Milk Money: There aren’t enough envelopes in the world.

Image courtesy of wacky buttons.com

Image courtesy of wacky buttons.com

First published in the Portsmouth News on Tuesday 25th November 2014

By the time that you read this, not only will it be one month until Christmas Day, but I will also be one step closer to bankruptcy thanks to the money that is being extorted from my every orifice by the schools that my children attend.

Last week, I received the respective schools’ newsletters. Said missives kindly informed me that I would soon be expected to part with cash for a wide variety of events. It seems that the heavier my diary becomes with festive dates, the lighter my purse begins to feel.

I have recently coughed up for school photographs, a cookery day and two Victorian costumes. I have also paid for one school trip, with £3 extra for the gift bag, or ‘guilt’ bag, because if you don’t fork out, you can guarantee that yours will be the only child going without. Visions of them returning with their heads hung low whilst their peers all wave a logoed pencil and rubber set about, are enough to convince you to delve deep.

Then there was Children In Need, followed, a week later, by another non-uniform day. This one cunningly asks for a gift donation for the Christmas tombola in exchange for allowing you the stress of remembering, yet again, to send your child in their own clothes. At least they now stipulate a gift suitable for a child, seeing as I sent a bottle of wine in the first year.

I now need to purchase a nativity outfit, a Tudor costume, two Christmas jumpers and a named purse containing £2 in loose change for my youngest to spend at the Christmas Fayre, buying items that the infants have made themselves. Top quality then, as you can imagine.

My joy at this was topped by the slow-dawning realization that I also need to pay for two Christmas parties, one Christmas lunch, and, the piece de resistance, a visit from Santa himself. Given the amount that I’m spending to send my kids to school, I expect a visit from Beyonce and a personal concert in the playground.

And has anyone else noticed how the list of personalized items daubed by your children expands each year? I fully expect that by the time Amelie starts junior school, I will open the order leaflet to see that I can purchase toilet rolls emblazoned with my children’s faces, as ‘uniquely personal gifts’ for my lucky relatives. Brace yourself, mum.

Advertisements

Work/Life What? Parents & the Elusive ‘Work/Life’ Balance

FB15-Wine-Box

First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 17th November 2014

Juggling a work/life balance, as either a mum or dad, is physically and mentally demanding.

My husband leaves the house before 7am and returns home between 6.30pm and 7pm, and later if he has meetings. This coincides with our children either getting up in the morning, or heading back towards bath or bed in the evening.

I work part-time, but much of this involves planning and preparation at home. I try hard to squeeze as much of it as possible into the hours between 9am and 3.15pm, but I often over-run, and have to continue into the evening. I applaud the full-time mothers out there because when I went back to full-time hours following the birth of our eldest daughter, I was practically on my knees with exhaustion.

This is the same as in so many households. I have lots of friends who, like my husband and I, work long hours at home. Once the kids are in bed, we collapse on the sofa and out come the piles of work and the laptops. How this counts as a work/life balance is beyond me – but if I try to do less, then I simply fall behind and panic.

It’s because of this that I am trying to have at three afternoons a week when I devote the hours of 3.15pm until bedtime solely to our girls. I hate the idea that they may grow up otherwise thinking that mummy did nothing but work, and that, as a consequence of this, work is a hindrance and not something that can be enjoyed.

I love my job, and I think that working is an important part of your sense of self. As a parent, you can lose that feeling of contributing to wider society. When you first have babies, you become cocooned in the world of them. And this is lovely, up to a point. But that return to work – which, if nothing else, means a return to experiencing That Friday Feeling – can remind you of who ‘you’ actually is.

Even when I only worked one evening a week tutoring, following the birth of our youngest, I had to set myself challenges to prevent being overcome by nappies and boredom. Whether this was training to run miles or writing a weekly blog – which eventually led to this column – I had to keep my mind and body active.

If only I still had the energy for the latter!

“Snowman’s Fart” and Other Shades of Paint.

4-kids-make-a-mess-sugar-all-over-the-lving-room

Decorating. Before one has children, the term has connotations of a crisp, fresh beginning. Out with the old and in with the new.

However, after one has had children, ‘decorating’ is merely a continual cycle of covering up the damage they have been wreaking throughout your abode.

My husband and I decided to redecorate the hallway last month. This particular area of the house, probably due to its landing-strip shape, is a favourite for our girls to charge up and down during moments when they feel especially demented.

In the past, it was also the favourite place to push their plastic buggies, full of plastic babies. (Or kittens, when our defenseless cats were small.) Subsequently, it was akin to a measuring stick. You could gauge the approximate ages and sizes of the girls via the level of dirty handprint, Weetabix smears, and chipped paintwork. Action was needed.

We trotted off to Homebase and began our paint perusal. And at this point, I’d like to make things a little more interactive for you whilst you read, with a multiple-choice quiz.

Which of the following is not the real name of a shade of paint? Is it: Mole’s Breath, Dead Salmon, or Arsenic? Go on, have a guess.

And this is where I confess to having been a little sneaky by giving you a trick question, for indeed, they are ALL real names for shades of paint. That’s correct, you can paint your hallway, or any other room of your choice, in a shade that is allegedly reminiscent of a decomposing fish.

It goes to show how low down the scale of socialisation my husband and I have slipped, because I was doubled over weeping in Homebase, whilst he shouted out more names through his own guffaws of laughter. We had a fabulous morning out off the back of Farrow and Ball. I have become a very cheap date.

And so, having chosen our own paints, in shades of Snowman’s Fart* and Rigor Mortis** (that’s white and grey to you), we returned home to wield our trusty brushes and transform the hallway.

The problem of course is that, as the rule of decoration states, having one pristine room only serves to highlight the demise of the others. The assertion that shabby is chic was clearly invented by a couple of exhausted parents, blinded by white spirit and Elephant’s Breath.

(* ** Ok, I confess made these up.)

First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 11th November 2014

When Your Kids Puke. Nice.

vomit everywhere

First published on Tuesday 4th November 2014 in The Portsmouth News

Last week the vomit comet struck my house.

I am one of many mummies who would say that, prior to morningnoonandnight sickness, I had a sick-phobia. And whilst it’s still not my favourite substance on planet earth, I have become a closer acquaintance of vomit since my I had my children. You see; I even refer to it on first name terms.

Last week, Amelie had felt unwell after school. My friend’s parents, Jill and Dave, had collected her from school for me because I was at work, and when I arrived to pick her up, she was looking extremely small and sorry for herself on the sofa.

I rather hoped that her smallness had simply been caused by over-exuberance in the playground following a large hot school dinner, but sadly this was proven not to be the case. By 9pm, I was elbow deep in sick, Amelie was weeping, and I rather wished to join in.

There are no parenting books that tell you where to begin when you walk into a bedroom that has been redecorated by the government’s ‘free for all hot school dinner’.

For instance, one has to decipher a safe foothold for one’s feet. Slippage may be an issue. One must also attempt to reach the crying child, whose arms will be stretched out, wanting parental reassurance in the form of a hug.

However, when said child is also sporting a motely assortment of regurgitated, free for all, David Cameron ‘hot school dinner’, they become somewhat less appealing to the eyes, nose, and gag reflex.

Generally, if there are two parents present, life is easier (kudos to the single mums and dads out there, because this parenting lark is the world’s toughest job, full stop). One parent can pass the sickly specimen to the other, and then begin Operation Clean-Up. This may involve scraping, as well as much washing, and the moment when I caught the dog attempting to consume the remnants of Amelie’s lunch from her sheets was a particularly special one.

The upshot of this, of course, was that by Saturday night the toilet and I were close bosom buddies ourselves. My husband attributes this to his ox-like constitution. I attribute it to having practically bathed in sick as I was the one cleaning it up.

And, on a final random note, am I the only person in Britain who is irritated by the government calling ‘lunch’, ‘dinner’? Really?