Category Archives: January

From Listening Comes Wisdom

This statement was in M’s fortune cookie – how apt is that for a new year in HE?!  D’s was ‘Keep your plans secret for now’ which is of course nonsense but hilarious as she is usually full of devious plots.


So today we went to Chinatown in London.  The original plan was to meet J and have a meal there so the girls could sample some Chinese food.  This plan went a bit awry as J couldn’t spare enough time for a meal and the girls had the chance to try some at a family party last night and didn’t like it.  So in the end we visited a little shop and bought some fortune cookies then we admired the lanterns and the girls had fun with J (who can make a game out of anything, literally).  They posed for a photo with Charlie Chaplin and then ran in and out of the fountains in Leicester Square.

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In a few years time we’ll take them to see the actual Chinese New Year celebrations but I think they’re a little too small for it this year.

The past couple of days have been quite busy and I’ve felt mildly panicky about how much I’ve got to do before M’s birthday party on Sunday (why did I arrange to have flat-packed furniture delivered this week?!!).  Thursday morning saw the three of us banging a wine rack together.


Then M put on a very lovely show with her Sylvanian Families and D and I were the audience.  It was all very well rehearsed but unfortunately M was standing in front of the stage for most of it!  I’m just so pleased that she’s using her imagination more, I think I have D’s influence to thank for that.

In the afternoon I carried on putting another bookcase up and trying to sort my faulty phone out while the girls did creative things at the kitchen table.  I have discovered that M has an almighty talent for copying pictures and font, and D made a fairy sized ‘throne’ out of two bits of furniture packaging.  We decided to give our regular Thursday group a miss, which was the girls decision although I was quite relieved as I felt I had too much to do!

This morning the creativity continued with the girls happily drawing and colouring.  I also got the girls hammering nails for the first time: m managed it completely on her own but I held the hammer with D, just in case.  M was in seventh heaven, she is such a little tinker.

January’s been a very ‘messy’ sort of a month what with Center Parcs, M’s birthday, Grandma & Granddad visiting and then M’s party.  I don’t feel we’ve really tackled much at all, at least not as much as we could have done in a normal month.  And there’s still so much I want to do!  There is so much STUFF out there to find out about!

We spent about 2 hours in Waterstone’s in Piccadilly today, the girls merrily colouring in and me trying very hard to reign myself in and not buy ALL the books in the children’s department.  As it was, I bought a GORGEOUS book of poetry called IF: A Treasury of Poems for Almost Every Possibility; An Usborne Young Readers book about WWI – I actually bought this for me in the hope that I can make some sense of it!; and an Usborne Young Readers book of A Midsummer Night’s Dream which I’m hoping will be a nice introduction to Shakespeare for the girls.  Plus quite a few more…

We got home around 4 o’clock and I quickly put a film on (before WWIII broke out) and made some dinner.  Then I quickly put our shelves into place and filled them up…. ta-da!  Not bad!  Now our HE books are accessible and we can display their work.


We spent the evening under a blanket on the sofa reading one of today’s purchases: an enormous book about Disney Fairies.  Not my usual reading material but the girls adored it.  This then turned into a game of ‘let’s attack Mum’ before bedtime.  Happy and exhausted.

Bookshelves & Giants

I really thought today was not going to be up to much as it was such a slow starter.  D watched all 5 episodes of CBeebies Stargazing back to back while M didn’t appear until gone 9am.  When she did appear she immediately got started on her skyscraper model, but quickly tired of it and then seemed quite listless.

Then our furniture order arrived!!  M was so excited to help me build a bookcase and D wanted to join in too so we went through the instructions together and built it in an hour and a half!  We’ve got two more to do which we’ll tackle over the next few days – we really need the storage and I’m looking forward to things getting a bit more organised in our home school room.

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The girls spent a bit of time organising the shelves and putting their books in place and then they played with their fairy dolls for a while.  I took the opportunity to sit down with a coffee and browse through our Aquila magazine, which we’ve just subscribed to on the recommendation of another blogger.  I found it to be really engrossing and it was only when I heard a shout of ‘Muuum, I’m really hungry!’ that I realised I’d been sitting there for half an hour.

After lunch the girls played with M’s birthday balloons but this quickly ended in tears because of a bruised foot and a stubbed toe.  While they were convalescing on the sofa I took the opportunity of reading a bit of the Aquila magazine to them – they loved hearing about the Finn McCool legend from the Giant’s Causeway: we looked up Ireland and the Hebrides on our globe and talked about the story and how clever Finn was to outwit Benandonner.  We also read the article about failure which featured a few people they are familiar with: J. K. Rowling, Isaac Newton and Michael Jordan – they were really intrigued by it.  I would say that about half the magazine is above their level of understanding at the moment but that doesn’t matter as I intend on keeping them for future reference.

It was then time to go to swimming lessons.  We sat in the café for well over an hour today as the girls were really enjoying their workbooks.  M has reached a phonics chapter which is at about D’s level (which is strange as the book is aimed at 6-7 year olds), of course she was loving whizzing through the pages but I think it might be time for a new workbook.

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We got back at 6pm and had a quick snack for our dinner.  The girls got going on another imaginary game together which went on for quite some time – I can’t believe how much time is spent using their imaginations these days!

Our Weekend with Grandma & Granddad

Grandma and Granddad went back to Nottingham this morning and as such we’ve all been a bit mopey and listless so I let the girls do some Magic Maize just to keep their minds off their sorrows.  We really must get down to some proper activities this week though: I feel as if January has just passed us by!


After Saturday’s birthday activities we had a very quiet day on Sunday – it was full of activities but at a nice peaceful pace: Grandma spent a long time helping M to make a felt coat and mask which was an activity from M’s Sylvanian Families Club magazine.


She also strung our Chinese lanterns up in the window for me!


AND she helped me organise our home school room to make space for an Ikea Billy bookcase that should be arriving this week.  Granddad helped me put up our new Wallbooks too:  they’re lovely to glance at to pick up bits of history and science that we didn’t know before.


On Monday we were divided as to what to do with the day.  I was very tempted to go to Wisley but the weather looked a bit temperamental; then I saw the London Aquarium but was put off by the prices so we decided to take Grandma and Granddad to Cutty Sark as they haven’t been before and the girls so enjoyed our last visit.

D was sooo excited for the majority of the day and dragged Grandma around the ship at top speed.  M stayed with me and absorbed every exhibit on the tween deck – I was really surprised and pleased by her interest as absorbing facts so intently is more D’s forte.  We had a very lacklustre lunch in the café below the keel, a look around the shop and then headed back home.

So today has been a bit mopey but the girls did lots of painting and we had a disco on the bed to cheer ourselves up.  The day ended with me showing them how to make a colour wheel.  I’ve never made one before and we were quite impressed with the results!


M’s 7th Birthday!

On Saturday it was M’s birthday!  As she is having a party next weekend, she had a few simple requests for her actual birthday: she wanted to have pancakes, make cakes, and play games.

J & I had bought her in-line skates so a lot of the day was spent gliding around the house, learning how to balance and propel herself forwards and around corners.  She ended up having pancakes for breakfast AND lunch.  Then she made cakes and had all the first goes at stirring and adding ingredients (D was incredible at allowing M to have first goes and allowing her to feel special all day).

After dinner everyone got together to play games: Twister, musical statues, musical bumps & musical chairs.  Grandma gamely joined in and Granddad controlled the music.  J managed to cheat through most of the games, which created a lot of giggling, and then provided chocolate prizes at the end.

M had a very lovely day: she says she is mostly pleased about learning to skate so quickly and becoming a member of the Sylvanian Family Club!

How to Escape from a Dragon

Yesterday evening I was sooo tired I could hardly focus on the screen so gave up writing my post and went to bed early.  Why was I so tired?  Because I had summoned up the courage to go swimming.  I hate swimming, but the girls love it so much when I go and it keeps them occupied while the other is having a lesson.  As it happened, I really enjoyed having one on one time with each of them in the pool: there was lots of giggles and races and warm little bodies wrapped around mine – heaven! M actually beat me in a breast-stroke race, and D reached new heights in ‘how to win a race by cheating’: splashing me in the face; kicking me in the stomach; and saying ‘go’ when half-way to the finish line.

What we’ve been up to…

M is continuing work on her skyscraper model, which is coming along nicely!


She has also been doing some amazing programming on Light-Bot:


And making her own lemon and orange juice drink, and cutting the fruit up herself – the first time I’ve let her use a sharp knife on her own!


D has been a bit under the weather the past couple of days: her cold was so heavy yesterday morning she couldn’t speak properly so ‘mummy’ became ‘mubby’ which we all had a giggle about.  I wouldn’t have taken her swimming but she was actually keen to go for once.

Today, I spent the morning doing admin and various jobs around the house (parents coming = tidy up), which meant that the girls had to occupy themselves.  There were quite a few ‘I’m bored’ comments but I’m a big advocate of boredom so I just left them to sort themselves out.  This afternoon we went along to our regular Thursday group meet-up, which gives me a great chance to chat to the other Mums and the girls get to run around like lunatics.  Strangely though, M was more in the mood to do some colouring and D didn’t want to do anything but sit on my knee.  Once they did both galvanise themselves into playing a game, they both hurt themselves and we left in tears :(.  M had quite a nasty graze on her hand so I strapped it up with cotton wool and tape, then did the same to D’s knee (which didn’t really need it).  They were both so pleased to have such enormous bandages they both cheered up immensely.

I’m still going along with the new bedtime regime: I had to go back upstairs last night because I could hear D crying: she’d had a scary dream about a dragon.  She was soon comforted with the thought that if it happened again she could hit the dragon with her sword, hide from it or (and this was D’s idea and preferred option) she could make a paper doll of herself to trick the dragon: it would then fly away with the paper doll and wouldn’t realise until it had got back to it’s cave.

M was very indignant this morning because things hadn’t gone smoothly for her while she was playing upstairs last night: she couldn’t read her fairy book because she didn’t understand one of the words and she had lost a Sylvanian Family piece.  When I said that she could have got something else to play with she stomped off in a huff.  Weirdly, this evening she ASKED to play upstairs before bed and ASKED for the fairy book again.  What’s that all about?

Little things:

Just as I was saying goodnight to D last night, she asked me if I could spell ‘yesterday’ for her.  Then this morning, in the dark, there was a little voice asking me in a whisper: ‘Mummy, how big is the moon?’.

A Mandarin Speak & Spell

This morning I finally got our Sparks Chinese log in details sorted and D (who was very keen) and I had a look at it together.  It started off well as D was playing a number game where she had to drag and drop the Pinyin words to their correct number: D amazed me by knowing her Mandarin/Pinyin numbers up to 4! After that it was all downhill as after she’d played for 5 minutes and managed to get all the numbers right the program told her she was too slow and to retry.  Boo.  So we had a look at one of the skits about numbers but the sound quality was so poor it was like a Mandarin version of the 1980’s Speak & Spell.  Terrible.

D asked to go on the Numberjacks Mission to Learn website after that and spent a good hour playing on it.  Then M wanted to have a go and she must have spent at least 2 hours on it.  I was happy to let her play as we’d had a bit of a blip earlier where she’d obstinately refused to work out the difference between 7 and 15.  It was very odd and I haven’t seen her behaving like that for a long time so I’m not sure what was behind it.

After Numberjacks, M wanted to get started on a Skyscraper project she’d read about at the back of one of our Wonderwise books – to make your own city using junk modelling boxes on a sheet of card. Right up M’s street.  D also said she wanted to do it but then started making something completely different so I just let her get on with it: it seemed to be some sort of pod that opened with boxes and a fir cone inside.

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M must have spent 3 hours on her Skyscrapers today, so while this was going on D asked to put on her new party dress (there were tears last night because I made her take it off for bed) and then I had to pretend I’d seen a beautiful ballerina and be shocked and amazed by how graceful she danced.  It then progressed into a kitchen disco and even M took a break from gluing to join in.

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The new bedtime routine is going better than I thought it would: the girls are  following it with minimal fuss?!  M was a bit miffed about it this morning but cheered up once we’d talked a bit.  D isn’t the slightest bit fazed about going to sleep on her own and has fallen asleep before I’ve had chance to do a 5 minute check.  This new regime means I get more quality time with M too: I taught her draughts tonight and she beat me in her first game, tsk.



A Creative & Crafty Day

I wasn’t sure how to approach today: whether to just go straight back into it or do something gentle.  I decided to go with gentle in the end so as not to give ourselves too much of a shock!  As it happened, both girls asked to do some Mathletics and Reading Eggs over the weekend but I don’t think their brains were really ready for it after 5 days at Center Parcs: they made quite a few mistakes and quickly lost their patience. So after breakfast (with a bit of sneaky mandarin in the background) this morning started with some art…


D's alien
D’s alien
Jupiter and Ganymede by D
Jupiter and Ganymede by D
This is a spade in the earth and a fox disappearing down a hole by M
This is a spade in the earth and a fox disappearing down a hole by M
A person in a hot air balloon next to Mount Everest by M
A person in a hot air balloon next to Mount Everest by M

D did some great reading and writing while doing her Tinkerbell annual.  Meanwhile, M asked to borrow my mobile so she could take some pictures…

And we made some Chinese lanterns and glittered them!  We’ll hang them up tomorrow.

All in all it was a very peaceful day.  This evening I tried out a new bedtime routine with the aim of getting D to go to sleep on her own (without me in the room) and getting M to put herself to bed after I’ve read her a story and she’s had a play upstairs without me.  Neither sausage was very keen on this idea but bedtimes are getting so late now I feel I need to reclaim my evenings!

Little things: M seems to have been secretly keeping little nuggets of information in her brain that I had no idea she’d even taken an interest in, let alone been listening to: today she drew Mount Everest and when I asked her how she knew about it she revealed it was from a page in a Wonderwise book that she claims is boring; and then (after shiftily listening to said Wonderwise book at D’s bedtime) explained to D exactly what a satellite was and what it did!!!  What a sausage.

Center Parcs 2014!

We’re back from a wonderful 5 days at Longleat Center Parcs.  Lots of swimming, playing, cycling, eating, drinking and laughing.

Daddy's list of jobs to do before we set off...
Daddy’s list of jobs to do before we set off…
M lost another tooth!
M lost another tooth!
The sausages in our much-loved holiday home
The sausages in our much-loved holiday home

We spent hours and hours outside in the parks…

And ate A LOT of deserts…

And we wrote our favourite things about Center Parcs on the kitchen chalk board.

We had a lovely lovely time and can’t wait to go back again next year 🙂



A Very Very Slow Starter

I don’t know what was the matter with me today, I just couldn’t galvanise myself to try and engage the girls.  They had rediscovered a Disney app which allows them to set scenes for Disney Princesses and then record their own voices for the dialogue.  I’m not a big fan of Disney Princesses but when it leads to such creativity I have no complaints.  I’ve said before that M is not one to do imaginary role playing games but after a bit of bashfulness she really got going with this app, which was lovely to see and hear.  There was also quite a bit of Lego building and TV watching so it felt vaguely productive but in a very slow, sleepy kind of way.

I hung around with them for a while but felt at a bit of a loose end so decided to make a roast for lunch.  Typically, once I became busy elsewhere they both wandered into the kitchen claiming they were bored so I got D flicking through a big pile of books and M making some more Lego.  10 minutes later they were bored again so I gave them a Sutton seed catalogue asked them to choose a flower and a vegetable each that they would like to grow in the spring.  This just about kept them going until lunchtime and we all sat down together to a hearty meal.

I suggested that after lunch we could look at our sticker atlases and find a sticker we like the look of and then find a film about it on YouTube: the girls seemed vaguely interested but then drifted back to Lego once they’d left the table!  I decided to take the plunge and put on a couple of short films about Sumo wrestlers and Chinese New Year celebrations but there wasn’t a lot of interest.  M drifted back to the Disney app and D played a few games on Numberjacks Mission to Learn.

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I spent an hour or so tidying and cleaning and then around 4.30pm I asked if the girls wanted to finish their China lapbooks, “Yes!” they chorused.  Phew.  So they put together the final pieces of information and I subtly tested their knowledge as they went.  As usual I was quite surprised at how much they’ve been absorbing.  They seem to have learnt the most from their sticker books and could point out a pagoda and The Forbidden City as they were sticking the pictures into their lapbooks.  I briefly introduced them to Buddha but I didn’t feel it was the right time to start talking about a new religion at 6pm.

I think I’m just starting to get my head round the fact that we don’t have to read or write endlessly to learn about something, and actually the girls (M in particular) seem to prefer casual conversations to other methods of learning.  I actually found my long-lost book on China today but it seemed that I had missed the window of opportunity as no-one wanted to read it, dammit.

The big prize at the end was to stick a new flag into the passports we made!  I’m amazed by how exciting they find this.  As soon as it was stuck in, D immediately asked if she could now learn about Australia, so that will be our next project!


We all had a cup of hot chocolate to celebrate finishing the lapbooks.  We may have been VERY late starting today but we got there in the end!

Swimming and Mandarin

I thought we’d get started on our thank you cards today, usually a painstaking operation where M takes about an hour to make each card.  A few days ago I had a bit of inspiration while I was shopping for M’s party and saw some marbling inks on sale!  They arrived yesterday so we got to work on creating some beautiful marbling patterns this morning.  The girls made 12 cards each in less than an hour!  They really enjoyed seeing the different patterns they could create by adding various colours and then blowing on or swirling the coloured water with a spoon.


Afterwards, M continued to work on her sticker atlas book and both girls watched Peter Pan while I cooked a Korma for lunch.  Today was swimming lessons and I find it easier to have our main meal at lunch time so we’re not too hungry while out.

After the film had finished and lunch was eaten the girls played upstairs while I had a cup of tea and a much needed sit down.  D then came downstairs and asked to play on my tablet.  We ended up looking at an app called Pocket Planet where you can zoom in and out of planets, moons and the whole solar system, which led to D asking to see the first moon landing on YouTube followed by a clip of Dennis Tito talking about what Earth looks like from space.

Then I called M down and we got to work on our China lapbooks.  I printed off the symbols which represent their names and they dutifully cut them out and stuck them down.  I intended for them to do the same with the Chinese numbers but D wanted to draw the characters herself: they both did a brilliant job!


A few days ago I got some Chinese number cards laminated along with their Pinyin words.  Today we had a go at matching the two up while listening to our Mandarin CD.  We got them all right!  I think M in particular liked the fact that I didn’t really know what I was doing and could see I was learning alongside them.  It seemed to stop her going into a flop about it at least!


Because we were having so much fun with our China lapbooks we didn’t leave the house in time to fit in some workbook time at the David Lloyd café.  The girls were really disappointed: I can never seem to get over the fact that they love doing workbooks, I am still waiting for the novelty to wear off.

Swimming lessons went very well: both girls have moved up a stage and have new teachers.  M was harrumphing about having lessons again but I think this will wear off once she gets used to the teacher.  There were a few tears from D during the lesson but overall she actually she seemed to enjoy it and her teacher seems to have taken a shine to her.

The evening was spent watching CBeebies Stargazing, followed by toast and Lego.  Does it get any better than that?  Well, I was very tempted to finish off the day with a hot chocolate but I resisted as they’ve eaten so much of it over the last few weeks.

I’ve just left M having a fit of giggles in bed over a line in a book I’ve just read her.  She’s been so giggly this past week, she easily falls into that silent laughter you do when you laugh really hard.  She’s well and truly happy :).