‘Tis The Season to fill the Trolley?

I have lots of memories of Christmas as a child. I distinctly remember one year when I was about 7 or 8. I was desperate for a pool table. Not the girliest gift in the world I know, but I had a very rich friend who actually had a snooker room in her mansion house and we loved it in there. We’d play pool all day, but she’d always win! I really wanted to improve my skills and I begged for a pool table. My mum told me that I wasn’t going to get a pool table for Christmas, but I was okay as I put it as the only  request on my letter to Santa, so everything would work out wouldn’t it?!

When Christmas Day arrived, but my much longed for pool table didn’t, I was devastated. As well as feeling sad though, I also felt guilty as I knew my parents had tried to buy me things they thought I’d like, and were doing everything they could to make Christmas a special time, but I’d been so looking forward to having a pool table, I couldn’t hide my disappointment.

Fast forward about 18 years, and I’m seeing a 7 year old child opening their presents, which include a TV and DVD player for their bedroom, an ipod nano, a Nintendo DS, a PS3 and a huge trampoline. These gifts honestly were the tip of the iceberg, and at this point in my life I was married, but didn’t have any children. I remember thinking that this amount of generosity was ridiculous, particularly as the giver of these gifts was not employed or financially secure. I have also been talking to a number of students about Christmas, and items on their Christmas lists include a whole range of ridiculously expensive things. iPhone 4s (in many cases to replace iPhone 3s, not older bricks like mine!), high priced designer clothing, games consoles, musical instruments, and so the list goes on. But they aren’t expecting to get one of these, no they form the list, and they fully expect to receive each and every item, not because they’re being greedy, just because this is how things are.

Is it just me or are things going crazy? I’m finding myself in a real dilemma about the whole Christmas present thing now. I used to think that parents must be totally stupid to get themselves into thousands of pounds worth of debt just to satisfy their children’s letters to Santa, but seeing the glee filled expressions on my own children’s faces when they open the presents makes me a lot more able to understand why they do do it.

My 19 month old son and 3 year old daughter totally ‘get’ Christmas now. Harry loves presents and parties and Evie has written her first proper letter to Santa this year. We went to Toys R Us a few weeks back with the children to get a picture of things they would really like. The £250 Ferrari play car didn’t make the final cut, but a large number of other things did. The trouble was, I’ve been finding as a parent you do need to exert some self discipline. Every time I saw one of them playing with something, my heart just wanted to buy it and my head had to step in and resist!

Where do you draw the line? We’ve done our Christmas shopping for the children now, and have already done ‘just one more ‘little’ thing’ a couple of times, however, now my daughter has decided that the thing she wants, more than anything else is ‘Dancing Dora.’ To me, I think it’ll just be a little novelty, even though it’s the best part of £40, and my head tells me not to cave in, but my heart tells me that this could be my daughter’s equivalent of ‘pooltablegate’ from my own childhood, and therefore I should get it so she doesn’t think of this Christmas as ‘the year she didn’t get Dancing Dora!’

We’re probably going to buy it and ask someone in our family to give it to her, who haven’t bought anything yet, but what happens when the next thing she ‘really really wants more than anything in the world’ comes along? I’m going to have to be the evil mummy unless I want to be in debt for the next goodness knows how long! There must be a point when enough is enough, but when is that point? I guess the days when you got one main present, supplemented with a tube of Smarties and a satsuma are long gone!

And in case you were wondering, I never did get a pool table as a present, and still to this day I have never won a game!

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Build-a-Bear-tastic!

I blogged a while ago about the fantastic experience that we had when we took our daughter to the Build-a-Bear workshop to, well, build a bear! You can read about it here. Being a bit of a blogging novice, I don’t really think I expected anyone to read it, let alone anyone who had anything to do with Build-a-Bear, so I was very surprised to get a tweet from the lovely Estelle Boon inviting me to an event that was being held. This gave me a really nice buzz for two reasons:

  • It was the first time I’d been invited to an event
  • It was in half term so I was able to go!

Knowing how excited my daughter had been about ‘building’ her beloved Lyla, I was excited about seeing her being able to do this again, especially as it meant going to London. She didn’t quite get this at first because her understanding of London is that it’s where Jenny, her Godmother, lives. The concept that London serves any other purpose whatsoever is something that she couldn’t get her head around!

Anyhow, to cut a long story short, we all came down with a sickness bug at the start of half term, which meant that we couldn’t go. I was really disappointed, both because I knew how much my daughter would have enjoyed it, and also because I was looking forward to meeting some of the friends I’d made on Twitter (is it ok to call them friends even though I’ve never met them?). I also felt very guilty for messing the organisers of the event around.

So I definitely did not expect what happened last week. A note from the postman to let me know there was a parcel that was too big for my letterbox behind my wheelie bin. Upon investigation, it turns out that we couldn’t make it to Build-a-Bear, so Build-a-Bear was brought to us, in the form of ‘Friendly Barry’ (the carefully chosen name my daughter picked – don’t ask)!

Friendly Barry was instantly made to feel part of the family, through a trip to the shop where he was clothed in skinny jeans and biker jacket by our resident Gok Wan. He also now has a wish list of further accesories which apparently every bear needs. My husband actually got quite put out that Evie chose his pictured outfit over the Liverpool strip which was also available, and a perfect fit!

So thank you so much to Build-a-Bear, and you can rest assured that you will never go out of business with my 3 year old around. We thought we’d finished our Christmas shopping last week, until she discovered that the bears can get their very own wardrobes…!

And the family is complete - a much longed for 'brother' for Lyla!

After another trip to the Build-a-Bear workshop, 'Friendly Barry' was all kitted out!

School Lottery?

I still can’t believe that my little pink bundle starts school in September. I remember looking at nurseries towards the end of my maternity leave, seeing the signs outside which said ‘3 months to 5 years’ and thinking how far away into the future that sounded, yet all of a sudden I’m midway through my tour of the local primaries, and feeling this overwhelming sense of anxiety about the whole ordeal.

We’re only in catchment for one school. An outstanding school which looks and feels superb on the outside and in. We went to an open evening there a couple of weeks ago. As a teacher, I knew what I was looking for, and would love my children to go there. My husband was so excited about some of their ideas he’s even brought them into the school we work at (he’s the deputy head, he’s allowed to)! So what’s the problem?

  • We know they’re already 60% subscribed for September from siblings entering Reception
  • Last year they turned 28 students away who were in catchment
  • Catchment children within a 0.3 mile radius were the only ones who got in last year. We live 0.6 miles away
  • There are 1000 more children than there are places available across the County

Very kindly, we are given the opportunity to put three choices down on our form, however 5 schools distance-wise from our house are Church schools. Despite getting our children Christened as babies because we wanted to, we do not satisfy the criteria, and wouldn’t stand a chance getting in to any of them, even if we put them down as first choice. One other is a possibility. It is ‘satisfactory’ at infant level, but not at junior level. After that, the options are all in the wrong direction, I would have to give up my own job as a teacher in order to be able to get her there even some of the time!

So this means that our second choice school will have to be the one that is ‘ok.’ If any of the students in my class hand me a piece of work that is ‘ok’ for them, I deem it unsatisfactory, because it shows they have the potential to produce something of a higher standard, and if I’m not prepared to settle for ‘ok’ when dealing with other people’s children, why should I accept it with my own?

We all want what is best for our children, of course we do, and I know that wherever we end up sending ours to school, they will have a supportive family environment, and we can help them develop, I’m just finding it really difficult to accept that we probably won’t have a place at our closest and best school.

I’ve always grown up to understand that if we work hard we will have more opportunities than if we don’t, however, there’s nothing I can do to boost my chances with this. I won’t be more likely to get a place if I work harder, or say ‘pretty please,’ and it’s just this complete powerlessness over the whole process that gets me.

So am I overegging the whole situation or am I just normal feeling this, when it’s the future of my children at stake? I guess I’ll  just have to do as much as I can even though it’s nowhere near enough and cross my fingers like I do every Saturday night when they release the balls!

A Weighty Issue!

I love food! Making it and eating it are both hobbies of mine, so it comes as no surprise that I am constantly watching my weight. I’ve been overweight since I started secondary school, but it wasn’t down to comfort eating from peer pressure. I did get bullied, but really it was  just kids being kids. It was horrible at the time, but lets face it, when you’re 11, ginger, brace-wearing, glasses-wearing, overweight and with the largest boobs in your class by a country mile, you’re not going to excape a rather large amount of ridicule are you?

So although my bad eating habits began at secondary school, it was more because I was able to by yummy doughnuts and pizza twice a day plus more if I wanted. My mum always gave me a healthy packed lunch, but I would supplement it freely without thinking about it. I never really did any exercise unlike most of my friends as all my extra curricular activities were musical, so I never burnt anything off. Consequently as I went through school the weight increased gradually so that by the time I went to University I was nearly 11 stone. At 5′ 5″ that was definitely more than I wanted to weigh.

University and all those happy hours meant that the weight went on even more. Most of my friends lost weight at Uni because they couldn’t be bothered to cook, I was the opposite so I ballooned to over 13 stone over the three years.

My first proper attempt at dieting was at the end of my Uni course, when I moved back in with my parents for the summer. My mum had been going to Slimming World and the idea of losing weight while eating unlimited pasta sounded good so I went along. It was a fab experience for me, supportive, nonjudgmental and most importantly, successful. Over the summer holidays I lost about 2 stone, taking me back to the weight I was when I started Uni.

However, I then began my teacher training with 5:30am get ups, 12 hour work days and then lesson plans, evaluations and marking to do when I got home. I found it almost impossible to maintain my student lifestyle with which I had become so accustomed! Consequently ‘Beer and Burger’ became a regular part of my routine and all my hard work was wasted as the weight piled back on again. I stayed with me until I finished my NQT year, when I got together with my now husband. It’s suffice to say that my weight has continued to yoyo since then. I lost weight for my wedding, put it on again, lost it again, you get the idea.

On the morning I had my son in 2009, I weighed myself (as every labouring woman does I’m sure!) and I tipped the scales at 14 and a half stone. Despite the fact that some of this was baby, it was enough to make me determined to never see that number again, so as soon as I had the all clear, I began dieting, swimming and going to the gym as often as having 2 children under 2 enabled me. By Christmas last year, I was lighter than I had ever been. I was 10 stone and had managed to lose 4 1/2 stone. I did this by signing up to Slimming World’s online service, and it was brilliant.

The trouble is, I’m one of those people who is never happy. For the first time in my life, I’m able to do up size 10 jeans, but I’m determined that I now want to be able to breathe in them too, so I’ve been doing everything to try and lose that last stone. Nothing seems to be working, I’m not gaining weight, I’m just not losing it, despite how religiously I stick to a diet. I’ve tried Slimming World more, low GI, Weight Watchers, the lot. Nothing. And given how much I love food, I’m not sure if there’s any point in dieting this much for no gain, so today begins my new plan. It’s plain and simple – I’m going to eat less! I’m going to follow my normal diet, but I’m going to half all of my portions. My breakfast was 20g of porridge not 40g, lunch was a sandwich made from 1 slice of bread not 2, for a snack I had 1 clementine, not 2. I’m hoping that if I’m only eating half as much, I must lose weight, mustn’t I? As long as I don’t continue my eating habits from this weekend, otherwise next weekend I’ll be consuming 2 pizzas not 4!

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is struggling to lose that last bit of weight, I’d love to know how you managed it so please talk to me!

Golden Slumbers

I’ve always been one of those smug people that lots of parents hate. Why? My children love to sleep. They’ve always gone down to bed by 7 and there they stayed until sometimes getting on for 9am. If they kicked up a fuss we consistently dealt with the issue and never caved in to the ‘easy fix’ solutions such as letting them sleep in our bed, however tempting it might have been. I’ve probably made lots of enemies just writing that paragraph!

However, the last three weeks have been an absolute nightmare and all of a sudden I’ve been able to have both empathy and sympathy for those parents whose children weren’t little angels like mine. My three year old decided that the middle of the night really is the optimum time for colouring in, even with paint, and apparently my husband and I are literally the only people on the planet who were not aware of this. Consequently we have had nightly tears and tantrums which have in turn woken up my 1 year old causing them both to be cranky all day too.

We tried everything, the reward charts, sanctions etc. and although she promised not to do it again that night, in true 3 year old fashion, that promise was only valid for the amount of time it took her to say it!

A few of my lovely Twitter friends recommended these clocks you can buy that let little ones know when it’s time to get up, so we did some investigating. After showing my daughter the entire range, she decided that the Gro Clock (http://www.mothercare.com/Grobag-Gro-Clock/dp/B003Q6ZUAU/ref=sr_11_1/277-1791123-3567615?_encoding=UTF8&mcb=core) from Mothercare was her favourite. I wasn’t convinced how much I’d be willing to pay for a full night’s sleep, but I forked out the £30 for her chosen clock and it arrived yesterday.

We set it up for the sun to rise at 6:30 and lo and behold, we did not hear a peep from her until the second the sun appeared on her clock. I love this clock, it is my best friend in the whole wide world! I hope the novelty doesn’t wear off, but that one uninterrupted night’s sleep has totally recharged my batteries. This morning was the first morning at work in at least a month where I haven’t been reaching for the coffee before first lesson, and I’ve been in a pretty good mood all day.

I promise that every time I hear someone expressing frustration over their children’s poor sleeping habits, I will have nothing but sympathy for them, and wherever possible I’ll be the first on hand to deliver strong coffee! Sleep deprivation really is the worst form of torture.

A really productive day was had as a result of my full eight hours kip, but rest assured I’m still scatty as ever. I forgot to put any filling in my sandwiches today and found my keys in the fridge at work!

My New Best Friend!

Welcome to my World!

Hello! Thank you for taking the time to stumble across my new blog, be it by accident or via a link on my Twitter page.

I’ve been blogging on and off for a while but I’ve decided to start a new page as I want to be a bit more consistent with what I write now.

So who am I and what am I all about? Well I’ve been married to my husband for nearly 6 years and we have two children who are 3 and 1. These wonderful people tend to be the focal point of most of my posts. I try not to whinge, but instead to make you smile, though I’m only human so forgive me if I deviate from this!

My other passion is my job. I’m in my 10th year working as a secondary school music teacher. I sometimes blog about this, about the aspects that have brightened up my day. I won’t be using this blog to address the serious areas of educational reform!

To give you a little taster of what I’m all about, here’s a few posts from my old blog.

Meet my kids here, here or here.

My thoughts on being a working mum.

But like I said, I’m only human!

I do hope you enjoy and would like to stick around. Please let me know your thoughts!