Monday, 31 January 2011

An Interesting Conversation with the School...

An update for all of you that have been contacting me about the school situation!

We had an extremely productive meeting with the Head and the class teacher this afternoon and feel reassured that the situation in school with YD will not be allowed to continue.  We discussed the various strategies available to combat the issues and I will be interested to see how things pan out.  They are obviously concerned and taking the matter seriously.

I have edited my earlier post on the topic of bullying as it was felt by some parent(s) that, despite the fact that no names were mentioned, it was possible to identify themselves/families/children in the post.  In fact, they felt so strongly that they felt it necessary to print out the post and hand it into the school, so I will have to be more careful about what I say from now on as I would not want to be seen as working against the school or inflaming the situation (and let this be a lesson to all you bloggers out there).  I recognise that the truth hurts and can only apologise to anyone who thinks they may have recognised themselves/someone close to them in my blog.  I have no worries at all that the Headteacher and other members of staff have read it as there was nothing in it that wasn't true.  In fact, I would like to thank that person as the Head is now apprised of an earlier, equally serious situation that I would not otherwise have bought up as it was in the past.

I'm sure that this post will also find its way onto the Head's desk, but sincerely hope that the revised, earlier blog post is now acceptable to all parties concerned.    

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Sunday Dinner's Sorted then!

I've been laid up with 'flu' the past couple of days... aches, pains, shivers and fever.  Quite frankly, I feel like death warmed up.  I slept for almost 24 hours non-stop and I do feel slightly better today.  I have had some quite vivid dreams whilst in a state of fever... none more so that this morning:

I was on holiday, somewhere warm and sunny.  It must be a cottage in the countryside as I am awakened, slowly from my slumber, by the sound of a cockerel calling his morning salute, "cock-a-doodle-do!"  I can feel the warm sun streaming through the curtains onto me and as I open my eyes, there are a million dust-fairies dancing in the sunbeams.  I can hear the chickens, cows and sheep discussing their daily plans amongst themselves.  The cockerel keeps crowing, a little louder.  And again.  And again.

And I suddenly wake up because I can actually hear a cockerel - in my back garden!  Where the heck did that come from?  

We bought three beautiful Lavender Araucana 'growers' (teenage chicks) last summer.  We noticed pretty much straight away that one was a little smaller than the other two, but figured that she was either a bantam or the 'runt'.   Over the winter, the size difference has become more apparent and on closer inspection, there are now some quite obvious physical differences.  Not only do we have a cockerel, but we have two!  Fortunately they are only just reaching maturity and haven't started fighting yet, but when they do, it's going to get ugly!  

We can't keep cockerels under the terms of our lease, so they absolutely have to go.  Immediately, before the neighbours complain.  That's Sunday dinner sorted then!

Monday, 24 January 2011


YD has just had a week off of school following a viral tummy upset but she was very excited to be going back in this morning, bubbly and bouncy, just her usual happy self.  Unfortunately there is a group of children in her class that say and do some very unkind things.  Sometimes the harassment is in the form of verbal abuse, teasing and so on… other times it is physical.  Since she joined the school, YD has periodically suffered both taunts and injuries – to the point that she has, on occasions begged us not to make her go to school.  At 5, 6 and 7.  In other words, she has been being bullied.

YD had experienced a couple of quiet months, but the bullying started again immediately after the Christmas break, in the dinner hall at lunchtimes.  I immediately spoke to YD’s teacher and she moved her to a different table.  I was hoping that her being off for a few days would have incentivised the perpetrators to pick on someone else but alas, not.  DH said that he left YD on the yard in line this morning full of smiles but by the time she arrived at the classroom she was in tears.   I only know this because while I was waiting for the children who I was taking out for hen club at lunchtime, several of YD’s friends sought me out and relayed the tale of what had happened.  

As soon as she saw me in the corridor, YD burst into tears and clung to me like a limpet.  It’s heart-breaking to see your child upset, especially in a place where they should feel safe.  The lunchtime staff are totally ineffective and I couldn’t bear the thought of her having to defend herself again in the yard so I kept her with me.  Her teacher is aware of what is happening as I spoke to her the week before last and she knew about the incident this morning. 

After being fine for days, YD complained of chronic stomach pains all afternoon.  She is not prone to hysterics or tears, but cried at least twice more today during the afternoon period in class.  She has been tearful, distracted, argumentative and sulky all evening.  All of this is a result of the persecution she is suffering at school.  DH is livid and is going to be speaking to the teacher again about this bullying before school tomorrow.

We’re not over protective parents.  YD is exceedingly bright academically and talented in performing arts of every discipline.  She is a professional actress and model, and has always been extremely confident and self-assured.  She’s not an insecure child, a cry-baby or sulky by nature.  A move is looking decidedly attractive right now… although you never know what she’ll come up against in another school… is it better the devil you know than the devil you don’t?

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Loving The Skin You’re In?

It's weigh-in day for my facebook group.  I will admit to being classified as ‘obese’ before embarking on my weight-loss journey.  Now I am merely ‘very overweight’.  Soon I will be simply ‘overweight’ and then, hopefully by the end of this year, within the ‘normal’ range.  Having only put the weight on while I was pregnant with YD, I have always known that there is a skinny person inside me, screaming, desperate to get out…  I just wasn’t listening before.  I hated the way I looked but after a complete lifestyle change, I am now I am shrinking, slowly and steadily.  I am finally beginning to recognise the face that looks out at me from the bathroom mirror.  It has a vague jaw-line and cheekbones.  It’s still attached to someone else’s fat body though. 

I have lost best part of 40lbs in six and a half months and my ‘fat’ clothes are too baggy to wear.  I feel fitter and have more energy than I have had for years.  The NHS propaganda tells me that I am healthier and will therefore live longer as a result. 

However, I have just noticed that my skin is not shrinking at the same rate as the padding underneath.  Nor is the padding shrinking evenly.  Following a close physical inspection, I can categorically state that I am in fact becoming lumpy and no amount of massaging with body lotion, skin tightening cream or anti-cellulite treatments is helping.  My stomach is beginning to resemble a partly deflated balloon, and my skin is generally becoming a bit slack all over.  Even on my wrists and ankles.  Parts of me are drooping far more than they did before (although I do admit that this could be attributed to middle age).  As I poke myself, I can feel bone in places that were previously well lagged, but the remaining flabby bits are overly soft and pappy.  My backside looks like a pair of saggy, wrinkled jeans. 

I have come to the realisation that already, at this point, I am carrying a size 22 skin on a size 16 frame.  I have researched this phenomenon on the internet and to my horror I have discovered that the skin may NEVER shrink back to its original size.  I could have the excess surgically excised, but this is neither offered on the NHS nor covered by any health plan and is likely to be an incredibly costly exercise if undertaken privately. 

I am extremely concerned that by the time I have reached my ‘goal-weight’ in another 50lbs-60lbs time, I will resemble a Shar Pei dog, with rolls of loose skin hanging from every extremity.  The difference being that they are bred to look that way.  So, what exactly is the point in losing all this weight if I still hate the way I look and are forced to wear ‘old lady’ clothes to cover up a wobbly, crinkly and unappealing body?  

Thankfully there are lots of handy tips around for disguising ‘loose skin following weight loss’ with appropriately flattering clothing.  I’m thinking that a burka might end up being the only way to go.

Saturday, 22 January 2011


I hate not being able to plan anything.  Everyone who knows me is aware that I like to be very organised... after all, proper planning is the secret to domestic success.  However, with the current uncertainty surrounding DH's next role, it's not possible to guess where we'll be in three months, let alone make any medium or long term plans.  If we knew we were staying here, there wouldn't be a problem.  I had decided that I would like to go onto university in September to complete my BEd.  Obviously I would have to stay locally as I have family responsibilities but I can't apply anywhere as we don't know what part of the country we'll be living in.  Likewise, I would have been looking to expand the part-time teaching I do, but I can't sign up for anything if I'm not 100% sure I can fulfil my obligations - nor can I hand my notice in as it may be possible to continue.  Similarly, if we knew where we were going, I could be calling around to arrange piano lessons, swimming, stage school, dance classes and so on.  I could be house hunting and trawling the Ofsted website in search of a new school for YD and a college for the nocturnal child.  But instead I am stuck in limbo, frustrated and irritated.  DH does not appreciate how stressful it is for a self-confessed control freak to be out of control.    

Friday, 21 January 2011


We are now in possession of three beautiful new hens!  YD and I went to see Margaret at Durham Hens this morning with the intention of coming home with two... one Exchequer Leghorn and one ginger hen (to replace Poppy).  I chose a beautiful young Exchequer pullet, now Christened 'Pongo'.  Margaret didn't have any Columbian Blacktails, Columbines or Goldlines, so we had no choice but to go for a Buff Orpington pullet, which I fear will grow to the size of a turkey.  She has been (un)originally named, Poppy II.  I had been tempted with the idea of another White Leghorn, to replace our old 'Head Chook' that died last summer... they lay beautiful china-white eggs prolifically... but Margaret only had one in stock.  She explained that this was an older hen, about a year old, whose elderly owner had been forced to give up his animals due to ill health.  She was definitely mature, Margaret estimated a little over a year old.  On closer inspection, I also noticed that she was moulting and looked just about oven-ready.  Margaret continued, that although she wasn't for sale, she was 'free to a good home' and that we could have her if we wanted her.  Well, the prospect of a laying hen was too much for me to resist and Daisy II is now part of the family. 
Daisy II and Poppy II


I told Margaret about our egg 'famine' and she threw in a tray of 30 freshly laid eggs as well! So if you're ever in the market for some poultry, you know where to go...

Thursday, 20 January 2011

One Born Every Minute

My son, being a male child and therefore not very bright, has had his tongue pierced.  Not a great idea at the best of times, even worse when it’s been done ‘on a dare’.  He is 19 now and has never, ever, mentioned wanting to have it done before.  I can only assume alcohol was involved together with said ‘dare’ from an army mate who happens to be over here on leave.  The friend in question is clearly as big an idiot as he looks and my son even more so.  

I’m particularly cross as he can barely speak and is supposed to be looking for a job (as he can’t be bothered to train to pass the fitness test and get himself into the army).  He has a telephone interview this afternoon and I'm convinced they will mark him down as SEN on account of the terrible speech impediment he has developed.  

Apparently his girlfriend is livid.  Quite frankly, I don’t blame her.

Many of his facebook friends are now questioning his sexuality.  I’m just questioning his sanity. 

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Another Day At Home

YD finally went back to school yesterday, but it didn't go well.  By 5pm she was on her knees and by 6pm she was in bed, fast asleep.  I kept her home today, she obviously wasn't quite recovered enough to cope.  It also turns out that her teacher kept her in at playtime because she was so tearful... there is a group of boys that terrorise her and her friends - she just didn't have it in her to run away from them.  

It has warmed up significantly so I was able to get out into the garden for a couple of hours today.  I cleaned out the hen coop (yuck) with minimal help from YD and sorted out the bird table.  Well it's not technically a table, more a series of staggered hooks on a metal post, but it does the job.

The Male Child and YD petting Poppy
I am sad to report that we have lost one of our lovely hens, Poppy, so we are now down to ten hens.  She was one of our original four, so she'd had a good innings.  When I say lost, I don't necessarily mean dead, just lost.  They do wander off sometimes.  Of course, she has probably been whipped away by a hungry fox - we have had some devastating fox attacks in the past... we lost 5 hens at Easter in a single attack.  As YD says, "it's sad, but it's life."  She was actually referring to the fact that we were eating one of her friend's dad's lambs at the time, but it's become a very matter of fact way to talk about death.  Especially when you live in the country, within a farming community. 

On the plus side, this does of course mean that I absolutely have to go and buy some more hens.  We get them from a lovely lady called Margaret in Tow Law.  She runs a business called Durham Hens where she breeds from her own stock.  The birds are kept so well and have a huge area to free range.  She's also DEFRA registered, so we were able to buy the school hens from there as well.    

I am invigilating for an hour and a half tomorrow morning, but if Margaret's around, I might just take a drive over in the afternoon and pick up some hens (you can't just buy one, it'll get picked on, three is the best number).  You never know, we might get some eggs then... we haven't had a single egg out of our flock since October, despite them being regularly threatened with the cooking pot! 

Monday, 17 January 2011

Wide Awake

I've been awake since the alarm went off at some ungodly hour so that Stephen could make his 9am meeting some 3 hours or so drive from here.  Another job opportunity has arisen for him, so a difficult decision has now become 100% harder.  I think he has a clear idea which job he wants to go for, but I think he should hedge his bets and apply for both as they have different, yet equal merits.  So I awoke with that terrible feeling of foreboding we call 'Monday Morning Syndrome' in this house - worried about the children, how I will cope, if I could still work, would we be OK financially if I didn't and so on.  On top of that I had hundreds of other unanswered questions swirling around in my mind so I came downstairs and plugged in.  I've now set my mind at rest and feel a little happier.  It's amazing what a cup of tea and a bowl of porridge can do.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Book Review

I have spent the past 36 hours nursing a child with an upset stomach.  I had heard it was going around the school, along with head-lice and all of the usual communicable illnesses such as coughs and colds, but I was rather hoping that we would escape this time.  No such luck though, I’m afraid.  It has resulted in a very quiet, if tiring weekend.  Normally our Saturdays revolve around dropping off/picking up from clubs, rehearsals and dance classes.  Instead, I have managed to finish the book we are discussing at book club on Tuesday, Primo Levi’s harrowing, “If This Is A Man”.

The book is a straightforward, undramatical account of the writer’s interment in Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi concentration camp in Poland.  Levi, who died in 1987, was a Jewish Italian Chemist (and writer).  He was born in Turin in 1919.  On 13th December 1933 he was captured by the fascist militia, interrogated and held in a detention camp at Fossoli, near Modena.  On 21 February 1944, the inmates of the camp were rounded up for deportation and transported in twelve cramped cattle trucks to Monowitz, one of the three main camps in the Auschwitz concentration camp complex.  Levi was duly tattooed with his record number and became Haftling (prisoner) 174517. Levi spent eleven months there before the camp was liberated by the Russian Red Army on January 18, 1945. Of the 650 Italian Jews in his shipment, Levi was one of only twenty who left the camps alive. The average life expectancy of a new entrant was three months.  The inmates not only lost their liberty, they were stripped of their individuality, emotions and dignity – forced to live in a camp where everything was ‘free’ but the most basic essentials had to be paid with beatings and from portions of their meagre daily rations.

Fortunately, Levi knew some German from reading German publications on chemistry.  He used bread to pay a more experienced Italian prisoner for German lessons and orientation in Auschwitz and later on, he received a smuggled soup ration each day from Lorenzo Perrone, a sympathetic Italian civilian bricklayer, working as forced labourer outside the camp in Buna. He quickly oriented himself to life in the camp without attracting the attention of the privileged inmates.  His professional qualifications may have saved his life as he was able to secure a position as an assistant in IG Farben’s Buna Werke laboratory in November 1944, thereby avoiding both selection for extermination and another winter doing hard labour in freezing outdoor temperatures.

Shortly before the camp was liberated, Levi fell ill with scarlet fever and was placed in the camp's sanatorium, Ka Be. On January 18, 1945, the SS hurriedly evacuated the camp as the Red Army approached, forcing all but the gravely ill on a long march that led to the death of the vast majority of the remaining prisoners. Levi's illness spared him this fate.  The weak grip with which the prisoners held on to life is highlighted by the speed with which they died once the camp was deserted and they were no longer supplied with a ration of bread and soup each day.  All but the strongest were dead within ten days and many more died in the weeks following the liberation of the camp.

It has been, at best, a difficult read and at worse extremely upsetting but I am very glad to have experienced it.  I recommend the book to anyone who has limited knowledge of the horrors of the Holocaust and firmly believe that it should be compulsory reading for today's spoiled, materialistic teenagers.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Decisions, decisions...

We moved 'oop narth' for DH's job in 2007.  It's not something that we had ever planned to do, but he wasn't really given a choice - so rather than live apart during the week and only seeing each other at weekends, we decided to up sticks, leave Essex and ended up in a village in beautiful Northumberland.  Over a very short period of time, we have become fully integrated in the community, active members of our new church and both regularly volunteer.  I also fell into a part-time teaching role and have joined a choir which I really enjoy and we all have a busy and active social calendar.  The children settled quickly and love their new life in the country.  We have all made a fabulous group of new friends too.  Life couldn't be better.

DH had his annual appraisal yesterday, which went very well.  He's currently on a fixed term contract for the company he's been with since he left school, but we are very aware that we are in the final 9 months of the term and that he needs to move into another position in the autumn.  This situation may force another house move, which we are keen to avoid.  DH could change jobs within the company at any time though, whenever he sees something that interests him.  Funnily enough, an interesting job opportunity was mentioned to him during his appraisal, which he has been researching today.  It sounds as if the role calls for experience and a skill-base that he already has and may also have the flexibility to work from home, which would mean that we don't need to move and the job also carries an enhanced benefits package.  The downside is that it calls for regular international travel and could entail frequent and possibly long periods of time apart, over a period of years.  We shall have to think long and hard about this before he applies.  Although the autumn seems a long way off right now, there may not be many other interesting opportunities between now and then.  If he doesn't go for this job, there is a risk that he may end up being forced into a job he does not want to do, to meet the company's requirements and the non-negotiable time scale of the autumn.  A very difficult decision.

The decision I need to make today, however, is do I take DH up on the offer of an evening out at our local gastro-pub, alone, together, tonight.  Whilst this is a relatively rare and very attractive proposition, the prospect of eating out could completely blow the potential results of the self-deprivation I have endured since the beginning of the year (curry excluded).  The thought of thickly buttered bread, rich cream sauces, hand cut rustic chips, fine wine and a dark chocolate pudding are extremely alluring, but could quite probably reduce my weight loss potential this week to nil.  Admittedly, one can always make intelligent choices, even when eating in a restaurant, however, if I wanted a glass of water with grilled chicken, steamed vegetables and boiled potatoes I could just as easily save the money and make it myself at home.


Thursday, 13 January 2011


Well, yesterday turned out to be a mad day and today's not looking any better.  Just had a call from Brownies asking if I was planning to pick YD up at any point as they finished 20 minutes ago... luckily DH walked through the door at just that moment so he turned around and went straight back out again!  I have a youth group meeting in half an hour and am picking the host's OD up from choir on the way past.  I'm also supposed to be sitting down with DH at some point to have a discussion about his job prospects... 

The poltergeist has been working its magic yet again - the missing music folder turned up on the footstall this morning (I swear it wasn't there before) and my make-up bag has now vanished into the ether.
On the plus side, I have only had one small hiccup on the 'healthy eating plan' this week, unfortunately it did involve a rather large curry, but hey - it was either a take-away or starve yesterday!  Back on it today though.

Oh - and thanks to the nocturnal child, I still have a tidy kitchen! 

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Life in a Haunted House

I'm absolutely convinced that we have a ghost.  Not just any old ghost... oh no.  Better than that... a poltergeist.  And it's an especially mischievous poltergeist that hides things, at that.   

It particularly likes socks, gloves, school books, sheet music and dancing shoes.  For example, I buy socks in pairs, see them on peoples' feet once and then end up with a washing basket full of singles.  I've got to the point now where I don't even bother trying to pair them up... if they don't come out of the washing machine in twos, I just buy more.  Gloves too are becoming disposable in this house... wear them, lose one, buy a new pair.  School reading books fare no better; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory came into the house one Friday and had vanished by Monday morning.  Just this evening when it came time to practice, the piano music was nowhere to be found.  YD swore blind that she had put her music on top of the piano when we came in on Friday, yet her music folder has gone.  It turns out that the missing dancing shoes that I have been searching frantically for since Saturday, haven't actually been seen since before Christmas so are having to be replaced.  By now they could be absolutely anywhere.

I honestly have no idea know where these things go.  OK, I'll admit that we don't live in the tidiest house in the world, but who does?  It's a home, not a show home.  But there are only so many places that things can be put and once you've exhausted those avenues of investigation, where else is there to look?

The most convincing piece of evidence for my ghost theory is the fact that sooner or later, most of the missing items turn up.  Sometimes in other people's bedrooms, maybe in a dresser drawer, in the boot of the car, down the back of the piano, under the couch, at the bottom of the washing basket and so on.  Now no reasonable person would purposely put things in such outlandish places, so it must be the poltergeist.  There's simply no other explanation... unless there is some kind of mobile vortex in the property that sucks in our essential items, spitting them out again in a different location at a later point in time once it is sure their usefulness is obsolete.

Anyway, must dash... just need to find my car keys...

Monday, 10 January 2011


Mondays are a whirl of activity for our family.  The nocturnal child goes into college, which means catching the 06:59 bus.  She has to catch that bus as they only run every two hours and the next one gets her into college an hour late.  Saying that though, we're not complaining as buses are a bit of a luxury novelty for us.  Until November the only bus that came to our village arrived at 14:23 - so one of us had to get up early every morning to do the run into town to drop her at the bus station.  It doesn't follow that we get to sleep in now though... her daily ritual of shower, hairwash, blowdry, straightening, curling, hairspray, straightening, make-up, curling again, more hairspray means that we are usually awakened by 06:00 at the latest.  

On Mondays, DH works from home, so a level of quiet must be maintained as he spends most of his time on the phone, troubleshooting, arranging appointments and so on.  It's quite entertaining listening to some of his business conversations, hearing his commanding professionalism coming across when I know for a fact he's wearing pjs and 'monster-feet' slippers.

My Mondays are slightly more complicated, starting with the school run, then on to Slimming World for my weekly weigh-in, Tesco/Waitrose for the weekly food shop, home, 30 minutes on the Wii Fit/Your Shape, quick shower, early lunch, then into school.  I run the Key Stage 2 hen club at school - the Coop Troop.  Once signed in, I spend 10 minutes searching for the outside keys and another 20 minutes hunting for the equipment I need, which the caretaker will have moved/hidden/thrown away.  This week he had piled dozens of paint cans directly in front of the bucket/bags I use, thrown away the shreded paper I use for bedding and completely filled the sink in the garden shed with boxes and tins and put a pile of ladders between the path and the compost bin.  Every week presents a different challenge.  Once I am ready, I have to round up an unknown band of children and take them out to the hen enclosure where we don surgical gloves and pick up poo.  We scrub the Eglu, top up food and water and talk about poo.  If we're really lucky and the children behave and the hens are bold enough to eat from their hands, we can catch one so that each child gets to hold a hen.  Oh the excitement!  After that, I go into YD's class and help.  If I'm lucky, I get to work with small groups on literacy or art projects.  If, as this week, I am unlucky, I spend two tortuous hours in a cupboard somewhere sorting out and labelling things that will never see the light of day again, unless Ofsted pay an impromptu visit.  At 15:00 I go into reception and set up textiles club, which I run with a very good friend who happens to teach there.  I get home for around 16:30, rustle up a meal and then, this week, had go out to teach for 18:00.  After three mind-numbing hours, I crawled home again to have a soak in the bath and fall into bed (where I sit now with the laptop on my knees).

Anyway, what I actually logged on to say was that the male child DID get up and go to the job centre this morning and I have a clean and tidy kitchen courtesy of the nocturnal child.

I am still in shock.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Lifestyle Changes?

The behaviour and general demeanour of the older children living in the house is not, by any means satisfactory.  However, after trying (and failing) to improve things for a long time now, I have recently resigned myself to their shortcomings and learned to accept the things I cannot change, safe in the knowledge that they will eventually move out and my life will once again regain a measure of calm equilibrium, free from conflict and discord (until YD gets to the same age).

Now that I have come to this epiphany, a strange and slightly disconcerting thing has happened.  Shortly after we arrived home from church this morning the phone rang.  It was the Oldest Daughter (OD).  She chatted for a few minutes and then asked to speak to the nocturnal child.  Strange, I thought, as OD usually chats for hours on the telephone.  It transpired that the phone call was the result of an inexplicable email sent from the nocturnal child to OD stating that she has decided upon a lifestyle change.  

I have noticed that over the past few days, the nocturnal child has, very unusually, been engaging in conversation.  She has also been doing her chores without being asked and with good grace.  When questioned on this 'out-of-character' behaviour, she stated that she is 'a new person' and has committed to getting up every day rather than staying in bed, being nice to everyone and helping out around the house.  She has been spending 'quality time' with YD voluntarily and even called a truce on the open hostilities between her and DH by spontaneously hugging him.  

To top it all off, the male child was up before lunchtime, peeled all of the veg for dinner and then announced that he is getting up in the morning and going to the job centre to look for a full-time job, before going out at 6pm to do an extra shift at the pub.

All of these statements were made with straight faces and without sarcasm.  Nobody has asked for a loan/advance or any other type of reward, financial or otherwise.  

I'm in shock.

I now have a huge bruise on my leg from where I had to pinch myself to be sure I wasn't dreaming.  Let's just see what happens this week....

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Busy, busy, busy...

Had an unusally busy Saturday today... YD has ballet, tap and musical theatre exams next month and the time-tabling of extra rehearsals has been an nightmare.  The Scary Principle scheduled her additional performing arts rehearsals for Saturdays, 3pm-4pm and Tuesdays, 4pm-5pm, which is exactly the same time as her long-standing ballet and tap classes.  When I explained this to her, she basically told us it was our problem to deal with as the children had been asked if they had any other commitments and YD had not said anything.  For goodness sake woman, she's 7!  She barely knows what day of the week it is, let alone what time she does things and what she does on what day.  

Luckily, the principal of the dancing school is not a such tyrant and has been very accommodating, kindly agreeing to a temporary change of classes but this now means having to leave performing arts at 11:45am instead of 1pm which didn't go down well... so this morning we were out by 9:45am, dropped YD off at 10am, collected at 11:45 to drop off at dancing at 12pm... pick up again at 12:30pm, home for lunch, then back to performing arts for 3pm, picking up again at 4pm then home for dinner.  Somehow, I also managed to fit in a 30 minute cardio workout, shopping on the market, catching up on some very necessary paperwork and a trip to the supermarket.  I also had to buy a football kit for Celeste's musical theatre exam (costume) - Stephen insisted on an Arsenal kit, YD insisted on the 'away' strip - HOW EXPENSIVE? I could have bought a complete outfit for me, full price, from Boden for less!!!  So much for the January 'economy drive'!

I tried the Wii 'Your Shape' today, which was a bit of a mission, but well worth it once I'd got over all the inital setting up.  I waited until the house was empty (well, the older kids were still in bed) and then made a complete idiot of myself in front of the tv for half an hour.  The only audience I had comprised a few bemused hens the other side of the french doors, who were completely transfixed by the madness they could see.  DH also had a go a bit later and liked it so much that he went straight out and invested in a set of hand-weights and an exercise ball to go with it.  All I need now is the 'step' and I'll never need to join a gym!   Might just treat myself to a small glass of vino to celebrate...

Friday, 7 January 2011

Snow was falling, snow on snow...

Surprise, surprise... it's snowing again.  We've had snow laying since 24th November and it's just boring now.  Quite frankly I'm just fed up with being cold.  It did warm up a little bit at the beginning of the week (as in the temperature got into plus numbers) but its freezing again now.  Let's see what tomorrow brings - I haven't managed to watch the local weather as control of the Sky remote is out of my hands (we seem to be having a 'Dr Who' evening for some strange, unknown reason) so I will have the thrill of opening the curtains in the morning, not knowing what to expect.  Don't tell anyone, but I am hoping for lots of snow so that DH (darling husband) takes YD (youngest daughter) to her performing arts class in the morning, especially as he has to tell the very scary lady principle that she has to leave early for a tap dancing lesson.  Rather him than me any day!

I am also optimistic that the nocturnal child will actually clean the kitchen today... she offered, completely out of the blue, to do it - for money of course - so I have high hopes, particularly as the sales are on and she's got 'nothing to wear'.  Yeah, right.  To be fair though, both she and the male child have been up since before 8am this morning and her room, at least, is fairly tidy now.  As I write this, however, she is snuggled up on the other end of the couch, under a sofa throw, stuffing her face with Christmas chocolates, glued to the tv, so I won't hold my breath!


Thursday, 6 January 2011

Random Ramblings

It was my first day back at work today and my brain is absolutely fried.  I'm not a vain person but I do try to look my best and my hair is really bothering me.  Despite all of the lovely comments I've had about my new short hair cut (in the picture), I am still deeply unhappy with it - more so since straightening it this morning took so long that I missed breakfast and was in 15 minutes later than I'd planned.  Of course, nobody at the centre had seen my hair since I'd had it cut during the holidays, so everyone commented, very positively, which actually made it worse because I hate it so much.  I know it will grow again, but I had very long hair until three weeks ago... and if she'd cut it the way I wanted her to, I wouldn't have to wait and I wouldn't have to spend an hour in the morning wrestling the darned stuff into a reasonable style!  On top of all that, when I left work it was snowing so by the time I'd picked DD and her friend up from school and got home, it was frizzy again anyway.  I may have to start wearing a hat.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

An Encouraging Start!

I have been completely overwhelmed by the number of kind, supportive and encouraging messages and emails I have received about my blog!  I had no idea that so many of my friends would read it.   

Thank you all xxx

Well, after a ropey start, today did get better.  The central heating engineer changed some bits on the ancient boiler in the hope that it lasts another year, although looking at it close up I fear that any major spare parts may be obsolete if it does break down.  To my surprise, the landlord didn't comment on the fact that we've painted the kitchen bright paprika orange (see above left), nor on the state of it, and has even agreed to get somebody in to clear the gutters before we have another 10,000 starlings nesting around the edge of the roof again this year. 

Thankfully he didn't ask to go upstairs or appear notice that we've ripped down all of the terrible 1980s pelmets and curtains that were in the place.  Maybe he was too shocked about the kitchen.  When we asked if we could decorate before we signed the lease, he had agreed, but I had sort of indicated that we were into natural, pastel colours... which was true at the time.  We were leasing through the same Estate Agent that we'd used to find our first Hexham house and she had told him how beautifully we had kept and decorated the farmhouse.  However, once I'd really got the feel of this house and realised how cold, drab and grey it is, I decided it needed pepping up a bit so our bedroom is magenta and deep purple, the upstairs bathroom is lilac and sea green (sounds odd but it really works), and the children's rooms are 'Barbie' pink, orange and battleship grey respectively.  We will, of course paint everything white again before we leave, if he asks us to!

This evening was also the first session of the new term for the Hexham Orpheus Choir.  They've changed the start time from 7:30pm to 7pm which clashes with School Governing Body meetings and could prove tricky with babysitters, despite them all 'living in' - but only time will tell.  We are singing Haydn’s “Mass in D Minor”, otherwise known as the “Nelson Mass” (or "Missa in Augustiis”) and Durufle’s “Requiem”.  I’ve never sung either before but my friend is going to lend me the CD so that I can start to learn them both.  I’ve always teased her for her taste in music (exclusively choral/classical) but it’s surely come in handy now and never again will I besmirch her taste.  OK, that’s not true, I will, but I shall do it more respectfully in future!

On a more personal note, week 27 of the diet is going well, I am 'food optimising' successfully and the scales are moving in the right direction.  I go to Slimming World on a Monday morning (before I go into school to clean out the school hens with the 'Coop Troup' KS2 hen-clubbers, spend the afternoon my little one's classroom and then do textiles club with the year 4s) so I'll give a professionally measured weight loss update then. 

Life is full of small surprises...

... when you have older teenagers.  These surprises come in all shapes and forms; like finding the toilet (and half of the bathroom) sprayed with sick after they've been out the night before, going to the bread bin which had half a loaf in it when you went to bed and finding it empty, opening the microwave to find the interior completely (and I mean completely) caked in dried baked beans, walking into the sitting room on a Sunday morning in your pjs and finding a strange young person alseep on the couch dribbling on your silk cushions, pulling out a box of paracetemol from the medicine box and finding it empty or hunting for days for the location of a terrible, unaccountable smell, only to find the source is a long forgotten take-away carton lurking in a bedroom with coating of mould on it worthy of a great scientific experiment.

In our house, we run a rewards system.  We've been doing it for about ten years now, so its not a new thing.  The way it works is that the children have chores to do and they are rewarded with pocket money.  Pocket money is not, and never has been dished out willy-nilly.  When the oldest three were in high school we had a complicated rota of chores which included hoovering, setting and clearing the table, loading the dishwasher and sorting out dirty washing.  Nothing too labour intensive and pocket money was calculated directly from the jobs done (and ticked off) on the rota.  I must admit, it was still a mission to get everyone to do their chores every day and pocket money was frequently short at the end of the month as a result.  There are, after all, only so many times you can ask for the table to be set before you just do it yourself! 

When we moved oop North, the oldest (and most helpful) child stayed behind in Essex and as a result, the rota was simplified to include loading the dishwasher, setting and clearing the table and putting the washing machine on.  After several disasterous washing incidents, it was simplified further to alternately loading the dishwasher and setting/clearing the table.  Only fair, as they never cook.  However, just getting these simple things done became such a batteground of arguments and sulking ("I'm not cleaning THAT, its from yesterday!") that this too was abandoned and pocket money stopped.  Bear in mind that these children are 17 and 19, one is at college 2.5 days a week and one sleeps all day and works part time in a pub a couple of evenings a week - so they are hardly overworked.

After a couple of months without income it was agreed that the kitchen rota would recommence on an 'every-other-day' basis.  To avoid any confusion, a laminated sheet was placed on the wall, detailing exactly what 'doing the kitchen' entailed, including loading/unloading the dishwasher, emptying the bin, wiping down the sides and so on.  Extra money could be earned as required by doing additional chores such as cleaning the car, mucking out the hens etc.  So far it is working reasonably well, although it broke down completely over Christmas as neither of them were here most of the time, so we're just getting back into routine now that everyone is back at school/college/work.

After consulting the rota, the nocturnal child was reminded three times last night (before I went to bed) to clean over the top of the hob and do the dishes. She then proceeded to keep us awake all night, traipsing up and down stairs, washing and ironing, using her sewing machine and from what I can gather, finishing a project that she could have completed over the 3 week Christmas break, had she bothered to haul herself out of bed once or twice.  This morning, I was expecting a man to arrive at 9am to service the boiler. The landlord also arrived unexpectedly with a big smile and a lovely bottle of wine.  But the real surprise was both of them turning up at half past 8 and walking into a kitchen that would not have looked out of place in a feature length episode of 'How Clean is Your House'.  I sat in the lounge and sobbed into a chai tea latte.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The Beginning

I have pondered long and hard about whether to write a blog... particularly since we moved 350 miles north from Essex to Northumberland, but I was never too sure whether or not I would keep it up - and more importantly, who would bother to read it!  However, after being inspired by a couple of my friends, I have decided to take the plunge and share the banalities of my day to day existance and my most intimate thoughts. 

I am an overweight married mum of four children, who range in age from 21 to a delightful 7.  My oldest daughter has fled the nest and we're desperately trying to get rid of the next oldest, but to no avail.  He is in the process of joining the army (much to my private horror) but failed the fitness test and hasn't bothered to train and re-take it yet.  The next daughter is at college studying art and design, but mostly wastes her life sleeping and arguing with anyone who actually has the front to speak to her.  I've only seen her once since New Year's Eve as she creeps around the house after dark, eating only the good things she finds in the fridge and refusing point blank to participate in family life unless its on her terms.  The youngest daughter is the original all-singing, all-acting, all-dancing kid and I have spent much of this year struggling with my conscience over how much she should be allowed to work and the need for her to attend school regularly. 

I work part-time teaching an access to university course but my true love is crafting... be it drawing, painting, interior design, sewing, embroidery, knitting or crochet... I love it.  A couple of friends and I started a 'Stitch and Bitch' group last year and we thoroughly enjoy it.  We plan to try some new crafts this year, rather than sticking exclusively to what we already know.

I weighed 8st 1lb on my 30th birthday, but for a number of reasons was a fraction under 16st by the time I was 40.  I hated being the 'fat mummy' in the school yard but I just couldn't find the motivation to lose weight.  But in the summer, when I realised that the new (bigger) clothes I had bought the year before were already too small, I decided to join Slimming World and have now lost two and a half stone.  I feel much better in myself but still have a long way to go.