Monday, 28 November 2011

The perils of fancy dress (and all things sparkly)

Just as in your 20s you are forever going to weddings, while in your 30s you can't move for new baby announcements, your 40s are filled with drunken gatherings celebrating this momentous birthday. I recently celebrated my own 40th with an achingly unfashionable knees up in the local community hall, complete with vodka shots, a sequinned dress, sky scraper heels and plenty of cheesy tunes.

My husband was tasked with organising the party, which went spectacularly well, in part due to the helping hands he got from myself, my sister and some of my best friends. But what taxed me was selecting THE OUTFIT.

For some reason I had set my heart on dark green and clearly I was ahead of the curve as this party season you can move but for green dresses, but when I was shopping last summer the shade I wanted was elusive. Eventually I tracked down a sequinned number along with glittery green heels, but it was a hard won get up.

But if I thought that was the end of searching for those hard to find party clothes I was sorely mistaken. A month or so after my party was an old schoolfriend's bash. A very glam affair studded with TV celebs, for which I selected a sparkly black and gold affair, but sadly the night was rather ruined by a tummy bug my children had generously shared with me just before the big night. I didn't disgrace myself, but I wasn't really up for a party.

But the party that has really set me a proper task when it comes to finding appropriate attire is that of a school dad. He designed an ingenious invitation that eventually revealed that we must all attend in sci fi fancy dress. Cue a stream of Princess Leia-alikes. But I am not sure I can pull off either the buns and flowing white robe or, even worse, the gold bikini, look.

My husband is now sure that I have spent more time researching my outfit than I will actually spend at the party and he may have a point. But I did get one helping hand from the fabulous Ellos. I can't resist a pair of heels and if they come in silver glitter all the better and all the more suitable for a sci fi party, which is why I was thrilled to discover their Silver Glitter court shoes. Wearing them I could almost click my heels and find myself back on Alderaan.

Now I just have to work my way back up my outfit with these beauties and inspiration. Am also thinking that they will get me right through the party season as I have plenty more 40ths to look forward to, including one the very next day, though I am not sure the all over silver look will work quite so well at a luxury hotel in Suffolk - but you never know.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Homemade with love

My mum always used to make my birthday cakes and, brat that I was, I would always complain that I would have preferred a shop bought cake like all my friends. I craved the tooth decaying sweetness of factory made sugar paste icing, the neon bright colours only a bucket load of E numbers can create and branding that would shame the Disney corporation. What I didn't want was my mum's half sunken creation coated in wobbly icing declaring Happy Birthday.

Which is why it is rather a nuisance that as a grown up I am somewhat addicted to baking. I am glued to every series of The Great British Bake Off and it is dangerous to let me and a credit card loose in Lakeland. I can't get enough of their pretty cupcake cases, I lust after their icing turntables, their innovative Push Pan was the answer to my cheesecake dilemmas and now I have to physically restrain myself from ordering their entire Christmas baking range.

The problem is memories of my own mortification when instead of presenting me with the Mr Kipling creation I craved my mum insisted on cooking for me raise themselves like evil spectres every time I present my boys with a slice of home made cake.

To be honest they have become a little blase and to them coming home to a house scented with cooling cake is pretty normal. In fact when I asked my little twin what he wanted as a present when I got back from a recent trip to New York his one word answer was: "Cake". But I worry that while I love nothing more than creaming butter and sugar, whipping eggs and smoothing icing, my boys long for garishly coloured creations direct from the shelves of the supermarket.

Which is why I was so gratified that after demolishing a chocolate chip loaf cake last night, both the older boys declared that they hated shop bought cakes as they just tasted horrible. Clearly my children have far more sophisticated tastes than I did in childhood. But it did make me feel warm inside that my own hobby does give them the pleasure I hoped it would.

Though they are my worst critics and should I make a slip up the are quick to tell me so. My son begged me for a chocolate cake for his birthday, but after slaving over the horribly complicated recipe, he proceeded to pick off all the icing, declaring it too rich for his tastes. My other boy was just as bad as after requesting a chocolate orange cake - not the easiest thing to create - he then decided that he didn't really like the flavour of chocolates and oranges. Grrr. It's almost enough to have me buying up a nice cardboard flavoured character cake for them next year.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Hospital ship

I do love my children, I do, I do. It's just that when everyone is ill it is hard to like them. This week we have been struck down by a tummy bug - my least favourite illness. Coughs and colds I can cope with, but I do hate sick. I can deal with poo, although when it is dribbling down the back of the only pair of trousers we have with us on a visit to the park, I begin to revise this opinion. But sick is another matter - just the whiff of it has me heaving and gagging. Ugh.

Luckily my  other half has no such qualms and is rather a star when that plaintive cry reaches up the stairs: "Mummy, daddy, I've been sick". He limbers into action and clears it all away while I gingerly pat the ill child at arms length, using a vice like grip to ensure they don't get any closer to me with their nasty germs. Sadly none of these precautions was effective and I succumbed to the bug too.

If there is one thing worse than ill children, it is having ill children when you are ill yourself. I long for the days when I could crawl under a duvet and forget the world in a whirl of naps and Trisha until I felt well enough to grace the office with my presence again. Now, unless wonder husband is able to take the day off, I have to drag my sad carcass around after the children trying to take care of them while not collapsing in a soggy, self pitying heap.

The problem is that while I know it is my job and duty to care for them, I just don't want to when I feel rotten. I want to be LEFT ALONE. But my children simply do not understand this concept. The sight of my comatose body elicits an irresistible urge to jump on it and ask "Mummy are you poorly?" at the top of their not insubstantial voices.

Most of the time I pride myself on coping relatively well with having four boys. After all I am still here, and as yet  have not been certified, which surely deserves a medal. But when I am ill it all goes out of the window and I don my official bad mother sash. I scream and shout, slope off to try to avoid them and generally fail in my maternal duties.

Luckily I have a very understanding son. Yesterday as I was attempting to juggle all four of them in the park to give my long suffering husband a well deserved break a stranger came up to me and after marvelling at my bad luck in ending up in charge of four small boys commended me on what a good job I was doing with them.

Lovely to have a compliment, but I wondered, how in the hell would she know? I could be beating them and locking them in cupboards for all she knew after a chance meeting in the park. When I said this out loud (not the bit about beating and cupboards) my son said. "But mummy you are doing a good job". "Aww, thank you, but I would like to be a bit nicer and shout less," I replied.

Quick as a flash he returned "You are nice and you need to shout at us. Sometimes you have to shout because you are angry and you can't help it and other times you have to shout at us to discipline us so we aren't so naughty." Perhaps I can take off the bad mother sash after all.

Though I will admit that his little brother didn't look convinced by this explanation and instead pondered the question of whether I was a good mum for quite some time before admitting that he supposed I was good enough.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

All you need is love

I had feared that when my eldest turned eight the gushing tap of affection that has been overflowing since he was a tiny mite would just switch off as a surly, pre-teen claimed my precious little boy. But after a weekend of birthday celebrations I am happy to report that the rumours of the demise of my cuddly little boy are greatly exaggerated. While the sulky strops are becoming more frequent, they are certainly no worse than the toddler tantrums of yore and I am still feeling the love just as much.

Take his birthday party - an orgy of activities designed to appeal to small boys from quad biking to a high ropes assault course, all powered by copious amounts of chips and sweets hosted by the fabulous Essex Outdoor Activities. A great time was had by all boys who took enormous pleasure in crashing their bikes and dangling precariously from ropes hung high in the treetops.

Must admit not my idea of fun, but my day was made as I strolled behind the birthday boy and his best friend from school. The friend turned to my boy and said "Which person here is your best friend of all?" clearly fishing for compliments. My son replied, quick as a flash: "My mum". Awwww. When I relayed this conversation to my husband I pondered how long it would be before he was mortified by the very concept of his mum being his best mate, and even if he wasn't when he would rather die than admit it to a school friend.

I must say I am happy that the days when I become an embarrassment haven't arrived just yet. He still begs me to take him down to line up for class in the morning, although he did blush bright pink and shrug me off when I declared a bit too loudly "Love you gorgeous" as a parting endearment. Note to self, must keep sweet nothings to whispered tones in company.

Then there was his family birthday party on the big day, a Halloween extravaganza planned and executed single handed by mummy. Despite my aching feet and extreme exhaustion, it was all worth it when my lovely boy flung his arms around me and said the biggest thank you for the best party with a little shine of tears in his eyes. Suddenly all the hours of cooking, traipsing around party shops, pinning up banners and trying to get the blasted steaming cauldrons to steam seemed worthwhile.

I know my days as number one girl in their lives are numbered, but I am storing up each and every one to keep me warm in the chilly teenage years. Although I have a sneaking suspicion that even then, as long as no one is looking, my boys might still have a cuddle and a kiss for their old mum every now and again.