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Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Monthly Musing - December 2011 - He's Behind You!

We put our Christmas decorations up early on Sunday morning.  For the first time, small daughter was able to help instead of discovering the next morning that the fairies had decorated the house overnight.  She was delighted, greeting the ornaments to go on the tree like long lost friends and wanting to eat all the chocolate decorations at once, just in case they melted.  We put on our Christmas CDs and bounced around the house in pyjamas and Santa hats, agreeing that the weather outside really was frightful, even though it was howling wind and rain instead of snow.

The day before, small daughter went with my husband to his company’s children’s Christmas party – this year a pantomime in a theatre in Crewe (not a random town choice, his office is based there!).  They went on the train, armed with a picnic and a flashing toy to wave at the pantomime baddy, then took a taxi to the theatre.  Small daughter was beside herself with excitement even before she got on the train, so it was little surprise that during a quiet moment in the performance, she shrieked, “You’re a loser!” at the wicked queen and made everyone laugh.

Christmas is such a magical time.  We forget, in the rush to buy presents and food and get everything done on time just how lovely it all is.  Small daughter, unencumbered by the necessities of getting ready for Christmas, is enjoying the build-up more and more as every day passes.  Her excitement is infectious; big daughter often forgets that it’s not cool to get over-excited about it all and joins in with abandon.  They compare treats in their advent calendars and stand together to watch their advent candles burn down to the next number.  Then small daughter gets out the Argos catalogue again and asks me if she can add yet another toy to her Christmas list.

I do wonder sometimes what Christmas would be like if the TV didn’t show adverts of things to buy, but of course that’s never going to happen.  The world is based on buying and selling and advertisers earn their livings by making us believe that we want things that we never knew we wanted.  It seems unfair to me that with everyone suffering from the economic climate, advertising becomes slicker and more sophisticated and the must-have gifts are the ones that people can least afford.

My girls finish school earlier in December than usual thanks to the way that Christmas falls this year, so I am determined to have all the buying, wrapping and list-making out of the way by the time that they break up.  We’ll have a week to have fun and do our best to add to the Christmas excitement without the help of things that we don’t need to buy.  With any luck, we’ll be able to start one or two new Christmas family traditions that my girls will be able to keep forever, as that sort of thing has no sell by date and is quite simply priceless.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Monthly Musing - November 2011 - Don't Blink or You'll Miss It!

November’s a funny month, isn’t it?  It creeps in after the excitement of the half-term school holiday, Hallowe’en (very exciting in our house this year as small daughter was allowed to go trick-or-treating with big daughter and her friends for the first time.  I’m not sure whether small daughter singing “I’ve been eaten by a boa constrictor” is a trick or a treat but she came back with plenty of sweeties!), and the clock change.  All of a sudden, it’s dark by 5.30pm and Christmas is about eight weeks away.

According the poem about the months that I remember learning at school, “Dull November brings the blast, then the leaves go whirling past”.  There are certainly plenty of leaves in our garden.  The dog is less impressed with the whirling leaves than with the brush which makes it practically impossible to get anything done while he’s dancing around.  The garden is starting to look bedraggled and tired, apart from bursts of colour where leaves are turning bright red or orange.  It feels like the garden is shutting down, ready for the long months of winter when nothing much will grow except for a few brave snowdrops in January.

My resolution this year was to slow down, and I realised this morning – shortly after counting the weeks until Christmas and discovering that it was much sooner than I thought – that I’ve not been doing that at all.  November has just become a time to prepare for Christmas.  I’ve been buying and wrapping presents, determined not to leave it all until the last minute.  I’ve been making lists of jobs that I want to do, such as making the wreath for the front door and stocking up on treats for cosy nights in by the fire watching re-runs of James Bond or Toy Story films.  I’ve completely forgotten that November is a lovely time in its own right to enjoy crunching through the leaves, soaking up the warmth of the late autumn sunshine and watching the squirrels bouncing around the garden in search of food.

Having the dog certainly helps with my resolution of slowing down; you notice more when you’re walking, you stop to talk to people, you pick up the scents and smells that are completely unnoticed when you’re in a car.  Being outside renews the spirit and calms a troubled mind, which is why gardening is such a valuable activity for people with depression and other mental illnesses.  It’s also impossible to be grumpy for long when you’re out walking, as my husband has found after a long day at work when he gets home late and takes the dog for a last walk around the block.  And of course, it’s also a fantastic time to make the mental lists of all those jobs in preparation for Christmas that you need to do when you get home!  So perhaps I am sticking to my resolution - as long as I slow down long enough to think about it!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Monthly Musing - October 2011 - It's in the book!

It’s the first of October and we’re sitting on a beach in Wales in our shorts and t-shirts, trying to stop the dog from snaffling our sandwiches.  We’ve spent the morning walking along the beach, bare feet on wet sand, jumping the waves and laughing at our pup, now a gangly adolescent, as he tries to catch the seagulls.

It’s been one of those mornings that will stay as a snapshot memory, a golden moment - not least because the last time we walked on the same beach in August we were bent double against the wind and rain, although still in bare feet and jumping in the waves.  The dog didn’t care about the weather, and he still couldn’t catch the seagulls.

Today, it feels like blissfully stolen time; we’re cheating the weather and when it’s pouring with rain in a few weeks’ time we’ll be able to say ‘Do you remember that weekend on the beach?’  It’s important to remember these moments; the delight on small daughter’s face as she stands knee-deep in a pool; big daughter trying to persuade the dog that he needs to swim in the sea and merely ending up soaking herself.  All too soon the leaves will be down from the trees and left in swirling, mushy piles.

I have a book that I try to remember to write these moments in – just a line or two to jog the memory and make me smile on a miserable day.  It might be something about the day I want to keep, something funny that my husband or one of the girls has said or perhaps just an ‘aah’ moment that I know I will want to remember in the future.  Small daughter loves hearing about when she was a baby and the things that she did, roaring with laughter when we tell her about waving her spoon about in her high chair and splattering the walls with baby mush, or finding her toes for the first time, and without my book I would have forgotten so many little details.  When big daughter is having a self-confidence crisis (oh, the joys of teenage years!) I tell her that she should be writing down all the positive things that have happened in her day or that people have said to her and she will soon see that they far outweigh any slights, either real or imagined, that she is focussing on instead.
Writing things down is, I find, far more powerful than a photo for reminding me of something that has happened.  Photos are without doubt very precious, but you can’t always take a picture of something that you might regard as special; often it’s a fleeting moment, a feeling, an expression on somebody’s face.  That’s where my book comes into its own, and whilst it may not make it onto any prize lists, it’s already a winner in our family.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Monthly Musing - September 2011 - Parachuting

My daughters and I met up with a friend and her toddler daughter last weekend, her visiting mother in tow.  I’d never met her Mum before, but she seemed very nice on first meeting.  My friend, however, was pulling exasperated faces behind her mother’s back and I soon found out why: she couldn’t take a single step without her Mum barking out advice or rushing to grasp her granddaughter from some imagined impending danger.  I was starting to wonder how my friend ever managed to get out of bed on her own every morning and then checked myself.  My friend is a vibrant, confident and extremely capable woman.  Her mother is the same; it’s easy to see where she has inherited her admirable qualities.  And here was an important lesson for me.

Whilst my friend is happy to let her daughter explore and discover for herself (within reason, of course!), her grandmother is determined to save her from the knocks and bumps of toddlerdom.  She wants her granddaughter to learn from her own experience as a mother, bypassing all those important discoveries that only a two year old can make.

I realised that it probably wasn’t a conscious thing, but it is a Mum thing.  I have been known to be a bit like that myself, especially when I am tired and it’s far easier to have people do as I say than do their own thing.  We need to be in control because otherwise our children will do daft things and life’s too short to spend in A&E every weekend.  But if we don’t step back and let our children work it out for themselves, how do they ever learn?

Big daughter has discovered the delights of home economics, or food tech as it’s known now.  She loves preparing simple meals, delighting in the fact that she’s able to put together a tasty pasta dish or shepherd’s pie that everyone can enjoy.  I like to think that I’m getting better at letting her get on with it without too many instructions, despairing groans at the number of pans being used and the increasing mess, or even exasperated ‘give it here’s as she demonstrates the wrong way to hold a potato peeler.  Unless I’m specifically asked for help, I try not to hover, waiting for her to burn herself on the oven or chop her fingers off with the sharp knives.  Our instincts are to protect our children and without question life is easier when they learn by your experience and do what they’re told.  But if they stayed like that, they’d be toddlers forever, and that’s not what we’d wish on our children for one second.

A Mum’s job is to be a parachute, gently guiding to a safe landing.  I don’t always get it right, but nobody ever said that Mums have all the answers (unless you’re talking to a two year old!).  I’m still learning too.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Monthly Musing - August 2011 - Everybody's Walkin' The Dog!

It’s early evening and the first week that our pup is allowed Beyond The Gate.  With great excitement, my daughters and I get ready for our first walk together with our new dog.  Taking the vet’s advice, we head out to the fields rather than along the busy road, and I’m looking forward to a bit of late sunshine, listening to the birds chattering overhead and watching the breeze rustle the barley like a big golden sea.

We’ve gone less than a hundred yards when small daughter stings herself on a nettle.  Of course, there are no dock leaves to be seen by this particular nettle plant so she deals with the problem by wailing at top volume, sounding for all the world as if she’s being murdered.  Big daughter exclaims in amazement that she appears to have a wi-fi signal in the field and intends to let all her friends on Facebook know right now.  I’m wrestling with small daughter who’s intent on marching back home whilst I’m about to march in the opposite direction to find a dock leaf, and when I look down the dog has found a Smell and is rolling in it.  It’s not quite the idyllic walk that I had imagined.

At times like these, I have no hesitation in sending out a silent message for help and there, on the path in front of us, I see a dock plant.  Thank goodness! Small arm wrapped in leaves, Facebook happily updated, we retrieve the dog from the Smell and carry on across the field.  We spot a parachute in the distance and wonder where it might land.  We stroke the soft seedheads of a thistle, in such contrast to the spiny leaves, and wonder how Eeyore could ever have thought they were good to eat.  Big daughter wonders if we can make it as far as the houses at the other end of the path – a good half mile away.  The dog snuffles happily, his tail in constant wag.  The world is a happy place again and I offer a silent ‘thank you’.

We’ve gone far enough and it’s time to turn back.  Small daughter’s legs are tired and she says it’s too far to walk back to our house.  Big daughter wants to hold the dog’s lead now but is walking too fast for small daughter who wanted to be in front.  The dog wants to be in front and pushes everyone else out of the way.  Small daughter bursts into tears and demands to be carried. I’m putting it down to end of term tiredness and praying that it’s not a sign of what’s to come over the summer holidays. I manage to cajole everyone to walk on their own two (or four) legs and before long we’re back at the offending nettle plant.

“Make sure you don’t touch it this time,” I say, wondering if I should have picked another dock leaf just in case.

I’m so busy helping small daughter avoid the nettle that I’ve completely forgotten about the Smell.  The dog hasn’t.  Looks like it’s bath time all round when we get home.  So much for a nice quiet walk!  Same time, same place tomorrow, then?!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Monthly Musing - July 2011 - A Bundle of Furriness!

How quickly life can change!  Last month, we were a family of four with two cats.  This month, our lives are turned upside down with the arrival of a furry bundle of puppy!  We picked him up two weeks ago and from the moment we got him home, we knew that our lives would never be the same.

It’s taken a long time to decide that it was the right time to get a dog.  They tie you down, they need taking for walks, you can’t spontaneously decide to drop in on cat-owning friends …  don’t tell me – I know all the cons; I’ve spent years spelling them out to the family!  There was no way that I was going to get lumbered with looking after a pooch that everyone else had grown out of by the time he’d lost all his puppy fur.  I had visions of my husband arriving home late for work and being too tired to take the dog out in the pouring rain.  I could see my daughters giving him a quick pat on the way to school but being too distracted with everything else when they came home to spend any time with him.  So we waited.  And we waited.

It may surprise you to know that out of all of us, I’m the one most used to dogs.  I had a dog when I met my husband.  I’d spent my school years walking a dog for a neighbour.  I had a Saturday job in a dog grooming parlour.  I’d been desperate for a dog from being very small, intending to work with dogs when I left school (although that never happened) and yet I was determined to wait until I knew that the family was ready for the commitment.

And now they are.  Our pup’s only just had his first injections so there are still a few weeks to wait before we can start to explore beyond the garden, but already we’re becoming much more of an outdoor family.  My husband and I will sit outside and chat while our dog snuffles around in the bushes.  My girls are expending more energy than ever before trying to encourage him to chase a tennis ball but finding that they’re retrieving it themselves.  My Dad, having refused to get another dog when our last one died, has a special light in his eyes again when he talks to our new arrival.

Our pup, with his boundless energy and unconditional love, has endeared himself to each of us – although possibly not the cats, just yet!  One of them permanently looks as if he has just come out of the tumble dryer, fizzing and spitting whenever he sees the pup.  The other is calm and disdainful, daring our exuberant baby to come too close.  It’s only been two weeks.  I know that in time, they’ll get on - once the dog realises who’s really in charge!

And I also know that whilst there will be times when the wind is howling and the thought of a walk is less than appealing, we’ll be out there in our wellies and we’ll feel better for it.  My husband calls our new dog a ‘health and wellbeing dog’ and I think he’s probably right.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Monthly Musing - June 2011 - A Gift from the Heart

I had such a lovely day last week – a friend needed some help on her allotment so I went along with my trowel ready to lend a hand.  I never need much excuse to be in the garden; I’m convinced that being outside in the fresh air is spiritual therapy for everyone – just think how great you feel after a day out anywhere – so gardening and my friend’s good company was just my cup of tea!  Of course it rained at lunchtime, so we sat in the greenhouse, surrounded by tomato plants and lavender cuttings, ate sausage sandwiches which my friend cooked on her camping stove and listened to the rain on the roof – bliss!

My friend loves to make gifts for friends and family so it wasn’t long before we started talking about Christmas presents.  Yes, I know it’s only June, but read on and you’ll see why!  This year, my friend intends to make hampers with the fruits of her allotment – elderflower champagne, jams, flavoured oils, pickles and chutneys – and many of these have to be made when the crops are ready.  My friend could easily buy these items, but she enjoys giving a present that she has made herself and as she is excellent at making them, they are always well received!

My home made gifts tend to be woolly ones.  I’m an avid knitter and it’s tradition at Christmas in our family now for everyone to have a new pair of knitted socks.  Socks at Christmas?  How boring, you say!  But there’s nothing quite like a pair that’s been hand made.  I love to spend time choosing just the right colours and pattern for whoever I’m knitting for and I know that they will have a gift that is completely original. My brother, astounded when he put on his first pair to discover that they fitted perfectly, exclaimed “They could have been made for me!” – and of course they were!

Christmas has the potential to be more stressful than ever this year.  With so many ‘things’ that we can buy, so many ‘must have’ gadgets and everyone feeling the pinch in their wallets, it may be time to think about alternatives.  It’s easy to forget what Christmas is really about when you’re bombarded with TV and newspaper adverts, but it’s not just about what you get.  It’s about what you give as well – and it doesn’t have to be huge or expensive.

This year, I’m going to give the jams and the chutneys a try.  We may not have an allotment but our garden still produces enough to share, and whilst it might mean thinking about Christmas at a time when we’d rather be thinking about holidays, I don’t feel that’s such a bad thing.  When big daughter was the same age as small daughter is now, she had a story book in which one of the characters announced ‘A home made gift comes straight from the heart’.  Now that’s something that money can’t buy.

Elderflowers

Monday, 2 May 2011

Monthly Musing - May 2011- Being Brave

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear

is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our

darkness that most frightens us.”

These are the opening lines from my favourite quotation by Marianne Williamson.  It’s quite long so I’ll just give you the website link where you can find it (http://skdesigns.com/internet/articles/quotes/williamson/our_deepest_fear) but it’s worth looking up.  I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot recently after some conversations with big daughter.  Fortunately, she’s a talkative teenager, not one who suffers in silence when she’s got something on her mind.

Her issue recently has been to do with dealing with other girls at school.  Having been a teenager myself once, I can see now that their behaviour is all about hiding their own fear. We’re all afraid of something – life changes, losing loved ones, standing out from the crowd – and it’s part of what makes us who we are.  When you’re a teenager, not only have you got schoolwork, physical body changes and more hormones than you can shake a stick at making you unpredictable, but you also have to cope with everybody else’s unpredictable hormones and learn to negotiate the social minefield as well.  I’m very glad I’ve got past that bit now!

But having said that, getting older doesn’t mean that our fears go away.  We find more fears, bigger fears.  We worry about our children, our partners, our jobs, our homes.  We still don’t like standing out from the crowd (apart from those who can’t resist the X Factor auditions).  We take our fears out on other people, blaming them for the things that are holding us back when really the problem, and the answer, lies inside us.  The quotation goes on to say:
“We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented,

fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened

about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.”

That’s when I look at small daughter, fearless, joyful and convinced that the world is here for her to make her mark upon.  When do we lose that fearlessness?  Sometimes, watching her attempting death-defying stunts on the swings in the park I wish she would be a little less fearless, but then I remind myself that the world will be a brighter place for her if she holds onto it.  Her confidence is a bright light and she shines, just as the quotation says.  She makes big daughter brave.  And that fits with the very last line of the quotation, and that’s what I’ll leave you with:
“As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Be brave.

Bee in the bellflowers

Friday, 1 April 2011

Monthly Musing - April 2011 - Being My Mum

It’s five o’clock and I’m in the kitchen cooking dinner.  From big daughter’s bedroom above the kitchen comes a constant thud-thud-thud from her CD player which even drowns out the radio I’ve got playing.  It’s no good, I’ve got to go and tell her to turn it down, and as I’m shrieking “Turn it down!” up the stairs, I realise that I sound exactly like my Mum.

When I was a teenager, I vowed that I would be a much better Mum than my Mum.  I would let my children watch television when they wanted to, I wouldn’t make them play outside in the fresh air.  I wouldn’t insist on them eating their vegetables but they could exist on a diet of chocolate if that’s what they wanted to do.  I wouldn’t make them go to bed at a reasonable hour, I wouldn’t make them wear sensible shoes to school, and most of all, I would never ever tell them to turn down ‘that racket’.

Oh dear.  Where did it all go wrong?  Here I am now, insisting that small daughter doesn’t leave the table until she’s eaten all her sprouts (she loves sprouts so it’s no great hardship), telling the girls that they’ll get square eyes if they don’t turn the television off now and rolling my eyes at every suggestion that big daughter makes regarding fashionable but not at all sensible school shoes.  I really am turning into my Mum.  My teenage self would be horrified.

But then, I think about all the other things that my Mum did.  She was an artist and would spend hours drawing pictures for me to colour in when I was small.  She would take me for night time walks to spot bats and see how different the world is when the sun goes down.  When I got older, she let me turn her kitchen into a bomb site as I toiled away over apple pies to enter into (and win first prize with!) at our village gardening show.  She made all our bread, cakes and biscuits.  She taught evening classes so that she was there for my brother and me when we came home from school.  She supported my Dad when he was writing books and giving lectures, bashing away for hours on a typewriter in the kitchen to meet deadlines.  She was the glue that held our family together.

As a teenager, of course, you don’t look at any of those things.  Now, though, as I bake for my family, collect my girls from school, support my husband as his work takes long hours and do my best to be the strongest glue that I can be hold our family together, I wonder if it’s such a bad thing to be turning into my Mum.  My daughters would disagree, I’m sure, but I hope that one day they’ll think differently.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Monthly Musing - March 2011 - Table Talk

We usually try to eat our evening meals together at the table.  It’s not always easy, with my husband sometimes working late and the siren call of Scooby Doo on the television, but we do our best.  I like to think that it’s a good opportunity to share the day’s events, to make announcements and start discussions, and an ideal time for anyone to ask questions while everyone’s there to offer an answer.

“Why didn’t you call me Delilah, or Baby Barbara?” demanded small daughter, in the middle of a discussion about something completely different.

“Baby Barbara?”

“No, not Baby Barbara, maybe Barbara!”

I don’t know whether we were more surprised at the choice of name (we don’t know anyone called Barbara) or the fact that we were talking about summer holidays at the time.  We had to tell her that it hadn’t occurred to us to call her either Delilah or Barbara, Baby or otherwise, and fortunately she was happy with that answer and carried on with her dinner.

It did remind me, though, that small peoples’ minds work in mysterious ways and we would have missed that if she’d been mindlessly watching Shaggy and Scooby chasing ghosts whilst attempting to shovel food into her mouth at the same time.

One of our family traditions is to eat Sunday dinner together.  It’s something that both my husband and I experienced with our families when we were children and now we want to share it with our own.  My Dad comes over as well and commandeers the kitchen to prepare the vegetables and the whole event ends up as a cheerful joint effort.  Big daughter is usually doing her homework at the table, plugged into her music and prompting the inevitable discussion on how she can concentrate when she’s singing.  Small daughter has realised that Sunday is the day that Grandad brings treats as well as the vegetables so he’s even more welcome than usual!  On the odd occasion that big daughter is out with friends she will come home especially for her Sunday dinner, quite often bringing one of her friends with her who sits at the table and beams that she really likes having dinner with us.  It’s quite a compliment, I guess, especially as she is usually interrogated by small daughter with her odd line of questioning.

Just recently, small daughter has been extremely helpful in offering to set the table.  This seemed like a wonderful idea until we discovered that she does this simply so that she can choose who she sits next to at any given meal time instead of sitting in her usual place.  Of course, this ends up in riot as big daughter likes to sit where she sits, so it’s less of a blessing than I originally thought, but on the positive side it has encouraged big daughter to try to get in to set the table first.  Now all I need to do is think of a way to incorporate them making the dinner at the same time and I can put my feet up!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Monthly Musing - February 2011 - It Could be You!

“Congratulations!” read the email. “We have good news about your lottery ticket!”

“We could buy a pony … JLS … the make up counter at Boots!” suggested big daughter.

“I could be a mermaid,” said small daughter.

“What about the media, the paparazzi, the intrusion into our personal lives?” I worried.

“We could always run away,” suggested my husband.  “Somewhere hot and sunny.  But you’d better check your numbers first.”

So you can imagine the excitement - I have never won anything on the lottery until now!  Naturally, friends and family were delighted and wanted to know when I’d be paying off my mortgage – and possibly theirs.  Not for some time, as I won the grand total of £6.30, which might just pay for the bus fare into Warrington town centre, but the fact remains that I still won and I’m very pleased about it.

It did make me wonder though, whether I’d have been so keen to share the news if I’d won £6 million.  Probably not, as suddenly I would be seen as someone different – someone with a Lot of Money.  I have plenty of good ideas for what I’d do with it – and whilst of course we’d be heading off to Manchester airport with our suitcases, it does include giving lots away and fixing the church ceiling, but I’ve got a feeling so much money would become a burden, not a blessing.

So why buy a ticket at all, if I’m not prepared to run the risk of being the next Euro Millionaire?  It’s the fun of taking part, of thinking that perhaps this week I might be mortgage-free whilst still knowing that my chances of that are only slightly better than me being next in line for the throne.  My single parent friend, hating her job and long commute, buys her ticket religiously every week, convinced that this week will be the one that makes the difference – but like me, she also knows that there are more important things in life and she’s rich in other ways already – she’s healthy, she’s generally happy, she’s got a good job even if she doesn’t like it, she’s got a lovely daughter who’s friends with my lovely daughter and she’s friends with me!  We can laugh about my lottery win knowing that it won’t change anything between us and although she’d have loved me to have paid her mortgage off, she won’t hold it against me that I’m running away into town with my family instead.

And yes, she’ll remind me next time there’s a double rollover or whatever it is that might whisk me off into a millionaire lifestyle and if I remember, I’ll probably buy another ticket.  Who knows – I might even win enough for the bus fare home!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Monthly Musing - January 2011 - Resolution Revelation!

Happy New Year!  Usually, I try to not be specific about resolutions other than to try to be a good person, as invariably I’ve forgotten about them by March, but this year I intend to be different.  My resolution for 2011 is to be on time.  So far, we’ve been half an hour late for New Year’s Day lunch with my brother’s in-laws and small daughter has avoided a late mark in the school register by a whisker on the two days she’s been back.  It’s not looking good.  And you could be forgiven for thinking, reading my previous posts, that I have something of an obsession with time passing me by, but in this case, it’s all about good manners.  It costs nothing to smile at someone and even the tiniest tot can learn to say please and thank you.  Being on time is just an extension of that – not to mention a costly exercise in some cases if you miss appointments!

So my plan is to slow down and be on time.  It sounds like a contradiction, but I think it’ll work.  Usually, I’m ready to go before I need to be – so far, so good.  I forget how long it takes my daughters to get ready, especially if we’re going on a journey that involves needing something to do in the car as they will invariably change their minds about three times, and then come back downstairs from their bedrooms wearing something completely different but without any books or toys.  My biggest downfall, however, is suddenly remembering something that I need to do before I go and thinking ‘I’ve got ten minutes before we have to leave’.  I do it every time and it’s fatal – at that moment I have doomed us to being late as whatever I think I can squeeze into ten minutes will always take longer.

2011 is going to be the year that it all changes.  My cunning plan is to not do whatever I think I can do in ten minutes and leave it until I get home.  Usually it’s not something vitally important and the world won’t stop if I spend that ten minutes calmly reminding my girls what they need to take instead of screeching like a banshee once we’re already late and they’re still ambling around as if we have all the time in the world.

I intend to actually use my diary to plan my time so that I give myself plenty of notice for all those little things that steal my time – like stamps on birthday cards, or finding overdue library books.  I’m an on-and-off Flybaby – a follower of the Flylady cleaning routines (www.flylady.net) – and they really work for me, so I intend to be more on than off this year then I won’t need to be vacuuming instead of collecting my daughter from school.  I hate having to apologise for being the last parent in the playground, and it deeply upsets my sense of good manners so, standing at the top of a whole new year - a clean sheet if you like – I intend to be different.

And perhaps the best thing for me about this resolution is the sense of relief from stating an intention that is actually achievable.  There’s no reason why this should all fall down in March if I’m just organised today.  You know, I’m feeling calmer already!