Thursday, 8 August 2013

School is out, plus two product reviews

My daughter has been on holiday for over two weeks. I am back at home after working full time for three months, doing editing and writing work, and gearing up for September when it will be hectic again. I might work full time again, work from home or do a mixture by taking short-term contracts. 

August is a quiet month in my field - and my partner's - so we are enjoying this extraordinary British summer, while doing a spot of DIY. My partner painted the kitchen and my summerhouse's revamp is coming along nicely.

Being at home all day is a bit of a shock for Michela, as this year she went to the after-school club full time, Monday to Friday till 6pm. So we visited all the charity shops and bought lots of games and books to keep her busy. 

It's very busy in Cambridge as it's high tourist season - Michela is popular with Chinese and Japanese women, who wants to take picture of her... With her long hair, big brown eyes and long eyelashes, she looks a bit like a Manga character (not to mention the 'big head', which is a family joke as I can wear her hats).

Testing, testing... Disney movie & a special diary for juggling parents
We have always encouraged Michela to watch TV and against all the academic research out there, she has not become addicted to the small screen. She is very selective and into Scooby Doo at the moment, which I don't mind watching now and then as I grew up with it. We are also doing some back-to-school shopping (more about this after the review).

So among the various press releases that have hit my inbox I have selected two items to review - The Odd Life of Timothy Green, a Disney movie, and Family School Year Diary

Scanning through the press release of this film, which was released on DVD at the end of July (£9 on Amazon), I can agree that it's indeed magical and heart-warming. I was surprised at the quality of the script, which at times reminded me of indie movies. It is just a tad gushing but I smiled and cried a little bit too. It's amazing how many themes the writers have managed to squeeze in this family movie: infertility, the power of belief, competitive parenting, adoption, fantasy (a kind of eco-friendly Pinocchio), respect for diversity, unconditional love, dysfunctional parenting and emotional neglect (the paternal grandfather), death of loved ones, job insecurity, friendship, art and magic. 

And all of this in a 'normal life' scenario. Yes, it's a movie and there is a fantasy element to it, but most of it is about real life and people you can relate to. My daughter being only six, found some parts not to her taste (such as the factory scenes and the job insecurity storyline) but loved every bits where the young boy hogs the screen. I loved it - this film stands out among some really dire offerings full of violence or very predictable and devoid of any imagination. Well done, Disney! Looking forward to Monsters University - I bought the DVD of Monsters, Inc before my daughter was born (yes, I'm a big kid).

And now for something completely different.... The Big Family School Year Diary from Mum's Office.

This is a special diary indeed, running from August 2013 to August 2014 to coincide with the school year. It has a reptile-effect cover and comes in three colours: raspberry, blackberry and peppermint - delicious!  

Structured in the week-a-page format, it has extra pages for notes, children's information,
mum's information, event planners, term planners - even a pocket money record. I love it. I have tried digital organiser and I'm not a fan. I like to write my stuff down in a Filofax, but since it's also my work organiser, it's getting a bit cramped between school events and work commitments. My daughter's school organises a lot of events, so aside my PTA and class volunteering there are dress-up days, special days (like science, boat building, costume making for plays) where you need to take bits and pieces in, meetings with teachers... I need to remind myself of all these things and my pocket-size Filofax is struggling. And I have only one child, imagine if you have two children or three (the norm here in Cambridge) and these children do extra curriculum activities. It's like project management on a daily basis! 

Dads who are not involved in running home life have no idea of how hard it can be. My partner found out recently. So if I'm off to work inhouse for a client, how is my partner going to know that Michela needs to take stuff at school for an activity? We need a family diary. RRP price of The Big Family School Year Diary is £16.95, not the cheapest around, but perfect to juggle your family life in style!

Product specs:
  • Measures 18cm x 12cm with 176 pages
  • Hardback cover with rounded corners
  • Gusset pocket on the inside back cover
  • 2 grosgrain ribbons, an elastic strap to hold it all together and a pen loop.

Back to school shopping and PTA woes

By Geralt
All the stores and supermarkets are displaying their back-to-school wares. Michela goes to a primary school where pupils are asked to wear blue clothing, but there is flexibility for shoes, so aside plimsolls (which are very cheap), she can wear her 'normal' shoes. As she is a bit of a tomboy, we get through trainers and boy boots (girl's shoes are of the flimsy variety), while 'party shoes' don't get much wear and are usually passed down to a younger friend with a more girly disposition.

So it's down to buying some tees as her blue check pinafores still fit - and she doesn't wear them much anyway. We might have to buy new jeans, despite buying a bigger size, we have to change them every six months or so as she is growing in height at a fast speed. She is now 117cm. Obviously she has not taken from me. I bought some stuff at the school fete, I was manning the uniform stall so I had first pick - we had heaps of stuff, kindly donated by parents. 

You guessed it, I'm in the PTA, with the role of publicity/poster/programme designer and bar server/uniform stall person at events. It's great fun and the committee is made up of working mums, with dads helping out on the day at events. It's a small group this year and it's the case of 'ask a busy person', which is annoying as we know that there are some non-working/part-time working mums that really enjoy coming to the events but don't want to pitch in. Prior to each event (disco, Xmas shopping, international food night, Father Xmas' visit, summer fete) we panic in case we haven't got enough volunteers. Sometimes we have to threaten cancellation to get some volunteers - we can't run all the stalls ourselves with such a tiny committee. The events are so much fun, though, even if you are manning a stall.