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.

Media Madness and Domestic Bliss

My most successful attempt at getting Jessy involved in domestic chores has been ‘Happy House Hour’. We spend one hour on a Sunday doing housework together. I pick 6 different tasks and we do them for 10 minutes each. It’s an idea from ‘Fly Lady’. The aim isn’t to do things perfectly or get it all finished, just to get some stuff done. It’s a good way to introduce him to new tasks and the short time scale makes it feels manageable. This week he was nervous about mopping, but so proud of himself when he mastered it that he volunteered to do the next bathroom. In fact he’s been enjoying helping in the home this week. He decided he wanted to cook dinner for us and settled on bacon, chips and eggs. I reminded him how to put the gas hob on and reminded him about gas safety. He read the instructions on the chips, preset the oven and put the chips on the tray. Turning them over halfway through proved tricky but he didn’t give up! My niece and I helped out, I kept the bacon sizzling while Anais chopped carrots to give us some fresh veg. Jessy served it all up for us and was rightly proud of himself as we sat down to eat. He also had a new found appreciation for how much thought goes into cooking even a simple meal!

Dinner, mostly cooked by Jessy.

Dinner, mostly cooked by Jessy.

He also sorted out a load of laundry (I’m very particular about colour segregation!) and put it on. Later in the week he asked to bake biscuits. Baking has never held his interest for long, but this time he was very focused and did all the measuring himself. We used a recipe in a wonderful old book called ‘The Home Encyclopedia’ I found in a charity shop, which features an A-Z on how to be a domestic goddess! We had to do some conversions when it came to weights and oven temperatures. The biscuits were delightful and I ate far more than I should have done!

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The interesting conversations continue. Jessy’s mind is always fully awake before mine is and one morning he began talking about Global Conflict and what he believes causes it before I’d even woken up. I gradually emerged into consciousness as he told me that he thinks the problem lies in the fact that male animals are designed to fight for a mate but because human men no longer fight for a mate they end up fighting about other things instead and causing war and conflict. Taking on board his theory I mentioned territory as well, and we decided that War really is just a huge fight for territory. He then began to question why everyone in the world can’t have the same amount of things as that would be fair. I introduced the idea of communism (I hadn’t opened my eyes yet!) and said that some countries have tried it, and although it may seem fair it doesn’t seem to make people feel happy, as people don’t all want to be the same, and people like to have something to work for and wish for. I then flagged up the problems with Capitalism, explaining how a very few people have most of the world’s wealth, which doesn’t make people happy either. (eyes opening, but still lying down.) Jessy then excitedly declared that he’d had a great idea! He said that people who are rich should give more of their money to people who are poor. I explained about taxes and how it does work like that to some extent. He proposed a personalised taxation system, whereby individual rich people give to individual poor people. He said that a rich man should give money to a homeless man, but he should know which person it was going to. I think his idea is a lovely one, although sadly I don’t think it will catch on – particularly with this government. After that lighthearted start to my morning I got out of bed!

I’ve been wondering whether we need to cut something out of our weekly schedule. It’s lovely to spend so much time out at parks and with friends but I’m feeling the loss of our time at home. It’s the days at home which germinate the little seeds that makes autonomous education work. I’ve also realised that one day at home isn’t enough. Jessy and I are both introverts. We enjoy our social time, but we need to recharge our batteries by quiet time alone. Being busier has meant that when we do get a day in, we both only seem good to sit in our pyjamas and watch films! To some extent I’ve made my peace with this. One day a week I’m totally relaxing the screen time rules and letting us bask in a day of media filled relaxation. Now that I’ve made this ‘officially OK’ in my head I can keep a bit of an eye on what we’re watching.

We’ve had a screen day today. I bought a subscription to LanguageNut with a discount voucher code because they have the option of Japanese. It’s a programme designed for children Jessy’s age. He wasn’t sure at first, but once we got into the songs and games section he got really into it and learned all the vocab in the section he’d picked. He’s memorising the words written in Japanese characters too, even though he can’t actually read them properly. We’ve been singing the catchy little song ‘Nama-ay wa nan desu ka? Watashi wa John des. Annata wa?’ all day! (What is your name? My name is John? How about you?) After that Jessy watched a couple of episodes of his ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’ DVD which was a firm favourite years ago but hasn’t been watched for a while. He then played games pretending to be a dinosaur and acting out some of what he’d learned. I got out the huge dinoaur book which we haven’t looked at in a while too. We’ve also watched a guided tour of a space station which was another one thrown up on Facebook and well worth a watch:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/suni_iss_tour.html

Although it’s a lot to clock up in one day we’ve definitely both been learning! I know what Jessy would pick as his best media moment of the week though. I finally caved in and decided to let him watch the Harry Potter films. We’re still only about half way through the Goblet of Fire, so finishing the series is a long way off. He’s also picked up so many details of the films and stories from his friends who have read and/or seen the whole lot, that there’s very little of importance he doesn’t already know, despite my best efforts! I don’t want him to lose interest before he gets a chance to see them either. With the later ones the films are just the bare skeleton of the stories anyway. It’s very interesting to compare the two as well. His other favourite video of the week has been the story of Peverell brothers. It’s a Harry Potter related story, and is a fairytale told to young witches and wizards and features in ‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard’. It has a pleasantly haunting sound and I haven’t minded the repetitive listening!

The other new feature has been ‘The Hookman’ computer game from the “Campfire Legends’ series. I didn’t realise the one we already have is the 2nd in the series, so this gave us the background. It’s a spooky style hidden objects game, with lots of logic puzzles. Jessy is usually better at them than I am! This game has been the inspiration for his writing this week. It seems the spooky scientist is spying on us and keeps putting notes through the letterbox! Jessy made a specific request to play chess this week. He plays when he goes to Sheffield, and he was showing off the new tips he’d picked up. We were lucky to have  a lovely sunny day, so we played chess in the sunshine:

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We’ve still enjoyed lots of time out and about in various parks as usual but I’ve enjoyed doing other things too. Sometimes I feel as if I’m always trying to strike the right balance, but when I really think about it, things are rarely completely balanced. The scales tip one way, and then another and often hover around. I just need to remember that that is ok.

Jessy and Anais climbing in Hulme Park.

Jessy and Anais climbing in Hulme Park.