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Cheekiness is monkey-shaped. May 25, 2014

Posted by phoenixaeon in Conversations with Principessa, Parenting.
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Sunday. The day of inevitable argument. The day of taekwondo training and the excuses to be excused (not last Sunday, when we went to see Godzilla – a good but meh film all at the same time). Sigh.


So it hits about 11.30am. I tell Princi she needs to get ready, to make sure her hands and feet are clean, to find a t-shirt to be pressed and to get her trackie bottoms on. The first ‘But why?’ is disdainfully moaned as she peels herself away from the laptop and another episode of Mr. Bean. And so it starts.


She finally cleans up, finds a t-shirt, and disgruntledly climbs into her trousers, then runs into the kitchen to snaffle some biscuits. While she’s out there she bumps into Grandand and I can hear the mutterings of not-wanting-to-go-to-TKD. She comes back in with her biscuits and the tantalising taste of a hopefully winning argument on her lips.


Mummy, I don’t think I should go to takewondo today, because we could use the money for food and water.


Got to give her points here, this is a new argument. Not the regular “butIdon’twanna” that she usually throws at me. I give her the ‘are you really going with that as an excuse’ look.


Well, if we need the money for food and water, maybe we should call off the trip to town to see Francesca Simon on Wednesday? After all, that is going to cost much more than today’s training session.


Yeah, not getting to see her favourite author as my bargaining chip was a low blow, but parenting.  Princi gives me the angry stinkface, knowing that she’s not getting out of TKD,


P: But why would you say that?

M: I am using your argument against you, to show you how it isn’t going to work. If you want to save money by not going to taekwondo, then you need to be prepared to save money by not doing things you really want to do, too.

P: How would you like it if I did that to you next time we have an argument?


And normal programming is resumed: if Princi can’t win she has to dish out threats. But, if she could use my argument against me, well, I’d be pretty impressed. As it stands, Princi went to TKD and we are going to see Francesca Simon on Wednesday. Whether Princi gets a new book at the book signing is another question. We just might need that money for food and water…





It’s World Book Day today, and oh! What a day! But the fights you will have about what to dress up as today… March 7, 2013

Posted by phoenixaeon in Children's Literature, Costumes, Creativity, Parenting, Pirate Penguin, The Principessa Files, World Book Day.
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And so the Hell that is the World Book Day dressing up party rained down…

The letter came home on Monday.

Your child can come into school dressed up as their favourite character from a book.

I dread these words every year. What is she going to choose this year? Please make it simple. But no. Gone are the days where she wanted to dress up as Lola from Charlie and Lola. She flat out refused to go in as Solstice from The Raven Mysteries. “How about Edgar the Raven instead?” But she’d done that one already and lost the beak from last year’s costume. Matilda was mentioned, but quickly binned. No. There was only one clear winner. Only one character that would cut the mustard.

Pirate Penguin.

The search was initiated for Princi’s pirate costume. The hat was a no-go: wrong shape, wrong colour. The hook-hand was broken. The cutlass was lost. Fab. All we had was the jacket and pants. Yarg! Scurvy seadogs!

I tried again to convince her to go in as someone else. Maybe Stephanie from Skulduggery Pleasant? No, if anyone, Princi wanted to go in as Skulduggery. Therein lay a whole new set of problems – skull mask, suit, tie. But still, Pirate Penguin was who she wanted to be. *SOB*

Thankfully, my very arty cousin visited last night, so we spent a couple of hours working out how to transform a Princi into a Pirate Penguin.

It turns out that red card, copious post-it notes, glue, and selotape all safety-pinned onto a baseball cap makes a good pirate hat. Tin-foil, cardboard, yellow plastic wrapping, and white paint make a fabulous cutlass. Tin-foil, cardboard, selotape and elastic perform well as a hook hand. Cardboard, elastic, purple tissue paper and selotape transform into a fabulous eye-patch. And elastic, torn-up paper and orange tissue paper make a wonderful beak. We had done it! A makeshift costume for a makeshift day…

Princi Pirate Penguin!

Princi Pirate Penguin! Yarg, me hearties!

Books and words, boys and girls. November 7, 2012

Posted by phoenixaeon in books, Children's Literature, Parenting, Reading with Principessa.
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Well. I never, ever imagined I’d be one of those parents who complain about what their kids are reading. After all, they’re reading, right? Okay, yeah, they’re reading and that’s a good thing, but have you ever looked closely at what the schools send home with the kids to read? No? Maybe it’s worth a look.

It’s reading time!

Princi’s school uses the Oxford Reading Tree system. This breaks up the experience of learning to read into various stages aimed at particular years/grades. It’s a good idea, as long as the kids aren’t held back if they show a knack for reading – as Princi was last year. Her teacher knocked her down two stages at the beginning of the year despite Princi reading competently at the higher level at the end of the previous school year. Anyway, that’s not my problem with this system. My problem is that it’s geared more towards ‘reluctant boy readers’. With the books being sold in sets of six, the ratio of girl:boy related titles is a maximum of 2:4, meaning that most books in the series are primed for male readers. Okay, so girls are more likely to read books centred around boys than a boy is likely to read a book centred around girls, but this doesn’t negate the fact that the boy’s books are all about adventure and football, while the few girl titles are set around flirty girlie love stories or kittens or kitchen maids. And another worrying thing is the representation of parents – especially mothers. They are seen as incompetent and useless parents, especially the ones who are portrayed as working mothers. It’s a case of ‘oh, you’re such a bad parent! You’re out at work, the washing machine needs fixing, and you have to leave the older kids to look after the younger kids. Isn’t it lucky you have a boy in your family who has a knack of fixing machinery!’ It’s all ever so slightly dubious.

And then we have a story, a retelling more like, of Sleeping Beauty.  It’s almost adventurous, except it’s another boy’s title. And the first characters you meet are two male ‘fairies’ trying to find a suitable prince to awaken Princess Aurora. It’s a feminist field trip, I tell you! But just like a reluctant boy reader, the main character – the typical messy boy, but with atypical sensitivities due to being the outcast – is also reluctant to kiss the princess. But kiss her he does after an aggressive Fairy Godmother frog marches him to the princess’s castle. So now we have a role reversal, the sensitive boy vs. the selfish and tactless princess. Yes, it’s a Beauty and the Geek moment. By the end of the story, the charms of the boy have subdued and controlled the snippy behaviour of the girl, but that’s not all. To protect her ‘inheritance’, the princess more or less has to sell off the land around her castle to be developed into an amusement park while selflessly sharing her wealth with the boy. Oh, talk about sexual metaphors and harking back to eighteenth century relationship ideologies!

Or maybe the problem I have with Princi’s school reading is just me. Maybe I’m thinking too deeply about this. Maybe I shouldn’t be worried about the books Princi is forced to read as part of her ‘learning’. But to me it feels like girls are getting a little bit of a raw deal, something that has to be rectified at home with books about strong female characters who are adventurous and sensitive to others at the same time, rather than being the secondary character and reader to a system which appears to be geared towards encouraging boys to read.

The lies we tell and other things, including bad language in Wreck This Journal. January 23, 2012

Posted by phoenixaeon in A330, Art, bedtime, Fibs, OU, Parenting, Pirate Penguin, WTJ.

Last night was horrible. Picture the scene: after hassling Princi with a barrage of ‘time for bed now,’ and ‘get changed into some PJs, please,’ she had finally taken the hint that it was bedtime. Disgruntled, she crawled under her duvet and scrummaged around the bed zoo for Pirate Penguin. Happy upon finding him, she started to snuggle down into bed until…


MISSING! Ninja Chicken.

Uh-oh! Ninja Chicken. I’d not seen that blue chicken with a yellow bandana across his eyes for days. Grandand and I did what we could, looked under the bed, in the drawers, behind the curtains. Ninja Chicken was nowhere to be found. And then the waterworks burst…

“I’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO SLEEP WITHOUT HIM!” (You have been for the last three nights, at least!)

“HE’LL BE LONELY WITHOUT PIRATE PENGUIN!” (Then maybe you should have looked after him better.)


And then it clicked.

“Princi, don’t cry. Ninja Chicken is just at a ninja convention.”

The tears stop.  A suspicious and questioning look creeps across her soggy face.

“So he’s with Ninja Squid, then?”



“Well, it’ll be like a first meeting then, won’t it.”

“Yes, and he’ll be back soon. How long will he be gone?”

“I don’t know. As long as a ninja convention takes, I suppose.”

“Oh, OK.”

And that was that. Princi climbed back into bed, gathered up Pirate Penguin and my old Snoopy, and happily began reading Emily Gravett’s Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears to them.

And this demonstrates my lie. Instead of being lost, I took my pointers from the comic book. The only time Pirate Penguin couldn’t have a bed-time story was when Ninja Chicken was at a Ninja convention. I am so glad I listened to Princi during the numerous times she’s sat and read aloud Troublems with Frenemies.

Anyway. The wayward Ninja Chicken has now been found – he’d made himself a roost – or should that be a Ninja hidey-hole? – behind Nanny’s television set. I was so worried that I’d be facing a deluge when Princi got home from school today, as the bedroom had been tidied as a by-product of the epic search for a blue chicken. Phew! Deluge, denied!

As for Wreck This Journal. Well. I haven’t managed much recently as my head has been battered by the last TMA for the mythology course. But the essay is done and submitted – although I did submit defeat with it, it’s definitely not one of my better essays – so in between reading sections for the next block of study I have managed to do a couple of pages. The first one with a bit of help from a lovely Japanese take-away meal.

Document your dinner.

The noodly ‘n’ isn’t easy to see on this photo, but it is there. I also don’t know why the selotape has degraded the ink from the receipt, but it has. The second page, a double spread, comes in two parts, the second containing bad language, so if there are any little’uns about, best cover their eyes now!

Part one. The four-letter words are hidden, simply because Princi likes to look through the journal. She is under strict orders not to open the envelope.

Part 2. With the four-letter words.

I’m glad I worked out a way to do this page, but to be able to censor it too. I did ask Princi to tell me what bad words she knew and she was very worried that she’d get told off if she told me. But she did whisper them to me in the end – all three of them, and one of those I wouldn’t consider being a real naughty word – and I made a shocked face, just so she knew she wouldn’t get into trouble.

I’m off now to get ready to return a missing chicken to a cheeky seven year old.

I am the Grinch. December 17, 2010

Posted by phoenixaeon in Christmas, Parenting, Principessa.
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It is almost upon us. The moneypit of a ‘season’ of gifts and those useless items that end up in a corner never to be looked at again. You know you’ve done it, smiled at a present and wondered simultaneously why on earth the person who gifted it to you ever thought that it’d be the perfect pressie for you. But this is not the reason that I have the self-claimed title of the Grinch.

No. I am the Grinch because I have realised just how much I use the prospect of Christmas as a threat to entice Princi into doing something.

“C’mon, eat your breakfast. Father Christmas is watching. You need to finish your breakfast or he won’t come to see you this year.”

“Princi, turn off that DVD player and get sorted for bed or there’ll be no presents for you!”

Oh, there are various others and they are used in quick succession like the rapid spitting of ammunition from a minigun. And I can’t stop myself! It sickens me that I’m doing it, but I can’t stop. It’s an autopilot situation when I feel like Princi is getting the better of me. The thing is, I know I’m not going to cancel Christmas, but I’m pretty sure that Princi knows that too, as she just continues doing what she is doing. This week’s mornings are testament to that – where she sat and stared at her breakfast and ignored me when I asked, then told, then demanded that she eat. I’m not joking, sometimes it took 45 minutes for a single bowl of cereal to be eaten. (I just hope I’m not giving her a reason to hate food with all my pestering.)

You’d think from this that Princi is a naughty kid. She’s not. The majority of the time she’s fabulous, caring and downright funny. But she knows the buttons and she pushes them when the whim takes her. That it’s mostly in the morning when we’re most pushed for time is the problem. The day is started with threats and not-niceties that sets us both at odds with each other. By the time she’s home from school it’s all hugs and rainbows, but mornings are horrible. And mornings on the run-up to Christmas are guilt-ridden pits of despair due to the threats.

I feel like I’ve taken the excitement out of Christmas for Princi because I threaten a non-Christmas so often. She knows it’s soon, but unlike me when I was her age, she’s not at all phased by it. We sat down the other night and wrote a letter to Father Christmas on emailsanta.com (brilliant site, the letter that arrives back in just under a minute is fab), but even this hasn’t inspired excitement. She’s more excited that tomorrow is the last day in school (and a yay! for a full term without absences. She insisted on going to school despite having a horrible cold) and that she gets to stay up a little later for a couple of weeks. Maybe when the tree is finally up I’ll have the Christmas excitement. Or maybe I should just accept the fact that it’s possible Christmas doesn’t inspire her with glee – though I’m sure that the presents on Christmas Day will.

Or maybe I should hold back from the threats of “There’ll be no Christmas for you” from now on. Maybe then the spirit of Christmas will germinate in the mind of my gorgeous little girl.