What do you want to be?….

What do you want to be when you grow up?‘ is such a standard thing to ask children that I’m not sure we even really think about whether it’s a good question. But I’ve been pondering it a lot over the last couple of years, partly because I don’t really feel like I have ever really grown up and ‘become’ something. And I think this might actually be the case for many of us.

What do you want to be when you grow up?‘ implies that once you have grown up and become that something, if indeed you do, then that is it – you have arrived at your destination. It suggests that you are going to ‘be’ something that can be summed up in one simple, tidy response. I had never really heard anyone question the ‘what do you want to be…..’ question, until I read Michelle Obama’s Becoming. Right at the beginning she talks about just this thing; and I wanted to cheer. In fact, I might have cheered. What Michelle says, much better than I could, is:

“Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.”

Last weekend felt like an emotional rollercoaster. My eldest boy had two triumphs – he didn’t particularly think of them as triumphs but I have marked them down as such anyway. Firstly, he went to a birthday party at our local climbing centre which, with a slight fear of heights and, consequently, a fear of climbing, he had never wanted to try before; and secondly he went on a shelter building and sleepover adventure with the Cubs. He has done overnight things with Cubs and with school before but nevertheless, each one still feels like a milestone. I couldn’t have been prouder of him for the way he took the whole weekend in his stride. Meanwhile, his little brothers went to their last ever football training session as members of their youth development section, which also felt like a little milestone. They spent the remainder of the weekend running rings around me and on a mission to always find something better to do than actually listen to what I was saying. And just as I was starting to feel like I really absolutely couldn’t take any more, some beautiful flowers arrived from a beautiful friend. Just out of the blue.

See what I mean – emotional rollercoaster. Over the course of a few hours I lurched from proud-mummy to losing-the-plot-mummy to a grateful-friend-arranging-flowers-in-a-vase, thinking about how crazy it is that emotions can swing in so many different directions over the course of one morning. This is absolutely not what I imagined when people asked me what I wanted to ‘be’ when I was a grown up.

I am a mum and I have a job; but the job I have now is different from the job I had pre-children…..which was different from the job I had straight from university. I have no idea what I might be doing in 10 years time, and I don’t think I have ever had any of the jobs that I imagined I might have when I answered the ‘what do you want to be?‘ question as a child.

Some of us get married, some of us have a family; but these are not end-points in themselves – whatever our situation, we are all just attempting to work out how best to navigate our way through life, making various changes as we go. There might be career changes or career breaks. A childhood ambition might be fulfilled, only to find that it isn’t actually what we had hoped for after all. For parents, every new phase brings new challenges, which often require new approaches. From one day to the next I veer from being a wishing-I-was-better mum, to a feeling-on-top-of-things mum, to a happy-working-mum, to a wishing-I-wasn’t-always-rushing-around mum; and everything in between.

Life is a non stop ride of ups and downs, with highs, lows, swerves and sudden changes along the way.

My eldest boy is a pragmatic soul. I joke that he likes to crush his brothers’ dreams, but he is actually doing a pretty good job of preparing them for life. Whenever they talk about their footballing dreams he reminds them that they won’t get their pick of club, they’ll just have to go wherever will have them. He tells them that they’ll need to start out somewhere small and work up. Then when they reach their thirties they might need to seriously consider being sold to Luton, and finally Cambridge Utd. Yes, this example might be framed in a footballing context, but somehow he seems to understand that life rarely goes in a straight line and that the story doesn’t just end with becoming a footballer for whichever your dream team might be.

Implying that we will all just ‘be’ something when we grow up is misleading, and we know this. In reality, we are constantly re-evaluating, re-assessing; and working out what sort of parent/colleague/friend/person we want to be. Many things are out of our control, and even when we achieve whatever it is that we’ve been aiming for, that is just the start of a new chapter rather than an end-point in itself.

And that is what I was pondering as I arranged my flowers over my up and down rollercoaster of a weekend.

Twins with ice-creams

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Probably the only time I’ll ever write about football

Football is one of those things I can take or leave…..but if I’m honest I would probably rather leave. It’s not so much the game I don’t enjoy but just a lot of what tends to go with it – the pre-match drinking culture, how money-orientated it has become, and how expensive it is to go to a match…..or even to buy a football shirt. I do like the fact that my boys have chosen to support our local team (Watford), but beyond that I am usually happy to let it pass me by.

And so I didn’t expect to find myself heading towards Wembley to watch Watford vs Wolves in the FA Cup semi-final; but on Sunday 7th April that’s exactly what I was doing. And what’s more, I was really quite excited.

This hadn’t been a planned outing, more a last minute stroke of luck. Watford FC Community Trust offered free tickets to pupils from local schools, with accompanying adults only £10.00. And…..well, we couldn’t really not – my boys all support them, we can walk to the stadium; and when there’s a home game we can hear the crowds from our front door. As we set off for the match, in a sea of excited fans, it all felt very different to all the things I don’t usually like about football. In fact, it represented a lot of the things that I do like. From the moment we left home we saw familiar faces every few minutes – either people we knew or faces we recognised; and our stand was full of people like us – children and families, many of whom probably would not have been there if it hadn’t been for the unbelievable ticket offer.

And it was brilliant – there was proper excitement, drama and resilience out on that pitch. The fact that Watford won was, for us, an added bonus; but aside from that, the whole afternoon represented what football should really be about. The families who live nearby and can hear the cheers from the stadium, the children from the local schools, the residents who battle through the match-day traffic. Community and friendly faces.  Not something that only the most committed fans or corporate sponsors are able to attend, but something that brings communities together, that inspires little ones, that feels safe, accessible and welcoming.

Watford is merrily adorned in yellow and black in preparation for Saturday. There is bunting up in the town centre (and in our living room) and flags flying out of houses. My six year olds are beyond thrilled to be having a football themed day at school tomorrow. We won’t be at Wembley on Saturday and that’s fine; but I would love to see our local team win. For the community, for the children; and because anything that brings people together in a positive way (and really, anything that involves bunting) is something to get behind. So I’m grateful for this year’s FA Cup and for Watford’s brilliant run, because it’s given me a good, positive reminder of what football can be. 

Don’t tell, but….

I have a little mental tick-list of things I’d like to do before I turn 40. It’s not that long and there is nothing particularly ground-breaking on there – I won’t be skydiving, scaling mountains or signing up for a marathon. It’s really just a few things that I’ve wanted to do for a while, and I’m using the about-to-turn 40 thing in an attempt to spur myself on to do them. There’s cycling to work…..but to do that I need a bike; so there’s also purchasing a bike. There’s having a go on a climbing wall…..which really shouldn’t be too difficult when there’s a climbing wall at my work and they offer staff climbing once a week. But it does feel difficult if, like me, you’re a self-conscious sort of person who has always found it excruciatingly embarrassing to do any sort of physical exercise in front of work colleagues. There’s going to see Hamilton, which just requires me to be organised, find dates and book tickets.

Someone asked me how I was getting on with my list the other day…..namely, the cycling and the climbing. ‘Not that well’, was my answer. I still don’t have a bike, and I still haven’t attempted climbing – the rate things are going I imagine I’m going to have a super busy day the day before my birthday. BUT, I said, I am enjoying all sorts of things that aren’t on my list, such as Audible (highly recommended if you don’t already use it) and jigsaw puzzles. His reaction was the sort of reaction that I’d expected to get from people when I first started to enjoy a good puzzle – he looked at me like this was the strangest thing in the world for a non-octogenarian to spend their time doing. But that is actually the first time I’ve had a remotely surprised reaction. What I often get is people announcing, sometimes in a slightly embarrassed hushed tone, that they have also recently got into jigsaws, and, like me, have invested in a puzzle board AND, also like me, they love a charity shop jigsaw bargain. It seems that, if you’re around the 40 age bracket, looking forward to an evening with a glass of wine and a 1000 piece Great British Bake Off puzzle* just isn’t that unusual after all.

I once went to a work training session about mindfulness. I’ll be honest, I wanted to poke my own eyes out as the trainer told us how to mindfully enjoy doing the washing up, or mindfully sit in a traffic jam. ‘Mindfulness is not for me‘, I decided. But I’m discovering that doing a jigsaw is a version of mindfulness that does appeal. It focuses my mind, it stops me re-running all the various things that I wish I’d done better or differently; AND it stops me mindlessly scrolling through my phone. If I’m exhausted after a difficult evening or bedtime, it gives me something quiet and constructive to focus on. I was never particularly into jigsaws as a child but now I find them strangely addictive. ‘Just one more piece‘ I tell myself, an hour after I had planned to pack it away and head to bed. Just the other day I found myself rushing to the charity shops in search of a new one, having just finished the very satisfying ‘High Jinks bookshelves’ puzzle – featuring classic books such as The Jolliest Term on Record, Queen of the Dormitory, A Ripping Girl, and The Madcap of the School (all of which are now on my ‘must-read’ list).

So project ‘buy (and ride) a bike and have a go at climbing’ hasn’t yet got underway, but Project Puzzle, which was never supposed to be a project at all, well that is going brilliantly. Who’d have thought?

Bake Off puzzle

* I found it in a charity shop – £1.99! I know…..that was a happy day.

The importance of…..choosing the right mug

A cup of tea is so much more than a hot drink. It is comfort, warmth and reassurance……it is essentially a hug in a mug. And it takes on even more significance when you become a parent. Firstly, because it means you’ve had a moment to make it – you might have had to re-boil the kettle several times, but once it is made it signifies something you’ve done for yourself. Whether or not you will be able to a) find a few minutes to sit down and enjoy it or b) drink it while it’s hot is a whole other matter, but the promise of tea is there and sometimes that is enough to give you a boost.

Today is a proper cup of tea day. My boys have gone back to school and I am back at work tomorrow. I have jobs to do, errands to run and washing to fold, but there will also be tea in a favourite mug as I ponder on all the best and worst bits of the Easter hols (because parenting is nothing if not a constant self-appraisal).

I have a few favourite mugs and one favourite cup and saucer. Which I choose for my tea on any particular day is never an accident – it reflects something about either my mood, how much time I have, or the level of chaos in the house.

On the left here we have mug number 1 – this is the mug I’m using today. I’d probably call this mugs1one my go-to mug – it’s so pretty it just lifts my mood. It tends to be a mug for days that are likely to be a struggle – back to school after a holiday, Monday mornings, early starts, gloomy skies. Those sorts of days.

The mug on the right is my favourite mug for when I have time for a huge cup of tea. Getting this one out on a school day morning is a tad optimistic. It’s more likely to make its appearance on a weekend or bank holiday; or on a freezing cold, indoors sort of day when all you want is a never-ending cup of tea. It’s that sort of a mug. The ultimate comfort mug.

The mug on the left is my busy mug, which is probably why it tends to be the mug that I put down somewhere and then can’t find 10 minutes later, or the mug which is forgotten about and ends up in the microwavemugs2. This is the mug I’m usually using when I’m supervising homework, encouraging a boy to do his violin practice, or gulping a quick tea before taking boys to Beavers and Cubs. It’s my quick cuppa mug. And it makes me think of cake, even I’m not actually eating one. 

And on the right is my beautiful cup and saucer. You might think this would be the luxury option; the preferred choice for when I’ve got a bit of time to myself but actually, that doesn’t tend to be the case. In fact, I’d say almost the opposite is true – the cup and saucer usually makes an appearance when chaos is erupting in the house. When children are screaming/squabbling/refusing to get ready for school – that is when the cup and saucer comes out. It’s like a reminder that, amidst the noise and arguments, I am a civilised person and can afford to take a few seconds to block it all out and enjoy tea from a proper cup and saucer. It’s a treat to myself when I most need it.

So there we are – the go-to mug, the comfort mug, the busy mug and the what-is-going-on-in-this-house cup and saucer. Is it just me? I hope not.

 

Will of the people

Well, in these uncertain times boys, there is one thing we can be certain of….which is that you are growing up in a defining moment of history. The biggest crisis this country has faced since the Second World War, is what they say. Backstop, constitutional crisis, snap election, no confidence vote, Article 50, deal, no deal, People’s Vote – all of these have been part of the soundtrack of everyday life for almost three years. Nothing a surprise any longer. Donald Tusk, Michel Barnier, Jean-Claude Juncker – all names that we’re now used to hearing in every single news bulletin. 

Every so often, I write something which requires me to summon up a bit of bravery before I press publish. I wrote a pre-referendum post three years ago – you boys were 5 and 3; and I stand by everything I wrote back then. You are now 8 and 6; and I couldn’t let this crazy week pass without trying to explain to you boys where I stand and why.

You know who our Prime Minister is. You’ve seen plenty of pictures of her in The Week Junior, accompanied by headlines saying something along the lines of ‘Just what is the Prime Minister going to do now?‘ The main thing to know about Theresa May is that she likes to refer to us, to everyone in the country, as ‘the people’. Or ‘the British people’. There is no room for any range of opinions or, in fact, any nuance at all. We are ‘the British people’, we have spoken, and that is the end of it. Done. Mrs May is simply trying to do what the British people have asked her to do, all of the British people; so who knows what all the noise and disquiet is about.

And this is the problem. If we’re going to go ahead with this nonsense that’s one thing, but I am a British person too, and I’m really getting quite infuriated with the Prime Minister telling me what I want. Particularly when I have taken great pains over the last three years to explain why I want the exact opposite. It’s like shouting into a vacuum, but having ‘will of the people‘ repeated back to you no matter what you say.

Will of the people, will of the people, will of the people.’

I take exception to the fact that the Prime Minister doesn’t even appear to acknowledge the fact that the country is deeply divided, that ‘the British people‘ don’t all want the same thing. I take exception to being told that those who don’t agree shouldn’t have a voice. That we are anti-democratic if we don’t agree with the route currently being taken. I take exception to the fact that everybody who matters appears to be dodging the obvious fact, which is that the 2016 referendum was ill-thought out. Not only was the question completely inadequate, but there were no thresholds or conditions attached to it. No plans to revisit it again after two years. No planning for what ‘leave’ would actually mean. I mean, what a stupid, stupid irresponsible thing to do. The only way to begin to face up to the current crisis is by acknowledging that the 2016 referendum was completely reckless and irresponsible. It told us nothing. It was impossible for anyone to know what ‘Leave’ would mean because there were so many different versions of it being bandied around. We were told that Brexit would not necessarily mean leaving the single market. We were told that the Norway model could be a feasible option. We were told that making a deal with the EU would be easy.  Now we’re hearing complaints that Theresa May’s version of Leave is not the version that the British people voted for and so on, when all anyone actually voted for was a word which could have any number of different interpretations. An idea with no substance behind it. And this isn’t a criticism of those who voted for whichever version of leave they voted for, but a criticism of those who agreed that this referendum should take place with no conditions attached to it.

And now we are told that we must go ahead because it is the will of the people…..even if there is no other good reason to do it, it is ‘what people voted for’. Apparently the British people are bored and want it to be over (true), but going ahead means it will be nowhere near over. It has been clogging up parliament for three years and this is only the beginning (remember that 2 year transition period for starters), so we can forget getting our schools and hospitals sorted out.

And so here we are, boys, in this age of global business, of travel, diversity and multi-culturalism, creating barriers that previously weren’t there. Here we are putting £2bn aside as a contingency fund in case we don’t get a deal. Here we are making emergency plans for stockpiling medicines, for ensuring there is food on our supermarket shelves. Here we are watching companies relocate and jobs disappear; watching NHS workers and others leaving this country because they’ve had enough. Here we are souring relations with our nearest neighbours. Here we are, just accepting the fact that the civil service are pouring all their resources into trying to find a way through this mess. Here we are, watching as part of the M20 is turned into a lorry park. Here we are planning for problems and issues that weren’t previously problems or issues.

And we are just ploughing on because ‘the people have spoken.’ Because of a narrow victory on one particular day, three years ago.

The people have spoken.

Except there are a lot of us still speaking. Millions in fact, speaking very loudly. Just asking, politely, if we could maybe revisit this very very important question which will affect all of our lives for years to come.

We just need someone to listen.

boy-looking-out.jpg

 

Oh, and if you agree with the above, but haven’t yet signed the Revoke Article 50 petition then you can find it here. 1.5 million signatures so far and counting.

 

Happiness alphabet

I’ll apologise now for the fact that this year’s posts will probably revolve heavily around the turning-40 theme, but milestone birthdays are there to be analysed aren’t they.

So, this is me in 2019…..I have three school-aged boys and I’ll be 40 later this year.

40.

(I’m not sure why I have this thing that writing it twice and putting it in bold will help it to sink in.)

Anyway, I think this is one of those times in life when a few things start to happen.  Firstly, it’s clearly the time for a bit of introspection. For wondering how it is possible to have gone from the Sixth Form common room to here when I still spend a lot of my life feeling like I’m just playing at being an adult.  For thinking back to what I imagined 40 might look and feel like; and realising that being nearly 40, or actually adulthood in general, isn’t really what I imagined it would be at all. It feels like a good time to do a bit of thinking about who I am and what makes me happy, rather than worrying about who other people want/expect me to be…….which is what tends to consume us through our teens and twenties.

The other thing that happens when you’re a mum is that it becomes very easy to hide. You suddenly have these small people who provide the perfect distraction if ever you want to change the topic of conversation or pretend you haven’t heard a question. They are the perfect excuse for not going out if you don’t want to, for not going to work networking events, for not putting yourself forward for things. You are suddenly able to make yourself very small, and sometimes that’s quite appealing. And then before you know it, those children are a bit more self-sufficient and all those excuses you’ve been relying on aren’t really there anymore; but you’ve spent so long hiding behind them that you then need to spend some time reminding yourself who you are.

So this is the first of many attempts to address some of the above. It is my happiness alphabet – just what it says really. Things beginning with every letter of the alphabet (well, almost every letter) that make me happy. I haven’t explicitly included my family in here because it goes without saying that they make me happy (as well as frustrated, furious and exhausted – sometimes all on the same day), so these are some of the other things. It is easy to forget about the happy things when you’re caught up in the everyday chaos but thinking about this has been a good little project, particularly for the start of a new year, and one that I’d recommend if you’re also approaching a milestone or just want to spend a bit of time focusing on the positives.

So here we go…..

Autumn leaves and adventures (big and small) make for a nice easy start.

is a good one. Bobble hats and ballet (watching, I mean); a good book, a blue sky, baking and bunting. A bit of bunting can make everything feel brighter. boy with bobble

C is for strong coffee, chats, cake and custard.

D is for Danish Pastries, preferably in a beautiful….

European square, with an espresso.

Friends – the ones you can be properly yourself with. They are precious. And I do love a good frosty morning too.

Grubby little faces after a day outside.

H is for a good hearty dinner. I’m all about comfort food.

I is for Italy and all things Italian…..apart from their chaotic politics.

Jumpers. Cosy ones (I know, there’s a bit of a theme here isn’t there…..I’m a cold weather sort of person).

K is obviously for Kettle Chips…..how can they not make you happy? And unprompted acts of kindness.

Little legs running free. Oh – and libraries, which have saved many a rainy day for us. We love our libraries. mince pies

is for Mary Poppins and mince pies. Mince pies whilst watching Mary Poppins is a bonus.

N is for a good amble around a National Trust. Bobble hats on and little legs running in all that lovely……

Open space.

P is for a bit of poetry – something I have got into over the last couple of years. It brings me a nice sense of calm……reading it, not writing it obviously. And a cosy pub with a fire.

Q is for quiet. I know I will miss the noise when it’s gone but a cup of tea and a bit of quiet is precious.

Reading something special. AND reusable coffee cups – it’s a simple change but a positive one. Let’s all start carrying one around and ditch the disposables.

S is for staying in when it’s cold outside. Staying in with Strictly Come Dancing is what Saturday nights were made for.

T is being at the theatre. I have this crazy idea that I might work in one when I’m a proper grown-up…..which obviously I’m not yet. And also ticking things off my around-the-house to-do list – I’m just not very productive, so any small achievement at home makes me happy.

Unexpected, spontaneous fun is U.

V is for an almost-veggie diet. I’m not a fully fledged vegetarian but cutting down dramatically on the amount of meat that we, as a household, buy and eat is a positive change which I feel really happy about.

W is obviously a nice glass of wine.

X is just silly, I’m not going to waste time thinking about that one.

Y is for Yuletide. Now there’s an old-fashioned word we don’t use much anymore….in fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever used it before now. But I’m a sucker for Christmas, for the twinkly lights, the cosy evenings, the mince pies and the family traditions.

Z is for zzzzzzzzzzzzz. Which is cheating a bit, but seeing my boys tucked up and fast asleep in bed still makes me feel all warm inside.

And that’s it. Give it a go – it’s fun. The only downside is that I now can’t stop thinking about Kettle Chips and mince pies.

 

frosty morning

2018 was…..

I don’t like to wish time away (my mum always tells me not to); but even so I won’t be too sorry to say goodbye to 2018. It has been filled with challenging times and this, combined with continuing to juggle all the different balls that adult life requires us to juggle, has made it particularly draining. The fact that I have found my children more challenging than normal this year is, I’m sure, no coincidence – my temper has been short and my patience thin. All in all, I have found 2018 more than a little overwhelming.

BUT there have been adventures, memorable days and huge achievements; and I know that when I look back on this year I will remember the highlights as well as much as the challenges. Christmas has been the perfect tonic to a tricky year, particularly our Christmas evening drive around our local streets admiring the lights and listening to Elvis Presley (more on that in Twin 1’s section) which I know I’ll always remember.

I can’t possibly sum up a year in one post but I do like to have a go…..so this is my attempt at a snapshot of 2018.

About you:

2018 was the year that football attempted to take over our house – I have struggled with this just a bit. The constant football chat, the attempts to recreate matches with whatever you can find to kick around the house; and the chanting combine to make me want to go and hide in a dark corner. ‘We do not live in a football stadium‘ is one of my most frequently repeated phrases – I am starting to bore myself. As the year draws to a close I feel we are reaching a reasonably happy compromise….the understanding is that there is no football chat at the table and that we balance out our football fun with other activities and interests; of which there are many. Football aside, 2018 was also the year that you discovered a love for Italian pop music, or for one Italian singer in particular. In 10 years time, when wondering why you have an extensive collection of Italian pop music, you will probably ask me how and why this happened. Well, whilst rummaging around for something to listen to in the car one day, you happened to find a very old CD of mine from the year I spent in Italy. You then started to request it on every car journey, over and over – we listened to it so often that it was driving me mad and I decided to buy another just for a bit of variety. Since then, an Eros Ramazzotti CD has started to become a feature of most birthday presents in our house. I see it as our own little family stand against Brexit – while the nonsense continues outside of our car, we will continue to drive around in our own little bubble of European music.

Eldest boy – for Christmas you got a wonderful selection of books, a cosy jumper; and a pedometer which is, you declared very earnestly on Christmas day, one of the best presents you have ever received. You now record your steps every day in your journal. Your new interest this year is Mythology – you bought me Stephen Fry’s Mythos for my birthday in an attempt 20180715_103715to help me keep up. I have read it, but haven’t quite retained all the stories and names as you’d hoped I would.  Maps are still a favourite activity – studying them or drawing your own – as is writing song lyrics and inventing your own languages. With the help of a course over the Easter holidays, 2018 was the year in which you finally got the hang of riding your bike. It still isn’t your favourite activity, but you mastered it and I could not have been more proud. You joined a football team at the beginning of September and this has easily been one of the highlights of your year. Whilst football inside the house is driving me mad, outside of the house I can see how it has helped you to gain in confidence and come out of your shell.

Twin 1 – 2018 has been a transformative year for you, as well as being the year you finally got the skateboard you’ve dreamt of since you were two. For Christmas you got plenty of Lego, a colour-by-numbers book and an Elvis Presley CD – Elvis has been a favourite for the last two years (I can’t recall how or why this came about) and you can now be heard singing ‘All Shook Up‘ as you potter about the house. You have a compulsive spinning habit and are still something of a whirlwind, as 20181103_145719anyone would be able to see if they looked at your handwriting; but over this last year you have got the hang of absorbing yourself in an activity. Board games and puzzles have been a real feature of 2018; and more recently you have even been sitting down to read a book. I’m not always sure how much you are understanding but the fact that you are choosing to pick up a book is the most enormous stride forwards. When you are not absorbed in an activity you are always on the go – you are lean as a bean, a whizz at Junior Park Run; and Saturday morning football training is absolutely the highlight of your week. You race around that pitch high-fiving the other children looking like you’re having the time of your life….. although you have been known to let goals in because you were too busy spinning.

Twin 2 – Christmas present highlights for you were your George Ezra CD, a Watford FC football and a step-by-step drawing book. I feel you need a bit of encouragement to follow your own interests rather than feeling you always need to follow your twin, so right now I am all about bigging up your drawing skills. I call you our resident artist – if a20180421_140939 birthday card needs making, you are my go-to boy.  You also love your football training and are a little more focussed and less wayward than your twin; as well as much less likely to be spinning whilst in goal. You have always been an earnest little soul and your feelings are easily hurt. You come into your own when you have some undivided attention from an adult – you love a proper chat, and to help out….mopping the floor is a real, actual treat. When you’re in the mood you can be a bit of a performer – you love singing ‘I’ll be riding SHOTGUN‘ on repeat, and the first time I heard your Bruno Tonioli impression I had to double-check Bruno wasn’t actually in the house. ‘Oh my DARLING that was SPOT ON!‘…… and it really is spot on.

You watched….

Apart from Match of the Day, anything with numbers, scores and results has gone down well. The Eurovision Song Contest, the Winter Olympics, the European Championships – all were big hits. And once again, Strictly Come Dancing took over the house from September onwards, with you boys regularly attempting to recreate an American Smooth before school. Your main Christmas present from us was tickets for the Strictly Tour at the O2 – the excitement when we get there will be off the scale.

Weekend family viewing has become a thing, with Saturday Night Takeaway also being introduced this year (unfortunately also meaning that we had to explain what ‘Drink Driving’ meant) as well as Dr Who. And one rainy Sunday afternoon you eventually agreed to re-watch Paddington 2 with me – it is still a perfect film; and that was a perfect afternoon.

You read….

Eldest boy – well, having finished Harry Potter, we needed to find another series to keep your enthusiasm for reading going. The How to Train Your Dragon Series was a great one for you to jump straight into, and fortunately you then discovered the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan; which has fed your interest in mythology nicely. There have been other reading highlights for you this year – The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle was a wonderful read and The Phantom Tollbooth, Dragon Rider and The Explorer all went down a storm.

For you 6 year olds, this year has been about trying to move onto chapter books – I will not pretend it has been easy finding books that have engaged you; but finally we might be getting there (how is for another post). We battled through a few Beast Quests – the shiny covers went down well but nobody understood what was going on. The Daisy and the Trouble With books were usually well-received, and you will now sit and read The 13 Storey Treehouse series quite happily by yourselves – in fact, Twin 1 you are gobbling them up and I am just keeping my fingers crossed that this enthusiasm transfers onto other books.

Away from stories, we are all fans of The Week Junior which provides us with a good catch up on the week’s goings on (that includes me).

Out and about

We ticked two things off our family bucket list this year – one of which was Eurocamp and the other was getting the sleeper train all the way to Inverness, which I wrote about here. Both were real highlights of this year – I will never forget the excitement as we waited for that train to Scotland and Twin 1 telling me it was his ‘best life ever‘.

Aside from our bigger adventures, weekends are now mainly dominated by football but during school holidays we have continued to enjoy pottering about at National Trusts, with Grey’s Court being a new discovery this year. Bekonscot Model Village was established as a new favourite day out destination (turns out that children LOVE life in miniature), we are still big fans of Kew Gardens for a good runaround; and we made it up to the National Space Centre in Leicester which is amazing but very full-on – don’t even attempt to get round it all in one day……you get a return ticket included in the price so plan another visit instead.

My year

This year I have done a lot of staying in. I have been attempting to learn Spanish using Duolingo which I love and would highly recommend. And I have made some major changes including cutting down hugely on meat – I wouldn’t say I have quite gone veggie, but I have gone ‘flexi‘ and only eat meat very occasionally these days.

My book group continues to be one of the highlights of my life – not just for the books but also because it is hard to beat spending regular time with a group of friends you feel completely at ease with. Onto books though, one of the stand-out books of my reading year was To Obama: With Love, Joy, Hate and Despair – such an inspiring read all about the ten letters a day which Obama read while he was in office. I’d just recommend that you read the actual book rather than the Kindle version, on which the letters are…..well, really very difficult to read.  As well as Obama, I also loved Bookworm by Lucy Mangan, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (the recent TV adaptation is also amazing); and enjoyed re-reading The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time since my teens.

2019 is the year I’ll turn 40. 40!! I can’t really be doing with resolutions, but mainly I am hoping to spend more time on the things that make me happy and shed some of those things that have made this year a little overwhelming. All in all, I am looking forward to carrying a lighter load in 2019.

Cheers to that, and thank you for reading my blog and for all your lovely comments this year. Happy 2019! x