Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Anniversary

Today is the third anniversary of when we me and The Husband got together.  Exactly three years and one (calendar) month since our first 'accidental" date.  Over the weekend The Husband could be overheard telling The Baby that it seems hard to believe that it has only been three years.  Particulary, he said, given that we got married last year, have become a family of four, and, on top of all that, we've managed to have been on holiday about nineteen times.  Ok, not quite nineteen times but it would be fair to say that we've packed a lot into three years.

I sometimes take time to consider what makes the relationship we have so special.  So different from anything I've known before. What makes it feel (most of the time) so easy? What makes it work?  The Husband helped me to pinpoint an answer to this question recently.  On the day of my 40th birthday party at 'Ju's birthday castle" surrounded by my closest of The Friends, all of us dressed up in ridiculous costumes, I became quite overwhelmed with happiness.  The Husband and me took a moment or two away from the party and I thanked The Husband for everything he had done to make it happen, for giving me such a special weekend to remember.  I said that I couldn't believe how much he supports me and how one minute we can be talking about an idea and the next we are making it happen.   The very fact that we were there, having a party with my dearest friends in this wonderful building just three months after having The Baby was evidence of this in action. Nothing seems to be too difficult, or silly, or shouldn't be thought of or done. 

In response to this The Husband said the lovliest thing to me...  "that's why it's so good with us.  We encourage each other and make things happen, things we probably wouldn't do on our own. That's what it's all about. Making things possible and making life easier for each other to make each other happy, and that's what we do. There's nothing we can't do now we have each other".  It made me melt.  Still does. 

And it isn't always the big things.  More often than not, it's the simplist of things that make the most difference, For example, I like to relax by reading magazines, the glossy (some would say) over-priced monthly kind.  I'm particularly partial to interior design, house related magazines.  Now, rather than mock me for this interest or go on about how much they cost or claim that they a waste of money - as I've encountered in the past  - The Husband will me bring me home one of these magazines when he's been to the shops, without me even asking.  Things like that mean a lot.  In a similar way I try to support his love of anything sport-related - most of which means nothing to me.  I attempt to engage in the stories he tells me about sporting incidents that have caught his interest in the news.  And I try to make sure he gets the time to watch sport on TV. I even make an effort to join in the discussions about his online 'fantasy football' team which is not always easy - for either of us! - but at least I try.

Of course we sometimes disagree and argue.  We can be really quite good at it.  But, after a bit of practise, we're now also quite good at sorting things out.  We know that it's not about being right or proving the other one wrong.  It's about finding a way to make things ok for us both.  We're a team.  We want the best for each other. And we realise that the other is trying their best to make things good for us.  I could drone on now for hours about The Husband's wonderful relationship with The Eight Year Old and about what a fantastic Dad he is to The Baby - but I'll save that for another day.

And so, I just want to say to The (mostly wonderful) Husband.  I can't imagine my life without you in it.  Thank you for the best three years a girl could hope for.

J
x

Monday, 30 January 2012

Choosing a primary school

In a recent post entitled "The Parenting Dilema" I said this:-

"I found I surprised myself by selecting a Primary Church School for The Eight Year Old to attend despite us having no faith. Put simply, the school was the best that we visited before making our choice. It just felt like the right place for my son to be. And so, regardless of my previous thoughts about where he would begin his formal education, he now happily attends a Catholic School."

In response, one of the friends left this comment:-

"Interesting that you chose a catholic school, despite having 'no faith'. Were there any good secular schools available? I find the ever-increasing take-over of English schools by church organisations absolutely abhorrent. As The Husband will be able to confirm, we (The Friend and his partner) take our atheism and secularism very seriously. we would be very uncomfortable sending our child to a religious school, but may have little choice in the end. I would be interested to hear about your experiences in this area."

I felt it was impossible to answer this in a couple of lines and so am responding in this post. 

Image borrowed from:-
huntingdonpeople.co.uk
This is my experience of selecting a Primary School for the Eight Year Old.  I make no claims that my experience is reflective of that of others. And in no way do I suggest that my perspective is a common one.

Five years ago it was time to decide on where we (me and The Eight Year Old's Dad) would apply to for The (then) Four Year Old to go to school - he would have six months in the Nursery class before moving into Reception.    Our priority was to find a primary school (if possible with a nursery attached) that offered a positive experience in terms of the environment being that of a supportive community.  I want my children to have an enjoyable experience of school, to grow as individuals in becoming more confident within themselves and in being open to the world.  If my children leave school with little more than a questioning mind, being capable of reflection and critical thinking, a love of learning,  and an ability to get on with others, then I wouldn't be disappointed.

http://files.stv.tv/imagebase/4/732x411/4014-
by-john-morgan-
httpwwwflickrcomphotosaidanmorgan.jpg
As a parent I was, of course, also interested in the academic aspect of the schools we would view - the level of teaching provided and the effect of that on the performance of the pupils.  However, I think to make a selection based on that criteria being the priority is a risky business.  I've worked in the Education sector for many years, and, whilst I support the need to have some way of measuring the quality of education providers, in my opinion, the tools used to measure these things can be flawed and the reporting mechanisms can present a skewed picture of reality to the outside world.   For example, if a school is located in what is considered to be a socially poor area then the overall statistics of pupil performance may be skewed for a variety of reasons - and not all of them necessarily negative - without this being truly represented within the reports available.

The only think I thought I was clear on when considering school selection was that I didn't want to choose  a Church School because I don't believe in God and therefore I didn't want the views of others to be delivered to my son as a fait accompli.   This is despite me having attended a Church of England primary school and now, regardless of that early eductional experience, my being an athiest.  Just to pause here for a moment to say that I'm not a fan of the title 'athiest'. I find the term to be a strong one and that 's why I tend to prefer to say 'have no faith' or that I'm a non-believer.  I'm not sure why this is.  I think, that maybe because I have no desire to convince others of my opinions, and because I respect the views of others who do believe in God, then I don't feel the need to label myself in order to 'set my stall out' as it were. Or maybe it's that I simply don't agree with the need for labels for everyone and everything along with the often acompanying stereotyping.

Children's Education Advisory Service (CEAS) logo
Anyway, back to the topic of school selection.  As a result of my being seperated from The Eight Years Dad by the time we were selecting a school we were - at that time - living in two different areas of the City. As such, we decided to look at schools in both areas. Neither of the areas were classed as being up there with the so called 'most desirable areas' of the city.  In theory, it was possible to apply to any school in any part of the City, regardless of catchment area. However, at the time (I'm not sure how this works now)  if you were  not in a particular schools catchment area then you are placed much further down the list when it came to the school accepting pupils - further down the pecking order as it were.  And so, it felt like a big risk to waste one of the maximum three choices, possible on the application form, on a popular, sought-after - and often over-subscribed - school, in a so called 'better area'.

Of the two areas in which we were searching, people would typically class the area in which I lived at the time, as the better choice. I believe people would base this on the perception that more of the people who live there either consider themselves to be - or are aspiring to be - middle class.  The other area - where we now live - is classed as being a 'poorer' area of the City that is less than desirable.  I do not hold with these thoughts.  The 'better area' in many peoples eyes always struck me as being predominatly 'white' and - I say controversially - in my experience, more narrow minded.  The 'poorer area' we now call home, is very culturally mixed and for that reason alone, is more appealing to me.  I don't claim that there aren't issues with living where we do but then I believe there are issues of one sort or another wherever you choose to live and we all have different priorities.

And so, there were potentially six schools on our intitial list to go and view - two of them were Church Schools (which I was reticent about), one in each area.  We visited three of the schools before we knew we had found the school for us.  At no point during this process did I feel that Church Schools were 'taking over' or limiting my choice of non-church schools.  Neither did I find that they were better funded in any way that was obvious.  From my limited experience, I didn't feel that the Church was 'ruining it' for the rest of us in terms of their position within, or influence upon, the English School system or, that other schools were suffering as a result of there being Church Schools.  Personally, I believe the management of the Education System by the Government is doing enough damage all by itself to our schools but that's just a personal opinion of mine.

The first school we visited was in the area where I was living.  It was a non-church school. When we arrived, the office staff seemed surprised, no-one seeemed to be expecting us.  We were given a quick tour of the school by a secretary who couldn't answer many of our questions.  The pupils in the school seemed happy enough but it just didn't 'feel' right to me.  I really couldn't imagine my child going to that school.  It felt overcrowed and for want of a better description 'cold'.

The second non-church school that we visited was located where The Eight Year Old's Dad was living.  This time we were shown around by a member of teaching staff.  The school felt much like the last one although I preferred it in that is was more culturally mixed.  I still wasn't happy though.  Again, the thought of my son going there made me feel anxious even though I couldn't quite pinoint exactly why that was.
Image borrowed from:- picturesof.net

The third, and last, school that we visited was the Catholic Primary School that The Eight Year Old attends.  We were greeted warmly by the Deputy Headmistress who seemed to take pleasure in showing us around the school which she was clearly very proud of.  We were impressed by the fact that she knew every childs name that we came into contact with.  And in return to her saying hello to the children by name, they responded politely, saying hello back to her and to more often than not to us.  We were also impressed by the displays that adorned the walls with the childrens work and the values reflected within these.  The environment was warm and appealing and a real sense of commumity prevailed.  There was, of course, a religious presence within the learning environment but it was a relatively 'light touch' and also seemed to reflect the different cultures and religions of the pupils in attendance.  Half way through our visit, I knew this was the place where I wanted my son to begin his formal education.

I don't know how other Church Schools would compare.  We didn't visit the other Church School on our original list.  I suspect, that without the cultural - and subsequently the religioius - mix that is previlant at The Eight Year Olds school that there may be a stronger sense of 'this is the one truth that we should all believe' that would come through but that's only a theory. 

Also, because of the area in which our selected school is located and where we now live, is considered to be a more socially deprived - financially deprived would be more accurate - then a lot of the assumptions and findings of church schools do not necessarily apply.  For example, reports of middle class families who are not in receipt of benefits or entitled to free school meals (As reported in the Guardian last year) being more likely to gain Church School places is not evident at The Eight Year Olds school.  The mix of pupils and their backgrounds is so diverse that there are no obvious signs of elitism.

Being so impressed and happy at the time with the school that we chose - and still feeling that way now - I can't imagine The Eight Year Old going to any other school.  Rather than feeling that he is in some way being 'brainwashed' to believe in God, I feel that the Religious Education aspect of the curriculum is delivered sensitively and thoughtfully and there is the option to opt out if we so chose.  But we don't choose to.  I believe that in engaging in these lessons, The Eight Year Old is open to perspectives other than my own.  At school he learns about a wide range of religions together with a mix of children from many different religious and cultural backgrounds.  As such, he is developing a broad perspective about the differing views of people with different experiences and beliefs. At home, we talk about the issues involved and about the different things that different people believe in.  I don't know if we would tackle as many of these issues in quite the same way if we had chosen a different school. 
Me and The (then) Five Year Old

I feel that we are giving The Eight Year Old the option to choose his own believes.  Just because I am an athiest doesn't mean that he has to be.  And by attending the school he does, together with my input,  then maybe his mind is being presented with all the options rather than a limited picture of what is and isn't the 'right thing' to believe.  As a 'non-believer', I can see how sending my son to a Catholic school does, in the eyes of some, make me a complete hypocrit.  But you know, with my son as happy at school as he is and with the way he is growing in confidence, then I am a happy hypocrit.

I noticed when reading around some of these issues that on the 'Campaign for Secular Education' website, one of the aims of the campaign is this:-

"Our aim is to have every child educated to the highest standards of intellectual honesty appropriate to their age and stage of development - in local schools where they can mix freely with and socialise freely with children of other races, classes, and creeds."

In my experience so far, the local school attended by The Eight Year Old does indeed allow him to mix freely and socialise freely with children of other races, classes and creeds.  The combined education he receives from school and home, provides him with intellectual honesty appropriate to his age.  I trust that, as things stand, my children will grow and develop into adults who will have the confidence to make their own choices - that are right for them - based on a whole range of knowledge and influences.  And I can't ask for more than that really.



Sunday, 29 January 2012

My week that was

In my  regular link-up with Mummy, Daddy, and Me Makes Three blog, here's my round-up of the week...

Sunday - Harry Potter party time!  The kids were due to arrive at 3.30pm and so we had a frantic morning preparing and trying hard not to panic!  Reinforcements in the form of the (UK) Sister-in-law arrived at midday and we continued getting ready.  At 2pm I was still frantically icing the cake!!  Despite the chaos, all went very well. The Eight Year Old had a great time surrounded by his school pals.  After all the kids had left we collapsed in a shattered heap!  It was good fun, I'm glad we did it, but I'm also really pleased we're unlikely to be having another party on this scale for another year or so now!

Monday - "It was the best party I've ever been to" said one of the kids (who came to the Harry Potter party) to The Eight Year Old at school. I hate to admit it but there was a definite feeling of smug competitive parent rising up inside of me when I heard this.   We ate yet more (leftover from the party) homemade pizza - enough now people!  It's true that you really can have too much of a good thing! Still can't face the after-party-clearing-up, we skimmed the surface today but nothing major, it all feels a bit like christmas again with presents and leftovers everywhere.

Tuesday - I woke up in a very positive mood and feeling like I wanted to get stuck in to returning the house to normality.  The Husband had left early for University (he's currently re-training, studying Radiography).   He'd had a bit of a rubbish day the day before and so in the hope of making this a better day I thought I'd send him a lovely romantic text like we used to in the early days.  Seconds after sending the text I noticed his phone receiving my message still sat on the dresser in our bedroom.  Hmmm.  Still, onwards and upwards.  I got The Baby all set up with toys in the bathroom so I could have a quick shower. And seconds later all the electric upstairs cut out.  Marvellous.  I battled my way down the cellar steps - past the old tins of paint...pile of magazines awaiting recycling...other random objects with no fixed abode - and flipped the switch in the fuse box.  On returning back up the cellar steps I realised we had now lost the electric downstairs too.  Great.  Back down the cellar steps, a flip of two fuse switches and we were finally back in business! The rest of the day kind of bumbled along from there really.

Wednesday - In stark contrast to yesterday, I awoke feeling wrong - possibly a reaction to the 'topsy-turvy- type of day that yesterday turned out to be.   Sort of really stressed out for no reason in particular. Then my vision went weird followed 20 mins later by the familiar headache. Fellow migraine sufferers, you have my every sympathy. 

The Eight Year Old got stuck into some homework about Human Rights, with a little help from his Mum...and his Alien friends!  I baked a cake for one of The Friends 40th birthday.


Thursday - One of The (very dear) Friends came over for lunch.  This is The Friend I've known the longest, since we met on our first day at Secondary School. My friend's 40th birthday was the following day and she was celebrating with a party at the weekend.  As it wasn't going to be possible for me and The Husband to go to the party as The Baby is still breastfeeding and currently refuses to sleep anywhere at night other than in our bed next to me - where he sleeps like a... well, like a baby I guess! - then this pre-birthday lunch I was sharing with my friend was our celebration of her birthday. We had a lovely couple of hours together eating a 'fancy' birthday lunch that I set out to prepare but we ended up tag-teaming the lunch making and looking after The Baby.  If nothing else, the chinna we used was fancy.  It was some of the vintage china that me and The Husband had collected for our wedding last year and using it always puts a smile on my face.  I decide to use the china more often.

Later in the afternoon The Parents came over, as they do most Thursdays.  We have a few hours all together, catching up, eating dinner and generally just enjoying some plaiin old fashioned family time.  The Eight Year old, The Husband and me all baked for 'Bun Day' due to take place at school the following day. Each week a different Year Group provides the buns and this week was the turn of Year 3. All the children in the school each pay 20p to buy a bun and the money goes either into the school's fund (for trips etc) or is given to charity. We rounded the day off with The Eight Year Old, The Baby, The Husband and me piled into our bed reading a few chapters of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  The perfect way to round of a really lovely day.

Friday - I began the day by helping The Eight Year Old with some last minute homework - spellings!  It was a tough start to the day for us both but our hard work paid off with him managing to pull top marks on his test!  Well done to The Eight Year Old!  The Husband was off today and so we went for a nice walk in the sunshine with The Baby.  I dedicated 'Fabulous Friday' to The Friend who had her 40th birthday!

Saturday - A lovely lazy day with little more activity than me taking The Baby for a walk in the afternoon sunshine.  The Husband prepared us a fab supper of beef pie with mash - yum!  I am a lucky girl.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Fabulous Friday - Birthday girl

There is really no contest today as to who or what is fabulous on this fine Friday. One of The Friends has a special birthday today...she is 40!  You know who you are lady :-) 

The pre-birthday 'fancy lunch' shared
by me and my friend yesterday. 
This very dear friend of mine is my longest standing friend. We met on our first day at secondary school when we were eleven years old.  We have been through thick and thin together.  From giggling like loons during maths lessons to leaving home and starting our first jobs.  Our lives are so entwined now it feels as if we are family. For all intents and purposes we are sisters.  This is heightened by the fact that our Mums are now good friends too and I love to see our children playing together.

We have often found ourselves in the most ridiculous and random comical situations. I could share them with you but they probably wouldn't be nearly as funny to anyone else, I guess it's a case of 'you had to be there'!  I love these times that we've shared and I look forward to many more!

When me and The Husband got married last year, The Friend in question was my 'Best Woman'.  She gave a fantastic speech that summed up our friendship - a mix of ridiculous humour and heartfelt love and support.  Her daughter was one of our bridesmaids and my friend ended her speech by saying that she would be very happy if her daughter ever found a friendship like ours.  It touched my heart then just as it does now as I write this.  Me and my friend are in agreeement that as far as friendship goes, we set our children a pretty good example.

When it was my 40th birthday a few months ago my friend gave me a photo of us on a school trip when we were aged 12.  We are pictured floating down the Ardech River after capsizing our Canadian Canoe.  The caption she had written underneath reads:- 

""Well, life can only get better...." they thought unknowingly, as they drifted down the Ardeche  Gorge without canoe or paddle in June 1985."


When I opened this gift at my birthday party, The Husband took this lovely photo of us (shown below) pictured with another wonderful friend - the two of them form the foundations of my support network. 

I have given my friend who is 40 today, a framed copy of this photo along with this note in response to the caption she wrote to accompany the river photo she gave me of our younger selves:-

"...and did life get better?

In many ways, yes.  But as they floated down the Ardeche River all those years before, neither of them could have foreseen how bumpy the road ahead would be.  One thing is for sure though. No matter what ups and downs life may throw at them, they can be safe in the knowledge that they will always have a dear friend around to love and support them through it all."


And so, I say 'Happy Birthday' to my dear, beautiful, generous, creative and talented friend who I love very much - "Today, you are 40 and fabulous! Wishing you a wonderful day and a great weekend of celebrations".  Jx



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Thursday, 26 January 2012

Alien rights?

The Eight Year Old was doing some homework last night that was about Human Rights.  A great thing for him to be learning about I'm sure you'll agree.  From a list of thirty human rights he was to pick out five, draw a symbol to represent each one and then write a sentance about why that particular human right was important to him.  Quite tricky for an eight year old really but good to get us talking to come up with a suitable respone.

So, imagine my surprise when I discovered he was drawing two aliens getting married.  Not sure if this means he's missed the point completely or if he's simply taking it to a new level!

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In other news, me and The Eight Year Old have been busy cake making together. See how we got on by taking a look at our blog Cocoa and Fig by clicking here.

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In other, other news...I've just realised that today I've inadvertantly dressed The Baby as "Where's Wally"

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

"Giganticus explodious!"

Well, not only have we survived The Eight Year Old's Harry Potter themed birthday party which took place on Sunday afternoon, we actually enjoyed it in the end.  It was a little chaotic in parts but all in all, it went very well!  

The Eight Year Old deemed it to be a success with a score of 9 out of 10 - dropping a point only, I think, because he was a bit overwhelmed at times by the enthusiasm and noise of the seven boys who attended. 

It has to  be said that a group of boys together can make a LOT of noise!  Two ring leaders in particular ensured that volume levels were kept high. 

The four girls who came were quieter but equally enthusiastic.  We would have had just the three girls if the mother of the child who turned up without having responded to our invitation hadn't also decided to use us a  babysitting service for the invited girls younger sister!!!  How cheeky is that?  I still can't get over it - turning up unannounced and leaving her two children with us.  If she'd asked in advance then I would have been fine with the idea of the younger sister coming along - or rather, I would have found it difficult to say no to and would then, at least, have been prepared to entertain an additional five year old child.

It turns out that The Husband was probably some kind of childrens entertainer in a previous life as he was a complete legend in keeping things going!  He played the role of Professor Dumbledore (complete with long cotton wool beard) to a tee and whenever he spoke the children would quieten down to listen.  Me and The (UK) Sister-in-Law (who had kindly agreed to help us out )were more than happy to take a step back into supporting roles and let The Husband assume the role of chief entertainer.

We started with Ollivanders wand shop where the wand selects the child... The Husband borrowed a light from a Lego vehicle belonging to The Eight Year Old and taped the light to the bottom of glass covered in brown paper decorated with stars.  He was able to switch the light on when each child had selected the wand which was just for them.  We had lots of fun with some of the 'hardier' children who had to try each wand before their wand finally found them!  Our  inspiration for this came from a blog written by a woman far more dedicated to the 'Harry  Potter party' cause than I ever could be.  It left me with the question of "where would a person find that much preparation time?" but it gave us a few ideas nonetheless.


Wand and hat decoration time was next.  We had bought a range of things that could easily be glued on and gave them fitting titles and descriptions such as "Yellow Phoenix feathers, for speed", " snake skin for cunning and guile" and "Toad Hide, perfect for magic but can m-m-make wands j-j-jumpy. Handle with care!!".   

 
The Husband then treated our young wizards and witches to a potions and spells session by getting them involved in some simple experiments.  After building a cardboard Hogwarts he then made the turrets explode volcano-stylee with the aid of our magic spell "giganticus explodious"  The kids were delighted with the outcome "WOW" they cried.  I was amazed by how impressed they were.  I was equally amazed by how soaked The Husband was at the end of his mentos in lemonade trick.  The children all put a spell on the mentos, or should I say "mermaids pearls" - I strongly suspect we drifted into 'Pirates of The Caribbean' territory here but then what do I know! and before we knew it we had a lemonade fountain (or three) in our very own garden!

The 'chocolate game' followed and was a great hit!  All the children sat in a large circle and took it in turns to throw a dice.  If a child threw a six they put on a pair of woolly gloves and then proceeded to try to cut off, using a knife and fork,  a square of chocolate from a large bar  which they could then pick up and eat.  But they only had the time it took for someone else to throw a six on the dice.  Loud chants of 'we want chocolate' could be heard booming through the house.



For the party tea, there were 'make your own pizza' and 'decorate your own cookie'.  The food went down well, all the more enjoyable for the kids having had a part in making it. And before we knew it the parents started arriving to collect the children and we (including The Eight Year Old) collapsed into a shattered heap!

Afterwards, The Husband, The (UK) Sister-in-Law and me reflected on how well behaved and polite the children had been.  We agreed that it had been a brilliant thing to do and that it was lovely having the opportunity to meet more of The Eight Year Old's friends and have the chance get to know them a little better.  All my concerns in the buildup had been unfounded. Even The Baby had been angelic and on top form all day, coping remarkably well with the noise level and excitement that had filled the house.

As The (UK) Sister-in-Law commented on Sunday's post, "who needs luck when you've got magic".  Keep the magic people, keep the magic. 

Monday, 23 January 2012

My week that was...


We were so busy with the party over the weekend that I forgot to do 'My week that was' in a link up with ' Mummy, Daddy and me makes three' blog it seems that my week was pretty much dominated by food and party planning...

Sunday - The (UK) Sister-in-Law came over for a planning session for the up-coming Harry Potter Party for The Eight Year Old (a belated birthday party for his school friends). We drank a lot of tea.  I made pizza dough for the first time - a trial run for the pizza bases I was planning to make for the party - and we enjoyed home made pizzas for dinner.



Monday - We awoke to one of those perfect crisp sunshiny frosty winter mornings.  Me and The Baby wrapped up warm and took ourselves out for a walk.  I walked, The Baby chose to snooze in his push chair.  The In-Laws came up on the train from London to visit for the day.  We were joined for dinner by The (UK) Sister-in-Law and her husband.  I made what was, I have to say, a very delicious Shepherds Pie. Strictly speaking it was a Cottage Pie (made with mince) but to me it is Shepherds Pie and that's it. End of.

Tuesday - Engergised by our walk the previous day, I decided that I would try to get out walking with The Baby as much as possible, certainly as much as the weather will allow.  So we headed off out again - so far so good!  The Eight Year Old decided he would be dressing up as Mad Eye Moody for the party.

Wednesday - A relatively uneventful day - in all honesty I can remember very little about it!  A nice dinner of roast chicken and chips for dinner though, yum!

Thursday - The Gas Man came round to move some pipes in our continuing bid to improve 'the house that Jack built' in which we live.  The Gas Man regaled us with his stories about attending Richard Hawley's 45th birthday party in a local pub. Apparently, ' 'Elbow were there but Jarvis (as in Cocker) was busy in France'. I felt envious.  It appears that our Gas Man is way cooler than we will ever be.  The Eight Year Old announced "I love science.  It's my favourite thing now" following a trip to a local museum with school to further a study of rocks!  This new 'love' of science gave us confidence for the experiments The Husband was planning for the party. The parents came over to visit and entertained The Baby and The Eight Year Old which enabled me to make twenty pizza bases as part of our party prep.  Making twenty dough bases was, I found, less pleasing for me than the mere three I'd made in my trial run!!

Friday - Me and The Husband seemed to spend the whole day shopping for the party at the weekend.  We only went to two shops - a large supermarket and an almost equally large craft shop.  By the end of our expedition we felt that we had enough 'stuff' to entertain and feed up to 15 eight year olds.  Or at the very least we hoped so.  I baked a cake for The Female Parent (aka my Mum) whose birthday was at the weekeend.



Saturday - After decorating The Female Parent's cake and making the cake for the following day's party, we headed over to spend the day with The Parents.  We had a lovely time celebrating my Mum's birthday - a low key affair with a fish and chip supper!  She very much liked the cake which made me very happy.  The Eight Year Old became very excited thnking about his Harry Potter party.  I began to feeling increasingly nervous about the prospect...aaarrggghhh!!!  The Husband ploughed on with party preparations - see the results of his efforts tomorrow!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Mad?

Of all  the characters in Harry Potter, The Eight Year Old wantts to come to his Harry Potter themed birthday party today as Mad Eye Moody...

Image from 'news.bbc.co.uk'
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Image from 'sodahead.com'
 The party kicks off at 3.30pm this afternoon. Wish us luck people!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Fabulous Friday!

Welcome to week two of Fabulous Friday.  If you've been keeping up with this blogs recent goings on, you will know that since last week, Fridays are now dedicated to someone or something that I am finding to be particularly fabulous that week.

This week, sparked off by a chat with The Eight Year Old last night, I give you, on today, Fabulous Friday, my fabulous wedding ring.  The conversation went a little like this...

The Eight Year Old - "I like that ring Mummy".

Me  -"Thank you Sweet Pea.  I like it too. Very much".

The Eight Year Old - "You wear it a lot don't you?".

Me - "Yes Sweetheart, I wear it all the time, I never take it off".

The Eight Year Old - "Why do you like wearing it so much?"

Me - "Because it reminds me of lots of wonderful things".

The Eight Year Old - "Like what?"

Me - "Whenever I look at this ring I think about The Husband.  I think about all the things I love about him. And I feel very very lucky.  I also think about you because you brought out this ring to us in the wedding ceremony which makes it extra special.  And that makes me think about your brother (The Baby) because he was in my tummy at the time.  I also think about my very dear friend who gave me and The Husband this ring.  It previously belonged to his Grandma who left it to him when she died.  And he gave it to us.  So you see, when I look to this beautiful ring, I feel very loved, and very lucky, and very happy ".


Thursday, 19 January 2012

Party planning

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I've mentioned previously that at the weekend we are expecting the arrival of fifteen, seven and eight year olds from The Eight Year Olds class, to attend his belated 'Harry Potter themed birthday party'.  Realising we were going to be seriously outnumbered (what were we thinking???) we've been lucky enough to rope in The (UK) Sister-in-Law - the other Sister-In-Law has been excused due to the fact she lives in the US...and no, she didn't just move there to escape the party, although, if that had been the case then really, who could blame her?  I've seriously been considering leaving the country myself.

The first email I sent about this to The (UK) Sister-in-Law read a little like this:-

"... we wondered if you had any time free two weeks on Sunday? If so, we're looking for a massive favour....we've promised  The Eight Year Old another birthday party for his school friends.  Currently we have 12 on the list and he wants to have a Harry Potter party at home which I think will mean we will have our hands very full!!  If you were available and willing to help out - with ideas for what we can do and in being here to help with crowd control (?) then I wouldn't be able to thank you enough.  No pressure though.  Please feel free to say you'd rather chop off your own head with a rusty bread knife."

And the response?

"I'd rather chop off my own head with a rusty breadknife.  Just kidding!  I'd love to and I'm free that Sunday so YAY!

Yes, we know how lucky we are.  Since then, after a number of chats and idea sharing emails,we have begun to piece together a plan.  As detailed in todays latest email:

"Here's the plan so far, bearing in mind, all times are approximate...

3.30pm
Arrival time (we already have somone arriving early at 2pm (?!) and another at 3pm because their parents are otherwise engaged later in the day).

3.30 to 4pm or 4.15pm
Wand and hat making and decorating, and coming up with spells (for the next activity)

4 or 4.15 to 4.45pm
Spells (experiments - maybe 2 or 3?), in 2 groups, 1 group in dining room, 1 group in living room.  By having 2 groups instead of 3 there will always be one of us available to look after The Baby.

4.45 to 5pm
Choolate game - I have woolly gloves at the ready!

5pm
Decorate your own pizza & biscuit.

5.15 or 5.30 to 6pm
Eat!

6pm
Parents collect children (hopefuly!!!!!!!!)

Sound reasonable?"

And so, now we have a plan all that is left to do is make the cake, buy the crafting stuff, make our costumes, decide on which spells (experiments) we will do and gather all that we need for them, bake biscuits, reorganise and decorate the house, oh yeah, and make enough pizza dough for 15 pizzas - (we've tried the ready made ones, not good).

Whoever thought this was a good idea should sit herself down and give herself a good talking to.  Right then, I'm just off to have a quiet word with myself.... 

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

DOOR!!!

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The Husband has recently become the 'close-the-door-police'. It's since we finally gave up the dream - after three years - of installing a wood burning stove in the living room.  It's just a little bit too pricey for us at the moment and has had to be put down the list beneath sorting out the kitchen and the bathroom.  And so, instead of fulfilling the wood burning stove dream we did the sensible thing and had the existing gas fire recommissioned to get us through the winter.  It's made a huge difference to the house which, even with the heating on is usually freezing in the colder months.  Now we are all toasty and warm and the fire doesn't look too bad either which is a bonus! 

When the fire is on, The Husband - quite rightly is very keen (read 'obsessed') with the door being closed to preserve the heat within the living room.He can often be hear booming "DOOR" as me and The Eight Year Old drift thoughtlessly in and out.  Fair enough, he makes a fair point.

It's just a shame that the idea of closing the hallway door (which separates the front door from the rest of the house) and using the draught excluders (to keep away the draughts from the front door) doesn't seems to resonate with him in the same way.  He denies this paradox of course.  This conversation took place between us only this very morning after he'd been to the front door to take receipt of a delivery...

Me - "I think it would be a good idea if we were to keep this hallway door closed and use the draught excluders as vigilantly as we now keep the living room door closed."

The Husband - "Oh come on, I do mostly".

Me (with raised eyebrows, a look I'm particularly fond of) - "Do you really?"

The Husband - "Yes, usually".

Me - "Oh.  Then I think the invisible man must be following you around and undoing all of your good work".

The Husband (grinning cheekily) - "Yes, that could be the truth".

Hmmm....

Monday, 16 January 2012

Blue Monday?

Apparantly today, 'Blue Monday' is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year.  Not so for me today I'm happy to report.   This morning, where I live it was one of those gorgeous crisp wintery starts to the day where the ground is carrpeted in a minty white frost and the trees stand like ghostly figures peeking through the curtain of mist. 

Me and the Baby wrapped up warm and headed out for a stroll.  More precisely, I strolled and pushed The snug-as-a-bug-in-a- rug Baby in his pushchair.  As the sun rose higher into the sky we stepped up the pace and had quite a spring in our step.  I love days like this.  The air is still, the sky is blue and it's much easier to put a positive spin on all of lives goings on.

I'm even feeling relatively postive about The Eight Year Olds birthday party at the weekend.  The Eight Year Old became eight during the Christmas holidays and so we thought we'd wait until he returned to school to invite his school pals around for a party.  And that's how we'e ended up inviting fifteen - yes, 15!!! - seven and eight year olds around to our house on Sunday afternoon... 

Saturday, 14 January 2012

My week that was

The author of another blog about family life "Mummy, Daddy and me makes three" has started this idea of a regular weekend post "My week that was".  I like it!  An opportunity to sumamrise the week in a journal type of way.  And so I've decided to get on board and join in! 



So here's Ju's week that was...

Sunday - We enjoyed a  lazy family 'pyjama day'. I was made to watch a lot of Harry Potter - by The Eight Year Old and The Husband - as 'homework' in preparation forThe Eight Year Olds birthday party for his school friends.

Monday - The holidays were over and it was back to school for The Eight Year Old and back to University for The Husband.  We were all considerably grumpy.  I cheered myself up by discovering Pinterest. I now love pinterest and I'm sure you all will too soon enough.

Tuesday - I was very happy to launch our (mine and The Eight Year Olds) new food blog called Cocoa & Fig which will chart our 2012 culinary food adventures.  It feels great to be doing something like this with my eldest son.  Since having The Baby six months ago it's much harder to create the opportunties for my eldest and me to have time when it's just us - especially now he's getting older and more and more wanting to be playing with his friends or by himself a lot of the time.  I am determined to create more opportunities for us to spend time doing stuff together without me being distracted by 'the next feed' or 'just getting The Baby to sleep'. Making me less happy was the 'homework meltdown'!

Wednesday - Me and The Baby met one of The (very lovely) friends for coffee and a catch-up.  Wednesday also saw the rise of our latest parenting dilema when The Eight Year Old was upset about an incident at school  with a boy in his class who seems to think it's ok to push and shove the other children. Not good.

Thursday - The Baby surprised me by how much he can now kick and splash in the bath - I got soaked!  The Parents came over in the afternoon when me and The Eight Year Old prepared a dinner of jacket potatos.

Friday - I decided to begin 'Fabulous Friday' on this blog.  From now on, Fridays are to be dedicated  to something, or someone, that I am finding to be particularly fabulous that week. This week it was my Fabulous Friend who's been poorly and feeling low.  At teatime The Eight Year Old went off happily to his Dads for the weekend and I felt sad that he had gone.  He will sleep there now for five nights.  Thankfully, I collect him from school each day and he'll be at home with us until his Dad collects him after work.

Saturday - Today. The Husband, The Baby and me had lunch with family.  The Husband's cousin gave me a beautiful butterfly picture that she had crafted for me which put a huge smile on my face. Then it was back home for a lazy afternoon.  We think The Baby is teething so he's not been on top form.  He's also currently taking antibiotics for the nasty coughing infection that we've all been suffering from. I wish there was more we could do to help him feel bettter.  He's never grumpy for long though and can usually be jollied along to raise a smile.  I decided this evening to keep PMT at bay by drinking gallons of tea and stuffing my face with mini eggs.  It may not be the healthiest of approaches but my, it 's making me feel a whole bettter!

Happy weekend people!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Fabulous Friday

I would like to introduce this blogs new concept for Fridays.  Each week I will choose something or someone that I am finding to be particularly fabulous that week to share with you.

We are kicking off Fabulous Friday this week with one of The - very special - Friends who has been poorly.  For some reason his right lung seems to have gotten into the habit of collapsing.  It's happened twice now and no-one can seem to work out why.  When it happens, it puts The Friend in a great deal of pain and is scary for him and all who know and love him, particularly his husband.  Inevitably, after a week in hopsital to let the lung be drained and to reinflate, the whole experience leaves him feeling low and flat.

I have tried, along with my dear friend, his husband, to tell my tempremental-lung-friend, not to do it again.  He claims to have no control over the occurance and so I have decided, on this occasion, to give him the benefit of the doubt and instead, tell him just how fabulous I think  he is.

And so, to my Fabulous Friend (you know who you are), I love you very much and I hope that very soon you will be feeling as reinflated as the lung now appears to be.  Oh, and please don't do it again!!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

The parenting dilema

Since becoming a parent I've discovered that my, at times idealistic, view of how the world should operate has been brought into question.

There are the simple dilemmas of parenting such as 'is it wrong to bribe a child into compliancy with chocolate?'  Pre-parenthood - yes, a parent should develop a more sophisticated approach.  Post-parenthood - a bit of chocolate doesn't hurt to smooth the path, afterall, we all need a sweetner sometimes. 

I find it harder to reconsile my ideals with the often harsher reality when it comes to more serious issues.  For example, I found I surprised myself by selecting a Primary Church School for The Eight Year Old to attend despite us having no faith.  Put simply, the school was the best that we visited before making our choice.  It just felt like the right place for my son to be.  And so, regardless of my previous thoughts about where he would begin his formal education, he now happily attends a Catholic School.

More recently, The Eight Year Old, has been upset this week about a boy at school who doesn't seem to know how to behave well towards other children in the class.  I wouldn't go so far as to suggest we have a case of bullying on our hands but the child in question is doing some unnecessary shoving and pushing around of The Eight Year Old as well as some of the other children in the same class.

It is known, amongst the gaggle of parents at the school gate, that the child who is misbehaving has a relatively tough life.  There are many reasons behind the child's bad behaviour and the school have put measures in place in an attempt to manage the situation.  The better part of me is sympathetic with the plight of the child and the school.  However, as The Eight Year Old's Mum, I find myself wanting to march up to school and pin the child in question against the wall until he realises that he can't go around upsetting my son.  I am, in effect, completely furious. 

I will, of course, remain calm in my discussions about this topic with the school but I will not settle until things improve.  I don't, for one minute, think that suspension or expulsion is the answer, as where does that leave a child?  But when it is yoiur own child being negatively affected it is very hard to stand by these ideals.  The internal debate continues...

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

"It's all too much"

Crikey, it's certainly back down to earth with a bump for us this week.  Last night The Eight Year Old came home with A LOT of homework which is to be completed and handed in on Friday.  I'm not sure if it's as much as it feels like it is or if we're making a meal out of it 'cos it's not what any of us - particulary The Eight Year Old - want to be doing in the evenings. 

Last night it all ended up in a bit of a meltdown whereby The Eight Year Old declared "it's just all too much for me" - I suspect he may have an element of drama queen in him...a little like his mother.

With The Husband returning back to University (where he is retraining as a radiographer) and having assingments to complete and exams to revise for he too, is not in the best of moods.

The Baby is, so far, doing ok.  Although, I suspect he may have begun teething so he too, is likely to be a little up and down.

I, on the other hand, am obviously floating happily around letting all of this move by me without an unruffle of the feathers.  Not.  With PMT due to set in around this mid-week point I think we can all be safe in the knowledge that this may not be one of our finest weeks.  At least we no longer believe that denial is the key.  Forearmed is forewarned.  As they say. 

Whoever THEY are.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Let's cook!

Remember me and The Eight Year Old decided upon culinary challenges in place of New Year resolutions?  Well, we've made a start!

As we are anticipating lots of chat about this we have set up another blog to chart our progress.  It's called 'Cocoa & Fig'.  If you get chance please take a look :-    http://cocoandfig.blogspot.com/  It's a work in progress so please bear with us.

On Cocoa & Fig you will find an honest account of The Eight Year Old learning to cook and of me trying out new recipes to get me out of the rut of cooking the same old things - it's time to put all those cook books to good use!  We both really like baking so there be lots of that going on too.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Rainy days and Mondays...

Ok, so it's not raining. But it is Monday, and, as it's back to the usual routine for us, it would be fair to say - to reference the Carpenters - that Mondays really do get you down! On saying that, The Eight Year Old was quite happy about being back at school... "I'm looking forward to seeing my friends and teacher" he claimed this morning when me and The Husband were more than a little grumpy to say the least.  It's not as if I even have to go to work so I've got no excuse really.  Thank goodness for maternity leave.

On  a different note, I found myself in a reflective mood over the weekend.  And it struck me that I can't really believe that The Eight Year Old is, in fact, eight years old already.  Parents are often heard saying how quickly the time goes by when you have children and it really is true.  What I find even harder to get my head around though, is that by the time The Baby is eight years old, The Eight Year Old will be The Sixteen Year Old.   Now that is a scary thought.
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Saturday, 7 January 2012

Report from a galaxy far far away...

Just over a week ago we had our Star Wars themed house party for The Eight Year Olds and The Husbands birthday – I forget now which of the two of them was the most excited about the Star Wars Theme.  Somehow, despite being very last minute with our preparations (as ever!) we managed to pull together outfits that transformed us into Jango Fett (The Eight Year Old), Darth Vader (The Baby), Red Leader X-wing Pilot (The Husband) and a reasonable attempt at Queen Amidala (me).









As The Family and The Friends arrived, we added to the mix. Han Solo, 3 Princess Leias, an Ewok, R2-D2 and R4-P17, Luke Skywalker and his future wife, Mara JadeSkywalker, and their son Ben Skywalker and a walking "galaxy far far away” – a joint effort by the In-laws!




















I managed to cobble together an R2D2 cake, which, although not as professional as it could have been, wasn’t a bad first attempt at using sugar paste and icing if I do say so myself. The main thing was that The Eight Year Old was impressed with it so all was well. 

You would think that after a party like that we would be glad to hang up our party hats until next year. But no.  Instead, we are planning round two – The Harry Potter themed party for The Eight Year Old to invite ten of his school friends to in a couple of weeks time.  With me being what must be the only remaining person alive to not be a complete Harry Potter Fan – I’ve never read any of the books or watched the films - then for the next two weeks just call me ‘Terrified, from Sheffield”.

Friday, 6 January 2012

New discovery and favourite things

The Baby has recently discovered his own feet.  Perfectly formed at the end of each leg.  A bonus, there being two of them – and each with their very own five wriggly toes.  What more could a baby ask for?  He now delights in clutching at them throughout the day…when laying on his back, whilst rolling over and during nappy changes – which are becoming increasingly challenging from my perspective, it’s a little like changing a wriggly little chimp baby.  All the while, he has a big daft grin on his face as if to say “look what I’ve found and they’re all mine”. 
Although close to being his favourite thing, there is something The Baby appears to like even more than his own feet.  And that thing is when The Husband, The Eight Year Old, and me sing “Let’s all have a disco” as sung by ‘The Barmy Army’ England cricket fans – blame The Husband, he’s a huge fan of the (apparently) great game.  A rousing and energetic rendition of this song - and trust me, there have been plenty - is guaranteed to put a huge cheeky smile on The Baby’s face and then he builds up to an excited giggle-like shriek which is The Baby’s version of a laugh at the moment.

In the meantime, The Eight Year Old has surprised us by announcing that he’s “really really happy" that he got the Roald Dahl boxset of paperbacks for Christmas from The In-laws.  He’s taken to carrying the box around and we’ve already read ‘The Twits’ and are now ploughing through ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’.  I’m secretly really pleased at this development but am instead feigning outrage at the truckload of unnecessary Lego delivered by Santa recently.