Cramming things in!

Wednesday has always been Bouncearound day 😀
We’ve been going since J was about 4 months and it really feels like home. The boys both love it, despite the fact that J is two years older than just about any other child there, and their favourite bit is tidy-up time, when they get to help the chaplaincy assistants do big manly things like dismantling the indoor climbing frame 😆
Now, however, there is an interloper on the Wednesday morning front! J and K have been invited to attend reading mornings with a friend, while L gets to play with the friend’s little brother. Oh how torn we are! For now, we can just about manage to attend the reading morning and then rush back for B-A-R – arriving in plenty of time for the all-important tidy-up! 😆 In fact, up until now it has been just J, while K was at preschool, and we have rushed across town to pick K up and the legged it to B-A-R. This is what we did this week and it worked well, except that we had to leave the reading morning early because there was a coffee morning at preschool which we wanted to support – and J was not impressed at having to miss several minutes of “The Wind in the Willows”. Still, this was the last B-A-R until September so I have promised him he will be able to stay and play after the next reading session.
The big problem is that the reading mornings are to be expanded to include snack, play and then a science session as well. This will be from September, which is great as K will no longer be at preschool so they will both be able to do it 🙂 It is also great because it will replace the science sessions J used to do with a local childminder who is now too busy 🙂 It is not great because it means no more B-A-R 🙁 J is very excited about the reading and science, but so upset about the B-A-R that he refused to let me say that it would be his last session so that he could get the goodbye present and best wishes they normally offer to leavers. He is adamant that we will make it back somehow, sometime! I should perhaps add that the B-A-R organisers are similarly keen that we should go back and have said that if we don’t make it to regular meetings they will make sure we get details of special events, parties and so on. I really hope we can make it work somehow. It’s been such a big part of all our lives and I’d like L to end up feeling the same way about it that J and K do.

Anyhoo, this Wed, after dropping K off, driving to the reading morning house, doing tables in the car while we waited not to be too early 😆 then J reading while L trampolined, rushing back to preschool coffee morning, heading over to B-A-R and staying until tidy-up (deep breath!) we made our way slowly back across town, buying out Evolution on the way (which left us carrying some seriously unwieldy packages 😆 ) and then choosing silk paints but failing to find any silk (making do with calico for now, until they get lining silk back in) and panicking as we neared our car 5 minutes after the parking had expired and saw a traffic warden (fortunately the car had still been legal when she passed it and she chose not to lurk!)…. we realised we may be trying to cram too much in 😆
It didn’t stop us opening up the paints when we got home and making a start on the calico painting though 😆

K’s preschool parent/teacher consultation

I managed to miss the proper one as it was on the one morning a week that I can’t make and K doesn’t go in 🙄 and then his teacher and I just haven’t quite managed to arrange to see one another – not high priority as I knew there was nothing much wrong anyway.
So with next week being end of year we met today. She gave me his personal profile and folder of memories at the same time and then basically just talked me through them and it was actually almost embarrassing! She is a lovely person and K is in her first ever class of her own (iyswim) but even knocking off a few degrees for overenthusiasm it was a seriously proud mummy moment :mrgreen:
She talked about how sensitive he is, how caring (mentioned incidences like when a friend bumped his head and K went in unprompted to ask for an icepack then took it to friend and looked after him), she said she uses him as a role model quite often in the class (not so sure how much of a good idea that one is!) because he picks things up quickly and then the others can follow his example, how bright he is etc etc.
I’m sorry – this sounds like so much boasting! I may come back and edit but I wanted to get it all out first 😆
The thing is that K is lovely. We always knew he was lovely and it is something people always comment on, but tbh he is often in J’s shadow, particularly academically, so in a way I guess we tend to find ourselves thinking of him as a bit of a nice but dim (that’s not quite what I mean, but I can’t think of a better way of putting it) and it was lovely to hear him being praised in such a well-rounded way and for achievements as wide-ranging as thinking of others, making sensible decisions, coming up with good ideas, recognising numbers and letters, teaching other children how to do things…
I’m almost overwhelmed!
Have to treasure these moments, as he will be HE from next week on, so this may be the only proper report he gets!
ISTR J was often used as a teacher’s model too, and was praised for his ability to help other children learn how to do things. Teaching runs in my family for generations – I guess there’s no escape 😆

Black marks at preschool…

for the parents, though, not for K 😆

K decided he didn’t fancy going on Monday, which suited me as his French club has now finished which means he would have needed collecting at an awkward time (after lunch, but without the extra half-hour for French) and J and L wanted to go to Mustard Seeds (J to work in the corner and L to play with a friend) so this way K could come too 🙂
Bob phoned preschool to say K wouldn’t be coming and wouldn’t need lunch. The secretary asked why, ready to be sympathetic, I guess, and was neutral to say the least when he explained that K just didn’t want to go and further that it was getting harder and harder to persuade him to go now that his friend M has moved. He didn’t go in today either, so I’m a little concerned as to what might get said tomorrow… Ah well – they still get paid for his place, even if he doesn’t use it, and preschool attendance is not compulsory so it’s our choice really – if we choose not to benefit from their wonderful provision, more fool us! 😉

Anyway, the boys decided that they wanted to wash the car, so that’s what we did 😀 Each child had a small bucket and a sponge (the boys used their sponges from needle-felting at MP camp 😆 ) and they did a great job of redistributing the dirt, then finished the job with enthusiasm and spirit, flinging the contents of their buckets over the hubcaps to make sure that they got their fair share of muddy water too.

This meant that we were (inevitably!) late for MS, and arrived just in time for tidying up 🙄 Still, L and K got to join in the songs and eat lots of fruit (K’s idea of heaven!) while J and I did maths and reading, then we all listened to the story (except J, who had buried himself in a book – his idea of heaven!) and had a leisurely walk home, instead of having to leave early and do a mad dash across town to pick up K 😀

In the afternoon we did a bit of shopping and were then due to pick J’s friend B up from school and have him round for tea, but his mum phoned to say that little sister F had a trial afternoon at school and had somehow convinced herself that this meant she would be having a trial tea with us too 😆 and would that be okay? So we ended up with two little visitors, one of them very excited but also a little homesick and both very tired (yes, it was their birthday parties at the weekend!). We started by making butter, then used that to make bread and butter pudding, which we used to top a dish of frozen raspberries I couldn’t fit in the freezer. It went down a storm with ice-cream 😀

Today found us doing a friendship/mercy run to a friend with baby twins (and two older boys as well), delivering a batch of Omega seeds, some fresh bread and soup and the last of the EBM from my freezer which I forgot to deliver last time we went. (Can’t do her any more just now as I broke my dairy-free to go to MP camp and haven’t got back to it yet and her twins are lactose-intolerant and suffer severe reflux 🙁 )
K was disappointed to find that her 4 year old was at nursery, but he and J had a great time playing with her older son (8, I think) and J has now discovered Sim City and put it on his birthday list. Meanwhile I had a lovely time playing with her twins and L pottered between us.

Couldn’t stay as long as we’d have liked because we had to get back for J’s last French club session, which was a special for parents to attends. He even had a part to play (le loup mechant who tried to eat the trois petits cochons!) and words to learn, which he did admirably 😀 Bob took an hour off work to come, which made J’s day 😀

Now we have two very tired boys (and boy is J crabby when he’s tired!) to get to bed and a daughter who thinks the answer to everything is “Mummy milk!” but hasn’t yet realised that I’m off out in an hour’s time – mwahahaha!

A real grown-up evening! In the cinema! Without a child on my lap! Going to the toilet when I need to go, by myself! How will I cope?

More Diet Coke and Mentos

Having produced a fountain which was more aesthetic than spectacular last time, we decided to try making a hole in the lid and then putting the lid back on before dropping the sweets in, on the basis that greater pressure should give greater height. Obviously, this presented a couple of interesting challenges: how to make a hole in the lid (J thought of a nail and hammer; I suggested a piece of wood underneath to hammer into, we ended up with 2 holes as it was such fun making them and one looked too small) and how to get the sweets in with the lid on, without them being in contact with the Coke before the lid was on and without getting covered in Coke spray as we wrestled with the lid 😆 We solved that one by also making holes (slits in the end, as they split) in the sweets and then threading them onto cotton, which J then poked through the hole in the lid, leaving the sweets inside the bottle, suspended beneath the lid and above the liquid. He held the string until Bob had the camera ready and then let go…
Whoosh! We had a double-headed fountain at least 2 metres high! (photo)

We have one bottle and a few mentos left. J really wants to try suspending the bottle from the climbing frame and swinging it as we let go of the string so that we get a moving fountain…
Watch this space!

Ship of the fens

Spent last night trying to work out whether and how to fit in some time with Z and family before they leave tomorrow and decided to ask them to dinner tonight. They were planning to go to Stansted Mountfitchet today, which we knew we would not have time to do, but when we phoned this morning to ask about dinner N had been overtaken by an attack of laziness 😆 – know that one well! – and decided to wait and see if we had any better ideas, so we suggested an afternoon in Ely instead.
K had a dressing up day at preschool (take a bottle for the tombola next week and in return you can wear fancy dress!) so went in as Batman – his current (and long-term) favourite character, even though he knows nothing at all about him except what he looks like 😆
Meanwhile J and I chanted some times tables. I told him he could earn an ice cream for each table he did, starting with one for Z, then K, then L and finally himself. Then he did a set of random questions to earn icecreams for the mummies 😉 He did well, although faded fast at the end – I think treating mums was less exciting than working towards his own treat 😆
Then he did some BBC literacy games on the PC while I hung out washing and sorted the car to take 7 again; L “helped” us each in turn.
We picked up N, Z and L (and enjoyed a great Canadian delicacy for lunch: peanut butter and banana sandwiches) and made our way out to Ely to visit the cathedral, known as the Ship of the Fens. The boys loved the big cannon in front of the cathedral and it was amazing to think that it had been brought all the way from Russia (captured during the Crimean) nearly 150 years ago! I had forgotten how beautiful the cathedral is; it was really special to have the chance to share it with a new friend and with the children. The highlight of the visit was seeing a hoist in action, lifting boxes from the ground floor to the first floor of the cathedral. This kept them all happy for ages while N and I admired the architecture and the lovely windows.
We decided to visit the stained glass museum rather than doing the cathedral tour, as we were a little short of time and the children were keen to see the glass and the pictures, so we climbed up a steep spiral staircase, holding onto a rather rickety handrail and then spent a happy half hour wandering round looking at beautiful pictures lit from behind to give a soft glow 😀 Many depicted stories and J and K got quite good at spotting them and working out what was going on. There were also little scenes showing how the windows were made and a glass kiln which proved to be just the right height for L to bump her head… Oh, and the museum afforded us a great view, over a sort of balcony, of the aforementioned hoist 😉
As well as the museum itself there was a stained glass shop, where we spent about as much time again. The children each chose a marble: K and Z a globe, L a fish in a ball and J wavered for so long between a red and black die (yes, a stained glass die!) and a football that in the end (after due warning) I chose for him and bought the die. This was, of course, the wrong choice 🙄 N bought a piece of stained glass to take back for her mother – to Canada via Italy. I hope it survives!

After the cathedral we met up with a friend who showed us a lovely little playground where the children were able to let off steam before the drive back – and incidentally N was able to take some great photos so the boys will be able to remember one another.
A busy day – and a busy evening, which I think will have to go in as a separate entry. I need some sleep!

Diet Coke and Mentos

Found some fruit mentos in a little newsagent’s last night 🙂 so this evening we tried the experiment with one bottle and 2 sweets. It worked fairly well (Bob says photos to come, hopefully) but I think the 1l bottle shape may be less good than the 2l they used, and I suspect we may need to use more sweets – or maybe they need to be mint ones for some reason 😕
Anyway, we still have 2 bottles left, so can try more sweets tomorrow and see how it goes 🙂
The neighbours were amused anyway 😆

Edited to add link to photo

Boxes and books

Dropped K off at preschool this morning and then went across town to a reading morning at S’s house. We arrived about 20 minutes early, so did some tables while we waited; the promise of Diet Coke and Mentos got J motivated to finish so we’d have time later to do experiments.
At the reading morning, S, J and a few others sat themselves in large cardboard boxes in the library and listened to S’s mum reading The Wind in the Willows, while younger siblings played in the playroom (oh, to have room for a playroom and/or a library!), then there was time for a brief play before dashing back to pick up K and take them all to Bouncearound – huge toddler group in centre, which has become part of our lives over the last 6 years 🙂
Had to leave BAR early (not popular as the boys’ favourite bit is tidying up!) to get back to car and collect Diet Coke, then popped to Sainsbury’s, where we failed to find Mentos but settled for Softmints to see if they work too. Then got caught in huge downpour so unable to go into garden to do experiment anyway 🙁
Ho hum.
Off to MSLC AGM shortly, so Coke fountains will have to wait until tomorrow…

The story of St Laurence (partly dictated and partly typed by J)

Once upon a time there was a man called Laurence. He was an ordinary man, not too rich, and one day a man who worshipped God, who was a priest, asked him to look after a big black bag full of precious stuff to use to worship God. In the bag there were golden banquet cups (chalices), candlesticks, communion trays, plates and cups, and there was a bad man who loved gold and money. He saw Laurence carrying the gigantic bag of stuff and he said, “Let me have that stuff!” Laurence said, “No, you can’t have the bag, because it belongs to the church and they use it to worship God.” The man got cross and he said, “Give me that bag or I’ll kill you!” Then he got some soldiers and ordered them to kill Laurence’s friends. Then he said “I’ve killed all your friends so give me that bag!” Laurence was a bit scared, but he prayed to God and God helped him to have an idea. He said, “Give me a week and I’ll gather up all the stuff that is precious to God and bring it to you.” The bad man thought to himself and said to himself “In a week I’ll have all that stuff!” Laurence collected together all the precious things, then he sold the gold . now he had all the lots and lots of money, which he gave to all of the poor people. At the end of the week he took the people to the meeting and told the bad man, “This is what God loves!” The bad man was so angry he killed Laurence and the church is built in memory of Laurence.

Sport, tables and funky fun!

We’ve been doing a lot of work on times tables recently, as multiplication seems to keep coming up.
We started with chanting the tables as we walked along, but J gets cross after a couple of sets and starts muttering or just generally being silly so we’ve had to be a bit more obvious about it. The biggest problem is that he claims to know them, so won’t bother saying them, then when pressed has to admit that he doesn’t know them (but how could he? He’s never learned them! I don’t quite understand why this is such a problem for him 😕 ) and then goes all sulky or even downright depressed and sobs about how useless he is 🙁 which leaves me feeling totally rubbish and as though I might be better just letting him take his chances at school because at least he liked the teachers there…
Anyway, in an attempt to get out of this cycle I’ve had him colouring in number squares to see the patterns, which was quite fun, and then chanting the tables using the number square as a help. So far we’ve done 2s (fairly confident), 10s (totally confident), 5s (fun – like 10s with an extra twist) and 3s (less popular) and are taking pains to point out that the more he learns the more he already knows of the rest 😉 The Woodlands school pages (will try to add link later) are really useful for reinforcement on the PC, so we’ve been using them a bit too.

Yesterday J had a CHEF sport session, which was good, and he and L collected their certificates for doing the Great School Run (2km) a few weeks ago – very chuffed they both were too. After that we took L to Mustard Seeds, where J and I sat in a corner and coloured in number squares, then read My Naughty Little Sister, interspersed with tables questions (the more he answered the more I read – seemed to work!). I remember my grandfather reading MNLS to me when I was J’s age, so it was quite a trip down memory lane 🙂 Mustard Seeds finishes with a story, which is always done in a fairly hands-on way so all the children can feel part of it. This week was the story of St. Laurence (MS is held in St Laurence’s church) and J really got into it. When we saw Bob later he retold the story to him. Actually 💡 that might be a good start point for some imaginative writing – or indeed any writing.

In the afternoon we had a friend from school round for tea, so J had a chance to meet up with old friends (and his favourite teacher) and play for a bit, then we came home via the library where they each chose 2 books which we then came home and started reading together on the settee before tea. After about 4 books it was so hot the children decided ice lollies were in order, so took those outside then came in and did sand art until tea was ready – am I mad? 4 children, aged 6, 5, 4 and 2, several sticky bits of paper and 6 pots of coloured sand! :yikes: Actually, the results were not bad at all, and the mess safely contained on newspaper.

Today we met with Z, L and mum at church coffee morning, then all piled into the car (yay for a 7-seater!) and went across town to the Funky Funhouse where we discovered that the children’s tickets entitled us to a free tea or coffee and them to a free icepop. Useful when it came to time to get them out of the softplay zone and back in the car…

Dashed back across town (boy does time go fast when you’re having fun!) just in time to get J to French club – and having the car proved to be a stroke of luck when the thunder, lightning and enormous raindrops started just before we were due to head back home. Next week is the last session, possibly ever 🙁 as the teacher still does not know what the school will be doing next year and whether their plans include her after school sessions (in which case J will be able to continue) or will put French into the schoolday curriculum, in which case J will no longer be able to do it. I think the time has come for me to look seriously at Jolie Ronde training and possibly franchise.

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.