June Journals #13 ~ Dear Neighbours


Our Room of Noise

Dear Neighbours

I’m sorry I bought my children a karaoke machine. I know my kids are already noisy enough, screaming on the trampoline at all hours, and playing the drums. Badly.

I’m sorry my husband and I sang the whole of Bohemian Rhapsody, even though we’re terrible singers and it’s the first time I’ve ever sung karaoke (for that reason).

On the plus side, it turns out our microphones weren’t actually on. It could have been much worse.

I’m sorry our back garden acts like an amphitheatre and all noise is strangely echoed around the entire village. I know, because I hear them when I’m walking the dog, nearly half a mile away. I cringe. I feel your pain.


Blurry Rock Star

While we’re at it, I’m sorry I sometimes yell at them like a fishwife, with language a sailor would be proud of. What can I say? We’re not all born to be calm parents.

Look at it this way.

I hear your cars roaring as your teenage boys come home at midnight. And I know I have all that to look forward to.

I hear your babies screaming and having tantrums and I give a tiny smile of relief that those days are passed. Unless they’re your grandkids, in which case, I look forward to that with joy. Grandparents can give them back.

When your dog barks at your lawnmower for half an hour, I feel better about mine barking at the postman like he’s here to rob the house.

Neighbours, please accept my apologies for living our noisy crazy life. Be tolerant. It will be over in a few years.

I hope.



June Journals #11 ~ Love Your Library

Our Lovely Library

Our Lovely Library

We spent yesterday after school at our local library.

Usually Friday is Lego Club, but this week is Bookstart Week so they had colouring out instead.

I love colouring, it’s very therapeutic.

I also love our library. We go there at least a couple of times a week as we walk past after school. It’s just the best.

The staff work so hard to make it a welcoming place for children – even kids like mine who don’t go for the books.

They don’t have to be quiet (and frequently aren’t), there are toys and clubs to entertain and educate, and the staff are as good with children as the primary teachers. They don’t even mind my daughter cartwheeling everywhere.

Colouring Fun

Colouring Fun

Learning isn’t just books. Learning to share toys, building Lego creations, playing on the computers, interacting with the staff, it’s all great stuff.

I think people view libraries as out-dated, superseded by Amazon and Google.

That’s baloney.

Just as I think the emphasis on prolific reading as a sign of intelligence, and screen-time as pure evil, is also baloney. It depends on what’s in the book and what’s on the screen.

Some of the books aimed at my daughter’s age are just awful, enough to put her off reading for life, whereas many of the programs and games she engages with are massively educational and great for teaching human emotions. Well, the emotions of teenage dancers at least!


Oceans of Fun

Our library is tiny, and shares its space with the council, the Sure Start centre, and the registrar office. Yet it offers so much. Lessons in technology for silver surfers, chess club, Lego club, singing for the little ones, craft courses, history nights, music nights, school holiday activities.

And even though they hire out DVDs for a week cheaper than a Box Office download, above all they offer a place in the community where you aren’t expected to spend any money.

What’s not to like?

So if you’re at a loose end, even if you hate to read or don’t have kids, pop in to your local library.

You might be pleasantly surprised!



June Journals #7 ~ Routine Rocks

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I even cooked last night

I always thought I wasn’t a routine sort of person. When I quit my job (nearly a decade ago now, frighteningly), it was like being reborn. Here was a life without schedule. No 9-5, or 8-8 as it was most days. No boss, no one to please, no one telling me what to do.

I was an idiot.

I hate not having a boss. Being self-employed, or even unemployed, as I effectively am these days, is not for the fainthearted.

Being the person who gets you up every morning, keeps you moving through the day, makes you knuckle down when you’d rather sleep. That takes will power.

Turns out I don’t have a great deal of that.

I wanted to be an artist. I left my job as a Marketing Manager to sell paintings, not realising that marketing and sales were oh so very different, especially when what you’re selling is you. I sucked as a sales person, and had to return to the office. But I made a good contractor.

Well initially anyway.

Contracting is the ultimate in doing what you’re told, even if what you’re told to do is not what you think should be done. Turns out I wasn’t much better at that either. If something was daft, or if someone claimed they’d asked for x when actually they’d asked for y, I found it hard to keep my mouth shut.

Then I had kids.

Suddenly I had a boss, and then two. And they were the most demanding, unreasonable, dictatorial, loveable little tyrants I’d ever worked for. And I’ve had dozens of bosses.

But doing what you’re told also becomes a habit, and now I have to be careful that I don’t let the kids treat me like a doormat. I catch myself jumping up to get things they can quite easily get themselves, or fetch them something while they sit comfortably watching TV.

Anyway, that drifted off point slightly. My point was, yesterday saw a return to routine, at least for the children. My day is topped and tailed by the school run, with homework and after school clubs squeezed in. There’s a routine, of sorts. And I love it.

I still suck at organising the five or six hours in between. I still sleep more than I should. But I’m determined to crack this proofreading course I paid for, and nail my 5k run, as well as finish painting the garden fence, so at least at the moment I have targets.

Targets are good. That’s a bit like having a job. Being a parent is a lot like having a job. And while most of the time I think I suck at that too, I look at my children and realise I’m not doing too badly.

Although being paid would be nice. Especially paid leave. Guilt-free time off. I miss that the most!

June Journals #6 ~ Face Paint & Finding the House

Yesterday was the last day of the school holidays. The kids wanted to do something fun: a soft play centre or a swim. I wanted to find my house.

Thankfully the sun shone gloriously. Great for two reasons. One, the children played in the garden most of the day and, two, I seem to have killed my tumble dryer. OMG.

As a picture tells a thousand words, here is a short story about the state of my house after a week of half term. (Who I am kidding, it looks like this all the time!)

And that’s just the kitchen, playroom, and ‘homework desk’. The rest of the house was too bad to share! By bedtime I’d found enough floor to vacuum the lounge and bedroom, and stacked the dishwasher, but the rest of it still pretty much looks like this.

The children decided to occupy themselves with face painting. I suggested they paint dolls rather than themselves, as it’s back to school today and face paint doesn’t come off so well. So they did. To begin with. The baby doll ended up completely black and is currently lying face down in the paddling pool. I hope no one calls social services.

Of course, painting dolls is boring. I should have guessed they’d do their faces. And generally that’s okay. I ended up with two rather cute puppies.

But boys, yes? They always have to go a little too far. My son came in black. Coal black. ‘I’ve been back in time and worked as a chimney boy for a day’ black. And when we laughed (mine was hysteria) he got upset and cried. And leaned against the wall and cried. And ran up the stairs and cried. There are black hand prints everywhere. I managed to get him to stop crying long enough to take a picture.


It then took an hour in the shower and bath to return him to something resembling his usual skin colour. I am going to have to tell his teacher that the black marks around his throat aren’t bruises. Half term has been tough, but not that tough! Still, it kept them amused and, on the plus side, they had a bath without complaining. A win’s a win.

It’s been a great holiday but I can’t say I’m sad that they’re back to school today. 33 more days of school until the summer holidays, my daughter tells me sadly (she’ll miss her teacher). My son is ticking off the days on a calendar, because he doesn’t want to go back to school.

And me? I’m trying not to think about it at all.

June Journals #5 – Watch me, Mummy!


Our Garden Gym

The sun came out yesterday. It was amazing. We went from March to June in an hour. I finally got the lawn mowed after my run, so my daughter was back to gymnastics in the garden.

Back to more, ‘Mummy, watch me, please!’

I love watching my daughter do her routines. It takes me back to my own childhood, when we put on plays and dance routines and all sorts for our parents. A simple time. And it’s beautiful watching how far she has come, with just her own hard work.


There’s always a but, isn’t there? I think parenting should be renamed, ‘But…’

The ‘but’ here is that my daughter also gets super frustrated when she can’t do the gymnastics she sees on YouTube. You know, those kids who’ve spent hours a week in classes since they were three.

Yesterday, we printed off the Proficiency Awards worksheets, so she can see how much she can already do. I (foolishly) thought it would improve her confidence, maybe even make her want to join a club.



Me & My Sis

My independent Aquarius refuses tuition. But… I’m at the end of what I can teach, both through my ability to demonstrate (I never did bend well, and my wrists are beyond weak) and through my limited store of patience. A teacher I am not.

With karate, she will listen to her instructor a zillion times more than me (except when he says she’s ready for her next exam, but that’s a whole other problem). I think with gym classes she would flourish.

If she just had fun at home, it wouldn’t occur to me to put her in classes. I think kids do far too much scheduled activity. But just as we’ve reached the limit of what I can teach them in the pool, if she wants to improve – and she does – then a professional is required. Even pro athletes have a coach.

Not my daughter.

And it’s becoming a problem. How do you parent it? Like with the karate, what’s the best option? Do you make them do the exam, knowing they’ll be fine, or let them languish and get bored while their peers move on? Is it just for fun, or should it also be about putting in some effort, wanting to improve?

I have no idea.

All I know is that it was easy to, ‘Watch me, Mummy’ when it didn’t end in a dramatic exit. And that’s without the whole, ‘I wish I didn’t have a brother’.

There’s definitely no solution for that one!

June Journals #4 ~ Farm Calm


King of the Dens

Yesterday we spent the day with friends of ours at a local farm (West Lodge Rural Centre). We haven’t been to that one for a while, as it’s a bit further out, and I’d forgotten how nice it was. To the extent that I bought an annual pass.

To me, spending the day there is like giving the kids the childhood I had, without the risk or judgement.

The kids spent the day riding the barrel train and the ponies, feeding the ducks and goats, making dens and friends, and cuddling the bunnies.

They even got to watch a sheep lose its winter coat. Not sure I’d be that impressed if it were me. It was freezing!

Despite the weather feeling more like March than June, it was a fab day out.


Don’t eat the bag…

It’s weird watching the kids from a distance as they get scratched by tree branches or squabble over ride-on tractors. I try so hard not to be a helicopter parent, but I am one by nature.

At the same time I’m a bit lazy. The two work okay together now they’re older. I watch them constantly, but from a distance, preferably with a book and a cuppa, and I only intervene when I foresee blood or scarring.

And it’s great to see them make friends. My daughter had an impromptu gym class with a young girl she befriended, and they practised handstands and cartwheels on the grass for ages, while her big sister built dens with the boys.

Ah the boys.

That’s the only fly in the ointment of a fab day out.


Soooooo Cute

My friend has two boys and, while my daughter is just as capable of doing everything they do – with bells on – she doesn’t love the rough play. So she does end up feeling left out.

How do you parent it? She’s been taught to be careful with her baby brother, and also knows her brother gets yelled at for being too rough. But when they’re with a family that’s all boys – where they’re used to bundling and wrestling – where do you draw the line?

I have no idea, and it ended in a few tears and dramatic exits. It wouldn’t be a normal day without them, I guess, but it took the gloss off.

Seven is such a touchy age.

And it didn’t help when we all fell in love with the cute baby bunnies in the cuddle corner. I had rabbits and guinea pigs when I was younger, and love them so much. But hutch pets don’t really fit with our lifestyle, so the answer to ‘pleeeeease can we?’ was still no!

Mean Mummy.


June Journals #3 ~ Inattentive Works Too


Working on Cartwheels

Yesterday I learned that, while my children thrive on attention, it’s by no means bad to ignore them now and then. Actually I knew that already, but yesterday proved my point.

If I’m in a grump, my kids quite often stop squabbling and unite in a common cause against me. And if I persist in telling them (politely at first, then ‘go away!’) to let me have a bit of me time, they do go and find something to do eventually.

We went to the gym again in the morning, after I did my Week 2 Couch to 5k run across muddy fields. My daughter mastered the handstand while I dutifully fulfilled my role as ‘watch this!’ Mummy. But we were all definitely more tired.

I took them to the charity shop to buy them a toy and myself some peace. Oh my, that backfired. The first toy was broken and the replacement (a microphone, I know, I’m crazy) wouldn’t work with our computer. My ‘me’ time turned out to be an hour fighting with technology while the children came in every five minutes to ask, ‘have you fixed it yet?’

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Just Hangin’

In the end I resorted to the favourite, ‘we’ll get Daddy to sort it.’

I hate using that phrase, because it reinforces the gender stereotype that women are rubbish with technology. I can do technology, what I lack is patience. Anyway, I decided it just needed to go back to the shop, and I ordered a decent one off Amazon. I might not be very good at patience, but I’m really really good with a credit card.

The nap was harder. I had to sleep. I don’t sleep well at night at this time of year because Hubbie gets hayfever, and often I catch up during the day. But I couldn’t sleep through son’s movie because I actually enjoyed it (Puss in Boots) so I sent them off after, for ‘half an hour’ and then we’d go swimming. They came back every twenty minutes, pestering me for a swim, but I was resolute (i.e. exhausted). When I did finally wake up an hour later, swimming was the last thing I felt like doing. But I had promised…

Actually it was lovely. The water was fresh and my patience non-existent, but it was just the three of us, which made it easier. The children are less annoying without an audience. When Grandpa and Daddy are there, they fight for attention. But once they’d figured out I was all done being ‘watch me’ Mummy, and after I confiscated the Lilo, they just got on with it. I swam for an hour. It was bliss. My mum’s pool is only a few metres long, but big enough to actually do lengths. Boy can I feel that today!

It all went wrong as my son started doing lengths (can’t remember if it’s the first time he’s swum unaided. Bad Mummy), and my daughter felt left out. But, hurrah, Grandpa arrived, and all was saved.

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Cheeky Thief

We didn’t get home until 7pm, and dinner was a bit random. To be honest, feeding in general goes to pot in the holidays, with the shortfall made up for with daily vitamins!

But it was another nice day, even though I didn’t want to get up this morning. My son finally got me out of bed by pulling off the covers, and then jumping in my warm spot! Time for coffee.

This has been a prosaic post, sorry. A bit like our half term. I see pictures on FB of other kids in Spain, or at CenterParcs, or Peppa Pig world, and hide them from my two. Although perhaps I don’t need to. My daughter’s a bit bored, but my son is enjoying the time at home.

Getting him to school on Monday might be a challenge. But we’re off to a play farm with friends today, so plenty of time to worry about that later.