Thursday, 28 July 2016

Experimental approach

I came home from work the other day to find my 6yo making a mess in the garden. As you can see from the photo, she had put all her pavement chalks in a bowl of water and was mixing them up! When I asked what she was doing, she looked up at me and said "It's an experiment. I want to see what happens."

I was intrigued to find out more about the experiment. So I asked her to tell me about it.

"When I put the chalks in the water, they sizzle. And the sizzling comes out of little holes made by the water" she said. "It makes this elephant colour. And the chalks get smaller. Maybe if I keep mixing, they'll disappear forever. I'll let you know..."

I was genuinely impressed by her approach (despite the fact that she ruined a perfectly good set of chalks). She had wondered what would happen if she put them in water and then designed a method of finding out. She was also making careful observations and recording her findings!

Monday, 20 June 2016

Bluestone 2016

We just got back from our fifth annual trip to Bluestone Wales. Our elder daughter had an INSET day from school today, which allowed us to take advantage of a three-night weekend break.

As usual, we stayed in accommodation close to the Village Centre. We took the girls' scooters and trikes so that they could get around under their own steam. On our last visit, we hired a golf buggy for the weekend but we didn't need to this time: our younger daughter is now a confident walker and was able to manage the trips across the campus.

Our agenda for the weekend was to swim and play at the Adventure Centre. The girls are still quite young (6yo and 21mo), so they're not yet interested in or old/tall enough for many of the outdoor activities. They are very content to go to the soft play, use the Lego wall, and enjoy the other indoor facilities.

This makes a Bluestone trip super-simple: we swim or play before lunch, then head back to the chalet for nap time; then we swim or play before dinner, then it's bedtime. Easy peasy!

So, we had a fairly relaxing visit. Everyone was able to enjoy some fun time in the water and on the play equipment. The highlight for me was watching the girls exploring the TreeHouse in the glorious sunshine on Saturday, whilst I sat on the grass and made a daisy chain.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

I'm gonna make a change...

I apologise. I have been neglecting this blog. I published my last post two months ago!

In my defence, I have been busy. But, in reality, not so busy that I couldn't find time for writing. In fact, I have been writing - I've just been doing it for my other blog.

You see, I'm in the process of making a change...

In the midst of juggling family, work, volunteering and life, I've decided to go back to university!

After our youngest was born, we decided not to have any more babies. My husband took himself off to get a vasectomy and I began to think about the future. I realised that I had spent all of my thirties building a family and treading water in my career.

Don't get me wrong - I genuinely like my job and the people I work with. I'm given a high level of autonomy, I get to use my expertise and specialist knowledge, and the role plays to my strengths. It is well paid and comes with a pension, flexitime, security and an easy commute.

But, if I'm honest, it's not a job that I ever really aspired to... and I look around the corporate structure unsure of my next step. Do I want promotion? Yes, that would bring a higher salary and greater responsibility but offset against loss of flexitime, more travel and probably an increase in hours. Could I make a sideways move? Probably, but the team I work in now has the remit that I find the most interesting. So, why not just stay where I am? Well, I could do but I've been in this role for three years (which makes it the longest job I've ever had!) and I don't want to be doing it until I retire!

So, I've thought hard and rediscovered what makes me tick: science!

I fell in love with science at high school. I had some truly inspirational and passionate teachers, who recognised my potential and encouraged me to pursue my interest. My 'A' level years were probably my favourite period in education - I was studying only the subjects that interested me the most and I was good at them.

Seven years later, I left university with a Masters degree and a PhD. But, whilst my undergraduate degree had fulfilled my interest and left me wanting more, my doctoral studies had a more negative effect on me. I didn't want a career in academia or research. So, I set out on the path that led me to where I am now.

But the times I felt the happiest and most in control of my career destiny were the ones where I was a scientist. And I can feel science calling me back...

I have been offered a place on a part-time course in science communication, starting in September. Today, I chose which modules I want to study. I feel so excited about it and ready for the challenge. It feels great to be planning to do something for myself. And it might just lead me to my 'dream' job...

Sunday, 13 March 2016

'Me' time...

I sat down earlier this week to plan how to take my annual leave this year. I studied the calendar and marked the dates of all the school holidays. I compared this with the number of days in my annual leave allowance at work.

Last year, I was on maternity leave. So, I was at home for the entirety of my elder daughter's first year at school. Now, having returned to work (part-time) in September, I juggle nursery, school, work and family.

Between us, my husband and I don't have enough annual leave to cover all the school holidays and teacher training days. We have been managing school holidays using a combination of holiday club, annual leave and inviting grandparents to come and stay.

Recently, I've been feeling tired. Apart from the office closure at Christmas, I've only had two days off work since September. And, when I'm not at work, I'm the primary carer for our 18mo daughter. The family weekly routine involves after-school clubs, toddler groups, school runs, nursery runs, chores, volunteering and paid work. I try to fit in my hobbies (singing and knitting), exercise and 'grown-up time' with my husband. But I feel very time-poor. I wake up tired and I go to bed tireder.

I have a long list of things I want to do for myself. Things that I need to do when the children are both out of the house, so I won't be disturbed. Things that take longer than the hour or two I can snatch during my toddler's nap. Things that need to give space and time. Things I've been putting on hold during pregnancies and periods of maternity leave.

I've been considering taking some annual leave for myself. But it feels very indulgent to think of using the time in this way. I have an in-built conscience or guilt that tells me that I if I'm not doing paid work, I should be looking after my child(ren).

Wednesday, 24 February 2016


My 5yo told me that one of her school-friends has a 'worry box': "If he's worried about something, he writes it down and puts it in the box and it disappears."

So, I asked my daughter if she was worried about anything. [Answer: yes] Did she want to talk about it? (Answer: no] Would a worry box help? [Answer: yes]

I spent some time reassuring her that it's okay to worry about things sometimes and reminded her that she can always talk to me or Daddy or one of her grandparents or teachers if she wants to. I told her that sharing your worries can sometimes help you to feel better and that maybe a grown-up might have an idea about how to make the worry go away.

She didn't want to tell me her worry, so we agreed to make a worry box out of an old shoe box. But I'm not really sure of the etiquette...

I think we should have an 'open box' system, whereby we (as parents) can look in the box and read her worries. It would certainly be very helpful for us to know what she is worrying about so that we can help her if it is something serious or if the same worry comes up time and time again.

But perhaps a 'closed box' system would encourage greater disclosure? Maybe she would be more likely to put her worries into the box if she didn't think we'd open the box to read them?

I'm probably over-thinking it because she's five, not fifteen, and I don't think we need to raise early awareness of privacy issues! So, I'm going to suggest that we make a box with a removable lid. At least that way, the worries can physically disappear if the 'worry fairy' takes them away...

Thursday, 14 January 2016

What lies beneath...

Three years on from Monty's stillbirth, I still go to Bristol SANDS. I look forward to the monthly bereavement support group meetings as an opportunity to devote a couple of hours to my son, to see new friends that I have made, and to share thoughts, feelings and experiences with other bereaved parents.

It can be emotionally tiring, opening up to new people but there is comfort in being surrounded by others who understand because they are travelling on a parallel journey.

It's the club I never wanted to join...
but now I'm a member, I don't want to leave.

This month, I shared the observation that I will be forever broken. It may sound dramatic but it is the truth. I am not the same person that I was before my son was born. I am somewhat healed but I am fundamentally and permanently changed by the experience.

The charity Mind includes bereavement in its A-Z of mental health. In my first year as a bereaved parent, I experienced several of the symptoms listed. A friend suggested counselling and I found that it really helped to talk to someone. But there is a legacy of bereavement - a feeling that something is still not quite right. And I have started to realise that this feeling is simply part of my 'new normal'. It is here to stay.

I found this thoughtful blogpost on Coffee and Crumbs, which gives a sensitive view on what to say to someone who is grieving. It's true that I grieve differently every single day. Some days are better than others.

My bereavement journey continues.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Book review: Meg and Mog

In this house, we are big Meg and Mog fans. I bought a set of six M&M books for my elder daughter about four years ago and we have just started re-reading them with our youngest.

I remember the books from my own childhood, when I was delighted by the illustrations and the funny scrapes that Meg the witch got into with her pet cat and owl. Calamity is never far away, especially when Meg casts one of her spells, but the trio always get out of trouble unharmed.

Our 1yo's favourite is the original book "Meg and Mog". She likes to make a big yowling noise when Meg treads on Mog's tail. It is Hallowe'en and Meg goes to a spell party with four witch friends but, the spell goes wrong... The other witches are turned into mice and chased by Mog!

My 5yo likes "Meg on the Moon". Mog wants to go in a space ship for his birthday treat. Meg and Mog blast off to the moon and meet some astronauts (presumably Americans because they say 'Hi!'). They eat pureed space rations, float about and then head back down to Earth for birthday tea with Owl.

"Meg's Veg" sees them attempt to grow their own food. Meg attempts to control the weather using magic and they end up with a bumper crop!

In "Meg at Sea" the three are stranded on a desert island. They use their scouting skills to survive and are eventually rescued by helicopter after sending a morse code distress signal.

Arguably their biggest adventure is in "Meg's Castle" when they end up fighting ghostly knights and celebrating their victory with a feast.

My personal favourite is "Meg's Eggs" when the eggs Meg magics up for breakfast hatch and three dinosaurs are set loose!

I like how all the stories end with the same word: 'Goodbye!'
And we always wave goodbye to Meg, Mog and Owl before closing each book.

These stories are great fun for young children. They have a great use of colour and imagination and the pictures are fantastic. There are also interesting effects with the lettering and vocabulary. Whilst the stories are too young now for my eldest daughter, she likes to read them to her little sister.

I can see us continuing to enjoy these books for a long while to come. (Just as long as one of us can resist the temptation to eat the pages...)