Thursday, 29 October 2015

What Would You Do?

This morning I went over for a cuppa with a mum who lives near me. We had never actually met before today but had exchanged a few emails so I was not at all surprised to find that she was warm, honest and funny and within minutes of meeting we were sharing stories about our boys – their insistence on running around naked, their obsession with Lego, the time when Henry said the F word to the man from British Gas (no not that one, the fanny one). In many ways the chat on her sofa felt much like any other coffee or playdate (I mean that in a good way - those chats have become the underpinning of my daily survival as a parent; nothing beats a brew and a good moan!)

But this was not just another coffee or playdate. In fact, from the moment I met Jo this morning there was a gigantic elephant in the room and after chatting some more about motherhood it was time for me to invite the elephant into the conversation. I wish I hadn’t had to acknowledge him at all.

You see, Jo is dying.

I have typed and deleted dying several times in the writing of this post because it kept jumping out at me from my laptop as being too direct, too frank perhaps, yet I’ve re-typed it because it’s the reality. It’s a very difficult reality to process.

At 37, and a mummy to five-year-old Rudey, Jo is the only known person in the world to be suffering from not one but TWO terminal illnesses and she is dying.

How fucking unfair is that?

In April, Jo was given just weeks to live. Nearly seven months later and she is still here, chatting, smiling, wrapping her arms around her boy and pulling him in for a snuggle in the way only a mum can. Rudey, who chirpily wakes Jo up every day with his signing and says he loves his mummy ‘up to the castle at the top of the hill,’ remains her focus and motivation.
Jo is desperately ill but she has not been beaten thus far and after months of research has found a scientist in America who she believes can help. His approach in a nutshell is to run hundreds of tests and extensively study Jo very much as an individual case to try and get to the bottom of the root cause or causes of her illness.

Jo is determined to get to him, in fact she IS going to get to him and sets off for America next week where she will spend the best part of three months in Arizona. This is far from a holiday. As she is too poorly to fly she will be undertaking a mammoth 12 day voyage by boat, train, bus and taxi with best friend Sarah who has been heading up the Breathe for Jo campaign which aims to raise £70,000 to cover the cost of the trip (including tests, resulting treatments, travel and accommodation).

So that is why I am writing this post. Jo is asking for help. I’m going to be open with you because I have always pledged honesty on this blog and if you make a donation because you have read this post I want you to do so for the right reasons. Donations are not funding a miracle treatment. There is no guarantee that Jo’s trip to America will be a success. It could be fruitless.

But Jo wants to go. Jo has pinned her hopes on this trip, a trip she has admitted is her last chance to do something proactive in her fight to see her boy through more of primary school than just his first year. I’ve never truly understood the term ‘fighting spirit’ but I saw it today.
Rudey will fly out with family to join Jo when she has settled in Arizona so they can spend Christmas together. Despite knowing that his mummy is poorly, he is too young to appreciate what that means. When discussing the trip to America he has only really expressed two concerns:

1) Will there be a swimming pool?
2) Can he take his Lego?

Of course those are his concerns. He is five. His Mummy was told she wouldn’t make his 5th birthday but she did. She has been told she won’t make his 6th birthday. Maybe she won’t. But she wants to give this a shot and I would like to help her. I am sharing in case you would like to help her too.
There will be no endless plugging of fundraising appeals here on the blog and I am not going to ask you to donate in the same way I do not ask you to share my blogs – you will like and share only if you want to and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I went over to Jo’s for a cuppa because when somebody in your neighbourhood is dying it’s kind of instinctive to ask them if there is anything you can do. I am shit at making casseroles and as 300,000 people are mad enough to follow my ramblings about wonky-fringed Barbie tantrums (and the fucking pumpkin) I figured this is all I can do.


You can read more about Jo’s story and donate to the campaign here. Campaign video below.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Sometimes That'll Do is All You've Got

I never had much of a need for that'll do before I became a parent.

There was no 'that'll do' during my schooldays when I was the geekiest child (I was a straight A student, I did extra homework for fun and aside from the beautifully brainy boy in my maths class I never so much as looked at the opposite sex until I was fifteen and had started dabbling in hair mascara and Smirnoff Ices and tops from Tammy girl).
(No prizes for guessing which one's me. I know).
There was no 'that'll do' at University either when I was hell-bent on getting a First class honours degree and would crawl into 9am lectures with the mother of all hangovers because the thought of borrowing somebody else's notes just wouldn't do.
There certainly wasn't room for 'that'll do' when, as a graduate, I joined the Fast Track scheme of a bank and spent my days seeking to prove to myself (and everybody else) that I deserved to be 'fast tracked'.

I gave it my all. All of it. I gave it all my all.
Motherhood, I anticipated, would be no different. I would invest the same level of time, energy and get-up-and-go that I'd successfully displayed in the preceding twenty-five years. I'd no doubt feel an element of healthy competition when surrounded by other mothers and my desire to do my best, to be the best would see me through. I would totally boss it.
And I have totally bossed it and been a fucking legend of motherhood ever since.
The end.
Just kidding. You see, I have done a bit of a U Turn on my aversion to that'll do since becoming a mum. A gradual one, it has to be said. I wanted so badly to be the best, to get glowing reviews, to get Straight A grades in Baking, Housewifery and Motherly Amazingness but it turns out it wasn't as simple as that. Or as easy.

It was much harder.

I just couldn't maintain the same get-up-and-go. My get-up-and-go got up and went and now when it periodically returns I appreciate it, I think YES this is a good day and I am doing a good job.

On the other days I am plodding. I have never been a plodder but I'm starting to think that there is something to be said for plodding. That'll do has become part of my life. Not because I'm lazy, or because I'm happy to settle for a compromise but because sometimes it's all I can manage.

When the house is an absolute shit tip and I do the one-minute Express Baby Wipe of all surfaces and run the hoover around just the visible bits of the floor I know it's not ideal but it's enough. That'll do.

When we're all tired and the baby is screaming and the three-year-old is hungry and I've got a cough and I resort to cereal for tea (then compensate by giving them fruit for pudding which they don't eat but it makes me feel better) I know it's not ideal but it's enough. That'll do.

When I wake up with grand plans to take them to the beach and run around with our arms outstretched like aeroplane wings but then for one reason or another we end up at the park AGAIN before coming home to watch Paw Patrol AGAIN I know it's not ideal but it's enough. That'll do.

It's an interesting feeling. To settle for less, to settle for not being the best, to type message after message of responses back to mums who tell me they are 'terrible parents.' They are not terrible parents, I tell them. They are doing their best. Sometimes your best is not ideal but it's enough.

That'll do.

All hail the plodding.

The Unmumsy Mum

Saturday, 10 October 2015

The Can't Be Arsed Workout for Busy Parents

10 everyday exercises for busy parents:

Squat to enjoy 0.2 seconds of sofa-sitting. Return to standing immediately when you hear shouting (repeat x infinity).

Weight lift children who are refusing to move of their own accord (it's not really possible to do reps here, you simply have to carry them forever unless you can find some bribes in the change bag).

Sprint to stop your toddler free-falling from the deadly corner of the climbing frame he would otherwise topple off.

Challenge muscles you never knew you had by climbing up endless rope ladders whilst carrying straw mats to access shit slides.

Hurdle over discarded items like regurgitated banana and naked Barbie. When it's no longer possible to dodge all the crap in front of you it might prove easier to dive right in and swim through it.

Lunge to pick up flattened raisins off the floor (WARNING: exercise caution if you spot chocolate raisins you don't remember buying).

Hop the length of the landing in agony after stepping on bastard Lego.

Commando crawl to the fridge for healthy snacks wine*.

Invest in a punch bag and pretend it's Topsy and Tim's mum and/or your husband when he is more than ten seconds late home.

Bounce a teething baby on your hips (WARNING: once you have practiced this exercise a few times you may find yourself repeating it involuntarily  at the checkout when you have no baby with you. Like a bouncy weirdo).

Well done! Refuel with some custard creams.

The Unmumsy Mum