Saturday, 30 December 2017

Always a Single Parent

Christmas time is a time for reflection. For me, anyway. I confess to being one of those weird people who measures their lives, assesses what has gone on, how far I have got/not got and what I have or haven't achieved.

You might think I'd feel happy. Or smug. Or proud. Excited, even.

I don't really feel any of those things, but I am trying to make myself feel it. You see, ten years ago I was a single parent. I was alone with a child. I worked very hard. I raised a baby alone, I bought my first house, I learned to drive, I bought a car. I arranged childcare, I went to nativity plays, I organised school fund fees, I went on school trips, I taught her to ride a bike, to be polite and to be strong.

I did all of these things alone in the face of unbearable heartbreak at being left alone to manage.

I developed this thick skin. I remember the hardships I faced, the judgement.

Ten years on I'm married with three children now. No longer a single parent. I worked hard and look:

A First Class BA

A distinction at MA
And now undertaking a fully funded PhD full time. I have everything I have ever wished for, and more.

And yet, I feel like someone picked up this single parent, removed her from what she once was, plonked her in Liverpool with three kids and a barely-there support network and left her. I feel completely and utterly removed from what I was. From where I was. What happened to this strong woman? I fear she got lost in a new town, with new expectations. She's there. I can see her in these pictures, she is strong and so motivated that it hurts to think how hard and determined she is. And yet...somehow everything is removed.

I read somewhere that you should never look back except to see how far you have come. This is complete bullshit. You need to look back to remember who you are, you need people, experiences, memories. You need trinkets and tokens of remembrance: the picture of you and your new baby, the key-ring from your first house, old love-letters ripped into smithereens. You need to remember how bad it was, feel the pain and know that you are strong. You need to feel like there has been a journey. You can't erase the past, you need to embrace it and feel everything that came with it. I am so proud to have been a single parent - it made me who I am and it makes me who I am everyday.

You can't let go. The past makes us who we are, and in being urged to forget the past, move on, in some way feel "rescued" or "redeemed," I have lost something very precious that is mine.

So this coming year, I am working on getting it back.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Homemade STEM Toys for Christmas

Both myself and my husband are very keen on education, and raising girls means that we are keen that they are not limited by their sex - we like them to have a variety of experiences and play with toys, clothe, books that are not traditionally for 'girls.' As you probably know, part of my PhD research focuses on gender, so I won't start getting all lectur-y about sex and gender, but needless to say - we want our girls to embrace all aspects of being human without confining them to one gender or another.

So of course we are delighted to write about Konnie Huq's partnership with the Institute of Engineering and Techinology (IET) to create home-made STEM toys for Christmas. We were keen to get the kids involved in learning. getting creative and doing something a little bit different.



Christmas can be difficult for many people. Some people feel the pressure and spend a fortune on toys for their kids, and even if you aren't having money difficulties, it can still be hard to 'keep up with the Jones' in this way. This is why I really loved the idea of home-made presents - not just for Christmas gifts but also as a way of spending time with your kids, engaging with their creative side as well as teaching them a bit of science along the way.



The Christmas STEM toys made by Konnie include:

1. Dissolving egg

2. Magnetic slime

3. Icosahedron bauble

4. Marble run

5. Balloon boat

6. Bouncy balls

7. Smartphone projector

8. Living gingerbread house

9. Kaleidoscope


We decided to try and make the Icosahedron bauble. As Warren is a Physics teacher, I thought it would be best to leave the kids to be taught by their Dad with this, They sat with a compass and made each circle individually. Warren showed them some maths tricks to turn the circle into equilateral triangles, I was sat nearby and overheard the conversation between Warren and Alice - they discussed how important maths and science is to creating shapes and structures in the world, and how maths and science as subjects inform each other.




They had a really good time making the decoration. As you can see, it turned out really well - all they need to do next is to paint it and add glitter - that is our next job!





Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Review: Tatton Park's 12 Days of Christmas

With Christmas just a few weeks away, we were excited to be able to visit Tatton Park in Knutsford and join in with their festive activities for their 12 Days of Christmas.

There are a number of amazing family-themed activities and things to see in Tatton Park, and we were very excited to get to hear about them. There are many festive activities to enjoy in this huge park, including a masked ball, craft fair and lovely wintery walks around the grounds. You really would need to spend a full family day out here to appreciate what the park has to offer. Below I have included a couple of the events and details of how we got on. I hope you enjoy reading and enjoy visiting with your little ones!

Do visit their website for further information on any of these events.


Christmas Mansion

The Christmas Mansion in Tatton Park has been decorated in full-on festive fashion with each room representing the song 12 Days of Christmas. Each room is decorated from the state rooms to the servants's quarters. There are craft demonstrations available, and you can even make your own origami swan to take home. There is even a magical Christmas wish tree!

Father Christmas at the Farm

We spent a lot of time on the farm with the kids. Our kids absolutely love farms at the best of times, and with a Christmas themed farm you couldn't really go wrong. We started off by watching a Christmas brass band playing all of the festive favourites - complete with Christmas hats! There was even a jester happy to entertain us with his pretty cool juggling skills. Our girls were wearing elf-jumpers so they were all in for Christmas fun! Next we checked in with the reindeer. We also saw horses, goats and chickens.



We had a little visit to Aunt Mary's Christmas cottage where she explained how (in the olden days) people used to make their Christmas decorations our of salt dough! This was a lovely little story, and Alice is really keen on history at the moment so she liked this part especially. The girls were able to take home a small salt dough tree decoration each to paint at home.



Next we went on some rides, and bought a cup of coffee - it was cold, if you are venturing out this winter, be sure to wrap up - I don't remember it being this cold this early last year! We looked in on the Elves Workroom, then on to Santa himself. The kids had fun chatting to Santa and his elves even painted their faces for them. They each received a lovely little gift and came home with a smile on their face.



I would really recommend this as a Christmas experience. There was something really special about being out in the open, the reindeer, Santa Claus, the elves, and even the cold to be honest - it was all so Christmassy. If you are planning to go and visit a few of the attractions do check the opening and closing times and plan for at least a full day. We had an amazing time.



Father Christmas at the farm was priced at £7 per adult and £6.50 per child. I think this was good value, as it was not just a usual visit to Santa - it is a full farm visit with face painting and a gift included - we spent around two hours at the farm and could have spent longer but time was ticking on!

For more information do visit their website here. 

We were invited to Tatton Park for the purpose of this review, all words and views are our own. 

Getting Ready For Christmas #GetChristmassy

We absolutely love this time of year. The kids get very excited in the run-up to Christmas - the Christmas tree, lights, decorations and preparations for Christmas all being in full swing from late November right up until the big day itself. I think it's really important to get organised and sorted so that when Christmas actually comes and there is time off work, we can spend it together properly as a family and enjoy the family time together.

As you know I am super-organised so I thought I might list some tips here on how to #GetChristmassy without the stress!


These two love Christmas :)


Deadlines and Lists

I don't know about you but I have a lot of deadlines around about this time. Things can get hectic, and I want to make sure that I make the most of the time off with my kids. That's why making lists and setting my own deadlines is important. I love to set myself a task list each day and try and make sure that I can switch off completely in time for Christmas holidays.

Presents Vs Time Together

I personally think that spending a fortune on Christmas presents can suck the life out of Christmas a bit. We just spend what we can and try to make our Christmas about experiences as a family rather than going over the top with expensive gifts that might turn out to be a one-minute wonder anyway. We enjoy Christmas in a variety of ways, from Film Night (snuggling on the couch with blankets, popcorn and Christmas films,) to eating out together as a family. There are so many amazing  Liverpool Restaurants  to visit and we always make sure we have a meal planned over Christmas!

House Decorations

We do enjoy Christmas decorations, and make sure that the kids get involved with their organisation. It doesn't always have to cost a fortune and there are ways that you can decorate your house that are really quite inexpensive. This year we have candy canes on the tree. To be honest I am not too sure how long they will stay on there, but I think they look really lovely and they remind me of the Santa Claus movie I used to watch as a child.



Christmas Food

I'm not sure about your family, but mine all like different vegetables, different types of potatoes and meats, so I have to plan quite carefully. This year we have a bit 'Christmas Shop List' and everyone in our house will have a job to do to help prepare. I find that it is not only fun to prepare food together but it is a great way to teach the kids to get involved with the Christmas preparations - who doesn't love prepping sprouts!?

Whatever you are doing this Christmas, I wish you a happy one for you and your family!




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