It is mid-February, it is half-term, Lucinda has no childminding wards and I have the final few days of holiday accrued from last year to take so what better excuse was there for team Bagnall to spend the week together. The girls’ half term break was actually a day longer than the usual week due to an inset day tagged to the Friday meaning that they actually broke up on the Thursday. Read more
A little belated, and nothing to do with the fact that this year is a little longer than the usual. Normal service has resumed with a more traditional update, in contrast with the olympiad bissextus bonus of the previous post and Ezra’s pre-school inauguration prior to that.
So let me take you back a few weeks. The first weekend of February saw the Bagnall family in the Bride valley at Berwick Manor celebrating Uncle Bill’s 70th birthday. That was the weekend before half-term, hence we only spent the weekend in Puncknowle returning to Staines-upon-Thames on the Sunday evening for the girls still had four days of the first half of the first term of 2016 left. But, I hear you cry, there are 5 days in a school week. Yes, that is indeed correct except when an inset day is tagged to the start of a half term break.
We had decided, before the knowledge of the inset day, that we would take a journey north and visit Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz for that weekend. The baguettes were excited, as they always are when visiting Nanny Fran, and when we asked them what they would like to do in West Bromwich there was a unanimous reply: Funky Monkeys. Funky Monkeys is UK wide company that provide indoor soft play areas for kids under 8, and as all kids (and some adults) our three love a soft play area. Therefore, we decided that we would take advantage of the inset day and the extended half-term and visit Funky Monkeys on the Friday hoping that the schools in Sandwell had not decided likewise.
We arrived at Nanny Fran’s around lunchtime and after sating our appetite headed into the town centre. Funky Monkeys is aimed at under eights but in addition there is also a height restriction of 4′ 5″ (135cm). Now Éowyn may have only just turned 7 but she is barely an inch under the maximum height restriction, so this may be last time that she can legitimately go. However, flat shoes and a slouch may help for at least another visit.
While the Baguettes were distracted in Funky Monkeys we left them under the watchful gaze of Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz and disappeared to book a big surprise for them, something that you dear readers will have to wait until December to find out yourselves.
The Bagnall five were not the only visitors to Nanny Fran’s. There were two others in the car on the journey North, Nanny Fran’s grand-guinea pigs. We didn’t really have anyone to look after Toffee and Frazzle while we were in West Bromwich, so we brought them with us. It was nice for Nanny Fran to see them as it had been a couple of months and she could see how big that they had grown (and they are still growing!).
We only stayed at Nanny Fran’s for the weekend as I had a busy work week ahead of me and so did Lucinda. Obviously, with Lucinda’s child-minding job requiring privacy for her clients, it is not discussed on this website, however I will mention that half-term saw Lucinda settle two new clients which when coupled with our children and the fact that I was at work made it a very busy week for her. So when Amélie and then Éowyn were separately invited for playdates at friends’ houses, there wasn’t much of a decision to be made and the invitation was welcomed with open arms by Lucinda.
As regular readers will recall the return to school after the half-term break marked the start of Ezra’s education journey. The UK government currently pay for all pre-school children to receive 15 hours of childcare per week. They are entitled to this from the term after their third birthday. With Ezra’s third birthday looming large on the horizon (next weekend to be exact) he will be entitled to this for the Summer term when the schools return after the Easter break. Since Ezra has never been to school, to a childminder (for over a year) or indeed spent any amount of regular time away from Lucinda we have decided to use this half-term to ease him into the education system.
He has settled into Our Lady of the Rosary’s pre-school extremely quickly. He is excited to go (and walks the entire way – which is a big step in itself) and doesn’t bat an eyelid when you leave him, he just finds the toys he wants to play with and starts playing. The teachers have said that he has settled extremely well and just gets on with it. Whenever you ask him about his day, he doesn’t really mention any of the other children or the teachers only that they have lovely toys. At least he is happy and seemingly enjoying it. He is only going for two mornings a week during this ‘easing-in’ period and so as a consequence it shouldn’t be too much for him, he shouldn’t get too tired but only time will tell if it will help and he will be ready for the ramp up to 15 hours after the Easter break.
Éowyn has started with an attitude to homework that we will need to change before it becomes a habit. Her class had been learning about giraffes. Nothing too unusual about that, they often pick a subject and learn about it in-depth. However, despite Lucinda and I both asking what she learned at school this week, giraffes were never mentioned. As the week zoomed by without any warning at all it is nearly bedtime on Thursday when Éowyn informs us that she has to make a giraffe to take to school. Thanks for the warning!
The combined creative juices of mum and dad sprung into action and we had a play. A cardboard head and neck of giraffe using some packing materials from a recent delivery, some yellow paint and a sheet of brown wrapping paper. The kitchen table, covered with newspaper, became the work bench and Éowyn’s bedtime was delayed.
An hour or two later and cardboard giraffe neck nearly 5 feet high was ready for school the next morning. You can see the results of our handiwork can be seen in the photos below. As you can appreciate it wasn’t the easiest of homework to carry to school on a blustery morning.
Thursday the following week was World Book Day and parents up and down the land were faced with the problem of acquiring a fancy dress costume. Fortunately we have a large trunk of dressing up costumes and Amélie quite happily chose the Tinkerbell dress (and wings) for her character.
Éowyn was a little bit more creative. She wanted to go dress as Summer Hammond from the Secret Kingdom series of books, and Starlight Adventure in particular. The Secret Kingdom series introduces three girls: Summer, Jasmine and Ellie as a group of friends who find a magic box that teleports them to a fantasy land where they have magical adventures. It is aimed at girls from around Éowyn’s age and a good way of encouraging girls to read for fun.
Éowyn looked through her wardrobe and put together an approximation of Summer’s outfit from the book’s cover. I was proud of her being so original and not defaulting to wearing one of the many Disney princess dresses that we have or conforming to the social norms of the older kids and coming as one of the Harry Potter characters.
Again, however she left this homework to the last minute, not in the costume itself but a prop that she wanted to take. If you look at Summer on the book’s cover (she is the one in the middle with the blonde hair – see the photo with Éowyn carrying the book if you don’t have it on your book shelf), she is carrying a golden lamp. Fifteen minutes before we were due to leave for school she bemoaned the fact that we didn’t have a golden lamp for her to take. Not sure where she expecting us to conjure one up from? A five foot high giraffe is one thing and golden lamp is quite another. As we said to her, if she had given us more notice we could have been creative and helped her make one but in this instance she would just have to go without. As you can see it is a habit we are going to have to break.
With an early Easter looming that also means that there is an early Mother’s Day. In the U.K. Mother’s Day is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent, therefore with Easter Sunday falling on 27th March in 2016 it means that Mother’s Day is today. Lucinda and I would thus like to say Happy Mother’s day to our maters and to mothers everywhere. With three children of our own it means that I am going to have a busy day off helping the Baguettes look after their mum!
I will leave you know with a few more photos than usual to make up for the lack of photos in the previous update. As always there are more on the flickr pages.
Peace and Love
The clocks have gone back, the nights are drawing in and the trees stand proud in their nudity. The Badger Moot usually fills the pages of this website with the adventures of the greater Badger clan in Dorset around this time of the year. Not this year. When Granddad’s diagnosis was deemed terminal in early September we decided that this year’s Badger Moot would be cancelled. Whatever the scenario a family gathering three hours away from home during the October half-time did not seem apt nor right.
This was the first time since the inaugural Badger Moot in 2004, which was about the same time that I met Lucinda, that there has been no Badger Moot. I, obviously, did not attend that year and Lucinda and I have not attended twice since, in 2008 and 2010 (I will leave you to guess the reason for that) but there has always been a Badger Moot.
I had already booked the time off work for the Badger Moot, so despite the lack of a trip to Dorset (or Devon – as it would have been this year) it was still half-term, there was Granddad’s funeral to arrange and it was the week after Éowyn’s birthday, I did not cancel it.
We were blessed with unseasonably warm weather (as we quite often are on the Badger Moot), so what did we do? You have already read about the beginning of the half-term break in Éowyn’s Seventh Birthday write up: a trip to Legoland and an outing to Build-A-Bear Workshop. An important detail that I omitted in that write up was Éowyn’s delight in the queue for the first ride. Namely, when she stood against the height chart for the ride it indicated that she was a shade above 130cm, the minimum height required to go on the ride solo: a great present for her seventh birthday. Rides now take on a whole new element because she is classed as an adult when it comes to rollercoasters. It will also mean that all five of us can now go on the rides at Legoland.
This spurred us to measure the kids, as we try to do at least once a year. Indeed, on the wall in the playroom are pencil marks marking the progress of their growth. This year the results were thus: Éowyn: 131.5cm (4ft 4in); Amélie: 117cm (3ft 10in); Ezra: 97.5cm (3ft 2in). For those of you that are interested this translates on the Child Development Charts as the fact that all three of our children are sitting pretty on their respective 96th centile. We are going to have tall children; hardly surprising since Lucinda is 175cm (5ft 9in) and I am 190cm (6ft 3in)!
Half-term was the last week of October so there were plenty of Halloween activities advertised. The U.K. is increasingly absorbing the North American affection for Halloween and Trick or Treating – more of that later. We were not immune to the lure of Halloween.
Lucinda and I have National Trust passes, which allow us to take the baguettes into the attractions for free, so we decided to use them and look for a local National Trust property that were doing something Halloweeny (is that a word?) aimed at children. Claremont Landscape Gardens appears to fit the bill. A short drive away (very close to the hospice where Granddad died it turned out – very emotional driving passed that place) and they had Halloween crafts for the children. Wet underfoot but dry and relatively mild we decided a walk around Claremont was just what was needed.
The National Trust passes allowed free parking and free entry but we paid an extra surcharge for the girls (Ezra is a little too young) to complete a puzzle and win a prize. A sheet of paper with eight questions was given to the girls. The answers to these questions were hidden around the gardens on laminated spiders. A letter from each of these answers was highlighted and these, rearranged formed a ninth answer which when handed in, could be exchanged for a prize.
Some of the spiders had been very well hidden and I think we walked around Claremont twice before finding them all. Daddy, had guessed the answer with a number of the questions missing so the girls were always going to get their prizes but we were determined to find these spiders! We did learn one important thing: Tarantulas taste like peanut butter. So if you are ever found hungry in the Amazon jungle, don’t turn your nose up at a tarantula, with or without toast! Chocolate covered tarantula, even better.
In addition to the spider hunt, the Thatched Cottage hosted Halloween mask making. For a small fee the kids could use a kit (and decorate with a host of stickers) a suitable Halloween mask. Éowyn made a cat and Amélie a pumpkin, you can see the fruits of their labours in the photos below.
They all enjoyed their Halloween walk around Claremont. Although, perhaps because of the discussions around Granddad they became fascinated by the story of Charlotte of Wales, wife of Prince Leopold and Granddaughter of King George III and second in line to the throne, who lived at Claremont and tragically died in childbirth at the tender age of 21. It triggered many questions about death from the girls.
A trip to Claremont Landscape Gardens wasn’t the only Halloween activity. Last year, Éowyn was given a ‘grow your own’ pumpkin kit and indeed managed to grown one pumpkin to maturity. Not only did that Pumpkin feed us, it also yielded dozens of seeds before being carved into a Jack-O-Lantern. Out of those seeds we managed to grow 10 plants. My naivety in Pumpkin growing meant that we only managed to fruit 8 pumpkins and only 4 of them to maturity. Nevertheless this meant that the children had one each to carve. I hollowed all the pumpkins, kept the flesh for later and the seeds for next season, then, I handed them over the baguettes to design their Jack-O-Lanterns.
You can see the finished designs in the photos below. Éowyn’s design had to be toned down as it was a little complicated and I am not, yet, an expert pumpkin-carver, nevertheless she was very pleased with the final product. Amélie’s was simple but effective and Ezra needed a little help but all of them looked impressive with a tealight candle inside greeting the friendly neighbourhood trick or treaters.
Saturday was Halloween itself and I was at work. Our neighbours were having a little Halloween party for the kids and then afterwards they went Trick or Treating (or tickle treating as Ezra called it). Halloween falling on a Saturday certainly made ‘Trick or Treating’ popular and there were quite a few groups of ‘Trick or Treaters’ wandering the neighbourhood. Indeed, some of the neighbours were overwhelmed when, for a short time, the groups coalesced into a supergroup of two dozen – that’s a lot of sweets to find. It was at this point that Ezra got a little spooked. There were a lot of older kids, that he didn’t know, in quite scary costumes which freaked him out. Fortunately, I had returned home and so he stayed in with Daddy and his haul of confectionary.
The next day Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz (and the guinea pigs) came down. This is becoming a regular occurrence recently. This time it was to look after the baguettes while Lucinda and I celebrated the life of Granddad, along with the rest of the family and his friends, at his funeral and wake. We thought that the girls and Ezra, especially were a little too young to come to Granddad’s funeral, so we didn ‘t even give them the option. It is always feels strange to say that it was a ‘good funeral’ but Granddad’s memorial was a very moving and fitting tribute to a well-loved man.
Granddad’s death is obviously still raw for the family, but how are our little ones coping? Éowyn is seemingly handling it very well. She is very matter-of-fact about it and although upset that her Granddad has died is at peace with what it means. Ezra, obviously is too young to understand and that leaves Amélie. Amélie is a sensitive soul and has taken Granddad’s passing very hard. She has been sobbing on more than one occasion. We all think about how we will miss those that have passed and for Amélie and Granddad that tends to revolve around food. She has said she will miss Granddad for his fudge, biscuits, pancakes and ice-cream. Also, she has said that she will miss him because he fixes her toys when she breaks them.
Lucinda found her sobbing the other day and let her talk while giving her a cuddle. I came in and we all hugged while Amélie reasoned her loss. It was all very upsetting not only because Amélie was crying but because we will miss him too, for our own reasons. However, our mood was slightly lightened when Amélie came out with something that can only spring from the logic of a child. Between sobs she said, ‘I wish Granddad was a tortoise.’ Slightly sideswiped by this we asked her what she meant. ‘Tortoises can live for over a hundred years, so if Granddad was a tortoise he would still be alive.’ You cannot deny the logic.
Granddad’s funeral happened to fall on the same day as another big event in Éowyn’s life: her first day at Brownies. Éowyn had been on the waiting list for Rainbows since she was five, but unfortunately our local Rainbows pack was so oversubscribed that she never managed to get a place. To join Brownies you have to have celebrated your 7th birthday. The first Brownie meeting that she could attend was a week or so later than her birthday due to the half-term break. We didn’t want her to miss this first meeting so in stepped Auntie Liz who walked her to and collected from the meeting.
Unfortunately it wasn’t the best of meetings for our eldest to attend for her first taste of Brownies. The activity for the evening was cake making. Now, if it was a real cake and involved flour, eggs, butter, etc. then I think that Éowyn would have enjoyed it. No, this cake was a fabric cake that required sewing. Éowyn isn’t a girlie girl who would enjoy sewing and so it was. She said that she didn’t enjoy it and didn’t want to go back. However, we have asked her to go a few more times before she gives it up before she has even started. Fortunately, this week, it was games night. Éowyn thoroughly enjoyed this and is now looking forward to going again. We will see how this plays out and you, my dear readers, will read it here first.
Before I leave you, I will leave you with a funny from Ezra. Ezra’s vocabulary is increasing daily but his favourite word is one we are trying to discourage him from using and you will soon see why. Ezra’s current favourite word is ‘Boobies’. We are trying not to react when he uses it but sometimes it is quite hard. I was serving dinner the other day and trying to engage the baguettes in the choices I was asking them to put their hands up for the various choices. ‘Hands up, who likes carrots?’ They put their hands up and I would dish the carrots out. ‘Hands up, who likes peas?’ They put their hands up and I dished the peas out.
Then Ezra joined in: ‘Hands up, who likes boobies?’ Judging by the raised hands, just you and me, son. Just you and me!
Peace and Love
PS: As you can see from the geeky stats section in the sidebar, I have now clocked up over a quarter of a million words on this website. Thank you for reading!