Sunday, 6 December 2015

I'm So Loving...

1) Christmas lights in December
2) Hamming it up in my first amateur theatricals in 11 years
3) That rehearsals mean I do some decent walking again
4) That there has been some great TV on recently (The Bridge series 3, Catastrophe series 2, Detectorists series 2, You Me & The Apocalypse to name but a few)
5) That the prospect of 10 days off for the first time since August seems tantalisingly close
6) The return of winter boots
7) The joy of discovering a real gem of a gift for someone
8) The smell of cinnamon and gingerbread
9)That my children still find this time of year magical
10) Christmas lights in December

Friday, 27 November 2015

Things I am over.

  1. Beards.
  2. People who post nothing but Instagram links on Twitter.
  3. Christmas in November
  4. The state of my pigsty house
  5. People who keep pulling out in front of me on roundabouts
  6. Insurance companies
  7. Women's clothing without decent pockets
  8. Books with no obvious chapters
  9. Books with ridiculously long chapters
  10. Monday mornings
  11. Dark days
  12. People saying "off of"
  13. Not having any time off work since August
  14. Christmas adverts
  15. Getting old
  16. Car alarms
  17. Fly tippers
  18. Beards

Saturday, 21 November 2015

The trouble with tween girls (the Christmas gift edition)

(Disclosure: this is a PR collaboration with those lovely folks at Brantano, so you'll see one or two of their items in this list - all ideas are my own though).

Eldest daughter is closer to 10 than 11. Youngest daughter is 8 and a half. I'm putting these facts out there mainly for my own benefit. You see, you'd think it would no longer surprise me after ALL THESE YEARS how different my children are to each other. So much for me priding myself on being relatively intelligent, but I'm still not quite sure how two children with (apparently) the same genetic base to choose from end up with such a different mixture. At no time is this more apparent than in the run up to Christmas every year.

Daughter no. 2 starts thinking about her list around October every year, puts pen to paper early November, and places it in front of the chimney no later than mid-November. Her list is detailed and long, containing a mix of the fanciful (does anyone know where I can get an "invisibility cloak" from?), the realistic (various DVDs), and thoughtful ("a hoverboard for daddy").

Daughter no. 1, however, is much more laissez-faire about the whole thing (last year's list; "Just surprise me"). This may of course be down to the fact that she appears to be at that age where I suspect she no longer really quite believes in the whole Father Christmas thing (mainly brought on by the fact Mr Sardinetin and I are such bad liars), but is worried that admitting this may be tempting fate too much. This year, at least we have something concrete to go on - namely a list containing 3 items; 

1) A phone
2) A phone case
3) Surprise me

(Ah, the dreaded mobile phone debate. I've resisted it for as long as possible - up to now, I've managed to bat it away fairly easily with a simple "you're too young". Yet with increased independence and peer pressure it isn't quite as easy an argument to have any more. Realistically, it will probably end up being an 11th birthday present, and it is likely to be a second-hand parental cast off. No good for Christmas, therefore.)

So what does a true tween get for Christmas?! Well, never mind the tween herself, here are my personal favourites....

(From the top, left to right:
1) World scratch off map - as she's turning into quite a well-travelled young lady, who is also off to Berlin (gulp) with school next year
2) Glitter owl bag- because GLITTER! and OWLS!
3) A personalised purse - to go in the bag, obvs.
4) Make your own lip balm kit - for a bit of fun, plus it comes in chocolate flavour for our resident chocoholic.
5) Monster High canvas shoes - because, despite hating pink, my particular tween has a thing for pink leopard print at the moment.(Although, as I've previously blogged, shoes are also a bit of a bone of contention around here, so I may be on a losing streak with this one...)
6) F is for initial letter light  - for the bedroom makeover we're planning next year
7) Vintage style Cluedo - because, despite exhibiting increasingly teenage tendencies, she still loves playing family board games. Plus this edition does wonders for parental nostalgia.
8) Great British Bake Off hoody - one of her favourite TV shows. Plus nobody likes a soggy bottom.
9) A Motorola Moto G. OK, OK, I said no phones...but if she were to get one, it might be something like this. I have one and it's a great phone for not huge amounts of money. (Plus if I give her my old one, I can have a new one, right?)

Now if you'll pardon me, I'm off to pine for the days when I could buy Christmas pudding bibs and elf hats. Thank goodness I have a one year old nephew...

Friday, 14 August 2015

Separation Anxiety

The kids have been keeping me awake at night recently. No, they're not babies any more, and no, they haven't been ill. I'm not up doing night feeds or soothing teething. There are not even any night terrors or bed wetting.

The thing is, they've not even been on the house.

We're supposed to be enjoying a week's peace and quiet while they live it up a the nearby centre of a well-known operator of outdoor activity centres, enjoying pursuits such as abseiling, quad-biking and aeroball(?). They've both been there before - more than once- with either school or Brownies, so it should not be a big deal. They are also no strangers to staying away from home overnight with friends and family.

Somehow, however, this feels different. It's the first time we don't know any of the people in charge of looking after them overnight, and we have no real way of contracting them. Even if they had phones off their own (which they don't!), valuables are discouraged and locked away on arrival, and children are actively discouraged from phoning home as it can apparently cause additional homesickness.

All of which of course leaves me at home worrying...

...if they remembered to apply sunscreen when it was sunny...

...if they have got appropriate waterproofs for today's wet weather...

..whether the burgeoning colds they left with have gone...

...whether they got enough sleep...

And finally;

....why I'm turning into my mother...

The answer will present itself when I fetch them tonight. In the meantime, I'm assuming no news has been good news!

Monday, 27 July 2015

An Open Letter to Children’s Shoe Manufacturers

Dear Shoe Manufacturers,
I don’t need to tell you that the summer holidays are upon us. For a working parent, this brings with it not rest and relaxation but the additional juggling of different childcare settings in an effort to ensure one’s children are appropriately looked after. Children these days are fickle – they like a reasonable mix of activities. Add that together with a job that involves shuttling up and down the M4 on a vaguely regular basis, and timetables have to be managed with military precision.
Before you think I’m complaining – I’m not. We’ve a few years of it under our belts, and we’re lucky enough to have a choice of good childcare settings that the kids are happy to attend. So, yes, it can be a little stressful sometimes, but it’s nothing compared to another stress that also rears its ugly head at around this time of year. The dreaded Back To School shopping. Or, to be more precise Back To School Shoe Shopping. We all know New School Year = New School Shoes. Just the thought is enough to bring me out in a cold sweat, however. (In fact, I’ve spent the last three days writing this blog post as I’ve had to go for a lie down after every other sentence.)
Nothing in my life is as stressful as school shoe shopping. Nothing.
Clearly, my eldest daughter (despite both looking like me and being close to me in personality), missed the “OMG, I love shoes” gene. However, even my youngest daughter, who has inherited some of her mother’s shoeaholic tendencies, is less than enamoured with this annual torture.
What is it about school shoes, and specifically those aimed at girls? When it comes to both design and build, they are dire. My children have been known to get through 3 pairs in the space of six weeks in the past. These were not cheap pairs, either. I’ve spent anywhere between £15 and £45 on a single pair of school shoes in desperation, with no discernible difference in durability. In fact, if anything, unscientific experience seems to indicate that the more expensive a pair, the shorter their lifespan. At least with a cheap pair you don’t feel quite so bad about them ending up in the bin every couple of months…
Whilst boys’ footwear mostly looks like it can withstand a) the British weather, and b) a reasonable amount of rough and tumble, young girls have to make do with dainty open shoes with flimsy straps that are barely better equipped than a sandal for the British autumn. 
I give you my top three gripes:
  1. Open fronts

It rains quite a lot in this country. Had you noticed? I wonder also if you’ve noticed that wet socks are really quite uncomfortable?
  1. Flimsy Velcro fastenings:

…behold the dreaded silver ring, or the “roulette ring” as it’s known in our house, as we hold our breath to see which gets ripped apart first – the ring, or the…
  1. Thin Soles

Is it just my children that appear to be able to unglue the upper and the sole of a shoe before the term is out? I'm sure the amount we spend on superglue is sending off alarm bells somewhere. (Do kids still sniff glue? Is that even a thing, or have all the new trendy "legal highs" we parents supposedly have to be alarmed about overtaken that habit?)
Anyway, in my desperation, I've even tried persuading my daughters to give "boys' shoes" a try. Peer pressure is stronger than my negotiating skills, however, and the trauma of the teasing I endured as a 12 year old (when my mother bought me what would now, bizarrely be the height of fashion - rounded lace-ups, but in the 80s turned me into a playground pariah when everyone else was wearing pointy slip-ons) remains with me to this day. I'm not brave enough to inflict something similar on my children.
However, all is not lost. Last year, for the first year, we struck gold when it came to 50% of the offspring at least. Youngest daughter chose these fab boot-like constructions from M&S:

Nice and enclosed, no roulette ring to worry about, and soles worthy of the name. THEY LASTED A WHOLE SCHOOL YEAR, and even better, it looks like they are selling the same ones this year.
So, if the rest of you would just be so kind as to follow their example, I'll be eternally grateful. In the meantime, I'm off to stock up on a pair in every size.

Yours, exasperatedly…


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