Picking Sides

  We’re big fans of avoiding gender stereotypes in our household. 

G does ballet and loves Elsa, pink and the girl pups from Paw Patrol, but she also grew up playing with train tracks, dumper trucks and football.

She started playing football when she was 3, at a local class called Diddikicks. She loved it so much she kept going until she turned 6 and she could join the after school football club. C has now started at Diddikicks too and is just about getting the hang of things, and enjoying it as much as her big sister did.

Other than her Diddikicks kit, G’s first football kit was a yellow and blue Sweden kit – an awesome gift from her Scandinavian cousins.

When she grew out of this and needed a new one for school we gave her a choice of country kits – Scottish like her Dad, Welsh like her Mum or English for where she was born. She chose Welsh, and I had a smug face for days, maybe even weeks.

But disaster struck, and the Wales kit went missing. I suspect foul play, but regardless, G needed a kit to wear to football club, so I stiffened my upper lip and we duly trotted off to our local sports shop to pick something up in time for her next class.

Not being a huge football fanatic myself, it had kind of passed me by that at some point G might have to choose her football allegiances. And I naively hoped we could simply skirt the issue – after all she’s still a 6 year old girl who struggles to decide what her favourite TV show or breakfast cereal is on a daily basis.

But there we were, confronted with a simple, yet baffling choice – Manchester United, Manchester City or Liverpool.

G studied the aisle carefully. She picked up one, then another, then started checking for her size, blissfully unaware of the importance of the decision she was making and how it would quite possibly stick with her for the rest of her life. And I did want this to be her decision, not mine.

“I want the red one, Mummy!” she started by saying, and so I explained to her that one of the red ones was Liverpool, and the other Manchester United, and did she have a preference?

She hesitated, hovering between the shirts, and looked up at me as if expecting me to know the answer.

“Well” I started, “I know Liverpool have a women’s team, but I have a feeling Manchester United don’t, do you want me to check?”.  Suddenly reminded of something we had said previously, G piped up “which is the one we could go and see?”

“We could see any of them” I replied, “but I think we talked about maybe going to see the Manchester City women’s team.”

“That’s the one I want,” she responded, quickly finding her size on the rack and exclaiming “oh look! It even comes with socks!”

So, Manchester City it is! Unless she changes her mind of course…

Fast forward a couple of days. Picking her up in the evening after her football class, I asked her if her friends at school had liked her new kit.

“No,” she replied, “except J, as he likes City. The others all said ‘City in the bin, United win’. I told them ‘United in the bin, City win’ but they said that was made up.”

My heart sank. We’d made such an effort to ensure she hadn’t been put off things like football as a result of being a girl – had all that effort been spoilt by something so simple as picking a shirt?

“You’ll never guess what happened when I saw Mr T and Mrs E,” she continued, “they said ‘ewwww, go away!’ because they don’t like City.”

I could feel my blood rising.

Then she laughed. “It was so funny” she said, “that I couldn’t stop laughing all the way back to the hall!”

As she turned and carried on playing with her toys, still giggling away, I thought to myself “we must be doing alright at this parenting lark.”

Big girl bike

 
If mummy’s got new wheels, why not G?

It’d been a while since we’d last taken G out on her bike – an intentionally non-girly Thomas the Tank Engine affair that we bought on eBay and that has done sterling service over the past couple of years.

But I have to confess to being taken by surprise when I realised quite how much G had grown, as I watched her trying to cycle with her knees almost up to her chin.  Even with the seat and handlebars at their highest height, there was no mistaking it was time for a new bike.

So the other weekend G went to choose her early birthday present from – where else – Halfords. Because as they said last Christmas, nothing beats a bike.

I was slightly concerned that I wouldn’t be able to manoeuvre her past the ‘Frozen’ bike sat front and centre in store, but luckily all I needed to do was say “look, that one’s the same colour as Mummy’s bike” and she was sold on a very cool black and hot pink mean machine, complete with rainbow gloves and a matching Tinkerbell cycling hat.  A pink basket for her doll to sit in completed the look and we were off.

I’m actually kinda jealous that my bike is missing the pink bits.

As it turned out, I shouldn’t have worried about the lure of Frozen.  It was more of a challenge prizing G out of the cycle trailer that she’d set herself up in. I briefly contemplated splashing out on one so she could come out with us on family bike rides, but quickly remembered that the chances of actually making frequent use of it – however good my intentions – were slim. And apparently it doesn’t fit on the back of a motorbike anyway.

So it was that a few days later we found ourselves in Whitworth Park in Manchester, standing by watching our little speed demon doing laps of the central roundabout, waving at every person she passed and telling them all about her new bike.

I’m very pleased she enjoys her new bike so much, and I love her confidence to talk to anybody, especially because she used to be quite shy meeting new people.

But I can’t help thinking we might need to have a little chat about stranger danger, if only to spare poor random strangers the ten minute ‘conversation’ about her cycling prowess.

Sleepless in Salford

Just a few, short nights ago we were sat in a hot tub on the last night of our holiday, under a canopy of trees and stars, debating what our next holiday should be.

Scotland? The Shetland Islands or Orkney perhaps?  Italy? Spain? Hell, why not an all inclusive on a Mexican beach? With a kids club of course, so we can sip cocktails at a swim up bar all day while the kids have a whale of a time with all their new friends…

Of course, that was after we’d been there long enough to forget the joys of the flight over, and before the even bigger joys of the flight back.  

I was actually going to write a post of tips for flying long haul with a fifteen month old. I even drafted it… It was pretty short and sweet. It simply said “don’t do it”.

But enough of that. We’ve now been back nearly 3 whole days, and whether it’s the attempt to return to a normal routine, or jet lag, or a bit of both, but among the holiday souvenirs we brought back with us, it appears our children no longer sleep.

Usually, if C’s really unsettled, an emergency episode of In The Night Garden is enough to remind her that it’s bedtime.  A sign of just how bad things have become: tonight, it took that plus half an episode of Mr Selfridge (she wasn’t a fan), a partial lap of the M60 and the entire Radio 4 shipping forecast… and still no sleep.

Seriously? The shipping forecast nearly sent me off!

I actually made it back home at one point with what appeared to be a sleeping baby, but she could clearly sense what was going on and promptly started wailing again.

To that point, it’s currently 1:40am and I’m sat in the car in one of the more salubrious neighbourhoods of Salford (I figure I’d rather come up against Worsley’s neighbourhood watch than some of Salford’s more colourful nightlife), writing this blog post.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention – the last time I saw Mr Jones, he was blearily trying to coax/bribe a tearful and very awake 5 year old back into her bed.

Last night both kids were asleep by 3:30am. Tonight’s looking like it won’t be that far behind. And of course we’ve both got work in the morning.

Who ever said having kids was a good idea?!

Long haul

 

We’re currently on holiday in Canada, where friends of ours got married this weekend (congrats again Sarah and Jon!).

This of course means that C has been on her first aeroplane. Two, in fact. Although given she slept right the way through the first one I’m not entirely sure it counts?

The prospect of entertaining two little ones for upwards of 12 hours wasn’t one that I was overly excited about, but needs must and we packed accordingly with two Trunki suitcases (genius products, for what its worth!) full of everything I could think of.

It turned out that whilst G was more than happy to be occupied by the in flight entertainment (she now has a new found love of My Lttle Pony), the main thing to entertain C was being allowed to sit and stand on my seat.

  

This in turn meant that much of the journey for me was spent sitting on the floor or standing up. Well, they do say you should keep mobile when flying long haul, and I’m sure C was only thinking about my health.

Despite everything we made it to Toronto in one piece, albeit tired and minus a couple of bags. The latter was, at least, an excuse to hang out in our Airbnb apartment for most of the following day, waiting for the bags aka slobbing about in yesterday’s clothes.

Although the girls have coped with the jet lag admirably, poor C has come down with some kind of stomach bug which meant I got back from the wedding on Saturday night to find a small child not only awake but vomiting all over the apartment. 

Cue another day in the apartment nursing her / recovering from the festivities.  Whilst there’s never a good time to be ill I guess it’s better this way than being on a day when we had to travel or had things booked.

She’s much better today, and although she’s not quite herself still she did polish off a pizza this evening and managed some smiles at the Toronto Aquarium we visited earlier.

I’ll save that for another day though as it definitely deserves a post of its own!

Happy Mother’s Day!

 Happy Mother’s Day!

What’s that you say?  Mothers Day was last weekend?  Yeah, I know. But to be honest I’ve only just recovered.

As you can see below, things started off well with a rather impressive haul of cards and gifts!  A combination of school, childminder, Rainbows and a trip to her favourite next door neighbour meant that I’m fully supplied with homemade goodies and decorations for the foreseeable future.  

  

Oh, and I got a huge chocolate cake with a sparkly sprinkles love heart on the top too.  That didn’t make it into the picture, I’ll leave you to guess why.  Even C got in on the act, crafting some surprises with what I suspect was more than a little adult help.

So why have I only just recovered? Well it wasn’t down to the excessive consumption of chocolate cake, although there was a clear risk of that.

No.  In our wisdom we decided to take two kids on a day trip that involved a total of 4.5 hours in the car. Which, with iPad, colouring books and DVD player packed would have been fine, until we hit the classic ‘I need a wee!’, ‘no I can’t wait’, ‘I really REALLY need a wee, now!’ stage.

Even that would have been ok if our emergency stop in a layby hadn’t caused the youngest child to wake up and scream blue murder until we got to our destination.  Or should I say screamed on and off for another 6.5 hours until we got back home again.

I blame teething. It’s surely not anything to do with the parents…

To her credit, G was a star for at least 90% of the time. And C managed some smiles and giggles inbetween her crying fits.  But next time, we’re staying over somewhere.

All set for our long haul flight for our holidays then? 

Er….

A Boxing Day bike ride

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However impossible it may appear, it really does seem as though every year the excitement about Christmas in our household notches up a gear.

Last year was probably the first year that G got really excited about it – something I think the build up at nursery helped with, as well as the arrival, of course, of a new baby sister. But this year it was at fever pitch.

Above anything else, I can’t help but be astounded at the almighty power of one little phrase at Christmas. “Do I have to tell Santa?” really does deliver in all eventualities.

Santa might not have brought our girls bikes this year (their current ones are perfectly good for a while yet) but after a day of present opening, Lego building, eating and playing we decided it was high time we got outside for a Boxing Day bike ride.

It was actually C’s first go on the Smart Trike, so I guess we could class it as a Christmas present. And she loved it. But not as much as G, after we’d raised the seat and handlebars on her bike in recognition of her growth in height since the summer when we last used it.

In good British style we used the opportunity to nip to the local shop to pick up some essentials, because clearly emptying not one but two different supermarkets on Christmas Eve wasn’t enough to get us through a few days.

It’s a bit cold outside for regular trips out on the bike, but now G’s proven she can get to the shop and back safely and without too much moaning I think we’ll be doing it again.

Like sister, like sister

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I always thought I would never compare my children. After all, they’re two entirely separate beings, with different personalities, interests and most probably skills. How could I compare them? And being a younger sister myself I was never a fan of always being known as “x’s sister”.

But when I was pregnant with C I started thinking about it again. In my head, G was a perfect blend of my husband and I. Surely our offspring would inevitably be like, well, G?

And after C arrived I found myself comparing purely so I could better understand what made her unique and different to her big sister.

But there are times when I just have to accept that C and G have both come from the same tree. Like when I put C in this hand me down dress and realised there was a picture on the wall of G wearing the same dress, at around the same age.

C might have slightly longer and slightly less blonde hair, and have her own distinctive personality traits, but there’s really no denying that they are sisters, is there?

Born and Bred

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My loose idea of nationality has always been based on the phrase ‘born and bred’.

I was ‘born and bred’ in Wales, with Welsh culture and traditions, so I consider myself Welsh, even though my father is English. And my other half is Scottish given he was born and bred in Scotland, despite him actually having no Scottish ancestors and in fact having stronger Welsh ancestry than me.

So we had to come to terms quite early on that our children were going to be ‘born and bred’ English.

Not that that’s a problem of course. When she was small I still snuck G into a Welsh rugby shirt to cheer on the Six Nations, bought her a Welsh outfit for St David’s Day, and taught her a Welsh nursery rhyme to sing to C. I’m not sure how long I’ll get away with that but I’ll do so happily for as long as she’ll let me.

Recently when it’s come to sporting events we’ve found we’ve had to swallow our respective national pride, for example when G declared that ‘Scotland need to learn how to win better’ at football, and when she announced that what she really wanted was an England football kit.

We’ve skirted round the issue of accent before too, and we were secretly pleased when moving from Oldham to Salford somewhat softened G’s pronunciation of ‘mun-keh’ (monkey, if you weren’t sure) and ‘mum-eh’.

But being brought up in the north of England was always going to rub off on the girls, and it seems it’s already having an effect on little C, who has just this week started using what seems to be her first proper word, in context.

Mummy? Daddy? No, nothing quite so simple as that. C’s first word is ‘hiya’.

Repeated over and over again, complete with beaming little smiles, all she needs is a mini parka jacket to complete the look. She’s already got the slightly drunken looking swagger when she tries to walk, and I’m fully expecting her to follow it up with ‘y’aright?’ any day soon.

I’m tempted to brush it off with the thought that ‘hiya’ is a much easier sound for little ones to copy than ‘bore da’ or ‘ay ay, fit like?’, but I think I’m just going to have to take the plunge and fully embrace the Manc-ness of my children.

Now where can I buy a couple of kids Stone Roses tops?

Party girl

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Last weekend was G’s 5th birthday party. In fact the whole weekend was spent celebrating this event, with our now traditional trip to Chester Zoo on Saturday, and her superhero-football themed birthday party on Sunday. The theme, of course, being what you end up with when you have a fickle nearly five year old who can’t decide what type of party she wants.

It was also a weekend for fancy dress, with G’s gift from us for our trip to the zoo a homemade (because you can’t seem to buy them anywhere) Go Diego Go outfit. Slightly obscure, perhaps, but G liked it, and rounded off the day by collecting her own Baby Jaguar (Diego’s sidekick) from the shop.

For the party, we already had a superhero outfit for G, and partnered her cape, mask and cuffs with a suitably pretty party dress for the occasion. C, however, had clearly grown out of her last superhero outfit, and needed something new.

I’d left it too late to make something for her myself, and quite frankly had worn myself out baking and decorating what I must say was a rather epic looking birthday cake. But thankfully M&S came to the rescue, and tucked away in the boys section (because only boys like to wear superhero stuff, obviously…), I found a rather cool superhero Tshirt complete with attached cape and velcro strips on the front so that you could choose your own superhero word for the front from the included letters – zap, pow or, if you’re a nearly five year old who hasn’t learnt to spell yet, zpo. Teamed with a tutu skirt to up the girly factor she was set to go.

And she came very close to ‘going’ as well – for the last couple of weeks she’s been trying very hard indeed to crawl, and coming very close. She’s not quite figured out what to do with her legs though, so luckily for me I can still put her down and be sure she’ll still be around about there when I turn around.

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C thoroughly enjoyed the party, being cooed and fussed over by some of G’s friends throughout. However she didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as her big sister, whose football coaches from Diddikicks truly delivered by arriving not only with a host of superhero games for the occasion, but also rocking some rather ace superhero outfits themselves!

My own half hearted attempt at a superhero outfit for myself (a cut up Tshirt dress using the neckband to tie it around the neck) was testament to my less than perfect organisation skills for the day, which saw us blowing up balloons in the hallway, hastily making up packed lunches as the children arrived, and stacking cakes at the back of the hall as overexcited 4 year olds ran around our legs. But no matter, they all seemed to enjoy themselves and G left one very happy, and very lucky girl, laden down by rather a lot of lovely and very generous presents!

Party done, the only thing that remained was to sit back with a glass of wine. And boy did I need it.

Play centre next year?

The things we forget

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Even when we keep a blog or diary, it’s amazing how many of the little things we forget as the kids get older.

I was reminded of this last night. We don’t often have a babysitter, but it was our wedding anniversary so we booked one of our ‘regular’ babysitters for a night out.

When I say ‘regular’, the last time she came to stay was over a year ago, long before C arrived on the scene (you can tell how often we get out..!).

Talking her through the bedtime routine she reminded me that last time she came G was going through a phase of insisting that she wore one sock to bed. Just the one, and it had to be on the right foot, if I remember correctly.

Needless to say, G no longer wears one sock to bed. But it did get me thinking of all the other little things that she grows up and out of, but I don’t really want to forget.

Like the fact that for about a year when she first learnt to talk bananas were known as ‘lurger-lurgers’.

And the fact that she calls own label Shreddies ‘owl treats’ or ‘superhero snacks’ based on the picture on the box (guess where we shop?!).

The way if I pretend to pick her up like a baby she shouts ‘I’m not a baby! Look! I’ve got long legs!”.

Or the way she would crawl around the house for hours if we’d let her, pretending to be a dog.

Yeah ok, so that last one gets a bit annoying after a while.

Anyhow, my point still stands. I love seeing my children growing up. But I don’t want to forget the little things that make us laugh and smile along the way.

C’s still developing her little personality. She’s already proving to be a little explorer, determined to pull on, open and attempt to climb into every thing she can find, despite not having learnt to crawl yet (although she’s trying very hard).

She hates being on her tummy, and will only tolerate being laid down for a short while – ever since she learnt to sit she wants to sit and watch, reach and grab at anything within a 3 foot radius.

She smiles and laughs at the sight of her big sister or daddy coming home from school or work, and stares fixedly at people she doesn’t yet know, taking everything in before she decides whether she’s going to smile at them or not.

And she certainly knows how to get what she wants, mostly by shouting and looking at you pointedly until you figure out what it is. The quote “she may be small, but she is fierce” seems rather apt for my littlest girl!

If you’re interested, we had a lovely night out for our anniversary, with all you can eat ribs and chicken at the Southern Eleven restaurant in Manchester. And we came home almost too full to sample the cake I’d made earlier in the day at G’s request, mostly so that she could decorate it in her usual inimitable style.

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Coincidentally this evening, the story of how the husband and I first met has been immortalised in a BBC Online news story. No, our anniversary isn’t that big news – it turns out the venue where we first met, The Cockpit in Leeds, has closed down.

Sad times all round, and an opportunity to reminisce over the little things that happened during our university days, that otherwise might be forgotten.