Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Why why why oh why and other great unanswered questions?

Why do the smallest sweetest looking little boys become the most physical in a group? Patrick had his first visit to the school he will start in September. After a story, some gluing, juice and (just!) one biscuit the children went to play outside.

The class will have 10 boys and 5 girls in, I think this will be a huge shock to the teacher who has had this ratio in the opposite direction for the last 2 years since she finished collage. The mini-testosterone haze already could be felt when it came to the red 2-seater bikes in the playground. The two smallest boys had a punch-up and had to be pulled apart when one felt it was his turn. Meanwhile Patrick was being dragged off the other bike by the youngest, equally small, blonde boy.

The biggest, tallest (not necessarily oldest) boys all seemed to be very quiet and gentle in comparison and when being bossed by the small ones, just did what they were told. I wonder how long this will last?

When asked what he thought of school he said it was OK but didn't want to see that little boy again.

The other why questions - Why do the most girly looking, blondest, longest haired, flounciest dressed girls always have the loudest voice and have the worst behavior? And why do their parents laugh about it? Why do men think that the slightest glint of sun warrants taking their tops off? And why do these men always have the worst bodies? Someone needs to let them know that less is more.

Monday, 22 June 2009

All partied out again!

An advantage of coming from a large family is the never ending birthdays and the associated parties. A disadvantage of coming from a large family is the never ending birthdays and the associated parties. At the end of Anya's birthday week (no one-day birthday celebration in our house!), we had a huge family meal at a Chinese restaurant in Gloucester. Within a month we have 6 birthdays (this year including Meeba's 1st and GG's 85th) so rather than lots of individual parties we had one big one (Anya had her 3rd cake of the week there - spot all 3 below!)
We arrived in Gloucester a bit early to let the kids have a run around before the meal. We went to the newly developed docks. There are lots of posh shops (well posh for Gloucester) that have just openned and we let the children cause chaos in. I'm being indulgent and putting in this photo from the docks;

These photos were taken by Anya in Gloucester Docks, can see a winning entry for next year's photo competition (she didn't win this year but a close up photo of tree bark is being exhibited next week at a local gallery).

Sunday was Father's Day, after being lovely and letting Tim have a late sleep (despite craving it myself after a week of forced early starts by No.3) we went strawberry picking. It was quite busy when we got there but the field quickly emptied as the sky's opened. We all enjoyed it so much we moved onto the next field to pick rhubarb, gooseberries and blackcurrants (they made a fab crumble).

The weekend was topped of by a Children's party (not going to start - promise, even though it was an afore mentioned David Oakley one!), and a speedy visit to the beer garden at the pub on the way home.

My personal big news of the week was reaching a healthy BMI at fat fighters - this is the first time I have been officially a healthy weight for years. I now have to set myself a goal weight - I'm finding this quite difficult as I still feel the same as I always did and I'm not sure I'll ever be satisfied with the lumps and bumps of my tummy?

Quotes of the week - To Patrick when he was talking while cycling up a huge hill "you should save your breathe" he starts breathing very deeply then shouts "Anya, Anya - I'm saving my breathe", repeats frequently until we reach the top of the hill.

When talking to Anya about learning to play an instrument - "when you're a bit older you can learn to play the guitar". "Then when I'm over 9, please can I have an air guitar". Not being in charge of family finances had to refer this one to her Dad!

Euan in the back of the car singing to self - "E I E I ch ch". Took me a while to work out (and a hint from Anya) that it was We will rock you.

Thought of the week - "Music is what life sounds like" ~ Eric Olson

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Six things I love about you

I love that you are different to everyone else, no-one can ever predict your choices, they are tomboy with a pink edging.

I love that you are enthusiastically sporty - where does that come from?

I love that your teeth are all wobbly and you have to show us every day how much more movement there is - you are so excited about growing up but are enjoying the wobbling moment too.

I love that your hair has a mind of it's own - it's not curly or straight, it's dark with light streaks, it never stays where it's meant to - a bit like you.

I love that you feel free to run but sneak back for cuddles and reassurance

I love holding hands with you in our secret way.

Happy birthday Pops xo

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

A whole new level of hell!

Following on from my rant on Birthday Parties I would now like to have a minor rant on first born's first birthday parties (well not so much the party but the attendees - the party was beautiful, food fantastic, drink flowing, birthday girl stunning, birthday girl's parents chilled).

I really can't remember being so precious over Anya when she was my 'Perfect First Born' - her first birthday was a pretty drunken affair as far as I can remember. We had a barby in the back garden - the neighbours turned up with their rock guitars (Drunken friends thankfully kept unplugging them). We played pick up the cornflake packet from the floor using only teeth (it's hard, try it!), went to bed very late!

I'm sure that the first born parents saw my crowd of hooligans arrive, well barge in, and just wanted to protect their girls in white dresses sitting nicely in the shade! The worst moment for me was having to weave my way through the fathers taking photos of said girls to rescue my baby from falling down the stairs! OK moaning over - as I said it was a lovely (but nerve shattering) party!

Sunday was very relax, we spent all day at Shugborough Hall with bikes. We had lunch in the local pub garden on the way.

Last week Anya went on a school trip to Llandudno - 6 hours on the coach, 4 hours there. As a first, she took spending money with her - I'm very proud of her purchases (compaired with the mountains of plastic that came off the coach with her friends). She bought a rock dummy (a lolly pop thing - she has eyed up at every fair and seaside since birth - I think it's dummy envy as she never had one), a spiderman book and a shell (see photo) as a present for me. We had shell trauma on Monday when she dropped and smashed it on the way to Rainbows!

Quote of the week - me after Patrick ran into me "How can you tell if your nose is broken?", Anya "You can't smell".

Thought of the week - "It sometimes happens, even in the best of families, that a baby is born. This is not necessarily cause for alarm. The important thing is to keep your wits about you and borrow some money." ~Elinor Goulding Smith

PS Welcome to the world Owain - this must be the first time his name appears in print!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Yippee for the tomboy

Next week my tomboy will be 6. From the moment she was old enough to say no she has only worn trousers. When she was 3 she went to a Princess/superhero party as a princess pirate superhero - her own invention and the only time in her life she has had a fairy outfit on! Each time we visit the hair dressers she asks for a slightly shorter cut. She rides around on her black bike wearing her Aston Villa kit. Her best friend is a boy (NOT a boyfriend!) And she loves maths.

I hope the peer pressure doesn't ever force her into conforming.

Don't even start me on her pink loving, clip clop shoe wearing princess brother!

From The Times
May 29, 2009
The pernicious pinkification of little girls

Find the link between (a) princess costumes (b) short hair and (c) the number of women graduates in maths and science
Antonia Senior

Where have all the pirate queens gone? Where are the cowgirls and the Supergirls? Today's fancy dress parties divide strictly on gender lines. The boys' side holds a handful of Batmans, a sprinkling of Spider-Mans, some soldiers and the odd cowboy. And on the girls' side, ten identikit princesses, swathed in pink, encrusted with fake crystals.Is this, then, the summit of their ambition, the ultimate fantasy wish of modern girlhood - to be a princess? A role that can be inherited along with genetic mutations from generations of inbreeding. You can work for the role, it is true. Be pretty enough, my darling girl child, and mute enough, and bland enough, and you too could marry a prince. Because every girl's dream should be to lead a life of buffed and pedicured leisure, courtesy of a balding, chinless aristocrat, Whisper it, but the frog, as long as he's funny and kind, would have been the better bet.

There is an alternative to being a princess, a second costume beloved of today's girls. They shun the Ice Queens and the Elven warriors, ignore Artemis, the huntress, and Athena, the wise. Instead they celebrate the Fairy; three inches of cute, winged blondeness, dressed, inevitably, in pink.This creeping pinkification of girlhood is ubiquitous.

Toys and clothes have split down gender lines. It is impossible to buy a gender- neutral bike any more. Bikes come in blue, or in pink; as do baby walkers, and mini-keyboards, and any other toy that might once have been - imagine it! - purple or green.
Girls' jeans come with butterflies and hearts stitched on every spare centimetre of fabric. T-shirts carry cute slogans - “Cherry cute! Hello Kitty”. Swimming costumes are girdled with frills. Next time you are in the park, try to spot a prepubescent girl with short hair, or one wearing trousers. Long hair, dresses and pink; it's Amish meets Disney out there.

The triumph of this pink and cutesy ideal of girlhood is grim for more than aesthetic reasons. A report published this week by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) highlighted the differences between 15-year-old girls and boys' attitudes to learning. Even though girls graduate from senior school in greater numbers than boys across the OECD countries, girls lag behind in key areas. Boys outperform girls in maths in all but eight countries. In most OECD countries, girls and boys perform equally well in science. But in six countries, boys achieve significantly better results. Top of this list is the United Kingdom.

There is a correlation between attitudes to academic subjects and performance. In the UK, girls don't do numbers. And girls definitely don't do science. Angel GurrĂ­a, the OECD's secretary-general, argues that we are complacent about gender stereotyping and that the idea that boys don't do reading and girls don't do maths persists.These girls will one day grow up. Even though the number of women at university is increasing rapidly, they are not narrowing the gap in science, maths and computer science. As graduates then, they leave the lucrative jobs in the City, in laboratories and in computers to the boys. Armed with liberal arts degrees - a useful accoutrement in the marriage market, like a little French and dancing once were - they may marry their prince after a few years pretending to have a career at an auction house. But happy ever after is a lie. Divorce statistics suggest he is likely to leave for a pinker, younger version.

The modern, Western world has emancipated women and made breadwinners out of them. Yet we are imprisoning our little girls in pink straitjackets, and then acting surprised later when their academic ambitions fail to outshine their accessories. Our girls' view of the world is pink-tinted partly because of the supply of cheap goods. When hand-me-downs ruled, parents would be more cautious. Now that clothes and toys are imported and cheap, it matters less if you buy all pink for your first-born, and replace it all with blue when a boy arrives. A T-shirt is expendable when it cost £5 in the shop, and pennies to make in a sweatshop employing the quick, cheap fingers of foreign children.But the pinking process would not be happening without demand from the girls themselves and their parents. Put a gaggle of girls in a nursery and they will copy each other.

If peer pressure is one driver of demand, the other must come from the parents. Perhaps this is a backlash against the Seventies, when boys called Orlando were forced to play with dolls, and girls wore trousers. Feminist theory has developed since then, recognising that there are differences between the sexes. But this seems to have mutated into an insistence that we emphasise the differences. If a girl old enough to choose begs to dress as a princess, it would be dogmatic to refuse. But why encourage this inanity in babies and toddlers too young to care?The mothers of these girls, the careless inheritors of the equality hard won by their own mothers and grandmothers, are complicit in this pinking up of girlhood. Why? These women have themselves bestridden the world of work like colossi. Yet they are raising a generation of girls who, when confronted by a periodic table or a quadratic equation, are fit only to curl hair coyly round fingers, and say, in an affected lisp: “Why are we bothering our pretty little heads about any of this?”

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Bah humbug (or is that just for Christmas?)

I hate children's birthday parties with a passion.

Tim says I'm miserable and they're not meant to be for me, but for me the best part of is grabbing the party bag and escaping the village hall/soft play hell/ over full house and breathing in the peaceful fresh air outside (when I say peaceful it is quieter than inside but normally partially broken but the cheap plastic whistle always included in the bags - but don't even get me started on the waste that is a party bag).

Today's party was for one of Patrick's friends - I always cross my fingers on going in that David Oakley and Dennis the dog aren't stood in the corner yet again. I realise that the performers costs lots (and we even had David and Dennis at Anya's 3rd birthday party thinking we were being original) but I think I could do the broken washing machine routine better than him as I'd seen it so often! I was in luck this afternoon - it was a proper DIY party - the sort where 20 four year olds charge around with balloons for two hours only to be interrupted by shovelling in food, throwing around a pass-the-parcel and screaming because their balloon has been popped. At this sort of party Patch is glued to my side for the first hour, gets his confidence in the last 10 minutes then doesn't want to come home.

The parents stand in their little cliques either looking completely bored/hungover or gossiping and ignoring their little darlings popping the balloons or crying. At the better parties there is a cup of tea, the worst ones are over lunch with no adult catering (at these parties it is normally possible to witness parents piling far to much food onto their child's plate in the hope that they will leave it so it can be eaten by them and not 'wasted').

I would much rather be spending my weekends with the whole family (and this is probably why I hate them as they are always in the middle of the day and only one of the children is invited) doing things that we want to do together. I think that I have been very kind to the parents of my children's friends by only ever holding one formal party (we have held boozy BBQs in the garden but they don't count). One final moan is that no end to this 'birthday party hell' is in sight as Euan has this week received his first invitation - oh joy!

Well after this rant I would like to add that we did go to a lovely party yesterday - it was held at a miniature steam railway club. There were 4 trains running and the children could go on as many times as they liked. Euan seems to have a new love - he has cast aside his cars and can now be heard screaming "chooooooooooooochoooooooooochoooooooooo".

Thought of the week - "Hear no evil, speak no evil - and you'll never be invited to a party” ~ Oscar Wilde

Monday, 1 June 2009

Being dragged back to reality

When I grow up I want to run away and join the Devil's Horsemen. They were so good - I was more impressed than the children but even they got sucked into the shows. The photos below show their Cossack show, think I will be practising for a while before I get to their standard!

Last week was half term and amazingly it coincided with a week of fantastic sunny weather. We made full use of it and went out everyday. The County Show was brilliant - Anya's favourite thing was the motorbike display, Patrick's the ice-cream and Euan's the tractors (he screamed when he was made to get off after a 20 minute sit and had to be bribed with another ice-cream).
We went paddling in a local stream, got the paddling pool out and had outside showers. If this is what the rest of summer is like I will be able to be much more relaxed.

We did have one day of tension - I took the kids for a haircut - Anya and Patch look much better, after half hour of chasing Euan around the shop he came out looking much the same as he went in!

I nearly forgot the most exciting happening of the week. We had a babysitter and went out for the first proper husband and wife grown-up evening that I can remember since Euan was born. It was a really nice night so we took the midlife crisis (otherwise known as Tim's MG) out to the pub in the next village for a meal. Had a really nice time but did do a bit of clock watching, we're not used to late nights! Tim has plans for the next one already.

Thought for the week - "You're only has good as your last haircut." ~ Fran Lebowitz

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