Tuesday, 30 September 2014

After school eating: a play in three acts

My boy is always ravenous when he gets home from school - it doesn't matter how much he's had during the day he is ready to eat for England as soon as gets through the door. As a result after school food planning starts early.

I present, for your delectation a three act play about after school eating in our house.

The curtain goes up: 

Act one: 

The school run - My Boy on his scooter and me running / power walking alongside  

My boy: Mummy are you going to pick me up from school today ?
Me: Yes honey, I do every day.
MB: Can you bring me an apple / banana please ? 
Me: Yes of course. I'll bring it to the classroom with me. 

Act two: 

In the car on the way home - the boy is eating his banana / apple :

MB: Mummy I'm really hungry
Me: I know sweetie. What did you have for lunch today ?
MB: I don't know Mummy 
Me: Really ? Did you eat pudding ?
MB: Yes, I had chocolate sponge with custard
Me: That sounds lovely (it doesn't - I hate custard, it makes me retch)
MB: I had potatoes and carrots and broccoli
Me: Wow that's great. Lots of lovely vegetables

When we get home it's all about getting him out of his uniform so that he can wolf down a massive plate of fruit - on average it's strawberries, grapes, mango and sometimes a smoothie too. This is enough to see him through until dinner. 

Not far off how much fruit my boy eats

Act three: 

In the kitchen - the boy is dropping off, but just about keeping it together.

Me: do you want some bolognaise ?
MB: No thanks
Me: How about veggie moussaka ?
MB: No thank you 
Me: (getting irritated now) How about waffles
MB: Yes please
Me: and fish fingers 
MB: Yes please 
Me: (relieved) anything else ? 
MB: yes please - some beans 
Me: (rifling in the freezer) ok you set the table and I'll get the food ready. 

A few minutes later. 

He is sitting at the table and I'm on the sofa with a cuppa.

MB: I love you Mummy. This is so nice. 
Me: You're welcome baby boy. 

Peace and harmony at teatime thanks to Birds Eye :)

Birds Eye is this Mum's best friend :) 

This post is an entry for #Afterschoolchefs Challenge, sponsored by Birds Eye. Learn more on the Birds Eye Facebook page

Saturday, 27 September 2014

No more geek chic for me thank you

I first realised I might need glasses when I was around 11 and at school I had to sit really close to the front of the classroom to see the board. I could have guessed I'd need them as most of my family wear glasses so short-sightedness is clearly an inherited thing for us. However, this didn't stop my father from insisting it was watching too much TV that had caused me to need glasses. Not one for empathy my old man.

I still wear glass sometimes 

It was not cool to wear glasses and the NHS ones that my Mum let me choose from were not the cool 'geek chic' that hipsters wear them as now. They were the most embarrassing things ever and being an overweight schoolgirl with bad skin was enough to deal with, I didn't also need glasses that made me look even worse. I only put them on if I absolutely had to and sat at the back of the class so no one would notice. 

Then when I took a gap year and worked I went to get contact lenses fitted and it was a revelation. I had to have a 'lesson' to learn how to put them in - and she made me cut my gorgeous long nails - to be fair they were talons, but I did manage to devise a method whereby I could put them in and take them out with my incredibly long nails.

My first lenses were like a chemistry lesson with three separate bottles of solution and a process that included protein removal once a month,. My friend used to boil hers !! This would have been enough to put off someone else, but I am not so easily parted from anything that improves my chances of not looking like a dork. 

When I went to Uni I noticed a lot of my contemporaries wore glasses and put it down to the fact that we were all readers and probably weakened our sight from late night reading by poor light - that's what my grandmother told me anyway. I wore lenses so it meant I wasn't as self-conscious, but I did have to be pretty organised about it and I couldn't spontaneously stay over with friends (and it was a great excuse sometimes too !)

In my final year I chose to wear glasses to give the illusion of being clever - I had figured if I looked it I would be it. That's how it works isn't it ? It also saved me money on solutions and no one seemed to notice I was now wearing glasses. To be fair they were much better than my early ones and blended in with my greebo/goth stylings and long hair.

Post uni, however, I returned to vanity and practicality and wore contacts lenses again. I've always preferred them as I've found they enable me to participate in all the sports I enjoy including skiing, scuba diving, swimming and yoga. I can open the oven door without getting misty eyes from the steam and it's much easier to tell which bus is coming when I can actually see it. Wearing lenses really has made a difference to my life, so when I spotted the lovely folks from Acuvue at Britmums earlier this year I made a beeline for them. We had a chat about how I've worn lenses since I was a teen and they told me that children as young as five can safely be fitted for lenses now. I had no idea ! 

I feel more glam in lenses

I've worn lenses for over 25 years now and they really are my first choice. I find glasses a faff and even though I have much nicer ones now I still like to wear my daily disposables. I'd like to kiss whoever invented those because they really are magic to me. I can wear them and chuck them away. As long as I have a pair of glasses in my bag it's no stress at all. If they'd been around when I was a teen I'd have been in heaven :)

I wrote this review while participating in an influencer campaign on behalf of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Sometimes I think that loving you is the hardest thing I will ever do

If you're a regular reader you will know that I dote on my son and I mention him frequently. The fun, the japes and the hilarious conversations that we have. So, it's with some trepidation that I'm sharing this with you in the hope that you will not judge or tut at me - or him.

My boy hits. Every day when I go to pick him up from 'big school' I dread what the teacher will tell me. Usually her look is enough to ascertain if it's been a really bad day or just a normal level of naughtiness. I leave feeling embarrassed and upset that my boy is unable to play with other children without being aggressive towards them. I am baffled that this keeps happening and I just can't work out where it's come from.

  • We've never used hitting as a sanction or a form of discipline.
  • We don't hit each other, or anyone else.
  • We don't joke about hitting or make light of anger and violence.

Yet every day our pleas that he use his gentle hands and his big boy words fall on (selectively) deaf ears. I hang my head in shame as he's asked to get out of the pool early during school swimming for not listening and for playing up. "He's disrupting other children's learning," says his teacher. I nod and feel myself well up and my face feels sore from trying not to cry.

We've tried everything we can think of:

  • Reminding him that it feels bad to get hit or to hit seems to have no lasting resonance at all.
  • Positive reinforcement and praise has no long term effects.
  • Punishment and taking away toys or denying treats like swimming achieve nothing. 

We avoid situations where he has been in trouble before because I can't face people who have seen him meltdown or hit me, or hit Hubbie or throw things in a tantrum with seemingly no cause. 

At swimming the other morning more than one parent said, " oh this is the famous ...." I held my breath to find out what they've heard about him. What does that say about me and my expectations of my son ? I am at the end of what was - at one point - a very long tether.

I remember how it felt the first time I saw a child take a swipe at my teeny tiny boy at playgroup. I wanted to thump the child, or their parent, but I didn't of course. Then he went to nursery and he had a few tussles with other children, but he formed friendships and learned the aforementioned 'gentle hands' and 'big boy words.'

I've always taken him out and about. From very early on we did Gymboree, since he could walk he has played sports and we swim a few times a week. I ask myself if I was responding to his boisterousness or if I've caused it. Over the summer I took him to a sports camp most days to run off his boundless energy and some days I'd hear about his off the wall behaviour there too, but mostly it was a break for me and some well-needed running around for him.

Next week my boy will turn 4. Hubbie and I want to do something special for him and to give him gifts and to celebrate his birthday. Yet I feel so sad and upset that I can't bring myself to reward him for being so unkind to his classmates.

I keep reminding myself he's only almost 4. He's learning how to form new relationships. He's in a new nursery environment, having left behind all his friends of 2 years, half his life. He has exclusively adult company at home - well a cat too, but let's include him in the adult category for now - so however hard we try to encourage him to share he's used to everything being just his.

Every day I wait with dread and bated breath to find out what level of aggression he went to this time. I'm exhausted and shamed. I feel as though I can't actually get through to him. Please don't misunderstand, I'm not expecting him to misbehave. I always go with an expectation that today has been a good day - a day without a pitying look from his teacher as I sheepishly make my way to pick him up.

I ponder whether I've been too soft, by looking for reasons for his anger or whether I've been too hard by being strict about behaviour. His manners are impeccable and he says, please, thank you and always says sorry for hitting. I just wish he wouldn't hit. Underlying all this anxiety is a fear that I've made a mini hulk. An angry child who could become a moody and mean teenager and eventually a horrible adult. 

Some days it's all too much. I'm reduced to tears of frustration, anger, upset. Then I remember that's probably how he feels too. So however bad I'm feeling I still go up to see him at bedtime and hold him close. I just need to remind myself how much I love my little boy. I have to show him that I love him no matter what. That I am a safe person to be himself with.

The words that go through my head are from the scene in Love Actually where Andrew Lincoln finally tells Keira Knightley how he feels and as he walks away from her he says, "Enough, Enough."

Monday, 22 September 2014

Sunday, Monday Happy Days :)

Since our boy started at 'new nursey' l he has been very tired after school and at weekends. We try to do fun things to keep him busy as he is so full of energy, but until he gets used to the new routine of school we are keeping things quite local and short. So this weekend my sister sent us an invitation to a vintage inspired event not far from where we live. It was being hosted at a drive thru Krispy Kreme doughnut shop that I didn't even know existed ! They had a DJ playing fifties music and some dancing inside the store while a cavalcade of vintage cars were proudly displayed in the car park.

Our boy loves cars of any sort, but he especially loves minis so this was just the best thing he had ever seen. Every time we see a Mini on the road we all cheer and there is a local driving school that teaches learner drivers in minis - I suspect he will want to learn with them eventually. One day we will show him The Italian Job and I'll film his face as he sees all those cars - it's going to be magical !!

We also have a love of camper vans and Beetles in our family so we did have a great time inspecting these ones up close. As you can see Hubbie was having a good old nose inside this one while the boy wandered round checking out the gleaming paintwork. 

A visit to Krispy Kreme would not be complete without a special doughnut so the boys had one each (I had a cup of tea) and they even gave our boy a hat to wear. He loves it :)

We had such a fun time it was just like being in a real life 'Happy Days' - not that the boy has any idea what that is !

This post is shared with the #outdoorfun #CountryKids linky hosted by the lovely Fiona of Coombe Mill. 

 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Friday, 19 September 2014

Friday night and I'm going out !!!!

When I was at Uni going out on a Friday was not a big thing, it was just what we all did. We had a standing agreement that we'd go to the Dog and Trumpet on a Friday night for music, dancing and drinking and we would start getting ready for it a few hours before. The girls I lived with had almost exactly the same items of clothing as me - fringed skirts, floaty 'gypsy' tops and black tights - we could only tell them apart by the size. Once we'd ensured we weren't going to clash or look like a gothic version of Bananarama we would get ourselves ready to go out. Hair, make-up, accessories and of course shoes we could dance in and walk home from the bus stop in as well.

Of course now I'm a parent going out is a military operation. To ensure I can get to the MADS awards tonight I've asked Hubbie be home in time to take care of the boy and a neighbour is watching the lad for the one hour gap between me leaving and Hubbie getting home. The boy loves Jill - he calls her his pretend Grandma - and her granddaughter Emily is going to be there too. The boy adores Emily and she is so good with him that he's actually quite pleased about this.

available for hand modelling :)

I had my nails done yesterday by my lovely friend Yasmin so they look far nicer than they usually do from daily swimming and boring chores. I've washed my hair, but I don't do much more than that - again swimming tends to wreck it so there's not much I can do with it really. I've got a bit of time to do make up, but I'll end up doing it on the train as I'm sure I will be rushing around to get the boy fed and ready to go next door.

Going for a proper night out is such a rare treat. One night where I don't have to say, "Put on your pyjamas !!" twenty times. Were I don't make ten trips upstairs to bring drinks, take him to the toilet or to put away the t-shirt he took out for tomorrow that is scaring him with its picture of the green monster on it (the Hulk). Where I don't go back up to check on him and find he's taken off his pyjamas and is lying naked under the duvet and has also undressed all the teddy bears. I take a zero tolerance approach to naturist sleepovers so he argues, but ultimately puts on his clothes and I have to try and work out which jumper was from which teddy bear. None of them fit.

A night where I can sit and eat a meal without having to get up to deal with the thundering footsteps coming from upstairs. How does a child that small make that much noise ? A meal that I can eat without having to get up so many times that it's cold when I do get to eat more than one mouthful of it in one sitting. To have a conversation with adults that isn't punctuated by a toddler demanding attention or "just one grape please Mummy." 

It's not an extravagant wish list is it ?

Pretty frocks 

So, I'm going out tonight, but I've been with the boy all day so I've had no time to fuss or primp and preen to get ready. I haven't even picked a dress to wear. In fact, why am I even writing this ? I should be getting ready.

Photos to follow... 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Neo the cat: a day in the life

I occupy the house with the cat more than with anyone else. Since he came to live with us we've spent the most time together. In the early days when he was being kept in I used to come home from work first so we would have some one to one time then I'd give him his dinner. When I was pregnant he used to sit on my tummy - until the baby started to kick him that is !

As time progressed he got used to the shift in power from him being the first to get fed to the small human being first and then him. He now knows that as soon as the boy has his dinner he will get his, so he sits at his bowl moaning about the starvation he's convinced he's suffering.

Neo came to live with us when he was about 6 and a half years old - Battersea weren't entirely sure - so he's pushing 13 years old now. He's settling into a comfy middle age that is belied by his scampering down the path when he spies me at the kitchen window. He insists on miaowing by the cat flap until someone opens the door - or my son holds the flap open for him. Not for nothing do we call him a primadonna.

He used to follow me around like a doting suitor and he'd miaow at me when he wanted food. Now he only talks to me when he wants to eat - he is basically a teenager. Now my boy is at school during the day so me and the cat have the house to ourselves during the day and a typical day goes something like this:

5.25: Hubbie wakes up to get ready for work - he feeds the cat. He comes up to lie on the bed with me (Neo, not Hubbie)
6am: as Hubbie pops in to say "bye" the boy wakes up and wanders in to join us.

9.30: I get home from the school run and a swim - Neo hasn't moved.

10.30: Neo helps me hang out the washing

Or he doesn't ...

1.30: Lunchtime. He gets up, stretches and goes to the kitchen to miaow for biscuits

2.00: While I listen to the Archers repeat Neo pops out to sunbathe

3.30: We get home from school and he is sitting there waiting to greet the boy

8pm: When we finally some time to ourselves he watches a bit of telly with me. You know, the usual, Bake Off, Come Dine - what can I tell you, he's a foodie.

Unless he can sneak into story-time that is. If he can crash a story at bedtime that's where you'll find him, pretending not to listen. All casual like.

So that's a day in the life of my cat. Not a bad life really is it ?

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Siblings wanted - preferably twins (a wish from my son)

Will you be my brother ?
This afternoon my boy said he wanted another swing. He has one in the garden already that Grandma gave him when he was little. It's one of those that adjusts to suit a growing child and he loves it. He wasn't asking me to replace it, but to get an additional one, "for my sister or brother." I smiled and said we'd see. Later at bedtime I asked him about his request and he said he'd like a sister called Topsy - he is obsessed with twins and especially Topsy and Tim from Cbeebies. He also said we could get bunk beds like the ones we had on holiday at Coombe Mill in the summer. I gave him an extra big squeeze and said goodnight.

When I went downstairs I was not in a good way. I get clumsy when I'm upset or angry and I was dropping things and just a bit disoriented. You see he is not an only child out of choice. We would love to have more children. It is our sincerest wish for him to have a sibling if not more than one. We tried from when he was a few months old. I fell pregnant when he was two, but it was not to be. Then we decided to go ahead with our second attempt at adoption. As he is almost 4 he was also involved in this process and the social worker talked to him about his expectations. He became excited at all this talk of a brother or sister - not a baby, but another playmate and someone to even the odds in the house. If he had an ally he'd stand a better chance of outwitting his parents. The cat is a great pal, but he's no good in an argument.

Then it all went quiet. He hasn't seen the social worker for months and there has been no further news about a brother or sister. He's at a new nursery where his classmates have older siblings and baby siblings and he notices. His teacher has said - more than once - that his inability to share may be because he doesn't have anyone to share with at home. It's not exactly subtle. It's not his fault - he does try and he is lovely with younger children. When we went for a swimming lesson the other day one of the other children had their baby sibling there too. While he waited for all the other children to get dressed my boy stood at the side of the pram looking at the baby inside. He caught me watching him and I smiled at him, he didn't smile back.

It's ok little buddy, I'll be your brother
I feel sad for my boy because he would dearly love not to be an only child. He has no cousins and is always around adults - apart from at school of course. His speech is amazing, he is entertaining and amusing, but he really wants some company from his own peer group. I wish there was a simple way to make this all better. To say. "yes son, you will have a sister and she will be here soon." It may not happen, but I do hope it does.

My boy will be a great big brother. He's already told me he will share his toys, look after the new family member and show them how to take care of the cat. If these aren't great reason to join us, I can't think of any better ones.