Category Archives: Children

Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child has been running for nineteen years and is an initiative of Samaritan’s Purse, a relief and development organisation operating in Eastern Europe, Africa and Central Asia.

Every year the UK sends over a million Christmas boxes to children from ages 2-14, in seriously disadvantaged circumstances in the most desolate of places where it would be easy for them to think that the world has forgotten them.

Individuals all over the country get a shoe box, cover it in wrapping paper and fill it with small gifts of toys and sweets, educational supplies, wash kits, gloves and hats, little trinkets etc appropriate to the age and gender of your selected category.   They give you a list of the sorts of gifts that are welcome and those that are inappropriate..  A donation of £2.50 to cover the logistical expenses is popped in an envelope and placed in the box (or you can donate online) and the box is then dropped at a collection point near you such as a school, college or shop.  These are then collected and taken to major distribution points and thence to the people in need.

It’s hard to imagine how little some of these children have; many are orphaned, living in terrible poverty or in refugee camps and every day is a struggle, and the boxes full of surprises give them hope and remind them that they have not been forgotten.  I always put a Christmas card in the box addressed to ‘My dear friend’ to let them know that a family in the UK is sending love to them and sharing a bit of our own good fortune.

There is still time to do a box.  This charity operates in the United States and other European countries – it’s not just in the UK.  We get so much pleasure from choosing the things to go in – why don’t you have a go?

If you’re not sure where your local collection point is log onto their website at www.operationchristmaschild.org.uk or telephone them on 0870 011 2002 / 01392 455036 and they will give you all the information you need.

6 Comments

Filed under Children, Christmas, Slider

A walk in the woods not a day on the DS

Just outside Corby, Northants

This evening, as I was driving Boy the Elder to his Scout meeting(in a field, in the dark, in the middle of nowhere) we saw a barn owl, a muntjack, a weasel, endless rabbits and something small and very fast which flew right in front of the car.  It was wonderful, particularly the barn owl whose ghostly white wings described delicate and silent patterns in the air, like a pale and feral angel.

I was gratified to witness the excitement of the boys at seeing these creatures and pleased that, despite living in the country, wild creatures are still wonderful to them.  As a child brought up on the outskirts of London, I remember reading nature books that would cite certain insects or birds that were apparently ‘common’ throughout England.  Not in bloody Stanwell they weren’t and I remember wondering where all these creatures could be living?  Actually they were probably there for the finding, but I didn’t know where to look.

Of late, I haven’t spent enough time taking the boys on walks in the countryside. The last few years have caught up with me a bit, and on the rare occasions when I sit still I fall asleep.  They play sports at school and spend time outside, but there is no substitute for just being in the woods or the park, taking time to see the detail, making up games that involve trees, sticks and mud, listening to the trees, the birds and the tiny sounds.

Speedwell

A couple of weekends ago, I sent the two of them off into the woods and told them not to come back for at least two hours.  Their mission was to explore their surroundings, get the lie of the land, see what was beyond the Co-op and the fish and chip shop, find out where the railway line went, discover the best climbing trees and viewpoints.

They came back tired and delighted.  They had found footpaths and a tree swing, a circular walk all round the town and the track bed of an old railway line.  They were particularly pleased with a concrete lookout point on which someone had sprayed the word ‘cock’ in large red letters.  This is now known as The Cockpit and is the focal point of many games and rendezvous.

Hawthorne

Children need to connect with nature.  They need to have unstructured time in which to get bored, thus giving them the brain space to get really creative.  Separation from the natural world takes away their freedom, their peace of mind and their independence.  Some parents are terrified to let their children go to parks or open spaces unsupervised because they have become obsessed with the idea that there are perverts and kidnappers round every corner.  Those same children may not have been taught to cross the road properly and yet the fear of them being run over takes second place to the threat of paedophiles.

Children’s time has become too structured, outdoors has become a facility not a place to be enjoyed on its own merit.  Children are taught about nature in schools through eco-disaster, floods, famines, global warming and whilst these things need to be taught, I wonder if this encourages them to really connect with nature or whether it persuades them that nature is an enemy to be overcome?  How many people became passionate naturalists without actually experiencing nature at first hand?

Where have the nature tables gone, with their birds’ nests, conkers, multi-hued leaves and shells?  When do the nature walks happen when children can feel the ground beneath their feet, smell the leaf mould, discover wild flowers and learn the difference between moths and butterflies?

We don’t have to live in the middle of nowhere to find these things, any tiny wild area will have something of interest and we need to find them, enjoy them and then pass on our enjoyment.  Note the difference in someone after a day in the fresh air to a day in front of the TV or a computer screen.

Let’s reclaim our natural spaces and in return find some space for ourselves.

How deep?

13 Comments

Filed under Children, Health and Fitness, Leisure, Outdoor Activities, Slider

I ran out of time…

I believe I may be very cute indeed

I had such a lovely post lined up for you today but the day ran away with my.  I spent all morning working on … well working on something, then I spent an hour doing paperwork, followed by lunch (Boy the Elder is still on half term) then some work on the post.  Except that I have just taken delivery of a new vacuum cleaner which needed building, which BTE did with great skill, so I had to try it out as I haven’t been able to vacuum for two weeks. In the middle of that I got a ‘phone call from a friend who was trying to organise a meeting point for the children to do some Halloween stuff, except that Boy the Younger had Cubs first and I had to sort out some stuff for him so he could get his IT badge and then I remembered that I needed another pumpkin to make a big pot of soup for us all.  But the pumpkins were all gorn so I had to use a butternut squash which took twice as long because Boy the Elder wanted it to make another lantern. I was going to write the article when BTY got home from school and then, while he was at cubs, make the soup.  Except that Cubs was cancelled at the last minute so we had to re-arrange the entertainment and abandon the article in favour of the soup.  By the time we got back it was time for ‘Doc Martin’ and now I have a splitting headache and I’m afraid I shall have to retire to my bed.

Sorry.

However, if you click on the link above, you will find three recipes for pumpkin as you’re bound to have some left or be able to pick up some post-Halloween bargains.

4 Comments

Filed under Children, Food, Leftovers, Life in general, Recipes, Seasonal

Well done darling, have this award for existing

In which the Wartime Housewife discusses the modern need for constant approbation.

There was a news article recently which reported on a couple of teenagers who found £5,000 at a bus stop and handed it in to the police.  The owner was delighted to have had the money returned (obviously) and thanked the boys for their honesty.  However, he didn’t give them a reward.  The newspapers picked up on this and were ‘outraged’ that the man didn’t offer a financial reward and suggested that the boys had learned that honesty doesn’t pay.  To their credit, the boys weren’t in the least concerned.

Why does absolutely everything we do have to be rewarded?  Was it not enough for the boys to know that they had done the decent thing without having to have an outside agent confirming their decency with a material reward?

Many modern parents have got into the habit of praising their children to the skies for every tiny little thing that they do.  Everything must have a positive affirmation or they will grow up feeling negative about themselves and lacking in support. Children practically receive a round of applause for breathing in and then out again.

Bringing up children is a difficult business and there is no perfect way of doing it.  We are all different and our children are different; sanctions that work with one child may not work with another.  One parent’s childrearing technique may work for their family but not necessarily for yours.  We just have to get on with it the best we can.

One thing I do know is that our job is unequivocally to equip our children for the rigours of adult life and the key word, as in law, is ‘reasonable’.  We must teach them to have a reasonable degree of self esteem and confidence and yet show compassion and empathy for others.  We need them to stand on their own feet and fight their own battles.  They must learn that failure is not the end of the world and can sometimes teach us more about life than success and that we can’t be good at everything.  Sometimes they may not be invited to the party or picked for the team and they have to learn to take it on the chin and move on.

As parents, the teaching of these things means that we are sometimes going to be unpopular.  If your child has never, at any point, turned round to you and said “I hate you, you never let me do anything!” then you’re doing something wrong and that something may be that you’re spending too much time trying to be popular.

A parent should not be a child’s best friend.  They’ve got mates, your job is to be their parent and that means doing things that, sometimes, they’re not going to like.  It also means not jumping in and rescuing them at every turn, not fighting their battles and not intervening every time they face a difficulty.

My sisters and I were brought up in a family with no guidance or support of any kind and I know that I have sometimes had to fight the urge to jump in and ‘save’ my boys from difficulties or unpleasantness.  I wouldn’t wish my childhood on anyone and neglect of a young people is a difficult thing to forgive, but by God, we three girls are tough and there’s not much that life throws at us that we can’t cope with, each in our different way.

Young people have to learn to cope and that sometimes means letting them fail, helping them to overcome difficulties on their own and giving them the freedom to make mistakes.  Let them fall out of trees, fall out with their friends, fall in love with unsuitable people.  They will never manage risk if they don’t take risks. My sister talks about ‘Slopey Shoulder Syndrome’ where people are too feeble to tackle anything for themselves and constantly plead for others to do things for them.

In real life, everyone you meet is not going to tell you you’re great. Your boss at work is not going to hand you a certificate for doing the job you’re paid to do and you are not going to receive constant reassurance from every colleague, tutor, manager, client, lover, that you are a super human being.  If your every childhood move has been praised to the skies with a burst of fireworks, this is going to come as one hell of a shock.

If your kids fuck up you have to tell them so they can make better decisions.  If they behave badly, you have a responsibility to punish them to teach them consequences.  Don’t let them do everything they want to do, just because you have the resources to make it happen, it devalues what they chose to do and tells them nothing about the assessment of choices.

I read an interesting article recently about a psychologist who, as well as the normal parade of those with unhappy backgrounds,  has started seeing a lot of 20 to 30-somethings who feel a lack of purpose, anxious, confused and empty inside.  On further questioning, these young people have had fabulous parents, who were their ‘best friends’, supported them at every turn, talked through their feelings, always helped them with their homework, were attuned to their every need.

Now, is it possible that these wondrous parents had simply done too much, had actually disabled their children through their constant support and intervention.  I am always deeply suspicious of people who hero worship their parents, because cynical me can’t help feeling that somehow those parents have tried too hard to be popular and I find that those people are often not as empathetic or sympathetic to the difficulties of others.

Don’t make your children’s lives too perfect, if you really love your children don’t shield them from the things they need to learn.  Teach them to do their best, not yours.

27 Comments

Filed under Behaviour and Etiquette, Children, Family and Friends

Star Charts – hit them where it hurts

Don't know why BTY has crossed his stars out - an investigation is underway

My children are unbearably untidy, intermittently violent and vile to each other and sporadically lazy.  They only do their apportioned chores if I’m waving a metaphorical big stick at them, Boy the Younger spends his evenings trying to sleep in Boy the Elder’s bed and keep him awake and both boys are genuinely frightened that they will melt if touched by water unless it is a full moon or a Friday in May.

Although I can’t help feeling that Boy the Elder, at 14, is too old for star charts, he is definitely not too old if said star chart is index linked to his pocket money.  Boy the Younger spends his money on random Lego figures and Kinder Eggs, whilst Boy the Elder spends his on books and film magazines.  Either way, pocket money matters, so I have to hit them where it hurts.

I am determined that, seeing as they have bedrooms, it is not unreasonable to ban toys and mess from the sitting room as I have to have at least one place into which I could bring another adult without  bursting into a volley of excuses – I’ve been ill, the vacuum’s broken down, we were burgled, we were raided by immigration – you know, the usual.

Firstly, I cancelled their pocket money and removed all privileges.  For privileges read TV, DSs, computer access, iPods and the portable DVD.  Then I re-vamped their childhood star charts and called them Achievement Charts which has a more adult and positive edge.

They can earn stars for being tidy, doing chores, staying in bed at night, washing, cleaning teeth, leaving me alone to work, playing nicely, being kind etc.  They get black spots for fighting, disobedience, laziness, lack of hygiene, failure to do chores, shouting and screaming, looking at me in a funny way etc.

The key thing though, is that stars represent 50p pocket money earned and black spots represent 50p pocket money lost. They can also earn privileges back for not getting any black spots in a day – yesterday they re-gained their DSs which is a bummer for BTY as he can’t find his. Unlucky – he should look after it better.

The other problem is, that in the past, I have been unable to remember exactly what I’ve banned and why and things start to slip back without my noticing.  To rectify this, I have purchased a notice board which is half whiteboard and half cork board.  The Achievement Charts are pinned to the cork board and I can write sanctions and returns on the whiteboard. Problem solved, consistency maintained.

When they were younger, they would happily wash and stay in bed for small treats such as sweets, but money is a whole different ball game.  They crave independent spending power and the realisation this morning that, after ten days, they are each only 50p up is starting to hit home.  The end of the month draws nigh and BTE can see his copy of Total Film slipping from his grasp.  BTY may actually expire if he doesn’t get his hands on another piece of preformed plastic shite.

It’s in their hands.

28 Comments

Filed under Behaviour and Etiquette, Children, Family and Friends

Harvest Festival

Foodscape photograph by the wonderful Carl Warner

Aha!  I am back amongst you!

However, I am in such bad humour about so many things today, that it’s hard to know quite where to start.

I will begin with Harvest Festival because I attended the Harvest service at Boy the Younger’s school today.  As we went in, I said to my friend “what do you think the chances are of us singing ‘We plough the fields and scatter’ or ‘Come ye thankful people come’.? “Zero,” she said, laughing.

Well it was worse than zero.  I realise that in some aspects of life, I am an unspeakable old fuddy-duddy, but why does everything that involves children have to be turned into an entertainment?  In a moment of desperation, I fed my programme to the beaming baby in the pew in front so I am unable to delight you with the nauseating detail of the ‘service’.

The children sang several feeble pop songs with the word ‘Jesus’ in them, most of which had stupid actions with which the parents were encouraged to join in.  When we were asked to clap our hand to our heart, I’m sorry to tell you that I quietly intoned “I pledge allegiance to the United States of America…” followed by a hand-jive, which had the parents on the row behind dissolving into nervous giggles.

Then there was a really good bit where it all stopped and young and delightfully handsome young man from the nearby CARE village stood up and thanked us all for the donations of food which would be given to the residents.

After this, the Reverend Blodwyn stood up and began the ‘It’s behind you’ section of the service where all the children were encouraged to shout out stuff about vegetables, after which she delivered a lecture about the environment.  Just in case the children hadn’t worked out what rain was, she put up a handy Powerpoint presentation with a character from a ‘Peanuts’ cartoon in which the character gets rained on. Ha bloody ha.

There is absolutely no need for church to be boring.  A good minister can deliver a sermon which will not only uplift and encourage, but will leave the congregation with something to think about for the rest of the week.  Hymns can be joyful and spirit raising, a reading in the hands of a decent reader is a lovely thing to listen to.

But Church, among many other things, is one really good opportunity to teach your children that there are times in life when they have to be quiet and behave with decorum.  There is an unending stream of complaints about how children can never sit still, can’t concentrate, can’t keep quiet.

A large part of the problem is that children are not taught to be quiet and behave with decorum.  Everything they do has to be entertaining.  Well life isn’t always entertaining, in fact, quite large chunks of life can be a bit boring and require us to keep our gobs shut when we’d rather not.  Sometimes we have to be quiet for the comfort of others.

Children need to be taught that there are times to have fun and times to be quiet and still.  How can they learn to think and reason if their minds are being swamped with a constant and unrelenting cacophony of sounds and sights and ‘stimulation’?  How can they learn to appreciate the small and simple things with which they’re surrounded if they never have a moment’s peace in which to do it?

I love Harvest Festival; whatever one’s spiritual pathway, it is completely reasonable to be grateful that we have enough food and that we still have farmers out there producing it.  It is a gratifying experience to share some of that produce with those who have less than us. I personally thanked the farmers in the next pew for growing our milk.  They did the narrowed eyes thing and left.

When I was at school, the Harvest service was a beautiful thing.  The girls doing cookery baked fabulous loaves to look like sheaves of corn, flowers graced every windowsill and the joyful Harvest hymns rocked the rafters as the organ thundered and the choir sang descants that could have lifted the tiles off the roof.

The last ‘hymn’ was called ‘Harvest Hoe Down’ accompanied by a tinny recorded sound track and a bazooka solo from some invisible children – I don’t need to draw you a picture of how awful that was.  I left Boy the Younger’s service with my teeth ground down to powder.   I accosted a teacher in the playground and pleaded that, just once before I BTY leaves, could we sing ‘We plough the fields and scatter’? Just once. “Why?” she answered.

It all makes ‘Cauliflowers fluffy…’ seem positively Wesleyan.

22 Comments

Filed under Behaviour and Etiquette, Children, Education, Life in general, Religion

Airfix versus Warhammer

Assault on Black Reach - apparently

In the morning I am taking Boy the Elder into Leicester to spend his birthday money.  The only thing which was on his list was a Warhammer series 40,000 Assault on Black Reach gaming set. If you understand what that means you are either likely to be a 13-25 year old male or a nauseating parent who is really sucking up to her children.  You know who you are, Sister the First.

BTE has been an avid Airfix fan for ages and has got some beautiful models of WW2 planes, tanks and ickle tiny soldiers.  He’d started to get really good at the building and painting and I understood it; it was real things painted to look like real things that did stuff that actually happened.  The Aged Parent bought him membership of The Airfix Club for his birthday and he gets enamel badges and everything.

Supermarine Spitfire - obviously

Then suddenly Warhammer came on the scene and there are dozens of little grey plastic mutant figures littering the house and desperate, plaintive pleas for Ork Stompas echo around the rooms, and I just don’t ‘get it’. But then I’m not really supposed to, am I?

Thus, tomorrow morning, we are venturing into Leicester to find a shop called ‘Tabletop Tyrants’ where, being a Saturday morning, it will be awash with hundreds of teenage boys, who are strangers to soap and don’t have a girlfriend or a clean pair of underpants between them.  BTE will hand over his shining debit card (the glancing light blinding the shuffling youths) in exchange for box loads of plastic mutants with machetes and assorted weaponry plus the associated paints, brushes and glue.

I begged him to shower tonight or wash his hair, as a gesture that he has a shred of individuality, but to no avail.  He did paint his nails purple though, which I suppose is a start.  I will hide his trainers and leave his Chelsea boots where he will trip over them but I fear that the use of a toothbrush will be a step too far.

Lancaster Bomber

Ork Stompa

Airfix seems wholesome, Wargaming does not.  Still, at least he’s balanced – an Ork Stomper on one shelf and a De Havilland Mosquito on the other.  Boy the Younger will, of course, insist on combining the two and will strafe and dive bomb the mutants with neatly painted Spitfires and Lancaster Bombers.  Boy the Elder will flip his lid and a horrible fight will break out on the dining room table between a lanky evil-smelling geek and a  malevolent, grudge-bearing 8-year old.

Now THAT I get.

19 Comments

Filed under Children, Collecting, Indoor Activities

A Weekend in The City

What a busy weekend I’ve had.  The father of my children picked The Boys up at 9am on Saturday and I shot straight off down to Elephant and Castle in London to… oh no, I can’t tell you that, you’ll find out soon enough, but I did have the pleasure of seeing The Marquis of Barnet and Carlos Fandango.   The traffic was pretty good and I was there by 11.45 which included a stop off for a coffee and a bun at The Gates of London service station because I was in danger of falling asleep.

Sadly not my photograph

I came straight in through the centre of town and was, as ever, completely thrilled by the view as I crossed the river via Tower Bridge.  In the wink of an eye I could see the beauty of Tower Bridge, the ancient Thames itself, the Tower of London, The Gherkin, St Paul’s Cathedral and behind me The Shard racing skywards like a living mirror straining towards the sun.

London is beginning to feel like an exciting place again.  There is so much regeneration going on; new and beautiful structures going up and old ones being refurbished.  Yet somehow, London absorbs it all; the old bumping elbows with the new, the ancient holding its head high as it welcomes in the modern with open arms.

After I had finished … the thing I was doing … I headed for Walthamstow to visit my old friend Mrs Gnasher whom I have known since I was ten.  Mrs Gnasher hails from Co. Durham and, despite living in London all her adult life, still has her gorgeous accent and will sing ’The Lambton Worm’ at the drop of a hat (whether you asked her to or not).  For a cheerful version of this song, complete with words and chords, see below.  I suspect the singer might actually be a Manxmen by his accent.

The Olympic Stadium is coming on a treat, giant cranes sweeping over the East End like great, lumbering iron men.  The Velodrome resembles a giant version of those little plastic Pringles boxes – all very exciting.

The Skylon at the Festival of Britain in 1951

I left my lovely friend and headed for The Aged Parent who lives near Staines on the edge of Heathrow Airport.  We had chicken and chips for supper and watched an achingly brilliant documentary about the Festival of Britain in 1951.  The FOB is worth a blog in itself, but I found myself fervently wishing that I had been born in time to have seen it for myself.

They should have re-done it as part of the Millennium celebrations or even for next year’s Olympics but I guess at the moment we simply don’t have the money.  The thing is, that after the war they didn’t have the money either, but what the FOB sang out loud and clear is ‘We’re down but not out’ and the architecture and design that went into it heralded a bright and optimistic new world that gave people tremendous hope for the future.

In the morning, I dragged the AP out of bed and packed her little valise so she could come and stay with me for a while.  Sister the First turned up just before we left for a lovely but fleeting visit, then we headed out to Sister the Second to give her belated birthday presents and have lunch.

We arrived back in Desbo at about 4pm, just in time to bake some cakes for Boy the Elder to take to school this morning for his birthday.  He is 14.  It is not possible.  The Boys were collected from their father at 7.30pm.  I unpacked the … results of my trip … , cooked dinner, put The Boys to bed and now I am here telling you all about it.

It was a lot of miles and I am very glad that I have got a couple of days off to get my head down and  learn how to … (hand is clapped firmly over mouth).

13 Comments

Filed under Children, Family and Friends, History, Life in general, The Wartime Housewife Blog

Horror and achievement in equal quantities

Yesterday was a funny old day.  Despite several urgent administrative matters which reared their heads in the morning, I managed to complete my entire list of things to do, except the shelves.  These were not done because I ran out of red rawl plugs and I was buggered if I was going to drive five miles just to get some more – the TP  round the corner only sells them in batches of 20,000.

After I had done my jobs in the hall, I got the vacuum out to clean the carpets.  Because we are still hauling boxes and moving furniture, I have left a piece of off-cut carpet in the hall so the real carpet doesn’t get dirty.  I vacuumed the top and then lifted it up to vacuum underneath.

To my horror, the underside was absolutely crawling with maggots.  After the shock had worn off,  I tried to work out where they’d come from.  The carpet off-cut was relatively new and I had vacuumed under it recently, so it couldn’t be the carpet.  I checked for any rogue food which the boys might have dropped but there was nothing.

Then it dawned on me.  Last week we had very heavy rain and something organic and dead had been washed out of the gutter and, as I went out of the front door that night, the whole of the front step was covered with maggots.  I had poured boiling water on them and swept them up the next morning, but  clearly, some of them had got inside and snuggled up under my carpet.  Yuk. I would even go so far as to say ‘Eeooow’ in that slightly affected way of the Californian teenage girl.

I cleared up and carried on with my tasks.  Hooks were hung, steps were scrubbed, windows cleaned, ‘phone calls made, Boy the Younger was collected from school. I then went out to pick up Boy the Elder from the bus stop.  It’s only a ten minute drive and the first part is along a narrow road where one has to drive slowly because of parked cars.  20-25mph is about as fast as you can go.

As I came round a wide bend, I saw a group of little girls standing at the side of the road.  I slowed down a bit more, just in case, but they saw me and stepped back from the kerb.  Then, just before I drew level with the girls, two of them suddenly made a dash for it and ran straight out in front of my car.

I slammed on the brakes and literally, and I mean literally, stopped short of  the girl at the back by about four inches.  I stopped the car and got out, shaking.  Both sets of girls were stock still at the side of the road, obviously terrified that I was going to give them a bollocking.

I didn’t shout.  I checked that they were ok and then gave them a very serious but gentle lecture about crossing the road and how important it is to look both ways, twice, before crossing the road, looking and listening all the time.  The girls who didn’t cross were very upset and full of apologies.  The girl who I nearly hit just kept saying “I didn’t see you, I didn’t see you”.  Absolutely horrible.

I had a dear friend once who accidentally killed someone in a car and he never got over it.  He was driving down a main road and he saw a car coming out of a gateway and he slowed down just in case it pulled out.  The other driver saw him and pulled back.  But then, inexplicably, just as my friend was about to drive past, the car pulled out at speed and my friend ploughed into the driver’s side killing him instantly.  Fortunately the little girl who was in the passenger seat was unharmed.  My friend developed a crippling stammer which never left him.

Drive safely all of you.  And clean out your guttering.

17 Comments

Filed under Children, Cleaning, Family and Friends, General DIY, Life in general, Transport

Social Stereotypes: The Mothers who Cannot Win

The Telegraph Saturday magazine always has a Social Stereotype piece by Victoria Mather with an illustration by Sue Macartney-Snape.  This feature has been going for some years now and is becoming increasingly un-funny as, I suspect, she’s running out of ideas.

Last Saturday, the stereotype was ‘The Mother Hen’ and the description was of a dowdy woman who had let herself go and was neglecting her husband because she put all her energy into her children.

I know it was a tongue in cheek look at an extreme person, but for some reason my hackles went up.

Mothers really don’t seem to be able to win on any level.  If they go out to work and leave their children with child-minders, they’re vilified for not putting the work in with their children.  Even if no-one actually says anything, they still feel guilty because they want a career and a family.

If they manage to look glamorous, there is an assumption that they probably have no interests or hobbies if they manage to find that much time for personal grooming.

If they don’t look glamorous, then they’ve let themselves go, are almost certainly ignoring their husband’s needs and are clearly three types of hippy.

If they feed the family on ready meals they’re accused of  handing out a death sentence through heart disease, obesity, diabetes and probably St Vitus Dance and elephantiasis of the bollocks to boot.

But if they cook everything from scratch then they must be a crank and an obsessive who wouldn’t even let a fish finger or a French Fancy into the house without fainting.

Now.  I know that there are women out there who do take ‘parenting’ to extremes and who do ignore their partners and hover round their children, monitoring their every move, intervening at every turn and refusing to allow them any opportunity to take risks or develop independence.  Helicopter Parents I believe is the current expression.

But I’m sick to death of women who choose a more traditional template for raising their families being somehow looked down upon and having the piss taken out of them.

I could rant on for several hundred pages about how feminism has turned round and bitten women on the bum, but I will only say this.  The point of the feminist movement was to give women choices; choices about how they lived, worked, raised children, conducted relationships, to bake or not to bake.

What has actually happened is that they now feel they have to do everything and often end up not doing anything very well.  I did have a period  as a full time, stay at home mother and I loved every minute of it.  Now that I’m a single parent, I no longer have that luxury but at least, most of the time, I work from home.  That’s my choice  and I couldn’t afford childcare in the holidays even if I wanted it.

Of course the woman in the piece is over the top and we all know women who, once they have their children, no longer require the services of a husband.  But I can’t help feeling that this is yet another mealy-mouthed attack on the mothers who believe that raising children is a full time job.

Guess what?  It is – however you choose to do it.

Reproduced without the permission of The Telegraph

9 Comments

Filed under Children, Family and Friends, Hair, make up and stuff like that, Life in general

Today Boy the Elder starts at his new school

This morning we will be taking Boy the Elder for his first day at his new school.  This is the culmination of a year and a half of tutoring, swotting, entrance exams, begging, pleading, writing letters and finally getting a place at what I hope will be absolutely the right school.

Boy the Elder is a very natural mixture of excited and anxious; what if no-one likes him, what if they discover in the first week that he’s thick, what if he gets expelled?  None of this will happen but, as any other mother would be, I am anxious myself but naturally I don’t show it.   His uniform is all labeled and hanging up ready to go.  Two and a half thousand items of sports kits are bagged up and waiting to be launched by a skinny boy onto the rugby field.  Pencil cases are filled, his schoolbag is packed and we are ready to rock and roll.

Yesterday I knocked off work early and we went to Pizza Express for lunch and spent a couple of happy hours talking and laughing and eating too much pudding. Afterwards we wandered around the garden centre and chose some flowers for the hanging baskets, and then slid into Argos and bought a bumper pack of Nerf gun cartridges so that he and Boy the Younger could have a battle when we got home.

This is a new and significant phase in the life of the whole family; routines will change, expectations will change as Boy the Younger will go there as well and the goal posts have been well and truly shifted.  Phew.

15 Comments

Filed under Children, Education, Family and Friends, Life in general

I must spend more time with my children

I don’t spend enough time with my children, despite the fact that I mostly work from home.  I am always busy and when I’m not busy,  I’m so knackered that I’m no good to anyone.  I know that a lot of this has to do with the recent house move (added to the previous three)  and a very, very stressful few years, but a) this is not going to get any better and b) that will be no comfort to me when they’re suddenly eighteen and have left home or simply don’t want to hang around with me anymore.

Boy the Elder spent most of this weekend with a friend (at the Cosby Air Show) and after we had dropped him off, Boy the Younger and I decided to go for a walk at Foxton Locks.  On a whim, we popped in and took one of his friends along as well.  We had a lovely time but as we drove back BTY asked if this friend could come back for a sleepover.

Now, I am ashamed to admit that I absolutely hate having my children’s friends over for sleepovers.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with their friends, but particularly with the younger ones, I resent the extra responsibility of another child.  Isn’t that awful?  And particularly at the moment, when there is still so much work to be done in the house before it will be as I want it, the additional pressure leaves me feeling absolutely drained.

The boy sleeping over was fine but I couldn’t wait for him to be collected, mostly because I could feel a massive headache coming on of the kind that requires a day in bed with hot water bottles on the back of my neck.

I’m also not very good at being spontaneous.  I used to be spontaneous years ago, renowned for it in fact, but not anymore.  Spontaneity suggests large chunks of free time that have been unaccounted for and I rarely have those.  When they boys are at their dad’s, I usually spend my time catching up on jobs or asleep.  By Sunday evening, I’m starting to relax a bit but then Monday comes again all too soon.

A basic 8884 Sponge Cake mix with a lot of food colouring *

But after the friend had gone and BTY and I were on our own, I felt far too guilty to go to bed and leave him downstairs alone, so I suggested that we bake a cake together.  This was extremely well received and although he got a bit silly and messy, he eventually produced a multi-coloured cake decorated with bright yellow buttercream and Smarties.  He declared that it was a Happy Cake and couldn’t wait for Boy the Elder to come home and have a slice.  My heart melted a usual.

While we were waiting for the cake to cool, I suggested that we get a jigsaw and we returned to an old favourite depicting three Spitfires against a stormy sky.  We got the straight edges out and did the outline first and then he got to work on the Spitfires.  He was so thrilled when he managed to get pieces in the right places and we really enjoyed doing the puzzle together.

When Boy the Elder came home, the dynamic changed, but it brought it home to me very strongly that I have to make more time for them.  When BTE was little, he didn’t have an older brother muscling in on his time, telling him what to do or generally being a git.  I also had the time to do creative things with him on a regular basis.  BTY has always had to share his time and I have not been in the position to do lots of creative stuff with him.  He needs to spend quiet periods with me, just being together and having a bit of fun.

Must try harder.  Otherwise I’ll live to regret it.

* Click here for basic sponge cake mix

18 Comments

Filed under Children, Family and Friends, Indoor Activities, Leisure

Arbitrary shoe sizes and the long awaited ‘Somme Stations’

Yesterday, we went shopping to mop up the last few things which Boy the Elder needs to start his new school in a couple of weeks.

Now explain this.  Two weeks ago, I bought him new trainers in UK size 9.  Yesterday, I bought a pair of black lace-up school shoes in size 10 and rugby boots in a monstrous size 12.  All three items of footwear fit perfectly and the trainers and school shoes came from the same shop.

Unfortunately I am unable to write any more (I am actually writing this at 01.30 on Tuesday morning) as on Monday  morning a book that I have been wanting to read for months flopped onto my doorstep and I have to read a bit before I go to bed.

The book is  called ‘The Somme Stations’ by Andrew Martin, which is the latest in his Jim Stringer railway detective series, which is set in the First World War.  It came out in hardback early this year and I was waiting for the paperback to come out, but the hardback has now dropped to the price of a paperback so I fell on it with relish and simply can’t wait another moment to read it.

I’ve read all the Jim Stringer novels and they are so brilliant in their characterisations, thrilling plots and attention to detail that I dread the day when he stops writing them.  Apparently, this last one took longer to come out because of the extensive research Martin had to do, both for the railway detail but also to get the accuracy for WW1.  Look out for a review when I’ve read it.

10 Comments

Filed under Children, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Reviews

When innocent belief goes away

Just before bedtime, one of Boy the Younger’s teeth fell out.
“Ah! 20p!” he gloated “although, frankly that doesn’t seem that much.  Some of my school friends get a pound.”
“In this house the going rate for teeth seems to be 20p.  It has always been 20p, even when your brother’s teeth were falling out.” I answered firmly, not bothering to mention that it was sixpence when I was little.

We’re a bit soft about things like that in my family.  The Tooth Fairy and Father Christmas are on very special terms with me, and anyone who is in my house on Christmas Day or when their teeth fall out is visited by the appropriate magical incarnation.  No-one has ever suggested a lack of belief in my presence because they know that if they did, the magic would cease and we would all be miserable.  They would also not find a stocking filled with chocolate, nuts, little gifts and an orange on Christmas morning.

Both the boys have their own little silver pots in which they place their teeth as they fall out and The Tooth Fairy takes away the tooth, inspects it for regular brushing, and then rewards them with 20p, which seems like a pretty fair exchange to me.  Incidentally, if you’re wondering what the tooth fairy does with the teeth, she keeps them in a little jar upon which she puts a protective spell to keep all the children safe.

Tonight though, the sky fell.  Just as he put the little silver pot under his pillow, Boy the Younger announced that The Tooth Fairy was not real, that it was grown-ups who put the money under children’s pillows and that he supposed he wouldn’t get any money now that he’d rumbled us.  He surmised that this accounted for the discrepancy in remuneration.  And by crikey is there a discrepancy.  I once heard of a little boy of six who was gifted with a ten pound note every time one of his tiny gnashers sallied forth.  Some parents really miss the point.

I was nonplussed.  Boy the Elder is nearly fourteen and I would naturally be worried if he genuinely believed in Fairies, but he has had the good taste not to bring the matter to my attention.  Boy the Younger is, on this matter, as in all other matters, a pusher of boundaries.  He is daring me not to leave any money and this will give him ample opportunity to behave horribly tomorrow and allow him a modicum of bitterness towards a cruel world that denies him his rightful inheritance, as he beats his tiny fists upon his brother.  Boy the Younger is eight but has the cerebral acuity of a psychologist turned gang leader.

What to do?  Of course he has the right to renounce The Tooth Fairy if he so chooses, it just seems a shame to stop playing the game so soon.  To this end, The Tooth Fairy has written a note on black card with silver writing and pictures of teeth, saying that she is sad that he claims not to believe in her any more but that she is prepared to give him one more chance and will cough up the 20p on this occasion.  However, if he continues in his dentally atheist views when his next tooth falls out, she will have to think long and hard before putting her hand in her little broderie anglaise peggy purse.

I await the morning with interest.

33 Comments

Filed under Children, Family and Friends

The Wartime Housewife First Aid Post

Yesterday was a day of incident.  All three of us were injured in different ways and I think it is Nature’s way of telling us it’s the end of term and time for a rest.  We had a burn, a twisted muscle and a horrid scrape.  This is how I treated them.

For information on what you should have in your First Aid Kit, click on this link.

INCIDENT 1 –  Burn:
In the morning, I burned the palm of my hand really badly on a steam press, whilst assisting Lady Marjorie with her laundry.  Those things get jolly hot and, having finished pressing sheets and moved to the normal iron, I forgot that it was still on and grasped it firmly with my right hand, to move it out of the way.

Treatment:
I immediately plunged my hand into a bowl of cold water and kept the cold tap running on it for at least five minutes.  Every time it started to feel sore again, I put my hand back in the cold water.  When I got home, I plastered it with Lavender Oil – 3-4 drops directly onto the burn, which heals burns super fast and is a cicatrizant which means it speeds up the healing process.  I still have a big red welt across my palm, but it is quite minor in view of the initial burn.

INCIDENT 2 – Twisted Bicep Muscle and painful shoulder:
Boy the Elder fell off his bike and took the weight of his body on his arm but twisted it as he tried to avoid further injury from the bike.

Treatment:
A hot bath with 3 drops each of Lavender and Ginger oil to relax his whole body.  Then a massage of the arm and shoulder with 5 drops of Comfrey Extract, 5 drops of Arnica Tincture and 2 drops of Ginger in 25ml of sweet almond oil.  It will ache a bit tomorrow, but by the next day it should be fine.

INCIDENT 3 – Deep scrape on forearms, shock and bruising:
Boy the Younger fell 10 feet out of a tree, badly scraping both his arms on the way down and landing heavily at the bottom.  I had asked him to bring Jeremiah the cat in so I could give him a flea treatment and BTY had decided to climb up a tree to get him down.  The ivy had given way.

Treatment:
4 drops of rescue remedy directly onto the tongue.  Then I bathed the cuts with cool boiled water into which I had put 5 drops of Lavender Oil.  I then applied a sterile dressing pad to each arm, bandaged it firmly on and secured the edges with dressing tape.  He asked for a plaster cast in case his arm should break later,  but this request was politely declined.  Just before bed, I put another drop of Lavender behind each ear to help him sleep and calm down.  I also applied several generous cuddles throughout the course of the evening.

* * *

It is always a good idea to have a bottle of Lavender Oil in the house or in your handbag.  It is antiseptic, antifungal, antibiotic and antiviral.  It promotes healing particularly for burns and it also helps to reduce scarring.  It’s calming, is useful in the treatment of shock, it helps reduce headaches and promotes deep sleep.

Also, according to a slightly suspect Aromatherapy book I once read, it is helpful in the treatment of myocardial infarct.  I would not rely on this as a sole course of treatment.  However it has since become a family joke. ‘Oh my god, I think I may be having a myocardial infarct!’ ‘Quick, fetch The Lavender!’

As the Vulcans say “May your day be free of incident”.

13 Comments

Filed under Children, Natural Home Medicines