My Sunday Photo

Our kids go to a large suburban primary school. It has over 800 pupils at the moment which means a whole crowd of parents dropping off kids in the morning and then picking up at the end of the day.

A lot of these parents drive, which means they also need to park. And sometimes they need to be more careful not to inconvenience residents and other vehicles as they park. There is always plenty of parking if you go a bit further from the school gate ,but sometimes they might have to park as far as 5 minutes away from the school and -gasp-walk!

Unfortunately not all parents think about other people. Some of them are only worried about  making sure their little darling’s legs don’t fall off.

Here is a good example of what happens when someone parks too close to the corner of our narrow suburban roads.  The highway code advises that you should not park closer than 10 metres to a junction or opposite one and this shows why.

There is a driveway on the corner of the left hand of this photo. The BMW is parked right up against that dropped curb, probably because there had been another car  behind them.

Along comes one of the school buses that had taken some of our children out for the day and it simply can’t get around the corner. It was stuck there for a good 10 minutes, with traffic backing up behind it.

Finally the car on the right moved and the bus driver could swing around  and head off, late for his next job. A stream of angry drivers followed him, also late for where ever they were going next.

Nobody ever saw the driver of the BMW,  so they probably went on their merry way oblivious to the chaos they had caused. Maybe next time they might come back to a damaged car.

Please think before you park!
bus stuck

The Curse Of The Three Week Long Easter Holiday

We have two children in primary school and two in secondary school at the moment. The two schools are in different counties but usually this doesn’t cause a problem when it comes to holidays.

However this year, and next, our schools’ Easter holidays overlap. So DD3 and DS finished school a week ago and the older two finished school on this Thursday just gone.

This means that this year ( and next) I have three weeks of school holidays to contend with.

At first, this may sound like a good thing. It’s tricky trying to find activities that will suit a teen, a tween and a couple of under tens. So surely it’s a positive thing to only have one week to take all the different ages into account. And surely  fewer children means less squabbling?

Hmm, not in this house, no. I find the house is calmest with all four children around, as they can go and bother someone else if things get fraught between two individuals. If there are only two at home, there is no chance of a change of sibling to quieten things down.

We’ve also found that the children off school still get up at the same time as the ones that need to go to school. This has made for some very long days, and because the school run to both schools requires some input from me, I only get a week where I’m not having to drive/escort kids too/from school.

In the two weeks either end of our three week Easter break, I can’t even take the kids out for a long day anywhere as I have to be back in time to do the school pick up.

I’ll concede that there is a small advantage in only having two children to wrangle though, and it’s cheaper if I want to take them anywhere that charges a fee.

But despite this, I prefer it when the school holidays are in sync. Thank goodness it’s only the Easter holidays that overlap.



The Last Nativity

Eight years ago I was sitting in our primary school hall, watching my eldest take part in the school Nativity Play. She was an innkeeper, wore a tea towel on her head and had a single line. She remembered it and the words came from her loud and clear. I was the proudest Mum ever as I watched her up on that stage but for some reason I found myself welling up.

I’m ashamed to say I can’t remember what I did with DD3 that day, who was just under a year old. Perhaps a friend looked after her? I can’t remember. But I know that DD2 was at nursery; I remember thinking that the next year I’d have two girls in the Nativity, up on the stage.

That second year I realised that our school Nativity changed very little from year to year. Each Y1 class does a little play then the Y2’s provide the choir, while the Reception children act out the Nativity. It’s very sweet and over the years, as I’ve watched my children on stage as bells, stars, turkeys, donkey sellers and soldiers, DH and I have gradually learnt all the words to all the songs.

Today we went to watch our ninth Nativity play. There was some trepidation as the school now has a new head teacher, and we thought maybe he might have changed it all. We needn’t have worried. It was all exactly as it should be.

DS is now in Y2 and he was in the choir today, singing his little heart out and stopping only to pick his nose now and again. I got to the school a whole hour before the play started in order to get a decent seat. It was worth it as DS was able to see us straight away and he grinned and waved.

It was a lovely play and although DS was ‘only’ in the choir, DH and I watched every move he made. I found myself remembering the first time his eldest sister had been up on that stage;  at that point DS didn’t even exist. That thought made me feel weird and as usual, my eyes leaked a little.

But today I had a reason, as today’s play was also our Last Nativity. Next year DS will be in Y3 and the Upper School does something different for Christmas. We will never again hear those songs or watch very young children trip up over their costumes, or forget their words. Part of me feels relieved but another part feels sad. That’s a bit of school life that we can now put behind us as a family.

But if you are lucky enough to be going to watch your child’s Nativity play this year, pay attention, listen carefully and take some photos if you are allowed. Because time passes, children grow. Life happens. And sooner or later you  too will be sitting in a school hall, holding the tears back, watching your own Last Nativity Ever .


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?




A Dress Up Day/School Play Capsule Wardrobe Post

Today DD3 has a ‘Roman Day’ at school. The letter that came home outlining the day’s activities asked that the year 3 kids came into school ‘in character’, dressed as Romans. There were some details given about how to achieve this with sheets and scarves, and so, instead of heading for Amazon, I decided to send DD to school in a DIY costume.

Roman day in Pillowcase

I fully admit it’s a bit last minute but DD seemed happy enough about going to school in a holey pillowcase with a cord tied around her waist. I’m hoping she still feels the same way when she’s confronted by the large number of bought costumes I saw walking into school today. At least it’s an effort, aye?

I was discussing school dress up days with a friend of mine yesterday. Our school is remarkably light on them, thank goodness, but my friend is a veteran of many and we started talking about how parents of primary school kids really need to have a capsule wardrobe to hand for those last minute costume requests.

Then some other friends came forward with suggestions, so now I have a list of things that can be useful for parents of Primary school kids. Of course, not all schools get dressed up for all these days, so it’s always worth while asking around parents with children in older years to see what you should start stockpiling for forthcoming history days.

This is what we came up with.

Plain black top (long sleeved T shirt probably best- buy a couple of sizes up)
Plain white top ( angel/stars/bell/sheep)
Plain brown top (good for animals/ nativity plays)
leggings/tights/jogging bottoms in white/black/brown
table cloth/sheet ( toga/cape)
A couple of plain tea towels ( nativity plays, shepherds)
A couple of plain pillow cases that can be adapted for tunics ( Roman/Tudor days)
A belt of some sort- woven?  ( Roman days/tudor)
Plain scarves ( Mary/Joseph/Kings/Roman day)

Specific Days:
White shirt- collar cut off? ( victorian/tudor)
long black skirt for girls ( victorian)
Waistcoat ( Victorian)
Apron ( Victorian)
Cap/mop cap ( Victorian)
Pirate hat or scarf with skull and cross bones on ( Pirate day)
Stripey T shirt
Jacket/dress/long shorts ( WW2 evacuees)
Card board box and string for gas mask. ( WW2)

What do you think? Is that a comprehensive list or would you need to add some other items to cover the dress up days your school has? If you have any suggestions, please add them below.




The Gallery: Back To School

My youngest three don’t go back to school until tomorrow.  The girls are making the most of this and are still tucked up in bed. DS is downstairs with me, playing with his lego.

But my eldest is on an overland train somewhere in Hertfordshire; she started at her new school yesterday.

First day Secondary school photo

Secondary school is a very different kettle of fish from Primary school. The kids make their own way to school, there is no chatty school gate crowd of parents and your child suddenly spends a lot more time out of the house. But yesterday seemed to go well; DD came home with a locker number and a timetable, and it’s straight into it today.

Her timetable tells me she has English, PE, Science, Technology Practicals, Science and ‘Personal And Citizen Education’. No prizes for guessing some of the content of that!

She won’t be home until almost 5pm, there will be homework and she’s going to be knackered.

Those of you who only have preschoolers or school starters probably won’t believe me when I try and tell you that the years have just sped by. It honestly doesn’t seem seven years since I took this photo when DD started Primary school.

First Day Primary school

My advice, if you are after some, is take photos, take videos, write down your feelings and the funny little things they do.

Because  everything goes so fast, and once these moments are gone, they are gone.

A bit like your children, really.

For more Back To School Sentimentality, check out this week’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.



A Last Day At Primary School Post

There are bound to be dozens, if not hundreds, of these posts scattered over the bloggaverse over the next couple of days, so I’ll keep it short.

DD1, my firstborn, has her last day at Primary school today. She’s been there for 7 years; school-wise, it’s all she knows.

She is, to put it mildly, howly. As a friend of mine has just pointed out- it’s the first Big Change of her life so some emotion is expected.

We had tears last night when she said she was going to refuse to go to secondary school and would just turn up at the primary school gates again next year.  I don’t for a moment think she’s going to do this, but it’s a measure of how displaced she’s feeling at the moment.

I feel really sad for her too. I know she’s going to have a wonderful time at her new school, but at them moment she is scared and that’s never nice place to be.

I know the whole year group is winding itself up a bit so hopefully, when school finishes and she’s on holiday she can start to look forward to Big Big School.

Anyhow, it’s time for the obligatory First Day/Last Day photos.

Here is DD on her first day of of primary school, all those years ago.

First day primary schoolAnd here she is today.

Last day at primary school

You have NO idea of the amount of persuasion it took to allow me to take this photo of her.

Unless of course, you are the mother of a primary school leaver too, and have been trying to do the same thing yourself.

How Not To Organise A Play Date


DD1 is in Year 6, so I’m no stranger to play dates. I’ve been organising and agreeing to them for almost 7 years now. But yesterday I made the most basic mistake of all when I allowed my eldest girl to go to a friend’s house after school.

DD is off to secondary school in September, with a handful of girls from her school. She’s going to have an hour’s commute there and back every day so I’m keen for her to get to know some of the other girls who she will be travelling with, a little better. When she asked if she could go to someone’s house a couple of weeks ago, I said yes, sure. She was supposed to go last week, but the mum was unwell, so it was put off until yesterday.

Of course by yesterday, I had totally forgotten about the arrangement, so the first I knew was when DD1 ran up to me after school, dumped her school bag in my direction, and said ‘I’m going to R’s, remember?’

I had the other three blethering on at me at the same time, but I shushed them for a moment and focused on DD1 and her friend.

‘Where’s your mum?’, I asked the friend. Apparently she was walking up to the school and usually met her daughter half way. Fair enough, they have almost finished year 6 now; I was okay with that.

DD didn’t have her mobile with her so I told her that when she got back to her friend’s house, she needed to ring our home phone, and give me their address and phone number. DD promised she would, and off they went.

At the time I didn’t even think about how little I knew about where she was going. I had no address, no contact details, didn’t know the girls last name- I didn’t even know if DD was staying for dinner. This was going to prove a very stupid mistake.

When I got the others home, I sat and waited for the phone to ring. It didn’t until about 1/4 past 4. Then it wasn’t DD , but a friend wanting  a chat. When I got off the phone it was 1/4 to 5 and I still hadn’t heard anything. I was getting a bit cross.

I made dinner for the other kids, and the phone still didn’t ring. By 6pm I was getting anxious. I knew she would be safe, but it wasn’t fun not knowing where my firstborn was.  Eventually, around 20 past 6, DH turned up. I ‘fessed up and told him I’d lost one of our children.

Immediately he checked the phone messages. Why didn’t I think of that? There was one from DD at 22 past 4; she must have rung while I was on the phone to my friend.

However, the message wasn’t helpful. It simply said ‘ Hi Mum. If I stay here for dinner, it won’t be ready until 7pm. If you want me home earlier, can you come and pick me up? Ring me and let me know.’

See, no phone number and no address. Not helpful. We are with Virgin and they don’t save the number called from if it goes straight to voice mail. So I really had no idea of how to contact the mother, who I imagined must be thinking I was very rude.

I did some facebooking on our school’s page to see if I could identify the family, but it turned out I was barking up the wrong tree. In the end I rang a friend who is one of the school governors. Coincidentally she had a Governors meeting that night and was able to tell the head teacher what had happened. He kindly rang the other mum, explained the situation and DD1 was delivered to my doorstep within 10 minutes.

The other mum was very polite about the whole situation, especially when she asked if I hadn’t got the contact details written down by her that she had given to DD for me.  Of course DD swore blind that she had given the post it to me, whereas I am certain I’ve never seen it before but we managed not to have a full on argument about it in front of her friends…

I said Thank You several times, apologised profusely and took her contact details ‘for next time’. That sounds promising , doesn’t it?

So I had a ‘little talk’ with DD1 about the importance of supplying ALL the information asked for, to which she said she assumed that the phone would be able tell me the number she dialed from. Kids today, eh? We wouldn’t have conceived of such a thing back when I was a kid!

And I now have a check list for play dates that starts with ‘Don’t  let them go ANYWHERE if I don’t have contact details’.

It’s only common sense isn’t it?

check list