On Your Fifth Birthday

Jack, yesterday you were five! That's half a decade old! And although your rubbish mummy hasn't blogged in nearly 6 months (yikes) this is one post I felt determined to keep up with.

At five you are almost unrecognisable from the little boy you were this time last year. School has played a big part in that. You are so much more independent now. You skip off into school every day without a backwards glance. You happily go on play dates without me. You like to zip up your own coat and put on your own shoes without my help. It's all very impressive but come on kid, you're making me feel redundant here!

At five you are a huge fan of Marvel, dinosaurs, Star Wars, Horrid Henry (unfortunately) and Trolls - especially Guy Diamond because, I quote, 'He can shoot glitter out of his bum'. Despite me trying hard to avoid gender stereotypes it's become clear that you are a 'boys boy' through and through - weapons, fighting, worms and boobies are all among your top favourite topics of conversation.

You absolutely love to draw and write. Every night you'll night you'll sit and write love notes to the people you like best in the world - usually your teacher and best friend (the other Jack) but sometimes I'm still lucky enough to receive the odd bit of post too. I love the way your brain works and watching that look of concentration on your face as you try to figure something out. The other day you wrote a note to your friend Samuel and spelt his name SAMEEWUL. Which was, of course, completely wrong but it makes me so proud to see how hard you're trying and that even when you get it wrong, you're still kind of right.

You still have that same fiery temper. You can go from 0-craycray in about 2 seconds flat and sometimes it's pretty frightening to watch. But overall I'm confident that you know right from wrong and understand the fundamentals of being a good person...always remember the most important thing to be is kind.

This year you had your first proper birthday party complete with church hall, bouncy castle and entertainer - the infamous Disco Dean no less. It was chaos from start to finish and, I won't lie, I'm not in a rush to do it again. But only because I felt I was too preoccupied buttering bread, buying oversized Spiderman balloons and making cups of tea to fully enjoy your special day with you. Still, you absolutely loved it and that's all that matters.

Yesterday morning we had a conversation and I said I was feeling a bit emotional. You asked what that meant and I told you it meant I had a lot of feelings. 'A lot of feelings about me being five?' you asked. And you were right. Because every year you get a bit older, bigger and closer to going your own way in life I experience the same mixture of sadness and pride. I still occasionally catch glimpses of baby Jack - like when you're sucking your thumb or fiddling with my hair because you're tired - but there is no denying you're a big boy now and you're finding your own way in life.

Whatever you do, I'll always be so proud of you.

Happy birthday Jack. I love you.

Mummy xx

Lessons I've Learnt At School...So Far

As we approach the end of Jack's first half term at big school I thought it might be nice to reflect on everything we've learnt on the journey so far. I say we because although he's the one spending his days in a classroom, it's definitely been a big learning curve for me too. Here's what school has taught me so far.

You will cry. A lot.
On the first day it's kind of a given. But I was still getting emotional by the end of the week and beyond. Every morning as he lined up with his friends and blew air kisses to me as he walked inside, I felt like I was in some emotional goodbye scene in Dawson's Creek. I just about regained composure in time for the first sharing assembly (turns out they share awards, not germs) and he got an award which set me off again. I even got weepy when he wrote 'goat' for the first time. GOAT, FFS! I swear I was never this much of a wuss before school.

Goat! He wrote goat!

Uniforms will be destroyed in days if not hours
Despite practically owning shares in Vanish at this point, most of Jack's light blue polo shirts are already stained with bean juice, paint and other unidentified filth. He managed to decimate a pair of brand new, mid range school shoes within the first week. If scuffing and staining were recognised topics in the curriculum, he would be top of the class.

Jolly phonics is life
The jolly phonics song is one of those things that I can see myself gradually beginning to despise. But for now it's pretty catchy. Don't be suprised if you find yourself absentmindedly singing 'I am clicking castanets...c...c...c' while jiggling your junk every now and then.

Cursive handwriting causes all of the drama

Who knew flicky M's could cause so much controversy? The school's policy to teach joined up handwriting in foundation year seems to have prompted mass uproar from parents. Is it an S? Is it a J? Who knows. But cursive handwriting is talk of the playground and everyone has an opinion.

What even is this?!

You will know nothing
Most of our after school conversations go like this:
'So what did you do today, Jack?'
'Who did you play with?'
'Don't know.'
'OK, what did you have for dinner?'
'Salad and gravy.'
'Is that true?'

The tiredness is real

The new, demanding routine is tiring and will invariably lead to all sorts of crazy behaviour. Faceplanting grass verges on the walk home is not uncommon these days and my heart goes out to the lollipop lady who's expected direct a bunch of overtired, hysterical children among traffic safely. This post school outfit (which he chose himself) pretty much sums up his after school mindset.


You will experience pride like never before
It's not just about the awards and the parents evening reports, although it is lovely when someone else recognises and rewards the qualities you've worked so hard to instill in your child - especially important things like kindness and good manners. But for me it's more about the development. Seeing spider scrawl morph into proper letters/numbers and marveling at how quickly his little brain is soaking up knowledge. Looking at him and thinking 'I made you and now you're a person in your own right, you don't even need me.' It's bittersweet but gosh, it makes you proud.

It's been fun so far, here's to next term!

Turning 30 vs Turning 20

Last weekend I turned 30.

I'll be honest, it wasn't a milestone I was particularly looking forward to purely because I knew it meant that I'd be leaving my twenties behind. My glorious, drunken, (partly) obligation-less twenties.

With that in mind I've been thinking about how I celebrated my 20th in comparison to how I celebrated last weekend. Unsurprisingly there have been some changes but I guess that just reflects the way my lifestyle, personality and priorities have changed over the past decade. Here are some of the ways that I found turning 30 different to turning 20 and what I've learnt from it all.

The birthday gifts

Turning 20: GHD's, Topshop vouchers, spending money for upcoming holiday to Magaluf, loads of alcohol. 

Turning 30: Light box, Yankee candle, money towards new curtains, the Unmumsy Mum's book, loads of alcohol. 

Moral: As you begin to build a home and raise children you'll find that soft furnishings and parenting manuals will replace the fun, selfish stuff you used to ask for. Except alcohol. There'll always be alcohol. 

The night out

Turning 20: University flat party and pre-drinks before hitting Nottingham city center. Necking pints of Old Rosie, stopping for a battered sausage interlude between bars and probably ending the night flinging yourself around the sticky dancefloor of Rock City to the sweet sounds of Fall Out Boy. 

Turning 30: A civilised meal in the small, market town of Brigg. Afterwards you'll head for a drink in Wetherspoons where one of your party orders a pot of tea. You'll discuss the pub's refurb, talk about your child a lot and, despite your best intentions of 'going dancing' afterwards, somehow end up at home in your new Matalan slippers before midnight. 

Moral: Your nights out will become tamer - fact of life. But that doesn't mean there has to be any less laughter. 

The guest list

Turning 20: Anyone in your halls who got wind that there's a party going down. Drinking games with the visiting friends of the spotty boy from the flat above whose name you can't remember are always fun. Oh, any whoever else you had the foresight to invite via the medium of Myspace. 

Turning 30: Despite setting up a Whatsapp group 3 months in advance, your annual birthday outing yields a grand total of 9 friends. There would have been more but one couldn't get a babysitter and another has just given birth.  

Moral: Your social circle will shrink but the friends that are still around on your 30th birthday are likely to be friends for life. Quality over quantity every time. 

The outfit

Turning 20: Something loosely styled on Kate Nash/Mischa Barton in The OC. Probably too short and likely to have the tag still in it so it can be returned the following day. Fo shame. 

Turning 30: A nice, knee length floral dress. Long sleeves and black tights because it's October and getting chilly. Bought weeks in advance to avoid any last minute meltdowns about having nothing to wear. You learnt that lesson years ago. 

Moral: You'll discover your own style (or lack thereof) as you get older but - regardless of what you're wearing - you'll feel more comfortable in your own skin.  

The hangover

Turning 20: Despite drinking several liters of budget cider and 47 shots of Dooleys toffee liqueur your hangover is nothing that can't be cured by a breakfast at Scream. Round two anyone? 

Turning 30: How is it possible to get alcohol poisoning from 3 glasses of wine? I will NEVER drink again. 

Moral: It's a cruel fact that getting older somehow impairs your ability to metabolise alcohol. And if that isn't off putting enough then the special hell of dealing with children while hungover will persuade you to drink sensibly...most of the time. 

To summarise...a lot of things have changed in the last decade and I'd like to say that now I'm 30 I'm much wiser and know exactly where my life is going. But not only is that cliche, it would also be a big fat lie. I've realised that getting older doesn't necessarily mean having the answers for everything, it just means that you have more experience under your belt to help you figure out the next set of challenges life throws your way. I look back at some of the things I did during my twenties and cringe so I guess I have learnt something. In other aspects I'm still as clueless as ever.

What I do know is that I've been blessed to get this far and have what (and who) I have in my life. Turning 30 felt like the end of an era and in a way it was. But now I'm excited to see what the next one has in store.

So come at me thirties, I'm ready for you.

30 and still a massive twat

#RoaldDahlDay and the Importance of Reading

Today is Roald Dahl Day - 100 years since the birth of the man himself - and so I thought a reading related post might be in order.

Anyone who knows me will know that I am a huge bookworm. I studied English at uni, I read whenever I get chance and I also write book reviews for Judging Covers - a collaborative book review blog. But there is something about re-reading all of my childhood favourites with Jack that is really special. Books, like songs or smells, have a way of taking you back to a certain place in time. For me, Charlotte's Web and The Silver Sword still conjure up images of sitting cross legged on my own classroom carpets and listening intently to how the stories would unfold.

Roald Dahl was always my favourite though. Those books were often devoured in the armchair of my childhood living room or under the duvet long after I should have been asleep. I remember receiving a compilation book that included Matilda, The BFG and George's Marvellous Medicine for Christmas one year. I read it so many times that the spine eventually broke!

I've always hoped that Jack would follow in my bookish footsteps. Ever since we established the bath/bottle/bed routine he has always had a bedtime story. When he was tiny it was just another element in his bedtime routine but as he's grown it's been lovely to see him beginning to engage with the stories, picking favourites and, most nights, conning us into reading 'just one more.' We go to the library regularly where he loves to choose his own books and now he's at school he brings new ones home daily for us to look at together.

I'm no expert but research seems to suggest that reading with kids doesn't just improve language, communication and academic skills but it also helps to reinforce a strong bond between parents and their children. That in itself is a good enough reason for me to keep reading with Jack but in a world where kids often opt for TV, video games or tablets over books, I also think it's really important that children are encouraged to use their imagination and concentration to actually enjoy reading. It really is one of the best ways to have fun...in my opinion anyway!

But back to #RoaldDahlDay. Jack is still a little too young to appreciate the works of this legend but in keeping with the theme of the day I thought I'd have a bit of a trip down memory lane by writing about some of my own personal favourites. It's been hard to whittle it down to five but here they are:

1. Matilda (1988)
Matilda was always one of my all time favourite Roald Dahl characters. She was so brave and determined but also sweet and kind despite basically being abused by all of the authority figures in her life! Her love of books rivalled my own and one of my favourite Roald Dahl quotes ever comes from this book.

2. The Witches (1983)
Has there ever been a more terrifying villain than The Grand High Witch?! Although the premise of children-hating witches secretly living among us and trying to eradicate all children from the face of the earth is kind of sinister, this is still one of my favourite books. I was always transfixed by the idea of the little girl who was put into the oil painting where she moved, grew and eventually died!

3. James and the Giant Peach (1961)
Orphans seem to feature heavily in Roald Dahl books. After James's parents are eaten by a rhinoceros, he is sent to live with his evil aunts Spiker and Sponge. But all is not lost...he embarks on an adventure all the way to America with a giant peach as his mode of transport. I think I also liked this book so much because of the way that the insects become his new family (especially ladybird, she was lovely).

4. The Twits (1980)
What a pair of shits these two were! Horrible Mr and Mrs Twit were gross and mean but so funny with it. Although this is one of the sillier stories (and that's saying something) it does contain a powerful message about true beauty coming from within.

5. The Swan (1977)
This is a short story which was originally part of a collection of stories called The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. These stories were aimed at an older audience and were a lot darker than his other books. The Swan is a particularly harrowing tale about a boy who is bullied and subjected to some horrible abuse from two other kids. Not sure if it's a favourite as such but definitely one that's always stayed with me.

Happy Roald Dahl day! What are your favourite books?

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