Shopping for a 5 year old is nearly impossible

My little one turns 5 in a couple of weeks and it’s time to turn my attention to birthday presents. There are the usual dilemmas of how much to spend, not having enough money and what the hell do you buy a 5 year old? (Answers at the bottom of this post please, I could really use the help). 1, 2 and 3 year olds all feel relatively easy to buy for. There is a plethora of highly coloured plastic that light up and make (irritating) sounds that will happily entertain the children. Shopping for 4 and 5 year olds never feels that easy. Not yet on reading books so no Roald Dahl sets. I feel I’m going to be very unpopular when I say I’m not a huge fan of Roald Dahl. I enjoyed his books in my own childhood but when reading them to my eldest son a couple of years ago, they’re full of made up words and kinda old fashioned in this day and age. As I said, unpopular opinion. I’ll get my coat.

So I’m no closer on what to get my 5 year old. When I ask him what he wants his answer is a laptop and an iPhone. Neither of which he’s getting. The stuff we got his brother at this age, my little one already has as hand me downs. Bugger. I’m starting to admire those parents who take toys from older siblings, put them in the loft for a bit then wrap them and present them as new for younger kids. If only I could be that organised. Oh well, I know that will never be me. Not least because both my children have memories of an elephant and would easily recognise when they’re being fobbed off.

Back to the drawing board. I have 12 days to find presents that will entertain a 5 year old, at least until the end of his birthday. I’ll keep you posted.

*Pets currently in my care – not including the doomed fish tank

I seem to be a pet magnet

We all know the trials and tribulations of pet ownership. Especially when I wrote about Stitch being in police custody earlier this year. As I watch him pee on the floor and bark in the middle of the night I now remember those quiet 9 days with a sense of nostalgia for the ease that life took on. When people say to me they’re thinking of getting a dog/cat/fish etc I tell them that I wish I wasn’t quite so competitive when pets are going free on Facebook and as lovely as Stitch is (and the goldfish were) they can also be a millstone around your neck.

Last year I looked after my friends’ dog for 12 days while they were away. I stopped to ask myself if I was crazy? – single mum, 2 kids, enough responsibility but it was nice to help out a friend and having 2 dogs didn’t seem that much work. Since then I’ve inherited my partner’s daughter’s fish tank and we had her cat here for a couple of months.

This year the same friends are going away for a month and I’ve volunteered to look after the dog and their cat. It’s been 3 days and the house is certainly noisier and with a lot more hair – all 3 animals are moulting in the heat. But you know what? It’s lots of fun too and certainly makes working from home more interesting.

Stop and look at how far you’ve come

Life today is very different to this time last year. I won’t go into the details of the first half of last year but let’s just say, it wasn’t good. I guess that’s not strictly true – it strengthened my friendships, my boys and I learned how to be a family unit just the 3 of us and the dog wasn’t (yet) in police custody.

What a difference a year makes. I won’t pretend it’s been easy. Building an entirely new life without many members of my old support network and with heart stopping financial worries is….. well let’s call it character building. Add to that trying to blend mine and my partner’s families and to keep it simple I’ll say we all now have tonnes of character ;-).

Recently my partner and I were spending a rare few minutes away from chaos and the kids (yep chaos and kids are linked) and reflecting on what’s gone on in the last few months and where we’re going next. It was really refreshing to look at how far we’ve actually come in the last year and have thoughts on where we’re going next. I realised that often we (not just me and the other half, but my friends and people in general) are so busy dealing with the day to day and negativity in our lives, that we don’t stop, take a moment, look at how far we’ve come and recognise our achievements. I’m going to do more of this in the future as it’s a great reminder of how strong my little family unit is and how exciting and unexpected life can be.

Reading is learning (even when it’s chick lit)

When I finished my English Literature A Level (about a million years ago) I said a silent vow that I wouldn’t be reading for a very long time, if ever. Reading and analysing the dreary A Level texts for 2 years put a lot of my classmates off too. There isn’t a lot of fun to be had from reading novels from 300 years ago, deciphering 14th Century texts and if you don’t like Shakespeare (I don’t) then you’re buggered.

Sure enough, as time went on I got back into reading but this time on my terms. I would only read stuff I felt I could relate to and if I didn’t like a book, I’d put it down rather than persevere. At the same time the chick lit world exploded. Marian Keyes was making a name for herself, as were Jane Green, Lisa Jewell, Jill Mansell, Catherine Alliot and Fiona Walker. (Side note – I loved one of Fiona Walker’s characters so much I named my youngest son after him). After years of avidly reading all this stuff I added other genres and one that I love is crime/thrillers. I was lucky to stumble across an author (Sibel Hodge) via Kindle daily deals and started chatting to her on Twitter many years ago. Not only is she a lovely lady, her writing is awesome. Her latest book ‘Into the Darkness‘ (out last Tuesday) ticked all the boxes – crime/thriller, written in a really easy to digest way, yet keeps you guessing all the way through and my goodness the things I learnt from it. Mainly how to keep away from the Dark Web and how corrupt the police force is.

I’ve read a lot of Sibel’s books plus other crime novels (love Nicci French’s writing) and it made me realise – even if what I’m reading isn’t considered very ‘high brow’, there’s still so much I learn from reading, with the added bonus of being able to make up what characters look like, in my head and imagine the places they’re going etc.

Another book I have to mention, that I read a year or so ago and totally stayed with me is Sibel’s book ‘Untouchable’. Utterly heart wrenching, yet felt like such an important read.

*Believe it or not this isn’t an advert for Sibel Hodge nor are the links affiliates – I just love her books and got reflecting on these 2 after leaving an Amazon review earlier today.

It’s very easy to speak too soon

Anyone au fait with the expression ‘don’t speak too soon’? It definitely, without a doubt applies to me. Thing is, I’m usually quite considered with my Five Things lists – after all, I’m writing about my life and it’s a fine balance between what am I happy to share with the world and what’s TMI.

Having gone it alone with the parenting game since the beginning of 2016, a couple of months ago I thought it was time to look at how life was now. After a lot of consideration wrote in one post that I no longer feel like a single parent. Which was true at that moment in time and for the weeks leading up to it. Naturally, the minute I had hit publish, all our kids fell out in a big way meaning an enforced separation for all of them (for everyone’s sanity) and suddenly I felt very much like a single parent again.

Clearly I didn’t learn my lesson because in another post I wrote about how much easier keeping cold water fish was than tropical fish. Then one got sick. There was a divide between me and my partner – I wanted to flush the fish and put it out of its misery. He thought it should gasp it’s last breaths in the tank surrounded by loved ones. He won and after a very interested 4 year old insisting on looking at the dead fish in the net, the fish went to its final resting place. Now another one of the fish is looking decidedly under the weather and I’m cursing having written about how easy they are to look after. Oh and letting another fish tank into the house after what happened 5 years ago (story shortcut – heater malfunctioned and all the fish in the tank boiled to death).

I am now so aware of speaking too soon that I’ll be much more considered about what goes into my 5 Things List and whether I’ve actually learned anything at all. As for an update on the fish – you’ll have to read about it in a future list.