Wednesday, 27 October 2010

How Does The Saying Go Again?

I'm just trying to remember what it is that they say about children, big, expensive presents and cardboard boxes. Anyone?

Monday, 25 October 2010

Meat Free Monday?

One of my most annoying habits must be the way I always manage to answer a question with another question. Even over simple things. If my husband asks me what I want for dinner, nine times out of ten I'll reply with "What do you fancy?" I do this with so many things, for the simple reason that I am totally incapable of making a decision. I hate it! As soon as I decide something I start worrying about whether it was the right decision to make!

One decision I have always made for myself however is that I don't want to eat meat. I have been vegetarian since I was 18. My mum refused to let me be vegetarian before this point. She always thought it was 'just another phase' I was going through, and to be fair, there were quite a few of those, but as soon as I left home and went to uni, the meat went. I have never even been tempted to eat meat since then.

I was stood cooking this morning, making up a batch of bolognese for the children from finest beef mince, blood on my hands, I was feeling quite sick from it actually, but it got me thinking. A number of people have asked me whether I will bring up my children vegetarian but I don't.

The way I've always seen it, vegetarianism is a choice, one that I've made. My husband has chosen not to be a vegetarian. I have a friend who is a vegetarian and she has brought up her three children in the same way. Her husband doesn't eat meat in the house because she doesn't feel comfortable having meat in the house. Although I don't enjoy preparing meat, I do because I feel it's important that the children don't have it excluded from their diets just because I have made a choice not to eat it, and by preparing meals which do have meat in them means that we can all eat as a family regularly. My husband gets serious withdrawal symptoms if he doesn't get meat! But this has led me to wondering if I am in this case being a bit of a hypocrite? I'm still buying meat and supporting the industry after all.

My daughter is three now and is very aware that my 'chicken' looks different to hers. She really enjoys eating Quorn and I do give it to her, but I give her meat as well, despite the fact she isn't so keen on it. My son on the other hand is like his daddy and loves his meat, he can't get enough! I know that if either of my children decide that they want to become vegetarian when they are older and fully understand what this means, I will support them and allow them to do this as long as they get the nutrients through other foods in their diet. Until then, I will continue to do what I do, I'd rather be a hypocrite than have my children vitamin deficient, but how do other people deal with this issue? I'm sure I'm not the only one!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Hey Lyla!

I'd always tried to avoid those Build-A-Bear shops like the plague when we went past them in town, despite my daughter's best efforts. We'd promised her a Bear for her birthday which was back in May, but we just never really got round to it. I thought they were pretty much a cuddly toy version of a Barbie shop. The other day I relented though as it wasn't quite so packed as it usually was so I thought I might stand a chance of getting the double buggy in there.

A budget priced bear shop it is not, and some parts are a bit cringey for the adult but I was really wrong in terms of what it was. I even got a bit emotional seeing the pleasure Evie was getting from the whole experience in the shop, and her beloved Lyla has not left her side since.

So what actually happens when you go in? Why did she have so much fun? It's about the experience of creating your very own Bear, just as much as it is about what you actually take home.

You go into the shop and choose what kind of toy you'd like. It's very easy to spend a fortune, but we looked around first so we didn't get too seduced! They have a variety of different branded bears, like Hello Kitty ones, and lots of different sizes too, generally the bigger the more expensive, but Evie opted for a glittery purple one - her favourite colour. The addition of glittery bits of fluff were just the icing on the cake for her!

You can choose something for your Bear to say if you want to, but we didn't get this particular option so we went straight to the stuffing station. You decide how cuddly or firm you want your Bear to be. You then have to give your Bear a heart, so you kiss the heart and put it into the bear before it gets stuffed to help make it 'come alive.' The children then press the pedal themselves to stuff the bear.

Next stop is the pamper section, where Evie had great fun fluffing her new Bear, and grooming it with special brushes and combs.

You then move onto the clothes. We'd told Evie she was allowed to choose one outfit for her bear, and she chose a little Hello Kitty number (as modelled below!) but she could have got very carried away in this section. There are also accessories, like handbags and hair clips, which she fully intends to put on her Christmas list.

Once she had finished we were asked to go and 'register the birth' of our bear by using the in store computer to create a 'Birth Certificate' and when we paid, our Bear was boxed up in her house to take home.

At home, you can then bring your bear to life online in Build-A-Bearville. Using the code on the Bear's Birth Certificate, you create a profile on this web world. When you enter your code, it automatically brings up a profile picture of the Bear created in the shop. I haven't had a chance to explore this fully yet, and Evie's probably a bit young for it, but it seems like a child friendly social networking kind of thing. Evie can talk to the 'carers of other Bears' through the website but can only interact with the bank of phrases on offer, which I can only think is a good thing when aimed at children this young.

So even though 'Lyla' is nearly a week old, (ancient in 3 year old's terms yes?!) the novelty is still going strong. She loves dressing and undressing her and is so totally besotted because she created her. Our Bear cost just over £20 including the clothes. It is expensive in terms of what it actually is, but if you compare this to the price it costs for some days out where you have nothing to take home at the end of it, it seems a little more reasonable in this context. Evie has definitely enjoyed this experience more than any other since our holiday in France back in August. She just keeps telling us that Harry needs one too now though, and I'm not confident about how many of the decisions he'll be allowed to make in the shop if his big sister's there too!

Friday, 15 October 2010

When I grow up I want to be...

I witnessed a little gem of a conversation this evening between my daughter and her friend, whic made me smile so I thought I'd share it with you. Evie's pre school were talking about different jobs that people do, so she started talking to her friend when we met them for swimming. My husband and I are both teachers. Evie's friend's mother is also a teacher while her dad is a manager of a health club. Clearly our values relating to the importance of both education and ambition have ingrained themselves in our offspring...

(E)vie: I might be a teacher when I'm a adult.
(F)riend: I might be too, we could see the big boys and girls and go on the trampoline like our Mums! (incidentally the last time I set foot on a trampoline I was about 6!) Well actually I don't want to be a teacher, I want to be a conceptionist.
E: Me too, I want to be a conceptionist. What's a conceptionist?
F: You know, the ones at the front who play on Beebies on the computer and answer the phones and press the button to open the gate.
E: Oh. Well actually I know what I want to be. I want to be a tooth fairy so I can stay up all night and take teeth to pirates.
F: Me too, let's be tooth fairies when we're adults.
E: Yeah.

So there we have my daughter's career aspirations, and to think I'm worrying about school applications at the moment! Anyone got the Ofsted report for Hogwarts Primary to hand?!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Teacher or Mum? Or Both?

I qualified as a secondary school teacher at the age of 21, so apart from various jobs I did as a student it's the only form of 'work' I've ever known. Why did I put the 'w' word in inverted commas? Well to me, I never really saw it as work. Obviously it was, during term time it was tiring, sometimes I worked 15 hour days, often I'd work weekends. Occasionally I'd leave work early, then sit at home planning lessons or marking books for another 9 hours - yes really! The trouble is, I found it difficult calling it work because I loved it so much - I still do. It's fab getting up knowing that you are guaranteed genuine enthusiasm, ambition, and plenty of laughter at some point. On top of that, the feeling you get at certain points in the year, for example on GCSE results day or at the end of the school show, success and joy, just makes you forget about the long stressful hours you've put in, in order to be able to witness these moments. It's suddenly all worth it and nothing else matters.

It's just like the first time you set eyes on your newborn child, how everyone knows that first cuddle makes you forget all the time and pain it took for them to get there!

I'm a very all or nothing kind of person, so when I was pregnant for the first time, I was petrified about the prospect of not being at work and was only going to take three months off initially. I'd been selected to represent Dorset as the Leading Teacher for my subject which I was immensely proud of, but what if my maternity cover made decisions I didn't like? What if they didn't prepare the students for their exams properly? and I guess if I'm being honest, there was also a strong sense of 'What if my maternity cover makes good decisions?' and 'What if the students like their maternity cover better than me?' You're never going to be able to win in that situation particularly when you're a big bulging bag of hormones!

When my daughter was born in May 2007, all of a sudden my priorities changed and it was thanks to my maternity cover that this happened. My daughter was born 3 days before the GCSE Music final exam, and I had told my replacement that I would go into school that day to talk through everything with the students unless I was in labour. I stayed in hospital overnight and checked my emails when I got home the next day, to find a message entitled 'Congratulations and Lesson Plan.' The message itself read: 'Congratulations on your little girl. I'm presuming this means you won't be coming in for Lesson 3 as planned, so could you please forward me a lesson plan for Year 11?' This message was truthfully sent while I was still in the birthing pool, not even any sign of a placenta yet! From that point on, I had my beautiful little girl to look after and the thought of having to leave her and go back to work was the scariest prospect in the world. Three months very quickly became the entire year I was allowed to take, and I returned already pregnant with my son.

I was prompted to write this post for Holly's working mum's carnival over at It's a Mummy's Life and as soon as I read about it I knew I wanted to contribute. For me, it was never a serious option that I would leave work completely. I happen to have got married and bought my first house about three years too late for this to be viable. My decision to go back to work wasn't purely financial, although this was a big part of it. We could afford it, just, but there would be no money left over for anything else, no treats, and I feel very strongly that everyone deserves those.

I know a lot of parents, my own mother included would argue that this doesn't matter, as long as you are there to see your children grow up, that time costs nothing etc. I don't think I'm ready to go back to work full time yet, and maybe if I'd hated my job things would be different, but I love working three days every week. Here's why:

  • I still get to spend the majority of my time with the children on a weekly basis and get 13 weeks holiday a year too
  • We can afford to provide our children with everything they need, when they need it
  • We can afford to treat ourselves
  • We can have a family holiday every year without getting into debt which the kids love
  • The children go to nursery and pre school and really do benefit from the contact with other children, and learn values they couldn't fully appreciate if they were at home with me the whole time
  • From a selfish point of view I get to eat lunch three days a week with people who don't also attempt to eat their own poo, and if I need a wee, noone follows me into the cubicle, jewellery I wear generally stays put for the whole day and my clothes remain the colour they begin when I put them on in the morning!
  • As a result of the above point, my patience has generally been restored from going to work, meaning that I am able to enjoy my four days with the children, doing fun things that only toddlers can dream up!
  • Working three days will hopefully keep me up to date with developments in education so that I am still employable if I decide I would like to go back to work full time

So ultimately, do I feel guilty being a working mum? Yes, but it is a selfish guilt which I think any parent feels, whether they work full time or are just asking someone else to look after their child for 20 minutes so they can pop to the shops. I would also feel guilty if I didn't go to work and wasn't able to buy that special toy that one of the children had been yearning after for ages, or if they couldn't go on that day out with their friends because we'd had to get rid of our second car. It really is no win once you have children. Everyone has their own opinions about what is right and wrong, and just like everything else in life, we will never have everyone in agreement, so we just have to go with what we think is right for us. Ultimately, my children are happy, they are well rounded, they are cared for 24/7 and Mummy and Daddy are still their best friends. I love my job, but my children and my family are my life. I'm lucky I get to enjoy both, and it's only one week til half term when we all get to spend the whole week together!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Play Doh Tastic

My best childhood friend's brother once said that I was 'unable to shut up, even on a postcard!' after they got charged excess postage because I selotaped an essay to the bottom of my picturesque ramblings. He died at an unfairly young age last year so I've decided in his honour to not even try and be wordless on a Wednesday, however I will try and share a photo with you and let that do most of the talking!

Over on Twitter, I've been moaning about the headache I've now had for three days. I don't get loads of headaches, but when I do they're really intense and seem to go on for ages. I was thinking a day off work today would help, given that trying to teach about 150 teenagers yesterday all armed with musical instruments definitely didn't help, nor did going to bed last night at 9pm and getting a full 10 hours kip.

How naive to think that 2 toddlers would be happy to give me a break and let me have a headache in peace! Or is it? I feel like I owe my sanity to the company that invented Play Doh right now. My children have been playing happily, contentedly and independently for nearly an hour now, and I think my headache might just be on it's way out. If only they could carry on like this for another hour...!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Am I finally a grown up?

I remember one Christmas when I must have been 7 or 8. My mum was opening a present from my dad and unwrapped a set of saucepans. I thought to myself at this age that I never wanted to be a grown up if everything you got as a present was actually just stuff you needed. Where was the fun in that?

I also know my daughter has the same sentiments. She was visibly unimpressed this year on her birthday when someone bought her a plain t-shirt with no character or even pattern on it, and when shopping for a present for my father-in-law's birthday this year she had a full on frustrated tantrum because she couldn't get her head around the idea that he would want anything other than a toy as his present!

Don't get me wrong, if my husband or anyone else buys me a set of saucepans this Christmas I will not be impressed but I'm wondering if lusting after certain household objects, secretly wishing you could own them is what determines when you're officially a grown up. I've never considered myself to be a grown up, I still have to stifle a snigger if someone in my class passes wind audibly, I find the News boring and my favourite sweets are white mice, but I've recently found myself considering putting some household items on my Christmas list this year (along with perfume and impractical shoes obviously)!

When does a necessity become a luxury? When we redecorated, hubby was happy to spend the extra on the furniture to get the nicer version, the solid oak rather than the veneer, but when it comes to other necessities, he gets really agitated if I suggest getting a 'nicer' version. Things like oven gloves, tea towels, fruit bowls, you get the idea. He understands we need them, but not why we need the (beautiful, pretty Cath Kidston) ones which cost more than the Sainsbury's Basics ones.

So for the first time ever, I'm considering asking for some householdy type things for Christmas. If I do ask for a gorgeous cup cake stand, some perfume I like (but am seduced by the bottle it comes in just as much) or some pretty china bowls for Christmas, does this mean I've officially reached adulthood and will be yearning after saucepans before I hit 32? Please no!