Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Virgin footsteps into the world of blogging...

Today was a day of change, as Zoe was given a day off (something about her contract allowing her to get one day off every fourteen years or something like that) and dad/me was given the reigns for the day. Strict instructions were left, and these mainly consisted of putting together a mythological themed matchbox for the Matchbox Swop, feed kids, dont kill anything and then blog it all. We are now at 6:45 pm, kids have eaten enough pizza to feed a small army, all the pets are still with us and a matchbox awaits postage...although climbing Everest would have been an easier way to spend the day!

The matchbox theme was pondered for a while before the world of Greek mythology was choosen (mainly so I could drop in one of my favourite jokes "Whats a Greek urn?..."). Kids gathered around the table, and with the A-Team theme music playing in my head, I went in. We decided to make a game of Greek Top Trumps, featuring the main Greek gods, heros and monsters, as this seemed a good way to include a lot of information on the large world of Greek mythology. So we found little pictures of a number of gods etc on the internet, and then in a x factor style, whittled these down to 40 odd. Then from the remaining hopefulls at boot camp, created our cards, each with a 10 point scoring system of Power, Strength, Speed, Beauty and Fear:

Then Cordy started work on a poster that could have been found adorned to any ancient Greek notice board, warning the locals of the danger of Medusa, complete with a clever strapline "Beware the Stare!". We still needed something else though, and looking at the cards, it was clear that there are numerous gods, but what are their relationships with each other? Therefore, Bailey was set upon the task of contructing a Greek God Family Tree:

Then all that was left to do, was the matchbox itself, and with my best Blue Peter impression "Here's one we made earlier":

Job done and for those who care, the kids didnt get my one and only Greek joke, tough crowd....

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

An afternoon in Magna

Our busy day yesterday continued with a trip to Magna, thanks to our season ticket it was a free afternoon. Although, I think Ruben prefers it when we can use the playground outside, its very cold inside and they haven't added any new exhibits for a while which I think is a real shame. There was only two school groups today and it was quiet which was nice so we had chance to go on all the things we wanted to. 

Ruben excavating!
The girls having a play on the diggers

Cordelia looking into the whirlpool
Making waves in the water pavillion

The fire pavilion was our favourite because it was slightly warmer in there. I love this photo of the boys standing my the fire tornado.

We didn't stay too long but it was nice to get out of the house for a bit as the weather was so grim. It nicely distracted the children from their early start when they were all starting to get to that bickering stage! We had a quick trip to hobbycraft on the way home and of course Toy R Us to check on their Monster High Doll stock, sadly no boy Monster High Dolls for Ruben! 

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Van Gogh's Sunflowers

Thanks to our super early 4.30am start to the day, we got a lot covered. (drawbacks of living out of cities is no public transport links for hubby to make his 5.30 am train into London, hopefully he will be driving himself very soon though:-)) After breakfast was sorted at 6.30 it meant we had time to do some more structured work. Bailey is working on his Computer Studies IGCSE so he was busy doing that, which left the younger three doing their maths books, some comprehension, including a Roman piece for Cordelia and then it was time for a little bit of art. Continuing on from our previous posts today we had a go at Van Gogh's sunflowers. We had an interesting talk about Van Gogh and his suicide, and the children remembered a previous Dr Who episode in which he featured. We used watercolour paper and oil pastels instead of paints, which was the children's choice. I love how they all approached this painting differently:

 Above is Piper's picture. Watching Piper draw this was interesting because she is quite reserved and I think you can see it in her art, she is shy and likes to be in control of everything she does, she is also really articulate and thinks A LOT (that bit is from me!!). Her vase detail is beautiful , especially the shadowing at the sides. And I like that she chose a solitary sunflower.
 Above is Cordelia's, her picture also reflects her personality too, she is very open and you can read her very well, she is very much a glass half full kind of girl and very cheery. I love the curves of her vase and the cheeriness of her bright flowers. She really approaches things with such vigour. Both her and Piper drew the vase first.
Ruben's picture above, he began with the background first, which I thought was cool, as I hadn't noticed the background so much in the original painting, so impressed he picked up on it. He is very laid back, which I suppose comes from being the youngest, and just drew it how he saw it. I pointed out Van Gogh's signature on the vase and so he decided to put his initial on the vase.

Seriously impressed with their pictures today.

Monopoly Tropical Tycoon

It seems to have been ages since I posted about a new board game, probably because we play so many! We picked this game up from a car boot sale in the summer for £2 still sealed and its been in the back of a cupboard for ages, until yesterday that is when Piper decided to bring it downstairs. I started playing but realised the time and needed to get on with tea so Bailey took over my turn. Its different to normally Monopoly in that you don't have community chest cards or chance cards, you watch a DVD instead. I'm not a huge fan normally of board games that force you to watch DVD's but this one is actually rather funny. The children were in hysterics several times with the news reports. It was a little tricky at first to play but then it takes me a while to get used to a new game. The money is different for a start as you get a lot more cash, two and a half million, to begin with and you have to pick one of 5 jobs:-Surfer, Police Chief, Mayor, Developer or Artist and that determines certain aspects of the game., for example if you are the developer you get 25k every time someone buys a property, if you are the police chief you get 50k if someone visits jail etc. It started to look very tricky at the beginning but everybody seemed to get into the swing of things. I actually think I prefer it to normal Monopoly, which I find a little dull at times especially with younger attention spans. So this is just about right for my four, plus you can stop the game, switch of the dvd and then come back to it a bit later, which is always a plus around mealtimes etc. I'm not being sponsored to say all this, just thought I would share our views on the game!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

You scream, we scream, we all scream for 'The Scream'

Continuing on from our art project last week, I got the Usborne Art Book fro Children out of the library. We have had it out before but didn't do much with it past reading it. This time though we picked the painting 'The Scream' by Edvard Munch. We talked about what the painting was actually about and read the background from the Usborne book.

Here is the original painting, in the Usborne book

The scream is actually how Munch describes the scene around him, and the scream is not coming from the person in the painting  but from the nature around. We had a really good talk about how sometimes when we walk in the woods the trees can sometimes sound like they are whispering to each other and as they are alive, maybe its possible they can talk to each other? We also spoke about how the atmosphere can change when a storm is brewing and how maybe nature could be frightened or even making a warning about the weather. All good food for thought. We used normal card but used our sparkly acrylic paints to create the different layers and swirls like in the painting, they used a mix of brush sizes. Piper and Ruben struggled to do the person in the painting, Piper managed in the end but Ruben decided against putting a person in his painting and did the scenery instead. 
And here are the children's versions of it:
This is Piper's
Ruben's version
Cordelia's version

Jim Dine Pop Art

In the last week or so we have found ourselves having little more structure on the days we have been home. One thing I really wanted to do more of is art. We have phases where by we do lots of painting and drawing, clay modelling, play-doh, hama beads etc and then it stops for a while. I'm really not very arty at all but I'm trying to be because my children are very creative and imagination and I really love the art they produce. I got the idea of doing the heart pictures from here, I really love this blog because it gives me so many idea's. The children started with a piece of watercolour paper and drew around a heart (a hama bead one as it was the perfect shape) they then drew around it in black pastel crayon. Then they coloured the inside of the heart with the pastels. The background was painted with watercolours, which the children really enjoyed using. Cordelia made two pictures because she enjoyed it so much. I love how they all did them differently despite all starting off with the same inspiration. I had a book that I had bought from a library sale a few years back all about Pop Artists, including Jim Dine who is American. It was interesting chatting to the children about the artists and looking over the different pictures and defining what makes something 'Pop Art'.

Piper's heart

Cordelia's heart

Ruben's heart
 Cordelia's heart, no 2
 Bailey's heart

Friday, 20 January 2012

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

We have always been HUGE fans of Lauren Child in our house, not just the stories but also the fantastic illustrations too, a few years ago (oh my it was over 4 years ago!!) I saw her illustrated copy of Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren and gave it to Piper on her 7th birthday. She devoured it and we spent hours reading it together, listening to her read it to me and vice versa then Cordelia read it too and I enjoyed it all over again! This week I started reading it to Ruben, who pulled a slightly dubious face at the thought but let me begin anyway. We are only on chapter 5 so far but he is absolutely loving it! We have just read the 'Pippi goes to school' chapter which is hilarious and even I had to stop reading from laughing too much (despite the fact I've read it so many times!)and really to add to my enjoyment of the book I've only just realised that technically she's home educated! I love the book mainly because Pippi actually reminds me so much of Piper and her no nonsense approach to everything. I'd forgotten what a joy the actual story was to read aloud so for the third time I'm enjoying it all over again!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Warhammer Whirlwind

I think I've probably mentioned recently how Warhammer has once again gripped the Barras household. It does also seem to be quite a home educating thing too!? The teeny, tiny figures seem to be over populating my house at present and now even the Hubbster has started to read the magazines and rule books. It started because he wanted to help the children with it but now its just purely for his own kicks, what can I say? I married a Geek, love him to bits though! He has also spent lots of time with the children in the last two weeks painting these figures. I find it quite astounding that Ruben has gone from being a total whirlwind in the house to sitting patiently and painting details on these little figures. Even Bailey has spent time away from his Xbox more and more to read up on rules, paint and sort out figures for his battles against Dad. I am muchas impressed with all of them although freely admit the whole idea both baffles and bores me. Well, its not possible for me to LOVE everything they do all the time. Its been great for me actually because I have managed to spend time with Piper on the sewing machine, making little projects and even Cordelia too when she isn't playing Warhammer, has been and made herself a very cool tote bag. I do love the way my children move through hobbies, variety is the spice of life after all :))

Sherwood Pines Socialising

We've been rather busy the last week or so and seen quite a few of our friends old and new. On Sunday we had a very wintry walk in Sherwood Pines, the lesser known of the Robin Hood forests, which as its name suggests is full of pine trees. And for my liking, far too many cyclists. Its not that I mind cycling, I would just prefer it if they did it somewhere that my children and dog weren't walking, its pretty hazardous when you have an 8 year old and a dog on a retractable lead that weave in and out of trees and can easily cause problems. I have to admit, although I love walking in forests it was a bit too cold for all of us really, defintely thermals kind of weather. Despite taking fresh carrot soup for us and hot chocolate for the kids the sub zero temperature was still a little too much. It literally took me all afternoon to warm up again. The kids still found fun things to do with their little friend though:-playing in this woodland house, collecting rocks, climbing, making music with branches on the sides of trees. We even saw a wild deer (well I missed it but everyone else saw it) that's the second time we have seen wild deer there. The first time we got lost in the forest for a couple of hours and out stepped a stag with two deer right on the path in front us, it was quite magical really but also a little nerve wracking, stag's are very intimidating creatures, especially when you are in their territory. 

Monday, 9 January 2012

Sad Mondays

Today was our first session back at singing. I really wasn't feeling it this morning, I think the busy weekend caught up with me today and to be fair I'm not a fan of the Monday's. It was a bit of a crazy morning with Ruben being super hyper. Think I really need to sort some trips out. My car is having its MOT tomorrow so we will have to see how that goes first. Ruben and Cordelia sat and did some monster painting today, its a book he chose himself a while ago from The Works and  was very cheap. You only need to paint water on to it and all the colours come out, its quite cool actually and it was nice to see him sitting still for 5 minutes to be honest. It was very sad at singing today, normally the parents sit in the playroom and chat whilst the singing group is on. Its actually quite therapeutic normally, even when I'm having a bad day. Today though a friend had lost her brother over the Christmas period and it brought back a lot of memories for me. I had to try really hard to keep from crying. Its so sad when children have to deal with grief and I know sooner or later its something I will have to go through with my own children, as they are extremely fortunate to have all of their great-grandparents. I'm really not good at knowing what to say in these situations, I usually put my foot right in it to be honest. Its hard to explain to the children why their friend was so sad today too. Back at home and we have all just flaked out a bit, I've cooked a healthy quiche, jacket potatoes and homemade pizza for tea and then I think the girls want to watch last night's Dancing On Ice, they have been waiting for it to come on for ages now. I think they enjoyed Strictly Come Dancing so much that its left a little void! Piper and I are planning to make a taxi tote bag from one of the books we got out of the library at the weekend, as soon as we figure out what interfacing is! Bailey has been fab today and done two hours of his IGCSE course and half an hours worth of maths, he is such a star and really working well to his IGCSE timetable.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Sunday puddings

We all got up ealry this morning and were breakfasted, dressed and out of the house by 9.15 am! A record for us I'm sure but it made a nice change. We took the dog for a long walk in the nearby woods, it was very, very muddy but that only added to the children's enjoyment. Ruben looked for letters on the tree trunks-he found a 'H' and Cordelia found an 'O', they also found some purple fungi (as yet to be identified, a job for tomorrow!). Piper enjoyed herself having a go at twig surfing! And we found the 'Seldom Seen Engine House' again too, always nice to see a familiar face on a walk.

Daddy did some more D.I.Y today, yesterday he started this project with Ruben and today he had another driving lesson over to the D.I.Y store to pick up some more wood. A couple of years ago we lived near a scrapstore, it was very cheap and had lots of really great craft stuff for the children and me at very low cost. I bought quite a lot of sample books, the kind you look at when picking a new pair of curtains in a department store. Many of them were designer fabrics such as Ralph Lauren and they cost me between 30p-£1 for each book. Hence why I haven't bought much material in the last few years. I have made lots of things out of the material-tote bags, stuffed birds & hearts (my MIL has even made me table runners with the different fabrics) cushions etc. Hubby noticed this fab fish material I had a while ago and decided that he wanted to use it for something. Its been sta in a cupboard for ages so today he finished what he started yesterday and we now have 4 fabulous fish pictures hanging in our living room, they are so unique-I love them!

 The rest of the afternoon was spent playing Warhammer, colouring in Top Model books and having a meat and potato pie for tea. A homemade syrup pudding and a film has finished off what has been a a lovely but busy weekend. I'm already in love with 2012 :-)