It’s been a long, hard week. We all came down with JJ’s cold (except Matt) and it has been a really nasty one, and is still going on. So we’ve been stuck in for a week without seeing anyone, with JJ falling apart every few minutes, the house in a mess, tired from broken nights…..

During the week the boys have done assorted world map puzzles, much playing with the wooden railway (we have a system now where the wooden and Duplo railways, Duplo bricks, Lego, Meccano, Ikea Bygga, cars and garage, and wooden bricks are all put away and only come out one at a time. Unbelievable to think that, with less floor space than we have now, we used to have them ALL out at once!!!) and Thomas stories to match, magnetix, sticker books, general drawing and cutting out, put up the cot with Matt (next to our bed with 1 side off, so it makes a sort of bed extension. Though she hasn’t settled in it so far), listened to Peter and the Wolf, and endlessly to the Little House stories.

Matt is reading Milly Molly Mandy stories to Bee on an evening. They were obviously the inspiration for Susan Hill’s Coddling Village stories which Bee enjoyed so much, with similar stories, writing styles and illustrations. We’ve also read more Teddy Robinson, and Bee has really enjoyed David Weitzman’s Old Ironsides, with it’s amazing drawings. It’s the story of the building of America’s first warship and he seems to be doing for transport what David Macaulay does for buildings. Matt did a search on the Internet and found many more books by him (Old Ironsides was found in Oxfam) so we will be looking out for some more of them.

Littlest has slept through two nights in a row, quite incredible seeing as the boys were all well over one, if not two, before they attempted that.

Mip identified the words elephant camel and lion on his plate (telling me that elephant begins with ‘e’, camel with ‘c’ and lion with ‘l’).

Dr. Seuss is JJ’s firm favourite and gets read several times a day.

I tried to make bread by making the dough in the breadmaker and then cooking it in the oven, as the breadmaker overcooks the bread. However my flour was all a year out of date and I had the wrong sort of yeast and I left it in the oven too long and burnt it, so it wasn’t very encouraging. Matt bravely ate some though (and it tasted nice – Matt).

House update – the shop is plastered, as is the remaining wall in the sitting room. The upstairs hall is painted and the old paint has been burnt off the banisters. A floorer has been to quote on leveling and carpeting the shop floor, as much as can be done. (It zig-zags across the room with dips in it.) The wiring is being done and the plumber comes in next week to fit radiators in there. Its sort of encouraging getting so close to the end of the project, but it is frustrating too as the boys have really outgrown the garden and we know that we are not really expecting to stay here for too many years. It is a lot of work to put in for a short-ish time, but it has to be done.

“After all, the best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other fellows busy working.”
When I hear this at the beginning of Wind in the Willows (which is quite often. I lost track of how many times through Bee listened to it when he was sick last month) I always disagree with it. But, sitting on the patio at 9 o’clock this morning, I confess that the thought of all the other children sitting at their desks ready for an hour of literacy and an hour of numeracy did somehow add a feeling of freedom to the pleasantness of a late breakfast outside.

Though we weren’t outside for long as it rained mid morning and was damp most of the rest of the day.JJ’s cold was still rough, so we had to spend the day at home. Bee cut up paper and stuck bits together, we did a map of Britain jigsaw puzzle, made cakes for home group tonight ( though JJ, Littlest and I have stayed home) and read. (2 chapters of Teddy Robinson, too many Tony Mittons, Owl Babies, The Owl and the Pussycat and other Edward Lear poems, Hop on Pop, The Little Engine that Could, Floss, some Alfie and Annie Rose and a John Burningham)

Wednesday Matt had a day off. The plan was to visit Belton House (National Trust) with some others on a Group Educational Membership card which we had taken out. However, they were requiring public liability insurance for £200,000 (which for a school visit would be provided by the LEA) and after many phone calls the NT realised this approach wasn’t going to work for home educators ,and they are now reviewing the situation. So we went up to the farm instead and had a nice day there , with the added treat of a tractor ride around the farm. And then came home via PC World to swap our printer for 1 that works.

Thursday was lovely weather, so the boys played outside much of the day while I tackled some of the post plastering clean up. We’re still upside down and in a mess again though. JJ came down with a miserable cold and was up ’till about 1.30 a.m. drifting from bed to bed but unable to settle. Eventually I brought him down for a marmalade sandwich snack and then he fell asleep in his own bed with me.

Another trip to town this morning – the nearer end, so we walked in. All went well until M&S and then the boys behaved terribly and I got cross and it was all a bit of a disaster. We had planned to be out this afternoon, but the plasterers finished earlier than expected, so we spent the afternoon in mostly in the garden. We read books, played dominoes, did a world map jigsaw, baked cookies and looked up and talked about the Cutty Sark. Bee is fascinated with the Cutty Sark at the moment and we have had long discussions on how to sail, the Suez Canal, etc..

Bee and Matt looked at various Cutty Sark things on the computer this evening and he has taken his picture of the CS, which Matt drew for him, off to bed with him.

A few days ago we made ‘boats’ to ‘sail’ in the bath. They didn’t work very well. We’ve got a lot to learn about junk modelling.
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Saturday morning we emptied the sitting room and dust sheeted and then Matt spent the afternoon pulling plaster off walls, and the evening emptying the shop in preparation for the plasterers on Monday. I cleared the garden in the afternoon. So by Sunday we were all fairly tired, but had a nice time at a birthday party at the little trains.

We had to be up early this morning as the plasterers arrived at 7. The morning went well until Littlest rolled off her change mat onto the floor. She howled and screamed very loudly, but I couldn’t find any sign of bruise or bump. She learnt to roll over last week and has become very wriggly. I took the children into town for the morning (the first time since littlest’s arrival – not because I was unsure of taking four children to town, but because I was unsure of whether the car would fit in the car park. It did, but only clears the ceiling by two inches). We had quite a nice time in town – sales assistants kept appearing at every turn to offer help. Not sure whether this was prompted by the hope that it would get us out of the shop more quickly…

Bee listening to Little House on the Prairie and seeing how a piano works:
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We then took our picnic to central park, read books, and played in the sand, but it was a bit cold so we only stayed an hour and a half. Having had a successful shopping morning I decided to try Tesco’s, which I also haven’t done with all four of them. I lost Mip twice, but apart from that it all went well.

Back home Bee was at the kitchen table cutting and sticking and making things, which he has been doing a lot of recently. He made a postbox and attempted to make a plaster for Elaine.

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This afternoon we had our Muddlepuddle group, though we’re a bit low on numbers at the moment. We had 4 families again – 8 children – but had a very nice session. Littlest slept through most of it, which made it easier, and a play farm kept the boys totally absorbed for much of the session. They also did a bit of painting, some playdough,read some stories, and made some cookies. With the children all busy I got to spend a bit more time chatting than I usually can, which was nice, and the children all seemed to enjoy the activities and being with each other. I was beginning to wonder whether the group was getting too small to keep on with the hall sessions, but as everyone seemed happy to carry on we will continue through this term and see where we get to.

Home group tonight, so a late night for everyone. Tomorrow Matt has to take all the old plaster off 1 wall in the sitting room, that somehow was missed when the room was replastered before. I’m not looking forward to the cleaning up…..

Photos to follow shortly – my computer is having an up-grade at the moment.

Tuesday was another day at home. We made another batch of playdough, which kept the boys busy for much of the day. When we had a pause in the afternoon I made some scones, and then felt guilty that every time there is a pause I think of a baking project. So I raided the fridge for vegetables and made a big pot of pasta sauce to compensate.

We spent the evening getting ready for a trip to Boughton Estate the next day, which would require leaving at 9am. Usually we haven’t even made it to the breakfast table by 9am!

Anyway, we left at 9:07am. The journey went well. It is a 3/4 of an hour drive and usually I wouldn’t want to do more than 20mins with a baby (on my own), but she was fine. Boughton estate were doing two open days for school children (plus a handful of HE families) to show how the estate works, what goes on, etc.. So, they had a bee keeping tent, sheep, sheepdogs (they had planned to be shearing the sheep, but the sheep were too soggy), gun dogs, tree felling, tractors and combines, birds of prey…

Lots of interesting things for the boys, though I found the day quite difficult. Not sure why really. Maybe because it was mizzling, I wasn’t sure how the journey would go, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. D rescued me in the afternoon by pushing the buggy around for me so I could spend a bit more time helping the boys.

Today was hard-going too. We spent a lot of time in the kitchen making cookie dough ready for Muddle Puddle tomorrow, soup for tea, and cakes for home group tomorrow. We read about dinosaurs and aeroplanes, lots of toddler books, and Gumdrop and Rupert. Bee refused to wear his new shoes again. So we didn’t go out and probably could have done with being outside.Just one of those days when we all kept getting cross with each other needlessly.

Littlest was uncharacteristically wobbly this morning and JJ was precarioius. So, we muddled through the morning a bit. The boys had the Playmodil out. We painted in the afternoon. Read lots of Tony Mittons, Dr. Seuss and some more of the little car (I think this used to belong to Jay) Bee loves it, but every page is now held in with selotape.

Little House on the Prairie is in the kitchen CD player. Little House in the Big Woods is on the cellar CD player and on the Banks of Plum Creek is in the sitting room. So Bee moves from room to room listening to excerpts from each as he goes.

Last Week

The week in brief (by Justine)…

Monday – Bank Holiday, we gave the house a much needed clean.

Tuesday – Can’t remember, except we moved the piano out of the sitting room and re-arranged the sofas. It feels so much better in there now. (This has transformed Justine’s life, as now the room is a much better way around! – Matt) The boys played lots of games that involved compasses and the South pole.

Wednesday – We started the morning by listening to ‘Peter and the Wolf’ which had arrived in the post and then went to Barnwell Country Park with J and F and T. We walked around to start with, partly trying to identify things, partly just to enjoy it. And then had a picnic lunch at the play area. All very idylic really. Until Bee spent too long on the basket swing and was sick! We came home about 3ish and listened to some of Bee’s new ‘On the Banks of Plum Creek’, which had also arrived that morning.

Thursday – We met up with a friend and her 2-yo twins at the central park sandpit. We had lunch in the cafe.

Friday – Went to the farm with the Muddle-Puddle group. Not a particularly succesfull morning as one of the other children fell badly on her foot and had to be taken off to casualty. The others all left after lunch but we stayed the whole afternoon. We helped take some of the lambs out for their first time in the field. Saw a new shire horse foal and the boys played for a long time at being Mary, Laura and Carrie in the 1940s kitchen in the Mill house!

Saturday – In the morning Matt bought a printer and ordered the cables on the web (PC World do very good deals when you buy something that someone else has returned, but their prices on cables are extortionate). Matt went to a music practice, I finished the cleaning.

Sunday – Church this morning. Many crises this morning as I put Mip in Bee’s favourite shirt (which he has grown out of), but Bee didn’t like this and wanted to wear the shirt. And then Bee didn’t want to wear his new shoes, but eventually went to church in his sandals in the rain. Wet all afternoon so we stayed in and played games and read stories. Lit the fire and made a chocolate cake. All very cosy.

Can’t remember much about the morning – we started a new Meindert deJong, and Bee got out a ‘learning to write’ Mr. Men workbook and did some of that.

After lunch we went to Burghley park and had a lovely walk and fed the deer.

Bee took this photo:

But not these…

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We took away a leaflet for ‘The Gardens of Surprise’, with thoughts of arranging an educational visit sometime so that we can get in on a discount!


Matt achieved most things on his ‘to do’ list today. He ordered audio books of Little house on the Prairie and On the Banks of Plum Creek for Bee (and managed to get Peter and the Wolf thrown in for free as they had sent an inadequately wrapped parcel to us last week which arrived slightly damaged). He also booked two National Trust visits for the PCHE group using our new Educational Group Membership. And cut the grass and pruned more or less everything in the garden.

I had planned to put our curtains back up (which I did) and clean the house (which I didn’t, for the third week running). I did make some cookies, which the boys helped with, and we picked a white tulip and left it in water with food colouring and ended up with a pink tulip.

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The boys did lots of playdough and played outside. Littlest again fell asleep on her own today when I put her down just for a moment. Such a clever girl!

Catching up..

Behind again with this.Sunday we went to church in the morning and then went to the little trains at Thorpe Hall with friends in the afternoon. Monday ? I think we stayed home, played in the garden, and started washing our bedroom curtains which were thick with dust. Tuesday we met up with several friends for lunch at P’s house and ate in her garden. Wednesday – see Monday. Thursday we went pond dipping at Barnwell with the PCHE group. We had booked a ranger for an hour and a half, and he was very good. He talked them through food chains ( which Bee has looked at before )and food pyramids (which were new to him) and after dipping for, and identifying, lots of water bugs they drew large pond pictures and then he took them for a listening game, again based around the food chain idea. Most of the group stayed and had a picnic at the play area, and then we went on to Bean’s (Oundle’s fair trade coffee shop) for the required coffee and cake (Matt was taking a day’s holiday). We finished up with a quick shopping trip to Oxfam for books and at Hampton for some clothes for Matt.

Today was Muddlepuddle’s first session back at the hall. after several months of waiting to organise insurance. J and I had planned to picnic first at Central Park, but it was really too cold so we abandoned that idea. Instead Bee and Mip played “pond dipping” and made themselves Lego nets and then drew pictures. Bee drew a very nice water scorpion, though he wasn’t quite sure so we found a picture of one and he drew another one.
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Muddle Puddle’s theme was “up the garden path”. The boys planted broad beans and sweetcorn, made paper windmills and playdough ladybirds, watched food colouring moving up a celery stalk and baked cookies. I came back with some tomatoes and onions to plant.It was a very samll group – 4 families -but it made for a peaceful session. I took them over to Central Park afterwards where we saw some friends, but unfortunately I had forgotten to take them to the toilet after MP and Bee didn’t quite make it to the park toilets in time… We had no spare clothes for him so had to come home .Bee carried on playing with some paper scraps left over from MP and made himself a water scorpion and then they all playdoughed until tea and are now all flopped on the sofa reading stories with Matt.

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