Monthly Archives: May 2005

Mother’s Pride #2

I have come to the conclusion that the great benefit of children’s birthday parties is to remind you that, actually, your own kids are relatively polite and well behaved. I only got my teacher voice out three times, though.. and I don’t know whether the two eight-year-olds in question quite knew what had hit them because they were quite subdued for.. oooh, at least three minutes!

I thought I had it sussed, actually. I booked Smudgelet and three of his friends into a craft session all morning, had an hour to feed and water them, and then the five of us were booked into a puppet theatre session (The Frog Prince) for an hour in the afternoon. Pain free and delightful, and not too expensive – who’s a clever mummy, then? Hmmm.. the bit I’d forgotten was the hour spent feeding and watering them and actually having to be in their company and deal with their rather over-excitable and undecorous behaviour. Smudgelet had the decency to look really embarrassed at their antics and actually handled the situation incredibly well.

I can’t believe he’s eight already. It seems only yesterday that the phone call came. I can remember it so clearly. “Smudgie, wait until you hear everything I have to tell you before you make up your mind, but how would you feel about taking on a three year old?” Me being a single working mum, the adoption panel had only approved me to adopt over-fives and above and had explained that there was no possibility of me being considered for pre-school. But here he was, waiting for a home (and with little prospect of one, for certain reasons) and here was me waiting for him.

It was a nightmare time – there were so many unforseen snags and hurdles to leap and battles to fight. And one horrendous day when I was going to meet him for the first time and was headed off at the front gate by a social worker who said they weren’t willing for me to see him unless I agreed to accept him without an allowance there and then. I’d argued hard and long for the allowance to be granted (for reasons I can’t explain here, of course) and panel had approved it, but here was this social worker refusing to let me see him. It was like the nasty bit of a fairy-tale, as she took me back to the office and shut me in a tiny room with just two chairs and a telephone and a barred window, and left me there, high above the carpark three storeys below. Many frantic phonecalls later to my poor harrassed social worker who was on her day off but was battling for me on the other end of a phone line, I was there alone and in tears when I saw in the carpark below the only other social worker on that side of the solent that I actually knew – a senior member who had first approved the match. I waved and shouted frantically, and God be praised, he saw me and came racing to the rescue – my knight in shining armour – and plied me with coffee and chocolate biscuits and stories of battles won while he mobilised the troops and got everything sorted.

And then there I was, in Burger King, face to face with my new son over a strawberry milkshake. They reckoned it was textbook stuff – though shy at first, he insisted we put two straws in the same drink and drink together, putting his hand over mine as I steadied the cup. I was in love.

There followed several weeks of me gradually taking over the care for him within his foster home, taking him to stay with me for a day, bringing Tiddles over to meet him on his fourth birthday (a whole year from him being suggested to me to us actually meeting – and most pregnancies only last nine months), having him to stay for longer….. and then at last the day came when our family of two became three and he was firmly established as my new son.

And now here he is, eight years old. Incredibly tall – I couldn’t quite take in that the bike I’d bought for him to grow into is actually just the right size for him now! Rather toothy as he’s currently at the high-income stage of trading teeth with the tooth fairy for extortionate prices. Gaining in maturity and confidence slowly but surely. And absolutely scrumptious. And there he was on Friday night having his first taste of going to Cubs. Surely he’s only just settled into Beavers? Surely? I remember buying his uniform.

In fact, wasn’t it only a few weeks ago that I stood there in the playground of his nursery school, having a “sneak preview” to confirm this was the boy I wanted to become part of my family.. and thinking with a sinking heart that I actually didn’t like the looks of him very much? He was standing, with children playing all around him and him just staring vacantly into space. A child with no spark, and a sulky one at that. As I followed the group indoors for “song time”, I was frantically trying to think what I was going to do about this child that I’d fought so hard to be matched with and now found I just didn’t take to at all? I sat along the line from where he was, chatting with a little girl who obviously had decided I was her new best friend. But what did I find? A little boy at the far end of the line was playing peepo with me over the heads of the others. He had a knowing smile, as if he’d sussed why I was there and what I was up to. The nursery teacher asked for volunteers to go out to the front and sing to the other children, and all of a sudden my little man was up there by his teacher, singing his alphabet strongly and confidently for all he was worth, with a wicked little grin in my direction and his sparkly diamond-blue eyes just emanating “go on, love me”.

And here he is, my baby. To celebrate being eight, he’s started pottery classes, made his first pot, and started to learn to use a potter’s wheel. (I was particularly impressed because he didn’t make a fuss when it all went horribly wrong, just said “I can learn from that how to do it better next time” and moulded it back into a ball). He’s started Cubs, as I said, and thoroughly enjoyed it. And he’s played in his first football match and, despite nipping off the field at one point to ask me if I thought there’d be time to play with his new Scalextric car before bedtime, he was awarded “man of the match” for his sportsmanship and enthusiasm.

I may complain about them sometimes, and believe me I do, but I am such an incredibly lucky mum. My two boys do me proud.

Mother’s Pride #1

Well, he’s done it!

I have just put Tiddles to bed. He’s sleeping like a baby and with every justification. My baby’s just hiked from point to point on the Isle of Wight – from St Catherine’s Point on the southernmost tip of the Island to Egypt Point at the very northernmost tip, a total of some sixteen miles. And he was running for the last 200 yards, too – though that was more sheer bravado than remaining energy! I’m incredibly proud of him. Last year he and two others did the hike in the shortest time on record for their Scout Troup, this year the group of eight scouts included a couple of ten-year-olds who found it incredibly heavy going. Tiddles was back marker, helping keep the stragglers on the right track and keep them from falling behind. But with appalling weather, the group took the longest time on record to complete it – an incredible twelve hours! Just imagine hiking through wind and rain for twelve hours.

Sitting at Egypt Point was fun as every so often we’d get a “news flash” by mobile phone… “I was rather ambitious in my estimating their arrival time, I reckon it’ll be another half hour”. In the end a group of us set off in the opposite direction to meet them, and it was a good half hour’s walk for us before we got to them and chivvied them along to their destination – not allowed to help, of course, as they had to do it all themselves. They’d navigated the whole distance and walked unescorted (apart from checkpoints, of course, and a sneaky leader following by car).

I decided to take the little camera which had just one shot left on the film to get a picture of him as he arrived, battlescarred, at Egypt Point. It made sense to take that one as then he’d get his photo developed really quickly instead of having to wait for me to finish another whole film. As I stood there waiting, I was struck by how beautiful the scenery was, with the setting sun shining golden on the blue sea (yes really!) and the golden shingle and with the moon putting in an early appearance too. And to complete the picture, the new Queen Mary appeared from Southampton – absolutely mammoth and dwarfing everything within range. A perfect photo opportunity, and I got my camera out to check that I did only have one shot left. No, that one picture had to be of my son achieving his goal……. bother, I only hope the inside of my pocket where I was putting the camera away will make a worthwhile photo!

It was rather nice at the end of the day to be able to carry my twelve-year-old into the house, to bath him and put my new (purple) couch to good use in massaging his legs and aching back before tucking him into his nice clean warm bed and kissing him goodnight. He’ll always be my baby, But what a hero!

Rant about it and get it off your chest, Smudge

It’s a good job I love you, xxxxxxx !

I wasn’t going to say anything – particularly because I know M would
wish she hadn’t said anything if she knew – but I am really rather hurt that
you don’t know me better than to think I wouldn’t take preaching seriously
enough to dress for the pulpit.

I know I don’t always dress up for church. That’s a different matter entirely.
After all, who are you dressing up for when you go to church? For God? Well,
I can worship God stark naked, and often do. I can worship God better when I
feel comfortable than when I feel that I’m putting on a show. I can worship
God far far better when, instead of getting irritable with the boys at
taking for ever in the bathroom when I want to be in there preening myself,
and instead of getting up at 5am I stay in bed until 6 before I get up and
get Dad up and sort the boys out and get ready for church, I simply get
dressed and come as I am. I can worship God better when I haven’t got all
overheated and crinkled and uncomfortable in the hot environment of the
swimming pool spectators’ gallery at the crack of dawn. When I do dress up
for church – which, incidentally, I really like doing – I’m basically
dressing for me, because it makes me feel good. As far as God’s concerned, I
think He’s just happy I’m there, just like He puts up with my out-of-tune
singing far better than the people in congregation might!

When it comes to preaching, it’s a different matter. There it’s a question
of dressing for an audience, in a way, just like when I go into the
classroom. Did you honestly think I don’t know that when you were discussing with
my friends whether you ought to check I’d thought to wear a suit or a dress?

As for my hair, well, God saw fit to give me the type of hair that refuses
to cooperate. I wash it daily and still it looks as though it hasn’t seen a
decent shampoo for weeks. I can sit for hours combing and styling it, and
still it looks as though I’ve just got out of bed. The hairdresser despairs
of it. A nice cut by a professional hairdresser helps for a few days. I
wonder if you noticed when I stopped having it cut on a regular six-weekly
basis? Might it have been around the time when I went part time and started
having to make choices about how I spend my £40? It seems rather
self-indulgent to spend the money on myself on a hairdo that lasts a matter
of days, when there are far more important demands on my money so I find
myself putting it off and putting it off until I can’t stand it any more.
Over the years my self esteem has taken quite a battering over my hair, and
it’s taken quite a while to get to the stage of convincing myself I don’t
care. (It’s a lie really – I do care. But what can I do? Apart from have it
all shaved off and buy a wig, of course).

God didn’t grant me the gift of being attractive, but He did give me enough
common sense to know when it’s important to make an effort. I’d have liked
to think you knew me well enough to know that.

I wasn’t going to send this to you – in fact I probably still won’t,
knowing me – but I thought it would be better to clear the air and tell you
I’m hurt, so it’s easier to forgive you! There you go, you’re forgiven
already.

So there you are – you can be reassured that I’ll make sure I’ve ironed my
jeans with a crease down the front next Sunday!

Especially for Maddie :D

Year Six have SATs. For those not in the know, these are the hours of torture imposed upon the children of our country at the age of eleven – difficult for the able ones, soul destroying for those below average (which the government keeps insisting do not really exist). Two papers of science, three papers of English and three of mathematics, all in the space of one week and all done under strict exam conditions. The results of these tests – as a percentage of children in the school reaching a certain level – are published in the national press in league tables, on the basis that all children are equal and the results are therefore a clear indication of how good the school is. Hence major stress inflicted on teachers and transfered to the children, many of whom end up in tears or even under the doctor for stress – and that’s both teachers AND children!

Those children who fail to reach this certain level – level four, the level all children would apparently be able to achieve if the schools were doing their jobs properly – have the delight of re-sitting the tests the following year. These are known as the “Year Seven Progress Tests” and serve to reinforce to the special needs kids that they are, indeed, failures as they can’t get a level four on these tests either so they think they’ve made no progress. Actually, some of my little loves may well achieve their level fours this year, but it’s going to be devastating for those who don’t.

So that’s tests in Year Six and, for the special needs children, in Year Seven. Now, add to this that the Isle of Wight, in their wisdom, have decreed that the league tables in year six do not give us adequate information about the effectiveness of our schools (us having the middle school system, and all, with half of the work for the SATs being taught in the primary school) and the progress of our pupils. So they have decided that children will do an obligatory “optional” SATs paper in year five, in year seven, and in year eight prior to transfer to high school. (In addition, they insist that our Year Fives and Year Sevens also do Cognitive Ability Tests for one whole week each in November, just in case there’s some information we’re missing somewhere.) This means, of course, that the special needs children in year seven actually have to endure two complete weeks of testing on the trot as they take the “optional” paper first and then have the progress tests to do. (I am further irritated because the examining body, QCA, have catagorically stated that if a child isn’t capable of achieving a certain level in the SATs paper, then they shouldn’t take it, but the Isle of Wight LEA insists that they should!)

Do you get the impression that I am somewhat anti these tests? I sat my classes down and discussed with them what was the worst thing that could happen. “We could get all the answers wrong, miss!” Yes, and what will happen then? “Er…. ” Precisely. The world will not come to an end, nobody will spontaneously combust, they won’t even be thrashed within an inch of their lives. So, start out thinking “it doesn’t matter if I get them all wrong, but each one I get right will be a bonus and if I get quite a few right my teacher will smile and bring us chocolate” and all will be well with the world.

I’m a bit of a rebel on the quiet 😉

Skiving

Last ten minutes of my non-contact lesson and the computer room has been invaded by a terrifying horde of Year Sixes. Anyone who has had any contact with year six after their SATs tests are over will know only too well what a scary prospect this is. And I was working soooo well, too. Still, it gives me the excuse to sit here blogging instead of finishing off the paperwork I was concentrating on.

I had a trial of conscience this weekend. Tiddles is doing his SATs this week. Strangely, our Year Sevens did theirs last week. I don’t know which school is in the wrong (and I hope any examining bodies reading this can turn a blind eye) but I know it put me in the unenviable position of knowing precisely what questions Tiddles will be facing in his maths tests this week…. a real question of conscience when he suddenly, out of the blue, asked me to help him do some revision for it yesterday! I was a good girl, though. I took him through a past paper, one which does have some questions which are similar and some which are totally unrelated, and just told him that lots of my pupils made mistakes by not reading the questions properly. Doubtless he won’t do too well, which is only to be expected because his knowledge of maths is slim enough at the best of times, let alone when he’s under pressure. I hope I managed to reassure him that I don’t particularly mind how he does.

Miss Lisa, I should mention that I am confident Tiddles will make it through his week away without any major explosions, although I’m less sure about the migraines. The bit I’m dreading is when he finally arrives home after a week of late nights and the tension of keeping his cool while in company. It’s when he gets home and feels safe that there’s the chance all hell will break loose. Never mind – we’ll don our cycle helmets and asbestos underwear and brave the foe with equanimity 😀

The new couch is wonderful… and seriously purple. Can’t wait to try it out – though I did sit on it for a while and dream of having someone offer to massage my back! Sadly the Smudgelets are keen to volunteer to be the first to test the couch but somewhat less keen to volunteer to do the massaging!

Tardis malfunctions!

In theory we were to go back in time to the Iron Age, but I seriously think the time machine must have a sprocket loose or something because that was definitely the Ice Age. And, to steal a joke from the well known film of the same name (highly recommended if you haven’t seen it yet… or even if you have)… if that was the Ice Age, bring on global warming!

It was one of those days today – the ones where you’re doing several unrelated activities all sandwiched together and end the day totally exhausted with culture shock. First up was the early rising to take Tiddles to the swimming pool. It was the first time since Dad’s been back from his trip to my sister’s so I had to decide how to fit in the “getting him up” session into our new routine. He decided he’d like it to be before I take Tiddles, “but only if it doesn’t mean you having to get up even earlier”. No Dad, of course it doesn’t… I was planning to get up half an hour earlier in any case 😉

After Smudgelet’s swimming, during which I must admit I was rather impressed with his front-crawl-without-drowning routine, the two boys bustled off into the music centre to prepare for their concert which was being held, unusually, in the morning. Dad and Auntie M arrived to join me in the audience. It was delightful – how I wish you could have been there to see them. The Smudgelets, that is, not Dad and Auntie M! They looked so grown up and handsome in their black trousers and white shirts, Tiddles with his royal blue Music Centre tie. They each played keyboards with their respective groups, Smudgelet struggling hard to look as though he had some idea of what he was doing. (He refuses to practise on the grounds that he can’t play the pieces so practising isn’t any fun), and Tiddles proudly tinkling away one-handed with the second group which he’s proud to have joined (disappointment on its way, as they’ve decided to amalgamate the two groups next year, so he’ll be back with the beginners!). And then they were out there to sing with the junior choir.

Honestly, God. When you gave him the gift of a real love of music, couldn’t you have given him the voice to go with it?

But I was incredibly proud of my boys – Smudgelet with his sweet tone which I so rarely hear and Tiddles with his sheer enthusiasm which filled the auditorium and brought a smile to everyone’s face. My eldest loves to sing, and I love to hear him. I hate the fact that, as you get older, actually being “good” at music becomes important and affects what opportunities you have to indulge your love of it.

Best bit of the concert, though, apart from the fact that my children were the most gorgeous and most talented children there of course, was the junior strings – a veritable multitude of tiny tots wielding violins and making, to my utter surprise, a remarkably pleasant sound. Little ones barely big enough to touch the floor when they sat up on their chairs, remarkably small girls wielding remarkably large cellos, tongues sticking out in concentration, heads nodding in time to the music and bows flying. I watched in wonder and amazement. I love these concerts – they are incredibly inspiring.

Then on. From Tchaikovsky, zooming back in time to the Iron Age.

It was the annual open day at the much-loved local educational farm. It’s only open to the public once a year, usually it’s for school visits. Every child on the Island has been there and loves it, and the man who runs it is a local hero. As he walks past, children watch wide-eyed and open mouthed and nudge their parents and whisper very loudly in awestruck tones, “Look, Mum. That’s Mr G!” Normally the open day is one of the best days out of the year, although last year several people were ambulanced out with sunstroke because of the heat. Not so this year. It rained. It blew. It rained some more. It was downright horrible. There were still hundreds of people there, but most of them were jammed into the piggery, the only source of real warmth and shelter, and by the look of them most people were longing to snuggle up with the piglets, who looked really cosy in their jumbled mountains of pinkness. Many people only stayed an hour, but we stayed to the bitter (and bitter it was, too) end. Why? Because Tiddles was part of a Young Archaeologists exhibition. The farm is home to an authentic replica of an Iron Age farm house and field of willow. Each year the YAC put on a demonstration there, dressed in replica Iron Age costume and doing spinning and weaving and making willow plates. It was this exhibition last year that got Tiddles first interested in YAC and today he was in his element, demonstrating how to weave the osiers in and out of the basic framework to make a plate (which he then brought home as a souvenir. Where exactly does one keep these things?). I have to admit I was pretty proud of the fairly-authentic-looking costume I made, although the thick anorak and warm socks did rather spoil the effect!

Home for a nap for me and a hot bath and mugs of hot chocolate for them, then a curl up together on the sofa under a blanket for some more of the tales of King Arthur (Hmmm… he was not long after Iron Age times, wasn’t he?) while I fought off the temptation to open the huge parcel which had arrived in my porch. Yes, my massage couch has arrived. It’s really quite exciting… and very purple! 😀

To end the day, a short version of the over-tiredness-tantrum. Now that he’s nearing his teenage years, the dreaded vicious circle is in sight. He’s started to tantrum over being too tired to stay up for things he wants to stay up for (tonight being Doctor Who, even though I’d promised to video it for him as long as he went to bed without a fuss!) and thus being too worked up to get to sleep and, as a result, being too tired to cope with life properly the following day. It really is quite ironic that the cause of his tantrums is caused by his tantrums. If he’d only gone to bed properly the other night instead of sitting in the cupboard under the stairs (or what would be the cupboard under the stairs if we didn’t live in a bungalow) throwing a wobbly because he wasn’t allowed to stay up to do the homework he’d neglected to do earlier because he was too tired! How to break this cycle? Goodness only knows – I just have to hope he’ll come to see the cause and effect for himself and stop trying to fight it. But I’ll admit I’m seriously dreading the week he goes for the school trip to the Peak District.. or more precisely, the week he comes back!

Now, I think I’ll go and lie on my rather comfortable massage couch – did I mention how purple it is? – and watch the video of Doctor Who in peace.

Enlightenment – further musings

Interesting.

I just asked myself “What are you afraid of?” and realised the answer.
And surprised myself.
What am I afraid of? You’d think it’d be rejection, but it ai’ (as they say where my dad comes from!)
What I’m afraid of is being taken seriously.
And starting a whole roller-coaster that’d be impossible to get off without hurting someone.
Good analogy actually, as it’s the reason I don’t go on scary rides at the funfair – because there’s no going back if I find I regret it… far easier not to risk it in the first place.

Pah! I’m chicken !!! 😉

Whither male-female friendship (,musings of an idiot)

It’s a funny thing, this love business.

I suppose I grew up expecting it to happen and to be a fairly natural and straightforward business, like my parents’ relationship was. Not that they didn’t have their rows, of course, and if my mother hadn’t taken the lead in asking my Dad to walk her home the day they first met, I’d never have been more than a twinkle in my father’s eye at all. But it seemed to me as I grew that each person met their “other half”, that people fit nicely into twos, that this was part and parcel of life and would all fall into place as part of my reaching adulthood.

It’s funny, this sense of happy inevitability always tied in, I realise now, with a comfortable sense that “nobody would really want to go out with me, so I needn’t get worries about this boyfriend seeking business – with me it’ll just be straight into a marriage situation”. Strange that. Reading it, I don’t imagine anyone would understand that. Not that I don’t feel attractive, I mean, but that I have always felt that as quite comfortable. Frustrating, maybe, but safe too – no broken hearts to deal with, no risk of coping with a relationship with the wrong person, no chance of divorce happening because I’d marry the right person, it wouldn’t be complicated with superficial attractions.

What I’m actually finding hard to come to terms with is that I seem to have left a stream of broken-hearted men in my wake. Yet again I’ve been told by someone that they’ve always hoped for more than just a friendship with me. Me? I’ve just walked my merry way, totally oblivious… thoroughly enjoyed the friendship but expected and wanted nothing more from that particular friend. Frustrating, though, because it mars the friendship to a certain extent. Frustrating too to know (and I find it so hard to accept, too) that there are men who find me attractive but never the ones I hoped would feel that way – or did they, and I just never picked up on it or responded to it because it was safer not to? Am I so afraid of a relationship that I daren’t acknowledge it? Is that why I don’t seem to meet people who are right for me? Or do I set my expectations too high? Or am I too settled as a dyed-in-the-wool spinster (as I told my latest admirer – a lovely fellow who put me under no pressure at all to reciprocate his feelings).

I’m all confuzzled. I enjoy and cherish my independence too much to easily consider giving it up, but do I want to be alone? Can I have the male-female friendships I so enjoy without relationships getting in the way? And is there someone there who’s actually looking for me to be his Mrs Right and how will I ever realise it?

Anyone got a brick wall handy for me to bang my head against?

Feeling guiltily innocent ;)

Don’t you just love times like these? The times when you’re doing something which you have every right to do, but still have that feeling at the back of your mind that you’re actually doing something really quite naughty:D
Like lying in in the morning reading my book when I’m on holiday, or going to McDonalds with the kids simply because Dad’s away and I don’t have to be home to make him tea.

It’s like that right now. Because of a rearrangement I made with the timetable (would you believe they’d forgotten, in planning the exam timetable for SATs, that they’d also arranged for my maths group to go swimming? Needless to say I was running round like an idiot yesterday rearranging the test time so the kids taking the test would actually BE IN SCHOOL!) I have agreed to work this afternoon to cover a Year Seven Maths test. Which means that my lessons this morning have been cancelled and, rather than them pay me to stay in school doing nothing, they agreed that I could come home and spend a couple of hours over lunchtime here rather than sitting in the staffroom twiddling my thumbs. So I’m here, mid morning, waiting to make some lunch for me and dad, and feeling decidedly naughty when I just walked out of school after break, got in my car and drove away.

Shame I’ve got to go back, really.

Mind you, I need to build up my reserves for this evening. Tiddles has lost his entire games kit. He didn’t bother mentioning it, apparently, because he thought I wouldn’t mind. Thought I wouldn’t mind???? I ask you! He was a little taken aback at having to mend the roof where I flew through it when he told me. £100-worth of stuff, just disappeared somewhere in the depths of school, he knows not how or where. Despite me having paid £5 for a replacement locker key so he had somewhere safe to keep his kit. So I’m going to school to supervise him going through lost property and finding it. Then, on the way home, we’re calling at the music shop to replace his broken drumsticks and at the bus station to pick up the entire climbing kit (brand new trousers, t-shirt, jumper, trainers and water bottle) which he left on the bus last week.

Hard to know how to handle it for the best. He’s decided that there’s nothing he can do about all these things he loses because he’s just forgetful and that’s it. It’s just the way he’s made. No use me getting irritated. I’ll just have to replace the things and if I punish him, I punish him. Fair enough. He’s just stupid that way. How do I get him round this to realise that actually he’s perfectly capable of putting some strategies into place to make life a little easier. When I stress how easy some of these strategies are, it simply reinforces to him that he’s stupid for not doing them. How to get him past that to seeing that he’s actually capable of giving it a try? But I certainly cannot afford to keep replacing things like this or having our life organised round trips to various lost property offices. Nor can we continue to put up with late-night tantrums because I won’t let him do the spelling practise he’s supposed to have been doing all week… even though he had an hour earlier where he sat doing nothing and declared he had no homework. Apparently it’s my fault he has detention today for not doing them. 😉

I don’t know. Good job I love him (and good job Smudgelet is far more organised!). But right now, I don’t care about any of that. I’m home, and everyone else is working. Yippeeeeeeeeee !