Another year older

Yes, I am another year older! The waiter at my birthday meal asked in all seriousness if it was my 15th birthday and refused to believe I was 36 until several of my friends verified it. This has been happening for so long now that I just find it annoying! It was my birthday on Friday and I decided to celebrate with a day of delicious food! I met a friend for lunch at Richmond Tea Rooms (with the kids of course) It’s one of my favourite little places to go in Manchester and even though pregnancy has diminished my love of both tea and cake, I still wanted to go as it’s so lovely. I treated myself to the Queen’s Tea – a platter of finger sandwiches, mini cakes and pastries and a big scone. Delicious!

Richmond Tea Rooms

Richmond Tea Rooms

We went home to watch a film (Sister Act 2, which incidentally is rubbish which was a bit disappointing as I love Sister Act.) In the evening we walked over to the Nawaab – an excellent Indian Buffet that often caters for wedding parties. The staff kept pestering me about people being on time which stressed me out as I am a very punctual person – lateness makes me anxious. However, my bunch of Home Ed hippy friends (as I affectionately call them) don’t seem to have this problem and usually arrive in dribs and drabs at various times only vaguely relating to the actual time agreed! Eventually I had to stop wringing my hands and looking at the door and just go and get some food! They all got there in the end and the latest one did have the very good excuse that she’d been baking me a cake. Every year she bakes me one of her amazing Guiness Cakes and this years was a particularly fine vintage!

Birthday buffet

Birthday buffet

At the Nawaab with lots of friends.

At the Nawaab with lots of friends.

I was surprised by how many wonderful presents I got. Someone even got me a pink suitcase to take them all home in! One friend bought me packets of jelly and jelly babies which really made me laugh. Anybody following my secret jelly saga on Facebook will understand! The first baby clothes arrived too – my favourite was the cow print babygro. I think my best present of all though was my friend Peej coming home from Canada. I was so excited to see her I just squealed and jumped on her!

Anyway, enough about me! I feel as if we’ve taken things easy this week although the kids always seem to be busy at home. A has been creating a play pen for her hamster. Unfortunately the hamster doesn’t seem too appreciative and simply climbs out as soon as he’s put in! She’s working on constructing higher walls! Jessy and A both did a little bit of sewing, making little toys with button eyes. Jessy managed to thread his own needle this time which is progress.

They gave me a lovely surprise the day after my birthday. They’d been working hard on tidying the playroom and that morning they cleared it completely and then A hoovered the whole room. Thy did a really good job and it was a genuinely lovely surprise as the mess has been getting on top of me recently and I do feel more relaxed when things are a bit tidier. Mess really is an inevitable part of home education and I wish it didn’t bother me quite as much as it does!

I made the most of my one days off while both the kids are at Wood School. I forgot to say last week that Wood School has found a temporary place for A on a Monday which really helps. I browsed round charity shops which is a favourite ‘day off’ pass time of mine. I found sticky toffee cheddar on a market stall which I adore but very rarely find. I also decided that if other people have bought me baby clothes I can get some too. I found a little babygro with stars and a robot on and a little hoody jumper which says ‘Think Outside the Box’ on it. I’m not a fan of designer clothes, but even I couldn’t resist the TK Maxx bargain of something with an RRP of £70 reduced to £7! I met my friend M for lunch and very much enjoyed the adult conversation. We always seem to have interesting and in depth chats. Today’s topic turned out to be how you would feel if you fell in love with someone of a different gender to the one you are usually attracted to. It obviously only works if you are pretty much monosexual but we enjoyed mulling it over!

We played ‘Destination Hogwarts’ one afternoon. Jessy and I have only played it once before and A had never played. It’s a fairly simple game based on working out the quickest route to your various destinations collecting house points and hoping to stay out of trouble. We decided to take out the two cards that result in someone leaving the game as we just don’t think it’s fun.

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A seemed amused that when she won Jessy and I sung ‘Congratulations and Celebrations!’ to her and she asked why we do it. It’s something I developed with Jessy years ago. It can be hard for young children to enjoy others winning, however a poor loser is no fun for anyone. Whenever someone else won the game I would clap and cheer and say ‘Congratulations!’ with a big smile and it developed into singing a song. It puts a pleasant and fun atmosphere at the end of the game, whoever wins, and gives something fun for the losers to join in with. It’s become a habit now and it’s one I’m happy to keep.

The other thing that stands out about this week was out evening of silliness. It’s easy to underestimate the importance of silliness and how much children enjoy it when you join in. After dinner one evening A created some spontaneous art with her leftover sauce. It was a portrait of Ron Weasley but we soon all started giggling because Ron’s eyes did look rather a lot like boobs! We came up with silly names for him!

Ron Boobley

Ron Boobley

That set the tone really and then Jessy started making silly faces with his chips while A messed around.

Super silliness!

Super silliness!

In the end the kids were almost falling over laughing as they dropped the contents of the fruit bowl into the hood of my jumper one by one! I then pretended to be annoyed and started running at them pretending I was going to throw various objects at them. The more I put into my role the more they laughed – I think Jessy’s favourite was the kitchen roll holder complete with unravelling kitchen roll! By that point they actually were on the floor rolling around laughing! It felt good to all be silly and laugh together.

I’m happy to say that A has had a lot more energy for fun and laughs since being out of school. Sometimes I think the times where it seems the least is happening – the days like today where they didn’t get dressed until just before dinner and spent all day playing with crocheted monsters and watching The Sound of Music – those are the days that refuel you, that leave your mind refreshed and happy and ready to keep thinking and working and figuring out the world.

MOSI Monsters!

Life must be feeling more manageable because here I am on blogging Tuesday actually writing my blog! Hooray! Last week my head was filled with school. As a home educating Mum I can safely say that my brief dabble into this world has left me feeling never more happy about home educating. The super early morning 5 days a week SUCK! The constant keeping on top of school uniform SUCKS. The sending a child away at the crack of dawn knowing I won’t see her until late in the afternoon for no good reason that I can fathom SUCKS. Most of all the exhausted, morose, grumpy, headache filled, unsmiling child who arrives home and stays until bedtime SUCKS. That part sucks in a really sad way. I don’t recognise that child. Does school take your happy, vibrant, enthusiastic children and lock them in a cupboard somewhere while they send you  a re-programmed clone hoping you won’t notice? I am very happy that as from yesterday I don’t have to send her to school for a couple of weeks or so. Thank goodness her school has been reasonable about it. I will say in their favour that the staff have been very understanding and helpful in this difficult situation. Some parts of the conversations have been interesting – they talk about how well my niece does at school and how she must get back as soon as possible, and I talk about how well she’ll do being home educated as she’s so motivated and full of ideas. At least we have the best common goals possible though – A’s happiness, education and well being.

I’d say our Home Education all together began on Sunday. The Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) celebrated it’s 30th birthday this weekend and they held special events to celebrate. A was quite grumpy about going the evening before and kept complaining that she didn’t want to. I explained that home education doesn’t take place Monday to Friday at set times like school and that one of my jobs is to look for interesting events for us to go to. I’ve wondered about what would happen if I home educated A full time. I have read enough of other people’s experiences to know that a period of de-schooling is very common. It’s a time where the child just wants to relax and enjoy being free from the shackles of school. They may appear to ‘do nothing’ and actively resist anything obviously educational. The difficulty for me is that I wouldn’t have two children going through the de-schooling process at the same time. Jessy has never had to de-school and I’d already got rid of most of my schooly ways of thinking before Jessy was even school age! In the end I did say that I couldn’t have Jessy miss out on an experience because she didn’t want to go.

Whilst A has some truly terrible mood swings lately they don’t last long, and once we arrived at the museum and it had the busy bustling feel of a big event her innate enthusiasm and interest took over and she was happy and keen. We got badges and signed in with a special swipe card on a machine that took your photo and projected it onto a sculpture of screens. We caught a talk about transport part way through and A was chosen to get involved in the demonstration about engines (or was it planes? Hmmm, I was paying more attention to getting a photo than to the talk I think!)

A taking part in the show.

A taking part in the show.

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Moving on we caught another part of a talk about Manchester’s cotton mills where they turned on some of the old machinery. It sounded pretty treacherous for the poor kids who worked there. I was surprised to learn that Manchester used to weave and dye 70% of the world’s cotton! The damp atmosphere made it ideal. Nowadays Manchester produces medical cotton textiles and we saw examples of cotton arteries and shoulder replacements that are used today.

A talk on Manchester's cotton mills.

A talk on Manchester’s cotton mills.

Heading out we heard a lovely choir singing and stopped to listen. We noticed a Home Ed Mum we know was in the choir too. They sang songs from around the world which we all enjoyed.

The choir.

The choir.

The children’s favourite part was the ride in the simulator. They very rarely put it on and on every other occasion Jessy hasn’t been tall enough so he has waited years for that ride! I was sensible and stayed out as it said not to ride if you’re pregnant. I only had a minor sulk as I love simulators and didn’t really see what harm it could do, but better safe than sorry. They were offering a special ticket which included reduced price into the 4D cinema show so we went to that afterwards and got very wet faces in our underwater adventure!

We rounded off the day in the Air and Space Hall which has been a favourite of Jessy’s for years. We even had his 6th birthday party there. We found a larger version of the wheelchair motorbike our friend Dennis has:

The wheelchair motorbike.

The wheelchair motorbike.

They couldn’t resist a quick climb afterwards (almost always on things that are not really supposed to be climbed!) and then we headed to Barburrito for some dinner.

Time for a quick climb.

Time for a quick climb.

It was a good day apart from Jessy leaving his coat on the tram which we haven’t been able to get back.

Today’s plan was the visit our local library. It was due for closure but the local residents raised such a successful campaign that it has stayed open despite near by ones not surviving. I haven’t made use of libraries since we moved back to Manchester. A was very keen to go. Unfortunately when we arrived we discovered it is shut on a Tuesday. To make up for the disappointment I suggested we do the Volcano kit I found in a charity shop a while ago. At first the kids wouldn’t concentrate and I got very grumpy and refused to do it with them. After calming down on Facebook though we went back to it. We started with a little mini volcano to show the principle of how the bigger one will work.

A mini volcano.

A mini volcano.

Then the kids painted the volcano, first with a whitewash and then colours. The little paints from the kit were old and dried up but we have acrylics which worked well.

Painting the volcano.

Painting the volcano.

We didn’t have time to do the next part before dinner so it’s been put away for another day.

A firm favourite at the moment are the little crocheted toys the kids bought with their pocket money from a stall at the Whitworth event. They are made by a little company called Ames Likes Toast ( http://www.facebook.com/ameslikestoast or folksy.com/shops/ameslikestoast ) and they are adorable. They offered to show me the little world they have created for them and I really enjoyed the tour so I’ll share it with you. Meet Mertle and Dexter the monsters, Frank the penguin and his little monster friend James. Mertle and Dexter found love after moving in with us and were recently married. They have now set up home and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of twins.

Newlyweds, Mertle and Dexter enjoying a smooch in their kitchen.

Newlyweds, Mertle and Dexter enjoying a smooch in their kitchen.

As responsible parents to be they have already arranged the nursery although apparently they haven’t decided whether to have the twins sleep together in the nursery or whether they will co-sleep with them in their room. The nursey already has a fully stocked toy box for the little twins:

Looking forward to the babies' arrival in the nursery.

Looking forward to the babies’ arrival in the nursery.

During the day Dexter works as a bug delivery man, delivering unusual exotic, preserved bugs which he has collected from childhood. His work van can seat up to four and is ideal for transporting the precious bugs:

Dexter and Mertle off on a delivery.

Dexter and Mertle off on a delivery.

Meanwhile, Frank and James are at the pioneering edge of science. They already own an impressive transportation device. Frank has suffered for his work, however, and is currently using a wheelchair after an accident involving the transportation device.

James prepares to transport Frank.

James prepares to transport Frank.

Frank (in his wheelchair) and James in the transportation room.

Frank (in his wheelchair) and James in the transportation room.

They are currently working on a space rocket in their spare time:

Working on the construction of the space rocket.

Working on the construction of the space rocket.

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

Frank also holds down a day job working with preserved bugs in an office, so he’s earned his rest by bedtime!

Frank and James in bed after a busy day.

Frank and James in bed after a busy day.

Frank and James, although not in a relationship have decided they would like to co-parent together and are hoping for two children.

It’s always good to see the ‘mess’ through fresh eyes, and this time I actually know what is going on rather than guessing as I did in my Sneak Peak blog!

Time to get the little darlings from Cubs soon. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Jessy that he got a place on the October Activity Camp. They can only take the first ten children to hand the form in so he literally ran in today clutching his envelope as he really wants to go!

Difficult times but life goes on.

It feels like so long since I had a chance to write here. It’s been a difficult time. What should have been a lovely summer holiday turned into a time of family crisis and yet again I have felt so much gratitude for the wonderful people around me who have pulled together to offer support when it was really needed most. Jessy and his cousin (who has lived with us for most of the summer) spent almost 2 weeks on and off living with a good friend of mine. She already has a chaotic life and 3 children but she opened her home happily to two more and put in so much effort to help the children have a good time at what must have been a worrying time for them. I went to stay with my sister who has been very unwell and in need of constant care for a while. It stretched me to my limits, but another wonderful friend stepped in and filled the house with her happy singing and wonderful home cooked meals. She cooked enough food to feed a family for weeks and as she put it ‘played Tetris with the fridge and freezer’. She also found time to nurture me a little and help keep me strong while we all had days where we wondered if the light at the end of the tunnel would ever show. The light still seems small but it is growing a little every day. Other friends drove around and bought shopping and visited when I couldn’t be there.

My niece is still living with us for the immediate future which has thrown me into an unexpected place – the World of School! How do people survive here? Preparing for school was a mission in itself! Every day a new thing was added to the list. The saga of trying to find school skirts went on and on and she still only has two that aren’t quite the right fit! Only today she came home with the news that she needs a lacrosse stick! I thought lacrosse went out sometime around the 1950s because too many people lost half a mouthful of teeth and approached adulthood with a crooked nose. It appears not! Yet again, a wonderful friend has come to the rescue and takes A to school on his way to work. It does feel strange sending her off in the morning while Jessy and I get on with Home Edding. She will get to join us for a while though as the friend who takes her to school is having surgery and will need a couple of weeks to recover. Luckily the school have found a way for her to be temporarily home educated and Wood School has given her a temporary place on Mondays so I will still get one day off to keep me sane!

We have managed to have some good days in between the worry and upset. I arranged back up care for my sister and we went away for a weekend for my ex’s wedding. It was held at a beautiful country house in Lincolnshire. We stayed for two nights and it was a very welcome break as well as a chance to catch up with old friends and meet some new people. Jessy was the Ring Bearer and A was the flower girl. A isn’t a girly-girl and she really didn’t want to wear a dress so her and Jessy wore matching suits and they looked amazing! They took their roles seriously and although they were both nervous I know they felt very proud participating. Jessy told one guest that he was ‘excited about being professional’. It was a lovely little break and the kids had great fun exploring the 13 bedroom house and the grounds. We stayed up in the clock tower.

The Ring Bearer and the Flower Girl.

The Ring Bearer and the Flower Girl.

Our arrival home was probably the worst time. My sister had taken a sudden turn for the worse. We’d been due to go on a holiday to Wales with friends the next day to stay in wooden huts in the wilderness. Instead the kids had to pack bags and get taken back to my friend’s house even though it was late and past their bedtime. They were so wonderful about it. Jessy said to me ‘well Lucy, that’s life’ and asked if we could go next year. A said she’d been really looking forward to the holiday but made no word of complaint. They really have been super stars. The next morning I woke to photos on my phone that made me smile. My friend D had created a camping holiday for them in the back garden by turning the trampoline into a tent using blankets. They’d made a real wood fire and sang camp songs and roasted marshmallows. It was such a great idea.

I finally got back to the children almost a week later. We went to a fun event at Whitworth park marking the closing of Whitworth Art Gallery for a year. There were activities and craft stalls and music. Jessy amused me by finding the Wood School staff with his teachers and making a wooden medal as his first activity. He must have made a hundred similar ones at Wood School already! A made a little wooden table and chair.

Jessy's medal

Jessy’s medal

We watched with interest through the day as a large wicker sculpture took shape. It was only after many hours when we saw the head being created that we realised it was a torso of a pregnant woman. Quite appropriate!

The pregnant woman sculpture (minus her head!)

The pregnant woman sculpture (minus her head!)

We sat in deck chairs eating home made ice cream from the ice cream van we’ve come across at a few events and watched a man recreating a piece of art work from the gallery using food bought in Rusholme. It smelt as lovely as it looked!

Replicating artwork

Replicating artwork

The trees were all hung with umbrellas which looked beautiful in a surreal way.

Tree umbrellas!

Tree umbrellas!

On another day we visited a very interesting pet shop not far from us. I always feel a little uneasy about going in there as they keep marmoset monkeys and a crocodile amongst other things. It is a fascinating place though and I have never seen such a changing array of unusual animals in one shop. This week they had albino hedgehogs, a sphinx kitten, a Jerboa (a giant gerbil) and a scorpion amongst many other things. Jessy fell in love with a newly hatched bright pink corn snake and insisted that he NEEDED it! I told him that I would want him to research corn snakes and to show me that he has a continued interest in and responsibility for his existing pets. He has really risen to the challenge. He produced a corn snake project which is probably the most writing he has ever done in one go. He’s also made more effort to try and hold his gerbil even though we are left with the very shy one who is almost impossible to catch. He moistens the millipedes every morning without fail and holds them a little each day too. Having looked into the cost of a corn snake set-up I have said it would have to be a Christmas present, but his efforts have certainly earned my consideration.

On the way home the kids pleaded to pop into Jessy’s Nana and Uncle’s house to see their new kitten who we haven’t met yet. The kitten was a little shy but they did get to see him. Even more entertaining than the kitten though was Nana’s flash cotton display. If you’ve never seen flash cotton it is a substance that burns in a super quick bright flash. She gave several demonstrations and I even managed to capture the flash moment!

Flash cotton

Flash cotton

Burn baby burn!

Burn baby burn!

Jessy spent a long time plucking up the courage to have a go with much encouragement. He finally decided to do it holding the piece of flash cotton between two keys. His instinct was the hold the cotton over the flame and his Nana explained why it is safer to put in in at the side of the flame.

Another day Jessy spent a long time making his Jessy-mobil using the old childhood favourite of a cardboard box. He put a lot of thought into what to do, from which controls he needed to how to create an opening door. He also came up with an ingenious idea to make it move which I never would have thought of. He cut two holes in the front which he pushed his legs through enabling him to use his feet to scoot across the floor!

The Jessy mobil.

The Jessy mobil.

With A back at school and Jessy back at Wood School the summer holidays are properly over. It’s been a worrying time, but as Jessy said ‘that’s life’, so we keep on trying to make the best of it. Today that has involved a typically home ed eclectic mix ranging from playing Scattergories and Munchkin to reading the book ‘Tribe’ from the BBC series and doing Japanese reading drills. It’s a good kind of life all in all.

By pinkylucy