There’s a club if you’d like to go

Microbe told me on Monday that he went to a lunchtime club called Technokids, even though I didn’t enrol him on it. I guess school didn’t get the memo.

Last year he was the only reception kid who attended this club and I felt bad that he was missing out on playtime with his pals. Also, despite the grand-sounding curriculum, all I could ever get out of him was that he’d been doing ‘mouse skills’ every week.  (An essential skill for the iPad generation, apparently). So I decided not to bother renewing it this year – but now he desperately wants to carry on with it because one of his besties is doing it this term. Tsk.

The exact same thing has happened with PZAZZZ!!! (yes that’s its name), an after-school craft club that wowed me with its promise of exposure to a wide range of multi-media arts and crafts.  Once again, the Microbe turned out to be the only reception kid doing it last year …and the reality seemed to involve him sitting for an hour in a crowded classroom, doing drawings of animals on printer paper, with zero supervision. (For £11 a week!)

In fairness the boy is seldom happier than when he’s drawing animals on scraps of paper but I decided not to renew it this term and am sending him to a drama club instead. But now (oh, such woe) the aforementioned bestie turns out to be also doing PZAZZZ!!!.  Tsk.

The trouble with all of these clubs is that they only last for one hour, so he still has to go to Fit For Sport (aka FFS) afterwards. It’s the only way his school day can approximate something close to working hours. The poor boy does FFS three days a week, for three hours a time. It’s like having half a school day all over again, except without his pals. Also it means that he’s totally knackered by the weekend and turns into a sluggardly, sullen teenager. The other day he said to me “Mummy I was really looking forward to coming home today… and then I remembered that I had to go to Fit For Sport.

Guilt button duly pressed.

I need to start banking some playdate credits on Mondays and Fridays in the hope that he’ll get invited to reciprocal ones on FFS days.

On the plus side, the boy is delighted with this term’s special science theme at school – which is all about animals! It’s as if he’s designed his own class curriculum. Today they’ve had a visit from a man called ‘Jungle Jonathan’, who brings weird and wonderful creatures to school. Next week they’re off to London Zoo and a local artist is coming in to do animal-themed art projects with them.

In Hubble news, her talking skills seem to have become specialised in words beginning with H. Nothing but “Hello!” and “Hiya!” and “Harry!” all day long. (In Hubbleworld, all cats are called “Harry”.)

But she understands far more than she speaks and will happily fetch and carry things on instruction these days. Also I’ve discovered that if I tell her to “lie down” she actually lies down. This is a game-changer, trust me! Usually you need 8 arms and the patience of a saint to pin the writhing little horror down on the changing mat for long enough to get her nappy changed.  But all of a sudden she’s toddling off to the bathroom willingly and getting the nappy and wipes out of the basket for me and lying down all by herself, and then putting the old nappy in the nappy bin. Bless! Whoever trained her to do this is getting a medal!

Next step…  laundry training.

I can’t be the only person who sees the second pic and wants to give that little bottom a shove.  *retreats back to sweetie-covered cottage in the woods*

Moving on…

I’m hoping to migrate both kids upstairs in a week or so.  And then I want to start putting them to bed together …at 7:30 on the dot!

The boy’s official bedtime has been 7:30 ever since nursery. But we seem to be struggling with the fact that he doesn’t get home from FFS until nearly 6:30  …and then we want to spend a little bit of time with him, to talk about his day or play top trumps or something. And he invariably needs feeding because he’s failed to eat whatever was on offer at FFS.  And then he needs bathing.  And…. before you know it it’s 8pm before he’s scrubbed and tubbed and adequately fed.

And, on top of that, he’s an insomniac little bugger who lies awake in bed long after story time, no matter how knackered he is. I chatted to his teacher about this last year and we agreed that he needs more sleep but neither of us had any winning ideas to switch his brain off, beyond what we’re already doing (i.e. a fixed routine of bath, bed & story).

And Hubble is just as bad. Why do my children have a default sleep setting of 9pm?? Usually one of us puts her to bed in a darkened room while the other one’s sorting out the boy. But you can only take a horse to water. Darkness and silence are no barriers to romping and thrashing and giggling and fighting for an eternity before she finally zonks out. I’m going to have to ask nursery if they can cut down her daytime naps.

Isn’t it great how we go to all of this trouble to have kids and then spend every waking hour trying to find ways to switch them off and put them back in their boxes?

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There is a light and it …goes out after 4 hrs

I promised that my next post would be all about the kids.

I’m afraid I lied…  they barely get a mention.

But I have a public service announcement of top importance. I’ve discovered that you can get dimmable fairly lights! I found these on Amazon while surfing for the kids’ room – they’re mains powered and come on 10 metres of fine copper wire, with a remote control for turning on/off and controlling the dimming.  And they can turn themselves off after 4 hrs. I think they’re fab!

Ever since the loft floor went down we all keep finding excuses to slink upstairs and spend time in there. (Even Hubble, every chance she gets). Oh, joyous room of clean, white, empty space! It’s like taking a holiday from the rest of the flat. I could sit in it for hours and I love sticking my head out of the windows and surveying the world from roof-level.

At the weekend I let both of the tiny savages run around up there for a bit and, when I returned, I found:

  • A floor full of discarded toys
  • Grubby smudges on the beautiful snow-white walls
  • A pair of shoes, hurled with abandon
  • A half-chewed sticker

It’s a tragedy on a grand scale but I give it 5 mins before this sanctified space falls into line with the rest of the flat. (We’re going to have to re-think the white walls).

Currently every evening and weekend of mine is spent waving tape measures around and/or staring at furniture on the internet and obsessing over how many mm it is in any given direction. It’s a decent-sized loft room but with an insane number of limitations on where things can go, due to the low ceiling, sloping walls, multiple windows, doors, eaves, etc. I’ve had to draw scale plans in Excel. (Never mind Photoshop, I use Excel for everything.)

The sloping alcove behind the door is the only possible place for a wardrobe, so I’ve done the deed and ordered a low-height wardrobe and drawers. Now I’m crossing my fingers that a) I haven’t made a colossal measuring blunder and b) I’ll be able to cram both kids’ clothes in there without defying the laws of physics.

My plans for toy storage are …er, um. Lets just say I’m working on that. There will be no corner unstuffed.

I spent the entire weekend pondering how to get their books up there, given the shortage of bookcase-friendly walls. My best idea so far is to turn the little wall with the dormer window on it into a book-nook, with bookcases under and around the window, a bench seat. If we use Jali for the custom shelves I reckon we can do it for a moderate price.

Here is a terribly unskilled mock-up that I did to try and show G what it might look like….

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Anally retentive people will immediately spot the flaw in my plan. Yes?

The window is off-centre… gaaaah!

But it’s still better than anything else I’ve come up with.  The bench cushions would theoretically be made by me, using a piece of map-themed upholstery fabric that I’ve had kicking around for a while. I’d also want to put some LED lighting around the window and ideally the kids’ picture books would also get crammed along the left-hand wall where the socket is, in one of those kiddie book racks where the books face forwards.

Comments on a postcard…?

Meanwhile, sound the trumpets. We’ve chosen a stair carpet. A striped one, as predicted. Not the stuff of lust but the best one out of all of the near-identical samples we’ve tried. I think it’ll look pretty smart on the stairs, assuming the fitter can cope with lining up the stripes on all of the corner-turns.

In kitchen news, um, there’s no news.  With any luck, if we dither for long enough, holes in the floor and stacks of messy, evicted cupboard-contents will become the new norm (and thereby invisible) and we’ll save ourselves further money.

Meanwhile G has been secretly planning GADGE for the upstairs room.  You can see why I keep him on. Tonight he has revealed a nifty web-enabled surveillance camera for spying on the microbes. It looks like a tiny robot and is a bit like a baby monitor but more webby I think.

G has just shown me that you can move the camera around and zoom in and out by swiping on your phone. Also you can use its speaker to issue commands from downstairs, such as “Dinner’s ready” or “Stop that” or “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SHUT UP!“.  (So, dear James, there will be no further truck with “Your sound waves didn’t reach my ear, Mummy“.)

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Busy doing nothing

Can someone please re-boot early September for me? It doesn’t seem to be working properly. Wherefore art thou, Autumnal optimism and energy and enthusiasm and good intentions?

By 7th Sep I’m usually skipping about with creative zing, decluttering the flat and re-vamping my wardrobe and eyeing up boots and stationery and knitting tweedy things for Hubble. This time I’m an utter sluggard. I can just about drag my ever-expanding carcass to work and throw food at the children before falling asleep in front of the telly. And the flat seems to be untidying itself faster than we can tidy it.  (No, it’s not my fault for staying up stupidly late, building imaginary post-apocalyptic settlements in Fallout)

Anyway never mind all that, we have floorage – and the loft is looking splendiferous!!

Ta-daaaaa! Enjoy the white perfection before it gets covered in crayon.

We’re so close to finishing now, albeit with neighbourly obstructions. We really must get on and choose a stair carpet and sort out the kitchen.

Also we need bookcases and some sort of low-height slopey wardrobe-type object for the weirdly shaped loft alcove and something for the even weirder nook that only gnats can fit into.

Where can I find magical, Mary Poppins storage that is small but hides many sins? Having splurged on the floor, we can’t justify splurging on bespoke built-in wardrobes right now so we’ll have to just fake it with flat packs. I’ve started staring blankly at Pinterest boards of IKEA hacks …as if I have the time, inclination or skill to do any such thing.

Still – whilst failing to take care of the important stuff, I’ve managed one or two items of whimsy. I have a stash of picture frames at the ready to make a gallery of children’s illustrations up the rather gorgeous-looking loft stairway wall…  (pic of paint colour)

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And this morning I made use of my commute and found an online place that sells metallic gold stars for the night-themed wall that I’m planning above the kids’ beds. (Note to self – you need to paint it first).

I’m feeling an increasing sense of trepidation/woe at the idea of emptying our storage unit and trying to find places for it all. We’re going to have to be even more ruthless on the way in than we were on the way out. Life would be so much easier if I gave up all of my creative interests… (Dear Marie Kondo, what do you do when you have 85 crates of yarn, paint and fabric and they all “spark joy”?)

Umm – the next post will be about the microbes, I promise.

The nutshell version is that they had a fab summer and school has resumed and all is jolly. The microbe is, more than ever, a gangly mass of bruised limbs. Hubble is largely made of tummy and has developed a shoe fetish. Bless!

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50 shades of meh

On my way to work I suddenly remembered that we need one of these doofuses because our new kitchen door whacks the wall every time you open it…

doofus

Hopefully it will also function as a Microbe/cat entertainment system. Matilda discovered one while we were out the other day and enjoyed several happy minutes making it go SPROINGGGGG before she was joined by James (at which point they had to take it in turns.)

Added bonus – it might even annoy the neighbours once the kids get good at it. Anyway I decided to make use of my commute this morning and google for a doofus while on the train. I wanted to type “sproinger” but had a hunch they’re probably not known by that name, so in the end I went with “springy door stop“.  (It turns out this was for the best as G later sent me a link showing the urban dictionary definition of “sproinger”)

Who knew??

In other news I have somehow, once again, failed to buy dark grey school trousers. Last year I got several pairs from the school outfitter’s and they were overpriced, with wide, flappy legs and naff fabric that only lasted 5 mins. So then I ordered some “charcoal” ones from that great emporium known as The Internet (can’t remember which shop) and they were much nicer but turned out to be almost black and nothing like the school colour. Tsk.

This year I decided to play it straight and ordered a year’s worth of “grey” cotton trousery goodness from that good old, firm-but-kind, no-nonsense auntie known as John Lewis. But the buggers have turned out to be light grey and will have to be sent back. For the love of god.  How can it be difficult to buy grey school trousers?  And, more to the point, what sort of freakish school uniform includes light grey trousers?

I’m now fairly certain that M&S is the answer. They have ones with let-down-able hems and waistlines that can shrink to workhouse proportions. But their website is asking me to choose between grey and charcoal. I KNOW NOT WHAT TO TICK.  I think I’m going to have to exit my hermetically-sealed pod go to an actual physical shop.  Gah!

Oh dear. I’m afraid that’s all I have right now.  I’ll try to make the next one more informative but, in the meantime, thanks for listening to the echoing chasm that passes for my mind.

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Decoratin’ blues

I’m wilfully abusing this blog to ramble on about our building work. Those with no interest, look away now.  (EDIT: now that I’ve finished raving, I suggest everybody look away now, interested or not).

I’m off work today, amid conversion chaos, and not really feeling the love. (I know, #FWP.) We seem to have reached the stage where every single detail costs extra. And every time I choose something our builder pulls a face.  (I think I keep wanting inconvenient things that his ‘preferred suppliers’ don’t have.)

Also I have decor angst. Half the time I have no idea what I want (e.g. bathroom mirror… no clue) and the rest of the time I feel like my taste is entirely out of step with the rest of the world. I spent so long in Homebase at the weekend trying to find paint colours that matched the colours in my head. We came home with about 15 tester pots and I spent Sunday painting multiple coats of them all onto various walls and sheets of lining paper.

After staring at 9 rectangles all along the hallway, G and I dithered for a bit and then said… “er, shall we just get them to paint it white?

But we did at least choose several shades of blue for the living room and loft stairway. A dark and imposing slate on the fireplace wall and a chalkier mid-blue elsewhere.  I know, how very 2014! I took phone pics but the photos don’t really look anything like the colours.

The one on the right..

The one on the left….

Both colours are darker than we have now and potentially depressing but the room has great light and can handle it.

We’ve chosen a lighter hue from the same colour family for the loft stairway.  You will have to take my word for it that this is a diff colour from the one above. My pics are lying.  (NB: imagine the stairs & banisters painted white + mystery stair runner)

I showed the builder our colour pots and he grimaced. Apparently he usually gets paint made by his ‘preferred supplier’. Of course he does. And they can’t colour-match certain brands of paint. Of course they can’t. He was also a bit disparaging about my choice of a chalky matt paint finish for the kids’ bedroom stairway. His supplier makes tough, washable acrylic paints. Am I mad?? Probably, yes.

I sort of agree with him. There will be grubbiness and handprints. It’s just that my vision for the loft stairway involves a wall of framed children’s illustrations going all the way up the stairs. And this would look so nice on a chalky matt background.  I’m a bit dithery now as to whether to stick to my guns or to ask his supplier to try and match the colour as best they can.

As for carpets – groan. We can’t seem to find a stair runner that isn’t a bit meh or wildly over budget. I think our builder is utterly bemused. (Why on earth doesn’t she just go to my mate’s carpet shop as instructed and get a fitted beige stair carpet?)

Why don’t I? Well, for starters, the bugger was closed on Saturday when we made the trek to Kingston. And, secondly, I make these problems for myself by being in the 0.1% of people who like pattern. I made a pinterest board of some runners that are in the right sort of region, but nothing is entirely hitting the spot. The patterns that I like best all seem to be sisal, but I’d rather the kids had have carpet underfoot when going up and down to bed in bare feet. (Unfortunately G’s reaction to the cost of the rather dashing cerise Laura Ashley one was to splutter at me.)

Given the state of our budget, we’re probably just going to settle and choose something from our builder’s mate’s carpet shop that is tolerable, affordable and inoffensive to future buyers. I imagine we’ll end up with stripes. (The official alternative to beige.)

For the time being we’re going to have to shelve the idea of doing anything major to the kitchen and bathroom. Hence we’re trying to work out what we can do on the cheap to make the best of what we already have. This conversation never reaches a conclusion…

The loft room itself is currently a bright, white box and rather lovely (if you ignore the building paraphernalia).

White is such a splendid colour in a minimalist room.

Ha! Minimalist!

Well, we can dream. Obviously the future reality is a squalid pit of toys, clothes, unmade beds and spilled orange juice. I’ve only just noticed that the ceiling curves downwards and joins some of the wall with no discernible line at which you could change colour. So at least some of it is going to have to stay white.

God, what a fruitless ramble this is.

The boybot is a sluggard today and doesn’t want to go out, hence we’ve been lurking at home and hiding from builders but I really ought to tear him away from Pokemon on Netflix and take him out somewhere…

Or at least get off WordPress and look at bathroom mirrors and try to find an ultra-thin shower head that won’t cause a brain injury to G every time he steps unto the cubicle. (Low ceilings = bad news for the vertically unchallenged).

And… oh for the love of god. I suppose I’d better brace myself and read the new message from the downstairs neighbours that has just pinged up. Woe is me.

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Workin’ 9 to 5

Sometimes writing a rambling blog that you only ever expect your nearest & dearest to read can have unexpected side effects.

E.g. about twice a year James receives an email offering him the chance to review garden toys and games. I don’t mind these. The emails are polite and unspammy and, if we had a bigger garden, we might say yes. It certainly beats the ones I get, offering me the chance to review female incontinence products.

But the majority of parenting spam tends to come via Twitter, which I hardly bother with these days. But once in a while something catches my eye. For example – somebody twote this link at me today and I was bemused enough to click on it: http://www.thekidsdo.com/parents

This appears to be a service targeted at Very Busy Parents. (I can tell because all of the parents in the pictures are wearing suits and smiling at iPads.) The idea seems to be that Very Busy Parents pay a fee and receive in return a detailed, personalised schedule of after-school activities, devised and written for their kids.

Not the activities themselves, just the schedule.

Ok…

But…

Here’s the source of my bemusement. If you’re too busy to even think about activities for your kids, how on earth are you going to find the time to take them to all of it? The pictures on the website suggest that you will receive a fiendishly-compiled self-improvement schedule for each child, involving swimming, ballet, gymnastics and music classes. But who is taking them to all of this stuff at 3 in the afternoon? Who’s picking them up and feeding them in between? When are you going to squeeze in 30-hours of Pokemon Go and Dinosaur Train and nagging for a Kinder Egg?

It reminds me of those services that I keep getting street-mugged about, where they want to deliver a recipe + exact ingredients each day for my weekday evening meal. Presumably this is aimed at people who are far too busy to think about what they would like for dinner… yet blessed with the time and inclination to cook it from scratch every evening. And heaven forbid they should fail to fancy whatever happens to be on the standard menu each day.

I know. I am just being bloody minded. And wilfully missing the point. (They’ve probably all got nannies.) But I am a bad blogger, so I’m going to sit here and heckle without bothering to sign up and find out more. Sorry.

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Here comes the sun

I ought to be writing about the kids and our lovely visit to Grandma’s but I have much rambling to do first, on the topic of loftiness.

Most importantly – Oh joyous day! The scaffolding is supposedly coming down today and tomorrow. It’s taking its time but we’ll soon have daylight for the first time in many weeks. Our festering pit of domestic squalor will be an illuminated festering pit!

After that we’ve still got another couple of weeks of man-tramping around the flat before things will start to look reasonable. Right now the place is an utter tip and our living space is full of the aftermath of plastering and demolishing. (+ toys, obv.)  The baby has become a sort of mobile duster. We can either let her loose and watch her feet turn steadily black or shunt her from one captive state to another without letting her touch the floors or walls. I have no idea how we’re going to keep her from touching the slow-drying paint when the banisters and door frames get done.

The kitchen is looking especially squalid this week as we’ve had the chimney breast knocked out and our big cupboard demolished.

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For most people this would be an unenthralling piece of home improvement but for the spatially challenged it’s a cause of much excitement!

“Ooh! The space! The space!”
“Just look at it! Is that 9 extra inches?”

Our cramped little corridor into the kitchen suddenly feels palatial, albeit with chunks of floor missing and pipes sticking out of the wall. We still haven’t worked out what on earth to do about that end of the flat. Every time we look at it we start wanting more walls demolished. For now every single surface is covered with the evicted contents of the old cupboard and we have nowhere to put it all.

Meanwhile this is how the loft room is looking…

I swear it gets smaller with every coat of paint. I’m starting to feel like a giant up there.  (NB: I am not a giant). 

This morning one of the builders asked what colour to paint the room and I had absolutely no idea. (He going to paint it white, of course). I’ve somehow failed to think about things. It crept up on me while I was busy nursing whimsical notions, such as whether to paint the kids’ bedhead wall to look like the night sky, with gold stars and a tree silhouette and maybe a couple of nocturnal animals… and fairy lights. I doubt that’s in the builders’ repertoire.

Almost every room in the flat has been affected by new walls, plumbing or pipe removals. We’re going to have to re-paint our living room, hallway and kitchen. And probably bathroom too, come to think of it. And we’ve got to hurry up and choose a carpet for the loft stairs. And find a magical way to stop the hallway from resembling the Black Hole of Calcutta once the doors get hung.  

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So far the only thing I’ve managed to form a concrete opinion on is door knobs. But it’s a start.

If only I could be more like our downstairs neighbours. They have many opinions. And they’re not at all afraid to share them. They make Ivana Trump look low maintenance. (Apparently our building work gave them all colds). But, then, if we will insist on fracking in their back garden and dumping nuclear waste in their kitchen sink…

Now that the scaffolding is coming down, we might have to find some new ways to annoy them. I’m thinking of forming a family tap-dancing troupe, Von-Trapp style. What say ye?

As for the kidbots, they had such a lovely visit with Grandma last week. The weather was amazing and we might as well have been in France. Matilda had her first chance to wear her swimsuit and run about on the beach. And it was so nice to get together with family and see the kids all playing together. And just to sit in that glorious, dreamy garden. G and I even went to the theatre for the first time in forever. (The Ladykillers – was v. good)

Obligatory Devon pics…

The boybot remains obsessed with all things nature (and Pokemon) and has collected loads of feathers lately, including parakeet, eagle owl, seagull, and a fantastic spotty woodpecker’s one, courtesy of Granny. He spent this morning busily sticking them all in his nature explorer’s scrapbook. Bless. He’s also been fervently ticking things off in a little wildlife ‘I Spy’ book that he got from his big Sis.

Tilly-Tantrum seems happy enough to be back at nursery, though her Toddler PMT is not improved by the recent flurry of teething. Some days all it takes is the word “no” to trigger a full-body rage spasm in which she arches her back and thwacks her head on the floor. And the other day she objected so fiercely to having her nappy changed that she punched the floor and spent the next 2 mins clutching her sore hand and staring at me accusingly. The silly girlbot needs to learn some more words so that she can replace her tantrums with negotiation.

But mostly she’s a cheerful little thing …and so deadly cute, singing away to herself with her little hair sprouts and chubsticks. You’d forgive anything. She spent a lot of time at Grandma’s running around with a notepad and pen, looking as if she had busy things to do.

The rest of the school hols are looking like a melting pot of cobbled together childcare, shared between G, me and Fit for Sport. We’re hoping to visit Whipsnade before school re-starts and we’re also going to be joining some friends on a last little mini-break. A couple of nights in a self-catering place in the middle of nowhere. All we’ll need is a spot of serial killing and we could become the plot of Sightseers 2 – hooray!

Posted in Along came Matilda, Domestic Chaos, Life of James, Pictures | 2 Comments