Gym-tastic? Or not?!

The other day was a very icy morning, so when I went out to the car and saw the frozen windscreen, I told the children we’d have to wait a bit before we could leave. Eventually, we got in the car but as I got onto the road, I realised that although the ice had melted, the windscreen itself was completed misted and I couldn’t see, so I told the children I needed to pull over.

At this point, my 6 year old son was flabbergasted:

“Mummy! Don’t stop! Sometimes things are difficult but you can’t just give up. You need to PERSEVERE!”

My children attend a Church of England primary school, and each month has a different Christian value as a focus throughout school. This month it was perseverance! After I’d made it clear I wasn’t ‘giving up’ but rather waiting for a chance to be safer, it was all ok!

However, perseverance is a funny one isn’t it? There are many things that frankly, children don’t have a choice over – their entire school days are made up of a curriculum they have to follow, and for many, home life operates with military precision to squeeze everything in that needs to be done – children and adults alike!

Clubs are one decision that my children have always made for themselves. Each term, they choose which school club (if any) they would like to do, and they have regular clubs outside of school too – both do gymnastics, my daughter goes to Brownies and my son is on the waiting list for Beavers, but I have been told that he’s unlikely to get a place before he’s too old to go! They’ve also had ballet, football and swimming but it’s difficult to know when is the right time to let them stop doing an activity – when it’s not ‘giving up’ but rather deciding something isn’t for you, because let’s face it, these after school activities aren’t kind to the bank balance either!

The swimming was the first activity to go – I was adamant that my children would have swimming lessons because I didn’t want them to fear the water, but I also wanted them to know its dangers and how to be safe, however they were so unenthused by their lessons that after a year of begging to stop, I gave in and now they go to public swimming sessions weekly instead – the enjoyment they get from these sessions has completely transformed the way they are around water – it was definitely the right decision, but only because they still swim regularly. My son on the other hand decided to stop going to football, because he didn’t like the fact that some of the other children kept trying to get the ball off him (we had a chat about some of the basics of the game)!

At the moment, Brownies and gymnastics are still happening, but I think the days are numbered with gymnastics as they don’t seem quite so enthusiastic about it as they were, it’s just such a tricky thing as we’re trying to encourage these activities as hobbies, yet when the children aren’t having fun, can they still be hobbies? Sometimes I think the answer can be yes, as my daughter is proof of…

If you follow me on Twitter or read my blog regularly, you’ll know that in my spare time I’m a primary school teacher, music specialist and I also teach privately at home. A couple of years ago, my daughter, aged only 6 at the time said after I finished teaching one night:

“Okay Mummy, I’ve been listening to you teaching through the walls and I think I know the songs now. When can I do my Grade 1?!”

I’ve never put any pressure on the children to choose music lessons just because it’s what I do, and any of you who have seen the amount of work the children need to put into getting ready for an exam will understand the concerns I had when my 6 year old daughter announced she wanted to have a go! It’s not just about performing the pieces accurately, the children also get assessed on their ability to read traditional music notation at sight and answer questions about music that they hear. The ABSRM exams are also very traditional and formal in their approach.

Nevertheless, my daughter was determined that she wanted a go, so I helped her prepare. She loved the performing but we had many tears over the sight singing until one day it clicked. Thankfully this day was literally the day before the exam, but I think both of us could have quite happily given up at times – in fact I went up to bed and found this once:

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When the results came out, not only had she passed her exam with Distinction, age 7, she’d only gone and got the highest mark I’d ever seen, not just in my career as a music teacher, but also in all the years I’d been taking those exams, and was subsequently invited to take part in the ABRSM High Achievers Concert! I’m so glad we persevered, and since then she’s got Grade 2 Distinction under her belt, and is getting ready to do Grade 3 next term!

 

So should we be pushing our children to carry on, or, if it’s supposedly a hobby, should they be able to make the choice not to if it isn’t something they enjoy, to give them the chance to find their niche? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Out of Hiding…

Ok, so if you look at my last post, you may or may not notice that it was written over 2 years ago. A lot has happened since then! It’s taken me that amount of time to realise how much I regret stopping writing. At the time, I stepped back because a few too many ‘real life’ people found me. In retrospect, I don’t really get it now, because it’s not like I was posting anything controversial or untrue. In fact, most of it was only the kind of thing I’d talk to those very same people about anyway, but at the time, for some reason, it was a real biggie, like I’d been caught out doing something I shouldn’t!

The other reason was that my last post was written on my Grandma’s 100th birthday. In the post, I wrote that I was sure she’d been hanging on for her 100th birthday. She was desperate for her letter from the Queen! I wasn’t able to get down to see her on the day, but had arranged to go the following weekend. However, I soon found out that my prediction was right – she was indeed hanging on to become a centenarian, as just 9 days later, she passed away peacefully in her sleep. She always said that 7 was her special number. She always circled page 77 in her library books so she didn’t end up borrowing the same books twice (it’s funny the things we remember isn’t it?!) I like to think there was some significance to the fact she left us on the 7th day of the 7th month.

Proud to be a Centenarian.

My Grandma was the only one of my Grandparents who I really knew and she was so special to me. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about her even now. Mostly to have a little giggle at one of her many quirks, my favourite always being how she used to buy half fat custard because she genuinely thought that meant she could eat twice as much of it! However it’s tinged with a sadness that I never got to see her that one last time, and that she never got to see her great-grandchildren one last time, so every time I opened up my blog and saw that last post, I just couldn’t deal with it quite.

So please bear with me while I bring my page up to date. No longer do I have two small people who act like small people and drain me of all my energy doing things that small people do! I actually have two slightly larger small people who think they are big people. They have minds and personalities all of their very own. They have brains and opinions and a confidence which makes me proud of them every day. But thankfully despite how grown up they are getting, they’re not too big for cuddles and kisses just yet! Watch this space…

Technorati Test: Please ignore…! ST4WABT9AUEQ

I was out with my son the other day at a place which he and I both love, and what I’m about to write doesn’t in any way represent what it is usually like, or to be honest, what it was like this time, but this week, my son cut his face. Not seriously, he just landed funny at the bottom of the slide. There was blood and tears, but thankfully it was very superficial. A young boy was also made to cry, because he was scared of the very loud roar which was done right in his face, noses literally touching. A mother was also slapped.

Behind each of these three occurrences was a boy. A boy who refused to get off the bottom of the slide when he finished, causing my son to divert (to be fair you could also argue that my son should have waited!). A boy fronted up to a baby and roared very loudly in his face completely scaring him, and a boy slapped a mum, who politely but firmly told him that we wait our turn to use the climbing frame.

Each time this happened, the boys’ mum laughed, and maintained that ‘that’s what boys his age are like.’ And that was it, end of. This is a mum who I genuinely like as a person, so I felt quite awkward. I wondered if I was over reacting, or if she was right, that all boys are like that, and a bit of rough and tumble is all in a day’s work? Children will be children, I accept that, but if one of mine had made another cry, even if I didn’t think they had done anything ‘wrong’ I like to think I would still address the issue, and try to help them understand why their actions may have upset someone else. They would then have apologised, at least for upsetting the other person, even if it was accidental.

This whole parenting lark’s not getting any easier! I just hope we move in time for my daughter to start school! I guess at the end of the day we just need to remember that we’re all doing a good job. I’m sure we weren’t all brought up the same way yet we’ve all turned out okay!

ST4WABT9AUEQ

Waitrose: Service with a Smile!

I feel like every post I’ve done this week had been singing someone’s praises. That’s probably because each one has, but I couldn’t not write this post as it really did make my day.

Ever since that horrible day over a year ago when I was in Sainsbury’s with 2 tantruming children under 3, and I felt like doing the same as the lady in the advert who just gets down on the floor and joins in with them. What you don’t need at that time is a load of disgusted looks from women who are calmly going about their weekly shop with perfectly behaved children, looking rather smug. Ok, so I may have also been that woman on a few occasions too, but I finally snapped, and thought, that’s it. I haven’t done a supermarket shop since, and have instead opted for online shopping.

My husband was adamant he didn’t want to pay for someone to deliver our shopping (yes, he doesn’t do the shopping with 2 toddlers on his own!), so I took the plunge and ordered from Waitrose online, because they offer free delivery on orders over £50.

I have never looked back. Each week, a lovely lady brings my shopping to my door. She is helpful and friendly and we have banter each week. I think if I bumped into her at the shops I’d now happily stand and have a chat with her, and if she didn’t have work to do I’d happily ask her in for coffee and cake!

The food is fantastic quality too, even their Essential range. One of my concerns was that I might get sent food which was bruised or going out of date, the stuff which you wouldn’t pick up if you were shopping yourself, but this has never been the case. In fact, they have a policy that if the food only has a couple of days left on the date, you are given it for free, yes FREE!

It’s got to be said though, the reason I’m writing this today, is down to the customer service in Waitrose. Over the year or so they’ve been delivering my shopping there have been some mistakes, but only in the same way as when I did my own shopping (before I turned lazy!) that I would get home and realise I’d forgotten something. I have alsways been believed instantly and where necessary I have been refunded. Although I could have gone into the store to prove I was telling the truth, I have never been asked to.

Last week I received a letter to say thank you for my patience over the new website they launched a few weeks back. It was different, but really just required sitting down for an hour or so to find your way round it the first time. I’m easy to please, so a thank you was fine for me, but that’s not all, they also included a voucher which mounts up to £20 off my shopping over the next 4 weeks. Thank you very much! I gladly used my first voucher code for my shop which got delivered this morning.

I opened the door to my lovely, friendly lady. We sorted my shopping, checked the substitutions, then as I was signing, she disappeared and came back with this:

You would not believe how much this has brightened up my day! Obviously it’s good marketing because I’m telling everyone how wonderful they are, but no-one has ever given me all these things in one go before, so thank you Waitrose for putting me in such a happy mood all day, for restoring my faith that just being nice is sometimes enough, oh, and also for all that yummy food!

Silent Sunday…

 

 

 

6 Years… Bring on the Candy!

It was the 2nd April 2005 that my husband and I got married. It had been raining all week and we thought our dreams of sunshine and outside drinks on our special day were doomed. Thankfully, we didn’t need nice weather for our reception, but it was a bonus the sun did shine because we’ve got some fab snaps to look back on!

When I was younger, I was hopelessly single. I was always the one who turned up to things on my own, but most of the time I was happy like that. Although I liked the idea of having a boyfriend, I also liked being able to please myself, especially at Uni. I was singing quite a bit and was lucky enough to be able to travel around regularly, sometimes at short notice, and the fact I didn’t have a ‘significant other’ made this easier. To be fair though, if you saw what I looked like, it wouldn’t have surprised you that I was single!

It was a surprise though, that out of all of my friends, despite this history, I was the first one down the aisle. I was hardly a child bride at the age of 25, but I was, nonetheless, the first.

I met my husband at work. I was a newly qualified teacher in 2001, with a Year 7 tutor group. My husband was the Head of Year 7. The first year at school passed quite quickly, but without knowing, I think there was some attraction there. I realised as we were getting together, that I’d always for example, clocked whether his car was already in the car park when I got to work or not, and his opinion of things I did professionally really did matter more than anyone else’s. I thought I felt intimidated by him at first, but I think these were those ‘I fancy you’ butterflies in retrospect!

We finally got together in 2002, and within 6 weeks, we’d agreed to each other that this was ‘it.’ We were engaged at that point, but knew everyone else would have a flip out, so we kept it quiet and officially announced it 11 months later. I am quite traditional at heart, so I think I always did want to get married. We had a traditional church wedding, on a beautiful sunny day. My children’s choir sang during the signing of the register, and the day was absolutely perfect (apart from the fact our photos took too long, and this meant the steak was overcooked, much to my husband’s annoyance. Being vegetarian this didn’t affect my butternut squash concoction)! And although this is a rubbish quality photo, I had to put it in because I maintain this is the best wedding cake ever!

Although most of my posts mainly focus around the children, I didn’t think I could pass my Wedding Anniversary by without mentioning it.

We don’t ‘do’ presents, but I had a sneaky peak at the traditional gifts for 6 years, and it appears I should be expecting candy, so I’ll just say this to my husband, as I know he won’t be able to resist a sneaky peak at my blog:

“I know I love taking the mickey out of you on Twitter and any other opportunity I get, but I really am very lucky. Thank you for making the last 6 years the happiest of my life, and for our beautiful children. I love you true!”

If he doesn’t read that, we’ll just have to hope I can stay off Twitter long enough to tell him in person, and if he does, I’m hoping that despite no present giving, a tub of pick & mix might find itself heading my way – with lots of white mice – like I’ve already said, I’m quite traditional at heart!

What a Great Grandma!

This is my Grandma, aged 95, holding my daughter aged about 10 months. Despite her age, she is fit and healthy, cycles 2 miles every week to get her shopping (we all offered help on an almost daily basis so she didn’t have to do this, but she absolutely insisted, and actually enjoyed it)!

This is my Grandma 18 months later. She lived in a very old house with a winding staircase, and unfortunately suffered all her life with unexplained fainting. About 6 months before this photo was taken, the two issues came face to face, which resulted in her losing consciousness after fainting on the stairs. This led professionals to decide that aged 97, she was no longer capable of looking after herself, and she was forced to move into a residential home straight from the hospital.

Although she’s smiling in this picture, having to leave the home she’d lived in all her life, not even being allowed to go home to sort out her own things, destroyed her. I like to think that if I ever have to live in a residential home, it’ll be the one my Grandma is in, it’s fab, chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, coffee bar, sherry and cinema evenings, and not the faintest odour of wee anywhere, but unfortunately, it’s not her home, with her things, or her independence.

My fondest childhood memories without doubt are the ones where I stayed at my Grandma’s house. I saw her a lot, and loved the time I stayed there because she was the grandparent who always let me have the extra treats, stay up until past my bedtime, said “I’ll let you do this, but don’t tell your mother,” (Yes as a parent now, I can understand why this grated, when I inevitably did tell my parents!) but I loved every minute I spent with my Grandma, from the treats, to the fact she actually wanted to sit down and play games with me, to the brook she had at the bottom of her garden which we used to paddle in for hours at a time. I’m proud of my Grandma, but the problem is I’m desperate for my own children to see how brilliant she is.

My Grandma will be 99 in a couple of months, and to me she’s still amazing, but I’m writing this post, because this morning I went to see her in the home. It was quite emotional for me, because it was the first time she couldn’t remember my name, She recognised me instantly, and the children too, and her eyes lit up in a way the staff said they hadn’t seen for a very long time, she just didn’t know what we were called, or possibly, even that we were family. She also can’t really speak properly any more, or hear what you’re saying unless you use an actual foghorn.

I haven’t been to see my Grandma since November, and I feel terrible about this because she is only 45 minutes away, I always seem to blame the fact that it’s difficult with the children, but is this really a valid reason? Getting out of bed at silly o’clock is difficult with the children. Bathing my son because he’s decided to eat half of his own poo, and smear the rest of it over his face and put it in his ears is difficult. Leaving them at nursery is difficult, but I don’t shy away from these things, I wouldn’t even think about it.

I just find myself faced with a dilemma. I have a very small family. I’m an only child, my parents just as well be as they don’t have anything to do with their siblings, so it really is just my Grandma in addition to my parents on my side, but it doesn’t matter how hard I try, my children are never going to know my Grandma in the way I do, or should that be ‘did?’

Their experience this morning went something like this: Before we got there, my daughter was really excited about drawing Great Grandma a picture. She spent about 15 minutes on it, before carefully writing her name on the back. It was a picture of me with blue hair and pink eyes, but hey, it was my daughter’s so clearly I had a proud Mummy moment telling her how fantastic it was!

When we arrived, she couldn’t wait to see Great Grandma’s reaction to her brand new Hello Kitty hairband. Clearly this was met with disappointment as my Grandma hasn’t been into the outside world since 2008! Then, as we were walking down the corridor to get to her room, a lady came walking along, embraced my daughter and son and said how beautiful she was, and how much seeing them had brightened up her morning. She also thanked my daughter for drawing her such a beautiful picture. The trouble was, this was a lady with dementia, who used to work in a nursery years ago. She got escorted off by the staff, but kept on managing to escape them to come back to us. I had managed to subtly wrestle the picture back so it could be given to the correct resident!

Eventually, we tracked down my Grandma, my daughter gave her the picture, my Grandma smiled in gratitude, but as she did so, her dentures fell out! While I was trying to explain why this had been able to happen and discuss whether the tooth fairy was going to run out of coins as a result of the mishap, I hadn’t noticed my son investigating the effectiveness of another lady’s zimmer frame as he was hurtling towards yet another lady’s bedroom, so it’s fair to say that we were most definitely breaching the peace! I’d taken a few toys to keep the children occupied, but it’s tough that my Grandma, despite being completely mentally alert, has poor hearing and speech, so we can’t really communicate that well. For the children this is even worse as they are too young to understand this.

This morning, I could have taken the children to a soft play centre with my friend, we could have stayed at home and done baking or painting or play doh, we could have gone to the park, and given the choice, I’m confident they would have chosen any of the above over going to see Great Grandma. I’ve considered going without the children, but I know this would disappoint no end. So why did I and will I feel I should continue to go? Is it because I know that it will have made my Grandma’s day, even if she won’t remember it tomorrow? Is it because I feel it’s important to try and enable my children to have distant memories of their Great Grandma? Is it because I want to go? Or is it a purely selfish issue of conscience for me? Is it right that I take the children despite the fact that they get bored, don’t want to be there and/or cause complete mayhem?

I’m not sure what the answer is, I’m definitely not the only person in the world who has an elderly relative. I asked my daughter as we left, what her favourite part of going the Great Grandma’s house was, her reply was “I liked the chocolate biscuit, and when her teeth fell out!” So hopefully she’ll at least remember something for a while, even if it is the sudden, public loss of her artificial molars!

Either way, and whether I’m doing the right thing or not, she is their Great Grandma, and my Grandma and she’ll always be great to me!

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