Yay for Friday club!

Definitely a big hit!
We arrived early because I wasn’t sure what time it started (if it had started when I thought it might we’d have been late lol) so did a couple of workbook pages in the car 🙂 – definitely feels more like fun and less of a chore that way 😉
The session itself was great – quite structured, which I think suits my guys well, but with enough flexibility for them not to feel that they were being railroaded into things. Among other things we discovered that balloons filled with air burst when held over a candle flame, but water-filled balloons don’t (well not immediately, anyway 😆 ) because the water conductes the heat away. This was done in the context of the Earth being the only planet we can live on because the amount of water here keeps it temperate.
We also made a new friend in Amelia Bedelia The boys loved the stories and her literal-mindedness and have spent time since trying to work out other scenarios where she could get things wrong.
After a picnic lunch at the park with a few other families (and a lovely dog) we eventually tore ourselves away and came home. We tried again with the Diet Coke and Mentos, this time with a 2l bottle dangling from the climbing frame, but the thread holding the Mentos broke 🙁 setting everything off too early – and all over me! At least we proved that Aldi cheap Diet Coke works just as well as the Real Thing 😉
Once I’d dried off a bit we realised it was time to go and collect Bob from work if we were to make it to our blood donation session, so off we went, picked him up, dropped him off at the hall and then popped to the supermarket to get things for tea so that everyone else could eat while I did my donation – organised or what?! The children chose all sorts of healthy things, like baby carrots to dip in houmous, baby orange peppers to munch, fresh peas to shell (the cashier didn’t know what they were!) and stripy cheese (five counties) to go with Cream Crackers (does that count as healthy?) – then made up for it by pigging biscuits from the donors’ refreshments table 😆
At least this time I didn’t end up needing two different people to get the needle into my arm (as happened last time), nor did I have a lovely bruise to show for my troubles (as usually happens) – although I did have the inevitable 20 minute wait to tell the appropriate person that I had been born in Zambia, lived in Kenya, travelled all over the place, yes, possibly exposed to malaria, no, haven’t had it… The nurse this time suggested that rather than having to remember the list of countries I’ve visited ever since then (yes, all of them please!) I should just write them down and hand over a copy of the list – why has that not occurred to me earlier?

Romans in the kitchen…

Parents and Tots is starting to be a bit more of an all-age group now, which is much better for J and will probably suit K better in future. This week S was unable to come, but another CHEF family came along instead, with boy a similar age to J and girl between K and L. They use The Story of the World (which we are about to start for this very reason) and it looks as though P&T may be a good opportunity to do some of the activities which are not really suited to younger children. This time boy plus mum took J, K and a visiting older sibling into the kitchen to make Roman coins from clay while girl did Playdough stuff with L and me 🙂
They had a great time and J and K were very proud of their Roman coins and of the feet and hands they made to do measuring. A satisfactory solution all round, I think 😀

Church Farm, Stow Bardolph…

is fab!!! :mrgreen:

Some time ago my aunt promised my cousin’s little boy that she would bring him on the train to Cambridge to see J, K and L. They finally got round to it yesterday, but we decided to meet at Ely (also on the train journey for them) instead. We met them at the station (late due to an accident on the A14 meaning traffic was diverted up the A10 so we were travelling with lots of lorries 🙁 ) and tried to find somewhere to park, but everywhere in Ely was full except for short-stay and we didn’t fancy having to keep moving the car, so we got back on the A10 and headed up to Stow Bardolph, which I had only heard of yesterday – and it was great!
Somebody has obviously put a lot of thought into the way things are set up, so there are lots of little touches which make a big difference. As an example, the main picnic area is roofed and has thick netting around one end, which means it is lovely and shady even on a hot day (and I should imagine also sheltered on a windy one). The picnic tables are large – and there are high chairs too (yes, even outside in the picnic area!) – and it’s right by the sinks for handwashing and near to the toilet block. Another example: there are three large trampolines, all of which are sunken so that the bouncing happens at ground level and there is no need to worry about lifting children on or off or catching them when they fall.
The sandpit is enormous and largely undercover (fantastic on a day like yesterday when it was so sunny and useful too when it suddenly changed to torrential rain) and as well as lever controlled diggers has ordinary buckets and spades and a tap, so that anyone can get involved in making sandcastles, rather than having to just jostle and queue for the diggers 🙂 There is also a wooden rail with tipping wagons to push along it and a turntable to operate – lots of fun and necessitating a fair degree of teamwork.
Then there’s the straw barn. Now I remember as a child visiting my friend who was a farmer’s daughter and spending hours playing in the straw (and then suffering for it as my hayfever flared up 🙁 ) but it’s something my children have never had the chance to do until now – and they loved it!
K, L and I went on a tractor and trailor ride round the main part of the farm while J and J continued playing with sand and straw; we saw rare breed sheep and goats and managed to catch a bit of breeze whizh was worth the £1 in itself! The children all enjoyed rushing around on toy tractors too 🙂
As well as all the activities there were animals to see, but the heat had forced the closure of the petting area so we’ll have to go back sometime to see that. We did meet the sheepdogs who help look after the 100 or so sheep, though, and stroked a large and friendly goat. The small animals (and the large, but it was most noticeable with the small, especially compared with other places we have been) had loads of space and were able to chill out unmolested (ie small children couldn’t reach them 😆 ) – our favourite was the seriously relaxed ferret

We also saw lots of pigs, including some babies and a shepherd’s hut.
A well-timed rainstorm helped us to lure the children into the cafe for tea and cakes, then we reluctantly set off back to Ely and thence home.
Definitely a place worth a second visit, though 😀 (and Kath, is it anywhere near you?)

More Fun and Games

Having failed to organise birthday parties of any description for the children this year, and wanting to help J and K keep contact with old school/preschool friends, we decided to set up a few half-birthday picnics, the first of which (nominally for K) was on Tuesday. Unfortunately many of the school friends were already on holiday so turn-out was not great, but Naomi, a childminder who used to do science sessions with J and a few other CHEF children, was able to come, which made the children very happy, and she brought with her three of her charges who also happen to be both school and Sunday school friends of J (and K, I guess). We played a few very silly games, including Tidy Your Room, where two teams have to attempt to clear their side of the room (or skipping rope, as the case may be!) of balled-up socks by throwing them over to the other team’s side whilst shouting “Tidy your room!” Also attempted (and failed 🙁 ) to remember a few elastics rhymes and actions and ended up using the elastics for limbo dancing instead 😆 How is it that Chinese elastics were such a big part of my school life and yet I can’t remember anything now except broken bits of rhymes and chants?
A couple more friends turned up later, bringing with them delicious cake (thanks Rebecca!) and Bob came along to join us after work, which meant we stayed a little longer than planned – just as well, as it happens, because a preschool friend of K turned up with his mum and seemed totally surprised to see us there. Apparently the invitation we had given to his teacher had never made it to his mother, so they had no idea the picnic was on! Of course we then ended up staying and playing/chatting for another hour or so…
The next picnic, if anyone would like to join us, will be on Friday 11th August for lunch and the last on Saturday 2nd September for brunch – email me if you’d like to join us and I’ll let you know details 😀

Old friends, new house, lovely day

Monday found us on the train to London, off on a visit to E, O, M and F (recently moved and much missed 🙁 ) in their new house. After walking the length of the train looking for enough spare seats with at least one facing in the right direction (I have to face the engine!) we were rescued by some very kind people offering to shuffle about for us so that we could have two seat forward and one back, with a table in the middle 😀 Followed a few scuffles about who would sit by the window (sigh) which were solved by agreeing that the boys could change over halfway through the journey. Then L and K did lots of counting (using flashcards with fish pictures on) and J made a start on an English workbook (by reading all the way through the story and ignoring the writing exercises – ho hum!) while I inserted appropriate words of encouragement and praise and answered random questions about the passing scenery :mrgreen:
Negotiating the Underground was surprisingly easy (thank goodness for the Ergo and for travelcards which mean you don’t have to queue to buy tube tickets 😉 ) and we arrived in South Ealing with only a couple of delays.
It was lovely to see them all again, and to catch up on news while the children played. In the afternoon we even did some artwork (painting with lavender – inspired idea E 😀 ) and then suddenly realised quite how late it was, ended up staying for tea and walked back to the tube station with surprisingly little fuss from the boys and L sound asleep on my back within minutes.
Now we’ve done it once, we’re looking forward to doing it more often – and maybe getting in the occasional museum trip too. J would happily make the Science Museum his second home 😆

Juggling in church!

I was preaching at our home church this Sunday morning. Unfortunately there was nobody to do Sunday School in my “absence” – so I ended up doing both! Split the sermon into two parts, each with a reading as intro, with suitable activity for the children as part of that and then Bob took them over to one side of the church and made their own version of what we’d been using. Not clear! Example: Jesus and disciples crossing the lake to find a quiet place; crowd see this happening and get there first. Two paper plates, joined with a split pin; smaller top one painted blue, larger back one with finger painted people on one side… while tell story move a paper boat across the blue plate lake and spin larger plate round so that people are there when boat arrives. Clear as mud!

It went okay, I think, and a couple of people spoke to me afterwards about how they think this must be the way forward for the church (or at least for our church) as we don’t have enough helpers to sustain Sunday School, if we want children to come we need to make them feel welcome, modern attention span seems to be getting shorter and shorter so split sermon is easier for most people to concentrate…
I did feel as though I was juggling and coming very close to dropping all my hoops at times though 😆
Not going to get into philosophical debate about the future of the church right now, but it’s something I think we really need to reflect on 😕

Sunny Hunny

Shame about the rain 🙄
Annual church family outing to Hunstanton was today – and the day started with a little thunderstorm which set the tone…
The boys made us take buckets and spades so they could play on the beach and studiously ignored our mutterings about wellies and raincoats 😆
Thank goodness for the Sealife Sanctuary! We spent a couple of hours there (and L would happily have stayed for much longer at the Rock Pool section, where you could handle starfish, crabs and anemones) before being lured out by the promise of sun and some time on the beach – and then got side-tracked by the amphibious vehicle waiting to take people on a trip and did a cruise to the cliffs and lighthouse instead of building soggy sandcastles 🙂
On the whole it was a good day (although it cost a fortune!) but a couple of things were really sad, including an overheard (could hardly have avoided overhearing as it was at top volume) exchange from a family walking ahead of us at one point: Woman to girl (presumably daughter) “If you don’t stop your bitching I’ll smash you one!” There were several people there so I assumed (not sure why) she was talking to one of the teenagers, but the girl who responded (inaudibly) could only have been about 5 and mum replied, with great venom and malice (and round a cigarette) “On your face!” Girl suitably cowed they all walked on 😯
Maybe I’m just soft, but I was so sad that a little girl should be spoken to like that 😥 I know I have no idea what had happened before but in the time we had been walking behind them she had been as good as gold, walking nicely and not saying a word – and she and the rest of the group seemed unsurprised at the threat 🙁
The other sad thing was even worse 🙁
We saw a man with a little puppy, something like a Jack Russell, I think. We noticed because the puppy was very cute 🙂
A while later we saw the man again, this time on a bike in the middle of the road – with the puppy on a lead desperately trying to keep up 😯
The man was veering all over the road, which was causing problems for cars trying to get past as well as for the puppy 🙁 It became clear that he was veering so much because he was watching, and shouting and swearing at, a girl (presumably his daughter) riding a bike along the pavement on the other side of the road (iyswim). One particularly violent lurch to the middle of the road nearly got him run over by a van and he was so busy turning round to swear at the driver that he almost stopped, the puppy managed to run on ahead, then the bike lurched back over to the left again and he RAN OVER his own puppy 😥
The poor little mite squealed and he scooped it up and made his way over to the side of the road, still shouting at the little girl and swearing at the driver as if it had been his fault. The front wheel had gone almost all the way over the poor little thing’s tummy and when he put it down its back legs wouldn’t support it 😥 He got cross and tried to make it stand up but it couldn’t. By this time we were closer and I was asking Bob what he thought we could do, but we just didn’t know 🙁 The man handed the lead to the little girl, who had crossed over by now (not sure how he thought the dog was going to escape, but there!) and disappeared into a nearby cafe, then re-emerged with a handful of paper napkins, which I thought odd until I saw the drops of blood on the pavement. The poor little dog was spitting up blood 😥
I heard the man tell the girl that there was a vet’s round the corner, so presumably he had also asked about that in the cafe, and we didn’t really want the children to see what was going on and be upset so we walked on, but I felt so bad not to have done anything. Bob says there is nothing we could have done, except call a vet and we didn’t know where one might be and it seemed the man was going to take the puppy to one anyway, but I have to admit I’m not sure he would bother. I mean, he was stupid and thoughtless enough to cycle with a puppy on a lead (bad) in the middle of the road (worse) whilst weaving in and out of traffic and concentrating more on shouting at others than on steering (appalling)… I really felt like phoning the police, but I don’t suppose there’s anything they could have done either 😕
Surely he would have taken it to the vet?
Ack – I’m so sorry, this is a totally nonsensical post! I was just so shocked and I have to get it out somehow 🙁
What should we have done?

Friday and Monday

On Friday we went along to the end of a Friday Club meeting to see if we would like to join. It might have been more helpful to have gone to the whole thing, but K had special things on at preschool so we just went for the picnic at the end and the chance to meet the other families. It’s a group of Christian HE (or flexi) families who meet fortnightly for various structured activities and then a picnic and it sounds great. It should give J and K a bit of structure and togetherness (working with other children), which I know J is missing and I think K will miss once he is no longer at preschool, but in a very friendly and low-key environment. I’m hoping it will also help J with some of his ponderings about God. School, for some reason I haven’t quite fathomed, was very destructive of his faith and he has become very antagonistic towards religion, which I find difficult as I am his Sunday School teacher at least half the time; hopefully this will give him a chance to discuss things with another adult and to see that other children are Christian too (we have only three families at church with children so he is very much in the minority there). At the least it may stop him rubbishing K when he makes statements about his beliefs.
The mothers also meet on Mondays (fortnightly or monthly, not sure) for prayer and mutual support, as well as to plan the Friday sessions, so I went along to that meeting this week and found it immensely helpful. We went round the group talking about our concerns and then had a time of prayer. I can’t remember the last time I did that and there is something so special about sharing prayer together and hearing others pray for you.
There is only one more Friday meeting this term, then a break until September, so we’ll try to get to all of that last one. I really hope this works out (we’re kind of on trial for now) as I can see that many good things could come of it 🙂

LEA visit today

Well, we went to the library at 9:45 (15 minutes before meeting) and spent some time choosing books in the children’s section, then went to desk and asked about the reading mission leaflet we’d found and signed up for that. This brought us to a couple of minutes after 10 so we rushed upstairs to the cafe, where we were supposed to be meeting, to find one lady there, who we thought might be our inspector, but turned out not to be. We bought drinks and snacks and sat down to wait.
25 minutes later I phoned Bob to check that I definitely had the right time and place. He was sure it was 10am in the cafe so we waited a bit longer. A friend arrived to look after L and stayed to chat instead (thank goodness!). We waited some more.
At 10:45 Bob phoned to say that he had rung the LEA office and they said the EWO should definitely be there by now and the LEA lady might be running late. My friend approached the lady sitting the other side of the cafe just to check it wasn’t her – and thereby made some poor candidate waiting for her interview even more nervous! We waited. My friend took L to the toilet, but J and I didn’t dare leave in case the LEA lady and EWO should arrive.
At 11:00 I phoned K’s nursery to warn them that we would almost certainly be late picking him up.
At 11:05 Bob phoned again to say that the LEA lady had phoned him in confusion and with apologies. She had been at the library from 9:50, apparently, and the EWO from 10, but they had been looking for a man so hadn’t seen us 🙄
You see, all contact with the LEA so far has been from me or from Bob and me together EXCEPT the phone calls Bob made to confirm the meeting and to bring it forward from 10:30 to 10 so that we could get to HE group sports day. Obviously that meant that it would be a man they needed to meet in the library and although they could hardly have missed seeing a woman with a 6 year-old boy had they been anywhere near the library front desk between 9:45 and 10 or the library cafe from 10:02 (it only opened at 10) onwards it doesn’t seem to have occurred to them to approach us and just check whether we were the ones they should be meeting 🙄
Seriously unimpressed! 👿
She said they would contact us in September with a view to rearranging the meeting. I feel like telling her to get stuffed! I suppose at least I should be glad that they obviously have no great concerns about J’s welfare, or they would want to see us sooner 😕 Gives us more time to prepare anyway!

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 😆