Thursday, 27 March 2014

Bobchat - three wheeled

On discussing dinosaurs... 'The one with three horns is tricycle-tops'

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Maggot Moon - Sally Gardiner #50books2013

A thought provoking read, covering difficult topics such as Fascism and conspiracy theories. I enjoyed it, and was gripped, but it was also disturbing. Although ostensibly a children's book, there are some scenes that are brutal and violent, and also some swearing, so I wouldn't recommend it for younger readers. It would make an interesting read alongside The Diary of Anne Frank (if they still study it in school!) for a more mature reader.

I would always recommend parents read along when children are attempting books like this so you can all discuss the difficult topics when they arise.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Under Pressure - Activities for tots

When I was on maternity leave with Harry I had no issues with how to fill my time. I visited the Children's Centre most days, along with walks around time, trips to the park and visits to the museum and library. We also enjoyed 'pay as you go' swimming lessons that we made it to most weeks.

When I returned to work this changed a bit, but was punctuated by 'play dates' and less of the 'baby' stuff. I had the odd wonder if I should be extolling him in to something a little more stimulating, but I just wasn't sure so never committed.

When Archie came along, things were a little different. I couldn't drag Harry along to baby groups but we found the odd thing that suited them both and I took Archie along to things like cooking and craft clubs - it was great for Harry, and Archie got to make a mess!

Now I've returned to work and I'm feeling the pressure. I have two days a week at home with them and in this time have to also get on top of the housework, washing, meal planning and shopping. There's a toddler group I haven't made it to yet on one of the days, and rhyme time at the library on the other... 

I can't shake the feeling that I should be doing something more - a friend mentioned gymnastics, another suggested football, swimming is obviously a major life skill - then there's the cute rugby tots kit in the picture a friend popped up on Facebook last week. What to do? They'd love it, I'm sure. More friends, learning skills, having fun, less time fighting over toys at home... All great positives!

So why am I left with a sinking feeling in the bottom of my tummy? I think it's because the thought of committing to something weekly just fills me with dread. I have these two precious days with my boys each week to just... Be. We don't get much chance to meet up with playmates these days as its difficult with other parents' working schedules but it's nice to have the option. There aren't any groups at the Children's Centre on those days at the moment, but if any come up I'd like the choice. I like it if Harry asks to make gingerbread and we can just do it (like we did yesterday).

I think the pressure on us to do everything and be everything is massive and it's something I'm susceptible to, so I'm now mindful. The boys have a busy week whilst I am at work with the childminder, pre school and a couple of school runs each day. I'm taking a step back. There's no rush. I'm sure Harry's rugby career won't be stilted by starting at 4 rather than 3. We will make sure they can swim by hook or by crook over the next few years, and to be honest Archie's gymnastic ability is currently quite advanced enough for me at the moment! 

More importantly, we've got a wander through the meadow and some blackberry picking to do...

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Free School Meals

Why did my heart sink when I heard the news about Free School Meals for all infants? Surely it's a good thing that more kids in these poverty-striken times (and no, I don't think I am exaggerating there - so many families are struggling right now) are getting at least one decent meal a day?

However, I just don't think this is the best way to spend £600 million pounds! For starters this blanket spending on all families is in no way targeting the individuals who are struggling. In fact, if they wanted to support families of young children, why not contribute more to child benefit or food vouchers? Will this really help those who are struggling when providing a packed lunch of whole meal sandwich, piece of fruit, some veg sticks and some snacks is probably one of the cheaper meals to buy? 

I also worry, even in this day and age of Jamie's School Dinners that school meals leave a lot to be desired. And I work in a school! Yes, my first school had a resident chef who provided well-cooked and exciting meals, but that is not the norm, I can tell you. In fact many primary schools, severely strapped for space - they can't even fit in the kids - have no facilities for cooking meals so this will all be out sourced to private companies. Who is going to benefit most, I wonder?

We always aim to eat together as a family each night. I think it's vital that we sit down as a family, no TV, and chat about our day. Our boys are served up with the same meal as us, and although I wouldn't say they are that adventurous yet, they are getting there. A now eats curry, dipping in his naan bread and eating with a spoon. Harry's favourite is pasta. I'd like to know what happens to our family meal when the boys are having a cooked dinner at school? No doubt they will want something lighter, which will remove the family feel to out meal times.

How about puddings? I'm not going to lie , our boys often have a pudding in the evening. This ranges from fromage frais, fruit, jelly to the odd cake or ice cream. Some are more healthy than others. However, I'm not keen on the traditional 'school dinner puddings' of stodgy sponge drenched in custard and syrup, which I understand are still commonplace. I don't really like the idea of my four-year-old filling up on that, especially when I don't know what else he has had. Equally I'm perhaps contradicting myself, but I wouldn't be happy with someone who is not his parent 'punishing' him by not allowing him to eat a pudding because he doesn't  like the dinner. And when he comes home after a full meal and pudding at school, am I still going to feel free to enjoy our baking escapades or will
I worry about what he's already had that week?

And there lies the real root of the matter for me. I am the parent in this equation. I wish to retain autonomy and responsibility. I want to send a lunchbox and see the evidence of what he has and hasn't eaten. If he hasn't eaten much fruit and veg that week I want to know. If he's feeling under the weather I want to send his favourites. I resent an arbitrary decision being made in the capital claiming to be 'levelling' society. I am confident in my abilities of a parent and there are far worse things the government *should* be worrying about than what I give my kids for lunch.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Bobchat - Hippo

H - Mummy, in that story there was a thing just like a hippo but it was a pototamus...

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Bobchat - Eyes

On being called upstairs to Harry after bedtime
H - Mummy, my eyes are stopped working
M - What do you mean your eyes aren't working?
H - They not do this (shuts eyes) any more

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Camp Bestival - Family Fun in Threes

I was lucky enough to win tickets to Camp Bestival after entering a competition on Twitter with - we found out on the Monday and that gave us *just* enough time to get together all our camping gear, organise last minute holiday from work (husband not me!) and rearrange our lives slightly to enable us to go. It was fantastic and it was an experience I was so glad to be able to give my two little boys. We are off on a camping holiday in France at the end of the month, so it was great to give camping a trial run too (although, honestly, I hope that none of our pitches in France will be quite as sloping, and I'm also hoping for flushing loos!).

There's so much to say about Camp Bestival - it's such an amazing family experience. There are very few people who go without kids, so you really feel like you are part of one extended family. There's no shushing if your little ones get over excited, there's no tutting if they decide to have a tantrum, and there's always someone on hand with baby wipes if you can't lay your hands on your own. My little ones aren't really the type to run off - but if there were I imagine it would be slightly less stress-inducing knowing that they are surrounded by 'mummies and daddies' who have little people of their own.

In fact, there's so much I could say about Camp Bestival, I'm going to have to reign myself in a little - we could be here until next year's event otherwise! So I've grouped a few of our favourites into 'Top Threes' to give you an idea of the variety of things we enjoyed!

Top Three Experiences
1. Camping
We've camped with Harry before, but it was before he was 2 and I don't think he remembered anything about it. There's something about sleeping under canvas that is so special. We arrived at the camp Thursday evening and there wasn't a huge amount of choice of pitch left - we ended up on the least-sloping pitch we could fine, but it wasn't exactly level. We later found that there were a few pitches closer to the festival that might have been better, but as new festival-goers, we just went with what we could get! The first night saw me moving in with Harry as he was rolling all over the place. This was actually one of the best bits for me - I seldom get to lie and cuddle my biggest boy, and this was the perfect opportunity :-)
2. Festival Feel
This was the first festival for all of us. I suppose it was as we expected - you see festivals on TV and it always looks so fantastic - but you can't really describe the atmosphere when you get there. We were blessed with some lovely weather, especially on Saturday, and the lowering sun behind the flapping flags thronged with happy people is something I will never forget.
3. The Freedom
Seeing our little ones hare around, whilst knowing they were completely safe was wonderful - Archie, who has only been walking for the past couple of months particularly enjoyed the freedom!

Top Three Activities
1. Dingly Dell
With two under 5s, Dingly Dell was a great draw for us, it was a fairy forest full of crafts and story telling - perfect for our little ones. Harry made a wish on the wish tree, and was even enticed into doing some craft! He really wanted to know where the fairies were and why they weren't in their houses and went hunting with a magnifying glass for them. There was also a play park with swings and a slide, which Harry really enjoyed. Archie was entranced by the fiery lights when we visited after dark.
2. Camera Obscura
It seems amazing that in this digital age a Camera Obscura can still be so entrancing. After all, many of us hold devices with the ability to make instant videos in the palms of our hands. However, nothing can beat being in that dark little room observing those outside, who are completely oblivious. If you've never visited one, you must!
3. The Percussion Orchestra
The Royal Albert Hall 'Percussion Orchestra' was a big favourite with the boys, and the way they created a whole piece of music with the little ones was just amazing - all interspersed with some great classic tunes. The boys loved it and so did I!

Top Three Music
1. Proclaimers
Watching our little boys with their Scottish heritage dancing along to '500 miles' has got to be one of the highlights of the weekend :-)
2. Levellers
We weren't sure if we were going to catch The Levellers - a band Ian was keen to watch. We hadn't invested in a trolley and ear defenders like many of the more serious music fans, deciding instead that we would just cut our losses and head back to the tent if we needed to. However, with the little one asleep in the buggy and the big one happy to snuggle on the picnic blanket we were able to catch some of their set, which was great.
3. Ady Suleiman
We caught this guy's dulcet tones as we were finishing up an evening play in the sand pit. We were both drawn in and really enjoyed the end of his set, definitely a great chill out for a summer's evening with a drink in hand.

Top Three Food
1. Mexican
It was a bit tricky thinking of things to buy for our slightly fussy two. We brought enough supplies of cheese sandwiches to see us through lunches, so at least they gobbled that up! However, Nachos were certainly a real hit - although we did fairly quickly scrape off the jalepeno dip. I'm not sure that would have been such a big hit.
2. Churros and Chocolate
What could be better of a summer evening that some tasty, sugary doughnuts dipped in chocolate? Not much, I think - and the boys agreed.
3. Fish and Chips
The food at Bestival was great - it wasn't your usual scuzzy burger van, but high end, delicious and well cooked food. The fish and chips were no exception. Scrummy!

Top Three Souvenirs
1. Programme
The programme was £10, but it was definitely essential. It all came in a lovely bag, which we proceeded to use for snacks and contained an almanac, a handy programme on a lanyard, a colouring book - and, most essentially - a CBeebies magazine - a great hit with H.
2. Guardian Bags
The Guardian were giving away great, brightly coloured canvas rucksacks when you purchased a copy of the paper. They also had a handy kids magazine contained- again, a great idea for some down time for the kids. We couldn't resist getting all three bags. However, with 2 little ones, we're still working on reading all the content!
3. Camp Bestival T Shirt
We couldn't resist buying H a t shirt to commemorate his first festival. We chose the one with the artists names on the back. We were going to get navy (I don't buy white for myself or my children as we have a propensity for getting grubby and my laundry skills aren't up to it) but they'd sold out so we got pink. My boy looks lovely in pink so we were really pleased when we saw it on him. He gets called a girl everywhere we go any way, so a pink T shirt isn't going to make any difference!

Harry's Top Three
1. Dressing Up
Harry's not always the biggest fan of dressing up, but he got into the festival spirit and refused to attend without his pirate outfit! Unfortunately this did mean we lost his little foam sword (woe - it was my fault :-( ) I guess losing things and knowing they are gone for good is a lesson to be learnt and he did quite well bless him, shedding just a few bitter tears.
2. Sand Pit
Without a doubt Harry's favourite place at the festival was the massive sand pit. He spent hours here digging, building and generally getting covered in sand!
3. Bubbles
We loved watching the bubble stand at the festival, especially the smoke bubbles. Amazing!

Archie's Top Three
1. Dancing
Archie grooving away as we listened to the sing a long Jungle Book is a sight I will never forget!
2. Percussion Band
Banging noisily and being ALLOWED to? Win/win!
3. Dingly Dell at Night
Archie was mesmerised by the lights and fire in the Dingly Dell at night. We had to wait in a MASSIVE queue to get in, but it was really worth it.