Friday, 23 January 2015

Blood is Thicker Than Water.

How many times in life have you heard the expression 'Blood is thicker than water'? It is one of those stock phrases people wheel out at various times and I had never really thought about it until this past week. My dad, who was 80 last October but still working on a voluntary basis every day, took sick very suddenly on the 7th of January & was admitted to the ICU the following morning & died a week later. 
Over that week my mum, brother & I sat with him throughout the day & into the evenings. Initially we thought he was going to be ok but on the Sunday the doctors told us this was 'an end of life experience' for my dad. This is when the phrase became a reality for us, my aunts & uncles, cousins & in-laws all went into action & kept us company, fed us & offered support in any way they could over the next few difficult days as my dad got weaker & weaker.
Growing up I was surrounded by ready made playmates in the guise of my many cousins, we rarely needed too many friends at our parties as we had so many of them around the same age as ourselves. But obviously as we all grew up & got on with our own busy lives we didn't see each other just as much, the girl cousins on my mum's side have tried to meet up once a year for a meal, just to make sure we keep that connection but it has been a while since we were all together. 
My dad's sister has always been great at organising meet ups for us all at least once a year, I usually just get a phone call with the date & time & we spend an afternoon just chatting & reminiscing. 

Since the 15th of January when my dad passed away, the wider family circle again provided so much support for us all; from making teas, sandwiches & food for the many visitors & us during the wake to just being there for us to hold onto at the more difficult times. Sometimes it does take a sad occasion to make families pull together & this was certainly so true for us. I am truly blessed to belong to such a big extended family on my parents' side & on my husband's side. The latter have been through so much themselves in the past 6 months we had all become so much closer already.

I know my dad would be so happy to see us all pulling together, reconnecting & rekindling life-long relationships. So here's to family & I am truly fortunate to belong to one of the best. So a massive thanks to all the Woods', Murdocks, Collins', Buckles, Morris', McCartans, Hartleys, Corrs, O'Neills, Cannings, Kilpatricks,  Cullens & McAndrews for being there when you were needed the most. 

This post is dedicated to Desmond Buckle, a true gentleman & the best husband, dad, father-in-law, papa, uncle, brother & brother-in-law ever. October 19th 1934 - 15th January 2015.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Finding Colors in Nature - A Guest Post from Iceland.

I am grateful to my friend & colleague, Unnur, for sending me this little story about her class. 

Friday, 2 January 2015

1st Outdoor Play Party of 2015!

Welcome to the first Outdoor Play Party for a whole new year & here is to a 2015 filled with great outdoor memories.I hope that more & more teachers & parents realise in 2015 that good quality outdoor play does not require a massive space or loads of expensive resources.
Over the past 8 years in our current playground I have come to realise that children are happiest when they have space to run about, hide from adult eyes, have access to water, mud & sand & most of all have other children to interact with. We have had so much fun exploring 'Bear Woods' on a weekly basis for over a year now & yet, still after each visit, the 2 of us (the main staff) say to each other 'I can't believe how much enjoyment we all get out of that tiny space' - we are still amazed each visit by how a previously unused strip of land can provide us with such an incredible learning space.
A class of 28 children can spend up to 2 hours up here with little or no resources.
I was lucky to get the chance to give a short presentation at a Teachmeet in November all about how we had developed our wild/wooded area with the main school grounds & how this had led to the development of 'Bear Woods'. I hope that some of those listening were able to go back to their schools & look at pieces of underused land with new eyes & see the potential of it.
There is a great book by Claire Warden called 'The Potential of a Puddle', I think there should be a another one for schools to see how they can use the spaces they already have. 
A well used outdoor space - it's not pretty!
Our playground has evolved from being a clean, open, tidy space to become one full of different little areas for children to enjoy exploring. I love it when people visit & 'get' the space immediately, seeing all the play opportunities it offers. I think the best compliment it received was from Peter from Cosy, when he visited he observed that it felt like a much bigger space because of all the various areas created. It is always good to keep evaluating your outdoor space to make sure it meets the needs of the children currently using it, it never ceases to amaze me how each class interacts with the space in a completely different way - some years they spend a lot of time in the little house, other years on the slide, this year the class tend to spend a lot of their time in the mud kitchen, forest area & reading area under the slide.
And brings me neatly to the highpoint of 2014 for me in our outdoor play journey - the addition of our amazing mud kitchen.
Every setting needs a mud kitchen & a friend like Martin!
Thanks to Martin from Highway Farm Activity Centre & Adam (one of our parents) the nursery now has a deluxe mud kitchen in one corner of the playground. I will never be able to repay these 2 for their generosity but I hope they both realise just what an impact this area has had on outdoor play at Windmill.
Who knows what 2015 will bring but I do have plans to create a den in Bear Woods & hopefully another bigger willow den up their too. 
Here is to a great year spent outdoors creating more memories for a whole new generation.

There were lost of Christmassy posts linked up in the last OPP so no surprise my featured post has that theme - I loved this one from Little Steps on how they went to choose their Christmas tree, it was lovely to see the family exploring the tree farm before picking the one they wanted to take home & decorate. This seems like a lovely family tradition to create.
"Now it’s time for this week’s Outdoor Play Party. We would appreciate it if you included a link back to this post (either in your post or sidebar) to help us spread the word about the importance (and fun!) of outdoor play! In return, we’ll gladly further share your post on Pinterest. Please feel free to grab the Outdoor Play Party button from the sidebar and/or include a text link back. Please note that by contributing you are giving permission for an image and link to your post to be republished if featured.(If you have been featured, please feel free to grab the ‘featured at’ button from the sidebar.) Share your ideas for outdoor play activities with us every other week!"