Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

August 29, 2011

If I wasn't a mum......

If I wasn't a mum....

  • I would have never rediscovered the joy of fishfingers and beans
  • I wouldn't own a rabbit-shaped jelly mould
  • I would probably still be able to wear a bikini
  • I would have a house, not a home
  • I wouldn't know any of the CBeebies number rap songs
  • I wouldn't know the difference between a stegosaurus and a brontosaurus
  • I would spend money on things I don't need, rather than on things my children don't need
  • I would have never discovered the truth about Santa or the Tooth Fairy
  • I would shout less and laugh less
  • I would have a tidy car and nobody to play I-Spy with in it
  • I would have never touched a snake
  • I would have never cried at Toy Story 3
  • I would have never known how addictive Lego can be
  • I wouldn't have any need for glitter, feathers, glue, googly eyes or pipe cleaners
  • I wouldn't have just made delicious pizza muffins for lunchboxes (which will quite probably be scoffed before they even see a lunchbox)
  • I would walk past butterflies and beetles and worms, rather than stopping to look at them
  • I wouldn't have a bag full of muddy wellies in the boot of my car
  • I would have never known the joy of that first glass of wine when the kids are all asleep

This post is written for all the mums and dads who are momentarily delighted about the fact that the kids are back at school and not under their feet all day - but who then stand in the middle of a very quiet house and miss them hugely.


August 22, 2011

My life of biscuit chaos

I owe a lot to biscuits - they've cheered me up when I am down, comforted me on a cold winter's day and brought me deep joy when I thought there was no chocolate in the house only to discover a slightly soggy chocolate hob nob in the bottom of the biscuit jar. Huzzah.

But, until I had children, I had no idea of the extent to which biscuits would feature in my life. Now, from dawn to dusk, there is a permanent background noise in my house. It is the word 'biscuit' - buzzing and humming around my ears everywhere I go. The kitchen, sitting room, bedroom, garden, attic - there's no escape: 'biscuit, biscuit, biscuit...' I hear it over and over and over again; biscuit white noise if you will.,

Ten minutes after breakfast - "Mummy, can I have a biscuit. Pleeeeeeeeease. Just one."
Mid morning - "Mummy, I'm hungry, can I have a snack." (snack meaning biscuit)
Pre-lunch - "Mummy, can I have a biscuit while I'm waiting for lunch."
Post-lunch - "Mummeeeeeeeee, can I have a biscuit for pudding."
While I'm on the phone - "Mummy, I'm just getting a biscuit. OK."

and so on and so forth all day until bedtime when we have, somehow, fallen into a bizarre arrangement of 'milk and a bedtime snack'. Yes, you guessed it, snack meaning biscuit. Aaarrrggghhhhhhh. I actually had a dream that I was being chased by a ginormous digestive the other day. It was terrifying.

But how did this 'biscuit mayhem' come about? How did my relentless provision of raisins and apple rings and blueberries to my babbling six-month olds turn into this? What started out as a sensible arrangement of Rich Tea or Fig Rolls for the occasional mid-morning snack, has escalated over the six years of child-rearing to a snack cupboard which is drowning in biscuits. Somehow, in some kind of stealth movement, the biscuits have infiltrated my home and rendered me and my kids powerless to resist their crumbly temptations.

Personally, I blame Aldi. Their biscuits are far too exciting for any three-year-old to ignore, and I now find myself coming back from the weekly shop with what can only be described as an unnecessary amount of biscuits: Disco Biscuits, Custard Creams, Bourbons, Digestives, Shortbread, Malted Milk - a biscuit for every possible eventuality, crammed into the trolley by a small boy while I am deliberating over types of bread.

This biscuit dependency chaos must end. There is virtually no room at all in the cupboard for my gin or tonic and the poor raisins haven't seen the light of day for months.

So, when we've eaten all the biscuits in the house, I'm not getting any more, with maybe one exception of Jaffa Cakes - which are technically not a biscuit, they're a cake. So there.


August 20, 2011

National Geographic Kids Magazine

Two month's ago, my son finished his first year of Primary School and as I looked through the school workbooks he brought home at the end of term, I smiled proudly at the progress he'd made over the year with his drawing and writing.

But one particular page in his maths workbook made me laugh out loud. The task was to draw the correct number of fish, corresponding to the number printed on the page. So, in the first few boxes, he'd correctly drawn 2 fish and then 1 fish and then 3 fish. Then, clearly getting bored of drawing plain old dull fish, in the next box he'd correctly drawn 2 fish - but the first was definitely looking anxious and the second one was no ordinary fish - it was an angler fish, complete with teeth, evil eyes and lure. I cracked up, because this is so like my son - he absolutely loves anything to do with the natural world. He can name about every species of shark known to man and the Blue Planet DVDs which were given away free in The Sunday Times a year ago are still the most watched DVDs in our house.

So, when I was asked if I'd like to review National Geographic Kids Magazine, I said 'yes' very quickly!

The magazine states that it 'teaches children about the world around them in a fun and inventive way, whilst educating them about subjects such as science, technology and animals'. And it does exactly that.

As well as the main features, there are some lovely poster pages in the middle of the magazine, puzzles, comics and fun facts which both my children (ages 6 and 4) loved hearing about and looking at.

Regular features that appear in NG Kids include:
  • Inside Scoop – The latest news and current affairs from around the globe
  • Amazing Animals –Incredible from the animal kingdom, from heroic dogs to loved up tortoises.
  • What’s Up? – The month’s hottest TV shows, movies, games and books
  • Posters – Each issue contains four full colour posters, which allows kids to fully appreciate the world through stunning visuals, plus gives them something cool to stick up on their bedroom wall.
  • Prize Planet- A double page spread dedicated to great competitions, giving children the opportunity to win some awesome prizes.
  • Make it! -From tasty recipes to exciting experiments, National Geographic Kids has all the know-how! Children can get hands on and create their own masterpieces at home!
  • Gifts - As well as the magazine, each month readers get a free gift, from glow in the dark putty to a Bug Box!

Overall, I was very impressed with the magazine - it's really well produced and very educational. My only gripe would be that I would rather the magazine didn't have the free packet of sweets or toy - it's a good enough magazine not to need these extra enticements, but nevertheless, I think a subscription to the magazine would make a lovely birthday present for any child.

To subscribe online with a 50% discount off the standard 12 month subscription price, click here. With this offer you'll receive 12 issues of National Geographic Kids Magazine for £20.

National Geographic Kids is aimed at children aged 6 to 14, who enjoy learning about the world and having fun!


August 12, 2011

Why Twitter makes me feel like the designated driver

Twitter - it's a bit like Marmite isn't it - some people love it, others hate it. I'm not sure.

The general idea is excellent - say what you want to say, but keep it short - a '140 character rule' which seems to produce plenty of witty, savvy, interesting nuggets of information. I've actually learnt a lot through Twitter - mainly stuff about Victorians in London or how to go about writing a novel - and I've also learnt some stuff I didn't really need to know - like someone telling the world they felt sick after eating too much Green & Blacks chocolate and someone else sharing the joyous news that they needed to cut their toenails. Bleurgh.

The trouble with Twitter is that it never stops. Twitter never switches off and if, like me, you dip in and out of Twitter while you're waiting for the kettle to boil, this can lead to a constant sense of being 'out of the loop', of not being fully involved in the conversation, of not really getting the 'in jokes' and wondering what everyone is LOL'ing about all the time.

Glancing at Twitter on a Friday night can be a particularly bad idea if you haven't been keeping up all day. I see responses to Tweets which don't make any sense because I didn't see the start of the conversation. I see 'trending topics' about making up new movie titles which I don't get and 'hashtag' comments which #messwithmyheadbecauseittakesmeagestounjumbleallthewordswithoutanyspacesbetweenthem.

In short, browsing Twitter on a Friday night makes me feel like the designated driver at a brilliant party where everyone else is getting merrily drunk on wine (mostly), while I sit quietly in the corner wondering what time it is, or stand on the edge of a group of people who keep laughing REALLY LOUDLY at something hilarious, but I didn't quite catch the joke because the music is too loud.

Sometimes, someone might stop to have a quick chat with me, although I can't help feeling they're looking over my head or over my shoulder to check whether anyone more interesting just walked in. Occasionally, I might pick up a tray of canapes to hand around in an attempt to butt in on some of the conversations, but for the most part I sip my glass of fizzy water and jangle the car keys in my pocket and wait for a reasonable time until I suggest that we make tracks home.

And I'm rubbish at doing the Follow Friday #FF thingy - it's not that I don't enjoy lots of the Tweets of the people I follow and would love to share them to the Tweeting world, it's just that it takes bloody ages to get everyone's Twitter name right and my kids aren't all that patient and usually want a drink or a wee or the jigsaws getting out of the toy box with the very heavy lid which they're not allowed to open on their own.....

So, in short, although I'm 'fond' of Twitter, I don't think I'd want to go out with it or form any sort of committed relationship with it. For now, I think I'll keep lurking in the background and listening to the music and eating the mini quiches until I drive safely home and fall into bed knowing that the party will carry on way into the night - with, or without me.


August 6, 2011

Danger, danger everywhere

I have never considered myself a fretful or anxious parent until our recent holiday in the Lake District.

It was wonderful: scenic, sweeping landscapes at every turn, rugged mountains to climb, fresh air to inhale, local ale to sup, tumbling, cascading waterfalls to admire .... and yet danger and peril lurked around every corner. You see, with a 4 and a 6 year old those sweeping landscapes and rugged mountains and cascading waterfalls take on an entirely different meaning.

In short, they become Perilous Death Traps and I become a Harbinger of Doom. And don't even mention signs like the one above. That sign, when young children are ANYWHERE NEAR IT is, quite simply, enough to make my arms fall off in sheer terror.

Panic and dread set in as I watch my kids running gleefully over the Very Narrow Bridge which crosses the waterfall which plunges to Unfathomable Depths onto the rocks below. I clench everything clench-able as they ascend the Highest Mountain and teeter around on the Unstable Boulders at the top as we take a hasty snap to capture their moment of glory. I suck in my breath as they wobble and slide over slippery, wet rocks across the Raging Torrents of river rapids, which a few moments before looked like harmless stepping stones over a babbling stream.

"Be VERY, VERY careful," I cry.
"Will you STOP running near the edge," I screech.
"Will you PLEASE slow down and LOOK WHERE YOU'RE GOING," I plead.
"That's FAR enough now."
"Come back down. Right now. NOW."
"Right, I think you've seen enough now."
"PLEASE don't rock the rowing boat. It ISN'T funny."
"WATCH where you're putting your feet. You are VERY near the edge."

It's not that I don't trust my children, I do (well, as much as you are supposed to 'trust' a 4 and 6 year old boy who are over-stimulated on fresh air and 100% sugar content Kendal Mint Cake), or want them to have fun and experience adventure - I do, very much so, which is partly why we're clambering up a mountainside in the first place, but.......

...something dull and sensible and pessimistic and 'motherly' within me kicks in when we find ourselves in these types of environments. So while Fun Daddy merrily hoists giggling young boys onto his shoulders and slips and slithers down muddy paths with them swaying around precariously on top, and while he leans them over precipices and ledges so they can see ALL THE WAY DOWN and runs down steep hills with them at breakneck speed, I wince and mutter under my breath and sometimes even close my eyes completely as it is simply easier to not observe the mild peril which I, and my family, find ourselves in - at least in the part of my imagination which controls fear and dread.

So, there you have it. I am a fretful and anxious parent after all - or at least I appear to be so for at least one week in the year when we go on a 'relaxing' holiday.

Maybe next year we'll do a beach holiday - surely there can't be that much danger in searing tropical heat, unpredictable tides, small inflatable boats and disease-wielding insects. Can there?

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