The cold never bothered me anyway

If, like me, you share a house with two young girls, you’ll no doubt know all about Frozen, the latest movie from Disney Animation Studios. To date it’s taken over $810m at box offices worldwide, enough to make it the 42nd highest grossing movie of all-time. Which isn’t bad going, when you consider that neither of Disney’s last two releases (Tangled and Wreck-it-Ralph) broke $600m – and I believe Frozen is yet to be released in China.

For those not familiar with the movie, it’s the tale of two princesses (of course!) who’ve grown apart thanks to one of them having the power to create ice and snow out of thin air. Things come to a head when Elsa (the one with the power) is crowned queen, and accidentally freezes the kingdom before running away from it all to an ice palace at the top of a mountain. Anna (her younger sister) gives chase, convinced that Elsa will be able to undo everything and they’ll all be able to live happily ever after.

There’s a little more to the plot than that (including a fantastic twist that I didn’t see coming at all) but you get the gist.

We’ve only taken the girls to see a handful of films, and only then thanks to a benefit we get with a life insurance policy, but it’s far and away the best thing we’ve seen as a family – so much so we’ve seen it twice (so far… Gem’s hoping the sing-along version gets a release round these parts). And, it’s the only film we’ve seen where neither of the girls has needed a toilet break – if that isn’t high praise, then I don’t know what is!

My favourite thing about the movie is how much the girls love it. If they’re not watching their favourite bits on YouTube, or singing their favourite songs from the soundtrack, or arguing about who will play which sister in the next re-enactment, then they’re probably asleep, because honestly that’s about all they’ve done for the past 6 weeks or so.

And who can blame them? The soundtrack really is excellent, in a West End/Broadway style, and if Let It Go doesn’t walk away with the Oscar for best song I will be very surprised – performed by Idina Menzel in the film, it’s a real showstopper and one that I’m struggling to get out of my head. Demi Lovato’s version over the end credits, on the other hand, isn’t.

I’m not sure when the DVD is due to be released, but Gem’s already desparate to pre-order it (for the girls, of course!). We might need to get two copies though, in case one wears out.

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Let’s get the party going, and we’ll party hard

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For most folk, the lead up to Christmas involves a party or two. Only the hardcore, though, can party every weekend, often on consecutive days, and sometimes even multiple times in the same day!

Believe it or not, that’s precisely how hardcore Heather is, at the ripe old age of 5. By amazing coincidence, a huge percentage of her school friends have birthdays in November and December, meaning that for the past month her social calendar would have worn out a Kardashian. And that’s before you factor in the Christmas parties!

Of course, somewhere in the middle of that was her own birthday, which featured no less than three celebrations – dinner with family, a soft play party with her friends, and an after party with our besties. As if that wasn’t enough we managed to squeeze in a cinema trip to see Frozen, which was ace, although we did have to schedule it around another birthday party. But of course.

Fortunately Heather’s birthday weekend went off without a hitch. Other families weren’t so lucky – one mum ended up in plaster, having broken her ankle at her daughter’s party!

Unfortunately I suspect that might be a preview of what we can expect in a few years. If Heather keeps the same group of friends into her teenage years and beyond, November and December will be carnage.

And that’s just the girls – I’m refusing to factor any boys into the equation.

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I walked with you once upon a dream

GrandmaOn Tuesday we ended a strange week – a strange few weeks actually, months even – by saying goodbye to my Grandma, who died the previous week. An ever present in my life, she had reached the ripe old age of 95, and although her body had slowly been failing her for a while, especially her eyes, it was only in the last few weeks that her mind had followed suit. When she departed us last Thursday, a week ago today, I actually commented to one of my cousins that the woman I’d visited in the hospital the previous evening, for the last time as it would turn out, wasn’t really my Grandma, because she’d really died a few weeks before.

Born in the final months of the First World War, married in the midst of the Second, and widowed just as the Sixties were beginning to swing, life wasn’t always easy for Grandma, but she was never one to give up and always managed to carry on past whatever life had to throw at her. Indeed, in her last few days, lying in hospital, all of us who saw her were amazed at how her body seemingly refused to give in. I’d love to think I’ve inherited that fighting spirit, but I’m really not sure that I have. Even a pinch would be good though.

I think my earliest memory of Grandma is queuing up outside the (now demolished) Odeon Cinema in Union St in Glasgow, which I discovered years later is only a block or two from where she got married all those years before. We were going to see Sleeping Beauty, and I reckon I must only have been about 4 at the time (Wikipedia tells me that Sleeping Beauty was re-released in 1979, so that fits). I know it wasn’t my first trip to the cinema, that was to see Pinocchio with my Dad, and I slept through most of it – these days that’s his trick :) The final battle between the Prince and the wicked Queen, where she turns herself into a dragon, is what I remember, and when I saw the film years later I was transported back to my childhood. Back to roughly about the age Heather is now in fact, an age where I had no real concept of death.

Grandma's wedding day

Wedding Day, 1941

And, of course, neither does she, which made telling her about her Great Grandma one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Unsure how she’d react, and in the middle of her first week of full school days, we waited until the weekend to tell her and Megan the news. Megan unsurprisingly barely registered that we’d even spoken, but Heather cuddled into Gem, looking like she was on the verge of tears, then after a couple of minutes went off to play with Megan like nothing had happened.

She’s obviously been thinking things over though, because in the days since there have been all sorts of questions, like “where is Heaven?” and “what age was Great Grandma?”. Part of me would love to know what’s going on in her little head, how she’s dealing with it, but I think it’s for the best that we let it go. If she comes to me or Gem and starts asking questions, then of course we’ll talk to her about it, but she’s got enough on her plate right now without us bringing it up.

So now, all that’s left are the practical matters – sorting out her estate, clearing and selling the house she lived in for over 50 years. That’s mostly being looked after by my Dad and his sister, but I’m more than happy to help wherever needed. I’ve already volunteered my services to scan all the old family photographs, so that everyone can enjoy those memories.

Rest in peace Grandma, gone but never to be forgotten xxx

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Once in a lifetime

Heather, ready for school

A momentous event took place yesterday, one that’s been a long time coming and that’s been greatly anticipated by all interested parties, every one of whom had their own opinion of how things would turn out, with most being optimistic of a good result.

No, I’m not talking about the England v Scotland game at Wembley, but Heather’s first day of school. Actual school. How did we get here so fast?

I actually had the chance to go down to London for the football, but didn’t take it once I realised the horrendous date clash. There will be other games against the Auld Enemy (hopefully sooner than the 14 years we waited since the last one) but Heather will only ever get one first day at school, and there was no way I was missing out on it. How could I?

Naturally we took a bunch of photos of the new schoolgirl in her new uniform, and I’m pleased to report that Heather even posed nicely for some of them. Some of them. One of my favourites is one where she’s holding up a sign saying what she wants to do when she grows up. Gem got that idea from Pinterest, and it’s a cracker – the idea being, of course, to do the same thing every year. Heather’s chosen career path, owning and running a toy shop, shows a certain entrepreneurial flair, and is definitely more sensible than my ambitions at a similar age (circus clown, if you must know).

Heather on her first day of school

After photos, we walked along to the school, where the playground was heaving with all the other new starts and their families. Heather spotted her friends from nursery and was off like a shot, sharing hugs and catching up on the summer. Not wanting to miss anything, Megan climbed out of the pushchair and ran off to join her, although it wasn’t long before she headed off to the other end of the playground, to play with some of the boys. I need to watch that one…

Once we got inside the school it was all a bit chaotic. The corridors are nowhere near wide enough for the volume of people who were there, and it was made clear that the kids were to be left as soon as possible. I never even got inside the classroom, staying in the corridor with Megan to keep out of the way. And… well, that was that!

We headed home one down, killed an hour or so, then went back to collect her. This time we got to spend some time in the class, which was good, not least because it’s very different to the classrooms Gem and I remember. One of the things I remember vividly from my own first day (aside from the boy who cried and wanted to go home) was having my name taped to the top of my desk, and thinking the boy next to me was called LAN. How was I to know that a “l” and an “I” might look the same, but are quite different things, and his name was actually Ian?

Handwriting practice

I’m not even sure there are desks for every child in the class (there are 35 of them! And two teachers!) but with activity stations dotted round the class and even a PC in the corner I’m sure finding somewhere to sit/play/learn will never be a struggle.

After that we headed off to Pizza Hut for a celebratory lunch (Heather’s call) and that was that. Day one over. Being me, I did some rough calculations, and worked out that there are roughly 2,500 school days before Heather leaves. So that’s one down, 2,499 to go!

It will be interesting to see how Megan adjusts over the next few weeks, without her partner-in-crime by her side. I guess this first couple of weeks will be similar to when Heather was at nursery, but when she full days start in a couple of weeks it’s a whole new ballgame. I think it will be good for her though, and will give her more space to be herself instead of copying everything her sister does.

And of course, it’s a big change for Gem as well – moreso than for me, because I’ve always been used to Heather being away from me all day, every day during the week. She’ll cope though, and getting to spend more time with just Megan will be nice too.

Last night, watching the football (which I don’t regret missing, and that’s nothing to do with the result) I realised something else – if it takes another fourteen years to stage a game between the two oldest footballing nations in the world, Heather will have left school before the next one.

Which was possibly the most frightening thing I heard/saw/thought all day!

The Mad House
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Paint your pallette blue and grey

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Like most kids her age, Heather loves to draw and paint. And cut, and stick, and shape, and mould and… it’s fair to say that if they do it on Art Attack or Mister Maker Heather wants to do it too – those have been two of her favourite TV shows since before she could hold a pencil.

And she’s getting good too! Its’s been a joy watching her progress from formless scribbles, to detailed drawings that look increasingly like what she says they are.

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This week we reached a whole new level with the two drawings you can see here. Starting with the Wii U controller, and continuing with Princess Jasmine, Heather produced a couple of impressive still life drawings that I’m pretty impressed with. Gem tells me she spent ages on each one, to capture every detail of her subjects. Well, almost every detail – poor Jasmine has no hands, because by her own admission Heather isn’t very good at those, but we can let her off with that. She is only four after all!

So does a career as an artist beckon? Who knows, but at this stage I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest. I think it’s safe to say, though, that whatever Heather ends up doing, there will be plenty more masterpieces along the way.

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