The Smiths’ Christmas Letter

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Dear Family, Friends and any other random person interested in the minutiae of my life

Happy Christmas! Wow, what a fantastic year 2015 has been for the Smiths! I am sure you are all dying to know all the wonderful things that have happened to us and how successful we have been so here’s a blow-by-blow account…

Little Johnny has had the BEST year! In March he started to CRAWL!   What a superstar! He is still waking every hour during the night and screaming for his mummy but we don’t mind because he is so cute and adorable and we treasure every moment with him. He’s definitely got a powerful set of lungs – we are all sure he is going to be an opera singer when he grows up (after all Aunty Jean was the star of her local operatic society for many years so it’s in the genes…!)

What about our gorgeous little Rosie? Well, she’s had quite a year. She must be the busiest 6 year old in the country! Mondays – gymnastic club (watch out Nadia Comaneci, Rosie is coming!), Tuesdays – swimming lessons (one-to-one, she is learning SO much more with the individual attention), Wednesdays – flute (she’s showing so much promise and her teacher says she’ll be ready for Grade 5 by the summer), Thursdays – ballet (not quite en pointe yet but not long now!) and Fridays – FREE time! Rosie likes to entertain on Fridays with one of her darling little school friends – always such fun and something Mummy looks forward to ALL week.

The only little cloud on the horizon this year for Rosie has been the “biting”. We have spent a lot of time (and money) on getting to the bottom of this with Rosie and her psychologist and we are all sure that for Rosie the “biting” is just a sign of affection for her friends and siblings. Sinking her teeth into their flesh is just her version of a kiss – rather sweet when you think about it. All her friends’ mummies and daddies have been SO understanding and anyway Rosie is just so so sweet that it’s impossible not to fall in love with her instantly.

Just time for a bit of mummy-boasting. Rosie was MARY in the school nativity! We were so so proud. Rosie and I spent months researching the role so she could really get her teeth (ha! ha!) into the part. I also spent days making her the most beautiful Mary costume – I love sewing. Even if I do say it myself, Rosie was the STAR of the play – everyone said so. Joseph was less convincing and picked his nose throughout which upset Rosie no end – I explained to her that it is very difficult to work with animals and children – she totally understood.

As for Archie – he continues to amaze us! He is spending increasing amounts of time in front of a screen and less and less time communicating with humans. We don’t mind though as he seems to have made so many WONDERFUL friends on the Internet – all seem thoroughly nice and normal. He seems to have lost interest in all outside activities and hobbies but we are so proud that he is showing such focus on his computer studies. I have taken to texting him when his supper is ready – we all think this is terribly amusing but I’m not sure Archie really understands the irony!

There was a small incident this year with Archie getting a little carried away with his father’s credit card. Daddy dealt with this so well and with such patience and empathy. All part of life’s rich tapestry eh? No-one said this parenting lark would be a breeze. Anyway it’s all behind us now and Archie will have repaid his debts by the age of 35.

What about Daddy? He’s had another phenomenally successful year at work. He is without doubt the lynchpin of his firm and we are all SO proud of him. It is quite clear that he is regarded as a hero not only at home but at work too. This year he’s managed to juggle the impossible demands of his job with running 15 marathons, raising thousands for charity and he’s still home every evening to read to the kids. Reading to children is SO important and nothing makes me happier than to hear Daddy being Daddy Pig (he’s just so good at the voice) while little Rosie laughs hysterically.

Then there’s little ol’ me! Another blissful year of motherhood and parenting. I can honestly say I’ve loved every minute – don’t miss work, adult company or intellectual stimulation in the slightest. I have to admit to a little “stumble” in the summer when I thought perhaps I might go back to work – part-time of course. The children were very upset and protested so much that I soon gave up on that idea – it’s SO lovely to be so loved, wanted and needed! Anyway, who would take Rosie to ballet – I know that 3 hours drive to a ballet school may seem a bit excessive to some but it is such a good school and she is so talented apparently? Anyway, each day is so different and brings so many new joys that I have on occasion even managed to miss Wine O’Clock!

So Happy Christmas to you all from the Smiths. We hope that 2016 brings as many blessings and joy as 2015 has for us! It would be lovely to see you all this year so please do give us a call – apologies in advance if you get the answerphone but we are all SO busy and SO happy!

Much love xxx

The Problems with Rugby, Football and Cricket are…

UnknownSo yet again England has disappointed in sport. This time it is the Rugby World Cup and our humiliation is compounded by the fact that we are hosting the tournament. I don’t know why anyone would be remotely surprised at Saturday’s crushing defeat – after all, we specialise in losing and we do losing well. It’s not just in rugby but in almost any sport – time and time again, the England team promise, the nation expects and the team fails to deliver.

That said we are nothing if not loyal to our sporting teams. I sat there on Saturday for 80 long minutes watching the disintegration of a nation’s hopes and the rather gratifying (to me) immediate drop in the value of tickets for the quarter finals. I sat there and watched despite the fact that I don’t really have a clue what is going on. It got me thinking about the sports that my children play and I realised that there are quite a lot of perplexing things about the sports they play – things I just don’t really get.

So what about rugby? To my mind rugby is nothing more than legal brawling. It is thirty men (yes, I know women play too) who instead of pushing and shoving outside a pub on a Saturday night are permitted to push and shove on a pitch. It is a sort of grown-up version of that very aggressive playground game we played as kids “Red Rover” (remember?). The rules are so unnecessarily complicated in order to disguise the fact that it is nothing more than a fight with an oddly-shaped ball. Then there is the scrum. I don’t get it – the ball goes in and then seems to come out in exactly the same place? The only long-term gain from a scrum seems to be the gradual and rather fascinating mutation of the ears to resemble cauliflowers.

I also have a problem comprehending why “conkers” – that highly dangerous, physically intensive autumn sport – is now banned in many schools on the ubiquitous “health and safety” grounds but rugby is allowed to continue. As every mother will know, watching your son play rugby is a heart-in-mouth occupation which is accompanied by the absolute certainty that your son – particularly if he is vertically or/and horizontally challenged – will be injured at some point in the season. If I could book my appointments at A&E for three months ahead, I would do so for every match day. If I can’t use my appointment because miraculously my son has come through that match unscathed, there will always be someone else on the team who can.

It’s not just rugby that I find a little incomprehensible – the same goes for football and cricket. Take football – how can a game which has a fairly high probability of ending after 90 minutes in a 0-0 draw be a good game? Why would anyone run around a pitch for that amount of time for no positive scoreline? It just doesn’t seem very well thought-out to me. If women had invented football there is no way that we would have created a game which can go on for that length of time, remain scoreless or a draw and then end in a brutal penalty shoot-out where the poor player who misses his penalty is doomed to a life in pizza adverts in which he is derided for his penalty miss for ever more. Compounding the pointlessness of the game, is the even more pointless punditry which accompanies it on TV – a group of men looking awkward in too tight-fitting suits, sweating under the studio lights, struggling to string a cogent sentence together and repeatedly resorting to the infuriating clichés of “it’s a game of two halves” (no s*** Sherlock) and “at the end of the day”. I know it is a sacrilege to say in this country but for me watching a football match is 90 plus minutes of my life that I’ll never get back.

Perhaps the worst offender of all is cricket. The problem with cricket is very simple – it takes too b****** long. The old saying is never truer – “A quick game is a good game”. Cricket also takes the prize for use of the most ridiculous language in any game played worldwide. I can only think that positions with names such as “slip”, “gully” and “silly mid-off” are just a smokescreen for what is at heart a very simple game – bowl, bat, run, catch, out…

The other thing about cricket which is clearly of male design is the colour of the kit. White. Yes, someone thought it was a good idea to play a game which involves sliding on grass, in white clothing. This was either some brilliant marketing ploy to make millions for washing powder manufacturers or sheer stupidity. I suspect the latter.

Despite my complaints above, I do enjoy going to watch my sons playing these sports and in fact I can even pull-off a passable attempt at conversation on the sidelines which appears to show me knowing considerably more about the game than I actually do. However, there is one “sport” which my sons play which is second-to-none in its pointlessness – Dodgeball. This game doesn’t even try to dress itself up – it is as basic as the name suggests: throw, try to dodge, get hit, collect in all the balls, start again. The boys seem to love it – simple pleasures I suppose…

Down with the kids…

imagesI am finding it increasingly difficult to understand a word my children say. I feel I am probably not alone in this and so here it is – my guide to navigating the minefield of conversation with your children:

– “Basically”: Well, basically, this word adds basically no value at all to any conversation and basically does not refer in any way to the fundamentals of anything at all in the true sense of the word – put basically it is basically a conversation filler and no self-respecting kid’s sentence is basically complete without it.
– “Like”: This is of the same ilk as “basically” – to be clear it does not mean a comparison is intended nor is it used in a verbal sense. It is totally (totes) meaningless as in “she was like talking to me when she like basically fell off her chair”. You will note the combined use of “like basically” often separated by the “conjunction” “er” as in “she like er basically fell of her chair”. On no account should these linguistical gymnastics be attempted by anyone over 20 as you run the very real risk of being laughed at very hard by your children – totes humiliating. By the way I am not going to comment on the use of “totes” suffice to say that it is one of the most irritating aberrations of the English Language and has a similar effect on me as nails down a blackboard. In fact this habit of adding an ‘s’ to perfectly good words is something I find particularly offensive.
– “Banter”: My elder son’s language is peppered liberally with this word at the moment. Everything is “banter”. Well everything that is except the time he spends with me apparently. “Banter” is so pervasive at his school that in fact one child has self-styled himself as the “Archbishop of Banterbury”. “Banter” seems very much to be lads-speak and is often accompanied with lots of “mate” and general back-slapping and jostling.
– “Ledge”: This has absolutely nothing to with any sort of shelf but is, of course, short for “legendary”. Along with “totes” and “awks” this is yet another example of abbreviating words which does make you wonder whether our children struggle with pronouncing any words of more than one syllable. As above, everyone is a “ledge” except for me who is apparently “the worst mother in the world, ever”.
– “Innit”: A corruption of “isn’t it” which is most often used rhetorically at the end of sentences and seems to serve no purpose whatsoever other than to annoy the adult who is engaging in conversation with a child.
– “Sick”: Think total opposite and you’ve understood the meaning of this word. For the medically-minded be aware that a child will never use this word in any sort of health context.  Like “ledge” this word is unlikely to be used in referring to an adult or parent.
– “Cheeky Nando’s”: I have to confess that I find this one of the most baffling of expressions and even my son could only come up with “er like er basically” when asked to define it. As someone who has always found Nando’s to be nothing more than a glorified version of KFC, it is hard for me to understand the attraction of a “cheeky Nando’s” but I guess it’s all part of banter.

There are two other peculiarities of kids’ speech worthy of mention: the pseudo-Australian rising of the voice at the end of every sentence as if asking a question when no question is intended and the complete disregard for the letter “t” in any word – e.g. “butter” becomes “bu…er” and “gutted” becomes “gu…id”.

So there you have it – simples. A word of warning though – it is not at all cool to try and join in with your children in this language usage. If you casually drop the word “banter” into your conversation you will either be met by silence/tumbleweed moment or utter ridicule. LOL (that’s “laugh out loud” by the way not “lots of love”).

A Letter to Boys 1 and 2 …

Dear Boys 1 and 2

We’ve “successfully” reached the 6 week mark of the summer holidays…3 more to go and so far we are all largely unscathed.  However, I thought I would just make a few observations which could help the last 3 weeks go even more smoothly (if “smoothly” is the most appropriate adverb)  than the last 6 weeks.

  • If you wish to beat the c*** out of each other, be my guest, but I would appreciate it if all fighting takes places out of sight and out of earshot.  We all know that it will end in one of three ways: Boy 1 injured and crying, Boy 2 injured and crying or Boys 1 and 2 both injured and crying.  Since the outcome is inevitable, I would be grateful if you could only report back to me if life or my property is endangered.
  • Please could you refrain from tormenting your younger sister any more than is necessary.  I understand that baiting her is good sport but over the last 6 weeks she has turned from a fairly well-adjusted individual to someone who screams at the sight of an ant and who becomes a gibbering wreck at the mention of a sha….rk even when we are at least 500 metres inland.
  • Please stop “liking” my pictures on Instagram.  This is frankly narcissistic as most of the photos are of you and secondly, it is not exactly smart to “like” my Instagram photos when you are on an “electronics” ban – I am no technological wizard but even I know that in order to “like” my photos, you have to go on-line, for which you need access to any one of the electronic devices from which you have been expressly banned.
  • Please don’t tell me to “chill” or “stop being so stressy”.  Such vernacular has a polar opposite effect on me.  Those very words make my blood pressure rocket and the probability of rage quadruple.
  • Please don’t ignore my every word all day as if I do not exist and then insist on speaking to me when I am on the phone. I cannot work out why you are completely unable to respond to any of my questions/requests throughout the day but as soon as I am temporarily unavailable, suddenly you wish to speak to me with the utmost urgency about something which is always of very little consequence – along the lines of “can I have a snack?” – why are you asking me now…you don’t normally ask, you normally just help yourself?  Why does the appearance of the phone at my ear suddenly turn you from monosyllabic to positively loquacious?
  • Nothing awful will happen to you if you don’t look at a computer screen or a TV for a whole morning or afternoon, or God forbid, both – I promise you.  It is not, as you maintain, Boy 2, “child cruelty” to keep boy and screen apart.
  • Please please could you brush your teeth…just occasionally.  It literally does take 2 minutes.  I don’t understand your antipathy to such a simple task which takes you so little time but means so much to me.  Boys, you are prepared to spend hours getting the contours of your hair exactly right, so why not your teeth? Believe me, you will thank me in a couple of years time…girls don’t appreciate a lack of oral hygiene.
  • I understand that a bit of competition is healthy but you two take it to a whole new level.  Even the simplest of tasks become a mission for one of you to outdo the other.  What makes it all the more annoying is that you ask me or your father to referee/judge every little “competition” – quite apart from the fact that I don’t care or want to be involved, this is an impossible task as whatever the outcome,  the results mirror those in my first point although sometimes, thankfully, without injury incurred.  Boys, you’ve just got to “chill”….see, how annoying it is???
  • Lastly, this morning you educated me on another of your incomprehensible expressions – giving someone a “shout-out” on Instagram.  Apparently, you give your mates a “shout-out”on Instagram to tell everybody how wonderful they are and how much you appreciate them/their friendship etc.  Lovely sentiment.  Where’s my shout-out? Forget your M8s for one second and tell everyone how gr8 your mother is and then you and everyone else can “like” that to their heart’s content.

I expect you won’t read this – Boy 1 because it is in the form of a letter rather than a text/email and Boy 2 simply because you are yet to appreciate that enjoyment could possibly be gained from reading…but if you chance upon it, then despite the above, you are both wonderful boys with whom there is never a dull moment.

Much love Mum x

We’re all going on a school residential trip…

Today my elder son has gone off on his school residential trip to Newquay.  As he set off at 5.30am, I have to admit to a few pangs of anxiety but also excitement for him.  I remember only too well my first school residential trip to Streatley (although I was only 7 at the time) – we ate loads of sweets, wore our cagoules all day despite scorching sunshine and had a field trip song which we sang endlessly on our return – well, until Graham in my class swore at the familiar first strains of the song – “not that b***** song again” – overheard by the headmaster… an error that I am sure Graham has never repeated.

So back to my son’s trip.  The build-up has been going on for weeks – who’s sharing a room with whom; who’s sitting next to whom on the coach; should he buy a KFC or a McDonalds at the service station on the way down; does Lucozade count as an energy drink (banned apparently) and so it goes on.

My role, as usual, has been to ensure that he is provided with suitable clothing and footwear and to pack his Lordship’s bag for him.  I have carried out this task with my normal sunny disposition, a minimal amount of complaint – just the odd muttering under my breath.  Of course, as to be expected, my son has fully appreciated my input and has been unable to stop thanking me for all I have done.

The kit list provided by the school has though presented a few issues.  I have tried to follow the instructions to the letter and hence have packed accordingly 7 pairs of underwear and 7 pairs of socks.  I have done this in the full knowledge that 6 pairs of underwear and 6 pairs of socks will return unworn.  We were asked to pack black bin liners so that the boys can put all their dirty washing in a bag to bring home.  Well, I am fairly certain that I shall be able to use those very black bin liners for their original purpose on his return as I have placed them in a side pocket which since he suffers from that all-male congenital condition “man eyes”, he is very unlikely to see let alone open and use.  I did point the side pocket out to him and the black bin liners and he asked me to write “black bin liners” with a Sharpie on the pocket – I declined on aesthetic grounds and anyway it won’t make a blind bit of difference (I refer you back to congenital “man eyes”).

The kit list also gave rise to Deodorantgate.  I am not thanking the school for this.  The innocuous  “wash bag containing – toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo etc” has unleashed a whole new beast in our house – Lynx “Africa”.  I have so far avoided having to buy deodorant for my son – having judged it not yet necessary but since it was on the kit list my son with an uncharacteristic regard for detail and obedience told me that he had to have some.  I duly bought his first deodorant but forgot to tell him that less is more.  Consequently our house (and its occupants) are now gasping under a cloud of heady (read “headachey”) and intoxicating (read “choking”) eau d’Africa.  Personally “Africa” is not what springs to mind on inhalation unless we’re talking part-hyena with giraffe dung or something.  Anyway, teachers who were mad enough to volunteer to go on this trip with my son, beware the morning (and evening) spray – it’s powerful stuff.

As for the toothbrush and toothpaste, this has become somewhat of an obsession with me – I must have said to him at least 40 times this weekend – “don’t forget to brush your teeth” .  Who am I kidding? There is no way that toothbrush will see the light of day over the next week let alone the meet the toothpaste.  Anyway, it’s not as if my son brushes his teeth religiously when he’s home – if I’m brutally honest, despite my threats, he probably only brushes them on average 2.2 times a week.

Anyway, I hope he and his friends have a wonderful time – I know they will, the trip looks amazing.  He won’t care if he’s wearing the same underwear every day and I’m not there to care and anyway if he does, less washing on his return for me.  Silver linings….

The Brits – an out of body experience

Yesterday evening I spent two and a half hours in a parallel universe.  Last night was the annual music industry bean-feast  – “The Brits”.  I’ve never watched “The Brits” live before and it was a smorgasbord  of entertainment – not necessarily for the right reasons –  of a sort that I have rarely seen and certainly never expected: in equal measure both very amusing and downright confusing.

First up, which cool and current presenters were hosting? Of course, stupid me, there is only one duo who fits that bill – Ant and Dec (BTW – Ant is the one with the dark hair, sort of looks like an ant?) – who else? Don’t misunderstand me, I love Ant and Dec but I’m a 42 year old mother of 3 whose most recent concert experience was Bryan Adams – The 30 years after “Reckless” tour.  I would love to have been there at the production meeting which decided that they were the right choice of presenters.  I mean come on, their music credibility could never recover from their PJ and Duncan days.  Perhaps it was some sort of ironic statement choosing them – so ironic that it will have been lost on 99.9% of the TV audience and 100% of those actually in the O2 last night.  As they bounded around the stage like demented garden gnomes, I have to admit to being quite surprised that at no point did any one of the music stars there shout “I’m a celebrity get me out of here”.

Equally bizarre was the choice of award presenters.  Who on earth came up with the increasingly extraordinary selection of people to give out the awards and I can’t decide whether putting Jimmy Carr with some underwear model at least a foot taller than him was genius or just wrong.  And John Bishop…at that point I thought I must have accidentally sat on the remote control and turned channels to some comedy satellite channel on permanent repeats.  But no my eyes were not deceiving me, he really was presenting an award at our premier music awards which is supposed to be reaching out to a global audience.

Having shared out the awards (which incidentally I thought looked like creepy rag dolls) more-or-less equally between Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith – one for me, one for you, another for me, another for you – the rest of the evening was geared towards performances by two totally unBRITish artists – Kanye West and Madonna.  It was during Kanye’s performance (most of which the TV gods deemed too sensitive for our ears and muted accordingly) that I knew I was in a parallel universe.  Fortunately, it would appear I was not the only one as the entire audience looked on baffled apart from his adoring wife and Taylor Swift who was dancing somewhat strangely as though she was listening to something utterly different to the rest of us.  It was certainly a “performance” – I’m just not sure of what? I did like the blowtorch things (a frisson of danger?) – although the operators appeared a little trigger happy and they seemed to run out of gas half way through. Watching Ant and Dec try and rationalise Kanye’s performance after was nothing short of surreal – kangaroo testicles and critters are one thing, but this was way outside their remit.

And then, the finale, a golden moment of television which has already been watched and re-watched by millions (if not billions) worldwide – Madge’s little “moment” – CapeGate.  Come on, Madge, surely you know never to work with children, animals and capes? Perhaps the most astounding thing about her tumble was the fact that she dropped the mic and the singing stopped – yes, she was singing live! Cynics and conspiracy theorists might reasonably postulate that the entire incident was planned to prove that she does not lip sync and is a true professional.  Whatever actually happened, I admired her getting up and carrying on and all the crass gags about her age, hip replacements etc from certain media quarters were to my mind rather pathetic and predictable.  I am however slightly concerned for the safety of whichever backing dancer becomes the scapegoat for CapeGate – I’m not sure that Madge is one to take her humiliation at her first Brits for 20 years lightly.  I am fairly confident that he/she won’t be working again in the foreseeable future.

And so the show ended, leaving me – and I’m sure I’m not alone – thinking that any moment now I would wake up and it was all just one of those hallucinogenic-feeling dreams in which all the boundaries of what is normal and rational are transgressed. If there was any atmosphere in the O2 it certainly did not translate through the TV – tumbleweed – but perhaps the audience’s response throughout was less lukewarm and more a form of shell-shock at what they were witnessing.  It was a night of the bizarre, fire, the dire and strangely, admire – respect to Madge – she sure knows how to ensure all the morning papers’ headlines are about her.

The Great Homework Conspiracy

IMG_4378There has been a lot of debate in my sons’ school about homework – its role, its value, the amount a child of a certain age should do etc.  I know where I stand on this issue.  Homework is a valuable tool in helping children to work independently and to reinforce learning in the classroom.  For me the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages and I’d far rather my child was spending time reading or doing maths for an hour after school than watching endless Stampy Whathisname videos on YouTube or having mindless, inane chats online with kids with whom they’ve just spent the whole day.

However, there is a caveat.  There is another whole field of homework which I am less keen on – that which is designed to highlight the inadequacies of the parents and divide mothers/fathers/random relatives into three main groups – “The Can-and-Will-Dos”, “The Can’t-but-Will-Try-Dos” and “The Can’t-and-Will-Not-Dos” (The Can-and-Will-Not-Dos” is a very small minority group who irritatingly could do but rather breezily choose not to – “too cool for school”).  What am I talking about?  I am talking about all those homework tasks that are ostensibly set for the children but are in fact set as some sort of test for the parents – which I inevitably and somewhat regrettably (for my children) fail on an all too regular basis.  Call me paranoid but I think there is some sort of conspiracy at work to foster parental competitive spirit and an almost Darwinian battle for superstar parent supremacy.

Let’s take the last couple of weeks in my children’s school lives.  First up, my middle child had “Roman Day”.  Nothing makes my heart sink more than the email landing in my inbox informing me that one or other child has got to find a costume to wear to school because it’s role play time.  I know I sound like a miserable old goat but how many people have actually got gladiator, Julius Caesar or whatever Roman outfits hanging around the house?  “Make one!” I hear you cry.  Just the mere thought of making a Roman costume is enough to send me into a hot and cold sweat  – my sewing lessons ended very abruptly at the age of 11 when I was dismissed permanently after breaking the sewing machine three times in one lesson (actually something I am rather proud of if the truth be told).

No, making it is not an option for me – to be honest, arts and crafts generally are one of my weaker parenting skill sets.  For me, the only option is good old Amazon and the inevitable plethora of Roman Costumes being hawked around precisely for all those poor parents like me who would otherwise be an utter disgrace to their precious offspring.  Even with a particularly tasteful Roman Soldier costume that looks like it would combust if even shown a flame, my son is not satisfied.  Apparently he needs footwear too.  Sandals….in January.  I draw the line at this – I tell him that he will have to wear his (admittedly bright blue) Crocs.  He looks mortified and plumps for his school shoes as a very much last resort.  I’ve failed him of that he makes sure I am aware.

Roman Day is hotly followed by “making specialised cells” homework for my eldest child.  Again this is some sort of hidden testing of my parental abilities I’m sure. First off, my son is 10, nearly 11, and I’d much rather at this age he was learning the properties of such cells and drawing diagrams than being tasked with making 3D versions of said cells from whatever material he wishes.  Inevitably, my son chooses to make sperm cells along with every other boy of his age in a single sex school.  No other cell was ever really going to get a look in was it? He informs me of this task, I immediately get “the fear” and then he promptly leaves it with me with the nonchalant suggestion that he might do them in plasticine or papier-mâché.  Well, I don’t do papier-mâché.  Full stop.  A way-too-advanced technique for someone who can barely use a ruler to draw a square.  So plasticine it is – which, of course, has to be bought because funnily enough my 10 year old son hasn’t really played with plasticine for the last 5 years.

Sperm cell plasticine test – passed – I think (although not without much debate about the length of the sperm “tail” and where to put the nucleus).  I dare to breathe a sigh of relief…but oh no, too soon because into my inbox pops the next test of my parental skills – the baking test!  My favourite! My baking offerings, in the past, have always been rather conspicuous by their absence.  Frankly, the boys have never been that bothered and there always seem to have been countless other mothers keen to showboat their baking masterpieces, so I’ve just sort of slipped under the radar.  This approach does not work with my daughter.  No, not only does she insist that “we”(and I mean “we” in the loosest sense of the word) must bake for the cake sale but also “we” must enter the cakes “we” make for the cake decorating competition which the school is so kindly running alongside the cake sale.  Incidentally, the cakes must be decorated with a nod to her school house (Mars) and include a full breakdown of their ingredients for “health & safety”.

So “we” make the cakes badly, “we” decorate the cakes badly, “we” photograph the cakes for the competition, “we” take the cakes to the cake sale and then I can’t be sure but I’m fairly certain that my daughter buys back the very cakes “we” have baked at a vastly inflated price.  OK, I know, I know,  it’s all for charity.

As I sit here writing this, I am eagerly awaiting my next mission (should I choose to accept it).  Half term is nearly upon us and I’m quite sure that with all that time off when we are supposedly twiddling our thumbs, the schools will have concocted something fairly spectacular for the children/actually the parents to do.  Before I am roundly attacked for my lack of enthusiasm and support for my children’s endeavours, I ask you just to think back to the last time your child was supposed to make something at home for school – who made it? How many minutes attention did your child give the task compared to the hours you put in?