Thursday, 28 June 2012

That Friday feeling.............

It is Friday tomorrow thank goodness!

One of the things which I like best about Friday is that I get to turn off the alarm on my phone until Sunday night. Admittedly I might not get to wake up totally naturally when I am good and ready because in all likelihood I will get woken up by Lucy at some unearthly hour and, it is also quite likely that one of the other kids will decide to wake us up in the morning but that I can cope with. That will be much gentler than the dreaded beep beep beep of the alarm which jolts me from my slumber on weekdays.
This is one of the reasons why I am looking forward to the summer holidays. Six weeks of waking up when I am ready, my eyes opening of their own accord, brain allowed to kick in slowly, kids permitting of course! Bliss!
 I love the slow moving mornings and I love being able to have an extra cup of tea because we wont have to get ready to go anywhere, not unless we choose to that is.

 My summer 'to do' list has now become even longer. Chloe and Elisha both celebrate their birthdays in the summer holiday and as Elisha reminded me today I did promise them they could get their ears pierced if they still wish. So now I need to add this to the calendar and sort out a date when we can get this done as it is better to do this over the long holidays to give them chance to heal. Elisha asked me today if it hurts, erm only for a minute I answered not sure whether I should tell her that it took me till I was twenty one to have mine done and I won't be repeating the experience anytime soon, best keep quiet about that I think..... then there is uniform, bags, equipment, lunchboxes and school shoes for four to sort out, will put this out of my mind for the moment though, I don't think my addled brain can cope with it all just yet.

 Today has been a strange day, the weather has been very unpredictable with rain, thunder and lightning, well ok rain in Wales is to be expected but the noise from the sudden torrential downpour  this morning made my ears hurt, and lets face it with five children I am used to noise! I know that some parts of the country have suffered more flooding, looking at the sheer amount of water hitting the road outside I was getting worried myself wondering if the drainage system could or would cope.

 Kerrie was enthralled looking out of the window watching the water hit the decking as we sang nursery rhymes involving rain. Lucy was giggling throughout and it seems that Incy Wincy Spider is already a favourite of hers. She is growing so fast and changing so much. She will be six months old next week and I can't believe that time has gone so quickly.
 She is always giggling and babbling to herself and her toys. Lucy reaches for anything which catches her eye and she takes great delight in snatching up her clean clothes if I make the mistake of leaving them too close to her when I am changing her nappy. She can hold things properly in her hands now and can pick things up as opposed to just batting at them hopefully when she saw something she wanted.

 I love the happy look of recognition in her eyes and the big smile when I hand her one of her favourite toys or cover her in her nanny blanket. My mum has crocheted blankets in the same style for each of the children, they all have their different colours but they are fondly refered to as nanny blankets, my own nanny blanket is huge and covers our sofa (if you have 'Liked' our facebook page it is in the picture at the top of the page, all the kids are sat on it.) 

 James went on a school trip today, he says he had a great time although as usual I can't get much detail out of him other than he 'fed animals' and he sat by his friend Alex on the coach. He found it very funny that I could guess who some of the other children had chosen to partner on the trip. Obviously he thinks I sleepwalk through the school run/kids parties/our conversations about school, paying no attention to his little stories and tales, not actually true I might add. James also made me laugh recently when he saw some cakes I had baked. He said 'you are a good cooker mum, maybe when you grow up you could have a restaraunt!' I will keep that in mind for when I grow up..........

Tomorrow he is going to the beach with school for a summer suprise so I really hope the sun decides to shine for them. Elisha is also going to the beach with her class as part of the Forest Schools Programme although in this case it will be Beach School. They are both very excited, their buckets and spades are at the ready. Chloe is less than impressed because they didn't do either when she was a pupil. I have a feeling this will be a familiar theme as the year continues.

It is also cake day again at school so I have made flapjacks this time and they are currently cooling in the kitchen. I don't know how they will turn out because I have not made this specific recipe before but they certainly smell good so here is hoping they taste good too. I am waiting for them to cool now so I can cut them and get them boxed up before I go to bed.  I might have to make a cuppa and test them out, just to check them of course! Night all!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Wasting time online

Lately we seem to be drowning in paperwork. Since three of our children are already in school and Kerrie is due to start in September we receive letters home on most weekdays, often in duplicate and sometimes by the handful.  Forms for school trips and outings, fund raising events, after school clubs, questionnaires, news, and adverts. I understand from the schools point of view that there is a lot going on and they have a vast amount of information to impart, believe me I am not complaining at this sudden burst of communication since I would be the first to complain if we as parents were not kept updated. In fact I very much like it.

 The primary school produces a fantastic newsletter, implemented by the new Headteacher which we can choose to have as either an email or a paper copy. It contains so much information about all sorts of things happening during the school day which we would, under the previous regime have known nothing about. Chloe went up to High School last September just as our new Head arrived so I have had several years of her attending Primary school to be able to compare this to.
 In the past I often felt that what happened during school hours was very much kept in the classroom and we shouldn't really be asking now I am pleased to see we are expected to want to know what our children have been doing with their days, isn't that as it should be?

 Elisha brought home a copy of the latest newsletter on Friday and Chloe picked it up to read. She looked sad and I asked her what was wrong. She replied that she wished she could go back to the Junior school because it looked fun. She was bemoaning the fact that she missed out on so many of the activities which Elisha gets to take part in. Her keen eyes had noticed that Elisha and James are being offered so many more opportunities than she was given during her time there.  I couldn't really offer another viewpoint as although she took part in quite a lot of activities having seen the other side of the coin I am rather inclined to agree with her.

 It is lovely to see so many pictures of the children taking part in such varied activities. Now, it is not just the proud parents of the 'Worker of the week' 'Star of the week' etc who hear their child's news, all the other parents get to hear about it too. It is of course lovely to see my own children being singled out for their achievements,  but it is also very nice to see the other children's own special moments too. I have known many of the  pupils since they were babies, I have watched them grow up and it is lovely to see them do well. The email can be forwarded to grandparents and relatives to show them and for me the on line format is easy to keep track of and it also means that I don't have yet another piece of paper to lose!

The downside of all this information being available  is that in a converse way it can be very hard to keep up with all that is going on.   I try and keep all the letters from school in the same place so I can make sure it all gets dealt with on time. Lately though my days are crammed with the ever changing needs of a small baby and a very active toddler that so much is just not getting done at home.
Bits of paper are thrust into my hands when they arrive home from school and I put them down to deal with later, the trouble is 'later' something else happens which I have to deal with and the pile of letters gets put to one side to deal with 'tomorrow' I then end up riffling through it in a mad hurry to deal with the most urgent things as the children are heading out of the door, not good. What is worse is that I now have three 'to be dealt with' piles of paper and they are stacked in three different  locations due to the need to keep them all out of Kerrie's reach. In other words they are spread around the house.

So today I decided that enough was enough. Deep down I am actually quite organised, no seriously I am! I'm a huge fan of lists and notebooks, I love my calendar, and on days out I am the one carrying the plasters, (what do you expect I was a Girl Guide you know!) so it is very frustrating for me to be juggling such a mess. I needed to do something about it and today came my opportunity.  Kerrie and Lucy very kindly both had a nap at the same time so I grabbed the laptop, calendar and the most recent stack of missives to try and play catch up, well I did say try!

In reality...........

Chloe attends the local high school which tends to post most of it's information and updates in on line newsletters. I had received a text from them (days ago......) informing me that a newsletter was available but I had chosen to ignore it until now bemoaning a lack of time.
 I switched on the laptop and was making a studious attempt to avoid Facebook which I love even though it is the greatest time waster ever.  I logged onto the high school website to check the newsletter which it has to be said contained hardly anything of any real use. It then advises me that for the latest info I should 'like' their Facebook page, in doing so I am of course re-directed to the very place I am trying to avoid - is there a conspiracy going on here?  Back to the job in hand then? Oh stuff it maybe I should just make a cup of tea and check my news feed while I procrastinate some more................

Monday, 18 June 2012

Busy Monday

Monday seems to be coming around very quickly lately. It must be that time of year, we are hurtling towards the start of the summer holidays like an out of control space shuttle.
 I don't know where this year has gone to it certainly seems to be speeding away faster than usual although I am convinced that starting the year off with a new baby and watching her progress is the reason why. Babies grow up so quickly, too quickly I feel, so we just kept having them to repeat the fun all over again.........I jest of course!

  For us the summer holidays herald birthdays for both Chloe and Elisha as well as getting all the back to school uniforms and other things bought and prepared. It is both a busy and an expensive time for us.
 This time Kerrie will start in the school nursery class part time so we will have four of our five going to school. I have already worked out that it will be the year 2023 when Lucy goes to high school. I have also discovered that if she chooses to stay on for Sixth Form I will be fifty-one years old, I am thirty-three now so that is a sobering thought indeed. More soberingly still Steve will be Sixty-one!

So better move on from that thought and look at today. With so many children doing so many different things it is fair to say we always have a lot of things to prepare. The girls enjoy quite a few after school activities and James is starting to join in too. Between them in varying amounts they attend Ballet and  Street Dance classes, Gymnastics, Brownies, and a youth club out of school plus netball and football lessons which are organised through their schools taking place at the end of the  day.
 Some days they do more than others, today was one of those days where I certainly needed a list to get everything ready.
Elisha alone needed seven, yes seven changes of clothes today and that didn't include pyjamas. No wonder I can't keep up with the laundry! The list was as follows

1) School Uniform
2) Swimming Kit - school swimming lesson
3) PE kit - to wear to have her photo taken with the Olympic Torch (which she didn't need in the end)
4) Outfit to wear for the School Talent Competition Final (Her group came second, well done girls!)
5) Gymnastics Kit - Gym Club
6) Brownie Uniform
7) More swimming kit plus jelly shoes for the Brownies to go to the local paddling pool.

Phew on top of all that they all have packed lunches and James started gym class today so he needed clothes for that too. Steve decided to take him and Chloe to the paddling pool too so more swimming gear and crocs required - big thank you to the not so happy souls who sometimes feel the need to deposit broken glass in the pool making footwear a necessity.

One Friday not so long ago Steve got up early to wake up three kids and get them into uniform and ready for school as usual. Total confusion reigned when they informed him that one was staying home as it was a teacher training day, one had to dress up for world book day and the other was in his own clothes for forest schools and needed his wellies. This is why I couldn't function without my calendar, kids lives are complicated!

It used to be that the last couple of weeks before the Summer and Christmas holidays were extremely busy with so much to remember, now with so many more activities on offer they do seem to have upped the ante so now most weeks are like that. I am not complaining I think it is lovely that they are afforded so many opportunities to try different things. James however is not always so keen. He told me last week that he did not want to go to school anymore. He wasn't upset and I know from speaking to his teacher that he is perfectly happy in school but still I asked him why. He replied that school takes up too much of the day!
 In James' world he simply has better things to do with his time and school interrupts that. He loves the weekends and half term to him is heaven. His days are punctuated by things which in his mind are unnecessary interruption's to his fun such as getting dressed!  He is in Reception Class now where much of his learning is still play based. Not quite sure what he is going to make of the next class when things become more formal. I suspect there will be many more 'I don't want to go to school days'.

Hopefully my day is starting to draw to a close as it has been rather a long one and Tuesdays are also a long day around here with dance classes after school so tomorrow will be busy too. I have just finished my evening meal having finally been able to sit down to eat, it has been one of those days (Jacket potato with lashings of Welsh butter, cherry tomatoes and soft cheese just in case you were wondering!)

 Lucy is bouncing in her chair at my feet but she is starting to get restless so I think it is time to get her into her pj's before her last feed. I treasure our evening snuggles as I know it wont be long before she will be dashing off to explore her world along with her brother and sisters. they are all growing up so quickly and time really does fly so fast!

On that note I am going to spend some quality time with my youngest so I will bid you all goodnight xxx

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

So much time and so little to do, strike that reverse it!

My apologies to those of you who have told me you have been missing my ramblings. Kerrie has been taking up most of my time lately. She used to go to bed nicely till half term when she learned how to 'escape' from her bedroom so we moved her in with the girls and gave James his own bedroom again. The trouble is now she is staying awake much later and keeping the rest of the house awake too. When she isn't asleep she is enjoying being a one child demolition crew, roll on September when she is due to start school, she is ready and frankly so am I!

She can be a little angel, we sat and made paper flowers together yesterday while Lucy had a nap and she was as good as gold, she loved it and we both really enjoyed crafting together. It is all about attention. If she is getting my complete attention she is fine but the second I turn my back to feed Lucy or make lunch or do anything else she takes it as her cue to cause as much mayhem as possible. She is so intelligent but she is also very mischievous which makes one lethal combination.

The trouble is that with other children to care for she can't have all my attention all the time and at the moment I am getting very little done despite being at home most of the time. There are plenty of things she can help with but the constant patience needed for this is exhausting especially when she is keeping us all awake at night too. She is much better at the weekends because the other children are home and they entertain her, sometimes without actually intending to. Sometimes she entertains them without intending to. There were peals of laughter from them all during breakfast when she asked me for bread, I thought she meant toast and as I started to make it she yelled 'No, don't toaster it mummy!'

My  parents very kindly took her out for a while today so after a hurried cup of tea while I fed and settled Lucy for a nap I was able to take some time to tackle a job which has been bugging me for ages. My wardrobe. I haven't been able to hang my clothes up properly for about the last two years. Everything that has been without a proper home has been chucked into the bottom of the wardrobe until a later date when I could sort it out.  That day finally came today.
 I am amazed at some of the junk I have felt the need to keep. Letters from school, receipts, the Boots Christmas catalogue from two years ago and so on.  After working for one hour solid my wardrobe is now home to my clothes, shoes and a couple of handbags and nothing else! I had managed to fill two bin bags and I discovered loads of reusable carrier bags as a bonus. (For anyone who doesn't live in Wales the days of the free carrier bag are over, we are now charged if we need a bag when shopping.) In such a small house with so many of us living here we cannot afford to waste space so the urge to declutter the rest of it is very strong.

 Meanwhile my to do list is getting longer by the day. In addition to the usual weekly routine I have to alter the elastic on Elisha's ballet shoes, again! Make appointments for the little ones to have their vaccinations, the girls room still needs sorting out, there are stacks of clothes everywhere which need putting away,  Chloe managed to make holes in both legs of her new ballet tights so they need replacing, I need to find things for the kids to take to school for the tombola at the school fair, find change for Elisha to take to the school disco, buy presents for Father's day for Steve and both our Dad's plus two of the kids friends who are both having birthday parties over the weekend,  submit meter readings on line, sort the calendar out because half the school events which need to be on there have not been copied over plus 101 other things which my frazzled brain is desperately trying to keep up with. Elisha brought three letters home from school today alone, it is that time of year, the run up to the summer holidays is always much like the run up to Christmas, frantic and complicated.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

How basic is basic?

This morning's post brought two letter's addressed to the parents of Lucy Kate.  Steve and I opened one each joking that they would probably be the same, they were. They both contained a leaflet from the Welsh arm of the Basic Skills Agency and an invitation to Language and Play sessions run by the Education Department of our local council.
 I am sure it would probably be a lovely course and entirely enjoyable for other mums. Unfortunately it would not be so for me because I would have to take both Kerrie and Lucy. Juggling a wayward toddler and a young baby would rate high on the how to stress mummy out scale which I doubt would be the effect they are looking for.

Can someone please tell me why these things are always run with the assumption that we all have only one child? This really does aggravate me. The anonymous 'they' who plan these courses always seem to assume that all parents have only one child and that they all drive. The local baby clinic always seems to run on the same basis. I have lost count of the number of times they have sent me appointments for 2:30pm for a clinic which is always running late leaving me dashing to collect the other children from school. I have now given up pointing this out and after discussion with my Health Visitor choose to ignore the reminders and make appointments with the practise nurse at a more convenient time.

In this case the sessions run from 1pm till 2:30pm and they are located two towns away, I am a non driver. If I get the bus it wouldn't leave enough time for me to get back for the school run. It also wouldn't give me enough time to give Lucy her usual top up feed before the said school run unless I give it during the play session which means I would be trying to keep track of Kerrie the Houdini style escape artist in an unfamiliar environment while feeding Lucy and then dashing off to get the bus juggling both the baby and the toddler and a pram which they will probably want me to fold up because it wont fit on the bus and even after five children I have yet to work out how to fold a pram which needs both hands while also holding a baby and hanging onto a toddler, and lets not forget I would also be juggling a changing bag and bus fares.
 I will be late to pick the other kids up from school due to the bus route going past two local high schools at chucking out time and therefore that time of day being the worst time of day to travel anywhere  thus rendering myself mightily unpopular with my children's teachers.
 Are you knackered just thinking about it because I know I am. It certainly wipes out any benefit we might gain from attending doesn't it. Forget that idea then how about we stay at home and sing several repetitions of  'The Wheels On The Bus' and 'Wind The Bobbin Up' and have a nice cuppa instead? Yes shock horror I do sing to my kids without needing the intervention of the basic skills agency, admittedly I don't sing well which probably accounts for all the rain we see in Wales but my kids don't care and I am careful not to sing in public, I don't see why anyone else should have to suffer.

OK, so we have established that this course of play sessions is not for us this time. I did however read the leaflet which promised to explain the Language and Play sessions in more detail, well as I thought you never know who might be interested in this sort of thing and I might be able to pass the information on. One of the side effects of having so many children is that everyone expects me to know what is going on locally so I looked at the leaflet which turned out to be the most patronising piece of twaddle I think I have ever had the misfortune to read. The leaflet was split into sections headed by questions about the programme. The final section headed 'Why is it important?' read as follows.

"Being a parent is the most important and challenging job in your life. We believe you are your child's first and most important educator. We want to share some ideas that will make a real difference to both you and your baby or young child. To give your child a great start, try cuddles, talk, rhymes, sharing a story each day and playing together. All of these are absolutely free! Making the most of ordinary situations can change your child's life. You are in the best position to give time, stimulation and warmth. Why is it important to do this? Because you're worth it!"

I found the whole thing to be totally patronising. If they do as they claim see us as our child's first educator then they clearly don't have much faith in our abilities if they feel we all need to be told to cuddle and talk to our babies. James was four years old when Lucy was born when she cried he sang to her, we didn't suggest this to him, it was instinct pure and simple. His response to her distress was to try and soothe her. If such a young child can work this out then why does the basic skills agency think we are all so incapable of using our common sense?

I would go so far as to say that while I recognise that some parents for various reasons do need extra help with a new baby, generally speaking a parent who doesn't instinctively recognise that babies like to be cuddled should not be allowed within an inch of Mothercare's automatic doors. Why do they think we can't even manage to cuddle and talk to our offspring? I know that life in Britain is not that great at present but are things actually that bad that parents en masse must be talked down to? Does every iota of literature intended for us have to be dumbed down to such a level that it can be clearly understood by the Jeremy Kyle generation? My mind boggled as I read the kind of ideas they were so eager to suggest as something new that would not have occurred to us. Cuddles, talking and playing together, give me strength these are not new ideas, this is what should come naturally surely? Talk about stating the obvious!  The writer of this leaflet excitedly imparts this information with all the joy of someone finding the Holy Grail, right down to the L'orealesque line 'Because you are worth it' although surely in this case it should have read 'Because your child is worth it'?

  I am honestly not being snobby. I grew up on a council estate, went to the local schools and I chose not to go to university in favour of going straight into the workplace. I know that being a parent is the hardest job I will ever do and that is OK, no one ever said this would be easy but as I am often heard to say I made my bed and I will lay in it, I might be found to be banging my head against a brick wall sometimes but hey ho such is life. If I need help with something I will find it but please give me some credit for having a few brain cells left yes even after having five babies I still have one or two chunks of the old grey matter rattling around in my head. Sending leaflets with such content does not help me be a better parent, it just made me cross for both myself and my fellow parents. To add insult to injury they sent us two copies as if we couldn't possibly be expected to understand it first time around. Dumbing down Britain, just how basic do we have to get?