Category Archives: school life

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.)

Study leave

I was dreading T beginning his study leave last Thursday. When I sat my GCSE’s I hated study leave. I hated being responsible for my own revision, spending more time devising a timetable – all nicely colour co-coded, surprise, surprise! – than I spent on my actual revision. I lived too far out of town to meet up with friends very often and we were not supposed to go out anyway (although, of course, most students did). It was a tricky time and I envisaged much the same for T.

However, T’s school have, I think, got this sussed. They have laid on a timetable of revision sessions and have set aside study rooms for students to make use of as they will. I fully expected T to dismiss this idea out of hand, preferring to study at home, wanting to be picked up at random times of the day and the whole thing becoming a logistical nightmare.

I had been imaging him sitting up at his desk in his room, not focusing, struggling with the distractions of social media, wanting to go out, not knowing if he was achieving anything.

He has surprised me and has opted to go in for revision sessions, even on some days when he doesn’t have an exam. I’ve typed up a schedule so he knows what is available to him and when, and so we all know when he is in school and not. I am working in the office so much more now, that it would be almost impossible to know if he was actually revising if left home alone all day.

He’s had two exams so far, and has been at school for a full day each day, going to revision sessions and study rooms (these are supervised) and he has felt that each exam has gone better than he expected, so far.

It’s early days and I expect there will be days when he has had enough of it all. We’ve spoken about the importance of down time and because he’s getting a lot done at school I don’t feel I need to nag him too much when he gets home. He’s pretty good at not being stressed and he seems ok. He’s promised to tell me if he needs help (to the best of my ability, I will try!) and we will take each day as it comes.

Extensions and Paths

I haven’t written a blog post since the 22nd March. I’m not really sure why; it wasn’t a conscious decision, I just haven’t.

So, what’s been going on? Quite a bit, actually. The extension is well under way and I’ve coped remarkably well, considering. Considering my OCD tendancies. Considering we have stuff all over the place –  at least, not where it’s meant to be. Considering there have been various strangers working outside and, more recently, inside the house for the last 2 months. Considering the dining room, garden and garage have been off limits for the last month. We are eating our meals off of trays on our laps in the living room – which, I know, is normal for a lot of homes and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, it’s just that we have always eaten dinner at the table. On the rare occasion that I have been working from home (it’s been preferable to be in the office, away from the noise and the strangers and the stuff everywhere) I’ve been confined to the living room, and feel reluctant to even go into the kitchen. I have been drying washing on a clothes-airer in the living room (just realised how appropriately named it is, as we have basically been living in there since the knock through) apart from a couple of trips to mum’s with the bedding, to dry it on her line. In the grand scheme of things we’re not exactly suffering, it’s just not normal and I like normality.

In the midst of all the abnormality, T has been revising for his GCSE’s, which begin on Monday 14th. He officially leaves school tomorrow. I cannot believe that my boy is old enough to be at the stage of his life already. We’re entering a new phase and, like all milestones, it feels massive. He’s having to think about his future in terms of what he wants to do after his exams, which inevitably leads to thoughts about what he wants to do post-18, what he wants to do with his life. At 15 it seems a bit too much. And, of course, what he decides now doesn’t set anything in stone but it does dictate a path of sorts, albeit a path which can change direction. Trying to advise him on the best course to take is really hard. He has always wanted to be a police officer, since he first knew what one is. He asked for a police uniform for his third birthday and he hasn’t wavered since. Being a Cadet has fuelled his interest and it’s now a case of which is the best path to take to get him there. He has enrolled on a Public Services course at a local college, to start in September. The course is aimed at anyone wanting to join any of the forces, but also looks at social services and other public servant roles. A number of the older cadets in his group are already studying on this course and it seems to be a fairly recognised way of starting on the journey to becoming a police officer. My concerns, which I have shared with T, is that this is only going to take him one way. If, for any reason (medical, change of recruitment policy, for starters) he is not able to join the force, he has to start again down another path. At 19 he will have less (free) options open to him. He has also applied for Sixth Form at the school he currently attends, signing up for Business Studies and ICT BTEC’s. We are also going to look at signing him up for these at college. In my heart of hearts I am torn: I stayed on for Sixth Form and a big part of me wishes that I had stuck to my guns and gone on to college. I didn’t get particularly good grades in my A levels and had no interest in going on to Uni. I don’t want my negative feelings about Sixth Form, and the pressure I was put under to continue my education, to impact on how I advise T. I want him to do what he wants to do but, like most parents, I want him to be happy and to choose the best path, the one that leads to his dream job, his dream life. He is so lucky to know what he wants to do and I want to help him to be able to do it. But, I also want him to have as many options as possible so that he doesn’t have to rethink and redo and take steps backwards if something should get in his way.

I am feeling nervous for him, but excited too. He has all this potential and, depending on the grade he gets in his exams, he can do what he wants. Exciting times. I was watching an interview with an actor talking about a new TV serial that she is starring in, about a child that goes missing. The interviewer asked her if being a parent herself has made it easier or harder to play parts in dramas where children are involved. She replied that she was more emotional since having children, which could be both good and bad, but she also said, and this really struck a chord with me, that “having children makes you vulnerable”. You want to protect them and make them happy above anything else and that is the hardest thing. The responsibility is overwhelming sometimes. When they are small you can stop them from running into the road by holding their hands tightly; you can dictate, to some degree!, what they eat and what they wear; you can choose which school they go to. But when they get to the age that T is now you have to just advise, nudge, help in the best way you can. And hope that it all works out for the best.

I’m not going to his leavers assembly tomorrow. He doesn’t want me to go, saying that there is no point as he won’t be getting any sort of award (they all get called up to the stage to get a folder). I hasten to add, that I have told him I am happy to attend – truly – but he insists that he doesn’t want me to “waste my time”. I feel a bit sad about it. But, I have been very un-involved in his life in secondary school. I drop him off, pick him up, talk about his day, go to parents evening, read reports, help with homework (where I can, most of it is beyond me) and advise him about how to deal with stuff. He doesn’t want me to go, so I won’t. Maybe it’s for the best – I might cry. It’s a fine line between being supportive and just downright embarrassing!

 

 

 

 

 

Be more bad-ass

I am normally the one to do the washing, most of the cooking, to notice when the carpet needs hoovering and the surfaces dusting, etc, etc,  – i.e. I do most of the household chores. I have managed over the last 12 months to get K  more involved in cooking but it’s very sporadic and that’s mainly due to work. I tend to be the one to pick the kids up so am normally home before him (working, but I am home) and so it makes sense for me to make a start (and normally finish) cooking dinner.

Sometimes I get fed up with this situation and wonder what would happen if I just didn’t.

Didn’t do any of it.

Stopped.

Completely.

I have quite a lot of underwear; I have enough clothes (although I wear the same things all the time) to keep me going.

I would probably struggle with the food side of things but I could have a bigger lunch.

I sometimes have a mini-rant and ask – usually starting with “polite request…..could you all….”  – and it is met with sorrys and promises of more help and more thoughtfulness. It doesn’t ever really last.

I know that this is very common and for aeons women have borne the responsibility of most of the household tasks. But really, does that make it right? I am not saying I am going to down tools – lets face it I am far too conformist for that. I don’t really like rocking the boat. I liked to think, as a teenager, that I could be edgy, with my BUAV t-shirts and my short hair. Still have the short hair but the t-shirts are long gone, as are most of my principles.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I would love to be a bad-ass. To not worry about whether anyone has a clean shirt for school tomorrow. To reply, when asked what is for dinner,  “you tell me!” To just say “tough” or “sorry no can do” when someone needs a lift home from somewhere or K needs help with something on the laptop. Sometimes, being the one who does it all, who doesn’t make any fuss, just quietly gets on with it, is a bit crap.

I know they appreciate me. I know I make them feel secure, happy, loved, cared for, safe: all those things that a mum should make them feel. But sometimes, just sometimes, I would like to be someone a bit less conscientious. Just for a day.

I’d probably hate it. I don’t really like bad-asses. They scare me a bit.

I am lucky enough to be going away ON MY OWN this weekend –  well overnight, in reality 30 or so hours actually way – so maybe I will recharge, miss them all and be glad to be home. To sort the washing out.

 

Hips don’t lie and FAITH.

Not sure the title is particularly relevant but its the only song I know with the word hips in it, apart from “hippy, hippy, shake” but there’s not been a lot of that going on.

The MRI showed that I have a cyst, stuck between my hip bone and my groin. It showed up on the scan like a huge tumour so I was really pleased that the consultant didn’t keep us waiting before explaining it is actually just a fluid filled sac and can be easily sorted out.

Sitting in the waiting room beforehand I had been lurching from it being osteoarthritis like Auntie B had or a tumour; to sciatica or nothing. None of these options were a particularly great prospect. Sadly, due to my profound lack of medical training, a cyst had not even entered anywhere close to my radar of thoughts so I only had extreme self-diagnoses to go on. Luckily, the consultant is incredibly knowledgeable and set me straight. I am going to have it drained tomorrow night, followed by a steroid injection to ease the inflammation. I am not looking forward to this, but I am focusing on the fantastic news that within 48 hours I should be up to going for a walk. A walk! Hurrah. I cannot begin to explain how much I have missed walking. It’s the only exercise I truly enjoy, it’s great for my head-space, and my body seems to like it too.  I can’t wait to be back pounding the pavements and fields once more.

Faith. No, I have not come over all born-again in the aftermath of the MRI results. I AM very grateful to whoever or whatever is steering my life but that’s as far as I am prepared to go on that score.

‘Faith: the Legacy’ is the name of a George Michael tribute act that I went to see last night at a local venue. The poor chap was suffering from “man-flu” (his words not mine) and his voice was clearly suffering a bit. He had a passing resemblance to the man himself but this was mainly due to his haircut and jawline more than anything else. His Brummie accent was a little off-putting but we weren’t there to listen to him talk, we were there to listen to him sing and to have a bit of a jig (hips permitting) to the old classics. We weren’t disappointed in the music, the singing was OK – fab backing singers – and all in all it was a fun night. One of the lovely ladies I was with pointed out – when we were singing along to one of the early hits – that we would have been around the age of our daughters when the song was in the charts. If my hip wasn’t making me feel old, that certainly did! It was great to remember how the songs made me feel when I was a teenager and how much joy George Michael’s music still gives me. It was a tribute, it wasn’t in any way a substitute for the real thing, but it was great fun and what more can you ask than that?