Friday, 21 August 2015

Sunshine, small things and (not too much) sangria....

Single parenting in the sunshine....

Being a single parent for the past five years has thrown a number of curve balls - some that have landed loudly, repetitively bouncing in the hallway in the shape of another football and some in the shape of my head banging against a wall....

Luckily, I'm well past that first year of single parent insanity where every new challenge seems like a hurdle that grew bigger than Mount Everest every time I tried to climb it. Now it's rare I have a mountain to climb, and the world of single parenting is really a walk in the park.* 

I rarely blog about the whole single parenting schizzle because it's mainly not about me being a single parent. 

It's just about me being a parent. And I'm single...(some of the time).

But there are times when carrying that single parent label becomes bigger than it should be - it moves from being a small identichip I happen to have to a mahoosive billboard advertising my status.

There's the misconceptions - yes I'm single, I'm not going to steal your husband or the yes I'm single, I'm not going to suddenly make your mrs misbehave. 

Thankfully for me this rarely happens mainly because I have a pretty fantastic group of friends but I know they still exist. And in general I've been misbehaving with all these friends for many years well before I was single. 

In the main, I reckon I have nailed the whole single parent thing. The cellar bootcamp for the small things was one of the more successful parenting techniques I employed and copious amounts of wine have also helped the flow of the single parent journey.

And then this year...the dawn of the summer holidays. A joyous time in every (single) parent's calendar - right up there with bank holidays and Christmas. 

What to do. When. How to plan. Who with. 

And then the momentous decision - to go it alone.

A holiday with the small things. Just me. And them. The three of us. One adult (debatable) and two children.

Before I could wimp out I booked it. Ready. Willing. And rather nervous.

And then we arrived. The airport negotiated perfectly. The flight a breeze. The sun shining. The apartment perfect (with the door blocked at night by two suitcases and a dressing table in case anyone tried to get in).

It was the most chilled - I would even say chill-axed if it wasn't one of the worst words in the new dictionary of today - I have been in a long time.

Just me. And them. And 3,245 games of Uno, 2,765 games of Go Fish, 10,000 attempts to get three of us to swim across the pool whilst riding the giant inflatable crocodile (that was a good look in a bikini), four shows, three diving competitions, two doggy paddle races and one bike ride.

I even turned my emails off. Obviously I didn't turn off the 24/7 support text service from friends and me mum on every given detail of the holiday. That would have been a ridiculous concept - and a step too far.

In summary - one of the most relaxing holidays ever - I even swam underwater to beat them in ALL swimming races. No prizes for second place in this family.

There were times I was conscious of the big fat single parent arrow that hovered above my head announcing my presence to all the smug married couples around me but I mainly didn't care cos we had fun and we did what we do every time we are together and I am relaxed - we mainly laughed.  The constant (all inclusive) supply of wine obviously helped. Although disappointingly it appears that the 13 year old isn't allowed to order me wine from the bar.

Perhaps most importantly it gave me proper time with the small things - and as it turns out they're quite good fun to be around. Well most of the time. Except when they decided it would be a really great idea to get me with the water guns when I was particularly relaxed with a good book - then shouty mum returned.

I did it. A summer holiday with my small things and I didn't feel that the big fat single parent arrow glowed too large above me head.

And the best bit....the small things told me it was the best holiday they had EVER been on. *Air Punch*

And the second best bit. I came home. They went away with their dad (that's not the second best bit) and I buggered off for three days of drinking in the sun with my friends with no parent guilt following me around tapping me on my shoulder (now that's the second best bit).

But for the record I never want to see another game of Uno again ever. Or Go Fish. Well maybe until next year when I'm thinking we go Greek Island hopping ...

*walk in the park aided by wine

Thursday, 18 June 2015

The humble hankerchief - and the checklist

The story of the hankerchief.

Bear with me on this one.  It's a story of the humble hankerchief. And the checklist.

The hankerchief - a square piece of cotton a gentleman keeps in one's pocket - and then snots all over and put back in one's pocket.

The checklist - the non negotiables you have on an unwritten checklist that allows you to pick a mate, a partner, a boyf, a lover, a friend. The unwritten checklist covers a number of different pointers - and differs from one person to another.

Not only does the said checklist differ from one person to another - it also changes as you get older.

Reaching my middle youth and finding myself single made me think about my checklist. It heralded the beginnings of a new checklist.

My checklist in my naive 20s was relatively simple.

Someone hot. Subconsciously I think I wanted to find a mate. Someone I could build a family with. Have beautiful children with.
I rocked that box. Tick. Big. Tick.

And then life changes and your outlook changes. Circumstances change and what was so important in your twenties - or even thirties - has a slightly different accent in your (ahem) forties (early forties I hasten to add).

Suddenly single and embracing a single life, with the aid of a bottle (or two) of fine wine (or whatever was on offer at Tesco) and good friends - the conversation turned to what one is searching for and what one should be searching for in a potential partner now - in the here and now - in the present moment.

Turns out the new checklist is quite different to that that there one in my twenties.
I'm not so interested in the breeding potential. I am interested in friendship.
I am interested in respect. And I am wanting someone who gets my back.

And still someone hot - preferably with the looks of say Bradley Cooper or even Damien Lewis.

I'm told I'm too fussy (from those good friends mentioned above). 

I'm told I need to look beyond my need for someone who is 6ft or over (a girl needs to wear heels).

And then you meet someone. Someone who doesn't necessarily fit into the exact checklist - but all the same ticks a lot of boxes.  And then you realise they have a hankie.

A hankie. They blow their nose into a hankie. They put said hankie back into their pocket. And then put it into a washing machine.

They even occasionally offer me a hankie. I managed to hide my silent gip at the thought.

In the halcyon days of a new romance the hankie means nothing. It's something that doesn't need to be on the checklist. It's a hankie - a piece of cotton that in the old days defined a gentleman.

It's fine. I can cope with a piece of cotton. Everything else is okay. (Except the height but again that's remarkably okay).

And then it ends.

And I realise the hankie is so not okay.

The hankie is wrong. And it wasn't just the hankie. Turns out the hankie wasn't big enough. There was a migration to a TEA TOWEL.

The day he blew his nose into a tea towel (thankfully his) marked the end of time.

And time to review the checklist. A little bit more attention to detail is required on the non negotiables. Some caveats needs to be added.

We've got to have fun. Be friends. We've got to laugh. A propensity to drink fine wine - especially on a winesday is essential.

Someone who respects me. Someone who has my back.

A gentleman.

And right there at the top of the list.......someone who doesn't have a hankie.

I have a new checklist.

Or maybe. I simply throw the checklist away.

I just count my blessings for the fantabulous life I have. For the fact I have never and will never wash a hankie.

For the beautiful small things I have. (who also are not allowed hankies...or sleeves)
For the fab times we have.
For the real friends where we laugh until the tears drip down my cheeks.
For the family who are just always there.

The checklist is out of the window.

Today is about the here and now.

And no hankies. Definitely no hankies. They are wrong.*

*apologies to anyone that uses a hankie
** the above is a lie. Stop using them. They're wrong.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Respect your elders...or something

Old bints vs the rise of the pram army.

Who would win?

It's a tough one...

I was always brought up to respect your elders and try and instil the same sage advice into my small things.

I ensure they hold doors open for the older generation and when the nine year careers into one of them there old people from a different time, I ensure he apologises for his high jinks and understands that his running around is only upsetting the old one because he can't run that fast anymore.

And so to this morning - the gym. Post spin class. An empty changing room. An early morning. A quick shower before running (well after a coffee obviously) to a meeting. 

On my return from the shower resplendent in a leopard skin beach towel, the area where I had placed my lone bag was surrounded by the older generation (and cupcakes) who had just appeared from their aqua aerobics bounce session.

Busy discussing their class (as we all do) and the cupcake recipe for Doreen's birthday (as we all do) not one of them moved to the side so I could even get to my bag to retrieve my office uniform. I'm not sure the leopard skin beach towel is appropriate meeting wear - even in today's modern casual climes.

Respecting my elders (as I always do) I smiled (through gritted teeth) and politely asked if I could retrieve my gym bag from the midst of the cauldron. I was ignored. Completely and utterly dripping wet and invisible.

Once again I politely and a wee bit louder (taking into account the possibility that hearing aids may have become water logged during said aqua class) asked if they could move. 

Finally one of the 'ladies' moved to the side so I could squeeze into a small gap WHERE MY BAG WAS FIRST and retrieved said bag.  I even said Thank you. I then managed to get changed having moved all my gym schiz to a different area. 

So I was minding my manners, I was respecting my elders, but where was their respect for me. They could while away the day eating cupcakes with Doreen but not one of them had the good grace to move aside so I could also get changed. Or even for that matter move aside so I could get my blinkin' bag.

And then there was the mirror fiasco. Doreen's precious cupcakes had been placed on the ONE free dressing area where one dries one's hair (something else I deem relatively important when attending a client meeting). I painstakingly picked my way once again through the Gaggle of Grannies to find the hairdryer and the cupcakes to place my make-up bag between my knees so that the cupcakes could retain pride of place. I even apologised for having to use said hairdryer in the vicinity of the cupcakes.

As I managed to dry my hair (a bit) and splodge on some mascara, I seethed. Surely respect is a two way street. Surely regardless of generation, rudeness is not acceptable. 

Next time, I shall adhere to the stereotype - and simply swipe the seniors to one side while I get on with my day.

Which brings me neatly to the other end of the generation scale - the playground Pram Army. Of course I was never part of such a movement. Mainly because I have always been rushing in and out of the playground as I have never been on time.

Walking down Dog Poo Alley - the entrance to the school drop off point - is an impossible task. I challenge the Ninja Warriors to try that as a test of strength, endurance and free running in training for the TV show. Avoiding small two year olds on scooters whilst mums chat on maternity leave and abandoned prams and wailing babies clog up access to Dog Poo Alley is enough to ensure the day is started with nerves on edge. 

This morning the Pram Army was growing its masses - I negotiated three small children on scooters, four abandoned prams and several hoardes of maternity leave mums before it was safe to walk at a normal pace all the way home...

It's a blinkin' good job I was in my gym gear ready for my spin class and the Gaggle of Grannies.

I can't help but wonder which is the most fearful force of nature. The Gaggle of Grannies or the Pram Army. Who would win? 

Maybe that's the next winning TV show - stuff the Ninja Warriors - instead let's watch the Gaggle of Grannies negotiate the Pram Army on a school run and then watch the Pram Army muscle their way through the Gaggle of Grannies.

Who would win?

Friday, 1 May 2015

An easy bank holiday weekend beckons

Let the bank holiday chaos commence

It's just dawned on me, it's the actual bank holiday weekend. A weekend greeted by the most of the population as three days off, three days of pure pleasure.

Not two days, not a normal weekend BUT THREE...THREE days, three whole days of no work...

And then it dawned on me...this weekend has got chaos written all over it.

Chaos that commenced yesterday.

Yesterday the stupid D.O.G went under the knife in a dramatic operation...when I say dramatic she was having her bits removed..some may see that as routine. In my house with two small things who worry about the dog's every movement, it was dramatic.

Dropping her off at the vets on Thursday morning was nothing short of a traumatic separation. 

Separation anxiety that mainly oozed from every dog paw (see what I did there?)

As myself and the 9 year old left her standing forlorn in the vet's surgery, as she watched me with sad eyes pass the lead over to a stranger and leave her alone to face the knife, as she cried and whined as we left the vets, as the 9 year old blinked back the tears, I knew the return of the D.O.G was going to be a family trauma.

So as every good dog owner does, I rang (from my meeting, professional as ever) to check if said dog had died on the table. Luckily said dog had survived and was ready for pick up at 4.30pm - the same time I was due to pick the 9 year old up from cross country and 20 minutes before the hired hot tub was due to arrive for the 13 year old's birthday party...yep hot tub.

So like every self respecting working mum, I threw 12 balls up into the air and hoped to catch at least one nine (year old). 

Amazingly it all worked with precision timing. 

Not only did I remember to text the 13 year old (again from said meeting) to tell her I wouldn't be in when she got home from school (I may have forgotten that small detail in the morning chaos of the dramatic dog drop off), I left my meeting on time with some semblance of professional integrity, I got to school with 22 seconds to spare before cross country ended, dropped friend of 9 year old at home (again may have forgotten that I had promised to drop said friend off, but luckily the small things remembered), arrived home to greet 13 year old (who was of course slumped on couch with instagram a go go) met hot tub delivery man, left hot tub delivery man  in my garden to set up said hot tub to pick up very sad, sorry for herself conehead and returned home.

Donning my veterinary nurses attire, I settled conehead with the small things and went to check on the hot tub delivery.

And all this before 5.12pm.

In the amount of time that it had taken to pick up conehead and listen to very specific instructions on how to care for dog patient (including not letting the jumpiest dog in the world, not jump for TEN DAYS), the back garden had been transformed into a chavtastic homage to 13 year old birthday party heaven.

A hot tub, a giant connect 4, a marquee, a floating bar for the hot tub - and some more very specific instructions on how to ensure the hot tub keeps working for the entire weekend.

In the space of 20 minutes (whilst still wearing meeting attire) I had received two sets of very important instructions to ensure this weekend goes safely and without dog death whilst dealing with two hysterical small things who cannot cope with conehead's sadness.

The instructions have since merged and in my head go something like this:

  • there is a button I must not press on the hot tub as it could blow the entire street up (no idea which button)
  • there is a button I must not turn off otherwise said hot tub will mainly be a cold tub
  • there will be bubbles if I can find the bubbles button
  • in the event of high winds and the marquee blows away, it's my fault
  • the dog must not go in hot tub - or just must not jump. If conehead jumps and burst stitches, the cost to restitch is £400
  • Conehead must wear cone at all times especially when not swimming and not jumping in hot tub
  • Children must not be drunk in hot tub
  • No jumping in hot tub from bedroom window
  • Conehead must not jump from bedroom window
  • Something about filters and chemicals
  • Dog must eat - something about medicine and eating - or was that chemicals and eating

Anyway, there's some instructions in order to maintain safety this weekend. 

So finally last night, I remembered to feed the small things, the small things remembered to feed conehead with some medicine and I forgot to go for a run - but luckily running partner came round with much needed wine.

And so the start of the much awaited long weekend beckons - and I have still to buy appropriate 13 year old schiz to accessorise said party (this shopping list really mainly involves wine for me so I can cope with eight 13 year olds in my back garden shrieking OMG and LOLZ).

I'm sure it will all go to plan.  I'm sure the dog will be fine - and I'm sure the hot tub will be hot at the appointed hour - possibly.

Anyway - thank crunchie it's a long weekend and I can recover .... with conehead, a birthday party for eight 13 year olds, a hot tub in my garden and a family barbecue.

Pass me the wine.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Time flies...when you're a grown up

Time flies...when you're a grown up.

Seriously, how is it April? 

Not just the beginning of April - but the middle of April. 

We seem to have moved through this year faster than Matthew Mcconaughey can zip through time in that ridiculous syfy adventure InterStellar (now that was two hours of my life I will never get back although watching Matthew Mccwhatshisface is always a pleasure, maybe though next time on mute).

Pop on your rose-tinted glasses for a moment and cast your mind the good old days. 

Do you remember those halcyon days when you were growing up when the school holidays lasted forever, day after day of time to kill, to watch paint dry, to ponder whether you should get on your grifter or play another game of squash the red spider.

Now, it's just one giant blur, one day careering into the next at warp speed. One minute it's Christmas and then I blink and all of a sudden the May blossom is greeting me with a high five to hayfever. 

And then this morning the epiphany.

I realised. It's cos I is old. I'm a's happened. Peter Pan has flown the nest and the future is here, or was here, it's now hurtling into yesterday and we're hightailing it towards tomorrow - or something..but whatever it is, it's going blinkin fast.

Make. It. Stop.

There's not enough instgram pics to post to remember the moments as time swirls by - as my babies turn from small toddling towers of destruction into well ... bigger towers of destruction if my garden is anything to go by...

I want to get off.

I want to slow time. Apart from the fact I am not yet prepared to admit I am (ahem) forty-something (in my head I will always be 33 years old), I want to slow time to appreciate every single second of this chaos.

I want to be able to while away the days with my small things (wine in hand obviously) and I want to idly mooch from day to day.

But here's the conundrum - when I have a moochy day, I feel like I have wasted it. I feel like I have wasted time.

When on Sunday I lay on the couch and drooled, I mean watched, Matthew Mcwhatshisface space jump through time, I feel like I have wasted a day.

The day before we had climbed Catbells in the Lakes, the day before that we had walked round Ingleton Falls, the day before I'd worked, the day before something else had happened. I was craving a day of nothingness - and then when it happened, it didn't feel right. It didn't feel right just whiling away time.

It seems when we 'do' time moves ever so fast, but when we 'don't' we wish we were doing...

Does time get faster as we get older, does time spin out of control as we realise how precious it is - does it become something that feels just that little bit out of reach because we are constantly trying to catch up.

Do we avoid slowing down, because if we do then we have to accept our acceleration into our middle youth*?

Of course, I have none of the answers to this conundrum, I have searched for the crack in time so I can sneak back and forth to remind my younger self to cherish that moment in time..but I can't find it.

I do have wine though - and in the absence of time travel, I shall pour myself a small glass** of wine and stop - stop just for a moment - stop and look around and watch the clouds cruise lazily cross the sky.

Now where's my grifter?

*old age

** vase