A lifestyle blog from a forty-something mum

Showing posts with label University. Show all posts
Showing posts with label University. Show all posts

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Two Graduations, 8 days and 1000 Miles

1000 miles, 8 days, 2 graduations, twins, happy mumIf there was one thing I hadn't anticipated with twin daughters at universities 375 miles apart, it was the possibility that they might both graduate during the same week. This should have been no surprise, since they started university on the same day back in September 2013 and have been challenging their parents with problem solving conundrums ever since.

We had known Olivia's graduation date for some time, but Sophia's uni were more elusive and refused to divulge dates until April. The thought of not being able to attend both ceremonies made me want to curl up and have a good cry. I compared it to having to choose your favourite child. In the end, it was Mr A who sat me down and suggested that I go to Olivia's, and he would go to Sophia's.

I was so happy when we finally received the news that we could all attend both ceremonies. I hastily started scribbling plans for our hectic week in September... booking hotel rooms and emptying our diaries.

If all goes to plan in September this will happen...

On either the 2nd or 3rd September, (she can't remember which day - bless!) we'll drive to Heathrow to pick up Sophia after her summer working in the US. This involves a round trip of 250 miles.

On the 5th September, we'll drive 250 miles south with Olivia and a possibly still jet lagged, Sophia and stay in a hotel for 2 nights. Olivia's graduation is on the 6th at 5:30pm. We are probably going to celebrate the night before however, as we're on the move again the following day.

We check out of the hotel after an early breakfast and drive the 250 miles home. Maybe there will be time for lunch before we leave (again), travelling 125 miles east to stay at a different hotel for 2 or possibly, 3 nights.

Sophia's graduation is at 10:30am on the 8th September. We'll attempt to party for the rest of the day and if this doesn't happen (because we're asleep), there's always the 9th. 

I've worked out that in the space of 8 days, 3 of us will have travelled 1000 miles. The 4th member of the family, Sophia, will have travelled 6000 miles if you include her flight.

To add to the mayhem, Mr A and my mother celebrate birthdays on the 9th September. My mother turns 70 this year and dearly wishes to attend both graduations. Who knows if we'll get enough tickets? Fingers crossed.

One thing's for sure though... I will be one incredibly proud mum and couldn't be happier that I can attend both daughters' graduations.

This wasn't anything I contemplated back in the day when we arrived home from hospital with our daughters, placed the two of them on the sofa in their car seats and wondered what we were supposed to do next?

Olivia and Sophia Anderton, twin babies

Almost twenty-two years on I'm still looking for answers.
Copyright ©2016 Izzie Anderton

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Saturday, 4 June 2016

The Degree Show

Illustration Degree ShowI was going to write a Week That Was post today, but as this week has been all about my youngest daughter and getting to see her degree show, I had a change of heart.

My daughter has loved to draw ever since she mastered the art of holding a crayon. It came as no surprise when she announced her choice of degree and we encouraged her to follow her passion.

After three years studying illustration she moves out of digs tomorrow and back home until Friday, when she leaves to work in the US for three months. That's my youngest, creating chaos before moving quickly onto the next phase of her life. She's already thinking about options for when she arrives home again in September and doesn't plan on standing still for too long.

You know that sensation as a mum when you have to bite your lip or swallow hard to stop yourself having an emotional meltdown, well that was me earlier in the week. But this post is not about me, this post is dedicated to my youngest and her incredible artwork.
It was no surprise that Sophia's primary final project focused on all things Japanese. This has been a strong influence since childhood.

These pieces are dedicated to four Japanese cities, their landmarks and culture...

Illustration Degree Show

The attention to detail was incredible. She also designed her own origami paper and made cranes for visitors to take away.

This, however was my favourite piece of all, dedicated to the city of Kobe.

Illustration Degree Show

Closely followed by this...

Illustration Degree Show

She also completed a project on War Horse by Michael Morpurgo...

Illustration Degree Show

Illustration Degree Show

Huge congratulations to my gorgeous girl. Go and enjoy your amazing summer in the US. Your mum is so very proud of you and all your hard work. I can't wait to see what happens next for you x

Copyright ©2016 Izzie Anderton
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Tuesday, 10 May 2016

The Week That Was... 9th May 2016

Daisies, Blue SkyAfter another busy week, we were treated to some rare, but welcome warm weather at the weekend. I'm hoping that this is just the start of a fabulous summer ahead. It was lovely to see so many people out basking in the sunshine and taking the opportunity to explore the great British countryside. The evenings were heavy with the scent of last-minute barbecues and here, the first Pimms of the season was enjoyed in the garden. Today, the rain has returned with a vengeance. Here's hoping it won't be too long until the clouds disappear and we can get on with making the most of summer.

This was my week...

Sudeley Castle
As the weather was glorious, we chose to ignore the mountain of monotonous tasks requiring our attention last weekend and ventured out to visit Sudeley Castle in the Cotswolds instead.

Sudeley Castle, the Cotswolds

The castle was built in the 15th century, possibly on the site of a 12th century castle and is surrounded by ten beautifully laid-out gardens. The chapel, St Mary's, is the burial place of Queen Katherine Parr, sixth wife of King Henry VIII.

Queen Katherine Parr, Tomb, St Mary's, Sudeley

It's a fascinating place to visit and comes highly recommended.

The Promise of Happiness by Justin Cartwright. This was a gift from my daughter and looks promising so far. It's perceptive and features lots of amusing observations about a family in crisis. I can't wait to see how it ends.

Both daughters are working hard on dissertations and final pieces of work for university. Parcels filled with treats were dispatched recently - containing sweets from their favourite sweet shop in town, sachets of hot chocolate for windswept beach walks and cold evenings spent camping at a rowing event. Plus cookies and breakfast biscuity things perfect for pulling all-nighters in the library. Final letters from home featuring nonsensical news and motivational words were posted yesterday.

I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of my daughters.

How did the last 3 years at university go so quickly I wonder?

Holiday 2016
And finally, the holiday is booked... after much trawling through the internet last weekend in search of the perfect vacation for 3, (yes, you did read that correctly). Sophia's going to work for Camp America again this summer, so we offered to take Olivia along. It's been a while since we've taken a holiday with either daughter, but I'm looking forward to spending time with my eldest. We settled on a week in Sorrento at a hotel that's right in the centre of town.

Today, it's 63 days and counting. Not that I'm keeping tabs.

The Week Ahead...
I'm looking forward to Music Night on Friday and Eurovision on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. For Eurovision 2016, I'm hoping for lots of cheesy, eccentric entries and will probably be tweeting live throughout. I hope to see a few of you on Twitter on Saturday night. You know the rule about not tweeting after wine? Well this goes out of the window for Eurovision as I suspect that everyone's having a party on there.

It's amused me that the US will get to see Eurovision broadcast live for the first time this year. I can't wait to see what they make of it.

Well that's about it for this week. Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead whatever you're up to.

Copyright ©2016 Izzie Anderton
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Monday, 11 April 2016

I haven't lost all my marbles, but there's definitely a hole in the bag

I haven't lost all my marbles, but there's definitely a hole in the bagThis week has seen one daughter, closely followed by the other leave for their final term at university. Today the house is quiet, the beds and the fridge are empty and I'm alternately missing the mayhem and making the most of peace and solitude. It will take several days to adjust, but the past week has been an interesting one and I have loved having both daughters home as it adds a certain crazy dynamic to life.

This was my week...
Music Night
On Friday we attended another fabulous music event at a local venue. This time Olivia tagged along and it transpires that she can drink her mother under the table. I guess that's what happens when you've been at uni for two and a half years and had lots of practice. I, on the other hand am losing the ability to drink even two glasses without feeling completely sozzled. Note to self: drink less.

Cooking for four, three, two
Why does it take me an age to work out how much food to prepare for dinner when the girls have gone exactly? The quote, 'I haven't lost all my marbles, but there's definitely a hole in the bag,' springs to mind. Last night I set the table for 4 and only 2 of us were home, although there may have been a sneaky addition to the table. See below...

The only baby...
We jest that the cat is the third child we never quite got around to. We adopted Kitty from a rescue centre when our daughters were just 6 and she has been an adored member of the family ever since. I'm often heard to utter the phrase, 'Just because you're a cat doesn't mean I love you any less.' Sadly, she is besotted with my husband and only humours me with her presence when he's not at home :o(

A fellow blogger posted a photo of her cat eating breakfast at the table last week. Occasionally our cat invites herself to join us and Mr A and myself (secretly) find this rather amusing - neither of us has the heart to make her get down. I joke that she's better company than some of the people we invite over for dinner.

Cat, eating, table

A proof copy of a book that's yet to be released! The Course of Love by Alain de Botton - Review to follow very soon (I hope).

Happiness is 49 flavours
When I was little I remember owning a pencil case featuring Snoopy holding a multicoloured ice cream cone and the quote, 'Happiness is 49 flavours.' Back in the 80s - I was dumbfounded that there didn't appear to be anywhere near that number of varieties available in the small provincial town where I grew up. As an adult, I'm still rather partial to ice cream and only too happy to test out a new flavour. Last week while out on a walk with my daughter we spied Ferrero Rocher ice cream and in the interests of research, we had to try it out. I'm happy to report that it was rather delicious. Nothing however, has beaten the dizzy heights of 2012's Pimms & Strawberry ice cream. If you happened to spot a blogger and her daughter dodging rain showers while attempting to devour ice cream cones in Shropshire last week, it was probably us.

More happy news...
There was a small whoop of joy in the Anderton house on Tuesday. Daughter, Sophia rang to tell us the date of her graduation and it transpires that yes, we will be able to attend both daughters' ceremonies in September. It won't be easy as they're 375 miles apart - but it is going to happen.

I have no idea who nominated my blog for Best Writer category in The Mad Blog Awards, but thank you so much. I wasn't even displaying a badge and was very surprised to receive a tweet on Friday.

Favourite Blog Post
I haven't featured a favourite blog post for a while, but this was an incredible read from Tattoed Mummy this week: Dads are rubbish at housework and parenting. The title (which is not what it seems) resonated well with my own experience of going back to work when my daughters were small and leaving my husband in charge. Pop over for a read if you haven't already. 

That's about it for this week. Here's to another awesome week whatever you're up to...

Copyright ©2016 Izzie Anderton

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Monday, 4 April 2016

The one where a daughter finally sorts out her bedroom...

Daughter, Bedroom, Sorting out, DeclutteringAs regular readers will know, I'm always decluttering our home in the hope that some day we'll move to a house overlooking the sea and take only the things that are useful and/ or beautiful with us. In the meantime, living in a house that's slowly achieving minimalist status is a bonus. And while I'm pretty good at offloading anything that is surplus to requirements or takes up too much space - my daughters are possibly the polar opposite.

I have raised the subject of sorting out the contents of bedrooms many times; only to receive one of those withering looks from my offspring that roughly translates into...

'I hear you loud and clear - but didn't like what you said - so I'm going to ignore you.'

I was therefore surprised by the unfurling chaos in Sophia's room on Saturday evening and realising that she was actually going through her belongings came as a complete shock. Her collection of illustration books, art paraphernalia, coursework plus assorted tat she's accumulated while at uni has no space to go in a few week's time when she arrives home for good. This may have inspired her call to action. She's also off to the US for the summer and possibly leaving again just as soon as summer camp is over to teach abroad after that.

Sophia worked diligently in her bedroom for several hours. Methodically sifting through the contents of wardrobes, drawers and cupboards. I was astounded by the heap of belongings amassed on the landing and sad that so many treasured possessions from childhood hadn't made the transition into her adult life.

Gone are the cute kitten playing cards bought in Greece, the once treasured hair accessories and the Rubik's cube she never quite mastered. The prom tiara, secret diary and an assortment of gifts from friends and family that she neither wanted or used. My youngest daughter has grown up and there is no room in her life for any of the above. Instead, there is more emphasis on wanderlust than a room filled with stuff. 

Yesterday we made the long journey to deliver our youngest to university for the very last time. As we hugged before making the long drive home without her, I felt a familiar pang of something that's hard to define. I get to repeat the experience with my eldest twin daughter next week and know that I'll feel out of kilter in the coming days with only the cat and Mr A for company.

This morning as I bagged donations for the charity shop, I've gone from feeling sad to ever so slightly philosophical as I think about what's next for my twin girls and wonder where life will take them.

Copyright ©2016 Izzie Anderton

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Friday, 25 March 2016

Home for Easter

Empty nest, parenting, EasterDaughter Olivia is on her way home as I write this post. Sophia is already here after we collected her from uni last weekend. Last Sunday was a very long day and this meant that we have been tired for most of the week. Not that we shared that with our daughter obviously. To our kids, we'll always be mum & dad and therefore capable of anything.

I anticipate chaos during the week ahead as we adapt to living together as a family of four all over again. Sophia will work on final pieces for her degree show in May; Olivia, on her dissertation. There will be mess and mayhem, laughter and tantrums as I try (and fail) to keep everything afloat.

I read a fabulous post from Suzanne over at Chickenruby earlier in the week. What Happens After Your Kids Leave Home? summed up rather beautifully what it's like to live without your children once they're all grown. It resonated well with thoughts about my own daughters.

It's taken a while to settle down, but since my daughters left home and went to university we've got used to sharing our home with a cat who thinks she's in charge. I juggle 2 part-time jobs. Keep the house going. Find time to read. Enjoy long soaks in the bath. Go out for leisurely breakfasts with my husband. Attend local music nights. Spend time with friends. And secretly enjoy my own company more than I ever thought possible.

Having to factor in the needs of four all over again comes as a shock. I sometimes wonder if I'm becoming selfish in my old age - but it's rather lovely to be able to do all those things I haven't had time for since becoming a mum. I love my daughters more than anything, but accept that they need to live their lives and enjoy their own space. When they left for university in 2013 I couldn't imagine life without them, but now, I love that my daughters are capable of being independent - it kind of validates your role as a parent doesn't it?

For now, I'm mum all over again. Cakes are baked, the freezer filled, cupboards stocked and Easter Eggs hidden. I anticipate the car never being on the drive, the house unravelling and not being able to find what ever I'm looking for. The laundry basket will overflow, plans change at the last minute and I'll be up to date with the latest chart music.

When they leave, I will miss their company and the laughter that fills the house when they are here. 

As both daughters finish university in June, I have to get used to sharing the house all over again. Sophia's off to the US for 3 months and plans on completing a TEFL course and heading off again after that. Olivia's home for the summer at least. Who knows what will happen next? She returns to uni early for work experience at a newspaper and is busy applying for jobs.

Whatever happens I'm exceptionally proud of my girls and all that they have achieved. But just like Mummy Pig in The Three Little Pigs, I know that it's time for my daughters to make their way in the world and believe that this is the ultimate goal any parent could possibly hope for.

Copyright ©2016 Izzie Anderton

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Friday, 21 August 2015

You Don't Know If You Don't Try

Featured on the blog today is a guest post from daughter, Olivia. She starts her  third and final year at university in September, where she's studying English Literature and Creative Writing. Here, Olivia reflects on the opportunities she's had to explore the world of media and how much she's enjoyed the experience. 

Throughout life I have considered myself to be a very lucky person.

I was fifteen and sat in a maths class, but unable to think about numbers or solve problems. I kept watching the clock. In exactly fifteen minutes I would be in a small office having an interview with a woman I had never met, talking about myself and why she should hire me for a two week placement at a media company.

I was terrified.

But there was another feeling, like the feeling you get waiting in line for a theme park ride. That feeling was excitement.

If I am truly excited about something it doesn't matter how scared I feel, or how worried I am that I will fail. Hope for something great will always outweigh feelings of fear or doubt.

After a firm handshake I left the small office with my placement confirmed. Those two weeks were to be one of the best and happiest experiences of my school years. 

Now that I am at university, opportunities are thrown at me from all directions. You could almost drown in them. I always feel guilty for letting something pass me by. And the age-old question, 'What if?' pops into my head on a regular basis.

But the truth is, I like to trust my instinct. If I'm not excited by an opportunity, no matter how amazing it is, no matter how many doors it could open - I won't take it on.

Last winter, while sat tearing my hair out over an essay I received an email. My university were looking for writers to report on a local book festival. Intrigued, I looked at the online program for the two-day event. I could not believe my eyes: one of my favourite children's authors would be there. I instantly replied to the email and filled it with lots of exclamation marks and capital letters to show just how excited I was.

A week later I had a lovely conversation with the author over the phone.

On a cloudy Sunday morning, me and my fellow journalists bundled out of a taxi after a ninety minute journey and walked around the festival site. Today I would finally get to meet the author in person. At the book signing I felt a little out of place as everyone else was either a child or parent. I kept looking at my watch as I had to write a 300 word report by 4pm. It was now after 3pm. But this was something I had to do. When I got to the front of the line I was pleased to find the author every bit as lovely as I'd hoped she would be, and she later sent me an email wishing me luck for the future. I hope that one day my books will be displayed on the same shelf as hers.

This summer I applied for an internship at a top publishing house in London. Although my latest venture wasn't successful, I feel optimistic for the future and plan to apply again next year.

Excitement is the secret ingredient to achieving the impossible. Who knows where life will take you?

Copyright©2015 Izzie and Olivia Anderton

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Friday, 10 July 2015

A Cautionary Tale for the Uninitiated - Part Two

Earlier this week I blogged about moving our daughter and a friend out of student digs and into our holiday apartment for the week. You can read this here if you missed it.

Part two picks up exactly where I left off...

Unable to locate C after lunch, I ask Olivia about food preferences, 'Oh, it's OK,' she says, 'C eats everything.' I hastily scribble a list and leave for the supermarket, plotting a Moroccan mezze themed dinner, followed by strawberries and cream.

After serving dinner, it turns out that C isn't fussed on Moroccan.

And I've since discovered that C eats everything apart from... cereal, apple pie, yogurt, bananas, lemon meringue, Moroccan (obviously) and anything that's spicy. I have no problem with any of it, I only wish she'd enlighten me when I ask as I don't want the poor girl to starve.

On Tuesday, as their former landlady requests they return to finish tidying up the house, Mr A and myself let out a silent whoop of joy and escape for the entire day. By the time we arrive home, the girls are dozing after a 'hectic' day and we've run out of milk, biscuits and orange juice.

We also discover that the Pimms has been drained, a bag of chocolates with two choccies left and a pretzel packet discarded on the coffee table - sans pretzels.
Now I hadn't seen a single episode of  The Big Bang Theory before last week and to be fair, under normal circumstances I'd have found it mildly amusing. After the umpteenth box set and multiple hints that other television programs were available however, my humour was starting to wane. 'Isn't Celebrity MasterChef on tonight?' I said hopefully on Thursday evening. 'No, I don't think so,' said my daughter. It was just as well we had company. My hormones had created a mix of murderous thoughts and the tide was in, so there was no escape to the beach.

Instead, I open a bottle of wine, down a single glass and return for a second, only to discover that the girls have polished it off. There is no more wine. I snarl (inwardly) and disappear into the bedroom with a book.

We'd hoped that the girls would want to sample the nightlife and venture out alone some of the time. Not so. As luck would have it, the days are so long at this time of year that Mr A and myself peek out of the window late evening and escape to the beach if the tide is out, or make the short walk into town in search of a bar and solitude. This backfires as C and Olivia can get ready like lightning whenever they feel like it and insist on keeping us company. And though we enjoyed their company, the restaurant and bar bills are greeted with gasps and warrant frequent use of the credit card.

After requesting that Olivia email her new landlord as I was hyperventilating at the thought of moving the pair of them out of our accommodation and into new digs before 10 am on Saturday, I am treated to one of those looks that says, 'Yes, I acknowledge what you've said, but as I don't want to do it, I'm going to ignore you.' Naturally it's me that caves and trawls through the ocean of emails to locate the landlord's details. I fire off a quick message and am delighted with a speedy response. The girls' stuff is dropped off late on Friday afternoon and I'd have dished out another hug, but he didn't look the type to have appreciated it and his wife was up to her eyes with the cleaning.
On Saturday morning after moving out of the apartment and delivering the girls to their new home, we sneak into the local gin palace like a couple of fugitives. We briefly consider downing one of the 57 varieties available before coming to our senses and the reality of the 250 mile schlep all the way home. We settle for pots of tea and treacle tart and promise that next time around we're going to try quite a few.

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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Sunday, 5 July 2015

A Cautionary Tale for the Uninitiated Parent - Part One

When both daughters left for university, I imagined that our parenting conundrums would be over. Surely our daughters would discover new found wisdom and fathom out the minutiae of life in the real world with only minimal input from their parents once they'd left home?

With our role as full-time parents drawing to a close, we filed our memories under, 'Nice while it lasted, but now they're all grown, I guess it's time for us to move on.'

I continued to miss my daughters more than they'll ever know, and often found myself in their bedrooms contemplating what it means to be a mum with young adults for children.

The honeymoon period was delightful, but after only several weeks, one daughter required assistance. Naturally, we dropped everything to help her.

Although our services are called upon less frequently, an entirely different set of skills is required. This often results in advanced problem solving, brain ache and the need for several bottles of wine that you tell yourself are entirely medicinal.


We are just back from moving beloved daughter no. 1 into new digs. As there was an entire week before moving out of her old house and into the new, we booked an apartment overlooking the sea and thought we'd enjoy a holiday at the same time.

It started with an innocent enough, 'Mum, C has nowhere to stay.' We'd met C on several occasions during previous trips to see our daughter and she is truly lovely. And so, our automatic response was to say, 'Yes,' and help out, obviously. Someday it might be your daughter who's in need of assistance; you'd like to think that someone would come to her aid.

On day one, filled with enthusiasm, we were ready for the off by 5:30am. After a fabulous journey with minimal traffic, we're on the beach by 10am, making the most of a hearty breakfast in the beach cafe and feeling very smug indeed.

We arrive at our daughter's accommodation and discover mounds of belongings heaped in the lounge, hall, kitchen and both bedrooms. Nothing is packed. And somehow, the realisation that these mounds have to be moved today, into our gorgeous apartment hits like a not-so-subtle brick.

After checking in and emptying the car of our tiny suitcases, we make a further three journeys to round up their errant stuff and move in.

In doing so, we hog the lift for a very long time and intermittently, a load arrives at level two along with a complete stranger who is too polite to do anything but help and reminisce about similar experiences with their own offspring. I am grateful for their patience and the realisation that there are people who are benevolent and generous with their words and time.

After lugging the stuff down the corridor, the apartment looks as though it's been ransacked. I vow to make it look gorgeous again just as soon as I can summon the energy.

Saturday's dinner is a very delicious fish and chips overlooking the harbour, followed by falling asleep over a large glass of (medicinal) Pimms and the earliest night I've had in ages.

We're up early on Sunday morning and off to the beach in search of cowrie shells, shrimp and solitude. Is there anything more lovely than time at the beach I wonder?

After a busy morning beachcombing, we head back. Only, we can't get into the apartment as we're locked out. Between the four of us, we have three pairs of shoes, an assortment of shells and sea glass, some loose change and no phone. Weighing up our options, we discover that none of the neighbours are in. Our daughter gets the giggles and we are both cross with her. Only we keep our thoughts to ourselves as we don't want C to think we are horrid.

There are images of calling a locksmith and having to gain permission from the owner and the rental company. Obviously, we'll have to foot the bill. To add further insult... we're all famished.

Out of the window I spy a car pull up and an unsuspecting neighbour returns to her apartment. I ask for a hug after she announces that she has a spare key and buy our saviour the biggest bunch of flowers I can find the very next day....

Part two is posted. You can read it here.

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton
Image credit: Pixabay
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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Moving House...

If I'm not around much during the next week, it's because my eldest daughter is moving house and we're making the 250 mile trip to help out.

We've rented an apartment overlooking the sea and my daughter and her friend will be joining us for the week, before moving into new accommodation for their final year at university.

Here's hoping that the weather will be kind and we'll arrive in time to enjoy breakfast at our favourite beach cafe, before calling on Olivia and C. Chances are, our daughter won't be awake, but I'm optimistic that she'll have packed and that her house will be ready for the next occupants.

This time last year we were doing exactly the same thing, but were able to stay for only three nights due to work commitments. It was manic, but we managed to cram an awful lot in and the weather was gorgeous.

If all goes to plan, there'll be more time off for good behaviour this time around and we hope to spend hours and hours at the beach...

Visit a garden or two...

And take in stunning scenes like this...


And this...

I'm also plotting the odd trip several trips to the pub and may have written an itinerary as I don't want to miss a thing this time around.

My daughter lives in a stunning part of the UK. Someday we hope to live there too...

What are your plans for the summer?

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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Thursday, 4 June 2015

Let the chaos commence...

We ring our youngest daughter as we leave the motorway to collect her from university at the end of her second year. Sophia has been conspicuous by her lack of communication all week and I say, 'Hi, we'll be there in an hour.' I am taken aback by her reply, 'Oh, I've just woken up, are you picking me up today?' She may have heard me say, 'Grrrrr,' among other things, before she starts to giggle and adds, 'Only kidding.'
Mr A and myself suspect that she was hard at work making the most of the peace before we descend and attempt to cram all of her treasured belongings stuff into the car. We'd guessed that she wouldn't have packed and our fears are confirmed as we arrive to tackle the chaos that is student accommodation.

The rest of the morning is spent packing and cleaning the house before locking up and heading into town for lunch. Sophia has hysterics over a small spider stuck to her jumper. I end up removing it and remind her that she's about to spend ten weeks in the Oregon wilderness this summer.

Mr A's top talent is sandwiching all of our beloved daughter's belongings into the car. I don't know how he does it - but somehow everything goes in, and the pillow thoughtfully stashed behind my back makes for a relaxed return journey. I am feeling ever so slightly exhausted after staying out until 1 am and getting up a little after five.

Sophia arrives home with twelve loads of washing and some of her kitchen stuff. Where does it all go I wonder? Is there a stash of pans and cutlery in a heap somewhere in every university city along with all the odd socks that would make pairs if only they found their way home again?

We're home in time for dinner and I'm comatose on the sofa by 9 pm. The washing is abandoned in the garage, the conservatory filled with uni kit and she's spirited the stuff she actually wants up to her room. She immediately requests that we extract the large suitcase from the loft as she needs to pack and leave again next week. After heading off to bed, I'm woken at 1 am by my daughter, 'Mum, you don't have a spare toothbrush do you?' Will there ever be a time when my kids don't wake me up?

I have spent the past week preparing for the onslaught of chaos. The freezer is filled with home-cooked meals, the house was tidy before Sophia arrived. And heck, I've even baked.

And, I have no idea how it happens, but somehow you forget the mayhem of life together as a family and get used to a simple existence with only a cat and husband for company. Although you miss hugs and the scent of your children - it appears that they cope rather admirably without you. The latter is sad, but comes with the realisation that your beloved offspring are preparing to fly the nest for good.  

Olivia arrived home on Tuesday. It's delightful to have both daughters home at the same time. And so, if I'm not around so much during the next week - it's because I'm making the most of our time together before they vanish all over again.

Wishing everyone a fabulous weekend - whatever you're up to x

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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Friday, 24 April 2015

After they've gone...

Leaving, home, empty nestAfter the girls left home and went to university I imagined that life would reinvent itself and I'd soon find a new niche after nineteen years of mayhem. I soon discovered that you'll always be mum and that this new phase of parenting involves sorting out issues from a distance. Just this week Olivia has asked me to proof-read several essays, while Sophia requested that I stay in for the entire day and wait for an urgent delivery - Grrr! It's as though they have staff - only we live so far away from one another.

As to when my daughters will make an appearance at home for the summer - I have no idea. All I know is that we're heading down south to move Olivia into new accommodation at the beginning of July. Who knows if and when we'll be called upon in the meantime?

Here's what happens when they've left...

1. You sell their extensive collection of Harry Potter Lego on eBay and immediately feel terrible for packing up their childhood and letting it go.

2. They arrive home again for the holidays with mounds of washing and the chaos starts all over again. It's a shock to the system as you appear to have forgotten how to share a home with your offspring.

3. You send occasional goodie bags and treats because life at uni (although brilliant) isn't as luxurious as it is at home.

4. They are in your thoughts every day even if you don't hear from them. They lead busy lives and it's good that they're learning to fend for themselves. You still miss them (a lot).

5.  Now that they're older they behave like grown-ups (most of the time). For some reason you find this mildly amusing. This doesn't amuse them in the slightest however, and it's best to keep this thought to yourself.

6. They arrive home and leave again without packing something that's essential. Think memory sticks, passports, house keys, underwear, coursework and books!

7. You're terrified by the prospect of your offspring returning home for good at the end of their course. I'm guessing this is normal? Perhaps someone could enlighten me?

8. The cat is perpetually confused. She just gets used to having her 'sisters' home and making the most of their company, only for them to leave again. You cannot explain these things to a cat.

9. You spend a lot of time thinking, 'What next?' and 'What was that all about then?' as you try to make sense of the mayhem that was family life.

10. By the time they head back to uni, you've sussed what it means to be mum all over again, but feel as though you could do with a holiday as you're completely exhausted.

Whatever you have planned for the summer here's hoping you're a lot more organised than me. Here's to making the most of everything whatever happens x

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton
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Saturday, 20 September 2014

10 Things I Love About the Empty Nest...

Life in an empty nestWell the girls have gone back to uni and the house is in chaos, (just the way they left it) but it's my chaos. And eventually everything will get cleaned, find a home, get donated, or flung in the bin.

I miss Olivia and Sophia a lot. I think about what they might be up to countless times during each and every day and fret that they're not looking after themselves, but there are some advantages to not sharing the house with my daughters...

1. For starters, Mr A and myself can do what the heck we want, whenever we feel like it! This often involves heading off for a long walk and ensuring that we return via the pub on the way home. What's not to love?!

2. My cute little car is always exactly where I left it and available for outings whenever the mood takes me. During the summer my car was mostly AWOL and always needed filling up with petrol.

3. There are chocolate bars in the cupboard that have been there for more than a day! And it's always a pleasant surprise to discover one, rather than an empty wrapper.

4. I can talk to the cat. And she is brilliant... loves hugs, doesn't answer back, or make too many demands (apart from tuna a couple of times per week). I don't know why we didn't have her first... just kidding!

5. My expensive shower gels and lotions are back in the bathroom. When both daughters were home, I discovered mostly empty bottles when I was daft enough to leave them lying around. Grrrrrrrr!!!

6. I can go to bed at 10pm without being told that I'm turning into a pensioner, and read as many pages of whatever I'm reading as I want without any interruptions whatsoever.

7. The size of our restaurant bill has halved! OK we might go out twice as much as we used to, but yay!

8.We get to plan our next holiday and as our daughters have been to Barcelona for a week during the summer, I'm not going to feel guilty about it! Who knows where we'll go next?

9. I have all the time in the world to write... without interruption... and that has to be my all time favourite pastime of all when the kids aren't home!

10. And last, but by no means least... private time with Mr A. All I'm going to say on the subject is this...
apart from checking into a hotel, how are you supposed to have sex with your other half when you share a house with 2 bat-eared teens?

Until next time...

Copyright©2014 Izzie Anderton

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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Letting Go and Moving On...

Beloved daughter Olivia moved into her new uni accommodation back in July and was a complete poppet for making her own way home (how she describes uni - sob!) last weekend, after spending the month with us. It was tough to see her leave with her suitcase and holdall and to know that apart from weekly Skype sessions, it's unlikely we'll get to see her again before Christmas. The previous night she'd snuggled up next to me on the sofa, I made the most of hugging her and hoped that the memory would last a very long time.

Our other daughter, Sophia meanwhile, moved out of halls in June, brought all of her belongings back home and hence needed to move back to uni on Monday.

Sophia might be only 125 miles from home but the journey can be a difficult one. We are at the mercy of the motorway network and this can be a complete nightmare. We set off at 7am on Monday morning resigned to the fact that the day would be a long one and armed only with Ibuprofen and the promise of lunch at Carluccios.

We hadn't reached the end of the road before realising that there was a bag left behind in the hall. After retrieving this, we head off once more. As predicted the traffic was hellish and we arrived feeling knackered and unprepared for the day of chaos that lay ahead.

Her new house is fairly lovely for student accommodation and by the time we've unloaded and made her room habitable, it was looking rather gorgeous. We realised that we'd left all of the coat hangers behind and needed to buy an extension cable, but apart from that, it looked pretty good. We had no idea what else has been left behind? All of this will unfurl eventually and I'll get to send lots of stuff on in the post. Sophia is excited to be home and is looking forward to living in a house, rather than halls.

After shopping to replace some of the missing items, we headed off for lunch. Carluccios was a little bit of heaven after a busy morning and provided a final opportunity to spoil our daughter before she starts to fend for herself in the kitchen.

After lunch, we stopped off at the supermarket where Sophia flung lots of cheap student staples expensive stuff into the trolley with great enthusiasm as she knew that mum was going to pick up the tab!

Her cupboards and fridge were bulging by the time we'd unpacked all of the shopping and soon it was time for Mr A and myself to head home. I steal every opportunity to extract hugs from my daughter and whisper words of encouragement for the year ahead. I drive home feeling very sad indeed.

If the journey to uni on Monday morning was slow, the way home it was even worse. The M6 was closed and we had to take a detour that delayed us by more than 2 hours. We arrive home eventually to be greeted by a stroppy cat who has been home alone for more than 14 hours and we are too tired for anything but sleep.

This summer has been a hectic one with both daughters in our 3-bed detached. There were days when I couldn't hear myself think and I craved only peace and quiet and solitude. But now that they're gone, the house is too empty and I wish that I'd gone with the flow and made more of the mayhem. I find myself talking to the cat and contemplating finding a full-time job to fill the gap.

I hope that year 2 at uni is even more fabulous than the first. I hope that my daughters continue to mature into incredible young women and cherish every minute of the freedom that is theirs for the taking. There will probably never be another time in their lives when they are as free as they are now. They are happily settled at uni, lucky enough to be studying subjects they are passionate about and to share a house with exceptionally good friends.

It's a pleasure to see my daughters make their way in the world. At times it's also hard to acknowledge that I need to let go, but my daughters are growing up and it's what I must do....

Until next time...

Copyright©2014 Izzie Anderton

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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

10 Great Gifts for Freshers...

Lucky enough to know a teen heading off to university in the next couple of weeks? Pondering over what to get them as a going away present? Look no further, here are ten great suggestions...

1. Fancy dress costumes - any excuse for dressing up and Freshers are there with bells on. My daughter was lucky enough to receive a set of these as a going away present last year and they went down a storm.

Emergency Outfits - Spinning Hat

2. Travel mug - the perfect gift for the student who loves a lie-in. When Olivia announced that she'd never managed to get up in time to have a hot drink before any lecture, this is what she found in her stocking last Christmas...

Travel Mug - Thermos

3. A waterproof bag -  perfect for carrying books, folders and everything else besides. It's amazing how many students turn up without one and as they walk almost everywhere, everything gets wet!

Tote bag - Converse
Messenger bag - Superdry

4. Throw - perfect for when they're feeling homesick and need a bit of TLC.

Starlight Sherpa Throw

    5. Bag of treats - they're a long way from home and chances are they won't be splashing a lot of cash on anything luxurious in the food department. Think chocolate, cookies and popcorn...

    Gift Bag - Whisk Hampers

    6. Converse - universally popular, casual and comfy. Perfect for all that walking!

    Converse All Star Low Maroon Canvas

    7. Gift vouchers for their favourite store...

    TK Maxx gift voucher
    or, coffee shop...

    Caffe Nero gift voucher

    8. A photo album filled with memories from home...

    Geometric Triangle Photo Album - Paperchase

    9. Lights to cheer up drab dorm rooms...

    Tetris Light - Paladone
    Yellow Sunflower Fairy Lights - Sleepyheads

    10. And last, but by no means least, the perfect gift for the fresher who can't get out of bed in the morning (or afternoon)...

    Lexon Cube Sensor Alarm Clock

    Until next time...

    Copyright©2014 Izzie Anderton 
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    Wednesday, 2 July 2014

    Moving Out

    For the past four days we have been staying in Olivia's home town. Moving her out of halls of residence and staying in a cottage until the lease started on her new house. I have been without internet the whole time and this has been weird. Strangely liberating and as though I was living in a time where life stood still.

    On Saturday, we were up at 3am, out of the house by 3:45 and had arrived at the uni by 8am (the motorway was virtually empty as no one else was daft enough to be up at this hour). As Sophia's at home, we decide to leave the cat in charge and hope that our youngest daughter will remember to feed her. Sophia is at a regatta for most of the weekend and decided not to join in with the mayhem of our trip 250 miles away from home.

    Meanwhile, at the uni, we have to be out of halls before 10am and Olivia's organised in her own inimitable fashion. We decide to tackle the kitchen first and for those of you who are unfamiliar with the student kitchen, it has a scent all of its own. Kind of a cross between:
    • Wasn't this cleaned just six week's ago?
    • How many bin bags can we accumulate before someone caves and takes them out. And,
    • OMG, what died?
    Mr A and myself tackle the kitchen in five minute bursts, this is all we can take before fighting the urge to retch. Olivia has obviously become used to the smell and doesn't seem to notice. Fortunately her room isn't half so bad.

    Loading the car, it soon becomes apparent that while we can just about cram Olivia's belongings in, there is no room for our daughter. She catches the bus and we meet up in town. Mid-afternoon, we check into the cottage, unload all our daughter's worldly possessions and drive back into town to collect her.

    Olivia is sad to be leaving Fresher's year behind and moving off campus. She has loved everything that living in halls represents and moves into her second year with the realisation that life is about to change all over again. There are new housemates to get to know and life in a house in town will be very different from that on campus.

    Our cottage is heavenly after the crazy day we've had, situated in a peaceful valley with a stream. Mr A and myself are feeling every one of our forty-something years and are fast asleep by 9pm. Tomorrow's another day right? I am wondering only how the first year at university went so fast...

    Until next time...

    Copyright©2014 Izzie Anderton
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    Wednesday, 9 April 2014

    House Rules

    By the time you read this, Olivia will be back at university and there will be another tale to tell, about failing to leave the house on time, what she left behind and how we make the same mistakes over and over again.

    I thought I'd write about having both daughters back for the holidays, before we head down the motorway to take Olivia 'home.' Apparently 'home' is now university - sob!

    We collected Sophia from university on Mother's Day. This involved a round-trip of about 6 hours and we returned to discover that Olivia had made Aubergine Parmigiana for dinner. I was touched, especially as she usually makes student food and it's not the easiest of dishes to make. She had cleverly negotiated a back-up plan in case it all went horribly wrong. Dad was instructed to call, as we left Sophia's uni and if, at any time the meal went wrong, plan b was fish & chips from the chippy on the way home. I have to admit to being very impressed by her ingenuity.

    Sophia nodded off in the back of the car on the way home, I couldn't help but look at her and feel nostalgic - how adorable are our kids when they're asleep? Even as teens they look cute. Olivia's also been napping since she came back, I guess that too many late nights and studying hard catches up with them all eventually. She was curled up with her favourite cuddly toy and I like to think that he's good company when she's away.

    We had to bring Sophia's printer back with us, as it's been playing up since just after New Year and she had been too busy to investigate thoroughly. Mr A took a quick look and could only nod his head in agreement.

    Once at home, he investigated more thoroughly and asked if she'd stuck anything in there that could have caused a blockage. 'No,' she said, and this sounded sincere, but we couldn't work out why Olivia was giggling and made her escape. We know from experience that everything reveals itself when the kids have done something they shouldn't have.

    Mr A concluded that there was something wrapped around the paper feed, and ran off with my tweezers in an attempt to extract the evidence. He re-appeared, 15 minutes later with an assortment of random c**p that should never be found inside a printer, this was mostly comprised of foil and glue.

    Olivia was in fits of giggles, and apparently knew that her sister had put foil inside the printer, but didn't want to share that info with either of her parents. Was Sophia hoping that Dad would be too daft to notice? Or, was she thinking that it would have vanished all by itself without a shred of evidence? I am no closer to solving this particular mystery, but at least the printer is fixed.

    Over the past week, I was reminded of what it's like to share a house with my daughters:
    • The house resembles a disaster zone; I have given up trying to keep everything under control. 
    • I am trying to leave my daughters to it, but occasionally dish out a reminder that at home, they are not actually students, but family members with an equal responsibility for household chores. They agreed with everything I said, and went back to being themselves.
    • I have been told that I look like a muppet in a dress (I don't think this was a compliment).
    • The kitchen is open twenty-four-seven for meals and snacks.
    • The washing basket is overflowing - I have a theory they may have been stockpiling laundry for some time.
    • My new car has gone down a treat - I haven't seen it since they arrived home.
    • Mr A and myself have been heading up to bed early to escape the chaos, and have concluded that we're in need of a holiday
    The cat however, was thrilled that her sisters were both home and hasn't stopped meowing since they arrived.

    Copyright©2014 Izzie Anderton
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    Wednesday, 2 April 2014

    Five Things I Didn't Expect About University Life

    Today on the blog, a guest post from daughter, Olivia, all about things she's learnt since going to University.

    I have been away from home and studying at university for 2 terms now, and along the way I have been surprised as many of my assumptions, or rather clich├ęs of university life have been challenged.
    • The drinking culture is frowned upon, yet often flags up as a pressure point for teens as all around students are inundated with the freedom of being able to get drunk, in my case for the first time. However, when getting to know my flatmates, I was surprised to learn that some of them didn’t drink at all, preferring to spend their money on more rewarding ventures such as climbing and kayaking. It was the same on my course, as many of my friends didn’t feel the need, or want to get drunk on a crazy night out. This helped me to see another side to fellow teenagers which dare I say it, I was grateful for. As much as I love to go out on a crazy drunken night, I love that us teens are capable of more than just downing booze to have fun. There is a sober regime out there, even at Uni. 
    •  I was surprised at how lazy I became. There, I said it. There were many times in the winter semester when I didn’t even see the sun at the weekend, because I slept all day. This didn’t mean I didn’t get the work done, I hasten to add. This wasn’t necessarily because I’d been partying all night; I guess I was just exercising a new found freedom, as never before had I been allowed to sleep all day. I never thought I would be the lazy type, but I guess Uni can bring out what you least expect.
    • One of the main concerns I had about moving away, was leaving my sister. We had never been apart for more than a week, and I had a good three months stretching in front of me, when I would have to fight my battles alone. Yet somehow, as soon as I moved in, it was like none of that mattered. I guess I have the many friendly faces I see on a daily basis to thank for that, and of course Skype – thank you for being free (my phone bill would really be extortionate without you). 
    •  I don’t know whether I’m just a freak of nature, but never once did I feel homesick. For that I am extremely grateful, yet at the same time it does unnerve me sometimes how easily I slipped into the Uni lifestyle, as though I had been training for it all my life. However, on reflection I think fitting in had more to do with the fact that University is a place for everybody – as long as you have a passion for your subject, you are welcomed with open arms, and it shows as I have never felt so happy with where I am.
    • There is a unique buzz at Uni, with a real sense that people have interesting things to say and opinions that could change the world. It’s a rewarding experience talking to someone that you know you never would have met if you hadn’t left home. The sense of community is something that I will cherish throughout my undergraduate years.
    Calling all students, I would be very happy to hear from you and perhaps what surprised you most about moving away from home.

    Copyright©2014 Olivia Anderton
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    Saturday, 8 March 2014

    Bamboozled Again!

    Today's blog was going to be an intellectual one, but my mind was bamboozled by a couple of conversations I've had recently with my children and this is what I've written instead...

    I have been decidedly hands-off with both daughters since they left for uni. We Skype regularly and if there's a minor problem I'll say something like this, "Oh that's dreadful, what are you going to do?" I then eagerly await their answer, while trying not to giggle and offer advice if they need any.

    Occasionally however, my Mum-gene resets itself and I'll wake during the night filled with fear, thinking random thoughts about things they're bound to have forgotten. Eg. Olivia still hasn't sorted out accommodation for next year; why is this bugging me exactly? She isn't worried about it in the slightest and I've been banned from bringing it up in any conversation. I am positively freaking out about this and trying to think ahead. Does anyone have a tent she can borrow if it all goes horribly wrong?

    Next weekend, she will either heading home from university or going to France. During a recent chat with her, I mentioned that she might want to let me know as soon as possible. Unimpressed by my nosiness she asked simply, "Why?" And my answer, "Because I have your passport."

    I guess that I have only myself to blame for this. When the girls were growing up I had a demanding job, Mr A worked long hours and we were caught up in a whirlwind of extracurricular activities (ballet, Japanese and rowing) and domestic bliss chaos. There was very little time off for anything and it was always easier to get on with the chores, rather than listen to a never-ending list of excuses from my daughters. To be fair they've always done the dishes, while homework and the aforementioned activities seemed to consume the rest of their time.

    I have spoken to Sophia via Skype just this morning, she has eaten toast and peanuts for breakfast and had been out clubbing last night. To be fair she looked remarkably well. We had exactly the same conversation that we've been having for the past month now, about a reference that has gone AWOL in the uni postal system. I have learnt from experience that approximately half of all mail goes the same way and that anything of importance has to be sent via recorded delivery. Having wanted to stick my fingers in my ears and hum quietly to myself, I insisted that she actually call the person in question and ask politely if she could have another copy, which I'm only too happy to collect, upload, email and send via recorded delivery. Please can we not have the same conversation again next week!

    Having said all of the above, I am so looking forward to having the pair of them home for the holidays. I know that my brain will be even more scrambled than normal, as I'll be thinking for three and second-guessing all that is going on, but I miss being a Mum and love my daughters more than they'll ever know.

    Copyright©2014 Izzie Anderton

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    Thursday, 6 February 2014

    What's Wrong With Teen Rebellion?

    In the 1980s when I was a student at a mixed comprehensive, it was generally accepted that pupils were going to get into mischief. I like to think that the teachers saw this as character building and chose to turn a blind eye. In sixth form, this was the type of activity that we enjoyed regularly...
    • During P.E. lessons we'd jog as far as the local shop, buy sweets and disappear to a friend’s house – naturally we'd reappear at the end of the lesson looking completely shattered.
    • We had an impressive collection of road signs in the common room. As the teachers never set foot in there, our collection stayed until the end of the year.
    • On a school trip to the science museum, the entire group stayed for approximately thirty minutes before escaping to see what we considered to be far more interesting sights of London instead.
    • A friend once left his bag in the common room and not wanting to leave it overnight – he let himself in through an unlatched window to retrieve it.
    • On Friday lunchtimes, we'd occasionally sneak off to the pub - sometimes we'd even spot the teachers in there.

    Now that Health and Safety has gone completely bonkers, I can’t help thinking that our children are missing out on developing some valuable life skills. My daughters never once bunked off school and wouldn’t have dreamt of doing any of the above. Maybe that's why their behaviour was sometimes challenging at home? I like to think that they were taking the opportunity to rebel a little. Instead, my daughters were actively encouraged (by me) to be mischievous in ways that wouldn’t land them in trouble.

    Sadly, they both worked out from an early age that schools were merely exam factories and the opportunity to think for themselves was actively discouraged. Olivia couldn’t wait for university and the chance for independent study. Before my daughters left home for uni, they were instructed to go, grab life by the horns and sample everything on offer (that's legal). I'm hopeful that this will prepare them for life in the real world after they leave.

    My daughters may have worked far harder than I ever did at school, but I still managed to pursue a professional career for 26 years. I guess that our generation were the lucky ones as jobs at that time were plentiful. I remain optimistic that my daughters will find worthwhile careers after uni, I have to - it’s the only thing that makes eighteen thousand pounds of tuition fees for the two of them each year seem slightly more bearable.

    My philosophy remains to this day that you’re a long time grown-up and should be allowed to make mistakes and live a little while learning how to become an adult. Are we raising a resilient generation that will be able to cope with whatever life flings in their direction? I have my doubts. And if you can’t have fun and rebel as a teenager, when will you find the time exactly? Are we raising children that will burn out much younger from the stresses of having to conform at such a young age?

    For those of you who've never seen the film 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off,' this has to be the ultimate teen movie. To this day Ferris Bueller is my hero - OK so he may have taken teen mischief to a whole new level, but I'm guessing that he'd have gotten away with almost nothing in today's vigilant society. I like to think that if Ferris Bueller was for real, he'd have grown up, had a fabulous life and looked back on his childhood filled with admiration.

    Copyright ©2014 Izzie Anderton
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