Monday, 29 September 2008

Catch Up

The end of last week was rather hectic so here is a quick catch up with what we have been doing.

Thursday, MEND was cancelled again, so instead the boys went swimming for a couple of hours. This is a smiley face D made on his t shirt using sticky grass seeds. Friday was ice skating for two hours before catching the train to Birmingham. This is where the boys were picked up to spend the weekend with their dad.

They came back last night and were very excited as family friends had bought them a PS2 and some games.

Over the weekend, I acquired a battery operated sewing machine which I will never use. As I expected, D's eyes lit up and he asked if he could have it. He was really excited getting all the bits out of the box, until he realised he needed batteries. They have gone on the shopping list, so he will have to wait until later in the week to experiment with it.

Today is a bit like the calm before a storm, the next three days will be rush round time again, but I am all prepared. I've done all the dinners for the next few days which should make life a lot easier.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Survival Training

As it was Spanish today for D, J and I spent an hour in the park with one of the other mum's and two of her children.

J brought his survival kit with him as he wanted to test his fishing skills. He didn't try them out today, but I was very pleased that he enquired from the park keeper as to the need for a fishing licence. The park keeper didn't know, but directed him to the Post Office. When J went to check, he can get a licence when he is 12. It will cost £5 for a year.

In Spanish, D and the others did some more work on colours and learned the names of some animals.

Afterwards, we went into Sheffield to the main library. J got out a Ray Mear's book about food in the wild and has ordered some of his bush craft books. He really seems to have got the "survival" bug. I wonder if he will get the chance to put his skills to the test anytime soon.

They did come home and made catapults and spears from the offcuts of the bush that the neighbours were cutting down. Not sure if they will be any good for catching food!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

A Day at Home

MEND was cancelled today as the lady that takes the sessions is off ill. As I am still recovering, I can't say I was disappointed.

J caught up with all his MEND handouts and then did some more research on adopting retired greyhounds. He would like to volunteer at the local centre and has approached them by email to see the best way of getting there.

D did his Spanish homework. In fact, we all helped as it was word searches for Spanish colours. Although it is only D that taking lessons, both the boys are using Spanish. I knew we would all end up learning some.

D did disappear for a while after dinner and returned with this. This is his rocket he made from old bolts he had found and magnets. It amazes me what he "sees" in his mind, he has a fantastic imagination.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

The sun is still shining

I think this picture sums up yesterday-J and I weren't well and after sorting through the MEND handouts, we sat and watched "The Three Musketeers" together.

D on the other hand was full of beans and spent most of the day outside. He came in after a couple of hours to show off the spear he had made. He had shaped some slate and then tied it onto a stick. He was then off to the woods with the neighbours. I had to drag him in just before seven to feed and bath him.

It seems we have some settled weather ahead, so we are looking forward to the week ahead.

Friday, 19 September 2008

We are tired out!

Not sure if you can see it, but that blob on top of the shed is a young collared dove. I couldn't get enough zoom to get a better picture, and I didn't want to go out and get too close in case I frightened him away.

We enjoyed watching him most of the morning. He seemed to be soaking up the rays until Kashka came to reclaim her place in the sun.

Seeing him brought back memories of Tuffy, a collared dove we had for a couple of years when the children were younger. We found him in our garden after getting his wing damaged in a storm. He was never able to fly afterwards so we kept him. He even moved from Bristol to Wales with us.
This afternoon, we went to the library and then the boys went swimming. They spent three hours in the pool until we remembered we needed to get back for the shopping to be delivered. Watching the boys, I was surprised by how many strokes D could swim without coming up for a breath.
This evening we decided three hours swimming were too long. Both boys were really tired and irritable this evening, so we are going to try two hours maximum next time.
I am hoping they will be OK tomorrow. D wasn't feeling very well when he went to bed, but he fell asleep straight away. Hopefully a good nights sleep is all he needs, I know I need one.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Memorable Weather

As there has been so much on the news about hurricanes lately, we did some work on weather today. What was amusing was both boys drew pictures of rain/floods and spoke about the "great British weather" and a summer of rain. There was nothing about the sun at all!

As it was a sunny day, with bright blue sky, the boys did spend some time outdoors. They were trying to use a flint and striker to start a fire. I think they both came to the conclusion they were not yet ready to test their survival skills.

This afternoon the boys had a game of football for the first hour of MEND. The parents were discussing alternatives to watching television, computers and playstations.

The second hour was nutrition for the children. They learned about the difference between refined and unrefined foods and which was the best of them. They learned the importance of wholewheat carbohydrates. The food challenge for this week is to eat wholegrain bread, pasta or rice. We already do this, so this is not a challenge for the boys. The challenge is going to be to find some food that is "MEND" friendly and that they can try for the first time. This might take some time as we have always tried lots of different foods. I will let you know tomorrow as we are going to go shopping tomorrow to see what we can find.

The Boy In the Striped Pyjamas

Yesterday was a very long day, and we are feeling the effects of it today.

We left at 10 in the morning for D to go to Spanish. Today they started on colours. The three of them in the class came out really bubbly. They had all obviously enjoyed their lesson which was good to see.

Afterwards we then got on the tram and went across to Centretainment to the cinema to watch The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

J had read this book and as soon as he saw the adverts for the film, asked if we could go and see it.

It is about a son of a German officer who is in charge of a concentration camp. It was so moving to see the naivety of this young boy compared to the boy of the same age he befriends through the camp fence.

I won't give away too much of the story in case you want to see it, but there wasn't a dry eye in the cinema at the end of the film. I don't think I have ever been in a cinema where there was silence during the closing credits.

The boys and I had a conversation then about the attitudes that were prevalent at the time and the lessons that should be learned. They already know that the Jews were identified by the Star of David and Jehovah's Witnesses by a purple triangle. J wants to go and find out what other groups were persecuted and how they were identified.

There was also a discussion about why those who died in the camps had no funeral. It is so sad to think that their humanity was completely stripped from them.

The day did end on a happier note. After the cinema, we went to Hobbycraft. D bought a little calender pad so will be designing and making a calender for 2009.

Then it was to Pizza Hut for tea before going to collect a remote control car for the boys. It was a Subaru Imprezza which was advertised on Freecycle. The boys can't wait to get the batteries for it. J also got his survival kit in the post, so I have two happy bunnies!

As we were walking home, we were thrilled to see a red moon. It was a lovely end to a long day.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008


This morning J was doing creative writing on an Internet game and D was trying to get a tune on his keyboard by ear. Very peaceful, I don't think. Mind you, this is something I could never do.

Today MIND was all about setting goals. We realise as adults we need targets to work towards and it is the same for children, but all goals needed to be

S - Specific

As parents, we then had to set ourselves reachable targets so that the children could see how we were able to meet them, so they could follow our example.

My goal is to complete, ready for posting, a fabric postcard I need to do for a fabric postcard I am involved in. This will mean I will have to sort out materials, buy some essentials and get the idea from my brain onto fabric.

The children had a good game of basket ball for the first hour, then the second hour they continued the discussion on the different food groups and discussed MEND friendly and unfriendly food.

J was pleased to receive his card that entitled him free swimming for the duration of the course. I think he is planning on trying to go at least twice a week.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Fungi Galore

D did his Spanish homework and then we decided we would take advantage of the dry day and go for a walk. This time we walked up to the top of the hill and across the fields before cutting across to the woods. It was so lovely to stand at the top and look for miles 360 degrees around. As D said, you wouldn't believe we were in Sheffield.
Today is going to stay in our memories for the numbers of different fungi we found. I had read we were in for a bumper crop this year because of the amount of rain we have had, and they were right. We couldn't take a step without seeing more. I can't remember ever seeing so many. Hopefully, we can spend some time tomorrow and identify them. I will come back and add the names of those we can find. This one was a browny yellow on the cap, though you can't see it from the photo.
These toadstools started white and spotty, but as they matured they went a darker yellow/orange/brown.
This bracket fungus seemed to be a treat for the resident slugs and snails, plenty of evidence that they had been snacking here.
This one was well hidden. The surface must have been sticky as this soil and leave litter was stuck to it. This was a warm orangey yellow colour.
This fallen branch was beautiful with it's frilly skirt.
This bracket fungus looked good enough to eat. J said they looked just like marshmallows.
You can see them growing up the trunk of this tree.
This was a different type of bracket fungus. The others had been pure white, this one had a brown top.
D found this group. Bright yellow little toadstools growing off the base of a trunk, surrounded by brambles.

As I was fighting my way back out of the brambles I almost stood on these little, spindly brown ones.
J liked this leaf suspended between two trees. It was doing a little jig in the wind, dancing in a spider's web.
As we were walking through the woods, we kept getting showers of leaves. A sure sign autumn is on it's way.
D spotted this strange fungus. It was like a brown stain spreading on the underside of the branch.
The pattern and form of this frilly fungus was fascinating.

We saw plenty of squirrels too. I think they were busy putting away their supply of acorns.
The boys loved today. As we were walking through the woods, they said this was their biology lesson. What a wonderful classroom to learn in.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Ice Skating has restarted

After a break over the summer, today saw the restart of ice skating. We travelled in style this week. Rather than going by bus, we went by tram. So much more relaxing.

For some reason, this week the children were using the ice hockey pad. Certainly made a change, and the spectator seating area was much more comfortable. I think it is back to normal next time.

There were a few children there for the first time. They had all started being home educated this term. It was amazing to see how much they could do for the first time on the ice. It was also lovely to see the older children taking care of the new ones and helping them gain their confidence on the ice.

After the ice skating had finished, the boys decided to have a game of pool. As you can see from this picture, this is not something they do very often. J looks quite dangerous here.
One of the other families stayed behind too, and joined in for the second game. Here you can see the father helping J to hold the cue properly so he had more control over the direction.
Surprisingly the boys won, but only because the other team potted the black ball! The boys can't wait for the next ice skating session.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Soggy-sorry, Damper Bread

J has decided that he is going to try and make some of the food that is useful in survival situations. He is using the recipes and ideas out of the book that he borrowed from the library written by Hugh McManners. The first thing he has decided to try was Damper bread(or as D said Soggy bread! Close, but not quite)

Damper bread is flour and water mixed to a dough. J learned a valuable lesson which won't be forgotten in a hurry-you add the water gradually to the flour until you get the right consistency. This was learned after drowning the flour and then having to add vast quantities of flour to get a pliable dough.

Never mind, it is all part of the learning process, and I think at some time or another, we have all done what he did.

Once he had the dough, he rolled it into long, thin sausages that were wrapped around skewers. Normally this would be sticks and baked over a fire, but we adapted it. We cooked them over the gas flame of the cooker.

Surprisingly, they tasted good and now the boys have added this to the barbecue menu-whenever the weather is ever good enough for another barbecue, that is.

Yesterday was the second session of MEND. We now know MEND stands for Mind, Exercise, Nutrition and Do It.

The first hour the children played basketball and then they came and joined the parents in discussing nutrition. This covered the five main food groups and what they were vital for and the importance of balancing the fuel taken in with the fuel used up in activity.

The two targets they were given for this week was to eat breakfast every day and to drink 8 glasses of water everyday. If they stick to this, looks like I won't be buying squash anymore, at least, not so much of it.

The children also received their packs today, so they have a water bottle, a ball, a folder for all the information sheets they will be receiving and a t shirt to wear for all MEND sessions. The boys can't wait for the next session.

Thursday, 11 September 2008


Wednesday was D's second Spanish lesson. J and I were very relieved that it was a brighter day than last week, although it was still a bit chilly sat waiting in the park for D.

This week D concentrated on numbers and for homework, he has a wordsearch. He also has to fill in a sheet to write out the Spanish numbers.

After we had lunch in the park, it was a trip to Hillsborough to get the things we needed for Nipper the Red Kneed Tarantula to move house.

Whilst at the reptile shop, The Lizard Lounge, they held another of their corn snakes. This is getting to be one of the boys favourite shops.


Tuesday was the first day of MEND. This is a Lottery Funded, council run programme which helps children to get motivated to start and continue with a healthy lifestyle. It covers nutrition, exercise and the psychological effects this can have.

For children that are overweight, the aims over the 9/10 weeks of the programme will be to lose inches around the waist, rather than weight.

We have to attend twice a week for two hours at a time. The first hour will be for the children to participate in sports and games whilst the parents will be discussing the weeks goals. In the second hour the children will join in with parents discussing nutrition. There will be goals that the children will have to meet between meetings.

Today's session was just to meet everyone, get measured and to outline what the programme will set out to achieve. J is really looking forward to getting involved.

Books Galore

On Monday, we had to go to Sheffield as the boys needed dressing gowns and J had books to go back to the Library.

We went to W H Smith so that D could get some more Spanish resources. This seems pretty good as this includes flash cards, games and a CD, as well as other exercises. It looks like the rest of us will be picking up some Spanish along the way too. He also got a book out from the Library to help with Spanish vocabulary.

J was delighted to find this book in the Library. There are lots of practical tips on survival with photos to illustrate them. He has taken this book with him everywhere and has spent every spare minute reading it. He has said he would like to have this book permanently, so we will investigate Amazon to see if we can find one reasonably priced.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Find Out More

Here is some of the work D has done for his Spansih. Today he went through the words that he learned yesterday and then completed his homework. He had to draw a picture of himself and write a sentence in Spanish next to it. He and J then had fun with a Spanish phrasebook he has.
Both the boys read through the Find Out More leaflets from the "China in Sheffield" exhibition. Both of them really enjoyed reading the stories behind the digital art pictures produced by 8 children based on the stories of the Immortals.

D's had two stories he liked, the story of Immortal Zhang Guo Lao and Immortal Woman He. J prefered the one about Immortal Han Zhong Li. The children had adapted these stories to fit in with Sheffield.

J has just reread the whole series of Alpha Force books written by Chris Ryan. He is ex SAS and includes lots of survival tips. J has spent several hours researching survival techniques and kits. He has even found out about laws relevant in this country with regard to snares and trapping. We'll have to see what we can arrange in the spring.

He wants to go backpacking in the Peak District to put what he has learned into practice. We will have to see what the spring brings. In the meantime, he is going to practice in the garden.

First Spanish Lesson

Today was D's first Spanish lesson and he loved it. They have started with greetings and listened to some songs. There are three of them from the home ed group doing this together, so they will be able to practice together.

Afterwards we spent some time in the park. Plenty of evidence of squirrels there. The pine cones have been nibbled down to the core.

Once back in Hillsborough, we went to get some rat food and found a new tank for Nipper. As the pet shop didn't have the peat needed for the base they recommended we went to the Lizard Lounge.

This is a shop we hadn't heard of before, but the boys were keen to go once they knew there were snakes and lizards.

Unfortunately they didn't have any peat in stock, but the boys got to hold a corn snake. She was very friendly, and as I wouldn't let her up my sleeve, she tried to take up residence in my pocket.

The boys are already asking when we are going back.

We finished the day in a relaxing way watching Natural World all about Spectacled Bears. Now they know where the inspiration for Paddington Bear Came from.

Skins and Things

I must say it is a real joy at times to be a mother to boys, especially when it means strange gifts. This Red Kneed Tarantula shed was given to d on Monday.

It has been preserved and mounted. It looks so real, people ask if it's a living spider. It has given us a real idea of how big Nipper will get.

These are what the boys brought back from Bristol. While there they went to a Reptile shop. They were given a snake shed each.
D had an African rock snake. The close up markings on the skin are fascinating.

J had a Jungle Carpet Python. This is a lot smaller than D's.

Wonder what other surprises these two will bring home.