Saturday, 25 September 2010

Breeders do dress wierd....they have reason to.

Hannah Betts, columnist in The Times Magazine, this week points out that breeders, though clearly successful at procreation, aren't particularly known for their sartorial elegance. 

I had to giggle.  She's right.  This week, at the school gate, there's my tucked-in trousers and flats trying to be inconspicuous; my mate Jo, in her casuals (having done the usual parent thing and drank far too much wine on a rare night out the night before); Charlotte and Emily in their work gear, looking all smart and professional; numerous grandmas in knitted cardis; dads in football shirts and every other mum sporting leggings teamed with gladiator sandals in defiance against the autumn chill. 
But it is clear that parents, as a species, just don't do fashionable.  But then I got to thinking.  Fashionable by who's standards? Last week's Sunday Times Style magazine talks about fashion 'growing up', with more and more glossies opting to put women over 35 years on their covers, and advertisers selected the 'older women' in current campaigns (Reebok, Pringle).  But despite that article, the magazine itself is still full of features for current fashions modelled by girls who don't look over 20 years old.  And whilst fashion may be 'growing up' the clothes that are designed for women over 35 also come with an inflated price tag to match.  The advice is to splurge on investment pieces from Prada and Lanvin.  As a mum, with 2 toddlers, my response to this well meaning advice is "no chance".  I don't have the spare cash to blow it on designer pieces that are usually 'dry clean only' and do not respond well to having tomato sauce spilt down them.

I guess I'm looking for a glossy with models over 35 advertising clothes for the over 35s.  Somewhere I can find clothes to suit my generation, and still be, whilst perhaps unfashionable, still pretty yummy.  And, don't get me wrong; those parents in the school yard all look pretty yummy.  We just perhaps don't sign up to the experts view of fashion elegance!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Starting school.....Aaagghh!

It's a nasty, rainy morning in the Midlands.  Standing in the rain, huddled together with matching book bags and water bottles are three parents.  Waiting for the bell to ring, they are trying to keep dry, catch up with friends, keep an eye on their children, and stop the bottom of their trousers soaking up any more water but subtlety hitching them up to Simon Cowell heights every 3 minutes.  They are carrying all the school paraphernalia required.  Their children, 4 years old, are too busy running amok to hold said paraphernalia, and will, if unprompted, probably run into school without required book bag, water bottle, a photograph of themselves as babies (this week's homework for the parents), and a signed letter saying that, yes, they are allowed to have their eyes tested by the school nurse.

The mums all have the look of a frightened rabbit about them.  It's only week two.  They thought school would mean; drop off at 9am, pick up at 3.30pm.  But no.  Their children are all 'Rising Fives', which essentially means that they are not five at all, in fact they are nowhere near five, having only turned four a few measly weeks ago, and are so young that the smallest size of school uniform looks massive on them.  They are, as a result, starting school in September for 'mornings only'.  Which means, by the time you've dropped them off at 8.55am, and returned to pick them up at 11.55, you've barely had time to boil the kettle.  They have spent the first two weeks of school coming home with letters to their 'frightened rabbit looking mums' almost daily, inviting said parents to sign various forms, attend a school meeting (week one), attend a PTA meeting (week 2), become a school governor (week 2), obtain a minimum of £25 sponsorship for an event all children are participating in in week 4, sign their children up for football classes, dance classes, and remember to take in a copy of their child's birth certificate so that their identity can be confirmed.

On top of this they are required to remember to send their children with a clear (not coloured) bottle of water at the beginning of each week (presumably schools don't use their own cups for drinks anymore?), ensure name labels are in every item of clothing and dress them in 'easy' clothes on PE days (as the teachers presumably don't have the time to help them get dressed or undressed, regardless of their young age).  I can imagine a bunch of school children running around a school hall half-dressed.  A young boy still in his school shirt because he can't quite do the buttons yet.  A young girl still in her coat for the same reason.  Shorts on back to front.  Plimsolls on the wrong feet.  Oh dear.

And all of this on top of the added strain of having to get the child to school on time.  Not just to a relaxing play group once a week.  But to school.  Everyday.  Where I'm sure they do detention for parents that are stupid enough to be late.

It turns out that school now runs our lives.  We can't go on holiday anymore without consulting the school timetable.  Though looking at the prices is an easy way of spotting when the holidays are.  When the prices hike.

Am I stressed?  Ever so slightly.

Can I still be yummy doing all this?  Goodness knows.  I will try my best.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

How to entertain two toddlers? Paint, paint and more paint!

It took 30 minutes, two newspapers, a lot of sticky tape and three aprons before I would allow my two girls (4yrs and 2yrs) anywhere near the large piece of paper that ended up being our 'underwater scene'!  The paper is made up of six sheets of smaller paper stuck together.  Newspaper protection was stuck across our kitchen floor and up the units to catch splashes.  The paper went on top (stuck down). We then spent the morning simply covering that paper with paint.  It's roughly 2 metres square!

It took two further craft sessions for us to draw the fishes and mermaids on coloured paper, cut them out, and stick on the tissue paper, cotton wool balls etc to decorate.  Cheeky Monkey No.1 drew the red fish herself.  The rest of the drawing she had help with.  Cheeky Monkey No. 2 sat stiller than I've ever seen her sit, simply staring at us painting, and occasionally dipping her fingers in a green paintpot.  Talk about well behaved!

I saw this done on Supernanny a couple of years ago, and it worked just as well for us as it did for them.

We did this months ago now, but I thought I'd share it before I take it down off the wall.  It's time for something new.  Watch this space!

Messy, but fun..... Let the painting begin!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Trainers with a suit?

I am a great believer in practicality.  But I equally want to look good and more importantly feel good.  It's often a trade off and I'm well aware that my morning school run attire (34 inch long suit trousers tucked into socks, so that I don't trip over them whilst wearing my preferred flats at the base of my shorter legs, to drive to work, and drop off the children, before switching to the heels at work) isn't a look that most women would adopt whilst out in public.

So I was interested in the views of She magazine's senior fashion assistant, Francesca Moser, and their features editor, Anna Saunders, in their article this month " Should you wear trainers with a suit?"   (

Francesca seems to think that it's an absolute crime to put trainers anywhere near a suit.  And I agree to a certain extent, because I think 'flats' tend to do the job nicely.  But Anna's point, that you can only walk to work any distance in trainers, is completely valid.  I, personally, don't have to walk more than a few yards. 

But the issue neither of them addresses is how to deal with trousers that are deliberately long and designed to be worn with heels, during that walk to work.  I can hardly let them drag in the dirt can I?

My nickname at work is Imelda Marcos due to my, ever expanding, shoe collection.  All heels of course.  I gain confidence from my heels.  I am able to express some of my personality, whilst still wearing the pinstripe tailored look expected of an accountant. 

And whilst I absolutely wouldn't dream of getting out of the car at work without switching the flats for the heels and remembering to untuck those trousers. ( I do hope no-one from work is reading this!)  I, equally, would prefer not to break my neck in heels negotiating uneven pavements with a 1 year old in one hand and a 4 year old in the other.  So, for the school run, the strange, 'tucked in' look is, for me, here to stay. 

For me, it's one of those yummy mummy, really? moments.  How you can be yummy, and still be practical?

Ideas anyone?

Friday, 10 September 2010

Sleep. Lack of Sleep. And a Pigeon with a Leisure Pass.

On Tuesday it took an hour from first getting Cheeky Monkey No. 2 into her cot bed to her falling asleep.  On Wednesday it took 45 minutes. Yesterday it took 1 minute (she was exhausted, and hadn't napped.  I knew it was a fluke.)   Tonight, it took 15 minutes.  Progress is being made!

I'm trying to be calm, supportive, gentle and firm.  That means that rather than raising my voice when she starts screaming as soon as I leave the room, I simply walk back to her cot, gentle pick her back up, quick cuddle, "it's bedtime", into bed, "night night", leave the room.  And I've lost track of how many times I've repeated that.  But it's working. 

I remember getting more upset going through the same process with Cheeky Monkey No. 1 two years ago.  I remember getting angry, frustrated, teary, and wondered why she was getting more angry, frustrated, and teary!  It would appear that staying calm is definitely the key.  Easier said than done, I know.

Having said that, it's an awful lot easier to stay yummy-looking when you're not in tears.  And when you have the backup of the Clarins range!  I love their concealer now, and I didn't wear make up at all a year ago!

On a completely different, very random, note: a pigeon flew inside the door of our local leisure centre in front of me this week.  I wondered whether I should queue up behind him.  He shocked the receptionist.  A couple of other female leisure centre workers immediately backed away in a very girly fashion.  The pigeon surveyed the reception area and scuttled through the entry barrier and made to wander up the stairs.  He clearly fancied a bit of a sauna.  It took another, more capable, leisure centre worker, (male, the stereotype's were prevailing today) to direct the bird back out of the door. 

Anyone got any other bizarre moments to share?

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Spanking new? Or second hand?

Cheeky Monkey No. 2 is still taking roughly an hour to settle down to sleep after initially putting her in her cot bed and saying goodnight.

Showing her that Cheeky Monkey No. 1 is also in bed helped.  But didn't solve the problem by any means. 

I get the feeling, from the way she is crying, that she is still a little unsure about the move to a cot bed (which we did 11 days ago now) and is finding it all too new and strange.  So my approach has been to return to her room no more than 1 minute after she's started crying, and to calmly give her a hug, kiss and place her back in the cot.  The firm, but understanding, approach. 

Finally I got her in bed and asleep, and was able to start on the 'iron-on' labels that I still hadn't managed to get into CM1's school clothes yet, as I hadn't been able to find them, stored as they were, in a 'safe' place. It turns out that the 'safe' place for 'iron-on' labels is, quite obviously, a sewing box.  Female logic is a powerful thing.

So we are prepared for the first day at school tomorrow.  But I am having pangs of guilt for getting her a second hand school cardigan and jumper (with school logo).  Why I should feel that they should be new I don't know.  CM1 certainly couldn't care less.  But I do.  I feel that they should be spanking new.  Untouched.  But in the spirit of being a contradictory female, I also want to re-use, recycle, let old school uniform items meet their school destiny once more.  Especially as I have now discovered charity stores and markets and second-hand baby wear stores (try Lilypads in Chesterfield ) for top fashions for less than £5.

Clearly I am freaking out, in the manner of a occasionally yummy mummy, about completely pointless issues, that I absolutely need not freak out about. 

Unfortunately, being a mum does that to you.  So the tip for today is simple.  Take a breath.  Breathe.  Pause; if only for a few seconds.  And try Micheal Buble for some feel good music. 

Monday, 6 September 2010

Back to School Mayhem!

I haven't had two minutes spare in the last week!  This week Cheeky Monkey No.1 starts school for the first time, Cheeky Monkey No.2 starts a new nursery and I start back at work.

I still haven't managed to find some PE shorts for CM1.  And her name labels haven't yet arrived from Marks & Spencer.  I might be more stressed as a result, but luckily CM2 was more than happy to start nursery today, was absolutely shattered on her return home, and went to bed fairly easily, bearing in mind the nightmare of a week we have had trying to get her to calmly go to sleep in her new cot bed (see previous posts).

It's late.  And I don't suppose the girls will sleep through the night, if the rest of this week is anything to go by, so I'm afraid I only have brief words of wisdom today.

1.  Don't convert a child's cot into a cotbed days before you start back to work after a summer break.
2.  Don't leave school uniform purchases, including name labels,  until the last minute.
3.  Do get your school shoes from M&S.  They are apparently "scuff resistant".  I'm looking forward to testing that claim!
4.  Do enjoy time off with toddlers.... How quickly time flies and before you know it they are at school!

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