Friday, January 30, 2015

ABSENCE…

Gosh.  Things sure have been quiet around here huh?
I do apologise.  Things haven’t been at their easiest here in the Pollard household sadly.  We have been fighting off various illness bugs, migraines, and in the case of my dear husband, a bad bout of Sciatica.  I really don’t feel as if we are back into the full swing of things as yet, but I’m working on it.  I’m desperate to regain a successful fluid flow to our days, we seem very stop starty at the moment and I’m finding it somewhat of a struggle.
January hasn’t exactly been the wonderful new year, new beginning, that I had envisaged.  I was full of enthusiasm leading up to January 1st, making plans and writing lists.  I was excited to see what the new year would bring with it and it has to be said, thus far I’m pretty darn disappointed.  Along with the ill health issues affecting even the littlies amongst us, we have already had Chelsea’s medication not working and needing to be reviewed, and a hospital stay.  We have also suffered the sad loss of one of our chickens and one of our geese.  I sure am ready for February!
One positive thing about nursing the miseries, is that I have regained my love of sewing.  I’ve set up the sewing machine in the living room – which although perhaps not very aesthetically pleasing, means that I can sit with the family – and perhaps more importantly, keep an eye on my youngest two with ease.   I have two beautiful little girls who are eagerly awaiting the making of new frocks and twirly skirts, so not only is my passion for sewing a good ol’ soul nurturer for me, it is also very useful!   My latest make for Amara was this simply classic peasant style dress.  I have made her a matching hairband as I love the fabric so much.   The fabric for anyone ‘in the know’ so to speak is designed by Timeless Treasures and is from there more recent collections I believe.
dress
I would desperately love an overlocker as that would really make the process so much quicker.  It would offer a much more professional finish to the garments too.  I have so many ideas of what I want to make, everything from cute dungarees and pinafore dresses to sweet bloomer shorts and pretty tops for the summer months.  I’m busy dreaming and designing as I save hard, and have been selling off various books and craft ‘stash’ to try to assist with the financing.  I love the idea of the girls having a whole wardrobe of handmade goodies – and who knows, maybe I could do a few craft fairs and the like?  Never say never :)
Next week I’m really hoping to get back into the home-ed swing of things again.  I’ve been pinning a few things on the Classroom Free pinterest boards, and have created a new Chinese New Year idea board.   I’m going to be looking at telling the time with Taisia over the coming weeks as she keeps asking the how to questions, so in case anyone finds it of use, here is the link to a resource board for that too.  All of the boards are continuously being added to as and when time allows.
Tomorrow I have errands to run (snow and/or ice permitting!), skirts to sew, groceries to sort, and a Grasshead.co.uk kit to begin with Taisia.  I hope to be back blogging regularly again now health is improving, so please pop by and visit again soon!

Friday, January 02, 2015

OUTDOORSY DAY

The weather has been beautifully mild here today.  Here in rural Devon we have been experiencing a real cold spell of late, lots of ice on the roads meaning scary driving conditions and shivering!   It felt lovely not to have to put on oodles of layers in order to feel conscious whilst doing the early outdoor chores this morning.  For the past week we have also been having a stroll up the lane morning and night to tend to a neighbours chooks.  It has been rather refreshing and the extra chill factor has certainly led to a feeling of wide-awake exhilaration!  Of course, the freezing temperatures do come with certain issues, such as freezing water pipes.  I never did share the 1am outside tap fiasco did I?  If I say it was freezing cold, involved lots of water spraying in all directions, was pitch black dark, AND there was an impossible to open stop-tap cover, you may get the idea of the utter chaos.  I can share that both Tiegan and Joseph did an amazing impression of ‘FROZEN’ – complete with ice in hair.
Amara is having lots of fun taking her first walks out.  Yesterday we walked together with Taisia and her camera, down the lane to run an errand and it was a very slooooow meander.   I love trying to see the world through the eyes of a child, and Taisia and Amara really helps me to do just that.
little photographer
We stopped at every puddle, we examined thick mud, we took care to stare at many leaves, we looked up and took time to watch the birds soaring above, and we giggled as feathers and leaves blew across our path – sometimes giving chase to see if we could catch one.   It’s really good for my soul to relax and just be, to connect with the children in an unhurried and non-flustered way.  The resulting smiles and arms outstretched offering hugs lead me to believe that the children enjoy it too.
The main to-do on our job list today was to secure the fencing after a couple of goat escape escapades.  Goats are notorious escapers and they will look for any little weakness in their secure area and expose it with ease.  We section off areas of the field to allow for the rest and recuperation of the grass, but it’s that old age saying “The grass is always greener…” *sigh*.  As Lee is currently sporting a bad back, the fence fixing today was down to me and Joseph.  It was truly lovely working outside.  The birds were happily flitting from tree to tree, their song filling our ears and enhancing our pleasure and competing in volume with the happy sounds of the children on the swings.  The chickens gathered around our feet to see what we were getting up to – no doubt hoping for a good turnover of earth to facilitate their worm hunting efforts.
chicken
Clarabelle
Although steady on the flat, Amara is not yet used to exploring the more uneven ground of a field.  She still seeks a hand to hold for reassurance, and often just wants to sit and watch.  Today we wrapped her up in her (oh so pretty!) waterproof / mudproof suit and wellie-bobs, and she adored being part of action.
outdoor girl
Meanwhile, her big sister was terribly busy looking for tree dwelling spiders…
hunting
And going into battle…
on the march
(yes, that is a Frozen nightdress she is wearing with her wellies).
Tomorrow we have errands to run, shopping to sort, and ….. well, who knows!

Thursday, January 01, 2015

THE FIRST OF THE MONTH…

The first of the year.
We saw the brand new year in at home, just us as a family (although not complete – Chelsea was elsewhere).  We had been invited to a neighbours ‘do’, but with various ills and issues we were feeling less than enthusiastic.  Instead we cooked goodies, watched TV (and sang along to the Queen songs), laughed a lot, and ate junk.   All of the children were still wide awake by Midnight, including Amara and Taisia – I truly don’t know where they gain their energy from.
We headed to bed around 2am feeling happy.  As I lay, wide awake, I listened.  Nothing.  Not a sound.  The exact opposite to what we had experienced at New Year in our old place.  There we had lived on a main road, by a bus stop, near a pub.  For hours we would hear the beeping of car horns, the banging of fists on the bus shelter, the shouting, the arguing, the car door slamming.  Although used to the constant traffic noise, it was the celebratory occasions I used to dread.  Even though it would be said that we resided in a ‘reasonably nice’ area, so often fighting couples could be heard or groups of abusive voices.  It wasn’t at all the life I wished for my children to experience.
Living here is so very different.
The quietness – as if the world is standing still.
Nothingness.
The darkness – deep blackness, only lit at cloudless times by the moon’s true beauty and the twinkling diamonds.
Occasionally we are treated to the hooting of nearby owls.  I often lie awake waiting, wanting, hoping to hear that majestic call.  To me it’s enchanting,  almost spiritual.  I don’t feel I shall ever tire of it.
With beautiful scenery and lovely quiet walks right outside our door, I really couldn’t ask for anything more.
beautiful
Our first day of 2015 was a quiet one, spent at home, relaxing and pottering around at our own free will.  Of course the chickens, ducks and geese needed releasing first thing, as did the goats – all had to be fed, watered and checked over.   The children spent time both indoors and out – they read, used the computer, built with lego, role played kitchen games, and put together puzzles.  We had a lovely roast dinner together as a family, followed by good old fashioned homemade bread pudding and custard – it was a lovely start to the New Year.  I was able to do a bit of in-head planning which I want to put down on paper when time allows.  I have so many ideas, so many things I want to do/make/go to/get started on, that I literally feel as if I’m practically bubbling inside with excitement.
I’m happy.  I have lots to look forward to.  Life is good.
I hope that you can say the same.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

FAREWELL 2014…

2014 hasn’t been the most joyous year for our family, and alongside many of my friends it seems, I will be more than happy to release this year into the very back of the memory bank and move on.
It seems that I have gotten into the habit of using New Years Eve as a time for reflection, learning, and future planning.  I know it’s just another day, but for me, the first day of a new year feels like a new beginning.  A time to wipe the slate clean and look forward.  I’m the kind of person that wants to start new things on a Monday for example – if I’m starting writing a journal I want to start at the beginning of month – it just feels ‘right’ for me.  Daft I know, but there you are.
So, the 1st of January fills me with joy, anticipation, and excitement.  I like to map out what I wish to do over the coming year; what vegetables I want to grow, what I want to cover for home-education this year, which places I want to visit, what things I wish to do this year or wish to introduce to the children.  It feels like I am the proud owner of a blank canvas that is yearning to be splattered and blotted with colour – I love it.
For me, 2014 will always be remembered for the year that Chelsea was diagnosed with a life-long illness.  It was a shock.  It was scary and I felt out of my depth – out of control.  Helpless.  I have never felt like that before – not to that extent.  We were strangers to the hospital – even to the doctor’s surgery really – so to go from never visiting to almost fortnightly checks has been a shock.  Each of us has been impacted, diets have had to be changed, finances have had to be tightened, and travelling kept to a minimum.  It’s been a tough road to tread and I have stumbled many times.   But we are getting through it, we are taking one day at a time and getting through it.
2014 has also been the year that Chelsea spread her wings and left the home-education nest – moving on to start at College to study Psychology, Sociology, and English Literature – alongside GCSE Maths and English.  She has been working incredibly hard, and there has definitely been highs and lows, but she is still sticking at it.  I’m proud of her.
I  have seen changes in each of the children this year.  Chelsea has become more independent and focussed on the future.  She now has a clear direction, a path which she wishes to follow, and it has to be said, it’s a bit of a relief!  For so long she was flouncing, floundering, not sure what her plans for the future were or where she wanted to be.  I trusted the process.  I trusted her.  I reminded myself that she was young, that there was time, that she would find her ‘thing’ – and she has.  Psychology is her chosen study subject for the future and it suits her.
Joseph has grown – in size, strength, and awesomeness!  He turned 17 this year and is my steadfast friend, the one I know I can turn to for help when Lee isn’t around, and the one that can always raise a smile even at the darkest of times.  He is trustworthy and reliable, not afraid of hard work and is always willing to help with the heavy lifting of sacks or shavings.  He is a great help around the smallholding, and a real font of knowledge when it comes to current affairs and historic events.  He is also incredible with his younger siblings, and they love him dearly – Amara practically worships him.
Tiegan turned 13 on Boxing Day so we currently have three teenagers in the house!  That thought doesn’t fill me with dread though – I love it.  Tiegan is still the quietest and most reserved of my crew, she is thoughtful, helpful, and considerate.  If she sees that I need help, she is there.  Her music taste isn’t at all what I had expected it to be, but it hasn’t changed her personality.
Callum is now 9 and the change seen in him throughout 2014 has probably been the greatest (bar Amara of course, whose developmental milestones are coming hard and fast).  He is now a very fluent reader, loves all things maps and flag related, and has a curious and questioning mind.  I think that he will really bloom in this current year and I am really looking forward to seeing what we shall cover together for our home-education.
Four year old Taisia is a real little treasure.  She is also a real livewire, of strong will and a passionate temperament.   Her vocabulary and conversation skills are amazing and I often forget she is of so few years.  Taisia is also incredibly curious, very vocal and the asker of many questions.  2015 will be the year when we shall start on a slightly greater formal footing education wise – nothing forced or coerced, all fun and child-led, but a little more structured than currently – if you know Taisia you will know and understand about her need and want for ‘work’ in the loosest of senses.   I can’t wait to see what she wishes to explore.
Of course Amara, at almost 15 months old has changed hugely over the past year – as all of that age will have.  She is fast becoming a little person in her own right and is following in Taisia’s footsteps rapidly.  She is strong willed and independent, and she doesn’t want to sleep!  Sleep is a real battle for us at the moment, leaving me feeling rather lethargic and lacklustre – something which I really want to work on in 2015.   Amara is toddling around with ease and her cutesy vocabulary is growing daily, she picks things up incredibly easily and loves to copy what others are doing and saying.  We have to be fully aware of this and rather careful of our actions and speech when in her presence!  She is a real joy to have around, and a large proportion of her day is spent smiling and being cute – I couldn’t imagine my days without her – although I can imagine being a lot less tired!
I have a great many ideas and plans for 2015, the main one being that I want to be a lot more creative.  I want to explore my arty & crafty side a great deal more and generally do the things I love – most of which I plan to get the children involved with too.  I want to do far more sewing, knitting, crocheting, needlecrafting, cross stitching, painting, papercrafting, art journaling, photography, baking, and anything else I fancy attempting to turn my hand to.  I have set up a blog to record (what I hope will be what will be) my most creative year to date.  I hope that by having a public space to share what I make I will a) be more inclined to actually keep it up, and b) be able to inspire others to find their creative soul within.  I know that for me, it’s more than just ‘crafting’ – it’s self-nurturing, and as time has gone by I’m finding it more a ‘need’ and less of a ‘treat’.  I feel refreshed after time creating, with clearer mind and a happier heart.  I know that I have to overcome my ‘don’t touch my beautiful papers/fabric/pens/paint/*insert other much prized craft tool or resource here*!’ attitude when it comes to involving the children, but I’m sure I’ll get there – I need to let go – they are, after all, just things and most can be replaced.
If anyone wishes to follow my journey, and share their own, you can find me over at http://www.creative365.co.uk and on facebook at Facebook Creative 365 PageI’d really love you to join me.
Home-Ed wise, we are going to keep on doing what we currently do but I’m going to add a little bit of structure to our days.  I want to try to do more projects and lapbooks, attempt more outdoor nature stuff, and explore more traditions.  I still very much believe in the child-led route, and it has worked well for us so that is the main emphasise to our ‘method’ if there is such a thing, but I have a four year old that needs to be entertained and who loves doing ‘school work’ and learning so we shall work with that and see where it takes us.   I want to travel a bit more, visit new places and meet more people.  Oh, and blog daily – will I do that?  I doubt it, but I’m going to bloomin’ well give it my dastardly darnedest of goes!
Soooo many wonderful plans.
Wonderful, juicy, lusciously lovely plans.   I can’t wait.
All that’s left for me to say is….
PicMonkey Collage
Thank you for sharing our year with us, we all hope you have an amazing coming year, filled to the brim with love, laughter, good health, and financial stability.
And remember this:  YOU are bloomin’-tastically awesome.

Friday, December 19, 2014

THE DINOSAUR THAT POOPED – BOOK SET REVIEW

We were recently fortunate enough to be sent a set of 3 books to review – The Dinosaur that Pooped Christmas, The Dinosaur that Pooped the Past, and The Dinosaur that Pooped a Planet.  When we received them I knew my children would love them – they are colourful, have rhyming text, and contain the word poo.  Yup, my children would be sure to like muchly. 
books
The books are written by Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter – perhaps more well known for their roles in the band McFly and more recently McBusted.  The series is about a boy called Danny and a dinosaur – immediately Taisia (aged 4) was smitten as anything dinosaur related is the ‘in’ thing right now.   The book covers are bright, colourful and eye-catching and Taisia (and baby Amara!) were keen to look inside.
pages
The three of us sat on the sofa and I read through each one.   We are particular fans of rhyming books and I found myself able to read these through in a Dr Seuss style rhythm.  Being presented in rhyme form it was easy for the children to be able to guess where that all important ‘P’ word was going to be needed, and they took great pleasure in shouting “POO!” out loud and proud whilst giggling incessantly.  Nine year old Callum also joined in and I was pleasantly bemused to see that Joseph – at the tender age of 16 – was also grinning and listening.
These light-hearted fun books certainly left us with smiles on our faces.   The brilliant illustrations and cute looking characters were engaging for the younger ones and they have definitely become a reach to favourite when storytime is requested.
inside
Links to the books can be clicked on here:
You can also find the Facebook page for the series here: https://www.facebook.com/TheDinosaurThatPooped
and on Twitter here:  https://twitter.com/PoopingDinosaur
There is an introductory video about the series here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSnGElXGRlI
(We were sent the books free to review but the opinion expressed is my truthful view of the products).

Friday, November 28, 2014

CHRISTMAS ACTIVITY ADVENT 2014

fireplace with text
One of our family Christmas traditions that we all enjoy is the daily activity advent.   Each day we undertake a new task that helps us really get into the mood for the big day.  We try not to spend a huge amount of money on the activities, focusing on keeping things simple and enjoying the family time together – in other words, creating special childhood memories.
Each year around this time, I sit down and try to come up with something interesting for us to do each day, with a good mixture of home and outdoor activities each week.
This years list looks like this…
(in no particular order, and subject to change due to weather or oomph levels!)
1.  Make window decorations – I’m thinking of tissue paper stars, snowflakes, etc.
2. Visit Killerton House. Every year one of our nearest National Trust properties puts on a display of traditional decorations.  We try to make a special visit every year to see the display.
killerton house
killerton
3.  Write a letter to Santa.
4.  Make Salt Dough Decorations.
5.  Create homemade Christmas Cards.
6.  Let’s find out about Christmas traditions around the world.   Useful sites include this one and this one.  It is also St. Nicholas Day .  More here
7.  Bake some goodies – how about Jewel Cookies for starters?  We could make our Christmas bauble wreath, or tissue paper pom poms to hang or a snowflake garland.
8.  Let’s snuggle in the warm and read some Christmas stories and poems together.  Maybe we could write one of our own?
9.  Head to the beach to make a sand snowman!  Don’t forget to take supplies such as a hat and scarf, a carrot for the nose, etc.  Wrap up warm!
10.  Let’s do something for our feathered friends – we could make up some recipes such as these.
11.  Time to build our reindeer stable again…
rudolf door full
rudolf door
12.  Visit a local farm shop cafe for hot-chocs with friends.
13.  Bake and decorate a gingerbread house.  Chill out afterwards with a festive film and treats.
14.  Try our hand at making a non-alcoholic version of Apple Cider.
15.  Let’s go shopping for our family secret santa gifts….shhhhhh!
16.  Wrap up warm and go for a forest winter wander, maybe to Haldon for another Gruffalo hunt?
17.  Make Christmas chocolates and truffles.
18.  Craft festive lanterns such as these:
recycled crafts - Christmas Lanterns - Baked Bean Tin Lanterns
Photo Credit:  www.thinlyspread.co.uk 
19.  Daddy is bringing home the tree tonight – so it’s tree decoration time!
20.  Family wii game challenge day!
21.  Let’s bake some scrumptious goodies to deliver to our neighbours.  Don’t forget to take the cards too!
22.  Time to decorate our Christmas cake.  If dry, we could have a bonfire with baked potatoes and toasted marshmallows.  If the weather denies us, we can toast marshmallows indoors instead.
23.  Big baking day today, let’s make lots of goodies for us to eat.
24.  It’s Joseph’s birthday, let’s make it special for him.  This evening we could play some board games, go for an evening walk, and have candlelit baths.
Other things we may try to fit in include:
- a drive around the area to find the best decorated house.
- join in with an outdoor carol concert.
- visit a garden centre to check out their decorations – maybe even visit santa whilst there!
- think of a couple of random acts of kindness we could do for strangers.

Monday, November 24, 2014

PARK LIFE

So today has been near the top of the you’ve done ok you know scale.   It started off with the college drop off, then we headed over to a new-to-us park in Tiverton.  I confess to have been really lazy exploring the area since we moved here a couple of years ago.  I am trying to make a conscious effort to seek out more outdoor gems now, my children really do love (and need) to spend time outdoors.  Having the land we do here makes that pretty easy – hence the laziness – but  now we want to get out and about more.
A short five minutes or so traipse from the shops led us a great area to play.  The children loved it!  Their feet found pace and merry laughter could soon be heard.
We smiled a lot…
happy
all smiles
We climbed…
climbing
We tentatively tried new equipment…
round we go
We allowed time for curiosity…
exploring
Posed like models…
callum
and adored playing with all the beautiful fallen leaves…
cute
play
leaves
**Note to self**  Definitely time to dig out or knit the hats and gloves!
We chatted with a few also braving the cold people.  I got asked if I home-educated and had a nice chat about how we did things.  Taisia shared see-saw and standing roundabout rides with new ‘friends’ and enjoyed chattering with them.
We strolled back through town, stopping at the post office along the way to post a parcel and our Postcrossing  postcards.  We got back to the car and as I put Amara in her car seat I realised that the seat-belt holding it into place had been unclipped.  Oh botheration, I usually leave the car seat fitting to Lee as he can get it far tighter than I.  I struggled.  I heaved.  I cursed (and apologised).  Almost 20 minutes later I had succeeded, oh relief!  I had been trying to figure out how on earth I would get home if I didn’t have a secure car seat in place for Amara.
Then I couldn’t remember how to collapse the pushchair.  Seriously.  Yes, I know.  I’ve had 6 children, it should be second nature by now, but no. We use the pushchair so little (preferring to wrap), that I really had forgotten about the silly little fiddly bit that you have to pull out and almost sever your finger off with.  Another 10 minutes of ‘one of those days’ thinking and it was finally done.
The drive home was non-eventful thankfully.
The same can’t be said for Lee’s drive home.  As he collected Chelsea from college and drove down the lanes towards our house he hit a patch of ice.  The car did a 360 spin.  Fortunately he was able to avoid the ditch and even more fortunately nobody was hurt.  Scary stuff.
As they were recovering from that ordeal and tootling along the lanes in the now dark, they saw a small figure of *something* in the middle of the road.  Upon approaching very slowly, they found it to be a very young lamb, umbilical cord still attached.  It was shivering, poor wee thing.  Lee managed to pick it up and passed it over to Chelsea who held it on her lap as they drove slowly down the road in search of the field it had escaped from.  A short drive presented them with a field of sheep and it soon became apparent that there were desperate bleatings being shared between mama and lamb.  Phew!  I dread to think what the consequences for the poor little fella would have been if he hadn’t been found – it was certainly too cold a night to survive alone and it would have been an easy meal for a hungry fox.  Of course, the risk of being hit by a car was high too – sadly some of the drivers around here aren’t at all cautious with their speed limits and hurtle around the lanes with little thought for others.
Certainly a good deed done.
Meanwhile at home I was attempting to make iced doughnuts.  All went to plan until the baking part.  10 minutes it said.  At 9 and a half minutes I checked the oven – decidedly overdone – very overdone (but not burnt, they weren’t burnt!)  How disappointing.  However, they tasted not too bad and I want to have another go now the lesson has been learnt.
The others were either helping me bake, reading, or painting.  It was nice.  Everyone went to bed happy and contented with life – that’s all we can ask for, right?
In other news, have you popped over to Ross Mountney’s Notebook and read myguest posting over there yet?  I was honored to be asked and it was therapeutic for me to remember the start of our journey and the struggles we were experiencing at that time.  I hope others find it useful.