Friday, 28 June 2013

Waterlogged wellies and a working loo (or how we do festivals)

me and Hubbie at Ben & Jerry's Big SundaeI've become obsessed with festivals. Not in a going to them way, but in a slightly envious of other cool families who take their kids to festivals way. You know those terribly trendy parents with offspring called Betsey and Oberon. They have those cutesie ear defenders for the mites and a laid back attitude to routines and showering. I'm just far too tightly wound to be like that. I can't sling a baby on my hip and a duffle bag over my shoulder and flounce off to a campsite for the weekend.

I've only ever gone to one day festivals (eg. Donington and Ben & Jerry's Big Sundae) as I like to wash my hair in hot water and to sleep in a nice comfy bed at night. I also have a pathalogical aversion to crowds, tie dye and overpriced botulism burgers. I like the idea of a festival, but I know that in reality I'd be permanently frightened of getting robbed or mobbed and I'd miss all the bands I want to see as I'd be searching for a clean enough portaloo.

Of course I'm aware that with our boy's love of music he is likely to want to go to festivals when he's older and I've started to plan for it already. He can go when he's old enough to buy his own ticket. It'll cost the same as a small family car by the time he's old enough anyway so he'll have to prioritise or go into a lucrative career if he wants to 'do Glastonbury.' I'm going to drive him there and park in the car park the whole time with a picnic basket and flask so if he gets soaked, robbed or bored he can get a lift to a pizza place for dinner or the Travelodge for a hot shower and breakfast. If he's really fed up I'll bring him home to watch the rest of the festival with me and his dad and we'll agree not to let on to anyone.

The first ever blog post I wrote 2 years ago was about how we watch festivals on the telly at home from the comfort of our sofa. So as a tribute to that post I've got an idea to get my son by until he's saved up enough to go to his first one. In order to give him the true festival experience and ensure I don't lose sleep or my sanity I'm prepared to do the following:

  • Set up a campsite at the end of the garden (it's 200 foot away so technically he's not still at home) 
  • Play music loudly out of the windows at the back of the house so he gets the true feel of being there
  • Charge him a tenner for a veggie burger and an organic beer  
  • Set up some stalls selling overpriced hemp t-shirts and trousers
  • Late at night we'll build a bonfire and I'll juggle while Hubbie sings and plays guitar
  • Line up all his toy cars and bikes into a traffic jam all the way to the garden gate so that it takes 6 hours to leave the site
We'll charge him twice as much for a ticket the following year and he'll still come back for more.

Ah welcome back festival season :o) 
Ben & Jerry's Big Sundae stage

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

In these shoes ? I don't think so…

Topshop shoes
I went back to work two months ago. In order to make it possible for me to work we have a finely tuned operation involving dropping off to and picking up from nursery, some home working and family childcare. My boy goes to nursery from Monday to Wednesday and on a Thursday he is at home with either Hubbie or my sister who is a nanny and has helped take care of him since he was a baby. 

The new routine has been tiring and repetitive and yet I've lost all ability to dress myself properly. You'd have thought that I'd have found my groove with what to wear to work by now, but apparently I have time to find clothes for my boy, but not for me. I was so perturbed by this revelation (brought on by two days last week where I was wearing entirely inappropriate clothing for the weather) that I put my name down for a style session at the Britmums event on Saturday.

Now bear in mind that I have always loved clothes and shoes and handbags and accessories and pretty much everything to do with fashion. I've never been a trend setter, but I always took time to keep up with what was in fashion and would browse and spend time and money in clothes shops. My happy place was Topshop Oxford Circus and if I was late home on a Thursday night Hubbie would call to check if I was there for late opening - I usually was. If friends phoned me I would often be part way through buying clothes or I'd have just bought some shoes. I loved clothes. I still do. I just don't know what to wear any more.
Topshop Oxford Circus

On the Saturday morning before I went to Britmums I got up early and looked outside the window to see what the weather was doing. I chose some loose fitting trousers instead of my usual jeggings and a shirt that I thought was light and pretty looking. They weren't high fashion or frumpy, they were ok. Kate (the stylist) took one look at what I was wearing and said, "your clothes are too big for you." I stammered a response along the lines of, "these were my post pregnancy trousers and the top was from East because I had a voucher to spend." How post pregnancy is three years exactly ? I'm seriously failing at being a yummy mummy.

Then yesterday I wore a top that kept falling off the shoulders with some jeans that are a bit loose and realised that I do it all the time. Today I caught sight of myself in the mirror at a pilates class and I saw an older version of my teenage self. Since I was 18 I've worn enormous clothes to disguise my shape. I used to buy men's large size t shirts which swamp me now, back then I was almost 2 stones lighter so I must have looked even more ridiculous. I still buy and wear clothes that are too big for me. I've done it for years. Well, decades actually.

In my head I'm much bigger than I actually am. In my mind I have fat knees. a massive body and chubby arms. Wearing clothes that are too big for me doesn't make me look slimmer, or shapely. They make me look like I've got someone else's clothes on. Dark clothes that don't fit too close to the body or flatter my figure.

Cat looking in a mirror at reflection of a lion.In order to be able to dress myself properly do I need to become one of those odd people who break a biscuit in half or eats 2 rice cakes for lunch ? Do I have to become skin and bone to be happy with my body so that I don't mind wearing clothes that fit me ? 

Or do I just accept that I'll never be skinny because that requires too much deprivation. I don't want to be so obsessed with myself that I only think about my own body shape to the detriment of all else. When I lost weight and was a size 10 I never truly accepted my smaller size. I kept all the jeans in larger sizes (just as well really) and still thought I was enormous. I was convinced that the labelling in Dorothy Perkins was somehow flawed.

So if I spend more time planning what my boy wears than what I wear I think that's ok. I've spent enough of my life (and money) on myself. Now it's his turn.

I have seen a great pair of shoes in Next that I think I might have to have though…  

Monday, 24 June 2013

Anger management course week 3: From Breakdown to Breakthrough

Lotus flowers on a pond with leavesSomething happened for the first time in our relationship the other day. I said to Hubbie this weekend words he's never heard before. 
"I don't know what we're going to eat tonight. I haven't bought anything or thought about it." This from a woman who has the meal plan on the fridge and a shopping list planned meticulously around what we're eating on every day of the week. 

Now if you're a randomer who flies by the seat of your pants on important issues like meal planning you won't get the significance of this. You see being organised is my raison d'etre. If I can't plan a meal, how on earth can I manage anything more complicated like dealing with a toddler's moods ?

On any given week I plan a radio show, the week's meals, my son's outfits, my lunches at work, the complex range of classes I go to in the evenings and ensure we don't run out of milk or bread. It's because of all these things that I run the daily risk of going to work on the train wearing 2 different shoes (best case scenario) or trousers that don't fit me and fall down as I run for the train (worst case scenario and yes this did actually happen to me). 

I can only surmise that something is going wrong and it's now that I've done 3 weeks of anger management for parents that I have any idea what it might be:

1. I've returned to work and it is a stressful job
2. My boy is properly going through the terrible twos and it's very, very hard work
3. I'm trying to do too much (clean the house, go to work, plan and cook meals, exercise to lose weight) and there is only one of me
4. I'm just so bloody tired all the time

I feel broken into bits - tired in body and mind. The kind of tired you are when you're a new parent and you can barely function. I can't think straight and my normal levels of organisation and planning have all but gone. I am not someone who asks for help and I do not tell anyone when I am falling apart. I keep going. I keep trying to do everything. It's a mechanism I have developed over the years to stave off depression as you can't have time to feel depressed if you're busy can you ? 

White cat lying with remote control in pawsSo I knew it had gone too far when this weekend after two days of being away from my boys I didn't actually want to spend time with them on the one day we had left together. Now I take my family time with Hubbie and my boy very seriously. When I'm not with them I ache from missing them so much - going to work is a great distraction as I can't think about not being with them if I'm busy. Feeling so upset that I don't want to be with them when they are right there is not a good sign. 

We all have bad days. Being told that the boy has broken something or hit someone at nursery is pretty bad. Not caring about it is worse. I've been doing the anger management so that I can use coping mechanisms to deal with his tantrums and to stop me having a meltdown of my own. I love him, but I have to be clear about what is not ok to do and not lose my mind at every small transgression. Being upset because he's run out into the road is understandable, but yelling the house down because he's dropped a biscuit not so much. 

So consider this post my public declaration of a cry for help. Since I started writing it I feel loads better just for saying it out loud. There is a lot more to say, but I'm going to bed early tonight to get some rest.

Only one more week of the course to go...

Sunday, 23 June 2013

I'm in a room of 500 oversharers and it's all ok :o)

I spent the best part of two days this weekend at an event for bloggers hosted by Britmums. I missed my boys terribly and am now out of my mind tired, but it was fabulous. The venue was really fancy, being in trendy East London as it was, and once lots of parenting bloggers arrived it was also packed, busy and very informative. It was my first time at Britmums live so I was a bit terrified and also quite excited to see what it was all about.

Social media chocs I went to sessions about feminism, social media and working with charities. It was all very interesting. I met bloggers whose words I've read that have made me laugh, cry and go 'huh ?' at various times. At the start of the event I was taking part in a discussion group where I met some bloggers I ended up practically stalking the rest of the time there. Apologies to Formerly Rock and Roll Mum  and the award-winning Vintage Folly  who probably got fed up of the sight of me grinning inanely at them as I was so delighted to have 'made friends' with real bloggers. Then the sheer delight at spotting Jen whose blog I follow and who is kind enough to read mine too. I feel like I already know her so to meet and talk to her in person was really lovely. I also managed to catch up with the only woman I know who has built an igloo with her kids. Strong coffee is also responsible for my purchase of a new handbag, but as the handle on the bag I was carrying had broken it was meant to be anyway. 

me standing with Scooby Doo
Then there were the freebies; cupcakes, books, soft toys, nappies and more cupcakes (well maybe that was just me). I came away from it all with my head buzzing with ideas, sore shoulders from carrying all the swag and a very big question niggling me. Why were there barely any bloggers there who weren't white ? Now this isn't a criticism of the organisation, after all they don't pre-select who can join. Neither is it a judgement of those bloggers who were there. While we choose to blog we don't choose our ethnicity and we are who we are and we're all doing something we love (hopefully). 

So maybe the pertinent question is do non-white bloggers just choose not to come to these events or are there just not that many of us ? After all there are writers from all different communities and people with an opinion or an interest to share. We are parents, we have families and issues and we talk about them, but maybe not on blogs. Katy Hill eloquently called us a room full of 'oversharers' and while I agree with that there is a lot I choose not to tell and I am very selective about what I share on here and on social media generally. 

It was very obvious to me in all the sessions that I attended that I was the only non-white person in the audience and in every case an all-white panel sitting at the front. When milling around during breaks and at the evening drinks I did spot a couple of women who were also of an 'ethnic' persuasion (how on earth can I say it without sounding either poncey and right on or just daft ?), but otherwise it was a bit of a step back in time. I mean the serving staff and cloakroom attendants were a diverse bunch, but the conference attendees didn't appear to be. Mind you there were 500 of us and while that is a lot it's hardly every blogger in the UK is it ?

Anyway, I had a fab time at Britmums live and would recommend it for the fun, the socialising, the learning and most of all the cupcakes !!

name badge from Britmums live

Friday, 21 June 2013

There will be (more) cake

iFreebies from Britmums live
I left Hubbie and the boy at home to their own devices today while I ventured out for the first day of Britmums Live. I knew they'd be fine as they smaller one had been such a beast with his Auntie yesterday that he had to have used up all the naughty by today. I found it hilarious when Hubbie explained that he'd last seen the coasters when our boy had been running through the house with them and they were probably somewhere near the JCB trucks.

While these interior design decisions were taking place I was making my way to the blogger conference that I'd bought my early bird ticket for in January. I signed up for a focus group thing and then promptly forgot all about it until earlier this week. Then I panicked as I realised that I didn't know anyone who was going or even where it was.

This morning I was awake early and went for a swim and came home to grab a cuppa and some toast before the boys offered to take me to that station. Then there was mad dash during which my son even managed to put this new shoes on the right feet - "son your shoes are on the wrong feet love" has been my most frequent refrain this week. I went to get my hair done for a confidence boost and left the salon looking very glamorous indeed. 

Small cakes on tiered cake stands By the time I arrived at the venue in trendy Barbican this afternoon I was pretty nervous, but distracted by the fact that on my day off from work I was spending it less than a mile from where I work. On my way there I walked through a food market that smelled gorgeous, but I didn't dare stop and get anything even though I'd had no lunch.

My nerves hadn't entirely dissipated when I got there as I had booked a ten minute slot to pitch to a literary agent and as he was running behind I was waiting outside to be told it was my turn. By the time I was called I'd completely lost my nerve and decided not to talk to him at all. Instead I passed my slot to someone else who was far better prepared than me as she was clutching a synopsis in her hands. I'm sure my time will come to pitch, but today was not it. 

Over the course of a few hours I managed to acquire a free pack of nappies, cupcakes for my boys with a picture of a dog on them and some picture books to review. I'd also met some bloggers in person who I know from reading their blogs and that was quite exciting. I had a quick chat with the lovely Jennifer Jain while supping a glass of fizz and made plans to meet another blogger pal over breakfast tomorrow. As I pointed out to her I'll be the one stuffing pastries in my mouth (and probably handbag too !)

bowler hat and lipstick face on loo doorI'm off to bed now, but hopefully tomorrow I won't feel so tired and can tell you more about what happened.

For now I shall bid you a good night and sweet dreams. 

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Tell me what happened and you get Brady face !!

There's an episode of american sitcom How I Met Your Mother where they are trying to avoid seeing the result of the superbowl so they can watch it on a recording. It's a modern take on a Likely Lads episode where they don't want to hear the score of the match they are going to watch on repeat later. The humour is in how they have to blindfold themselves and cover their ears while in company and even turn away from seeing any tv screens to ensure they don't spoil the surprise.

On a Wednesday when occasionally me and Hubbie have been out for the evening I can relate to both of these scenarios as we try and avoid all human contact and social media so that when we get home to watch the Apprentice we won't already know who was fired. It is a minefield of course as an inadvertent click of TV channel or sideways glance at the BBC news website could mean it's game over.

We take the suspense of it all very seriously so the fact that we live in a digital age where there are so many potential spoilers causes a frisson that possibly exceeds watching the show itself.

Now I can't sit here nattering I have a recording of the Apprentice to watch. Ooh look they're filming at a venue we looked at for out wedding reception !!

Whatever you do don't tell me what happens or guess what ?

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

One time, at band camp...

During one of my regular inbox sweeps today I spotted an email from Ocado that started with the words "Book now for your kids to be taught by Valentine Warner." If it's not a 20% off voucher for shopping I park it until later so I only just read the actual content. It seems Valentine Warner is a bloke and he does cooking on the telly and is doing something called Root Camp. It's a hands on cookery course for teenagers aged 15-21 (so their marketing bods got it slightly wrong there as my boy has a full 12 years before he qualifies).

The lovely Alyson Hannigan in the movie American Pie with a flute Apparently the idea is that you send your teens off to West Wales to plant, weed, harvest, forage and cook. Considering the age range I can see it being more like the ubiquitous "Band Camp" from American Pie with a bunch of hormonal teens let loose in the fresh country air. It's certainly a far cry from the Summer activities I was used to and is a lot more 'right on' too.

I'm sure by the time my boy is 15 I won't get any say in how he spends his Summer holidays. As it is I'm terrified at the prospect of him going on trips once he's at school and that's at least two years away. I saw a gaggle of school kids this afternoon who were walking a snakey line behind their teacher into Euston Square tube station and onto the platform. 

To my insane parent mind the teacher was far too relaxed about this and was letting them walk freely and everything. I mean anything could happen, one of them could wander off away from the group, they could fall onto the tracks or get mugged by some unscrupulous sort for their packed lunch. It's irrational - I know.

So while the kids of the well-meaning Ocado parents are off in West Wales making pesto and foraging mine will be setting up camp at the end of the garden and coming indoors for dinner and a warm bed if it rains. Hey judge all you want I don't do camping. 

I'm only a fan of being a free spirit in principle so I want my son to spread his wings, but within my line of sight.  

I'm sure he'll humour me for a while at least. 

Monday, 17 June 2013

I'd still hide the knives though...

Do you remember that female character on the Fast Show who was a high flying, achieving independent woman until a man was in the room then she'd be reduced to gibbering in baby talk and conceding to the man's assumed superiority ? Arabella Weir created a comic character that we found funny because we knew her, we recognised her. Dammit at times we even were her.

I'd forgotten about her until today when I was in a room where there were 7 women (2 of them trainers) and one man for the second week of an anger management course I'm taking. Each of us took it in turns to answer questions, make contributions or to tell anecdotes, but I realised something glaringly obvious. Whenever the man spoke a lot of the women would laugh extra loud at jokes that I've heard other people tell, or praise an achievement extra highly, "oh that's a great idea."

Now I've seen this kind of behaviour my whole life and it still drives me crazy. The over-appreciation of someone purely because they're a man or because they're a blonde or something. It used to make me resentful and angry. Now, I just feel very sad that women feel the need to laugh a bit too loud because there's a man in the room. Or men feel the need to show off more than usual because there's a blonde woman in the room.

The good thing is I don't feel homicidal when it happens. It still makes me feel sad, but I'm now observing the behaviour and commenting on it instead of getting enraged by it.

Maybe I'm making progress on the course already ?

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Bacon for breakfast.

This morning my boy wandered over to the side cabinet by mine and Hubbie's bed and picked up a small flat purple case:

"Switch on the ipad Mummy." he said.
"It's not an ipad sweetie it's a kindle. Now go and brush your teeth" I said.
He proceeded to open the case to check.
"Watch Peppa Pig on it Mummy." he said.
"It's not a tablet honey, you can't watch Peppa Pig on it. Go and brush your teeth" I said.
"Daddy watch Peppa Pig on the phone please." he said.
"Ok son, you can watch one Peppa Pig on my phone then we can go and brush our teeth."

I guess that's why it's called Fathers' day.
Hubbie wearing a Daddy Pig t-shirt

Saturday, 15 June 2013

My boy loved the Pink Cadillac the best

Tomorrow is Fathers' day. In the last week a few things have cropped up that are relevant to this fact.
  • Firstly there was a news story about the 'lack of male role models' in the lives of some children in the UK. The story suggested that women raising children on their own and the paucity of male teachers and care givers is harming our children.
  • Then there was the usual Fathers for Justice stunt with a man arrested for defacing a portrait of the Queen. I have no idea if the campaigner was dressed as a superhero.
  • Finally a work colleague made some reference to Fathers' Day being a made up construct to sell cards and gifts as thought all the other 'Hallmark Holidays' are somehow more legitimate. 
I've said before that we love a celebration so any excuse for pressies or feasting will always go down well. In our family we do mark the day, usually with a card and small gift for mine and Hubbie's fathers and we do something special for Hubbie. (Of course there are also presents involved, but he's going to read this so I won't go into details).

This evening we went out for a pre-Fathers' Day meal at a fifties themed diner and a lot of other families seemed to be doing the same. It was as you'd expect with neon signs, a jukebox and frothy milkshakes in tall glasses. Hubbie and son loved it. We're hoping for good weather tomorrow so that we can go to a classic car show that both Hubbie and son will also love.

You see I think that it is important to recognise the importance of fathers and if that's with one day in the year that's fine. My son has a great relationship with Hubbie, he has male (and female) football coaches and there are also male staff at his nursery. I realise that isn't the case for all children and I also recognise that I am fortunate to have Hubbie who does as much childcare as I do - not everyone is that lucky.

The jukebox didn't have this on it so I'm playing it on here instead - just for Hubbie :o)

Happy Father's Day xxx

Friday, 14 June 2013

Very nearly an armful isn't so much

teacup and saucer and digestive biscuitI've mentioned before how important it is to give blood: it's simple, it saves lives and you get tea and biscuits after you donate.

These three reasons alone should be enough to convince you surely ?

If not then how about these three:
  • 2 million donations are needed every year in order to maintain stocks of blood
  • That's 200,000 new donors every year
  • 96% of people rely on the 4% of us who donate blood.
I first gave blood when I was at university. My friend Robin went with me as I was nervous and didn't like needles (I still don't). He sat and chatted to me while we waited to donate. After he'd donated he came and stood by my bed to keep me company while I did the same.

I will share the advice he gave that helped me. Tell them it's your first donation and that you are nervous / scared of needles / a big old baby. The staff who work for the blood donation service are amazing and very kind and reassuring.

Of course I've tried to persuade Hubbie to give despite his pathalogical fear of needles and the sight of blood (I have no idea how he coped with the birth of our son, but I guess adrenaline helped). So far he has made it as far as sitting on the chairs while I filled out the forms. I'm working on getting him to stay in the room long enough to join me for tea and biscuits.

It's National Blood Week this week:

If you already give blood - well done and thank you.

If you don't then please remember that some people can't donate so if you can please do think about it. 

Thursday, 13 June 2013

If I could turn back time… I probably wouldn't

I went to a work reunion this evening in Putney with colleagues I knew more than 12 years ago. It was a workplace where I genuinely knew other people's business and even though it was a large charity based on two separate sites I knew people in every department by the time I left. Part of this is because of my natural nosiness and part of it is because I was there at a significant time in my life.

    London Eye and rainbow balloon
  • Shortly after I joined VSO I got married to my first husband. 
  • Not long after that I left my first husband. 
  • I moved back in with my parents, lost weight and cut my hair short - first the "Rachel" then proper short.
  • Celebrated my 30th birthday on the London Eye with some of my colleagues invited. 
  • My doomed infatuation with "Sid" who worked on the floor below and cycled to work - what was it about men from the North East with long dark hair ? 
In fact we were both fresh from bad break ups - he'd just separated from 'Mandy' and she took the kettle. I'd left and taken the iron even though I don't actually do ironing.

Maybe it's because I had so much turmoil in my personal life that I knew so much about my colleagues' lives ? Here's a representative sample: 

  • The lovely lady with two young sons whose husband walked out leaving her and the boys.
  • The soft spoken woman who had a bleed on the brain
  • The man whose ambition was to drive Route 66, but had to pass his driving test first 
This morning I panicked when I realised that my hair really desperately needed a wash and I couldn't do it today. What if "Sid" was there ? I had no expectation that he would be or that he'd even know who I was any more. More to the point I am happily married so it really wouldn't matter. He wasn't there.

I left early as I'd spoken to the friend I wanted to see the most, but also because I kept having flashbacks. Evenings spent drinking wine and eating crisps in the Coat and Badge pub until very late. Sitting in dark corners wondering if "Sid" and I would ever progress from pub talk to dinner (we did) from dinner to dating (we didn't).

Still nostalgia is nice isn't it ?  

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

You better watch out … real bad...

I think I've scored a small victory today and I have Russell Brand to thank for it.

comedy mic
You see a few years ago after a particularly unpleasant evening at Jongleurs Hubbie decided that he didn't like stand-up comedy and wasn't going to go to gigs any more. All thanks to an idiotic Aussie comedian who thinks he's being 'controversial' when he's actually just being an arse. I've spent the ensuing years trying to rehabilitate the reputation of live comedy with small steps. 

Firstly I can thank Daniel Kitson - we went to see him in Brighton then another time in London and Hubbie admitted that he liked him. The process of bringing him back to comedy had begun.

Then we had a set back in the unlikely form of Eddie Izzard. I'd made a really big deal about going to see him live as I've seen almost every tour he's done and met my closest friend at an Izzard gig many moons ago. Unfortunately the day before we went to see Eddie at Wembley the DVD of that very show had been released. I was so livid I stood outside looking for touts to buy the tickets so we could then go out for a meal instead. 

Time passed and I went to watch comedy with other friends who like Phil Nicol and Doc Brown. Then Adam Hills' show The Last Leg became a fixture in our house during the Paralympics and we cried laughing watching his stand up show on TV. I tentatively asked Hubbie if he'd like to see Adam live in September and he said yes. Hoorah !! 

Then a few weeks ago Hubbie bought us tickets to see Mark Thomas live. I'll say that again, HE bought the tickets voluntarily. It was a local gig trying out new material and we had a great evening together. Quite a safe option though as we have seen Mark Thomas before and we know we like his stuff. 

Which brings us to today. I saw a tweet from Russell Brand that referred to his live gigs on the Messiah Complex tour. There were tickets available so I asked my pal first and she's not a fan of Brand so I asked Hubbie if he wanted to go, fully expecting a no. A few minutes later he replied with a reference from Ponderland (a clip show Russell used to do). Then just to be sure I asked again and he said "yes that sounds nice." 

So the rehabilitation is complete. We can, once again, go to stand-up comedy gigs together. 

I do believe that the Messiah has healed :o) 

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Hear ye hear ye - read all about it (every day !!)

As well as hosting my own radio show on a Monday Hubbie and I present a music show jointly that goes out online every two weeks. We make time to pre-record shows based on themes that we've chosen and pick songs that we play in turns on a show called "His & Hers." 

packet of chocolate digestive biscuits wearing headphones
The idea came about because we have different preferences in music style and it provides contrast and - we hope - interest for listeners to hear how we've interpreted the theme. In the past we've done shows about colours, numbers, movies and food. Today we recorded two shows about couples who are in bands either together or separately. You know, Abba who were married to each other or Sonny & Cher. Neither of these made the cut, but you can listen on Friday 21st June and find out who we chose.

It's almost as much fun to choose the theme and songs as it it doing the show. It's a fun challenge and harks back to our shared history and the interests we had before we were Mummy and Daddy. You see we met when we were both doing a journalism course and had aspirations to be writers for a living. While both of us do write a lot for our work neither of us does it as a job or is paid for writing. Of course, that's the reason I have this blog.

So with that in mind I'm challenging myself to write a post every day. The logic being that by writing every day I'm closer to getting into the discipline of being a writer.

A health warning for you though dear reader, the posts may well be shorter than usual (which may be no bad thing).

So let's see how it goes shall we ?

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The day my son first drove a car (and a helicopter and a boat)

Peppa Pig World theme park at Paulton's Park
Well, after rain stopped play on Friday we finally got to Peppa Pig World yesterday and it was a gloriously sunny day. It was also quite busy, but actually not as bad as we'd feared it was going to be on a weekend. It was the first time we've taken our boy to a theme park on a day out so it was a new experience for all of us. We packed a picnic, bundled the boy and Grandma into the car and made our way to get there when it opened - we were not alone.

Those in the know arrive early and lots of parents I spoke to have been before and it says a lot that people come back so often. For us it was worth the queuing and the occasional tantrum as the whole place is designed for small children and the adults that they bring with them. Most of the rides were perfect for our toddler and there was plenty of space to eat a picnic in peace. Importantly there is babychanging in male and female toilets and the toilet seats are suitable for children and adults to use.

I've never been a great fan of theme parks thanks to my timidness on rides (even Miss Rabbit's balloon ride was a bit much for me !) so it was a big departure for me. I would definitely take our boy again though - not least as he's free until he's a metre tall and he's almost that already. As the in-laws live so close by it's also manageable for us.

It was a lovely family day out and our highlights included:

- the initial squeal of joy as our boy saw the sign showing Peppa, George, Mummy and Daddy Pig on the way in to Paulton's Park - you see we hadn't told him where we were planning to go

- seeing so many fathers wearing Daddy Pig t-shirts and insisting to their kids that they are the real one not all these imposter Daddies.

- carrying my son on my shoulders to meet Peppa and George - he has met them both before, but it was more magical to see them in their own house.

- the man who was overjoyed at winning a soft toy at the fiendishly difficult Candy Cat games stall only to be outraged that he was only allowed to win one toy per day, "I've got two kids, how is that fair ?" (well learning to read the sign that tells you the rules before you play might help !)

- my boy insisting he wanted to ride in a blue car on the Daddy Pig car ride all the way along the queue then his delight that he got to drive a blue car - dreams do come true son !

- our boy making a beeline for Peppa's teddy as he chose a toy from the shop just before we left to go home. He was holding it with genuine affection at the end of a tiring, but fun day.

Grandpa Pig's boat ride
Before we left in the morning our boy was watching Peppa Pig cartoons in Italian and I think he might now be fluent - I only know that Miss Rabbit in Italian is "Signorina Rabbita" which might be handy for Miss Rabbit's ice cream parlour if she decides to branch out into gelato.

The power of the pink one is incredible and my only objection is that they only sell pink Peppa clothes for girls and blue and green George clothes for boys. The Daddy and Mummy Pig shirts are also gender specific which is disappointing when clearly boys and girls love Peppa Pig's family in equal measure.

Now we've tried this theme park I don't feel so worried about visiting Legoland or Chessington when he's older.

Just don't ask me to go on any of the big rollercoasters son - please.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Rainy days and other parenting nightmares.

Kate Winslet promotional photo Kate Winslet is pregnant with her third child and most papers ran the same rehashed press release to announce the 'news.' One newspaper, however, went with a story commenting on the fact that the actress already has two children with different fathers and the writer makes snooty remarks about how you're 'supposed' to get married once and have all your children with the one partner. It refers to her being in danger of 'doing an Ulrika' and having four children all with different fathers if she's not careful. I'm not sure who made these rules or who decided that it was a journalist who should be the one to enforce them as last time I looked the media and the press in particular were on shaky ground regarding ethics and morality (phone hacking anyone ?)

What is sadder about this is the supposition that Kate has somehow decided to have consecutive marriages and to have children with different fathers. I don't know anyone who goes into a relationship thinking it is going to fail, much less a marriage and kids. Surely our expectations when meeting someone and falling for them is that we will be together for a long time. I grew up in a family that did not approve of having girlfriends and boyfriends. It was considered inappropriate to have relationships before marriage and sex outside marriage was a complete taboo. Hubbie was raised differently and his first wife was the girlfriend he'd been seeing since he was 16. Our relationship histories are completely different and yet the outcomes have been exactly the same. We both got married in our twenties and were divorced by the time we were in our thirties.

In retrospect both Hubbie and I can see clearly why our first marriages didn't work, but at the time we didn't go into them thinking they would go wrong. In the same way neither of us had children with our first partners, but that could be as much dumb luck as design. Having to keep in touch with someone you broke up with for the sake of the children cannot be easy and I have lost count of the times when a friend has been let down by the other parent. One friend was frustrated by the father of her son announcing he wasn't going to be able to take him that weekend as arranged. She had already made plans for the weekend, but instead of making alternative arrangements as he should have done he expected her to sort it out. In another instance a friend has raised her daughter for 12 years with the father seeing his daughter every other weekend. Now that she is almost 12 the daughter has decided to live with her father instead and this has left my friend distraught and feeling like a failure for not being 'good enough' - sound familiar ?

Not all separated parents have issues of course. Another friend is in a relationship with a man whose daughter from his previous relationship stays with them every other weekend and in the holidays. They have another son and the family arrangement works for all of them including the ex and the dog.

The sheer mechanics of ensuring that parents have equal access to the children would be enough to put anyone off having serial relationships. If you were an international jet-setting film star and the fathers of your children lived on different continents wouldn't that make it difficult to plan visits and weekends ?

Rainy day image in a wet windowWe had planned a visit to Peppa Pig World today with our son and his Grandma and when we woke up it was pouring with rain and hasn't stopped since. Sometimes things happen that you weren't expecting and that you hadn't planned for. You don't stop hoping it's going to get better or give up looking for the sunshine and happiness do you ?

I'm sure Kate is just like the rest of us in hoping for the best and doing the best she can.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Do you remember the first time ?

No, not that you smutty devil. I mean the first time you've done mundane things that you now take for granted. I realised recently that while there are the firsts that are perfectly acceptable in life eg. the first time someone calls you "Ma'am" and you're flattered rather than horrified or the first time your child uses actual words rather than a series of grunts and screams. The other kind are the ones that make you question whether you've missed the point somewhere. I'll tell you what I mean.

Until a week ago my son had never had a plaster. He has - of course - fallen over and scratched his legs and arms, but for some reason we've never offered to put a plaster on. Now I've created a monster who insists on a Peppa Pig plaster for his imaginary injuries. He also asks for medicine at the first sign of a cough, but I'm pretty sure that's junior hypochondria.

Bouncy Castle:
Bouncy castle with my son jumping around on it At the weekend we all went to a Big Lunch event locally and all the way there we were building up the excitement about the bouncy castle that was going to be there. Then I realised that the boy had never even been on one before. I assumed that he would know what it was and that he'd be keen to go on it despite his lack of knowledge of what it actually is. He watched the other kids jumping around having fun and got the hang of it pretty fast so I don't feel the lack of bouncy fun so far has inflicted any long term trauma.

Birthday cupcake with a candle Grown-up Birthday:
It has taken me almost three years of parenting to get over my need to make a big fanfare of my birthday. This year I did nice things with a few special people and decided to skip the 'invite everyone over for a party' celebration where I spend the whole day fussing and not talking to anyone for more than five minutes. We cut a small cake at home and then went out for a gastro-pub lunch. I think the low-key approach could be the way to go in the future.

Late adopter:
Hubbie has been a blackberry user for many years and only lately decided to break with tradition and go for the iphone 5. It has been a learning experience for him to become an Apple user - he has an ipod from way back, but hasn't used an Apple phone before. It's also the first time I've been the 'early adopter' in our relationship.

guitar and ampNow I'm not suggesting that me and Hubbie haven't snogged before. Of course we have in the past, it's the best bit of being in a new relationship. I was once at the Royal Court Theatre and there was a couple who were fiercely snogging throughout the entire matinee performance. It's a small theatre so I think the whole audience were party to this teenage, fumbling snogfest. I casually remarked that they were clearly having an affair. After all if they were married (to each other) they'd have a home to go to where they could do that. Then the other day I was watching a movie starring Heath Ledger (some teen flick) and it occurred to me that the anticipation of that frenzied teenage kissing goes once you can kiss your partner whenever you like. So as we approach our 7th wedding anniversary we're trying to recapture some of those 'first moment' feelings and the romance and lust that typifies early courtship.

This could translate as Hubbie lugging an electric guitar and amp around for me to borrow or me hanging around his workplace pretending I was 'just passing.'

It's more likely, however, to be us making each other laugh and remembering how much fun it was getting to know each other. Now where did I put that lip gloss ?

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Don't make me angry, you wouldn't like me when I'm angry

plants in my garden
It's the first of June so it's officially the start of Summer today. In a few weeks it will be the longest day then the slow descent into the winter months again. Maybe it's the lack of proper sunshine that has left most of us feeling distinctly deflated. There have been a few good days and I've managed to get into the garden to do some weeding and hopefully tomorrow I can even plant some things that have been hanging around waiting, a few bulbs, some seeds and some plants that have been kindly given to me by a fellow Freegler. Just this week I noticed that the strawberry plants from last year are growing again so hopefully we'll get to them before the thieving squirrels this year !

The theme of growing has also added to my sense of low-lying discontent though. You see in a parallel universe I'd be struggling to garden and weed and plant. I'd be a little uncomfortable with the hotter days and probably have an even shorter temper with my toddler who is fully embracing the terrible twos right now. Twice recently Hubbie has asked me "when is your anger management course starting again ?" when I've lost it over something entirely unwarranted (a chipped plate was the most recent cause of consternation).

pregnant kate middleton
What he's missing is the thing that I'm missing. In the parallel universe I'd be seven months pregnant right now. The talk about Kate Middleton's pregnancy would bring a rolling of the eyes as I'd pity my poor little one for being due just after the royal progeny. I'd be planning for a second child and talking to my son about the younger brother or sister he'd be having soon. Instead I'm marking time when I would have been having a scan, would have been avoiding runny eggs, changing my yoga routine to be more baby friendly. It's not that I think about it every single moment of every single day, but it is there and I can't pretend it's not.

On a Sunday morning last December I found out I was pregnant. Hubbie and I were delighted and immediately excited about when to tell our parents they were to have another grandchild. We talked about how and what to tell our son. We were generally grateful and overjoyed. The next day the news broke that Kate Middleton was pregnant and we joked that our big news had been hi-jacked by the royal baby. Not that we were about to tell anyone just yet of course.

I made an appointment to see the doctor and updated my iphone apps from conception to pregnancy ones. Only something wasn't right. I couldn't recall exactly how I felt the time I was pregnant before - mostly complete disbelief and joy - but there was something not right. The doctor was dismissive and said "let's just see what happens," and everywhere I looked there were references to miscarriage. I mean everywhere.

Then it was gone. Completely. No drama, no cinematic moment, just gone. Now, I'm aware that this happens all the time and has happened to a lot of people I know. We were devastated, but made a decision to just treat it as if nothing had happened, after all it was so early if I hadn't tested I wouldn't even have known. So we made a deal to 'keep calm and carry on." I told a few close friends and left it at that.

We had Christmas and didn't tell our families. It was tough and it was sad, but we are so blessed to have our son already and he is wonderful (when he's not yelling or demanding or spilling or… you get the idea). We looked forward to a new year and new adventures and it looked like we'd really be able to put it behind us. Only I haven't really.

I know I'm not unique. I know it happens very often. It just haunts me. When I see women who are as pregnant as I'd be right now. The almost constant focus on pregnancy in the media. My inability to go a day without bursting into tears.

And in case he asks again the anger management course starts in two weeks.

It can't come soon enough.
anger management cartoon