Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Pain of Uniformity ..

Today I have like all good mothers *cough* been uniform shopping for the new school year which although it starts on Monday (for The Boy a least) is not cutting it fine at all. At. All..... Right?

The TeenTwins, starting Year 13 on Tuesday, don't need a uniform as such because they're allowed to wear "appropriate business wear." Appropriate to what business is not specified but I suspect when the TeenTwins appear for their first day there might be some quick adjustments to the meanings of "appropriate," "business" and, indeed, "wear" in the Academy rules.*Rolls eyes*

But for The Tween, starting Year 8 on Wednesday, and The Boy who's starting Junior school, new uniform is required for the new school year. And while Other Mothers can charge down to the nearest supermarket, purchase an entire uniform for £3.50 and still have money left over for the traditional back to school bottle of champagne and a string of bunting, The Boy attends a school where the uniform is not black, grey or even blue, but brown.


Do you know how many popular supermarkets supply brown uniform trousers? Do you? DO YOU? Answer: None.
Or at least not round here they don't. The Boy's school, it appears, being the ONLY school in the whole district that when confronted with a choice of uniform colours thought: "Mmm, shitty brown. That'll be nice"

Luckily *sarcastic face* there are a couple of specialised uniform shops in the city centre who do stock the school's brown uniform. Though they stock it at three to four times the price of what the supermarkets charge. Obviously.

Last year The Boy managed to tear, rip or hole the right knee of each of the EIGHT pairs of brown trousers I had purchased over that year at the specialised uniform shop's inflated prices. Not the left knees though. Only the right. Which was odd.

But at least the yellow polo shirts to go with the uniform's brown trousers, coincidentally making the playground look like a gathering of angry wasps, can be purchased at a reasonable price in the supermarkets. I am also grateful that having already seen three girls go through the same school, I have an abundance of the brown school sweatshirts (thankfully unisex) required. The Boy hasn't complained at being called by any of his sisters' names once either. Well, not yet.

Note to self: get new labels 

And it's a good job I can make a saving somewhere as not any element of The Tween's uniform comes cheap because The Academy, apparently in some Faustian pact with a uniform manufacturer, insists the uniform, all of the uniform, must contain The Academy logo.

This purple swirl logo, as well as being emblazoned on the blazer pocket, is also sewn into the sleeves of the blouses and shirts, the chests of jumpers, the hems of skirts and trouser waistbands. Even, God help us all, the sports socks required for PE are specified socks and none other that those socks will do.

And such attention to detail does not come cheap though to be fair when the school first changed to an Academy, each pupil (including the TeenTwins) was presented with a full complement of the new uniform for free. Which was nice. Nicer still that last year they continued the tradition (through European funding) and issued one set of uniform to all the new intake of year sevens, one of whom was The Tween, again for free.

Year Sevens do grow at an alarming rate though, or at least mine has, and so approaching Year Eight that uniform is already a fond and distant memory. Apart *cough* from the blazer which was slightly bigger than necessarily required when it was ordered, The Tween will outgrow it eventually of course. When she's about 45 I'm guessing. Well, have you SEEN the price of blazers?

Unfortunately The Tween drew the line at spending her first year at secondary school swamped in a whole uniform three sizes too big, even if it was free. And so I have spent good money on more of the Academy's speculatively-priced uniform which is of no better quality than the ones knocked out in the supermarkets but does have that all important bit of embroidered logo on it.

So my purse is apparently gleefully and purposefully fleeced every time my child grows an extra inch or loses a sports sock. (And she loses a lot of sports socks, at least a football team's worth). I feel, whether I should or not, like a victim of organised extortion.

I don't see the point of it either. The only thing such stringency of uniform regulations has achieved in all my three girls is a fear of not having the right logo (not something I want to actively encourage, thank you very much) and then, when those stringent rules relax, they don't take an inch, they take a mile. And mostly off their skirt. (I refer you back to paragraph 2).

So it IS probably a good job I wait until the very last dying days of the school's summer holiday to restock on uniform because, at this stage, there is NO price I will not pay to get them out of the house back to school. Even if it means I have to sell a limb.

But, you know, still: Damn.

*Sells a limb*

Monday, 26 August 2013

Things I Have Learned This Summer ...

It is, finally, the last week of the school summer holidays. Traditionally the week where we try to pack in all those things we promised ourselves we were going to do in the holidays and, um, didn't.

It's also the week, traditionally, when I start to make a vague attempt to revert the family back to the routine hours of the school year instead of keeping holiday hours. A feat that this year just might mean adjusting the planet a bit to the left. Or is it right. *Sighs* 

Oh and it's also, traditionally, the week when I suddenly remember that all my good intentions to buy new uniform in plenty of time for the new school year and put it away neatly with all other school related items remained a good intention, and nothing else.

*Surreptitiously retrieves school blazer from behind the sofa, brushes it down a bit*

But out of school for the summer there's still been something to glean and these are the lessons I have learned over the past five weeks:

1. We have, after careful study, calibrated the acceptable alcohol capacity of TeenTwin1. She is able to imbibe about two thirds of a bottle of homemade peach wine (abv: massive) and be witty, chatty and animated. Anything over two thirds leads to her learning some valuable life lessons of her own. Like how to stay flat in a bed when the room is spinning and where we keep the cleaning equipment in the bathroom.*Tuts*

2. After uncountable years of disparaging TeenTwin2's fixation with make-up; the amount of make-up she owns, the amount of make-up she buys and the amount of make-up she wears, I've discovered she can, after 20 mins of brush wielding, make me look 15 years younger.
*Swallows words*

3. How to Twerk and do the Slut-Drop. Dance moves I shall be employing at every available opportunity for the foreseeable future. Sorry about that.

4. Who Jenna Marbles is. I love Jenna Marbles.

5. Even when I KNOW it's a man in a dinosaur suit, I will shriek like a girl if it/he comes towards me. Personally I blame too much Jurassic Park. *Tries to look dignified*

6. How much of a field in Leeds can fit on to the kitchen floor after a music festival.
Answer: Most of it.

7. And that there are only so many times you can take a seven-year-old boy to A&E without beginning to feel they think you're either an over-anxious mother or a safety risk. Three times in as many months since you're asking.
On our last visit (finger trapped in a bus window) I even took along a TeenTwin as a defensive move. I didn't actually say out loud: "And here's one I prepared earlier who's required no medical treatment at all during the past 17 years" but I think they got the message*.

And last, but not least

8. Never to go out on a family outing without carrying Gin in a Tin. *Nods wisely*

Indispensable travel accessory, no 1.

* Didn't notice.

What have you learned during your summer holidays?

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Visiting The Bee Library.

In our quest to fill the school summer holidays with stuff to do we ventured forth to the most reliable of local entertainments this week, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park which is, as luck and geography would have it, only a few miles down the road.

We visit it quite regularly. It's in Yorkshire, it's a park and it contains sculptures. What's not to like? (Also, admission is free and parking £7.50 for a whole day which makes me like it even more. *Parsimonious school holiday face.*)

This time we took an entirely different route around the park to the ones we normally take, for around the YSP's Upper Lake are 24 books hidden among the trees that compile The Bee Library, an installation made in the park in by Alec Finlay last year and a journey that appealed to my current bee obsession.

So we set out on our hunt for The Bee Library because hunt it is. Books, actual books, have been adapted (with bamboo, wire-netting and waterproofing) to house bees. But not just any old bees, ones that are crucial to pollination. There are several such kinds of bees but one of them is called the Hairy Footed Flower Bee and, frankly, that should be reason enough for anything.

The Bee Books are sprinkled, hung and hidden around the park's Upper Lake, a relatively new area to explore for visitors to the YSP. It's wilder and more woodland than the more sculpted areas of the park and echoes the park's history because bits of it keep popping up in unexpected places. It's also quieter and less busy than the rest of the park. Or it was until we arrived.

I didn't, unfortunately, get to see a Hairy Footed Flower Bee. Or many bees but I didn't miss them. The searching for the bee books, the occasional pop-up piece of history, the glimpse of a bunny rabbit in the trees. These are the things family memories are made of. Even the arguing over who spotted the bunny rabbit first (currently ongoing).

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The Gallery ... World Photography Day

I'm joining in with The Gallery this week and the theme is World Photography Day ....

World Photography Day was on Monday and the lovely Tara's challenge was to take photos on that day for this week's Gallery. And even though this summer I have run squealing from dinosaurs, stood (almost) on the back of a crocodile and exhibited my artwork at a world renowned art gallery, all without leaving Wakefield, on Monday I was just down on the allotments. *Sighs*

Nevertheless there was no way I wasn't going to mark World Photography Day this year without taking a picture of a bee. I take lots of pictures of bees, probably because all the children have reached the age when they can run away faster than I can press the shutter button. Bees are less of a challenge. *Sighs*

 But I didn't take just one, I took two.. well it was World Photography Day

This is my entry to this week's Gallery, check out the link below to see everyone else's World Photography Day pictures

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Courgette Splat .. A Recipe

Since becoming the proud possessors of our very own allotment three years ago, each summer we've been literally drowning in courgettes. Even with our (very basic) gardening skills, our hit and miss methods of cultivation and any prevailing weather conditions, courgettes survive and thrive with abandon.

They thrive so well that a sensibly sized courgette can burgeon into a small Zeppelin within a week and then we're treading dangerously close to marrow territory. And nobody wants that to happen.

Finding stuff to do with courgettes isn't difficult. They are one of the most versatile of vegetables and even The Boy, who doesn't eat any vegetables at all if he can help it, eats it. To be honest, he doesn't know he's eating it (diced in his scrambled egg and obscured with cheese) and one day I'll tell him. One day. When he's over all this silly not eating vegetable phase obviously. When he's 33 or so...

Anyway my favourite courgette recipe comes from an outing to the allotment barbecue (we're a sociable bunch down on the allotments) when a fellow allotmentee turned up with a very tasty Courgette Gratin. She was subsequently pinned against a shed and the recipe beaten wrestled from her by the rest of the courgette-rich allotmenteers.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Getting Wired for Wellbeing ...

Crafting posts are, admittedly, few and far between on this blog. It's not that we don't create anything, it's just we're a lot better at creating a mess than anything else. But when we do do craft, we do it in style.

Earlier this year, The Boy and I went to #MadeInWakefield's Artwalk event to take part in a Faceless company workshop called Wired for Wellbeing. And. over the course of an evening, we each made a wire sculpture that looked like a genuine work of art, though that was entirely to do with the idea and not with the execution. Even so we were ridiculously proud and have been waiting for them to be exhibited since.

Because when The Boy and I do crafting we EXPECT an exhibition. At the very least.

A Family Day Out .... The Sequel.

Last year we had a Family Day Out that drove us to drink the old fashioned way, on a steam train. Clearly we didn't learn our lesson because this year we did the same trip all over again.

The tri-weekly trip of the Scarborough Spa Express through Wakefield has become one of The Boy's summer highlights. Each morning it steams along the track above our allotment as it makes it's way into the city and each evening, it steams out again on it's return journey. That The Man and The Boy are generally in the allotment is not entirely co-incidental because The Boy's passion for steam trains is only secondary to his father's. Not that we say that out loud. Or often.

But once a year, The Man and The Boy are absent from the allotment as the engine steams past because they, and we (me and The Tween. The TeenTwins yet again claiming previous appointments with a gripping schoolbook) are stood on the station waiting for it to arrive. This year some of us are not just stood, but jumping up and down in excitement. I'm not one of them, I still haven't recovered from last year. I'm twitching slightly.

The Man, with the wisdom of men, has decided to circumnavigate the trauma that led to a hangover after last year's trip by starting out this year's trip with one. It almost needs it's own seat, but we've already forked out £50 for the ones we have. There's a brief argument , one epic sulk and a definite flounce before the engine steams into York an hour and 25 minutes later but I've experienced worse on a 25 minute bus ride.

Alighting from the train into York Station, we find one of the Mother's From School and family are on the same train. She offers to take a picture of the four of us together, an event so rare on family days out (I usually wield the camera and rarely appear in any family photo) that I am almost tearful with gratitude.

The family at York Railway Station

We leave the station and find somewhere to eat. There is only the smallest soupcon of dancing on the seats and climbing the walls and still, it's only the children.So things are still going as well as can be expected, but now the divisions begin to tell.

In The Boy's mind the sole, the only and the express purpose of the trip is to visit the National Rail Museum and look at steam trains. Again. In The Man's mind the purpose of the trip IS essentially to go look at steam trains but he knows deep in his heart that spending six hours (until the return journey home) in the NRM isn't going to win him any Husband of the Year awards. The Tween just doesn't want to do what anybody else wants to do on principle and I just want to get through the day without requiring therapy. So we decide to go for a walk through the city.

A pleasant walk through the city while I nostalgically point out to The Man each and every pub I'd got drunk in as a student is only marred by The Tween announcing how BORED she is every time The Boy pauses for breath in his continual demands to go to the NRM, so once every 45 seconds. We walk the length of the city and by the time we reach the Minster, family relations have deteriorated to a point where The Boy and The Tween pronounce us boring and we declare them tiresome. There is some sitting and sulking and quite a lot of running up and asking; "Can we go yet?"

And so we went. We had to walk back across the city again obviously, but this time there were smiles, and humour, and bear hugging. Things were looking up.

Children with a big bear

And they continued to look up. York's National Railway Museum has been a fixture in both The Tween's and The Boy's life since they were old enough to say the word Train. They love it. The Man loves it. And because they love it, I love it too because you know, Mothers.

This year, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of The Mallard breaking the world speed record, the six surviving A4 engines in the world, including The Mallard, are on display at the NRM; two of them shipped over from Canada and America. When we visit there are four of them on display. We even queue (we never queue) to get onto the engine plate of one of them.

Three A4s at the National Railway Museum, York

Union of South Africa

The Mallard at the National Railway Museum, York

There, on the polished engine plate of the Dominion of Canada with a couple from Doncaster, a lone teenager and one of the NRM volunteers, we experience a moment of family unity. The NRM volunteer sadly experiences no such thing: The Boy keeps asking questions he can't answer. The Man questions his facts. I make him jump taking a photograph. He looks palpably relieved as we leave.

The Boy at the controls of an A4

Time is ticking on now, the day has been long and we should start thinking about getting to the station but the dreaded Museum Gift Shop stands between us and the exit door. There is some stropping and stomping, quite a lot of going off in a sulk and a "How much?" (That was me. I mean £20 for a canvas tote bag? Really? *rolls eyes*). 

The Tween wants to buy The Boy a wooden train. I say he has lots of wooden trains (47 at the last count). The Boy wants to give up ALL his trains for this one train. He wants THIS train, he doesn't know what train it is. But he wants it. The Tween says I'm boring, again.

We negotiate our way out of the museum, I promise The Boy I'll buy him everything. Another day. When I've won the lottery. He doesn't know what the lottery is but I can already see him making a mental note to drag it up in seven years time as a reason why his bedroom's a mess and he hasn't done his homework. *Sigh*

We make the train. The steam train is on time. It does what steam trains do but I'm all trained out and this year I've had the foresight to purchase some gin in a tin in advance. We sit, there's no arguments because nobody's talking to each other anymore, much. The frost thaws as we collectively speculate about how long it'll take for the guy sticking his head out of the window to have it smeared across the window when another train goes past. As it happens, he snatches his head back in. The Boy is disappointed. The Tween bored, again.

We get off the train. We meet another Mother From School and brood who have come to watch the engine steam in to the station. They have apparently spent the day at a bird sanctuary but she still looks like a sane person so I don't really believe her. I don't say anything.

We climb in a taxi, we make it stop at the shop. We buy wine.

Family Day Out Scorecard:

Sulks: Many.
Strops: Several.
Stomping: Occasional.
Sticking One's Lip's Out: Some.
Laughs: A few.
A4's: Four.
Steam Trains: Many.
Casualties None.

*Books ticket for next year*

Disclaimer: Nobody asked me to do this, I just did because we did.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Room 101

I have been tagged by the adorable Rachel at Mummy Glitzer in a new meme that is the brainchild of Helen over at Stickers, Stars and Smiles. The idea is simple, pick three things that you want to cast out of the world and into Room 101 forever more and then tag three more people to do the same.

So,without further ado, I would like to cast these three things into Room 101. Please:

1. Socks.

You might think socks are harmless, you would be wrong. Over the years I must have frittered away hours and hours of my life reuniting lone socks with their chosen life partners and for what? For them to instantly separate after the next tumble around the dryer that's what. And then what are you left with but an increasing number of sad, single socks mooning around the sock drawer limply, giving you accusing looks because you've called them odd.
At the last count The Boy has 23 lone socks in his drawers. TWENTY THREE, and he is only seven years old. The mind boggles at how many will have amassed by the time he's all grown up. And if he has 23 odd socks in his draw now, where are the missing halves of each pair? Where have they gone and, more importantly, what are they doing?
I wouldn't put it past the little blighters to be hiding in the cellar, fully sentient and planning the downfall of the human race for trampling them underfoot all their lives. It would be simply safer to put the whole bloody lot on them in Room 101 and have done with socks and their plans for world domination altogether.

2. Doctors' Receptionists.

Receptionists are, in my limited experience, generally very nice. A little obsessed with doing their nails and regaling their friends about their boyfriend's unusual proclivities, on company time and as loudly as possibly. Or perhaps that's just the ones working in newspapers. Anyway...
A doctor's receptionist is a breed unto itself, a breed whose closest relative is the dragon. One must always, on the quest to see a doctor, first brave the receptionist.... though carrying a sword and shield is generally frowned upon these days.
The Doctor's Receptionist ritual consists of questions; to which you must answer fully, truthfully and with no element of sarcasm. Your challenge is to answer these questions WITHOUT:
 a) incurring the wrath of the Doctor's Receptionist (see: sarcasm) which will automatically result in an appointment in three weeks time at 8.30 in the morning
 b) informing the massed waiting room of your particular ailment. Or growth. Or discharge.
If you manage to succeed in these tasks, you STILL have to endure the expertly wielded Down-the-Flared-Nose-Stare-of-Horror employed by all Doctor's Receptionists to would-be patients who become suddenly fearful that they are either not worthy enough or clean enough or just not sick enough to deserve medical attention.
It's no wonder the medical profession is overstretched, patient's enter the doctor's surgery with a simple ailment and end up on the consulting couch gibbering wrecks with inferiority complexes and something terminal. To lighten the load on all doctors, it seems only right that all Doctor's Receptionists should be cast into the abyss that is Room 101.

It is an abyss right? I hope it's an abyss.

And last, but certainly not least...

3. Salesmen.

I don't like salesmen. I don't like door to door ones, cold-calling telephone ones, the ones that slither up to you in the middle of the supermarket and try to talk you into a change of electrical supplier with your tin of beans ones. The persistant ones, the can't-take-a-hint ones, the hovering ones, the obsequious ones, the desperate ones AND the ones that stand in a small huddle in the middle of the store discussing last night's TV and singularly failing to sell you anything.

None of this aversion to salesmen has anything at all to do with once being married to a salesmen. Obviously. *Cough*

So there you are, my contributions to Room 101. *Bows*

*Goes into hiding from all salesmen, doctor's receptionists and sentient socks for the foreseeable future*

To see what everyone else has put into Room 101, check out the link below.

Stickers, Stars and Smiles

I'm tagging some of my favourite bloggers: Hannah at Mama Bear With Me, Sonya at The Ramblings of a Formerly Rock'n'Roll Mum and Motherventing (mostly to annoy her).

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Discover The Dinosaurs ...... Things to do in the Summer Holidays

Part of our summer holiday challenge has been finding stuff to do that is not too far away, not too expensive and fun for all the family. And yesterday we achieved something akin a to miracle by having a family outing that ticked all the boxes.

The usual difficulty in amassing all four offspring into a cohesive group to leave the house was cunningly circumnavigated by declaring a unilateral Visit to Grandma's, not a family trip even the most foolhardy of teens bails out of without serious forethought and a carbon-fibre clad excuse.And  Grandma lives in Ossett which is a mere bus ride, 25 minutes or three miles away.

In Ossett is Trinity Church on Church Street, obviously. It's spire is a landmark across the small market town, it's churchyard the resting place of the town's dignitaries and heroes but this summer inside the church you can, unexpectedly, Discover the Dinosaurs, the work of Ossett artist Christian Cristobal.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

A Maze for Yorkshire .... Things to do in Wakefield

One of the most challenging things about the school summer holidays is finding things that not only don't swallow the entire holiday budget in one afternoon but, at least in my case, manage to fit in with family life.

It's all very well planning a family jaunt to destinations far and thrilling, but coercing the TeenTwins and the Tween to get involved is a work of art in itself. And usually involves the Twins developing pressing engagements elsewhere and the Tween stropping because the wifi is her brand new umbilical cord. Though we do it anyway, and the resulting bloodbaths and subsequent gin-drinking has become the stuff of family legend. 

But with a seven-year-old, the organisational skills and loin-girding that is required to organise a Family Day Out is often not enough to keep him entertained for an entire six-week holiday. Or six minutes. So we're lucky to be living in a town that boasts several kid-friendly places to visit, that don't cost much money or don't take three weeks of negotiations to enjoy.

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