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

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.

Thinking Out Loud

5 Reasons to Love Half Term (even if you’re working)

I’ve managed to wangle a few afternoons off but no full on day trips for us this week. For all the research and “ooo I like the sound of that” that went into the February Half Term post, I won’t be able to do many, if any of them with my children. Cue working parent guilt. The guilt will be slightly quelled by Facebook posts from SAHMs pulling their dry shampooed hair out (thank you and commiserations in advance). It’s not all bad. I’ve plucked five silver linings from a burst of rare optimism.

No Lunch Boxes

Sunday night I did a gleeful jig when I remembered that I needn’t do an inventory of bread, ham, cereal bars and frubes. No evening trek to the corner shop for lunch box supplies for me. Straight on the PG Tips. Oh yeah. Smug AF. I am a terrible quartermaster and we never have all of the lunch box things. We do always have fruit but that’s mainly because the same clementine accompanies each child every day until it’s “on the turn”. I’ve tried a variety of fruits and lovingly chopped vegetable batons but they all come home again. The satsuma, clementine and other orange-type things are by far the hardiest travellers so they’re frequent flyers.

No School Uniforms

The boys’ school is pretty relaxed uniform wise but I’ve had a gutsful of polo t-shirts and black joggers. Half term means I don’t have to do a wash every day. It’s best to avoid a mountainous backlog but it doesn’t matter. They finally get to wear the clothes I actually like and have bought for them. I was wistfully flipping through photos of my youngest as a two year old (because my sister has his old gear and my nephew’s just bursting into the 2-3 bag of cousin hand-me-downs) and he had some awesome outfits. Now he’s 4 nearly 5 and favours “comfie trousers”, joggers to you or I. The 8 year old poo-pooed my suggestions this morning (he also refused to get out of bed, get dressed, brush his teeth etc.) and left the house looking like he’d had to don something from the lost property box. But hey, no school uniform washing, ironing and folding at least. *whistles Always Look on the Bright Side of Life*

Most Clubs and Hobbies Take a Break

The 8 year old’s sport doesn’t do half term breaks (sigh) but everything else does (yay). Fewer chauffeur duties, cub uniform, rugby boots and musical instruments to find/clean/remind child about. Tea time can be more leisurely. Less downing of dinners and struggling to find food that can be made in under 10 minutes. (30 minutes Jamie Oliver?! That’s a luxury!)

The B Team Present on the Radio

I have the radio on constantly. It gives my solo working from home days some element of routine.

10:30am Popmaster is time to make a cup of tea and practice my 3 times table

12 noon Jeremy Vine reminds me that it’s nearly lunch time

2pm Steve Wright makes me panic that all the things I should have done haven’t been done yet

5pm Simon Mayo helps me realise I still need to work for another half an hour but (depending on the day of the week) I need to make dinner for everyone and taxi kids to their hobbies within the next hour.

At half term and holidays, the regular Radio 2 presenters disappear and we get the reserves. Like those days a supply teacher had your class at school and there is a whiff of anarchy about the place. Sadly, this half term we’re on a different week to most of England so this reason should fall off the list. It should but “4 Reasons…” sounded a bit lame.

It’s a Quieter Week at Work

It would seem that most other people are more forward thinking than me and actually think to take annual leave over half term. I get fewer phone calls, meetings and replies to emails. A great chance to get a few more things ticked off that work-to-do list. If I had one. It’s all up here *taps head with biro*. *Regrets tapping head with biro upon realising it was the inky end*.

Do you also have a love/hate relationship with half term? Don’t worry, once it’s over there are only six weeks until the Easter holidays!

 

Thinking Out Loud

Digital Footprints

For the recent Safer Internet Day, the 8 year old taught me about my digital footprint. The personal markers I leave all over the internet like our dogs pissing at the park. Airing my dirty laundry on a blog doesn’t sit well with protecting the privacy of my kids. They’re not babies or toddlers but primary school aged kids with their own opinions, fears and ability to browse the internet.

I’m torn between going big on the warts an’ all barefaced honesty and something a little more restrained and anonymous.

When they get to high school (which will be pretty soon in the grander scheme of things) I don’t want their friends, enemies or frenemies to be able to dig up details of every embarrassing thing they’ve ever said or problem they’ve had to work through. I’m still trying to come up with the perfect nom de plumes for my entire family and take more photos without their lovely little faces in but we’ll get there.