I am one of those people who before December 1st is a bah humbug but come December 1st, I become a little Christmas fairy 🧚♀️.
It’s been a lovely start to the festive season today as we’ve had family visiting. Whilst our tree is not up yet, I have put a few seasonal items out for use, towels in the bathroom, the Christmas oil blend has been burning and of course I played Christmas songs whilst I was busy in the kitchen. My choice today was the kitsch 1950s classics, Winter Wonderland, Silver Bells etc ..
With family visiting, it was an ideal opportunity to visit the artisan beach huts for Yuletide inspiration. They are mini Christmas magical worlds with each hut beautifully decorated. I loved the Mrs Christmas model, the green fir skirt was also decorated with fairy lights.
December 1st is the return of Tommy the elf who parachuted into see us today. I love this little elf and all the joy he brings to our house every year.
Finally I love a Christmas read and we have two this year. I’m reading the anthology Last Christmas and the children and I have started The Christmas Mystery, each chapter is a different day in December. I’ve read many good reviews so I’m hoping it will give us a little Christmas magic.
I’m looking forward to embracing the season and cherishing the special moments.
I always knew this was going to be a tough week but my goodness what a week! This Friday evening, I am cuddled up on the sofa, shattered but relieved that all has gone so much better than expected.
It was a big week in the Sparkles household as Little Miss started secondary school, Little Man year 5 and Mr S begun a new job too, so lots of new routines. There were also two Inset days so my parents kindly came to stay and look after the children. Add to this my job which is manically busy at the start of the new academic year, a day’s overtime, a lost wallet (as soon as all the cards were cancelled it was found) and a broken dishwasher 😱 it’s been quite a week. It’s been one of those weeks where you simply focus on the moment.
With all the new routines in our life I’ve kept this month quiet on purpose. I think we’ll need the weekends to rest and relax. This weekend, It’s the final music festival of the season so we’ll go down to the field to listen to some music and visit the legendary craft tent. I’ve also promised some blackberry picking and cake baking with our harvest. There may be a park run tomorrow too, but that’s more for my mental health than fitness.
Next week it’s a full week of new routines and I hope we’ll settle more into our new schedules and my time will be back on the agenda. Sometimes you just need to focus on the here and now and I’ve done that this week with extra emotional support for all my little family.
Little Miss has begun to become a little anxious this week about starting secondary school on Wednesday so I arranged for her friends to come round this afternoon and just to chill together.
It was such an interesting afternoon to observe, the girls loved playing hide and seek at home and ran to the swings when we arrived at the playground yet they also enjoyed practising make up and preparing dances to chart hits, a funny juxtaposition of childhood and adolescence. They’re also at the funny age of what they can do independently, they’ll all be walking to school but I didn’t feel comfortable with them going into town on their own, so I walked 10 paces behind and sat on a bench outside the playground to allow them the look of freedom!
There were silly chats (Gatcha world and Anime) and really sensible conversations. I was pleasantly surprised how empathetic they were to each other and over tea they all had a great conversation on how they were feeling about secondary school and amongst themselves they decided to meet up on Wednesday morning to walk to school together.
I felt I achieved what I wanted to today, a chance for Little Miss to be with her friends and share their worries whilst being able to support each other. No matter what advice I may give it seems to be better received coming from a friend! However, there was also lots of time to play, laugh and dance and enjoy the treats the other mums had sent too. I know secondary school is all about making new friends but I hope these girls are always there for each other, it may not be as best friends I understand that friendships change but simply to show the care and kindness they all shared today.
This weekend, Little Miss and I went on our first visit to a music festival, her at the age of 11, me at the grand old age of 45 and 363 days! I can’t believe its taken me so long as I was a huge music fan in my teens but never quite had the confidence to join friends at our local festival, Glastonbury when it was a little more authentic than the event it has become now. Our main motive for this festival was to see Jess Glynne who is one of my daughter’s favourite singers. I had tried to get tickets for her tour earlier in the year but there was a no under 16s restriction, so when the opportunity to see her at the music festival arose, we quickly signed up. Whilst it is a camping festival, we bought day tickets, I was worried about the traffic but we drove straight through as we entered and left the site and there were no problems on the road.
Whilst I knew a little about the festival, I was blown away by its attractions and events, it sells itself as a family event and there really was so much to do. In the afternoon, we wandered around the lower garden where we ended up painting a mega cardboard castle and writing a story in a creative writing workshop. I think these quieter activities helped us have more energy later on in the day, but they were so good and engrossing. I thought the creative writing workshop was excellent and to have a real life author leading the session and enthusing the participants inspired us all. I would have loved to have explored this creative area more, we did pop in to the literary tent to see the skinny jean gardener and this was such a welcoming hub too, the talks for the coming days looked brilliant.
The time just zoomed at the festival and I had a few acts I really wanted to see, starting with Vic Reeves dj-ing. There is lots for the children at the festival but also the adults and there was a whole generation of us keen to see one of the cult comedians of the 90s, he did make me smile and dance. My bemused daughter at this point went over to have a go on the world’s largest bouncy castle but I stayed and had a dance on my own, I didn’t care, it felt fun and liberating! I really felt that at this festival you could be you. Before we went to the main music stage, we had festival eyes made up with lots of glitter and sparkle and walked back to the car for a quick change. On the walk back, we stopped off at the Caravanserai , a real curiosity of indescribable French culture and kitsch, it was fascinating and so surreal, well worth a visit.
The first act we saw at the main stage was the Human League. Now I saw them 25 years ago on an 80s tour and I don’t know if its their act or real, but again they seemed distant. I like to see my artists excited and happy by their music. My favourite song of their set was Electric Dreams and everyone was singing and dancing to the party favourites. After their set, there was a 45 minute break, so Little Miss and I did more exploring this time to the Dangly Dell, this was a hidden gem, beautiful lights lots of rainbow colours, a play area, retreat etc.. I loved that at the festival you just followed a path and ended up somewhere so different.
Jess Glynne was the headline act and she came on stage just after 10pm. Amazingly we had managed to get really near the front and had a stunning view. Jess was everything we had hoped for, a brilliant singer, making honest, witty and empowering comments to her young audience between songs and simply loving her time on stage. I’m so pleased that my daughter’s first live music experience was with such a strong and talented female artist. My daughter was transfixed and I have to admit as I saw her watching Jess I did blink back happy tears (before quickly returning to singing and dancing myself)
Our day at the festival was the best mum and daughter time. We were both so excited and happy to be there and embraced everything we could do, whether it was the creative writing session to having our glittery eye make up done! It was one of those magical days where the weather is perfect, the atmosphere so warm and welcoming and the venue and all the little details so well thought out that you wander around in a little bubble of happiness.
One of my delights in being mum is in planning, baking and decorating celebration cakes throughout the year. The children are both summer babies so its been a busy time in the kitchen getting ready for birthdays. My cakes are not the picture perfect images of those on Pinterest but real cakes made by an amateur baker who stirs in love, happy memories and positive thoughts into every cake.
This year, the children were both very decisive in what they wanted for their cake, Little Man wanted a Minecraft cake and Little Miss a watermelon cake. I took my inspiration from Pinterest whilst being realistic about what I could manage. My cakes are not simply about decoration, as I choose their flavour very carefully too.
For Little Man’s Minecraft cake, I chose to make a citrus cake, choosing an orange cake with a lime cream cheese filling. It was a very refreshing cake and helped to counter the sweetness of the icing and decoration. Although I had several ideas on how to decorate the cake, I ended up with a very simple ‘Creeper’ picture surrounded by random Minecraft tiles. His name and age were made from black icing and created by using alphabet cutters.
For Little Miss with a brief of watermelon I wanted to do all I could to make her cake look and taste like the fruit. I was able to find watermelon essence online and it was a quality product. I added it to a simple sponge mix, with some red food dye to make it look like the watermelon fruit and also added some chocolate chips to the mix as ‘seeds’ This was definitely a cake with an impressive wow factor when you cut it open (although I managed to forget to take a photo of the inside of the cake!) The sponge was filled with a water melon cream cheese filling. Again I was considering different ways to decorate the cake with icing but chose simplicity; a bright pink icing base with more choc chips as seeds. I really liked the unusual flavour of this cake, it felt like a taste of summer. I’ve since tried cupcake variations of this cake for a cake sale which were well received.
It is one of my simple pleasures to bake my children a birthday cake, its just one of those little things I do, along with the birthday breakfast table (think balloons, lights, banners etc..) to make them feel very special on their big days.
Its been ‘totes emosh’ in the Sparkles household for the last few weeks as we approached the end of primary school for Little Miss and she began to wobble. Little Miss came to live with us when she was two and shortly after started the pre school which is on the primary school site, so for the last nine years we’ve been walking the familiar route and been a part of a very special community. It has been the most wonderful school, whom have understood, nurtured and encouraged both our daughter and our family. I think this is why the last few weeks have been so difficult, as Little Miss tried to accept that something that has been such an integral part of her life was no longer going to be. Its been weeks of high anxiety at school and home and its been tough, the meltdown at the secondary school uniform fitting made me realise that talk about secondary school needed to stop and to take every day as it came. Consequently I was really worried about this week, especially the leaving party on Wednesday night and today’s assembly. Amazingly given the previous weeks these two events have gone so much better than I could have expected and Little Miss has relaxed and enjoyed these events. Sometimes I think its the anticipation of an event which causes her anxiety rather than the actual event.
The leavers party was on Wednesday evening and Little Miss looked so grown up in her new outfit. We had lots of fun in New Look on Sunday trying on different clothes and texting Grandma some photos for her opinion! I like her choice of the bright yellow playsuit, it still had the innocence of childhood with a bit of teenage style.
In their final half term, the class have been doing the Virgin £5 challenge and after a very successful apprentice fair had made enough money to pay for all aspects of their party, fish and chips from the local chippie, a disco and bouncy castles. There was another £100 profit after the party and the children chose to donate it to Great Ormond Street Hospital in thanks for their care and skill in looking after one of the class, such a lovely and genuine gesture. The party was a wonderful success and Little Miss was so happy and tired when I picked her up from the party, it was one of those special conversations as we walked home when I began to think that things might be alright.
It has been a celebration of lasts although I’ve not tried to draw attention in fear of causing more anxiety. The one I was dreading was the last school run together, the school run is precious and one of my favourite parts of the day, even though Little Miss has been allowed to walk to and from school alone in Year 6, she normally tags along with me and her brother and other friends we pass on our way. One of the teachers posted this thought this week and I really got it, so many memories from that daily journey.
Last night when it was just me, Little Miss and Little Man, we took a detour from the school run for drinks and cakes in our favourite café, I wanted to eek out every moment. This morning all four of us walked to school for the final ‘full’ school run as this afternoon the children finished at different times. Today is the last day that our children will attend the same school as its likely Little Man will go to a special school for secondary, so it felt even more poignant, it was one of those moments I just wanted to appreciate.
The Leavers assembly was first thing in the morning and thanks to some peak parenting skills, we had front row seats, a tactic learnt from many class and star assemblies. We arrived to find tissues on our seats with the Dr Seuss quote printed on ‘Don’t cry because its over, smile because it happened’ It was a superb production, showing the talents of all the students. Little Miss sang Lost Boy by Rachel B, such a beautiful and haunting song.
I kept it together for Little Miss but the closest I came to sad crying was when ‘When I grow up’ from Matilda was sung. However there were very many cheerful parts, they played nursery rhyme karaoke with the Head and Deputy and some Year 6 boys led Baby Shark which had all the school singing and joining in. It was a full production with an interval and in the second half they had created a Who Dunnit over missing coffee in the staffroom. It was amazing, the children were all staff members and as they arrived into the hall all dressed up, they went to their staff member and took their lanyards. The script, mannerisms and acting were superb, at this point I was crying with laughter. The finale was the parents top secret mission for which we had provided photos from their first day at school and other photos during the years for a special presentation. The children knew nothing about this and this was when the tears started, I was really surprised Little Miss kept it together and because she did I did too (I’m sure I saw Mr S wiping away a tear at this part) The teachers then exploded some confetti cannons at the end to finish with a colourful and uplifting effect.
As I wasn’t sure how Little Miss was going to be and we were leaving at the end of the assembly, I popped a postcard in her lunch box with a positive quote and some special words on the other side to keep her going through the day. Fortunately, she had a wonderful afternoon signing shirts (and socks?!) , receiving certificates , most improved Maths student (yay!) and a gift, a Year 7 survival kit and when she left school for the last time she had a big smile on her face, I was so relieved. Sadly the weather was rotten and the original plans for after school had to be changed, however the beach bar (with shelter) was the perfect spot for Year 6 parents and children to meet up for a drink and was a relaxed way to say good byes.
This evening, we had planned Little Miss’ favourite meal for tea so we had an Indian with all the trimmings and then cake. We really wanted today to be a very special day of celebrations. We’re all shattered now, its been a day of high emotion but has created some very special and happy memories. I am sad for Little Miss to be leaving primary school as its been such a wonderful experience but I also recognise that its time for her to move on and flourish in her secondary school.
Its been a tough week in the Sparkles household. As much as you try to protect your children and wrap them in a hug of love and support, things happen which we can’t control and there can be disappointments in life. This happened this week and my heart really broke for my daughter. My daughter has experienced little disappointments before, not getting an invite to a party, missing an event because of a clash but we’ve always been able to offer a better alternative.
Unfortunately, this week wasn’t so easy as the disappointment centred around the one event that Little Miss and all of Year 6 have been eagerly anticipating all year and excitedly counting down the days, the school residential. Little Miss is rarely ill, I can count two day’s sickness in all her years at primary school, she’s the pupil with all the 100% attendance certificates and awards yet she suddenly became very poorly on Sunday. She was hot, clammy, dizzy and exhausted, sleeping from 3pm on Sunday afternoon to 7am on Monday. As soon as I went in to wake her up, I knew that she wasn’t going to be able to do the residential. She tried to get up and feigned excitement and enthusiasm in such a weak voice but she couldn’t even sit up in bed and her attempts to get dressed were slow and laboured. She repeatedly tried to assert she was perfectly well and able to go to the residential, with tears in her voice she pleaded with us to let her go. It was at this point that Mr S and I had to intervene and say no, it wasn’t fair on her, her friends or her teachers, she cried and I think it very nearly broke our hearts, sometimes making parental decisions is hard.
Monday became a day of cuddles and reassurance at home with the promise that if she slept and then ate some tea and breakfast that Mr S would drive her to the camp for the second day, meaning she would at least get one night with her friends and get up to the mischief they had planned. She did manage this and as she hadn’t been sick just poorly we agreed for her to go on Tuesday. I was worried, we didn’t think she was 100% but definitely much better than Monday. I just didn’t want her to be poorly without me there and I knew she would be devastated if she was sent home ill. Fortunately her teachers kept us in contact and she perked up during the day and was soon back to her normal self. She got her night of mischief with the highlights being the girls all sneaking into one of the bedrooms and only around 4 hours of sleep. Sadly it was an extremely wet and windy camp and many activities were changed due to the weather, no barbecues or camp fires, in comparison to the adventures and stunning weather they enjoyed on the Year 5 PGL trip. I suppose the lesson Little Miss learnt was that sometimes you have to change your expectations to meet the reality of the situation. I wish she didn’t have to learn it as she did but hopefully its made her stronger and more resilient.
Towards the end of my route, I ran down to this view, the colours of the sea and sky were a dusky grey and pink and it was beautiful
Today was one of those unremarkable days, a day to do chores and get organised on a pretty yucky day, weather wise. We were all at home today, Mr S had lots of house admin and financial tasks to do (I leave this part of our life to him, he’s great at finding deals, managing finances etc.. although please be assured I’m just as savvy and know all that is going on) I had housework to do and planning and packing for our break away later this week and two residential trips for the children in the next few weeks, June is going to be a very busy month.
I started the day with a long (dry) run, it was good, one of those runs where your legs move smoothly and swiftly, you have a great playlist and the view to sea is mesmerising. After breakfast, we started our jobs and much to their surprise and joy allowed the children to chill with the Wii U so we could get things done. It was a wet and miserable morning by now, so everyone was keen to be inside. I had such a useful morning deep cleaning and now I’m ridiculously satisfied with my clean and sparkling cutlery drawers, immaculate surfaces, tidy rooms, empty laundry basket etc.. enabling me to feel so much happier in my environment. My recent extended work hours mean that the house has been neglected a little and it was great to get on top of it today. I need a clean and tidy house to feel relaxed and comfortable in my surroundings, its just the person I am.
This afternoon, Little Man and I went over to ‘big town’ for some shopping. I needed to go to Decathlon for my annual summer shop, UV rash vests, running gear and a sleeping mat for camp. I love the excitement of a Decathlon shop, on school trips to France as a teacher, we always managed to find one for a quick stop! My son is not the most enthusiastic of shoppers but I felt that we hadn’t had much 1:1 time recently and I needed some time with him. I let him choose the music and he was happy to chat along in the car, its nearly an hour’s journey so there was lots of time to talk about the important things in his life, Minecraft, cricket, army and as we passed the car garages why I need to get a cool car. ( Honestly isn’t a C1 cool?) Although he was initially unimpressed by my shopping proposal, when we got to Decathlon he was in element trying so many sports on display, dressing up as a boxer, trying the SUP, it was such a funny trip and an unusual but great mummy / son time. We popped into Home Bargains for some cheap toiletries as it was too wet and windy to walk the extra hundred metres to Boots and as luck would have it, I found the perfect accessories for Little Miss’ party later this summer. I’m a bit early, but from experience, I’ve learnt that it is best to pick up something so perfect when you see it. We are having a watermelon themed party and I’m excited by my new props.
Today was one of those days where everyone seemed to be down about the wet day and being pretty miserable. My day was so simple but satisfying, life’s not about the big life events but those little things which make you smile. I smiled today because of a great run, having a clean house, ticking lots off my to dos list and being able to laugh out loud with my son.
In my last post, I did write how I dislike the SATS and the impact on our children. However this week, Little Miss has sat the tests and its been my job to be her chief cheerleader and support (along with Mr S of course) On Monday morning, we gave her the ‘You Got This’ card and everyday she has opened her lunch box to a new little card from me, just a few words to let her know I have been thinking of her. She’s collected them all and clipped them together in her bag, so I think they’ve been appreciated.
SATS week has been a pretty good week for Little Miss the Year 6 were invited into school early for breakfast and all took up the offer, so they’ve had sustenance, good company and a positive vibe to start the day. Apart from the time in the tests, they have also enjoyed a lot of time outside in the sunshine playing and had a treat day on Friday, where they were all spoilt by their lovely teachers. My memories of the final weeks of primary school were sunny afternoons on the school field and practising for the end of year show and I remember it as being one of my happiest school times. I hope she gets to enjoy similar now. Its strange that even with another half term left the SATS week seems like the beginning of the end of primary school.
On Thursday, I was excited that the SATS were over and expected Little Miss to be too, I had planned for us to go into town after school for a little treat. However, she was exhausted after the week of tests and despite my offer of cake at one of the little cafes, an ice cream sundae or similar, all she asked for was a slice of watermelon! This is not quite as easy when you live in a small town with none of the big supermarkets. The best I could find was prepacked watermelon slices for the afternoon and on Friday I went to the weekly market before work to buy a watermelon. Something as simple as a fresh watermelon has made her so happy. I shared a photo with my mum of her holding the watermelon with the biggest smile on her face, life is about the simple things.
I think we’re all relieved and happy that the SATS are now over, there’s no homework this weekend, simply two days to relax and enjoy. I was really proud to receive the message from Little Miss’ teacher amd knowing that she has done her ‘absolute best’ is all that matters to me.
Tomorrow, Year 6 children will be sitting formal SATS, 4 days of literacy and numeracy tests. My daughter will be among them and having experienced this school year with her, I am against this formal testing. My daughter is bright and talented in many areas, will the SATS measure this, no, but they will tell me if she can use the past progressive tense correctly, recognise a subordinating conjunction, calculate, do algebra and that really useful skill, use Roman numerals correctly ( As a parent I’ve used Google a lot this year for homework.) These aren’t the academic skills I want to know that my child can do, I want to know that she can read and understand, have a good range of vocabulary and do key sums and reasoning to help develop the numeracy skills we need in life. How much of this year’s work will be ‘forgotten’ over the next few years as its been rote taught for tests and not for skills. This year we should also be developing social and emotional skills to ensure the wellbeing of our children.
I feel the creative spark has gone this year, I like a little project for homework, yet every week its just been pages and pages of online practice. On Bank Holiday Monday, when I was out with the children at the park, a message pinged through on DoJo (another pet hate) with a message congratulating those currently working online and the number of sums completed by the class on the day on a particular app. It was a bank holiday and there was pressure to log on, it seemed so wrong. How are we going to develop a love and interest for learning when we are boring our children with the content of the curriculum, we need a curriculum for our digital world, with practical activities and investigations, not formal testing.
Whilst the focus has been on the SATS at the school, with lots of homework, parent workshops, catch up clubs etc.. The staff are trying to be positive and supportive in these last few days, the children all received the letter above and have all been encouraged to relax and rest this weekend and do something fun. Little Man has been on cub camp this weekend, so Little Miss has had quality time with us, meeting up with her grandparents and enjoying a beach walk and ice cream this afternoon. There are also great school plans for next week with special breakfast clubs, treats etc.. during the week.
When the results are published, I won’t be sharing my child’s results with others (despite some school mums’ ‘interest’) I’ve always felt strongly about this as I have an academically able child and one with significant learning needs, I don’t want either to be judged on academic performance, they are both so much more than a number or grade. I also know that the results have very little use in the future, yes secondary schools receive them but ours do their own testing for the subjects where there are ability groupings in the first half term of Year 7. It does ask the question of why do we do SATS?
I can only hope that after this year’s heavy academic focus, in these final weeks of primary school, the formal curriculum is put aside and the children can spend their time being creative, sporty and arty, cherishing the last few weeks of primary school before the grand adventure of secondary school.