Sunday, 31 August 2008

You can't improve on this

First Born had a friend over to the house this weekend for a sleepover (a poorly named ritual which seems, as far as I can tell, to have absolutely NOTHING to do with sleeping). FB and SB decamped to our spare room with Guest Boy, after home made pizza and ice cream, for a Dr Who marathon. There was also something called "The Dragon Ritual" which involved much writing of scripts and wearing of assorted masks dug out of the old dressing up bag. I didn't ask too many questions about that bit. It scared me slightly.

In the morning I made pancakes which GB greeted with great enthusiasm. Such enthusiasm indeed that I was told the two best things in the world are apparently Lego and me. I seriously doubt that sentiment lasted much longer than it took to wipe the last smear of maple syrup from his chin, but it was good while it lasted.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Worship me!

I rendered my two boys speechless with admiration the other day. They were blown away by a talent so wonderful, so awe-inspiring that I suspect they will never be able to look at me again without a little whiff of jealously wafting through their masculine brains. I am the only girl in the house and I am the only one here who can burp on demand. Behold my majesty!

(Do you think I should put this on my CV?)

Bad timing

The airline formerly known as Zoom has gone "Phut" instead. This is the getting-to-Canada equivalent of Easyjet that we have used off and on to get to our spiritual homeland of Nova Scotia for the past few years. Our flights for next year are, accordingly, no more. That's a pain but since we booked by credit card (and let's face it, why wouldn't you?) we'll get our money back and hopefully we will find an alternative way to get to NS next year that does not involve flying to Toronto and hiring pushbikes.

I really felt for all those poor people on the news this morning though. One flight had actually boarded and the passengers had to sit for 7 hours on the tarmac while the legal wranglings went on before being told to get off again, the plane was going nowhere. Imagine. 7 hours on a plane with young children and no entertainment. That's an hour and a half longer than the flight would have been! *shudder*

I gather that for the people stranded away from home, the price of return flights is now standing at about £2000 per person plus a kidney and your first-born child. Mind you, the thought of being stranded in Nova Scotia with a legitimate excuse for not coming home? Not all bad.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Should I have said something?

I went out for a run again this morning, hirpling around the fields with gritted teeth and steaming face. I alarmed a small rabbit slightly and sent a huge flock of crows skywards in indignation. This was just as I ran past the big field of wheat waiting to be harvested or, as it is known around here at the moment, the pond. Poor farmers, must be weeping in frustration.

As I passed the corner shop on the way home a man came out with his newspaper and half dozen rolls and something on his head. On his forehead to be precise. Something.........silver? I didn't want to look at first in case it was a really unusual birthmark and I would just annoy him by staring but I couldn't help it. As he walked by, I peered. At the silver price label stuck to his forehead which appeared to be advertising him for sale at £9.99. "Cheap." I thought, and headed home for muesli.

But don't you think the guy that sold him the newspaper and rolls should have said something?

Monday, 25 August 2008

Wow, we needed that.

On Friday after work my Husband and I did something that I heartily recommend to everyone. It loosened up the tension, relaxed us and put us into a fantastically good mood. Do you want to do it too? Good. Go here And then here. (Thank you to Mir for that first one. My children won't stop watching it.)

And if you are not wiping tears of laughter from your eyes by the time you have finished, then frankly there is something wrong with you. We were laughing so hard that Husband even had to put his whisky glass down for a moment. That is some serious sniggering.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Miracle upon miracle

Last night I decided enough was enough. Lack of exercise and poor eating choices (albeit yummy ones) have caused me to gain back a whole pile of the weight I so carefully lost. Who knew that all that fat was just waiting around the corner for an opportunity to jump back on and fill my trousers to bursting point? Anyway, I determined that Things Must Be Done and Steps Must Be Taken But Only Once We Have Finished This Rather Nice Apple Crisp I Made Yesterday. Ahem.

I set my running alarm before bed. In other words I told Husband he needed to tell me to get my becoming-more-substantial-by-the-day backside out of bed at 6am and I would go for a run. He agreed and wrote himself a little reminder note to put by the alarm clock. It said "cattle prod" or something similar, I think.

At 6am this morning I stumbled into the bathroom and got kitted out in all of the equipment necessary to ensure I can run wheezing round the block for half an hour without frightening the neighbours doing myself an injury. I left the house and lo and behold! It wasn't raining! I removed the flippers, diving mask and aqualung and decided just to go with the baggy t-shirt and running shoes instead. Then I shuffled gasping round the streets for 25 minutes.

I was vividly reminded of how horrible the first 10 minutes of any run are - those minutes when your body cannot quite believe what you are doing to it and decides in no uncertain terms to put a stop to this nonsense RIGHT NOW by seizing up, refusing to process oxygen and sending all the blood your legs actually need up to your face instead. Yeah, well, most of the run was like that. It's my own fault for pretty much stopping all exercise after the 10k in May. I was actually pleasantly surprised that I didn't just quit after 7 minutes and come back via the corner shop for a family size bag of Maltesers as consolation.

Instead after struggling around a loop I used to run without stopping, I went to the corner shop for bread for my offspring's breakfast (they are unreasonably demanding about wanting breakfast every day) and watched the slight shock on the face of the guy behind the counter at (1) the startling colour of my face, and (2) the fact that the two pounds coins I proffered, which had been in my hand all the way through my run, were so hot they practically set fire to the cash register.

So, not Olympic standard, but a start. I will, of course, undo all the good work by having a chinese takeaway for dinner tonight to celebrate.....Friday. Hmmm. Perhaps I should go for a swim at lunchtime too.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Evolution in process

It was raining again this morning. No surprise there, as it appears to have rained every day for the entire summer. In a separate development, I also noticed this morning that I have acquired what I thought was just a little spot, a tiny cosmetic blemish, on my neck. Now I wonder whether I am actually growing gills.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Lazy parenting versus benign neglect

I feel like a bad parent. We are approaching the end of the summer holidays and the children go back to school on Thursday (hurray!). That's not what is making me feel bad - I doubt there are many parents who do not heave a sigh of relief to see the end of the long summer holiday lurch into view.

No, what makes me feel inadequate is the other parents. To explain, FB has gone over to play with a friend of his a few times during the holidays. FB loves this and his friend's mother assures me it is doing her a favour as it keeps her son occupied too. We have been meaning to return the favour but have not yet managed to do so (more confirmation of our laziness) SB however has sulked every time this has happened. His friends have not invited him over and it's NOT FAIR and I have had to explain that inviting yourself over to someone else's house is just not done. SB considers this unreasonably fastidious of me.

So last week I agreed I would phone round some of his friends and see if they were free to come over for an afternoon to redress the balance somewhat. Guess what. They weren't. I only phoned three and they were, variously: attending rugby camp; attending computer camp; attending organised events at the Book Festival; helping move house. Yeah, okay, that last one is fair enough. The others though? Made me feel like Inadequate Parent of the Year 2008. Other than going away on holiday with them, our arrangements for the children's summer holiday have consisted of making sure my parents are there to look after them, letting them go to Livingston a few times to stay with Granny and Grandad and otherwise expecting them to amuse themselves. They have gone to the museum and to the country park a few times as well as shopping and so on. But no organised clubs, camps or activities.

Now, we have a house full of computers, books, toys and more Lego than I ever thought any normal house could contain. We live in a fairly safe cul-de-sac over the road from a park. It never occurred to me we needed to organise camps and classes for them too. I mean, I did organise swimming lessons last year but that was because I wanted them to learn to swim, not because I thought they needed to have organised activities planned.

Am I out of touch? When I was a child (here we go, nostalgia overload) we were pretty much turfed out of the house during the school holidays. Admittedly I did not grow up in a city but the principle was the same: my brother and I and our friends were expected to make our own entertainment and we did. (Remind me to tell you sometime about the home-made version of "Superstars" we organised once.) Is it unrealistic of me to expect my children to do the same when they live in a city and don't have the freedom and space I had as a child? Or am I actually doing them a favour by making them responsible for their own free time rather than organising everything for them? Or is that just me excusing my own bone-deep laziness and apathy?

More importantly, why don't children come with instruction manuals so I don't have to fret over this stuff?


Conversation which took place in our car this weekend between Second Born and my sister-in-law. Second Born was borrowing SIL's Nintendo DS because he can play in the car without wanting to throw up. SIL can't.

SIL: Are you on?
SB: Yes.
SIL: You're not me, are you?
SB: No, I'm me.
SIL: But are you actually you? You're not me by mistake?
SB: No, I'm definitely me. I made sure I'm not you.
SIL: Good, because I don't want anyone else to be me.

So that's clear then.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Attention, assistance needed

Every year in October Husband has to go to Geneva for a work thing, and every year so far the organisers have managed to plonk the conference in the middle of the school October holiday. Husband has therefore missed out on the holiday and we have had to work around his absence.

This year, however, the timing of the conference is perfect so we are all going with him. He will have to spend one day doing boring stuff but we will have three or four days as a family in Geneva. Whee!

Here's where you come in: any of you been to Geneva? Can you recommend hotels? Things to do? Places to go? Places to eat? Or indeed where not to do any of the above? All info gratefully received.

PS First Born nailed the shoe-lace tying after two attempts. He's so smug it's painful.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Wet weekend in Edinburgh........ no change there. We are having typical Edinburgh high summer weather here: more or less constant rain and a temperature that rarely gets above 14 degrees. I think it was 10 degrees on Sunday. Tropical. This may go some way towards explaining why I am presently fixated on organising next year's holiday in Nova Scotia - it gives me some time in more pleasant conditions to look forward to (Daysgoby: please don't shatter my illusions! I know it rains in NS too, I just prefer to pretend it doesn't).

Anyway, I think we are now sorted on what we are doing next July: 4 nights in Liverpool on the south shore, a week in a cottage on the beach on the Northumberland shore and then 3 nights with Mary. Bliss. And I am quite looking forward to telling people that we are spending our summer hols in Liverpool and Northumberland!

The rest of the weekend was spent doing useful stuff. We had planned to go through to Troon to see my father-in-law but Husband has developed a stunningly impressive cough and we decided not to risk inflicting this on FIL. The trip to Troon has therefore been deferred and instead I spent Saturday making a start on the monumental exercise known as Getting the Boys' Stuff for Going Back to School. Both need new school shoes and new trainers. My credit card started to whimper as we entered Clarks. With good reason. £122 later we left with 4 new pairs of shoes.

First Born has had to get school shoes with laces for the first time as they don't really make proper shoes with Velcro now that he has feet only a size or two smaller than mine. Due to his dyspraxia we have not yet managed to get him tying shoelaces but that hurdle now needs to be overcome - he starts rugby at school this year and I am pretty sure they do not make Velcro fastening rugby boots! This explains why this morning you would have found myself, my mother and Husband sitting in a row in our living room comparing how we all tie shoelaces. We thought it would be wise to check we all do it the same way so we all teach FB the same way otherwise chaos, tears and recriminations would ensue. Results of survey: method basically the same but Husband and I form the loop with our left hand, Mother with her right. She is therefore outnumbered and has gone off to practice swapping hands. FB however doesn't see why the world cannot just bend to his will and outlaw shoelaces altogether. That would be so much easier, apparently, than him having to learn to tie them. We'll call that plan B.

After the great shoe-buying expedition (which also involved the acqusition of new school shirts and trousers for FB) we celebrated with home made pizza and ice cream. (I didn't make the ice cream, I hasten to add. I'm not that good.) We also watched the third Pirates of the Carribean film which the boys loved and I thought was pretty ropey. Apart from the obvious benefit of multiple Johnny Depps.

On Sunday we met Husband's sister's ex-husband, ie my ex-brother-in-law to go swimming. Husband doesn't do swimming due to an unfortunate chlorine allergy and ExBIL likes to keep up with the boys so we often take them swimming and kill two birds with one stone. The pool we go to has a little flume and for the first time FB felt brave enough to try it. SB has been brave enough to try pretty much anything since he started to crawl and we started having to pull him off 10' high climbing frames while he screamed in protest. The two of them and ExBIL therefore went round and round on the flume and left me to float about quietly in the pool swim laps and get some much needed exercise.

Boys are off to stay in Livingston again for a couple of days so Husband and I might go out for a low calorie healthy meal tonight. Or maybe not.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Okay, I kind of did it...

I regret to report that I did not go out for a run on Monday or Tuesday (*hangs head in shame*). But I did eventually go to the gym today and even though I only ran for about a mile and a half or so and that took 15 MINUTES, at least I did it. And I did some weights too. It's a start.

I noticed while I was there that the gym has acquired those Power Plate machines that look sort of like George Foreman grills you can stand on. The blurb for them claims you can get the same benefit as a one hour workout in only 15 minutes. Really? Is that true? Because it seems to me that it is either (a)not true, or (b) an indication that the things will put you through 15 minutes of abject torture to get that benefit. I am not even sure what you do on them - they don't look like they go up or down or sideways. Do you just stand on them and jiggle? (hee! I typed "juggle" there by accident) Anyone with any experience of these mysterious articles, please let me know in the comments, otherwise my sheer nosiness may force me into taking a class and frankly that could be messy.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Must try harder

I just looked at this blog and it seems it's over a week since I posted. Huh. That's a bit rubbish. It would seem I am at risk of not blogging as well as not talking to people, and since neither of those situations are desirable, I will at least try to blog a bit more. Who knows, maybe forcing myself to chat in the abstract will have positive benefits elsewhere.

Anyway, what have I been up to? Well, went to work for most of last week. Not the most positively productive week in terms of output, but I was there. I managed to attend a consultation with counsel and to do the follow up work arising out of it too. I'm counting that as progress.

At home Husband and I ensured our nominations as Parents of the Year by setting up a DVD player and monitor in our spare bedroom for the boys. We bought a shelf unit and a shedload of storage boxes and filled them with the boys' vast collection of Dr Who and Star Wars DVDs. The kids are ecstatic. They are under no illusions that I will ever allow them a TV in their bedroom (I really don't believe in younger kids having TV in their rooms) so this is the next best thing. The TV doesn't receive a broadcast TV signal so they can only watch DVDs on it, therefore we know what they are watching.

Even better, Husband and I don't have to sit through all 6 episodes of Star Wars back-to-back. Well, it felt like all 6. And we don't have to get all middle-aged and irritated by the fact that children these days (I aged 5 years just using that phrase!) use TV like radio. In other words they put a DVD on and then do other stuff - read, play Nintendo, build Lego - while it's on. They never lived through the days when if a good programme was on you had to sit down and WATCH IT - you couldn't record it, assume it would be repeated on BBC3 tomorrow or pause it while you go to the toilet/get a drink/fight with your brother. This explains why First Born gets so exasperated with us when we can't remember the fine detail of Dr Who plots from the early 70s - he does not comprehend that we saw those episodes once and once only, on a Saturday evening 30 years ago. I can't remember where I left my car keys this morning, never mind what precise colour the Zygons were in 1975. Come to think of it, I am not sure we even had colour TV in 1975.....

Where was I? Oh yes, so the weekend went well with the boys enjoying their "den" and Husband and I enjoying the peace. I made home-made pizza for everyone on Saturday and the boys went off with Husband's sister to the Edinburgh Festival Cavalcade on Sunday. Husband and I went to Homebase to look for wasp killer, as we have a wasp byke in our loft space. Glamourous, I know.

Oh, and Husband managed to get several hundred pounds back from the airline for our flights to Canada next year. He spotted a "children go free" promotion in an e-mail from them which, as it turns out, applies to 2009 flights as well as 2008 ones. We had already booked and paid for the boys' flights, but the airline happily (yes, honestly HAPPILY) agreed to refund us the cost of the child flights! So brownie points to Zoom for once. Then I got organised and booked us all a cottage for a week on the Northumberland shore of Nova Scotia, about 20 minutes from Tatamagouche. It is right on the beach. The boys are ecstatic. I can't wait.

And now it is Monday. Back to work, or as close to it as I get these days! I am also going to try to start running again as I have let the exercise and the healthy eating slide and that probably doesn't help the way I feel either. So I will go to the gym at lunchtime today and you can all gang up on me and give me a telling off if I don't. Especially you, Isabelle.

PS: For the benefit of April who asked, and anyone else who is interested, the best B&B in Canada is Carwarden. You're welcome.