Wednesday, 3 September 2014

A New Chapter: Starting School

It's been an age since I blogged, I know.  I'm not sure I can even remember how - but here goes:

An era ended recently and a new chapter has begun.

'Babyzoid' has started school.

Yes, I know! It seems like only yesterday I was being vomited on for the tenth time in a day, or worrying that my darling daughter had turned puce from 5 days without a number 2.  Oh them were the days...

But now, here she is. Big. Grown up. No longer a baby, or a toddler - not even a pre-schooler (I'll make myself cry in a minute - my little girrrrl!) Like I haven't already - nooooo, no tears from me on the first day of "big school" (yeah, right - worst day EVER).

So what now? She is officially a schoolgirl. And doesn't she make a beautiful one (naturally)?

Of course, I needn't worry. As my daughter tells me every day, "I'm  big girl now, Mummy! I can even flush the toilet! BY MYSELF!" (we have a difficult flushing mechanism...)
Oh she'll be fine, I know, and she's been so excited.  But you do worry, don't you?

Will she behave? 
Will she do well?  
And most importantly of all at this age:
Will she make friends? 

She's left a lot of friends (some really good ones) behind at playschool and naturally they will move on - be it at other schools or at playschool still, but thankfully some have started with her.  Indeed she has three very good friends in her class and the class next door.  It's also nice for me to have friendly faces I can chat to at drop-off/pick up and maybe take a stroll to the playground with on a nice day. After all, it's not just a transition for the children - it can be tough on the mummies too when you're part of a group one minute - then you're suddenly not and it all carries on as if you were never there.

But yes, if there's one thing my daughter can do it's make friends, so I suppose I needn't worry.

But you do, don't you....

Have any of you been through this? How did your children cope? How did you cope? How did you help your children in forming new friendships?

Monday, 3 February 2014

Girls will be girls will be princesses...

I really shouldn't do this: Ignore my blog for MONTHS then catch people on the hop with a quickfire succession of new posts (okay, this will be post number 2...). I'm amazed when I come back and still get views and comments (thank you so much!) Perhaps that's it. Perhaps I think, a-ha! They have not deserted me. I should write MORE! For a week or two...

Let me just down a can of Diet Coke and see what comes out!

(Which is incidentally, what is now happening).

Should I do an update? I feel I ought...

I've been dog-collaring. The business that I started a while ago (in a stop-start fashion) started to go quite well so it has been taking up time. Like a PROPER business! Yikes! That said, with the illness, then death of my father-in-law, things stuttered a bit but I'm starting to get back on track.  I'm in a bit of a vicious circle quandry at the moment of needing a website (expensive!), needing to get to dog and country shows (expensive!) and needing a heck of a lot of stock for both of the former (Expensive! Time-consuming! Busy, busy!)

So there's been that....

But there has also been the writing.  I'm really trying to get something going there too. I have two passions, in a professional sense - why can I not go for both? No reason. That's what I say!

So I've been writing lots. Exercises. Developing characters. Learning the mechanics of my favoured formats (Plays - radio and theatre) and have even committed to going to a BBC Writersroom/theatre-run workshop in April, followed by the Playwriting competition final  show that the theatre has just conducted.

I've also been trying to re-learn rules of grammar - as I'm sure you can tell from my not at all fast-and-loose writing style *cough*


And of course, I'm still a mum!  Babyzoid is now 4 years and 4 months and she's turned into a bit of a girly, truth be told.  I mean, she still likes running around with the various weapons that make up her own personal armory, but she plays with dolls now. And not just any dolls, some of them are Disney Princesses.  Ugh.

This has led to me deciding that the time is right for my girl to learn the concept of feminism, though my husband thinks I'm ridiculous for even trying at this age. I disagree, of course. You're never too young to start learning that gender should not hold you back in any way!

Me: Your favourite is Aurora? Really? As in the one that is wrapped in cotton wool then pretty much sleeps FOREVER and has to wait to be recued? By a MAN? THAT'S your favourite princess? 

BZ: Yes mummy. I want her pink dress!

Me: But what about Rapunzel? She hits whatsisname with a frying pan and has to save his bacon on more than one occasion. Do you not think that's AWESOME? And Merida! She runs around firing arrows at everyone and refuses to kiss any of the dirty, smelly boys!

BZ: Well yes mummy, I like them too. But I still want to dress up as Aurora. She has such pretty hair. Like me!  Do you think Nanna will make me a pink ball-gown?

Me: *sigh*

Yes, I'd be very worried about the lessons my daughter is learning from these old-fashioned meek, lovelorn princesses, if I didn't then hear my daughter enacting a really violent scrap between Aurora and Rapunzel, with Belle then telling them both to stop being naughty or they will have to go to their rooms! And when the Monster High dolls get involved, well... we have full on gang-wars.

So I think that my daughter will be just fine.  She might have suddenly started liking pink since she's made friends with some of the girlier girls at playschool (I'm seeing Heathers, further down the line...) But she's still very much the feisty, strong-willed little girl she has been all along.  After all, she stood up to mummy very forcefully regarding her favourite Disney Princess, didn't she?

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Losing a Grandparent

'0528 my decorations' photo (c) 2007, David Morris - license: daughter lost her Grandad just after the new year. It is the first time she has experienced loss and grief, and as a parent I am not entirely sure how I should be dealing with it.

Having been diagnosed with cancer for many years, but being in reasonable health the adults in our family of course had time to mentally prepare - in a way. I mean, you can't ever truly prepare, but you know it will come eventually.  It still happened quite suddenly though. Lots of illness over the course of the year, but once it became life-threatening - well, there really wasn't long.

It's not difficult to support adults through a time of grief.  You kind of know what you need to do because you they understand what is happening.  My husband lost his father and mother-in-law her husband. Both are naturally devastated (we all are). But both are healing and coping very well.  And I'm just trying to play my part the best I can

But how do you help a 4 year old through the grieving process?

She's at the age where nothing gets past her. She's not going to forget in a hurry, not like if she were a year old.  The questions are coming thick and fast. Where is Grandad now? Why won't I see him again? If we visit his grave and I talk to him, will he hear me?

I don't have a faith and I don't know what answers to give.  I'm not comfortable with imparting my version of harsh reality, yet I can't give a definite "Grandad's in heaven"  My husband is the same.  We have however talked about various beliefs surrounding death so that she can hopefully latch on to what makes the most sense to her.

But it really is upsetting to see your child struggling with grief - especially when coupled with incomplete comprehension.

I've read the expert advice I've found online.  But I'd like to ask if anyone has been through the loss of their children's grandparent?  What did you find helped?

Out of nowhere my daughter asked to visit Grandad's grave again this morning. So tomorrow we will take flowers and she can tell him about her week.


Friday, 20 December 2013

The Trussell Trust: Food Banks

Christmas is almost upon us and the excitement is building.  No doubt the gifts have already been bought, maybe even wrapped, and are waiting for their chance to form a gloriously disheveled heap under the tree in your warm, cosy home.

I doubt there are many people reading this who haven't felt the financial bite of austerity, yet even though Christmas might not be as lavish as years past, most are still able to indulge in a little luxury in the company of loved ones.

Except that not everyone can.  Some cannot actually afford to feed themselves and their families.

Can you imagine?

Having to choose: pay to keep the roof over your head, or eat.   With half a million people currently using food banks in the UK, this is happening more and more.  It really shouldn't be in this day and age.  Yet this week showed us that not all politicians - particularly those with the power to tackle food poverty - are taking the issue seriously.

And so it falls on the rest of us in society to help our friends and neighbours.  After all, there but for the grace of God...

Today I took my daughter to donate a bag of food to a food bank.  There are three collection points in our village.  I waited until I had picked my daughter up from playschool because I wanted her to come with me.  I wanted to explain to her why we were giving away food and why we must always look out for those who are not as fortunate.

We don't have an awful lot ourselves at this point in time.  I have just started a business, and anyone who has done this knows that it is not the path to instant riches.  But as a family we still have enough.  I like to think that if we didn't, we would receive help.  Indeed we have received help from our generous families.  And for that we count our blessings.

Personally, I feel the help a society gives to those who are struggling should not have to come directly from its citizens in the form of charitable handouts, reminiscent of the almsgiving of feudal Britain.  But with the absence of a real living wage and the ever-increasing squeeze on income - both earned and welfare, a 21st century version of that is how it must be.

We donated food through a Trussell Trust food bank collection point.  If you are in a position to do the same, then please visit the link below and find a collection point local to you.

Trussell Trust Food Banks Network

Monday, 7 October 2013

Review: Seagate STBV3000200 3TB Expansion USB 3.0 3.5 Inch Desktop Hard Drive - Black

It's been a while since I've done a review because, well, I'm a wee bit picky.  I will only review items what I can genuinely use or am excited about because I am a woman of very little time - and I know that most of my readers (especially the mummies) are time-pressed too.

So I was really chuffed to be offered the chance to review a hard-drive by Tesco Compare home insurance.  I'm also chuffed to be able to use the word chuffed, but there you have it! 

It arrived nice and promptly through the post, even if the postman did leave it in the garden by my car-tyre - but as I'm not reviewing the Royal Mail I'll move on...  

Just in case you're not sure what the devil this product actually is, it's an external storage drive for one's computer, laptop or tablet - as long as it has a USB port and uses Windows 7,8 or XP, you can use it (though check the product spec, of course).  It's kind of like having a secure outhouse in which you can store all the items you really need to keep safe.  A cyber-safety deposit box, if you will!

And if you've ever frozen in horror as your computer died and you lost all those photos you'd lovingly been taking and transferring onto your computer, like my preemie twins friend once did, then you'll understand the value of one of these.  There can be nothing worse than losing all your treasured memories in one fell blue-screen swoop - and funnily enough, I was just contemplating back-up options when I was offered this product to review.  

Now, we all know about cloud storage - and I'm all for it.  I have Dropbox and I LOVE it, but I don't want to keep paying monthly to extend my data allowance - and I did use up my quota some time ago.  So I would find myself transferring files out of my Dropbox and onto my laptop, nervously pushing out of my mind thoughts of said laptop dying on me.  And as I'm now a businesswoman and work at home mum, I have lots of documents and files I need backing up on a daily basis.  

So to the actual product:

If you look at the picture you will see that the box contains the drive itself and some cables.  I worried when I saw it all - but on closer inspection I found that actually you only need the drive, the USB cable and the lead with the British plug on it.  There are also other plug options which will be very handy when i become a global jet-setting business-woman extraordinaire (!) But seriously, it is so, so simple to set up.  I had a glance over the instructions but really, you just plug and go.  You receive the usual registration prompts and I had absolutely no difficulty in completing this process.  I had a scout around online and saw that some folk did have issues, but not me.  It was completely straight forward, as was transferring my files.  

Aesthetically, the drive is ideal in that it is sleek and unobtrusive.  I still have the box but it's so compact that I just tuck it under my desk when it is not in use.  I have used it several times over the weeks that I've had it, and it has been brilliant.  It also means that I can take my work out with me without having to take my laptop, assuming I'm going somewhere with a computer, of course!  And as I visit family oop north and have a car-full, this helps me out tremendously as I hate taking my laptop unless I absolutely have to.

I checked out the price on Amazon and it is really reasonable (and currently on offer with 36% off the RRP at the time of writing).  The star-rating collated from all the reviews currently stands at 4.5 out of 5 with many reviews being positive.  I will use it in conjunction with cloud storage, with the Seagate drive being my main system of file back-up.  

If you wish to check it out then copy and paste the item name from the blog title into Amazon.

*Disclosure: I was sent the product free of charge from Tesco Compare Home Insurance and was allowed to keep it.  I was not paid for the article and was asked to be honest in my review, which of course I would insist upon.  Therefore, as ever, all opinions are mine and written with integrity.


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