Blog

School Days, Thinking Out Loud

To my children on the first day of school

Enjoy! I won’t cry, you won’t cry. That’s not our thing. No severe case of stiff upper lip, just a case of being a totally normal thing to happen at the start of September. I love that you love school, that you’re bright and a good friend.

You’ll get up to all sorts of exciting things this year. All of you. Trips and projects, odd crazes and funny stories. You’ll pick up fodder for anecdotes in your adult years. You’ll learn and you’ll grow.

I’m getting soppy. I should probably have started the school year as I mean to go on by laying out your uniforms and preparing your packed lunches but we’ll muddle through somehow.

And a special extra note for my step daughter: I hope you have a better first day than your dad did.

School Days, Thinking Out Loud

The Climb. Are they growing too fast?

The end of another school year is fast approaching. We’ve had the school reports and now come the moving on assemblies, leavers concerts and end of term summer productions* with photo montages and song choices selected with the sole aim of squeezing out parental tears of joy and pride.

The Climb** (by Miley Cyrus in the Hannah Montana era) gets me every year. The lyrics push me over the edge. I admit to crying every time they sing it. Turns out I’m a softy and a sucker for country pop. I’m also a sucker for a montage. It’s the best bit of any televised sports match and I love that we have the technology to do the same with our everyday non-sportsing lives.

Montage + uplifting song about overcoming obstacles + primary school children = weeping mess

That said, I’ve never been one for spouting “they’re growing too fast”, “I wish he was still a baby” and all that guff. They’re growing at the rate they’re supposed to. Thankfully. I love that they’re getting more independent because I’m lazy and they can do more for themselves. When they’re old enough and sensible enough to make you a cup of tea there’s a definite winning-at-life feel to the milestone. It’s a privilege to see them grow and develop. That’s what’s supposed to happen. Of course they were adorable when they were younger (even if in hindsight they were funny looking babies) but I don’t want to miss this stage in their lives or wish it away through some rose tinted nostalgia for the days when they were more dependent on me.

One of my favourite English teachers shared a poem with us in 6th form that stuck with me. Not so much that I actually remember the title or the poet but the archery analogy rings true. To make those we love fly as high and far as they can we have to use strength to pull them in close and steady but then we have to let them go, trust them to soar. Our kids have all had some sort of metaphorical mountain to climb this year so let’s celebrate those journeys and not fantasise about them morphing into their younger selves like Benjamin Button.

 

*A few weeks ago I asked my step daughter if she had a leavers concert. “No”, she told me and glared at me as though I’d suggested something utterly ludicrous. My husband later told me that we had tickets to go and watch her in a school show. I mentioned to her that I’d thought she wasn’t doing one. Following an audible sigh and a roll of the eyes she explained “it’s not a leavers concert it’s Summer Production” (yes, the capitals were also audible). It was brilliant whatever it was called.

**https://youtu.be/jpTYG_Sqqdg

Thinking Out Loud

In Praise of Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital

We’ve been lucky enough to have very healthy children so up until fairly recently my only experience with my offspring at the Heath (or UHW as it’s apparently called (it will always be the Heath to me, much in the way that I insist on calling those gross fruity sweets Opal Fruits not Starburst)) has been getting a bump on the head checked out at A&E. Unlike a lot of their peers, neither son was even born there.

Oh how I wish it had stayed that way. One son has had a couple of outpatient visits there over the past few months getting something sorted for him. He’s been happy with the whole thing, it’s solved a problem for him and each appointment has been calm and expected. He was amazed at the scale of the hospital and delighted by the fish tank, the concept of wards and floors being named after creatures and space and the luxury hot chocolate I treated him to for being such a cool dude about it all.

The youngest gave us a fright this weekend by ending up needing emergency surgery. He’s on the mend now and it all went well, thanks in advance for your concern. I’m not going into any medical detail about either boy’s situation because it’s private and doesn’t bear any relevance to what I want to say about the wonderful place.

Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital is an excellent facility. It’s beautifully designed, well thought out, the tellies are tuned to cbeebies or citv or cbbc (a detail the 8 year old appreciated) and the staff in every department, in every situation have been warm, helpful and made both boys feel safe and cared for. I know there are lots of families who spend a heck of a lot more time there and some who’ll never have to enter those doors and pass fish. The well-stocked play rooms and the stunning children’s outdoor play area all help to make the experience less scary and more child focused.

Sadly, Alex Karev wasn’t around but that’s probably because he’s not real and we were in Cardiff not Seattle. However, on the Grey’s Anatomy side of things, there was a definite Arizona Robbins approach to looking out for the “makers of the tiny humans” with all of the staff being friendly, polite and making sure I knew what was going on at every stage.

Hip hip hooray for our NHS! From NHS Direct to our local GP surgery, from the out of hours service at Barry Hospital to all of the tests, checks, procedures and the operation at Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital, it was all free at the point of need. No worrying about how much different options would cost or whether health insurance would cover any aspect. My children had top quality treatment on the NHS. Let’s look after it.

I’ve written this blog to sing their praises and thank the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital Charity for all the hard work and fundraising that has gone into bringing it to life. It hasn’t always been a thing and we really can’t take it for granted. If you’d like to donate or take part in a fundraising event there are plenty of ideas and event details on their website: Noah’s Ark Charity

Thinking Out Loud

5 Ways to Stay Cool in Heatwave 2017

Yesterday was apparently the hottest day of the year in the UK and today it’s hotter here than in Ibiza or Hell or something.

I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a Negative Nancy. Maybe a Realistic Rita or a Cynical Cynthia at a push. However, when it comes to sunshine and the blink-and-you-miss-it British summer I am fighting the negativity. Real life and social media have joined forces to barrage me with moans about how bloody hot it is. Enjoy it! It won’t last forever.

I get that it’s a worry for people with little babies or other vulnerable family members so in the spirit of teaching my grandmother to suck eggs (that’s what blogs are, right?), here are a few of my common sense tips for the no doubt sadly short-lived heatwave:

 

Window
Shut Up: close those windows

1. Shut up

Keep your house windows, curtains and/or blinds closed in the day and it’ll be cooler inside than out for the evening because you’ve blocked the sun. Open the windows an hour before bedtime to circulate the air once it’s cooler. It’s counter intuitive but by Jove it works.

heatwave1
Drink Up: stay hydrated. duh.

2. Drink up

Stay hydrated. Just drink. Give your kids extra water. If they need reminding, remind them to drink. If you need reminding that you and your offspring need water when it’s hot then hang your head in shame. You plonker.

Cactus in the sun
Cream Up: don’t burn in that scorchio sun. The lobster look is not cool.

3. Cream up

In the words of Baz Luhrmann, wear sunscreen. Splodge and spray it on your kids, yourself and anyone else who needs it. Avoid squirting random passing strangers. That’s weird. My boys hate being creamed. We compromised on a spray one.

rollercoaster on sunny day
Strip Off: don’t layer up babies

4. Strip off

Strip off. Don’t wrap babies up in vests and babygrows and blankets. I was a baby and toddler in the Caribbean and I didn’t really wear clothes until we moved to the UK. Older kids don’t need duvets at bedtime, just a cotton sheet. For an extra treat keep your pillow case in the fridge.

choc ice at the park
Chill Out: enjoy it, treat yo’self!

5. Chill out

Stop moaning, stay positive, chill out (in the shade or a cool shower if you prefer).

Yesterday we had an outdoor event at school that lasted about an hour. Predictably I heard cries of “it’s too hot for them”, “it should’ve been moved”, “other schools cancelled sports days”. Did anyone actually melt or spontaneously combust? Quelle surprise, no they did not. Were we reminded to apply sun cream and provide a drink and a hat for our little darlings? Why, yes we were. Did everyone have a lovely time? Oh yes indeedy. Last year, the same event took place in the rain. It was (unsurprisingly) the same people saying “it’s too wet for them”, “it should’ve been moved”, “other schools cancelled sports days”. Did anyone actually dissolve or float away? Quelle surprise, no they did not. We are not made of sugar. We are not the Wicked Witch of the West. (Also, a sports day is a DAY, an hour is an hour. Don’t get me started.)

For a place like the Vale of Glamorgan where we can experience four seasons in a week, we can be a tad melodramatic about the weather.

I hope you get a chance to enjoy the weather in your paddling pools, your local beach, Ponty Lido, Barry Splashpark or from the cool comfort of your own bath.

Let me know your favourite ways to stay cool in the comments.

 

Thinking Out Loud

General Election 2017

Amidst the getting-ready-for-the-day mayhem this morning I stumbled across Chalk (the 8 year old, remember I gave them pseudonyms? No? Well, just go with it) filming the telly screen with a phone. (Yes, the telly’s on in the morning so I’m a terrible mother and yes I also think 8 is too young for a phone.) He sensed me pausing with a pile of cereal smeared bowls in one arm and a pair of dead joggers in the other (how do they destroy so many clothes?!) and explained. Newsround were doing a piece on this week’s General Election. He wanted to film it to watch later in case he forgets anything. Obviously.

He’s not learnt it all from Newsround (although I do think it’s an excellent programme and I’m glad it’s still going). We’ve spoken about it and he knows why it’s important to vote, that we pick an MP and they represent us in Parliament. He knows that the parties aren’t parties as he knows them. He’s seen the poster his Dad blue tacked in our window. On Thursday morning the three kids will come with me to our local community centre while I vote. I could go at any time in the day but it’s been a great way to start a chat about democracy, suffrage, how our political system works, why I choose to vote the way I do. A bit deeper than our usual school walk conversations. This morning Cheese asked why robbers wear masks when they work at night and why there are holes in the washing machine.

We’ve had a lot of elections in the past couple of years so we’ve had lots of chats and I think some of it might be sinking in. That said, there’s been a lot to take in! The European Union, Welsh Government, Local Councils.

Jamie Roberts (the Welsh rugby one) tweeted yesterday “Politics. Not taught compulsorily at school, yet ‘younger people’ are encouraged to go out and vote to help decide the future..Madness”. It’s hard to be clear in 140 characters (I struggle in a long-winded blog post) and some twits thought he meant young people shouldn’t vote. Not so. the point was that politics should be taught in all schools.

A better understanding of how our political systems work is so important. One of the replies Jamie had was from a Matt Clarke (I don’t know him) “Keep politics away from school. Education is dominated by the left.” The kind of politics our children and young people should be taught isn’t about which party is the best but why we vote, how a government works, what parliament is.

It reminded me why I’ve tried keeping my political opinions to myself on social media this time around. It makes no difference, I’m preaching to the converted. It’s far more powerful to teach my children about the voice they have, to make sure they know the name of our MP, our Prime Minister and the political parties. Judging by most of what I’ve read on twitter and facebook makes me think that most grown-ups could benefit from watching Newsround explain the basics.

So here you go, a handy link to Newsround: BBC Newsround. You’re welcome.

 

Thinking Out Loud

London Loves

I swanned off to London this weekend to try on bridesmaid outfits, drink copious amounts of Prosecco and meet a good friend’s scrumptious newborn.

Not long after I’d made sure my uncharacteristically tipsy friend was hydrated and tucked into bed and was just getting myself cosy in her spare room she appeared at the bedroom door, phone in hand, “there’s been an incident”. Her brother had heard and messaged her as he knew the bars of Borough Market are a familiar haunt of hers.

By the time we woke up, the scale and implications of the event were unfolding. We carried on with our weekend plans of brunches, walks and baby cwtching. I eventually got back to a Cardiff empty and exhausted from hosting a Big Important Football Thing.

This morning Chalk hugged me and let slip that he’d been worried when he heard the news because he knew I was in London. He’s an anxious little fella, empathetic with a keen interest in what’s going on in the world.

With the Manchester attack still so fresh in his mind, it’s easy to grasp how overwhelming the world is at the moment.

A different year group to his at school were supposed to be going on a London trip soon but it’s been changed to another location. The number of parents who, understandably, said that their children wouldn’t be going to London due to the recent terror attacks will have swayed it.

Will I avoid London? Nope. Will I avoid large concerts? Nope. (Off to one on Friday and I cannot flipping wait.) Terrorists have struck bars, restaurants, shops, public transport, marathon spectators, pavements, they’re really not that fussy. I don’t want to live under a rock and I don’t want my children living in fear. I’ll hug them tight and we’ll carry on living life to the full.

Thinking Out Loud

10 Reasons why I am a Terrible Parent Blogger

1. Time (or lack thereof)

I struggle to find the precious time to write anything half decent between my jobs, chores, child taxi service, exercising and socialising. (Not that there’s a hell of a lot of time for the last one or that I spend as much time as I should doing the penultimate one.)

2. Desperately Seeking Approval

I’m too cynical to be sycophantic and too desperate to be liked to be truly cutting.

3. Friends

I don’t need new mum friends. Does that make me weird? I barely have time for the friends I already have. I like my friends. That’s why they’re my friends.

4. Bloggerholics Anonymous

I decided to blog anonymously but this is proving to be a real challenge on the old content front. Thankfully for you it means I’ll not be doing any cringey vlogging any time soon. (Look, I used the word vlogging! It’s the future, I’m down with the kids. Probably not.)

5. Respecting my Children’s Privacy

I don’t feel comfortable exploring the trials and tribulations that my kids are struggling with through the medium of blog. A three year old struggling with toilet training isn’t quite as exposing as the emotional, social and developmental rollercoasters of eight and ten year olds.

6. Not a Mama or Mummy. Just a Mum. Or Mam.

I’ve never called myself a Mama or a Mummy. Tell a lie, I’ve signed birthday cards to my toddler offspring with “Mummy” but mainly because I like doing a twirly y in my fanciest handwriting. The words are too cutesy. I am not cute. I’m Mum to my boys and Mam on the blog because it’s Welsh and it rhymes with Glam. Love a rhyme.

7. Self doubt

But it’s ok to be a bit rubbish at this writing lark when no one is ever going to read it as it floats aimlessly in the world wide web of lies. If a tree falls and no one hears it…

8. Not an Expert

I’m not an expert on anything. I read some blogs where the writer has assumed some sort of moral high ground or preaches as though they are the Holder Of All The Knowledge or Explainer Of All Of The Things. I’m reluctant to launch my “Crafty Mam” element because I can imagine it being a bit “here’s a tutorial on doing something I can only just about do myself.”

9. Waffly Versatile

I waffle. As one of my incredible A Level English teachers said in the late 90s “you have a rather cavalier approach to writing”, which, turns out, wasn’t what they were looking for in exams or Uni assignments. Who knew.

10. I’m Late to the Party (or was I too early?)

I can see there are so many opportunities and movements to join up mums with mums. Which is lovely. I went through a more analogue and informal version of this when I was preggers the first time age 25. I don’t feel it’s for me now. I prefer to vent and rage at my friends (and at you, strangers on the internet), some of whom don’t have kids. They still know me and they know my children. Perhaps working and having no pre-schoolers excludes me. I’m entering a stage of motherhood where I have more freedom, I’m not tethered by boob to a baby, juggling days around inconvenient nursery hours or lugging around the world’s biggest bag full of tiny spare clothes.

But mainly it’s the never having time to blog thing. OK, not “never” as I’m clearly doing just that right now… and waffling again.