Talk About Cheesecake

Musings, meanderings and meditation for my mind.


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Project Optimism – The Secret Getaway

Holy Kimoley, I am so excited.

(No, I don’t know what a Kimoley is. I just always wanted to use the phrase)

We are rapidly approaching our first wedding anniversary. What an amazingly fast year it has been! So much has happened.

A year and 3 months ago I was made redundant. I had no idea what to do with myself. Looking back at my posts from then then I was still optimistic, but frankly a little lost.

A year later I have got married, had an amazing honeymoon, gone self employed, cracked open a blog . . . It’s been exciting, educational, full of new experiences. Not least of which was learning to answer to a new name!

But now I am going to check off one more item from my bucket list. Well, two hopefully.

I am so excited I found myself doing a little dance round the house today. Quietly. So as not to alert Mini Monster 1 who is currently home on half term. Because its a surprise for her, and Mini Monster 2 of course.

So I can tell you, but you have to keep it quiet.

For our wedding anniversary, we are going away. On a trip. A secret getaway. We aren’t going to tell the kids. Nope, we will just load them in the car and see how long it takes them to work it out.

I can’t wait to see their faces. I know they are going to be ecstatic. Maybe not as ecstatic as me, I am pretty darn excited, I have to tell you. This is, after all, one of the reasons I had kids. So I can go on this particular trip and revert to being a kid myself.

Oh, I can’t tell you. You will have to guess.

But I will give you a hint. It’s a place where they promise to make the magic come alive.

And to think that a year ago I was unemployed and worrying about the future. Stay optimistic people and your dreams may just come true.

This post has been brought to you as part of Project Optimism. To find out more, please click on the cute elephant to the right. Go on, have a nose. It’s worth it!


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It’s Christmas! – Part 1. Present shopping

The conversations have started, the discussions are underway. It’s the time of year where we tentatively start probing our way through the entanglements, mindful of the fragile egos, the touchy feelings and the obligations to extended family.

It’s time for us to worry about debt, fret over etiquette and wear ourselves to the edge of exhaustion in ensuring perfection.

Yes, it’s Christmas.

Don’t misunderstand me, I love Christmas. Well, I love the idea of what Christmas should be, the ideal that I hold as an image in my mind and strive to achieve every year.

However Christmas comes with bundles of stress, so I decided I would start to document each one as it occurred!

Part 1 – Present Shopping

I enjoy shopping for gifts for my family and friends. In theory. The idea is to choose a thoughtful present that will bring them some pleasure.

In reality the adult family that surround me don’t really *need* presents. They have disposable incomes and I have a budget limit. If there was something in the £20 and under category that they really wanted, well they would just buy it for themselves. And so every year I have the same dilemma.

I want to buy my parents gifts. After all they brought me up and lavished care and love on me. I like to show them that I appreciate all they did. I want to think of something special. However to be honest, I cannot afford my mother’s taste and my father is happy with a book. That he has chosen.

My middle brother has completely different taste to me. Last year I bought him a fun new wallet covered in superhero comic strips. He made it clear he found it childish and would never use it. On Boxing Day I recovered the wallet and gave it to Mr G, who does have a sense of humour like mine and has used it ever since.

My elder brother is an unknown quantity. I have tried fun presents, childish gifts, games, jokes and gadgets. Each time he thanks me and places it in a pile that I know will go right to the back of a drawer. Well, apart from the year that he commented that I had not even got him a present. I replied that I had in fact bought him a ‘Bop it‘ game to which he responded “Oh yes, that was my best present that year”. And he meant it. The lesson here being that he actually takes no notice of anything I get him anyway!

As for the in-laws! The parent-in-laws say every year not to waste our money, but Mr G feels he should get some token present and ends up spending more in a rush than I would have given time to think it over. My sister-in-law loves presents, but only ones she has chosen.

Which raises another point. The gift list. I have annual discussions with friends who agree that we don’t like being given a list of things to buy for each person. Where is the thought in that? When my brother produces an email detailing which CD’s he would like and who should buy them, how is that personal? On the other hand, if I deviate from the list I know my money will have been spent on a little bit more drawer filler.

And then there is the etiquette of friends. Last year Kid 1 was bought a present by a school friend, so we should get one back. But if we don’t see them over the festive period, should we bother? The neighbours have invited us for drinks, do we have to take presents for their kids, or just wine for them? I know my mother’s elderly friend gives her something for my kids, do I have to buy for her grandchildren? I have already agreed with some close friends that ‘I won’t buy for yours if you don’t buy for mine’ in the spirit of mutual money saving!

So I wonder, with all this stress – are Christmas presents really for family children only? Should we adults agree that actually we don’t need gifts from each other. When completing the shopping list becomes more of a of a chore than a pleasure, maybe it is time to stop spending.

 


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Are weddings a child free zone?

While planning my own wedding at the start of the year I joined an online forum for brides (and grooms) to be. There were debates about wedding etiquette. There were discussions over who should lead the procession down the aisle. There were panics over centerpieces and rants about the rudeness of not replying promptly to invitations or the ingratitude of a bridesmaid in not appearing desperately interested in every aspect of the table layout.

One constant topic that continuously roused strong opinions though was whether children should be allowed at the wedding.

Family Occasions

There are of course two extreme viewpoints. On the one hand are those who say that children are the life and soul and heart of a wedding. Weddings are family occasions and children are a large part of that.

The family wedding ensures that children are catered for in every way. There are pretty little flower girls and page boys in the procession. There are gift boxes for the children on the tables, with games and toys and presents and sweets.  Some brides plan activities that place the children at the centre of attention. One friend of mine had a balloon race for the children, another had a children’s entertainer.

Of course these ideas are dual purpose. They ensure the children play a part in the day whilst also making sure they are kept occupied. A bored child is a disruptive one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Adult Affair

On the other hand some brides who do not want sticky fingers on their expensive dress, or screaming throughout their speeches. The couple who ban children from their wedding face some criticism from others. But are they wrong to do so?

For a start, consider the cost. At even half the adult price, every child is an added expense, especially when you consider they most likely won’t even eat the food.

And add up the bodies. When the venue of your dreams limits your numbers, every child you have to allow is another adult friend you can’t invite.

You can guarantee that one of the little tykes will spill drink on your train, drop a fragile present or knock down the cake. They cry during the ceremony, run about during dinner and throw up during the disco.

Kids are expensive and a risk for the bride and groom to consider. I understand that they may want to exclude them.

However, before making a final decision, there are other considerations. The ‘child free’ bride will tell parents that this is a chance for them to have an adult only night. The parent will respond that finding a sitter for a full day affair is expensive enough. Not to mention that they have to be able to get home to that sitter, a bit problematic for parents who travel a long distance to attend the wedding.

Consider also the flower girls. The bride may want her best friends daughter to follow her up the aisle throwing petals. But now there is one lonely and bored child at the wedding. What’s worse, she is not a ‘family child’! What’s this, your friend can bring her child but your own nephews and cousins are not allowed.

OK, allow family children. Only the children who form part of the bride’s life. Not Uncle Arthur’s second wife’s granddaughter who the bride has never met. Only, where do you draw the line? The possibility of starting a family feud is looming closer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Happy Medium

At my wedding I aimed for a happy medium. Of course I invited children. My own kids were bridesmaid and pageboy. It was as much their day as ours, their parents. Well, almost. Close friends and family with children were allowed to bring them, but I did limit my extended family to the one generation, thankfully cutting the numbers of cousins on one side from seventeen down to two. They were keen to agree, having to pay for their own upcoming wedding very soon.

The children had their own table, hosted by my daughter who was very pleased with her position as head of the table.  And during the speeches I had a baby sitter arranged who hustled the children out, thereby avoiding the running and screaming during the adult parts. Off they went to their own room, set aside with paper, stickers and other non-staining entertainments.

I made it clear to all my friends, as politely as possible, that whilst I had a sitter for my own children to allow us, the bride and groom, to relax, I was not responsible for the care of the other children. Bring them they could, but they were to keep them under control. As far as I am aware no one took offense. The kids had a great time moving between their own chill out room and the adult’s disco and to be honest I barely noticed them all day.

Are weddings adult only occasions?

I don’t believe there is a right or wrong answer to this question. If a bride and groom chose to exclude children, well it is their day. Surely they have the right to choose. Unfortunately it seems that when you are planning a wedding your every decision becomes a matter for public discussion. Family, friends and colleagues all have an opinion and someone will be offended in the end.

Written for the Weekly Writing Challenge, DPchallenge. Yes, I already wrote one for this week’s subject matter, but I really had more to say, so I went for it again. 


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DPchallenge – I blame the parents!

As my mother once said at a christening when asked if she wanted to hold the baby of the moment, I don’t really like children except for my own.

Gasp. Shock. Am I allowed to say that, if I am a mother?

Well, perhaps my feelings are not as stringent as that. I do like children that are fun and friendly, that can talk without being precocious and play without destruction.

Children should be approached like unknown animals! Treat them with respect and get to know their quirks before you scare them into pee’ing on the carpet or biting your hand.

Don’t poke the animals. They bite.

I’m only kidding. Well, maybe.

Children are people with personalities, feelings, worries and learned behaviours, just like adults. Learned behaviours are often taught by observation so, as a generalisation, should we assume that badly behaved children have learnt such behaviour from their parents?

A child cannot be expected to instinctively know how to act politely at a dining table or to walk calmly and quietly in a museum. They do not understand that they should give up their seat on a bus for the elderly or turn off their mobile in a theatre. Manners and consideration for others are taught through example and explanation. I think that we often forget that, whilst complaining about the way children behave ‘today’ and resenting them for the noise they make.

Does this mean I think children should be allowed to go everywhere an adult can go? No, I don’t.

Take a restaurant, for example. I spend the day with my children and when I go out in the evening for a meal with my husband, that is adult time. That is when I want to enjoy his company without being interrupted by the ‘cuteness’ of the small child flicking their peas at me from another table or being unable to hear the conversation due to the screeching of an over tired or over stimulated baby.

However that doesn’t mean children should not be allowed out to a restaurant after dark. But there are intimate restaurants where I would expect only grown ups to be and family orientated places I would not book if I didn’t expect to hear children. Although I still believe the adult with that child should be exerting some control over them and setting the example of the behaviour they want to see. A child climbing on the table or thumping the back of your chair whilst you sip your red wine is one that is being allowed to by a grown up.

Or consider a museum. The function of a museum is surely to educate and therefore great places for children to visit. Of course they should be there; but not rampaging about the halls disturbing others. Not, mind you, that I agree that you should whisper in such hallowed halls. Talking is allowed, bellowing is not.

Please do not climb on the displays!

Common sense in parenting?

In many cases I think the key is not whether children should be allowed in an adult-orientated place but that, if a place is adult-orientated, is it firstly suitable for children and secondly, has the child been taught the appropriate behaviour for such a place?

Common sense should surely prevail. Children should go to films made for children, not the movies specified for adults full of violence or terror. Go for a pub lunch, but take them home before the evening drinkers arrive for a saturday night session! You cannot expect other adults to mute their language or ribald jokes because you have brought a child into their evening, yet nor should you want your child exposed to adult themes.

Of course there are venues that are not suitable for children due to the nature of the place – friday night in the town centre for example. There are plays on at the theatre that were not made for children to hear – the Vagina Monologues are a good case (I saw it recently, but that’s another post).

But there are also places that are down to the discretion of the parent. A father should be able to judge if their child is ready to display the appropriate behaviour in an expensive restaurant at lunchtime. A mother has to make her own decision as to whether her child is of the right age to attend a beauty salon.

I do ‘blame the parents’.

Or rather, I do believe the parent is nominally responsible for their child. Of course children have so many outside influences on them, from teachers, school friends, television, films and magazines. But the main and constant factor in their life is their parents (or responsible adult).

The parent demonstrates from their own example how to behave at the dining table at home. I know, from our own mistakes in this! We spent the first few years of my daughter’s life without a family table to sit down together at and teaching her table manners has been a hard slog as we sought to instill them from a late start.

Family dinner time teaches table manners

You could argue that you cannot ‘practice’ behaving quietly in a museum. But I would disagree. Start with the weekly trip to the supermarket. My kids began by learning that they were to walk with me and not disappear at top speed down the aisles. I have a particularly strong memory of re-capturing my daughter aged 3 and carrying her kicking and screaming while I marched out, red faced and no doubt watched by a large tutting audience. But you know what, she now knows to walk calmly and not sprint off when pre-warned of what is expected of her. I have no concerns about taking her to other public places.

And after all that . . .

No, children should not be in adult-orientated places. But defining what is an adult-orientated place could be difficult except for the most obvious few. So perhaps it would be better to say that when in a place that is aimed mainly at adults the child should be able to behave in a non-intrusive manner. And don’t expect the adults to adjust their behaviour because you brought your precious bundle of joy into their child free time.

Written for the DP Challenge. Weekly Writing Challenge. 


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Some days are marvellous, some days are murder

Some days are unforgettable.

The day your daughter is born, and you see her tiny little scrunched up face for the first time. The moment in that day when the midwife tells your partner to tell you what you had and he says ‘It’s a boy’ because he is so overwhelmed with feelings. Every part of a day like that is etched on your memory in flashes of feelings, emotions, physical and mental stimulation. Seconds lasted like hours, hours passed in minutes. The day your first child is born is unforgettable.

Some days are one of a kind.

The day you married your partner, surrounded by friends and family and with your own ‘home made’ bridesmaid and page boy as the stars. A day like that flies by, as if the happiness, excitement, pride, love and laughter are just too much to absorb in one hit. A day like that has to be drunk in by reminiscing with every other attendee over the weeks that follow, to get a different viewpoint and make sure that every detail has been examined and polished before committing to the memory banks.

Some days are marvellous.

Fun family days out, trips to the amusement park for your son’s third birthday, where the parents are relaxed, the children are laughing, ice cream is flowing (down arms due to sunshine). Walks through the woods, kicking piles of gorgeous coloured autumnal leaves and watching the puppy bouncing through the streams. Sledging on a snow day, coming home to hot chocolate and a warm open fire. Days that are to be treasured as a brief respite from the mundane.

Some days are idealistic.

The day you look back on as a lazy, hazy summer day, when you think you had it all, but didn’t know it. Youthful escapades, giggling and joking with your friends. Finishing exams and the final day of school, sitting in the middle of the vast green park, music blasting. Spontaneously jumping up as a group to do the actions to Whigfield’s ‘Saturday Night’ to the amusement and bemusement of passers by.

Some days are cold.

The day that the phone call came and woke you up. Hearing your mother crying, your father telling you your nan was out of pain.

Some days are murder.

Trying to work on a Sunday because of a deadline. Bored, restless kids sprinting through the house, shrieking and fighting, throwing wooden blocks down the stairs. Tantrums over cleaning the bedroom. Frustration and tears because of the maths homework. The puppy cowering under your desk to avoid being used as a pony while you try to just finish 5 minutes before going to referee, or provide more drinks or to produce food at the drop of a hat. Leaking nappies and angry cats. Jumping at the loud crash and the angry bellow that follows as the picture frame smashes to the floor and glass shards scatter across the room.

Whatever the day, it’s a memory worth keeping.


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How much do you tell them?

Something happened on our week away this year that freaked me out a little. I have always been aware of the many dangers that face our children today. I think most parents are more protective, more frightened maybe, than they were just when we were children.

Besides all the obvious dangers that you can teach your child about – traffic, crossing roads, climbing off windowsills (surely its not just mine that do this) – there is that hidden danger: stranger danger. How far do you go in explaining to your child that some people are mean and nasty and she mustn’t talk to people she doesn’t know. A conversation that goes something like this.
‘What, children too?’
‘Well no, you can talk to children. Your age. Not older children.’
‘So I can’t talk to seven year olds?’
‘You can, but not much older.’
‘How will I know how old they are if I don’t talk to them?’

We were in the bar of the hotel with another couple we had met. Our two were sprinting round the foyer with their two. They zoomed in and out of sight regularly, through the many other hotel guests and children having the exact same evening as us.

Then they are gone just a little longer. I start to worry. I stop listening to the conversation and start peering around the bar like a meerkat. The other mother we are with does the same.

And then they all come rushing round the corner and we can sit back with a sigh of relief. And my daughters first words were ‘we went in the lift with some boys and got stuck’.

Maybe I over react, maybe I am overly negative. But the many different panicked thoughts of what could have happened ran through my mind at that point. My daughter is six. Too young to know what could happen if she is left alone with the wrong random older boy. So what do we tell her?

After some more questioning we did establish that the lift was not stuck, just stopping at every floor as these kids were pressing every button. And we did explain that she was not meant to go in lifts without us. Or to go out of sight.

So, is it just me. Or is anyone else also permanently worrying when their little girl wants to go off and play and wondering at what age we need to expand her education, and at the same time maybe take away some of her childhood.