Thursday, 23 September 2010

The Volkswagen Experience Begins.....

The photographers came yesterday for the photo shoot. They transformed my sister's conservatory into a photographic studio...much to the interest of my one year old who stared at all the intriguing gizmos and gadgets as if they were the latest Playskool offerings!  He seemed to take a shine to the photographers too, throwing plastic balls into their working area hoping to get some attention.  Thankfully the two Toms were very nice guys and happily indulged him in his game tossing them back!
My sister and I got a little bit flustered over the assistant photographer.  He had spent a little time in front of the camera himself and had landed himself a BT campaign albeit as a hand model.  Personally, I think Calvin Klein should snap him up, because he was sporting the low slung jeans look to perfection with his CK's peeking over in the most tantalising manner!  It certainly provided us with some top dollar eye candy and has been a definite perk of reaching the finals!!!

Grandad aka Superpops was up first.  The photographer gave him instructions to pose as a superhero...chest out, chin up, hands on hips...and he duly obeyed.  He did extremely well although his Superman flying pose came over a little bit Morecombe and Wise!  I thought my dad might skip off at any minute in M&W finale style!!  Nana was up next.  She was so nervous while my dad was doing his bit, worried she wouldn't do as well as him.  However, once she was in front of the camera she chanelled the inner diva and did a fantastic job that put Britain's Next Top Model to shame!  She might be 76, but she'd give them a run for their money!  She enjoyed it so much I think she is now looking forward to the whole fly on the wall film crew experience next week!

The party ideas are buzzing around my head.  How to make an element of surprise for 8 year old birthday girl Kizzy so the film crew get the response they are looking for, is the most difficult part.  That and the restrictions on the band playing covers because of copyright restrictions.  The latter problem though is an opportunity for the girls to showcase their own original work and Ella has already penned a song for the ocassion, which must be good because it made me cry!!!

So, it's all systems go!!!!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Volkswagen Ultimate Family Superhero Competition!

A few weeks ago, I entered a Volkswagen competition to nominate a family superhero.  It was an easy choice for me to pick my mum and dad who, for the sake of the competition, have been renamed Superpops and Nana.  They are at the heart of our unique extended family with their thirteen grandchildren...the fruits on the family tree and a direct result of their extraordinary 55 year marriage. 

I dragged and dropped the cartoon masks and belts, hearts of gold and the swishing loveheart, representing their love for us all, onto a picture taken of them at Freddy's birthday party.  I then wrote a short piece explaining how they are such a big part of our family life and how they have organised a stay in a fancy manor house in the Lake District to celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary.

A few days later I was emailed and asked to submit a video that showcased our family and showed our personalities.  With the help of my favourite partner in crime and sister QWERTY mum, we held a family get together celebrating the return of our nephew Tom from Alabama, where he'd been working at a Summer Camp for disabled adults and children.  It was a perfect opportunity to video snippets of our family doing what our family does!  The footage was then edited by my sister using her new toy...her Apple Mac with imovies.  The result was an emotionally charged film that showcased Nana and Grandad and their relationship with the family at its best.

There was another wait but then I received an email inviting me to a telephone interview.  I waited on tenterhooks for the phone to ring, knowing that phones are my least favourite media for communication!  However when the call come, I spent over 30 minutes chatting to a very enthusiastic lady from a media company in London.  She wanted to know about the whole extended family, what we do, what hobbies we have, how Nana and Grandad are involved etc. When I was talking to her I felt so proud.  The grandkids are all amazing...I always knew that, but explaining it to a third party and hearing what I was telling her made me see just how special and unique they are.  There is our 6ft 4" rugby playing, Summer Camp volunteering, Social Work studying, University going Tom.  Liberty is an Honours Graduate with a Masters PGCE and a new job as a secondary school teacher, and is also a pianist and singer.  Kate runs a bar singlehandedly. Joe is a support analyst who has won the title of Best Newcomer in his company's Annual Awards. Ivy is a second year Media student who plays guitar and piano and sings and gave her time freely to work in a charity shop for the summer.  Meg is a second year Business, Management and Marketing student who went up to University a year early and finished in the top 5%, and still found time to walk 26 miles for charity.  Taylor is in 6th form college after getting brilliant GCSE results and is an all round musician and drummer.  Ella is a guitar playing,singing songwriting maths genius.  Caz is a brainy, amdrams songstress.  Kizzy is a comedian and amazing big cousin and sister to the babies.  Addy, Freddy and Dylan are three late in life rays of sunshine who fill our days with joy!!!  The family band Her Bandana Dreams were discussed and raved over.  However, I felt we were probably too good and not "challenged" enough in our everyday life to really warrant going any further!
Wrong...a phone call yesterday told me we are in the final three, which means a camera crew are coming to film us while we host a party.  We also get the use of a brand new car to help with the party preparations, which has an in-car video camera to record us whilst in it! AAAARRRGHH!!!!!  The film crew will capture us doing our thing and produce a short film which will be put to the public vote.  Wish us luck!!!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Being a Mother....

What Being A Mother Means To Me!

Being a mother means being there for your children.  We are there to provide the basics:  sustenance, protection, warmth and comfort.  These are the essential duties that we sign up to from the moment of conception until our child no longer needs us. During pregnancy nature takes care of these needs.  All we really need to do is look after ourself and avoid soft cheese, peanuts, alcohol, caffeine, contact sports and bungee jumping.  It's the easy bit for those of us lucky enough to have relatively uncomplicated pregnancies.

When our baby is born into the world, no longer safe in the protective blanket of our womb, our responsibilities grow.  This tiny, mewling human is totally reliant on us to continue providing these same essential basics.  Milk from my breast, an Isofix carseat for protection, a Gro-bag for warmth and gentle cuddles and cooing for comfort.

The nourishment and nurturing we provide sees our newborns grow and develop into inquisitive toddlers. They demand a whole new way of being looked after.  Their developing tastebuds seek the excitement of new tastes and textures.  Gone are the days of bland baby rice and pureed mush.  Toddlers want the tantalising joys of Munch Bunch yogurts, Organix spicy tomato wheels and Fruitshoot My-5 juice.  We have to baby-proof our homes with socket covers lest they decide to insert something long and pointy into the holes that bear more than a passing resemblance to a mini shape sorter!  We keep them warm and cosy in their In The Night Garden onesies with non-slip soles.  We rub knees and kiss heads to provide comfort when their newly acquired walking skills let them down! 

Before we know it our child is starting school.  The virtual umbilical cord, that held our little ones close over these early years ,begins to stretch and fade as they assert themselves as unique, independent individuals in the big wide world.  We provide a packed lunch with cheesestrings, Innocent Fruit Smoothies and the occasional post-it note saying "I love you".  We fit our cars with the latest booster seat and trust that the crumple zones really do work in case of the worst.  We buy the cosiest coat from Next and insist they put their hoods up.  We listen as they tell us that so-and-so said they are not their best friend anymore and we wipe away the tears and tell them that it will all be OK tomorrow.  (And if it isn't we will march straight up to the school  and demand that the little bully be dealt with!) 

The teen years can be fraught, but personally I have enjoyed this time in my children's lives.  They face new challenges on their journey to adulthood, and sometimes they can resent our parental contributions.  Handled well though, this is the stage in their life where we can see the adult that they will become and feel great pride that we are a part of this transformation.  We try our best to provide at least three square meals a day but keep breakfast biscuits in the cupboard and ready meals in the freezer just in case. We become a taxi service on call 24/7 because, although we might miss the series finale of Desperate Housewives, as least we know they will get home safely.  (That's what Sky+ is for after all!)  We buy them hoodies with the names of their favourite groups or causes emblazoned on the front.  Yeah they look cool...but that fleecy lining and hood means they won't catch a chill!!  We are always there if they need us...because they will need us.  Maybe not all the time.  Sometimes we'll be an utter embarrassment to our teens but when things go pear shaped, nothing will ease the pain like a plate of mum's home baked muffins, a listening ear and a hug. 

Then they leave home!  Nothing really changes...the needs are the same.  Bags of baked beans, lentils, pasta, cup-a-soups and Angel Delight get delivered to their student digs or starter home with every regular visit.  We pay for new tyres on their cars (we may complain but heaven forbid they have a blow out on the M1) and regularly deliver the "don't walk the streets on your own" advice.  We slip  them the odd few quid because we know how expensive bills are and we dread to think of our child shivering unable to heat their room in Winter.  Whenever we go clothes shopping on the internet we can't help but check out the clothing in their sizes...and more often than not, a medium sized River Island coat or a pair of stout leather boots, that we know would withstand the rainy season in Manchester...will find their way into our basket! When things go wrong, we get the phone call.  Illness, a prang in the car, relationship troubles, an allergic reaction to antibiotics, money worries, a drunken stumble resulting in concussion, an argument with a so-called friend, a misbehaving computer or most recently a broken arm....we are the first port of call for advice and sympathy. 

Because, although they are now grown-ups, we still provide that comfort that only a mother can give!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

12secondstrip, oo'ing and potato heads!!

Having resurrected my comping habit, I've come to realise just how much it has all changed since the early 90's.  Gone are the supermarket leaflets, displayed amongst the baked beans or toilet rolls, asking you to complete a sentence in an apt and original manner.  Instead, with the advent of the internet and its associated technologies, we have a whole new forum for competition promoters to explore.  It's an exciting world with infinite possibilities and i feel I have only scraped the surface thus far.  However, I am embracing the new world and much to the embarrasment of teenaged daughter Ella, have entered into the realms of the video competition.
Unfortunately our videoing is limited by a lack of good editing software so we have to rely on one take Flip recordings.  This is obviously not as impressive as the beautifully cut, special effect filled productions that fill YouTube...but I hope an injection of personality and originality might sometimes be held in higher regard by the judges.  After all, we are not professionals and to discriminate against us would be a little cruel. 
So with that ethos in mind, me and Ian set out this morning to try and compete with the other entrants in the 12SecondStrip for Renault.  Picture it...Ian in a balaclava, winter coat, jeans and a T-shirt stripping off to reveal floral bermuda shorts in under 12 seconds.  While I, resplendant in coat, hat, scarf, long skirt and top, umbrella in hand...whip of my kit to reveal a tropical 2 piece barely covering my still wobbly baby belly and muffin top!!!  But do you know was so liberating and such fun.  We did about 10 takes out in the chilly autumnal morning in our back garden.  As our house is overlooked by at least eight other houses (god bless George Wimpey's policy of cramming in as many houses as possible), the neighbours who happened to glance out of their window on this Saturday morning would have been in for a big surprise!!  A pair of 40 somethings ripping off their clothes against the clock whilst being filmed with a Flip on a tripod!!  We're never going to win the car which is the prize up for grabs...but we did it!  We laughed a lot!!  I think I've actually put my neck out due to my over zealous clothing removal...but I did something totally out character and we had fun!
Yesterday, youngest daughter Kizzy helped me record an Oo'ed version of the Corrie theme tune whilst I was dressed as Hilda Ogden complete with curlers and feather duster!  Later today we are going to re-enact an iconic scene from Hellraiser using potatoes.  Then we might turn ourselves upside down, draw eyes on our chins and record ourselves singing a song.  Why??????  Because we can.  Because it's fun and someday, someone might just judge our entry as being better than everyone've got to be in it to win it!!!!

Friday, 17 September 2010

When they fly the nest....

Generally speaking, I love that my two eldest children have flown the coop.  Not that I wanted them out or did not enjoy living with them...because I actually loved the relationships I had with them in the home.  It was though, because I knew I'd done a good job.  I'd equipped them,  through years of nurturing and advice to be able to stand on their own two feet with the confidence and self-belief they needed to start their own journeys into the big wide world.  It was with a mixture of great pride and bitter-sweet self-indulgent emotions that I said goodbye to my big kids.  Both left in the same year, 2009. 

Joe went off to live with his much adored girlfriend Jade in her hometown some one hundred miles away from me.  He found himself a job there before he left (my one stipulation to his going) and I watched him drive away in his own car to start a new life independently.  (We actually followed him in our car because we had half his stuff in our boot and he needed our help to move into their new flat...but the imagery of waving him off would have been lost!!) My son was a man...albeit a man who still thinks it is funny to stick pegs on my feet, make prank phone calls and who eats a whole box of Cadbury's Mini Rolls in one go!  But that is what makes him little baby boy who is now all grown up!!!  I've not lost him at all...we are redifining our mother/son relationship and I am excited by all future twists and turns that promises to deliver. 

Megan is three years younger than Joe and she left to go to the University of Manchester.  She was just 17 as she took her A'Levels a year earlier than her peers.  Her journey was slightly more fraught as, because of her age, she was allocated accommodation in an all-girls fully catered hall of residence.  A devastating prospect to my fun loving party girl!  We had tears...lots of tears!  I left her in the "prison cell" of her room.  I felt so helpless as I was unable to ease her sadness and disappointment.  There was no exceptions for underage girls being in the halls without a warden...this was her lot for her first year of university.  It was meant to be the time of her life, but she was destined to live an alcohol-free, boyless, partyless existence....or so we thought! As we drove away I couldn't hold in the sobs.  My little girl alone with no likeminded people to call friends.  However 15 minutes into my guilt-ridden journey home I got a call on my mobile. A buoyant, bouncy voiced daughter regaled me with tales of the goings on of the first quarter of an hour of life at uni.  Turns out there were cool girls in the halls afterall (others too young for a warden-free first year or those who failed to secure their first choices of accommodation) but they'd all been off shopping at the Trafford Centre for the day.  They returned the second we had left with pizzas and beers and promises of a night out with the boys from the all-boys hall.  Things were going to be OK.  In her own irrepressible style Meg snared the barman, a second year student, from their night out...they've been together ever since!  I had given her the tools she needed after all...I should've had faith!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Joy of Comping! Part 1

Nineteen years ago, I was laid up, heavily pregnant suffering from pre-eclampsia.  I was five stone heavier than my pre-pregnant weight, feeling very unwell and housebound.  I needed something to distract me from my worry and discomfort so I turned to entering competitions.  I enjoyed having to think of slogans for Self Raising Flour, Starburst, Quorum took my mind off the fact that I kept swelling up in a terrifying, albeit comedic manner!  I was eventually hospitalized and my new found hobby kept me sane while I awaited the birth of my eldest daughter.  She was born, a beautiful bundle of baby girliness and my health improved. Shortly after, I started to receive prizes...a bottle of champagne was my first win.  I realised that the fruits of my comping labour were being rewarded and my offspring were taking the form of packets and parcels that were delivered to my door on a regular basis!

Often the prize was nothing more than a T-Shirt or cap emblazoned with company names...but it was still a win.  They were my comping babies and I cherished every one of them.  Eventually, the prizes got bigger and better as I entered more and more competitions.  Bicycles, games consoles, a hoover, a food processor, vouchers, a year's supply of beer, tickets to events all arrived.  All were skill based requiring slogans, recipes, artwork...and I soon got my children involved.  We hit the jackpot when my son's recipe for Dino's Dino-Pasties won a cookery competition to celebrate the release of the first Flinstone's movie.  His step by step drawings and photos of him covered in flour won the judges over and we won an all expenses paid holiday to Hollywood!  We took my niece, who is the same age as Joe.  We stayed in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel...a stay made more interesting because it hosted the Annual Porn Film Awards while we were there.  Explain that to your five year old son!!  We had tickets to Universal Studios where the new Flinstone show was just released.  It was an amazing experience for the children and something I always meant to repeat with my subsequent offspring...but the ever increasing travel phobia put pay to that!

Another biggie was first prize in a Gillette competition with a trip on Concorde to Paris, staying in a 5 star hotel.  Truly a trip of a lifetime...although all that first class malarky was wasted on me.  Champagne at 5am really did not impress me...and Concorde was quite pokey, and you don't even hear the sonic boom!  I am so travel sick that even the excitement of being on the most famous passenger jet in the world did not alleviate my queasiness.  The Parisian hotel was exquisite with a breakfast buffet of cakes, fruit, croissants and pastries.  A few bits found themselves wrapped in napkins and popped in my handbag for later.  How common am I!  I spent the whole weekend missing my children can't win them all I guess!

So here it begins....

I've wanted to be a "blogger" for some time.  To have a forum for my ramblings and to document this time in my life on the big old world wide web is an exciting, if not daunting prospect!  But here goes...the time is right. 
I love the technology available to us mere mortals today.  The days of filling notebooks with scribbles to purge your overloaded brain is over.  We have laptops, the internet, i-phones.  Who'd've thought that at the age of 41, I'd be able to embark on a journey of self-discovery in blog form, but here I am!
As I have written in my profile I do feel that I am blessed.  The paths I have chosen to follow have turned out to the perfect route for me (although I would have questioned a few of the twists and turns along the way at the time....what was I thinking??)  I've got to this destination without the aid of so much as a Sat Nav...for that I am proud!  I have a fantastic family, both nuclear and extended, and am literally full of love for each and every one of my peeps! begins a new chapter...the Blogging Chapter!  I hope to explore things past, present and future.  My children, my vegetarianism, random happenings, films I watch, books I read, competitions I enter....the potential is enormous.  I hope I do it justice!


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