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...