The great man is he who does not lose his child's heart. (Mencius, Chinese philosopher 372-289 BC)

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Happy Easter!

The Weekend Picture No. 40

19 eggs divided by 3 kids equals hyperactivity

As you know we have three children.

Between them they have managed to garner 19 Easter Eggs this season. That is despite our local supermarkets suffering from an Easter Egg famine from Good Friday onwards.

That is 6.3 (recurring) eggs each.

Is that some kind of record?

Speak soon

Sunday, 17 March 2013

The Day My Daughter Made Me Think

The Weekend Picture No. 39

I went to London with 7 year old E yesterday. We had a lovely afternoon with our friends from the charity Caring Matters Now (read about the charity challenge my lovely wife and I have signed up for here) and then on the way home I promised her a Macdonalds milk shake.

We were walking through a rainy Covent Garden discussing which flavour she might choose when we walked past a man sat on the pavement, cap upturned. He asked me if I had a few pennies I could spare and I lied that I didn't and that I was very sorry.

As we walked away and I entered into an internal dialogue about how I was right to have said no because he would only have spent the money on drugs E interrupted my train of thought by saying something that made me think.

"I feel really sorry for that man"

"Who?" I asked, knowing exactly who she meant.

"That man we just walked past, the one sitting on the wet pavement. I feel really sorry for him."

"Yes, it's very sad," I said, "why do you feel so sorry for him?"

"Well, because he's got nothing and he's sat in this really rich place, and he's got nothing. It's really sad... Can we give him some money?"

And I turned and looked at her, and I felt the rain dripping down my collar and I watched the wealth pushing past us, and I thought to myself; "She is absolutely right, it is tragic that this guy is sat on a wet pavement in the middle of Covent Garden and he is being forced to beg for money. And here I am discussing flavours of a drink I want to buy my little girl which she doesn't really need and I am lying to a guy who actually needs the money. And it takes a 7 year old to point out what I should have done all along."

So, I dug into my pocket and we made our way back up the pavement and I gave E the quid which she dropped into his pathetic upturned hat and as we turned to go I squeezed her hand because I am so proud of the girl she is becoming.

Speak soon

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Making the Most of Parent Teacher Consultation Evenings

As the days grow longer and the term draws to a close the thoughts of teachers, parents and pupils turn to Parents Evenings.

Are there any 2 words that can strike such fear and trepidation into the hearts of parents than "Parents Evening" (or Academic Review Days if you selected a whizzy school for your offspring.)

And yet Parents Evenings need not be such a frightening reminder of the inadequacy of our own school days - rather they should be taken as an opportunity to build a working relationship with the adult(s) we entrust with the education of our pride and joys.

As a parent and teacher with over 1,000 parental consultations under my belt, here are my 5 top tips for making the most of Parent Teacher Consultation Meetings.

1. Go

There are not many opportunities in the school year to meet with your child's teacher to discuss their education. Most senior schools give you one opportunity per year, junior schools and the more forward thinking secondaries might give you 2 or even 3. So when the opportunity comes, grab it! What does it say to your child about the value you place on his/her education if you cannot be bothered to find out how they are getting on at school? It was no accident that the school I taught at with the worst record for behaviour and academic performance was also the school with the lowest turn out at Parents Evenings (30% at one Year 8 evening). This is a particularly important role for Dads to play. We are so often absent when it comes to our kids school lives so lets take these opportunities when they present themselves.

2. Do your research

The best consultations I hold are with parents who have done their research. Sit down with your child before the evening and find out about what they have been doing in class. What do they enjoy? What do they find difficult? Have a look on the school website and get the gist of the syllabus on offer. A teacher is much more likely to step away from the safety of bland pronouncements about how well your child is doing if you can ask them questions about specific aspects of the work they have been doing this term

3. Ask what you can do to help

I love it when parents ask me this question. It shows that you care and that you see yourself as playing an important role in the education of your child. Very few parents ask, however - so next time you are at a parents evening make a teachers day and ask them the question!

4. Don't go over your time slot

Parents Evenings are one of my favourite activities of the academic year. It is great to discuss a pupil's progress with the people who care the most. However, they are exhausting. So, please remember that you are not the only parent the teacher will be seeing that evening. You could be one of 30 - so if you have a 5 minute slot, aim at 4 minutes and give the teacher 60 seconds to drink his tea and find his bearings before he meets with his 7.25.

5. Remember it is YOUR child you are discussing NOT YOU!

It is easy to take teachers' comments about your child personally. It is easy to feel that a constructive criticism of your little one is actually a personal criticism of you. It is also easy to assume that just because you enjoyed History, or hated Geography, your child will do the same. Try to put your child first and place them at the centre of the discussion.

Speak soon

PS If you have a Year 6 pupil who is about to start secondary school you might like reading this post on how to prepare your Year 7 for big school.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

To The Best Mum In The World

The Weekend Picture No. 38

I thought I would let the Dubmeister and the Signs of Spring write today's post. These are the messages they wrote into their cards for my lovely wife this morning:

The Dubmeister  wrote:
Thankyou for being such an AMAZING mum, and for helping me even when I stropped and slammed the door. (I didn't mean it)
M slipped the following letter into her card:
You are the best mummy in the world, you could break the world record for chatting, you could be the best ever teacher, you can win the Great British Bake Off and you are good at keeping cheerful when it's raining at Legoland.
She also made a multi-coloured button bracelet.

E made a 3D card with the message:
"I love you" said M. "I Love you even more" said E. "You are funny always" said W. "You are like a butterfly." said Daddy.
Speak soon

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Mothers Day - Say It With Cookies?

A Review of Millie's Cookies New Mothers' Day Range

The Signs of Spring have got a present for Mum!

It's Mothers Day on Sunday and thoughts are turning to what to buy that special woman in our lives.

Everywhere you go you are surrounded by suggestions of gifts which would make your mum's life - from diamonds to cut flowers to mugs proclaiming her to be the "Best Mum in the World".

With that in mind Dad Etc has very much enjoyed Millie's Cookies new gift range for Mums. We were given their presentation box full of twelve cupcake cookies (modelled pre consumption by the signs of spring) and 3 cookies on a stick (Cookie-Pops) for the children to munch while we walked the North Downs on Saturday afternoon.

This Dad is naturally very keen on cookies and he is pleased to say that he has passed the cookie loving gene onto his progeny all of whom squealed with delight when they heard that we would be sampling Millie's Cookies in the name of science and public service.

The verdict on the Cookie-Pops - very positive. How can a combination of a lolly and a cookie be anything but a winner? The added bonus is that the choc chips did not melt on eager fingers thereby ruining our fabulous new kitchen. They lasted approximately 3 minutes and 32 seconds.

We loved the presentation of the Cookie cupcakes as well - each of which was decorated with a swirl of pastel coloured butter cream crowned with a sugar flower.

The double chocolate cookie cupcakes worked best - brownie heaven. The apple variety was less successful "too sickly" was the verdict of my lovely wife - we felt that they lacked the balance that cinammon brings instead revelling in an orgy of excessive sweetness.

Cookie Cupcakes are available from your local Millies for £1.25 each or at £17.99 for a box of twelve. They are baked fresh on the premises so should be available for you to take home in 40 minutes - so there is still time to spoil mum!


Speak soon

PS Read my post on why Mum definitely knows best here.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Me and Usain Bolt

The Weekend Picture No. 37

It was my birthday last week and one of the treats of the day was the card the children put together for me. They say that those closest to you know you best and I think that the card they created clearly indicates that.

Some may say that Usain and I have little in common.

However, I would disagree and say that you only need look at the picture (and squint a little) and we could almost be twins.

Speak soon (if you can catch me!)

Friday, 1 March 2013

You Can Tell They're Growing Up When ... You Teach Them To Shave!

Featuring A Review Of Milk By Michael Klim

I can still remember the day The Dubmeister was born - nearly 163 months ago. I can remember sitting next to my lovely wife, doing my best to recall the lessons we had been taught about breathing in NCT classes and hoping against hope that he would be ok. Then I remember holding him in my arms for the first time and gazing at him and thanking God for this perfect bundle. I remember changing him for the very first time - cotton wool poised in a strategic position, just in case - and marvelling at just how perfect his skin was. I remember thinking that there would not be another time when his skin would be blemish free and free of cuts and bruises.

That seems a long way away now.

The Dubmeister now has a history and the Dubmeister now has hair in new places - under his armpits, on his chest and now on his face!

You really can tell they're growing up when you teach them to shave.

So far, we only really need to shave his upper lip. So far, he only really needs to shave on the first Monday of the month. Still, it seems a big step - he is shaving. We have broken through yet another barrier.

I have taught him to lather the foam in his hands and rub it into the target area. To contort his face as if he is a Spitting Image puppet and to lure out those stubborn hairs that hide in the shadows cast by his nostrils.

I am proud (and surprised) to say that he hasn't cut himself yet - he must have a great teacher!

We have been learning to shave with a luxurious new product called Moisturising Shave Milk by Michael Klim from his Milk range. It is available to buy from Boots for £11.95 and boasts of containing the oils of Peppermint Gum, Coconut and Menthol Geranium! It gives you a rich shave and because it moisturises as you shave it avoids the problem of burning red post shave skin I can still feel as I recall my earliest shaves. You do feel like you are using a premium product.

The Dubmeister also made use of a packet of Scrub and Cleanse Wipes from the same range to tackle his increasingly teenage skin. They come in packs of 25 and Dubmeister used them morning and night for 2 weeks. One side of the wipe contains Exfoliating Wipe Beads - it feels like you are wiping your face with a beach whilst the other has a smoother surface to clean away daily residue.

Both Dubmeister and I loved this product - and his skin did too - it looks clearer now than it did a fortnight ago. A packet of 25 Scrub and Cleanse wipes is currently on for £9.95 at Boots. One word of  warning though - don't leave the packet open or the wipes will dry out very quickly!

Speak soon

PS You can read more tales of kids growing up quickly here.

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