Monday, 1 September 2014

Never Mind....

It's the last day of the summer term and the kids are delirious with glee and you're not far behind them. You wander home happily singing "School's Out" whilst improbably balancing 879 random pieces of crap, many of which appear to be recreations of castles of England (all of them) made out of cornflake boxes. You drop them in the recycling box as you go through the door.

Never mind, because as you contemplate the summer weeks stretching ahead without the need to find uniform, wash uniform, iron uniform and unearth last week's sports kit from beneath the cat bed, you quietly celebrate that there will be no more early morning lunch box making or frantic school runs. No more pretending last night's smudged mascara and mismatched shoes are the latest fashion trend or that you really have to make a highly important phone call when Chatty Mum hoves into view.

Revelling in the freedom from the tyranny of the school routine, you very carefully spend days collecting, washing, ironing and putting every last item of uniform away anyway.

Never mind because you can look forward to luxuriating in a daily lie in. Unfortunately the children are still running on school time and drag you out of bed complaining they're "bored" as soon as the sun is up.

Never mind because you've cunningly pre-planned a range of activities and days out to enjoy as a family. Though the family flatly refuse to have anything to do with any of them because they're "boring", but never mind, because you make them do them anyway.

They sulk. They complain vociferously and continuously. They tell you all the other things they would rather be doing instead, all of which involve staying at home, wearing pyjamas and looking at screens. They drag their feet, scuff their shoes and stare morosely ahead refusing to be engaged or entertained. They say they are "bored" for the 797th time.

Never mind because by the time you straggle home totally beleaguered by their constant moans and sulks and complaints, they'll surely be exhausted and eager for bed.... Surely.

Unfortunately they're not tired.  They're never going to be tired again. And they don't want to go to bed because it's the school holidays. It's still light outside and they're NOT TIRED, although they may well be "bored". Eventually one falls asleep halfway up the stairs having yo-yoed out of bed for the 27th time and the other spends the entire night playing with a phone under the bedcovers.

Never mind, because tomorrow is another day. Though when it arrives it is just like the previous day, but never mind, because by now you've forgotten what day it is and the children are almost feral.

Never mind, because soon the holidays will be over. You try to shop for shoes that meet all uniform requirements but aren't "Boring."* You fail.

Never mind because soon it will be the first day back at school. Although you can't find any of the uniform you carefully washed, ironed and put away at the beginning of the holidays. You do, however, find an ancient lunchbox with a partially digested yoghurt capable of  waging bacterial warfare and half a ton of undone holiday homework.

Never mind, because tomorrow is the first day back at school. Never mind that their (newly completed) Holiday Diary reveals the highlight of their summer was not cleaning their teeth AT ALL. Or that their uniform labels had their names written on with a Sharpie pen 55 seconds before leaving for the school run. Or that you forgot to buy anything to go into a lunchbox and had to make do with three dry crackers and a wilted Jaffa Cake. Or that you've got mismatched shoes and smudged eyeliner and Chatty Mum has just hoved into view.

Never mind, because they were the school holidays and you survived. Well done.
*passes gin*

*There are no such shoes. Fact.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Feeling Tyred ...

As part of the eternal quest to find something entertaining to fill the school summer holidays, you might be forgiven for thinking I have taken leave of my senses, ignored all pertinent health and safety guidelines and introduced the offspring to the local scrapyard as their new playground. 

I haven't.

Instead we went to visit the latest art installation/ exhibition at The Calder, part of The Hepworth, Wakefield. YARD 1961/2014 is the work of American artist Allan Kaprow and until August 31, The Calder is hosting the first re-invention of the iconic YARD environment in the UK. Public participation is absolutely encouraged and visitors are invited to involve themselves by climbing on, through and in piles and piles, and piles, of tyres. After having read and signed the safety guidelines of course, obviously.

The Boy and The Tween had enormous fun building a tyre igloo and a tunnel as well as climbing, clambering and generally cavorting through, on and over the tyres ...

The tyres, all of which are proper (locally sourced, though not necessarily from a scrapyard) tyres, are all are proper grubby too so if you're thinking of exploring this iconic piece of the 1961 New York art scene, I'd take a damp flannel and some old clothes.

Allan Kaprow's YARD 1961-2014 is at The Calder, Wakefield, until August 31st. Admission is free.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Top Ten: The Best of Children's TV, 1995 - 2014

I've seen a lot of young children's TV over the past 18 years, and I mean a lot. When you have twins five years before having the next child and then wait another five before the last of the brood, you end up in a pre-school TV time loop that, through programmes that come and go, seems to go on forever.

Now The TeenTwins are 18, The Tween 12 and The Boy, eight, we have put away childish TV things and moved on but the memories stubbornly linger on. And not just for me, TeenTwin1 quakes with horror at Rosie and Jim. Still.

I know this because, in a fit of family summer unity, we threw ourselves into reliving the highs and the lows of children's TV over the past 18 years and came up with our very own best of children's programmes that we all remember. So, in no particular order.....

The Best of Children's TV 1995-2014

1: Thomas the Tank Engine.
Who doesn't love Thomas the Tank Engine? The TeenTwins did, The Tween did even more and The Boy, with access to an entire shelf of Thomas the Tank Engine videos and DVDs spanning 11 years, couldn't help but be enamoured either. We all prefer the Ringo Starr voice-over era though, because we're rock and roll like that.

2: 64 Zoo Lane.
For the theme tune. Sheer ear-worming genius... *sings* 

3: Come Outside.
A middle-aged woman, a dog and a spotty plane. What's not to like? Come Outside was thoroughly educational, I learned how pencils were made for one thing. Though the children were probably eating their own socks at the time.

4: Pingu.
None of us understood it. But none of us cared. It's also mostly down to Pingu that The Boy has 12 cuddly penguins and a real one, adopted through the World Wildlife Fund.

5: The Teletubbies.
The Teletubbies were the first TV phenomenon we were ever caught up in .The cuddly equivalent of the characters were the present to give at Christmas when the TeenTwins were small, and the fight to get one sometimes got literal in the aisles of Asda. Though Grandma did eventually emerge, relatively unscathed, with a Dipsy and a Po.
We made Tubby Toast, we ate pink custard, we called the vacuum the NooNoo (we still do) and said Eh Ho a lot (we still do). We loved The Teletubbies (We still do, though TeenTwin2 totally blamesTinky Winky for the number of Gay Best Friends she has).

6: Ben and Holly.
Regardless of the fact that Ben and Holly didn't hit our screens until 2009 when The Boy was three and the TeenTwins 15, Ben and Holly rapidly became one of our favourite must watch children's programmes. In fact, shh, I have been know to sit and watch it with no children in the room, it is that good and one day I hope to survive a jelly flood of my very own.

7: Tikkabilla.
Tikkabilla was basically the Playschool I remembered from when I was young though Brian Cant had been replaced by Justin Fletcher, a fitting and worthy successor (there is no higher accolade that I can bestow, by the way) . It even had the windows *sighs with nostalgia* but it was bigger, better and Hamble had sodded off taking Humpty Dumpty, Big and Little Ted, and Jemima with her. Hurrah. I still have nightmares about Hamble *shudders*

8: The Fimbles.
The Tween when she was small caught The Fimble wave. It was brief and it crashed, probably obscured by The Tweenies success *rolls eyes* But The Fimbles were fun, magical and ever so slightly bonkers, entirely explaining why The Tween is The Tween she is today. *Stares hard at Roly Mo*

9: Pocoyo
There are no words to explain the awesomeness of  Pocoyo. For a brief period of time, when The Boy was small, I did try to find a small blue suit for said Boy so he would be my own little Pocoyo. It's is a blessing, probably, that I never did. But, still, Pocoyo....


10: Fireman Sam.
Despite the first series finishing before the TeenTwins were born and the newer, supposedly, improved* Fireman Sam not reappearing until 4 years after the birth of the Tween, the lovable hero next door was much adored by all.
And while I was constantly appalled that no one thought to give the crime wave that was Norman Price a serious talking to, I still wave at passing fire engines in excitement....until I remember all the children are in school and I'm stood in a street all on my own waving at random men in uniform.

*Not improved, we much preferred the original version.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Surviving The School Summer Holidays, An Essential Guide.

Spending a whole six weeks with the same group of people is a challenge and it's even worse when you've given birth to those people, because you have no one else to blame but yourself. So when the school holidays hove into view you should prepare yourself with some essentials to aid survival...

1: Gin
Lots and lots and lots of gin. For you, not for them.

2: Wine
Because it's frowned upon to drink gin before teatime but perfectly permissible to glug down a bottle of wine for lunch.

3: Earplugs.
To drown out their incessant moaning about being bored and having nothing to do, despite their possessing the equivalent of three toy shops and an electronics store.

4: A List of Chores
So you can give them something to do when they're moaning about being bored and having nothing to do. It's remarkable how soon they will find something to entertain themselves with if you say the bathroom tiles could do with a wipe down.

5: A List of Fun Family Activities.
That they will refuse to do, take part in or enjoy, but at least you'll feel like you made an effort.

6: Doting Grandparents.
So you can dump them with them in the sure knowledge they will never tell anyone what absolute horrors you've given birth to.

7: A Profanity Filter.
Because you don't  *bleep* want them learning more new words in the *bleep* summer than they did in the entire *bleep* school year.

8: Throat Sweets.
For when you've bleeped yourself hoarse.

9: The Patience of a Saint.

10: Tissues
Lots and lots of tissues, because there will be tears. Probably yours. (see all the above)

Good luck.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Sock Horror ...

Socks are the very bane of my life. The Boy's socks more than anyone else's.

The Tween, in secondary school,  is trussed daily into 40 denier black tights regardless of the weather. The TeenTwins, having left school, barely get out of their onesies long enough to trouble the sock drawer, but The Boy wears socks every day. He needs socks and I need them to be in pairs. And they are never in pairs.

I don't know whether the washing machine eats them or The Boy eats them, but his collection of socks has grown ever singular. At the last count, there was 17 solo socks in his sock drawer. Seventeen. Seven. Teen.

Socks of the singular variety
It was then I had a brainwave.

My thought processes ran thus: If I buy lots of socks of the same pattern, there will always be a pair of matching socks. So I did. I bought lots of black socks and then I bought some patterned socks, three packs of the same patterned socks and proceeded to feel quite smug.

Socks of smugness

What could possibly go wrong? 

I'll tell what can go wrong. There may always a pair of socks to hand of a morning, but because there are many, many pairs of the same socks it's hard to tell if the socks The Boy has on one day are different socks from the socks he had on the day before.

But it was only, while excavating a small mountain of Lego and penguins, I discovered the full horror of my sock strategy. I unearthed a small hoard of socks, all matching and in pairs admittedly, but far too clean to have gone through the daily rigours of The Boy's life.

I looked at The Boy's grubby sock clad feet, I looked at the hoard of perfectly clean, unworn, unsullied socks. I looked at The Boy's feet again. I looked at The Boy.

Five days he'd gone in the same pair of socks. FIVE DAYS. He was even proud about it.

Tomorrow I'm buying more socks, in many, many colours.

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