Author Archives: mayqueen31

Open Options

Last week, T received his Mock GCSE results. Based on his predicted grades he didn’t fare brilliantly: low passes for most and some below. He is predicted high grades of 7’s and 8’s (A’s and A*’s to anyone on old money) which we have always felt are either optimistic or, in the case of some subjects, completely unrealistic. He has always been a steady, level-pegging student. We have only ever asked that he tries hard and does his best; we want him to achieve the best he can for him, to give himself the best chance of being able to do what he wants in later life. We are also not naive enough to think that his entire future happiness hinges on what grades he gets at GCSE; so long as he gets the passes he needs to do what he wants after GCSE’s, we will be happy for him.

So, what does he want to do after his GCSE’s? From the age of about 3 years old, when he first understood what a Police Officer was, he has wanted to join the Police Force. This ambition has not wavered over the years and, in fact, has only been fuelled by the last year as a member of the local Police Cadets. Over the last 6 months or so he been looking into how to take it further, after school. He has asked some of the older cadets and has established that those who are looking to pursue it further are all studying a Public Services BTEC at college. We attended the Open Evenings for the two most local colleges in the latter part of last year and quickly narrowed it down to one. He seemed set on going this route and subsequently signed up for the course, starting in September, and had an interview last week (the day of the Mock GCSE results). He was offered a conditional place – he needs 4 GCSE’s at level 4 or above. Easily achievable, we think.

The following day, his school held a Post-16 Evening to look at the options available to students after GCSE’s. T’s initial response, when I suggested we attend, was that there was no point as he knew what he wanted to do and he didn’t want to stay on and be made to feel he should go on to Uni. My experience at his age was exactly that: I did A levels and for the two years of study I was primed for Uni. I didn’t want to go to Uni. I left school with 2 mediocre A’levels and  started working. Nothing has changed much since my time, so I was inclined to agree with him. However, my parent hat went back on and I persuaded him to at least go along and hear what they had to say. We’re not anti-Uni. Uni is important and necessary for people wanting to do jobs that require a degree. But not all jobs require a degree and not all kids want to go.

For the first half an hour, I wondered why I had dragged him along. It was like deja vu and I was 15 again, being told that this number of students went to top ranking uni’s last year and this student went to Oxford. It’s a great school, you can’t get away from that. However, I would also like to have heard about X student who had struggle academically throughout their school life but had achieved Y and has gone on to do Z. There needs to be more balance. The school produces a map of it’s leavers destinations – uni’s and colleges. There is a box at the bottom showing students who haven’t gone on to uni. They don’t make it on to the map – they are in a box. I say no more. Needless to say, by the time we left the hall I was ready to go home and skip the subject talks we had booked in for. We stayed, because I am an adult.

I am glad we stayed. The first talk we went to was Business Studies. T’s Business Studies teacher is awesome. I don’t use that word often or lightly. But she is. She’s engaging, lively, she connects with the students on a level that I have never seen before. I would almost consider going back to school if I could have her teach me full time. She’s that good. The school offers both A’ level and BTEC Business. BTEC Business can result in the equivalent of 2 A’levels after the 2 years. No exam, just coursework. My heart did a little skip and I nearly clapped. Some of the current year 12 students spoke and they talked about one of their modules requiring them to create a business. They have gone one step further and are running a business. They are making money, running a business while studying and it goes towards their coursework. Sign me up now. T seemed equally enthralled. And the best bit, Mrs T teaches BTEC Business, not the A’level. She went on to say that they have as many students go on to do further study as they do go on to get jobs, apprenticeships. It’s not all about Uni. Hurrah.

Similar feelings for ICT. We went to the Computing talk but it was clear from the start that it was not the course for T. He is doing Computing GCSE but this was all whole new level. Not beyond his capabilities, just beyond his interest. The clincher for me was the 3 students who were there as “ambassadors” for the subject – they appeared to be 60 year old men. I suspect they have always been this way but I can’t risk it happening to T.

As we left the event, I asked T what he thought. He has decided to apply for both college and Sixth Form. There has been talk for some time that the Police Force will soon only recruit graduates. This has been bandied about a lot, but we can’t guarantee that it won’t happen. If that is the case then T needs to be prepared to take that step. Or change direction. Doing Public Services may end up narrowing his options, but also may lead to his dream job. Doing Business and ICT BTEC’s may broaden his options, and make him look at other avenues. It also won’t stop him going to Uni and applying to the Police as a graduate if necessary.

It feels good that he has made some sensible decisions. It feels good that he is keeping his options open for now. And he has some goals to reach in order to do either, which will hopefully keep him focused.

 

 

 

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Review Relief

The Work Review took place this morning. I was in the office incredibly early thanks to very little school traffic, and I found myself getting increasingly nervous. I don’t know why – I have known D, my boss, since secondary school and we get on really well as employer/employee. He’s a very relaxed person and we have a good laugh. But, there was something about the formality of having a Review that was making me a bit sweaty-palmed. And for someone with perpetually cold hands that’s quite some achievement.

He arrived in the office about half an hour after me and we chatted about Christmas, family, etc.  I made a cuppa; he did some paperwork; I answered some emails. I knew he was due to leave at 10 a.m. for a meeting and I started to wonder if he had forgotten about The Review. But no, with plenty of time to spare, he said “shall we have this review then?” and laughed. I laughed (a tad more hysterically than necessary) and he came and sat down at the desk next to mine. With his notebook. Palms sweating even more, I wondered if I should get my notebook in case I was expected to take notes. I looked across my desk and noticed my screen was still on my Gmail. Gah! not a great impression to give. I managed to flick it on to a work screen and by then I forgot all about getting my notebook.

I didn’t need it. As formal as it felt, and sounded, to start off with – ” we (the other boss was away, thankfully, so this was the Royal “we”) want to talk about your role, make sure everything is going as it should from both our perspectives, talk about how we can measure your performance and then look at new ideas we have for how to expand your role, does that sound OK?” it soon emerged that they are very happy with what I am doing; they think I am hardworking, conscientious; they are happy that I put in the hours; they have lots of ideas for things I can get involved in; and so long as I keep the required performance levels up on the accounts then they are happy. I squeaked out lots of “OK”s and “oh good”s and “thank you”s steeling myself for when it was my turn – what on earth was I going to say? Why was I being such a dribbler? The best part was that the other boss (the grumpy one) had allegedly said a short while ago that he wished they had come across me ten or fifteen years ago when they were first starting the business, as I am a superstar. I don’t think he said superstar, but I like to think that was what he meant.

My turn.

“Er, I’m happy with the work, most of the time. I like the flexibility and I like coming into the office a couple of times a week to break the week up”.

So lame. Think, think.

“I sometimes find some of it a bit mundane”

OK, I didn’t know I was going to go that route but I’ve started so I’ll finish….

“so some new stuff to get involved in would be great”…..

He’s already said that….THINK!

“I know it can’t all be interesting all the time”…..

“…..had lots of jobs so know it can’t all be fun, fun, fun”…..

“…..really like working here”…..”….happy to do anything really”…..

SHUT UP  – NOW!

I stopped. He smiled, “Great, so that’s all good. We’re going to give you a pay-rise starting this month.” I don’t kiss and tell, but suffice to say it’s not enough for us to start eating caviar every night (why would anyone want to?) and it’s probably going be hard to spot it on my payslip, but it’s the thought that counts and I didn’t take the job expecting to earn megabucks.

I have to admit to being on a little bit of a high after that. It was nice to hear nice things – it’s nice to know they know I am conscientious, and that I am capable of doing more. And, of course, that I am a superstar.

 

Decisions, Decisions

Just before the end of term I received an email from school, entitled Year 11 Prom and Yearbook. T started in Year 11 in September. It was December when the email came through. It was asking him to decide before the 17th January whether he wants to attend the Year 11 Prom, which is held towards the end of…….June!

June! A whole six months away. Six months is a long time when you’re fifteen. I asked him when the email arrived and his answer was “er, no thanks, why would I want to go to Prom?!” How do I know that he won’t change his mind in a month, 3 months, 6 months from now? We have to pay a £25 deposit, which is non-refundable. Do I risk writing off £25 if he still decides it’s a no? A lot can change in six months – he may have a girlfriend by then and she may be a tad annoyed if he’s not put his name down for prom. He may become a total party animal that wants to go and strut his stuff (OK that won’t happen – he is the offspring of two perennial wallflowers). I’ve asked him if any of his mates are going to pay the deposit (something I hate doing, as it really bats against the “I don’t care what your friends are allowed to do” mantra that I have used over the years when he insisted that Insert Name Here had been bought a new phone or had been allowed to go to London for the day alone at the age of 13) he mutters that they don’t talk about stuff like that. Sometimes, and only sometimes, girls are easier in this regard. I’m pretty sure when A is in Year 11 it will be ALL she and her friends will talk about for the whole six months after the email arrives.

I’ve stopped asking, but the email is still in my inbox. I can’t file it away under ‘School – T’ until the date has passed and the decision is made – either by default because we haven’t done anything about it, or because by some miracle he has a conversation about it with his mates and he decides one way or another. (I hate emails sitting in my inbox; it’s so untidy.) I really want him to make the right decision. If he decides that he is going to go to college and not Sixth Form it may be the last school event with his friends that he has made over the years. If he doesn’t go will he spend the entire evening wishing he had? He’s not really one for FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and I am probably hugely overthinking this (Who? Me? Never.) But it seems like a big deal. I have seen photos from previous years – girls all lined up in their pretty dresses, hair and make up all done especially for the occasion; the boys in new suits looking uncomfortable (apart from one, there’s always one) – that’s the other thing, if he goes to college he won’t need a suit apart from for Prom; but they all look excited and happy and their exams are all finished and they are going to PARTY.

Decisions, decisions. I think I might just pay the £25. Then I can file the email, stop thinking about it and IF he changes his mind then I can say “well, good job I paid it then” and I will be a HERO. Again.

 

Review

It’s human nature to reflect back and look forward when one year ends and another starts. Ditching resolutions was one of the the best things I ever did (along with ditching the scales and ditching Facebook) but I still like to take stock and this new year was no exception. 2017 wasn’t too bad on the whole. Unlike 2016, there were no sad losses of loved ones; no broken bones; no upheaval of starting secondary school – nothing to throw off the general equilibrium of life. It was all pretty plain sailing and we made some happy memories and had some lovely times. Of course, there were rows, down times, frustrations and upsets but nothing major in the grand scheme of things. A Good Year.

As we start 2018, I am feeling almost calm and – dare I say? – positive. Last year I took up a photo challenge and this year it is being done again and I am fully on board. It ties in so well with the “no resolutions, no mad diets and no crazy exercise regimes” philosophy and I loved it last year. It’s under the hashtag #SavouringJanuary2018 on Instagram – you get a different word each day, which you interpret as you see fit and post a photo if possible. Not every day if you don’t want to but, by using the hastag, other people can follow your posts and you can see theirs. It makes me think about January in a different way and it’s a great way to start the year. It’s not a brag-fest, not showing off how wonderful your life is, just taking a simple word like “Still” and thinking about a relevance in your day and taking a picture to represent it. Simple but really effective.

That’s not the reason why I am feeling calm and positive. I don’t know why I am feeling this way, I just am. For now. The pessimist in me is muttering that it won’t last. Let’s ignore her, she’s a pain in the arse. I think that taking things easy this Christmas has helped. We normally have family here both days (as we did this year) and then also end up travelling up to the midlands a couple of times in the space of the week. This year we did that early and the rest of the time we have been at home, pottering about, not doing much. Not trying to fill every spare minute DOING SOMETHING. The kids still have another day before they go back to school; I am working from home and K is home early. It’s all still quite chilled (that word again). Mealtimes are still whenever, whatever; no-one needs to be anywhere by a certain time; there are no deadlines. The calm, positive feeling may change when school starts again on Thursday. Watch this space.

Not only am I thinking about my world at home – my real world, the only thing that really matters – but on Thursday I have a Job Review. My boss emailed me before Christmas suggesting it may be a good idea to have one as we haven’t had one for a while (more like never before), just to talk about my role and the good and the bad from both perspectives. I’m not sure how I feel about it. In Creature of Habit I talked about feeling a bit tied to my desk and wanting to make a shift in the way I work. I can’t deny that I find my job a bit tedious at times, that I wish for something to happen to shake things up. But I don’t know how to get this across, or even if I should, at a Job Review. Does a boss ever really want to hear that their employee is feeling a bit stagnant? Especially when it’s in a company of 5 people where there’s not much opportunity to diversify or try something new. I don’t know what to expect or what is expected of me. Of course, I have had plenty of Annual Reviews over the years, and have been on both sides of the table. I’ve helped K fill out his appraisal forms, to ensure he gets the tone right (and sometimes his spellings – he’s terrible at spelling. Mental maths – almost genius, but spelling, uh-ah) and I was never scared to put myself forward for more responsibility. But, this is different somehow. I will let you know how it goes.

Looking into 2018, we have things to look forward to. There are, of course, things to ponder* on: T sitting his GCSE’s; the extension; the Nan situation. There will be obstacles. There will be upsets. There may be be sad times. But if I can keep calm, stay positive, worry about the big things (and only the big things), keep laughing, then it will be OK. Here’s to a New Year.

*notice I said “ponder” and not “worry”. I’ve spent too long worrying about stuff that often didn’t happen or when it did it wasn’t such a big deal after all. Let’s try and have less of that.

Just “chill”

T has been going out a lot in the evenings to a mate’s house, to “chill”*. It’s mainly to one mate in particular as they have a second living room downstairs where they can sit and “chill” without disturbing anyone. But they sometimes go to another friend’s house where this is not the case – they “chill” in the friends bedroom. I queried why they don’t come here, to our house. They used to come here when they were younger during school holidays but this stopped a while ago. Being the over-thinker that I am, I started to worry that it is because of us. That we are too strict/too boring/too uptight/too whatever for them to want to come round.  When I asked T why they don’t come round here he muttered something about having nowhere to go other than his bedroom and there was nowhere to sit in there etc. It was one of those non-answers where you don’t really get anywhere. I replied that maybe when we get the extension done it will be easier for them and they will be able to come and “chill” here instead. He mumbled something that sounded vaguely positive.

Today is a working day for me and K is in the office. I asked A if she would like to have her friend O over for the day (she went to their house before Christmas so it’s nice to reciprocate) and I would take them to St Albans to look at the sales (using my new way of thinking about work and being Flexible) for an hour or so. Which we did. I left them to their own devices and went off to run some errands. While I was in the bank I had a text from T asking if two of his mates could come round. We have erred on the side of caution to date and not allowed friends round while we’re out. But with the “why don’t they come here” conversation fresh in my mind, I agreed. I called him when I finally emerged from the bank (why was the man behind me in the queue insistent on standing SO close to me? every time I tried to edge slightly away he edged too. And he was quite snuffly and I did NOT want him to sneeze on me) I called T and muttered a quick reminder about not being idiots and breaking anything while I was out. He said they would leave when we got back, to which I replied that they didn’t have to as the girls would be upstairs in A’s room and I would be working out of the way in the dining room, therefore they could carry on playing on the Playstation in the lounge.

We got back at lunchtime and they were still here, which made me feel stupidly gratified. Boys have really smelly trainers and the girls moaned about boy smells as soon as they walked in the house. O has a sister and no brothers so was particularly vocal about this. Keen not to scare them off with squealing and annoying female behaviour I ushered the girls off upstairs with promises of food. The boys, it transpired, had just ordered pizzas which were due to be delivered shortly. Trying to be cool and “chilled” I didn’t worry too much about where they were going to eat the pizzas (the lounge, obviously) but did wonder what K would say if he came home to a massive grease/tomato sauce/coke stain on the carpet. Let’s think positive – these are sensible, mature boys not 5 year olds (or teenagers who have bouts of being sensible and mature but with the regressed brains of 5 year olds).

The pizzas arrived and, still trying to be cool, I muttered to T about being careful not to make a mess – he had preempted me and was already fetching plates and glasses. It was all fine – well I assume it was, I haven’t ventured in there yet. He even took the empty cartons out to the recycling bin. The next I heard from them was shouts of “thanks for having me” (they really are great lads) from the open front door and then silence.

I say silence – they hadn’t been noisy, just deep voiced chat and the odd shout of laughter through the stud wall. I say silence but the girls were still here and they were far noisier upstairs than the boys had been in the next room. What is it about girls and not being able to speak slowly or in a normal voice? I don’t remember being that way, but I was probably not a stereotypical ‘girl’. I mean, I was a girl – just not a girly girl. I don’t know if girls with sisters are noisier than girls with brothers? Do brothers make them less hysterical; make them more rounded off because they don’t listen to silly voices and don’t respond to shrieking with more shrieking? Don’t get me wrong, they’re not like it all the time, they have bouts of being calm and quiet, and that’s nice. And O is the perfect friend for A as she makes her be silly and she has A LOT of fun with her.

As much as I want the kids friends to want to come to our house, to like being here and to feel welcome and at home here – I’ve always wanted to be someone they’re happy to chat to, not nervous of – I also love our house when it is just our house. I like the peace and quiet. We’re a quiet family – which I know can be misconstrued as boring or dull or too straight or uptight – but that’s who we are and we can’t change that. All I can do is try and be “chilled” and calm when they are here and know that they won’t be staying forever.

 

 

*I use the word “chill” in inverted commas as this is what I am told they do. I don’t know what it means. I assume they sit and chat and laugh about whatever 15/16 year old boys chat and laugh about. I don’t really want to know. I expect I would be bored or disturbed. Hopefully bored. It’s hard to be interested without looking like I’m giving him the third degree, to be aware of what he’s doing without policing him all the time. We’re in that halfway stage where he needs privacy and his own life but, conversely, he’s still a child that needs looking out for and guiding. Just “chill” mum.

 

Christmas

Christmas has gone by in a matter of minutes. It feels like a day at the most has gone by since my last blog, but here I am back at work and it’s all over (bar the leftovers).

Christmas Eve: we popped to see G&G for a quick cuppa to see them before Christmas and then my brother and his family were over to ours in the afternoon for a walk to the pub followed by cake and presents. We did this last year and it worked really well, so we decided to do the same this year. It’s getting increasingly hard for us both to fit everyone in at Christmas, especially if we are working in between. So this works well for all of us and I’m hoping it may become a bit of a tradition. The kids all got on well and we enjoyed the walk. It’s always easier to get them to walk without moaning if there is the promise of a drink at the end of it and on the way back the incentive of a slab of cake and a present!

The day itself was lovely: waking up at 7.50am and waiting for the kids to come in with their stockings; downstairs for a bacon sandwich (cold sliced gammon for A and I as per my childhood) and presents with the tree lights on as it was such a dark day; K’s parents arriving safely and in good spirits; a lovely meal cooked relatively stress free; A’s amazing cheesecake for dessert; a round of our new board game which the Silver Squad won. The only blot on the landscape was the discovery (by K) that one of the passenger windows on my car had been left open for 24 hours and the backseat was soaked. Not a great thing to happen at any time but infinitely worse for it to be discovered on Christmas morning just as K’s parents were pulling up outside the house. I’m not going to lie and say it didn’t leave a slightly ominous cloud over proceedings but it didn’t ruin the day. Thankfully, as he works for a flood restoration company K has the odd bit of equipment in the garage that can sort this sort of thing out so all is well. But, it wasn’t without a lot of grumbling and huffiness.

Boxing day was like my Christmas Day as G&G came to ours. It was a lovely day with K’s parents here on Christmas Day but I love Boxing Day and it’s always a bit more relaxed with G&G. Cold meat, new potatoes, salad, cheese. What’s not to love about Boxing Day?

There have been differences this year. T & A still came in to our room for stockings, we still had the same day we normally have but Christmas Day evening saw just K & I sitting watching a film while T was in his room chatting online with his friend and A in her room watching YouTube tutorials for the new make up she had. Boxing Day saw T going out round to see a friend in the early evening as G&G left (they dropped him off en route) and K, A and me watching Snow Bears (the most joyful programme to watch when you are feeling even slightly under par – which I wasn’t but I am keeping it on the planner should the need arise).

And here we are, 2 days of work before 4 more days off and then it will be back to reality again.

Neighbours

Posting for yesterday.

We’re lucky to have really lovely next door neighbours. They’re good people. We get along really well. We’re not in and out of each other’s houses all the time – we borrow the odd onion or splash of soy sauce now and again; we get together for dinner every few months or so; we used to do reciprocal babysitting when our kids were younger; we chat over the garden fence now and again in the summer. There’s no pressure to be socialising all the time, but we know we’re there for each other in an emergency or to borrow a screwdriver. It’s perfect.

Yesterday we were invited to go round for a family afternoon/evening of playing games and a bite to eat. It was lovely. We played some new games, learnt some great mind tricks, and had a really tasty meal – all 8 of us, kids and adults around the table, chatting. Then we watched a film before walking the 4 steps back home.

A really happy start to the Christmas weekend.