Accidents and Chocolate Cake

Before getting a little emotional on Friday before my last school pick-up for a long time (as my postgrad acting course at GFCA starts tomorrow – eeek!) I made sure to enjoy my last free day alone with both boys at school. I slept in, took a long walk in the sun and had a late lunch and prosecco.

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I got a little emotional thinking that I won’t be able to pick the boys up from school myself now until December, their last week of term, when my term has finished. But then, I get to drop them off, and I remembered why I’m doing this and that I’ve been at their beck and call pretty much for six years, so I think it’s time!

I really wanted to make the most of this last chilled weekend, though before the madness starts, so we had a lie-in on Saturday and I took them to the amazing Sheriff Centre Hullaballoo soft-play in West Hampstead. It’s the most amazing place, with soft play for under 2s (£2) and over 2s (£4). They get to stay in for ages, if it’s not busy I don’t think they ever kick you out! It is a huge converted church (actually still used in part as a church) but with a post office inside, sofas, free books and games to borrow, so you can sit and enjoy yourself while still keeping an eye on the kids and the café not only does coffee and nice food but also WINE and beer!! Plus the people there are lovely. In other words, it’s just heaven to a knackered parent like me. I would literally live there all the time if it were possible. They serve their tea in proper vintage, mismatched china and before my wine I had lovely porridge with cinnamon and honey.

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Unfortunately, two hours killing themselves in the soft-play is not enough to tire out my insane kids, so I put them in the garden to play and regretted it after both of them fell off the garden wall, one after the other. Luci first, nosedived headfirst off the wall, god knows how, and yelled in that way that even the most lazy, unsympathetic parent (me) uncharacteristically bombs it down the stairs immediately to see what’s wrong. He had a huge shiner on his forehead but 10 minutes of icepack and a cuddle later he was perfectly happy to sit in bed and watch Team Umizoomi. So I started dinner… 5 minutes later, Gabs runs in and falls dramatically on the floor, bent double. “Go to the toilet!” I cried, misreading his bending double. Then I noticed his weird breathing and crying: “I’m injured! You have to call an ambulance!” he cried, dramatically. I’m not inclined to panic but I did get a bit shaky when I noticed the colour drain from his face and his lips start to turn blue. He had scraped the whole side of his body and was clearly in shock. I panicked and got Remus out of his teaching room, when he started to say, “I’m tired” and go all floppy, I was starting to think I should set off the to hospital, but then we tried the magic, “How Serious Is It?” litmus test. We offered him his Samsung tablet to play some minecraft in bed. It works every time. If he wants the tablet, he’s fine and it’s a non-emergency. If he says no, it’s super-serious. So we gave him some calpol and water and checked on him and eventually he got some colour back and Mummy had a medicinal brandy (yucky cheap stuff I use for baking, but needs must!)

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Today, Sunday, I had to teach and say goodbye to some lovely violin students who I won’t have time for anymore but who I have grown very attached to. 😦 Curiously, absolutely everyone today needed work on something major on either hand and I ended up photographing everyone’s progress so they can refer back as they practise. I am keeping my smallest pupils on, who I will teach at 8:30 on a Sunday morning for as long as I can manage it. I so love my pupils. Teaching will always be something I want to do.

I also taught my Gabs, trying to help him get used to his new 1/4 size violin, which he’s finding a bit traumatic – Aspies don’t like change! I also cleaned the kitchen floor, made popcorn and a chocolate cake and a risotto and got Gabs to complete his homework. I was on fire today!

My crowning achievement was definitely the chocolate cake made as a treat for my amazing boys to say thank you for supporting me in pursuing my dreams and my new acting course! G for Gabs, R for Remus, L for Luci…

In the absence of letter cutters, I had to make templates with greaseproof paper. It didn’t work particularly well. If anyone is reading this and wants to buy me R, G & L and heart-shaped cookie cutters for Christmas I wouldn’t turn them down.

Gabs helped me decorate.

I’m not sure if they liked it…

This may be the last blog I have time to write until Christmas… I don’t know. Maybe I will have time to write a bit about the course but I wouldn’t bank on it. Any post will be a bonus! So have a wonderful Autumn, all and see you in December, if not before!

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Honouring Matilda Mae on 2nd May

Today a Royal Baby was born. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Kate and William, welcomed a beautiful baby daughter this morning, 2nd May. I was so happy for them and it made me surprisingly uplifted and broody, too! But my thoughts and energy today were with another family.

Because today, 2nd May should have been…would have been the 3rd Birthday of my friend Jennie ‘Edspire‘s beautiful baby, Matilda Mae who died of SIDS on the day she turned 9 months old. And I know they are celebrating her birthday-in-heaven today down at Coombe Mill in Cornwall. Coombe Mill is their special place where they went to scatter Baby Tilda’s ashes, a place their twins Esther and William, and now their rainbow baby, Bea, really love and find peace and comfort in. They are celebrating their special angel birthday girl with pink and purple, with presents for three of their children who can open them on their sister’s behalf, with bubbles and stars… all special things that say Matilda Mae to them.

And I remembered her in thoughts all day and sent presents too and hoped my love reached them, but mostly I thought about writing this for Jennie… to let her know My Plan to honour Matilda Mae on her 4th Birthday, 2nd May 2016.

I feel a bit silly writing about this, my next Matilda Mae fundraising event, when I haven’t even blogged properly about my Matilda Mae Violin Marathon, successfully completed on 3rd July last year. I have hours worth of videos of me playing, alone and with others, chamber music, scales, solos, tears, joy, laughter, champagne and most of all, lots and lots of money raised (£2,700 or thereabouts) for The Lullaby Trust. I feel guilty often for not blogging about it, after all the money given, all the support of so many people, but the truth is I wouldn’t know where to start and remembering it makes me too emotional. It is probably, after giving birth to my two boys, one of the best, most meaningful things I’ve ever done with my life, but for some bizarre reason I can’t bear to think back on it. It brings up too many emotions. I will do it one day, I just don’t know when…

So, onwards and upwards and eyes forward, I am again planning another musical marathon of sorts, to remember Matilda Mae, but this time I’ll have a little help (I thought people might get bored of hearing just me on violin for another 26.2 hrs!). I hope to do it on 2nd May 2016, what will be Matilda Mae’s 4th birthday in heaven (That number is so big, it just doesn’t seem right, but it is indeed so…)

Matilda Mae ‘Musical Marathon’ House Concert for The Lullaby Trust

My hope and plan is to repeat the marathon theme of last year, but instead of playing alone this time to invite all the musicians I know (thousands!) and any of their friends from far and wide, my family, my pupils, my friends’ pupils, my colleagues and quite simply ANY musician, professional or amateur who would like to be involved, to join me at my house for a mammoth, marathon Longest House Concert!! I will be throwing open my doors, like I did last time, but this time there will be space set aside for a proper audience, with my living room filled with chairs, and if the weather is good, also in the garden. There will, of course be champagne served along with the music only this time, entry to the concert will be £10 per ticket. People can donate too if they can’t make it, and I will live-stream on the internet again like before. I hope audience will come and stay as long or short a time as they like, come and go at any time and that friends will stay and jam through the night again like last time! If there is a lull in proceedings, where no musicians are around to play at any given point, myself and Remus and even our little Gabs – now a pretty decent little violinist! – can fill the gaps and keep the concert going but with any luck I will be able to organise timings so that the concert runs continuously for…. however long it may be!!! (And it could be VERY, VERY long!!!) This is the main gist of my idea, anyway. I have plenty of details to work out and some of the main features may change (including the date… I’m aiming for around her birthday date, but I want Jennie to be able to attend so it may need to move.) But with a year to plan it and fundraise, I have time to work it all out and make it a musical marathon Matilda Mae would be proud of.

Happy Birthday in Heaven Tilda. See you Next Year at your Special Concert.

Classical Babies 4th Birthday!

I don’t normally write work-related posts on my personal blog but this seems to be a month of anniversaries and I’m excited about this one! Tomorrow will be four years since the very first Classical Babies concert at the O2 Centre, Finchley Road NW3, so naturally I am celebrating with another concert in similar style at the same location.

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There’s this fab group called The Lydian String who often play downstairs at the O2 Centre. If you’re in the area you might have seen them with their green banner and CDs out raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support. They are friends of mine from my freelancing days and put on a really great show. There are always crowds of people stopping to watch them and buy a CD or just donate some money. I am really proud to be joining them on the violin to play for our birthday concert. I think what they do is fantastic. If you take a look at their website  you not only get to hear a preview of what they sound like you can also read about their incredible fundraising work: 10% of every gig fee they receive goes straight to the Macmillan charity, as part of a commitment contract to pay them a minimum of £10,000 every year and 66% of the proceeds of their CDs sold also gets donated. They will have CDs for sale tomorrow, if you are coming please bring cash with you! This is a fantastic thing to play around the house to surround your child with music.

It says on their website (which needs updating!) that they have raised in excess of £90,000 for the charity since 2001 but I happen to know that this figure is wildly out of date and they have now raised well over £200,000!!

As well as the wonderful music, we will have the usual coffee, squash for the older children and a big birthday cake and plenty of balloons, plus some further treats. I’ll give every person through the door a number to be entered into the free prize draw which will take place in the middle of the programme, giving away a bottle of bubbly, some concert tickets and smaller prizes! After all, it’s only our birthday once a year! If you’d like to attend, full details are on the website.

I’m very excited with where Classical Babies is heading in it’s fifth year… With a sell-out first concert in Harpenden, our first Hertfordshire venue, plans for a Cambridge series and our first Manchester venue in the works I feel like expansion is the name of the game in ’14-’15! I can’t wait! I also have a re-brand planned with a new logo design coming from the wonderful Ellie Illustrates. I can’t wait for my website and blog to sport this lovely badge!

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If you know anyone with small children who would like live concerts in a fun, relaxed setting please show them this page and if you would like to know how Classical Babies started and how I got to this point, read my page on this blog about it! It’s something I’m immensely proud of and passionate about so if it’s something you like the sound of please like me on facebook, follow me on twitter @classicalbabyco and tell all your friends – Thank You! – Coco x

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A wobble this Wednesday

Today was a really difficult day. I woke up already feeling like I’d been slammed by the tiredness-train and then I got the boys ready to take Lucian to the doctors’ surgery down at Swiss Cottage because he has developed terrible conjunctivitis in just one day. I can hardly bear to look at him, it looks terrible although he doesn’t seem to mind.

My poor little man! :(

My poor little man! 😦

Just trying to get two boys and myself dressed and ready to go in time was like climbing a mountain. I knew the day wasn’t headed anywhere good from the level of difficulty this simple task presented. The boys are nearly four and newly two, I have been doing this every day for a long time, I’m a pro…Gabs can often dress himself, apart from the top half. But not today. Oh no. I was flat out exhausted by the time we got out the door.. “I’m hungry” “…chocolate, chocolate!” “No, not those pants, I want Wednesday pants!” “Waaaaaahhhh, Lucian’s going to break my train!” Lucian clinging to my legs, crying, Gabs wailing, “Muuummmmeeeeeee, mummmeeeeeee, I.WANT.SOME.MILK!” Sweet Jesus, how hard can it be to dress three people and exit through the door?

But I was determined to get Luci’s eye looked at and so I stayed calm, lured Gabs into the buggy with the iPad and off we went. I even grabbed a cappuccino and some, “Sorry we have to go to the doctors” sweets for the boys and was feeling really optimistic when the receptionist said it was just a 20 minute wait. The waiting room was full, but with sweets and iPad and my iPhone and a good attitude on, it should all be fine, right?

Wrong. One hour passed like this:

“Gabs, sit down…. Gabi, sit down please…. Gaaaabs, SIT. DOWN!… No, don’t climb on the table, you can crawl under it if you like but not on top. No, I’m sorry I didn’t bring any water, we’ll get a drink after. Get OFF the table! Sit down! (lift him off table)” *Lucian throws iPad on the floor* Luci: “iPad! iPaaaaaad! iPAD!!!” *I pass him the iPad. He throws it on the floor* “Gabi, sit down please.” *He doesn’t and tries to run off so I grab his wrist to pull him back to the seating area. Gabs loudly: “DON’T HURT ME! You’re hurting me! Owwww, owwwww!” (I’m not even touching him at this point but everyone looks over). I try to write his party invitations… “I want those stickers, pleeeeease can I have those stickers, no not those ones, noooo I want thoooose ones, pleeeeeease!” *Smudges all the ink on his freshly written invitations and crumples the stickers meant to decorate the invites with. I sigh and put them away.* Luci: “iPaaaad, iPAAAAAD!!” *I pass him the iPad* “Gabs, don’t you dare head out that door….(trying to sound light and sing-songy and not as shouty and tense as I feel) Gaaabs, come baaack please! Sit down. *iPad lands on floor with loud thump, Lucian starts crying. “Do you want to do some drawing? No? Play on my iPhone? Sit DOWN! Right I’m strapping you in the buggy.” Gabs starts crying in a loud whingey voice.*

A big sign pops up on the surgery TV screen:

“ARE YOU FEELING STRESSED, TIRED & ANXIOUS?”

Why, YES!!!!! Now that you mention it, I am!! have two kids under four and we’ve been waiting an hour!! Now give me my frigging appointment!!

So, anyway, it turns out Luci has reeeally bad conjunctivitis in his right eye and a bad, possibly infected excema patch on his cheek which may even be impetigo. Maaan, do I feel bad for not bringing him in sooner, but I was sure that rash on his cheeks was from teething. Zero brownie points for me. 😦 Mr Doctor Man was very lovely, however and his name was Phil which made me chuckle as I got to call him Dr. Phil (no, not that one) He prescribed antibiotic eyedrops four times a day for five days and a penicillin-based bright pink antibiotic I already know will go everywhere and stain everything, four times a day for seven days and a face cream for Luci’s cheek. He even gave me some stronger hayfever medicine than the one the chemist gave me but no, sorry he couldn’t write me a prescription for a free full-time nanny… not on the NHS, anyway. (Worth a try…) I didn’t sit down for any of this, by the way. Dr. Phil did that gesture all doctors do when you come into the room and said, “Take a seat”… and I chuckled as I took it for all of 3 seconds thinking, “OK, I can play along if you think the appointment is going to run that way, haha!” before I leapt around the room, pulling Gabs off all the equipment and trying to stop both boys from jumping up and down on and breaking the doctor’s weighing scale. But we got the job done, got the drugs after a five minute wait at the pharmacy (“I want a lollipop! I’m going to look at all the stuff on the shelves” … “You mean touch all the stuff and knock it over, don’t you…get your feet off the stupidly-white waiting couch, no you can’t have a lollipop, PUT THAT DOWN! Great, thanks, which one does he have to take for five days and which for seven…both four times a day? While I’m here, do you have any valium??”) we got home.

It was quite a relief to get home, I have to say, but the relief was short-lived. Both boys were starving hungry so I gave them bread and hummus, which they love but inexplicably ate only one quarter of before smearing the rest on various clothing and soft-furnishing spots where it doesn’t belong. Now, I’m pretty lax about this kind of thing, usually. I’m actually pretty cool about it, which may be part of what’s led them to be so messy in the first place so yes, yes, I know I made my own crispy, crunchy bed with crumbs in. But somehow lately the mess is just making my skin crawl! If I have to crunch my way across the layer of rice-cake crumbs that used to be my carpet one more time, five minutes after I last hoovered, I am going to implode in on myself like a white dwarf star being born! Then of course, Gabs wouldn’t clean up, wouldn’t put his trainers on, wouldn’t let me put his trainers on, “Nooo, you’re hurting meee!” and moaned about this and that until we were fantastically late for the Classical Babies concert in Belsize Park. So I ended up lecturing him all the way there, “Stop stopping in the street to play with your truck, I TOLD you we’re LATE!!!!” with my heart compressing under the strain of it.. and all the while I was thinking, “I don’t WANT to shout, I don’t want to moan! You’re the best thing that I have in the World, I want to give you a big hug and a kiss, but people are arriving at my concert and I’m not there setting up and WHY won’t you just walk faster… or at all??!!”

Of course, it’s fantastically impractical of me to attempt to run concerts with my boys in tow, but I don’t make enough money on them to cover the babysitting and I can’t bring myself to cancel a series I love which I know the parents love too… so I keep racing around trying to set up tea and coffee and mini chairs and teddies, while occasionally freaking out that I can’t find Gabs, or (like today) that he’s about to fall to his death off the organ-gallery balcony thing in the church where he’s climbed while I was taking the money from the mums, or looking for spoons or something. In September he will go to school, and then I can let Lucian out of the buggy and he can get lost, and climb stairs and freak me out instead of Gabs.

I digress, we arrived at the concert, which is our usual weekly concert at St. Peter’s in Belsize Square, but also this week a feature in their ‘St. Peter’s Arts Week‘ – opened by David Mitchell and Victoria Coren, who recently married in the church. I was super late and wondering how in the world to set up twice as fast as usual, when I discovered that the Ethiopian Church who the vicar, Paul lets share the church, were running over their 1:30 finish time, with a mic-ed up service still in full flow and the church thick with incense. There was no way the mums would sit in that, you could smell it down the street and the babies wouldn’t be able to breathe! It’s funny how things work out for the best though, because I decided to go ahead with the concert, a tiny bit late and out in the church gardens which are actually really beautiful.

It was a little cloudy but really warm and not too much breeze, and I made it work by bringing the teas and coffees and mini cupcakes out on a tray.

My lovely friend and fabulous cellist Gabriella Swallow (if you haven’t seen her performing you might have seen her talking about music on TV or being interviewed at the Proms, she’s super-glam!) and mum-of-two was a total sport and battled with the lack of an acoustic and played beautifully and I wondered why I’d never done a concert out there before, it was lovely! I definitely will organise one again, weather permitting. Local teacher and long time supporter of Classical Babies, Alice Biddulph brought her little cello along again and even Gabs had a go, although I think you can tell even at 3 he plays like a violinist! Little Christopher, a musician’s son, showed us how to do it:

I was really happy with how it turned out, but couldn’t quite enjoy it because I couldn’t keep track of Gabs and run the concert, or shake off that feeling of being run over by a truck, but I know it was a lovely event and I intend to fully breathe in and enjoy the next garden concert when it comes. I had promised the boys a trip to the playground after, and we had a good time there. I guess the day got better and better… We couldn’t stay too long as Luci’s eye was getting worse and we had to get home for medicines and eyedrops but just long enough for them both to let off some steam. Back home, the whinging started again, this time from Gabs who was devastated that his once blue truck had black patches underneath and he was desperate to paint it. Now, Gabs loves to paint, it’s one of the most sure-fire ways of keeping him quiet and concentrated and the clean-up after is totally worth the hour’s peace it usually buys me to leave him alone producing several masterpieces. So I wasn’t really expecting, checking on him after 15 minutes, to see this:

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My floor!!

I really, really didn’t have the energy to deal with it….all I wanted was half a quiet hour to rest my legs! So I was pretty mad. But on the other hand it was a lot more interesting to look at than the hideous 80’s style old grey tiles, so I was tempted to leave it. I didn’t, of course. I put both boys in a bath, scrubbed the floor and they were pyjama-d like this by 5:30 pm:

Will they wake up at 10pm and give me hell? Probably! Do I care? No!! I have a white wine spritzer, a thai curry, a little peace and quiet to blog and get my head in order. A lovely end to a long day. See you tomorrow folks.

Violin Marathon for Matilda Mae – plans shaping up!

So the Violin Marathon for Matilda Mae is shaping up to be a great, great plan! 

So far, my favourite ideas, which may or may not be feasible are as follows:

 

Location: my flat in London

Breaks allowed for eating, toilet and massage/physio

I will take requests, but you have to donate for this!

Live video link/internet streaming so people can tune in and see how I’m doing/submit requests online

Open house for people to drop in and have a drink while I play

Musician friends can show up and join me in some chamber music

If I’m really hurting and need a longer break, someone (Remus or a friend) must cover for me so someone is always playing.

This could be really cool I’m really looking forward to this, but I’d better get practising because if I did it now, I wouldn’t last four hours and I’d be in real trouble! 

Would love to hear from any musicians in particular with more ideas to make this even better!

 

Love

Coco xx