Friday, 30 March 2012

Quick and easy activities for toddlers - plant pot castles

Easy to set up.  Oodles of fun.  Fish out all those empty plant pots from the shed or greenhouse and show your toddler how to make castles with them.  Because the pots are different sizes they can learn lots about relative size.  The castle takes shape straight away, so there's instant gratification.  It's an activity that once you've shown them, they are happy to get out and play again without your help.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Seasons Change - Central Scotland in March

Wow.  Last year we still had a glacier at the end of our street until May, where they had piled up the snow from the road.  This March we have been hitting record temperatures, we've had the paddling pool out already, have had picnics in the play-park and have eaten evening meals al-fresco... IN MARCH!... IN SCOTLAND!!!

Here's what things look like:
earlier in the month we were definitely still in coats and boots

warm fleecy jumpers and leg-warmers (with a sun-hat)

by the end of the month we've had the paddling pool out!

butterflies are emerging (sadly this one didn't make it - but C was fascinated)

it's warm enough to get the washing dry on the line!

all sorts of things are emerging

I love the cheerfulness of Daffs

things are getting busy in the green-house

the garlic is growing well
Sorry, not many pics here from out and about, but the garden gives a snap-shot of conditions here.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Earth Hour 2012

what will you be doing on 31st March at 8.30pm?

I'll be in the Lake District with my sisters, my mum and all my nephews and nieces - but I'm going to ask the nice people at the Youth Hostel if we can have the lights switched off for an hour.


Because it's WWF Earth Hour. and for the UK

It's all about uniting people across the world to do something, even a very small thing, for one hour, to save the planet.  Switch off the lights.  

If enough people, organisations and countries get involved in this can you imagine what it might look like from space?  Would you even notice lots of lights being switched off, or is it just a drop in the ocean?  We can find out because WWF has an ambassador right up there in the International Space Station who'll be letting us know what he can see.  How amazing is that?  

People are pledging to ride their bikes to work for a month, to eat vegetarian for one night a week and more.  Historic Scotland properties will be switching off their flood lights.  Various other organisations are switching off all power for the whole day.

My pledges - to ask Derwentwater hostel to turn off the lights in the common room areas and provide candles instead; to eat vegetarian at least one night per week.

Sign up now and do something for the planet.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Toddler Art - Shell and Twig sculpture

This is a great activity to do after a holiday.  We collected a lot of shells from the beaches in Kintyre, and this was a great way to display them.

First of all we spent some time cleaning the shells.  Then we laid them out in the sunshine to dry.

For the sculpture, I put all the shells on the table and the children explored them.  They built little towers... had a taste... waved them around... and just had a good look.
Afterwards I brought in various twigs from the garden, some string and a large plant pot.  I used big pebbles to wedge one of the twigs into an upright position.  Then I asked C where we should attach the other twigs, and showed him how to tie them on.

I showed him how to thread shells with holes on to string.
From then on we just put the shells all over the sculpture, some threaded on to string, others on the base and some just hanging on to the nobbly bits of the twigs.
The whole sculpture is displayed in pride of place on the coffee table in the conservatory.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

You know you're a mum of toddlers when...

... you find a small wooden bike parked: in the bathroom /  in doorways / under the kitchen table...
... your kitchen is a delightful gallery of children's art...
... time for a long bath or shower (or dare I say it, even a trip to the loo) is a luxury...
... 8am counts as a lie-in...
... you have pasta tomato sauce hand-prints on your shirt where you sit next to the high chair...
... you get an incredible warm fuzzy feeling when your little ones snuggle up next to/on you for a story smelling sweet from the bath, all clean pyjamas and bare feet and love...
... kisses and cuddles are spontaneous, sloppy and unfettered...
... you know all the words to "The Gruffalo"...
... you know all the words to "We're all Going on a Bear Hunt"...
... you have a CD of nursery rhymes on in your car...
... the last time you and your husband went out as a couple was quite a while ago... go all gooey at the sight of your children asleep...
... you think it's cute when one of your children offers you a half eaten soggy piece of toast to eat, and if you decline, they still try to put it in your mouth...
... anything valuable and/or breakable is above adult shoulder height...
... a few important documents that weren't well out of the way have got crayon "art" on them...
... your garden is full of ride-on toys... and a swing...

Saturday, 24 March 2012

How to be Free - Stop Competing

I’ve mentioned Tom Hodgkinson on here before.  He’s the editor of The Idler, and has written books “How to Be Idle”, “How to be Free” and “The Idle Parent”.  I love the principles expressed in “How to be Free” (though not all the ideas in the book), and while I don’t agree with the term Idle I think The Idle Parent is a must-read and describes well how I was brought up and how I wish to bring up my own children.

I’m writing a series of blog posts exploring these two books, and the ideas contained in them further, in the hope that this will help me to explore further the principles behind my own way of living and parenting.

How to be Free

Chapter 8 - Stop Competing - START A GUILD

Is competition healthy?  Since Darwin, with the concept of Survival of the Fittest, life seems to be about competing with the Joneses.  But surely the net result of unfettered competition is that one company / species comes out on top, having destroyed or swallowed up all their competitors.  Is this one the best, or just the best at competing?  Doesn’t competition kill variety?

Tom suggests that competition in the realm of play is a good thing, leading to fun and games; competition in business and ethics is bad.   It leads to poor wages, poor quality, poor treatment of staff – all in the name of “beating” the other guys.  “You’ve got to be tough to survive” – is life really all down to survival?  What happened to savouring life, living joyfully, and loving?

There are situations in both other cultures, and in nature, of mutual aid – symbiotic relationships rather than parasitism.  Hospitality for the sake of hospitality.  Giving freely to the poor and needy.  At one stage in European history, the principle aim of most people wasn’t how to make lots of money, but how to save their soul, and working was often seen as just another vanity.  Guilds were set up with a complex system of values to allow work that wouldn’t displease God.  The aims were to work creatively, not do too much work, agree prices without competition, look after fellow craftsmen, including apprentices and those who can’t work any more, high quality.  Members of the guilds paid a membership which went to look after tradesmen who couldn’t work any more, widows and their families and great halls and feasts.  This has been tried again in various guises over the centuries, with people living in various co-operative communes.  The key here is in neighbourliness.

How does this match up to the Ink Spots and Grass Stains life?

I like this idea.  Anybody who knows me will know that I am competitive, but I hope that they would agree that I am more competitive with myself than with anybody else – which I don’t think is a bad thing.  I’m certainly not one for keeping up with the Joneses, though I admit, I sometimes get a little smug when I compare my children with others – is that “competitive mum syndrome”?  I love variety.

I am also very much in favour of what Tom describes as “mutual aid” helping other people just because it’s a good thing to do, not because there’s anything in it for ourselves.  This does require us to break down some barriers, both for ourselves and with our neighbours, and ask for and offer help more freely – it’s something that in our culture we have got out of the habit of.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Mothering Sunday

I got a lovely card from the two children (and the dog).
They don't really know what it's all about.
To them I am mummy - always there, cuddles galore, kiss-it-better, keeping the boundaries steady, listening and loving.  Mummy just is.

So we spent the morning playing in the garden.

I'll indulge.  You get a couple of gorgeous pics of the children, one of the Waggy-tailed-one, and since it's Mothering Sunday, you also get one of me...
a rare photo glimpse of mummy

a ball, a beach, she couldn't be happier

C wanted to go "in the door"

sis is learning to drive
Now, it's time for me to think about my mum.  I know she'll read this at some point on Monday.  Hi Mum.  I love you.  I think the way I was parented was brilliant, and I hope that I can do half a good a job with my two, as you are still doing with us.  I look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks, and C is already looking forward to seeing Grandma, he tells us often that "I love my Grandma".  Unless I've had a serious brain-lapse, then we'll have phoned you on Sunday evening.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Springtime holiday

We went away and things were beginning to hint at Spring, we've come back and we're now absolutely sure that it's Spring.

We've been to Kintyre, it's the peninsula that sticks out and down along the bottom west of Scotland:

While there, we've explored the beaches and rocky shores, been for long walks ("Bear Hunts", though we never saw any bears, just lots of Gruffalos).  We've had lunches in cafes, picnics on beaches, dinner in a hotel, all a big adventure for a toddler.  

Best of all for Mummy and Daddy I think, while exploring the coast nearby, and stopping in some woods to take the Waggy-Tailed-One for a walk, we stumbled across the Scottish Beaver Project.  I had been hoping so much that we would be able to see the Beaver place, knowing that it was in Argyle, but I had assumed that it would be too far from where we were staying and much more remote, so I was delighted!  
We didn't see the Beavers themselves, I think they would have sensed the Waggy-tailed-one and made themselves scarce, but I was amazed to see a real beaver log chew, and the dam that they made!  Folks not from the UK might not know, but here beavers were hunted to extinction quite a long time ago. This Beaver project is a heavily monitored trial area, to see what impact reintroducing beavers into the wild in the UK might have.  It was a real privilege to be near these creatures, and see the work that they've done in their habitat, even if we didn't actually see them.

The other place I really enjoyed visiting was Kilmartin.  It's a valley/glen which is filled to brimming with bronze age cairns, standing stones, stone circles, ancient forts and all sorts of ancient archaeology.  We visited one of the forts and the excellent and child friendly museum (with its overpriced cafe), but the weather and tired children didn't allow for much more exploration.  We now have the guidebook for the area though, and a year's free pass for the museum, so we'll be back in the future.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Where have I been?

Rats, things have all caught up with me again.  I'm tapping away at my keyboard trying to get my Scout District Adult Training newsletter together and reply to a whole load of e-mails before I swan off on my holidays, so no time for proper posts on here....

I'm away tomorrow for a week to Tarbert in Kintyre on the West Coast of Scotland.  Lovely pics and plenty of wanderings and wonderings on my return... don't go away!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

A family adventure to... Almond Valley Heritage Park

Yesterday, the first day of Hubby's two week holiday (yippee!) we decided to take a family trip to Almond Valley Heritage Centre, which I had heard mentioned on the Scotland Outdoors podcast. 

It was excellent.  There was soooooo much to see and do.  It was really inexpensive, especially as under 3's were free, and since there's so much to do you could stay there all day.  We looked at and stroked the animals - there were pigs, calves (you could help bottle feed them), chickens, geese, a horse, ducks, goats (with lots of fun things to climb), as well as plenty of rabbits and guinea pigs.

There were museum type bits, with a water wheel, an old forge, old farm equipment and more.  There are tractor rides and a narrow gauge railway (summer weekends), river side walks, undercover picnic area as well as loads of picnic space outdoors, a tea-room (a little over-priced for what you get, next time we'll take a picnic).

There were mini-ride-on-tractors to play with... 
...for both of them

 There were swings, slides, indoor and outdoor play areas, picnic benches, a simulated archaelogical dig (big undercover sandpit with clay pots and bones and things to discover), trampolines (she loved it!), a wooden train (we couldn't get him off it!), a bouncy castle.  
All in all this was an excellent day out for a young family.  We will definitely be returning again in the future (and again and again probably!).  It's about 45 minutes to an hour away from us in Livingston.  If you're in Central Scotland with a young family and haven't been yet, then it's time to give this place a try!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

In February we have mostly been...

...playing Grandad's piano...

...learning how to draw with stencils...



...birthday morning cuddle with daddy...

...opening birthday presents...


...having a birthday party!...