World Book Day – Why Make it Easy?


World Book Day is on Thursday, and already I’m dreading it with a large sense of additional giggle.

See, it was easy at the start of the year when H had her Harry Potter costume all sorted out. Really easy. I mean, she could even wear her uniform it was so completely easy peasy lemon squeezy.

But then she read ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ and because I’m a soft touch I bought her an evacuees costume. She’d make a great Lucy Pevensie. Obviously, because she’s just walking around with a costume on and nothing else, she needs accessories. Like, say, a dagger made out of an old Amazon box, right? Done. But that still doesn’t really say who she is. No, she needs one more thing to make it completely obvious who she is being.

She needs a wardrobe!

Obviously the least practical thing you can take into school, especially when you’re at the childminders that morning. But we have a box, one which is just the right size. Shaun is completely anti this box, and making it into a wardrobe. I think it will be a stroke of genius if they do a parade and she walks around holding a small wardrobe. Shaun is really not buying it.

H thinks it’s the best thing ever!

So it looks like it’s up to me to make this box good. Except I don’t have any brown paper… that’s on my shopping list for tomorrow in the hope I’ll find somewhere that sells it (we have a Post Office near home).

Oh, and we won’t mention the new blue dress that has arrived as she has a Superheroes dressing up party this weekend and has decided she’s going as Bubbles from The Powerpuff Girls. (Shaun suggested she have a badge saying who she is as nobody will have a clue apart from possibly some parents). (I thought she’d make a better Buttercup personally). That’s going to be fun, I want to cut out a pair of enormous eyes to stick around her glasses so she looks like a proper Powerpuff Superhero. Obviously Shaun thinks this is also ridiculous…

H thinks it’s brilliant!

Think we might win this one too.

Then again she might just change her mind on the day and go as Harry Potter with Lucy’s wardrobe, saving the world before bedtime.

I Don’t Do Competitive



That’s what I say to myself over and over again. I’m happy with my place in life – I exist, I’m one of the cogs which keeps things turning, I’m not the leader, the thing that makes things happen. I try and do that as much as possible in my life, and I try to make sure H has these values too.

There’s nothing wrong with being competitive – it just isn’t for me.

But then there’s the parenting side of it. When H was born and I was seeing my NCT group once a week, other children would get a tooth first and I’d wonder why H hadn’t. Other children would walk first, and I’d wonder why H wasn’t bothered. Actually, she became the fastest crawler I’d seen, such was her ability to get around – she didn’t need to walk as crawling was easier. She made it in her own time, but the time up to that time I wondered why she wasn’t there with her friends.

Queen H

Other skills came along, and then came school. Fortunately H picked up reading really quickly and moved up the book bands quite easily. I tend to use Facebook as the kind of place where I’ll post if she has achieved something to let her relatives in York and Australia know, and I didn’t really think about how it looked beyond that. A couple of friends pointed out to me that it looks a bit like I’m bragging about my daughter’s abilities. I thought about it, and I stopped. Maybe it did. I just want to exist in our little school group and not be someone who is in everyone’s faces – just a cog in it all. I didn’t think about filtering things so that H’s achievements would be seen by just family – and maybe that’s what I should have done.

I don’t need to change who I am. I am proud of my girl and what she has achieved, yet I need to think about what other people think of me. I need to filter my ways so that I don’t look like I’m showing off, this place is fine for it as people have to actively come here to read things, rather than it appearing on your timeline. I get it.

But I don’t do competitive. One child isn’t better than another. They’re all good.

John Crane Tidlo Recorder

But then I had the conversation with another parent. “oh yes, (insert name) is so much better than all the other girls isn’t she?” I was told, and I hated it. I felt like I wanted to prove my girl is just as good, that it isn’t about one child, it’s about everyone. From somewhere that competitive part reared its ugly head. But WHY?

My daughter is who she is. She does what she does. She does it well and I’m happy with that. We get to deal with the angry tantrums and storming off (as she is only six) as she starts to discover who she is too.

I think it was just being told, quite blatantly that someone else’s child was better than mine in that person’s opinion. It got my back up. It probably wasn’t even meant that way.

H on guitar

Sometimes I need to listen to myself. If my daughter is doing what I think is brilliant, then that’s all I need to be happy about. I need to make sure she knows she’s doing well, that it doesn’t matter if someone else is further ahead of her, it’s about HER enjoying the moment.

I think I do, but sometimes things really get my back up. Maybe I do a teeny bit of competitive after all?


Post Half-Term Blues


So H is back to school tomorrow, over half way through her last year of Infant School, and heading into the Easter break. I like half term, even if it means we don’t get to spend any more time together – I worked through it all, though Shaun took both Fridays off (one was an Inset Day).

They weren’t given any homework which is a relief. Although some parents received a badly-worded letter to announce this term’s topic is Pirates – but couldn’t work out if we were actually meant to send the child in dressed as a pirate. We’re sending H in dressed like that anyway after cobbling together a hastily made Pirate costume.

Half term was Holiday Club for H. She’s booked in for Easter too, with the odd day off around the holidays. See, the fun has to be provided by someone else when the holidays come as we both work five days a week (and additional extras at home when we absolutely have to). Fortunately she’s really happy there and gets on with whatever is being done so I don’t worry how she’s getting on.

So I work straight through from 8.30 to 2.30 every day (without a lunchbreak), getting the train which goes closest to Holiday Club, picking her up and going on to whichever activity or playdate we have planned. Repeat to fade…

She’s tired, I’m tired and we’re back to school in the morning for another five weeks of tired. After school activities start again and we’ll be TIRED.

I’m not complaining, mind. Just tired.

Tired of logging everything H does to show she reads a lot (her teacher knows this, this bit is parental guilt), tired of fighting (verbally) with everything H doesn’t want to do because – guess what – she’s TIRED. Tired of tidying up, H is tired of tidying up too. Bribery isn’t cutting it any more. Can we just order a giant bin for her bedroom and put everything in there?


I wrote so many posts in January, which were meant to stay in drafts forever, it would seem. Those times are now gone, and it’s February.

I’ve also cursed everything. I bought a sledge three or four years ago, and since then it hasn’t snowed. This winter was the mildest I’ve experienced in a long time. Washing has gone out on the line in January, something that never happened before – well, to me anyway.

H is becoming quite the grown up girl. She’s not a little girl any more, but she isn’t really grown up what with only being six and having her front two teeth missing. But I can see in her face she’s looking older, it’s like there has been changes and I didn’t see them until I really saw them.

Her confidence is starting to come through now. She’s doing well at school, on the School Council and in the Headmistresses magazine club which she’s really enjoying. They put together a little fanzine type thing which she thinks is awesome. I keep thinking I should get my 1980s fanzines I put together out, so she can see how similar a path she’s found, as I’ve never mentioned it to her. She has been doing little interviews with authors and asking some good questions – and we have several planned throughout the year, depending on how brave I am asking them. So far it has been really positive, and I love how excited H gets when the questions come back.

I’m afraid I do sort of mock my child and her antisocial behaviour, as she seems to be the kind of child who goes for playdates at friends houses, then sits in a corner reading their books, though that phase may have passed. This week she just painted her nails instead! (she did alright)

We took her to her Junior School’s Christmas Fair in early December, and she seems less nervous about that which is good.

So otherwise things are just plodding along at a fast rate, and I feel like I’m going to wake up suddenly and she’ll be eighteen and will have left school. I’m not entirely sure where I’ll be, mind.

Bye, 2015.

2015 has been a funny old year. One where I’ve felt more in control of myself and my emotions, but out of control of other things.

My back troubles of previous years, accompanied with various muscular aches seem to have gone (for now), possibly helped with the warmer weather. Maybe it’s a sign.

Work has been the same old thing, which has kept me sane at times and driven me mad – but I’m happy and still there. It went crazy busy at the end of the year and we coped, and I think that deserves a big pat on the back. Also – I was only off sick for two days last year. That relates to my back as well. I want to keep it up, I don’t particularly enjoy being at home.

Home. What is home, anyway? We live in a house owned by someone else who gave us a £230 rent increase per month this year. It’s safe to say this place doesn’t feel like a home, just someone else’s bricks. Maybe that’s a sign too.

But then I enjoy being around my family. The only family I’ve spent time with this year are Shaun and H – we didn’t go to Australia (we had no plans to), and I got to York for a few hours, so saw my mum and sister just the once. Shaun and H are my world and they help keep me sane.

Sane? Because I’m changing too. This year I’ve accepted I’m in perimenopause, the hot flushes have arrived (especially when I’m stressed) and anxiety has joined in too. The palpitations and feeling like you’re burning up are not much fun. So I’m focusing on me, trying to find ways to cope. As Shaun said last night “what sets it off?” – and I couldn’t explain. It isn’t like there’s a magic switch which you can just turn off. So that’s why when H can’t explain her angry outbursts, I understand. Sometimes you can’t, sometimes you can. We’re all changing. We’re changing too soon.

So here we are, New Year’s Eve. We were meant to go out tonight but I need to get out tomorrow, to go to the sea. I always go to the sea on New Year’s Day, start the year fresh, ready to fight again. I’ve had almost three weeks off work and I’ve started sleeping for longer times again, apart from when I get anxious – like today. I’m focusing on me, on us, on family. On staying sane.

I’ve put on weight again, so will be setting myself targets to make it go away, like going to the gym again. Bake Off kind of stopped me doing that with it being on so early and at the time I’d be having my workout. That was August. Slap my hand. That will live over at Mum Friendly, as I try to get back on track.

As for Shaun, he’s running again. Twice since Christmas and I’m so proud of him getting back into it and pushing himself. H? She’s doing well, and is settling well into being a moody six year old who screams a lot when she doesn’t get her own way. Fun times.

So yes, 2016. It’s going to be a year of changes. Well, not for me. I’ll look back in November and wonder where the year has gone. H will have started Junior School and Brownies, and will hopefully start guitar lessons too. I just need my family and to stay sane, while living in this place we call a home. It ain’t all bad.

Happy New Year.

How to Trick Your Child



H is quite stubborn at times, has very definite ideas of what she does or doesn’t want, and generally gets across why this is. It’s quite good fun too, bearing in mind she’s only six, so still has a way to go before she’ll be getting her own way in life.

Her most recent dislike has been bananas. Utterly ridiculous, she would swear blind she hated them and refuse to eat them. I’d insist she did (usually in that lead up to swimming) as they’ll keep her full for longer, she’d reluctantly get one, eat it and stop complaining (as she probably secretly enjoyed it).

Prior to that, and up until tonight one of her bigger ones is cous cous. Plain old harmless cous cous. “It isn’t the same as it used to be” she’d tell me, but when asked how exactly it used to be, she had no response.

Until tonight. I mixed it up with a tiny bit of pesto – not that you’d notice. I then announced to H how something magical had happened to the cous cous – that I had mixed it with pesto and it was sticking together JUST LIKE PASTA! She fell for it, obviously. “Ooh, mmm! This DOES taste different” she informed me, before scoffing the lot.

So yeah, she might be stubborn but she’s still gullible enough to believe what I tell her. At some point this will stop. I will be very sad.

Sleep Talking


One of my most favourite things to do is chat with H, she’s a very funny child. Her sense of humour is brilliant – and she has fabulous comic timing too which makes me laugh a bit too much (and then she gets sensitive about it, but she’s just genuinely funny).

Recently, when I’ve tucked her in bed at around 11pm when I’m going to bed, she’s a little bit restless, like she’s half awake, half asleep. So what better thing to do than chat to her in her dreams? It’s awesome.

I usually plump her pillows up a bit so they’re comfy, often asking her to sit up so I can do it, and reassuring her it’s mummy. When she knows this she does it straight away, and will often lean against me having a cuddle until it’s all set for her to lie down again.

So I’ll have a chat. “Are you having a good rest?” I’ll ask, and usually wherever the dream is takes over what she tells me.

Last night she said “I’ll need a few more of these please mummy, can you help?” – so I offered to do her another twenty. She seemed satisfied with this and rolled over and snored again. I have no idea what I’ve offered to do another twenty of.

The previous night she announced “It’s absolutely BRILLIANT being six years old!” and I had to cuddle her in agreement. “Is it the best thing ever?” I asked back, to which she confirmed “Oh YES!” and fell asleep again.

The night before got a bit weird. “I need another sandwich mummy” she told me. I asked her what she would like inside. “Oh, just some rice” (rice?! RICE?! Rice sandwiches?!). I did clarify this with her. “Rice sandwiches?” I said in a calm, gentle, loving voice. “Yep” she replied, then rolled over and started snoring.

I really look forward to this time of night. I just wish I could remember everything she tells me, and most importantly of all, I wish I could work out what on EARTH she’s dreaming about!

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.

… 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…

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)