Tuesday, 20 September 2011

No Christmas stuff before remembrance day please

My twitter followers will probably recognise my annual Christmas related rant but it really does annoy me.

I know this is a much said thing but Christmas gets earlier and earlier every year. Now I love Christmas More and more each year as I now have children to share it with which makes it extra special but really, as soon as the 'back to school' stuff was out of the shops, in went the Christmas stuff this year.

My birthday is in October and I remember being annoyed if Christmas stuff was around then but being in the shops now is stupid. Where will the Halloween stuff go? but there is an issue more important than that.

As someone who used to play in a marching band in a military area of the country, remembrance day was and still is important. Marching the veterans through the town under Christmas lights was wrong and disrespectful to the memory of those who died fighting for the safety and values of this country.

We have plenty of time to get ready for Christmas after November the eleventh. There's nothing to stop us quietly preparing for Christmas without all the tat in the shops (I have to admit that I have started my Christmas preparations as I'll have very little time closest to Christmas). But I don't need the endless round of commercialism or Christmas Muzak in every public space I enter to make sure I'm ready for the big day.

So ladies and gentlemen, I implore you to join me in my campaign to get Christmas stuff out of the shops until after November 11th. As one person on twitter pointed out; who needs an advent calendar at the beginning of September anyway?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Tests, tests and yet more tests

The uk government have just announced the roll out of tests for 5-6 yr olds to check that they can do phonics properly. The test takes the form of the children being taken out of a class for ten minutes to read a series of real and made up words.

I object to this on a number of levels. Firstly, as a parent I don't want my daughters having to go through tests at five. No matter how you dress it up, if theres a test sooner or later schools will be judged on it and if school are judged on it they will change how they present it to the kids. I trust the teachers I give my daughters to and I know they will tell me if they're doing well or need a bit of a boost.

Secondly, I don't believe this test will help reading standards in the slightest. All this test will do is suggest whether kids and put letter sound together. Being able to read in a functional way is much more than that and so really all this test is doing is forcing schools to teach reading in one particular style. Phonics is good but it's not the god of all reading techniques. My three year old is already learning to read and it's got bog all to do with phonics coz we haven't been 'teaching' her. Phonics is massively flawed in some respects particularly if you have a regional accent.

So what is this really about? Is it about making sure all kids can read (which this test won't do)? is it about a government who fundamentally doesn't trust teachers? Is it a London centric educational establishment trying to undermine regional variations? I don't know but I bet it's got a hell of a lot more to do with political whim than what's best for kids. For goodness sake, the counties with the best educational outcomes don't even start formal education until seven but we're going to be testing our kids two years earlier!

Well, one thing this has done is given me a question to ask the primary schools I'm going to be visiting in the run up to applying for my three year olds place for next year: Dear schools, I don't want my daughter taking that test, or SATs for that matter, do I have the option to opt them out?

Friday, 9 September 2011

How typical!

2 days ago I invested in an iPad app to help me blog. Today I discover the blogger app has been released for free!

So in honour of very randomness, this is a blog with a picture of a steam train. Nice.

Normal blogs will resume shortly ;)

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A few lovely iPad Apps

I'm still getting to know my beautiful iPad. If you're wondering whether to get one I would say yes, as soon as you can. I fought the urge for a year but in the end I caved and it was well worth it. I can't compare my iPad 2 to the original but this one is lovely.

I got some good advice app wise from a friend which got me up and going but part of the joy of the whole idevise thing is just browsing the app store. The kind of apps that appeal to you will differ from me but here are a few that I have found joyful.

A quick disclaimer; I'm still getting to grips with the iPad so I've worked out how to attach photos but not how to embed them in the blog nicely, hence all the screen shots are at the bottom of this post. Secondly, these are purely apps that have made me feel happy, calm or just nice. I am not claiming that they are useful in anyway (although if they are, that's a nice bonus).

Living earth HD
Fundamentally this is a global weather app. It tells you current weather, weather forecast for the coming week, sunrise and set times and the time at the location you have searched for, but this app is presented beautifully. It shows the real time cloud cover across the earth and for the areas of the earth that are at night, it shows the inhabited areas as they are lit up with street lights etc. The screen shot below is of the third hurricane in the atlanic that I've seen since having the app for less than a week. Oh, you can also set it as an alarm which is very cool in my opinion.

Music ball
This really is the most gentle little app. Basically the premise is that when you touch the screen a coloured ball appears and starts to fall. When it hits the side, it makes a little sound and then bounces up until it hits the top etc. With each bounce it gets fainter and quieter. This creates the kind of gentle tingly music you'd expect to hear in a health spa. but the best thing about this app is if you own a baby. There are many apps for toddlers but, I suppose understandably, there is not much out there for babies to interact with. This app is perfect. Noises that attract, little coloured balls to try and grab, it really is like nectar to a baby. The only thing I need to do now, is convince my 8 month old to use her hands on the screen instead of her face.

Google earth
Now, as a geographer I got over google earth about 4 or 5 years ago. I can be so precise because the last time I looked at it was to check out a resort we were going to on holiday. At the time, google earth only had a very long range view and it didn't impress me at all. However, I downloaded this app last night and promptly wasted a good three hours scooting round the earth. The usability on iPad is fab and it's so much better than years past. The links to photographs and wiki logs have been particularly absorbing. The satellite images have also been updated although I would say they are still a good few years out, depending on which part of the earth you wish to view. It's just a brilliant way to explore the earth if you can't afford or be bothered to travel.

There are many many more cool and interesting apps with specific uses but these are the ones (so far) that I have found to be truly good for my mental health!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

It's been a while!

I've not blogged for a while because I got the feeling that I just didn't have very much to say. It's not that my life has been boring, in fact we've been really busy, it's just that I didn't think it was hugely interesting to the outside world for a while.

We've been busy doing the rounds of baby activities and the over the summer holiday we had a nice holiday in the Isle of Man, which I will chat about at some point. But the biggest news in my world is that I got an iPad last Tuesday. It's lovely and so I shall do a blog about that soon too.

I'm still on maternity leave until October 31st so I'm going to enjoy it as much as I can before I have to face up to having to work through until retirement now.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Thoughts on turning 3

Little i has been 3 for nearly 2 weeks now and it suddenly struck me today just what a leap this society gives to the age of 3.

Two weeks ago, little i was banned from certain toys that were considered too small for 2 year olds to handle without choking themselves. A 2 year old is stupid and must be protected from themselves. I went into classes with her as 2 years olds are unruly and a little bit mental but also easily scared and shy so need one to one assistance from their parents. Little i was never like this really. She never tried to choke herself on toys and had always treated me like a driver coz as soon as we got into the classes, she would clear off!

But all of a sudden, literally over night, little i is 3 and a responsible member of the human race. I am not longer required in tumble tots classes and this morning she started ballet, which is a class I will never get to accompany her in. And typically, she took the hand of the teacher and cleared off into the class for 45mins without even saying good bye! She is now allowed beads and other small articles and I've discovered that she can thread very well.

I know this is all part of growing up but  I had no idea that 3 was as significant a birthday as 17 and suddenly being allowed to drive or 18 and becoming a legal drinker. So parents of 2 year olds, celebrate this milestone and revel in the discovery of just how much your newly 3 year old can do even though they weren't allowed the day before.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Little i's 3rd birthday

The day after the party was little i's actual birthday. I am now the owner of a three year old! We spent the morning opening presents and taking a visit from the grand parents.

She had asked for a camera so that was one of the first presents she opened. We'd checked out all the kiddie cameras which come at about £50 each but she had one of those a few years ago for christmas and it was rubbish for a number of reasons.

1) it ate batteries like they were going out of fashion
2) it was massive
3) it had a load of stupid functions on it that meant that she could easily switch it to stupid hat mode, which ruined some great pics and
4) we took it to Honk Kong last summer and it broke.

So, after some expert advice from uncle A we went for a cheap digital camera which went down a storm with little i. Her first photo was of her sister.

We also got her a cornet. It's just a cheap second hand one from ebay. She's been playing our french horns for a while but they're big and a little expensive for a toddler to be playing with so we got her an instrument of her own.
To be honest, this didn't go down as well as the pom poms a friend got her, which she calls bom boms for some reason but she loves them none the less.

We waited to show her my mum and dads present until they came round. We all went into to garden to find...
A trampoline YAY! The best thing about this present is that I can go on it too! Little i has been on it every day since. She has boundless energy and we thought this would help tire her out but it hasn't she just bounces on it for hours.

Little m took in the days events in her usual style

The birthday treat was to go ice skating in Nottingham. Little i is very good with a penguin to hold her up but we discovered that she's also good without a penguin, I think she just kids on that she needs a penguin coz she likes the look of it.

We went with little i's supportive adult - which doesn't sound anywhere near so good as god parent but is the non religious version - and her daughter.

We finished the day with a trip to Toys R Us to get Robs dads' present to little i and spend some birthday money. She's got £15 and managed to get 3 babies and a sweet shop with it! For the first time she actually gave her dolls names too. We have hannah/anna, inna and honey.
The last present, from Robs dad, was her first bike. She was gently guided to a nice purple one and the moment she saw it she called it 'her most perfect bike'. It's taken her a few days to get into it as she's been distracted by the trampoline but yesterday we went on a walk on the cycle track. It has a bridge that goes over the dual carriage way and we discovered that she could pedal quite successfully down hill. once she got the theory, she was away and cycled most of the way home. We tried again today and she's totally got it. It's very cute because she wiggles from side to side as she's peddling.

So there we go. i am now the proud owner of a three year old. I'll finish with a few pics of the day from little i's new camera.

Little i's first picture with the new camera

The trampoline

Family taken from the trampoline

Vending machine at the ice skating

Hannah/anna the new baby on the new bike

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Little I's birthday party

Last weekend we celebrated little i's birthday. Little i's clever. Always has been. This is her helping to pack away after her first birthday party:

But this is the first year she got excited about it weeks in advance. She chose who to invite and what food she wanted. Although the invites didn't go entirely to plan as she wanted her DS and doll to get an invite too.

We had some help setting up from Uncle A. scary man but good at blowing up balloons. Blowing them up and then popping them afterwards!

Little i bummed around for a bit while she waited for her guests to arrive and little m practised being cute.

Eventually it was time to get going. After a suitable period for the kids to run around and go mental they all settled down with Elizabeth from Jelly beans music This is one of the baby and toddler groups that I take the girls to. Little I has been going on and off (work allowing) since she was 5 weeks (should have been 4 weeks but even back then, the car let us down) and little m has been going since she was 3 weeks. They both love it and so it was an obvious choice for party entertainment. Elizabeth does classes through the local sure start centres and has produced a series of 'music in a bag' resources. From this little i has selected 2 of her favourite songs which Elizabeth included in the party play list. i was in her element surrounded by her friends.

But the party really got going when Elizabeth got the big parachute out. There weren't enough kids to support the parachute and play the games so Elizabeth got all the parents to join in. It was FAB! Kids that age love spending time with their mums and dads so when they got involved the giggle volume went up massively. There were balls flying every where then the kids went under and the parents moved the parachute up and down above their heads. The odd kid who didn't listen to the instructions got brained by the parachute making all the mums and dads giggle too! To end this section Elizabeth got all the kids into the middle of the parachute for a ride - all the parents had to run round in a  circle spinning the Parachute and the kids LOVED it.

After that all the adults started chatting and the kids settled down under the listening cloth to calm down abit. Finally, Elizabeth included another of little i's favourites. It's the song 'My bonny lies over the ocean' but little i changes to words to sing it to her baby sister and at the party they all sang to little m.

My Dad - grand dad dim - supplied the party food and I'm sad that we didn't get a picture because the spread was brilliant! The parents again livened up when they realised there was enough for them too, the daddies were particularly pleased and many came up for 3rd's and 4th's. Gran - my mum- did a valiant job as tea lady.

I had a go at making the birthday cake. I am not a baker and even less of an artist but this is what I managed.
It's shrek, just in case anyone wasn't sure! Most of the kids got it although one boy did point out that shrek was wearing lip balm.

It was a fab party and little i enjoyed herself massively. After all that, the family helped pack away. We were all milling about while little m was left on a blanket on the floor. Most people had left, some were packing cars outside and mum and me were in the kitchen when I heard a mildly distressed cry from little m. I ran into the main room to find this:
After all this, little m had learned to roll over :-)

Tomorrow (or when I finally get round to it) little i's actual birthday blog.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

THE wedding of the month

Not the royal wedding. The wedding of my longest standing friend, Rachel. Little i and Little m got ready very carefully.

It was an amazing event. The actual wedding took place at St Denys Church which is impressively large. Rach is a musician so had friends playing organ, trumpet and piano during the service. She looked stunning and her Dad looked very proud. Little i took some arty pics of the church.

The best part, as far as I was concerned, was the fact that she managed to get our whole group of school friends together again. One of whom, I'd totally lost touch with but discovered that she's moved back into the area a year ago so we've swapped details again. She also invited our old year 7 form tutor, Miss Outram. It must be 20 years since we saw her last but she hadn't changed a bit.

After a few photos the party moved to Stoke Rochford Hall. I had no idea it was going to be so grand!

 It's the location of the NUT conference centre which is just off the picture to the left. The NUT building is a hugely ugly pre-fab, given that there's such a beautiful hall just ahead! There were more photos as is always the way with weddings but armed with a glass of bubbly for us and a bouncy castle for the kids, everyone was happy. Especially little i who managed to bouncy for an hour solid.

After the wedding party received the guests we went into the dining room and found our seats. We were on a table with another good mate from school with her partner and little boy, and one of the grooms friends with his family which included another 2 year old girl and a 10 month old boy. Each child had a party bag at their seat which had individual presents in. Little I got a colouring book, craft set and bath toy. Little m got a book and bath toy. It was a lovely thoughtful touch and kept the kids amused while we were waiting for the meal. Which was lovely!
Being a veggie, this is what I had but the meaties had lamb. I found this mildly amusing as everyone had aw'ed over the little sheepies in the field on the way in and then they ATE them. Anyway - the meal was very nice with the best bit being the cheesecake. I always love a cheesecake but this one was particularly nice and creamy. The other girl seemed to approve as well as she demolished it, literally, leaving a mountain of crumbs and then scoffed the blueberry garnish.

The kids had a great time running around after each other but sadly, for me, we left just before the speeches because it was getting late and we didn't want some very tired girls disturbing things. Although I know Rach's Dad will have done her proud. She's one of the nicest people I know and I'm chuffed to bits that she's found such a nice bloke who'll make her happy for the rest of her life.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Trip to Skegness 15th April

I have to admit, I was not in the best of moods for our trip to Skegness due to having been woken every hour during the night by one child or the other. So when we walked over the sea wall to the beach to be faced by a blooming GALE I was none to impress. But little i was in her element and immediately started digging up the beach.

She would get a spade full of sand, run towards the sea and throw the sand at the water. At which point the wind blew the sand back up the beach. Rob was in charge of putting up the sand tent while I wrapped little m up in about 15 layers to keep out the chill.

 Rob then set about the sandcastle, which was the sole aim of going to Skegness. Little i had hoped for a paddle but I can't honestly say that the water looked inviting.

 Eventually, little m got fed up of the tent and wanted to touch the sand, while little i worked on the wind swept look.
 A tumble weed blew past, which didn't help with my mood but there were some marginally more interesting things to be found on the beach, like this star fish - who knew there was actual wild life in the seas near Skeg?
 But i and m enjoyed themselves and if they're happy, I can be happy. Freezing, but happy.

Little i then continued to be happy with a strawberry ice cream. I would have been happy with a hot chocolate but it was forgotten.

So then we went to the seal sanctuary. Little M if you remember from a previous blog is a swimmer and although this feat is only achieved under water so she found the seals endlessly amusing.

 On the way back to the car, Rob decided to take little i to see their sand castle one last time. Unfortunately, the tide had come in and the castle was gone. This taught i an invaluable lesson about the tides and that was the end of our trip to Skegness.