Thursday, 9 March 2017

GCSEs - a revision guide for parents

So, here we are, knee deep in mock exam results and wondering how things are going to pan out over the next few months with the teen boy.

Having been to the parents evenings and the multiple revision/careers/sixth form open days, I somehow feel like there's as much pressure on me to make him get the right grades as there is on him.

There's nothing else for it, it's time for some revision and so I have put together a helpful guide for all parents of teens to enable you get through this highly stressful period.

Repetition

Prince once said that there is joy in repetition, but quite obviously he never had to do GCSE revision with a teenager. It's pretty standard practice to repeat the question "have you done any revision today?" at least 78 times a day for about six months.  Intersperse this with "where are the revision sheets your teacher gave you?" and occasionally switch it up for "have you finished your Art coursework yet?" for good measure. See? Joy... (maybe Prince was being ironic?)

Prince never had to revise with a recalcitrant teen, the lucky sod


Applying revision to everyday life

Examples might be:

Maths - "If I ask you 78 times a day if you've done your revision yet, how many total times will I ask you over the period of the full Spring term (including half term)?"

English - "Give examples, including relevant quotations, of how the battles in this house over Playstation time with your brother accurately reflect the struggles encountered between Ralph and Jack in Lord of the Flies".

Science - "what is the boiling point of a mother's blood upon reading the latest in a very long series of emails from their son's Head of Year detailing what still needs to be done in order for her son to pass his exams?"

Philosophy - "It's not fair.  Discuss".

Downtime

It is important to relax and get away from the daily grind and stresses of GCSE revision.  The teens like to "hang out" and play Call of Duty or whatever, but it's good for us parents to switch off occasionally too.   I like to go running.  I am considering entering at least three half marathons currently, as the resulting training I would need to do to complete them would mean many hours away from constantly having to remind people to get on with their revision the cut and thrust of the revision timetable.  Which would be very relaxing indeed.

Incentivise

Much in the same way that parents incentivise their children to pass exams (apparently the going rate is about £100 for every A*) I like to give myself little incentives too.  Just think that as soon as this is all over there will be less money needed for expensive revision guides (seriously, are they printed on butterfly wings or something?) and yet another copy of Romeo and Juliet (he may be losing these on purpose, I really am not sure) which in turn means that I can spend it on handbags or running shoes instead.  Much better.

Panic

If all else fails, panic!  He'll get it eventually, won't he?  His Maths teacher said not to worry?  He doesn't seem all that worried about it so why should I be?  But what if he has underestimated how hard the exam papers will be? Maybe he could use his bedroom as his final art project?  After all it looks exactly like a Tracey Emin installation**.  And breathe.

Not that I ever do this you understand.  *throws revision guides at teen and rifles through a billion school emails for revision tips*

*realises I have to go through this all again next year*

FML.


**  I could provide pictures but they would be way too horrific.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Hey, Jay Z...

You've got 99 problems and twins?  Are definitely going to be two of them (also your wife as well, if my own behaviour post twins is anything to go by).

Anyway, firstly, Congratulations!  You are about to join quite an elite club - J Lo, Mariah, Celine, Brad and Ange, H from Steps and myself of course.  We're all in the twin parent posse.

So with that in mind I thought I'd give you a heads up on the joys life might hold for you in a few months' time.  It can be quite a learning curve.

1.  Forget ever going anywhere in a hurry again.  You and Bey may think that you are the celebrities now but when those twins come along every outing becomes at least three times as long as you get stopped by everyone, and I mean everyone. The only difference is that they aren't interested in you at all. Imagine that!  No, they really just want to ask all about the twins and squidge their little cheeks (which trust me, gets a bit annoying).  Sometimes you might think its just easier to stay at home instead.  It is.

2.  Forget ever getting through the doors of your favourite shops ever (or anywhere, even doing Blue Ivy's school run is going to be tricky).  I'll be honest here, double buggies these days are very cool, but the one thing that has never really changed about them is that they are all flipping massive.  The instructions may say that it fits through a standard single doorway but basically that's a lie.  Get used to a lifetime of ramming the bastard thing through every doorway you encounter taking plaster off walls, paint off door frames and possibly flesh off other people's ankles as you go.  It's like the manufacturers have inflicted them on us twin parents as the yang to the yin that is the ultimate cuteness that sits inside them.  The good news?  You'll only have to manage this for around three years.  After that you'll be chasing two children in opposite directions instead.  Yeah I know, fun right?!

3.  Get down the gym now and lift some weights.  Not only will you look HOT but it will make the task of lifting the giant baby changing bag that you need for carrying the twins' belongings everywhere you go a whole lot easier.  Twins need loads of gear and I'm betting baby Gucci doesn't exactly pack light.

4.  Be extra nice to your bestest friends/mother.  You and Bey are going to need a night out eventually.  And, to be honest, there aren't a lot of people who willingly babysit three kids at once, especially when two of them are in some kind of crying, puking tag team.  So be nice to your mates and your mother and they'll only feel guilty if they don't be too happy to oblige when you two want to have a night off.  OK, so you'll probably spend that night asleep or eating things without having to share or well, asleep (Ahhh sleep...) but at least you know that the babies will be in good hands with Rihanna or Mrs C Senior.  Give them good Christmas presents and they may even babysit more than once! OK they won't.

Two of my 99 problems.  No idea what they were up to here - but it was probably no good.

5.  Get used to being a referee.  Pretty much as soon as they learn to speak.  The "I am older than him" row is my favourite (especially when you bear in mine that it is only by two minutes).  Everything you give them has to be equal, everything they do has to be the same.  Once I had to split a sweet in two.  A sweet!  If I'm totally honest, this gets quite exhausting eventually.  Earplugs may be the answer actually.

And finally, I know I'm painting a bit of a bleak picture of twin parenting here, but I've asked my husband what it's like being a twin dad and he said he wouldn't change it for the world.  He also really likes going to work now.  So I'm expecting an awful lot of new albums from you over the next year (and probably a tour).

Love to you, Beyonce, and Blue Ivy during this exciting time.

Peace out (or whatever it is you musician types say).

Thursday, 26 January 2017

The Very Hungry Teenager*

By the light of an iPhone, a large seemingly immovable lump lay on a bed.

On Sunday morning the curtains were opened by a mother (she had successfully used a head torch to navigate from one side of the room to the other to avoid the piles of clothing and rubbish in her quest for daylight) and POP! - out of the bed lurched a grumpy and very hungry teenager.





"Oh My God!  We never have anything good to eat in this house" he bellowed.  He mother told him she was fed up of always doing the shopping just so that he could eat it all, and so she gave him the cash and dispatched him to the supermarket.

He started to look for some food.

On Monday he ate through one box of breakfast cereal.

But he was still hungry.

On Tuesday he ate through two pot noodles.

But he was still hungry.

On Wednesday he ate through three share sized bags of crisps.

But he was still hungry.

On Thursday he ate through four bacon sandwiches.

But he was still hungry.

On Friday he ate through five custard filled doughnuts.

But he was still hungry.

On Saturday he ate through one freshly baked homemade cake (which was for the school fair),
one tub of Ben and Jerry's (his mother was saving that for eating while watching Sherlock *tuts*),
the last packed of pickled onion flavoured Monster Munch (which he was welcome to),
a whole packet of swiss cheese (for packed lunches!),
a packet of italian salami (seriously, I was looking forward to that),
a lollipop (nicked from his seven year old sister's party bag),
the last of the christmas mince pies from the freezer (well, someone had to have them),
a sausage (I can't leave anything in the fridge for a minute - cold sausages are my favourite),
a cupcake (nothing is sacred),
and one slice of watermelon flavoured bubblegum (no fruit or vegetables may pass his lips).

Unsurprisingly that night he had a stomach ache!

The next day was Sunday again and so he stayed in his pit and got everyone to wait on him hand and foot. That night he felt much better.

And for a brief period at least, he wasn't hungry anymore, and he wasn't little anymore.

He was at least six inches taller than last week.

His mother said that maybe they should go shopping for some new clothes for him.

"But I don't want to go shopping!" he said, "Shopping is sooooo boooooring!" *does eyeroll*

So instead he climbed back into bed, wrapping the covers around himself in a cocoon-like fashion, leaving his mother to work out what size leg he was in jeans now so that she could order them on the internet.  And he pretended to do some GCSE Maths revision for a bit.

Eventually he realised that he needed a shower, otherwise he would likely never get a girl to go to prom with him and so he left his bed and...

demanded that his mother buy him some head and shoulders, some clearasil and a pricey pot of hair wax (oh, and some more breakfast cereal, because someone keeps eating it all?).

The End.

(except it never really is the end is it?  It goes on and on, or is that just me? FFS.)


*  With apologies to Eric Carle (or as the teenagers say, #sorrynotsorry).

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Advanced Teen Speak - The (mildly) Festive Edition

A few months back you may remember me writing a Teen Speak Masterclass.  This was based upon my teenagers new and confusing use of the English language and was an attempt at trying to understand it. Obviously this failed miserably, because I still have no idea what they are talking about most of the time, but it did prove rather popular with readers.

So, as its nearly Christmas and being a parent to teenagers really is the gift that keeps on giving, I am sharing a new guide (because you can forget anything you learned in the last one - they've changed it all), complete with a festive twist*.

So, if you have a teen or two pay attention, take notes, you are about to get your training in advanced teen speak, just in time for spending the Yuletide period with them.  How lucky.

dank

This year we are spending Christmas day at my mother's house. Major eyerolls from the teens in the house, naturally.  According to the teen girl, Christmas will not be dank.  Now, you might think that that's a good thing and I can confirm that my mum's house is neither unpleasantly damp or cold.  It isn't dank.  So that's good.

Except when it isn't.  You see, when the teen girl says it isn't dank that means it isn't dank, I mean not in the traditional sense.  It just isn't good. Dank is good - dank meme, dank party etc etc.

Confused yet?  Yes, me too.

peng

Now, owing to the fact that teenagers are always shortening words for txt spk for example and also because it is winter now/a bit cold outside, I did originally think that peng might have been short for penguin?

Sadly, I'm wrong here too.  Peng is yet another word for good, or if its a person, good looking.  An example here would be  "I thought I might wear my new Boden dress on Christmas day".  "OMG Mum, you will look so peng!" (I am lying, they will never say this if you are over 25 and wear Boden, sorry).

I've still yet to establish whether penguins can be peng though.

salty

"Don't be salty" said the teen boy when I asked him why the hell he hadn't done any revision for his mock exams last week (FFS).  Erm, OK?

Apparently I am always salty.  You might assume this has something to do with actual salt (maybe I should be more concerned with my salt intake? Was he actually concerned about this?).  No.  Salty means upset, cross or angry.  I am still salty about the lack of revision, I mean, what is he thinking?

scrub

When shopping for your Christmas treats do be aware that teenagers have very high standards when it comes to certain supermarket branded goods.  Saying things like "Ooh, the Aldi Christmas catalogue has some nice things in it this year, I think I'll stock up" will elicit the following response, "Oh Mum!  You are such a scrub".

I recently completed a half marathon (I may have mentioned this already) but the teens complain when I wear the finisher's t-shirt I was given because a) it was free and b) it says Aldi on it - this is the definition of a scrub and is embarrassing.  I might wear it for parents' evening.


Scrub is not good, a bit budget (forget that if you save a few quid by buying Aldi gin you will be able to pay for their ever increasing mobile phone bill *sigh*).  Being cheap frugal is not good in the teen's eyes.  I still have not forgotten the time that they had a meltdown over my buying own brand crisps instead of Walkers.

Apparently this was a big deal.  Which leads me neatly on to my next word...

lit/legit

Everything in this house needs to be lit or legit.  With the teens nothing but the real thing is good enough. Legit Coca-Cola is a must and they were truly impressed when I once bought lit twix bars.  Phew.  And lit/legit meaning legitimate is a kind of easy one to work out isn't it?  Or, is it?

Legitimate


For some reason even though the teens like to C U l8r m8 on txt spk as I mentioned previously, when something is lit or legit it is far cooler to use the full word, legitimate.  I feel like some kind of lightbulb moment might have occurred in their heads (have they been revising after all?).  Could it be that they've finally started to use their mother tongue as it was intended?

Don't be silly, it's just another clever trick to confuse us parents.  Full words, part words, words that are completely unrelated to the subject at hand - there are no rules to teen speak.

top kek!

"Those are some top keks!" I wondered whether this meant they approved of the underwear I had bought them (which by the way was lit M&S) but no.  A top kek is a major lol, the last laugh, something that generates huge amusement.

But can I ever have the last laugh with my teens?

Maybe.

*wraps two copies of the English dictionary and puts them under the tree*

Merry Christmas!


*  well, kind of.  It is a very tenuous attempt to be topical.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

How to Ace the School Nativity

It's been a while since I've written anything but today I have news.  Actually I've lots of things that I could be telling you all about, but for some reason this particular thing stuck out as being important.

An important parenting milestone in fact.

So here it is... (are you ready?)

This year will be the last year I will ever have to endure enjoy the school infants nativity play as a parent.

I know.  It's crept up on me somewhat.  Yet another rite of passage to tick off the list.

To a certain extent I have been waiting for this moment to come for years.  Mainly so I don't have to sit on those god awful tiny plastic chairs in the school hall, but also because once you've seen one nativity, well? You have seen them all.

Anyhow, why am I telling you this?  Well, it occurred to me that while I will be bidding a fond teary farewell to the buildup and stress excitement of this event this year, there will still be many of you who will be starting out on your nativity play watching careers.  And, I for one have learnt a lot during this time and so I thought I could impart some of my wisdom* onto others (sharing is caring and all that) so here it is.

How to ace the school nativity - a guide for parents

1.  Costumes

Oh bloody hell, where do I begin?  That innocent slip of paper that your child brings home in late November stating the costume requirements for their part in the nativity.  This is usually enough to sent the calmest parent into a flap, especially when a) every child in reception is part of a flock of sheep/donkeys/shepherds and b) you can't sew.  So your choice is to go to every frigging Asda in a a five million mile radius to track down the appropriate attire before 29 other parents buy it first *tears hair out*, or you could go for another option...

I must confess that while I remember doing just that, with wry affection, I have not had to bother with any of this kind of stuff for years.  This is because we moved our children to a different school a while back.  And I'll be the first to admit that when the head teacher of the new school proudly told us that all the costumes for Christmas performances were provided by them, my eyes lit up, my heart sang, my fingers sighed a happy sigh that they would never have to stitch tinsel onto a t-shirt again, and dh and I mentally high-fived each other with a look that said "this is the future".  You get the idea.

So my first tip - choose a school that makes its own costumes and worry no more (possibly not an option for most people, but it does work).

I did not make this costume

2.  Starring roles

Essentially what you are dealing with here is managing expectations.  Whatever part your child ends up with, if they are not Mary or Joseph they will probably be a bit miffed.  This year my daughter came home and told me that she was only the donkey and that she didn't have any words to say (unlike her twin brother who did).  She was sad and so I did what any reasonable parent would do in this situation.  I built her part.  "But the donkey is the best part" I said.  "Without the donkey Mary and Joseph can't get to Bethlehem, and better than that there's a whole song dedicated to how great the donkey is.  Basically, without the donkey Mary and Joseph are screwed there is no story".  And with that she now believes that the donkey is the star.  My son is Alien Number Three (yes, I know, how are there aliens in the nativity?  No flipping idea.  I wait to be enlightened).  And yes you might have guessed, he ranks higher than aliens number one and two in the extra terrestrial hierarchy. They are both so thrilled and excited. My work here is done.

3.  Pictures

Listen, whatever you do, make sure that you take a decent picture before you go.  We can't take pictures at our nativity (actual reasons to do with serious stuff), and so we have to take a quick snap before we leave. For your viewing pleasure here is exhibit a), our first nativity as parents.  My husband didn't check the background before taking this and my mother-in-law had left a bag containing a pair of pink slippers in front of the chair.  Unfortunately for my now 16 year old, this picture will be forever known not as "first nativity" but as "bum slippers".  Please learn from our error.

All I wanted was a picture of my child dressed as a sheep, instead I got this?  FFS.


4.  Watching

Same rule applies for every event where the school try to cram 3000 parents** into a space smaller than Harry Potter's understairs bedroom.  Get there first.  If you're canny then offer to help with make-up, costumes or anything which gets you into that hall before everyone else.  I have seen loads of mums do this over the years and often wondered if they were a bit mad but now I see what they were up to. Clever.

5.  Appreciate the teachers

Because no matter how stressed you've been about all the above, you can rest assured that your child's teacher has had this stress x 30 kids for the past month or longer.  If there's one thing I've learnt over the last 11 years of nativity watching its that the teachers manage to bring it all together every year without fail. This is amazing.

However much I might moan about the nativity, it's fair to say that I feel so happy every year when I see my children performing it.  For me it marks the start of Christmas proper, and secretly I love it. 

Oh yes, you might also want to consider bringing a spare tissue?  The woman next to you will have forgotten hers and will probably be doing a good impersonation of Alice Cooper as her children, known as Donkey and Alien Number Three, put on their Oscar winning performances on stage (seriously I already have RADA on speed-dial).  See, even the most nativity-weary of parents get carried away at this time of year...

Final school nativity? I'll ace it (obvs.).


*  OK, just the usual part common sense, part laughing at my own stupidity, but mostly luck

**  This might be a slight exaggeration but it says 3 tickets per child, not bring your entire family tree.  Bitter, me?

Friday, 28 October 2016

Teenagers vs Zombies

Half term is nearly over *does faint cheer* and this only means one thing.  Halloween *doesn't cheer*.

OK so most people with children embrace this time of year, and believe me over the years I've tried. But I'm just not keen.  Sorry.

Anyway, it's half term which means I've been forced to spend more time than is normal with my teenagers and so I have come to the conclusion that I don't need to celebrate Halloween anyway.  Why?  Because I'm bloody well living it.  That's why.

Have you ever noticed just how similar a teenager is to a zombie?

I can't help but feel like I've entered some sort of Zombie Apocalypse over the past week.

My teenager's behaviour is hard enough at the best of times to understand but this is undeniably the most puzzling thing yet. I have watched as they have been spending large chunks of time inside their crypt bedrooms, not speaking to us and looking vacant.  It's like living with the undead.  In fact, the similarities between the teens and a pair of Zombies are uncanny (and I know because I've checked Wikipedia).

Maybe my teenagers have in fact turned into Zombies?  Maybe all teenagers go a little bit Zombie eventually? I'm pretty sure I'm on to something here, so let's consider the evidence...

1.   Appearance

Zombies are able to move but still technically dead aren't they?  Well, teenagers are kind of the same.  They have the ability to move (although often stay in the same YouTube watching position all day) and you might be forgiven for thinking that they are dead given that there are very few vital signs of life except for one thing. The eye roll.  Just ask them a question and you'll see it.  Come to think of it, Zombies also have that same glassy eye roll thing going on too.  Oh dear...

A Zombie or a teenager, who can tell?

2.  Groaning and single word answers

When I say that I've been spending more time with my teens recently, what I actually mean is that they've just been at home more.  The levels of communication between us still remain the same (if not a little bit less). Just wish a teen "good morning!" when they appear from their room and shuffle their way to the fridge for breakfast and you'll hear it too.  The groan. Followed by a single word, "fooooood".  A Zombie would use the more traditional phrase "brainnns" of course, which leads me on to my next point.

3.  Hunger

A Zombie's main purpose is to eat human flesh and in particular suck out your brains.  A teenagers main purpose is to eat the contents of your fridge and kitchen cupboards.  They are a bit less fussy at least.  Teens also suck out your will to live eventually too.  They are versatile like that.

We had these halloween donuts and the teens ate all my favorite
 smores ones *sulks*


4.  Lives in a decaying or rotting state

Dishevelled appearance (sometimes ripped clothing), discoloured skin and what is that smell?  Nope not just for Zombies, teens also rock this look too.  While the ripped jeans trend and the ability for teen girls to wear far too much make-up copy Kim Kardashian's contouring techniques can be blamed for part of this, there is still that awful rotting smell, which had no explanation.  I have lamented before on the state of my teen's bedrooms.  The smell is ingrained in every inch of those bedrooms, and I can't quite understand why.  The top notes of deodorant and cheap body spray don't add much to it either.

5.  They travel in packs

In the movies Zombies travel in packs, but then slightly more terrifyingly, so do teens.  If you've ever had the misfortune to find yourself outside a secondary school at home time you'll know what I mean.  They swarm together like some sort of unstoppable force.  Even if you happen to be in your car you will not be safe as they lumber across the road with a complete disregard for anybody else heading their way.  While Zombies are no doubt on the lookout for some nice fresh brains, teenagers are more than likely playing Pokemon Go or popping to the corner shop for yet more food, it's very easy to get the two things confused though.

6.  Contagiousness 

Now, most people know that if a Zombie catches you and bites you then you'll become a Zombie too. Teenagers though?  Well, they don't bite you (which is good at least - Christ knows when they last cleaned their teeth) but is their behaviour contagious?  I do believe so.  The clumsiness, the sometimes violent outbursts - one teen starts and another joins in.  And like Zombies, they often leave a trail of destruction in their wake.  Not dead corpses or anything so macabre, no.  In this house it appears to be a trail of endless washing up...

I took this picture and 10 minutes later there were another
3 glasses there too. The dishwasher is 2 feet away (true story) 


The thing is, I'm not sure how to change them back.  Can you even change a Zombie teen back into a human (wikipedia was a bit vague on this)?

I would quite like to have my normal argumentative teens back, even if it meant I had to listen to rows between them over who's in who's room or whether one looked at the other or not. *sigh* Halcyon days...

But hey, it could be worse I suppose.  At least after this holiday I'm well versed in what to do if and when the Zombie Apocalypse happens.  So that's good.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Kitting the kids out for the rain with GO Outdoors

If you've read my blog before, you will no doubt remember that my teenagers don't really like wearing coats all that much.  Yes, even in the depths of winter they'd rather freeze than wear a coat (that's if they were to ever leave their bedrooms, of course).

So, when GO Outdoors got in touch with me to ask if my children would like some of their raincoats from their back to school range, my initial thought was "well, that will be a waste of time, I'll be lucky if I can even get them to try them on!".

But, the teen girl was the first to crack.  It appears that sometimes, just sometimes, she gets a little fed up with a soaking wet blazer on the way to and from school in the rain.  I had suggested taking her umbrella, but those have been broken and lost *rolls eyes* and her regular coat is too big for keeping in her bag once she gets to school.

So I was really pleased to see that the range from GO Outdoors includes a lightweight packable raincoat that comes with its own storage bag, which is just perfect for stowing away in a school bag when not in use. Even more importantly for us, the sizing goes right up to age 15-16, so both teenagers could have one!


The stowaway jackets in their storage bags


When the jackets arrived I was pleasantly surprised at the quality considering that they were just £10 each. Firstly they come in their own drawstring storage bag which has a small carrying handle and mesh sides.  The coat itself has taped seams, two internal storage pockets, two zipped external pockets and a hood with a flap to secure it when rolled up and not in use.  The coats fasten with a sturdy zip with fabric that velcros over the top to keep things waterproof.  I was really impressed and the teen girl in particular loved the dark purple colour she had been sent.



Last weekend we finally got a chance to try the coats in the wind and rain at the Manchester Half Marathon (in which I was running!).  DH and the kids all came to support me and it came as no surprise that after watching a beautiful sunrise over Old Trafford as we arrived, as soon as I reached the start line the heavens opened in quite a spectacular fashion.  Just typical for Manchester.

My family had decided to stay close to the start to cheer on the runners and as the first three miles was a loop back to that point, this is where I saw them - and to my surprise, THE TEENAGERS WERE WEARING THEIR COATS.  The rain was really pouring at that stage (unfortunately I managed to dodge the official photographer at this point and so you'll never see a picture of me to illustrate how wet it was) and my husband was really soaked, but happily the kids weren't.

As for the sizing - the teens found that the jackets were pretty good, allowing for additional, and essential, hoodies to be worn underneath to ward off the cold.  I'm sure over half term they will be a very useful addition to their wardrobes because of this.

And when everyone returns to school the coats will also fit very neatly into their school bags, just in case the weather turns on the way home from school.

They hardly take up any space in a school bag


This of course means less nagging and a big thumbs up from me :)


We were sent two higear kids stowaway jackets form GO Outdoors for the purpose of this review.  All words and opinions are our own.
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