Tuesday, 28 May 2013

How to traumatise your child with Nemo

Rudy had a lie-in yesterday. Not something to complain about, you might think, and you'd be right. But the knock-on effect of an 8.15am start (yes, 8.15 is a lie-in) was that he didn't require his usual afternoon nap.

I, however did. And by which, yes of course I mean I could have used a nap myself but I'm almost 4 years into this parenting lark so no longer labour under the false illusion that "napping when they nap" actually happens in the real world. No, I am chronically sleep-deprived and almost used to it. What I mean is I needed him to nap.

I love my children very much. So much that they should possibly invent a new word for it. However I do, at times, need a break.

My eldest never stops talking.  From the minute he wakes up he is making noise and my youngest doesn't stop moving EVER.  Not even in his sleep. He just never stops. He is never still. So between the constant noise and constant movement it can be somewhat overwhelming and come 1pm I am usually mere minutes from catatonia.  Of course when Rudy naps I get the semi-break necessary to push through and on with the day.

When he doesn't, it's another story.

Yesterday though I had (what I thought was) a smart idea:  "Finding Nemo"

A movie Toby had seen before but not for ages and miraculously a dvd we owned that Rudy has not yet watched or eaten.

I figured that although not as restful as a nap it would provide us all with the chance to veg, and that maybe, if they were enthralled, I'd get something resembling 90 minutes peace.

Well, I was wrong. Dead wrong.

First up:  Nemo's mum

***spoiler alert***

She gets eaten by a shark in the opening scene. Fuck. I'd forgotten about that.

We haven't yet dealt with the issue of death and how it's a permanent state.  So it was awkward to say the least when 10 minutes later Toby wanted to know if Nemo's Mum was "still eaten by a shark?!"  The realisation that the fish Mum would in fact not be coming back and that it was just going to be Marlin and Nemo for the duration appeared to shock him to his 3.5 year old core.

From then on, it was just a steady stream of constant questions about ocean life from Toby, periodically interspersed with shrieks of "SHAR! SHAR! SHAR! AAAAAARGH!" from Rudy as he clambered on my lap every time anything other than a clown fish appeared on the screen.

I possibly should have just switched to another dvd but they were both seemed to be enjoying it well enough, even if it wasn't quite the relaxing experience I'd envisaged.

And then finally, several hours later it was bath time.

The boys have always had a bedtime routine of sorts.  Not a "6.23 put the baby in the bath, 6.30 get the baby out the bath, 6.36 give the baby a bottle" kind of routine.  Just a vague sequence of events that happen in the run up to bed.  The start and end times of said sequence vary but it basically goes dinner-bath-brush teeth-story-bottle-bed and aside from boob being replaced by bottle, and then bottle being replaced by cup of milk and then eventually that step being eradicated altogether, it hasn't really changed much.

So, they know the drill.

Last night I was a bit distracted and overfilled their bath slightly, but they seemed to like it so it was all good:

Or so I thought.  Mere minutes after this photo was  taken, a bath toy brushed Rudy's leg under the water and he reacted in the same way that a person waist-high in the atlantic might if someone were to start humming the Jaws theme tune.  That is to say, he became apoplectic.

Unfortunately I hadn't yet begun to wash the beans out of his ears or the yoghurt out of his hair so we (and by we, I mean, the entirety of Manchester Greater Manchester  the United Kingdom) had to endure his horrified, and horrifying screams for several minutes whilst I attacked him with a Spiderman flannel and his brother looked on bemused, very much like "Dude. WTF is your problem?!"

Once out of the bath, encased in pyjamas and fed milk he fell asleep extremely quickly so I chalked the whole thing up to excessive bath-water volume and over-tiredness.

It wasn't until about 40 minutes later, when he woke from what appeared to be a nightmare crying "SHAR SHAR SHAR! Scare" that I actually realised- oh shit, I have totally traumatised my child with Nemo.

Not my first, and it certainly won't be my last, but without a doubt, a fairly epic PARENTING FAIL.

Monday, 27 May 2013

My Run Result!

I did it!

I ran my first ever 10k run EVER!

I was strangely nervous and diva-ish beforehand, getting bossier as the morning went on and poor Chris had his work cut out making me porridge and pinning my sponsorship info on my back amongst other things. I wouldn't have blamed him if he'd accidentally-on-purpose stabbed me with one of the five safety pins I'd managed to find, but I'm grateful he didn't.

The start wasn't quite how I'd imagined, when it came to lining up to begin, it was just a giant free for all and the crowd was HUGE so I was a little anxious that I didn't really have the physical space to warm up properly which I'd have done on the sidelines if I'd known. Still the atmosphere was great.

(Portland Street, ready to run!)

(My little team of supporters)

The starting klaxon for the pink wave sounded at 12.30 pm but it was actually 12.34 when I passed through the start line- that's how many of us there were! It was pretty slow going at first and I can see how easy it would be to end up tripping/falling as there was such a large number of limbs and variation in speeds and abilities. I could definitely have run the first 5k faster with less of a crowd but it's probably a good thing I didn't because I hit a major wobble between 6 and 8k.  There were a couple of hills...ok, ok...slight inclines and the sun was beating down, shining directly on me. The run-through showers at 7k were pure bliss and I'd have happily run through several more had there been any!

There were supporters along the sidelines all the way around, and it was wonderful to see them cheering and waving, encouraging even complete strangers to keep running.  In the last 1k there were volunteers handing out vaseline and jelly babies.  I took a jelly baby but was almost too exhausted by that point to chew it.  I forgot all about it until I'd done when I burped and couldn't for the life of me work out why I had such a strong taste of orange in my mouth when I hadn't had anything orange that day, it took me a while to remember the jelly baby!

After 8k I think I passed through my mental barrier and the adrenaline kicked in, I was feeling pretty shaky the closer I got to the start and at 400m to the finish line I suddenly felt cold when I'd been boiling in my own skin the whole way around but I was determined to cross the finish line running and I did!

I can't tell you how good it felt to finish, it was so awesome. I hadn't managed a 10k run in training due to knee/shin pain but I didn't have any at all yesterday. Obviously I'm a little achey and knackered today but I am injury free which was always my main goal! The only physical evidence I have in fact is a solitary blister on the end of my middle toe on my left foot, which made me smile when I found it last night.

I never cease to be amazed at what the human body is capable of. And that's really why I wanted to run in the first place. I wanted to do something new, something I wouldn't normally do, something slightly crazy but also something for good.  By completing the Bupa Great Manchester Run and raising money for Findlay and Iona I think I've accomplished that.

This is the first year in a while that I haven't been pregnant / trying to get pregnant / miscarrying or have just given birth. In the past four years I have been amazed at what my body is capable of and I wanted to see what else it could do. Biomechanically speaking I don't think I'm a born runner- my feet are flat and my knees are creaky, but yesterday I saw runners of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities running alongside each other.  I saw people in wheelchairs, and people with obvious physical disabilities, people who'd survived cancer, and overcome the odds and I'm sure there were many others whose disabilities, battles and pain weren't immediately apparent to the rest of us but were there nonetheless.

Almost everyone I saw was running to raise money and / or awareness for somebody or something, there were millions of different coloured charity vests and t-shirts and people running with photos of loved ones on their backs.  There wasn't one single cause I saw that I thought wasn't worthwhile running 10k for, it was very humbling and actually quite emotional.  Several times I felt like crying, and not because of the scorching heat and my jelly legs! Several times when I slowed right down I saw someone or something that inspired me to speed back up and to keep going.

With the hiccups I've faced since I started running in January I had said several times that I wasn't sure I'd keep on running once this race was over and that I probably wouldn't run another 10k race for sure...but now having experienced how incredible it is taking part in something so huge, as one of thousands and thousands of runners, in my own city, having the opportunity to do something fantastic just by showing up and doing my best I know that of course I would.  I'd do it again tomorrow.  Having seen some of the people running yesterday and what they'd endured just to get there, how could I not?


Time: 1 hour, 21 minutes and 59 seconds

Overall position:
(out of 40,000 runners in total)

Position in 0-34 years age group:

Position in female category:

Position in female 0-34 years age group:

Money raised so far:

A huge thank you to everyone who has shown their support and / or made a donation :)

Friday, 24 May 2013

Diet Rage

I am three days in to my first ever diet.

Or rather- I joined Weight Watchers.

So it's not even like it's a "fad" (a la the cabbage soup thing) but has actually worked for real human beings.

Well it is not working for me.

Or maybe I am just a fat greedy pig.

I wouldn't know because I have never tried to control my food intake in any way before in my whole life.  I have always just eaten what I wanted, when I wanted and my weight has varied accordingly.  As a (non-pregnant) adult my lowest weight has been 9 stone (I'm 5'6" so that's a bit too skinny if we're honest) and my highest 12 stone (post baby) which is a fair bit of variation and in fact means I own clothes in sizes 8 through to 16 as well as a fairly well stocked maternity wardrobe too.

I am currently 11 stone 1lbs and it's been a fair while since my uterus housed any humans.  I lost all my baby weight (and more) long ago so I can't blame the babies (drat).  In all honesty I think hormonal contraception has a lot to answer for.  It's been 6 weeks now since my Mirena met with the inside of a clinical waste bag but I know from past experience that my body takes a while to normalise after any kind of hormonal interference.  Like when I had the implant removed, it took my body 3 months to realise it could in fact, if it wanted, menstruate of it's own accord.  I know, slow to catch on or what?!

So I decided to take definitive action and having no clue where to start I decided to go with something obvious.  WW has really mixed reviews, most people I speak to either loved it and had great success with it, or hated it and want me to join Slimming World instead.

I don't much care either way but I had to start somewhere and I had a coupon which basically made a 3 month membership to WW free so this way I feel I haven't lost anything...except my sanity that is.

Seriously, three days in and I am a ball of pure white hot rage.

I am already beginning to question the wisdom behind the "points system", as I found out yesterday that my Eat Natural fruit and cereal bar is worth almost as many points as a cooked breakfast.  But, who the fuck has a cooked breakfast for an afternoon snack?! I don't even like sausages damn it! And surely a cereal bar is healthier?

Today I was planning to have a jacket potato and tuna for dinner but a 300g potato (yes, I weighed my fucking potato, I know, I can't believe it either) is 11 POINTS. Eleven points.

I know you're struggling to feel the fury that I do but just to put it in perspective for you, I'm only allowed 26 points per day.  So one potato, without butter or tuna or indeed anything is almost half my points.

What kind of crazy system is this?!

I think perhaps I am just not cut out for this dieting lark.  I have never thought so much about food in all my life as I have these past 3 days, and it's boring and miserable (as this blog post clearly demonstrates)

Do you know that there are actual people on Pinterest pinning this as an inspirational quote:

Are you fucking kidding me?!


Cardboard soaked in cat piss?!

It's been a long time since I was what might be considered "skinny" but as I recall it felt decidedly...well...nothing. Spaghetti bolognese on the other hand? Enchiladas? Cheesecake? Fucking Creme Brulee?!

*nom nom nom*

Ok, I am going to quit salivating on my keyboard, pour myself a stingy glass of wine (3 bastard points!) and go lose myself in a book enough that the matter of my ever expanding backside won't bother me.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Children are people too

When strangers sigh, or roll their eyes because my child has dared to exist in the same universe as them. Or when my kid runs in front of someone or lets out a blood curdling shriek within their earshot and I get the look.  You know *the look*, I can't help but feel that I want to reach out to the stranger in question and caress their scowly self-important know-it-all, judgmental face with my fist. Repeatedly.

Some guy and his girlfriend were about to embark upon their grocery shopping at Tesco this afternoon when they were rudely and shockingly delayed by approximately five whole nanoseconds whilst Toby whooshed in front of the guy as he reached to take a basket.

The reason he was whooshing in such an uncontrolled teeny tiny hooligan way (under direct parental supervision) was because he had just remembered he'd left his new lego toy on the floor of the passport photo booth near the tills.

This guy gave Toby a look like he had just stomped on his puppy's face, and then me a look like my son had just stomped on his puppy's face, and then gave his girlfriend (who appeared unaffected by the whole incident) a look like "Can you believe these fuckers are allowed to share the same planet as us?!"

Right there and then I wanted to shoot laser beams out of my eyes and impregnate his girlfriend using the power of my fucking mind and then magically fast forward 2 or 3 years and say "Sorry, what was that look again? I didn't quite catch it"

Oh yeah, it's all so easy when you have all of the answers and none of the responsibilities.

Trouble is, it's not (wholly) this guys fault. We live in a society in which children are seen as a lifestyle choice. An inconvenience to everyone, something to be 'overcome' with discipline, baby sitters and school, from an early an age and with as long hours as possible.

They are the sole responsibility of their parents at all times, but on the flip side, if after devoting your body, life and soul to creating one of these little creatures you dare to be proud of your accomplishment then you're likely to get a faceful of scorn in return for boasting/"one-up-manship" or just generally, taking up people's valuable (adult) time talking about what is essentially your little selfish hobby. Not to mention clogging up your friends' timelines with photos of your adorable little rugrat.

Now I'm only going to say this once motherfuckers so listen hard and listen good. Children are not a hobby.

Cross-stitch is a hobby.

If you want to learn cross-stitch, good for you! If you're a close friend or family member I might be persuaded to be happy you've found something you're passionate about. But at the end of the day it's your thing, and it has no impact on me or the rest of the world, unless you become like a famous, world-reknowned cross-stitch-er and change people's minds and hearts with your cross-stitch talents.  In which case, wow.

It was indeed my choice to have children but that still doesn't make them my indulgent passtime a la cross-stitch.

Like or not, you too were all children once. And noisy, precocious, snot-fulled little fiends you probably were too. And look at you now, why you're positively human!* (*In most cases)

"What now?! Children are people too?!" I hear you exclaim, "well who'd have thought it?!"

Well, err...me, for one.  Raising two young boys is not my end-goal, I am raising two men.

The reason you should give a shit about children, even if you're not one and don't have any and never plan to, is because what impacts children and families impacts society as a whole, after all, children are the future.  No really, they are.

My little snoogly-boos* (*I have never actually called them that in their lives) that are pissing you off so royally by scamping around the supermarket yelling at the top of their lungs or spilling their juice all over themselves whilst you're trying to have a civilised business lunch at the next table, or whose adorable little chops are gracing your Facebook feed every other day, are in fact going to be the doctors, lawyers, teachers, politicians, scientists, bartenders, writers, actors, musicians, artists, mechanics, sportsman, plumbers, boyfriends, husbands, and potentially fathers of the future.

So you might just wish they'd be quiet, and get out of your way, or learn some table manners and you may think their existence has fuck all to do with you but if you give even one eighth of a shit about life, society or the planet on which we live, then actually, I'm sorry to say- it does.

How a society views and takes care of it's mothers, fathers, parents, families and children is important because they're necessary for that society to continue to exist. And more than that, more than existence, we know that so much of what we become as adults starts from childhood.  What we eat, what we think, how we relate to people, our health, our beliefs it all begins with family.  For better or worse.  What family looks and feels like is different for everyone, and unfortunately it isn't always pretty, but that's all the more reason to care.  The things that hurt children the things that hurt families, they hurt us all.  The things that support and nurture children, parents and families, benefit us all.

Now I'm not asking for royal treatment.  I don't need, nor wish for a red carpet rolling out every time I decide to grace the aisles of my local Tesco with the presence of myself and my kids.  I don't want my children bowed and pandered to.

I just want you to treat them like people.  Because they are.

Sometimes they're noisy, messy, tiring, unreasonable people.  But jeez, they have been on this earth for all of about five minutes.  Those of us who have been here a little longer than that, so understand concepts like the "rules of society", delayed gratification and "indoor voices", would perhaps do well to remember that we weren't always so together and we didn't always have such a firm grasp of what the fuck is going on in this crazy world (erm, still don't!) and as such maybe consider sometimes giving those smaller, and less worldly wise than us the benefit of the doubt and, while we're at it, laying off the judgmental looks too, because one day bitches, I'm going to get me some of those lasers, and then you'll be sorry. Mark my words.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

1 week until race day!

This time next week I will likely be feeling rather nervous and scoffing down some porridge, in preparation for running the Bupa Great Manchester Run.  Yes, it's really only one week away now!

I signed up for it last October so for it to be finally be this close to really happening seems a bit surreal.

I started training in January as some of you will remember and despite being deeply enthusiastic and having a training plan and everything I ran into trouble early on with blinding knee pain that turned out to be patellofemoral disorder.

I didn't run for 6 weeks while my body healed, which solved the knee pain but clearly did nothing for improving my fitness or increasing the distance I can run.  Then in March I started over, this time not following a training plan as such, just aiming to run 3 times a week, starting out slow and increasing my distance as and when I felt able.

It's worked out quite well as my average runs have increased from 3.5 to 4.5 then 5.5. then 6 and then 7.5k.  At which point I have hit my limit.

At my physio assessment last month I was told I would reach a ceiling, and maybe it would be at around 10k, and unlike other people who can persevere, step it up a notch and push through their ceilings, my ceiling will stay firmly in place, and I may attempt to smash it and succeed but for me and my knees it will come at a price, and that will be pain and injury (neither of which I'm a fan of, it turns out!)

So with one week to go it looks very likely I will be walking at least part of the way round.  Which is fine.  I was never so ambitious as to set myself a goal or a time I'd like to beat, I only ever said I wanted to complete it, and that ideally I would have liked to have been able to run all the way around.

For me though, the goal was always just the run itself.  I've never done anything like it before in my life, and as I'm using it as an opportunity to raise funds for a very good cause it's one of those instances where it really is the taking part that counts.

So with a week to go I am still hoping to inspire people, either to take part themselves (if I can do it, honestly, pretty much anyone can!) or to do something else, equally out of character that they've always secretly fancied having a go at.

OR if neither of those appeals or seems achievable then sponsor me in my efforts and help me raise money for Findlay and Iona.

Anyone who would like to sponsor me can visit my Just Giving page, or just text REBX99 to 70070 along with the amount they'd like to give e.g. £1, £2, £5 etc or if you're seriously technologically challenged (which seems unlikely given you're reading my blog!) then get in touch and I can put your details down on my Ye Olde Fashioned Sponsorship Form and we'll figure out how you can pay once I've actually completed my end of the bargain! ;)

If you're unable to donate then GOOD LUCK messages are also massively appreciated (and much-needed!) along with any other words of encouragement or inspirational stories.

Thank you :D

Thursday, 16 May 2013

How to make dinner (if you're me)

First, hang on for as long as you can hoping with all your might that your boyfriend might make it home in time to help with the process.

When it becomes apparent that this isn't going to happen wait an extra 10-20 minutes just to be sure.

Finally, when your youngest child is on the brink of Total Meltdown Extraordinaire due to not having napped all day, decide you have waited long enough.

Enter kitchen which looks like it has been ransacked by burglars looking for precious jewels amongst your crockery and utensils.

Refuse to acknowledge said mess as it will only make you weep and beat the counter with your fists. Instead, turn your attentions to the cupboards which are full to bursting with tasty and/or nutritious delights, none of which actually go together to make a sensible meal.

Rummage through the freezer serenaded by the sweet tones of a 19 month old tantrum and rule out everything you come across as taking too long to prepare ( a whole chicken, entirely frozen) or as having zero nutritional value (ice cream).

Happen across a bag of frozen peas and decide on a whim to base your entire meal on them.

Check on your sad, hot, slightly cross 3.5 year old who is lay on the sofa watching WallE after having had his preschool boosters earlier in the afternoon.

Secure small child in laundry basket adjacent to washing machine on spin cycle which not only entertains him but drowns out his protestations. Provide him with a range of clean* (*optional) utensils, not forgetting, whatever you do, to make sure a wooden spoon is amongst them.

Begin to actually cook dinner.

10 minutes later receive instant chat message from aforementioned boyfriend to say he is on his way home.

Resist urge to throw phone in pan of peas.

Add extra of everything in and hope it will all time up ok (clue- it doesn't).

Turn around to find littlest rugrat has escaped the basket, has thrown a pile of clean laundry on the floor and is sploshing away happily in the dog's water bowl, covering himself and said clean clothes in manky spaniel-breath water. Yum.

Clean his hands and strap him in highchair. Realise after doing so that you ought to have worn earplugs for that particular activity and possibly body armour also.

Finally serve dinner.

At which point 3.5 year old will decide he needs a wee.

Begin to eat dinner. Trying not to notice exactly how much rice 19 month old is spilling on the floor. Until it becomes deliberate. At which point confiscate bowl.

Realise 3.5 year old is crying upstairs. On investigation this is because his arm is so sore from his jabs that he can't actually move it to pull his pants down or up. So assist him with toileting needs.

Return to eat (cold) dinner.

Lament that partner's dinner is also getting cold. So place it in oven to warm.

Give 19 month old a yoghurt and watch with a somewhat detached curiosity as he treats it like body/hair paint.

Then realise this means a bath is inevitable and feel another tiny shred of your sanity ebb away.

Decide partner's dinner is probably *burning* rather than *warming* so remove it from oven.
Race upstairs and start bath running.

Return to find DADDY'S HOME!

Congratulations, you did it!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Everybody was kung fu fighting

So, I'm feeling a little better about the schools issue since my last entry rant.  Nothing has changed but just getting it all out helps, in the same way that filling an A4 side of paper with the word "FUCK!" might provide a cathartic release.  What do you mean, that's essentially what I did?  Oh alright, it was a little sweary.  And once again I lament my decision not to blog anonymously.  It would be so freeing to be able to write whatever I liked without worrying about who was reading it.  For the most part that's exactly what I do but there are some things I can't tell you, like how frustrating I am finding my job right now, and how yesterday for the first time ever I actually felt like karate chopping one of my own children's heads off.  I didn't.  But I felt like it.

You see Rudy has learnt how to scream.  Of course babies are born screaming, if you're lucky, and they continue to exercise their lungs in this way throughout baby toddler and childhood, but I'm not talking about "waaaaa" I am talking about full-on teen-scream-movie-i-know-what-you-did-last-week-and-now-there's-an-axe-wielding-known-serial-killer-maniac-approaching-me-up-a-flight-of-stairs screaming.  It's blood curdling, ear-drum-shattering stuff and he does it all the time. ALL THE TIME people.  Sometimes it's born of frustration, he utilises it to alert me to times when his brother may have snatched something from him, or perhaps the dog stole his biscuit, or his juice ran out, or he dropped his toy, or his socks and shoes are on his feet and he doesn't want them to be or vice versa.  But he also does it for fun.  Like, you know, in moments of pure joy and giddiness, and also when he's bored in the back of the car.  So yesterday he had done it about 6-10 times per hour from 6am through 6pm and my nerves were shot.  I got them both in the bath and poured myself what might be considered a generous serving of red wine and just as my shoulders began to drop and my jaw unclench he started up again, but in the bathroom, so complete with reverb.  In a flash I saw myself going kung-fu psycho-mum to make the noise stop. But fortunately I have shreds of sanity left at this point so instead called bathtime to a close (always an unpopular decision) and began the process of getting them both ready for bed chasing them both up and down the landing.

Toby has taken to complaining loudly of things that aren't actually happening.  Like you'll walk past him and he'll say "OW YOU KNOCKED ME OVER" Usually still standing at this point, and unable to appreciate the impossibility of his claims.  As I gently towel dried his hair he started up with "MUMMY YOU'RE HURTING ME! OWWWW!" so I did what any frazzled-to-fuck mother of two small boys might and suggested he might want to dry himself and get his own pyjamas on if he didn't like my efforts.  This was another unpopular suggestion.  It seems I'd grossly under-estimated how over tired he was because I'll be damned if he didn't commence the biggest meltdown on planet earth, complete with screeching to give his brother's a run for it's money and also, and this is a new one- physical violence, punching me on the arm when I was tidying his brother's bedroom and therefore not looking and didn't see it coming.

By this point I didn't even have the energy for imaginary karate, so I just ploughed on and once they were both asleep I consoled myself with a long shower, more wine, and an evening in bed with my kindle.  I even lit candles, which when you consider I'd also washed my hair and shaved my legs makes it almost a date, except that Chris was working.  So, a date with myself.

Today is another screechy delight.  They're currently "playing together" (fighting over a hula hoop, not the savoury snack variety) hence me being able to hammer this entry out.  Later we're off to the hospital for my dermatology follow up after my mole removal in January.  Then tonight I have work.  A notion I feel quite violently opposed to since it will involve me being awake for the next 30 hours at least (Chris is in uni tomorrow so no bed for me until 5pm at the earliest tomorrow).

I keep thinking "I can't do this anymore" about work and then I get a tiny bit of sleep and it seems more bearable and then I have a week of walking around like a zombie and I'm back to "this isn't working out" again.

It's not just the sleep thing, although that does play a huge part, but without anonymity I can't share too much about work apart apart from to say it's not the babies, or the families, who for the most part I love and feel honoured to care for, it's just everything else that comes with it.

Alas, the hula hoop has now been discarded and Rudy is eyeing up the coffee table as climbing apparatus so that concludes this poor excuse for a blog entry.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Turns out, I dislike reality

Following on from my last post in which I told you all about how I've recently been forced to shed my cloak of denial when it comes to the issue of SCHOOL and particularly, the school we'd like Toby to go to I am here to once more bore you to tears with further ramblings along those lines.

See, it turns out I actually really dislike reality and want my cloak back now please.

We found 2 schools we liked and 1 we didn't like.  All three of those schools have pre-school nurseries attached to them, and Toby would be eligible to start at any one of those this coming September.  One of the ones we liked was oversubscribed and just over half a mile away, when I asked if we could put his name on their list I was told they had filled their places with children all living with 0.3 miles of the school and in fact they had a waiting list of children all living a similar distance away.

As for the one we didn't like so much, two days after we visited, we rather coincidentally received a letter offering us a nursery place there.  Slightly too coincidentally if you ask me but I may be just being cynical at this point because I got a really strange vibe off them.  Like the other 2 places we looked around had a "We're here to provide a service to you, so you ask the questions and call the shots and tell us if you like us" attitude, but this other place had a "YOU'RE THE ONES BEING ASSESSED" kind of vibe, which was icky.  There were other things I disliked about it too, like the fact that the person showing us around didn't talk to Toby at all.  In fact she resolutely ignored him.  Exactly what I am looking for in a prospective school- staff who seem to hate children.  Toby even picked up on it and asked half way round (really loudly) "WHY ISN'T SHE TALKING TO ME DADDY?!" Awkward.  Good question though kiddo.  Also, and this isn't intended to offend anyone, but it is a church school, which I was not overly keen on the idea of, but willing to consider, and I was told the nursery did not have any religious aspect to it, as it's multi faith, but there was a cross nailed to the nursery room wall, and a few things on the walls in fact that made me wonder if the school's take on "multi faith" might be different to my own.  The nursery teacher seemed perfectly pleasant but looked stressed out of her mind, and like she might burst into tears at any minute.  Her expression was how I imagine mine is when we've been having a really bad day and I've got both kids in the supermarket, one mid tantrum and the other declares "I need a wee NOW!" You know- that on-the-verge-of-a-breakdown look.  She told us that the kids in the nursery have free access to the outdoors (which the other 2 places we looked did too, and had kids running in and out constantly) but here the door was locked, and when a little boy asked if he could go out he was told no because reception were playing out.  (Wtf?!)

The 3rd school though, the one we liked and that is also our closest, geographically (0.3 miles from our door to theirs, as the crow flies) have only just allocated their nursery places.  I got the call yesterday.

He didn't get a place.

Now, if I am totally and completely honest here, Dear Diary, I am not sure that I actually wanted him to go to preschool nursery full time from this September, as it seems like a massive leap from his current two days a week at private nursery, and I had some doubts BUT I did also appreciate it would have been good for him to start at the nursery there and have the opportunity to get used to the building, the staff, the routine, the playground etc before starting school there next year.  We both figured his chances of getting a place were good BECAUSE IT IS 0.3 BLOODY MILES AWAY!

If I stand on our doorstep I can sometimes hear the pupils playing out in the school playground.  It takes 10-15 minutes maximum to walk there AT TODDLER SPEED.  I could get there in five if I was on my own.  It is our closest school.  IT IS 0.3 MILES AWAY!  They have 60 places in the nursery and they are all allocated on distance as the crow flies and guess where Toby placed on the list? 67th.

He is 7th on the waiting list.  There are 66 children who live closer to that school than us apparently.

HOW?! Is what I'd like to fucking know!  Where do they LIVE?! In the bushes surrounding the school playing fields?!  Do 50 of them live in the same fucking house?!  Did they put the postcodes of their cars parked out the school gates rather than the postcodes of their actual houses?!

Or, like, WHAT?!

There are about 10 schools within a mile of us, each with an intake of between 30 and 90 pupils per year and there are STILL NOT ENOUGH PLACES for every child.

The good (???) news is, that the school has just been made to increase it's intake from 60 to 90 pupils per year so from the year Toby starts reception there will be 90 places (3 classes of 30) so given his position in the nursery queue I am hopeful he'd qualify for a place at the school.  But does that make sense to you?  I am hopeful, that he'll get a place at our most local school?  What kind of a crazy fucking society do we live in where it isn't a given that a child can take up his free education at the nearest available facility? 

Oh that's right, the same society that inexorably pisses me off in a myriad of other ways.  Gah.

And don't even get me started on my thoughts, feelings, concerns, anxieties and general ramblings on the schools system, education and assessment once he does actually get in somewhere, because we will be here all day and all night and I have to cycle through frustration, wonderment, depression, mild annoyance and pure fury and despair and it's not pretty.

*big sigh*

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

From Denial to Reality

If I start blubbing whilst writing this entry you'll have to forgive me.  It's just something that keeps happening lately and there's nothing I can do about it.

I very recently slunk quietly out of a lovely little place I can highly recommend called "Denial" and tentatively dipped one toe into something known as "Reality".  Reality in this instance is an icy cold sea of truth with choppy shores.

What the hell am I talking about? You may well ask.  I'm talking about education.  I'm talking about choosing a school for our oldest son.  Say what?! I know, I know, how did that happen?  Well, let's be clear, he's not quite that age yet, he's due to start next year but we can apply for places from this coming September so as much as I was enjoying the comforting warmth of denial, I knew deep down I'd have to leave sooner or later, and so it began.  Ofsted reports have become my reading material.  I actually misplaced my kindle and when I found it again the battery was completely depleted from having sat on the shelf untouched for so long.  Sad times.  Free afternoons have been spent taking tours of local primary schools, and many an evening spent sat on the sofa bawling my eyes out to Chris about it all.

I'm sure it can't just be me that finds the concept truly, utterly, beyond-comprehension terrifying...right?!  I don't know what it is about the idea but I'm completely unable to discuss it rationally for longer than 10 minutes without my stomach knotting and my tear ducts going into overdrive.

Actually, I DO know what it is.  It's the fact that up until now Toby has spent most of his time with either me or Chris.  Admittedly he's been going to nursery one or two days a week on and off since he was a year old but one or two days is not five days.  FIVE DAYS.  There are only seven days in a week! Five out of seven!  The majority of his waking time, from next September onwards will be spent in the care of and under the influence of someone else.  So how could this not be the single biggest decision I've had to make on his behalf so far?  How do you even begin to make a decision of that magnitude?

Chris is laid back, as always.  Which is not to say he isn't interested or doesn't care.  He's done his own research and he's come to every school viewing too.  But by his reckoning Toby is a bright kid, with a happy home life, and will probably be fine wherever we send him (within reason) and if not, well we'll take him out and send him somewhere else.  He thinks high school is a more important consideration overall.  Very rational.

I am not laid back.  Or rational, apparently.

From my point of view it goes something a little like this:

  • Toby is the most precious, awesome and beautiful 3.5 year old to have ever existed in the whole world ever FACT
  • He is incredibly smart so will need lots of stimulation and encouragement to nurture his amazing abilities but without any pressure or expectation whatsoever, so that he can still enjoy being a child and have the freedom to do whatever he wants whilst he's still so little.
  • This can only be facilitated by the perfect school with perfect teaching staff and the perfect mix of other children in the perfect setting, ideally situated to our house and with a chance of us getting a place.

*Steps slooooowly out of denial, takes a good look around, realises that a. Everyone else thinks THEIR child is the most important on earth, WTH?! As if! And b. The perfect school does not exist! Starts screaming.....*

I hate to be all "The reason I'm a psychopath is because my parents never hugged me" but I do genuinely think that the fact I went to 7 schools in total as a child is not really helping me to have perspective on this one.  I keep thinking about the horrid ones, and just how truly horrid they were, about being "the new girl" and how much that sucked, and about the good ones too, and what made them good, and amalgamating all that information and all those emotions seems to just result in my rocking backwards and forwards in my living room wailing "I DON'T WANT HIM TO GO TO SCHOOL EVER!" whilst Chris makes soothing noises (and possibly rolls his eyes behind my back, I wouldn't blame him).

The good news, and there is good news, for which I am very grateful is that we're very fortunate to have 10 primary schools within about a mile radius of our house all of which are rated Ofsted "Good" or "Outstanding".  The bad news is that we're very unlikely to get a place at about half of those and we don't actually want places at two or three of them, so suddenly the options are a lot more limited.  And the other bad news is that the whole Ofsted thing? It's of very limited use, or I'd argue, relevance, when it comes to actually deciding where to send your child.  I'm no expert, clearly, having only just begun to explore this strange new world, but it seems to me that Ofsted rating bears very little resemblance to the actual *feel* of a school as a stranger going in there.  So although we've read the reports, we're taking them with a very large pinch of salt.

We have viewed three so far, of which we both liked two and disliked the third.

Going into it all I genuinely thought it would be a simple as that- look around them all.  Decide on a favourite and 2 runner ups, write them on the form come September and boom, this time next year find out which of the 3 we'd been offered a place at.

"Simples!" as the meerkats say.

Errr...nope! South Manchester is heavily populated with young families and there simply aren't enough primary school places to go around.  Several of the schools are massively popular and over subscribed with people putting their children's names down for a place before they are even born.  You heard me.  So, here we were thinking we were being quite organised, what with the deadline for applications being almost 9 months away and him not actually due to start for eighteen months, and actually, it turns out we're too late in some instances.  The first school we looked around was really great and the teacher who showed us around was nice but she was pretty blunt about our chances of getting in, i.e. "You won't!"  Basically they have an intake of 60 pupils per year (2 classes of 30) and they have a preschool nursery with 52 places, all of which are already taken.  Only pupils living within a 0.3 mile radius of the school were offered places at the nursery, the list was that long.  Most if not all of the nursery pupils will want a reception place at the school, which leaves only around 8 places to fill with children who didn't go to the nursery, and again it goes on distance, as the crow flies, from the school to your house.

So even though we live 0.6 miles from that school we're considered "too far away" so although we're welcome to still put it down as a choice, we'd basically be wasting a choice.

It's madness!

And this realisation, that there aren't enough school places, and that your freedom of choice is actually a bit of a fallacy, and that your child may end up being placed somewhere you really don't want them to go just because it's nearby and has space, as you can imagine has done absolutely NOTHING for my anxiety levels about the whole issue.

To end on a positive note though, because I don't want you to all start snottering all over your keyboards too: one of the other schools we looked around really surprised us.  In a good way!

I went with low expectations, purely from the size of it if I'm honest but once we were inside it didn't actually feel like a big school.  And I don't know if it was just that the person showing us around clearly loved the place and that was infectious or something, or the fact that every member of staff we bumped into seemed to be enjoying their job and took the time to say "hello" but whatever it was, we both got a really good vibe about it.  It is a big school, there's no getting away from that.  Their intake is soon to increase from 60 per year to 90, which means in all likelihood when Toby starts, if he were to go there, he'd be in one of three reception classes.  It isn't what I'd envisaged but then again see above re: my vision of the perfect school that exists only in my mind.  On the flip side though, aside from the physical space (there's an extension being built) in terms of resources it didn't appear stretched, there were lots of bodies about between teachers and TA's and some of the kids had additional needs so had their own one-to-one assistants, and above all, it felt happy.

I assumed everyone wanted the same thing when it came to primary schools, so was stunned when we looked around the third school (oversubscribed and very popular) and found we pretty much hated it.  I didn't get it.  I said to Chris "Why do people want to go there?" and he filled me in.  Apparently people choose schools for their children based on different factors.  So whilst I want somewhere Toby will be happy and well cared for, others apparently want somewhere their child will learn and learn good and produce tremendous results.  For themselves and the school it would seem.

I want Toby to achieve his potential, whatever that may be (see above re: the fact he is a genius ;)) but when he goes to school my responsibilities as a parent won't stop, so if there are gaps in what the school can provide, I'll fill them in.  Above all else I'd rather just know he was safe and happy.

So, despite my bawling (frequent) and rambling (endless) it would seem we may have found somewhere we'd be happy for him to go, and importantly, that we have a good chance of getting a place at with it being our most local of all the local schools.

I think this means I can stop reading Ofsted reports now, but as for bursting into tears randomly at the thought of him actually going to school? That I'm afraid, looks set to continue...