Tag Archives: Parenting

Contents of a Child’s Bed

I really don’t know how my daughters sleep. No matter how many times I declutter their beds, within a day or two they’re back to being a complete mess. Here is what Mighty-Girl’s bed looked like today:

MG's bed

This is what was under the pillow:

Under MG's pillow

She sneakily writes stories in bad light after she’s sent to bed. I used to read late when I was supposed to be asleep. It’s what children do, but I really need to put MG and DG in separate rooms so they stop disturbing each other!

I found this summary of Winnie’s Amazing Pumpkin:

Winnie's Amazing Pumpkin

“Book called Winnie’s Amazing Pumpkin yoused magic a pumpkin grue big and shared it with the wholl town then turned it into a helecocter”

I found this start of Hansel and Gretel (there’s a book version I wanted to photograph but I couldn’t find where she’d put that one, obviously not in bed!)

Hansel and Gretel

“Once upon a time there lived a step mum a dad a boy called hansel and a girl called gretel. they were very pour so the wicked step mum told the dad we must go to the forest and leve the children there the farther said no but soon he said ok lit’s do it so they did but the children were a wake and herd so Hansel went out and got peples.”

I also found a complete version of Jack and the Beanstalk, here is the first page:

Jack and the Beanstalk

“Once there lived a boy called Jack he was paw he hat to sell his cow daysy he saw a man the man arsct Jack if the cow was for sail Jack said yes.”

Having a child who is good at writing, you don’t actually realise how good until you see writing by others of the same age. To me, it’s just her writing. Her teacher did say it was like that of a much older child in her parents’ evening. The size of her writing can be erratic, because she concentrates on writing in cursive, and she needs to work on her punctuation (and spelling!) but I do think she is pretty awesome (with the great writing or not!)

I’ve pulled out all the books, and papers, but left the soft toys. I still don’t know how she sleeps! Destructo-Girl’s bed is just filled with soft toys. And the occasional felt tip pen which destroys all the sheets and covers *cry* Aargghh, kids! 😉

[Word count: 409; November word count: 2,538]

Spooky Halloween Games (designed by a six year old)

Mighty-Girl is very keen on parties. She starts serious planning for her birthday party in September every year. Her birthday is in February… This year I thought we’d throw an impromptu mini Halloween party for a few friends (three families including us, seven children between us!)

This was Mighty-Girl’s cue to go into serious party planning mode. She has drawn lots of witches, mummies, skeletons, bats and pumpkins that are now stuck around the house, but I want to share these (in my completely biased opinion) utterly wonderful Halloween games that she designed entirely alone (all her own idea, plan, and execution – I just leave her to be creative, it seems to work!)

Firstly we have Spooks and Ladders, a snakes and ladders game with lots of spooky pictures. I like the way you have to fly across the board at the end of each row, and the really evil snake on square 57.

Spooks and Ladders by Mighty-Girl, age six

Secondly, and in my opinion the best, there is a spooky Halloween wordsearch. Again, completely from Mighty-Girl’s imagination. She made the grid, chose the words, filled everything in and drew all the pictures. I am in awe of her actually and think she’s quite brilliant 🙂

Spooky wordsearch by Mighty-Girl, age six

The wordsearch is quite challenging, she’s added in a lot of misdirection. Did I mention how impressed I am with this?! However, I might look out a prize if you can find pumpkin, because I can’t find it and on asking the expert, she thinks she might have left it out 😉

You can download PDF versions of Mighty-Girl’s Halloween games by clicking on the images above, or the links below:
Mighty-Girl’s Spooks and Ladders Game
Mighty-Girl’s Spooky Halloween Wordsearch

Happy Halloween 2013!

Labelling School Clothes

It’s that time of the year where many parents in England and Wales (too late if you’re in Scotland, and I don’t know about Northern Ireland) are frantically ordering last minute school uniform and dreading all the sewing and ironing on of labels.

When Mighty-Girl was a baby I bought a set of sew-on labels for nursery, and diligently sewed them on her clothes for about two days before giving up. Two years ago when she was about to start school full-time I bought a set of iron-on labels, which was utterly pointless as I don’t iron any more than I sew. It appeared the only option for me was biro scrawled in labels and I really hate that option because although it is the cheapest, it completely destroys any potential resale value of clothes.

Then someone suggested easy tags, and I wrote a review about them a while back. This year as I was searching for the applicator to change tags on two school girls’ clothes (and failing to find it, don’t forget I live in utter chaos) I also knew I needed to buy more backs and saw that there’s now a new system for sale: ‘crocodile’ instead of ‘dolphin’.

I cheekily asked to test the new system and they very kindly have posted some to me, which I’ll write a proper review and compare once I’ve received. But because I work last minute, by the time I write that review the new term will have started and at the moment it’s not too late to buy the tags so I want to tell you about them.

I’ve used the dolphin system for two years and the tags look as good as new. They really are so simple to attach and remove, are completely unobtrusive (they probably won’t work for children with sensory processing issues who don’t even like labels, but then nothing would…) and don’t come off no matter how many trees climbed, rugby tackles made or washing machine cycles done. I wouldn’t use anything else now.

There is only one thing that may come as a sticking point, and that’s the starting price. It costs about £19.95 for 25 tags+backs and an applicator (crocodile system), or £14.95 for 25 tags+backs alone. This may seem huge but you only need one set of labels per child, and one applicator per family, for an entire school career. The only thing that will need replacing are the backs.

For us, 25 tags are enough for an entire school year. That will label:
5 polo shirts
5 winter dresses or trousers
5 summer dresses or shorts
3 sweaters / jumpers / cardigans
1 jogging trousers for PE
1 shorts for PE
1 polo top for PE
1 PE sweatshirt
1 coat
1 pair waterproof trousers
1 other item

I even managed to label a pair of plimsoles with them, and have used them on pencil cases and school bags, plus they’d work on swimming costumes and towels. The number of tags you need will depend but for the average primary school, 25 is probably enough.

After that, the only thing you need to buy is replacement backs when a child moves up a clothes size. These are £7.95 for 50 (which should cover two years, or £4.95 for 25).

In comparison, iron-on and sew-on labels appear to be much cheaper. But sew-on labels involve sewing (looking for the needle and thread every year), and fray so will wear out, and can tear out of clothes. Iron-on labels wash out regularly, and fade quickly. It’s unlikely an iron-on label will last an entire year, and definitely cannot be re-used. Plus thin labels are even easier to lose!

For me the extra expense is more than worth it. Sewing and ironing are not my forte and the thought of having to spend hours labelling clothes every term makes me feel quite ill. Easy tags are so quick, easy and fun that children will fight you to can label their own clothes.

I thoroughly recommend budgeting to get easy tags if you can, and this recommendation comes entirely unsolicited. If you order now, they will arrive in time for the start of term. Even if they arrive the day before it’s not a chore to label because it’s so quick.

When I have the crocodile tags I’ll write a proper comparison review and delete this one, but I wanted to get this up in time for the new school year. I am being sent an applicator and one set of tags to review (I paid for a second set on top), but I have not got them yet and I would have written this review regardless.

Why did I get another 25 tags if I think 25 is enough? Well, I really wanted to test the new system to compare. And, um, have you seen how messy my house is? I currently can’t find my applicator and spare tags / backs. Oops. When I find them, I’ll just have more than enough tags for both children for the rest of their lives 😉

The Magic Finger

MG writes everywhere

MG has been writing again. To be honest, she never stops. She started writing a weekend journal two weeks ago which she kept up until yesterday – she might go back to it but when I asked her about writing it she said “You just don’t understand!” so I’ll stick to leaving her to it 😉

She’s also been writing her own version of The Magic Finger over the last week. I’ve read a synopsis of the book online but I can’t remember the detail so I’m not sure how much of what she’s writing is directly from the story or her imagination but her writing is amazing me again.

So far this story is spread over eight sides of densely packed A5. Her writing is much improved even in the six weeks since she wrote The Lonely Bear, although I think I ought to find her some extra spelling work – I don’t normally do any extra-curricular work because both my girls just learn so much from their own interests but MG loves books of words so it shouldn’t be too hard to leave something around for her to pick up on.

I won’t put the whole book up this time, but here are the first two pages (spelling errors and all – although she’s learning more and more as you can see from the first four words!)

Once upon a time there lived a girl called Eleanor. Her friend Beth came to her house Beth played with my doll first i dided not mined. But when she played with it four a long time i did not like it at all. then i poot my magic finger on Beth. (When i poot my magic finger on Beth a red flash when I did it)

When Beth came to a sleap-over at my house she started to turn into a dolly it went quicer and quicer. in the morning Beth said why do i look like a dolly? “said Beth” maby bucos you wer playing with a dolly “Beth said Eleanor,” well i was playing with a dolly “said Beth.” this secend Beths legs turned silcy nitied legs. and her arms wer turning silcy and her eyes wer buttens. her nose was a butten is well. Beths mowth was nitied red. She had a silcy dress on her.

Soon her hol body was buttened silcy nitied on her body. She was like that for ten day’s. the next day was saterday and Beth was still a dolly. on saterday Beth came to my House she played with a difrant toy she played with a robot insted. the robot was shiny and red. when Beth went home i played with the toy robot. Soon Beth was a human agan she was happy that she was normle again. But when Beth came to my house again and she played with my toy robot for a long time i sor red and i poot the magic finger on Beth and when Beth went bac home she started to turn into a robot. When Beth woc up she said why do i look like a robot. on monday Beth came to my house at my house Beth was still a robot. Beth disidid that she would play with a difrant toy bucos it werct bifor this time.

I was going to stop at the first two pages above, but there’s a lovely description of how Beth turns into a toy soldier too:

When Beth went to sleap she startied to turn in to a solger. at bed time when Beth was asleap she startied to hav a solger hat. that was black and then she started to hav a red gacit. and black boots with black tasils. and a yelloe bit at the top. with red trousers with a yelloe belt. with a black tea shirt with silver buttens. and a red bit at the top of the long black hat.

(MG uses ‘g’ instead of ‘j’ frequently, something that needs to be worked on. ‘gacit’ is therefore ‘jacket’. The only word I needed to check with her was ‘nitied’, which is ‘knitted’ but ‘disidid’ (decided), ‘werct’ (worked) and ‘bifor’ (before) took me a while too!)

It’s at this point that Beth’s mum suggests to Beth that Eleanor has a magic finger so Beth goes to teach her friend a lesson – by sitting her on a chair and telling her not to do it again! It was very hard not to but Eleanor stopped using the magic finger, and next time Beth visits they see a magic shoe and a magic ring! I’m very excited to find out what happens next with the two friends, and in reading all the descriptions that MG is adding. Plus, I love how she’s starting to use punctuation in her writing too.

I have no idea if this is average for a 6-and-a-quarter year old, but it seems amazing to me (of course!) I’ve watched her writing most of the story and it’s all coming from her head even if it’s a memory of something she’s already read which makes her descriptions even more wonderful to read (for me!)

I see a lot of blog posts on how to encourage your children to write. I haven’t a clue on how to give any advice on that because I probably need something on how to stop your child writing. MG was writing in her book whilst walking to school one day this week! Every child is different. MG writes. It’s her passion, and it’s a delight for me to go along for the ride…

[I’ll add a picture of the actual text later, but my camera card is full so I need to clear it off before I can take pictures and I’ve just not got round to it!]

#3Books

Emily from A Mummy Too has set somewhat of an impossible challenge – choose three books you love most: one from childhood, one from adulthood, one as a parent.

Childhood
I stumble at the first hurdle: which part of childhood? How do you define “childhood”? I was reading adult novels as a pre-teen, but was a child until my twenties in other ways (not that I’ve ever truly grown up). In a quick burst of conciousness I could include: picture books listed here (and more besides); A Child’s Garden of Verses; The Hobbit; A Wizard of Earthsea; The Hounds of the Morrigan; The Wind on the Moon; The Ordinary Princess; Narnia; Enid Blyton; The Starlight Barking; Wolves of Willoughby Chase; The Snow Kitten; Asimov; Douglas Adams; Harry Harrison… and I’ve missed out so many.

I’m going to chose Dragons’s Blood (trilogy) by Jane Yolen. I borrowed it from the library when I was around 10 and it always stuck with me, to the extent I managed to track the trilogy down again to re-read in my early 20’s even though I couldn’t remember the author at the time. It’s set in a world where dragons exist and are bred for fighting, where there are two classes of people: free and bonded and it tells the story of how a bonded boy manages to raise his own dragon in secrecy. It’s a fully realised world containing politics, emotions and characters that stay with you forever. Now I’ve written this, I want to re-read them again (and get the fourth book which I’ve never read…)

Adulthood
Here I have the opposite problem to childhood: I read a lot of so-called children’s novels and then there’s my soft spot for vampire ‘young adult’ fiction 😆 I used to read at least one or two books a week but sadly those days seem long gone, maybe one day I’ll get back into reading as much as I used to…

My favourite authors for the bulk of my adulthood have been Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Other authors who have wowed me include Iain (M) Banks; Philip Pullman; Garth Nix… Far too many others, including non- SF/fantasy/horror books if you were wondering…

I’m going to chose Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. A book by both my favourite authors, well it’s a no-brainer. It’s funny, intelligent, and… Oh, it’s just brilliant.

Parenthood
I’m avoiding choosing a children’s / picture book as I really can’t choose just one and I get to talk about those lots on this blog anyhow.

I’m going to choose How Children Learn by John Holt. It’s a very readable book based around a series of memos Holt wrote whilst he was working as a teacher. It not only gives a view on how education should (or shouldn’t) be but also lots to think about in how to parent too. John Holt obviously loved and respected children and is essential reading if you have anything to do with children in my opinion.

That was hard! Thank-you, A Mummy Too, I really enjoyed thinking about what to choose.

#3Books

Advice for new Parents

I’ve just read this post by Mamasaurus and it reminded me of the advice I wrote for a friend of mine expecting her first baby. I am by no means an expert, but these were things I found useful (and she didn’t mind me writing this for her…)

1. Ignore all advice. Except this one on ignoring advice 😆 Every baby is different and you will be the number one expert on everything to do with your baby (Daddy too, but you most of all). What worked for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for you. It’s nice to get ideas, it’s nice to talk to other people and it’s good to ask for advice when you need it. But don’t feel obliged to follow anything, trust your instincts and definitely ignore well-meaning but unsolicited advice – it’s nice but it’s usually not useful.

2. Don’t stress breastfeeding. Definitely try it, persevere if it’s something you really want to do, there are breastfeeding peer support groups etc and plenty of help. It’s not easy. But if you don’t want to, can’t for any reason or just don’t like it (like I didn’t) then don’t stress it. A happy mummy is better for baby than breast milk. If it comes easily and naturally, enjoy it – no sterilising, no bottles to carry around etc.

3. Slings are fab. A stretchy wrap sling is best for a newborn – for example a Moby or a Close Carrier.  Certain structured carriers are not good for babies (they hang by their crotch, rather than being supported by their bottom). A stretchy wrap snuggles baby and allows you freedom to do other things. I never had one with MG but did with DG and it was definitely essential with two: MG in a buggy, DG in the sling. But with one, it saves having to always take a buggy out, if you just want to go for a walk etc. Also apparently you can breastfeed in them, but I know nothing about that. But I definitely recommend. It’s lovely being close to baby but also having hands free to read a book or make lunch…

4. A digital ear thermometer – definitely an essential. Much quicker and non-obtrusive than other thermometers. They’re £30-£40 but well worth it for the peace of mind. I got one when MG was born and it’s still on the first set of batteries. On a similar note, newborns should never have a fever. If an under 8-week old has a fever (over 38C or 37.5C depending on what you read) then take them to the GP immediately, out of hours if necessary. It happened to me with DG at 5 weeks and a friend with her 2nd baby at 3 weeks. Both of us didn’t think it was important, both of us ended up in hospital with the babies. In both cases it was viral meningitis, of the kind that is not dangerous but as it takes a test of spinal fluid to find out, it’s treated aggressively to be on the safe side. In our cases, the babies would have recovered and didn’t need to be in hospital, but it’s best to be safe.

5. A baby gym – essential to leave baby lying under so you can do other things like go to the toilet, or eat! Any will do, I had a plastic 2nd hand one that did fine for both girls but there are also lovely fabric or wooden ones. Basically arches with things hanging down for babies to look at and to reach for when they get bigger. They only last until they start crawling (from 8 months ish) so not worth spending a fortune on. NCT sales are good for picking up 2nd hand ones.

6. Nearly New Sales – search online for NCT nearly new sales. They are fab for picking up bits and pieces that are “nearly new” for very little. I’m now selling more than buying at my local one but have got a lot of bargains at them.

7. Visitors in the early days / weeks / months – let them do things for you. I know it’s hard, I never managed it, but especially with baby’s grandparents, let them cook and clean and do your clothes washing and get their own cups of tea. You and baby are the most important, you need time to get to know each other in the early weeks too. If you don’t feel like visitors, don’t have them. Concentrate on you and baby. The house can stay a mess. You can live in PJs. On a similar note, preparing easy to cook meals for the freezer before baby arrives is good, or live on microwave meals for a bit if you need to! Let your friends come round and cook for you at your house. Let yourself be looked after, you have the baby to look after and nothing else matters when they are tiny and helpless.

8. Routines and baby books – your baby won’t have read the book, it won’t do what the book says it should. Every baby is different, sometimes you get one that fits one book, sometimes one that fits another, more often than not they don’t fit any recommended routine. Sleeping through is a myth – tiny babies have tiny tummies, they can’t eat enough to keep them for 12 hours. If they’re feeding every 2 hours, don’t stress it. It will change. A 4 hourly routine sounds great, but if you’re trying to get baby to stop crying for 2 of those hours then it’s not worth it. I managed to get MG into a 4 hour feeding routine, but she took an hour to take a bottle so night feedings were hellishly long. DG I never bothered with any routine. She fed every 2 hours but took 10 minutes so night feeds were no trouble. DG settled into a day-night routine in about 8-12 weeks, the same as MG but without me trying to enforce a routine. Having tried both ways, baby-led was much easier. But then DG was also a much more laid back baby. So back to my first bit of advice – ignore other people’s advice! :-)

9. You don’t need to buy everything that the lists tell you to buy – most lists are written by people who want to sell you stuff! This is a good list, but again you don’t need everything: The List

10. If you haven’t already, join the Boots advantage card and sign up for Parenting Club – the changing bag that you get free with a pack of nappies is the only changing bag you need. You could spend a fortune on them if you like, but really this free bag is a great size, has enough compartments and has a good changing mat in a bag, will hang over a buggy’s handles etc.

11. Did I mention ignoring other people’s advice? 😆

So what advice would you have given? It would be lovely if you could comment with any advice you would add, or take away… 🙂