Thursday, 30 September 2010

So, I went to an interview....

I had an interview the other day for a part-time job. I was adamant I wanted something not too taxing, that allowed me to be there for the children at the right times. The job, on paper, seemed perfect - 15 hours a week, 10 mins away in the middle of town, stable(ish) employers, the works.

The interview went OK. The typing test they gave me was horrible - I can type 50-55 wpm but not apparently when I'm not allowed to correct any mistakes at all. I left in two minds, certain that I would not get the job, that they would find someone suited better to the requirements of the role as set out by them.

The night before, I had suddenly been overcome by a complete crisis of confidence. And yet, I knew I could do the job well without trying too hard. I told Twitter about it and got lots of fantastic positive feedback and kind wishes from my followers - for which, by the way, a huge thank you; sharing the love is one of the things I absolutely adore about Twitter.

By the time I came out of that interview though, I knew what it had all been about. It wasn't nerves at all; it was dread. For as much as I fool myself that I want a not too taxing job, I know I would be bored. I am going to need something else. The job was not for me. When they rang this morning, I actually had a moment of panic that they were going to offer me the job. I have never been so relieved to hear the words "I'm sorry but on this occasion, you have been unsuccessful." I think that says it all.

So, what now? I wish I knew. I've applied for three more jobs, but they are similar roles to this one. I am not really sure what options are available to me. I could aim to go back into IT but it seems to be spectacularly unfriendly if you have a family. It was a struggle to go part-time in my previous role, and it seems that part-time roles in IT are almost non-existent unless you are already working for someone, which I'm not.

I'm qualified to teach adults but teaching hours are in very short supply. I'm also qualified in life and performance coaching but I don't really know where to start with that. And doesn't everybody groan these days if you say you're a life coach, although maybe if you're the sort that will only say super-positive things and annoy the heck out of people living in the real world.

And of course, I love doing this. Writing, messing around and doing stuff on my blog. And Twitter. I could turn it into something, but I am painfully aware that there is a lot of competition out there with far, far more experience and talent than I have.

It's all a balancing act.
I think I'm stuck. I do some casual self-employed work from home already but it really doesn't pay that well, certainly not enough to pay the bills. I know I need to find something that I enjoy and am passionate about, but it's balancing off with something that is achievable in terms of my experience and strengths, as well as being flexible enough to work around the children. My husband working shifts means I need to be around for school runs and I don't want to put them in childcare outside school.

I'd love to know what you think. Do you work flexibly? If so, what do you do and how did that come about? What wisdom can you share with me about finding something that's child-friendly AND rewarding/interesting? Or should I just stick to doing something soul-destroying but stable and perhaps work on something else in the meantime? All comments welcome.

Free park-ing

As a family with not a particularly large income, activities that keep the children occupied that don't cost a lot are quite important if we're to keep our heads above water. Things that are free are even better. Most of the time, Monkey and Missy Woo are happy to go and play out with the children that live on our road - which thankfully doesn't have a lot of traffic - to ride on bikes, or just play cricket or football. There aren't many girls of Missy Woo's age living on the road, so she does tend to get bored quite easily and ends up coming in, just as I think I've won myself a bit of peace. Gah.

There is a tiny park on the estate but they are not allowed to go there unless they are with an adult. They know how far they can wander from home and they are pretty good at sticking to it. Mind you, I thought I'd lost Monkey one day during the summer holidays when he was out on his bike one minute and not there the next. I found him at the house across the road, after a bit of frantic searching, watching a DVD with his friend.

If we need a proper park, a big favourite with the children - and me - is Withy Grove Park in Bamber Bridge. The playground there was regenerated only a few years ago and it's fantastic. It has equipment for all ages of children from babies upwards and there's a mini skate park for the teenagers. Missy Woo likes the non-scary things - some little rockers in the shape of marine creatures, and playing with lots of sand. Monkey is more of a daredevil - 'twas ever thus - and tries to go on the zip line that is designed for bigger boys. He does climb up to the top of the big corkscrew slide, disappear into the silver tubing and reappear, laughing, at the bottom a few seconds later.

The park is next to the leisure centre where the children go to swimming lessons so we often turn up there early for a quick runabout to let off steam before going inside, although getting them out can be like herding cats. The only downside is the cafe there only opens at weekends but the ice cream van visits regularly instead. Oh, and the M6 runs down one side of the outer edge of the park so it can be loud.

Another big favourite with the children is pizza. They could happily eat that, or pasta, every day of their lives. Over the summer, Pizza Hut had a kids eat free deal over the summer, for children under 12, but this has now been extended until 9th January 2011. For every adult main course or adult lunchtime buffet purchased, an accompanying child can choose from either a FREE 2 course kids meal (includes a drink) or a FREE kids lunchtime buffet (includes pizza, pasta and salad).

This is a Sponsored Post

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Gallery - Food

I was really pleased when I saw that the prompt for this week was Food for the Gallery. After all, it's one of the five Fs after which I named this blog.

But when it came down to choosing a picture, I struggled. Most of the food photography (and I use that term very loosely) that I have done in the past few months has been when I've been making something that I have decided to blog. So they're already here. There aren't too many that involve pictures of the children as food.

But then, I remembered that I have a few pix on my phone on food that I haven't blogged about. This is the one I picked out this week.

This is Lemon Lapiz Pudding. I got the recipe from Paula at Battling On, which you can find here. It was Paula's entry for the English Mum July bake off. I thought it looked lovely when I first saw her post and mentally filed it as something to make soon.

I came to make it earlier this month when we were invited to a house party to celebrate the 30th birthday of one of Monkey and Missy Woo's cousins. I offered to make a pudding for the party as I hate going empty handed and after chatting to Paula, chose to make this. It's three meringue circles - which you could buy for a really quick pudding - layered with a lemon filling made from lemon juice, cream and condensed milk. I made the meringues one evening and the filling the next, putting it together and refrigerating it the night before the party. It needs to be made in advance so is great for a party, and it's even freezable apparently.

The pudding went down a storm at the party. The meringue is crisp on the outside, with a softer middle. The filling was like a lemon curd, but a lot quicker to make as it doesn't need the half an hour or more stirring over a double boiler! It was divine - like lemon meringue pie without the soggy pastry base. People kept telling me how clever I was but it really wasn't difficult to make. The cracks just added to the overall visual effect. It transports well, which surprised me as it had to drive all the way to Blackpool and I was worried it would shatter into a thousand pieces, but it survived the trip there. It didn't survive the trip home though - I left a small slice at the party when we left!

(This is my entry to Week 29 of the Gallery at Sticky Fingers - go take a look at some of the other entries; I think I can guarantee this week that they will make you hungry!)

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Fancy some top Totti? Get laminating!

* I am getting lots of hits on this post for obvious reasons after the sad death of Gary Speed. I wrote this post in September 2010 and although I considered removing it temporarily, I've decided to leave it standing. I was a huge fan of Gary and I was utterly gutted to hear the news of his death. The tributes I have heard since convince me that he was a really lovely man and want this post to stand as a tribute to him, even if it was tongue in cheek. Rest in peace, Gary. You will be missed*

After I wrote my sad post yesterday, I remembered that I've already been tagged by Nickie at Typecast in a post entitled Shwing! (in a feminine way) based on the famous people that you would *cough* do it *cough* with, given the chance - partly based on the "Laminated List" plot from Friends. This was started a while back by Karen from If I Could Escape and I think she tagged everyone in general, but to my shame, I never did that either. *slaps own wrists* Better make up for lost time then and present my selection for your amusement and delectation then.

My selection are based on a theme of 3Fs today - football, food and films. Some of them will be no surprise to those who know me, but I can guarantee there will be at least one that you have never heard of! Enjoy the insight into my (slightly warped) mind.
Santi Solari

Gary Speed

David Ginola

Francesco Totti

Matt Tebbutt

Curtis Stone
John Cusack
David Morrissey
I believe it is customary for me to tag people at this point but I think several variations of this theme have been going the rounds for a while. So, I'm going to be naughty and leave it open to you. I'll add anyone that wants to be tagged, or you can blog it, link back and place a link in the comments.

Now, if it's alright with you, I must go. Is it me or is it a bit warm in here?

Monday, 27 September 2010


I was reading a blog post over the weekend, by Lisa at Mrs LJ Hall who was mulling over who would be her fantasy husband(s). It has given me the perfect opportunity to tell you about one of mine.

If you'd asked me in the late 90s, I would have said Gary Parkinson, without a doubt. Most of you are sitting looking blankly at the screen, saying "Wha'?" so I feel it my duty to include a picture of him, although it's not great. Gary - known as Parky, obviously - was a right back, who joined Preston from Burnley in 1997. The picture here shows him playing for Middlesbrough, much earlier in his career.

Now, I don't normally go lusting after footballers. As a fan, I am not the sort that goes to football to watch men's buttocks; I am genuinely interested in the football. But I became a big fan of Parky after a chance meeting one day in August 1998. It was Bank Holiday weekend and PNE were playing at Lincoln City. I drove up to Lincoln alone but was meeting a friend who was coming from Liverpool to see the match. I drove out to the point-to-point on the edge of the city to park there to meet my friend as they were going to be driving past so was a convenient place to stop.

When I pulled into the car park, I noticed the team coach. It was empty, apart from the driver. Being a) curious nosey and b) having time to kill, I wandered over, spoke to the driver and asked him if he'd already dropped the team off. He shook his head, pointed to a path and said, "They've gone for a walk." I walked around the corner, and sure enough, there was the whole squad and entourage wandering around. Gary was the first person I bumped into and he stopped to talk to me, for I was wearing both a PNE shirt and an utterly amazed look on my face. We chatted for a couple of minutes and he explained that the boss - David Moyes at the time - liked them to stretch their legs after a long journey before they got to the ground. He was quietly spoken and charming, with lovely twinkly eyes. After this brief chat, he apologised and said they had to leave. Stupidly, I never asked for any autographs but I got a few hellos as they traipsed back onto the bus and left. I'm not sure my friend totally believed me when they turned up about ten minutes later!

After that encounter, Parky became my fantasy husband. I think I met him again, briefly, at a Player of the Year awards ceremony a couple of years later and he was as charming as before. Unfortunately, about six months after I met him, he damaged his cruciate and was out for a year and never really featured regularly for Preston after that so I didn't often get my fix of my favourite player. He left PNE for Blackpool in 2001, normally a move that would generate a lot of bad feeling, but no-one could really begrudge him moving on at the age of 33. He helped them win promotion that season and then retired from playing a couple of years later. He got himself a job back at Blackpool as head of youth after qualifying as a coach.

This story does not have a happy ending. Earlier this month, I was utterly gutted to hear the news that Gary had suffered a massive stroke and was critically ill in hospital. Although he has improved, there are now fears that he is suffering from locked-in syndrome, whereby he is unable to move, speak or swallow but is aware of what is going on around them. It is early days in his rehabilitation but if confirmed, the prognosis is not good as most sufferers die within the first four months. A few manage to overcome it with specialist care; I'm hoping, praying even, that he's one of them. He's only 42 after all. My heart totally goes out to his wife Deborah and their three children as I can only imagine what they are going through right now. And as for Parky, I've tried to imagine what it might be like right now; to be aware of everything around you, and yet not be able to respond, to express emotions, to talk to loved ones or even to move. Boy, is it scary and frustrating - and yet, I can shake myself out of it a few seconds later, move, type, talk and generally express myself. To be like that 24x7 - well, the thought makes me shudder.

I'm hoping in the months to come that there will be some fundraising to help either him or stroke-related causes. Thus far, I haven't found anything on the Blackpool FC website (and yes, I did check it; I am not proud). A donation to The Stroke Association, a charity that supports research into prevention and treatment of strokes as well as providing information, advice and support to stroke victims, may well be in order. If any event is set up in Parky's name, I will be supporting it wholeheartedly and I'll tell you about it here. If anyone knows of any event set up in his name, please let me know because I would love to be involved.

In the meantime, I prefer to remember Parky as the player and the lovely, genuine man that he was. That doesn't mean I am not hoping for the miracle recovery he deserves because I am crossing everything that it happens. But he will remain my fantasy husband. Get well soon, Parky. You are in my thoughts.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Reviews: A Toyology compilation of living creatures

I've got a few more toys to review for you today. As you might have seen, we are Toys R Us Toyologists and are currently on our second parcel of toys to review. However, due to Monkey and Missy Woo being away on holiday then back at school, we're a bit behind on some of the things from the first parcel so I thought I'd combine a few into one post as they are all quite short reviews.

The first is Bobbin' Bumblebee (£8.99). This is a game where Robin the Bumblebee flies around in a circle; the players have honeycomb discs which they protect by flipping a paddle to knock the approaching bee away to stop him taking the discs. Monkey and Missy Woo quite enjoyed this game but it lasts only a minute or two. Although they enjoyed it, it didn't really hold their attention and they soon moved onto something else. I think it would be better for toddlers/preschoolers - as they are more likely to be happy to keep setting up the same game again and again, rather than my two, who are past that stage now. The game is listed as suitable from 3 years and it would be perfect for that age. It's quite easy to put together, but it can come apart easily too. 

The next is Moon Dough Playful Puppies Set (£7.99). If ever there was a toy that divided a household, this was it. As soon as the children saw it, they got very excited. Monkey knew it was like playdough but never dried out, Missy Woo wanted to make puppies, which you do by pressing the dough into the top of a kennel mould maker and turning the handle, with the puppies falling out of the bottom. Bones and food can be made by pressing the dough into separate small moulds. That's the theory anyway. The dough is very light compared to playdough. We found you really needed to work it hard to make it pliable enough for fitting correctly into moulds, and you needed to start moulding it straight away or you'd need to work it again. It is also really crumbly, and made a huge mess everywhere. We all found it hard to fill the moulds properly so that you got the nice pretty figures you see on the box. Overall, the children loved it, but as a mother, I didn't. I expect some mess from craft activities but this was too messy. I would be far happier if it was reformulated to be less crumbly and messy, whilst keeping its lightness and bright colours.

Finally, we have the Ocean in My Pocket Coral Reef Playset (£19.99) and accompanying Newborns pack (£3.99). Missy Woo's eyes lit up as soon as she saw this and she wasn't disappointed once we had finally wrestled it out of the multiple wires holding it in the packaging (a pet hate of mine!). The Playset is a play park for a mummy whale and her three babies that are included in the set. There is a slide, a swing, a merry-go-round and a swing for them all to play on. It's great for imaginary play and Missy Woo was fascinated with it, taking it off to the playroom to sit down and put everything through its paces. When I asked her, she seemed to enjoy the swing for some obscure reason but she got a lot of pleasure out of it all and was totally absorbed. In short, she loved it and I think it was worth the money for that alone. 

The Newborns pack contained three tiny figures - in this case, a baby seal, a jellyfish, and an oyster. And they really are tiny - I can hold all 3 of them in my fist! I think parents would feel better about the price if the figures were slightly bigger and they came in less packaging. Missy did like them but only because she could use them to play with them alongside the playset and she is not yet inclined to carry them in her pocket as intended. The baby seal is a favourite, but there's not a lot you can do with a jellyfish and an oyster. I would buy these for a child that already had the playset, because they would provide further options for playing with it. 

(I was provided with the above toys to review and have received no other compensation. The opinions stated here are my own, and have not been influenced by the aforementioned compensation.)

Friday, 24 September 2010

I am a Twitterholic!

I have been considering starting a Twitter meme for a while and I'm just getting around to it now. That's the problem you have when you have too many ideas for blog posts in your head.

I decided to start this, because I love Twitter more than is healthy for a grown woman. I had a slow start but it's now reached fever pitch, and there is no hope for me; I'm hooked. I am a Twitterholic So, I have concocted a few questions about Twitter and you, which I hope will make for interesting blog-type reading. And of course, in time-honoured fashion, I get to go first. Eyes down, look in, ladies and gents, here are the votes of the kateab jury.

When did you join Twitter? (You can find the exact date at

28th November 2008.

Why did you join Twitter?

I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I'd read an increasing number of press articles about it and was intrigued. However, I made the rookie mistake of assuming it was like Facebook (which I'd joined early 2008 having resisted for a long time) and so protected my tweets for quite a while. It did mean that I didn't get it at first. It was like tweeting into the abyss. I don't think I got my second follower until February! A few months later, I got Tweetdeck and was hooked.

Who is/was your first or oldest follower? Who did you follow first? Tell me all about them. ( will give you this info)

These are one and the same person for me. It is Blaise Grimes-Viort who tweets here. I have known Blaise for 6 years or so, when he joined as their communities manager, which is now part of National Magazines. I was a regular on their discussion boards and was one of the volunteers who helped to moderate the boards - dealing with spam, abuse and so on. I also helped on a new discussion board which Blaise set up connected to some websites, aimed at mums-to-be and new mums, until NatMags decided to close it down. Gah.

I don't really use Handbag any more. I stopped visiting because most of the users I knew stopped visiting after an upgrade radically changed the boards for the worse. We all found new homes to go to, but I still kept in touch with Blaise via Twitter. Blaise tweets some personal stuff but mostly tweets information about being a community manager (and job vacancies, if you're interested). He left National Magazines last week and is now Head of Social Media Services & Engagement for Webjam.

The other thing I know about Blaise is that he has a famous sister. She's a supermodel - reckon that could be a bit of a conversation stopper! Her name is Benoit, better known as Ben Grimes. It means nothing to me as I am so not into fashion but she appears in celeb features.

Do you have any celebrities following you, or have you ever had a DM from a celeb? (This was inspired by Paula getting a DM from John Cusack - still jealous!)

Erm, I have a couple of radio type people (the lovely Helen Blaby and Phil Williams) who have become followers somehow. And the lovely Dhruv Baker, winner of Masterchef 2010, got talked into following me.

I did once get a DM from a former Apprentice contestant, offering telephone numbers and an email address. They weren't for me, but for someone who is not on Twitter. I was just the messenger girl. Honest, m'lud.

I had a real phase of following celebrities in my early days on Twitter. I do still follow some but these days, I am more interested in interacting with people, which is hard for celebrities who get thousands of replies to every tweet. I keep some for banter, amusement and nosiness, because that's what following a celebrity is all about.

If you could follow anyone not on Twitter - alive, dead, real or fictional - on Twitter, who would it be?

I think it would have to be someone literary, just to see how they get on fitting their ideas into 140 characters. So it's between two authors. The first is Thomas Hardy, whose books I read as a challenge, because the language was so difficult. Most of his books are fairly depressing so I can't imagine his tweets would be a laugh a minute. The other is Kahlil Gibran, who wrote The Prophet, one of my favourite books. I could imagine him tweeting some great lines from that and his other works, all of them guaranteed to delight and uplift.

Which came first - Twitter or blog? 

Definitely Twitter. It is because of Twitter that I got into blogging, through "meeting" bloggers on there who got me to write, leading me to set up this blog. The same people regularly give me advice, offer their opinion or input, and for that I will be forever grateful. It just so happens that Twitter is the perfect platform for telling the world about my blog, so I can't imagine blogging without Twitter. Twitter also helps me find some great blogs, some of which are in my blogroll down the right hand side of the page.

So, that's me. It now falls to me to pass on this Twitterholic meme to some other great bloggers. I am therefore tagging to receive my wonderful Twitterholic award:

Garry at The Blog Up North
Wendy at Very Bored in Catalunya
Joanna at At Home With Mrs M
Karen at If I Could Escape
Kirsty at Gone Bananas

to have a go. The rules, such as they are, are:

1. Nick the badge at the top, and mention the person who tagged you.
2. Answer the questions. (Duh!)
3. Tag some other great twitterholics bloggers.

Alternatively, tag yourself, mention me in your blog post and link to it in the comments below. I'd love to hear about your Twitter experience.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Gallery - A smile

This week's Gallery prompt, over on Tara's Sticky Fingers blog, was "A smile". It is in honour of the Mona Lisa Million Project which aims to raise money for charity and helping people to promote their (genuine!) websites. It is run by a former policeman and stay at home dad called Dave Fowler. Such a great idea.

So, a smile. For me, a toughie. My children are very smiley so there is rarely a picture of them where they are not smiling. And then scanning through my photos, I found a favourite picture from way back. It used to be my signature picture on quite a few discussion boards that I used to frequent so it's possible you've seen it before.

(Sorry about the quality; it was taken on our old camera).

Monkey is about 5 months old in this picture. He had a fish rattle, which became known as Mardy (tennis fans should get the joke). I came into the living room one day, having left him playing in his bouncy chair for a few seeconds and found the rattle had slipped down the front of his vest. It looked funny so I took this. Even at that age, Monkey was a little poser so smiled as soon as he saw the camera.

A cute photo, and still one of my favourites, even 5 years on.

(This is my entry for Week 28 of the Gallery at Sticky Fingers. If you get a chance, please visit some of the other entries. They are always worth it.)

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Choosing a school - an experience

A couple of weeks ago, I had a really great moment with Monkey. I was driving to collect Missy Woo from her last day at nursery. Monkey was with me as he wanted to come and say goodbye to them as well.

We got talking.

Me: "Do you miss nursery?"
Monkey: "Yes, Mummy."
Me: "Did you like it a lot then?"
Monkey: "Yes, Mummy."
Me: "But you like school as well though?"
Monkey: "Oh yes, even MORE, a lot MORE!"

He then went on to catalogue all the things he loves about school.

You can't begin to imagine how great that made me feel. You see, choosing a school was a bit of a nightmare for me and I ended up pretty obsessed with choosing the right one.

It should have been simple. I lived here for 6 years before I had children and there's a lovely school within walking distance. I had assumed my children would go to that one. Then I found out two years ago that our neighbour failed to get her son into the school. It was massively oversubscribed, thanks to a huge new estate being built nearby (houses first built 2001, school due 2011!) and more to the point, it was a faith school where you got priority if you attended church regularly. Now, I just don't do that kind of thing so we were faced with the prospect that we might not get a place. Worse, the local authority only allowed one choice and if you didn't get it, they allocated you the nearest school with a place. My neighbours were initially offered a school 4 miles away.

This forced me to look further afield. There are lots of primary schools in the immediate area, luckily all pretty good. I researched hordes of information about all of them, then started visiting. The first school we visited is the school that Monkey now goes to. I guess you could say we only needed to visit one. It wasn't meant to be like that - it just happened to be the first one we visited but from the second we walked in, it felt right. We loved the place, the teachers, the setting, the children, everything about it. Nothing seemed to match up to it - we looked at four as a family and I went to the open day at a fifth. When went to see the school nearby, I wasn't convinced that it was right for us anyway, plus I wasn't convinced we would even get a place, although the head tried to convince us we would be fine.

I still don't know if we would have got Monkey a place there. From what I know, it would have been touch and go. Occasionally, Monkey asks why he doesn't go there as a couple of his pre-school friends do. To add insult to injury, they have red uniforms - his favourite colour - whereas he has to wear green which rankles with him but they are minor niggles.

So, you can understand how vindicated I felt at that moment in the car. He has never once hated school, he didn't miss a day last year and virtually runs into school every morning. It's not just him - when they open the doors at school even on a dry day, the kids come running from all corners of the playground. I love that. If you visit the school, you never see anything other than happy faces.

September is the time of year when parents everywhere start to think about which school to choose for their child as applications for places open. What I learnt going through that process was that the most important thing was to do what feels right for your child (and you) and look for a school that suits them. Visiting a few schools really helped me realise they were all so, so different. Read the Ofsted reports and look at the league tables by all means but they should inform your thinking rather than make the final decision for you.

It also makes me sad that people assume that faith schools are automatically better because it has created a big rush towards them by parents from certain social classes which, in turn, makes the school appear better. If those parents had rushed towards a non-denominational school, the same thing would've happened. It's not the school what did it in other words.

A good school is a good school because it provides an all round education. It's not about numbers, league tables and Ofsted reports (although they provide a useful independent check). It cares for the children in their care as well as teaches them. If it doesn't do the first job, it might not do the second. If your child isn't happy at a school, is it really going to learn well, even if it is the top school in the area?

If you are applying this year for your child's school place, good luck with making your decision and I really hope I haven't scared you!

If you have experience to share relating to choosing and applying for a school, please feel free to leave a comment below (or link to it if you've blogged about it). Likewise, feel free to comment or ask questions if you have that joy to come. 

Monday, 20 September 2010

Beautiful Blogger

Apparently, that is me. The lovely Mrs M from At Home with Mrs M tagged me in a meme which means I get this lovely badge. She and I go back a long way - pre-blog days and I thoroughly recommend her blog which contains lots of lovely recipes as well as other great posts.

I now have to tell you seven little known facts about me and pass the award onto other bloggers. Looking at Mrs M's, I may well be nicking some stuff off her as we seem to have a few things in common. 

1. I am left handed.

Both my parents were naturally left handed, but my Mum was forced to write right handed at school. My half sister is also left handed. I assumed one of our children would also be left handed. Missy Woo showed signs of it as she was favouring her left for ages and swopping pens from hand to hand but eventually settled on being right handed. Which is probably a blessing in disguise as it can be a nuisance. 

2. I love the colour purple.

I don't know why, I just do. I have tops in just about every shade of purple going. I have got a dress in the colour, and even a mac in a purpley lilac colour! I have also seen a purple bra I'm lusting after. I love wearing purple - it gives me a lift.

3. I had my appendix out when I was 4.

Having had grumbling stomach pains for a while, I fell ill with bad stomach pains on Hallowe'en 1969. I remember my Mum sending me to bed, then the family doctor coming to examine me and deciding I need to go to hospital. An ambulance was called and I seem to remember they put the blue lights on for me. (Whether they didn't want to alarm me or not, I don't know). At the hospital, they asked me if I wanted gas or an injection to make me sleep. As I was needle averse, I asked for gas. They made me count to ten to check it was working. I remember getting to 4 and thinking "This is never going to work". I never got past 7 and woke up the next morning, my appendix having been removed in the early hours of 1st November. Apparently, I was very lucky as they removed it before it burst, but only just. 

4. I love cheese.

This is one I have to control as I'm trying to be good foodwise. Given the chance, I'd have loads in the house, although there is nearly always some, at the very least extra mature cheddar and some parmesan. I do love blue cheese, tho I am the only one in the house who does, my favourite being Blacksticks Blue, which I love more than is unhealthy given that it is JUST a cheese.

5. I share a birthday with Nigella Lawson. 

She's older than me by a few years. Can you see the similarities?!

6. I have 9 and a half toes.

My left little toe was crooked when I was small so when I was 11, I had an(other) operation to straighten it as it was hereditary. The bone in the toe was broken and the toe stitched to the next one. It doesn't bother me much except my feet look rubbish in flip flops etc. Someone once called me a freak once for having toes like that, but he was just plain nasty. We all have our little imperfections; this was mine.

7. I hate rhubarb.

This appears to be a family thing, but we all dislike rhubarb. I've tried to like it but it just isn't something I'm meant to love. And never, ever, plant rhubarb  in your garden. The only thing we worked out stopped it growng was to concrete it over. Damned stuff,. 

And now, I must tag some more....

Dawnie at Knees Up Mother Brown
and Kirsty at Gone Bananas!

Have fun and enjoy. 

Friday, 17 September 2010

All change?

These last two weeks have felt like a bit of a write-off. Missy Woo has been on half days at school so I've mostly done the school run three times every day. It shouldn't be that bad - school is a 5 minute car journey away - but only having 9-12 or 1-3.30 free, your day seems to fly by in a flurry of school bags, getting children ready, with your free time flying by even faster. Today, I got home at 1.15, prepared some things for tea, put away some washing, made a couple of phone calls, sat down for a break and it was nearly time to go back to school again.

Thankfully, that ends Monday when she goes full-time. Which leaves me at home all day every day with 6.5 hours to kill. I'm not complaining. I shall be making the most of not having to clockwatch every day for a while. I feel like I've been chained to home these last two weeks but I do appreciate that others end up doing this for longer so I'm not going to complain about it.

But a comment by Julia on this post last week gave me a bit of a push. She asked me what plans I had made in those 3 day to which my answer was none - for reasons I've already described. But it made me realise that now is the time for me to get on with it. To make plans and carry them out. To set myself some goals and set about achieving them. To find my way onto a path instead of ambling about. To start being me a bit more often, rather than someone's mummy. And that's proving to be quite scary. Not that that will stop me; I've been out of my comfort zone many times.

I have some vague ideas in my head about what I'm going to do and I've been working on them. For instance, I've applied for some part time jobs; I have an interview for one at the end of the month and am still waiting to hear from the other as applications close today. I'm still working on my fitness and healthy eating with my aim to reach a size 12 by Christmas, which should be achievable. There are other things I want to do too - some things I want to change, some things I want to start doing. I've blogged about this before and have spent time mulling things over in my head ever since. I think I know where I want to go with them now, so they will be an important feature of the plans I'm going to make for myself.

Nothing, as yet, is written in stone but I need to set something to aim for to get me started. I'm blogging about it now to remind myself that the time IS now to do these things, so that I don't drift. This post will be here, nagging away at me, reminding me to get on with working out what it is I want, making those plans and putting them into action. My children are starting on a long road whereas I'm at a crossroads really.

The time is now. I'm a little scared, but wish me luck.

Photo credit: Redvers

If you are at the same point as me and are about to make changes in your life, big or small, feel free to leave a comment and share them with me and my lovely readers. Add a linky if you like if you've blogged about it. Thanks.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Be good to your daughters...

Today's post is from a meme started by the inimitable Garry of The Blog Up North and it's about being and having daughters, something of which he has no experience, neither having daughters nor being one. (Good spot by me, I reckon. ;) )

The meme is based on a song called Daughters by John Mayer which includes the following lyrics:

Fathers be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers be good to your daughters too…

Garry wanted to know the following three things:
If you are a daughter, what did you learn from your father or mother, either positive or negative?

I struggled to know how to answer this because I guess I absorbed so much about my values and attitudes to life that I could be here for hours. I think I learned quite early on that keeping a family running required hard work and effort. I can remember my Dad working on the petrol pumps in the evenings for many years when I was a child. I seem to remember his employers lent him the money for the deposit on the house that my Mum still lives in and it was his way of paying it off. 

My parents allowed me to make my own choices in respect to my education from relatively early on. It taught me to be responsible for myself but I definitely valued the freedom it gave me, compared to some of my friends who were left arguing with their parents, who were forcing them to do subjects at school that they absolutely hated. They never really pushed me - although you could say they didn't really have to - I had to push myself so I guess it taught me self-reliance in that respect. Even when older, my dad was always the one to let me get on with things and not criticise what I was doing. If I have done anything wrong in my life, I only have myself to blame. I don't feel as if I have any baggage passed onto me by my parents, which is great. 

If you have daughters, what lessons have you passed/will you pass onto them?

There is one thing that I am definitely going to teach Missy Woo. I don't want her to have the same insecurities about her appearance that I have had. I never mention anything negative about my appearance in front of my children. I never criticise their appearance and I make sure they know they are beautiful. They don't even know that I'm trying to lose weight - I try to eat similar things to them most of the time and the "diet" I am on, if it can be called one, is based on healthy eating and I choose not to ban anything, aiming instead for moderation. I don't want her see me not eating, starving myself and going on about how fat I am. My children both know that I exercise and Missy Woo knows that I do it "to get nice and fit", as she put it one day, but I try to put it into a context of being healthy and well. She is still at the stage of thinking it's funny to have a "fat tummy" but I know that being at school and therefore exposed to the attitudes of others girls might quickly change that. Which makes me sad really, she's only 4. 

I also want her to understand that anything is possible if she tries her best and that there is no shame in failing if she has done so. Missy Woo is a bit reticent about trying sometimes and she needs to overcome that fear of failure that we all have. Learning from mistakes is important to everyone; not being scared of failure so that you have a go and keep trying even more so. 

OK, enough. I could go on and on and on at this point, but they are the most important things I want her to learn. 

Do you see something in yourself which you recognise as an inherent (unlearned) trait from your parents?

I perhaps learned my temper from my mother. I have a fairly short fuse sometimes but it's a fairly loud bang which is soon over and I calm down again quickly, forgetting it almost instantly. As a small child, I was always described as "placid" and that I get from my Dad, who was a pretty patient man (he needed to be, living in a house with 5 females!). You could not however miss it when he did lose his temper - he was the very epitome of the quote "Beware the fury of a patient man".

In lots of ways, I am nothing like either of my parents. My dad wasn't big on sport, apart from motor racing, having had a life long affair with cars (and having been a mechanic for a car that came second in the Le Mans 24 hour race once) and my mum can't stand it, whereas I am an avid watcher of a wide range of sports. My career has been very different to theirs, largely because of the fact that I went to university and was the first person to do so in either family. People say I look like my dad, but people also say I have my mother's mannerisms - something she seems to have passed onto all four of her daughters. 

Think that is me done. I hope I did this meme justice. It's been interesting doing this. 

I thought that I would find this emotional but actually, I've had to think quite hard in a detached way and not felt that emotional really. But maybe that's just me. 

So, tradition now has it that I tag a few people to carry on this great meme. I have chosen the following (Some of them know about this, some of them don't; it's late and I want to publish so apologies if you've been ambushed!)

Bumbling at Bumbling Along
Chris at Thinly Spread
Nickie at Typecast

Looking forward to reading some great posts, ladies. 

Here are the rules, copied straight from Garry's post

Nick the badge above, mention the blogger who tagged you (ie me), do the post and tag some more lovely bloggers if you know any.

If you haven’t been tagged, feel free to join in anyway. Leave a comment or post a link if you've blogged about it before.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Gallery - A celebration

This week's prompt for Week 27 of the Gallery was "A celebration". It was in honour of the 40th birthday of Garry from The Blog Up North which was last Friday. His Gallery post is a summary of his celebrations.

Now, no-one is going to believe me when I say that I already thought of making my post about a 40th birthday. Not mine, however - I was 32 weeks pregnant and I am not even sure if or where any photos of that event might be. The most memorable things were a midwife appointment on the day, a pub lunch, a weekend away with dinner not 15 feet from Kenny Dalglish, and Carlisle flooded. No, anyway -  in April, my husband turned 40 and he wanted to go where we always go - Barcelona. We have an ongoing love affair with that city and return frequently so it's weaved through the fabric of our lives.

The trip had been planned for months and then the ash cloud debacle started. For a few days, it looked like we wouldn't be going, and I emailed or rang a few places to see if we could get anywhere closer to home that didn't involve flying. (Answer - No.). I needn't have worried as things were pretty much back to normal by the time we flew on the Friday and everything went without a hitch - apart from an hour long wait to check in and a dash to the plane.

We stayed in a beautiful place that was new to us called The Patio. We'd found it on Tripadvisor and it came highly rated. It's basically in a private courtyard behind an apartment block and is bounded by buildings on all sides so there is hardly any noise. It was hard to believe there was a city outside - the most obvious sign was hearing the Metro rumbling underneath not far away.

The lady that runs The Patio is English and she recommended various places for us to go. When she heard we wanted somewhere special to go for a birthday, she recommended Asador de Aranda for a celebration meal. She booked a table for us for Saturday lunch - as we had a prior engagement with FC Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the evening.

As the restaurant was out of the city centre a bit, we set off late morning to get the metro out to Avenue Tibidabo and then walked up the hill, trying to keep in the shade as it had got hot very quickly. As we walked, we noticed this lovely sign and it was decreed that a photo was called for. (The husband would like me to point out that this is not a label.)

We walked into the restaurant which is on several floors and were amazed. It was beautiful.

(It was empty, because we arrived as it opened and the Spanish tend to lunch late - the place was packed within half an hour.)

You can see a bit more here. We ordered the Menu Asador on the recommendation of the lady from The Patio which came with just about everything. The one thing we didn't take a picture of was the starters - it was a plate of morcilla, chorizo, minced meat, red peppers and chargrilled asparagus. The morcilla (spanish black pudding basically) was spectacular and we wished we'd had more of it.

Then the main event arrived.

Roast baby lamb cooked in a wood oven. It was the most delicious lamb I've ever tasted and it melted in your mouth. (Whoops, sorry, my boobs appear to have got into that picture!).

Then we were brought orujo and rosquillas.

Orujo is the liqueur which tasted of aniseed and the rosquillas are little doughnut shaped biscuits. We dunked them into the liqueur! Then, we had dessert - chocolate mousse, which was nice, but nothing like as special as the rest of the meal.

It was an amazing experience. I can't remember the exact price but I think it worked out under £30 per head which included wine, a glass of cava, water and a coffee afterwards as well as the food. If you ever get the chance to go to one of these places, do so but you might want to make sure you book as they get very busy.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, we had an evening appointment with FC Barcelona at the Nou Camp. They were playing Xeres and we'd bought tickets as soon as we could after arriving. A Barca match falling ON the day of your 40th birthday is not to be missed. We couldn't get cheap tickets and even these ones were a row apart, but when we got inside, we were able to swop so we sat together but we were in full sun for most of the game, and it was hot, despite it being early evening.

(You might have seen that hat before - it was bought that afternoon to keep the sun off. I apologise for it now. I think it's because it clashes with the tangerine orange of the shirt.)

Barca did their bit, and won 3-1 to round the celebrations off nicely. Apparently, the match was on Sky and the children, having stayed at home with Granny and Granddad, tried to spot us - in a crowd of 100,000. Unsurprisingly, they didn't see us but we rang them briefly from the ground. 

All in all, quite a memorable birthday. We've already booked our next trip to Barcelona - we're taking Monkey in March; both for his birthday and also for the Barcelona marathon, which the husband is training for. I can't wait, so I might start saving now for another fantastic meal.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Review: Hello Kitty Plaster Rotator Creator

When our first Toyologist parcel arrived on our doorstep, Missy Woo was immediately drawn to this. She has recently discovered Hello Kitty and so its arrival was very welcome. She wanted to play with it there and then but unfortunately, she had to wait for a couple of weeks. She's been away on holiday with grandparents so it was only once she was on half days at school that we managed to have a go.

Missy Woo's first attempt at making plaster. It wasn't successful!
The idea is that you create little plaster figurines of Hello Kitty by using a cute pink machine - one of Missy  Woo's favourite colours. You put plaster inside a plastic mould, place it in the machine, and turn the handle so that the plaster is spun around in the mould. After about 10 minutes spinning, you leave it to set in the mould for about half an hour, remove from the mould, leave to dry overnight and then you paint as you wish.

That's the theory. In practice, it takes some work to get the plaster right. The instructions are very precise - you mix 15g plaster with 9ml of water. Luckily, we have a digital scale so we can weigh 15g of plaster but 9ml was almost impossible. However, we found that 9ml was not enough because the plaster was too thick, set too quickly even if you poured it in the mould straight away so wouldn't slosh around enough to make a complete mould. The instructions said to make a flowing paste and we felt it needed a little more to achieve this. Add too much water and the plaster becomes too liquid, leaking around the edges of the mould too much and the final figure becomes too fragile as the layer of plaster is too thin. We broke a few just taking them out of the mould, Missy Woo broke another trying to paint it, and Monkey broke another grabbing it when he was racing his sister to a painting session!

Doing a bit of rotating. 
Finally, after about 5 attempts, I got it right and made a solid figure but even then, I had to add 2 lots of plaster to the mould! I reckon you could get it right with a bit of practice (and I'm not very skilled at this sort of thing anyway) but I feel the instructions need a bit of work to make them clearer. Getting the plaster just so seems to be the key to success. A slightly older child than Missy Woo would still need help from an adult to do the mixing, pouring and placing in the machine. Once in the machine, Missy Woo loved turning the handle and watching it spin round but again, needed a bit of help from a grown up to spin it enough times. I think she was a bit disappointed the mould making wasn't instant, particularly as she had to wait overnight for the cast to set before she could paint. Unfortunately, I can't show you her final work of art because for some reason, she decided to paint it black and it really doesn't photograph well. Children, eh?

Missy Woo gave this the thumbs up but how much of that is down to the painting and the fact it's Hello Kitty, I am not entirely sure. The machine being pink may also help a lot. It does suit her down to the ground because she likes to draw, colour and paint a lot. From the grown up's point of view, it is slightly fiddly, and I think the plaster making needs a bit of work. The equipment is well made and solid and there is plenty of plaster in the box for the price, which is £19.99.

This could be a great present for a little girl who likes making things and loves Hello Kitty - that's most of them - but it does need a lot of help from an adult. However, I feel it could be improved by working on the instructions for making the plaster so that it gives a more consistent and successful result. I'm sure our house will soon be filled with Hello Kitty figurines. I'm just hoping they don't all end up painted black.

Our second Toyologist Parcel turned up at the end of last week so look out for more reviews here soon.

(I was provided with Hello Kitty Plaster Rotator Creator to review and have received no other compensation. The opinions stated here are my own, and have not been influenced by the aforementioned compensation.)

Monday, 13 September 2010

Parenting - a bluffer's guide

The other day, I was drawn to this post by Paula at Battling On. God knows, we have all had times like she's having right now, and we will all have more to come. I blogged recently about being made to feel like a bad mother during a trying moment in the school holidays; a more trivial bad day, but I reckon we can all think of days, weeks, even months when they've felt like Paula does and she received a lot of support from her readers.

Earlier in the week, I had a Twitter conversation where I'd told Garry from Blog Up North (who'd described himself as a dad who was "fumbling along") that anyone that cares if they are a bad parent or not is a good one. And it's true, because the really bad ones don't care about anything or anyone except themselves. They don't care about their children which leads to neglect or worse. We all know the horror stories; I don't want to dwell on them here. It's not the place to do it, because that's not what this post is about. What I'm saying is it we know what bad parenting looks like and it's pretty extreme.

Bad parents are, thankfully, few and far between, leaving the rest of us muddling along, but basically good parents. Parents mostly do a good job but beat themselves up continually about everything that is not going right in their family or as they had hoped.

It's understandable, really, because everyone has an opinion about parenting. Other parents, non-parents, grandparents, health professionals, teachers, the Government and the media. They all have an opinion on how we parent and worse, they like to share it with us. They tell us where we're going wrong (not always through words - a look can say a thousand sometimes), and what to do to correct it to become the perfect parent overnight. Like right, that'll happen! Wherever we go, whatever we do, we feel judged - and we all judge other parents. Yes, all of us. Small wonder parents feel like they are drowning when things are going badly and show no signs of improving.

However, no-one else can completely judge the situation unless they're living it with us. When we're struggling as parents, all we need to get us through the tough times might be a hug, a cup or glass of something strong and a friendly listening ear, to get it all out and share some of the load. But also we might need advice, preferably of the "Have you tried?" or "We tried this and it worked for us" variety rather than the "Do this or you've failed as a parent" variety. And sometimes, we need the perspective of someone removed from the situation to help them see through the fog of panic or despair.

An advice-giver needs to remember that their advice might not be taken. We, as parents living our nightmare, know our situation and family best. After all, you, the parent, are the expert on your children - no-one knows them better than you; they are a unique mix of genes, parenting and education, as are you. I read parenting books when I was first a mother from "parenting experts" but do they know my kids? No. I used some of the ideas they had - because they gave me fresh perspective - but I didn't slavishly follow them because they didn't suit my family. All experts give us is a toolbag of extra shiny tools at our disposal. Parents can use them, and a few wobbly home-made ones, on their children and that's when it becomes a craft. That takes practice. Judging by my crafting abilities, it takes me quite a few goes and a lot of practice to get anything like that looking right, so by that parallel, I'm going to fail a few times at this parenting lark and have to have another go or six before I get that right too, then start from scratch each time I have to make something new.

Only this afternoon, I read a Facebook status from a friend who had had a bad night with her very young baby because she had not swaddled her and then had barely slept. It turns out that several people had told her to stop swaddling "because she'll get addicted to it", so she had tried stopping and it hadn't worked. She was panicking that she had already failed and that the baby was already addicted. Thankfully, lots of other people pointed out that she was just a baby and that if that was what helped her daughter to sleep soundly, then do it. Having already "given in" and swaddled her baby, who immediately slept peacefully, she's realised that you have to do what you have to do. She'll worry about it later, crossing that bridge when she comes to it.

Because after all, they change so quickly, our children. One minute, we're despairing that they will ever be able to do something, the next they're doing it. One minute, they are reducing you to tears with their behaviour, and the next, they are amazing you with their maturity and impeccable manners. My main mantra as a parent has always been "This too shall pass" because it will, for good or for bad. The bad times will go, however desperate and relentless it seems when they're hanging over you like a black cloud. The good times will go too, so it is double-edged, reminding me to appreciate when life is good with the children, and they're both amazing and delighting me.

So this is my bluffer's guide to parenting. Don't take it to heart cos it represents me and my style. You can always share yours in the comments if you like.

- Take advice if you want to, but feel free to ignore it. If I ever give advice, I try to qualify it by saying it worked for me if it has. I'd be thrilled if someone took it and it helped them, but I'm not going to be offended if they don't. No-one should make you feel obliged to take their advice. It's not the law to follow it. It's not their life, it's yours.

- Make it up as you go along. Cos we all do. Yes, even the perfectly turned out parents that seem to breeze through everything. They're just better at being the swans - serene on top, paddling like mad underneath. What worked last week might not work this week. But one thing is for sure - it will change.

- Do what you have to do to survive the hard times, whether it be shouting, crying, drinking wine, cake or a cup of tea away from the kids - without guilt. You just have to do it. It keeps you sane. What's wrong with that?

We're all bluffers at this parenting lark. The most important job of all but requires no qualifications, admission exams to pass or minimum standards to meet. Everyone has their own parenting style, and most are bloody brilliant at it, because we love our children and have their best interests at heart. If we can, we should support rather than criticise the parents having a tough time.

Because next week, next month, next year, it could be us.

(If you would like information on various aspects of pregnancy and early parenthood, the NCT provides evidence-based information which you can find here. Hope it helps)

Friday, 10 September 2010

Odd One Out

That's me, you see. If ever there were three words that summed up most of my life, those are the ones. Odd one out.

I have mentioned before that my sister taught me to read when I was 2 and I could read by the time I started school. This marked me out as the "clever one". I was the only one in the family to go to grammar school, having passed my eleven plus, so I went to a different school to my sisters. I was the first person that I know of in our extended family ever to go to University.

That's me in the centre.
When I went to university, I chose a course at a separate, and much smaller, college some 10 miles away from the main campus. We were considered the oddballs by the rest of the University - country bumpkins, in fact, because were the Agrics. And because I didn't come from a farming background, and made a final year choice that had only ever been chosen twice before, set me out as different again. I was definitely the odd one out. Imagine 3 overlapping circles in a Venn diagram; I was the tiny bit in the middle where all 3 overlapped and everyone moved around me but not with me.

And so it went on. I was the odd one out as I went into accountancy and then IT after graduation. It has meant I had little in common with the people I studied with and haven't really kept up much contact, apart from a couple that I speak to occasionally. I've been odd one out in jobs by virtue of having to do a long distance commute - like to London from the Hampshire coast  - and therefore being "not from round here". That does have its benefits as you rarely bump into work colleagues outside work.

I even became an odd one out when I became a mother. I wouldn't change my kids for the world but there aren't many mums with children their age in their 40s. Monkey was born when I was 40 and Missy Woo when I was 41. Some of the mums of Monkey's classmates are more than 20 years younger than me. Most of the mums I know online too are in their 30s and a few in their 20s. And to top it all, 11 years ago this week, I moved to Lancashire from Buckinghamshire, so I am in exile and therefore a peculiarity to both the locals here and people from my hometown. My accent gives me away to both, unmissably southern with a few flattened vowels.

Being the odd one out is a recurring theme but I am undecided about how I feel about it. I made my choices, and I'm happy with them. I can hardly change a lot of them so I may as well get on with it, but I choose not to regret anyway. But suddenly, a comment - innocent and not intended to be hurtful  - will remind me that I am the odd one out and I feel like the the outsider looking in.

I've thought about this many times. Some of the things that mark me out as different just are - I can't change them because they are a part of me, of who I am, and makes me distinctive, perhaps memorable. Some of them are however related to conscious choices and I wonder if there is something within me that likes to set my own path in life, that likes to be a bit different sometimes and not to follow the norm - even though it is not wildly unconventional. I've hardly run off with a circus, have I?

But then, there is the part of me that wants to belong, that feels left out sometimes, and that doesn't know how to feel like I belong; if indeed, there is anything to be done. I'm guessing you would never know this if you met me as I hide it well. People say I appear confident and outgoing. I will join in but deep down, something within me is saying "Do you really belong here? Do these people really need you muscling in on their fun? Are they all mentally rolling their eyes at me?"

Getting involved with things has helped that sense of being left out. Becoming an NCT member has been so good, for me personally anyway. Most of the active members in our branch have moved to a new area and are lacking the support mechanism offered by close friends and family. They have provided the support network for me over the last 6 years, I've volunteered for them most of that time, and until Missy Woo started school, I felt like I belonged somewhere, and has rooted me to the community where I now live. However, we have little need of that support now that Missy Woo is at school. School itself is beginning to fill the void that will be left, but at the same time, I am conscious of taking on too much and getting involved with both at the same time.

So that's me, the odd one out. It is a part of my identity that has seeped through my life right from childhood, that has weaved itself into the story of my life. A lot of the time I love it, but sometimes I hate it and just want to be part of the gang.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Review: Tesco's Back to School Pack

So, a week or two ago, I was tagged by the lovely notSupermum to receive a Tesco Back to School pack. It arrived this morning, a bit late for most people's return to school, but still useful nonetheless, particularly as Monkey seems to wear out or destroy things, being the type of "typical" boy that runs around as much as he can at playtimes.

Inside this lovely box - which was fetchingly tied with a smart black bow - was all this:

2 skirts
2 pairs of boys trousers
1 pair of girls non-iron trousers
2 packs of 3 white polo shirts
1 pack of boys white shirts
1 girls white shirt
2 packs of pencils
2 packs of gel pens
2 packs of exercise books

And on top, a treat for Mummy - a £30 voucher to spend on the Clothing at Tesco website. Monkey and Missy Woo descended on the stationery as they LOVE pens, pencils and crayons (unfortunately, I don't as half of it has ended up on our walls at some point). Missy Woo even deliberately drew in all the other pages of her book that school gave her to do stuff in over the summer so that she could start on a pack of exercise book.

The clothing is of very nice quality, although obviously, we've not had chance to road test them fully through everyday wear and tear, and a wash. One thing I will say is that the most creased thing to come out of the box was the pair of girls non-iron trousers! Hmm, thinking that might need a bit of work on it as I reckon I'm going to have to iron them before Missy Woo gets round to wearing them. Pretty much everything is labelled as having "Dirt Defence" to help prevent stains and improve the removal of any stains in the wash. Again, this is another good thing for Monkey as he is one of the world's messiest eaters and is a big fan of pasta with tomato-based sauces. Time will tell whether they look as good after he's worn them a few times and I've washed them!

Overall, it was a great pack - something, literally, for everyone (except Daddy, he might have to have a look in on the voucher), so a big thanks to notSupermum for tagging me and giving us some Wednesday excitement as Monkey and Missy Woo LOVE parcels arriving for them to open!

(I was provided with a pack, contents listed as in the post, to review. This included a clothing voucher. I  have received no other compensation. The opinions stated here are my own, and have not been influenced by this compensation.)

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Three days

Three days. That's all it took.

I took Monkey and Missy Woo to school this morning. We parked at the pub nearby and walked down a path that is a cut-through to school. The weather was nice, the children like to walk and it's lovely walking through the trees. We crossed the bridge over the brook, with a minor skirmish due to the presence of a big but friendly dog, and entered the school grounds by the back gate.

My shy and retiring little girl
As we walked through the gate, Missy Woo let go of my hand, turned to me and said, "Let me go in by myself, Mummy. Don't come in!". I started to walk further into the playground but she started to run, so I stopped and let her go. I watched through the trees as she ran then slowed to a walk, first with her brother, who left her and disappeared through the infants door. She stopped for a few seconds and looked around, momentarily disorientated by children and parents walking in different directions, but never once back at me. I wondered if I should go to her and called her name but she didn't hear me. She regained her bearings, catching sight of a boy walking towards the reception classroom with his mother, and started to run towards them. She ran into the play area at speed without a backwards glance to me, and in through the door. I turned, and walked back out through the school gate, feeling somehow redundant but also proud of my confident, independent little girl.

Three days. That's all it took. She stopped being a baby sometime ago, but she's a real schoolgirl now. I think that it's beginning to sink in. To me, that is, not her. She is growing up so fast.

Three days. Bloody hell!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Starting school - a 4 year old's view.

Aren't I smart?
Hello, my name is Missy Woo and I'm 4 years old. I can write my name, do some little sums with help from Mummy or Daddy, and I like pink. Or purple. Preferably lots of both.

But, today, I'm not wearing pink. And I'm very, VERY excited about it. I'm wearing a green and white dress, green cardigan, white socks and black shoes. You see, I'm starting school and this time, I am going dressed as a REAL schoolgirl. How good is that? I've been waiting to go ever since Monkey, my brother, started last year. I kept asking Mummy when I could go to school but she said I had to go to nursery for a bit longer. I started asking her nearly every week how many more times I had at nursery.

In the summer, I went to school for two afternoons to meet some new friends. But I didn't go dressed as a REAL schoolgirl - I had my usual clothes on, so it was just playing at it. I had fun but it was over too quickly. Then I had my 4th birthday and thought I could start going to school straight away but Mummy said that no, I had to wait till September and I didn't know when that was. Mummy's quite glad she doesn't have to answer the questions about how long till I start school anymore cos I asked a lot.

On my last day at nursery, I took sweets in for the children and cake for the ladies who looked after me. And then the teacher came to see me at home last week. I opened the door for her, and she asked me what I like to do. I told her I like colouring, drawing and baking. She said I could colour and draw on Monday and maybe baking later in the week. Then she played my game with me and I told her how to play it. I showed her the book of drawings and things I've done over the summer. And I showed her how good I was at numbers. She said I was so good that she doesn't know what she is going to teach me at school. I like her, and the other ladies who help in the class.

Today, I'm just going for the morning so Mummy will have to come and get me before lunch. And we'll do that all this week so we can learn about what we do at school in the mornings. Then, next week, I'll go in the afternoons to learn about what they do then. And then, I'll really, really be a proper schoolgirl because I'll meet all the children in the class and I'll stay all day at school and have lunch. Mummy's told me about the lunches - about the nice things you can have. I'm looking forward to having fishfingers. And pasta. I like pasta; so does my brother. We'll want to eat it a lot. Or I might have pizza, I like that too.

Monkey and me
Last night, before I went to bed, Mummy plaited my hair whilst it was still damp. We found my Hannah Montana book bag and got my PE kit bag ready. I chose what I would wear today - but then, I've wanted to wear a dress and a cardigan for a long time, since Mummy bought me some dresses.

I stayed in bed this morning until the alarm went off and then I got dressed very quickly. When me and Monkey were dressed, we showed Mummy and Daddy that we were dressed alike. I chose my breakfast today as it was a special one. Chocolate spread on scotch pancakes! Mummy says not to expect that every day.

Can I go in?
Once we had breakfast, Mummy and Daddy took me and Monkey to school to my new class. I didn't even fight with Monkey over who's sitting behind Mummy in the car. It's MY special day so Monkey let me. When we got to school, they just about got this picture of me going in to my classroom. One of the mummies stopped to speak to me and after a few seconds, I ran off to go in. Last time Mummy took me in there, I told her to go away, even before the other mummies started leaving. I wouldn't even let her help me find my peg, but she came into the classroom anyway today and I gave her a kiss.

I'd better go now. Thank you for reading about my first day at school. I'm a REAL schoolgirl now. Bye, bye!

Missy Woo x
(This is my entry for The Gallery at Sticky Fingers. The theme is Back to School. Please have a look and visit some of the other entries, they're always great.)
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