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.

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!

Monster Babies & Contented Calf

We’ve had some exciting arrivals this week (not quite as exciting as the real live people arrivals we had last week though!) Jessy and A have been eagerly awaiting the special commission of monster babies they put in with Ames Likes Toast (https://www.facebook.com/ameslikestoast?fref=ts) As they were made to order it’s taken a few weeks but judging by the squeals of excitement followed by hours of play they were worth the wait!

The new babies

The new babies

Dexter, Mertle, Frank, James, Jess, Rufus, Alfie and Seb.

Dexter, Mertle, Frank, James, Jess, Rufus, Alfie and Seb.

Continuing the letter writing theme, both Jessy and A sat down to write thank you letters for the new babies. A included a comic in hers. She was very excited when, in a few days time, a picture of her letter appeared on the Ames Likes Toast Facebook page! Unfortunately Jessy’s letter hasn’t arrived yet. It’s a real shame, but we’re hoping it might turn up late. They’ve been writing so many letters that I’ve stopped checking the envelopes. I also allow them to go on their own to the nearest post box as it only takes a couple of minutes and they only have to cross side streets, so they quite frequently rush off to post things I haven’t seen. Jessy used to check the address with me, as although he can be careful with his writing, it can sometimes to be difficult to read and we’ve talked about how that can cause problems with letters reaching their destination.

Writing more letters mean that the children have also started to receive letters. They want to keep them safe so they’ve made letter boxes to store them in. Jessy made his on one of their visits to Dennis’s house. It’s very shiny and I love the hearts and ribbon. 🙂

Jessy's letter box.

Jessy’s letter box.

I had my own exciting arrival. An old friend from Uni has written a book of wonderful recipes designed to increase breastmilk production. She has a website and a blog at http://www.contentedcalf.com I’ve had my eye on the book ever since it was first published and always intended to get a copy once I was pregnant. I was excited when it arrived along with a cute babygro.

The Contented Calf Cookbook.

The Contented Calf Cookbook.

My mouth was literally watering while I read the recipes and it’s so comforting to think that by eating delicious food I could help my milk supply. I had a lot of problems with breastfeeding last time around. It’s so important to me that I persevered through some very very trying times but it has left me anxious, and anything I can do to help myself out this time around is very welcome. I have a good friend who has agreed to cook me up the recipes to put in my freezer before the baby is born. Luckily all the recipes are designed to freeze well!

At the weekend we went to a friend’s Pirate party. Even I took the chance to dress up. It was one of those lovely simple parties, with simple games and time to play and a bouncy castle. In my experience these parties tend to work the best and they all had a good time. Jessy won Musical Bumps! We’d had to get a couple of buses to get there and when we arrived back in Manchester City Centre, A remembered the large music shop we’d noticed and asked if we could go in. She enjoyed browsing the pianos and keyboards and looking at the music books. She tried out a few little tunes.

A trying out a tune from the Disney songs book.

A trying out a tune from the Disney songs book.

Jessy has never shown much interest in learning to play music so he entertained himself by trying to pull faces before I could take a picture. He succeeded!

Oooh-arrrgh, look at me tongue!

Oooh-arrrgh, look at me tongue!

Mondays have suddenly got very busy for A. She has Wood School, then her and Jessy do Martial Arts, then straight afterwards she has Scouts. This was her first week at Scouts. She really enjoyed it and came back excited about a Caving Trip they have planned for next month which will also earn her her first badge. The busy day is made much easier now that their friend does Martial Arts too which means they get a lift back from Wood School. We enjoyed sitting down to dinner with friends again. They introduced us to something fun, where each person shares the best part of their day, the worst part of their day and the funniest part of their day. We had some good laughs! We had more good news today that A can also start Thursday Wood School as from this week. A is really happy about this and it will make things easier for me too as I now have my two free days again.

I got out for afternoon tea with friends at the gorgeous Richmond Tea Rooms. (http://www.richmondtearooms.com/) Cake with friends is always a good way to recharge the batteries! The kids weren’t with me today as I had an antenatal appointment and Dennis took them out, and then to Circus Skills so I ended up with a day to myself. Today was taken up with washing up and lying in bed with a headache though! The kids came home enthusiastic about walking the tightrope! That’s all for this week.

Tribes and Trapeze

I have so much more energy this week which is great. The horrid exhaustion has gone along with the permanent nausea and I feel as if I’m nesting. Unfortunately for the kids I think it means I’m even more of a nag about housework than usual! So what have we been uo to this week? I recently bought a box set of the ‘Tribe’ documentary series aired on BBC a few years ago. I really enjoyed it at the time and was reminded of it when Jessy and I looked at pictures of Tribal tattoos. It has a 15 rating which I wouldn’t usually consider letting him watch. However, having seen the series before I felt it would be appropriate as long as I watched them with him to explain anything he didn’t understand. There is a lot of violence in many of the Tribes featured and many people live naked which I believe is the reason for the high rating. It’s a world away from a violent 15 rated film containing nudity though! Both Jessy and A have really enjoyed them. They’ve both been most squeamish about the blood letting and blood drinking in a couple of the episodes.

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On Monday they went to Wood School feeling inspired by the programmes to try making some arrows and fighting sticks like the ones they had seen. I mentioned it to one of their teachers who said she was sure they could facilitate that. A came home with a very impressive bow and arrow she had made, that worked wonderfully. Unfortunately she lost the arrow while playing with it in some bushes before we even got home. Apparently the arrows have to be made from very straight strong sticks which can be hard to find but I’m hopeful she’ll be able to make a replacement next week.

At home the children have done a lot of letter writing. Jessy often writes letters to people he’s close to and has an ongoing letter dialogue with Dennis who we see regularly. His letters are very often Hogwarts inspired, detailing term start dates and who might be enrolling at the school. A decided that she would like a Pen Pal and I felt sure that other Home Ed kids would probably enjoy that too so I put up a message on one of the Home Ed Facebook groups I’m on. We got a reply within less than a minute from the Mum of a girl who is the same age and has many of the same interests. Interestingly, she also goes to school at the moment so they will have that in common too once A goes back. A was so pleased to have a new Pen Pal she wrote a letter before she even knew her name! The wax sealing stamps have been hugely popular this week again and they’ve gone through almost two whole sticks!

Letter for a new Pen Pal.

Letter for a new Pen Pal.

The renewed popularity of the wax stamps has meant that they’ve wanted to turn the gas hob on and off many times a day which has been a good opportunity to give reminders about doing it safely and sensibly. A can be very cautious, but she’s gone from being quite scared and flustered to being able to light the gas ring calmly and confidently. I’m pleased as I think a calm confidence is safer than being flustered and uncertain. We also extended the theme to give A the opportunity to practice striking a match and lighting a candle. Again, she was keen to try but very nervous at first. I let them gain some confidence by burning a few matches over a sink of water to ensure it was safe. I think they would have gone through the box but I wanted to be clear that whilst knowing how to use a match safely for useful purposes is important, they are not to be played with simply for the fun of it.

The crocheted monster game is still going strong and this week they decided to make robot staff for the little world the monsters live in. Since Jessy was very young it has been quite common for him to leave new things untouched on a shelf for up to a year before taking an interest. He was given a robot craft kit for Christmas last year and has shown no interest in it until he suddenly took it down from his bookshelf and built lots. He shared them with A as she had used her kit a while ago and shared hers with other friends. They made some cute and quirky little robots.

Robot staff.

Robot staff.

The Harry Potter theme is still a constant in the background in our house. A has been very excited to finally finish reading ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’ and Jessy is steaming ahead towards the end of ‘Order of the Phoenix’. They have watched a couple of the films this week. They developed a habit of watching a film in the mornings when I was so tired out in my first trimester. I relaxed the ‘no screens’ rule in the mornings as I needed the rest and they needed some compensation! We all love films and I don’t really object to them watching a film either. This week they have been inspired to make their own Harry Potter film. Jessy started a video series a while ago based on the book he was writing ‘Jessy McAlister and the Secret Monster’. A offered to help him expand on it. With her experience in theatre from Stagecoach, she helped provide some structure and created a simple script for them to follow. I even got to play myself in the story telling them to get their books ready for Hogwats (Jessy’s imaginary school for little witches and wizards). They were very dedicated and kept persevering even though they had problems with the recording device and had to keep starting again.They had a 10 minute long little film in the end which we all watched.

Today we went to something new – Circus Skills. New activities can often be very difficult for Jessy and we tend to stick to what he knows. However, on this occasion two of his best friends were going and the plan was to go along after they’d both come to our house for a bit. A is often keen to try new things and having her around always seems to help Jessy’s confidence too. I was really pleased that he was happy to go along and join in. We were lucky because the group was going to be cancelled but when our friend said we had 4 children who wanted to come she agreed to put it on. She also put the word out on our Home Ed e-mail list and another 4 friends also turned up. They all had a great time trying juggling and the trapeze.

Jessy's first go on the trapeze.

Jessy’s first go on the trapeze.

A's first go.

A’s first go.

At first they were taught how to do ‘the pike’ and then how to go from a pike into hanging upside down. I could tell this part was a lot more nerve racking. Jessy looked quite anxious and A seemed positively terrified! They both managed it though and everyone clapped for all the kids.

Jessy upside down

Jessy upside down

A upside down.

A upside down.

As for me, I feel like I’ve spent most of the week tidying. I have a friend coming to visit tomorrow with her two daughters. I’ve never actually met her before but we’ve got to know each other over the years, first on a parenting forum and then over the phone. I do like the house to look nice if possible when new people come to visit so it’s been a great excuse to clear some rooms that have been abandoned for a while and get on top of things a bit more. I’m feeling very pregnant considering I’m only 15 weeks! I felt the baby move for the first time when I was in the bath which was very exciting. I’ve decided to start taking ‘bump’ pictures as I already have a big one! I didn’t look anything like this at this stage with Jessy! I have to admit that too much scoffing has definitely added to it, but I think I actually look pregnant too. You can make up your own mind!

15 weeks. Bump!

15 weeks. Bump!