Sunday, 15 February 2009

The Survival Family definitely made a comeback today!!

And here we are...shelter from the drizzle for me and Willie as the catering corps, Tom and Jon in charge of the fire and David on wood collecting duty. Rob is obviously the cameraman here!!!

It is the first time in a long time that we have made a trip of this kind to our favourite remote woodland, and despite the threat of rain we had a great day. The food was all cooked to perfection,(thanks to George for the generous supplies!!) and went down a treat, with the addition of a few homemade rolls and cakes we were all fed and watered well.

Jon made a few arrows for his bow, David a spear and Tom did a great job of fire tending and cooking, although I don't think Scouts can take all the credit for his expanse of knowledge there!!!

It's amazing how long you can spend happily collecting the wood, making the fire, cooking and eating the food and yet it doesn't feel at all like hard work. The stress level is reduced to virtually zero because of us all being outside, and we are all totally happy. *sigh*

We came home and watched the woodland episode of Ray Mears 'Wild Food' to keep the feeling alive, but we would all have been quite happy to have stayed in the woods with a proper shelter with our lovely fire to keep us warm. It felt almost criminal to put it out with the heap of snow earlier today, and then come home to light another in our own fire place. Very strange.

It was also very strange to be doing all of that without a dog. Our dear Sophie went back to the dog's home is very sad but we were right in our decision. We had to put the family first and a dog of her breed was always going to demonstrate her strong herding and pack instincts with so many children in the family. It was reassuring for the lady to say all the same things that I had been saying for the last few weeks and for her to agree with our decision. Although it didn't make it any less sad. Rob said that Sophie had been put in with another couple of dogs there and looked quite settled when he left...I couldn't bear to go, and would have probably made it more difficult for everyone concerned. Emotional outbursts are no good in a situation like that, so I stayed home with David and we played Monopoly.

So here we are, dogless, and it feels very strange.

I think we will probably remain dogless for this summer at least, and will just keep our ears open for any suitable candidates that may arise to fill the position of Survival Family canine seems that Sonny is a hard act to follow.
And this is Willie's duck he made out of plastacine ( is that how you spell it?) tonight at teatime. No prompting, no help what so ever, he just made it and came over and was playing with making it quack and eating things!

It's a little blurry as it is taken with Rob's phone, but if you look carefully you can make out the tail feathers!!!!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Idle parenting...

Having read Tom Hodgkinsons book 'How to be free', I then went on to read his blog on the Idler website. But here comes a brand new book that I think will bring lots of points for discussion!!!
I for one can say, that if I am busy in the kitchen, (which is most mornings as we seem to eat one batch of bread and cakes each and every day!!!) the boys if left to their own devices will happily occupy themselves...sometimes Will and David together, sometimes they are apart. The older two are invariably outside somewhere in the workshop or garden.
There are days when we all do something together...either in or out but this usually is much more stressful than the natural separations that occur. Sometimes I long for days out together or activities as a whole, but at the moment that can be more harmful than enjoyable! We went to the museum together, and obviously our trips to the woods are together, but even then some kind of grouping occurs.
That doesn't mean I don't do anything with them if they want to, and I do try to instigate activities for them to try, and occaisionally when I'm having a wobbly day, I insist that they do something 'educational'...this usually equates to me finding a maths programme or workbook for them and then realising that it is a waste of time and that they are quite capable of doing these things, but are bored and uninspired by most of them.
One area that we are bad in is socialising on an organised level. We all shy away from this except Tom, who has always been involved in Scouts and now Explorers too.
That is something that we are trying to work on. Looking forward to HE camp in May!!! With a few nerves, obviously!!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Heritage Motor Museum, Marauders map and socks

Yesterday, we ventured out on a family day out to the Heritage Motor Museum at Gaydon in Oxfordshire. In fact, it is actually only a short drive away and Rob worked for 3 years just down the road from it, but we have never been there!!!!
It is next to the Landrover and Jaguar headquarters, so it is quite Landrover orientated, or should I say the employees are!! This obviously suited us (Tom) quite well and we started the visit with a chat with the man on reception. He pointed us in the direction of a few of the desired exhibits (HUE the first ever Landrover which has travelled worldwide, 2 cars that you can actually sit in and the timeline that runs the length of the building with cars from the vey beginning to present day) and spoke to the boys about the James Bond car which I consequently completely forgot to take a photo of!!!
But here are a few of the phtos I did take...

We all loved this car with its canvas roof and open sides, leather seats and enough of them for all of us to make a contender for the new Survival Family vehicle. Sadly there are very few of its kind and unlikely to be considered practical... ;-(Then there was the electric car made from plastic, tax exempt but not sure that would be enough of a carrot for me!!!

Now this is an MGB GT...I think my mum learnt to drive in one of these. Fabulous car,

but obviously been part of a messy divorce!!

Wooden cars for the younger ones to drive...with wooden foot pedals and indictors that actually stuck out like the old fashioned ones!! Will and David loved these!!!
While Rob and I were looking at the timeline road and wishing that cars these days were like these ones from the early 20th century still, one of the museum staff came over to us. I had a moment of sudden panic as only David was with us...Tom had Will with him, and Jonathan was momentarily out of sight. But I needn't have worried, he merely said that he could see that Tom was really interested in one of the cars and wondered if he would like to sit in it! Now there are only 2 cars that you are allowed to sit in, and this car wasn't one of them!

It is Lara Croft's Landrover and Tom got to sit in it!!! Well, they all did eventually, but he was first. The man told us that it was specially made for Angelina Jolie as an automatic, as she struggles with a manual gear box!!! Not so cool after all is she, eh?
A good day was had by all, ending with an Off road experience for Tom and Rob....a 10 minute off road course in a 2008 model 110.
And now for a couple of quick crafty pics...a Marauders map (from Harry Potter)that I made for David. You'll have to look closely!!!

And the socks/bootees I knitted for Will!!!! I think they turned out quite well. Jonathan wants a pair now too.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

And tonight, breaking news....

Whilst sharing a very loving and relaxing bath with William this evening (has to be a first!!!) I noticed a few but very suspicious looking spots on his back....they looked slightly raised, almost blistery. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you Han? ;-)

So we could be blessed with Chicken Pox for the next few weeks. Luckily Tom and Jonathan have had it already, but David was about 4 weeks away from being born when they had it so I guess he could be a candidate for spots too.

Red sky at night...

This is our back garden with the most beautiful red sky.... And this is my clay sun, desperately trying to encourage the real one out.
It is almost finished but when I moved it after painting, a couple of the 'rays' came loose. A reminder that you should always make it in one piece. Going to try to glue a felt backing to it in the hope that it will salvage it. I was quite pleased with it. I can't say I am, because I'm cross with myself for doing the very thing I warned Rob not to do with his clay car...and his wheels fell off!!!
Oh, and it has just started snowing again!!!!

Friday, 6 February 2009

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Willie's snowman (well, daddy made it) prior to having it's nose stolen by Sophie!!! We must have the only vegetarian dog in the world! When I'm cooking dinner she actually sits and begs for the carrot ends, and if you cut cucumber for sandwiches she drools for a slice!! Bizarre.
On the Sophie front, I watched a DVD called The Dog Listener and it just gave me a reminder of how important it is for me to be the Alpha female. She didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know, but I did need the reminder that Sophie's behaviour is typical of a dog who has seen a gap in the leadership team and taken it upon herself to be in charge. So maybe we might try a few of the things suggested before we give up completely. It also made me think about the need for me to be in charge of the house too. I have been feeling a little like the chief cook and bottle washer for a time now and maybe that adds to the dog problem. I am certrain it is all worse during these winter months and that once the sun is out I will feel better and more in control. Don't get me wrong, the boys and Rob are great and all help out with things generally but maybe that in itself is making my position feel a little threatened? Like they could actually get along quite well without me. I'm sure they would all do the clothes washing eventually when their trousers started getting up and walking off by themselves!!!! Yes, I have 4 boys, and it does get that bad!!!
Time for some changes at home I think. Not sure I feel good about rehoming Sophie, it certainly causes me to become upset when we talk about it. We all love her so.
Off to nurse my sore throat and earache by watching Alan Titchmarsh's Nature of Britain. Trouble is, it just makes me want to travel. Survival Family on Tour. Hmmmmm.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Reading, animals and Benny Hill.....

A few piccies from the last month...

Ginger hanging hearts decorated with tubes of icing...a belated christmas present from Han...thank you!!! They were lovely and the boys all enjoyed having a go. These are Tom and Jonathan's ones. I was a little tardy in picking up the camera so David had already munched his!!
David and I have been looking into World War II these last few weeks. It started with a flicker of interest last November following Remembrance Day, and then we watched 'The 1940's House' on DVD. It is a Channel 4 programme from 2000 where a family lives for 2 months in a house decorated and fitted out as it would have been in 1939. They experience the clothes, the food, wash day, rationning, the black out and air raids (only pretend of course!!!). So here he is modelling the gas mask we made (coloured as it would've been for a toddler...we felt it was more interesting!!)

We also made a label that the children all had to wear like a luggage label, tied through their button hole, and a clothing coupon book. He has been really getting into it and so a trip is tentatively planned to the Imperial War Museum in London. A trip on the train...but it seems so expensive!!! We have also been looking at old money, of which we have a few (of the lesser coins) and we even had an old penny with Queen Victoria on it from 1898!!!! Unbelievable that it is over a hundred years old. Oh yes, and he has been wanting to wear the clothes too. The blue shirt from a charity shop, coupled with some old (dare I say it?) school trousers and a pudding basin haircut, with a tank top on the way knitted by granny. He really does look the part!!!

I got the boys making pom poms the other day too! This bright red one is David's and Tom, made a lovely pink one that he has been wearing around his neck like a necklace and calling it his bling!!! Such confidence...he even wore it to Explorers!!!! This from the boy who wouldn't wear a coat to school because noone else did!!! Hurrah for HE!!!!

We've been making a little progress on the reading front too. Its quite amazing that when I read Harry Potter or Spiderwick aloud, he can correct my pronunciation mistakes or tell me what comes next, yet he cannot read the words for himself. But progress is being made and he has started asking so many questions again....what does this mean, what does that do, why did he say that, etc etc I am just so grateful for audio books to satisfy the boys love of books. I just cannot read to him as much as he would like to listen!

I still sometimes feel that I am not doing enough for him, but with 4 boys at home, one not quite 3 going on 6, it is impossible to have the energy or oomph to do all the things that I would like. It is the reading that I worry about the most. He has a real love for books, both fiction and non fiction and what a world would open up to him if only he could read!! So we are trying to concentrate on that at the moment, but I am struggling to find the key. *sigh*

But then you only have to listen to the news or look at the local school kids (not all of them obviously) to know why you don't send your children to school.

We have had quite a fair amount of stress in our house this last little while too, with the horse being a big part of it, closely followed by the dog. The pony was being fed haylage by the lady we share the field with, which is like rocket fuel for a pony like Bob. We tried talking to her, we tried ignoring it, but it all came to a head a couple of weeks ago when Bob was just so hyper that Jonathan just couldn't get on him. He was rearing up and all sorts and Rob just couildn't control him. A very frightening experience for all concerned, but basically it is down to feeding issues not the pony. So we have moved him to a field nearer to us, sharing with 3 other ponies which is great but it is on a 'try it for a few months and see' arrangement. But at least he is not being over fed now and will perhaps lose a bit of weight...with Spring fast approaching, laminitis is a very real threat to him, and we just cannot afford to have him go down with that and be unrideable in the process. Ugh. If only that woman knew what she has done.

So one stress dealt with, we hope, and one to go. Sophie has herself become a little unmanageable but we had put it down to her being a bitch and being in season. But things just don't seem to be settling down. I mean she isn't a lost cause, she would certainly be trainable for the right person, but I don't think that person is me. Or should I say, us? As a family we are quite noisy and the boys are, or well, can be, quite boisterous. When we go out to the woods or wherever, they tend to go off an do their thing, and quite frequently we are in several groups, which she as a shepherding dog doesn't like. She wants to have everyone in check, in the right place and can be quite protective of us. It is just in her nature, but I mean, do we look like we need protecting? She is fine with people as a rule, but other dogs can be quite a problem and it is making us all uneasy and worry about what we are doing, where we are going and to some extent it is stopping us from doing things that we would normally be doing.

So we have got to the point that we feel we are not the right owners for the dog. It is very hard, because I love my Sophie to bits, as do we all, and she is fantastic at home. No chewing, no seperation anxiety (yes, dogs get it aswell), she is great with the chickens and the children. She is a fabulous guard dog as she looks and sounds the part, but we want a dog that we can take out with us and be a part of it all. Not one that we worry if we see a dog approaching. As I type this, she is sleeping on the rug in front of the fire and is just the most perfect dog in the world, but she needs a firm hand and, as I already have my hands full, I think that the firm hand will have to be somebody elses. I hate making decisions. I hate being beaten. I am useless at giving up and admitting defeat. But I think this time I will have to.

Spring is fast approaching and the season table is changing from this

to something a little more green looking.

I have been making snowdrop fairies from felt, and a sun from clay. Photo's to follow soon.

I have also been knitting socks. Well, it started from an idea Jonathan had about making rabbit skin slippers, following on from his rabbit skin knife case that he made. The fur is so soft that he fancied the idea of rabbit skin pants!!!!! But I suggested slippers....boring old me! So I started knitting an upper so that he could make the soles for them, and then I thought I 'd have a go at socks. A very simple pattern from a book called The Children's Year that can be adapted for any size of foot quite easily! I'm not totally sure about socks for inside shoes but they would certainly keep feet warm in the house, or in bed, or for little people being carried or in pushchairs.

Speaking of keeping warm in the house, our bedroom is so cold at the moment with the freezing temperatures as we all enjoy the beautiful wintry weather, that we have had to sleep in the living room on a mattress. Our room is above the kitchen which is an extension, and was built with no heating in it and has three walls exposed to the the 2 rooms are absolutely freezing. The kitchen is bearable during the day, as the oven is on at least on for some of it for bread and cakes. Thats another come a huge batch of bread and scones still only last one day?!!!! Thats the trouble with having 4 boys I guess.

Anyway back to our fffffrrrrreeeeeeeezing cold bedroom. I swear that is as cold in there as it is outside, just without the wind chill factor!!! We have an electric oil filled radiator but it would need to be on full blast all night and as we are in a bit of a financial state at the mo, and I begrudge giving Eon any more money than I have to, we have decided to camp out in the living room next to our lovely open fire which burns free logs. Not exactly a normal thing for people to do is it, but then, we are NOT normal!!!

This is Jonathan helping Will eat his tea up, having already cleared his own plate. I wonder why?Aaaaah, now I see. He's looking forward to eating his peppermint creams he made earlier!!! What he doesn't know is that he still has to get through a bowl of semolina!!! He he!!
The boys have been loving the snow...although we have only had a few inches, they really have made the best of what we have had. So, a quick video for a giggle just so you know its not all bad... Make sure you have a large audience and the volume is up!!! It is a real classic.