Tuesday, 25 September 2012

School lunches - another new phase

This week entailed a whole new phase – Ellie started having lunch at school.
I’m aware that it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I realised that it represented yet another step in my journey of food with Ellie. I refer to our journey of food as the one that started with baby Ellie needing milk and to my surprise this week realised it continues even now! If you’re interested in that earlier part of the journey I’ve put a cheeky extract from my forthcoming book on the page titled: the journey of food (use the link at the top of this page).

To clarify by ‘school lunch' I specifically mean eating a packed lunch that I made, with lots of other children all being noisy and in a relatively short timescale. The latter is important because by Ellie’s own admission she does eat quite slowly. (She has on several occasions suggested that maybe her sticker chart should include a reward for eating fast – if and when she can!)

Anyway, even Ellie seemed to sense the important change...appearing a little nervous about the whole thing and asking lots of questions:

·        Will I have to sit next to boys mummy? (No Ellie, I shouldn’t think so)
·        How long will I have to eat mummy? (A little while but you can just leave what you don’t eat)
·        Can I sit next to my friends? (I don’t know Ellie, but I’m sure it’ll be fine)

For a few days after that initial conversation I didn’t really mention it, but did periodically give her something to eat and say ‘if you like that I can put it in your lunch box for school’. This was met with approval and I was given clear instructions about what could and could not go in.

Eventually, last Sunday evening (the night before school lunches started) I was getting her lunch box ready and decided to test the water. ‘Ellie, can you come and check you can open these little bags please’. Ellie duly wandered in and asked what bags I meant – so I showed her the little Baco Rainbow Sandwich Bags I’d bought to put her different lunch bits in. Huge thanks to my friend who told me about them because they’ve gone down a treat:

 Baco Rainbow Bags 20 Snack Bags

Ellie quickly set about opening the little bags, very much as though she thought it was a test. She proudly grinned ‘yes I can do it’ as she opened all three bags I placed before her. Seizing the moment I handed her the water bottle and asked her if she could open that too. This time my eyes were met by a face that was very clearly telling me I was being ridiculous, ‘yes mummy’ were the only words muttered. I figured I’d pushed my luck enough at this stage and popped everything away.

Monday morning arrived and I finished what I’d started by adding the final elements to Ellie’s lunch box. Her lunch consisted of:

Apple (chopped up) with a bit of lemon on it to stop it going brown
2 wholegrain breakfast biscuits
1 slice of bread, made into two strawberry jam sandwiches
A supermarket’s own brand cereal bar
A small packet of cheesy bits

I was very proud of my creation and when an excited Ellie grabbed the lunch box and swung it around I had to bite my tongue not to remind her how much effort it had taken to make it. Instead I opted to say ‘be careful’ and reminded her that she didn’t have to eat it all, but was just to bring back anything she didn’t eat.

The verdict….Ellie’s summary after her first school lunch was something like this: ‘it was good, I didn’t sit next to boys’. After some reassurance from Ellie’s childminder that she ate pretty well and had finished some bits off after school, I managed to refrain from questioning too much until we got home and I could peep in the box. My verdict – not bad. One biscuit and some apple left. The apple apparently ‘tasted funny’ so I guess my lemon trick was a fail.

All in all though I think it went pretty well and Ellie seemed to agree.

As always, please do get in touch either via comments below or via twitter. If you want to follow my more regular updates (although limited to 140 characters!) then please follow me on twitter. www.twitter.co.uk/sharonmsmyth. It would be great to link up.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Delights and dilemmas

This week has been a great example of how I feel about parenting in general. It’s just my personal opinion but it seems to me that parenting (whatever age your child is) involves a generous helping of delights and well … dilemmas. Ellie is only four, so I’ve a long way to go, but four years in there’s no doubt that I’ve had a good mix of the two.

So here is my summary of the last week or so, in the form of my delights and dilemmas of the week. I’ve stuck to just three of each and as always, it’s written with a great deal of honesty and a pinch of humour so I hope you enjoy.

This week’s top three delights…

Number 1: Sneaky kisses
I just love it when I get kisses from Ellie especially since I know it won’t be long until she won’t want to kiss her mum so freely. Kisses at bedtime are a particular favourite, but my most favourite kiss of all is the sneaky one I steal when I go to check on her before I got to bed and she is fast asleep. It’s not that long ago that I would have been paranoid about disturbing her but now this is literally part of my bedtime routine (um maybe I’m a bit old for a routine but there it is).

Number two: Giggling
My daughter is funny, whether she knows it or not. Sometimes she’s trying to be funny and possibly more often than not, she says something funny in absolute innocence. There are also those times when she’s being stroppy or cheeky and I just can’t stop myself feeling amused. The latter, I’m aware, are often the situations where I’m supposed to stay very serious but just occasionally I do find the sight of Ellie telling me she’s cross with me, or growling loudly, too funny to ignore. (I should add that my reaction isn’t always so easy going!)

One of my top magic moments this week was when Ellie and I had a giggling fit in the car on the way to visit my sister and her family. We were counting Morrison’s Lorries (there were more than you’d think!) when I said to Ellie that I thought they were busy little bees. Ellie’s reply was to say in a very squeaky voice ‘very busy bees making honey’. Now I realise as I write this down it doesn’t seem nearly as funny, but for whatever reason it was a perfect moment in time and both Ellie and I burst out laughing and couldn’t stop. Laughing like that with my daughter is definitely a delight which I will always treasure.

My second must share giggle this week is the following conversation as we watched Ben and Holly before we left the house one morning:

Me: We've seen this one before
Ellie: No we haven't
Me: I have
Ellie: Do u watch this when I’m not here then?
Me: No!
Ellie: You haven't seen it then.

Number three: Taking a day off work to go to a spa with a friend
Yes it’s true, I really did have a day off work (leaving Ellie at school and with the childminder) to go to a spa day with a close friend. Relaxing, gossiping and laughing for a day. It’s what you call ‘me time’ and I refuse to feel guilty. A happy, relaxed mummy makes for a much better mummy, so my spa day was therefore just as much for Ellie’s benefit as mine!

And so we move on to this week’s dilemmas:

Number one: How do I get clothes labels to stay on?
For anyone who read my last blog you’ll recall my moment of triumph as I finished ironing on all of Ellie’s school labels. Well after just one wash later, several of them have already fallen off. Humph.

Number two: How much leeway do I give to an exhausted, grumpy little girl…..aka….how much patience have I got?
I remember everyone telling me that Ellie would be exhausted when she started school and if I’m really honest I thought they were being just a little bit silly. I mean Ellie has been in full time nursery for more than 2 years now!

‘Crunch crunch’ – that I have to confess is the sound of me eating my words. Ellie has been totally exhausted. She’s managed to hold it together for school and for the child minder but with me she is considerably less inclined.

After her first week at school (just four half days) the weekend was nothing less than an ordeal. Ellie constantly told me she was tired but wouldn’t rest and instead everything became an argument and a trauma. Sharing toys with her Cousin was apparently an unreasonable thing to be asked to do, listening to mummy was an impossible this to do and for most of the weekend Ellie was ‘mad with you mummy’.

Feeling annoyed with Ellie isn’t my plan for our weekends together, so the idea of an entire weekend with a grumpy little girl was quite honestly depressing. Thanks to an ever patient sister and a boyfriend who sees the funny side, we did have fun and I even managed to remember to act like a grown up for most of the weekend. There can be no doubt however that inside I was constantly debating how much leeway I should give a tired little girl and how much patience I could muster.

Number three: Does it matter that I have no idea what Ellie has done at school?
Put simply it’s just weird to have no clue what Ellie has done when she’s been to school. Ellie (and from what I’ve gathered many other children) either ‘can’t remember’ or has done ‘nothing’. Now I’m quite sure that she doesn’t do nothing all day but I have no idea what she does do.

When she was at nursery the staff would always give me a low down on what she’d been doing – it wasn’t always in a huge amount of depth but nonetheless it was something. Now she’s at school she’s my source of this information and quite frankly at this point in time she’s a poor source! When I have pushed with a few questions I’ve gathered some interesting facts about the snack they’ve had – she sat on the floor, she ate cheerios (but not the chocolate ones mummy)!

I know that the advice is not to push them and I get it – but resisting the urge to sit her on the stairs when we get home and interrogate her takes a huge amount of self control.

So there it is, I’d love to know what you think of the blog and it would be great to hear about other people’s delights and dilemmas. Please do get in touch either via comments below or via twitter. If you want to follow my more regular updates (although limited to 140 characters!) then please follow me on twitter. www.twitter.com/sharonmsmyth

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Starting school….a working mum’s crisis?!

So here it is, my first ever blog and to be honest, the topic chose itself….Ellie has started school and I am already wondering quite how I’m going to balance everything.
I remember the moment just few days ago when I’d finally finished sticking and ironing on name labels for Ellie's school clothes, shoes and bags – I felt pure relief that the final thing on the preparing for school checklist was done. In the end this final task was actually fairly simple….ok so the first label is more melted on than ironed on, but it's hardly noticeable. It does of course remain to be seen if the labels stay on and if they prevent things getting lost. I've heard several times now that Ellie is unlikely to still have all of her things by the end of the first term and quite likely to have other children's things. This mysterious phenomenon apparently includes bags and shoes - oh joy!
Anyway, there’s no denying the fact that once the relief passed I felt a mixture of excitement about Ellie starting school, shock that she really is school age now and if I'm honest…. terror at the growing feeling that balancing working full time with being mum to a schoolchild is going to be harder (yes harder!) than it's been as mum to a pre-schooler. 

The tone was set when I went for the new parents welcome evening at the school and it quickly became clear that I needed to find a way, alongside working, to fit a home visit from the teacher and TA, visit to school with Ellie to try on uniform and three separate short school settling in sessions into a three week period at the start of the summer. All of this came with well under three weeks’ notice. (It's worth remembering that it's 9.00 to 3.15....you can't just pop in on your way to or from work.)

Next, I had a conversation with a teacher who explained they do occasionally do things 'off the cuff' so parents might get late notice of things going on. I did of course politely point out that there's every chance I won't be able to join 'the off the cuff brigade'. I was reassured that it was fine but somehow I didn't feel any better.

Then there is sharing morning, the weekly event where parents go into the classroom at the start of the school day and spend time looking at their child's work. Just to clarify - this happens once a week, every week. I've already roped the childminder and grandparents into this, but even so - I can't help but feel that I'm not there for my little girl because I won't be able to go every week or even every other week.

So here's the thing, I do want to be involved with Ellie's education, I do want to get to know the school, I'm lucky in that my work are really flexible, but there is no doubt that being a working mum to a school child feels like a whole new era of challenge.

As I finish this first blog entry it’s the end of Ellie’s third day at school (well half day, since she’s mornings only for the first month) and she’s fortunately settling in just fine. With a pinch of luck, a great child minder and the necessity of getting on with it, we seem to have come fairly unscathed through the first few days. I was able to take and collect Ellie on her first day but not since and when you hear other mum’s talking about collecting their child daily it is difficult not to feel a twinge of guilt. My saving grace is as always my gorgeous daughter who seems to think that the both the childminder and school are fun! Maybe, just maybe Ellie’s not nearly as bothered about my not being at the school gate as I am.

So there it is…my first ever attempt at a blog. I’d love to know what you think so please send me a message either on here or via twitter: www.twitter.com/sharonmsmyth