Saturday, 1 March 2014
The thought of another week of enforced fun with mummy was too much for Ieuan
Oh God. At the end of another half term week featuring the wonderful British weather, a husband on another continent and the mind dissolving cacophony of happy, clappy, marginally hypnotic lunacy that calls itself CBeebies with songs about various bits of the body and a disproportionate number of programmes geared to the deaf (are they taking the *** or what? I'm still not putting my hearing aid in), we've reached Saturday night and I'm afraid my event organising this week has been less than A* or whatever the highest echelon of achievement granted by the local Education Board currently is.
So NO. I have not done any of the following: - visited a castle, farm, theme park, stately home, funfair or any establishment featuring balls in nets. I have not done anything 'crafty' with lolly sticks, egg shells, daffodils or moss. I have not created an obstacle course with zip wire in the garden. We have not dressed up in inflatable sumo suits and beaten each other senseless with inflatable batons.
Each day the Facebook statuses of desperate parents during half term have radiated the atheletic effort of the Sochi Olympic teams without the snow. There have been pictures of visits to all of the above establishments with parents dressed to cope with sub zero temperatures brandishing Moshi Monster lunch boxes whilst trying to chisel frozen Fruit Shoots out of their offspring's hands. Cliffs have been scaled. Hang gliders assembled. Ponies have been yanked unceremoniously from warm stables to 'hack' a mile or so on busy roads whilst their riders model more high visibility gear than a local authority day out.
Cakes have been baked and Welsh cakes have been griddled. I'm amazed we haven't seen pictures of junior brandishing a blow torch putting the finishing touches to a creme brulee.
All of this leaves me feeling rather useless, except that, to quote the Bard, when it comes to diarising parenting triumps on Facebook "methinks the lady doth protest too much". I do try to come up with exciting things to do but somehow plans never come to fruition. This week, (as is becoming a tradition), we were visited on Saturday by "Mr Puke and Mr Squit" and the ghastly pair of them have only just left.
Anyway, I must confess to a feeling of intense shame when, at swimming this week, the kids' lovely teacher, Sarah enquired whether the kids had been on holiday. "Oh yes", said Ieuan proudly, "we went to Morrisons".
Tuesday, 18 February 2014
Well, thank the Lord! After today's rather belated dental check-up I am happy to report that the kids have clean, healthy teeth. We are blessed with a very child friendly dental practice just around the corner so off we duly trotted after school.
The lady dentist allowed the kids to play with the chair's mechanics and even with the water gun. I don't remember being allowed to enjoy myself to that extent when I was their age. Both dutifully lay in the chair for their examination whilst grim articles from the learned tome, The Daily Mail, on the dangers of sugar laden drinks and snacks played through my mind.
The Media has made much, lately, of the dangers of sugar which seems to be the new enemy. I bought a copy of Sarah Wilson's much vaunted "I Quit Sugar" at the weekend and although she makes it seem easy, in reality the prospect of a sugar free life doesn't seem appealing - even when you know that current research shows sugar to be implicated in liver disease, diabetes, cancer and dementia (to name a few). It is also said to be a major factor in premature ageing (and I though that was having kids!). I'm not sure I can see myself blending pumpkins (a key ingredient in many of her recipes) or replacing biscuits with nuts.
Recently two of the companies in Rosemary Conley's Diet Empire went into administration which, I suppose, with hindsight isn't too much of a surprise. I have been a great advocate of Rosemary's Hip & Thigh diet, having lost 2 stone on it to shift the baby weight but recently the weight has been reappearing (well 7lbs but that's enough to depress me) and I suspect it's because some of the 'treats' and 'power snacks' you can choose are extremely high in sugar. Low Fat is now no longer being seen as the automatic diet of choice. I know that the 5:2 diet is popular but the idea of spending two days just eating 500 calories seems onerous and, when you have kids, rather impractical.
I have been tempted by the Weight Watchers Simple Start Diet but I wish you could find out more about it without having to sign up. The Weight Watchers products I have tried recently (wraps and soups) have been rather tasteless and their Jaffa rolls, although only 77 calories each, are really high in sugar.
I'm wondering if Rosemary wrongly attributed her weight loss to removal of high fat foods from her diet when it was actually reducing her sugar intake that did the trick? Very difficult to say.
Anyway I am redoubling my efforts to reduce the level of sugar in the kids' diets (did you know Frosties are 37% sugar and don't even think about Nesquik) and that of mine and the hubby. Eating good food is such a joyful experience - preserving that and reducing the sugar is going to be a challenge. It'll be worth it if we keep the weight off and stay filling free though.
What do you think? Are you reducing the sugar in your diet?
Monday, 17 February 2014
Watching Dame Helen Mirren's acceptance speech for her BAFTA Fellowship last night was memorable not only for the class and elegance Mirren always exudes but for her recognition of the importance of teachers in our lives and also, tacitly, the importance of our great works of literature. Mirren ended by quoting Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest.
"We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep" (The Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1)
There has been much rumbling over the years about whether Shakespeare should still be taught to our children. Worse still, there have been cartoon and other dumbed down versions in a misguided (in my view) attempt to interest children in the Bard's works.
Before I had my children, I used to work as a part time English tutor and one year the 'O' level text was probably my favourite Shakespeare play - "Macbeth". My pupil was a 15 year old boy whose predicted grade was 'D'. Upon querying what teaching methods were being used, my eyes were swiftly opened to the rather ramshackle and disinterested way I suspect literature may be being taught.
"Have you actually read the play" I asked. "No". "Does your teacher read the play out loud in class?" "No". "Does your teacher get you to read out loud in class?" "No".
When I was learning Shakespeare in school, everyone had a copy of the text and we read the entire play, line by line through the class. It's only when you read Shakespeare's (or indeed any other poet's) works out loud that you get a sense of the true meaning of the language and the implications behind the rhythms. It gives the teacher a chance to explain idioms and how the meanings of words and even the interpretation of the whole play can change over the centuries. Call me old fashioned (and I really don't care if you do), but I'm not sure the subtle nuances and beauty of our language are ever all that apparent either by re-writing Shakespeare in text speak, Cockney rhyming slang or "gangsta" rap. You get me?
I also hate modern reworkings of the play where the director has had a "vision" and decided to portray Henry II as Robocop and dress everyone up like extras from The Matrix. Yes the themes and meanings of Shakespeare's works are universal - that's why they stand the test of time, but when you are learning them, you have an opportunity to better understand the history and social mores of that period. For example, I always remember being taken aback by my lecturer's assertion that the central theme of "Romeo & Juliet" was not, for an Elizabethan audience that of "star crossed lovers" but instead of parental disobediance.
I really hope that, when Caitlin and Ieuan start to study English literature, the works of our greatest authors are requisite reading. We need to preserve these works, not least to help maintain the ever denuded English language as it seems to sink beneath text speak, business jargon and lazy spelling. I cringe at the number of tweets from businesses where the writer doesn't know the difference between "there are" and "they are", "you're" and "your". This is basic stuff, surely?
So I applaud Dame Helen for reminding us that the great actors and actresses of our time still owe a debt to one of our greatest writers, William Shakespeare.
And by the way, after re-enacting "Macbeth" (which is mighty tricky when there are only 2 of you - we spent lots of time laughing), and trying to explain how the play's themes are still relevant today, my pupil got an A.
Saturday, 15 February 2014
Caitlin, enjoying an afternoon of micro-managed playtime with her mother
It appears that I have accidentally joined the Fun Police. Every time the kids play lately I find myself like the harbinger of doom... on a bad day. "Don't touch that"; "Don't eat like that, you'll choke". "Don't put your fingers in that socket you'll blow yourself up" and on and on and on....Ieuan rather enjoys the idea of being blown up and is going through a phase of identifying (correctly as it happens) every "Danger of Death" sign on every generator / electrical gadget / lamp post with the Vale of Glamorgan. Since I did a mime of what it's like to be electrocuted (no personal experience so I might have exaggerated a bit), Ieuan loves to state that smoke will come out of his ears and his "todge" will fall off. I'm not sure I've succeeded in putting him off since the mime was based on the original film "The Taking of the Pelham 125" where the baddy dies by touching the electrified train line in the New York underground.
Every game carries with it the possibility of injury, whether physical or psychological. Every bike ride requires a paramedic on standby. I see danger and villainy in each and every corner of the Vale. Now I know that part of being a parent is really empowering your children to explore their physicality and learn about risk and boundaries through play and exploration but it's really difficult, isn't it, to stand back sometimes and let them go.
The latest bruise or scratch usually produces the sage pronouncement from the hubby - "you wait till we take the stabilisers off their bikes" as if this is akin to taking up sky diving or some other generally sponsored way of trying to meet your maker a bit earlier than planned.
Alright, I admit it - I'm am a little risk averse. And I'm going to have to get braver or I'm going to be duller than a wet weekend in, well anywhere in Britain at the moment. At least the kids are having swimming lessons now so walking by large puddles is less heart stopping (you can drown in just a few inches of water, you know).
Surfing (like the gear rather than the water), bungee jumping (prefer making one of those large bouncy balls out of rubber bands), skiing (once went down our local hill on a roasting tray during a snowy spell) and skydiving (you are joking, aren't you?) are not activities that grab me. Paintballing looks like it hurts and those "Go Ape" type adventure centres are my idea of hell. I do go swimming although when I take my glasses off it tends to be a while before I find the pool.
Ieuan, overwhelmed with glee at the prospect of an afternoon out with The Fun Police
I'm going to have to develop a 'fun persona'. Now who shall I base it on? Most of the Milkshake presenters are so jolly they set my teeth on edge. Justin is a 'lege' it's impossible to beat. Nope. I'll stick with my usual fun inspiration. Jo Brand.