School matters

Yesterday was YoungMan’s parent teacher evening. As his second cousin is staying at the moment, we asked her if she would mind keeping an eye on him while we spoke to three of YoungMan’s teachers.

Foggy, of course, sees them all on a daily basis and hears snippets from time to time. For me, it was the first time I had met the teacher who has YoungMan for his core subjects ie English, Maths and Science. Ironically, given the first topic, said teacher is Italian.

Maestro genuinely likes the cheeky little wretch and is clearly enjoying teaching YoungMan, so this is a good start… His main point to us was on the topic of assessments and how YoungMan had suffered exam stress to the point of getting only 20% as a grade in one subject… and when given the same sort of task in class the following day, when it didn’t matter, scored 100%.

Soooo, what’s causing it and what is the solution? Maestro’s theory is that YoungMan is desperately keen to please (which is part of what makes him charming on a regular basis) but in a formal exam setting, he is not getting the instant feedback as to whether an adult is pleased with him or not, so he becomes paralysed by choice, and that anxiety feeds into him making the wrong choice.

His suggestion for how to counter it - and Maestro was rather emphatic on the topic - was that we must give YoungMan lots of praise and reassurance that we know that he is clever, and capable, and remind him that we hear from his teachers on a regular basis that he is doing well in class, therefore Foggy and I are proud of him and pleased with his achievements.

Today, we had a golden opportunity to do just that: YoungMan has been selected for the Gifted and Talented extra-curricular ICT class, which is by invitation only and held on a Monday afternoon after school for the rest of the year.

I told him about the invitation in the car on the way home and we all talked about it over dinner, pointing out in the clearest terms that it was a compliment reflecting YoungMan’s ability and enthusiasm, and that we thought it right and fair that he’d been included in the Gifted and Talented program. I shall keep you informed (once I find out what it is!!) of the project in question, because I am sure ITGirl and ComputerGenius, amongst others, will want to know.

Winner

He won! He won! YoungMan’s “Custard the Dragon” project was voted the best in his class. This may be related to the fact that the boys had just shared the cookies, but who am I to quibble?

Signed, proud Mummy.

******************************

Oh, and we made ourselves even more popular with his teacher by taking the butterflies to school to be shown off and released. I am enjoying the reflected glory…!

We have butterflies!!!

I will take better pictures later,  but YoungMan is bouncing around excitedly,  insisting we make nectar for them and exclaiming 

"I love my butterflies to bits" and

"I’m going to bring my Lego downstairs to show my butterflies",

the latter of which two statements giving a real insight into the thought process of an eight year old boy!

We have butterflies!!!

I will take better pictures later, but YoungMan is bouncing around excitedly, insisting we make nectar for them and exclaiming

"I love my butterflies to bits" and

"I’m going to bring my Lego downstairs to show my butterflies",

the latter of which two statements giving a real insight into the thought process of an eight year old boy!

The Tale of Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash has been a favourite poem of mine since childhood and so YoungMan was introduced to it early and has enjoyed it as much as I do…

His prep this week has been to create a project with the theme “courage” and after much discussion and considerably more inaction,  YoungMan concluded that it would be amusing to make gingerbread on the theme of Custard the Dragon - this may have been prompted in very small part by my purchase of a pirate cookie cutter in the summer holidays,  but who knows?

He used “candy melts” - which,  as far as I can tell are white chocolate buttons - to decorate the gingerbread along with assorted small bits I have lurking in the cupboard (sugar eyes,  writing icing,  edible glitter)…

I have to admit,  dear reader,  to being a tiny bit underwhelmed when I looked at the results,  so I wimped out and wrote a letter to his teacher,  trying shamelessly to influence the marking.

I explained he had had to multiply the recipe by three to make sufficient gingerbread,  and that he had done all the weighing,  measuring and mixing himself… and that he wanted the teachers to taste the gingerbread after (as a part of?) the marking process. 

I concluded my letter by warning her (as I found out the hard way last night when assisting with the preparation of the candy melts) that the green food colouring looks pretty but tastes completely disgusting.  If I am using it for decoration any time soon,  please remind me to find a way to mask the flavour!!!

The Tale of Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash has been a favourite poem of mine since childhood and so YoungMan was introduced to it early and has enjoyed it as much as I do…

His prep this week has been to create a project with the theme “courage” and after much discussion and considerably more inaction, YoungMan concluded that it would be amusing to make gingerbread on the theme of Custard the Dragon - this may have been prompted in very small part by my purchase of a pirate cookie cutter in the summer holidays, but who knows?

He used “candy melts” - which, as far as I can tell are white chocolate buttons - to decorate the gingerbread along with assorted small bits I have lurking in the cupboard (sugar eyes, writing icing, edible glitter)…

I have to admit, dear reader, to being a tiny bit underwhelmed when I looked at the results, so I wimped out and wrote a letter to his teacher, trying shamelessly to influence the marking.

I explained he had had to multiply the recipe by three to make sufficient gingerbread, and that he had done all the weighing, measuring and mixing himself… and that he wanted the teachers to taste the gingerbread after (as a part of?) the marking process.

I concluded my letter by warning her (as I found out the hard way last night when assisting with the preparation of the candy melts) that the green food colouring looks pretty but tastes completely disgusting. If I am using it for decoration any time soon, please remind me to find a way to mask the flavour!!!

Getting there with the butterflies… They are all now cocooned and working hard on growing some wings :-)

We have put them into the butterfly habitat, so that they have space to fly when they hatch. The weather has warmed up a bit, which bodes well for their survival once they emerge…

No blogworthy photo?  Oh no!!

YoungMan and I went shopping on Saturday while we were waiting for Foggy to get back from an exhibition,  before we went to a party at HoxtonFin’s.  We’d got what we went for,  then had half an hour to kill before Foggy’s train was due,  so popped into a coffee shop. 

YoungMan could see the child at the table next to us was playing on a tablet and started agitating for my phone.  As a way of avoiding him playing games and ignoring me,  I decided we could use it cooperatively by taking some silly selfies.  This picture above,  dear reader,  was the one which I thought you would best enjoy.

No blogworthy photo? Oh no!!

YoungMan and I went shopping on Saturday while we were waiting for Foggy to get back from an exhibition, before we went to a party at HoxtonFin’s. We’d got what we went for, then had half an hour to kill before Foggy’s train was due, so popped into a coffee shop.

YoungMan could see the child at the table next to us was playing on a tablet and started agitating for my phone. As a way of avoiding him playing games and ignoring me, I decided we could use it cooperatively by taking some silly selfies. This picture above, dear reader, was the one which I thought you would best enjoy.

I really should have taken a photo when they were tiny,  so you could compare…  but it’s a bit late now!  The big excitement at our place at the moment is the growth of the caterpillars the Headhunter gave YoungMan as a birthday present. 

We didn’t send off for them straight away as we had holidays planned and didn’t want to miss stages of growth and transformation,  but the caterpillars arrived last Tuesday and have tripled in length and width since then. 

Four of the five have now built cocoons and are officially chrysalides…  The last,  as you can see in the bottom of the picture,  is still a big fat fuzzy caterpillar. 

I am hoping the weather holds for a couple of weeks so that the butterflies,  when hatched,  don’t find it too cold…

The Headhunter was kind enough to include a voucher for a second set of caterpillars.  I think that I should be kind to the caterpillars and wait until next Spring to order them,  by which time it will have been “aaaaaaaages” since this set,  so that we can enjoy the process all over again. 

In fact,  if we time it just right,  and get them just before the Headhunter’s birthday,  they ought to hatch on or about YoungMan’s birthday,  which would be nice,  given how we came to have them.

I really should have taken a photo when they were tiny, so you could compare… but it’s a bit late now! The big excitement at our place at the moment is the growth of the caterpillars the Headhunter gave YoungMan as a birthday present.

We didn’t send off for them straight away as we had holidays planned and didn’t want to miss stages of growth and transformation, but the caterpillars arrived last Tuesday and have tripled in length and width since then.

Four of the five have now built cocoons and are officially chrysalides… The last, as you can see in the bottom of the picture, is still a big fat fuzzy caterpillar.

I am hoping the weather holds for a couple of weeks so that the butterflies, when hatched, don’t find it too cold…

The Headhunter was kind enough to include a voucher for a second set of caterpillars. I think that I should be kind to the caterpillars and wait until next Spring to order them, by which time it will have been “aaaaaaaages” since this set, so that we can enjoy the process all over again.

In fact, if we time it just right, and get them just before the Headhunter’s birthday, they ought to hatch on or about YoungMan’s birthday, which would be nice, given how we came to have them.

Back to school yesterday…  with a new haircut. Bless her for trying,  but the hairdresser made it too short at the back and left it too long at the front. I guess we’ll fix that at half-term…!

Back to school yesterday… with a new haircut. Bless her for trying, but the hairdresser made it too short at the back and left it too long at the front. I guess we’ll fix that at half-term…!

The evening before we left Exmouth, we went to a restaurant over the road for dinner. After the finding-YoungMan-playing-Xbox-at-half-past-midnight incident, the idea of handing over a phone and granting him screen time while waiting for food to be served…? Well, let’s just say Foggy and I were in complete accord on that issue!

So, it’s just as well I’d packed a number of holiday entertainment type books, and could conceal one in my handbag until required. YoungMan had sat next to WeatherForDucks and opposite Foggy, so it fell to one of them to “work” with him - not that the work was especially onerous!

We had a round of hangman, YoungMan and WeatherForDucks played boxes (or whatever you call the game where you connect lines to form squares and count who got more) and there was also a quite entertaining game of categories, to which we all contributed.

One of the categories was “celebrity” and YoungMan provoked much amusement by insisting on the lead singer of a band we know… I posted the comment on Facebook to elicit a response from same and the answer came back that YoungMan was a “poor deluded wee man” but that the singer was “happy with that though”. At least it was a relatively flattering review!!

As you can see, by the time we left the restaurant, the sun had set a while prior… So we had a fabulous view and unexpected bonus of being able to watch fireworks at a town nearby from our table. The restaurant manager was joking about laying them on especially.

Foggy had left a few minutes earlier to put YoungMan to bed, so I rang and asked if they could see the fireworks. No, I’m brushing his teeth, came the reply - so hygiene was momentarily suspended as the view from our third floor flat would have been even better than we had at water level at the restaurant. I am already looking forward to Bonfire Night at Blackheath for a follow up!

Isn’t it funny how if you lack something,  you think you must have it _right now_ or all will be lost?  I managed - despite putting it on my packing check list! - not to bring my camera charger.  I took lots of photos of YoungMan so naturally the battery faded,  and when I got back to the flat where we’re staying,  no charger.

Grrrrrrr!

Foggy said that the camera shop in Exeter was kind enough to put his camera battery on their charger last year (the precedent had been set!) so I rang to see what could be done.  £25 for a universal charger,  they told me,  but bring your battery in to check it works before you buy it.

One quick jaunt into Exeter later,  I had a functioning charger…  so of course I didn’t take any photos for the next 24 hours.  Maybe I didn’t need it after all?  To be fair,  although I will have access to the “proper” (original) charger the second I get home - I can tell you exactly where it is,  much good as it is to me now! - the new charger has a couple of useful tricks:  it has a USB port,  and a car charger,  in addition to a fully adjustable widget for camera batteries and the like,  so it really will charge almost any rechargeable battery out there.

I got the camera out again yesterday as we went on a boat trip to Sidmouth,  along the Jurassic Coast.  The skipper gave us a commentary as we trundled along (we drove past Sidmouth in less than half an hour.  It took 90 minutes by boat!!) and I learned all sorts of interesting things about the history and geology of it…  but was grateful YoungMan was back in Exmouth,  being treated to a day out with Lightning,  as he would have found the pace of it all as hopelessly dull as the kids running around the boat,  bored out of their skulls and wreaking havoc while the parents ignored their shenanigans.

In any case,  when we were coming into Sidmouth,  we were told that the boat would be landing on the beach and not to be distressed as it was deliberate…  This is the first time I had been on a boat of this size which did this (I’d been expecting a jetty of some sort!) so it was quite entertaining watching the people on the beach scatter hither and yon as the boat bore down on them.  

Upon our return,  Foggy took pity on YoungMan and moved the Xbox from the room where Thunder+Lightning are staying into our room.  He was delighted to finally be allowed some time on electronic media (we made him do some “homework” first of English and maths) and was having a great time playing football.

When we put him to bed,  it didn’t occur to either of us that YoungMan might be so tempted that he’d continue playing…  We stayed out in the sitting room and chatted with assorted other family members and despite YoungMan coming out of the room to go to the loo at about 10pm,  I wasn’t alerted to the fact that he was getting into mischief until I walked into the room at half past midnight and discovered a wide awake boy with controls firmly in his hands and eyes on the screen.

Gah!  YoungMan’s argument was that we had not specifically forbidden him from playing after he went to bed (he’s allowed to read in bed,  so why not Xbox?) but he clearly knew it was wrong “Mummy,  you can smack my bottom if you want”…! so all things considered,  I am not unhappy we head for home tomorrow.

In case you are wondering,  dear reader,  an Xbox might be on YoungMan’s Christmas list - again! - this year,  but it most certainly is not on either mine or Foggy’s.  I am not having it,  I tell you!

More beach time…  This time (as you can tell from the photographs!) I went in for a swim with YoungMan.  To say that it was bracing is to understate it by quite some measure.  Nobody else was hard - or mad! - enough to go in at the same time as me and YoungMan,  but it was just about ok a temperature once I’d got my shoulders underwater.  It’s not so bad for YoungMan,  he has a wetsuit…!  Foggy wasn’t that silly,  he sat on the picnic blanket on the beach,  looking after our stuff (including the camera once I had some photos I liked).

Once we’d given up on the prospect of the water getting any warmerr/ more pleasant/ bigger waves for the boogie board,  it was time for another round of beach cricket.  The Headhunter will be relieved to know we’re not ruining YoungMan’s “proper” cricket bat,  but using a set bought especially for battering on the beach…  Poor WeatherForDucks took it all a bit too seriously and now sports a pulled muscle for her efforts but is soldiering on bravely.  Lightning also bears the scars of playing with YoungMan - he was so determined to beat her up the stairs that he sent her flying,  and she has some impressive bruises on her forearm.  I am staying well clear!!!

Today’s planned entertainment includes lots more trains:  a trip on the “Land train” hop on hop off bus routes (my mother will be shocked to learn a ticket for the whole circuit including three separate routes is a fiver.  Would that our London hop on hop off experience had cost so little!!!),  Foggy and his parents are headed for a steam train ride and then we’re going to drive down and collect Foggy at the other end,  as there is a restaurant nearby we’ve been keen to visit for a while.  I had better go and charge the battery on my camera,  so that I can show you all the highlights later!

A quick catch up selection of photos for you today…

We like the playground that has story characters…  YoungMan has really enjoyed listening to The Wind In The Willows,  which we have on audiobooks for entertaining us on long car journeys,  so he was delighted to discover the boat with Ratty and Mole.

The group at the restaurant?  Dinner with Mum and her friend,  KiwiCuz and the Headhunter,  on Tuesday of last week.  Yummy Thai food,  a great suggestion from KiwiCuz :-)

The rest of the photos are from the time we spent down at the beach on Saturday.  The poor plastic cricket bat had perished and didn’t survive the day,  but we found another set (bat,  stumps and bail plus ball) for £6…  and we’re hoping the wood will be a little stronger than the plastic was!

Last but not least,  he got in some boogie boarding with Lightning.  I hadn’t taken my swimsuit down to the beach - it was a bit cool so I wimped out - but Lightning is made of sterner stuff.  YoungMan made himself a teensy bit unpopular with her by announcing that she didn’t get cold as rapidly as he did,  because she had more blubber.  Charming child will go far with lines like that - mostly because he’d be slapped into next week by another other adult to whom he made a similar suggestion!

Holidays… Gotta love ‘em!

The weather forecast was a bit dodgy this morning so Foggy and I decided to head to Pecorama, in Beer (yes, the town really is called Beer) as lots of the activities are indoors. As it happened (you can see in the pictures!) it had stopped raining by the time we arrived and it’s been glorious since.

Foggy had brought YoungMan on his own last year as I was busy writing assigments, and I didn’t want to miss all the fun this year! WeatherForDucks came along too, tempted by the promise of pretty gardens.

As you can tell, the is a railway theme, so YoungMan got to drive the trains in one layout and the photo of both of us, we’re having a ride on a small steam engine. We lucked into the “special” ride of double the usual duration, so that was all good.

There was also mini golf (Foggy was definitely the winner, not that YoungMan will ever admit it), an indoor play area and a teddy bear trail to follow where tokens could be collected to be exchanged for a prize.

You will not be surprised to learn that, despite arriving more than four hours ago, YoungMan is going to have to be dragged away kicking and screaming… All of which confirms we made the right decision this morning :-)

The finished product, as promised… Having baked the cupcakes in Union Flag cases, YoungMan decided the best decoration would be to use that as a theme.

I hand cut the stencils (I’m rather pleased with them, actually) and handed over items in the baking cupboard already: red sugar sprinkles and edible blue glitter. YoungMan sprinkled carefully and prodded loose bits into the right places, then we took six finished cupcakes down to the judging marquee. Luckily they all arrived safely so YoungMan had a choice of which four to present for judging.

We were booted out of the marquee at 1045 and not allowed back in until 1:30. In the meantime, Foggy entertained YoungMan while I sold raffle tickets… All of us were back in the marquee by 1:31pm and delighted to see YoungMan had third prize for his cupcakes, and his miniature garden was also commended.

We have plans this weekend… Foggy’s parents’ village Flower Show takes place, complete with multiple divisions for judging artwork, gardening and baking for all ages. As we thought I was working (turns out not to be necessary), I suggested that Foggy take YoungMan.

YoungMan had a look through the categories for judging and decided he fancied a go at the cupcakes (I’m glad he didn’t choose chocolate crackles, I don’t like them!) and Foggy persuaded him to attempt a couple of other categories - a picture of a beach, and a three dimensional “mini garden”, both of which are well underway.

So, it would have been really easy to make the cupcakes for him and just let him go wild with the icing/ sprinkles, but YoungMan is perfectly capable of cooking - and, better yet, enjoys it - so above is the evidence he really did make the cupcakes himself.

I’m not claiming he had _no_ assistance, I was in the kitchen with him, explaining and instructing as necessary… but he genuinely did 99% of it himself.

What lacks, I know, is a photo of the finished product. This, gentle reader, is because they need to cool before decorating and YoungMan will have no time to bake during the day tomorrow as he has a playdate due to last _all day_! As soon as he is collected, we are heading to Foggy’s parents’ place (I am hoping to finish work at sensible o’clock so traffic isn’t too dire) and by the time we’ve had supper there won’t be a lot of time left to bake then either.

That leaves us to pop the cakes in an airtight container when they’ve cooled tonight and Saturday morning, we have until 10:30am to take everything to be scrutinised. So, YoungMan and I will be up at the crack of 8am (I don’t do the crack of dawn, especially not on weekends!) to make them amazing… Watch this space :-)

Tags: baking