A quick term time catch up

I am really spoiling you with all these updates of late.  Mostly trying to catch up on the Summer holidays, which seems a little strange as we tiptoe into Autumn (Fall – for our North American viewers).  Obviously the last topic deserved an update all of its own, however I thought that a quick catch up was probably necessary to get you up to speed with the goings on over the first few weeks of term.

As alluded to in the previous posts I have been busy at work.  This is always the case with the beginning of the football seasons but tagged on to that has been UHD (4k if you must – although I am inclined to argue with you that point out that you are wrong on that account), IBC and the World Cup qualifiers to name but three.  The other members of the family have been busy too.  All three children have returned back to school; Éowyn has returned to Brownies; Amélie to Rainbows and Lucinda has the return of the after school wards in her childminding career.

Lucinda has been given the nod that Ofsted have her in her sights for her first proper inspection since the first one when she started childminding.  Ofsted puts the panic into all institutions when they announce that they are coming for an inspection, whether you are the best school in the area or a childminder trying to carve out a career that allows you to spend some time with your own family.  So it is for Lucinda.  Childminding isn’t just minding children, you have to demonstrate the methods that you are using to educate the children, keep them safe (including creating risk assessments for every activity type) while noting their development and any signs of abuse.  The amount of paperwork involved is enormous.

Lucinda had been using an app with an external database to keep all her observations on her wards’ development in an attempt to ease the amount of paperwork that she needed to produce.  Unfortunately at the end of the Summer during an update the company suffering a catastrophic corruption of its database and all work from the last 18 months (including the whole of Lucinda’s work on all her wards) was lost!  Needless to say this has put more pressure on her for although Ofsted would no doubt understand, she is frantically trying to at least have some semblance of progress on good ol’ fashioned paper.

Although I am currently in the midst of six days off work – hence the avalanche of updates on this site – I have had one other day off during September.  The girls had an inset day on the first Monday of September and so I took the day off work to spend some time with them, as I hadn’t all Summer.  I dropped Ezra off at school (poor lad still had to go) and after a detour to the Genius Bar in the local Apple Store where Lucinda got a replacement phone we headed to the swimming pool in Windsor.  We had asked the girls what they would like to do on a day off with Daddy and swimming was the unanimous reply.  Both girls have swimming lessons but Amélie’s progress was being halted by her lack of confidence in ducking her head under the water.  This was the first time that Lucinda and I had been swimming with them since their lessons had begun and so it was the first opportunity to attempt to give her this confidence.

Éowyn is happy to go beneath the surface and was trying her best to encourage Amélie to do the same.  Lucinda and I both showed her that there was nothing to be worried about, but to no avail.  So then I brought out evil Dad.  I was encouraging her to jump up and down in the water with assistance from me as we jumped up I pulled her into the water with me and her head went under.  I immediately jumped back up so that there was no time for panic or to be frightened and I braced myself for the reaction.  It could not have been any better.  ‘That’s fun!‘ she enthused, ‘Let’s do it again!‘  She then proceeded to spend more time under the water’s surface than above it and she is well and truly over that stage of swimming.  Back over to the professionals.

Swimming lessons are Saturday morning and the Leisure centre is behind their school, so six days a week you will find us on our short walk through the park.  It is still a delight not to have to join the mêlée that is the school run, fighting for a car park space; simply leave the house 5-10 minutes (15 minutes for poor Ezra – his school is a little further away) before you want to arrive and you are there.

All three are still enjoying school.  Éowyn has had two Bronze Awards while Amélie has done slightly better with a Bronze and a Silver.  Although in Éowyn’s defence, Amélie has also only effectively had two Bronze awards but because the rules are slightly different in Amélie’s class she was given a silver for the second Bronze award.  In Éowyn’s class you have to move from Bronze to Silver (and then from Silver to Gold) in the same day, for Amélie you stay on Bronze for a fortnight and any subsequent Bronze awards will take you to the next level, in Amélie’s case Silver.

The other early term achievement that they both have attained is to move up a reading level each.  No difference in rules here, just hard work and practise by both our girls.  In addition, to the Bronze awards and upward movement in reading levels Éowyn has also received 10/10 for both of her spelling tests so far this term.  The Baguettes are doing well.  This is in no small part to the fact that both girls like their new teachers.  It is always hard moving up a year and leaving behind a teacher that you really loved and we feared, especially for Amélie, that this would be difficult.  This doesn’t seem to have happened as both seem very happy with their new tutors.  The only difficulty that Amélie is currently struggling with is the lack of free time to play.  In reception they have more freedom to explore learning through play and more time to simply play.  In year 1 that is no longer the case.  Lessons are a bit more structured and they can’t just sit in a corner and play with Sticklebricks.  It is a sad indictment of what is wrong in the world.

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to play when we are six,

With dolls, Lego and Sticklebricks.

Apologies to William Henry Davies.

We are obviously very proud of the girls academic achievements so far this academic year and poor Ezra hasn’t really begun his educational journey however that doesn’t stop him demonstrating his intellectual prowess, sometimes to the detriment of others, in the following example: me.  Myself and Ezra were in the kitchen and I was getting breakfast.  ‘What would you like for Breakfast, Ezra?‘ I asked.  ‘I can make you toast, a crumpet, cereal,‘ and then I spied the bag of pastries by the bread bin; making an assumption regarding the contents I continued the menu: ‘or you can have a brioche.‘  (Very continental the Bagnall household!)  Ezra replied that we would like a brioche and without a second thought I took one of the pastries from the bag, placed in on a plate and put in on the table before him.

In the tones of one who, not only can not believe the lack of knowledge of the other party but is thoroughly disappointed with the offering before him, Ezra dismissively said: ‘Daddy, this is not a brioche, this is a pain au chocolat!’  I have not felt so rebuked in such a long time.

Ezra has however taken a step towards full-time education not in any academical way but in terms of his pre-school booster vaccinations. He now has had his full course of recommended inoculations until he becomes a teenager – unless we decide to go anywhere exotic on holiday!  We had told him that he was going and the nurse would put some special medicine into his blood to make him big and strong.  We also promised him that if he was a big brave boy we would take him to the toy shop where he could choose a toy.  He seemed to know exactly what he wanted, so that was a good focus for the visit to the health centre.  We arrived on time but the clinic was running about 30 minutes late so the most difficult part was keeping him entertained in the waiting room.  The nurse was very good and Ezra was extremely brave – I think he said ouch once (he had two injections) and only complained that his arms hurt after I had put his shirt back on.  I think it might have been a ploy to extract another sticker from the nurse (he left with three across his chest and certificate of bravery).  He then told the nurse he was going to go into Staines and get a dinosaur.  Thoroughly deserved.

As we stepped into the toy shop he made a bee line for the toy that he wanted: a roaring Tyrannosaurus Rex.  It was on special offer and a bargain, so there were no negotiations and Daddy duly handed over the money and rewarded Ezra for being the brave boy he said he was going to be.

With Amélie’s birthday just around the corner you can probably expect another update in the not-too-distant future – I am really spoiling you this month!

Peace and Love


Ofsted inspection, Easter and a trip to Peppa Pig World

Regular readers will no doubt have been on tenterhooks since the last write-up wondering about the results of Lucinda’s Ofsted inspection, and as I have attempted to sit down and commence this write-up on a number of occasions in the past month without success, there is a lot to catch up with so without further ado, I will get you up to speed with not only the inspection, but the Easter holidays as well.

With somewhat unfortunately timing the Ofsted inspection had been booked for the first day of the Easter holidays.  To avoid Lucinda’s inspection as to whether she would be a fit childminder actually being sabotaged by children (and our own children!) I decided to take the children out of the house for the four hours (yes four hours!) of the inspection.  A quick trip to annoy the people at work (although a lot of the people who would like to have met them were not in for one reason or another – therefore another trip is planned, over the summer) and then onto the perennial safe house that is Nanny and Granddad’s.

It was almost exactly four hours before we received the phonecall from Mommy to say that the inspection was over and we could head back to Staines Upon Thames.  Lucinda said that it was tough.  The inspector looked over the entire house and garden and wasn’t just concerned that the house was safe.  Lucinda needed to have paperwork in place for all eventualities to be signed by the parents of the child that would be in her care.  She needed to demonstrate that not only that the toys in the toy boxes were safe and child friendly but what aspects of learning that each toy could be used for, and demonstrate to the inspector.  In fairness to the inspector, she knew that it was Lucinda’s first time, and could see that Lucinda knew what she was talking about even if she was a little flustered and didn’t elucidate clearly enough.  The inspector wasn’t there to ‘catch her out’, and was somewhat forgiving if Lucinda didn’t get the full meaning of the question first time.

There were some recommendations but overall she passed and is now a registered childminder.  She will not be rated until the next inspection which will be within six months of registration.  Her registration came through not a day too early for he first paying job started that very week.  For the privacy of the child that she is looking after and Lucinda’s professionalism this will not be discussed on this website.

Since the first day of the Easter holiday’s was taken up with Mommy’s inspection and to allow mommy to relieve some of the stress that had built up over the inspection we decided to take the baguettes to Peppa Pig World the next day as a treat.  Both girls have been there before but this was Ezra’s first time.  He is quite a fan of Peppa Pig (or Georgie Pig, as he prefers to call it).  We arrived a little later than we wanted, heavy traffic on the M3 and a detour to pick up an Ebay purchase (a scooter for Amélie) added to the journey time.

Peppa Pig World is part of Paulton’s Park and although we have been a number of times we have not really explored the vast bulk of Paulton’s Park, just the Peppa Pig corner.  However, the girls asked to go on the tea cup ride as we entered so the big reveal of Peppa Pig World was held back from Ezra.  Ezra could not believe his eyes (and ears) as we entered Peppa Pig World.  His eyes were wide open and he just kept exclaiming ‘Wow!‘  It is very impressive as an adult so it must be a magical sight to a two year old.

We arrived just before the meet and greet of Peppa and George.  So we queued for a quick ride on Grandpa Pig miniature locomotive before joining the queue to meet Peppa and George.  Without wishing to spoil anything for anyone but it isn’t the real Peppa and George but people dressed up in Peppa and George costumes.  However, this means that Peppa and George are close to 2 metres tall, and when you are only 95cm that is quite scary.  It would be like me meeting a 12 foot high bipedal pig!  And so it was too much for our little son who nestled himself into Lucinda’s shoulder trying to avoid eye contact with the porcine giants.  The girls loved it though and ran to hug them.

We had decided before we went that since Amélie was going to have a scooter, and we were awaiting a scooter for Éowyn (also from Ebay) that Ezra would have a present from the on-site shop.  We had hoped that we work ask for a replica of George’s favourite toy: Mr Dinosaur, but we were going to let him choose.  We were hoping to do this towards the end of the day but since he was so traumatised by Peppa and George we decided that we would distract him with the Peppa Pig Shop.

Still clinging on to mommy we entered the shop.  As soon as he saw the toys he struggled to get down and ran straight for the Mr Dinosaur display.  He picked one up and said ‘Mine!’  A decision had been made.  He clung onto the toy for dear life even while he looked at all the other toys in the shop.  He pointed to a lot that he liked but never put Mr Dinosaur down.  Indeed it had to be scanned with him still holding onto it.  In fact, he didn’t let go of it all day.  every ride he went on (and we went on most of them) he held onto Mr Dinosaur.  You don’t mind buying them a toy when they love it that much.

The girls were very happy around Peppa Pig world because both of them are now of a height which means they can go on the rides by themselves.  They felt all grown up.  Indeed Éowyn is not that far off being able to go on the more adult rides on her own, however she is more of a wimp than Amélie who has definitely got more of the adventurous spirit when it comes to roller coasters.

The remainder of that week saw me at work.  Football does not stop for Bank Holidays!  On the rare occasion that it does (there was no football on Good Friday) there is always another job that springs forward.  This time it was the Eurovision Song Concert.  Well not the Eurovision Song Concert (that is next month, and yes we are providing the facilities for the BBC for this prestigious event), moreover the 60th Anniversary Concert, that brought together past winners in a one-off special event.  It is definitely a change from sport!

The weekend remained sport-filled but Easter Monday saw me at home for a change.  Cousin Maddie had asked if we would like to go to Hounslow Urban farm for a day out.  The girls love being with their cousins so we said that we would take them.  We looked up reviews of Hounslow Urban farm and it said rough and ready but an excellent day out.  Maddie’s older sister Lauren asked if she could come too and so with all seven seats of the S-Max filled we headed around the airport.

The reviews were spot on, but the rough and readiness is part of its charm.  We arrived just in time for a meet and greet of the animals.  We sat on straw bales as the staff brought round a variety of animals.  The usual rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, rats, lambs.  Then more unusual animals such as ferrets, tortoises, stick insects.  Followed by snakes, water dragons and lizards.  I enjoyed it as much as the kids.

From there it was on to the pig racing, where you got to feed the pigs afterwards.  A spot of lunch and a bounce on the bouncy castle before the highlight of the day: the owl display.

As with everything at Hounslow Urban farm it was somewhat rough and ready and extremely hands on.  We were introduced a Barn Owl and a European Eagle Owl. They asked the children to stand in the middle of the farmyard and asked them to duck when the owl flew towards them.  Obviously everyone ducked.  Then with their backs to the owl they asked them to do it again and none of the children ducked.  This was to demonstrate the fact that the owl is a silent killer and its feathers have evolved in such a way as to eliminate any sound.  The children didn’t duck because they could not hear the owl swooping in behind them.

They then asked the kids to lie on the floor on their backs.  They then got the owl to fly low over them so they got a mouse-eye view of an owl gliding across the ground.  A fantastic experience for the girls but the best was yet to come.  Despite the fact that the European Eagle Owl is one of the largest species of owl with a wingspan of around 6 feet (1.8m), they were so confident in the bird’s docility that they let the girls hold it.  Amélie was first in line and quite confidently wore the glove, only the weight of the bird was causing her discomfit.  Seeing her little sister hold the owl, Éowyn too donned the glove.  After seeing her two little cousins bravely hold the devourer of rodents Maddie held the bird but Lauren (who had been caught by the wingtips of the owl during the display) decided that she wasn’t getting any closer to that particular strigine beast.

I really enjoyed the day at Hounslow Urban farm.  I like the fact that it is rough and ready and I think the kids like that too.  I like the fact that you can touch and handle the animals (under strict supervision of course).  But what I liked most about it was the fact that behind the fun and the dirt and closeness was the theme of education.  Education about the animals and the respect that we should have for the animals.  I would thoroughly recommend a day out there, but don’t wear your best clothes and take some handy hand-sanitizer.

Enjoy the photos below and the hundred or so new ones on the Flickr pages.

Peace and Love