Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Oh dear

The children played happily around the woodland and the affectionately known 'Gruffalo Bridge' today..

...that is till Miles managed to somehow wedge his knee between the rails. What a carry on! Thankfully he was remarkably calm but after a few minutes with no progress I was becoming a wee bit stressy. He's such a slim chap his knee cap is the widest part of his knee, and it was as if any attempts to just pull his knee out would have pulled off his knee cap!

Talk began of one parent running for help and to try to get a saw to cut the wooden rail, but all of a sudden, he was free! One wonderful mama wiggled his trousers and it somehow just released his knee. It was amazing. Such a relief! Had it lasted much longer I may have had to vow never to leave the house again without a hack saw in my bag!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Chocolate spoons and stuff

Well, it could have been a miserable day, but thankfully it all turned out rosy. We were to meet with friends for an advent spiral but gale force winds and rain put paid to that as it was to be an outdoor event. With exciting plans postponed for now, I thought I had best make an effort to do something a little out of the ordinary with the children. So, we made chocolate spoons.

First we melted some dark chocolate..

...then we placed a white chocolate button and a lollipop stick in each of our daisy moulds...

..filled the moulds with dark chocolate, placed them in the fridge, then voila!

They went down a treat in a cup of hot milk after dinner. This was the start of proceedings. In Miles' case it got a whole lot messier towards the end! The drink, even with rice milk which has a tendency to be watery, was delicious.

Since it was blowing an absolute hooligan I also relented and allowed them to bring Saffy in for a short while this afternoon. She doesn't cope well in rough weather. She's much stronger now but I doubt she'll ever fully recover from her harsh start in life.

Since we were unable to join in an advent spiral today we decided to start our advent read instead. We're reading a chapter of Mary's Little Donkey each day on the lead up to Christmas. We've only read one chapter, but so far so good!

Singing The North Wind to Miles this evening set me wondering when will our snow come this year? I love the snow and hope we do have a decent covering at some point. Would be nice if it didn't stay so long as last year though - we were all developing cabin fever!

The North wind shall blow and we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then?
He'll sit in the barn and keep himself warm,
With his head tucked under his wing.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Flat White

Ooooh, it was good....

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Work and chit chat round up

Quick round up of some of our work achievements and interesting chats I've had this week.

Over the past three days I've got to chat with five lovely ladies, each for a good couple of hours or more, while the children have either slept tight in their beds, played, or as Hermione would say now 'hung out'. Its really lifted my spirits and helped me to clarify various things in my own mind. Not that I was questioning anything in particular though, if you know what I mean.

Sometimes, as a home educator, I think that perhaps I have become a bit removed from what may be 'the norm' in schools. Having chatted at length with a lady who has a child in school, I have to say that when the time comes for sex education, I'm pleased I will have some control. I didn't know that some schools have 'in house' facilities for contraceptive services; that older children are invited to enlighten younger children about sex; that condoms are given to children as young as thirteen, and so on and so forth. Crikey!! I think of myself as being very open minded, and I understand the desirability of youngsters being able to access contraceptive services, but blimey, when children who are of an age that without peer pressure would probably still be inclined to be playing with Lego, start lining up for chlamydia tests in order to bag the freebies offered as incentives, then something is going seriously wrong.

Hermione is coming to the end of her current Galore Park English Programme. We're Galore Park fans and I was tempted to steam straight ahead and buy the next in the series, but not before checking out a friend's new English resources. The choice was between Catherine Mooney and the next Galore Park series. Galore Park won and I'm excited about the arrival of new books next week. If you are a home educator in the market for English books right now, check out Galore Park as they have some special offers on.

On Friday night I went to a ladies pamper evening. I went along with friends, thinking it was a Traidcraft fund raiser but it wasn't. It was a ladies event in a local village hall where you paid £2.50 entrance and then circulated with others, enjoying wine and canapes, perusing home made items from local crafts people, spending money destined for a good cause and even having a massage! I opted not to have a massage, either hand or full body, even though they were available for just a £1 donation to the cause. I didn't like the thought of getting my kit off in the village hall, (even if in a screened off part), and allowed myself to just feel all warm and fuzzy in the knowledge that I 'could' have had a massage if I'd so desired.

The whole idea of the women of a community coming together to do something really positive and worthwhile really appeals to me. They deserve a huge pat on the back. Where else could I have done a reasonable amount of Christmas shopping, in a warm and welcoming space, topped up with wine and canapes, with a masseur on hand in case it all got too much? I suspect they will have raised a lot of money too, I know the atmosphere certainly loosened my purse strings!

Chatting with a different friend on Saturday afternoon, a midst jumping up to check the children weren't about to come through the ceiling they were making such a racket, we pondered the whole thing about status, the lack of status that many attach to home makers, and perhaps even more importantly, the lack of status which home makers attach to themselves. We tracked our status journeys and reflected upon how that affects us as mothers.

Pre children I worked in a profession which attracts status. Because of the job I did many people credited me with status, regardless of whether it was merited. Once I chose to be a full time mother I lost that status and sometimes I struggled with that. Why should other people have preconceived ideas about me and my worth, based upon the role I perform in society? I think I went through a process of mourning the loss of my status, and later, wondering if I would ever re enter the workplace and try to regain it. Thankfully I've come full circle. I feel very content now knowing that I attach great worth to my role. I'm no longer bothered by other's views in that respect. I take a pride in the job I do now - much more of a pride than I ever took in what I did in my working career.

But then what of women who yearned for status but hadn't quite reached their career goals before starting a family and becoming a full time mother? I think it must be much harder for them.

I think it's nigh time everyone took stock of what makes this world go round and re appraised the role of parents.

Hermione has worked very hard this week. She's still beavering away at her art project to do with segregation, immigration and emigration. Last week she looked at the mass exodus of Jews from Germany during the reign of Hitler. This week she moved on to look at the segregation of white and colored people throughout American history. She has chronicled in words and pictures the passage from slavery; to freedom; to the creation of Jim Crow; the Jim Crow laws; the abolition of those laws; white supremacists and in particular the Ku Klux Klan; civil rights activists and in particular Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, and more.

The thing which has really struck us this week in the course of her exploring all of this is the prominence of white supremacists on the web today. I'd like to think that this isn't indicative of 'reality' and that many of these sites are operated by sad and sick people who, although sick, would not actually carry out the acts of hatred which they can promote through the faceless media of the internet. It's worrying, very worrying and once again shows one of the numerous downsides on the age of technology. People can connect for truly positive purposes but also for vile reasons.

We've also been doing work in connection with the Frozen Planet series. I can honestly say that I now know why the North Pole is not a continent when the South Pole is. I also now know why the South Pole is much colder than the North Pole! Hey ho, I'm learning so much!

Miles is doing ever so well. His reading is improving all of the time but he's having a bit of a crisis of confidence at the moment, so I'm off now to make a visual representation, (involving an apple tree!) of what he knows, so that he can see for himself and hopefully feel good and bursting with enthusiasm.

Here's hoping that you too had a fabulous weekend.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Too much of a good thing

Perhaps it's just as well I had a lantern malfunction. I wouldn't like to end up OD' ing on all things home made. Fear not my family; I won't do this to you, I promise.

Having said that I am very excited about the imminent arrival of some needle felting supplies. Like lantern making, I've fancied trying needle felting for a long time. Here's hoping it's a bit more successful. I having visions of beautifully felted robin red breasts chirping merrily on my tree this year.

On the subject of what not to do this Christmas, I sincerely hope Craig doesn't do what this bloke did below. Crikey, I know it's the season of peace on earth, but I think I'd still feel strong urges to chase with a stick any man who suggested to me that a babygro is suitable family photo attire.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Lantern challenge

For the past few years I have looked at other folks blogs and coveted their paper lanterns. Last week I decided that this was the year that I would finally connect with my inner Rudolf and take the plunge into lantern making.

I took one of Miles' watercolour painting and lightly oiled the back. I used olive oil as it was all I had to hand, but later regretted that as I had no idea just how thirsty watercolour weight paper could be! Crikey, I could have roasted four trays of seasoned root veggies in that amount of oil!

I then waited a couple of days for it to dry out and then set about making a template and cutting out twelve pentagons. What followed was much tedious measuring, scoring, folding and sticking. Finally I had a beautiful star lantern, which if you disregard the fact I had cut off the wrong flaps and could only stand it upside down, it is nigh on perfect (in an upside down kinda way).

Since I can only stand it upside down I obviously couldn't place a real candle in it. Thankfully we live in the age of battery tea lights.

It's now gracing our nature table, surrounded by gnomes, and looking ever so pretty if I do say so myself. It's rather elusive and I've struggled to capture a half decent picture of it, but here it is none the less.

It was my plan to make one for all of my friends as an advent gift. A sort of little light on the dark days leading up to Christmas. I've since decided that we'd be well into spring before I managed to make enough so I'll just have to tell everyone I did at least have the thought, and should I practice really hard an actual lantern may materialize in time for advent 2012. If anyone has any good links to help me on my way they'd be graciously received.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Boys in Blue

We went to visit the Police Station today with a few other home edding families.

What fun we had! The children enjoyed it and it took me right back to when I used to work; for money rather than love that is! It's taken all these years for the smell of the cells to truly leave my airways and now it's back in there. I stood at the custody desk, had a peek in the interview room and generally soaked up the unique ambiance that I miss so much - I think NOT!

The officers did a 'stranger danger' chat. It was the usual stuff about shouting for help, not taking sweets, getting into cars etc. Afterwards they asked for questions. My deep thinking baby raised his hand and asked, 'where do the strangers take children?' Judging by the look on the officer's face I don't think he'd been asked that one many times. Made my blood and I suspect that of other mothers in the room, run cold. The officer handled it well, thankfully.

It's strange really how attitudes and opinions change. When I worked I had a generally dim view of the police, despite the fact that Craig was a Special Constable! I don't know if that's because I was a defence solicitor or whether the view was a just response to the attitudes of many within the forces at that time. More recently my attitude has softened. I'm not sure if that's because I'm older and more philosophical now - after all everyone has a job to do. Or is it that standards have improved?

I read this book a short while ago. Like all things of this nature, you can't take it as gospel. It's the opinion of one person working within one force. However, it did make interesting reading and has helped me to see how, increasingly so, the police are doing an incredibly difficult job, facing greater hazards than ever whilst also being tied up in more red tape than ever. It's not good, not good at all. Having said that I'm not entirely sure what can be done to bring about positive change.

With the visit over it was time to hit the park and much fun was had till us poor mother's began to freeze to the spot. Oh, how the wheel's turning, it's certainly moving into winter now.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Nut cracking, choc blocking and illuminating

Oh what a busy day it's been!

This morning Miles and I had a burst of much needed house blessing (mucking out) and did a little bit of academic 'work' stuff. Done and literally dusted, we headed off to see The Nutcracker ballet. This was Miles first trip to the ballet and I think he enjoyed it a lot. Despite having booked the seats months in advance and having paid about £26 per seat, they weren't a very good view at all. Hey ho, we still enjoyed it, particularly the wicked mice, brave soldiers and sugar plum fairies!

It's such a shame that theatre is so prohibitively expensive these days. When Hermione said she wasn't bothered about going, having seen The Nutcracker a couple of times before, I certainly wasn't about to place any pressure upon her!

While we were preparing for our afternoon at the ballet, Hermione and Craig went to a lecture by a Doctor from Durham University about seeing nature in a different light. This was organised as part of the Lumiere event which is currently happening in and around Durham.

We all braved the crowds to see the opening lantern procession on Thursday evening. I didn't have my camera and the only picture I can find (above) doesn't do it justice. It was magical, the children were both open mouthed.

This evening we retired with what I can only describe as a block of chocolate on a stick, to stir in our hot milk. A lady from nana's church had made them and apparently they were a Jamie Oliver recipe. I'm not sure that they need a recipe and perhaps what she meant to say was they were inspired by these Jamie creations.

It was very tasty, despite looking like something one might use to knock a carpet tack in! A nice, simple gift idea.

Friday, 18 November 2011

The Turner Prize

We went to see the Turner Prize finalists the other day. I was quite excited having heard great things about thumb prints in blue tack and messy beds; both of which had been finalists if not winners in previous years.

Don't get me wrong, we had a wonderful day out. We went with friends and the day was punctuated with regular coffee stops and chatter. But, as for the art, well, I was a tad underwhelmed.

Karla Black's creation just left me feeling envious, not of her artistic abilities, but of the fact that apparently she visits galleries with her technician, seals a room off and then gets to work for a few days with lining paper and stuff like squashed up chalk and smashed bath bombs. That just takes the concept of junk modelling to another level in my view. I'd love the opportunity to play like that. Who is getting most enjoyment out of this art? I can't help but feel she's having all the fun.

All in all, three out of the four finalists left me with a distinct 'Emperor's New Clothes' feeling. Is it that great or is it just that we say it is for the fear of being judged as unable to appreciate art?

George Shaw by stark contrast oozed talent and I sincerely hope he wins. I was shocked to learn that his painting were actually enamel paints and not photographs. He captures everyday change, growth and decay perfectly.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Made me laugh

I overheard a funny conversation when out with friends today.

Mummy, what does that sign mean?

I don't know *looks deep in thought*

But what does it mean mummy?

It means, no citrus fruit allowed!

Hey, home educators sure know how to think out of the box! Here's hoping there are no people round there daring to eat citrus fruit - or ride bicycles for that matter. Or perhaps, it just applies to unicycles?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Truly blessed

I'm feeling truly blessed today. We met with friends and I was given a beautiful bunch of flowers from a lovely mama who had noted I've been a bit out of sorts of late.

While Miles and I were learning and crafting with friends, Hermione and Nana were working hard. We returned home with our gnome (the short guy in brown below) ....... find the table set and dinner prepared - cottage pie and the most amazing devil's food cake with strawberries!

To top it off Hermione had also done some of her maths off her own bat, read some history of the American Civil War and typed a further chapter of her project upon the latest works of Bani Abidi.

Wow! Can it get any better? I'm sure it can with a dose of advent planning, an episode of Holby and an early night with the electric blanket on 'boil your bottom' setting. Have I told you about my water bottle/wheat bag deliberations - followed by the leaking of my own water bottle? Well, that's one for another time.

Edited to add the day can get even better!!! Hermione has had a personal email from the artist Bani about the inspiration and motivation for creating her latest piece. Oh, isn't that wonderful that she has taken the time to email my ten year old and give quite detailed insights into her inspiration?

Monday, 14 November 2011

Handmade toys

I've a couple of crafty toy projects to mention tonight.

Firstly Nana is currently knitting Miles a Nutcracker with one of the wonderful Alan Dart patterns. His toy and seasonal patterns are the best I have seen. Watch out for pictures, hopefully by next week.

Also, over at Bridget's blog, there's a link to this toy project, which promotes the anonymous gifting of handmade toys. A lovely act of random kindness. Something I will certainly think about doing this season. We have already taken part in a shoe box appeal but this is something different and equally worthwhile I think.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Penguin knocks dog off top spot

Forget the dog, today Craig decided that penguins are a man's best friend!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

The Lady with the Lamp

Our local museum group allow home educators to borrow 'handling boxes' linked to certain periods and people in history.

The last one we looked at with friends was one relating to Florence Nightingale. We prepared by reading this wonderful Ladybird book which I had picked up in a charity shop. I love Ladybird books!

There was some odd things and fascinating facts in the box. Did you know that when Florence packed up and headed off to the Crimean War, she took her tortoise with her? I wonder if that was de rigueur or if she was a bit nutty?

Apparently this is the kind of trinket box she would have taken with her. I photographed it because it reminded me of a special trinket box my Nana had on her dressing table. I didn't know till now that those shell trinkets were quite fashionable in Victorian times.

Of course, no Florence box would be complete without a lantern! This is the kind she would have used. It's fabric and struck me as being highly flammable. Apparently when we see pictures of her painted with what we would think of as a traditional lantern, they are wrong and just represent what artists imagined she would carry.

There was a whole host of weird stuff in her trunk which she took to the Crimean, to include a sachet of rose petals, a tool for scooping bone marrow out, a tea pot to drink from while lying down, carbolic soap and more.

Here's Hermione in a replica of her fetching head gear. Snazzy eh?

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Martinmas Celebration

I go with my bright little lantern,
my lantern is going with me.
In heaven the stars are shining
on earth shines my lantern with me.

We joined with five other families to walk with our lanterns, sing and hear songs of St Martin. I like Martinmas. We don't acknowledge all of the Steiner festivals, but I do think this one is quite special.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Grab a cup of tea, it's a long one...

I’m harking back now, to that tricky issue of how best to maintain my values with my children, in a culture that doesn’t share many of my values.

I guess this is an issue for all families who interact with others, unless of course you make a conscious choice to interact only with those who share your values. I understand that there are people out there who do interact only with those who share like religious or political views. I’m not sure how the heck they manage that – or perhaps, more importantly, if it’s ever desirable to live in that way. I’d hate to think of all the lost possibilities if I defined my community too closely and restrictively. After all, in my experience, people rarely come with a label. It’s just not so simple case as, ‘Oh, there goes Daisy the peaceful parenting, eco friendly, Liberal voting, green tea drinker’. The point I’m making is that even were it possible to live a compartmentalized life, in an existence surrounded by those with identical values, how on earth would you know who they were? Is it not always necessary to take the plunge and risk having your values challenged?

I’ve concluded, that for me, I must take that risk. What’s more, perhaps there’s much to be gained by occasionally having our values challenged. It’s been a long summer in many respects. Holidays started early, routine has been late in returning. There’s been plenty of opportunity on my part to shine bright lights in the nooks and crannies. There have also been various happenings which have highlighted ways in which I feel differently to others.

Personally, I always feel a bit of a wrench deep inside when I realize that my values are different to those who I previously assumed shared the same values as me. It’s not so much the feeling of being a square peg in a round hole; believe me, I’m no stranger to that feeling. I’m happy to be that square peg, providing I am at peace with myself.

But am I at peace with myself? Do my values still hold strong in the face of change, growth and the ongoing maturity of my children? Few things ever stay the same and perhaps it follows that our values should be responsive to our ever changing lives.

This summer I have taken a whole heap of things which I consider to make up much of my core. I’ve dissected them, remodeled them, shaken them up and finally retried them all for size, ditching those that no longer fit.

So, what do you do when having identified your values, and lived life in accordance with those values, someone then comes along and challenges them? I don’t have the definitive answer to this, but perhaps you could learn from my mistakes and ensure your values are still a good fit before doing anything.

I’ve acquired a few little gadgets during my blog break – it’s that darned Facebook – it lured me into rampant consumerism! Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! I am now the very happy owner of a Kindle. Despite being initially skeptic, I was quickly won over. Not only is it lighter to hold and easier to turn the pages when lying in an awkward position with a sleeping child on one of your limbs, there are also lots of books on there at bargain basement prices. I love being able to flick through and snap up titles for less than a pound, delivered straight into my lap! This is how a nice girl like me came to be reading Bullies, Bitches and Bastards. I assure you I’m much more your usual cookery and crafting kinda girl. Honest.

This book details many scenarios, and advances various suggestions, for dealing with those who could be on a mission to annihilate your values.

Perhaps, next time you see someone approaching who you know to hold considerably different values to you, you could raise a hand and tell them, ‘Do you know what. Let’s not bother. You don’t like me and I sure as hell don’t like you.’

Hmmm, I see the merit in that approach. I’m sure it would provide instant gratification, but possibly not much more of note.

There’s another approach in the book that I thought I’d mention – spadism. Spadism differs from sadism in that a spadist doesn’t just call a spade a spade, they call it a JCB. I think I’ve met a few spadists in my time – I just didn’t know their generic name before. Haven’t we all entered into what we hoped to be positive dialogue just to be blown out with blunt (although not always accurate) blows?

I don’t want to be a spadist. It’s not helpful and could be dangerous. As it says in Bullies, Bitches and Bastards, ‘what she doesn’t realize is that while she’s extolling the virtues of spadism, most people around are thinking, ‘What I’d give for a spade right now. I’d cleave her bloody bonce in.’

So, where does this leaves me when tricky situations arise? I don’t want to change other people’s values, I just want my values to be afforded respect, as I respect others. One of the main difficulties as I see it is that the issue can become circular. If I am troubled because I believe that someone is not respecting my need for peace or honesty, then will any discussions which I instigate about the problem be positive, if that person has no regard for peace and honesty and responds in a dishonest or aggressive way?

Sometimes there doesn’t really seem to be a solution, other than to walk away. That saddens me and I would like to think it could be different. Why do I sometimes feel there is no option other than to step back from the rim? I believe that all beliefs are valid, in space and time. Perhaps it follows that although I can fully understand and respect an opposing view (as I place it in the context of the time and space in which it arose), there will be times and places in which that will not play any positive role in my personal world. That’s not to say that it doesn’t deserve respect – it does. It’s just to say that it plays no part in the here and now for me.

I guess this is one I’ll go on pondering for ever and a day, but in the meantime, I’d like to point out that having finished Bullies, Bitches and Bastards I’m now thoroughly enjoying The Help. I’m less than half way through it but it’s turning out to be a real page turner.

Would anyone else care to share how they maintain the values which are dear to them?

Monday, 7 November 2011

A further conundrum

Here’s another conundrum; when is a poo not a poo? Now, this is a tricky one, full of conjecture. I suspect I could ask a thousand people and receive a thousand different answers! However, for today, I’m going to answer this one as follows.

A poo is not a poo when it is actually of Betty Crocker origin and masquerading as Neolithic faeces!

How, you may well ask, did I encounter a mutated Betty Crocker creation masquerading as Neolithic faeces? Good question!

The children both attend a fabulous Archaeology Club, where the education officers work ever so hard to make what I would think of as a very dry subject, really exciting and interactive for children. At our last session we learned that one point of great significance when looking at the Neolithic period is the shift from hunter/gatherer to farming.

I’m not certain I would have thought of this, but I take my hat off to whoever did. The children donned special rubber gloves, picked up their tools and magnifiers and dug into their assigned ‘sample’ to see if they had the poo of a hunter/gatherer (rich in small pieces of nut and fruit seeds) or that of a farmer (bit more dense but with small fragments of bone and fewer nut/seed particles).

I truly hope that this aspect of the Neolithic period will now be etched on the children’s brains. It certainly will stick with me. Who needs to pore over books when you can dissect mutant poo? I do so value all the people out there who bring life and laughter to the learning process – it need not all be tedious.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

A conundrum

I know I’ve not been around in a long while. I’ve been drawn into Facebook and try as I might I just couldn’t shake it. I’ve known all along it wasn’t the best medium for me to communicate, but ho hum, it’s so popular these days that it seems almost difficult to avoid it. Finally I’ve seen the light and totally redefined my Facebook existence. Hallelujah!!

Well, now turning to a much more significant conundrum I’ve been facing; how do I maintain my values with my children, in a culture that doesn’t share many of my values?

I’m inclined to wade in and say that this is an issue which has grown as the children have grown older and have formed more numerous and influential relationships outside of the immediate family, however, I don’t really think this is so. I’ve noticed stark differences in my values and those of others since becoming aware of having values – and certainly much more so since I joined the world of parents, and started to wrestle with what seems to be almost continuous challenges to my values.

What are these values that are causing me so much stress? I value peace, respect and openness. I want my children to grow in their hearts and minds as well as their brains. I value solutions not problems – and particularly those solutions brought about through honest dialogue with regard for all concerned. I value togetherness, love, laughter, dancing and just being. Being alone, being with my children, being with my family, being with my friends.

I'll be back later this week, hopefully with more thoughts on my conundrum.