Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Hobbies, Homework and Trying to Silence the Guilt.

A few unrelated things this week have got me mulling over this post that's been going round in my head for a while. I've never quite got around to posting it before now as I could never quite work out what exactly I was trying to articulate.

Before I go rambling on, I feel it's probably useful to post a remind of my general schedule: Mon-Wed I work 8.30 to 5pm, and the kids are in breakfast and after-school club from around 8am, until I pick them up just after 5. Thursdays and Fridays I am lucky enough to work a shorter day - 9 till 3, which allows me to take them to and fetch them from school.

Up until now, the kids have not been involved in the round of endless classes and hobbies that other children seem to participate in - no ballet, gymnastics, swimming, tae-kwon-do, piano lessons etc etc. We simply haven't had enough time, and it has seemed unfair to push them to what is effectively another childcare setting on a Thursday or Friday afternoon when I don't see them much beyond bath and bedtime the rest of the week.

The exception to this has been Rainbows, which one or both of them have doing on a Wednesday evening for just over a year now (mainly, I confess, down to the fact that a friend put their names down a couple of years ago when she did the same for her own daughter!). DD1 has now moved on to Brownies on a Thursday, and expressed a wish to do both gymnastics at some point and participate in the school choir, which takes place after school on a Tuesday, a day she would normally be picked up by the after-school club. After some soul-searching and logistical juggling involving my parents offering to fetch her from school and take her to after-school club, I have (perhaps somewhat reluctantly) agreed. I may yet come to regret it.

So far, so good. It will probably appease some of that working parent guilt that comes with "Oh my God, I am not letting my children reach their full potential", and hopefully they will get enjoyment out of it. However, with Year 3 comes the thorny subject of  more homework. (My feelings on this summed up quite nicely by Mostly Yummy Mummy in her post on how much she hates homework.) I can't help worrying that our non-planned time together will become even more scarce.

We recently visited some good friends of ours, whose eldest son is in a private school. From what I understand, it prides itself on academically high standards (he had to pass a sort of entrance exam to go from the infant to the junior school, for example), and rumours abound of children quietly "disappearing" to other schools if they don't quite make the grade.

As well as fencing (!), drama, chess club etc, they are also paying for their son (8) to have private tuition in Maths. He follows something called "Kumon", which apparently is very popular in his class, with most children doing at least one or both of Maths or English to ensure they keep up. (I can't help thinking that it is a bit of a vicious circle...) I am certainly not judging them at all - they have invested a lot in him going to that school, so it is in their interests to ensure he stays there, and I suspect I would probably do the same in their situation, despite my initial reaction of horror. We all want what's best for our children.

I can't help worrying that, whether it is school pressure, time-poor working parents, or time take up by too many hobbies, children these days don't have enough time to just be children. If all their hours are mapped out for them, when will they learn to be independent and explore on their own?

Thursday, 20 September 2012

An Ode to the Humble Tomato

Tomato, tomato, why do you tempt me so?
Tomato, tomato, I love you, don't you know
Tomato, tomato, I can't eat you any more,
Tomato, tomato, you make my hands so sore.

Your juicy ripe red goodness begs to be consumed
Yet my love for you, I fear, is doomed
No longer shall I you dismember
I shall have to stick

Friday, 14 September 2012

In Which I Admit My Morning Shortcomings

I'm a Libran. Now, I'm putting this out there because, according to the wisdom that is Astrology, there are two traits that Librans possess that coincidentally happen to quite strongly apply to me - this first one is that I'm terribly indecisive, the second is that I'm really not a fan of conflict. We Librans are (allegedly) known for our tact and diplomacy (My mother always used to say I should have joined the Diplomatic Service, but actually I've often wondered if the Diplomatic Service really is that diplomatic? After all, strikes me as all Ambassadors seem to do is get called in to be shouted at.)

Oh, I'm also quite known to digress quite a lot.

Anyhow, in nearly three (!) years on Twitter, I've never really had a massive run-in with anyone. I'm more the type to either ignore or quietly unfollow if I see something in my timeline I don't agree with, rather than start an argument. A lot of people would probably consider that terribly cowardly, but it's just not my style. For me, Twitter as a place for a bit of fun and banter, and it makes me uncomfortable when things get too "heavy".

Now, yesterday morning, I sent the following tweet:

A pretty flippant, throwaway sort of remark that was tweeted after returning red-faced and "glowing" from the school run. It seemed to go down relatively well, with various people replying, favouriting, re-tweeting etc. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I woke up this morning to find a reply that I hadn't seen from last night, accusing me of being judgemental and "unsisterly". I thought about it, and to be honest, it is probably a fair point.

Now, don't get me wrong, I happen to like wearing make-up. I try not to look like I've been dragged through a hedge backwards. I try to throw a minimal amount of eyeshadow and mascara on my face and show my hair a hairbrush, but I am genuinely in awe of those who go further than this every morning. Those that wear as much make-up on the school run as I would on a typical night out (oh, and don't get me started on those that wear foundation with lycra! To the gym?! Why?! How?!)
I confess that one of my best"mum friends" prompted the tweet yesterday. She has a five-year old, a 3 year-old and a FOUR WEEK OLD, yet still managed to wear full eye make-up, foundation, blusher and lipstick. I honestly don't know how she does it.

This morning ran roughly as follows in the Tin house:

6.30 Alarm goes off
6.35 Drag self out of bed, go downstairs, make coffee and toast for husband (yes, yes, I know, I'm a SUCKER for making his breakfast, but quite honestly I like to drink my coffee in peace for ten minutes while listening to the radio, so it suits me). Check Twitter.
6.40 DD1 (7) appears, still in pyjamas, demanding milk and toast. (Unusually early for her, she's normally the last one up, around 7)
6.55 DD1 demands that I play Mikado with her, I fob her off.
6.59 Husband leaves house.
7.00 DD2 (5) appears, thankfully dressed in school uniform, but also demanding toast. Make third lot of toast.
7.01 DD1 still demanding game of "pick-up sticks". I grudgingly agree. Play Mikado.
7.10 Try and get DD2 to read reading book. (Yes, I know, should have done this last night.).
7.20 Make self porridge. Wolf it down. Check Twitter.
7.25 Put on fourth round of toast. Leave children eating it and mutter something about getting dressed and head upstairs. Shower. Head back downstairs to find children dancing to One Direction.
7.40 Nag DD1 to get dressed. Compromise by promising to put music on upstairs.
7.50 Get self dressed, apply minimal eye make-up.
7.55 Repeatedly nag children to brush teeth. Check Twitter.
8.05 Children finally brush teeth
8.07 Tell DD2 to fetch dry tights as she has spilled water all over them
8.15 Repeatedly nag children to put shoes and coats on.
8.20 Leave house.
8.50 return to house, flustered and probably in need of another shower...

On a Monday-Wednesday, when the children go to breakfast club, this pattern is pretty similar, but on a more compressed basis, with higher-pitched nagging (seriously, can anyone tell me why I pay for my children to go to "breakfast" club if they eat one at home anyway?).

So, women who manage to put on your full face in the morning - yes, I still think you're freaks, but, let's face it, it's only because I'm jealous...

If all else fails, just add celebrity sunglasses

Monday, 10 September 2012

Random Thoughts of the Week - The Autumn Has Broken Edition

- It seems this past weekend was officially The End of Summer in the UK if the weathermen are to be believed. With the promised onset of the dreaded rain and gale-force winds, it seems like the perfect opportunity to go camping again for one last time this year next weekend - oh, and just in case there is the slightest possibility that the weekend may, against expectations, remain dry, it seems we'll be spending a day canoeing to ensure that we get wet anyway. Eek. Wish me luck.

- Back to school seems to have been less painful than perhaps I had anticipated. There's a lot to be said for being overly dramatic and fearing the worst with things; when the apocalypse doesn't happen it leaves you in a much happier state!

- I'm actually ready to start wearing jumpers and scarves and (whoop! new!) jackets! At least it feels like it's about the right time to do so (rather than just having to do so because of our rubbish summer). It's also got me thinking that I really must clear out my wardrobe...

- My mind is full of interior design ideas, and this time I have a proper, bona-fide outlet for them!

- Thoughts are turning to blackberry and apple crumble...pies...mmmm....custard...

Not long now!

Please remind me of all of these points when I start moaning about the dark evenings...

Monday, 3 September 2012

How To Holiday Like A Celebrity

For most people in the UK, today is that first Monday in September that means back to school. Even David Cameron has finally come returned from his holidays and is back to running the country.

I do love a bit of people-watching, and have always found ports and airports to be useful for chance glimpses of those perhaps considered "celebrities" by some. In the past, Heston Blumenthal has overtaken me at the top of a ski slope, and on another occasion, Robbie Coltrane has lunched in the same mountainside restaurant as our party. In my previous life as a relatively regular visitor to Heathrow airport, I've come across people as random as Ruby Wax, Vivienne Westwood and "some bloke who used to be in Eastenders". With the exception of Ms Westwood, who appeared to have luggage enough for a football team (understandable, I guess) and several members of an "entourage", most of these famous types were going about their business much the same as most other people.

The ferry on the way back from Spain also happened to be one being frequented by British comedian and TV presenter Rowland Rivron, who, according to Wikipedia is a keen caravanner together with his wife Monica (author of the "caravan cookbook"). I confess I was not previously privy to this information about Mr Rivron's holiday preferences, so I was a little surprised to see his ageing Volvo pulling a caravan as we left the ferry at Portsmouth.

Again, on the boat, on the couple of occasions that I observed him, he appeared to go about his business like - gasp - any normal person.(With the exception of when I hissed loudly at my husband "THAT'S ROWLAND RIVRON" in earshot of what I realised later was his wife. Oops.)

It made me smile, therefore, when I came back to the UK to see this tweet from British TV news presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy:
Because of course, as with anything in life there is a hierarchy to celebrity and, by default to their holiday choices. Rowland Rivron had the benefit of looking and dressing like a slightly older version of my husband - a kind of everyman, if you will. Contrast this with how somebody much more in public life like a Prime Minister, or even the Beckhams, must have to holiday, and it strikes me that there is a fine balance between fame and fortune when it comes to choosing your holiday destination.

With incredible wealth comes the choice to holiday in the most luxurious destinations in the world...and yet you also find yourself ironically unable to venture much beyond the four walls of your accommodation for most of the time without being either photographed, mobbed, or being permanently accompanied by security staff. Yes, you may be staying in five-star hotels, on luxury yachts, or in your own personal holiday villa, but you can't just take your kids to the beach, see the sights or eat at the local restaurant without a great deal of inconvenience. At least our holiday plans aren't published all over the newspapers, with handy mock-ups of what our holiday snaps might look like:


I think, on balance, I'd rather be Rowland Rivron in his caravan.


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