Sunday, 29 November 2009

Trials and tribulations of the tooth fairy pt. 2

Another tooth gone and time for the tooth fairy to visit again.

This time it happens to be on a night when I have already been awake since 4am thanks to early morning wake-up calls from the smaller one. And also on a night when I have actually arranged to leave the house in the evening (thanks mum, again!).

The tooth came out during school time so it had been transported home in an envelope, clearly labelled just in case we forgot or something.

Returning home from my evening out I was reminded about the tooth fairy duties - you might think it would be impossible to forget such a momentous task but then you are reading the thoughts of someone who on darker days than these has been handed her front door keys by the postman after leaving them in the lock overnight. Ahem.

Anyway just as my mum left, 6 year old woke asking for a glass of water. Darn, now I needed to wait until she went back to sleep before I could put on my wings and sparkly tutu. It was already after 11pm by this point, at least two hours after my normal bedtime... eventually the breathing started to sound sleepy so I crept across the creaky floors to her bed. Hand under the pillow... of course tonight she's sleeping right across every inch of the pillow rather than just below it as usual. Gently seek out the tooth... where is it? No really, where is it?

A little voice pipes up: "Mummy?" Pause. "Mummy? What are you doing in here?"

Bearing in mind that is was midnight by this point and I am somewhat sleep-deprived at the best of times I admit that for a split second I did actually think of putting on a 'fairy' voice and taking the pretense one step further. Fortunately I thought better of this idea before actually opening my mouth.

"I just came to check you are ok, honey."

I somehow managed to slip the coin under the pillow before retreating, but the tooth was still buried under the pillow somewhere.

Now what? If I didn't get to bed soon the next day was going to be hell.

My solution was to draft a quick letter with a few fairy-type flourishes that read something along the lines of... "Dear xxx, I have decided to let you keep your tooth this time as a souvenir as you are such a lovely girl, love from the tooth fairy."

I never realised this tooth fairy business was so fraught with complications. Needless to say, Santa will be leaving his presents downstairs in the front room. As for what happens next time the tooth fairy is due I cannot say.

Now 6 year old wants to take her letter into school for 'show and tell'. I can't decide if I am touched or just embarrassed!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Parents' evening

Parents' evening. All our children's work folders were laid out on tables in the school hall for us to read while we waited for our appointments. My six year old was asked to write a message to her parents on the label for her work.

She wrote: "I am feeln Happy To Day yes I am."

And so am I now.

Jinx

Pah. Clearly writing about a turn-around in three year old's sleep habits was a mistake (see previous post). Jinxed! Woke at 5am and pottered into my bed.

5am is not a proper time to be starting the day at any time but especially not on a cold and windy November day. Bleargh. Just hope I haven't started the slide back to nightly visits. It is lovely to be needed but maybe sometimes I need sleep more than I need to be needed.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Sleeping like a baby

My children have never been the best of sleepers. In fact it won't surprise you that I have written of their night-time habits in previous posts.

Six year old now usually sleeps through though and has done so for about a year now. Three year old has been coming in to sleep with me pretty much every night since she was a baby though.... until.... now I was not really sure if I should write about this as it may jinx things but here goes.... since the last half-term holiday three weeks ago she has been staying in her bed until at least 6am most nights.

I can't possibly explain to anyone else how amazing this is. At times I have been so wretched with tiredness I could barely function. It has at times made me feel depressed and most definitely made me 'grumpy mummy' on and off. I am fairly certain that my inability to focus, remember or communicate contributed to my employers' recent decision to 'let me go' - although they are of course far too British to say so. In recent months I have questioned over and over whether I can continue to bring up two wonderful people alone in such a state - particularly in the early hours of the mornings. Of course if you read other posts you will also know that I also enjoy the time with my girls and the love they give me and that is one of the things that gets me through.

But now I am beginning to feel like a real person again. I know I shouldn't count my chickens and there are always going to be times when I am woken in the night - I live alone with two young children so there is never a 'this is it' time, things are constantly changing and evolving. But it does feel as though we are turning an important corner.

Usually when I get up for my shower - always the first thing I do as it helps to wake me and often means the girls are still sleeping while I collect my thoughts for the day - I either leave at least one child in my bed or return to my room to find both snuggled up in there. As I came out of the bathroom to get dressed this morning I found my bed still empty and could hear chatting voices from the girls' bedroom.

It took a great deal of willpower to prevent myself from sneaking to the door to listen in to their private conversation. It was so lovely to hear them talking to each other without needing to refer to me.

Of course it does mean I missed out on my morning cuddle! Extra cuddles tonight I think.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Where we live

My mum babysat the other evening.

On waking around 6am my three year old clambered into my bed for a cuddle until getting up time: "Is Nana still here mummy? Why couldn't Nana stay after you came home?"
"Well, she had to go home to her bed."

Then three year old thinks for a few moments - clearly trying to figure out where everyone's proper place is.

"We live in hope, don't we mummy?"

"Mmm, yes, I think we do."

(The name of my Mum's village contains the word 'hope')

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Happiness is...

...passing by school at playtime with three year old. Usually avoid doing this as I neither want to embarrass six year old nor to see her sitting alone and start worrying that she's being left out of games.

But had to run some errands before school pick-up the other day so we passed by.

When she spotted us she came running over holding hands with two of her friends and beaming from ear to ear. She pushed her face into the railings for a kiss and smiled at her little sister.

Made me feel warm and precious. Lovely.

Monday, 9 November 2009

With thanks to Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of he infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Milk for the calves

Wahey, my first photo. Now at first glance you may think this is a bit random. But not so. What you see before you is powerful evidence of the immense power of the imagination - aged 3 and a half and six.

Each of these containers has been carefully filled with bathwater up to a designated level. Apparently this is milk for the calves. It is most definitely not for sale.

I love it.

Now that I have shared that with you I suppose the sensible grown-up in me must go and pour the water away and tidy the pots so I can get into the shower tomorrow morning..... oh, ok, not just yet.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Big bangs, sparkles and an accidental willy.

Bonfire night. Both girls had been promised a trip to a bonfire which, as it turned out, was cancelled for reasons not worth going into here. So, in an attempt to keep things calm I looked into local bonfires.

Up until now the girls have not been to a bonfire - six year old has always been mightily terrified of the bangs and anyway we live at the top end of a valley and can usually get a great view of at least three or four big firework displays from behind the safety of our bedroom windows.

I was told there was a local pub that usually has a small (and earlyish!) bonfire so made plans to go, despite reservations about taking a 6 and a 3 year old out after dark and having to suffer the repercussions of tiredness and post-bedtime giddiness alone. We talked about it, I asked several times if they really wanted to go, even offered the get-out that it had been rather wet during the day so maybe we didn't have to go.... But no, we still wanted to so we layered up to keep warm (although by this point 6 year old was already saying she wanted to watch from inside the pub) and opened the door to the dark, at which point several fireworks happened to go off in the near vicinity.

"Noooo, Mummeee I don't waaant to go!" says 6 year old. Hmm, thought this might happen. Ok, so we don't have to. "But I do want to go Mummy," says 3 year old. Oh, hadn't anticipated that one. 6 year old decides she would like to go, but only if we drive to the pub. Obviously it goes against the grain to drive to something so close, but we had been talking about going for days and maybe this would ultimately help her reduce her fear of the big bangs. So we climb into the car for the short ride down the hill. Stop the car, climb out.

"Nooo, Mummeeee I still don't waaant to go!"
"I doooo"
Bollocks. This is obviously one of several drawbacks to being a lone parent, or to being any parent who does most of the parenting alone, because if one goes somewhere you all have to go. Sometimes this can have advantages, and I am certain that it has helped my girls develop their wonderful relationship with each other. But at times like these it means choosing between them. Tough call.

Of course in the end I had to respect the genuine fear that my 6 year old was displaying over the disappointment shown by my 3 year old.
"Why don't we go home and drink hot chocolate by your bedroom window and see if we can see fireworks from there?"
Luckily that worked for both girls.

We went home via a shop that sold both milk for the drinks and sparklers as an added appeasement to brave little 3 year old.

It must be the first time I have held a sparkler in years so I enjoyed it once we got home, as did they, and in the end I reckon we had a more enjoyable time watching the show from indoors than we would have done standing in the cold or fighting through a busy pub.

Slight concern on my part though as I left the girls to run their bedtime bath and heard: "Mummy, I saw a man's willy!"
Erm, that wasn't supposed to be part of the show.... Hmm, the man who lives in the house behind us was getting into the shower in his fully-lit bathroom. Oops. All perfectly innocent, but somehow I know that's the bit of information that 6 year old will be sharing when she goes into school tomorrow... Yikes.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Ha ha bonk

Six year old: Why did the cow cross the road?
To get to the udder side.

Three year old: Why did the poo and wee cross the road?
Because they wanted to see the giraffe.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Mortality for the younger mind

I wonder sometimes whether all young children have as keen an interest in death as my two?

We have recently acquired a hamster - a birthday present for my six year old daughter who had been asking if she could have a pet for about two years before I finally caved in. Three year old has asked on numerous occasions: "When will Emily die?" in a fairly matter-of-fact way.

This morning at breakfast the topic was extended a little.

Three year old: "When will Emily die?"
Six year old: "You can tell when she's dead because she won't move, look she's still moving so she's not dead yet."
Three year old: "Oh."
Six year old (in a very matter-of-fact tone): "When Emily dies will we have to take her back to the pet shop or can we bury her in the garden?"
Me: "Erm, well I don't think they will want her back at the pet shop so I guess we can bury her."

Six year old (after a pause): "Can we bury her in the stony bit?"

Monday, 28 September 2009

More hummous please

Six years on I still struggle to understand why the two things my children rally against the most are two of the things I would happily spend the majority of my time doing, i.e. sleeping and eating.

I try to cook most of the food I feed my children myself and am fairly determined that one day our tastes will coincide more frequently, but we do still have a lot of discussion about food. And we do currently eat a lot of pasta.

Personally, I do not eat meat, but as the girls' dad does, I have never tried to enforce my vegetarianism onto them. Obviously now that I am the only adult living in the house I tend to cook less meat than I did, but occasionally I will buy some form of meat - mainly to make up for the fact that I struggle to get them to eat enough variety of vegetables and pulses to get all the vitamins and nutrients I reckon they need in order to keep growing.

On this particular occasion I had bought chicken breast (free range and organic to make up for my guilt at buying and also to avoid feeding my children the horrible things that are fed to non free range chickens). I cut it into strips and rolled it in breadcrumbs, and baked it alongside some chips cut from potatoes dug up from the remains of this year's half-hearted vegetable-growing efforts. Home-made chicken nuggets and chips. A rare treat for my children who mainly live on tomato-based pasta sauces and things with cheese.

Three year old tucked in heartily (in itself quite a rarity): "Mummy this is delicious can you make it again please?"

Six year old was more reluctant, dipping into the chips but avoiding the chicken.

Now, as a vegetarian it does gall me to be having to persuade my children to eat meat, but I had bought it and cooked it so didn't really want to be throwing it out just due to pickiness.

Finally resorting to bargaining tactics. Me: "Just eat one piece for me then."
Six year old replies: "I'll only eat some chicken if you give me some carrot and hummous first."

There's no pleasing some people.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Panic? Moi?

Just had a mildly scary experience. My 6 year old went for tea at a friend's house and I was due to pick her up with little sister at 6pm after finishing work and feeding said little sister.

Except when it came to setting off to collect her I realised I'd mislaid the piece of paper with the address on. No need to panic, we all have mobiles these days don't we? So I texted the mum in question and set off towards the road I thought she lived down. Arriving at the end of the road there was still no reply. Ok, let's try ringing then. Answer phone. Oh poo. Try again in a few minutes. Answer phone. Little sister asking over and over again: "Where does C live Mummy?" "Erm, I'm not quite sure honey."

Ok, don't panic, she'll call back in a minute. In the meantime I text three other parent friends to see if they know the address. No answer. Ok, so now fifteen minutes have passed and there's still no answer. Should I start knocking on doors? No, probably too soon for that.

The thing is, in the greater scheme of things fifteen minutes isn't really all that long, but when you have realised that you have no idea where your baby is it can seem like a very long time indeed.

Looking at it rationally there was nothing to worry about it, but I can happily admit that when the mum did finally call me back ("Oh I'm so sorry I'd left my phone on charge etc etc") there was an enormous surge of relief.

Funny thing is though that these kinds of things make me realise how far I've moved on emotionally in the past year or so. Something like that would have thrown me into a complete panic last year, whereas this time I was able to rationalise and sit it out without losing it.

Still, next time she goes for tea I'll tattoo the address somewhere completely indelible. Just in case, you understand.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Communication

I need to work on my personal communication skills.

Ironic, given that I have spent the last 11 years working in various sections of the communications industry. My CV claims that my written and verbal communication skills are second to none.

However, it seems my personal and working life continue to be hampered by a long-standing inability to make people understand what I want.

Somehow I am perfectly able to turn other people's stories into readable prose but trying to ensure others get me is where I fall down.

Today was a perfect example. I won't bore you with the details of my employment situation, suffice it to say I am not exactly feeling on top of the world. Time to move on definitely. All I need to do now is work out where to.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Nice things

Occasionally my girls do say nice things to me. Although their comments sometimes come with a sting too.

Yesterday I was applying moisturiser in a vain attempt to lessen the 'knackered lone parent' look I am currently sporting. My 3 year old was watching.

3 year old: Why are you doing that mummy?
Me: I'm trying to make my face look beautiful. Is it working?
3 year old: No. (Yeah, thanks honey, need to teach you some skills in 'white' lying) Are you going to put it on your legs?
Me: No, why do you think I should?
3 year old: No, your legs are beautiful already.

Aww, you see, she does love me a little bit. Or rather she does love some little bits of me.

This morning after waking, my girls were lying in my bed (no they hadn't been there all night... for once). Eldest claimed youngest smelled like tea and lemons that were a bit old. Not sure that was all that complimentary but I was impressed by her descriptive powers nonetheless.

Me: What do I smell like then? (fearing the worst)
6 year old: A kiss.

Awwww. That makes up for her wanting to move out on me earlier in the week. And then some.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Tired, tired, tired

After several days of celebrating 6 year old's birthday last week the excitement finally got to her as she woke at 5.30am on Monday screeching for me.

"Mummy, come and get me! Come and get me!"

My initial response was a fairly unsympathetic: "What is it? It's the middle of the night (sort of)."

Then of course I get up and go to see to her, worrying that she will wake 3 year old - who, incidentally, is already lying next to me after an earlier outburst.

So what was wrong? "Mummy, I want to go and live with my Uncle and Aunty!"

Nice. Resisted the temptation to point out that there was more than a little irony to the fact that I was now lying awake comforting her because she wanted to leave me!?

Mornings are hard work again this week. Still, looking on the 'bright' side, in five weeks time I won't have a job to go to after school and playgroup drop-off, maybe then I can catch up on some sleep in-between hunting for work and fighting the blues.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Time travel

Went on an outing to Bradford the other week. Bearing in mind that we live a stone's throw away in Leeds I was quite amused by my daughters' conversation in the back of the car about how far it was. Like two little old ladies they discussed: "Ooh this is a reeeally long way isn't it...."
Then eldest asks me: "Mummy, what day is it in Bradford?"
Me: "Saturday"
Eldest: "Oh, so it's the same day here as it is at home?"
It was hard to believe, obviously.

Friday, 11 September 2009

I am trying, really I am

When I first started this blog I was hoping to record some of my efforts to 'green' my lifestyle. As time's gone on though I have mainly chosen to write about the things my children say and do before I forget all the lovely ideosyncracies that make them who they are. This time I feel like a moan about how as a parent it can be hard to stay on track with my 'principles'.

This morning I decided to walk to work. No big deal, I have done it many times before, except that over the summer I have stopped using the pushchair for my 3 year old so if I walk, now she has to also. Walking my six year old to school for the first week back has been no problem, the difficulties start once we leave the school gates and continue on up the hill. I reckon between school and nursery there's at least a mile of gentle upward slope, a fair distance for a 3 year old I admit. But yesterday we walked happily with the offer of half a strawberry for every little milestone. Forgetting one of the golden rules of parenting (i.e. nothing ever works twice) I decided to try the same trick again. Uh-oh, this time my offer of fruity treats were met with wails and a refusal to do anything other than sit on the pavement.

Result? Not wanting to give in to the tantrum that ensued I hung around for a few minutes to see if she would come round. No chance of that. At least not within the time that remained between school drop-off and the due-in-work deadline. My few minutes of hanging around smiling at passers-by as they stared was of course followed by much huffing and puffing as I then carried her up the hill to work.

Ouch, that was hard work.

I am doing my best to leave the car at home but sometimes it is very hard indeed.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Happy Birthday six today

It was my eldest's sixth birthday today. Am doing the ridiculously expensive play-den party thing for the first time ever this weekend with most of the girls in her class going. Ages ago I said she could also invite a friend round for a small birthday tea and candle-blowing ceremony after school on her actual birthday. She finally decided on C, after hearing that C wasn't able to come to the party at the weekend.

Conversation on the way home goes something like...:
Me: So when are you 6 then C?
C: I'm not sure but I don't really have birthdays because I'm a Jehovah.
Me: (inside my head obviously) Bollocks. So that'll be why she's not coming to the party then. Doh.

Am I the only one who does things like this? Obviously the first part of this girl's visit involved my daughter proudly showing off her birthday gifts - in case you don't know Jehovah's witnesses don't celebrate birthdays and don't do the whole present and party thing. Sitting down to tea later we lit the candles and sang with our guest sitting politely watching, after telling me she wasn't allowed to sing 'Happy Birthday'. Seemingly she IS allowed to eat the cake afterwards though. Phew.

Six years old. Wow. Hard to believe. And the other day three year old's school forms came in the post. It's all going by so fast.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Our trip to the seaside

Just returned from a week's holiday with my lovely girls and mum, not to mention a visit from my lovely friend. We paddled in the sea, played in the sand and fished for crabs in rock pools. It was wonderful. Apart from the bedtimes of course, which were inevitably long-winded and exhausting. What a privilege to spend all that 'quality' time with the lovely people in my life. Simple pleasures are what make life worth living. Now time to get on with the mountain of laundry and tackle the chaos of the house...

I will come back to this and write more about the week's highlights, just wanted to mark our return to reality.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Tag, you're it.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page and you'll see I've been tagged with an Honest Scrap Award. One of the great things about setting up this blog that I'd never even considered is that I get to communicate with a range of people right here in the blogosphere.

I've been tagged by the lovely author of halfmumhalfbiscuit, which means I now have to pass on this accolade to 7 other lovely bloggers, and tell you 10 facts about myself. I'll admit I'm a bit unsure about all this so apologies if it doesn't quite look right or work the way it is supposed to. In fact, to be honest I was tagged over at A Life with a View a while back but didn't even realise I was supposed to pass it on (sorry about that!).

So, here goes, I may stick at 6 for now as I'm still new to all this:

1 I have to start with the blog that gave me the idea in the first place, How to be Fit, Rich and Happy

2 And now I'd like to repay the favour offered by A Life with a View just a few moons ago

3 Because her posts are always full of the joy of being a parent there's Ruth at The things our children say

4 Because she provides an inspiration for tough times there's stigmum

5 From another parent who always makes me laugh Boozlebox

6 And from a group of friends who recently saw the film Age of Stupid and were inspired to make their opinions heard there's Climate Chains

Read and enjoy.

Now for ten facts about me. Some of which you may or not already have gleaned.

1. I worry too much.
2. I'm trying really hard to live as sustainably as I can but sometimes I get tired and miserable and so I drive to the supermarket and buy pizza to eat in front of the tv with the girls (shhh, don't tell anyone about that one).
3. I don't watch grown up tv any more. Really, not at all.
4. I probably spend too much time online.
5. If I applied myself I reckon I could make money from writing but see point 4 for one excuse amongst many.
6. I like apples.
7. Sometimes I still can't believe I'm really a mum.
8. Sometimes I still can't believe I'm so lucky as to be a mum.
9. I really would like to be able to stay in bed beyond 6am more than once a month.
10. I find it hard to believe that after 37 years I still only have one friend who likes camping as much as me.

Services offered: most posts considered

Apparently my employer can no longer afford to pay for my services. Which means that as of October I could very well be job-free.

As you may imagine this has come as a bit of a blow (I am, by the way, a master of understatement). Up until now one of the saving graces of my 'situation' has been that I have had relatively few money worries associated with this split. Ok, so I had to go from working two days a week at a charity to three days with a professional money-making business, but I would happily admit that was hardly a major source of woe.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to stay living in our home, which in turn meant less upheaval for the girls and myself at the most difficult period of the split. I can pay the bills and I still have a car. Of course all this is partly down to my greenward shift, buying fewer new goods and clothing etc, making more of my own food and buying in bulk, and, let's face it, also drastically reducing the amount I spend on socialising (I reckon that adds up to about £5 a month or thereabouts!).

Anyway, time for a rethink. Someone is coming to value the house next week, just so I can get an idea of whether it would be worth me trying to downsize without moving my 5 year old too far from her school. But hopefully it won't come to that. Some weeks I barely manage to keep on top of the laundry, can you imagine actually moving house? Like I say, hopefully it won't come to that.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Superhero day

It's the last week of the first year at school. What a milestone. As a way of marking this stupendous occasion five year old is allowed to dress up as a 'superhero' and take in 'savouries to share with 6 friends' on Thursday.

Reading this out to her thinking it would be something exciting, the reply comes; "I don't want to dress up."

"Oh. Well, you don't have to."

Later the reason gradually emerges. Superheroes are for boys, obviously.

After trawling the internet for possible girly but brave and tremendous feminine superheroes, and also speaking to my sagacious sister (who has two boys and therefore knows infinitely more than I on the subject of superheroes) I try approaching the subject the following morning at breakfast time.

"I've been thinking about your party. You could be Supergirl. What superpower would you like to have, flying? running fast? juggling?"

"AAAAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!! (Actually it was louder and more blood-curdling than that in reality) I DON'T WANT A MUMMY!!!"

Hmm. Maybe my timing was wrong.

"I could make you a cape." (Sounding a bit desparate now.)

"Really? Can I have a purple one?"

You see, I am learning about this girly stuff gradually. It's all in the accessories.
Apparently.

Doh, now all I have to do is find suitable purple material and fashion it into a cape worthy of superhero status. And before Thursday, obviously.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Hopping

Just read five year old's first ever school report. Despite my determination to not crow too much about my lovely girl's achievements I just can't resist writing that it made me feel very warm to read how she's developed personally and academically at school in the first year. I was so worried about her emotional state of being in the period leading up to our change in family circumstances, but I myself have seen her grow into a happier and more confident child as we have all settled into our new living arrangements. So to read the first sentence: "She is a happy and polite little girl." was very heartwarming indeed.

In addition to the notes about her academic development, the teacher has noted that she has made some good friendships and has blossomed in confidence.

At the end of the report there is a page with a couple of comments from my daughter herself. Reading these I am glad to note that she doesn't (yet?) see school achievements in terms of the confines of the conventional classroom. She says: "I am very good at skipping and drawing." (True) And then: "I am going to try harder at hopping." You go girl, I reckon we could all do with being a bit better at hopping.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Rhyme time

Cottleston, cottleston, cottleston tuna,
Make me a cake or I'll go lunar.

(As sung by five year old earlier today.)

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Iced tea

It's been rather hot this week. The girls have been struggling to get to sleep in the evening but at least once they're off they're really off. Finally my attempts at blacking out just about every window upstairs are also starting to take effect in the morning so it's looking good for the moment.

Yesterday my eldest - who is about to finish her first year of school, wow - told me she had been to see her new classroom for next year. "It's next to the iced tea suite mummy." Mmmm, yes, now that would be nice.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Before I go

I know that some people have a list of things they want to do before they leave the world behind. My list is more of a 'things to be' with a few 'things to do' thrown in:

1. Learn to appreciate the things I have and not dwell on the things I have not.

2. Never hold back from saying something that could make someone happy.

3. Occasionally hold back from saying something that could make someone unhappy.

4. Stop beating myself up for things I have done wrong and learn to praise myself instead.

5. Stop counting the things I still need to do and count the things I have done instead.

6. Make time for people rather than tasks.

7. Do something nice for someone at least once a day.

8. Do something nice for me at least once in a while.

9. Get outside more.

10. Write more.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Guilt: part 378b (or thereabouts)

Doh. It was a non-uniform day today at school. Unfortunately I was completely oblivious to this fact until we turned the corner at five to nine and saw hundreds of small children of the type who are lucky enough to have parents who actually read information and retain it all dressed in their favourite clothes. Oh poo. Hmm, let's try and turn it into something fun: "hey, you could be the only one in a dress like yours" yeah right, that's going to do it. No, instead the only thing that's going to work is me offering to walk back home and get another set of clothes, and then walking back up to school with them. Bleargh.

Trying not to blame anyone else for the mistake - apparently there had been a big notice on the door the night before when I hadn't been on school run duty - I gave five year old a big hug and tried not to get upset myself at her tears.

In the end she was fine, I was probably more distraught at having made such a mistake - although there were quite a few other parents in the same position as me this time so the consensus is that it hadn't been well publicised.

I was annoyed at myself though because I think I have now got into a good routine with the morning rush, remembering most of the important things on a daily basis. So far we have never been late and I reckon my morning shouting is fairly minimal these days too. So for me this mistake marks a blemish on my personal record.

Anyway when we got home later five year old wrote "I love mummy" on the back step in chalk, so she must have forgiven me for now. Hopefully.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Doubling as the tooth fairy

Five year old lost her fourth tooth this week. The first time it happened I gained a huge warm glow from the thundering feet into my room in the early morning accompanied by shouts of pure joy: "Mummeeee, it worked, she came!", but four teeth in and I'm half-expecting her to become jaded by the regularity of the tooth fairy's night-time visits.

So much so that I very nearly almost forgot to swop tooth for coin in the night. I even got as far as getting into bed and closing my eyes before sitting bolt upright and stumbling into the girls' bedroom to carry out this essential duty.

So when she came into my room - wailing this time: "She didn't come!", I was more than taken aback. And not just because this was happening at an hour I'd rather not see. In the back of my mind I started to think that maybe I had dreamt the bit where I remembered and got back up to be the tooth fairy. Maybe I had actually forgotten after all? I went into her room to check under the pillow, leaving her to mourn the loss of her tooth in my room. After a few minutes of fruitless searching I started to work out a plan for an unnoticed run downstairs to where my coin stash would be, trying to think up my story as I went - this had to be good enough to convince three and five year old that I hadn't just popped downstairs to get another coin.

I managed to do this and carried on in a pantomime-style: "Come and just have one more look, you never know..." This was followed by her reluctantly coming back in, lifting the pillow and exclaiming: "Oh, look, she brought me two coins, I was only kidding before."

Doh. Outdone by a five year old on the subterfuge front. Now what happens for tooth five? The art of deceipt is clearly beyond me.

All ideas gratefully received.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Daytripping

School holiday again this week so arranged to meet up with a friend for a day out. As you may have read somewhere on here before I am not a big fan of driving for lots of reasons. Small children in the backs of cars scare me when I am in the driving seat, especially on motorways, and then of course there's the green factor. So we set off to Manchester, aiming for the Museum of Science and Industry, with a bus and two trains ahead of us.

It has been a while since we've done a day out of this nature, so the girls were excited at the prospect of buses and trains and of seeing my friend at the other end of the journey. First bus went well, first train was a bit hairy as I had forgotten how busy that service can be, and we ended up sitting on the floor by the doors for the first half of the journey. Eventually we found seats, with me perched between the two of them trying not to 'bother' the man next to us who was trying to work on his laptop. The girls were great though and oblivious to the potential discomfort due to the lack of seats and space.

Then there was the fact that I had chosen to meet in a city that has more than one station and crossed communication with my friend meant that we were headed for different stations... oops, my fault entirely. We met up in time for the second train across town though, to Deansgate and a short walk from the museum. Well, it would have been a short walk if we had been able to read the tiny sign perched on the opposite side of the road from the station instead of setting off in the opposite direction. Being unopposed to asking for directions we soon got back on the right track and raced each other back to the museum.

Arriving, younger child was already past feeding time and so we headed straight for the museum eatery. I was not expecting much as my experience of museum cafes told me not to. However I had decided before setting off that I would for once spend money rather than taking extra time to organise a picnic and then have to cart it around all day, so we stopped off at the second floor for sandwiches and food-related stroppiness. In between mouthfuls the girls spotted a little steam train taking people for rides outside and - amazingly given that we had already been on two trains that day - they got quite excited about the prospect of going for a ride.

Once tummies had been filled we went into the experiment gallery at MOSI. This is packed full of things to touch, smell, feel and twiddle. I think my five year old could have spent most of the day in there, there is so much to do and see just in that small section of the museum, but obviously three year old was by this point fixated on the 'little blue train' so our time was limited to the limits of patience of a three year old. Favourite for five year old was turning a steering wheel to operate a pulley which pulled a real Mini (car!) up and down a vertical board. "Mummy I moved the car!" and three year old loved the giant bubble blower. Personally, I loved the large black inverted globe which cast a 3D reflection - so you could put one hand into the globe and see an image of you shaking your own hand, surreal.

Obviously the next thing to do was find our way to the 'little blue train' as requested. It is amazing the fascination children of all ages have for steam trains (as proven by the number of grown men working as 'volunteers' on this particular service). Whilst waiting the girls were getting a little giddy and three year old ran into the little fence in her excitement. She ran back down to me crying: "Oh, where did you hurt yourself honey?", I asked, which prompted her, not, as I had expected, to show me the bit of her head that hurt, but to run back up and point to the exact spot of the fence that was responsible. Trying not to laugh now: "No, where on your head honey?" Ah poor thing, she wasn't badly hurt let me reassure you! The ride was fun as expected but unfortunately we had already run out of time for further exploration.

We headed back through the textile gallery and talked about coming back again sometime to meet up as we had only seen a small portion of the museum and it had been a fun experience.

The journey home was another two trains and a bus, this time with seats all the way. We waved goodbye to my friend at Deansgate from the opposite platform. Highlight of the journey home has to be the moment when five year old stepped onto the travelator (moving platform) that was going in the opposite direction to the one that me and three year old were standing on. She began by walking very fast with an expression on her face that conveyed complete confusion. She just looked as though she really couldn't understand why she was having to walk really fast while we were standing still. Perhaps you had to be there but it was very funny.

Arriving home I felt such a surge of pride for my girls. Apart from a few little blips they had been so good on the journeys and throughout the trip, it had been lovely to see my friend and spend a really fun day with my two lovely daughters. I spent a fortune but the memories of days like that one are priceless.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Quote of the day

Bedtime. Repeatedly asking eldest to go to the toilet before getting into bed. Reluctantly she eventually makes her way to the bathroom, from where I hear her grumbling: "I'm not your servant, you know."

Made me laugh.

Not posted for a while, been a bit down, but now I'm remembering to laugh at the little things again so things are clearly on the way back up again.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Cramming it in

I know I have said before that I like to keep things simple - well above all this applies to the way we entertain our children.

On the way to pick five year old up from school my three year old (didn't post anything about her birthday but yes she's three now) was collecting sticks along the way. "This one's for you mummy, this one's for my sister", etc. I think it's a wonderful knack that young children have to be able to entertain themselves with the simplest of things. But it seems we in our busy 21st century lives are intent on training our children out of this knack. Instead of encouraging them to find things to do we usher them from one external entertainment to another.

For example: I have just had one of five year old's friends round for tea who was picked up not long before my kids' bathtime and rushed off to Rainbows. This is one of three organised activities she does in a week, the others being swimming and ballet. I have mixed feelings about all this rushing around, most of it by car obviously. For this year at the very least I haven't signed five year old up to any clubs or classes. Part of me feels that I am letting her down by not taking her to ballet, swimming, music lessons or gym, but another part of me feels that there is no need for a child of that age to have so much going on in their life. And given that she now spends five days a week in the school environment then I also feel that she needs some time to simply be. I am not criticising other parents by writing this, there's a very strong chance that in ten years time I'll be hearing the regular refrain: "and you never even let me go to ballet when I was in Primary school!!".

Clearly mine is a very middle class dilemma, if I were living on the breadline struggling to make my rent payments I wouldn't even be giving this a thought.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Weekend in the sun

I had been feeling an urge to see the sea so I decided to take the plunge (no, not actually IN the sea, I'm talking about the East coast of Britain here) and book somewhere to stay with the girls for the first weekend of the Easter holidays. Last summer we took quite a few trips together, mostly to see friends, but it has been a while since we travelled anywhere together and although the thought made me a little nervous, I really wanted to do it.

Well, I am so glad we did. I found a converted farm property at Boggle Hole, which is close to Robin Hood's Bay, that had availability (www.southhousefarm.co.uk). My Mum said she'd like to join us for most of the stay, and my sister said she'd come up for a day too. Whilst getting ready for even a three day trip was something like preparing to climb Mount Everest (or so I imagine, clearly this is not something I have ever done) once we were on the road I felt a sense of achievement and excitement at the thought of taking a nearly three year old and a five year old to the seaside. Children this age love the sea - or at least I have never met one that doesn't.

Admittedly there were a few moments on the journey when I began to think that I had, in fact, momentarily lost the last remaining dregs of my sanity. Particularly as the girls have rather different music taste and were expressing this in a very vocal manner. This particular argument was definitely fuelled by my rash decision earlier in the week to buy some cheesy music for five year old to sing along to in the form of Abba Gold. Why oh why I did that I will never really understand. Yes she loves it, but only if you play Dancing Queen followed by Mamma Mia followed by Dancing Queen followed by... you get the picture. And it seems I had forgotten just how bad that music really is (apologies to Abba fans if you're reading, it's just not my thing). Two year old on the other hand wanted a lullaby that's on a CD produced by two members of Tindersticks and sung by Robert Forster - I'd like to say her taste is already more sophisticated but I fear that smacks of favouritism and I don't mean it that way. Anyway I seem to have been sidetracked by my meanderings about our journey when I really wanted to write about our lovely weekend.

We arrived at the house: "Mummy, it's a topsy-turvy house! The bedrooms are downstairs and the kitchen is upstairs." I then had about 15 minutes of sheer panic as I misplaced my car keys and therefore couldn't get anything out of the boot (they were on the dashboard by the way): "Mummy when can we go to the beach? Mummy, can we go to the beach yet? Mummy, why can't we go to the beach yet?" Aaaarrrggghhh. But once I'd found them and grabbed a towel and changes of clothes - oh yes, and buckets and spades, and wellies of course (I'll remind you this is the East coast of Britain), we set off down the hill.

Part of the beauty of Boggle Hole is that it is completely devoid of external attractions. By that I mean it simply is a sheltered pebbly bay at the bottom of a road. No crazy golf, no slot machines, no fairground rides and - dare I say it - not even any ice cream for sale. The girls loved it. We paddled and froze our feet. We collected shells, pebbles and seaweed. We searched for crabs. We smiled. In such a setting there is no need to try and entertain children in the way that we seem to do constantly in our society, they can simply be, exploring and discovering for themselves.

Later my Mum arrived, which brought more excitement, and the next day was spent with her and my sister's family. We even had sun. Perfect.

Two days later I was driving home - girls asleep, one clutching a peanut butter sandwich, the other a bucket of 'treasures' - and I was moved to streams of tears. Don't think by this that I felt bad, my sadness was a complicated one but it has its root in a deep sense of how fortunate I am right now. I was internally thanking my Dad, who died in 2002, for teaching me about the pleasure that the simplest things can bring. I will always be happiest in the open air, in simple and uncluttered surroundings, and whilst at that point the memory of Dad brought tears and a sense of loss for those few moments, I know that something of him stays with me. And I also know that there is something of him in my two wonderfully funny, charismatic and adventurous little girls.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Questions, questions, questions

"Mummy, how do you make everything in the world?"; asked by my five year old this morning before leaving for school.
"Well, (think quickly now) Everything is made differently so that is a very hard question to answer honey."
"Oh. Well, how do you make this then?" You might think that would have made it easier, shame she happened to be holding a boomerang at the time.

Walking to school we had an even more surreal three-way conversation. Five year old was telling me about the 'Mona Lisa' and how it was painted by a man called Leonardo hundreds of years ago: "Why did some people live hundreds of years ago mummy?"
Answers on a postcard please.
In the other ear (simultaneously, obviously): "Mummy, mummy, mummy, mummy, I saw a digger."
Cool. I love it. Wish I had the capacity to remember it all, every single word of every single day.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Rescue Princess

I am a little over-excited about my daughters' new favourite dressing up character. It seems that five year old has invented 'Rescue Princess' (to be read in a superheroine fashion with one fist in the air and and an aura of confidence of the type that comes from being invincible). I believe I have mentioned before that my girls love all the sparkly pink stuff that comes with being young and female these days and sometimes I get more than a little irritated by the simpering 'princess' tones and attitudes that seem to accompany this pinkness. So I am very pleased that 'Rescue Princess' has appeared. She seems capable of pretty much anything you would expect from a superhero, and is especially fond of conquests that involve dragons. Let's hope she sticks around for a while.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Tired and emotional

It is hard to explain how tired I feel at times, or how overwhelming this task of being a 'single mum' can be. I think it is unlikely that any one person can ever really understand another on this kind of level. Yesterday I felt very down and rather stressed. My two year old - whilst being loving, happy and fun to be with the overwhelming majority of the time - is approaching the age of three and has started being rather stroppy at some points in the mornings. Hopefully this will pass as all these 'phases' do, but at the moment this mainly manifests itself in two fairly hard-to-cope-with ways.

Firstly, she is unhappy about having to sit in a pushchair on the way to school, and makes this clear by getting in and out several times, usually ending in me strapping her in amongst tears and shouting because we are running out of time. Obviously at two it is hard for her to understand that we have to be some places at a set time, and most of the time I can stay calm, but it does try my patience. And this is usually after she has decided to strip completely naked in order to go to the toilet at about 8.15am. Reading these things back it sounds like nothing at all to have to cope with, but at times it feels impossible.

I know I have so much to be grateful for. Two beautiful, kind,caring and healthy children. A house of my own. A life in a country that offers relative freedom for a woman in my position. A certain degreee of financial security. Laughs, cuddles and giggles on a daily basis.

But that does not stop me from occasionally wondering if I can really keep on doing this on a daily basis? I will, of course, I have no choice, but maybe it is just possible that this everlasting tiredness will eventually eat away at the years I have left. Sometimes I catch myself counting the years until the girls are old enough to cope with life on their own. Am I going to make it that far? And how far is that exactly? Age fifteen? Eighteen? Twenty?

An early night tonight I think. And some more positive thoughts tomorrow.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

The younger woman

I can remember a scene from a film that was always on my favourites list called "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe", in which Kathy Bates' character drives her car repeatedly into a shiny new sports car belonging to two younger, well-preened women. I can't fully remember what prompted this; it was something to do with a parking space I think, but I do remember that as she drove away she shouted out to them something along the lines of: "Why did I do that? Because I'm older than you and I have more car insurance." Now clearly in the face of disastrous climate change I cannot possibly condone this kind of irresponsible behaviour, and in my current financial state I would hardly be crowing about my insurance rates, but I am definitely getting to an age and life stage where I can relate to the sentiments she expressed.

As someone who works and has two young children I struggle to find time for things that might be considered an extravagance, such as getting a haircut for example. Well this week I'd finally got to the point where I can hardly see out through my fringe and as I have been feeling rather frumpy of late I decided to go for it, find time and get a style update. The only time I could squeeze in an appointment though meant I had to ask work if it was ok to stretch my lunch hour, which they were ok about. I recall having a long discussion with the ever-so much younger woman at the hair salon reception desk about when we could find a mutually agreeable time before writing the agreed time in my diary.

So imagine turning up at said salon (this is after realising I had left my purse at home and needed to rush back to get it) only to find out that the lovely younger woman had not even written the appointment in the diary. Grrrr. Did I get an apology? No, just a vague stare and a patronising tone of: "Well I haven't written it down, are you sure we said today?" In my head I replied with an equally patronising tone: "Yes honey we did say today, you clearly were too busy talking to your friend to write it down." Although in reality I left the salon speechless and feeling rather deflated.

Oh well, I guess I have a date with my kitchen scissors to look forward to and will have to find some other way of boosting confidence. Bleargh.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

A day off

This week is my five year old's half-term holiday so I booked today off work in order to take two year old into nursery as usual and have a full day alone with my big girl. It is always a tough one - balancing the needs of both children, I have no idea how people do it with more than two. Of course I did have a few pangs of guilt dropping off my younger daughter, as she's obviously old enough to cotton onto what is happening around her, but I reasoned that she gets a fair amount of one-to-one time during term-time.

I had planned to take a train trip to a local town as a small-scale day out but it was rather a wet day and so we scaled down our plans. I followed her lead and we painted pictures and then made pancakes for lunch. We also did some things that you might not expect to be on a five year old girl's list of things to do when not at school; I needed to take apart a shelving unit that was blocking up the kitchen, so she unscrewed that for me, enjoying every minute. At one point I did wonder if we would get out at all - in fact we had a rather ridiculous discussion when she announced she wanted to "stay at home and tidy up". In hindsight I think she just wanted to help and to be like mummy for the day, as when I sulkily (yes, I know I'm the adult but it was my day off too!) said something along the lines off: "Well if we're staying at home I'm just going to sort out this laundry then and you can do whatever you want." (Pathetic, I know, I'm ashamed.) She then followed me and without a word started hanging wet clothes on the drying maiden. Oh, sweetheart.

Eventually we did go out for an hour or so though, to a local attraction where the queues were several feet deep. On seeing the number of people there I did wonder if I oughtn't to have listened to my wise daughter, but we had fun once we got in. And there was a face painter inside (more queues obviously) - always a winner.

It probably wasn't until about an hour later when we had picked up two year old from nursery that I really appreciated how lovely it had been to spend a day alone with my elder child. Don't get me wrong I love both my children dearly and equally, but it is still good to actually manage to have a full conversation with one of them with no interruptions. On the way back home my car started to overheat so I opened up the bonnet ready to check the radiator as soon as we pulled into the drive. Two year old announced she needed the toilet, I had frozen food in the boot of the car and my phone rang within about five seconds of opening the car doors. We got inside, both children throwing off coats and shoes in random directions as they walked in, both simultaneously asking for different items from the bag of shopping I was carrying in whilst also helping them up the steps and answering the phone and keeping an eye on the open car... Phew.

Overall a good day though.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Toilet humour

Both girls seem to synchronise their toilet habits fairly often at the moment, which can lead to some rather amusing conversations overheard from outside the bathroom.

This morning both sat doing their business (one on toilet, one on potty) chatting away. Then they start taking it in turn to tell each other 'jokes' like some kind of bizarre parody of a comedy double act. This is something they have really cottoned onto since pulling open several crackers at Christmas.

The favourite starter tends to be a variation of a joke that went: "Why did the apple go to hospital? Because he wasn't peeling very well." Despite the fact that they have recited various variations of this over and over the telling always elicits peals of giggles from both girls each time.

This morning two year old stretched her version into: "Why did the poo go to London? (the poo always makes an appearance at some point in the proceedings) Because he had to go to hospital." Apparently this was hilarious rather than simply surreal.

Yawn

After I had offered to look after a third child for the day today I did begin to wonder whether I have finally completely lost the plot. Let's face it there are days when I struggle to make it through to bedtime with two children to run around after, never mind adding another into the equation. And never mind the fact that I had previously only ever seen this child at the school doors, being ushered in and out of class.

As it turned out today was a lovely day. Admittedly the first half an hour or so after she arrived I was counting down the hours wondering how we would fill the day, but all three girls got on really well, and this was helped by the fact that our visitor was an absolute pleasure to have around. She was completely unphased by the fact that she was spending the day at a new house, with a strange adult, she made sure little sister was included in the games and she was polite and positive throughout the day. How lovely.

I think the extra responsibility has done me in though. I have no idea how teachers keep their eye on an entire class from 9am through to 3pm five days a week. Personally, I am even more tired than usual just from the fact of knowing there was an extra child here. In fact by teatime I was so exhausted I was rushing my two up for a bath by 5.30 just to get closer to the end of the day, rather earlier than usual. And now I think I will follow their early lead and get myself to bed too. Hopefully I can get a couple of hours in before the night-time bed-swopping begins anew...

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Growing up

At the weekend we tried practicing some words the teacher had highlighted by writing the same word onto two pieces of paper and then matching the pairs up. At least that was my admittedly rather simple idea. But by the time I'd finished sorting out two year old's breakfast demands, five year old had drawn matching pictures to go with the words, coloured them in and sorted them into a much more sophisticated game of snap. These little things make me realise that my haphazard 'craft' sessions and unsophisticated painting style may not be sufficient to satisfy my children's developing standards for much longer. It also makes me realise more than ever how quickly they grow up and away from us.

This afternoon the elder child went to a friend's for tea after school. This is a fairly normal occurrence, but it wasn't until school pick-up time had been and gone that I really started to think about all this new socialising. There was my baby going off to a home that I have never set foot in, without any guidance or support (or interference) from me whatsoever. We modern-day parents are always being accused - amongst other things - of wrapping our kids up in cotton wool, but on this occasion I felt almost reckless. I had a home phone number and a first name, but other than that I only had a general sense that the mum seemed friendly and genuine. Is it ok to let your child go somewhere you have never been, and what things should make me think twice about allowing her to go to a stranger's house?

Of course she came back safe and sound - and reassuringly grumpy for the pre-teen five year old that she sometimes is. In fact during the handover I even seem to have offered to look after the friend in question while her mum is at work all day next Monday, so it's entirely possible that she's now sitting at home pondering the exact same questions as I.

Friday, 6 February 2009

I'd rather be large than smart

There is a children's television programme that my two enjoy called 'The Large Family'. It follows the fortunes of a family of elephants called, funnily enough, the Large family. There are four kids and two adults in this family, and the programme reflects the average chaotic nature of family life. I tend not to share my kids' taste in television, but occasionally I quite like to join them for this one as it offers a kind of therapy by proving that tidiness and organisation can quite happily go to pot in a home without any loss of love, kindness and warmth.

At the Large family home there is never a meal-time when no-one spills anything, never a two-way conversation in which everyone waits for the others to finish speaking before taking their turn, and things are forgotten and misplaced with the kind of regularity that I can truly identify with. ("Water bottle? Oh sorry I've forgotten it again honey... ask the teacher for a cup of water if you are thirsty.")

Next-door to the Large family live the Smart family. Life in their household is very different. The cupboards are never bare, the boy-child is always obedient, and you get the feeling they would lose their own heads before forgetting to take their water-bottles to school.

There was one episode in which a boy from the Smart family came for a sleepover at the Large house. I don't remember the full course of the programme but I do remember his shock at breakfast time when Mrs Large told him to put juice on his cereal because she'd forgotten to buy milk. Ha ha, the poor lad was distraught. I don't mean to sound cruel when I say that, but surely the children growing up amongst chaos, learning to make do and adapt are going to be better equipped for life in the real world than the poor boy who thinks you should always be able to see the pattern on a carpet and that crumb-free surfaces are the key to happiness?

Life is too short for colour-coding socks. Our children are young enough to find the world a wonderful place for such a short time and I don't believe anyone ever looked back at their childhood and thanked their lucky stars that their childhood home was clean and tidy. Keep on top of the essentials of course, but make time for enjoying the chaos too.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/largefamily/

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Missing my blog

My internet hub gave up the ghost over Christmas - which explains my recent lack of posts. I don't mind admitting that I am really missing this outlet though, it is rather cathartic to get some of the madness of the day down on paper, and also forces me to think back over the more positive and amusing things that happen in the course of an average day.

Hopefully I will be back online soon but for now I will just add this brief post. Living with two small children I do sometimes wonder whether my voice is ever really heard. The other day at bedtime I had been repeatedly asking five year old to put her pyjamas on for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually she replied in an exaggerated exasperated tone: "Oh, go on then, if you exist."

Well I do wonder sometimes.