Monday, 23 January 2017

Monday Musings

Well we are 6 months in to being a family of 5 now and life is pretty hectic! Needless to say, this is the reason the blog has been a little neglected. I'd like to get back to blogging regularly and keeping a diary of our days again. They are so busy and varied! I know I will regret not having the record to look back over in years to come! So my aim is to update a few times/week with what we're getting upto each day. 

I love Mondays! I love every day really, thinking about it, each for different reasons. 

Today started much like every other day at the moment. Mirabelle wakes first and I feed her in bed. Usually Asher wakes and joins us soon after, closely followed by Eden. We enjoy a chat and cuddles all together before Asher starts to get restless and I kick them out of bed 😂 Recently I've set Eden and Asher up with morning routine charts to be getting on with while I get Mirabelle and I up and ready after Luke's left for work. This is working really well! It means by the time we sit down for breakfast at 8am, we're all ready and dressed, beds made, and Eden's done her copywork (handwriting practice) which she doesn't need me for. She's really keen to learn 'joined up' writing at the moment, so she is following a cursive handwriting practice booklet. 

At breakfast time, we do a family character study altogether, based on bible passages, and this week we're looking at temptation. The past few weeks we've looked at peace, harmony and getting along, and it has been helpful with the sibling relationships! Slow and steady, chipping away! We also do some memory work over breakfast, learning bible verses and favourite poems. We only recite each verse/poem once per day until it's learnt, and review previous ones once/week moving to once/month. We've been using this method for over a year now and the system works really well! 

After breakfast, for the next 45 minutes Eden does her independent work (maths and spelling) while I spend some time with Asher. Today, we started a new lapbook project for Asher on cooking. He really wants a 'chef badge' for his badge blanket (which I've ordered thanks eBay), so he is going to complete a cooking project to earn it. Today when starting the lapbook we made a pocket for his recipe cards, he picked his favourite foods to write on paper wooden spoons to keep in there, he did some colouring and tracing letters to decorate his lapbook, and we discussed cooking verbs using a poster printed off twinkl. He ticked the verbs he has already had practice with, and we've identified which other skills he can practice this week when we bake. I have a few recipes planned! Just need to get organised. 

At 9am Mirabelle went down for a nap and we swapped - Asher did a farm magnet book while I read to Eden. Today we covered history continuing to read from 'Our Island Story' in chronological order. Last week we covered King John and the Magna Carta (new stuff for me! Don't remember learning any of that in school!) and today we picked up with Henry the Third. I love learning history through stories - it brings it alive and makes it very memorable! 

Our usual snack time at 9:30am with poetry and some family-friendly read alouds. We're reading Eugene Field's poetry this term and are really enjoying it. We also read Frog and Toad's 'Cookies' story - which fitted in nicely with Asher's baking project and also our 'temptation' focus this week. And we read Tree in the Trail, of which we've been reading a chapter/week since September. The slow pace gives us time to ponder and fall in love with the book, getting to know it over a long period of time. We are nearing the end (2 weeks left I think!) 

After snack time we watched an episode of French with Serge (BBC French programme for 5-10 year olds). We watch an episode/day, and repeat through. As I pottered in the kitchen, I overheard the kids sweetly singing along to the songs - proud moment. 

After French the kids are allowed a bit of tablet time. I only have maths and literacy apps loaded onto their kindles, so they do some extra practice. They love the Dragonbox maths app at the moment - number bond practice from what I gather.

We've usually covered a lot of subjects by this point! I love the efficiency of home ed. It's amazing what can be covered in 10-20 minutes of focussed time 1:1 before the mind wanders, at which point we have already switched to a different topic and are feeling 'fresh' again for tackling a different subject, using a different area of the brain. Usually it's about 10:30am by now, so we have another hour or so before lunch. 

I've been trying to make use of our conservatory more, it's great for winter nature study as its warm, close to the garden and is uncluttered apart from the nature table and nature books. We recently bought a table for in there and today we brought out our nature study journals and I sent the kids into the garden on a mission to complete some winter outdoor activities from the Handbook of Nature Study monthly newsletter, which I find very inspiring and motivating with simple ideas for getting the family outdoors and enjoying nature. Mirabelle and I stayed warm inside though ha! She was so smiley! She loves sitting with us and joining in. Eden and Asher's favourite activity was hanging ribbons on the tree and watching them blow in the wind. Eden did some lovely drawings in her nature journal. She started it 2.5 years ago and reached the halfway point today, it is a very special book!
This afternoon the kids had their gym class. I watched Asher do a forward circle on his own on the bars and he came out of the lesson bursting with enthusiasm and energy, feeling proud of himself. He's nearly got his badge 6 and 5. Eden did forward rolls on the high beam today, something she hasn't done before. She's working towards badge 5 and 4. 

Back home, the kids watched a couple of episodes of Magic School bus while I made tea, and over tea finished reading the first of the Life of Fred maths books 'apples'. We all love Fred! Looking forward to starting the next book (Butterflies). We also read Ruby and Leonard's birthday surprise twice, at Asher's request (another cooking story). He enjoyed finding the mice hiding in each page. Mirabelle sat in her high chair and mostly ate for an hour haha! 

This evening Eden went to choir. Asher and I had an impromptu game of throw and catch using juggling balls and a fishing net! Fun! We then read two Harry and the bucketful of dinosaurs books before bed.  

Busy day, many proud moments! As always! 

Saturday, 29 October 2016

My top 5 baby/toddler products

So we're on baby 3 with Miss Mirabelle 15 weeks now, and today I've been thinking what are my top 5 products that we've used over the last 6 years and 11 months since Eden was born. 

These are my top 5 products that have made our lives happier and easier in one way or another, it's a personal list based on our own experiences as a family and as we all know when it comes to parenting, what works for one doesn't necessarily work for another:

Coming in at number:
5. IKEA Antilop high chair 
The cheap and basic 'no frills or extras' is it's strength. So so easy to clean and there's no hard to get to areas, or fabric straps to clean 


4. Rose and rebellion carrier (s)
I love these so much we have all 3 sizes. Comfortable to wear, quick to clip on front or back, correct positioning for baby's hips and packs down small for the change bag when not in use. 


3.  Mam self-sterilising bottles 
These are so convenient. As I don't sterilise my breast pump, this takes away the need completely for a steriliser, so saves space in the kitchen. Also as these bottles have the same teat as mam dummies it has helped with acceptance of both bottle/dummy.


2. Gro clock
Between 2 kids so far, this has saved us many many hours of early starts. Genius! 


And my top product:
1. Medela swing breast pump 
I didn't have this with Eden and really struggled to express using another product. I am so glad I invested in this when Asher came along. It's not cheap but worth it's weight in gold. I justified the cost by adding up how many tubs of formula I wasn't buying. Pumping is quick and efficient. With Asher I was able to donate my extra milk to the hospital milk bank. Mirabelle has had ongoing feeding problems and if it wasn't for my breast pump I would've packed in breastfeeding weeks ago. 


So there's my top five baby/toddler products. What would yours be? 

Friday, 1 April 2016

Home ed 'school holiday' musings

We've barely left the house this week. We've been a bit poorly and school holidays are our chill-out time at home, by choice. We prefer to visit places during term-time when they're less busy and many of our usual groups and meet ups stop in the holidays. 

If we hadn't have been ill, we'd planned quite a few low-key outings to see friends, just a little trip out each day, but as it turned out we spent our week at home instead not wanting to pass on our germs! 

It's nice to have some space as a family at home. I've noticed slower-paced weeks have positive effects on behaviour too. The kids have really enjoyed each other's company this week. They've done all sorts of fun creative things together. Their imagination, thoughtful ideas and the stuff they come up with in their play makes me feel really proud of them. It's been lovely to watch this week especially, with having so much time at home, and it's so important to nurture their sibling bond. 

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Exploring Central Florida

We found some great little places to explore today while on our mini-roadtrip through central Florrida from Naples to Legoland. We mostly drove along the Highway 17 and first stop was at the Cracker Trail Museum. 

Inside the museum was loads of intriguing exhibits from American Indian times to history in more recent times. Many of the exhibits surprisingly linked in with books we've read this year, and I had many a proud moment when Eden without any prompting, recalled moments from the stories. We were reminded of Little House in the Big Woods; Ma's kitchen utensils and butter making and Pa's smoke house. The museum had a full size canoe and lots of American Indian artefacts that reminded us of Paddle to the Sea. Eden pointed out a chair just like the one that Van Gogh painted. It's times like this that I realise just how broad an education she is receiving without any effort, and how effective learning through 'living books' using the Charlotte Mason method really is. 

After our museum visit we stopped for a picnic at Paynes Creek State Park, it felt very off the beaten track and we were the only visitors there. After a play at the playground, we followed one of the trails over a suspension bridge, enjoying the wildlife and nature around us, with Eden and Asher role playing imaginatively along the way, using sticks as swords and telescopes. 

We passed some other interesting sights while driving; while passing through Arcadia we saw a cowboy! And we passed several trucks filled to the brim with oranges, which overspilt into the road everytime they turned a corner, on their way to a huge orange factory where we saw glass windowed rooms filled with the fruit, ready to be processed! 

Photos to follow as they're all on my video camera. A wonderfully unexpected and educational day on our way to Legoland!

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

The countdown continues

We've been busy having fun with our countdown most days for the last couple of weeks. The kids and I have an ongoing joke as we keep unintentionally spotting Mickey heads everywhere! In bowls of Cheerios, spoonfuls of peas, and yesterday for pancake day one of my pancakes was the shape of Mickey, completely by fluke! I'm glad the kids are enjoying the countdown, it prolongs the fun and anticipation. Asher asks me every night before bed how many sleeps until we go.

Here's a round-up of some of the activities that we've done over the last couple of weeks.
We've covered geography and history by mapping out the countries showcased at Epcot, and reading a biography on Walt Disney.
We've made toy story cupcakes
We've planned out the attractions that we want to visit using Disney's map guides
We continue to work our way through our Disney movie library, and have watched lots of YouTube videos of Walt Disney World. They're so exciting! 
We've made some cute cards to give to Mickey and Minnie wth photos of the kids meeting them on our last visit 2 years ago. We've also made some personalised luggage labels for our suitcases. 


 Today, I've made a start on packing, while we still have time to shop for any gaps in things we need before we go. Not long now! 



Tuesday, 9 February 2016

DIY Child's Disney Beast Costume

I finished making Asher a Beast costume yesterday, and I know I'm biased but I think he looks super-cute in it! 
As I discovered a few weeks ago, Beast costumes are really hard to find. There's none available to buy directly in the UK. When we go to Disney, we have a meal planned in the 'Be Our Guest' Beast castle, so a few weeks ago I showed Asher a photo of the Beast costume and asked him if he'd like one, and he was adamant that he didn't, which was fine. Fast forward to last week, now too late to order from abroad for it to arrive in time, and all of a sudden Asher is asking for the Beast costume. Usually I would've explained the situation and said unfortunately it was too late. BUT on this occasion, I thought he would make a very cute Beast, so looked into making my own costume for him instead. 

Hanging in the back of my wardrobe, is a blue jacket that I wore a couple of years ago to a wedding. It is the perfect colour to match the Beast's dinner jacket. I thought it was worth a shot at re-purposing it.

I'm not at all, by any means, an expert sewer, I've never had lessons and only know one stitch on my machine. I HATE hand sewing and am a pragmatist and like to just get on with things and see quick results, hoping for the best and a bit of a fluke that things will turn out ok in the end. So a bit of snipping here, and sewing there, and some accessories off eBay and Asher's Beast costume was made! I am so chuffed with the results! Total fluke but I love it! Now my 3 year old better not change his mind on the night! 😆







Friday, 22 January 2016

Disney: meeting the characters

This week we've been looking forward to all the character interactions while we're at Disney. We've talked about who we saw last time and who especially is on our list to meet this time. We've 'fast passed' (booked for free in advance so we don't have to wait in queue) some of our faves and some of the most popular characters - eg Anna and Elsa! 

We've spent some time talking about politeness and queue etiquette. The kids can practice their social skills, we've discussed how it's polite to say 'hello' and to greet the character by their name, to speak up clearly and to look them in the eye. We've discussed how they can politely ask for autographs using their manners and to remember to say thank you and goodbye. We've also talked about asking the characters some relevant questions eg asking Cinderella what shoe size she is, or asking Ariel how she got to her grotto when there's no water. Eden wants to ask Anna if it hurt her when she was struck by Elsa's power. 

The kids need no encouragement to colour, so we've spent some time this week colouring in some printables, which we'll take with us to give to the characters we meet. I love this website's collection of Disney characters for colouring, and they print out really well from the iPad. http://www.coloring-book.info/coloring/



We're continuing to get to know the films and characters, so have been watching Disney movies and have been in the Disney Junior website to play some games here http://disneyjunior.disney.co.uk/

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Disney countdown: Memories, resort tours and Mousekeeping envelopes

The last few days we've continued our Disney countdown by looking at photos and watching our YouTube videos from our short visit 2 years ago, talking about what we remember and who/what we're looking forward to seeing again. Last time, Eden was 4 and missed the lights parade, too exhausted to stay awake, despite us trying to wake her! She's seen the videos we took, and is really looking forward to seeing the parade for herself this time. Asher is just generally super-excited and the countdown is really helping his understanding of all things Disney, and what to expect. 

We've also watched YouTube videos of the two resorts that we'll be staying at, at the start and the end of our holiday (seeing my sister in the middle). The Art of Animation resort looks particularly fun and exciting! The kids had the biggest smiles on their faces while they watched a tour of the resort! 

Eden made some 'mousekeeping' envelopes to put a tip in each day for the housekeepers as a thank you. I found the template to cut and stick them ourselves on this cool blog here: http://www.thepurplepumpkinblog.co.uk/2015/08/disney-mousekeeping-envelopes-free-printables.html





Tuesday, 12 January 2016

DIY Mickey Mouse pizzas

Today, we did some cooking, making homemade Mickey Mouse pizzas. They were yummy! And we have some leftover pizza for tomorrow, bonus! 







Disney Countdown

We're very excited to be going to Florida in the spring, to visit my sister and her family. We've taken the kids before, but this time now that they're a bit older, as well as seeing Jo, we plan to spend longer than we have on previous visits in Orlando, going to Disney! 

The first time we visited, we just went to Seaworld. Eden was only 15 months at the time. I have such fun memories of her just beginning to run at that age. She was very entertaining as we visited the park! 

Below is a photo of Eden about to get dunked by a bucket of water above her, and Luke's comical reaction! 
Two years ago, we had Asher with us too, it was just before his second birthday. We visited Seaworld again, and also Aquatica, which we LOVED! But we also did just one day at Disney, at Magic Kingdom. It definitely whetted our appetite on Disney Magic, and it truly was an amazing day that we made the most of, from park opening to dark after the parade finished. 
This time, both kids are old enough to fully appreciate a Disney experience, and I've loved planning our Itinery! I thought it would add to the excitement and anticipation if we started a daily Disney Countdown to when we go. I have a different, simple, activity planned for each day as a fun 'project' for us, to help with planning, preparation and packing! 

We'll cover history, geography, cooking, arts and crafts, dress up and imaginative play, computer skills and lots of other learning opportunities along the way! In our family, we love making memories together, and I know the countdown in itself will provide memorable moments before we even get there! 

Yesterday, Eden started us off with our countdown by suggesting we make some bunting - fab idea! I went onto Twinkl, an education website that I use a lot, and made some DIY 'we're off to Disney' bunting, which the kids then coloured in and added Disney characters to. 

I'd also pre-prepared a countdown calendar, with the traditional crossing off the days until we go. 
I'm going to enjoy keeping a record of our activities in preparation over the next few weeks. 






Monday, 30 November 2015

Eden is 6 today!

Wishing a happy 6th birthday to our awesome daughter Eden, who lives upto her name and fills our home with 'delight' everyday! 

Monday, 26 October 2015

Autumn on the fields

Today we spent an enjoyable hour walking over the fields across the road from our house. I worked out its been around 3 months since I last took the kids over there for a few reasons. Firstly, our guide dog puppy Viking left us at the beginning of August and we really miss having him as an excuse to get out for a walk! The day before he left us, there was a fire on the field nearest our house, we watched the fire engine put it out and soon after that the farmer put a barbed wire barrier across our usual entry onto the footpath running along the field. The alternative walk is steeper and more overgrown, lowering the appeal of taking a quick walk for some fresh air. A few weeks ago I discovered that the barrier has been taken down again. We've also been extremely busy the last few weeks in the midst of having an extension done to our house, and we always seem to have stuff planned in the diary taking up our time away from the house. This week is half term for schools in the area, and as I've mentioned before, we tend to hibernate a bit and spend more time at home while the crowds are out. I must make more time in the diary for our nature walks across the fields, we all really enjoy them and learn lots from them. 

I can't believe it's nearly November and still pretty mild at the moment! When we got home the kids went straight to the garden for more outdoor play.