A Birthday Bounce

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We recently had a birthday in the house; for our 8-year-old daughter.  We were really struggling with what to do for her party, or gathering, or friends round for tea; whatever you want to call it.  It’s not long since she joined the school, so there was the issue of do we mix the old school and new school friends, how many new friends does she actually have, will anybody come?  All the usual stresses of organising a child’s party, with a few added complications thrown in.  She had a Pizza Express party last year, which was fab, but we decided this year we didn’t want the cost of a full party.  I organised a make your own bear party for our youngest last year (it wasn’t the old favourite, high street option), you pre-order the cuddly delights and stuff them at home.  So, this was our home party option; I can fill you in on that one another time.  But it came to pretty much the same total as an ‘experience’ party; SO much more hassle though.  This time, the lure of someone else taking the strain was all too much to resist, so the hunt was on for the perfect party treat.

The birthday girl loves trampolining, so we decided to look into Air Hop, Gravity Force and Air Arena; these are our local Trampoline Parks.  When I say local though, we are still talking about a minimum of a 25-minute drive.  The distance brings into play the whole issue of whether we ask parents to drive all that way, or drive the party goers ourselves.  We decided on driving ourselves and the closest option was Air Hop in Guildford.  The Air Hop party option needed a minimum of 10 people, which meant either getting together a host of willing drivers, or hiring a mini bus.  It then transpired that she didn’t have 8 friends to invite.  We looked into the option of taking a small group of children and found a really good deal for Fridays after school.  We could book to jump, get a Slushie and a hot dog, all for the price of a regular jump.  (Add in the socks at a small charge, if you need them).  The timings were pretty flexible, so we booked in for a 5.00 jump with 6 children.  All we needed to do was get the names and dates of births from the parents, fill in our own disclaimer online, and we were good to go.  As is usual with girls, the guest list changed several times and increased to 8, including birthday girl and little sis.  Bit of a squash and a squeeze in the cars, but we got them there.  Adding in extra people to the booking was not a problem, and all was quickly confirmed by email.

The party option was going to cost £190, so we saved £86 by going for the after-school option, for the amount of people we wanted to take.

There is plenty of parking in the car park behind Air Hop in Guildford, and even the Friday afternoon traffic didn’t slow us down on our journey from Hampshire, as it out of town enough to avoid much of the traffic.  Check in was fast and simple; they were given either pink or blue socks, needless to say, they all chose pink.  Some had to get bigger sizes, but it was not a problem to switch socks.  They were given wrist bands and went off to watch a very quick video safety briefing; all a bit impersonal, but short and sweet, so it kept their attention.  We then had to wait at the gate for our exact time slot, before being let loose in the park.

Inside the park, there was a good selection of mini trampolines, (1 person per tramp, which was stressed on the safety briefing several times), a foam pit with 2 jump ramps, a dodgeball area, which was strictly monitored by an Air Hop team member, with just small numbers at a time.  Even my 2 dodgeball haters went in for a quick game.  They also had 2 basketball hoops; the only issue with these was that they were tucked away behind the dodgeball pitch and felt a little out of the action.  I don’t think it was fully booked for the session, so there was no issue with anyone getting a tramp space and just small queues for the foam pit, so they got a full hour of almost constant bouncing around.  It was not completely clear when we got the food, so I went up to the café and found that we could get it after the session; it was all very laid back and flexible.

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There were Air Hop team members milling around, but other than dodgeball, they did not engage with us, or the children at any time.   Which was not really an issue as the girls all seemed to know what they were doing.  My drama queen of a daughter hurt her back though, she was crying for quite some time and visibly distressed, so I thought at that point that some contact from the team would have been good.  She was OK though and eventually tentatively went back on to bounce towards the end of the session.  (Turns out that straining the lower back is a common trampoline complaint, its all about engaging the stomach muscles to protect the back, but try explaining that to a 7/8-year-old!)  The other girls had a brilliant time; smiles all round.

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The food was a big hit in Air Hop; a very limited selection with hot dogs being the only hot option, but they were huge and really tasty.  Hot Dogs were from a hot dog heating machine, which, to be honest, I was a bit wary of, but even I was convinced to try a bite and they were good.  I had a few none hot dog fans, so they ate the bread and then chose ice creams as an alternative, which we did have to pay a little extra for.  The prices were reasonable though.  Lots of table spaces and all very clean and tidy, no queues for the food and they could not have been more helpful when we appeared looking for 8 slushies and 8 hotdogs.  There was no issue with us taking our own waters into the park, but no other food or drink was allowed.

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I am parent to an arm breaker; I sadly have accompanied her through 2 broken arms, so I am seriously over protective.  It was tough to let her loose in the trampoline park, knowing all the bad press, but as cotton wool and bubble wrap is not an actual option, I decided to go for it with a very watchful eye. There are plenty of staff around to keep a check on the jumpers; also, none jumpers have full access to the park too.  As long as the 1 per trampoline rule is adhered to, the safety features seem to be good.

The timings on the jump were strict, so after exactly an hour, we were called to the gate to leave.  Most of them had not stopped for the full hour, so were happy to stop for a break.  There were a couple of toilet breaks during the jump; it was no issue to get in and out of the gate to access the toilets, they were small, but clean and not too far away from the action.

We went to Air Arena in Chichester over the Summer last year and I couldn’t help but compare the two centres.  The down side to Air Hop was the sectioning set up; the trampolines were in one area, the dodgeball in another, with the foam pit in a raised enclosure.  Whereas, Air Arena has a big open space with easy access to everything, so that the group felt less divided, this made it a lot easier to monitor as a parent.  Air Arena has a high wall to jump off into the foam pit, which was a huge success with the party goers, I felt that Air Hop was missing something like that.  The timings were much less strict, as soon as the safety briefing was finished, they were allowed into the park.  The safety briefing was both a video and a short chat from a team member, which seemed a bit more personal.  I found the staff at Air Arena to be really accommodating; extremely friendly and not in the least bit concerned about getting involved with the children, in fact, one of them spent most of the hour helping our group jump, as well as showing them tricks.  The girls were naturally enthralled by this young man’s antics. I didn’t try the food at Air Arena, so I can’t compare on that front.

Overall, I have to admit that Air Hope was a hit, despite my initial fears about safety.  The Friday evening special was amazing value; a brilliant way to spend a birthday evening.  I might book Air Arena if we do it again though, even though Chichester is a little further away.

(Disclaimer:  all the opinions in this article are my own.  I have not received any payment from either Air Arena or Air Hop).

 

 

Post Natal Depression – The Darker Side of Joy

head in hands

I decided to write about my experience with post-natal depression; share my thoughts and feelings, it’s cathartic to release it to the world.  The details are a little vague, as was the whole experience at the time.  I think that hindsight has given me greater clarity on what seemed like a haze over my life.  My first child was born after many years of issues; illness, divorce, series of bad relationships, into a new relationship, but with fertility issues, body clock ticking and everything else that goes with getting pregnant.  I never believed it would happen for me; even to the day that I went into hospital, I still could not get my head around her actually coming home.  But she was born without issue and come home she did.  This is not where my PND starts though.  In fact, I was euphoric, I was in a glow of happiness and excitement.  I had finally joined the exclusive club, I had only ever dreamed of joining.  All was good, she was a lively little thing, a terrible eater, colic, reflux, but overall things went smoothly, I was so happy.

I got pregnant again when she was 11 months old; I had felt under pressure to get pregnant as soon as possible, as I was hurtling towards 41.  My GP told me to wait 6 months after giving birth, then get started!  I waited a little longer than 6 months, as I just didn’t feel ready for no. 2 so soon.  I had always wanted at least 2 children, so knew that it would be risky to wait too long.  I fell pregnant easily the second time; nothing exceptional to report on the pregnancy.  Out she popped as planned; I felt in control; I knew what to expect, I had got this.  Feeding came easily, in fact, it was never an issue for her.  She was angelic during the day, so much so, that I barely spent time with her at all.  DD1 was so demanding and active that she took up most of my attention.  The only time I was really able to snatch with DD2 was feeding, and even then, I was bouncing DD1 on my leg to keep her occupied, or reading her a story.

I realised quite quickly that the euphoria was missing, instead there was a sort of void where it should have been.  I felt love and pride, but struggled to feel any sort of closeness.  It was all very robotic and practical.  Practically I coped, in fact I coped better than with DD1.  I now wonder if that constant state of panic with DD1, built up the adrenaline needed to fight off the PND.  It is hard to know why I had it, but there will always be the guilt that it happened for DD2 and not 1.  It is nothing to do with the love and gratitude; for me it was probably around the fact that it felt too soon. It seemed like I had not had the chance to fully enjoy the first baby before the second one came along.  I resent my age now more than ever, but I also resented it then because of everything that went before babies, meaning I became a Mum so late in life.  Being a Mum is definitely the best thing in my life, my true calling.  I can now say that the PND is a thing of the past, but the guilt of it lives on.

As time went on, DD1 became more demanding, she was super active, not in the least bit self-sufficient, very jealous of her sister, and decided, quite early on, that napping was for wimps.  I would take her out as much as possible, to entertain her, but in doing so, DD2 was left to nap most of the day.  We would get DD1 to bed after a whirlwind of a day, at which point DD2 would wake up.  We didn’t recognise the cycle we were getting into, by letting her sleep so much during the day, of course she was going to be awake at night.  I am making this sound so grounded and practical, when I know I was actually staying away from her because of the depression.  It was not long before she was awake for much of the night, the screaming would reach decibel levels that nightclubs would find it hard to compete with.  I would scream at her, walk out of the room, hand her to Dad saying, “Just take it!”  I often referred to her as ‘it’, but didn’t hear that at the time.  I remember asking my mum to take ‘it’ away for a bit.  Our childcare support system crumbled on arrival of the 2nd, my parents lived quite far away and the in-laws were entering a period of ill health.  I seem to remember only getting one day away from the pair of them, as a couple, in the first 2 years, possibly even longer.  I breastfed for 15 months and struggled to express, so we were quite tied as mother and baby.  We should have been a united duo of love and attachment, but as the days went on, we became increasingly detached.  I dreaded the nights, as I knew the screaming would begin.  I fed her as much as possible just to keep her quiet, some nights she would be placated and then fall asleep in our bed, but other nights she would cry and thrash around.  The numbness was magnified by the exhaustion, as well as the frustration that I could not get this child to stop crying.

I became a robot; but with a wonderful front of calm and organisation.  To the outside world, I was coping; even to my partner I was coping.  In fact, if anything, the issue was with DD1, as she was becoming increasingly difficult / lively – that’s a story for another time though.  Nobody could see, or possibly were just too polite to say, that I was showing little or no attention to DD2.  I remember one friend saying,

“She is just so good, I forget she is even here.”

I would leave her sleeping in the buggy while we were out and about, just to make things easier.

I remember the day it all broke; a crisis happened and the mother ‘emergency’ hormones kicked in.  An enforced period of separation happened and I desperately missed her, I needed her with me, but had to deal with what was happening with DD1 first.  As soon as I got her with me, I pretty much refused to let her go, I was quite feral about it.  Suddenly, I felt alive, I was back in the room; and so, the recovery began.  The day sticks out in my mind as it was the day DD1 broke her arm, in one of those accidents that just happens at home.  The day before the accident, I had hit an all-time low.  We were going to a local garden centre, I can’t remember why, maybe I just needed to get out of the house.  DD2 cried and cried, I turned the music up in the car so loud that it nearly deafened us all; I screamed at her to stop.  I sobbed uncontrollably in the car, with poor DD1 looking at me with a dazed and confused expression.  For that second, I wanted out, I couldn’t go on, there was no relationship with us; by now the crying was day and night.  The truth be told, she needed her Mum to be a Mum, that is what she was crying for.  I gave her food, cleaned her and put her to bed, but over and above that, there was nothing but resentment.  It sickens me to admit this.

I was lucky that something shook my world and brought me out of the other side of my depression; I will never know how it happened, or why, but I am beyond grateful that it did.  The change of routine that goes with a hospital stay and then dealing with a child with a broken arm, seemed to get us out of the bad habits.  I should point out that she was 6 months old by this point, so things were naturally changing too.  I didn’t seek help and I regret that; I wasted 6 months of her life in this state of anger and despair, too terrified to speak out in the fear that I would be classified as ‘bad mother, not coping’.  That is not how it is, no one will think that, they will just want to help.  Speak to GPs, friends, health visitors, helplines, in fact, anyone who will listen.  It was hard to talk to my parents about this one, but they had valuable advice and could have been a support, if only I had let them in, so if you have parents who can support you, then let them.  If there is a partner, then speak to them too, you might find that they already know and are just waiting for you to reach out.  Most of all talk, that is the best advice.  Write it down if it helps.  Take time out; never feel guilty for wanting a break.  Try to recognise bad habits if you can, I have many on my list that I recognised too late, but maybe by talking about it now, other people can get some solace.

There was another crisis point recently, where I ended up in the dark place of depression.  I am slowly coming out of the other side of it, but with the recovery has come a great clarity on events of the past.  It has taken me over 6 years to recall all of this with clarity and rationalise it all.  The guilt is immense, but I am starting to fully heal.  I felt better after the accident, but I failed to get the support I needed then.  The depression lived on inside, not having been fully dealt with, to then resurface as another form of equally destructive depression.

It is easy to say, “I feel better today.” But just be sure that you truly are better, take any support and help that is out there, even on the good days.

LOST ‘SPARKLING WITTY PERSONALITY’– ££ REWARD FOR RETURN OF THE PRE-CHILD ME

I was pondering Me yesterday, the pre-child and post child Me, it got me to thinking about the differences between the two.  I thought that, despite their differences, they were working in harmony as a team, but I’ve suddenly realised that I’ve lost pre-child Me along the way.  I want pre-child Me back, but now I am wondering where I might have left it and, if I did find it, there is a possibility that it might not be fit for purpose anymore.

pouring drinks

school selfie

I came to this parenting thing later in life than some, so I managed to fit in quite a lot of life before popping out the Vintage Two, not that there was much popping involved in their arrival.  To say I had life sorted and was in control of it, would not be quite the case, but I was doing OK and I think OK is pretty amazing, when life throws so many things at us.  Having children was definitely the best thing ever; I threw myself into it with the usual enthusiasm / obsession that I give to all my new hobbies, business ventures, jobs.  I soon discovered though, that this was more than a hobby, more than a full-time job, in fact, more than anything I had ever done before.  But I am pleased to say that the obsession and joy both live on.  Let’s get back to the differences in me.

Take Friday nights for example; pre-children – we can take it way back to working in a very ‘unique’ pub, where dancing on the bar (that’s me) and running naked around the pool table (not me!) were fairly common place; I could handle the clientele with ease, and some might even say, confidence.  If not working, there would be drinking and dancing of some kind.  I even used to drag Mr. Vintage Mum out for the occasional dance too.  Cut to Friday nights post children; we finally get them to bed around 9, eat in front of Coronation Street (yes, I am that sad that I have it on series record), if I manage to stay awake as late as Graham Norton, that’s pretty much it for the night. But, I can highly recommend ‘This Country’, which, if I am feeling particularly lively, will be the end of the wild Friday night sofa session, post Graham.  To be fair, both Friday options have their appeal; absolutely nothing wrong with a quiet night in front of the TV, or a night drinking and dancing.  My question is where is the Me that used to be able to manage the drinking and dancing nights?  Why can’t I have them both anymore?

lights-party-dancing-music

The obvious hitch, is that at my age, I might need a set of steps, or a crane to get me onto the bar to dance, and any dancing for more than 5 minutes requires an oxygen mask. So, what are the parent’s alternatives, for those of us too tired to stay awake by the time the clubs open, and are getting up with the children at the time we used to be getting home?  One of my favourite options is the neighbours with kids’ option; these are within walking distance (no arguing over who has to drive), ideally the children will be friends, so they are fully entertained while Mum and Dad get drunk (obviously in a very sensible parenting kind of way!), all sets of parents are friends, these gatherings can be unplanned, but last into the small hours.  But, and this is the tricky bit, suitable neighbours need to be found in walking distance.  Not everyone wants me dancing on their worktops and my children running around like whirlwinds of destruction, it takes a very special kind of neighbour (you know who you are).

I’m talking personally, about school age parenting, but you could easily replace school with baby / toddler groups, to fit your personal circumstances.  Another option for a social life is the school Parent’s group outings and the PTA events.  I’ve noticed they are no longer called PTAs though, usually, ‘Friends Of….’ But the theme is still the same.  You can have the outings where you see Mums letting their hair down on a rare night out, or the PTA events, which I have recently discovered can involve alcohol too in some areas, both provide a relaxed social atmosphere, where I should be able to have fun and relax.  This is where I might have discovered that Me is missing.  I can do the chat about my children and how wonderfully well they are doing in school, life, clubs, etc. that’s my opinion anyway.  But what next?  This is where pre-child Me should wake up and get involved, but I’ve found recently that she has left the building.  I open my mouth to talk about something other than my gorgeous two and …… nothing, absolutely nothing to give.  I can laugh along and come up with enough chat to keep me involved, but where is the interesting part of me that get’s them listening to me and wanting to hear more?  I am sure that once, I was able to make people laugh.

(Borrowed pics of gorgeous people having fun, as mine are far less glam)

3 women

What about work, is she there?  I’ve recently switched from working with children to working with grown-ups again.  Working with kids is simple, it’s the post-child Me, she is fine and gets on with it.  But grown up jobs are a different thing altogether.  I am charging by the hour, (no, it’s not that!), so I need to make sure I earn my hourly rate, but there should still be time for a bit of chat and human engagement.  Post-child me is there prattling on about what activity, or costume the vintage two require that day, but come on pre-child Me, think of something, something witty and entertaining…. still nothing!

What has changed since having the adorable duo?  Well age happened, and sadly a little sooner than most of the other school parents, it’s a confidence and energy sapper, that’s for sure.  Where are the pre-child friends?  Most of them had children too and might even be feeling something similar.  No jumping in the car for a quick trip to catch up with those long-distance friends; it’s hours of packing, preparing entertainment for the journey and the stay, fighting the weekend, or holiday traffic, with two children winging pitifully as we get stuck in yet another traffic jam.  We arrive grumpy and tired, thinking of how little time there is till we have to do it all again to get home.  Sadly, long distance friends are now disappearing into the virtual distance, as well as the real distance.  I’m still here guys and I will see you on the other side of kids.

Lack of money happened; no one told me how much the little darlings cost, plus when did it get so expensive to go out for a meal and a few drinks?   In the early days of me and Mr. VM, many a week night was spent eating out, or having a few drinks after work, that was in the days of two full-time salaries and no childcare costs, so it’s all change now.  But to be completely honest, I love the bedtime routine and hate it when I am not here for it.  I have just heard her ask if her bum is clean though, that bits not so great!

They are getting older and more independent every day, so very soon, the bedtime routine will be me saying it’s time for bed, them getting on with it, and then me saying goodnight.  It would not be the end of the world if I was not there for that, so I need to find Me in time for those days, so that I don’t become that overbearing Mum still clinging onto my teenage daughters, terrified to let them go.  If anyone sees a sparkling, witty personality, (I might be slightly over playing pre-child Me’s part, but you get the idea) please throw it my way, so that I can get back out there.

How To Survive A School Trip

school bus

As you might have read already, I am now in my fourth year of schooling the Vintage Two; I am pretty certain it’s almost as involved, being a parent, as when I went to school myself!  School trips can form quite a large part of the school adventure; I have been lucky enough to be able to go along as a parent helper to quite a few.  Some may say unlucky though!  They are always an experience, if that’s the way to describe them.

I’ve done them as a parent helper, a dinner lady (or whatever term the school use, I love the fact that I got to be a Midday Supervisory Assistant, it sounds so posh), TA / LSA – again, whichever term the school uses for a Teaching Assistant, big point to make that I was never a Teacher’s Assistant, the TAs amongst you will get that one!  Here are a few hints on how to survive them and hopefully, enjoy them.

Currently, I am back to being a parent helper, as my TA days are on hold for now.  There is a hierarchy to the parent helpers; I’ve been one of the chosen few, that get into the inner sanctum of the staff room, as well as one of the nameless additions that usually gets forgotten, and arrives as an afterthought.  Today I was one of the nameless few.  I like the air of mystery I get with the nameless few role though, the chosen ones get too much responsibility for my liking.  Looking after infant aged children in the great outdoors is like herding cats, so the less responsibility the better.

First stop on arrival at school, is the grouping; that desperate wait to hear if you get one of ‘those’ children in your group, or a set of angelic children that hang on your every word, those groups probably only exist in my imagination though.  I then have the painful task of trying to remember names and faces, which seems to be an endless challenge for me.

Hint 1.

Try and find a memorable feature on each child – blond hair, pink coat, massive back pack, dodgy hair cut – anything that helps you remember at least what they look like.  It’s useful to remember what they look like from behind, that way you can spot them as they disappear off into the distance.  Always keep a firm hand on your flight risks, you will know the ones pretty quickly.  They are fast and can disappear in an instant, but will also take forever to move, when you actually want them to do something educational.

Hint 2.

Names: even as a TA, I was horrendous at names, so any term of endearment that I can think of will come into play at least once during the day.  ‘My love’, ‘poppet’ – you get the idea.  As a lady of a certain age, I think I get away with these old-fashioned terms, but maybe the children are just being polite and actually thinking, “She can’t remember my name, the dotty old dear (or insert a slightly less polite word here).”

After collecting the mountains of kit required for an outdoor excursion, toilet trips all round, final roll call; we head to the bus – today’s offering looked like something out of a museum and had that unique aroma that only school buses have.  (I am fairly certain I sat in a suspicious wet patch too). There will always be the drama surrounding who will sit next to who; and that’s just the adults.

Hint 3.

Stay away from the front, the vomitters always sit at the front, with the lovely cardboard sick bowls.  A seasoned TA once told me to take newspaper for the vomiters to sit on, as apparently it helps with the nausea.

My own child went through a phase of being bus sick, so strangely enough, I avoided her school trips until that phase passed.

On the bus, there will be long games of I Spy, as well as other old favourites, there is usually a strong possibility of singing of some sort.  There will be the chat from the teacher about not distracting the bus driver with too much noise, but it doesn’t take long for us all to get into the swing of whatever game is on for the day.  The solo children will prefer to fire questions at their companions, so if you get a quiet one, be prepared to be quizzed about life, the universe, and other unanswerable questions.   It will be sweaty, smelly and bumpy; the journey is definitely the worst part, but take heart from the fact that it will be quieter on the way home; there will be sleepers.

On arrival, there is the moment when you suddenly realise you can’t remember the names, or the faces of your group, it is a brief moment of panic, but they generally come to you in the end.

If you are not shepherding the flock from A to B, as a parent helper, you just wander around being helpful where you can, there might be a specific task, but equally you could feel like a spare part for some of it.  You are still useful though, so take a break if there is one.  I did a Marwell trip with a group of 4, very energetic 6-year olds, it was the fastest time around Marwell ever; at the end of it I just wanted to lie down in a darkened room, I would have given anything for a quiet moment that day.

marwell

Hint 4.

Give your own child space to do their own thing.  Mine have been used to me being in school since the start, so they are pretty laid back about it all now, but I have always said if they get too clingy, I won’t go back.  School is their time to find independence.  Equally be prepared to be blanked, especially as they get older and you become an embarrassment to them.

Hint 5.

It is possible that your child will surprise you; they may be more outgoing than you expect, or equally, they may be shyer and more reserved, they might be a bit naughty (feel free to step in), this could be down to the excitement of it all.  You might think they have a great friendship with the child of your best friend and then find them squabbling, or ignoring each other.  It can be an eye opener.

Hint 6.

The crier – all classes have them, most staff will be prepared for it and quickly deal with it, but if you get a crier, keep it upbeat, positive and try to get them out of it asap, no cuddles, that just makes them cry more.

 (I even got to go to the panto as staff once, but my child was the crier!)

 Cinderella-6

Hint 7.

Lunch – I tend not to take lunch as I find 12.00 for eating is more like breakfast than lunch, but take a rucksack with water and supplies, wet wipes are always good too.   Lunchtimes are fun; food will be just about everywhere, it is quite zoo like.  They they will all be trying to sneak in the chocolate first, you will hear yourself say, “Eat your sandwiches first!” a thousand times.  I love checking out the other lunchboxes to see what other kids bring.  You can tell how wealthy a school is by the amount of hummus and quinoa on offer.  My favourite was a box full of cold fish fingers and chips with ketchup.

Hint 8.

Arguments – I love the term ‘tittle tattle’, it is so old-fashioned, but sums up many school children, they love to rush to teacher (you will become teacher for the day on a school trip, they don’t differentiate between adults), with any snippet of gossip and general complaints about other children.  I tend to listen, mediate, sympathise and then move on as fast as I can.

church

Hint 9.

Do not use the school trip as an opportunity to engage with your child’s teacher and have a deep and meaningful chat about their development.  Take it from one who has been on the inside, all we care about is getting the little darlings through the day in one piece and without losing one, it is immensely stressful.  Plus, there will be a mountain of planning to ensure the trip is proven effective as part of the curriculum.  Teachers will rarely relax and have a chat on these days.  That is not to say that you won’t be appreciated though; staffing in schools has been dramatically reduced due to funding cuts over the years, so there are not enough staff members to support school trips anymore.  School trips will not go ahead without parental support.  This is a sad state of affairs, but there are still enough willing participants to carry on this age-old tradition.  Even oldies like me remember the school trips, they have been part of our school for years and they are often the things that stick out in our memories.  I don’t remember the every day stuff, I remember the ‘special stuff’ and I am pretty sure my children will too.

rural life centre

If you can help out on a school trip, then give it a try, many parents can’t, because of work and I have been there with that issue too.   If, nothing else, it’s a chance to get a day out for free.  I’ve not gone along to the older school trips yet; I’m guessing there will be a whole list of new hints from those though, so watch this space.

(Obviously I can’t use pics of actual school trips, so these are just a few of the popular school outings)

 

Snowy Days In A Glowing Haze.

Even though we are in our 4th year of school, this week saw our very first snow day, I was beginning to wonder if it would happen.  We struggled in through blizzards and freezing cold conditions during the rest of week, so when the closure was announced, a big cheer went up around the village.  The Beast of the East didn’t really drop off much in the way of snow as the week went on, but by the time the closure was announced the beast had paired up with storm Emma.  Beastemma arrived with a fairly good sprinkling of the white stuff, but more was forecast overnight.  We woke with the anticipation of a snow drift or two, but found that it was a slightly disappointing cm or 2, but school was out, so who cared?

I was expecting an early wakening with two over excited snow bunnies, but one could barely rouse herself before 7.30.  The other was in no rush to get dressed and climbed into our bed for a cuddle.  My day job was cancelled due to the snow and my husband was working from home, which, to give him credit, he did actually do until around 4.30, when the temptation to play became too strong.  Eventually, oldest child roused herself and joined us in bed; peace is always shattered when this little whirlwind appears though, so we were up and about pretty shortly after that.

One slightly more enthusiastic than the other about snow day

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What to do with our snow day?  I had semi arranged a play date, but sadly, it’s a big village and just getting to a meeting point would have been outside time enough for us Southern softies.  We are not part of the local ski set, so our pathetic display of winter clothing pretty much gave us an hour’s outdoor window, before frost bite set in.  So, play date was cast aside in favour of an after school get together in the warmth next week.  Where has the hardy Northern farmer’s daughter gone?  I think she is at home in a blanket dreaming of The Bahamas!  I moved down South to keep warm.

We bought a sledge when there was snow on our Yorkshire trip at Christmas, but I didn’t expect to see enough snow to sledge down here, so I left it up North.  I am still getting the grief for that one now.  No sledging for us, just lots of pictures of other people (in their ski gear!) sledging, with cries from my children of “Mummy go and get the sledge from Nana and Grandpa!”

Sledging aside, I managed to convince them to get dressed and that seemed to spur them on to want to play in the snow.  So off, we went with snowman building in mind, to find this powdery stuff that wouldn’t stick together without PVA glue.  Someone had suggested snow castles, so we decided on a snow fort instead, using buckets and spades.  My latex gloves underneath my regular gloves meant I could stick it out longer than the kids; I soon found I was happily building a snow fort on my own, while they abandoned piles of wet clothes on the floor and glued themselves to the TV.

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Time for indoor entertainment.  There had already been around 2 hours of tablet time, so it was my turn to amuse them.  There had been a ‘bake-off’ school competition earlier in the week, which was just a posh way of saying, it’s a bake sale, but also charging us to enter it, so double the cost!  Anyway, resentment because we didn’t win, aside, I decided they might like to make another cake, which they could eat this time.  This seemed a popular option, but both wanted different recipes, so we set off making 2 different types of cake; not annoying at all!

There was an eggsplosion as one tried to break her own eggs, but other than that it all went smoothly and here’s the results to prove it.  Massive chocolate and sugar overload, but this snow day has been 4 years in the making, so we will enjoy it.

eggsplosion

cake 2

cake 1

I had a bit of work at home to do, so while I did this, they got into set 2 of the outdoor gear, still equally weak protection-wise, but this didn’t stop them.  They went out to the front of the house to find mini snow drifts and make a snowman, it was actually more of a snow heap, but the enthusiasm was there.

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This activity, with a few intermittent TV breaks, managed to take us up to Dad finishing work and a trip to the shop to see what the panic buying villagers had left us.  Dad started off with his usual health and safety talks, about taking care and not getting gloves wet to avoid freezing hands.  But then Mr health and safety was the one who started a snowball fight, which lasted the whole journey there and back.  I managed to get away with just having snow put into my hood, as every time they came near me with a misguided snowball, I frowned grumpily.  We got food by the way, but milk and bread were wiped out.  Got to love England in a weather-related crisis.

By the time we got home, the girls were on a roll, so off they went for more snowman building; it was nearly dark when they finally gave it up.  So, after a shaky start they got into this snow playing stuff and had a ball.  We then all settled down to different things, oldest girl made candles, I think Dad went back to work (despite having a small house, he still manages to disappear in it), me and littlest person played Sylvanian families.

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There were multiple outfit changes throughout the day, wet clothes just about everywhere that vaguely gave out heat, frozen toes and fingers, but overall, it was a lovely day.  I got chance to play Sylvanian families and just chill out with the girls, not something that I usually have time to do.  There is something about snowy weather that slows everything down; totally relaxing, as long as you don’t have to get anywhere that is.  I’m a huge summer fan; the winter can get me down, but days like these remind me just how much fun winter can be too.  Roll on the next snow day!

World Book Day

(I know this will be written about over and over, but I just had to add my story to the mix.)

WBD

It is that time of year again; the time of year when we celebrate reading, by dressing up as our favourite book characters, reading stories to our children and their friends, taking photos of reading in unusual places.  In fact, anything book worthy goes for this one week of the year.  I am lucky that mine both love a book; they don’t exactly challenge themselves, but they enjoy a read and I’m happy with that.  They love dressing up and have wardrobes and drawers full of outfits, so you would think WBD wold be easy for is, so why is it so difficult every year?

This year the themes have been selected as Unicorn and Penguin; no actual books have been picked, that is job one; match the outfit with the book.  Something tells me it should be the other way around, but what the hell, I will go with the flow, anything for a quiet life.

“OK.  You want to be a penguin; which books have penguins in?”  I provide her with a selection of penguin related reads and she goes for one she had as a toddler, which surprisingly, I just can’t find anymore, who knows where that could be??!  It has few words and touchy-feely pictures of penguins on sledges.  This is my 6-year-old, who is in Year 2, I think the school might be expecting something a little more highbrow from her.  She has recently starting reading Roald Dahl, but can I find a Penguin in Roald Dahl? No!  Eventually, I remember Poles Apart, which I know she loves, sadly we don’t have that book, so off to a well know online retailer we go and order said book.  Expense no.1.

Now to the unicorn – this time we head off to a well know high street book shop and breathe in the wonderful smell of new books, or at least I do.  She finds the toys and says, “Let me know when you find one.”  I find a fairy / unicorn book that looks like her kind of thing; now bored of the very small toy display, she would agree to anything and OKs Sophia and Rainbow, she will be Rainbow.  No disrespect to the wonderful institution of book shops, but I can get it cheaper online, so a quick photo is snatched and we very unsubtly zoom out of the shop.  Quick app search and 30 seconds later, the book is ordered at half the price, with the threat of no chocolate for a month if she doesn’t get it read in time.  Expense no.2

The really frustrating thing is that they both have a unicorn and penguin onesie, so you would think, great, job done, but NO, they want new outfits in a more dress up style.  Tutus seem to be in at the moment, so I suggest a rainbow Tutu with leggings and a white top.  Unicorn girl goes for that, so off to the online auction site, yes you know the one.  Oh no, they are all in China and will take weeks to get here; oh great, there’s one vaguely closer and can arrive in time, click, click and there is expense no. 3.

Now, to the issue of white leggings and a white top – unsurprisingly, we don’t tend to stock up on white clothes in our house.  White leggings ordered and a suitable white top purchased from a high street store.  Quite a lot of effort already put into this, I then buy strips of ribbon for a tail, which have now been sewn (with my stunning sewing skills!) to the tutu.  Expenses no. 4 and 5.  I found a box of discarded hair chalks in a drawer; with her long hair I will create a unicorn mane, well that is what my head is telling me, let’s see how it turns out on the day.

Back to penguin girl; already having declined the onesie idea, I set off to Pinterest and offer her a few options.  It turns out that penguin outfits are a bit boyish for her style, so we settle on a more girlie tutu styled version.  Another tutu ordered, this time in black, so there is more choice available.  Black leggings already in the drawer…. Woo hoo, I’m saving money.  I find her a furry black waistcoat in a charity shop and buy a new black top, justifying it by saying she can wear it again – she won’t though, as she doesn’t like black.  I then find a fluffy white top to sew onto the waist coat as the penguin’s stomach.  Orange felt is purchased to make feet.  The total is adding up now.  She sees the felt and instantly discards the foot option; I can see the seeds of doubt sprouting in her mind, something tells me that the penguin option is not so appealing anymore.  I suggest a change of outfit, but she declines the offer, so we continue with a dress rehearsal.   Both seem enthusiastic when wearing the outfits, but disaster strikes on Tuesday morning (WBD being Thursday).  The expression is there; I know there is a problem, so I ask the question that I really don’t want the answer too.  Yes, it is exactly as I thought; penguin girl would rather be a unicorn.  So, Sugarlump and The Unicorn, it’s your time to shine.  Book sorted at no extra cost, but what to do about the outfit with 48 hours to go.  I glance at the class messages and see all the amazing planning that is going into this event and a feeling of panic starts to spread through me.  Quick, back to popular online shopping site, order goes in for tutu and leggings.  Tuesday is fully booked up with stuff to do, I have no time to think about anything else.  Evening comes, I check my delivery notes and, disaster…… they will not arrive in time.  So much for the membership thing that promises 24-hour delivery!  I’ve got to now fit in a trip to the shops to see what I can do with 1 day to go, which unicorn no.1 kindly pointed out when I said I was in a panic about the outfit.

WBD Elysia

In between drop off, pick up and the day job, I squeeze in a trip to the biggest supermarket I’ve ever been too (seriously, the place is huge; I love a browse around a shop, but even I’ve had enough about ¾ of the way around), several options of leggings and tops purchased, I head home to collect the small people.  Arriving home, I find that popular online retailer has, in fact, stuck to their bargain and delivered the unicorn items.  On arriving home from school and seeing my selection of costume items, she has the cheek to ask if there is a tail for the outfit!  Luckily there is ribbon attached already which looks like a tail…… result!  All is fine, she is satisfied.

At the 11th hour, the outfits are ready, the books are packed into bags, just the hair to sort out now on the day.

(The one bonus is that I get chance to do the hair again, I’m going to get more ribbons, the chalk is not bright enough)

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It’s the morning of WBD, will the school open or not in snow?  The class chat lines are open, eager with the anticipation of a PJ day.  I keep watching and checking for an update; our snow is a bit pathetic though, so it is unlikely that the school day will be cancelled.  Eventually, we can hold off no longer, they are desperate to get dressed up.  One last check; no news, so off we go to get ready.  Outfits on, hair done, come downstairs and there it is, the text message, but not the one you think.  The school is open, but WBD is postponed!  The chat lines are on fire with reports of children being dragged kicking and screaming out of their costumes to get into their uniforms.  Some parents are indignant and are refusing to change their children, so the school run is a mish mash of uniforms, regular clothes, costumes, half and halfs, even some of the staff are still dressed up.  Unicorn 1 and 2 took it all pretty well, they got changed at record speed and went into school without a murmur, I think they could tell that Mummy was on the edge.

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I love the idea of World Book Day; reading is so important, and despite the pressure to find the right costume, it is worth it to see them so excited, look at they how cute they loo too!  But this year I am so over World Book Day and may be opening the gin at 9.30 in the morning!

Growing Up – How Old Is Old Enough?

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My oldest daughter turned 8 recently, she is in the first year of Junior School and this seems to be representing a change in our world.  Some days, it’s a pretty dramatic change in our world, as the moods swing from high to low with the blink of an eye.  I can’t help but wonder what the puberty years will bring, if she is already so emotional …. time to build a shelter and take cover!  Gone are the cutesy stories about little children; we all love the little babies and preschool children, they are so adorable; strangers stop you in the street to admire them, we proudly show them off and laugh at their quirky behaviour, we swap stories about the funny things they say.  Then bang, cute turns into mini grown-ups overnight; people don’t see cute anymore, they see annoying children, they wish they had chosen the pub / restaurant that openly shuns the custom of children, they want the child free hotels, they want anything but your slightly older child running and screaming around the garden.

To me they are forever cute and even in the darkest hours, I don’t think I could love them more, but I respect they can be incredibly annoying to the general public. I am not going to lie, they can be incredibly annoying to me too.

My current issue with the mini adult is make-up.  When is it OK to say yes to anything other than a face painted tiger?  Last week, there was the monumental tantrum of all tantrums, in public, following the refusal to buy a toddler’s piano book.  I remind you, she is 8, not 3!  Don’t worry I am not repressing her musical talent, she has since been placated with a piano app, so much kinder on the ears than the plinky plonky book version. Following this tantrum, in my weakened state, I said yes to the obligatory child’s make-up set and yes, it brought her out in a rash.  But before said rash, she spent 3 mornings happily sitting at her desk putting her makeup on, it was very sweet to see and made her so happy.  I had hoped that with back up from Dad, we might get it removed before she left the house, but he melted at the look of pride on her face, so off we went each day with our little princess in her eye shadow and blusher.  It was very subtly done, but she really could do with a few lessons on how to apply.  But by day 3, the rash was getting worse, so she decided that new special makeup must be purchased.  I should point out that none of her money has been wasted in this venture so far, and I am pretty certain she expects this new improved version to be funded by us too. So, what now for disappointed child, is it the real thing, at the same cost us poor adults have to pay?

I grew up in a time when both women and men wore heavy, obvious makeup (guess the era!).  I was in full foundation, the works, by 13 and have not stopped since.  As I struggle with this whole ageing thing, I can’t start the day without the application of full makeup, even the lure of extra time in bed can’t stop me needing my makeup fix.  I know I look more respectable to world with it, and other than a commando style run to the bin, I never leave the house without it.  This sends a rubbish message to my children; I am being a hypocrite saying they don’t need makeup and then plastering myself in it.  Apparently as I age, I should be wearing more age appropriate subtle makeup too, according to the experts…. Pah!  Plus, at a times when I could barely afford food, I still had to fund the makeup habit (is that the distant sound of violins I hear?!) It is not a cheap habit to get into. I am not keen on funding her new-found makeup fad, but will be sad if she feels she has to spend her valuable pocket money on it.  How do we keep this from spiralling into a need to be made up?  Will it eventually be that she feels more confident with it, than without it, or am I just getting way to ahead of myself?

madeup

I don’t have the piercing issue as mine cant even cope with a paper cut, they have no desire to stick needles through their ears, or any other body part, I wonder if that will change.  So at least that is one battle I can leave for later years.  I’m not too worried on that front though, as long as it is done professionally, but is that because I know I don’t have to worry yet?  But makeup is here and it’s now.  Dad, being from quite an old fashioned, ‘traditional’ family, thinks this one is down to me.  I want them to be free to experiment and grow as their own people, but it is such a fine line between experimenting for fun and the pressure to look amazing, #nofilters!  All that said, I am about to go out and buy blusher, for fear of her skin if she uses the kid’s version again.  Luckily the lipsticks were fake, so for now a bit of lip balm/gloss seems to be acceptable.  I will always encourage them to be their own people, I will be open about my need for makeup, along with my sadness that I feel this need.  I want them to make choices for themselves and no one else, not because of what they see and read about, but because it makes them happy.  I’m in for the long haul on this one, I see many discussions ahead.

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#Internet Awareness – “Google It Mummy!”

In the modern world of technology, how do we keep our children safe without demonizing the thing that has brought us all together in this big world of ours?  I grew up in a time when there was no internet; yes, that time actually existed and I made it through.

on the phone

Children and young people need to find their way in life, unfortunately, sometimes whilst doing this, they can demonstrate cruel and abusive behaviour.  Don’t think that the cruel, sometimes evil comments on social media are a new thing, there were plenty of young people and adults who were just as capable of saying cruel things face to face.  Yes, it was nice to be able to go home and hide from it, but in our heads, we didn’t hide, we played the comments over and over, believed them, said them out loud until the last threads of self-esteem slid away.  But there was less opportunity to hear the good stuff; the kind comments, the comments that build you up.  I think that people find it awkward and sometimes embarrassing to give compliments to people’s faces, but hiding behind the phone, tablet, computer screen, makes it so much easier to boost people, we hear what other people are doing through the medium of social media, be it true or false, or maybe bigged up, we still comment and compliment them.  It makes people feel good to read it and it feels quite nice doing it too.

I got into blogging because I wanted to write, but I was also conscious that I was falling behind with technology since leaving an office environment.  I wanted to get more clued up on what was out there, I’ve already added a few new websites to my favourites and got some new apps on the phone.  I now need to demonstrate safe internet activity to my children, then find out more and understand what they are getting into.  That is my choice and the way I want to handle it, it’s not everyone cup of tea and they are no less aware for it.  How you find awareness for you and your child is your choice; but please do it.  It is a sad world; we are all too aware of some of the evils that lurk around the corners, we can’t hide our children forever, as one day they will need to protect themselves.  They need the education and awareness that we will teach them to ‘stay safe’

Facebook / Snap Chat / Twitter – all those social chat sites

I choose to expose my children to social media under my supervision.  At 6 and 8 they are beginning to be curious as they hear more and more from friends, and hear mention on TV programmes.  We use Facebook together, through my account, but it is heavily monitored and I am still to decide on when they get their own accounts.  They watch the kitten, hamster, or whatever the generic cute animal video of the day is; they check the posts of their own pictures and they get to see pictures of friends who we don’t see very often.  My profile is very private (I’ve even set up a fake profile so that I can regularly check in on what none friends see, bit over the top maybe, but it just gave me that little bit of security in the knowledge I am not sharing our pics to none friends) I am currently trying to explain to the girls that the powers that be, behind FB, are quite controlling over what we see, so our friends might not always get to the see the posts and like, or comment on them.  I realised a little while ago that the girls were getting hung up on counting the likes.  I am really glad we have discovered this so young, so that I have time to explain to them that Facebook is just for fun and by no means a measure of our popularity.  The last thing I want is for them to build up their ‘friend’ numbers to make themselves feel popular.  It will be a slow process of educating them.  FB may not be around when they hit their teens, but we can guarantee there will be something similar.

We use Snapchat for fun; they have no idea that they can send their pictures to other people and often ask me to post the pics on Facebook.  They are more into pictures than words, so they check out Instagram, but so far, they haven’t picked up on what it’s all about.  I am not a great user of Twitter and they are much too young to really care about that one.  They are allowed to message Daddy and other family member, but not without me watching over them.   They are desperate for their own phones, but purely to play games and take photos, they really don’t care about communicating with the outside world yet.  I am dreading the time that we have to talk about what is appropriate in a message, but hopefully by the time it is necessary, they will have some idea of the negative side of internet access.  That way we can achieve a healthy balance between having fun, but also being cautious.

mum and girl laptop

YouTube

We have the age restriction setting on YouTube; so, they are allowed to watch that solo, but I frequently check in on their activity.  To be honest I can usually hear the Peppa Pig theme tune blaring out, so I know we are pretty safe – don’t ask me why they still watch Peppa Pig at their age, but I love that they do and long may the innocence last.  In the early days of their YouTube journey, there was an incident with a Charlie and Lola video that had been changed to a Halloween version, luckily, we spotted it quite quickly.  Put us off for a while though, so we waited for them to be a little older before we left them alone with it again; I still blame Dad for that one!  I have a pet hate for the bizarre videos of adults demonstrating playing with toys; kids are fascinated by them, but I banned them.  Why are these people playing with toys and making videos of it, they always have really annoying voices too …. Apologies if you are one of these video makers, sorry they are just not for me.  So being the mean Mummy I am, they were banned and weirdly the children have stuck with this ban, without question.  We had lots of chats about why they concerned me and apparently, they took it on board.  I always explain my reasons.

YouTube has been really useful on their learning journey; they still love Geraldine The Giraffe doing her phonics, we learned to do the dab and our times tables using the many educational channels out there.  It can be a fantastic learning tool for both young and old.

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Fake News

Now I heard that my Year 3 daughter had a talk about Fake News yesterday; I didn’t actually get any information out of her, but she seemed quite interested in it all.  I am a great believer in that most news has a biased spin on it, fake or not fake, we sometimes need to hear more than one side to the story.  I am working to teach my children to listen to other people’s opinions and versions of events.  I often explain that what we read, or hear, may not be true.  Whatever I read on FB, I seek out other sources just to check how true it might be.  This is something they can learn through example and modelled behaviour; if they see us lapping up the gossip news and believing it, they will do the same.  Read the gossip, enjoy it, laugh at it, but remember to tell them that it might not be all that it seems and is only one person’s version of events.

Photos and Imaging

This is a big one for me as I have spent my life being heavily influenced by the pictures of the beautiful people and trying to attain a perfection that just was not there for me.  I have body image issues, but whether they are related to those images of perfection or not, I will never know.  I am really lucky to have two beautiful daughters who are a healthy weight and despite a slight sugar addiction, are highly unlikely to ever be overweight.  I work hard to build confidence in their appearance and talk about makeup being a nice to have, not a need to have.  I enjoy photography and am careful not to filter their pictures.  I will eventually highlight the difference between photos filtered and not filtered.  I am not yet in that place where we need to talk intimate photos, but for now I will just continue to build on their self-respect and educate as we go.  Using Snapchat is a great way to highlight how filters really alter a ‘real’ image; it’s fun but not a true representation. They love filming random videos, but for now they are for personal consumption, I have not allowed any on Facebook; when I do, I will ensure they understand they must check with me and the others in the videos first.

Google – Other search engines are available!

Children ask endless questions; gone are the days when we could just make up a quick answer and they would go away happy; in our house, one question leads to another and another and another, until I am left wondering the answers myself.  I used to say; “I don’t know, I will have to Google it.”  Now they are learning how to Google themselves, but I still get the comment, “Google it Mummy!” on a regular basis.  In my endless quest for knowledge on behalf of me and my children, I would be lost without Google.  It is something DD1 has been learning to use at school and I know she will now be exposed to those sites that pop up when you least expect them, there will be questions about words and images she sees, but there will also be a world of information at her fingertips.  They have started using Google Earth and are fascinated by it, “What country do you want to look at today Mummy?”  They did struggle with spelling Venezuela though!

Gaming and Educational Sites

Gaming is not an area I am familiar with, all those years ago, I tried Tomb Raider and couldn’t even get out of the practice bit. I can just about manage the Wii racing games, but even then, I spend more time facing the wrong way, or being upside down, than racing.  There are games consoles in our house, but mostly, all the children want to do is play games on tablets with the occasional bit of Wii action.  They tried Minecraft, but between us we couldn’t get very far, so we resorted to Candy Crush and they seem happy.  Games are brilliant for improving coordination and learning problem solving; I limit the time and ensure the content is age appropriate, but I am all for the experience in moderation.  The schools all sign up to online education sites; our current one is Purple Mash, learning through play is such a brilliant tool.  If they want to play Purple Mash, then who am I to stop their learning.  We stop ‘blue screen’ time before bath and they get at least an hour, if not more before bed without it.  It is always a book at bedtime, just to keep it old school.

It is my job to hover in the background, whatever they are doing on the phone, tablet, laptop, game consoles, keep a check, but let them learn and be independent.  They need to learn to assess a situation, decide on what is appropriate, learn to respect themselves and others, but most of all be free to have fun and learn.

Equality…..Should it be about being equal, or being an individual?

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Are we obsessing about being equal and perhaps forgetting that we are unique individuals? I don’t need to be equal to be me, I need to be loved, admired, cared for, respected, listened too ….. the list is endless, but maybe I don’t need to be a manager in big business, or running a high turnover company.  We focus on women in ‘men’s’ careers and making it to the boardroom, but don’t forget the women out there who are already smashing it as Doctors, nurses, teachers, mothers, cleaners, care assistants, architects, engineers, the list goes on.  Plus aren’t the jobs just jobs, and not either men’s or women’s? There is an army of women and men out there creating things from home to sell; working around the childcare issues, the cost of travel, and making it work for them and their families.  There is a wave of production going on in this country that is almost overlooked.  We are women and men heading up our own big businesses, we might make a fortune, we might not, but we will support ourselves and our families

Most of all, I just want the right to choose.  Whether we are male, female, transgender, gender neutral, it is all about choice.  Voting is about choice, we are currently celebrating getting the vote, so let us choose who and what we are; be who we want to be.  Don’t make us feel like we have to be a man in this world, it is still OK to be a woman; we should be proud.  There is too much pressure to be someone in this world, make money, succeed, be the best.  Being the best is amazing and succeeding is great, but take it from one who knows, sometimes being the best is not something we can attain, so being the best, we can be, is more than enough.  We need to make sure we are heading in the right direction; down the path we want and not the path we think we should want.  If a woman chooses to stay at home, or chooses a career in business over having children, some women choose to do both, it’s not a big deal, it’s just their path.  We wouldn’t make a fuss over a man’s choice of career, it would just be accepted.

In my long working career, I have seen equal amounts of men and women abused, bullied, overlooked and treated badly in the working environment.  Is it the case that people are just sometimes unkind?  It is our instinct as humans to preserve ourselves and survive?  In doing so, some people seem to find it necessary to put others down.  This is not exclusive to men, it is human and it is a side of human nature that we don’t need anymore.  People will be underpaid and overworked, irrespective of their gender, let’s join together to fight for a fair world.

Through technology we have made our big world smaller, we are closer together than ever before.  Only yesterday my children were using Google Earth to look at Australia; they could see real people on street view, this is something that would not have been possible a few years ago.  So why are we bringing ourselves closer together if all we want to do is judge and divide?  Every second of the day someone is discriminated against because of their race, religion, colour, gender, sexuality, social status, fashion choices, music choices, food choices, the list of reasons goes on.  For some reason we seem to have brought ourselves closer together, but now seem to be overwhelmed by the diversity of this world.  Our individual countries are now made up of people who are all different; I fear for the divisions we are creating in our endless search for equality.  Life is hard enough, we need to work together. Let us teach our children about respect, empathy, consideration for others, ambition, kindness, acceptance and most of all to be who they are and not who they think the world wants them to be.  We are not defined by what we are, but by who we.

8 Years Old – How Did We Get Here?

DD1 turned 8 last week and despite what the title might suggest, I am not going to talk about her path to 8 and how I can’t believe she is here already.  Instead I am going to talk about how this growing up thing happens so fast, it is easy for time to get away with you and vital things might get missed.  The last 8 years have been a mad rush of 2 children, 2 house moves, some sad family things, schools, new schools and more new schools, new businesses, training, new jobs, a bit more training, and then 8 happened.

I have had a bit of time to reflect recently, as I took a break from trying to find who I should be in this mad world; I took a look at where me and the girls are now.  A realisation is dawning that I might have forgotten, sub consciously possibly, to develop their independence.  Maybe I was too busy, maybe I was too hooked up on being indispensable.  Whatever the reason, here we are with 2 very reliant young people.  I now need to retrain old habits and get them ready for the world ahead of them.  I was brought up to be independent and capable, so why am I smothering my 2 with mother love?  I realise they don’t have to need me, it would just be good if they wanted me.  So here is my Top 10 list of things I should have done sooner:

  1. Get them to make their beds – I don’t mean putting on the sheets, duvet cover etc. I just mean get up and sort out the duvet and toys.  Simple stuff, but neither of mine do it.
  2. Tidy up plates and dishes – I find plates and left-over food wrappers pretty much everywhere. I am not as strict as I could be about eating at the table, so bowls are all over the place.  We have a new agreement that they bring them into the kitchen, so far, this happens maybe 1 out of 10 times, with a little nagging.
  3. This brings me onto dishwashers and washing up. I still think myself lucky to have a dishwasher, I spent many a year with hands in a washing up bowl.  I believe they need to learn both, but lets start with opening the dishwasher and plopping a plate or two inside… baby steps.
  4. Brushing teeth – now I am happy to say that due to a terrible fear of making them gag, I have pushed them into brushing their own teeth quite early. So now we have a good mix of them and us teeth cleaning, but they would much rather sit back and let Dad do the work.  Apparently, they need to be able to do joined up writing to be good at teeth brushing.  No harm doing a few practice runs before then though.
  5. Picking up clothes, not just discarding where they fall – currently there is a trail of clothing at bath time and in the mornings. The onesie frequently ends up strewn across the hall, whilst the littlest’s pyjamas are often found in our bed.  She loves the big bed for her dressing area.  They have finally learned to put pants in the wash basket and the occasional sock, but that’s as far as it goes.  Everything else is collected and sorted by parents.  So, its time to stand back and direct them on where to put things, then let them learn.
  6. Clothes hanging and putting away. How hard is it to put clothes on hangers?  They can now both reach their hanging rails, so why am I constantly doing the hanging up?  Time to learn girls.
  7. Socks are always a problem when you have two girls, only 18 months apart; they all look the same. So, I have introduced the sock ID game; they love this and can then sort and put away their own socks.  I don’t always have the time so do this when they are up and about, so I need to remember to leave it until they can do it.  I aim to get to the point where they can help sort all the washing, not just their socks, and put their own things away; it’s slow process and they could be 18 by the time it happens!
  8. Getting their own drinks and snacks – we are currently struggling with diet and healthy food. I need to get them both to a stage where they can come in from school and grab a healthy snack independently, so that they can recognise what is good to eat and what should be more of an occasional option.  They are both very slim builds and don’t need to worry about weight, but I recognise that they both over consume sugar; I did this to them though, so I have to resolve it.  My husband talks about the full sweet bowl at home when he was a kid, and how he learned to just take from it occasionally, he never felt the need gorge on the readily available sweets and chocolate.  I decided to give this a go and found it works.  The sweets are always there, but they never help themselves and totally understand there is a limit to what they should eat, so if I say they can have something from the bowl, they always ask how much.  Yay …. One success.  Now let’s get DD1 to eat a grape!
  9. Tidying up – this is a totally personal thing. Everyone has a different level of tidiness and my 2 are a perfect example of this; not unlike their parents.  I am happy with organised chaos and will not give up too much time for the cleaning, whereas my husband is a lover of order, tidiness and neatness.  I should add that he is not overly keen on achieving these goals himself, unless it’s in the cars.  DD1 loves mess, has no desire to tidy and freely admits that she likes her messy bedroom, whereas DD2 likes things in their place, neatness and order.  However, here is an example of this morning’s game, long since abandoned:

mess.jpg

What you don’t see is the board flung over to the other side of the room, most of the floor space is covered by this one game.  Normally, the Sylvanians are brought into the mix, but today we have been crafting, so the kitchen is a bomb site.

  1. Getting involved in the cooking – I enjoy cooking, but rarely find the time to cook from scratch, so it is hard to get them to join in, but even things like putting on their own pizza toppings is better than nothing. We made a lasagne once, but that took hours, so I might think of something less time-consuming next time.  They are ridiculously picky eaters, so I am hoping more involvement might broaden their tastes.  We made pizza today, well they put toppings on ready-made bases, but we had been a bit busy making icing unicorns, (I didn’t let them eat TOO much icing) so we didn’t have a lot of time for cooking after that. I did make the pizza sauce, but got my timings wrong and didn’t have enough time to finish it so opened a jar instead!

waiting for the pizza.jpg

To get mine to where they should be, I now need to nag and really resist the temptation to just do it myself.  I realise that this is only my opinion, but if I don’t teach them this stuff, then who will?  I always struggled with delegation in my jobs and that has carried over to parenting.  Sometimes I was in rush, sometimes too frustrated to wait, and other times I wanted them to stay little and just be their Mum.  But they are growing up and need to learn the basics before I send them off on their way; not too soon though.