A Small Boy’s Treasure.

Every so often one of the kids claims a piece of ‘junk’ as theirs, and it instantly becomes something special, coveted by all the others.

This is DS’s cardboard tube; his sisters christened it ‘tubey’ ( a la Sponge Bob) and tried to steal it at every opportunity. One of them even decorated it with hearts and flowers in an effort to claim it as her own but DS wasn’t fooled.

Tubey began life as the inside of  roll of paper towels and was initially slung on the recycling pile to be put out for collection. But it rolled off the top of the heap, landed in front of DS and a relationship began. He hung onto it for almost 3 days, a record in this house. This photo was taken on the second day and so you can see tubey is starting to look a more elliptical than circular.

DS spent a lot of time using it as a telescope, but also liked to see if various things would fit through it. Some of his take-along Thomas trains whizzed through nicely but we did have a nasty incident when a slightly larger train got firmly stuck. For a while it looked like terminal surgery might be necessary, but I managed to perform a forceps delivery with the help of a wooden spoon.

Tubey came to an unfortunate end 2 days ago. DS must have left it on the sofa and we came home to find pieces of cardboard roll all over the living room. The Lurcher was snoozing innocently on the sofa but I have my suspicions. DS was upset and the girls insisted we had a funeral. A shreddies box ( very apt) was procured as the coffin and DD1 conducted the service. DS sniffed sadly as his friend was lowered into the rubbish bin but  seems to be working through his grief by watching Peppa Pig and playing with his trains.

However,  I did catch him unrolling paper towels yesterday, trying to get at the brand new cardboard tube in the middle so I’m expecting ‘tubey 2’ to make an appearance quite soon.

This post is part of The Friday Club Home Carnival. The theme this week is ‘A Cherished Item’.

The Friday Club

Here are the other entries in this carnival:

Making It Up gives us her favourite cherished items.

The Diary of a Frugal Family shares her family’s most Special Things.

Scribbling Mum tells us about her photo wall.

Make Do Mum writes about a precious item in Tick tock tick tock.

Cheeky Wipes gives us her cherished item in Tables Aren’t Just For Eating At….

Red Ted Art tells us about her DIY Hobby Horse.

Snipsnaphappy tells us about her cherished item in My Granny’s needle.

I Need Curtains for the Window inside my Head writes about the pieces of jewellery that mean the most to her.

Tiddlyompompom tells us about Adopted Ted.

Freckles Family shares A treasured possession.

Notes From Home posts about her cherished reclaimed box.

There’s Something About Swimming.

For a long time, I thought I was the only parent who really really hated my kids’ swimming lessons.

I always seemed to be surrounded by excessively enthusiastic mummies who cheered on their children’s smallest achievement, while I constantly missed significant milestones because I was too busy plotting how I was going to get them in and out of the shower without getting my socks wet. I still haven’t mastered this.

Swimming days always seemed to have a big black cloud over them and no matter how smoothly things went, it was all just so much hassle. I began to hate not just the activity but the whole day.

As the kids got a little older, and the fog of sleep deprivation receded, I begin to realise that I wasn’t alone; other mothers would groan ‘Ugh, we have swimming on Wednesday’ when plans for the week were discussed and FB statuses mentioning swimming lessons were rarely complimentary.

Amongst my friends, the consensus seems to be that parents with only one child seem the most relaxed about swimming. If you have to take 2 or even 3 to the pool, get them into costumes and caps, fold their clothes up carefully while finding somewhere to put them so they won’t end up in a puddle on the floor, hook the kids out afterwards, shower them and make sure they put the correct clothes on at the end of a busy day, then is it any wonder that you start hyperventilating even thinking about  the relevant day of the week? And if you have to take non-swimming younger siblings along every week, then it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a horrific experience. Especially if the sibling is hell-bent on getting into the shower with his sisters, while holding his Daddy’s iPad.

We used to swim at the weekend, which was brilliant in that I could leave the non swimmers with Daddy. What wasn’t brilliant were the facilities (pool cold, too many stairs for children to play on and fall off, viewing room difficult to see out of ) so we went on the waiting list for the best swim school in town and waited, and waited, and waited. After about a year ( I’m not exaggerating!), they rang me and said they had places for DD1 and DD2, but only during the week. We went for it, changed days a couple of times for various reasons and then DD3 turned 4 and was old enough to start learning too.

So now I have three girls, swimming in 3 different lessons, over two different time slots which means we spend at least an hour and a half there every Thursday evening. DS runs wild and I spend a lot of time shoving girls with soapy hair under the shower and hoping that ‘someone’ has half an eye on their brother.
But next year it gets worse. All 4 will be swimming, and I may just possibly simply go *pop* with the stress of it all.

Thursday is definitely my most unfavourite day of the week.

The Gallery: Togetherness.

This weeks Gallery theme is ‘togetherness’ and I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that my children make ideal subject matter. Pop over and see how many others feel the same way.
Below you’ll find a few photos that I think demonstrate the relationship between my offspring  in the rare moments they are not fighting over socks or DS games.

Not all these photos have all my 4 in; if you have more than two you’ll know that there is often one  not interested in what the rest are doing.  Sometimes they are quite happy playing on their own, other times they are stropping that things haven’t gone their way. But I’ve purposely selected photos in which at least 3 children appear, because for our family ‘together’ means ‘as many as possible’.

Review: Steve Backshall’s ‘Wild and Live’ 2011.

DD1 (9) is a huge SB fan, so when a friend mentioned she was buying tickets for Steve Backshall’s 2011 tour, for her son’s birthday, I asked her to get us tickets too.

I have to admit that as I’ve never watched one of his programs right through, my impressions have been limited to fleeting glimpses of the TV while I did housework and forced children practice the nearby piano. So I had a only vague idea of  what his show might be like and I certainly couldn’t have picked him out of a line up. All I could remember was he handled snakes and said Crickey! alot; I suppose I envisioned the Crocodile Hunter with an English accent.

So I was surprised when the dippy warm up lady made such a big deal of how *handsome* SB was and her endless questioning of girls, and their unfortunate mothers, about whether they wanted to marry him was pretty cringe worthy. I’m sure  it was the prompt for one little girl to raise her hand during ‘question time’ and ask the star of the show directly, if he found her mother attractive, would he marry her?! OMG- all on camera, that poor woman!

Subsequent investigations ( i.e a thread on FB) have proved that Steve is generally regarded as quite fanciable  amongst  women in their 30’s and 40’s, and fair enough. Each to their own. But I was expecting it to be a kids’ show and found the repeated innuendo a little tedious. Steve is an entertaining enough speaker and didn’t need that kind of spin to keep the adults in the audience interested.

Our seats were towards the back of the theatre, and although we could see very well, there was no way our children were going to be picked to ask any questions.  Children at the front and in the aisles seemed to have the best chance of this. If you are right up the front, be aware they do bring out some snakes and one of them in particular was huge. However, given the nature of the show I’m sure most people would anticipate this.

The show itself was very good. I say that with a faint element of surprise.  Steve has had an operation to fix an old injury to his left ankle and I gather he’s had a few post operative complications. He’s certainly sporting some fancy metal work and I would have loved to have been close enough to the stage to get a really good look at it. He was obviously uncomfortable at times but he kept up a steady stream of tales of interspersed with photos and film clips on a large screen on the stage. The information given was relevant and not dumbed down in the least. I probably have more knowledge than most in the audience, on some of the subjects he touched upon, but I still found what he had to say genuinely interesting. The kids were fascinated and my friend also really enjoyed it.

Birds and reptiles were brought out at regular intervals while he talked about them. These were not tame, trained animals, and it showed as there were plenty of minor mishaps during the handling.  Not ideal for the people on stage perhaps but very exciting for the audience! And that’s what the show is all about, surely- it’s ‘Wild and Live’ after all.

I would have to recommend this stage show- if you can get tickets, it’s been very popular. Our 9 year old children said they’d go again and I was surprised not to see more younger teenagers.  There were lots of very young children ; the boys sitting behind us were 3 and 5, and the 3 year old in particular, wasn’t hugely interested judging by the noise he was making. I’d go so far as to recommend that this show would be most interesting to children 7 and above, but a sensible, interested 6 year old would probably enjoy it too. It goes on for almost 2 hours including the ‘warm up’ and interval, so kids need to be able to sit still and concentrate for a fair period of time.

There is plenty to see and learn, and an opportunity to ask Steve any questions ( if you are sitting in the right place) so  check here, to see if he’s coming to a theatre near you.

Why We Celebrate Valentine’s Day.

These days it seems to be fashionable to eschew all festivities associated with February the 14th. Among my friends, who are mainly married women with families, or online, you can’t seem to go far without encountering a rant against commercialism, usually containing a line about not wanting to reserve just one day a year to show the people they love how they feel.

This is valid point; sometimes well made. And the price of anything red  or heart shaped in the first half of February is ridiculous, no one can argue with that.

If things were different I’m sure I’d be  first in line to worship at the altar of Valentine indifference.  Life’s so busy these days that we rarely have time for hearts-and-flowers romance. Valentine’s day seems frivolous and better suited to new or young lovers than a couple with 4 kids, who have been married for almost 11 years.

But 11 years ago this evening, my then boyfriend of 5 months got down on one knee in the middle of dinner, pulled out a ring, and popped the question.  And I said yes.

It was such a significant point in my life that I feel we always need to remember that evening, how we felt about each other and the dreams we had for our life together. Those feelings and dreams are still there in some form, just diluted a little by time and children!

So that’s where Valentine’s Day comes into our life; it’s our Engagementiversery ( yes, I made that word up) and it means something special to us.  It’s the one day a year that we make ourselves stop and think about our life together and yes, we do buy each other presents.

My DH is the romantic in our relationship and there are usually flowers and chocolate delivered for me at some time during the day. My gifts to him are usually more practical; this year I got him a Valentine’s steak box and will attempt to cook him dinner according to the instructions. I’m a bit nervous as I’m not great in the kitchen but I know he’ll appreciate the effort as long as I manage not to cremate the lot.

Wish me luck!

Hair Today.

Today was Haircut Saturday.

Taking 4 children anywhere is never relaxing, but taking them to the hairdresser is a special kind of  hell. Mine never go willingly, bribery is essential and although the one getting the attention usually sits quietly at the time, the three waiting are bored and nervous which never bodes well. There are rarely enough chairs for everyone waiting to have one and the hairdressers that work weekends are invariably young and have no idea how to talk to kids. Salon staff usually look apprehensive when we walk in the door en masse even though we’ve never been there before. I think word must get around.

After a few disastrous trips to local salons, I found myself looking for places further and further from home, until one day I realised I was looking at a 60 min round trip, in a hot car with 4 bickering children, just to get their hair cut. This was not going to be the start of a tranquil weekend.

I briefly considered letting everyone, including DS, grow their hair until they were old enough to get themselves a haircut. DH can look after himself. However longer hair was just going to mean more screaming when it was  brushed so I scrapped that idea pretty quickly.

Finally, I found the answer to my prayers in the form of a new neighbour at the end of the street. The first time I met her, she told me she was a hairdresser; the second time, she told me she did home visits.  Before she knew what hit her she had 6 new clients.

So every 6-8 weeks she arrives with her bag of tricks, sits the kids on a tripp trapp in the kitchen and cuts their hair. We still have occasional outbreaks of defiance but usually we manage to talk them into the chair.  And if we don’t, they don’t get a lollipop afterwards, simple as that. Yes, it’s bribery but it works.

When they are waiting, then they go into the living room and play or watch TV; there are no children misbehaving because they are bored stupid. Note I’m not claiming that there are no misbehaving children in general, because that would be nothing short of miraculous. When their turn comes, they behave because they are getting get lots of adult attention; our hairdressing neighbour has kids of her own and seems to genuinely like chatting to them. And even DS sits still because we fire up the iPad and put Thomas on for him.

Now we have a hairdresser who knows exactly  what style and length we all like as she sees us walk past her house on the school run everyday. DDs 1 and 3 have short bobs and DD2 likes her hair shoulder length. DS and DH both go for a short back and sides.

Oh yes, and there is one other bonus of having the hairdresser visit us. I get to have my hair done during the same visit.

Because I hate hairdressing salons, with the chatty strangers asking you about your holiday plans, the sticky chairs and the wall to wall mirrors. I used to avoid going until my grey roots were around my shoulders and was always mortified when they asked ‘So how long ago did you have anything done to your hair?’.

Today I had a leisurely colour applied to my roots and she popped in some fire-engine red foils at the same time while we chatted about plans for the upcoming street party. Yes, it looks fabulous and no, I won’t post a picture. Maybe in 4 weeks time when she pops back to give it a trim.

Parenting Tips (Me Over The Edge).

This week’s Friday Club theme is ‘Parenting Tips’.

Here are some of mine:

If you are going to feed a baby  pureed carrot, make sure they are wearing orange.

As a parent, it is your duty to step in if you spot a disaster about to occur.

There is no ‘proper’ way to play with toys. Let them use their imagination.

Watch your behaviour around your children. Monkey see, monkey do.

If possible, let your child have a pet. It will teach them responsibility….and might install some fashion sense.

Tempting as it may seem at the time, don’t make older children responsible for dressing their younger siblings.

Start giving children chores from an early age.

Do your best to ensure there are no hidden E numbers or artificial colours in your children’s food.

Teach your children not to jump on the furniture.

And last, but not least…

Always supervise your child when there are felt tip pens in the house.

The Friday Club

Here are the other entries in this parenting tips carnival:

Nova at Cherished by Me shares her tips in Encouraging Children to Read.

Gemma at HelloitsGemma’s Blog gives us her working mum tips in This working Mummy’s guide to life.

Maggy at Red Ted Art shows us how Baby Can Draw!

Chris at Thinly Spread gives us her Secret to Relaxed Parenting.

Cass at The Diary of a Frugal Family shows us how she teaches her children about other countries and cultures whilst having fun in America Day.

Helen at Cheeky Wipes gives us her tips in Fussy Eating.

Mummy Beadzoid gives us some Parenting tips for the NICU/SCBU parent.

Kelly at Domestic Goddesque shares her advice in Terrible Twos: tips for dealing with tantrums?

Ella at Notes From Home gives us her tip for encouraging children to tidy up at the end of the day.

Tiddlyompompom shares her weaning tips in her oh so helpful guide to weaning.

SouthoftheRiverMum tells us her plans to set up a Reward System at Home.

Not so single mum at Diary of a Not So Single Mum shares her advice on doing what you feel is best for your child and your family.

Jax at Making It Up discusses behavioural issues in a quandary in search of a tip.

Bod for Tea shares her advice on finding a ‘helper’ to encourage your child to do things they don’t really like doing in Bunny says.

Hayley at Simply Hayley tells us about Hugs and Love.

Make Do Mum shares her stickability scale in Know Your Enemy.

Blue Sky at Looking for Blue Sky gives us some teenage tips.

The Tedium of The Packed Lunch.

Sometimes it seems that our school is one of the only schools in the UK that doesn’t offer school lunches.

When I tell parents from other schools that my children don’t get the option of a hot lunch, they usually gasp in horror at the thought of having to prepare a packed every single school morning. I won’t lie, some days it is a complete PITA but most of the time we just get on with the job. It’s always been this way and you don’t miss what you’ve never had.

But last year parents received a survey asking whether they would be interested having the option of school lunches for their children. It seemed the council was looking to set up a catering service that would provide meals for those schools in the Borough that didn’t currently have them. Of course, the result was a resounding YES. The imminent arrival of the School Lunch was announced in that most reliable of missives- the school newsletter, and there was much rejoicing amongst busy parents. We all envisaged our frantic weekday mornings being that little bit less stressful.

Then it was all snatched cruelly away. We were told that the council had completely underestimated the numbers of parents who wanted have a break from slaving over a cold lunchbox. The catering company couldn’t produce that many meals straight away, so they’d be rolling the service in; starting with schools with large numbers of families qualifying for free meals.

Our school does not have a high proportion of these families so we are pretty much at the bottom of the list. No one knows when, or even if, hot meals will ever be a reality for our children, so we parents are doomed to be assembling home packed lunches for the foreseeable future.

It would be a little dramatic to say I experienced bitter disappointment at hearing this news, but some parents were pretty pissed off. My kids cried when they learnt there would be no escape from my sarnies in the new school year. They claim they were looking forward to ‘some variety’, but since any attempts to introduce something different into their mid day meal end in complaint, I suspect they were dreaming of pizza and hot chips for lunch.

So, think of me the next time you are perusing the school meal menu and selecting the hot meals your children will eat during their school day. I’ll be scanning the kitchen for foodstuffs my little darlings wont turn their noses up at and trying to remember if today is a ‘treat day’ so I can get away with padding out their lunch with crisps and chocolate.

The Gallery: 24 Hours of Feet!

I know feet aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but I wanted to do something a bit different for this week’s Gallery. So for 24 hours, I looked at feet. If you want to see photographs of other people’s days, click here.

These photos were taken over  Tuesday and Wednesday of this week but they could have been from any school day.

6am: I leap out of bed to get to the bathroom before anyone else. I have to make sure I don’t break my neck tripping over the dogs as they like to sleep in our bedroom, or on the landing. The skinny silver-grey feet in this photo belong to The Lurcher, the fat ones belong to me.

7am: DD3 comes into our room to have a little whinge about having no clean school uniform. We send her off to go to the toilet and brush her teeth while we find her something to wear.

7:10 am The others wander in to our room in various stages of undress. DD1 has developed a strange inability to find herself some socks.

8:20 am. They are all dressed and have had breakfast. We get shoes and coats on and are ready for school. I’m thinking some shoe polish might be a good idea.

8:20am. As per usual, DS has a Thomas theme going on.

8:30am. A friend joins us for the school run. DS shrieks until someone gives in and agrees to give him a tow on his scooter.

8:40. We get to school and drop the girls off then DS decides he’d rather ride in the wagon and play with his trains on the way home.  Luckily there is enough room for his scooter as well, so I don’t have to carry and pull at the same time.

9am. I put my dog walking shoes on, and head out in the car to take DS to nursery. You’ll notice it’s an automatic. I resisted making the change from a manual for many years on the basis  that automatics were lazy, but now I have  I couldn’t go back to a gear stick and clutch. Not in London anyhow.

9am. The Lurcher balances on DD3’s booster seat so she can see out the window.

9:20am. DS loves nursery. He dashes up the ramp to get to the doorbell first.

9:40. The dogs and I visit a nearby wood and stomp around in the mud and leaves for an hour or so.  I have to climb this stile to get to the path you can see in the background. The dogs are long gone in search of squirrels.

9:50am. The Old Boy finds a ball to carry around on our walk. This stops him from barking too loudly when we meet up with other dogs, so everyone’s a winner. Apart from whoever lost the ball in the first place, of course.

10:30am. Back home, and I leave my extremely muddy boots outside the front door.

11:30am. It’s time to do some work at the computer. Try to ignore the tangle of cables behind my desk and the Xmas decoration filed under ‘WTF is that doing there?’

2:55pm. Back to the school run. The shoes are Skechers Shape Ups, which have a curved sole and are sold as ‘fitness shoes’. A mere pair of trainers aren’t going to do anything for my figure but they have helped with my knee pain, so consider this a recommendation of sorts.

3:10pm. DD3 rides her scooter home from school. That thing can move but it means I have to run after her carrying her bookbag and lunch box.

4:10pm DD2 does her piano practice. She can’t quite reach the pedals.

4:30.  Potty Time. Again.

6:30. Freshly washed. DD2 and DD3 take a bath together.

7pm. DS ready for bed. As is his Mummy. Goodnight!