Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Pizza Pixels and Building Mixels

Sprout started the week setting himself some goals on Far Cry 3, then progressed to aiming to complete Psychonauts.

Moppet spent some more time on Endless Alphabet...

...while Squidge perused his Horrible Histories cards, particularly the ancient Egyptians ones and the one of Queen Elizabeth I.

We went to Come Into Play for the morning to celebrate one of the children's friend's birthday, then visited the kids' grandparents' afterwards. Squidge and his grandma played a very creative game of not-quite-chess...

...then the boys went out with their grandpa to race leaves and origami boats down the waterfall.

When we got home the boys and I looked at these Mr Bean caricatures on bored panda.

The next morning we went on a search for Halloween costumes, but couldn't find what we needed and stopped for lunch instead. Sprout read out all the games and puzzles on the happy meal box so Squidge could join in...

...and Moppet amused herself :)

When we got home Squidge built the Lego he'd bought, while Sprout set up his Scalectrix set and shared out the cake that he'd chosen at the post office (it was very sweet, I'd said I had enough money on me for each of them to choose something while we were there, Sprout chose the little cake with no mention that it was for everyone, but then gave everyone a slice once we were home) :)

We had another day in the next day, where Sprout played lots of Hearthstone, Game of War: Fire Age, Attack of the B Team, watched some Fail Army videos, and browsed the Lego website in search of a boat to continue his boat experiments from the other day. He found a suitable waterproof one and wrote the details down to give to me so that we could find the best price and see if he could afford it. 

We watched some Dora, a bit of Diego, The Black Cauldron, and looked through all Squidge's Skylanders cards reading out the names. 

They played with their friends later, Moppet putting her dolls to bed while Squidge scooted, then they all went out the back to trampoline and then back inside to find videos of trampoline tricks, then once their friends went home we watched Xmen together. 

We'd planned to go conker and acorn hunting the next day, so after a morning of watching funny animal videos (the highlight of which was a very surprised cat sitting on a hedgehog), we headed for Shugborough Hall as their website promised copious amounts of conkers, but sadly there was not a single one, and Sprout started to feel under the weather so we set off home with our bag of autumn leaves.

They did all love the swans on the river though :)

We tucked up Sprout in bed at home, and while Squidge played outside with his friends and later on watched Underdog, Sprout watched Five Nights at Freddy's gameplay videos. He's fascinated with the machinations of the story, and kept pausing to tell me the various points of intrigue and what he's deduced that each means.

Sprout was sick in bed all of the next day, and spent it playing Sims and watching Strihiryu videos. Moppet played some Little Digits and Endless Alphabet, played with magnets for a while, and alternately took care of her baby dolls and Jay-as-a-dog. 

Squidge meanwhile built a Minecraft world for him and Gruff to play on, and helped me look after Sprout's guinea pigs. 

The weekend began with lots of Lego building...

..,looking up the fortuitousness of albatrosses as that is the name of Sprout's Lego boat...

...lots of fussing of the cat who has segued nicely into his snuggly inside autumn persona...

...and some sitting around and sleeping while Gruff did some loud and dusty renovation. 

We had an evening drive out to look at the moon as Squidge and Moppet like the word gibbous and wanted to sit on top of the car somewhere and take a photo, so we did. (Chaos reigns here this week however, so the photo is still on the camera!)

We happened to find ourselves with both double stuffed Oreos and pretzel sticks, and it's almost hallowe'en, so what better time to make oreo spiders??

Sprout wanted to get his anatomically correct, so used some extra oreo stuffing as glue to add on some chelicerae.

Or perhaps pedipalps. He also wanted to check which body parts they used for spinning webs, so we looked up a couple of things...

...and then found this fab slomo video (I can't do click through links at the moment but you can see the guy's YouTube username in the photo)

We had some Oreos left (what??), and Squidge decided to make some moon phases. He started with a half moon... 

...then asked me to show his friend what gibbous meant. She also found the word hilarious so they have that in common :)

Sprout had a look at our leaf haul from Shugborough, and was excited to see this leaf. He asked me if I knew what the Canadian flag looks like and told me that it looks like this leaf but in red.

We used our new Leafsnap app to identify it...

...then compared the species name to the Canadian sugar maple. We talked a bit about classification and species names like for wolves and dogs and how you could get an idea from it of how related to things are.

We also found this which he thought was interesting, and was amazed that someone could put the wrong leaf on it :)

He wanted to know why they were called sugar maples, so I explained about syrup tapping and found a picture to show him...

...and we found out that not only can you do it with UK sycamores, but birches too! So he's keen to try in the Spring :)

He spent the rest of the evening planning how to turn his basic Lego boat into a motorised paddle boat, while Moppet watched Dora the Explorer (talking to the characters in all the right places, no awkward pauses here anymore haha),  and Squidge played out with his friends.

While the boys helped with more renovation/kitchen organisation the next morning (Sprout by helping me move things around, Squidge mostly by eating ice cream I didn't have room in the freezer for ;p ), Moppet got some paints and cake cases out and got artistic :)

Sprout had seen an idea for pizza parcels on he internet, and modified it to make Pizza Pixels! 

They were a great success and enjoyed by all, and super easy too (just cut some pizza dough into squares, pop a bit of pizza sauce in the centre of each one, top that with pepperoni, mozzarella, more pepperoni, then for pixels fold the corners into the centre, or for parcels squish all the edges up over the top. Bake in a medium hot oven for a few minutes - accurate timings, I realise, but our old oven cannot have anything accurate based on its behaviour!)

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Dear 'Mum Sticking To Your Guns', it's Okay to Change Your Mind

Be wary of saying or doing anything to a child that you would not do to another adult,
whose good opinion and affection you valued - John Holt

Dear Mum in McDonalds last night, whose daughter was crying so hard and for so long she could hardly catch her breath,

I'm not even going to look in detail at the idea that you throwing your daughter's Happy Meal toy in the bin, because she didn't finish her dinner, will teach her anything good, anything that you want her to learn. 

I'm going to assume instead that you started off feeling like you were doing that right thing. Maybe angry, feeling that a couple of chicken nuggets in the bin were wasted money. Maybe frustrated that your special evening out with your girl hadn't gone quite as imagined. You maybe put your foot down, gave an ultimatum that if she didn't do what you wanted, well then you were going to throw that coveted toy in the bin. And then... it didn't work, and you're there with an ultimatum hanging in the air, a stated course of action where you're in control, a statement that you're absolutely sure every single person in the restaurant and maybe some outside the open window heard. And you're sure in your mind that they're all expecting you to continue put your foot down. Follow through. Show you're not one of those permissive parents.

I've been there. I've felt the perceived pressure of all around as they stop living their own lives and nothing matters more to them than whether you're going to Follow Through and be a Good Parent. (Really, they're just eating their burger and wondering if they've got time for a McFlurry, if that helps at all.)

So you throw the toy in the bin. You must put your foot down. You must follow through. People are watching. You must be a Good Parent. Your tiny daughter screams as though the world is ending. Which, to her, it is. She's three. Do you remember being a child? Things that often lose their sparkle when we're adults, are of the utmost importance when you're little. Ladybirds on your finger. Drawing in yoghurt with your hands. Getting to sit in the front seat. The excitement of that surprise toy that you might save or swap or collect, or have as a little memory of a fun night out with your mummy.

Your heart jumps into your throat for a moment when you see how upset she is. But you must put your foot down. You must follow through. People are watching. You must be a Good Parent. You repeat to her that the next time you come, she will know to eat all her food, and then she will get to keep her toy that time. You repeat it louder each time so people know you're doing this For Her Own Good. You're being a Good Parent. So you state it louder each time.

On the way to the toilet five minutes later, as your tiny daughter continues to sob uncontrollably and struggles to catch her breath, you state it again.

In the toilet, as she cries and begs so hard she's almost sick, you state it again. And again. Hopefully no one will think you would back down. They will all know you're a Good Parent, who doesn't let a child Get Her Own Way (a cardinal sin, in the books of those who might be judging.)

She cries on the way back through the restaurant, pleading, begging for this little thing that's so important to her. You feel everyone watching, waiting to see whether you'll back down and let her Get Her Own Way. So you Put Your Foot Down again. And again. And eventually the sound of her sobs fades to us.

I want to tell you that it's okay to change your mind. It's okay to make a different choice, even if you've started off in a different way. Do you know what? The other people there might well be passing judgement, thinking 'kids these days' or whatever. There's another person there judging your actions too. Your daughter.

Once I realised that I valued the opinion of the people who are my children WAY more than any random person who might be judging my actions in whatever way, it was easier to make a better choice *even when I'd started off making a poorer one*. 

If any of my children get upset, it's not a 'tantrum', or a 'paddy', or 'kicking off'. It's communication. It's a person I love feeling powerless and needing my help. 

If I actually don't have control over the outcome - if the play area is closing, if I actually don't have enough money to buy the giant Lego set from the advert today, if the ice cream van isn't coming round again until tomorrow - I can commiserate, empathise, help them come up with other options. I can be on their side. I can help them deal with disappointment.

If I do have power to help - to say yes to  staying at the park longer, to dying their hair blue, or to retrieving or replacing that toy of utmost importance to them - then I can do that. I can help make their lives joyful and abundant, *even if* my initial reply was a knee jerk, un-thought- out 'no'.

In either case, I can now ignore the (real or perceived) opinions of random people who happen to be within earshot of a conversation between me and those I love. Instead I can choose to listen to the person I love, this little person who needs my help, and who will, consciously or not, assimilate my behaviour/response into their picture of whether they can trust me, whether I'm on their side, and will refer to that in the future in situations where it matters even more. 

And if I start off on the wrong foot, the good regard of these little people is the best reason in the world to change my mind, 'back down', make a better choice, and if necessary (I hope not, but we're all fallible), go and buy a new Happy Meal toy and say sorry.  They're the only people whose opinion I care about regarding whether I'm a Good Parent. Time will tell. And making the better choice will help. Making choices, or following through with them, based on the imagined principles of unknown people in the street will not.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Ladybird Baby and Spiders, Maybe?

We had a busy start to the week emptying the kitchen out ready for renovations, so we then spent the evening just chilling out together and having fun to relax a bit :)

Sprout played on Createrria a bit, and at one point said to me about a part of a level, "So I did the math, and 70 and 70 is 140 isn't it. Cos 5 and 5 is 10, so 50 and 50 is 100. Then you use the leftover two twenties to make 40." I LOVE IT!!! He's never ever been taught maths, just pulled in what he needs from the world around him and asked us questions very occasionally. Cool!
We watched some Doing da Vinci where they tried to build the helicopter from his design, then the kids and their friend got Quizzard out. They put a twist on its guessing game, answering the opposite from the correct answer to see what the 'opposite' animal would be.

Forest school the next day, where they made clay creatures with added bits of forest...

...and made artists' forest palettes.

We went to visit the kids' grandparents afterwards, and played football in the woods...

...explored and balanced...

...and took the long way home, with Moppet asking her grandpa lots of questions about leaves :)

Squidge found a tree that looks like a face...

...and then we searched for conkers.

We took them back and inspected our haul...

...while Sprout played chess with his Grandpa.

Home ed park day the next day, which was chilly but loads of fun :)

Squidge spotted these two, which we looked up later and found out they were a harlequin ladybird and a harlequin ladybird larva! We'd thought the other one was some other sort of beetle so that was exciting to find out :)

Another home ed meet the next day at Tittesworth Reservoir, although we didn't see much of anyone else as my three wanted to be off doing other things. They played in the sandpit...

...and then on the playground, then we walked down to the stream for a paddle. Moppet splashed about...

...Sprout succeeded in his quest to cross the deeper water to the island...

...followed by Squidge.

The boys retrieved rocks from the water and saw how far they could throw them...

...and Moppet did the same with leaves :)

We all got dry clothes on after and relaxed in the cafe :)

We had a day in the next day, the boys played CoD together, then Sprout went to watch some Five Nights of Freddy gameplay videos and Squidge and I played some board games like Whatever Next?

Moppet played on this whale ID app.

Sprout has been very into designing levels on Createrria this week, and promoting them within the Createrria community. It's been really fun watching him reply to user comments, make changes to the game, tell me about his goals (giving players lots of points, and earning gems so he can make even better levels), and monitor the success of his game in terms of plays, likes and ranking. 

He's also been making music on Falling Stars...

...looking after his Muppets and his Singing Monsters...

...and making progress in Tiny Death Star.

Squidge started using Createrria more too, and it was interesting to see his differing goals. He wanted to make convoluted levels with twists and turns and teleports and keys and locked doors and an element of puzzle about them :)

We had a morning of joyous singing along and dancing round to Everything Is Awesome videos...

...and playing around in the garden :)

The kids' grandparents dropped in with a little Lego set for each of them that they'd got with their newspaper.

When Gruff got in from work we set off for Derby where the Southpaw Dance Company were performing Faust again and we'd promised to take the kids. We stopped for food and Sprout and Moppet took some selfies :)

Then we waited for the performance...

...which was, once again, completely awe inspiring. They really are brilliant, we can't wait to hopefully see their new performance next year!

After Faust was Spark!, definitely fun and different but all the kids had seen enough after a few minutes and were ready to go home to bed.

A chilled day in the next day, where Sprout played some Far Cry 3 (his stated mission was to get all the control towers without dying).

He asked me about camel spiders as Nerd Cubed had mentioned them...

...which led to a conversation about classification as he wanted to know in what way were they not spiders.

Moppet played sword fighting with Squidge for a while, then he went out to play with his friends and she and I snuggled down with some popcorn to watch the Little Princess.