A lifestyle blog from a forty-something mum

Showing posts with label Teenagers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Teenagers. Show all posts

Monday, 27 July 2015

No Matter What...

Parenting, teens, no matter whatThe weather was horrid yesterday and so we abandoned our original plans to visit Blenheim Palace and walked into town for breakfast and a paper instead. On the way, I stopped off at Sophia's former rowing club with a batch of cakes for the crew to share and then stood in the rain to watch practise. This took me back to umpteen mornings watching Sophia row in all kinds of weather, and made me realize just how much I miss the little things about life with my daughters. Things I didn't think I loved at the time.

As we arrived at the cafe, rain had set in for the day. We'd just ordered our food, when a dad wandered in with his own teen daughter. Both dad and daughter were soaked through. The girl reminded me of my daughters and of the many times when a parent just can't seem to diffuse the mood and every word uttered serves only to infuriate them even more. I guess there are no words for these moments; it doesn't mean that we don't try.

'Do you want something to eat?' her dad asked, thinking maybe that sustenance might improve his daughter's mood.

'No,'she replied.

'Are you sure?' he added, hoping that she would change her mind after asking for the second time. This infuriated her even more.

She sat sulking in the corner and was eventually cajoled into ordering hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows, while her dad ordered an Americano coffee and a full-English. The girl continued to mope as her dad pulled out all the stops and tried to cheer her up. Once breakfast arrived, he fed her scrambled egg and bacon. She finally cracked a smile and started to talk to him.

I've lost count of the number of times I've attempted similar feats with my own children. I was never convinced that this was the best course of action, but seeing my daughters unhappy always tugged at my emotions and awakened a need to make everything better. Foolish, I know.

And someday they all have to figure this out for themselves, but when they're caught somewhere between adult and childhood, it's important to remind yourself that you're the grown-up, while they're still in training. They will get there in the end and turn out to be remarkable young adults.

I miss my daughters more than they'll ever know and the house feels empty with the two of them away for the summer. Later this week I plan on borrowing my twelve year-old nephew and taking him out for the day. He turns thirteen soon and I smile as I watch my sister interact with her son. It's not easy being the parent of a teen. There are days when it feels like nothing's going as it should and you feel like throwing in the towel and helping yourself to a lunchtime G&T. But what's important is going to watch practise in the rain, being there for your child no matter what, and realizing that these are the most important things of all.

I'd wondered why my sister was thinking of getting a dog; the quote from Nora Ephron that I found to accompany the post answers that question really rather well.         

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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Monday, 13 July 2015

Us by David Nicholls - Book review

Us, David Nicholls, Book reviewIt's not often that I'm compelled to write a book review on the blog. In fact, I've mentioned books only a couple of times previously in a cheats guide to my top five reads (how can anyone pick so few?) and a review of Life, Death and Vanilla Slices by Jenny Eclair.

I spied a review of Us back in November's Good Housekeeping and quickly added it to my reading list. I bought a copy just before we were due to leave for a recent holiday and thought it would make a perfect read - I wasn't wrong.

The follow-up to One Day - I have no idea how I missed all the hype as well as the film - but somehow I just did. I plan on reading this next and seeing the film very soon.

Us tackles the concerns of parenthood, middle age and what it means to stay in a harmonious relationship after so many years. It was a surprising choice for the Man Booker prize longlist in 2014, but failed to make the shortlist. 

Narrated throughout by Douglas Petersen, master of the killer one-liner and on such a different wavelength to the rest of his family that he often feels like an outsider. His wife, Connie is a flamboyant artist and their relationship is based upon the theory that 'opposites attract.' Only child, Albie, takes after his mum with artistic tendencies and plans to study photography at university. Before he leaves though, a Grand Tour of Europe is planned as a final holiday together as a family. Just before they're due to go, Connie reveals that she intends to leave Douglas shortly after the holiday. This throws Douglas into turmoil and he plots to make amends with his wife during the trip and save his marriage.

I identified completely with the character of Douglas as I used to be a biochemist in a previous career and scientists are renowned for their practicality, slight eccentricity and humour in its wackiest form. Hilarious descriptions of a pet drosophila (fruit fly) and the culinary 'delights' of his sister's tuna pasta bake were particularly memorable and deserving of some funny looks as I couldn't help laughing out loud while reading at the beach.

Connie, on the other hand, infuriated me at times as she came across as self-indulgent. I couldn't fathom how she and Albie failed to see Douglas's point of view on so many occasions. As I live with three family members with artistic temperaments it did make me wonder whether some of our miscommunications occur as a result of my completely different take on the world. It was therefore, very insightful.

The observations of a long-term relationship were astute and filled with pathos as well as humour. I willed for Douglas and Connie's marriage to survive as they'd endured several setbacks over the years and emerged from the chaos. Did they make it? I guess you'll just have to read for yourself.

One of those books you'd rather not finish as it's a pleasure to pick up and the chapters are so short that it's hard to find an excuse to put the book down. I didn't want this subtle, but soulful book to ever end.

Rating 5/5.

Until next time... 

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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Saturday, 30 August 2014

The Trouble With Sleep...

Sleep deprivation, lack of sleepThe end of summer is a busy time of year in the Anderton house. For starters more than half the family have birthdays between 29th August and 13th September, this includes my husband and twin daughters. The girls also head back to university mid-September and before that, they're going on holiday for a week. Sophia also has an interview in Birmingham and is cramming in as many rowing events as possible before she leaves again.

Consequently my mind's on overdrive as I negotiate present buying, arranging parties, fathoming out whether (or not) we're all available for various social events and thinking about the girls' going back to uni.

And the trouble with sleep at the moment is... I don't ever seem to get enough...

On Tuesday night my mind was so overloaded as I attempted to sleep that instead of sleeping, I kept on thinking. The more I tried to silence the random thought bubbles forming inside my head, the worse it got.

When my daughters spotted the trailer for I Don't Know How She Does It a few years ago, their comments were, "Mum, does this remind you of anyone?" Yep, if ever there was a film that hit a nerve... this was it! At the time I was working for the NHS and although I loved my career, there were days when I had no idea how we made it through till bedtime unscathed.

You can check out the trailer here and if you haven't seen the film already, it comes highly recommended....

It was a shocking realisation once my daughters were all grown up that some of the issues are still right at the forefront of my troubled mind and responsible for many a sleepless night. Obviously, some have disappeared altogether, but only to be replaced with thoughts like...
  • OMG, where the hell are my daughters?
  • Are they going to get out of bed in the morning, we need to do x, y and maybe even z!
  • Have they remembered to... insert whatever (there's always so much to choose from!)
So, inspired by the film, here is a little quiz I've compiled all about the things that keep me awake. Warning, there are a few tricky ones in there with more than one correct answer. To help you out, there are also one or two clues. Good Luck... 

1. What are my daughters doing as I head off to bed on Tuesday night at 11pm?
      a. Watching a film.
      b. Reading and/ or studying quietly.
      c. Sleeping like babies.
      d. Listening to music and giggling a lot.

 2. It's 1am on Wednesday morning, what has woken me up so far?
      a. Nothing.
      b. Sophia taking a shower at midnight.
      c. Mr A fidgeting.
      d. Olivia popping in for a chat about books.

 3. Now it's 2am on Wednesday morning, what am I doing?
     a. Sleeping peacefully.
     b. Reading a good book.
     c. Meditating.
     d. Making a list in my head of all the things I need to remember tomorrow.

 4. After failing to get back to sleep for another hour, what am I doing at 3am?
     a. Yoga.
     b. Enjoying a pot of tea.
     c. Checking Twitter notifications.
     d. Writing a list.

 5. What are the rest of the family up to at 3am?
     a. Sympathising with my inability to sleep.
     b. Sophia: sleeping.
     c. Olivia: also sleeping.
     d. Mr A: sleeping and snoring.

 6. How many random tasks compiled in my head in the early hours of Wednesday morning did I actually
     manage to complete?
     a. None. 
     b. One or two.
     c. About half.
     d. Are you kidding? All of them! Tomorrow's another day and tonight there will be a whole new list under

  7. It's after midnight on Thursday morning, what's keeping me awake now?
      a. Absolutely nothing, I'm completely shattered after yesterday.
      b. A combination of heavy rain and Mr A breathing.
      c. The family pet who's just wandered upstairs because someone forgot to feed her.
      d. I need a glass of water.

  8. The girls are going to a party on Friday night, how will I sleep? 
     a. Like a log.
     b. I'll doze on the sofa while awaiting their safe return.
     c. On and off, while repeatedly getting up to see if they're home.
     d. I won't sleep a wink until they're back, despite the fact that when they're at uni I know nothing and this
         doesn't bother me.

So, there you have it. If you correctly guessed answer 'd' to questions 1, 3, 6 and 8 - well done. The slightly trickier questions were 2, 4, 5 and 7, the correct answers were actually b, c and d!

So what was on the list in my head in the early hours of Wednesday morning exactly?
  • What do I buy my mum for her birthday next week?
  • Check train times and location of hotel for Sophia's interview.
  • Remember to call Dad and invite him over for dinner on Thursday evening. 
  • Remind Sophia to double-check she has all of the documentation required for her interview. 
  • Make appointment at the vets for Kitty. 
  • Remember change for the car park at the station: no one else will! 
  • Don't forget to deliver Nephew's birthday gift before leaving for Birmingham. 
  • Make a start on the housework before going out (as always when the girls are home, the house is a tip!)
  • Attempt a couple more loads of washing as there's still a formidable-looking laundry pile left over from daughters' camping trip last weekend.
  •  And finally, how do you dry 2 sopping wet pairs of trainers that are currently abandoned on garage floor after the aforementioned rain-soaked camping trip?
I've tried making lists in the evening before heading to bed and discovered only this...

There will always be one thing I've forgotten and this will bug me for the rest of the night! I need to be able to write lists in bed, it's the only way to go.

I'm happy to report that Sophia's interview was successful and if all goes to plan she will be working in the US next summer. I'm guessing that's something else that's going to give her mum a few more sleepless nights, but I couldn't be happier for my daughter.

Until next time...

Copyright©2014 Izzie Anderton
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Monday, 7 July 2014

Reverse Cinderella Syndrome

Real life, fairy tales.
Ever wonder if real life is the opposite of a fairy tale? I had a dream wedding in the Seychelles back in 1992 and 22 months later, adorable twin daughters, Olivia and Sophia came into our lives. Ever since that day, I have felt like Cinderella, but not in a good way. I'm the one doing non-stop chores, making life special for other members of the family, feeling tired, ratty, bedraggled and in need of a time-out.

Now that my daughters are in their late teens, I can't fathom out why they're incapable of functioning as fully-fledged adults. There are days when I've contemplated going on strike, but what's the point? And who would end up picking up all the mess?

This post has been inspired by not one, but 2 lovely people who have made me think over the weekend. First of all, the lovely Nikki over at Stressy Mummy. Last week she wrote a fabulous post about other members of her family failing to stick to her House Rules. The comments on this post were enlightening and it appeared that most of us share her thoughts.

Later that same day, I was chatting to my sister. She confessed to feeling like the hired help at home after a weekend filled with domesticity, cajoling her beloved son into completing his homework and contemplating how to cram everything in without going mad.

These are my thoughts based on experiences with my own family...

There are times when I feel as though every other member of my family is doing their utmost to wind me up. Individually they are great company, lively and hard-working (when they choose to be), but put all 4 of us together and the house goes into meltdown. To be honest, I had expected life to be different after my daughters left for university, obviously, I expected too much.

The girls are guilty of leaving belongings scattered all over the house and one (who shall remain nameless) is so much worse than the other. I can ignore the mess for so long and then I erupt into a major hissy fit, usually after tripping over the same thing in the hall for the umpteenth time in a day, when I've already told whoever to take whatever upstairs on numerous occasions. And while we're on the subject of scattering stuff all over the house, please could you stop leaving empty bottles, tubes, packets and wrappers everywhere? Ferreting all over the house rounding up rubbish is not how I wish to spend my days.

My daughters bedrooms never ever get cleaned while they are home. Why? Because I refuse to set foot in there. Most of the time I can't even see the floor. In the interests of hygiene I fling in clean bedclothes once a fortnight and fresh towels every week. After they've gone however, I am in there like a shot, (I know, it's tragic, I really need to get out more) tidying, cleaning, flinging open the windows, the works. All ready for the next onslaught of chaos.

I am tired of second guessing what everyone needs and dishing out reminders for things that are non-negotiable, like paying rent and ordering prescriptions. And posting off those all important items you left behind amidst the chaos. In fact I've just received a call from Sophia requesting that I post her driving licence as she's left this at home and won't be drinking any alcohol until the mother sends it on. I refuse to feel bad about this.

If I've asked 'Does anyone need anything from the supermarket?' I wish family members wouldn't wait until I've been and come back again to tell me that they wanted grapefruit, popcorn, stamps and a bottle of blasted expensive shampoo that I don't even use.

I actually quite like sleep. It's a shame that most mornings I'm awake at 4 am and thinking only, 'Right, what do I have to cram into today and who needs to be reminded about what?' I'm a huge fan of the film/ book I Don't Know How She Does It? And if ever there was a book written about how I think as mother, this is it. If you haven't seen the film or read the book, both come highly recommended. How old do your kids have to be before list making in your head at 4 am stops exactly?

Dinner is served most evenings at 6 pm, if you require alternative arrangements then say something. I am not telepathic. If you don't like the menu, tough. You could always offer to cook.

Nagging. Yes, I know I do this a lot and contrary to popular belief, I don't actually enjoy it. Maybe if you could take charge of  your own lives and leave me in peace to get on with mine, I'd stop altogether. The house could be quite lovely and you might learn that mum can be human to.

I actually quite like the real me. The one who gets to be herself on rare occasions when the rest of the family aren't driving her crazy. I love to spend time with my sister and remind myself that I was just me, before I became mum. Please can I stop thinking for 4 people, it's making me tired and they're all more than capable of thinking for themselves.

I have a feeling that this post could turn into an epic mass of rantiness so have decided to leave it there. If you want to read similar posts, I may have ranted blogged about this previously here, here and here. Believe me, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

I will always love my family, I'm happy to help out when you need me, but please can you all just wake up and smell the coffee?

I've recently applied for a job at a well-known magazine as an intern. This would involve moving to London for an entire month. I am so up for the challenge. My family are already panicking.

So, I'm just wondering if anyone has successfully managed to train family members and got them to come around to their way of thinking?  If you've cracked this, please could you share your tips. If not, please feel free to share your own tales of woe. I can't wait to read them.

Until next time...

Copyright©2014 Izzie Anderton

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Friday, 27 June 2014

Advice To All The Teens Out There

Advice to all the teens out thereRight now I'm guessing that you can't wait to be all grown up and part of the adult world. And that's OK, but there's stuff you need to know before you get there:

1. Chances are there will never be another time in your life when you'll get so many great opportunities. Try everything (as long as it's legal) and if you don't like it, move on and try something else instead.

2. Hate school? This one's tricky. It's a legal requirement and you have to go. I suggest that you look at school from a completely different perspective. I'm guessing that you have dreams for the type of career you want as an adult? Well, think of school as a springboard for launching you into that perfect job and equipping yourself with everything you need to get there. Do the best you can: no one can ask for more.

3. It's OK to make mistakes. You're learning how to be an adult and won't always get things right. What's more important is that you learn from them and think about what you could have done differently. Accept the consequences of your actions, apologise if necessary and move on.

4. Hormones: chances are there are lots of these zapping around inside of you right now. They might turn you into someone you don't recognise and you might not like the person you've become. It gets better I promise and one day you'll look back on your teen years and smile.

5. Have a problem? Don't be afraid to ask for help. This is not a sign of weakness, as it takes courage to admit there's something you can't cope with. Hopefully, you'll get all the support you need. If not, keep going until you find someone who can help you.

6. All of the adults in your life were once teens themselves. And although it's hard to believe, they are not all out to get you. Instead, they wish only for you to become the best you can be and will do everything in their power to help you. If you have parents who say things like:
  • "Have you done your homework?"
  • "We love you no matter what," and,
  • "What's wrong?" You are very lucky indeed.
7. Be yourself: why would you want to be anyone else exactly? You're unique and have valid opinions, (OK so the adults in your life might not share them, but they are yours nonetheless). Cherish your individuality.

8. Peer pressure: a true friend (or a boyfriend, or girlfriend for that matter) won't pressure you into doing anything you don't want to. If you don't want to do something, say "No," and walk away. It's not easy, but do it anyway and respect your decision.

9. Know what makes you happy: it's OK to feel overwhelmed sometimes by everything that's going on in your life. It's not easy being a teenager. Try listening to music, read a magazine, chat to a friend, or whatever. If you find that you're feeling overwhelmed most of the time, this is a problem, read number 5 again.

10. You're a long time grown-up with all the responsibilities that it brings and while parenting seems like the most awesome job on the planet, the hours are long, there's no time off for good behaviour and sometimes it's just hard to juggle all of the stuff that's required each and every day. Enjoy being a teen while you still can. There's all the time in the world to pretend you're a grown-up. Most of the time we're completely clueless too.

Until next time...

Copyright©2014 Izzie Anderton
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Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Grandkittens Maybe?

I was having a conversation with my mum the other day. She asked if I ever thought my daughters would have children of their own. My answer was simply, "I have no idea."

Over the years I've often wondered how life will work out. Do I imagine that I'll ever be a grandma? Here are my thoughts:

I think Sophia imagines adult life with cats and maybe a dog, instead of children. I will embrace being a grandma to three (maybe more) grandkittens and a grandpuppy wholeheartedly. They can celebrate birthdays and Christmas and I will spoil them rotten. Although I have always imagined my youngest daughter with a son: a mini bundle of feisty, adventurous mischief, just like his mum. I understand why she feels that having a family will cramp her lifestyle, rowing is how she spends most of her time when she isn't studying and she can't imagine ever wanting anything else. Maybe someday she will change her mind. And whatever her decision, it's fine by me.

Olivia meanwhile, loves being at university and has realised that leaving after another couple of years means she will be a part of the adult world and everything it has to offer: good or bad. She has no desire to be a mum either, although I have always imagined her with a daughter. A miniature version of herself: happy in her own company, a passion for books and a wicked sense of humour. Maybe one day my eldest daughter will change her mind too. I will respect her decision, whatever that might be.

Over the years, I have joked that grandma will look after her granddaughter, grandson, the cats and dog, for an entire day each week, so that my daughters can work, rest, row, read books, or whatever. And while the grandkids might turn up looking normal - grandma has plans to buy a stash of fancy dress costumes so they can play to their hearts' content. I also plan to spoil the kittens and the dog. Whether or not, this ever happens in real life is up to my daughters.

Who knows what the future holds? I'm not sure that at nineteen, I ever imagined having a family either. Although being a mum is fabulous, the decision about whether or not, to become one, isn't easy. If I had my time over and had to make the decision all over again, I'm certain that I wouldn't change a thing.

How do you imagine life will work out for your kids?

Until next time...

Copyright©2014 Izzie Anderton
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Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Completely Clueless

If I'm not around much for the next week, I will blame this entirely on having both daughters home at the same time. I am clueless as to how this will unravel, as the situation at home is currently very complicated indeed and I have no idea what is happening from one day to the next.

Sophia arrived home last Wednesday along with only half of her kitchen stuff, twelve lovely loads of washing and a cash box minus its keys. Naturally, she has no idea what's inside. And if anyone knows how to break into a cash box, please get in touch.

She threatened to unpack all of her belongings in the lounge. My response to this was to snarl and fling the lot in the garage. Her next question was simply, "Mum, how fast can we you do the washing? I might be leaving in three days." I may have snarled again. She's on standby to go and work in the US for the summer and could go any day now. Her work visa is currently waiting in some random town forty miles from home and we need to collect this urgently. At time of writing, my car is still in the body repair shop and it looks as though I'll be calling in another favour from some unsuspecting friend/ family member who foolishly offered to help in a crisis, as I was too much of a wimp to take a hire car. I am going to be repaying these favours until sometime mid-2015.

Olivia returned the following day by coach. Sadly, she's not finished at uni yet, but wanted to come home to see her sister before she heads off across the pond. After announcing her return, she informed me that the coach wouldn't stop at its usual station. Asking her to check and get back to me, I heard nothing for the next couple of days. As I don't have my car, it was Mr A who was going to collect her and, as we were heading to bed on Wednesday night, he asked, "What time is Olivia arriving?" I may have sworn at the vague recollection that she was supposed to call me with new information and called her. "Where are you getting dropped off tomorrow?"
"Oh yeah, sorry. I meant to call you." She relayed some random address that we've never heard off and I tried to track this down. After ten minutes of searching I'd come up with nothing and called her back. There was no reply. I left a message. The following morning there was a reply on the answerphone, "Please ignore everything I said yesterday and pick me up from the usual place."

Life at home with the pair of them will be infuriating. There will be gentle and less subtle hints that they could help out more and chances are, this will fall on deaf ears. After a task has been ignored for umpteen hours it's always me that caves and completes it. Their return comes as a shock to me and their long-suffering father. We forget that sharing a house with teens is a bit like running a hotel without as much as a day off to recover before Monday rolls around again.

I've noticed already that time spent hiding in the garden has increased exponentially since our daughters return. All of the shrubs have been pruned and heck, I even considered mowing the lawn the other day. Fortunately I came to my senses, as I'm seriously allergic to grass and the consequences of completing this task may have involved a trip to A&E for a nebuliser. I can often be spotted nursing a mug of wine after dinner (the kids think it's coffee), while Mr A knocks back a beer (or two). There, we put the world to rights, before braving the house and the latest updates from our daughters.

Sometimes it feels as though I'm living in an episode of Soap. Is anyone old enough to remember that I wonder? If you're not, here's a bit of background, Soap was an American sitcom that originally aired from 1977 to 1981 on ABC. It was a parody of daytime soaps, featured the ongoing saga of two sisters and had the weirdest storylines imaginable. For its time, it was considered quite controversial. I may have had a slight infatuation with Jimmy Baio and never missed an episode.

At the start of each episode, the announcer said, "Confused? You won't be, after this week's episode of...Soap." I have started to get up every morning and think only, "Confused? You might not be, after another day spent in the company of...teenagers."

At the end of each episode, he announced, "These questions - and many others - will be answered in the next episode of - Soap." The irony was that next week you were even more confused than the week before. And instead of questions being answered, the plot became even thicker and you were still completely clueless. On heading to bed, I find myself thinking, "These questions - and many others - might be answered tomorrow, but then again, they probably won't be."

Sadly, Soap isn't available on Netflix and I so had a craving to watch every single episode.

If you don't see much of me in the next few weeks, I have been kidnapped by the twins. Just because they're older, doesn't mean that any of it gets easier.

Until next time...

Copyright©2014 Izzie Anderton
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