23 February 2014

Signs of Spring in the Bluebell Woods

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The blackthorn is in flower and the bluebell leaves are showing through. Leaves are budding, slowly and softly the green is creeping back. Catkins swing in the breeze. One drop of rain, two drops, then stillness again. The banks are slick with thick dark mud, and the ponds are without a single ripple to disturb the murky grey-green.

Rowan tells me that there are no unicorns in these woods, only fairies and pixies. She tells me that when she slept over at grandma's house, she looked out in the middle of the night and saw a fairy flying by her window. She said it looked at her and then flew off back to the woods. She skips and dances as she tells her stories, one memory or event merging into the next, like a robin's song of lilting enthusiasm at the world and everything in it.

Talia holds Ashleigh's hand for a while, before flinging herself at my knees and barring my way with raised arms. Muddy shoe prints on my grey dress. Sleepy weight of her in my arms as she rubs her eyes and dangles her dusty leaf-embellished mittens against my cheek. I kiss the curl at the nape of her neck, and a little further on try to distract her with drawing in the mud with a stick so that my arms can recover.

Rowan pokes a big branch into a swampy puddle and informs me laughingly that there are no alligators in there. Jenna and Morgan are up a tree, escaping from a minotaur. I gather handfuls of discarded hats and mittens. I holler back to them to remember to bring their coats and cardigans when they come to catch up, since all of their outerwear is now hanging in the bushes.

We meet up with my mum, and Talia flings her arms out in greeting to the dog. "Come me, come me Loo-shee!" The dampness in the air, and the brief glimpses of blue in the white-grey sky, foretell the coming blossoming of Spring.

20 February 2014

Two weeks-ish: darker days at home

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1. Reading
2. Super baby
3. LOOK MUMMA!
4. Sensory play
5. Poorly baby
6. Sorting shells (I can explain neither why she looks so miffed about it nor the sticky state of the table top she is sitting on!)

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7. Emergency chocolate raspberry cake
8. Toddley sweetness
9. Mandala puzzle by Morgan
10. New dyeing challenges
11. Random acts of kindness - presents for me!
12. Pirate ship Rowan

We have all been ill and grumpy and tired and blah. The days are long and grey, and we have been mostly house bound for weeks at a time. There is always some light, something worth documenting, even if some weeks that's colourful yarn more often than picklesome mess-making children (yesterday they accidentally ruined three hours' work, and I did full-blown screaming). I want to share all that, all the little ups and downs and the normality and the striving and the failing and the trying again. I just haven't much felt like documenting anything at all, I have not felt the urge to write.

I'm back. I'm leaving a bit of a gap, and just starting from today. Today there are friends over to play, and wrapping presents, and popcorn all over the floor (again), and stripy rainbow tights, and shortbread, and dressing up, and Smurfs, and washi tape, and leaf poems. It is what it is. We're looking forwards. Spring is just around the corner.

13 February 2014

Yarn Along lists

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Books:
Finished Divergent and Insurgent
Read The Colour of Magic with Jenna
Enjoyed The Inheritance by Megan Lindholm (boo hiss all those of you who put me off starting it)

Yarns:
Started a ripply baby cardigan to use up left over hand dyed green sparkles
Started knitting a giant turnip (yep!)
Got distracted from everything else (as usual)
Persuaded Ashleigh to block a shawl for me :)
Dyed self-striping rainbows and lots of other pretties

Joining in (belatedly) with Ginny and friends. :)

10 February 2014

A Random List of Unschooling Today

While I mostly sat and read, suffering from random dizziness post-illness:

- Whilst still eating cereal (and arguing about which one was better, somewhat aggressively!) they all decided to play schools. Jenna put up a posted of Doctor Who characters and tested them on fictional aliens. Morgan took over as teacher for a little while and they did gymnastics and singing. Jenna got out her favourite Mythology book and explained the names of the Greek gods and goddesses (again). Morgan got a sticker (well, an orange post-it note) for knowing that Minerva is the Roman version of Athena (I reckon she knows this via Jenna's adoration for all things Harry Potter).

- Jenna read some stories to Rowan and Talia. The Hueys in It Wasn't Me (again). A Very Vegimal Christmas (again - and with all the voices). Dancing Nadine. The Bog Baby. Ten Seeds. Backpack Baby (again again - Talia adores Backpack Baby so much she frequently carries her doll around in an *actual* backpack, and tells people "Ackack baby SECRET!" at which people try to pretend they know what she's going on about haha)!

- Morgan made mud pies in the garden. Our garden is pretty near one BIG mud pie right now (mostly due to lots of play on soggy grass, there is no local flooding here so this is merely the usual early-Spring gardening fail since I rarely pay much attention to the garden over Winter and the kids still play out there every day on the unhappy lawn).

- Rowan and Morgan built a fort on the upstairs landing, and packed bags for their "camping trip" with their idea of "survival supplies" (it involves a lot of books, lipstick, and silk scarves).

- Jenna browsed Pinterest and then Design Seeds, and wrote in her journal for a while afterwards. She seems to have made herself a tab system for her various current interests, and labels stick out of her journal at all angles.

- Talia wandered back in, and Jenna dressed her in a cape and superhero mask. She wandered back out again, apparently happy.

- I started plotting some projects that came to me in the middle of the night, and looked up the cost of supplies. Jenna saw them over my shoulder and got very excited, and spent an hour or so sketching ideas for a Roman-inspired mosaic for the garden. The current leading ideas are either a labyrinth with Minotaur, or sea creatures and greek key patterns. (I ordered supplies, and am inwardly quaking slightly at the prospect of yet another hugely ambitious craft project!)

- Jenna took her current book of choice upstairs and read a few chapters in the fort, which had been abandoned by the sisters in favour of a stint making up routines to Sound of Music songs. Morgan spent some time with the playlists on Spotify.

- They all had a picnic lunch of olives, carrot sticks, salted popcorn, digestive biscuits, and raisins. A lot of popcorn ended up on the floor, as usual! I put Star Trek TNG on, and Jenna stayed to watch while the others went back to their game.

- Rowan decided to clean the muddy boots from the garden, and make a pretend computer from part of a pizza box from the recycling.

- Morgan and Jenna played an animated game of top trumps with the Doctor Who cards, and then argued over how to organise them by theme/character/powers/etc.

- Jenna got her recipe books out and started suggesting meals she'd like to make this week. Was annoyed with me that tea was already in the slow cooker, because she wanted to make carrot and lentil soup tonight.

- Morgan came in with some pillows from her camp and bumped into Jenna "accidentally" which turned in to a noisy and good-natured pillow fight with both eventually giving up in a fit of giggles to take the pillows back upstairs (where I could hear them singing "Consider Yourself" which I believe they are rehearsing for drama group, as Morgan joined this month).

- Talia threw a stack of books off the window sill (again). Morgan played with a mirror. (Me: "Morgan, are you using that mirror to look up your own shorts?!" Morgan: "No, I'm pretending I haven't got any legs!")

- Jenna made dumplings for with our stew, and Talia played with her stamper pens, while Rowan had a nap (she *must* be feeling under the weather). When I came back into the living room, Morgan had set up what appeared to be a library and was stirring an empty glass bottle (um, that would be my precious antique glass bottle find!) saying it was a potion. Jenna and Talia started playing this new role play game. I brought some interestingly shaped and coloured jars and bottles in for their game, and mine was returned without fuss when I casually asked if I could "put this one away now".

- The game evolved into a circus skills competition (somehow!) just before Martin got in from work. Jenna and I had a protracted debate about the function of companions in Doctor Who, stories about personal power, how characters are developed and what the elements are we most identify with, and whether/which story lines respect the secondary characters as powerful in their own rights.

- Rowan put on one Blue Planet, watched half of it, switched over to a Planet Earth instead, and laughed unrestrainedly and admiringly at the "clever camels" eating snow. She rocked in her rocking chair, chatted about what she was watching, and dismissed every comment Martin and I made with, "I KNOW!"

...And I stopped taking notes at 7pm, as the children were starting to ask for stories and snuggles. :)

9 February 2014

Seven Days (and a missing weekend, ah well)

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1. Top of the climbing frame
2. Sharpie plus baby
3. Jenna making doll clothes and stuffies
4. Painted pachyderms
5. Plied rainbow

My weekend was mostly spent feeling migraine-y and sorry for myself. So I didn't document much of it. But also: Ashleigh turned up and bought me a bunch of flowers, I went out for coffee while the children stayed home with Martin, I got to read a new book (yay), and I cast on a new knitting project. :)

6 February 2014

More adventures, unschooling, and beautiful chaos

On Tuesday, Talia had her two year check. It was a bit twilight-zone-like. The health visitors are lovely, and enthusiastic about my sweet family, but Talia was really not sure about being in a play area without her sisters (she kept burying her face in me to hide from the other children, and taking me to the door to see if her sisters were still outside). Poor funny little fraggle.

We'd planned to head to Nottingham in the afternoon, maybe visit an art gallery or just take a wander around a less familiar place. We've never really taken the children in to Nottingham city centre before, only to specific places away from the shopping areas. Our first stop was lunch, followed by the market square where the children wanted to play in the fountains in spite of the freezing weather. We'd left their bag of spare clothes at home so we improvised a bit and spend a small amount in the Primark sale to make up suitable warm dry outfits they could change in to when they came out of the water!

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As soon as they were dry and wrapped up warmly, the sun came out! They had such a wonderful time in the water, though, and it was another time I was so glad we could find a way to say "yes". Lots of people stopped to watch them play and laugh, and almost every single one smiled to see them.

We couldn't remember exactly how far away the art gallery we wanted to visit would be, and the children weren't wanting to walk far, so we visited The Token House (my favourite quirky little gift shop and fixture of my own childhood) where the children found hearts made from shells, beautiful boxes, reels of ribbon, soft fuzzy toy animals, a gorgeous map book, and rainbow egg cups. We rather wished we could afford to bring it all home with us!

Martin remembered how to get to the gallery from there, just around the corner, so off we went. There was an exhibition of paintings which was rather poop-themed, a giant latex alien-bug creature, some post-apocalyptic dioramas, a papier mache temple with a golden cat-goddess head inside, and an actual Cat Bus filled with squashy rainbow coloured cushions to sit on.

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The beans were ready for another drink by then, so we relocated to the cafe inside Waterstones. After chocolate muffins and warm milk we washed hands, looked at a book about tropical fish and another about big cats, and went up and down the escalators (which have their mechanisms on display under glass).

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Then back to the car, through the main shopping centre!

On our walk we found street musicians, and a lot of beautiful painted elephants. The children were particularly keen on one inspired by the rose window at York Minster, and I loved the one decorated in the style of Japanese lacquer-work. :) Morgan was interested in the artist's descriptions, and played hunt-the-signature. Rowan liked the brightest colours the best (she liked one painted all over with sweets, and one with iconic English birds and mammals).

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Wednesday, we were all so tired we opted for the quietest day possible, which is never really all that quiet. The children spent a good couple of hours "duelling" (shouting Harry-Potter-accurate spells at each other brandishing knitting needles and chopsticks), and playing an elaborate game in which they were sneaking food from the house elves (ie my kitchen cupboards) and trying to get it past me and up the stairs as I in turn tried very hard not to see (or laugh at their antics).

Talia was so fascinated with her new melamine Elmer mug she insisted on almost hourly cups of tea (alternating between chamomile, peppermint, and english breakfast with milk and sugar!) and so tired from her very busy day that she breastfed and dozed quite a bit of the rest of the time.

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The Sylvanians and the Ostheimer mummy and baby wolf shared the doll house nicely.

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We painted. Had showers. Pretended to look after Pygmy Puffs. And watched Star Trek (TNG).

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The house started off relatively tidy in the morning, and now beautiful evidence of life and living and learning is, well, overflowing somewhat. It took me hours yesterday afternoon to write this, with breaks to facilitate for children, and fetch snacks, and read stories, and hand over the laptop for Jenna to do some design work, and pick up the tired unhappy toddler again, and spell out a few words, and find a silver pen for Morgan. It's taking a good while this morning to edit.

This is what unschooling looks like, for us, right now, at these ages and stages. Lots of "yes". Lots of trying to keep up. Lots of running late. Lots of laughter and art and colour and snuggling on the sofa and watching the rain. :)

5 February 2014

Yarn Along (still without any new books)

My scrap shawl is finished! :)

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I gave it the lace border from Oaklet, which needs blocking but is really rather beautiful, and I decided where it's going to be gifted too. I love the sparkle, and the colours. It has been the absolute perfect distraction project, just knitting back and forth without much thought required. I am still struggling with a great grey weight of tiredness, and the grounding stitch after stitch is so healing. I have a feeling I'll be casting on another shawl before long, for those lulls when I can't think or spare energy for elaborate projects, but I can soothe myself with the rhythm of simply creating.

Joining in with Ginny and friends for another week's round up of knitting and reading!

2 February 2014

Week in Play

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1. Farms
2. Fingerprint Hueys
3. Life rafts
4. The good ship Sunshine
5. Fairy castles
6. Lion dance (including Connor)
7. More fairy castles (with a marginally cleaner floor)

(Please excuse the blurry fingerprinted camera lens and the excessive amount of popcorn and general grit on my floors. Both are pretty much an unavoidable part of my life!)