SATs and why I (almost) like them

A blog post today as a follow on from something my daughter said on the morning of the SATs and the subsequent twitter chat on the subject.

SATs are compulsory national tests for primary school pupils. Children in England are required to take Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) at the age of 11 (school year 6). SATs were first introduced in 1991 for Key Stage 1 (KS1)
SATs are given at the end of year 2, year 6 and year 9. They are used to show your child's progress compared with other children born in the same month.

It won't have escaped your attention that some parents kept their children away from school for the day (risking fines) as a protest.

My daughter is 16 and currently revising for her GCSEs. She was surprised at the kerfuffle, and stated that while she didn't love tests or exams, starting them early, including 'big' tests' has helped to prepare her for the ones she now faces and she thinks that starting testing early is good as it starts to make tests common place and takes away the fear often associated with them.
She went on to say, that in her opinion, it is the adults making a fuss about the tests (and she included teachers, parents, and I suspect, the media, in this 'adult' group) that is the real problem, not the tests themselves, which she said she didn't really even notice when she had the first ones at age 6 and was OK with at age 11 as the teachers didn't make a big deal about it.

I've always held by the belief that tests are a useful gauge of how teaching is going, and can pick up on children that are falling behind, or leaping ahead of their peers, it can help to stream classes and that can be a good thing. But I also don't think that testing children more and more will improve teaching.

you don't make a pig fatter by weighing it

Improving teaching is based on lots of things, mainly the teachers themselves, and the curriculum they are given. I think a wider curriculum is better as it is more likely to capture childrens' imaginations. (currently I think teachers feel compelled to teach to do well at exams)

So, I was interested that a child that has recently done the tests was in favour of them, though many adults are telling me they have changed since she took them. And that opens up a whole new can of worms about changing the ways schools, teaching and exams happen; I firmly believe that constant change is a bad thing. Changing in education has become a thing that politicians seem to do now for the sake of it. We really need to look at why we are schooling children. To make good workers? To improve their minds? To help them think? And then look at the best way to achieve that goal and stick to it (sorry I have rambled off of the point)

My own view is that testing is needed. It should start early with the emphasis being that it is the teaching being tested and the children should not even be told it's happening to begin with. (am I the only parent that remembers the 'school inspectors' of the 70s visiting the school and sitting in the back of class making notes, and on the day before the visit the teachers begging us to behave?) But constant testing won't improve teaching or learning, so let's let teachers get on with that too.

If you fancy telling me what YOU think, pop over to Facebook where I have a page that would love your thoughts, or tweet me.
Thanks for reading.

"Mummy is a Gadget Geek" also wrote on this subject here

and you can try your luck at a mini SATs here (I scored 6/10)


Wordy Wednesday with Rachel McGrath

Introducing new author Rachel McGrath this Wordy Wednesday. Rachel published her first book in early 2015; a memoir about her personal and physical struggle to become a mother, Finding the Rainbow. 

Rachel has since focused her writing efforts on mainly children’s fiction, with Mud on Your Face and an early reader series, the Willow and Coco Book Series.

Rachel grew up by the seaside in Australia, and moved to the UK in her early thirties where she now resides with her husband.

And so we begin the interrogation questions:

Why did you start writing?
I have always loved writing and creating stories. Throughout my life, my writing has been an intermittent release to sometimes release my thoughts, feelings and imaginations. I’ve always dreamed of being published, but until recently I had not written anything I felt would be worth publishing.

When I was unexpectedly faced with challenges around my own infertility and inability to carry a child, I wrote about it. It was at first a journal, but soon became a story, one that many women face. I hoped that in publishing my story, it may connect with other parents and women who had faced similar challenges. In publishing this book, it invoked a passion to keep writing and to create more stories.

What 3 things (not including paper, computer, pens) would you like to facilitate a good days writing?
A quiet place to write, one where I can either look out to a serene surrounding or where there is little distraction so that my thoughts can go wild.
A glass of wine, always helps the creative juices
My dog by my feet, so when I have writer’s block, I can scratch his ears or take him for a walk to clear my head.

Do you write to a schedule, eg every day or three times a week, set times, etc or do you write as and when the mood strikes?
Because I work full time and I travel a bit with my job, it can be difficult to have a strict schedule. However, I do try to write at least once or twice a week, and sometimes I can spend my entire weekend writing! I write to keep writing sometimes, even if it is a blog article, a short story, or just a collection of ideas.

What are your favourite biscuits?
So I am Australian, and my favourite biscuit is a Mint Slice – dark chocolate with a biscuit wafer and a thin layer of peppermint…. It is delicious! Now I’m in the UK I have to wait for friends and family to deliver me a packet each time they visit. - They sound flipping amazing! And now I need to try some!

Where do you do most of your writing?
I bought myself an Apple Macbook last year as a treat, and it goes where I go. I write at home, in airport lounges, in waiting rooms or even on the train. I like to write at any moment where I some spare time, and I find myself writing instead of watching movies and television, and sometimes just before bed to help myself close out for the day.

What book(s) are you reading at the moment?
Currently I’m reading the trilogy, The Girl from Berlin by Ellie Midwood (a fellow independent author). This is a great series about a girl living in Berlin during World War Two; a girl whose parents have disclosed her Jewish identity through forced documents, and ends up working for the SS as a double agent. It’s a brilliant thriller, drama mixed with the horrors of Hitler’s regime.

Did you have a good or bad 2015?
I had a mixed 2015. The most exciting part was getting my first book published and entering the world of writing as an author! Additionally, my first book, Finding the Rainbow won two book awards and a finalist for another award which will be announced in May 2016. I also had a very busy 2015 from a professional work perspective, and some significant health challenges which made 2015 mixed overall. However, in saying that, I’m a positive person and I have to look at what I learned about myself throughout the year, and there was a lot I have taken from the past year, and I’m focused on making 2016 even better!

Do you have writing plans for 2016? Are they secret or could you share a teaser?
I certainly do! I have just finished another children’s book called Grimwald’s Evil Plan. Like Mud on your Face, this is aimed at the middle school reader, and is about a boy who is rebelling against his own destiny to be a ‘fairy godfather’, and wants to join the forces of evil, thinking it would be much more fun. However, he learns some valuable lessons about good and bad deeds, and perhaps learns that it is not always fun to cause trouble and chaos.

I am also capturing my own follow up story to Finding the Rainbow, and who knows where that will end, but I hope that it will inspire women like me to continue fighting for their dreams.

If you could have any job in the world except being an author, what would you choose and why?
I would love to be a travel writer, does that count? I love to travel the world, see new things and explore, and I would love to share these adventures with other aspiring travelers or those who love to dream about traveling. Plus, it’s a great excuse to be on a permanent holiday!

If you could genetically cross and animal with a fruit or vegetable what would you choose and why? I'm currently thinking runner bean millipede, tricky to catch, tickly to nibble raw....actually that sounds a bit cruel, maybe I'd have to keep them at green wriggly pets.
Okay, I’m not sure here, but I’m going to go with a Strawberry and a Lady Beetle. They are both red, with little spots, and cute. You can’t eat just one strawberry, and I always get excited when I see a flutter of Lady Beetles. - ladybirds? yes I'll let you cross those with a plump strawberry :-)

If you could take any fictional character out for lunch, who would you choose and why? And where do you think you'd go to eat?
Scarlett O’Hara. I read Gone with the Wind when I was sixteen years old, and she was my heroine. Tough, resilient, emotive, strong willed and southern! I would love to take her to something really modern as although she was a woman living through the American Civil War, she was very modern for her time, so perhaps a sushi or a Japanese teppanake restaurant, and then we would go to a club after, as she loved to dance!

Thank you so much for joining in with Wordy Wednesday, here's wishing you great things for the future.

You can buy a copy of Finding the Rainbow here

and check out Rachels other books on GoodReads or buy them on Amazon.


Things I love about being a mum

This morning on Facebook the lovely Fi at ChildCareisFun mentioned how she was sad to see so many 'I hate being a mum' posts online, not just 'I had a bad day' but proper I hate being a mum blog posts.
I thought that part of the problem was that if you claim you love being a parent, that your life is nice, happy and generally good, people see you as smug and a bit of a bitch to be honest. So I think mums (and dads) are scared to say - this is ace! I love it!
Maybe the fact that you like being a mum and they don't, makes them feel defensive and angry?  Maybe they had a succession of bad days and forgot the good days. Maybe they do really hate being a parent. I don't know. But whatever, not all parents feel the same. So I'm here to balance things up.
I'm one of those weirdos that had an easy time with the birth, loved it all. Who enjoyed pregnancy (even the vomiting) and who loves being a mum, every day.
I thought about writing a rant. But decided a poem was nicer.
So here is my poem. About being a mum.

Things I love (and loved)  about being a mum

A Poem

child drinking cocktail

Waking early at 3 to the sound of her tears.
Being her comfort for all of these years.
Holding her close as a she snuffles and drinks,
holding her less close as she starts to stink!
Cleaning her bottom at a quarter past ten,
then at half past eleven, I do it again!
A basket of washing, sits sopping wet,
the machine not working, and yet and yet,
those so tiny socks are catching my eye,
laying there waiting, nearly making me cry.
Such small clothes for such a small child,
who soon will be big and running me wild.
Changing a sheet that is soaked in wee,
and a tiny sad face pleading with me
that they know they can do it, no nappies required
but accidents happen when you are so tired.
Wobbly bike riding, a crash on the lawn.
A nightmare needs snuggles though it's nearly dawn.
I drag myself, knackered, from comfy warm bed
because someone woke early and now bumped their head.
Packing a bag for a day out seems barmy,
I carry enough to maintain a small army!
First day at nursery the tears are all mine,
I ring my own mum who says 'she will be fine'.
A wasted day worrying when I could be free,
but missing my 'baby' who should be with me.
Paintings on fridges and pasta shell 'jewels'
fondly admired as the nighttime drink cools.
And now she's at school and is going alone,
the time is just whizzing and 'my how she's grown'.
She has her own phone and she snapchats her mates
and she talks about popstars and going on dates.
Next month is her prom all sparkle and dresses
and 'my hair just won't curl' is the top of the stresses.
I've been a mum now for 16 short years
surviving on love, and on wine,and on beers
from the very first moment I gazed in her eyes
every day has been filled with joy and surprise
that I made a new person, who is gorgeous and clever
and have I regretted it? not once, not ever.

as always I'd love your comments - come and chat over at Facebook


Wordy Wednesday with Joan De la Haye

Hello Wordy Wednesday fans. Today I'm chatting to another writer to tickle your reading muscles and to lure you into a new fictional world. Let me introduce Joan De la Haye, a South African horror writer with three novels, two novellas, and lots of short stories under her belt. She published her first two novels and the novellas with Fox Spirit books, but is going full Indie with her latest release – Fury.

So Joan tell us more...
My job as a horror writer is to disturb, scare, and freak out my reader. And I love my job!

Do you have another job or are you a full time author? If you do something else (international spy?) what is it and do you like it?
When I’m not trying to figure out new ways to screw over my already messed up characters, I’m an administrator for a grant programme at the University of Pretoria. But the programme comes to an end at the end of 2016 and then I’ll be focusing on scaring my reader’s full time. I’m rather looking forward to it.

When did you start writing?
According to my mother and grandmother, I started writing from the moment I could hold a pencil, but I penned my first story at the tender age of twelve. It was during a school holiday and I was driving my poor mother crazy at work, so she handed me a pen and some paper and told me to write something. The result was a rather terrible fairy tale called The Wonderful World of Candyfloss.

What 3 things are guaranteed to make you smile?
My cat, chocolate, and wine.

joan de la haye author horror

Do you have any pets? If yes, what, and do they help or hinder the writing process?
I have a rather cuddly, black, cat called Midnight who has a tendency of insisting on curling up on my lap while I try to write. As long as my arms can reach around him and get to the laptop, and give him some head scratches every few words I’m all good.

Who is your favourite author? Do they influence your writing or are they a total break from the sort of thing you write?
Strangely enough my favourite author is Alexandre Dumas, so a complete break from what I write. That being said … I, like most horror writers, also love Stephen King and Clive Barker. I also recently discovered Karin Slaughter. She writes these really gritty, vicious, thrillers. I love them!

Which book(s) are you reading at the moment?
I’m on the second book of The Dresden Files series – Fool Moon by Jim Butcher.

Where do you do most of your writing?
That depends. Over weekends – in my bed.
During the week – really early in the morning at my desk, in my office at the university. I have a really understanding boss who is incredibly supportive of my writing career.

Tell us about the character that you've written that you like the most - no spoilers!
That’s a tough one. It’s like asking me to choose a favourite child (if I had one). But I’d probably have to go with Jack from Shadows. He’s evil, but a lot of fun to write. I just can’t have him running amok in my head for any length of time.

What is your favourite biscuit?

Tea or Coffee?
Coffee and wine.

If you could genetically cross an animal and a vegetable, what would you pick and why? I like the idea of a potato and a sloth...could you get a lazier creature? (my soul mate)
That’s an interesting question. Makes me think about those mad scientists who made a bunny glow in the dark just to see if they could.
How about jellyfish and broccoli…
No particular reason for the blend, just that it would be interesting to see a head of broccoli with the jellyfish tentacles. ooh I like this weird plan
fury joan de la haye

For all the information on Joan and her books checkout her website: http://joandelahaye.com/
Her Amazon author page is: http://www.amazon.com/
You can stalk her on twitter: @JoanDeLaHaye

Big thanks for taking part. Thanks to all for reading.

Don't forget to head on over to Facebook to like my page and add any comments.


Room - a movie review

I was sent a preview dvd of the Oscar winning movie, Room , to watch. It is a movie I had seen advertised but the subject matter had put me off watching it. I like kids films, adventure films, sci-fi, comedy but gritty realism isn't usually my choice. And the theme of Room, is a difficult subject, especially for a parent of a teen daughter to watch.

Room tells the story of a 5 year old boy and his mother, trapped in a single room. As the film progresses we discover why they are in the room, how they got there, and what their life is like. The film manages to show the horror of their existence in a calm way that never strays into the salacious. Somehow the understatement of the awful abuse and horrific nature of their imprisonment makes the situation all the more ghastly. A situation that should be your worst nightmare has become commonplace and routine.

jack staring at the skylight in Room movie

But amazingly this film is not depressing, it shows the strength of love, the power of the human spirit and is ultimately extremely uplifting. Don't be fooled, you will cry, I cried 7 times (and one of those times lasted through several scenes) but it really is a great film and well worth a watch. An adult film with very adult themes, it is not suitable for young children (it has a 15 Certificate in the UK, an R is the US) .

There are many scenes in the movie that provoked very strong emotions in me. I think as a parent I identified most with the mother who lost her daughter, rather than 'ma' the girl in Room. But in the early part of the film I did feel for her and the way she tried to keep her son happy, the way she made things about him, and stayed strong through routines. She is shown in such a powerful way, despite her seemingly powerless situation. The normal anger of a child rebelling against his mother when we, the viewer, know what she is going through is heartbreaking. To see her cope with his rage at her is difficult. And to see things through his eyes as he pretends to sleep in Wardrobe at night when Old Nick visits is clever as we are left to know the horror while he does not.

The thing that made me cry the most (and there were a lot of tears) was when we see the bedroom of the lost daughter, still the same as the day she left, 7 years before. The hope her own mother always had that she would return. I held DD and wept.

While it was Brie Larson who won the Oscar (for Best Actress) it is Jacob Tremblay the 8 year old Canadian child actor who plays Jack that stole the film (and a piece of my heart). His brilliant acting on first seeing the sky outside of Room was just wonderful, totally mind blowing.

But I mustn't tell you the whole film, you must see it for yourself.

jack and ma in a hammock movie Room

STUDIOCANAL is delighted to announce the DVD and Blu-Ray release of the multi award winning ROOM on May 9th 2016
Directed by Academy Award® nominated Lenny Abrahamson (Frank) with a screenplay by Emma Donoghue that she adapted from her best-selling novel, ROOM stars Brie Larson (Kong: Skull Island, Free Fire), Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen (The Bourne Ultimatum), William H. Macy (Fargo) and Sean Bridgers (Trumbo), ROOM is one of the most highly acclaimed films of the year.


Prince died and it's OK to be sad

When someone in the public eye dies reactions vary. There are outpourings of grief from all and sundry. Twitter is awash with tears and sadness. Celebrities explain why this death affects them, then ordinary people start to share their memories too. Some celebrities also pipe up with how the dead person wasn't all that and list reasons. Social media police begin to creep into the mix telling us how we are allowed to feel and reminding anyone that will listen that "you didn't know them" "a celebrity death is not worse than a 'normal' person dying" and "it's not about you" or even "what about (insert tragic event) that is sadder and you didn't get all upset over that"
Copyright: meletver / 123RF Stock Photo

Well. Grief is a personal thing. You can't tell someone how to grieve. Some people use black humour and joke about it. Some people become quiet. Some talk about the deceased person a lot, filling their chatter with memories and anecdotes. Some avoid the subject completely and speak of mundane things, such as what they had for lunch. Some people cry. Some people write blog posts. All of these responses, and others are normal, personal responses to grief. Maybe the social media police anger is a response too.

In 1985 I was 19, soon to be 20. I was dating my first serious boyfriend and partying and listening to music and....

I was weird in my teens. Due to a whole other story I moved out of my home at 16 and was freer than most 16 year olds. At 19 I was renting my own room. I was not well off of course, so I also struggled to buy clothes and usually dressed from charity shops. I liked the quirky mix of things I found there. I would wear over sized 'mens' pyjamas as day wear, trousers slightly rolled up, top tied at the waist, mixed with a tasselled bra and sequined trainers. I would wear fake fur coats with a micro mini skirt underneath, with thigh high boots and lace gloves. I liked fake leather trousers and ripped T shirts with artful singe marks around the rips. I wore hats. It was lucky that the 80s was all new romantics and glamour, but even among that I felt odd, slightly shabby. And then Prince.

Prince was all about the unusual, he was the epitome of cool, weird cool, but cool and glamorous and flashy and amazing. I didn't buy many single records, they were (at the time) quite expensive, those 50ps were better used in my meter in the winter than in buying music, but when I heard Raspberry Beret...I dreamed that I was that girl. She walked in through out doors, she wore clothes from second hand stores, on warm days she wore hardly anything, and yet she was the perfect girl. The one he loved. Was it coincidence it was the same year I lost my virginity? (not in a barn). I bought the 7inch vinyl. There were no CDs then, no downloads (barely computers) and I played the record on my tiny record player. I played the record and felt good, felt cool.

Prince was a huge part of many people's memories. We all have memories wrapped around celebrities and a celebrity dying, especially when it is unexpected, brings those memories bubbling to the surface, making us grieve not only the celebrity but other things too, days lost, our teen years, the feel of summer with no responsibilities, that first time...

I'm not alone in thinking this - here is MostlyInPyjamas on Twitter

If people are upset that Prince died, it's natural. Let's celebrate the fact that celebrity lives can so touch us that we care. Surely caring, loving and grieving are some of the things that make us human.

Come and share your memories (or don't as the mood takes you) over on my Facebook page.


Wordy Wednesday with J B Rockwell

I nearly ran out of authors for you all to read about! Can you imagine, the horror! Luckily the world is full of amazing people writing tales for our enjoyment, which is just as well as I know most of use read a book in much less time than it takes to write one! Twitter put me in touch with some new (to me, and sometimes actually new) authors and I popped them into the virtual hot seat for a full grilling!

First up let us all meet J B Rockwell. Sweating in the interview chair, quaking slightly, clutching her beverage of choice, and looking forward to the slice of cake which she has been told she can only have once this interview is complete.

Hello JB, may I call you that? Tell us all about you:

So, I’m J.B. Rockwell *waves* and I write speculative fiction—sci-fi and fantasy mostly, though I did have one light horror/weird book published that’s…well, weird. I’ve got four books published now (yay!), the first two books fantasy trilogy (BREAKSHIELD and SEIOKANA, with Book 3—REAPER—due out this November), that light horror book I mentioned (BIMIANGUS, which I put more in the creepy/weird category since it’s about a creepy bull…I KNOW!) and my latest (and favorite) book: SERENGETI, which is sci-fi. Oh. OH! And SERENGETI comes out in audio book at the end of April! SQUEEE!!!
Mostly I write adult spec pic but I’ve also dabbled in young adult fiction and middle grade level fiction.
As for me, personally, I’m a wannabe archaeologist. Oh, and I have three cats. That’s important because I only had TWO cats until number three showed up after a snow storm and never left.

Do you have another job or are you a full time author? If you do something else what is it and do you like it?
Yes, I’m a slave to the day job. I DREAM of writing full time but right now I work in information technology for the US Coast Guard. That also means I only get to write on the weekends so I jealously guard my scarce writing time. I like working for the Coast Guard. It’s a pretty cool organization. The Mighty Mite of the Military, as it were. :)

When did you start writing?
About 5 years ago—I know, I’m a late bloomer. I’ve always loved to read but I was completely intimidated by the idea of writing a book myself. Then I got an idea and decided to challenge myself and go with it. As with most authors, that first book was very…first bookish and never made it off the shelf. In fact, is still isn’t published, but one day I’ll pull it out and rewrite now that I actually have somewhat of a clue about writing.

What 3 things are guaranteed to make you smile?
Puppies. Kittens. Anything cute with fur. (I’m counting that as one)
Hearing that someone really, truly enjoyed one of my books or short stories, especially if they liked the humor I tried to build in. - you see readers, reviews matter, make an author smile, review a book!
Hanging out and chatting with good friends. I mean GOOD friends. Because we always end up cutting up and laughing our butts off.

Do you have any pets? If yes, what, and do they help or hinder the writing process?
Yes! The aforementioned three cats. I’d like to add a dog too, but right now my working days are too long and it wouldn’t be fair. Cats are great, they just sleep until you get home and then demand food and snuggles. Sometimes the cats help with the writing and sometimes they are a complete roadblock. My best writing moments are sitting in front of a roaring fire with a sleepy cat cuddled up beside me and a good movie or some really good music in the background. But when the cats aren’t sleepy they have zero patience for writing. So, if they’re stirred up and wanting attention there’s no sense even trying to write. On the other hand, I’ve found a lot of inspiration in watching my cats. I’ve written stories with both foes and dragons in them and much of their mannerisms are based on watching my cats be cats. - evil cats?

Who is your favourite author? Do they influence your writing or are they a total break from the sort of thing you write?
I’m a HUGE fan of C.J. Cherryh. She’s one of those authors where I just buy the book because here name is on it. Her writing has definitely influenced mine—no one writes a broken character better than her—but I am in no way, shape or form saying I write as well as her. Just, some of the themes she uses, the way she builds characters and the way she weaves her stories together—I’ve tried to borrow some of that awesomeness and adapt it to my own stories. Plus she writes both sci-fi and fantasy equally well so I feel a kinship.

Which book(s) are you reading at the moment?
I’m actually re-reading the Richard Sharpe books by Bernard Cornwell. I love them. I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, obviously, but historical fiction is another love of mine.

Where do you do most of your writing?
When it’s cold or icky outside, I write in my living room by the fireplace. When it’s nice, I sit outside on the patio in the dappled sunlight with the trees all around me. I have a very zen patio. :) I also carry a little moleskin notebook around with me and I’ve been known to scribble down ideas and entire passages while standing in the feed zone at one of my husband’s bike races, waiting for him to come by and want a water bottle.

Tell us about the character that you've written that you like the most - no spoilers!
I’ve got a series of short stories of written, about half of which have found homes in anthologies and e-zines about that this half-crazy, over-machoed starship Captain named Phinnaeus Crowhammer who’s always getting into trouble. He’s a fun character to write because he’s foul mouthed and completely sexist in an entertaining way. Plus he’s got an eclectic crew that includes an otter who pilots the ship. Those stories are pure fun to write.

What is your favourite biscuit?
Ha-ha! This always cracks me up. UK biscuits = US cookies :) I have to say, I’ve never found a biscuit I didn’t like, unless it has raisins instead of chocolate chips—WHAT IS THE POINT??? I think my favorite of all time is still the good old, tried and true chocolate chip cookie. I mean, what’s not to like? - separated by a common language, drawn together by a love of biscuits/cookies :-)

Tea or Coffee?
Coffee. I know, I’m a heathen. Then again, I’m American. I also quite fancy cocoa. not a heathen at all - I'm a real coffee fan, hot as hell, dark as night, sweet as love...actually not sweet I don't take sugar...bitter as my soul?

In the film of your life who would play you? (why)
OH GOD THIS WOULD BE A HORROR MOVIE WHY WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS??? Um…I think Reese Witherspoon is closest to my basic size, shape and looks (not that I look like her but running through actresses she probably comes the closet to not-not looking like me…if that makes any sense). Personality-wise, I like to think I’m more like Felicia Day: cookie and off-kilter but fun to hang with. :) - ha I'm the interviewer - I do it because I can!

If you could genetically cross an animal and a vegetable, what would you pick and why? I like the idea of a potato and a sloth...could you get a lazier creature? (my soul mate)
Good question. I think a pumpkin and a hedgehog. You’d get this fat, orange, prickly little critter with a long snout and tiny paws that would alternate between sleeping and waddling about—ADORABLE!

Find out more about J B Rockwell at her Author site: www.jenniferbrockwell.com
Find her on Amazon (and buy books) at: http://www.amazon.com/
Over on Goodreads : https://www.goodreads.com/
SERENGETI: http://www.severedpress.com/books/serengeti/
Follow her on Twitter: @Rockwell_JB
'Like' her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rockwellJB/

Huge thanks for taking part - as usual readers are welcome to come and chat over at my Facebook Page or my Twitter. Until nest week. Keep reading! (oh and you can have that cake now)


Wordy Wednesday with Emily Cross

Wordy Wednesday today with Emily Cross. Emily is a rather exciting author as by day, she is an unnamed mild-mannered if not neurotic PhD student. But by night, she is "Emily Cross" (a secret pseudonym) , a blog hopping chocoholic with delusions of literary grandeur, who procrastinates her time through tweeting, (don't we all!) she can also be found blogging and posting random thoughts across the blogosphere at The Chronicles of Emily Cross.

I asked Emily about her writing : "My book is currently in progress, but I hope to have it polished and ready to submit this summer. It is a YA (young adult)  urban fantasy. I'm a huge fan of Joss Whedon, and grew up with Buffy as a teen - I definitely am aiming for "buffyesque" type story with strong female characters." Sounds good! So I turned the lamp full into Emily's face and began questioning in earnest...

Emily Cross Author
Emily Cross (or is it?)
When did you start writing? And why?

I don't exactly know when I started writing. I know I used to write poetry and short stories when I was quite young, and have religiously kept a journal from about 10 on wards. I think I had so many stories in my mind, and ideas that I had to write them down in some form. My family are avid readers so it seemed natural to try and write my own stories.

What 3 things (not including paper, computer, pens) would you like to facilitate a good days writing?

A quiet space, a cup of tea and sometimes (but not always) some music in the background. In my first book, I have a particular song which I always associate with the villain - which helps me write those darker scenes.

Do you write to a schedule, eg every day or three times a week, set times, etc or do you write as and when the mood strikes?

I think if I waited for the mood to strike me, I would never write. I give myself 500 word goal a day which I always exceed - which makes me feel like I've accomplished something - and makes me feel excited to continue the next day. If I don't do this, I think too much about writing (with apprehension and self-criticism) when I should be just writing.

What's the worst question anyone has asked you ever?

It was more of a question than a statement. I was in a writing group and when I mentioned that I was writing a YA urban fantasy, I was told "oh thats a good idea, there's lots of money in that. Is it like twilight?" I can't even remember what I said because I was so annoyed. All my stories, even those written for school have a had a supernatural side to them, so its not something I just do because it is popular at the moment.

What are your favourite biscuits?

Hobnobs! Love them!! Although I'm more into chocolate than biscuits :)

Tea or Coffee?

Tea 100% - nice and strong with a dash of milk

Where do you do most of your writing?

In my bed, to be honest. Only place I have to myself at the moment.

What book are you reading at the moment?

The Amelia Peabody series (17 books in total). Apart from Paranormal/Fantasy books, I like historical fiction. Amelia Peabody is based in late 19th Century in Egypt. I love anything to do with Egypt and am really enjoying the series, which is a bit like Agatha Christie.

Do you use social media (facebook, twitter, instagram etc) to engage with your audience, do you think it helps sales and do you find it fun or a chore?

I have a facebook page (which is a bit of a chore and I use rarely), I recently joined instagram, but I think I'll be abandoning it as well as it's not "me". I have fallen in love with pinterest, but use this for my own research/interests rather than engaging with anyone. I usually use twitter - and for me this is fun, as I love seeing discussions on it and find out really interesting tips and news on there. I also enjoy the hastag groups like #yachatie or #yachatuk where I can discuss writing or reading with similar passionate minds :)

If you could genetically cross and animal with a fruit or vegetable what would you choose and why? I'm currently thinking Kangaroo Leek for the inevitable hilarity of shouting "I've sprung a leak!" when you flush one out of the undergrowth in the outback.

Wow. I don't know. I keep thinking of chocolate - which is neither fruit nor vegetable. . . and my dog a Cavalier King Charles, who is cute enough to eat ;) - chocolate dogs are fast becoming a theme, I think it tells  us a lot about authors!

If money was no object what would you buy your favourite person as a gift?
I would buy my parents an apartment in some nice holiday resort like Spain so they can get sunshine during the winter - nice, and I am guessing you would hope they ask you to visit!

I have no book to plug here on Emily's behalf, so I shall just suggest you keep your eyes peeled, and follow her blog for updates. Thank you for answering Emily. Good Luck

Until next week, keep writing (and reading. And as always if you have comments I'd love to hear them over on Facebook or Twitter


A Fashion Haul (not really just some clothes I bought for DD)

In the Easter holidays we popped over to Brighton supposedly to buy a few things for DD for when she starts college in the autumn. Because of course she has nothing to wear. And all the other girls will have all the things (eye roll)

We went to a lot of shops but spent most of our my hard earned cash in Primark and H&M. I love Primark some days and hate it on others. It's a bit of a jumble sale and horrendously busy with little room to move, and there are queues to try things on and then more queues to pay, but the prices make it worth the wait.

Being old no longer a teen, I was swayed by DD's choices and we purchased several outfits, with things she can mix and match with stuff she already owns.

casual top and jogging bottoms
Joggers (£9.99 H&M) with casual top (£5.00 Primark)

loose jumper and denim jeans with rips
Loose knit jumper (£14.99 H&M) Boyfriend Rip Jeans (£29.99 H&M)
jacket and tight jeans
Tight Black Jeans (£12.00 Primark) Grey T shirt (£2.80 Primark) Fitted Cotton striped Jacket (£20.00 Primark)
Black Shorts (£10.00 Primark) and Vest Top (£4.00 )
Extra tight! Blue Jeans (£12.00 Primark) with Vest Top as before
blowing a kiss
What's that DD? A kiss? Thank you!
Model wears size 6

We also bought an extra pair of cheap black jeans to rip up at home - a DIY ripped jeans blog post will no doubt follow! I did manage to buy myself a new dress in Primark (£8) and several tops for work. The primark long sleeve tops are cheap but last really well and good on their own or under things, they are my must have staple for the wardrobe and they come in lots of colours.

striped fitted top
Do stripes make me look fat? (don't answer) (Primark 4.00)


Dads are rubbish at housework and parenting

They are not, obviously; dads are are sometimes better, sometimes worse, often the same, as mums when it comes to housework and childcare. And now I've caught your attention let me tell you more. I can only tell you about my experience of course, but that will have to do.

When we brought DD home from the hospital she was just over a day old. A day. One day. A whole entire new being that we had made (to be fair I'd done the bulk of the work up until that point) and here she was, in our care. We didn't need a licence or a home check or any training, they just gave us this new person, wished us well and waved us goodbye.
mum and new baby
New baby DD

During the first few days and nights each time she cried Mr TM would look at me with a worried look and ask "what does she want?" I would stare back and say "I have no idea, I only just met her!" and he would say "but you are her mum!" to which the only sensible reply was "and you are her dad!"

And that's the thing isn't it, just because I grew a tiny person in the wet life support system of my womb doesn't mean I know her any more than anyone else does. Of course there are things that happen,  milk appearing as if by magic when babies cry, which prompts a mum to offer a feed, but the terrible smell emanating from the bottom end of the baby which prompts a nappy change, is there for all to sniff! And so we learned. I was on maternity leave for a year and Mr TM had retired with the plan that he would stay home and look after DD when I went back to work. For a year we were together, learning about this new person, growing to know her ways, her likes and her (frequently violent) dislikes.

When I went back to work Mr TM became DDs main carer and so, spending longer with her, he became more attuned to her than I did. He knew that this week she hated rice pudding, or that she had decided a different teddy was needed at bedtime. He had always been the more organised one of the two of us, even now when DD has reached the frankly terrifying age of 16 he is still the one that does the laundry, cleans the bathrooms, hoovers the lounge.

I work full time and have since DD was a year old, she self weaned when I went back to work as I was out of the house (commuting to London) for such long periods of time each day, in fact the first 3 months I returned to work I didn't see her awake except at weekends. I relied on my husband telling me all the things they had been up to. The hilarious potty incidents, the difficulty in finding a public toilet to take her into, the things they had eaten out at cafes. Luckily I changed my job and avoided the long commute very quickly, and Mr TM and DD could come and visit me at lunchtimes, but still he was her main carer, the one that wiped her snot, dealt with nappy rash, became an expert on teething and knew the best way to deal with cradlecap.
child and father by a river
DD shares a picnic with daddy

Mr TM grew with DD, becoming a rather awesome dad. Great at organising days out (where I invariably forgot something vital!), a whizz at packing a rucksack with 'essential baby things' but because he was the parent that stayed home, he also became the homemaker (a rather nice gender neutral Americanism). So it is still Mr TM who is in charge at home. He cleans the kitchen floor, he dusts, he brushes the sofa and plumps the cushions, he cleans the oven. In fact he does all of the things most people would see as 'womens' work' and sometimes he worries that other men will think less of him because he is not 'the bread winner'. I have told him time and time again that women find men that hoover, clean the bathroom and feed the children, to be just as attractive a prospect as one that works in the city, but I'd be lying if I said everyone thinks it's fine.

He has to put up with questions about why he doesn't work, questions that no woman would be asked, he also gets regularly enraged by the lazy stereotype used in the media , that husbands and men in general are hopeless fools around the house, that men can't do a load of laundry, clean a stove top or hoover a room without help from a clever lady. Or if they can do these things they are some sort of superhero. He had to suffer being the only man at 'mummy and baby' groups and was often confounded to be excluded from baby changing facilities that were hidden in the 'Ladies' toilets.
child and father clearing snow
DD helps daddy clear the snow

Things have changed in those 16 years of course, and I know that now lots of dads are the main carers of their children either by choice or through circumstance. But I can't help but notice, among all the ranting about girls being forced to be pink princesses, that dads (and men) still get a bad rap where being homemakers and child carers are involved. So shall we just try and be inclusive? Let's remember there are great dads out there, terrible dads too, and mediocre dads, just like mums...

Much love from a very mediocre mum. Comments welcome on twitter or my facebook page.