Thursday, 27 June 2013

Family holiday...dream or disaster?

I knew this year's summer holiday would be quite a challenge. Those silent readers I have will already know about my two nieces who now  live with us, making for a very busy house with 4 young children.This is the first time we have all been on holiday together, and yes, it is indeed a challenge. I would like to be a glamorous Victoria Beckham/Angelina Jolie type, juggling multiple kids with a busy life and taking everything in my stride. So far on this holiday I am more like Victor Meldrew, a big grump unable to see the funny side of things. I am determined to change my attitude and enjoy my much needed break. The straighteners have been unpacked and my oversized sunglasses are on, so I'm feeling a bit more Beckhamish.  Today's blog centres around how to survive a family holiday and stay sane.( I suspect it may take a while due to being interrupted every two seconds).
I have discovered to my horror, that I actually have 3 moody teenagers disguised in pre-pubescent bodies. The 4  year old is often behaving more like a cranky 2 year old determined to get his own way. I am hoping once the jetlag wears off they will return to their original selves. Waking up time so far has ranged from 3.30 to 5.30, only recently heading towards a more bearable 7am. The plus side of all this is that my husband is now fully aware of how tiring it is to look after 4 children, unfortunately, said husband falls asleep approximately 5 minutes after the children.
I thought I would escape the endless trips to Tesco, but all that has changed is the shop name, I now know where to locate all my shopping list in Walmart. Next visit, I will be buying in bulk, food shopping is not going to be a daily event.
Of course kids love going swimming, I get that. However, constantly being harassed by four swim addicted kids is slowly driving me insane. Even telling them they have to wait till the suncream soaks in did not work. My son set a fifteen minute countdown on his phone, and constantly told me how long was left till the alarm went off. On the subject of suncream, constantly applying sun cream to so many people is not much fun, but I've discovered the spray kind is much quicker and easier. I find it quite enjoyable watching them squirm at how cold it is when I apply it. I'm considering puting it in the fridge for extra jump factor.
I am pleased to say the addictions to modern technology are slowly wearing off. The sulking and bored expressions are being replaced by smiles and the use of their imaginations. It's amazing what the threat of some holiday homework can do!
Constant reminders that there are 8 people on holiday and it's not all about doing what the kids want are finally starting to work, without so much fuss. I'm no longer fed up shouting at the kids to stop running in the house, as it's very comical to watch them instantly switch to skipping. Maybe there is hope for this holiday yet...
After all, there have been good things too. The man in the villa across from us fell in the river while cutting the grass, which appealed to my slightly sick sense of humour, the look on my mum's face as she was tricked into trying a Harry Potter vomit flavoured jelly bean was priceless, aligators on our doorstep are far more exciting than the occasional fox at home, and bagels with cream cheese and strawberries for lunch sitting in the sunshine is one of life's great pleasures.
No, it's time for me to stop complaining and make the best of what has the potential to be the best family holiday yet. My inspiration from now on shall be the house around the corner...I will try to keep my angry inner monster truck at bay, and let more of my contented, peaceful gnome collecting self out.(please note, I do not actually collect gnomes).

Saturday, 15 June 2013

How children think.

I recently found a very interesting article on the findings of a BBC Radio 2 competition. The competition invited children up to the age of 13 to submit short stories, and the entries were analysed  by the Oxford University Press, to try and give an insight into the way children think. The article is  useful to me as a children's author; the information gathered clearly indicates what appeals to modern children through the topics they chose to write about. I was pleased to read that textspeak was "not as common as you'd think", and that "fantasy still rules over technology". Many parents, myself included, fear that computer games, ipads etc. are killing off our children's imaginations, it is reassuring to read that children are still choosing to write fairytales and ghost stories. Admittedly, there were mentions of iphones and games consoles, but as the article pointed out, "Blackberries are still usually blackberries". The link to the article can be found here:

On a more personal note, I have become fascinated by the way children think, and express their views on the world around them. I worked as a playworker one summer during my student days. I remember teaching two little girls how to play badminton. The girls were sisters, and the elder decided to give her sibling some advice on how to play better. Completely straight faced, she told her that when she hit the shuttlecock "you have to make the angry face". I found it comical at the time, and it has stuck in my mind ever since. I love the way a child can interpret things in their own unique way, and their wonderful imaginations come across in what they say.

I have kept notes of certain things my own children have said over the years. Of course we all have photos and videos of our children growing up, but so often it's the things that happen off-camera that are really special. I am so glad I have done that, and my memory book is guaranteed to put a smile on my face even after a really tough day. My book is a kind of scrap book, with drawings, photos, and the all important quotes of those special moments. I would thoroughly recommend making one, those adorable things your kids say should not be forgotten. I sometimes flick through the book with my elder son, who loves hearing about the things he said when he was younger.

 Some extracts from my memory book:
My dad has always been a joker with myself, and my children. My son had clearly worked that out:
"Why is grandpa at the doctor? Has he gone to get the cheek cut out of him?"

"No! Don't make mummy's car a taxi!" My husband had just attached a Magic Tree (other air fresheners are available) to the rear view mirror.

"Bill and Ben were trying to speak Romanian". My son associated the cartoon made up language with his daddy's native tongue.

"Where's the mystery button?" A 3 year old's take on the question mark key on a keyboard.

"Why is the moon still in the sky during the day? I think it's had too much Coca Cola".

Have you made a memory book? I would love to read what your little ones have said...

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?

I have become more interested in wolves after a recent visit to the Scottish Deer Centre, near St. Andrews. I was surprised to learn that wolves are now a feature at a deer centre, and was slightly disturbed by the fact they were being fed venison. However, I listened with interest to an educational talk that was given on the possible re-introduction of wolves in Scotland, which is being debated at present.

The red deer population in Scotland has significantly increased since wolves were hunted to extinction, and although I am a big fan of deer, I am now aware of the problems they can cause. Due to their large numbers, deer graze an area of land until there is nothing left, which in turn affects other wildlife. Many deer die of starvation, which is extremely sad. Case in point, on Christmas Day last year, there were three young deer standing on my driveway (much to the delight of my children). The deer must have been extremely hungry to venture so close to humans, and it saddened me to think about it. Wolves were the only predator for deer, and so now they are culled by humans to keep numbers under control. Wolves being re-introduced would re-set the balance, reducing the need for human intervention. On the other hand, the main reason wolves were hunted originally, was because they were killing cattle. In re-introducing wolves, surely there is no way to prevent this from recurring again.

The talk also focused on the impact of the media on preconceptions about wolves. Everyone has seen films portraying wolves as extremely viscious, terrifying creatures, just waiting for an innocent human to set his teeth into. The talk about wolves said this is far from reality, and a wolf would far more likely run away from a human. I visited Vatra Dornei in Romania on a family holiday, and although it was very exciting to hear wolves howling in the mountains at night, I was also glad I was safe in my hotel. I guess it's understandable that wolves are thought of as dangerous animals,  even chidhood fairy tales portray wolves as "the baddies", like the wolf pretending to be Red Riding Hood's granny. I found an interesting page which asks a wildlife ecology professor if wolves in reality, would ever behave as they do in "The Grey", the Liam Neeson film. The post backs up what the deer centre said, that wolves are nowhere near as dangerous as people think. The link can be found here:

The talk made a valid point that since wolves were once native to Scotland, it was wrong for us to wipe them out. The topic is clearly a controversial one, I can understand why farmers would be worried about their livestock, and the impact on Scottish farming would need to be taken into account. Now that I know a little more facts about wolves, rather than the fiction, I think I would support re-introducing wolves into Scotland. What do you think?

Related article: