Updated: Jan 30, 2022
Hello, and welcome to my monthly newsletter! I hope that you all had a lovely Christmas, and that you are easing into 2022 with a little lingering magic and joy. I know that I have a lot to be thankful for, but January is often a struggle for me, even when my mental health is stable (which it still isn't, yet). The excitement of Christmas is over, it's grey and cold, and I'd be hibernating if I could.
This January has been especially tough. An absolute rollercoaster of challenges and emotions, not all of which I feel comfortable sharing here, but you'll have to trust me when I say, it has been HARD. I'd hoped to manifest a bit of 'ease' this year, but apparently the universe hasn't heard me calling yet (I think I need to bellow!)
Rest in Peace Sweet Choccie
In the second week of January, we noticed that one of our sweet guinea pigs was struggling to eat. Over the course of a few weeks her weight had dropped, and it was time to take her to the vet. All three of our guinea pigs have come from a local rescue centre, and the centre recommended a vet that specialises in exotic pets. Guinea pigs have certain vulnerabilities, and when they're having trouble eating it's crucial that they are seen by a specialist as a matter of urgency, as they can deteriorate so quickly.
We were seen by the vet the same day, and Choccie was prescribed some anti-inflammatory medication, pain killers and some critical care food. This is generally what is prescribed when there is no obvious diagnosis. At this point, Choccie was well in herself, and took the medication without any problem. She wasn't interested at all in the critical care food, but she was still eating a little at this point. We went back to the vet two days later, and as there had been no improvement in her ability to eat, it was decided to admit her for further investigations under a light anaesthetic.
As you can imagine, I was feeling very worried. I so desperately wanted them to find something obvious and treatable, and for her to make a full recovery. I was still hopeful at this point. It was heart breaking to watch her excitement at a pile of fresh hay, or her bowl of veggies, but struggle to get any of it into her mouth. She was literally wasting away before our eyes.
The procedure at the vets went well. They had identified some swelling in her back molars, so we had a course of antibiotics for her, stronger pain medication and more critical care food. Choccie responded well to it all for the first 24 hours, and we felt so hopeful, but the next day she simply refused to accept the syringe. She turned around in her snuggle pouch, and wouldn't have any more. It was absolutely heart breaking. There was nothing more that we could do for her.
Choccie was the most tame of our three guinea pigs. She came to us during our first lockdown here in May 2020, along with her daughter Brownie, and she has seen us through some challenging times. She was like a therapy pet for me. I absolutely adored her. Making the decision to take her back to the vet for euthanasia is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. It's so hard to comfort your child, when you are so distressed yourself.
We planted her in a large pot in our garden, with a blueberry bush (her favourite food) so that we can remember her every spring when it blossoms, and every summer when it bears fruit. We can feed her blueberries to her daughter Brownie. If you have experienced loss in your family, I can recommend the book, Beginnings and Endings and Lifetimes in Between, for explaining life and death to children in the most beautiful and comforting way.
Festivals and Celebrations Project Highlights
January has been fairly quiet festival wise. We read a little about Epiphany at the beginning of the month. The photograph of the double page spread is taken from the book, Children Just Like Me: Celebrations, which features many of the world's festivals and celebrations. Although a little dated (published in 1997) we really like this book for the photographs and first hand accounts from children.
We read the books We Three Kings (a lovely, illustrated version of the hymn) and The Last Straw (an amusing story of the visiting Kings, from the perspective of the camel), both of which we had out on loan from the library. We also baked a Galette des Rois (King Cake), which has become somewhat of a tradition for us. We follow the recipe in the 2021 edition of The Almanac, which features poached pears, and serve it warm with cream. I think this recipe looks very similar. It's absolutely delicious.
The following week, we read a little about the Indian festival, Pongal, in A Year Full of Celebrations and Festivals, but by this point, our sweet Choccie had become unwell, so all of our home education plans went out of the window while we tried to nurse her back to health. We're looking forward to learning about Lunar New Year in February though, and will celebrate Valentine's Day together too.
At the beginning of January, once our local schools were back in session, we met with friends for a day at Bristol's Science Museum, We the Curious. They offer a really good membership discount for home educating families, which we have had in the past, but they also offer a heavily discounted day rate, which is what we went for on this occasion. The day rate is £6.00 pp for home educating families.
I can't remember when we last visited, but it was certainly pre-pandemic, and there were quite a few new exhibits to explore, along with many of our old favourites.
The Artist’s Way
In December, I bought myself a copy of The Artist's Way for my birthday. It's a book that I've had on my wish list for some time, but have resisted buying because I knew that it required a commitment of time to work through. With Bean spending three days a week at her new setting, I thought that this would be a good time to try to start it, but I've not made great progress.
The two main practices that you are encouraged to weave into your every day life are the writing of 'morning pages' (essentially, a free flowing 'brain dump' of your thoughts, onto paper, for no other purpose than to get them out of your head) and a weekly 'artists date' (a time that is 100% for you, to fill your cup with creative inspiration). I managed about a week of writing my 'morning pages' before Choccie got sick, and I could definitely see the benefit, but found it challenging to find the perfect window to fit in it during our busy mornings. I'm going to attempt to resurrect it soon though.
I had the most magnificent first 'artists date', early on in January when I was feeling quite well rested and ready to take on 2022. I met with my Mum for a full day's, circular walk, from Newton to Ogmore-by-Sea, via Merthyr Mawr and Britain's tallest sand dune. It was a beautiful day, and all that coastal air did wonders for my soul.
For my second 'artists date' I took myself on a solo trip to Ikea, to allow myself to dream and plan for the interior of our new extension. I'm going to have an extremely limited budget, and will be looking at decorating it slowly, as funds allow. It was somewhat of a distracted date though, as Choccie was at the vet under anaesthetic, and I was worrying and weeping.
This last week I have been on another long, circular walk with my Mum, this time starting and ending at Fforest Fawr, Castell Coch. I wasn't feeling well, partly because I have had to prematurely come off my anti-anxiety medication (the Dr wouldn't give me a repeat prescription without a follow up appointment, but I couldn't get an appointment before my medication ran out). Despite feeling rubbish, the exercise and fresh air and good company was definitely needed.
Building work continues here at quite a pace. The first photograph here is how it was left over Christmas and New Year, with foundations in and the first row of bricks laid out. The second photograph was taken at the end of last week, so you can see that the walls are up, the roof is on (no tiles or guttering yet) and the doors have been relocated. This past week, the bricklayers have been here and they've built a retaining wall and steps into the garden. This coming week the roof tiles should be coming.
The Fundamentals of Play: Self Care
Did you know that I have released the first in a series of six guides on the theme of independence, for my self directed course, The Fundamentals of Play? This course is a work in progress, but it will eventually be a collection of 24 guides, split into four units of study (Play Matters, Independence, Play Materials and Play Areas). My guides on Art Materials and Loose Parts Play are already live and are currently on sale.
This new guide, on Self Care has been compiled with love, and shares all my top tips for preparing an enabling environment for self care practices. I'll be working on the Dressing and Undressing guide and the Block Play guide next, so keep an eye out for those coming soon.
Process Art Challenge
I'm going to be having a little theme running through some of my posts on social media, and my posts here on the blog this February. The theme is Art! Alongside all the lovely content coming, you are invited to join in with my Process Art Challenge. Each day comes with a prompt to inspire you. If you are stuck for ideas, you can try searching online using the hashtags #processart or #processartforkids Or, you can download my 31 Days of Process Art digital guide, which includes lots of ideas that can be adapted to fit with the daily prompts.
There are still a few days left to take advantage of my January sale. ALL digital play and learning guides, including the self directed version of my online course, The Simple Art of Toy Rotation, are currently on sale. 25% off, with no coupon code needed. The discount has already been applied for you. You can also take advantage of my offer for FREE P&P on ALL play dough kits. Just enter the code FREEP&P at checkout.
We're having a break from buying books while building work takes place here, as I'm really having to tighten the purse strings, but these are a few that Bean got for Christmas which we are enjoying.
100 Things to Know About Numbers, Computers and Coding - I've written a blog post review of the books in the series, which you'll find linked below. We're reading this one at Morning Time.
Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids - we haven't started this one yet, as I was hoping I might be able to get a book club going so that we had friends to study it with together (this still might happen!) I'll let you know how we get on with it, when we start.
Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women - we've started reading this at Morning Time, and it is fitting in very well with Bean's current interest, Business. We've been watching past episodes of The Apprentice and Dragon's Den together, and reading the Usborne book, Business for Beginners, while talking a lot about different ideas for potential businesses. I like to think that she can take over Invitations to Play one day!
A Bedtime Full of Stories: 50 Folk Tales and Legends From Around the World - this is one of another wonderful series, that I'd love to write a review for on the blog soon. We're reading these stories at bedtime, and Bean loves them.
Here are the blog posts I've shared this month, just in case you might have missed them.
If you have enjoyed reading this monthly newsletter, and don't want to miss another one, perhaps you might like to subscribe? I can promise not to flood your inbox with spam (but I can't promise that I'll remember to send newsletter reminders either!) Scroll down to the bottom to subscribe. Also, if you have a specific request for the blog, please drop me a message at email@example.com
Next month, I'll be sharing some posts with an art focus, including a mini unit study on Vincent Van Gogh. I'll be sharing the highlights of our trip to London (take two!) and all the usual project updates and book recommendations too.
This blog post contains affiliate links. If you do click through, Bean and I will receive a small amount of commission which will contribute to new books and resources for her home education. You can, however, find all of these resources elsewhere, including other online retailers, second hand selling pages and your local library.