Sunday, February 03, 2013

Highlights of a busy week

I’ve been meaning to blog all week about all the amazing things we’ve been doing, and now I finally have time, I can’t remember half of them! Never mind, here are the main highlights…
The biggest thing was that we finally made it to a local home ed group! The wonderful Julia of Classroom Free fame gave me the details and on Wednesday we duly turned up and introduced ourselves. We walked there (about an hour), so it felt like a proper adventure! This particular group is mainly a drop-in opportunity for socialising and networking, which was perfect. There was another mum I know from elsewhere (always nice to see a familiar face) and within about 10 minutes I’d heard about another 4 groups which we might want to get involved with.
Something that really struck me was how confident Daniel was in a group of complete strangers (my acquaintance with the other mum was several years ago). He was smiling and chatting as soon as we got there, and once he was out of the sling, he was off to talk to other people with hardly a backward glance. Absolutely lovely to see, and a world away from how I was as a child. I think I was fine as a very small child, but my school experiences largely destroyed my ability to socialise, and it is only in the last few years that I’ve started to get more confident. I was a little nervous approaching the group, but who wouldn’t be? It certainly wasn’t the crippling stomach ache of pure terror that I would have had just a few years ago. One of my biggest aims in HEing Daniel is to give him the chance to develop his social skills unhindered.

This was the first time I’ve been aware of Daniel actually playing with another child instead of using them as an object to poke. A little girl (I would guess about 2 or 3 years old) was fascinated by him, and after a little while they went off together. They spent some time banging on the floor and laughing at each other, before they headed for the door. Talk about partners in crime! My son seemed to be the ringleader – he made a break for freedom, and turned his head with an enquiring noise to check that she was coming too. *grin* While I was helping tidy up at the end of the session they made another break for freedom, and I loved seeing the way one of the dads went over and gently but firmly turned them round, talking to them all the while about why he didn’t think that was the best direction to be going in. Great to be in a group where people are confident about interacting with others’ children, even when they haven’t met them before. Also nice to be able to take my eyes off him for a minute without worrying too much about what he’s up to!
After the group we headed into the play park outside. It’s been so cold and wet recently that we haven’t had any decent time outside for Daniel to go exploring, but he had his new waterproof dungarees on and put them to very good use. He had his first go on a swing, too, and grinned from ear to ear! More trips to the park from now on, I think – after all, if it’s not actually raining then there’s not much a woolly jumper and some waterproofs can’t deal with.
This week generally has been peppered with evidence of Daniel’s increasing mobility, confidence and independence. He happily goes off on his own to roam the house, and I try to let him go as much as possible, while keeping an ear out to make sure he’s not about to cause serious damage. After all, it’s his house too. We were in the bedroom the other day and he decided he had things to do elsewhere, so he headed for the door. All very well, but he couldn’t open it because he was sitting in the way! Over the course of about 5 minutes he gradually managed to manoeuvre himself and the door, and off he went. It took quite a lot of patience and perseverance, but at no point did he give up or get distracted.
It’s certainly keeping me on my toes, but it is nice to see how confident and busy he is now. Dh gets a little jumpy sometimes, but I try to be more relaxed and pick my battles carefully. The word ‘gently’ comes in a lot, and he seems to understand. He absolutely loves books, and with the number we have in the house it would be impossible to keep them all out of his reach, so he is allowed to investigate them under supervision, with lots of encouragement and reminders if he gets a bit overexcited. I want him to keep this love of books, and teaching him how to handle them carefully seems a better solution than banning him altogether.
Yesterday I experimented with a new challah recipe, and I think I’ve nailed it. I’ll try it again next week with the changes and if it works out well again, I’ll post the recipe. Daniel decided he didn’t feel like playing with his toys on the floor, so I put him in his highchair and he ‘helped’. He got a bit grouchy towards the end, but it’s a nice start to him helping in the kitchen when he’s a little bit older. We also got to sing lots of Shabbat songs and generally wind down from the week and get in the mood.

Today it has all been about things which open and close. He has mastered drawers, and even worked out the handle on the kitchen door – fortunately, it needed to open inwards and he was leaning on it, so no joy! Only a matter of time, though. Most of the doors in our house have very high handles, but the kitchen doesn’t. We haven't had any trapped fingers yet, but I'm sure it won't be long. All part of learning, I guess!
Now I’ve got to go and take over while dh gets ready to go to the airport to collect his dad, who is visiting for the next week or so. It’s at least three hours each way, so we shan’t see him until at least 1am. Daniel and I will go and have dinner at my parents’ (as we do every Sunday night).

Tots' Shabbat

Last Saturday we held our very first Tots’ Shabbat at the synagogue. I’m going to stick my neck out here and hazard a guess that that was probably the first toddler service ever in our 250 year old community! A friend and I run the toddler group (known as the Dreidl Dribblers) and this time we decided to see what we could do in the way of a service. So she brought her guitar and I brought some challah, and everyone brought children. We’re quite a small select group, so we were really pleased with the turnout – 5 children and 7 adults. 
We sat on the carpet instead of in the normal seats so the kids had plenty of room to move about, and we sang a variety of songs, some traditional, and some…errrr… less so! This one was genius, especially with some BSL-inspired actions. About halfway through we got out a Sefer Torah and all processed round the bimah with it, then stopped so all the kids could thoroughly investigate it – stroke the velvet, wave the yad and shake the rimmonim to make the bells jingle. 
The whole thing only lasted about half an hour before we went upstairs for coffee, chat and play, and it was really lovely. I want Daniel to grow up with a variety of Jewish experiences – normal services, sure, but also services more tailored towards him, and opportunities to play with other children who happen to be Jewish. We may be in a minority in this part of the world but that doesn’t have to mean complete isolation. With a whole group of them the same age, we’re all hoping to keep doing these things as they grow up so they can form their own mini community – a ‘peer group’ in the best sense of the word.