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.

An exciting visit for everyone!

Hello again! The day after I wrote my last blog was very exciting. Years ago I used to be part of a lovely parenting forum called “I want my Mum’. When it closed down several of us became friends on Facebook and I ended up chatting to a lovely Mum called Clare. We began talking on the phone and found that we could happily spend hours wittering away. We’ve been hoping to meet up for years now but one thing and another got in the way and it never happened. Until Wednesday! She drove up with her two daughters aged 9 and 5 and we planned to spend the day together with the possibility of them sleeping over if the kids got on well. We were both so pleased with how well they got on. We eased the way for them with a bit of ‘giant Minecraft’ (playing Minecraft on our 60” TV) which always goes down well with fans! I think they spend the next two days jumping on and off our giant bean bag whilst singing loudly. They were all very happy, not counting the occasional heart aches of a left out or roughly handled 5 year old which Clare always handled with a lovely sensitivity. I always really appreciate being around thoughtful and kind parents. With the children occupied Clare and I were free to talk and talk and talk and .. well… talk! I’d forgotten to plan extra food into my shopping but luckily I had enough sausages to go round and made a big bundle of mash with lashings of gravy and runner beans and everyone was happy. Well almost everyone – there has to be one child who rejects the greens but I won’t tell who! 😉 The kids decided they all wanted to squeeze into Jessy’s room, so we rolled out the sleeping bags and let them get away with giggling and wriggling for an hour or so before insisting on some peace! Clare and I clearly hadn’t talked enough because we carried on for several more hours until I finally had to call it quits and go to bed at gone 1am!

We meet at last!

We meet at last!

Jessy with new friends.

Jessy with new friends.

The next afternoon all the children were swapping addresses and promising to be Pen Pals and I felt sad to see them go. It’s especially lovely when someone who already seemed lovely turns out to be even lovelier in real life – and that’s a lot of loveliness! Jessy missed Wood School which I wouldn’t usually do, but as I have no idea when Clare and the girls might be able to visit again as they’re not local, and Jessy was so keen to stay home and play I let him do just that!

By the evening I think all the excitement had got to me and I had an awful head ache. I decided that a walk in the fresh air would do me good, a take away probably wouldn’t, but it would mean I didn’t have to cook with an awful headache so we headed off in the rain to browse the local take aways of which there are many! The kids had been so busy playing they hadn’t even got dressed yet. I give almost complete freedom when it comes to clothing choices, however, I draw the line at pyjamas in public. I find it interesting where our own personal lines on these kind of things lie. My son has been out in pink polka dresses, pumpkin costumes with shades, he’s been Dorothy and Superman and all sorts, but for some reason pyjamas are my personal limit! He didn’t want to get dressed so he decided to cover up – with a dalek costume. He now fit my criteria for acceptable public attire so off we went!

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He made a lot of people smile on our brief trip out! We watched another Tribe documentary while we ate burgers, chicken and chips. When I give up on cooking I also tend to give up on eating at the dining table! This episode was quite different from the others, following a nomadic Mongolian Tribe. It looked like a hard life in the cold and snow. A particularly liked how the young children rode in crates stuffed with blankets attached to the horses and said she wished she could try it. On Monday, she managed to not only replace the arrow she lost last week but make several new ones to go with her bow.

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On Friday A arranged to go and play music with her friend Stan. He’s been learning guitar, largely self taught with some guidance from his Mum, and he recently got a Bass too. A is very keen on playing her keyboard, so they got together to play and compose some tunes. Jessy was going to stay behind with me, but when Dennis arrived he changed his mind and ran off to get in the taxi in his pyjamas. I almost avoided him being out in his pyjamas this week! Jessy came home with potatoes picked from the garden which I cooked and made into mash to go with our casserole. Jessy was very excited that Dennis and co. had grown them, he had ‘picked’ them (his words) and I had cooked them. A real team effort! They were delicious! A went to spend some time with her Mum and I didn’t see her until late Saturday night.

After dinner Jessy and I had to rush to pack his bag for Cubs Camp. This one was an Activity Camp where they did canoeing, climbing, abseiling, rifle shooting, back woods cooking and archery. It seemed like a lot to fit in in two days!

I had a free evening on Saturday which coincided with a ‘Womb Yoga’ event a friend had told me about. I felt a bit nervous at the last minute going on my own to a place I’d never been to before to do something new, but I plucked up my courage and went. I was so glad I did. It was a beautiful evening and felt very nurturing. Uma, the lady who ran the session was so welcoming, not just to me but to my unborn baby too. I was the only pregnant woman there and she even included my baby in the welcoming ceremony. The part that touched me the most was when we were doing a practice to transfer energy from the heart into the womb and then back up into the heart. Uma explained that when you are pregnant you also have a heart within your womb, so the energy goes from heart to heart as well as from heart to womb. It was a wonderful way to connect with my baby. You can read more about Womb Yoga here: http://www.wombyoga.org/about/

It was just A and I in the house on Sunday. A had brought her PLay Mobil toys from home as she’d like to sell them on EBay. We spent quite a bit of time talking about the different stages of selling something. She began by sorting out all the different sets and checking to see which bits need a clean. It was Jessy and A’s friend’s birthday party in the afternoon so we went to find some presents for her. We were happy with what we found and came home to wrap them. There was nearly a disaster when I was wrapping and wondered why I kept getting whiffs of cat wee. One of the cats (no doubt Naughty Nimbus!) had weed on the wrapping paper!! Luckily I hadn’t actually wrapped it around the present yet and we had just bought some spare paper!

I’d arranged a lift for A to and from the party as I had to stay home to pick up Jessy from Cubs Camp. He came back full of very enthusiastic stories about all the activities he’d done and told me exactly which order he did them all in. He had to work it out in reverse order first which he said was easier! He’d lost his spending money (I found it in his bag) but a kind friend had given him a couple of pounds. He’s managed to buy enough sweets with that so I think it worked out for the best!

Today we went back to Circus Skills. A was quite anxious about doing the trapeze again, but today they focused on juggling and spinning plates instead. Jessy struggled at first, but with a little extra focus and reminders to concentrate he got the hang of it in the end! We currently have a loose gerbil in the living room and I’m hoping someone manages to catch her before the kids go to bed as she keeps making me jump! I’ll leave you with a lovely bunch of flowers my sister sent me. I call them my ‘Dragon Flowers’ (they are actually Gladioli). The colours look a lot more fiery in real life.

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Cubs Camp, Summer Club and Home

Summer holidays have played havoc with my blog writing as one day seems to blur into the next. In some ways I feel as if the holidays are only just beginning as Jessy has been away far more than usual. A couple of weeks ago he headed off to his first Cubs Camp. He was nervous but looking forward to it by the time the day rolled around. I was highly unprepared and Amazon’s express delivery service did well out of me! Jessy prepared by playing camping games, making a tent using the ever versatile sofas and climbing inside his sleeping bag.

Practicing for camp

Practicing for camp

He made a fantastic effort to pack his own bag one morning and I felt sad that I had to unpack it and help him, as fitting it all in was such a tight squeeze! (I realised afterwards that other people just kept the sleeping gear separate!) On Friday afternoon he was packed and ready to go!

Ready for Cubs Camp

Ready for Cubs Camp

I spent a lovely day with my friend Alice and we enjoyed a deliberately grown up evening of cultured entertainment going to see a comedy performance by a duo called Norris and Parker called ‘All Our Friends Are Dead’ which was part of the Manchester Fringe Festival. I even ate some sweets and didn’t have to hide them! I almost had a fit of excitement on realising that we could do something else afterwards rather than just go home early and go to bed! We decided to go to the cinema but the only late film on was ‘The World’s End’ which we both mistakenly believed would be something apocalyptic. In actual fact it turned out to be the most mind numbingly horrendously awfully boring film I have ever had the misfortune to see 20 minutes of. It is appropriately named, as ‘the world’s end’ would surely be preferable to sitting through that utter pile of shite!! It was so bad that we complained and got our money back! That was probably more exciting than just going to the cinema.

Me and my lovely friend Alice

Me and my lovely friend Alice

Whilst enjoying myself I couldn’t stop thinking of Jessy. There was a huge thunder storm that night with lightning streaking across the sky and rain falling in sheets. I kept thinking of my little bean, curled up in a tent, hoping he was dry and finding the storm exciting rather than scary. The next day, I went into town for lunch with Alice, where we discovered that ‘The Thirsty Scholar’ on Oxford Road is a vegan pub and I got to try vegan black pudding and vegan spam for the first time. I’m not vegan but we’d struggled finding somewhere to eat and we were hungry so we stayed there! Alice took me to pick up Jessy where I discovered a soaked through rather shell-shocked looking little boy sitting stiffly on a bench. He was very proud of his bronze medal which he won for his ‘Space Shark from Planet Zargon’ costume.

After one day to rest, Jessy and A were off to Wood School Summer Club! A has always loved the idea of Wood School and the only reason I booked them on was so that they could go together. I wondered what Jessy would make of it seeing as the vast majority of attendees were children who had come just for the summer club and not his usual Wood School friends. I can honestly say that going every day and not having the distraction of his ‘run around’ friends worked well for him. He actually came home with a craft activity on the first day – a book with a cloth cover which he had sewed. At first it was a code book, but later morphed into a Spell Book at which point he decided to rip off the cloth cover as the title was wrong! He made another spell book using an exercise book from Wood School and did a lot of writing in one go filling it in:

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He never tires of whittling wands and came back with a few. Anais made a beautiful wand which she carved a winding pattern into. I have to say I didn’t make the best use of my free time, but I did enjoy the day I browsed round Chorlton charity shops finding little presents to surprise the kids with. I also found a wonderful new outdoor book stall where I found some delightful old books for my collection including an Angela Brazil school story and a collection of entertainments for girls from the 1800s. Many of the games look quite fun and I intend to try them with the children. I was very pleased to find a wooden sodoku set for Anais as she’d been coveting Jessy’s. They’ve both spent a lot of quiet time enjoying those sets. Anais and I managed to complete one together which we were both proud of as it was a first for both of us! Jessy decided to see how difficult it would be to create his own from scratch rather than solving a pre-given puzzle. I thought it would be very difficult but it seemed to be less challenging than solving one.

Busy with sodoku

Busy with sodoku

Notable conversations have included a discussion of racism in older films after watching ‘One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing’. I often remember films from my childhood and we add them to Jessy’s Lovefilm list. Sometimes, however, I’m shocked by the blatant -isms in the films. This one is particularly diabolical, using English actors to play Chinese characters and relying on ridiculous and insulting stereotypes to show they are supposed to be Chinese. They even went as far as sticking very obviously fake eyelids onto one of the actors! Sometimes I struggle to explain things. Jessy loves slapstick humour and anything very ‘obvious’ which means he find things such as people talking in obviously nonsense Chinese words very funny. (There is shockingly a lot of similar humour in ‘Furry Vengeance’ from 2010!) I feel uncomfortable because I want him to recognise the racism, but I can also see that he is mostly laughing because he knows that people speaking Chinese don’t sound that way. I think he laughs because they have got it wrong and it sounds so silly, rather than because he thinks it’s a funny imitation of a Chinese person. I still feel uncomfortable with him laughing at it though.

One morning in a taxi we ended up discussing the Government’s ‘no spare room’ policy and the bad impact it was having on a lot of people. We’ve briefly looked into volcanoes, the egg experiments have been enjoyed AGAIN and we came late to the Olympics and watched the Opening Ceremony on DVD which allowed lots of historical and geographical discussion.

Anais was keen to do some ‘Adventure Time’ crafts, but everything we came across seemed to be rather ambitious and needed lots of materials we didn’t have. Then we found a great site: http://www.paperfoldables.com/ which allows you to print out foldable characters to make. Anais also showed us a great site where you type in your Minecraft username and it provides you with a paper foldable print out of your own Minecraft skin: http://pixelpapercraft.com/print/minecraft-character So Anais made Adventure Time characters and Jessy made his Minecraft skin:

Adventure Time models

Adventure Time models

Jessy's Harry Potter Minecraft model

Jessy’s Harry Potter Minecraft model

Other than that we have enjoyed ‘fun with a box’. First Jessy filled it with broken polystyrene and then enjoyed making the polystyrene fly up in the air and out of the box by bashing a stick hard inside the box. Another day it became a makeshift paddling pool on a hot day as it had already conveniently half filled with rain water.

Making polystyrene bounce

Making polystyrene bounce

Cooling down on a hot day

Cooling down on a hot day

That’s all Folks!