Thing 4 was to be collected from Brownies by friendly mother while I was at Parents’ Evening for Thing 3 (“easily distracted”). During conversation with English teacher, I can feel handbag vibrating ceaselessly. Short 3 minutes chat (yes, we will read more/anything/everything/audible books even, magazines, First News – for sure!) which must please tutor as he has a queue snaking round the corner of the room.
Yes, it’s Brown Owl who has left 450 messages because on top of her many hours of voluntary service to the Girlguiding Association she now has to take her own children to gymnastics competition (obviously it’s the Inner South East London U9 floor and vault official quarter finals) but of course, it’s no trouble for Thing 4 to tag alongside, would she like dinner too?
Learning Outcome 1: must spend dedicated time finding more reliable parents in the Brownies playground. Learning Outcome 2: attend fewer Parents’ Evenings? Learning Outcome 3: realisation of pure unbridled relief at ignorance/involvement with gymnastic club. Learning Outcome 4: volunteers in this world should have a medal, though they would likely gift it to someone else in the spirit of generosity and selflessness.
Minecraft. What? Where? When? Where? Who? Thing 3 tells me it’s a ‘Sandbox’ but that’s just not enlightening. What’s fascinating me is the polar approach towards construction adopted by boy/girl. I’m not gender stereo-typing here, I’m just a casual (well, maybe less than casual when I’ve finished watching Series 1 of The Crown) observer but one world is full of armoured vehicles, buildings complete with spy holes, ammunition stores, secret tunnels, a couple of thousand sports pitches, trap doors, sky scrapers, dug-outs and a large sign saying “KEEP OUT SISTERS”, and the other is awash with dog and pig hospitals, bedcovers with flower designs (as much as flowers can be designed with blocks), enormous bathrooms, more bedrooms, a cat rescue centre, equine stables, orphanages, schools, a foundling hospital and a secret password so that none of her siblings can access these worlds. What this tells me is that at least two of my children spend too much time on Minecraft.
There was a time when I was spooning pureed fruit (organic, of course) into those precious mouths and I truly looked forward to the time when they would be old enough for us to have homework chats. We could pore over the atlas together, discuss why Henry broke from Rome, read Jane Eyre in tandem or converse over dinner only in French. The possibilities were endless! But perhaps homework hour should be rebranded? Arsenic hour? Take last night as an example.
Thing 4, on writing up science conclusion, after quite some persuasion that homework should be completed before turning on episode 756 of The Next Step: “I discovered that North Pole of a magnet is on the left and South Pole is on the right.”
Me: “Where were North and South Pole, then, for Hattie, who sits on the opposite side of the table to you?”.
Thing 4: “ What do you know about magnets? You weren’t there in the class, and anyway when you were at school, in the olden times, magnets hadn’t been invented!”
The word ‘repel’ sprang to instantly to mind….
An exquisite box of caramel sea salt truffles dusted with icing sugar were staring at me from the depths of the fridge, behind the jar of piccalilli – kept only in the fridge because I love the stylish Fortnum and Mason jar – where I had hidden them so nobody else could find them (not that they’d appreciate truffles, they are more of a Smarties bunch). The chocolates were given to me as a Christmas present by one of my gorgeous pupils. They were so scrumptious that I was forced to eat the entire box in one sitting, while watching back episodes of The Crown. A study once concluded that eating chocolate led to improved cognitive performance. On reflection, perhaps a good rummage and tidy would unveil the whereabouts of the giant box of After Eights which, post Christmas, are lurking somewhere else in the house……
Hurrah!! Monday. Bin day. Back to the regular schedule after the festive period when I read and re-read the ‘Waste Services’ leaflet on a daily basis in the vain hope that reading would miraculously make the waste lorry appear and take away all of my carefully sorted rubbish. As requested, I methodically separated the Christmas wrapping paper into distinct piles: paper with foil and glitter, plain paper and brown paper, not to mention the cardboard box folding, glass bottle/jar sorting and compartmentalising the food tins from the drinks cans. We are a conscientiously environmentally friendly household, you see. Indeed, as well as recycling, the laundry is put on the 30 degree cycle. But there are problems associated with that eco-friendly, cost efficient system, namely that it has little effect during the rugby season (Thing 2 pictured above yesterday). I have visions of a conversation taking place at rugby club bar many moons ago, over a few pints of Heineken:
“Club colours, Jeff, John, Ian? What do you think?”
“Green…and white?” (Looking straight at beer bottle).
“Good news. Striped top and white shorts. Job done. Another round, chaps?”
White shorts. Honestly. Eco Warrior will surface another day.
Thing 4 came home this afternoon full of the joys of a school day that are particular to an 8 year old. It’s surely true that we could learn many lessons from 8 year olds. For instance, to be happy for absolutely no reason whatsoever. There was a particularly unusual reason today, though;
“Mummy, we had the best lunch today, ever. It was roast cheetah!” Mmmmm. I hadn’t realised that institutional catering had become so creative. A quick peek on the website and several hours of randomly clicking on every available option under the main menu (School Run Scheme, Uniform Shop, Parent Message Centre, Inspections, Year 6 Results – I must come back to that one another time), I locate the actual food menu for week commencing 9/1/17. Friday dessert. Spotted Dick, how wonderful! That old-school pudding full of stodgy suet, orange zest and currants, finished off with a good dollop of custard. Don’t you wish you were back at school some days?
Dearest darling children,
When I ask you to pop your plate in the dishwasher, I promise that is all I am asking. I am not trying to start a world war. I’m genuinely asking you to pop your plate in the dishwasher because you’re old enough to understand that it’s helpful, that I am a busy person too, that we can share domestic responsibilities, and that this skill will enable you to transition into adult life without the need for a 24 hour butler. I’m not saying “pop your plate in the dishwasher, you uncommunicative, unthinking, moody teenager, and by the way, while I am at it, can you pick up the Everest-resembling mountain of dirty laundry from your bedroom floor, empty the overflowing heap of rubbish festering in the corner of said bedroom (which will fill up the wheelie bin outside), return the 45 half mouldy coffee cups to the kitchen – to the dishwasher even! -, finish writing your Christmas thank you letters, and perhaps apologise for slamming the door 3 weeks ago when I refused to let you stay at your friends house the night before your driving theory test.” Just saying dishwasher, that’s all.
INSET day yesterday. A real treat of a day, including a session on mindfulness where I learned, quite simply, that my mind is full. Clearly that’s not the point and I’m certain there are many who would help me steer my way through the Headspace App and get back on track. Breathe in…2…3…breathe out….2…3…4….5…
In the meantime, I found the breathing exercise to be extremely productive and in the allotted space I cerebrally completed the following tasks:
- Online shop including Thai ingredients galangal and kaffir leaves which seem to have expired by some 4 years in my store cupboard (aren’t you impressed that I checked?)
- Mental reminder to cancel 2017 subscriptions to numerous publications which land through my door, including newspaper for children, apparently read only by me (super interesting article on America’s gun violence btw)
- Creation of guest list to 20th wedding anniversary celebrations
- Logistics for getting to rugby match in Maidenhead tomorrow evening
Wait! Mindfulness session has finished. But I’ve hardly scratched the surface, and rugby match planning is still a little hazy. Oh well, much more important jobs to attend to, like thinking about what I will wear to 20th wedding anniversary party. In September.
Following on from yesterday’s food theme (possibly there’s just a food theme full stop), we have established a new menu system at home. There’s a wall mounted blackboard which I have labelled Monday – Friday and Things 1-4 must use negotiation, compromise, cunning and powerful threats over one another in order to establish ONE meal per night. Note, one meal for all. I’ll share this week because I am rather impressed with the precious Things.
Monday – Prawn fajita
Tuesday – Pasta arrabbiata (spelling! Those hours of spelling test revision have not gone wasted)
Wednesday – Club sandwich
Thursday – Tom Yum soup (where did they find this recipe?)
Friday – Thai curry
There was a time when I listened to Woman’s Hour (I don’t know when this time was because surely I was either a student and therefore asleep, or at work full time and unable to listen to the radio, or possibly it was when the children were extremely small and I had gently laid them down for their morning nap and come downstairs to a sea of calm and tranquility and a chance to spend a leisurely hour in front of the radio? Mostly I remember putting the Things down for their morning nap and then spending the next hour revisiting their bedrooms to persuade them that it was really a nap that they needed.) Anyhow, I was desperate to listen to Woman’s Hour because somehow down the airwaves I knew there’d be lessons to turn me into an Accomplished Person. Like a magic spell, suddenly I’d be that woman who could rustle up a pair of curtains, or knit a jumper, or tie a bowtie, or re-upholster a chair, or label everything I put in the freezer with a date stamp, a use-by stamp, how many people it will feed and – indeed – a helpful sticker which actually details the contents of the frozen container. But after years of Woman’s Hour, I find that I can do none of these things! Except perhaps, one. Apparently every woman has a repertoire of ten go-to recipes in her head. Well, look, with the exception of the Tom Yum soup I am 50% there this week, and if they have the same menu next week, that is still 10 days of meals. Job done. Phew.
At the end of the (mostly blissful) school holidays, I have one particular thought in my head. It’s about dinner ladies, or lunchtime supervisors as they are affectionately known in my school. I did a rough calculation this holiday alone, taking into account only breakfast, lunch and dinner (and not including mid morning munchies, general snack, high tea, early kids supper, bed time snack, pre dinner canapés, post dinner whatever-you-can-raid-from-the-fridge attacks) in order to work out how many meals I had prepared and served. 23 days, 6 people in my family, 3 meals a day. 414 meals. I haven’t the wherewithal to remember when there were additional consumers in the house, but there have been many teenage visitors. One who ate 10 Weetabix for breakfast, no word of a lie. Add 222 served over the short Christmas period (don’t ask) and I am coming to the conclusion that lunchtime supervisor is a totally inappropriate word. Frankly, they should have a much grander title. How about Lead Institutional Menu Implementation Orchestrator? Or Principal Creative Meal Generating Strategist? I take my hat off to all of them, whether involved in purchasing, planning, creativity, preparation, delivery, clearance or just plain washing up. For this term, I can rest assured that all four precious Things will have at least one wholesome, homemade, hand prepared, hot meal per day at school that I HAVE NOT HAD TO GET INVOLVED WITH! Dinner ladies and gentlemen, you rock.