Five things I’ve learnt from maternity leave

With exactly a week to go before I return to the daily grind, the Final Countdown is on. Here are the top five things I’ve learnt from my year off…

1. There’s no such thing as boredom.

I asked DH before my maternity leave was due to start, “shall I do a Master’s degree? To pass the time?” After having DS1 during my undergraduate degree, I thought it would be perfect timing to have a year off work, look after a baby and gain another qualification. Young fresh-faced me may have stood up to that challenge – the slight older more worn me eventually decided I probably could do with a break. And you know, spend more time with the baby.

2. I’m not as introverted as I thought.

I felt enlightened after reading Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution and watching her TED Talk. She and Myers & Briggs had me down to a T. But I found myself signing up to all sorts; baby yoga, Baby Sensory, Peas’n’Pods, the PTA for the older one at school. What’s more, I found I thrived around people and actually enjoyed small talk – yeah I know, right?

3. Yes, I can do it all over again.

A year ago I was gearing up to send my eldest off to school at the same time as welcoming a new baby to our family. I was past night feeds, controlled crying and potty training, not to mention shunting trucks and hauling freight. I was ready for homework, show and tell, and tales of who pushed who in the playground. What if I forgot how to do something vital? I found myself plunged in a world of nappies and clock watching for the next feed, Googling the odd bit to fill in the gaps. Within a few weeks, I was in the full swing of being mummy to a little once again and it turns out, it wasn’t that difficult after a routine was in place.

4. Change is scary.

There’s a real sense of panic when I think too much about going back to work. It’s not that I don’t want to work; if DH ever suggested I could be a SAHM, I think I’d be quite sad at that prospect. I felt a similar fear a few weeks leading up to maternity leave. It’s the new era, change, how our routine will be turned upside down. The lack of control I have over the situation is probably more overwhelming than the change itself. I absolutely love how interesting my job is and if I think about the job in itself without all the baggage, I’m actually quite excited.

5. I bloody hate cleaning.

Gone are the days of SAHMs scrubbing the floors and wiping down the windows. DH finds it hilarious when I say my week has been so busy, I haven’t found the time to pick up the Hoover. I can’t wait until I can legitimately ask DH to do his fair share.

What is childhood?

Artist Raindropmemory from www.wallpaperswide.com

Artist Raindropmemory from http://www.wallpaperswide.com

Reading the comments below this blog post on extra-curricular activities for children has got me thinking – what is childhood?

Are those who say “let children be children” and “XXX is being robbed of his childhood” a bit disillusioned? It’s only in recent decades society has romanticised childhood. Before the war and for hundreds of years (and in many countries even today) children were/are expected to work in factories, not have an education and provide for their family doing laborious, and very dangerous, jobs.

Children now in the Western world have never had it better. Education, toys, technology and more all on their doorstep. No longer are they shoved up a chimney or whipped to fetch a pail of water. Most are privileged to have loving families, a school system to help them succeed and to participate in extra curricular activities, which more often than not, are fun.

A fair number of parents shake their heads disapprovingly at the latter. When a parent is prepared to pour their time and money (not to say it always requires money) into educating and bettering their children, how can that be a bad thing? I see and hear about parents who don’t read to their kids, aren’t fussed about homework and let them play on the streets until dark in the name of childhood. Letting their child fall out of education without a plan in place, because you know, little Timmy is still trying to work out the path he wants to take.

Children get stressed when they have too many choices. Choices should be arbitrary (“would you like a custard cream or a digestive?”) not about serious life decisions. No child will ever volunteer themselves for maths tuition (or anything else that requires effort quite frankly), but that doesn’t mean it’s cruel to enrol them. DS1 started Kumon workbooks I bought from Amazon from aged three and they were a game to him.

At aged five, DS1 has been enrolled onto the Kumon course for three months now. He gets home from school, has a snack, does his 20 page Kumon worksheet in approximately 15 minutes, practises reading with his daily book from school and then he is allowed free play. He understands the routine, there’s no fight, no shouting, no tears. The misconception that a strict routine entails negativity from the parent is wrong. He is praised for his efforts and excited for the sticker at the end. Kumon hasn’t only taught him sums – he’s learnt routine, concentration (even when the task in hand isn’t brightly coloured and flashing to get your attention like most activities – that’s another blog post for another time…), to work autonomously, self-correction, seeing things through to the end, pencil control among many others.

The key to success is to be relentless with everything you do. I try my best to instil good habits from an early age, so as they grow up my children are hungry to achieve for themselves.

A play on words.

I wanted to make something special for DH’s Christmas present, and in an attempt to out-do myself, I decided to make an even better photo frame than the last one.

I won’t take all the credit – I got this idea from Notonthehighstreet.com, but just wasn’t willing to splurge £49 for an assortment of arbitrary words. I do detest when random verbs are framed, like ‘laugh’, ‘smile’, ‘happy’, makes me want to throw a thesaurus at it.

Moving swiftly on – what you’ll need to buy is a 3D box frame, Scrabble letters (Ebay, of course) and glue.

Scrabble tiles

When you order your Scrabble tiles, make sure you read the description and check you’ve got all the letters you need. There’s a huge choice on Ebay, most are good but some are a bit naff and only provide vowels or one letter in particular. Read the small print.

3D box photo frame

As for the photo frame, obviously make sure it’s a 3D box frame, but also that it comes assembled. I didn’t read the small print <slaps wrist> and bought a frame that came in parts. This was from Ebay too, but there are also quite a few on Amazon.

3D box photo frame

Hopefully you won’t have to do this part – but I had to screw in the border to hold the glass in place. Luckily DH’s drill/screw driver thing was lying around and I managed to work it out. This was definitely the hardest part, but I’m a bit pathetic not one for DIY.

drawing

Next I placed one of DS’s drawings under the template for the frame, drew around and cut it. Obviously you can use a different background, or just keep it plain.

drawing

I had to make sure the tiles fit before I glued everything down. I spent fifteen minutes searching for glue to no avail, so I gave up and used flooring adhesive…

Scrabble photo frame

When the glued had dried, I placed the frame on top and sealed it. Here’s the frame on my wall (before I stashed it away from DH’s sight).

Scrabble photo frame

Deeda is what DS has called DH since he was tiny; it’s Daddy backwards. It’s not the most imaginative sentence in the word, but a sentence it is nevertheless.

Scrabble photo frame

Merry Christmas!

A facepalm situation.

facepalm statueI did something unforgivable yesterday. Although the funny thing is, he forgave me and I kind of knew he would.

Last night I succumbed and purchased tickets to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical for June next year. I had been umming and arring for the past couple of months about whether booking in 2012 for 2013 was actually too far in advance, who knows what plans may arise in the next seven months. But I used my sister’s birthday as an excuse and went ahead with it. I went to bed happily thinking I had ticked another box on my list, and even more chuffed that I received £10 off each ticket because I booked within the month the play was opening.

It was not until this morning whilst I was waiting for my train, I decided to jot down the date of the musical in my diary. At this point, the look of horror spread across my face as I realised I booked the musical on my wedding anniversary. <insert facepalm emoticon>

It took a diary entry to remind me it was my wedding anniversary, and if I hadn’t of checked, I probably would have remained oblivious. I even had a think about what’s happening in June before choosing the tickets, making sure I didn’t book it on the weekend of my FIL’s birthday. Maybe this whole fiasco makes me a terrible wife, but I may possibly score brownie points with the in-laws as a result – silver lining and all that.

I called DH, very apologetic and all, but luckily he didn’t mind too much. He did point out that if the situation was reversed, I would have been furious with him – he’s not wrong. I could have gone into a tirade about how his overly relaxed reaction must actually mean he was the terrible one… But I didn’t.

So I’ve spent all day screaming trying to rectify the situation by sitting on hold to See Tickets. Thankfully, they sympathised and didn’t laugh at my stupidity (at least not that I could hear). They allowed me to rebook the tickets for a different date and refund the original tickets. Eeee.

Hurrah! All is well with the world again.

Train Etiquette.

Queensland Rail train etiquetteThere are a number of social rules one should follow, like queuing in an orderly fashion, kindly offering your seat to the elderly and so on, but these are a given. What about the rules that are not in common knowledge and should be explicably stated in some kind of rule book for newbie commuters?

Like for example, if someone has clearly finished reading their newspaper and casts it on the shared table, are other passengers allowed to nab it? Quite obviously the paper will be abandoned once the train has reached it’s destination. And does it matter whether the paper has been paid for? I wonder whether simply being the first person to physically pick up the Metro means you now have full ownership of it.

There’s also the issue of talking. It’s not considered the ‘done thing’ on the platform, or even the train itself, unless you actually know the person. A bloke who gets on my train (let’s call him Bob) probably has the least train etiquette of all commuters. I am one of the losers who position myself on the platform exactly where the doors open, so I get a seat – it rarely fails me. But Bob, he likes to stand next to my spot. And stare intently until you give some kind of recognition of his presence, then he smiles awkwardly.

On the one occasion he did converse with me because our train was half an hour late, he tried to reminisce other train moments, in his OUTDOOR VOICE, much to my dismay. I like to think I have train etiquette (despite being the person who reaches out for abandoned newspapers). Luckily I only have to sit on the train for 25 minutes, so I’m blissfully unaware of other commuting no-no’s…

Going round the houses.

Apols for the radio silence, yet again, but I have good news. We’ve bought a house, hurrah! This is after what seems like a long and arduous journey, which was only something like seven months. Twenty-six viewings later, we’re here.

We’ve been in a fair number of unusual houses and met some strange characters on our way, which we politely categorised under quirky. Let’s not forget the woman in her 50s who lived on her own in a three bed house, who had a naked portrait of her younger self pinned up on the chimney breast facing her king sized bed. Not to mention the scatty woman who left dirty knickers sprawled all over the landing floor. Or the middle aged couple who had been divorced for ten years, but still lived in the same house spread over four floors. They had split the house in two, with two kitchens and two bathrooms. They only shared their love of dirt – with skirting boards a centimetre thick with dust, random spare tyres, banana peels and grime on the walls.

Some of the houses were extensively renovated (the two bed house with a steam room and three bathrooms springs to mind), and some were a little unloved (one house had a kitchen dripping with fifty years worth of grease). One house was ridiculously big, covering three floors, and it was very affordable. After steadily climbing up the spiral stairs, confused as to why we were beginning to tilt, it came apparent why it was so cheap.

Look what came with my keys..

There were a few positive ones where we placed an offer and had it accepted, but for one reason or another, we decided against them. The one that came close, our survey came back with Japanese Knotweed so we ran for the hills. I hadn’t heard of Japanese Knotweed before, and coincidentally, I stumbled upon this Mumsnet thread a week prior to receiving the survey back.

I’ve learnt a lot about houses, the housing market and glorified form-fillers mortgage advisors. I’m certainly no expert and I’m glad our search has finally come to a close. DS was beginning to question our ‘family days out’.

Food for thought.

I have always been a bit obsessive mindful of DS’ eating habits, paying close attention to the food groups and making sure he had a balanced diet from the word go. Some might consider my behaviour a bit abnormal, I mean, I have been known to stand in the yoghurt aisle for a good fifteen minutes, noting each pot for it’s sugar, salt and saturated fat content.

Knowing this about me, my seven year old sister was a little anxious about staying at my house this weekend. She’s that kid you see in the TV programmes, junk food galore, shunning every vegetable in sight. My mission was to break her down, remove the crisps and replace with fruit and well balanced meals.

It wasn’t as difficult as I first anticipated. I allowed no room for discussion, outlining that her dislike for one thing or another just did not matter. Sometimes children and adults have to do things we don’t necessarily want to. It’s important to embed this young, teaching children to get over things easily, otherwise you end up with an adult who has learnt to be spoilt like me.

I made eating fun, getting DS and my sister to race against each other – who can eat the fastest, who can find the carrot first, who has the biggest chunk of salmon. If they grew tired of the games and receded back to moaning about their meals, I would not even acknowledge that either had spoken. I like to be hard but fair in my approach – speaking to children matter-of-factly seems to work well.

Some would view the spectrum above and believe the best position would be to place themselves in the middle – well balanced, a bit of everything. The stigma of mothers who stand firmly on the right end of the spectrum, is over presumptuous and gives excuses to those who wish they could have done better. Mothers who obsess over healthy eating slave away in the kitchen, they create children who are gagging for a bit of chocolate, alienated by their peers and when they are older they’ll over indulge.

It’s not true. It takes me 20 minutes tops to make DS’ lunch every time. We eat the same dinners. It is just as quick to pick up an apple as it is to grab a packet of salt ridden Walkers. Children who go without are resigned to this fact. When they are older, they will become equally as apathetic. Something went wrong for the children who do over indulge.

Hopefully my prudence will spur my sister on to eat with variety and encourage DS to continue his love for healthy foods. I don’t think I can convince her to steer away from junk food entirely – I don’t work miracles.