Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Are You Ever Too Old For A Jazzy Sock?

Is it time to hang up the hose?

Being shoeless in public is a feature of motherhood. Soft play, other people's shiny houses, nursery - all demand one to display one's socks. As I slip off my Uggs this winter, I've come to question - are my cute dachshund socks unbefitting a late-thirties mother-of-three?

Some have a shoe fetish - I'm all about the socks. I love a sock. After a hard day's socking, I retire the choice of the day and change into an evening sock. And then later, I might just pop some bed socks on if it's really cold. As vices go, it's pretty harmless.

My sock drawer is an ode to jazz. Stripey, spotty, dachshund-y and most of all hearts-y, there isn't a boring pair in there.

Except one. Lurking at the back of the drawer is a pair of navy abominations that I was given for Christmas one year. They are my absolute emergency socks.

You see, dark socks make me feel sad. Plain socks make me feel, well, plaintive. I know it sounds a bit extreme, but I am actually depressed even by the knowledge that I am wearing a drab pair. Catching sight of them at a serious person's house (the only reason I would wear them) makes my heart sigh.

Some of my socks raise eyebrows. The fluoro pair in the photo above have caused many, otherwise quite open-minded, people to choke, "Wow, they're...bright!" To which I reply, "I know - they're my favourites".

So much my favourite, that I mete out their use, so as not to wear through them. A sad day it is indeed, when I have to throw away a long-loved pair.

There is a middle ground of course. The flesh-coloured pop sock. The "I'm not making a statement either way" sock. The "sensible, fits in a pump" sock. The "only possible to wear for two weeks of the year cos it's so cold and wet" sock. Although I do wear these in that miniscule period between wearing pumps or flipflops barefoot and entering the full-sock season of September, I can't help feeling that they are just too grown-up for me. I appreciate their sophisticated charms, but they just don't make my spirit zing.

I'm not ready to be sad for the rest of my life. The only hose I shall be hanging up this Christmas is my stocking for Santa.
But which one?
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Ten Yoga Moves You Already Do

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Monday, 24 November 2014

Twenty-One Things People Say About Your Children - And What They Really Mean

Humans are a kindly breed, generally. They rarely say what they think to your face, above all if it’s about your children. But through years of experience, I have decoded a few popular phrases uttered in the direction of your offspring.

What They Say
What They Mean
1. Oooh, gorgeous!

Is it a boy or a girl? Where are its eyes?
2. We are a child-friendly pub / restaurant / café / museum.

We are not a child-friendly pub / restaurant / café / museum.
3. Oof, she’s a heavy one, isn’t she?

What’s in your boobs, chocolate milk?
4. Ah, he’s so dinky.

Are you feeding him at all?
5. I’m so sorry!
I’m not sorry at all. Your child blatantly just hit mine.

6. Bit snuffly, isn’t she?
Take her to hospital now!

7. I’ll text you to arrange.
I’m never having her for a playdate again.

8. He’s very sensitive, isn’t he?

He’s such a crybaby!
9. They’re very lively, aren’t they?
Seriously, if they don’t stop jumping round my furniture, I’m going to kick you out.

10. She’s very shy, isn’t she?

Oh my goodness, she’s wet.

11. She’s been absolutely fine.
She’s taken my house to pieces and made everyone cry. Don’t ever darken my doorstep again.

12.She’s very confident.
Does she ever stop talking?

13. Is she OK up there?
Are you the most irresponsible mother ever?

14. How old is he, again?

He’s a shortarse, isn’t he?
15. He loves his food.

What a pig!
16. We are all about encouraging children to read.

If your children don’t stop running round the library, I’m calling the police.

17. She’s a good girl, isn’t she?

She’s unnervingly dull.
18. He’s really bright, isn’t he?

Does he ever go outside?

19. Your children are so sweet together.

Are you going to intervene before they kill each other or what?
20. Are they all yours?

You poor cow.
21. Thirsty little fella.
That was my beer.*
* only joking
Obviously, many people say these things and mean exactly what they say, bless their hearts. For the others, smile sweetly - and avoid them for the rest of your life.

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You may also like:
Twenty Parenting Mistakes You Only Make Once. Like wearing a skirt to soft play. 
Parenting: Then and Now. Then: baby bent over. Now: he does baby yoga. 
How Old Is Your Child? A Quiz. Are you considering moving to the country? Your child is rising 5. 

And then the fun began...

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Twenty Parenting Mistakes You Only Make Once

There are some parenting mistakes you make time and time again. Taking them out for a meal and expecting not to get indigestion.  Assuming they heard you the first ten times you asked them to put their school shoes on. Expecting them to have a two-hour nap as you have loads to do. Telling the babysitter, “They definitely won’t be sick, have a nightmare, spike a temperature or wake up in the 79 minutes we are out of the house.”

But there are some that you really only need to make once to learn your lesson:
 Fastening a nappy on a baby boy with his wee man pointing up. Two words: wet neck. Or, indeed, fastening his nappy too slowly. 
Nothing like a wee in the face to initiate you into the world of parenthood.
      2. Taking them on holiday – and expecting it to be a holiday.
3. Wearing white clothes. Wearing black clothes. Wearing any clothes that you care about.
4. Shaking a bottle of Calpol with the lid not properly on. The Holy Grail of parenting it may be, but it is the stickiest stuff known to man. And it stains.
5. Wearing a skirt to soft play. Think you can just sit and drink coffee while the children romp? No, you will be up there, crawling through the tunnels, basically flashing the dad behind you.
6. Thinking silence is bliss. They are up to something.
7. Taking a child with a stomach upset in the car. Sometimes you just can’t help it, but that is a school run with a hefty price tag, as anyone who has delved into the inner crevices of a car seat will know.
8. Doing nappy-free time when your baby hasn’t pooed in the last five minutes. And 8b) Not noticing that your little treasure has made a deposit till it’s too late. Never bath a baby barefoot.
9. Not bothering with a bib. How can bolognaise stain, right?
10. Putting a child in his special occasion clothes more than 30 seconds before the happy event.
11. Shaking a baby’s bottle with the collar unscrewed. Or without that so-called magic anti-colic ring.
12. Letting the baby “look after” your only set of car keys. Which also has the house keys on. When you were due at the doctor five minutes ago.
13. Thinking they’ll last till the next service station for a breast-feed. You will immediately encounter standstill traffic. Trying to feed a baby while they’re still in the carseat is a contortion too far (believe me, I’ve tried).
14. Putting your hand under the bubbles in the bath without checking for ‘submarines’. A child’s ability to stealth-poo is without parallel.
15. Going on a very windy road with kids in the back.
16. Taking baby’s swimming nappy off without realising that bulge is not just pool water.

17. Giving a baby a whole bottle of full-fat milk when he’s just recovered from a tummy bug.

18. Picking up the puzzles “later”. Those colourful little pieces will never be reunited again. Till you move house. If you’re lucky.
19. Letting your child eat a whole punnet of grapes while out shopping. They’re a laxative – who knew?
20. Believing you couldn’t possibly love them any more than you already do.

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You may also like: Parenting: Then and Now’. Then: baby bent over. Now: he does baby yoga. 

This post is also featured on The Huffington Post.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Parents’ Evening: Whose Side Are You On?

Parents evenings: where hope and expectations meet reality and tact. How do you navigate the balance between loyalty to your child and support for his teacher? In short, how do you refrain from punching in the face the person who will elevate your child to his next stage of learning?

With the end of term looming, parents’ evenings are in the offing. This means different things at different ages:

The Nursery Years – Child: 1, Teacher: 0

My first ever parents’ evening, I was nervous. Excited, but nervous. My child was 13 months old. What did I think I was going to hear? That he had been back-chatting the staff? I didn’t know then, as I do now, that if there are any real issues, teachers will tell you well before parents evening. No news is good news. But no news is not enough – you want to hear good news! You want to hear that your child is happy and settled, of course. But you also secretly want to hear that he’s showing early signs of mathematical genius; to be told that you should really think about getting him some violin lessons; that he has the reading age of a college graduate. In reality, it was a mutual love-in, where the keyworker and I agreed that my child was a topping little toddler and I hadn’t destroyed his fragile psyche by leaving him to go to work one little bit.

After my first, nursery parent evenings seem like a ridiculous, but cute, adjunct to the ten minutes or more you can spend chatting to your child’s key worker every time you drop off or pick up the little angel, if you should so wish. What tickles me the most is how they usually say, with solemn expression, that your child cannot attend your appointment – as if, at 18 months, they’re going to be scarred for life for hearing they are only the second best at “cereal play”. I just had my two-year-old’s one, which was spent sitting on the playmat flipping through his Learning Journal (these I love) while his keyworker and supervisor tried to think of something to say apart from, “He’s very happy” and “He likes trifle. A lot.” Phew, good job I came. I’m being facetious, but for the childcare involved to get to the appointment, I really would have been happy to just be told that when I picked him up.

Key Takeaway: Warm fuzzy glow; a pile of paint-daubings that may or may not be your child’s.

Reception and Year One - Child: 1, Teacher: 0

The nerves are back. What if they aren’t settling into school well?  What if all the other children can count to 100 and get into their PE kit on their own? What if the transition to Year One has been rocky and he is not coping? With so much less granularity about your child’s life Within the Classroom Walls, the parents’ evening feels like a bit of a closed book, like it will be the Big Reveal. But there is no question that you will be on your child’s side, whatever the teacher says. Your child is new to this school malarkey; he is only four or five.

Key Takeaway: Warm fuzzy glow; pictures of your child in the school environs, all the more precious as you no longer get to rock up whenever you like to observe the children at play, like at nursery; a hearty resolve to read with him twice a day from now on.

Year Two – Child: 0.5, Teacher: 0.5

The uncomfortable truth hits you: at some point, maybe not this year, maybe not the next, but soon, you’re going to have to take the teacher’s side to an extent. Of course, I don’t mean turning on your child. But as school gets “real”, you have to take a slightly harder line with your child. You have to explain to your child that the school’s expectations are fair, and that you agree with them, even though you know they’re exhausted and the last thing they want to do is another piece of homework. Even though you still feel a residual childish resentment of teachers from your own school days. Even though you’re probably older than them.

The teachers are in a difficult position here. All of you are, or should be, on the same page: you all want your child to reach his potential at school. But across the table to them are not one or two parents, but as many Hulks, ready to explode at a negative comment. The only thing worse than hearing such things about your child, however tactfully put or kindly intentioned, is when, deep down, you know they’re right. If, for example, you have trouble getting them to settle down to do a couple of pages of their reading book, how much harder must it be to get them to concentrate for six or more lessons a day? So you have to discuss a joint strategy for dealing with any improvement areas.

And you have to refrain from punching the teacher in the face for daring to criticise your baby.

Key Takeaway: Divided loyalties and a realisation that it’s not all about admiring cotton wool pictures any more. And a renewed resolve that your child is awesome. And you want him to stay that way.

I’m afraid here I must stop, as my oldest is in Year 2 so I can’t comment on what happens further up.

How do you take criticism of your child from his teacher, however constructive it is?

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And then the fun began...

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Glass Wall: The Glass Ceiling of the Home

Do your kids listen to a word you say? Is there anything you utter, apart from “as much Haribo as you can eat!”, that you don’t have to repeat more than once? As if the glass ceiling weren’t enough, we also have to contend with the Glass Wall.

“If I have to ask you to put your shoes on again,” (pause while you think of a realistic threat that you haven’t already used in the last three minutes) “you won’t have a birthday party next year either!” Still no movement footwear-wards. I rest my head against something, the invisible barrier that defends my children against the sounds produced by my weary tongue and lips. The Glass Wall.

It flips up like a forcefield around the sofa when they’re watching telly. It seals their bedroom when it’s time to go to school and they’ve just got into their Lego. It encases the freezer aisle when I attempt to deny their need for a full range of lollies in November. It - sometimes - stops me enjoying communication with my children.

Although screens are indeed glass walls of a sort, and, many would argue, barriers to communication, I talk simply of kids’ innate capacity to completely ignore their parents. Perhaps it’s part of their wonderful and essential ability to concentrate entirely on the present. To acquire new skills by focusing wholly on the matter in the hand, whether it is building an intricate Lego model or watching the end of Dinopaws. Certainly it’s part of our training as parents; we have their teenage years yet to come.

Maybe it’s their hearing, I thought. It’s true, one of my children has got a bit of glue ear, so obviously I am aware that this could be a factor. But I know he can hear me from a certain range, which I always try to be within. As an experiment, in your normal voice, ask your child to clean their teeth / go to the loo / put a wash on (delete as appropriate). Then whisper under your breath, “Bye, see you later,” to the babysitter, and see which they pay attention to.

Maybe it’s my hearing, I thought. I admit to tuning out a lot of their bickering and low-level whining where I know from experience that my interference will only prolong the white noise of childhood chuntering. I defy anyone to hear what their dearest child in the back seat is murmuring above the blare of 'Gangnam Style' in the car, when reaching for the volume control is caught by hawk eyes and decried with the ferocity of a tigress. I feel like I'm in a London cab, except that I'm not the happy drunk one in the back but the miserable driver. The only difference is, I want the glass partition open. It makes me sad that I miss those golden words from the backseat. But I can hear a child make that pre-vomit choking noise from the heart of the deepest sleep. It’s not so much you hear what you want to hear, but you hear what you need to hear.

I know selective deafness is nothing new. I'm sure in the early days of man, caves resounded with mothers and fathers yelling, "Barney, get your loincloth on, we're going hunting in five ticks of the shadow past the rock!" But what do you do about it? There's whole organisations devoted to petitioning Parliament to smash the glass ceiling - quite rightly - but where's the campaign group to get kids to listen to their parents? Maybe I’ll just have to wait till they’re old enough to use the only way I get answers out of their father. Via What’s App.

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Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Ten Yoga Moves You Already Do

Can't get to a yoga class? Never fear! Here are ten yoga moves you probably do daily in the course of being a parent. Just remember to replenish lost energy with cake and wine. Now, go get bendy!

Stirring pasta and feeding invisible babies ain't easy, y'know!

Although I'm a lapsed yoga bunny now, I had the most brilliant teacher when I was in London: check her out at WhYoga, and if you are in the Big Smoke or surrounding area, try a class! For those in the Darlington area, I also highly recommend my fabulous cousin's Greenwell Yoga. (This isn't a sponsored post, I just absolutely love them.)

Happy bending!

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Thursday, 6 November 2014

The End of the Affair?

Every relationship has its ups and downs. I guess I should be happy ours has lasted so many years. But he has done something unforgivable. Is this the end for me and Freddo?

I love Freddo. Everyone knows that. But something happened this week that I'm not sure I can get over. It wasn't exactly his fault. But I'm going to blame him anyway. 

So, my other big love is my washing machine. OK, who likes laundry? But we have to do it, so to have a friendly, functioning washing machine is the underpinning of any mum's sanity. That 15 minute rapido wash has got me out of hot water many a time when I've uncracked the PE kit from its muddy confines on a Monday morning. But a few days ago, it turned on me. Wash after wash was interrupted by an angry triple beep and scary warning sign. Which I ignored, switched off and on, set to spin and parked it for my husband to look at. He did, a day or so later. He emptied the filter, all was well.

Except it wasn't. The next day, the same thing happened. Nefarious activity was afoot. The laundry mountain was higher than me. Pant stocks were running low. 

My poor husband again spend the evening knelt by the washing machine - though to be fair, this is where I spend most of my time so I'm not too sympathetic. At about 11pm, he came out, smiling grimly. "Do you know what it was?" I shook my head apprehensively. "THIS was stuck up the detergent pipe."

Reader, it was a crumpled up and thoroughly washed...Freddo frog wrapper.

Oh, the irony. 

But I guess Freddo might say in his own defence - well, you do bite my head off at least once a day. 

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Other Freddo-related posts:

The Mummy and The Frog - A Love Story My Valentine to the girthsome little fellow.

In which Freddo allows himself to be despoiled by the terror that is popping candy. I forgave him - but only just.