A bumpy ride for the bump and I.

I feel like an old car that is falling apart bit by bit while the passengers sit unharmed inside. I’ve not been well at all for the last month or so, hence the radio silence. At first it was a bug that quite literally left me unable to stand or stay awake for a good couple of weeks. I just slept. Once the bug began to subside there was no rest. I feel as if I have lived in and out of St. Mary’s hospital for the last couple of weeks having endless tests and scans. It started when the glucose count in my urine got high. That meant I had to have another Glucose Tolerance Test, where you have to fast, have a blood test, drink a high glucose drink and then have another blood test. The first time I’d had it I passed out in the waiting room and I was very anxious about having it done again. This time I was out cold by the first blood test! I was unconscious long enough to have a little dream about being on a Carribbean beach with the lady taking my blood! I spent that morning in a zombie like state feeling utterly wretched being wheeled around in a wheelchair. I’ve been lucky in that my wonderful independent midwife Jo has been with me every step of the way. She wheeled me around and carried my bag and coat and sponged me down to bring me round when I passed out. The morning just got worse. As I lay on a hard examination couch feeling barely conscious I heard the obstetrician say that my most recent blood test results showed that the obstetric cholestasis had returned. It’s the liver condition I had with Jessy and the reason I had an induction and a hospital birth last time. I thought I’d escaped, but it was back. I was sent off for a liver scan, meaning I had to wait even longer until I could finally eat which I knew would make me feel better. My induction date was booked after the scan.

A couple of days later we had more bad news – the GTT test showed that I do have gestational diabetes. I knew that was the most likely outcome so I’d been pro active and researched what I should be eating and changed my diet which made me feel slightly better. I was shown how to monitor my blood sugars with finger prick tests which have to be done 7 times a day. My body seems very reluctant to give up the red stuff though and it takes me up to 4 goes each time to get a good drop which means I have very sore fingers! Despite my best attempts the blood sugars weren’t staying within the desired levels. Usually the next step is medication, but they were concerned the medication might interact badly with my liver problems so I was put on insulin. Injecting the insulin is nowhere near as unpleasant as the finger prick tests, but I do feel rather like a human pin cushion at the moment! My life seems to revolve around tests, medication and injections at the moment!

My new life!

My new life!

The scariest moment was the middle of last week when one of my liver counts went so high there was a bit of a panic. The normal range for ALTs is 5-40 and mine went up to 669!! Nobody seems to know why. They told me to come into the hospital and that I probably wouldn’t go home and they’d induce the baby early. Luckily my lovely doula Lisa had come to see me that morning and she helped with the sudden flurry of organising childcare, pet care, packing a hospital bag and alerting everyone who needed to know. Jessy was already at Dennis’s as I had a hospital appointment scheduled, so we went round there on the way so I could explain what was happening to him. It was all quite overhelming for him and his eyes filled with tears as I told him the baby would probably be here within a day or so. He’s coped so bravely with me being in and out of hospital, finding out about the various complications, but I know it’s been difficult for him. After all of the chaos, I ended up just being put on a monitor for a while which showed the baby was fine and they sent me home!

It probably isn’t surprising that I haven’t thought a great deal about Home Education over the past few weeks! Jessy has been away so much and we’ve really missed each other. Luckily though, through a combination of taxis and good friends he’s carried on doing all his usual activities. I know he’s done lots at Dennis and Phoebe’s house too. He’s learned to knit and has been enjoying detailed Role Playing Games with Phoebe and the other kids where they invent their own character profiles and deal with various situations. He’s also been going swimming which I haven’t done with him for a while. When he has been at home we’ve stuck to quieter activities. He’s continued looking after Bellatrix the hedgehog, although she’s definitely more grumpy since he’s been away and she hasn’t been out everyday.

Miss Huffy Pants as we often call her!

Miss Huffy Pants as we often call her!

I used to love playing Clock Patience as a child and I’ve got Jessy into it too. He hasn’t had one that’s worked out yet but he was a maddening one card away once!

Clock patience

Clock patience

It’s Jessy’s birthday tomorrow, but I planned his party a week early this year just in case I did have to go in to be induced which turned out to be for the best. In some ways it was an added thing to worry about, but in other ways the creating of Pass the Parcel and Treasure hunts and stuffing the pinata was a welcome distraction. I really wanted him to have his celebration in the midst of so much uncertainty and difficulty. The party was a big success with over 20 sugar filled children bouncing around – quite literally on the bouncy castle. My wonderful friends helped so much that they actually left the house tidier than it had been before the party which is no mean feat!

Bouncy castle fun

Bouncy castle fun

Cake!

Cake!

Jessy got some lovely presents and spent the evening building one of them – a lego eagle:

Lego Eagle

Lego Eagle

Tomorrow, for his actual 9th birthday he wants to have a couple of friends and his cousin round to play on his new X-box which he has been absolutely bursting to get his hands on! After that I will have Thursday and Friday to get my head around the fact that I’m going in for induction on Friday evening. It really has been a complete whirlwind. My head is reeling and try as I might I’m still finding it hard to feel anything other than bitterly disappointed that the natural Home Birth I’d planned has turned into a high risk hospital induction. I know that if I dig down deep though I do have the power to make this birth experience positive and it is very exciting that the baby will be here so soon. Please keep me in your thoughts on Friday evening and Saturday. I very much believe in the power of positive thought and don’t believe that I can have enough of it!

To end on something that makes me smile, here’s a photo of Jessy the other night when he decided to go to sleep in my Santa sleepsuit!

Jessy in my sleep suit!

Jessy in my sleep suit!

Anatomy, Magnetism, Biscuits & Baby.

I’ve been knocked out by a nasty bug for a while, hence no blog last week. I slept almost solidly for about 3 days and then on and off for almost a week! Luckily it wasn’t the kind of bug where you feel terrible – just sick and exhausted, but staying awake has been, quite literally, impossible. Jessy stayed with friends for a few nights while I slept off the worst of it.

So, there’s a bit to catch up on! A finally went back home to live with her Mum and brothers again. It was an anxious time as we really had no indication of time scales. I had a very disheartening phone call with the people handling her school admission, where it seemed they hadn’t even received the forms I’d sent and had no idea how long the whole process was going to take. I phoned my sister to tell her the frustrating news only to find out that she’d been left a message on her answer machine saying that A had her school place and could start on Monday! Clearly, the communications are not working well in that department! It was already Thursday which meant that A would go home the very next day so that she could have the weekend to unpack and settle back in at home. It was quite a shock when I told her and I still feel sad that our careful efforts for a smooth transition didn’t work out. Although we had already had her leaving party I felt that the occasion needed marking in some way so we went up the road to The Nawaab – the very nice Indian buffet that I go to on my birthday.

A farewell meal

A farewell meal

Happy cousins

Happy cousins

A is happy to be back home and I’m glad that this anxious time is over for her, as even though I know she’s enjoyed aspects of being home educated and living with us, it’s not the same as being at home with your Mum. She knows she always has a second home here, though, should she need it. She’s going to carry on going to Martial Arts and Scouts too which means she’ll be round on Mondays for dinner, so we will at least see her once a week.

Now that I’m back to just the one child I’ve had a little more time to notice the things that Jessy is showing an interest in. He was playing a lot with the magnetic base from a little sculpture he has, to the point where he didn’t want to stop playing with it at bed time so I ordered him a magnet kit. I got a small one at first to see how much he enjoyed it. I’d imagined exploring it together, but he had already opened it and got stuck in before I was awake! As well as doing the experiments suggested, he’s come up with some of his own and also used it to create a model of a battle ship which he played games with for days.

Exploring the magnet kit

Exploring the magnet kit

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Another day he created a rather gory picture by colouring a piece of paper red, drawing a person on top of another piece of paper and then cutting slashes into the person to look like he’d been cut! I felt a little disturbed by this creation, but it did give me an idea to use the concept a little more constructively. I thought of using it to learn about human anatomy and cutting the person on top in order to find different organs. We couldn’t find any anatomy pictures in our books and our printer is playing up again, so we went to the library. Again, we didn’t find anything is the books but we found something online and printed off a few different sheets of anatomical diagrams. A first Jessy wanted to make his own, but we found the inaccuracy made the game quite tricky, so I also made one using the anatomical pictures. It was a fun way to learn about the human body.

Anatomy

Anatomy

I’ve been interested to notice this week that despite having a room full of toys and drawers full of craft materials, Jessy often finds inspiration in simple things around him. This week he was inspired by the tiny little premature baby socks I bought. (Jessy was so small and thin that socks never fitted him so I’ve bought some as a precaution!) He said they looked perfect for making little toys. He decided to buy a set with his pocket money and we then agreed that he could have one of pairs I’ve bought for now. He can get a little frustrated with the fiddliness of sewing and often wants to give up and get me to do it instead. I’m encouraging him to persevere so that he improves which in turn will improve his frustration. He’s already got a lot more competent at threading needles. I sewed a little face on the toy for him but he did the head and the arms. He did stop part way through for an all out stroppy whinge complete with rolling around on the floor, but once he had got that out of his system he went back to it and now has a cute little toy named Spuddy.

This week Jessy has also independently baked a batch of delicious biscuits. He decided to copy out all of the ingredients and method, including all the weight conversions so he doesn’t have to work them out each time. On Thursday I was dealing with square roots before 9am which is good going for me! Jessy was working out the square roots for large numbers after I showed him the symbol to look for on a calculator. He then tried squaring the numbers by inputting them himself to see how accurate the calculator had been. After months of not doing much independent reading he’s been up reading so late that he actually fell asleep on the sofa one afternoon! He’s always had a very good radar for when I start to feel wobbly about something. I’d just got to the point of feeling that I needed to schedule in some time each week for independent reading, when the tide of autonomy turned and he got back into it himself!

We’ve had Bellatrix the hedgehog for a little over two weeks now and I’m very impressed by how well Jessy is caring for her. Even on a Wood School morning he makes sure he’s up in time to change her food and water bowls, and clean her litter tray. He feeds her in the evening and makes sure he plays with her every day. She’s quilling at the moment, which is a process all young hedgehogs go through where their quills all fall out and the adult ones grow in – like humans losing their baby teeth. It makes them rather sore and grumpy. Jessy is luckily not taking her grumpiness to heart. He had some confidence problems at first when he was finding her difficult to handle as she’s spikier than he’d expected, but he now wears thick gloves and has regained his confidence. I’ve supervised him with the big weekly clean outs but he has pretty much done everything himself, including putting the fleece liners on to wash in the machine and then putting them in the tumble drier. We are struggling a little with finding time for her in the evenings as we don’t want to wake her too early, but it can be difficult to fit in enough time between dinner and bedtime. We find she really does need to be handled for at least half an hour to stop being huffy and calm down a little. Luckily he often holds her in the early mornings when she’s still awake.

Holding Bellatrix in thick gloves

Holding Bellatrix in thick gloves

Bellatrix in her new play pen

Bellatrix in her new play pen

Bellatrix

Bellatrix

I’ve been busy making final preparations for the baby and I feel much more organised now. I’m 34 weeks pregnant and growing by the day. The baby still moves lots and feels strong. I’ve washed all the clothes and nappies and muslins and organised everything into sizes. My house looks ready for a baby. I went to the hospital today for blood tests to check whether I have Obstetric Cholestasis again – a rare pregnancy related liver condition I had when I was pregnant with Jessy. It has a high recurrence rate and I’ve felt anxious about it as I would just love things to go simply this time and to have the home birth I am so much looking forward to. I’ll know in a few days whether it has come back and if it has I’ll have some difficult decisions to make. I’m still under a lot of pressure to have growth scans because Jessy was so small, but at the moment I’m still not feeling that is something I want to do. I’m loving having the support of my Independent midwife Jo and my doula Lisa. We all got together for the first time this week and I felt really happy that these wonderful women are going to be with me when I birth my baby. I feel that, as a team, whatever happens I will birth with good support around me, hopefully in a peaceful way in my own home.

Hedgehogs and Home Birth

We’ve had a new arrival this week. No, the baby hasn’t come early – although the preparation has felt almost on par with preparing for a baby! The new arrival was Jessy’s African Pygmy hedgehog, Bellatrix. He’s been waiting patiently for her since before Christmas. She’s come from an approved breeder who has sent us photo updates over the weeks. She hand delivered Bellatrix herself and was very pleased with the home we’d set up for her. She’s a big responsibility for Jessy as they do need quite specific care. I’ve written him out a large list of everything that needs doing for her daily, weekly and monthly to help him remember. So far he’s been doing very well.

First cuddle with Bellatrix

First cuddle with Bellatrix

Jessy was a little upset yesterday as handling the hedgehog has been a bit trickier than he has expected. When they are grumpy or startled they are very prickly indeed, although once she’s being handled she is very friendly and her quills lay down flat and she isn’t prickly at all. Today, Jessy put on some waterproof gloves to help him feel a bit more confident. I joined a facebook forum about African Pygmy hedgehogs several weeks ago and got the impression that they poo rather a lot which has certainly proved to be accurate! It’s all good practice for the baby I guess – although it would be quite nice if I could put a nappy on the hedgehog!!

Bellatrix

Bellatrix

Talking of nappies, I’ve had lots of lovely baby stuff arriving this week. My favourite has been all the new cloth nappies and my bright pink Moby wrap which is a stretchy fabric sling many people I know have found brilliant for newborns. I didn’t have one with Jessy so I’m excited about having one this time around. On Monday I went to La Leche League, a fantastic breastfeeding support group that I went to for years when Jessy was young and where I met many of my closest friends. Afterwards I went to Sling Meet where I learned how to tie the kind of sling I’ve got. Back at home I practiced with a teddy bear and also tried it on Jessy and A.

New nappies!

New nappies!

My new Moby wrap.

My new Moby wrap.

It’s been a difficult week for A. After we’d done our best to create a smooth transition into her going home we had a set back with the schools admissions process which means that she’s still with us and we have no fixed time of when she will actually be able to go home. It should be within the next week or so, but the uncertainty is difficult for everyone. A no longer has a place at Wood School and it feels as if we are all stuck in Limbo land. We’re trundling along doing the best we can.

Jessy and I had some time together on Friday while A was visiting her Mum. It’s been a while since we sat down and explored a little together and I found myself having a small internal battle. I love the days when we seem to find a subject to focus on and we explore it in various ways. I somehow feel that autonomous education is really working in those moments and I feel good about it. They are, however, few and far between. I’d seen something about penguins recently and Jessy likes penguins so I suggested we have a look at the different breeds of penguins which he was quite happy to do. We read the list and he liked the look of the ‘Little Penguin’ so we read about it. I started to get excited that perhaps we could have a penguin themed day! However, Jessy’s mind was already heading in different directions. (It was trying to head in the direction of Minecraft Parody songs on YouTube but I put my foot down about that one as he’s seen enough to last a lifetime!!) We’d read that Little Penguins live in Australia and New Zealand so he wanted to look them up on Google Maps. I could go with that – the penguin link was there and maps fall into the ‘obviously educational’ comfort zone. So we got to Google Maps and found them. Then he felt inspired to look up Barbados as we’ve been there recently.

I started to feel my penguin dream slipping away. I had a small internal battle about whether I should pull him back to the penguins but that didn’t feel very autonomous – so off we went to virtual Barbados. We found our hotel and the caves we visited. I can’t remember how it happened but we ended up virtually strolling through the streets of San Francisco. I found the street where I lived for a few months before Jessy was born and got very excited remembering the donut store outside the local tram stop. So I didn’t get my penguin day, but I did get to remind myself that this is how our educational journey rolls. One things leads to another and you never know quite what you might end up exploring. I’m pretty sure we finished up with Minecraft Parody songs on YouTube too – well some of them are pretty cool. 😉

After our online explorations Jessy wanted to bake cakes. He’s gone from baking not holding his interest very much to pretty much doing it on his own recently. Our scales only show grams and the old fashioned book we got our recipe from was only in ounces so we worked on some conversions. Jessy remembered there was a conversion chart in my diary which meant there was a little more working out involved than just typing it into google! We used a fairy cake recipe but the actual result was something quite different. They looked like muffins, were quite biscuity on top, but had a texture more similar to rock cakes! We decided they were a cross between cakes, cookies and muffins and named them ‘Cuffins’. They were very tasty and I’m still not sure why they came out that way!

Baking

Baking

This morning my independent midwife came round. It’s the second time I’ve met her and she really is lovely. It helps that a few of my friends have had her as the midwife for their babies’ births and all have said she was wonderful. It’s such a different experience to the clinical hospital setting where I was kept waiting for hours and felt like a number on a tick chart, or a potential time bomb of possible complications! Jo is all about setting you at ease, listening to your worries and trusting in you. I love knowing that she wants me to have my home birth as much as I do and that I won’t have a fight on my hands, which is how I always felt at the hospital appointments. She’s friendly with the kids and includes them. She called them when it was time to listen to the baby’s heart beat today and as I lay on my sofa we all smiled as we heard the little ‘whoosh-whoosh-whoosh’ of the baby’s heart. Jessy was playing it cool as usual but his eyes were twinkling. She explained why the baby’s heartbeat is so much faster than ours and then used the doppler on the kids so they could hear their own heartbeats. I felt like she was doing Home Ed for me today! She had a good feel of my bump and told me how the baby was lying which baby confirmed with a kick in just the right place. 🙂 The most exciting part of the visit for me was when I was talking about how I wish you could still get old fashioned birthing chairs, as I love the idea of them. I birthed squatting last time whilst being supported and I’ve always thought being able to sit and let gravity do its work would be wonderful. “Oh, I’ve got one of them in the car!” she announced – and promptly deposited in my living room was a birthing chair! It felt like magic! She also brought a ‘belly bag’ which is a big bean bag with a hole cut out for your pregnant belly so you can lie on your front! I don’t think I would ever manage to get out of it if I lay down on it but it’s been the kids’ favourite new toy all afternoon!

The kids had circus skills this afternoon. A asked if she could spend an extra night at our friends’ house so she went home with them. Jessy and I enjoyed cottage pie – a meal we both love but A doesn’t like so we haven’t had it for months. He ate every last scrap of a rather large portion! That’s about it for this week! Bye for now.

The end of a chapter.

This week is a strange one. On the one hand we’ve been settling back into regular routines after the festive period. The Christmas tree has gone, the presents have been cleared away, the usual restrictions on screen time are back and we’re eating more mindfully again. Wood School started this week so our week is now back to it’s usual rhythm. However, it’s only going to last for this week.

After living with us for 5 months A will be going back to live with her Mum and brothers on Friday. It’s a happy time as her Mum is well enough for her to go home, and I’m very aware how much she needs to be with her Mum and how difficult it must have been to be apart. On the other side though, we have become a family of three and A has become part of our household and our daily lives. Jessy has had a constant playmate and I’ve had another child to love and take care of every day and her absence will be very much felt. We’re lucky that Wood School made a special allowance for her to go back for this week. At the end of last term her home going plans were only just being finalised and she didn’t have a chance to mark the end of her time at Wood School and say goodbye to her friends there. This week will give her that chance and hopefully make the transition a little smoother. I know A has loved Wood School and appreciated the freedom and fresh air and choice. Now she needs to prepare to return to the stricter confines of mainstream school which may be a little bit of a shock at first! Today was her last Circus skills session which I know she would have loved to continue, but sadly it doesn’t seem that will possible. She will be carrying on with Martial Arts and Scouts though and I’m glad she gets to keep a little of her routine and continue doing some of the activities she has enjoyed here.

I can tell that Jessy is preparing for A going home in his own way. He seems to be withdrawing a little and wanting time to play alone. It’s as if he knows that he needs to remember how to do that again and wants to get in a little practice! I’ve worried that he’s become so used to having a constant playmate that he may no longer enjoy playing alone, but it seems that he is able to go back to it which I’m glad about as I’d hate for him to feel lonely and bored. On Sunday we had a ‘Goodbye Get Together’ for A. She invited her Home Ed friends and we had a party buffet with her favourite foods. The kids spent quite a lot of time hanging out on the sofas in the living room seeming very grown up! They also spent plenty of time sliding down bannisters and jumping on the giant bean bag.

The kids hanging out.

The kids hanging out.

The adults all stayed in the kitchen close to the kettle and the food! I think I enjoyed the afternoon as much as the children did and it was nice to formally mark A leaving with something fun.

The adults hanging out.

The adults hanging out.

We all worked really hard to clear the house up in time for the weekend. As well as the Goodbye party I met my indpendent midwife on Saturday so we had a double excuse to clear up the Christmas chaos. I’ve realised how much clearer my head feels when I have a tidy living room. I’ve felt much calmer and have finally started getting things organised for the baby. The baby has been very cheeky this week. I’ve been able to see it move and it’s been doing some enormous kicks. However, every time the children have waited patiently trying to see or feel it, it doesn’t move! They have sung to it and shouted at it and shone lights and kept their hands on my belly all to no avail! Jessy finally saw it once last night but it’s still playing hide and seek with A! As it’s such a rare event, here is a photo of our tidy living room!:

A tidy living room!!

A tidy living room!!

A helped me out this week too by doing a big pile of washing up. It hurts my back to wash up at the moment and I can only manage a little at a time. A volunteered and at first I was a little nervous as I have very high standards when it comes to washing up! I can honestly say that everything was impeccably clean and I was very impressed and grateful.

Perfect washing up by A.

Perfect washing up by A.

When I picked the kids up from Wood School on Monday, Jessy was very keen to show me something he had created. There were a few children all surrounding a large sand pit where they had been making their own creations using natural materials. Jessy had created Pongoose Land and he talked me through the politics of the land explaining how the rich people were able to do what they liked and had the majority of the land, where as the poor people had one house to share and were forced to stay within certain boundaries. There was an airport, but only rich people were allowed to use the plane. I’ve been reading a book about Nelson Mandela and I talked to Jessy a little about apartheid and what it was like for Black South Africans during that time. It sounded to me as if he was processing that information with the game although I’m pretty sure this is a subconscious process rather than a choice.

Pongoose Land.

Pongoose Land.

Jessy explaining Pongoose Land.

Jessy explaining Pongoose Land.

A was given a lovely quill ink pen for Christmas and the same person bought her some parchment paper, wax seals and stamps so that she can write letters to stay in touch with people. She’s really enjoyed using it and has already written several letters including one to Jessy in the next room which she delivered by owl post using Jessy’s toy owl from Harry Potter Studios! We will certainly miss her creativity! This week marks the end of a chapter in all our lives and a moving on to the next one.

Giraffes and Autism – time to say the word!

It’s been over a month since I last got a chance to blog! I remember Jessy being ill one week and then all that Christmas and New Year stuff got in the way. We’ve had an enjoyable festive season. I managed to prepare a Christmas feast and only got stressed out about the roast vegetables which I had forgotten don’t cook properly in the second oven as I haven’t used the second oven since last Christmas! I was still most excited about the home made bread sauce I’ve been making since I was 12 which is the highlight of my Christmas dinner.

My bump has expanded enormously over the last month and the baby’s kicks quite often take me by surprise with how strong they feel. Today it feels a bit like it’s trying to burst through my belly and I’m wondering what on Earth I’ll feel like at the end of this pregnancy! We’ve had a very lazy holiday season. We’ve all eaten far too much chocolate and cheese and the kids have been clocking up enough hours of screen time to make my head spin if I think about it! I’ve been enjoying luxurious lie ins and going to bed far too late. The kids have come away from the screens long enough to do some creative projects. The kids got balloon kits but we’ve struggled to make the balloon animals. Anais decided to use the long stretchy balloons as strings on a cardboard box musical instrument. Jessy got a sock puppet kit for Christmas, but decided to make a monster toy and some clothes for him out of the materials instead. He named him ‘Teddy’.

Teddy

Teddy

I officially marked today as ‘back to normal’ day. It gives us a week to slide back into a more regular routine as Martial Arts, Scouts and Cubs start this week, but Circus Skills and Wood School don’t start until next week. I’m hoping this might be easier for Jessy as he often struggles with the transition from holiday back into our old routine.

Another of Jessy’s anxieties are unexpected plans and trying new activities. This came up a few days ago when we had a last minute invite to go ice skating with friends. Jessy has never been ice skating before and we hadn’t made the plan in advance so he was quite unhappy. At one point it seemed I really wouldn’t be able to persuade him to go but I didn’t want A to miss out so I offered to take him to a friend’s house instead. I don’t really want to go down that route of dealing with his anxiety though so I kept reassuring him that he didn’t have to skate if he didn’t want to and said that I would very much enjoy his company and suggested packing a few activity books. That seemed to help. He must have worked it through in his mind because just before we left when A asked him if he was going to have a go at ice skating he said “oh yeah, of course!” I’m really glad he came because they both had a great time. I was so happy to get outside in the fresh air and be with friends after being cooped up in the house for too long on our own.

Jessy ice skating

Jessy ice skating

Fun on the ice

Fun on the ice

I haven’t written a lot in this blog, about the various issues Jessy deals with for a while. For some reason I’ve been resistant to opening up further about it on here. I’m not sure why because I’m quite open about the process we are going through in other places. I feel like today might be the right day to share a little more. Maybe because it’s the New Year, or maybe just because it’s relevant to what we did today – maybe even because we’ve been so lazy lately I don’t have much else to write about! lol. I first wrote about my emerging thoughts here: https://pinkylucy.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/everything-and-nothing-has-changed/. At the time I felt the need to be vague and talked a lot about giraffes. Needless to say I don’t actually think Jessy might be a giraffe, however, I do think he may be on the autistic spectrum.

In the 8 months or so since I first starting thinking about this idea I’ve had varied responses from people. Some friends found it instantly helped them make sense of Jessy while others completely rejected the idea and didn’t agree at all. He’s certainly not autistic in a glaringly obvious kind of way, however, after reading and researching I was amazed to discover how so many of his quirks and difficulties, and also strengths, are all linked to autism. It was hard at first. I had to come to realise that whether he is or isn’t, he is still the same person, the same wonderful unique person I have always loved. I struggled for months about whether or not to pursue a diagnosis. I eventually decided that ‘knowledge is power’ and that the more I knew, the more choices and options I would have when it came to ways I could help Jessy with some of his struggles. I also feel that it’s sometimes useful to have a short hand when things get a little tricky. Awareness of autism is increasing, and whilst it isn’t something I’d want to use to excuse difficult situations, it can help to explain.

So several months ago I went to my GP with a long typed out list of various Jessy quirks. Many of them I had already discovered were linked to autism and others I didn’t know about but I put them all down. My GP made an instant referral and since then I’ve had a couple of appointments with a very friendly doctor who asked me lots and lots of questions in a couple of interviews. Today was an important day because Jessy went to meet the doctor. Jessy is aware of the process we’re going through and seems comfortable with it. I didn’t get to stay with Jessy while he talked to the doctor which felt a little strange. When my friend went through the process with her son she said a lot of the interaction could be seen through one way glass, but this didn’t happen with Jessy today. They didn’t talk to him for long which makes me wonder if it was very clear one way or the other, but the doctor said it didn’t mean anything so I guess I should listen to him! My personal feeling is that he’s somewhere on the borderline and I don’t think I will be very surprised if the expert opinion falls on either side. What I have learned is that he certainly has a lot of autistic traits and that, so far, the strategies designed to help autistic children do seem to help him with particular issues. Whether or not he gets an official diagnosis the process has helped us both enormously and made our day to day life run a lot more smoothly.

After Jessy’s appointment this morning the children were keen to go into the city centre as they’d spotted an enormous Big Wheel that has been recently erected in Piccadilly Gardens. A is quite afraid of heights but was keen to try the wheel, so in the name of encouraging the conquering of fears we went on. Aside from some initial nervousness she really loved it. Jessy has enjoyed Big Wheels since he was a toddler.

The Big Wheel

The Big Wheel

Excited on the big wheel

Excited on the big wheel

View of Manchester city centre

View of Manchester city centre

Afterwards we headed to Barburrito for lunch which we all love and then went on to the Manchester Museum. A has hit a ‘Museums are boring’ stage, but I did point out that there is so much in the museum that it must be possible to find something of interest! She didn’t seem bored once we were there and we spent a good few hours looking around. Despite going there for years we’ve never been to the animal handling session so we made a special effort to go today and got to stroke a chameleon and a python.

Stroking a chameleon

Stroking a chameleon

Stroking a python

Stroking a python

Jessy started back at Cubs tonight and despite a busy day was happy to go, especially as the new woggle he chose arrived today. Here’s to another year with my wonderful little ‘giraffe’.

Pros and cons of independence

Christmas is coming! I know this because we all have Christmas jumpers! The kids were very keen to choose one and I joined in too. My latest plan for cheap maternity wear is buying big sizes from Primark. It’s not quite as flattering as the range from Mothercare, but at the rate I’m expanding I’ll need a few more things without breaking the bank! Here’s my latest ‘bump’ selfie:

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My festive bump has been out and about at our usual activities this week including our fortnightly favourite, the Adventure Playground Home Ed meeting. A had plans to meet up with a friend afterwards for a few hours which gave Jessy and I a bit of time to spend together. I asked him what he’d like to do and he instantly said ‘Richmond Tea Rooms!’ so we went for cake. Jessy insisted it was a date to which I kept specifying ‘a Mother and son date!’

Jessy tried and loved a coffee and walnut cake. I had my favourite :apple and rhubarb crumble with custard.

Jessy tried and loved a coffee and walnut cake. I had my favourite :apple and rhubarb crumble with custard.

Jessy is still rather interested in the whole concept of dating and relationships, mostly because there is quite a heavy focus on those topics in the later Harry Potter books. We’re half way through ‘The Half Blood Prince’ at the moment. Hermione and Ron are just starting to recognise their attraction to one another and there are themes of jealousy, attraction, insecurity, revenge and all sorts of complicated feelings that come up as a teenager (and beyond!) Jessy is keen to understand it all and I feel the discussions we have about the characters behaviour and motivations are useful for him.

Continuing the theme of cake, we had an amusing cake disaster this week. I’ve had a cold and on one day I felt so drained that when I went to get dressed I fell asleep again and just couldn’t seem to wake up. It feels as if all my physical energy is being spent on baby growing and although I didn’t feel terribly ill I was just wiped out. The kids had a lovely idea to make me surprise cupcakes. A was feeling confident as she bakes with her Mum sometimes. The concept of measuring ingredients didn’t come up though, so although they used the right combination they ended up with this:

The cake explosion!

The cake explosion!

I was touched by the thought and they even did a pretty good job of clearing up afterwards and it was quite funny! We picked at the crusts and talked about how we can often learn the most from our mistakes and how it was certainly an important lesson about quantities being as important as content when it comes to baking! I put on the old musical ‘Carousel’ and we all watched it together. Old films often make for interesting chats about gender roles and changing cultural trends. Back in this time it brought shame on the family if you were even seen kissing somebody and you’d most likely be expected to marry them. The expectant father also sings a song imagining his child as either a boy or a girl and we talked about the different standards and expectations for boys and girls, particularly around issues such as teenage dating, and how many people still hold those double standards today.

I’m hoping that by the time Jessy and A are teenagers they’ll have developed plenty of useful skills around the home and it’s something I keep working on. A is quite resistant to doing things for herself when she’s with me which does cause a little conflict. She seems very quick to give up and declare herself incapable which I get frustrated by as I know she’s actually very capable indeed! Jessy is a bit unpredictable. Some days he will flat out refuse to even try doing something new for himself, where as other days he will happily embark on something unprompted. This week he decided to make himself an egg toastie for the first time, as I was very clear I wasn’t feeling well at all and was doing the essential things that needed doing but no more. Although I always cook a shared meal at dinner, lunch is a more ad hoc affair and I often make three different things. I felt very satisfied today as A got on with making herself a sausage toastie (after we’d overcome the initial phase of ‘I can’t’) Jessy chopped himself fresh mango and I did some noodles. Jessy went on to make himself a sausage toastie too although he forgot about it for several hours when he rescued a rather brittle, charred lump from the toastie machine! I take pleasure in seeing them achieve new things, they get a new sense of competence and it also makes life easier for me. It feels even more important with the baby coming as the more skills they have the less bumpy the transition will be if I need to expect more from them in the early weeks.

Sometimes, however, independence and confidence can go a little too far, such as this morning when Jessy happily declared that he’d gone to post a letter before I’d even woken up! I now let Jessy go to the ice cream van and the post box without me as he’s back from both within a couple of minutes at the most. He enjoys this new found freedom, but I honestly didn’t think he’d go without telling me! It scared me somewhat but I calmly made it very clear that he must not leave the house if I don’t know he is going and explained how frightened I would be if I woke up and discovered he wasn’t there. It honestly hadn’t crossed his mind that he shouldn’t do it!

This morning the kids made toys for the hamster and the gerbil. Jessy made a little hiding tunnel and A made a whole collection including a see saw, ladder and little hideouts. She’s planning to put them in the home made cage we are still investigating and planning. We will get there in the end!

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They also made wonderful whistles at Wood School. They were so effective I had to declare them as outdoor only toys!

It may be small, but it's loud! (Hmmm, a bit like Jessy!)

It may be small, but it’s loud! (Hmmm, a bit like Jessy!)

Today at Circus skills the kids tried some new things and carried on practicing for the show they’re performing in later in the month. The pets were cleaned out which seemed to result in a worse mess than before hand and did leave me wondering if I’m crazy thinking about new pets for Christmas!! We’ll be over run by critters! That’s all for this week.

Proud moments and party fun.

The highlight of this week for me has been the Doctor Who 5oth Anniversary Special! We went to see it at the cinema and I think I was even more excited than the kids. Jessy is a fan but A says she doesn’t really get it. Jessy dressed up in his dalek costume and brought about squeals of delight from many a Doctor Who fan. The cinema was packed and playing Doctor Who music throughout the building. I think they were showing it on several screens at once. There were good dollops of humour and a very clever plot twist which will allow lots of new possibilities for future episodes. I won’t add any spoilers!

The kids have been quite crafty this week. They both made little Worry Dolls at Wood School and later in the week Jessy brought home the beginnings of some Christmas crafts he’s carving and decorating. He’s finished Santa. One of the others is going to be an Elf and I think the other will be a Christmas tree. He also made a hedgehog out of a flour and water dough. It’s all about hedgehogs at the moment!

Worry Dolls

Worry Dolls

Santa Claus and two unfinished bits.

Santa Claus and two unfinished bits.

Jessy's hedgehog.

Jessy’s hedgehog.

We’ve also started our Christmas craft at home as I realised we’d better get a move on with the Advent Calendars. Last year Jessy and I made one for each other. This year I made one for A, she made one for Jessy and he made one for me. A enjoyed making them and is now making an extra one for her Mum. We all felt really happy and excited about them afterwards. It takes me back to my childhood when the excitement of advent calendars was the little picture rather than chocolate or toys. Having home made ones makes it even nicer. A has enjoyed finding inventive ways for the doors to open by cutting different shapes or altering the directions.

The calendar A made (top) and a Barbados themed one by Jessy (bottom)

The calendar A made (top) and a Barbados themed one by Jessy (bottom)

I’m really enjoying my new Thursday routine. After dropping the kids off at Wood School, I get a bus into town and grab some breakfast. Then I do a little Christmas shopping while the shops are still quiet. After that I wander down to Pregnancy Yoga at the Buddhist Centre. Last week I met a friend for lunch and this week I went downstairs to the vegan Earth Cafe for a delicious and healthy lunch. On the way home I spotted a little grocers selling pomelo, Jessy’s favourite fruit which can be hard to find, and sugar cane which I knew he’d love. He was very excited by both when he arrived home from Wood School. My friend S helpfully cut up the sugar cane – it’s as tough as tree bark! We all enjoyed some.

Sugar Cane

Sugar Cane

I enjoyed an evening with my friend M on Friday. She’d asked me to go through the basics of what I learned on the NVC (Non Violent Communication) course with her. It was good to get out the notes and refresh my memory. We then both tried an exercise using the ‘feelings’ and ‘needs’ cards. I thought about an incident which had upset me recently when I’d got very cross with the kids for not tidying the playroom when I told them to. I knew I’d handled it badly. Using the cards and some of the other techniques I’d learned, I managed to look at the situation from the perspective of my feelings and needs and then think about the children’s feelings and needs. I came out feeling more compassionate towards both myself and them, and it released a lot of the anger and tension I’d been feeling. I’d certainly like to learn and explore more about NVC.

We had a busy weekend with early morning starts both days. A had her end of term Stagecoach performance. Jessy and I popped to a local library and then a cafe while she had her final rehearsal. She’d missed 3 weeks of Stagecoach due to our holiday and other circumstances so she’d had very little time to learn or rehearse. Her group did a shortened version of The Wizard of Oz. A played background characters due to having missed so much time, but I was impressed at how well she’d picked up the routines. Jessy particularly enjoyed the performance of ‘Oliver’ done by children his own age.

A in the Emerald City.

A in the Emerald City.

On Sunday it was their friend’s birthday party – a Treasure Hunt in Dunham Massey Park. At first I thought my friend was brave to do an outdoor party in November, but as she pointed out, all the kids going attend Wood School so they’re used to being in the great outdoors in all weathers! I sat in the lovely cafe with a book while they all hurtled around the park. They all had a brilliant time and I joined them as the hot baked spuds and sweet potato chips arrived at the picnic area to warm everyone up! It was a great idea for outdoor party food.

Hot baked spuds in the park.

Hot baked spuds in the park.

Time for cake!

Time for cake!

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Fuelled by hot potatoes the kids all ran around catching the falling leaves in the park, and for the third time recently I smiled and thought how much I enjoy simple, non commercialised children’s parties and how much the kids enjoy them too.

Monday was the usual flurry of Wood School, Martial Arts and Scouts. Jessy and A were really excited as they got the second yellow band on their white belts which they weren’t expecting. They’ve been told that if they keep improving at the same rate they should earn their yellow belts after Christmas which they clearly felt proud about. Jessy decided to put on a weird and wacky outfit to collect A from Scouts and went out looking like this!:

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Today at Circus Skills they practiced plate spinning and after a lot of perseverance they both managed to get the plate spinning in the more difficult impressive way they were being taught – another proud moment! Jessy was rushing to finish his ‘Home Safety’ badge booklet before we left for Cubs and just managed it. I hope he’ll get away with it being a week late although as he said to me “I’m not really bothered about the badges.” He does seem to like it when he gets them though!

Free range gerbil & fractions.

It’s been back to Earth this week after our wonderful holiday. It all seems a bit like a dream. The icy weather has really been biting today and it really does feel a world away from the sunny beaches of Barbados, even though both are actually on Earth and very much in the same world really!

The kids were actually really happy to get back to Wood School, especially A who is still enjoying the newness of all the freedom and time to explore and play outdoors. I seem to have spent the week trying to catch up on the extra housework from being away. This sounds like a paradox but I’m sure I can’t be the only person who experiences this. Why is it that the less time you spend in the house, the more housework there seem to be? I think small pixies come into my home and create laundry, washing up and general chaos. One day I’ll catch them and put a stop to this nonsense!! I had some help with the housework from A today which I really appreciated. I often feel that it can be harder work getting the kids to pull their weight in the home than it is to get on and do it. The problem is that I really do need their help. We’re lucky enough to have a large house and I enjoy home educating and I’m even happy to be single at the moment. The combination of all these things, however, means that I really can’t manage it all on my own. Add in my ongoing pain issues and being pregnant and it leaves me feeling pretty grumpy a lot of the time recently. I noticed what an enormous difference it made to my mood when A did a wonderful job of tidying and dusting the living room. I felt relaxed and happy and genuinely appreciative. I’m looking forward to relaxing this evening in my living room rather than sighing and huffing and puffing in frustration at all the mess! I think it’s time to put a bit more effort into getting ‘Happy House Hour’ up and running again in order to reap the long term rewards.

Jessy isn’t having much luck with his pets this week. After the untimely demise of his poor cat Penny-Patch, his little gerbil Alicia then got loose in the kitchen. She’s been happily wandering free for a couple of days now. At first we were worried as there are large holes leading into the wall cavities. Jessy made a huge barricade out of boxes, chairs and washing powder boxes to try and stop her getting to the holes. It became rather difficult to come and go in the kitchen. We did fear that she was lost for good after not seeing her for a while but we’re now becoming familiar with her favourite hide outs, we just can’t catch her! I did manage to get her in a box but she leapt out again. I’m almost becoming resigned to having a free range kitchen gerbil although I’m not happy about the hygiene implications. I think we might have to resort to a humane mouse trap.

Jessy and Penny earlier this year.

Jessy and Penny earlier this year.

Alicia the escapee gerbil

Alicia the escapee gerbil

A is keen to start working towards some badges for Scouts which prompted us to have a look at the available badges for both Cubs and Scouts. I do wish they gave you a handbook like they did when I was young, nowadays you’re expected to look it all up online which doesn’t feel the same somehow. Jessy has decided to go for the Pet Care badge as he is already caring for his pets so he’s part way there. A found a Circus Skills badge which will tie in perfectly with the Circus Skills group they do on Tuesdays. She also decided to go for the Writers badge and sat down immediately to write a poem about going to Scouts. She’s really enjoying Scouts and had the benefit of their first trip away this Friday when she went caving. I was a little worried she’d get scared and not enjoy it as she can suddenly become anxious about all sorts of things. She arrived home though at nearly midnight full of excitement about her underground explorations. The next day she drew some pictures of the different things she’d seen and said she’d like to do some writing about the caves as part of her Writers badge work.

We had friends round to play on Saturday and again today. I feel like we haven’t had as many friends round recently so I’ve enjoyed seeing them play, although it did take quite a lot of effort to keep them all off the computers. I feel as if the screen time has stretched out a little and that Jessy and A haven’t been playing as much as they did previously. I think this often happens as the days get shorter and colder and every year I worry about it!

Jessy’s mind is still active though as he showed me today when he came to do a little mental division of fractions while I was doing the washing up. He’s always been good at spotting number patterns and he told me that if you want to work out half of a fraction you just have to leave the top number the same and double the bottom number. He asked me what half of 3/4 is and I went through a complicated process to work it out only for him to tell me he already knew because of the pattern. At first I told him it wouldn’t work for all fractions but then realised he’s quite right and it does always work! We tried some different ones and then tried simplifying the answers when necessary.

I finally made it back to circus skills after 3 weeks of hospital appointments on Tuesdays. It was lovely to see how much the children have improved, particularly on the trapeze. A has decided to steer clear of the trapeze now though as she fell off last week and was really struggling. Jessy surprised me today by agreeing to perform in the Christmas show! He’s never wanted to do anything like that before, but when he heard the performance is only 5 minutes long he felt he could manage that. I feel quite excited! A is going to be the Ring Master and Jessy is going to be on the trapeze with a friend.

Jessy has just got back from Cubs and after all my talk of badges we realised he completely forgot to complete his Home Safety Badge booklet which he was supposed to take back today! Ooops!

I’ve really noticed a change in the baby’s movements this week. I can actually feel kicks now rather than just squirms and my belly looks huge! I’ve been getting together a few bits and pieces including treating myself to some clothes from a brand called Molo which I adore! Here are my favourites!

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My version of buying ‘gender neutral’ just involves buying whatever I like, so I’ll either end up with a boy wearing ponies and pink or a girl wearing blue lizards! (and vice versa of course) Well, that’s it for this week.

Beautiful Barbados: A Home Ed Holiday

I’ve ended up with an unexpected child free day and night due to the hospital messing up my scan appointment date so I completely forgot it’s ‘Blog Night’ until now! It turns out my appointment is tomorrow rather than today (as the wrote on my notes) so the kids decided to stay over at their friends house rather than come home only to go back tomorrow anyway.

I didn’t write last week as we were doing our bit for World Schooling (that’s where people Home Educate whilst traveling the world, I read an article about it recently!) otherwise known as having a holiday in sunny Barbados! I’ve never been to the Caribbean before and this was a real treat to myself; a chance to relax in luxury before the baby comes and have a holiday to remember forever. It didn’t disappoint and really was like being in paradise. Actually the mosquitos would have to go – they have no place in paradise, but otherwise we’re good to go!

One of the great luxuries of Home Educating is being able to go on holiday outside of school holiday times (without the worries of fines and repercussions.) Schools seem to be getting stricter and stricter about children taking time out for holidays, and yet, it seems obvious to me that a holiday is such an enormous opportunity to learn. You’re immersed in a new place, a new culture, a new climate, possibly a new language and that’s before you even start ‘doing’ anything! So here’s a look at our holiday through a Home Ed lens:

I first took Jessy swimming when he was 4 months old and we’ve been regularly. Despite this he seemed to grow more wary of the water as he got older and has always has an intense dislike of water on his face which has hindered his progress and enjoyment somewhat when it comes to swimming. I bought a couple of snorkel sets for the holiday though and was really pleased to discover that the mask helped Jessy feel confident enough to finally put his face in the water. Once he got the hang of snorkeling there was no stopping him!

Ready to go snorkelling

Ready to go snorkeling

Face in the water!

Face in the water!

In between the copious amounts of relaxation (adults) and play (kids) we went on a few trips. The first was to Harrison’s Caves. It’s one of only 4 caves in the world that you can travel through on a tram which meant I could go, as my wobbly swollen legs wouldn’t have managed otherwise! Before we went into the cave we saw a film about how the island of Barbados was formed. It’s a young island in geological terms and is mostly formed from coral. We heard the story of how the first explorers crawled on their bellies in the dark in order to discover the phenomenal caves with huge open taverns. The guide talked about where the water in the caves comes from and how a lot of it is fresh enough to drink. We learned that stalagmites and stalactites form at a rate of 1cm per 200 years which was hard to comprehend when surrounded by some pretty large ones! These two, for example are expected to join up and form a column in about 20,000 years time. It made me feel like a rather insignificant little blip in the big scheme of things!

Only 20,000 years until we finally meet!

Only 20,000 years until we finally meet!

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051120131959Our next trip was on the Atlantis submarine. We took a boat ride to the submarine. A had never been on a boat before and none of us had ever been on a submarine. We were all impressed to discover it was a real submarine. A had asked if we would have to climb through a little hatch and down a ladder and I’d said I thought it was only like that in films, but sure enough that’s how we got in! We descended to 143ft which felt very exciting! There were lots of fish to spot, as well as a huge eel which looks green but we learned is actually blue but covered in yellow slime. In fact colour was one of the unexpected interesting things about being on a submarine. The kids soon noticed that all their clothes looked different colours. Greens went yellow, reds went purple and pale colours went white. Our tour guide explained that it happens because the water filters out many rays of light from the colour spectrum, so colours look different.

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We saw the eel shown in the bottom corner

Our final trip was a turtle spotting trip on a glass bottomed boat. We were taken quite a way out from the shore, first of all to see a sunken ship and secondly to look for turtles. We all put on life jackets and snorkel sets and climbed down the ladder at the back of the boat. Before we left A had adamantly said she would not snorkel out in the sea. No amount of attempting to alleviate her fears would change her mind. However, once we got out there she found her bravery and despite being nervous at first she turned out to be the most enthusiastic of everyone! It was quite hard work swimming back to the boat, but great fun being whizzed along the last few metres holding onto the float at the end of the rescue rope! The fish were spectacular – huge shoals of silver ones right near the surface, beautiful blue neon spotted black ones, pink and green ones, yellow and black striped ones – so many! My friend S spotted an enormous one the size of a small shark but I’ve forgotten it’s name. I saw it from the safety of the boat!

At first it looked as if we weren’t going to find a turtle and everyone was a bit disappointed. Going up and down the ladder was hurting my legs and the boat was making me seasick and we were about to head back. A, in her new found enthusiasm wanted one last snorkel though and as I pointed out, I’ve just spent 3 months feeling permanently sick so I could manage a few minutes more! It was lucky we stayed as the turtle emerged! There was a great flurry of shoving on snorkels as all the others rushed to get back in the water, mostly simply jumping in over the side of the ship. The turtle was coaxed to the surface so I saw it from the boat and the others swam out to be near it and even stroke it. A named it ‘Sylvester’ which the guides seemed to find amusing.

We enjoyed other wildlife during the week too. Every evening as the sun went down the crabs came out on the beach. The kids loved trying to catch them and eventually got this little fellow. A rather large one crawled into the swimming pool which gave us a good view! Apparently it happens a lot – it was still there the next morning!

One of the many crabs.

One of the many crabs.

We also saw this snail outside the caves. There were lots of others on the surrounding leaves.

A large snail.

A large snail.

One evening the kids were very excited to find a tiny turtle on the beach. A local man told us it must have hatched early as they aren’t usually around at this time.

Tiny turtle.

Tiny turtle.

I found some tiny millipedes only a few centimetres long. They’re probably quite regular sized millipedes really but our pet ones at home are about 8 inches long so they looked tiny to us!

The trips were wonderful, but as always I’m sure the kids learned just as much from the hours of cooperative play. They certainly didn’t lack for physical education either as their water acrobatics showed!

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It would be a shame to tell you what we got up to without showing you how beautiful our surroundings were, so here’s just a taster:

View from the hotel balcony.

View from the hotel balcony.

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Our homecoming was unfortunately a sad one as our cat Penny-Patch suddenly collapsed and died in the kitchen shortly after we arrived. She was only 3 years old and it was a huge shock. She was Jessy’s cat and having to take her to the vet and make decisions about her cremation was a very sad moment of learning.

While I got some much needed rest after an 8 hour flight, no sleep and unexpected trauma, the kids opened up the big bag of clay that had arrived the day we left for Barbados. A made a lovely collection of little hamsters and accessories but I could only find these ones to photograph. Jessy made a transmitting device and a smurf hat. I’m not sure what the others are!

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Well, it’s bedtime for me! Hope you enjoyed our Home Ed Holiday!

New knowledge and Missed Events.

We’ve enjoyed a few more days in lately. Some of them admittedly have been down to my disorganisation! I’m usually a pretty organised person when it comes to getting to events but in the past week we’ve managed to miss our film festival showing and a planned day out to the Manchester Science Festival. I feel a bit annoyed with myself as they were both important events in our Home Ed calendar. Despite booking the film a month or so ago and having it written on the calendar I only remembered we should have been there several hours after it finished! So we didn’t get to enjoy the ‘Earth’ documentary on the cinema screen. 😦 Today I’d planned for us to go to a ‘Planetary Odyssey’ which is part of the Manchester Science Festival. The excuse for this one is possibly even worse – there was too much house work to do. 😦 We’re going on holiday in a few days and I just can’t bear coming home to enormous mountains of laundry and beds that really need changing. The washing up pile had become so huge that we actually couldn’t eat lunch until I cleared it! So although it’s a bit of a rubbish theme for a Home Ed blog I think the theme of the week has to be disorganisation!! I hope I’m not alone and can find some solidarity with other Home Ed parents out there!

So what did we manage to do? I did remember to take them to Wood School. A is still really happy about being able to go on Thursdays now. This weekend I did an introductory course in NVC (Non Violent Communication). The teachers at Wood School use this form of communication, so the parents with children who attend were invited first to the course. I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time. The kids went to stay with my very good friend who has looked after Jessy on and off since he was about 4. They had a Halloween show and fireworks display to look forward to. I really enjoyed the two day course. It was taught by Penny Vine. (http://www.pennyvine.com/index.htm) She was wonderfully down to Earth and has a whole hoard of children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren so her experience is vast. I was pleasantly surprised that NVC seems to be a bit more flexible than I’d imagined and really can be used in any situation. Some of it was revisiting old ideas I have learned from parenting books over the years. I’ve felt the need to abandon a lot of my old ideas since realising that Jessy often needs a different approach that is more clear and structured with less complicated language. The course gave me hope that I can mix some of my old ideas with an approach that suits Jessy which felt so relieving and reassuring. I’ve already felt calmer and more thoughtful, although I’m under no illusions that it will turn me into a sudden saint!!

My friend picked me up with the kids and after making a quick stir fry at home we headed to our local park which had a fair and fireworks display. We’ve been lucky as it’s usually on in the first week on November when we’ll be away, but it’s early this year. The kids enjoyed some rides and I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t hear a single complaint about the fact the rides cost double this time but I gave them the same amount of money so they only got half the rides. A has been afraid of fireworks ever since she can remember but we were pleased to discover that this year she didn’t feel frightened anymore and she happily watched the display.

On the ghost train

On the ghost train

VIP ride!

VIP ride!

This week is half term so there was no Wood School yesterday. The kids were very interested in the cards I brought back from the NVC course. They show feelings and needs, with the idea being that our feelings are linked to a need or needs that are being met or unmet. So for example if you are enjoying time with friends you could find the feeling card for ‘Happy’ and the need card for ‘companionship’. The children’s pack is illustrated and uses simpler words. The teacher suggested that Jessy might find them useful. He struggles a lot to articulate his feelings verbally and even when he does I think it is often inaccurate. Children who find this hard, often find a visual aid useful. He did use the cards to tell me how he was feeling and which need he felt was being met. A was fascinated by them and we worked with them for about an hour. Here are some examples using the cards:

NVC children's cards

NVC children’s cards

A has also continued with her hamster projects. She’s very excited about her plans to build her own cage. We’ve had a few tricky moments with her struggling with the concept of needing to modify designs to suit your own purposes as she became very determined to copy the plan she’d seen to the letter. I think she is beginning to understand that we need to make a few changes (such as adding a lid because we have two cats and we don’t want the hamster to get eaten!) and gradually relaxing into the idea that a project often involves changes along the way. We visited the local pet shop to stock up on supplies and have a little look at the animals. The lady who runs the pet shop gave A some spare bars from bird cages to use in her projects. I’m wondering what she’ll create with them!

Today Jessy helped me to change all the bed covers. Usually I have a very sore back after doing the three beds and my back has got worse recently with being pregnant. He was a really big help which meant I wasn’t in nearly so much pain afterwards. We looked up ‘Barbados’ on the map and A proved she has more geographical knowledge than I do as I didn’t have a clue where to look but she found it using what she already knew.

When I realised we weren’t going to make it out to the Science Festival we decided to carve pumpkins instead. We had a hilarious journey home from the shop yesterday. I told the kids they could choose any pumpkin as long as they could carry it home themselves. A picked a huge one! Jessy picked one a little smaller, but proportional to his size, his was possibly even larger! Luckily they both found it very funny as they struggled and found places to stop and rest and tried not to drop them. They both got the giggles which made it even harder to hold on to them and by the time we got home we were all laughing!

Pumpkin hilarity!

Pumpkin hilarity!

This was the first year when both the kids designed and carved the pumpkins completely themselves. Jessy needed a little help scooping out all the pips and strings. He had great fun trying though and a good sense of humour about how little he managed to get out despite trying hard! A threw herself into the messy business and despite much face pulling seemed to enjoy it!

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I gave a few suggestions on how to create an outline but other than that the designs and carving were done with no help at all. A carved Jiji the cat from Kiki’s Delivery Service and Jessy carved a skull. We were all very pleased and impressed by the results:

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We’ve put them out on our porch. We’re going away for a week the day after Halloween so I’m terribly sorry but there will be no blog next week as I will be sunning my self on a Barbados beach! Woo hoo!!