Friday, December 04, 2015

Another Birthday... (part 2 of 2)

The family Bit...

So apart from all the 'getting ready' for Christmas, November also hold Lilo's birthday - on the 27th. It's hard to believe she is already 12 (and this time next year I will have five teens in the house!). 

Lilo is my baby with maybe the most 'firsts' ...

  • She was my first baby born in Cheshire ~ my first 'Dabber'.
  • She was my first (but not last) 'big' baby ~ weighing in at 9lb 10oz, and not arriving until week 43 (although she did not look at all overdue, came with plenty of water around her still and didn't tear me). Thankfully she was the last baby to be that late. The three since have been just a little earlier.
  • She was my first, and only, child to have white-blonde hair, that was almost invisible until she was over two. It has remained as beautiful golden locks ~ yes, she is my Goldilocks :D
  • She was my first baby to be admitted to hospital, on the whim of a meddling HV who thought she wasn't thriving. We had to stay in for most of a week (which wasn't easy, with Paul being a full-time student at the time and four other small children at home), with me being pressurised to give food supplements and/or bottles because she wasn't gaining adequate weight - for their liking - on breastmilk alone. I didn't cave! She was, lively, strong and happy, feeding really well and really regularly and I knew they were wrong. Finally her consultant Paed' came round, took one look at her (and me) and sent us home ~ and gave his team a ticking off!! 'Catch Down' was his diagnosis - she was born to big for herself and was finding her happy place - which was what I had been saying all along. At this point she was the same weight as all my other babies had been at the same age (which had, of course, showed as a plateau on her growth chart). We popped back to see the Paed' in OP once I think, by which time she was happily pootling along on her corrected growth line :D So much fuss over nothing!
  • She was my first baby to reject the breast too early for my liking - at 6 months - and then she totally refused to drink any milk from that day on, from me or otherwise (I did try all sorts). Thankfully she ate lots of yoghurt and cheese and stayed healthy, but she has remained my most picky eater and she still really doesn't enjoy food all that much. We're set to do some work on that issue very soon...
  • She is my first girl with a shed load of Sas!
So, here she is ~ 12!! 


Lilo is also my child of many contrasts...

  • She is the one who needs to plan ahead - but then forgets what the plan was ;-)
  • She is able to be, in one single moment, both silly and sullen.
  • She is fierce and fiesty, but she is my one who giggles - a lot! 
  • She is tough - really tough - you know that kind of inner strength that holds it all together even when life hurls its crud at you - she has that!
  • Yet, she is soft and gentle, sensitive and kind to others.
  • She struggles with her dyslexia, yet she loves to create stories and talks of being a writer some day.
  • She has a determination in her eyes that pierces me at times. If she wants something from her life, I have a feeling she will find a way to make it happen.
She reminds me of myself in many ways, and yet not. 

Happy Birthday beautiful girl! ~ we all love you to bits xxxx

~ ~ ~ ~ 

In other news, we are winding up for Christmas with a crafts week next week, but we have been busy already, making our new Advent Calendar. 


The calendar is filled with sweeties of various descriptions (mostly from our old fashioned sweet shop in Nantwich) and a small object to help us remember the part of the story we have read that day. On the shelf above are 25 readings to cover the Christmas story. We are reading one each day. 


I have also printed out some activity sheets for Chip (and Stitch if he wants), which he can do some of next week. The children are loving having a change this year and I love that they have all been involved in the creation of something so beautiful :D

Abbie is blogging Advent over on her blog. She's doing an ABC of Advent. It's great so far - why not go have a read? :D ...

Oh, and two boys had a haircut (it's mine and Chip's turn on Monday coming);


Thursday, December 03, 2015

Another Month...(part 1 of 2)

So already we have zipped through November and are on the run up to Christmas. I am not quite sure where the time has gone, but I do feel like my feet have barely touched the ground!

The Educational Bit...

Our first term of the year has gone great. After initially being incredibly difficult with Stitch, he seems to have settled down and is getting a handle on the fact that a little more is expected of him this year. To begin with he was having major melt downs over producing any work that required use of a pencil for more than a few words, but now it seems he has discovered a love of writing! Out of nowhere he is churning out stories and before one is written the next is brewing in his head.  So much so that I've told him to jot down his ideas in the back of his book; just some rough notes that he can go back to whenever he is ready. I haven't actually chosen to read any of the stories (although I do intend to) because I know I have a tendency to be too picky - and right now I am just glad that he is writing! Just like his reading and spelling, which came good all of their own accord, I am almost certain that with Stitch, the best thing to do is to leave well alone and help him only when/if he asks me to. He fiercely resists interference, and hates it when I help him because I think he might need it. He loathes even more to be corrected, and becomes quite easily defeated by it. So, for now, I have decided to only 'mark' work that has a definite correct/incorrect answer (maths, grammar, science etc...) and the more subjective/imaginative/creative things I shall keep my pen well away from ;-). Most of the black and white stuff he breezes quite nicely through anyway, and where he doesn't he's more happy to work things through with me, because he, like every child I've ever known, like a page full of ticks! :D

The other children are working hard and well and I seem to have managed to get the levels about right this year. 
DD is working a bit ahead of his 'year' in all areas.  
Lilo a bit behind and a bit ahead (she is a crazy mix of ability and struggle).
Phoebe is knuckling down this year and ploughing through a tonne of work, which means she is beginning to catch up a bit where she had fallen back (unnecessarily). She is thriving and feeling like she is achieving lots ~  a bonus for her is that she has 3 hours of Zoology a week built into her self-determined timetable and is LOVING it :D. 
Abbie has a fairly heavy workload, but is great at getting her head down and ploughing through. She is working through a foundation level GCSE maths book, which is challenging us both. How the work in it qualifies as 'foundational' maths is beyond me. Surely the foundations of maths should be the everyday maths we all need and use, and maybe a few key basics in other areas (like algebra, trig', etc...), but what she is doing is more like what I did at higher level GCSE all those years ago! It's way more than basic maths and is tbh beyond where I had felt it necessary to push her. Abbie really struggles with maths, and doing this was meant to help and encourage her that she knows more than she thought she did, but sadly I don't think it will have that effect. However, it will give her a head start when she has to do the work for her actual GCSE at college in a couple of years. She will have at least covered the material and had plenty of time to do so at her own pace. I'm not sure the book we have explains things simply enough though, or does so in a confusing way, so I may need to find another source text. Any recommendations? She's using THIS atm, and has the workbook too. The format works for her, but it seems to assume too much prior knowledge of each topic. She has tried watching videos on Conquer Maths, & other You Tube 'teachers' to help her, but the topics don't always match up well to what she needs to learn ~ and my days, how does anyone ever understand what Mr Khan is on about? He uses so much Mathseese! 

 And lastly Chip. He is coming along nicely with only as much input from me as he asks for. He likes to work with Abbie and Phoebe too, so it's not always me he wants ;-) . He is racing ahead with his number work and decided he wanted to have a go at Sumdog. He tested in towards the end of Year 1 level!! I have done nothing more than teach him to count and recognise numbers really ~ it's crazy. He totally LOVES numbers too, and is always 'playing' with them out-loud. He would do maths all the time if I let him, but every now and then I try to coax him into learning his letters too. He has been able to recognise initial sounds for a while now, and a few weeks back I realised he can also identify end and middle sounds with almost no effort. So out of the blue one day I asked him how to spell cat (phonetically) and he easily sounded out " c-a-t." We did a few other words, including some with four and five syllables and he did them with ease. In my mind I registered the fact that he could essentially breakdown and build up words, which would mean that once he could recognise his 26 letters he would be reading and I wouldn't have really had to teach him the mechanics of it at all :D. I wondered how many letters he already recognised, but it wasn't many, so at that point I felt he would benefit from starting on that. I paid him up on Reading Eggs and Maths Seeds for the year (and renewed Stitch's subscription too, so that he could use Reading Eggspress again, which he enjoys) and he is playing on that a substantial amount. I am not stipulating how much or little he does because he is such a keen learner I don't feel I need to :D. He adores the Maths Seeds and would stay on it for hours. Reading Eggs takes a little more persuasion, but if I say he can reward himself with Maths Seeds for a lesson on Reading Eggs, that works well! Couple all that with his determination to learn to WRITE the letters too and I think he will be reading in no time ~ and when he does I think he is going to have his nose in a book a lot of the time! Just now, he loads up the alphabet song on Busythings  (another fabulous learning site) and then sits and copies all the letters onto a piece of paper. 


 He is also quite determined to get 3 egg rewards on each of the letters on his Eggy Alphabet app. It's a bit repetitive but he doesn't seem to mind too much ~ gladly, because he is learning phonetics and writing whilst doing that.


Writing is definitely a love of his. It's great to have a boy with no objection to using a pencil (or stylus)  and he seems to have a love for binary...


Lastly, we are working slowly through a lovely, gentle Phonics programme I used with Stitch. We're just doing a couple of new letters a week and that works nicely hand in hand with his Reading Eggs pace. We have pinned letters around the house, on various objects, and he loves running around finding them all, telling us the sound and what it's for; "nnnnn - numbers, tttttt - table," etc.  Sometimes, if he doesn't feel like going to look for them he just visualises where they are and tells me them all, which is great, because it means he is beginning to learn how to picture things in his mind and make 'photographs' ~ such an important reading skill :D

We haven't been using the Spielgaben as much as I had hoped, or would still like to, but occasionally Chip has a binge on it and plays with it all day. It often comes out to help us with the older chids maths, as it has fabulous manipulatives, but Chip, atm, is a writer, so we are just going with that flow. I do use it a bit with Stitch too (when he remembers to ask me to), and those sessions have nudged him into concepts he hadn't touched before, but he seems to enjoy the stretch, when he can concentrate for long enough! 

The big boys are both doing fine too. Jake is busy working as many hours as they throw at him at Brantano, but quickly realising this is not how he want to spend his future! So I've heard him muttering about putting some time into getting his photography up and running properly and seeking out a more fulfilling job. But otherwise he is happy enough and certainly happy to have some money in the bank!  He has also enjoyed being able to buy everyone in the family (and his girlfriend, of course) nice presents this year :D

Joel is coming to the end of his first term at college and I think he has very mixed feeling about the whole experience. One day it's great, the next day it weighs heavy. I'm not sure what the issues are, except that the course is rather too disorganised (in true SSC style) for Joel's very organised mind. He likes to know where he is at, and when, and he struggles when things get changed last minute, which they seem to be frequently. He expects a lot of himself professionally and therefore expects that the professionals around him should act that way too, but he doesn't feel they do really, which is a shame if it's true.  
This Monday we all (yes, all of us!) got to go in and watch him perform. It was originally supposed to be solo performances that evening, but that got changed (last minute) and instead it was group performances. He played his cajon in a folk 'band'. They were very good - superb in fact! His 'band' have been chosen to play for the college Open Evening next week ~ go them!! 

The other two songs are here;

His solo performance was then on Tuesday, but he only had to perform that to his peers (sadly) and his tutor's feedback was that he was excellent. Again he was annoyed though, because of a change of expectations. They had been told it had to be a 15 minute performance, which he pushed himself to achieve and was very worried it would be just under, but in the end it turned out that the duration was not even a grading factor; they were marked on demonstration of ability to apply skill in three different styles of music and being able to verbally present for a few minutes, in a professional and confident way ~ which he did with ease apparently.

Next Post for part 2 ~ The Family Bit  ~

Monday, October 26, 2015

Taz Turns 17

On Saturday Joel (aka Taz) turned 17. He hates me taking pictures of him, but I do anyway. 

I figure one day he might like the record ~ and at any rate I know I will!

He had already had the bulk of his present in the form of the new mobile phone he really wanted, when he upgraded in August. 

So he didn't get too many gifts, just some sock and chocolate from us, but everyone else gave him money. He was pleased with that though, because he can put it towards driving lessons and/or new instruments!

A friend came over, Abbie and I made hid cookie-dough cake and he generally had a nice day. 

Next year 18.

Happy Birthday my lovely, silly, serious son!


Every few weeks I like to take a 'games week' : we down all books and do whatever style of learning we please ALL WEEK ~ be it games, outdoor play, screen learning, or anything else really. They have to keep busy and they have to stay off the PS2 or screen time that is just idling, but other than that anything goes really.

So the three littlest boys, and sometimes Lilo, spent a good deal of the time outside building dens, which was excellent in all sorts of ways ~ team work, problem solving (especially when it all slid down the bank), perseverance, safety (using garden tools) and of course good physical labour!

Then there's been some of this... 

a good deal of this...

and a fair few games of this, amongst the girls especially...

And now it's half term, so time for me to do some marking, DD to head off to his cousin's for the week and us all to chill ~ and maybe bake a bit :D

Thursday, October 15, 2015


Due to computer issues I've not been on to blog (or anything else) much lately, but having spent the last couple of days building a new PC ~ yes, I built my own, with a bit of messenger help from a friend here and there ~ I can hopefully get back into a bit of a routine with my online-life. But I must say, it's been nice to take a break and focus on other things for a bit :D

So, I promised an update on how our new more-flexible system is working and on the whole, I'm pleased to say, it's working very well for MOST of the children. For Stitch however, the person who I thought this would work better for, it is not working SO well as I'd hoped. This might be more because he is basically 8 and rather work-shy. It doesn't matter what I ask him to do ~ learning activities, or simply picking up his mess ~ he walks around in a dream-world: he begins things, stops, doesn't go back, gets into trouble (and doesn't really care that he has) and is generally quite difficult to motivate to do ANYTHING constructive with his days! He is a mud-up-your-fingernails kid and I need to find a way to be a Mum who is more happy-with-that than I currently am. I still am not managing to be very hands-off tbh and trusting the process doesn't come easily to me :-( That said, he makes it all that much harder for both of us by not showing me any willingness to do anything other than play (and distract others). When he does do some work, he tries to do too much at once and gets in a tizzy. He doesn't seem to register his own limits, or want to listen when I try to help him. So, instead of doing some maths (for example) for about 10 or 20 minutes, and then taking a break and doing something else for a bit before going back to it, he tries to cram for a whole hour and wonders why he hates working so much - he has fried his brain! Then, because the last experience wasn't great, he avoids doing anything at all and ends up with hours and hours of work left to do at the end of the week, having used up all his 'free learning' time in one or two swoops, or spent the whole day playing!  I don't know if I'm doing the right thing by leaving him to learn the hard way, meaning he misses out on free time with his siblings in the evenings and on weekends (because he has work to catch up), or whether I would be better to come down a bit harder on him so that he has more free time. He, by the way, doesn't see that all the playing he does in what he considers 'school time' counts towards his free time. My children are very stuck in a 9-4 routine and it's proving very hard to get any of them to break that mindset. Stitch, however isn't so much in the routine as his mind likes to think he is!! We're only 6 weeks in though, so I'm hoping things will improve. For the others though, the new way has proved very successful. It enables to my early risers to get up and get on, and my late risers to take it at their own pace. DD, for example is a 'plougher' - this week he has worked really diligently and completed everything he 'must' do by Thursday late morning, leaving himself free to get his chores out of the way and carry on building his den in the garden all afternoon and all day tomorrow if he chooses! We've also done some baking this afternoon, so that was 'extra' that he chose to join in with. Stitch on the other hand, just by comparison, still has about 3 hours worth of empty spaces on his chart, so will end up with a day of work and chores tomorrow (and maybe Saturday), but instead of doing some of it, he is currently in the garden den-building with his brother. It's not that I don't count the den-building as educational - I know it is - and I would be fine with it, IF every now and then he just came in and did a few minutes 'work', to chip away at the back-log he has left himself. I wouldn't mind either if he didn't care about working in the evenings, but I know that I will have a tantrum on my hands if I ask him to do anything after 4pm. I'd be happy with him working in the evenings ~ after-all that is definitely when I work best and it might well be for him too, but HE is not happy with that arrangement, because it means he doesn't get 'screen time' (screens aren't on in the day time, other than for educational purposes, as they are too distracting to EVERYone), or to 'play' (lol). I've been out and reminded him of the time and his need to do some work, but he just 'nnnyah'-ed at me and carried on, so I'll be facing upset later then! This really is a catch 22 ~ fuss now or fuss later... let him choose to make bad choices & face his own consequence, or coerce him into doing things my way and face the long-term consequence of a child who is possibly less able to make good choices on their own. Right now I'm fighting the urge to coerce him and letting him be because I THINK that is the right thing to do, but I'm also dreading the melt-down that will be inevitable later. 'Training' children is no easy task, when you have one that doesn't want to listen to any form of reason - and doesn't easily learn lessons from the consequences (good or bad) of his actions. 

As part of my 'make it better' this year, I've have decided that we need to go out more. I don't drive, so this can prove challenging, but Paul's hours at work have changed a little and he now has two days a week working for the church. This is great for us too, because it means on a Tuesday he is free to drop us at the train station in the morning (saving us a phenomena amount of bus fares) and we can off out for the day and be back in time for tea :D. So last week I renewed my family railcard, courtesy of Tesco vouchers, and we took advantage of the tail-end of the Indian summer and headed for Colwyn Bay. Just an hour on the train and we spent the best part of the day on the beach! The kids loved it and the day was not too long. The clouds came over and it began to rain just as it was time for us to get the train home :D. I think we will go to Liverpool next month. It's a year since we were last there, and we never got out of the Science Museum that day!! This time we won't go there, but instead will head down to the docks, where The Tate and the slave museum are ~ or we might spend some time looking at the amazing Architecture! Liverpool is definitely a city we need to make several trips to, to get the best from it. 

This weekend my eldest children are all away... four are going to The Gathering and their levels of excitement are rising as I speak. This is one of the highlights of their year. Lots of meeting up with friends, and LOUD worship with about 2000 other young people from around the country. Worship to D&B music may not be for everyone, but they love it!! Joel decided not to go thought this year, so he is going to a different worship conference in Bradford with another friend. 

I'll leave you with some of the highlights of the last few weeks in photos (and video).

Beach Day...

Male or female?

The English trench!

The German trench.

The bombing!

Other fun that's happened...

This is possible Phoebe's favourite subject this year. She's loving being left to do her own thing with this and work at a her own pace.

There's a stop motion that we made to go with this too, but I've not uploaded it yet.

Stitch & DD's


Chip's first 'proper' people drawings :D

(with spontaneous art and literacy built in)




The girls and DD made shortbread...

whilst Stitch and chip made simple biscuits.

And today we made these!

...which were seriously INCREDIBLE ~ so incredible they left Chip speechless - and he is SO fussy about his goodies!