Asthma and Behaviour Difficulties

Written to put on a forum about asthma and children:

I googled asthma and behaviour today and it shot articles straight back to me on how children with asthma have more behaviour problems.

This article  says “The stress related to having asthma might contribute to behavioral problems because the family’s focus on the medical issue may make managing behavior more difficult. Or, on the other hand, behavior problems may make managing asthma symptoms more difficult,” said lead author Jill Halterman, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong.

This seems to be the general feeling behind most of the articles that I read: that the behaviour difficulties come from the parents’  and how they are dealing with it or that the behaviour problems are making the asthma worse.

Now, I’m not feeling very well at the moment and my behaviour is definitely worse.  I wouldn’t be able to be generous and reasonable if asked to do things I don’t want to do.  Surely it could be as simple as the asthma symptoms (even slight ones) make the child anxious, intense, aggressive, upset, demanding, unreasonable etc, etc, particularly with young children as I say who are not able to verbalise their symptoms or tell anyone they are feeling under the weather.

I found this mainstream article about allergic reactions and one of the symptoms when you have been affected by the allergen is “An impending sense of doom.”

A generalised (systemic) allergic reaction – rare but serious

The venom can cause your immune system to react more strongly. This may cause one or more of the following:

  • Itchy skin in many parts of the body, followed by an itchy blotchy rash that can appear anywhere on the body.
  • Swelling of your face which may extend to the lips, tongue, throat, and upper airway.
  • A sense of impending doom.
  • Abdominal cramps and feeling sick.
  • Dilation of the blood vessel which can cause:
    • General redness of your skin.
    • A fast heart rate.
    • Low blood pressure which can make you feel faint, or even to collapse.
  • Wheezing or difficulty in breathing due to an asthma attack or throat swelling.”

I would have thought that you might feel “A sense of impending doom” with any of the other symptoms listed anyway but they listed it as if it is a separate symptom in it’s own right.  Asthma is, of course, an allergic reaction but not a systemic one but I’m still left wondering if hormonal and/or emotional reactions are involved even in the slightest asthma attack, particularly with young children.

Could the allergy itself cause an emotional impact?  It says here that the adrenaline that is produced as a natural reaction to the airways constricting in order to dilate them again can also cause increased heart rate.

Increased adrenaline produces increased heart rate, blood flow is shunted away from the skin and toward the muscles and internal organs, increased blood sugar, increased metabolic rate, dilated pupils and bronchodilation.

If I could understand this article it might help but I don’t.   To my untrained eye it seems to be saying once again that they are trying to find out whether stress is making the asthma worse.  I am wondering here whether a level of that stress is caused by having the asthma in the first place.

In my grand study that I am doing with my 4 children and no scientific knowledge,  I have two that don’t have asthma (number 1 and number 3) and two that do (number 2 and number 4).  Number 3 is like a first child again because of the age gap and I’ve been reflecting how interesting it is that number 1 and 3 have both been very easy going, undemanding, outgoing, get on with it sort of children and I have often put this down to being first children and getting enough attention.  Number 2 and number 4 have both been very intense and rather challenging as toddlers.  Number 2 was often unhappy with new situations, sensitive, clingy (I hate that word because I don’t see it as a negative), intense, reluctant to allow change and got angry sometimes which I’ve never seen 1 and 3 do as young children.  Number 4 is more outgoing but gets very angry and upset and shouts.   Some of this I have put down to being a fourth child but I have been noticing patterns in his behaviour recently and I think perhaps he is struggling with slight asthma more often than I think.  I notice the bigger attacks of course and he has already been in to the local hospital twice.  I don’t have the same difficulty in accepting I can’t prevent it as I did with number 2 so I do deal with it when I see it but I wonder if it is more of an issue than I thought.

Like most parents I like to think I give my children as much of a stress free environment as I can. I’m sure this time round that I am not passing on any stress to number 4 with how I am dealing with his asthma.  I’m pretty convinced that his intensity, panic and anger are caused by something to do with his asthma, occasional though it is.  Perhaps he is just having asthma attacks when he gets a cold as I think he does but perhaps even that has set up a pattern of him feeling panicked and he goes in to “fight and flight” mode more often than he might do otherwise.

On the other hand, perhaps I just need to give him m0re attention and I’m looking for excuses.  I’m used to taking things on the chin and I’ve been there but just don’t think that I’m doing that much wrong, beyond the normal imperfect parenting we all suffer from.  He’s like Jekyll and Hyde and I have no doubt that Jekyll will win out because he is a beautiful, loving, affectionate, generous boy who just gets stressed sometimes.

With my number 2 child his intensity has turned out to be an asset as he is the most sensitive, loving, caring lad I know.  He really is a very special eleven year old and although he still has asthma it is much more occasional and doesn’t cause him the same levels of stress that it did when he was younger so he deals with it better emotionally.

So I am just writing this to affirm the faith I feel in my littlest and to encourage any other parents out there who are finding the behaviour of your asthmatic children difficult.   It might just be that the stress is caused by the asthma, not that your child has a stressful life in the first place.  I believe that loving parents are the best possible people in the world to support and help their little ones with understanding and patience.

If there’s anyone out there who can shed any light or thoughts or personal experiences on this please do!

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Excusez-moi, s’il vous plait, move your fat bum out the way

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This is camping all over.  One minute there we are in a 5m x 2m space with Oscar trying to read a book and getting cross with Anton and Dante who are clobbering him with their feet while rolling around on the bed.  Meanwhile Lucas is trying to swat mosquitos with Oscar’s book and I am trying to cook pasta without burning anyone.  The next minute there we are cycling along a deserted beach in to a beautiful sunset.

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(And yes, those are pyjamas)

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We had a couple of evenings out on the beach where Joth taught Anton and Lucas how to skid in style and we played ball with the little ones.

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Luckily there were many more of the wonderful moments than there were of the other sort even though Dante had just come down with a cold and his asthma flared up again for the first few days of the holiday.  Even after the cold had gone he was out of sorts.  He kept waking up in the night too, completely beside himself.  I apologised to the tent next to us and the man said in broken English “It normal,” and then mimed asking me whether he was finding it hard to breathe.  I was surprised that he could tell he was asthmatic from his crying at night but he was right.  I think he wakes up with his heart racing and finding it difficult to breath.  I sat up with him one night propped up against me.  He was very volatile during the days for the beginning of the holiday and I had to take him off to work out his temper by sitting in the car with him until he’d calmed down a couple of times.  It’s very difficult to take him away from a situation on a campsite in any other way!  Still, it worked as I only had to ask him if he wanted to go back in the car if his temper was getting out of hand for him to pull him up.  He’ back to being Mr Jekyll again now though.  He can be so smiley and so affectionate.

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The second part of this French holiday was in the Ile de Re, at a campsite right on a 5km stretch of beach.

Dad, Dave and Charlie came to join us for a week there and we’ve just finished the couple of days we had tagged on the end after they’d gone.  We’re setting off back to England tomorrow via another campsite in Normandy and Brian and Sita’s to break up a very long journey.  But my goodness, the journey was worth it.  I can’t imagine a holiday that could have suited us more.

We had a pitch right next to the tent that Dave and Dad had hired.  The campsite was sandy and dry and the pitches were quite close together but it didn’t bother us as we were next to them of course!   Once again we seemed to be the only family with children on the site.  I think French schools must also be very strict about taking holidays out of season.

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The beach was just over a sand dune which worked perfectly as we could all go there when we wanted.

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(The procession to the beach)

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David was chuffed that Charlie really took to the sea.   We had a lovely time with the three little ones in the boat too and Anton loved swimming in the sea with his arm bands on.  He couldn’t stop laughing so he swallowed loads of water.

The sea went from being calm to having some great waves which the older ones loved!

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And Anton had a go too!

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There was also a lovely play area on site which they could just go off to when they wanted to

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and a BMX park with ramps for the older ones.  Oscar went there almost every day even though his mountain bike is rather clumsy for such things.

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(That was Oscar! Sorry, I don’t know how to get a good sports picture in poor light!)

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Dad and Dave hired bikes and we seemed to get in to a pattern of packing a French bread picnic and going off for a bike ride for the middle of the day, returning in time to go to the beach for a bit before tea.  It worked beautifully.  Everyone enjoyed the bikes, even the wobbliest of us gained confidence and the little ones were perched on their seats by the handlebars, chatting away as we rode.  Joth managed to tow Anton on the tailgator and have Dante on the front.  I didn’t realise how much of a hero he was being until I tried it and couldn’t get up the gentle slope to the campsite!

It was particularly hard when Dante fell asleep!

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There weren’t many slopes at all though.  The island is almost completely flat which I thought might make it boring but there are smooth well maintained cycle tracks everywhere: through vineyards, by the salt lakes, along the coast, through the woods.  As David said, once you got going you felt you could cycle all day, it was so easy.  And it was the perfect way to see the beautiful, unspoilt French villages and towns which seemed to be almost as they might have been without cars as so many people cycle.  Cycling gave us the time to notice and appreciate the towns as we drove and then walked through the streets.

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We also stopped often to throw stones in the water or just admire the view.

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So it wasn’t just about the getting there, the journey was just as lovely and we weren’t looking for extra excitements.  An ice cream a day did us, so apart from one meal out on our last night with Dad and Dave, we didn’t spend any money on anything other than food to cook in our camper which was no more expensive than at home.

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(ice creams)

We had French bread, cheese, meats, anchovies and olives every day wherever we were.  Here was on a bench in a town square where the natives were playing boules and the little ones could run about after their bike ride:

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Or here in the woods:

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Some of us managed the odd civilised expresso.

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and when we got to Saint Martin, the biggest town on the island, we swapped ice creams for waffles

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and here in Ars en Re we had crepes:

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The meals at the campsite we easy and fun

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and we ate at the campsite every evening except for the last memorable evening with Dad, Dave and Charlie when we went off to find a restuarant.  It turned out to be more difficult than we thought to find one but in the end we stumbled upon a place that was just right for us.  The little ones were happy with saute potatoes while the rest of us had steaks.

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The evenings were spent playing games.

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Dad, Dave, Oscar and Lucas made up a foursome for bridge on several evenings and we played other games too: Rummycube, Whist, Dixit, Pass the Bomb and Monarchy.  It wore some people out more than others:

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Dad played a joke on us one night after we thought he’d gone to bed and he banged on the sides of the tent when we were laughing raucously and it frightened the living daylights out of us!  We thought someone was getting cross with us on the campsite.  The boys tried to play some tricks back by setting up a very bad bridge hand for him and emptying out the decent beer in his bottle for the 1% stuff I’d bought by mistake.  The boys enjoyed my mistake though as they drank 1% beer and 2% cider.  I’m not sure I should be encouraging their taste for it, but when in Rome and all that.

The kids played well together.  Dante and Charlie liked their cars and both chose one from the shop and then Dante promptly decided he preferred Charlies’ when we got back.  Sigh!

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Dante and Charlie amused us with their little chats together:  “”Charlie’s turn, Dante’s turn,” they would both recite endlessly and the hello’s in the morning could go on for ages.  Charlie introduced Dante and Anton to lotto which was a great hit.

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Charlie also entertained us by reciting the whole of the Gruffalo and we entertained him by reading it again several hundred times!

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Things I learnt this holiday:

1.  I should take more photos of the children at the beginning of the holiday before the mozzies get at them

2.  Oscar likes Mr Men stories.  He was found reading them in the tent by himself on more than one occasion!

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3.  I really love cycling on flat terrain!

4.  The feeling of getting fitter rather than fatter on holiday was a good one.

5.  Sand in my bed but is not pleasant but if I’ve cycled far enough it won’t stop me sleeping!

6.  I don’t mind cooking for 9 appreciative people on a campstove.

7.  Joth and I work well as a team on holiday.   We both just get on with what is needed without making a song and dance about it and I so appreciate the effort Joth has gone to to make the whole camper + bikes thing work.

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Our final evening!

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French Part 1

The first part of our French holiday is over.

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We were staying at a campsite near Puy de Fou, the historical theme park we visited three years ago and have wanted to come back to ever since.  It didn’t disappoint.  We had a two day ticket and saw all the shows including the Cinescene which is a major panoramic show at night complete with a light display on the chateau which forms the backdrop, galloping knights, an entire war scene, fireworks and dancing.  It’s impossible to describe.  If you are ever in a position to see it I would recommend it to anyone.  It is like nothing I have ever seen anywhere else.  I think Oscar loved the experience of being in a big crowd and doing the Mexican wave (we guessed there were about 10,000 people in the audience)  as much as the show itself.  It makes me think how much fun he and Lucas will have to come at festivals, big concerts and football matches etc

The show is described as: “The biggest night show in the world, where 1,200 actors using 6,000 costumes with 70 horsemen and all of the latest technology entertain you for 1 hour and 40 minutes with a show that is as awesome as it is breathtaking. It is a true “Son et lumière” a medieval pageant play displayed with 21st century technology.
The show tells the history of the Vendée as seen through the eyes of a small boy over the period from just before the start of the Wars of the Vendée in 1793 through two centuries to the present day.
The Stage covers over 70 acres and is the largest stage in the world, the water fountains and firework display are the largest of their kind held on a regular basis in Europe.”

Anton and Dante slept through it of course as it started at 10pm and went on until midnight but now we have an excuse to bring them back in a few years time.  They loved all the other shows though.

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(in the Roman arena)

The Vikings was Anton’s particular favourite. The whole experience felt such a treat and it was wonderful doing something together like that.  The older boys are funny though.  They don’t hold back with their criticisms.  We saw The Muskateer show which involved flamenco dancers and horses dancing together on an indoor stage that was flooded with water to reflect the lights and breath taking swordsmanship but the boys just said they didn’t like the dancing and Oscar said he preferred the last show we’d seen with the knights as they had more jousting and the jester had been good.  He had remembered such detail.  They still loved it though.

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(buying Muskateer swords in the shop)

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Battling with them in the deserted play area at the campsite!

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The campsite was great.  We had booked ourselves a clear day before the Puy de Fou to get some food in, settle in and use the swimming pool on site which proved a good idea as the travelling had taken us so much longer than we had originally planned and we needed a quiet day.  When planning timings I hadn’t realised that the speed limit for trailers in France is 55mph so that made a significant difference.  We left our campsite in Dover at 6.15am for a 7.35am ferry and arrived at our campsite in Les Epesses at 6.30pm.  We had only taken 1/2hr break.  The kids were amazing, particularly as it was boiling hot.  We listened to “Cabin Pressure” all the way, which is the boys latest Radio 4 comedy that they are in to.  It’s so nice when we all enjoy the same thing.  Dante and Anton just ate endless bits and pieces and played on the Nintendos.  Dante just stabs at the screen but it seems to amuse him for quite a while.

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After we’d set up and the kids had made themselves at home with the campsite playground we went to the campsite restuarant for a meal.  It was an very ordinary meal of things with chips but it felt like manna from heaven and it was lovely being able to sit out late in to the evening.  It did cost 56 Euros though so it spurred me on to take a leisurely trip to the supermarket the next morning while Joth set off with the kids on bikes around the lake next to the campsite.  The older boys love being able to go off on their bikes whenever they want.

We did have a couple of really lovely swims in their outdoor pool as the sun was shining.  Dante absolutely refused to get in swimming trunks or a swim nappy though so he just played with his cars by the sun chairs.  Anton and the older boys stayed in for hours.

We had a great time in the couple of days we spent at Puy de Fou.  I think I spend so much time inputting with the children I bask in the experience of them gaining so much excitement and fun where I can enjoy it too without having to do much!

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shared birthdays

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We had a wonderful weekend at my brothers to celebrate Dante and C’s birthdays.  Oscar had an OU seminar so we didn’t make it until lunchtime but we packed in a lot of fun in.  We opened presents over lunch…

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…and then in the afternoon we walked down to the beach with the buckets and spades.  The little ones were completely engrossed and the bigger ones were good company and completely happy to potter with us.  We also went on a short walk along the barrier that keeps some of the sea near the beach.  Dante made me laugh so much by insisting on running the whole way.  There was no stopping him!

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C and Dante shared a chocolate Mars Bar cake with 2 candles each to blow out:

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And we all shared a meal of lemon chicken

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We really had a wonderful, gentle day of just enjoying being together.  I can’t get over how wonderful it feels to see D so content in his flat.  We’re trying to see each other every month if we can.  We want the kids to be used to seeing a lot of each other.

The older two were made up on this occasion because we left them there overnight and they came back on the train the next day after an evening of playing playstation on D’s projector and a morning of a fry up and a trip to the arcade.  They came back very happy boys!

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Thoughts on the train

I thought I should write just about the experience of going away for a couple of days as it’s the first night I’ve spent away from Dante.  I’m used to working long days of course but it was different being away for a night and I was relieved to find that I haven’t lost the ability to sleep through the night.  I was amazed to hear that Julie had been up to see to Granny three times in the night and I hadn’t heard a thing.  Dante was also easily settled by Joth in the night so we’re going to continue with Joth sleeping with him to get him out of the habit of feeding in the night.

The train journeys were also an unusual chance to be by myself without being able to do hundreds of things.  I had a terrible train journey on the way back as all the trains to Birmingham were cancelled – no reason, no alternatives suggested (Grrr!) so I had plenty of chance on my 4 different trains and various stations to think.  I couldn’t take a laptop as I need internet to do most things so I took the chance to sew an edge on Dante’s blanket and listen to Simon Callow’s monologue about Charles Dickens and an autobiography by Jeanette Winterson.  Both were excellent and I loved the chance to be lifted completely out of my own world.  I also found going through Birmingham and Liverpool quite a jolt so that was quite thought provoking.  I feel we are in a pocket in Totnes, and it confirms just how at home I feel here.   I feel a sense of community in Totnes even amongst people I don’t know.  It feels worth not dropping litter (not that I would anyway) and looking after the place and it’s people simply because it’s “ours,” – we own it in Totnes but does anyone feel like that about a city?  It’s hard to put it in to words but it has something to do with being a part of a manageable sized community where individuals can make a difference.  Once again I don’t feel that bigger is better but I know others do.  I’m glad however, that I did “do” cities once and hope that my children will.  A wide range of experiences matters.

And a wide range of reading matters too I think.  Listening to the MP3’s made me think about how much reading has added to my life.  I also feel that many of my most thought provoking friends have been avid readers.  Understanding people is crucial for connecting with them and for sustaining satisfying relationships and reading lets us get inside other people’s heads in a way nothing else can.  Lucas reads a lot but I really want to encourage Oscar to read more.  Spoken word CDs can be great for that too but he’s got stuck on 19 CDs worth of Lord of the Rings for the last few months and they seem to have to listen to them over and over because one of them seems to always forget where they are so it’s become endless!  I will have to build reading time in more carefully for Oscar I think.  One of the issues has been that they are starting to go to bed too late which means Joth and I don’t spend much time together by ourselves (and are feeling tetchy with each other as a result) and I don’t think Lucas is getting enough sleep or reading time.

As you can tell, my thinking spilled over in to home education.   I found myself thinking about how fast time is moving along.  When Oscar and Lucas were little I felt I grasped at each day, begrudging how quickly time was running through my fingers but I think I feel I’ve spun time out by having more little ones and having the older ones at home so I’ve felt less panicky about it but it still moves on whether I think about it or not and I was thinking that it’s only about 4 1/2 years until Oscar will be 18.  I was also thinking that the way they play together won’t last for ever either.  We’re at quite a lovely stage now with the trickiest part of babyhood behind us and it feels such fun these days.  I love it and want to make the most of every minute.

I found myself thinking more about community and caring for strangers when there was standing room only on one train.  We were crammed in for an hour without room even to sit in the aisles when a seat came up between me and the chap standing next to me.  We’d already joked about the cramped conditions and he offered me the seat.  I said he should have it as he had further to go but he insisted and so I sat.  I was feeling good about having tried to offer it to him but realised a bit later when someone else got up to go that there had been an old gentleman standing several people away.  I hadn’t thought to look around.

I sheepishly buried myself in the paper and read a quote from the Dalai Lama (a twitter actually!): “As you develop a more compassionate attitude, you feel less anxiety, while your determination and self-confidence increase.”  Now I really like that.  I haven’t thought about the benefits to oneself of being compassionate but it makes sense that a true self confidence would come from knowing you cared for others.  If you act out of compassion you can act with more certainty and confidence.

I need more practise in caring for others I think.  I almost look forward to the time when I can think more about people outside of my family.  Even my principles are in waiting I feel.  I used to want to save the world, or at least some of it, and I’ve compromised in so many ways.  I try to feel OK about it as making my life slightly easier and more manageable has meant I am a more relaxed mum.  For instance the choice to let go of restricting Lucas’s diet was a hard one but one that on balance feels right.  I felt it was affecting his view of how “friendly” the world was and his frustrations at not being able to eat most of the food he saw others eating were affecting him in more ways than just food.  That said I would like to claw back a bit more healthy eating with the children.  White bread seems to have crept in as a fairly usual item these days for instance.  I will never feel completely right about not being vegan though.  The dairy industry is inseparable from the meat industry and neither are sustainable anyway.    I wonder how I can know this and still carry on eating meat.

Time to myself felt very precious.  I’d like more of it but then I’d also like Joth to have more time to read, go out with friends, have time by himself etc and I’d like to give the boys some one on one time every now and then, I’d like Joth and I to go out by ourselves or do some workshops together for fun and connection and I’d like to do some exercise class or go for a swim or ….   Oh, unless we stop working or something we can’t possibly fit it in so we’ll just have to muddle on the best we can as we usually do!

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A mixed bag

I feel like writing this post to remind me of all the good things we did this week as I was so irritated today I could happily have ridden my bike off in to the sunset when we were at Halden Forest today.   Not a peaceful day for me, but a good one for everyone else I think.  I’m not sure how that happens really as if one of them is in a bad mood it seems to affect everyone but when it’s just me they all seem totally oblivious which gets me even more irrate of course.  Hmmm.

Happily though today was unusual as I have had some lovely days this week – in fact some near perfect ones where I feel I’ve achieved things that have made me feel good (a good playing experience with another quartet and nice friends and lots of organising both the house and home ed thingies) and the boys have also had some really special, relaxed times.

I do end up chivying them off the screen every now and then but they’re pretty good about it anyway.  Oscar can tend to spend rather a lot of time  watching lots of Youtube videos of other people doing creative Warhammer projects and I always want to ask why he doesn’t do them himself rather than watch them but then we’re all guilty of that in different ways (as I know from spending hours looking at other people doing amazing crafty things with their children on their blogs).  He has done a lot of painting his figures, tending his bonsai trees and he and Lucas have been playing lots of Dungeons and Dragons. Lucas has been reading a lot and playing with Anton.  They’ve also seen a lot of friends and Anton has seen lots of M too.

This has also involved lots of nerf gun battles and they built a barracade out of cardboard with this amazing kit I had bought for the holidays.  It contains a couple of plastic saws that are totally safe but cut through the cardboard really well so the kids can use them.  It also contains clips and hinges that mean they can easily build things out of cardboard themselves.  It was such fun.

With the aid of their little helpers (!) the older boys turned this cardboard

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in to this barricade

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and Anton built this kitchen

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They worked at it for ages…

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I was even more excited then they were!  It always makes for more fun all round if they can tell I’m properly enjoying myself.  For instance I don’t like playing dinosaurs much but I will happily create scenery for Anton to play dinosaurs with which makes his game more fun and I don’t like playing nerf guns but I can make a barracade with the best of them.  And I absolutely love seeing them have such fun together.  I only have to remind myself that they won’t be wanting to have pillow fights for ever and I find myself grabbing a pillow and having a great fight like we did the other day.

I also treated us to some beeswax modelling wax this holiday.  I have looked at it for years and not been able to justify the money (all £7.50 of it) but wish I’d bought it ages ago.  Anton doesn’t like Fimo because of the smell but this beeswax is perfect.  It smells lovely and feels so nice to work with.

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You have to warm it first and I found tucking it inside my clothes was the best way but kept finding bits of it in my waistband later!  Lucas made the Easter chick, Anton made the green transformer in a house and I made a bunny (I find the best way to stop myself interfering in their work is to do my own)

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but they highlight for me was seeing Anton make this.

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He needed only minimal help and stuck with it for ages.  The wonderful thing about beeswax is that you can warm it again and remould it when you want.

On my holiday list of a few fun things to do this week was also make some bath paints.  I was surprised though that on the first day they didn’t catch on like they did last time.  Lucas put graffiti on the wall and that was it

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Oh well.  You can’t win them all.  Please note, the bath paints do explain the colour of the water.  Anton’s dinosaurs have been taking pride of place in the bath all week though.  They are definitely flavour of the month.

Anton did find a use for the bath paints tonight though as Oscar had come off his bike today and sustained various injuries:

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Anton didn’t want to be outdone so he painted “blood” all over his legs.

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Oscar and Joth had been doing the RED trail at Halden Forest today (This is a 6 mile technical, fast and flowing trail with tight corners and lively descents to test your reflexes. Only for experienced riders with appropriate bikes and protective equipment.)  Joth is coming to terms with the fact that Oscar has more stamina than him these days.  It’s hitting him hard but I think Joth does really well to do it at all particularly with the amount of exercise he doesn’t get chance to do.  There’s always some bugger that overtakes you though, usually running with their bike slung over their shoulder, and with more grey hair than you have.

Lucas came with me to do the 1.5 mile easy trail but with the duff bike, Dante on the front and Anton on the tailgator on the back I was still pathetically challenged by it.  Still it was fun.

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Anton went off by himself round the training tracks.

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And Dante potters about

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We all had a drink together at the end.

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and then we came home for an important lesson in division.  The learning never stops.

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After baths we ate hot cross buns in front of  “Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2” which was actually rather funny and turned out to be a good choice for a family film.   There was one mock scary horror moment which scared Anton though and he’s not usually scared so I do hope it won’t bother him for long.

Sadly, although I wanted to dwell on the better things this week I have to record that Oscar’s rat died last night.  Oscar was pretty shocked when he found her and we put her in a shoe box and Oscar and I dug a grave in the garden.  I lit a candle on the earth and Lucas, Oscar and I just got tearful there together for a bit.  We’ve had lots of tears and cuddles.  He hasn’t said much about how he’s feeling but has been happy to be cuddled and this morning when he was still tearful I tentatively tried to voice a few of my thoughts to see if any resonated with him.  He nodded a lot when I talked about regrets and how whenever I’ve lost someone or some pet I’ve always wished I could have one more day with them just to do all the things I wish I’d done and said before they died.  I think there will be quite a lot of guilt in there because I’ve had to nag all the way through to make sure they were cleaned out, fed and taken out of their cage.  They were due a clean out and I can only hope that we didn’t speed her death along by any action, or non action on our part.   I find having caged animals such a worry.  I feel so guilty about their little lives being at our mercy.  I thought these rats made wonderful pets though.  So gentle and undemanding and yet intelligent and curious and she stayed on you when you got her out of her cage.  She has taught Oscar valuable lessons with her little life.

Lucas’s rat is still here of course and she must be missing her sister terribly.  It feels awful.

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It’s home education but not as we knew it before

I’ve been really chuffed with how Oscar and Lucas are being inspired with the new education blogs (here and here) that I have set up to guide their work.  It’s been one of the best, most workable ideas for home ed that we’ve ever done.  They both use their Google “to do” lists and calendars and it’s made an enormous difference.   It’s funny how I had just assumed before that because I had a clear list in my head of work to do, they would too and they didn’t of course.

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I’m finding so many interesting things to link to and suggest, and then they’re taking those suggestions further and finding other things that interest them and all in all, their days which were busy anyway, are now busier then ever.  There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.  My mind is also buzzing with ways to take their interests further.  L has been writing stories using story cards, doing some great art work from this site, and looking at bridges.  O has been making swords from foam board from this amazing site which is inspiring him no end with incredible projects, learning to crotchet (yes, following his interest not mine) and is planning to make his own forge in our garden for £30!  Hmmmm!   He has also been doing well with his OU French course and got 83% for his last assignment with the comment that his spoken recording was better than some of his adult peers (thanks for the coaching Grandad!)  There is a lot to do but I think it makes sense to learn a language this way as perhaps it sticks better if you have to do a lot of it in one go.   He is using a great website called Quizlet to put his vocab in to learn.

He spent ages sewing on his badges for sea cadets as they have a parade on Thursday.  He was watching Muzzy in French while he was doing it and admittedly he did sew the sleeve together!  He also didn’t even think of asking me to sew it on for him which either says I’m a very unhelpful mother, or he is nicely independent and very unsexist (unlike Joth who shakes his head when he sees Oscar threading a needle and says “I don’t know how you do it Oscar, that’s amazing” and can’t see why I’m not praising him.  I cannot see why women should be any better at sewing a patch on than a man or what is difficult about it.)  Maybe Oscar just didn’t trust me not to sew the sleeve together too.

Incidentally Oscar was convinced that he would need glasses today and his eyes were fine but she said to make sure they keep reading at a distance and don’t pull the book too close as it can cause short sighted-ness as can straining your eyes in bad light.  I wonder if that’s how I ended up short sighted, reading for hours when I was young in the light coming in from the landing when I should have been asleep, resting the book on my face as I lay on my side because I was too lazy to hold the book up!

Anyway, we’re following up on the boys ideas with a visit to the Steiner Storytelling festival this weekend with a puppet show for Anton and Dante and live storytelling and a Blacksmith workshop for Oscar and Lucas.  Oscar is also playing for a Tango weekend with an Argentinian musician leading it next weekend.  Lots of good and interesting things.

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(not quite sure why the dinosaurs have to be IN the porridge!)

And they are not the only busy ones.  Dante is still working away at the serious business of being a toddler and making himself understood.  He is so utterly delightful I could eat him.  I often try actually.  I’m constantly trying to grab him for another cuddle.  Luckily he loves his cuddles.

Anton has been busy too.  He has been busy doing magic tricks and not to be outdone by his big brothers working on the computers, he has now worked out how to use google translate.  Oscar has shown him the all important button where you can get the computer to speak the words you type:

Anton is so sociable and wants to be with groups of other children and I often run school through my mind to check that I feel OK about not sending him.  I never want to find that I have fallen in to home educating the younger ones just because we’re doing it already.  I just know it wouldn’t suit any of us though, least of all Anton to send him off for for 5 days a week.  2 or  3 mornings a week of an imaginative, fun environment would feel very different.   I have so many concerns about schools but for a start it would be too prescriptive and I can’t bear the idea that we couldn’t take him out for days which I know to be more important than school at that age if we were to see family or go on holiday or for a trip or just if he was tired for goodness sake.  I wish there were such a thing as a true parent/school partnership.  I feel parents are guilty until proven otherwise in this system somehow.  We’ve forgotten who is there to support who I think.  It just feels a shame that after toddler groups there is nothing really suitable around here for 3+ yr olds other than nurseries where you leave them.  Even if he wanted to go there he would be left high and dry when he was school age.

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Anyway, Anton is busy with his activities (I have even made him a blog too so he can choose craft activities – http://alljustfun.wordpress.com/) and we have made waterproof puppetsclothes peg dinosaurs,  puffy paint and have sown herbs for the kitchen windowsill.  I also ordered a play frame (belated Christmas present for him and Dante) which has been put to very good use as a cafe (he has made his own menu) and a shop.

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I’ve moved some of the books from the shelves in the sitting room to make more space for their toys so the sitting room is more play friendly.  It is my mission to try to put out a craft activity in the kitchen and some different toys in the living room every day.  I will be sorting out Anton’s bedroom and clothes once again this week as we have a new lodger already with us in O’s room and one more arriving at the end of the week who will go in to Anton’s room so his shelves have to be cleared again.

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Clearing out rooms always makes me feel quite nostalgic when I sort clothes they’ve grown out of.  We’re in a very different place than we were 7 years ago when we moved down here.  We had energy then to undertake projects I wouldn’t take on now.  Time is too short.  I wouldn’t do another extension for instance now – the cost in terms of time and energy would be too much.  I can’t ever imagine doing a project like that unless we had the money to have a completely hands off approach.  I suppose this is just what growing older entails.  I know now that life is too short already to fit all I want to in it.  I can’t have every cake and eat it (although I do try in more ways than one!)  I look at parents of younger children and remember how it felt to feel that there are endless possibilities of what your children could be and do.  Now I think I feel more that I just want to make sure they are happy and emotionally adjusted and have lots of options but it is what they choose to grab is up to them.  It’s tempting as a home educating parent to feel you have to grab it all for them.  You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him thirsty.  They have to want it.  I suppose it feels better in that I don’t think it’s all in my hands though.

The BBC rang again the other day.  It’s nice they haven’t forgotten me.  I even thought I might be able to do it until I realised I had a quartet concert.  I have really enjoyed some of the quartet concerts I have been lucky enough to do recently and the A level composition workshops again.  My teaching is also going well too with quite a few new ones.

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