Does Charity Start At School?

This year, neither of my children’s schools did anything for Children In Need.

Nope, nothing. No dressing up, no spots, no donations. Nothing.

And I don’t really care. Our primary school has never been much into asking the kids to dress up. To me me this is a good thing.  When you have four children, the last thing you need is two days’ notice for your child to have to dress up as an orange animal, from a country beginning with ‘Y’ or as their favourite vegetable. In this house just finding a clean uniform is a major achievement. Trying to out together costumes once a year for Halloween is enough for me, thank you very much.

So I don’t mind that our schools did nothing for CIN, but I was surprised to find that some people have very strong feelings on the subject. There was a long thread asking why we didn’t do anything on our  School Parents’ FB page, and I know ours was not the only PTA in the country that was harangued on social media for our lack of participation.

A lot of schools do participate in raising funds for CIN and other charities, but should it really be up to schools to do so? CIN is a nationwide appeal and if nothing is done at school or work, surely you can watch the broadcast on TV as a family and donate that way? Our primary school supports local charities through food donations and collection buckets at concerts and assemblies, and our secondary school encourages fund raising by pupils as part of the curriculum. Neither school is uncaring, but at this time of the year parents and pupils are working hard for a different type of charity. There seems to be a limit to parental generosity, especially when it comes to time and effort.

Both of our schools, primary and secondary, have their school fairs this weekend. The money raised by these events will go directly back to our children in the form of resources that will benefit them, and the children who come after them. This money doesn’t pay for added extras anymore; it’s required for absolute necessities such as new buildings, classroom supplies, new books and fire extinguishers.

Our primary school has just under 700 pupils in it. Even allowing for single parents and multiple siblings, that means there must be over 1000 parents associated with the school. Our school fair committee has been trying to man 10 games stalls for 3 hours each. They were looking for 30 people to do 1 hour at a stall during the fair and as usual, found it difficult to fill these slots. Isn’t it amazing that out of 1000 parents, committee members had to go begging to find 30 who were willing to help? That 30 hours is just for help from people with the games on the day; the parents on the fair committee have already spent hours of their own time collecting items, sorting donations, soliciting raffle prizes, organising stalls and ticketing tombola prizes.

These are not parents who are too lazy to organise something to raise money for Children In Need. These are parents who already have too much on their plate. And it’s always the same parents year after year.

When one of these committee members joined in with the ‘Why Hasn’t Our School Done Anything For Children In Need?’ thread, and asked if anyone complaining would like to organise something for CIN next year, the thread died a quick death.Funny that.

It seems a lot of parents would prefer to send their child into school in something cute and donate to a nationwide charity, than make more of an effort to help their school raise money for their own children. Of course it doesn’t have to be either/or, people could do both, but supporting a Big Cause by throwing some coins in a bucket will always be the easier option.

Is it always the best, though?




The Gallery: Yellow

Pikachu onesie
About a month ago the kids started talking about their Halloween costumes. This is the one DS chose; he is into Pokemon at the moment.

So I looked around Pinterest, decided making a Pikachu costume was way too much trouble and went on Amazon to buy one. I also bought some onesies for the girls at the same time. They didn’t want  them for Halloween but like to wear them for slobbing around the house.

Over the next few days, packages started to arrive but not one of them contained a Pikachu onesie. And after about a week, everyone else’s onesies had arrived except for DS’s.

Finally I logged onto to Amazon to see where DS’s costume was. Opps. It seemed I had ordered his onesie from China and the expected delivery time was sometime after Halloween. I had a very disappointed six year old.

We managed to persuade him that Spiderman was also a good costume and he went out happy enough on the night of Halloween. But two days after the main event, guess what arrived? That’s right- DS’s Pikachu onesie.

And he’s worn it to bed almost every night since…

This post was written for The Gallery over on Sticky Fingers. Pop over now for more Yellow.



How To Make Housework ( Almost) Enjoyable

I’m not a fan of housework. With four kids, it’s like Groundhog Day; as soon as I’ve finished one job,  someone usually comes along, makes a new mess and I have to start all over again. And no one else seems to think that this is a problem.

I clean the kitchen daily, hang out and fold washing most days and force the kids to clean up the living room every evening by threatening them with loss of screen/phone time. The kids have their chores too; they put dirty washing in the basket and put their clean folded washing away. They feed and clean out their pets and empty and (badly) stack the dishwasher. I’m trying to train them to clean up the bathroom after themselves, and I rant at them about their rooms when I can no longer see the floor.  And DH is in charge of getting the washing into and out of the machine and he’s very good at it.  He also cooks for us every evening, once the kids are all in bed.

So it’s not like no one does anything except for me. But in this house, I’m the only one that really cares if the house is clean or tidy, and this makes me cross and resentful. I don’t want to to be nagging and chivying my family endlessly but I can’t/won’t live in a complete pigsty.

Also I’m the one at home all day right now, so I get to chose whether to spend my time in a messy or a tidy environment. It turns out that I’m not as much of a slob as I thought I was.

Anyhow, I’ve recently discovered something that makes housework almost enjoyable.  Audible.

Audible sells audiobooks that you can download onto your phone, iPod, computer or tablet and listen to while you are doing stuff you normally find monotonous. I listen to books while I’m sewing badges onto towels or jerseys, walking the dogs, driving in the car, folding washing, cleaning the kitchen, wrapping presents, doing stuff in the garden or knitting/ crocheting. Anytime that my body or hands are busy but my brain isn’t really required is the perfect time to listen to a bit more of my latest download.

I didn’t think I would like ‘being read to’ but mostly I love it. Some of the books I have listened too have been read by amazing narrators- they do all the different voices and accents, and I find myself truly absorbed by the story in a different way to when I am reading a book. I still read a lot but listening to Audible means I can double the number of books I get through.

Audible books aren’t cheap, especially when you are like me and rarely buy a kindle book for over  £2 , but these audible books last me much longer than when I read for myself, and I keep costs down by subscribing and buying a bunch of three credits now and again.

I’ve enjoyed Americanah and The Bone Clocks over the last month or two, and am now working my way through Susan Hill’s Simon Serrailler series. If you do already use Audible, please let me know when you listen to it, and also if you’ve listening to anything really brilliant recently.

If you have not used Audible before, you can take a free 30 day trial here. Try it and see if it makes housework/exercise/commuting less of a chore.



The Gallery: Spectacular

Poppies Tower of London

During half term, I dragged the kids into town to see the Poppies.

If you live in or near London, you have probably already gone in to see them. You almost certainly have heard of them and seen photos of them. But I know that London isn’t the centre of everyone’s universe, and if you live elsewhere it’s possible that you haven’t heard about them, so I will give a quick explanation here, just in case.

On August the 5th, 2014, the first poppy was ‘planted’ in the dry moat of the Tower of London. That day was chosen as it marked the first day of Britain’s full participation in the First World War 100 years previously. Since then, more and more poppies have been added each day, and the number will continue to grow until there are 888, 246 . One for each British person who died during WWI. The last poppy will be planted on the 11th of November, Armistice Day. After that the poppies will be removed and shipped off to people who have bought them for £25 each. This money will raise millions ( you do the maths!) for charities supporting injured servicemen.

The installation, called ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’, has been very popular. Over 4 million people have been estimated to have viewed it so far, but that leaves 60 million Brits who haven’t managed to make it to the Tower yet and so someone has got a petition up to keep the poppies in the moat for another year.

We went on the Wednesday of half term and the weather was not good. You can see the Shard disappearing into the clouds in the photo above. But the drizzle didn’t put people off and the place was absolutely packed. Tower Hill tube station was rammed and I struggled to keep my four together. It was a bit scary! Five minutes after we walked out of the station they closed the doors and didn’t let anyone in, or out. We saw some very unhappy people.

The crowd around the barrier around the moat was about 6 people deep, but the kids managed to squeeze to the front and I put my best apologetic ‘I’m trying to watch my children’ face on and ploughed through after them.  And that ^^^ is the view we got.
It is nothing if not spectacular.

Of course, the kids got a bit bored and squashed after a few minutes, so we had a wander around St Katherines Docks and some lunch and came back to the Tower on the river side, where it was less crowded.

If you haven’t been able to visit the poppies yet, do make the effort. It’s worth braving the crowds to get a first hand eyeful of this work of art and if you take the kids, they will be blown away by the sheer scale of it. Such large numbers are hard to visualise for most of us, but these ceramic poppies illustrate the scale of the loss of WWI very effectively.

ceramic poppies

For more photos of spectacular things, visit this weeks Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.


How Do You Do Halloween?

Tomorrow is Halloween. If you did not know this, then you must either be child-free or live in the middle of nowhere.

Whether or not you celebrate Halloween may depend on the ages of your children, the neighborhood you live in, possibly your religion and your opinion on ‘begging’. My children are aged 6-12, we live in a Halloween-friendly area, are not religious and I have no problems with my children trick or treating. So we celebrate Halloween shamelessly.

We have been discussing costumes and pumpkin stencils all week; today we will start carving pumpkins, and tomorrow we will decorate the front of the  house. The kids are beyond excited. I think they prefer Halloween to Christmas!

We live among a group of streets that usually really embrace Halloween, and I don’t think this year will be an exception with October 31st falling on the Friday of the school holidays here. Most people are respectful of the ‘No Pumpkin, No Knocking’ rule. People who don’t want to be bothered by trick-or-treaters just don’t decorate their houses. Some put up a ‘No Halloween’ sign, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

The streets are very busy with children and parents once it gets dark, and if you stay in there is a steady stream of costumed kids knocking at the door. We will go out for an hour or so and the kids will come home with bags full of sweets and chocolates. Over the years I’ve tried different approaches with Halloween loot.

I’ve made them eke it out by allowing them to eat a few bits every day, but the nagging for sweets each day gets tedious. I also found it difficult to keep everyone’s sweets separate. Now I just let them eat as many sweets as they want after they’ve been out trick-or-treating. Usually they’ve had enough after 20 minutes or so and are quite happy to hand the rest over to me for disposal.

We not had any illness or too much of a sugar high since I’ve adopted this way of dealing with Halloween sweets, so I can see it continuing for the forseeable future.

Halloween sweets

What are your family’s Halloween traditions?


The Gallery: Light

The clocks went back on Sunday and with them, any idea that winter wasn’t just around the corner.

We’ve been kidding ourselves a bit down here in the South East. It hasn’t been constant blue skies and sunshine since school went back. but it’s certainly not been cold. Despite the usual headlines predicting the ‘ Worst Winter Since The Birth Of Jesus’, we haven’t even had a frost yet!

My favourite place to walk the dogs and kids close to home is an expanse  of woods that stretches across adjoining counties. I love the different light as the seasons change and the leaves move from the trees to the ground, and then appear on branches again in the spring.

A little further away is Black Park, which has large areas of conifers . These are evergreens, so retain their needles all year around. If the sky is cloudy and the sun is high, you get such a lovely soft diffuse light through the foliage, it’s almost magical.

This photo was taken during one lazy weekend walk last summer; DD3 and DS are waiting for the rest of us to catch up and are writing in the dirt with sticks.

Black Park summer light

It’s no wonder that some scenes from the Harry Potter movies were filmed in this Black Park, is it?

For more ‘enlightening’ photos, check out this week’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.