Saturday, 18 March 2017

Radioactive Report

For the first time I am in proud possession of three school reports - now that Eddie is a term and a half into his school career. Moreover I am the proud owner of three glowing school reports.

Two are glowing with praise. 

One, alas is glowing with radioactive criticism. Guess which!

I marvel at the teacher's linguistic dexterity. Eddie is 'confident to disagree'. Read: Argumentative little so and so. And he 'prefers to select his own classroom activity', which I understand to mean, won't do what he is bloody well told.

Still, I shouldn't be surprised. The writing was on the wall a couple of weeks ago, or rather it was on the page. As an English teacher I am delighted that Eddie in his short time in reception has progressed to writing in full sentences. I am less pleased that this is what one of the first said:

No doubt a great academic career ahead of him.

Currently reading: The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Inspirational School Run

It was a rubbish day at work. The details don't really matter, but a new appraisal system, a bruised department, contrary Year 11 students and an inconsiderate colleague all meant that by the time I went to pick up the children from school I was feeling pretty grumpy. But then I had a daughter on hand to cheer everything up.

I arrived in time to catch the end of Gertie's netball club and to witness her scoring a goal. Not the first one that she has scored, but certainly the first one that I have seen. Even more heartening was the fact that I caught her looking like an actual, real netballer. Snatching passes, making feints, moving around the court, getting into good positions. I had to wipe a little tear away, and made a mental note to get back into netball somehow.

So, not only has she inspired me to pick up a sport that I love again, she has also made me determined to succeed in another area of aspiration. I caught sight of her photograph as part of a display celebrating writers across the school, alongside a story that she had written and a speech bubble citing her writing inspirations as 'Michael Morpurgo', 'Jacqueline Wilson' and 'My Mum'. Cue second teary moment of the afternoon. How am I supposed to live up to that? And, whilst it might be the one and only time that those three names appear in the same sentence, I am determined to try to be worthier, somehow, of that expectation.

Before I got too carried away with all the emotion, Eds ruined it all by throwing a massive tantrum and having to be carried kicking and screaming off the school premises. I bribed him with chocolate.

Currently reading: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Monday, 16 January 2017

A Tipping in the Scales of Us

I thought it would be many years hence that the roles between my children and I would reverse, as described  so powerfully by poets such as Seamus Heaney in Follower, or Owen Sheers in Farther; though I know that we move inexorably towards the 'tipping in the scales of us,/the intersection of our ages'.

But no. It seems that not only is my nine-year-old daughter now able to keep pace with me length for length whilst swimming, she is also emotionally astute and already prepared to take charge in a social situation.

Circumstances arose over the weekend which meant that, contrary to all principles, (and wishes) I found myself inside the doors of a well known purveyor of fried chicken. Somehow I had drawn the short straw: it transpires that at the same moment Hearth-Father was enjoying a complimentary beer as he waited for our takeaway curry.

Meanwhile, back in chicken-hell, the menu was a minefield to this vegetarian: uninitiated in the language of such an establishment.  What, for example, was 'Popcorn' chicken? Why on earth would one order a ghastly-sounding 'bucket' of it?

I ordered three children's meals glumly and stood back to wait for them. Fast food could not come fast enough on this occasion.

Gertie noticed my distress and tucked a comforting arm through mine. "Poor Mummy," she whispered. "You don't look very comfortable in here. Don't worry, it will all be over soon."

Currently reading: Number 11 by Jonathan Coe

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Steven Gerrard Ate My Sausages

Getting to bed at a respectable 2am after seeing in the new year with friends and family, it is fair to say that I was nursing the suggestion of a teensy-tiny hangover first thing.  Given that I was clearly in the lower magnitude on the Richter scale of hangovers, and was not the only sufferer, discussion at the in-laws this morning focused on the merits or otherwise of different hangover cures. It is worth stating here that Hearth-Father visited the opticians yesterday. I am beginning to wish he had had his ears tested instead. For 'bacon sandwich', that well-known remedy, he heard 'baby cabbage'.

Even as a vegetarian I think I know which I would prefer.

The inclement weather meant that this new year's day has definitely been one for 'plotting up', a favourite expression in our household, rather than going out. I have thereby discovered that it is actually fun spending time with members of my family. Eddie has been running round earnestly completing pages of his 'Wreck This Journal', a lucky, last-minute choice by Santa, as it turns out. Gilby, obsessed by the trials and tribulations of Tom Gates has also begun keeping a journal of his own. Today's entry was entitled 'Steven Gerrard ate my sausages' which is an inspired interpretation of the morning's events.

I won't spoil the mystery by explaining exactly how that came about; suffice to say that is is, in a sense, accurate, (not the Steven Gerrard, obvs) and provides an excellent, if somewhat obscure, title for a blog post.

There has been some new year's brotherly love. I'm not panicking, it's bound not to last, but I enjoyed it nonetheless:

I spent two hours in the bath reading Anna Karenina, which means that I might just about have finished it in time for new year 2018 - but what luxury. Turns out you can do that sort of thing on New Year's Day. And Arsenal won, helped by a blinding goal from Giroud. Happy new year one and all.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

A Word on Christmas Cards

Two posts in a day? It must be the holidays.

The mince pies are wrapped, the presents are iced, the Christmas cards are baked and the gingerbread house is posted. Or a version of that.

But the writing of Christmas cards did offer another opportunity for reflection. Eddie decided (after a whole term in reception) that he would write his to all his classmates unaided overnight.  I have grave doubts about how many of them will have actually made it to their intended recipients, since, to give a flavour, this one was meant for 'Lucy':

But Gilby went one better and sent a card to God. Yes, he did. Left it on the gravel outside, assuming. I suppose, that angels might carry it up to heaven. Or a dove, perhaps. Wishing God 'lots of fun' at Christmas. 

Ironies on many levels. But lots of fun.

Currently Reading: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Another Year, Another Nativity, Another Indeterminate Furry Costume

It has been a few years since Gertie's starring role as the 'hopeless camel' in the Christmas production but, a couple of weeks prior to the end of term, Eddie  announced his important role in the reception nativity. He had been cast as... a donkey.

"Which end are you? Back or front?" asked his older brother, entering into the spirit.

Eddie was affronted. He pulled himself up to his full three foot height and puffed out his chest. "Actually, I'm a full donkey," he replied.

Tension mounted on the night of the performance. The tension of...could we get supper done in time to have eaten before the show? Who would babysit the bigger kids (tickets tightly rationed to a maximum of three per family)? The bigger tension of...would Hearth-Father make it from work in time to actually see the performance?

The nail-biting wait for Hearth-Father gave me time to peruse the programme and the cast list. Turns out Eddie was not just any old donkey. Oh no. He was the grey donkey. Oh yes: The full, grey donkey. 

A star is born. Or something.

Full Grey Donkey 2016

Hopeless Camel 2013

Since nobody had any lines anyway, it was rather a moot point about the colour of his donkiness. 

And, as an aside, there seemed to be a startling resemblance between the costume of the hopeless camel and the full grey donkey.

Currently reading: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Quite Nice Children, Really

I have written about this before, but spending time alone with any of my children is a revelation.

Our household is noisy and busy. Mornings are crazy, kit-frenzied affairs. Swimming, dancing, football, multisports, netball - they all feature on different days for different people. Each one requires 'stuff' that disappears somewhere into the ether between the last session and the next. It doesn't matter how organised we are. See my last blog post here for a picture of how organised we are. Breakfast orders are barked out and the breakfast table resembles Picadilly Circus.

And Eddie's voice, as a third child, has, through natural processes of evolution, reached decibels above that of his siblings. Its pitch can be migraine-inducing. Sometimes he makes noises like a Jurassic Park velociraptor just for fun. A genus of dromaeosaurid theropod dinosaur that existed approximately 75 to 71 million years ago during the later part of the Cretaceous Period regularly lives and breathes - and screams - in our kitchen.

The velociraptor analogy is apt because he is also extremely temperamental and you are therefore always only one wrong step or one wrong word away from getting your head bitten off. 'Terrible twos' bred thuggish threes, leading to ferocious fours and now frightful fives.

Ane he is not the only one. Often it doesn't feel as if we are getting actual human people ready for a day's living, but creatures of some sort. It is like herding cats, it is worse than trying to put a lid on a box of frogs, it is minding mice at crossroads and any other similar idioms you care to mention.

So it is refreshing when, in the relative calm of half term, I get to spend time with each of them individually. They are quite nice, on their own. I was surprised. They can talk sensibly without shouting. They are sort of like actual human people. Even Eddie. They have manners and are polite. They can sort of be interesting. Who knew?

Now to figure out how to break the pack mentality...

Currently reading: Nora Webster by Colm Toibin.