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Wednesday 28 November 2012

Something always gives

A strong part of the reasons why I went back to work after having children was that fundamentally I'm the kind of person that gets easily bored. I don't think anybody who has ever stayed at home with a newborn can deny that, while there can undoubtedly be extremely rewarding, there are also long periods of tedium involved. And, as we have previously established, I'm not really the kind of person that finds the whole baby group and coffee morning round an easy one to negotiate. I just thought it was nice to think about some other things for a while, and work seemed like a ready-made, easy way out.

I've also spent my entire career in a relatively fast-paced, high-tech, multi-national environment. Conference calls at odd times of the day, juggling the needs of the Egyptians vs the needs of the Austrians kind of seemed like second nature. I can therefore kid myself that children and childcare is therefore just another ball that I need to keep up in the air. I make lists for everything, and I probably couldn't function without putting absolutely everything into my Outlook calendar and relying on the little reminder windows that pop up to keep me on track. It helps that I have a reasonable memory that is forever ticking through its own mental lists too. It's not easy, but I'm masochistic enough to enjoy the variety and the challenge. 

Mostly, anyway. 

If all of that sounds too good to be true, then here comes the but. 

Doing a full day's work, making sure the kids have clean clothes, have done homework, have got Brownies uniform, making sure the bills are paid...etc etc... All of the things that are necessary purely just for us to function as a household come at a price; namely, that the house is a complete mess, and relies on other people coming to stay for it to be in a vaguely tidy/clean condition.

I've partly come to terms with the fact that my home will never be the showhome I envisage in my head. (Part of me holds on to the fact that it's a rebellion against the showhome-like qualities of my parents' home.) Dishes are destined to be sat on the side ready for the dishwasher to be emptied, clothes will be on chairs, toys not in their place. And don't get me started on the paperwork. Oh, God, the endless piles of paperwork waiting to be filed...

It doesn't have to be like this, I occasionally tell myself. It doesn't help that a good friend of mine manages to hold down a stressful job as a lawyer AND have a permanently immaculate house. (Although she only has one, apparently tidy, child. Grr.) Spurred on by her good example I occasionally go through bouts of manic tidying, or go out and buy another self-help book that promises eternal salvation:

Yeah. Guess what? Not read it yet. It's hidden under a pile of paperwork. 

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Review - Barbie Photo Fashion Doll

The lovely folks at Mattel were kind enough to send us a Barbie Fashion Doll for review recently. As I have two big Barbie fans in the house, I of course jumped at the chance. It's not the cheapest Barbie in the world (RRP £69.99), but has rather a neat trick up its sleeve - or should I say t-shirt? - namely the fact that as well as being a Barbie doll, it also doubles up as a fully functioning digital camera, which displays the images taken on Barbie's t-shirt. As seen on TV, and "very cool", apparently.

The box duly arrived:

and the kids spent a long time trying it out:

...and generally having a lot of fun. It's biggest plus point is definitely that it is fairly robust, and fairly intuitive for the intended age-range to use (it is recommended for 6+, although my 5 year old seemed happy taking snaps, I think some of the finer points of the effects were a little lost on her, so it's probably a reasonable recommendation).

The next morning we hooked the Barbie up to the computer to take a look at the fruits of their labours. The doll has an accompanying website/programme that makes viewing pictures and adding effects a tad easier than on the doll itself. I have to say that it wasn't necessarily obviously straightforward, as it required a download of Adobe Air, which wasn't mentioned in the instructions.

At this point, if I'm honest, the doubts started to creep in. The photos themselves are very small and not great quality. There is also no flash, so intended for daylight only, or for taking photos of the TV (!):

gratuitous Robin Windsor topless
(actual pictures taken with doll)

So, as cameras go, it's not really great. Fine for a child that doesn't know what to expect from a camera, but kids these days are pretty tech savvy, so a lot of room for improvement in my opinion.

Also, as eldest daughter remarked, "it's not really a proper Barbie either, as you can't even change her clothes". I can't help thinking that for the price of the doll, you'd be better off buying a "standard" Barbie plus a basic digital camera.

Sorry, Barbie.

Disclosure: we were provided with a Barbie Photo Fashion doll, all opinions our own.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

The Introvert's Guide to Parenting

I like solitude. I generally like my own company, even though I sometimes worry about the slightly nuttier depths of my overactive imagination. All of that is kind of fortunate really, as I spend a lot of time working from home, devoid of any sort of human contact other than that which comes as a disembodied voice on the other end of a phone. I appreciate it would probably drive seriously extroverted types completely bonkers, but being happily far along the introverted scale, it suits me down to the ground.

There's only one slight snag to this whole thing, however - you see, I went and had children.

The discomfort starts with pregnancy - all of a sudden, friends, acquaintances and complete strangers start to make small talk about intimate details of your anatomy. Doctors and health workers poke around in places normally reserved only for the most intimate moments. Your body is suddenly no longer your own, and sometimes you wonder if your mind is, either.

Maybe you start going to ante-natal classes. More complete strangers you suddenly find yourselves thrown together with. Actually though, you think, it's not too bad. At least you have something in common, so the small talk comes fairly easily. Heck, even the dads start showing an interest and doing a spot of male-bonding over their collective fertility.

The general indignity of the actual birthing process passes you by in a haze of gas and air. "Student midwives? Hell, yeah - the more the merrier! Come and look at the stitches on this!"

The first few weeks are weepy and sleep-deprived, and you wish you still had that gas and air handy. But, generally, people at least appreciate that you kind of have your hands full, and are happy to ask if you need help or appreciate company. Soon, however, there comes a point when you can no-longer use newborn chaos to delay your return into society.

Then comes the dreaded baby group.

Is there anything worse for an introvert than the prospect of a noisy room full of other people and wailing children? You don't want to seem like too much of a grump, but really all you want to do is quietly read your book in a corner while little Tarquin* plays with the building blocks. That would be "weird" though, so you reluctantly feign interest in conversations about nappies, weaning and sleep patterns.

Really though, it's not that bad. Worse is yet to come. Your children start to communicate with you in ways other than screaming red faces. And once kids start to talk they generally don't stop much. Permanent chatter fills your home from the time they get up to the time they pass out from over-stretched vocal chords. The endless questions wear you down as much as any arguing or shouting (if someone could invent a volume button for children, please?) and the endless chatter. Oh God, the endless chatter. The commentary about EVERY LITTLE THING makes you idly wonder if someone would employ them to do those audio descriptions for deaf people. Still, they're your kids, you love them, and they can be kind of amusing at times, so you kind of forgive them and put up with it, silently looking forward to the days when they toddle off to childcare or school.

Rookie mistake.

Yes, the start of school gives you more time to yourself, but it also brings with it the introverts greatest fear; OTHER PEOPLE'S CHILDREN. Your own children will insist on inviting them round as play dates, where they will jointly cause absolute chaos in your homely sanctuary.. No longer can you ignore the infantile whys and hows as you can with your own kids - you have to show an interest in the little dears, despite the fact you patently really don't have much interest in them other than as playmates to keep your own children from bothering you.

So, one day, when your now 5 year old youngest daughter states that she doesn't "like people talking AT her", you smile, and advise her under your breath never to have children of her own...

(*just stating for the record that Tarquin is not the name of either of my daughters)

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Alternatives to Boden...

(Don't worry, I'm not going to make a habit of this fashion blogging lark, there are those that do it WAY better than I do, but seeing as, along with "jokes for kids", "Alternatives to Boden" seems to be something a lot of people visit my blog to find I'm totally abusing the SEO malarkey. Or something. Anyway, it's just an excuse for pretty pictures on my blog.)

I can't seem to move for autumn/winter fashion catalogues popping through my door at the moment, a lot of them from companies I confess I have not previously heard of. Testament to the fact I obviously haven't ticked the right box somewhere along the line, and I am on some sort of database with a header at the top that says "Women No Longer In The First Flush of Youth With A Reasonable Disposable Income That Are Suckers For Companies That Sell Them That Effortlessly Stylish Lifestyle". However, I have to say this is one form of junk mail I don't really object to.

I don't go out shopping much any more, and when I do it is somehow always seems to be with kids in tow, which, as anyone can tell you does not equate to a pleasurable browsing experience. Besides, my days of sweating and huffing in a Top Shop changing room are long gone. As with my grocery shopping therefore, most of my clothes shopping is done online these days.

Since I hardly go in the office any more, I don't really need to dress up (although I miss my killer heels, it's nice not to have to make an effort all the time). However, I do occasionally have to go out and can't really do the school run in pyjamas. Time for the "mumiform"? Once you get to a certain age, you start to wonder about the suitability of what you wear. I don't want to appear as mutton dressed as lamb, but I certainly don't think I'm ready for a twinset and pearls:


The thing is, if you really want alternatives to Boden, then the names that spring to mind (according to a quick google, anyway) are brands like Joules and Toast, neither of which I have ever been a huge fan of, if I'm honest (while I don't mind the odd pattern, I find Joules too "logo-y", and Toast clothes always seem to be on anaemic wistful models that could do with a few pies and look like they are hand knitted from mountain goats. Scratchy:


Doesn't stop either of them sending me catalogues, though.).

So what is a still 30-something woman to do if she doesn't want to look like a) her kids have used her clothes as a colouring book, or b) her mother?

Well, this season I'm mainly wearing the same clothes I've been wearing for the last 10 years loving The White Company, Mint Velvet, Phase8 and Fat Face:

But after all that I have a confession...you see today I'm actually wearing Boden...(and OMG, yes, it's beige)


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