Walking with the moon

A creative living in the real world…

Red carpets. And toilet brushes. October 20, 2014

Filed under: Community,Family,Parenting — hannahoakland @ 1:44 pm

Yesterday Wes left for London in the morning. Off to work. Again. At the weekend. Again. To build something. Not even he knew what.

Thankfully, there were church services. One in the morning. And another in the afternoon. In different churches. Both with children’s groups. So that I could get twenty minutes respite from little hands and whinging voices and Joel’s cries of “I want my Mummy.” Whilst he’s sitting on my lap. Seriously. This is a thing now.

I actually felt pretty smug. Not only was I leaving the house. Twice. But I was walking. Outside. In the fresh air. Taking the children to groups that would aid their spiritual development. Getting something that resembled time-out for myself. Looking at leaves and rivers and geese, and embracing the changing seasons in a child-friendly manner. Mother of the year? Possibly.

And then.

Then my children did what they do best. Remind me who I really am. By wiping the smug right off my face.

The morning service was in a church that we don’t usually attend. Unless it’s for toddler group. After two years of Monday morning play and biscuits, Elvie and Joel see it as a second home. And fair game for their schemes.

To her immense credit, she almost got away with it. It was only the glint from under her sleeve whilst she did up her shoes that gave her away. A bracelet. Four strings of beads in various shades of pink and purple and blue. That she hadn’t been wearing that morning.

Apparently she’d ‘found it’ in Sunday club.

As a dutiful mother, I removed it from her arm and returned it to the kind woman who had inadvertently funded her jewellery habit. I apologised profusely and expressed my hopes that it would be reunited with its rightful owner. Sunday club lady looked more than a little bemused during the whole conversation.

Only when I eventually shut up talking did she tell me that actually, she’d given it to Elvie. In fact, Elvie had chosen it. As her present. For her birthday.

Ah.

Her birthday.

In August.

Can’t fault her cunning. That’s for sure.

It transpires, after some drawn-out post-event analysis, that she’d desperately wanted to look inside the Sunday club present box. So she pretended it was her birthday. Naturally.

They sang to her, and she told them all about her cake. She celebrated turning 4 all over again. And came home with a bracelet. Which they let her keep. Mostly because they couldn’t stop laughing long enough to take it away.

Clearly, my day as a parent could only get better. Until the post-afternoon-church-service tea break when Joel came running up, brandishing a dirty toilet brush like a sword. Followed by a couple of older girls shouting, “He’s been licking that!”

It was not my finest hour. Not my finest day.

You can only imagine my delight when Wes texted me that evening. As we ate our beans on toast. Whilst I watched Joel like a hawk for any signs of imminent vomiting.

Just a little text. To tell me that the mystery job had turned out to be building a stage for Brad Pitt’s ‘Fury’ premiere in Leicester Square. As evidenced by the photographs he showed me this morning.

Red carpets. Limousines. Bright lights.

Brad Pitt. Shia LeBeouf. Etc.

Soaking in the chilly glamour of a London-glitterati-in-October night. Whilst I dealt with a four year-old con artist and a toddler with decidedly bad taste in snacks.

Little treasures.

WP_20140807_004

Yes, I know that all this nonsense about celebrity is just smoke and mirrors. Yes, I understand that parenting is probably a more constructive use of time than months spent pretending to be a 1940’s tank driver. Yes, showbusiness is a very odd, superficial land. I don’t even want to watch the film.

But still. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit jealous. A little bit. And the rest.

My only consolation is that Joel has a stomach of steel, and there was no faecal-matter-induced-vomiting. We’re totally winning.

I think.

In your face, Brad.

Advertisements
 

7 things we’ve learnt at school. October 13, 2014

Filed under: Elvie,Family,Parenting,School — hannahoakland @ 3:42 pm

Elvie has been at school for a month now. Crazy. It’s been one whole month since Joel butted into this otherwise classic ‘first day of school’ photo. Little monkey.

2014-09-10 10.28.57

A month that’s seen more than it’s fair share of hairbrush related tantrums, 9am sighs of relief and reading folders full of pilfered stationary.

It’s been quite the adjustment. Elvie is learning a lot. As are we all. And so, flush with the spirit of continued, lifelong education, I thought I’d share my findings.

You, my friends, are welcome.

1. Hairslides are communal.

At nursery it was a miracle if Elvie ever wore a hairslide at all. Now she wears them everyday, due to a cunning combination of peer pressure, Frozen bribery (see 2.) and the ever-present threat of nits. She even brings them home. (The hairslides, not the nits. So far.)

On any given day, there is only a 50% correlation between the hairslides she starts the day with and the ones that come home. Which are normally newer ones. Shinier ones. ‘Donated’. Apparently. By any number of friends. Who, presumably, have the ones she started off with.

Honestly, I don’t mind all that much. Mostly because it feels like we’re winning. It’s the mum who keeps buying the sparkly butterfly clips that I feel sorry for.

2. The Elsa plait.

My outlook on hairstyling has always been somewhat relaxed. Meaning that Elvie usually looks like this.

2014-05-03 14.49.41

Apparently that’s not uniform-compatible. Although it’s very cute.

Needless to say, the sudden requirement for sensible, actually-brushed hair did not go down well. With anyone. Especially not at 8am. We had screams, and shouts and possibly even a few punches. All over a stupid ponytail.

I was losing the will to live. Fast.

Until – my masterstroke. The ‘Elsa’ plait. Which consists of dragging her hair into a braid on one side of her head, and securing it with as many rogue hairclips as possible. In the vaguest of nods to the Ice Queen herself. It worked. And it still works. To the extent that Elvie walks into school every morning wondering if her friends will recognise her, or if they’ll think Elsa has “really come to our class.”

It’s the simple things.

3. Mean Girls start young.

Elvie is 4. Only just. Already the girls are mean. Every day brings a different child who isn’t speaking to her anymore. Or another run-in with the main culprit, one of the older girls in the class who “won’t be my friend unless we’re wearing the same thing.”

Nobody should have to watch their baby girl pulling her polo shirt down over her skirt so that “perhaps she won’t see the bow.”

I knew this would happen. Goodness knows I’ve been on the rough end of it enough times myself. I just didn’t expect it to start so early. At least she’s talking. We’re having plenty of chats about what makes a good friend. And why we don’t need to play with the nasties.

Urrrgggghhh. Thankfully she has lots of little boy-friends as well. For balance. And mud throwing. That’s more like it.

4. Timetables are a test. For parents.

Honestly. That early in the morning I’m lucky if I remember to take both children out of the door. Let alone bring some tinned food for the harvest festival. Or a water bottle. Or the sight words we were supposed to look at last night.

PE kit on a Wednesday. Unless it’s the alternate Wednesday, when they’re cooking. Wellies on a Thursday. For school in the woods. Raincoats. Warm coats. Weather appropriate socks.

Name labels in everything. School dinners booked before 9am. Parents evening slips to be returned. Assemblies to attend.

There’s probably an app to deal with all of this. But I bet you can’t get it on a Windows phone.

5. The marital status of your teacher is important.

At least, it is to Elvie.

Who marched up to her teacher, hands on hips, and asked “So, is there a Mr Hook?” Leaving me to profusely apologise for my four-year-old-Jane-Austen-matriarch.

Thankfully the actually-not-married-yet teacher thought it was hilarious. At least, that’s what she said.

6. School rules are easily misinterpreted.

For the first week of school, Elvie came home every day with eyes aglow, telling tales of the creative corner. Where she could find paper, pens, glue, scissors and all sorts of wonders. Available for her to use at any time. Whenever she liked. All under the banner of ‘please help yourself.’

Which is nothing short of heaven for my girl. Who has everything rationed at home. Partly for the sake of the trees. And partly to avoid too many incidents like this.

WP_20140407_002

Seriously. Those arms.

It took me an entire week of siphoning lollipop sticks, reams of paper, glue pots and exercise books out of her reading folder to realise that the banner should perhaps be rewritten. To say ‘please help yourself, while you’re at school, to things you’re actually going to use in lesson time. If you want to use it at home, buy it.’

Yes, it would be a much longer sign. But it would halve their stationary budget.

7. Vanish* will save your life.

Or at least your sanity.

I have my suspicions that the school uniform industry is at least partly funded by the sales of laundry products. There is no other reason on earth that anyone would put a four year old in a white polo shirt and give them bolognese for lunch.

Unless it’s all part of a masterplan to reduce mothers to neurotic, paranoid wrecks who buy replacement clothing every week.

In which case, pink spraygun of power, I salute you. You and your stain-removing, mama-empowering skills.

Thank you. We are eternally grateful.

And only a little exhausted. Turns out school is tiring. Not just for the children.

Anyone for wine?

 

(*other stain removers are available. Whatever.)

 

Our big fat summer of slow. I hope. July 22, 2014

Filed under: Elvie,Family,Nursery,Operation Slow — hannahoakland @ 12:54 pm

Summer is almost here. So close I can reach out and touch it.

This time last year I was shaking with terror. Literally. This year, it’s different.

Tomorrow is Elvie’s final day at nursery. Before seven weeks of glorious, laid-back summer. And then Big School.

At least, that’s the plan.

This morning we made cupcakes for the teachers. Despite being utterly intimidated by the hand-decorated wrapping paper on the implausibly large presents that another parent brought in yesterday.

It was fun. We cracked eggs everywhere, covered the table in sugar sprinkles and mixed up some icing in a pretty lurid shade of pink.

WP_20140722_002

Elvie had a great time. Joel mostly licked things. Between them they consumed so much sugar that the traditional pre-nursery meltdown was at least ten times the usual volume.

We’ll miss nursery. Elvie especially.

We’ll miss the structure it gives to our days, and the friends we see on a daily basis.

We’ll miss the toys, and the climbing frame, and the seemingly unlimited craft supplies.

We’ll miss the wonderful teachers, who deserve much more than a day-glo pink cucpcake.

They have treasured her throughout this year. They’ve let her play in the mud and draw endless pictures. They’ve given her such a positive introduction to education, and opened her mind to a hundred new ideas.

We’ll miss them. Seven weeks is a long time to fill. But I’m optimistic about this summer. I’m even (whisper it) looking forward to it. A little bit.

Mostly because of last weekend.

On Saturday we spent all day in the garden. Literally all day. It was beautiful.

The sun shone. Wes built a play-house. Joel bounced on the trampoline. I was weeding. Elvie was covered in mud. Completely covered. From head to toe. As is her way.

It was perfect. Warm, relaxed and surprisingly productive. Followed by a friend’s party in the evening, where we sat outside eating delicious food while the children ran wild into the night.

It was the epitome of calm and gentle. Of our own particular, cherished brand of slow.

It just can’t happen during the week. When we need to eat lunch by midday to get to nursery on time. And we daren’t stay out late because the consequences are disastrous.

Unless it’s the holidays. Which, thank goodness, it very nearly is.

This summer holiday feels like the perfect chance to practice living slowly.

To eat more meals outside. On the floor. To spend hours in the mud. Or digging up weeds at our beautiful new allotment.

WP_20140721_006

To have lazy movie nights. And ice cream. And lots of parties with friends. To take my eye off the time, and the calendar and the to-do list. To breathe deeply. And relish the chance to really connect with my children.

Before Elvie starts school in September and everything changes again.

It won’t be easy. Wes is away a lot. Seven weeks is a long time. The heat makes Elvie spectacularly grumpy. As does being bored. It’ll be a delicate balance to maintain.

But, for the moment at least, the chance of arriving at September as a blissed-out, tanned, tie-dye wearing hippy seems a very real possibility.

That’s already a big improvement on last year. And the holidays don’t start until tomorrow.

I’ll keep you updated.

Unless, of course, I’m too chilled out to bother.

In which case you’ll find me in the garden. Feel free to bring cakes.

Whatever colour they are.

 

 

Family July 16, 2013

Filed under: Family — hannahoakland @ 8:16 pm

Family is a funny old thing. I spent last weekend with four generations of mine – chance for some proper quality time. I know that we’re incredibly lucky to have four generations still around, and I love that the children get to know my grandparents as well as their own. This photo, taken when Elvie was a week old, will always be precious. Not everyone gets to take that picture.

IMG_5312

I’ve always had a good relationship with my family. As a child I thought we were perfect – obviously that didn’t last. As I grew up I questioned the way things were done, found out more about our history and discovered that some of what I thought I knew wasn’t entirely true. All the skeletons came out of all of the cupboards. I assumed that people had been keeping secrets from me. In reality, I had never asked. It’s safe to say that I dealt with it very badly, and did my best to make my parents feel as though they’d failed. Raising my own babies now, I realise how it must have felt to be criticised so harshly by someone you had loved unconditionally for so many years. I’m so sorry.

When we were engaged, and again when I was pregnant with Elvie, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to ‘do family’. Wes had changed his surname, and I took on that new name when we married. It was exciting – starting a new family with a new name and a new legacy. This was our chance to start over and avoid all the mistakes that our respective families had made. It turns out that the cliche is true – you don’t make the same mistakes as your parents, you’re too busy making new ones.

Part of my problem was that in my desperate quest to be an individual, I’d somehow convinced myself that I didn’t fit my family’s mould. That I was different, and that nobody really understood me. This weekend, as I spent four days with them I realised the opposite. There are a lot of similarities…

My nanny has always been something of a mystery. To me, anyway. I’ve never known what to say to her, and never felt like we had any common ground. This weekend as I watched her plug in to her audiobooks, determined to get her stories even though her eyes have failed her, I recognised my love of words and narrative and escaping to other worlds. I don’t know how I never noticed it before. I heard the humour she used to deflect from the fear of losing her sight. And, when my sister spent longer than expected in the cabin looking for something warm to wear, nanny turned round and asked whether she was “knitting that jumper herself?” Took the words right out of my mouth.

Dad is more familiar. My personality is an echo of his. As demonstrated perfectly in our Sunday evening card game. Competitive just about touches the edge of it. Suffice to say that there was deliberately bad listening in order to have a ready excuse for losing, lots of attempts at rule-bending and the occasional ‘let’s just use that as a trial run.’ That was just Dad. As for me – when I got back to our cabin and told Wes I hadn’t won, his response was “didn’t you cheat?” Like father, like daughter. Makes you proud!

I see myself in my aunty’s fretting and fussing around, trying to make everything perfect and feeling responsible for everyone else’s happiness. And in the sweets that she brings out every night. I see myself in Elvie – being overwhelmed by the number of people and wanting to hide away in a corner. That’s a lot more socially acceptable when you’re two years old.

There is so much good in my family. Especially my parents. They are the most selfless, generous people I know. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief when they enter the room – if they’re around, it will all be alright. They do so much for others – for us, for their friends, for the orphans in Tanzania, and for people they have never even met. They’ve had tough journeys but they’re strong and determined and they’ve built up a wonderful life for themselves, and for us. They’re loving, caring – and fantastic at celebrations. If you get the chance to have Christmas at their house, take it. And don’t eat for a month beforehand.

Every family has its good parts and its bad parts. Looking at my family now I can see our chances and our brilliance and our problems. We’re not perfect. And we’re not a disaster. That’s normal. And healthy. And my new little family? Our little gang of four?

DSC02329

This is our chance to start over – but I’m not sure I want to. Not completely. There’s so much I want to take with me. Instead of avoiding the mistakes of previous generations, I want to celebrate the successes. To share the legacy of my parents and my grandparents with my own little ones. Hoping that one day they’ll do the same with ours. We’re all in this together. Thank goodness.