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We were abandoned in favour of sitting together in the shade. It is very sweet seeing their friendship together and their joy at tormenting their parents, after all we are outnumbered 3:2!! Happy memories built on long summer days.

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Books are more than just words on a page

Moonface, The Saucepan Man and Silky the Fairy were favourite characters of mine from the books my mum read to me as a child. Alongside listening to the stories of Roald Dahl and tales of the Hobbit. I loved being whisked away onto faraway lands and fantastical adventures, which kept that childhood belief in magic alive.

I still get a glimpse of that magical feeling whilst reading children’s books, both old and new. Trips to the library provide a wealth of choice to delve into any number of imagined worlds. I feel lucky that my youngest still enjoys sitting by me and listening to book after book, and sometimes the other two sneakily, with half an ear, have a little listen in.

Some months ago, I went onto a training course as part of my job to learn about the hows, whys and wherefores to extend children’s working vocabulary and how this in turn informs their writing. Even though children may be fluent readers, they may not be interacting with the text and engaging with the story, or even grasp what is actually happening in the story. It was fascinating to learn a variety of techniques to deepen and extend children’s understanding and experience of the stories they read or that are read to them, some of these skills are easily transferable to use at home when reading with children…and they probably won’t even notice if you sneak in a few questions. Open questions are an excellent way to elicit thoughts and feelings about the story they are reading, for example, how do you think this character is feeling? Why do you think that? Tell me what you thought about ‘the trolls who lived under the bridge’, what came into your mind when the three bears arrived home?

Something I had never thought much about, which made a huge impact on me, was the relationship between the story and the illustrations. Previously, I had just taken them for granted, viewing them as a pretty accessory to the words on the page. I was given a whole new insight into how they reinforce or add meaning to the messages being communicated through the story. There are many talented and amazing illustrators for children’s literature, and now that I have woken up and taken notice, I can see how they are also creating a story of their own. Observing the expressions of the characters in a story, how the pictures are laid out, the colours or scenery they use, the atmosphere that has been created through choice of season, objects or environment all add to the messages and themes surrounding the printed words on the page. These are some books that I chose after attending the course, that have both a thought provoking story alongside illustrations that further spark the imagination:


Books can also inspire real life! We recently borrowed this book from the library and it inspired D and I to play the squiggles game, where one of you draws a shape or squiggle and the other person then transforms it into a picture. We ended up with lots of surprises and giggles…D tried to guess what I was going to draw before I even started (so of course I had to come up with something else to surprise her!). Do you have any books that really capture you and your childrens’ imagination?

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Are you a collector?

A constant battle in our home is the accumulation of ‘stuff’. I am the big bad wolf when it comes to keeping things, and if something gets thrown out everyone knows it was me! After moving house many times over the past 10 or so years, life and its associated belongings get considerably pared down. Funnily enough, I find it really difficult to eliminate the unnecessary and sometimes experience little pangs of guilt, fear or nostalgia after giving items away…worrying that I have let go of something with true emotional significance. I don’t think I ever have…possibly my children would disagree. I’m giving an impression that we live a streamlined, minimalistic existence..not so! Despite my continued efforts there’s still plenty of ‘stuff’/ treasured possessions everywhere.

Recently, we had a beautiful day out at Snowshill Manor, a stunning National Trust property. There is always a fantastic history around each of the National Trust properties, and this one didn’t disappoint! Although it may have unconsciously fuelled their desire to collect even more things!?

The most recent owner, Charles Paget Wade, an avid collector from age 7 amassed over 22,000 objects linked by their distinct craftsmanship. He became so well known for his collections, that people travelled to him from far and wide to sell him their wares. He was so dedicated to his collections, that they took up main residence in his house, whilst he resided in a small cottage in the garden. When guests came to visit he would entertain them in the main house and show them around his collections throughout the main house.

So why do we collect things? There are many theories behind this…an obsession with a particular range of items, a feeling of comfort, a feeling of value through owning things, or because they are connected to someone or something famous which we admire. Whilst growing up, I had my own collection of thimbles. I would buy one from places I visited or people would buy them as a gift from places they had visited. Some were intricate or individual in design and some were just a reminder of places I had been (I actually still have them in a shoe box somewhere, one of the things that has stayed with me on all our travels). I don’t collect them anymore, but for me it was definitely a way to feel connected to the places and memories and I had made on trips and holidays. Now my collection is a collection of memories through photographs and mini films, as I try to hold onto the ever fleeting moments of my children as they grow. Luckily, reminiscing is a favourite past time of theirs. I often hear them saying ‘do you remember when…?’. They already have a treasured set of memories that they enjoy replaying and sharing as the adventures they have experienced so far, with many more to come in the future!

 

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Getting out into nature in the city!

I absolutely love nature, countryside, flowers, fresh air etc etc. On our visits out, I am always drawn to the flowers, gardens and greenhouses. Even though we live in the countryside, as we were already going into the city we made a little detour to visit the Bristol Botanical Gardens. For just a small entry fee, it was such a treat, there was even an activity for the children! Which I wasn’t expecting at all! A little trail finding Bee facts and stamping flowers (with ink onto a piece of paper…not into the ground!?)….this kept them really engaged as they had to search them out.

The weather was forecast for a rainy day, but we lucked out! The weather man was wrong…hooray! We had some beautiful sunshine between the clouds. There was a wealth of information about the varieties of bees in the United Kingdom, where they nested and their habitat.

It was a quiet day, so plenty of space to run around and explore without causing a nuisance, with a huge variety of different themes and displays to enjoy. The Chinese medicine garden was amazing, seeing all of the different plants that are used for healing illnesses.

I loved the ferns, grasses and trees, the aromas were lovely and earthy, which always remind me of my nan’s garden and the same smells I experienced on our visits there throughout childhood and beyond.

The children became quite attached to a black cat, which followed us around the gardens for quite a while!! Pretending it was a black panther in the wild.

There was something beautiful to see around every corner, inspiration for anyone’s garden.

One of my absolute favourites were the greenhouses, so many different greens and exotic plants to explore. The girls discovered a Venus fly trap and had fun tickling the leaves until they closed.

This is definitely a place I could come back to again and again, as I’m sure it changes with each visit.

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Every year the girls write a list of activities they’d like to do during the summer holidays…and every year the things they loved doing best are always the free activities, like a picnic in the sunshine, or those that are a minimal cost. This doesn’t dissuade them from choosing some pricey little numbers!?

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An Ode to an Awesome Man

Sometimes a moment hits where I get a clear view of just how good I’ve got it! We all take the good people in our lives for granted and so here is my ode to the wonderful man I am lucky enough to be married to!

  1. He always has time to make things fun and make the children giggle, with cheesy jokes and cheeky comments.

2. He lets the children be just as cheeky back!

3. He never complains even though he suffers a lot with pain and headaches.

4. He is very kind and patient with all of us…a house full of females can sometimes be a challenge (I know because I’m one of them!?)

5. Gives lots of cuddles.

6. Listens to the woes of both wife and children and provides a new perspective.

7. Always happy to go on family days out, walks etc and let me constantly take photos without complaint.

8. Happy to help, even after a hectic day at work…some direction may be needed 😉

9. Likes to share funny pictures, jokes, videos to bring a smile to everyone’s day.

10. Loves being tickled (ok maybe not…but we still do it anyway!?)

11. Gives wonderful foot massages…even though he doesn’t get any in return (yuk! Can’t touch other people’s feet!)

12. Watches tv programs that he doesn’t really enjoy, just to keep me company (and can’t even see the screen at the moment)

Just a few things to be grateful for…can you think of someone that’s awesome too? Maybe you could share your thoughts with them 🙂

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Are Boys Better Than Girls Or Vice Versa?

My children are always talking about who is the best, who came first, who is the winner. I think this is a pretty common rhetoric for children…although maybe we don’t shed these thoughts and ideas as adults, even if we don’t vocalise the actual words. I certainly want my children to feel that they can achieve whatever they set their mind to, that the world is open to them with whichever opportunities that they would like to grasp, even if they don’t come out as the ‘best’ or the ‘winner’. I want this to be a reality for them, but how true is it that they can realise their dreams in the modern day culture we live within? By that I mean, the expectations, pressures, unspoken and subconscious messages that are constantly floating around them and leaking drip, drip, drip into their minds. I try to be conscious how I communicate with my children (all girls) about their capabilities and aspirations, however, I possibly don’t spend enough time monitoring the variety of messages they assimilate through the media they are exposed to.

I watched the first part of a BBC documentary this week, No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free? I would definitely recommend it as a very insightful watch. The gist of the program is that their is nothing preventing girls and boys, both in their physical and brain development, from achieving the same degree of success…but are the messages that are subtly fed in from our culture and surroundings, preventing this from being a reality. There are some strong arguments put forward that support the view that, although current government legislation provides the framework for equality amongst men and women, the underlying culture has not changed to the degree necessary to literally make this apparent in the lives of the upcoming generations.

Whilst working in education, I have come across stereotyping for both boys and girls on multiple occasions, especially within the primary sector when the thoughts and ideals of children are being developed and formed to shape their perception of the world. Real change will happen when everyone gets on board with the idea that how we communicate with children in relation to their gender has real impact and power, and should not be used as a limiting factor in a world of opportunity.

A take away for me from the thoughts and ideas presented, is to evaluate the media…television, books etc, that my children watch and to take an active role in the concepts they absorb from these. My children love reading, so this offers an opening to input positive role models and characteristics through literature. A few months ago I bought this book which they all loved reading, but what really surprised me was that a long time after reading it they brought up the characters and their achievements during a casual conversation…all of these messages do sink in. Some other books I have my eye on for the future include this series , this one and this one.

 

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So much fun with family this summer! It’s been so good to spend more time together and get to know each other again. Everyone is constantly changing and moving forward, it’s great to catch a glimpse along the way.

The card and board games made an appearance, alongside Lego and trampolining and exploring outside.

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This is the only photo with all the girls together, they were always off in different directions with their cousins doing their own thing. Lots of playing cards, rope swings, hot chocolate, camp fires, marshmallow toasting, rock pools, sand sculptures and sea splashing. Not too shabby for our little camping trip!

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July highlights

A little bit late….the summer holidays don’t seem to have slowed the pace of life yet. Lots of exciting things happened throughout July, I’m always surprised by how many things get packed into our little lives.

  • We had some beautiful sunshine throughout July (which has rudely disappeared for the summer holidays!?), which has been great for being out in the garden, school sports day and lots of BBQs. 
  • The two oldest children took part in the school production at the end of the academic year and really gave it their all in both acting and singing. We also had a treat seeing the youngest two performing their ballet during their last class before the holidays.
  • M kicked off the summer birthdays, with much hilarity during her party where we played some good old fashioned party games, including the cereal box game, after eight game, flour game and a treasure hunt.​
  • I tried out some delicious new recipes, one using aubergines (the yummiest dish using aubergines that I’ve ever made) and some scrumptious mexican rice
  • I really enjoyed reading The Muse by Jessie Burton. I have previously read her first novel, The Miniaturist, a few years ago. It was a gripping plot and I was really drawn into it through her eloquent writing style.
  • An ongoing issue that keeps popping up in the news….something I can never fathom, the justification behind a gender pay gap even being existence.
  • We took advantage of a beautiful, sunny day to visit Blaise Castle and the Toy Museum there, for the first time. The grounds are expansive, with woodland, streams and plenty of open space to set up cricket and football matches. 
  • And of course, a family camping trip to Wales!
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