Sunday, 31 January 2010

Rockin' to the radio

My daughter has helped whilst I prepare dinner - help, in the loosest sense of the word, you understand. Nevertheless, dinner is on.

As is the radio. A new song plays. My daughter starts dancing.

"Hey, did you know you can do a Military Two Step to this?"

She looks at me blankly. I remember she hasn't been brought up to Ceilidh dance.

"No, seriously, you can. Here!" and I take her hand. In about a square metre of space between table and fridge I demonstrate.

"Hold my hand. Right, now ...
Heel - toe - heel - toe
1 - 2 - 3 - turn..."

We hit the fridge.

"Heel - toe - heel - toe
1 - 2 - 3 - turn..."

We're back where we started.

"Right kick, left kick, twirl..."

I get sore shins; she loves the twirling.

"And polka for eight - da-di-da-di-da-di-daa"

Polka-ing is hard enough with a seven-year-old half your size. Throw in the two left feet, the lack of available space and me taking the man's role ... well, we collapse in giggles.

"Again! Again!" she says.

We are nowhere near the beat of the music, but try once more. More laughter, more giggles.

We stop, me panting for breath, her face nearly wet with tears.

"Alternatively," I say, "we could try head-banging."

Which is how we spend the rest of the song, waving our blonde bobbed hair madly in the air, narrowly avoiding the corner of the table, each other and the resulting concussion.

And what were we listening to? An all-time classic. Enjoy!

Monday, 25 January 2010

True love never runs smooth

Last weekend we had my son's birthday party.

He's nine. He requested a LaserQuest party, having gone once with the church youth group and had a great time. By having twelve children there they had the place to themselves. Of course, he invited fourteen, expecting some to be unable to come - but they all could! So much for my father's theory that 20% of people can't attend when invited!

I know - all this is pretty routine stuff. What is unusual, for a nine-year-old boy, is that he invited girls. Of his own volition.

And all five of them came!

Girls are, of course, different to boys. Like me, they are all perfectly behaved and quiet and unassuming (ahem!)

They got picked last for the teams (grrrr) but thankfully each team won one game each (phew!) Then, when eating afterwards I can categorically state that not one of the girls started eating the polystyrene tub the food came in; none of them put plastic bands in their mouths to look like toothless aliens; and I'm sure they felt quite justified in throwing back the ketchup covered paper that was hurled their way. [I love boys' parties...]

One asked me, "Are all boys' parties like this?" Felt obliged to be honest.

My son, of course, got teased for inviting girls. He took it well - just slightly pink. He was sat next to one of the girls, J, which didn't help matters. And of course various other boy/girl mixes were touted as being boyfriend/girlfriend, to the amusement of those with the loudest voices and greatest need to be macho...

It is quite a scary thought that I have all this - and more - to come! Aged nine, I can laugh it off, but in only a few years it will be serious. Then hormones will rage through the house. No boy will be good enough for my daughter, and I will worry about my son's choice of girl. I'll have to trust them on dates, enjoy the extended family company and - worst of all - recognise that I will be second in their lives! Oh, the joys of parenthood - the drip, drip, drip of letting go.

So, imagine my delight when an email comes through from J's older sister:
I've found out that J really likes you. Would you go out with her? (If you dont know what that means, just reply!!)

I show it to Son.
"But we're just friends!" he says.
And I smile, because he means it. And he understands that P's sister is winding her up as much as him.
And he smiles.
'Cos it's lovely to be loved. Even a little bit.
And even when you're not. Not really.
It's good to have friends.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

The stress of feeding myself

Last night I was in a rare and unusual situation. Both my children had been out at friends, so had been fed and came home declaring they were not hungry (I admit this changed within an hour, but that's hollow legs for you!). I knew my husband would be working late, so the only person to feed was ME!

6.15pm: I had no ideas. Ridiculous, really, given I find food for four on a daily basis. All of a sudden food for one seemed impossible.

Tempted as I was to resort to pizza (easy) or fish fingers (the way my child-catering brain works) I wanted to eat something that I wouldn't normally have - principally because what I like and what the children will eat tends to be a bit different. Now I had the option for spice, or health, or green ...

So I started with a Gin & Tonic and a packet of crisps.

And Twitter. Throwing it open to the twitterverse I wondered what others would suggest. I wasn't let down. @retreatsforyou came up with several lovely suggestions, and I was most taken by the simple concept of poached egg on toast. The children turn their noses up at eggs (I remember doing so as a child as well) and this would be easy to make. Furthermore I wouldn't have much washing up to do...

Full of excitement (or gin...) I went downstairs. I sliced the bread, then opened the fridge.

No eggs.

Briefly I considered beans on toast, but it didn't appeal any more than fish fingers had.

No worries: I remembered the leftover chicken. Sure, I'd had some in my sandwich at lunchtime, but chicken twice in one day wasn't going to kill me.

What I had forgotten was how little there was left. I debated making a curry, but this was beginning to sound like hard work. And, in all honesty, it would have been an onion curry with a hint of chicken.

Further fridge investigations revealed a tub full of cold potatoes. Of course! They'd gone with the chicken a couple of days ago. As had the cabbage, so in a flash of inspiration I thought I could make a souped up Bubble & Squeak - add some cheese, maybe pesto or salsa.

No cabbage. Husband had thrown those remains away.

Wanted an egg...

Finally chose to dice the potato, chop up a red pepper and fry them together with some salt and pepper. A handful of cashew nuts and a final sprinkling of cheese when in the bowl made for a delicious TV dinner meal. (My hips will try to ignore the gallons of oil that, accidentally, went in to this feast, such that I had to pour some away or risk instant heart-failure).

Not exactly healthy and certainly not cordon bleu, but quick, easy and even involved one of my five-a-day.

See! After an hour of debate, dilemma and alcohol, I can feed myself!

The evening epilogue ... I make myself a hot Ribena as a going-to-bed treat. Accidentally (honest - it was late...) I pour the children's squash into my mug instead. No problems! I realise, and tip it back into the bottle. All but the inevitable drip down the side, so I lick up the side of the mug. Double-strength squash. Yeuch!!! How sweet is that?

Of course, I can solve that problem too. The way to cure an unpleasant taste in the mouth must be chocolate. Right?

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Favourite photo meme

I have been really lax at responding to memes and updating the blog to incorporate awards. Thank you so much to everyone who reads this, and particularly to those who are so generous as to recognise my wonderings with awards.

Over Christmas, Troy awarded me Cherished Member of the Most Excellent Order of Troy Stalwarts 2009 (effectively third place) for contributions to his blog over the year. I want to feel delighted about this, although I fear it represents too many hours wasted on the internet... Not that Troy's blog is particularly wasteful time, you understand, merely it reflects my repeated waffling ability (much like this paragraph).

And Cheshire Wife tagged me to list five things about which I am obsessed. Five?! I struggle to think of one! I am not, by nature, an obsessive person. My husband laughs at me when I straighten the duvet or get upset by the label being up by my head rather than down by my feet. But that is as far as it goes.

Unless you count my children, of course, about whom I could talk all day. They are, of course, a bit fab. Which leads me in to the most recent tag I had from The Dotterel: the Favourite Photo Meme, or one that makes me happy. I avoid putting photos of my children on the internet, for their own privacy and security, so finding a favourite photo that doesn't involve one or other of them doing cartwheels, or dressing up as a knight, or standing next to a snowman, or sitting on an elephant ... well, it is nigh on impossible.

Given I have also (from laziness) restricted myself to digital photos (thus excluding my favourite photo of my mother) and those presently on my computer (thus excluding all my Zambian pictures, if you ignore the elephant on the sidebar) I am not left with much. I considered photos of the house, but I'd hate you to think that the decor classed as 'favourite'. Then I came upon this.

Okay, so this breaks my own rules, as it is my daughter, but I didn't think it would identify her. Being the expert medic that my husband is, he took a series of these to demonstrate Geographical Tongue. Can you see some swirls and whirls of pattern? Well, every so often these change. In all honesty, I think they have largely faded away now, because I haven't noticed anything for ages, but for the first five years of her life it was fun to get her to stick her tongue out and see what pattern we had that day.

Every time I flick through my digital photo catalogue a dozen or more like this crop up and make me laugh. How much more perfect an image of childhood can you have other than sticking out their tongue? And all in the aid of medical science!

Now I ought to pass this meme on, and Cheshire Wife's, but I know many have done them already. If you haven't: please take it from me and pass on more effectively to five worthy winners.

Friday, 8 January 2010

The snow

I know - we, as a nation, are talking of nothing else.

I was going to save the blog from it, until I heard that last night's coldest temperature in England (-16.4C ... approaching 0 Fahrenheit!) was recorded not more than a mile from my home. It is freezing here ... or, more accurately, worse than freezing!

The coldest room in the house is the kitchen. The one plus point I can say about night storage heaters is that our house is warm in the morning! However, there aren't any in the kitchen, and as we still survive with a single hob and a microwave oven there is little to warm the room up. The thermometer usually hovers around 17C, which is bearable but not enjoyable.

The snow outside is not so deep: maybe 3-4 inches fell on Tuesday. The school was only closed the one day and my husband is managing to commute into work, although he has abandoned taking the bike.

So, here are some snowy pictures from our garden, three days on from when the snow fell.

Some berries trying to peek their way through.

It takes a while now for the bath to empty, although the water is finding its own way by spraying a fountain across the path!

The apple tree is being remarkably resistant: it doesn't want to lose the fruit at all ...

... and my pig isn't very keen on eating them!

The milk on the doorstep is frozen in the morning, bursting out of the bottle, but thankfully it still makes an excellent hot chocolate to keep me toasty warm!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The effect of disciplining children

Happy New Year!

The children are back at school (despite the snow today) and I have the chance to return to the computer, to the blog, and to the enormous pile of ironing...

I love this time of the year, when we actually get a week at home to spend time together as a family. We had no anxieties about travelling anywhere - choosing to walk around the village in the snow rather than drive and having The Oldies visiting us for Christmas itself. The four of us had a lovely time together: playing games, reading books, watching Mary Poppins, being beaten by son at Mario Cart Wii.

We all eat together, which I think is one of the most important things a family can do. We sit at the table and talk. And (as I push the boat out) usually have dessert (I assume Christmas Cake counts in this category). It also gives us, the nasty, horrid parents, the chance to discipline our children. This year, we tried to emphasise the use of the word please.

Why is it so difficult? We have been harping on about its use for the last eight years!

Please can I have the milk?
Please will you stop singing at the dinner table?
Please sit with all four legs of the chair on the floor.

The children both struggled badly. My husband and I gave out silent screams of frustration.

But something must have sunk in. One day last week we were getting ready to go out for a walk. Like using the 'P' word, this is something the children object to (until they are actually out in the fresh air, when they love running around and throwing snowballs and clambering over tree stumps). For a good ten minutes before we leave there was whining, whinging and moaning.

"Mu-um, do we have to go?"

"Mu-um, I'm too hot, I don't want to wear my coat."
"It'll be freezing outside. Put it back on, love. And your wellies."

Then, of course, there was the sibling rivalry. The arguments ("That's mine!") were unending ("She stood on my toe!"... "Well, he hit me!" ... "But it was an accident!")

I stood in the hallway and raised my head to heaven.
"God, give me strength!"

"Please!" my son pipes up. "You forgot to say please..."

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