Friday, 15 May 2015

The Brunch of Broken Dreams

I've got that #Friday Feeling - you know, when your stomach does a little flip cos it's nearly the weekend? Except I think mine might be dread.

How can this be? Weekends are fab. A break from routine. The family all together doing wholesome* family things. A sliver of a lie-in, till oh, eight thirty, while daddy does daycare. What's not to love?

Saturday Brunch. That what.


Help yourself to disappointment! Side-dish of rage, anyone? Yes, the Misery is homemade!

This simple meal has become the low point of my week. I blame Fay Ripley and all her lovely Family Food. for raising expectations. Don't get me wrong, the recipes are yum. Baked Breakfast Eggs anyone? Or perhaps you'd prefer Breakfast Trifle? Dream on. Instead, we're having The Brunch of Broken Dreams.

I don't ask for much. All I want is for my family to sit down together once a week to share a nicer-than-normal meal without screaming. Here's what happens when we try;

Family Sitting Down Together
Daughter is standing on the table, laughing manically, threatening to jump because she doesn't like today's menu. Daddy is at the toaster, frantically buttering and flinging slices at her as peace offerings. The 4-year-old is under the table, feeding the cat and I am running a 'condiment relay' between table and cupboard, attempting to soothe the situation with ketchup.

Family Sharing a Meal
We forgot to shop so have scraped together scraps from the cupboard and stretched 2 baked potatoes between 3 - with just as many fillings. Daddy is 'making do' with last night's takeaway leftovers. (So selfless.)

Nicer-than-Normal Meal
Silly us. We should have known that anything longer than 2 minutes in the toaster would not be tolerated. And attempts to jazz things up with something a bit special from a cookbook would be met with suspicion. Sauce can not be trusted and is an insult to ketchup. End of.

Family Not Screaming
The 4-year-old is screaming because his mayo touched his tuna. And his tuna touched his sweetcorn. And his sweet corn touched his potato. And the outrage that comes of a potato being too potatoey.
Daddy is screaming because someone threw a knife at his thigh, just missing his femoral artery.
The 2-year-old is screaming, just cos.
At least I'm not screaming - I'm just sobbing in the corner, rocking, and using my potato halves as ear defenders.

Thanks God for Saturday dinner. Bring on the take-away on a tray, in front of the TV, when we can all ignore each other in peace...

Sunday, 10 May 2015

#LittleLoves; Pertz Leggings, Ning Nang Nong and Next.


This week's #LittleLoves

Read
I read a blog post this week that made me chuck out half my wardrobe. No, really. I discovered a new blog called I Won't Wear Sludge Brown and read a post Donna wrote about matching colours to skin tone. I've always wondered why some clothes make me look drab, no matter how nice they are on the hanger. Now I know!

I'm a 'Clear' so I should be wearing contrasting Jewel colours. God knows why my wardrobe was full of grey and taupe and, beige. No more! I filled 3 bin bags full of the murky sludge and wow it felt liberating! I'm sure rebuilding my capsule wardrope with these beauties will feel even better...



Find out your colours here.

Watched
The doom of #GE2015 must have tipped me over the edge cos my neighbour found me cackling in the street, watching this on my phone the other day. Terrifying.




Made
Bit left field, but we've made a big decision.

Regular readers will know we walked out of our son's school a few weeks ago, never to return. #NoSchoolNoPlan was probably one of the scariest things we've ever done, but it also one of the best. Nothing like a drama to focus the mind! After a lot of soul-searching and research we've decided the best thing for our son would be to repeat Reception at a new school. As a tender August boy who's young for his years, this feels like the most natural thing. We've found a school that focuses on outdoor play, with a Forest School, and has a lovely nurturing let-kids-be-kids vibe. I can't wait for the fresh start! 

Heard
So the 4-year-old fallen in love with poetry. Yay! You'd think I'd be pleased, right? Trouble is, I'm finding it really hard to find stuff that's relatable, fun AND appropriate. We borrowed The Nation's Favourite Children's Poems Audio CD from the library but I'm keep finding myself skipping through tracks.

From the heartbreaking Timothy Winters, about a deprived child, to Roger McGough's scary 'First Day at School' and 'The Trouble With my Sister, by Brian Patten, which jokes about stealing and firing a gun to 'Matilda, who told lies and was burned to death', I'm staritng to question The Nation's judgement. How can people think this stuff is suitable for children? It's so out-of-touch and inappropriate!

Thanks goodness for 'On the Ning Nang Nong' by Spike Milligan. I'm so much more comfortable with nonsense. We're playing it on loop.

Any poets or publishers who can point me in the direction of more uplifting, fun, relatable poetry for 4 year old would be really appreicaited!





Wore
Following the wardrobe cull, I bought a gorgeous oversized Fringe Hobo bag from Next. Totally digging the tassle and the fact is big enough to hold my laptop; a must for blogging on the go! So I have no clothes, but at least I can hide behind my bag...

I was also lucky enough to be gifted a fab pair of leggings from Pertz - the perfect essential to start re-building my capsule wardrobe. 



Pertz are designed by Caroline Hyde, inspired by her hunt to replace a perfect pair of leggings she loved and lost many years ago. They are handmade in the UK from material she sourced from Italy after a worldwide hunt to track down the perfect combination of fit and comfort. I love that they offer light support, muffin-top control, never get baggy at the knees, dry in 20 mins and have an SPF of 20. I also love the material - which has a slight sheen and feels like a second skin: clothes never cling to them in the wrong places. Check them out here.

And finally
The shortlist for the Brilliance in Blogging Awards 2015 was announced recently. I tried not to think about it this year following a big disappointment in 2014 when I reached the shortlist but not the final. Sob. BUT lots of my blogger friends are the the running. So if you fancy casting a vote, or just want to discover a some new great reads, these dudes are my pick of the shortlist;

Food; Taming Twins
Video: Brummy Mummy  You Tube channel 
Style: Life at the Little Wood
Family: 3 Children and It and Wry Mummy
Outstanding: Hurrah for Gin

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Not how, but why, does Kate looks THAT good after birth?

Congratulations Kate, Wills and George on the safe arrival of your healthy baby. Everyone loves a newborn. And even those who don't, welcome the distraction from the Election coverage, right? 

Not that the media have much to go on. No details, except the baby's birth weight and time of arrival. Which is perhaps why everyone is obsessing about other details, like how amazing Kate looks just hours after birth: in full makeup, a posh frock, negotiating stairs in heels in front of the world's press before her gorgeous daughter even has a name.

Social media can barely talk about anything else;




I'm not being funny, but I think the 'how' part is pretty obvious isn't it? Kate is able to do these things because she's got money and help and privilege. Her hairdresser was seen arriving at the hospital just hours after she delivered. She has someone to do her make up. Someone to design a bespoke 'going home' dress. Someone to make sure the house is immaculate on her return, complete with nannies to look after George and her daughter, maids to run round after them and chefs to cook and make tea for the guests. I very much doubt Kate is doing much at all, to be honest. It's all being done FOR her. And TO her.

And what I want to know is WHY? 

Kate probably doesn't want my sympathy. She's never been a moaner (unlike Diana) and she knew what she was getting into when she married the future king, but for the record I do feel sorry for her. I expect she barely had any say at all in what she looked like leaving hospital today, what with the armies of make-up artists and hairdressers and stylists swarming around her, poking and prodding her into camera-ready submission. 

My God, those drugs she's on must be royally good. Is she sedated? I can't image how else anyone got near her with eyelash curlers, makeup brushes and rollers. Not to mention those pointy heels. 

Cos make no mistake, Kate is undoubtedly sore, swollen and bleeding heavily under her buttercup yellow ombre Jenny Packham dress and 3.3inch Jimmy Choo Gilbert pumps. (The fact that I know 'who' she's wearing, is point in case). Mother Nature makes no exceptions, not even for Princesses. There is no way on earth it's comfortable to be in that getup, in front of the press, just hours after birth. I'm not even sure it's healthy.

That's what bugs me. Instead of wondering HOW she does it (which is pretty obvious given the resources at her disposal), we should be wondering WHY. Why are we obsessing about what she's wearing? Why do we care what she looks like? The answer is because that's what's expected of a Princess. Because we've got our priorities all wrong.

It's about time society showed some respect for what Kate and her baby have just been through. For their right for privacy to bond and recuperate as a family. For the fact she's just done something much more amazing than look pretty. The woman has just pushed an 8.3lb baby out of her fanjo. She's given birth to whole new person. She's given her husband a healthy daughter and her son the gift of a sibling. That's the miracle.



Friday, 24 April 2015

#LittleLoves; yawning, poetry and Bear Grylls

Regular readers will know it's been a big week in our house. Our #NoSchoolNoPlan adventure has taken up most of our headspace, but thank goodness there have been lots of #LittleLoves to help us through.

Read

The whole #NoSchoolNoPlan thang has meant we've had a lot of unexpected time with our son, so we've been doing lots of reading this week. Top of the pile has been I Dare You Not to Yawn, written by Helen Boudreu and illustrated by Serge Bloch, Candlewick Press.

Just try to resist this comical — and infectious — cautionary fable that will have even bedtime-avoiders gladly snuggling up for a nightly challenge.


Image result for I dare you not to yawn

I loved
The premise. I can't believe no one has thought of it before! Kids resisting bed? Claiming they're not tired? This book is your friend! You'll all be yawning before you turn the first page.

The kids loved
The interaction. Holding in their own yawns? Funny. Watching mummy try to read through her 7th yawn? PJ-wetting hilarious.

Heard

I discovered Hollie McNish, the spoken word poet this week - just when I needed to most. What can I say? She says it better.


Wow! And if that wasn't enough to inspire my next girl cursh, she gets even better. This one - Opposite Man - brought tears to my eyes for my very own Opposite Man, who was there for our son's birth and delivered our daughter in the car park.




Made

So, I've never really got the hang of ironing. I have high hopes that this recipe might mean I never have to. Hello Homemade Wrinkle Release Spray, where have you been all my life?

Wrinkle Release Spray

Watched

Very little. We decided the kids were watching too much TV last weekend so haven't turned it on during daylight hours since Monday. (Torture, but that's a blog post for another day.) Still, what they don't know won't hurt them...

We've sneaked in a few episodes of the new series of Suits after dark. If you haven't already seen this US legal drama, it follows the cases of a pair of New York lawyers, only one of whom attended law school. Senior law partner at one of New York's top law firms, Harvey Spectre, has to recruit an associate from Harvard Law School. By chance, he ends up hiring gifted college-dropout, Mike Ross, even though Mike never actually attended law school and relies on his photographic memory and quick wits to help him win cases.



The third series of this easy-watching and sexy office-politics show is still a winner, but I'm missing the dynamic between Harvey and Mike and the tension surrounding Mike's dark Harvard secret. Another thing; have the writers forgotten about Mike's amazing memory? Maybe he should give them a nudge: it was one of the most compelling parts of the first series.

Wore

No school uniform! Our first day on the #NoSchoolNoPlan adventure looked like this! As you can see, we've mainly been outdoors, getting scuffed, grass-stained and muddy! Hurray!



And finally

I don't normally do quotes, but I do do Bear Grylls and these gems hit home this week;

“There is little faith involved in setting out on a journey where the destination is certain and every step in between has been mapped in detail. Bravery, trust, is about leaving camp in the dark, when we do not know the route ahead and cannot be certain we will ever return.”
Bear Grylls, A Survival Guide for Life

“Listen to the quiet voice inside. Intuition is the noise of the mind.”
― Bear GryllsMud, Sweat and Tears

I hear your prayer, Bear.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Imposter Syndrome for Working Parents

So as many of your know, my son and I walked out of his primary school on Tuesday, never to return. If you've read my previous post, you'll know it wasn't working out for us. #Understatement. Anyway, it all came to a head on Tuesday and we made a big decision to call it quits.

In positive moments we've been feeling deliciously-rebellious, heroic and liberated about our decision. 'How brave.' 'How amazing,' our supportive friends and family have been saying when they hear about our #NoSchoolNoPlan adventure. (Thank you so much, I've been clinging to your words in middle of the night during sleepless moments.)

BUT the only problem with being heroic and rebellious is that we now have no childcare. It's just a temporary blip and luckily my work is flexible and my son has fab a daddy, grandparents, uncles, aunties and godparents to look after him so I've been able to continue working. But there's nothing like small child climbing up your leg to make you feel like a Career Impostor.


Know the feeling? Apparently 'Imposter Syndrome' is a real thing and everyone worries they're only just pulling it off and are about to be discovered a fraud every now and then. Even Kate Winslet has been quoted saying;

'Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this. I’m a fraud.'

One of my favourite authors of all time – Maya Angelou  – also suffered.

'I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’

I can't help suspecting it's worse for working parents. It's hard to feel professional when;

  • You reach into your bag for a pen and pull out a crayon.
  • You eat Pom Bears and party rings for lunch
  • Your phone rings a Cbeebies theme tune.
  • You can't take off your suit jacket cos your top is covered in sticky fingers
  • You want to 'work from home' but still have flashbacks about that time your son answered the phone to your boss saying 'Hi Dad! We're still in our pyjamas.' At 2pm.
  • You have to give a client a lift in your car and they have to squeeze in between 2 car seats.
  • You pretend you're sick cos you can't take time off for the kids again.
  • Your colleagues still tease you about the time you went in late with smudged mascara after the School Nativity.
  • Your only smart, clean jacket is covered in dinosaur stickers.

How do you conquer Impostor Syndrome? I'd love to know. Turns out good performance reports, great feedback and project success all mean nothing to me. I've still got Cheerios in my bra.

Monday, 13 April 2015

What Happens When Your Dream Primary School Just Isn't?



You know the drill. We swatted up on all our local schools before we put in the application. Listened carefully and asked all the right questions at the Open Days. Got the gossip from parents in the year above and talked about it at home till we were even boring ourselves.

OK, so we were never gonna get our first choice - even though we lived on the same road as the school, less than 100 metres away. It was chockablock with siblings and so oversubscribed the secretary told me to not waste a spot on the application form - *rolls eyes* - but we still had several 'Outstanding' schools within walking distance so we were optimistic.

In the end, we made our choice mainly based on the school's reputation. For a long time, it had been the 'it' school in town and I'm embarrassed to admit I was easily impressed by other people's reports. We also liked that it was a small school and felt cosy and nurturing rather than intimidating.

When we got the letter confirming we had our place, I felt nervous about the change from Montessori to Reception, but also excited and a tiny bit smug. We'd nailed it! A coveted spot in an Outstanding school. Our first big responsibility as parents had come good.

I won't deny I had moments of doubt over the summer, but they were centred around my son rather than the school. He was still a baby. As an August-born boy who's young for his age, the basics of sitting still, dressing himself and holding a pen were hit and miss. But the Montessori leader, who I would trust with his life, assured me he'd be fine and my God, he looked cute in his little uniform!

We scooted to school on his first day, high on energy, excitement and good vibes.

Shame it didn't last. Slowly I noticed his personality changing: nothing drastic to those who didn't know him like we did. He just seemed like a muted version of himself. Slightly less spirited, slightly more cautious. He lost his trademark daredevil twinkle and seemed stressed about obeying rules. He told me he wasn't good at writing and reading - despite his Montessori teacher telling me he excelled at both only months before. He didn't seem to be making many friends and was overly-reliant on one lovely girl he'd known from his nursery; to whom I'll always be grateful for holding his hand.

My only reassurance was his fab teachers. I bagged myself the chance to volunteer in the classroom a few times and loved what I saw. They were attentive, kind and just seemed to 'get' him. I trusted them and was sure they were the best we could hope for.

But then they left. All 3 of them. In the middle of the school year. In fact, out of a pool of 6 staff divided amongst 2 classes of 30, 5 members of staff moved on from reception in 9 months. Call it management problems, call it coincidence, call it a cruel stroke of luck, whatever the reason my son's confidence was fading, and with it, mine.

I started questioning whether the school was right for us. I was gobsmacked. After all that agonising, all that thought, I couldn't believe we might have got it wrong. Perhaps the new direction the school was taking wasn't right for us? Perhaps the ethos jarred with our own? Perhaps the culture wasn't a good fit? Perhaps *shock, horror* he'd never even been ready for school at all. Suddenly, our 'dream school', so recently the most popular school in town, was giving the whole family sleepless nights.

I realise we are lucky to have a school place at all. #Spoilt #PrimaDonnaParent But it's a horrible feeling to drop your child off at a school you don't think is right for them. I'm not sure how much longer we can keep looking him in the eye on wobbly mornings, telling him how great it is, how he'll love it when he gets there. How much longer can we cross our fingers and hope he survives, never mind, thrives?

So what's next? We are looking around. This time we're following our instincts rather than Ofsted ratings, schools' reputations or hearsay. We're open to options we've never considered before; everything from repeating Reception elsewhere to travelling across county or opting out of the mainstream all together. But that's a blog post for another day...

In the meantime, wish us luck. we've got homework to do and lots to learn before September...

Saturday, 11 April 2015

#LittleLoves: Courgetti, Clarks and Colour

How's your Easter hols going? We're half way through and it could go either way. The wild swings between bliss, boredom and bedlam are a total head spin, but these #littleloves are guaranteed to bring joy.

Read
I Want my Hat Back, Jon Klassen, Walker



A bear has lost his hat. What if he never sees it again? Wait... He HAS seen it!

The little lady has been mad for this book recently. I was quite surprised as I assumed it was one of those arty picture books that parents like more than children. Not so!

She loved

The humour - The surprise ending is dark, sinister even, but my daughter cackled with glee. Perhaps she could relate to the Bear's red mist? So many picture books are marshmallow soft. It must be a relief to see someone share's her rage!
The repetition - Catchy rhythm and phrasing.
The hat - What can I say? The girl loves accessories.

I loved

The illustrations - seriously cool. The earthy tones are a nice change from primary colours and pink, pink, pink. I love the visual humour and how the Bear's facial expression never changes, despite his emotional roller coaster.
The subtlety -  Yes, the story is dark, but Klassen pulls it off without any gore. The crunch is implicit and easy to make light of should you feel the need.
The simplicity - the sparse style allows lots of room for imaginative voices and is great for early readers. Also loving the absence of moral lessons or political-correctness, though there's plenty to talk about if you want a conversation starter.

Heard




We had an amazing time at ColourScape Musical Festival on Easter Sunday: this labyrinth of air-supported tunnels and chambers uses light, music and colour for a psychedelic effect. To me, it felt like running around inside a bouncy castle. The light and colour really plays with your perception, perspective and emotions. Intense! If you get a chance, go! It's fab.





Watched

On the recommendation of Man V Pink we ventured into the world of Japanese animation this week. 'My Neighbour Totoro' was his recommended 'gateway drug' into our next addiction. It's an amazing family film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki for Studio Ghibli. This story of two sisters who befriend the sprites, spirits and troll-like Totoros of their woodland home captures the wild imagination, curiosity and delight of childhood. Under Miyazaki's direction, even the everyday becomes fantastical: simple chores like dusting the house and waiting for the bus in the rain become truly spectacular. Enchanting doesn't cover it.




Made
My husband used to be a chef. He's now a food buyer. Safe to say, food is a cornerstone in our house. But after an indulgent Easter, we've been trying to 'eat light' during the week. Inspired by my neighbour- an amazing Food Stylist - we decided to give 'Courgetti' a go. Basically, this is just ribbons of courgette blanched or fried and served in place of pasta to cut carbs. Check this out! I'm converted!



Wore
We left a piece of our heart in Bluestone. And one of my son's shoes. Cue a visit to the shoe shop this week and lots of sharp intakes of breath. Flashing led light soles don't come cheap! Luckily, my son made a dive for these Clarks corkers. Loving the reasonable price tag, retro styling and bright colours! So cool I couldn't resist buying a pair for his little sister too.



And Finally
I wanted to share my favourite online discovery of the week. Mr Fox Magazine is a great resource for all parents: they put boys up front central, but not in a stereotypical - noise with dirt on it - way. I particularly enjoyed the 'Scandi Sense' article, on raising boys in Sweden. If your son likes glitter, pink or dolls go take a peek. 

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