Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Dani and I have a rather nice Ikea bed, which we bought a couple of years ago. Somehow we have managed to throw away any instructions we ever had that relate to the assembly of the bed. I do have a vague memory (as does D) of it being all a bit hellish and heavy to put together and us thinking,
“well, we’ll never be able to take this apart again so why bother keeping the instructions.”
Now we need to get this bed from the basement to the top floor of our house. Our little, terraced 1860s house has extremely narrow staircases. So, that bed is coming apart again – even if it ends up being by hacksaw.
The work we are having done in our house is a bit like one of those games with the sliding pieces, where there is only one empty space at any time. We need to start by clearing as much of our basement as possible. This is going to lead to a rather unhappy bedroomless state for me and D. We will have to sleep on the kids’ floors until the whole thing is finished. I shall not be happy with this.
Ah well, it will all be worth it in the end – we hope. I am looking forward to sleeping on the top floor rather than down in the basement – and to having four walls and a door on our room. Maybe we’ll even stretch to a lock. I reckon we could all do with locks these days – our babies are babies no more.
Today has involved much putting of things in plastic boxes. Leo and Pearlie had Squeezebox sessions too. Leo is learning a solo for the gig, which seems to be getting more elaborate every week. Pearlie has some pretty hard stuff to learn too. Pearlie has also tidied her room so that a friend can sleep over tonight. Leo got out his watercolours and painted for a while.
I went to get a small pumpkin and failed to find one, so staggered home with very heavy pumpkin in my rucksack. I’ll miss trick or treating tomorrow as I’ll be at work until 8pm. Dani is taking the kids out – with all the local cousins. Trick or treating is very big round here as there are lots of kids - and houses right on the pavement with no dark paths and so on.
Last night I spent a while reading information about the Lewes bonfire traditions to the kids. It is all rather bizarre and the kids were astonished at the sectarian aspects of it all. I used to be taken as a child but we have never taken ours – the crowds alone are off-putting enough. This reading led us on to some info about Samhain, which I have been mis-pronouncing for years!
Then Dani, Pearlie and I played together on the Free Rice website. We managed to get Level 47 with lots of talking about the words. Pearlie is very good at finding roots and patterns in words and D and I both love that kind of thing too. One of the things that pleases me in a quiz situation is realising the many different places I pick up information. I had a sudden flash of memory that told me that the word tocsin meant alarm bell – from a TV Miss Marple, of all places!
Leo had a fun evening making serious amounts of mess everywhere. He juiced citrus fruits, hacked a candle to bits and then sloshed a large quantity of water out of his bath. He’s out in the garden at the moment – better go and see what he’s doing…
Monday, October 29, 2007
I’m in slight mourning as I have just found out that the gasp-worthy Horse is playing Brighton in December, on the night we have a big family meal arranged. So I can’t go. Boo-hoo, screamy tantrum, etc.
We’ve had (well, are still having) a manic day here. There have been two home ed groups (one with mad Halloween activity), two meetings for D, a visit to grandmothers (L), Woodcraft (L), a massive delivery of food to be put away - and other stuff. Oh, and it is now only a week until the builders start. So, I thought it was probably urgent to blog.
Dani’s afternoon meeting was with Hedline and some high ups at the council. This was pretty encouraging and it is to be hoped that they read the 30 page dossier we made that details horrendous experiences (of ten families) at the hands of various local authority employees. They seem to finally understand the need for proper consultation and a Trust-wide policy. Fingers crossed for us please. Trying to affect the workings of local government is rather like wading through treacle – thick treacle laden with assumptions…
Leo wrote a fab spooky story at the weekend, which he read out at MMs today. The wonderful A read out others too – and it was very spooky in the sports hall by pumpkin lantern light.
Here it is – it deserves a wider readership. As usual, all spelling and punctuation is as per the original. He wrote this alone in his room at his desk, just like a real home educated child should (wink, wink) spend every day.
It was a dark and stormy night. The wind blew a map from a window. The map slid down a well into the 4th dimension… The next evening there was an article about a boy missing and a dug up graveyard… Earlier that week a boy was on a trip with his family to a cottage beside a graveyard but when the car slid in the rain the boy fell out of the car window and fell into a deep watery well and drowned. The boy was never seen again. Forwards in time. About 20 years after the boy died there was a low rustling under the cottage (yes that very cottage.) Then in the graveyard a skeletal hand pushed itself up in front of the gravestone and then an arm. After about 20 minutes a sticky-old-gooey-decayed body of a boy was standing there. After two nights and six days there was an army of those bodys. They hid under that cottage and slid through a portal to hell. But we shall call it the 4th dimension. They were stealing living humans for their ranks and squads. They dug a network of tunnells all over the village. They built up their ranks and mustered them and they dug a long tunnel to the Greenwick graveyard 20 miles away. By January 23 thousand swarms hit a body. They had struck another plague pit. All the more bodies for them. But one body never came back from that dig. The body of the owner of that cottage. Sir Walter Hellcraft. He was the great grandfather of Paul Hellcraft. The boy who fell down the well.
I think this is a fab story. What I love is the way that Leo writes in an appropriate style for his theme, even if the plot is tricky at times.
Pearlie writes beautifully too. I feel the need to say this as, in case any of you are not aware, it is important to be utterly FAIR. This is a big theme in our house at the mo!
Sunday, October 28, 2007
The tiles came yesterday. The poor delivery guy couldn’t get his van down our street so he loaded the pallet of tiles onto a trolley and hauled it along the road – alone. When he got it to our door he split it and we worked together to unload all the boxes into our hallway. I’ve just had manual handling training at work and so was being very sensible and only lifting one box at a time. He was lifting several at a time – with grimacing face and all that. Poor bloke will probably do his back in before long, but I imagine he’s on some insane schedule.
Leo and I had a nice, quiet time at home. We spent an amusing half hour or so doing ‘homework’ – like Horrid Henry. I did a sheet of work that Leo had made for me – and he did one that I made for him. We discussed what sort of things they do at school. I showed him how to add things in columns and carry, which he seemed to follow. He gave me horrendous sums created by whizzing up and down the numbers on the keyboard and bunging a + sign in somewhere! He quizzed me on characters in the Horrid Henry books – and I failed miserably.
I told him that they wouldn’t let him write in capitals at school and he showed me that he could write the lower case letters if he had to. Interestingly, he was keen to make a lower case ‘a’ a rather complicated and loopy letter. I couldn’t understand why, but D later pointed out that he was trying to create typeface letter shapes – because he reads so much. I wonder if that is also why he seems so uninterested in joined up writing? It’s not what he’s used to seeing. I told him that persisting in writing a backwards s does mean that it looks like a z when people glance at his writing. He could put it the right way round, but it slows him up so I’m not sure if he will bother at the moment. He is still adamant that a fist grip is the only way he can hold a pen effectively – and I wonder if he will ever change that. It’s hard to see why he should when he has such amazing control with the pen in his fist.
We ate mighty plates of courgette risotto for lunch. Leo can really put food away! Then he ate yogurt and we watched some Doctor Who episodes. Leo had a bit of a headache and was rather floppy. There’s so many viruses around at the moment.
We watched an episode featuring the Slitheen, which led to some talk about calcium and vinegar. We’re doing an experiment now, with bits of chalk in water and vinegar. Leo is quite into experiments at the moment. He is often rooting about in the freezer with odd things. At the moment there is a large lump of ice, with marbles embedded in it, taking up most of the top drawer. He really loved a slime kit that someone gave him and has requested a chemistry set for Christmas.
Pearlie went out to the big home ed drop-in group. A kind friend agreed to keep an eye on her for me – though she is ever more self-sufficient. She seemed to have had a good time. She has a particular friend at this group, whom she only sees there – once a fortnight. The girl in question lives out in the sticks but we must make an effort and find a way for P to see her at other times. She and P had pooled money and shared sweets and nice things like that. Pearlie had also read a magazine that some of her friends had produced and bought herself a cute little picture frame in the charity shop. The frame was a souvenir from someone’s Greek island holiday, so Pearlie found a picture from our Crete holiday as soon as she got home.
We had a meeting here in the evening – at which four tired people did their best to be productive!
While the meeting was happening we suddenly heard a bath being run. This was Leo, who has taken to frequent, independent bathing. One of the things I like best about having bigger kids is that they look after their own personal care stuff. All that wiping of bums and noses, all that brushing of hair and doing up buttons is now in our past. The kids even feed themselves for most breakfasts and some lunches. I didn’t at all mind doing all those things when they were little, but it is nice to be on to the next bit now!
We all had a day off today. Dani went to the shops first thing with her bike and trailer to buy a very strange assortment of things we needed: vegan margarine, printer ink, guinea pig pellets and a pumpkin!
I cooked a big pile of spaghetti for our lunch.
In the afternoon Leo and Dani stayed in and pottered. Dani did some necessary clearing in our basement as the builders start next week! Leo watched TV, did some drawing and played on some websites.
Pearlie and I went to town, where we had to buy party clothes for her. The clothes bit was quite easy, and cheap. The problem was shoes. P has some walking shoes from Blacks that she is wearing ok at the moment – but they’re no good with a dress or skirt. We went to all the shoe shops known to human kind – well, all the ones in central Brighton! It is good that P is now a size four, as this means that the choice is far greater, but it was still a challenge. I didn’t want to spend a lot on teeny, tiny little Rocket Dog pumps that wouldn’t be any good as real footwear in the winter months. Also, those kind of shoes just fall off her feet. In the end we got a pair of Rocket Dog boots, which are pretty, fairly trendy without being too teenage, and which will do as real shoes too. In case you’re wondering, it is P who is concerned that her shoes and clothes don’t look too ‘grown up’, not me! Mind you, I am glad that she doesn’t like some of the more foul girls’ clothes out there…
As P was getting all this new stuff, we went and got Leo a new suit. This was very extravagant but sort of necessary. Though he isn’t dressing as the doctor all the time now he still likes to sometimes, and his existing suit jacket was two or three sizes too small. This suit we bought him is gorgeous and he is planning to wear it on stage at the gig.
We don’t tend to spend very much money on clothes, so I was a bit shocked at all the expense. P and I agreed that no-one needs any clothes until Spring now.
When we got home I made a batch of cheese scones for our tea, which we ate hot and buttery.
Leo got a bit upset this evening as, apparently, I swore at him. All I said was, “well, there’s another bloody catalogue upstairs!” when he and P were disagreeing over who should look at said item. Apparently this was a very bad example and he may well grow up to be a Champion Swearer - and it will be all my fault. So, that told me.
I’ve got work again tomorrow – and some biscuits to bake. P is off to the party – a local one for home ed kids over ten. Not sure what the others have planned.
Friday, October 26, 2007
I have a confession… Facebook is irritating me. How does anyone find the time to be on there? My computer time is generally snatched and I prioritise the blog – and reading other people’s blogs. So, this is an apology to any friends reading who will find that I am hopeless at joining in with all the jollity on there.
Today I have to wait in for a delivery of tiles. Leo is very happy to wait in with me – he virtually jumped for joy! Pearlie might go out for a bit if I can get a friend to keep an eye on her where she wants to go.
The kids have been having a good week. Yesterday they went on a half-term treat with Dani, some cousins, my brother and my mum. They had lunch at Pizza Express and then went swimming.
Both kids are still reading a lot at the moment – and making good use of the library service. Pearlie is into The Man with the Tiger Eyes and Leo continues to enjoy the spooky series I have mentioned before.
Other snippets of stuff:
Pearlie got an email from Blue Peter after she sent in a complaint about one of the presenters using the word girl as an insult. The reply contained the amazing insight that:
“boys do tease each other in this way.”
But they said it had been debated in the office and they would bear her comment in mind. Anyway, I was proud that Pearlie took the time to write in with her opinion.
Leo has been making us all home work sheets again. This is something to do with Horrid Henry. It is very amusing, as he writes it all with Horrid Henry’s appalling spelling. I didn’t understand this and made a fool of myself.
“Erm , Leo, you do know that that’s not how you spell work, don’t you?”
Leo gives Allie a pitying look.
“Yes, it’s with an ‘o’! That’s how Horrid Henry spells it!”
We have to fill in the answers on these Leo-generated work sheets. He has also sent some to himself in the post. He loves to get letters.
We got our first postcard from the postcard crossing. It came from Brussels.
Dani and I have been staying up very late working on a dossier to be presented at a meeting with various high ups at the council next week. We have long been involved (with some stalwart comrades!) in this laborious process of trying to get a clear local authority policy for local home edders. This dossier is a collection of lots of people’s experiences – and a little bit of analysis and recommendation – to show these big wigs what people have had to put up with.
So, we’ve been doing our paid jobs, home edding and half-term socialising, and then writing this document until 1.30am for the last three nights. Then, last night, I kept us both awake coughing until about 3am. I don’t remember being this tired since the kids were little and woke us in the night. Guess this could be why I’m getting ill a lot at the moment.
I would like to write something about a Sheila Jeffreys book that I’ve been reading – but not sure if I’ll get to it today.
Also watched a Channel Four programme called Last Chance Kids, all about a synthetic phonics system in a school with a lot of illiterate kids. Had lots of thoughts about that that might be worth blogging at some point.
Oh, last thing to mention. I wrote to our MEP, Caroline Lucas, about the upsetting programme I saw about children in Bulgarian orphanages. Got quite a good reply too.
"Caroline will be writing to the Commissioner about the Bulgarian
authorities' failure to offer adequate protection to young disabled people
in its care and urging the EU to offer guidance and support to the Bulgarian
government. I will send you a copy of the Commissioner's response as soon
as it is available."
Now, to hunt around for cold remedies in the medicine box.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
The students waiting at the stop with me had matching t-shirts – some kind of freshers event, even though we are four weeks into term. The young women (yes, I did just delete ‘girls’!) had slashed a v down the front of their shirts and were wearing the tiniest shorts. All were roaring drunk – at 8pm. I worried if they would all look after each other later on, about how cold they’d be, whether they were likely to throw up on the bus. I felt a mixture of tired (end of a long day!), irritated at their drunken silliness and maternal! Bizarre!
When I went to university (Leeds) there were no mobile phones, no emails, no messaging. It really does feel like another century! My mum used to give me a £10 phone card to take with me, which lasted me well into the term. Most of my communication with family and friends back home, or round the country, was by letter. I couldn’t afford to phone people all the time! I wrote reams of letters. I waited with anticipation for the post. In my first year, in halls, post was spread out on a table in the central room and you had to go and look to see if there was anything for you. Today’s students are never out of touch. The first thing they do, on arrival on the campus, is get online to get in touch again.
When I left university I owed not one penny to anyone. I got a grant of nearly £2000 a year, my fees were all paid, and I worked and saved in the vacations – but never in the term. I lived on a budget of around £30 per week for food, clothes and going out – if I remember rightly. I got clothes at the big Oxfam surplus store in the Chapeltown Road. I bought all my food at Morrison’s (which was the cheapest supermarket) or in the covered market in the city.
I guess I was always careful with money but so were most of my friends. I felt that it was part of the test of being grown up – could I manage my money? I had enough to get by and have quite a lot of fun. No-one was offering us loans, though. If you wanted an overdraft you had to go and make an appointment at the bank! These days the students know that they will leave with a big debt – a scary, massive debt. I think that that has shifted student culture firmly into one of spend now and worry later. If you’re going to owe tens of thousands then why not just add a few more thousand and really enjoy yourself?
I don’t know if our kids will ever want to go to university. I’m not at all sure that I would advise them to. I guess that’s a bit of a cheek – the students turning up here pays my wages – but I just can’t imagine the horror of being so far in debt when you leave university. When I left, clutching a 2:1 in sociology, I was hardly employable! I went back to the bookshop where I’d worked part-time since I was at school.
That was ok. But if I’d had a huge overdraft hanging round my neck I’d never have coped. And I guess I’d still be paying off student loans now… And, for what?
Personally, and this is a totally personal viewpoint, I can remember very, very little of what I learned when studying for my first degree. When I’m helping students at work I do remember some names – Habermas, Adorno – that Giddens book like a doorstop! I remember alienation, anomie, ideology. But I couldn’t tell you much about any of it – not really. I read a lot of feminists who I have forgotten. There was Ann Oakley, but I can only remember her because of Annie Oakley! I liked to imagine her as a woman with a six-shooter. I learned some stuff about South Korea – a bit of which has stuck – because it was taught by someone who really cared about it. But most of it is gone.
Of course, there was three years of life in there too. I remember quite a lot of that. I had some great friends. But, would I have done it if it meant such a huge debt? I don’t know. It seems like quite an extreme and expensive way to leave home – which is essentially what it was for me. For some of the students these days it seems to be not unlike three years at Butlins. They go to endless theme nights at the clubs. They get drunk several nights week. I’m not being judgemental – it’s a choice, I suppose. I also don’t want to over generalise. Some of the students work damn hard. Some I see pretty much every day – they read and write and engage with the whole business. But all of them leave owing so much money – no matter what they get out of it.
From now on I know that it will be a steady progression for me, until the new students are younger than my kids, until they are the age of my grandchildren, should I have any. I don’t imagine leaving. Of course, my job is somewhat fluid these days. The building itself will disappear eventually, no doubt. Nothing stays the same, expect perhaps the fact that the first years will still have that damn Giddens book on their reading list – albeit an e-book! And if they decide they don’t need librarians any more then I’ll work in the canteen – they’ll always need coffee.
If my kids decide to go to university and run up that debt then they will, I suppose. If they don’t I won’t be heartbroken. My parents were the first in their families to go to university. They were very proud of that achievement – and rightly so, I think. For me it was more like sitting on a conveyor belt that plopped me off into university, where I didn’t really know what I was doing. If I turned up for my lectures it was only because that gave me more time to moon round that older woman I was never brave enough to make the moves on…I guess that the fact that our kids aren’t on the conveyor belt means that they will have to make a clear choice to pursue the route to university– and work out how to get themselves there. If they don’t go then no doubt they’ll be busy doing something else.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
This baby was sitting in a buggy facing me. We have mostly accessible buses now, with lots of space for buggies. Her mum was alongside her, facing me too, and staring out the window. She looked sad. Maybe she wasn’t, maybe she was just thinking, but she did look sad – gloomy. Her baby was just looking around for the start of the journey but after a while she grabbed her shoe and started to fiddle with the Velcro. The bus stopped for a little pause at the garage while the driver nipped out to the loo. She left the engine running but shut the doors. So we all sat there waiting. With a little cry of delight the baby ripped open the Velcro and waved her shoe in the air.
My heart was in my mouth at this point, nervous that her mum would be cross – it was an expensive looking branded trainer. But she wasn’t. She smiled and did a fake gasp of shock – and the baby smiled. The baby was happy for a while then. She tried to fit her shod foot into the other shoe, and found she couldn’t. Then she waved the shoe again and hurled it to the floor of the bus. The mum picked it up and I thought all would be well – a little game to pass the time. I looked out the window to see if the driver was coming. Suddenly there was an outraged scream. I looked back to see the baby, barefoot and furious, writhing in her buggy straps – tears running down her face. Her mum was tucking her two shoes into the top of the buggy.
We were all still waiting for the driver to return and the baby cried on. She pulled at her straps and her mum said:
“No! You’re not getting out.”
Baby screamed all the louder.
After a few minutes the driver came back and the bus went on. The baby’s cries became less angry and more sad – sobbing. She stopped for a moment when someone got up nearby and she watched them get off the bus. She looked over towards me. I was drinking some water from a clear plastic bottle. I held it up in the window, so the sun shone through it – and she watched that for a minute or two and stopped crying. But she was very sad, frustrated and tired too – yawning.
A few minutes later, as she cried on, her mum leaned into her face and said,
“Be quiet! You’re not getting out.”
The baby flung her head back against the buggy.
Then they got off.
I felt miserable, watching them go.
I don’t underestimate the challenges involved in taking your toddler on the bus. We didn’t do it often when P was little - we were nervous that we wouldn’t be able to keep our little mobile creature safe on the bus and she hated being confined. But sometimes we did. And, when Leo was little we went on the bus more often, because we had P and she couldn’t always walk where we needed to go.
Sometimes our little ones did get upset on the bus. If you’re a baby or toddler the bus is littered with tempting things you can’t have – other people’s shopping, dogs or hats. The floor is dirty and dangerous and you can’t crawl or toddle about. There are tempting red buttons on every pole and you mustn’t press them. But we had lots of strategies for managing.
The baby on the bus was clever to find something to do when she was fed up in her buggy. She had nothing in the way of toys, so she played with her shoes. Toddlers love shoes, don’t they? But when our kids were little we always had a bag with things in. When Leo was a similar age to the toddler I saw on the bus, he had an old mobile phone that he loved. He would take any mobile phone he could find (!) so we gave him an old, real one to play with. I can remember him sitting in his buggy, on the bus, pressing buttons and making calls. If all else failed I’d give a grumpy child my keys! Risky, but pretty much foolproof as a distraction. Later on we usually had a book or two. Leo had favourite illustrations that he would happily sit and study for ten minutes – mainly ones involving big teeth!
We also, always, had food and drink with us. I usually do now! But, especially when the kids were pre-verbal I was always aware that they might be hungry or thirsty. If anyone had been crying I always offered them some water. A little pot of chopped, mixed fruit is a fabby distraction. We always had rice cakes in the bag – and sometimes a whole meal worth of food, especially for P who was often too busy to eat at home.
But most of all, we communicated. If the bus was very quiet I might not talk out loud, but I was always communicating – looks and touches. P had quite of a lot of signs. If the child was old enough not to get down and wander off then I’d often stand them on my lap so they could see out the window – without dirtying the seat. I’d give them lots of warning about what was going to happen when we got off the bus. I’ve often seen children hysterical when they’re suddenly plonked back in a buggy and whisked off the bus, with no explanation. I think people often assume that a child who can’t talk can’t understand. I am often amazed at young toddlers who are following every word of what you say though they have maybe only three or four words of speech. Lots of telling about what will happen was great.
Of course, sometimes babies and toddlers will have unavoidable ‘do dahs’ as they are called in our house. I’m not a TCS mummy and there was never any way I was going to let my child crawl about the bus. And sometimes we needed to be on the bus – and that was just the way it was. If I couldn’t make the experience bearable then sometimes it just had to be endured – by all of us.
But the whole baby episode I saw the other day might well have been avoided, or calmed, with a few things done differently. I’m not a great fan of un-solicited advice. I know, full well, that if I’d suggested anything to that mum, in that moment, her likely reaction would have been one of indignation. I got the feeling that her insistence on a negative message to her child, “you’re NOT getting out”, was something that she was pursuing as an active strategy. It was like she had been advised, or had decided for herself, that her baby needed to accept an unexplained “No” from her. I think that a lot of people think that that is part of toddlerhood – that the baby will want things and you must resist those demands and show them that you are unshakeable.
I hate being witness to such interactions. I have sometimes tried smiling at the parent, in an encouraging way, but people tend to think you’re mad if you smile at them on the bus! Equally, I’ve interacted with the child, but that is often unwelcome too – parents can feel undermined. I’ve been told, “ignore him, he’s having a tantrum.” So, I don’t think there’s anything much you can do. What do other people think?
Saturday, October 20, 2007
We’d bought tickets in the gallery and they upgraded us by moving us down a level to the second circle. That was good for us but a bit sad for the cast – as it meant they hadn’t sold many tickets. I don’t know why that would be. I know that Tintin had a very unfashionable phase a few years ago because of the (undeniable but typical of its time) racist portrayal of African people in Tintin in the Congo. Or maybe it was just that Tintin is a rather particular taste. Then again, it could have been that people from Brighton had seen it in London.
Anyway, it was an adaptation of Tintin in Tibet and it was pretty true to the book. It had dream sequences that included some of the beloved characters who don’t appear in that book – the Thompson Twins and Bianca Castafiore. The set was very clever, quite sparse, like the book.
The kids really enjoyed it. I love taking them to the theatre as it always feels like money well spent. I also love the Theatre Royal and am always happy to be there – no matter if the play is poor. But this one was a definite hit with all of us!
I had to go to work today. Dani and the kids popped up to town to get a birthday present for a friend who is having a birthday party tomorrow. Pearlie read the first chapter of the new Roman mystery book in Smiths and is now waiting for her cousin to finish her copy so she can borrow it! Leo went into the library to borrow more in a spooky series he is reading.
Dani has sorted out our hallway this afternoon, which is a great relief. I don’t know quite how but most of our possessions seem to end up strewn about in the narrow space we have to use to get from room to room.
I’ve got work again tomorrow and Dani and the kids will be going to the aforementioned birthday party.
I’m off to make an apple crumble. We’ve got lots of stewed apple in the freezer at the moment, thanks to the grandmothers’ Bramley tree. I spent a whole evening peeling and chopping windfalls this week.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Wednesday morning, at 9.45am, saw Leo and me outside the Odeon, in town, waiting for Pearlie to arrive. She had spent the night before at a sleepover at a friend’s house out in Hove. She arrived with very cold hands – she’d scooted along the seafront cycle path with no gloves. We are having a spell of beautiful sunshine but it’s a bit chilly in the mornings.
Heidi was good – another free educational film showing. Pearlie, in particular, enjoyed it. Leo preferred the Earth movie we’d seen the week before. The cinema was much quieter than last week – just one school trip. The film seemed quite recent – Diana Rigg was Clara’s grandmother.
We all ate bagels and then I dropped off the kids with Dani and they went swimming. I went to work.
Unfortunately, both kids were tired (not at all sure how much sleep P had managed the night before!) and they both managed to injure their knees in the pool. P was very upset by the blood – she cut her knee. Dani said it was all a bit of a drama and she was glad to get away. No doubt the pool staff were quite glad to see the back of the wailing children too!
They popped into the library too.
Dani had to go out to her work AGM in the evening, before I got home from work, so we had to call for some Grandmother Back-up. The grandmother in question (my mum’s partner) brought the kids up to my work at 8pm and drove us all home again, picking up my mum from her evening class on the way.
I got the tired kids to bed and settled down with tea and Migraleve. Migraine is still lurking now…
Dani got back late after post-AGM drinks. The meeting had gone well.
Thursday was another long day.
I had a training session at work (manual handling stuff) and had to be in at 9.30am. I had a couple of hours off in the middle of the day, but it wasn’t worth coming home so I stayed there right through to my usual finishing time of 8pm.
The kids had had a pottering day, with lots of breaks from each other as they weren’t getting on well. P had taken her first solo trip into town – walking and taking the bus – to buy something she’d seen in the museum shop. She also went to Kids’ Club and Woodcraft Folk. Leo had been playing and making slime from a kit.
Dani went off to her knitting group as soon as I got in. My migraine was buzzing and the kids had a spectacular row (I got involved too) which was very, very loud and tiring. It all started with a set of pens, would you believe… Eventually, the kids went to bed and I cleaned out the guinea pig in a grumpy manner! Dani came home and gave me tea and sympathy.
So, today we are taking it easy - ish. We’ve been back to the library to get them to take out the strip on a DVD we borrowed so that we can actually get the case open! This is the second time they have failed to remove the tab when we’ve borrowed a DVD and I find it very irritating. Leo had a reservation to collect so we asked at the counter. The staff member embarked on much blank staring at the trolley of reservations and then hunting on the open shelves in case it had been put out by mistake. Eventually the book was found on the reservations trolley… I know it is unfair but I can’t help but compare the systems in the public library with ours at work – and the dopey woman helping us sl….ow…ly with my lightening quick issue desk colleagues who handle of queue of fifteen people and never miss a beat. Last time Leo had a reservation to collect he happened to spot another for him on the trolley. The officious woman there obviously didn’t like this precocious child. She said it was ‘probably for someone else’ and snatched it from him. Dani had to go back and sneak a look at it to find that it was his reservation, after all. They didn’t get an apology...
Anyway, today we got some books and went upstairs into the reference bit to read quietly – the children’s library having a noise level rather like a soft play centre. Pearlie finished off another Lady Grace mystery – and Leo started a new Geronimo Stilton. I read the introduction to the History Boys by Alan Bennett. I love Alan Bennett but somehow missed the History Boys. I didn’t read the actual play because I’d prefer to see a production first. There’s a film version, isn’t there?
Anyway, we’re off to the theatre to see Tintin tonight – and until then I am intending painkillers and more tea and a doze. Kids are reading so all is quiet – for now.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
My past experience with this group has shown me that trying to actually do origami there is a mistake, so I made all the snappers in advance, but did take along the instructions and some paper in case anyone wanted to know how to make them. With fewer/different children and more time, making the snappers from scratch would be very easy. Here's a link to the diagrams.
Leo's food chain was plant - freshwater invertebrate - fish - dog
Here's the dog's satisfied face when he's eaten all the others!
I did nectar - bee - blackbird - cat (thought my cat would insist on looking like a mouse!)
Each size of snapper is made from paper half the size of the next biggest one. So the dog started as A4 paper, the fish A5, the freshwater invertebrate A6, and my bee was A7. The tiny plants were a different model, called a snap hexahedron, which I know from a book, so I can't link to the diagram. Email me or leave your addy in a comment if you really want to know how to make it.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
You may recall that we have recently been pondering the idea of a few IGCSEs for P over the next few years. I was aware, in our conversations, that P had no real idea of the whole ‘exam paper’ thingy. This morning I printed off some old past papers for the English Language IGCSE and P and I had a look at a foundation level comprehension exercise. I was rather impressed by both of us! P has not done a comprehension exercise since she left school. I find the ‘junior’ ones mind numbing and though we’ve browsed the odd book in a shop, P has never wanted one. So, I was amazed at how quickly she got the idea. I showed her how to pay close attention to the marks available for each question – and base your answer around that. I also emphasised the need to write in short, unambiguous sentences. She picked that up easily and was able to scan through the text, underlining relevant phrases, and so on. Then we discussed how to structure the answers. She came up with most of it without any help from me. I sometimes chipped in with suggestions of how to make the answers less ambiguous or convoluted but she was usually getting there anyway.
I reckon the challenge for P, and probably her home ed friends, would be in building up the stamina to write for two hours solid. She’s not used to that amount of writing in a single sitting. There is no rush to do any of this – and if P decides not to bother then that’s fine too. But I think that she might really enjoy pursuing this and tucking away a qualification over the next couple of years – especially if she can work alongside friends.
I’ve been having a slight re-think about qualifications recently. I still think that I have far too many and that the acquisition of them was largely an exercise in showing off! But a recent re-grading at work brought home to me the earning potential that I have because I did follow right through and get a professionally recognised MA. Several increments were added to the pay scale for my job in the re-grading – just because of the need to be professionally qualified. That means I can work in a part-time job and get paid a decent hourly rate, which is more than most part-timers can say. So, I think that a few qualifications is probably a good idea, if you don’t mind doing them. I wouldn’t encourage either of the kids to do the huge number that schooled kids do – just enough for what you need seems to be the best way to go. Why sit 11 GCSEs when no-one cares how many you’ve got once you have four or five?
While P and I were looking at the exam paper, Leo found himself a Doctor Who toy to bid for on Ebay. That’s ICT done then! He had a false start when he found one in the US but realised his mistake when the price was in dollars.
“Ah, yes, I need to go to .co.uk, not .com, don’t I?”
It still does pull me up short when I see how much the kids take the internet for granted. They can’t imagine how recent all these changes are.
Anyway, have to go and make lunch now. Yesterday was good, with the odd hiccup, but probably not worth blogging in detail. There was MMs, Kids’ Club, Grandmothers, B&Q and quiche for tea. That’ll have to do.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Leo was looking for a particular 5 inch Doctor Who figure set, which we couldn’t find anywhere. Pearlie bought a new purse.
We celebrated our ‘everyone day off’ by going to the cinema to see Ratatouille. It was great fun – lots of laughs, in spite of some ridiculous plot elements.
Yesterday included the big, fortnightly home ed group. Leo made a new comic, Pearlie went and bought sweets with friends, and I helped out with a communal sewing project.
I spent an hour on the phone to Sky, during which I spoke to five different people who told me five different things about our installation. I was on the edge of murderous by the time I got a nice Scottish woman who calmed my nerves and told me all was well! I’m a sucker for the soothing tones of a mature woman – especially following a succession of Daves and Clarks and so on, who alternated between scared and clueless and cocky and clueless…
In the evening we took cousins D and S to the swimming pool. The kids all had a great time and cousin D (6) was inspired by seeing the others jumping into the deep end and he did it for the first time ever. The life guard had a couple of anxious moments, including one when she leapt up and grabbed her floatation device – but D was fine! We were right there watching him. He does have quite a ‘sinky’ style of getting about – but that’s because he’s very happy under the water. Leo was doing lots of fetching things from the bottom of the pool – like a little pearl diver! Pearl and cousin S are both great swimmers these days – so they have a good time and we don’t even have to keep an eye on them.
The pool trip made me realise how grown up all the kids are getting. I can remember pool trips with Leo as a toddler and cousin D a babe in arms. Nieces and nephews are wonderful.
Here’s a link to Dani’s new knitting web site – enjoy it!
Thursday, October 11, 2007
I’ve been a bit pre-occupied of late owing to an un-bloggable extended family worry. I’ve missed loads I want to blog about but I think this will have to be a quick catch up post.
Tuesday it peed with rain. Leo slept until 10am - late night reading catching up with him. Pearlie and I looked at a maths book about negative numbers. Then she set to on Club Penguin, where she is working hard to save enough for an igloo upgrade. Leo did some drawing. It was very pleasant and companionable.
The kids had another great Squeezebox session.
When we got home, Pearlie and I watched one of our Mrs Bradley mysteries. This was highly educational as the plot involved the scandalous nature of lesbian relationships in late 1920s England. It also touched on illegitimacy and ‘saucy’ postcards. Lawks! Pearlie found the whole thing quite amusing, I think. ‘Twas a good plot – hypnosis and heart attck induced by spider phobia! Leo was busy playing in his room.
In the evening, I took Pearlie swimming. Dani and Leo spent some time together, making a paper model of K9. Leo has lots of these lovely paper models. I like them but they are very delicate and are dust traps in his room. I reckon he needs a glass display case to put them in!
P really needs to move up a group at swimming as she keeps bumping into the person ahead of her – especially when she’s doing backstroke. Unfortunately, the next group up is still full.
The kids and I went to a free educational film showing on Wednesday morning. It was a film all about the Earth – lots of cute animals and time lapse images of plants growing. I expected the cinema to be a bit noisy and it was. I don’t mind the odd comment about the film but when the group of kids beside me started talking, in loud voices, about star wars toys then I did point out that they could leave if they didn’t want to watch… Sadly, they were home ed kids – though I’ve no idea where their adults were. They seemed to have popped them into their seats and disappeared. Perhaps they went to sit somewhere quieter to watch the film! The kids were eleven (ish), which I gathered from their discussion of birthdays (!), and I was a bit disappointed that it hadn’t occurred to them that it was rude to talk constantly. A small friend a few seats away did a far better job of concentrating on the film than they managed!
I posted the kids off the bus to Dani, who was waiting at the bus stop. Then I went on to work.
Dani and the kids went to the library and then on to capoeira.
Some other little things have been happening, which have failed to make the blog.
Pearlie asked Dani to help her understand something about proof by contradiction that her grandfather had sent her in the post. They were deep in this when I got home from work one night!
Leo is reading so much that I began to suspect that he was aiming for a quantity of books It turned out that he was attempting to read more books in a week than Perfect Peter from the Horrid Henry books. I think it was nine books…
Anyway, here’s a couple of photos.
Pearlie's weaving - Dani's method but work by P.
A battle between the witches and the lizard creatures.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
I am always disproportionately pleased when I manage to find the right home for some useful object I don’t need any more. So I was very happy when a single post on our local Freecycle group resulted in not one but two sofas finding new homes where they will be well used. And, what’s more, this interesting but bulky construction toy
has left our bedroom floor for a productive new life at the highly deserving Brighton Unemployed Centre Families Project crèche.
We are clearing out some stuff in preparation for our big house reorganisation. This is quite a slow business, as it’s all a bit daunting and we keep having to do much more urgent things like watch ridiculous films on the True Movies channel.
The kids and I have had a busy few days. We played Cluedo, bought storage boxes, hung out with cousins, and cooked little banana cakes on Saturday. Leo visited his friend J. for a Doctor Who fest and trip to the beach on Sunday, while Pearlie and I browsed charity shops and saw a great exhibition about indigo at
They went to their groups today (Kids Club for P, MMs and Woodies for L) and Pearlie and I began a tablet weaving project we have been thinking about for ages. Tablet weaving is something I did at home as a kid, with my dad, and I have very clear and fond memories of it. We are using an improvised version of the same system we used then, with the loom hanging from a coathanger, rather than attached to the weaver’s waist, as is traditional. I’ll post photos when I’ve taken some.
I’m having a period of finishing and starting things with my knitting. I’ve finally got my hooded waistcoat to a stage when I can wear it, though I am still considering adding some sleeves, as I think that would make it a more useful garment for me. Photos of this to follow as well. In fact, I’m thinking I might start a knitting blog/site, where I can waffle on about this kind of thing on a larger scale. Following a kind gift of yarn, I’ve made a start on some experimental socks for Pearlie. And I’m also attempting a lacy wristwarmer for her, using some lovely purple yarn I couldn’t resist in a charity shop on Sunday.
Friday, October 05, 2007
Dani went off to work and we had a quiet morning – getting up slowly and pottering. Pearlie is deeply engrossed in another My Story book – set in a Victorian workhouse. Leo is ploughing through several Horrid Henry and Geronimo Stilton books each day at the moment. I also read a bit of The Lost Barkscrolls to Leo.
After lunch we got the bus over to a peaceful branch library that also has a toy library. I wandered around stocking up on all sorts of stuff – a Doctor Who jigsaw, an A to Z animals board game, some poetry, a book of local ghost stories, and one of those harrowing life story books that seem to be everywhere these days. I picked that up because the author was born in the same month and year as me. Such has been the peace and calm around here that I have finished it already!
The kids sat in the library reading for an hour or so and then we went off to pick up a bit of shopping. We got home using two buses and P helped me with the shopping bags as I’d ended up somewhat overburdened.
This evening has been Cluedo for Dani and the kids and I’ve been to the adult swimming session at out local pool. The adult swim session is silent and purposeful – lovely. I swam for half an hour and got home in time for bedtime stories.
I’ve been pondering food a bit today – after reading about how kids are rejecting the Jamie Oliver menus in droves and hearing an item on Radio Four about the death of home economics in schools. I can’t say I ever learned anything useful in the way of cookery at school. I did have some home ec lessons. All I can remember is that there were two home ec teachers – who looked like Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker. Oh, and they got us to make quiche using flan rings instead of dishes and I had a little hole in my pastry – out of which all the egg stuff escaped and baked onto the tray…
I learned all the basics of cooking from my mum – like a lot of other people, I guess. A school set up was useless for cooking – all very slow and laborious while we watched a display, fiddled about following instructions and then took wizened food home in a Tupperware box. At home I learned by doing – pastry, cakes, roast spuds, white sauce – basic stuff. Never did learn how to cook meat, which made adopting a veggie lifestyle easy later on. When I first left home I wasn’t a veggie but lived a veggie diet by default – with occasional tins of tuna and drunken hot dogs from the dodgy van!
My own kids (P more than L) really like food to be simple. I don’t understand why people think that healthy food for kids has to be complicated – like the Jamie Oliver meals. I suspect that stuff like baked spuds and sandwiches would be quite popular and easy to make healthy and varied. My own kids happily eat five or more fruits and veggies a day (usually!) – but they often eat them as separate things – apples, bananas, oranges, peppers, cucumber, carrots, peas, green beans, broccoli, plums – loads of stuff but all separate. Leo likes a sauce (he ate one tonight with courgettes, onions, garlic, tomatoes, black eye beans and green pepper) but Pearlie won’t touch such stuff. She ate the brown rice we were having with peas instead of the sauce– and a side order of grated cheese. Because her meals are less filling than ours (because there are often elements she doesn’t like) she snacks loads too. Tonight she made herself a four decker rice cake and cream cheese sandwich and a yogurt, which she ate before bed. Leo just snacks loads as well as big meals!
I do think that there seems to be a problem with kids and eating in this country. But I wonder if the obesity levels aren’t more affected by the fact that kids aren’t walking and playing out regularly than their diets. Our kids are really skinny ones, which I guess is partly genetic (we were both skinny kids – not so skinny now!) but they do get loads of exercise just because we don’t have a car. Probably why I don’t worry that P has eaten two iced doughnuts today! Erm , not sure if that’s how it works…
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Leo is currently Doctor Who – about 90% of the time. He can cope with the occasional washing of his suit as long as he can wear something that looks like Captain Jack, or Horrid Henry if really necessary. Last night, Dani I were talking about this state of affairs and we realised that Leo has inhabited characters in this way since he was really tiny.
When Leo was about 18 months old he became obsessed with The Singing Kettle – a Scottish singing group. He would only answer to the name of Artie for a few months – and he insisted that I was Cilla. These were the names of the lead singers. Leo went everywhere with a small, yellow toy kettle. He had a cuddly kettle to sleep with. This led on to several particular passions – mostly related to the things that the Singing Kettle team pulled out of their kettles (don’t ask...) One of the most joyful of these passions was with frogs. When he was under two he set about locating all the pictures of frogs in every book we owned. He was given almost exclusively frog themed presents for his second birthday.
When Leo was two he was briefly Fiona from the Shrek movies. He didn’t know her name and declared himself “The Green Princess”. I think that one only lasted a few weeks but it really did cause a stir, calling my child in the park.
“Green Princess, it’s time to go now!”
We had to use his chosen identity or he would ignore us and, to be honest, he glowed when we called him by his chosen name.
When Leo was three he became Aidan Cook. Aidan Cook was the presenter of a Channel Four early literacy series called Rat-a-tat-tat. Leo wore a small rucksack on his back, in which he carried a book – like Aidan Cook. He watched the programmes on a loop and wore his rucksack every waking moment. When he was three and a half he was due to start at nursery school and he had a little booklet to fill in – all about himself. On the first page he drew a very impressive picture of a human figure – under the heading A Picture of Me. We congratulated him on this and he was very angry insisting that the figure was Aidan Cook and that we must write that there so no-one would make the same mistake. One of the things that I observed in my few days hanging around the nursery school was that Leo’s bag made some of the nursery workers very uncomfortable. On the last day that Leo went (he was only there a couple of weeks) I watched as one of the workers convinced him to take off his bag and put it on his peg. Within moments, when it sunk in what he had done, Leo was tearful and anxious. Being someone with such a powerful drive to imagine was clearly suspicious and odd in that conforming environment. I could think of no other reason for putting him in that uncomfortable position.
In contrast, the summer after Leo’s fourth birthday, he spent a couple of months being Count Olaf – the villain from the Lemony Snicket Unfortunate Events books. He would answer only to Olaf, or sometimes to one of the Olaf’s pseudonyms – Captain Sham or Coach Genghis. On the first day I took him to a home ed outdoor event he was determinedly Olaf. I was met by the lovely S, a mum of three and a very wise woman. She embraced his chosen name entirely and asked him all about the books. Next time we went along he took his books to show her.
There have been other characters over the years. Batman was tricky, as he had to wear his full costume, including mask, at all times. This used to make him incredibly hot and sweaty and invariably end in furious tears. But he was Batman so entirely that he insisted everyone sing the Batman theme at his birthday party instead of Happy Birthday.
For a while he was William Buckland – the nineteenth century palaeontologist. I think that was in the time leading up to his fifth birthday – and in the middle of his dinosaur passion. The rest of us were all assigned identities too – Mary Anning, Edward Drinker Cope, Othniel Marsh. He knew the names from the, very dense, books he was demanding we read to him. When he was William Buckland he would draw an image of the dinosaur jawbone that Buckland identified. On a trip to the
A clear by-product of Leo’s passions and his love of various characters, has been the role it has played in his reading and writing skills. Leo was inspired at four to sit and listen to pages and pages of heavy prose that told of the life of Mary Anning. This was a book for an adult readership and I can picture him still – sucking on a dummy and twiddling another in his fingers as he demanded “read more”.
These days he reads anything about Doctor Who – no matter if it is a newspaper article, comic, book or web site. He scans the credits too – telling us today that the actor who played the Pig Pilot in the Christopher Ecclestone series also played the Slitheen child in the latest Sarah Jane Adventure. When he writes it is like this:
“On a space ship some Sycorax were plotting their revenge. They were opening up the void.”
Doctor Who is a fairly common obsession among seven year olds – so it is nice that he has other people to share this love. But he still ‘out obsesses’ most kids I know. He sweeps around in his long coat and I catch him just standing, posing, being The Doctor.
What all the many characters have in common is that they meant something very important to Leo at the time. I wonder sometimes if his passion for costume and character will stay with him for life. I do hope that he is not pressurised out of it by the opinions of others. What it has taught me is that today is the day – the day to live your dreams. From that little toddler pulling “Froggies!” out of his toy kettle to the Time Lord of today Leo is 100% engaged with the world through his imagination. When he tosses his long coat over the end of his bed and wraps a bit of wire around an old pen Leo really is The Doctor in The Tardis – and he is truly happy.
Oooer, that looks a bit suspect now, like a scene from a film on the Movies for Men channel - not that I ever watch such things... ahem...
We won an old game of Cluedo on ebay the other day, which came this morning. I can remember playing it when I was roughly Leo’s age and I remember that I was often rather unsure what I was doing. I was even known to accuse someone who was in my own hand and then be embarrassed in front of all the family when the truth was revealed. It was a shock to find that it is really quite a straightforward game! I think you could pay very close attention to everyone’s guesses and get there very quickly but you can also just work through your own processes of guesses and elimination and get there pretty fast that way too. It has a real advantage over Monopoly in that it doesn’t take three hours! I have decided that more board games is a family need for the winter and it’s great if we can pick them up cheap on ebay.
Lots of the local home edders are away on a trip to CAT this week. We couldn't afford that - not enough money or leave available. As Pearlie and Leo’s band members are both away they each had a one to one session today. Pearlie was enthusiastic about that so I think we’ll need to find time/money to fit those in for her sometimes. No-one was in the park so we came home. It is very grey and chilly here today.
I am waiting for a second visit from the Tesco delivery driver, hopefully this time with all our fridge stuff. Yogurt features heavily in the kids’ snack repertoire, as do Innocent smoothies, so I hope he returns. Humus is P’s preferred source of protein at the moment too - so we need that food. Leo eats eggs, all kinds of cheese, beans of many types and veggie sausage/quorn type products. But P has always been a carb eater, primarily. She would happily live on raw veggies, fruit, bread products and plain rice and pasta. I fret about iron and protein but no doubt she’s getting what she needs, one way or another. Wholemeal bread and humus sandwiches go a long way towards calming my fears on both scores though…
Both the kids do choose to spend a fair amount of their money on sweets. But I am a real chocoholic so can’t complain. I ate tons of sweets as a kid and remember the joy of having 10p to spend on Black Jacks, Fruit Salad and Flying Saucers – so it has never been something we worry about with the kids. I have a mouth full of fillings but, so far, P has only had one small filling and Leo none. I suspect that is because we are very vigilant about tooth cleaning, especially at night. We still help Leo ‘finish off’ which I think makes a hell of a difference.
Pearlie spent her book token yesterday (a present from my mum) on Ann Boleyn and Me, which she is enjoying. The My Story series has been great for P. Leo finished Forever Autumn– quite a challenging read for a little person. I am glad that he is happy to read those Doctor Who books himself because I struggled with the one I read to him – not really my cup of tea. I am enjoying having an Edge Chronicles book to read to him again.
I blew the rest of my birthday voucher on The Complete Mrs Bradley Mysteries, which I thought might not be too scary for P to share with us. I am rather partial to Diana Rigg. I also bought a two DVD set of Victoria Wood as seen on TV. I taped all those off the TV when I was a teenager but the tapes have gradually got worn and lost. I am looking forward to the ‘two soups’ sketch and the shoe shop with ‘hens in the skirting board’…