Tag Archives: #mindful

List-less

For years, whenever we have been going away – even for just a few days – I have written lists. One year I needed a list of all my lists, there were so many. I've always seen lists as a saviour, as something I can't live without. With lists I was in control and knew exactly what I needed to do. I had lists for other people so THEY knew what they had to do and I thought it was all a brilliant way of going about it.

In recent months, I have been making myself challenge the way I deal with things. Not Big Things, just Small Things that I get stressed or annoyed about and that make me stress other people out in the process (or annoy them, which is far worse). For example, cooking dinner every night. A Small Thing, but I used to get so wound up by having to decide what we were going to eat, decide what I needed to buy from the supermarket, actually do the shopping, the cooking. Deciding, shopping, cooking. And on and on it went. So now, we agree what we want to eat as a family (I still order the stuff we need – I can't change the world overnight – slowly slowly catchy monkey) and K cooks a few times a week now (and seems to be enjoying it mostly). Over the summer I have announced that one night each week a child will cook. I say child. They're not kids anymore really, young adults. And very capable of knocking up a dinner for four people. So why did I get so stressed and annoyed if it's not difficult? Because I don't want to be the one making ALL the decisions ALL the time and it's very nice to have dinner cooked for me now and again. Thank you.

So, back to the lists. I still write a shopping list, I haven't got that good a memory, but I have decided to ditch the lists for other things. Like to-do-lists and holiday lists. I realised that the lists were actually making me more stressed. By writing a list I was taking responsibility for it all. I was saying "look, I've got this, I am in control and if we get to our holiday destination and we don't have something important then it is all MY fault". And believe me, it's happened. And the consequence is me feeling terrible, other people feeling annoyed and the holiday loses it's sheen of loveliness. So, instead of saying "I've got this", I've said "pack what you want to take". Job done. I realise this is easier now that the 'young adults' are, well, young adults and can decide how many T-shirts they want to take. T has packed his own bag for at least the last 4 trips that he has been on and I haven't even asked him how many pairs of pants he has in his bag. See, progress! So, if someone doesn't have a phone charger, well then they will be very sad but they will be annoyed at themselves and not me. If they don't have enough pants, well, er, they will have to wash them or go commando. But it won't be MY fault.

(N.B. I've jotted down things like 'cool box' and 'picnic blanket' because they are in the garage and I don't rummage around in the man cave.)

I have NOT made a list of places we MUST go to while we are away. We have a map that a lovely friend has lent us and some leaflets; we have the National Trust app; we have our brains and the internet if we get stuck. I started to write a list of places and forced myself to throw it away – for so many years I have had my list and it's rained and the list sat there making me feel sad that we were not going to get to these lovely places I had planned to go to. Not this year. I am going to wake up each morning, check the forecast and as a family WE will decide where we are going and WHAT we will do and WHERE we will get food, etc, etc.

I'm not saying that this is going to be the best holiday we've ever had; equally I'm not saying that every holiday that has gone before has been a disaster; but I am saying that I am NOT going to be in charge.

So I may be list-less but I feel quite free and quite excited by the idea.

Another N.B. I am not going to be 'online' while I am away. I am not going to be checking in, or checking other peoples check-in's. I am going to take some lovely pictures using my camera (if I remember to take it – ha ha!) and I will post them when I get home, if I want to.

 

One third of a lifetime

It’s a funny old thing hitting 45 (as I did a month ago). As I said to K at the time, it’s proper middle age now, on the basis that 90 would be more than long enough, thank you very much. We went to see my brother, P, and his family at the weekend and we were reminiscing about a U2 concert we went to in our twenties. He has recently been to see them on their latest tour and it got us wondering about the year we went. We speculated for a few minutes, trying to work out where we were both working at the time, who we went with, etc, until he resorted to good old Google and discovered it was 1993 – the Zooropa tour. We were only out by a year or so but we were both shocked by how long ago it was. 1993 doesn’t sound that long ago to my ears, but 24 years ago sounds like a lifetime. In fact, it is exactly half of my brothers lifetime, being as he turns 48 tomorrow.

Someone else with a birthday tomorrow is my lovely boy. I like that he was born on my brother’s birthday – they are very alike in many ways and not all good ones – although at the time I was just desperate for him to finally be born after a couple of excruciating days and nights in the hospital. That was 15 years ago. One-third of my lifetime. I have held and loved this boy for 15 years; for a third of my life. Sometimes I can’t imagine or remember time before him. Although, the first few hours/days/months/years were hard going my life has been so much fuller, happier and just downright better with him in it than the years that went before (they were still very happy years, by the way, just to make that clear). Even if I sometimes feel as if I have my teenage brother as my son – sounds weird, believe me it’s even weirder living it – with his unwavering ability to wind me up and irritate me in the EXACT same way that P used to; although he may be smelly and grumpy at times; and even thought he has horrible feet; he makes me very proud.

With the two peas-in-a-pods birthdays imminent, so comes the end of the school year. My “on this day” app yesterday gave me a memory from 4 years ago – at T’s junior school leavers assembly. It seems incredible that this time next year he can leave school. And that A has almost finished her first year at secondary. Sometimes, I would like time to slow down, just a little bit.

 

 

YOU, plans and popularity

I was recommended an app recently by a blogger I follow. I’ve been trying hard since the beginning of the year to think more positively (#SavouringJanuary was a great start) but I’ve struggled to find something to help me focus on it – I toyed with another #HundredHappyDays but I’ve been there and done that a couple of times now – so this app seemed interesting. It’s called YOU and each day the YOU team set a challenge and the idea is to upload an image or photo that you feel answers the challenge for you. You can see other people’s uploads in the ‘community’ and heart them or comment on them if you wish; if something inspires you, you can save it to your own pin board. You can be completely anonymous (bonus) and you don’t have to interact with other members if you prefer not to; you can even keep all or some of your uploads completely private if you choose to. The challenges are designed to make you think and some days they are easy and other days are not. For instance, one day the challenge was “two-minute hydration”. Easy – I drink gallons of water and so I took a snap of my water bottle – eh voila. Conversely, today is “Accept the present”. Hmm, how to capture that one? I’m still thinking.

I like the idea of thinking about something specific each day and being challenged to look at things differently. I mainly like that it is essentially a happy app. Everyone in the online community seems to be there for the same reason – to look at things in a better, more positive way. But, even better is that I don’t know these people from Adam. There is no judgement, no agenda, other than meeting the challenge for that day. No-one is trying to outdo anyone else. No-one gets offended if they don’t get any hearts on their post. And so far all I have seen are lovely, supportive, encouraging comments. It’s not about how many followers you have or who you are following. There are very few selfies (and definitely no pouting girls, thank god) and if there’s a pic of someone’s dinner, it’s because it’s relevant to the challenge that day. What there is lots of is beautiful views, stunning scenery, flowers, plants, sunsets, babies, funny quotes and generally people trying to be happier. The community is full of people from all over the world, of all ages and from all walks of life and we all interpret the challenge differently. I guess that’s why it’s called YOU.

We’ve finally got the plans for the proposed extension. We’ve had them for a week or so but had a couple of queries for the architect before approving them ready to be submitted to the planning department. We now have to pay a few hefty fees and hope, with everything crossed, that they are approved quickly and with no objections. Watch this space.

Since A started at secondary school there has been a word bandied around that I detest. No, not a swear word, not even the word ‘homework. It’s the word ‘Popular’. I bloody hate this word. If I hear another story involving “a popular” I will scream. I read an article over the weekend about the rise of “the popular” and how some kids are somehow under the illusion that being “popular” is far more credible than being kind, likeable, decent. The fact that popular (I’m not using speech marks any more as it’s giving it too much kudos) is often synonymous with unkind, controlling, egotistical, and downright unpleasant doesn’t seem to matter. Who decides who is popular? Do the kids just sense it about someone? Does the popular kid have to have a popular parent for them to be popular too? Why are some kids so desperate to be one of them? Surely, if a person has a nice group of friends that they get along with then that makes them popular – just popular with other nice people? I would much rather be liked by people I like than people who bitch, bully and intimidate others. Sadly, A has a couple of friends who are desperate for attention from the populars and will drop A and her other friends like hot potatoes if a better offer comes along. We’ve had many discussions about good friends, true friends, and transitional friends. We’ve talked about pedestals and how if you are that high up in the popular stakes you have a long way to fall. Far better to be on solid ground with solid, kind people around you. I think being a popular must be a pretty insecure, scary place to be.

 

 

 

Wondering if I have what it takes

I’ve never made any secret of the fact that when it comes to being a parent, I have been winging it. I had no clue about anything when T was a baby, I had no clue what to do when A was a tantrum–fuelled toddler, I had no clue what to do when T was choosing his options. I just winged it and I will continue to wing it and hope that it works out OK. It’s been a bit touch and go over the years but on the whole (touch wood and all that) it’s not been too bad a job and they seem pretty happy.

I had a letter today regarding sets for English for A for next school year. She is going into a Higher Ability set and over the holidays she needs to read some “challenging literature” (I notice they use words like literature and not books when they are in a Higher Ability set) and that she needs to return to school “ready to share her geographical, historical and spiritual experiences from over the summer”.

OK.

I’m so proud of my girl for doing so well and getting herself into this set. I am proud that she is seen as an able student and that she is hopefully going to respond well to the new challenges that this will bring.

But, as a parent, I am already wondering how I am going to be able to support her. I was OK at English at school. I mean, I love to read. I have read some classics, for pleasure, but don’t remember doing so well at dissecting/critiquing/interpreting texts when I was at school. I just liked to read.

“Share her geographical, historical and spiritual experiences”. What? We’re off to Dorset for a week. Will that do?

I don’t want to let her down. I’m not educated past A’Level and I don’t have an academic mindset. Will I be of any use whatsoever? Will she need me to be? Will I have what it takes to help her through this?

* While I am writing this the postman has been with a letter from school. I thought it might be a paper version of the email about the sets. No, it’s a letter telling me A has been nominated to take part in the Scholar programme for English and D&T. She will be encouraged to “develop a growth mindset”, to “maximise her potential”, to “develop her perseverance skills”. *

The older my kids get, the more difficult it feels to be just winging it. It’s not so easy to answer questions any more. I can’t dumb stuff down because the stuff they need answers to isn’t “which is your favourite Lego mini-figure” any more. Sometimes it’s about terrorism, it’s about politics and this s**t is real. It needs more than a quick off the cuff answer. I have to REALLY listen to them now and not just with half an ear. This may be the time that they tell me something REALLY important and I need to be listening. Leading by example seems more crucial now than ever before – this is about more than just good table manners and being polite to their friends’ parents. I can’t be seen to be a slacker, or a giver -upper (BUT I AM!) because how can I then ask them to try harder, to give a bit more? It’s getting to the stage where they know more than me. The answers I give are questioned, negotiated with and, often, ignored. Do they know that I don’t know?

I know that I worry more than I should. I know that I probably over think stuff. But I’ve only got one shot at this, and I don’t want to get it wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

Parents Evening, Parade, Pasta and Panic

It’s been a busy few weeks.

We had A’s first parents evening at her new school the week before last. You know, the really hot week with the hottest day since the year 1802 or something ridiculous (I know it wasn’t 1802 but I’m allowed to be silly, it’s my blog). Yes, well that was the day of parents evening. It’s not the most fun hour of anyone’s lives, I don’t imagine, but it was not only not fun – it was also VERY hot. OK so we’ve established the weather conditions, let’s get on to the actual content. Well, it was all very good indeed. As we have been told many times before by many teachers, A is well behaved, polite, conscientious and produces very neat work. She also appears to have a personality which is a relief. She does like to chat in class from time to time and she doesn’t always listen but other than that words like “superstar” and “pleasure” were bandied around quite a lot. The meeting that made me most proud was with her PE teacher, Miss W, who praised her to the point of nearly making us both cry (me and Miss W, not me and K) for being determined and pushing herself to do stuff that makes her scared. Bravo that girl. And bravo Miss W for making the very valid point that she does not need to compare herself to ANYONE else, only herself. I bloody love that woman and wish she had been MY PE teacher twenty years ago (ha ha!).

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Last weekend (not this one just gone, the one before) was Armed Forces day in our local town. T was taking part with his Police Cadet group, alongside Army Cadets from a local school, Marine cadets and Sea Cadets from the local area. They had a parade to begin with which made my eyes a bit misty. There’s something about a military band and people in uniform that makes me feel very emotional, so to see my son involved was pretty special. The rest of the day comprised of the cadets competing against each other in drills/uniform inspections; a climbing wall challenge; and, my favourite, a tug of war!

T’s group did very well in all events but particularly smashed the tug of war. They have a secret weapon in one of the lads who is built like the proverbial brick s**t house and was, needless to say, a very useful anchor man. The other lads and girl got really stuck in and thrashed the other teams, losing just one round out of nine.

The final part of the day was the announcement of the winners, and we were thrilled that T’s group won the overall competition. With only 7 of them attending it seemed like they were a bit thin on the ground but they didn’t let that stop them and, for the first time in the groups’ history, they came home with the trophy.

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Last week was enrichment week at the children’s school. T was not taking part as he went off to Wales for his geography field trip, but A was able to choose from a number of activities that school had arranged that they could do, supposedly to “enrich” their lives. Being as most of the trips were circa £20 plus a go, I politely suggested to A that she maybe chose one trip (pointing out that she had already been on the London Eye, she had been to the local zoo more times that she can remember, etc) and that she look at the activities going on in school for the other option. They have a year group sports day one day and geography field trip on another so she only had to decide on 2 days activities. She opted for the National Portrait Gallery and the in-school Masterchef day. She enjoyed the gallery trip but was slightly freaked out by the Run, Hide, Tell leaflet she was given in case of a terrorist attack, and slightly disconcerted by the boy in her group that insisted on holding her hand whilst on the underground! He was scared apparently. But the highlight of the week has to have been Masterchef – for her and us! – she made such amazing food. They were given a list of ingredients to take and a recipe sheet when they got to the food tech room, but then were left to their pwn devices to follow it and make their meals. We had dough balls with garlic and herb butter (much better than Pizza Express), followed by ricotta and pancetta ravioli, followed by white chocolate eclairs for dessert. It was all outstanding. (The pasta was so great it spurred me on to use the machine I bought on a whim a few months ago – A and I produced some pretty good tagliatelle together on Saturday evening). She was pipped at the post to the prize for her dessert but she was up against some year 8 and 9 students so she deserves to feel very proud.

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This morning I got to work quite early and got cracking on the weekend’s emails from the miserable buggers who buy our stuff our lovely customers. I was on the phone when a text pinged up from K asking me to call him urgently. As soon as I finished my call I rang him back as this is highly unusual! A had called him in a panic – she couldn’t get through to me (as I was on the phone) and she needed me to drop her PE kit off at school as she had forgotten it. Um. Er. Sorry, I am at work. For some reason, although I have been doing this job for just over 6 years, and I have been going into the office one the same days for the last 12 months, somehow everyone forgets and expects me to be able to drop everything and rescue them from their forgetfulness. I texted her to this effect, but slightly less aggressively, but basically saying tough, you will have to suffer the consequences. Literally, their punishments are called “consequences”, ranging from a C1 for minor misdemeanours (forgetting a book, or a pen, or their name) to a C5 – Saturday morning detention, and the same for homework misdemeanours but prefixed with a H. I sat waiting for the explosion of a text that I was expecting to get back at break time. Luckily, for both of us, the lovely Miss W said that she would “let her off” on this occasion as she had such an unblemished record (she hasn’t received a single C1 since the start of the school year – thank god she has that chatty personality as she could be on the way to being a bit of a swot) but on the understanding that she DID NOT TELL A SOUL. I bloody love Miss W, did I mention that earlier?

We spoke in length in the car on the way home – well, I spoke and she said “I Know!!!” a lot – about how I HAVE A JOB, and I GO TO THE OFFICE on certain days and if we could perhaps just go with a blanket rule of “if you forget your stuff, you take the punishment” we will all be a lot happier. Well, I will as it will mean that I don’t spend hours feeling like a complete and utter tool for refusing to drive a 10+ mile round trip to drop something off.

Remember the proud moments and the pasta. And breathe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being Brave

Last Wednesday at work I received a frantic message from A (sent during afternoon form time) saying that she had been selected to take part in a rounders match after school the following day and that she “really, really didn’t want to do it”. She went on to say that she had told the teacher that she only came to Rounders club for fun and exercise and didn’t ever intend to compete IN FRONT OF OTHER PEOPLE!!! It is the IN FRONT OF OTHER PEOPLE bit that she was most worried about. The teacher had replied that she felt it may do her good to take part and overcome her fear of competing. (n.b. we had had an almost identical situation over Sports Day). I agreed with the teacher, but how to tell A that without her feeling that I wasn’t supporting her?

Hmm. My issue is that A is a confident person. She has never baulked at joining a new club or talking to people she doesn’t know. The fact that she chose to go into a form without anyone from her old school shows that she is not scared to make new friends or put herself “out there”. She performs dance routines on stage with 3 other girls at the dance club’s annual show and although she gets nervous, she loves the adrenaline rush and the excitement of performing.

When it comes to sporting activities she is a wreck. She has never seen herself as sporty, despite being perfectly able. I think a lot of this stems from junior school where only the really talented athletes were given a chance to compete and she was not one of them. So, I’ve tried to encourage her to give more sports a go since starting at secondary school and she has – she tried dance club but found it too conflicting with the class that she already goes to; she attended Fitness Club for a whole term and improved her PB on the “Death Run” considerably as a result of this, earning herself a postcard from the PE Department praising her efforts; and most recently Rounders club which she has been enjoying – until now.

I replied to her message telling her not to panic, that we would talk it over when she got home and see what she wanted to do. My hope was that the hour or so that she had left at school would give her chance to think about what the teacher had said and come to the conclusion on her own that she should take part. I really want her to be more confident and hope that the teacher wouldn’t put her forward if she didn’t think her capable.

We got home after a very subdued car journey and she immediately burst into tears of panic. She had told the teacher that she wasn’t going to do it, but I could sense that she was wavering. I asked her what was holding her back and she said that she didn’t want to mess up. I offered the idea that the teacher must think her able if she has put her forward and (as always) she had an answer for that one – “she just wants everyone to have a chance to take part and it’s my turn”. Hmm. OK, but surely, if she was really bad at it, the teacher wouldn’t allow her to humiliate herself in front of others? No, probably not. What should she do? I took the wavering to be a request for encouragement so told her I thought it would be a good way to overcome her anxieties and that if she really hated it she could at least say she had tried. OK, but she’d already told the teacher. This is where I love the high-tech world we live in. In the ‘good old days’ I would have had to try and get hold of the teacher at school after hours. No chance. Or write a note for the next day. Too late. In the enlightened age that we live in, A was able to email the teacher to tell her she had changed her mind and it if was OK she would like to give it a go. Reply within an hour or so. Sorted. Teacher very proud and happy. A feeling nervous but slightly pumped that she had been brave enough to think about it.

And so the next afternoon I anxiously waited for her to finish her tournament, hoping and praying that she had (a) not fallen over and humiliated herself, (b) not fluffed every stroke of the rounders bat and humiliated herself, (c) not failed to catch the ball when needed, etc, etc. She was VERY late getting to the car with her friend, who was cadging a lift with us, but she was VERY HAPPY. She HAD fallen over – “so embarrassing but, what the heck, it doesn’t matter”, she hadn’t messed up her batting and she HAD scored a rounder. But, far more importantly, she HAD DONE IT. And she was, quite rightly, very proud of herself.

And I am proud of her. She’s a little star.

Political Protest

I’ve never had very strong political leanings, in fact none at all really. My parents didn’t really talk politics when P and I were growing up. My dad used to mutter about “that bloody woman” referring to Margaret Thatcher but I think really only because he didn’t like her manner more than disagreeing with her actual policies. I don’t remember any heated debates about politicians or who to vote for and if I ever asked Dad would joke (but mean it) that that information was between him and the ballot slip and basically it was none of my business.

When I was a teenager I went through a phase and joined an anti-vivisection movement (BUAV) and wore T-shirts, bought cruelty-free make up and toiletries and wrote letters to politicians. I quickly grew out of it when I realised that I could never take it that step further and go vegetarian or go on a march/demonstration – just too fussy an eater and frankly a scaredy-cat. I also got a job and had other things to take up my time – boyfriends, the pub, etc.

As an adult I have always voted. My parents did instil that in me, and my Nan to some degree – the old “women died so you could vote” thing, which of course is totally spot on and I would encourage everyone to use their precious right. In fact, K had never voted until we met and I think I shamed him into it. He is also from a family where politics were rarely discussed and he was probably too busy clubbing to give it much thought. Then he met me and he stopped clubbing and became a bit more sensible, bought a house, started voting, that sort of thing.

Although I have always voted, I have never really had a strong sense of purpose or real need to change things. Obviously, there have been things in the past that I have thought were not the best ideas and I do keep relatively up to date with current affairs. For example, I know who the current Prime Minister is, and I understand the basic differences between the parties. But I didn’t go to uni, where a lot of my contemporaries gained their political leanings, and I have never worked in the public sector or had to claim benefits (for which I am very grateful) and I know I live in a bit of a bubble. I’ve talked before about my aversion for the “real world” and all the horrors it can hold and I am a self-confessed ostrich with my head firmly in the sand when there is stuff I don’t want to know about. And I can be a bit near sighted about issues, really only seeing how things will affect the world within my bubble. Please don’t misunderstand, I have empathy by the bucket load and I feel plenty for people on waiting lists, people with housing issues, people working in the public sector for crap money, people caring for relatives, I can go on. But my voting in the past has been probably quite narrow-minded. And I feel a little embarrassed by that. The truth is, I just don’t know enough.

The impending General Election that will take place tomorrow has me in a quandary. I don’t know if it is because there are so many contentious subjects at play: Brexit, terrorism, the NHS crisis, the education system, etc; whether it is because the children are older and this feels more about doing it for them; or if I am just getting older and more worried about stuff. But I have looked at more info for this election than any ever before. The EU referendum was a no brainer for me as I work for a tiny company trading in Europe and selfishly I would like the business to survive. This election is far less cut and dried for me and I am worried about making the wrong decision. My Twitter feed is full of anger towards Teresa May and pleading with me to vote for the other bloke (I’m kidding I do know his name, Tony something?) but I follow a lot of actors and writers and they are notoriously left-wing so I can’t really make my vote on that basis. I have tried to find unbiased, truthful viewpoints. I know you are probably sniggering at my naivety. Unbiased? Truthful? I do know this is an election, with politicians, right? I have read the leaflets, read the pertinent parts of the manifestos; I have taken quizzes  – no, not on Facebook to find out what the colour of my eyes means about the career I should have –  actual quizzes based on the actual party manifestos, and what have they told me? Nothing. Big fat nothing. It turns out I am undecided – oh really? It seems I actually want someone who is cross-party, someone who will pick out the bits I agree with from each party and say “hey you, vote for me, I will make everything all right.” Sadly, I don’t think there is time.

So, what to do? Not vote? Not an option. Vote for the lesser of the 2 evils? (let’s face it there are only really 2 options). Throw away the vote and go Green? Show some throw-back loyalty to my first every boyfriend who is running for parliament for the Lib-Dems for the first time, bless him. I really don’t know. And there’s no point asking me tomorrow because remember, it’s between me and the ballot paper. I envy those of you with clear minds, either based on your jobs or your past experiences or your upbringings.

What I would like to do is go back to my fifteen year old self and tell her to get an opinion, find out information, ask questions, maybe even go to some events. What I want is to be able to talk about it with my children so that they get some ideas about it all. I can’t be the only parent who struggles to explain it to their children? If I can’t find unbiased, useful info then how can I expect them to? I know we can read the manifesto’s and the leaflets but in reality how much of that stuff will actually happen? How many of the promises will fall by the wayside when they realise that it simply won’t work? How cynical do I sound for someone with no political leanings?

We will know in the next 36 hours or so who is going to be running the country for the next 4 years. And, frankly, I am worried.