Category Archives: Modern life

Boys v Girls (again)

I’ve blogged a couple of times now on the differences between T and A. It never fails to amaze me how two children borne of the same parents and raised in exactly the same way can be so different. How different their personalities are and how their outlooks on things are so different. T has always been a very chilled child/teen (he was far from being a chilled baby: colic, reflux, sleeplessness- you name it he had it). He has his moments which, because they are so infrequent, send me off kilter and make me question my judgement. A was a very chilled baby: slept really well (to the point where I worried something was wrong with her, the difference to T was so marked); ate really well; was placid and easygoing. She made up for it during her toddler and early years. I look at photographs sometimes and remember with horror the trips out that were marred by some tantrum or another. I suspect that her behaviour was a by-product of being with a mum who, feeling so out of control in her own head, attempted to control her children so much that at least one of them was going to fight against it.

As teens they are still very different. T making the minimum effort required over homework, while A wants to make sure she has done all she possibly can. T being very relaxed and easy going about friendships, while A has always found this a much trickier path to navigate. T keeping things to himself, not really a worrier but not really talking much when he is; A spilling the beans on everything – and I mean Everything. She sometimes messages me as she is leaving school to meet me at the car 5 minutes later to tell me she has had a bad day. It’s great that she wants to talk to me about stuff. I know I am very lucky to have this open, honest relationship with her. T and I were talking in the car the other day (it always seems to be easier somehow to chat about important stuff when we are driving – it seems less intense and important, making it easier to open up) and he said something about talking to friends about things that bother him, that certain friends can be relied upon to give good advice or keep things to themselves. He said that one of his friends is a really closed book and doesn’t impart any information about his family life or personal stuff in any way. As a group of friends they know this about him and respect his privacy and would never consider pushing him to be more open. I was quite impressed that they have this level of understanding and empathy. It gave me hope. A also has friends who she confides in more than others. But I am her biggest confidante and I feel very privileged. She bought herself a new phone at the weekend and it arrived yesterday. Unlike T, who’s phone is sacrosanct – no-one is allowed to touch it, she offered for me to add my fingerprint to her new phone so that I could open it “in an emergency”. I said I was happy to have the pass-code, but she was insistent that I should have access. I promised that I wouldn’t look at her private messages or abuse her trust in any way. She said “Duh, I know that!”.

T is more private than A, but knowing that he has good friends to talk to, that his friends seem to have some level of perception about each other, is heartening. And A has me. Lucky me.


Too much, too young

T turns sixteen next week. Sixteen! It’s not really a shock, I mean he towers over me (and I’m not short) and he’s finished school (for now). But, sixteen! Really?

In many ways he is very mature. He’s considered one of the more sensible ones of his group of friends. He is often the voice of reason and he’s generally pretty level headed. I’m sure he has his moments when he is out with his friends. I’m sure the T that we see is different to the T that his friends see. But his basic good nature and sense of right and wrong shine through, I hope.

Last weekend his cadet group won the County Competition for the second year running, wining 5 of the categories before taking the overall prize. A very proud moment. He is in the running for a section leader when they return in September. I thought this might be a bit like becoming a sixer at Cubs – based on age and by default – but apparently not, this is based on merit and for showing potential. I keep my fingers crossed for him.

The weekend before that he was on his DofE final expedition up in the Peak District. He got through it in his group of 6 with no issues. The food was awful but they were one of the first groups to complete each day’s route and they were all pretty sensible about drinking enough water. He prepared all his own gear to take (I buy what he asks me to and he packs it) and I really had very little involvement in any of the whole 2 years of his taking part in the scheme other than handing over money. Oh, and doing his washing on his return, of course.

He is travelling up to Scotland at the beginning of next month to compete in the National Cadet Competition, flying up with 4 other cadets and 2 leaders. He’ll pack his own stuff, get himself up and ready to leave the house at 5am. He won’t need any looking after. He’ll have a great time.

He’s clearly pretty mature and sensible. He doesn’t really give us cause for concern. So, why haven’t I let him go away for the weekend with three friends? A month or so ago, the prospect of a trip was mentioned. Parents of one of his friends own an apartment in Cumbria and they had offered for him to take a couple of friends up there for a break. On their own. My initial reaction was to assume that they would never get organised, it would cost too much to get there, they wouldn’t be able to find dates when they were all around, etc. Basically, I stuck my head in the sand. It turns out the prospect of time away from parents made them quite resourceful and they found out about coach timetables, dates etc.

T explained the (still slightly vague: “it costs about £30 and takes about 4 hours”) plan to us and asked us what we thought, could he go? We said we would discuss it. I already knew my answer and after a night of contemplation (mainly me imagining various scenarios, questioning my sanity for even considering it but feeling I owed it to him to think it through, albeit irrationally as any thought process is as 4am) and a discussion with K the answer was “No”. The reasons? It is a long way away: four hours by coach, means at least 3 hours by car. And, they are only 16 (or not quite, in T’s case) and, in my opinion, not old enough to deal with potential issues (illness, injury) alone whilst waiting for a parent to drive 3 hours to support them.

Yes, he has just spent 3 days and nights trekking through the Peak District and had nothing worse than a couple of blisters to show for it. But he had adult supervisors within 10 miles of his location at all times. There were checkpoints all along the way. And I STILL worried about him. Not worried to death, but just, you know, hoping he was OK and wondering how he was getting on sort of worried. A normal level of worry.

Five days in Cumbria with 3 friends, all of whom are great boys. They look out for each other. They’re not stupid. But no adults nearby; no-one to keep an eye on them, make sure they are OK; no-one to help out in an emergency; in an area that, apart from the friend whose parents own the apartment, none of them knows; with us three hours (at least) drive away. Part of me hoped for just one other parent to say “no”. Not because I need validation that I am making the right decision, but just so he’s not the only one not allowed to go. He’s taken it really well, considering. He’s a bit miffed but he’s not a sulker.

I know he will want to go away with friends, to festivals, on holiday abroad, very, very soon. And I know I need to let him. But, at not-quite-yet 16 I think it is too much, too young.




One thing that has astounded me during the process of having the extension built is how some people have treated the space they are working in.

When the work first started it was all outside, it was messy, it was a bit noisy, but the main thing was that it was outside. I could ignore it, mostly, and it was the start so it was exciting to know that things were finally happening.

As the work has progressed it has become more and more intrusive. I understand that it was always going to be messy. Having walls knocked down and ceilings messed about with was never going to be a tidy job, and I understand that for the tradesmen involved it is a building job. But, and this is a big but, it’s not a building site, it’s our home. Yes, it’s a mess and there’s no floor and walls but it’s still our home. And I think my expectation was that people would respect that. I was sorely wrong.

We have walls now and a new kitchen and we have windows and doors and it’s all nearly done, but anyone that comes still seems to treat it like a building site. The tiler started on Monday and he has made a mess. It’s a messy job, I know that, and not one that I would want to do, and it’s easy for me to sit here at my laptop moaning about it, but he knew we were having the walls painted (yes, he would have preferred for us to have it decorated AFTER he had finished, but equally the decorators preferred to have the floor bare when they painted. In a toss up of what would be easier to clear up – a few marks from the newly painted walls or scratches from ladders from the newly laid tiles, we opted for the walls) but he has still left tools leaning up against them and bits of compound stuck to them. I am sure it will all clear up fine, but it is very frustrating.

Also, what is it with the radio? Why do they all have to have the effing radio turned up so effing loud? I like listening to music while I work and have the radio on at home and in the office every day. But not at full volume. Booming through the house. And it’s never a decent radio station.

The only person who I would welcome back in to my house any time is the electrician. He talked to me like I was an intelligent human being (who knew?) and with a lovely manner about him. He was courteous and polite and was keen to ensure I was happy with everything he had done. He was the antithesis of everyone else that has been here. With very few exceptions every other person has either (a) ignored me and spoken solely to K; (b) patronised me – classic quote “are you excited about getting your new kitchen installed today?” – not exactly excited, glad it’s finally happening, and definitely not in the way you just said it which made me sound like a 5 year old; (c) made me feel uncomfortable for being in my own home. I only work from home one day a week so I’ve not been around much but arriving back after a day at the office to be made to feel I can’t go into my own kitchen to make a cup of tea is not a nice experience.

In short, I have had enough of people being in our house. Our home. My haven. It’s left me feeling off kilter, out of sorts, irritable, out of control, not on top of things*. (So much so, that even the usually not very perceptive bosses at work have noticed that I am not myself and have suggested a few days off when it’s all done – to recharge my batteries and “re-nest my house”, bless them.)  I am desperate for it all to be finished. I am desperate to know that when I come home no-one will be here (other than maybe T who is now on a very long summer holiday**) and I will be able to make a cup of tea, sit in the garden, think about cooking dinner (at a reasonable time and not taking into account the timetable of whichever workman I have in the house) and breathe.

*A has her school “enrichment” week this week. This generally means the parent spending a shed load of cash sending their child on a week long trip to France or Germany or day trips to London and other delights. A was not keen to go away to improve her language skills as she fully intends to ditch the subjects at the earliest opportunity (much to my horror – I love languages) and so she opted for the day trips options. These were limited – she has already been on the London Eye with us as a family, she doesn’t like horses and doesn’t want to spend the day mucking them out for a half hour of riding. She didn’t want to travel four hours in a coach for a few hours at the Ironbridge Victorian museum and then four hours back. She’s not awkward, she just knows what she doesn’t want to do. So on Monday she took part in a multi- sports day (all children who were not away on residential trips had to participate) and it was OK. Yesterday she had a STEM day where groups of four students were set the task of making a self-propelled buggy. Her team won for KS3. Happy moment. Today she is taking part in Masterchef – which is where my lack of organisation has hit home – she was missing a vital ingredient that I had let slip my mind to buy and nowhere locally stocks it. But she was her usual positive self and insisted she would be able to work around it with the substitute that I got her. Tomorrow she is going to the Tower of London – the only one from her group of friends, but she has managed to track down a friend of a friend who is also going to be on her own, so they are pairing up. Phew. It’s all too much to remember and I’m not normally a flaky mum. Normal service will resume very soon.

**T finished his exams on the 15th June. He has 10 long weeks ahead of him and I would prefer him not to sleep them all away. Ideally, I would like him to get a job and earn some money. However, he is not 16 for another 4 weeks and most companies won’t take any one on under this age. He also has 3 weekends when he is away (D of E, cadet competitions) plus our 2 week holiday in the middle of the summer. This makes him a less than attractive applicant for many prospective employers. I’ve managed to get him a bit of paid work emptying recycling bags for the company I work for but it will be pocket money rather than anything long term. It’s going to be a long 10 weeks!


Communication, The Band, The End of Exams

A bit of a long-winded title, but I am not feeling inspired to think of anything witty!
It’s been a long few weeks and I am feeling pretty knackered. I hate the “rollercoaster” cliche but I really do feel like we have been up one minute and down the next. The extension is taking shape. We almost have a completed kitchen – I let out a whoop of joy yesterday when I saw a photo from K showing me a working sink! Amazing the things that can make me happy. I know it’s first-world problems and all that, but washing up in a bowl with water supplied from the kettle and outside tap for 2 weeks was almost more than I could take. When I washed up in the new sink for the first time last night I made a small silent vow not to take it for granted again, but I know I will soon forget the horror of it all – a bit like childbirth (not really, I will NEVER forget that!)..

The biggest issue we have had during this whole process has not been any of the niggly things that have gone wrong – not the need for deeper foundations than planned; not the issue with the ceiling when the steel was installed differently to the plans; not the delays when the toilet we had ordered was the wrong sort, etc, etc. – it’s been a massive lack of communication. It’s unbelievable to me that in this age of technology that we can’t get a simple answer to a question, or a call from someone when they are not going to be able to come and do what they are booked in to do. It seems that some people don’t know how to talk to others, to put them in the picture, to let them know what needs doing. They just don’t turn up. K was astounded, when he first met our builder, that he didn’t write anything down. He’s continued to not write things down throughout the build and it has caused a few issues – nothing insurmountable, but big enough to cause delays and worry.

I understand that things go wrong, delays happen, people hurt their backs and can’t work, but it doesn’t take much to pick up a phone and call the customer. It doesn’t take much for what starts out as a really good service to become disappointing and frustrating. Just for the sake of a call.

Anyway rant over and on to happier things. Back in November, K booked two tickets for The Band – a musical centred around the music of Take That. We didn’t watch the TV programme where 5 young men were selected for roles in the show but I am a huge Take That fan and mentioned that I would love to see the show. I had little idea what it was about, other than knowing that it wasn’t the story of Take That – just featured their music. Anyway, we went on Friday to see it. I really enjoyed it. It was funny, sad, great music (obviously) and a really good atmosphere. We had good seats, in a circle box, but unfortunately were joined by a group of ladies celebrating (loudly) a 50th birthday. The story-line was simple – a group of five teenage girls growing up in the north in the early 90’s and obsessed with a boy band (they are never referred to as Take That – they are only referred to as The Boys or The Band) and one of them wins tickets to go to a concert. They go, they have a great time, they miss their train home and on the way back tragedy strikes and one of them is killed. Fast forward to present day and the four remaining friends are in their early 40’s dealing with their own lives, having drifted apart and not having seen each other for many years. One of the four wins tickets to see The Band in Prague and contacts the other three out of the blue to make it a reunion of sorts. They meet and we see how their lives have changed, who they have become. There was some real humour and some very poignant moments but I didn’t cry (neither from laughter or sorrow). I did have a small moment, when the present day characters were singing to their younger selves, and wondered how it would be to be able to tell your younger self that all would be OK in the end? The music was great – the lads that were playing “The Boys” were not trying to be Take That, they were just singing their music and I think they did a good job. It was a fun night out and we both enjoyed it. And the icing on the cake was the 30 second walk back to the Premier Inn after it finished! Result.

T sits his final exam on Friday. It has been a long four weeks and I am pleased that it is nearly over. He has remained calm during the whole time and has been studying (hopefully enough) in his spare time. He has replied to my enquiring about how each exam has gone with “good” with the odd “harder than I expected” thrown in. On the whole, he seems to feel that they have gone ok. Only time will tell now. He’s got some time to relax ahead, but has been thinking about how he can earn some money to keep him in funds for the duration of the extended summer holiday. As he’s one of the youngest in his year (not 16 until towards the end of next month) he is struggling to find anyone to give him a job. Added to that, he has three weekends where he is either on his DofE expedition, or attending the County and National Cadet Competitions and then we are away for two weeks in August! Doesn’t leave him much chance to work and not many prospective employers are going to be happy to take someone on who can’t work for half the summer. My boss has offered him a few hours a week sorting recycling bags (of ink cartridges) which he is happy to pay him quite well for so hopefully that will give him enough money to have some days out with his friends!

So now we play the waiting game again. Waiting for the extension to be finished, waiting for exam results and desperately not wishing the time away. I can’t go back to my younger self and tell her to slow down and to stop worrying but I can tell my own kids to enjoy themselves, to not worry about stuff you can’t change and to be patient. And maybe I can take my own advice too.






It’s only words

Things I’ve said while the extension is being built, that are clearly nonsense:

“It’ll give me an excuse to have a good sort out”. As if there is anything in our house that hasn’t already been sorted. It’s what I do. Even the messy drawer isn’t that messy.

“It’ll be OK – we can just pretend we’re camping”. We all hate camping. Why would this make not having a kitchen “be OK”?

“Oh, just do what you want, you always do”. Not true, K rarely does anything without discussion and rarely gets his own way, poor man. Mainly, because we normally agree on things.

“I really don’t have an opinion on that”. Yeah, right. Unless it’s a discussion about cars or watches.

“It’s really no hassle”, whilst crying inside that I can’t take another day of wiping dust off the worktops before I can cook dinner. Now that we have no worktops at all, I am missing being upset about having dusty ones.

“It could be worse”. First-world-issues and all that, we really can’t complain at being lucky enough to have a house to build an extension on, but there have been some points when I have questioned our sanity and wondered if we will ever see it start to look anything like we imagined. There have been glimpses: when the walls were plastered and looked more like walls; when the bi-fold doors went in and we saw how much light we will have; when the floor was screeded; when the kitchen came out and we saw what the new kitchen space will be. But it’s mainly still in our imaginations and there are still some hurdles to get over. We still don’t have a floor tiler on board. We could be without proper flooring for a couple more months. But it could be worse.

“It won’t be for much longer”, whilst having no real idea how much longer this is all going to take. The builder should have been finished two weeks ago but we still don’t have a functioning shower room; the garden is half finished; no flooring, etc. The snagging list gets longer, not shorter, as each day goes by.

“It will be worth it”. This has become my mantra and, I hope, is the one saying that might be true.

I’ve only had 3 meltdowns (one was not witnessed so cannot be counted as a true meltdown) and have tried to be the voice of reason amidst all the niggles and frustration.

In the words of A the other night, I would just like it all to be normal again. Not how it was because we want the new space and all the (potential) loveliness, but a new normal would be great.

It will all be worth it.

The beauty of it

Since she started at senior school, A has become more and more interested in make up. I’ve never worn much make up. I’m not very confident applying it and I don’t really like the way it makes my skin feel, so other than a bit of mascara and some concealer for the dark circles that live permanently under my eyes, I tend not to bother too much. I’ve found it quite interesting to see A become almost obsessed with it. I say obsessed – she rarely wears it to go out. She has bought quite a few (cheaper) items and loves watching YouTube video tutorials, follows make up accounts on Instagram and loves to film herself doing similar “looks” which she then posts on her own Instagram account(*) – she has one devoted to make up so that her friends who are not interested in it don’t get sick of seeing her videos!

I have to admit to finding it a bit irritating. She used to love to read more than anything. She used to sew and bake and colour and do crafty things. She still reads a lot but not as much as she used to. She still does crafty things but not as much as she used to. I quite often find myself asking her to do something else, when I find her filming herself again or removing make up in the bathroom again (we get through a lot of Micellar Water!) It normally leads to some sort of row but that’s OK, that’s what parents and teens do right?

I didn’t follow her make up account for quite some time. I get to see the effects first hand most of the time – she quite often comes down to dinner with one eye made up in some garish, amazing, impressive, beautiful design – so I don’t need to see how she did it or read the comments from her equally obsessed friends. Then I had coffee with a friend whose daughter is in the same year as A. She mentioned the make up videos and before I had chance to roll my eyes (it’s not just teens that are allowed to do that you know) and say anything derogatory, she went on to say how impressed she was when her daughter showed her one, how confidently A comes across and how much she liked watching her. Oh. I had to admit to not seeing any of them and actually felt a bit bad.

So that evening I requested to follow her and without discussion was granted permission. (I don’t generally follow the kids accounts – T follows A and I know he keeps a beady eye on any nonsense – and prefer not to have kids following mine, not because I post anything unpleasant but I’m 45, not 15, and my photos/posts are not of their world.)

I sat down and watched her latest video. I was impressed. I haven’t watched anyone else doing this stuff so have nothing to compare to, but watching my girl smiling and pulling faces at the camera, putting on this amazing make up design made me smile. She is funny and the way she edits the video – sped up and music playing, no talking, lots of waving – is brilliant. I loved it. My friend was right, she’s great. I didn’t read all of the caption listing which products she used, etc. but she had some lovely comments from other girls and other make up obsessives. I still wish she spent more time reading or doing something else but can see that this is creative in it’s own way and gives her a lot of pleasure. She’s good at it and she enjoys it. She washes it off almost straight away and she looks her age when she goes out. (Maybe a bit more than her actual age due to her height but age-appropriate).

This morning, I had a quick look at Instagram while I was waiting for the kettle to boil. She has posted a couple of pictures of herself with no make up on and she has written a long piece beneath them.

“For a while I’ve been feeling fairly insecure about the way I look, my teeth, how I run etc. In the long run these are all silly things that can be fixed or learnt to live with, braces can fix my teeth and so on. Recently, maybe over the last couple of year, have I really accepted myself and learnt to love myself the way I am, as I was born to look and be this way, and that no one can change who I am. This post is kind of a way to show and let other people out there who may feel insecure to know that you are you, and well you should be happy about yourself and maybe even find a way to turn these insecurities into securities because in the end they are what makes us stand out as unique and different, allow us to stand out. Now that I’ve said that I want to address another thing which is that some people think that girls and boys wear make up to cover over and to mask themselves. This is not true! Yes it can be a way to boost confidence and help someone feel good about themselves, but it’s also a way of expressing themselves and make a point through something other than a painting or sketch, it’s a way of expressing feelings in a creative way. Because at the end of the day it can be removed. It’s not permanent. Personally I don’t wear makeup every day and even when I do, most of the time I don’t wear out half of what I put on my face in my videos. I mostly just fill in my brows and that’s it for school, maybe pop on a bit of mascara or concealer if I feel like it or maybe do some eye-shadow for a special occasion or weekend. I rarely wear out a winged eyeliner or a smoky eye or a bold contour. Anyways, I hope this post has maybe inspired or supported some people. xxx”

Most of this I knew. I know she has always been very self-conscious of her front teeth, which are now as good as perfect and look like a completely different set of teeth to the ones she had three years ago. I know she is self-conscious of the way she runs – she has been under pressure from a (particularly unpleasant) girl in her form to take part in the school sports day, running the 1500m. She is only pressurising her because she knows of A’s feelings about running. Luckily, A is made of sterner stuff than that and has stood her ground, steadfastly refusing to be bullied into it. I know that she gets silly comments from some of the boys about her make up account. She doesn’t care – she loves doing it and she just asks them why they are watching if they are not interested!

She’s only 13 and like many other 13 year old girls she likes putting on make up. Big deal. What is a big deal is how much she thinks about stuff.; how sensitive and thoughtful she is; how much she wants to be positive and help others to feel more positive. She is my own personal cheer leader and makes me feel better about myself all the time. To me, she is beautiful inside and out. Make up or no make up, perfectly brushed hair or bed head. She may not spend as much time reading or baking as she used to, but this latest hobby (I won’t call it an obsession any more) has given her confidence, made her think about the bigger issues and it makes her happy. And that makes me happy too.

(* all her accounts are private and she knows to “vet” any potential followers and we talk – well, I talk while she rolls her eyes – about being safe online etc, etc.)

Did you hear that?

There’s been a thing going around on social media , a bit like the dress thing from last year where you either saw a blue or a gold dress (forgive me if the colours are wrong, I wasn’t that bothered by it), where you have to listen to a sound clip of someone saying a name. Depending on how you hear certain sound frequencies, you will hear either one name or another. We were talking about it over dinner last night and while I was aware of it but hadn’t actually listened and taken the test, K was completely unaware of it. T decided we needed to do it and, although I was sceptical, K and I heard different things. I could hear the higher frequency word and he could hear the lower frequency one. I was delighted that the explanation is that younger people are more likely to hear the higher one than older people. I am officially 9 months younger than K but clearly my ears are even younger! Or maybe I am just more “down with the kids” than he is 😉

It did get me thinking about the number of conversations that K and I have which, at a later date, are remembered differently by one of us. I always thought this was a man thing or a K thing or some thing that I just had to put up with. Maybe I just need to start speaking in a lower tone so that he is more likely to actually hear the words that I am saying? It also explains a lot about my hearing sensitivity. While I sometimes struggle to hear people talking – maybe they are talking in low frequency voices? – I also suffer from tinnitus from time to time (usually when I am stressed out) and often, normally when I have a headache, can’t bear too much noise. I have to turn off the radio (I love listening to music so this is a big deal) and often hear high pitched noises that no-one else can seem to hear. It drives me mad.

Interestingly A could hear a different word at different times. This is apparently not uncommon and depends on what your sensitivity is at a given time. T could hear the same as me. K got quite cross by it and thought we were winding him up that we could hear a different word. Fascinating. I wonder how much voice changers cost on Amazon…?

If you haven’t already, you can read about it here and take the test.