At her own pace.

When S was a baby, she spent most of her time upside down. I think even before she was rolling – or if she was rolling, it was only to flip herself onto her back. She got around by arching her back. The only things touching the floor were the top of her head and the bottoms of her feet. She’d do this mega arch and push herself around like an upside down caterpillar.

I can’t find pics of her doing it, though I’ve got a killer video of her moving across the whole lounge, but here’s a similarly themed pic from the same era:

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Around the time of her first birthday, before she was walking, she taught herself to do a neat little flip. I accidentally called it a forward roll the other day, and she haughtily gave me a demo of a flip versus a forward roll. We knew this was a kid who would probably adore gymnastics.

I think she’d just turned three when we took her to a local(ish) gym. It. Was. Amazing. It has everything from toddler classes to training elite athletes who compete (and win) international elite competitions. One of the young people there at the moment will probably be in the next Olympics. I say all this to contrast it with my childhood experiences of gym – namely a dusty mat spread on the floor of a school hall. S and M’s gym has all the actual apparatus. They are training on the same stuff the elite adult athletes use.

It is like the world’s biggest, most best, most dangerous soft play.

After about a year in the toddler classes (and a broken arm suffered at the hands of a giant hanging rope), I mentioned the ‘big kid classes.’ Namely, the after school classes adults are not allowed to accompany children to. She went CRAZY. Insisted she would not do it.

I was confused, as this was a child who happily jumped into an eight foot pit onto a mattress without blinking. She loved the full height balance beam.

Silly me. It wasn’t about her actual athletic ability; it was about her feeling secure and confident. And those are the most important things, despite my crazy urges to push her into the older classes. I held myself back and she did another year in the toddler and parent classes. Late last autumn, she started the big kid classes. It was when she wanted to do it, and M signed up with her. A couple of months later, their best friend also joined in.

It’s been interesting. While adults aren’t allowed in the gym any longer, we are allowed to cram into a small room with smaller windows that overlooks the gym. Every week my friend and I watch S. She GRABS M and their friend and does not let go. During warm ups, if she finds herself slightly moved from their side during stretches, she quickly scootches back. When they sit on the side and get put into smaller groups, she clutches their hands and none of them volunteer, so they can all be together in the last group.

A couple of months ago M asked to do a second class of martial arts. I asked S if she wanted to, and she said she wanted a second gym class. It was established that she’d be doing it without her brother or friend, and was she really sure? She shrugged and said, ‘Yep.’

Yesterday was the first class with her flying solo. I think I was more nervous than she was. Because more than her continuing to develop her gymnastics, this class had her confidence in the palm of its hands. If she went up, I knew she’d be fine. If she didn’t, I thought it would put her off any future solo things. She said she was scared, she didn’t want to do it. But when the coach came down and announced it was time to go up, she ran and joined the group without looking back.

And she volunteered (and was selected!) to be the group leader of the first group.

She chatted a lot with the boy in her group, and afterward pragmatically said that while she’d made a friend, they might be in different groups next week. She was really proud and happy.

So was I.

What would have happened if I’d pushed her when she wasn’t ready? Made her leave her safety and forced her to do a class she would probably grow to fear and dislike?

I don’t know. But now she’s learned she can do this. She’s had the opportunity to choose when she was ready, and have this huge accomplishment of training with thirty nine strangers. And being so confident and strong she was the leader.

All those things aside, I think I’ve learned a lot more than she has. This morning over breakfast when she announced she was going to be a gymnastic Olympian, I didn’t start planning how to make that happen. I smiled at her, we kept eating, and it was simple. We are who we are, we are who and what we choose to be and do, and this upside down baby of my heart can do anything she pleases. I just want her to be happy.

Rules for life…I mean, the treasure hunt.

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This morning M brought me paper and a marker. He wanted me to write rules for a treasure hunt. Now, I like a nice metaphor. I didn’t elect to start a PhD in a weirdly specialised area of English Literature for no reason, folks. But two items in on his list of rules, and it seemed to be jumping off the page. Look…

1. Have fun and learn.

That’s hopefully what we are doing, all the time. It doesn’t matter the hour of the day or the location of our bodies, we are exploring and playing and learning.

2. It’s not about racing and getting the most treasures.

AMEN. It’s not about that, not at all. Everyone develops at their own pace. Everyone considers different things a treasure. There is enough to go around.

3. Some treasure will hide super good.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where your heart lies. Sometimes even once you figure it out, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to achieve. That’s okay. It’s just hiding…super good.

4. After you get all the treasure (chocolate coins), eat it.

Accomplishments are to be celebrated with joy. No use in searching for that treasure then just reburying it. It needs to be integrated into who you are, enjoyed, and then perhaps shared with the world.

5. Hope you have great fun and come back again and again. Treasure is always out!

There is always more treasure available. New levels of treasure on old themes, or even totally new stuff. You normally like diamonds, fine. Excellent. But look! You can like emeralds, too. You can expand and change your mind, and maybe even branch into rubies. You can find treasures most anywhere, and it’s always worth looking.

Because, really, it’s great fun.

I love that little guy. Such a kind hearted, wise person.

Best of (the areas surrounding) Bristol! Jet Age museum, Gloucester.

We’ve been talking a lot about World War 2 recently, mainly sparked by M’s interest in fighter jets. I asked on our local Facebook home ed group about places to go see jets, and Jet Age Museum was recommended by a few people. It is only open weekends and bank holidays, though it apparently will open for booked visits of home ed groups during the week! Admission and parking are both free.

It’s worth mentioning that this place is right next to an airport – the sort of airport with loads of small planes and helicopters constantly taking off and landing. We accidentally found the airport first and hung out there for a few minutes, which was one of the happiest mistakes we’ve made in awhile!

Parking at Jet Age also borders airport fields, albeit from a bit further away. There’s a nice vantage point and picnic tables!

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This is another smallish museum…though it’s worth noting it’s only a ten minute drive from Gloucester City Museum!

It features old jet planes….mostly indoors, but a few outdoors. A couple of the cockpits are open for children to sit in – and it’s here I must say that half of the charm of this place are the volunteers running it. They are on hand to discuss each jet in detail…and in our case, to tease the kids about backwards helmets, provide a hunt for letters, give out fantastic posters, etc. Just so friendly and knowledgeable, which might really appeal to someone with an older child very into old fighter jets.

The highlight (which sadly I missed, as I can’t climb ladders!) was Suzy and the kids going up for a tour of a Vulcan – a 28 foot climb from ground to cockpit. They sat in the various seats of the five in the plane, learned what job corresponded to each seat, and spent a good ten or fifteen minutes exploring the cockpit in detail. As such, there was a bit of a wait for this – and a minimum height restriction. Both kids and Suzy adored it.

All in all, I’d recommend this place. But if you have an hour drive to get there, do google other local things as I don’t think you could spend more than a couple of hours here. (Unless you went to the little on site cafe, which we didn’t on this occasion.) I’d also recommend a donation….this place is a local labour of love, and I like supporting that.

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Best of (the areas surrounding) Bristol – Gloucester Museums times three!

We’ve been away from blogging for awhile – namely because we are saving money to buy a proper desktop, and until that thing enters our lives, typing with two fingers on an iPad mini leaves a bit to be desired!

In the last couple of weeks, though, we’ve been to some new to us localish places….all of which were so good, I wanted to share in case other local families might want to visit.

First up, Gloucester! There is a LOT there.

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We first visited Gloucester City Museum, which was a small yet fabulous museum. It also has the best ever gift shop – good stuff for very reasonable prices…and a gorgeous cafe in situ. The museum is largely focused on the Romans. There’s access to see part of the real Roman wall surrounding the area (you can see more in the pedestrianised high street), a Roman kitchen, Roman coins, etc.

There’s a photography exhibition on the second floor with some excellent pictures from around the world, a smallish dinosaur area with skeletons (and ore, if your kid likes Minecraft!) and play dinosaurs. There’s a toddler play area with a few soft toys, as well as the star attraction – this tiny wall thing with windows. Kids shine torches in to see what sorts of animals prowl on the night, and it makes scary ass noises. This was a major hit with our little group, comprised of 2-7 year olds.

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It also had an exhibition of ‘caveman art’ made by local children. I only mention this as S recently made a spectacular piece of similar art in her pottery class very recently, and she was concerned the museum would want it.

Now, this museum is fab but the day only entrance price isn’t great. We ended up paying £14 for a two adult, five children year membership to this museum and Gloucester folk museum, which was more than fair!

The folk museum is crammed with trails your kids can do – worksheets covering various areas of the museum. S did the ground floor one, which involved drawing a cow, and writing the answers to some questions based on exhibits. M chose to complete a spot the difference on old fashioned motorbikes one once he realised a cool, free button for his backpack was the reward. This museum was great. Again, small, but fun. Bits on the war, loads and loads of brass plate rubbings to do, local Gloucester stuff largely revolving around a taxidermy cow (I jest not!), etc. Lots of little exhibits of particular interest – swords, old dress, a retro kitchen, etc.

The real draw here was the back garden, which had an unobtrusive little shed filled with ye olde fashioned children’s toys. We were in the garden for over an hour playing with steel hoops, skittles, hobby horses, etc. There was also an Anderson bomb shelter, weirdly enchanting owl statues, and little nooks filled with benches for the worn out adults to rest on. Ha.

The other museum, situated between the two mentioned above and down the most painfully picturesque alley was the Beatrix Potter shop and museum – shop downstairs, museum upstairs. The staff were super friendly; the museum, really consisting only of one small room, but full of stuff Beatrix Potter fans would like to see – old books, figurines, memorabilia, etc.

Next time we want to visit the Cathedral, and perhaps some crystal shops….there were a few dotted around, and to be honest, I’d love to have a little adult only time in some of the more esoteric shops. The whole city was much nicer than I anticipated – and even when mentally beating my sat nav up as it tried to force me to drive across bridges cars were not allowed on, we ended up at the docks as our turnaround spot and got a fantastic look at all kinds of large boats.

Gloucester is definitely a place we will return to!

As I go down to the river….

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On a friend’s recommendation, we braved the freezing temperatures and went down to the river/woods to hunt for ice. And we found it.

I just didn’t realise that a large portion of the ice would be MY BODY. I’m glad we all had fun, but my god. I may never thaw out.

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Seize the moment!

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Friends were round this morning, and we were lamenting the lack of snow. None last year, and none this year either, really.

I was wrong.

Just now, we had a heck of a hailstorm. Then I hear M shout from downstairs (S and I were upstairs, stretching hands out a window to feel the hail), ‘IT’S SNOW!’ And it was. Snow. Real snow.

We ran downstairs, flung open the door. M dashed out in crocs and a t shirt, bare bum flashing the world as he yelled a barbarian yell and ran. ‘Look, when I run, it makes the snow go faster!’ He continued yelling and running, while S was leaning forward to touch the show, tilting her head to the sky. ‘I can’t believe it!’ she said.

It only snowed fifteen minutes. We were out there, in pyjamas (or not, as the case may be!), the whole time. Catching snow on our tongues, marvelling at the thick flakes. Whirling and twirling and just being happy.

When we came in, I thought, wow. For all the moments I worry I’m not as good of a mom as I can be, there are these other moments. No hesitating, no preparation (and thank goodness, if we’d stopped to get ‘properly’ dressed we’d have missed it!), no worry about anything. Just standing in the snow with my kids, arms wide open, and appreciating what feels like a small miracle on this simple Thursday afternoon.