The Big Switch On

On Friday night we made the trip, all two hundred yards or so, into town to watch the Christmas lights being turned on.

We knew the Mayor was going to switch the lights on at 7.30pm so when Robert arrived home at five we let him get showered and changed first and then went out for chips first before making our way down to the square.

It's always quite low key but it's nice, nobody's drunk and staggering about and there usually aren't any idiots about trying to spoil the fun so it's perfect to take a four year old to. We started off at the bakery for mulled wine (for mummy) and hot chocolate and fresh Christmas tree shaped shortbread that was still slightly warm from the oven. Then we had to make a quick dash into a local shop to get Chloe a Santa hat because everyone had them.

Pete Snodden was there and started off the night with a few songs and Robert and I sat ourselves down in the square with our shortbread and watched Chloe dance her heart out to "I wish it could be Christmas every day", there isn't a shy bone in that child's body.

Then of course there's the usual chance to win tickets to whatever is coming up, so this year it was tickets to go to Clubland and to see the Prodigy. Loads of people clamoured to get onto the stage for their chance to win the tickets and, dear love them, it was only once two girls were picked to go up for the Clubland tickets that they found out they were going to have a dance off to see who would win. I'd have been mortified but they both really went for it, although clearly one had been practicing in her bedroom at night and was the clear winner.

The theatres around Ards really did their bit this year too and Chloe had a chance to see her first fire eater and stood amazed right in front of him as he juggled fire too. There were stilt walking elves and HUGE dancing polar bears too.

There were also two fairground rides for the kids, one a little merry go round that is at the market every Saturday which Chloe loves and another one that would put you in mind of a mini waltzer for the slightly older kids. Chloe was desperate to get on it, but I was convinced she was too little and I knew Robert and I were too big for it, but the guy operating said she was fine and big enough. For once I bit my tongue and let her go....

£9.00 she cost me! She was on that ride 6 times, so clearly not a yellow bone in her body either!

Finally came the time to turn on the lights. Everyone, by this stage frozen solid, gathered around the tree in the centre of the square as the countdown began, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 ... and every light in the square came on, apart from the tree.

Have you ever heard a couple of hundred people laughing?

After a few minutes of fumbling with wires and plugs and what not the lights flickered and came on. The cheer was deafening and even Chloe saw the funny side.

It actually made the night even better that the lights didn't work on cue, probably to do with something being broken and getting to fix it.

It was officially the Christmas season in Newtownards and some stayed to shop. We went home, had more hot chocolate and went to bed.

Ding Ding - Round One

I've now had my first proper run in with Chloe's teacher.

Before the Halloween school break I went to the parent teacher meeting with a load of other mums and dads and amongst other things we were told that our kids would do PE on Wednesdays. Always Wednesdays! We were told that it would always be on a Wednesday so that we could plan ahead and know to dress our kids in something that they wouldn't have any trouble changing out of and into their PE kits. Fair enough.

We arrived at the school this morning and as we passed by the classroom door and into the cloakroom Chloe pointed out that all the PE bags were on their desks. Alright, I mean its not the end of the world. Yes, Chloe was wearing tights and her pinafore and her polo shirt with the buttons done up and her sweatshirt on over the top so not exactly the easiest outfit in the world to change out of but she can manage it, it just takes her a few more minutes.

We hung up her coat and put her bag away and as we were walking into the classroom one of the other kids arrived behind us with his dad. We walked into the classroom to see the four kids who had already arrived at school in the process of getting changed and, honestly I didn't imagine it, you've never seen four more uncomfortable looking kids in all your life.

The next thing I knew the teacher was clapping her hands and cheerfully telling all the kids, including Chloe, to go to their desks and start getting changed for PE.

My little girl wandered over to her desk and for a second looked at me before glancing at the dad now coming in the door behind me closely followed by someone from daycare dropping four kids off at school.

It takes a lot to phase Chloe and even without her being a bit upset by the whole scenario, it pissed me off greatly.

I clapped my hands loudly too. I'm nothing if not a fast learner and this is clearly the way to get attention in a classroom and told Chloe to go to her desk and wait until the bell rang, all the other boys and girls had arrived and her teacher had had a chance to close the door and draw the blinds before she was to get changed. Chloe looked grateful and the dad behind me and the girl from daycare immediately echoed my instructions to their own kids.

Once I was satisfied that Chloe was happy that she could wait until the parents of the other 20 or so kids still to arrive and anywhere in the region of 60 or so kids and their parents passing by the windows had all been and gone and she could dressed, I stood to leave and you could have knocked me over with a feather, I caught a glare from her teacher.

I've never been a shrinking violet so I glared back with a look that I think adequately conveyed the phrase "Try me sweetheart!" and then just to make sure I got my message across I walked over to her and very quietly told her that I was surprised that we hadn't been told yesterday that the day for PE had changed and that if we had been told we could have put our kids in their usual PE day clothes which they could change out of much more easily thereby negating the need for their teacher to try and get 15 minutes ahead of herself by publicly humiliating our children. I finished by saying that I'd be mortified and I'm sure she would too at the thought of having to strip to her pants in a wide open room with complete strangers wandering in and out and that while the children might only be four years old, they deserved the same respect and privacy that we would demand for ourselves.

She apologised and explained that it had slipped her mind that repairs were being carried out in the PE hall on Wednesday and her day had been moved forward. She realised that the children would take longer to change but hadn't foreseen any cause for concern at the children starting to change as they arrived.

Now I ask you. Are my standards really that high? Am I honestly asking too much when I ask that my daughter at least be allowed to change out of the gaze of a couple of dozen complete strangers? Surely not.

I think if our standards on the level of respect our children deserve while getting changed has differed to much on this matter I doubt this will be my last run in with her teacher.

The Penny

There is a penny on the ground. Just a single penny.

The penny goes unnoticed, its surface battered by years of wind and rain. It lies there, now tarnished and rough around the edges.

No one bends to pick up the penny. No one even sees the penny. It lies lonely and forgotten.

But the penny has two sides and while one side has taken everything the world has thrown at it and had its shine removed forever for its efforts, it has survived and in doing so it has saved the other side.

The side that whilst a little damp from the ground beneath still remains shiny and new. This side has been protected all these years and it lies there, sheltered, ready and waiting.

I've been thinking a lot about that side of the penny these last few days. The almost forgotten side of the penny.

All I have to do is stop in the street, bend and turn that little penny over. I can start fresh and new. I don't have to look upon the damage that difficult years have caused the penny because she has a new and shiny side, a fresh side.

I can remember the hard times whenever I wish. A coin has two sides after all and with the good there will be bad, with the right there will be wrong and with the dark there will be light.

I'm going to concentrate on the new side of the penny. The side that I've protected all these years.

I really hope everyone else that feels they're going through a rough patch and a low patch at the moment knows that they too will have better days. They too have a shiny side of their very own penny.

Well.....(deep breath and begin)

I'm back to work now, kind of. I worked two days, then Chloe got sick and I was off for three, then I managed a whole week, then Chloe got sick and I was off another day, but I'm back in work again and it has been a whole three days and counting.

I'm enjoying it, it's nice to be back working with real live adults again on a regular basis although the rest of life in general has taken somewhat of a battering though I'm slowly clawing back some semblance of a routine. Very slowly, mind you.

Going back to work hasn't had any effect on Chloe which I'm glad for. As far as she's concerned I still take her to school every morning and collect her again at the end of the day and I'm never late so she's happy. Though she's wanted to make doughnuts all week and dear love her I just haven't been able to fit it in, definitely at the weekend, I've promised her.

The last few days have been a little rough here though. We've had a handful of things which needed to be replaced and repaired, first the washing machine sprang a leak which wasn't that bad, then a radiator needed replaced and that really had to be done as it's getting colder by the day (why do these things never break in Summer), the garage roof was leaking pretty badly and we've managed to cobble together a pretty decent patch job but we absolutely have to replace that roof this Summer, there's no putting it off again this year, plus a handful of other smaller things which while they aren't much on their own they all added up to put a fairly substantial dent in any money we had set aside for things like that. I mean you expect repairs, just not all at once!

I've been soaked to the skin twice today and I'm started to feeling a bit frayed around the edges.

My mum had to go to London on Tuesday with my aunt for some legal bits and bobs and even though I spent the weekend printing off little maps for her to prove that Oxford Street is a mere five minute dander from Harley Street and they could spend a bit of time window shopping and ogling the pretty but very expensive things, the two of them still spent all 10 hours bar 90 minutes in the middle in Liverpool Street Station. Honestly, only my mum could do that.

And then, wait for it this is the cherry on top, the husband's boss has been pestering him to go on yet another training course at a week's notice which will have him away over night, for yet another system that he doesn't even use on yet another site that he's never even been to. We're talking about a company that does pigeon hole staff so if he hasn't seen the system to date, chances are he never will!

Obviously he didn't want to go, for various reasons. His passport's out of date and while you can travel on a driver's license on some flights you can't on others and the lack of a passport makes travelling a pain in the backside and a much longer experience seeing as you can't check in online without one. Also, he's been feeling really rough himself the last couple of weeks and he and Chloe seem to be just passing coughs and boogeritis back and forth between them and if our luck lately is anything to go by, he would say he could go and then get taken down by something really bad and have to cancel. Let me tell you, those courses don't come cheap. Plus, I've mentioned the cash flow took a hard hit and the way the trips usually work is that you cover yourself while away and then claim it back on your return and we just can't afford that this month.

Anyway, they pushed it and pushed it and pushed it some more and then called him to the office to chat to the boss about why he didn't want to go and after a particularly sticking day he lost the rag and said he was looking for another job and didn't want them to waste their money on him when plenty of the guys would be grateful for the chance to go on the course.

Nope, not a good move.

Even though he's the guy that spends the vast majority of his time fixing everyone's stupid mistakes (reason 1 why some of the other guys could do with training!) we're also talking about a company that have been perfectly happy to cut their noses off to spite their face in the past so he's basically waiting now for them to tell him he's sacked.

Merry Christmas eh?

I've mentioned it to a couple of people and now have about half a dozen solicitor's ready to sink their teeth in if anything does happen. In all fairness, the last year or so has been very quiet for them! But still even the thought of it is, quite honestly, scaring the crap out of me.

I could do without this. I could really do without this. I could completely and utterly do without this.

The rarely shakeable Leanne, is quaking in her boots.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

40 days left. I can't believe it and I'm starting to get that real child like excited feeling.

I really enjoyed reading all of your lovely comments on the giveaway post and I have to agree with each and every one of them. There are just so many things I love about Christmas, mostly that I get to spend a handful of completely uninterrupted days with family. No work, no phone calls, no emergency emails. It's pure bliss.

If I had to say one thing I didn't like about Christmas it would be the shops. They seem to start into Christmas just a wee bit earlier each year and the adverts on television really seem to be aimed at every one's panicky side, don't they. I love Christmas but for me, Christmas shopping is something I do when I'm wrapped up warm in all my layers and scarves with a cold nose and the steam rising off my breath. For years past when I would be working in the run up to Christmas, its also something that I now think I should be doing in the dark in Belfast, able to see all the Christmas lights fully lit.

Anyway, you're not interested in all this. I'm supposed to be drawing the winner of the giveaway.

I always use (I like a bit of randomness too) and from 33 comments, Random picked........ number 27.

Congratulations to Oddsox, the winner of my Christmas Giveaway*. As soon as I get Oddsox full postal address I'll begin stalking her parceling up her winnings and get them sent off as soon as possible.

*The title "Christmas Giveaway" does not mean that there will not be a further giveaway before Christmas, though I may have to call it "Christmas Giveaway, The Prequel", prequels are all in at the minute, aren't they?

Do not pass go.

Oh this house looks like a bomb's gone off.

After a week of Robert being at home (the ultimate mess maker) followed by a week at home with Chloe while she was sick (mess maker's apprentice) my house is a complete and utter wreck.

Never mind the fact that after mentioning here that while I didn't actually need the money that going back to work would provide, it would be nice to have a bit extra to stash away for Christmas and emergencies, like if the washing machine died. Yep, you guessed it, the washing machine died. Well not died exactly, but a huge hole in the rubber door seal and water all over the kitchen floor does put a stop to laundry day. After replacing the door seal yesterday, I'm now ploughing through a full week and a bit's worth of laundry. Just a little tip as well, if a washing machine repair guy tells you that replacing the rubber door seal on a washing machine is a complete and utter nightmare and something that you want to pay a professional £100 to do, he's lying. It is a two person job, but only because it's a lot easier if one person holds the circular springy thing in place at the bottom of the seal while the other person stretches it up and over the top. Totally doable on your own, but easier with two and £15 later my washing machine is on its sixth load and I'm a happy bunny.

Also, by Friday Chloe was great and definitely on the mend after what I still think was a tummy bug but what her doctor said had symptoms like swine flu. All day Friday she was great and stuffing her face after not eating for a few days, she slept like a dream on Friday night and was great all day Saturday. She went to my mum's house on Saturday afternoon and again, yep you guessed it, she's sick again. My mum just called to say she was vomiting again last night (something she hasn't done since Wednesday morning) and she was up all night coughing and crying so I'm probably looking at a few more days off work at the minute, but I'll see how she goes later this afternoon. Of course, this only enforces my belief that the world is filled with disease ridden carrier monkeys and my daughter is only safe from these nasties when she's at home with me (my issues and yes I'm working on them).

Robert's sick too and currently looks like death and at the minute he really doesn't think he'll be fit for work tomorrow, considering that tomorrow he's supposed to spend the majority of the day about 30 feet in the air perched on top of a scissor lift and he's dizzy standing on terra firma at the minute it's looking more and more unlikely that he'll be able to manage it.

The cat has taught herself how to hunt and I opened the back door this morning to be greeted by her first headless little present. I'm not entirely sure if it's her first confirmed kill or not, but I'm not going out there to look for any more. Oh the joys!

So in short what I'm saying is that I'm going to put the kettle on and have a coffee. If I tidy away all the toys and crayons and books, they'll only be dragged back out again, if I fluff cushions they'll quickly be flatten.

Sometimes, mummy needs a day off too.....

Labra Kadabra - The World Famous Magician

Earlier this week the very lovely Hotdog and Me posted a thread on Folksy. Simple enough, she would send a sock dog kit to the first ten people to comment on the thread and all of our crazy makings would be listed in the Crafteroo Shop on Folksy in support of Children in Need. She sent out 12!

Anyway, I was all over it like flies on ... ahem!

I had a couple of ideas floating around my head and decided that I'd make my mind up when the kit arrived.

The very next day, my postie knocked the door and there was my parcel....

Yes, I know the drill. Receive a parcel, take a photo, post the photo.

Impatience thy name is Leanne.

After a couple of days of fitting in little bits of stitching here and there during sickipoo nap times, Labra Kadabra is finally finished.

I should probably mention that he's a world famous magician because he isn't very good at magic.

Check out that poor bunny!

He was listed in the Crafteroo Shop on Folksy a short time ago, but you can't have him.

He's sold already and will be heading off to his new home first thing tomorrow.

However remember now, 12 kits were sent out and Labra is only the warped result of one of the kits, so keep an eye out in the shop. They'll be popping up quite regularly, although if Labra was anything to go by, you'll need to be quick. Really, really quick.


Chloe is very ill at the minute with who knows what and has been since about noon yesterday. I'm not saying the S word because everyone with a case of the sniffles has it, but she is really very ill and only managed to hold down water for a first at lunch time today.

Anyway, this is me saying I won't be around for few days or so, far more important things and all that...

I hope everyone else is having a better time of it at the minute and if I don't see you, have a lovely weekend.