Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Being a good mum - Part 2: School shoes

Now, whereas I do try to keep up with the good mother's when it comes to packed lunches , I am unable to do so with school shoes. Good mums buy their kids expensive leather shoes each September.  But for me it goes against the grain. I can't do it. When it comes to school shoes, I am a bad mum. These are the shoes Eldest K will be wearing next Wednesday when (hallelujah) she goes back to school to start the new academic year...

Observant readers will notice two things:
1.  I have not bought her new shoes
2. These are pleather shoes (as plastic or patent leather is known in our house)

Firstly I'd like to let everyone in on a little secret - school shoes are available to buy ALL YEAR ROUND!  Its not necessary to buy them only in a feeding frenzy in time for September. (And as a side note - why does the school uniform buying frenzy happen in June?  They won't fit by September!). What do the good mums do if their child has a growth spurt in March?  Do they buy more expensive new shoes?  Or do they make their child cram their feet into the same ones for the rest of the academic year? If that is the case, I can't help but wonder if good mums are secretly bad mums after all.  Middle K outgrows her school shoes about once every 9 months.  I replace them when they no longer fit.  Those ones still fit.  Therefore the Year 2 shoes have graduated and will be entering Year 3 - along with the school bag that has been hanging around since Reception and will only be replaced if it breaks and the lunch box that has been with us since the previous one got lost, so perhaps 3 months.

Secondly  they are indeed fake leather, bought for the pricely sum of £9 from a less-than-fancy high street shoe shop that specialises in those boots that look like slippers and plastic ballet pumps.  They are not leather ones with an ergonomic sole from the other high street chain that cost £35. And they are certainly not the ones with replaceable sparkly straps that cost £46 and are advertised incessantly at this time of year on a certain children's television channel.  Because she is 7 - okay!  She will scuff them, jump in puddles in them, quite possibly lose at least one of them, and grow out of them long before the cheap Chinese ones wear through on the sole or go thin at the big toe.  I know proper leather ones are indestructible, but unfortunately children's feet wait for no shoe (or the start of the academic year for that matter). And whats more she hardly gives her shoes that much of a work out. She does not walk 5 miles to school through the snow and rain.  She does not spend long hours standing to attention in assembly.  She sits on a chair and sits on a carpet.  Even at playtime the shoes skive off as she is usually upside down on the jungle gym or doing a handstand. I'll be better served buying her a really decent pair of cycling shorts to wear under her dress...

Nope - I'll buy her decent shoes when her feet stop growing and the shoes have the remotest chance of lasting more than one academic year.  I mean what 16 year old doesn't want school shoes with inter-changeable sequined straps?

Monday, 29 August 2011

Junior nerds on board

My husband and I are Botantists (well by training at least).  We met at University studying Botany, he has a Master's in it - I have a PhD.  We are Botany nerds at heart.  And this weekend we visited Kew Gardens in London - Botany Mecca, Disneyland Nerd, Plant Heaven.  I was so excited - I was ready to get my Biology geek on.  But something rather unexpected happened - the kids got their nerd on too!  They had a blast, but they also learned a massive amount and sucked up information on all sorts of things - far more than I ever anticipated.  Is it okay that I'm turning my kids into nerds? Will they get sand kicked in their eyes in the play ground now?  Be last picked at gym? Only date the Captain of the chess team?  Be the captain of the Chess team?  Of course - they didn't turn into nerds in one day, I know.  And it is inevitable that they are going to be mathletes and represent Lamda Lamda Lamda.  But lets just say this day emphasized their progress to full blown nerddom...

Middle E trying to practice gymnastics on a style...

3D Stomata - coooool mum 

Magic in the mind - the evolution house

We like these ones the best - what's their Latin name mummy?

Friday, 26 August 2011

When I'm a mum I'll never do that... FAIL (Part 1)

Ture story: 1991. I was fifteen years old. It as 13 minutes past 11.  I was at a house party at someone or other's house.  I was slow dancing with the boy of my dreams - Geoff. It was the culmination of weeks of glances, flirting, and "My friend Lindsey like's your friend Geoff"ing.  My life was complete. My best friend  was dancing next to us with Geoff 's best friend.  Life was gooooood.  As Extreme are reaching the crescendo of More than Words' soppy soft-perm-mullet hair metalness I heard Geoff gasp - "Ha ha ha check that out".  I looked up and there was someone's Dad standing in the middle of the party in his pajama's pointing at his watch.  Oh noooooooo! I felt a little like Cinderella, except I hadn't turned into a daughter of a lesser woman in my cooking, washing, scrubbing and mending clothes at a ball, I'd turned into a teenage girl dying of embarrassment in front of everyone that mattered, even the cool kids were there...  It wasn't my Dad (my school friends will back me up here - my Dad never collected) - it was my best friends.  Apparently he had been waiting for us for 13 minutes already.  Geoff never phoned me.  And my best friend and I made a pact - we'd NEVER do that to our kids, no matter how late they were.  We'd UNDERSTAND why they were late...  So far so good on that one

But there are plenty of others that aren't going so well. Here's just one of them - others will follow:

I'll never say "Yes, yes hurry up" when my child is telling me a story

I talk a lot.  No really, a lot.  Every school report I ever received says pretty much the same thing "Lindsey would be well served by talking less during lessons" or the like. And people feel the need to tell me all the time that I talk a lot.  Yes thank you, so I'm frequently told, if I let any one get a word in.  As a child I'd tell incredibly long winded stories, (yes yes - so what's changed), but here's the thing - my beloved Dad would either say "Get to the point" just as I was warming up or even worse "That's enough" - dismissing me before I'd got to the good bit (and Dad, you'll never believe it, then Mr D came in in his pajamas!).  This really irked me. It made me sad. I would never do that to my child.  And in fairness to myself, I've never done it to Eldest K - and she does occasionally drag a story out.  But Middle E - that's a different business.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree on that one.  I must point out as well that E had developmental delay in her speech, associated with dyspraxia, so her talking is a big deal anyway.  But E regularly tells stories that lasts longer than a car trip from our house to Cambridge (a 25 minute drive) - usually about absolute mundanities (a complete running commentary of what happened on Peppa Pig that morning).  And I do have two other kids in the car, plus often my nephew, waiting to chirp in with something important like an update on the progress of their monkey on monkey quest (I got the red pants of power today), the sighting of something pink and fluffy nearby or in Baby G's case, a firm assertions of "adaaaaa".  But E doesn't let up.  She goes on and on and on and on.  About nothing really.  Or something she's already told me.  And on occasion I swear she is looking around of something to talk about just to keep the floor...  I must confess I have heard the words "Yes yes get to the point" escape from my mouth.  FAIL!  Don't do it, Lindsey, don't devalue her contribution, don't make her feel unimportant or overlooked.

But here's the thing - this is a reflective blog after all (Blooms level 7, metacognition for all the teachers reading) - am I doing her any favours by letting her hold the floor for unreasonable lengths of time at her sisters' expense?  Am I setting her up for problems in the lifetime of people trying to shut her up she has ahead of her.  I do need to alert her to acceptable social norms.  I need her to understand that people have a limited concentration span for what you have to say.  I need to explain to her that she can't just go on and on and on - well no until she gets a blog of fer own anyway...

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

You know you are a third child when.... (Wordless Wednesday)

Okay - there is such a thing in the blogging world as Wordless Wednesday. The old "a picture says a thousand words" bit. However, this really doesn't suit my rather verbose persona, I also say a thousand words, usually when 15 would suffice.  So I'm only partially participating.  I'm going with a photo and a caption...

You know you are a third child when... Mummy lets you do this!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Its like pulling teeth...

The human condition comes with a flaw.  Well, actually a lot of flaws - we are strangely gangley creatures with no natural body covering except in odd places, we leak when upset and we have a need to collect possessions and build places to keep them, but the flaw in question is this: we are born without teeth.  Anyone who has breast fed a child with teeth will probably be shouting - that's not a flaw.  But it is - because it means that babies have to teeth.  And that is just the pits.  The absolute pits.  It should happen in the womb, then we wouldn't have to put up with a teething child.  In fact, right this second, I'm willing to put my youngest back IN the womb for a few days, at least then I'd get the use of my hands back...

So Baby G is cutting her top incisors.  But, this thing is, keen observers of my blog will know that she has recently been sick.  Really sick.  Raging fevers. 40 plus deg fevers. We had to strip her naked and put her in a cold baths.   She wouldn't sleep lying down and spent large amounts of time being held upright while she slept.  It was painful.  It lasted for 4 days.  I canceled a large social occasion I flew into a rage when the doctor's told me to give her paracetamol and wait and see.  It could be an ear ache, a chest infection, roseola, tonsilitis, appendicitis, something-or-other-itis.  A day later, when she was still sick I demanded to be seen.  He spent 90 seconds looking in her ears, in her throat and listening to her chest - declared she had a virus and told me to take her home and give her paracetamol.  I swore.  I whined. I wrote scathing remarks on my Face Book status... I made an executive decision if it went over 40 deg again at any given point I'd take her to A and E (it was the weekend).  It didn't, late Sunday evening she chirped up, slightly.  But here's the thing - then I noticed a tiny piece of tooth protruding.

A coincidence surely?  She happened to teethe when she had a virus - surely?  She is definitely teething now.  She won't be put down, is grumpy and needy.  Drooling everywhere. Classic teething behaviour.  But she did have a teeny weeny fever when she cut her first two teeth, and was by far the most melodramatic about it of all three of the girls. But that's G for you - she's melodramatic about everything - you should see the thrombo she throws when I get her grow bag off the peg...

No - There are three reasons she can't only have been teething:
1. She was too sick.  I know they can get a fever when they teethe, but not 40 deg surely?  Children don't get admitted to A and E for teeth surely? Even the rubbish doctor didn't suggest it was teeth.  No red cheeks.  No drool.  No runny tummy. My mummy instincts say not teeth.
2. I insisted on face book that she was really sick.  I blogged to the world that she was really sick.  I cancelled a barbecue with over 30 guests over this - please don't let me have done this over teeth.  The shame would be unbearable... I refuse to accept that it was teeth in order to maintain a smidgen of dignity.
3.  If this is teeth - she has 17 more to go! Including premolars and molar.  This is only the incisors.  If she is this bad for this - what is coming up?   I believe an adoption may be on the cards...

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The birthday party monster

I have a mothering flaw.  Okay, sorry, you're right - I have another mothering flaw.  Not only am I rubbish at house work, competative with lunchboxes and impatient with sick kids ruining my plans - I'm also a birthday party monster mother...

When Eldest K had her first birthday party it was a complete non-event.  We only knew one other couple with children at all - so there was only 1 other child there, and the very few of my friends that tolerated all this mummy stuff (most were still off  having careers...).  I bought a bog standard vanilla sponge cake, stuck a plain candle in it, stuck a store bought poo-bear hat on her and her friend's heads (which they promptly pulled off and chewed) - that's it - a great time was had by all.  I was, surprisingly, happy with this as a party.  Looking back however I'm so embarrassed, and K is a little disappointed with the photos.

But between K's first and second birthday party something happened.  We started making more little people friends and started going to other parties.  And I had my eyes opened to my inadequacies.  There were themes!  There were colour co-ordinated accessories. Good mother's baked cakes.  Every one ooohed and ahhhed.  It was like a wedding.  It was competitive.   It was important.  You needed to co-oridinate the invites, the outfits, the cake, the decor and the thank you notes. You had to - surely? Surely? Okay - I'm not stupid.  You don't have to.  All kids want is a day that's all about them, they don't give a hoot if the plates and napkins match the balloons.  And mother's that think they do need to get a life.  But the thing is - I looked around these parties and I thought - project!  I want to do this!  This looks like fun...

So K's second party is a bit more of an extravaganza.  There was a theme - Roo, from Pooh Bear (not straying too far...), I got someone to make a Roo cake.  There were Roo napkins, plates, cups and brown and blue balloons.  I stuck a picture of Roo on the party packs.  I rocked it.  I was pleased with my efforts.  I gave myself a high 5...  Looking back it was probably worth 2 out of 10.  Third birthday - Princess theme.  Table cloth, my first home made cake - a purple castle with plastic princess dolls stuck on it, multiple shades of pink mixed together for the napkins and balloons, individualized party boxes with colouring in on the lid and then different shades of pink paper stuck under them, even cut with scrap booking scissors.  Contents of said box all embellished with the wretched princesses - stickers, tattoos, pencils and rubbers.   Not a bad effort - even looking back nearly 5 years later.  5 out of 10.  By the time Middle E had her first birthday I'd started getting snobby.  I needed a non-Disney theme (teddy bears), I needed nice textured organic things (brown paper party bags tied up with string).  No plastic fantastic thank you...  7 out of 10, and my first half decent cake to boot.

And so it goes on. I evolved into a birthday party monster. Each year it got more extravagant, more expensive and received more eye-brow raising from my husband - no dear I don't think August is too early to start planning a party for December...  I haven't always managed to steer away from revolting themes (I've done Tinkerbell, Hello Kitty and Peppa Pig) but not matter the theme I have become obsessive with each party. I spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking about what colour to make the serviettes and what cake to make.  The kids start suggesting their next party theme before they've had their last one...  Middle E and Baby G both have their birthdays next month.  Yesterday I spent 4 hours cruising the internet for things for their parties.  Much to my husband's horror I even bought stuff off the Middleton's site...  G is having a Very Hungry Caterpillar party - not so much because she loves the Very Hungry Caterpillar (she is 11 months old - she loves her dummy and pulling the cat's tails but neither of those make for a great party theme) - but because I want to make a VHC cake and a large Caterpillar out of balloons.  E is having a Russian doll party.  A challenge - can't get this stuff everywhere, had to order stickers from the US!  And this really excited me!

So - relection time - is this a brag blog or a cry for help?  I'm not really sure.  It is okay to get this carried away with cakes and accessories?  I know it doesn't make me a better mum than others, but does it make me a worse one? Me and my kids spend weeks planning these parties, but are we losing the point of the simple celebration of a birthday?  I'm not sure, but I do know I "well chuffed" with array of paper plates I bought yesterday...

Friday, 19 August 2011

Best laid plans...

Okay - I'm in a bad mood and tired.  I was up all night and haven't stopped all day - and there were no good times involved.  One of my favourite Blackadder quotes is "The path of my life is strewn with cowpats from the devil's own satanic herd" - read on for a few cowpats...

In the last 2 weeks I had 3 exciting outings planned - a trip to the National Gallery in London; a day at the Milton Maize Mase with some mums, and a big barbecue for 30 of our friends and relations to celebrate Middle E and Baby G's upcoming birthdays.  These had involved various amounts of effort on my part.  The trip to the gallery involved 2 hours pouring over internet sites deciding which gallery to go to, which train and tube station to get on and off at (i.e. the ones with escalators - I seem to have been carrying buggies up and down underground station stairs for the last 10 years of my life...) where to get the necessary cup of coffee I need every 45 minutes in order to survive being in a City with the children...  The trip to the maize maze on the other hand involved me saying yes to an invitation.  A toughie.  But the barbecue had involved a huge amount of organisation - invitations, a face book event page (you didn't think I was going to write a blog without mentioning FB did you?), co-ordinated catering (all dishes being brought had to be certified nut free), one of my legendary cakes was to be made and decorated, enough booze to keep the Irish Army happy for a week or two was being orders (I did say my relations were coming).  Happy days - I'm a party planner....  All these events were being looked forward to for lots of reasons.  I was looking forward to going to the gallery and being cultured for a change.  The kids were looking forward to the barbecue - there may have been gifts!  And everyone loves the Maze Maise - the kids run a mock, I pick up tips on how to be a good mum. Not to mention how nice it would be to have a break in the monotony of the holidays...

So why tell you all this?  What do all of these events have in common?  What has any of this got to do with a cow pat?  They were cancelled due to sick kids - thats what! The night before we went to the gallery Middle E "mommited" on the carpets.  So instead of Van Gogh, I spent the day with a rug doctor.  Maize Maze - Middle E (again!) developed irritable hip and was walking like a barbie doll with her legs turned the wrong way round. Not exactly ideal day for physical activities... Play day and birthday barbecue - Baby G has tonsilitis.  Not only did we not get our fun days out, but you all know what this means...  Phone calls and trips to the doctors.  Carrying around an 11 month old.  All day. and all night.  No sleep.  The other kids getting house bound.  Disappointment. Over-used of the television, Not a good mum or satisfied kid in sight...

Cowpats.  Vomit puddles.  Fevers.  I sometimes wonder why I bother making plans in the school holidays or on the weekends at all - I should just be spontaneous, live life one day at a time.  Just wake up, check that none of the kids are blowing chunks on the stairs - if its all clear go out somewhere nice....

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Modern miles for child development

Okay - I'm a tad competitive.  Not super competitive, but a bit.  And I like my kids to be ahead of average at all times.  So I spent a lot of time looking at the baby milestones, especially when Eldest K was a baby.  It was essential that she held her neck, smiled, sat, crawled and walked before average (check).  I was asfastidious with Middle E until she started going off on a developmental delay tangent with learning disorders and things (a blog for another day). Of course by the time I think of these things for baby G she's already doing them (She's sitting already?  Isn't that a bit early?  When's that milestone again?).  But here's the thing - they start to walk and all the good miles stones stop.  And as a textbook nerd, I like mile stones.  I think babies should be issued with sticker mile stone charts at birth.  I like stickers...

So anyway, based on my EXTENSIVE knowledge of children (I've had three after all) here are 25 useful mile stones that don't seem to make it into the baby books:

  1. 1. Stopping the explosion poo.  This milestone is reached about 2 days after breast feeding ceases.  It's more like a mile stone for mummy really.  And the washing machine...
  2. Placing the television remote to your ear like a telephone.  6 months.
  3. Pulling the cats' tails.  This milestone is reached about 2 weeks after crawling or bum shuffling begins - so about 8 or 9 months.  Curiously timed with the tasting cat food for the first time mile stone and discovering the phenomenon of cause and effect...
  4. Being so attached to a specific sleeping aid and having a massive wobble when it is lost or goes in the wash
  5. Being given a bowl of peas and not throwing it on the floor but just eating it - 14 months
  6. Discovering the concept of mine - and asserting it at EVERY possible opportunity - 15 months
  7. Responding positively to "Barney's says sharing is caring" - 18 months
  8. Having shoes or a hat put on and not pulling said item straight off - 2 years 2 months
  9. Wanting to do up own car seat - 2 years 4 months.  (I will SELF...)
  10. Recognizing MacDonalds and Coke as brands even though your mother has vehemently not allowed you anywhere near either - 2 years 10 months
  11. Wanting to choose own clothes, not understanding / caring that the don't match - 3 years
  12. No longer fitting into the seat in the trolley - 3 years 3 months
  13. Drawings resembling something other than a scribble - 3 years 6 months
  14. Using a touch screen on a smart phone, tablet or lap top.  The reaching of this milestone depends on how much time the parents spend on these devices.  Evolutionary scientists have proven that it is being reached younger and younger by the day. Approximately 4 years 2 months
  15. No longer having extra lines in the first letter of your name (Middlde E's E looked like combs for about a year) - 4 years 4 months
  16. Thinking you can do a cart wheel but actually just rolling around on the grass - 4 years 6 months
  17. Counting to 20 without excluding 15 and without including eleventeen - 4 years 9 months
  18. Wanting Lelli Kelly school shoes and being introduced to the concept of "too expensive" - 5 years 
  19. Telling which shoe goes on which foot/knowing which is the front of our your knickers/leotard/vest - 5 years 2 months
  20. Not waving at your parents during the Christmas play / ballet concert / music recital - 5 years 6 months
  21. No longer eating crusts, brown bread or cucumber even though you have done so since weaning - 5 years 9 months
  22. Thinking they know more than you about everything - 6 years
  23. Wanting ears pierced - 6 years 6 months
  24. Being able to drive the PVR/Tevo/iPlayer/V box and other important tevelision providing devices.  A very pleasant milestone. 7 years.
  25. Not wanting to watch toddler tv - moving onto CBBC - yes please - 7 years 8 months

Those with older kids please fill for the next 11 years...

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Top 10 things I have learnt about camping with kids

So went went camping for a few days.  It was excellent, although it drizzled and was gloomy a fair amount of the time, meaning that despite being next to "one of the 10 best beaches in Britain" (apparently) we never actually went to the beach.  But still - I found an environmentally friendly theme park that sells organic diet coke, that alone makes it a great holiday.

Anyway - hind sight is of course 20:20, so here are a few things I learnt this weekend:

1.  Packing wellies is a perfect heavy rain deterent.  Packing them (which takes up half the boot, we don't have small feet in this family, and you know what they say about men with big feet, they wear big wellies) is guaranteed to mean you won't need them.  Failure to do so will instantly result in a torrential down pour...

2.  Baby proofing a kitchen area when everything lives in crates on the floor is easier said than done.  Funnily enough cupboard latches do not help.

3.  Family showers don't really work for 11 month olds.  Take a baby bath.  Really.  Do not bath them in the sinks in the area reserved for doing the dishes.  You will get funny looks and tutting...

4.  Pitch tent near the play area and foot ball field.  Expect to see older children only at meal times and if it rains

5. Do not pitch tent too near the play area or foot ball field.  Otherwise all children in the camp site will assume your tent is the best place to stop in if an adult is required. (Also avoid using your teacher voice in public - otherwise totally strange kids will assume your are the nearest authority figure and will visit your tent looking for a referee)

6.  Pack a gazillion items of clothing for your youngest child if they happen to be a bum shuffler.  Even if it doesn't rain, it will dew.  There will be mess...  Do not try and keep said child clean.  Then there will be screaming and then there will still be mess.

7.  Take this opportunity to teach the older child about the wonders of doing the washing up.  However, ensure you send them in their swim suit for this life lesson.

8.  Always take your mobile phone with you on nature walks.  No matter how sure you are the kids will manage the walk, they won't, and if you can't call your spouse to pick you up in the car you may be forced to carry the kids back to the tent, or leave them to find their own way back after the 27th "little west"...

9.  Get your tent lined with black out material if you are in the UK, otherwise you will find yourself trying to keep an excitable baby quiet at 5.22 am.  Should you not have the black out blinds, ensure camping pitch is near a field of cows.  Babies like cows...

10.  Take more wine.  Pack what you think you need, then double it, and throw in another bottle or two for good measure.  Do not forget the cork screw.  Better yet buy screw tops or a 5l box.  Do not drink it out of a plastic cup, it will effect the nose...

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Working from home: the perfect solution - right?

So I've been a working mother.  When Oldest K and Middle E were born, we still lived in South Africa. Things work differently in different countries.  In South Africa full time individual child care is cheap, but living is expensive.  So in South Africa Mum's work full time - pretty much all of them.  We certainly couldn't afford to even consider me not going back to work.  When we moved to the UK I went to work full time and discovered - as I've said - that different countries are different.  Here child care is extremely expensive.  I was giving more than half my salary for other people to look after my kids.  Most families here have a parent at home, at least some of the time.  Then I started to notice that the schools and life style were not designed to accommodate two working parents. Lots of events that parents were expected to attend where held in the working day.  After school activities were held when I was still at work. Suddenly my kids were missing out, big time.  And I started to dream of being a stay at home mum... so when Baby G was born there was no question of me going back to work.  All other issues aside - I would be clearing £75 a day and my child care would cost £65 a day.  I'm a high school teacher.  My pupils, even as we speak, are looting and setting fire to London (not really, but only because its 75 miles away).  Would you teach the yoff of today for a tenner?  No I didn't think so....  so stay at home mum is was.

But here's the thing - I'm a dreadful stay at home mum.  Some people can do it, and do it with such style and panache.  They must be Good mums. But its not for me.  I lost the plot.  I desperately needed to find things to fill my day, and to justify my being at home.  Suddenly everyday tasks became Tasks.  Like doing the washing.  And the ironing.   I began to iron everything. Yes, even muslin clothes. And tea towels.  I cleaned my house obsessively.   Things that just took care of themselves when I was a working mum were suddenly a big deal.  I could not cope, there was just too much ironing.  But in reality I was also mentally starved, and this was the bigger challenge.  I found myself checking my face book every 10 minutes (although in fairness I may still do this) just to get some stimulus. I started playing online games to challenge my brain (too many horrors to even begin to discuss).  I started tweeting. And when I'd done all that I checked my face book again.  But the straw that broke the camel's (that being my husband's) back was when I started getting addicted to shopping.  Real shopping, on line shopping and even virtual shopping (pintrest anyone?).  Once I realised that this had to stop (boo), I started looking into studying some more (like I don't have enough qualifications).  I even convinced myself that I would put aside a day a week for my mental health.  I'd draw and paint.  Doesn't that sound like a lovely idea?  With a baby, a 4 year old and a 7 year old - was I drinking when I had that thought?  Anyway - when would I do the ironing?  The tea towels might get neglected.

And so I made peace with my failings, and looked for work again.  But - this would be work I could do from home.  I mean - that's the perfect solution isn't it?  Come on - how hard can it be?  Well, you'd think I'd know from watching Top Gear, that when you say "how hard can it be?" disaster is normally 2 nanoseconds away.  I'm tutoring Science from home a few hours a week. The girls will watch TV, G will sleep.  right?  FAIL.  I'm teaching with Baby G in the room.  This was okay when she was a few months old and went for a convenient nap.  But she's not a few months old any more.  She's 10 months old.  Old enough to butt-shuffle up to me, or my pupils should I ignore her, pull our jeans and raise her arms, giving us the "I'm a third child.  You are my slave. Pick me up. I'm cute" look.  Failing that, she will unpack my pupils handbag.  This can be rather embarrassing.  She's dug out cigarettes, feminine hygiene products and, the ultimate treasure, car keys which she has subsequently vanished *somewhere* in the lounge.  Then, I'm also doing some data analysis and other computery adminy odd jobs for my husbands company.  This involves me sitting at my computer, getting up every few minutes to entertain G.  I expected 4 hours worth of work to take me about 6 hours.  Right?  Suprise! Wrong.  First few weeks I was lucky if I managed an hour of honest work.  The rest of the day quite simply vanished.  Where did it go?  What did I achieve?  Running around after G.  Tidying the house (it still has to be done, I can't work in a mess).  Washing clothes.  Hanging out clothes.  Chatting to mum's in the car park (I can't let my friends down!). Buying the groceries (although we could all do with losing a little weight).    That first week I was lucky if I went to bed before 12am, and I'm a morning person!

Now I know what you are thinking - Why exactly have you taken up blogging then?  Well to be honest, so that I have a bit of me time in the 12 hours of stuff I do in a day. So that at least 20 minutes a day is actually spent on something I want to do.  And as for the working from home thing -well we are getting there. I'd say it only takes me 4 hours to do 3 hours worth of work. I've saved time in my day by significantly reducing my face book time (surely you've noticed). I've got into a house work routine.  I tumble and shake the muslins.  I've stopped ironing (its is done on a need only basis - expect to see me creased in future).  And I'm reaping the rewards, at least a little bit.  I can be there for the older girls when they need me (sports days, singing spectaculars, teddy bears picnics and other "joyous" events parent are invited to when all sane people are at work), we still go to all our after school activities (a whole other can of worms - look out for a blog on this in the future), baby G gets to spend the day with me (even if it is on the floor unpacking unsuspecting teenager's handbags) and there's a wee bit more money around. I might be able to take up shopping again. Or maybe not. More importantly, however, my brain is stimulated and I have a real purpose in my day.  I still sleep less though. A lot less.

So now I just have to make sure my house of cards doesn't fall down.  How long can I run on 6 hours sleep? I'm a nine hour a night kinda girl.  Am I seconds away from collapsing in a heap of exhaustion and crying "Its all too much.  I need to go back to work and to get a cleaner again"? Its possible.  But to be honest the thing I need to control at this point is the blogging.  Must limit the amount of time I spend doing this.  Must stay in control.  I can.  I know I can.  You know I can.  Of course I can. Am I will. Yes. I will. Now, please excuse me, I'm off to see how many times my last post has been viewed since I last checked, 15 minutes ago...

Monday, 8 August 2011

Eye-rolling questions

There are questions that you get asked in life that make you roll your eyes.  You don't mean to, it just happens.  In fact if you could control it you would have avoided a great deal of trouble as a teenager... Blame your genetics, its an evolutionary protective mechanism.  What these questions are fit into specific ages and stages in your life.  Some of them are not relevant to this blog - like "Where do you think you are going in that outfit?" and "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?".  However, there is a string of eye-rollers that I guarantee you have all been asked, by everyone from your mother to the lady working behind the till in Tesco.  These questions roll around with great predictability - the order goes pretty much like this: "When are you getting engaged?" "When are you getting married?" "When are you starting a family", and the second Number 1 is out the womb, "When's the next one?".  But here's the thing - after that, the questions move on to "When is she starting ballet?" and "Is she registered for Brownies yet?" and "Do you iron muslin squares?", not "When's the next one?".  Because society says you must only have two children, but I didn't.  I had three.  Because I like to be difficult...

When I informed the world I was pregnant again almost 2 years ago, I was met with stunned silences from everyone I told.  Then some new eye-rolling questions arrived.  With a new level of intrusiveness added to their repetitiveness... "Was it planned?" and "Are you trying for a boy?". Lets deal with these separately.  "Was it planned?"  Well - strange lady who stamps the books at the library - lets discuss your sex life and contraceptive methods first, and then I'll answer that question.  Better even than that of course is "Is it a mistake?".  A mistake, man behind the counter in the coffee shoppe? A mistake?  Even if the pregnancy was a surprise, I do not make mistakes (literally in this case).  And no, she was planned, sort off, even if not very well thought through. And then, as a mother of 2 girls already, next question is.... "Are you trying for a boy?"  I always answered this with "No, I'm trying for a left hander".  Why would I want a boy? I love my girls, I know what to do with girls (there is no problem that can't be solved with a fluffy hair band or a unicorn), and I do dark loads, light loads and pink loads when I wash.  No no no - a girl is just what I'm after actually.  But more importantly - is it really any of your business?

I must of course confess - I too am guilty of asking these sorts of questions.  I inwardly cringe as I hear myself say "So are you planning any more?".  Stop it, self, don't be so nosey! Let people live their lives... So my friends in blogland - go ahead have 3 kids - it rocks.  In fact have 4.  Or 5. or 19.  Swim against the stream!  And when you tell me you are pregnant again, I will be nothing but happy and excited for you.  I promise. I will not pry into your affairs of the bedroom. I will not force you to select a gender.  I am reformed. Now please excuse me,  I'm going to get off my soap box now wash some pink stuff.

Oh and for the record - no I'm not have another one. Probably.  But isn't that what I said last time...

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Being a good mum - Part 1: The packed lunch

I admit it - I'm quite a judgmental person.  I try not to be, but deep down inside I am.  It must be my mother's fault, I'll think of a reason why.  But in fairness to myself (and my mum) so is everyone else I know. I have never met a person who isn't silently judging everyone they meet. Admit it - you discuss people with your partner, or mother on the phone during your weekly call.   And one of the biggest areas we all judge one another on is how we raise our children. "I swear she doesn't iron her tea towels or muslin clothes", "I've heard she never lets her kids do junk modelling", "I swear last weekend she was so busy on face book and blogging that she didn't brush her children's hair for 24 hours"  and so on.  But the thing is - I'm an equal opportunities judmentalist.  I also judge people in a good light.  "She is an amazing mum - her kids are so polite and well behaved", "She's endlessly patient - she push started her son on his bike 25 times in a 20 minute period" or "how does she manage to find time to work all day and still iron her tea towels and muslin cloths - I aspire to be her, she's such a Good Mum".  And that's the thing you see - I'm always trying to be "A Good Mum".

Now there are a million areas of Good Mum-dom that I find challenging (well at least enough for 10 blogs), but the one I would like to focus on today is the packed lunch.  Man - it seemed like such a simple concept when I was a child.  Peanut butter sandwich, an apple and a penguin bar - moving on. I ditched the penguin bar in these health conscious days - but a sandwich and a different fruit each day - sorted. Right? Wrong.  According to Oldest K there are numerous failings in this lunch.  Firstly no peanut butter sandwiches ever - they are potential manslaughter weapon.  Okay - a jam sandwich then surely?  Apparently not.  "Anna has the best packed lunch in the class.  She has a sandwich, cut into TRIANGLES not SQUARES, with a different meat and salad each day". Salad? Really? But Anna's mum is such a Good Mum, Anna never comes to school without her PE kit and her socks always match. I must aspire to be more like here. Okay - I can do this.  So we now have ham, chicken, tuna and erm, ham and tuna again.  With cucumber and sweet corn. And mayonaise. Cut on the diagonal.  My goodness - I'm exhausted before they've even left for school.  But surely now this is a Good Mum's  packed lunch..  Apparently not "Amy has a snack like healthy crisps or rice cakes" says Middle E. Firstly - healthy crisps?  Like carrot sticks?  No - crisps - she showed them to me at the shops.  And Amy's mum is such a Good Mum - Amy already does piano lessons and knows how to pack the dishwasher. I must try harder.  So now we have a luxury sandwich AND health crisps or rice cakes.  And fruit, still got the fruit in case the 5 a day police come round.  So now I make good packed lunches - right?  Wrong.  "Louise gets a desert every day".  Desert? Desert?  But Louise's mum is such a Good Mum.  Louise speaks Latin and wears organic, handwoven cotton school frocks.  Dammit.  Alright - so what qualifies as a suitable desert for a school lunch box? Everything I tried was sent home by the militant school dinner ladies hell bent on saving the world from unhealthy lunch boxes.  Too much chocolate. Not healthy enough. Made in a factory near a factory that once accidently used a nut. Fail.  Last ditch effort - sent a penguin bar. Success!  And vindication for my own mother!  A good thing too - I was this close to chucking it all in a doing school dinners...  

So there we go - my failing aired for all to see, I make rubbish packed lunches AND I'm aspirational.  But of course that doesn't matter, you won't judge me on that, because you never judge people, do you? Anyway - I must move on - I'm not sure when I last brushed the kids hair and I have some muslin clothes to iron...

Friday, 5 August 2011

The dreaded question

So there are things my kids say that make me nervous.  Amoung them are quite a few involving bodily fluids - such as "Mum I'm going to vomit", "Who left the toilet like this?" and "Baby G has poo up her back". But there are others - like "Can we put on a show?", "My school shoes don't fit", "How are babies made?", "When can I have a face book account/pierce my ears?", "Can we EVER go swimming" and "Can I choose my own outfit?".  But there is one that distresses me more than any other... Can we do junk modelling?

Junk modelling (or junk moggling as Middle E says) is essentially creating sculptures out of cardboard boxes and bog rolls.  I have no idea who to blame for the arrival of this in my life, although I think it might be Mister Maker - the bastard son of Blue Peter and a preschool teacher.  This involves the older two children ransacking the inside and outside recycling bins (Oldest K has had to be rescued from it more than once after leaning too far in.  I was tempted to leave her there, although the pink shoes sticking out the top were a dead give away to the neighbours).  Once they have sequestered a large amount of, literally, rubbish that I have already thrown away once, they raid the stationary box of doom looking for scissors, glue and sellotape.  I will now, no doubt, have to intervene for the first of many times (assuming a bin rescue was not required on this occasion) as the glue will be dry because they NEVER put the lids back on, or they can't find the start of the sellotape, because they never fold it back no matter how many times I show them how.  Then they will set about sticking yogurt pots onto tissue boxes, cutting cereal boxes and cramming them full of newspaper and other brilliant forms of self-expression.  They will them announce that this is "a cage for my imaginary hamster" or "a robot", and head off outside to play something else.  25 minutes of preparation, 25 seconds of actually being entertained by the activity.  This will now be followed by much nagging and whining by me to get them to clear up the mess, and - chance would be a lucky thing - put all the items back in the correct place.  But we haven't got to the kicker. I'm not allowed to throw these art works away.  Ever.  Even if people are coming over.  Even if they begin to become a fire hazard.  They must sit, for eternity, ad infinitum, cluttering every surface, never actually being played with.  Yes - because of you Mr Maker, I am forced to live with my trash on display...

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Who am I? Who are you?

So here is the story.  I'm a face book addict.  My face book is open all day, and I wonder past it often, possibly upon occasion unnecessarily, to see what witty banter has been written recently, and to post my every thought in my status.  I write a lot of statii.  Possible more than is healthy.  For a few months people have been suggesting I blog instead (as well - surely?),  so I'm giving it a try...

So who am I?  Well I suppose that depends on when you are reading this.  Hopefully you are reading this at some point in the future, and I am a celebrated blogger, regular guest on Mock the week and QI, and someone who hires someone else to do the ironing and to clean the toilet . If you are reading this is August 2011, however, best I give you the background.  I have 3 kids (all girls - currently 7, 4 and 10 months), a husband who sometimes acts like a kid, and 2 ridiculous cats that are worse than kids.  I am a double immigrantee - having immigrated to South Africa from the UK with my parents in the 80s, and having immigrated (complete with my South African husband and housekeeping exceptions) back to the UK in 2009.  I have a PhD in Botany (useful), have published scientific papers (ooooo), have 10 years experience as a science teacher (because I am such an authority figure :?) - so of course these days I am... my husbands admin assistant - obviously.  I am an atrocious house keeper, amateur cake decorator and alternative music history fan.  And now I am  blogger - sharing my reflections on the daily challenges of being me...

So this brings us on to who are you.  Well at this point you are only my face book friends.  So this means you are my immediate family, extended family, long lost family, people I went to school and University with, people  I worked with in the past, people whose children go to school with my kids, people I sat near once in the doctors rooms, people I passed on an underground escalator and handed my face book name to... okay maybe not the last one.  But - I would like this blog to be read my a wider audience than my face book friends, otherwise its not really worth the effort. So please pass it on to anyone you think my enjoy reading my witty repartee / random ramblings (select your preferred description).

Thank you, bye