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.


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.


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.


"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?


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...


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?


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?


*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.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Milestone Cards for Teenagers

Have you seen those milestone cards that people buy when they have babies?  The ones that you photograph with the baby, and then post to Facebook each time the baby reaches a new milestone (and let's face it, there are hundreds of those when babies are all new).

Well, I'm a bit envious.  Not of the babies (I'm totally done there), but of the milestones and the photos.

The thing is, there are all these cool things you can do nowadays to record such moments with a baby, but as children get older there is nothing.  And judging by my photo collection these days there is a distinct lack of photos of my teenagers all of a sudden.

So much so, that I'm going to have forgotten what their beautiful faces look like at this rate.

So, I've concluded that there is a gap in the market.  What if someone made milestone cards for parents of teenagers?  There are hundreds of proud moments for us too, let me tell you.  It's just that nobody thinks to record them. 

So if anyone should decide to take this project further, I've made a small selection of cards for the types of things that us mums and dads of teenagers might like to remember, based on some of the recent events in our household.

You'll have to imagine the teenagers - they aren't keen on posing with these for some reason?  I still think I could bribe them with a fiver but dh won't let me it will catch on eventually.  Give it time.

Here they are.  

1.  Because nobody ever forgets their first time...

2.  No more whiffy feet.  Who knew clean socks were the key?

3.  The stuff dreams are truly made of.

4.  I had forgotten the teenagers could still do this.  You might have to be quick with the camera to capture it though.

5.  It's a shame that teen girl used my tweezers (which she then lost) but I have to agree, the eyebrows did look especially 'on fleek' that day.

6.  This was a proud moment for me. It's usually like a digital tsunami in our house when the WiFi goes wrong.

7.  To paraphrase Adele, 'hello from the inside, I must have text a thousand times'... Replies are an amazing achievement.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  There are hundreds more exciting achievements just waiting to be recorded all over social media by parents of teens.  What about the day you first meet their boyfriend/girlfriend?  The day they use the washing machine on their own for the first time? The day they do their first GCSE resit after vastly underestimating the importance of the exam score the first time round.  Before you know it you'll have an album on Facebook full of all these special moments to be cherished forever.

As I say this idea is not really a new one.  But I think this particular adaptation is rather unique.  So unique that it will probably be on Kickstarter by the end of the day.  Or there's always Dragon's Den*.

Who knows, I might even make enough money to buy some better WiFi or replace the tweezers that the teen girl lost.

That would be excellent.

*  I bet Deborah Meaden would still be out.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Tips for Parents of Year 7s

An interesting hashtag on Twitter caught my eye this evening.  #TipsForYear7s.

A long list of helpful and not so helpful things for starting out at high school.  Some of them were quite witty actually.  I especially liked "you are already behind on your art coursework". If only my teens had known that three or four years ago.  

But, what about us parents?  I wish someone had come up with some tips for me when my eldest son started high school.  I remember that it was a bit... overwhelming.  To say the very least.

Well, fear not, people with new secondary school starters, for I have been there (twice over!) and my third child is about to start high school with his brother and sister this very week.  Maybe I could be that person with the tips?

So I thought I'd have a stab at writing a list so that anyone about to embark on this very weird and scary time (for you, not them obvs. They will breeze it).  Here we go.

1.  On the morning of their first day, when they put on the uniform that you bought from the school suppliers about 8 weeks ago for fear of them running out, you will hope and pray that your child hasn't suddenly grown 2ft in height during the summer holiday and that the thing still fits.

2.  Even if they have, they will still look too little and scared to be wearing it.  A bit like when Tom Hanks turns back into a child at the end of "Big".

3.  School lunch boxes are for babies.  Under no circumstances must their lunch go anywhere near Tupperware of any kind.  In fact, let them buy their lunch, it's way cooler (although will probably comprise of a chocolate muffin and a plate of chips).

4.  You must not go anywhere near the school gates whatsoever.  If you have to drop them off, best to do that a couple of streets away and let them walk with their mates.  The school gate is no longer your domain *punches air*

5.  Expect them to have done "nothing" and spent time with "no one" for the whole of their first day (and beyond).  It's a lot like they've turned back into a five year old in this respect. Roll with it.  Just like when they were five, it very rarely is true.

6.  They will inhale the contents of your fridge when they return because they are "starving".  Also, their feet will ache from all the walking they've had to do to each lesson.  Despite the fact that the school is only two streets away and didn't look that big to you when you visited it, they will claim to have walked for miles.  In their heads they have (but don't worry, they get used to it quite quickly).

7.  Don't ignore the fact that you need to sign their homework planner and agree to the rules too.  Do it as soon as they shove it under your nose.  If you forget then they are the ones who get the warning/detention not you! *speaks from bitter experience*. Also, don't sign letters without reading them properly first.  Before you know it you'll have signed you child up for an £1100 Home Economics trip to the Ukraine or similar. There are non compulsory trip letters like this every week.

8.  When they get their first piece of homework to do, it is fairly tempting to help them so that theirs is the best (isn't it obvious that they are the cleverest and destined for top set?  Didn't the teacher see the SATs marks?). Don't.  They'll be getting about five pieces of homework a week and it really is best if you let them get on with it themselves rather than relying on your help (you will not be able to do the Maths homework anyway, don't even try!) otherwise you'll be doing GCSE coursework again before you know it. 

9.  They have had a tight knit group of friends all the way through primary school, possibly since preschool even.  By the end of the first month they might not be friends anymore.  They may have fallen out.  Kids change and no matter how shocking this is, they will make new friends.  They will change friends all the time in fact.  It will all level out a bit once their hormones settle down.  In about Year 11.

10.  Oh, one more thing.  You know that uniform list that you carefully went through and bought all of? (Even the really expensive P.E. Kit when you weren't sure that three different types of top and both football and AstroTurf boots were really necessary?). After their first P.E. lesson you discover that you could have avoided all the cost entirely as they only need a polo shirt, a pair of tracksuit bottoms and some trainers.  I still have a micro fleece training top, several pairs of shorts, white sports socks, a never worn pair of football boots and a gum shield that we never got round to fitting.  Thank goodness the sports department never got back to me with a price for a rugby shirt or else we'd own one of those too.  What can I say?  They were on the list!  Another note: schools very rarely update the uniform lists.

fig. 1. Before aftermarket customisations.

So there you are.  A potted guide to being the parent of a secondary school going child.  And the most important thing?  Always snap a picture of them while they look smart in their uniform (because it's going to be the last time they wear it as it's supposed to be worn, without the "aftermarket" customisations, see fig. 1) and have a tissue handy because you will have a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye.  Your child is about to embark on the final stages of their school career and it all feels a bit scary.  That bit never really changes.

Good luck and welcome to secondary school!

Thursday, 1 September 2016

The Nine Circles of Summer Holiday Hell

This blog has totally gone on the backburner this summer, while dealing with five children and the school holidays has pulled me further away from doing the things I'd normally do.

At the start of the holiday this didn't worry me.  I have done this a million times before (OK, about ten or eleven, but who's counting?), and I know how it goes.  Initial euphoria as school breaks up for the next seven weeks, followed by the realisation that seven weeks is a bloody long time to entertain everyone for, and the certainty that once the end is in sight I will be too exhausted and broke to care anymore.

This summer has been a bit of a disaster if I'm being honest.  What is it that people say about the best laid plans?  Well, mine have definitely gone awry and we've settled into a kind of groundhog day-like routine that has become my own kind of hell.

And Dante was right, hell does indeed have nine circles, and this summer holiday has been no exception.  So just in case you have been lucky enough to bypass this yourselves, here they are for you enjoyment.

1.  Children's Television (Limbo)

After the early excitement of having so much time on your hands, followed by a brief interlude of wholesome and worthy parent-led activities, it's normal to turn to the electronic babysitters to facilitate some downtime. Unfortunately what I'd forgotten about this (the luxury of child-free days now my lot are all at school) is that everything is on a loop.  A bloody long, mind-numbingly annoying loop.  Of cartoons.  If this was like watching every series of say, House (Mmm, Hugh Laurie's piercing blue eyes...) back to back, then it would be perfectly acceptable (oh, yes!).  Instead it's more like a box set style assault on the senses. A terrible, colourful, loud assault.  Oh, and it includes Scooby Doo (yes, they still really do show that).

Come, stand in the sweaty pit of balls while taking a photo.

2.  Soft Play and other "fun" days out (Lust)

When you are a parent, you might dream of all the wonderful days out you are going to have with your children "making memories".  What happens when it's raining (usually week two of the holidays) is that in the quest for memory making you'll be tempted to enter the greasy pit of despair known as Soft Play.  All you lust after is some hot coffee and an hour where your kids are jumping all over something that isn't your own soft furnishings at home.  What you get is two hours of being begged for fruit shoots, taking children to the toilet, and chasing them round the pit of stinking balls (you even have to stand in it FFS *boak*).

See, they'd all bogged off here, leaving me behind, shouting.  FML.

What's that?  Oh the weather's better?  Then you best head for a National Trust place and make those memories! (finally).  Except when you get there the kids are all so crazy on sunshine and fresh air that they run off in opposite directions, so you spend a large amount of time shouting for them to return thus destroying the peace and calm that you hoped to enjoy.  You lose your temper and go home.  Never mind. You've never liked their tea shops and homemade cakes anyway (oh, tea, lovely hot tea... *sigh*). You have taken some pictures for the Insta-sham though, so you can pretend it was good.

3.  Food, food and more food (Gluttony)

As the holidays get fully underway you may notice that there is one place that you seem to spend more time in that anywhere else.  Your kitchen.  Why am I always feeding people?  Why is everyone so hungry all the time? Are these Velociraptors or children?  Can walking barefoot over the crumb-ridden floor be classed as a pedicure? These are all the types of questions you may ask yourself. Then, to add insult to injury, the teenagers (who seem to be able to manage to fetch their own food - bonus!) open the fridge, roll their eyes and exclaim "why is there never anything good to eat in this house?".  Yes, it's time to move onto the next circle in your trek to the center of summer holiday hell.

I never usually buy these, except for when six year olds come shopping with me

4.  Supermarket shopping with children (Greed)

Normally supermarket shopping would involve a swift visit, list in hand, for some everyday essentials and would cost less than the annual GDP of a small country.  When you have to take your children shopping in the holidays the following will happen instead.  You'll forget the list.  In fairness you won't need this anyway as six year olds are remarkably good at "reminding" you of what you really need to replenish your kitchen cupboards with.  This includes seven types of biscuits, Pom Bears, cola and an ungodly amount of sweets. Oh, and a comic.  As you wander round the aisles, desperately trying to remember why you came here in the first place while attempting to herd your children away from yet another Shopkins display, you look down at the almost unrecognisable contents of your shopping trolley and consider that it might have been easier (and cheaper) to attempt shopping with a couple of baby goats in tow.  Then, as you finally leave, they all have a meltdown because you won't buy them Pokemon cards.  Aces.

5.  Back to school Shoe Shopping (Wrath)

Almost as soon as the school run becomes a distant memory, you suddenly realise that it's time to replace the school shoes of every one of your children.  Rats.  So off to the shoe shop you trudge, reluctant shoe shop hating offspring following, with only one aim.  A pair of shoes in the correct size and style for at least one child. Let me tell you, the wrath of several mothers all arguing in Clarks over a single pair of Lexie Jo (Inf) in an 11E fitting is not to be underestimated.  Even if you manage to claim your prize, you are bound to discover that the shop has nothing suitable for the other children until their next delivery comes in, either that or there is just this one pair - which happen to cost £48.  That's without V.A.T? (sadly I'm not even kidding). As I say, Wrath.

Boom!  I am the best at shoe shopping.  See my Lexie Jo (Inf) size 11 and weep.

6.  Never ending questions (Heresy)

So seven weeks with five children ranging in ages produces some interesting discussions as the boredom sets in.  From the constant "can I haves" and "can you get me" to teenage disagreements and their complete inability to see things your way (the correct way obvs.) and argue back at any cost.  People talk about loving their houses filled with chatter and laughter in the holidays but my house has just been filled with people asking something of me every minute of the day (usually something I don't like, agree with or want to do). It's not fun, it's just bleeding well NOISE.

7.  Sibling Fighting (Violence)

It's fair to say, where there are siblings there will be fighting.  This is probably one of the most inevitable parts of any school holiday, but with seven weeks filled with rows ranging from "she's looking at me!" to actual hand to hand combat over who's turn it is on the XBox, it can make you feel a bit on the edge.  Options for coping with this include leaving them to it and hiding in the kitchen with a family sized pack of Picnics or you could just use the distraction to get on with some of the other exciting holiday jobs you have to do...

8.  Labelling uniforms (Fraud)

One woman, fifty plus items of uniform and a set of sew in name tapes.  There are more difficult things to deal with, surely?  Well no.  After the first three name tapes take you nearly an hour you realise that your fingers are bleeding (never been very good with needles), your neck hurts and you have a dead leg from kneeling on the floor for so long surrounded by the sea of uniform.  So, out comes the Sharpie.  Your old friend.  This speeds the process up no end, but you know that ultimately you will lose half of the uniform as the pen will wash out eventually, or you'll have to sit down at half term and do it all again.  Oh well, at least you've freed up some time for your final descent into hell...

9.  Holiday homework (Treachery)

Who knew that schools set homework over the holidays these days?  Not only did it come as a bit of a shock to me that there would be no let up from reading schemes, holiday diaries and Spanish vocab practice but it seems that my kids forgot too.  "Have you done your homework?" I ask the teen girl.  "Oh yes mum, in fact I have hardly any this summer" came the reply.  And so I believed her.  Until the tsunami-like bedroom turning over incident, where she couldn't find the actually very important GCSE coursework prep sheet explaining in quite great detail what she needed to do this summer.  With less than a week to go.  It makes me wonder if there is any point in believing anything they tell me at all.

And there we have it.  I've reached the center (or the end?) of hell.  I may be down, but I'm not out.  And the good news is that I can at least escape.

And how did Dante escape from the center of hell?  By climbing down Satan's ragged fur, which sounds a bit grim if you ask me.  Fortunately it's a bit easier to escape holiday hell when you are a mum at the end of her tether.

You just have to wait for the sign.  The universal sign of freedom that signals an end to this madness.

Bingo!  There it is.  The universal sign for parental escape.

For as soon as the Parentmail pings into your inbox you know that you've made it through to the other side. Another year.  Another not so perfect summer holiday.  But, next year will be better.  I'm sure.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Family Walk Fail

Ah, the holidays.  Plenty of family time to be had, and time to use that National Trust membership that we took out in January and haven't bothered with since.

So last week with DH on a few days leave from work we decided to do just that.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love the National Trust and the places around here are particularly picturesque and provide a really good distraction for a few hours here and there.  We are very very lucky to have them.

Except, there never has yet been a visit without someone moaning about something.

You know the kind of scenario I'm talking about, don't you?  The kind where everyone else is having a really great time, bar one child who is moaning and grumbling.  ALL. THE. TIME.

To be quite honest, with five children I'm so used to this now that my hearing has become a little selective.

This is not always a good thing, as I realised when I snapped this picture of Twin Boy half way round Hare Hill near Alderley Edge, where we had mostly been having a lovely walk (apart from his whinging).

The poor child.  I should have never let him put his wellies on by himself.  No wonder he was finding walking a bit tricky...


Wednesday, 24 August 2016

How to #HartleysYourLunchbox

I don't know about you, but for me one of the nicest things about the school holidays is not having to think about making packed lunches for a few weeks.

Having been the family packed lunch maker for the past 11 years, it's all started to get a bit tedious of late, I mean, how many cheese and ham sandwiches can one mum make before she goes totally and utterly insane?

So, as Britmums has teamed up with Hartley's for the #HartleysYourLunchbox Challenge, I decided to get my thinking cap on and share my tips for making back to school lunchboxes* for this coming term.

As I was taking part in the challenge, Hartley's very kindly sent us over a nice new lunchbox complete with stickers, and some samples of their No Added Sugar Jelly Pots to try to make the task a bit easier for me.

Hartley's are also offering consumers a chance to claim their own lunchbox and sticker set by collecting 12 special edition green lids from pots of No Added Sugar Jelly (115g).  Once all 12 have been collected all you have to do is head to their website to claim.  They are such cute lunchboxes and very reminiscent of the one I had when I started school (so retro, not old) and would make the perfect first school lunchbox.

Twin girl set to work with the stickers and lunchbox straight away and did a stirling job personalising the box ready to take to school.

The twins are currently entitled to free school meals still as they are only in Year 2 this year, but having had them for the past two years now they are really looking forward to a packed lunch or two, so I have decided this year that I'll let them take an occasional one every now and again.

This will mean making 5 packed lunches some mornings and so my tips for lunchbox making largely revolve around speed and ease of putting them all together, while trying to keep a healthy balance.

Wraps are much easier to make than sandwiches I find.  Not only can I put their favourite ham/cheese fillings inside but I can sneak a bit of salad in too and then wrap it up so that nobody really notices it - good for fussy children who rarely eat veg.

For the non sandwich eaters I include a tub of crackers/breadsticks and houmous and some carrot and cucumber for dipping.

I always include one portion of fruit in the kids' lunch.  Bananas and apples are easy, but for the children who won't eat those I do wedges of melon (you can slice, wrap and store in the fridge overnight), grapes, or if there is nothing fresh in the house, my cupboard standby of raisin boxes.

I allow one sweet thing in their lunches every day. This can be a prepacked biscuit or cereal bar, a piece of homemade cake/flapjack or a yogurt.  I do worry about the sugar content, which is why I was so pleased that the kids gave the Hartleys No Added Sugar Jelly Pots a big thumbs up when they tried them.  Those are now going on my shopping list for September too!

Lastly, I try to include something savoury.  This could sometimes be crisps or even a small bag of cheese crackers.  These often get eaten at break time when they are running around outside, so it has to be something that is pre-packed which limits my choices somewhat.

Aside from that, they all have a refillable water bottle which they can fill up at school during the day if they need more.

That's it really.  Easy for those of us that are too exhausted and sleep deprived busy in the mornings for anything more complicated, and a bit more exciting than cheese on sliced white bread!

This post is an entry for Britmums #HartleysYourLunchbox Linky Challenge sponsored by Hartley's Jelly 

* my teenagers would like me to note that they in no way shape or form have a lunchbox of any kind, because that is not dank/on fleek/swag or whatever.  The lunch just goes in your schoolbag OK? (but they are quite partial to jelly also)

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Teenager In Training

It's been ages since I last joined in with #WickedWednesdays over with Brummy Mummy of 2.  The holidays seem to be going, not quite at a rate of knots, but it is going quite swiftly I suppose, or maybe I'm finally immune to the 6 weeks of kids droning on about how bored they are every five minutes.

Anyway, a few things have been happening in the past month chez Sounding Like My Mother.  In particular boy number two celebrated his 11th birthday and left Primary School all in the space of a couple of weeks! We marked the occasion by giving him his very own smartphone to which he has been glued pretty much ever since.

With it now being the holidays he has also been disappearing out for hours at a time with various school friends which is a bit of a new thing.  Always accompanied by "I'm going out now mum, I've got my phone!". It's all good.

Especially when he texts me to let me know that he's on his way home.  At least, that's what I think he was saying here...

Damn you autocorrect!  Something tells me he needs a little more practise with that phone!


Monday, 8 August 2016

Negative Nora

Have you met Negative Nora?  She's a new friend, who comes out with me when I go running.  Which would be fine, except she doesn't like running much, or rather, she doesn't like me running very much.

Every time I set out just lately she appears with absolutely no warning.  "You can't do this" she shouts.  "You are exhausted, stop!".

Nora makes me wonder why I run.  Why do I bother, when I know I'm not really getting any better at it?

She is also really good at interpreting my parkrun times. "What do you think you are doing here?  See all these people, they have club vests.  They are proper runners.  Not like you.  You can't run fast, just look at your time from last week.  You can't run well.  This is why you are injured.  Maybe you should walk it today instead?  Oh, and start at the back where you belong."

I think she may have a point.  So, every week I position myself somewhere near the back.

Nora doesn't just appear when I run.  Sometimes she visits me at home.  Like a good friend popping in for a cuppa.

"Oh, haven't you done any housework this week?  That's a big pile of laundry, why haven't you ironed it?  What about your children, it's the holidays, shouldn't you be taking them out somewhere?"

Nora likes Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook.  She likes all the people there with beautiful homes, people who take their children on fabulous holidays and people who are actually good at their hobbies.

Nora says I'm very selfish for ignoring all my real responsibilities.  I'm also a terrible wife for leaving my family to it while I enjoy my increasingly long training runs.  She says that my husband will be in a bad mood with me if I don't get home quickly, and all my children will remember this for the rest of their lives as the time mum cared more about a 13.1 mile race than she did about them.

Nora makes me feel very guilty indeed.  But what if she's right?

Then, this weekend, something changed in me.  At parkrun I got chatting to a couple of other parkrunners before the start.  One was wearing a club vest and his PB was similar to mine.  We both decided to run with the 31 minute pacer (although Nora mentioned that it would be OK if I just stayed a few places behind, like last time, because I couldn't catch up).

So that's what I did.  All the time not quite catching up.  It was a hot day and I found the run hard.  Nora said I should probably aim for a 32 minute run.  Take it easy.  "You don't want to hurt your foot again do you?"  But, my foot felt fine.  Actually better than fine.  So much so that at the final turn for the finish I could see the 31 minute pacer.  Nora was shouting at me "No! Stay behind the pacer, she is a proper club runner, not a pretends one like you".  "But I've worked hard to get this close," I said, "I can do this!"

So instead of tucking in behind someone with a slower pace like I usually do, I ran past them.  I ran past them all and then...

I sprinted past the pacer.  Me!  Nora had given up.  She couldn't keep up with me.

Afterwards, when Nora had regained her power of speech, she said I should probably go straight home. Before my family missed me.  So off I went.

At home, the teenagers had only just woken up.  The teen girl gave me a (very random) high five and asked me how I'd got on.  DH was mowing the lawn and minding his own business.  Actually, come to think of it, nobody had died and they all seemed pretty happy although there was still a big pile of laundry in the corner of the bedroom. Twin girl asked me when I was going to get her some new trainers "so I can go running with you mum". Then my mum sent me a text, telling me how proud she was of me (more random, but nice all the same).

It was at this moment that I realised what an idiot I had been by listening to Nora.  Nora, who is no more than a voice in my head.  Telling me how I think I ought to behave.

The thing is this has nothing particularly to do with running, I reckon we all have a Negative Nora in our heads from time to time.

It's really easy to get sucked in to what we see on social media, how we think our houses, families and lives should be.  But, life really isn't like that, is it?

Comparison is the thief of joy.  It really is.

And as for Nora?  Well, I suppose this won't be the last I hear from her, it's normal to doubt yourself from time to time (and she's great at school gate mummy guilt as it goes), but I'm glad we've had words.  It's cleared the air.

My post parkrun breakfast, not Nora's.
Probably not Pinterest-worthy but it tasted nice.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Back to School with BIC Pens

A few weeks ago you may recall me mentioning that I had been busy making lists of the things that my five children needed for going back to school in September.  Never ending long long lists... *sigh*

With the pre-teen boy starting high school in September and needing such a lot of new uniform and other supplies, one thing that had completely slipped my mind was that he would be requiring a pencil case and a whole lot of pens to go in it.  In fact, on his taster day recently I was scrabbling round the house at 8.00 am looking for pens, pencils, a ruler and a pencil case to put them in - he'd never needed these things up until this point as his primary school provided the lot!

So, I was delighted when BIC got in touch asking if I'd like to take a look at their back to school range of pen sets.

We were sent a couple of sets from the range, one with BIC Cristal pens, retractable ball pens, pencils, correction tape, a glue stick and an eraser, and another with three different types of highlighter pens in a selection of colours.

The pen and pencil set is a great starter set for making sure your child has everything they need for their first day at secondary school.  In particular I liked the fact that there was a black and a green BIC Cristal included, and a glue stick.  I often buy extra of these things throughout the year and so it's good to have these essentials in a set like this already.  My older children use pencils a lot too (they are both taking Art GCSE) and so to have five included in the set was a bonus.  Also, aren't they funky looking?

I've bought similar unbranded supermarket sets in the past but the quality of them is nothing like the BIC sets, with cheaper pens running out after about a week or worse still, leaking, I've learnt the hard way that you really do get what you pay for!

My teen girl instantly claimed the retractable pens for herself, although I had a sneaky try in my diary with them and thought that they were brilliantly smooth to write with.  I also liked the rubber grip - very comfortable for a left-hander like me!

The highlighter set was fantastic too.  I've never seen such a huge pack of highlighter pens and they are a brilliant buy if like me you have more than one teenager taking exams.  I know that my two are both going to get a lot of use out of them with all the notetaking and text annotation they do in class and at home.  There are a good selection of colours and sizes in this pack, so everyone can have one of each - perfect!

Top to bottom: Original, Comfort and XL Highlighters from BIC

They also happen to be great for highlighting my running plan too!

All in all, we really liked these packs of pens, although if I had one tiny criticism it would be that the mixed set could do with a few more black pens going in there.  My two older kids go through what seems like hundreds of these a year and so one would only last us a few weeks if that!

Having said that, I'm pretty sure that the pre-teen will have everything he needs in this set to start him off at high school in September providing that the older two don't pinch it all for themselves first.  One less thing to worry about.

*crosses pens off the list*

The Back to School 15 piece pack has an RRP of £9.99 and is available from ASDA, Wilko, Morrisons, Staples and B&M Retail. The Highlighter 15 piece pack also has an RRP of £9.99 and is available at ASDA, Wilko, WH Smith, Staples and B&M Retail.

We were sent the two sets mentioned above for the purpose of this review. All words and opinions are our own.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Pandora's Summer Holiday Box

So last week, just as the holidays started, I asked the twins what they'd like to do over the summer break.

In about five minutes flat we had compiled a fairly decent looking list of all the things they wanted to do, including all the usual suspects like baking, painting, bike riding, picnics, trips to the park, oh you get the idea. All the things that we can never quite be arsed to do after school and at the weekends, except now we'd have all this time to be able to do so.  Perfect.

I felt quite excited at this point.  Like a child on Christmas Eve, full of anticipation of what was to come.

There was also my hope of the use of a National Trust membership that we had bought back in January and have so far only used twice.  Yep, the summer holiday was looking to be OK at this point, dare I even say, fun filled? Bring it on, I thought, I'm totally ready for this.

Fast forward one week.  The Pandora's Box of the summer holidays has been well and truly opened, and all the evils of the summer holidays have flown out.

Over the weekend we'd caught up on all the sleep (seriously, are my kids the only ones that are so tired they practically go into a coma for 48 hours at the start of every holiday?) and were raring to start on our holiday plans.

Monday was spent crafting after I'd found an old jar of Hama beads in a cupboard, and painting, play doh, playing in the garden (which did eventually descend into three children bashing the sh*t out of each other with badminton rackets - I knew it was too good to be true).  They are now banned from being in the back garden at the same time as one another.

Tuesday, at the park for 9.30 am for an hour, followed by a trip to the sweet shop on the way home and a picnic in the garden at lunchtime.

We were the only people in the park.  I reckon everyone else was still in bed.

Wednesday, bicycle riding for one, colouring in Pokemon printables for another (the third child had been lost to mobile phone gaming at this point, but at least he seemed content and who am I to complain?).  The teens arrived home at 1.30 pm from their last day of school, and immediately one went back out while the other spent the remainder of the day in a Snapchat/Instagram haze.

Thursday was the day I first heard the immortal words "I'm so bored!".  Which resulted in one feral teen and another sulking in his bedroom.  Also more Hama bead creations and a lot of TV.

And here we are at Friday.  Surveying the scene so far I have two bored children, two sulking teens and one well, I don't really know what he's up to but I haven't seen him for a while and he's not complaining so I'd say he's happy in his own company.  For now.

I also have a kitchen worktop full of Hama bead creations on their little plastic boards waiting to be ironed (I haven't done it, because who gets the iron out in the holidays when there's no uniform to be ironed, or is that just me?). Piles of colouring in/paintings and play doh stuck to the soles of my slippers (it turns out that six year olds aren't all that good at sweeping up the crumbs, no matter how brightly coloured and obviously still there they are).

Pretty sure this was a task on the Krypton Factor.
Try to get a piece of bread in the toaster without destroying the Hama beads.
It's impossible.

Not forgetting the fact that while we've finally had some summer weather, it's been so hot this week that none of us have been bothered about anything else bar eating large amounts of ice cream to try and cool down.

I'm also yet to tackle the things that I usually do when the children are at school, like housework and planning meals properly (I must be the only mum who goes to the supermarket every day to replace the vast quantities of food they all eat, oh and loo roll, don't get me started on that!).  That and the small matter of being part way through my half marathon training which I'm having to fit in around DH being at home.  I have resorted to running with the sunrise some mornings, which sounds very dedicated and also feels like it should be quite a beautiful thing to do, (it is, and it's been nice to go out when the proper runners run, I feel like I'm one of them.  Not the cyclists though, they still blank me, the meanies) but after two consecutive days, I've admitted defeat for now.  I'm dead on my feet by lunchtime, who's idea was an Autumn half marathon anyway?  What an idiot I am.

Black and white,
because nobody deserves to look at my 6.00 am bloodshot eyes, bleurgh.

After eleven years of this, you'd think I would know the drill by now, wouldn't you?  The truth is that I'm just not very good at keeping the kids entertained, and I think it's almost impossible to do that every day for seven weeks anyway.  It's safe to say that the optimism I had a week ago has gone already.  It's the same every summer.

I don't remember my own mother ever planning out activities for me in the holidays.  I don't ever remember being bored either for that matter.  Why do I feel so guilty then for not coming up with exciting things for my lot to do all the time?

One week down and another six to go (yes six!  The Tour of Britain has added an extra day on the end because this town is one of the stages and every road is shut that day, bloody cyclists).

Maybe it's time I said to my children that sometimes they are going to have to make their own entertainment this holiday?  

Either that or they'll just have to get used to being bored.

I'm sorry, kids.  Really I am.  But rather like Pandora, there's still one more thing in the box on our list, a visit to the National Trust place down the road.  I will use that bloody membership if it kills me (and it may).

You see I'm still clinging onto the hope that this might turn out to be a fun filled summer holiday after all.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The A-Z of Teenagers

Finally it's the summer holidays.  If there's one thing this time of year lends itself well to is that it's a good time to reflect on how much my family has changed over the past year or so.

But don't worry, this isn't going to be one of those wholesome posts where I talk about how good their school reports are and what a proud mum I am. *yawns* No.

Last year I felt that I needed some kind of instruction manual for the teenagers as they had unexpectedly upgraded themselves overnight into well, erm, more teenagery teens.  It was a difficult thing to handle.  This year however, I feel that I might finally know how the teenagers work.  Finally I know enough, having observed their sub-culture at length, to be able to write about it, so that nobody else with new teenagers has to concern themselves with such questions as "Is it possible to exist on a diet of pot noodle alone without getting scurvy?".  Don't worry folks, it's all normal. Or something.

So here I present my definitive* A-Z of teenagers...

A is for Always Right.  Because they are.  Parents are just stupid.  So stupid in fact that they are often heard asking the question "Do you think I'm stupid?"  This proves it. See?

B is for Bedtime.  Teens do not need a set bedtime.  Because who needs sleep when it's a far better use of time staying up on Snapchat/YouTube until 3 am?  It won't make me grumpy/too tired/late for school tomorrow.  If in doubt see A.

C is for Coats.  WTF is a coat anyway?  Outside the temperature could be comparable to Siberia.  There might even be a force ten gale and yet the teenager will shun any mention of wearing a coat (even a Jack Wills/Hollister/whatever the latest fashion is).  They would rather freeze than wear a coat, and frequently do. The good news is that this is possibly the only area where the parent of a teen can save money by simply not buying one.

D is for Drama.  Everything in the life of a teen is a drama. No, actually, it's a Drama, with a big fat capital D. Have they lost their favourite nailpolish or homework planner?  Worse still, have you tidied their room? (OMG you monster!) then expect a world class performance complete with door slamming (because whatever it is that they can't find will be exactly where they left it, guaranteed).

E is for Eyeroll.  To accompany the Drama, or just in general.  The eyeroll is the universal communication tool between all teens and their parents (this is the reason that Apple made it into an emoji). At least if they do the eyeroll it means they are listening though.  #findthepositives

F is for Floordrobe.  It's just like a wardrobe but you can see it better because it's all laid out on the floor for easy access.  Except when half of it is dirty and screwed up under your bed with sweet wrappers/your homework planner/a half eaten sandwich.  But it is still better than putting your clothes away. 

G is for Grammar.  Teens ignore all the rules of grammar, spelling and punctuation.  See example below.

H is for Hotel.  They treat your house like one.  Either that or annoy you so much that you feel like moving into one until they leave.  *looks up number for local Travelodge*

I is for iPhone.  "Everyone else at school has an iPhone 6s apart from me, I am a social pariah because you are so mean and won't buy me an iPhone.  Why are you so mean?  You must hate me and want to ruin my life!" on repeat until you give in... #FML

J is for Just Go Away!  A favourite phrase, to be yelled in relation to one's siblings for maximum impact.

K is for Kill Me Now!  Another teen phrase, used when they've got double maths first thing, have been asked to do their homework, they don't like what's for dinner, or just any time really.  Often used with the eye roll for further impact.

L is for Lynx.  The teen boy's scent of choice.  It's either that or eye wateringly bad armpit odour.  While deodorant might sound the preferable option here, do be aware that once applied it has a similar effect to a nuclear disaster.  Hazmat suits and breathing apparatus necessary.  Does anyone even know whether a can of Lynx has a half life?  I'm calling the manufacturers...

M is for Money.  Do you have any?  Can your teen have some/all of it?  What do you mean "you need to do some chores to earn it?".  Don't be daft, this is a hotel and parents are the ones who do all the jobs around here.  Silly.

N is for New.  Never old.  Don't ever make the mistake of trying to fob a teenager off with anything that's a hand me down.  The fallout will last for years, mark my words. (All I did was ask if she wanted her brother's barely worn and outgrown Converse, which I had washed.  What's the problem with that?)

O is for OMG.  Oh My God.  As in "Oh My God, stop going on about homework!", or "Oh My God, why are you being so mean?", or "Oh My God, stop having a go at me!".  It's like they've got their own personal religion or something.

P is for Possessions.  The simple rule here is what belongs to your teen is theirs and what belongs to you is also your teen's (like make up and other toiletries).  Unless you are offering it up as something that you no longer need but that they might like. See N for further clarification on this.

Q is for Quality Time.  Teenagers love spending quality time with their parents and family.  You can tell by the fact that when they do they will walk five metres behind or infront of the rest of their family at all times.  Don't think this is because they don't want to be seen with you, no.  It's because they want to admire you from afar.  Honest.

R is for Repeat.  With teens you often need to repeat yourself several times before any request sinks in (see E for signs of acknowledgement).  I myself have been repeating requests to tidy bedrooms/stack the dishwasher since 2013 to almost no avail.  Sometimes visual cues work better with teens.  Like leaving a days' worth of their dirty dishes on their bed.  Simple.

S is for Squad.  Or for anyone who uses the English language, friends.  Teens and their squad are connected by Snapchat, Instagram and text.  This is why you should never forget to top up their mobile phone, lest they be disconnected forever, like some kind of social outcast.

T is for Taxi.  Because you'll be expected to provide a taxi service (for free, obvs.) at the drop of a hat. Never mind whether it's Friday night and you had plans (plans?  Imagine that!) of your own.  The teenagers always come first.

U is for Units of Time.  Teenagers invent their own units of time.

V is for Vegetables.  Does your teen eat them as part of a varied diet?  "Well, potatoes are vegetables, and like, my McDonalds burger had like, ketchup and onions in it".  Plus Beef and Tomato Pot Noodle. Tomatoes are a fruit, so there you go, varied diet.

W is for WiFi.  It could be the most expensive and up to date internet service available in the area, but chances are, your teenager will still tell you it's crap.

X is for XBox.  Because shooting aliens is a better life skill to learn than say doing your Science revision, so that you might actually pass your GCSEs.  On the flip side, confiscating the power adapter is a rather good bargaining tool for getting said revision done. 

Y is for YouTube.  The trouble with regular television is just so... old, and only old people watch it.  It's probably why parents don't understand the internet at all, because we're all too busy watching the Antiques Roadshow or something.  And probably also why we don't understand why our really fast broadband speeds are still crap, because we don't watch Zoella or whoever icing cakes on YouTube.  I mean, who needs Bake Off anyway?  Also, all teens at some point think that they are going to make a career through YouTube, I'm blaming Zoella and her pals for this one too.

Z is for "Zoe's mum let's her have house parties/stay up after midnight/buys her 37 pairs of new trainers a week".  Somewhere there is always a much cooler parent than you, and their teen is bound to be friends with yours. Always.  Also, you will never be the cool parent, at least not in the eyes of your teen.  Don't even bother trying.

See, it's so much easier once you understand your teen, isn't it?  And all this observed from two children who have met all their targets at school for the year and have pretty amazing reports.  I know, I know, I did say that I wasn't going to mention that, but I do wonder how the teachers get the best out of the kids and we get whatever *this* is despite bending over backwards to try to please them.

It's also made me realise that maybe we can't always know our teenagers and how they work at all.  Now, where's the number for that hotel...

* May not be that definitive.  After all, they change their minds more often than Taylor Swift changes her boyfriends.
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