Sunday, 25 July 2010

10 Things We Didn't Know About Me (Until Now..)

Having always been the last the be picked on the school basketball team (no surprise, I could never remember which end to shoot), I love being picked for things I can actually do! So when Catherine at Baby Genie picked me for this meme, I was pleased... no, honoured to oblige.

1. What is your earliest memory?
I've a terrible memory so a lot slips through the net.  But I do remember, when I was about 5 or 6, I had a Rupert the Bear toy, what had elastic on the hands and feet so I could attach it to my body and he could dance with me.  I was Strictly Ballroom every day in my back yard!

2. What is your idea of an ideal Saturday?
Because the OH works the weekends, Saturdays are pretty much normal days, so my ideal is up early with the lads and top to bottom housework.  I have this "thing" where I hate to do housework when there's no-one else in the house, so as a family we get it all done on Saturdays.  We chose music to listen to and hope that Joe The Emo doesn't get to play his selection.  Then we have lunch and veg the rest of the day.  I remember when Saturdays used to be shopping for a new outfit, lunch with friends then the whole evening spent getting ready for the night ahead.  I miss those days.... *sigh.

3. What did you have for dinner yesterday?
Marcaroni cheese... it was vile.  Normal meals take a sabbatical when the boys are away.

4. What is the one thing that really drives you up the wall?
Litter.  It infuriates me! I can't comprehend how anyone can just drop litter on the ground, chuck it out their car window, stub cigarettes and walk away.  Oh, now you've got me all riled up!!

5. What are your best and worst traits?
My best trait is my unreserved abandon, my ability to let go, to dance like no-one is watching.
My worst trait is my stubbornness.  When I think I'm right, I'll fight my corner to the bitter end.  
When I'm wrong but I think I'm right, I'll fight my corner to the bitter end.

6.  Favourite takeaway food?
At the moment, it's pizza.  Though that'll change the next time I have chinese...

7. What has been the most unexpected thing to happen as you’ve grown up?
That's a difficult one.  I'm not sure anything has been unexpected.  I think, maybe, the one thing that struck me since I've had kids has been how much me world revolves around them.  Not just when they are babies, when they need constant care but right into their teenage years and all the changes in their lives.  I worry about them as much today as I ever have.

8. What was your favourite subject at school?
Music.. I loved music.  I had the sweetest music teacher and she instilled a love of music that has remained with me all these years.  I would have loved to have gone on to be a music teacher myself, but alas it wasn't to be.

9. Favourite book?
The Stand by Stephen King.  I love reading horror, SK especially, and this is only my favourite because it's such an epic story, beautifully told.

10. What time is an early night for you?  Mine is 9pm so I am getting my skates on!
Early is about 10:30 but it doesn't happen much.  The lads are at an age now where they don't have such a strict bedtime, so sometimes we have to send them off just so we can get to bed!

Well, I hope I've answered each question adequately? I'm not going to tag anyone, as I think this meme has done the rounds already.  And I wish my son and heir would reply to the tag I already sent him!  

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

To Sir (and Miss!) With Love

Along with many other parents in the past few weeks, I found out that the secondary school that my boys go to has had it's Building Schools for the Future funding axed and will not be updated and renovated as hoped.  It was apparent that cuts would be harsh in the budget, but I do think this is one area where errors were made; this was the one project which desperately needed to go ahead.  Some school buildings and facilities are outdated and our children deserve every opportunity to succeed.  But that's not what this post is focusing on.

I have nothing but praise for the school my lads go to.  Anyone how's read my previous blogs, will know they both had an excellent Learning Review Day and I couldn't be prouder.  And I'm not naive enough to think this is just down to their individual abilities and my superb parenting (*bows).  It's the staff that are the key.  

In choosing a secondary school, my priorities were as any other parent - academia, facilities, proximity were all factors but, if I'm honest, my sons wanted to go to Garibaldi College because all their friends were.  I knew some mums who's children already attended and had heard nothing to make me choose anywhere else.  The moving process from year six was smooth and thoroughly involved, with the students being lead every step of the way.  There was already a bond between the primary school and Garibaldi College as it was a feeder school so there was never the "fear of the unknown".

And now three years on, I know I made the right decision.  And I also know why... it is, indeed, the teachers that make the school.  In every capacity I have dealt with the teachers, subject teachers, form tutors and parent liason, I have found them to be 100% commited to my children.  Each one had a personal knowledge of my son which I found heartening with such a big student body.  I had, during their primary years, found that my lads sometimes flew under the radar but this has never been the case in Garibaldi College.  Their grades we can all jointly take credit for, but their love of school, their day-to-day well-being and happiness is solely down to the staff at the college.  My boys like their teachers - they find them fun and friendly.  To us, as parents, they have always been obliging and courteous.  They are the role models I would pick for my children.

Another local school, who's BSF project has been completed and is hence in an up-to-date building, has been attempting to poach pupils from other schools who's funding has be stopped.  And I know of at least two parents who will be sending their children to the new school.  So on that note, I just want to say that a school in more than four walls and a roof.  It's the people, the dedicated staff, that make a school great.  And Garibaldi College is great.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

To Google or not to Google

This morning, no. 1 son had a Mufty day in school and being the quirky individual he is decided to wear a shirt and tie (neckties are cool, y'know..).  So he came down dressed, with his tie perfectly tied.  Now we don't go in much for formal dressing in the Harmon household, though Paul does wear suit, shirt and tie for work, and I wondered when Andy had learned to tie a tie, given that the opportunity had never really arisen.  

Me - "Where'd you learn to tie a tie?"
Andy - "The internet"
Me - "Oh.........."

I admit... we are a googling family.  There's always a device within hands reach and instead of remembering or figuring out, we google.  
"How old was he when he died?" - Google
"How do you finish this level?" - Google
"What will get this stain out?" - Google
"What's the weather like in Lanzarote?" - Google
It's allowed us to dodge many an argument, and has to be said, proved me right on many an occasion.  But this time, it just made me sad.  

This generation doesn't think they can learn anything from their parents that they can't learn on the internet quicker, simpler and more accurately.  And I'm sad to say, I partially agree.  But where's the tradition in that?  I remember when I started secondary school and my dad thought me how to tie my school tie.  And every time I tie a tie, it brings back that memory.  Andy won't have that.

I know that Andy's not quite the typical, he's been computer-savvy since a very young age and his Mac is his god.  It's just his "thing".  But I hope he realises that someone had to put the information there and that they probably learned how from their parents.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

The Smug Parent

I recently read a post by Paula at Battling On categorising parents according to different traits.  I found it funny and interesting and saw many characteristics of other parents I knew.  However I never commented nor tweeted what kind of parent I thought I was for one reason.... I didn't want to appear smug!  You see, despite being a Control Freak, as soon as I read the first definition, The Perfect Parent, I felt it was me!  See, now you think I'm conceited and smug too, don't you?  

Yesterday, we had Learning Review Day at the lads school.  Andy is in Year 9, heading into his GCSE year in September.  Joe is a year behind.  Learning Review Day is similar to Parent's Evening, but we only speak to their Form Mentor/Class Teacher.  Andy's mentor is a wonderfully quirky lady, very outspoken and honest, the kind of woman you want looking out for your kid in the playground and definitely not someone you'd have to square up to.  She said such admiring things about Andy, complimented him on his manners, his behaviour and his effort.  She said we should be proud of how well we'd brought him up.
Joe's mentor is almost a boy which may explain why Joe gets on so well with him.  Joe's results exceeded their targets in every subject... except P.E. (well, he IS his mother's son!).  His mentor said Joe was a pleasure to have in class and that his behaviour and attitude couldn't be any better.
So needless to say, I was beaming.  I almost cried I was so proud.  Proud of myself and Paul for the job we'd done bringing up the boys, but also proud of them for all the work they'd put in at school and growing in gentlemen.

So that's why I see myself as The Perfect Parent.... at the moment.  I know all good things come to an end. I know one day I'll be cleaning Joe's puke from the bathroom floor and one morning, I'll find Andy asleep outside the door after a late night and forgetting his key.  As they grow older, I don't doubt they'll break hearts, drink too much, skip classes, miss deadlines and slam many a door.  And on those days you'll find me sitting in a corner, with a glass of wine, looking back on old school reports and reminiscing.

But please, for now, let me bask in the glory of my smug Perfect Parent status.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

A mother's work is never done.....

When my boys were born, I felt an instant onus, a responsibility, a whole lifetime of putting someone else first.  I never realised how constantly your brain and your heart works, worrying too much and caring enough that everything in their lives is as perfect as you expect it to be.  I never knew either that as they get older, it doesn't get any easier.
As babies, it's the practicalities that keep us going.  Day to day, feeding, changing, burping, washing, comforting, teaching.  As they grow into toddlers, trying to hold back as they teeter, bumping into furniture.  Starting school and the helpless feeling that you can't be there for them, hoping that they don't go unnoticed, that they'll make friends and behave. 
Then they reach secondary school................
Your role as a mother is less clear.  After years of solving their problems, of keeping a smile on their faces, of taking responsibility for the person they are to become you realise that they are becoming that person.  And while they use all the information you've been passing on since they were born and they began to know who they are, you're left confused as to where you fit in.  When they were younger, your intervention was welcomed and expected.  But then they reach an age when they want to fight their own battles, no matter who much you feel you should get involved.  Now it's their decision to fight their corner or to walk away.  It's up to them to make sure they're not overlooked.  They need to pick themselves up and brush themselves off when they trip up.  
The growing doesn't stop..........
Finishing school, starting relationships, going out on the town, leaving home, starting families.  As they go on, they feel themselves moving away from you, metaphorically.  The expression is "cutting the apron strings" and they may see it that way, but they don't realise that it's only one-sided.  As mothers, we still see them being as vunerable as they were new-born.  We still wish we could fight their battles, make their decisions.  But all the while, we're proud of the men they are becoming.  Proud that they've learned who to be.  Proud they're making the right decisions.   And we should also be proud of what we've done, proud of the work we've put in and ready to let it go.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition...

My first tag (ARGH!) and I'm feeling the heat of the Spanish Inquisition with these probing questions from Nickie at Typecast.  Please be gentle with me!

1. Who is the most pointless celebrity, and why?
I could be predictable and go with the obvious..  but instead I'll go for Jeremy Kyle, who I hate ever-so-slightly more than Jeremy Vine (it's not a Jeremy thing... I heart Jeremy Beadle!).  JK is a fungus who breeds on the greasy hair and missing teeth of his unfortunate "guests".

2. If you had to take a random item to an interview to help describe you, what would it be?
An armadillo - crunchy on the outside, smooth on the inside.

3. What is your favourite cartoon?
Tom and Jerry - reminds me of my dad.  And who doesn't love mindless violence between a cat, a mouse and sometimes a dog!
4. If you could only listen to three pieces of music for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Sabre Dance - Aram Khachaturian  - wonderfully uplifting and my favourite ever classical piece.

In The Arms Of an Angel - Sarah McLaughlin  - magical, beautiful and always makes me cry.

Scooter - Jumping All Over The World - because sometimes only dancing will do.

5. What film would you have liked a starring role in?
I'm not too keen on the idea of me on a 40ft screen, so I think I would have liked to have been a toy on Toy Story.  Maybe Cynical Cindy?

6. What, if anything, do you wear in bed?
Nothing... unless it's cold, then I wear Paul.
7. Favourite item of footwear?
Yet another of my secret shames, but it has to be Crocs.... I don't know what I wore in the summertime before them.  Please don't judge me.........

 8. Look over your right shoulder.  What do you see?
Our bookcase, which holds many DVD's and video games, but very few books.   Also, on the wall, is my favourite family portrait, taken Christmas 2008.
9. If you were a flavour of crisp, which flavour would you be and why?
Prawn cocktail, because you either love me or you hate me.  If you love me, you'll always love me, though you can only take some much at one time.  If you hate me, you'll always hate me and never be able to tolerate me.
10. Twitter or Facebook?
Always Twitter... but gotta stick with Facebook because the people I care about live there.
Now here's what I'd like to know...

  1. How many houses have you lived in and where?
  2. PC or Mac?
  3. Who's poster did you have pinned up on your teenage bedroom wall?
  4. What was the last book you read?
  5. What smell reminds you most of your childhood?
  6. Describe an ideal summer's day.
  7. What cocktail/alcoholic drink says the most about you?
  8. If you were reincarnated as an animal, what animal would it be?
  9. Have you found your one, true love?
  10. BBC3 or BBC4?
Hope I did good here and may be asked back to play again!

I shall be sticking my foot in the door and demanding answers of the following:
Kelly @ Kelly Brett
Andy @ Captincroc 

Give it a go.... I have!



Saturday, 29 May 2010

It's a long, long way from there to here.

As most of you know, and some of you don't, I'm from Dublin. I've been living in Mansfield in the UK for eight years now (oh my god, has it really been eight years?) with my two boys and my OH, Paul.  We were all born in Dublin, all 100% Irish.  I find it odd how many people ask me if Paul is Irish or English, I suppose him being English would explain our move here.  We moved here simply by fluke, a sequence of events that we just let carry us across the Irish Sea.  Paul had been working in car sales in Dublin, but the company he was working for was closing and offered him a job at any of their branches in the UK.  When Paul told me, I gave him a flat "NO".. it wasn't going to happen, no way no how.  We were in the process of selling our house, but hadn't found anywhere new yet. Paul said then he had to go to Manchester for training.... and that was it! He never came back!  And it was left to me, with two small kids, to finish the sale of the house, pack up and leave.  Grounds for divorce you say....  well, had we been married and had the alimony been worth it, I probably would have.  But instead we moved! 
I'm so glad we did though.  We've loved living here and wouldn't have it any other way.  The lads are settled, we have friends and, despite moving for the job he had, Paul left soon after and moved jobs several times in the last eight years.  He's never had a problem getting a job and is constantly getting offers.  I suppose in that way, we've been very lucky.
But we still miss home, all for different reasons I think.  I miss my family.  Keeping in touch by email and Facebook is all very fine, but nothing bets a cup of tea and a chat.... except I suppose a glass of wine and a gossip!  Paul misses the oddest things... he listens to RTE radio in the car, always knows what's going on in Ireland.  He loves to have a bitch and moan with anyone who'll listen about all things political in Ireland.  Andy loves being Irish, he's so proud of his heritage and likes to touch base every now and then.  And Joe just wants, for the most part, to hang out with his cousins.
We're off to Dublin on Tuesday for a few days.  It's too expensive and we really can't afford it.... but sometimes there's no place like home.  Put the kettle on, we're on our way!

The customer is always right.

So, for those of you who read my last post and asked what the outcome was, here it is.
Yesterday, I received a letter from Walkers, apologising for the standard of their product and enclosing 2 x £1.50 vouchers off my next purchase.
Ok, so it's not a years supply, but it was worth the cost of an email!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Excuse me, may I speak with the Manager?

I'm not one to moan but sometimes, the smallest things can really grate on my nerves! Most of all I hate bad customer service. I always complain when things don't meet the standards I have paid for. I'm never rude (I've worked in customer service and rudeness doesn't work), but I do try to be confident, articulate and just a little intimidating (in the nicest possible way, of course!).
However, since the invent of email, complaining, commenting and sometimes even complimenting has become easier to do and so I do it quite a bit more.

Last week, I bought a multipack of Walkers crisps for the lads lunches. I used to by Asda's own brand but found that at least a quarter of the packs I'd bought, an inner pack had been caught up when the outer pack was sealed and so when I opened the outer pack, the inner pack opened and because I wasn't using them straight away, but storing them, that pack was left to go stale and never used (still with me?). So last week THE SAME THING HAPPENED WITH THE WALKERS PACK! Now I know it's not the end of the world, but as I said above, the smallest things....

And so, this is the complaint I emailed to Walkers this evening... I'm hopefully my sarcasm will mean free crisps for the rest of the year! Or at least, a replacement 6-pack...

"was disappointed to find, when i opened the multipack, that one of the inner packs had become sealed with the outer pack and so opened also. as i use the crisps for lunches, this meant that one bag was useless.. left alone and abandoned in the kitchen cupboard, left to go stale yet loathe to be trashed. it sits there still, while all of the other five have been enjoyed and had a worthwhile existence. i keep it to remind me that you don't always get what you pay for. walkers make a sandwich great you say? what goes well with stale walkers then... mouldy cheese? rotting ham?? i wonder if gary lineker would approve...."

Friday, 16 April 2010

Making daisy chains

The other day in work, I made daisy chains. Sometimes I skip, sometimes I practice Miley Cyrus dances. I knew I'd never work in an office. I'd feel confined and stilted. But I kinda fell into being a dinner lady. Ever the worrier, I figured it would a be a good way to find out how my lads were REALLY getting on in school. But now it's two years since they've left and I'm still there. It has it's moments.. some days are bad, some frustrating and now and again there are tears, and not just from the kids! It amazes me how badly behaved some children are and I wonder about their parents, but this isn't about them.

This is about the silent majority. Far too much time is taken up in education, discussing how to improve bad behaviour, tackling bullying and anti-social activities. Not enough people talk about the rest, the great unappreciated.

Most kids are wonderful. They're sweet, kind and caring. They're witty, cheeky and fun. They're understanding, forgiving and generous. Though it sometimes doesn't seem like it, we as parents are doing a great job! It sometimes feels like painting the front of your house - all those hours spent ensuring perfection, cleaning up the mess afterward. But we hardly ever see the fruits of our labour. What we forget is that all the neighbours see it, our friends see it... even passers-by see it. And I feel that in my job, I'm lucky enough to see the other side. To catch your kids off guard and find that you'd be so proud. We all want our children to behave, but sometimes we worry that we're stilting them. We want them to stand up for themselves, but we hope they won't start a fight. We want them to be liked, but like other kids too. And while we've been worrying whether we're doing a good enough job, they've been learning how to take what we've taught them and turned themselves into the person we'd love them to be.

So this afternoon, when your kids come home from school and you ask, like you always do, "How was school today? What did you do?" and they reply, like they always do, "Fine. Nothing. What's for dinner?", just remember.... they were magnificent, they were funny, they were friendly, they were cheeky, they were confident and most of all they were a credit to you! And I know, coz I was there!

Monday, 12 April 2010

Baby steps...

Ok… deep breath… and relax. So I’ve never blogged before, not I might add because I have nothing to say. Those who know me will know that the opposite is true (hmmm.. spell-check.. will this thing spell-check, or do I have to check my spelling as well as trying to be intellectual AND entertaining?? And while we’re on the subject, why do words we know perfectly well how to spell, look distorted and alien the more we analyse them? Is it a trick of the mind or is it a deeper psychosis relating to our own self-analysis? Alas, I digress… baby steps, remember?). My son has been blogging since he could write/type. He’s a true child of the 21st century. He speaks in internet talk, he has far flung friends on all corners of the globe and he spends his time on creations (pictures, stories, videos) he wishes to the world to see. I know some would say that they way I’ve allowed him to grow up is damaging to him, but are things really that different to the way they were when I or his dad were children? When I was his age, I was just as precocious. I was the youngest of 9 siblings (which is another blog in itself) and so grew up fast. It also meant I spent a lot of time with older people. Don’t get me wrong, I had toys and child friends, but they lost their appeal early on. I wanted cups of tea and conversation. I had quite a sophisticated sense of humour brought about by years of living with my witty and sarcastic Irish Catholic family! I didn’t have penpals but I really should have. I wanted to world to know everything about me because I felt I had something to say. And so Andy isn’t any different. Sure, the rules have changed… everything is so much more accessible nowadays and nothing is impossible anymore. My kids can’t imagine a world where they can think of something which doesn’t exist and they take it for granted, unlike anyone a generation apart who still find it amazing that anything is possible. I still find it hard to believe that we can watch tv again… there’s no such thing as missing your favourite programme. You can listen to any song, at any time from almost any medium and while you’re listening to can find the lyrics, the artists birthdate and possibly even what they had for breakfast. When I was a kid, I loved the theme song to The Greatest American Hero (yeah, you remember it!). But it wasn’t until the invention of the internet that I could find out who sung it and download a copy. But I waited… maybe I knew what was to come. Nowadays we’re all contactable, all the time. In our house, we all have mobile devices that we can text, email, facebook and tweet from. We never talk on the phone, in fact I never really got to grips with phone conversations - I’ve always been better with the written word, whether with actual pen and paper or in type. So you get the picture. My son is a child of his generation just like I was and things will change during his lifetime like they did during mine. And like me, he’ll find it hard to accept that one day his child will know more about the world than he does. And he’s probably say that things were different in his day. But really we’re all pretty much the same as children, it’s the rest of the world that’s changing and we adapt as we were created to do. Andy doesn’t hang round street corners with his mates, but he does gab endlessly online with kids that he has more in common with. Andy doesn’t play football but he’s happy to go for a walk so long as he can tweet on the move. Andy spends a lot of time on facebook but he’s swapping stories and photos with friends he’s met through St. John’s Ambulance. Our childhood worlds are poles apart and although some would say that the old way was better and some would say the new way is safer, I reckon we’ll not turn out that much differently.