A very mixed week

Matt has been away in Spain for three days this week. On the Tuesday Mip went from one crisis to another spending much of the day falling apart and lying on the floor howling. By the end of the dayI was convinced that we had made a total mess of our parenting and needed to call in Social Services, find a family therapist, etc. and that Mip was obviously deeply disturbed and desperately unhappy.

Wednesday was a little better, but still very difficult. Thursday improved a bit more and by the time Matt was back on Friday I don’t think he could see quite what all the fuss was about.

The weekend has been as lovely as the week was awful. On Saturday afternoon we went with another HE family to Welney in the Fens, where thousands of swans and ducks migrate to over winter. They had some fascinating videos on the fens and fen life, as well as the observation hides.

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Matt’s wildlife photography isn’t amazing, but there are a few more photos that you can see if you click on one of these.

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They had paper and crayons in the hides to keep small children busy. Bee drew this bicycle, which I liked, partly because it was the first time he had tried to draw one and partly because all of the other children were drawing pictures of swans and ducks.

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Today Matt was at Church all morning, so the boys and I made our Christmas and Easter cakes (if the spare one lasts that long). And then this afternoon we all went out for a walk in Longueville woods. It was a lovely Autumn afternoon, and when we came back the boys settled themselves at the table with playdough and bead pictures and were very peaceful and busy. The whole day had a lovely feel to it, a far cry from last Tuesday. I’m still not sure what last week was all about, but certainly don’t feel the need to rush to Social Services at the moment!

Pond Skaters and Digestive Tracts

Bee in the photo is wearing a very nice Organic Tatty Bumpkin sweatshirt, which arrived in the post for him, but with no details of the sender. So, thank you somebody. It fits very nicely. He came up to me one day with his hands as shown in the picture saying ‘whats this?’. It turned out to be a pond skater with it’s reflection. He spends a lot of time trying to model things with his hands.

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The picture he drew today is of a man showing how his food is decided (he meant digested) and all the details in the hands and feet show the bones. I don’t think we’ve looked at any pictures of a digestive system yet, so he must have just made it up. The second version shows the duck that is following the man.

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One of the things I’m really enjoying about Home Educating is watching so much drawing, ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ just happening without any prompting on our part. He has access to all the drawing materials etc., but I never suggest he might like to do something with them, he just gets them out and works on things himself.

JJ

JJ is very busy at the moment learning to talk. He loves Thomas the Tank Engine and can name lots of the engines. Almost any crisis can be diverted by producing a Thomas book. He seems to have weaned himself, more or less, over the last month. He doesn’t feed at all during the day now and won’t let me put him to bed either. This has become Matt’s job now. I’m only useful for those middle of the night wake-up calls, which I think are becoming fewer. So this is all heading in the right direction, ready for baby number 4’s arrival.

He still eats really well, in fact he eats anything really. He loves vegetables. He has also got the hang of drinking from a beaker cup. We had a fraught couple of weeks when he had stopped feeding from me, but refused to drink anything from a cup, and would go two or three days and then have a couple of sips from something, then stop again. I kept imagining we would have to take him into hospital to get him re-hydrated, but he seems quite happy with his cup now. He is the first of our babies to drink cows milk happily. He can use his own spoon now, whereas I seem to remember Bee and Mip wanting to be spoon-fed for as long as possible.

He has become the self-appointed key monitor. As soon as he realises we are going out he insists on holding the keys. If we are going out in the car, he will unlock both doors and then hold onto the keys until the driver is ready, then he hands them over with a big grin saying ‘anku’. This has caught Matt out a few times as he wanted to take the keys and use them.

He parrots indiscriminately everything his brothers say. So, for example, this afternoon he was running around shouting ‘J for jelly’. He loves counting too, again just copying what he hears his brothers say.

Puzzles and playdough are his favourite activities at the moment.He’s a very cuddly boy too – more so than I remember the others being. And things just generally feel easier with him. Everyone always says that this is because subsequent children just have to fit in, but I don’t think this is the reason with Joel – he just has been more of a low maintenance boy than the other 2.

The last few weeks

The last few weeks have continued in much the same vein – lots of house clearance jobs etc. in our free time. We’ve done the final planning for the shop front, wired up assorted sockets, had the plumber in, hemmed kitchen curtains, gotten rid of a spare three piece suite and a large box of spare ring binders, taken a carpet and lots of other bits to the tip…

Our evenings and nights have definitely become more civilised. JJ has weaned himself and goes happily to bed with Matt on an evening at the same time as Bee and Mip go to bed. Sometimes he sleeps through, but even if he wakes up he is easily settled by a quick cuddle. Mip still joins us occasionaly in the night if he wakes up, but we do have mornings now when it is just the two of us in our bed. This is something of a novelty!

The days are in a fairly steady routine. We are mostly at home in the morning with the boys doing lots of kitchen table activities – playdough, painting etc. – and then we go out to the park farm, etc. for two hours in the afternoon. Things are generally feeling easier now that JJ can manage without an afternoon sleep and doesn’t need the buggy.

I was a little alarmed to discover we only have ten weeks left till this next baby is due. I still have a long list of ‘things to do’. Must re-connect with a midwife at some point – we seem to have fallen out of the system.

Today Matt took a day off and in the afternoon we went down to Hinchingbrooke Country Park with the PCHE group. There were five families altogether – thirteen children. We had a very nice time. Lots of talking for the grown-ups as we walked around and lots of charging around with sticks (small and large) for the children – they were nearly all boys.

Bee is still very much into Wind in the Willows and goes to bed listening to the tape every night and looking at the pictures in his book. Matt has also read to him recently the Emperor’s New Clothes and The Ugly Duckling from the lovely Folio books from Granny that have the original fables in them.

Lessons in Civil Engineering

A few weeks ago XLB came for a visit. He is a Civil Engineer by trade and works in waste water (I shall avoid the possible puns). We knew this would be an excellent opportunity to have the David Macaulay architectural books read to the boys by a true ‘pro’. XLB was brilliant and taught them about arches and why they made things very strong. The XLB principle of building is that everything is either a shelf or an arch. Then he went through why an I beam was strong, demonstrating this with rulers and getting the boys to press on them in different directions. Also, we saw how a suspension bridge actually used an arch upside down, which is something I (Matt) had not noticed before.

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The next thing we looked at was the model house that we had been building. This is made from a kit that I bought while trying to find something to bring back for the boys whilst on a business trip to Holland. I was very pleased with it as it felt like a great idea for a home-educating Dad to be bringing back. The kit is made by Teifoc and consists of small terracotta bricks and special mortar. After making the models and playing with them, the model can be soaked in water for a few hours to remove all the cement. Once soaked the kit can be re-used to make a different model (with new cement!). XLB and I had a go at helping the boys to build the house a bit higher. This worked well, he has great patience with them, more than I often have when trying to build it. I guess it helps that he feels a lot more confident he knows what he is doing with bicks and mortar. So far the house is going well, except that I’ve made the mortar joints too thick and the front wall of the house that has the door and windows in is a bit wonky. However it is the first attempt.

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Bee’s Fifth Birthday

Sunday afternoon we took the children down to Monk’s Wood for a walk. As we walked along, Bee was busy chatting about all the plans we needed to make for his party. I had only just twigged that it was his birthday this week and certainly hadn’t got as far as planning for it. So, we came back and sent out some hasty invites. In th end, due to illness and other commitments only two of his friends were able to com, but actually, I think, that was much more cope-able for him than a bigger party would have been.

Matt took the day off. We had hidden a few presents for him to find in our bedroom (we gave him a scooter), then after breakfast Matt settled down with the boys to play a new animal matching game, which Bee had been given and to read a few books that had arrived. They enjoyed this a lot. We had an early lunch and then M took the boys out to the park to practice on the new scooter, while I put the birthday tea together. Then J and Sam arrived and the boys spent a very happy afternoon playing with the new Playmobil and various things in the cellar. They had a small ‘treasure hunt’ for mini-chocolates in the cellar too.

Bee has had a lovely day and really enjoyed his party. I accidentally put re-lighting candles on the cake, which sent Bee into fits of giggles. There was a lot of laughter from all of the boys as they played together throughout the afternoon.

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At the end of the day we settled down to watch the first episode of the Muppets (from the first season of the original Muppet Show). This looked a bit dated and had a ‘guest star’ who was totally unknown to us, but was very funny and the boys enjoyed quite a bit of the humour. The pictures show Bee and Mip still playing with the Playmobil at the end of the day.

Below are a few more photos, one is of Bee’s railway track that he made and insisted I took a photo of it.

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Lastly some photos of a ‘picnic’ tea we had in the living room. It kind of sums up how attentive the boys are to eating when it is not at the table. Having said that they can be quite in-attentive to eating when at the table too…

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