Friday 27 January 2012

Buoyancy and icebergs

We've been reading about boats and barrels floating, in our Five in a Row book for this week, Ping by Marjorie Flack.

This has been a springboard for exploring buoyancy. Such a wonderful excuse to throw everything in the bath tub-yes, that did include a rather dirty stone.

 The children enjoyed predicting what would and wouldn't float. We discovered that full cartons sink and empty ones float. The empty ones are brilliant models for why boats float.

Ice is always good for tasting and exploring. We made model icebergs-some small (ice cubes) and some larger (using small containers). We coloured our largest with red food colouring-blue would have been better but some people do like making various coloured concoctions so that it had disappeared.

It was more difficult to predict whether ice would float but it did. The large iceberg showed really well how much of the structure is under water.

This was a fascinating springboard leading to talk about the Titanic and the structure of ice.

Mr Exuberance loved the water and managed to get his tongue stuck to an iceberg, at one point. He wasn't so interested in this discussion but did enjoy Busy boats by Ant Parker, that we read along with this. Lovely rhyme and mentions why boats float.

This is linked to Science Sparks.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Three generation holidays

At this time of year, many people are planning holidays. This post is about the practicalities of going on holiday with a frail person. It is not about going on holiday when Granny is able to babysit and walk up mountains. I'm sure there may be issues with this sort of holiday but I'm not qualified to talk about this!

Holidays can be fun but there is no right to go away. It is a truism but it doesn't always feel like that when everyone else is packing and it seems that we are the only ones left. It is a minor thing to upset our contentment but I know that I have struggled with this. Paul says
I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
Philippians 4v11

Many families take an elderly relative on holiday. Where the older person lives permanently with their younger family, it seems reasonable, in many ways that they should come on the family holiday; after all they are part of the family. It may also seem reasonable, to the younger generations, that they should have a break from caring.

We have had

  • holidays with an older relative
  • non-family carers to stay
  • family members stay behind
This is just about the first option.

A holiday with a frail or disabled person takes more planning. These are issues that will need to be addressed.
  • Is the person concerned fit to go on holiday? People with dementia may get much more confused away from home. Has their doctor advised against them going away for any reason?
  • Travel-most people are fit to go away but may not manage a long car journey. If they are relatively fit, they may manage better on a train but this isn't an easy option for people who walk but are unstable.
  • Travel again-taking an older relative may mean taking a second car, with additional petrol costs and taking away possibilities of sharing driving. Again, shorter distances may be better.
  • Journeys will take longer-frailer people are unlikely to be able to travel at night/very early in the morning and will require more stops. Again, a reason not to go too far away and to take plenty to occupy little people on the trip.
  • The property is likely to need a ground floor bedroom with an en suite bathroom. 
  • Steps to the property can be a no, no.
  • Day of travel-it may be easier to travel on a Friday as the roads may be quieter and it is easier for the less fit members of the party to be able to go to church on the Sunday.
  • Is there a good church close to the property? It is so refreshing to have spiritual blessing on holiday. Travelling a few miles to a holiday church isn't an issue for the young and fit but may be an issue for those for whom the journey has been a major endeavour.
Once on holiday, it can be difficult to balance everyone's needs. Prayer for a right attitude from everyone is really important.

 We have found that everyone enjoys meals out and the beach-it is worth trying to plan these into the programme.

 It isn't necessary to spend all the time together but don't assume that because someone is less fit they want to be left behind. Some of our most successful trips have been where everyone travels to the same location but divides into groups on arrival.

Some practical tips
  • Don't prolong days out. Children and teenagers with plenty of energy can go for nightwalks/read/play games in the evening. 
  • Think about walking distances. How far is the elder able to walk? Will it be necessary to take a wheelchair? Will the distance from the car park to the beach be further than they would normally walk? Will they manage?
  • The beach may be beautiful but are there facilities?
  • Research the area-is it somewhere with pleasant memories? Would it be an idea to go to see Great-great-grandma's house? Are there historic sites/houses to visit which cater for those who find walking difficult and provide child-friendly, interactive activities? Many National Trust and English Heritage sites would come into this category.
Happy holidays!

This is linked to Works for me Wednesday.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Finish the race-Eric Liddell

I was excited to review this new biography of Eric Liddell, the 1924 Olympic gold medal winner. Living in London in 2012 it seemed this book was a must read and I wasn't disappointed.

John Keddie has produced a short biography of Eric Liddell aimed primarily at children from 7-14 but an enjoyable read for a busy adult and accessible enough that my five year old enjoyed having portions read to her. Middle Son, aged 11, liked the book enough to read it in the car-an unusual event.

Liddell  was born to missionaries in China but educated in London, at Eltham College. The description of the six year old having to part from his family brought tears to my eyes. Can you imagine leaving a six year old for several years?

The most famous part of Liddell's life was his refusal to run on a Sunday in the 1924 Paris Olympics because he wanted to keep the whole of Sunday as the Lord's Day. This meant that he was unable to take part in his chosen event, 100m. Liddell instead took part in a less favoured option, the 400m, and went on to secure gold and set a new world record. However, the latter part of the book, and of the life, is probably just as fascinating as well as being less well known. Liddell was humble and willing to forego fame and wealth to serve his Lord.

There are a couple of minor things that would improve this book further. We are told that Liddell professed faith as a teenager but little more about this-it may be that little is known but I would have liked to have known more. A sketch map of China would have been useful-many of the locations were unknown to me without a map.

My thoughts-definitely worth reading and a definite challenge to honour the Lord God above all else.

Finish the race-Eric Liddell by John Keddie was provided by Christian Focus for this review. The opinions are my own.

Finish the race is obtainable from Christian Focus and  Christian Bookshop Ossett.

Monday 23 January 2012

Pushing the boundary with veg-pak choi

I haven't pushed the boundary with fruit or veg for a while now but have a list of recipes to try this year.

Today is Chinese New Year and, not only that, but we are "rowing" Ping, by Marjorie Flack, which is set in China with the younger children. So today was the day to try stir fried pork and ginger. I had hoped to have a link as the recipe is in my BBC food recipe book but sadly, it doesn't seem to be on the BBC site.

Suffice to say, this is a simple recipe involving stir frying pork fillet, garlic, ginger with vegetables. The recipe suggested Savoy cabbage but I used pak choi and added in the sprouted mung beans that we grew.

Success, everyone enjoyed it-not easy when cooking for eight. Even my most fussy eater ate the pak choi-possibly not realising that a form of cabbage was involved.

I need to stir fry more often!

Friday 20 January 2012

Some very practical thoughts on caring

This is the second post from Hazel Stapleton of On Eagles wings. Do look at her first post yesterday. Today Hazel talks about the practical side of caring.

 For someone who has always enjoyed good health, the idea of trying to
help a person with a chronic health problem or disability that has lasted for many years
and that they know nothing about may seem a bit daunting. What should be done?
How can we sympathise with someone if we have never experienced their particular
problem? Will we cause offence by saying the wrong thing? These are natural concerns,
but should not put people off from trying!

The vast majority of the people with long-term health difficulties that I have come across
over the years would be absolutely delighted to have someone get in touch with them
and show some support and concern. If you don't know what to do or say, ask! If you
know that a person has a particular illness or disability do a bit of reading around on the
subject, look up support groups on the Internet, look out for leaflets in your local
doctors' surgery. The fact that you have shown an interest, learnt a little about the
problem and gone to the effort of getting in touch will be greatly appreciated and be a
real encouragement to the sufferer.

When ill, receiving a letter, phone call, email, or even a short visit from a fellow Christian
means such a lot - and I am sure that it is virtually impossible for those who are healthy
to realise how much doing just a little thing like writing a little note can mean, resulting
in many simply not bothering. However, I would urge you to bother, to go to the effort
of sending a card or email, making a phone call, dropping in for a visit (but do phone
first and don't stay for too long!); it means so much and is such a help and

However, saying that, do be careful. Don't start something that you can't keep up. It's
no good saying that you will call in once a week if you cannot do it in the long-term.
Chronic health problems are a “long haul”. Far better to visit once a month and be able
to stick at it over a number of months or years, than try calling every week only to find
that you can't keep it up and so have to stop after just a few weeks.

When visiting someone with long-term health problems it is likely that they will be, to a
greater or lesser extent, physically dependent on others to manage from day to day.
However it is important that the sufferer does not become spiritually dependent on any
particular person i.e. you mustn't become a “spiritual prop”! It is important to be there
to help them, but try to direct them to the Bible, to find their ultimate help and strength
from God and His Word.

One other thing to bear in mind is that the person you are trying to help may feel rather
useless due to their circumstances. They may have had to stop many of the things they
used to do at home, at work and in the church. Do suggest to them that they maintain
an interest in and pray for other people. Missionaries known to the church could be a
particular focus for their prayers. Writing letters or emails to those working abroad
(something that I have enjoyed doing for many years) can be encouraging on both
sides, as can helping others with the same health problem. Also remind them not to
underestimate what a powerful witness it can be to non-Christians to see someone
coping with a long-term illness. J C Ryle commented that it is possible for those who are
ill to "honour God as much by patient suffering as they can by active work. It often
shows more grace to sit still than it does to go to and fro, and perform great exploits".

Be Practical - try to think of things that you would find helpful if you were house-bound
or bed-bound. For example, offering to help with shopping, cooking meals, giving lifts to
doctors. and hospital appointments. If the person is well enough just offering to take
them out for a short drive is likely to be greatly appreciated. Going out even for a short
time can give a tremendous boost.

Be Spiritual - one of the hardest things that I have found, as a Christian, to cope with
during the years of ill-health is the lack of Christian fellowship due to not being able to
attend church very often. Listening to recordings of the ministry is to be recommended,
and a great help, but being cut off from your Christian family is very hard.

Be Encouraging - chronic ill-health is hard, especially in our society when we are used to
the idea that if any health problem arises we can simply go to the doctors and get a
prescription to make us better!

Being long-term sick means that it is easy to lose touch with what is going on in the “big
wide world”. Talk about normal things. Tell the person about your family, what's
happening at the church, any interesting places you've visited. Don't expect the sick
person to initiate the conversation, after all they may not have been anywhere or done
very much, meaning that it is not easy start talking. At the same time, give them time
to talk about whatever is on their mind.

You don't need to have experienced an illness in order to help and support someone with
it. Be honest. Admit that you don't know much. Most people with a long-term problem
know a lot about their condition and will be happy to fill you in on the details - probably
in far more detail than you actually need or want to know!

Be Forward Looking - it is always good to talk with those who are ill about Heaven!
Remember that this World is not our home, we are just a-passing through. Whether or
not we will be healed in this life is unknown, but in Heaven we will see our Saviour and
we will be free from sin and from suffering. “For the unbeliever, death is the end of all
joys; for the believer, death is the end of all griefs” (Matthew Henry). Always “looking
for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ”
(Titus 2 v 13).

For yonder a light shines eternal 
Which spreads through the valley of gloom; 
Lord Jesus, resplendent and regal, 
Drives fear far away from the tomb. 
Our God is the end of the journey, 
His pleasant and glorious domain; 
For there are the children of mercy, 
Who praise Him for Calvary's pain. 

W V Higham (used by kind permission)

Hazel Stapleton, January 2012

On Eagles Wings

Thursday 19 January 2012

Some Thoughts On Caring

Today, I am very grateful that Hazel Stapleton of On eagles wings has very kindly written a guest post about caring from the perspective someone who needs care. I hope to put up a second  post, tomorrow, with some very practical thoughts, from Hazel.

Having been asked to write on the subject of “needing care”, I wasn’t really sure where
to begin! Therefore what follows are simply a few thoughts that I have had on the
subject of caring for and supporting those who have long-term health problems.

Just to give a few details about where I am coming from: I have been ill with M.E.
(Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, a neurological condition) since February 1991; I had been
studying to be a nurse at the time, but suddenly became ill following an Hepatitis B
vaccination that I was required to have for my training and I have been ill ever since.
For the first eight years or so I was moderately affected by my illness, but since 1999 I
have had severe M.E. and my health continues to gradually deteriorate. I am mainly
housebound and have to spend much of my time resting. How thankful I am for my
laptop computer and email and the Internet! I live with my parents, both of whom are
past retirement age, and am very dependent on them; this is obviously a matter concern
as Mum and Dad get older.

Over the years I have listened to many sermons and read many books and articles on
the subject of suffering and related issues, some good, some not so good! I guess a lot
depends upon whether or not the speaker or author has had personal experience of
suffering or of caring for someone close to them who is unwell or disabled in some way.
However, even if they have done so, for those who are ill “suffering is a very lonely path,
cut off from others but longing that someone would understand” (Barbara Edwards).

When unable to go out very much and having to spend a lot of the time looking at the
same four walls, it is easy to lose touch with reality. Things that are “normal” for most
people, such as having jobs, getting married, having children, and so on, can seem
abnormal and well out of reach. There are feelings of guilt, of being a burden on those
who care for you, knowing how much your illness affects and limits their lives as well as
your own. Trying to remain positive and cheerful as much as possible is no doubt a help
to those who care - but it is also something of a challenge when feeling ill and in pain!
For those of us who are ill and single, another problem is of course that of loneliness, of
being cut off from other people, of not having a husband or wife - and it is particularly
hard when all those around you appear to be getting married, settling down, and having

However, “the times we find ourselves having to wait on others may be the perfect
opportunities to train ourselves to wait on God” (Joni Eareckson Tada). It is important to
remember that God makes no mistakes. We may not understand why things happen to
us, and we may not find it easy to have to give in. and swallow our pride and let others
do things for us, but for those of us who are Christians, we know that we have a
Sovereign God and that our lives are in His hands. As Calvin put it, “we are not afflicted
by chance, but through the infallible providence of God”.

There are certainly lessons to be learned when ill: “sickness takes us aside and sets us
alone with God, and with all the props removed, we learn to lean on God alone”
(Horatius Bonar). We come to realise that there is nothing that this world offers that can
ultimately give us the comfort and strength that we need to cope from day to day. We
also come to see that, from a practical point of view, we need to let others care for and
help us, to do things which we would usually do for ourselves - whether that be helping
with personal needs, giving a lift to medical appointments, doing some shopping
(although much can now be done online!), or whatever.

For Christians who are involved in caring for a fellow Christian who is ill, don’t forget that
the comfort which a Christian can give to another Christian is unique. Non-Christian
relatives and friends can of course offer help and support, and it is much appreciated,
but it is only Christians who can bring encouragement and minister to their fellow
believers on a spiritual level. We are told to “rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep
with them that weep” (Romans 12 v 15).

There is, of course, a sense in which real comfort in the midst of suffering can only come
to us from God Himself. We have great consolation in Christ. He knows our sorrows, He
understands what we are going through. We have the Holy Spirit as our Comforter, to
sustain and strengthen us when we feel we are floundering. We have the Scriptures.
We know that “all things work together for good to them that love God” and that “the
sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall
be revealed in us” (Romans 8 v 28, 18). Times of suffering and affliction provide
opportunities for us to witness and to glorify God. Quoting Horatius Bonar again: “What
a God-honouring thing to see a struggling, sorrowing child of earth cleave fast to God,
calmly trusting Him, happy and at rest in the midst of storm and suffering”. 

Friday 13 January 2012

A pair of red clogs

This week we "rowed" A pair of red clogs by Masako Matsuno. This book describes how a girl is brought a new pair of clogs and her delight about this. Soon, however, the clogs are damaged and she schemes to get a new pair. Conscience comes into play and she realises that she cannot deceive her mother.
Geography: The book is set in Japan. We found this on the map and by the end of the week Miss Belle was able to find Japan for herself.

I posted earlier in the week about making clogs.

We tried eating sushi but not home made as it looked too complicated. Of course, we ate with chopsticks.

Miss Belle has gained a taste for green tea!

We tried to fly kites but there wasn't much wind.

This was an opportunity to play shops-shoe shops. Rather battered shoes were sold for amounts of real money reflecting their state!
The book also provides plenty of counting opportunity.
Mr Exuberance loved the book that we read alongside this: My Granny went to market:a round the world counting rhyme by Stella Blackstone.

The clogs are broken in a weather forecasting game. We took this idea and started to record the weather pictorially and in words on a calendar as well as making a very simple rain gauge and wind socks.

Literacy: The story is built around a reminiscence. We talked about memory and story telling from this.
Probably for the first time, I asked Miss Belle to narrate the story. I was amazed at the detail that she remembered. She had said that she couldn't remember and I realised that she thought that she had to remember every word!

Character: This story lends itself to talking about truthfulness and stewardship.
The book Lucy Lie a Lot by Irene Howat was a useful accompaniment.

I felt that we could have done more around this book but Miss Belle and Mr Exuberance have been so busy with other things-art and science have been almost non-stop this week. These little ones don't distinguish between "education time" and free time.

Thursday 12 January 2012

Not a child

I blame Shakespeare. Do you remember the Seven ages of man?

Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion,

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

In some ways he has a point but older people aren't children-not Biblically nor even by the standards of English law. But the second childhood idea has got into our thinking. Older people unnecessarily have decisions made for them, are called dear, given cups with straws or even given soft toys to hold.

So how should we consider older people, even those with cognitive impairment?

The Bible says that parents are to be honoured.

Honour thy father and thy mother.
Ephesians 5v2

It doesn't leave out those with cognitive impairment or even those who can't make their own decisions.

How can we honour such people? By treating them with dignity, helping them make decisions where possible and honouring the memory of their healthier years.  Further than this, they should be honoured just because that is God's command.

Honouring the memory of their healthier years is particularly important for grandchildren who may have no memory of the grandparent as a healthy active individual. Grandchildren can be told about what their grandparents were like, what they said, happy memories and what they were like as parents. Photographs and anecdotes can help, both for the grandchildren and helping the older person remember.

It doesn't necessarily mean taking over all the care oneself. That may be the right and honouring thing to do but it may not, if that care is more than can be provided in a respectful and high standard manner.

See more about caring at Caring takes time.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Inside gardening

The children are very keen to get out and planting but it is grey and I doubt whether much would germinate. So we have to make do with indoor gardening.

We have the hyacinths that they planted in the autumn

and new planting.

Cress-we had egg and cress this week so it is time to plant more.

Sprouting mung beans, to go with next week's Five in a Row book,

and indoor salad-planted outdoors.

Any more ideas for winter gardening?

Monday 9 January 2012


This week our Five in a Row book is A pair of red clogs by Masako Matsuno. This is about a Japanese girl and her pair of new, red clogs. The clogs get damaged whilst playing and she is tempted to deceive her mother in order to obtain a new pair.

I wanted to make some "clogs" for the children to decorate and use in a game mentioned in the book.

The clogs were made from recycled materials-excluding the paint. The bases were made from cardboard. They should be made from wood but I haven't done any woodwork since I was about 12. My other, and more relevant reason is that the children love walking around in real Dutch wooden clogs but they are so noisy on wood floors!

The bases are rectangles cut just larger than the child's foot. The thongs were made from old ribbon knotted under each hole.
The children painted their clogs. I was interested that they both chose red and yellow which are the predominant colours in the book.
The finished product.
Dried and on the feet
I don't think these will last long! Since they cost virtually nothing to make, they can be replaced easily and can also be thrown in the weather game in the book.

This is linked to It's playtime.

Thursday 5 January 2012

Caring takes time.

I muttered about this post the other day after a time consuming and unsuccessful afternoon. On reflection, that was the best start for this because caring takes time.

When Grandma arrived over four years ago, I had no idea how much time would be involved. Probably a good thing. It is right for her to be here but I would have gulped at the thought of the time. What is more, I don't do much caring. Many people do much, much more.

I don't have to get up at night (children excepted), do personal care nor  feed. Many, many people have to do these things and more. I've still got time and energy to blog. I don't have to watch a wanderer. But, even so, caring takes time.

Why, well, it varies but another person in any household takes time. They need to be looked after, talked to and have food and clean laundry but an older person isn't like another child.

An elder who lives with a family is likely to have health needs and may well not be able to arrange appointments, medication and tests for themselves. They are likely to need an advocate and this takes time. They are unlikely to be able to manage to get themselves to appointments or arrange collection of medication. Also true for children but the legal status of adults is different. No one will see a six year old on their own and leave you guessing whether they were given another appointment or not. Can happen with adults especially those on the cusp of being able to decide for themselves but who can be a bit fuzzy around the edges (perhaps more in another post). What happens when the older person is holding a blood test form but has an infection, gets a bit confused and can't find the form? Sorting it out takes time-sometimes the answer is to keep the forms somewhere else, sometimes it isn't.

They can't rush. I'm the sort of person who believes in arriving at appointments with 15 seconds to spare-not late, of course! In order to achieve this, it is necessary to be able to hotfoot down the road on occasion, sometimes with buggy. One year olds find this terribly exciting but I wouldn't suggest trying this with Granny in a wheelchair. The consequences are not quite the same. The other prerequisite of arriving just on time is a slightly blasé attitude to being late:
"By 1130, they will definitely be running at least a few minutes late".
True but not kind to someone who has never been late. So a bit of organisation is in order. It wasn't an easy lesson for me.

As people become frailer, it may not be possible to leave them for long. Can they get a meal-probably not, otherwise they might well be living alone. A slow cooker can help if this is the only issue. Are they prone to falls? Yes, of course, this needs to be looked at medically but it may mean that impromptu day trips for all the rest of the family are out. Not a disaster, but can need careful planning to make sure that children still get outings.

I'm not writing this to put anyone off caring for an older relative. We are convinced that this is the right course for us at present and also know that there have been many benefits but it does take time and can mean that there are other things that can't be done.

Monday 2 January 2012

Mats from calendars

Happy New Year.

Today, we decided to reuse some old calendar pictures. It seemed sad to throw them away so I let my little people cut and stick. Miss Belle wanted to write so that she had a different mat for each meal.
No, I don't teach filled in "a"s.

I laminated the results and teatime has already been used!

There are still plenty of old calendar pictures. I had envisaged a more collage type effect which would use up more calendar but the children weren't so keen on this idea- perhaps another project for another day.