Sunday, 30 September 2007

Duke of Edinburgh

I've been approached, by email, by a 14-year-old girl hoping to do her Duke of Edinburgh three month community service with our unit.
We've had a DoE girl help before and to be honest, I am not sure how much she got out of her three months with us. She was painfully shy and we weren't that long established as a pack, and we just didn't have the time to give her a lot of attention to draw out the abilities and skills she needed to be able to help more.
That said, this girl seems very confident and has been a Brownie and a Guide (unlike the other one) so is aware of how we work.
My hesitation is because we might just have too many people and overwhelm the Brownies! I know, what a good position to be in! But with a 4th Guider starting with us, a Unit Helper, two Pack Leaders from the Guides, adding a DoE would mean 22 Brownies and 8 people working with them, even though 3 of the 8 would be under 14.
I'm going to talk it through with the others this Thursday and see what they think. The aim of having a 4th Guider is to let all of us have the odd week off, so that there are 3 or 4 adults most weeks, once she is more confident. So that would mean a lower ratio...
I can see that this might help us break up the sixes more into groups where they can work on different challenges rather than everyone have to do the same thing each time...and she could be quite inspiring to the 2 Pack Leaders if they see the merits of DoE, which I think is a great scheme...
Time to stop babbling and have a proper think.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

All the news

  • New Guider will be called Otter - her favourite animal
  • Senior six agreed ice skating was too expensive as a fundraiser and agreed to do a "Muddy Run" in aid of the BHF instead. We're aiming to raise around £100 as a unit doing this, aprox £4-£5 per family, so not asking too much, and it all counts as community action for the girls.
  • Six new Brownies are taking a little while to pick up their promise; two of them are nearly there, two halfway, two nowhere near. They are hoping to do it at Legoland in November, I think it is achievable...
  • That's all the news that's fit to print.

New acquisitions

Went to the fantastic Guide shop about 23 miles away - ok exactly 23.2 miles away because I measured it. There are two closer, but the local depot has a small amount of stock and you have to order most things, and I really wanted to touch stuff! There is a shop open Saturdays between the local depot and the other one, but the staff at the other one are SO nice, it is worth the trip.

Plus, they are happy to let me trade if I have too much of something. So, for example, I had bought 24 Road Safety badges for the spring term, but with girls moving to Guides and moving away, we only had 17 girls by the time we worked through that badge. So I had 7 left over. I was able to scrape together 21 badges we wouldn't need, so I traded them for 21 Healthy Heart badges, as the girls voted to do that later this term.

I also traded 13 Rights badges, made up of unneeded badges from the first 4 Rights we have done, for 13 Right to Be Happy badges, one of only two Rights we haven't yet done. When we do get round to that one, I will wait to see how many pass and buy any extras. As we only have two Rights left, don't want to get left with lots we won't use.

Apart from trading I also bought:
  • A copy of the revised Adventure book so I can use it once trained on the new programme next month
  • A copy of the revised Adventure On book for the same reason
  • 3 each of the new Brownie Adventure and Adventure On badges that go with the new programme so I can show the girls and have a couple ready for the first to achieve it.
  • 3 of the new Leaving Brownie badges. These are for girls leaving the unit, and can be worn on their Guide uniform if they go on to be Guides.
  • A Brownie Leader promise badge and badge tab for our new recruit.
  • The Midlands 4U challenge, a new challenge for the region, haven't read it yet though.
  • 22 Brownie Skills badges
  • 10 Warwickshire bear silks for the new Brownies

And, personally rather than for the unit, I bought:

  • 3 Warwickshire bear blanket badges (one for me, one for daughter, one for someone I owe one to)
  • A Brownies yellow bag, I have one and another Brownie leader in the district remarked on it, so I got one for her.
  • A puppy for daughter (she chose it and paid me back from pocket money)
  • A yoyo for son (he chose it and gets no pocket money so can't pay back but it was 50p!)

Scientific stuff

Our AG Lion made a great job of the Science badge this week. She had an unfortunate start, trapped in traffic and didn't get there till 25 minutes after we start. I don't find it easy to hand over the meetings but I'd relaxed because I knew she'd find it much easier to handle science than me, but that meant I had nothing prepared to fill the 25 mins!

We muddled through and then the girls each took part in some of these activities (they will all be repeated next week so they will all get a go):
  • Made an indicator with red cabbage and see what happens when it reacts with things including orange juice, toothpaste, etc
  • Played a bottle xylophone
  • Wrapped ice cubes in different things to see what protects best from melting
  • Created a structure to support an apple
  • Created a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher

Those alert UK Brownie Guiders may have spotted this is the old Science Investigator syllabus. The badge requirements recently changed. However, as they didn't change for safety reasons (the First Aid and Agility badges were amended for safety reasons), and we had the resources to support working through the old version, we decided to proceed with it.

So, same thing next week, and we've allowed time to wrap the badge up the week after and any time not used that week, we'll start on the Brownie Skills badge as a time-filler.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Luminous Brownies

I was in Tesco getting some shopping today and made the fatal mistake of glancing at the £1 section.

They often have great bargains in there, we pick up all our glue and pens from those boxes, and a few other things besides.

Today, they had high visibility vests in yellow or in pink, ages 4-7 and 8-11. They were £1.50 each - sometimes Tesco do put stuff over £1 in that section, though it is always a bargain. They look like the ones in this pic, though this isn't from the Tesco site.

So, I snapped up 24 for the Brownie unit. I'm planning to get the 16 going to Legoland to wear them so they should be nice and easy to spot and I definitely plan to use them when we go to London again in the future.

Oh, and when I got home after my son's swimming lesson, the Legoland tickets had arrived. So those are safely filed away ready for our trip in November!
I've also doled out the paperwork for the Christmas weekend away, 4/6 girls live within walking distance, one lives in my house and one was on the way to my son's swimming lesson anyway.
Nothing to do for this week's Brownies - Lion is leading for the next few weeks as we work on the Science Investigator badge.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Santa weekend

Got the paperwork and Parrot are taking 6 Brownies to a Santa weekend just before Christmas - here [a PDF file]

Two forms each for the parents plus a kit list. I also have emergency contact forms and registration forms, plus accounts for the trip.

But it'll be worth it - my current licence only lets us go away one night at a time, though we can go, for example 10am Sat to 4pm Sun with that. But when we go somewhere like London, it'd be nice to be able to stay two nights and pack more in. So this is a chance for me to see if I can manage two nights away with them and then maybe go for my own longer licence.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Gave them badges

I forgot to say, the girls got badges yesterday. They were all given a climbing one for doing the climbing wall.

I ordered it from Design It, a US company - they don't do delivery to the UK, well they do but it's ridiculously out of proportion to what you are ordering, so a friend in the US kindly let me send them to her then she sent them on to me.

I've ordered a couple of times from them, they have a badge for pretty much every occasion and the girls absolutely love them. And with the US/UK exchange rate, they still work out good value even with shipping to a friend then shipping on to me included.

My only stipulation is that they put them on the back of their uniform, so that we keep the front for all the great UK badges that they earn. It's not a problem if they don't, so it's more of a guideline than a stipulation really.

They also got an Archery Try-It. This is a Council's Own (ie the Girl Scout council for that area created it for their girls and chose to sell it outside their area) from the Girl Scouts of Beaver and Lawrence County.

I emailed them and asked if it would be ok if our girls earned it and they were happy to let us. They sent them to me, and even though they sent Junior Girl Scout badges by mistake and I had to return them and get the Try-Its sent, they were really helpful through the whole process.

Again, I asked the girls to put them on the back of their uniforms if possible, but as this is an earned badge, rather than a participation one, if they put it on their sleeves or on the front it's not a problem.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Sooooo much fun!

Who is that abseiling down a climbing wall? Why, that would be me!

We had SOOOO much fun today. We got there really early as I'd allowed lots of time for traffic so were able to go straight to the activity we were originally scheduled to do last, which meant we could get home a little earlier.

So the girls had an hour of tobogganing on a dry ski slope - a biiiig hit with them. We don't get a lot of snow here in Warwickshire so what to me would have been so dull at age 8 or 9, because I grew up in Scotland and sledged loads of times, was thrilling for them.

Next was climbing and abseiling which they all got a lot out of - there were some that scuttled up the cliff and hated abseiling down, others that took ages to get up then bounced happily down, those that loved both - we didn't get anyone who hated both! Most of them loved this so much that they are planning their next birthday party here!

Finally, archery. Now, this hasn't long been an activity for Brownies, it used to only be allowed from Guide level up. I have to say, we did have some struggling. 8/10 girls needed a size 12 bow, but three of the four size 12s were broken. So the 8 girls who needed it had to take turns, not ideal at all. 2/10 used size 16, but we made them take turns along with the others to be fair. So I have to be honest and say it was a shame we finished the day on this event, as it was the least successful. I can't quite bring myself to say Brownies shouldn't do it, because they did do well when they got their turn, for the most part anyway. But some were struggling even with the 12lb bow, so it wouldn't have been an unqualified success even if we had enough 12lb ones.

Overall - a big hit with the girls and they would love to do it again.

There were other activities there, like ski-ing, snowboarding, canoeing, that would be great fun for a birthday party. The rules in the Guiding Manual for these activities were too prohibitive for me to do these, but that doesn't rule out some of them trying them another time as "civilians!"

outdoor fun

Off for a day of abseiling, climbing, archery and tobogganing with 10 of the older Brownies...will report back afterwards!

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Olympic Games

The girls were France, Greece, Australia and USA this week (their choices) for an Olympic Games.

They picked the games, we had the obvious running, relay etc and then some of their favourites: egg and spoon, sack race and so on.

We also had two cracking games they love - Kangaroo Hops (they dress as kangaroos - we have left over ears and tails from a party we threw to say goodbye to a leader, Guide and Brownie when they moved to Oz) and Welly-Whanging. We welly-whanged as part of their Adventure On badge last summer and it went down a storm so they all did it again.

It was great fun and wrapped up their Right to Work Together badges nicely, though there was a falling out between two of the very oldest girls, something spilling over from school. I feel we were very ineffectual dealing with it, if we have a squabble at Brownies it's not hard to deal with but when it is something building over a few days at school and we are just a 90 minute part of it, it's harder.

I also gave out 3 Right to Be Me badges that were ordered before the summer so were owed from a while ago, and 8 Meet an Author badges for the girls that met JK Rowling.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Lidl manager thinks I am mad

A Brownie email list I post on had lots of people excited because Lidl (low cost supermarket) had their own brand trangias in (google trangia to see what it is, it's a way of cooking). They were very excited and I was thinking it could be a good way to get my Brownies doing some basic cooking as we have no access to the school kitchen.

Went to Lidl on Sunday, they had 5 in stock, I bought all 5 thinking one for each six and one for the Guiders. Then I went back to the list and searched on trangias to see how to use them, what tips people had...

Nearly every post said they wouldn't have Brownies using them unless it was on a one to one basis, and those that didn't say that said that there needs to be something left to entice them to Guides! They went on to relate the problems of Guides burning hands on handles "they only do it once!", and flames shooting up due to the cooking fuel used. How did I blank out all that when I was reading the excitement about them being on special offer?

So, as I am a great believer in pushing the boundaries for Brownies but not into Guide territory, I marched back to Lidl after work on Monday and returned 4 out of 5 (I want to try it out anyway, to get myself familiar). I'd got funny looks buying 5 in the first place, now I got even funnier looks returning 4 of them.

To their credit, there was no quibbling and because I hadn't even opened them, they just stacked them up for resale.

Memo to me: read all the posts about something before dashing out and buying 5.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Go [where we live]!

Just back from a division event called Go [insert name of our town here]!

Only two Brownies from our unit went, mostly because we have a BIG trip planned next weekend, but we were among 200 Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Senior Section from across the division.

We went round the town to: the police station, the Frank Whittle memorial (inventor of the jet engine), the town church, the Guide shop, the museum and back down the high street looking at the blue plaques as we went. Then we finished with chips. And we all, even the leaders, got a badge.

Really enjoyed it and I do feel I, and the girls, learned a fair bit about the town where we live.

Rainbows had a simpler route, and Guides got to see a mock trial courtesy of the magistrates court. It was a good way to learn about the town, and with everyone in uniform, we were highly visible, I gave the division commissioner's phone number out to two families who asked how to join.

Friday, 14 September 2007

New assistant!

Our Brownie pack has a new assistant, starting in two weeks time!
One of our AGs, who has been with us since we started in Dec 2004, will emigrate to Canada next July, and our UH will stop coming once his daughter goes to Guides in September next year, though he may become their UH instead. The AG is also less keen on our outings and overnights.
So at the back of my mind has been that our 4 adults will be down to 2 at the end of the school year. Coupled with the fact that the other AG prefers not to have to come every week, as she is also AG for the Guide unit following on, and that we have lost our YL to university...
The first mum I asked to consider it nearly bit my hand off and asked to go straight into uniform! She dubs herself one of life's Wing Defences - she'll back up anyone who asks, she just doesn't want to be a Wing Attack.
So now all we need to do is think of a name for her, to go with our animal theme!
(AG = assistant guider, UH = unit helper, YL = Young Leader)

No badges

Think I will have to forget the badge idea, though we have 22 Brownies and adults going, we only have 8 Guides and adults joining us, which means I have only taken in 67% of what I need to cover the cost of the coach.
Just to break even on the coach, the Brownie Unit that is joining us would need to take 15 places, which is unlikely, they're more likely to take 10 or 12. So it looks like we may have a loss on the trip, which is ok, we can afford it, but I can't add the cost of badges to it.
I will see if anyone else wants to go, but it's unlikely, as it is the same weekend as Leader Training, so most leaders won't want to give up Sunday as well as Saturday.

Never mind, another time!

Working Together

Another great meeting last night, the new Brownies worked on their Becoming a Brownie books, the existing Brownies carried on with the Right to Work Together and really participated well. In groups of five, they worked round five tables. One table had string on to tie a reef knot. Another had a triangle drawn on a piece of paper to cut out. Another had blank paper to draw a triangle, a circle and a square. Another had building blocks. And the last had a picture of a squirrel (random, I know) to colour in. The trick was, they had to link arms as a five, and only the girls on each end could use their free hand. They swapped for each table so everyone got a go, and they really did well - one team tied a reef knot as quickly as if they were doing it individually. Another team tied something that did not resemble a reef knot, but they tried!
Then we did Global Footprints, where they had 10 environmental questions, about recycling, and water, and travel, and they had to mark down a footprint for the best answer, a footprint and a smog for a sometimes answer and two smogs if they did the worst thing. The chart has a second chart below, and they are to try and improve their footprints by next week. They are very knowledgable on the environment already, but I did shock a few of them over how awful plane travel is.
Then there were some running around games with the other two Guiders while I cleared up, and finally we had a Pow Wow at the end and planned Olympic Games for next week. They chose what countries they would be and chose all the events - though we did ban wheelbarrow races because someone ALWAYS gets hurt, without exception.
Oh, and they voted on which of the four new Brownie badges they would li
ke to do as a unit in November, choosing Healthy Heart.
The more I let them make decisions, the more inclined I am to let them make more decisions, they are a sensible bunch on the whole and choose to make the most of their time at Brownies.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Create a badge

I've been toying with the idea of creating our own badge for the Legoland trip, since we're going to have a coach of about 48 people, and both our Brownies and their sister Guide unit love badges.

I've made friends with a Brownie Guider in Kent (hi Vickey!) who is also going, and has three coachloads from her district going too. So potentially, we could have about 160-200 badges made together.

We've found someone, also a Guider, who can make them up for us and will happily create a design and stitch a set number with my unit's name on and a set number with Vickey's district's name on, of the same design.

So now we have to work out what to put on.

I was thinking something like unit name at the top, a lego brick and a trefoil in the middle and Legoland 2007 at the bottom. Will need to get sketching!

Volunteers volunteered!

Oh Jennifer of little faith!

One phone call last night, two phone calls this morning...I had my 4 volunteers within 24 hours of asking.

I love the parents in my unit!

Tuesday, 11 September 2007


Only two Guiders (me and one of the Assistant Guiders) available for the Legoland trip, the other AG and the unit helper can't go.

I have a mum volunteer, so we have 3 adults for 17 girls.

That's ok by our safety ratios, but not ok by my must-not-lose-any-girls ratios.

I need three more volunteers so I can have a Guider and two parents in each group of 8-9 girls.

So an email went out 10 minutes ago saying the unit will pay for the adults, I need to buy the tickets so we don't lose out, but I can't buy the tickets unless I know we have enough adults, please call my mobile asap.

Tick tick...

Sunday, 9 September 2007


*blush* Added another big box to the garage this weekend.
A Guiding district bought these tins called Molly tins (I think because that's the Guide's name) a few years ago and they bought THOUSANDS of them. Little by little, through the sterling efforts of a woman called Ally, they have been selling them off at £1 a tin.
I've had it in the back of my mind that when we celebrate the centenary of guiding from Sept 2009-2010, I'd like to give my Brownies something to mark it. These tins are perfect because they can put any badges or certificates or other momentoes of the 100 years inside and keep them.
A few weeks ago, Ally said the depot had gone down to just 700 boxes and she seems to be selling about 100 a week (in her own time, not as a job!) and I decided I couldn't leave it to buy the 30 I wanted for much longer so took the plunge. They are really cute, big but not too big, with a retro kind of look. But 30 of them takes quite a lot of space and I won't need them for two years! I am thinking of asking my husband to help me put them in the attic but that's a mental jump - then I would not only have Brownie stuff in the study and the garage but also in the attic!

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Disney competition

Midlands Guiding (that's the region we're part of) has a competition with the National Indoor Arena for one Rainbow unit and one Brownie unit in the region to win tickets for Disney on Ice in Birmingham.

All the kids have to do is design a superhero outfit for a Disney character. I know it's a commercial tie-in, but I think it's a pretty cool competion (not just because it's ice).

However, I need to talk to the other Guiders from our unit, but I'm thinking we probably won't enter.

Three reasons:
  1. The prize is Nov 1 at 7.30pm in Birmingham. Nov 2 is a school day, and I honestly don't think this is exceptional enough that the parents will be happy about the girls coming back about 10pm or later with school the next day.
  2. We're going to the special Girlguiding only day at Legoland on Nov 4. Even if we won the ice tickets we'd still have to charge for transport, not fair on the parents when they've just forked out for Legoland.
  3. Our county training day is Nov 3 and I will need to go as there is an update for the Brownie programme. I can't give up the whole night of Nov 1, all day Nov 3 and all day Nov 4 - that's just too much: doing training and Legoland is almost too much anyway.

So I'm going to hand out the bookmarks, but unless the other Guiders are really keen, I'm going to pass on the competition. But I am appreciative that Midlands Guiding set stuff like this up!

Friday, 7 September 2007


If you're gonna berate someone, get your facts right first.

I was buttonholed by a mum today while I tried to buy some milk - why had I allowed her daughter's classmate to join Brownies and not her daughter when she knew for a fact, A FACT, she shouted, that she had put her daughter's name on the waiting list first.

I was taken offguard, not having the waiting list memorised or engraved inside my left eyelid, but managed to establish that her daughter is...six.

And to be a Brownie (in the UK) you have to

Thursday, 6 September 2007

First meeting back

On such a high! We had our first meeting back tonight - out of the 23 I was expecting, 21 turned up, 1 was ill and 1 I'm not sure about, if I was going to pick any girl to expect not to turn up, it would have been her but equally, if there's a girl who needs to have some time out of her house having fun, it's her.

The new girls seemed to fit in really well, it helped there are two newbies in each six I think. The buddies (girls that look after them) did a good job too, and I think doing silly things like three-legged races in sixes (how many legs is that, about seven or eight?) worked really well.

We taught them the quiet sign, the promise sign (funny how hard that is the first few times), Brownie Bells for the end and gave out the Becoming a Brownie books.

We've got 15 so far for Legoland, probably the one who was off ill will be going to that, so I'll go for probably three groups of 5 or two of 5 and one of 6 and try for two adults with each group.

And I let the Senior Six (the 6 oldest girls) choose a community action project. They never come up with what you think. I thought it would be something like plant a flower bed for the school or a sponsored silence for the NSPCC, something like that. They went for ice-skating in aid of the British Heart Foundation. Okaaaaaaaaay, now I have to work out how we're going to do that!

Blog Action Day: Environment

On October 15, bloggers everywhere are being asked to write a post relating to both the environment and their normal subject matter.

I guess I'll write about the Brownie Environment badge!

So now all I have to do is remember to post about it on Oct 15 - feel free to nudge me if it looks like I forgot.

We are actually going to do the environment badge during this school year anyway, in the spring/summer when we can get out and about.

Right - tie a knot in my hanky, lodge it in my brain...Oct 15 - must post about the environment.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007


Had a really good night out last night with other Guiders from our district. We went to a pub in one of the villages and played dominoes! So silly, but it was great and it was lovely to sit and chat about everything and nothing. Pepped me up a bit for the start of the new term too, and we were able to swap a few ideas/plans.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007


I was asked how I organise the paperwork.

I have one of those files like an accordion, that has current Brownies in the front, waiting list behind it, Starting Brownie forms behind that then anything else deemed important.

There's also a little red folder that goes to every meeting with tick lists for attendance and badge requirements, room for scribbles on each night's meeting and at the back, emergency contacts and health details for each girl.

That's it for the important stuff. I have a Guiding Manual in a folder, the county contacts booklet, and a green folder which has those pockets you can drop pages into - I use that for when we go anywhere, to drop in the relevant forms: G/O when we're out for the day, G/C and G/H for camp and health when we go away plus a copy of the A/A and A/S that confirm we're allowed to go.

When we have a few events pending, I have those flat A4 folders and I just name each one after the event and anything related to the event gets dropped into the folder. Then I move it to the green folder before we go. All the forms can be shredded after as long as no-one was injured, if there are any injuries, even minor, I keep their forms, can't remember offhand how long, it is in the manual.

Everything else is on my laptop and I have a backup on a memory stick.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Article in Guiding magazine

I'm feeling a bit more positive about this, another Guider in our district texted me to say what a fab piece it was, so maybe I was just expecting a bit too much.

I am pleased it is in there, and it was a once in a lifetime experience meeting the best selling author in the world at the time, for me as well as for the girls.

Anyway, moving on, printed out a large number of permission forms today to dole out at this week's meetings for trips later this month (will fill you in after, of course!) No way round having lots of paper, no matter how hard I try! We have an online group where I post news and info, but I still need proper Guiding permission forms to cover us for trips and if I ask parents to do it, I always end up having to print a few extra anyway. Better for me just to print them in the first place!

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Shouting in the supermarket

Someone just shouted "Penguin" at me in the supermarket.

When your Brownie leader name is Brown Owl, the people around you generally understand why a girl just shouted at you.

When your leader name is Penguin (which I chose and I LOVE), people look very confused.


Saturday, 1 September 2007


One of the hardest things, no, the hardest thing for me about being a Guider is actually making the meetings!

We meet at 6pm and can't go any later as Guides follow straight after us, so we have to consider their finishing time. Can't change nights as we agreed on the night we meet as it is the best for all the adults - and a different night would make no difference to me anyway.

My husband gets home about 6.15pm usually. Because we not only have a Brownie-age daughter but also a preschool son, I need him to take our son so I can go to the meeting. He makes a real effort to make it home for 5.45pm on the meeting night, even moving work around to do it, and usually it is ok.

This week he has a leaving do for a member of his team, scheduled same day as the first Brownie meeting. After 8 weeks off over the summer, he's got out of the habit of automatically saying, please avoid that night of the week!

From my perspective, it is always easier not to take our son. He is a distraction even if he plays with his cars, and it's one other thing to think about. For the first meeting, there will be 6 new Brownies to settle in, parents asking questions, plus the actual plans for the meeting. So it would help not to have him.

Fortunately, my neighbour, with a child a year older and a child a year younger than my boy, has agreed to take him this week. I wouldn't impose on her regularly but it's nice that there's someone I can ask. And her daughter is already on my Brownie waiting list for when she turns 7! She's even offered to have my son for tea, so I'll be walking him next door then having 15 mins before I have to leave myself!

This is what makes me think when my daughter becomes a Guide, about 18 months from now, I should think about becoming a Guide Guider. Guides don't generally meet before 7, 7.15pm so much easier to get to. But if I did do that, I'd maybe do it at a different unit from my daughter's, so I don't cramp her style.
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