Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The stupidness of chickens who doe-cee-doe with dogs and don't know when to get their heads out of the way of large garden forks

Today the kids and dh went to our local science centre. I can't say much about it, seeing as I wasn't there and I'm not telepathic and the kids weren't that forthcoming about what they'd been up to, but here's a photo. Apparently they were making a Knex fairground thing with a motor. Poor children, they look resigned to having their photo taken. With all this blogging you'd think they'd get used to it.

So what else has been going on? Well ds2 was sticking foam letters on the bathroom wall the other day and spelled out the cryptic clue 'Im hot I boil water'. He was most miffed when we read it (rather tricky not to as some of us old folk have to go to the loo at least once a day and I'm far too old to use the hedge in the front garden), but I love the way his brain works.

Apart from that? Well my shoulders are aching and my knees hurt from playing on Wii tennis and Wii dance mat respectively. And ds1 nearly trashed the lounge while playing against me (ok, overexaggeration, but quite a few Christmas cards flew across the lounge as he lunged for the ball). I actually worked up quite a sweat on the Wii dance mat (probably more info that you wanted), so maybe this will help with my new year's keep fit resolution. I have the same fitness resolution every year, but of course...


or maybe a bit different

or maybe just a teensy weensy bit different.

(Though it may all fail dismally if I break a leg flaying around the lounge with a controller and a nunchuck while trying to do funky moves)

Talking about the 7th Wonder of the Chickenshed Household, I wonder how many brainstorming sessions they had to have at Nintendo to come up with the name 'Wii'...or nunchuck.

I mean, do you call those names? [speaking from my grumpy old woman persona]

I, personally, would have suggested 'white addictive thing with very expensive extras that you feel the need to buy even if you don't want to' and 'zappy thing that doesn't do what you want it to, but at least you can blame it when you're rubbish at whatever game you are playing'.

But no doubt they get paid an awful lot more than me, so I'm hardly in a position to be critical.

Anything else going on? Well, I've also been poking the raised beds in the garden with a fork, which was tricky today as the ground was rather frozen. I kind of churned up the soil a bit, made a feeble attempt to take some weeds out and then decided it was far too cold to be doing anything like weeding. Then I emptied the contents of the compost bins on the raised beds and covered them up as best I could with cardboard. Recently I've been letting the chickens out to rummage the garden and their idea of rummaging is more like rampaging - scraping out the contents of my raised beds:( : hence the need to cover them

One of the chickens was so enthusiastic about the contents of the compost bin that it nearly ended up with a large fork in it's head. No I'm not deliberately cruel to chickens, but they can be exceedingly stupid animals when it comes to avoiding garden implements. Though, to be fair, this one was distracted by the big fat juicy compost bin worms and wasn't taking much notice of the huge silver prongs heading its way and about to propel it into chicken heaven.

[Amazing observation: I've discovered that chickens don't respond much to being shouted at. 'Get your head out of the way, I'm trying to stick a fork in the compost heap!' got absolutely no response. I wonder why?]

I'm thinking of writing a book ' How to train a chicken'. Should be a bestseller.

Ok...scrap that idea. I just put 'chicken' and 'train' into Amazon's search engine (you can tell I have nothing better to do) and came up with this book : '100 Ways for a Chicken to train it's owner' by Diane Parker.


That sounds like a much better idea. So there's no need for me to go to the trouble to find an agent then.

I'm quite tempted to buy a copy...

Anyway, back to stuff. Jack has been pleasantly surprised to find the chickens loose in the garden these past few days and gave them a quick lesson in how to avoid the stupid furry barking thing. Stupid animal chasing even more stupid animals? Well that's my week's viewing sorted.

Jack almost gave up when faced with one chicken who was obviously too stupid to run and had decided to face him square on. They did a kind of doe cee doe (er don't know how it's written, but it's one of those country dancing* sorts of things that we used to do at school when I was 6 and I always got it wrong and got told off): Jack would move forwards and jump back just in time to avoid the beak attack; then the chicken would move forwards and then back as Jack would bark at it.

Thinking about it, I should have quickly got my camera out and filmed it. I could have sent it in and got loadsa money off 'You've been Framed'.

Oh yes, trust me, I would stoop that low. I have no shame*. If people want to watch trash them I'm perfectly happy to provide them with some material (for a fee of course).

[*'Shame', along with 'guilt' and 'embarrassment' are such 'thirties' things. Now I'm nearly 40 I'm sure I can come up with some better replacements...like intolerance...pig headedness...and downright middleaged grumpiness...]

Hmm...I've suddenly realised that I have no idea when term starts and so have no idea when the kids start back at music lessons. Or, probably more importantly, when I go back to work. This could either mean I'm so chilled that it doesn't matter, or that I'm in denial. [The Jury is out at the moment, but I think it's probably 20:80 chilled:denial]

Anyway, got to go. I have a just-bathed dog trying to sit on my lap. Yuk.

[*I think they call these things Ceileihs or something like that (you can see I can't spell it) except that it's pronounced Kayleigh, a bit like that song that was in the charts for ages by that balding guy who fronts a heavy rock band who's name I can't remember, but it was a ballad, so not really a rock song at all and it got a bit tedious cos it was always on the radio and if you're not as old as me you probably wouldn't have heard of it anyway, but it was one of those songs that would probably have been played at lots of 6th form Christmas discos and all the cool girls would smoochy dance with the cool boys and the rest of us would slunk away looking as if we didn't care cos we had better things to think about like scented erasers and scratch and sniff pencils and stuff like that... [big breath] Anyway, I think Ceileighghgheighs (or Kayleighs) are the trendy version of that skipping around stuff we used to do at school to the BBC radio's school country dancing programmes. And yes, I was rubbish at it, always going the wrong way, or not skipping the right direction, or just not paying any attention whatsoever, and it's probably scared me for life. Or did I mean scarred? Well, one or the other, or maybe both. ]

Lordy, tell that girl to stay off the sherry...

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Wii Wii Wii all the way home...

So..er...that was Christmas then.

Spent alot of time playing on the Wii with the kids and, not surprisingly, discovered that the 'shoot-em-up' games are not good for sibling relations or my stress levels(!).

As for me, well I had to get up early each morning to get a chance to play on my Christmas present - the wii game, Endless Ocean. In Endless Ocean the idea is that you park your boat in this ocean place and go diving, collecting all sorts of fish and - er - other stuff.Then you go back to the boat, check your email, talk to the irritating woman on deck and look at the list of fish that you've collected. Occasionally you take other visitors for dives, train your dolphin, take photos of strange fish and pop to the aquarium where you can put the best specimens and swim around with them. Ok, so that doesn't sound very exciting, but it's a kind of 'chilling out' game and, well, I like it.

Apart from that we ate a lot of chocolate and crisps and missed most of the tv programmes that I'd circled in the Radio Times because we were too ingrossed playing on the Wii.

Today we hit the Sales, briefly. Lots of tat and to be honest nothing we really needed anyway. No surprise there then...

And right now we are watching the DVD 'Swallows and Amazons' which I bought for ds1 for his birthday. I kept meaning to read the book to the children, but have been putting it off for ages and so it seemed easier to get the DVD. I read some of the series as a child, but it's so long ago I can't remember any of it. I do remember that parts of it were full of sailing references and could be very dry and hard going. Watching this reminds me that I should take the kids camping more often (when the weather gets warmer). If my kids have plans to be running around islands with nothing more than a kettle, a blanket and a pair of shorts, then I'd better get practicing some minimalist packing.

Did I tell you that we went to a talk by Ray Mears a few weeks ago? Apparently he camped out on his own from the age of 8;he didn't own a tent till he was 16! Must have been a fairly hardy chap even back then...

Well, will write more soon. Instead of blogging I ought to be doing the homework for my writing course: I still haven't completed the short story I was supposed to write last term, ho, hum. I've obviously been away from the schooling system too long now as I just can't seem to get the hang of deadlines...{g}

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Worshipping at the Temple of Tesco...

Ok, so I was a brave soul and visited the Temple of Tesco this morning to do our Christmas food shopping. There were loads and loads and loads of cars streaming from the car park, which looked full, and I nearly turned back. It was scary! But once I was in the shop I realised that I'd come at the perfect time. Most of the customers had done what I planned to do (i.e. go early in the morning) and were leaving by the time I finally got my head together and psyched myself up to go do the thing.

I was a bit concerned as I got to the checkout and looked at the trolley. There just didn't eem to be enough stuff in the trolley...had I forgotten something really important? And then I remembered - oh yes! I'm only shopping for 2 days.

2 days!!!

£80 later and laden with mostly wine, nuts, crisps, and chocolate (I'm sure there was something else there too, but I can't think what), I think I'm now ready for Christmas to arrive. Hurry up Christmas (before I eat all the crisps, the kids eat all the chocolate and dh eats all the nuts!).

The kids have been getting fractious (all part of that pre-Christmas frenzy), so I dragged them out to the park this afternoon. While we were there ds2 bonded with another little boy who just happens to live very close to us. I must have had my brain in gear for once because I was proactive enough to get his mum's address and phone number. Perhaps ds2 will soon have a new friend soon? Funnily enough, when I said that I home educated the kids she didn't bat an eyelid. Don't tell me Home Education is getting 'common' now? - lol!

All the home ed lists are full of Education Otherwise 'troubles' at the moment. I've tried to follow it, but I can't say I really understand much of what it is about, and have kinda switched off a bit over the past week (it's been going on a long time).

I do wish that some of the lists would return to their more friendly status and that there was an environment in which people felt more able to post questions and ideas about things that aren't just political. It doesn't take long for continuously heavy themes to scare away new home edders and become tiresome for some of the older ones too lol. It's a fast way for a email lists to wither and die. I know it's all important stuff, at least I think it probably is and if I understood all the toing and froing I might know a bit better....but I hope all this online bickering doesn't put off people who are investigating home ed or who have just started out. This is the time when a person is most doubtful about their ability to home ed and is grasping around for confirmation that they are doing the right thing. It's a fragile stage to be in!

Well, wishing everyone out there a Merry Christmas. I may post over the festive season...or I may not. Hoping some of you have read and enjoyed my posts over the year and that my blog may have reassured some people that you don't have to be an Earth Mother or a Domestic Godess to home educate (trust me, I don't qualify for either positions and never will).

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Plastic ducks, real reindeer and other pre-Christmas oddities

Well we seem to have had a manic few weeks! Somehow we got caught up in that end of term/pre-Christmas frenzy (how did that happen?) and it's been busy pretty much every day.

Any spare moments have been filled with exciting activities like wrapping up the hundreds of small donated items for dd1's preschool Christmas lucky dip. Being someone who quite likes wrapping up presents I thought this wouldn't be too much of a chore, but let me tell you, the novelty does wear off after a while...

The kids had volunteered to run several stalls at dd1's Preschool Christmas 'thing'. I'm not sure what to call it because it's a sort of nativity 'thing', crossed with end of term party, crossed with some fundraising activities and er anything else that happens. The nativity is always nicely chaotic and there is no attempt from staff to make it anything other than that (having been to some fairly regimented performances at other places, it's rather refreshing). Kids wander on and off, occasionally remembering what they are meant to do, and then they sing one or two songs , and then we all rush to the table to get party food.

Once when ds2 was in the preschool Christmas play, they put on 'The Gruffalo'. The role of Gruffalo was so popular that they ended up with about 5 Gruffalos. Unflustered, the staff and children ploughed through this unique adaptation of the book, with random animals appearing and an awful lot of Gruffalos traipsing their warty noses across the 'stage'. Yeah, we loved it!

Anyway, this year ds1 was put in charge of the 'hook a duck' stall and we made the - perhaps questionable - decision that you can't really have a 'hook a duck' in a pool without water. So, poor kid was left to supervise small toddlers intent on drowning themselves in the 2 inches of water we put in it. I suppose I believe those warnings that a toddler can drown in 2 inches of water, but would it have made a difference if we'd only put just a little bit less than 2 inches of water in it instead? This is why I never get anything done, because I am constantly puzzling over inane things like this.

Thinking about it, if this had been a preschool attached to a school we'd probably have had to do a risk assessment on the 'hook-a-duck' (those hooks on the ends of the sticks - the danger! Shock horror!) Even the lucky dip items (ds2 was in charge of this stall) would have had to have been certified choke-free and nut-free and toxin-free. Maybe I wouldn't have had to wrap them though...sellotape would no doubt be considered to be a choking hazard.

Anyway...ds1 did a grand job.
'Don't move - or they'll all drown!' I bellowed at frequent intervals across the craft stall from the adult lucky dip where I was posted. Hmm...well...they already know we're a bit nutty. 'Home Education? You must be mad!'

Ah and we also made the mistake of buying those blow-out party squeaky things as consolation prizes for the hook-a-duck stall. Ho hum, that went down well during the nativity [squeak!!!] and I'm sure lots of parents [squeak!] were loving me as they drove their kids back home [squeak!]. Actually if I'm honest, I have to confess that the inconvenience of the noise did cross my mind when I was buying the things. And then I promptly thought about something else. Perhaps I'm just naturally evil ha ha ha.

So I think we can conclude that it's just as well dd1 has left preschool. It's ok everyone, you can send your children to that preschool now!(the mad family has left). I'm sure we will have left a lasting impression...

Dd1 in party mood [squeak!]

So, what else have we been up to? Well we went to some Christmas festivities as you can see below. Fake snow, Father Christmas, and other festive things.

A Winter Wonderland!

Ok, guys, just humour your mother and stand still while I take a photo...

What do you mean you're shivering??!

dh tells santa what he'd really like for Christmas...

(don't think I have enough wrapping paper for that one...)

Dd1 is always ready to pose

Oh, and here she is again! (Yes that's a real reindeer).

And the kids got to practice their circus skills...

We also visited relatives for a weekend to drop off presents...

Has anyone seen dd1?

I forgot, also, to mention that the boys did their yearly Capoeira Batizado and got their belts back in Novemeber. The Batizado is when the students of Capeoira play against a master (some from Brazil/South Africa) to earn their belt. Ds2 got his first belt and ds1 his 4th. Doing that sort of thing in front of an audience..well all I can say is that the kids are much braver than me. I did try to load up videos of the day, but couldn't get them to load up. Maybe they were too long? Anyway have uploaded another video instead. This is what the kids are aiming for {g}.Think they'd better get practicing!

Friday, 5 December 2008

Tassles are a girl's best friend....(especially if they are pink)

Ok, I conceded about the pink tassley things on dd1's bike...and the doll's seat on the back. Went out to the bike shop today to get a pink basket for the bike and some stabilizers and came back with pink tassley things to poke into the handlebars AND a pink(ish) doll's seat for the back of her bike AND a pink basket with dreadful kittens on the front. Oh, and I didn't get the stabilizers cos I thought they were far too expensive at £11.99 for the pair. I have a horrible feeling we gave away our other pair of stabilizers with a bike that we freecycled months ago. If I'd known they were that expensive I'd have held onto them. So dd1 will now have a tassley girly bike that I'm too embarrassed to take her out on and that she can't ride cos it doesn't have stabilizers. It must be that time of year.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Tis the season to be jolly....

Seeing as it's been ages since I posted, the assumption might be that we've been really busy and I've got loads to write about. Hmm...let me think about that...

Well there was the paper making session...

At one point it looked like the result of our dog encountering a cardboard loo roll (i.e. a sort of brown messy pulp). However, surprisingly the sheets did look good when we finished. Why have I never tried paper making with the kids before? Probably because it seemed like a pointless activity: you tear up paper into small pieces and squish them to make a sheet of paper smaller than the one you started with. Now where's the logic in that?
Of course there is a bit more activity in between, like the pulped up loo roll tube bit and the sieving and squashing bit, but I couldn't quite bring myself to start something that seemed so - well - un-life-enhancing. Am I converted? Well the results were good (if a bit inflexible once they'd dried on my radiators at home), and if I had a lot of time on my hands it would certainly help to fill it, but I have to confess that it still seems like a lot of effort for a sheet of paper.
The pulpy paper bit (with some berries and leaves thrown in). The colour came from blue and yellow envelopes that were also torn up and thrown in.

The sieving squishing bit
The finished pieces of paper left to dry out

And then there was the Christmas wreath making session today. Actually it was mostly me who made the wreaths (ds2 did make one), but I like them. It's handy having access to willow. I'm trying to find 101 uses for willow (there's alot at the sailing club). So far in our home education adventure it's been wigwams, mini-canoes, lanterns and wreaths. Was thinking today though that I could use them to support polythene cloches in the garden and on the allotment. Then I stopped thinking because it reminded me that I haven't been to the allotment for around a month and I'm feeling guilty. Not that anything much will be growing at this time of year, just that it's niggling at the back of my mind that I'm neglecting it and that come next Spring it will all be madness again and the weed police will be patrolling...

Christmas wreaths made from twisted willow. For some reason the photo has pasted itself the wrong way around (?)

The music session seems to be going ok at the local montessori school. If I ask ds1 what they do in their session he says something uninspiring like 'we make noise', to which I usually reply something threatening like 'you'd better be making more than noise for the amount of money it's costing me to send you there'. Non-coercive parenting...nice idea, haven't quite got the knack yet.

I went to an NLP workshop a few weekends ago. It was an introduction to NLP - if you want to know what NLP is then it's probably best to google it cos I'm not sure I know either! It was quite interesting as we focused on communication and how to create rapport with someone even if you didn't agree with what they were saying. We also tackled something that seemed like 'reframing' unpleasant events (well that's how me and my peers would refer to it as) so that you don't keep replaying them over and over again.

I don't think I'm quite NLP calibre yet. Personally I quite like a good argument (I'm too old and intolerant to want to strike up rapport with someone I didn't like) and as for reframing events...don't think I'm quite there yet. The woman running the course would have made a good subject for people watching, but I found her quite scary. Not in the conventional 'scary', but just because NLP can be used as a good tool for manipulating people it made me wonder how much she was manipulating all us poor workshop attendees. If she was striking up rapport with me then it obviously went straight over my head, cos she gave me the creeps...

Anyway, this is Wikipedia's definition of Rapport:

Rapport is one of the most important features or characteristics of unconscious human interaction. It is commonality of perspective, being in "sync", being on the same "wavelength" as the person with whom you are talking.
There are a number of techniques that are supposed to be beneficial in building rapport such as: matching your body language (ie, posture, gesture, and so forth); maintaining eye contact; and matching breathing rhythm. Some of these techniques are explored in neuro-linguistic programming.
A classic if unusual example of rapport can be found in the book Uncommon Therapy by Jay Haley (ISBN 0-393-31031-0), about the psychotherapeutic intervention techniques of Milton Erickson. Erickson developed the ability to enter the world view of his patients and, from that vantage point (having established rapport), he was able to make extremely effective interventions (to help his patients overcome life problems).
Informally, rapport can also refer to a feeling of harmonious connection between people or groups of people.

I think I'm peaking a little too early for Christmas yet again. Did I do this last year? Perhaps I should check my blog. So we've put the Christmas tree up already. In fact it went up on the 1st December: I suppose I could say it was the kids who couldn't wait any longer, but actually it was me. I've done most of my Christmas shopping and most of the wrapping too (apart from the few items I'm still waiting for to arrive). I'm really getting the hang of this internet shopping lark. And did I tell you that I've bought a Wii? Can't play with it much yet as it's meant to be for Christmas (shhh don't tell the kids, they don't know!).

Bought a bike for dd1 off Ebay last week. It's purple. Ok so she wanted a pink one (with tassles and a doll seat on the back for her soft toy dogs), but I couldn't stomach going out with a fluorescent sickly pink tassly thing with Barbie printed all over it. Hopefully she'll like this one. Tough if she doesn't. I just have to buy a pink basket for it (she wants the one in the bike shop with kittens on the front) and hopefully it'll make her happy on Christmas day.

It's definitely winter! This is a sheet of ice!