Monthly Archives: January 2014

What a 40 year old Can Teach a Teenager

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I’m anticipating my conversations with my daughter in a few years time.  You know the ones. The ones where my teenager thinks she knows everything and I’m such an old fuddy duddy (she won’t use that word) that I couldn’t possibly understand what it’s like for her.  I couldn’t possible “get” what her and her friends are going through.

So I’ve been working on a list (as you do) that I will happily share with her when the time comes.  Let me know what I’ve missed out.

RELATIONSHIPS

Since the beginning of time, these have not changed. The mode by which they can be conducted may have, but on the whole “Ugg” and “Uhhh” were dealing with jealousy, fear, committment, lack of attention and arguments back when a relationship could break down over Ugg’s inability to fix the pounding stone securely to the cave floor.

I have “been around the block”. I’ve even gone around again, got the t-shirt, washed the t-shirt, lost the t-shirt, demanded the t-shirt back and cut the t-shirt up into pieces.  I HAVE HAD RELATIONSHIPS, with all sorts of blokes. That’s experience for you.  On top of that, I have had more friends than you, people who have also had relationships, of which I have helped, listened to and sympathised over.  Whilst you have 3 friends from primary school and about 5 friends in high school, I’ve accumulated far more experience of other people’s relationships since then. 8 from school,  plus around 10 from every place I’ve ever worked at (nearing 100), plus friends I made through relationships who may have come and gone, but I was there through tough times.  Let’s round that up to about 200.  I’d say I’ve got an experience I can relate to in ANY circumstance, wouldn’t you?  As I said – “I do understand”.  Relationships are complicated.

DRUGS

There are many of us “oldies” who probably know a lot more than we really want to let on.  There are few drugs (some of the harder ones) I haven’t tried.  I know what peer pressure feels like, I know about the tussle between head and heart.  I know the decision to leap into the abyss even though every bone in your body is telling you to not risk it.  I did it for a number of years and when that decision became more of an ordeal than the experience, I stopped.

Having said all that. I did have an awful lot of fun.  Thankfully with the right tune on I can get “total recall” without the drugs.  To be honest, nothing beats a good disco nap before a night out, a few drinks and dancing.  Even then, it felt like I big fat lie.  Fabricated fun. Tricking the brain.

At any rate, feel free to ask me about E, LSD, coke, speed and marijuana.  Making the decision to take any of those will have a big impact on your life.  Short term it can be devastating.  I was lucky. I also know that it’s not as simple as that and I can’t pretend you won’t get the opportunity.

I know I don’t take anything stronger than a horlicks these days, but trust me, I still remember.

SOCIAL MEDIA

“I don’t know what you are using. I don’t know what you want it to do. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career on social media. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you insist on signing up to the latest social media fad, then fine.  That won’t be the end of it.  I will look for you, I will find you, and I will learn how to use it!”*

FASHION

Instead of rolling your eyes whilst I check out your “oh so not suitable” outfit, just give a second.  I need to take the time to process what the hell you are wearing.  Not necessarily to give you a bollocking or ask you to change, just to …. process it.

You see, I was a teenager once and I wore some pretty odd things.  Well, they weren’t odd to me, just to my parents.  I know it’s more important to wear the right things than wear the clothes that are flattering.  A belt around the middle might balance out an outfit but if belts are not worn by teenagers, well, I get that!

Have a muffin top.  Wear your trousers too short or your top too baggy or shoes that make your feet look 2 sizes too big.  I don’t really care.  Just let me get used to it.

 BEING A TEENAGER

Overall I think I was a pretty good teenager. I didn’t have boyfriends until I was 18. I was shy.  I dabbled in a bit of marijuana (once as a teenager) but I always made it back for my curfew and rarely was out.

Listening to my mum, you’d think I was the most horrible teenager in the world.  I guess it was an attitude thing I wasn’t very aware of at the time. I haven’t forgotten that.  I know we aren’t going to be the best of friends and that everything I say and do will be wrong, but trust in me.  I do remember how nothing else mattered except what I was doing.  I remember not caring how my parents felt. I remember how the smallest incident felt like the most horrendous, world shattering event.  I promise I won’t forget that.  I will always do what I think is right and I will try to explain my decisions with you as best I can.

I will try to share the journey from childhood to adulthood with you as best as I can.  I promise when we get out the other side we will be stronger and closer than every before.

But always remember.  I DO KNOW MORE THAN YOU DO. A 40-year-old can teach a teenager an awful lot.

 

*adapted from a well known movie quote. Gold star if you can guess.

Stranger Danger – how to discuss it

There was an incident on Wednesday.

For those of you that follow my twitter account, you probably already know that I turned up at Pickle’s after school club to collect her at 5.30pm and she wasn’t there.waiting for mum

Worse still, it was only my presence that alerted the staff to the fact that SHE WASN’T THERE.  They HAD picked her up after school and brought her back to the club (it backs on to the school playing fields) and then at 4pm they had walked her and a few others over to have gymnastics in the hall, a privately run after school class.

Trouble was, that at 5pm when the after school club person responsible for picking her up,  arrived at the hall, she just picked up one child and promptly forgot Pickle.

I know this, because instead of immediately getting one of her staff to run through the fields to get her, the manager opted to stand wondering what had gone wrong and then ask the person responsible why she hadn’t picked her up.  “You didn’t ask me to” was the reply. Brilliant.  Sounds like a robust system is in place to ensure children are safeguarded!

I of course dashed over the fields with my 3-year-old running alongside (bless him) in the dark, in thick squelchy mud and with my heart in my mouth.  Nothing feels as good as seeing a flash of a familiar coat through the glass of the hall door and the realisation that your precious daughter is safe.

Needless to say.  I’m fuming and we are progressing this with the after school club.

Of course, I know my daughter is sensible and the outcome in this case was as good as it could have been.  Pickle didn’t run off or attempt to walk home, she went back to the gymnastic teacher who after trying to get her to the club (gates was locked in the field) let her sit in on the next class and left a message for me (which I didn’t get until I was there as I was doing nursery pick up when she called).

The worse case scenario is one I can barely think about.  I’m not one for being overly protective.  I don’t believe there are more children abducted now than there was when I was a kid, but never the less, I am aware of the risks.  All of my decisions are based on managing a risk against the positives.  My worse case scenario would have been if someone, known to Pickle, maybe only once or twice, maybe a mum or dad of a friend, someone who had volunteered for reading, perhaps someone who is regularly in and out of the school, chanced their luck that day.  Let’s assume they know about the club.  They know kids wander in and out. They know parents can be late and some kids rely on pick up from childminders or after school clubs.  There is full access from the street to the gym (there has to be) and maybe, just maybe they just wandered in, ready with an excuse if someone asked, but ready to take advantage of a situation.

Then they could have just told Pickle that I’d sent them to pick her up.

You see, I hadn’t work out how to have that conversation yet.  She’s always been safe. I’ve never left her anywhere where she has been sitting around or waiting or vulnerable.  I thought I’d have another year to discuss this.  I didn’t know how to broach the subject with her without being too complicated or too vague or too detailed.

In the morning after the event I went and sat with her on her bed and asked her what she would have done in the above situation. I used a friend of hers dad as an example.

She told me she would have gone with him.

F*&@

So, I thought on the spot and gave her the names of 6 people (3 couples) who are the ONLY people she should EVER go with without me telling her that its ok.  I had to boil it down to as few people as possible. I had to think of the people who might turn up at the school if we were both in a car accident or are dealing with an emergency with The Monster.

I reiterated. “YOU NEVER GO WITH SOMEONE UNLESS I SAID IT WAS OK”.

She asked what would happen if she forgot she was going with someone. I told her I’d rather she didn’t go with them but that from now on I’d put a note in her bag, so if she was ever unsure she could check.

To be honest. I thought about it off the top of my head.  I have no idea if I’ve even done it right.

Have you had the stranger /friend danger conversation?  I haven’t even talked to her about people approaching her who she doesn’t know yet.

How did you handle it?  Do you have a book you can recommend?

Needless to say, we are going to keep drip feeding the same information over the next year or so. Make sure she properly remembers.

I just can’t take the risk.

No, it’s not Flu

It’s that time of year again when friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter and my colleagues at work are all claiming to have flu.  Influenza.Bird flu virus

It would seem that the minute anyone has anything other than a runny nose they immediately claim they have flu.

If you are putting up a Facebook Status, it’s not flu.

If you are eating breakfast, it’s not flu.

If you fancy a cup of tea. It’s not flu.

If you are watching tv, it’s not flu.

Here’s a really good rule of thumb that someone told me a couple of years ago:

If someone told you that there was gold buried in your back garden and you can’t be bothered to get up and go and dig it up, then you’ve probably got flu.

It is entirely possible that if you are too unwell to go to work or do the school run and you just feel like lying in bed or perhaps having some more sleep, that you have a severe cold virus.  Cold viruses can be very mild or very severe and I have been off work for a couple of days with a severe cold virus.

If you are fannying about on social media. YOU DON’T HAVE FLU.

 

New Year, New Pastures & Recording our life

As many of you know, I have some big changes that are planned for 2014.

I don’t want to go into too much detail here as I’m contemplating blogging our big moves on another blog.  Suffice to say, we have made the decision to move to the country, somewhere that neither of us have lived before (well, not me in the UK), change jobs and move away from family and friends.

It’s a big old step, so with that all in the pipeline, we obviously didn’t make any other big committment this year.

I need to excercise, but I’m not killing myself to work out how to fit that in.

I need to focus on my painting again, but, again, I’ve not given myself any unrealistic goals.

I need to get some different direction in my life, (work wise), but I feel making this move will sort out one area of our life and I’ll accept a job and then I have time to start looking for better working environments.

We have no idea what will happen first.  Job, house sale or house offer, but ideally we want to be moved by July or August so Pickle can start a new school year somewhere.

In the meantime I have two very very small projects that I’m getting off the ground – both of which were Christmas presents. One I asked for, the other I didn’t

diary booksI asked for a book called “Dear Mum.  From me to you”.  It’s a journal that I need to fill in during the next few years (maybe more) and at some stage I will hand it to my children.  Memories that they ask me for now and will be forgotten tomorrow, but will matter when it really matters.  When they are older, with children of their own, knowing something about me and their childhood will matter a lot.  I know.  I have a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old and my mum died over 15 years ago.  Right now, any stories from my childhood about me or her would be really helpful.  Alas I have a smattering of “naughty school girl” stories she told us over and over again at the dinner table because we asked so much.

Some of the pages have these sort of questions at the top:

  • Tell me about the time and place you were born
  • What are your earliest memories?
  • Tell me about your mum and dad.
  • What interesting information do you know about other people in our family?

Right through to questions like:

  • Describe some of the favourite outfits you wore as a young woman?
  • What would you do for a night-out when you were dating?
  • How did you feel when you found out you were pregnant with me?

I’m looking forward to answering some of these questions.  Best do it now before ALL of my memory cells leave me.  It’s already a slippery slope.

I think it’s such a lovely idea.

The second gift I got was from my sister and is called “One Line a Day. A five-year memory book”.  This is a lovely idea, again.  It is a fantastic idea if you are a sporadic diary writer, like me as it really does take about a minute to fill in each day and makes you condense your day down quite well.  No meandering, fluffy stuff.  No over analysing crap.  Straight to the point and a handy reference point to you if you can’t remember when you had that ghastly dentist appointment or when your child lost a tooth.   Most importantly it’s a lovely idea to spend those last few moments before bed, summarising your day, noting your achievements, accepting the disappointments and keeping a record of your life for your children (or maybe not, depending on the content).

inside diary

I’ve only done 10 days, but have managed to keep it up.  The hardest part has been starting writing the words and realising I could go on forever.  It’s a good discipline to keep it short. Or try to.  I have written a bit along the margin on a few occasions.  I think the reason it works is that you know it won’t take long and that you don’t have to write anything meaningful.  The fact you end up wanting to write more and quite possibly may write something meaningful is a bonus.

I’m really looking forward to our new year ahead and most importantly, documenting it so I look back at what an achievement it all was (hopefully).

 

 

 

 

Octonauts Party for Normal Non Crafty Parents

I’m not crafty. I don’t care how many times someone says I am, I’ve just realised that there are varying grades of craftiness.

I’m pretty awful, but what makes me different to the ones that comment on how great something looks is that I attempt to have a vision, I’m skilled at googling, I use twitter for help and I do what I can and accept my limitations.  THAT is why I can bring to you how I made an octonauts party without spending 20 days preparing for it.  All my mistakes are here for you to read. I’ve also given you links to stuff online. I think that helps alot. It’s all fine and well saying what you did, but if you then can’t find anything on google, then it’s a headache.

I have been looking at various things online (if you want a proper crafty guide then check out this post from Knitty Mummy) and had established that I wanted to try a cake and put up some decorations.  I figured that was about all I had time for on the day of the party (a 3pm start. I can’t emphasis enough how critical having a late afternoon party is.  Perfect for a last minute dash if you forget anything).

The cake. 

My foray into cake making hasn’t always been great.  I was pretty terrible if the truth be known.  Not just with the making of an edible cake but also with the decorations. Sculpting, I’ve decided is not my skill in life.  I have tried fondant icing on Pickle’s cake once (with an edible Rapunzel topper I’d ordered online) but it was so bumpy and I was so peeved about it I vowed to never use fondant on a whole cake again.  So I use buttercream. Much easier and my children prefer it.

The successful making of a cake also took time.  I found out (after my 3rd failed attempt) that cake baking is about practice. Knowing your oven, continually checking the cake and making mistakes is part of the learning.  Once I found out this, I stopped giving myself a hard time.  Also, for the last 2 birthdays I had used Betty Crocker packet cake to ensure a perfect cake and to spend more time doing the decoration.  This time however, I found the perfect Chocolate cake from Nigella’s website that was recommended to me.  One practice and a note about the cooking time and I went with it. It turned out ok.  It’s here

Now I didn’t use her icing (but her icing is amazing).  I needed to colour the icing for the Octonauts cake, so I had to use a normal buttercream icing recipe.  To do that, I used my Rachel Allen Bake recipe and did her buttercream but left out the cocoa and substituted the cream for milk.  It’s here. 

I didn’t use her cake recipe as it was my go to chocolate cake but was increasingly going wrong all the time.  I personally think you have to shop around for a cake that works for you. This one was always too hard for me, no matter what I did.

On the Friday before the party (2 days before) I started to make the fondant Octonauts for the cake. It’s good to give it a couple of days for the icing to harden. I had found various version on Pinterest and opted for a 1D version of all of them.  I then downloaded a pic from the Cbeebies website.  I had done this for the Iggle Piggle cake last year and it worked really well.  I had underestimated how many fiddly pieces were in an Octonaut though and didn’t finish it.  If you want to do it, then go for it.  I took my picture and blu tacked it to the dining table then sticky taped some parchment/greaseproof paper over it to hold it in place.  I then traced the outline and all the major sections onto the parchment.  Then I rolled out the fondant (ordered from most cake suppliers and if you send the pic to them they’ll match your colours for you) put the parchment over the top and using a knife I slowly marked through the parchment and through to the fondant. I do it like a dotted line, remove the parchment and then finish by cutting it all out with the knife.

I got this far and realised I was in too deep for my skill level.  I could have done it, but it would have taken me about 6 hours (it was an hour at this point) and I wouldn’t have been happy with the way it looked at all.  I threw in the towel and rethought my cake plans.

quasi mistakeSo I then decided to sit with my 5 year old and together we did some sea creatures. I used no templates and when it went pear shaped, I just rolled the ball of fondant up again and had another go.  It’s like play doh only stickier, so make sure you use icing sugar a bit to counteract the stickiness.

Between us we made about 4 orange fishes (complete with gills cut in and a little black eye), she made a pink puffer fish and I did a very bad shark.  Then we did a few little seaweeds.

I then took the magnetic letters from their board and pressed my son’s name into some dark blue fondant and then cut around them, so he had his name on the cake.  I have tried to use regal icing and do writing on a cake, but I’m really rubbish at it. It is quite stressful to do as I feel I can’t make a mistake.  This is an example of knowing what you can and can’t do.  Fondant letters it is.  If I make a mistake, I can make a new one.

The day before the party I baked the cake (as per recipe above) and left it to cool before putting it in a cake container. I bought this one last year and it is a great thing to have. I store it above my cupboards when not in use.  It’s really roomy, so can store a cake with decoration on it.

On the day of the party I made the buttercream (recipe above) and I tripled the quantity.  I also used milk instead of the cream.  I added about 4 TBSP of milk and then added more at the end to give it consistency that would be easier to spread.  I then used a blue colouring in the last few whisks to make it blueish.

Next is to dollop it on the cake.  The top could be as messy as I liked as it represented the sea, but I used one of these to tidy up the sides. I used the non spiky side.  I find buttercream so much easier to use.  I didn’t make it too thick on top that anything would sink in it with no trace, but thick enough to hold everything.  I then popped 3 octonauts figurines that had come with various Christmas presents (one had arrived that morning).  One of them toppled over fairly quickly so had to be cleaned up and the buttercream fixed, then I repositioned it so I got the centre of gravity right.  Then I popped on my son’s name and the rest of the seaweed and fishes and voila.  The cake was done. (I have pixellated the name out, sorry. Just an anonymous thing).

cake front cake top

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hadn’t planned on sticking the shark at the front. I created it using black and white fondant. Just kept kneading it together. In the end I needed to put something there, so I chose that.

Now for the decorations.  I had already purchased these so had the party tea decorations under control (cups, plates etc) and I had ordered the octonauts party bags too. However I wanted to create a bit of an “under the sea” effect in the main room without going over the top too.  Again, Pinterest was great, but I was ill on the Saturday night and had limited stuff available to me.

I had done some seaweed designs for my daughter’s Mermaid party last year. I had used crepe paper and twisted it on the wall and sticky taped it into place.  However, I threw it all away and only had tissue paper available to me.  I don’t officially have a craft box but I bought a load of tissue paper for an Easter hat competition last year and I hadn’t used any of the shades of green.  So I googled, asked on Twitter and decided to have a bash at it.  This is what I ended up with.

Octonauts under the seaThe dark green seaweed was cut out by going a fifth up the tissue paper and literally cutting a wiggly seaweed shape up and down. I took out each 2nd piece to have a gap between them.  I then took the other green paper and cut lots of long wiggly strips out. I used sticky tape to put to the wall (3 year olds don’t care) and then added the extra strips in between letting in fall behind the original dark green seaweed.  The waves were cut out in the shape you see, although I had one sheet x 4 thick so it took 3 seconds to make all the panels.

I then mucked about making some fish shapes and a funny pink starfish.  I then cut out a few Octonaut pictures from one of The Monster’s magazines and stuck them on to.

You can just see in the forefront of this photo some seaweed hanging down.  We cut out and hung some of the strips from the door frame (it’s the old french door leading to the extension, so it’s very wide).  Effective but very easy to do.

That was it.  Not mind blowingly amazing, but fully appreciated by the 3 year olds (and a few adults alike).  It dressed up the room a bit, said “Octonauts Party” without saying “Look at me, I’m trying really really hard to impress everyone”.  I actually enjoy these smaller touches at my parties, I enjoy trying to figure out how to do something, getting a teeny bit stressy and then compromising on something I thought might work.

I hope it is of some use to anyone who thinks they aren’t very crafty but want to do a few things.

This is my only party at home this year.  My soon to be 6 year old is having a big entertainer/hired venue party for 31 children this year.  I’m planning on remortgaging the house to pay for it!