Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The Gallery - Outside my Front Door








This is my first attempt at participating in The Gallery by Tara Cain, over at Sticky Fingers. This week's prompt is "outside my front door". The indecisive Libran in me couldn't quite decide which pic to go for, so you I have gone for two. The first; literally the view from outside my front door. As you can see, we live in a Victorian part of town, which I absolutely adore.

We moved here 3 years ago (11 days before DD2 made an appearance - not to be recommended!), from a typical 80s cul-de-sac in the suburbs. We have lovely neighbours, and behind our back garden we have the most wonderful park (second pic). It is a great place for people to congregate and for children to play, with a little tea shop selling refreshments, and brass band concerts on the bandstand in the summer. There is also a fishpond and an aviary, and some very tame squirrels.

Most people move further out of town when children are born, but we did the opposite, and I am so glad we did!

Monday, 29 March 2010

Help! My Daughter is a Girl!


I was a bit of a tomboy as a child - I played with boys a lot, I loved playing with cars and climbing trees. I wore trousers, always looked a bit scruffy and never wore pink.

When DD1 was born, I was very conscious of not wanting to conform to gender stereotypes. Whilst I loved dressing her in cute little outfits, I tried my best to ensure that they were all the colours of the rainbow. In the end she was a very sicky baby and she got through so many changes of clothes that I think her first six months were spent more or less permanently in sleepsuits. As she got older, I would dress her in trousers as these were far more practical - especially for nursery. I also continued in my quest for "anything but pink", and was proud when she told me her favourite colour was orange.

DD2 came along a couple of years later, and it slowly became inevitable that a certain female bias crept into the house. Other people bought dolls, fairy dresses and pink frilly things. I kept to my sensible trouser rule, though. Lately, however, this has been a real struggle. To some extent, DD2 has always been the easy-going one. For a long time I thought I had missed the terrible twos completely - however, it just turns out she is a bit of a late developer on the tantrum front, and just as she is approaching her third birthday, she has developed some very clear ideas about what she does and does not like.

What she does like: wearing a skirt. So much so that every morning instead of a "good morning", she waltzes into the bedroom and pronounces: "I want to wear a skirt today". As we do not actually possess many skirts in her size, this causes a few problems, to say the least.
The equation goes something like;
DD1 wearing mainly trousers + DD2 being the unfortunate recipient of mainly hand-me-downs = Temper tantrums in the mornings.

The only compromise she will accept is by promising the PINK trousers... which begs the question, how did it come to this?!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Happiness is...


I have taken the liberty of taking up the tag thrown down by Dawn at The Moiderer regarding 10 Things that make me Happy. (Apologies, it's a bit of a rushed job. )

So - in no particular order:

1) My husband - who still makes me laugh after nearly 9 years of marriage and 15 years together in total
2) My children - almost goes without saying really - the way they make me look at the world with new eyes.
3) Sunshine - given we live in a generally grey and drizzly country every little ray brings me out in a huge grin
4) Sleep - I am just way too miserable without it. Sadly the days of a long lazy morning in bed are long gone.
5) A glass of bubbly with friends - how could it not?
6) Shoes - my biggest weakness. I know, I know, it's completely shallow, but even since the age of 3 I have had a penchant for killer heels and the way they make me feel. My 2 girls are the same!
7) Reading a good book, something I can get really engrossed in and forget what is going on around me.
8) Getting something unexpected in the post
9) Dancing insanely to the cheesiest music possible
...and finally:
10) The fact that we are going on holiday tomorrow. Yippee!!

I'll also throw this one open to anyone that would like to pick it up - comment below and let me know how you get on.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Cat Crap





Dear Neighbour,

I understand that you love your cat - if I wasn't allergic to them I think I would probably have liked to have had one myself.

However, you also have small children. You understand what they are like. They like to go out and explore their environment. My two enjoy "gardening". The last thing I therefore need is cat pooh in my garden. Apart from the fact it is not particularly aesthetically pleasing, I believe it is also a cause of lots of nasty diseases. You will appreciate this is something that concerns me.

This note is therefore intended as a friendly warning that if I find fluffy, (or kittens or whatever the damn' thing is called) pooping in my garden one more time, it had better run for its life. I wouldn't mind so much if it made itself useful - after all, it failed to do anything about the rat that was living in my compost heap.

Oh, and the cat pooh is winging its way back over the fence.

Yours apologetically,
Annoyed of Wiltshire

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Shoop, shoop, shoop...


Falling down a mountain with two planks of wood strapped to your feet has never really been my idea of fun.

It’s fair to say I came to downhill skiing late (Christmas holidays in Finland with family covered more of the cross-country side of the discipline). In addition, when the sporty genes were handed out in my family, my brother got 100%, and I was left with…well…


Both my father-in-law and my mother-in-law (who divorced when my husband was quite young) both skied, and both took him on ski breaks from a young age (occasionally even once a year separately with each parent). Consequently, to say that he’s not bad is putting it mildly. Once I had met my husband, there was therefore a certain amount of pressure for me to also “give it a go”. However, my argument was always that it seemed like a lot of precious time and money for something that there was no guarantee of me ever enjoying. I pointed out that, for the price of a ski holiday, I would much rather spend a week somewhere exotic, with guaranteed nice weather.

However, he ground me down in the end, and I finally agreed to go on my first ski holiday at the ripe old age of 28. (I only agreed as some other friends who were complete snow virgins had also indicated their interest, and I was therefore not going to be the only beginner on the slopes.) After all the build up, I was fairly ambivalent to the experience, and agreed to give it another go a couple of years later to see if I could get beyond the total beginner phase with any success. By this time, my fellow ski virgins had been completely bitten by the ski bug and had managed to squeeze in another 3 or 4 holidays, so were far in advance of my feeble skills. (They have subsequently been at least once or twice a year on average, despite now also having 3 children - they have been twice already this season, and are coming with us again next week!).

My feelings towards the whole thing are still fairly mixed. I once likened them to my feelings towards childbirth, i.e. I screamed all the way through it, but somehow the pain doesn’t seem as bad in hindsight. I enjoy the mountain atmosphere, I enjoy the scenery, and I enjoy slowly pottering on a nice easy slope, but I’ve never really enjoyed the speed and the fear. I put this down to being a) lazy and b) being too old when I started.

Anyway, this Saturday, we are jetting off to the French Alps for my third attempt at falling down a mountain with a bit of grace – the first time since having children. We will be accompanied by aforementioned ski-mad friends and another couple with 3-month old baby. Our eldest will be having ski lessons, although sadly our youngest is not quite old enough to partake, as it would have been nice for them to learn together (An acquaintance recently told us that he believed all children should learn 4 sports at a young age; skiing, golf, surfing and tennis. One down, three to go.)

If the children enjoy it, and we keep it up (wish it wasn’t such a stupidly expensive hobby), I’m sure they will be whizzing down the slopes faster than me in no time at all. My only option at that point will be to retire to one of the various mountain caf├ęs with a vin chaud while their father tries to keep up with them on the black runs. Now that’s something I’m definitely looking forward to!

Friday, 12 March 2010

How many times have you ruined someone's life recently?

Alistair Darling Unveils The 2009 Budget
I enjoy working. I have a reasonably responsible job in a large corporation that is kind enough to let me work relatively flexibly around the various demands of my children. I run a medium to large-ish department. I deal with a wide variety of people from literally all around the globe. Every now and then I even get to visit them in interesting places (although ironically I now very reluctantly do more of this than I did in my previous, childless existence, when I would have jumped at the chance). I have a lot of people that either directly, or indirectly work for me (yes, I have "layers" underneath me!) - some of whom I have never even met. However, the vast majority I have known for a long time - some since I first started straight out of university many moons ago.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the last couple of years have been not been an easy time economically, and the company I work for has not been immune to the global downturn. I have therefore become more adept than I ever could have wanted or imagined to be at making someone redundant. I had to do it again recently, so it is all rather fresh in my mind.

I have to confess that I have never personally been made redundant, so I cannot truly understand the feelings of someone sitting on the opposite side of the table. However, I have to give credit to all the people I have had to give the bad news to over the past few years that they have been gracious and professional about it at all times. That's not to say that they won't have gone home and screamed, shouted, cried, drunk themselves into a stupor etc, but they didn't start throwing things at me, for which I was eternally grateful. I certainly don't know if I would have taken the news as well.

Occasionally I hear what has happened to some of these former colleagues. The majority have quickly found other jobs in similar roles, for which I am thankful. For some, it has even proved a blessing, as they have worked out what they really want to do in life and have used the opportunity (and, I have to say, extremely generous redundancy package) to go in a completely different direction. However, at the back of my mind, there are always one or two that I still wonder about. Inevitably, these tend to be the people that don't stay in touch, that don't post status updates on "LinkedIn", that don't boast about they are fine now, thank you very much. I know of one colleague that, two years on, is still surviving from one temporary job to another. He has a wife and four children to support.

"Sorry" does not even come close.

It's at times like these that I really hate being the "boss".

Thursday, 11 March 2010

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Jokes for 4/5 year olds?

DD1 is currently really into jokes in a big way. Her favourite pastime at the dinner table is "doing jokes". Unfortunately, I have never been particularly good at remembering jokes - I'm one of those annoying people that gets halfway through and then goes "no, wait, the punchline was... oh, I wasn't supposed to...erm". However, thankfully, you don't need particularly complex anecdotes to keep a "nearly 5" year old amused. They just need to be fairly short and fairly simple.

Her current favourites are:

Q: "What do you call a gorilla with bananas in its ears?"
A: "Anything you like, it can't hear you."

Q: "What do you call a deer with no eyes?"
A: "No idea"

as well as knock-knock jokes.

I'm therefore posting this as a plea for help - please comment with suitable jokes for the under-5s and help me expand my repertoire!

Monday, 8 March 2010

The Photo Lottery - A Meme


I've been tagged by JumblyMummy in the latest photo meme.

The instructions are:-

1. Open the first (oldest) photo folder in your computer library
2. Scroll to the 10th photo
3. Post the photo and the story behind it
4. Tag 5 or more people to continue the thread

This is DD1 the day we brought her back from hospital. Like many new parents, we had previously rushed out and bought various bits of new-fangled technology to capture our firstborn's precious moments, so most of the earliest photos in my photo folder are similar. This one really brings back to me how tiny she was. It also reminds me of that real "Oh my God, what do we do now" feeling we had when we got her home and realised that this was it, it was no longer a game, and we were ON OUR OWN.

I'd like to tag the following bloggers with this one:

Caroline at Diary of Baby Led Weaning
Vicky at Life at the Old Workshop
Kate at What Kate Did
Ally at Mom on a Wire
Jenni at The Gherkin Jar (nicely goes with my Sardine Tin food receptacle theme!)

all of whom joined the "new to blogging" group at British Mummy Bloggers roundabout the same time I did.

Friday, 5 March 2010

No Balloons?

I am very excited.

Tomorrow, hubby and I are leaving the kids and heading off for a dirty weekend in London. It won't be the first time that we will individually have spent the night away from the children (I do travel to far-flung places occasionally with work, and hubby has to pop over the channel fairly regularly), however, it will be the first time that there won't be at least one of us around.

The occasion was the invitation from an old friend - let's call him R - to his flatwarming. R is pretty much our only single, childless friend, and the only friend who still lives the big city lifestyle in London town. His lifestyle could therefore not be any different from ours. Most of his other friends (some of whom are very glamourous) are also in a similar situation, and so there was really no way we were going to take DDs with us.

Anyway, I digress slightly. We sat down and explained to DDs that grandma and grandad that would be looking after them for the weekend, as mummy and daddy would be going to a party.

The conversation with eldest went something like this:

DD1s "Are you having a bouncy castle, mummy?"
Me: "No, I don't think R's flat is big enough"
DD1: "What about cake?"
Me: "No, probably not"
DD1: "Balloons?"
Me: "I'm not sure"
DD1: "What will you do, then?"
Me: "I expect we'll have some nibbles and drinks and talk to people"
DD1: "That sounds a bit boring, mummy."

And she's right, isn't she?!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Mothers and Daughters - part 1

I love my mother.

You know if I open with a line like that, there is bound to be a "but" following somewhere.

Since I left home at the age of 18, and until just under a year ago, my mother and I had been separated by a 10-hour car journey/2 hour flight/several "low" countries. This seemed to work fairly well for both of us. We saw each other relatively regularly, for a week or so at a time. Then my husband and I had children. My parents were fantastic - they came over and really helped out in those first few horrible sleep-deprived months, but I always knew it was for a limited period each time.

A couple of years down the line, my father retired, and they decided it was time to leave "the continent" and return to Blighty. This had always been the intention, but I suppose the arrival of grandchildren cemented the plan. My father is a Barnsley lad, and we had spent our periods in the UK in Cheshire, but they decided to move "darn Sarf" to be near the grandchildren. Since last May, we therefore now find ourselves within 10 minutes' drive of each other, and it has taken some time to adjust.

My mother and I resemble each other physically, but have always been complete opposites in terms of character. I am more like my father - reserved, introverted, fairly untidy. She is outgoing, bubbly and an OBSESSIVE cleaner. (My dad swears she wasn't like that when he met her, although my grandmother was apparently the same - is it hereditary? If yes, it only manifests itself in later life.)

Earlier this week, I came home from work to find that my parents had been round - they've got a key and have been popping by a fair amount as they are collecting some wood from our garden. I knew this by the fact that my kitchen had been tidied up. So far, so freaky. The thing that really made me fly into a rage, however, was that mum had taken my washing out of the machine, and replaced it with a completely different load. The machine had been on a timer, due to finish when I got back from work. She had taken one look at it, realised the laundry inside was dry, and the machine was "flashing strangely" and assumed something was wrong. Suffice to say, I completely flew off the handle at her (it had not been a good day at work), and managed to reduce her to tears.

I understand that I may come across as completely irrational - she was, after all, only trying to help. To say I felt guilty about going berserk is an understatement. However, I think I might finally have got the point across to her that I am no longer 6 years old (add another 30 to that), and that I am quite happy to wallow in my own chaos. The only question now is - how long is it going to last?...

WOEDYWTDTF?

What am I doing here? A good question, and one that I am still asking myself.

You probably know how it goes... You keep hearing about this Twitter thing, decide to join up (@unbecroyable - stupid name, why oh why), start following the "usual" high-profile tweeters. You have no intention of actually tweeting anything of course, it's just another alternative to the telly or the internet.

Suddenly you realise that there are "real", non-celebrity people out there... and they're - *gasp* - interacting with each other! You start to follow a few of them, and even pluck up the courage to interact with them. Somehow, however, 140 characters is never quite enough... and it also dawns on you these people have blogs. It looks like fun.

As a child, I had both a lot of penfriends and a secret diary. So I guess Twitter and Blogging are an adult substitute. So, if you are reading this, be gentle with me - after all, remember what your teenage self would have thought if you had read their diary!?

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