Family - Adventure, featured

Five reasons snakes make the best pets

I love animals. I grew up on a farm with Clydesdale horses in the garden (their grandparents used to be working horses, but these were just “field ornaments”), sheep,  Collies (best sheepdogs, of course), and cattle. My best ever party was when my entire class of 5 year olds tried to milk Daisy, the worlds most patient cow! Then when I got older, the cows became cats. This is my cheeky pony – he keeps me on my toes, and makes the worst days all better.
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So now we have a collection of animals.
But last week DS went for a sleepover at a friends house. Turns out he has a python in his bedroom. I thought this was a computer coding language. Nope. A snake. Not what you want to find out via whatsapp!
snake-pet
I used to have nightmares about giant snakes attacking the house. I’m pretty sure that scene in Harry Potter with Nagini is based on my dream.
Rest of conversation went like this …
Me: “I’m coming to rescue you!”
DS: “Don’t worry mum, it’s quite safe. It’s only little.”
Me: “30cm?”
DS: “About a metre.”
I asked his friend what having a pet snake was like, and he said it was mostly boring as it slept all day. Well in that case, surely it can party with the hamster in the kitchen at night then?
When DS got home, safely, the next day, we made a list of reasons why a snake is a great pet …
  1. You won’t have to look after the class hamster in the holidays, in case it gets eaten
  2. No barking, caterwauling or hamster wheel squeaking at 2am
  3. Cheaper than a horse. Trust me on this one!
  4. You can pretend you’re in Slytherin even if you got another house in Pottermore. You never know, parseltongue might be a GCSE in the future.
  5. Your mother will never come into your room.
Seriously, if you are considering a snake as a pet, please do lots of research. The RSPCA is a good starting point https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/other
But when I am getting rid of the hamster, dog and horse and setting up a reptile house?
No way. Never. No matter how convincing DS is, I know it’s still me who will need to clean the cage. See reason 5.
End of.
Family - Adventure, featured

How to make every day an exciting STEM adventure

I was lucky to go to a senior school which focussed heavily on the sciences with more science than arts classes at A level, so I’m thrilled that the importance of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) is getting more profile generally, particularly for girls. Thanks to our school, many of my female school friends are very successful doctors.

So I’m thrilled to have the amazing Suzie Olsen on my blog today. Suzie is a systems engineer in Phoenix, Arizona. She currently works on the search and rescue system for the US Coast Guard. She is also the author of Annie Aardvark, Mathematician and creator of the blog STEM Spark. Suzie’s spark is to encourage students, especially girls and minorities, to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). She lives with her husband and child, performing STEM experiment after STEM experiment with her own kid. Please do check out her website – it’s fantastic.

I asked Suzie to pull together three easy STEM activities we can all try with our kids. Enjoy!

 

STEM Adventures are Everywhere

In my book, Annie Aardvark, Mathematician, the main character Annie loves math so much that she decides she’s going to have a math adventure while she forages!  She finds different things to count as she hunts for her daily meal, ending with ten ants.  Annie exclaims, “What a fun math adventure!  I can’t wait until my next one!”  And just like Annie, you and your children can have a fun STEM (science, tech, engineering and math) adventure anywhere you go! Below are a couple of different ideas for your STEM adventure.

Engineering Adventure

Whether in the city or nature, there’s a couple of different ways to have an engineering adventure.  The first is look for a problem to solve: is there an area in your neighborhood that needs improving or fixing? Is there an animal having an issue with collecting food?  Is there human or animal congestion where you are at? Is trash gathering in one place on the ground?  Try engaging your kids in an impromptu brainstorm on different ideas on how to fix the problem, and then decide which idea is the best one for fixing the issue.  Give it a twist by qualifying during the brainstorm how the best idea will be judged (such as “What’s the most fun way to fix this problem?”) If possible, try building the solution, put it in the problem area and test it.  Did it work? Did it reduce or eliminate the problem?  (This process is called the engineering design process.) Another fun engineering adventure is to collect different materials from where you and your kids are, like trash, sticks, stones, forks, plates, and so on and try building a mini-house out of these materials.  Can you get the house to stand alone?  And if so, how long does the house stand?

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Science Collection Adventure

A flower or leaf collection is a fun way to have a science adventure when you and your children are out and about.  Your child could carry around a reusable bag and every time they see a leaf or flower they don’t have, they can gather it up and put it in their bag.  Then once home, you and your child can dry the leaf and flower and glue it into a scrapbook.  You can research online together the name of the flower or tree that the leaf came from and then label it in the scrapbook.  Of course, be wary of poison leaves (like Poison Ivy) or flowers (like Oleanders) and make sure you have permission before plucking a flower or leaf off a tree (anything found on the ground is probably okay).

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Math Counting Adventure

Whether taking a walk around your neighborhood or hiking a trail in the mountains, children can count the objects they come across, just like Annie did in her first math adventure.  If it’s a familiar or frequent route, try creating a pre-made checklist going from 1 specific item up to 10 specific items they must count (or just impromptu count whatever they see).  Items you can have your kids count while they’re on their walk include rocks, flowers, weeds, birds, lizards, other types of animals, insects, leaves, clouds, people, airplanes/vehicles, buildings, trees, and so on.  There’s no limit of what kind of item they count, so as long as they’re having fun hunting for that item and counting it!

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Wherever you and your children may be, I hope you have a fun time on your STEM adventure!  Happy STEM’ing!

 

 

 

 

 

Family - Adventure

The best time to hand over your keys

When the kids are old enough to drive

DS: “Mum, I can drive at 15.”

Me: “No you bloody well can’t.”

DS: “I can. I’ll prove it to you.”

Quick Google later, and he shows me that you can get a license at 15 years and 9 months. Who knew that? Why so early? His excitement is already unbearable.

I learnt to drive in my parents’ diesel estate car. I took my driving test at rush hour in London. We sat in traffic most of the time, pulling into a side road to do the three point turn and emergency stop before rejoining the traffic jam. The most exciting part was the cyclist lurching across a pedestrian crossing. At the end the examiner asked if I knew where third gear was. I pointed it out to him. I passed.

I still remember the registration number of my first car, A764 CPH. A very sporty silver Metro City.

My first car

Anyway, whilst DS dreams of a sports car, I enjoyed this blog from Fraser’s Fun House

I realised recently that I rarely talk about the girls despite them accounting for two thirds of the Fraser clan – this is partly because they would most probably die of shame – so today I’m going to dedicate a whole post to them! A recurrent topic in our house lately is the length of […]

via Growing Up: Learning To Drive — Fraser’s Fun House

Family - Adventure

Why glamping is the best solution for muddy hooves

I used to camp loads when I was younger. I had a little tent that I backpacked round the world with, free camping by glaciers and lakes. Then when the kids were younger we got a family sized tent with a carpet and I shouted “shoes off” every 15 minutes in an attempt to keep the mud out, only to be defeated by a New Forest pony with very muddy hooves that popped in to say hi.
But, as I’ve got older, I find it harder work, and the tent has been in the attic for a couple of years now.
So when I left it too late to book a hotel or B&B for a big family gathering during Victoria week in Ballater, I googled campsites a little nervously. Then I stumbled across a nearby glamping site that actually had spaces, Howe of Torbeg. Camping with a bit more luxury and less mud. I’ve never glamped. I’m not a camping purist, I just never got round to it.
It’s actually only been open two months, and, as it turns out I was one of the very first people to book. Although the owners have lived here for five years, levelling the steep slope enough to build the huts on was a massive construction project. And they’ve done it beautifully. Four cute as a button domed wooden huts.
glamping in Scotland
Ours even had a proper, very comfortable, bed. And I used to think my tent carpet was luxury.
glamping not camping
DS was on the floor on a midget sized mattress. His feet stuck over the end, but he slept like a log anyway.
Each hut has its own fire-pit and picnic bench with uninterrupted views over the valley. They sell baskets of logs and charcoal, plus you can hire crockery and cutlery sets for a few pounds which definitely beats paper plates.
Having said “we’ll never use all these” as we collect the huge basket of logs, we do. It’s too lovely an evening to retire early. DS collects fallen branches and twigs from the woods.
If you worry about campsite facilities, don’t. The shower block was immaculate, better than many hotels I’ve stayed in. Again, for a few pounds we added a towel pack rather than bring our own.
Even my non-camping sister, staying in a nearby hotel with her four-poster bed, was impressed. Next year I think I could persuade her to join us. Even if just for one night. My tweenage nieces are definitely up for it. At worst I get “best aunty/ sister” points for taking them for a night.
The positives?
  • Fun
  • Beautiful setting
  • Spotlessly clean
  • Far easier than camping
The downsides?
  • Literally none from my perspective.
  • There was virtually no internet so I expected some teenage grumbling. I was wrong. I confess I was surprised by that, but not going to complain.
  • In future, I predict a downside will be getting a space. Book early!
I’m now tempting myself with a treehouse and DS fancies staying in a double decker bus … Why are there never enough weekends in a year?
But does glamping still count as camping? Even allowing for the glamorous bit, our little hut is so close to being a holiday cottage I’m not sure. I’ve decided glamping is where you still need to walk outside to get to a bathroom and may encounter patches of mud. Does that mean our grandparents glamped all year?
outside toilet glamping
Have you glamped? What did you think of it?
Family - Adventure

Why the kids packing has hilarious results

“What? You’re packing for him?” My mother is outraged. “You packed all your own stuff for a holiday from when you were nine and it was perfect.”

Perfect? Really? I have no recollection of ever packing myself, or being praised for it.

I’m always puzzled when I see people dragging vast suitcases at the airport. What have they got in there? I can’t imagine taking so much stuff for a week on a beach? Skiing, yes. Camping, yes. But a week in Spain? I’m not actually sure I own that much summer clothing. I’ve even packed my espresso machine and my bag is still smaller. Actually I would trade a pile of dresses just to make space for the espresso machine if it came down to it.

I’m a member of a great decluttering group on Facebook who were lamenting the challenges of packing. They were shocked when I said my last trip was ten days and I travelled hand baggage only and that included my horse riding helmet. And a pair of boots. And my espresso machine. So I guess I pack light.

Anyway, it’s all granny’s fault that the kids are packing for themselves this year. I’m off duty.

“Everything’s packed mum.”

DS Trip 1

  1. One t-shirt
  2. A quill pen and bottle of ink
  3. A wooden treasure chest

It’s all very neatly packed in a 5 inch metal dinosaur tin. Even by my standards, that is extremely light packing.

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Apparently this is enough for a week.

DS Trip 2

  1. Chopsticks
  2. Mouse for the home computer
  3. Pillow. Apparently this is not negotiable, it is coming with us. Does it count as an item of hand baggage itself? Otherwise I’m going to be impersonating a pregnant lady through check-in.
  4. Flip flops. We’re off on a family trip to the north of Scotland. I add a raincoat.

Niece 1

  1. Cropped vest top – striped
  2. Cropped vest top – ribbed
  3. Cropped vest top – sparkly
  4. Denim mini skirt

Yup this is for the Scotland trip too. The midges are going to have a field day. I almost comment on the scant size of the clothing but then realise I am turning into my mother, so bite my tongue.

Top tips for light packing

My three top light packing tips would be

  • Pick a colour scheme so you can mix and match.
  • Throw things out/ give to charity when you finish. I don’t bring flip flops home at the end of summer as they are inevitably on their last legs by then. Ditto t-shirts and sun dresses that I know I will replace next year.
  • Accessories allow you to change the look. I love my jewellery pouches. I actually have two – a larger one for city breaks and a smaller one for outdoorsy trips.

 

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Large jewellery pouch from Stella & Dot. I love the separate compartments.

 

Would you trust the kids to pack for themselves?

What’s the strangest thing you (or they) have packed? I once took an anchor instead of a suitcase on a flight. That got strange looks when it arrived on the luggage belt in Turkey.