Girls ahead of the pack?

“We need to think about packing”, I tell the family about a week before we go on our summer holiday.
“But packing’s so boring”, says middle son, yawning. “All I need to take are my loom bands, my DS and my book of ‘One Thousand Science Facts’. Done.”
“And what exactly are you going to wear for two weeks?” I reply. “Your book of ‘One Thousand Science Facts’ won’t help you much in the swimming pool, that’s for sure.”
“Why do we have to pack so early anyway?” grumbles teenager. “It’s not like we’re going away tomorrow. And anyway we don’t do need to take much. We’re only going on holiday.”
“No”, I reply as calmly as I can. “You’re right. We’re not going away tomorrow. But you know how I hate leaving everything until the last minute. And you’ll be surprised what you need for a two week holiday.”
“I’ll pack”, pipes up teeniest, who for several days now has been strutting around the house in his new Spider Man armbands and swimming trunks, just in case the holiday swimming begins before we’ve even left the house and got on the plane. “Can we get the suitcases out of the loft straight now?”
An hour and a half later. Suitcases are out of the loft. So are last year’s Christmas decorations, a basket of old toys the children thought they might like to reacquaint themselves with, a camera tripod which teenager has taken a fancy to and a box of school clothes which will fit middle son very nicely in September.
A few days later.
Teeniest’s suitcase contains Spider Man armbands which we finally persuaded him to take off, swimming trunks and a pile of Christmas decorations. I might have to pack for him – he’s only four after all.
Middle son’s consists of loom bands, DS, book of ‘One Thousand Science Facts’, swimming trunks and a pair of goggles. I might have to give him a hand too. All he’s thinking about is weighing his case to check the airline luggage weight restriction.
Teenager’s is empty – along with husbands. No help on offer here I’m afraid.
Daughter’s is overflowing. Clothes, sandals, toiletries, make-up. She’ll have to lay everything on her bed then cut it by half.
Mine’s nearly done. Clothes for hot weather, clothes for cold weather. Clothes for dry weather, clothes for wet weather. Shoes for walking. Shoes for going out. Shoes for the poolside. Medicines for temperatures. Medicines for insect bites. Medicines for dodgy tummies. Swimming towels and extra swimming towels. Washing powder (new ones might react with our skin), suncreams and of course English teabags… Lucky I’ve got the biggest suitcase. You never know what you might need.
Night before we go on holiday. We’re all finally packed. Teenager took about ten minutes. Beat husband by a whisker.
Just time for middle son to check the 20kg airline weight limit per suitcase.
Husband’s and boys’ suitcases are well under. Daughter’s is fine now too, surprisingly. But mine’s over. Damn.
“Told you we shouldn’t pack much”, says teenager.


Summertime Blues

“My head is poorly”, toddler complains as he pulls his T-shirt right up and starts to rub his tummy.

I know how he feels.

I had an ache recently too, although I wasn’t exactly sure where it was or what it was. But I think if I’d trudged off to our local GP and told him all my problems – mountains of dirty washing, a dusty, musty, cobweb-filled house, an inbox full of unopened e-mails and a pile of unpaid bills – he’d probably have ushered me gently out of the door telling me it was just another case of post-holiday blues.

Normally when we’re lucky enough to go away on a holiday I’m more grown up about the whole thing. I prepare myself for the fact that coming home will probably feel a bit like those difficult, dreary post-Christmas days when you feel flat, fed up and fearful that you’ll never have anything to look forward to ever again.

But this year I was so excited about our plans – and taking middle son and toddler on an aeroplane for the very first time – that I totally forgot to remind myself about that horrible WHAM, SLAM, back to reality bit when it all comes to an end.

For me the ‘blues’ bit started on the last day of our holiday, when we had to drag ourselves away from the gorgeous weather and beautiful swimming pool to pack our suitcases. After two weeks of freedom, of having to be nowhere at any particular time, of being able to do whatever we pleased whenever we wanted – within the constraints of family life of course – the prospect of boring old normality started to loom heavily.

That sinking feeling got gradually worse as we journeyed home, getting stuck in a mammoth traffic jam on the way to the airport, and finally arrived, exhausted, at our front door in the pouring rain, only to find we couldn’t open it because of the amount of junk mail sitting on our doormat.

As I wandered around, opening all the windows to get rid of that odd smell which comes with a house that hasn’t been lived in for a week or two, I was reminded little by little of all those annoying little jobs that I found so easy to put off earlier in the summer, telling myself I’d do them ‘when we got back from holiday’.

Daughter’s new school uniform was sitting on the dining room table, all needing to be labelled. Forms for bus passes and various out-of-school activities were waiting to be filled in and sent off. Party invites needed to be responded to. Worst thing was looking at the calendar and having to go past the ‘ON HOLIDAY!’ part, written in big, red, excited scribble, only to be greeted with a series of children’s appointments for the dentist, orthodontist and opticians before the start of school.

Whilst I struggled silently with this feeling of malaise, the children didn’t seem to be suffering one bit. Within two minutes of being at home, they were already onto the next thing as if they’d never been away.

“What are we having for tea?” asked middle son cheerfully, as I opened the fridge to be greeted by a slab of mouldy cheddar cheese, some grim-looking olives and a few out-of-date yoghurt pots.

“Can I have some friends round tomorrow?” asked teenager, once he’d established that his fish were still alive thanks to the valiant efforts of nanny and grandad.

Only toddler had slight misgivings. “Can we go back on holiday now?”, he asked hopefully, as he watched husband and I open up the heavy suitcases – filled with ‘precious’ rocks and stones collected during our time away.

To be honest this post-holiday blues didn’t last much longer than my toddler’s tummy ache – or was it a headache? Once I’d done the washing, filled the fridge and cupboards with food, ticked a few things off my long ‘to do’ list, and had a lovely, long chat with an old friend – and shown her all our holiday photographs, of course – I was soon feeling back to normal.

And after a couple of nights in our comfortable bed with proper pillows and no church bells waking us up at six o’clock every morning, I could almost bring myself to say that there really is no place like home…


I’m bored! Children’s favourite summer sayings

Months have been spent planning days out, special activities, visits to family or old friends, and even a holiday away – all so the children will be kept busy and happy in the long summer break.

And yet I’ve still heard them complain that they’re bored!

Here are a few of the other things which have been said in our house since term finished a couple of weeks ago.

What are we doing today?

I hardly have a chance to open my eyes in the morning before someone is demanding to know what the timetable is for today. The pressure is on – my job description has suddenly become ‘children’s full-time entertainer’.

I’m hungry

In the school term it’s easy. The children eat breakfast, I send them off to school with a snack for breaktime, and sandwiches for lunch. Then I’m done thinking about food until school pick-up time. Not so in the holidays. Every two minutes they’re delving in the cupboard or asking when the next meal is. My house has become a 24-hour canteen. Shame they’re not so keen to help with the food shopping…

Why can’t I stay up later?

Yes, it’s the holidays. And I’ve pushed bedtime back by at least an hour or two. But  an hour or two isn’t enough and the children want to stay up even longer. Not only am I on my knees and desperate for a bit of child-free time, but if I let them go to bed any later they’ll be tucking ME in bed and kissing ME goodnight!

Why can’t we go to a theme park like my friends?

I mention the word ‘park’ and the children suddenly get all excited, wondering which theme park we’re going to. Actually I am planning a quiet picnic at the local park -which boasts a small children’s playground and a football pitch. ‘But everyone else goes to theme parks’, they say.

Can I have an ice-cream?

It’s hot so I’m very happy to dole out ice-creams when asked. But it’s still not good enough for toddler. He has heard the ice-cream van coming up the road, blaring out its music, and decides that he wants one ‘from the man’. I very calmly try to explain how ‘the man’s’ ice-creams will be three times the price and half as tasty as the ones I have in the freezer. Explanation falls on deaf ears and a tantrum follows.

Can you top up my phone again?

Holidays means texting and lots of it. Texting friends, friends and more friends – even if they live around the corner and one of the children has only just seen them. ‘WUU2?’ seems to be the favourite text. Meaning? ‘What are you up to?’

I don’t need suncream

We’re out for the day. It’s boiling and I chase toddler and middle son around madly as they try and wriggle out of putting on suncream. As for a sunhat? Not a chance!

I’ve got nothing to do!

We’re away on a short break, there is plenty for the kids to do, I’m reading my book, and suddenly life is looking up. But not for long. Suddenly I hear a little voice saying: ‘I’ve got nothing to do…’ Now I’ve heard it all.

I don’t need new school shoes

The children’s school shoes are falling apart and two sizes too small, and I’m determined not to leave it until the last week of the holidays to buy new ones, even if their feet have grown bigger by then. ‘But I don’t need new ones’, protest the boys, who don’t fancy being dragged into town when there is the possibility of computer time at home.

I don’t want to go back to school!

Admittedly I haven’t heard this so far this year – but am expecting to in the last week of August. At which point I will smile to myself, relax a bit, and conclude that perhaps  the holidays haven’t been quite so boring after all.

Either that – or the children must REALLY hate school!



Summer hols. Here comes the fun….

First morning of the summer holidays. It’s blissfully quiet in the house. Kids are either playing on the playstation, staring at the computer screen, or texting on their phone. It’s been like that for at least an hour and a half. Guilt starts to kick in and I call an emergency meeting in the kitchen.

“This holiday”, I begin.

“This holiday, I’ve decided that it’s OK for you to spend some of your time plugged into electronic things. I do understand that life is very busy in term time and that in the holidays you need to be able to wind down and zone out a bit…”

Kids look at me suspiciously, waiting for the inevitable ‘but’.

“However”, I continue, trying to ignore bored toddler who has already started to kick middle son under the table.

“I’ve decided to limit this ‘plug in’ time to one hour a day. The rest of the time, when we’re at home, you can play outside, make things, read, or just be.”

I think they’re still listening. I’m on a roll, so keep going.

“It’s actually easier than you think. When dad and I were kids we didn’t have anything electronic to play with and we still had fun in the holidays. If we managed it, so can you… ”

I catch teenager rolling his eyes, and daughter starts to sigh. I call an end to the meeting, just hoping I’ve made myself clear.

Ten minutes later I find teenager on the computer. I’m about to explode, until I see that he is googling  the question ‘What can an extremely bored teenager do in the holidays?” I leave him to it.

Daughter decides to paint her nails, middle son is figuring out how to build a model out of Lego and toddler is building a traffic jam with his toy cars. I feel quite pleased with myself. The talk has obviously had the desired effect and I start to have a good feeling about the holidays.

I creep upstairs and dare to pick up an as yet untouched summer read recommended by my bookclub. Forget the housework, I deserve a holiday too.

Turn to chapter one.

Suddenly hear a sawing noise. Must be one of the neighbours working outside.  Hear it again. Toddler comes rushing upstairs shouting that he wants to ‘cut wood too’.

Realise the sawing isn’t outside at all. It’s in our house – or the garage to be more precise. Leg it downstairs and find teenager busy cutting a thick piece of wood with husband’s saw. A saw which immediately screams out the words ‘A and E’.

“You said you wanted us to make things…” says teenager, as I stand there pale-faced.

“Great”, I say weakly, eyes fixed on the saw. How can I argue? I did say I wanted them to ‘make things’.  It’s just that I hadn’t really had wood and saws and the potential loss of fingers in mind.

I try to keep calm, wondering if I have any bandages in the house.

Toddler starts tugging at my legs, screaming that he wants the saw NOW. Middle son suddenly appears, demanding help with his model. Daughter shouts down the stairs that she can’t find the right colour nail varnish. Phone rings.

I ignore the children and the phone and the noise of the saw, and retreat to the loo, toddler hot on my heels. Mull over the situation.

Perhaps I was being a bit mean limiting playstations, computers and mobile phones to an hour a day in the holidays. As of tomorrow, I’ll up it to two hours…