Tuesday, 30 April 2013

doing the photo-a-day challenge

My very lovely friend, Sheila, who has four children, a job, a blog, a photography course, and runs a toddler group, all while smiling (phew!) introduced me to Fat Mum Slim's Photo a Day Challenge last year.

She mainly uses Instagram, as do lots of other people.  If you're on a computer you'll see my most recent Instagram photos on the right. Or come over to Instagram where you'll find me here. You can share your photos in the FMS Photo-a-day group on Facebook too, which I do when they're any good.  There's always lots of good, inspiring, and interesting photos on there.  People from all over the world take part, so you get to see snapshots of people's lives all over the world.

Chantelle, who lives in Australia, and is a professional blogger, provides the challenge, and also writes lots of interesting, helpful, and easy-to-read blog posts, on things like how to make your blog better, how to cook delicious food, and what's going on with her.  She manages to come across as a friend to everybody, which must be really weird for her when she meets someone who follows her blog!

I love the Fat Mum Slim blog, but the thing I like best is doing the photo a day.  I am sure I've talked about this before, so sorry if I'm being dull, but it's got me to stop just taking photos of my kids (although there's still plenty of that), and it's got me really thinking about presentation.

I think it's improved my photos no end.  And it's also helped me to see the usefulness of a little bit of practice every day.  So, if there's something I want to do better, I'm trying hard to do a little bit of it every day.  I started blogging at the beginning of the year, trying to write something every day, to get into the habit of writing.  You'll no doubt have noticed that I don't blog every day any more.  But I do write every day.  I'm working on a story, which is currently called 'The Earning of Stone', and is taking up a lot of my time... if it does ever become a book, it'll have a map in the front.  Sometimes there are other wee stories that come out, and I tend to put them on the Stories from the Frozen North blog.

Of course, if a little practice every day makes you good at something I must be a brilliant laundress... and I just watched the clothes on my whirligig get rained on, so that's clearly not working.  More practice required!  

Monday, 29 April 2013

the reserve army of labour

I'm a Mummy Blogger, and a Full Time Mummy, but long ago, like lots of other Mummies, I went to University.  Can you guess what I studied?  Apart from drinking?

For my BA I did Applied Social Sciences and Women's Studies.  It was a great course.  Really interesting, but a little bit practical too.  I don't know exactly what you're supposed to do with it, but I reckon there are lots of things.  I've found it really useful for doing sociological research, running a charitable organisation, and for being a Mummy, so far.  

One of the things we learned in Women's Studies was that in times of financial difficulty, or constriction of empolyment opportunities, women form a reserve army of labour (it's marxist feminism/feminist marxism people!).  Their work is needed in boom times, or when the men go away to war, but when it's not needed any more then they're pushed out of the workplace, and pulled into the home.  Previously this has been done with sexist legislation, like not allowing married women to work, for example, or ensuring that men's pay was higher than women's, but now we're not allowed to be so overt about it.  And yet everything I hear seems to indicate that it's happening again, now, in these times of hardship.  So how is the push being accomplished this time?  I'm not sure that it's something that one would notice on an individual basis, but the fact that there's so much of it going on, means it's worth having a look at, right?
Full time mothering seaside town style

Let's start with a case study:  Me.

When I first had a child I was intending on going back to work after my maternity leave, but then the reality of motherhood hit.  Nobody could love him like Kenny and I, so we felt that we were best placed to care for him.  At that point I was the main earner, and Kenny wasn't making the most of his skills in his job.  We knew we wanted more children, and I'd already been bumped for a promised promotion after I'd revealed my pregnancy. I'd looked around me at work too.  There were no mothers in my team, there was no workplace creche, and there was a culture of long hours which wouldn't work if I wanted to see my children.  When we saw a job Kenny could do which would be a great career opportunity for him, but would mean I couldn't go back to work, we decided it would be best for our family to focus on his career.  

Now we're three children later, and the youngest is going to be starting nursery soon.  I had thought that this would see me going back to the workplace, but to be honest, I don't see how that would work for us.  We have moved around the country helping Kenny get established in his career, and we still need someone to look after the kids, do lots of housework, and deal with holidays, sick days, and head lice.  It's easiest if it's me, so I'm trying to find ways to do things with my brain that fit around doing all this.  Working for myself, if I work at all, seems to be the way to do this, because even flexible employers don't seem to be flexible enough.

I don't think my story is that different to lots of other people.  It isn't that there is an overt push, just that working doesn't suit.  I'm very lucky to be in a marriage wherein we can afford for me not to work.  There's a lot of people not so lucky, and yet even for them, work does not work when there are children.

The incompatible-with-children workplace culture seems to me to be the great push at the moment.  Sheryl Sandberg may be urging women to 'Lean In', but Google don't provide a creche at work, and long hours are how it's done (Mrs Sandberg may have had tea with her kids, but after that she left them with the nanny and went back to work).  In the 1970s we were looking forward to a four day week, so how have we ended up with this long hours culture?  It doesn't make any sense to me.  If there aren't enough jobs to go around, why does it take so long to do them?

But hold on a minute, is paid work better than unpaid work?  I don't actually think it is.  I mean, obviously we need money, and we have to get that into a household somehow.  But a home is about more than money.  And do you know what?  Being a full time Mum is a great thing to be.  I'm making people!  Not just producing them, but nurturing and encouraging them to be the best they can be.  This may not be paid work, but it is useful, and good.

Which brings us to the pull.  How are women being encouraged to leave the workforce?  In the 1950s, magazines made a big fuss over new-domesticity, and that's happening again now, in the form of The Great British Bake-Off, thrift chic, and a huge interest in crafting (last seen in the 1970s).  But all this is tempered by the low status of women's work in the home.  Apparently we should all want to go and do paid work (and presumably pay other women to do the work in our homes).

We once had a woman come into a toddler group  I went to.  She was employed by the local council to help people gain employment through training.  She came to give all of us full time Mums a talk about how we could get some basic maths, english, and IT skills on her courses, which would enable us to find work.  We could work in a shop, or be typists or something.  Oh the glory!  It didn't seem to have crossed her mind that anyone there could have chosen to be a full time Mum!  Or that anyone who did choose to be a full time Mum could have more than two brain cells to rub together.  She wasn't alone in this.  I've regularly been told that I'm wasting my education, being a full time Mum, and I'm often asked when I'm going to go back to work.

Well, I am working.  I am keeping a happy-ish home, creating people, and using my brain, and my education, all the time, whether designing junk robots, writing blog posts, or helping the kids with their homework.  I'm enabling my husband to go to work and earn the money we need.  When I have more time to myself, I might do more writing, but I would rather spend the time I can with my children than go out to work and pay someone else to do it.

Do you do paid work or unpaid work?  What would you do if you could?

Sunday, 21 April 2013

in the big smoke

We went into Glasgow yesterday; I needed to finish my outfit for the wedding we're going to next month, and we needed to get a load of stuff for our children, who have responded to the rain and Spring sunshine (spring has finally arrived!) by growing like weeds.

I hate shopping for shoes and clothes because it's just depressing being repeatedly told they don't stock them in my size.  I know what shops to go to now, but I don't know Glasgow, so I don't know where they are, and when they're concessions in larger stores I have no idea.  So I wasn't looking forward to our day.

But I had nothing to worry about.  Kenny was with me, and the kids too, and we had so much fun.

We started off looking for shoes.  We went into Russell and Bromley, where we were asked to put our scruffy buggy hidden out of the way of the shoppers, which was ok, but then the boy picked up a shoe to show me and noticed the price... He called over "Mum, this shoe is £175, so two will be £350!"  I was impressed by both his quick maths skills and his incredulity (if not by his shoe shopping skills), tee hee.  We left that shop and went into Office, where I found the perfect shoes.  Here they are.  They weren't £175, which is good because they're made by Blowfish, which usually means they'll look fab and fall apart quite soon, but they're red and they remind me of my wedding shoes.

We stopped off for a quick lunch of sausage rolls and pasties, and a spot of people watching.  The boy was amazed with the river of people going up and down the hill, and the little girl kept on asking in amazement "what are they wearing?"  She had a point, to be fair, I'd seen pictures of the fashion for ridiculously high heels, but I didn't think people actually wore them for walking in! 

I bought some very expensive makeup, which I rather liked, and I can only justify by saying that the woman I bought it off looked absolutely amazing, and I've only ever seen makeup ladies that looked scary before.

We stopped off at John Lewis to get more school uniform, and some rather fabulous shoes for the little girl, then went to look at 'phones for Kenny. The little girl had taken to playing with window displays, so her big sister was distracting her by taking photos of her on the phones - only Carphone Warehouse actually had the 'phones out and on so you could look at them; in all the other shops they were just fancy plastic bricks with screenshot stickers on, which isn't a great deal of use when you're trying to choose, imho.  

The little girls antics were driving me mad, so I deemed it nap time, strapped her into the buggy and said we'd look for sweets, and set off with the boy to find a cover-up for my arms. I was very pleased to find an Evans inside BHS (by which point little girl was asleep), and find something that looked ok.  I tried it on and asked the boy:
     "What do you think?"
     "Think about what?"
     "This top?"
     "This black top, here" - waving it, showing the tag
     "It's exactly the same as the top you're wearing" - laughing
     "No it's not!  The stitching is different." 
     "It's exactly the same!"  - laughing his socks off

Reader, I bought it... and he was right.

Enough!  We set off for home.  I had so much fun shopping, with funny, fun, life affirming people.  I am so lucky to have the family I've got, and I really enjoyed our day.  Let's not do it again for a while though, eh?

Do you like shopping?  What can make a good shopping day for you?

Saturday, 20 April 2013

going to a wedding

The last time I went to a wedding was in 2010, when I looked like this.

At that point I was pretty slim (for me), but very pregnant, and wearing massive sunnies in an attempt to distract attention from my massive swollen feet (I had to buy new sandals just before the wedding because I couldn't fit my fat feet into the shoes I'd got.  The new sandals were very practical, and that's the best thing I can say about them).  Of course, I was very pregnant, with a very big baby, and really there was only one massive thing that people were looking at!

This time, I'm not pregnant, but I am fat.  I am also in full-time-mum mode, and I am definitely not a yummy mummy.  So I must admit to feeling a bit non-plussed about being invited.  I'm going to have to wear a dress or something.  I'm going to have to look presentable.  Of course, as a guest, I'm not going to matter terribly much... unless I'm that woman who couldn't be bothered to make an effort.

So make an effort I shall.  Making an effort may not result in my looking like Queen Latifah (in fact I'd say that's incredibly unlikely), but we've got to have something to aim at, right?  I would love to look like Queen Latifah - especially Hairspray style.  She is just gorgeous!

Now I've had three children, and plenty of cake, so my first consideration has got to be some pretty serious underwear.

For this, and the dress, I went to Simply Be.  Not because they're fantastic or anything, but because I tried them after discovering that Evans ranges this season are awful.  Let's be fair though, most things for big lasses are awful.

This is the dress I like from Simply Be.  It is made of polyester or something similar, but it's nicely cut, and rather flattering.  

The little girl found me a fabulous necklace to go with it (at the garden centre), which came with earrings, 

So now I need some shoes and something to hide my arms (I wish someone had told me I'd be hiding my arms for so much of my life - I'd have been constantly in vests as a teen).  So I'm off shopping in Glasgow.  Wish me luck.  I'm dreading it (hate shopping, soooo depressing).  And that's the problem really... I may have a good dress, and get a good outfit together, but how am I going to ramp up my confidence to go with it?  Any handy hints?

Friday, 19 April 2013

having success with potties!

We have had a stupendously glorious day today.  Kenny has caught the sun!  Although, to be fair, with his pasty Scottish skin that's not too hard.

Summer dress!
And the snow's only just melted
The little girl and I had a Mummy-and-me day this morning, heading off to our local big garden centre, to buy flowers and look at animals, and, as it turned out, buy a rather fabulous necklace for my guest-at-a-wedding outfit (of which more, later).

We came home and planted lots of plants in our garden, and set up planters around the playhouse with edible things in (see, always thinking), and all day long, in the sunshine, it was warming up.

We picked the big girl up from school (the boy was at a friend's house), and came home to play outside, and enjoy the flowers, and potential strawberries.  It was so warm that the girls badgered me into getting out the summer clothes!  Obviously, I'm still wearing black, but they are in summer dresses and sandals... and pants.

The big girl won't appreciate my saying that, she's been wearing pants for ages, but today was the little girls first day of wearing pants, and not getting them wet.  And why didn't she get them wet?  Because she had her first ever success on the potty!  Yay!

Kudos to little girl, and to Kenny, who was in charge at the time.  Maybe she can do this potty training thing after all!

Oh, and apologies to Cate, for the button.  It's aversion therapy.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

railing against school uniform

We have had a tremendously busy and fun Easter holidays, and it was so lovely to end it with a couple of days which suggest that Spring may finally be on its way.  The snow has nearly gone from seaside town, and the daffodils that survived are flourishing... a bit more green, and we'll be there.

So it is now the last evening of the holidays, and we'll be back to the routine of school days tomorrow.  I'm looking forward to getting back into the groove, and, since the arguments started on Friday, I'm looking forward to getting the older kids out of here... but I'm not looking forward to the mornings, and I'm not looking forward to the prep.

After school each day the children do their homework, their clubs, have their playdates, and get washed and brushed and ready for bed, and I empty their hardly-touched but apparently necessary water bottles (does anyone know what's wrong with water drinking fountains?), add change to their purses so they can buy their overpriced milk, and their school dinners, make sure the right books are in the right bags, and make sure they have school uniform ready for the next day.

My little girl is in nursery, and her
uniform is just the school sweatshirt.
It's hard to get on and off, it's very
warm, and it has a hideous logo
which is nothing to do with the school.
School uniform!  We didn't have school uniform when I went to Primary School in England in the 1970s, but Kenny did in Scotland.  It does seem much more normalised in Scotland.  By the time my little sister went to school in England in the 1980s they had the book bags and school sweatshirts that my children have now.  But now, on top of that, my children have to wear the required trousers/skirts/dresses and polo shirts/shirts/blouses, some with school logos, with various colour requirements (always similar and similarly dull, but each of the three schools my children have been to have had different requirements), and ties.  

I hate school uniform.  I want my children to learn at school, and to run about, and have fun.  I want them to get messy, and sticky, and spill their beans down their fronts without fear of trouble.  The very last thing I would put my child in to have a day of learning, fun, mess, and fearless bean eating would be a white/pale blue collared shirt/blouse (which isn't comfortable, and stains easily, and has pesky buttons which slow down getting changed) and nasty polyester trousers/dress.
The big girl. She likes the buttoned cotton
shirts (not the logo polo shirts, and cardis.

All through the winter the kids are expected to play out (when they can) wearing polyester trousers, which are freezing, or skirts and tights which constantly fall down and cause itchy groins in the girls.  The shirts are too cold and the fluffy sweatshirts are too hot.

I am told school uniforms are a good thing because they save parents money, but this is clearly nonsense, because children need normal clothes anyway, so school uniform is just extra stuff you have to buy on top of that.  And boys school shoes are SO INCREDIBLY DULL that you really have to buy them extra shoes just so they're not forced to die of boredom putting on their shoes.

I am told that school uniforms are a good thing because they reduce the chance to show social status through your clothes, but that's nonsense.  My children know when someone's uniform is from Next and when it's from Tesco. Status is signified with labels, and the poor kids are easy to spot.  Status is also signified with haircuts, and shoes, and school bags.  Added to that is the fact that different schools have different statuses, and your school uniform shows you are a posh kid/catholic kid/academic kid.
Eton boys showing that school uniform removes
social status markers

I would really like it if kids could just wear their own clothes for school, and gain practice in how they present themselves, and also, perhaps, in accepting our differences.  The Wikipedia page on school uniforms quotes a study by Brunsma and Rockquemore (1998), which found no effect of school uniforms on attendance or behavioural problems, but a negative effect on academic achievement.  I haven't seen the research paper, and I don't know how good it was, if it's still true now, or how strong the effect was, but I generally believe that you don't create strong individuals (which is what we want our children to be, surely?) by making everyone pretend to be the same.  I think that school uniform encourages children's natural tendencies to bash down those whose heads stick up, and it would be so much better if they could learn that difference is what actually makes the world work.
Norwegian schools don't tend to have uniforms,
and they seem to be doing OK

However, I have heard some good arguments for school uniforms:

  • Children wearing school uniform are easily identified as belonging to that school, which is useful if someone is missing, or misbehaving.
  • Enforcement of school uniform policy gives kids something to focus their rebellious efforts on, which is better than what they might do otherwise.
I think those are both pretty great arguments, and I also am rather fond of Scottish school mottoes, so I'd like to keep them on the clothes, and I don't think I'm ever going to convince everyone that we should do away with school uniform altogether, so here's my compromise suggestion:

Some Chinese kids in their school uniform
Still blah, but at least it's practical.
Let's ditch the white/pale blue shirts and the polyester trousers/skirts, and get good, comfy, hard-wearing school clothes which the kids can actually do things in.  I'm thinking something like jogging bottoms, with a T-shirt and a hoodie.  Let's not have different things for boys and girls, because we don't need to.

It might make sense for older school pupils to dress more smartly, I don't know.  I can't imagine myself as a teenager being very impressed with being asked to wear jogging bottoms (I'd probably have looked like a telly-tubby), but then, I wasn't very impressed with wearing school uniform either.  I don't have teenagers (yet), so someone else can work that out for now.

So, what do you think?  Do you like school uniforms?  If you could totally re-invent them, what would they look like?  Did you wear school uniform when you were a kid?

Friday, 12 April 2013

Belatedly celebrating national sibling day

Apparently April 10th is National Sibling Day, so I'm late, but my siblings will be used to that by now... Still, sorry guys!

There's a few problems with this day:
1. I don't know which nation it is referring to.
2. I don't know who dreamt it up. Usually card company's get the blame, but my brother works for a card company, so that's OK.
3. I've no intention of sending my siblings cards, or presents. Sorry again :-\

Now that I'm a grown up I get to have lots of people I think of as siblings, or pseudo-siblings, which is definitely a good thing. Being a social scientist I have grouped them into levels, purely arbitrarily, and totally subjectively.  I've been thinking about this and I bet it's different for lots of people.  I would also like to point out that the levels should not be taken to imply any suggestion of superiority.

My brother, Movember style
Level 1, full blood sibling

I've got one of these. He's my brother. He's a big lad who helps me blame my physique on my genes, and who keeps the family on their toes by having allergies and illnesses. Last year he scared us all silly by getting cancer, but he's doing tremendously well, and we're hoping it's all OK now. He is one of the funniest people I know.

My sister, fabulous
Level 2, half blood sibling

I've got one of these too... I don't mean someone like Professor Snape (shame), but rather someone who's got one parent in common. That'd be my sister then (I'd never call her my half sister). She is a gorgeous young lady, with her own flat, a career, boyfriend, social life and a plan. It looks like a lot of fun, and incredibly busy!

One of my sisters-in-law.  My brother done good
Level 3, in-laws

I know, I haven't included step siblings, who would probably be level 3, if I had any, which I don't. Yet... You never know (although that's a scary thought).

I have great sisters-in-law.  My brother's wife is beautiful, clever, strong, and a good person to hang out with.  Kenny's brother's wife is also lovely - really caring, and funny.  I'm glad we all seem to get on well.  I'm very glad to have them both in my family.  

I've been very lucky in the family I've married in to.  My brothers in law are both good men, and their parents are the best grandparents around.

Level 4, cousins and friends
My cousin-in-law.  Archeologist,
swimming coach and baker.
Plus awesome.

Obviously, cousins are cousins, not siblings, but those we see more often get called auntie and uncle, so they get on the list.

We've got plenty of cousins between us, nearby and in far flung lands. We've got a fantastic range of career paths to point out to the children. There's an artist, a musician, an archaeologist, a baker, a dentist, a vet... to name but a few.  I love that we can keep vaguely in touch now on Facebook, but the ones we see more of, because of proximity mainly, they're the level 4s. We just had a visit from some cousins, and had fun playing and laughing together, and learning about archaeology in the park.

We have friends, but not many the kids call uncle or auntie. I think my brother has more. I guess it's an effect of our moving so much that it's harder to maintain those relationships, and that's a shame because I've seen in my brother's life how good those relationships can be.

Hopefully we'll build up some friendships here in seaside town.  Our latest visitors recommended we throw a party for our new neighbours, which is probably a good idea, but what would be expected at such a thing?  Can we do something in an afternoon which isn't a barbecue, or should we wait 'til Spring kicks in? and should we invite the whole street? What do you think?  Help!  Oh, and while we're chatting, what/who would you include in your sibling categories?  

I've heard a rumour Spring is on the offensive, and the battle of the weekend is where the reign of Winter may come to an end.  Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

remembering Margaret Thatcher

I am going to be 40 this year, and for me, as for many in my generation, Margaret Thatcher has loomed large over our lives, as an evil presence, bringing misery to the masses.

Of course, this is a massive over-simplification, and we ought not speak ill of the dead, but when a friend changed his status on Facebook yesterday afternoon to simply say 'she's gone', the first thing that sprang to mind was that Margaret Thatcher must have died, and a little frisson of hope sprang to life inside me.  Then other friends started putting 'ding dong the witch is dead', and I knew it to be true.

I don't want to speak ill of the dead.  Margaret Thatcher worked very hard, in an incredibly difficult environment, doing what she thought was the right thing to do.  She was just wrong.  Wrong, and powerful, and never willing to admit she was wrong, and the ramifications of that have echoed through the years.

From before my birth, Margaret Thatcher had earned the title 'milk snatcher', when as Education Secretary in 1971 she removed the entitlement to free milk from children over 7 (although the Labour party in 1968 had removed it from secondary schools, and now it depends on your local authority).

My family, and my friends families worked hard to avoid the Tories coming to power in 1979, and tried to stop them keeping power in the subsequent elections, but it didn't work.

In 1982, during the Falklands war, Thatcher ordered that the Belgrano be sunk while it was outside the exclusion zone.  323 people were killed.  War is never fair, but we must follow the rules of war if we can have any chance of true victory.  Some say that doing that saved many other lives, and they may be right, but it was not, in my opinion, honourable.

1984 to 1985 saw the miners strike.  Margaret Thatcher's government orchestrated moves to render thousands of miners unemployed in an economic climate which would see them unlikely to get more employment.  Strikes took place, and Thatcher sent the police in to fight the miners.  Her Government also removed benefits from miners families, forcing them further into destitution.  I lived in Yorkshire and would see pitched battles between desperate men and police on horses on the news.  

After the miners strike came the Battle of the Beanfield in 1985, where New Age Travellers, and other peaceful people came together to celebrate the summer solstice and were herded together and set upon by police, again at the behest of Thatcher's government.

After this, which some called class warfare, and certainly felt that way at times, came de-nationalisation, and the freeing up of the financial industry (and we all know how that ended).  It was profoundly distasteful, money seemed to matter more than integrity, wheeling and dealing to matter more than hard graft.

Thatcher herself became the target of the hatred this engendered.  At my youth club we would sing songs about getting rid of Thatcher, and we all hoped that her going would improve things.

But this is not to say that there weren't good things about Margaret Thatcher.  Something did need to be done about the unions (although maybe not that), and she did amazing work in improving UK-US relations.  She may not have been a woman's woman, but she was a woman, whose very presence at the top of British politics showed that it could be done.  The introduction of the poll tax, illegally in Scotland first and then rolled out across the country sparked many protests, which I took part in, and indeed riots, and hastened Thatcher's departure.

I remember catching the train to college in 1990, and everyone on the train was reading papers announcing Thatcher's resignation.  Like normal commuters, we would usually ignore each other, but on that day no-one could hide their smiles, and it was a marvellous day.  We didn't go to college; we went to the pub.

And now perhaps times have changed.  At the last election, I didn't really believe the Tories would get in, I thought that no-one could have forgotten Thatcher's government in so short a time, but as you know, I was wrong.  I think they got in because people thought they weren't Margaret Thatcher, and that Margaret Thatcher was the cause of the problems before.  I think they also got in because they said whatever was thought necessary to get power (you had to sometimes remind yourself they were Tories, as they'd sound quite reasonable), and now they are using it to crush the poor, and giving the rich tax breaks.  The banks are allegedly getting a ticking off, but it's the working people at the banks who have lost their jobs while the management carry on taking home wads of cash.

Margaret Thatcher's death takes away the figure of the wicked witch, and we may proclaim 'ding dong, the witch is dead', but her flying monkeys are still in power, and they're at it again, dragging the country down to their money grubbing, individualist level.  Scotland is thinking of voting with its feet, but the alliance of the United Kingdom is a strong one, and although we may take the mickey out of each other, we are better together.  Scotland doesn't like being run by the Tories, and indeed didn't elect them, but the same can be said for much of England.  Scotland shouldn't leave England to its fate, and the United Kingdom as a whole shouldn't be so foolish as to allow the evil empire to continue.  

No political party is perfect, but the things that I love about our country, in particular, the way we lift others up so we may all have the chance to stand on the shoulders of giants, requires the things that the Tories are trying to destroy.  Don't let's let them.

Don't celebrate the death of the witch, because the flying monkeys are still in power.

Monday, 8 April 2013

using names as decoration

I am a big fan of fonts.  I love letters.  I am crazy about characters.  

The children have their names on the walls of their rooms.  

Initially, this was because they shared a room, and we wanted them to have areas which they felt were theirs.  They don't share a room since we've moved to seaside town, but they still love their names being on the wall.  It gives them an ownership of letters from an early age, and helps to foster interest in letters, and words, and reading.  Also, decorating their letters helps to make them more individual, and just plain gorgeous.

The first name letters we had were decal stickers with stars on, you can buy them here (or in other places).

But we don't have those any more.  Because they ripped when we took them off the wall when we were moving house.

So, inspired by some wooden stars we bought, and decorated (mainly with decoupage), for children's rewards (pre spending money), I bought some wooden letters off a man on ebay who cuts them out in the font and size you want.  I can't remember who it was I bought them off, but there's lots of them on there.  Like this one (here).

Because the children had been given a box of lovely colourful papers from IKEA (I can't find them now, but you can get similar things at lots of places, including Hobbycraft), we decorated the letters with paper.  We used patterns and colours that went together, and that the children liked. For September's name we used nearly all IKEA paper, but the 'p' was covered with handmade paper with rose petals in it which had been given to us by a friend.

Callan's name was originally done entirely with IKEA paper, but the second 'a' got damaged when we moved, so we re-covered it with green shiny holographic paper which Kenny bought for me from a local newsagents.

I went to Hobbycraft to buy the letters for Ivy's name, and was dissapointed with the letters available, but the children liked them, so we went ahead and bought them.  Initially I covered them with dark flowery decoupage paper, which was a bit rubbish.  Ivy wanted them to be pink and sparkly, so I've recently sanded them down, painted them all over with a mixture of pink paint, glitter, and glue, and put pictures on them cut out from a very faded picture found in a frame we're using for something else.  I then painted a thin mix of pink, and glitter over the top.  I've just put them up in her room this morning.  Happily, she loves them.

I know there's lots of crafty people out there, and my decorations are rather minimal compared to some who make excellent use of ribbons and bows etc.  So, how would you decorate the letters?  Have you got letters decorating your house?  Can we have a look?

Sunday, 7 April 2013

having Mummy and me days

You might remember a while ago, I was worrying about the big girl who was having trouble settling in at school (you'll find the post here).  Happily she's doing a lot better now.  She's making friends, doing well at school, and she herself says she's not wobbling any more.  Which is great.  

Channelling Spring
through our nails!
However, when I was worried about her, someone suggested I could have a special day, with just me and her, and give her lots of attention, a day of Oliver James style love bombing (read this article if you've no idea).  I figured it was worth a try.  

With three children, and a running husband, it was tricky to find a day when Mummy and me days could happen, so it took a while... and while we were waiting we talked a lot about what we would do with the days, which was good fun too.  We finally managed to arrange the days for this weekend.

Lunch at
famous ice-cream restaurant
The big girl went first.  She got to choose what we were doing, and she chose a day of pampering and shopping.  Not my usual thing, but such a lovely day, and I was so proud of her patience, and lovely manners.  It was great to be able to spend time with her, and her being in charge helped me learn better the things she likes.  Some of them surprised me.  I knew I liked her, but a day spent with her has convinced me that if I met her, and we were unrelated grown ups, I would want to be friends with her.  There's a lot I can learn from the big girl.  I'm looking forward to doing it again!

A walk along the front
We didn't manage to get as much time for the boy as I had with the big girl, (and I didn't take any pictures - sorry) but he didn't mind.  There was only one thing he wanted to do: go to the cinema.  We went to see The Croods last week, and this time he wanted to go to something too scary for the girls, but not too scary for him.  Even though it's the school holidays there isn't a great deal on offer at the moment, so we went to see Oz the Great and Powerful.  It was good to be able to chat in the car (without girls singing, and shouting), and we had a good laugh.  When we got there we loaded the boy down with snacks, and went in.  There weren't many in, and I could see why.  The film was not quite all that, although the boy enjoyed it well enough.  We especially liked the river fairies.  But the reason why the Wicked Witch of the West became wicked was really really lame imho.  

Anyway, it was great to get out together, and when we got back home (after Sociological research into the madness of white car drivers on the way home), we played Splatalot games on the computer.

I don't play with my kids enough, and I'm really glad I've taken these days to realise that.  The little girl is two, and is really hard work at the moment, so I do tend to hide in the laundry when I can sometimes, but I need to remember to enjoy the moment too - if I don't, I'll miss it!

Do you have kids?  What do you like doing together?  What would they choose to do for a day if they were in charge?

Saturday, 6 April 2013

playing with Playmobil 'ladies'

So this morning, we're bimbling about at home, playing with toys and doing magic tricks.  We have also eaten approximately half a ton of Scotch pancakes.  All is well with the world.

The little girl is playing with Playmobil.  I love Playmobil, it's great, and has a nice mixture of silly girly stuff, and good role models.  This morning she brought the vet and the green car (pictured above), and said:

      "Mummy, can you put this Daddy in the car please?"
Me: "OK, but you do know that this isn't a Daddy?  Look, she's got boobies, it's a lady."
Little girl: "NO! It's not a lady."
Me: "Oh, you're right, it's a woman.  You should say woman, not lady."
Little girl: "NO!"
The boy (laughing his socks off): "It's definitely a lady."
Me: "But shouldn't we say woman, not lady?"
Boy: "Why?"
Me: "Because some women don't like to be called 'lady'" 
Boy, in stitches, unable to say anything to counter something so silly
Me: "Well you don't call the Playmobil men gentlemen do you?"
Boy: "No!  I call them Playmobil guys, they're all Playmobil guys, the men and the ladies.  That's so silly."
Little girl: "Mummy, can you put this lady on the motorbike please?"
Me: "OK, I'll put the woman on the motorbike."
Little girl: "NO! She's not a woman!  She's a ballerina."

Well, you can't argue with logic like that can you?

I have clearly taught my children to call women 'ladies', and I think that's probably not right, but I can't think of the argument for why they shouldn't be.  What are your thoughts on the matter?  And can 'guys' really be unisex?

Friday, 5 April 2013

visiting the National Museum of Rural Life

Please note that this post isn't sponsored, but if you'd like me to come and review something, I am open to sponsorship.  :-)

Yesterday we went to visit the National Museum of Rural Life, we being myself, three children (aged 2, 5, and 7), and two grandparents.  We had not been before, but it was a good visit.

Even though it's a museum, you have to pay to get in, although we managed to get in free thanks to National Trust Membership.  You can also get in with membership of National Museums Scotland.  I thought that Museums were free nowadays, does anyone know why you have to pay?

Anyway, the museum consists of a (rather dull) museumy bit, with stuff sat out to look at.  A proper farm which has been preserved in almost genuine 1950s style, a small play park, a tractor ride, and a cafe and shop. 

We arrived at lunch time, and everyone was hungry, so we went straight to the cafe.  It being a school holiday they were busy, and they weren't coping well.  We queued for ages, then ordered soups and sandwiches.  We were given the soups and then told that the sandwiches would take about 20 minutes, so we cancelled them.  There was no way we could keep the kids occupied for another 20 minutes with no food, and luckily we had a bag of emergency snacks in the car, so we took the soup, drinks, and some cakes, and fled to the seats saved for us by Grandbob.  It would have been helpful if they'd put a sign up at the entrance to the cafe about the long wait for sandwiches, but there you go.  The soups I'm told were nice, but not very warm.  Hmm.  I'd recommend a picnic (although I don't know if there is anywhere covered to eat it).

The boy completing a puzzle in the kids
room in the museum.
After 'lunch' we looked at the stuff in the museumy bit, but it wasn't very interesting, and the children were bored silly.  There was one room with stuff for kids to do, which was alright, but it would have been good to have things to do spread out all over the place.  There were also lots of signs, telling you about displays, and farm machinery.  The signs were beautifully done, but also easy to carry around, and my two year old spent most of her time being told to put them back.  

We went to get the tractor ride up to the farm, only to discover the tractor had broken down... I think this was just bad luck, and it wasn't far, along a fairly decent path, to the farm, but it is a real farm, and a real path across fields, so do please take your wellies.  

The farm itself had a lovely layout and a lovely atmosphere.  We met staff who were knowledgeable, and who approached us to help us make the most of our visit, without coming across at all Disney (if you know what I mean).  We saw chickens (the little girl LOVES chickens), a brand new lamb (first one this year), some very big horses, a very patient cat, some prize cows getting milked by Maggie the Stockman (who went on a bit too long to hold the kids interest, but would be really interesting if I were there without them), and the cutest piglets you ever did see.

There wasn't the range of stuff to see or do that you'd get on a farm park, but it did feel genuinely 1950s, and the staff were great.

The old farm house was nice, but a little dull for the kids.  There were some jigsaw puzzles laid out in a room, but it felt a bit of an afterthought, and didn't connect with the rest of the farmhouse.  The best bit was the kitchen where a member of staff was on hand to show us the kitchen paraphernalia of the time.  The kids were allowed to touch things, and so we had fun talking about what we remembered of the things they found.  Funnily enough I remembered more than the grandparents.  Grandbob had never come across a rag rug before, but I could tell the kids how to make them!

After the farm we made our way back to the museum, next to which is a play park.  More drinks and snacks and the little girl played on everything, but the rest of us were tired out!  So, after buying some tat (in the shop, which also sold lots of nice things for gifts and the like) we soon made our way back home.  

It was a really good visit, but the museum bit was rather dull for kids, and it was too expensive if you didn't have membership of something.  I would go back, with a picnic (although I'd go to the cafe for coffee and cakes, they were yummy), because the farm was fabulous - mainly because of the enthusiastic staff.  I really liked the shop too, and the cafe would be nice on a less busy day.

Have you been?  Did you enjoy it? Where else would you recommend as a good Spring visit?