Being a man

I’ve spent a surprising amount of the weekend doing things that are stereotypically manly, and enjoying myself too. On Saturday I had my now-traditional posh shave at a barbers, with J and K in tow – after getting over the fear of paying a stranger to rub a sharp blade over my neck (which happens surprisingly quickly) it’s a lovely experience. You end up sooo smooth and a bit more relaxed. The place is definitely a barbers, run by Turks and Greeks without the need for the United Nations – this was the first time I’ve been there where there were any female staff, and it was nice to see other dads bring their sons in for haircuts. I think because of the Turks’ love of children, the boys were talked to and respected, rather than being ignored or not wanted. The boys waited very patiently but declined the barber’s offer of shaving cream.

The boys helped me put together some of the cabinets for the bathroom, with J doing a very good job with the dowels. After that I wielded my hammer drill and put the blighters up on the wall, hung the doors and so on. (Very nearly finished.) I also did the last bit of wood preservative on the shed – a job that has passed the threshold where it goes from a source of stress and lots of clutter to no/reduced stress and less clutter than you started with (otherwise known as “finishing”). The cupboards are v. close to this point too.

On Saturday afternoon J, K and I played with the rest of my(?) father’s day present, which was a Mecano like thing with motors, gears, pumps, propellers, caterpillar tracks and so on. It claims to teach lots of science; all I know is that we all had fun and I think that J has grasped the concept of needing a complete circuit for electrical things to work – this was quite simple as broken connections stopped the interesting things happening. We’re also laying the foundations for debugging 🙂 – if your complicated thing doesn’t work, try to break it down into simpler things until it starts to work again, then add things on slowly so you can see what breaks.

These were all very male, and it got me thinking: what kind of a man do I want the boys to grow into? There’s stuff that would be true of any child of mine regardless of sex, things like wanting them to be happy and healthy, kind to others and so on, but even if they manage to negotiate sex stereotypes successfully themselves, the stereotypes still exist in society around them, so what is there peculiar to boys and men that I’m hoping for?

I haven’t organised these into a proper order yet, so apologies for randomness. I hope they see the value in physical strength and skill, but don’t judge themselves or others by bicep size, and don’t use strength to win an argument. I hope that they realise that their partner will get tired too, sometimes more than them, and so share the hard work they have in common. I hope that they apply themselves to whatever job they end up doing, in the home or outside it, but don’t define themselves or others just via their job.

I hope that they see that a real man is one who’s prepared to change his baby’s nappies, and lets his wife or girlfriend do some of the driving (someone who doesn’t is less of a man, not more, in my opinion). I hope they can cry and show emotions when it’s appropriate, show their weaknesses too, but have the strength to cope when loved ones need caring for. I hope they have the relationship with God and with a partner that I have, but those are areas where I have to leave them to find their own path.

Hmmm… I think it’s time to read Steve Biddulph again, but properly this time.

Two steps forward and one step back

The good news is that you end up one step further forward than you started, so you have to take heart in that. Bit of a theme for yesterday and today:

  • Yesterday J and I started catching up with the World Cup scores and putting them on our wall chart. Then by the power of maths we started to work out who had qualified from the group stages (yes, we were behind). This went really well, although we ran out of time after two groups. I think that J got a lot out of it as he saw there was a point to doing the sums. Tonight when I tried to do a bit more he was too tired after the afternoon’s bouncing, so we managed one more group with some effort. If I take a step back from the extra effort required, he’s still done maths more willingly than he has for a while.

  • After Jax and Kath pointed out Sage to me, I switched to it rather than using Bloglines to keep track of my RSS feeds. I love the auto-discovery thing, and the fact that it just works. One thing I miss from Bloglines is being able to tell it to hide feeds with nothing new on them.

  • The final forward/back (then forward again) was with the site. Ho hum. I expect I’ll get it just so eventually. I’d found out what the real problem was – when you turn on nice permalinks in WordPress (that don’t have question marks and random numbers in) WordPress updates the .htaccess files behind your site for you to tell Apache (the web server) to use one of its groovy features (mod_rewrite) to turn ugly permalinks into spiffy ones. Strangely it assumes that part of the turn-on-grooviness instructions are already there and doesn’t bother adding them.

    If you have an incomplete set of instructions Apache gets confused and your site disappears. Having sussed all this out, I fiddled with the site this morning before work and turned it all on and checked I could see the site. Hurrah! Nice permalinks! When I came to blog at lunchtime I discovered I couldn’t – same problem as before, but this time limited to just the WordPress admin stuff. I then realised that the admin stuff lives in its own directory on the server, which has its own .htaccess file, and I hadn’t added the missing bit of the instruction to that one (just to the main one for people reading the blog). I couldn’t do anything about it as I can only fettle at home. I’ve now fixed it all, and it’s all lovely and shiny, at least until I try to do the next bit of cleverness.

Site problems

Sorry if you’ve been unable to look at the site recently – probably just yesterday. The short version is: I clicked the wrong button and fouled things up. (Long version available on request.) Thanks to help from my ISP I’ve got it fixed at least temporarily. I’m still not sure that the RSS feed is working OK though – I use bloglines to keep on top of blogs I read and it has never told me about things we’ve posted. Has RSS worked / not worked for you?

An unrelated bit of good news: yesterday Katy bought me a Bagpuss video that includes the episode with the machine that makes chocolate biscuits out of butter beans and breadcrumbs. 🙂 My favourite! Professor Yaffle as hard-charging investigative journalist. The mice’s ruse is exposed!

Full weekend

Katy’s already posted about our weekend, so I will just fill in some extra stuff rather than repeat everything.

The first thing to say is actually one of the last to happen: Katy’s recognition service. I was very glad that L stayed asleep (on me) until Katy’s well-deserved applause, even though we were making each other hot. Also, I’m very proud of Katy, for all the hard slog she’s put into her preaching. The training itself is like an Open University course – theology, church history, Bible study, how to lead worship etc. – and then there’s preparing the services themselves which can take up most of a week’s spare time. (Long before your formal recognition you’re doing services by yourself.) I have learned a lot sitting in Katy’s services, and know she has a gift for preaching.

Katy mentioned in the service today that motherhood and preaching have largely occupied the same stretch of her life. This made me remember when she was just starting out and we would put J down to sleep in a tiny travel cot bag in the vestry of whichever church we were at, and he’d stay asleep until the end of the service. Things are a bit trickier these days on the child care during Katy’s services front!

On a completely different tack, I was struck by the contrast between two Ikea workers yesterday. We stopped off at Ikea on the way back from the baby shower in order to break the journey and it also has some strange irresistible pull on the car. (Hmm… Something wrong with the space-time continuum, captain?) We got there late, but there were still people in the cafe so we tried to get something to eat. The chap behind the counter said he’d run out of pasta which was a blow as there wasn’t much else we wanted. It turned out he did have some but it had sat in the serving thing for ages and so was a bit chewy. After only a little to-ing and fro-ing we managed to get it anyway and it was duly appreciated by the children. Thumbs up to common sense Ikea workers.

We’d got a couple of drinks that gave free refills. There was an announcement on the P.A. that the restaurant was now closed (although they were letting us finish our food), and Katy noticed a member of staff doing tidying up type things near the drinks machines and said I ought to drink up and get a refill quick. I did the drinking part, hurried to the machines and was told by the tidying worker that the she’d just turned the machines off. It was obvious that she wasn’t going to turn them on again, which was a shame as I now had no drink with which to finish my meal. I know it hardly registers on the grand-scheme-of-things-ometer, but it just seemed a bit unnecessarily unhelpful – couldn’t other things have been tidied up first?

Bah! I’ve given Ikea two whole paragraphs and sound like Victor Meldrew. That wasn’t the intention so I shall end with a thought that struck me this week. I was marching across town one lunchtime to help with child logistics and crossed a common that is the venue for the fairs that visit. One was in the process of being set up, so it looked less like a fair and more like a travellers’ community (albeit with specialist vehicles). There was a girl of about 12 sat at a table enjoying a book she was reading and it occurred to me that the people who do fairs are home educators like me – it’s just the setting that’s different. Their children will have much more exposure to some things than mine will – British geography, buying and selling, marketing, logistics and planning, mechanical engineering, (advertising) art and so on. The fact that this was a major realisation then reminded me that I’m not as open-minded as I like to think I am.

Kessingland

I have been meaning to write about last week since we got back, but first I had to set up this blog, upgrade our Flickr account, go to work a bit and so on.

The simplest thing to say is that I had a really good time. About 45% of this is due to the fact that the children enjoyed camping. Our only previous experience of camping with them did not go well, and so this was a big unknown. Fortunately the kids loved it, which meant we could enjoy it too, and we can do it again in the future. Another 45% or so was the other adults there – normal people, who accepted us as we were and who didn’t panic when we talked about home education (as you’d expect for an HE camp!). What the other 10% was, I don’t know.

I was trying to think why our local HE group hasn’t produced warm fluffy feelings as much as MuddlePuddle camp did. I think there’s nothing wrong with the group, but I haven’t done many activities with them, and each activity is for half a day or less and so all the normal stress of logistics and child shepherding mean that I’m so busy with all that so I can’t get much out of it myself. Maybe I should do more, like the Beans?!

Bridges, optics, giant cameras and coke fountains

Some links I’ve come across in the last week or so:

  1. Foot bridge turned into musical instrument / art exhibit at the Tate modern
  2. An addictive game using an optics bench
  3. An aircraft hangar turned into the world’s largest (disposable) camera
  4. The increasingly famous diet coke + mentoes fountain (warning: sound)

Hello world!

We have finally got around to sorting out a blog, which will be about all sorts of things, but mostly family life, home education and so on. I don’t know how often it will be updated, and how long we’ll keep this up – I haven’t managed to keep other blogs particularly alive.

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