An open letter to Medium

Dear Medium

When Daddy and I decided to try for Little, everyone said, “But that will make Medium a middle child.” My answer then was the same as it is now: If ever there was a child that should be a middle child, it’s Medium.

You, my darling girl, are the glue. You look up to your big sister and look after your little one. You love them both with such enthusiasm. Everything you do is with such enthusiasm. You’re a joy. You’re brilliant. You’re the one that will keep the three of you close. You’re the one that means I can worry less.

Every day, you amaze me. You’re only just two but you’re speaking fluently… And loudly. You were born without a volume dial, but do you know what? That just adds to your charm. The second Little cries, you find me to announce, “She wants her Mummy Mulk (milk).” You can’t bear her being upset. If I say she’s been fed, you tell me she needs a ‘Tuddle’. You just want everyone to be happy.

You smile all day, every day – just showing your bottom teeth. You’re out in the garden in your pyjama top, nappy and wellies as soon as you get up to go for a bounce on the trampoline. You crunch your little chubby knees up as high as you can, laughing as you bounce as high as possible. It’s ever better when Big joins you and you play chase. I’ve never known anyone smile and laugh as much you do, my happy little soul.

You eat. Boy, do you eat. All day. Everything you see. But I’m not surprised; you don’t stop moving. Big will sit down and watch a film. You? Never. There’s too much to DO. And too much to eat.

You’re no picnic though, Medium. When things don’t go your way, you’ll lie on the floor and protest like any other two-year-old. Often silently, but you’ll refuse to move and it’s best to leave you on the floor. Otherwise it really does get loud. That said, you adjust amazingly. When I felt it was time to limit your doh-doh (dummy), I expected a fight. I didn’t get one. You just shrugged your little shoulders and said, “Okay, I’ll just have it at bedtime.’

You’re hilarious. I never know what you’re going to do next. It’s not uncommon to find you wearing Little’s hat, Big’s wellies and my coat. You draw on Little’s head, call random numbers on my phone and climb anything and everything. You’re inquisitive, clever and just great fun. As Daddy says, you’re good value. You have a fan club. I actually get emails asking what you’ve been up to because you’re so funny.

You are just awesome, Medium, and I love you to the moon and back. I can’t wait to see what your future holds and I can’t wait to be there with you.

Love, Mummy. xxx

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An open letter to Medium

Ping, there goes another rib

There are days when I can feel my temper is frayed to the seams. When the children push every button they can, where I want to put CBeebies on at the start at the day and not turn it off until the kids are sparko. There are days when I just want to go back to work because it would undoubtably be easier than spending every hour of every day (and every night, given Medium’s habit of bed hopping into our bed) with three small children who want to absorb every cell in my body.

Today was not one of them.

Today was punctuated by bursts of belly laughs. Mainly, mine. We started with a lovely playdate. The pre-school mums really are a lovely bunch. Medium took strongly to one of our host’s toys and I feared a meltdown when we left to go home, but she coped well and I now know what to buy her for Christmas. Father Christmas can thank me later.

As we busied ourselves at home, Big surprised me by picking up one of our fabulous chickens. Now these birds are tame, but to allow a four-year-old to carry them like a handbag doesn’t do anything to dispel the myth that chickens really are stupid.

Despite the rather rough handling, Mrs Huggins, our Moran cross, happily sat on Big’s lap outside in the sun. She was less keen when Medium grabbed her by the throat and expressed her love with a little squeeze. Still, she stayed on Big’s lap.

Medium and I busied ourselves on the trampoline and when I turned around, Big and Mrs Huggins had disappeared. Assuming she’d got bored, I didn’t think anything of it. Until I walked indoors and found her sitting on the sofa, chicken on her lap, watching CBeebies. Not something you see every day.

Medium, at two-and-two-months, is speaking fairly early. Weirdly, with a cockney accent. I don’t have BBC diction, but my mum would’ve rapped me on the knuckles for dropping my Hs and Ts. I have no idea where she’s picked up this accent – too much EastEnders in utero maybe.

She’s made me smile by running around the garden announcing that she’d “Dun a blow orff’ and introducing me to “‘Orse, innit.” (To the uninitiated, that translates as “Horse, isn’t it.”)

The day ended with Big asking if she could ‘do a show’. This show consisted of her singing the chorus of ‘Let It Go’ while running around the room with Little’s baby gym wrapped around her waist. I feel slightly dazed.

So today was one of those days where my temper wasn’t frayed, no buttons were pushed and I definitely, definitely don’t want to go back to work. Those girls? They’re my world.

Ping, there goes another rib

Got to love a Guiness

It’s amazing what a few rays of sunshine can do.  This morning’s dawn of a brighter day seemed to put me into overdrive.  I’d made bread,  a venison stew and achieved the utopia of empty washing baskets by 8.30am. My efficiency drive continued and the baskets are still empty now*.

I had a rare opportunity to pause today.  My mum and I took the smalls to Petworth for a walk. After lunch,  Small demanded hers so I sat on a bench in the sun and had an incredibly happy half an hour feeding her and looking at all the beautiful colours Autumn had brought with her this year,  highlighted by the unseasonably warm sun. To my right,  my little pixies were climbing trees.  To my left,  some other children were on a deer hunt.

Given the dinner I’d put on to slow cook that morning,  the irony wasn’t lost on me and it set my mind off on a train of thought about the provenance of food. This is something I’m increasingly passionate about. I don’t buy supermarket meat and I love game. For me,  these animals live a very non contrived life with a more natural diet than their farmed counterparts. This can only be good for us.

Venison is one of my favourite meats. It’s lean,  high in iron and incredibly tasty.  Here’s how I did it today:

A large handful of diced venison per person, tossed in seasoned flour
A few shallots,  chopped
A can of Guinness
Punnet of redcurrants or jar of redcurrant jelly
A few sprigs of rosemary
A punnet of mushrooms.

Seal the venison with the shallots and mushrooms. Add the Guinness,  redcurrants and rosemary and bring to the boil. Chuck in the oven to slow cook for as long as possible and serve with mash,  veg and a glass of full bodied red wine. Or Guinness. 

But the best thing about my solar powered efficient day? I was tucked up in bed by 7.30 with Small for cuddles.  Get. Right. In.

*Is it cheating that subsequent washing was just thrown straight into the machine,  thus bypassing the baskets?  They’re still technically empty.

Got to love a Guiness

Fear of forgetting

Today I submitted our school application for the Big One. She’ll be five next September and my tiny baby will be plucked from my arms and into the world of school. I’m not ready. She’s not ready. Even my mum’s not ready. NO ONE IS READY.

I have no idea where the time has gone. It seems like yesterday that I was sitting on my sofa with my six NCT friends, bemoaning our first experiences of piles, reflux and stroking our enormous bumps. Lulled into a false sense of security by our four birthing classes in which we were promised that our partner massaging our feet would make it a beautiful, slightly ‘uncomfortable’ experience and that breastfeeding was easy and completely painless. Gullible twits that we were. The reality is that it bloody hurt and who knew that nipples could actually bleed?

But I digress. As usual.

I’m scared I’ll forget. I worry that I won’t remember what it feels like to see Big’s beautiful face light up in the best smile when she sees me at Pre-school pick up. That she’ll get the swagger of a schoolgirl and Mummy becomes Mum and totally uncool. I worry that she won’t ask to do craft any more and that the endless cry of, ‘What are you doing, Mummy? Can I do it too?’ will cease. I worry that my shadow will disappear.

I fear forgetting the tickle of Medium’s fuzzy hair in the middle of the night when she’s joined me in bed without me knowing and the way she smiles, just showing her bottom teeth. Sometimes I forget she even has top teeth. I fear her lovely, chunky toddler legs will disappear too soon and she’ll no longer climb on my lap and let me stroke them.

And then there’s Little. Will I remember how she snuggles into me as if she wants to get back inside my skin if I make a move to get out of bed? How much I love just lying in the dark with her in my arms and sniffing that intoxicating baby smell on the top of her head? The feeling I had when I first saw her smile and the tears at her first laugh.

I feel like I need to back up my brain, like I do the photos on my phone but I’m not convinced Dropbox stores memories. Perhaps they could work on that. In the meantime, if time could just slow down a little bit – just a little bit – so I can stop and smell the children, that would be great.

Fear of forgetting

Back in the saddle. Literally.

Today I had a day off. As the in laws are currently staying, Husband took the day off so I took the opportunity and ran. The Little One and I drove around the M25 for me to get back in the saddle.

Ever since I was a medium one, I’ve loved horses. By the time I was about eight, I was usually found mucking out ponies at the local riding school in return for free rides. I rode solidly until my mid to late teens when I took a break until I joined the BBC Riding Club in the mid noughties. The riding bug took another big bite out of my bottom and I ended up as chairman of the club. As I’ve said, I do like a committee. Still frantically itching from the bug’s big bite, I looked for a horse to share but couldn’t find one. I decided to do my exams and I’m very glad I did.

Tina Layton at Contessa Riding Centre took me on as a part-time working pupil and despite holding down a full-time and demanding job at the BBC, I gave up my weekends and one evening a week to go back to mucking out in return for riding and lectures to get me through my British Horse Society exams. I loved my time there. I’ve always called it a boomerang yard because everyone returns. My time at Contessa saw me through bad break ups, losing my lovely Gran and a number of other hard life events and yet I’d describe it as one of my happiest times – second only to marrying Husband and having the smalls. Try as I might, I’ve never found another yard where I feel so comfortable and, in the nicest possible way, pushed. I made strong friends there, one of whom was my bridesmaid and is still one of the first people I turn to for all sorts of things. The horses are great, the staff are great and everything is… Well, great. So great I now drive two hours each way for a 45 minute lesson. I think that says a lot.

But I digress. Being around and in particular on the back of horse is therapy for me. I love the peace of mind I get when I’m riding. My usually flitting mind concentrates solely on what I’m feeling beneath me and what I need to do to make it feel better. Everything else slips away. Being back on board today almost felt like a relief. A chance to get back to being just me. For once, it was me doing the asking rather than three lovely but demanding smalls.

So with a pleasant ache in my muscles (it won’t be so pleasant tomorrow), I’m resolving to ride more. For the third time, the bug has sunk its teeth into me again and it feels fabulous.

Back in the saddle. Literally.

When the first time is the last time

The Little One is 13 weeks today and celebrated by giving us her first laugh. A proper,  belly chuckle.

It left me feeling a little sad. In all likelihood,  Little is our last.  My heart says, “Oh, just one more baby.” My hormones agree.  My husband doesn’t.  My head thinks he *might* be right.  I couldn’t do four children under six on my own. I’d need some sort of help. My head can’t get itself around the idea of someone being in our home all day every day. The ‘help’ would feel like a cuckoo.

With each first for Little, it’s a last for me and I can’t identify why it is that I’m so reluctant to let this chapter of my life go.  Letting go has never bothered me before. Career that I worked so hard to build? Yeah,  whatever,  see you later. Single life? Single who? 

But the idea of never feeling my baby kick inside me, of feeling the love flow during feeds in the dead of night and – yes – even the thought of never going through labour again is something I just can’t come to terms with.

I guess the truth of the matter is that despite the exhaustion, the craving for ‘me time’ that never appears,  the desire to just go for a wee on my own,  I’m not ready.  I’m not ready to admit that Little will be the last and my newborn days are done.

When the first time is the last time

The most important ingredient of all

I love baking. I find all the mixing and the weighing of the ingredients therapeutic. It’s something I have always done with the Big One. Today, I felt she needed some one on one time, so, while Medium and Little napped, we decided to see what we could create.

We decided to make an orange and lemon drizzle. I can’t stand insipid drizzle cakes. If you’re going to make a citrus cake, make it zesty and full of juice. Take whatever the recipe says and double – no, triple – the amount of fruit it says to use.

With the Big One in her Little Helper, we started preparing tins. She had a good go at cutting out the circles of baking paper for the tins and even helped to grease them on a ‘bit of butter for the tin, a bit for her’ basis. While we worked, we chatted. I learned that the moon can be out during the day and that her littlest sister was happiest when she was having her milk. I learned that she loved her current book that she’d borrowed from pre-school and that she’d like to clean out the chickens when we’d finished baking and do a picture for Nana and Grandad, who arrive from Spain tomorrow. It was a special time. It didn’t matter that the floor was covered in flour, she ate a whole dessert spoon of sugar and that we didn’t have quite enough butter so we added some Bertolli.

She even helped to tidy up. Mainly by licking the bowl and then covering the kitchen in sticky fingers, but she’s four and that’s a four-year-old’s prerogative.

For those that like to bake too, here’s our recipe.

For the cake:
225g self-raising flour
225g caster sugar
225g butter
4 eggs
Zest of four lemons and two oranges

For the drizzle:
85g of caster sugar
Juice of four lemons and two oranges

Whack all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Place in a pre-heated oven (160deg) for 45 minutes. When it’s done, score the top and pour the mixed juices and sugar over it. Whisk the four-year-old into her chair at the table and share a huge slice between you (one big enough for two, don’t diddle yourself).

Most important ingredient of all: One four-year-old daughter to stir in a shed load of love. I swear it makes it taste better.

The most important ingredient of all