Alpine Mummy

A new life in the middle of nowhere


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Alpine Mummy’s (Totally Expert and Not At All Negligent) Guide to Parenting

Alpine Mummy should be a parenting guru. Not because she’s an expert in parenting. But because she categorically is not.

My parenting technique may send shivers down the spines of Gina Ford groupies, and cause panic in Mumsnet forums but, really, it’s all for your benefit.

I should write a parenting manual in fact. It would be a sell-out, simply rolling off the shelves, like squishy poo escaping from an unchanged nappy (more about that later). By sharing terrible screw-ups in Alpine Mummy’s usual ‘aren’t-you-glad-your-life’s-not-like-this?!’ style, this new handy reference manual would produce perfect parents everywhere, as they rush to do exactly the opposite of what Alpine Mummy does.

Our new babysitter...

Our new babysitter…

Don’t believe me? Perhaps a little taster of my terrible parenting would assist. Here are my top 10 recent parenting failures:

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10 things I wish someone had told me before I had three kids

I have three children.  Three whole, noisy, screaming, snotty, beautiful, amazing, still snotty, children.

Life has certainly changed since Christmas 2008, when Alpine Boy made his angelic appearance on this earth.  I arrogantly and naively promised myself, and others, that this new addition to our world wouldn’t change anything – that life would continue as before; that the new baby would fit around us rather than the other way round.

Ha.  So much for that.

Six and a half years and two more kids later, I’ve practically forgotten what life was like pre-sprogs.  But if one kid is life-changing, and two are chaos-inducing, having three kids is akin to crashing a bus full of monkeys into a lorry full of cats and then trying to round them all up and put them in shoeboxes.  Without strangling any of them.

I wouldn’t change my life for anything, but there are a few things I wish someone had told me about having three kids, just so I could have had fair warning….

Such as:

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Eat, Poo, Love

Well Alpine Baby is here! Our beautiful girl made her way into the world at the end of March, bringing with her a sense of family completeness, total happiness, and constant sleeplessness.

She’s already a true Daddy’s Girl – with a headful of dark brown hair she looks nothing like me or either of my other children, and I’m constantly waiting to be stopped in the street and accused of kidnapping her whenever Alpine Papa’s not with us.

 alpinebaby

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The nine circles of hell (otherwise known as… pregnancy)

 As Alpine Papa will attest, I am not very good at being pregnant.  Not at all. 

You know those people who glow their way through pregnancy like a sunbeam, with nothing to slow them down except too much damn gushing about how they “luuuurve being pregnant” and “isn’t it amaaaaaazing”?  That’s not me.  Not at all.

Don't get confused - that's a sunbeam, that is, it's not me...

Don’t get confused – that’s a sunbeam, that is, it’s not me…

Alpine Papa is no help.  I don’t think he believes any of the suffering I am genuinely going through to bring this beautiful new life into the world.  In fact, when I moan (admittedly for the 40th time that day) about how crap being preggars is, he immediately takes great delight in pointing out how desperately I wanted to be pregnant each time, and how I would whine any time anyone I knew would dare get pregnant before me.  “Ooooh , it’s not fair”, he mocks (apparently that’s how I talk).  “So-and-so is pregnant, how come I’m not pregnant? I want to be pregnant. It’s not faaaaaaaair.  Why can’t I be pregnant? I want to be pregnant!”.

I would like to point out, though, that he is wrong.  Very.  I have never said “I want to be pregnant”, or moaned about not being. I have often whined about the fact that I want another baby and I want it now.  But that’s entirely different.  I have never had any desire to be pregnant. Why would I? It’s rubbish.

Hell in fact.  Nine months of hell.  Must have been what Dante had in mind.  Here are my nine circles of hell:

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5 blog posts I could have written. But didn’t.

Well going back to work certainly changed my life.  I only work three days a week (albeit in another country twice a month, with a 6-and-a-half-hour commute).  It’s not much at all, really, but it’s as if a little Time Fairy has sneaked into my life and brazenly stolen all my ‘me’ time.

I used to have ‘me’ time, I’m sure.  Maternity leave last year now feels like a perfect dream (though I’m sure it wasn’t always) – gallivanting up and down mountainsides with a baby on my back and a camera round my neck.  I had time for stuff like that!  And I still managed to cook fresh meals for my family, clean the house (from time to time. A bit. OK, let’s not exaggerate…), see my friends, and even write blogs.

The good old days

The good old days

(I’d love to know what that damn fairy has done with it that time.  If I found her stash I’d make a fortune.)

These days I’m lucky if my children get to eat pasta pesto or fish fingers less than three days in a row.  I haven’t seen the sofa for a good few weeks – I think it must be buried under that pile of jumpers, books, DVDs, toys, handbags and letters from school demanding lunch money, but I couldn’t be sure.  Despite the constant running of the washing machine and the fact that the house resembles a laundry, no one’s ever got anything to wear, and I’m so disorganised in the mornings that Alpine Boy regularly goes to school without gloves or a hat.   Usually when it’s -10°c .  I’m such a great mum.

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And I have no time to write blogs!  The little ‘me’ time that the Time Fairy has begrudgingly left behind is generally spent crashing on the sofa propping my eyes open with matchsticks – I’m in no fit state to talk, never mind write.  (I just want to mention that it’s not pure laziness on my part, all this exhaustion… there’s a real reason, see below…).

So my lack of posts recently (ok, for months) doesn’t mean I’ve got nothing to say (as if).  Au contraire, mes petits, I’m sure you all want to hear about my exciting life of working, washing and not so much walking!

Here are the ‘best’ bits then.  Here are 5 posts that I would have written had I been bothered/had the time: Continue reading


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Alpine Mummy’s new life

My recent (rather lengthy) bout of writer’s block has been caused by the overwhelming stress of  hiring (and then almost immediately firing) a crazy, irresponsible, spoilt, arrogant and quite frankly useless au pair…

A hungry Alpine Girl just looking for someone to look after her

A hungry Alpine Girl just looking for someone to look after her

Or rather, it’s down to me being so traumatised by the whole event that every time I try to write about it I just can’t get it out.  I wanted to do a “hilarious” look at the stress she caused our family: amusingly recounting all the crazy things she did in the 6 days she was with us (yep, 6 days!!! and she only worked for 3 of those days!).   It was going to be called “50 reasons to fire your au pair (and these ALL happened to us!)“.  I was not having a problem finding 50 things to list, that’s for sure. Continue reading


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Top 5 Alpine Mummy moments

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Oh dear.  It’s been ages, hasn’t it?  Over a month in fact, since my last post.  And it was going so well!  (But don’t say I didn’t warn you – quote:  Not sure how long the blog will last (I was never very good at Dear Diary when I was younger…) and I’m sure it won’t be that interesting, but here goes!”.)

So, I hope you all missed me?!  My inbox has been inundated with concerned inquiries about where I might be and when I’m going to start blogging again (ahem).  So I’m feeling a bit of pressure here – perhaps you’re all expecting stories about how I’ve been wrestling wild wolves in the mountains; or how I’ve been lost in 2 metre-high snowdrifts having trekked back from the chocolate shop in a snowstorm; or how I’ve been cross-country ski-ing my way through the Alps with just a baguette in my bag and a baby on my back.

Sorry.  Nothing so exciting has been keeping me from my updates.  I’ve just lost the habit.  And not much has been going on really, so the habit stayed lost.  And when something interesting did happen I was usually up to my neck in pooey nappies or snotty tissues and so never found the time to write.

So I’ve decided to do a Top 5 things that have happened in Alpine Mummy’s life over the last two months post.  Catchy title, no?

So, here you are, pop-pickers, in at number 5:

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Yet more suppositories, Madame

Poor Alpine Girl has once again encountered the French medical system.  I’ll say one thing for French doctors:  they certainly are thorough…

Beaucoup de medicaments

Beaucoup de médicaments – all for Alpine Girl

She started off with just a cold and a slight temperature on Monday last week.  I didn’t really think too much of it:  it’s the first time she’s been ill and, although it broke my heart to see her red eyes and snotty nose, like the good English girl I am, I didn’t want to bother the doctor.  I remember going to see the doctor in the UK when Alpine Boy had his first cold (as I was worried it had got to his chest), and being told it was, well, just a cold.  The doctor didn’t actually roll his eyes and call me a hypochondriac during his three-and-a-half-minute consultation, but he may as well have.  I felt truly chastised for having wasted his time for “just a cold”.

So, forgetting the French aren’t like that, I didn’t take Alpine Girl to the doctor’s at first.  I still thought she was just a bit bunged up and I didn’t want to take her all the way into town in the freezing cold for nothing (it is very cold here at the moment).  But last Tuesday was the night from hell:  she wouldn’t sleep at all and I spent all night walking round with her, sucking snot out her nose (nice) and waving eucalyptus steam around the room.  It was the three hours’ sleep that night that finally convinced me that a doctor wouldn’t mind seeing her.

So last Wednesday we bundled her up and braved the cold for the doctor’s appointment.  I was still not convinced a doctor wouldn’t just tell me to stop being such a drama queen, but Alpine Papa convinced me.  You can tell he’s a true Frenchman.

And worth it, it was.  We had a full 15-minute consultation – none of the cursory glances I had experienced with the NHS.  (Please don’t think I’m slagging off all NHS GPs, I’m really not – some of my best friends are NHS GPs and I am sure they do a fantastic job!  Unfortunately they don’t work in my local doctors’ surgery…).  Everything was thoroughly and methodically checked – eyes, ears, nose, throat, chest, tummy, head….  And there was not one single incidence of eye-rolling.  Unfortunately, though, that’s because Alpine Girl did in fact have more than “just a cold” – she had an actual, real-life chest infection.  The weird, fleeting feeling of relief that I wasn’t a time-waster, however, was certainly not worth the pity I felt as I looked into the weeping, rheumy eyes of my poorly little girl and held her close as she coughed with fatigue (straight into my face.  Great.  I am waiting for my very own chest infection now).

But don’t worry, Alpine Girl – the doctor has just the thing for you.

Lots of things in fact.

We got antibiotics.  And a nose wash.  And eye drops.  And paracetamol.  And a decongestant.  And 6 sessions of physiotherapy.  My mouth dropped further as the doctor’s prescription got longer.

I had learned my lesson from the previous time the doctor gave us a prescription for paracetamol.  This time I swallowed any pride about not wanting to look like a stupid English prude, and specifically asked for syrup, not suppositories (to be honest I was thinking more about Alpine Boy – I’m now an expert at sticking tablets up a baby’s bum, but I don’t dare even suggest it to a grumpy three-year-old with a headache who has never had a suppository before…).  The doctor chuckled and obligingly deleted the word ‘suppositoires’ from her screen and, with a look of amusement in her eyes (no doubt relishing her new dinner-party story about the funny English woman who doesn’t want suppositories), slowly typed ‘s-i-r-o-p’.  I sat back smugly in my seat:  English sensibilities – 1; French superior treatment plan – 0.  Ha.

The doctor got her own back though – I casually mentioned that I had put some Vicks on Alpine Girl’s chest during that Tuesday night from hell, and she frowned and muttered how bad that was.  “I’ve got something much better than that for you” she said, taking a pen to the already long prescription.  “It’s really good – herbal decongestant, gets to work right away, will clear her nose and let her sleep.”  She looked up.  “I know you don’t like suppositories, but…”.  I could swear she was hiding a revengeful smile.

English sensibilities – 1; French superior treatment plan – 1.

And then the physio.  Wow – definitely 2:1 to the French by now.  It wasn’t a particularly serious chest-infection, but apparently this is standard treatment here.  Do they do that in the UK?  I’ve never heard of it (but that doesn’t really say much).

We had no idea what the physio process involved.  Alpine Papa’s colleagues were therefore keen to explain it to him, one of them helpfully reporting that her kid had been so traumatised by the treatment that he now refuses to visit any doctor.  Alpine Papa also made the mistake of watching the process on You Tube, and called me from work just before the appointment to explain just quite how horrific it all was.  Thanks.

So it was with trepidation and a knot in my stomach that I cautiously opened the physio’s door.  “Don’t worry, Madame” he smiled at me kindly (whilst cracking his knuckles and rolling up his sleeves like a pro arm-wrestler).  “It won’t hurt a bit.  I promise.”  My relief was short-lived, however, as he quickly went on: “She’ll scream like hell though! Don’t worry, that’s good”.

Oh.  OK.

So, for all you physio novices out there too: the process involves a burly physiotherapist putting his huge hands on my tiny baby’s fragile, bird-like chest and squashing her like a deflating air-mattress until all the air is forced out of her miniature lungs.  He doesn’t squash her hard, he assures me, but try telling Alpine Girl that.  She did indeed scream like hell.  Apparently that’s good because that gets all the gunk out of those millions of alveoli.  But I’m a mummy, not a doctor, and so it didn’t seem good to me, watching her get redder and more stressed and tired, screaming and screaming and not having a clue what was happening to her.  That first session was probably about as difficult for me as it was for her.

I’m hardened now though.  Maybe it’s because for the last two weeks she hasn’t slept more than five hours in a row, and has started waking up screaming two or three times every night.  I’m so tired that it’s actually a relief to be able to put her in someone else’s capable (albeit firm) hands for 20 minutes or so every day.  Even if it makes her cry.  And I can see it’s working – after five of the six prescribed sessions her lungs are getting clearer and her coughing has reduced.  If I can manage to get the car through the 60cm of snow we have up here then we’ll go to the final session this afternoon, and hopefully that will be it, she’ll be cured.  I never thought I’d say it, but I think I am a convert to the French school of interventionist medicine.  I’m sure many people will have things to say about how such treatment really isn’t necessary and causes more harm than good, but all I can say is it worked for us.  That horrible chesty cough has gone.

And you know what?  Those decongestant suppositories worked a treat…

Snowed in?  Not yet...

Snowed in? Not yet…


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In which Alpine Boy gets squashed by a trolley

Cooking

Half-term holidays – cooking with Alpine Boy

Alpine Boy is currently on half term holidays for two weeks so I’m pushing my parenting skills to the limit to find something new and exciting for him to do each day.  I’ve been spoiled by two months of handing over my son to someone else between 8.30am and 4.00pm each day and, despite the fact that I love him to bits (and yes, blah blah, I know I said he saved me from loneliness etc etc), I do find myself desperately looking forward to his nap time, when the entertaining can stop for an hour or so.  Is that really bad of me?!

Anyway, I’m actually rather proud of the holiday activities I’ve provided so far (yes, ok, it’s only Friday of week one.  And yes, ok, yesterday was a public holiday so Alpine Papa was around to assist.  So that’s only four days of entertaining.  But still).  We’ve been for walks in the snow, and walks in the rain, and walks in the sunshine.  We’ve been to visit friends, we’ve had friends visit us.  We’ve made things and drawn things and painted things and stuck things and put Play-Doh all over the sofa and in our hair (well someone has.  And it wasn’t me).  We’ve cooked things and eaten things and watched DVDs.  But still, the most exciting thing to happen to Alpine Boy this week?  The supermarket trolley fell over.  With him in it. Continue reading


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I’m doing OK. Really.

I was speaking to my oldest friend on the phone the other day when she asked me how I was doing.    Genuinely.  She didn’t want a flippant answer about how everything is fine.   She really wanted to know if I was OK.

And I answered honestly – I am.  I really am…     Continue reading