Being a Parent is Awesome

I’m going to start this post with a mini rant. Since before I even became pregnant, I’ve been endlessly hearing how rubbish life is once you’re a parent. No more fun, endless mess to clear up and having to be responsible and serious at all times. Mostly this has come from people who don’t have kids. But I’ve also seen a number of parents in blogs and social media talking about all of the things they miss now that they’re parents.

So I thought I’d do the opposite. This is a blog post about how absolutely awesome it is to be a parent.

First of all, children know nothing. Now that sounded mean but it’s true. It means that they are amazed at everything new they learn. I remember the look of complete awe on Pip’s face when I explained to her that the sun isn’t moving up and down, it’s the Earth spinning. Watching someone discover every little thing about the world around them and be totally fascinated by it is just wonderful.

Secondly, being a parent gives you complete license to occasionally act like a child. Yes, obviously it’s important to make sure the child is safe, properly fed, healthy and you’re doing everything possible to give them the happiest life possible. Do you know what makes children really happy? Playing! I spend large amounts of my time building things out of LEGO, giving voice to inanimate objects and pretending that Pip is no longer Pip but is actually whichever character she’s decided to be on that given day.

That last point brings me to the next awesome thing about having a child. Their imagination is limitless. Pip makes up the best stories and characters. She’ll put on a costume and suddenly be someone completely different. She’ll make up a whole life for that character. They’ll go on adventures to places that she’s invented or from other stories or films that she knows. Doctor Who has come to rescue Rapunzel from Daleks before!

Children are completely honest. I do get a bit tired of people being polite and not saying what they really mean. I actually want to know if my new hair colour suits me or if the cake I made tasted disgusting. If you don’t tell me the truth, I can’t change these things. I will continue to obliviously have horrible hair and serve horrible cake. It’s great to have a child that will tell you the absolute truth. She has no concept of saying things to be polite or to spare someone’s feelings. Of course, one has to be careful because children also have no concept of what is socially acceptable. If I dressed up as a Disney Princess to pop to the supermarket, Pip would probably tell me that I look brilliant.

Children also have no shame. Pip will burst into song in any public place. Ok, so this usually earns her cheers and claps, rather than the laughter of mockery that I’d get for doing the same thing but still, it’s great that she can do that without feeling any embarrassment. She’ll also strike up a conversation with absolutely anyone. She says ‘Hello’ to everyone she passes (Oh, while I’m making that point, can I just say that if you ignore a five year old who has just cheerily said Good Morning to you, you are a complete misery and are making the world a more miserable place to be).

Having a child has reminded how happy little things can make someone. A single hug can change her mood from grumpy to elated. A hot chocolate completely makes up for getting soaked in the rain. An email from her Uncle will make her whole day better. It doesn’t matter to her what she’s doing as long as she’s doing it with people she loves.

Having a child, alongside being married, has been the best, most amazing and exciting experience of my life. We have fun every day. I love her so much and even when she’s at her naughtiest, I’ve never for a second thought that my life would be better without her. Yes, occasionally I think it might be nice to go out for an evening slightly more often but I wouldn’t trade being able to do that for being a parent. Plus, I know that one day, Pip will be grown up and I’ll be able to go out as often as I want and I’ll probably miss these days of her being small.

What are your favourite things about being a parent?

Fossil Hunting in Penarth

My daughter loves dinosaurs and really any ancient creatures. Learning about things that lived millions of years ago seems to just fascinate her. She has been insisting for about the last two years that she’s going to be a palaeontologist when she grows up. She wants to go digging up dinosaur fossils around the world.

After a little research, I discovered that we didn’t need to travel that far to find fossils. Penarth beach is a great place for finding fossils. So on Tuesday we went there to see what we could find.

We had a walk along Penarth pier when we arrived. There were beautiful views of the sea, of the English coast in the far distance and of the cliffs along Penarth beach.

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We walked along the beach, careful not to stray too close to the cliffs. There were warning signs about falling rocks and we did see quite a bit actually coming down the cliff face. This is actually the whole reason that this beach is a great place for fossils. As sediment constantly falls from the cliffs, so do fossils. We kept our eyes open for anything interesting.

We found an ammonite fossil, what we think is some fossilised coral and plenty of pretty stones and shells.

fossils & stones collage

We also found lots of fossils in larger pieces of rock.

Rocks at the beach

After a long walk along the beach, we sat in Alexandra Park to eat our packed lunch, then home on the train.

It was a brilliant family day. Pip absolutely loved being a Fossil Hunter for the day.

Of course for the perfect finish to the day, we had pancakes for tea!

Happy Chinese New Year!

Celebration days are a great opportunity for learning about other places and cultures. So today, because it’s Chinese New Year, we’ve been learning about China and Chinese culture.

We watched video clips on the internet about people living in China. The CBeebies website is great for finding videos on a wide range of subjects, all aimed at younger children. These taught Pip a lot about how Chinese people celebrate Chinese New year and the meanings behind their customs and traditions.

We used the Barefoot Atlas iPad app to find China on the globe then found out lots of facts about places and culture in China. I really like this app because it’s great either to use for looking at a specific country and getting an idea of where it is in the world but also for Pip to explore alone, finding places in the world that she wants to know more about.

For lunch, I made a yummy sweet and sour vegetable stir fry. Unfortunately it wasn’t a meal that Pip could join in with making but she did enjoy watching me make it and talking about all of the different ingredients.

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In the afternoon, we made Chinese style paper lanterns, decorated with stickers and glitter glue (really they should have been red but these were the colours we had in our crafty box).

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We’ve had a great time learning about China today. Happy Chinese New Year everyone!

June 23rd is Alan Turing Day

If you hadn’t already, you’ve probably recently heard of Alan Turing due to the major film about him starring Benedict Cumberbatch. While I really want to watch the film, I’m expecting it to be brilliant and I think it’s great that a film has been made about such an intriguing and important individual, I’m also in disbelief that he isn’t more celebrated or well known already.

Alan Turing, in my opinion, should be known by all as a national hero. He did extremely important work in decoding during the Second World War, heavily contributing to saving lives and actually shortening the war. He was also an early pioneer in computing, developing one of the first modern computers and early computer programmes, without which much of the computer technology we use today simply would not exist. Sadly, he was also the victim of barbaric prejudice because he was gay and was convicted for gross indecency in 1952, a crime in Britain at the time. Rather than face a prison sentence, he opted for ‘treatment’ which involved hormone injections to render him impotent. Posthumously, he was pardoned and received an official apology from the government.

To celebrate this extraordinary man and his vital work, I want to mark his birthday, June 23rd, as Alan Turing Day. It would be an opportunity to teach our children about him, to remember how much we owe to him and to remember how much our country has moved forward since the terrible days of gay people being labelled as criminals.

Alan Turing Day

Please join me in this celebration. Bake a cake, watch one of the films or TV dramas about his life, tell your children about him. Write about it, tweet about it, mention it on Facebook. Spread the word and help the world to recognise this amazing individual as the hero that he is.

Thank you for reading.

Half Term Plans

Next week is half term for Pip. As I am, by nature, a very chaotic sort of person with a memory like a sieve, I like to be ultra organised for any occasions or school holidays so that she doesn’t end up bored and we make the most of the time together. However, I have learnt over the last couple of years that actually scheduling activities for each day of a week simply doesn’t work. Weather forecasts can change very suddenly or turn out to be completely wrong, events can be cancelled or rearranged or illness can strike. So instead of intricately planning every moment of every day, I’ve simply made a list of activities I’d like to try and get through during the week.

  •  Library visit. We adore books and we’ve read every book at home many times. While Pip still enjoys them, it’s great to supplement our collection with some borrowing from our local library. With the recent fantastic news that Cardiff’s libraries are no longer being threatened with closure for the time being (Hurray!), I definitely want us to visit the library at least once next week. While the final decision is up to her, I try to encourage a good mix of fiction and non-fiction books, books that she can read and books that I can read to her. I think this makes the most of the huge selection on offer.  Normally I’d treat myself to something new to read too but with my literature course in full swing, I’ve already got a full reading schedule!
  • Making pancakes. Tuesday is Pancake Day and I can’t wait to make some. I’m hoping to get Pip involved in every aspect of this task, from helping me think up some tasty toppings, to helping me buy ingredients at the shop, mixing the batter and then putting toppings on the cooked pancakes. I think it’ll be lots of fun with plenty of learning going on at the same time.
  • Learning about Chinese New Year. This is next Thursday (19th February) and I’m going to use the occasion to teach Pip about China and Chinese culture. As a nice crafty activity, I think we’ll make some Chinese flags and lanterns and then have some Chinese food for lunch or dinner. Celebratory days are a great way of introducing children to different cultures and teaching them about different places around the world.
  • A day out. I always like to have one big day out during a half term. At the moment, I’m planning to take Pip to the beach at Penarth. We haven’t been to Penarth in years, since before we actually moved here and Pip was too little to remember that so it’ll be a new place to her. It’s also reputedly a great place to find fossils so I thought we’d do a little hunting as Pip recently expressed an interest in starting her own collection. It’ll also be a nice opportunity for some photography. Of course, this all depends on weather so I’ve also got a few indoor places like museums as a back up plan but at the moment, the forecast is looking ok.
  •  Visit from a friend. I’ve arranged for a school friend to come and play one day next week. It’ll be nice for Pip to get some social time outside of school. Pip’s hoping to share some of her favourite tabletop games and with such a large collection, it should keep them entertained for a long while.
  • Lots of little activities. For the times in between the big things I have planned, I’ve also got lots of little things too. Worksheets, colouring in sheets, art & craft, reading, films to watch and, of course, loads of games to play. These not only  keep Pip entertained for the entire week but also mean that if something does go wrong, we’ve got plenty to keep us busy in any case.

Obviously there’ll be lots of blog posts all about what we’ve gotten up to so watch out for those.

What are your favourite ways to spend half term? Have you got any exciting plans?

10 ways to Learn at Home

In the past, I’ve blogged a lot about teaching Pip at home and we even considered home education for a while. In the end, we made the decision to send her to school but that doesn’t mean the end of learning at home!

I’m very much of the opinion that education can and should continue at home. And no, I do not mean doing homework! Children learn through everything they do and there’s no need for it to be boring or hard work. Most of Pip’s reading, writing and maths skills have been learnt at home, plus lots of other knowledge about the world around her. So here are our favourite ways to learn at home:

1. Tabletop Games 

If you read this blog regularly, you might have seen this one coming! Tabletop games are extremely varied and fantastic for developing all kinds of skills, from reading and maths to important social skills like cooperation, taking turns and being a good sport – whether you win or lose! My recommendations include Roll For It, Hoot Owl Hoot, Skunk Bingo and Race to the Treasure. There are also story card games, like Tell Me a Story, which are great for creativity and logic and also a card game called Foodeeze, a kind of food top trumps which is brilliant for teaching about healthy eating.

Tabletop games

2. Worksheets

I know this might sound boring but it really doesn’t need to be. I keep a selection of letter and number formation, simple maths sums and filing in the missing letter sheets for Pip to do at times when I need to do some housework or cooking or just when she wants them. She gets a real sense of achievement from completing them and I often give her a little sticker as reward. I make many of my own worksheets but I also use Twinkl and other internet resources for them.

3. Barefoot World Atlas App

This is my favourite app for children and it’s been immensely useful for teaching Pip some geography and about other places and cultures in the world. She loves just exploring it on her own or we use it together. I ask her to find countries or to show me where you’d find certain animals. Where she’s taken a particular interest in a place, it’s led to lots of other research and learning. It’s a really good educational resource.

4. The Internet

Used correctly, the internet is the most valuable source of learning available and teaching a child to use it is, I think, vital. We regularly choose a topic and use the internet to research it, looking at photos and videos to really engage Pip. Recently it’s already started helping with homework she’s given from school. Sometimes it’ll lead us to printing off things for her to do like colouring in or worksheets or just a picture of something that’s really interested her to keep. I’m planning to paint an decorate a small cardboard box for her to keep things in such as pictures we’ve printed, her drawings and anything else that she’d like to keep.

5. Books and the local library

Pip owns a large number of books. Most are storybooks, some are non-fiction books on various subjects. She has a set of books designed for helping her learn to read. We regularly visit our local library to find more books to read. I try to encourage to pick up at least one non-fiction book while we’re there too. From books, she’s learnt about volcanoes, where our clothes come from, about different animals, history, geography and, her favourite subject, dinosaurs.

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6. Local leisure centre

Physical activity and social skills are essential parts of education. Of course, school provides plenty of both but I think it’s a good idea to have social time and exercise outside of school too. We go swimming at our local leisure centre and Pip went to a Halloween party there last year but I don’t feel like I’ve taken as much advantage of the facilities as I should. I’m already planning to take her to at least one activity session there during half term, when she’ll inevitably be missing her school friends.

7. Museums & Local Places of Interest

If you look around your local area, there are lots of often low cost educational opportunities. For example, Cardiff, where we live, has two museums just in the centre of town, plus a castle which is free for local residents. Within not too far a distance there’s also Techniquest and a Wetlands Reserve in Cardiff Bay and St Fagan’s Museum to the west of Cardiff. There are also lots of events and activities going on all the time. Pip’s favourite days out usually involve at least one museum visit and a trip to Cardiff castle to see the owls that live there. It’s a great hands-on way to learn and gain knowledge in new ways.

8. Parks

Teaching children about nature and wildlife really requires an outdoor space. With no garden, we go on regular walks in our local park. It’s all about encouraging her to notice things – talking about different seeds and things we found on the ground, being quiet for a moment to hear the different birds, talking about how things have changed with the seasons.

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9. Art and craft

Creativity and expression are very important in child development. In every topic we learn about, I try to think of a creative activity associated with it. I also let Pip freely express herself creatively too. We use paints, pencils, crayons, play dough and beads. I love watching her come up with her own ideas then work out how to carry them out.

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10. Preparing Food

Cooking and food preparation are important life skills, plus it involve lots of other skills – following a recipe involves reading, thinking methodically, using scales to weigh ingredients. We make sandwiches, pizzas, pastries and lots of other simple meals, plus lots of baking! It’s also a good way of talking about which foods are healthy and why and what a healthy meal should consist of.

Food prep

How do your children learn at home? Please share any ideas!

Anonymous Blogging

I am an anonymous blogger. You, my dear reader, do not know my real name or the real names of my family members. You do not know what I look like. You do not know where I live, beyond being somewhere in Cardiff, quite a large city.

There are reasons for this. Reasons I am not going to dwell on here. I decided last year that this blog is going to be a positive one, about fun and family life. If you’re longtime reader (or you’re one of the family members or friends that read this) you’ll know the reasons. You could even look at my much older posts to find out why. All I shall say is to assure you that I have very good reasons.

What I want to really talk about in this post are the challenges of anonymous blogging and how I’ve tried to overcome them.

Challenge no. 1 – Lack of familiarity

While my personal feeling is that my inner self is who I am, rather than the body I inhabit (yes, I’m getting all philosophical now. You can blame my recent studying of the Romantics!), I do know that if you can see someone’s face and hear their voice, you can feel as if you know them. You can picture them in your mind while you read their writing. I do worry that my readers don’t feel like they can really know me without photos of me.

I have tried to overcome this problem, firstly, by being totally honest. My readers get my honest feelings and opinions. You get to know how I spend my time and what I enjoy. I like to think that through my writing, you get a sense of who I am. I hope so, anyway. I also have tried to include as much in the way of photographs as possible, plus a few videos that even include my voice. I hope that this helps to get a sense of me as a real person, rather than just a blog.

Challenge no. 2 – Limitations 

I have had to turn down reviews that would require photographs of me or my daughter using something. I can’t take part in blogger challenges or linkys that would similarly involve personal photos. This really limits what I can do on my blog and how much I can be involved in the blogging community, something I would love to do more of.

As for the reviews, there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ll continue to review products and places that I can and try not to let it get me down. As I already said, I do try to include lots of photographs on this blog but I think I could be doing more. I need to try and think more creatively about photography so that I don’t feel so limited and the blog doesn’t appear to be limited to readers. If I’m aiming to present a blog about family life and fun then there should be more to show that. I will try my best to improve on this one!

Challenge no. 3 – No real life interaction

I considered going to an event like Britmums Live but the horrible truth is that I simply can’t do it. I can’t expect other bloggers to keep my identity a secret. Photographs could be taken and captioned and then I’d have to give up blogging altogether, which I would hate. I have met one blogger in real life but it seemed a bit silly to try and hide who I was from her when she is the co-owner of my local games shop, Rules of Play, which we visit quite a lot and I review just about everything we buy from there.

The only thing I can do to even try and overcome this is to try and connect with other bloggers and the blogging community online as much as I can. I read and comment on other blogs, I take part in linkys and challenges that I’m able to and I’m pretty active on social media. There is, of course, always room to improve and I’m going to keep trying harder to connect with bloggers more.

I hope this post has helped anyone else who blogs anonymously or has just given more of an insight into anonymous blogging. It’s challenging but, I think, also rewarding. I love blogging and I hope I’m creating a blog that my readers enjoy.