Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The loneliness of command

"I didn't get where I am today by...living at the behest of a stupid electronic calendar!"
Oh dear. I think I realise now why I've avoided management positions for so long. Taking on a new job has hammered the crap out of me over the last month and a half. Doing the job because I was forced to, then being stupid enough to properly apply for it when it came up was probably one of the daftest things I've ever done.

Being in a position of authority sounds great in principal, right? But when you're the sort of person who does a mindless and dull job for two reasons - one to pay the bills and two, because it leaves your imagination enough wiggle room to soar once you cast off the shackles of work and come home at the end of the day, sometimes you find that work leeches into your home life and undoes all that careful planning and forethought.

Being a manager actually sucks. It's not the added level of responsibility so much as inheriting someone else's messes constantly, having to unpick the equivalent of a huge ball of crap-covered string with no fingernails while in a dark room, being badgered by crocodiles. OK that's a poor analogy, but the bit about inheriting someone else's mess is spot on.

I did that and it's had a direct impact on the blog (now I have to spend even more time in the evenings ensuring that our ReadItDaddy reviews don't suck). It's turning me into a grumpy bugger (which I REALLY hate more than anything else about the job) as my line managers constantly lump more and more work onto my plate because I'm too willing to just sit there and take it like a loon. Worst of all is the feeling that though stress is great for the diet (no, it really is - Being in a high stress situation completely knackers your appetite, trust me on this - as does not having 5 seconds in any given day to actually sit down and eat your sodding lunch before someone else drops another pile of steaming crap on your desk).

So moan moan moan (see I told you it turned me into a grumpy bugger).

And yet...my wife and daughter are still brilliant, and though they're the main reason I was stupid enough to do this in the first place, I know they're always there to back me up, to make me laugh and smile (and of course in the case of Princess C - to tell me to sit down, read a book with her and instantly  feel like someone's applied a soothing balm to all the stress and horse-crap from work). If I've come across as snarky on the blog or on Twitter, I definitely apologise. As one of my wise sage colleagues keeps reminding me - "One day you'll look back on all this and laugh!"

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Sleep Thief

Counting these doesn't help. Trust me on this.
Poor Princess C. When she gets a cold or a chest infection, she gets it - and how! She does seem susceptible to them, and that means that (like recently) we end up with a coughing braying sea-lion replacing our daughter until the bug clears up.

Recently she contracted croup (I never realised that 5 year olds could get this still) which took the night-time coughing to a whole other level (we no longer use the baby monitor but it doesn't matter, when she coughs it's still like being in the same room as the aforementioned performing seal). Splitting duties as we always do, this meant that both of us were running up and downstairs, haven't had an uninterrupted night's sleep in a couple of weeks, and feel like a pair of zombies (no fun when my other half relies on a good night's sleep to get through the next day seizure-free).

Lack of sleep filters into every aspect of our lives. It makes me particularly rubbish at work, it makes my other half suffer, and of course it means that poor Princess C bursts into tears at the slightest thing as her tiredness takes hold.

Colds and flu suck, chest infections really suck. Sympathies to anyone else in the same boat at the moment.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Legoland fairies and the seventh layer of hell

The Legoland Fairy. Not sure why she's got a ripped dress but et la!
We decided to descend on Legoland yesterday - forgetting lots of key things about the place like the fact that you really need to arrive within a smidge of it opening to avoid the traffic, the queues to get in, and the queues for the rides (basically if you ever want to go - and go on everything - don't go at weekends or at half term!).

The single most annoying moment of the day for us was queueing up for over an hour for a ride which subsequently broke down just as we were getting to the end of the queue.

The second single most annoying moment of the day was hearing a mother shouting at her son (something she was obviously well practiced in). Her exact words..

"Will you stop (bleeping) prancing around like a (bleeping) fairy!"

I have a couple of issues with this statement. One: the inference that little boys should not show any signs of glee or enjoyment (certainly not by prancing around and jumping up and down with excitement) and two: the use of the word "fairy" - in this instance used in a semi-homophobic way by a mum who probably has quite a few 'fruity' views on subjects you really wouldn't trust her views or judgement on.

It stuck with me for the rest of the day, distracting me from the fact that - as a very expensive leisure destination - Legoland is a bit poo really, and for the entry cost, the cost of some of the "extras" and if you're crazy enough to eat there (you really would have to be insane not to take your own lunch - and Legoland know this, which is why it's nigh on impossible to find anywhere to enjoy a picnic that isn't a gigantic sodding wasp magnet) you could probably buy some seriously expensive sets and sit at home having a fabulous day building them. It even distracted me from those people who barge to the front of the queue, offering up a weak "excuse me, can I squeeze past" without finishing the sentence with "I haven't got a Q-Bot pass or anything but at the end of the day, to be honest, I will punch you repeatedly until you lose consciousness if you try to stop me jumping the queue? D'ynarwhatimean? By the way I have an IQ that's less than your shoe size and I can't get it up any more so this is my compensatory default behaviour."

My wife has visited Legolands elsewhere and said how amazing they were, and how different. We get the scabby offspring here in the UK, quelle surprise - but for all its faults and for all the petty little annoyances yesterday, that one incident with the mother and her boy p*ssed me off more than anything else - even the queue-jumpers and wasps.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Introversion is not a crime...

Does the modern world care if you're introverted? 
Something a fellow blogger (the awesome Anne-Marie at Child Led Chaos) said struck a particularly poignant chord t'other day during an email exchange. Being introverted (which, I should add, isn't quite the same as being shy though the two are often seen as interchangeable and are often mistaken for each other) seems to be something that's unfairly stigmatised in schools. Why is that? Why is it that a talented and imaginative person isn't measured with a scale that doesn't 'mark down' the quiet ones who often have so much to say and so much to share, but can't always do so as easily as the extroverted  and 'show-offy'.

I worry that my own natural tendency to be a bit shy, and also quite introverted, rub off on Princess C. She's actually quite brilliant at getting on with other kids (in fact I think she's a bit too cuddly sometimes!) but if we're not there, she can be pretty shy and also quite happy to get on and do her own thing without the involvement of others.

When I was a kid, I was painfully shy and had zero self confidence. I'm still like that now, and get very nervous in social situations but like most things in life, I figure that you've got to give yourself a big kick up the arse from time to time and get out there and do things that petrify the living crap out of you.

So I try, and since Princess C's birth, I've done just about everything I can to make sure that she never suffers or misses out as a result of me being introverted or shy. But maaan, sometimes it's hard and still nagging away at the back of my mind is that little voice gently whispering "You really do make a complete arse of yourself, most of the time, did you know that?"

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Being a mum with epilepsy

I have had absence seizures since about 17 years old, we don't know why they started but one day as I was locking my bike up at college I wondered how I had got there. I'm sure there were other things that happened that made me go to the Dr but my memory is bad and I don't remember them now. I remember seeing the consultant at the hospital and having an MRI scan and being admitted for what is now called video telemetry (it was called a cassette EEG in 1996).  I remember staying in hospital quite clearly and was hoping I would never have to be admitted again as I did not enjoy the experience (old hospital, horrible food, toilets that didn't lock, that sort of thing).

My absence seizures at the moment happen about 4 times a week, sometimes I can have about 6 in a whole cluster almost one after the other until I have a nap. Others it's a one off and I'm back to normal except for missing the 30 seconds to 4 minutes that I have been having a seizure. I don't fall to the ground, I just stop what I'm doing for a moment, some people don't even know I'm having them if they are short. I'm aware of what is going on around me, I can put a book mark in the book I'm reading or go find a seat to sit on. Sometimes one or both arms will shake but its not a whole body violent shaking.


I was put onto carbamazepine in 1997, this worked fine for a good number of years, I was happily seizure free but slowly over time they appeared again so in 2004 I went back to the Dr and referred again to the consultants, it took seeing a number of different registrars for me to convince them that I had become immune to my tablets but got there eventually. In 2005 I was put on lamotrigine and was again seizure free for some time. I was on lamotrigine whilst pregnant and had a very healthy little girl, Princess C. Until 2009 when again they returned and referred again. I saw a great registrar (a good one makes a huge difference after all the rubbish ones I have seen) who really listened and instead of increasing meds switched me to keppra and again my seizures stopped. That is until 2012 when again they came back. My Dr increased meds due to the low dose I was on but this made no difference so early 2013 I was back to the hospital and saw a new consultant. She is really excellent and decided that we will go back to the start and have the tests retaken but add in a new tablet, vimpat, on top of the keppra.


Sadly the vimpat just did not work for me, it made very little difference to my seizures and the side effects were dreadful, I don't know how I made it through some days I struggled with talking, finding words, I had no want or desire to do anything and made mistakes on some of the easiest tasks. After a few desperate calls to the specialist epilepsy nurse at the hospital I came off vimpat.

So this year I have had another MRI scan and went for an outpatient EEG (they stick metal disks to your head and measure the electrical activity). Sadly the outpatient EEG didn't give the consultants quite the answers they were looking for so in August I went for an impatient VEEG (video telemetry). Thankfully I managed 6 seizures over the 5 days I was in hospital for and so didn't have to stay in any longer, and the experience was so much better than last time. The west wing at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford has purpose built rooms and wonderful staff. It's not fun having disks stuck on your head for 5 days and being videoed 24/7 and not being allowed to leave the room but hopefully if the results are good they will be able to find me a better medication.
This blog post explains really well about what having a VEEG is like with photos.

It's still a waiting game, I'm still on meds that don't work, I'm now waiting for an appointment at the memory clinic and will hopefully see my consultant in a few months to see where we can go from here. Being a female of child bearing age also makes a difference to medication, I've done the "safe" medicines so now the options left are those that are untested or not suitable for pregnancy so epilepsy has made the decision for us to only have one child. A hard one to accept at times.

So how do I cope as a mum, I just do but with a lot of support from family. I don't let it rule my life and I try not to let it stop me doing things. ReaditDaddy and I have always been open with Princess C (who is 5) about my epilepsy and both of them can tell when I'm having even the shortest of seizures, as Princess C has got older she has understood more about letting me rest when needed or taking something off me if I'm holding a cup for example. It's rare for me to have them outside of the house or office. It's like something inside me will hold them off until I'm in a safe place... not always though. The hardest thing I find is not the epilepsy it's self but my memory. Events and conversations new and old that I just can't recall. I can't drive and probably find this the most frustrating bit (which means I rely on ReaditDaddy and buses a lot), I shouldn't really go swimming by myself or with just my daughter. But I often think of the things I shouldn't do after I have done them!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Home Alone

Thankfully no houses were burgled / bricks hurled during the making of this blog post
Last night was one of those rare occasions where I was home alone. Princess C was staying at her grandparents after a very busy and long day down in sunny Devon and The Strolling Mum was starting a horrible week in hospital covered in wires and sensors during what looks like another sodding mini heatwave (poor, poor her).

So for most of the day and the entire evening I had time to myself - which is a rarity and not always a welcome one. After spending a lot of time sketching and drawing, and doing household chores (any man who tells you that they lounge around in a deckchair watching sport wearing just a pair of pants has never been on the receiving end of his better half's wrath when she finds out he's done "absolutely sod all" while she's been away!)

I missed my girls. I missed the house feeling lived in, noisy, messy but most importantly feeling like our family home rather than just some place I'm living in.

It's also hell on my diet. As it's just me for most of the week and Princess C will be eating at her grandparents for three of those days I didn't shop - which meant hoovering up whatever food was left in the cupboards and freezer (not a lot!) so I made too much pasta sauce, ate too much pasta and polished off a stack of jaffa cakes that were about to go out of date. Bleugh.

Time alone might sound like a delicious luxury to some folk but to me, it's just weird now. Not right without Mummy and C.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Stupid idiot things that you think are hilariously funny at the time, but will bite you squarely on the arse #1: Nightmare Cheese

The white bits are safe, the blue bits give you nightmares. FACT!
One of the problems with being a "silly daddy" is that sometimes you carry a joke too far, and sometimes that joke becomes a rearing venomous snake, and bites you back - hard.

Now, picture the scenario where you - the ardent cheese lover - try to convince your child (in this case, Princess C) that "Veiny cheese gives you nightmares" and the blue bits are the worst for doing so.

Amazingly enough I never had to beg or plead with Princess C to get her to eat anything weird like Blacksticks Blue or a really good piece of stilton. She just does but oh yes, that nightmare cheese thing really did kick me (or rather my poor long suffering other half) squarely in the pants. I put Blacksticks Blue in Princess C's packed lunch yesterday. She ate it, enjoyed it, but the closer we got to bedtime, the more apparent it became that I'd done something really stupid. No not necessarily putting the cheese in a sandwich for her to eat, but starting off the whole nightmare cheese thing ages ago only for it to 'pay out' some way down the line.

First she bellowed for me to come into her room shortly after we'd put her down for the night.

"The nightmare cheese made me dream that there's a skeleton in the middle of my floor!" she said (not ten minutes after we'd closed the curtains and turned out the light, and the little blighter hadn't even been asleep).

I switched on the light. No skeleton. Tucked her in and kissed her goodnight. Again.

Then of course at 3am Princess C had the mother of all nightmares, and woke up wailing. My wife dutifully went down to her but there was the unspoken promise that because I'd 'slept through it' (I hadn't, but it wasn't my turn for the night-time thing) I would be made to PAY later on...!

Of course, it now means that Princess C has shot herself in the foot as well as making me look like a terrible dad who doesn't know when to quit on a joke. She'll never experience the tangy melting deliciousness of really good cheese ever again during her childhood because I'm durned well not going to carry the blame for any more nightmares. She'll also never get to watch the rest of the Harry Potter movies (they've recently been airing on TV over here, and I bought a box set to finish them off - but as the series goes on, it gets darker and darker, and more harrowing - so that little avenue of enjoyment will also be cut off just in case...)

Random nightmares will come and go, undoubtedly - and it's impossible to shut off a kid from everything that might scare them during the night - but stubbornly I'm going to dig my heels in. No more nightmare cheese, no more monsters before bedtime. That way at least I won't get the blame!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Trying not to influence your childs veggie decision (by veggie parents)

Meet the veggies, meet the veggies...they grow here in my nursery!
We are both vegetarian, Readitdaddy is allergic to meat and I just plain don't like it after going through that fussy teenage stage. We both eat fish so not true 'veggies'.

When I fell pregnant we both decided that our child would be brought up as a meat eater and they can make up their own mind as they get older as to what they would like to be, I didn't expect that to happen at the age of 5 though.

Princess C has up to now always enjoyed dinner at her grandparents and happily eaten what ever has been put in front of her. At home we used to buy sausage rolls or ham for sandwiches. But over time she has slowly gone off one item after another. First sausage rolls, then chicken, then ham and now its a struggle to get her to eat any meat, telling us that she is vegetarian. This is the girl who until a few months ago would eat chorizo and peperoni, anything with a bit of flavour to it.

She also won't eat meat substitutes like quorn or tofu either telling us that its chicken. Give her veggie sausages and shes worried its meat and so is a bit wary even of those.

She is mostly a good little eater, we haven't had too much trouble there thankfully but this decision has stumped us as we weren't expecting it to happen so early. Now we are left wondering where to go with her decision. do we try to offer meat to her where we can or accept that she is now a veggie too and only offer her that option?

Daddy's take on it

We've seen some amazing examples of kids going off the rails with food and we always strove to ensure that Princess C would be exposed to lots of interesting food. Quite often I'm the one who prepares meals so with a fussy eater (mummy) and now a fussy would-be vegetarian (Princess C) my work just got that much harder. What worries me also is that we're going to find the going even tougher when she goes back to school - particularly if we opt back in to school dinners (as the only sandwich filling she'll now eat is tuna, and you can't just eat tuna every single day can you?)

There are a ton of interesting food options available to vegetarians but when you get home at night and literally have about 10 minutes to get something together before bedtime, it's no fun at all. Mummy bloggers who convince you that it's all so easy to do all your baking and making at weekends, freezing everything ahead so you can just pop it in the microwave and serve up interesting meals just have no idea what the average weekend is like when both parents work a full working week, and have to cram in all the other chores into a weekend.

So no doubt, I'll be trawling recipe pages and suggestions for quick stuff, and by the look of things, we're going to be in serious hot water if we try to visit other countries that think 'vegetarianism' is some new fad that will never quite catch on.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Princess C's Pearls of Wisdom - Part 7

We haven't done one of these in a while so here is a catch up of a few crackers lately.

On a sleepover at her Nanny and Dodo's house, she was taken food shopping. Nanny asked her if she'd like some Ham and she said:

"Will they have Prosciutto Ham, Nanny?"

(Where the HECK did that come from?! We certainly don't have that at home, we blame Grandma!)

On a browse through the holiday section of the weekend paper I said "Oh boring golf holidays". At which point princess C said "Oh great I like golf holidays!" Nobody in the family plays golf so this stumped me and decided to quiz further about this golf holiday she had been on.

"At Centre Parcs of course, we played crazy golf and it was brilliant" was the response.

(Well how can you reply to that!)

Crazy Golf at Centre Parcs with Grandad

Lovely Auntie came for a visit and was telling Princess C a bit of a naughty joke about a girl doing handstands. "When she went home to tell her mummy, her mummy said but all the boys saw your knickers. Next day girl does handstands and when the mother questioned her about the boys seeing her knickers she said she wasn't wearing any".  Princess C within a bat of an eyelid replied "she should have worn tights".

No flies on Princess C!


Monday, July 22, 2013

Danger - low flying objects. No Swimming / paddling!

The only time you won't run the risk of being clouted in the head by something while paddling
I must've missed a memo, it's easily done I suppose. The memo where everyone was clearly given details of the headline of this article.

"Danger - Low Flying Objects! No Swimming / Paddling" - which of course applies to any stretch of water, be it sea, or paddling pool, local swimming pool or even a muddy puddle in use during the fine weather.

On holiday we spent most of our time in the hotel pool either dodging balls thrown the entire length of the pool (ensuring that no one could swim safely ANYWHERE for fear of being biffed by one), or people picking up on Wimbledon fever, playing tennis across the entire length of the water too. Not kids by the way, this was mostly adults (those who weren't clinging to their sunbeds having 'pre-booked' them with the towel routine at 5.30 in the morning - you know, like we laughably always accuse German tourists of doing).

Similarly in the sea, same deal applied (as well as on any stretch of beach we happened to lay a towel on to sit down in peace). Then when we got back to the UK and had a dip in the children's pool at Beale Park a 'lovely' little brat and his sibling were throwing a lawn dart across the water, completely unsupervised by their docile parents / grandparents (who were glued to their smartphones, naturally).

People say I grumble a lot. I probably do, but sheesh, IQ levels over the last 20 years seem to have dipped to single figures, and with no governmental move to introduce "The Common Sense Test" for would-be parents, this sort of dullard behaviour just seems to become more and more commonplace.

In my mind's eye, if anything did actually hit Princess C while she was innocently getting about the business you get into a paddling pool or swimming pool for (ie paddling and swimming), I'd grab whatever object hit her and either throw it as hard as I could at the parents, or far out of reach of the kids playing with it.

In reality I'd probably just swear a lot, grumble about it on a blog or something, and pray for rainy weather as usual :)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Summertime, and the livin' is queasy

Most of our neighbours during hot weather. On wash day. 
Much as I bemoan the cold, and the lapsed human need to hibernate in the winter, I really don't like hot weather or the summer.

We fight a constant battle on several fronts. To keep the house cool enough (and also dark enough) so that Princess C can get to sleep before midnight (not easy, as I'm sure most parents will attest). Getting enough fresh air (if indeed there is any moving air around, certainly isn't at the moment) before the neighbourhood barbecue fiends replicate the scene in the header image above and fill the air with the stench of burning dog poo, rubber tyres and charred flesh.

Creativity takes a dive, exercise routines are binned as it's just too durned hot to move. Sleep is something that happens purely through exhaustion rather than planning. Then there's the constant fight to cover your nearest and dearest (and youngest) in enough suncream to ensure they don't burn to a crisp. Slapping factor 50 on Princess C has to rate as the third worst summertime task (getting her to drink enough to stay hydrated, and eat anything probably rate slightly higher).

But it is nice to see the sun, soak up a bit of vitamin D, and on those rare moments when you can escape into the wild, get away from it all, and find a small pocket of quiet and calm anywhere in our countryside, it can completely change your mind (so that'll probably be what we'll attempt every weekend that the weather holds).

I just wish someone would invent a portable air conditioner that fits in your pocket!


Monday, July 1, 2013

It's already been a year (nearly) at school...

Where does the time go!
Princess C has been at school since last September and is fast approaching the end of Reception. We can barely believe that it's been that long, and that we're now looking towards Year 1 with our little girl and wondering what new things she'll learn, what new quirks she'll have to deal with and most of all how much she'll miss her current teacher (luckily all her friends are moving up with her so that does make the transition a little easier).

We feel so lucky that it's all been a relatively smooth ride, bar a few of those mornings where Princess C is ultra clingy and doesn't want to be there (thankfully with her brilliant support teachers and of course her current teacher, there's always someone there with a cuddle and a distraction to help her settle).

Year 1 is where the kids start to knuckle down a bit. There is still play (hooray!), there's still only reading homework plus a few worksheets here and there, and hopefully the kids will still get to go outdoors like they currently do. I think we made the right decision on where she ended up when quite off her own back, she said how much she was looking forward to Year 1 and how she wanted it to start RIGHT NOW!

Things could've been so different. Thinking back a year, at how we'd only just found out we'd got a place at this school and how stressful the year preceding that news was, it was a horrible time and probably one that's all too familiar to parents these days. If you're going through that now, you have my utmost sympathy. It's not fun, we know.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Part Time Blogging and the perils of 'time off'

This isn't what we do all day. It just feels like it sometimes!
I don't think I've ever met a blogger whose sole purpose in life is to put together blog posts. Every single one of us (well, all the ones I'm aware of) blog away as a part-time 'hobby'. Writing is therapeutic, and sometimes reviewing things can be quite therapeutic too.

Though there's that phrase isn't there - 'PR Friendly'.

We're extremely PR friendly. In fact we're PR Friendly to a fault sometimes. Virtually every single one of the PRs we've ever dealt with have also been friendly, and for that we're extremely grateful. After all, they're essentially offering to send you things free of charge in the hope that you'll put something worth reading about them on your blog.

So it's the 1%, the ones that just don't get that we have a young child (a very busy little Princess C) that we look after - and at weekends and during holidays we're incommunicado. Neither of us (well definitely not me anyway) are wedded to our smartphones. Neither of us are online 24/7 and neither of us would ever consider screwing up a family holiday by dropping everything to blog or be at the behest of a PR, even if you're offering to send us a free Rolls Royce or gold plated loo seat. We squeeze our posts in during the evening, schedule them to scatter throughout the working day, and truly hope that folk see them and read them. Sometimes we're even up late into the night putting posts together, not necessarily because we have to but because we enjoy it.

We pride ourselves that even though we do this part time, we put a massive amount of effort into both our blogs to make them informative, good to read, and above all honest. But our only 'boss', and the only person who can tell us what to do with our time and when to be at their beck and call is 5 years old and is the best boss in the world...!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Toy Review - Vannelope Von Schweetz and Taffyta Muttonfudge Toy Racers from ThinkWay Toys

Vannelope Von Schweetz and her Candy Kart
We've been looking for Wreck-It Ralph tie-in toys for a while, and it looks like a few are slowly leaking out onto the UK Market. Argos now sell three of the superb Thinkway Toys racing karts from the movie's 'Sugar Rush' segment, including the two we bought.

Vannelope Von Schweetz's fantastic hotch-potch go-kart is super-detailed, and comes with a posable Vannelope figure which 'plugs in' to the kart, so when kids are driving the kart around the floor like mad things (as Princess C has for most of yesterday and today) the figure stays put. A good feature.

Decorated just like her kart in the movie, it comes with biscuit wheels, wafer spoiler and lots of tiny little details. The wheels are free-rolling and it's a nice robust toy for even the roughest toughest playtimes.

We also purchased Taffyta Muttonfudge's candy racer:


Though she's the 'bad girl' in the movie, Charlotte actually preferred Taffyta's car (probably because it's so shockingly pink).

It's a bit of a shame that Argos only sell the three racers (the third is The Swizz / Tongue Twister) as Thinkway and other manufacturers have put together some fantastic toys to compliment the movie.

With the blu ray and DVD release coming up in UK territories, we might see a few more toys arriving - but so far, the only way to get them seems to be to hunt online where prices can be extortionate (both these karts were £12.99 each in Argos which isn't cheap but they're very good quality products).

Friday, May 24, 2013

We are bloggers - Feedback is like cheese or chocolate to us!

It's interesting when we go to Blogger events, or get the opportunity to meet other blogging folk, or people we've been tweeting at for ages. We meet some very lovely people, and the one thing that most of us have in common is that we're all feedback junkies.

Let me explain. To a blogger who tells you that they write their blog for therapeutic purposes, Feedback probably isn't that important but I've rarely ever met anyone who writes anything (for a living or purely as a means of spilling the contents of their over-active mind onto a blank blog post) who wouldn't want feedback of any sort.

After all, we're out here in the public domain, talking about...well...stuff, so it's like cheese or chocolate to us.

Sometimes it can be very frustrating when you've poured your guts, your sweat and most importantly your time into a blog post only for it to meet static and silence.

It's also very frustrating when you put together a well-meaning post, or a positive review and then someone drops by the comments box or tweets you about it to tell you that "you missed the full stop at the end of the third sentence" (yep we do make mistakes from time to time, but so did the Dalek who ended up on a blind date with a dustbin).

Feedback is important. We try to give it where we can, if we're popping by other people's blogs we usually will comment - or if someone's put together a stonkingly good blog post and tweets about it we'll fave and retweet it.

We only ask that you try and do the same. You've no idea how much it thrills us.

Monday, May 13, 2013

When did Pass the Parcel get so complicated?

You can now buy ready-made pass the parcel parcels! No, really!
We'll be straight with you here. We hate Pass the Parcel. If there was ever one party game to cause instant groans and moans of dismay (amongst adults that is, not kids!) it's Pass the Parcel. We purposely avoided doing it at Princess C's birthday party and quite a few folk seem to have cottoned on that it's a sucky waste of time at a kid's party but still it prevails.

But it's changed. Here's a then and now comparison:

THEN


  • One parcel, one prize!
  • Parents randomly operating cranky old Binatone music centre while simultaneously glugging down a delicious beverage / holding down a conversation with other parents
  • Wrapping paper was nearly always newspaper or cheap stuff
  • All kids, regardless of gender, took part
  • Kids passed the parcel with scarcely a pause in between
  • The prize at the end was always massively disappointing
NOW

  • One or two parcels (sometimes even gender-specific pass the parcel sessions going on simultaneously to ensure the prizes 'fit' the winner)
  • A prize in every single layer - usually something you don't want your children to eat before they ruin their dinner / teeth / best clothes they came to the party in
  • Parent strategically operates iPod and Speaker Doc, following complicated hand and voice signals from strategically placed other parent who makes sure all children get a go
  • Wrapping paper must be at least M & S / John Lewis. Cheap stuff not allowed even though it's going to end up scattered all over the party venue
  • All kids take part, but the ones who don't still win a prize anyway
  • Kids pass the parcel with strategic clinginess just in case the music stops (pointless because of point 3)
  • The prize at the end is still always massively disappointing. 
Pass the Parcel is great for two things. 1) Ensuring huge swathes of time at your children's party are taken up by this long, boring, drawn out process (watch parents faces if you do the whole thing twice!) and 2) For lulling children into the false sense of excitement that perhaps, just this once, they will be "THE ONE" (even though we all know that the winner is picked in much the same manner that Eurovision winners are - so it'll be a decision that's long been cogitated over and decided on weeks before your child has even turned up to the party!)

I look forward to the bright shining future when Pass the Parcel has been superseded by "Pass the Smartphone around randomly until the winner is chosen and wins an unlock code for Angry Birds 20"

Thursday, May 9, 2013

how to get princess hair

My little princess seems to master messy hair very well. She has curls (thankfully not as curly as mine) but it's very fine and fly away. It seems to knot so easily and trying to get a brush to her hair involves screaming sessions and ouches that you didn't know could ouch so at the weekend we just let her leave the house extra messy and don't brush it.


But with school each morning and having to tie her hair up I got fed up with the arguments and took her to Boots. Where upon she fell in love with the tangle teezer. We tried this out in Hamleys a few years back, the lady back combed Princess C's hair and then brushed it out with not a whimper.  I was sceptical she had very little hair then and always behaves like an angel to strangers so didn't stump up the cash. But following this a few friends at work happened to say they wanted a good hairbrush as their hair knots easily, I directed them to the tangle teezer and they haven't looked back.
So there we were in Boots and her eyes went straight to a pink flower pot tangle teezer that involved parting with more money than I really wanted but hey lets give it a go. Well its working and she's even brushing her own hair. Its the perfect shape for smaller hands to hold and it nestles in the little pot below that can keep a selection of clips and hair bands in.


She loves it and has told everyone about it and we now have no tears. We have brushed wet and dry hair and combined it with anti-tangle spray for an extra breezy brush. So maybe I shouldn't have been so sceptical 2 years ago when we were in Hamleys and it would have saved us 2 years of tears!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The case of the curiously coloured Tadpoles in Class.

Children's drawings rock!
It's been nagging away at me for some time, and it's something that quite a few arty folk are also concerned about. Are schools trying to stifle artistic talent before it's even had a chance to bloom?

There was a short sharp example of this at School this morning. One of Princess C's classmates is always drawing, and she draws some beautiful (and quite surreal) things. The class has a new Tadpole tank and the children were all busily drawing the tadpoles and the tank.

We were talking to C's teacher and one little girl came up to proudly show off her drawing. The most beautiful rainbow-coloured tadpoles, all happily swimming around in a crayola-storm of cobalt blue, a work that I thought was utterly enchanting, amazing and brilliant.

"Are Tadpoles that colour? Are they really? Did you look?" said the Teacher. The poor little girl looked utterly crushed or like she was about to burst into tears. I wanted to give her some encouragement and tell her that I thought her picture was awesome but there was that moment of nothing that passed between the teacher and I, that silent "I'm the boss here, don't disrupt the calm cool waters of my pond"

So creativity then? With the current strive to produce perfect little robot children who are literate and numerate, do we neglect to allow them the freedom of expression that drawing and creative play nurture? I don't get that. I don't get how there could ever be a way of thinking that literacy and numeracy are adequate substitutes for creativity when it comes to measuring success (particularly at school).

So what if the tadpoles were multicoloured, to me it still looked like a busy and thronging tadpole tank with all the elements in the correct place - the colours were actually an added bonus not a detriment.

I'm not sure what I'm trying to say from the top of my wobbly soapbox but I hate seeing instances where children are put down or dissuaded from creative moments because they're 'not doing things right' - Art was never about right or wrong, even when you get into the more technical aspects of exploring line and shape, colour and shade, anatomy and observation. Art was always about the amazing imaginative process of taking something that you have tucked away in your mind and letting it loose so others can share it.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

That day the bully dropped by...


I don't like bullies, I never have - and after I left school (where bullying was rife, largely uncontrolled and always swept conveniently under the carpet by our head and deputy head - something that sounds shocking today) I thought I'd never see another day where a bully held sway over me or anyone else I was directly involved with.

Of course, you soon get to learn that bullies don't really change magically overnight like you see in the movies. In real life, Bullies usually grow up and merely sharpen their 'skills' in other ways - sometimes even at your place of work.

I lost my cool completely this morning. Something I've managed to avoid doing for the majority of the time I've been in my current role - mainly because someone in my office was being bullied (verbally, thankfully not physically) by someone else.

I flipped. I could probably blame a lack of sleep (didn't get quite enough sleep last night, one of those disturbed nights where deep sleep slips through my fingers like mercury), but it could also be because over the past 7 years or so I've seen this particular bully's modus operandii and method of exerting his bone-brained will on various people I work with. Normally I'd keep out of an argument if it didn't involve me but there was something about the language this person was using, the methods they were exerting over the person who couldn't stick up for themselves (or wouldn't), that pressed all of my 'Hulk-Out' buttons all at once.

To coin a phrase, I lost my shit, big time. It happens so infrequently that I actually felt like I'd gone into shock afterwards. I ended up in front of my boss, explaining the situation (and sounding pathetically like a kid whose opening gambit is 'he started it') and then again later apologising (though not to the bully - though a tiny voice inside me was telling me I ought to, just to prove I was somehow the better person).

I still don't like bullies. I detest the various excuses that creep out of the woodwork whenever a bully reaches the end of their reign of terror and people finally bring them to task for what they've done. I cannot stand the way that, deep down, though you'd hope the incident made them think long and hard about themselves and the way they deal with people - you secretly know that it's had the same effect on their thick skin as a flea has on a Sherman Tank. Most of all I hate the way I now feel like the lowest of the low, simply because I stood my ground and got pretty shouty (and sweary, ack) in the process.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How do you explain the death of a loved one to a five year old?

The "Heavenly Pilots" sequence in Hayao Mizayaki's sublime "Porco Rosso"
Our great uncle passed away a fortnight ago at the ripe old age of 92. Bill was much loved by the whole family, particularly Princess C who found him funny and charming, and always good to talk to (some older members of the family see children as a bit loud and a bit of a pest but he never did).

Today is his funeral and we wondered how we'd broach the subject with Princess C. She would know something was wrong as I don't usually pick her up from school today, Mummy does but Mummy is at the Funeral.

The eerie thing is that she seems to have known all along. When my wife first heard the news on the telephone, Princess C was in the office with her and as my wife put the phone down, she came over to give her a big cuddle. She could sense something was wrong.

Since then, she's mentioned death and growing old many times - despite us not officially saying anything to her. Again it's like she's picked up on something and it's played on her mind.

In the end when we did tell her about Bill, we chose to echo things she'd have been told in school about going to heaven and how our bodies are left behind but the good bits of us, our spirit, our souls, go up to heaven and we stay in here (our heads / memories) and in here (our hearts).

She sat quietly for a while and said "That makes me very sad" (at which point I really struggled not to burst into tears in front of my wife and my in-laws who were present). Though there were no more mentions of it during the rest of the evening and before bed, we flagged it with her teacher for today (who gave my wife a huge hug, bless her) and hope for the best.

The reason for the header image was because we'd watched a Studio Ghibli film called "Porco Rosso" and there's a sequence in it where Porco is describing "the mother of all dogfights" - and at one point his plane breaks above the clouds and all the phantom planes and pilots of years past are all up there, flying in the clear air, forever more. This obviously stuck in C's mind because she now thinks that con trails are those long lost pilots, and that this is 'heaven' in a sense. That's kinda cute.

I'm not religious at all. My wife probably is slightly more than I am because of her mum's influence perhaps. But I guess at our core we all want to believe that death is not the end, and perhaps we do go onto something else (something better?)

It's a tough thing to try and broach with a child and there are many children's books and many well meaning folk who have their own theories and advice on how to deal with the situation. I think we did OK. All in all,  I feel like I'd much rather Princess C had in her mind something that was reassuring, and emphasised that people live on in our memories long beyond the time of their flesh and bones - and leave their indelible mark on the world in one way or another.

Bless her heart though.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Slave to the Smartphone. A Zombie guide to bad parenting.

"Come on mum, push us, we've been here for 3 flipping hours!"
I swore I'd never do this. I swore I wouldn't. In fact I've even mocked parents mercilessly before for doing precisely this. Zombing out on their smartphones while their children look on, wondering what on earth is so flipping important that it's worth glueing your eyeballs to instead of paying attention to what your child is doing.

Part of the reason I never upgraded my phone was that I secretly knew that owning a device that could let you read email, view web pages or prat around on Twitter would be like the kiss of death to an already meandering attention span but when I got my new phone, it became all too tempting to just dive on, unlock, dive into an app and twiddle around.

Princess C deserves better than that. We both do it (my wife and I) and though there are times as a parent where you're more than a little bit fed up of playing yet another round of 'shopkeepers' or really do not want to play that horrible "Tooth Fairy" game C's grandparents bought her, diving into a virtual world of tweeters and emailers is like turning your back on your child and saying "Sorry, this is more important". It's bloody rude really isn't it. So my pledge is to ensure that the phone goes off when I get home from work every night, and does not go on again until I head off for work in the morning.

Could you do the same? Bet you couldn't...!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Politics of Lego and gender inequality

What it is, is a child who does not differentiate between a girl's toy or a boy's toy. (Like most kids). 
I love this picture, it keeps cropping up in my twitter timeline and it's truly awesome. Here you have a little girl who has lovingly created the sort of multicoloured Lego model that Princess C likes to make. She's probably around the same age, dresses in much the same way as The Princess does when she's having a scruffy stay-at-home day, and she's as happy as heck. So she should be.

It seems a bit of a shame that this image is being used as a crux pin and point of argument to try and convince Lego to stop producing gender-specific ranges in their current lineup.

"Lego Friends" seems to be the range that causes the major bone of contention. It's girl-friendly Lego with a whole host of girl characters who live in a slightly pink-hued world where their cars don't feature laser guns, caltrops or chainsaws but are funky little roadsters for zipping around town. The characters career aspirations are a constant source of scrutiny. One girl wants to be a rock star. Another is like a little mini-Lego Zatana and wants to be a magician while still others are scientists or karate champs.

We've written a few things about the range before, specifically the Lego Friends "Brickmaster" book available from Dorling Kindersley. Princess C loves them but by the sound of it we're horrible evil parents who should instead be encouraging her to leave those alone and play exclusively with the huge mix-and-match box of our old lego (which of course she also does, what kid wouldn't want a gigantic tub of interesting bricks and bits to build stuff like the uber-cool little girl in that photo has?)

What's quite interesting in the different ways children play with lego is that some (like me) are clearly builders, more interested in the process of making something out of a seemingly random collection of pieces that - eventually - ends up being something cool to play with. Some also like lego purely for the end result, either having something tangible to play (and role play, as Princess C does) with, much in the manner kids play with the brilliant Playmobil toys they have access to these days (again another hotbed of gender-divisional political incorrectness, apparently).

Lego are a multi-million pound toy business who know their various markets very well. It's not accidental that Lego Friends is one of the company's most successful ranges ever, selling like hot cakes to girls - and even to boys who rather like the fact that the Lego Friends buildings look a lot cooler than some of the drab stuff they get in the Lego City range.

It's also not accidental that Lego still produce their traditional building sets (yes, they do one in a pink box for 'girls' but they also still do the awesome types of set I had when I was a kid and before Lego started machining all those cheaty bits, and just made bricks). Parental ire is better reserved for toy companies who seem to think dinosaurs are a boy's toy exclusively, or that boys shouldn't be allowed near craft or art stuff.



Thursday, March 21, 2013

5 words to chill the spine - "She's Been In Timeout Today!"

Doesn't look very safe that, does it?

Of all the days to misbehave on, Princess C chose the very day we were due to go in for Parents Evening to play up at school. Not just play up, but answer her teacher back - something that she's never done before, and behaviour that is so unusual in her that we were slightly taken aback by it. 

Her teacher beckoned to me at hometime and said "She's been in Timeout Today!" and after drawing out the reasons, that age-old chestnut - not sharing - seemed to be the root cause of the incident that led to Princess C being stuck in timeout for a while. 

Naturally, the bravado and cheekiness soon evaporated when Teacher (the real boss in the classroom) made good on her word and stuck C in the corner. C broke down in tears, started to hyperventilate (this happens at home too, she basically gets herself into such a state we think she's going to stop breathing and it seriously scares the crap out of us!) A slight distraction or a return to normal and it's all over and done with. 

Thankfully the parents evening report was a good one, she's as bright and as smart as we thought she was but even princesses 'play up' sometimes, it seems. 

My reaction was slightly different to @thestrollingmums - I was quite stern. Not shouty, not angry but stern with enough seriousness in my voice that she knew she'd done wrong and didn't try to gloss over it. We made her apologise to her teacher (which she did very timidly) and that was the end of it. 

Not pleasant though. She's such a good kid most of the time but every now and again the rebellious streak we can well imagine developing further as she gets older bubbles to the surface. 

That whole "Sponsored Post" thing...

You might as well write "Treat like Sky or Domino's Pizza Flyers" at the top of your Blog Post rather than 'sponsored'
So the whole Sponsored Post thing has reared its ugly head once again. Don't get me wrong, I can fully understand that some Bloggers have mobilised and monetized their scribblings but, well here's the thing, no matter how transparent you are about being 'on the take' for what you've written, it has the effect on me described above in the header image. The exact same effect junk mail and junk that comes through the letterbox has. More work for our gallant recycling teams (or email filters).

Why? Well put it this way, you're being paid to say something that is effectively someone else's opinion of their product. They're not going to point out its flaws, they're not going to tell you a tale of woe about that time their flashy new mobile phone had an upgrade or security patch and bricked overnight, or the pitifully short battery life, or the fact that its bluetooth won't talk to any other bluetooth device despite bluetooth supposedly being a standard connectivity method.

That's what bloggers do best, and if there's one thing we Brits excel at, it's grizzling and moaning about things we've spent our hard earned cash on that haven't quite lived up to expectations.

Of course, the definition of a sponsored post is pretty broad. You've got those horrible, hateful posts that are little better than a copy-and-paste job from the original PR document. Or you've got those equally horrible posts alleging that life was a bleak dystopian daily slog before "the wonderful Vac-U-Vin 4000 (TM) entered our household and started changing baby's nappy, cleaning the house, walking the dog and servicing the boiler."

Reviewing books, we get sent a fair few and you could of course point out that anything you've gained for nothing is effectively 'sponsorship' of a sort, and that your opinion on that item is degraded as a result. But there's the bit we'd highlight in bold - it's our opinion, and it's often a brutally honest opinion thanks to Princess C's input on the blog and her fairly high standards when it comes to children's books.  We don't get sent anything for here but if we did, we'd apply those same standards.

With that in mind, we'd definitely welcome the current initiative going on at Cybher that describes non-disclosure in its correct terms, as a breach of consumer law and also - worse than that - as a betrayal of trust between you (the blogger) and your readers.

If you're on the take for a post, fess up - and if the company or PR you're dealing with isn't happy with you mentioning this, link them back to the Cybher site and slam the door on their arse. That is, of course, if you give a flying stuff about your integrity as a blogger / writer, and want your opinion to be considered worth a damn...


Monday, March 11, 2013

Princess C's Pearls of Wisdom - part 6

We had a wedding to attend so were getting dressed up. Not often that we look this smart, certinally not daddy and princess C seemed to find this highly amusing.

Daddy you look like a teacher.
Daddy you like like my headmaster.


She repeated it again and again.

Then i was in for it... whilst mid-tight pulling up she turned to me and said

You look just like Grandma in those, why do you wear Grandma clothes.

This one really had me stumped, what am i supposed to be wearing and Grandma usually wears trousers not skirts and tights.

Then I attempted the smokey eye look, not full on 16 year old attempts at the smokey eyes more subtle than that. The response was...

"Gah mummy your eyes, you look like a witch".

Don't think the smart clothes will be coming out of the cupbard for a while with those kind of responses.


There has been a dead pigeon on the way home from school, which someone has now slid under a bush but you can still see it and it gets Princess C a bit perplexed each time we pass. She has also just been on a school trip to see an old burial site... so a few questions were asked.

Princess C: Mummy that pigeon hasn't gone to heaven as his body is still there.

Mummy: The body stays our soul goes to heaven.

princess C: Whats a soul

Mummy: (panic mode) its the nice parts of us. like how you are happy and friendly and helpful. that bits goes to heaven and our body stays here. can you think of any nice things about a pigeon.

Princess C who doesn't like pigeons remains quiet.

Mummy: maybe the pigeons sole went to hell then if theres nothing nice about them.

Princess C: what happens to our body and muscle as i saw bones in the ground the other day

Mummy: we die and eventually we are just bone but our souls are in heaven.

Princess C: so we all go to the ground, will i go to the ground

Mummy: yes we all go to a burial site (really hoping she doesn't know about cremantion)

Princess C: oh good i will like that.

phew!!!


How far do you go to protect your kids online?


It's been weighing on my mind a lot recently that through our other blogs and probably through Twitter, we open the door a crack too wide at times into our own little corner of the world. We're not particularly paranoid parents, though we take measures to obfuscate our online family albums and other details from the wider web...

But if you run a blog that your children contribute to, or are indeed the focus of, how far can you go before you have to wind the string in a bit and start hiding them away from the world once again?

Another blogger who regularly features her kids in her posts made me think that perhaps we've been complacent, and it's time to crank up the drawbridge - but in all honesty, it would rip the heart out of ReadItDaddy if we did that - it would be an utterly pointless exercise carrying on if we did.

We take a few measures here and there, and so far we've only had one or two incidents where people have contacted us for content for the blog and have been just the wrong side of 'unpleasant' - making us dump them firmly in the spam filter, but it does keep nagging away at us both.

Both ReadItDaddy and CanIWalkMummy will continue but maybe with the wisdom of hindsight we'd have done a few things differently. Not much but a few.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Princess C turns 5 - Daddy's perspective

Happy Birthday Princess C - When are you moving in?

It's been a hectic week and at times we've been so busy that time has passed by in a blur (so what else is new?) This week we celebrated Princess C's birthday with what has felt like a whole week of things going on, culminating in a really cool children's party yesterday with all her friends from school and elsewhere joining her in a smashing woodland adventure and party. 

But thinking back to 5 years ago, Princess C was born and the week between her emergence into the world - a tiny little black hole of a mouth screaming fit to shake the roof off - and her coming home with us for the first time was similarly hectic. 

She was tiny, nearly 5 weeks premature and with jaundice which meant she had to stay in hospital along with Mummy. She came out of hospital on my birthday and I couldn't have asked for a better 40th Birthday Pressie. 

From being small enough to fit into one hand almost, to being big enough to give my back a creak if I have to pick her up for any reason, she's amazing. I never dreamed I'd ever have kids, I never really thought too much about it and always thought I was too immature and selfish for them. Dads often sagely tell you that your life completely changes when you have kids and it's completely true. Change for the better. I think secretly Princess C has changed me into the person I should've been all along.

Needless to say her mummy is also awesome - I've never had anyone that provided me with that amount of support, that amount of drive, and that amount of inspiration as the pair of them give me every day. Just like all families we have our ups and downs but I love them both to bits and can't imagine (nor do I want to imagine) what I'd be like now if they hadn't come along.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Birds and the Bees according to a 4 year old

As an only child we often get the prompt of mummy can you get a baby, or sometimes mummy can you have a baby. This is never going to happen, but that's an entire blog post of its own. So to divert the situation we ask Princess C how we should go about getting a baby.

All kids come up with wonderful stories about this. And usually ask in the most embarrassing of situations. My mum will gladly tell you about how I asked how I came out of her tummy on a packed underground train and how the carriage fell silent at that point. Before she could respond I chipped in with did I just pop out.
Readitdaddys sister, and again on public transport (i see a theme here), decided to say to a heavily pregnant lady "I know what you've been doing". She actually thought the lady had been eating all the pies.

So here is Princess C take on how babies get into our tummies and out of our tummies. Its audio not video so to explain that "here" is actually our chest which to her when you have a low cut top on looks like a hole.


She then carried on after to say that a baby is born with little hairs and that daddies have to go out to the shops right after to buy mummies cadburys chocolates. How thoughtful!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

As sharp as a tack...


Sometimes, the best thing about being an attentive parent is also the worst thing. You will undoubtedly spot something your little one (or ones) does that will take your breath away and you'll feel like telling everyone you meet.

Princess C is definitely her mother's daughter, and is (to coin that brilliant and oft underused phrase) as sharp as a tack. Nothing gets by her, even stuff that I'm sure I'd have fallen hook line and sinker for as a kid (forget trying to take her nose off and pretending that your wiggling thumb is her schnozz, she won't fall for that - or for the "Look, there's a dinosaur!" method of stealing her chocolate when she's eating it!)

The other day we were leafing through a fairly well known book and starting to think about how the review would go (for 'the other place, the booky place!')

Princess C liked the book but had a clear picture in her mind who the 'hero' of the book was - and also, rather alarmingly, who the 'baddie' was.

To explain further, the 'baddie' in this story wasn't really a baddie, just a girl who had something that the 'hero' wanted. Kids and sharing are two extremely mutually exclusive terms and of course in any book where the main character is expected to share, expect plenty of scoffing from your younglings.

That really wasn't the alarming part. Princess C noticed, straight off the bat, that the illustration depicted an Asian girl. Thankfully she didn't elaborate further but it completely changed the whole perception and tone of the book virtually within the space of one page spread. The depiction was subtle, but based on Princess C's knowledge of the other books in the series and the programme, it was an educated piece of observation.

Princess C finding something like that, something the authors, designers, illustrators and publishers had missed made me realise not only how sharp she is, but also how cool and switched on she is about things that some parents will probably call "Political correctness gone mad"

Political correctness doesn't exist. Being sensitive to others most definitely does, thank goodness!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Princess C's Pearls of Wisdom Part 5 - Getting Old, Winning Prizes, raiding piggy banks!


With another packed week, we've struggled to remember (and write down) some of Princess C's pearls of wisdom. Here are a few amusing ones culled from this week's pile.

On the way home from school, a key observation on how old Daddy is:

"Daddy, you were born in the olden days!"

Oh it didn't end there though! She went on to observe that:
"Grandma was born in prehistoric times!"


I made it to an art class this week, and Princess C promptly burst into tears when she found out I wasn't going to be home at my normal time, in time to give her a cuddle before bed (aww!) When she woke up the next morning I told her where I'd been and (proudly) showed her my drawings.

She said:
"Did you win a prize?"

(because, of course, everyone should win prizes at art class!)

She also detailed what she would've drawn during the life class...

"I wouldn't draw that man with no clothes on, I would draw a Princess. With clothes on!"

Last but not least, the subject of holidays came up...

She said:
"Can we go on holiday to Lanzarote?"

Mummy pointed out that it costs a lot of money.

"A hundred pounds?"

Mummy pointed out that no, it would be a lot more than that.
"Oh, you should go to the bank and ask for some money then! Or you can take it from my piggy bank!"

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The curse of Merlin the Happy Pig

Merlin yesterday. Bag of lemon drops not pictured. 

The phrase 'making a rod for your own back' springs to mind whenever I think of Merlin the Happy Pig. He drives my lovely other half @thestrollingmum completely mad, yet he doesn't exist - outside my (sometimes rather over-active) imagination.

Yet he is the subject of an ever-increasingly complex set of spoken stories I tell to Princess C to get her to hurry up for school, eat all her breakfast or snuggle up in bed before falling asleep.

Merlin the Happy Pig (as Blackadder fans will instantly recognise) is a character name steal from an episode where (I think) Edmund is talking about telling a story. It's a tiny, throwaway line - yet Merlin has evolved into a character who is about the same age as Princess C, a boy pig, who is almost always constantly either getting into scrapes and trouble - or doing really stupid things like visiting the world's most haunted house, or eating bits of a granny witch's house that is made entirely of sweets.

Merlin's key vice is lemon drops. He will do anything for them, in fact the earliest Merlin stories evolved from trying to get Princess C to brush her teeth properly - warning her that Merlin didn't, and all his teeth fell out when he visited the dentish because he ate too many sweeties.

Every spare moment in the day, Merlin is begged for (or demanded) and yet I've never really put flesh on his piggy little bones. Maybe I ought to one day, write him down (at risk of being sued by Ben Elton, Stephen Fry and Rowan Atkinson!) draw him and let him wiggle his piggy little nose at other kids to see if they have any interest in the world's happiest - yet most accident prone - pig.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Princess C's Words of Wisdom Part 4

With C starting school again, we've all been ships that pass in the night but she has still come out with some amusing stuff. This morning for instance, during the usual getting ready / dragging feet routine associated with schooltime she blurted out:

"MINE! Or I will help you not!"

...while grabbing for the toothbrush. A pitch-perfect impression of Yoda that sent Me (Daddy) into a choking fit of laughter. The irony is she has never seen Star Wars so must've heard me saying it and copied me. Eek!

When talking about getting married and having children

C: "I'm not going to have Children"
Me: "why"
C: "because children are naughty and only I want to be naughty"

another marriage one here:
C: "why do people get married"
Me: "because they love each other and want to spend their life together"
C: "I'm going to marry Tom"
Me: puzzled "whos Tom"
C: "you know the one on my wall, Tom Fletcher, I'm going to marry him"
Me: "i think hes married
C: "ok i'll marry Dougie then"
shes not even 5 and she's far too interested in boyband pictures on her wall. (The reason for said boyband picture on wall was winning a "Dinosaur that Pooped Christmas" poster a little while ago)

Embarrassingly, in the middle of Boots while looking at the Soap and Glory range...

"Those are sexy lady products mummy!"
(Mummy blanches and points out that the security camera spots naughty people)

"But it's OK mummy because the security camera hasn't got ears!"

Friday, January 25, 2013

Playing the numbers game - Scores on the Doors


In a parallel universe where people will gladly tell you truthfully why they blog, they'll probably admit to being obsessed by two things. Numbers and free stuff. 

It's no surprise that the number of blogs is rising exponentially year after year, and the number of bloggers signing up to parent networks to get more coverage (and those all important freebie juice boxes or cat bottom teatowel holders) is also rising. So is it really worth getting one's knickers in a twist about your Mumsnet syndication or your Tots 100 rating? 

Probably not (though the other place's rating dropped over 10 points in the last month, thanks a bunch! Cuh!)

Page hits also seem to be something of an obsession. If your blog gets 40,000 hits a month you instantly become more amazingly attractive to those juice box and cat bottom teatowel holder manufacturing companies so surely that's a reason to carry on being obsessed with numbers and popularity, right?

Sod that. Here's a thought. Don't play the numbers game. Unhitch yourself from the itchy need to become famous through your blog and bury yourself under a parcel force van filled with stuffing for your house because the problem with fame and the acquisition of freebies is that it's a bit like eating Cadbury's Chocolate Fingers (non sponsored mention there, just thought we'd point that out), the more you have, the more you want. 



Tuesday, January 22, 2013

There's ALWAYS time to be silly!

See this guy? He's nearly the same age as me, but the mere sight of him is enough to make kids practically wet themselves with laughter? Why is that? Why is Justin Fletcher (AKA Mr Tumble) so popular with kids (and judging by some of the really odd Mr Tumble fan fiction that exists in the darker corner of the internet, a lot of mums!)

Simple answer really, Mr Fletcher knows that there's ALWAYS time to be silly and this is something that I've always been, ever since Princess C was born.

This morning was a good example. Our mornings are usually hectic scrambles to stuff down breakfast, make packed lunches, pick up piles of clothes from the floor, showers, loo breaks and lord knows what else. Pretty much like your mornings, right?

In the midst of this while stuffing my sandwich box with my lunch, I started picking up random things and trying to fit them in too. Princess C's hideously bad-for-her Hello Kitty cake pop? A banana? A whole loaf of Soreen? Until the whole lunchbox was piled high with no hope of closing the lid.

For some reason this simple bit of silliness had Princess C in fits of laughter, no mean feat at the moment because the poor moo has a horrible cold and sore throat.

Later on as I was looking through my lunchbox I found that she'd sneaked in a chocolate coin (wrapper, empty of course) as an extra bit of silliness.

In the grand scheme of things, in amongst all the sage and serious parenting advice we're endlessly fed by parenting blogs, lifestyle magazines, child care experts and a whole metric ton of long-faced ninnies who would probably spontaneously combust if confronted with a room full of 5 year olds coming down from a sugar high I keep thinking about Ol' Mr Tumble up there and how SILLY he is, and yet how utterly well loved he is too.

Make room in your life for silliness. Leave the serious stuff for later when your kids barricade themselves in their room and don't come out till they're 22.

Friday, January 18, 2013

And they called it puppy love...


It started with mentionitis (as Bridget Jones fans will be only too well aware, mentionitis is when someone slips someone else's name into conversations constantly because they're never far away from their minds). Then it continued with some very funny smiley and silly moments in the playground and then a full on confession. Princess C is in 'love' with a boy at school.

We'll call him Prince F but every time she sees him either at school or out and about, she goes completely gooey and it's so amusing to see. Seeing Prince F riding his gallant steed to school (a bike, not a white charger), Princess C simpers like she's about to faint dead away, throwing her handkerchief on the floor in the vain hope that Prince F will dismount, pick up her favour and present it to her - presumably before riding off to battle a dragon on her behalf.

It's very cute, slightly worrying and a source of constant amusement to all parents who witness this behaviour (including Prince F's dad who thinks the fact that Prince F calls Princess C "Girl" is also very amusing - and they say the art of romance is dead!)

It gets even more amusing when we realised that Princess C's constant badgering about having packed lunches at school rather than the very good school dinners was - of course - because she'd get to sit next to Prince F while he has his sandwiches, probably dropping small morsels of baby bel into his mouth while he handsomely surveys the lunchroom regally.

It's hilarious though, truly!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Being too hard on your kids - WHY do we do that?

It's been a fairly busy and tough start to the year, and after a christmas holiday fraught with lots of "Big Shouting Days" we're almost back to our usual routine. School, Work and those tiny treasured moments at home.

Both being at work full-time makes it really tough when we do get time with Princess C because we often find we have to fit in homework, housework and still somehow cram in a bit of time to slow down and - most importantly - wind down.

We're spending way too much time being hard on C (me more than my other half). I think most of it comes from knowing how bright she is and wanting her to show that to the rest of the world (particularly her teachers). But at times, homework feels like a constant running battle of wills.

I'm reminded of Amy Chua's book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" which I haven't read but heard more than enough from my other half who HAS read it to make me think that being hard on a kid, stripping away their childhood to turn them into some sort of an academic whizz kid will just end up making them resent all that parental pressure.

There's the air of silent competition at school in Princess C's class. She got a fantastic report last time round, and when we asked her teacher recently if she noticed any changes in her behaviour, the teacher said no.

So it really makes me think that we've got to throttle down, stop pouring on the pressure and start enjoying those moments like last night where she was such a happy little soul, deeply involved in a game where she was on holiday, soaking up the imaginary sun while laying on a blanket on the lounge floor - wearing her sunglasses and walking a dog like a caricature of Holly Golightly in "Breakfast at Tiffany's". There's no hurry, there's acres of time before homework stops being voluntary and starts being mandatory so sometimes it makes me feel like binning the lot, flicking the Vs at 'competitive parents' and letting her enjoy her childhood to the max.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A stroll through the WWF Together App

Is your iPad a little bit sad from all those boring apps? Are you finding it hard to be impressed by an app? Are you feeling the pinch as the distance till payday seems infinite?

Fear not because the WWF are here with an app that will blow you away with just how great it is. This is what the iPad has been designed to do.

Its got amazing pictures, amazing videos, lots of facts, social networking shortcuts (fear not for those who do not love social networks, its not in your face, no pun intended) and presented in a way that your iPad will be calling you to dip in again and again.


This is easily an app for adults and kids alike, and at 5 Princess C can navigate around this very easily. Sometimes she needed a prompt on how to chop down the bamboo or how to reveal the panda fact, no help needed to make the sharks jaws come down and bite, or turning on the tiger's night vision goggles.


Each animal topic is divided into sliding sections, and once you have visited all for that animal it folds down into a origami animal that you can print out and make yourself. I love origami and can't wait to print some of these out and have a go. You can then share the story through social media to your friends. I tweeted my story and it posted a YouTube video.


The globe option is great for children who are learning where in the world animals live, the blue areas will tell you where in the world the animals can be found, and facts like how many are in existence, their distance from you (if you allow your location to be sent), threats to their survival and an interesting fact. You can turn the globe around too.

This is a must have app for anyone with a love of animals, there are so many animals already pre-loaded and here's hoping they will add to it. For a free app this just amazing, download today.

Check out the Capptivated Kids Blog for more on the WWF App and other cool 'Green' app recommendations!

download from itunes
Youtube app trailer
WWF together page