The Charges of the Christmas Light Parade

Ahhh, can you smell it in the air?  The aroma of freshly cut pine trees, the cinnamon spices of mulled wine, the rich creamy eggnog, chestnuts roasting on an open fire and the honey-glazed ham roasting slowly in the oven.  No?  Exactly.  It’s November.  The reason why I don’t desire Christmas to hurry this year or indeed every year is because I have yet to buy a single present.  It doesn’t seem two minutes ago since I was making a sarcastic comment about it being July when my friends were sending me messages asking if I wanted to book the kids onto the ‘Santa Train’.  And now, my children will not be riding on Santa’s Train and Christmas is suddenly upon us…(it’s not, it’s November.)

I often refuse to acknowledge Christmas until our pupils leave at lunch time on the last Friday before Santa arrives.  However, after a week filled with endless vomiting and soaring temperatures, when my friend (you all know her as JC) text to see if we wanted to go and watch the Christmas lights being turned on in our local village, I said ‘yes’. Well, first of all I made a sarcastic comment about it being November, but then threw my vomit covered favourite jogging bottoms in the wash, applied foundation, mascara and even eyeliner and agreed to meet her outside Morrisons.

So here is our guide (as JC always has a hand in making these situations funny) to enjoying a festive light switch on this Christmas November.

1. Wrap up warm.

I layered the girl up so that she would be nice and toasty as the temperature dropped suddenly over night.  She had her new coat on, gloves, hat, scarf and UGGs.  She was good to go.  Me?  I threw on my jeans, leather boots a white T-Shirt and a leather jacket.  I searched around the house for a pair of gloves and found one single leather one. (I think I accidently put the other in the washing machine a while back…) Grabbing my girl’s Peppa and George hand warmers out of the playroom, I too was good to go.  Unfortunately, Peppa and George were not going to suffice.  The cold hit me like a slap in the face – I was not going to last the afternoon.  Worried that we were going to be kicked out of Morrisons for loitering, I dragged the girl deeper into the warmth in order to buy a pair of gloves.  £1.50 later and I was the proud owner of some gloves; I could feel my fingers again and was ready to meet JC.  When she arrived, she too was gloveless and her jeans were ripped to pieces – in a follower of fashion kind of way – not in a she needed a new pair of jeans kind of way.  We continued to hang around in the doorway of the supermarket until the sounds of our children begging to go on the rides outside became a little too much to bear.

2.  Find the nearest stall that sells alcohol.

Admittedly, this sounds quite bad, but there was a reason for us seeking out alcohol before allowing our children to go on any rides or seeing the Christmas light being turned on.  We were freezing.  The alcohol was mulled wine and the mulled wine was hot.  Boiling in fact. We watched it come to the boil on an outside stove.  Using the plastic glasses as her gloves, JC was visibly shaking and I feared that my alcohol would end up on the pavement wasted and steaming – pun totally intended.  By this time, our children were making their way through the crowds and heading for the rides.  So, I downed my drink, burnt the top layer from the roof of my mouth, enjoyed a brief warm and fuzzy feeling in my stomach and braced myself for the artic winds to wrap themselves around me as I stood and watched our children on the tea cups and the chair swings.  JC, on the other hand, held onto her drink for dear life until every ounce of warmth had vanished from it.  Realising that it was now just basically red wine – a drink she hates – she threw it away.

3.  Allow your children to go on the rides.

After all, that is what you are there for isn’t it?  Oh no.  It’s not, it’s the lights.  Since when did the Christmas light turn on become an all day event?  There were festive stalls, craft fairs, face painting, three caged reindeer and extortionately priced kids’ rides lined up one after the other. The first up was the tea cups.

‘Two pound each please,’ the man said.

‘Do you mean two pound per cup?’ I questioned.



I reluctantly handed over the cash and less than five minutes later the ride was over.

I took note of the fact that not only were the rides situated outside a ’24hr cash’ cash point, but they also blocked the path to the nearest local pub.  The pub that we had already agreed to have a swift half of lager in before the big Christmas light switch on.  Was this some evil genius plan that the ride owners had hatched earlier in the day?  Did they realise that in order to endure the day, the grown ups would need alcohol and yet to reach the alcohol, the they would have to pay £2 for every ride along the way?

The Charges of the Christmas Light Parade

4.  Promise your children that they can go on more rides later and go to the pub.

We could not endure the cold any longer and the pub was in view.

‘Can we go on more rides?’

‘Yes, of course.  Let’s just go warm up for a little bit.’

My girl pointed to the seats outside the pub.

‘Are we going to this cafe to warm up?’

‘Yes darling.  The cafe’

Now this pub isn’t your local family friendly Harvester with a children’s play area, balloons and ice creams.  No, this is the village pub.  One that adults go to in the afternoon to enjoy a pint and watch sport on the big screen.  After ordering a drink, we found a seat near the big screen that was showing football.  Once seated, we awaited the dirty looks that were sure the come from the regular clientele.  I did, however, notice some other parents in the corner dethawing with a pint.  Then the bar manager approached us.

‘Do you want some cartoons on?’

That was not the question I expected.

‘Look, Scooby Doo is on.  I watched that when I was a lad.’

A cheer came from the kids, a moan from the bar and we drunk our beers ignoring any judgement that was being passed.

The Charges of the Christmas Light Parade

5.  Allow your children one more ride, but then change your mind at the last minute due to the artic gale that has just sliced its way through your ears.

Yes, the time came to leave the ‘cafe’ and the children were once again enticed by the rides.

‘Mummy, can I go on another ride?’

I had lost the feeling in my fingers already.

‘No darling,’ I looked up and spotted our local ‘Original Factory Shop. ‘I need a new washing up bowl, let’s go in here for a minute.’

She refused and she kicked and screamed.  Picking her up, I took her into the shop where she continued to scream.  Worrying that the customers may think I had accosted her from the chair swings, I put her down and said rather loudly:

‘Hold Mummy’s hand.’

She ran off and headed for the door.  Customers eyed me suspiciously.

Thankfully, JC entered behind us with her two children and my girl settled and giggled when she saw her friends.  We browsed the aisles for a few minutes, warmed up and made a plan about waiting around for the Christmas lights.  As we were leaving the shop, I spotted another friend and said ‘hello.’ From the corner of my eye, I noticed JC hot on heels of her daughter who had just accidently stolen a stuffed Santa from the store.

6. Call it a day and go home.

The firework display and fireworks began at 5pm. At 4.05, we were cold, skint and close to being arrested for stealing Santa.  We decided to call it a day.  Maybe it was karma for trying to be festive in November, maybe it was the frozen snot icicles dangling from the ends of our children’s noses, but we weren’t going to see the Christmas lights being turned on after all.  However, no one seemed to mind because we had had fun and seen our friends.

7.  Upon your return home, log onto Facebook.

Seeing as the Christmas light turn on was a local event, many of my ‘Facebook Friends’ were there also and had taken pictures.  I gathered up my children, logged into my account and we cooed in wonder at pictures of the festive lights and the fireworks that were lighting up the sky around Morrisons, The Original Factory Shop and the 24 hour cash machine!

The Charges of the Christmas Light Parade

What Are You Thankful For?

This week I made a conscious effort to not interact with anyone or any article, video or blog.  I didn’t feel it was appropriate to post a status about how my ten month old just broke his bath poo virginity (see new FB status) or how my daughter recites ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Poo’ nightly in an attempt to soothe her brother.  That’s how I have come to use Facebook in recent times, I use it to try to make people smile and I use it to show that life and parenting isn’t as picture perfect as some would have you believe.  But last week, I didn’t have much to smile about because something tragic occurred that reverberated with millions across the world.

Facebook can often be a sounding board for racist slurs and derogatory opinions about people’s religious beliefs.  Having a computer screen to hide behind often brings out the small minded people in their masses.  Personally, I never make comments on such rubbish, but sometimes I read them and it angers and upsets me.  Last week, I didn’t need to see anything like that.

On the flipside, Facebook can be a wonderful platform to share pictures and videos of heroic acts that often leave me gasping for breath and sobbing.  I didn’t want to do that either because I cried enough on Friday night when I read about the death poll in Paris and when I learnt that hundreds of lives were taken in an instant – hundreds of people who I did not know died and I shed a tear for them.  I kept away from social media and mourned for a world that one day will belong to my children and their generation.  And what a scary world it may well be.

Last Friday was like any other.  The Other Half and myself were watching television when my son began his nightly cry. He had been in his cot for just over an hour so I knew it was coming.  Switching the torch on my phone, I began my ascent up to his room and having finally visited the sleep expert, I was going to remain in his room until he fell back to sleep.

And that is exactly what I did.

With my back faced to my son, I sat down beside his cot and waited by him.  I wanted him to feel comforted by my presence, but I was determined not to pick him up and whisper in his ear that was ‘all alright because Mummy was there now’, so I didn’t. I sat down and started scrolling through my phone and after a few minutes, his crying ceased.  In that moment, I read a Facebook status that read ‘Pray for Paris’, but without thinking anymore of it, I soon turned my attention to the little hand that had reached out to play with my hair.  Smiling to myself, I remained seated, but turned to see my little man sitting up in his cot.  Yes, the crying had stopped, but the monkey was wide awake.  I reached my arm through the bars, stroked his soft face and he grabbed it and used it as a pillow.

A few minutes passed.  He was snoozing and my arm was wedged in the cot so I thought I would take another look on Facebook.  I noticed that Paris featured in a couple more statuses, but was still far too chuffed with the fact that my boy was now back asleep and, more importantly, he was still in his cot.  A military procedure of ‘operation move arm without waking baby’ began and after freeing myself, I stayed by the cot because I knew that that creaky floorboard to my left would surely give me away if I attempted a ninja roll out of the room too soon.  That was when I Googled ‘Paris’.

And that’s when I stopped and read.  I raised my hand to my mouth. ‘Oh God, how awful,’ I whispered into the darkness.

I logged back onto Facebook.

My timeline was suddenly filled with ‘Pray for Paris’ and I understood the severity of the situation.  It no longer mattered that my boy had been crying and was now sleeping his own cot.  It no longer mattered that he had not slept for longer than three hours the night previous. And nor did it matter that at midnight, when he woke again, I broke all the sleep expert’s rules and collected him and put him in my bed so that he could feel safe next to his Mummy.  Because that’s what we all want in the night isn’t it?  To feel safe.  I was lucky enough that night to be able to make my son feel safe, a feeling that was taken from thousands of people in a split second in a city not so far away.

It was still dark when we woke the next morning and it was somewhere between the hours of five and six when, once again, having read some Tweets, I Googled ‘Paris’.  I learnt of the death toll and of the bombings and in the darkness, with my wide awake son pulling on my fringe, I had a little weep.  I cried for those who lost their lives and I felt scared for the millions of innocent people who would be blamed for such a heinous crime.  But, I don’t want to make this post about race or religion; it’s not what my blog is about.  This post is about my concerns for my children and my pupils growing up fearing a world rather than embracing its beauty and the adventures it has to offer.  This post is also about my being thankful.

What Are You Thankful For?
Even though I never get a shower in peace, I am thankful

It’s easy to complain about your life.  Only this week, my partner, myself and my son have all battled with a sickness bug.  The little man is upstairs asleep now (in his cot) with a temperature and I have moaned about our rubbish week to colleagues.  In the grand scheme of things, our week has been far from rubbish.  Therefore, I wanted to remind myself to be thankful for my lot.  I am thankful that we live in a safe community even though I always complain that that my Mum and my friends live a whole twenty minutes drive away and that I have to drive for at least fifteen minutes before I reach a motorway.  I am thankful for my home despite my complaining to EVERYONE about our ridiculous mortgage payments and I am thankful that every morning, when I wake, I have a job to go to.  Therefore, rather than complain about at how at 6am I struggle to successfully apply copious amounts of makeup to my eye bags (which would cost you 5p if you purchased them at Tesco) with a snotty ten month old hanging off my hip while at the same time having to pacify a four year old who is demanding both a Fruitshoot and an Ipad, I will be thankful because for thousands of people around the world caught up in conflict, the norm is no longer something that exists for them.

What Are You Thankful For?

This week, our pupils have been scared by the attacks in Paris.  Of course, they would never admit this to their teachers, but we have spotted it in their questions.  I taught a sophisticated vocabulary lesson earlier in the week and one of my words was ‘malice’.

“Use it in a sentence,” I requested.

A young boy raised his hand and said: “The Syrians are maliced against France.”

The first thing I did was change his made up verb into a noun.  That is my job after all.

“The Syrians feel malice towards France,” I said. “But they don’t.  Not at all.”

Despite not understanding the conflict in the Middle East (hell, I don’t understand it), not one pupil has whispered a word of malice and hatred against another race or religion and that makes me thankful for being able to work with a group of young people who are curious about their world and not prejudiced against some of those in it.

I desperately want to see the good in people and the good in the world.  I need it to be safe as my arms for my children and the protection of my classroom walls for my pupils can only stretch so far.  This post is my emergence back into the world of social media; I hope it causes no offence or harm.  I just hope it makes you thankful for your lot in life.  I know I am.

What Are You Thankful For?

A Half Term, A Head Injury and Two Hospitals

A darkness washes over you when your children are ill.  Until four years ago, it was a feeling I was yet to experience, and thankfully, it is a feeling that I have not felt very often.  My children, thank God, are healthy, but they do get ill – just like any child.

23rd of October and half term was finally upon us.  In a half term that saw me take both children into my school in order to avoid sitting in a traffic jam and being late, speak to the whole of Year 8 in assembly and refer to them as Year 7 throughout and, while at a Heads of English meeting, being caught with my phone out as a deputy head from another school asked me a question and Siri answered for me by saying “I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’re asking me’, I was ready for a little break.

I picked the munchkins up from nursery early and took them home to partake in some late afternoon crafts Peppa.  I had already told the Other Half to bring home fish, chips and lager and my 64 Year 8 assessments were to remain in the boot of my car for the evening.

The girl and I were on the sofa and The Dude was happily pulling himself up on various pieces of furniture when suddenly there was an almighty bang. I was too slow. My little Dude was screaming because he had hit his head hard on the TV stand. Picking him up, I cuddled him for a couple of minutes to stop the crying (the girl was complaining about not being able to hear the Bing Bong Song) and when I looked at his head, my stomach hit the floor as a purple egg had formed instantly on his head. Now, I am no stranger to bumps and, in the past, I tried to treat an egg on my girl’s head.  I slapped butter on it and a pom pom hat on it in the hope that it might disappear in a ‘if you can’t see it then it’s not really there’ kind of way.  This failed as when the Other Half questioned why she was wearing a woolly hat in August, I confessed all and was made to feel very guilty. Accidents NEVER happen on his watch…Anyway, the Other Half’s arrival was imminent and once he arrived home, we called 101 and asked for advice on bumps.

Unsurprisingly, we were told to go to hospital for a check up; with the local hospital only five minutes away, we happily obliged in order to put our minds at ease.

‘I’ll take him, we won’t be long.’ I said. ‘Keep the fish and chips hot and the lager cold.’

Famous last words.

Upon arrival at the hospital, we were seen within half an hour, given the all clear and was told by a young doctor that we could leave. The Dude was in good spirits and was crawling under curtains and spying on a pre-teen being measured up for a pot.  Nurses cooed over my boy’s blue eyes and nodded with empathy when I explained that the bump had brought our little family evening to a halt. A Half Term, A Head Injury and Two Hospitals

Then another doctor approached.

‘Oh, so this is the crawling baby everyone is talking about,’

Yes, my baby is crawling. This means he’s ok, surely?

‘We’re just looking into getting him a bed.’

‘A bed?’ I questioned.

‘He needs to be monitored and we need to speak to you about safe guarding.’

‘I know all about safe guarding,’ I said. ‘I’m a teacher. Are you monitoring him or checking me?’

‘Oh brilliant, a teacher,’ he said. Was he being sarcastic?

After being allowed a phone call home, we settled in for the night. My boy and I ate bread and jam and custard and played. By this time, it was well after 6 and the bedtime hour was approaching. That’s when I was handed a letter.

‘A bed is ready for you at Pinderfields,’ a nurse said.

‘Pinderfields?’ I questioned.

Yes, I was being sent to another hospital. At this point, I could feel myself holding back the tears.

‘Can go home to let my partner know?’


‘Can I phone my mum then?’

Everyone wants their mum when they’re upset.

I was allowed the phone call and in front of the doctors and nurses, I cried when I asked her to come and meet me at the other hospital.

As we were leaving, the doctor said:

‘At least you’re not leaving in handcuffs…yet.’ He smiled, he was trying to lighten the mood. He failed.  Miserably.

Half an hour later and I was looking for a white Qashqai in a busy hospital car park. Every bugger has a Qashqai these days, but I eventually spotted my Mum’s number plate and we parked up next to each other.

We were directed to the Children’s Assessment Unit where we we had to wait for the doctor.  Around me, I noticed other sick children and we all had one thing in common: we wanted to go home. One boy, I noticed, was alone; I overheard him tell someone that he had an appendicitis and that he was waiting for his mum.

After an hour a doctor came and questioned me, checked my boy’s head and shone a torch on his body to look for a ‘rash’, when I say ‘rash’, it was obvious that he was looking for bruising. Patiently, I answered all of his questions and it was a little distressing especially when you know that you would never hurt your child, however, the doctor was doing his job and I would much rather him be meticulous than not care at all.  Clearly, it became obvious that it was all just a clumsy accident and he told me that I could leave at 10pm. It was 8.45pm.

My stomach was rumbling, my boy was tired, my fish and chips were so far beyond my reach that I had forgotten what a battered fish looked like. What were we going to do for an hour?  I decided that we would play. And when I say ‘play’ I mean we unintentionally annoyed the other patients around us. The Dude started pushing a loud beeping helicopter around the floor and I probably scared and scarred the poor appendicitis patient by telling him that ‘all the best people have their appendix out’ before showing him the very old jagged scar on my stomach.  A passing nurse raised an eyebrow at me and assured the boy that he would be on the receiving end of less evasive key hole surgery. Oops.

Funnily enough, five minutes later we were allowed to leave (perhaps the scar should have had an earlier outing). By this time it was way after 10pm and the boy was wide awake in his car seat. We made our way out to the dark car park and I subsequently then spent five minutes pulling on a black car door that wasn’t mine. Damn Qashqais  – I told you every bugger has one.A Half Term, A Head Injury and Two Hospitals A Half Term, A Head Injury and Two Hospitals

What Makes You Sleep Easy at Night?

I used to be an expert in sleep.

I would go to bed at 10pm and wake up refreshed the following morning at 6.50am.  I would sleep soundly and my dreams would often be pleasant, sometimes bizarre and always vivid.

I haven’t slept a full night since the 30th October 2011.

Now my sleep is fitful, broken and filled with night terrors that jolt me awake in the night.  Plus, upon waking with a sudden start, I disturb the snoozing little dude next to me.

Oh, I failed to mention that didn’t I?  We’re co-sleepers.

Reluctant ones.

I am no longer an expert in sleep.

Let me take you back; let’s regress.  Are you feeling sleepy yet?

My daughter turns four next week, and she is yet to put herself to bed.  She knows when it is bed time and she sleeps well now, but only if we read to her and lie with her until she falls asleep.

My partner was a stickler for the rules when my daughter was tiny.  He insisted that she remain in our bedroom until she was six months old.  She grew out of her Moses Basket very quickly and when I suggested moving her into her cot, he agreed.  I arrived home that evening to find that the cot had been dismantled and rebuilt in our tiny bedroom.  There it would remain for five more months.  When the magical six months arrived, true to his word, the cot was rebuilt in her room.  Only then she wouldn’t go in the damn thing.  When I suggested controlled crying, I was shot down instantly and was not allowed to do it.  I don’t know how I feel about controlled crying as I know it works for some and not others.  All I know was that I was willing to give it a go, was but never given the opportunity to do so.  There were times that I did leave her crying for ten minutes or so, but to add to the stress, arguments followed and tears (usually mine) were shed.  Before long we found a routine that worked for us; I gave my daughter a bottle on my bed, she fell asleep drinking it, I would move her to her cot where she would settle and sleep.  Anytime between the hours of 12 midnight and 3am she would wake, I would collect her from her cot (and bed from being aged two), she would play with her Daddy’s hair and fall back to sleep until the morning.  That worked for us.

Then the Dude was born.

Like his sister before him, his cot resided in our, now bigger, bedroom, but I was to suddenly sleep alone.  The Other Half decided to take the spare room as he was working and I was breast feeding.  My little man would wake every two or three hours, feed and go back to sleep in his cot (most of the time.)  ‘This one is a doddle!’ I thought.  Breast feeding was easy (I struggled, but persevered the first time round), bed time was okay and I was getting about six or seven hours sleep a night.  Sure it was broken sleep, but who cared? It was SEVEN hours!

Six months passed and once again, the cot was reassembled in my son’s newly painted bedroom.  Also, I was ready to stop breast feeding at six months and wanted to move onto a night bottle.  I thought it was going to be perfect.  I was wrong.  Very wrong.

Firstly, he refused the bottle and I ended up feeding him to sleep.  When he finally did take a bottle, he often threw it up all in an Exorcist style way all over my bed (I haven’t referred to it as ‘our’ bed for a while now), his clothes and my spotty purple M&S Pyjamas.  Being told to ‘keep it down’ while changing the sheets, myself and my son only added to my stress.  No help was offered from my partner as he had to lie with the girl until she fell asleep… You’re rolling your eyes at me, aren’t you?

Eventually, the formula started to stay down and after rolling, flipping and crawling the length and breadth of my bed every night, my little dude falls asleep on my covers and I move him into his cot.  Sometimes (most times – damn you Twitter) I get the timing wrong and just as I place him into his cot, he cries and thrashes around.  Reluctantly, I return to my bed, feed him back to sleep (oh yes, breast feeding didn’t end as planned), and there he remains surrounded by pillows that act as barriers and the baby monitor.  My partner and I take it in turns to dash up the stairs at lightning speed every time we hear a rustle, burp or fart!  More often that not, it reaches 9.30pm and the boy wakes.  That is usually the signal that my night has come to a close; I run upstairs, take out the other boob, feed him back to sleep and fitfully snooze myself.

What Makes You Sleep Easy at Night?

If only that was it for the night.
I can almost set my clock by him.

Every two hours he wakes and uses me as his human dummy.  Now, I can see you rolling your eyes at me again.  Yes, I will admit that I am lazy by not getting up and for doing the good old tried and tested lay down night feed, but I am exhausted as I work full time in a demanding job. I also don’t want to wake the girl or find myself in another midnight argument with my Other Half.  Heaven forbid I disturb his snoozing in the spare room.  I’ll admit I love the bond between me and my little man, but I miss my evenings, I miss waking up feeling refreshed, I miss my bizarre but pleasant dreams, I miss not sharing my bed with my partner, but most of all, I miss sleep.  According to Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, Sleep heels.  And I don’t feel heeled at the moment and I don’t feel quite whole.

So that’s why the ‘sleep experts’ are visiting us next week during half term.  Having already spoken to one of the ladies, she told me that before they visited I had to set the ball rolling as it were. I had to allow my son to fall asleep his own room (fail – check the picture) and then no matter what, I was not to remove him from his cot and feed him back to sleep. As I am typing this, I am IN his cot having fed him back to sleep (half-fail? He was distraught!)

What Makes You Sleep Easy at Night?

When they call next week and tell both my partner and I to expect a few sleepless nights as we sleep train our son, we will nod and we will agree, but deep down we will know what we, in truth, will probably end up doing. (Arguing and caving in, if you didn’t already guess.)

As I write this now, I am laying in a cot next to my sleeping boy. I started writing this post at 7.30pm and he was awake at 7.50pm. I let him cry himself back to sleep and he subsequently woke up three more times. Finally, at 9pm I broke and went upstairs. My partner and I had begun to watch the latest episode of ‘The Walking Dead’, but have had to abandon it. I feel myself that I am beginning to resemble a zombie extra from the series – you know, one of the ones that have been going since Rick’s coma days. The ones that have their jaws exposed, their eyes protruding and no longer have noses. Only my fringe has grown out and I have unnecessary milk in my boobs.

As soon as I hit ‘publish’ on this post and climb from the cot, the boy is going to wake. You and I both know that I’ll lift him crying and place him in my bed where stops sobbing and where he falls asleep for two hour periods.

I may be a failure when it comes to getting my children to sleep.

I may no longer be an expert in sleep.

But, I strive to do the best for my family and, for now, it is this.

This is what makes me sleep easy at night, even if it is only for two hours.

What Makes You Sleep Easy at Night?

I wrote this on the 24th October and it first appeared on Meet Other Mums