This week has been a bit of a tough one. I’ve had some health stuff going on for a while that I don’t really want to talk about here (yet, anyway) and it all seemed to reach a peak this week. I’ve also been battling with out of control migraines, but hopefully some medication changes will help. It’s one way to lose weight, anyhow! Parenting is particularly tough when you feel really rough, and my job is not a breeze either. Coping and putting on a professional front, and a happy front, is taking its toll.
But I started these posts to find the positives, and there have still been a couple this week.
I finished the Third Wife by Lisa Jewell. I’ve read all of her books since a friend recommended Ralph’s Party back when I was… I don’t know, probably about twenty! I have to say that this one wasn’t my favourite, but it was still good. Guess it wasn’t quite the page turner that I Let You Go was!
I’ve not read a lot else this week as my head state has not really been conducive to it.
Strictly Come Dancing, of course. There is something about this show that it seems to become progressively not quite as good as it used to be as the series go by. Not sure what it is, but I still find it perfect Saturday night viewing.
I’ve also found some good stuff on You Tube this week. Thomas watches a lot of You tube videos, but I have some fairly stringent criteria in what I let him watch. Ideally I prefer stuff that has some sort of storyline and is well made rather than just mindless videos of unboxing of trains, or trains at various stations around the country (which Thomas would watch for hours if he could). I also prefer to avoid anything that is overtly advertising, so videos that centre around product reviews are out. There are some fantastic stop-motion animations using Lego out there though, and our favourite this week has been the Lego London Bank Robbery. Definitely worth a watch!
I’ve been indulging my love of classical music this week, partly off the back of our Vienna trip and also in efforts to help me chill out and relax. I’ve been particularly enjoying Dvorak’s New World Symphony.
I haven’t actually worn it yet, but I did take advantage of Boden’s 25% off weekend last weekend and indulged in a new duffle coat. It’s absolutely gorgeous, lined with really soft fluffy lining and with a good substantial weight to it. I went for the grey on the basis that it goes with everything, (especially black trousers – I have a thing about black and navy not going together, so the navy was out for that reason) but I do wonder if I should have been bold and gone for the red! I’m just waiting for some cold weather to wear it for real now.
I also treated myself to this top with the pink birds at the same time. It’s a wee bit creased in the picture as I’ll have to admit to rescuing it from the laundry pile for the photo! The stripy top in the same picture is one of my White Stuff sale purchases. I do love White Stuff!
This week’s bake was another batch of Peanut Butter cookies as it was all I was up to. These aremy “legendary” cookies as whenever I bake them for people they always ask for more (or the recipe!) it’s based on the Hummingbird Bakery recipe but I’ve made modification including some of the fat being oil. They are really scrumptious and never last long.
We’re enjoying a quiet family weekend this weekend which is exactly what I need. Sometimes you cannot beat shutting out the world and snuggling up together. I’m planning on watching the rugby with a nice hot drink made with our fancy new kettle (the old one blew up, sparks and all). here’s hoping I start to feel better soon.
I’m late with this post, largely because yesterday’s return from our trip to Vienna turned in to, if not quite the travel day from hell, then at least a very trying experience and we didn’t make it home until the early hours of this morning. So definitely no time for writing about all the things that I’ve been loving this week, especially as there have been so many.
With incredibly poor timing, my Kindle went wrong in the departures area at Gatwick. Faced with the prospect of nothing to read all week, I rushed in to the nearest bookshop to pick up some “real” books. I didn’t have long to choose, but since I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh had been on my Kindle purchase shortlist anyway, it immediately caught my eye. It absolutely did not disappoint. Pretty much everything, I’d seen about it was comments along the lines of “OMG twist!” and now I know why. Employing a clever device indeed, it was compelling enough that I could even forgive a few of the slightly implausible threads. I couldn’t put it down but was sad once I’d finished it and had no more – an irrefutable sign of a good read.
Since the paperbacks were on “Buy One Get One Half Price” I also picked up Lucie Brownlee’s Life After You, the true story of what happened after her husband’s unexpected death. I seem to have an attraction to death and grief memoirs and for the life of me I have no idea why. Despite the subject matter, however, this contained several laugh out loud moments. The humour is dark, naturally, but the entire book is incredibly sincere and down to earth and ultimately reaffirms the truth that the will to not simply exist, but to live, is strong and the human capacity to heal after trauma can be tremendous.
I’m now half way through The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell, which makes for the third book in a row that opens with, and centres around, death. Much as I’m also enjoying this one, I think I ought to opt for cheerier subject matter next!
Given that we’ve been away, I’ve actually managed to watch a reasonable amount this week. Browsing through new additions to Netflix last weekend, I spied Peaky Blinders, which is a series friends of ours have recommended several times. To be honest, it’s probably not the sort of thing I’d usually watch if it weren’t for the recommendation, and the first episode seemed a bit slow going in places, but I’ve got quite in to it now, so I’m passing on the recommendation to you.
We also caught up with An Inspector Calls on iPlayer. I was reminded it had been on by Jess’s Little Loves post last week and can’t believe that I’d forgotten to watch it. Thank goodness for the wonders of modern technology and catch-up TV! It is one of my favourite plays and whilst a television adaptation will never to compare to a really good staged version, I wasn’t disappointed, and thought the casting was spot on.
Finally, we’ve also been watching Frozen on Netflix. I’ll hold my hands up and admit to being a closet Frozen fan. Thomas loves it too, and its appeal definitely isn’t just to girls. Ian, however, rolls his eyes every time I belt out the soundtrack in the car and has so far resisted the purchase of the DVD. So imagine my delight when we found it on Netflix. There is no way my husband can resist that, I thought. My excitement has been short lived, however, as it turns out that it was available only whilst we were in Austria. English audiences are not so lucky. (We watched it twice this week though!)
Sadly my White Stuff delivery didn’t arrive before we left, so no new clothes were worn on our trip. In fact. It’s been another jeans and converse week, with a reappearance of the raincoat towards the end. I really must do better next time…
Since we spent the week in Austria, I heard plenty of German. As a language, I’ll never love it as much as Italian or French, but I did love hearing Thomas’s attempt to speak a few words. He was very hesitant at first to try out saying “Thank you” but he quickly became a pro to the point that he was thanking people for anything and everything. He raised a lot of laughs from the guy in the local corner shop where we bought travel tickets by saying “Danke schon” about twenty times in the space of five minutes.
I’ve also loved hearing Thomas make people laugh for other reasons, especially in a week where he has exhibited some challenging behaviour and made me wonder how many onlookers were silently judging my apparent lack of parenting ability. His earnest little running commentaries have been very amusing though. Every train or tram journey was accompanied by detailed explanation of what was happening and where we were going. He lectured a man waiting at a tram stop in the intricacies of the changing points on the rails, to much laughing all round, despite the language difference. On arriving at the airport he rushed up to a man in a lift in order to tell him “we’re just going up to the top floor with our suitcase so we can go to the desk to check in. Then we will get on another aeroplane, which will fly in the sky and take us home….” And on and on!
Waiting on board the bus to board our plane home (as we were being held there as passengers hadn’t yet finished disembarking) he prattled on similarly. Ian asked him if he was ever quiet and without a pause he shook his head and said “Noooo. I can’t be quiet because I’ve still got plenty of voice in here (pointing to his neck ) in my voice box. There is so much voice in here” at which point the woman behind us dissolved in to snorts of laughter saying it was one of the funniest things she’s listened to in a long time. He then treated her to all of his terrible jokes such as “How do elephants fly?” Delivered every time as if it were the best, most original joke in the world. I absolutely love it when people just can’t help but smile and laugh and my lovely boy is the reason!
Since we’ve been away, my resolution to make rather than buy treats has obviously been put aside for the week, and my on going craft projects have also languished at home. Cheesy as it sounds, however, we have been busy making memories. A proper post about our Vienna adventures will hopefully be coming up, but here is a sneak peak at a couple of pictures.
If the above sounded cheesy, then this will sound even worse, but we had a minor incident with a missing wedding ring this week. Fortunately it was located again, but in the time it was missing I was reminded how the little things like a ring, or even the marriage it represents, mean nothing in comparison to our relationship. Without the ring we’d still have been married and still loved each other to the ends of the earth. That fact was somehow brought in to sharp focus by the momentary sadness of the missing ring. No matter what else happens in life, I’m so lucky to have my little family.
And now, onwards. We only had one week of full new preschool and activities routines before we were away firstly at Alton Towers and then in Vienna. So I’m looking forward to settling back in to the routine properly and cosying down as autumn begins. A bottle of wine is already chilling in the fridge, and the logs are waiting to get a roaring fire going tonight.
It’s no secret – or at least I think it’s pretty obvious – that’s I’ve been in another bit of a slump lately. Not least because there are some health issues going on, but also the change of seasons and yet another round of everyone and their aunt announcing pregnancies or popping out babies. Yeah, that still isn’t any easier to deal with. And as far as blogging goes, I’m still feeling a lot out of sorts. A lot like I don’t fit in and can’t find the community I really crave.
The only thing I know for sure is that I’m the only person who can do anything much about most of these things, including relocating – if I ever had it in the first place – some kind of blogging mojo. And in efforts to address both that, and to bring a little positivity and happiness, I’ve decided to join in with the Little Loves linky for the first time.
I know what you are thinking – I’ve joined a lot of linkys before and have the staying power of… Well, something not at all sticky. I can’t promise this will be any different, but since it involves very little forethought or organisation in my part (my massive downfall when it comes to photo linkys!) and because it is one that several people I follow participate in and so keeps popping up in my feed reader, I will give it a try. And hey, even if I only join in once, it’s a happy post. That’s got to be good, right?
So here we go:
Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty utterly engrossed me. Moriarty seems to be an “author of the moment” but I have to admit to not having really got in to either of the two books of hers I’d tried before, including the highly acclaimed The Husband’s Secret. Maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind before though, and will have to try again after loving this so much. I don’t want to give too much away, but the book centres around a crime but keeps you guessing about the identities of both the victim and the perpetrator for a long time. There is an additional twist too that I’ll freely admit to not working out until right at the last moment. A great page turner for sure!
Disney music! We spent over eight hours in the car with Thomas this week, going to and from Alton Towers. I must admit I’m pleased the Julia Donaldson audio CD obsession has waned in favour of the Now That’s What I Call Disney album and Frozen soundtrack. (Nothing against Julia Donaldson, but there are only som many times I can listen to The Snail and the Whale without going a little loopy.) I was belting out the tunes (to much eye rolling from my husband!) as we sped up the M1. I’m glad Thomas is such a fan, and it bodes well for our trip next year!
Not particularly original, but we watched the Great British Bake Off. We were driving back from Alton Towers with every intention to make it in time for the start, but roadworks, hold ups, horrendous weather and a child wriggling free of his car seat straps (naughty boy) all delayed us and we didn’t make it through the door until five minutes before the end. Fortunately it was up on iPlayer straight away and so I insisted we watch it before going to bed! I do love GBBO since becoming hooked during (I think) the second series which was on whilst I was pregnant with Thomas.
I think we’ve reached the end of the blackberry season and we made our final batch of blackberry jam, some of which I then used to make jam tarts. It’s delicious enough to eat straight out of the jar with a spoon. Not that I’d do that of course. Ahem.
I’ve actually made a bit of a resolution recently to make some sort of treat each week rather than buying stuff like cakes or biscuits. I find if I make things I enjoy and appreciate them more, and I’m more likely to want to make them last rather than eating them mindlessly. Shop bought biscuits are so much less satisfying that I often find I’ll mindlessly much through several ip without really thinking about it, which isn’t particularly healthy! I’d much rather enjoy a proper treat, that I’ve made myself, each week. Along with the jam tarts I also made banana bread this week and previous recipes have included my G&T cake, peanut butter cookies and Millionaire’s Shortbread.
We also made Thomas’s birthday party invites this week, which is a bit early considering his birthday is not until November. I knew I would be seeing a couple of the mums from Thomas’s old preschool that I now won’t see much now though, so I wanted to take the opportunity to hand them an invite as Thomas is quite insistent about certain people he wants to come to his party! (Let’s just hope they can make it, otherwise I might need to be creative to avert disaster!) I’m pretty pleased with how they look.
This week I have been mostly wearing black skinny jeans – which has been a change after a summer of cropped jeans. I’ve also been wearing a raincoat – although we were lucky with the weather at Alton Towers we did have a few showers. And I’ve also been in my hoodys, as I refuse to put the heating on until at least October (although we have cheated and had the log burner going!) I have treated myself to few new things online this week though, so hopefully they will arrive soon and I’ll do better in this category next time!
We had a great time at Alton Towers this week using free tickets from our previous trip in June immediately after the Smiler accident. And now it’s Friday night, the log burner is going, I have a glass of wine and…. a whole week off work! We’re off for a quick break to Vienna. There is lots to love about life.
The last week has been one of yet more change for our family. In fact, it’s been the final step in a gradual process which has spanned the summer, since Thomas left his previous preschool. This has been the week where everything has come together – the new preschool, wearing a uniform and dealing with full blown school-run traffic – and fixed new family routines that will persist in to the far foreseeable future. It’s easy to say that it’s been nothing like as momentous as the weeks of those who have four year olds, embarking on their first days in a formal education career that will span thirteen years or more. After all, Thomas hasn’t started school yet.
I feel like a fraud, with pictures of my small boy in his pristine, too-big uniform amongst the scores of photos of “real” school starters on Facebook and Instagram. I feel like a fraud writing about how big this all feels to us when it’s only a preschool rather than compulsory education. I feel a bit like people might think we’re pretending to be something that we’re not. Or making a mountain out of a molehill.
But then, when I stop and think about it properly, I see that there can be no denying that this week has been huge.
It may still only be preschool but he is now settled at what will become his actual school when he does make that transition this time next year. The only difference in the routine will be moving across the playground to a different building (and, of course, attending five days rather than three with none of our current flexibility to nip off on holiday for a week whenever we choose). He is wearing his first school uniform, slightly too big in all dimensions, but having that immediate effect of making him look taller, older, so much more grown up. And it’s pretty much the same uniform that he’ll wear next year too.
I suppose, the point is, Thomas’s new school has been a massive change in lots of ways. He starts earlier, we travel by car, he wears a uniform, plays in the playground with older children and eats lunch in the school dining hall. Next year, when he actually “starts school” the changes will be much smaller. To the point that I think Thomas will barely notice, certainly in the run up and until he fully experiences the differences in classroom routine, teaching and learning. He won’t be nervous about starting in a new environment where he doesn’t know many faces because he’ll already have done that; He’s doing that now.
So no, I’m not trying to jump ahead of where we’re at, or rush through milestones in anyway. But I cannot not celebrate this one. He may not have started primary school yet and I may not be a genuine “School Mum”, but everything we’ve done these last couple of weeks has felt exactly as though that is what is happening. Effectively, this week has been his “starting school week”. The start of eight years of attending the same place, wearing roughly the same clothes and seeing the same people.
It won’t feel like this next year. I’ve no doubt it will still feel huge, but it will already be comfortable by then. Familiar. Not such a leap in to the unknown for all of us.
Which is exactly what it has been right now. New people, new places, new systems, requirements and regulations. I’ve been overwhelmed with ensuring I know who is who, where to hang bags and coats and which email address to use for what. And I’m an adult, not a not-quite-four year old.
So no, there is no denying that this week has been huge. And I couldn’t be more proud with how my little man has handled being left for long days in an alien environment with strangers. The most we have had is the occasional lament that he misses his old school. What he gets up to whilst he’s there, who he plays with and what he eats may be closely guarded secrets (his word!) but the smiles on his face, and the utter engagement I glimpse when I slip in, unnoticed, to collect him, speak volumes.
He’s not a school boy yet, but in his uniform I can already see the school boy he will become. I’m allowed to be proud of that. And to want to remember how it feels right now, without waiting for the officially defined “starting school” milestone. If I don’t capture this one now, it might have slipped through my fingers by then.
On our way out one afternoon earlier this month, we bumped in to a neighbour who asked Thomas how he was.
“I’m not all that good actually” he replied. “I’ve hurt both my knees.”
It was true. He had. Each leg sported an almost identical scrape right across the knee cap, still fairly fresh and most likely the result of launching at top speed into tarmac.
“Oh dear” our neighbour replied. “Did that happen in the garden?”
“No” Thomas shook his head firmly. “It was at school. At my new school” with all of the emphasis on new. I expected him to continue by saying, as he had so many times to us that week, that he missed his old school. But instead he thought for a moment, then looked up and said “Oooh, I’ve got to be on my way now [where he learned to speak like this is beyond me!] I’m on my way to a party.”
“Oh, that sounds exciting” our neighbour enthused, taking note of how much Thomas’s face had lit up.
“Yes. It’s my grad-u-lation party. With my old school. And my old friends. I’m going to gradu-late. Bye then.” And off he trotted, with hardly a thought more to his poorly knees.
And so it was that we found ourselves attending not a “Graduation” ceremony, but a “Grad-u-lation Party”. A mix between graduation and congratulation, I guess, but this is a Thomasism that will most likely stick (and that we’ll no doubt trot out – along with the photographs – much to his embarrassment if he ever goes to University and graduates for real!).
Of course Thomas isn’t actually “graduating” to anything. He’s left his old preschool to attend another, but unlike almost all the other grad-u-lation attendees, it’s still preschool rather than “big school”. But he’s been at the same nursery since he was six months old, growing from a baby who could barely sit up to a running, talking, reading, opinionated child absolutely bursting with character. I was really pleased that he was invited to graduate despite not leaving for school, in order to celebrate his time at that nursery with friends and staff alike. The idea of a ceremony for such young children may be seen by some as an unnecessary imported Americanism, but I disagree. Many of these kids have spent a huge chunk of time at this place, and I think it is fantastic to recognise and mark that.
I was also pleased because it helped us to draw a line under his time there. Generally he’s getting on well at his new school, but he’s having a hard time admitting that. He does, without a doubt, miss the security and familiarity of his old environment. (And I can’t blame him, because so do I, to a degree, and I just need to do drop off and pick up. I don’t have to stay there all day as well.) We’ve been seeing a lot of his bottom lip poking out. We’ve heard over and over again how he doesn’t want to leave his old school. How he misses his old school. It’s been a big change for all of us.
It was helpful to attend his grad-u-lation to point out to him just how many of his friends were also leaving. I think up until that point, having been one of the first to a actually leave, he really did believe everyone else was still there carrying on as before. It definitely helped to draw a line. To show him that everyone has to move on eventually.
It was an incredibly sweet ceremony. Some of the parents who have done this multiple times may roll their eyes, and maybe it is simply because I only have one child and will only get to do this once, but I did have a hard time not crying as the children filed in wearing their home made caps. The staff took turns to read out anecdotes about each child and they were presented with a certificate and teddy bear.
Thomas being Thomas, of course, did not take long to start using his scroll first as a telescope (sadly no pictures due to privacy of other children) and then as a trumpet. By the time they filed back out of the hall he had several other boys trumpeting along with him. He may have been the youngest there, but he is by no stretch of the imagination the most quiet and retiring!
As for me, I’m becoming more and more certain that we’ve made the move at the right time and that we’ve done the right thing. And watching him up there with is friends, in his cardboard cap, I felt incredibly proud of him and all that he is becoming. Making decisions on behalf of my child and dealing with all the associated worry and guilt is a big part of the parenting journey for me, but rolling with them and growing up is an infinitely more massive journey for Thomas.
And he’s doing it so well.
If you talk about “Topsy and Tim” to any preschooler parents these days, it’s likely that the first thing to spring to kind will be the CBeebies television show and thus what will follow is a debate about sexism, gender stereotyping, just why it took quite so long for them to move house, mum’s double life and, well, the overall lack of realism in these super-mature preschool children (largely down to the fact that they are played by an actor and actress several years older than their characters!)
I’m not really a fan. But then, I loved Topsy and Tim long before their current television incarnations had been conceived. I loved them so much that I cannot even bear the current illustrated iteration, no matter how closely those colourful pictures resemble the illustrations I remember from my own childhood. I loved the Topsy and Tom that I knew so much that rather than let Thomas read these modern versions, I’ve dug out my own prized childhood collection, comprising dog-eared paperbacks from the 1970s and 80s, many of which were already loved by the time they became mine, picked up at charity shops and the ubiquitous 1980s staple: The Bring and Buy Sale (remember those?)
To my great pleasure, Thomas loves them. But the truth is, I probably still love them even more than he – the books intended audience – does. They capture something of the essence of my childhood, in all it’s glorious retrospective simplicity.
There is something special about those books even for the adult me. From the humour I find in all the tissue wielding and wiping up that mummy and Miss Maypole do to the joy of reading them aloud. They have a simple sentence structure that really lends itself to easy reading and I find myself adopting the same intonation as my own mother, reading them to me three decades ago, something confirmed as I listened to her re-reading them to Thomas recently. The flow of the words is as comforting as a well worn pair of shoes.
And there’s more too. There is social history tied up in those pages. The pictures of pre-privatisation British Rail diesel trains. A visit to the cockpit of a commercial airliner during flight – we all know that it’s been well over a decade since that was a possibility.
In Topsy and Tim goes to hospital, Tim spends a night in hospital after “bumping his head”. My own 1982 edition was a gift during my first ever hospital stay when I was diagnosed with diabetes. Nothing so serious for Tim. A bump on the head and no debate on new evidence of the dangers of cold compresses on head wounds, no simple signature of an accident form and a badly photo-copied “head injury” sheet for Tim. No, back then a full stay in hospital, despite the lack of emergency surrounding the situation as Mummy calmly packs his bag!
And of course, he ends up “romping” around the ward with other similarly un-sick children. “Romping” was one of the words I learned and loved from Topsy and Tim, along with similar wonders such as “crosspatch”, “squodgy”, “old doesn’t-matter clothes” and, probably my personal favourite “oomfy diddlum”.
Of course, along with the aspects of life that have changed, some of the language has changed too. I’m willing to bet that Topsy and Tim wonder which “colourful”, or other such similar adjective, boat they will get to ride in more recent editions of “Topsy and Tim and the Paddling Pool” in contrast to the “gay” boats they wondered about in my 1970s version.
So yes, the new Topsy and Tim just aren’t quite Topsy and Tim for me. The simple tales somehow belong to my childhood, and modernising them feels slightly like trampling on my memories. I’m a sucker for nostalgia, and just holding those books again, nevermind reading their contents, transports me right back.
To me, Topsy and Tim will always be children of the 1970s, even though they were actually “born” long before that.
(And if anyone has a 1970s or 80s Blackie Handy Books edition of Topsy and Tim Meet the Dentist that they no longer want, please let me know! Somehow we never had that one in our extensive collection!)