Wednesday 25 March 2009

Damn your eyes Dino Cards!


Why are children so fickle and mean? Here's my situation:

My five year old son is a sensitive soul. He gets easily upset, he doesn't have terrific social skills, it takes him a while to join in, yet once he's comfortable, he can turn quite bossy and aggressive. So not terrifically helpful in the making friends department. Yet underneath it all he can be a sweet little boy who just wants to fit in.

When he started school, his best friend was the little boy across the road. They'd only just gotten to know each other but they stuck to each other as they faced the newness of school together. They have very similar temperaments. Both sensitive, both clingy.

Over the past few months the arguments between them seem to have escalated. There've been plenty of 'Well I'm not your friend anymore' type moments, but they've been swiftly replaced with statements like 'I'm going to marry J when I'm older.' It's a love hate thing.

However, enter the ominous prescence of DINO KING TRADING CARDS. Last year, Go Gos were all the rage. The must have craze, without which my son might surely die. So we stocked up on sodding Go Gos. That was like sooo last year dude. Now Dino King Trading Cards are the MUST HAVE item for every cool kid in the school.

So friend across the road (J) and a boy in year 1 (I) both had some cards. My son didn't. Both he and I were blissfully unaware of the uber-coolness dino cards inferred on their bearers. However, within a day of these boys having the cards, the nagging started. I ignored it as I was still admiring my array of Go Gos yet to be doled out for good behaviour. But as the nagging escalated I began to see why.

Every morning in the playground I&J (which incidentally is a name of a frozen fish company in South Africa, but that's probably not relevant) would huddle together looking at each other's cards, physically blocking my son out. It was heartbreaking to see. What was more heartbreaking was having my son come home every day and cry that he had no friends because he didn't have any trading cards.

My heart strings were well and truly plucked so I ordered a batch off the internet and got a pack for immediate gratification while we waited for the internet order to arrive. The next day my son got to school, proudly carrying his cards and he rushed up to his friends so that he could at last fit in. But he still wasn't cool. Because they both had DINO CARD HOLDERS! Let me explain. These things are large, chunky pieces of plastic crap that cost £18. All they do is make a couple of sounds and can hold one card. Whoopdedoo.

But without a Dino Card Holder, my son might as well have dyed his hair ginger, worn thick specs and covered his face with spots - such was his uncoolness. After much arguing and lamenting and ranting and raging we agreed that he could use his birthday money to buy a dino card holder, even though I strongly advised against it. This ended in an almighty meltdown when he realised that he was going to actually have to part with his own money, but he got over it.

So equipped with cards (including the pack off the internet by this stage) and the dino card holder, he headed off to school, at long last worthy enough to be spoken to by his friends. The joy lasted for a few days.

But for the last week, he has come home and cried saying that both I&J refused to trade cards with him. They tell him his cards are rubbish and not 'strong enough' (which I assume means something in dino-ease but I'm not sure what) and just won't let him into the inner circle of two. I can see it at the school gate in the morning, where J speaks to my son until I arrives, and then he's frozen out.

Now part of me makes me want to ram their little sodding heads together and say: STOP BEING SO MEAN! But part of me also wonders whether my son has done something to prompt this behaviour from them. As I explained at the beginning, he can get bossy and aggressive, so maybe he's been that way with the cards. Who knows. I'm not in the school. I can't see what goes on.

I'd laugh it all off but it is so heartbreaking to hear my son saying: "I&J are having a sleepover this weekend. I is J's new best friend. I don't really have any friends anymore."

I'd like to blame it all on the dino cards, but I fear if it wasn't that, it would be something else. The only advice I can give my son is to treat people the way you want to be treated and hopefully they'll be nice back to you. But somehow I don't think five year olds operate that way.

Monday 23 March 2009

Mother's Day?

I've come to the realisation that Mother's Day is the day on which you do what you do every other day, only you begrudge it more.

I got to spend my mother's day visiting my mother in law. I like my mother in law. She deserves a visit on Mother's Day.

However, it does mean that I got to spend 3 hours on Saturday and another 3 on Sunday trying to entertain small boys who were unwillingly strapped into the carseats as we hurtled up and down British motorways. I got to break up fights about whose hands were on the wrong side of the invisible dividing line on the back seat. I got to provide an endless supply of snacks and rummage in my bag for something suitable to catch carsick with (which luckily ended up not being needed but the continual 'I feel sick' whinge from the back seat had me on tenterhooks for most of the journey). I got to play 'eye spy' and 'guess the animal' on repeat cycle. And I got to answer the question 'Are we there yet?' more times than I care to remember.

Once there, things didn't improve. My mum-in-law is of the WW2 generation so the use of central heating is strictly for days when polar bears actually stroll through your garden. At all other times, the wearing of several jumpers (and coats) is the way to stay warm. She lives in a part of the north that could be a poster child for reasons why old mining towns should have been shut down when the mines were. It has no redeeming features. You don't want to venture outside. But sitting inside doesn't provide a myriad of exciting things to do, unless you count telling your children not to juggle granny's china.

Upon arrival, my husband sat in front of the TV and watched two six nations rugby matches back to back, leaving me to entertain the children. Again. By the time bedtime came, I felt thoroughly deserving of some Mother's Day R&R.

Despite getting up twice in the night to deal with crying children, I did actually get a lie in. Till 7.10am. At which point the boys came in and thrust cards at me. This was the highlight on the day. They were sweet and gave me cuddles. And one of the cards included a voucher for a day spa. Hooray!

However, the rest of the morning was spent with me trying to reclaim some time to myself, while being well aware that my husband was sighing a lot. I know how he feels. When it's father's day I'm just as happy with life. Why the hell should he get to sit and be lord of the house while I do everything, again? So he was no doubt feeling the same way. But tough. It was Mother's Day and I'd already forgone doing what I wanted to do, so an hour to read my book alone shouldn't be too much to ask for right? Apparently it was.

We spent another morning passing the time waiting for lunch, which was very kind of my mother in law to lay on given she's a mother too. But I still would have preferred to go to a restaurant, instead of feeling that I had to help with the washing up.

And then we left. Had a repeat journey. Upon arriving home, I got stuck into tidying up the house in preparation for the week ahead. Dinner was a bowl of cereal. And that folks, was it. Woohoo!

Now had that been any other weekend, I would have thought - hard work, but visiting granny is important. But on Mother's Day weekend, as I said at the start, I just begrudged it a bit. I'm pretty sure that I'm not alone in feeling this way. This morning there are no doubt mothers up and down the country wondering what happened to their day off. Don't worry ladies, there's always next year!


On a less selfish note, please spare a thought for all the mothers out there who don't ever get to enjoy a mother's day as they very sadly die in childbirth. The White Ribbon Alliance and Mummo, have launched a Million Mums campaign to raise awareness of maternal mortality and are hoping to get a million mums to donate a pound to this worthwhile cause. Visit the website here and read a fab mag created by Mummo, written by mums for mums. Please spread the word about the Million Mums campaign and pass the magazine link on to whoever you can.

Thursday 19 March 2009

Call the fashion police

There is one part of my life that isn't extraordinarily busy - thank god - and that's my social life. I don't really have one. Staying in is the new going out. Has been for a while actually. Except that last night I threw caution to the wind and actually left the village. Shock.

It was a friend's birthday and it happened to coincide with a special ladies shopping evening at the House of Fraser in Reading. It was an invitation only thing where you go along in the evening, have champagne and nibbles, listen to the Dior make up team tell you how you could look 20 years younger if you spend about £1 million on their products, followed by a talk on how to wear this year's fashions if you're a normal person with an oversized gut/butt/chest etc. You then get to browse the store after its normal closing hours.

Ordinarily I would have been very excited about this. I am clueless in the fashion department and need all the help I can get (although recently I have made some headway on the skin regime front given that my 36 years are making themselves quite prominently visible on my face. The saying shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted springs to mind...) However, right about now fashion isn't high on my list of priorities.

For a start, I have no money. Every last penny I have (which isn't many) is dedicated to the sailing fund. My clothing requirements have also changed. Last weekend, while in the Isle of Wight, instead of buying a maxi dress and strappy sandals in preparation for summer, I bought £60 worth of thermal underwear. As you do.

Normally I'd love nothing more than a couple of hours to browse clothes without small childen pulling things off hangers and opening dressing room doors to reveal my flab to passersby. But last night shopping had lost its gloss. There is absolutely no point looking when you can't buy. All it does is depress you. It makes you realise how utterly 'off trend' your existing wardrobe is and what's worse, how little you actually care.

When I got to the shoe department (most women's idea of heaven, my personal hell) I actually laughed out loud at some of the ludricous heels they expect people to walk in. Sure you'll look great while you're standing still holding onto something, but not so fab the minute you try to walk unaided.

So after a cursory look around, my friend and I left, without a single purchase. At least now I know that I can expect to see lots of lime green and orange this year and that for my colouring I should attempt to wear it. That you should never wear mid-calve length anything, that Oasis makes good jeans and Coast does good shrugs. Patterns are in. Fine. As are harem pants. Not fine.

Best of all though, one of the biggest trends for 2009 is the nautical look. So I reckon I'm going to be bang up to date with real nautical authenticity. Hooray! I am fashionable after all.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Tired woman returns. Briefly

I know. I've been missing in action. I've explained why here. I am so, so, so tired. But I feel duty bound to pop in and say hello to you lovely blogging people and sorry that I've been negligent in my commenting efforts.

I know I have news. I'm sure I have much to tell you. I'm sure that it's hilarious and wonderful stuff. But it's currently having a nap in a dark corner of my brain.

The only thing I can remember with any clarity about the last few days is this delightful conversation with my 3 year old yesterday, in which we discussed the merits of healthy eating. I was trying to explain why being too fat (I was going to say overweight for sake of political correctness but he's three and understands thin and fat, big and small, round and square - i.e. words with a single syllable) isn't very good for your health.

And he pipes up: "You mean fat like you mummy?"

So that was nice. Kinda sums up how things have been.

Kiss kiss

Tuesday 10 March 2009

Mother's Day Blogging Competition

Mother's Day is looming (22 March in case you didn't know. Well in the UK anyway, in the rest of the world it's in May so don't panic if you're living abroad).

I find Mother's Day an odd thing. I mean besides being a cash cow for Hallmark, why does it exist? Is it to celebrate being a mother and therefore you should spend time with your family revelling in your all singing, all dancing role of MOTHER (or the Mumendant as my ex-military husband likes to call me). OR is it (as I believe it to be) the one sodding day of the year when you don't have to do everything. It's your annual day off. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Except that despite having been a mother for five years now, Mother's Day still seems to belong to my mother and mother-in-law. So instead of lying in bed, being served a delicious breakfast that I won't have to clean up after, followed by a morning of retail therapy washed down with a spa treatment or two, I'll be up in Yorkshire giving my mum-in-law a day like this instead. Only not quite. She, unlike me, won't feel the need for retail therapy or a spa treatment. Because her son is now 41 and to the best of my knowledge, he stopped drawing on walls and hitting people with plastic swords quite some time ago.

So we'll spend the day watching our little boys trash her house, while I help prepare lunch for her. And that's fine. She deserves it. But it comes back to this whole concept of getting a smidgeon of time for yourself every now and then. Which - as some of you now know - is one of the reasons I'm getting five weeks to myself in the middle of the Atlantic later this year. Not quite the same as an aromatherapy massage admittedly - I'll still have no sleep, back breaking work and lots of cooking and cleaning up to do, but there'll probably be less lego involved.

A client of mine, MamaBabyBliss, conducted a survey with mums at the Baby Show late last year. We asked them questions about how much time in any given day they get to themselves. Here are the results:

  • 76.6% of mums feel that they neglect themselves in favour of putting their families first

  • 60% of mums spend less than 30 minutes on themselves per day

  • 25% of mums have a mere 15 minutes or less to themselves per day

  • 67.5% of mums said they only treated themselves to a pampering session - like a massage, beauty treatment or long soak in the tub - ‘a few times a year’ or ‘never’

  • 93.6% of the mums said that they wish they had more time to pamper themselves
My response to those bulleted items are:
  • exactly, which is why I'm finally doing something about it

  • I probably spend less than 30 minutes a day on myself - it used to be less than 15 when the boys were younger. Trying to apply mascara with someone tugging on your trouser leg can result in injury.

  • I can't remember when last I had a pampering session. My daily treat is a shower in the morning. I used to have the children in the bathroom with me, trying to climb into the shower, flushing each other's heads down the loo, licking the toilet brush, spreading Bob the Builder and his myriad of hard spiky plastic friends across the floor, just waiting in anticipation of my bare feet. All a very relaxing experience. But they've now been trained to stay glued to Cbeebies giving me a blissful ten minutes alone. My bikini line requires a strimmer and my feet last had a pedicure when we last had a hot summer. So some time ago then.

  • And yes, yes, yes I wish I had more time to pamper myself. But I don't think I'll be fitting that in this year. Not in the massage type of way anyway.

So in honour of the impending Mother's Day, Justina from MamaBabyBliss, and I are hoping to get a movement going in which mums actually say: Time out! Time to pamper me. We're hosting a Mother's Day Blogging competition.

You write a blog post about the subject of pampering yourself/time to yourself. We don't mind if it's a funny story, a sad tale of woe, some practical tips, your best escape ever - just tell us your 'me time' story. All we ask is that you include a reference (and link) to MamaBabyBliss - you're free to quote the stats. Then send me the link melissa[at]peekaboocoms[dot]co[dot]uk so that I can have a good read.The authors of the first twenty posts I receive will get a bottle of MamaBabyBliss 'Ooh' Bath Soak sent to you (so I'll need your address for that). It's lovely. It smells of lavender. It'll make you drift off to sleep (only to be woken up at 4am no doubt but it'll be good while it lasts).

Then Justina will judge which post she likes best and will send the winner the absolutely gorgeous Mother's Day Gift box worth £40. We've already got entries in so get writing!

And in case I don't have time, a happy mother's day in advance for all the mums out there. May the peace (and quiet) be with you.

Thursday 5 March 2009

Bigging up blogs

Blogging is exhausting. It all starts out so simply. A few words bashed out to make some space in your brain. Before you know it, you're replying to comments, making comments, adding blogrolls, linking, meme-ing, reading, reading, reading....often laughing so hard you have a small accident thanks to a non-existent pelvic floor. And sometimes you cry about things that are happening to other people who you don't know at all but can feel their pain from a thousand miles off.

What I love about it is that the people you meet in the blogosphere share real stuff. The kind of stuff that seldom gets discussed at the school gate or coffee mornings. Not even the kind of stuff you share with close real life friends (except after several bottles of wine and you don't really recall any of it in the morning anyway). And even if you did discuss these things in real life, you could never say it quite so eloquently. Blogs are often human poetry.

Take the list of great contributions at the latest Blog Carnival over at Thames Valley Mums. It's a fabulous array of reads that will knock the socks off most TV shows, magazines or even books (then again the books I read most often these days are Chip and Biff books).

It is remarkable how small the world is and how similar we all are. Some people say that blogging and social networking reduce our social skills and our ability to interact with people. That might be true in some regard, but I think it gives many people the chance to be more human. More real. More true to themselves than they ever might be in real life. And I don't see how that can be a bad thing.

Now, I've got some more reading to do...

Monday 2 March 2009

Small talk - again

This whole having two blogs and a business to run and a small fund raising mission to complete is all a little time consuming, so this will be brief.

Following on from my last blog post about random conversations with 5 year olds, here was a snippet from today's lastest conversational masterpiece:

"So boys, what do you think daddy will see in America?" (their father's gone there for business this week)

Three year old hears the word America and a lightbulb goes ping in his brain and says: "that man who was the first man to rule America."

Five year old sagely nods, while continuing to shovel dinner into his mouth: "He means Barack Mobama."

"Well remembered both of you," quite gobsmacked that they can remember this, then again they were denied Cbeebies for a full afternoon as I watched the inauguration ceremony so it's probably imprinted on their brains. I do wonder whether Barack Mobama would like to grow a moustache in deference to his new name.

"Can you remember what he's called - what his job is?" I ask.

"He's the president of America," says five year old.

"Well done, yes he is. Do you know what we call the person who runs our country?" I ask ("besides twat," I say under my breath)

"Can't remember," he says.

"He's the Prime Minister. And do you know what our Prime Minister's name is?" I ask again.

"Ummm, no, I think I know but I can't remember," says five year old.

"It's Gordon Brown," I say.

"Oh!" says five year old. "I knew that name, but I thought he was the vicar!"

So there you have it. Based on my son's last conversation about marriage and the fact that God and the vicar get to choose who you marry, it follows that Gordon Brown - being the vicar - can now choose your spouse for you. Now that's what I call a nanny state.