Book Review: Simon Sidebottom 2, Too Cool For School

Book Review: Simon Sidebottom 2, Too Cool For School

Nearly six months ago I wrote a book review about “A funny thing happened to Simon Sidebottom“.  My son still lists this as one of his favourite books – although he did draw the line as dressing up as the character for book week.

So I was very pleased when the second book came out and was eager to get it for him.  The second in the series is called “A funny thing happened to Simon Sidebottom 2, Too Cool For School“.  Yes – it is quite a long title.

Now to give a quick update my eldest son is nine, loves technology, science and screens, and most of the time will refuse to do much outside of these topics.  While he used to enjoy reading it is now a battle where I buy multitudes of books and he may read one of them (thankfully my youngest son, aged 7, loves to read).

About two weeks ago I walked up to him with the new book while he was laying on the couch playing his iPod.  To my surprise he put it down straight away and opened the book.  This alone is a massive win and a credit to the author, P. Crumble, of how good the first book in the series was.

As per the first book this one once again is a Choose your own adventure style book with quirky font, funny images, gross jokes and crazy nicknames.  The first thing I heard from him was laughter followed by an explanation that the principal, Mr Smart-Fells, gets called Mr Fart Smells and the teacher, Miss Graff, gets called Miss Giraffe.  This is the perfect sort of humour for my boys who spend a ridiculous amount of time discussing bodily functions and smells, as well as crazy songs and names for everything.

The second massive win, and credit to the author and illustrator, is that my son then proceeded to take the book with him to his brothers karate lesson where he normally stares at his iPod for the hour.  He then proceeded to read the book for the first 30 minutes.  I think I nearly fell over from shock – he chose the book over the iPod.

Now I can’t tell you much about the content as the only things I have gotten out of my son so far were the funny names of the staff at the school, that Simon still calls his sister Snot Face and “it is really good” (his exact words when I asked what I should write in my review).  However if you have children around my kids age who are obsessed with this type of humour then I highly recommend it.  If it can get my son away from screens for nearly an hour straight in one go then it is a big thumbs up for me.

I look forward to any other books released by this author.

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Connecting to music

Connecting to music

Growing up I loved expressing myself through the arts and creativity.  I started dancing when I was six and by the time I was in my mid teens I was doing five classes a week.  Looking back now I wonder what my parents were thinking of agreeing to this given the time and financial commitment they made but that is another story.  I played the recorder in primary school (just another way I tortured my parents).  I then moved on to the flute in secondary school and have great memories of being in the school band.  And in both years of my VCE four of my six subjects were based on art, graphics or dance.

Over the years since school my creative outlets have reduced due to many different circumstances.  In the last couple of years when life has felt out of control and the need to control what I can has increased my creativity has taken a huge hit.

However one thing I do still feel a connection to is music.  I have music playing in my house often but what is playing varies greatly based on how I am feeling.  See I have always connected music to memories and emotions.  It can be the lyrics, the tune or just the emotion behind it all.

There are songs that make me think of my years of dancing, songs that take me back to high school and in particular my years in the school band.  There are songs that make me think of my wedding day, my marriage and the end of that relationship.  And so many songs that I connect to my children.

But the feelings attached to the music can change.  Songs that used to make me cry about my marriage ending no longer have that impact.  Songs that I relate to younger years that make me reminisce and songs relating to my kids always make me tear up.

My Spotify playlists are so varied that I am not sure how it continues to suggest songs for me.  However one thing I can guarantee is that there are always playlists for me to sing along to and there are always songs to take away the quietness of the house when the boys are at their dads.

Over time I am trying to get back to some of my other creative outlets and connections but in the meantime music will continue to be a big part of life in my house.

Customer Service – good vs bad

Customer Service – good vs bad

I spent many years of my early working career in front facing customer service roles.  While studying I worked in retail, then a job as a waitress before going back to retail.  After studying my second job saw me go back into a customer service role at my current employer that got me a foot in the door at a large global company.

With all of this experience I think of have some ideas of what the basic requirements are for good customer service.  Recently I had the need to deal with two customer service centres and the experiences couldn’t have been any further apart.

One experience was with a very large global company and was one of the worst experiences I have ever had.  Two days of staying home for the delivery of a very expensive product that didn’t arrive, customer service reps who would say anything to get me off the phone and being advised I could pick up the product from their warehouse but not being able to tell me where that is.

The second experience was with a small overseas company who I contacted to see if I could buy a replacement part for a toy that my eldest had accidentally broken when opening the box.  They got in contact with me quickly and offered to send me a replacement free of charge as they wanted my son to be happy and appreciated my support.

I’d like to think that when I was in customer service I provided support that was more like the latter.  Possibly the large companies need to learn a lesson from the smaller companies who appreciate your business and think every customer is important.

Making memories

Making memories

I have had a week off work this week to spend the second week of the school holidays with my boys.

For the first time in a long time, and much to the boys delight, I have totally avoided work. No phone calls or checking of emails. In fact, as we went away to Phillip Island for four days, we had very little screen time (other than movie nights) and lots of time for making memories. Mini golf and mazes, magic shows, chocolate factories, animals – Phillip Island has so many great family activities. At the end of the four days after much fun, laughter and time for connecting with each other it felt wonderful to hear the boys say how they would miss the holiday and how much fun they had.

Today, being the first day back home, I was doing housework and getting myself organised when I noticed my youngest just sitting in the driveway looking around. I called out to see if he was ok and he ran over and said “come look at the clouds Mummy”. This turned into nearly an hour of sitting on the driveway with him and his brother talking about what pictures we saw in the clouds, looking for planes and endless games of eye spy.

Sometimes making memories can be from grand gestures, holidays and amazing activities. Often though, it is from the simple things that fill us with happiness and laughter. It is so easy to forget how important giving time to our children is – and how simple it can be to make a memory.

Redundant sayings

Redundant sayings

Sometimes a sure fire way to feel your age is to talk to children.

The other day my youngest was repeating the same whinge over and over. I responded with “you are like a broken record” to which he gave me a look and kept going about his day.

About half an hour later he started up again. And I once again responded with “see like I said you are like a broken record”. This time he stared at me and then yelled with exasperation “I don’t understand what you mean”.

After talking to him for a few minutes I learnt that his young mind, that has never used or probably even seen a record, had totally misunderstood what this saying means. To him a broken record is when someone runs faster/jumps higher/does more than everyone else. So he couldn’t understand why me saying he was like a broken record was a bad thing.

Once I explained to him how a record works and what the saying means I could see the lightbulb moment when he said “oh that makes sense now”

It did make me sit back and think. How many other sayings are now redundant and would get the same strange look from my children?

Year of reconnection

Year of reconnection

Today I had breakfast with a friend who I used to work with. We haven’t worked together for many years and lost touch for a little while but are back in touch now. We understand each other, get along really well and catch up every couple of months for breakfast. Seeing her today made me realise this has been a year of reconnection for me.

Technically I have back in touch with this friend for more than a year but it is the last year or so where we have regularly caught up. We are very similar and have similar views and opinions so our breakfast is full of constant chatter, laughter and understanding.

I have also written previously about reconnecting with someone from high school who I hadn’t seen for 18 years. While we have only managed one face to face catch up so far there have been many texts and a few phone chats that feel like when we talked all those years ago. Hopefully he agrees as he follows my blog!

And then a couple of weeks ago I had a fantastic night out with four ladies I worked with when I first started working at my current company 18 years ago. Two of these ladies I hadn’t seen for over ten years. As we caught up over drinks and dinner, followed by more drinks and dancing it was just like old times and not one part of the night was awkward.

All of these reconnections have been amazing and it makes me reflect on how much I have missed having these people in my life. So what makes them amazing? It is that our friendship is easy, and that I can 100% be myself with all of these people. No games, no pretending and no judgement. Whether it has been one month, one year or 18 years we are still there for each other in a friendship that goes both ways.

As an adult and a parent life gets so busy and it becomes so easy to drift apart, but when you find a true friend and support it is worth the time and effort. Even if sometimes it is just a quick check in to say “hey, how are you?”

The definition of strong

The definition of strong

When did the definition of strong alter to meaning you don’t need help?

I am proud to be a strong person. I have had many ups and downs in life like the rest of us, and for the last few years it feels the downs are certainly outweighing the ups. However, I pride myself that I do not give up. I have a bad day and then I pick myself up and do what needs to be done. I have two young boys that count on me and I am not afraid of hard work. I also hope that I am a good example for my sons and my nieces in showing that you can make things happen for yourself. They may not appreciate it now but I think (hope?) they will when they are older.

Last week I had lunch with a friend at work who I only catch up with about every six months. She made a comment that I have heard many times in the last couple of years about how strong I am and how “I’ve got this”. Then she made a further comment “you have always been strong but you let the men in your life make you weak”. It is certainly something I had thought about before. And I am determined that any future relationships will be different. My strength and character should not change because it might upset the men in my life.

It seems though that being strong equates to others as I can do it alone, no help required. And some days that isn’t so. Not having a support system in place gets tough. Days like today finding me sitting in the car after dropping the boys at before school care and yelling/tearing up at my frustration at doing it all alone. At the fact that young children can change well laid plans in a heartbeat – fights over what to wear, phone calls from the school over sick children, arguments over eating dinner.

I don’t want to change my strength or determination, I will continue to be a role model for my kids and I won’t pretend to be weak again……but sometimes it would be nice to share the load. Or at least have someone to convince my kids to eat what I cooked.