Thursday, 31 July 2008

Hangin' Out With Friends

Arrange a day out with Michelle, Katie and Ben.

Pray for sun and prepare a picnic.

Meet at a local nature reserve and take a slow walk through the country meadows. Imagine 100 years before ... a milkmaid taking the same route, a local farmer on his haywain tipping his hat as he passes her by.

Return to the 21st century and take a group shot.

Left to right: Joshua, Ben, Samuel, Katie, Eleanor and Madeleine

Head back to Michelle's to paddle in the pool and hit the Shark Attack Water Slide.

Then finish the day with bubbles.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

An Old Fashioned Kind Of Birthday

When I asked Eleanor a few weeks ago what she'd like to do for her 5th birthday she excitedly jumped up and down and declared she'd like one of those parties at the indoor padded climbing places.

I was OK with that..... until we took up pad and pen and started to write an invitation list - it hit 45 names before I called a halt to proceedings. All the while she was reeling off the names of her chums in Foundation Stage, I was mentally clocking up said number by £7.95 per head, plus the nightmare of handing out invitations and co-ordinating replies.

I'm a good Mum, but I'm not that good.

After sitting her down and explaining that there were too many people we struck a deal that maybe it would be too large and because everybody does these sorts of parties, it would be just like all the others and that maybe she should do something extra special just for her BEST friends.

So, just as my Mum had had done for me as a child in the 70s, she had her best friends over for three hours on her birthday for a playdate and birthday tea. Lots of bouncing on the castle in the garden, arts and crafts creations for them to make and take home and a birthday tea in the garden in the blazing sun.

With a giant chocolate fudge cake baked by Daddy and decorations in the form of pink and lilac smarties adorning the entire surface, her day was complete. ('Operation Girlie Smarties' was aptly performed by me and Joshua spending 20 minutes sifting through the smarties bin at the Woolworths pick'n'mix the day before - how we managed to pull it off without being accosted by a store detective suspecting us of foul play on the sweetie stall I'll never know).

Happy 5th Birthday Eleanor!

I've been busy

I'll be back soon with lots of news and lots of pictures.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

School's Out For Summer

The children have all now finished school. Yipppeeeeeeee!!

No more packed lunches to fix the night before.

No more running around washing and ironing school uniforms.

No more rushing from school, fixing dinner quick and rushing out to after school programmes.

No more nagging children to go to bed on time so they don't wake up late and groggy.

No more homework assignments to help with.

Just six long weeks of children home for summer and I've managed to fix three weeks of it off work for me and Andy's covered two weeks - so just one week of care from Grandma and Grandad. Sorted.

Next week's my first week off and I'm needing the sun - lots of outdoor stuff planned, days out with friends, picnics and Legoland.

Can't wait!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Having A Gifted Child

I received notification from the school yesterday that Joshua's been identified within his peer group as a Talented and Gifted Young Learner. They've directed us to a website for him to join to get support and to encourage him in the areas he's advanced on. There's also a forum for parents offering support in parenting a gifted child as their needs are different to a child on the average spectrum.

It hasn't suprised me. He's shown the signs of this for a couple of years now. For the last year he's been complaining that maths is too easy and that science just starts to get interesting and the lesson ends. He needs more. He's not satisfied with knowing the basics. It's starting to sink in that my son, given the right support and encouragement, shows the potential to do extremely well in the future.

I'm scheduling a meeting with his teachers and headteacher at the beginning of next term as I'm not really sure how to deal with all this. I'm proud, but also incredibly nervous that he's not set too apart within his peer group. I'm also keen to ensure the school have a dedicated professional qualified to deal with gifted children as from my experience the children with learning difficulties get far more help and support than those who are advanced.

I want him to be successful but not at the expense of still being a nine year old child. I need help with this and I need to get the balance right.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Born To Perform

Picture the scene.

School Assembly - one four year old child on the stage in the middle playing lead role of Granny, who goes around the world on a global shopping spree on a magic carpet.

Picture said child not only doing the lead, but breaking into the role of director's assistant by also reminding all the other children what to say when they forget their lines.

I wish I could afford Stage School fees - she'd have a star on Hollywood Boulevard by the time she's 20.

Friendship is...

... having a friend who works and whose husband earns more than you and your husband put together who says she's skint but puts away a lot of money every month to save for a new car and holiday to Disneyworld, is going to the NEXT sale tomorrow morning to buy clothes for her holiday to Disneyworld and then says she can't afford to buy her children a McDonalds and you feel sorry for her because her eldest child has been cruelly bullied that week and she's just been to her Grandma's funeral and some gormless dude threw something on her car from a bridge and the school are letting her down and life's generally a piece of poo for her at the moment and a McDonalds will really cheer the children up and she needs a shoulder to cry on and you end up paying £25.00 for the McDonalds for all your children and hers even though you're already overdrawn and still have a week of food and diesel to pay for and you don't care because she's your friend.

Friendship is.... when that friend last year watched your cry in your kitchen because when her children came round to play after school and ended up staying for dinner you couldn't afford to buy a tub of ice-cream for pudding because you'd hit your overdraft limit and that friend turned up the next night with a week's worth of shopping for you and stood on your doorstep with it and she did it because she's your friend.

Sooo, Rachel....

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Modesty in Moderation

People who know me well know that I am a great fan of Stephen Fry. It's his intellect that attracts me, not his physique, if you're wondering!

I adore people with brains. I love intelligence and I admire quick thinkers. I also warm to people who recognise they have this quality without feeling the need to elevate themselves to a pompous self-built pedestal, sneering down at the less gifted masses around them. I don't warm, however, to people who are smart but constantly feel the need to remind the world around them that they're 'gifted', 'above normal levels of intelligence', 'my kid's smart, because I was as a child', and 'I've got a degree, therefore I'm more intelligent than you'. You know the sort.

However, my line of thinking was self-challenged this week. Yes, I have views and I analyse my thoughts and draw my own conclusions as to whether they're valid, fair and reasoned and I came to the conclusion that it is actually OK to publicise intelligence and high achievement.

After all, Gordon Ramsay's a great cook. Three Michelin stars, successful restaurants, numerous books and TV shows. He's a good cook, the world knows it, the Michelin raters know it and HE knows it. He's not shy about saying so. Take world athletes. They train for years to win one medal in the Olympics. Tennis players aspire for the Wimbledon title. When they're told they're No.1 in the world, they don't shy away from it and clothe themselves in modesty, they openly declare their superior ability and make sure the world sees their talent for what it is. Footballers are dealt with in multi-million pound transfer deals because they're good at what they do.

So... this begs the question. Why keep quiet if you're intelligent? Why isn't a bright person able to stand out from the crowd and declare they're bright? Why are people with obvious mental agility shunned and accused of being 'bigheads' and 'smart-arses'? For my own part, as I was growing up, most people I knew that displayed this skill also unfortunately held vaues that superior intellect also meant superior values, elevated morale and the general consensus that the world owed them a living. One person in particular, who I won't waste time describing, even went so far one day as to test me on various elements of Les Miserables as he knew I'd gone to the theatre to see it. He'd seen it over fifteen times and wanted to see if he could catch me out - he didn't, and to this day the disdain I hold for him and others like him because of their need to feel cerebrally superior is second to none.

So, I like people who are clever and modest about it. I admire people who know they're clever and use the skill to both their advantage and others about them, without the need to knock others around.

Lots of my friends think I'm scatty, a lot of the time I am. Many of them laugh at my blond moments... and most of them don't realise the last time my IQ was tested - I hit 136. Statistically I'm in the top 2% of the population for intelligence. I should have a degree and I think, given the chance, I would easily have obtained one. I should be running a firm of my own, but I'm doing an admin job as I've chosen to put my children before my career. But I don't look down at people around me who might have a lower IQ because it's WHO people are that counts. I don't randomly assess what their IQs might be. For all I know they could all hold higher levels than me. But that's not the point.

The point is, I love all my friends and family for who they are and I hope that whatever they're good at, they feel comfortable about declaring it out loud and gaining the recognition they deserve. But me? I prefer people to think I'm good at textiles and cooking and that I do stupid things from time to time as I'm more comfortable with those labels.

Now, if you don't mind I have a Logic Puzzle to finish and I'm sure I left that Sudoku book lying around somewhere......

Monday, 14 July 2008

To The Point

Yesterday's shopping spree was interspersed with moments of sulks from the girls when one had one thing and the other didn't, then the other did and the other didn't and so on and so on and so on.

But Eleanor's whinging reached a new level yesterday and after finally having had enough I snapped and told that her whinging was the reason why I rarely took her shopping.

Karen: Stomping up the hill, exasperated and finally at the end of her tether, 'That's it, I'm not bringing you again!'
Eleanor: With sullen face and look of total shock and innocence, despite winding me up for the last twenty minutes, 'Why not?'
Karen: Because EVERY SINGLE TIME you come shopping, it's 'why can't I have this, why can't I have that, it's not fair, she's got this, I want this, I want that.... I'm fed up with it, I love you dearly, but you're a pain in the arse!'
Eleanor: But I'm only a pain in the arse because I can't have what I want.

At this point my Mum's struggling to get up the hill because she's laughing so much. I'm left speechless at the sheer cheek of it and Eleanor's now telling Maddie that 'it's true, if I got what I want I wouldn't whinge'.

That child could chew up Jeremy Paxman.

Ahead Of The Game

After the day at the allotment, it was nice to go to Mum's yesterday and have dinner cooked for me. It was nice also to have somebody else do the dishes. Being a full time working Mum, there is no such thing as a 'day off' and even with having a fantastic husband around who's equally adept in the house with all things domestic and all things parental, it's just a welcome break to visit the parents and eat food you enjoyed as a kid...

... and isn't it funny after years away from home, Mum's roast potatoes still taste exactly the same, and to me, the BEST in the world ... and I can NEVER duplicate them... and how my children prefer MY roast potatoes and think they're the best in the world?

Following dinner we headed into town to buy the children's school supplies for next year. Usually I'm zipping around town in the last week of August fighting the masses of every other mother who has also left it to the last minute. Amongst underbreath hisses of 'why didn't they do it earlier in the summer holidays?' and 'why are they out on Saturdays, they could come out mid-week as us working mothers only have Saturdays to browse the shops', I realise that the majority of those mothers are in the same boat as me - full time workers with no time to shop earlier and no money to do it with.

This is why I love my Mum so much. Well, I love her for multiple reasons but bless her bypassed heart, she has paid for ALL their new scholastic supplies, uniforms, backpacks and lunchboxes. This is the first time in five school years I've been ready for the new term before the old one has ended. Apart from jumpers and shoes, but they're not being bought yet as it's inevitable the little treasures will grow during the summer and head up a size.

And the thought of returning said items in August with all the other mothers bustling through the crowds, when they really should have done it earlier... well... perish the thought!

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Is There WD40 For Humans?

Because I really need to oil my joints.

After another mammoth six hour session down the allotment yesterday with Michaela, we have used wooden pallets to build the mother of all compost bins. Two in fact, side by side. One to work over the plot whilst the other rots down. They are such impressive constructions three other allotment holders came over to take a look. I spotted another two nearby taking surreptitious looks now and then checking out the progress as we went along. I think they were jealous. Most allotment holders have their compost bins neatly tucked away. Mine's on view - where everybody can see it.

Next to that are two closed top pallets to hold the incinerator and the fertilisers (yet to be bought and yet to be made, in that order). My first attempt at nettle fertiliser failed as I forgot to put a lid on the bucket - which is a bit crucial considering it needed to steep and it's hard to do that when the bucket's overflowing with rainwater. Then, next to the platform is a corrugated iron 'pen' to hold the manure when it's delivered later this year. It's also quite an effective area for putting unruly children in time out - kind of like a sin bin. 'Mess around again and you're in the poo pit'.

We've ripped out all the iron fencing down one side and refixed it in, hammering down the holding posts. It is no joke whacking a mallet over 25 metres, especially when you've got to clear all the weeds and uproot the brambles. The roots on those things are phenomenal. At one point they were just too tough to pull out so we had to take the secateurs and clip them off as far down as possible. I'll just have to keep working at them over the next few months to weaken the root system and eventually have them die down.

Along the side by the fencing we found one metal post concreted in over a base of hardcore and another three foot long piece of concrete alongside it. Lifting that has now bent my fork handle and transporting it to the skip has buckled my wheelbarrow. It's probably also damanged mine and Michaela's spines lifting them as they were REALLY HEAVY.

Last night we were exhausted and stiff. Michaela just about managed to prise herself off the sofa to go home and she looked flexible enough to get in and out of her car. Whether she's actaully managed to get out of bed this morning.....? Well, I might ring her later and listen out for signs of creaking when she answers the phone.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

It's Fun Having Friends Over

Ryan was over for tea after school today.
You ask them to sit nicely, pose sweetly and say cheese, just like good children should.
And this is what you get.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008


Wouldn't you be proud if they were yours?


Here's Sam with our neighbours Ina and Rebecca. Ina's is Sam's Godmother.

We love these two to bits. You can tell we do as we happily let them sit by the bin.

They love us too and don't mind sitting by the bin. We do offer them seats but then it's too far to go back in the kitchen to open the wine bottle.

Hitching A Ride

For a few months now Sam has found an alternative way to get around the house - by sitting on my foot, hugging my leg and hitching a ride.

Last night Eleanor decided to hop on and this is how they got taken to bed.

But I did make them climb the stairs by themselves.

Would A Vegetarian Cater A Carnivore?

A friend e-mailed me some amusing top tips today - all tongue in cheek - but one got me thinking.

Invited by vegetarians for dinner? Point out that since you`d no doubt be made aware of their special dietary requirements, tell them about yours, and ask for a nice steak.

It's a fair point!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Friends For Tea

The good thing about having friends home for tea after school is that you get out of doing homework.

Birthdays Are A Family Affair

In our house everybody gets involved when there's a birthday coming up.

We wait until the Birthday Boy is tucked up in bed.

Then we wrap his presents....

... and write out his cards.

Then when he wakes up we help him open his presents.

Then we sing Happy Birthday as he blows out his candles (and Mummy feels a little embarrassed that her cake effort has left Thomas looking like the Fat Controller put something herbal in his coal bunker and caused him to de-rail).

Happy 3rd Birthday Sam!

Friday, 4 July 2008

School Reports

Joshua, Maddie and Eleanor.

ALL of them had outstanding school reports. They're achieving above average and significantly above average in every aspect of their schoolwork. They're well ahead of the levels they should be at and Joshua is rocketing years ahead in his science. Madeleine is showing signs of creative flair both in art and design technology and Eleanor has good negotiation skills, amongst lots of other positive qualities.

So I'm bringing up a potential forensic scientist, an interior designer and, according to Michelle, a hostage negotiator!

I was one proud Mummy today.

Happy Birthday Sarah

Have a great day - I hope you do get what you want for your birthday - you know who/what I mean!

Hugs. Have a good one.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Gizza Kiss!

Sam and Lucy were born 4 weeks apart and from the day they've been able to walk and talk, they've been great little buddies. It helps that Lucy's Mum, Emma, is one of my best and most trusted friends, so I'm more than happy these two get along so well.

The thing is, each time they do, they just have to have a little smooch!

Aren't they just the most precious pair?

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Why It Takes Two Hours To Cook Dinner

Because it's hard not to get involved when the children are playing with paints.

Muuuum, I need some more paper.

Mummm, my water's gone all black, can you change it?

Mummmm, Sam's put his hands in the paint and he's making a mess.

Mummmmm, it's not fair, Maddie's got the thin paintbrush and she's had it for ages.

Backwards and forwards, fill water pots, replenish paper stocks, refresh paint palettes, supervise Sam with painted hands, referee over paint brushes.....

Stop to admire artwork.

Somehow in the midst of it, try to put something together for dinner.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Discrimination: Good or Bad?

Two headlines have been bouncing around my brain today. The tragic murder of Ben Kinsella and the little boy in Sweden accused of 'discriminating' against two classmates for not inviting them to his birthday party.

It really does seem the planet has fallen off its axis.

Let's take Ben's murder. Here's a happy 16 year old boy, just finished his GCSEs, having a night out with his friends. Not a troublemaker, no criminal record, just an ordinary teenager winding down after months of exam revision and school stress. So why does a night out for this boy end up with him being stabbed multiple times in the torso? Was he in the wrong place at the wrong time? Did he dare to answer somebody back for insulting him? Did he just 'look the wrong way' at some demented brainless youth hanging around a street corner looking for someone to slash as part of a night's entertainment? It's no surprise to anybody in England that four youths have already been arrested and it's no surprise what their background is. They're all the same. You just have to look at the police picture profiles to realise they're all from the same unfortunate backgrounds. The police say it wasn't the result of discrimination on the part of the assailants. Rubbish. It never is, is it? Discrimination comes in all forms and these boys knifed Ben because they discriminated against him randomly. It doesn't have to be planned. I don't think they even cared who he was - he was just the nearest one they reached, so he took the brunt. But the British press will print their pictures, the MPs will gasp with shock and horror and as ever, blame the other political party, the tabloids will run their gazillionth campaign to end the knife culture in Britain and what will happen? They'll get 2 years max, ready to re-offend, only with more skills learnt inside prison. Is it going to get to the point where I'll have to keep my children in until they're 35 just to keep them safe?

Then, the birthday party. The only upside here is that finally, it's not just Britain that is showing the world it has a mental block when it comes to political correctness gone mad. The fact a 7 year old boy is admonished for not inviting 2 children in his class to his party beggers belief. Maybe these 2 children are the sort that will grow up to be like the ones that stabbed Ben. Maybe they never invited him to their party, so he's just repaying the favour. Who knows? Discrimination? You bet it is.

But who said discrimination is ALWAYS bad?

As a parent, I actually think SOMETIMES it's a good thing. And you want to know why? Because it's a skill my children need to learn in order to make informed, intelligent decisions about who they associate with, where they go and what they do.

Take the class bully. Every school has one. Every parent hates to think it's their child. But they're there - every school, every town, every country. One child just out to get everyone. I have told my children to keep away from other children like that. I have taught them to suss them out and avoid them and have no hesitation in giving as good as they get if they're picked on. I don't advoate my children starting fights, I advocate self-defence. Some people might not like this and cry pitiful woes of teaching them to 'walk away' and 'tell an adult'. Well, let me tell you, it doesn't work. And I speak from first hand knowledge both as a child victim and as the mother to a child who 'walked away' and 'told an adult'. Six weeks later when nothing was done, in exasperation he punched the kid square on the nose and dealt with it. The child has left him alone since then. Even the school bully has a little verbal pop at him now and again, but he's warned off with the knowledge that Joshua could floor him with a well aimed professionally trained rugby tackle - not one to test him on when you're standing on a concrete playground.

I'm getting angry.

I teach my children to discriminate against foul mouthed people who bitch, backstab and are two faced. I don't mix with people like that and I don't expect my children to. I teach them to stand up to people who mock them. Madeleine has a problem pronouncing the 'sh' sound as she clamps the sides of her tongue between her teeth when she says it. One girl is making her life a misery - I found out this morning. She's been told to keep away from this girl.

I teach my children to discriminate against liars. Lying is not tolerated in my house. It's the biggest no-no going. They can shout, have temper tantrums, be late in with homework, stomp and moan, but if they EVER dare lie to me, all privileges get removed, playdates get cancelled, the works. Joshua has a friend who is compulsive liar. To the point where he told me his uncle got blown up in a Land Rover. He also tells lies about the other children in his class. I banned him coming over for tea and told Joshua that when his friend could be honest about things and not lie so much, he could come back. Apparently he's calmed down and I'm allowing him over next week. More lies and he's staying away.

So, am I right to teach my children discrimination? Maybe discrimination is not the correct terminology. I could use euphemisms like 'choose your friends wisely', 'don't get involved in fights', 'don't let somebody encourage you to do something you're uncomfortable with'. It goes on. So.. if you're milder mannered than me and you use those euphemisms with your child, just remember, you're teaching them discrimination, just like I am. Only, we're doing it out of love for our children. Out of concern; as we want them to grow to be well balanced adults. Teaching them to hate, steal, lie and cheat - that's different.

We have children and we are responsible for who they are until the day we die - let's not screw it up.