Wednesday, 19 November 2014

100 reasons why school admin has sucked the joy from my life

Well, not 100 maybe but at there are an increasing number of reasons why it gets on my nerves.  I am currently drowning in school related admin, to the point where I may need a PA to deal with it all for me while I get on with all the normal stuff I have to do (like ironing and watching Homes Under the Hammer).

As I write this I can see at least two forms that need filling out in addition to several on line orders and requests to complete ALL BY TOMORROW.  It is worse than helping the children with their homework.

Not yet had this joy with your offspring?  Let me enlighten you...

1.  Filling in emergency contact forms

OK, so when your children start school there are certain pieces of information that schools need.  For example, who to contact in an emergency, like when your child throws up all over the playground in front of all the parents who were bothered to attend on sports day, or maybe who to call when they throw themselves into the school wildlife pond and soak themselves to the skin.* Ahem.

So, this information is held on file in case of such eventualities to be used when the need arises.  Sounds quite straightforward.

Except, whenever your child goes out on a field trip somewhere for more than five nanoseconds, then it is required all over again.  Child going on two trips in the same week?  Surely the same form will suffice?  No.  Please fill it out twice.  Front and back.

Is it too much to ask whoever filed the exact same details only eight weeks ago at the start of term to, erm, un-file it and copy it?

Two trips, two days apart, same child *sigh*

2.  Emails 

I get on average about six school related emails a day.  When both schools announced that they would communicate with me by email I was overjoyed.  I mean, I'd much prefer to read a nice clean uncrumpled email than hunt through the teen's rancid backpack or sift the latest of dd2's artwork to find appropriate letters.  Way more sanitary and easier for us all.

That was until I realised that nobody in either school office knows how to operate email circulation lists properly.  I signed up to one newsletter and now?  Three copies every time (one for signing up and then two further copies because I have two children at the school in question). I am the same person.  I only need the information once.  Surely it would just be easier to add my email address to a school wide list instead of once for every child?

I used to look forward to opening my email inbox ever time it went ping.  Now I just weep a little, my finger poised over delete, as I read the latest goings on at the PTA.

And the other thing?  Who gave the PTA permission to use ParentMail at 11.30 pm on a Sunday?  I do not want to know about Boxercise in the school hall, I want to go to bed.

3.  School blog

Yes, I know, I'm moaning about a blog, but bear with me here.

The blog itself is great.  Who wouldn't like to see what their five year olds have been up to all day? It is in fact like a little piece of magic, especially when I see the puzzled looks on their sweet faces when I tell them that I know what they've been doing all day before they have a chance to tell me.  They think mummy has magical powers!

But, the downside is this.  Information duplication.  (Again.  Do you sense a theme here?).

The teacher likes to send us little reminders on the blog about trips and events that are coming up.  So now I have forms to fill out, emails to read and a blog post all reminding me of the same blardy thing!

4.  School dinner menus

So, after the five emails reminding me that I need to fill out these forms (this time online) I eventually find the original email for the online school booking system which tells me what my password is (seriously Alan Turing could not even crack that one - why all the random numbers and letters?  Why not our surname and/or children's names, something easy to remember.  It isn't as if I'd mind if someone broke into my account and paid for the odd school trip or even did some of the admin FGS). 

Anyway, once I'm in, I am then faced with menu choices for the coming weeks.  This in itself is not too bad, only the menu is the same one for three weeks at a time.  Can't I just fill it in once?  It isn't as if my children are suddenly going to develop a love of meals that they have shunned the previous two weeks in a row.  I speak here as the mother who knows her children's limitations well and who has made the same cheese and ham sandwiches for the last five years for at least one of my children.  Hell would freeze over before their tastes deviated from the standard list of acceptable sandwich fillings.  Adventurous they are not. 

I'll admit that any kind of home admin is not my strong point.  It is all so dull.  But, school related admin is ridiculous.

There must be an easier way?

Anyway I've really got to go now and crack on with those forms.  The school have just emailed to tell me I need to bring a tombola prize tomorrow.  I hope Aldi is still open...

* Both of these things may or may not have happened to DS2 during his school career.  In my defence, I was on the way to sports day (and jolly grateful that I didn't have to stick around and watch in the end).

Big Cup Little Cup Reindeer Rocket - Review

Now that Halloween and Bonfire Night are out of the way and that little penguin has made his debut on the John Lewis ad, I feel that I can finally talk about Christmas.

Now, because I have annoying children who can read I won't be discussing their presents here (sorry kids) but what I can discuss is Christmas food and drink.

In my opinion the best thing about Christmas, no?

So I was overjoyed when Big Cup Little Cup (sister company to the brilliant Cafe Pod) sent me a lovely early Christmas present of some of their Reindeer Rocket coffee pods to enjoy.

I'm pretty keen on some of the supermarket stocked brands of Nespresso compatible pods that have recently come on to the market, and have been happily working my way through the ones I could get my hands on at our local shops.  The only trouble with that is that most of the coffee I've bought in this way has been more of an every day drinking sort of coffee.  This is great for most of the time, but what about when you want something a bit special?

Rather unlike some of the supermarket stocked brands the Big Cup Little Cup range, which is available through their online store, comprises a selection of limited edition and small batch artisanal coffees.  I knew I was in for a treat when I opened my package.

I couldn't wait to get it in my machine.

As the name suggests Big Cup Little Cup make coffee capsules that are suitable for both Espresso (small shots of coffee) and Lungo (a long coffee).  Reindeer Rocket is a Lungo capsule.

Now, I confess here I do not have much experience with Lungo capsules.  I have ordered them before from Nespresso and have not enjoyed them all that much.  I prefer stronger coffee than Nespresso currently offer in their Lungo range.  Reindeer Rocket has a strength rating of 9 which made me extremely happy indeed.  My kind of coffee!

Opening the box I noticed that the capsules are individually wrapped - something that I like because the burst of fragrance as you open each pouch is amazing and I know that the coffee is nice and fresh too.  Reindeer Rocket is no exception here.

The capsules are similar to the Cafe Pod ones that I've tried previously in that they are perforated to allow the flavour to come out fully without fuss for a perfect cup every time.  I had no issues with the fit of the capsule in my machine (2009 Magimix Citiz).

The coffee itself not only looked wonderfully rich and velvety, as it poured from my machine into one of the cute glass coffee tumblers that Big Cup Little Cup had thoughtfully supplied me with, but the smell (to quote my 12 year old daughter) was "just like a proper coffee shop".  It was indeed a lovely intense aroma, I have to agree with her on that.

The tasting notes on the box label state that the coffee has flavours of dark chocolate and chestnut with a smoky and spice like finish.  I'd agree with that too.  The spicy hit that accompanied each sip was actually my favourite thing about this blend.  It is so moreish and unlike anything I've tried previously.  Because of this I can imagine it would go nicely with traditional Christmas flavours like  mince pies and brandy butter.

I have tried the coffee in a few ways.  With a dash of milk, as a hazelnut latte, but my favourite by far was to drink it black so that I could appreciate the intense flavours.  In fact, it also made a delicious partner to some liqueur chocolates that I have also recently been taste testing ready for Christmas *ahem* ;)

As a coffee lover I would be delighted to receive some Reindeer Rocket as a Christmas gift (perhaps also with a set of the double walled glass coffee tumblers which you can also buy from their website).

I am very impressed with their website too.  The coffee is a smidge cheaper than Nespresso and as well as choosing individual blends you can also buy ready selected packs.  Kind of like a grown up selection box really!

We will definitely be sipping a cup of Reindeer Rocket on Christmas morning as our children open their presents.  It will be the perfect start to the festivities.

If you would also like to try some Reindeer Rocket or any of their other blends for yourself, then Big Cup Little Cup have very kindly offered my readers a 15% discount against their first order from their website, using the code MYMOTHER15.

We received two boxes of Big Cup Little Cup Reindeer Rocket together with two glass coffee tumblers for the purpose of this review.  All words and opinions are our own.

Friday, 14 November 2014


Transition.  Transition to adult care.

A phrase I never thought I'd see.  And yet, there it is.  Written on the letter that we received a few weeks ago following DS1's cardiac check up.

It feels odd.  It feels a million miles away from where we were this time 14 years ago.

I still cannot write fully about those days.  Stop me and ask me in person about it and I can tell you, relatively upbeat and calmly.  I have tried to write it down, but it all becomes too muddled and then I just end up pressing delete.

I do not want anyone to feel sorry for us.  I am not a victim.

DS1 leads a normal life and always has done.  He is not sickly as a result of his condition.  We are lucky.

And that I feel, is something to be celebrated.

DS1 is the focus of a lot of my moans and jokes on the blog, but the truth is that I wouldn't have it any other way.  I am glad I can do it.  I am proud to have a typical teen.

Proud because as any parent of a child with a Congenital Heart Defect will tell you, all we want is for them to be normal.

After listening to the speakers in the Can blogging change the world? session at last Saturday's Blogfest, the one thing that I've taken away from it is to be passionate about whatever cause we feel strongly about, to use our story.

I'm not specifically a charity blogger.  This blog isn't about my children with heart conditions or even about my twins and their time in special care, and yet I do feel strongly that if we can be a success story of sorts with our family who have survived all of that, then it might bring some comfort to somebody somewhere.

The internet wasn't as widely used when DS1 was born.  I didn't have the luxury of using my smartphone to google the multiple terms that were being thrown at us by consultants as they tried to explain what was wrong with our baby.

I used to scour the large notice board in the PICU family room at Alder Hey when I was supposed to be resting or eating, desperate to read one letter of thanks from a parent who's child had been through the same surgery as ours.  Looking for the success story that told me that everything would be OK.

I'd like us to be that success story now.  I'd like to think that if somebody going through those early days of a Congenital Heart Defect diagnosis with their child, does google Transposition of the Great Arteries and comes up with this, then they may see the light at the end of the tunnel that we are now starting to enjoy ourselves.

It is impossible with DS1's condition to know what the future truly holds (many early recipients of the Arterial Switch operation are only just entering adulthood themselves), but I am jolly proud that we have made it this far, relatively unscathed.

His transition to adult care will take place after his next appointment in 18 months time.  He'll say goodbye to the consultant that has looked after him since he was three weeks old and move to a hospital that is for adult heart patients.  The end of one journey and the start of another.

I find it hard to write personal and serious posts on this blog.  This post has taken me over a month to write.  I'd always intended to write a letter and include a photo of DS1 for the staff that treated him in PICU, with the intention that it would be pinned to the noticeboard in the family room, but life got in the way and I just didn't do it.

I want to share these few thoughts now though, and I hope that other parents facing the same challenges can see that there is life after PICU.

*Hovers over delete*

*Presses publish*

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Wicked Wednesdays

I thought that for this week's Wicked Wednesdays post I'd treat you all to a round up of some beautiful artwork crap drawings by my smallest girl.

I had to laugh last week as I was sorting out her book bag for school and my tidying revealed that she had been creating a series of Dumb Ways to Die inspired pictures (If you don't know it then do google it first).

Firstly, Set Fire to Your Hair...

Closely followed by Poke a Stick at a Grizzly Bear (the bear is on the left looking more surprised than grizzly if you ask me)

Eat Medicine that's Out of Date (the scribbles around the outside are sick apparently, which is what happens when you eat out of date things - she knows the contents of our fridge too well...)

And, if you're familiar with the next line, she fortunately stopped there...

Although as she has been drawing these during choosing time at school I don't quite know whether I'm relieved or disappointed to be honest.


Monday, 10 November 2014

Blogfest 2014 - Friendship on the internet, being inspired and free gin!

I've been member of Mumsnet for over ten years now.  In fact, without Mumsnet I might not have got through my fourth pregnancy and birth without going mad.  The kindness and support that other women have shown to me via the Mumsnet forums has been invaluable, and the best bit is that some of them have liked me enough to remain friends with me.

It only seemed natural that when I started this blog out of boredom one day, that one of the first things I did was to register with the Mumsnet Bloggers Network (who rejected me at first because I had only written about three posts).

Since then they have very kindly shared a few of my blog posts, much to my amazement, and so I was more than beside myself with excitement when I won a ticket to this year's Mumsnet Blogfest conference in their Twitter competition (see Friday's post for how).  Actually, I lie.  I ran around whooping and shrieking for a bit and then wondered how on earth I was going to tell my husband that he would have to look after five children on his own for a whole day.  And that conversation?  Was not easy.

Anyway, I digress.

So, on Saturday I got up very early to catch a train down to London so that I could attend.  Nervous, excited and a bit out of my depth.  I don't get out much as you can possibly tell.

6.00 am, standing on the platform *yawns*

The day started with coffee and pastries.  The coffee was very welcome after my 5.00 am start but I swerved the pastries because I was so nervous that I didn't feel hungry.  It was just so amazing to be there that I stood dumbstruck for quite a while, watching as the other bloggers that I could recognise chatted to one another.  It's moments like this that you realise that real life just isn't like Twitter and I suddenly felt very shy and massively out of my comfort zone if I'm honest.  Fortunately I did finally spot someone I'd met before, Kerrie from Wife, Mum, Student Bum, who didn't ignore me (despite the fact that I shouted "Cooeee" at her and did a little wave like an embarrassing mum!) and stopped for a natter before the first session started.

So, what about the sessions?  Well, to say I was starstruck was a bit of an understatement.  There were so many brilliant speakers.  Some of whom are people I've been following for a while and others who were new to me.  Justine Roberts, Mumsnet CEO did a welcome and introduction.  That's JustineMumsnet if you've been using Mumsnet as long as me (you know, I once gave her advice on how to unfold her pushchair on the forums, I wonder if she remembers that?).  She made us all feel very welcome as did Kate Williams, Editor of the Bloggers Network who said of us bloggers, "You write with honesty and love, grace and resilience".  Lovely Words.

The keynote discussion that followed was on how technology shapes the way we think.  I found it really interesting especially as at one point it focused more on the negative side rather than the positive.  Brave in a room full of bloggers!

Other sessions I attended were How to find your funny, Can blogging change the world? and a skill sharing round table on social media.  I had started to write about each one in detail but it read rather like one of my kids' "What I did in the Holidays" essays from school, and so I'll just say that they were all brilliant in different ways and left me feeling braver, more inspired and passionate about what I do in my little corner of the internet.

Finding my funny and being a bit starstruck

I mustn't forget to mention the Think Bomb session too.  You can watch all of the speakers on the Mumsnet YouTube channel now and anything I say here would simply not do them justice.  They were breathtaking.

The final keynote was my favourite by far.  It was entitled The power of writing.  Not only were Nick Hornby, Lynn Barber and Rachel Joyce on the panel but the writer of one of my favourite blogs, How to be a Domestic Disgrace, Lisa Jarmin.  The discussion was engaging and focused on all writing not just blogging.  Oh, I also got a couple of tweets on the big screen at the back which was a bit exciting (as I say, I don't get out much).

A very far away Lucy Porter
(I definitely need a new phone for next year)

To close we were treated to the exceptionally funny Lucy Porter, who had me in fits of laughter talking about "Penis Beaker" (if you don't know, Google it!) and her "Guy Goma moment" on Radio 4.  She touched briefly on how the members of Mumsnet support each other which, as I said at the beginning of this post, is kind of the reason that I went in the first place.  After I had finally stopped laughing I did find myself welling up a little bit.  The blogging community is a truly amazing thing to be a part of.  

It was a nerve-wracking, inspiring and emotional day.  With free gin at the end.

If you are reading this thinking that you might like to go next year then do.  I promise that you will come away feeling as pleased that you did as I have.  I'm already planning on buying a ticket for next year (providing Mumsnet will have me back).  The people at Mumsnet really do know how to put on a good event and I'd like to thank them again for my prize as I would never have pushed myself to go otherwise.  Unsurprisingly I did not thank them on the day.  Too shy.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Word of the Week

This week's word of the week is


No, not the TV programme - Homes Under the Hammer will always be my favourite ;)

No, if you follow me on Twitter you may have seen last Friday that I was one of the lucky winners of a ticket to Mumsnet Blogfest 2014.

I could hardly believe it!

My flippant tongue (or fingers depending on which way you look at it) usually gets me into trouble.  It's a terrible habit of mine.  But, this time it appears it was the key to winning my ticket to an actual real life blogging conference!

I have had terrible bad luck with previous blogging events - tickets are either too expensive or in short supply.  I'd resigned myself to the fact that I might never be able to go to any of the bigger events because of this.

That was until I sent this tweet...

I was of course not totally serious (well, maybe a bit)...

Anyway, tomorrow morning I will be getting up at OMGwhattimeisthis? o'clock and making my way down to that London by train to join loads of brilliant bloggers for the day.

If you follow me on Instagram you might see a few pictures throughout the day and of course, there will be tweets (flippant ones natch.).  

And, if you're going, see you there!

I'm so excited!

The Reading Residence

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Housework After Children

Opening the cupboard where I keep all our household cleaning stuff the other day, and watching as half of it tumbled out in a disorganised mess, I wondered where on earth it had come from.  I'm sure my house wasn't always this disorganised, in fact, I'm sure when we moved here, with just one child, we had oodles of space in the cupboards.  Where has it all gone?  Well, I concluded that there can only be one culprit (or five).  The children.

Children have made my housework routine far more complicated than I ever thought it could be.  I need more products to get rid of their traces, more cloths, more equipment.  Hence the messy cupboard.

I reckon that I used to be able to clean our whole house much quicker before children were ever involved.  But, these days I have so much more to consider, it's no wonder it slows me down.

1.  Vacuuming

When I was first married I had just any old vacuum cleaner.  Didn't matter what sort.  Mine was actually pink and purple and sparkly.  I bought it because I liked the colour.  Now though?  Now I need a super duper, all types of floor, all types of fluff,  extra sucky everything uppy whizzy vacuum cleaner.  Or two.  I have two.  Why do I need them?

Well, anyone who has ever had to negotiate loom bands and Lego will tell you that if you manage to somehow suck any of that stuff up inside the vacuum then you need a back up.  My machines also break down into about a million parts for cleaning and man, I am good at that.  Rather like a soldier dismantling a rife I can break those babies down and reassemble in two minutes flat.

Of course there's the other aspect of vacuuming the house.  I don't know a single mother who, when they hear the ominous clatter of a rogue Lego brick inside their Dyson, doesn't think "Shiiiiiittttt, I haven't just hoovered up Steve from Lego Minecraft, have I?

Hello Steve, are you in there?

2.  Laundry

Before I had children I used to buy washing powder and fabric softener in regular sized containers.   I couldn't understand why anybody would need a box of Persil with enough powder for 72,000 washes.  But now when I go shopping?  I buy the biggest box I can find, actually I buy three at a time.  Why?  Well, not only is there always mountains of washing with a family, as you'd expect, but children have that uncanny knack of being able to catch every bug and virus known to man.  Have you ever tried to wash a load or two of bed sheets sodden with vomit at midnight when you have run out of washing powder?  It is not pretty.

Other aspects of washing are equally as complicated.  The extra products for example.  Products for whitening and freshening (most useful when you have teens TBH) and all the special stain removers.  Because, it is entirely normal for five year olds to practice their handwriting at school with whiteboard pens.  On each others' backs.

I have had conversations with other mothers in the school playground about stain removal, which sounds completely dull to anyone on the outside but seems entirely reasonable to us.

3.  Dusting

Yeah, just furniture polish and a yellow duster right?  Wrong.  Sure that's how it used to be when I was dusting a house for two but now I'm dusting a family home there is loads more to it than that.  Cloths for polishing furniture, cloths for cleaning the floors and most importantly cloths for all the gadgets they all own.  I am overrun with cloths.  I may in fact, be Lakeland's best customer.  The thrill I get from entering one of their stores to browse the E-Cloth range is unparalleled I tell you.  The last time that I went there I ended up with three separate mop heads for just the floors.  About which I was ECSTATIC.

How on earth did things come to this????

So, if you stumbled across this blog thinking I might be about to tell you all about how to set up a cleaning routine for your home post-partum then forget it sister.  The truth is it just gets worse.

Mind you, I have all that free labour now in the form of the kids.  If anyone has any ideas on how I can easily harness that, then I'm all ears...