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Marching two by two

We’ve just had our first go at separate trips, over a long weekend. Dan took Junior Reader to see his side of the family, I took Mini to my parents.

It’s strange, just to be two of us. One parent, one child – and two grandparents to help pick up the slack.

Well, no. Two grandparents to do a myriad of kindnesses, including feeding, entertaining, some gentle disciplining, and lots more.

There are plenty of good things about being a foursome. Lots of learning from each other. But also squabbles, attempts to bridge age gaps, balancing everyone getting enough attention. All those kind of stretching things.

Mini and I go away, and I get to stick to one age group. One set of eating requirements. One level of concentration (or otherwise).

Dan and Junior, for their part, get to do the older kid stuff. Long rides on river boats. Flights, and a chance at an upgrade of seat. Picking sushi together. Staying up that bit later.

Grandparents in both locations were happy, getting more time with just one child – and getting their own grown up child back for a little while. (Parents like to be spoiled just as much as children.)

It is strange how the mind adjusts. Junior Reader came home, and I had to remember again: growing up. Yes, really that size, that leg length. A haircut that Dan arranged, not me. Only a few days away and I have to remember who this person is.

It went well for both teams, everyone came home happy. Tired too, but with lots of new stories to tell. New acquisitions. Opportunities to giggle, and have ‘I missed you’ hugs.

It won’t always be my choice, marching two by two. I’m glad there will be plenty of foursome times too. But maybe just occasionally, we can all benefit from a little divide and conquer.

If only the washing basket would divide itself into half the amount to catch up on. That really would set a seal on the experience.

 

 

In the time it takes to cook an egg

It’s that mad dash to put food on the table in the evening. Back from a sports class, small people’s need to eat – and their limited patience while food is cooking – mean it needs to be quick.

Mini and Junior aren’t entirely reading off the same menu at the moment. That’s OK. Tea for three of us on in the background (an easy favourite); and now to time an egg for Mini.

Mini has decided that egg white is OK; egg yolk is ‘yuk!’. So I decide on a well-done boiled egg – not quite a hard-boiled one, but done enough to make the yolk easy to scoop out.

So what can you do in the time it takes to cook an egg? (Seven minutes in this case, in case you were asking.)

Turns out, quite a lot.

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Open window to check for favourable noises from small people on the trampoline. (So far so good.)

Get today’s lunchbox items into the dishwasher; try and assemble some food for tomorrow.

Haul the laundry basket in and see if there’s enough for a full load of either colour.

Put away some washing that’s dry but has been hanging about on a chair for a day or so.

Put other items away in Junior’s school bag; check for any significant paperwork that might not have been mentioned to me.

Put a few other items in the hall ready for tomorrow.

Round up a few stray pairs of shoes in the hall.

Realise I am in close proximity to a bathroom, with no competition for it. Seize the opportunity…

…and the timer for the egg goes off, just as I’m reaching for the tap. So be it.

I realised, as I was going around doing the various things, I was also starting to compose a blog post in my head. So that ought to count as an extra.

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The thing is, it’s hard to get those few moments when the natives are quiet/occupied.
The ones which mean you can get a run at those tasks that have been eluding you.
The moments that might mean you have less to do in the evening.

(If only you can decide what is you actually want to do in the evening, after bedtime, once you no longer have small people in front of you, demanding any number of things.)

I wrote up this list, not to berate others (or equally myself, on the days when eating anything after five o’clock feels like an achievement). Maybe to capture some of that crazy back and forth productivity of parenting.

The type where some days, you’ve feel like you’ve conquered the world AND cleaned the cooker in just a few minutes, because nobody needed a) a story b) the toilet c) your peacemaking skills or d) made any other simultaneous demands.

Much of the rest of the time, it’s a-d (at least) and more besides.

Still. The egg calculation worked. The washing went on. And no one fell over a pile of shoes when coming back indoors.

I’ll take that as a win.

Organisation, relaxation or sleep

The evening has come, gentle reader. If you are a parent reading this, you’ve made it this far. And now a choice awaits you: what to do with that precious time when your wee ones are asleep?

(At least, you hope they are. Junior Reader has been back up already, but I left that to Dan to sort out.)

It seems to come down to three options: organisation, relaxation or sleep.

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Organisation: we know this one. It’s called getting packed lunch boxes ready; doing the recycling. Trying to find the bits of the abandoned board game; corralling the (hopefully by now) dry washing and distributing it to its various homes.

It’s called any number of things that you couldn’t get done in the day – or were unable to finish – because of the stream of other items you needed to attend to.

These may or may not include sorting out arguments, reminding people where to put their school uniform once removed, dealing with food that didn’t last that well in the fridge after all, happily responding to sudden requests for a second rereading of a new favourite book, sorting out more arguments, and so on.

If you are a recovering perfectionist, or even just like to be able to move your feet across the sitting room floor of an evening, organisation is hard to escape.

Even if you do the bare minimum. Or kick some of it to one side. Or drape a towel over the things you can’t face looking at for a while.

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Relaxation. That’s what we really want, isn’t it? A chance to stop; perchance, to chat with your other half.

There are all kinds of lovely books to read; things to make, perhaps; uplifting TV programmes that might be on catchup, that kind of thing.

There is also comfort TV, comfort eating, and comfort ignoring as much else as you can.

There are some evenings that are only about this category – because it’s been a really tough day, and I just can’t face any more have-tos. Or maybe even because it’s been a really good day, and hey, it’s a treat.

Relaxation is a an attractive land that is really not that far away, but I often forget to visit.
I am still stamping tickets in Organisation when the train has pulled out of the station.

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Sleep. That’s probably the thing I really do need the most of. But I don’t necessarily do that.

This is because, despite all of the above, my body clock still runs on Evening Time, and I like to unwind a bit more when the house is a bit quieter.

Children tend to run on Morning Time. On occasion, they run on What Time Do You Call This? Whichever, it’s not a natural companion to Evening Time.

Last night, I fell asleep shortly after Official Bedtime, which messed with my own bedtime.

This was later joined by a) anxiety sleep (we all had to be out of the house in good time today) b) annoying dreams c) one child sounding like they were waking up an hour before they needed to d) losing the alarm inside the bedclothes e) someone else getting up earlier than normal.

Tonight, I really should vote sleep, and have done with it.

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Tonight, instead, I’m on Writing Time. That, in a funny way, is organisation and relaxation together.

If it would only gain me an extra hour or two of sleep, I’d do so all the more.

A life through leftovers

Something happens along the way with kids.

You’re already accustomed to putting them first in so many areas: when you sleep, when you wake, when you use the bathroom independently (if you’re lucky) comes back to them.

And that’s OK. So too is planning a certain amount of things based on them: what they enjoy, their attention span, and how high their wellies are for certain active pursuits.

Lately, I seem to have added another level of awareness (or maybe it’s subservience, I’ve still to decide).

The one when you don’t necessarily make your own lunch: you just eat the various leftovers, after they’ve decided what they will or won’t eat that particular day.

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I already have a commitment to leftovers (you may remember), so that’s one thing. I like seeing what supermarkets have on offer, and coming up with meals around that (you may also remember).

In defence, I think it sits as equal parts hating to waste food – and equal parts gluttony.

It’s easier when it’s fruit or veg on special: that’s pretty much a no-brainer. Other items…well, it may depend. On how much I want to keep items out of supermarket bins. (Particularly if they include marzipan.)

Weekends do see us eating leftovers reasonably often. Whatever Dan didn’t use up at the office during the week, whatever is still in the bottom of the fridge.

I think of these as ‘eatie-uppies’: everyone ends up with something different, but it means that there’s not waste. (Although I am struggling to find new uses for leftover mango chutney after a takeaway, I must confess.)

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Today’s leftovers, for your delectation (and mine too):

– a small box of leftover chicken and rice. (Junior Reader is eating more – but I am still trying to gauge the quantities right.)

– a quarter of a tuna sandwich from yesterday. (Someone else couldn’t quite manage the whole thing.)

– a Babybel cheese. Because in my current run of food research, they may say they eat them – and they certainly like playing with the outside waxy bit – but they don’t really eat them. So this was the last one.

– a slice of raisin bread. Last one in the packet, also a supermarket discount item. And someone’s tummy dictates no more dried fruit for a little while.

– Along the way, and possibly yesterday, I believe that a certain quantity of cold baked beans may have been consumed. Probably because they needed to be used up. (Also because I have a certain fondness for cold baked beans.)

– I failed on finding a use for a small amount of uncooked cauliflower (food waste bin), but succeeded in adding a spare carrot and a certain amount of yellow pepper into a rice salad. (That one was pretty good.)

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Despite all of the above activity, the fridge has a small amount of a ground rice pudding in a pot. And some leftover icing from a baking project, where the lead baker really wanted the icing – then decided they didn’t actually like the taste.

There is also apple puree and pumpkin puree which have been taking up space in the bottom of the freezer – and might just make it into a smoothie over the weekend.

I really don’t know what to do with the icing though. Other than dunk biscuits into it. Which I really shouldn’t be writing about at this time of night.

Making: new uses for treasured T-shirts

We were on holiday, and Junior Reader noticed a problem. Come another summer or two, and a beloved T-shirt would cease to fit.

Now we’re OK on this in a few different ways:

– Junior Reader doesn’t grow terribly fast (so far), so the T-shirt still has some life in it yet

– we’re pretty good about passing on clothes when they don’t fit any more, given that many of them are ‘new to us’ via helpful friends and family, or second-hand shops.

However. There comes a point when certain clothes reach treasured status.

And really, this one is a good one – nice red background (always a good start as far as Junior Reader is concerned), big applique design on the front that’s holding pretty well despite lots of use. (It’s a T Rex, in case you wanted to know.)

So Junior Reader came to me with a suggestion. Why not turn the T-shirt into a cushion cover? (Because, you know, we definitely need more cushions with dinosaurs on.)

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Lots of people have clothes they don’t want to part with. Sometimes this is OK – fashion comes round again, etc. You may find out it looks great a few years from now. (If you have wardrobe space to wait this long.)

Sometimes, you only wear the clothes a few times a year, but it’s worth hanging on to them. (Quality wool coats; much of my ‘hot weather clothing’ collection.)

Sometimes, it’s time to think differently about the item. It’s part of the reason quilts and rag rugs work well. You get to hang on to some material that has sentimental attraction, but in a new form where it has a bit more use.

And why not add a T-shirt cushion to that category?

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Junior Reader has clearly seen me fiddling with fabric enough to put the suggestion – and I like it. It is a nice T-shirt, plus it gives me a new project idea.

Junior Reader is now adding further complexity to the notion. ‘It needs a zip.’ Well, love, I can’t fit zips (as yet), but Granny R can. So maybe we’ll ask her, or…maybe I’ll bottle it, and we’ll use press studs instead, ‘cos I know I can sew those on OK.

A T-shirt is not so far off a cushion shape in the first place. And if I run out of pillow filler, I could go as far as buying a cushion pad for this one – which would then mean I might need to do a bit more conventional measuring to make sure the cover fits.

But beyond the cushion itself, there’ll be more leftover material. Fuel for the rag rug, I suspect.

Still, while the T-shirt still fits, this is more of a project to muse on for the future. We’ll keep you posted.