My Name Is………

My Name Is.....

Over the years I’ve acquired many nicknames. Some of you will know me as Chez, others Meryl, Beryl, Cherry and weirdly Flo. This week however, I’ve been given a new name by my youngest daughter, Eva. That name is….Carmella.

Since starting pre-school 3 weeks ago, Eva has not only fallen in love with the place, but with her keyworker, the wonderful Carmella. Eva is obsessed with her. Every time I pick her up she talks about what Carmella did and what Carmella said and when she can see Carmella again. This clearly isn’t enough, because 4 days ago, Eva told me “You be Carmella” and “I be Eva.” I chuckled to myself and happily went along with this new role play. What I didn’t realise is that it would last all day and indeed all week. Over the past few days, whenever I’ve made the mistake of saying something like “Mummy needs to put the washing on,” she looks at me as if I’m stupid and says “You’re not mummy, you’re Carmella.”

Advantages of Being Someone Else

The upside of all this extensive role playing is that as Carmella I can get Eva’s attention more than when I’m being the real me. At the age of 2 we are going through a quite demanding phase. I have noticed this week that when she’s stamping her foot and screaming for chocolate buttons, I can get her to stop or listen to me by saying something like “Carmella doesn’t like that.”

A Bit Weird

Let’s face it, the disadvantages are that it’s just plain weird isn’t it? I find it weird that I’m having to pretend to be someone else all week, if anyone overhears me talking as Carmella or being called Carmella then that would be weird. And if Carmella ever found out how detailed this little crush has become I’m sure she would find it ever so slightly strange. I dropped Eva off at pre-school this morning and could barely look Carmella in the eye thinking how bizarre it is that I’ve been pretending to BE HER all week.

I hear about plenty of other children who have had pretend imaginary friends, but I’ve never heard of a child who has insisted on calling their mum after another real person ALL WEEK. Whilst I’m pleased that she’s settled into pre-school so well, I can’t help feeling a tiny bit freaked out by how obsessed Eva has become with this other woman.

It Can’t Last Forever

Surely this phase won’t last forever. We finally had a break through last night when Eva tiredly murmured to me “You be Mummy now.” I’m hoping that will be the end of it. As much as I have nothing against the real Carmella, I’d quite like to go back to being me again. But who knows what will happen later when I go and pick her up today. If Eva’s had another enjoyable day, I may end up being Carmella for a while longer yet.

I’d love to know if anyone else been given an unusual name by their child or is it just me?

6 Things You Don’t Expect When Your Child Starts Primary School

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Two weeks ago my eldest daughter started primary school. It’s been a fairly fraught summer, we didn’t get into any of our 4 choice of primary schools and we lost our appeal. On top of that Alice’s birthday is at the end of August so she had only just turned 4 when we waved her off Big School. Despite these initial concerns, she seems to be settling in well. There are some things however that we did not expect from her starting school:

1) Tiredness – I was prepared for tiredness, especially being a summer born baby, but I was unprepared for just how much. Almost daily we have a complete melt down about 6.15pm. What starts with a bit of whinging, quickly escalates to full on tantrum followed by face down on the carpet howling and screaming. I have been putting her into bed earlier as she obviously needs and has even been asking for it. Someone advised me that the trick is to move everything including dinner and bed earlier. So I seem to now start dinner as soon as we get home especially if I dare attempt to get her in the bath!

2) Reality Dawns – The first few days of starting school were a definite novelty. They were short days, there was lots of new and exciting things to do and see. Now reality has hit that school is happening EVERY DAY! I get asked the same questions every morning “Do I have to go AGAIN?” “When is it the weekend?” and the incessant “But I don’t want to go.” Despite the protests she does thankfully seem to enjoy it once she’s there.

3) Missing Her! – It is only been 2 weeks, but I really miss having Alice around. My youngest daughter also regularly asks where she is. Alice used to go to pre-school but somehow this seems to be a leap up from that. I was used to having her around for a couple of days with me, so it’s bizarre and a little sad now. I’m sure we will get used to it, but at the moment, it feels strange and I find myself constantly wondering what she’s up to.

4) New Routine – All of us have had to adapt to a new routine and this is still something we are getting used to. We need to leave the house earlier and this results in a regimental routine with me shouting “Breakfast!” “Get Dressed!” “Teeth!” “Toilet!” and finally “Shoes!” and “Car!” at varying intervals between 7am and 8am. I feel like a sergeant major, but with little room for error in the morning, it can, and has already gone horribly wrong for example when Alice one day refused to put her shoes on or our youngest daughter wouldn’t get off the potty. Mornings suddenly feel a lot more stressful!

5) Odd Behaviour – Along with many other new mums, we are seeing some “challenging” behaviour when Alice gets home from school as she seems to suddenly transform into a stroppy teenager. Shouting and door slamming are becoming the norm especially when I ask her to do something. Another mum said she thinks this is because they are having to be “good” all day that they let rip when they get home! I was also amazed to discover that Alice had wet herself at school which hasn’t happened since she was 2!

6) You Have No Idea What They Get Up To – Despite asking on a regular basis “What did you do at school today?” I always seem to get a similar response “Not sure” or “Can’t Remember.” Little bits of information gradually drip through to me but they might involve the most random things like the process at dinner time or what colour coat another girl was wearing. It’s infuriating as I long to be a fly on the wall and know what on earth is going on, but all you can do is be patient and wait for them to open up. I’ve also found that more general questions provoke a response like “What did you enjoy doing?” or “What did your teacher say today?”

Starting primary school is a huge event for any child. There’s a big change to the daily routine as well as being in a new environment every day and meeting new people. It’s bound to be overwhelming and this is bound to translate into odd behaviour. It can be a bit of a shock to the system for the parents as well as the kids! I suppose the key is to keep going, give them some time and (hopefully) things will soon settle into a new routine for everyone.

Has your child recently started at primary school? How are they getting on? Please let me know if you’re experiencing any of the same behaviour, or do you have any other points to add to my list? I’d love to hear your comments!

School, Admissions, Appeal and Upset

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Last week parents across the UK woke up early in a state of nerves and anticipation to find out where their little darlings will be starting primary school in September. At 5.30am, we were among them. I’ll be honest. I was 95% certain that our daughter would be going to the local catchment school 0.3 miles away. But no, we were astounded to discover that we didn’t get any of our 4 choices. I’ve read in the paper today that apparently this only happens to 2.5% of parents, so I guess we are one of the unlucky ones. To say I was shocked was an understatement. It took a while for the complete dismay and disappointment to register before I dissolved into tears. We have been allocated to a school which I’ve barely heard of and never even given a passing thought to which is almost 2 miles away.

I spent the rest of the day in a complete daze. I spoke to some friends, most of whom were pleased with their places, but a few have been left as distraught as me.

How Could This Happen?

A week on from discovering the news and I still can’t understand how this has happened. Apparently this year has had a high sibling rate. The school gives preference to children with older siblings who are already at the school before then taking children on a distance basis using a straight line calculation for how close homes are to school. This bizarre calculation means that children who, on a walking basis, actually live further away from us have managed to secure a place despite the fact they will probably still need to drive to the school gate. A new housing estate has been built last year and yet no provision has been given for accommodating those extra children into already oversubscribed schools.

So when I read in the paper today that the head of “Commissioning Education” at our local County Council is “delighted with the result” and “…how this demonstrates a further investment in creating additional primary school places…” I practically threw the paper across the room. A year ago it would have been inconceivable for someone in walking distance to not get into their local school. Government and local councils need to wake up to the fact that they cannot continue to build new homes at such a speed without building the infrastructure and support that is desperately needed to go with it.

I suppose we are incredibly unlucky, but it doesn’t do anything to make the anger, sadness or stress subside. Since when did the entire process become so difficult and so distressing to parents? In October last year we were told to visit schools and make choices for the following year. But what is the point of that if you don’t get allocated to any of those choices?

Not What We Envisaged

Your child’s start in education is supposed to be exciting, daunting and scary. It’s THE big step and a huge milestone in their life as well as for you as a parent. It’s a vision that I’ve had in my mind for a while; we even bought the house thinking that the local school was on the doorstep. As an August baby, I know my daughter will be emotional, I know she will find the transition hard, but I envisaged being there to support her along with the friends and peers that she knows already. The vision has changed somewhat in my mind already. If we don’t get into our preferred school via the waiting list or appeal, we will have to be excited and jolly for her, but inside I’ll be livid and upset on her behalf that she will be going to a school in a strange place, miles away where she won’t know anyone.

Legal Appeal

Launching a school appeal is tough. I’ve been quoted various statistics but the bottom line is that very few people win. Preparing for the case is in itself like having a full-time job. The amount of research and reading I’ve done in just this past week is unbelievable. It’s completely consuming and I’m only now just managing to control it so that schools, appeals and the admissions process doesn’t dominate my every waking thought. The appeal document has to challenge in a legal way using certain legal criteria set out by the council. Ultimately it can’t just be an emotional heart-felt letter imploring for common sense to prevail. The stress of having to cope with this on our own with no real advice from anyone in authority is incredible. In just this week alone, I can already feel it affecting my health and causing a strain with my husband. All of this with just a 20 day deadline in which to lodge the appeal.

What Next?

Tomorrow will be interesting. We find out where we are on the waiting list for all 4 of our preferred schools. That may give me some hope or it could be just as disappointing as receiving news as last week. It’s almost too much to bear. After that, we continue to build a case for appeal. Continue to read, research and hope to find some loopholes on which to challenge this strange decision.

If I make it to September with a good outcome it will be a miracle.

Have you been affected by the schools application this year? Did you not get into your chosen school or were you, like me one of the 2.5% of parents that didn’t get any of their 4 choices? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.

Family Holiday, Memory Maker

Family Holiday

This time tomorrow I will be off on a flight to Lanzarote! I can’t wait for a bit of sunshine and a break from the usual routine. This holiday is unusual because there will be 14 of us. Yes you did read that right – 14! My mum and dad are very kindly treating my 2 sisters and I plus all of our respective families to a week in the sun.

People’s reactions to the trip tend to fall into one of two categories: laughter or horror. Many can’t understand why on earth I’d travel abroad with my entire immediate family complete with 6 small children aged 5 or under. Yes, I guess there is a potential for arguments and yes, I hope we can all have a fabulous time and manage to return back to the UK still talking.

Of course with so many children mostly of toddler age, it is hardly going to be a quiet affair. There will probably be at least 1 child having a meltdown about something at any one given time.

So Why?

So why on earth are we doing this? Other than the sunshine, I truly believe this holiday will be a real memory maker for my 3 year old daughter. For one thing she’s never been on an aeroplane before. I can’t wait to see how she’s going to react to being up in the air. Secondly she absolutely adores her 4 cousins, 2 of whom are older or younger than her by just a few weeks. These 3 girls always get on well together but they’ve never been with each other for longer than a morning or afternoon. So to be spending a full week in each other’s company is going to be really exciting for them. No doubt they’ll be the odd spat, but I really believe that this holiday will cement an already beautiful friendship. At 3, I’m hoping that this holiday will be a strong memory that my eldest daughter will treasure forever.

My 21 month old daughter will probably not remember this trip, but she will undoubtedly love spending time with all of her favourite people. If the weather is kind, our water baby will also love the outdoor pool that we have at our villa.

I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with the kids but also the adults too. It will be great to catch up properly with my sisters, their husbands, my parents and my own husband too! Sometimes everyday life churns on so quickly that you don’t get the real chance to sit, take stock, relax and talk properly.

I’ll report back in a week or so and let you know all about our family holiday.

A Dedication to All Mums for Mother’s Day

Mother's Day     Being a mum is hard work. Whether you’re a brand new mum who is still finding her feet with the joys of sleep deprivation, a worn out mum who is dealing with a feisty toddler or a mum worrying about her grown up children.

Whatever the situation and however old your children are, there always seems something to worry about. Worry about whether your kids are OK and worry about whether you’re doing the right thing too. It’s exhausting!

In honour of Mother’s Day, I dedicate this post to you, lovely mums. I know so many different mums who are all facing different situations and all facing a battle of some sort. I’ve identified 6 types of mum and I know at least 2 mums from each group. Read on to see if you can recognise yourself in here, because this is especially for you:

The New Mum: Possibly a first time mum or a new mum who is also struggling to cope with entertaining an older sibling. The lack of sleep is a shock to the system as are the demands of feeding and trying to figure out general routines. Mums who have their second or subsequent new baby face a shock because they’re trying to figure out how on earth they can satisfy the demands of a screaming baby, but placate their feisty toddler too – tricky!

The Full Time Working Mum: I know several full time working mums who are all getting up at the crack of dawn to drop their kids off at nursery before doing an often long commute to get into the office. They must feel like they’ve done a day’s work before sitting at their desk. And then running for the train on the way home, praying for no delays in order to pick up their kids and start the bedtime routine. They have my greatest respect, I really don’t know how they do it.

The Incomplete Mum: These mums have lost a child too soon. They will never be the same again. Despite getting up and putting on a brave face every day, a piece of them is missing. I can’t even begin to imagine how they must feel, they are true heroes.

The Juggling Work & Juggling Kids Mum: Whether they are working part time, freelancing or working from home, these mums struggle to fit in work and kids. They’re cramming every spare child free moment with trying to sort out work. Whilst the kids are in child care they are working, when the kids are in front of the TV they are answering emails. All too often they feel like they aren’t doing anything to the best of their ability; work and parenting feels like half measures and they often wish they could do both a bit better.

The Stay at Home Mum:  Teacher, carer, entertainer, nurse; the list goes on for the role of the full time mum. Some days can be rewarding, fun and memorable. The bad days can be exhausting, mind-numbing, out of control and damn right horrible. Dealing with tantrums, sickness, general bad behaviour and not talking to another adult for 12 hours can be excruciating. I know plenty of mums who on occasion have cried, screamed and felt like walking out and never coming back.

The Empty Nest Mum: Having devoted most of their life to their children, these mums are suddenly facing having more time on their hands. Whether the kids are all now at school, university or left home, these mums may feel at a bit of a loss … or they might be dancing round the kitchen looking forward to their new-found freedom. Either way, it’s a sudden lifestyle change that can be as daunting as it might be exhilarating. After so many years, what to do next?

Whatever type of mum you are, it can be tough. Everyone’s struggling with every day issues and problems that can be very small and minor or huge and life changing.

Whatever your situation, I hope you all manage to take a bit of time to relax and enjoy Mother’s Day, because you all deserve it, you’re doing a wonderful job!  Xx