Sunday, 10 January 2016

Taking a break

In between house moves and work pressures, I just haven't felt the urge to write a blog recently.  I've decided to take a break so I can spend the small amount of spare time I have on creative writing rather than blogging.

I'll be back at some point.  I have a dolls' house that I want to renovate for Munchkin and it would be good to record my progress online.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Are we encouraging our children to grow up too quickly?

I'm back after a blogging break, and I'm grumpy!  I've witnessed a number of things over the past few months that have caused me to question whether society is encouraging our children to grow up too quickly, and I think the answer is probably, yes...

Last week, a friend's child attended her nursery graduation.  I wasn't even aware that nursery graduations were "a thing".  It turns out they had quite a lot of media coverage last week, with opinions split between those who think they're cute and harmless fun, and those who think they're weird or even pyschologically damaging.  They're an American import and I think it should be borne in mind that American preschool leavers are around two years older than British preschool leavers and therefore a little bit more mature. 

Some pyschologists believe that the ceremonies place unnecessary pressure on children to achieve.  I'm not sure I'd go that far, but I do believe they're encouraging small children to behave in ways they don't understand because adults think it's cute.  There seems to be a universal belief that all children enjoy dressing up.  Munchkin would probably refuse to wear graduation robes because they are not a pink fairy outfit.  I'm also doubtful that she would want to walk up and collect a certificate in a crowded room.

Primary school graduation also seems to be "a thing".  I got really confused when a friend's child attended her graduation ceremony at a local university.  I thought she had an eleven year old genius!  At least children this age know what is going on, and why they're doing it.  The real winners in all of this are photographers and providers of robes and mortar boards.  They must be making a fortune!

The age at which British children start school is another thing that's bugging me.  Munchkin is really looking forward to starting "big school" next year.  The same cannot be said for her best friend, Scoobie.  As an August baby, Scoobie just slips in to the school year above Munchkin.  She starts school in September and she's really scared.  Although compulsory education begins at age 5, we start schooling our children at 4, and I'm not entirely sure why when many countries start compulsory education at age 6.  Teachers in private schools have told me that these other countries have, "got it right".  Private schools tend to do the best they can, giving children with summer birthdays the opportunity to start Reception class in January instead of September, but this opportunity is less common in state schools.  In state schools, there are generally two choices: Start school in the September after you're 4, even if you're not ready, or miss the first (Reception) year at school and spend the following year (Year 1) playing catch up.

I guess what I'm saying is, America can keep their graduation ceremonies.  The only one I've ever attended was my university one, and even then I felt a bit of a numpty in my gown and mortar board.  However, we could probably learn something from the US when it comes to starting school.

Photo credit: quinnums / Foter / CC BY-NC

Monday, 22 June 2015


We've just got back from our annual holiday with AD's family.  Munchkin is fast asleep, which is par for the course after she's been partying with Sweetpea, so I'm taking the opportunity to do some writing before I wake her up for tea.

We spent the week in a farm cottage on the Lancashire/Yorkshire border.  The complex had won an eco-tourism award and I'm not sure if that enhanced or detracted from our experience.  The tap water came from their own bore hole, and stank of sulphur.  The owner had to drain the hot water system to clear the pipes so that Munchkin and Sweetpea could have a bath without chunks of sediment floating in it.  The decor also seemed a little tired and dusty - perhaps that's more environmentally friendly than regular painting and dusting.  That said, there was an on-site indoor swimming pool that went down rather well.

We've visited some lovely kiddy-friendly tourist attractions this week, and also had a fantastic meal out for our wedding anniversary:

Tourist Attractions:
  1. Skipton Castle - Munchkin has wanted to go to a castle for a while.  This didn't disappoint.  There's just enough information to keep very small children interested.  The castle is sufficiently small for toddlers and people with limited mobility to walk round without getting exhausted.  We came home with the obligatory toy sword!  The best thing is, it's free for under 5s!  (Adults are £7.50 and older children are £4.70, though a family ticket is available.)
  2. Thornton Hall Country Park - A farm park with some extras that we hadn't experienced before.  The girls collected eggs (though Munchkin was expecting them to be chocolate!), fed animals, and went on a barrel ride.  There was also a toddler music and yoga group there, which Munchkin enjoyed whilst Sweetpea staged a walkout.  Munchkin said her favourite things were bottle-feeding the lambs, and milking the pretend cow.  We attended mid-week toddler sessions, which were £5 for one child and accompanying adult, and £5.50 for each additional adult.
  3. Bowland Wild Boar Park was on a similar theme, though some of the animals were more exotic, and the play equipment was more varied, albeit outdoor.  Munchkin milked another pretend  cow, and cuddled a chick.  She declined to feed the lambs - I think they were more boisterous than the Thornton Hall ones.  This was probably our most expensive trip at £23 for a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) plus £6.50 for each additional adult.
  4. Settle Play Barn - When we arrived, we were a tad put off by the industrial nature of the Play Barn.  It seemed a bit "rough around the edges".  This was soon forgotten when Nana Pat arrived!  A former playgroup leader, Nana Pat runs children's craft sessions at the Play Barn once a week.  We stayed all morning, and the soft play was barely touched.  Pat got the children making fathers' day cards and gifts.  Our two sat and made gift after gift.  Pat even stayed late so Sweetpea could make an extra item.  The children also went outside to watch the steam train that runs past the centre's backdoor.  The soft play is nice enough - we've probably been to better, but the activities make up for that, and the food is pretty good too.
Fine Dining
For our anniversary meal, we went to The Box Tree in Ilkley.  The food and the service were brilliant.  If it wasn't at the wrong end of the country, I'd love to go back.

I must go and wake up Munchkin now.  There's another blog in my head that needs to be written... Hope to find time soon.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Pottery Painting

This is the first time I've blogged in a while. I've had writers block. The only thing I've written in six weeks is a poem... About not being able to write!

Hopefully that's behind me now. There's a blog about pottery painting in my head - hopefully it's about to make its way to the Worldwide Web.

Pottery painting has to be one of our favourite craft activities. It gives Munchkin the opportunity to be creative whilst creating a memento - which usually gets given as a gift. Over the past year, we've made a plate with hand prints on, a couple of mugs and a menagerie of unusual animals.

Up until recently, we've done our pottery painting at Mambo Jambos in Squires Garden Centre, Washington. This week, we went to Kingsley Craft in Ferring, since it's a bit closer to home. We enjoyed both and found the prices similar. Kingsley has the advantage of a cafe and toilet (with toddler seat) in the same building. Mambo Jambos is better equipped for messy children, with plenty of aprons, and a step next to the sink.
Two of Munchkin's Pottery Painting Efforts

Pottery painting is so easy, anyone can do it. You choose your object, wipe it down, then paint it. The studio then glaze and fire it. It's ready for you to collect around a week later. Our most recent effort - which I don't yet have a picture of - was a medium-sized unicorn. This cost £14.50, including the £2 studio fee.

We have also tried decopatch at one of the studios, but Munchkin got bored, so we're sticking with the pottery painting for now. Some studios have party rooms so I'm bearing this in mind for future birthday parties.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

What a difference a year makes

Last Easter, we went to the Cadbury's Easter Egg Trail at Petworth House and loved it.  It was probably around this time last year that I moaned at Angmering Daddy for signing up to Wildfowl and Wetland Trust.  A year later, we've just been to three very different Easter events.

On Good Friday, we went to WWT Arundel for the Giant Duck Hunt.  Despite my moans last year, we have made the most of our WWT membership.  It's a great place to go for family walks and duck feeding.  Admission is free for Munchkin, and it's nice and flat for AD, who doesn't do hills very well.  The Giant Duck Hunt is run on similar lines to an Easter Egg Hunt - you follow clues to find the animal or bird associated with each plastic duck, and get a chocolate prize if you find them all.  Unlike traditional Easter Egg Hunts, it's running for the whole of the Easter Holidays.  WWT Arundel also have indoor crafts, pond dipping and boat trips running throughout the Easter Holidays.  Basic admission prices are £10.86 for an adult and £5.45 for a child over 4.  Other admission options are available, including family tickets and a 10% discount if you book online.  Most activities are included in the admission price.

The Giant Ducky at WWT Arundel

We are also members of the National Trust but might be discontinuing this.  When we visit NT properties, we tend to be confined to the gardens and cafe, plus the occasional self-guided tour.  What pre-school child wants to go on a guided tour of an old house, run by a grown-up, for grown-ups?  Not mine!  We went to the Cadbury's Easter Egg Hunt, because we'd enjoyed it so much last year.  We were rather disappointed.  Last year, we got to make a chick.  This year, I had to do a quiz aimed at primary age children.  Munchkin got nothing from it because she can't read or spell.  Last year, the trail started near the bottom of the hill, and AD got the minibus back to the car park at the end.  This year, we had to walk a long way up the hill - AD wasn't expecting this, and sat out most of the Easter Egg Hunt.  Munchkin became desperate for the toilet when we were in the middle nowhere so I had to carry her down the hill to the ladies.  The sign-posting and map quality were poor, meaning that we had trouble finding the start-point and some of the eggs.  We will be finding another Easter Egg Hunt next year.

On Easter Sunday, we went for Breakfast with the Easter Bunny at Wyevale Findon Garden Centre.  We've previously had a very successful breakfast with Father Christmas at Old Barn, another Wyevale Garden Centre, so thought we would give the Easter Bunny a go.  It was well worth it.  In addition to cooked breakfast, followed by soft-play, Munchkin got to meet the Easter Bunny.  (She was fully aware that it was person dressed up as the Easter Bunny!)  The Easter Bunny gave her not one, but two toy rabbits to take home, plus a Lindt chocolate rabbit.  She was given two Easter biscuits to decorate when she'd finished her breakfast.

In other news, we are starting to think about schools for Munchkin to start in 2016.  She got a little upset when we told her she would have to wear a uniform.  I hope she doesn't insist on going to a school where they wear her favourite pink and yellow!

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Nearly New

I sold some of Munchkin's stuff at my first nearly new sale this weekend. I opted for a NCT sale since they're popular and well organised. It cost £3 to register, and NCT will take 30% of what I make. I feel better about giving a percentage to a charity than I would a private individual.

I was lucky enough to win an early bird shopping slot at the sale. Had it not been for this, I'm not I would have gone there to shop. I was there to drop off items to sell at 8.15, the sale for non members started at 10.15, and I was back to collect unsold items ay 12.30 - too much to-ing and fro-ing (no idea if I spelt that right).

It's taken me weeks to launder all the baby clothes, select 70 of the 300 odd items to sell and price everything up. I was disappointed to be handed two bags of unsold items and a ride-on ladybird, after all that hard work, though have since realised that quite a lot did sell.
Please someone, buy this ladybird!
I spent £22 on clothes, and a baking set for Munchkin. As always, NCT popped lots of promotional leaflets in with my purchases. Handily, one was a flyer for 10% off at JoJo Maman Bebe, where I was planning on spending money later that day.  I still have shed-loads of stuff to sell. I think I'll try eBay next. If you know of anyone who wants to buy a rocking ladybird, please send them my way.

In other news, my mouth still isn't better, we took Munchkin and Sweetpea to Peppa Pig World this week, and Munchkin was as sick as a dog yesterday.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Birthday Party

Munchkin turned three over a month ago, and I've just found this blog entry sitting in my drafts folder! The Terrible Twos are officially over.  I'm hoping I don't have a threenager.  She hasn't been the best behaved over the past couple of weeks but it may have something to do with the fact that I've been getting increasingly stressed about my imminent wisdom tooth extraction.  I had all four wisdom teeth out on Friday and am currently a little the worse for wear.  I look like a chipmunk with mumps, and will NOT be posting any pictures of myself online.

The birthday party was a roaring success.  We booked a Bouncy Castle Party at Worthing Leisure Centre.  Although we'd booked two or three months in advance, it was the last slot available that weekend, so they're obviously very popular.  We made a last-minute change from cold buffet to hot buffet but this was fine with the Leisure Centre as they only need confirmation of numbers and menu option a few days before the party.  That was the only thing that didn't go smoothly - they got Angmering Daddy's phone number wrong so couldn't call us to make final arrangements.  When we arrived on the day, there was a staff member to help us get organised.  They ensured children went to the correct party, and that everything ran to time. 

Munchkin and her friends had fun on a large bouncy castle and a range of ride-on toys, and there were also bouncy balls for them to play with.  Food was served in the Committee Room, which is also the creche room so it was decorated in a child-friendly way.  The food was pretty good.

Some of us agreed to meet at Out of Bounds later in the afternoon, this didn't go so well.  Although it's our favourite soft play, they don't seem to have got the hang of organising things at peak times.  We couldn't get in because it was packed and children weren't coming out when they were meant to, probably because their parents were unable to hear the tannoy.  Several weeks later, we went to a birthday party at Out of Bounds, this wasn't nearly as well organised as the Leisure Centre's offering.  Parents had to perch anywhere whilst their children played, there didn't appear to be a dedicated staff member helping to organise things, then the staff started clearing away food before the children had left the party.

I found myself a blogging app for my phone so will try to blog a bit more regularly again.  It's called Blogmate and seems to work OK.