Sunday, 26 July 2015

Dinosaurs - followed by Medieval Mayhem

With the famous diplodocus model

This week I and Number One Son did our big, exciting trip to London. This was a on-the-shoestring test event, when I saw if the coach trips will be OK. I could carry out the whole trip with travel and food with less money than a train trip would have taken me. And I was not disappointed. On the way there, Number One Son was observing the windmills and trucks and munching his snacks and on the way back looking exhaustedly the landscape - while I took a two-hour nap. I had been working the previous day in the Cambridge University Library and driven back to Leicester in the evening.

The lure of diplodocus...

The success of the trip was aided by the fact that the chosen destination, the Natural History Museum, was on the same area as the Victoria Coach Station, only a few underground stops away. Victoria Station has a McDonalds and the minion toys currently on offer as a Happy Meal toy, this pit stop was not a miss. We scored a beefeater minion, to our joy. Victoria Station also has a Sainsbury, so topping up with picnic food and snacks and drinks was easy.

Pond in the wildlife area

The underground ride - surprisingly long for only a two stops in central London - delivered a train ride, something Number One Son loves. The South Kensington station is only a stone-throw away from the Natural History Museum and on the way there were French embassy with some added bobbies to see. The Museum also has outdoor spaces, so we could pop outside and Number One Son could run around scaring pigeons with other kids. There was also an ice cream van with prices to match with the location...

Spotting crawlies

A few people shared our idea and in times there was a huge queue to the dinosaur section. However, I just let Number One Son to choose the first stops. We wondered to the sea creature and reptile section with a whale shark mentioned in the Octonauts getting a mention. We also saw a 1970s film about human perception and saw huge blue whale model. We also spent time exploring the wildlife area where there were different ecotype displays outdoors and assistants to help to spot different bugs and crawlies in the water. Then it was time to dinosaurs.

Dinosaur eggs

I learnt during this trip how bad my son's vertigo is. The dinosaur exhibition starts with a bridge way in the ceiling and my son just could not take the height. But there were so many people we could just walk in the queue slowly out from the bridge with Number One Son declining to hear any explanation of the dinorsaur skeletons on show. Only when we got the ramp by the robot T. Rex he could relax. He was just fine downstairs looking at the dinosaur eggs and viewing a 'dinosaurs in the cinema and cartoons' short film. This part finished in the dinosaur shop where he could choose between the stegosaurus skeleton and dinosaur cookie cutters and natural museum drinks bottom combo. He went for the skeleton to add into his quite numerous dinosaur toy collection.

Observing cocoons

The real treat in the end was the butterfly house. Number One Son spotted butterfly eggs and could have stared at the cocoons and emerging butterflies forever. There were huge moths eating oranges and beautiful blue and green butterfly flying about. We even saw some furry catepillars on leaves.


As a coincidence, the most exciting family event in the Medieval Guildhall in Leicester was the following day. 'Medieval Mayhem' was exactly what it said in the tin. Let little boys to create their crowns, swords and shields and watch them run around fencing and screaming of joy. A couple of hours of this intersected by a face painting session and a quick trip to the Cathedral to see Richard III guaranteed that Number One Son needed a leisurely Friday. He was absolutely knackered, already in the evening. In all respects, it was the best family event I have been locally so far. The children were so happy.

My knight

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Bad pension planning

It is a test pit

Most of the archaeological activities are suitable only to the children over 8 years of age or so, the age limit set by the Young Archaeologist Club as well, if I remember correctly. Thus, it was delightful to have an archaeological project who deliberately tried to reach the local kids and invited the families with children to visit the Castle Hill Archaeology Project (CHAP) in Beaumont Leys in Leicester. The project had sent leaflets to the schools and these had found their way to Number One Son's book bag. Not that there were many kids around, but I could let Number One Son lose with a trowel, brush and a dustpan.

I really wanted to visit the site, since I had hoped in one point to take part into the community activities in Beaumont Leys, but I had then ended up in Sweden with very little time to spare to my hotmail e-mails. The only thing I remarked was that my old blog posting on Beaumont Leys (my professional blog, not this mummy one) kept getting continuous hits, making it the most popular I had ever written - just ahead the one that has 'Nazis' in its title, the sure-hit wonder, if there is anything (there is a reason for those Channel 5 and Yesterday Channel's continuous stream of Nazis with every single imaginable aspect of history and life documentaries). While I was whizzing between Leicester and Stockholm, the CHAP had started doing various things and now my child could get his hands dirty. The only thing is: how wise is this?

Down the Castle Hill

Considering my non-existing pension pot in three different countries (what is a pension anyway?), I would strongly wish my son becoming one of those nasty bankers - or at least a venture capitalist or a future Piers Morgan. I would definitely not take him anywhere near museums, ruins or - the horror, the horror - any digs. But am I a sensible parent? No. I keep dragging Number One Son to museums. We go to conferences with him. He is taken to different ruins. Now he was brushing the slates in a test pit. Do we want to have the same fate as the Orton family? To have a son to continue successfully family 'hobby'?

Whatever the answer, there I was, in the plantations by the Medieval hillfort. To add to the injury my son had decided to put his English knight top on in the morning. A Knight Templar for a Knights Templar site. We have no hope when he has access to exiting bones...

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Last week of Year 1

The last week at school had a prologue in the school disco the previous Friday. For the first time ever I was volunteering for the parents’ group – to my slight surprise. I had filled in the form that was commenting how they had too many volunteers the last time thinking that there will be plenty of other people. Since I knew I had to accompany Number One Son to be his walking wallet (not really understanding money, yet), I felt it would be impolite not to volunteeer. However, the person selecting is a friend, so there I was, making a choice between the hall and the cloakroom duties. Which brings me to the English language understatements. As a non-mother-tongue speaker, I forgot that the latter is the euphemism for – toilet. There we were, three ladies getting slightly bored waiting for any mishaps in the toilet that never came. Anyway, now I have done some parental participation after mainly being abroad.

The last week at school is one of those times when you child comes back from school with a huge pile of drawings and all kinds of things they have done during the classes. You just do not feel like throwing it away, but there are quite a many piles now from the nursery and the reception class before Year 1. However, it is heart-warming to see the long-term, long-waited progress. The way the drawings are now more than a swirl with a crayon and look like an Angry Bird or dinosaur steps. How from the beginning of Year 1 the letters have gone from unrecognisable hieroglyphs to something that looks like decent handwriting.

I find the sensibilities of how remember the work the teachers do difficult. Since they are public officers, I do not wish to buy huge presents or lots of flowers. However, considering the amount of marking and preparing and reporting they must do on top of trying to keep Number One Sons in reigns, I feel it is appropriate to do something. So we opted for a card. A bought one with an additional drawing Number One Son did glued on to the inside and a line scribed by him. With all our signatures. Then it was only for Number One Son to join the card givers' queue...

So now it is summer. It is the time when one wonders if one should have had Number Two as well. With many children in the seaside, abroad and nurseries, it will be a stretch to entertain a child with a stretched budget - and make sure he has regular playtime with friends and other children. Luckily, the local play scheme is not too dear, so we just hope they have free slots we wanted a couple of times. And I have planned a trip to London – by coach to keep it cheap and land on the right side of the city with the dinosaurs. However, if one will strike lucky and find a job in August, all may change.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Zero in the phonics test

How does it feel to read the school report when the national test result is a round zero and many of the assessments are in grade 1 (the poorest)? It does not feel nice. However, as another mother of a SEN (Special Educational Needs) child said, you have to read the verbal assessment and try to ignore the scores. The scores just place Number One Son among other Class 1 students and do not take into account his real level of development, about a year behind the others. When compared to the average, he rarely does what is expected, but when one considers his personal achievements, they are marvellous.

His hand writing was practically illegible at the end of the reception or at the beginning of Year 1, but now he can keep a line and the form and the size of the letters is nearing the model hand writing. He suddenly started to talk all the time a couple of months ago, take part in singing and began to draw recognisable figures. His communication is less littered by physical signs of frustration, pushing and flapping his peers. If only he would not go from playing with a friend to wander off and concentrate in lone playing.

He is still not ready for football, taking the ball into his hands regularly. Thus, the number of birthday invitations has been dwindling with little boys enjoying football birthdays. The ones he gets he enjoys deeply, but his peers can get frustrated, since his communication still is behind and sentences are somewhat stilted. Nevertheless, now you get sensible answers to the questions related to the way school day went. One just has to continue with speaking practice, reading practice and writing exercises throughout the summer holiday. Year 2 will be a challenge again, but one has to follow his development and take pride and joy in visible development.