Don’t judge a kid by its costume

A lot has been written about World Book Day, and rightly so.

 

A celebration of authors, illustrators, books and reading. Shared in over one hundred countries. A beautifully uncomplicated premise in an otherwise complicated world.

 

And yet, like any parade, some people can’t wait to piss on it. The main target of their ire? Dressing up.

 

Across social media they bemoaned the influence of Disney, bewailed the rise of the Superhero and mourned the death of their own literary heroes.

 

In most cases it was well intentioned, but more than a few smacked of downright snobbery.

 

I’m no expert on EYFS, nor do I have any experience other than that as a parent, but I can tell you what I witnessed at school on Thursday.

 

The playground was indeed awash with questionable costumes. Like a Frozen convention had been double booked with a Marvel Avengers Assembly (see what I did there!)

 

But I also spent the afternoon in their classroom.

 

I saw thirty children enthralled by Michael Rosen’s Chocolate Cake poem; at the behest of Batman.

 

Half-a-dozen Elsa’s sat open-mouthed, immersed in the imagination of Oliver Jeffers.

 

And on my table, Iron Man talked passionately about his love of The Gruffalo. Spiderman gave Goldilocks and the Three Bears an ending far funnier than the original. And Elsa read to me from the Frozen annual with such enthusiasm I thought she might wet herself with excitement.

 

And therein lies my point. The costumes are just a distraction. A smokescreen to what really matters. A reflection on social culture more than the demise of literacy.

 

Whilst some write off an entire generation on social media, using less characters than the opening chapter of The Twits, children are developing a love of reading in their own unique way, and it’s a joy to see.

 

It might not be Huckleberry Finn or Christopher Robin, but once that passion for reading is sparked they’ll have their entire life to catch-up on what you think they should have read, and then draw their own conclusion on its worthiness. And who knows, they may even be wearing an Olaf onesie as they do so.

 

My point being, you wouldn’t judge a book by its cover, so why judge a kid by its costume?

Sleep. Avoidance or Evasion

I can empathise with HMRC. You start with a basic fundamental principal that relies on the goodwill of all concerned (i.e. Pay. Your. Tax), and before long the less scrupulous are finding ways around it.

 

So you legislate. You introduce new laws that inevitably get flouted, so you legislate some more. Before you know it, a once simple premise has become 1,400 pages of rules, regulations and amendments.

 

And so it is with our bedtime routine.

 

Because much like the tax system, there’s a fine line between the letter of the law and the spirit thereof.

 

A grey area between your moral obligation to the wider society (me), and the self interest of you and your brother.

 

A myriad of nuances between sleep avoidance and sleep evasion.

 

What started as a simple premise (Bath. Book. Bed) has quickly become a statute book spanning many volumes.

 

Every night I’m drafting new legislation. Every other night I’m having to make amendments. I close one loophole, they find a new one.

 

I’m convinced HSBC has a junior division in Switzerland advising them on all matters nocturnal. Just last night they claimed non-domicile status from their bedroom?

 

But I refuse to be beaten. It’s become a matter of principal. No longer am I prepared to have my football interrupted by the ceiling lights shaking or cries of,

 

“I threw my teddy at Luca and he won’t give it back!”

 

I’d like to think I have everything covered in my latest revision of the ‘Go To Sleep Act, 2015′, and yet I suspect probably not …

 

(1) No Talking. To include:

(a) Whispering

(b) Singing

(c) Humming

(d) Passing of notes

(e) Sign language

(f) Interpretive dance

 

(2) Stay in bed.

(a) Your own bed

(b) No jumping.  (ii) Hopping  (iii) Kneeling

(c) Lay down  (ii) Horizontally

(d) Under the covers  (ii) Your covers

 

(3) No fighting.

(a) No weapons in the bedroom

(b) No improvised weapons in the bedroom

(c) Not even for self-defence

(d) A ceasefire shall be honoured between 7pm and 7am

(d) No mind controlling your brother

 

(4) Going to the toilet.

(a) To be done alone

(b) Regular updates on your progress are not required

(c) Your brother does not need entertaining whilst having a poo

(d) Or someone to pass him the toilet roll  (ii) Or throw it to him  (ii) Or at him

(e)  No laying booby-trap pieces of toilet paper on the floor to slow his progress back to bed

 

(5) No playing games.

(a) Hide and Seek is a game

(b) So is Snap

(c) And Buckaroo

(d) Calling it Lucaroo and hanging things off his ears/nose/toes – see Buckaroo

 

(6) There’s no reason to come downstairs.

(a) You can’t have a nightmare if you’re not asleep

(b) A daymare isn’t a thing  (ii) nor is a pre-nightmare

(c) Nothing is so important as to not wait until the morning, apart from a fire

(d) Your brother is not on fire

(e) There are no monsters under your bed  (ii) Behind the curtains

(f) You shouldn’t worry more about the clowns in your wardrobe. I was joking

(g) Coming downstairs on behalf of your brother does not make the above rules null and void

(h) It’s not morning time yet

Secret to Happiness

As part of the Post-it Brand’s ‘Make It Happen‘ campaign I was asked to comment on a recent study about the secret to happiness.

 

I say secret, apparently you just need to earn £80,840 a year, live in a £443,000 four bedroom house, be healthy, married with two children, and work a twenty-seven hour week.

 

So who better to ask than a bankrupt divorcee, living in a northern two-bed terrace, with questionable physical/mental health and who earns precisely £80,840 a year less than the ideal.

 

It’s no wonder I’m so grumpy in the morning. It’s a miracle I get out of bed. OK, so a kazoo-tooting four-year old’s dribble in my ear may have something to do with it. And my forty-year old bladder. And being a stay-at-home dad apparently means I’m responsible for the school run … but apart from that …

 

There must be something I can pin my happiness too …

 

“Money is the biggest barrier to achieving life goals (46%) followed by age (34%) and a lack of determination or bravery (25%)”

 

Dear God, it gets worse. ‘Poor, old and lazy’ is the working title of my memoirs.

 

Do you know, before reading this report I thought I was quite happy, but maybe I just have delusions of happiness; there’s definitely a manic edge to my smile that wasn’t there before the kids arrived.

 

It could just be I’m high on a lack of sleep, in which case I should be careful what I wish for as a full night uninterrupted could bring my whole world crashing down!

 

Or maybe it’s something else … I’ll read on …

 

“The average man wants a wife who is three years, six months younger than him”.

 

And there it is. Janet is the reason I’m happy. Damn it, she was right. I’ll be honest, I had this down as a negative on account of her being the more likely benefactor of our life insurance.

 

“62% believe the health, wealth and happiness of their loved one contributes more to an ideal life than their own health, wealth and happiness”.

 

Now I feel guilty, I take back what I said about the life insurance.

 

katie_piper“It’s great to have a life plan but we need to ensure that we don’t get disheartened if things don’t go to plan,” says Katie Piper, author, inspirational speaker, TV presenter and charity campaigner.

 

“You should never give up on your dreams. Just be prepared to modify them, and continue to keep them at the forefront of your mind as life throws you different paths and challenges.

 

A combination of positive thinking and plenty of support from friends and family can really help you get that bit closer to your goals.”

 

Now I admit I’m a reluctant convert to the positive message.

 

Not the inspirational quotes that flood my social media on a Monday morning, printed on a badly photocopied picture of a dolphin jumping through a rainbow. I like to think the people who post those are crying into their cereal as they hit send; but something more personal definitely has its place.

 

marks_marbles3After my breakdown my big sister sent me a box of marbles with my name on. They’re a daily reminder that despite everything I went through I still have some of mine left, rattling around my head and desk.

 

Not the ‘kingy’ mind, the boys lost that under the sofa (now there’s a metaphor if ever there was one).

 

And when I decided to study for a degree last year, my little sister wrote this on the opening page of the notebook she bought me,

 

believe3

 

I see that every day when I sit down to study, and despite my morning mutterings of misery it does make me smile and keep me motivated. Well, that and the thought of my student loan.

 

“Be brave,” says Katie. “Set some small, achievable goals to aim for, and go for them. Don’t give up. Anything is possible.”

 

I set myself goals at the start of every week. By Wednesday they’ve gotten smaller and in theory more achievable. On Friday I’m adding goals I achieved the previous week, just so I can cross something off my list.

 

This sit down and cup of coffee I’m having right now was justified off the back of the windows I washed … in February … 2014 2013.

 

But despite my grumblings to the contrary I am happy. Very happy.

 

I have my (suspiciously well insured) health. I have Janet and our beautiful boys. I love being a stay-at-home dad and feel blessed to have the opportunity to share in so much of their early years.

 

But there’s also the smaller things that make me smile.

 

The excitement in Sonny’s voice when he told me he’d won a prize for sitting nicely in assembly.

 

pooping2Luca putting a note on the bathroom door saying ‘no pooping or stinking’.

 

The two free poppadoms in last nights takeaway, or when I saw a bodybuilder lambasting his poodle puppy for its poo being too runny. I’m easily amused.

 

I also have goals. Clearly defined goals. To get the degree I intended to have twenty years ago. To start a new career path based on choice rather than circumstance. To ensure the boys reach their full potential, follow their dreams, and god willing, pay for my retirement.

 

And in the shorter term I have these …

 

washing_basket2 blog2

 

And if I achieve these I’m going to go for the big one…..

 

Convincing the boys that we might, possibly, just maybe think about taking some of their drawings off the dining room wall.

 

We can but live in hope.

 

drawing_wall

For more information on the Post-it ‘Make It Happen’ campaign, visit www.makeithappen.post-it.co.uk, or search for #makeithappen @PostItUK.

New Nintendo 3DS review

new-nintendo-3dsNintendo have kindly sent me their New Nintendo 3DS to review. It’s called … wait for it … ‘New Nintendo 3DS’.

 

Unscrupulous eBay sellers are going to have a field day!

 

I have a theory on the name. There’s two types of Marketing graduate. The Creative ones who go on to work for paint companies and come up with colour names like Anaconda Tears, Grandmas Whisper and Barely Breathing. Then there’s the rest. Those who see hair of the dog not as a shade of beige but a way of getting through those early Monday morning marketing meetings.

 

To be fair, the New Nintendo 3DS does do exactly what it says on the tin. It’s unequivocally new in many ways, but more on that later.

 

My love affair with Nintendo’s hand-held devices began with the Game Boy. Read between the lines of my school late book and you’ll find level twelve of Tetris.

 

In its early years, the Nintendo DS probably accounted for fifty percent of my annual leave, and I’m not proud to admit I *may have once taken compassionate leave for Zelda.

*I did, please don’t judge me.

 

I skipped the 3DS generation because the 3D element gave me a headache and, well, Janet was adamant that much like a Scalextric and dart board, it wasn’t a suitable gift for a one-year old?!

 

On first impressions the New Nintendo 3DS looks and feels much like the old DS, but with softer edges and better aesthetics.

 

It was only when I picked it up that the improvements became clear, and it’s testament to the design that I hadn’t immediately noticed the additional buttons and controls.

 

As a long time Nintendo devotee I’ve (un)fortunately evolved a Nintendo thumb that rests perfectly on the direction pad, and yet the transition to using the Circle Pad above it feels instantly natural.

 

new-nintendo-3ds-boysThere’s two additional shoulder triggers (ZL & ZR) that I’m sure will be well received by those far younger and more dexterous than I’ll ever be, but more impressive still is the second analogue stick (C-Stick) that sits above the action buttons. It looks and feels like the rubber on the end of a pencil and makes the camera angle easy to manipulate without your thumb ever having to stray too far from the other four buttons. Even my fat fingers can handle that!

 

As someone who’s studying Computing I’m shamefully ignorant of the specification details, and as such won’t try to explain the upgraded processor in anything but terms I understand, and that’s performance.

 

The long loading times and lagging menus are a thing of the past. Everything works faster including the downloading of games from the Nintendo eShop. And it’s not just the speed that’s improved because we’re also promised new exclusive and more complex games that’ll harness this additional processing power.

 

I’ve already mentioned how much I disliked using 3D on the old device. I’d consigned 3D without glasses to the Tomorrows World scrapheap of hover boards and robot butlers.

 

It went beyond frustrating. The merest twitch and you were left looking at a 3D comic without the glasses. I’d self-diagnosed my migraines as 3DS syndrome. Street performing statues honed their skills of stillness with a 3DS screen. Probably.

 

As such I held out little hope for this aspect of the New Nintendo 3DS, but I was wrong. Very wrong.

 

Thanks to what it calls ‘Super-Stable 3D’, or what I’m calling sorcery, it now recognises your face with its inner camera and automatically adjusts the angle accordingly. Not only does this work but does so brilliantly. No longer do I have to choose between travel sickness pills or turning the 3D off. I can finally enjoy the 3D for what Nintendo always intended it to be.

 

Beyond the obvious gaming there’s many other features packed into the device.

 

For the purposes of this review I’ll pass these on to the kids for their opinion as I’m clearly not the target demographic.

 

The quality of the camera isn’t spectacular but then given the hardware you couldn’t really expect it to be. You can take photo’s and video in 3D with surprisingly good effect and the boys love this. Then again, being able to shoot a 3D image of your brother out of the sky, why wouldn’t they?

 

The WiFi works really well and whilst cumbersome for me, the boys have no problems using the internet browser and YouTube channel.

 

There’s plenty of downloadable content available in the Nintendo eShop and endless fun to be had from making and sharing your own Mii characters.

 

It also comes with Augmented Reality games where pointing the 3DS at a card on the table brings the game to life.

 

There’s a new auto-brightness feature that works really well, and the sound quality is significantly better than before.

 

It’s also to Nintendo’s credit that it remains backward compatible. Not only can you play all the old 2DS and 3DS games, but many of the latter will be massively enhanced thanks to the Super-Stable 3D.

 

new-nintendo-3ds-accessoriesAnd Nintendo have also embraced the younger generations desire to customise anything and everything. You can customise the interior with menu themes and the like, but also customise the exterior design with a range of cover plates.

 

Now being the cynical grumpy old man that I am, I see this as a gimmick. Hand it over to my boys though and it’s anything but. They’ll happily spend as much time on this as they do the games, so I can only bow to the enthusiasm of youth.

 

You can also buy ‘amiibo’ characters. Figurines much like those of the Skylander games, that you can touch on the screen and bring the characters to (virtual) life. The kids love this far more than my wallet does, but then such is the life of a parent.

 

My only real gripe is that it doesn’t come with a power adapter included. Why? I have no idea. You can use the old adapter from a 2DS or 3DS but for people who aren’t upgrading from one of those it’s more than a little annoying. Like getting a toy for Christmas and discovering the batteries aren’t included.

 

I have to admit I questioned the future of hand-held gaming devices. It was a market I’d assumed the smart phone would make redundant. But with the release of the New Nintendo 3DS I’m really pleased Nintendo have proven me wrong.

 

If you don’t already own a Nintendo DS in one guise or another I can definitely recommend buying a New Nintendo 3DS. If you do own a previous version then still buy this anyway. Honestly, it’s better in every way.

 

And from a selfish point of view, finally I might just get my phone back off the kids!

 

The New Nintendo 3DS – RRP £149.99

 

{I was sent the New Nintendo 3DS for the purposes of this review. All words and opinions are honest and my own.}