Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Conversation with a six year old

(I'll keep it anonymous so I don't get the other mums irate!)

Anna: Our teacher moved our seats today.
Me: Oh. Who is at your table now?
Anna: Well two of my best friends: Alice and Akshara, so I'm really happy about that, and two boys (let's call them X & Y). She's decided to make us sit boy, girl, boy, girl so I am between X & Y.
Me: And how do you feel about that?
(Hands on hips, sighing heavily) Anna: I suspect she's put me there to try and bring them under control! They are a right pair of nonsense bags! X was cheeky to the teacher and got on an amber light. Can you believe that? And as for Y - (long sigh) - I was asked to work with him as a partner today to write up some facts and while I was busy writing everything down neatly, do you know what he wrote? Do you know, mum? He wrote 'Poo pants!' How is anyone supposed to work with that? I am really going to have to give him a talking to... But I can definitely see why the teacher has put me in charge of the two of them... they need sorting out!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Owl facts

We took the kids to the Scottish Owl Centre for Léon's birthday last month. At the flying display, the owl handler explained that owls with black eyes tend to be nocturnal, whereas those with yellow or orange eyes tend to be crepuscular. He explained that meant they were active at dawn and dusk and to make sure Amaia had fully understood, I whispered that was what hamsters were like too.

A month on and Amaia was playing with Anna and Ursula at owls. She suddenly announced her baby owl didn't hunt at night because it had orange eyes. 'When does yours hunt?' I asked, to see how much she remembered from last month's lecture. She thought carefully for a minute and then replied 'Mine hunts at Rosie O'clock!' On the ball, and cute with it!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Turmeric teeth

Charlotte had the bottom bands on her braces changed ten days ago. Then the top ones snapped so she had them replaced yesterday with the same colour as the original. I am beginning to suspect there is too much turmeric in our family diet! (The dental assistant didn't even believe the bottom started out sky blue - I wonder why!)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Glow - I hate you!

If you have a child at school in Scotland, the word 'glow' probably no longer leaves you with the warm and cosy feeling it is meant to evoke... (or is my family its only victim?)

They've been trying to roll it out across East Ren at least since Lots was still in primary, if not longer. How difficult can it be to write an online system that kids can use to access their school and school work? Countless times we've been asked to access it, usually with minimal, if any, instructions on where to find the page pertaining to a specific project, homework, class or whatever. I'm not particularly computer-illiterate - I have worked on one daily since 1991 and can cope with writing small Unix scripts and similar but 'glow' fills me with fear and loathing and leaves me frustrated to the point of wanting to go back to papyrus scrolls.

The first issue is that every time we attempt to log on the child's password has been changed. Yes, they may have been given something simple to remember but they are using it at 5 or 6 years old so when you ask their password, you get told last week's or last month's or their username, or the password they thought about using but didn't, or the password the kid sitting next to them used. So problem number one is invariably trying for a whole evening to log on, unsuccessfully trying different combinations of surnames, pet's names, minecraft handles and similar, and believe me, when you have four school-age kids, you don't have time to devote a whole evening to hacking into the system for just one of them. Around midnight you write your first letter of the week to the teacher (knowing that by Friday, you'll be back on first name terms).

By day 2 you are one day behind on the homework (that you only had four days to do in the first place) so are already stressed. You finally get in, invariably using one of the combinations of username and password that didn't work the previous evening but now mysteriously does, but you have no idea where to go... (and the interface has always changed since your previous successful break-in). The kid takes the mouse and manoeuvres you through three screens till you finally see, not without some relief, the class teacher's name. You click on it, knowing you are finally just one screen away from finally discovering what this week's homework assignment is and as you click it laughs in your face and flashes the message 'You do not have the permissions to view this page!' You find yourself shouting 'Fuck off glow!!!' and shaking your fist at the laptop much to the surprise of junior, who wonders why 'glow' always provokes such anger in his parents.You reach for the pen to write the teacher your second penpal letter of the week, because you really have nothing better to do with your evenings with a job and five kids than play hide and seek with 'glow' every evening.

This week Léon announced his teacher has decided to save paper (or was it the planet?) by putting all homework from now on on 'glow'. FFS, just pass me a gun now...

At high school (after the initial period of three months having them reset Charlotte's password on a daily basis) 'glow' does work, though still takes longer than just opening a text book and actually doing an exercise, but at primary, many of the children just aren't clued up enough to use such a buggy system. I really don't see how they can consider using it as a default system if children cannot get it to work without hours of parental intervention. I'm so fed up with it that I am losing the will to live. Tonight we 'do not have permissions'. I am not writing another letter. I have told Léon to tell them he can't see his homework and I refuse to devote any more time to it. If we don't get in by Thursday I will write a single letter saying ' Léon cannot access his homework so we did not do it'. That will be a first as none of my kids has missed a homework assignment in the 12 years they have all been at school. Enough is enough!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Big family?

The last time I remember getting that look - the one of mixed pity and admiration - was back in 2010 in London. I got on the tube with all five of my kids (then aged 6 months, 2, 4, 10 and 13) and I actually noticed some people counting us on and off again!

Today I was alone in Silverburn with four of my kids and my two Danish nieces Ursula and Elisabeth - so I had a 14, 9, 7, 6, 4 and a one year old in a buggy. A number of people looked at me as if I was barking mad and of course given five of the six children were girls, I think Léon got even more looks of pity than I did! :-)

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Through a child's eyes

We had one of those conversations this morning...

Anna: Do French people celebrate Xmas on the 24th of December like Danes?
Me: Yes, Anna.
Anna: Papa was French, wasn't he?
Me Yes, Anna.
Anna: So do you always marry foreign men so you get your presents a day earlier than if you'd married a Scottish one?

The things you prioritize in life aren't quite the same at six...

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

You can always rely on the kids

School does it at least once a year. Sometimes I think they are just being a bit nosy and condescending but it's always dressed-up as an 'educational exercise', and I'm generally too busy with real life to argue. 

It started last week. Léon was tasked with writing down everything he ate on a day of his choice that week. I suggested Thursday as I knew I had a load of vegetables I needed to use up and had time to cook something nice that day. He agreed, because he enjoys his food, and because he's a sweet (and easily-led child ;-) ). So we had a fairly bland cereal for breakfast, a few pieces of fruit mid-morning, some nice wholemeal bread and cheese with more fruit for lunch, building up to a dinner to be proud of: I made some boiled basmati, I made spicy potatoes in cumin seeds, ground coriander and garam masala, we had cucumber raita, I fried a tiny bit of chicken in onion, cumin, garlic, ginger and scotch bonnet chilis, slicing in mushrooms, patty pan squash, aubergine and tomatoes. I added in some baby potatoes. I felt well-smug. We often eat that kind of dinner but we also occasionally have burgers and chips or similar so it was definitely what I considered acceptable for class discussion... I left it at that.

Yesterday was open day for this term. I went in and the kids were making their meals out of felt and wool and gluing them onto plates they had designed themselves. Léon was carefully cutting out patty pan slices while the three other kids at his table cut out pizzas. Léon whispered to me that he'd even received a 'personal point' for having eaten the most unusual vegetable of everyone in the class! Tee hee. I seem to have retained my 'weirdo' status once again...

So I thought I had got away with it.

Presumably, though, they decided that since the exercise was such a hit in the upper school, the little ones would get to do it too. Anna chose today. Anna chose today because she was on the plan to cook today and wanted to be fully in control. It hadn't been the best start as she'd had coco pops and dunkers this morning, followed by a chorizo sandwich and crisps, albeit with a few grapes at  lunch time. She came in and worsened things with powdered chicken noodle soup - sigh! (At least today wasn't the day we let her take back the lemonade bottle to the corner shop and splash out the 30p on gummi sugar-snakes.) So, around 5, I turned to her and asked the fateful question: 'So, what do you fancy cooking tonight? Remember you have to write it up on your form, then talk about it in class?' Anna doesn't have a huge repertoire. She can do fish, some salads, pastas and pie with broccoli, but I was sure it'd be fine, she is only six after all... 'I think I'll make fried eggs and chips!' she replied, very pleased with herself! Stunned silence, while I thought to myself: Seriously? We have only had that about four times in your entire life! Why, tonight, you wee besom, why?

But, you know Anna: firstly, there would be no budging from that momentous decision, and secondly there would be no lying about it on the form either, because if I'd put down vegetable soup, little Miss Teacher's Pet would simply have announced 'We had egg and chips but mummy said to write down soup'.

So from tomorrow not only will I be waiting on the call from social services asking if I've never heard of the five-a-day policy, I'll also be skulking around for fear of Anna's teacher bumping into Léon's in the staffroom, comparing notes and concluding our family, which already doesn't quite fit in the boring East Renfrewshire bog-standard 2 kids and designer dog mould, is even odder than previously assumed!

Children: a part of yourself, you have very little control over!

Saturday, October 04, 2014

More badness

I went outside yesterday morning and rubbish was strewn everywhere. It was bin day. Sitting amongst it were several crows picking at pieces of food, plastic containers and pieces of paper. Shaking her head Amaia exclaimed in a righteous manner - 'No wonder they call them 'badness of birds'! Léon, completely confused, started to explain they were actually 'crows' but unperturbed Amaia just waved him away in that slightly superior manner you do, when you know much more about a subject than the other party!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Un-thought-through specials

I was reading the newspaper at the weekend when  I came across a rather odd ad. I wish I had cut it out, but I can't track it down in the recycling for now. It was for an undertakers and read 'Unlimited words on your gravestone on all orders received before October 1st'. That seems fine until you think it through... what are you meant to do? Bump off Granda if he looks like he might croak it around October 4th, so you can have both birth and death date engraved on it? Thomas did consider pre-ordering his own and asking for his blog to be transcribed on it in its entirety, but it looks like he's now missed that boat!

It reminded me of my student days working in H Samuel Jewellers. In the run up to Xmas sales weren't as good as the big boss wanted so we held a brainstorming session to come up with new ideas to get the punters through the door. It was going fine until the assistant manager suggested 'Buy one, get a second one half price' on engagement rings! Quick as a flash all the wittier members of staff drew up mock ads that had us all in stitches, and the idea was instantly dropped!

Imperial arse

I'm supposed to be working, and you, Mr Cameron, are forcing me to take time out. That is because you, Mr Cameron, are one prize, antiquated arse who came out the ark.

Last time I looked, you were (approximately) the same age as me. I started school in 1972 and I have never been taught imperial measurements. By the time I had had my kids I had just about sussed that it was some sort of mental system where you had 16 ounces in a pound, but only 14 pounds in a stone, so theoretically you can weigh something like 9st10lb15oz - FFS! As for inches and feet - there seems to be 12 of those in the other. What is wrong with a sensible system that simply counts to ten and one hundred? He cites the issue that kids have to calculate between the two systems... No, they don't, no one under 47 has learnt the old system so you know what - if on say medical forms you simply put a wee box saying Height: ---cm or Weight --kg, then no one would ever need to use a pound or foot again. It has not disappeared because you and your likes do everything you can to keep it in use. Scales actually all have a kg setting underneath, I set mine to it when I bought it in 1993 and haven't swapped it back since - simples! I refuse to calculate between the two. I know my kids' heights in centimetres and their weights in kilos but I haven't the slightest inkling what their imperial measurements are and no one else would either if scales no longer had a stones setting. It is time the old imperial system went the same way as the Empire itself. (It's dead, have you not noticed? Even half of Scotland wants out - that's the half that got beyond the BBC and the tabloids!)

Or better still, maybe when we finally get our independence, we can keep the pound and England could re-introduce the old, non-decimal money we used when I was a small child. Then, everyone would be happy.

The Scottish Owl Centre

Yesterday was Léon's birthday. It was also a bank holiday so we decided to break our self-imposed no-spending rule and have a day out. Poor Marcel was working in the shop all afternoon so that freed up a space in the car for mum and we all set out for the Scottish Owl Centre. Léon has been owl-daft since Harry Potter first came out and Linda had recommended it to us a year ago.

We arrived and took in the 80 or 90 owls in aviaries before taking in two flying displays complete with owl facts. One owl in particular took a fancy to mum and tried a full-blown conversation with her every time she passed and I certainly came away surprised at how full-of-personality the little creatures seem to be.

We got to see big and small owls and we even got to meet the nearly-famous sister of Errol from the HP movies.

A baby owl (who was less than 6 months old) was also being taken around by the owl handler to get it used to people. It was a baby of the world's largest owl species and had the most beautiful eyes:

At the end of the day we came out and enjoyed the lovely play park in the owl centre's grounds. It was so good we might even stop off there again even if we aren't going owl-watching. 

This morning Amaia woke me up telling me which toy owl she intended to buy 'when we were next at the owl centre for her birthday' so I guess that means it was a great hit! She had even taken in the fact that one of the owls ate hedgehogs in the wild so drew this lovely picture of two eggs, two baby owls and a large hedgehog, or rather hebgehog, at nursery this morning!

It's a shame we can't drop by more often, but as with all things when you have such a big family, day trips unfortunately cost way too much.