Monday, 23 September 2013

The one you really can't win

Did you know the average four-year-old girl asks 390 questions a day?

On a conservative estimate that means (assuming that M and L ask fewer than S and A, being respectively younger and older, and admitting that while L's questions are generally more complicated, - "Mummy, if all clouds are made of water, why don't all clouds make rain?" - M's are generally still variations on the theme of "What Mummy doin'?" and therefore easier to handle*) I am probably answering, on a non-school day (and every day for the eight months prior to that when I had two non-school-attending four-year-old girls in the house), an average of, I reckon, somewhere north of 1000 questions a day.

Is it any wonder I spend a lot of the time thinking "I can't win".?

Generally, of course, it works out ok.  But I realised yesterday there's one time you can't, ever, win with children.  One question you can't ever get right.

It's this.

When do we leave?

There you are, having a lovely time at the swimming pool, everyone thoroughly enjoying themselves (apart from the parents, because clearly having four small children of various levels of swimming incompetence is never going to be a relaxing experience.  Can't remember the last time I actually swam in a swimming pool) but it's lunchtime, or it will be by the time you've negotiated your way out, alternately frozen and scalded in the shower, caught athlete's foot and man-handled four still mostly damp children back into their clothes, so you say "Right everyone, time to get out".

But they don't want to.  So whinging ensues. Even despite the promise of fish and chips on the beach.  And, as everyone knows, whinging leads to irritation, which leads to more whinging, which leads to crossness, which leads inexorably back to whinging...

Yes, this was yesterday.  In Scotland
So the next time, mere hours later - after the fish and chips - playing on the beach you take the alternate route.  You say, "Ah, they're having a lovely time.  We haven't got anywhere else to go. We'll let them play a while longer".

Until they get overtired and have had too much....

See what I mean?  You can't win.

There must be a sweet spot.  A glimpse of a passing micro moment of a millisecond, when they and you are simultaneously ready to leave.  But I've never found it, or worked out how to identify it.

I can't imagine anyone else has, either.

*and not many of them are as amusing as these (can't say I've ever been asked for my opinion on air) - which inspired me to go and look up the stat (which I'd remembered but not blogged about before.  Thanks to Ms Carrot Crush for that.


Monday, 16 September 2013

Tweed to Tokyo

That's our adventure.  Summer 2020, we're going to the Olympics.   All six of us.   Overland.

For the millions of questions: the what, the how, the why.

The which route? 
The what about their education?
The how do we get from there to there?
The which visas do we need? 
The can we really go there? 
The can we really not go there?
The what happens to the house? 
The how on earth are we going to pay for it?
The what on earth are we thinking?

Well, we haven't worked any of those out yet, so feel free to let us know what you think. 

And for all of the answers and more; you've got seven years to watch this space.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The plastebo effect

I'm sure it used to be a kiss.

You climb a tree and scrape your knee, your dress has got a tear.  And what do you need (other than Julie Andrews)?  A kiss. Obviously.

Only not for the modern child, apparently.  Oh no, the panacea for all ills is not Mummy, or Daddy; not a cuddle, or a kiss.

It is, as any parent knows, a plaster. 

Blood not required.  No break in the continuity of the skin (technical legal term - don't say you never learn anything here) necessary.  Bumps, bruises, mild indignation, there's nothing that can't be cured with the application of a small piece of thin porous polymer-coated adhesive bandage (thanks wikipedia).  Ideally garishly coloured.

Or, even better, as I now know, a cool gel pack.  Preferably Mr Bump branded, but failing that the generic variety will do.

It all started with Boots, who emailed me over the summer asking if I would give them my health tips for going back to school.  There wasn't anything in it for me other than fame and glory if they used them but I wasn't busy that day (another tough day fishing the children out of the paddling pool probably) so I sent them something inspiring like:

Use a plaster for everything or
If no-one's looking  and you haven't got a cold it's fine to lick your finger and then wash their faces or
Make sure they go to bed early (then you get some peace and quiet) or
Catching vomit in your hands is better than have it go on someone else's carpet

Unaccountably, none of those made it onto the wallchart of tips and handy ideas they've produced (and of which you can see a small part below), but I do get a credit, and, even better and completely out of the blue, they sent me a goody bag (well, more of a goody massive parcel actually - does that make this a sponsored post?).

So I've got the wallchart, featuring my credit (though not, as I say, any of my tips - it's got lots of useful ones instead), some of those vitamins the children will actually eat, antiseptic wipes to save my sleeves, blister plasters (because one of us doesn't wear sensible black shoes with velcro), an enormous first aid kit (actually a bit scared to open that), and the blessed hot/cold compress, which, if I'd let her, A would be taking to bed with her.  As it is, she's inventing an ever more unlikely series of injuries all requiring it.  Munchausen's syndrome for the under fives...

So for that and for everything else (including all the bottles of own brand "calpol" and Peppa Pig sticky bandages I've bought over the years), Boots, I thank you.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Life, death and blackberries

Blackberries are serious business.

No, not for farmers, although I'm sure they are if you happen to be the UK's largest supplier to the crumble industry.

But I'm not talking about them (him? her?). I'm talking about me. 

To start off there's the whole what do you call them thing.  Turns out that if there's one sure way to prove I'm not from round here it's calling them blackberries in the first place.  Och no.  In this neck of the hedgerow they're brambles.  How that separates them from the plant on which they grow I don't know, although as I don't have a different word for a raspberry bush or an apple tree, some might argue my insistence on calling the twigs and leaves a bramble and the fruit a blackberry is somewhat indefensible.

Nonetheless I am sticking to it, and doubtless will meet fierce resistance from my children in years to come.  But then they think the fat man who comes down the chimney is called Santa, so clearly they know nothing.

Anyway none of that matters, because the important thing is not what you call them it's where you find them.

And having found them whose patch is it?

Because it turns out that blackberrying (brambling?) is a little known and under-reported turf war, rife with bitterness and controversy.

I should have known.  I should have realised last year when we were in the Lakes.  We went for a nice walk along a country lane.  There were blackberries, lots and lots and lots.  We were seen nibbling on one or two by a very pleasant, very smiley, elderly gentleman standing on his front doorstep as we went by.   We went back a day later to find nary a blackberry in sight.  Hedges denuded of all but the slightly hairy green ones that even I won't turn into jam.  And though I didn't see him at it I just know he was out there in the rain the night before defending his patch...

I've asked around and it's not just in Cumbria that people get proprietorial about their tangle of thorns, wasps and fruit.  Oh no! say friends who live up rural lanes.  Those are OUR brambles. (They're locals.  You can tell).  I can come and take some when invited, I'm told, but not too many and only under close supervision.

So now I've got a problem.  Because I'm new here (still. ish).  And we live in a town.  So I haven't got a patch.  And I want one.  And (here's the secret) I've found one.   Heavy with fruit and more ripening every day.  I've got ice cream tubs full in the freezer and I'm going to go off and get more tomorrow; hiding in the hedge every time a car goes past so as not to make eye-contact.

And no. I'm not telling you where it is.  It's mine.  As long as no-one catches me.

Lies, damn lies and you know whats

Excuse a briefly self-indulgent, unnecessary, honestly I know it doesn't matter really sort of post, sort of about blogging.

Or look away now.  I've got another one brewing that I'll put up in a couple of hours so come back then.

But yes.  Statistics.

Now, I know they don't matter, and I know that my blog is, if not my baby (I've got four of those already, don't need another one), my own project; and if I'm proud of it - which mostly, sometimes, I am - and if it does what I need it to do (mostly lie there quietly and be ignored at the moment) then it's doing all it needs to do and being all it needs to be.

But really.

Two years ago I won a national blogging prize.  For most of the year before that, and all of the time from then until April this year, I was, according to the Tots100 (yes, it doesn't matter, I know, yadda yadda) I was between 100th and 50th "best" (?), "most popular" (?), "most statistically relevant" (?) (see, I don't even know what it means, so really, why do I care?) parenting blog in the country.

Since March (75th), I have dropped a grand total of 586 places.   Which is impressive in its own way really.

And while I honestly don't really care (or at least not enough actually to do anything about it), I am simultaneously reassured, cheered and utterly bemused by the fact that blogger tells me that last month 18,082 people visited my blog.

Hello, whoever you are...

Oh, and the impressive looking chap?  He's the Duke of Wellington.  He didn't care about statistics either.  And I found his picture (by Sir Thomas Lawrence, apparently) on wikipedia commons.

Turns out (I've just checked, 24 hours after posting this) that he cared so little for statistics that he didn't actually say it.  It may have been Mark Twain, it may have been Disraeli, it may have been someone else entirely.  But as no one knows and the good Duke is more handsome than either of the others (though Disraeli does share my birthday, and Mark Twain had an utterly brilliant 'tache) I'm leaving him up there.

Monday, 2 September 2013

An awfully big adventure

So there we were, B and I, sitting on the terrace, with a glass of something bubbly, looking at the view and thinking: "isn't it a shame that holidays only last two weeks".

And B, whose father was (and is, at 69 and three quarters) self-employed and who therefore took holidays to suit him and the family more than the rest of us generally can, said "I think I'm entitled to a sabbatical at some pointWe could have a long holiday then."

And I said: "Let's not have a holiday.  Let's have an adventure.  I'd love to have an adventure".

Which is sort of true and sort of not, because although this idea is mere weeks old and probably years off, I'm already worrying about all the practicalities.  And grinning every time I think about all the possibilities.

Because I really think we might do it.  Pack ourselves, our lives and our children up and go.


Well, that's the thing. We have a tentative plan, to be slightly less tentative soon, but for the moment (until next week at least) I'm keeping it under wraps in case it doesn't come off at all.

But I'd love to know:

Where would you go?  You've got the world.  And four children.  And six months or so.

Money (because this is entirely hypothetical at the moment) no object.

Where should we go?