Thursday, 30 June 2011

Never Smile at a Crocodile

Well last night was the ballet show. Tilly's ballet experience has always been a fairly half-hearted one. She doesn't dislike going but then she never mentions it from one week until the next and certainly doesn't pirouette around the dining room. I asked her to show me her routine yesterday and she did three steps then segued into reciting her lines for an upcoming assembly about telling the time and the days of the week. I'm not sure she's 100% committed to becoming a prima ballerina.

I have to say the world that is ballet and tap is a new one on me. I am not now, nor have I ever been, able to dance. I bought a ballroom dancing DVD once in anticipation of the wedding first dance but that didn't make it out of the box. Oh and I was once in a singing sketch in the Gang Show that initially had tap dancing in it, but the choreographer soon gave up on that idea and we just sang while wandering about instead.

So I'm not someone who loved ballet and wanted my daughters to love it too. To be honest I simply thought she would look quite sweet in a tutu when she was two and a half and it would give her something different to do. Oh boy it's a whole lot more than that.

For the record the show was stunning and even breathtaking in part. Plus it was a feat of organisation. I have never seen so many dancers in one room. There were routines that included gold lame suits, cowboy hats and at one point tin buckets (not all in the same section I hasten to add although that would have been a spectacle.) So to sum up there were hundreds of excellent dancers and two hours worth of excellent dancing. And there was five whole minutes of crocodile costume wearing five year olds.

Don't get me wrong the crocodiles were great. It did take a considerable amount of time for them to form three straight lines. Each time when the head of the queue was stopped and put into the right position the rest of the line kept moving, bunched up, bumped into each other and had a domino effect on the children who had been in the right place in the first place sending them off in different directions. After that I only had eyes for Tilly and she carefully watched the bigger girls and copied the moves. I cried as anyone who knows me would expect. Then they went off in a comical non directional bumbling sort of way.

I don't regret going. It was logistically tricky but a very sweet and aweinspiring experience both for Tilly and for me.

I tell you what though the whole thing has damaged my pocket rather.

Actual Cost
Crocodile Costume £25
New socks £2.50
Adult ticket so I could watch £12
Ticket so Tilly could watch the second half when she should have been in bed £9
Number of times I stabbed myself while trying to attach green ribbon to tap shoes 13

Additional cost narrowly avoided
Programme not containing picture or any mention of Tilly £5 (thankfully I was warned early and didn't buy it)
Blue eye shadow and blusher (guessing as I don't own this kind of makeup and borrwed from a lovely friend) est £7
New pair of tap shoes that actually fit (I hope her feet didn't hurt too much but I'm sure we can make it to the summer holidays without buying more) £16
Car parking fee (lovely husband braved driving and dropped us off)£3
Taxi home (lovely friend picked us up) £7
Extra tickets and babysitter would have added more on top, eek £27

I should of course say that seeing her dance in a crocodile costume was priceless. In honesty seeing her lark about in it around the living room seems to suit her and me a bit better.

The children in the show were amazing and I'm sure loved it. I wish them, the teachers and the ballet school well and every success for the future. As for Tilly, she has already expressed a desire to go to cooking club after school...and maybe French, and computers...





Friday, 24 June 2011

Things that made me smile

Before my week ending with a hideous warzone of snot, tears, screaming, and dirty pants (just to clarify none of these were mine on this occasion) I was having quite a good day. In fact I'd go so far as to say I was having quite a good week. On reflection:
  • Phoebe has had several successful play dates with her friends that resulted in very few arguments apart from a slight wrestle over a chair and a hoover.
  • I was glowing a bit because the teaching assistant said Tilly could be her "star of the day everyday" and suggested that I might have had a role in her being that way (it is perhaps fortunate then that she didn't witness her screaming at me between 4 and 6.30 this evening. Apparently whatever it was it was all my fault).
  • I made it to the hospital in good time for Tilly's appointment, found a parking space, had the right change for the meter, and found the right department without use of a bread crumb trail and steam coming out of my ears. I even held my own when told she shouldn't have been going swimming for the last six months (the hearing test lady clearly needs to have words with the consultant). Most brilliantly Tilly's hearing is back to normal. Shame mine may be irrevocably damaged if the yelling at me carries on much more.
  • I remembered to take Phoebe to her pre-school taster session on time and she loved it. I'm taking the fact that she didn't want to leave as a good sign.
  • Tilly's painstakingly handwritten A4 sheet of sums may have got slightly written on by Phoebe but I managed to quickly divert Tilly from apoplexy by pointing out that Phoebe had actually written real numbers down by copying Tilly's numbers so clearly she had managed to teach Phoebe while she wasn't even in the house.
  • Tilly turned up to school suitably attired on "Wrong Trousers Day". Although when I saw the five year old boy wearing his dad's trousers held up with braces I rather wished she'd stuck with her original intention of wearing her pyjama bottoms inside out.
  • I even managed to sew the elastic into Tilly's ballet shoes right. The bow is on the right way up and everything. Ok so it was the third attempt but I didn't expect much more to be honest.
I tell you I was slightly moving towards the definition of an organised mum this week.

There was also some smiley life stuff too.
  • Yesterday I saw a grown woman floundering on a busy pavement on roller blades. It was brilliant. And she was smiling at the time.
  • And today there were several people walking past the Botanical Gardens eating ice creams on their own. No children, no peer pressure, just because they wanted one.
It's hard to remember the positives sometimes when the day or week ends with tears and an early night. But now I've read the girls stories, told them I love them, got kisses back and written this down everything seems better.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Book Stalls

I have been selling books for long enough now that you would think I'd have a clue about how to hold a book stall. I should know the right questions to ask of the organisers, the right kind of events to attend and what price is reasonable to pay. I should have all the gear with me and set up and take down should be a well oiled machine.

How is it then that I still end up paying £25 to stand in a church hall for six hours while a total of twelve customers circle the event without buying anything? Why do I still have a suspect wonky gazebo and why do I only ever remember to take my trolley when there are three flights of stairs to contend with? And why on earth did I go all the way to Doncaster to try and sell children's books at a pub quiz?

The answers are, I had very few events booked, the wind wrecked it, I'm absent minded and it was free and someone asked me to. I often think I should go with my instincts more, but that might make for a much more boring and uneventful life.

My initiation into stalls started in November 2009 when I did my first community market. I brought a gazebo with me that I'd borrowed from a friend and due to it's incredibly unhelpful legs it took four of us about an hour to put it together. We tried to weigh it down with bricks and a case full of exercise weights we had in the shed (stop laughing, you all have at least one unused piece of exercise equipment somewhere in your house). The gazebo had no sides and it rained. A lot. I had (I thought cleverly) decided to bring with me a polythene dust sheet to cover my books. It covered my books for the first hour making it impossible for customers to touch the books or even to make out the titles. Like Argos but with rain and no catalogues (they hasn't been delivered yet). After the rain stopped things improved and it was only the legs coming apart every time the wind blew and the exercise weights swinging ominously around the customers that were a cause for concern. A bit of excitement all adds to the adventure.

There have been a number of events where I chose a table inside when I should have been outside and vice versa. My favourite of the first kind saw me drinking flat tonic water with a lovely old man who told me all about his psychic wife. I didn't sell many books though but you can't have everything.

If you can avoid torrential rain that's always a bonus. But I have to say that just like Percy the Park Keeper I hate wind more (sorry flash back to tonight's bedtime story).I am reminded of another event after I had bought a pop up gazebo and four proper weights, but before I had realised that sand is way more effective than water for weighing it down. Sufficed to say I got a little bruised as I leapt up to try and catch said gazebo as it flew sideways and headed straight towards a lady selling jewellery. As it happened I needn't have worried as her gazebo and stall blew away at the same time so it would have missed.

But even if you have great footfall, a sturdy gazebo, and perfect weather there is always more to worry about.There's the eternal "how to look" question. If I sit down do I look rude and disinterested? If I stand up do I look like I'm ready to pounce and sell, sell, sell? Through experience I've decided the worst thing you can do is sit down then leap up when anyone shows an interest in your stall. It can frighten people especially if they hadn't seen you sitting there. I mostly opt a kind of leaning posture, or I pretend to be organising something in a box.

Seasoned stall holders have told me that you shouldn't leave early or eat at your stall as it looks unprofessional. So essentially stand up all the time with a rumbling stomach and continue to do so even if all the customers have gone home.

Despite all the occasional disastrous events and uncertainty about how best to do it, it's still the stall holding that I love best. Just give me lots of people to talk to, customers and stallholders alike, and I'm ok. Let's hope my events this weekend provide that and a few sales as well. And at the very least some flat tonic.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

It had to happen eventually

Well I've made it to post six without talking about wee. Not bad really since I have a conversation about it at least three times a day. I've tried to spare you from the tedium but sometimes when you've got to let it out there's no alternative. Sorry. Both for the pun and the subject matter. If you haven't got young children or don't want to be reminded of potty training please look away now and come back on a day when I'm talking about something more appealing.

My youngest daughter is less than keen to use the toilet. She learnt to do it easily and quickly a year ago. This is irrelevant really since currently she doesn't want to go ever. Unless you are in the most difficult place imaginable.

The middle of Marks and Spencers gift section was awkward, and the John Lewis toy department was embarrassing for my husband, but my particular favourite has to be the otter sanctuary.

On this occasion both girls waited until they could be no further from a toilet to say they needed to go. Fortunately the organised mum in me (she lurks occasionally) had brought a portable potty and some liners. Both girls used the potty next to an otter hide while various otter enthusiasts tried not to look.

This left me in a place a loooong way from a toilet or bin with a large bag of wee. I did what any annoyed mother would do when carrying a rucksack, shoulder bag and bag of wee and put it in my pocket. I'm guessing you are ahead of me here. Sufficed to say I learnt a lesson that day.

Five minutes later Phoebe said she needed a wee. I was less than impressed at dealing with another wet pair of trousers but set up the potty again. While chuntering I bent forward to put her on the potty. The bag in my pocket, as you might expect, burst. Believe me warm wee and jeans doesn't mix well.

I can laugh about it now. At the time I was less than happy. It's a good job we were staying on a good campsite with a washing machine and Paul knew that arranging a pub dinner would help my mood. We ended the day in interesting attire (I normally don't wear tracksuit bottoms to a restaurant) but at least none of us were hungry and I didn't have to cook.

Essentially the following translations seem fair:

"I don't need the toilet" means" "it's anyone's guess whether I need the toilet."

"I don't want to go to the toilet" means "whether or not I want a wee I will scream my head off if you take me into the bathroom, especially if it's a public one."

"I need a wee" means "I've already done quite a lot of wee in my trousers"

However, this last one is misleading because "I need a wee" can also mean "I know you give me chocolate/stickers/a whirl around the bathroom (delete depending on current bribery situation) if I go to the loo so I'm willing to try it"

I have no idea what tactic to use any more. Ignoring it, pleading, getting cross (I know I'm not supposed to do this but I don't know many people who could have wee soaked jeans and manage to say "never mind you'll make it next time", bribery - none of it seems to work.

But tomorrow is another day. I'll try smarties.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

It's a dislike, hate thing

I've tried to love my car. I've defended it when my husband says it stalls a lot. I've ignored the weird gear lever contraption and it's annoying sticky up bits of plastic. I've told myself many times that the fact the LED display screen intermittently goes red and then totally illegible, but then never does this when in a garage, is endearing. I don't even blame it for the fact the the rear windscreen heating element is broken and would cost a fortune to fix.

I've focused on it's good points. It can fit the whole family and camping equipment in easily. It makes book stalls a breeze with it's capacious boot. I think the miles per gallon are excellent (but to be fair I haven't got a clue what they are really). And it's blue and shiny.

I've even tried to protect it by installing rear parking sensors so I can avoid pranging the back end and so far I haven't damaged it in a whole year.

How does it repay me for all this acceptance and denial? Well today while attempting to try out the shiny new pink swing car in the park it decided to make it impossible to open the boot. It's done this once before and I can't for the life of me remember how we made it open. I've tried various different combinations of remote key presses coupled with car doors open or shut, engine running or not. I tried shouting at it and gesticulating wildly. I tried asking Phoebe to fix it. You name it I tried it. It wouldn't budge.

So I lifted the pink swing car over the three back seats (I told you it was spacious) and got it out that way. Then I did the same with the scooter. Then when we had finished at the park I did the same in reverse because it still won't open.

Then I said "we'll have to get Daddy to fix it".

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Oh the excitement of...

...a new shed. Seriously you know you have hit middle age head on when you buy a shed. Not that I had a hand in erecting it of course. That privilege lay squarely with Superdad and SuperGramps, and a bit of help from SuperNana. My skills do not lie in construction of any sort, especially not sheds. I went shopping for pyjamas instead.

So we have a shed. It's very nice for a shed. Not that I have much to compare it to. It was cheap which is a bonus. It's also no where near big enough to house all our stuff but then you can't have everything.

The exciting bit about it is that it signals the start of our extension in a way. It's been built as storage because we are demolishing a large brick outhouse to make our garden bigger and so the new bit of house will fit. Our neighbours got the letters today about planning permission so we are finally getting somewhere. The start of something significant.

For the record though if you are going to buy a shed to put your stuff in, whether associated with a momentous change or not, try to ensure you put the right address on your order details. We got the address wrong (when I say we I mean Paul, obviously) and all the many parties involved seemed reluctant to change it. They seemed keen to deliver the shed to Paul's office. Very keen. Keen enough to ignore emails and multiple phone calls. I'm not sure the receptionist would have been too thrilled to have had it dumped in front of her desk as unceremoniously as they dumped it on our drive.

So there is just a note of caution if you are ordering a shed. But I would really advise avoiding middle age entirely and going to The Seychelles.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Phoebe's getting in the swing


I picked a parcel for Phoebe up today from the post office. It was enormous and I am still not totally sure who it's from. I'm guessing my brother or sister in law. Whoever it is from ( and when I find out I will thank you) it was a very exciting parcel for Phoebe and rather larger than I had anticipated when I picked up the card.

We went home and discovered it's a pink swing car which is frankly the coolest looking vehicle a three year old could ask for. I was hesitant about putting it together since it suggested the use of a mallet was necessary. I left it to Paul. I don't know at what point in my life I started to think saying "we'll ask Daddy to do it when he gets home" is acceptable. It clearly doesn't match my early nineties feminist principles. But in this case if I'd banged it together with a mallet I thought there was a good chance I would have wrecked it and been rather unpopular.

I suggested Phoebe wait until it was attached together before sitting on it. Fortunately it didn't break as she ignored my suggestion.

Superdad arrived home and didn't seem to need a mallet.

He then ensured that he got a go before the girls came outside since the instructions said it can be ridden by anyone from three years old to an average sized adult. Paul is light but over six feet tall. It didn't move. I got on it. I'm not light and quite short. It wiggled a bit unsatisfactorily.

We decided we would let the girls have a go. They took turns, in between yelling that it must be their go now. Essentially you move it by maniacally twisting the steering wheel from left to right. For the record tiles and laminate flooring are fairly zippy although a bit limited in terms of space in our house. Rough concrete is hopeless. It seems like good fun but we may have to go out at night and take our chances with the doughnut makers in the supermarket car parks! I could take it down to the school playground at pick up time but that would lead to many fights I'm guessing as Phoebe's wheels would be the hottest in school. So the park it is then.

Ultimately it looks good, moves well and is very popular. It is also enormous (the irony being we have just sent two wheeled toys to Freecycle and are trying to clear out the shed but hey ho) and ideally requires a large very flat area to whizz about on. Pretty good though.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Not such a successful dieter

Well this week I, yet again, convinced myself it was time to go on a diet. Usually when I do this I try, yet again, to do Weightwatchers. I did this successfully about ten years ago and kid myself that I can remember how to do, and can apply all the rules with self discipline without actually having to attend a meeting or pay any money again. I always give up by day three.

This time I bought a different book. It was cheap from The Book People and had that lovely looking lass from Channel Four on it, Anna Richardson. I remember watching a diet programme sometime with her in it that was quite sensible. All the usual stuff about healthy eating and moving about more. Of course I know all the basics behind this already but I do like a new book especially if it's going to give me new recipes to follow and keep me in check.

Then I opened the book and skipped to the "Rules". I read them, was horrified and closed the book again. This was clearly not the book that went with the programme. There was no way I could start this diet on any normal day. I had to wait until I had no-one to see socially, was not on holiday and was no-where where I might have to buy food or drink. I put the book away while I went on holiday, ate ice cream, got drunk and had a barbeque.

But you see I'd paid for the book. If you've already paid you kind of feel you ought to give it a stab. So I did my online food shopping with the diet in mind. It included food I don't usually eat which is never a good idea. But I stocked my cupboards with it and didn't buy the diet things I usually buy like jaffa cakes.

So in case you are interested here are the rules and how I got on:

NO WHEAT
Oh seriously this is not a good start. No bread, bagels, pasta and no I shouldn't go and buy the wheat free versions either. This leaves me with porridge oats, rice and potatoes as carbs. Oh and rye bread. Dear lord I hate rye bread. And I can eat almost anything. Of course I convinced myself it would be fine and bought it. It's not it's hideous and I won't be convinced otherwise. By day two I had eaten a bagel.

NO DAIRY
Ok so I can see why giving up cheese would help, especially me who can't say no once I've hacked a corner off the mature cheddar I'm making into someone else's sandwich. No full fat dairy, fair enough, but only a small hot drinks milk allowance leaves me making my porridge with water. Ugh.

NO SUGAR
Yeah yeah I can do this. Oh no I can't. I'm a sugar addict. Yes I need to cut down, but cut it out and by 3pm on the first day I was shouting, crying and trying to beg for chocolate buttons from my children. God did I need a jaffa cake.

NO CARBS AFTER SIX
We eat at 5.30 so I was hoping I could get away with this, but she expects normal people to eat later and essentially means no carbs in your evening meal. I had potatoes on the first evening. It went downhill from there.

NO ALCOHOL FOR TWO WEEKS
Erm, equally not drinking alcohol not exactly one of my strong points. I bought non alcoholic lager and drank one on the first night. Then I realised it was made of wheat. Bugger. Then I ate two digestives biscuits...because essentially if I hadn't I'd have hit Paul with the swimming woggle I found lying around in the living room. I've done two and half days now without real alcohol...but it's nearly Friday night.

I am sure I'm not supposed to allow myself to be hungry but no wheat, no dairy and no sugar does that to me, whatever rice cake nonsense you replace it with. I am clearly "not ready to diet". Well not this one anyway. Where did I put those weightwatchers recipe books? Oh well I'll start again on Monday.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Another new blog

Well I'm entering the world of blogging. I've done a bit before through my website, mainly about the events I attend to sell children's books and the books themselves. I've also had a family blog which detailed the minutiae of baby rearing that probably only my parents read.

And this one? Well I guess this will be a bit of everything so please join me as you just never know what's going to happen. I'll try to make it interesting. It may not be. I'll try to make bits of it funny. There's a strong chance it will only appeal to my sense of humour. But hey ho as least it'll increase my typing speed and make my brain work a bit harder.

So me? I'm Katie. 35, wife, and stay at home mum of two daughters who are three and five. I spend my time looking after them, selling children's books, doing HR for a playgroup and trying to avoid the housework. My vices include white wine, shows with Gok Wan in, quirky British TV series, Hugh Laurie, Kenneth Brannagh, chocolate in any form and talking. I do a lot of that. Feel lucky perhaps that you only have to read this not listen to me rambling on. Unless you are a friend or family member in which you get the joy of doing both. I'm sure there is a lot more to me (I haven't even mentioned Billy Bragg yet) but maybe I'll be all mysterious and leave you guessing. Then you might want to read again another day. But if you don't fair enough.