Three More Weeks

Of work left this year. Of rushing home on the train for school pickups. Which is kind of bonkers considering it’s still November, even if it’s late November. My head still hasn’t quite understood it is almost the end of the year.

But there are so many things which are happening in a week or so. There’s a Year 2 carol songs presentation. There’s the school Christmas Fair. There’s her next school’s Christmas fair too. Then there’s parties, birthday and Christmas ones. Scheduling visits to Father Christmas. Pantomimes. Trips to the cinema (Charlie Brown of course) and trips to visit friends. Some which need organising and some which I’ve thought about but not actually done anything about yet.

For the last few months I’ve happily plodded on with my job, with life, stuck in a permanent October with a bit of April thrown in. Then all the mince pies started to appear in shops. THEN Bonfire Night happened. It’s all catching me unprepared, even more so this year. I have not yet seen any Easter Eggs.

I’ve already told Shaun I want to eat Christmas dinner somewhere locally, and am bemoaning the fact you can’t get a Christmas Dinner delivered like you can pizza or chinese. He always cooks it anyway, and enjoys doing it – which reminds me, should book my shopping slot to get it delivered otherwise we have to deal with supermarkets. I did that once. Never again. Especially as it would involve H being with me who will almost definitely decide that she’s bored. Or we could just spent £150 and go out somewhere and just have to get home afterwards.

Oh yes, and then there’s things like putting up a Christmas tree. Don’t tell me we have to do it next week, as I’m not entirely sure when we’ll have time to. Although we did manage to sort out all the boxes which have lived on our front room floor for the last two months last night so we have some space. Because it is DECEMBER next week.

In fact, the only thing I can pat myself on my back for is that I’ve bought almost all of H’s Christmas presents. Now that involved being really organised and spending no more than £30 a month from September onwards. So I must have known it was November. Or maybe time just isn’t a date any more, it’s just a time I wake up, work, come home again and repeat on a weekly basis.

Can someone slow things down a little please? 2015 went a bit too quickly for me. That’s all.

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… and sure enough

following on from my post yesterday, I was chatting away to H tonight and suggested she wore her school shoes as we were popping out somewhere.

She replied “I hate those shoes!”

I queried why.

“Because my friend told me she hates them”

Okay, not the end of the world here. They’re brilliant very practical shoes. They’re very tough and sturdy, and she can play and has a grip on her shoes, and hasn’t slipped over yet this term. So because H’s friend doesn’t like her shoes, she now doesn’t.

But her friend told her she doesn’t like them because they aren’t shiny.

For a six year old, stuff like that is important. I pointed out to H she had lovely shoes and I’d want to wear them, and shiny ones are pretty awful to keep clean – or at least were when she had a pair and she constantly scraped the toes and I was forever painting that nail varnish stuff on them to try and make them look acceptable.

They are lovely too; some fabulous Toughees ones which look almost as good as the day they came out of the box.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Now I realise that being a parent and encouraging your child to wear something becomes a battle at some point, but I would like to think that H knows good clothes when she sees it. But already she’s swayed by peer pressure. I pointed out that she should keep her own opinion, and even if she doesn’t like something, don’t say it like she experienced – as it obviously has affected and influenced her.

It was quite weird having that conversation so soon after I’d written about it here. The Toughees shoes are amazing, hardly any scrapes and still a good fit, and shape to them. No scuffs. We went through so many pairs of shoes last year at school which were destroyed in no time that I’ll be buying Toughees from now on, if only to preserve my bank balance! Even though they don’t do patent shiny leather ones.

Which I have not yet told H. Ho hum…

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If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

Here’s a funny one. Not funny ha-ha. In the day job, I work in music. From time to time I’ll post things or talk about the music, as that’s what normal people do if they have something to talk about, right?

But it’s really odd. Everyone has an opinion – but usually only pipe up when it’s negative.

We’ve been at parties, and someone will say “oh I think this track is utter crap!” like I’m supposed to care… or even just on Facebook, where similar lines of conversation have started. It’s a conversation-killer and it works every time. I’m not about to try and convince someone otherwise – and maybe they’re just trying to shut me up anyway.

The weird thing is, I wouldn’t say I was a big fan. I’m enjoying working on this tidal wave of fun, where it’s really really busy and you go slightly mad by it all but in a good way. It’s exhausting though, and often I’ll be coming home and going straight online to check things, and waking up in the night dreaming my phone is ringing to do with this. It’s stressful. I can appreciate it, as I’m a very small part of it – not in the creative way (I’m not a creative person), but as part of the cogs in the system.

See, I don’t expect people to like our things, but it’s weird how the ones who don’t like it are the ones to speak out. My mum did it too.

Which brings me back to how I bring up H, and how I’d hope she’d react if there was something she didn’t like that her friends have. I would hope she wouldn’t tell her friends that the thing is rubbish, even if she didn’t like it. Maybe just an “it’s not for me” type thing (a bit like I do when I’m in a room full of people swapping cat anecdotes – I can’t join in, I’m a dog person and they make me sneeze too) – but I’d never turn around and say something was crap – that’s just rude, isn’t it?

But they’re just doing what other people do. It’s rare we gush about something we like, isn’t it? I mean, I’m the same – I’ll happily post on Facebook about how rubbish the free NME is each week. So from now on I’m going to keep things positive (apart from anything about Southern Trains, you have to draw the line somewhere, and I always try to jolly that up a bit by writing bad poetry).

I’m going to take it on. If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all. Let’s see how we get on. Although there will be times we’re listening to music at work and don’t like it – and that’s okay too. Let’s just be nice about it? Let’s not just say “that was crap” – let’s say “well I don’t think we’ll be playing that again” instead.

(and this whole scenario gives me nineties flashbacks to my previous job and the record label employees who were releasing Peter Andre records, and how defensive they’d get because he was signed to them (and the abuse they’d get because he was Peter Andre and the near punch-ups they’d have in bars when the aforementioned abuse would happen). You do have that connection – you might never play the record; they get played to death in the office; but you’re still a part of it)

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Sibling Rivalry

I’ve had this one stuck in my head a lot this last week. A neighbour, struggling with their two children bickering and arguing said to me “you’re so lucky you don’t have to deal with sibling rivalry” – and my heart sunk.

I’d love to deal with it. I really would. I mean, I had a pretty awful time of it with my sister when we grew up and the teenage years kicked in. We got through it and get on fine now, and probably speak to each other much more than we did when we lived at home together. So I get it, I think I know what’s involved.


That isn’t going to happen.

Because H is just one. My body can’t take one more, and oh, by the way, I’m too old for one more.

I would love to have one more. But I know it isn’t happening. But yes, when someone says “oh you’re so lucky” I know I am – there are people out there who have no children who would love to have one. Yes, I am so lucky.

But I’m not so lucky my daughter doesn’t have a brother or sister to argue with, to drive me mad with. To steal their toys and vice versa. To read books to. To play games with. To set up the train track and play for hours. To be two little characters growing up and making me laugh at the things they’ll say to each other. To delight me with surprises and funny things.

It isn’t going to happen. I’ve made peace with that. I’ve given away and sold things to make space for the future for the three of us. H still plays all those games – Shaun is her playmate instead.

But it still hurts when someone tells me I’m lucky that I don’t have to deal with something where I have no choice.

Outsmarting a Six Year Old

While generally I can trick H about many things, she’s getting smarter. Of late, she has been writing lots of letters. When I say lots, I mean LOTS.


To Santa.

They’re all hidden.

I ask her what they say, and she tells me “they’re private”.

So I say “aaahh but you can tell mummy!” and hope she might weaken as she “loves her mummy so so much” but no. “It’s private.” she reminds me.

So I accept this, and watch her go and hide the letter. Except it’s being hidden in the bookcase. The bookcase which has several of her books in it.

So I wait until she’s gone to get ready for bed, as she doesn’t come back downstairs at this time.

Can I find it? Can I heck. Argh.

Surely it can’t be that difficult to find a private letter to Santa Claus, can it? It would appear so. My child is good at hiding places. Must get that from me… what with all the things us parents have to lie about to keep up the magic.

Someone suggested maybe she’s testing Santa, to see if he really exists. As if Shaun and I can’t read the letters, then he really must. But of course, we’d find the letters and know what she was asking him for. But then by looking for the letters (and potentially finding them) are we disrespecting her request for privacy? So we have to keep ANOTHER secret from her, that we’re having to lie about finding a letter to keep up the lie about Santa?

It’s so confusing.

I know she’ll keep believing in the Tooth Fairy as she gains money from that one. I know she’ll probably question Santa Claus soon as other children in her class have older siblings and you can guarantee they’ll blab. I’ve had to tell her we pay Santa Claus back, so she can’t just choose the most expensive version of Super Mario Maker and think it’s okay. (and also I’m thinking this is quite a good family present rather than just for H, as I’ll play it as much as she is likely to – although the limited box, without the game looks awesome – for me).

But right now I can’t find the letter. Although one Facebook friend said I should suggest that I read the letter so I don’t buy her the same thing as Santa. Although knowing H she’ll just suggest we give the duplicate toy to one of her friends.

One thing I do have under control is wrapping paper. Last year H spotted that Santa had used the same paper as we have “oh ho ho ho ohhhh” I bluffed “what a coincidence” and changed the subject. This year I’ve bought a roll and hidden it under the stairs. This means she’ll probably find the roll on Christmas Eve or something – it’s inevitable.

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I’m Going to Blogfest

I like Blogfest – in fact I’ll go as far to say it’s my favourite blogging conference of the year. This year it’s my only one – and yet again I’m going.

What do I get from it? I come away inspired. While I’d love to say I have a million ideas in my head that are transferred onto the blog, that never happens. It’s a bit like payday at work, when you get a bonus. You have several days on a high where you make those changes (or spend money) before things go back to normal again.

The line up looks great as usual, and while there’s an awards ceremony (which I’ll probably skip, I don’t do awards ceremonies) I’m hoping there’ll be plenty of inspiring groups to go to.

Also, Blogfest has The Best Food. Plus it’s in The Guardian’s building. If you hang out with the smokers (I don’t smoke) then you get to see speakers coming and going at the entrance too.

I am not going to get nervous and say “that’s you that is” to David Baddiel. Also, must not mention The Wedding Present to Stella Creasy unless we happen to be talking about music. Which might be on one of the smokers hangouts.

It’s also a great place to meet up with blogger friends. I don’t have a lot of friends, but the ones I do have are excellent. So it will be great to catch up with them again.

This year I have persuaded Naomi to come along, who I work with. She’s over at Moody Kids and More and she isn’t scared to say what she thinks. Sonya will be with us too, our third year now! I’m looking forward to catching up with fellow Miffy-a-holic Jenny too and as ever there’ll probably be a mini Carshalton group travelling up together. It’s all good.

The sponsors all look interesting this year, especially the chocolate one – please can people keep me away from there, if only so I don’t complain about the change of chocolate on Creme Eggs. Please?

I’ve been reading about Big Milk too, good to see a company where the farmers are getting decent money back, as I’m never 100% sure. I think we’ll be switching to them.

Anyway, it’s only a month or so away – and I can’t wait!! Oh and this year I might wear a dress.



Nine years. A long time, and yet it never goes away. If anything, more things come back. For some reason I had a flashback on the train home last night, mid-way through chatting to a friend. The time that mum was the one having the op, she was the one with the cancer and we were waiting for news. You were out, and came back to me crying hysterically on the stairs. You immediately thought something was wrong with mum, but it wasn’t that – at all.

Somebody had been really nasty to me on an internet message board. Sure, they weren’t to know about the things going on in my life and how much worse it felt, sitting at home in York waiting for something, but I don’t remember what.

“Silly girl” my dad said, walking into the front room, sitting down and watching tv, probably while eating cheddar biscuits with a bit of cheese.

I just cried a bit more on the stairs as at that point I had nobody. I knew my mum would be okay, she was having the cancer cut out of her. What I didn’t know was that a handful of years later it would go for my dad. But this time it succeeded. We lived through the most stressful time I’ve ever lived through, constant trips back up to York whenever things looked shaky. Amazing friends offering free train trips up there and support. On one hand I’m glad H never witnessed any of it, but on the other she will never meet her grandad.

But I had my annual cry on Sunday. We had a long lie in, doing schoolwork and chatting. I asked her to ask me whatever she wanted about my dad, as I can tell her what I think she wants to know, she’s the only one who can tell me what she’d like to know. Just H and I. She was okay with mummy crying. It wasn’t a big one, but enough I got a hug. She understands.

The questions change as she gets older. This time it was “did you see him die? what was it like?”. I told her the truth. She seemed okay with that.

I know nobody except my mum, my sister and my auntie will remember today. I still smile when I remember that point as we drove to York District Hospital and Radio York said “So! It’s Friday the 13th today! Has anyone had anything really bad happen to them?” and we both burst out laughing. “Yeah, something absolutely horrible and really quite bad, but I don’t think it’s one for Radio phone-in’s” sort of laugh. That point where we became three, standing in the car park of the hospital at 2am hugging each other, as the previous days, week, months were over. No longer a four. One set of pain gone, replaced by three new cases.

Nine years. It gets easier, apart from anniversaries.



The Funny Things #2

I’m proud of myself for training during pregnancy to stop swearing. Shaun is not quite as good as me, in fact, we may as well call him Mr Potty Mouth.

Our neighbours have a carpet shampoo machine which we’re going to borrow (that glitter and paint won’t get off the carpet on its own), and we thought about doing it on Sunday while H and I were at the Harvest Festival Parade, as it was a sunny day and we’d be out of the way.

But then our lovely neighbours went out.

“oh bugger! they’ve gone out for the day I bet!” said Shaun.

Now okay, bugger isn’t the worst word (we usually get those when he’s driving, he’s terrible)

“Oh WHAT daddy?” I said, trying to make him realise what he was saying quite clearly in front of H

“Bugger, Mummy, Bugger” replied H.

Her first swear word at six years and a month. Sigh.

More Sadness

My daughter seems to have quite a lot of sad things happen in her life of late. Last night just before 9pm she collapsed, sobbing into me, tears dripping down her face, her little voice nothing more than an agonised wail of sadness, unable to talk for sobbing or roaring with unhappiness.

I had to remove her glasses, wiping giant tears from her eyes.

It was no good, it was a decision which was hanging in the balance for a while – it could have gone either way. As it was, my poor little six year old had her worst fears come true.

She’s still sad about it twenty four hours later, though doesn’t cry any more. Slowly she’s getting used to it. She’s starting to pick herself up and move on.

As her mum, I gave her cuddles, wiped her eyes and comforted her as she processed what had just happened. It seemed to help. We talked about it, and I reassured her the best I could. But what reassurance can I give, when it’s something out of my control?

“It’s not fair” she wailed, burying her head in my shoulder. “she was my favourite”

Aw Flora, you left as big an impression in Bake Off as Martha did last year (and H wept then too). She is so sad you left last night. She wanted Alvin to win too (as his name reminds her of Alvin and the Chipmunks), but the blow was softened by Flora still being in the competition.

I think she might still be a bit cross with Paul and Mary, mind!


I was an early starter – a nine year old, when my periods started. I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I just remember sitting on the loo, my mum knocking on the door and telling me “your period has started” and handing me a brick-like pad to put into my pants.

I had no idea what it all meant. It wasn’t confusing or scary, it was more a “what are you on about?!?” sort of thing.

My mum never had the chat with me beforehand. I’m not sure why. I know she was an early starter too – maybe having two children and being a stay at home mum meant she forgot. In my quest to keep doing everything differently to the way my mum did it, I’ve started talking to H about periods. Nothing too scary, just explaining that there’s those few times of the month when mummy likes to go to the toilet and not be disturbed, and that’s usually then. She gets that, and she found the idea of having periods a bit weird.

It started well.
“Have any of your friends mentioned periods yet?” I asked. Bear in mind, she’s six, but I know two of them have been told, plus another friend has been told how babies are made. This has not yet filtered to H.
“You mean like Jurassic?” she replied, before then going into what Jurassic periods are. Now, I get some heavy ones at the best of times, but never jurassic.
So I had to explain it wasn’t that kind of period, but a different one. She hung her head, whimpered and said “I’m SO embarrassed” and stomped off upstairs to her bedroom, slamming the door behind her. That went well.

As she’s still so young I tend to give her a few minutes then follow her up, and talk in a calm voice to get her talking about things, as she doesn’t understand this anger that has entered her life recently. At all.

I explained it all. She shrugged, “Well. Yeah. Okay.” and we left it at that. She didn’t have questions, and to be honest I’m not sure what any of my answers would be. I did say to her “but we’ll come to how babies are made at some point in the future” as I know she’s nowhere near ready for it, and thinks they just grow in your tummy. She hasn’t spent a lot of time thinking about how the baby gets into the tummy, that’ll come.

Last year we bought H a Lammily doll. She’s played with, alongside the Lottie dolls, a more grown up one. One of her friends saw it and said “oh, this doll has boobies” – to which I thought “but surely you have a Sindy or Barbie or even Monster High doll?!” in my head. The people behind Lammily have come up with a Period Party, basically, celebrating the start of periods. I get it. I want H to feel it’s normal. I don’t want her sitting on the loo and me running in with a pile of pads, having to explain it all (badly). I want her to know it’s something that will come, nothing to be scared of, and that almost all girls go through it.

This is why I think the Period Party kit is brilliant – a pair of pants for the Lammily doll, as well as some reusable sticky liners. Periods should be normal, and I’m glad this exists. If my girl ends up being as young as me when it happens (and my mum was even younger), then I want it to be normal for her. The only problem is the shipping costs as much as buying it – so I’m holding off for now. But I’m glad someone somewhere is visiting the world of periods.

I just hope she’s a bit older than me when the time comes.