Today is a very happy birthday to me!
After a lovely long lie in, (sleeping off last night’s “raucous” Zoom party), I am invited downstairs for American pancakes and a treasure hunt; finding gifts which include a baseball cap, Greedy Granny and a year’s subscription to the National Theatre at Home. Hippy happy Mummy!
We then head to fake New York proper, where there is a Youtube bus tour, a virtual walk around the MoMA, a kidumentary about Jackson Pollock and an afternoon of modern art! With a bagel in one hand and a paint-covered spatula in the other, my creative wanderlust is lockdown-satisfied. Husband did good!
In the afternoon, the Lodger has made a four layered cheesecake-come-chocolate cake that she is extremely proud of. So proud of that I can hear her arguing frantically with the kids in the kitchen about putting candles on top. “No no no! No ugly holes in zer top!” Just as the kids are laying down the birthday law and she is absolutely putting her foot down, Husband enters the room and says, “right, let’s get these candles lit!” At which point she makes a kind of growling sound and insists on taking a photo for Instagram before they “ruin it!” Brilliant.
It is an impressive looking cake to be fair! Though, after such an impassioned presentation, Husband and I have one bite and exchange a look which basically says, “four layers of stodgy cheese and chocolate cake is quite a battle, even for us… but if we don’t eat it all… she might eat us...”
It’s a birthday-sized-slice slog but we do manage to get through it with minimal indigestion and quite alot of tea! (Also, for the record, we now blame the initial stodgyness on the entire day it spent hiding in the fridge. The following day we ate a smaller slice at room temperature and it was lovely!)
In the evening, we get dressed up, try to cram some pizza in around the cheesecake and then finish the night off by watching Shrek the Musical on Broadway.
Best birthday I’ve had in a long time, actually! Well played.
On Sunday, a rather groundbreaking thing happens. As the Boy’s godparents happen to be rather gifted at childrens’ work, we decide to tune in to their online service instead of our own. It’s all pre recorded, rehearsed and cleverly techy, which helps… but the kids actually watch and engage and craft along with it for longer than I’ve seen them engage with anything online. It takes minimal biscuits, zero planning and I also get to see my friends’ cheesy faces. Brilliant!
Afternoon. As Bubble Dad has somehow managed to go abroad for 4 weeks during a National Lockdown, we have agreed to provide more respite for Bubble Mum and the Bubblettes. She arrives just after lunch and immediately bursts into tears.
“Ok. Why don’t you leave the girls here and go back home?” I suggest; both because I’m nice and because I don’t want to deal with it.
She fusses about how much she will miss the girls and needs the company etc… I say go for half an hour, she says an hour; I say take two, she says no just one. I say, “take as long as you need, we aren’t going anywhere!” She comes back after an hour and a half, looking even worse than she did before.
“What on Earth have you been doing?“
“Well I rushed about getting my jobs done because you told me I could only have an hour.”
“No. You said an hour. I said I couldn’t care less.”
“Oh. You did didn’t you?”
“But I’ve come back?”
“And I’m not ready am I?”
“Shall I go away again?”
“I do love them so much you know, they are my whole world-“
“Yes, yes, love them to infinity, sun, moon and stars… listen! If I could drop my kids off at a friends’ house for 2 hours I would do it in a heartbeat, and that’s with a Husband and all of my marbles, so please, please just go home and don’t come back until you’re in a better mood!”
Gone. She comes back two hours later a completely different woman and we have a genuinely lovely dinner. Again, I am rest assured that this Bubble is precisely the right thing to provide at the moment. At least until the wanderer returns.
The sun is shining and I can’t quite bring myself to start school just yet, so we take the morning off and go litter picking . As the Lodger is due to leave at the end of the week, her timetable has reduced and she has a couple of hours free to join us. Which is great, as she is able to scoop up the Youngest and take her home when she starts grumbling ten minutes in. I ring her after fifteen minutes to check they got home OK and she says, “yeah, sure, we’re painting.”
Oh, why does she have to leave?!
At bedtime, in her glorious three-years-eve randomness, the Youngest tells me rather importantly that, “yoghurt smells delicious.“
“Oh really, do you think so?”
“Yes. Yoghurt smells lovely.”
“I wish I smelled like yogurt.”
“Yes. Yoghurt smells delicious. I smell like poo.”
“No, I don’t think you smell like poo! At least not right now, anyway …
“Yes I do. Yoghurt is better. Night Mummy!”
Yoghurt-features is three today!
Yes that’s right… more cake!
After a party breakfast and presents, Husband and the Lodger go to work, the older kids plant themselves in front of the TV for ‘no-school day’ and I commit to giving the birthday girl my undivided attention for the first weekday since New Year.
Within an hour, we have opened every game, painted every ceramic figure, tried on every outfit and are ready for a bath. A bath which basically washes off the excitement and leaves us wet with toddlerdom.
She doesn’t want lunch. She doesn’t want to wear clothes. She doesn’t want a party. She doesn’t want to be three! She doesn’t want to sit in the pram in her pyjamas either but I manage to wrestle her, screaming, into it and get her to sleep!
Thankfully, she wakes up in a much better mood and actually looks excited when the Bubblettes arrive.
“Yey! My party! I am three!”
One major perk of the Bubble today is that it feels very much like a normal three year old’s birthday party with five children in attendance. We dance, play pass the parcel, musical bumps and chairs and statues and cushions and anything else where you have to stop to win a prize. We even bake and decorate Paw Patrol biscuits ..
We get caught in the rain walking the Bubblettes home, but still… a lovely day!
Back to school, and I am pleased to say our system is still working nicely. I laze about and drag my feet until about tennish, by which point all of the work is available online and I can set the Boy up with a conveyor belt of activities:
He works along from one end to the other, completing Phonics, Maths, English and Reading (with a few other bits slyly slotted in between, if I can hide it). Then- and this has been the game-changer- after each activity he gets to put an Emoji beside the completed subject on my phone’s notepad.
Honestly. It is a glorified tick list. But has been a massive motivator this week!
The Eldest has one too and we take to hers in the afternoon; completing the odd extra subject for the sake of choosing an extra unicorn to put beside it.
Meanwhile, the Youngest has decided to wash her ceramic Paw Patrol figures and paint them again. Which is, quite frankly, terrifying.
A nonstop kind of day. For some reason or another I end up working with the Boy for a lot longer than usual (probably Emoji related). And so we are already pushing time with the Eldest when I get a message from a school friend’s Mum:
“Are you going to be any longer because the kids are getting restless?”
We arranged a Zoom meeting for the children last week, it completely slipped my memory and we are fifteen minutes late. We log on, the kids make awkward faces at each other and, prompted by parents at either end, repeatedly ask “how are you?” without anyone really answering. I keep looking anxiously at the clock, wondering how much more of this is polite or necessary, as the Eldest hasn’t started schoolwork yet and the Bubble arrives at 3pm!
Finally, after each child has disappeared for five minutes apiece to find a favourite toy, we are down to repetitive toilet humour and I can safely prompt a goodbye Zoom wave.
The Eldest takes five minutes and then we crack on with her four tasks which can, on a good day, be done very well in the hour that we have left.
Nah ah. It is only two thirty. That had better be Amazon!
Bubble Mum stands at the door looking rather comically between me and the Church clock across the road.
“I wasn’t sure… are we… can we… are we OK to come now?”
“Well, not really… It’s not three o’clock yet.”
“It’s not three o’clock, no.” She says looking at the clock again, then at me, then at the Bubblettes who are straining to get out of the pram and come in.
Now, you regular lot know my issues with boundaries and so you know right now I am torn. I cannot in my heart of hearts turn them away because the Toddlers have seen me and have seen the open door. If I close it, they will scream for half an hour while she wanders the streets and blows up her anxiety bracelets. That is not a situation I am willing to create. But until 3pm my time belongs solely to my own children and that has been firmly agreed.
“You can come in and sit in the lounge,” I concede, “but I am still working with the Eldest in the other room and I can’t see you or help with the girls until after three. Ok?”
They come in and I feel awfully unnatural; immediately switching on the kettle but then turning it off in spite of myself. Do not engage. Do not offer hospitality until three o’clock. Boundaries are important and this cannot happen again.
I sit down next to the Eldest, slightly anxious about Bubble Mum supervising four children in the other room, but realise my daughter needs to see this too.
“Ugh. Why are they here already? Now you are just going to go and talk to them instead…”
“No. No I am not, I am all yours until we finish, OK?”
Thankfully, there are no meltdowns. No disturbances. No reason to break that promise until 3.15 when she completes her last task and skips happily off to play in her room. I open the door and everyone is still alive! Bubble Mum looks a thousand times happier and calmer than she did on Sunday, and we do have a nice chat over a cup of tea, during which I politely drop into conversation that she can’t turn up early again.
All is well.
After walking the Bubbles home and putting the kids to bed, I am well and truly ready for one final movie night with the Lodger. We are about to watch something she suggested, when I joke about how I used to turn Moulin Rouge off ten minutes before the end to turn it into a feel good movie.
“Moulin what? Is that French?”
“Moulin Rouge… Moulin Rouge, come on, everyone has heard of… Nicole Kidman? Oh come on. Baz Luhrmann?”
“I have never heard of him or the film.”
“You have got to be kidding! It was huge when it came out. Gosh. I was 16 I think, so you must have been…”
Wow. So this is what getting old feels like?!
Obviously I make her watch the film. After fifteen minutes, she says, “when does he die?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well obviously she has TB and that is like… so contagious? He just kissed her. Surely he dies too?”
“In twenty years... I never thought of that...”
“To be fair, she coughed from a swing over a room full of people. Literally everyone in this film should be dead.”
Pandemic generation, ladies and gents!
“Well, thanks for that…”
The Lodger has a day off, but spends most of it wrestling with her suitcase. With Husband off too we manage to complete school work in the morning, before taking everyone out for fresh air in the afternoon. Lodger has requested one last pizza and movie night with the kids, so we enjoy this and then get them to bed early as they are desperate to ride to the airport at 6am.
Come evening, the Lodger throws herself onto the sofa in exasperation, cracks open a Tango and says she doesn’t want to spend her final night packing. We offer help but she’s decided: Lacey Chabert on Safari it is!
Upon going to bed, I pop my head around her open door and see her sat staring angrily at her case, looking more eighteen than she ever has done before.
“Are you ok?”
“This is only my second time flying.”
Oooh… that explains alot!
I go to bed wondering if maybe I ought to have mothered her a bit more… or not…?
Thanks for reading! Xx