Lego battle!

Sometimes our lounge room is turned into a gigantic battle ground for little Lego people to battle it out.

There are always different factions…

And there are the puppet masters behind them…

Then it is on to war!

Kingly duties

More Jude art

Jude continues to demonstrate his artistic bent with another creation from school holiday care.  In this one these designed dioramas and then constructed them.

The design…

They then built their constructions – Jude’s involves a goblin and a glass golem in front of a cave.

There was much detail in the description of the construction. I love how this particular exercise drew out both story-telling and design/construction skills.

Jude is definitely big with the art.

Sebby: Hockey Star

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Sebastian has been playing hockey – well minkey – for a few years now. And this year he got asked to move from the u9 minkey team up to the u11 hockey team. This meant moving to playing on full-sized field for an hour with rules closer to the grown up version. Oh, and he gets a proper uniform and all. Naturally, Sebastian was very excited by this, and has taken to it well.

While the move to u11 has added complexity to the Saturday morning transport arrangements, such is life. We are pleased he is doing so well and, most importantly, enjoying it. Jude is still at the minkey, and it will be interesting to see whether Zac takes to it like his brothers next year.

Here is Sebastian having his turn at being goal keeper. Apparently he did quite well in the role, so he may end up spending some more time all suited up.


King Zachary and his Party of Five-dom

Zachary turned five and decided that he wanted to be a “Knight King” for the celebrations. Fortunately we now have some experience in the Knight-themed birthday parties, so were happy to oblige.

Some of his guests came in costume..

…and Jude got well into the spirit of things.

A bit of a tug-of-war to kick things off…

It was then time for the knights to make their own coats of arms and shields. Much drawing and sticking of stickers, and a lot of concentration.

We did not have a dragon for the small knights to fight; instead they had to bash their way into a chest to find the treasure (perhaps a little piratical, rather than knightly, but hey…)

It was then time for knightly feasting on heraldic fairy bread and other party fare…no hogsheads of mead though.

There was a treasure hunt and some games outside, but it then started sleeting just a little so we thought it was rather better to bring the young crusaders inside…for a spot of musical chairs.

Zacky invoked the Birthday Boy Prerogative for the first game and insisted on doing the music rather than actually playing. He was ably assisted by his friend Max.

After a bit more dancing, it was time for the big moment…the cake. A castle with slightly middle-eastern inspired minarets. But even better than that – it was chocolate!

Happy birthday was sung, attempts were made to blow out candles…then Jude blew them out causing some consternation in the Birthday King-Knight and thus the re-lighting, re-singing and re-blowing activities.

A happy King is a King with cake.

The wonderful, timeless Arthur Ransome

I am a working mother. I don’t feel guilt about this, I know it is the best thing for me and for my children, and I know that my children are well cared for, either by my partner or by their school or childcare. Nonetheless, it does mean that the time I spend with them and our rituals around it are just that bit more precious, as anything that is rarer is more precious.

One of my favourite things is story time. Sure, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that some nights it feels like a chore when I am sick or tired or required to read the same hideously written Bob the Builder story for the 5th night running (and don’t get me started on Thomas the Tank Engine), but it is, even then, a wonderful time when I sit on my boys’ beds, with them cuddled up or playing with my hair or sprawled about and we take a shared voyage together.

The Swallows & Amazons series were books that I adored as a child, and I can still recall parts of them. I was thus delighted when, one night after a meeting in Melbourne I discovered open a little bookshop called the Paperback Book at the top of Bourke Street. Its children’s novels’ section was marvellous -and both Swallows & Amazons and The Eagle of the Ninth were immediate purchases. Once home, it was decided that I would  read it aloud at storytime each night.

I must admit, though I loved these books myself, I wasn’t sure they would hold up and how much the boys would enjoy them. The kids in these adventures don’t have computers or go to the movies; they sing sea shanties and do algebra in their holidays. Written in the 1930s, these books could be seen as existing in a different world, divorced from modern amenities and helicopter parenting. But they immediately clicked with the boys (well, Sebastian and Jude anyway. Zac’s attention wanders a bit). The characterisations are such that my boy can identify with the children (especially the 7 yr old and Roger) and the simple adventures capture their imaginations. The boys love the details of camp life with which the stories are imbued, and the freedom inherent in a bunch of children not much older than themselves spending their summer sailing around a lake.

I have enjoyed rediscovering the books as well; not only are the stories engaging despite their simplicity, but Ransome also writes with a gentle humour that might be missed by the smaller audience members at times. The emotional engagement of the characters is the central attraction of the books, an they really do come to life. Starting Winter Holiday tonight, the boys can identify the children immediately from the descriptions of them as seen from a distance, and are excited by their reappearance.

There are challenges in reading books which are nearly 80 years old to small people, but they can be part of the enjoyment. The boys, who knew nothing about sailing, are now getting the hang of what jibs, booms and halyards are – and also are getting quite keen to have sailing lessons themselves. Explaining the use of terms like “natives” and “savages” opens up a post-colonial theory discussion around bed time. I must admit that I found it hard to read the word “dago” when it was used in Peter Duck, but again it, and “negroes” offers opportunity to discuss issues of both the past and the present. Similarly we can discuss changes in technology and lifestyles with children at boarding schools, lanterns instead of torches and having to fetch the milk from a farm each morning. The gender relations in the books are not as awful as they might be – Susan and Peggy do all the cooking and look after the crew because they are the Mates, not just because they are girls. And with Nancy and Titty around, there is no implications that cooking and sewing are what girls should be interested in. Nancy and John, both captains, are equals. One of the points of humour and horror in Swallowdale is the fact that Nancy and Peggy are forced out of their sailors’ gear and into pretty dresses for the benefit of their (much despised) Great Aunt.

We have now read the first three of the series, and are onto number 4, with number  awaiting us on the shelf. It was an anxious wait until Winter Holiday turned up today from the Book Depository. I am just happy to have found a wonderful way to share my story time with my boys, transported to another world, engendering in them a love of sailing, adventures and, most of all, reading.