I’m Going to Live Here! … First Impressions of Seattle.

In a months time my family and I are moving, lock stock and barrel to Seattle. We have all been very excited but we are sad to say goodbye to good friends and family. It is a wonderful new chapter for us but also a little scary. This week I have had the chance to visit Seattle to plan for our move. I have been here for 6 days and apart from missing the kids, I don’t want to come home.

The biggest surprise is how beautiful it is, it is green, full of trees, mountains in the distance and tranquil lakes. It is a little like having your cake and eating it. You have all that a cool city has to offer, with the countryside right on your doorstep. You can be gazing at the lake front within 15 minutes of finishing work or travelling to the mountains within 40 minutes for skiing and beautiful scenery. Couple that with a family friendly culture with loads for the kids to do and lots of options for childcare, excellent schools, big houses, laid back people who love fitness and the outdoors; remind me why I would want to stay in the UK?


It may be the excitement of something new but everyone I have talked to from here loves it too so it can’t be just that. Yes there are downsides – it rains a lot but as a Welsh girl I’m used to that. Other downsides are that I have to learn a whole new way of driving ( I’m sure that journey will lead to a few entertaining blogposts) and people here carry guns.

I get a similar feeling here to one I had when I visited Canada for the first time when I was 16 years old. I felt so at home there that I was moved to tears when my plane took off to go home. Here I am a few hours drive from Canada too, an added bonus.





Will Changing Ratios for Childminders Improve Quality?

As I was driving yesterday a discussion came on the radio that took my interest. The discussion was regarding proposed changes to make Childcare in England more affordable and improve quality. Great, I’m a fan of both of those.
However, the proposal suggests that the way to achieve this is to allow childminders to care for more children, five under 5’s (two of which can be under 1).  Allowing childminders to care for more children would attract higher paid and therefore better qualified staff, in turn raising quality.


Am I missing something here? I have three children (two under 5) and looking after three children on my own is hard work. If I met a woman with five children under 5 I would either think she was some kind of superwoman or look upon her with extreme pity. I am one of these supposedly highly qualified women they refer to, I have a teaching qualification, extensive experience in Early Education and Childcare and a masters degree in Psychology of Education. Even with all this knowledge and experience nothing on this earth would convince me to look after five children under 5 all day.

I have an amazing childminder and choose a childminder for my kids so that they have quality time with one carer.  My childminder loves children, they do loads of fun things and she is unflappable. I admire her calm demeanor on the school run with 6 children – my idea of hell. Maybe it’s just me who thinks this idea is bonkers and will reduce quality rather than raising it? To help decide I asked my calm collected childminder for her response.

It ended with

I bet you wish you hadn’t asked!

On the contrary, I’m pleased to say I’m not alone in questioning the proposals.

Well, I have 4 each day and I personally think it would be impossible to have 5 and give any good level of care. I am able to offer places to 4 as I have known the children a long time and they gel together very well. However if you had an unsettled child and were caring for 5 I think the others in the setting would suffer.

The report also states that the numbers of childminders have halved in the last 10 years. From my experience of training childminders when the EYFS was introduced in 2008, they were dropping in their droves because of the amount of admin and paperwork involved and the bureaucracy of  inspection.

This is echoed by my childminder

 …the so called revised EYFS isn’t less paperwork as they have now given childminders the job of doing the 2 year check previously done by the health visitors. Oh don’t get me started  !!!!  I either need to employ an office worker to do my paperwork or stop playing with the children in my care which is what I really enjoy.

I’m so lucky to have a childminder who puts the children first, affordability and quality – I’m not convinced you can have both.

You might also be interested in proposed changes to childcare ratios, for better or worse

Kids Jokes and a Chance to Win one of 5 Copies of My First Justin’s Jokes

justins my first jokes

I  think it is a great landmark in children’s language development when they begin to understand jokes.  At first they are not remotely funny but they begin to understand the formula behind jokes and to remember ones that they find funny.  My 8 year old and 3 year old love jokes and we are often subjected to hours of awful jokes in the car or at the dinner table. Their favourite is

Why didn’t the worm go into the Ark in an apple?

Because they had to go in pairs.

They have even invented a game for us to play in the car.  My 8 year old gives the punchline and we have to guess what the joke is.  This is very hard especially as she leaves little room for creative licence, it ends up as an annoying variation to cryptic crosswords. I do think however this would be a great school task, understanding and creating jokes would be an entertaining way to improve children’s language comprehension and creative writing.

The jokes from the joke book in the car have been wearing a bit thin so when we were offered the chance to review ‘My First Justin’s Jokes’ I thought we might finally get some new ones.  This is a perfect joke book for young children as it is full of pictures, with 2 or 3 jokes to each page and can be read in one sitting. My personal favourite

Knock knock

Who’s there ?


Dunnup who?


A perfect joke for little boys.

I have 5 copies of My First Justin’s Jokes to giveaway.  To enter make me smile by telling a joke, funny story or posting a link to a humourous blog post or picture. My 5 favourites will win a copy of the book.

Terms and conditions

Winners will be chosen at midnight on 3rd June and notified by email.

Multiple entries are permitted

Open to residents in the UK and Ireland only.

Feeling Appreciated in the Blogging World

I have been reading a post on Mari’s World entitled How Important is a Blogging Award?  Mari questions whether it is ok to feel a tad disappointed when you don’t reach the final of these awards and whether it is a reflection of your writing skill.  I took a slightly different take on it this year.  I would love to be shortlisted and achieve recognition for what I do but that isn’t my first consideration.

When last years  blogging awards came around I was fairly new to this game but this year there are a few blogs that I really think deserve recognition for their wonderful writing.  I have a particular favourite, Mammy Woo . She makes me laugh and she makes me cry and every post she has ever written makes me say ‘wow, what an amazing piece of writing’.  I hope one day she writes a novel because I know it will be read in a single sitting and leave me with a feeling of awe and inspiration. I nominated her because I think the world needs to know about this amazing writer.

I feel that Mammywoo is the best of its kind and as such deserves recognition.  She didn’t ask me to vote or nominate, I did it out of admiration for her art. I hope that one day someone will feel passionate enough about my writing to nominate me.  Not because they know me or like me as a friend but that a stranger will be inspired to say that I stand out.  This may never happen but for me that is the best form of recognition.

Last night I had a night out with work colleagues of my husband’s that I hadn’t met before.  I was really touched when some of them came up to me saying that they read my blog and love it.  Comments such as ‘You really must get your wife to read Rachel’s blog’, ‘My wife really relates to the things you write about’ and ‘it reads really well and feels conversational and honest’ meant a great deal.  Blogging is sometimes a lonely pursuit and it is great to feel that people are reading and enjoying the things I write. Genuine appreciation is always a pleasant surprise and encourages me to keep sharing my thoughts and insecurities.

Thank you to all those who have said wonderful things about my writing.  Do awards really matter that much?  Not really, but if you like something spread the word.


Saying Goodbye to my Pink Nissan Figaro

pink nissan figaroLast night  after living in my garage for 18 months, my beautiful Nissan Figaro finally saw the light of day.  As I drove it onto the driveway I felt sad that I will soon be saying goodbye to this wonderful car and the memories it holds.

I haven’t driven it since the birth of my 3rd child, trying to manoeuvre 3 small children in a tiny 2 door car became too impractical. I now drive a car from the other extreme, a huge 7 seater Chrysler Grand Voyager, practical, luxurious but lacking the sentimentality and character of my beloved fig.

pink figaro rearThe Fig represents a life lost, as I smelt the leather and heard the familiar heavy clunk of the doors, I remembered the days when I went out to work, driving without children with the roof down in the sunshine.  Days when our then family of 3 would go out to the pub for lunch and watch as everyone stared at us, especially little girls).  My daughter was the envy of the town as she went out with mummy in her pink car.

Five years ago I was looking to replace my car and lots of discussion ensued. At the time we were trying for a second baby but after a few sad episodes it was uncertain whether this would actually happen.  My previous car was a cabriolet and I loved driving with the roof down in the summer so we looked at various cabriolets with boot space big enough for a buggy. Then one evening my husband asked what car I would choose if I could have any car.  This was easy, since seeing Figaros on the web I had fallen in love with their retro look and beautiful interior and the girly pink one was the one I coveted most.  Acknowledging that we shouldn’t put our lives on hold, my husband suggested I stop being practical and just go for what I really wanted.  I have to say I didn’t take much persuading.

pink figaro side viewFigaros are imported into the UK from Japan where a limited number were produced in the early 1990’s for Nissan’s anniversary year.  Mine was shipped to the UK and refurbished  to a wonderful standard by Algy’s Autos.  Pink isn’t an original colour but it was made to order with pink piping on the leather seats and pink interior.  My Figaro is a 1991 model  and comes with air conditioning, electric windows and cd player.

Figaros and Babies

Soon after collection, I fell pregnant with my 2nd daughter. It was a great pregnancy car because there is loads of space in the front, and being an automatic, with my short legs I don’t have to squash up to the wheel to reach the clutch.

figaro interiorThere was no way that I was going to trade in the Figaro for a bigger car, so I spent time researching buggies that would fit into the tiny boot.  After trying pretty much every buggy Mothercare stocked I found the Quinny Zapp fitted in the top boot (the one that holds the roof when the top is open) and the frame could be used with a Maxi Cosi car seat to use from birth.  From 6 months old the smallest Maclaren buggy, the Volo, fits in the tiny bottom boot allowing  babies to be driven with the roof down (if they can cope with the wind).

The car has 4 seats; the back seats are small and don’t have a lot of legroom but are big enough for children, car seats or short people like myself.  A rear facing stage one car seat fits comfortably in the front passenger seat but can also fit in the back with a bit of manoeuvering.

For  Sale

pink nissan figaroI love my Figaro but as we are moving overseas I am going to have to let it go.  She has 48750 miles on the clock, has always been kept in a garage and has been wax-oiled underneath. As a 1 litre turbo  automatic she is not for speed freaks but for style and fun she is difficult to beat.  She is selling for a price of £7,000 ono.

In the meantime I am going to get her back on the road and my girls and I are going to enjoy her for the short time we have left.