapas Mum.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve never ‘wanted it all’ as the phrase goes to describe those who want a perfect family, great career and to be a permanent Goddess in the bedroom and the kitchen. I’ve never quite believed in that!
I do like the idea of having just a taste of each though. A little bit of everything. Like choosing a few small Tapas plates, instead of a massive portion of one meal.
I don’t need to be a high-flying, top of my organisation, cracking-through-the-glass-ceiling, role model career woman. But I do want a job that I enjoy and that I feel I’m pretty good at.
I don’t need to be perfectly turned out in full make-up and 4 inch heels whenever I leave the house. But I do want to feel good when I go out to nice places.
I don’t need a perfectly presented show home and a manicured lawn. But I do like to be able to relax in the evenings without spearing my bum on a pile of toys or yogurt-smeared cushions.
I don’t expect to have weekly meet ups with my girls for cocktails, dinner and dancing. But I do enjoy the occasional chance to get together with a friend or two for a brew or a shit-load of wine.
I don’t need a pre-planned date night and a massive bunch of flowers delivered on a whim. But I do appreciate the times we get to go out and be a couple in a kid-free / no judgement, adult environment.
I don’t expect my kid to be an Olympic-level athlete, mastermind of science or musical prodigy. But I do want him to have nice manners, have enough confidence to have a go at stuff and laugh a lot.
I am never EVER going to be Nigella Lawson, in cooking skills or body confidence. But I will occasionally make a nice family meal that tastes half decent and give my husband a snog by the sink. Sexy!
I most certainly don’t bake delicious pastries for the school summer fayre. But I do show up, donate a load of supermarket-bought chocolate for the tombola, and happily hand over every coin in my purse for the lucky dip. I even buy and eat the cakes that other people have made (that’s really not a chore, I really love the school fayre!)
Being a Tapas Mum is pretty great. So what do you say… can we create a new stereotype?
Looking at these photos I found myself singing that Flash Gordon song – not the noisy ‘Flash, Ah Ah. Saviour of the universe” part, but the slower bit of ‘Just a man, with a man’s courage”.
I think these photos show why Obama has been so popular (whatever your own politics). Because whatever tough job he’s had to do, he’s shown us that he’s also ‘just a man’ – a human that we can relate to.
He’s not an unreachable, perfect, presidential superhero. He’s shown all sides of himself: a person who can be joyful, fearful, compromised and totally fucked off – even this week, shaking hands with a man he clearly thinks is a total cockwomble!!
Just a man: a husband, a father, a team member, a friend.
All of those things are just as important as ‘a President’.
To me that’s inspirational.
I’m a mum, a wife, a daughter, a friend, a colleague and an Unbalanced Woman who spouts out a load of crap in my blog. I’m far from perfect at any of them.
I’m not a superhero with one super power. I’m an Unbalanced Woman who does a million things as best she can. Like everyone does.
That’s what these photos show me.
“Just a man, with a man’s courage
He knows nothing but a man But he can never fail.
No one but the pure of heart may find the golden grail Oh oh oh oh”
Question: What do you do when your Head-voice and your Heart-voice are at war in your head? When one is saying… ‘Do it, do it!’ and the other is saying “You stupid fuckwit of a woman – don’t even think about it!”
Answer: Get yourself a therapist
This one is hard to write. I’ve been putting it off for a while. But as I started this blog as a sort of therapy, I always promised myself that I’d write honestly about the ACTUAL therapy I’ve had this year. So here goes….
When I became unwell last year, the hardest part of the initial journey was that I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Lying in an MRI scanner and listening to the mechanical beeps for an hour, I was mentally writing my will and thinking about leaving my 5 year old boy without a mum. But once diagnosed (with a Vestibular Dysfuction*) I was able to concentrate on getting physically better. Knowledge is power as they say. Once I knew what I was dealing with, I could fight it.
*Vestibular Dysfuction – when the brain can’t properly orientate and you feel constantly dizzy, sea-sick and can only move about slowly, acting as if you are seriously drunk – without actually drinking. It’s shit!
For the next six months I had a goal, a plan and a belief that I could return to ‘normal’. I made steady progress through Neuro Physio (re-training the brain to balance) and I could cope. I was absolutely determined to become me again, and be able to do everything I previously could.
Having that vision and that belief was, I’m sure, a contributor to me making such great progress.
So when I had a relapse in February and started getting worse again, I hit a new low – possibly worse than my first MRI, because I was back to having no knowledge. Now I was wondering if this was going to be an on-going cycle – did I have to accept that I may never get better? It hit me really hard. My Neuro Physio told me that I needed to come to terms with the fact that this could be it. Even with all the brain training, I may only ever be able to do 80% of what I could before. The idea of living with this illness forever was just heart breaking. The idea of not being able to do everything that I could normally do, and everything I had planned for my life, was overwhelming.
One thought kept coming back to me – Disney Land. It’s been my dream for most of my life, and I’ve promised myself that I will go as soon as my boy is tall enough to go on all the big rides.
I couldn’t accept it. Mentally, I just couldn’t cope. Micky Mouse became a symbol of everything I was losing. The me I was losing. The me my family was losing and the limits that would put on them too. I lost my will to fight, and just became sad and angry. I didn’t know whether I needed to keep fighting to get better, or to accept defeat and make new plans – ones that wouldn’t ever involve Micky fucking Mouse. (I also started swearing a lot more, and taking my anger out on fictional mice!)
I realised that I needed help. My Neuro Physiotherapist was a wonderful woman helping me retrain my brain and make physical brain progress, but I needed help with the emotional side of my brain too. I needed to sort out how to THINK – how to DECIDE – how to KEEP GOING mentally.
So a made an appointment with a Counselling therapist, and it’s possibly the best thing I ever did. To be honest, for the first 3 sessions, I really wasn’t sure! I felt that she didn’t understand the problem. But to be fair to her, it was ME that didn’t understand my own emotions. I wasn’t giving her the right details. I was still too angry at my situation. I was linking my physical condition and my mental state too closely together, I couldn’t separate them – when I felt physically poorly I was sad, and when I felt physically OK I felt… well, OK, but overwhelmingly frustrated by my limitations.
The regular fight in my head was:
Physical Brain: I’m so tired. The more your push me, the more I need to rest. You can’t do everything you used to – accept it; do less; enjoy the quieter life. Let’s sit on the sofa and have a brew.
Emotional Brain: But that’s not who I AM! I’m missing out on LIFE. I don’t enjoy quiet, I NEED the variety, I need the party, I need to be who I WAS.
My Emotional Brain thinks in shouty capitals a lot!
The break-through happened in my therapy session after I did the worse thing I could have possibly done as a person with balance issues – I went on a roller coaster. It was definitely an act of rebellion. I knew it was an absolutely stupid risk that could totally fuck up all the neuro-physio progress that I’d made. But I also felt that I was leading a restricted life, and it was breaking my heart. It was head versus heart, or my Physical Brain versus my Emotional Brain, and Emotional Brain was now calling the shots. It wanted to know what would happen, like a child pushing boundaries… I needed to know if the Disney dream was ever going to be achievable.
I picked a day when all the circumstances were right – I was feeling reasonably good, I had people with me who could look after me if I crashed into a spinning nausea, I had the next 3 days off work if I needed to recuperate. I was still scared shitless though! Physical and Emotional brains were battling in my head as I queued up:
EB: It’s the Dora the Explorer roller coaster, it’s fine for a 6 year old – how bad can it be?
PB: You absolutely crazy fuckwit of a woman – there’s a sign that says ‘Not suitable for people with motion sickness’ – that’s an understatement for what you have!
But because I’m either feistily determined or stupidly stubborn (you can decide which), I did it. And it wasn’t at all as bad as I expected. So… I went on three more, each progressively bigger and faster.
I’d love to say that was the moment when I realised I was better, but oh no, I just got the consequences later. Somehow the adrenaline must have kept me going, but later that day I was crying, and the next day I paid the price properly. I felt awful. I could hardly move off the sofa. I thought I’d broken myself and I had a new reason to be angry – at myself – for being a crazy fuckwit of a woman (PB: Well, I told you, didn’t I?!) However, by the next day I felt a lot better, and the day after that, better again (EB: Ha. I knew it -it was worth the risk)
And this is where my therapist, Jeanette, comes in. She helped me realise that instead of being a straight battle between Physical and Emotional thoughts, I’d rather cleverly brought in a third voice in my head – ‘Intellectual Brain’. IB was the one who made sure I took the risk at the right time, considered the consequences, and made sure I was ready. It sounds so simple, but she was right. She helped me to think about other times I’d used this third voice to make decisions, and that this was the voice I had learned to trust. I needed to listen to them all, but IB was like the mediator.
This was my turning point. I started to feel more positive about making decisions, taking risks, testing my physical limits in a sensible way, and keep my emotional side happy that I was making progress.
When Jeanette and I booked our last session I said that I wanted to do some drawings as a way of remembering what I’d learned, and to help me easily recall the concepts of balancing my physical, emotional and intellectual voices.
This is what I drew…
… and what it means:
1. I need to stop looking back at who I was, and understand who I am now, and what I’m capable off. Being able to do 80% of what I could before may be true, but are there new things I can do too? If I’d lost a leg, I wouldn’t try to grow it back! I’d work out how to live the best life I could with one leg.
2. My roller coaster rebellion taught me how to push my physical limits to allow me to have fun, but in a safe way.
3. I had felt restricted by my illness, like I had tethers holding me back. Jeanette helped me to see those more as a harness, which helped to keep me safe. And when I was seeking to push the boundaries I was using intellect to ‘measure’ how far I could go.
4. I finally accepted that resting is not lazy – it’s essential. I can still do almost anything I want to as long as I accept that my body will pay the consequences, and I make time before and after to give it chance to do that.
Will I get to Disney Land one day? Yes, I absolutely will. Maybe not for a while yet, but I am still a determined / stubborn bitch, and I will not give up that dream. I know that it’s possible, as long as I plan ahead, take sensible risks and make time for the consequences.
“Eyes are the window of the soul”
My soul must be frigging knackered.
So why doesn’t this soul get some more sleep?
Because it owns an Unbalanced brain that won’t shut the fuck up about all the things it really needs to do today.
Brain: You’ve not read all those papers for that meeting tomorrow…
You really need to sort out selling your car before the MOT runs out…
Those pictures you bought 3 weeks ago are still leaning against the window…
Actually this whole house is a shit hole…
And you’ve not done any washing…
Do you realise you’ve not hit your 10,000 steps or 5 a day once this week. You’d better get outside at some point…
And buy fruit…
And you’d better do something nice with your child today because you’re going to London for 2 days and won’t see him….
And the cats need fleaing…
Soul: Fuck off brain. Give me a break. Can’t you see how busy I am carrying these bags under my eyes?
Brain: Oh yes I most certainly can. You’d better go shopping and buy some Touche Eclat. You can’t go to London looking like THAT.
My top tips for parents with kids starting school.
You’ve done all the practical stuff and your little one is ready their first day at school. But this is just the beginning, and YOU need to be prepared for what comes next.
Here are a few things I wasn’t expecting:
1. Uniform and shoe destruction
Treasure those cheesy photos of your kid’s first day at school (mandatory that they are standing by a door – why is that?). Soon you’ll look back and realise that was the last time your kid looked remotely smart.
School uniforms seem to soak up everything. By the first half term those clothes will be stained, stretched, washed-out colours and may have the odd hole. And if you have a boy who keeps the same shoes for more than a term you have my respect. Fuck knows what they do in the playground but it destroys leather.
2. Kids can’t remember ANYTHING
You’ll be desperate to hear about their day but don’t be surprised if after a few days, your kid (who you usually can’t shut up), decides that their only response to all questions is “I can’t remember”, even when they are still within the fucking school gates.
They may remember what they had for lunch.
That’s all you get.
3. You need to remember EVERYTHING
You’d better have a good memory or a good note-taking system because on the rare occasions your kids do tell you about their day they expect you to remember every detail.
There’s an army of people now at the centre of their universe that you have never met. As well as their Teacher and around 30 kids you could hear stories about the Head, Deputy, Teaching Assistants, lunch time supervisors, people who come in to do sports activities, people who come in to hear readers and all sorts more. You will not have a frigging clue who is who. Just smile and nod.
Then throw in remembering when they need a PE kit, a costume, a prize for the raffle, money for Children in Need, blah blah blah, and your brain may start to spin.
You won’t be alone. The playground is full of parents working out how they can make an acceptable Easer Bonnet from things they can find in their kitchen drawer, before the parade happens at 11 o’clock. We’re all in this together. It’s fine.
4. Your new weekend schedule
Parents struggle to establish a clear etiquette for who to invite to their kid’s birthday party, and many resort to inviting the whole class. Yes, it’s not only teachers who have to cope with 30 little angels, you do too. And at parties they add sugar!
There are so many of these parties you may start to say that classic cliche of “My kids have a better social life than I do!” and then cry into your Chuckle Chimps Play Centre coffee cup when you realise that it’s not just a saying, it’s the fucking truth.
5. Biff and Chip
These are characters in a very common reading scheme. You must NOT giggle at the innuendo of character names when your child is earnestly concentrating on phonetic domination.
Whilst you can revel in the magic of your kid learning to read (and it is magic, because English words just don’t follow the rules), it’s OK to acknowledge the mind numbing boredom you may feel when you child brings home 29 books in a row where the most exciting thing to happen is ‘Pat ran’ and ‘Sam sat’.
6. Labelling EVERYTHING
Once you’ve labelled everything they wear you can be nice an smug. No way suckers! There’s always more.
Taking in ‘show and tell’ stuff, a costume for the Christmas play, a cake tin filled with ‘home baked’ goods for the Summer fair, etc etc. If you want it to come back you have to label it.
Get some sticky labels and a permanent marker and learn to write on very small things in very small writing. If you’ve given your kids long names, this is where you’ll start shortening them.
7. A house full of ‘Art’
If you thought baby toys had ruined your beautiful adult house, get ready for this shit storm of craft-based crap. They glue, write, draw and model most days, and the best if it gets stapled to a classroom display, while the rest is brought home to you, full of pride and a desire to turn every wall and surface of your home into a gallery of their masterpieces.
They also get school projects that you, yes you, have to help them with. And school encourage you to ‘be as creative as you like’. Brilliant if you are a crafty type. Sheer, glue-filled hell if you are not.
My advice. Get a big box, call it a ‘special school memories box’ and dump all that shit straight in there. Perhaps in a couple of years you can look back at it with teary emotions, or just laugh at the memory of how a stick with a piece of string cellotaped to it’s middle was supposed to represent their favourite character from a book. If only either of you could remember which book. Very unlikely it was Biff or Chip anyway.