Tag Archives: presents

Old-fashioned manners

My kids aren’t perfect – believe me I know – and all too often there are those moments when I wish they’d remember the manners we’ve strived to instill in them over the years. They’re not always brilliant at doing the littlest of things that would make a big difference and I know that’s something that can frustrate my Mum (Hint: it does frustrate her and she might have mentioned it just once or twice to me in the last couple of weeks) Both G and M are a quirky mix of grown-up attitudes – due to their life experiences with chronic health problems – and a lack of rational thought because they’re both still very much children at heart. They’re tentatively challenging the boundaries set them by family members in particular; and sometimes not so tentatively at all; whilst very much toeing the line outside of the home, which inevitably leads to tears and meltdowns, and not necessarily just from them. Insecurity, uncertainty and lack of self-confidence is overcome with bold talk and bravado, which can be misinterpreted as arrogance and rudeness, when the truth is that the child beneath it all is struggling with anxiety and striving to find a different face to present to the outside world.

However, the one thing that I insist happens every year without fail is something that almost certainly falls into the category of “old-fashioned” manners in this day and age. Just a few days into the New Year, I shared this photo of G and M sitting at our kitchen table working hard to write the thank you notes for the Christmas presents and, in G’s case, birthday presents, they had recently received. It may not be their favourite task in the world and it may take a little persuasion to get them started, but they both know that this is a non-negotiable part of the celebrations for both Christmas and birthdays and always buckle down to write them, often treating the job as a competition to see who can finish writing all their notes first. These are no great literary pieces, just a simple acknowledgement of those family members and friends who have remembered them at this time of year and taken the time to buy and send presents that are always gratefully received.

M views me as being a particularly evil Mum because I won’t let him type out his letters, but rather insist that we take advantage of the opportunity to draw faint pencil lines and practise his best handwriting. Why? Well, I suppose I just think there’s something a little more personal and thoughtful about receiving a handwritten note of thanks, though frankly I would be happy to receive even an email rather than absolutely nothing at all. No acknowledgement leaves me wondering if the gift has arrived at its final destination and I have been known to threaten to not send presents again when weeks have passed by and I’m still uncertain whether they’ve been received or not. Does this make me old-fashioned? Maybe, but good manners don’t cost anything and it’s important to me that my children develop an attitude of thankfulness for all that they are lucky to have.

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Top Chips!

You know you’re getting old when your Christmas presents start bordering on the practical, rather than the fantastical, and you know you’re a parent when those practical presents can be used to the benefit of your children rather than just for pampering yourself. I’ve been on the receiving end of the former for a fair few years now – welly boots and coffee machines spring to mind – but this year I received not one, but two of the latter, indicating that I really am well and truly heading towards a rather significant birthday celebration frighteningly soon.

Interestingly, whilst one was an item I’d requested myself, the second was actually a gift that M picked out for me, evidently in the hope that it would help me make some more interesting variations of his foods for him. Back in the summer, we attended the Allergy and Freefrom Show held over 3 days at the amazing venue that is Olympia Kensington for the first time in a couple of years. Whilst there we discovered the wonderful and tasty treat that is Emily’s Fruit Crisps, a great new snack which M almost instantly fell in love with and devoured so quickly that the dozen packs we bought at the show soon disappeared. img_13601I hadn’t got round to restocking the larder as M’s interest in the crisps appeared to wane and I didn’t want to fill my cupboards with yet another safe snack that would end up forming part of Mike’s packed lunch for months because M no longer wanted them.

However, the novelty of fruit crisps obviously hadn’t worn off as much as I thought it had and this was reflected in his choice of present. In the months leading up to the festive season, M spent hours, like most children his age, pouring over a variety of catalogues and gadget magazines searching for the perfect present that would tick all his boxes for what he could possibly want for Christmas and seeking a little added inspiration along the way for what he could buy for the rest of the family. With a little technical help from Mike which came, much to M’s disgust and dismay, in the days following Christmas day itself because somehow ordering my present had got swept up in the chaos of too many hospital appointments and health challenges to contend with, my present finally arrived at our address and M rushed off to check it out before handing it over, in all its unwrapped glory.

img_13551This week saw the first outing of this piece of kit as I finally got round to trying out my brand new kitchen gadget, the Mastrad Topchips Kit complete with a “slicer” to cut the fine slices needed to make the perfect crisps. We tried out both apple and pear with varying levels of success. The slicer was scarily sharp and I refused to let my somewhat clumsy child anywhere near it, rather preferring to take the chance of slicing my own finger and not his. The process is remarkably simple: peel the fruit, slice it, place single slices on to the rubber sheet and microwave for anywhere up to about 5 minutes, depending on the type of fruit or vegetable you decide to use. I did start with stacking both trays in the microwave as it suggested, but found it taking a long time to do…well to do anything, so instead started again using just 1 tray and allowing a little more time img_13591than suggested in the instructions booklet. The apple crisps worked well, though it would have been good to know that they aren’t immediately crispy when the cooking time is finished, but actually need a couple of minutes to stand and crisp up. Both children declared them as delicious and the plateful quickly cleared in front of my eyes. The pear was less successful as the one I used was evidently far too juicy to crisp up properly and we declared it an unmitigated disaster, although M conceded that it “…wasn’t bad for your first attempt Mummy..!” The trays are delightfully easy to clean and store, which is always an added bonus in my somewhat crowded kitchen.

Would I recommend the Topchips kit to others? Yes, I think I would, with the proviso to not be surprised if it takes a little practice to work out the fruit and vegetables that work best and the ideal cooking time in your individual microwave. Our first foray into making fruit crisps for M was a definite hit and I’ve no doubt that we’ll be using the equipment again, and soon.

Marks out of 10: 7.5 – a great result, but the instructions could be improved

A Girl’s Best Friend

For as long as I can remember – and trust me, my long-term memory is legendary in our household – G has been passionate about learning to ride. Both she and M did a brief stint at a nearby riding stable when she was about 5, but school, hospital appointments and other hobbies soon absorbed a lot of our time and riding somehow fell by the wayside. G frequently talks of her plans to own horses when she’s older and 20151018_131727has declared on more than one occasion that she has no plans to learn to drive when she reaches 17, but will instead ride her horse wherever she needs to go. Over the last 18 months or so, she started asking about the possibility of riding lessons again and it was then that my Mum came up with the idea of rewarding all her hard work for her SATs with a short course of lessons.

It took careful planning, the odd bit of rearranging and some tentative pencilling-in, but finally everything was sorted and G started her lessons. Her first lesson was a group one, but it quickly became obvious that she would learn more and progress quicker with some more focussed teaching and so we switched to a 30-minute individual lesson every other weekend. To say she is delighted to be fulfilling this long-held dream is an understatement and she has taken to it like the proverbial duck to water. With just 3 lessons under her belt, she is already cantering around the indoor arena 20151018_133210with confidence and impressed not just her riding instructor, but me too, with her sense of balance and ability to trot round with her hands and arms in every position imaginable except where you’d expect them to be.

Needless to say, horse-riding has become her favourite pastime and we have been inundated with requests for lessons as a gift from anyone and everyone prepared to contribute for both her birthday and Christmas. It has been fantastic to see her enthusiasm grow and the wait between lessons proves almost unbearable for her at times. What is even better is that this is something just for G, there is no irritating little brother to steal her thunder, although he has come along to watch her ride once or twice. The consequences of having a brother with a chronic illness mean that all-too-often G has been relegated to the sidelines as we’ve worried about M’s health or agonised over decisions regarding his treatment and diet; but in horse-riding, the focus is all on her: her teachers know nothing about M and his health and those 30 minutes are spent doing something she really, really loves. The lessons have also become an opportunity for G and me to spend some much-needed and precious time together, to chat about school, friends and life in general without the constant demands of M dragging my attention away from her; something I think we both have come to value.

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Fitting in a birthday celebration when we can…

Today’s a special day. It hasn’t quite turned out as planned, but then again, things quite often don’t in our household. Presents have been bought and wrapped and cards have been written, but the birthday boy wasn’t at home this morning to open them. I thought we might enjoy a family meal together at home tonight, but Mike has been away on business, so we’ll be lucky if we just about manage a strategically ordered takeaway before 9pm instead. I was even hoping to bake a cake, but work commitments have left me running around a little like a headless chicken this week and unless things improve drastically before that 9pm takeaway deadline, I really don’t think that will happen.

Mike & his hero Dave Gorman - last year's birthday pressie. Wonder what this year will bring?

Mike & funny man, Dave Gorman – last year’s birthday pressie. Wonder what this year will bring?

So instead, let me take the “easy” way out and instead wish Mike an amazingly happy birthday! It might not have been the birthday celebrations we’d have chosen, but I hope your day is a good one and G, M and I can’t wait to see you tonight for a mini celebration before bedtime.  We love you lots.

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