Tag Archives: parenting

explosive experiments

My boys love experimenting with different liquids – making potions and lotions and explosions of all colours and kinds. This is no surprise to me as I loved doing it as a child too! I seem to recall my brothers and me making our mum some rank smelling perfume out of rose petals which we’d squelched underfoot and then squished into a bottle which we topped up with water and glitter. She must have been… thrilled?

Anyway, over the past few years, whenever a rainy weekend hits, the likelihood is, one of my boys will say “Let’s do an experiment!”. Once, they even decreed it “Harry Potter Day” and spent most of the afternoon making potions. When we first started experimenting, we tried a few we got out of a book but along the way we’ve often gone more free-style and have made all sorts of weird and wonderful concoctions, some of which I thought I’d share with you now. Make sure these are done under adult supervision!

Experiment one – the lava lamp

You will need: Vegetable oil, water, Alka-seltzer, food colouring, drinking glass, plate.

Experiment: Put the glass on a plate (you’ll see why later) pour vegetable oil into it until it is just under a half full. Add a similar amount of  vegetable oil. Wait for the oil and water to separate. Add some (maybe ten) drops of food colouring and wait for it to fall to the bottom. Then add an Alka-seltzer and watch the results! The coloured water rises up through the oil in bubbles and the colours swirl.

oil and water

Ok, so I couldn’t find a photo with food colouring in…not at this stage anyway…

The Science:

Stage 1 – Water is denser than oil so it sinks to the bottom and the oil sits on the top. Food colouring is also denser so it falls through the oil and into the water.

Stage 2 – when you add the Alka-seltzer it fizzes when it meet the water. This releases carbon dioxide which reduces the density of the water causing it to rise up and through the oil. When it reaches the top of the oil the carbon dioxide is released and the water sinks again.

Added bit of fun:

Remember the plate? you’ll need it if you follow the next bit which is my boys’ favourite bit of all – they add more and more Alka-seltzer and food colouring and the whole things bubbles up and runs down the side of the glass. It’s pretty impressive!

I don't normally show my boys faces on my blog but this is well over two years old so, meh.

“WE WANT IT TO EXPLODE!” (I don’t normally show my boys faces on my blog but this is well over two years old and they all look different now!) I love the expression on my youngest’s face!

Experiment two – the volcano

You will need: Plastic volcano (we got one with a kit) or a glass, bicarb of soda, vinegar, food colouring, that trusty plate again.

Experiment: Put the volcano or glass onto your trusty plate. Put the food colouring and bicarb of soda into the volcano (or glass). Are you ready? Pour on the vinegar! It froths and foams up and over and down the sides in a very impressive display!volcano experiment

The science:

Vinegar is a weak solution of acetic acid. Bicarb of soda is a base or alkali. When the two are mixed, a neutralisation reaction occurs which releases carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide takes up more space than the bicarb of soda and vinegar hence the bubbling, fizzing, expanding potion!

Experiment three – fireworks

You will need: a large clear plastic (or glass) bowl, beaker, water, tablespoon of vegetable oil, food colouring, water, white paper.

Experiment: Put the plastic bowl on a table with the white paper behind it (a white backdrop makes it easier to see the ‘fireworks’ when they happen). Fill the bowl with water. Put a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a beaker and mix in a few drops of food colouring. Pour the mixture from the beaker into the bowl of water and watch the effects! The droplets of oil and food colouring float to the surface of the water. Once they reach the surface they explode and sink down like a firework display.

fireworks in a bowl

View from above – personally I liked this view best!

fireworks in a bowl 2

View from the side

The science:

Water is more dense than oil, so the oil and water floats to the surface. When it reaches the surface it bursts and the colouring floats back down, dissolving in the water and causing the colour effects.

Experiment four – floating egg FREESTYLE!

As I wrote at the start, my boys love to experiment, so this was one my six-year-old made up as he went along!

You will need: a drinking glass, an egg, lots of salt, vegetable oil, water, Alka-seltzer, possibly a grape, perhaps a chunk of apple, imagination

Experiment: Pour water and oil into a glass add 2 alkaseltzer, a bite of apple, a grape, washing up liquid and an enormous quantity of salt. Finally gently drop in a whole, unbroken egg. The egg floats and everything looks quite pretty!random potion
The science:

Because this was free-style I’m not entirely sure how the effect was achieved but, having done some research with my son, we think the Alka-seltzer and washing up liquid caused the pretty oil effect at the top. Most interesting though, was the floating egg. It turns out that when salt dissolves in water, it makes it denser. In our experiment, my son added enough salt for the water to become denser than the egg which is why the egg floated! You could actually experiment with this by adding different amounts of salt to water and testing to see what objects could float in different solutions.

If you try any of these experiments, I hope you have fun! There are many more to try and I suspect we’ll be experimenting further on 3rd May so watch out for the results on the #THISislearning hashtag!

If you have any experiments or fun learning activities for kids then I’d love you to share them on our #THISislearning linky – more information here!

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Little Hearts, Big Love

what a week!

wave in the sunYou know when you’re paddling in the sea with your trousers rolled up to your knees and then you see a huge wave approaching so you turn and run the other way but it starts to catch you up and slaps your legs with a huge wet spray that’s kind of exhilarating except you don’t really want to get any wetter so you keep running and kind of jumping and laughing and probably going ”argh!” a bit and the wave keeps chasing you so you just keep going till it runs out of energy and you land on a heap in the sand?

Phew!

That was me last week. It was a really busy, exciting, exhausting week that I saw coming but still didn’t really prepare myself for – I just ran and jumped went with it. I landed on Sunday evening very soggy and with a definite sense of ‘phew’ mixed with ‘yay!’

Why? Well Monday was the first day after the Easter holidays so I was in full-on ‘catch up with everything I’ve let slip for the past two weeks!’ mode which included housework and blogging and trying to write something for CampNaNo. There were also emails flying back and forth between Sophie and me as we were planning our #THISislearning campaign. At one point I was drying my hair and designing a blog badge on my laptop while simultaneously pretending to be a ‘mummy lion’ to my three-year-old. It was that sort of day. I also had to pack for…

Tuesday when I set off to my parents’ house in Yorkshire with my three-year-old (leaving his big brothers at home with my husband). I visited my grandparents and did more campaign planning while also trying to organise everything for…

Wednesday when I set off for London leaving my three-year-old with my parents. Unfortunately, at the station (and with no time to turn round) I realised I’d left my phone at my parent’s house. TWO DAYS IN LONDON WITH NO PHONE! But it was ok because I’d brought my laptop… although OH NO – I’D FORGOTTEN THE CHARGER! An inauspicious start but it was ok, I got there (campaign planning all the way on the train) and found my way to the business conference I was going to. Thank goodness my mum had given me her London street map despite my saying ‘oh it’s fine, I can just use google maps’ … not without your smart phone you can’t you fool! It was a really good event and very networky which was great in many ways but networking completely exhausts me!

alice filling glassLuckily, a tonic was on the way in the form of the very lovely Alice from The Filling Glass who I went out for a meal with in the evening. Alice and I have never met before although we’ve been following each other’s blogs since last summer. I had a hunch we would get on well, and we really did. We had lots in common, even our matching blue ‘mummy coats’! I’m hoping we manage another meet up – maybe a whole #WhatImWriting meet up – later in the year.

Then Thursday was a big day – my first experience of the London Book Fair! This is an amazing event where loads of publishers, book sellers, authors, distributors, wholesalers, agents and, well, anyone who’s interested in books in any way, all gathers under one roof. There was so much to take in! You’ll have to forgive the poor quality of the photo below – remember how I said I’d forgotten my phone? I spent much of my London trip really missing the ability to take photos (Alice took the one above) then shortly before I left the Book Fair I thought, ‘ooh hang on, my laptop has a camera… I mean, it doesn’t have a viewing window or anything, but I could use ‘photo booth’ in selfie mode…’ so I stood on the balcony, placed my laptop on a rail, pointed it away from me (looked a like a weirdo) and TA DA!

london book fair photoProof I was there! I have to admit, after talking non-stop on Wednesday I spent Thursday just absorbing information and not networking at all. This was possibly a missed opportunity but there was only so much I could do. I went to lots of writing seminars and wandered round looking at lots of books and feeling a mixture of contentment and overwhelm. I’ll write more about what I learned in a separate post soon.

I also continued the campaign planning with Sophie in the gaps between seminars, although by this time my laptop battery was seriously depleted. I took the train back to my parents’ house on Thursday night and on the way, with 1% of battery remaining (and surrounded by business men, laptops and sandwiches on a hugely crowded train), I finally finished and hit ‘publish’ on my #THISislearning launch post. Another ‘phew’ moment.

On Friday morning I was happily reunited with my son (who’d had an awesome time with my parents) and we made our way back up north and home just in time to pick my older boys up from school. I then solo-parented my way through the weekend as my husband had gone away shortly before I got back! By yesterday night I was ready to collapse in a heap, so spent the evening with a glass of wine and my laptop catching up with blog commenting.

So that was my wave-dodging week – my feet are soggy and sandy but I’m drying them and dusting them off for the week ahead. I can see more waves coming my way!

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THIS is learning, Mr Cameron.

#THISislearning kidsA couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about education called ‘No, Mr Cameron, No‘. It was my reaction to the growing feeling amongst parents, teachers and education experts that governmental educational policy is WRONG. That our kids are put under too much pressure, expectations are too high and they are tested too young, in a way that is making it harder and harder for our teachers to teach the way they know is best. The fun and the joy is being stripped out of learning and the long-term negative consequences of this could be vast.

I wanted to support our schools and our fabulous teachers and suggested we use our power as parents and not send our kids into school on SATs day in favour of a ‘learning is fun’ day where we would collectively show the government what real learning looks like.

The response the post received was amazing. Support flooded in from teachers and parents alike. It was amazing and moving and just, WOW!

“Yes!” I thought “Let’s do this! Let’s start a revolution!”

A couple of days later a new campaign was launched by a group of concerned Year Two parents, called ‘Let Our Kids Be Kids‘. They are proposing a kids strike on May 3rd (which is not a test day) in favour of a day of fun learning to show the government that parents want an end to year 2 SATs and the current educational pressures.

“Yes!” I thought “the revolution has begun!”

So I got my thinking cap on and I had conversations with other online friends. We all felt there was more we could do as bloggers to help the ‘Let Our Kids Be Kids’ campaign and to really make a difference.

Now, I’ll admit, I had a wobble. As a naturally non-revolutionary, law-abiding type who doesn’t like to draw much attention to myself, I wondered if I could really do it. Could I break the rules, keep my kids off school and encourage others to do so? Could I really? Really?

One (self-inflicted) big kick in the rear later and the answer is YES, ARE YOU KIDDING?! OF COURSE I CAN!

More importantly of course WE can!

So, having chatted to Let Our Kids Be Kids, my friend and fellow blogger Sophie and I have decided to launch a parallel campaign to support theirs. It’s called #THISislearning and is focussed not just on keeping our kids off school on 3rd May but on doing something on that day to show the government what great learning looks like.

We also want to widen the focus beyond Year 2 SATs and make it about over-assessment in schools in general (we know plenty of people feel that Year 6 SATs too, are appalling!). We really want to send a powerful, positive message that we hope our government will listen to, and the more of you who join in (parents of school kids or pre-schoolers, homeschoolers, teachers, bloggers, non-bloggers, social media gurus or newbies, anyone who works with kids in fact, anyone at all who supports our aim!) the louder our voice will be!

Here, in brief, is the plan (more details to follow soon!):

On Tuesday 3rd May we will be keeping our kids off school. For me this means not only my six-year-old (whom the Year 2 SATs directly affect,) but also my eight-year-old. I’ll be downloading letters from the Let Our Kids Be Kids website which I will use to let my boys’ school know our plans and so they know this is action against governmental policy and not them or my sons’ great teachers!

We will be spending the day with our kids (and perhaps other friends with kids too), learning lots about the world in a fun way and sharing it on social media with the hashtag #THISislearning. I haven’t decided quite what I’m going to do yet but watch this space because:

Over the next (nearly) three weeks I will be sharing various ideas with you for fun learning activities. They might be anything – messing with mud, experimenting with liquids, creating, constructing, exploring… the options are endless.

Sophie and I will be setting up a linky (UPDATE: it’s now live!) across both our blogs for people to link up posts about their thoughts and feelings on education and/or about any plans they have for May 3rd – it would be great if it could become a resource for fun learning activities so that we’re all full of inspiration by the day!

Then, on May 3rd we want set social media feeds abuzz with photos, tweets, messages and stories (from as many of you as possible) about children learning in a way that is fun. No formality, no stuffiness, no tests or unreachable targets or overwhelming pressure. We want to shower the government – no, deluge them – with examples of learning that is creative and engaging, learning which sparks childrens’ imaginations and which sets them up for a lifetime of curiosity and passion. Because that’s what education should be about.

Because THIS is learning, Mr Cameron.

#THISislearning

***

Come and join us!

We have set up a facebook group for people to share thoughts, plans and support. Anyone who wants to support #THISislearning in any way is welcome to come and join it!

We also have a badge which we’d love you to display on your blog (if you have one). Just copy and past the code below. Thank you!

Together, we CAN!

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I’m linking this post with The Prompt at Mum Turned Mom. This week the word is ‘jump’ which seems apt since this campaign feels like a leap both into the unknown and out of my comfort zone!

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Everything Mummy

And then the fun began...

 

the things they say #8 – unnameable pouches

easter collageIt’s been a really full-on couple of weeks what with it being the easter holidays and the fact that I’ve still been trying to work (ok, only one day but still… ), and write and blog and do my illustration course… and then of course there was the post that went huge and got me into many an inspiring Twitter conversation about education.

But the boys are back to school tomorrow and my blog hits have settled down again so, back to business! This feels like a gear change from recent posts but I do love recording the random things my toddler says, so here’s this month’s edition of silliness from my (just turned) three year old:

  • He loves to draw and currently produces about ten pictures a day – on a slow day! He usually draws with great intensity, taking more and more pens out of the case as he goes. Lids fly everywhere, scribbles adorn the table and ink gets all over his hands. The other day I pointed out he had brown ink all the way up his arms. “Wow!” he said gleefully “It look like a crusty bum!” I blanched, I mean… I suppose.. but thankfully he continued “Yes, a hot crusty bum!” at which point *PING* I realised that some of the marks were in a kind of cross shape and the whole thing was reminiscent of a hot cross bun. Of course. What else could he possibly have meant?
    • He’s noticed that ‘time’ is a thing for us (mostly, it has to be admitted, in the context of “Argh, no, is that the…?!?” rather than, “Oh, no rush, there’s plenty of…”) and has come up with an answer to the inevitable question. If you ask “What’s the time?” in his presence he always pipes up with “Seven pasty nine.” No matter if it’s morning, noon or night, whether he’s racing around outside in the sunshine or being tucked up in bed in the dark, it’s always and only “Seven pasty nine.” Sounds quite a tasty time of day though so I have no complaints!
    • Child of the Eighties? Remember Thundercats?  A few months ago it was available on Amazon Prime (yes, the original version!), and all three boys loved watching it together. They still play Thundercats games together now where they race around acting out the characters. My three-year-old likes to play their huge-haired, muscly leader, “Lion-o”. Except he calls him “Lion-mauve”. I rather like it – makes me think of Lion-o in a hand-knitted cardi. And what’s not to like about that?!
    • I opened the blinds the other day to a sea of mist. “Yay!” said the toddler “It’s froggy outside!”
  • We have parking meters in our town that give you a ticket for a FREE half hour of parking. It’s lucky you can get them for free as the toddler thinks the parking metres are “Minions” and loves to go and say hello and ask them for a ticket. They’re very obliging! You’re probably imagining we have lovely yellow parking meters – that would make sense, right?
     
    minion 2parking meter

    Minion or parking meter? Spot the difference!

  • And finally – one from my eight-year-old. During an average lunchtime conversation recently he made reference to “the pouch that no one dares name…”. He looked at us as if we would know what he was talking about, but we didn’t. After a little encouragement it was revealed he was talking about a scrotum, or scrotums in general. I’ll never view them in the same light again.*snort*
    Little Hearts, Big Love

on being a revolutionary

road

I’ve never considered myself a revolutionary. To anyone who knows me, that’s hardly surprising. I’m more of a polite petition-signer and pensive ponderer: I respond internally and then talk to my friends about things that matter to me, but I don’t often act. What can I really do? I think, What difference can I make? and, anyway I need to start making that pasta-bake or the kids will have nothing to eat for tea…

You might be nodding your head in recognition at that or you might be wringing your hands in frustration. Really, we should all do more. I get that. Society needs us to do more. The world needs us to do more but… that pasta isn’t going to cook itself… it’s the smallest AND the biggest thoughts that can prompt inaction.

For these reasons, along with a profound fear of saying the ‘wrong thing‘, I’ve basically kept this blog free of political opinion. Even as, over the past year, things have got worse for so many in our society, I’ve kept quiet. The misery of teachers and junior doctors (to name just a few) has been plastered all over the news and my social media feeds and I’ve felt so angry and so sad but, I thought – beyond signing petitions (and please, everyone, do keep signing petitions!) – what could I do? My blog has a tiny readership! Why speak up?

And then last Friday it all got too much. The feelings I’d had about this government’s educational policy finally came pouring out. Who cared if I wrote the wrong thing? And who cared if hardly anyone read it? I had to write about it, HAD to, and the words just fell, rolled, cascaded onto the page. And without really meaning to come up with anything at all, I came up with a plan to use parent power to support our teachers and get the government to listen. I had no idea if it would work. I HAVE no idea if it could work. But…

Wow. Just wow. The response has been immense. In less than a week that post has been viewed over five thousand times. FIVE THOUSAND! That’s more views than my entire blog normally gets in three months (I told you my blog was tiny, right?)!

But it’s so much more than just the figures (although, as any blogger will tell you, the figures can be kind of exciting in their own right: Ooh look at that graph! Get that referral count!) the comments on the post, on Twitter and on Facebook have been amazing. Teachers and parents have suggested we should really try and put my plan into action. I’ve spent hours chatting on social media about the necessity for action and what it means for our kids and schools and society if we don’t. I’ve felt overwhelmed, moved to tears at times, by the strength of emotion people have shared.

So this post is a thank you to everyone who’s commented, shared and tweeted. And it’s a thank you to all the teachers who work so hard to care for all our kids. ALL our kids. Not just the clever ones, not just the wealthy ones. Because good teachers know how important all our children are. They know what their potential is and how best to achieve that. And that’s why it’s so vital that we listen to them – that we support them when they say that there’s something fundamentally wrong with government policy.

Just before hitting publish on this post I found out that a group of parents has just launched a campaign to boycott year 2 SATs in favour of ‘a day of fun learning out of school’. BOOM. Check out their website and petition!

I still don’t consider myself a revolutionary. But if we work together, all of us – parents and teachers and everyone who sees the urgent need for change – if we’re ALL united?

Maybe that’s precisely what we can be.

mumturnedmom

The Prompt this week is ‘Renewal’. I’m linking this post because the response to my education post has reminded me of how many people out there want change and has given me a renewed sense of hope.

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No, Mr Cameron, No.

No, Mr Cameron, no.
There’s been a post bubbling up inside me about education for a while now, only I’ve not been sure how to articulate what I feel. There’s so much to say.

I keep hearing how changing government standards and expectations are pushing more and more (wonderful) teachers out of the profession. I keep reading about the expectations, targets and tests that are making it harder and harder for teachers to teach in a way that instils a passion for learning into our kids. I’ve read and thought about the impact that these demands could have on the mental health of the next generation; how making school a stressful – or less enjoyable – place to be could damage children’s relationship with education forever. As a parent it worries me. As a member of society it worries me.

We had our school parents’ meetings a few weeks ago and our six-year-old son’s teachers gave us mock SATs papers to look at. I could hardly believe it: five thick test papers covering English and Maths. With a huge emphasis on grammar. With TEST emblazoned on the front and at the back ensuring that any teacher – in the knowledge that telling kids they’re doing ‘tests’ can cause stress – will fail in a mission to pass them off as just ‘some fun’. With one of the maths papers requiring an ability to read and reason before you even get to the actual mathematics. FIVE THICK TEST PAPERS. They’re only six and seven years old!

Then I went into school last week and noticed the handwriting of the kids in my son’s class. I looked and I remembered the papers they were going to be given and my heart sank. How are they all going to manage? These kids aren’t unintelligent or incapable, their handwriting is unrefined because they’re six and seven. They can’t all read perfectly and reason wonderfully yet because they’re six and seven. And the fact that the teachers are unlikely to be able to train them to pass the tests with flying colours isn’t because the teachers are bad – they’re great! But the kids are flippin’ six and seven years old.

The government can’t do this, I thought – they can’t assess all these children’s intelligence and aptitude and potential and possibilities based on these tests. These tests don’t look at how a child’s eyes light up when someone reads them a story or how they can draw a wonderful picture with only a handful of pencils or how they can invent an entire imaginary world with the contents of a recycling bin.

These tests don’t show that that child is awesome at football, that this one can captivate a room with her wicked sense of humour, or that this little boy is really empathetic and kind. Oh, or that this little girl here could one day be a novelist if we don’t teach her, right now aged six, that she can’t write much at all. She can’t write much YET because she’s SIX.

And yet they ARE trying to assess our kids, and these tests necessitate a style of teaching that’s counter to so much research about the best ways that kids learn. A way of teaching that means the rules of grammar take precedence over encouragement to write for the enjoyment of it, or means maths questions must be tackled in a way that no one would ever use in the real world. We have so many talented teachers in this country that are trying so hard to wrestle with the curriculum to make learning as engaging as possible, but the government is making it harder and harder. No wonder they’re resigning in droves. No wonder schools are struggling to recruit staff.

The government can’t do this, I thought.

They can’t do this to our kids.

And then I thought… what if… what if we just don’t let them?

What if on SATs day we parents all agree not to send our kids into school?

Not because we don’t believe in school. Not because we don’t believe in education. But because we DO. We believe, no, dammit, we KNOW it is incredibly important. That it is fundamental to society and that we, as a society, have to get it RIGHT (or heck, right now I’d settle for just ‘not so completely wrong that it makes my eyes bleed’).

What if instead of school that day we have a National ‘Learning Is Fun’ day, where we all teach our kids by giving them exciting, meaningful and memorable experiences?

Where we teach them love of words and stories and literature by reading them great books?

Where we ignite their imaginations with drama and stories and art?

Where we teach them history by visiting interactive museums and talking to people who had real-life experiences?

Where we instil a love of maths or science through practical experiences and experiments?

Where we teach them about the things we love, be they gardening or building or hiking or snorkelling or painting or writing or morris dancing… whatever… in the best way we can?

We do it together, with friends, family or wider communities or we do it on our own, just us and our kids, but everyone does their bit, even if it’s only a tiny bit, to show their children the fun parts of learning and the ways in which it can affect our lives.

And then we share, share, share what we’ve learnt. We share it on social media, on TV, on the radio, in the local paper. We share by drawing pictures and putting up posters… doing pieces of performance art in the street (I don’t know, whatever, just think of something!). We share as much as we can, as widely as we can.

And together we show the government what teachers have been trying to tell them all along if they’d only listen: what really makes children tick, what really ignites their passions, what sets their imaginations free and lets their potential soar.

On that day, we’d do our best to support our country’s wonderful teaching profession. It would be a day when we as parents would say: we will not put our children through this. Our kids deserve better. Teachers and schools deserve better. Society deserves better.

No, Mr Cameron, no.

What if..?

***

UPDATE: I was so overwhelmed by the response to this post that, along with a fellow blogger, I’ve launched a #THISislearning campaign. Please click here to find out more!

*** Since I wrote this post a new petition has been launched at 38 degrees, calling for a SATs boycott on 3rd May. Click here to find out more***

mumturnedmom

This post was inspired by The Prompt which, this week, is ‘Mighty’. I often feel helpless in the face of this government and I got to thinking that although I feel tiny, together we have the potential to be mighty.

You might like to sign these petitions calling for the extension of the Early Years Foundation Stage from “birth to 5″ to “birth to 7″:

This one is on UK Government and Parliament Petitions. If it gets 100,000 signatures it will be considered for debate in parliament.

This one is on Change.org.

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Stopping at two

the ups and downs of the week that was

It’s been a busy week this week – I’ve barely blogged at all. It’s been one of those periods where I’ve done lots and gained plenty of inspiration for posts, but for one reason or another the posts don’t get written. But as it’s a Sunday night and I still have (just) enough energy to wave my fingers in the direction of computer keys in a way that may result in words, I thought I’d do a quick roundup of the most memorable parts of the week:

My boys - a moment of brotherly love on a walk.

My boys – a moment of brotherly love on a walk.

  • Along with lots of other parents and carers, I went in to school to do some cooking with my six-year-old and his class. We made a variety of different things, the kids loved having us there and it’s such a positive thing to get parents/carers engaged with school and learning I think. I do wonder how often the school will be able to hold sessions like this in the future though, given the government’s focus on children being able to give the proper description to grammatical utterances and deduce complicated mathematics from lengthy stories. There’s a ranty blog post about ridiculous educational standards and the potential impact on children’s self-esteem building up in me…
  • I was witness to a horrible bullying incident and ended up – along with another parent – comforting a young boy and talking to all his friends about how the bully had been treating him. So I saw both a horrible display of lack of empathy (from the bully) and a touching display of empathetic concern from a group of boys. It’s stayed with me (the poor kid was so upset) and I’ll be taking further action to try and ensure it doesn’t happen again.
  • I went to my Grandma’s eighty-seventh birthday party. She’s increasingly frail these days so we were all thrilled that she was able to come to what was quite a large family meal in a lovely hotel. There was much talking and laughing over delicious food and wine but the moment that affected me most during the whole evening was a little look I caught between my Grandma and my ninety-two-year-old Grandpa. It was just after my Grandma had said a little ‘thank you’ speech about how happy she was to see us all there, and the look… it was a look of such love. Of long lasting ‘I’ve loved you through the decades and look what we’ve created together’ love. I was quite bowled over. They’ve been married for sixty-six years. Being with the same person for years and years isn’t always easy – I think we all go through our highs and lows – but that look said it all. That’s love, that.
  • I got to spend some time with my brothers. I love my brothers. There is definitely a post I need to write about how having brothers helps me be a mum to boys.

Lots more happened but I’ll leave it at that as I want to watch some telly (from one screen to another, yes I know, it’ll rot my brain!)

Hope you’ve had good weeks!

the things they say #7 (the facial hair edition)

Do you ever look at your kids and think, ‘how did you get so big? Surely I only gave birth to you last Tuesday?!’ I do, often. It makes me want to make the most of spending time with my boys now (which admittedly can sometimes conflict wildly with the difficulties of just getting through some days!) and also to capture these memories somehow.

running baking

my 3yo taking a jogging break during a baking session!

That’s one of the brilliant things about blogging I think. These posts we write about the cute things our kids say or do and the times we spend together, might only be of limited interest to much of the rest of the world, but for our future selves, what a treasure trove! I can imagine reading this blog when my kids have grown up and loving re-living all the moments it captures. It’s probably inevitable that I’ll wince at some of my more naval-gazing posts, (rather like discovering your teenage diary that waxed rhapsodic about the boy who sat next to you in Geography) but I think I can bear that for the memories it holds.

… which brings me to my newly three year old son‘s language. It’s  developing so fast at the moment, I can hardly keep up! I keep noting down the cute words he uses or the way he phrases things, only to find out he’s moved on from them five minutes later. So the following list of things he’s said recently is already out of date, but I wanted to capture it here anyway for posterity (you’re welcome, future me).

  • On hearing his Dad’s footsteps on the stairs: “Here comes Daddy! He’s the Gruffalo!” My husband insists I misheard and that he in fact said “He’s Mark Ruffalo” (which admittedly would be a more flattering comparison), but no. It’s those terrible tusks that give him away.
  • While he was giving my husband a cuddle on the sofa and stroking his eyebrows (I don’t know why… because eyebrows are strokeable I guess), “I’m stroking Daddy’s libraries!” Ok, they’re considerably thicker than mine, but I’ve yet to find a book in them!
  • To me, when I handed him a sandwich: “Thank you, my love.” I tend to call him poppet or sweetie so I’m not sure where he got ‘my love’ from, but it was very sweet!
  • To him, where timing is concerned most things either happen now or “after later” which appears to be a vague or possibly non-existent time in the future. ‘After later’ is an annoying length of time when applied to the question “When will you clear up your toys?” but very useful when I use it as a response to a request for another biscuit when he’s already had too many. “You can have one after later poppet” “Ok”. Win.
  • He’s small for his age and also the youngest family member so he does get referred to as ‘tiny’ or ‘little’ a lot. Mostly he enjoys this (sometimes he insists he’s still a baby) but the other day he decided to attempt to refute the label with “I’m not little, I’m bigger than Daddy’s eyelashes!” I’m not sure it helped his case…

What have your little ones been saying recently? Is anyone else married to a Gruffalo?

Little Hearts, Big Love

 

a letter to my youngest son on his third birthday

My gorgeous boy,

You are my third child, my youngest son and most definitely my last baby.

You have two big brothers and, when I was pregnant with you, many people speculated about your gender. Some couldn’t seem to help but make assumptions about what we’d want and about what would be ‘ideal’. There seems to be a notion out there that it is best for families to have children of both genders, you see, so this time round a girl would be perfect, right?

Wrong. Oh, so wrong. You see, YOU, my lovely boy, have always been the perfect third child for this family. Before you were born I used to hope for a ‘laid back’ baby – one of those ones that sits around smiling and isn’t bothered by anything much. I didn’t seriously think I’d get a baby like that though… not really, I mean, how could I be that lucky?!

joanne mcneil photography maddy bennett 2013-6338

The five of us on a rainy walk. Photo by Joanne McNeil Photography

But from the moment you made you entrance into the world (after nine days of stop/start labour – see, you’d already decided to take things slow!) you were so chilled-out I could hardly believe it. The moment of your birth was by far the calmest of the three I’ve experienced (let’s just say I don’t give birth easily!) You didn’t even cry. You were immediately placed in my arms and just gazed up at me with a rather serious, inscrutable expression. I cried. You pooed copiously. We laughed. All was well.

When you came home, your brothers fell in love with you immediately, and as soon as you were capable of anything other than gazing inscrutably, it was clear you loved them too. To this day your big brother claims “you gave me your first smile” and I think he might be right. You fitted in to our family like a jigsaw piece – once missing, now found. Absolutely that calm, happy baby I’d hoped for. Ok, sleep was an issue (for two and a half years… ) but during daylight hours you were Mr Laid-back, takes-it-in-his-stride, ‘I’ll just lie here and watch everyone, and bestow smiles and gurgles’.

brotherly love change

Your big brother wrote this for you when you were a baby. Translation “X’s cute, best of all he always smiles, he’s the best baby brother in the world. Specially he loves all of us.”

Your middle brother started school when you were six months old so you and I have spent a lot of quality time together these past three years. You’ve been such a good companion – happy to just be with me at home, ‘helping’ (?!) with the housework and always perfectly content to come along when I meet friends for coffee. In fact, once you got old enough, you even started requesting “We go for coffee?” as soon as we’d dropped your brothers off at school! “You wouldn’t even know he’s there!” is a comment I’ve heard about you in many a cafe as you sat calmly chewing some toast or playing with your toys.

Of course once you hit the terrible twos you got… an opinion on things. I don’t want to pretend you’ve been perfectly reasonable at all times. But then you’re a little person with big emotions, so stroppiness is bound to appear at some points. You’ve always impressed me with your ability to get over tantrums quickly and your insistence that “I’m not naughty, I’m happy!” has been enough to win me over in your difficult moments numerous times.

You’re such an imaginative boy and are able to entertain yourself for ages. Listening to you playing with your toys always brings a smile to my face. Toy cars for you aren’t just vehicles they’re little people with personalities who talk to each other. Last week I overheard a taxi and a london bus having a chat about “going to the shoppings” (one of your favourite pastimes) to buy “bread, crisps and chocolate mousse” – your cars clearly have good taste!

boys doing shape challenge

Your other favourite activities (aside from casting magic spells by yelling “I got a zebra!”) are doing jigsaws and drawing. It’s lovely to watch you and your brothers sitting side by side, concentrating on your art work. You mostly just scribble but have now begun to proudly put your pictures on the fridge yourself. You even managed to draw a picture of me the other day where I had a recognisable form. When I say ‘recognisable form’ I do of course mean I looked like a hammer with a moustache… but you’re getting there!

You are so loving, so sweet and so funny that your Dad and I can’t help ourselves but say “He’s so cute!” far too often. I know it’s ‘far too often’ because this morning you put some teddy-bear slippers on, admired your feet and said, beaming “Oh, I’m so cute!”. I should probably stop calling you that so obviously but, well, you just are!

Now you are three and I’m certain that three boys was exactly right for me and for all of us. I wouldn’t change a thing. I couldn’t be luckier than to have my three little guys and I’m so very glad you’re you.

Lots of love from your doting (and very sentimental but it is your birthday) mummy.

xxx

Little Hearts, Big LoveProse for Thought

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dead salmon, iced buns, great films and a car crash

I’m not sure I’ve got much writing news to report for this week’s ‘What I’m Writing’ post so I’ll do a ‘catch up on general life’ post instead. Here are the highlights (or most newsworthy moments… ) of my week:

  • I’ve officially started my illustration course now, and was very happy to find that the first section is all about practicing drawing objects and building up skills which is basically what I’ve been doing for the past month with #ShapeChallenge anyway! I’m still drawing a picture for that every day (which takes up a surprising amount of time – about an hour I think to draw, scan, tweet and look at everyone else’s drawings) and have now started to work specific aspects of the course into my pictures too. I really love it.

geraldine the elephant

  • Paint has been on my mind a lot this week – I’ve been obsessing about colours as I want to redecorate our hall. I keep flinging out suggestions like ‘orange’, ‘bright blue’ or ‘lime green’ while my husband says “Why not just paint it ‘wall coloured’?” (i.e beige). Luckily he’s happy to let me make the decision, but I still can’t make up my mind. We have spent a lot of time laughing at Farrow & Ball paint colour names – ‘Dead Salmon’ (sounds smelly), ‘Churlish Green’ (presumably sneers insults at you as you pass) and Mole’s Breath (an earthy, whiskery shade perhaps, with a hint of pink paw?). Never underestimate the amount of time you can spend gazing at a wall and painting lining paper with different sample colours. And texting and tweeting your friends with pictures of paint samples. And saying “Blue or green… or pink? WHAT DO YOU THINK?!” to anyone who enters your home. Sigh. No wonder I’ve not got more done.
  • Half term started with a teacher training day last Friday so I’ve been spending a lot of time with the kids. Their new favourite thing is baking. At 8.30 in the morning last Friday they announced “Let’s have a bake off!” and set about baking buns and chocolate biscuits – I wasn’t even allowed to help!

    boys baking

    Yes, I let them loose with the electric whisk!

  • I saw Deadpool at the cinema on Friday – go and see it, it’s fantastic! An unconventional superhero film. Very funny indeed. I went with a friend who booked us huge sofa-type ‘free nacho and chocolate’ seats, so that was awesome too!
  • I also went to see ‘Room’ (I know, two cinema trips in one week!) which was also very good. Put me through the emotional wringer though. Take tissues – I had tears pouring down my cheeks and into my popcorn.
  • I crashed our car into a wall on Saturday – erk. We’re all fine (as you might have guessed by how far down it comes in the list) but it was very scary. Basically, icy conditions on the hill we live on meant the brakes had no effect at all and we hurtled towards a hairpin bend! I managed to get mostly round the bend but only by scraping a large chunk off the bottom of our car on a tumbled-down wall. My eight year old said “Argh! We flew through the air!”, my six year old, “I know a new swear word now, Mummy!” (I thought I was very restrained – I only said ‘shit’!) while my youngest (nearly three) was very pragmatic and announced: “Let’s tell Daddy we had a car crash!”

It’s been a pretty busy week now I come to think of it which explains why I haven’t got much writing done. Still, this blog post is writing isn’t it? Of a sort. More soon. :)

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