Monday, January 28, 2013

Unschooling a 9 month old

I have known for years that I wanted to home educate my children, when I had them. When dh and I got together we discussed it and he did some reading up, and he came on board wholeheartedly.
Now let me make something clear – and I am only going to say this once.  Home education is currently top of our list of options, but we remain open to other possibilities. We will home educate Daniel and any other children we have in the future IF we feel it is the best way for them, and for us as a family. If at any point we feel it is not in their best interests, or if they want to try school, we will re-evaluate, and if they decide to try school and it doesn’t work out, they can come back out again. Home education does not work for everyone, just as school doesn’t, and a decision we make now does not have to be binding for ever more.
I find I am desperate to appear rational and reasonable to people who don’t really understand what HE is about, and I have heard myself recite that very obvious proviso so often that I am becoming utterly sick of it. So here it is, on record, and at least on here I don’t have to say it again.
So why HE? This is a question I’ll probably keep coming back to on here, but I’ll do my best to start answering it.
I want Daniel to be able to learn at his own pace, rather than being made to feel like a failure if he doesn’t fit with the government’s timetable. I want him to be able to use and develop his natural passion for learning (which every child is born with), instead of having to abandon his interests because the timetable says it’s time for something else. I want him to learn how to interact with people of all ages and backgrounds, in a variety of everyday situations. I want his emotional needs to be met so that he grows up happy, contented and emotionally literate. I want him to see learning as part of life, not as something that happens between 9am and 3.30pm, Monday to Friday. I want him to learn things properly, not divided into subjects, not shut away in a classroom, not tailored to pass an exam. I want him to have the space to grow as an individual so he can interact with his peers with confidence instead of losing himself under the group pressure.
Apart from my own schooling (more on that another time), in the past 6 years I have worked in a special school, and in mainstream preschool, primary and secondary. The more time I spent in the system, the more I felt that no school (with the possible exception of some of the rare alternative schools) can possibly give my child these things better than I can.
I’m not a qualified teacher, though I have a fair amount of experience in various kinds of teaching. Do I think that I can do the job better than a trained professional? Well, yes. But before every teacher out there reaches for their pitchfork, let’s look at what that question means. If I were being asked to teach the National Curriculum to 30-35 children at a time, keeping to a timetable, while coping with all the paperwork and pressure to tick boxes and produce results…then no, I probably wouldn’t do nearly as well as a lot of very dedicated, talented teachers out there who work in frankly appalling conditions. But can I educate my child/children better at home than the system can in a school? Yes, I believe so. 
Not so long ago, I spent a large part of my time feeling impatient for Daniel to grow up and reach the magical age of 5 when I could finally say “We home educate”. But then I suddenly realised – we’re already doing it! Compulsory school age may start at 5 years old, but many many children now are in nursery from just a few months old. At 9 months and still with me full-time, Daniel is in a rapidly dwindling minority, and by his first birthday he will be part of a rare breed, especially as a first child. I know more mums who decide to stay at home with their second child because childcare fees for more than one child make working no longer economically viable. The expectation for first-time mums, though is that they will go back within the first year. I’m not saying that they necessarily want to – many feel very torn – but a combination of financial need and social pressure compels them to return. The government spends huge amounts of money and hot air subsidising nursery places and giving tax credits to working mothers. I only wish they valued a parent’s role enough to give the same support to those of us making the sacrifices necessary to stay at home and raise our children rather than handing them over to the system to be brought up by other people.
And so I now feel I can describe myself as a home educating mum. Instead of waiting impatiently, I am enjoying every moment of Daniel’s development, watching as he explores the world around him and being there when he needs help or encouragement. At 9 months old, we may not be doing the kind of things that first come to mind when I think of HE, but we are laying the foundations.
We both feel that the approach we’re most drawn to is autonomous/unschooling. Essentially, that means being there to guide and facilitate, rather than to impose formal teaching. It’s what we do naturally at the moment anyway – let him try things out for himself, even if it means risking the odd bump or two, because that’s how he’ll learn best. I can easily imagine that carrying on as he gets older, though we’ll see how it all goes and what works at the time.  For a really good explanation of what unschooling is, have a look here
In our home educating journey, we have had a busy couple of weeks. Daniel has suddenly learned to crawl, and over the space of a few days realised that he could use this skill, first to get to me across a room, and then to come looking for me when I was in a different room. He can cruise along furniture, and is working hard on mastering stairs. Cupboard doors were thoroughly investigated at my parents’ house, where they have handles, and he has transferred this to our kitchen, where they don’t. Once he had learned how to open and shut them, the contents of the saucepan/baking tray cupboard were carefully removed onto the floor, and the resulting crashes were much enjoyed.
Food is also becoming more interesting. We have finally made the step to regular mealtimes, although I still breastfeed whenever he wants it. At the moment we are gluten-, dairy-, meat-, fish-, egg-, citrus- and nut-free, which presents rather a challenge, but with so many allergies in our family I would rather go through the hassle for a few months now than trigger allergies that I then have to deal with for years. Lentil bolognaise with gf pasta went down well, as did squash risotto. We are starting to relax a bit on the gluten front and so far, so good (he had an allergic reaction a few months ago when we first tried it). He has small amounts of apple juice in a Doidy cup and is really getting the hang of that. He loves sitting at the table with us and joining in the conversation – it’s lovely to see him naturally developing those social skills by watching us and copying what we do.
We’re using the Baby-Led Weaning approach, and so far it’s worked beautifully. In my search for finger food recipes, I found a website which informed parents that babies moving from purees to more textured food will ‘always’ have difficulties at first. We have completely bypassed that by missing out the purees altogether. I can’t honestly think of a single food Daniel has tried so far that he hasn’t liked, and he’s perfectly happy with a whole range of flavours, textures, shapes etc (he was a bit perplexed by spaghetti the first time, but ate it quite happily after he’d investigated it a bit). He uses his coughing reflex well to deal with pieces which are too big to swallow, and considering he still has no teeth he can chew remarkably well. Things like kale, lettuce and apple peel are a bit difficult without teeth, but he’ll have a good go. It’s messy, but that’s what washing machines are for!
Now I’m off to make a cup of tea and contemplate how glad I am to be tucked up warmly at home on a miserable, blowy, wet day. Stay dry and smiling!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Car adventures and tax returns

It's been a bit of an eventful weekend. On Friday I went to Teignmouth to have a look at a violin for a new pupil. On the way back, my car broke down. On a narrow country lane in the middle of nowhere. In the dark. With a flat phone battery and my 9 month old in the car. I may possibly have uttered a few bad words... ;-) Luckily, the car behind me was being driven by a very nice man who stopped to help and lent me his torch so I could find my in-car charger and plug in my phone, and his phone so I could call the RAC. 

Now, let's be clear - I classed as pretty much the number one priority for any breakdown service, being a single female with a baby in a remote area at night. The automaton lady on the other end of the phone informed me, without a shadow of sympathy, that "The computer says 2 hours, but you might get lucky as you're down as priority". Er...right. Have you ever tried to entertain a 9 month old in a Mini for 2 hours? Oh, and did I mention it was rather cold? Fortunately, I managed to wake up my phone and call dh, who left work immediately and got to us in about 40 minutes, so we could at least sit in his nice warm car with a bit more room. In the meantime, Daniel had thoroughly investigated every light, lever and button on the dashboard, planted his feet in every part of my anatomy in his attempts to go and explore, and then finally given up and had a good long feed. I am so glad I'm still breastfeeding, or it would have been hell! The breakdown truck arrived over an hour after the call to the RAC, loaded the car onto the back and drove it back to Exeter for us, where fortunately dh's garage was still open. 

By this point it was 8.30 and I declared a cooking strike, so we went out for pizza and Daniel chatted up the waitress while covering the floor in gummed-to-death bits of pepper and apple. 

On Saturday, we received the joyous news that the clutch had gone, and was going to cost a painful amount to replace - this only weeks after we had to spend even more on dh's car. They've also discovered an oil leak, but I have to wait until Monday for a quote for that. This has really messed up our finances, and we've had to get a loan from my parents to cover it. So much for redecorating our bedroom before our new bed arrives! That's on hold, and I've spent part of today typing up invoices for various teaching jobs to try and get at least part of it paid back quickly. Very annoying.

We usually try to make Saturdays a bit special, going to shul if there's a service and generally spending time together. Yesterday, though, dh had to spend the afternoon at work catching up on things and it really brought it home to me how different our Saturdays usually are. Without him around (and without a car), my afternoon was the same as any week day - juggling Daniel's needs with a variety of housework jobs. We did spend the evening babysitting for friends, though, which was lovely. It's been a long time since we just sat down together with cups of tea, toys for Daniel and a DVD, without either of us jumping up to 'just' get something done. 

Today was a beautiful day, but instead of being out in the vegetable patch where I wanted to be, I did the grown-up thing and completed my tax return. At the end of the process I am apparently owed a substantial sum by the Inland Revenue, but I find that highly unlikely, and I'm inclined to think I've filled something out incorrectly, so I need to phone them in the morning and see if I can find out what. I don't think I owe much in tax, but I certainly don't think I've overpaid.  

Our second week of the food budget is going reasonably well. Last week I came in a bit under and this week it's much closer, but I think I should be able to avoid spending any more between now and Wednesday, when the next week starts (it's the day I collect our bread order, followed by the Farmers' Market on Thursday). It does make doing Tesco pretty stressful, though, when you're trying to keep track in your head right down to the last penny. Still, the menu plan for the week is looking pretty appetising:

Saturday lunch: Scrambled eggs on toast
Saturday evening: Game pie, roast parsnips, Romanesco cauliflower (there was enough meat for two game pies, so one is in the freezer for next week)
Sunday lunch: Mushrooms on toast (see last week's post for recipe)
Sunday evening: At my parents'
Monday: Squash, spinach and feta risotto
Tuesday: Mushroom and cashew nut stew with cheese dumplings
Wednesday: Vegetable soup with savoury scones OR vegetable crumble

I try to budget for at least one meat meal each week, though we didn't think the game pie was as nice as last week's steak and kidney. Dh says he likes the sound of the risotto, and the mushroom stew is an old stand-by which always goes down well. On Wednesday evening I'm at a meeting, so we'll see how the timings work. 

Tomorrow I have a new violin pupil starting, so I will have to spend the day doing some serious cleaning and tidying. With that in mind, time I joined the boys in bed, I think! Here's hoping the tax bill doesn't turn out to be much and the oil leak the garage found isn't too expensive to fix.

Monday, January 07, 2013

A quiet day

Not much to report, really, but I'm trying to get into the habit of blogging regularly, so I'll see what I can come up with!

We'll be out every other day this week, so today I decided that we should just potter around the house and keep things chilled. Daniel seemed happy with this; he's a very sociable little person usually, but I think he appreciated the slower pace today which meant I could pick him up for a cuddle whenever he needed it, and knowing that I would give him that attention if he asked for it meant that he actually needed it less. Must bear that in mind over the next few days and make sure I pace myself. 

Daniel's new-found skill in moving himself around the place has been well and truly put to the test today, which has a combined effect of making him much happier to entertain himself (thus leaving me able to do other things) while simultaneously requiring me to be much more alert to where he's going and what he's chewing! I suspect the novelty of this will soon wear off for me, but for now I'm just enjoying his achievements. He's been pulling himself up to standing now for a few weeks and has got very good at it, so today we took it to the next level and went for a walk. He held onto both my hands and we walked from the coffee table all the way across the sitting room into the hall (about 6-8m). He looked so pleased with himself! It took forever, and we had to stop to wave at the gas fire (no idea), investigate dh's didgeridoo, stare at the metal carpet cover strip in the doorway (it felt different on his bare feet) and just have a rest. Killed 20 minutes, anyway!  

Other than that, it was just various bits of housework interspersed with playing. We've found a new game to play with the stacking cups - put little ones under big ones. Apparently this is highly amusing. The funniest thing ever, though, is when he carefully removes everything from the coffee table and throws it on the floor, and then takes my slipper from the floor and puts it on the coffee table. This leads to uncontrollable giggles. *shrug* 

Tomorrow we have a potential two play dates (more for me than for him, as the babies in question are quite a lot younger) and a meeting at the University. Time for an early night, methinks!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

A great weekend

This has been a really good weekend. We decided to stay at home and 'get things done', which is usually code for doing absolutely nothing, but not this time! We were woken at 7am by the delivery of our new tumble drier, which occasioned the removal of a lot of rubbish from our conservatory to make room for it. I've always resisted the idea of a tumble drier, but dh finally managed to persuade me that with a child in cloth nappies, it really does make sense. He has spent the weekend washing (and drying) everything in sight!

Meanwhile, I have gone through all of Daniel's outgrown clothes and boxed them up according to size ready to go in the loft/got rid of. As he's now in size 6-9 months (and not for much longer, it seems), that was three sizes of clothes to be sorted - a big job that I'm glad to have out of the way. 

That led me to our third (smallest) bedroom, which has been used as a dumping ground pretty much since we moved in. After several sessions in there over the past two days we now have all the bedding, towels, etc neatly sorted onto shelves and you can actually see the floor! Still a bit more to do, but the end is in sight. Once it's cleared we can move in my old futon, which my mum turned up with last week (they were also clearing out), and which is currently getting in everyone's way in the dining room. 

Now for my real achievement of the past few days - the veg patch. When I started on Thursday, it looked like this:

After approximately 6 hours of work over three days, it now looks like this:

Even dh was impressed, and he doesn't really 'get' gardening beyond pretty flowers. When I started, the brambles and nettles reached just past the nearest tree (it's a pear; the other is an apple). I started to dig the whole lot over this afternoon but only got about half an hour as dh had a tennis match. Not sure when I'll get out there again as the weather forecast for this week looks really yucky, and while I don't mind being out in inclement weather, Daniel feels strongly that he does mind and tells me in no uncertain terms. I can't blame him, really - I wouldn't want to be sitting on a blanket with some toys either! It's not a huge problem anyway, as I won't be planting anything for another 6-8 weeks at least, so I can wait.

It's funny, I remember as a very small child going with my parents to pick up a brand new set of garden tools and a wheelbarrow, and 'helping' my dad build a greenhouse for my mum in our new-ish garden. She would have been about the same age as I am now, settling into being a stay-at-home mum, and she still loves gardening to this day. Nice to feel I'm following in her footsteps, and also in the tradition of my paternal grandfather, who died when I was 9, and my mum's grandfather, who died when I was two, who were both great vegetable growers. I don't remember my great-grandfather, but I do remember my grandad's garden with the huge veg patch all neatly laid out in rows behind the greenhouse. 

In other news, I have made granola (very yummy, best with fresh banana added) and two loaves of bread. I burned one loaf, but I have now established I can get two onto one tray, which will solve the problem of the top one burning every time I forget to switch them round halfway through the cooking time. The weekly menu has gone well so far. Mary Berry is my new guru, and her book is definitely the best recipe book I've ever bought (and I have a lot of them!). It seems to have just about everything you can think of, and I haven't tried a single recipe from it that hasn't worked so far. The steak and kidney pie on Friday night was gorgeous - dh said "this makes kidneys taste good!", which is praise indeed! Eve's pudding afterwards also went down well. Yesterday I made a triumph of a leftovers-lunch with mushrooms and spinach on challah toast with a poached duck egg, and the quiche for dinner was followed by bread and butter pudding (Mary Berry again), using up the last of the challah. I added some apple sauce left over from Chanukah, and that worked very well. There may also have been rather a lot of clotted cream involved...

Here's the mushrooms on toast recipe, before I forget what I did:

Mushrooms & Spinach on Toast

Mushrooms, roughly chopped (I used chestnut, but any kind will do)
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
A few handfuls of spinach, chopped
3 tbsp cream cheese
2 tsp herbs, fresh or dried (mixed herbs, thyme, tarragon...)
Olive oil and/or butter, for frying

Melt the butter in a saucepan with some olive oil, then add the mushrooms, shallot and garlic and cook very gently until soft (about 5 mins). Add the spinach and cook until wilted, then stir in the herbs and cream cheese. Continue to cook, stirring regularly, until the cream cheese has melted. Season well with plenty of salt and a little black pepper.

Serve on toast, with poached eggs if wanted.

Daniel has now very much got the hang of moving from one place to another, though I can't really call it crawling since he uses a variety of techniques! He was rather surprised yesterday when he turned around and found himself on the other side of the room to me, when I clearly hadn't moved :-D He also discovered that a transparent plastic box was...well, transparent, and spent about quarter of an hour with his head inside it, grinning at me and shouting every time I stopped paying attention! He pulled his old baby bath over on top of himself (it was empty, waiting to go up in the loft) and had us both in stitches moving around like a large white turtle, before an enquiring sort of squeak suggested to us that he might like to come out now, please!

It's good to remind myself that we are still having these fun times, because our little man is going through a bit of a challenging phase, wanting to be carried all the time. It's frustrating when I'm trying to get things done, but that's clearly what he needs right now, so I'm taking lots of deep breaths, rearranging my priorities, and trying to just enjoy the extra cuddles. Dh has been wonderful this weekend, taking him off so I can get a bit of time to myself, but I can't say I'm completely relishing the thought of this week when he's at work. However, we will just take it one day at a time and see how we go. 

It struck me this afternoon that we are rapidly approaching the end of an era, as my NCT group tried to arrange to meet for coffee, as we have done nearly every week for the past 9 months. So many of the mums are going back to work over the next couple of weeks, and are starting to settle their little ones into nursery. The time will soon come when no one is free at all during the week, except me. On the other hand, I've just had a lovely email from Julia at Classroom Free, which I hope will be the beginning of finding some friends in the HE community. 

Must sign off, as we're due at my parents' for dinner. I'm bringing my knitting to take full advantage of an evening with people who are quite happy to keep Daniel entertained for as long as he needs it!

Friday, January 04, 2013

Roll on 2013!

2012 was a good year for me. Obviously there were downs (for example, we lost my grandmother just two weeks after Daniel was born), but when I look back the only thing I see is my gorgeous, clever little boy and how rich he has made my life. Nothing else matters; I feel incredibly blessed to have him. 

So what do I want for 2013? Here are a few of my New Year's resolutions, and how I'm doing so far:

Get involved with local HE groups
I've joined a Yahoo group for one, and sent an email to another which I know meets quite nearby every week. Just waiting for a reply, and hopefully I'll be able to actually go to something in the next couple of weeks.
Clear the vegetable patch, install a compost bin and plant some vegetables
I had sessions out there yesterday and today, and a big push tomorrow (when dh is around to entertain Little Man) should see the area cleared and ready to cover up for a month or two before I start planting. The brambles are so big Sleeping Beauty would be proud, but I'm definitely winning. The plan is to have squash, onions and salad in the veg patch, tomatoes in gro-bags and salad in a couple of big tubs that were here when we moved in. The compost bin is coming from my parents (they have several and don't need them all now their chicken-keeping days are over) as soon as I have somewhere to put it, which will be soon.

Learn to sew
Hence the sewing machine! My mum came over for dinner last night and then helped me pick my way through the instructions until I had a real line of stitches on some real fabric. This is a huge step for me - I had a bit of a mental block about sewing machines after secondary school, where I was off sick for the lesson where the class was shown how they worked, and spent the rest of my time there trying to avoid having to use the damn things so the teacher wouldn't make my life a misery for not knowing what to do. Also, there were only about 15 for a class of 30ish, and no more than 10 were ever working at any one time. Having my very own (purple!) machine and actually understanding the basic concept of how it works... that's a massive step for me. I'm really looking forward to getting to grips with this, starting with some wash cloths for Daniel and then aiming for curtains by the end of the year to replace the various hideous and ill-fitting ones around the house.

Get more of a grip on the housekeeping finances and budget better
Our finances are a bit dire at the moment, especially with me giving up work, so it's time to get them under control. I may not be going out to work, but I can at least make sure I'm saving us money in the areas I have the most to do with. Starting this week, I have an app on my phone to track our spending on food, cleaning products, etc, and I've set a weekly budget that I'm challenging myself to keep to. I worked out that we were spending about £350 a year just on bread (we get nice stuff from a local baker), so I've halved our order and will try making my own for the other half. One day I'll learn how to do sourdough and replace the whole order, but for now just half will do! 

Meal planning is another part of this, and that's (re)started this week:

Thursday: Squash, chickpea & spinach curry with rice
Friday: Steak & kidney pie, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, Eve's pudding
Saturday: Leak & kale flan
Sunday: Dinner at my parents'
Monday: Fried halloumi cheese, beetroot in sour cream, couscous and salad
Tuesday: Vegetable stew with cheese dumplings
Wednesday: Spice parsnip soup with savoury scones

Keep on top of housework
This is another mental block I'm gradually getting on top of. I don't need the house to be spotless, but it would be nice to get to the point where a visit at short notice doesn't induce panic! I'm there at the moment, just need to sustain it. We're planning to decorate our bedroom over the next few weeks, which will be a first for us, and I'm really looking forward to it!

Lose more weight
I've lost about 2½ stone from my pre-pregnancy weight, just by walking more and breastfeeding. Ideally I'd like to lost up to another stone, so I'm trying to eat more sensibly during the day and get more exercise. This is partly so I look better, but also because I suspect that my weight was part of the reason I had so many problems towards the end of my pregnancy. We want a big family, but I don't want the same stuff happening again, and I think getting fitter, healthier and slimmer will give me a better chance of avoiding the same problems next time round. Of course, once Daniel is walking I'll be kept fit just running around after him, and it looks like that day might not be too far off!

Blog more regularly
What it says on the tin, really. I'd like this to be a record of life with Daniel so I can look back and see how he developed, and how I felt about it. The aim is to blog at least once a week, and preferably every day, though until I get a new laptop that might be a bit tricky. Still, we'll see!

So that's the plan for this year. I think I'm doing pretty well so far! It's my 30th birthday in a couple of weeks and I'm actually pretty happy about it; I wanted to be a home-educating mum by the time I was 30, and I am! I'm in a really good place right now, and I hope that carries on. Watch this space...

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Lots of firsts

Why is it that over the Christmas/New Year period time simultaneously flies AND it feels like double its actual length? Presumably because so much gets packed into such a short time, but we’re enjoying ourselves so it all goes quickly. Or something like that.

Anyhoo, this was Daniel’s first Chanukah/Christmas/New Year, and a fabulous time was had by all! Let’s take them one at a time…

We’ve never really done a lot for Chanukah before. We’ve lit candles and consumed potato latkes, but that’s been about it. Dh has a thing about “We don’t do Christmas!” in reaction to the people who blow Chanukah up into a Christmas substitute, and so we’ve always kept it really really low-key. This year, though, we managed to get a bit more balance and realised that we can ‘do’ Chanukah without it turning into Christmukah. We will not ever have a ‘Chanukah bush’ (aka Christmas tree) in our home, but a few decorations and a party or two are perfectly acceptable.

With that in mind, I knitted some blue bunting to go across the mantelpiece, and some letters (‘Happy Chanukah’) to string across the window. Admittedly, I didn’t get them finished until just after Chanukah had ended, but they’re ready for next year and have given me lots of ideas for small decorations I can use for other festivals. I’m particularly keen on raggy wreaths, so they may make an appearance at some point.

We also had our very first Chanukah party (well, I did). With all the Christmas stuff going around, lovely as it was, I thought we should put our own mark on the seasonal festivities and invited our NCT group to a Chanukah tea party. After initial confusion, the response was hugely enthusiastic, and we had a lovely time with masses of very yummy artery-clogging food. I even managed to send home party bags for the dads! Hopefully this will be the beginning of a tradition of Chanukah parties at Daniel’s house to go with Christmas parties at other people’s houses.

We didn’t do presents for Daniel this year as he’s still too young to notice (and it didn't occur to us), but dh’s dad got him this, which has already been thoroughly covered in mush enjoyed:

We always spend Christmas with my parents, and it was as lovely as ever. I managed to get the shopping done without any last-minute panics (well, one minor one!) and we had lots of time together as a family. Daniel discovered roast parsnips, and spent a solid 2½ hours playing with a cardboard box covered in wrapping paper before he deigned to notice the Hungry Caterpillar toy inside it. When he did, he held it up, looked at it, gave it a hug, and went back to the box :-D The box was my aunt’s genius idea; her son’s birthday is the day before Daniel’s so he was the same age at his first Christmas and she obviously remembers what it was like! My brother, with equal insight, gave Daniel a large kitchen spoon with a bright orange flexible spoon-bit (what’s is that called? Surely it has a name!) which has turned out to trump even an iPhone in terms of desirability for waving/chewing/shouting at.

My amazing parents got me this utterly gorgeous object:

More on this later, but suffice to say I couldn’t have been happier!

Dh and I had a conversation around this time about the appropriateness of taking our Jewish son to celebrate Christmas. It was an interesting discussion to revisit, just to review the reasons we do it. As I pointed out, Christmas is part of my (and therefore Daniel’s) heritage. Although I have chosen a different religious path, culturally it is still part of who I am. Let me be clear – we do not, and never will, have a Christmas tree at home. We put up Christmas cards because it would be rude not to when people have taken the time to send them, but that is as far as it goes. However, that doesn’t change the fact that my family observe Christmas, as does a majority of the population of this country, and we want Daniel to understand and respect that, in the same way that my family join us for Jewish festivals. If his Jewish identity is shaken by helping my parents celebrate their special religious times, then there is something wrong with the way we are bringing him up. Ok, rant over :-)

New Year
In established tradition, we were once again at my parents’ house. We assumed that Daniel would flag long before midnight, so arranged to stay over. By 11.30 dh and my dad had both fallen fast asleep in the sitting room… and Daniel? No, Daniel was quite clear that it was time to party. He stayed up until well past midnight, though seemed a bit perplexed by the Chinese lanterns. On the upside, he was highly amused to find himself still there in the morning!

On New Year’s Day we all headed off to Haytor on Dartmoor to clear away the cobwebs. Dh went up route-march style with Daniel in the carrier on his back, while the rest of us made rather more leisurely progress. Predictably, there were lots of people, but everyone was enjoying themselves and there was a nice atmosphere around. It was also sodding freezing rather chilly and blowing a gale breezy, but thermos flasks and Christmas cake back at the car soon sorted that out while Daniel sat in the back and sang to the seatbelt. Not sure why, but he seemed to feel it deserved an aria.

And so starts 2013! I think my resolutions for the new year need a separate post, but that can wait until tomorrow. Night night :-)