May 152014
 

Last Friday I had the opportunity to go to a bloggy thing at London Zoo. I’ve never done one of these before and I was pleasantly surprised. I was able to take my 4 year-old daughter with me and while we were do the ‘grown-up’ stuff, she was taken very good care of by some children’s entertainers who had more energy in their little fingers than I display in a month. They kept in character throughout, even when we said goodbye, which left we wondering if they were like that all the time…? Good God, I do hope not ;-/

Anyway, the event was run by Bounty and Maynards and was about the psychology of children – the positive effect play and discovery can have on them. I was really impressed with how it was run; in small groups we moved around different areas which included:

A_Maynards_96The magical cave of Myths and Monsters

This demonstrated how important storytelling is to feed and expand the imagination (mine as well as the kids!)

The Doctor’s surgery of body bits

Using objects to play games like ‘Guess the Object’ (blindfolded) or hide and seek with something (my daughter loves it when I hide her teddy around the house)

The safari animals

Acting out animals thought movement, noise and description. My group is the one in the photo but fortunately I was not the one who had to pretend to be a squirrel!

The Explore and Play app

This is the free app which gives children factual information about the different topics after you have found them by scanning around your room. My kids enjoyed playing on this when we got home, especially my nine-year old!

A_Maynards_112 A_Maynards_104

 

 

 

 

 

It was well-organised and all the demonstrators were great fun. The most pertinent comment one of them made (she with the plaits in the photo) was the look on our faces when we described the ‘shows’ we used to do for our parents. It made me realise how much I had enjoyed doing them and the fact that we could all remember doing shows/dressing up/dances for our parents with our faces lit up with memories, spoke volumes.

I know for a fact I don’t play with my kids as much as I should. Partly due to screens, partly due to time constraints and partly due to energy. I have three kids and I work. They play together and I am usually exhausted. But when I make the effort to play with them, make up games in the car, do an activity with them, it is not only the pleasure of doing it that rewards me but the knowledge that they are making memories. I feel that kids of today are so ‘spoon-fed’ that they are losing independent thought and inquisition. I see it when I teach as well as kids I see socially. It is not down to spoiling them (although we often do) but more about the fact that everything is instant for them. They want an answer, they google it. They want to know how something works, go to YouTube. They are raised in a world of instant gratification and no longer strive to explore and discover. Little kids do, and this is what we need to nurture.

*gets down off orange box*

glass wing butterfly london zooglass wing butterfly london zooAfter all the fun we got free rein to go around London Zoo. It was so lovely, just me and H. She starts school in September and I have vowed to spend my day off each week making the most of her. We had particular fun in the butterfly house where, despite the man saying they never land on people, three of them landed on me and the biggest moth in the world landed on my leg. I smiled broadly but I think the look of bug-terror gave me away. H loved it, she had glass wings landing on her finger which attracted her an audience (never one to shy away, my daughter). Then we strolled through Regents Park back to the tube to head home. It was just lovely. So a big thank you to Maynards from me and H.

By the way, if any of you know the blog/twitter of the pregnant lady in the photos with the white top (her name was Vita) could you let me know?

Oct 082013
 

I have been pondering recently whether professionally, this is it. Am I going to stay in education all my life or is there another career for me out there? In all likelihood this IS it but I do like to keep my options open.  I have no clue what I would do instead and, to be honest, the only professional training I have outside of teaching is acting. Not a sensible career change. Or practical.

listI had a quick look at my CV and realised how dated it is, but not knowing anything about what a CV is supposed to look like these days I dipped my toes into the world of Google. This only set to confuse me further. I thought about what a CV actually was….it means ‘courses of life’ in Latin and apparently the first CV was written by Leonardo da Vinci. Yeah…follow that! I won’t bore you with details but apparently personal statements are the way forward.  You knew that, right? Me, not so much.  The last time I wrote a personal statement was on my UCCA form (yep, I AM that old) and I was trying to impress the university boards with the marvellous, diverse life I had led in my 18 sheltered, middle-class years of growing up. I can see why there are so many GAP years now…take a year off to actually DO something.

I pondered whether my personal statement should include my ability to get three children dressed, breakfasted and out of the door each morning by 0715 with clean teeth, vitamin pastille in hand and all of their homework in the correct bags. Should it include how adept I am at planning, acquiring and cooking all the food for the week in order to nourish my family in a healthy yet exciting manner? The skills I have in being able to listen to three children, all talking at once and similarly answer them all at the same time? All of that shows my prowess in practical matters, planning and execution and people skills.

I bet if that really was on my CV It would be scoffed at but it’s a shame really. Why shouldn’t domestic life be a valid way to demonstrate ones abilities? Why is it better to show your ability to see a project through with, for example, a successful advertising campaign rather than the fact you planned, catered for, bought supplies and successfully pulled off a party for 25 three-year-olds?  Just saying…

Anyway, reality bites and, for now, I will stick with what I know and what I’m good at. But one day, when it is time for change, I might just write that CV as it should be written.

A CV will detail your ‘courses of life’
I’m a cook and a cleaner, a mum and a wife.
I sort out the bills and I empty the bin,
I organise Christmas and re-stock the gin.
I dose out the Calpol and no-one is faster
At ripping that 2-day old Peppa Pig plaster.
I help with the homework, I teach them to pee
And monitor what they can watch on TV.
When they are crying I wipe away tears,
I champion dreams and I stamp on their fears.
Their washing gets sorted, their meals cooked three ways,
With grace I put up with the ‘toddler phase’.
I pay for the school trips and organise parties,
Read them a story and bribe them with Smarties.
All of these things are a course of my life,
A cook and a cleaner, a mum and a wife.

And that’s MY personal statement.

 

something for the weekend?

Join in with this week’s Something for the Weekend? by linking up below. Any post, any topic – get it out there!



Sep 112013
 

20130911-174324.jpgThis is one of my favourite photographs of me. Partly because it’s a distance shot and you don’t get to see my wrinkles or the bags under the eyes, but also because I am wearing my absolute favourite things: a scarf, hat, and boots. I love the summer sun but there is nothing so glorious to me as the crisp arrival of autumn. You can keep your strappy tops, shorts and flip-flops – give me winter woollies and I am a happy girl.

At the moment I am on a mission for some winter boots, smart enough for work with a pencil skirt but comfortable enough to stand up in all day. Harder than I thought. I have been trawling the internet (my favourite way to shop) but the perfect pair are eluding me. I also need to buy the compulsory pair of jeans (or two) for the winter. I live in jeans, I really do. Bootcuts for the summer, skinny with boots for the winter. One of my favourite songs is still Neil Diamond’s ‘Forever in Blue Jeans’. But I digress.

I was having a browse online last night and there are some really lovely things out there this year for me to covet. Why trawl around all the shops with their roasting heating systems and lack of sizes when I can browse the internet in comfort of my own home, scarf  wrapped around my neck, tea in my hand and perhaps a naughty slice of cake on the side. I have been scouring Pinterest for autumnal outfit ideas and there are lots of lovely outfits out there that people have put together in a way that I’m sure I could never pull off, especially the tiny tiny thighs that you appear to need to wear such an outfit with style and grace. *puts back cake*

IMG_1396

The PERFECT outfit imho but look at those tiny thighs!

I seem to be having a bit of an image rehaul at the moment. Last week I decided to cut myself a fringe. I know, never the best idea and more than one person has questioned how I can spend so much at the hairdressers and then take to my hair with the kitchen scissors. It looks OK, swept to the side, or with a clip in, or….Ok, ok – I’m growing it out!

I have even painted my fingernails this week in a bid to look a bit more sassy (love that word – don’t know why). One of my Y7 pupils vocalised her approval of my choice of colour, so I am clearly not so crusty as I feel.

Right, that’s enough from me. I am going out (bescarved*) and ready to kick up some autumn leaves…

 

* SO should be a word

Jul 292013
 

20130728-181944.jpgAt Britmums Live they were giving away some very funky notebooks. I then noticed that the same company were also promoting diaries and planners. And, hey presto, in my goodie bag was a voucher for a free planner!

What makes these planners so brilliant is that you can choose the size, colour, upload a cover photo and give it your own title. Then you can choose what month it starts, how you want it formatted, columns, colours, sections – even the pages at the back are a choice of ruled, maps, sudoku, colouring pages etc etc. SO MUCH CHOICE! And I love the fact you can enter birthdays etc. and they come ready printed on the dates. Just brilliant and excellent quality too, so I was very pleased with my freebie and mentioned to the company how impressed I was when I ordered.20130728-182017.jpg

And do you know what they did? They offered me a free planner to give away on my blog! Yes, my first competition *Puffs chest proudly*.

All you have to do is leave a comment below telling me one thing you plan to do today. The winner will be pulled out of a hat on Sunday and announced in next week’s post (I’ll tweet/email you too).

To whet your appetite, pop over to Personal Planner and have a quick peek at how fab these things are.

Don’t forget to link up with the Monday Club too, now co-hosted with the indubitable Tom Briggs

20130728-182050.jpg



Jun 272013
 

Things are afoot in our house. Wooden floors have been laid, light fixtures updated and furniture purchased. All that remains is to get the garden patioed (is that actually a verb?) and coax the sun out if its hidey-hole.

I am now thinking of finishing touches…firstly the lounge.  OK, it needs painting but the colour is chosen, tester-potted (another dodgy verb) and  waiting…..waiting….waiting…for my husband to actually do it *calls decorator*.  I have selected some ‘vintage’ *sniggers* lampshades and am going for a melee of sweetshop colours to brighten up the white backgrounds.  I had a look at some cushions from K&Co to see if there was anything to brighten up the battered leather sofas and they have a good, affordable range to choose from. I am hoping some candy colours will do the trick.

Then my thoughts turned to the bedrooms. The kids’ rooms are kitted out with new mid-sleeper beds in gleaming white, thus giving some extra floor space/den and saves my back from bending over to kiss them goodnight. I know, sounds awful but if you’ve ever slipped a disc you’ll understand.  I investigated some bedding ranges to pep them up a bit and selected some very Cath Kidston-esque ones to appease the Kirstie Allsopp in me (actually she does a range for them) and some less chintzy ones for everyone else. I pondered over the need for bed cushions….I see them on films and think ‘How lovely! look at that bedroom heaven’, but, of course, in reality, you would pan over the crisp duvet and plump cushions to reveal the floorspace which behests some balled up socks, scattered kirbigrips. discarded shoes and a few random coins.

I am hoping that by the end of the ‘summer’ our house will be almost there. Where ‘that’ is, God knows, but we shall be knocking on its freshly painted door. And inviting the neighbours around for a barbecue. In the rain, no doubt. Still, at least I will have a colour coordinated towel to dry them off with….

 

Apr 032013
 
If only they would....

If only they would….

Dear readers, I am writing to report a car crime.  A very serious crime where I am the victim.

And the perpetrator.

I am not sure whether it comes under vandalism, gross negligence or wanton flouting of health and safety, but the interior of my car resembles a skip.  And not one outside a nice semi in Twickenham, but one in the middle of an industrial estate where all and sundry have deposited their grottiest cast-offs.  Yes, that will be my car.

The fact it is immediately cluttered with 3 car seats/boosters does not help.  It’s only a little Polo and with me and the three kids in it, it is already fighting a losing battle.  Stick a wet dog in the back and you might have some idea as to its resident odour….

Prepared for the devastation that would embrace it, I initially armed it with air freshener and a roll of M&S scented bin bags secreted in the hidden drawer under my seat.  I even bought (against all good sense) one of those clip-it-on-the-back-of-the-seat hold everything type things, that look marvellous in the Jo-Jo Maman Bebe catalogue, but when fitted droop off the back of the car like aged cleavage, thus taking up even more precious space.  They hold…erm..a few thin books and not a lot else.  Once you’ve rammed it to the gills with wipes, water bottles, muslins, toys, colouring books, crayons and emergency snacks it just groans weakly before vomiting everything back on to the floor of the car, which is possibly the best place for it seeing as it is the only space left vacant.

Clearly NOT my car, but what it is supposed to look like.  Look at the seats *weeps*

Clearly NOT my car, but what it is supposed to look like. Look at the seats *weeps*

I am actually quite diligent in having a weekly(ish) scoop up of all rubbish into one of my lavender-fragranced bags, but what I really don’t understand is the grotty, nibbly, fluffy, gritty stuff that gathers in the folds of the gear stick, deposits itself under the flappy bits of the always too small cup holders and works its way into the crevices of the seats.  Two questions:  a) what the hell is it? and b) where the hell does it come from?  The stickiness I can account for (sweets, juice, discarded lollies and the remanents of an enormous meringue that I bought my son and decided my car after school would be the optimum time to give it to him). So yes, stickiness I can hold my children culpable for…but the inordinate amount of dusty crud….no idea.

My friend got in the car the other day (who is VERY tidy) and I wouldn’t let her in until I’d found a blanket she could sit on.  ‘I don’t need that!’ she chuckled.  Then I lifted off the booster seat from the passenger seat and revealed two blobs of unidentifiable never-to-be-removed white stuff, a penny, a discarded kinder egg pod, a polly-pocket dress, sweet wrappers and an infinite amount of aforementioned cruddy stuff.

She sat on the blanket.

Wracked with guilt and self-disgust, last weekend my husband and I spent a fraught half hour in John Lewis looking for a wonder-device that would clean my car and make it considerably less revolting.  The miele vacuum? A hand-held Dyson?…..Is there ANYTHING out there that could tackle my car?  Our perusing was cut short by our three children who were baying to play in the demo iPads and get to the cafe.  Apart from H who, age 3, just wanted to run as far away as possible and scream as loudly as possible. We gave up/in and went for a cup of tea.

So, my car sits outside my house like the vehicle of doom.  Frightening passengers, housing all sorts of crap in its nooks and crannies and emitting eau de landfill to all who enter in.

Too embarrassed to take it to be valeted, this weekend I plan to attack it without mercy.  There will be screaming (mine), there will be retching (again, me) and there will be a trip to Halfords cleaning and refreshing aisle.  And if, nay when, she is once again presentable to the outside world, there may even be a full wash and wax (yes, me again…oh, no *ahem* sorry, I mean the CAR).

Please tell me I am not the only one whose car ends up like this….anyone?

Feb 142013
 

I was recently sent some books to review by publishers My Little Big Town, who are very keen to publish books children actually want to read.  This may, of course, make the more traditional amongst you recoil in horror, but as a teacher and a parent I see how important it is to get children engaged in books and reading and I’m afraid times, they are a-changing.  ‘The Secret Garden’ just isn’t working its magic any more.  My son takes no interest in the classics, but give him a book involving bodily functions and he is putty in your hands.  So, it was with great interest that I awaited the books that My Little Big Town was sending me.

Enclosed in the package were three books by Calvin Innes from the Tiny Twisted Tales series.  My eight-year old daughter saw them on the table and exclaimed ‘Ooh!  I’ve read one of these at school!’ and then picked up one of the other titles and started to read.  Always a good sign.

NewcoverSTBEMThe titles sent to me were ‘Jenny’, ‘Pale Henry’ and ‘Stuart the Bug Eating Man’.  I am going to review the latter, but it was Pale Henry that my daughter had previously enjoyed and enthused about, so that may be next on my list.

The title tells you all you need to know about the storyline.  Forget ‘I’m a Celebrity’, this guy actually enjoys eating bugs, and plenty of them!  Written in rhyme and with an illustration at every turn of the page, the book provoked many laughs and a good few ‘eughs’ too!  Wittily written and fast-paced, Innes tells the tale of Stuart, who eats all sorts of creepy crawlies and firmly believes “it’s the wriggly ones that taste the best.” His long-suffering wife, fed up with the “centipede sandwiches”, “juice, made of slugs all ground down” and Stuart’s lack of employment, tells him to get a job and help pay the bills.  So Stuart spends the day in his shed and comes up with the perfect solution!

I read it to my children who loved it and made me return to the more grisly bits to read again. And again. Reminiscent of Dahl’s ‘Revolting Rhymes’, I recommend this to those of you whose children revel in the repugnant.  The rhyme and clear font make it an easy read and, in my opinion, it is most suitable for children aged 5-10.  Just don’t read it before eating…..

 

 

Feb 052013
 
Eye

I spy with my little eye….

In the modern-day of gadgets, screens and cyberspace it is refreshing to play a few old-fashioned, time-honoured games which involve nothing but a few willing participants. These games are, I often find, best played in moments of extreme boredom and/or desperation. I-Spy is one such past-time. Starting with colours (something that is…red) and, as my children learn to read, moving on to phonics (something that starts with….B). We are wont to play it in doctor’s waiting rooms, Pizza Express and on looong journeys.  Having three kids, all of whom seem to have inherited my competitiveness, I have learned through bitter experience to take turns in having a go and not let the guesser get the next turn.  Otherwise your eldest child will rule the roost and take great satisfaction in gloating over the weeping younger siblings.

Car games are always the best.  Aside from I-Spy we play visual bingo which is who can spot certain, carefully chosen things such as a slippery road sign (my son’s favourite) or a living animal (we get a lot of road kill around here).  This is, I unsuccessfully stress to them, not a competition, but a joyous observation game we can do as a team.  Yeah, I know…

rightThe favourite game to play in the car is The Lorry Game.  This is not great for young children, so my husband and I usually play it when the kids are asleep and all our *ahem* stimulating conversation has ceased.  It involves us choosing four lorries (only one supermarket allowed) and getting one point every time you spot one of your lorries and if you get all four, then the game is over.  We have been playing this for years and so my four lorries are firmly established.  Waitrose (I remain loyal), Norbert Dentressangle (although I can’t pronounce it), Argos (surprisingly frequent) and my pièce de résistance, Royal Mail or Parcelforce (who are diligently delivering parcels all over the UK and boosting my score no end).  If you want to play, the lorry has to pass you (either side of the road) and be moving not parked.  Try it – honestly the M1 has never been so exciting….

One last game, which is always a goodie, is what we call Amazon Zulu.  Basically going through the alphabet in turns and trying to name different categories of things..fruit, breeds of dog, pop groups…that sort of thing.  Good one to play with the kids or as a drinking game – such versatility!

Now, if you are sitting there thinking…crikey, the long winter evenings must just fly by in that household….don’t judge me.  I don’t get out much.  And I do like to win.  Yes, even against the kids.

 

Jun 262012
 

david tennant dr who…otherwise known as The Internet.  Whether you go on to check your emails, compare car insurance, do a spot of blogging or, the worst one of the lot, have a ‘quick’ browse on eBay it is NEVER a 5 minute stint.  In fact, by the time I look up my tea has gone cold, my toddler’s had her next birthday and there’s a large cobweb formed between my left elbow and the top of the chair.  Honestly, it is like logging on to a time warp. I keep expecting Dr Who (Tennant, of course) to creep up behind me and….Oops, sorry.  That’s a different blog post altogether.

The other day I went on to post my Silent Sunday and  #SnapHappyBritMums photo.  It was early in the morning and Son had me up at the crack of dawn.  He wanted to watch a film and lazy parenting ahoy, I agreed.  Next minute he was tugging my arm asking for breakfast…the film had finished!  I’d spent an hour and a half on the laptop without flinching and it only seemed like 10 minutes!  Uploading is speedy, my typing is fast so (not wanting to sound like my least favourite CBeebies program) Where does the time go?  It’s like the internet dementors are sucking your soul whilst you type….drawing you in further and further until they control us through our laptops.  I really should write a Dr Who episode….

I have now recognised the fact that I am an internet junkie, or as I prefer to be called, a mousewife (see my earlier post for a full definition).  And they say recognition is the first step to combat addiction.  So I am making a pact with myself to limit my laptop time.  A bit of self-regulation and not far off from what I tell my children.  ‘When you’ve tidied up and made your bed then you can play’.  I might set myself a daily alarm that activates everyday at about 10am that says ‘Step away from the laptop’.  And then another 5 minutes later that says ‘And put your iPhone down immediately’. Who knows.  It might even work…

Doubt it, though.

Jun 112012
 

I am British and I feel quite at liberty to talk about the weather.

It’s bloody awful, isn’t it?

I am now officially fed up with the constant rain and having to talk myself out of flicking the heating on to warm the house up.  The gods did heed my (anti) rain dance and gave us a lovely day on Saturday for BFF’s wedding, but as soon as the clock struck midnight the spell was broken and a chill filled the air; the glittering coach changed back to a rather ordinary S-Max and my golden slippers just looked at bit muddied at the heel and were kicked off with the utter joy that only a night’s dancing in heels can trigger.

What is most irksome is how cold it is too.  It is bad enough that I have to wear myraincoat.  It may be a nice red Joules one, but the velcro is from the devil’s own device and rips into anything I wear underneath or happen to brush against.  I whisked my wrist past it and it actually made me bleed.  Bloody stuff.  Anyway, as I was saying, the mac is bad enough, but I am also having to layer up to brace the chill factor.  It’s JUNE for goodness sake!  My evenings should involve sipping Pimms in the garden whilst admiring the flora and fauna NOT huddled on the sofa with a blanket, a cup of tea whilst playing bingo on the internet.  BFF and I agree – we’re not expecting the tropics but the ability to leave the house without wet weather gear in tow would be a start.

After having a good moan, I always like to weigh up the situation, so I made a list of current weather pros and cons:

PROS

No need to water the garden.

Plants are thriving.

No need to wear hideous summer wardrobe that merely shows off all one’s wobbly bits.

Drought averted (I hope).

Good excuse as to why we can’t go to the swings.

The perplexing need for everybody to barbecue is abated.

School cricket matches are cancelled which means Husband is home before 7pm on a Wednesday.

Less urgency for fuzz-free legs and shiny toenails.  

No need to wear or apply sun cream to the kids every morning.  Factor 50 can only be successfully removed from hands with a tub of swarfega.

No point in washing car.

CONS

Housebound.

Kids keep asking to go to *shudders* an indoor play centre.  

Plants have gone bananas (metaphorically speaking, not literally alas.  That would be a HUGE pro!).  In same vein, grass cannot be cut and is knee-high.

Everybody is moaning.  Including me.

Summer is no different to winter, which is depressing.

When it’s cold I eat more.  Dammit.

My hair goes frizzy in the rain and I start looking a bit like Charlie Dimmock.

Wet dogs are even smellier than usual.

I have lost the rain covers to both my prams.

School drop off/pick up (with 2 year old in tow) is a NIGHTMARE.

All school/local/jubilee fetes a wash-out thus ruining hours of community effort and hard-work.

Roads more dangerous.  There’s an awful lot of dead badgers adorning the hedgerows around here. (not sure if that;s due to rain, but thought i would point it out anyway).

So there you are.  The cons outweigh the pros in my humble opinion.  Only just though - interesting…… *rubs chin quizzically*

p.s.  I was enlightened when reading the poem from which my blog title is taken, that Shakespeare seems to have invented the phrase ‘toss-pot’.  Just thought I’d share that little bit of trivia…..