Monday, 30 October 2017

The Four Types Of Pinterest Parent

Ahh, Pinterest. Where good intentions go to die. For me, anyway.

I first joined Pinterest just over four years ago while we were in the process of buying a new house. It's a 70's build so I'd had the great idea of decorating it in a retro style and created a board to store my ideas. Of course four-and-a-bit years on the only room we've redecorated is the bathroom, and it's definitely not-retro. That board hasn't been checked in a long time.

Nowadays I mostly use Pinterest as a way of clearing out all the links I've saved on Facebook or liked on Twitter. But I do hear whispers of other parents who use it properly. Mind-blowing.



As far as I can tell all Pinterest parents fall into at least one of four categories ...

The Perfect Pinner

Not only are their boards well-organised but they are full of relevant pins. And guess what? They've even ACTED ON those pins. They've read the articles, made the crafts, cooked the recipes. Heck, they might even have added their own pins. Wild.

The Optimistic Pinner

This parent will also have various boards, but not particularly clearly labelled ones and the pins inside have been mostly put in as 'ahh near enough'. This is the parent who sees a great idea on the internet, hurriedly pins it so as not to lose it, and then never looks at it again. (This parent is me.)

The Friday Night Pinner

Also known as the 'we've got to make WHAT for your homework?' pinner. Boards are named vague things like 'kids crafts' or 'science stuff' and contain several highly specific pins of animal crafts, rocket experiments and model planets. Updated every few weeks (or for really unfortunate parents, weekly) and always on a Friday after school. Pins are never looked at again after the project is over.

The False Start Pinner

One board containing a few very similar pins, last updated three years ago. This parent clearly realised early on that there's more to life than Pinterest. 

Which pinner are you?

Linking up with #Blogtober17 - Pinterest.

#Blogtober17

Monday, 23 October 2017

Weather and Children: Expectations vs Reality

I wish I was one of those outdoorsy mums who can somehow persuade their children out, whatever the weather, and come up with lots of wonderful wholesome activities on the way. I'm not. Despite my best efforts I'm just not that good at the great outdoors, and while Toddler loves any opportunity to get out and about on his little legs, Girl Child is becoming ever more reluctant.

I'd blame the British weather for this, but in truth, is there ever a perfect weather for getting outdoors with the kids? I've been thinking about what we expect playing outside to be like, compared to what it actually is like.

I bet this kid cried after this photo because the leaves were 'too crunchy'


Sunny

Expectation: Spending all day out in the garden, kids splashing happily in the paddling pool while I sip cool drinks and enjoy the rays.

Reality: It takes half an hour to get sun cream on everyone, and another half hour to inflate and fill the paddling pool. By which time the kids are getting hot and bothered. They paddle for about five minutes before the toddler slips over and the five year old gets freaked out by a fly that's drowned in the water. You try to persuade them to play outside a bit longer but they're getting whiny, the toddler keeps trying to get into the pool headfirst, and you start to get a sun headache. You all head back inside to cool off, where inexplicably both kids just want to hug you, making you all even more hot and bothered.

Rainy

Expectation: You'll pull out a range of stimulating and educational rainy day activities, then after a satisfying hour or two of crafts don the waterproofs and gleefully splash in puddles together.

Reality: There are no rainy day activities because you're never organised enough to prepare them. You try a few crafts on the hop, all of which are abandoned within seconds whilst strangely still causing the room to be covered in tiny bits of paper, glitter and glue. After coaxing the kids into their waterproofs, they whimper their way through a very brief walk outside, and everyone's wellies leak after the first puddle.

Windy

Expectation: Wrap up warm and head for the hills, it's kite flying weather!

Reality: You don't have a kite. Of course you don't, who remembers to get a kite in normal weather? You hide from the wind and chain-watch CBeebies. If you do have to venture out, the kids complain about it being cold and noisy whilst refusing to wear hats, scarves or gloves.

Snowy

Expectation: Everyone dons their warmest clothes and the family join in happily with snowball fights, snow angels and building snowmen, before snuggling up together with hot chocolate and a good book.

Reality: You don your warmest clothes, the kids insist that a raincoat over their t-shirts is enough. After a few minutes of handling snow everyone's gloves are soaked through and the kids are crying because their fingers hurt. The snowman only makes it to a foot tall and falls apart before you can even get a photo. Hot chocolate is spilt, causing more tears. Within five minutes the kids have forgotten their frostbite and want to go out again. Repeat ad nauseum.

Anyone else recognise these scenarios?!

Linking up with Day 23 of #Blogtober17 - Weather.

#Blogtober17


Thursday, 19 October 2017

We Don't Keep Secrets

Many years ago, long before I had kids, I went to some child safeguarding training for my voluntary work as a youth leader. I remember very little of what was said now, but one thing stuck with me - a snippet of a conversation about secrets. The woman running the session said, "We don't keep secrets in our house. We have surprises, but not secrets."

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash
Now I have children, I try to live by that rule. Whenever the subject comes up, I remind Girl Child that we don't keep secrets from each other in this family. Surprises, yes - like a present - but no secrets.

Why? For two reasons.

Firstly, for safeguarding. By telling my children we don't keep secrets from each other, they will hopefully know to be suspicious of anyone who asks them not to tell us about something. And should anything happen that they are uncomfortable with, hopefully they will come to us before it gets out of hand. I'm not particularly paranoid about this issue, I know that child abuse is thankfully rare, but I also know that nobody is immune to it. By establishing from the start that we have no secrets in our family, I hope that should the unthinkable happen my children would be confident in telling us.

Secondly, and less scarily, because one day they will have big stuff going on in their lives. Friendships, fallouts, relationships, break-ups, peer pressure, school stress - as much as it worries me to think of, they're going to have to deal with it all one day. And I want them to feel they can come to me with any problems they have. I also hope that, knowing we don't keep secrets, they might think twice about getting into any dodgy behaviour, although perhaps that's wishful thinking on my part!! I know that my job isn't to be their friend, but I hope they will see me as a confidant and a support.

It is surprisingly tricky to avoid talk of secrets though. From fleeting mentions in books and TV, to whispers between friends, the idea catches on that we need to keep some things secret. There have even been times when adults have reinforced this idea. So we keep having to patiently repeat the message that we don't do secrets. Nobody should ever ask you to keep a secret from your mummy and daddy.

Girl Child has actually caught onto it quite well. She has a little pocket in her book bag that she calls her 'secret pocket' and nobody is allowed to look there except for her, me and daddy. When she got up to a bit of harmless mischief with her friends and they'd said it was a secret she queried this until they said she could tell me - and she did. There are times when something's gone wrong at school and she hasn't wanted to talk about it, but I will just say, "OK, well when you're ready to tell me I'm here, because we don't keep secrets." And she will eventually tell me.

I'm sure as she grows up this will become trickier to navigate. I know there will be things she (and Toddler) wants to keep private and I haven't quite worked out how to handle that sensitively yet. But hopefully when it comes to that point they'll be so used to being open that the things they want to keep private won't be anything to worry about.

So that's why we don't keep secrets. What's your approach to secrets? Have you found this issue challenging as your children have grown up?

Linking up with Day 19 of #Blogtober17 - Secrets.


#Blogtober17


Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Five Parenting Quotes From Children's Books

I'm not really an inspirational quotes kind of person. I think as I get older I'm becoming more of a cynic - motivational posters and feel-good memes give my ocular muscles a good workout from all the eye-rolling.

But one thing I'm still not cynical about - and perhaps never will be - is children's literature. There's a lot of wisdom in there that can be discounted by people thinking it's just for kids. In fact, there are some lines from children's books that have encouraged and challenged me in my parenting. Here are five quotes that speak to me, and I hope to other mums and dads too.


"A person's a person, no matter how small." - Dr Seuss, 'Horton Hears A Who'

This is the stand-out children's book quote for me. When I'm feeling frustrated by my own small people, I find myself going back to this line. It reminds me that they are people in their own right - they're not here to do my bidding, or follow a set pattern. They are individuals, with their own minds, own strengths and own weaknesses and I need to respect that rather than just try to control them.

"You've got to be strong to be different." - Giles Andreae, 'The Lion Who Wanted To Love'

Often, the way I parent sets me apart a little. That's not a conscious choice - I don't actually like feeling different, but doing what feels right for me and my family tends to put me on a slightly different track. Equally, Girl Child is growing up to be a true individual in many senses of the word and it can be discomfiting seeing her stand out from her peers. But this little line reminds me that not only is it OK to be different, it takes strength and courage.

"And that's what they did - because that's what you do when your kid has a passion and heart that is true. They remade their world - now they're all in the act of helping young Ada sort fiction from fact." - Andrea Beaty, 'Ada Twist, Scientist'

I love this story (in fact I really should review it sometime!) - at the start, Ada's parents try to control and contain her curiosity, but by the end they accept it as a strength and change their own response. It helps me to remember that sometimes, if my child is doing the same 'bad behaviour' over and over, it's not them that need to change - it's me and my response to the behaviour. Is it really bad, or is it just inconvenient or annoying to me? I love the phrase, "they remade their world," because parenting is all about adjusting to the fact you've got a whole other human being in your life now.

"You must never feel badly about making mistakes ... as long as you take the trouble to learn from them." - Norton Juster, 'The Phantom Tollbooth'

OK, I confess - I've never read this book, I just came across this quote while researching for this post! But it sums up an important part of parenting for me. I make mistakes all the time - we all do, right? Right? But luckily children don't need perfect parents who never put a foot wrong, they need parents who try their best, get it wrong sometimes but are big enough to put it right and do better next time. Or maybe the time after that. I think I need to read this book.

"Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day." - A A Milne, 'Winnie The Pooh'

Parenting, like life, is full of pressure isn't it? From 'are they sleeping through' to 'are they walking/talking/jumping/making marks/reading etc etc' there is always a new milestone to chase. 'Winnie The Pooh' is a lovely, gentle book containing this lovely, gentle quote reminding me that everything comes in time and there's no point in trying to rush things. It's also a useful reminder for me as I wait to get a bit of 'me' back, socially and professionally. It will happen, I just need to trust that the river will take me where I need to.

What quotes give you reassurance or inspiration, either as a parent or generally?

Linking up with Day 17 of #Blogtober17 - Quotes.

#Blogtober17

Monday, 16 October 2017

Fighting Fears And Building Bravery

So, funny story. A couple of years ago, a lovely relative bought Girl Child some clothes from Joules. She gave us them in the bag which was so nice I let Girl Child keep it to play with. A few weeks later, she was in her room and I heard her say, "Mummy, there's a spider in the flowery bag!" I went in, and she was right - it was a whopper too.

 Now, I'm arachnophobic. Very, very arachnophobic. Up until that day, I'd hidden this fact from Girl Child. But faced with a massive spider in a bag, I froze. And I had to say to her, "I'm actually quite scared of spiders." But still I managed to bring myself to pick up the bag, get to an open window and lob Sid the Spider out. (As far as I'm concerned, this is humane. I'm not killing the spider. Whether or not it lands safely is it's problem, not mine.)

I put the bag back in Girl Child's room and tried to stop myself imagining spiders crawling on me. A few days later, I was tidying her room and saw the bag. My blood ran cold. I got that fluttery feeling. And every time I've seen that bag since, I've had the same feeling.

Tl;dr - I'm now afraid of a Joules clothes bag.



But this incident actually taught me something. I'd always thought that not showing fear was important, that if I hid my fear then my children wouldn't develop that phobia themselves. The trouble is, fear is human. Yes, Girl Child isn't scared of spiders. But she did go through a phase of being scared of slugs and snails - something I've never had an issue with - and she's currently quite nervous around dogs after a bad encounter with one. You can't avoid your children developing any fears just by pretending you don't have any yourself.

What you can do, though, is show them fear is surmountable. That it's OK to be scared, but you don't have to let it stop you getting on with life. That true bravery is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Hopefully, telling Girl Child I was scared before plucking up the courage to get rid of Sid showed her that fear doesn't have to stop you, that you can face your fears.

And I see Girl Child trying to deal with her fears. She has now started approaching dogs again, albeit gingerly and always with the owner's agreement. She's still not keen on slugs but will happily pick up snails by their shell. And for many little occasions when she feels nervous, I remind her that she's a brave mighty girl and she can do it even if she's scared. Most of the time, this works.

So maybe I shouldn't worry too much about hiding my fears. Maybe instead I should take the opportunity to model bravery.

Linking up with Day 16 of #Blogtober17 - Phobias.


#Blogtober17


Saturday, 14 October 2017

Five Novels I Can't Wait For My Kids To Read

I love books. Specifically, I love children's books. And while picture books and early chapter books are fab, I'm really looking forward to when my children are old enough to discover some longer novels. Here are five that I adore, and really look forward to seeing how my children enjoy them:


'The Borrowers' by Mary Norton

I think all children are intrigued by the idea of tiny people. Girl Child has a huge fascination with fairies, as did I. I also loved reading Norton's novel about tiny people living in our houses, 'borrowing' items for their own little homes. Well, it explains why so much stuff goes missing, doesn't it?!

The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis

OK, this isn't just one book, it's a whole set. But, like most children born in the 80's, I grew up on Narnia and loved the novels. The magical world Lewis created is so powerful and fascinating, and I love that it's Lucy who leads the way to Narnia.

'Swallows and Amazons' by Arthur Ransome

I didn't actually read this as a child, but discovered it when I studied Children's Literature with the Open University a few years ago. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it but really did. It's such an evocation of a more innocent time when children were free to roam - although hopefully my two won't get any ideas about being allowed to camp on an island alone!

'Tom's Midnight Garden' by Philippa Pearce

Another one I discovered through my Children's Literature course, I found this story of a time travelling boy - or is it the girl who's travelling? - so fascinating and poignant. It really evokes that other-worldly feeling of being awake late at night as a child.

'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen

No, this isn't a children's novel. But eventually (though I don't like to admit it) my children will be reading 'grown up' books, and as this one is one of my very favourites I hope they read it too! I can't wait to find out what they make of it, and see them form their own opinions of this and so many other novels.

What books are you looking forward to your children discovering? Or if you have older children, which ones have they loved the most?

Linking up with Day 14 of #Blogtober17 - Novels and #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.

#Blogtober17

Read With Me

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Review: 'The Lion Who Wanted To Love'

I'm often on the lookout for children's books featuring strong, brave girls and thankfully these are getting much easier to find. But now that Toddler is getting older, I've noticed it's much harder to find books featuring caring, gentle, sensitive boys. I'm of the opinion that not only do we need to give our girls strong role models, we also need role models that will encourage boys to show their loving, nurturing and emotional sides.

Our latest trip to the library unearthed a book I've heard of before but  hadn't thought to read until now: 'The Lion Who Wanted To Love' by Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz.


This is the story of Leo, a lion cub who would much rather hug than hunt. But his mother isn't happy about this and forces him to leave the pride.


In the jungle, Leo helps the other animals and they repay him by bringing him food (let's not think too hard about the logistics of that, shall we?) until one day Leo finds himself in danger and needs the help of his new friends. In the end, he is accepted not only back into his pride, but becomes the King.


I really love the message of this book - that it's OK to be different, it's good to show your loving side and that will encourage others to love and support you. It's great to find a book with a male character who wants to be kind and gentle - and shows great bravery too.

The book is a big hit with Toddler. He's probably a little too young to understand the story but he loves rhyming text (of which Andreae, aka Purple Ronnie, is a master) and Wojtowycz's vibrant and whimsical pictures are just right for him too. He'll often carry the book over and demand a reading - the classic Toddler seal of approval! I'm definitely going to get a copy of this one to keep, and hopefully as he gets older he'll absorb the message that it's good to have a softer side.

If you've come across stories of loving, caring boys please let me know, I'd love to get hold of a few!

Linking up with Day 12 of #Blogtober17 - Love; #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and Kids Love To Read #KLTR hosted by Laura's Lovely Blog and The Inspiration Edit.


#Blogtober17


Read With Me


Laura's Lovely Blog

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Five Easy Ways To Be Greener In Your Kitchen

It's a while since I've done a green-ish post, and today's Blogtober prompt is Kitchen, so I thought I'd share some tips I've found about being more eco-friendly in what is often the busiest room in the family home!

Before I start, I will point out that I'm in no way a green guru when it comes to cleaning. Nor am I much of a domestic goddess either. But these are tips I've found that, even if I don't stick to them rigidly, at least encourage me to try. I'm definitely in the 'every little helps' camp when it comes to being green - doing something, however small, is always better than doing nothing.



So here are five ways to make your kitchen more environmentally friendly ...

1. Ditch the wipes

Cleaning wipes are just so easy, aren't they? Ready to use, in a neat little pack, and you can just chuck them away when you're done. The trouble is, you chuck them away when you're done. So to save space in your bin (and reduce the amount of waste going landfill) just swap your wipes for cloths. Better still, you could reuse unwearable clothes as rags. We all have a weaning-stained babygro or torn T-shirt lurking somewhere, rather than bin it just cut it into squares and you have cleaning cloths for free!

2. Choose eco-friendly cleaning products

Of course, if you're using cloths and rags, you'll need a cleaning product. Often I find that just water will do the job if it's a small spill, but if you need some heavy duty cleaning, try to choose products that are better for the environment. We use Method all-purpose spray which uses plant-based ingredients and smells lovely. Or if you've got a bit of time, you could make your own cleaning products - there's a great, straightforward post about this over at Wood For The Trees.

3. Get a plant!

I'm a notorious plant-killer. Which is a shame as house plants are fab for making your house greener, literally and metaphorically! They reduce levels of carbon dioxide, humidity and dust and some even eliminate toxins in the air too. Better still, by keeping one in your kitchen it's near a water source so you might even remember to water it! Choose plants such as peace lilies, spider plants and English ivy - or get an aloe vera plant so you've got an instant soother next time you burn yourself cooking! (Just me? I did say I'm not a domestic goddess!)

4. Get reusable straws

This is something I was discussing just this morning. Girl Child is obsessed with straws. And as she sometimes doesn't drink as much as she should, I'm pretty slack at letting her have what she wants just to get her drinking. But the piles of straws we get through makes my heart ache knowing how un-green they are. So I'm going to get hold of some reusable straws, like these funky stainless steel ones or these lovely candy stripe ones.

5. Compost your cuttings

This is such a simple one you're probably all doing it already, but just so there's one I actually manage to do reliably I thought I'd include it anyway! Rather than filling your bin with potato peel and apple cores, just chuck them in the compost - keeps them out of landfill and supplies you with lovely compost for your garden. I'm finding composting especially useful now Toddler is in the 'chuck it on the floor' stage - any salady bits or fruit can just go in the tub and I don't feel so bad about the waste!

What are your top tips for being greener in the kitchen?

Linking up with Day 11 of #Blogtober17 - Kitchen.

#Blogtober17


This post contains affiliate links. This won't affect your shopping, but means that if you buy through the link I get a few pennies. Thank you!

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Why We Love The Yorkshire Coast

Today's Blogtober prompt is holidays. There's only one thing I can write about really as we've visited the same location every year since Girl Child was two - the Yorkshire coast! Here's why we love it and keep going back:

The Beaches

I'm a firm believer that when the sun's shining, all kids really need is the beach. Why shell out on fancy holidays when we have great beaches in this country? Our favourite beach is North Bay in Scarborough, but there are so many different beaches to try in Yorkshire. Yes, the sea might nip your toes a bit but that just adds to the fun!

The Attractions

OK, I'll admit it - the sun doesn't always shine in Yorkshire. In fact a lot of the time it doesn't. I remember one summer we went to Scarborough and the weather was a bit miserable. But there is so much to do and see - the Sea Life Sanctuary, the museum and art gallery, the arcades - that you can't get bored. We haven't even visited half the attractions in the area yet, but no doubt we will in years to come!

The Food

Of course, if you like fish and chips you'll be in your element. I'm vegetarian so it can be harder to find suitable food but the bigger towns like Scarborough and Bridlington have a good range of restaurants. And then of course there's icecream, rock and warm donuts too! Yum!

The Accommodation

There's something for everyone. The first time we went to the coast for a family holiday we stayed in a cottage in a holiday park. Next time we stayed in a flat just minutes from the beach in Scarborough. Then we stayed at a wild west themed glamping park! I often look wistfully at the hotels with sea views and imagine coming back when the kids are older, or even without the kids, and staying in one.


Next year we're planning to go abroad for the first time as a family but I'm sure we'll squeeze in a visit to the Yorkshire coast at some point too - it's tradition now! Which places do you go back to over and over?

Linking up with Day 8 of #Blogtober17 - Holidays.

#Blogtober17

Friday, 6 October 2017

Why Are Flowers 'Just For Girls'?

"I saw a boy the other day," the woman said, "only I thought he was a girl because his parents had put him in a flowery top. I mean," she wrinkled her nose for effect, "flowers? On a boy?"

It's a few years now since I laughed awkwardly at that statement, and here I am with a son who happily wears his sister's cast offs - yes, even flowery things. And I ask myself, why are flowers seen as just a girl thing?


It doesn't make much sense to me. Switch on 'Gardener's World' or leaf through a gardening magazine and you're bound to come across male gardeners. Men can be passionate about plants, yes, even flowers. I used to work in the same department as landscape architects and there were a fair few men, who could probably tell you all you need to know about flowers and more. Even in terms of clothing, you see men wearing floral ties or shirts and nobody seems to bat an eyelid.

And yet as a child, flowers are seen as exclusively for girls. Well, they're pretty, aren't they? Decorative. Just as we perceive girls to be. Boys can't be pretty, they're not for decoration, they're for noise and action. Mud, yes. Flowers, no.

Increasingly, girls can cross over into 'boys' domains. Liking cars, dinosaurs, sport and so on is becoming more acceptable, although these girls can still be marginalised and labelled as 'tomboys'. But there is a sense that it's OK for a girl to be like a boy but not OK for a boy to be like a girl.

Madonna hit the nail on the head in the introduction to 'What It Feels Like For A Girl': "Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short/ Wear shirts and boots 'cause it's OK to be a boy/ But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading/ 'Cause you think being a girl is degrading." Boys not being 'allowed' to wear flowers or pink or butterflies is part of patriarchal thinking - it's not OK to emulate girls because girls are seen as inferior. So if you're a boy who likes 'girl things' you're inferior. It's rubbish.

So I will still dress my son in his sister's old clothes from time to time. Until he's old enough to choose his own clothes, and even after if he still wants to. Because I want to show him and his sister that it's OK to like whatever colour you want, flowers and butterflies are cool (hello, pollination is kind of a big deal) and there are no clothes or interests that are just for girls or boys. I've no doubt it will get hard to continue with this message as they get older - it's already hard with my 5 year old - but hopefully they'll keep the message in the back of their minds through the tricky times of childhood and adolescence and grow up to be themselves.

Linking up with Day 6 of #Blogtober17 - Flowers.


#Blogtober17



Thursday, 5 October 2017

Why I DON'T Home Educate



I think for most people, sending your child to school is a given - the alternatives aren't really considered unless it's exceptional circumstances. But for me the decision to send my daughter to a mainstream school was a conscious one, for a number of reasons.

Being an attachment/gentle/hippy parent (delete as per your perspective), most of the online parenting communities I'm part of have a number of home educating families. Sometimes when concerns were raised about school issues there would be the odd comment of, "this is why we home educate," or similar. So from quite early on I started to consider home education as an option.

The way I parent is sometimes at odds with how things are done in most schools - mainly because I try my best to avoid rewards and punishments - so I was worried that this would cause problems. And with Girl Child being, ahem, on the spirited side, I did (and still do) worry about how she'd get on at school. I also think there is a lot of pressure on kids these days which has nothing to do with the teachers (who I truly believe are wonderful human beings who should be treasured far more than they are) and everything to do with the constant top-down shifting of goalposts. I'm looking at you, Gove, Greening et al.

But ultimately I decided that home education wasn't for us. Why?

Lack of car

I heard lots about home ed groups, special events at museums and so on, but my first thought would always be, "how would I get there?" Without access to a car on weekdays, I'd have to battle with public transport. Which would not only be stressful and time-consuming, but also an extra expense. Which leads me to ...

Cost

I know a lot of educational activities can be done free or very cheaply, but I can imagine that the costs would gradually mount up. It sounds really stingy, but the cost of home educating was a factor in my decision.

Girl Child's need to socialise

Early on, Girl Child showed she loved being around other children. She was always restless at home. While being with 29 other children every week day does cause problems as she's still developing socially, I knew that she would miss regular interaction with children if we home educated. Especially as it would be hard to get to home ed groups (see above).

The arrival of Toddler

I planned a bigger age gap in part so that I would have time alone with my second child just as I had with my first. (And in the vain hope that I'd get a few full nights' sleep in between. I didn't.) And to be honest, I'm a bit rubbish at keeping two kids entertained without significant recourse to screens. I'm in awe of parents who are able to look after younger children whilst also giving their older ones a quality education. You are amazing. I'm 99% sure I couldn't do it.

Me!

Ultimately one of the biggest reasons for not home educating was that I knew I didn't have the right temperament. I'm not a patient person and have been blessed with a very strong-minded, bright but exhausting daughter. By the time she was around two and a half I already felt like I couldn't cope much longer with looking after her full-time and was counting down the months until she could start preschool. Plus, I know that eventually I'm going to want a job outside of the home. I'm getting a little antsy about that already but I don't know what I want to do as a job so will stay at home at least until Toddler is in preschool.

So all in all, school was the right choice for us. I think. I did toy with one of the 'alternative' schools like Steiner-Waldorf or Montessori but geographically (and probably financially) it was even less of an option. Luckily Girl Child is at a school she loves, with great teachers and a fab group of friends. It's not without it's hiccups - nothing ever is - but it's working out fairly well.

I hope no home educating parents feel criticised by anything I say, because I do think you are wonderful people who are doing the best by your children. I couldn't do what you do. No really, I couldn't. You deserve far better support and recognition.

Did you consider home education? What decision did you come to, and why?

Linking up with Day 5 of #Blogtober17 - Education.

#Blogtober17

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The First World Problem Of Not Having a Second Car

OK, before I get started, I want to point that I do know this isn't unusual. I know lots of families only have one car. I know some don't have a car at all and get along OK. But most of the mums I know have access to a car regularly, whether that's a car of their own or a shared car which their other half doesn't need for the commute. I don't.

And most of the time this is fine. I don't actually like driving (granted, that's because I do it so rarely that it's a Scary Thing when I do) and I don't mind walking. Most of the time. Girl Child has been pretty good on her pins since she was three, and Toddler just goes in the carrier which, even at nearly 19 months, is still not too much strain as long as it's less than an hour's carrying.

But there are times I think a second car would be handy. Such as ...

Whenever it rains


I live in Yorkshire. It's rainy here. I can cope with a bit of drizzle but when it's pouring it down it's  horrible. Before Girl Child started school we would just hide on rainy days, but now we have to get out of the house five days a week, come rain or shine. And rainy school runs always take longer, not only in terms of preparation (wellies, raincoats etc) but also because Girl Child walks like a snail when carrying an umbrella. And she hates getting wet so often cries all the way which slows things down further. So all in all, rainy school runs are rubbish. And don't get me started on ice and snow.

When there's a fun thing 'far away'

I generally stick to places within walking distance. When Girl Child was little we had a bit more freedom to hop on a bus or train because we didn't have to be back at a certain time. Now going anywhere in the afternoon is risky because I might not get back in time to pick her up from school. And mornings are tight because of Toddler's nap. Even if we were to go somewhere on public transport it probably wouldn't be far. Having to change trains or buses with a small person in tow is a battle, and what if we miss the connection?

That's not considering the places which are hard to reach on public transport. Or the places that are just too far for me to walk but not worth the cost of a bus. And I haven't mentioned the extra expense that getting public transport adds to the activity. All in all, if it's not in my town, I'm not going.

When someone's ill

Despite registering with a GP surgery in my town, most of the appointments and all of the emergency walk-ins are in the partner surgery in the next town. When I'm ill, or my child is, I really don't fancy having to get a bus. I especially don't fancy getting a bus to get there before 8am so I have even a faint hope of being seen in less than an hour. And that's not usually possible anyway because, y'know, SCHOOL RUN.


Apart from those times (and probably others I'm not thinking of right now) it's not really a problem. I'm lucky that there's a fair bit to do with a toddler in our town. It's only ever rained heavily a few times on the school run (so far). And we don't get ill often. So it wouldn't be worth getting a second car really, especially if we then had to get spare car seats. But still. Next time it's raining at 8.30am I'll forget that completely!


#Blogtober17


Monday, 2 October 2017

When Is A Baby Not A Baby?

Toddler is decidedly not a baby anymore. He can walk. He can talk (a bit). He's well on his way to figuring out the TV remote. Objectively speaking, he is very much a toddler. I wrote a whole blog post about this, months ago.

So why do I still call him 'baby' all the time?


As he gets older and acquires new skills, I keep mentally shifting the goalposts of when a baby stops being a baby. So here are my ways of deciding whether your baby is, in fact, a toddler.


1. They've taken their first steps

Ah yes, such a milestone. Except it doesn't feel like it, does it? The first steps are often a bit stumbly, and could easily be baby just stopping themselves falling over. No, that doesn't work as a definition of toddler. How about ...

2. They can do 10 steps in a row

This is more like it. Anything less than that is basically falling forwards with style. Yep, 10 steps is the mark of the toddler. But wait, how do you decide that they really can do 10 steps? What if they're actually doing two sets of 5? Too vague.

3. They can walk across a room

OK, this is really starting to look not-babyish now. But still, define a room. Some rooms are pretty small, what size room counts? I'm beginning to think using walking to define a toddler is just too problematic. (Yes I know that's the literal definition of 'toddler', ssshhhh, stay with me.)

So maybe it's talking instead?

4. They say their first word

No, no, that won't work. Because, really, how can you tell if their 'mama' actually means 'mummy' or whether it's just a noise? Really most first words are us deciding they sound like a word. We need something more concrete.

5. They can talk in sentences

This is my current definition, because Ezra's speech is developing so slowly that it buys me at least another six months of babyhood, I reckon. But what shall I say is the definition of a toddler when he does start talking in sentences?

6. They tell you they're not a baby

This really is the final straw. When your kid is old enough to say, "I'm not a baby, I'm a toddler," you really have to let go. Or at least stop calling them 'baby' in earshot.

This is my #Blogtober17 post for Day 2 - Babies.

#Blogtober17