Author event may inspire children to write

Dan Walker Book Signing PosterBilled as “amazing, action packed stories,” you can find out more about from the author of Desert Thieves and Sky Thieves himself when Dan Walker visits a Lincoln bookshop on Saturday (October 14th, 2017).

Aimed at ages 9-12, the swashbuckling adventure series includes flying galleons, floating islands and long lost treasure.

And Walker is looking forward to his appearance at the High Street branch of Waterstones from 11am to 2pm just as much as any of his young fans are.

“As a children’s writer, events are super-exciting,” the Nottingham writer explains.

“Writing stories is something children do at school, so the understand the process well.  It is not an abstract thing for them.  So when they meet someone who does it for a living – someone who can give them tips and tricks, talk about structure and characters – it’s really interesting.

“In terms of reading as a hobby, kids are always fascinated by the inspiration for characters, events, settings, everything!  I also get a lot of feedback from children who had given up on their writing, but were inspired by meeting an author to get back on it again.”

DanWalker
Author Dan Walker

And it’s not just the children who might find the event inspirational as Walker finds meeting his young readers very beneficial too.

“For a writer, events are great because it means you get to speak to your readers, ” he says.  Writing is a solitary job, and sometimes you get so buried in the details of a story that you lose touch with why you’re putting words on the paper.

“When you go out to an event, and meet readers, it reminds you of the end-point of your story.  You remember who you’re writing for, and the joy it hopefully brings.

“Practically, it gives you a little boost, so that next time you sit down at the computer you’re ready and raring to go.  From a craft perspective, it’s also good to know which bits of your books kids particularly enjoyed, and which bits they didn’t.

“Feedback is good in every station of life; writing is no different.”

Find out more at: www.waterstones.com

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Bushcraft, browsing and a Wobbly Bodger

Belton House Autumn Fayre 2017

Autumn is my favourite season so it’s lovely to hear of other people celebrating it too.

National Trust property Belton House holds an annual Autumn Fayre and this weekend (Saturday, October 14th and Sunday 15th) is 2017’s time to host it.

“The two day Autumn Fayre offers families the chance to immerse themselves in all things autumnal, from learning forest skills with Silverback Bushcraft, and having-a-go at den building in Lincolnshire’s largest outdoor adventure playground, to exploring autumn with the RSPB’s Nature’s Colour trail” says marketing and events officer Anastasia Stratigou.

“Browse a selection of handmade arts, crafts and foods that celebrate the best of regional produce. With local traders selling a variety of foods, vintage linens, handmade jewellery, leather bags, garden items, home décor and more, the fayre promises there will be a treat to be found by all”.

Click here to find details of the stall holders attending: Belton Autumn Fayre Stall Holder List 2017.

The North Front at Belton House, a restoration country house built 1685-88
The North Front at Belton House.  National Trust Images: Andrew Butler.

New for 2017, chainsaw artist Andrew Frost will be creating live action wood carvings in preparation for Belton’s Christmas display, at the fayre on Sunday.  And, on the same day, the Lincolnshire Greyhound Trust’s annual greyhound walk around the parkland will start at 11am.

The Wobbly Bodger will also be demonstrating traditional heritage crafts all weekend.

The fayre will take place from 9.30am to 5.30pm on both days, with different activities throughout the weekend.  Grounds admission applies.

Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/belton-house for more information.

A wardrobe fit for speedy and snappy dressers

A review of me&i clothing

The autumn season is definitely upon us now and, as much as I love the colours of the falling leaves and the family celebrations it brings us, the change in the weather also means it’s time to put away the summer wear and bring out the long sleeves.

So when Swedish clothing company me&i offered to send us two items of clothing from their latest range to review I jumped at the chance.

The company’s ethos, encompassing organic gender-neutral baby clothing, design-led comfortable items for older children and an emphasis on ethical manufacturing, certainly appealed to me.

NAnd, as we discovered on their arrival, their soft, bright design, high-quality jersey fabric tops of choice didn’t disappoint.

First of all we had to make a choice.  If you know me, you’ll know I’m not generally the best at making decisions anyway, but the range of great designs offered by me&i’s current season made it even harder.

For Luke I almost chose the under water  top as I really liked the “dark ocean/black/orange” colour tones and he’s shown an interest in submarines recently but I finally settled on the motorcycles instead.  The first toys he ever fixated on to the point of us having to buy them as he wouldn’t walk away from them, Luke has long been interested in motorcycles, also often stopping to stare at the real thing and their riders (slightly embarrassing but they’ve usually been quite nice about it fortunately).

The brighter “turquoise/orange/black/rowanberry” palette also seemed to be the way to go seeing as I have been bemoaning the dark and dreary colours of the plain school uniform he’s forced to wear for most of the week – weekends should definitely be full of colour!

Plus, or so I thought, it would give me the perfect excuse to finally ask a friend if Luke could “try out” his bike – lots of fun for Luke and a great photo opportunity for me.  Sadly, as with all my best laid plans, Mother Nature had other ideas for my ambitions but fortunately the rain didn’t stop Luke’s play.

And mummy seems to not have chosen too badly as it’s been his top of choice ever since – so I can also attest that it washes well too!

VFortunately Willow also loves her new wardrobe addition.  The alligators with handbags tunic jumped out at me as just perfect for her.  Absolutely bag mad (and her collection even includes a crocodile one), she had also requested some storybooks with crocodiles in on the day I was choosing so it seemed just right.

EShe does, however, very much have her own sense of style and what she will and won’t wear, so the fact she chose it to wear on a playdate with one of her godmums to show off her bag collection, as well as to a park, for play time at home in the garden and even to her ballet class, was reassuring it was a good choice.  And, again, I already know it washes well.

(If you have a mini one who’s particularly enamoured by the creatures with toothy grins, me&i also offer a tennis alligator top).

The quality, comfort and range of fun designs as well as the company’s ethical stance meant that I knew I’d be keeping a look out for future season collections but their recent addition of the chubby bats range already means they’ve definitely won the fashion heart of this Halloween fan.

Find out more at www.meandi.com

Seven things I hate about school

#Blogtober17 – Day Five: Education

Before I start on this rant I want to make it clear that I’m obviously grateful for the universal public education offered in this country and that when I was originally bemoaning not getting the school of our choice for our eldest seeing Malala joining Twitter put my complaints in perspective somewhat.

But that doesn’t mean that I have to like all of it.

  1. The illusion of choice
    The majority of people were given a place for their child at their first choice of school.  We were in the minority.  This did not bode well for me accepting let alone embracing that it was already time to lose my first born to the school gates.
  2. The effect on siblings and the family unit
    Full family time was already at a premium due to working hours but now it is almost restricted to the weekend.  Holidays and days out are crammed into the same time and space everyone else needs to cram them into as we all roughly share the same term times.  Siblings are separated for hours each day, younger siblings get dragged along on the school run for no benefit of their own, loose their playmate(s) for most of the week and the freedom the eldest child may have been lucky enough to have known for the first four or five years of their lives is truncated for the younger siblings.  We thought Willow would miss Luke a lot now he is in his reception year but Luke too has also asked when Willow will be starting his school.
  3. Uniform
    I like a team strip but I’m really not a fan of uniform for uniform’s sake.  He has plenty of clothes that fit him already, why are we wasting money and the earth’s resources (the fashion industry is a huge polluter) buying him more in order to deny him the opportunity to be an individual and the opportunity to wear any bright colours or fun designs?
  4. The school run
    All the schools in our area are over subscribed so we knew early on that I would have to start driving frequently and regularly which, considering up until August I barely drove at all as I’m quite scared of the concept, is a very big deal for me.  It creates such a busy time on the roads and siblings get to waste double the amount of time in the car due to the return trip.  Anyone recommend some interesting CDs to listen to?  And my sense of urgency for getting to the school gate on time is rarely reflected in the time it takes the minis to get in and out of the car.
  5. Time
    The school gets the best of my son’s time.  We get the rush at the start of the day, the tired at the end and we’re always watching the clock in between to make sure we march to the sound of the school bell.  They get to see him learn, his wow moments are now shared with his teacher’s and not me and I lose opportunities to learn along with him.
  6. Influence
    Peer pressure and other adult influences will start to make a bigger impression on my child’s outlook.  We’ve already had gender limitations alluded to which I did my best to quash immediately but such labelling can be insidious.  It doesn’t help that he is among the many children who subscribe to the “what happens at school stays at school” line of thinking offering up exceedingly little information as to how his day has unfolded or even just whether he’s eaten or not.
  7. Homework 
    I was one of “those” children who actually asked for homework when I was in primary school even though we weren’t regularly set it then in the way children are now.  As a parent however, I’m not sure I approve of having too much set (if any) for such young pupils.  They already over tired from the school week, have such reduced family time at home or for truly free play, why rob them of more?

I know the answer to some of my genuine concerns rather than just grumpy grumbles would be to home educate which I have considered but, for now at least, he is apparently enjoying school whilst he’s there and his younger siblings can enjoy more of my less divided attention too.

All of this, of course, I do my best not to voice around him and I’m well aware that, after experiencing our first half term, I may well be writing a seven things I love about school instead…

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A month to be aware of

#Blogtober17 – Day Four: Date

October 2017 is a very significant month which has lots of claims to fame.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Stoptober and Black History Month, it contains The Big Draw, World Space Week, Wool Week, National Knitting Week, British Egg Week, National Curry Week, Chocolate Week, Baby Loss Awareness Week, International Day of the Girl Child and International Babywearing Week, Apple Day and Halloween, to name but a few.

And not forgetting, most importantly, Daddy and Mummy Malpi’s birthdays and anniversary.

But, notwithstanding the significant number associated with my impending age celebration date, October 2017 is also important to us as it is Down Syndrome Awareness Month in the US.

In the UK Down’s Syndrome Awareness Week is held in March, encompassing the date of the 21st of the 3rd month as people with Down’s Syndrome (or Trisomy 21) have three copies of chromosome 21 but why wouldn’t we want to join in with our international community and dedicate a whole month to raising awareness, to “celebrate people with Down syndrome and make people aware of their abilities and accomplishments”?

 

 

Faith may have only been born just under nine months ago but she’s already achieved so much.  She’s been able to breastfeed which we were told was unlikely, she has the most adorable chuckle, she attracts compliments wherever we go and has been signed up by specialist talent agency Zebedee Management, gives great cuddles, blows a fabulous raspberry, has lovely babble-y chats and she’s getting more and more mobile as she’s so determined to start exploring the world just like her big brother and sister.

And she’s certainly won the hearts of mummy, daddy, big brother and big sister.

I don’t want to consider what a world without my Faith would be like and I give thanks that, for the most part, we live in a country where people are kind and think that helping others should be the willing default option.  When you give love you receive it in return and, if our as yet short introduction to the Down’s Syndrome community is representative, there’s a lot of love to go round.

October has always been my favourite month with birthdays, Halloween and an anniversary to celebrate and now it has a special relevance for my miniest mini too.

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Planes, pains and automobiles

#Blogtober17 – Day Three: Car

Today’s #Blogtober17 prompt “car” reminded me of a recent fun family day out despite not all going entirely to plan…

With the weather forecast against us and a desire to find some new indoor attractions to keep the mini ones busy (that didn’t involve soft play yet again) we’d headed into south Lincolnshire on a Sunday in September.

Having consulted the Lincolnshire Heritage Open Days schedule we’d discovered that Cranwell Aviation Heritage Museum was hosting a pioneering female aviators exhibition – High Flying Women (this has now been replaced by Airships Over Lincolnshire… Lighter Than Air) and, never having visited before, we put the code in the sat-nav to find out more.

I hadn’t expected it to be a huge museum but also hadn’t expected it to be quite as tiny as it is either – but it definitely punches above its weight.

The minis were as warmly and enthusiastically welcomed by the friendly and knowledgeable volunteer curator as my husband and I were and, clipboards in hand ready for collecting answers in the temporary exhibition section, we entered the room of exhibits to see what was on display.

At any age hands-on learning is much more fun than passive experiences but especially so for children and Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre more than meets this challenge.  A flight simulator, an aircraft recognition game, a chance to try and drop a supply package on target, dressing up opportunities and a navigation challenge mean that you’ll be spending a lot longer in the centre than you may have first thought on entering.

 

Clutching their lollipops won for completing the worksheet accompanying the exhibition (despite being pre-literate Willow takes these types of things very seriously), we headed out into the courtyard that’s home to a Jet Provost which Luke and Willow enjoyed running around pretending to be airplanes themselves.

When they’d come back down to land it was then time for the automobiles section of the day and when things started to go slightly awry.

Next on the itinerary was to stop for lunch at V-ATE, a “pit stop dining experience” in Boston – sadly it seemed to have been next on everyone else’s itinerary too and we arrived to be told there was an hour-and-a-half wait to be seated which we didn’t think the minis would endure.  The restaurant has only recently opened, the photos of its extensively themed interior have heralded much hype and, according to those I know who’ve managed to get a table so far, the hype is justifiable both for the food as well as overall experience. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to try again another time, perhaps not on a Sunday lunchtime.

Fortunately our next planned stop – The Bubblecar Museum – advertised having a cafe as well as being “the UK’s most unusual motor museum” so we headed straight there instead.

Despite being far from a petrolhead and actually a very reluctant driver at best, the Bubblecar Museum is somewhere I’ve long wanted to visit.  I’m a big fan of 1950s style and the microcars are, quite frankly, just cute.  As Luke’s toy cars are everything to him at the moment I thought it would appeal to him too.

Our welcome didn’t quite have the warmth of the earlier one however as the curators seemed quite suspicious if not disapproving of the mini ones’ exuberance.  With the dire warnings of potential dangers of their static car, motorcycle and moped displays ringing in our ears (not to mention the chance of fingers being trapped in the entrance door) we still managed to enjoy the displays in the micromusem, circling both floors several times talking about the different colours of the vehicles and pointing out items in the cabinets.  With no interactive elements to their collection (you can pay extra for a ride in a Bubblecar) we didn’t spend quite as long here though.  Luke did make sure he left the gift shop clutching a new toy car for his collection however.

The day did also serve to fuel my enthusiasm for finding more small and quirky museums to visit however as I find the passion behind such specific collections particularly engaging.  And seeing as I’ve just found out through Twitter that there’s a Lincolnshire Chair Museum perhaps we have our next destination!

If you know of any interesting little museums then let me know in the comments below.

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The privilege of baby cuddles

#Blogtober17 – Day Two: Babies

At one of the minis many weekend daytime soirees another mum who had stolen Faith for a cuddle spoke of the privilege of holding a baby.

Obviously as the mum of the baby she was holding at the time I was definitely in agreement but she’s right in general too, isn’t she?

The newborn stage is so fleeting and so precious.  A small bundle of newness that knows little of the darker side of life and that simply wants to absorb and radiate love.  You are cradling a whole life in your hands, embracing an innocence that the future’s potential is stored within.

And for many people there are only a short few years in your life where you have regular opportunity to hold someone at such a special time.

I wish we had been told how meaningful it is when we were younger instead of how having children when young might ruin your life.  I wish that being a mother and looking after the potential of the future was held in much more esteem than it currently seems to be in our society because being blessed by my minis has made my life.

And when, as a teen and university student you are given dire warnings about ensuring against unwanted pregnancy, it might be pertinent to mention that it can actually be difficult to get pregnant too, especially as you grow older.

We’re educated towards being able to take a place in the world of work (which is obviously quite useful) but we seem to forget that there are more important roles to prepare ourselves for too.

So, whenever I’m having a long day, I’ll try to remind myself that the years are short and feel privileged to have full arms and to be able to hold on to those hours and my babies for a little bit longer.

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