Play talk read repeat

Bedtime stories

As parents, we all want to raise our kids to be the best they can be, but what’s the best way to go about doing that? Everyone has their own ideas on how to go about it – the plethora of books on the subject is evidence of that – but there are a few fundamentals that we can all agree on, and one of those is taking the time to interact with them, building social skills that will literally last a lifetime.

It’s no secret that I love reading to the girls, something I recently wrote about over at Mutterings of a Fool. But not everyone is as comfortable with their children, which is where the Scottish Government’s new campaign, PlayTalkRead, comes in.

They’re looking to encourage all parents to interact with their kids, with a big part of that being the PlayTalkRead website which is chockablock with ideas of how to get involved with kids, with more being added all the time.

PlayTalkRead are also running an ad campaign, which debuted during one of last week’s World Cup games, and asks us to #saythanks to the people who made us what we are today.

I’d like to #saythanks to my own mum and dad, for the time they spent with me, the solid foundation that gave me, and the lifelong love of learning that came with it. I hope one day my own girls will be able to say the same thing.

Don’t call me frozen

As I hurtle towards my 40th birthday (just over 15 months to go!) I keep seeing and hearing little things that make me feel my age.

Take this year’s World Cup, for example. I’ve lost count of the number of things that last happened 32 years ago, such as Algeria’s last World Cup finals win. 32 years ago, frighteningly, was 1982, the first World Cup I remember watching.

And then there’s Father’s Day, where the “Dad” compilation albums have moved on a bit – the 70s and 80s classic rock versions are still out there, but they’ve now been joined by ones focusing on Britpop and other 90s stuff. I’ve even caught myself singing along to the odd advert, and thinking “that sounds good”, before realising how past it that makes me.

So when I heard Pearl Jam, my favourite band in the world, had tagged Frozen’s Let It Go onto the end of one of their own songs at the weekend, I thought it would be my chance to score some cool points.

Did I succeed? Well, I’m not so sure. To begin with, Megan fell out with me because I’d commandeered the iPad to show them the YouTube clip. Apparently Play-Doh tutorials are far more important!

Heather took more of an interest, and her face was an absolute picture when she realised what the song was. But even she wasn’t that interested. No cool points for me then.

I’m not sure about the rest of the guys, but I know that Eddie Vedder, like me, has two young daughters, and I suspect they may have had something to do with this particular song choice. And even though he doesn’t quite hit all the notes like Idina Menzel (who can, though?) I reckon it’s a decent attempt, and maybe he’s got the cool points that I didn’t.

I guess I can live with that. Especially if they’d pull the finger out and come back to Scotland, neglected for over 14 years, now. An old man can dream, can’t he?

Last minute Father’s Day gifts

With the girls still being a bit young to buy their own gifts when it comes to birthdays, Christmas etc, it’s still up to Gem and I to do the honours. When it comes to Mother’s Day, I seem to have attracted a reputation for being a bit rubbish at it, which is entirely unjustified. I’m pretty sure this comes from Gem’s first couple of Mother’s Days, which were spent travelling back from Dubai and Lincolnshire respectively.

Not exactly the luxury pampering experience you might want, but it’s not my fault our travel plans coincided with such an important day, or that my wonderful idea of picking up gifts in Dubai duty free backfired a little because we didn’t have as much time to kill in the airport as I’d thought. Still, though, I’ve not forgotten one yet, so that’s good, right?

There have, however, been one or two last minute purchases over the years – the sort of “oh, that date is this Sunday? Really???” last minute purchase we’ve all done on occasion.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, Father’s Day is this Sunday coming, and I’m sure Gem has things well in hand. The girls have certainly let slip enough information to let me know that there are plans afoot, although I have no idea what. I thought I’d jot a few ideas down here anyway, though, just in case they’re required. You never know…

Beer/Whisky

WhiskyI was into craft beer before it was fashionable, but it’s good of everyone else to catch up because it means more choice for me. My only complaint is that all the good shops in Glasgow have been on the other side of the city, but that’s now changed with the opening of Drygate in the East End. I’ve yet to visit, but the range of beers behind the bar and in the shop looks impressive, as does the food. In fact, I wonder if we have any lunch plans on Sunday…

Whisky is something my father-in-law got me into, and I’m very glad he did. Like him, I tend to go for the Islay whiskies like Laphroaig and Lagavulin, but more recently I’ve developed a fondness for the Highland region too, with Macallan Gold and Ardmore being two of my most recent discoveries. Whisky stocks are quite low at the moment, but to be honest a nice bottle never goes amiss!

Cycling gear

Trek hybrid bike

If I’ve learned one thing in the last year, it’s that cycling requires lots of stuff. Most of mine has been picked up on the cheap, and with summer now on its way, I’m realising I could do with some extra tops/shorts to throw into the rotation – the current crop are starting to smell a bit, no matter how many times they’ve been washed. Sports Direct have a decent range of cycling tops and shorts, and I’ve been happy with previous purchases from their Muddy Fox range, so would have no qualms acquiring more.

Failing that, some running socks wouldn’t go amiss either!

Music

Gemma’s one failing when it comes to Father’s Day came in 2010, when part of my present was an IOU for Slash’s first album, which four years later I’m still waiting on. These days I’m more likely to stream something on Spotify, or download it from iTunes though, so some kind of voucher is probably the way to go

So there you have it – some last minute gift ideas that would make me (and I’m sure many other dads) happy. Although to be honest, I’ll be delighted just getting a lie-in followed by a day with my three favourite girls. :)

School’s out for summer (almost!)

Heather on her first day of school

First day of primary one- hard to believe we’re now almost at the end!

It’s hard to believe Heather’s first year at school – which started last August – is almost complete. In just over 3 weeks, she breaks up for the summer, and I honestly have no idea where the time has gone. None.

And yet, it’s not hard to see the changes in her that have happened in that time. She’s got taller, of course, and her hair is now rivaling Rapunzel’s, but it’s the things she’s learned, and what they allow her to now do, that are far more dramatic.

I don’t think Heather believed me at the start of the year, when I told her by summer she’d be able to read and write, but that’s exactly what’s happened. And I love how much of a buzz she gets out of it all – she’s even got herself a “secret” diary that every so often she records an event in… and then proudly shows us what she’s just written! Not so secret after all…

She’s been learning about numbers too, of course, and can now do adding and subtracting, sometimes without using her fingers. :) I’m guessing it will be next year (at least) before they move on to anything beyond two digits, though. At the moment, Heather seems to think that the bigger the numbers, the harder the sum, which is true to an extent, but “what’s a million add a million?” is nowhere near as complicated as she seems to think it is!

The school had a special assembly on Friday, to celebrate the end of Primary One, and to show us parents – and those whose kids will be starting school after the summer - what the year has been all about. Following a similar format to the end of nursery show, we were presented with a series of musical numbers covering the various topics the kids have covered. We got “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to school we go”, “Chick-chick-chick-chick chicken” (in honour of the chickens that were hatched in the school back in autumn) and “The Stable Ho-down” (from the p1/p2 nativity). Megan knew all the words and dance moves for that last one, and had fun joining in.

Heather’s big moment was in the section about their Scottish topic, where she had a line to say – “we even learned a Scottish song” – which she delivered with gusto before the kids all sang “Bonnie Wee Jeannie McCall” with appropriate actions.

Now, this is one I’ve sort of known most of my life, but it was entirely new to Gem. She could at least understand the words, having lived up here for 14 years… unlike her poor mum, who needed a translation!

It was a great show though, and a great summary of what the kids have got up to all year. I have no idea if this will be an annual event, or if it is specific to P1, but I know that if we are back in 12 months time I’ll be every bit as proud as I was on Friday. Even if the rate time is passing scares the bejeezus out of me!

I can see clearly now

Trying my glasses on for size

Trying Daddy’s glasses on for size

When I was 3 or 4 years old – I’m not entirely sure, but I know I was at nursery – something exciting happened. A plastic bag had blown into a tree, and the teachers were lifting us kids up, one by one, so that we could see it. When it was my turn, I tried and tried, but I just couldn’t see what the fuss was about. It’s not that I didn’t find the idea of a bag caught in a tree exciting – after all, who wouldn’t? - I literally couldn’t see the focus of everyone’s attention.

At home time, someone had a word with my mum and suggested I might need to have my eyes tested. Which I did. And have been wearing glassed ever since, which is definitely a good thing, because it turns out I’m blind as a bat.

Gem and I always knew there was a chance our kids would end up with bad eyes. Leaving me aside, the rest of Gem’s family are spec-wearers, and my lot all have glasses too, albeit none of them have eyes as bad as mine. But we’ve never noticed either of the girls having any problems, and when Heather’s eyes were checked out last year at nursery, although she needed a follow-up appointment at the hospital, they told us her eyes were near enough perfect.

So on Sunday, when almost on a whim we took Megan for an eye test (she’d been complaining of a sore eye), we weren’t expecting any different. But we got more than we’d bargained for, as did the poor optician who examined her!

You see, being three, and all this being a brand new experience, Megan wasn’t too keen on sitting still while they looked in her eyes. So the optician gave her some drops to slow her eyes down, and sent us away for 40 minutes while they worked their magic. A cake and a drink later (virtually untouched by Megs, it has to be said) we were back, and the difference in her was very noticeable.

Apparently these drops can cause drowsiness, and in Megan’s case that was certainly true – she was almost sleeping in the examination room. Which made it all the more surprising when she threw up all over herself, Gem, the optician and the floor. It was quite the spectacular expulsion by all accounts!

I (perhaps fortunately) missed it though, as I was in the waiting area with Heather. The first I knew that anything was amiss was overhearing Gem apologising repeatedly before I was despatched to procure some baby wipes, to help with the cleanup.

Look at my new dress!

Look at my new dress!

The staff in Specsavers managed to find Megs a promotional t-shirt to wear in place of her sicky clothes, and it was dressed like this that she picked out her first pairs of glasses. I say “she picked out”… truth is she was (understandably) so traumatised by the whole experience that she just wanted to go home, and it was under much duress that she agreed to go for some pinky/purpley Hello Kitty glasses, and some similarly coloured sunglasses, which we’ll pick up next week.

It turns out Megan’s eyes are about as bad as mine are – we’re both very long-sighted, with very similar prescriptions, and both suffer from astigmatism. The fact that our prescriptions are so similar (Megan is +5.0 in both eyes, I’m +5.0 in one and +4.25 in the other) has meant I’ve been able to let her try out my glasses, which she has done a few times since the weekend. Last night she told me things look “more pointy”, which I’m taking to mean “more in focus”, which is encouraging in terms of getting her to keep them on.

In the meantime, both Gem and I are feeling a bit guilty. I’ve already apologised for giving her my rubbish eyes, while Gem somehow feels responsible for a) not noticing anything was wrong and b) not building her properly in the first place, both of which are ludicrous. Things are what they are, and having to wear glasses is nothing like it was when I was a kid – there’s so much choice now, where in my day we had a choice of blue or brown plastic frames (for the boys, girls got pink or, em, pink).

We have, however, struggled a bit to come up with positive glasses-wearing role models that Megan can relate to, which surprised me a lot. The entertainment industry still seems to view specs as being for old people or geeks, and mainly boy geeks at that. Pretty much the only girl we’ve come up with is Margo from Despicable Me, which is definitely pretty poor. Millions of kids wear glasses, it would be nice to see this reflected a bit more in movies and on TV. Something to keep an eye on (keep an eye on, geddit?)

One of my earliest childhood memories is of my first day in nursery with glasses. I can remember being on a climbing frame, and one of the boys asking me my name, because he hadn’t recognised me and thought I was new – and I don’t think he was the only one. I’m sure it won’t all be plain sailing, but I doubt Megan will have to deal with anything like that as she adapts to her new life. Glasses will be as much a part of her as they are of me, and it won’t be long before, like me, she can barely remember a time when she didn’t wear them. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. (ok, I’ll stop it now…)