Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What's Your Favourite?

Joseph has a new thing, he likes to constantly ask me what my favourite thing is.  Most of the time I think it's a ruse to get me to admit which of my children I prefer, but I am always a step ahead of him and reply before he finishes the sentence (obviously I say his sister...  joking, I don't really).

However, because he's got wind of me getting wind of him he's decided that he'll quickly switch it up and add on a random item that I have to choose my favourite from.  Here are some of my favourite 'what's your favourites?' and my honest and sometimes sarcastic replies.

What's your favourite breakfast?

Full English fry up with hash browns

What's your favourite 'Jake and the Neverland Pirates' character?

I don't know son, I don't watch it.  And it's who's your favourite Jake and the Neverland Pirates character!

What's your favourite socks?

The ones on my feet

What's your favourite colour pencil?

The yellow one

What's your favourite thing to do?


What's your favourite drink?

Wine of course!

Obviously! But aside from wine, what's your favourite?

There is no aside from wine!

What's your favourite time?

10 past nine in the morning

What's your favourite donkey?

Erm, I'm not that knowledgeable about different breeds of donkey, what's your favourite donkey?

Donkey Kong!

What's your favourite donkey?

Friday, February 28, 2014

Listography: 5 Simple Pleasures

It's been a while since I took part in one of Kate Takes 5's listographys - one of my previous attempts actually went viral - but that's a story for another day if I can ever really be arsed to tell it.

Today's is all about simple pleasures, which I like because I like pleasure and I like simple...

So here are 5 of my favourite simple pleasures:

Children's Laughter

Obviously there is nothing nicer on the ear than the sound of my own children giggling, especially when they are laughing with each other.  But, the sound of any child's laughter, particularly a baby is such a simple delight that is totally infectious and you cannot fail to smile.

Cooking Smells

Sticking with the senses my second simple pleasure would have to be cooking smells.   The smell of a Sunday dinner roasting in the oven, bacon frying, fresh bread or cakes baking, the waft of t'husband rustling up a curry...

Listening to the Radio

I like this for two reasons, firstly (and maybe the most important) is the fact that the kids are at nursery and school and t'husband is out earning some corn so I have the house to myself.  But I like the background noise peppered every now and again with a song you love but haven't heard for ages while I work or clean.

Prior to UK television channels switching their signal and us poor expats not being able to pick the signal anymore unless we erect a satellite dish the size of a small country on our roofs I was a Radio 2 fan, but I've since discovered Absolute radio which has a fantastic mix of music from the 60s to present day without any boy band or other manufactured shite to murder your eardrums.

Colouring In

Sadly the boy isn't the slightest bit interested in colouring in and considers it a massive chore when he has to do any for homework, and the girl is still at the scribbling stage so I have to take advantage of the few times I see my niece to do some colouring in.  There is something very therapeutic about colouring in, so long as I have decent felt tips and nice paper in the colouring in book, I can quite happily entertain myself for hours.

Friday Evening

My work for the week is done (or I've rolled it over till Monday) the dinner is made or even better t'husband is cooking, the house is reasonably tidy and it is now officially WINE TIME!

What are your simple pleasures?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Mannequins with Muffs

Obviously there is no such thing as bad publicity and US clothing retailer American Apparrel are no strangers to courting controversy, being regularly accused of using very young models in unnecessarily provocative and often half naked poses. However, I am loving their latest stunt.

They have decided to add pubic hair to their shop mannequins.  And not just a little 'if you squint hard enough you may see a bit of dark shading pubic hair'.  No, these have gone hard core, spraying out of the side of your knickers, big lady garden, pubic hair!  Yay!

As someone who can barely be bothered to 'trim and edge' every now and again to tame what is supposed to be there, I applaud this.  I'd love for women veer away from this waxing everything off culture that makes women look like porn stars or pre-pubescent school girls.  Get with the hair, let it grow and flow, that's what I say.

The company have defended their excessive use of pubes by saying that they want to 'start a conversation about society's concept of feminine beauty'.  And it will undoubtedly work.   No doubt there will be teenage boys and young men who walk past a window of American Apparrel and balk, after all with their internet porn use and probably their own experience of women at their tender age, they probably don't realise women have pubes, or that pubes don't grow in some straight neat little line.  Hopefully, more than a few will actually embrace womaness in all it's hairy glory and learn to love a muff.

More over, I hope that this is the start of the tide turning and that this particular fashion outgrows itself.

Guest Post - Cycling in European Cities

****Guest Post****

I love cycling, round where I live is perfect for cycling - not only are we blessed with good weather, but flat terrain, along with miles and miles of good roads stretching into the Ebro delta, meandering through rice fields with little traffic to bother you, all add up to a very pleasant afternoon.

However, cycling as a way to discover Europe isn't something that I'd ever considered before, but it makes perfect sense to do so.  So many capital cities now offer great cycling schemes where bikes can be picked up and dropped off at various locations around the city.  Hiring a bike means that you can totally tailor your sight seeing to your taste.  Rather than have to board a bus along with lots of other babbling tourists, you 
can decide your route, spend as little or as much time as you wish at a destination and all in the knowledge that you're doing it in an environmentally friendly way. 

This great infographic which was sent to me by Momondo and shows how easy it is to tour 5 of Europe's biggest cities by bike.

Friday, January 10, 2014

6 Things I am Going to Stop Doing in 2014

Normally at this time of year I am making the same old New Year's resolutions—lose weight, get fitter,
detox etc. etc.   But this time, as well as the usual ones that I'll have given up on by mid February, I've decided to tackle some of my more peculiar habits, such as:

1. Stop Pulling Out Grey Hairs with Tweezers

I will use that box of hair dye that's been sitting on top of the bathroom cabinet for the past 2 years (actually, do these things have an expiry date?) instead of spending 20 minutes each time I check the mirror forceably ripping three inch + hairs from their protesting follicles.

2.  Stop Pronouncing 'Toilet' as 'Torlet'

I don't even think this is an East-Midlands accent thing, just my own inability to pronounce the word correctly.

3. Stop Buying Really Big Knickers

I live in a warm climate—muffin top overhang or no overhang, there really isn't any need to warm my lower ribs, even in February.

4. Stop Continually Starting New Crochet Projects

I will finish off all the others I've already started, including sewing up all the squares for my son's Barça coloured blanket before spring arrives.

5.  Stop Jumping on Bandwagons

Joining in with controversial issues when they have probably been raised/started/circulated in the first place to deliberately draw attention to the person or company in question, purely as a means of free advertising.   There is no such thing as bad publicity after all.

6.  Stop Being So Negative

I am cynical by nature, and suspect I always will be.  But this year I shall try my hardest to actually look at what can go right instead of immediately thinking about what can go wrong.  This will mean altering a lifetime's attitude, but I will try.

What weird things are you going to change about yourself this year?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

How to Deal With Divided Family Loyalties and Sibling Jealousy?

Once Amber was born, I expected a degree of jealousy from our son.  He had been the sole focus of our attention for more than 5 years, so it was a given that his nose would be put out of joint somewhat by the arrival of a small squealing ginger thing.

And indeed that was so.  We spent many a time fielding questions such as 'who do you love more, me or Amber?' and 'do you still love me'.  I think we dealt with it as best as possible at the time, taking the time to reassure him that whilst there was a new member to the family, our love for him was just as strong, and that we love both him and his sister equally.

In this time of adjustment, it was inevitable that he would start to spend more time with his dad.  Obviously, during the first few months most of my time was taken up by a cranky, colicky baby, so my husband used the time to introduce Joseph to the Playstation and their relationship went from strength to strength.

Fast forward a couple of years and there now feels like there is a massive divide in the family.   Each child now seems to have their own dedicated parent and if the other sibling is given any attention by 'their' parent all hell breaks loose.

Amber can be positively evil to her bigger brother, God forbid that he should come and sit next to me on the sofa or get into our bed in the morning for a cuddle.  To her, I am strictly off limits to everyone else.  I am to be exclusively hers.  Joseph is screamed at, physically pushed aside and generally considered a trespasser in her space.

On the other hand, Joseph is now becoming more and more sulky should my husband want to do anything but spend every second of his free time with him.  If he spends some time playing with Amber, this is increasingly being met with sulks, feigned illnesses or any other way of trying to divert the attention back to himself.

I am obviously keen to get our family back on track.  To a place where either parent can spend time with either child (or both at the same time) without tears and tantrums following.

I keep hoping this is just a phase, that maybe when Amber is a little older she'll develop a better bond with her dad and not be so reliant on me.  I am also hoping that Joseph becomes slightly less dependent on his father—I love the fact that they're close, but I am starting to feel pushed out—and that we can be as close as we were before Amber was born.

I'd also really like for my children to like to spend time in each other's company, rather than see each other as competition all the time.

Did anyone else experience this sibling jealousy and one-parent attachment?  How did you deal with it or is an ongoing thing that you're still experiencing?

I'd love some advice.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Guest Post - E-learning Changing the Way Schools Work

****Guest Post****

Today's classrooms bear very little resemblance to the classrooms of 20 or even 30  years ago. Frontal teaching seems to still be the preferred form of classroom management in most schools but educational institutions from elementary through high schools are increasingly turning to elearning in an effort to increase scholastic success, cut costs and prepare the students for the new technological age.

Colleges and other institutions of higher learning have been offering their courses online for over a decade but the growth of elearning for grade school students is relatively new. The explosion of new elearning tools, platforms and forums -- both free and with varying degrees of cost -- emphasizes the importance of online learning for 21st century schoolchildren.

There are numerous reasons that schools are integrating more online learning in their classrooms. Even though online learning programs demand that each child has his own tablet or laptop, entire school districts have decided to invest in the equipment because they believe that the children, in the long run, will perform better and learn more than they would in a conventional learning situation. The United States Department of Education commissioned a study on the effectiveness of elearning. The study Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices of Online Learning was released in 2009. It included a review of  50 independent studies of online learning and concluded that online learning is more effective than traditional frontal instruction.
Some of the reasons online learning's successes include:
  • Online learning is cheaper. Even taking into account the cost of the tablets/laptops and access to the online programs, elearning requires fewer staff members. Also, no textbooks are needed. 
  • eLearning programs offer more opportunities. Teachers can set up asynchronous lessons (independent learning), synchronous lessons (group learning) or blended lessons.
  • Classes can flip. Flipped classrooms are becoming increasingly popular, especially for the older grades where the students are more capable of learning independently. A flipped classroom involves a situation in which the students review pre-recorded material online, at home. They then do the "homework" in the classroom where the teacher is available to assist.
  • It's easier to adapt online learning to varied learning styles than it is to adapt conventional learning to different styles of learning. Students who learn online tend to automatically adopt their own particular learning style to the material. The teacher's time is not occupied with developing  techniques for individual students since the students  adapt the materials to their own particular needs on their own.
  • eLearning is flexible. If a student is absent from the classroom for a period of time, s/he can easily access the material and complete the assignments directly online.
  • Homeschooling parents are able to present their children with more and varied information and materials using online resources. Homeschooling kids can also connect online and create a virtual classroom while enjoying all the benefits of a homeschooling environment.
The benefits of elearning are no longer in question. The role of the teacher in the online classroom, however, is less clear. Many education professionals, community members and parents are curious about how classroom teachers facilitate online lessons. Many people wonder, if the students are working online, what does the teacher do?
The teacher's role in online learning, it turns out, is as important as ever. A teacher in an elearning classroom creates the lesson, facilitates it, provides guidance for the students and evaluates their successes in the same way that teachers have always worked. Effective online education teachers:
  • create new learning environments for their students that allow the pupils to explore and experiment, reflect, think critically, work creatively and create new knowledge.
  • make learning online more effective by using customized tools that aid preparation and programming assessment
  • customize the students' learning experiences
  • build partnerships that go beyond the classroom
Teachers in an elearning classroom have roles and skills that they never had before but they continue to serve as the central figure in the student's learning. As educational leader Lowell Milken notes "The most direct and enduring way to reach the mind and imagination of the learner is through the mind, imagination and character of the outstanding teacher." This holds as true in the elearning classroom as it ever did.