Childminding – Our First Three Months

So it has been quite a while since I posted on the blog… and of course the reason for this silence is that I’ve jumped straight into the deep end of my new career as a childminder. There is so little time to stop and do things like blogging so I’ve had all these pictures and ideas and activities to share but not a spare minute to actually do just that. Finally I have a little shred of time so here is a quite round up of the past three months.

On the whole it has gone really well. My mindees are lovely and not at all hard to mind and I’m coping with the tos and fros of the school and nursery runs too. Roslyn on occasion has been a little miffed about being woken early from her nap to go pick up the kids but I think that will disappear soon as she now seems intent on dropping her nap altogether.

Luckily for me the time of year I started childminding at was chock full of events that make it easy to plan and execute fun activities for my four charges. It started with Halloween…

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We made some pumpkin decorated biscuits…

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… and carved pumpkins!

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They turned out super scary! They were out front on the night glowing creepily, and my mindees later took theirs home to do the same.

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We also had a sensory bucket full of halloween items and water beads – my newest find thanks to my friend Faye. They are like squishy marbles that grow from seeds to balls in water.

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Strangely hard not to touch! The kids loved them.

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At home my three year old mindee had been challenging me to help him build the biggest train tracks…

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… and been beating my at our Orchard Toys toddler games!

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On Fridays Roslyn and my little mindee go to bookbug while Sandy and our bigger mindee are at nursery and school.

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For Guy Fawkes we did some safe sparkling which was fun, if a little damped by the rain!

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And my mindee made me a lovely birthday card 🙂

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Neither of my kids’ or my mindees’ food choices are particularly varied so we created a food chart. Every time I offer a new food they get a sticker for giving it a try and when they get five stickers they get to pick a fun activity to do one evening. We’ve been hitting up the soft play as the rewards flew in, while some foods have now made a regular appearance on the menu such as green beans, tortellini pasta and sweet potato chips! A total success and we are now on our second chart!

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One of the ways I have been offering such new food is through interactive dinner prep such as top your own pizza night!

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Having a mindee of similar age to Sandy is great, they get on well and are little buddies always wanting to hold hands.

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Roslyn at bookbug pretending to be a sleeping scarecrow!

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Since the mindees started the art wall has flourished, with barely enough frames to accomodate the amount of art generated in a day, never mind a week!

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Christmas lights spotting season begins!

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And also rainbow spotting!

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Our oldest mindee makes up her own games and the little kids join in. This was a toy collection for a pet shop game illustrating the shameful number of plush toys my kids own!!

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We have been getting in on some science activities too, and child led learning. My oldest mindee had seen videos on YouTube of watermelon challenges, where a family were putting rubber bands round a watermelon and the pressure made it explode. We did our own experiment in the garden which was a success… so much fun!

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For Road Safety week we practiced safely crossing the road, then inside made our own lollipops and role played crossings too.

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It got chilly in November on the school run so we needed to think of more indoor activities…

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… such as visiting the library to use their drawing wall and get some books out.

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The festive season started and we have had lots of fun, starting with a walk to Dalzell Estate to collect holly to make a wreath.

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We made fake snow from shaving foam and corn flour and made our own mini snowmen…

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… so cute!

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Much crafting has been taking place…

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… and also another sensory bucket, this time an antarctic one with ice bergs (made by freezing water in freezer bags!)

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Some puddle splashing has taken place on the nursery run too!

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We made a gingerbread house, FROM SCRATCH! One of my personal best baking accomplishments, with help from my brother, Jamie.

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The kids were very happy to help decorate, and of course, demolish in due course.

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Roslyn on the nursery run.

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On the last day before christmas we had a mini christmas dinner with crackers!

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And of course we did lots of cooking and baking too.

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In the holidays I took a week off but got my mindees for three full days, rather than their hours spread over 5, so we got the chance to explore. We visited Dynamic Earth and then Almond Valley.

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Roslyn’s favourite bit? When the big pig pooed. Obvs.

So yes, all in all childminding is going well. There are ups and downs, and financially times are tight until Sandy goes to school in August and I can mind more under 5s, but it is worth it to be at home with my kids and get to work by being creative and playing all day – my favourite things (child at heart!). So bear with me if the updates are few and far between, we are having too much fun to stop just now!!

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Pool Party

No time! No time!

It’s busy busy busy as usual, if not even busier. Truth be told, we’ve been out having too much fun at the summer festivals for me to blog. So this long overdue (you can tell by the weather!) but better late than never!

The exciting news here is that all the busy times have paid off and yesterday I had my pre-registration visit with the Care Inspectorate resulting in a Registration in a few weeks time! I’m going to be a childminder! I have so much planned and can’t wait to get back to more of what I’m good at and be at home with Sandy and Rozzie more. What’s more is this is my own business. It means so much. So there will be more to follow on that shortly, but for now, enjoy our pool party from June I believe, and I will update on Sandy turning four as soon as I can!

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Forest

Recently Stuart made a gate on our back fence. It leads to a field which leads to a clearing which leads to a hill progressing into woods and a burn. Sandy calls it our forest and in the nice weather we adventured down, a little further each time, until we had an afternoon picnic on the banks of the water.

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Sandy and Rozzie loved throwing stones in the burn to make splashes, and attracted the attention of a magpie. We listend for bird calls and silence and ate less than romantic children’s food on our blanket.

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We love living here. It’s the perfect mix of rural and suburban, a stark change to Glasgow three years ago with troublesome neighbours, marching season and human waste in our doorway.

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To say 2016 has been tumultous for us is an understatement. Stuart paraphrases Sandy’s favourite singer, Ezra Furman, saying that its been a restless year. The bad times have been receding yet still there are bumps in the road. My PhD. for example. It’s a tale for another time but the long and short of it is that if I want to complete it I’m facing another year’s work, another year’s research. No funding + full time work + family + PhD = ? Well, I’m really not sure that I want to find out.

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But importantly, I have a plan. I know what I will be doing come October, should all be well with my registration. I will be a childminder. I’ve been submerged in induction training and registration forms, policies and procedures and GIRFEC. I’ve made more forms that I ever have in my life and undertaking home risk assessments, not to mention emergency evacuation plans, with floorplans. Yep.

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The end of the hard work will hopefully be my own little business, where I can spend time with my children whilst working and make great experiences not only for my own children but those that I hopefully mind.

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There are downsides: inconsistent earnings, a lack of career progression, having to do tax returns… but they seem to be outweighed by the plus points. Every time I think about it I feel positive and I’m going to try my utmost to make it a success.

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So much of the narrative between Stuart and I of late refers to happiness, and family, and what’s actually important in life. We work for the majority of our life and why would we want to do something that makes us unhappy, or where we have to hold back our own characters? For money, success, status? Perhaps I just don’t have what it takes, but I can’t seem to get on with the career thing.

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It’s the same for the PhD. What would my reasons for continuing be? To say I did it? So I didn’t have to say I didn’t? To tick the ‘Dr’ box on forms? It certainly isn’t for career advancement because – as far as I can tell – having a PhD gains you no experience or employability. Rather it detracts by making you seem overqualified and under experienced, unless you choose to try and stay in academia, which from my solitary experience requires far too much in the way of people pleasing and “networking” – code for a high school style navigation of egotistical waters. Why would I continue? Professional pride and a fear of having wasted the last four years. But wasn’t a waste! It truly wasn’t. These pictures attest to such.

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So I think I will leave it behind. I’ll let go of that dream for one more modest. One where I can control my own fate and determine my own success, where hopefully my work ethic and enthusiasm are enough.

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I’ll keep up to date of my progress into childminding and hopefully start converting the blog into this new route too.

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Something has changed in the last month for Stuart and I both, and it’s a shift in outlook that we are now making into practice. Hopefully it will make things better for our whole family.

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Work or Beach

In December last year I moved to a new job. I liked my old job well enough but it was poorly paid and there was no upward possibilities for progression despite a boss who appreciated me and acknowledged my work ethic and leadership. So I tried something else.

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Sometimes you have to make decisions without knowing if it is the right decision. We always want more and often that drives us to leave something acceptable without the surety that the other option will be better. It turns out for me that the other option was very much worse. I think I realised it the day I properly started and faced a girl who was in the same role of me who had not progressed in terms of status or pay in two years, yet was taking influence in all manner of issues outside her responsibility, including the budget, for nothing. It went downhill from there.

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It is easy to be in denial when you so badly want something to be a success, especially if you have something riding on it. Yet if I’d been honest I’d have known the environment was poor from the get go. There were few decent people there, and even those who I knew were alright had issues which made everyone else’s life harder. There was only one person there who ever actually was nice to me. Some people were nasty and others dour, some were incompetent yet in positions of authority. Others just tried to get on with things. I spent four months there and by the end of it I just couldn’t go in. I got scolded for where I stood, no guidance on performance and even berated for daring to take my lunch outwith the building. When I didn’t go in I job hunted.

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I applied for the first things I saw and overlooked issues that I would normally have taken as a red flag; salary, commute, hours. In the end I interviewed for and got a position and I was so deliriously happy that I didn’t care that it was full time; I’d been doing four days a week in hell generally so five days in heaven was so obviously better. I finished my time in my old job not working. It makes you feel bad, like a layabout and a coward, but I’ve been in situations before where I push myself too far so no-one thinks I’m weak or incompetent and end up making everything worse. And it’s not just me now. Any time things impact on my home life I draw a line: nothing touches my children. No job is worth that. So the end came and went and I moved on, taking with me only one person, the rose among the shit so to speak (who has also now escaped I am glad to report).

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I started my new job and found the fact that the problems I’d had previously were gone relieving. I had my own desk and people who I wasn’t scared to be near and an hours lunch break with no interference. The only problem was the hours. I knew when I signed up it was a full time job, but in my delirium I didn’t care.

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Luckily my new job allowed me a degree of flexitime and I was able to negotiate earlier starts and an afternoon off and my dear mother stepped up much like Gran did and took an extra morning. If there is one thing I am going to do based on my experience raising children it is make myself available to care for my grandchildren. That will be my gift to Sandy and Roslyn. Because having a children and a career is virtually impossible, despite the modern world we live in. Which brings me to my current conundrum…

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My job is alright. I mean, I have no major gripes. But it’s a temporary contract and recently that has been emphasised; not only in terms of when I’m out the door but also in a condescending way. I’m a high maintenance employee in some ways, as Stuart noted yesterday I “don’t get on well with work” or something similar. It’s sad but true. I guess the education system failed to mould me into a committed and unquestioning worker, and my self broke through, because to enjoy a job I need to feel at LEAST one of three things: challenged, creative, appreciated. And at the moment I’m feeling little of either.

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The start of a job is fine because there is challenge in a simple learning curve, but as I get good at things I need to be able to use my own brain otherwise it’s all robotic. I dreamed of data entry last night; I knew it was a turning point. Don’t get me wrong, I can do robot work to an extent. I can try and be quick or try and think of how to make it more efficient, but if someone doesn’t notice that I’ve worked hard there is very little motivation to come in the next day and do the same thing, or the day after that.

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So I’ve been feeling these things and feeling the loss of my time with the kids and I know this isn’t for me. Even if anyone had shown any interest in keeping me on, or a similar role was advertised, I’d be reluctant. It’s too much fight. You fight to be helpful and fight not to upset anyone, you hide your opinions and work so damned hard and no-one bats an eye and so often I’ve found thanks are given like gold yet lessons as common as muck. I’m so fed up of only my flaws being noticed. I’m so fed up of being judged on the trivial. I’m relentlessly tired of trying to prove myself to people who are intellectually inferior yet have let the power go to their heads.

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But don’t worry, I have a plan. I thought of what my aims in life are and they’ve changed a lot in the last few years. I used to want the career and took success as for granted. It would be mine, I was ruthless then. But I birthed my son and my brain changed (some good, some bad) and it was a like a wound that will never heal, and all these little things that you can usually brush off or ignore now worry the wound and so often little hurts are so raw and real that it feels the whole world is out to get you. I feel so unprotected since I had my children because any threat to me is a threat to them. Don’t get me wrong, I’d kill for them in an instant, but most often this manifests itself as passivity and hidden tears. Being a parent changes you. Being a mother alters your brain. I am sure of it. I know me, and it has happened.

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What I want is my kids. And my home. And my creativity. I want to make things and do things and visit places. I want experiences and fun and development. And becoming a childminder will allow me that. I won’t have a career, or a fabulous pension. There will be no bonuses or titles or accolades to collect. But I think I will be happy, and my children will be happy. And if I can succeed and bring comfort and care to other children, and maybe even expose them to some new skills and experiences then at least I will have contributed. I won’t have much money but I’ve come to realise enough to pay the bills and a little to put away is PLENTY, and if I love it and I’m good at it, perhaps when Sandy and Roslyn are going through the trials and tribulations of having children and working I will be on hand to help, to accept my grandchildren with open arms, to allow them to know their babes are being loved whatever they decide to do. That would make me fulfilled.

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And what does this have to do with a trip to the beach? Everything it turns out.

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The last two years we’ve waited for the weather to come good and spontaneously packed up the car and headed to Troon. The pictures of my children in the sand grace my walls and my memories. I’ve come to love summer, and rituals and tradition. I line up pictures of the same event year on year and get misty eyed. I think of Sandy letting the sand drain between his fingers, blowing in wisps. And of Roslyn rolling and rolling until she is more sand than skin. I think of their shrieks of joy to see a crab, a plane, a tractor. And of the warm smell of sea and hot skin as we drive home, them asleep in the back, worn out and content, with me at the wheel conveying my precious cargo back to our safe place. They place they come from, the place one was born. These are the things I will cry over as a little old woman.

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I realised this year going to the beach was a long shot. Scottish weather as it is generally you can count on one hand the number of days a year where the beach will be good. It has to be hot, and not wet, with no wind. We get these days but they are rare and I knew that the chances of these days falling on a weekend were minuscule. I accepted my fate but it did not sit easily with me. No more spontaneity for the full time working mother. No more going to anything we wanted irrespective of day or time, that joy comes only to that year’s maternity leave where you are too housebound by necessity or mental strain to enjoy it. My kids are now 2 and almost 4. We have a year left before School puts an end to our carefree fun, and here I’ve given up the days I had to do it.

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I’d decided to register to become a childminder before our beach day. I was already working on the forms and gathering materials. But as the weekend came and I got that TGIF feeling the weather was nice for the first time all year. And it lasted. It was Sunday evening and the forecast and the sky told it and tomorrow was Monday and it was a bank holiday and everything aligned.

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I don’t like to say I believe in karma because I don’t, not really. It’s very woo and unconvincing and would turn me to a hypocrite if I did. But I do believe that you reap what you sow. It would be ridiculous to suggest that our beach day was deserved for some reason; it wasn’t. But it gave me hope. Hope that I can coincide happiness and work. God knows if it’s possible, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

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