Being from a large family confuses people

Having a large family is just something that I’m used to. Two of my (four) siblings and I are from Dad’s second marriage and we grew up in relative harmony with two (half sisters) who had their Mum, the three of us who have our Mum and we all share the same Dad. Seems pretty simple right? Except that everyone is married now and remarried in Mum and Dads cases. Throw into the mix that one of my siblings is her husband’s second marriage, they share 2 children and 2 step children, both of whom are married with their own children and I’m starting to see where people start to lose the thread and get confused. The only ones who really understand the structure are childhood friends who have been a part of our set up since before we all got partners and had children.

It was at my sister’s 40th birthday party the other day that I was chatting to her friends when a few (ok, quite a few) of my family all turned up, together. I was saying Hi and introducing people when I saw them starting to look a little bit lost. When I sat down to think about it, I really don’t blame them.

Being from a large family is great. I love that family gatherings mean there’s always someone I’m interested in talking to. Someone I haven’t caught up with for ages and pretty much all family gatherings have a party vibe to them.

The only downside to a large family is with so many birthdays and celebrations, it can feel like we’re seeing each other pretty much every weekend and weekends get booked up months in advance. It’s also a pain trying to get so many people organised and in one place for these events. However, on Saturday night we did all manage to get together and see my sister’s 40th in, in style. Luckily one of my sisters even had her camera with her and we got a rare picture of us all together.

Fake tan stinks

I haven’t used fake tan in about nine years. Once upon a child-free time, I was a bit of a devotee to it, especially when weddings and smart parties came about. Parenthood often lowers peoples’ standards and I can confirm with absolute clarity that it’s lowered mine. Nearly 9 years into parenting and I’m attempting to raise my standards once more. With my sister’s party planned for the middle of May, so no time to spend the summer in the sun, getting a tan, I ordered a (short) new dress. With the prospect of open toed shoes there was no other option than fake tanning so my white legs didn’t blind everyone at the party.

First off, I had no idea what to buy – my trusty St. Tropez from the last decade had run out so I rushed to Sainsburys to find what they had on offer. Luckily it worked really well (trick is to exfoliate and moisturise before putting the tan on). What I had completely forgotten is that fake tan stinks. With a capital S. It didn’t just stink for the time I was using it and letting it dry – it literally stank for days. The upshot is, it did work beautifully but with a smell like that, it definitely will be saved for special occasions only.

School trips are ok

When I worked in a school I was the only member of staff who hated school trips. This wasn’t a recent thing, I had hated them as a child too. The hours being stuck on a coach only to find ourselves somewhere deathly dull then hours driving back to school in rush hour traffic, next to the child who had thrown up into the sick bag was not my idea of a good time.

This week my little one had a ‘school trip’ it was just to the duck pond down the road from school so no coach, no sick bags, just 24 excited 4 and 5 year olds and a few parents helping out. I’ll admit that I was kinda dreading it. It meant hours away from work, already made tricky by working from home and having to down tools for hours between the kids coming home from school and going to bed. It also meant being responsible for other peoples’ children, children who I don’t know.

It was ok though. I’m not going to say great as, after all, it was a school trip.  It was nice to get to know some of the parents a little better and chat to the teachers. It was also lovely to see my little one having a good time with the rest of his class. I can’t say I’ll be volunteering for every school trip from now on but that 2 hour window into his school world, was lovely.

It takes a village to run a business

Almost every successful business will have a team behind it, all contributing to the smooth running and success of that business. What happens when businesses are a one man band or to use a trendy term at the moment ‘solopraneurs’? Networking that’s what. I have not managed to make a single networking event, mainly due to being a single mum living alone with 2 kids and networking events being at the useful time of 6am.

Luckily for me, I already had a network around me from previous jobs and all my work comes from word of mouth. Still, it’s great to be able to meet more people and if you work in the same industry, being able to skill swap and share experience is vital to keep up to date and continue to make a success of things. Today I met someone via a friend’s networking event and what a breath of fresh air it was to be out speaking to someone who does a similar job to me and understands the challenges of the job and working for yourself.

In my last list I spoke about ‘niching down’ my business – essentially reformatting it and refining the services I offer. This decision came from speaking to other members of my team, my family, my friends until I had my head around it. Then it was time to redesign the website and I got a bit stuck (not great for a website designer!) and called in the ever reliable Stu Chandler, to help me clarify my thoughts and what I wanted to offer. I still don’t have the copy and site nailed so the website will be a little while in the making and in doing so, it’s really making me realise how much of a village is behind my little business, helping it along.

Cold water fish are much easier to keep alive than tropical fish

Five years ago I decided that I didn’t have enough responsibility with a full time job, 3 year old, dog, 2 cats and baby on the way. What would make life complete would be a tropical fish tank. I’m just going to interject here and say if you’re thinking of doing it – don’t. You may as well take a few hundred ££s and flush them down the toilet.

First of all tropical fish tanks need the water ‘cycling’. This can take up to 3 weeks so if you’re all about instant gratification, you may be better off looking for a puppy. Once you’ve dropped the equivalent of the weekly food budget on chemicals to cycle the water and feel like a scientist testing it daily for the best part of 3 weeks it’s time to choose fish. I cannot stress enough how important it is to go to a reputable aquarium shop and follow their advice, also take a sample of the cycled water with you. If you don’t do this, the expensive fish will die within hours of getting them home.

This cycle was repeated for months. I learnt pretty quickly to follow the advice of the people in the shop. Not to over crowd the tank, to keep an eye on temperature, food etc. All good, except that tropical fish have a tendency to keel over and die for no reason whatsoever, no discernible reason anyway, I’m guessing they probably felt a bit poorly before they met their end.

One day I woke up to find the heater had malfunctioned and all the fish had been boiled alive gone to heaven. I never replaced the tank and vowed no more fish. So it was with great trepidation that my partner’s daughter’s fish came to stay in my house. I knew I could keep children, dogs and cats alive but my history with fish was sketchy. Turns out that cold water fish are a doddle – in comparison to tropical ones anyway. A pinch of food, a good filter and tank not in direct sunlight and we’re away. I have a feeling I may have massively jinxed this by writing about it. I’ll keep you posted.