Sunday, 28 May 2017

Happy birthday to me - and Siouxie Sioux

I've had a birthday - not a big one so nothing too fancy, but a birthday nonetheless. I went from having no plans a week before the day to being fully booked which was a nice surprise. I met friends for dim sum in London and then went for dinner with Hubbie in the evening. Thanks to our lovely neighbour offering to babysit we were able to go out for a drink and a really nice meal together - not something we get to do that often so it was a bit of a treat.

My boys (including Neo) gave me some lovely cards and gifts:

As it was a special dinner I had some champagne and Hubbie had a virgin mojito:

I'm not a food blogger, but I was inspired to share what we ate as it was so beautifully presented:

Here's to my birthday twin and style icon Siouxie Sioux - can you see the resemblance ?

Normal service will resume shortly, but for this weekend I'm being a bit self-indulgent. Please bear with me.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

For the love of music

I can't recall the exact date of my first gig, but I know that it was at Wembley Arena at some point in 1987. My friend Nicki took us in a TR7 that her stepdad had built and given to her - he was an engineer for British Airways and it was his pet project. She drove us to the arena and parked in the massive car park and we went in to watch the Eurythmics I think. I hadn't been to a live music gig before and it was so exciting for me. The opening solo cello and the immaculate vocals of Annie Lennox were just magical and I was walking on air when we left in the cold night air to walk to the car. We sat in the car park for well over an hour queuing to get out and listened to the radio and sang along while we waited to leave. Neither of us had a mobile phone to call home and tell our parents we would be late and we must have been quite late as the curfew in those days was pretty close to 11pm.

My parents were not relaxed about me going out at all so even being able to go to a gig was a big deal to me. It was only because my friend was going - and driving us - that my mum even agreed. I doubt she even told my dad I had gone - he would have flipped if he'd known ! There was no security check other than to check you didn't have any canned drinks with you - good old Wembley always looking to sell you an overpriced drink and snack. This was in the days before everyone carried bottled water and no one had camera phones so actual cameras would be confiscated at the door to prevent piracy. Ironic when you consider the number of fake t-shirt sellers right outside the doors.

Every holiday at uni I worked as a steward at Wembley. I was on the turnstiles for a Michael Jackson show that never happened, showed people to their seats for Bruce Springsteen, stood on the pitch at the end of the match for the Charity Shield. I ran away from stampeding people when the crowd at a Bollywood spectacular went rogue and stormed the pitch at the stadium. This was far more worrying than the elephant that had earlier taken a tour of the stadium carrying a Bollywood film star on its back.

My regular job was showing people to their seats at Wembley Arena. Cliff Richard fans are far more bolshie than any other audience in my experience. I have no idea why. I fell in love with Prince when I watched him perform on stage at the Arena and I bought a knock off t-shirt after a Simple Minds gig  because - frankly - I wasn't going to pay the price they charged inside the venue. My mum used to pick me up from Wembley because she didn't want me to take the bus on my own late at night. She would park on a side road we had agreed before I left for work and I would always get there in time. We still didn't have mobile phones remember. If anything happened or I was delayed I had no way of letting my family know - unless I went to a phone box and had change to make the call.

On Monday night there were young people going to their first ever gig in a massive venue. Before they went inside the venue they will have had their bags searched for items such as drinks bottles, anything that could be used to record the event (other than mobile phones of course - we all have those now) and sharp objects. The tickets will have had anti-fraud markings on and there will have been professional security firms hired to work at the venue.

As many Ariana Grande fans are so young they will have gone to the show with their parents. They went to see a singer they love and they had a fantastic time. Then a terrible, horrific thing happened. People were killed. Children were killed. Families were separated. Local taxi drivers took children and their families home or to safe places to stay until they could find each other. Local hotels took them in and no one took a penny in return. Mobile phone footage of the terrifying scenes were online almost immediately and the next morning people went to donate blood to help the victims who had survived the bomb blast.

This is the memory that some children and young people will have of their first gig. This generation of kids who go to festivals with their parents. Who listen to music and download online rather than tuning in to the chart show on a Sunday evening while holding the pause button between tracks on a cassette player. These kids who went to watch a young woman who is a feminist and a campaigner for LGBT equality. Who was said to be 'broken' by what happened to her fans on Monday night.

It's not a memory I would wish on anyone.

A fund has been set up to support families who have been affected - you can doante here:

Monday, 22 May 2017

My family is not the same as yours - and that's just fine.

I've been taking a post adoption course to support my boys with anger issues that have surfaced over time. It's a preventative measure for me as the boys are still young and I want to be able to circumvent any potential issues as Blue Bear grows and as Brown Bear introduces more rough play and dares into their games. During the course I've heard other adopters and trainers use the phrase, 'our children.' It's not a term I have ever used, but now I have spent time talking to others and sharing our experiences I do feel part of a wider 'family.' I realise all our children are different, but what we feel and witness and live with is alarmingly similar. Separation anxiety, trauma, unknown fears and unexplained emotional responses.

For example: when Blue Bear came to us we had no idea that he was afraid of the dark until we took him to watch the Sooty show at the theatre and as soon as the lights went down he went into meltdown. The first night when he kept crying we put it down to missing his foster carers and being in an unfamiliar bed / home / place. More than two years later we have worked out that when he cries out he has to know someone is there and that he is not alone. His early neglect still surfaces as a fear that he is going to be left and no one will come if he calls out. We have moved on, but he still shouts out and while we can soothe him with a reassuring touch or word we don't know if he will ever truly believe that we will always be here for him.

When the boys fuss and fight with each other other parents (non adopters) try to rationalise it and say, "well all children do that." I spoke to someone the other day about how difficult it was in the beginning before they were used to living together. She said, "well it would have been like that if you'd had another baby anyway." No it wouldn't. For a start Blue Bear wasn't a baby when he came to live with us. He was a walking, moving, shouting, not sleeping, taking toys and fighting for attention toddler. Secondly having a baby is nothing like adopting a child because I would hope that your baby hasn't come to you following abuse, neglect or trauma. Your child has probably had a secure attachment to parents from birth onwards and not had to undergo a separation - or even more than one before they came into your family.

No one means to be unhelpful or thoughtless. I honestly think that. However, when I try to explain why I am going on a course to help support my raising these boys I know they are wondering why I need to keep seeking help with what I can only imagine comes naturally to them. Well, again I can try and explain. In the training course I attended today the trainer referred to self care as being an essential in helping adopters to parent effectively. She talked about how much trauma we carry around. The trauma that our children have experienced, the trauma of being neglected, abused, taken from birth family, of being moved on from foster care, of joining a new family. None of this even begins to touch the trauma we carry of our own. The trauma from our own childhoods, our experience of childlessness, of loss (miscarriage, failed IVF, etc.)

So as well as managing the children in our care we have our own stuff to deal with. I've heard adopters refer to experiencing post traumatic stress disorder and I can sort of understand this. For the whole of the first year that Blue Bear and Brown Bear were living together I was permanently in fight or flight mode. It was a constant battle to keep myself together as they argued, fought, demanded attention from me and cried, shouted, screamed. I still feel so broken by it that even though they now get on so much better I find myself going straight to that level of high alert at the slightest provocation.

I'm not suggesting for a moment that what we feel as adopters is on a par with what our kids have gone through. What I am saying is that comparing my children with yours is neither accurate nor helpful. I have no idea what it's like to have your family and you don't know what it's like to have mine. I'm doing my best and I'm sure you are too.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Let's hear it for my boys.

Some days being a parent is just hilarious. Not every day I grant you. Some days are like climbing uphill in a full sumo suit while carrying freezer bags before the food inside them defrosts and having to carry a baby in a car seat at the same time. True Story - almost.

They do things that just take me by surprise. Blue Bear ran into the kitchen to check I was ok when he heard a mug smash yesterday. He also posted a letter in the letterbox by himself without being lifted up - when did he grow so tall ? Brown Bear helps style his brother's hair in the mornings now as he wants to make him look as cool as he does. He also has an amazing skill at knowing if it's going to be a cold day and insists he doesn't need a jacket on days that turn out to be not only sunny, but hot too. I've no idea where this psychic meterological skill comes from.

Then there are the amazing and frankly impressive things that they do. Recently I've been lucky enough to witness some nuggets of pure gold from my children:

Yesterday morning I was running the vacuum round before we left for school (don't look at me like that - the house was a total sty and it needed doing). Brown Bear went over to the beanbag where Neo was lying and covered his ears and talked to him in soothing tones to stop him getting upset with the noise. What a sweetie.

Blue bear was in relaxed mode this morning - he woke up late, took ages to get dressed and when I insisted that he put on his shoes for pre-school he took his time. When he eventually came to the kitchen to show me I had to stop myself from laughing. He had put on two entirely different shoes. One white trainer and a black school shoe. When I said, "please put on two matching shoes," he asked, "why ?" I'll be honest I'm not sure I could provide an acceptable answer. I later found out that apparently this is a trend with the cool kids at the moment - how does he know though ?

Brown Bear was sitting eating breakfast and I offered him a pastry - I was feeling generous, we don't do that every day. As I proffered croissants or pain au chocolat he asked for the latter, in a french accent. I looked at Hubbie and said, "I know I should feel bad about that, but I just don't." Pretentious, moi ?

This afternoon Blue Bear sat down next to me on the sofa and I put my arm round him. He was fiddling with a toy and he put it inside his T shirt. He showed me. "Mummy, it's in my tummy." "Your toy ?" "No, my baby." "Oh, it's inside your tummy ?" "Yes. A baby in my tummy." I smiled and he took it out of his t- shirt, held it gently to his face and then gave it a tender kiss. "My baby." Love that boy.

Brown Bear has his heart set on a Blue Peter badge so Hubbie looked up what he needs to do to get one. This morning I read his poem and letter to the programme to earn a badge. I told him what a great job he had done on it and that I was really proud of his work. Yeah, it's a brag - I'm not even going to lie.

It's just as well they are cute and lovable really otherwise Bue Bear throwing a wobbler and Brown Bear losing his brand new Rubik's cube might have been the headlines of today. Instead I can smile and laugh when I think about my boys. My wonderful, surprising, funny boys.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Look there's a squirrel !

Ready for play

When the weather gets warmer we spend a lot of time outdoors - sometimes that's in the garden, the park or even at the seaside. One of the reasons we love living where we do is that we are fortunate enough to have a big garden and plenty of green spaces around. I've been spending time cutting back the overgrown plants and Hubbie cut the grass this weekend to make plenty of room for the outdoor play toys that we've collected over the years. 

Brown Bear showing off his skills 

Brown Bear loves all kinds of sports so we have plenty of kits including tennis, baseball, football and even a set of  french boules. Blue Bear is all about ride on toys so he has the tiny tikes police car and a tractor and pedal trike to play on. When we go to the park it's all about scooters, bikes and even skateboards. in recent months we've started getting the boys involved in helping in the garden - Brown Bear likes to cut back plants and Blue Bear enjoyed cutting the grass with Daddy the other day. 

Helping Daddy in the garden

As you can imagine the potential for accidents is pretty high and there can be tumbles and falls even when we are being as safe as we can. Instead of making it a big deal and focusing on the injury I often distract Blue Bear with a song or a game to take his mind off whatever has happened. Brown Bear isn't so easily moved and will insist on a plaster for even the smallest of grazes. 

I remember when my sister was small she used to insist on a plaster to make imaginary injuries better and it was miraculous how she would perk up once it was applied. It is entirely possible that Brown Bear loves plasters because we buy special ones made for children. These Frozen and Star Wars themed plasters from Elastoplast will definitely be popular in our house ! One day Brown Bear took great pride in showing me he had three plasters (I'm not convinced he needed any of them !) 

We're not great at ring toss 

When I have a sad little bear to deal with I have a few tried and tested ways to bring a smile back to their faces. 

1. A big hug. Often not straight away if there is a bit of drama going on, but definitely a hug. 

2. I change the subject, "oh my goodness, did you see that squirrel ?"  

3. Exaggerate the injury, "Oh no it looks really bad, do you want to go back indoors ? (and miss out on playing ? you must be kidding !)

4. Make up a song about what happened, this isn't always received well, but it does make me laugh

5. Offer a big plaster, "do you want a big square one or a big rectangular one ?" 

6. Tackle the offending object that caused the tears. If it's a tree I tell it off, if it's a toy we talk about whether it deserves another chance. 

7. Hubbie picks up the bears and carries them around until they laugh.  

8. We invoke superhero powers - "what would Superman do ?"

9. I tell a terrible joke. I mean really bad to make them groan so much they have to laugh. 

10. Ice cream. Always ice cream. 

Beach baby

We love playing outdoors and tumbles and falls happen, but we don't let them spoil the fun for too long. A hug, a plaster and some ice cream can make such a big difference. If you need more ideas here is a magical movie about how to turn Tears into smiles

This post is an entry for the BritMums #TearsintoSmiles Challenge, sponsored by Elastoplast

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Would you like fries with that ?

When Brown Bear was first born I did that whole thing where you say, 'only wooden toys,' 'organic cotton clothes for my baby,' 'homemade healthy food for my precious one,' etc. Then reality intervened as the house became filled with plastic toys, a bajillion clothes and polyester spiderman outfits and now countless happy meal toys. Homemade food is all very well, but in all honesty if I make a meal and put it in front of the boys often one of them will loudly declare, "I'm not eating that." They've not even tried it ! I can guarantee though, that if they are offered a meal at McDonalds they won't say no. In fact it's become a pretty good way to reward them for a good week at school or to get all the boys out of the house so I can do some cleaning, tidying, or just potter around.

party time !! 

The other evening I was replying to party invitations on behalf of the kids - let's face it we rarely get invited to anything any more - and a fair few of them included food from McDonalds. When I was a kid it was a big deal to have a birthday party at McDonalds, but because we didn't eat beef we never went to one. Now, of course the menu is extensive and there are plenty of choices for non beef eaters as well as improved recipes over the years to reduce salt and fat content in the meals. My boys love chicken nuggets and fries and while I don't let them have fizzy drinks they are allowed a milkshake sometimes.

There are a lot of misconceptions about McDonalds from the provenance of the ingredients to their social responsibility and working practices. Their current TV ad campaign shows how competitive their hot drinks offer is and I was amazed to find out that they outsell all the coffee shop chains now. It's hardly suprising really as the prices are competitive and with a branch right next to the station it's really easy to pop in and pick up a hot drink before or after work. I am very particular about my tea, but I do like a brew from McDonalds - they put the hot water on the teabag and not next to the cup like a deconstructed cuppa without instructions. If I wanted a DIY brew I'd go home and make it thanks.

Caffeine time 

My first ever job was in McDonalds in West Ealing and I wore a terrible brown uniform in polyster with unflattering trousers. The uniform is much better these days (see the photo for proof) so I was delighted to be invited to visit the new age of McDonalds store in Woolwich to try out my skills in the kitchen over 30 years after I first tried my hand at being a crew member. Ok, so the hairnet was an unwelcome memory, but I have to say my sons are delighted with the apron and hat I brought home. They did ask if I was working there now and it was with some sadness that I had to I wasn't.

snazzy updated uniforms 

I met a franchisee Taimoor Sheikh, area manager Martin Scott and store manager Pramesh Giri. What  really surprised me was that they are all old hands and have been with McDonalds for many years. Like a lot of people I wrongly assumed that people work there for a few years then move on, but actually the staff training at McDonalds is well regarded in the hospitality industry and offers a good grounding to anyone seeking a career in the sector. As the senior staff have worked the kitchens they know what to expect and have done the basics themselves. It's a much more sleek process now than when I was there all those years ago and the prediction software is designed to reduce food waste. Packaging is an area of ongoing improvement with a commitment to use less of it and to recycle whatever is used.

hi tech ordering systems 

The biggest overhaul of stores in decades sees a big investment in improving the customer experience including customisable meals and table service. The first time I tried the shiny new ordering screens was at a motorway service station last year during the summer holidays. We had stopped to get the boys some lunch and I had no idea how the screens worked so I bailed and went to the till point and ordered instead. Then our local store was updated and now we have the latest incarnation of McDonalds store complete with ordering screens, tablet computers for customer use and phone charging points. When the boys go for lunch with Hubbie they plant themselves in front of the tablets to play a game while Daddy orders food. With the table service it's much simpler to order and keep and eye on children which has always been an issue for me with boisterous boys who love to inspect every inch of the store. Now they have a spot where they can play on a screen and also a play area that is secure and safe. You don't have to leave them unattended and there is no extra charge for bringing food to you in your zone.

sophisticated stock management 

Another innovation is the 'made to order' burger. You specify what you do and don't want and the kitchen make it just for you. Having tried to assemble a Big Mac I now know what goes in a standard one. There are a fair few components so I'm sure there are any number of potential combinations of ingredients to suit every taste. If you are fussy or just know how you like your food you will love this capacity to make it 'just for you.'

I made this !!

While we were at the store I asked about the rumour that there will be delivery available soon and I can reveal that it is definitely on it's way, but it's not going to be everywhere overnight. For now you will have to pick it up from the stores, which is pretty cool with so many new and high tech things going on.

I got a personalised badge :) 

Disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with McDonalds and I have been paid a fee.

Friday, 12 May 2017

In at the deep end

When we decided to adopt I knew the process would be long and intrusive. I knew we'd be asked questions by social workers, foster carers, adopters and other parents. I realised I'd have difficult talks with my older son and at some point with my younger son. However, I had no idea that I'd have so many fascinating conversations, that people would open up to me and share their stories with me. 

Today I took Blue Bear for his swimming lesson at lunchtime and got in the big pool for my swim. He is so well behaved and listens to his teacher (unlike Brown Bear) so I can get on with a leisurely swim without having to check up on him every few minutes. It was pretty quiet in the pool and I spotted a lady I see all the time and who I always speak to. I mentioned that we have an adoption day in the summer and she asked if I was adopted and I said no, Blue Bear is. She stopped putting on her goggles and told me she was adopted at a few months old. We spoke for around 15 minutes about her family, how she found out she was adopted and her feelings about adoption in general. She told me she has always felt out of step in her life, out of place. I've not heard this sentiment expressed before and I found it fascinating. She thought her parents were great and had no desire to find her birth parents - her brother did seek his birth family with mixed results. This was in the days before adopters were encouraged to talk openly to children about adoption. She found out aged seven when a teacher asked the class to find out where and when they were born and her mother had the conversation with her. 

I'm not sure how many people she's told all this to, but for me it was the most intense and personal conversation I've had with someone I don't really know. As we stood in the pool (me with one eye on the clock as my precious swimming time ticked away) I listened and offered small interjections from my experience on the other side. As the conversation came to a natural end she said, 
"Bless you. You're a better person than me."
I told her,
"I'm really not." 
"No, you really are."
"Well you're a much better swimmer than me." 
We both laughed. And with that we put on our goggles and kicked off the side to swim. 

Monday, 8 May 2017

Why do kids do that ?

At the weekend my sister came over to see the boys and took them out for lunch. Hubbie went too and I got on with some sorting and shifting at home with the radio on. It made a nice change to have the space and time to do something and not worry about what the quiet was masking. If you have children you know the chill that runs through you when you realise the children haven't made a noise in a while and that can only mean bad news.

When they got back from Giraffe - full of chocolate, sweets and ice cream - I went outside to sort out the shed and to move the boys' den which I'll be painting in the next few weeks. While I was outside my sister got to experience the mayhem that is my boys at home together. When I came inside to check on everyone she asked if this is what they're usually like and I gave a pained smile. "Yes. That's why I'm always tired - and grumpy."

Breaking the law (sort of) 
I don't understand a lot of what my kids do. I'm not alone in this by any means. There are entire websites devoted to trying to make sense of children and recently a friend posted a meme on facebook about what Saturdays are like with and without kids. Oh how I laughed (while wiping away the tears) at the thought of being able to stay in bed past 6am on a weekend. As if.

There is so much I just don't get about my kids. It's not just because I was one of three girls and they are boys (although that is a whole other topic for another day). It's really a general bafflement. I'm sure some of these are familiar to other parents.

Brown Bear wore three pairs of underpants to school the other day. When I asked him he said it was to keep his bottom warm. I believe him, but it does seem a little extreme.

He also spends an inordinate amount of time doing his hair in front of the mirror - in order to attract girls I guess. Now he's lost most of his front teeth he's going to have to work on his charm to keep them interested.

Stripping off at the footie (it's ok it's only non-league)
Blue Bear has to get of the car from his brother's door. I have no idea why this is, but woe betide anyone who challenges this.

He also likes to pretend he's a random animal if he's in a situation that makes him nervous. This can involve crawling around on all fours or growling at people.

On the other hand this morning I heard Brown Bear talking quietly to this brother and saying, "listen to mummy." All is not lost. I just need to find someone to tell Brown Bear the same thing and hope that he listens to them.

They both hid inside a box - erm, I can still see you boys
I'm not sure I understand the mystery that is my children. Maybe it's good to have some unexplained chaos some of the time. Just not all of the time eh lads ?

Friday, 5 May 2017

Brown Bear, Blue Bear and Neo - the three musketeers.

In my radio life I have had many conversations with varied and interesting people. Some are well known and others are not, but they all have something to say and I love to listen. It's this wish to hear other people's stories that makes the Listening Project so fascinating. I often catch it when I'm doing something else and I've heard some moving and often amusing conversations. The ones I enjoy the most are often between family members. I heard two young sisters talking about the security the felt in their foster placement, an adopted teenager talking to her father about the real meaning of family. Then there are friends or colleagues sharing stories from their past. It's a wonderful archive of everyday folk.

I have long wanted to share a record of how our family came to be. I've thought about doing this in the form of a radio play, a book, a picture book for children and podcasts. I still want to do this as I think there is a lot we can share and others can benefit from in our journey. Our mistakes, the difficulties, the successes, the challenges, the recognition that we've come a long way already.

Brother bears

In the early days it was all firefighting. I was exhausted all the time, frightened of getting it wrong and often doing just that. I spent so much time worrying about taking care of our new boy that I wasn't giving my first boy the love and attention he was used to and had received his whole life. I only realised how badly I had misjudged this when I asked my sister to talk to Brown Bear. They have a very close relationship and I knew he'd be honest with her. "I think Mummy doesn't love me any more." My heart broke. In making space for Blue Bear I was making Brown Bear feel pushed out and unloved.

Since then I have become accomplished in reading my sons' emotions and trust my instincts about how to respond to their needs. There isn't a guide book for this - I am going to be the one who produces it and shares it with those who come after us. The first step is a conversation I had with Brown Bear that was broadcast this afternoon as part of the Listening Project. I wanted to talk to him honestly and openly about how he felt about his brother coming into our family and to acknowledge how much he has done to make this successful. It's a lot to ask of a four year old child, but he has made a space in his life for this little boy who he now loves and protects with a ferocity that a tiger would envy.

The three musketeers 

The other week me and Hubbie went to a friend's leaving do in London. I saw an ex-colleague I used to work with before Brown Bear was born and she reminded me how desperately I wanted to be a mum back then. Now I have Brown Bear, Blue Bear, Neo and Hubbie and most days I forget how very lucky I am. Today I was reminded. I have listened to the conversation about half a dozen times already and I will listen to it many more times I'm sure. If you get a chance to listen do tell me what you think:

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Am I invisible ? Who said that ?

Yesterday when Brown Bear was dressing for school he was insisting he wanted to wear shorts and I told him it was far too cold. He reluctantly wore long trousers and I felt vindicated by the grim weather as I dropped him off at the playground. Then later in the morning it was glorious sunshine and I felt guilty so I took his shorts to school and left them with the school office so he could change into them at break-time. I picked up Blue Bear and took a snack for both boys to eat on the way home from the second pick up. Between the time we got home and left for Beavers Brown Bear barked orders at me ranging from, "toast and jam," "beans on toast," "a glass of water," and "pudding." There may have a been a please or two in there if I'm being generous.

I had planned to drop Blue Bear with a neighbour while I took Brown Bear to Beavers as Hubbie wouldn't be home yet. Then he got home early and Brown Bear cheered, "Daddy, I want you to take me to Beavers." When we explained that I was doing it he whined, "Oh I don't want Mummy to take me." Through gritted teeth I explained that I had already made plans to do it and that was that. I had also asked another parent to pick him up so I could go to hear Dr Aric Sigman (remember him from Saturday morning TV where he was an 'agony uncle' answering questions from kids ?) giving a talk about managing screen time. Oh the irony having just plonked my boys in front of the TV as soon as they got home so that I could do the to-ing and fro-ing between the front room and kitchen that is my post-school routine. It was a very good talk so I'll tell you about that another time.

I asked Hubbie a while back if he could help me out as I was offered a paid gig today that meant I needed help with picking up the boys from school and nursery. Before leaving the house this morning I made a lunch for Blue Bear, packed both a school backpack and swimming kit for Brown Bear, a change of clothes for Brown Bear to have after swimming, left an after school snack on the counter and put a washing load in and started to empty the dishwasher. As I left this morning Hubbie was waiting in for the locksmith - I had called the guy having waited for a few months for it to happen by magic and when it didn't I took decisive action. If only I had done the same thing previously we wouldn't now be looking at a £400 bill to repaper the hallway which has water damage and I don't know how much to replace the wooden floor thanks to a DIY disaster. Still, we live and learn.

The mums meet for coffee sometimes and as I had Hubbie at home today I thought I'd join them for a change. We did the Blue Bear handover so he could take him to pre-school and even though I didn't have anything it was nice to sit and chat for a while with other grown ups. I was out for the rest of they day so when I called Hubbie to remind him what I'd left him for lunch I also asked if he could put on the washing machine and run the vacuum around the front room. He did that big intake of breath that he always does when I ask for a 'favour' - thank goodness I wasn't there to also witness the eyeroll that accompanies it - but said "Ok." Feeling ever so 'umble I went about my day.

When I rang later to ask how things were going I could hear the boys yelling in the background - as per. I had intended to stop on the way home and maybe pick up a few bits from the shops, but it sounded like bedlam so I went straight home. As soon as I walked in Brown Bear started demanding dinner. Well forgive me for not having your meal ready within seconds of arriving inside the house Little Lord Fauntleroy. As I took out the pasta from the fridge he had a tantrum because he'd had pasta for lunch. Well silly me what was I thinking ? Hubbie was nowhere to be seen. Of course as soon as I got in the door that must mean he's off the clock now ? A quick change of dinner plan saw the boys fed and a bit less stressed, then I emptied the dishwasher - which I hadn't finished doing this morning. I hung up the washing, went back to the cup of tea I had started making earlier and I made a start on our dinner before going out to another meeting. I popped the tea into the microwave - shuttup, it was an emergency - and put it into a travel cup to drink on the way.

I know receiving appreciation as a stay at home parent is as likely as a unicorn picking up it's own poo, but seriously when did I become a second class citizen in my family ? This nothing person who does the invisible tasks so that clothes miraculously appear when needed, meals are rapidly changed to suit just expressed preferences, lunches are there without any effort on the part of the consumer and the house for some reason isn't under a pile of smelly garbage.

When did it become ok to give no status to the person who keeps things ticking over ? Why does that go to the guy who gets to be with other adults all day every day and whose meals aren't mostly an afterthought or often leftovers ? The one who probably gets to pee when he wants to and who doesn't have to explain to anyone where he is going if he leaves the room instead of being a referee / sofa cushion / punching bag.

How on earth can I expect to ever go back to work if I can't even get respect for what I'm doing now ? I've advised companies on how to achieve equality in the workplace and I can't even achieve it in my own home. I'd think twice before advising any other woman to be a stay at home parent. In all honesty it's a poisoned chalice. I consider myself lucky to have a partner who does his share, but why do I also have to take the eye rolls, the 'asking permission' and frankly the low status that comes with being the day-to-day parent ? I used to earn more than him, I worked harder and I was worth something. Now I'm working for two small tyrants (three if you include the cat) and my business partner is more like a silent partner.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Hippos and Time Travelling Magicians - theatre for children is brilliant !

First Hippo on the Moon: Churchill Theatre Bromley

I've been taking Brown Bear to the theatre since he was around 3 years old. His first show was Room on the Broom and he loved it. Since then he's been with me to watch many shows and can now sit through a two hour pantomime or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and not fidget or fuss. In fact we've had compliments about how well he behaves which I think is in no small part due to his experience of theatre going from a young age. I love that there are so many shows specifically for children and we all went to watch Stick Man a few months ago which was when I realised that Blue Bear is now old enough to go to watch shows too. Hooray !

On Saturday I'm taking Blue Bear to watch First Hippo on the Moon at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley. This touring production opened in Eastbourne in January and will play in 40 venues overall throughout 2017. The First Hippo on the Moon has been adapted for the stage by Les Enfants Terribles and Les Petits’ Artistic Director Oliver Lansley whose other adaptations of children’s literature have included the immersive dining experience Dinner at the Twits and Alice’s Adventure’s Underground. The puppets for The First Hippo on the Moon have been created by Nick Barnes and Finn Caldwell who have previously collaborated on War Horse and The Lorax. The cast for The First Hippo on the Moon includes Dominic Allen, Alice Bounce, Caroline Bowman, Owen Jenkins and Rosie Nicholls.

Based on David Walliams’ original children’s book with illustrations by Tony Ross, The First Hippo on the Moon is an explosively funny space adventure which sees the enormously rich Hercules Waldorf-Franklin III and ingenious Shelia compete to be the first hippo to make it to the moon. I can't wait to see what Blue Bear makes of it and hope he enjoys it as much as the book.

First Hippo on the Moon is on at the Churchill Theatre from Tue 2nd May until Saturday 6th May with a relaxed performance on Thursday 4th May.

More Magic for Kids! Morgan and West - Spiegeltent, Udderbelly Festival London

Brown Bear is a big fan of magic since he got a magic set for his birthday and I'm delighted he's going to be see a special show with us during the May half term. Time-travelling magicians Morgan & West are back with their new show More Magic For Kids!  at the Underbelly Festival Southbank between 29th May and Sunday 4th June.

Despite their squabbles about the idea of creating a show for children, Mr West has finally resigned himself to the idea that he now does shows for children, although he’s really not best pleased about it. Mr. Morgan, as ever, is thrilled that people are willing and indeed eager to watch him and his magic tricks. Join in the fun as Mr. West wants to prove that he’s better than Mr. Morgan, and indeed silly children. No doubt his comeuppance will come as More Magic For Kids! prepares to unload another boxful of bewilderment and impossibility. What could possibly happen next ?

I'm sure Brown Bear will want to know how it's all done and seeing a family show on the Southbank will be a new experience too so it's one we're really looking forward to. I've been to the Udderbelly Festival, but the children haven't so that will be fun.

More Magic For Kids! sets out to provide entertainment that is delightful for anyone of almost any age (5+), from any time period, and any level of maturity. The result is a marvellous show that is loved by both adults and children alike and will keep you entertained from beginning to end – the perfect family day out!