Parenting, profundities and humour

Mr Works? May I Introduce Mr Spanner? — January 10, 2016

Mr Works? May I Introduce Mr Spanner?


So here it is.

I updated my spreadsheet of child related activities.

This has to be done each term when clubs change. It lists days of the week and the clubs each child attends at what time and where and with what equipment.

Not much had changed from last term. In fact a small ‘win’ saw Eldest no longer attending after school rugby on Mondays. Giving him a bigger window between getting home from school (allowing for Middlest’s Strings until 4.30pm) and Scouts…yippee…he could do his homework rather than saving it for Tuesday.

Tuesday was still a disaster zone… collect Eldest at 4pm and bring home. Go back for Middlest (badminton) and Youngest (netball) at 5pm and get home. Stuff food into children. Hustle Middlest sufficiently to get him fed, changed and ready to leave at 5.45pm for football training. Collect Middlest at 7pm. Relax.

Wednesdays remained…shall we say …difficult. Collect Eldest and Middlest at normal school time and deposit home. Feed Eldest and Middlest. Collect Youngest at 5pm from Choir on Week 1 or 5.15pm from Girls Football Week 2. Get home. Without trying to swear too much at the traffic. Chuck her indoors. Grab Eldest and drive to 5.45pm piano lesson. Feed Youngest. Get them to get changed for Cubs. Drive to piano for 6.15pm to collect Eldest and then straight to Cubs for 6.30pm. Leave Middlest and Youngest at Cubs. Collect them at 8pm. Relax.

Thursdays were not much better. Collect Youngest at 3.45pm. Rush her Maths homework and get her to get changed for football training. Leave at 4.45pm to drop her at said football training. Drive to school to collect Eldest (choir. week one; hockey, week 2) and Middlest (football). Come home. Collect Youngest at 6.30pm. Feed kids. Relax.

Friday remained the day I got all three of them at normal chucking out time. I merely perform the piano lesson hokey-cokey. An easy day.

So OK its bad. But do-able. Just. As long as Cubs isn’t anywhere unusual.

Then I got an e mail from Youngest’s football coach. They had moved her training to 6-7pm on a Wednesday. Just for this term. But still.

Not sure what I am going to do yet. It doesn’t start up again until the 27th Jan. And so currently I have my head in the sand.

I may never take it out.



Be careful what you wish for… — November 26, 2015

Be careful what you wish for…

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When my husband and I were deciding which school to send our children to one of our major considerations was the sports provision.

Eldest and Youngest are sports mad. And so we wanted to send them somewhere that would develop them further.

Middlest is not quite so keen. However it was still an important consideration for him too. In fact even more so.

I have the legacy of my own shocking memories of sport experiences at school. Of being labelled not good at Games within about 5 minutes of arriving. This was probably because I had glasses and was skinny. I actually quite enjoyed hockey and netball but the crippling embarrassment of always being picked last and having to sign the ‘period’ register rather marred it for me. It didn’t help that on my first day my mother sent me in with her old hockey stick. Not realising they had changed shape in the twenty odd years since her school hockey career. The fearsome Sports Mistress was not best pleased. I had blotted my copy book. And was probably the butt of staff room jokes for some time.

And so I wanted a school that would encourage Middlest even though he isn’t the best team sport player in the world. I wanted them to help him find a sport he liked and could carry on with in the longer term.

Eldest has taken full advantage and is regularly in the Rugby squad. It is a game he loves. Although he was dismayed by the new rules that do not allow him and his fellow forwards to contest a scrum. He feels he is going through the motions. I feel relieved.

Youngest gets to play and run and swim and generally do all the sports she loves. And so she does. Regularly.

And indeed the school have listened to feedback and this year are providing competitive fixtures for children ‘further down the list’. So this means even Middlest, usually happily adrift in the non-team sea during the Rugby term, is getting fixtures. He is not sure I should have been one of the many who provided that feedback. Although the match teas afterwards seem to help him get over it.

Middlest and Youngest have a minimum of four hours of Curriculum sport a week which even allowing for all that changing sees them active for at least three hours. It includes the team sport of the term, PE (variously cross country, racquet sports, gymnastics and athletics) and swimming.

Eldest clocks up just over three hours a week. He doesn’t have to suffer a weekly swimming lesson now he has progressed to Senior school. Youngest describes it as ‘pure torture’…. she seems to spend her lesson ploughing up and down in various contorted positions. Apparently it’s streamlining…

Along with that Eldest has at least two hours of club and fixtures a week. He would have another hour of Rugby on top of that but he has managed to get out of it to attend choir. Music is his other passion and he spends a lot of his time each week playing his cello and singing.

Middlest clocks up a further two and a half hours of extra curricular sport a week minimum. Including his beloved badminton. And Youngest’s tally is a mind blowing 4 hours a week. A mixture of hockey and football.

And this week on top of all that Middlest is in a Rugby match and Youngest has a swimming gala.

This half term Youngest would have liked to have fitted in an extra half hour of cross country running. Straight before football training. I put my foot down…

It is safe to say that I do not struggle to get my kids to the one hour of activity a day recommended by the Government. In fact they are well over this if you add in all the trampolining, family walks and bike rides, general running about and playground activities. No doubt Youngest will spend lunch hour today playing football on the playground.

Sundays remain a ‘day of rest’. For now. As Youngest progresses up the school she may have to switch from her Saturday football league to a Sunday one. To avoid fixture clashes. And that will mean Eldest may want to take football up again. As we will be doing it anyway. But for now I have my fingers in my ears pretending I can’t hear this…

Because the one major down side of all this opportunity is that our weeks (and I include Saturdays in that) are a complete bomb site.  And I feel weak. Both in comparison. And from the hours of ferrying and logistical quandaries and laundry and ‘encouraging’ from touch lines.

And I am never, ever going to Google ‘how too much sports affects children’…Ever…

Parent’s Evening… — November 22, 2015

Parent’s Evening…


Last night was parent’s evening for Eldest. It was the first one at his Senior school.

Historically parent’s evenings have involved me sitting in front of one teacher, usually at least ten minutes later than booked, hearing about the exploits of my off spring. Good or bad. All dressed up in euphemism. But lets be honest we all know what ‘lively enthusiasm’ means in relation to maths…

This was going to be a different affair. On offer was a five minute chat with each of Eldest’s fifteen teachers. Yep fifteen.. and that didn’t include any sports teachers. For whom a special appointment needed to be made. We didn’t bother.

Eldest was also expected to be present. And listen. I therefore needed to be mindful of what I said so as to strike a balance between finding out what I needed to find out and not embarrassing my 11 year old. As any owner of an 11 year old will know this is problematic. In the extreme.

Things had got off to a tricky start as it was beholden upon Eldest to book the appointments with these myriad teachers himself. I did try to provide some guidance. Such as leaving 5 minutes between each 5 minute appointment to ensure we did not end up with a cascade of lateness.

I also suggested he miss out some teachers. For instance Drama. It is not that I have anything against Drama. I am sure it is a lovely thing to do on a Monday afternoon. Week 2. But I wasn’t really sure I needed chapter and verse on his ability in that department. He can be quite a good actor at home. When lying about brushing his teeth or making sure his sister gets the blame for some atrocity involving Nerf guns. But I am not sure it translates into the Drama theatre. At school.

Anyway he dutifully organised slots. Including Drama. But not Philosophy. There is a ‘big’ question to explore later. ‘The Relevance of Drama versus Philosophy. Discuss’.  He did have to book some consecutive slots which set me on edge a bit. Although we did get an early reprieve as his Geography teacher had not made it. The Sixth Former helping out was not privy to why.

So I arrived to collect my name badge. And map. Oh my life. A map. It dawned on me then that this was going to be an ‘operation’. I had a quick cup of tea by way of fortification.

I then entered the canteen and was confronted by a sea of desks and chairs. Maybe it could even have been classed as an ocean. Each desk had three chairs. On the parent side. I immediately felt inadequate about my lack of occupant for the third chair. Husband was busy earning money to pay for that chair.

I was early. Eldest was early. Its a trait. This helped us out. As it often does. Most of the desks where unoccupied by parents and also staff. An exception was his DT/Art teacher. The name sign on her desk proclaimed her to be a man. I didn’t comment. The world is such that one never should. Just in case. ‘She’ beckoned us over. And explained that as she teaches five Year 7 sets her night was a little ‘frantic’ and could she see us before official ‘kick off’. As Eldest had booked her later in the evening straight before IT I readily agreed.

She was lovely. No hint of a moustache.

And so the evening went on. At some point Middlest arrived from his Christmas Show rehearsal I think it was between History and Maths but I cannot be sure. He dashed off some grammar on a spare chair. And ate far too many biscuits. Luckily Youngest was at home with grandma.

Between Science and IT Mr/Mrs Art/DT  popped over in a rare break in her schedule (presumably when we were originally to be seen, I had lost track) to ask why we had not pointed out the error in her name plate. I mumbled something incoherently and luckily she was distracted by her next interviewees arriving. I think I got away with it. Eldest hadn’t even noticed the sign was wrong. That’s 11 year olds for you. He of course knew her name. Me less so.

I have never been to a speed dating night. But I imagine it was quite similar. Some teachers had little passport photos of each child next to their name. I couldn’t blame them. Some seemed to see one set of parents after another with no break in between. For all three hours. They put me to shame. I couldn’t remember one Art/ DT teacher’s name I could hardly expect them to know all 120 of theirs.

I felt most sorry for his German teacher who not only had to remember who each child was but also what language he was teaching them. Poor man. I settled for his generic ‘working hard, doing well’. We are only in Week 9. It could have been worse. He could have used another generic ‘could try harder, needs to improve’. We spent two and a half minutes there. I used the left over time to bang home my point about spelling to Mr English.

Many other teachers clearly remembered Eldest, all for good reasons. Thankfully. Amazingly they kept to time. More or less. We nipped in early to several when they looked free. And then mysteriously we could not locate his French teacher. Je ne sais pas pourquoi. And so we got out a full ten minutes earlier than predicted.

Still it was two hours of full on diplomatic interaction. I was knackered. And more than slightly confused. I just held onto the overarching comments and placed the finer detail in the deleted file in my brain.

And I am glad we saw that Drama teacher. Unbeknown to me she has taught Eldest for all three of his years at the school, in both Junior and Senior, and she was very perceptive about him. She did really know him. And was almost glowing in her report. I found it all a bit over dramatic. Eldest grew about a foot taller though, so I will forgive her.

Enough Already… — September 11, 2015

Enough Already…

Ahhhh just Ahhhh

I want summer back.

No, I mean seriously, I do.

We are one week in and already I have had enough. Of it all.

Of the getting up at stupid o’clock. Of dragging curled bodies damp with sleep into consciousness. Of watching them stumble blearily downstairs with sandy eyes. It is cold and dark. Already. And it is only September.

I am fed up with the morning routine. I am fed up with badgering and cajoling and nagging in order to have them fed and dressed and vaguely clean before leaving the house with the proper books and snacks and water bottles and sports gear and musical instruments.

I am fed up with the school run. It took me 15 minutes to get out of the car park tonight. Fifteen minutes. I have to say I lost my rag with the poor parkers and the slow drivers and those taking too long at roundabouts as I fought against yet more time to get Youngest to her piano lesson. We were late. A bit. But I hate being late.

I hate the logistics. I hate trying to work out what to cook when so we can all eat something vaguely hot and nutritious. At a time that fits in with our various clubs or returns form work. Well when I say ‘our’ I mean their. And that they will all eat without pulling up their noses.

I had a man out to mend my oven today. I was ridiculously excited as I hoped to get my automatic timer function back. To ease the pressure of those logistics a bit. But no. He just came out looked at it and ordered a ‘bit’. And needs to come back next week and waste another day of my diminishing life. And I will spend the most part of another week trying to work round it.

I hate the homework. Tonight Youngest had to fill in a timeline of her entire life. Writing ‘at least’ a sentence for each year. But she wants to get onto the ‘Wow’ wall and so ‘needed’ to write more and add pictures. And of course as she can’t remember most of those years it wasn’t really a solo job. And Middlest was badgering me about pH scales and Eldest needed to do a poster about the number 10. Really. Yep really. He is eleven. Not sure what the aim of that was.

Tea was late. Clearing up even later. And so Youngest was late to bed. And she hasn’t read to me enough. Apparently. So we had to do that too.

And tomorrow they all have fixtures. Both husband and I need to drive miles around the countryside delivering children. And we still need to get up at stupid o’clock to deliver Eldest to school for 8.30am.

I am very, very close to just saying. You know what? Give it all up. Drop it all. So we can just slob around.

I won’t do that of course.

But I am tempted.

5 weeks to half term.

Relaxing weekend — June 25, 2015

Relaxing weekend


Last weekend was a tad…frantic…  I would like to say it is unusual. It isn’t really… I am sure some of you can empathise..

It started off on Friday. I was a due a day with no workmen…just a furniture delivery and a furniture collection. Oh and the grocery shopping. But then the wooden floor man asked if he could start prep for Monday’s job and of course I agreed, hoping to salvage Tuesday.

And so I was confined to barracks again waiting for people. In any event I had a cake to bake so really it wasn’t too bad. And my in-laws were due so things had to be prepared and cleaned. The floor man arrived at lunchtime and immediately got VERY noisy doing unspeakable things to my architraves… I left him with the in-laws to collect eldest and youngest from school. He had thankfully finished when I got back.

We dashed off a bit of homework and then I took youngest to piano, you know that hokey cokey I think I have mentioned before. After a bit more desert natural life adaptation work I took eldest and his cello to piano (don’t ask) and picked up youngest. I slowed down outside our house, booted her out of the car, checked the in laws had answered the door and drove off to pick up middlest from his school trip. After the obligatory wait for the bus to crawl up we left and I took my Tudor boy to the chippe. Youngest is banned. The blood splatter is still there.

We got home around 6.20pm and stuffed down chips.  At some point the kids went to bed and I then packed for the following night and built a football out of rollable icing for the top of that cake.

The next day dawned, wet. Husband and I did the usual fielding of football games/ training sessions, made slightly easier by eldest having the weekend off. I watched youngest and her team comprehensively beat the opposition, in the rain, with Granddad and latterly Grandma and eldest, who, showing his empathic side, had brought a folding camping chair for Grandma…I had time for a momentary flash of pride.

We managed to get home before middlest, who was merely training, and his father. So, damn, I had to start on lunch. Spag bol for seven. Whilst that was steeping I emptied chests of drawers.

After lunch the husband of a lovely friend (of course he is lovely too) turned up to help shift our extremely heavy chests of drawers out of our bedroom onto the landing in readiness for our fitted wardrobe…fitting. I bet he wished his wife was not in the Monday morning coffee group I attend. Where we regularly offer up our husbands for ridicule (in a loving fashion) and the occasional job.

We then spent a few hours at the kids’ football club annual presentations, in the rain. The children seemed to enjoy the stalls on offer, despite having to wring out their socks after utilising the bouncy castle obstacle course. Husband and I managed to see youngest receive her medal and take a team photo before we had to rush home to get ready for an evening out. We left the in laws to watch middlest and eldest get their awards. They were there until gone seven. Ouch.

An evening out is a rare and wonderful thing. This was work though. We had to schelp to Birmingham (an hour and a half drive- in the rain) in time to host a table of 12 at the Rep Theatre’s fundraising 1920s murder mystery dinner. We arrived in Birmingham at around 6pm and drove towards the hotel. We were slightly disconcerted at the large number of ball gowned ladies tottering towards our venue. We couldn’t check the time that our function started as the details were in the boot of the car. Fingers crossed husband had it right then.

He did…we had about 50 minutes to get changed and make ourselves over from soggy football parents into scintillating black tie dinner guests. Posterity will show if we got that right, along with the annoying photographer at the event. Husband assured me that the venue was ‘right next to the hotel’ so off we went. Luckily it had stopped raining. I tottered, he strode; I shouted, he slowed down. After crossing a canal, walking past hundreds of bars, dodging pools of sick (never easy in a floor length gown)and walking through what looked like a shopping centre we arrived. I may blame that ‘quick walk’ if I look less than scintillating on those photos.

Luckily the guests husband had chosen were actually quite good fun, they were even more fun after a few glasses of free wine. Them not me, I don’t drink. In fact I love watching other people drink. In a kind of anthropological experimentation kind of way. One mentioned that they had passed the Annual Slimmer’s World awards ceremony on their way- ah those ball gowned ladies. On the menu- one shake and a green salad?

So due to the company the event was actually fun. There was also a really quite good murder mystery to solve. And a live jazz band. Well we were in a theatre so I had expected a certain level of acting and music. There was a quiz. I love a quiz. There was an auction to take the mickey out of (we were at a table of bankers and guests I leave you to decide how much was spent collectively). I managed to be amusing and good fun so all in all not a bad night’s work.

All too soon it was time for that ‘quick walk’ home. I purloined husband’s jacket to avoid garnering too much drunken attention en route. I may be the wrong side of 40 but still scrub up OK in a ball gown, especially when the audience is pissed.

After a terrible night’s sleep (clearly chucking out time is now 3.15am- when did that happen?), we awoke, packed, and left to head back to the kids and relieve the in-laws, stopping en route for a sausage and pancake meal somewhere on the M6.

We got home around 11am. During that 3.15am early morning call I had realised that this was going to be my only window to get my prize winning children to a book store to choose appropriate books ahead of Friday’s deadline. Yep you read it right, my only window. So I scooped them up and drove to town, leaving husband to rustle up some roast potatoes and cabbage for a 1pm lunch. We browsed the books, fought over suitability and discovered that the book tokens provided by the school would in no way cover the cost. On the way home I picked up a ready cooked chicken.

We ate. We cleared. We had a small space for a sit down. We then left to host youngest’s 8th birthday party at a gymnastics centre in a nearby town. Once everyone had arrived, and I had reminded the staff of what I had actually paid for, the party went quite well. I rolled out that cake, children were collected and I drove home. Really this does not in any way sum up two hours with 13 very excited children, two Year 9 boys ‘in charge’ and a host of dangerous gym equipment but I let your imaginations fill in the gaps. I am too traumatised to go through it all here. Suffice to say it wasn’t what I needed after 4 hours sleep. But then children’s parties are never something I need even on a full 9 hours.

We came home, unwrapped presents, assembled kit for the next day & accomplished the bed time routine. I discovered it is actually possible to fall asleep whilst reading aloud from Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix.

We got some tea for the in laws. Who looked a bit shell shocked.

And then I sat down and fell asleep in front of the Antiques Roadshow.

I make no apologies for that.

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