The Highs and Lows of November

When it comes to rubbish months of the year November has to be bottom of the calendar charts.

It’s invariably soggy as hell, with a bit of gale-force wind thrown in for good measure. Brilliant for daily hair disasters.

It’s a reminder that the golden, glory dates of autumn are really behind us, but that Christmas isn’t quite close enough yet to give us a welcome festive boost.

It’s when the dark evenings (or should I say afternoons) start closing in and the school run becomes a MAJOR daily slog.

And it’s when you can actually feel your muffin top growing as you comfort eat yet another bar of chocolate, kidding yourself that: ‘Jumpers hide it…’

Well imagine the joy in the Neat Freak household when you add to this already unbeatable combination two weeks of sickness bugs.

Yes, we’ve been struck down good and proper by the lurgy here. From chest infections to projectile vomiting, we could have provided all the symptoms needed for a compelling episode of Casualty.

The children and I have been largely housebound and slowly going insane. After all there’s only so many times you can watch the Gene Wilder version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (Sorry Johnny, it is better.)

But I have to say that it was undoubtedly the other half who drew the shortest straw when Mini-me threw up in his mouth. No I’m not kidding.

It might make good fodder for her wedding speech at some point but this was little comfort to hubby as he gagged and cleaned his teeth for the fifteenth time in 10 minutes.

Actually more disgusting then the time I resorted to sucking bogies out of Blue-eyed boy’s nose to help him breathe – and we never thought we’d sink to that family low again.

Fortunately I have amazing friends who have kept me smiling by offering to entertain Mini-me on playdates, picking up the odd bit of shopping and bringing me chocolate.

Of course it was actually supposed to be for the school’s Christmas bazaar, but in my defence I really didn’t mean to eat it.

Now health and sanity have been largely restored though and with the start of the festive party season – roughly translated as school mums get blotto down the local – around the corner things are looking up. (As an aside I still think our decision to do secret santa cocktails is genius!)

Plus I’ve also had some very exciting news after being informed that this blog has been selected to be part of the new Mums in the Know Super Blogger Network!

Which must mean more people than just my mother-in-law and BFF and neighbour are reading it. Hurrah – and thanks!

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What we should, or maybe shouldn’t, tell our children about Paris

Like everyone I’ve found it pretty hard to tear myself away from the news since the awful, awful events of last Friday.

There’s no doubt that currently some truly terrifying things are taking place on our planet, and the words ‘devastating’ and ‘tragic’ barely do them justice.

Listening to a radio phone-in show a couple of days back I heard a heart-breaking call from a new dad who admitted sitting by his baby son’s cot sobbing inconsolably for half an hour just because he feels so guilty about having brought this innocent life into a world that in many ways is being torn apart.

I’ve thought a lot about what he said since, especially concerning Mini-me and Blue-eyed boy. About whether I feel guilty in the same way about my children – unquestionably yes.

About whether I should even try to explain to my beautiful, bright four-year-old what has been going on – where would you even begin?

And about whether what’s happening should change how I feel about their safety or how we go about our everyday lives.

Well the only half decent answer I have come up with is to the last question. And the answer, at least concerning how we choose to live, is no.

In the last few days I’ve heard people discussing whether it’s wise to go to big events like football games or concerts any more, debating over the security of using public transport and chewing over trips to iconic places like London.

I once had a debate with a friend about her decision to ‘never get on a tube again’ after the 7/7 bombings, and while I could – and still do – understand her fears, the point of view I held then is the one I do now.

If you don’t board that bus, if you let the doors of the underground train close with you still on the platform, if you cancel a planned trip to an amazing city like our capital, you are letting them win.

They want us to be terrified, to alter how we go about our daily routine, to second-guess every decision we make in case we or our loved ones might end up in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time.’ And I for one don’t want to ever give them the satisfaction.

I’m very well aware that this is all too easy for me to say.

Although I was commuting into London on the morning of 7/7 I was merely evacuated from a station, I was lucky enough to not witness any of the horror first hand.

I couldn’t tell you what it’s been like living through the past few days in Paris. All I’ve done is shed tears watching pictures on a television screen, sitting in awe of the bravery and dignity shown by the people of the City of Light.

I haven’t lost a friend or family member in a terrorist atrocity.

But as well as that phone call to a radio station the other thing that has really hit home since Friday night is the open letter written by bereaved husband Antoine Leiris to his wife Helene’s killers, after she perished inside the Bataclan theatre.

He writes incredibly movingly about refusing to hate the people who murdered his partner and the mother of his little boy. He eloquently states that he and his child will grow strong together, and that his boy will be happy and free all the days of his life.

So perhaps this is really what we should be telling our children.  About how lucky they are to live where and as they do, about all the little things they take for granted every day.

What I’m personally going to hold onto is the wonder in Mini-me’s eyes as we walked through Covent Garden at the weekend, taking in the Christmas lights, the market hall and the street performers.

And that there is still far, far more love in this world than hate.

The Primary School, Parental Exploding Brain Equation

I’m supposed to be working, but I’ve just spent the last 20 minutes frantically googling ‘neon children’s outer-wear’…

No Mini-me isn’t off to an ‘80s themed birthday party (although it would make a change from Frozen come to think about it, and involve better music), no this is just one of the new daily challenges my parental friends and I are facing. Those of us with reception class age children, I should say.

The second half of Mini-me’s first term at primary school kicked off this week, and I’m still not used to the rapidly expanding pile of paperwork, various important diary dates (non uniform, slight variation on uniform, fund-raising, special events etc.) and homework and project related stuff I need to be on top off.

Yes apparently I am now Mini-me’s PA – on top of being her personal chef (yes fish fingers and baked beans count), social secretary, style advisor, washer-woman and maid. And as it turns out I’m not very good at the job.

So far today I have forgotten that tomorrow is her class group’s show and tell day and that it is ‘Be Bright Day’. Namely where she needs to be decked out in some kind of luminous coat, scarf and hat combo that drivers and cyclists can see should she be walking to or from school with me in the dark.

Yes I know it’s a very worthy idea, I just wish I’d remembered so I didn’t have to spend time locating day-glo ear muffs at a shop that’s convenient for hubby to ‘swing by’ on the way to Euston Station. Because no one in their right mind would go late-night shopping with a knackered four and one-year-old in tow.

Hopefully Mini-me’s resident pink hat will do the job. I could ‘customise’ it with a bit of silver foil I suppose.

Yes we’re all still adapting to the ‘primary school chapter’, but the good thing is I know we’re not alone. My brilliant school mum friends are keeping me sane and laughing and long may this last.

So two months along here’s a few new things I’ve learned. Maybe some of them will sound familiar.

  1. You used to think you were late for school in the first couple of weeks, but now you know the real meaning of ‘cutting it fine.’ It involves bringing the car to a screeching halt most mornings, sprinting down the road towing poor offspring behind you and other (more well prepared) parents quickly getting out of your way in the playground as they register the panic in your eyes.
  1. You know NEVER to turn up to school pick-up without a snack of some kind for your child about your person. And if you forget, prepare for whinging, crying and them trying to grab a biscuit out of their best friend’s hand.
  1. You are pathetically grateful to your child’s class parents Facebook group. Without kind reminders from your peers you would be DOOMED!
  1. Your child’s ‘hair repertoire’ is now limited to bunches because they are easy. If Mini-me ever requests a French plait I may have a breakdown.
  1. Forget skinny jeans or heels, the best clothing purchase you have ever made is a decidedly untrendy but useful rain jacket with hood. Looking stylish is now even lower on the list of daily priorities than it used to be.
  1. A good ‘morning routine’ is a day which doesn’t involve shouting from you, shouting from offspring and hubby shouting down the stairs about all the shouting.
  1. That the fact that Mini-me can now read books to Blue-eyed boy is AMAZING. Admittedly the plots are a bit limited so far, but he doesn’t seem to mind.
  1. That you now do more washing than a small hotel. And if the machine packs up you cannot be held responsible for your actions.
  1. That when Mini-me says innocently that she’s ‘looking forward to homework’ it fills your heart with joy. And wonder over how long this is likely to last.
  1. That no matter how soon after lunch you ask, your child will NEVER be able to remember what they ate that day. But they will always remember if they got a sticker for eating it all.