Tag Archives: mums net

A brush with the past.

Yesterday, I accidentally head-butted a tree branch while laying down garden gravel. A few days ago, I burnt my arm on the metal edge of my hot waffle maker. A month back, I smashed a lump hammer into my left thumb knuckle, while last year I mashed my little toe against a rendered wall. All rather painful and rather par for the course.

I have Clumsy Adult Syndrome. I wheel about like Matt Smith in Dr Who and end up bashing into things. I once cleared a table of full beer glasses with my flailing arms while dancing in a nightclub. I remember slicing down into my middle finger with a Stanley knife  at least a centimetre. When I tried to play guitar a few weeks later my split fingernail caught in the strings and ripped off.

I suppose the most dangerous clumsy thing occurred when I jumped off the steps of a bus. I cracked my head on the door lintel and fell onto the pavement, minus glasses. They were under the far side of the bus by a rear wheel. I shouted to the driver to wait and ducked under the chassis. I retrieved the glasses and scrambled back, head inches from the nearside wheel. As I sat up, the bus pulled away and a passenger said. ‘He didn’t hear you mate.’ I was lucky – just a heartbeat away from being roadkill.

Was I always this clumsy? Well, yes.

I never made it into the school first team for Football. I was a defender, big and stocky. Often too late in my tackles though to be any good. As for Rugby, I could bring down an ox but I was rubbish at getting into the right positions. I liked Cricket and could whack the ball miles – the few times my bat actually connected with the ball. I never made it into the reserves. I consoled myself by doing track and field events in Athletics. Shot Putting was a good choice, though I once dropped it on my toe. Very painful, but not as painful as Pole Vaulting a height of seven foot and landing on the rim of the concrete sand pit instead of the crash mat.

My fine motor skills are excellent and I can create oil paintings and sketches with a good level of skill. My gross motor skills are useless.

As a kid I fell off my bike, out of trees, etc.   I didn’t feel all that clumsy, though people would remark on it occasionally. Cycling into the back of a Black Maria police van got quite a mention. As did accidentally pulling the handlebars off my bike while on a steep hill…I rolled backwards down the slope and ended in a wheel-spinning heap at the bottom.

In my pre-school years I lost all the nails on one foot by opening a door onto them then pushing it away. The sight of five throbbing squashy toes is one I remember to this day. Falling off the top of a bunk-bed is another memory. Actually I have quite a few memories of doing that.

So what can I put all this clumsiness down to? Did I have Dyspraxia? – Clumsy Child Syndrome. Part of the condition is that children might have trouble speaking and I didn’t talk until I was two. Or maybe it was due to the fact that I wasn’t getting proper physical stimulation as a baby and toddler, left to one side in a large Foster family. My social worker often found me dumped outside in a pram unsupervised, regardless of the weather.

I don’t want to make excuses. but I would like to make it through the day without breaking things.  My wife has lost nearly all her precious mementos of trips abroad. I once picked up a Kenyan figurine and accidentally dropped it, breaking its neck. I balanced the head back on the body and apologetically offered to glue it on – whereupon it fell off and shattered into smithereens. Now our souvenirs tend to be plastic fridge magnets that will hopefully last the test of time.

I have heard that clumsy children can be helpedby a process called ‘Brushing’. A friend tried it on his child with good results. I am not sure if any scientific studies have taken place so it is all a bit hearsay. Apparently, brushing limbs and fingers stimulates the nerve endings and gets a child aware of their body and its place in space.

A similar touching technique is used on animals to get them aware of their bodies too. Look up ‘Tellington Touch’ – it worked on our bonkers dog. You place the fingertips of one hand lightly on the fur and slowly make circles clockwise – going round ‘an hour and twenty minutes’ then you lift off and lightly repeat nearby. This calms the animal and, if done on limbs, gets them aware of their limbs. Skye loves it – and will immediately go catatonic – or should that be dogatonic?

I was determined that my wee girl wouldn’t end up as clumsy as her dad so she received regular baby massage until she became a wriggly toddler. These days my daughter is encouraged to play outdoors in adventure playgrounds…(we went to three different ones yesterday!) Plus she goes to Gymnastics and is learning to swim. Today we’ll be in the local pool and I’ll try not to fall in.

Er, but that’s another story for another day…

Wimbledon’t. Things Dads Really Say To Daughters…

John Inverdale, BBC Sports commentator, put both feet in his mouth when he started to describe the looks of Marion Bartoli, 2013 Wimbledon Women’s Singles Winner.

He said – and I quote from The Guardian – “I just wonder if her dad, because he has obviously been the most influential person in her life, did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe, ‘listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker… You are never going to be somebody like a Sharapova, you’re never going to be 5 feet 11, you’re never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that… You are going to have to be the most dogged, determined fighter that anyone has ever seen.'”

Oops. Okay, maybe he was trying to say that winning Wimbledon requires effort not looks – and that today’s Media is obsessed with each player’s appearance. I’d expect a commentator to get his words right but live TV does strange things to people.

wimbledon

Marion Bartoli’s father leapt to her defence and stressed his daughter was beautiful and he had always had an unbelievable relationship with her. Well said, Dad.

I think my little girl is beautiful, in personality and looks. The positive, caring way she acts around others fills me with pride. Okay there may be the odd falling out with friends but that is part of growing up – and a small child has to learn by her mistakes. She did not ask to come into this world. It was a choice Kate and I made, wishing to be parents.

With no mother or father on the scene, I grew up looking longingly at my friends. They had Mums and Dad and loving homes to go to. Meanwhile, I had a children’s home that favoured beating children with wire brush handles or filling their mouths with bars of white soap.

It’s with that in mind that I strive to be a good Dad. I want to encourage my daughter to try new things, to express herself freely and to empathise with others. I really don’t care what job she does when she grows up, rather that she is happy doing it – whatever it is. I am keen to help prepare her for the Big Bad World after school – to give her experiences that build her confidence and communication skills. I want her to aim for the stars and not to worry if she only gets as far as the M8 outside Glasgow.

If my daughter does her best then that’s all I can ask. There is no point pushing a child or young adult in one direction as they’ll only go in the other, or end up feeling resentful. Obviously, Marion Bartoli was encouraged to try tennis. She excelled and is now at the pinnacle of her sport. She seems very happy with that – as does her father.

So John Inverdale really got it wrong when he imagined that a father would point out all his daughter’s faults as a way of offering encouragement and support. Any Dad stupid enough to criticise his daughter’s looks would only have to glance in the mirror to see where they came from.

When my daughter is in her teens I will dig up this blog post and invite her to read it. I want her to know that whatever the future holds I will be there. I will challenge her to try new things, to push herself and to see things from the point of view of other people.

Most of all I will say –

“Go For It. Whatever it is. Be the best you can be. Be yourself. Be happy. Know that we are behind you, ready to support you if you fall. Know you are loved.  That you are never alone. That Life is for Living.”

Then I will say Dad stuff like  – “Tidy Your Room Before Your Mother Sees It, Do You Really Need A Boyfriend/Car? Are You Actually Going Out In That?”

And she’ll just say. ‘Oh Daaaaad!’ and get on with her own thing.

Like she does now 🙂

 

Village Nursery Stories …

My daughter left the Village Nursery school today. Really left it. After a hectic morning of bouncing on an inflatable castle, eating party food and singing songs. (Yesterday she spent ages carefully covering her black plimsols with glitter to ensure they sparkled at the party.) Today she chose a pretty frock that matched her glasses.

Parents were welcomed in early and listened while the children riffed on a theme and sang an emotional song called, ‘We’re on this road’ – about them starting on a journey through Big School and beyond. First heard by me at the class graduation last Wednesday. By the last verse, teary-eyed Mums were quietly crying as granite faced Dads with quivering lips took a sudden interest in the rain-streaked view of the car park.

Isla began Nursery the week after her 2nd birthday. She was just a wee totie thing with a cheeky smile. The years flew by, punctuated with process reports, good natured banter with teachers and my growing appreciation of the dedication shown by all staff at the West Kilbride Village Nursery. As you may know, I’m a former Deputy Head and rather cynical about school and nursery reputations. For instance, I have been in beacon schools where fiery Head Teachers are easily put out when quizzed about actual attainment and pupil well-being. So I am not easily swayed by glossy school websites and thick folders full of a so-called Curriculum for Excellence. What matters is how the staff treat my child. How they interact and informally educate, gently building on her skills and interests.

West Kilbride Village Nursery certainly did that. My admiration for the teaching staff at the Village Nursery now runs deep, specifically Mrs England and Mrs Masson. Two outstanding professionals who deserve praise, and whopping great bonuses. Isla’s Folder of Attainment that she brought home last night was equally deep, crammed with photos and paintings, stories and, yes, interesting  statistics. She loved the topic about Vikings and enjoyed learning all about Pirates.

copyright West Kilbride Village Nursery

Pirate Ship at West Kilbride Village Nursery

What I like most about the folder’s content is that the teachers’ comments are considered, accurately reflect my child and show a real empathy. I can tell the staff have engaged well with my daughter, are interested in what makes her tick, and have really tried hard to motivate her in a range of subjects and situations. She has developed her understanding of things through active learning in partnership with the Village Nursery. I see no evidence of force feeding, rather a series of gentle nudges in various directions.

My wife and I didn’t want our child’s formal education starting early and sapping her natural creativity. We wanted her to really come into class each day buzzing with excitement. And she did. If ever there were issues they were sorted promptly.

Our daughter shed a few tears recently, being rather hesitant about going to Big School. After her latest visit there, to the local Primary school, it really did all seem BIG. Big classes, big rooms, big playgrounds, big everything.  But I got good vibes and reckon she is the type who will settle down – and, hey, be destined for big things.

The thing is, as long as she’s happy that’s what matters. I really believe that. As for my early years, I didn’t get heaps of parental support. Er, none in fact. It would have helped to have had two parents present. I sometimes wonder how things would have turned out for me if I’d been in a traditional home instead of a foster home run by a woman who looked, and acted, like Mrs Twit. A mawkish bully with a cruel streak that ran through her like blood red letters through a stick of Margate rock.

I made a point of saying farewell to Angela Pisani, who runs the Village Nursery with care and dedication. She battles daily against loads of paperwork, funding issues and educational commitments, all the while raising the bar for kids’ learning. The Village Nursery has a mission to provide high quality child care in West Kilbride. In my opinion they do just that.The indoor classrooms are bright, busy and fun places to explore. The outdoor trips children go on are entertaining and well-matched to children’s needs. On Isla’s last visit to the Glen she swung on ropes, fished in the burn, made potions, played in hammocks and ate marshmallows sandwiched between chocolate digestives. Brilliant stuff.

Now how do I match that during the lo-o-ong Summer holiday? I wonder if the teachers’ want something to do on their time off?

***

A few hours after Isla left she spotted some of the staff in a nearby car park.
‘Look Daddy. There are my old teachers.’

Bring on the new.

 

 

‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?’ reviewed by Alan Dapré

As a professional author, occasional illustrator and former primary teacher (oh, and current At-Home-Dad) I have come across many children’s picture books. I thought I would blog about the ones I like the best, giving reasons why they are so brilliant. There is no definitive list – I will write about the ones that really strike a chord with me (and my wee girl).

First up is ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?’ written by Bill Martin Jr & illustrated by Eric Carle of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ fame.

 

Brown Bear Brown Bear - review by Alan Dapre

This book is one that I often read to my daughter and put aside only to find she would crawl over to her book box and pluck it out. Many a time she would plonk it in my lap, snuggle up and open the cover – all with a look of expectation and impatience.

The text has a gentle rhythm and satisfying flow as it repeats throughout the book. ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? I see a …. looking at me.’ The bear sees another animal that in turn sees another … until children come in sight. In one version a teacher features but our version just has the animals.

By 18 months – and just a few weeks after getting the book –  my daughter was ‘reading’ it herself, turning pages and saying the words aloud from memory. It was a joy to behold. She loves to commit texts to memory and say them aloud in the car, while drawing etc.

For me, the real delight is in the inspired illustrations. They are (I think) made by careful placing of coloured tissue paper. Sometimes the paper overlaps to create satisfying blocks of darker colour. The ripped edges add to the appeal.

At the front and back of the book Eric Carle added pages decorated with just strips of colour which meant my daughter could see all the colours that related to each animal featured in the book. Soon she was able to name each colour and use this skill in everyday life. Her collage work began in earnest – and she now enjoys creating pictures out of brightly coloured torn paper.

I rated this book so highly I gave a spare copy to the local doctor’s surgery so that other children could happily enjoy the captivating words and pictures.

What more can I say? If you like colourful, engaging children’s picture books that feature dynamic rhymes and lots of animals then this is the book for you & your child.

***

Of course, you might also like to consider downloading a sample or two of my cute Wee Bear picture ebooks 🙂

Cuddle Muddle‘ – available on kindle  (UK link)

Cuddle Muddle‘ – available on kindle  (US link)

‘Wiggle Jiggle’ –  available on kindle (UK link)

‘Wiggle Jiggle’ – available on kindle  (US link)

Themed Birthday Party – Scooby Dooby Doos and Don’ts – by Alan Dapré

After the hustle and bustle of my birthday, Christmas & New Year there was another event to organise. My daughter was about to have her birthday and I needed to sort something out…fast.

Now she has been to quite a few parties and they come in all guises. One party set in the village hall worked well, with a bouncy castle, helium balloons and loads of food – and loads of kids. All maiming each other on the bouncy castle. My wee girl went on and less than a minute later she staggered off  after being squashed by an overenthusiastic playmate. Most bouncy castles that I see are left unsupervised – though one at a local hotel was overseen by a disinterested teenager. It took less than five seconds for my daughter to be flattened – not that the bored bouncy castle assistant noticed. Another thing with inviting lots of children is that you get the good with the bad. It’s hard to invite a child and leave out another, even if the latter has recently wrapped your daughter in a mat and squashed her.

We decided to have the party at home and began to count her friends and the children we know as a family. When the total reached 17 it was time for a decision. Go bigger or smaller. We went for downsizing and chose a party full of girls. It was hard to leave the boys out as she is such good friends with some. That said, we knew the dynamics would be different, i.e. less boisterous, and that proved to be the case.

Eight girls duly turned up and began to decorate their party bags and placemats with their own name and Scooby Doo stickers.  This was followed by a game of ‘Pin The Tail On Scooby Doo‘ (Yes, Scooby was the theme – as it’s her favourite show at the moment. Anything’s better than Mickey Mouse and the juggernaut that is Disney). Games such as Scary Musical Statues‘ where you pull a scary face/shape and ‘Scooby’s Footsteps ‘(a variant on Granny’s Footsteps where Scooby/Granny keeps turning round to stop silently approaching kids in their tracks). More fun was had by the girls assembling their own ham and cheese Scooby sandwiches to make a towering, multi-layer Scooby Snack

Scooby Doo Sandwichs, scooby snacks, sooby party, alan dapre, birthday ideas, party food

Ingredients to make towering Scooby sandwiches

Homemade biscuits looked like dog bones, using a dog shaped cutter Cakes were in the form of hamburgerssimply split each small plain sponge cake and pop in a slice of small chocolate cake for the ‘burger’…

We gave the girls small drink cartons to avoid spillage.

It was lovely to see them tidy up after eating and then join in enthusiastically with Pass The Parcel. In fact the whole event was lovely. The children joined in as a Scooby Doo cake was brought in – and my daughter did the ritual ‘spitting on the cake’ – i.e. blowing out candles. As a side note, the cake was a bought chocolate affair with Shaggy and Scooby figures stuck on top. The birthday girl was satisfied with it and that made up for the fact that ASDA had refused to print a self-made Scooby Doo picture for me. It was a case of Scooby Dooby Don’t.

Scooby cake and buns

Scooby Birthday Party

You might not know this but ASDA print out photos with edible ink – and for the past few months are apparently refusing to print anything that’s copyrighted. They have a list of banned characters – and Scooby was on the list despite the fact that I had drawn the image to be printed. I tried to blag my way to getting my cake done in that I said my characters were just look-a-likes … In every Soft Play I visit I see loads of characters that are suspiciously similar to branded ones … If they can get away with it, why not me? It was just a silly little drawing on a silly little cake. ASDA apologetically played hardball and I had to explain to my daughter that she wasn’t going to get the cake she wanted. For next year I was told to bring in a personal photo with no branding … might not bother now.

The girls had half an hour of free play which involved playing with all our daughter’s new toys from Christmas. She was remarkably relaxed about this. Her wooden Market stall was a big hit as were her Fireman Sam toys. Two hours after the party began it was time for everyone to leave. They left with their decorated bags full of bits and bobs. I had created labels to go on bags of chocolate buttons – which were passed off as Scooby Poos – doggy drops.

As the last child departed one more arrived … her mum had got the time wrong. Not that this mattered. Two girls had a lovely time playing while we relaxed and chatted and glowed at the realisation that things had gone well. Phew.

Next year she will be at ‘Big School’ in a bigger class. We may find ourselves policing a bouncy castle full of boys and girls … There is always the McDonald’s option … where she chooses 5 friends and goes for a high fat, low flavour meal. I can’t bring myself to do that though … not yet anyhow.

Next week it’s the dog’s birthday. Our mongrel lab is 8 and I’m sure she’ll get a homemade cake and a new collar. She won’t be getting a bouncy castle birthday party though – her claws are far too sharp.

Good luck with any parties you are about to have/endure/panic about.

Btw a good present might be my colourful picture story ebooks.

Cuddle Muddle‘ – available on kindle  (UK link)

Cuddle Muddle‘ – available on kindle  (US link)

‘Wiggle Jiggle’ –  available on kindle (UK link)

‘Wiggle Jiggle’ – available on kindle  (US link)