Happy Valentines Syria, Love Me, Tom and Cbeebies

With CBeebies already sorting me out for Valentine’s Day by scheduling in Tom Hardy to read me a bedtime story at 6:45 on Feb 14th, I’ve asked Husbanana to buy 5 Syrian kiddlings a fleecey blanket as a valentine’s gift instead. 

Tom Hardy gets valentine's day sorted

Tom Hardy gets valentine’s day sorted


I didn’t tell him about Tom, because he’s a sensitive soul and it might make him upset and/or make him question my real motives for getting into Peaky Blinders and/or think he needs to grow his beard longer, don a flat cap and read me a children’s story to initiate love making which is a road I really don’t want to go down. But more importantly he won’t be home in time to know about it anyway. He’ll just find me a little more flushed and happy than I usually am at that stage in the kids’ bedtime routine when he returns. But unless I’m also reading a copy of Ultra Light Camping Monthly or What’s New in Goretex Weekly or similar, the probability that he’ll even notice any change in my general appearance is tinier than the width of a gnat’s willy-peanuts (engineering term (of a 5 year old).

Anyway, I’ve drifted slightly from the point, which is, fuck me this girl looks chilly doesn’t she? Let’s buy her a blanket so our love can keep her warm this Valentines Day. 

The art of present buying (for those of you who haven’t a clue)

If you’re struggling in the run up to V-day then look no further for some top notch present buying hints and tips..

Hovering Close to Insanity

There are those people who have a talent for present buying, and there are those people who think presents are a bit of a nuisance. This post is targeted at the latter.

First things first. I am a heterosexual girl so this is very much written aimed at a male significant others. That said, the points are fairly general, so whoever you are you should find some nugget of inspiration for that special present giving occasion. Read on my people, read on.

The fourteen (yes fourteen, get over it) basic rules are:

1. If you think you should possibly be getting someone a present, then you definitely should be

2. Birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, Valentine’s day and Mothering Sunday are present-buying occasions

3. The sorts of presents a person gives shows what they would like to receive

4. Girls like to be spoilt

5. Buying someone more than one present is perfectly normal and…

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An Open Letter to the BBC on Gender Bias

Dear BBC

There are plenty of things that annoy me about our society but there is one thing that really gets my goat and that’s inequality. As a female IT nerd person it is the gender inequality strain of this that affects me the most. And today my rage is pointing firmly towards you. Why is it that in 2015 we still can’t get females equally represented in BBC broadcasting? I am, of course, talking about the shameful display of gender inequality in the CBeebies program the Octonauts.

This sexist fleet of under water heroes is the current obsession of my three year old girl/boy twins and in turn it is a current obsessional annoyance of my own that the 3 main protagonists in it are all male. The program starts off thus:

Octonauts to your stations!
Barnacles! (male)
Kwazii! (male)
Peso! (male)
Ba ba-ba-ba-ba ba ba ba, ba-ba-ba ba ba-ba-ba-ba ba ba ba!
Ba ba-ba-ba-ba…  (you get the idea)

Bam! Right from the get go we’re shoving three male heroes in our kids’ faces. Why did you decide to make all of them male? Why is the most highly educated Octonaut, Professor Inkling, male? And indeed, why is that only 2 of the 7 gendered characters (the Vegimals appear to be gender neutral) female? The only female characters that appear in the program are Dashy, who apparently ‘oversees operations ..monitors the computer systems and manages all ship traffic’, but in reality is seen taking the odd photo and pressing a few computer buttons occasionally. And Tweak, the ‘ship engineer’ who has the most annoyingly bad fake american(?) accent you’ve ever heard, making you want to kill her whenever she appears fleetingly to say “you got it Cap!” dutifully to Captain Barnacles. It seems you’ve tried to give the females non-gender biased (perhaps even ‘stereotypically male’) roles (computers and engineering) but in excluding them from the opening sequence and giving them less air time you’ve effectively relegated them in the ship’s hierarchy. It feels like you think you’re ticking diversification boxes by having females with techy jobs (and I’m not belittling those jobs), but why isn’t Captain Barnacle female? All you’ve got to do is lose the tache, give her a female voice and maybe a bit of hair and you’re done. Professor Inkling? Lose the tache! Do you see how easy it is? And surely it’s a no brainer to always have equal numbers of male and female characters?! I mean come on.

Our society needs more women in higher roles within organisations for it to work as well as it can and as a key source of education and influence it is the BBC’s responsibility to promote that through role models in your programmes. This is so obvious to me, and I’m astounded that in this day and age the BBC still fails to hit the mark. Through programmes like these you’re still setting poor stereotypes early on in a child’s life. If we can’t get it right there, what chance have we got of changing the order of things in society as a whole?

Please do better. Now cue the race and sexual orientation inequality police for their take on things.

Yours, Kate Woodroffe.
An infuriated Mother of boy/girl twins who is trying desperately (against the tide) to raise her children with equal expectations of what they can achieve.

Two Times Terrible Two

It’s 4:30am and I am sitting between two identical cots stroking two non-identical backs making two non-identical noises. I am tired. Tired to the core. We are on the tail end of a tandem tantrum and my nerves are long since gone. The fact that I’m still here at all is only because I am so numb with fatigue that I can’t even be bothered to stand up and relocate back to bed. And besides the (god sent) lullaby star night light is actually quite soothing…

Soothing night light

The love of my life.

It has been a long day. One that I cannot believe I will have to repeat tomorrow. The current regular tantrum inducers are: trying to get them dressed, trying to get them undressed, putting them in the buggy, taking them out of the buggy, leaving the house, re-entering the house, putting them in their chairs for dinner time, not allowing them to make their own dinner, not allowing them to sit on a perilously high surface for dinner, bathtime, bedtime, and so it goes on… I find myself going through varying degrees of calm and collectedness (mixed with a lot of uncalm and disconnectedness), but I know that if I want to get through each fit of insanity quickly then the only thing that works is acknowledging their grief in a grown up, sensible, serious manner and then distracting them from it jovially. But who has the time and patience to do that 24 (x2) times a day? And so they cry on. And boy do they.

Nothing can prepare you for the pain of having two year old twins. I literally feel like someone has come round and injected fatigue into every joint…with an extra shot into each of my temples. When they are born you have this lovely image of ‘being totally sorted’ by this stage. “In a year or two they’ll

be playing with each other and you can put your feet up,” people said to me. At that point, phrases like that were the light at the end of the tunnel. Well that light has long since gone out. In fact it turns out it wasn’t a light at all but a firefly flying ever closer until it finally exploded like a fire cracker in my face. But will there be a light at the end of this tunnel or more exploding fire flies/crackers? Ah well, “things get much better when they turn 3,” someone sagely tells me. Well d’you know what? I know people with 3 year old twins and I’m yet to feel much hope when I visit them, I can tell you. So when is it then? 4? 5? 5000?? All I know is that if I concentrate on thinking “oh good god when will it get better??” then right now feels worse. So I’ll concentrate on the here and now. And the here and now is drifting off to sleep. And so am I. That night light is magic. In fact, fuck these two. Tonight that light is mine.

 

Urine in my tea cup

I’m having one of those days. I’ve just sat down to drink my tea, a moment of salvation that I was hoping would give me the strength to get through the next couple of hours (or minutes at least) and what do I see? I see that a urine-soaked tea towel has been stuffed in the top of my cup.

Madhouse tiny army

We are potty training. Well we (read I for the most part) are attempting to. But today has been one of those days. One where there has not been a single sticker assigned to the potty training log (no puns please). I sigh. I was thinking we’d pretty much nailed it with the little boy one, but even his high standards of 3-dots-and-1-butterfly-sticker a day have fallen by the wayside today. I look back to my ‘tea’ and muse that there must be a joke about throwing the towel in there somewhere. But the ‘there’ involved is my brain and that’s past being able to construct jokes. So although in its deepest corners it registers there is the potential for humour, it otherwise stays still and numb. And no glimmer of a smile crosses my face. I just can’t muster enough energy. Frankly it’s the last straw and I’m now beyond laughing.

I’m also beyond cleaning up the six hundredth wee patch that is under the table (and partly on my feet). I’m also beyond cleaning the sofa for the six hundredth time to try to rid it of what is a distinct smell of bottoms. It’s ‘Mummy’s hit a wall’ time and this tea was going to be the thing to give me the extra gazumpf to break me through it. I feel like my senses have been numbed and I am running on some 20 year old petrol that someone found in the shed that no-one’s sure is still going to work. Well I can confirm that it doesn’t. I am at that stage where I am aware that I am not being the patient, fair, soft-spoken earth mother that I would like to be. Instead I am bouncing between forced earth mother softly spoken patience and severely impatient, snapping, angry I’ve-lost-my-methadone-prescription style mother that I’d really rather not be. And do you know what goes through my mind? Yes, that’s right. I’m thinking that my mood swings are going to cause my children permanent psychological damage. Now isn’t that a productive and helpful way to occupy my mind? Is there any scientific basis for me to start worrying about this? Well there might be something out there, but the reality is that I will have read something, somewhere at some point that suggested something that might have slightly been along those lines. But of course I’ve conveniently forgotten the details of the article. And therefore forgotten the bits of the article that make this fairly unlikely.

I start cursing my inability to retain information and then just in the nick of time before I beat myself up completely for being useless again I swerve. I swerve towards the light and think one very clear thought. That reading is bad for me. Well reading anything relating to being a perfect mama anyway. I am going to go back to baser methods. I am going to trust my instincts. Because when I’ve failed in the past it’s because I haven’t trusted them sufficiently. So what do my instincts tell me? They tell me to put the kettle on, give myself a pat on the back for not killing anyone today and reach for the pack of nappies.

Failing Fast

7 o'clock

7 o’clock


I sit on the sofa and assess the day. It is clear that today would be chalked up as ‘Fail!’ at the Perfect Mum’s training academy. I have failed to get my children dressed before 10am. I have failed to get to music class on time. I have failed to take them out this afternoon. I have failed to get them eating their dinner before 6 o’clock. I have failed to provide them with something that they will actually eat. I have failed to give them a bath. I have failed to keep their dummies from them outside bedtime. I have failed to get them ready for bed before Daddy gets home. I have failed to get them in bed before 7 o’clock (by some margin). What does this tell me? Does it tell me that I’m a terrible Mother? Does it tell me that I better pull my socks up or my children are going to turn out to be vagrants? Should I skip the medicinal G&T and go straight for the self-flagellation? No. What it tells me is that it is clear that this stay-at-home-mum’s skill set does not closely match her (perceived) job description. So is it time to switch careers? Or time to switch the job description? I choose the latter. And re-word it thus, “Keep children alive until Daddy comes home. Then drink gin”. There. I can definitely get on board with that. I might even be something of an expert. 

The art of present buying (for those of you who haven’t a clue)

There are those people who have a talent for present buying, and there are those people who think presents are a bit of a nuisance. This post is targeted at the latter.

First things first. I am a heterosexual girl so this is very much written aimed at a male significant others. That said, the points are fairly general, so whoever you are you should find some nugget of inspiration for that special present giving occasion. Read on my people, read on.

The fourteen (yes fourteen, get over it) basic rules are:

1. If you think you should possibly be getting someone a present, then you definitely should be

2. Birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, Valentine’s day and Mothering Sunday are present-buying occasions

3. The sorts of presents a person gives shows what they would like to receive

4. Girls like to be spoilt

5. Buying someone more than one present is perfectly normal and at times expected

6. There is no such thing as too many presents

7. There is such a thing as too few presents

8. Sometimes the cheapest presents can be the best ones (but remember that unless you’re on the poverty line it’s not best to always be cheap)

9. Homemade and thoughtful beats expensive and thoughtless

10. Girls are good at dropping hints, so listen out for them

11. “I’m too skint” is not a good excuse for no present

12. “I don’t have any time” is also not a good excuse for no present

13. If you forget, run out of time or in any other way screw up, make sure you apologise (and mean it)

14. Underwear is a present for you, not her

So there you go. Not too difficult are they. Pretty logical in fact. But just in case you need a few more details then let’s flesh those bad boys out a bit.

Present

Presentation can brighten even the dullest gift

1. If you think you should possibly be getting someone a present, then you definitely should be

Very rare is the occasion that you get a present for someone that isn’t gratefully received. And this is undoubtedly the case with a significant other. In the interest of discouraging stalking, however, I should point out that it is not considered acceptable behaviour to ply a random stranger or non loved one with an incessant stream of gifts. Just use your common sense. Or comment below and ask me if you’re not sure.

2. Birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, Valentine’s day and Mothering Sunday are present-buying occasions

Girls love occasions so you’d be wise to mark them. You don’t have to go all fancy and buy a £100+ necklace every time (although buying one once in a while would, I’m sure, go down well) but a nice card is an absolute must and a nice card and a bunch of flowers a staple minimum. Here are the rules, by occasion:

Anniversary/Valentine’s day: card as an absolute minimum, bunch of flowers a nice minimum extra, nice meal on top considered normal, present on top of that also considered normal
Birthday: card and present considered a minimum. Bunch of flowers considered a nice, normal added extra. Cake also considered normal.
Mothering Sunday: As anniversary but provided by the child/children. If the children are too small to do the providing, it’s the Dad’s job to help

3. The sort of presents a person gives shows what they would like to receive

“It’s all very well telling me that I have to buy her a present but how do I know what sort of thing she likes?” Well a good start is to look at the sorts of presents she gets for other people. There will usually be a bit of her personality in them, so find that personality and use it for presents for her. This is especially true of the presents that she gives to her best friends, as they are likely to share some personality traits with her. It will certainly show you the special little added extras that she values. For example, if she always puts a little something in the envelope of birthday cards, then put a little something in hers. Or if she often scatters things on tables at people’s birthday gatherings then put a little something on the table for her too – we’re talking hearts/stars/’happy birthday’ sprinkles/petals, etc, not your naked greased up body. Although depending on your relationship, that might also go down well… each to their own after all.

Still not sure what to get?  Then dig through the depths of your brain and think. Does she like fine dining? Does she like photography? Does she like books? Does she like jewellery? Does she have a particular foible? E.g. does she love Harry Potter – well type Harry Potter into Etsy or NotOnTheHighStreet and see what comes up.

If you’re still struggling then ask her! E.g. what sort of jewellery do you like darling? A word of warning here though: if you do this, then make sure you LISTEN AND MAKE NOTE OF WHAT SHE SAYS. And for god’s sake don’t then not get her jewellery – she’ll be very disappointed.

If you don’t want to ruin the surprise by asking then here are some staples that will always go down well:

– a nice meal out (posh it up with bubbles and definitely go for a dessert, if she says she’s watching her weight obviously tell her she doesn’t need to)
– a massage/facial/other treatment
– a spa day
– a night away
– a weekend away
– if she doesn’t get to see her home girls often then (babysit and) pay for her to have a girlie night out
– a face/body treatment for her and a friend

4. Girls like to be spoilt

Did you know that girls often say to each other ‘Happy Birthday! I hope you have a fabulous day and get spoilt absolutely rotten’. Imagine the disappointment, therefore, when they don’t. Spoiling someone is really very basic and it should give you a warm and fuzzy feeling for making someone else feel good too, so we’re all winners. Here are some ideas:

Bubbles: Girlies love it. Doesn’t have to be champagne. In fact most girlies would prefer a nice prosecco because that way you can afford to buy her something else (I’m not joking). You can reserve the champagne proper for very special occasions like getting engaged, child’s birth, etc.

Birthday(/anniversary/valentine’s day/mothering sunday/etc) breakfast: there’s no nicer way to start a festively significant day than having someone lay on a nice brekkie for you. So roll up your sleeves and get your jams out. Here’s a list of example brekkies for you to consider:

English: if you’re handy with a frying pan then do the eggs, bacon, tomato, sausage, mushrooms, beans and toast vibe. Or if your girly is health aware grill the bacon, tomato, sausage, etc. and poach the eggs
Continental: if you’re likely to make a complete hash (brown) of a fry up, then play it safe and go continental. So croissants (warm (but don’t burn) them for extra points), jams (those little mini pots are good), nice bread and a nice selection of teas will go down a treat. And why not plonk them all in a basket to make it all look extra fab? And add some meats and cheeses if you think you’ll go hungry.
Champagne: If you want to get really flash then throw in a bottle of fizz and some strawberries to your continental breakfast. Probably not best if your loved one then needs to work in a hospital, drive a train or operate dangerous machinery, so let’s be sensible shall we. Just to be clear, I do not advocate a drunk-on-the-job philosophy.

Massage: Don’t skimp on this and do it yourself if you have no idea how to do it. You’re likely to be a bit shit, which means that your massage will probably make your lady feel more stressed as she battles mentally with how to phrase her ‘compliment’ at the end. So until you’ve bought a book, practised and received genuine, glowing feedback, buy her a massage in a (reputable) spa or massage parlour.

5. Buying someone more than one present is perfectly normal and at times expected

If you ask your loved one to give you her birthday/Christmas list and she lists, say, ten things, then don’t just pick one and think that you’ve done yourself proud. You have done the very minimum and you will leave your other half battling with a mix of feeling slightly disappointed while chiding herself for behaving a bit like a spoilt brat.

6. There is no such thing as too many presents

No further comment.

7. There is such a thing as too few presents

See point 5 above.

8. Homemade and thoughtful beats expensive and thoughtless

For example. Give her a reasonably priced rose plant whose name matches hers or is something romantic (or hand make a pretend label) over a birthday breakfast, rather than get your secretary to send an enormous bouquet to her office for her to struggle with on the way home.

9. Sometimes the cheapest presents can be the best ones, but remember that unless you’re on the poverty line it’s not best to always be cheap

For a good example of this see 8 above. Other hints: don’t make her get a load of time consuming money-saving buses to get to a restaurant/show/gig if you can afford to splash out on a cab. You’ll look like a complete tight arse and the evening will be getting off to a bad start. Don’t take her to a BYO unless she’s specified that it’s a place that she’s really wanted to try out. Even if she has, though, unless she’s specifically said she wants to go there for her birthday it’s worth saving that for another night and going up a notch for her special day.

10. Girls are good at dropping hints, so listen out for them

Girly people are good at dropping hints, so look out for them. If she lingers near a shop window then linger as well and watch where her eyes are drawn or outright ask her what she’s looking at. Pay attention at which internet sites are open on the computer when you open it up. Listen out for buzz words like ‘I’ve never got round to doing that’, ‘I could really do with a new..’, ‘I’ve always wanted to..’ Yes, girlie present hints can be pretty unsubtle, but research tells us that they are still not unsubtle enough.

11. “I’m too skint” is not a good excuse for no present

If you’re both saving for a special purchase or trying to be better with money generally, then do it in your own time. Birthdays are an exception to that rule, so unless she specifically says that she doesn’t want you to spend any money on her, then forget the money saving for one day only and give her a treat. She deserves it.

Above all never, ever give the ‘I’m skint’ excuse if you’ve just bought something for yourself. If you’re willing to spend a decent amount of money on a bike/car/sports equipment/booze/food/goretex then you will do wisely to give your significant other a decently priced present.

That said, here are some nice ideas that will get you brownie points if you don’t have a tonne of cash to spend:

– Birthday/Anniversary/etc breakfast (see point 4, above)
– Homemade card
– Cake (extra points for homemade)
– Homemade present
– Something silly – any show of ‘special’ is good on a birthday – something to mark it out as a special day. So give her a birthday piggy back home (especially if her feet ache), put a few little Happy Birthday sprinkles on the table at dinner time,  pay for a cab rather than making her get the bus, carry the umbrella over her head, open the door for her (if you don’t usually), generally be more of a gent than you normally are.

12. “I don’t have any time” is also not a good excuse for no present

Obviously we all have times in our life when we have no time and it’s easy to use this excuse with people’s presents as it requires that you give it a bit of thought. However, if you’re struggling for time just go for one of the staples as they don’t require much effort and then suggest that she buy something herself on you. And just to chuck a bit of a gender specific example in there.. if you are willing to spend 3 weeks researching what bike to buy or which goretex jacket has the best wicking effect, then don’t only spend 5 minutes trying to think what she might like for her birthday. Especially if these two events closely follow each other.

13. If you forget, run out of time or in any other way screw up, make sure you apologise

We’re all human and we all make mistakes and forget things. Just try not to do it too often as then it looks like you just don’t care. So if you don’t get it right then apologise, mean it, give some big cuddles, kisses and make or take her out for a nice meal within the next week. Don’t put this off too long as then it’s lost its significance.

14. Underwear is a present for you, not her

Unless she’s asked for it then this is really a present for you rather than her, so why don’t you let her buy it for your birthday and you can both enjoy it then.

OK that’s it! Please comment below if you if you have other hints and tips. Good luck and remember, it’s always a good idea to give someone a present. It will brighten their day and make you feel good too. Happy shopping! Mine’s a massage and some chocolates.