On school choices

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I went to a seminar this week, hosted by Citymothers, a networking group that I belong to, and presented by Rachel Vecht of Educating Matters. I couldn’t decide if it was because I was a little hormonal, but I found the session surprising emotional and found myself quite tearful after I left. Something about the fact that Pip is no longer even a toddler and that we need to start making “proper” parenting decisions, rather than just trying not to kill or lose her, made me feel a little overwhelmed.

The session itself was very good, setting out the myriad choices, and I liked the fact that the follow up email led with the following:

“Choosing a school for your child is usually a stressful, emotional and time consuming period. It can feel frustrating because we want the very best for our children but so much of the process is beyond our control as there is so much competition for places in both the state and independent sector. Try and be clear about what suits your child and your circumstances. Don’t be too worried about what other families appear to do or not to (I know that this is easier said than done). It helps to be open minded and keep your options wide.”

We don’t have to apply until the end of this year, but that in the same breath as seeming eons away, also doesn’t seem that long. I’m just in the process of finalising my 2015 objectives at work, and not only does it not seem that long ago I did the same for 2014, we are nearing the end of Q1 and I feel like I haven’t actually done much yet. (Of course, I have, it just feels that way).

The seminar covered both state and independent options but I think unless a pressing academic need presents itself, state school will be sufficient for us. Whilst I don’t doubt there is enormous potential in having guaranteed smaller class sizes, I feel this is outweighed by the social diversity and community element of a local state school (if we get a place, that is, otherwise we might have to reconsider). I already baulk at paying for a party for her now and won’t be doing party bags; I don’t think competitive North London private school parenting is for me/us.

I think we get 6 choices for the state school process in our borough, but other parents tell me locally that it’s only worth putting down 3. Competition here is fierce; this seems to be where every professional in the city who isn’t mega wealthy, just moderately well off, comes to have a baby. Some schools have a catchment area of less than 0.3 of a mile, and some have anecdotally only had 2 non-sibling places in some intakes.

That said, I know that what we teach Pip at home matters as much, if not more, than what primary school she goes to. But already diary management is hard work, and my blood pressure levels caused by TFL delays make either end of the day the most stressful part of that. Add to that not only later drop offs and earlier pick ups once she starts school, but the stress that if she doesn’t get into the nearest school and gets randomly allocated something it will require us to buy a car in order to get her to school and suddenly school choices seem rather worrying.

The seminar also included a very helpful list of things that your child will be expected to be able to do when they start school, which included social, emotional and personal development skills, behaviour, speaking, listening, reading, numeracy and IT skills. I hope it doesn’t sound like boasting to say that I’m confident she can do most of the things on the list already, save the IT skills. Having spent the first two years of her life trying to keep her away from screens and technology, both because I wanted her to experience other things, and that she literally showed no interest in TV until one day around 2 and a half when suddenly she discovered it, I now worry she will be behind because she doesn’t know how to use an iPad. What we did to keep her quiet for the first 2.5 years, I don’t remember, but suddenly lie ins are easier as she’ll happily watch A Bugs Life either in bed next to me, or tucked up on the sofa. Hopefully though she’ll pick it up as easily as she picked up other skills.

The thing that terrified me the most about the whole thing was the idea that primary school choices can lead to secondary school choices, so, if we were to have a particular preference about a secondary school, we should factor that into our decision process now. But I don’t even know what the potential secondary options are, or even where we will be wanting to live in 10 years time, so I don’t even know if I want to be able to take it into account. I said it was terrifying, didn’t I. One false move and I may have jeopardised her university options… (again, making a huge assumption she will even want to go to tertiary education).

One step at a time, I think. (and that step, for me, is bed).

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Win: Green People DD Tinted Moisturiser & Cream Cleanser giveaway

Screenshot 2015-02-22 22.02.51Last week I wrote about some of the products that I use in my morning beauty routine. I’m pleased to say that Green People have offered to give one reader their own tube of DD Tinted Moisturiser, plus a Cream Cleanser as well.

This most definitely is a moisturiser. I have used it once or twice over my usual moisturiser and found it worked better used on its own. Like a BB cream, it still gave excellent coverage, in a much more natural way than a traditional foundation. This cream also has an SPF and none of the nasties found in so many other products.

To enter, all you need to do is leave me a comment telling me something about your beauty routine, or a beauty related story, and then use the rafflecopter widget to tell me.

There are a couple of other options too, for extra entries. I’ll draw a winner next weekend.

Don’t forget, you can also order from the Green People website and enter code DDLAUNCH at checkout to get a 20% discount until 28 February.

Good luck!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions: 1. To enter Green People DD Cream and Cleanser prize draw give-away you must leave me a comment on the blog. There are additional options for more entries. 2. The prize is 1 x 30ml DD Tinted Moisturiser and 1 x 150ml Purify & Hydrate Cream Cleanser. No cash or alternative prizes will be given 3. The prize draw will start on 22.02.15 and end on 30.02.15 4. The winner will be picked from all valid entries 5. The winner will be notified directly via email. The winner must reply within seven days of receiving the email or a new winner will be picked at random. 6. I reserve the right to change the entry dates at any time, for any reason.

Celebrating inspiring women: My #ARWOMAN nomination

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I thought long and hard about inspirational women when Atterley Road asked me to take part in their campaign to celebrate inspiring women. I thought about famous women who have impacted my life in some way (Kate Moss, say, or Carol Ann Duffy). I thought about women I work with, or have encountered in my professional life (such as the First 100 Years project that I worked on last year, without whom I wouldn’t be a lawyer today) but in the end, I decided to talk about someone nearer home.

Well, nearer to my heart anyway. Nearer home when one lives 5 hours drive away isn’t exactly accurate. I also cheated a little, as it’s technically two women: my sisters. Photographed above by my Dad at E’s christening last year, two beautiful, accomplished and amazing women that I am lucky enough to call my younger sisters.

A, a scientist who completed her PhD shortly before she became a mother last year, who despite living in a small town in West Wales where taking her married name would cause her much less hassle, defiantly stuck to her principles, and who has survived motherhood with far most grace than I have so far, is younger than me by 3 years. She is the one I turn to when Pip is challenging me and we keep each other sane through long phone conversations. Last summer, she diverted to Yorkshire to take care of my Grandfather and Dad during the last week of our Grandmother’s life, without even a travel cot. She took E and the clothes they had with them and cooked and cared for Grandpa and Dad, so they could be with Granny 24 hours a day. Even when E had to sleep in a drawer and wet every pair of trousers she had packed, Annie calmly and serenely took care of them.

The other A is younger than me by 5 years, although according to all bouncers everywhere, she is the older and never gets ID’d. If Annie is the calming influence, Alex is the person who challenges me, never says no, is brave and walks closer to the line than most people. She sailed the Atlantic last summer, in a 3 man boat with people she’d never met. Backpacked round South East Asia at 18. Did a year in an American university. Gave up a career in advertising to do a masters last year and has taken up yacht racing. A inspires me to be brave; to speak my mind; to follow the party to the end, because thats when the interesting conversations are. It was Alex that I was with when Annie called to say Granny had died, just an hour after our other Granddad had died. It was Alex I drank margaritas with that night, on the phone to Annie.

That week last summer was when I lost my blogging way, but it’s no exaggeration to say it’s the unfailing support of these two who helped me find it again. It was Alex who took me to Morocco, when post-natal depression and breastfeeding had dragged me to my lowest, eight months after Pip was born. It was Alex that sat there with a notebook, painfully writing down my every anxiety, eventually striking through the ones that I couldn’t control and amalgamating all the others, until the list was manageable and the pounding in my heart and pain in my neck had subsided. It is Alex that still provides the linchpin in our complicated diary management and it is Annie to whom I whisper that I think I could have done it better, and she says what Granny used to say. “If you did your best, angels couldn’t do better”.

Who inspires you? Join in the campaign by posting a picture of a woman who inspires you on Instagram, tag it @AtterleyRoad #ARWOMAN and nominate some friends to do the same. 

More house musings

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I know it’s only February but we have to make a couple of big decisions this year. They are rather intertwined; where to apply for Pip’s primary school place, whether to consider a sibling for Pip and whether to renew our contract on this rented place, or try and own a place ourselves.

We’ve never particularly felt any draw to own a place before, and I’ve written about (and been interviewed on the subject of) our love of renting. I know we’re paying out money towards nothing in terms of rent – well, nothing in terms of capital value – I place a lot of value on ease and peace of mind. That said, there are some limitations but in general, we’re very happy. Engineered Oak Wood Flooring? We can live with that, if someone else comes to fix the mains water leak. And the broken boiler. Wall colours I’m not keen on? I’ll take it (and, to be honest, the landlord would probably let us paint if we were really inclined).

Leaving aside the other baby considerations, housing wise, what we really need to do is work out whether we could fit another baby into this flat, and if so, for how long. Can you fit two children in a small second bedroom? Could we squeeze in a cot into our room. If not, could we afford to rent anything bigger? In a different area? (We’d have to do it soon though, as Pip’s school place needs to be applied for at the end of this year).

Inspired by our shared love of Grand Designs, we’ve also been considering recently whether the option exists to build our own place. No idea how or what, but the thing we both love about that option is that you’d actually get a place you wanted. All the joys of home ownership in the end, without having to live in an area we aren’t mad about, just so we can own the place.

We could take some of the elements we love about this old Victorian flat, mix it with some of the newer elements we really appreciate and create a work of love. I don’t think we can stretch to that right now, so it remains a pipe-dream for now.

Looking at it like that, I think the answer is clear. We’ll stay put…

Post in conjunction with Luxury Floorings & Furnishings.

Photos apropos nothing, taken by a friend at the Tate last week

My beauty routine

I’ve missed writing the kinds of posts that I like reading on other people’s blogs, but somehow, I don’t ever seem to have the time anymore to sit down and write. So, I thought I’d write a lighter kind of post, but which still gives that glimpse into my life which I’m always trying to find on other people’s blogs.

Joanna’s blog is one that I’ve read for years and one of the more recent series that I have enjoyed has been her interviews regarding other people’s beauty routines, products and thoughts on rituals. Beauty rituals are a topic that I have come back to again and again in my mind over the past few months, as I made an effort to carve out some “me time” away from my two busy roles as parent and also full time employee.

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This year, in an effort to get back into yoga, to get fit and to also spend some time together as a family, all 3 of us joined the gym and I have been doing yoga as well as a family swim altogether. One of us goes to the gym (or a yoga class) whilst the other looks after Pip, we then meet in the pool for family swim and then that person takes Pip to get changed and to have a snack in the cafe whilst the other works out and has some time to themselves. Not perfect, but it’s helped.

Anyway, I’ve been observing the other women in the gym, and in the sauna, which is situated in the women’s changing rooms. Everyone seems to have their own routines, and rituals, some of which people even seem to carry out in the sauna (oiling their hair seems popular, although I did see someone last week in exfoliating gloves, which I hope they had been using in the shower beforehand rather than in the sauna) and I started musing about rituals, and where we learn them, and what messages I am consciously or not passing on to Pip.

Seeing as I’m never going to be interviewed on this topic by anyone else (!) I thought I’d follow her questions but answer them myself across a series of posts.

What’s your daily beauty routine?

I like to prioritise sleeping, so I don’t have an extensive morning beauty routine. In the morning in the shower I use Bioderma Sebium Purifying Foaming Gel (which I bought in Paris from CityPharma but you can also buy on Amazon). I found that Pip likes to share my products, so we now only use things we are happy for her to use as well. The one that suits us all best is Mustela Dermo-Cleansing Gel which smells amazing but is completely hypo-allergenic, which is great as Pip occasionally suffers from eczema flare ups, and I like the pump.

I have very long hair and am thinking of having it all cut off. I oscillate between shampoos but I can’t wait to try John Frieda Sheer Beach Blonde Cool Dip Shampoo again, after waiting what feels like a decade for it to be re-issued. I am told I should be using silicone free conditioner, which I am sure none of these are, but somehow that seems exhausting. Maybe my hair would thank me for it? Has anyone any recommendations? I have tried Aveda Rosemary Mint Shampoo which I liked, but after a while I found my hair wasn’t looking great.

I then use a toner on my face, put in my contact lenses, and apply moisturiser. I am using either a Cowshed or a heavier Jurlique one depending on how cold and dry and what part of the month it is. I find that I get very dry and itchy skin around my period, and so I also sometimes slap on moisturising cream or lotion (or even oil) to my back and legs. I like Aveeno Moisturising Cream which is also good for the face (and I use it on Pip too); other favourites include Green People which is good for Pip too and an Elemental Herbology one from SpaceNK which I was given for my birthday.

In the winter, I do blow dry my hair, using some kind of spray (mostly from goody bags and my BirchBox samples) if I remember. I am lucky that I don’t need to wear much makeup as I am naturally lazy and never have enough time.

My usual routine is to apply some BB/DD tinted moisturiser which seems to cover most blemishes. At the moment I am using Green People’s new one, which I really like. (They have a 20% discount code at present – use DDLAUNCH at checkout until 28 February across their whole Age Defy and Make Up). I use my BeautyBlender (it seems expensive but it is also amazing – I got mine with my BirchBox although am tempted to get another) to apply it.

Some days, that’s all I use. Other mornings, when I’ve a bit more time, I put on blusher, eye shadow, maybe a bit of under eye concealer (I use Touche Eclat which I bought in duty free alongside the mascara) and sometimes some eyeliner (black, usually whatever I last got free in a goody bag or BirchBox) and then some mascara. Takes me about 3 minutes, longer if Pip tries to get involved. I’m thinking of getting her a cheap pink sponge to mimic the BeautyBlender as she is obsessed with getting hold of it!

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Whenever she sees me putting on makeup she asks if she can “paint her face” too. It’s a bit of a dilemma as to how to discuss this with her – I don’t have a problem with her seeing me wear makeup and she doesn’t see me apply it religiously. When I go for a night out, I will wear more. I just got a new lipstick which I am obsessed with and have worn to work a couple of times this week. Nothing like a good pop of colour to liven up grey days and my usual uniform of grey/black/navy. Pip will comment on it though, noting that I am wearing it and playing make believe with whatever she can get her hands on. When M bought me my lipstick, he bought her a lip balm. A good compromise I thought, but still doesn’t help me with what I should say to her. Has anyone given this any thought yet?

I have only listed products I use & love. Some were discovered by freebies, PR samples and goody bags, others I have bought myself. This is not a sponsored post although does contain some affiliate links.

Svalbard: Living in Longyearbyen

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Reading this weekend about the latest Scandi thriller, which is set in Svalbard, reminded me that I never shared my sister’s blog. A, who you may remember guest posting about her baby last year, spent six weeks living in Longyearbyen on Svalbard as part of her PhD. It sounded to have been the most incredible experience, and the place so fascinating. This is her blog, and some of her accounts of living in Longyearbyen.

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I am intrigued to watch Fortitude, as is A, to see whether it bears any resemblance to her time there. I’ve asked her to come over here and share some of her thoughts in due course.

Mortgage musings

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I’ve always been a renter. For the past decade, I’ve liked the convenience. Recently, though, I’ve started to wonder whether we might need to buy somewhere. Pip is nearly 3 and it is starting to weigh on my mind that school applications and now less than a year away. We need to start considering our options, and also whether it might be better to put down more permanent roots somewhere. Sure, we are settled here, but, along with freedom does come the risk that circumstances for our Landlord might change, and we’d need to move.

The terrifying thing is how high house prices are in North London. Actually, I should say flat prices, because there is no way we could afford a whole house round here. Having never actually considered a mortgage before, I didn’t really know where to start. So, I started searching for calculators. This is the best one I came across, from Santander. I found it really easy to use, and, very importantly, it asked questions about my finances in a way that was no trouble to answer, but gave me an indication of things that mortgage lenders take into account when deciding amounts to lend. For example, I got quite different figures with and without our nursery fees entered as an expense. I make no warranties as to the Santander mortgages themselves, but I liked the mortgage calculator.

Now we know the ballpark figure we can borrow, should we want to, and should we qualify for it, etc etc, we now need to start thinking about what, if anything, in this area it covers, and if not, where we might have to go to afford something we want to buy. And then, whether we like that option more, than the flexibility our current situation offers…

To be continued…

Post in conjunction with Santander

Starting a habit which will last a lifetime #littleswimmers

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Once again, we joined Huggies for a swimming lesson. This time, Pip was a confident toddler, happy and at ease in the water and very willing to pose for photos.

Inspired by our time with Huggies, we’ve started swimming every week. Pip absolutely loves wearing the flowered hat, and she loves being in the water. It’s such fun to do it together every week and such good exercise for Pip.

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Do you know what to do if a baby is choking: #TheChokeables

Have you ever had to deal with a choking baby? Just before Christmas, my sister and her husband and baby came to stay for a few days. One lunchtime, we were sat in the kitchen and I had my 8 month old niece sat on my lap. Taking my attention away from her for a split second, I suddenly realised that she had started nibbling on a tortilla chip and that she was starting to choke. She wasn’t making any sound, but she had started to turn bright red and her eyes were bulging a little. Despite me having done a First Aid at Work qualification with St John Ambulance a few years ago, my instant response was to feel full of panic. Luckily I then remembered to hit her on the back and this dislodged the chip and she started screaming. A crisis averted, and I remember how vigilantly you have to watch a weaning baby.

St John Ambulance has revealed today that four-fifths of parents (79%) wouldn’t know the correct technique for saving their baby from choking despite it being a major fear (58%) and 40% having witnessed it. Last week, they invited me to watch their new campaign, which includes a star-studded animated advert that teaches everyone what to do if a baby starts to choke. The film features the voices of David Walliams, David Mitchell, Johnny Vegas, and Sir John Hurt, who play several choking hazards who are fed up with babies choking on them.

St John Ambulance is asking people to share the film online widely with their friends and family so that as many people as possible can learn to save a life.

I also had the opportunity to attend a First Aid class and learn some First Aid skills. I also learnt that research St John Ambulance carried out suggested that of those who said they knew how to save a choking baby, only 29% actually knew the correct, recommended technique. Nearly three quarters of parents (71%) selected the wrong answer when given multiple choice options.

More than half the parents they spoke to thought attending a First Aid course or knowing First Aid skills would make them feel more confident and better prepared. As I was already a First Aider at Work when Pip was born, I never ended up attending another course, but I actually thought it would be more useful than attending an antenatal class, as knowing First Aid can literally be the difference between life and death.

For some reason, I thought that attending a First Aid course would be quite expensive, but actually St John Ambulance runs a 3 hour course for £30 (£25 plus VAT) which I think is excellent value. I am going to sign up M, stat. If you are interested, you can book your course here. You can also find out more information on the advert and other courses here.

I am giving away a copy of the updated First Aid Manual which includes advice on how to treat infant choking, and also a small travel First Aid Kit. The kit comes in a tough bag with a handle; we’ve hung ours from our buggy clip so that we know where it is and will automatically have it with us when we go anywhere. Enter by choosing one or more of the options below:

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Terms & Conditions: 1. To enter First Aid Kit & Manual prize draw give-away you must either follow St John Ambulance on Twitter, follow The Little Pip on Twitter, or tweet about the giveaway. There are additional options for more entries. 2. The prize is 1 First Aid Manual and 1 travel sized First Aid Kit. No cash or alternative prizes will be given 3. The prize draw will start on 12.01.15 and end on 18.01.15 4. The winner will be picked from all valid entries 5. The winner will be notified directly via email. The winner must reply within seven days of receiving the email or a new winner will be picked at random. 6. I reserve the right to change the entry dates at any time, for any reason.

I wasn’t paid for this post but I did attend a First Aid class and receive a First Aid Manual and First Aid Kit from St John Ambulance.

15 for 2015

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Continuing a sporadic series (looks like I can only manage the odd years… 13 for 2013 and 11 for 2011 is here) of New Year posting. New Year for me is not only a new calendar year, but a new birth year. January always has been and always will be a new start, a chance to look back and forward, to reflect and to plan.

We celebrated the end of 2014 at home surrounded by some of our dearest friends, preparing and consuming a Szechuan feast and drinking champagne, watching the fireworks on the TV at midnight. Whilst 2014 ended in beautiful sunshine, 2015 started with a dismal grey rainy day but even that couldn’t put us off walking on the Heath with friends and then hunkering down in their flat for a cosy evening of tea drinking.

Looking back over my lists of wishes for the past few years, it occurs to me that nothing much seems to have changed. I still strive and seek a calmer, peaceful, emptier life. I wonder whether I will ever achieve it. Some of the things on my list of 13 for 2013 remain but some, I am secretly pleased to note, could simply be deleted in their entirety. “What to do about career/income” – deleted. Most satisfying.

. more de-cluttering. successful de-cluttering. more must leave than arrives.

. a home for everything (and that doesn’t just mean better storage)

. buy less (but only beautiful things)

. go to bed earlier

. less procrastinating

. read more

. browse internet less (but blog more)

. decide what, if anything, to do about a sibling for Pip

. dancing lessons and actually ride bike to work

. more time for me (on my own)

. more time for me & M (on our own)

. breakfast together every morning

. cook more. bake more. more routines

. less time stressing, worrying and reduce feeling ill through being late (e.g be more organised)

. sign up and finish the 11 mile race I’ve been invited to run in May

To come, a look back over 2014. It’s that post that’s been in draft for weeks…

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