Wanted: Hot Water And Lighting

Some readers may consider this far Too Much Information, but this morning I got up and used the toilet. Then I flushed it. After that, I had a shower and  washed my hair.

This was a big deal for me, because for the last two days, we have had  no running water upstairs and no hot water anywhere in the house. By the time this problem got sorted, after 9 o’clock last night, the novelty of boiling the kettle for hot water and having to queue for our one flushing toilet had well and truly worn off.

I almost cried with relief when the plumber, who we’d had locked in the loft all day, announced we could turn the water back on.

The fun and games started on Monday night, when DD2 came down stairs and told us that there was water running through our bedroom ceiling, through our ceiling fan. Luckily DH was home, and he went up to the loft to take a look. He’s not much one for DIY but he knows a leak when he sees one, so turned off the water while he was up there.

He got a couple of  little shocks from the pipes while he was up there, so once he came downstairs he also turned off the upstairs electricity and the switch that controls all the lighting in the house. Then he rang our Emergency Home Cover Insurers; Lloyds TSB.

They were quite helpful and told him to keep the water and lights/ electricity off overnight. We were also instructed to turn on all the taps in order to drain the loft water tank as quickly as possible.Then they booked us a plumber to come and check on the damage the following morning ( Tuesday), as well as an electrician to come out the following evening ( Wednesday), once things had dried out a bit.

Luckily all the kids were asleep by this point, despite all the stomping about in the loft space, but DH and I got very little sleep with a bucket on the bed between us. I kept waking and wondering if the ceiling was going to cave in on us, and then had a coughing fit at 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep.

The plumber turned up on time on Tuesday morning and diagnosed a split water tank. He told us he thought it would be covered by the insurance and submitted his findings, so all we could do is sit tight and wait. At least we had heating and the internet!

In the meantime we dug out torches and lanterns and bought some batteries in preparation for dusk. By 7 pm the verdict was in; Lloyds TSB wouldn’t pay to replace the tank or fix the ceiling, all they had to do was make the situation safe and they had done this. While I marched the kids across the road to a kind neighbour’s place for a bath, DH got on the phone and started ringing plumbers.

The first quote seemed very high, considering the cost of the tank,  but when the second plumber came up with a similar figure, and had availability for the Wednesday, we decided we had to just suck it up. The plumber was very good and worked all day, until just after 9pm when he gave us the good news. We had water again.

I have NEVER been so glad to hear a toilet flush!

The bad news is that we still don’t have lighting. We have electricity downstairs, thank goodness, but the promised electrician didn’t show up last night. DH rang to enquire as to their whereabouts, and was told that ‘unfortunately’ we had been missed off the list and all they could offer us was an appointment ‘after midnight’. We politely declined this, having just got 4 over tired, slightly unsettled kids to bed, so are waiting for them to turn up sometime today. 1-5pm is the time slot we have been given, so we’ll see.

Even if he turns up, I’m assuming the electrician will only be able to assess the situation, not fix it, and then we’ll be back to tracking down someone who can make the repairs, hopefully before the end of the week.

I am a little stressed, as it’s really hard to do things in the dark and I keep falling over our black and grey dogs.

But I’m very thankful that at least it didn’t happen next week, and that we have the water  back on. We can cope with torches, lanterns and Christmas lights for a few more days if we have to; having no water was much worse.

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The Gallery: Christmas

One of the best things about having a family is creating family traditions, and Christmas-time gives you plenty of opportunities to do this.

There is more than a bit of magic in the air, so even the older kids are willing to suspend disbelief, and the surfeit of decorations and lights give you props galore.

We haven’t got our tree up yet, but we do have our Christmas mantel piece decorated. I do this ready for December the 1st and yes, an Elf on the Shelf is usually involved. That Christmas tradition seemed like a good idea at the time. I’m not so sure now but the kids love it so I can’t see myself being allowed to stop any time soon.

Note To Self: before you begin a family tradition: make sure you are willing and able to continue with it until the kids get bored of it!

One tradition that I’m happy to continue with until  *I* get bored  is our Angel Chimes.

Angel Chimes Shadow

I had never seen these until I moved to the UK, but when I saw them in action, I knew had to have one.

I put new candles in it every Christmas, burn them for a couple of minutes every evening and watch the little angels spin around and ring the bells. The little ‘ting, ting, ting’ tells me that Christmas is truly here!

For more Festive Fun, check out this Week’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.

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Girls And Boys Come Out To Play

In this day and age, I find it hard to believe that we are still subjected to the old ‘Girls’ Toys’ and ‘Boys’ Toys’ debate. But it seems there are still companies out there that think the general public needs guidance about which toys boys and girls should play with.

Come on people, it’s 2014. Surely we should have left these ideas back in the 1900s?

But no. Unbelievably, gender-stereotyped toy marketing is alive and well, online and off, according to the Let Toys Be Toys campaign. Just under 50%of the sites they surveyed still present their wares as appropriate for Boys or Girls. I’ve come across one of these sites myself while looking for presents for the kids online.

Wicked Uncle has been around for a few years now, but has some fantastic toys. It’s just a pity that the only way you can navigate the site is by looking for ‘BOYS PRESENTS’  or  ‘GIRLS PRESENTS’.

Gender stereotyping toy markieting

Sites like Wicked Uncle defend their choice to market toys by gender by saying ‘  The whole point of Wicked Uncle is to be age and gender specific to help customers. An uncle without a daughter of his own needs an ‘appropriate’ choice to assist his buying a good present for his niece. By ‘appropriate’ we have a huge range of presents from pink & girly to science & rockets, all of which are age appropriate as well (eg 6+ age guidelines). Yes, we are led by the commonly recognised blue for boys & pink for girls colour scheme, but this makes it clear & easy for our customers, as everyone knows it.’

So there you go, companies like Wicked Uncle feel that children need to be given ‘appropriate’ toys only.  However,  these days many people are challenging these ideas.

As well a couple of apostrophes, Wicked Uncle could really do with an alternative way of navigating the site. I’d prefer to see the gender navigation disappear altogether, but how about at least categorising toys by theme, age range or price as well?

Some of you may be wondering if gender stereotyping toys is really that much of a problem. Is it really hurting anyone?

I’m with the Let Toys Be Toys campaign on this one and feel that children should be encouraged to choose and play with any toy they like the look of. Offering toys dependent on gender serves only to limit the range of toys deemed ‘appropriate’ for a child’s gender, and they may therefore miss out on discovering an activity or craft that they really enjoy.

If a child has already developed a taste for a ‘non- appropriate’ toy for their gender, for example dolls for boys or vehicles for girls, then they may decide to stop playing with them,if they are then told that their interests are ‘wrong’.

And while we are on the topic of gender stereotyping, I thought I’d slip in this little gem.

It seems that it’s not just toys that are still being deemed gender specific these days. There are ‘appropriate’ words for both boys and girls too!

A friend of mine, knowing I have an interest in such things, sent me these photos yesterday.

girls words

boy's words
These were being sold in the shop of the very popular Willows Activity Farm in Hertfordshire. I didn’t know that ‘chocolate’ was a word for girls, while ‘swimming’ was for boys! Did you?

toys for boys and girls

The Gallery: Babies

4 day old baby

13 years ago today, I spent the entire day waiting to go into labour. The rest of my NCT class already had their little bundles of joy in their arms and I was absolutely convinced that I too, was going to have a baby by  the time 4.12.2001 rolled around.

Of course, I didn’t. Only 5% of pregnant women give birth on their Estimated Delivery Date, but such is the power of the ‘EDD’ that almost every first-time pregnant woman believes that their baby will miraculously spring forth from their uterus on time.

The clue is probably in the word ‘Estimated’ and despite my determination to offload my not-so-little passenger, the consumption of two pineapples and much staircase climbing, she refused to make an appearance on that day, or the next, or the next, or the next.

In fact, she didn’t even have the grace to show up before 42 weeks of pregnancy  and had to be chemically evicted in the end. Despite the horror stories that you often hear about induction, it was absolutely fine. I just wish I’d taken the pain killers earlier; there are absolutely no medals handed out in child birth.

DD1 was born 1 week before Christmas and apparently we have ruined her life by saddling her with a birthday so close to the 25th of December. I tell her I’m sorry that she has such a inconvenient birthday, but if she had chosen to arrive when she was supposed to, it would have suited us both fine.

Despite her dissatisfaction with her birthdate, the fact  remains that in 2 weeks’ time I will have a teenager on my hands. I am more scared of this stage than I ever was of giving birth.

It’s going to last longer than labour, there are no pain killers available ( unless wine counts) and medical intervention isn’t an option. Wish me luck.

This post was written in response to this week’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.

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The Last Nativity

Eight years ago I was sitting in our primary school hall, watching my eldest take part in the school Nativity Play. She was an innkeeper, wore a tea towel on her head and had a single line. She remembered it and the words came from her loud and clear. I was the proudest Mum ever as I watched her up on that stage but for some reason I found myself welling up.

I’m ashamed to say I can’t remember what I did with DD3 that day, who was just under a year old. Perhaps a friend looked after her? I can’t remember. But I know that DD2 was at nursery; I remember thinking that the next year I’d have two girls in the Nativity, up on the stage.

That second year I realised that our school Nativity changed very little from year to year. Each Y1 class does a little play then the Y2′s provide the choir, while the Reception children act out the Nativity. It’s very sweet and over the years, as I’ve watched my children on stage as bells, stars, turkeys, donkey sellers and soldiers, DH and I have gradually learnt all the words to all the songs.

Today we went to watch our ninth Nativity play. There was some trepidation as the school now has a new head teacher, and we thought maybe he might have changed it all. We needn’t have worried. It was all exactly as it should be.

DS is now in Y2 and he was in the choir today, singing his little heart out and stopping only to pick his nose now and again. I got to the school a whole hour before the play started in order to get a decent seat. It was worth it as DS was able to see us straight away and he grinned and waved.

It was a lovely play and although DS was ‘only’ in the choir, DH and I watched every move he made. I found myself remembering the first time his eldest sister had been up on that stage;  at that point DS didn’t even exist. That thought made me feel weird and as usual, my eyes leaked a little.

But today I had a reason, as today’s play was also our Last Nativity. Next year DS will be in Y3 and the Upper School does something different for Christmas. We will never again hear those songs or watch very young children trip up over their costumes, or forget their words. Part of me feels relieved but another part feels sad. That’s a bit of school life that we can now put behind us as a family.

But if you are lucky enough to be going to watch your child’s Nativity play this year, pay attention, listen carefully and take some photos if you are allowed. Because time passes, children grow. Life happens. And sooner or later you  too will be sitting in a school hall, holding the tears back, watching your own Last Nativity Ever .

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Calm Down! It’s Only November.

It’s not hard to tell Christmas is galloping over the horizon.

In case we need reminding, the TV is blaring out Christmas adverts between programmes, the high street festive lights have been on for a couple of weeks and the stores are fully stocked with all the chocolate goodies you expect from Christmas. I’ve even seen photos of Christmas trees on my FaceBook  timeline.

But today is the 25th of NOVEMBER, so we have over 4 weeks to go. Isn’t it too early for trees and carols?

I’m not saying people shouldn’t be getting organised with presentsand supermarket deliveries, but surely it’s too soon for all the decorations and advertising? It seems to get earlier each year, doesn’t it?

I was Googling to see if I could find any proof that we do indeed have Christmas foisted upon us earlier each year, and I couldn’t find any dates; just a description of something called the ‘Christmas Creep’. It tells of stores around the world stocking Christmas products in October, or even September and assured me that I’m not just imagining the whole thing.

There should be a law against it. The beginning of December is early enough, otherwise the countdown until Christmas just gets boring. Can’t we just put it all off until December, then declare it open season?

In our house, our eldest was born a week before Christmas, so a lot of the focus is on her birthday until that’s done and dusted. We do try and get the tree up before her special day though, and I can remember her asking, when she was very young, if all the decorations in a huge shopping mall were for her birthday. One year we left getting a tree quite late, and she was upset by its absence. So the tree usually  goes up around the 15th in our house.

However I have been informed that the tree is arriving on the 4th this year, so it seems Christmas Creep is a definite issue here. I’m a little worried the poor thing will be a mere twig by the 25th! Oh well, bring on the mulled wine and Christmas songs.

When do you think the Christmas Kerfuffle should start? When does the tree go up in your house?

grumpy cat