Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Babysitters and Cereal....

So our Singapore friends left yesterday - I took them all to Gatwick and we waved them off.

The children loved the airport, although at £10 for parking and £14 for 3 drinks we are not going too often!

Suddenly the house seems really quiet. We have gone from having a busy household with 3 children and a toddler to just the three of us again. Although TJ is happy as he can now get back into his playroom and play his football game on the wii... which is lucky as today we have seen the first really rainy day of the summer holidays so far. Lea is glued to the TV while I catch up with work.

The children don't know that we are going to make the most of the damp day this afternoon as I have them both booked in for haircuts and they both did their maths homework this morning. We have been doing times tables. I have purchased a cd that they can sing and dance along too whilst singing through the times tables - TJ was even heard singing it in his room this week - whether or not it actually goes in is debatable but it makes me feel like a better parent - so there is definitely an upside.

Whilst Papa was away my friend and I booked our Turkish cleaner twice - not to clean but to babysit - as the children all know her she was an obvious choice - and we got to go out and have a good catch up over dinner without constantly having to entertain 4 kids. We were a bit nervous the first time - mainly for the sitter, as we thought the kids might play her up. But we came back and she told us they had been good as gold, in fact the kids were eager for her to come again, so we decided to go out for the second time on Friday night.

I had just stepped out of the door when I realised that I forgotten my phone so I nipped back home. We had literally only just left the house yet when I came in there was the baby sitter surrounded by the kids pouring out huge bowls of sugar packed cereals - "What's going on?" I asked. "The children are all so hungry," she told me, "Just like the other night - they have not had any food so I am feeding them with the cereal as they are all so hungry. You can't let the children go to bed hungry..."

I stood there stunned. The kids had just had a huge fish finger and chip supper - as a treat if they would be good for the sitter, they even had cakes! The kids were all staring at me with huge eyes and open mouths....

The kids looked at me - I looked at them , the sitter carried on serving cereal. "They have been fed," I told her, "but I guess they are still hungry - however, once they have eaten that they must all go straight to bed." The kids looked suitably guilty and I decided to play this opportunity.

I collected my phone and went back out the door to tell my friend what had happened. We quickly both agreed that we were sill going out - and fast! As long as the kids were happy then we felt less guilty about leaving them and this way we knew there was no way we were going ot be called back as the kids would all be as good as gold! And sure enough they were - we even had time to go to the pub! (see previous post!)

Oh well.... at least everyone had fun!

Papa is back from his Singapore trip this week and he is off to New York on Sunday, the day after Nan's 90th birthday party - its going to be another busy weekend.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Holidays, Friends and Stories....

It's been one whole week since the summer holidays started - that means we only have five more to go! (not that I am counting or anything!)

This first week we have house guests - one of my best friends from my teaching days in Singapore and her two young children - they have been weathering the Singapore school holidays here in the UK and are finishing their trip with us before I whisk them off to sunny Gatwick on Monday to return to Singapore via Dubai.

Papa is currently in Singapore on the first of his many travels over the summer holiday period - he returns tomorrow morning - ifn fact as I write this he is in the air. We have spent the entire day getting the house back into shape for his arrival tomorrow. Papa is usually in a bad mood when he gets back from travelling - he doesn't cope with jet lag very well and he will instantly start channelling Captain Von Trapp the minute he walks through the door - 'Why are these shoes out,?' 'What's all this mess?' 'It's time for the children to march around the garden!' - that kind of thing. So today my friend took her kids up to London to meet her family members for a last farewell whilst the children and I tidyed up - even cleaning their rooms - we can now actually see TJ's bedroom floor!.

It has been lovely having my friend here though - we have had lots of days out in the beautiful sunny weather and we even asked the baby sitter to come in for two evenings so we could go out and catch up properly.

Last night we went for a lovely meal and then ended up in the local pub regailing stories of our past drunken youth (there seemed to be a lot of alcohol involved) and our experiences of family life and her tales of child birth....

She told this great story that I just had to share (I did ask permission - so I won't get into too much trouble).

Her husband had wanted to video the birth of their second child - she had strictly forbidden such things during the birth of heir first and he wanted to be able to share the 'joy' of the arrival with her as she hadn't been down the 'birthing end' and seen the miracle that was their children - she had been otherwise engaged apparently...

After weeks of badgering and the purcahse of a new video camera she reluctantly agreed that he could video the baby's arrival - but not the actual birth, the video could be there after the birth. Here there was obviously some confusion as in her mind she saw a Doris Day style presentation of the child to her by her adoring husband - whilst she was in full make up wearing a bed jacket. He had other ideas and as soon as the midwife shouted 'Its a boy!' he whipped out his camera and videoed the entire remaining event - cutting of cords, stitching up of lady bits etc etc.... (not pleasant)... my friend was not aware of any of this as she had quite happily accepted all the drugs they could offer her - apparently that happens with the second child - the first birth you insist on 'experiencing it' and feeling the moment - the second she just wanted it over with.... I guess by the third you give birth clutching a gin and tonic....

So no more was said of the event and baby was taken home and much love followed them...

Then one evening they had friends over for dinner and the husband was showing off his new video camera and was showing their friends a video of their older daughter doing her first ballet class - my firned went out to the kitchen to prepare the dinner and suddenly heard a scream from the living room - she popped her head around the door just as her husband's friends turned to his wife and said, "What is this?" "I've no idea," she replied staring transfixed at the screen - although the TV was no longer showing an image of a 3 year old girl spinning in a tutu - it now held a picture of my friends lady bits being stitched up by a midwife as the cord was being cut and my friend was in the background crying 'Am I dead yet?"

As my friend said - it wasn't quite the image you wanted to share before you sat down to a lasagne dinner.... particularly as she had told him he wasn't to video the birth - although as hubbie later pointed out - he didn't actually video the birth, as requested.... I'm not sure my friend was entirely convinced.

It turned out the hubbie had simply added the birth onto the video's hard drive - it was one of those fancy HDD recorders and hadn't then copied it onto the computer - so the machine simply carried on playing the next film...

Luckily they are all good enough friends to joke about it - and when she told the story in the pub last night - I spat my wine out I laughed so much!!!!!!!!

I'll miss her when she goes......

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Summer holidays... The beginning!

It's been a busy start to the summer holidays.

We decided to go up to see Granny in the North. There are those who would say we were daft to travel on the British motorways on the first day of the long summer holidays... Those people are right! It was madness... We sat in traffic for hours so I decided to take the expensive toll motorway and pay for the privilege of not having to sit on the M6 in a traffic jam on the hottest day of the year...

We decided to stop off at the service station on the toll road... The children wanted a burger... It was as we got to the burger counter that I realised that I didn't have my wallet... Which also meant I couldn't pay the toll and I couldn't turn round as I didn't have enough petrol, not the money to buy petrol... I called the customer services on the toll to see if I could pay later... But customer services were closed... So I did the only thing I could do... I called my Mum!

She agreed to drive down to me and pay the toll, she would meet me at the service station. So we waited. Luckily, I had plenty of water and a banana cake that I had made for my Nan... The cake didn't make it out of the station, it was completely devoured using an expired gym membership card as a make shift knife... There's an irony there I'm sure...

Then Mum called, she was now stuck in a traffic jam coming the other way... She eventually got to us after 2 and a half hours... She only lives 45 mins away.... She wasn't happy... We eventually got back to her house at around 10pm... 8 hours after we left.... 

But it was a lovely weekend. We spent Sunday with my Nan who is turning 90 on Wednesday... She alternated between telling me how well behaved the boys were and how scruffy I was! But a least the boys got a good review.... 

Then my sister and her new husband came to see us. And my new brother in law taught TJ how to turn on the hose... Much to my mum and Lea's annoyance!

We came back yesterday and the children were a nightmare... I don't know if it was saying goodbye to mum or the worry about being stuck in traffic again but they were truly horrendous all the way home... I spent the entire drive down shouting or stressing or both... Awful!

Today though we have been joined by one of my best friends from Singapore and her two children who will stay its is for the next few days... As my friends daughter has her eyes on TJ we shall see what happens over the next few days....

Friday, 19 July 2013

End of Term - again!

Well, this is it.

Its the end of another school year and the end of Key Stage 1 for TJ. He now gets to be a big boy and wear a tie in Year 3.

The year has flown by.

Yesterday was TJ's end of year assembly with parents invited to come and watch. I went into school in the morning to help with the staging of the 'musical number' - Daisy Daisy mashed into 'The Bicycle Song' by Queen as the theme this term has been the Tour de France, which the school have used to teach geography and French.

It was as the song was playing that we realised some of the references in the verses to Coke and Caine - might not be suitable for 7 years old to be singing. So ingeniously (well, I think so) we removed half of the year group and they entered throughout the school hall coming in from all directions during the verse making as much noise as possible in order to block out the offensive lyrics and then join in on the fun bicycle bit.

It went really well - the children really got into it and the Year 6, who watched the dress rehearsal were suitably impressed and the Year  2 children beamed when their older counterparts applauded and whistled.

At the end of the assembly the children reprised the song and TJ was given the special job of leading his group of children down the middle of the aisle through the audience and inviting the parents to come and follow the kids through to the year 2 classrooms for refreshments and to have a look at their work. Inrehearsals it went really well....

On the actual performance TJ decided he didn't want to do that - so he led his group out of the side door. When other children and a teacher told him he was going the wrong way he simply said, "I don't want to go that way!" and led them the other. Strangely they all followed him. He may be diminutive but he is certainly authoritative as not one of them argued with him or went the correct way. I think he may well be a commander in the armed forces... either that or a traffic warden!

Later in the classroom I asked him to show me his work - he pointed at a wall - "It's on there somewhere," he said - and then raced outside to play with his friends.

To be honest I couldn't find any of his work - I'm not even sure if he goes to that school - there was no evidence of any of TJ's wok anywhere. Well, he may imply have told his teachers that they were not allowed to put them up... I guess he would charge them a royalty fee!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Hot Days, Hot Tubs and A & E!

This weekend we had a lovely time.

On Friday morning my phone alarm went off - it simply said, "Dinner Tonight Chinatown."
I called Papa and asked him who we were due to be having dinner with?
That's one thing I have noticed since becoming a parent - you simply don't remember anything as you are so caught up in packed lunches, after school clubs, school trips etc etc.

Papa couldn't remember either - but that was probably because he hadn't made the arrangements - I had!

Then I had a message through on my Facebook - 'What time are we meeting for dinner tonight?' and it was from a lovely Singaporean actress/director friend of ours who was over for the week and with whom I had planned this date months ago!

Yes, it all fitted and rather than worrying about what was supposed to be happening we were excited again. I picked the boys up from school and we left straight for Chinatown - they love it there, well, TJ is half Singaporean after all - as he delights in telling everyone (wait till he learns he has to do national service if he wants to get that Singapore passport!)

It was a lovely evening, both of our familes got on really well and their little one and TJ were soon happily playing games and watching TV on the ipad while Lea regaled us all with her conversational skills.

Then on Saturday morning we headed off to Brighton to stay with some other lovely friends - and boy was it hot!

It also seemed as if the whole world had chosen to go to Brighton today - but we made it down there in time for a stroll and late lunch of chips and ice cream on the beach and then headed back to our friend's place for an evening barbecue and a soak in their hot tub... which was what the children were most excited about.

So we went back to our friend's house avoiding some of the less savoury and rather 'fragrant' crowds that were lining the promenade by the evening. The kids literally stripped down to their underwear and jumped into the hot tub whilst we sipped pink bubbly and watched our friends fire up their barbecue.

It was an idyllic scene which was suddenly broken by Lea crying out, "Daddy, TJ's bleeding!" I turned around and sure enough TJ had blood pouring from his chin down his chest. "Its just a little cut," I said knowingly, "It probably looks worse than it is." It was at this point that TJ, who had been silent till now, lifted back his head and screamed - as he did so his chin opened up revealing a layer of skin and flesh and I'm still convinced that I saw bone (although that maybe my mind overly dramatising the event - either that or I've seen too much Casualty). Resisting the urge to vomit I calmly looked at Papa and said, "I think we need to go to A & E." It was at this point that we realised that I was the only adult who could drive - I was also over the drink\drive limit but luck was on our side. The Brighton Children's A& E was only a short walk away.

So I picked TJ up and went with our friend to the A& E. For those of you that don't know the A & E in Brighton is up an incredibly steep and long hill - by the time we got there both TJ and I needed medical attention as I was sure I was going to have either an asthma attack, a heart attack - or both.

They say never get sick at the weekend or on a public holiday and they are right!

We walked through the entire hospital and didn't meet a single member of staff - no-one to tell us where to go. Luckily my friend is a calm and knowledgable sort (he'll like that) who worked out from the incredibly complicate map where we should go. So we went up to the 5th floor to a special A & E dept for kids and from that point on they were brilliant. It was a lovely atmosphere and TJ was seen and 'glued' back together within 90 minutes - the NHS at its finest, even dealing with the drunk 14 year old in the bed next door whose parents obviously wanted to get back to the pub and the 'birkenstock wearing' middle class Guardian reading family who wouldn't let their child watch the TV as it was showing nasty working class 'football' - which unfortunately TJ was glued to!

After all this adventure we headed back to our friends lovely home and had a delicious barbecue washed down with far too much wine - but at least the walk back was downhill all the way!!!!!!!!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Of Rabbits and War....

So the children were playing outside with their rabbit and guinea pig when the lady from next door pops her head over the fence to have a chat.

My first concern was that the kids footballing antics had upset her. Usually she is lovely but occasionally she can be upset, particularly after spending all day planting her borders only to have her pansies crushed by a 'booted' ball.

But today she was in a good mood, chatting with the boys about their football skills, their bikes and eventually their pets.

She chatted about how lovely the rabbit was, how well behaved and sweet, just like its owner Lea! (I stifled a laugh)

She told them how when she was a girl that she had three little bunnies and about how much she loved them and how she played with them everyday,even during the war when they kept her and her big sister company during the German bombings of the Blitz in her home in East London.

She told them how one by one her rabbits escaped and ran away and how heartbroken she was and how she sat cuddling the last bunny as bombs hit her street, just before she was evacuated.

The kids sat open mouthed as she talked... And to be honest, so did I.

Then came the clanger. After the war was over her sister explained to her that the bunnies hadn't run away, but that due to the shortage of food, each rabbit had been served to her for Sunday lunch. They had spaced the bunny slaughter out so she wouldn't notice and so that she still had something to comfort her during the bombing raids.

She told them how seeing their rabbit had brought back all those memories of her own bunnies.... To which Lea said, "You are not going to eat mine!" 

The lady laughed and said, "No, I've never eaten a rabbit since." To which TJ replied, "Well, you can eat my guinea pig if you want... Guinea pigs are rubbish!" And he then went back to kicking his ball.

But something must have sunk in as TJ today pulled out a copy of War Horse, the excellent book, and said, "Daddy, do you think that lady would like to read this and tell me more about the war?"

I think she probably would.

Monday, 8 July 2013

The Mouseketeers...

On Saturday it was the school fair.

The hottest day of the year so far and I had been 'volunteered' to don a full Mickey Mouse suit and parade around the school field for three hours waving and entertaining the kids. Alongside me was my long suffering 'dress up' partner... Whenever there is dressing up to be done she and I always seem to head the list.... Either that or nobody else will do it.

This obviously stems from some form of insecurity as we must both have agreed to do it early on when our children first joined the school in an effort to be liked and since then we are always dressing up... Fat elves. Mice... Whatever.... 

I now totally respect those poor guys at Disney who wander around the park... Those costumes are bloody hot! Although at Disney, I am informed, they have a time limit as to how long they can stay in the costume... We did a full hour at one point, as I desperately tried to wipe sweat out of my eyes (which involved pushing Mickeys fist in through his mouth and to a small child it must have looked as if the said mouse was scratching his brain) the Head Teacher said, "You'll be alright, just stand here for twenty minutes more then you can have a break"... It's a good job the characters aren't allowed to talk...

I am also told that each character has a human 'guide' to help them around. This is especially important as, due to the hugeness of Mickeys head, you are unable to see anything that is directly in front of you and this is incredibly hazardous as most of the children who want to hug you are usually only waist height... Which means that should your 'guide' wander off to chat to the cute football coach then you are left standing in a hot field, sweat dripping into your eyes, with thousands of little hands trying to grab your legs whilst an older child hits you on the head with the 'blow up' hammer they have just won on the 'hook a duck' stall....

Still, on the whole it was great fun and Mickey and Minnie got to help draw the raffle... "And third prize goes to...." The head teacher said... Yes it was me! But I was being Mickey... 'I wonder where he is?" The head teacher joked.... As the prize was the alcohol hamper there was no way I was going to allow her to re draw it... I was just in the process of whipping off my head and causing immeasurable upset to many a small child when the Head Teacher gave me a wink and said, "don't worry I know where he is."

My favourite moment was after I was de-moused and helping to put away the stalls. One of TJs friends came  up to me and said , "it's such a shame you came late.... You missed Mickey Mouse!"

Disney will thank me for that....

So on the upside Papa and I spent yesterday watching Andy Murray's amazing victory with Pimms, lemonade and crisps all courtesy of the school hamper! 

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Why don't we have a mum?...

Why do children always want to talk about the most important things when you are rushing to do something else?

In our case we were late for school - as usual. We only live over the road from the school so why we always leave it to the last minute to get out of the door amazes me. Today was just the same as any other day except that as we were crossing the road TJ suddenly says, "Why did you choose my name?"

"Well, to be honest, we didn't choose your name," I replied, "Your birth mum did.. but we chose you." and I smiled re-assuringly (as all the adoption manuals recommend). "Anyway," I went on, "we chose your middle name together, remember?"

"I don't like my name." TJ replied simply.

Immediately all my psychological warning bells went off (guess what I am studying for) and I know that usually when a child says they don't like something as fundamental as their name then it usually shows they don't like themselves - self esteem issues are high on the agenda for many adopted children.

We walked a little bit slower now as I felt a conversation was about to come on - a conversation that had to be raised by TJ, not led by me (even though I was desparate to).

"Why don't we have a mum?"

Great, we have five minutes before the school gate is closed and he asks me this. Oh well, if we are late then so be it - this needed to be discussed.

"Well," I said, "You do have a mum but she couldn't look after you and so you went into care while the social workers found you a new family. Daddy and Papa also wanted a family and we chose you. So you are very lucky, you were chosen, not many children can say that."

I breathed out after giving what is pretty much my standard reply to this question when it ever comes up. But then came his retort, "But we didn't choose you, nobody asked me what I wanted."

"And what did you want?" I asked. As soon as this came out of my mouth I knew that I was not going to like the reply. But it was quite insightful of him - they do say that children are usually a little bit older before they realise that in order to have be 'chosen' you first have to have been rejected by another family. Rejection is probably the wrong word to use but I can't find one that sums up how they would feel. In many ways I was glad that TJ was able to feel safe enough to have this conversation even though I knew I wasn't going to like what came next.

"I wanted a mum." he said, "I think I would have liked to have a mum."

" I know you would sweetie," holding his hand, "I know you would have liked to have a mum, but lots of children come from different families - some have one mummy, some one daddy, some have two mummies and some two daddies - like you."

"I know all that," he replied knowingly, 'I'm just saying that when I get older and get to choose my next family I'm going to have one with a mum."

"Well, unfortunately, this is the only family you're going to have mister," I said, probably a bit too strictly, "so get used to it... besides, this family loves you and I would be very sad if you went somewhere else."

He thought about this, "Do you think my birth mum was sad that I had to leave her?"

Where had all this come from?

"I think she probably was," I said, "But she knew she wasn't able to give you the love and care you needed to she knew it was better for you to be adopted and we told her we would love you."

"Do you think she would get me a new football?" he asked, "A blue one?"

"Well, maybe we could get you one this weekend," I replied.

"Good," he said with a smile, "because I want one of those."

And with that he rushed into school just as the gates were closing.

I was left standing there in a slight state of shock. Had my youngest child just used his adoptive story to manipulate me into promising him a new football? Possibly, but either way he was sharing a deep feeling with me - whether he knew it or not and I think that deserves a new football....

Monday, 1 July 2013

Nearly Forty....

It all began with an innocent text message.

This weekend was the Sprog's godmother's birthday (she is the fairy godmother, her hubbie is TJ's 'furry' godfather) and late last week I had a sudden panic that this year was the big 40 celebration. This was understandable as last year she had a 'not yet 40' party which involved a shed...  (It's a long story but a great party). I was a little embarrassed that I didn't know so I thought that a quiet little text message to her hubbie would ensure that we had the right gift on Sunday.

The message read 'just a quick question, is it Fairy's 40th birthday on Sunday?"

The reply was a simple, 'Yes! We are all heading to Camber Sands for a birthday tea and horse riding on the beach." The Fairy Godmother loves horse riding so this was an apt present and one that she would love.

We went into panic mode. Where I had intended to send a lovely bouquet and a card I now had to sort out a present suitable for a milestone birthday. We also had our nephew's graduation celebration on Saturday so any shopping would have to be done on Sunday morning.

The graduation on Saturday was lovely, Papa's sister and brother in law were on good form and the little Prince had a great day... We came home very late but I knew we had to get up early to organise the fortieth birthday present on Sunday.

We got up early, I pre-cooked lunch and got all the laundry done in the morning, then we rushed off to Bluewater to get cards and a suitable present. The boys wanted to give their Godmum a picture frame with a picture of themselves in their suits which was taken at my sister's wedding earlier this year (it's not often they look smart) So we sorted that out and then headed to Papa's favourite jewellery store.... An hour later we had selected the right gift, bought paper, cards, ribbon and a fab birthday cake shaped like a handbag (a last minute request from Furry as he had forgotten to pack a cake. he requested chocolate but I thought a fancy handbag shape was much better for such an important birthday) and then we headed home. Whilst I prepared a cold Sunday salad Papa and the boys wrote their cards and wrapped their gifts.

We then headed off to Camber Sands on the coast. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day for a picnic on the beach. Except Furry then dropped me a line to ask if I could get some paper cups for the wine he had in his picnic basket, oh and some paper plates and cutlery. As we drove around the countryside looking for a convenience storePapa was getting exasperated. "Why is this so last minute?" He said, "Surely Furry knew it was Fairy's 40th, it's not like its a surprise!"

"In his defence," I said, recalling Papa's own reaction to his 40th birthday, "it may well be that Fairy doesn't want to celebrate her 40th, it's a birthday a lot of people have a problem with, hence it's a low key affair with just family and close friends on the beach doing something she loves - I think it's very sweet."  "Well he could have called me," Papa sulked, "I'm good at organising parties." (Which is very true)

So we went to the little shop at the concentration camp that is the local holiday 'resort' and purchased plates, cups, cutlery and napkins and headed to the beach.

Unfortunately, there was a strong sea breeze... Well, sea gale to be more precise and the dunes resembled a scene from Lawrence of Arabia with people rushing from the beach as sand gusted in clouds around them. The children and I got out of the car and were immediately exfoliated, we all said our hellos and wished Fairy a happy birthday before jumping back into the car and heading back into the little town of Rye to meet other friends for fish and chips by the quayside.

We all sat down and Fairy started opening her cards and gifts. "Happy 40th" we all shouted. "But I'm 39," Fairy said. "Yes,"I replied, "I've been 39 for fours years now, its called denial," And we laughed.

Then she opened her first card which was from the kids and featured a monster clutching the numbers 4 and 0.  Fairy looked blank, "I am really only 39." She said. I laughed in disbelief as she opened our tastefully decorated fortieth birthday card. 

"She really is only 39," said the friend.... 

I went cold.

"Born in 1974." She went on.

I quickly pulled out my phone and traced back through the text messages with Furry. There it was, plain as day...Fairy is 40!

Luckily everyone saw the funny side and were soon rolling around laughing as Furry explained he had only half read the message as he knew he had to tell me what was happening for Fairy's birthday! Misunderstanding explained... As was the lack of fortieth birthday organisation... She wasn't 40...

Then I suddenly saw Fairy about to open the present from Papa and myself... A present that was now completely inappropriate and bordering on the ridiculous.... I grabbed it back. "You can have this next year," I said. I know it is awfully bad form to take back a present but a replacement will be sent forthwith and on top of that I can't tell you what the original present was as that will spoil the surprise for next year... When it really will be Fairy's 40th.... If we are invited of course!!!