Wine, women and song

Well, two out of three anyway 😆

After a brief pitstop at home we headed back into town, picking Bob up on the way, and just made it to King’s in time for Choral Evensong. We sat behind the screen, so had a moderately good view of the choristers as they sang but were pretty much out of sight ourselves 😉 L made just enough noise for Bob to feel they’d be better off elsewhere so he took her and K outside to admire the gardens etc while J and I sat and listened to the singing and put our new-found stained glass appreciation skills into practice 🙂
Then we met up with our Canadian friends again and went to the Rainbow Cafe for a delicious meal. It was the first time we had met Z’s dad, R, and the first time N had met Bob, but we all got on really well. In fact, as a person who normally finds it takes about a year to summon up the courage to talk to somebody, leave alone become friends *sigh*, I can hardly believe how quickly we all felt at ease and how well everyone got on. We have exchanged contact details of every possible sort – now we just need to save up enough to get over to Canada for a visit…
It was a happy and sad evening for the children. They loved spending time together and very much enjoyed their meal, especially the dessert (vanilla chocolate chip cheesecake, plus the odd taste of parents’ rainbow brownies, and carrot cake), but were also very aware that this was the last they would see of each other for a long time. Even as we were saying goodbye the boys were plotting ways to get a few more minutes: “Mummy, I think the daddies would like to chat more, so how about if they walk together and everyone else goes in our car?” and so on 😆

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

Tots, tantrums and tears

Hard work at P&T today 🙁
On paper it should have been easy, as there was not only a church member down to help but also a new volunteer sent my way by a friend who works in careers and rehab type stuff. In fact, I had plans to pull everything out of the cupboard, sort it all out and put it back in properly. Talk about the best laid plans…

Things started well, with J and the new volunteer playing a word pool game (throw the die to see how many lily pads the frog can jump on to collect letters, then use the letters to spell words) which J loved. In fact, it kept him happy for nearly an hour, with various others joining in from time to time then dropping out when they got bored. K was happy just pottering with his friends, so all looked well….. except for L who was permanently teetering on tantrum-edge 🙁 She cried when a baby touched a toy she had earmarked as hers, when another child looked at the bike she had abandoned at the other end of the hall in a way that suggested he might be thinking about wanting to ride it 🙄 , when I told her it wasn’t time for biscuits yet, when her doll fell out of the sling (kids’ coorie) she was carrying it in… It didn’t help that it was an unusually busy session.

In the end I decided enough was enough and used the fact that I had helpers this week to give a bit of leeway; I took L out for a walk. A bit of fresh air and time out, cuddled up to mummy in a wrap, seemed to help calm her down and when we got back she was able to just get on calmly with the other children.

After P&T we went to Z’s for lunch and play, which was great – until N (his mum) tried to get a photo of all the children together and J got seriously stroppy. As I was starting to get frustrated with him I had a sudden flash that this was more stress than strop. In the past we have had special treat last days spoiled by awful behaviour because he cannot cope with the sadness to come 🙁 Instead of trying to coax or push him into cooperating I gave him a big cuddle and asked “Are you really sad that we have to say goodbye to Z?” and he burst into tears 😥
Eventually we worked out that part of the problem was that he thought we had no contact details for Z so would never see them again (I asked him how he had coped with saying goodbye to friends at MP camp and he said it was okay because they had all given him their phone numbers – first I knew of it 😆 ) so we showed him the card N had given us with lots of contact info and promised to save up and try to get to Canada sometime to visit…

Then spent the rest of the afternoon playing outside, finding pottery pieces (note to self: ask Polly), exploring a secret path where we found rope which the boys then used to mountaineer up the slide in the playground… oh, and introducing N to the slippery slope of babywearing :mrgreen:

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.

I love Freecycle!

J and I (and Bob, I’m sure 😆 ) have been longing to do the Diet Coke and Mentos experiment, but I really couldn’t bring myself to buy any. However I spotted a post on Freecycle the other day offering a couple of large bottles of out of date Diet Coke and we’re off to collect it tomorrow 😀 Just need to get hold of some Mentos now…

Another treasure from Freecycle this week is a Stompa low cabin bed. J already has one (thanks to Ebay) and loves it and now K can have one too 😀 The only reservation I have is that K has a tendency to fall out of bed with monotonous regularity 🙁 We’re hoping that the extra space and higher sides of the Stompa will stop this, because otherwise we’ll have to surround his bed with pillows and padding 😕

Now we just need to put half the house contents on Freecycle ourselves to make space for the new bed! :mrgreen:

Shame you can’t get spare hours from Freecycle: there must be some bored teenager or hospital patient out there who could spare a few…

Five Things…

Tagged by Jax

5 things in my refrigerator:
organic milk – several pints
leftover Eve’s pudding (but not for long 😉 )
half a tube of tomato puree
acidophilus powder
2kg tub of Suma dairy-free Sunflower margarine

5 things in my closet:
smart(ish) clothes
Winter coats
an overlocker I need to learn how to use properly 🙄
spare blankets

5 things in my purse/handbag:
spare pants for L
far too many receipts!

5 things in my car:
3 car seats (and often a spare for friends)
food (usually breadsticks) and bottles of water (usually almost empty) – for emergencies 😉
trolley pound and parking change (in the ashtray)
toys and books
general detritus

5 people I am tagging:
Errm, I think everyone we could tag has already been tagged so we’re wimping out – sorry.

A weekend of firsts!

Bob and I bought books from amazon for the first time yesterday: Five-minute Miracles (thanks Jax!) and The Story of the World books 1 and 2 and corresponding activity books. I fear this could be the start of a slippery slope 😆

Then today I ran the Race for Life for the first time. It was really hot and I just don’t do heat; I really thought I was going to faint halfway round and the temptation to linger in the few places where there was shade was great, but somehow I managed to keep going and finished in almost exactly 30 minutes! I am seriously chuffed as I have never been able to run; even when I was rowing and relatively fit I used to be let off training runs because I wheezed so much! Bob and the children were unable to watch 🙁 because Bob was reading in church and had forgotten to swap with anyone, plus it was all age worship and we knew that neither of the other regular families was going to be there, so felt we should give the preacher somebody to talk to under the age of 20 😉 In fact, I really regretted this as I was running; it was amazing how much difference it made to see the occasional person I knew and feel that they were willing me on. (Blatant plug – I didn’t ask anyone beforehand, as I was too embarrassed and didn’t want to let people down if I didn’t manage it, but a friend insisted and now I’ve started I may as well try for the £100 target Bob set me…)

Another (and rather sad – shows my sheltered existence!) first for me was buying a round of drinks for my fellow Running for Non-runners classmates in the pub after the race. I have hitherto avoided pubs except when absolutely necessary because the slightest hint of cigarette smoke makes me wheeze 🙁 When I have been in it has usually been with Bob (who has bought the drinks) or in a “buy your own” situation. I discovered something very useful though, as we all decided soda and lime would be the most refreshing thing and the round came to 90p! I thought the bartender must mean per drink and even then was relieved it was not too much, but no, it was for the round! :mrgreen: Apparently they cannot charge for soda water 😕 so you only pay for a shot of lime 😉 Anyway, we sat outside in a shady spot in the garden and watched the runners getting ready for the second race (there were three in Cambridge, with 3000 runners in each 😯 ) and it was lovely 😀

After church the children had their first: Sportsfest at the local leisure centre. J played football with a squidgy inflatable ball very nearly as large as him, while K and L found their own amusements (I wasn’t there, so will have to leave it to Bob to blog about it in detail). The boys also got goodie bags, so they were very chuffed – made up for me having a goodie bag and a medal 😆

We all met up then for lunch, which we ate under a tree halfway round the course, so we could clap and cheer when the second race runners came past. L raised lots of smiles as she pirouetted and clapped and K informed us that when he is older he is going to dress up as a lady so he can run the Race for Life too 😆

Needed a nice quiet afternoon to recover. L slept for nearly 2 hours (unusual for her) while the boys stripped off and painted cardboard boxes outside. K now has a lovely cardboard sword and shield and J a person waiting to be cut out. Bob and I have put up a few more bathroom cabinets and doors – but still no more tiles yet. Ah well, there’s always next week!