Full of Suprises

This summer has been a summer of fun, love of many forms, friendships and fabulous holidays. It’s now the end of the summer holidays and I go back to work on Tuesday after 6 weeks off. It will be a shock to the system as the pace of the secondary school I work at is phenomenal but I am ready for it. Bring it on – something’s got to pay the bills and keep me in this lifestyle I’m enjoying and hey, I’m pretty good at it. I no longer blog frequently but before I go back to work and it consumes me, I feel the need to write, as a memoir to a joyous summer. I hope it doesn’t read like a boring diary entry!

I fell in love back in April and I new that I could get serious about him when we took my daughter, who is nearly 3, to her first Music festival: Truck. I was a bit worried about how she would respond or if she would have a meltdown at the music. We were lucky enough to be able to stay at my dear friend’s house who lives in the village the festival is in. A bloody good job after the calamitous camping experiment we tried a few weeks before!  I was fully equipped with ear defenders and black out covers for her pushchair for when she slept. But I needn’t have worried as this was my first surprise of the summer. My gorgeous daughter excelled herself somewhere unusual and out of the ordinary. She needed the ear defenders at times but still tried rocking out with me at one of the more intimate gigs. The best bits for her was getting her face painted (first as a mermaid and then as a tiger), spending a fortune on the helter-skelter, painting and playing and making friends with my friend’s niece. It was also great to see my boyfriend getting on so well with old friends- not that I was worried. At 8 o-clock on the first day she quietly drifted off asleep to Clean Bandit and slept all night in her pushchair with the black out screen (or ‘pram burqah’), quite happily, so that we could watch the Charlatans, uninterrupted. By day two, I was feeling more confident and even went write down the front with her on my shoulders with ear defenders on to watch Public Service Broadcasting. I was nervous to her reaction at first but relaxed and got a real buzz when I could feel her move to the music. The weekend made me feel like a unit with my boyfriend there with me and my daughter. He is brilliant with her and the simple things like being able to go to the toilet in peace or for someone else to push the buggy, I really appreciate and value as I’ve never had that before. I knew I wanted to share more times as that ‘unit’, which we have done through summer.

This year has been the first year my daughter’s Dad has taken her on holiday and so whilst she was at Centre  parcs with him, I was treated to a weekend in Ibiza with a friend who I have really grown close to in recent times, perhaps because she is also a single parent. It was such a special time. We were only there for 3 nights and spoilt ourselves with what felt like 5 star luxury and certainly a far cry from our single-parenthood life! We arrived in time for sunset at Café Del Mar and caught one of our fave DJ’s at café Mambo whilst sipping Cava Sangria and getting tipsy. The rest of the time was spent going to an Ushuaia pool party and getting a sun lounger at Blue Marlin beach club. I have no idea how many Euros were spent in those few days but it was worth it to experience and share something extraordinarily exhilarating and relaxing with a dear friend and to feel like rockstars rather than mums.

The festival and Ibiza are a far cry from my mood or circumstance when I first started this blog. It’s strange reading my first posts and my profile blurb which has an emphasis on my single-parenthood and divorce from my daughters Dad in soap operatic style. I’ve come a long way and I’m proud of that. I’m not bitter or twisted and I can honestly say that, unless its the summer holidays (the ex loves a holiday), we co-parent and he is a good Dad. Who says Mum and Dad have to live under the same roof? It’s how you manage it that counts and she is wonderful and happy and that is all that matters. I even think that what happened now suits me and that surprises me. At first I felt guilty having this feeling like it made me a bad Mum but I think it makes me a better one. I appreciate her so much when I have her because I don’t have her full time. I get the best of both worlds – Ibiza, lie-ins, fab dates with my boyfriend when she is at her Dad’s and the joy of being a Mummy when she comes home. It makes me more adventurous with her, hence taking her to Hong Kong or a festival. I also don’t have to live with the ex and can be how I want to be with my daughter. I learnt to live without him a long time ago and I like it – a lot. So, the next surprise of the summer came and faded out pretty quickly. I got a text from the ex whilst he was on holiday telling me he had proposed and was getting married (to the mistress). If I had received this text a year ago I may have been upset but instead, my first thoughts were – ‘And why am I the first person you’re telling? My second thoughts were that I admired her faith he wouldn’t fuck this one up. She is a lucky woman. So, that cliché about time being a healer really is true. It also helps that I love living my life, our life with my gorgeous girl and my gorgeous boyfriend. I’m not hoping for anything just taking each day as they come but I’ve got god feelings about him and us and out little unit.

But even with a summer full of surprises, it is my daughter who is the single most surprising thing in my life and astonishes me daily, especially her language. She is 3 at the end of October but sometimes she feels like a teenager, especially when she has her Greta Garbo moments and insists, “I want to be alone!”. We have just got back from a family holiday in Cornwall and had a lovely time with my folks and sister and her dog, who my little one adores. One of my highlights was watching my Dad, at my daughter’s request, pretend to be Snow White and the wicked Queen in a little role play she invented. Hilarious! She loves role play and we spent many an hour in the cottage pretending to be Elsa and Anna getting ready for the Coronation! But it’s not just her ability to recite and act out little scenes from her favourite movies that amuse and astound me. Here are her other top 10 moments of the summer:

  1. “I’ve run out of running, Mummy”. Spoken after a series of running races in the garden.
  2. ” I’m not interested in that”. Best put down ever from a 2 year old.
  3. “T-Rex is my favourite dinosaur coz he’s ginormous and a bit naughty coz he eats other dinosaurs and I like the Stegasaurus coz he has plates that go red to scare the T-Rex away”. Thank you ‘Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures’ on CBeebies – I don’t think I knew what a T-Rex was at this age.
  4. Telling my sister, ” Aunty Becky no biting!”, as she pretended to nibble on her arm. She even got my sister to click her fingers and say, “Oh Man!”. One for you Dora the Explorer fans.
  5. She has a fantastic imagination and loves making up little stories. Her best was about a Unicornio (thanks to Dora she only knows the Spanish word), a kangaroo and a lion, who are teeny tiny and her pets. Her second best was about 2 little fairies who live in her tummy called Bluebell and Pinkbell. Obvs.
  6. Getting toilet trained in a week. Boom! Glad I left it late. However she has a love of describing her poos and how many she will do – “I’m going to do 3 poos: a baby one a mummy one and a daddy one”. As long as they’re in the potty or the loo, love, go for your life!.
  7. Wanting to get naked at any given opportunity and announcing it – “Mummy, I’m naked!”. Must be the freedom from nappies.
  8. When we came back from holiday she said, “I love holidays but I love home more. I missed my toys I’ve not seen them in a week”. A week? How have you cottoned on to such concepts of time so quickly? She is such a sponge soaking up things she hears me or others say.
  9. Asking existential questions, such as: “why do we live on a planet?” (I’ve told her since she could watch films and it was a Universal intro that we lived on planet Earth and pointed to England as where we live, when it comes on the telly), asking why my Granddad isn’t around anymore when my Mum told her a story about him and “what’s the point in doing exercises?”. I love her enquiring mind.
  10. Changing the words to songs, much to her amusement – apparently, Yankee Doodle stuck a sausage in his hat and rode in on an elephant. Nice one.

Refresh/Camping.

Summer is here and in my teaching profession I have more time on my hands to write. It’s something I still love to do but mainly for me as these days I forget to promote via social media and in the last 2 years of being a working single mummy I just don’t have the time to keep it up. But can you make time? I’d like to. My daughter is increasingly wonderful and challenging in her ‘tremendous twos’ and I’m bonkersly in love with my newish boyfriend. This means that I’m feeling that urge to write more: about her; about us. So- if you’re one of those folks who reads via Facebook, if you can be bothered there’s a few backdated blogs I failed to promote. If you can’t be bothered back tracking, I hope you enjoy this one and continue to read a few tales from a girl who’s in a very different place to when she first started this blog when she was left ‘holding the baby’.

There’s a reason why the Scouts’ moto is “be prepared”. They know what they’re doing in the world of camping- a wealth of experience. My boyfriend and I, on the other hand, went camping like total amateurs. It’s not like we hadn’t been before but somehow we forgot the basics. Now, when I say ‘we’, I’m being kind and I mean ‘he’. He brought a blow up mattress with a hole in it and instead of a sleeping bag he accidently brought another tent. He also seemed to think during this mini heatwave we had actually turned into a tropical country and didn’t bring a jumper or anything particularly warm to wear. Now, any parent can tell you that leaving the house for a day trip is a military operation so as we were trialling a one night camp trip with my 2 and a half year old, I packed for every eventuality. Well, for her atleast. I still forgot proper shoes and only had flip flops for the occasion.

We didn’t let these little errors set us back. We arrived in Edale in glorious sunshine and the tent, which my daughter thought was the best den ever, was pitched in no time, courtesy of my lovely boyfriend. She ran around the campsite like a free spirit and we drank beer and chased after her. We then spotted a pop-up pizza oven selling divine stone baked pizzas and then supped on ale in a child friendly pub. Happy Days.

But then the reality of camping with a toddler and a mattress with a hole in soon were made deliriously clear to us. My daughter has a beautifully active imagination. For hours she rolled around her ‘den’ pretending to go to sleep, make us do the same and then wake us up. She shared imaginary food and spotted make believe creatures and pixies and continued to roll around on the mattress we were due to sleep on. All just in her nappy as she willfully refused to put pyjamas on.

“It’s like the bloody Titanic in here!” my boyfriend shouted as we sank to the floor at our end of the mattress, whilst my daughter was hoisted in the air on a tip of the other end that still had air. By this point it was late, nearly dark and I got a bit hysterical. I could not stop laughing at our situation, my daughters hilarious role playing and the reality of the shit night sleep that was ahead of us.

Needless to say she had to be walked in her stroller in the misty country darkness to get her to sleep and then parked her up in the tent. It was about 11 at night, so we were tired but atleast she was warm. My boyfriend, on the other hand, was trying to sleep in just a t-shirt, long shirt, a toddler’s blanket and a picnic blanket on him. Hardly snug and cosy in the English countryside, where the temperature was chilly and rain had been teasing us with making an appearance.

And then it did- with lightening and thunder which shook the tent and the atmosphere around us. It felt and sounded like the sky was cracking above us. Poor baby girl woke and cried and I managed to give her a cuddle to get back to sleep lying next to me. She slept through the worst but woke at 530am with the worst tantrum that must have woke the whole campsite:  “I don’t like the den anymore! I want to go home, now!!!”

To be fair, I don’t blame her. I felt the same. He definitely felt the same after being cold for most of the night. We both woke feeling like we needed a hip replacement after sleeping on the mattress that had well and truly sunk to the hard floor. And, after a storm that was impossible to sleep through it was time to go. My gorgeous boyfriend dutifully got up and we packed up and attempted to leave the campsite at first light.

But leaving was also not an easy task as baby girl’s tantrum had hit full crescendo and she would not get in the car seat.  I don’t have the strength now she’s bigger to get her in. All parents must have been there: body rigid, arched back, flailing limbs, eyes and voice like she needs an exorcist. It was at that moment I appreciated the extra pair of hands my boyfriend gave me, which I have had to do without for 2 and a half years and will therefore never take for granted. “Right- you take the keys and drive to the exit. I’ll walk with her to calm her down and meet you there”. It still didn’t work so after losing the battle my boyfriend drove home at 6 in the morning with baby girl sat on my lap instead. Not ideal- and there maybe people reading who judge me thinking how dangerous that is but you know what? We needed to get the hell out of dodge and get my daughter to calm. It worked. Although it’s a risk, I’m glad I took it and I hope that won’t happen again.

So, would I camp with a toddler again? Well, I don’t have much of a choice as this was a prequel to a music festival, Truck, we’re taking her to. It’s in 2 weeks. What was I thinking?I guess if I fix the variables and can guarantee no storms its doable. On the other hand, maybe my Mum and Dad can babysit……

Dahab: Diving and Falling…..

So, I’m sat in this fantastic quirky cafe on the shore line of the Red Sea in Dahab, Egypt, with this gorgeous man lying in my lap. He reads whilst I type this blog. I was meant to be alone but just a few weeks ago I impulsively asked him to come with me and he impulsively agreed.

The original idea was for me to get my adventurous pre-motherhood self back as a treat after having pneumonia over Christmas. My beautiful daughter is on her first holiday with her Dad and so I knew I had a week to play with. After some exploring I settled on guaranteed heat in Egypt and decided to revisit a travelling destination from 15 years ago- Dahab. All that time ago I went with 3 dear friends from school and Uni. I bottled the scuba diving back then whilst only one of my buddies was brave enough. When she regaled us with her stories I instantly regretted not doing it, hence it being number 10 on my list I wrote of goals to do when I became a single mum. Also, my ex would never have done it. Now, I can live my life and not his and even better revisit a place I love which has no memories associated with him either. I also knew it was a well worn backpacker paradise and I would meet people on the scuba diving course as well as have an opportunity to relax and snorkel safely on my own.

But then he came. We’re on day five. I’ve only known him 2 months. It’s like I’ve never not known him and sharing everything, including the 3 day adventure of scuba diving, feels so good; so natural.image

image It’s been an intense few days but at no point have I got bored of him or the things we’re doing. We’ve been on the same page throughout and it feels amazing. And apart from the obvious connection and friendship we’re building I bloody fancy the arse of him! Everything is refreshing: his creativity, his kindness, his honesty and his big sparkly blue eyes.

The Open Water Diving course was done in 3 days. Both of us feel a sense of pride and satisfaction, especially as we’ve both admitted its been one of the hardest things we’ve ever done. It was worth it to witness the majestic coral and fish and the zen-like meditative qualities of breathing under water. He was my diving buddy and I know it sounds cheesy but it has bonded us to share something so different, challenging and unforgettable. Even better is that I know he’s pretty smitten about me too. I feel myself falling in love and the emotion feels all brand new.

Is this just the holiday talking? The inevitable relaxation, break from the norm, sea, sun and shisha pipe affecting me? So what if it is? I’m going to enjoy it and what it drives me to do. One thing it has me itching to do is rewrite that ‘list’ which featured scuba diving. I’m a different person now- healed, heart mended and stronger for the love of my beautiful daughter and that strength makes me want to write anew to reflect that. Scuba diving? Done.

The Holiday

Holidaying with friends with kids is the way forward- especially if you’re a single parent. I have another friend who recently became a single parent recently but incredibly sadly through widowhood. Puts my shit into perspective. Anyway, we chatted one day about holidays and you could see the lightbulb go on in our heads & so we decided to go together. I have another friend, who does not have kids but simply wanted a break and a beach holiday and was cool with coming along. She is awesome- I would have never gone in holiday with other people’s kids if I had had none. She also was happy to help with the kids and it meant we had an extra person for baby sitter so we could take it in turns for 2 of us to go out at night. Result. 
However, fun was everywhere and I can honestly say the holiday surpassed beach holidays Ive had in my previous incarnations as a party girl in Ibiza. My friends were chilled and there was lots of lovely girlie chat, the area in Alcudia, Mallorca was fantastico for kids, we had an aircon apartment I arranged with it’s own swimming pool and we were yards from the town centre with markets and close to the beach. We were also close to a water park. In my head it was practically Ushuaia in Ibiza- a pool party but with kids and water slides! Me and baby girl even had a boogie in our swimming outfits by the pool! She excelled herself, just as she did last year in Hong Kong.
My douche bag ex recently commented “what’s the point in taking her on holiday? She won’t remember it or appreciate it”. Nonsense you fool. It’s about my memories of her paddling, playing, making friends with my friends’ kids and playing in the sand. It’s about reminding her of the bird show, water parks, pizza and enormous amount of ice cream she ate. It’s about recording her running in the sunshine and trying to buy things at the market. It’s about her development and seeing her face light up at all the experiences. I feel like I can take her anywhere and do anything with her. She’s the love of my life. Who says life ends with kids? It’s only just begun.