Reblog: Controlling the Uncontrollable

Control: To order, limit, or rule something, or someone’s actions or behaviour Free spirit: a person who does what they want with enjoyment and pleasure and does not feel limited by the usual rules of social behaviour. Now, which would you rather for your child? I sometimes joke about how I have no control over […]

via Controlling the Uncontrollable — The Chatty Chronicles

This week’s reblog is from Laura (aka Mrs Chatty) of The Chatty Chronicles. In this post, she talks about pressure from society to control her seemingly uncontrollable three year old. My take on this is that it’s a peculiarly British problem. There is still – more than a hundred years after the Victorian era came to an end – a  view that children should be seen and not heard. Some time ago, I read an article about the Terrible Twos being a British concept that many other nations can’t relate to. This is highlighted by the Greek waiter, who said to Laura, “It’s OK, he’s just a child”. We need to recognise that toddlers can’t process things in the way that adults or older children do.

The last time my daughter had a tantrum in public, I was pleasantly surprised that a lady who had watched the whole thing commented on how well I’d handled the situation. I can feel a crowd-sourced post about occasions when members of the public have been supportive of parents whose children have had melt-downs or wreaked havoc in public coming on. What do you think? Shall I write it? If you want to contribute, let me know in the comments.

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Saying Thanks to Great Teachers

I’ve wanted to thank my favourite teacher for years. I’ve posted things about her on a range of Facebook pages just recently so I thought it was time I told a wider audience about the brilliant Miss Vane.

When parent blogger and teacher, Hayley from Mission: Mindfulness blog said that she wanted to write a crowdsourced post about teachers who have really made a difference, I responded immediately to tell her about my Year 2 teacher, Miss Vane. I then posted on a group called Lancing History to see if anyone remembered her or knew if she was still around. I had a number of responses from people who remembered her and agreed that she was a great teacher but nobody knew what happened to her after she left South Lancing First School (later renamed Freshbrook and subsequently closed).

If I’d been more organised, I would have posted this last week for World Teachers Day. I missed the boat for that one but did manage to comment on someone else’s Facebook post for World Teachers Day.

I was a summer born child and started school in the late ’70s. These days, there is a lot of concern about summer borns being too young to start school when they’ve just turned four. I went into a combined Reception/Year 1 class the September after my fifth birthday and nobody thought anything of it.

The following academic year, classes were moved around and I found myself in the same class as Autumn born children who had been at school a whole year longer than me. That’s where Miss Vane came in. She gave me the opportunity to catch up. She recognised that I was a keen reader and allowed me to read entire books in a single sitting. I quickly caught up and became one of the strongest readers in my class. I have always wanted to tell her that I went on to gain a 2:1 degree in English and am now a writer.

I can remember all sorts of things that Miss Vane taught us, including the history of our school. I lapped up information about it originally being a tiny building, with the Head Teacher’s office in the attic, and I was fascinated by the fact that there were once air raid shelters on the school field. I wonder if my interest in local history came from her.

So what else do I know about her? She was the Deputy Head. I’m not sure of her age but suspect she would now be in her eighties since she was older than my parents but younger than a grandparent. She wasn’t in the best of health – I think she was diabetic. She lived in the Brighton area – either Woodingdean or Rottingdean, I think. A lady on Lancing History said that she was still at the school in the late ’80s but didn’t know what happened to her after that.

If anybody reading this knows of Miss Vane, I’d like to know what she did after the late ’80s. Ideally, if she’s still around, I’d like to pass a message to her.

#ThrowbackThursday: Santa Special

Since it’s getting to the time of year when parents book trips to see Father Christmas, I’m sharing this post that I originally wrote about the Santa Special at the Bluebell Railway back in 2014. A version of this first appeared on my old blog. It’s still there, but all the photos have disappeared :-(.

The Bluebell is a steam railway in West Sussex. They run Santa Specials every year. We enjoyed it so much in 2014 that we went back in 2015. Further details of this year’s trains can be found on the Bluebell’s website. 2017 prices are:

Adult 3rd class £22.00
Child (3-15) 3rd class £15.00
Toddler (1 + 2yrs) £9.00 (please note no seat is reserved for toddlers)

Munchkin loved every minute of her trip to the Bluebell Railway (almost). They have a number of Christmas packages and we opted for this one because we felt we were getting more for our money. We had intended to book First Class, but the helpful man on the booking line explained that you see Santa for longer in Standard Class; he only pops his head round the door in First Class. Even standard class wasn’t cheap, but I think it was worth it. At nearly two, Munchkin is still young enough to travel as a toddler, but we paid the child rate so she could have her own seat. We got the first train of the day, which I’m pleased about since it meant it was relatively quiet when we arrived. People who got there later had to use the overflow car park, in a field down the road.

Our Santa Special went between Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes stations. There was a roundabout and a few fairground stalls at Sheffield Park. The roundabout was meant to be free for the first go, and chargeable thereafter but they weren’t very strict about it. Munchkin won a doll on the Lucky Dip but I wouldn’t call this doll lucky. So far her head and an arm have fallen off!

When the train arrived, we found our allocated seats. We weren’t sure if we’d be seeing Father Christmas on the way to Horsted Keynes or the return journey. It turned out that we saw him on the outward journey. He gave Munchkin an embroidered red bag containing a present. It was a cuddly sheep, whom we named “Bluebell”. Munchkin loves Bluebell, and she’s been everywhere with her for the past week. Children were also given Smarties, and there were mince pies for the adults.

santa, toddler, father, inside train

Munchkin meets Father Christmas

Munchkin was a bit overwhelmed at Horsted Keynes. She didn’t want to have her picture taken with Santa. The Victorian fairground games and sideshows on the station were fun and good value (6 goes for £1, I think) but mainly a little too old for her.

When we returned to Sheffield Park, we headed to the carvery restaurant for Christmas dinner. This was alright, but nothing special. Since the Santa Special is aimed at kids, I think they could have done more to promote children’s meals. There were children’s portions, despite there being no mention of them on the menu enclosed with our train tickets, and they got Munchkin some ice cream from the cafe downstairs since the desserts in the carvery were too large and rich for her.

steam engine, stepney, bluebell engine

Stepney the Bluebell Engine

We loved the Bluebell, and will be signing Munchkin up to the Stepney Club. She’ll get a newsletter about Stepney (who appears in the Thomas the Tank Engine series), a birthday card, invitations to special events, and reduced rate steam train travel.

DCby1 Campaign- Why Getting Your Baby to the Dentist is Vital

Source: DCby1 Campaign- Why Getting Your Baby to the Dentist is Vital

This week’s reblog is from Emma Reed, who is a mum, blogger, freelance writer and author of Your Teething Baby, from one parent to another. I must admit that I didn’t take Munchkin to the dentist until she was two. This wasn’t because I had no interest in dental care. I just found the idea of taking a baby to the dentist too stressful to contemplate.

However, I’m not like some of the parents that Emma describes in this post. We brushed Munchkin’s teeth twice a day and she has been visiting the dentist regularly every since that first visit. I was surprised to read that some people dip dummies in something sweet. I can remember my mum telling me that wasn’t right when I was a child. It never occurred to me that people are still doing it.

My Interview With a Working Mum Post on Digital Motherhood

You might think that when you have school aged kids, working becomes a bit easier. But you still have a lot of juggling to do and still not a lot of time to yourself! This week’s working mum is Simone from Dog Days and Delights who’s talking about fitting work around school and negotiating flexible…

via Interview With A Working Mum – Simone from Dog Days and Delights —

This is a guest post that I wrote for Sarah from DIGITAL Motherhood as part of her Interview With A Working Mum series. Sarah writes about her experiences as a working mum. I’ve been reading some of her blog and Twitter posts and a lot of the things she writes about are very familiar to me, as the working mother of a five year old.

#ThrowBackThursday: Russell to Keri Keri

I feel there’s been ever such a lot about parenting on my blog recently, so this week’s Throwback Thursday sees a return to my pre-child New Zealand travel journal.

mission house, garden

Mission House, Keri Keri

In the morning, we did a cruise from Russell to the hole in the rock.  We saw some impressive scenery, and a pod of dolphins were following the wake of the boat at one point.  The boat was fairly packed, and since Russell was the second stop, there weren’t many seats left.  We weren’t allowed to go through the hole in the rock because the sea was too rough.  It doesn’t look like the largest hole, and I’m not too sure how much clearance the boat would have had on a calm day.  When we got back, we had lunch in a courtyard café.  I can’t remember its name, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  The toilet door wouldn’t lock and an American man tried to join me!  I had a chicken toastie with all the yucky bits of meat that I’d normally give to the cat.  We visited the Anglican church; this is meant to be famous for its musket holes, but they appear to have been removed in a recent refurbishment.  Our last stop in Russell was Flagstaff Hill.  How Terence the Toyota got up that hill, I will never know, but the views were breathtaking (I’m sure Terence was out of breath too!).

waterfall, trees

Rainbow Falls, Keri Keri

We got the ferry to Pahia, then drove to Keri Keri.  Our main reason for visiting Keri Keri was to see the Basin, where the Mission House and Stone Store are located.  Both were interesting.  What I found particularly interesting about the stone store is it’s still a shop and they’ve gone to great lengths to source stock that would have been available when it was set up in the 1800s.  In some cases, the same suppliers are used as 150 years ago.  The car park at Keri Keri basin is one of a number of places we went to (mainly on North Island) where there were free range chickens.  This is something I can’t quite get my head round.  Who owns the chickens and collects their eggs?  What if a chicken decides to cross the road?  We then took the short drive to Rainbow Falls (via a detour because we missed the turning), which were pretty impressive.

Reblog: Things I miss from before having kids

What do miss from before you had kids? Here’s a few of mine and why I wouldn’t change a thing.

via Things I miss from before having kids — Property Parent

I can sympathise with every one of the things Lee from Property Parent lists as missing since he had kids. Even though this post is written from a male perspective, I think parents universally miss the same things. My list goes something like this:

  1. Socialising with my husband
  2. Clothes shopping for myself
  3. Sleep. (First of all the baby wouldn’t sleep. Now I go to bed really late because Munchkin is going to bed later than I’d like and I want my evenings back.)
  4. Having time to clean the house. (I now employ someone else to do it.)
  5. Finding time to do the gardening.
  6. Earning a full-time salary.

So what do you miss from before having kids? Do check out Lee’s blog. It has been up and running for a couple of months, and he splits his content between writing about the property market and family life.

#FlashBackFriday: Are we encouraging our children to grow up too quickly?

There’s no Throwback Thursday this week, because I published a post for National Poetry Day instead. A version of this post about nursery graduation ceremonies and school starting age first appeared on my old blog. I’ve been in two minds aboout sharing it again, because I no longer feel so strongly about the things that seemed to matter when Munchkin was three.

I reluctantly allowed her to have her photo taken in a cap and gown when she left nursery. By the time she was four, she had changed her mind about dressing up, and now enjoys it. Thankfully there wasn’t a formal presentation, just a children’s party. I even more reluctantly bought one of the photos. It wasn’t a great picture.

Equally, whilst I accept that children in countries with a higher school starting age than the UK do well academically, I don’t necessarily think four is too young to start school. My daughter has thrived at school. She loves spending time there, is an avid reader and has just started doing maths in her own time for fun… I’m beginning to wonder if there was a mix up at the maternity hospital and I have someone else’s child.

A child that I know recently attended her nursery graduation.  I did’t even realise nursery graduations were “a thing”.  It seems they had a lot of media coverage last week, with one camp thinking they’re cute and harmless fun, and the other considering them strange or even pyschologically damaging.  They’re an American import and it’s worth remembering that US preschool leavers are around two years older than their British counterparts and therefore a little bit more mature.

Some pyschologists think the ceremonies place unnecessary pressure on children to achieve.  I’m not sure I’d go that far, but I definitely think they are encouraging small children to do things they don’t understand because adults think it’s cute.  There appears to be a universal belief that all kids like dressing up.  Munchkin would probably refuse to wear the cap and gown since she only likes pink fairy outfits.  I also doubt whether she would walk up and collect a certificate in a crowded room.

Primary school graduation also seems to be “a thing” in some places.  I got really confused when a friend’s child attended her graduation 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 I’m concerned about.  Munchkin’s best friend is an August baby and just slips in to the school year above her.  She starts school in September and she’s really frightened.  Although compulsory education begins at age five, we start schooling our children at four, and I’m not entirely sure why when many countries start compulsory education at age six.  A teacher in one independent school I visited told me that these other countries have, “got it right”.  Independent schools tend to do the best they can in terms of only putting children into Reception when they’re ready, 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 four, or miss the first (Reception) year at school and spend the following year (Year 1) catching up.

I think what I’m saying is, the USA can keep their graduation ceremonies.  I’ve only ever attended one and that was my own at university, and even then I felt a bit of an idiot in my mortar board and gown.  However, we could probably learn a thing or two from the US when it comes to starting school.

Photo credit: quinnums / Foter / CC BY-NC

Reblog for National Poetry Day: Dealing with Dementia

A poem – helping children understand dementia

via Dealing With Dementia — Mighty Mama Bear

Since today is National Poetry Day, I’ve saved this week’s reblog. It’s a poem by Jen from Mighty Mama Bear. She deals with the difficult subject of dementia in a sensitive way.

I write poetry myself, but I’m a little nervous about publishing it on my blog in case it precludes me from submitting it in competitions that are only open for unpublished work. I felt Jen’s poem tied in well with my own Sky Man story, which is intended to help children come to terms with loss. Do take a look at Mighty Mama Bear, which is mainly in poetic form.

#ThrowBack Thursday: Oh Sugar!

This week’s Throwback Thursday sees a return to my pregnancy blog. It’s the one where I was diagnosed with possible gestational diabetes so I was a little bit grumpy.

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks, and not necessarily for the right reasons.  Two weeks ago I fainted on the way to work.  As far as I’m aware there was no medical reason for this apart from pregnancy.  Even my blood pressure seemed normal.  Last week I was back at the doctor’s, with what I thought was cystitis.  He told me there was no sign of infection, but my sugar levels were really high – possibly indicating gestational diabetes.  I had the gestational diabetes test early so that the results are (hopefully) back in time for my next midwife appointment.  That was fun!  I had to go to my surgery’s sister surgery because mine didn’t have any blood test appointments this week.  I wasn’t told that I needed two appointments and a bottle of Lucozade.  The other surgery weren’t told that I was pregnant.  It worked out OK, but the nurse had to make my second appointment with a GP because she was about to start home visits, and I ended up working from home because it didn’t seem worth driving to work for half a day.  Now I’m keeping my fingers crossed that at best the results are negative or failing that my baby hasn’t grown excessively so I can still have a natural birth.  (One of the symptoms of gestational diabetes is excessive growth of the baby, which is why that poor woman in America ended up giving birth to a 12 pounder a few months ago.)

As mentioned in my last blog, we’re now god parents. There’s no documentary proof that I’m the godmother.  The only certificate was for the baby, to say that she’s now on the Cradle Roll of  the Methodist Church.  I think this may mean she’s in an exclusive club of one.  The average age of the congregation of this tiny church is about 70 and there is only one woman of child bearing age.

I keep finding out that more and more people who I know are pregnant.  In the past few weeks, I’ve heard that two of my husband’s friends are pregnant (one is due on the same day as me), my cousin’s wife is pregnant (my other cousin’s wife is due to have a baby any day) and the girl who sits next to me at work is pregnant.  The girl who sits opposite me in the office is worried it might be catching!  I also found out that one of the girls at Pregnancy Yoga lives in the same road as me.

By my next blog, I should know whether or not I’m diabetic.  I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth, but I’ll really miss Christmas cake, especially now that my husband has developed talents as a confectioner.