Thursday, 29 October 2009

Random Thoughts

Just wondering.

1. Why do mothers always suck their child's dummy when it's dropped on the floor, stick it back in the child's mouth and then go home and sterilise the bottles?

2. If you live in Poland you're a Pole, so if you live in Holland, why aren't you a Hole?

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Baking Days

When you're stuck at work, totally bogged under with accounts, feeling a bit cheesed off at having to work a few long days during half term, it's nice to get pictures e-mailed of what the children have been doing.

Today, they're home with Andy. It's not often he gets a day alone with them, so time together, having fun, is the order of the day.

Fun today = baking.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Forgotten Summer Photos

I remembered today that I said a while back I'd post pictures of our family holiday. We went to Weymouth for a week with our very special friends Michelle, Katie, Ben and Michaela.

We took numerous photos, but this is just a selection of the ones we took at the beach.

This was on Carnival Day. A beach front spectacle, starting with the plane and wing-walker.

Crabbing, which we'd never done before, but the children loved doing. Each little crab had his own name but was lovingly returned to the sea.

The air-sea rescue demonstration.

My beautiful daughter, Madeleine.

My other beautiful daughter, Eleanor. The day was just too much for her and she actually fell asleep like this. I had just enough time to take the photo before she toppled sideways!

Joshua digging a hole to bury himself in. The temptation at times just to give him a little shove.....!!

No visit to the beach is complete without ice-cream.

Sisters in the sand.

Friday, 16 October 2009

The Channel Divide - Day 4

The chocolate theme carried on last night for Maddie, but this time with Andy. Hot chocolate fudge sauce cake with lashings of fresh cream, and for Eleanor a big chocolate muffin.

Yesterday the girls finally admitted to missing Joshua with Eleanor declaring she'd give him a big hug when he got back and Maddie echoing the sentiment. His last full day in France was yesterday and as I write, he'll have probably just arrived back in England after what looks to have been an absolutely fantastic trip. I know he'll be worn out, tired and hungry, but full of information about his time away. I can't wait for him to get back.

Here's yesterday's events.

Thursday 15th October 10.45pm

Today started off with a visit to Dieppe where we were immersed in the French language, identifying French shop signs, before going to a Creperie where we had to order, eat and pay for a delicious crepe (all in French of course!!)

We then had a quick lunch stop back at the Chateau before heading off to the Neufchatel cheese farm. We all learnt about the cheese making process (all in French!!) before having the opportunity to taste some freshly made cheese and buy some to bring home (let's hope that the coach doesn't smell too much on the way home!)

Our first evening activity was either fencing or the climbing wall which everyone enjoyed a lot.
Now onto dinner......yes, Thursday night is snails and frogs legs night! Needless to say, there was plenty left over after the tasting! We then had a main course of pasta bolognaise followed by a cheese plate and chocolate eclairs.

After dinner it was time to party on down at the disco! There were lots of impressive moves on the dance floor (which we have photographic evidence of!) and also some not quite impressive moves (again, photographic evidence available....!!)

We are going to miss the Chateau (and France!) when we leave tomorrow but we are also looking forward to coming home to see everyone.

We will be catching a slightly later Eurostar train tomorrow (to give us a bit longer at the market in the morning) and we estimate that we will arrive back at *********** at approximately 4pm.

See you tomorrow!! Au revoir!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Underwater Tricks

It wasn't until this morning that I realised Eleanor had no idea of the distance between us and Joshua at the moment as she posed this.

'Mummy, Joshua went to France on a train that goes under the sea. Did he hold his breath?'

I couldn't do anything else but hug her!

The Channel Divide - Day 3

Wednesday night was declared 'Hot Chocolate' night. I didn't realise until a friend pointed out to me that this week was Chocolate Week. Had I known that I'd have started this all on Monday and got maximum mileage out of the celebration!

So, supplies were gathered in for the ultimate hot chocolate sensation. Squirty cream, mini marshmallows, hundreds and thousands, chocolate chips and toffee sauce. This was going to be goooood!!!

Pour in the hot chocolate, load on the toppings, be careful not to let it topple!

A quick lick of the lips, wring of the hands and we're ready to dive in!


Meanwhile, across the Channel, Joshua had also been busy.....

Wednesday 14th October 8.50pm

Today we went to Rouen which involved lots of walking but also lots of exciting sightseeing! We explored and learnt about the Notre Dame Cathedral (not the Paris one!!), learnt the story of Joan of Arc and saw where she had been burnt at the stake, ate lunch in the park and went shopping!

When we got back to the Chateau, we had some free time. Some of us played football and made some French friends whilst others had some chill out time in the dorms (well maybe not quite so chilled out....!). Then it was time for our group activities which were either archery or climbing wall.

Food tonight was mixed cold vegetables to start followed by fish and rice. We then had a cheese plate and an apple pastry for dessert. Evening activity tonight is team tech which involves lots of thinking (oh dear!!!!!!).

We think the late nights and long days may be beginning to catch up with us, however we are determined to carry on having lots of fun and new adventures!!

The Channel Divide - Day 2

Eagerly logging on Tuesday night to find out what Joshua had been up to I was pleased to see the teachers had taken time out of their really busy day to update us Mums and Dads on what the children had been doing. Sounds like they're having a great time.
At this point I wasn't missing him too much. I knew he'd arrived safely and I knew he was having fun with his friends. I could relax.
Having one less at home does afford the opportunity to spend a little more time with the other children. This week, Maddie and I have declared that each evening we should have a girlie treat, of the chocolate variety, before she goes to bed.

Tonight was chocolate fondue night. I usually avoid doing this kind of messy stuff before bed, but with the cunning use of a tealight, metal pie dish and a peg, we mustered up our own mini-fondue and tucked into melted chocolate, maderia cake cubes, marshmallows and apple chunks.

We're going to introduce Joshua to this when he's back - he'd love it. And whilst we were enjoying this little luxury here's what he got up to on day 2.

Tuesday 13th October 9pm

Another busy day in France! Breakfast was at 7.45 this morning after what turned out to be a late night with 28 excited children deciding that they didn't actually want to go to sleep (quote 'we stopped talking at 3.20am....!!). We have had a great day out visiting the WW1 underground tunnels at Arras followed by walking through the German and Allied trenches at Vimy Ridge. We then went to a very impressive memorial monument, also at Vimy Ridge.

When we arrived back at the Chateau we headed straight down to the beach with some frisbees, giant jenga, a basketball and a rugby ball. These were surplus to requirements though as the children just wanted to build stone trenches!! At least they have been inspired!

Dinner tonight was carrot salad for starters followed by pork meatloaf and beans. Dessert was a cheese plate and yoghurt and after all of that we even managed to save some room for Will's birthday cake!

The final activity for today is either archery or fencing. Hopefully bedtime tonight will be earlier than last night as we have a full day out tomorrow exploring Rouen!

The Channel Divide - Day 1

Joshua's in France this week and I'm missing him. But the pangs of separation are being dampered by the fact the teachers are putting a daily update on the school web page to keep parents informed of the day to day activities the children are undertaking. It will be great to see the pictures he has taken to accompany the round up of each day's events. I last saw him 8.30am Monday morning. By evening this is what he'd done.

Monday 12th October 9.30pm

We are here!! As you can probably tell from the delay in updating this page, we have had a very busy start to our trip! The journey went well with lots of excitement whilst travelling through the tunnel and even more excitement when we realised we had reached France (quote 'I love France now' and 'I can even smell France!')

We had a great stop off at Nausicaa Sea Centre, touching stingrays, seeing the sharks close up, watching the penguins being fed and laughing at the sealions playing!

The journey on to the Chateau seemed very long (quote 'are we there yet' and 'how long until we get there' over and over and over and over......!!)

We finally arrived at the Chateau at about 6.30pm and after the initial excitment of seeing the dorms and playing some field games it was dinner time. On the menu tonight was cheese pie for starter, sausage with cabbage and potato for the main course followed by yoghurt and fruit for dessert.

The final end to the day has been mini olympics in the sports hall.

Everyone is very tired but still excited and looking forward to what tomorrow may bring!

Monday, 12 October 2009

The Long Weekend

Joshua has probably spent the longest weekend of his life these past two days. Because when you're 10 years old and going to France for a week with your schoolfriends, Monday morning can't come quick enough.

He's usually pretty good at playing it cool, but this one was too much for him to contain. Armed with the kit list on Saturday afternoon, the hints of packing prep were coming. Just checking certain shirts were in the drawer, sorting out an empty backpack to take for the day trips, trip to the shops for a new pair of trainers, making sure no washing was due to be done so the all important trendy stuff was clean and ready. Check, check, check.

By 5pm the desire to pack was getting too much. Could Dad just get the suitcase down now? Assured the suitcase would come down in good time, excitement then turned to attitude with huffy puffy blows of 'fine', grunting up from somewhere inside his body. The chimpanzee arms swinging by his side and the hunch of his back as the realisation that still at least another day was in waiting before departure.

By 7pm we relented. A very excited boy busy packing his case, checking off his list and counting his Euros.

Then the tummy problems started. 'Mummmm, I've got stomach ache'. 'It's because you're excited, it's perfectly normal, don't worry'. 'I'm NOT excited, babies get excited'. 'You're 10, going abroad for the first time with all your friends, trust me Joshua, you ARE excited and it's OK to be'. 'Oh, alright then.'

Saturday night, skulking off to bed - far too wound up to sleep. How on earth was I going to get him through two nights?! Sunday morning unable to contain himself, the decision to abandon rugby training was taken as his mind would not be on the game. The last thing I needed was the air ambulance arriving due to his lack of concentration, making him the 3rd player to be escorted off the field like this. Taking no chances, he asked to come to church with us instead - big result - YAY for that!!

Lunchtime - not hungry. Not excited apparently, just 'not hungry'. What to do with him in the afternoon? I know, we'll all go swimming - that will take his mind off it. Dinner time - FINALLY, he eats.

Bedtime - surprisingly he settled quite early. But three trips to the bathroom last night, an early wake, fully dressed and not interested in breakfast, shoes on by 7.30am, we set off with case in tow, wallet stuffed with various coins and notes, EHIC card ready, rice milk in a bag and off to school.

28 very excited 10 and 11 year olds departed at 8.30 this morning. It's a great bunch of kids going and he's going to have the time of his life. I'll see just how much when he gets back and develops the three disposable cameras he's taken.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Moving On Up

Joshua's tour of possible secondary school choices ended last night and finally he's made his selection and order of preference. Now all I have to do is fill in the forms and send them off.

It's been interesting watching him throughout his deliberations. Seeing him form opinions before he's even seen some schools, reasoning that certain schools are worth a visit for this reason, why this school seems good for that reason and why some schools are just a plain no-go in the first place.

Having been encouraged by his form teacher to sit the local grammar school exam, Joshua's first reaction was to completely balk at the idea and protest because everybody would think he was a geek if he went there. Until that is, he found out that three other boys in his year group at school were also being persuaded by their parents to sit the exam. All these boys being non-geeks in Joshua's opinion.

So, the visit to the school was arranged, with Joshua moaning fervently in the back of the car that the children would all be Tefal headed, goofy teethed mad professor types with middle partings and how his future as a normal kid was doomed. He wanted a school where he could hang out with his friends, come home on his bike and do just enough homework to get some good grades at GCSE. He has no intention of university because apparently nowhere offers a BA Chef's degree!

But the view was to be quashed when moving around the school he met and spoke to schoolmasters and current pupils who explained things to him, who engaged him in conversation, invited him to take part in experiments and went through puzzles with him. His utter joy at seeing the football posts relegated to the side of the field to see the older boys playing the only game worthy of a ball - his beloved rugby!

His assessment at the end - school choice number one - both because the criteria for entering grammar school is based on it being first choice on the council application and because, 'Actually, it looks really good Mum, and they don't all walk around with jam jar glasses holding their fingers in the air shouting Eureka!'

School choice number two has turned out to be the local catchment comprehensive. I am not qualified to comment as his father viewed this one with him, but having heard back from both of them that it is indeed pretty impressive, with an outstanding Ofsted, I have to back down from my original opinion of it being a cattle market due to the sheer volume of pupils on the roll. It has a proven record - I can't argue with that.

Number three is another local comprehensive that specialises in Computing and Maths, one which Joshua spent a maths day at earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed.

It's difficult knowing whether the choices we make for him are right. But I hang my head in shame knowing that his deliberations at the age of 10 were far more mature than mine at that age. I had a choice of the local comprehensive mixed school or the single sex one nearby. My sole reason for going to the mixed was because I didn't like the fact the headteacher at the girls school was so strict and the uniforms were ugly.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

When One Evening Poses a Lifestyle Dilemma

I have long battled with the ethics of Halloween and whether I should allow my children to partake in parties, dressing up and going house to house Trick or Treating. Primarily my Christian beliefs err me on the side of denying them this experience as it is clear that any dabbling with the occult in any form is forbidden by God. I get that. But my children aren't going out to curse the neighbour who doesn't give them a Curly Wurly.

I spoke briefly to my older two children last night and asked what they understood from Halloween. Their instant response was that it was a way to get lots of sweets and it was fun to dress up and knock on doors in the dark. They see it as a simple fun night out. I see no reason to go into the history of witches, wizards and demons and frighten the life out of them and subject them to knowledge of that 'festival', that is unnecessary for them to be aware of at the moment. It can be argued that children are to be taught the Bible in its entirety and I completely agree, but age appropriate. Just as I don't deem it suitable for my children to learn about the intracacies of witchcraft, neither do I deem it appropriate for them to learn about Soddom and Gomorrah. At the moment.

I've mentioned to other Christians that I've allowed my children to Trick or Treat and some have fallen silent on me and others have pulled their breath in through their teeth. Some have offered ideas on how they deal with Halloween and others have simply said they don't see the harm in one evening of fun. So reaction and guidance has been mixed. Some Christian parents think it's wrong, others tend to let the evening go by with minimum fuss.

So, my thoughts are further extended when I pursue my line of thinking into what I consider to be the bigger picture. As a Christian if I refuse my children permission to Trick or Treat, should I then extend the ban to all Harry Potter movies? Or maybe Star Wars is dodgy because of the portrayal of good verses evil? James Bond movies - a man licensed to kill, who shoots without remorse and beds a few women - not very Christian is it? Should my children be told that although CS Lewis was a Christian man and wrote symbollic novels, the fact he characterises a witch in them deems the TV adaptations unsuitable to watch. Should my children read The Screwtape Letters with portrayals of conversation from the Devil? Or is it OK, because CS Lewis was a Christian, so therefore exempt from the blanket ban?

Do I admit to my younger children the truth about Father Christmas? Do I reveal to them that it is wrong to lie about a fictional character they never see? After all, they've never physically seen Jesus or God, so will they believe His existence to be as transparent as that of Santa? Of course, there are no similiarities, but take away reason, logic and education and see it through the eyes of a child, where do you draw the line about what you tell your children? Should I reveal the truth about the tooth fairy, or is she OK to exist as a lie because she's harmless?

As a parent and an adult I have a responsbility to direct my children towards a Christian life. To mould them and encourage them to live a life that Jesus taught them to live. I have been given charge of their lives to direct them as close to Christ as I can for them to come to Him when the calling is theirs. I have a major impact in the formation of their thinking and opinons, but there are some areas I am not content to force opinons on them, when I feel reaction is blown out of all proportion. The simple act of dressing up for one night to increase the sweetie stash is not going to result in my children putting a ouija board on their Christmas list or requesting a seance at their next sleepover.

What I'm trying to say here is that as a parent I have to weigh up the pros and cons of every activity my children partake in, be it Halloween, watching a movie, reading books, opening presents labelled from Santa, putting teeth under their pillow etc. As their mother I have to consider whether I am constant in my role to them and whether I am picking and choosing the parts that suit me best, because the connotation behind the deception in some cases is deemed as harmless. So, I have to ask myself that if I ban Trick or Treating, then how far do I extend the coverage of limiting the essence of their childhood?

Thursday, 1 October 2009

What's In A Name?

I remember with each of my pregnancies thinking long and hard about the names I wanted to give my children. Andy and I had our reasons for certain names and reasons against them. Some names would lend themselves to be shortened to something that didn't flow right with the surname, or perhaps the initials turned out to be a rather unsuitable acronym.

Andy's one insistence was that the children did not share their initials as this would make the issue of post later in life very confusing. If letters were address to people with the same initials, who opened it first?

My insistence was that my children did not have names that reminded me negatively of people. So when choosing names I instantly dismissed some suggestions as the name would be associated with somebody I perhaps went to school with who was unpleasant, or was the name of a particularly difficult person I'd worked with in the past. I couldn't name my child the same as somebody that irked me. Family names were also ruled out as I'm not a fan of naming children after aunts or uncles or the like.

We also wanted names that could be shortened without sounding ridiculous and also names that were classic and ageless. No Britney's or Brad's for us.

So, I was rather astonished this morning when I mentioned to Sam that we were spending part of our day off tomorrow meeting an ex-work colleague for coffee. He asked me what her name as and when informed her name was Sue, he said, 'I like Sue, she's nice'. Sam's met Sue a couple of times in the office, but I know for sure he has no recollection of her, so I asked him what it was he liked about Sue. Instantly, without even thinking about it, he replied, 'When I go for coffee and a biscuit with Granddad, there is a Sue in the coffee shop and she's really nice. So, all Sues in coffee shops are nice. That's how I know'.

Already, at the age of four, he is associating names with his own memories and formed opinions of people. It's amazing to see the little idiosyncracies he is already displaying at such a young age and to see him using them to determine whether or not he is happy with a situation that is about to arise, or whether he is comfortable about meeting somebody.