Sunday, August 28, 2005

One Year On

I was 34 yesterday. It looks much bigger and scarier written down than it feels, so I guess that's OK. Emily and Jon went to so much effort for my birthday. I felt thoroughly spoilt :-)))) with lots of lovely presents and handmade cards and a fantastic surprise birthday tea with balloons and confetti and party bags :-)))

On Friday we went for a play at Romy and Hazel's; the two girls had fun marking things they'd like in catalogues....would have been easier to just say "one of everything please," lol.

It must have been about this time last year, after much soul searching and at times heated debate, that we finally decided NOT to send Emily back to school in the September and to home educate instead. What a year it's been. I'd be lying if I said there hadn't been downs as well as ups. It hasn't always been easy, and there have been plenty of moments of doubt and even a few of despair. It hasn't necessarily been the walk in the park I confidently expected it to be. That in itself has been humbling. There have been some bad days - and some truly awful days. But there have also been many, many spectactularly good days, many moments of pride, many episodes of sheer joy and freedom. We've sometimes questioned whether we're doing the right thing or not, but I think such questioning is healthy. In fact, I'd be worried if we were so blinkered that we were not questioning.

We've tried countless different "ways" of home educating, trying to find the "perfect fit" for our family...only to discover that there doesn't seem to be one, but that that's OK, and that we can actually enjoy swapping and changing methods and ideas as it suits us. We've made the long and difficult journey - for a family used to school - of understanding that there doesn't always have to be something "to show" for all of Emily's hard work. That she doesn't need to complete worksheets unless she and we are in the mood. That we don't care whether she's written down what she's learnt, but that we do care exceedingly much that she's learnt it because she wants to, and that she's had fun learning and understanding it. That it matters not one jot whether she has a neatly filled handwriting copy exercise book, so long as she writes happily, fluently and legibly about things that interest and excite her. That nobody cares whether she can name all kinds of obscure geometric shapes, but that it does matter that she finds numbers interesting and can see the point of the maths we do. That it's not the sheer number of children Emily "knows" that counts, rather her increasing ability to form meaningful, kind, mutually respectful and joyful relationships with the ones she really cares for.

We've learnt a lot, Jon and I, this past year. And I don't just mean about ancient Egypt, either. We've learnt a lot about our own attitudes and expectations, and we've started to lose some of the false priorities that the school culture imposes. We've started to relax and enjoy the "ahhh, THIS is why we're doing it" moments, secure in the knowledge that we've searched our hearts and found this the most positive option for Emily. And we've learnt a lot about each other too. As a family, we've made some memories that will last forever. The doubts, the dramas, the tears (not always Emily's!) have been a necessary learning curve, which is sure to continue over the next couple of years too. But overall, we're getting there. Happily. And we wouldn't turn the clock back for the world. :-)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Suncatchers & Rainstorms

Well, it's certainly rained this last few days!

On Tuesday Emily and Daddy went out shopping on a present hunt - it's my birthday on Saturday :-)) so I hardly saw them, and yesterday they were out all day again, moseying around the Hemswell Antiques Centre, having lunch there and searching for cat related antiques and second hand books. They came back with a good haul and big grins, so I reckon a good time was had.

Meanwhile at home I was desperately trying to ignore the increasing manic behaviour of two small furry things, and attempting to get on with some work. Slightly easier said than done. Our brand new HP printer (arrived a week ago, but yesterday was the first chance to get it out of its packaging....such is life in this household) turned out to have a broken lid catch. This helpfully meant the printer thought its lid was open all the time, so it refused to go any further than turning on and flashing its lights moodily. Hrrrrmppph. I was less than impressed, having spent ages clearing space for it and faffing about with its cartridges and printheads. Still, it's gone back, replacement has arrived, perhaps we'll manage to get that one out of the box sometime before the end of September!

Romeo and Juliet seem to have grown enormously over the last couple of days. They've certainly increased in strength and agility. It's very noticeable that things they couldn't do a week ago when they arrived they suddenly can now - with frightening ease. They worked out how to jump up to the windowsill in the sitting room yesterday....they've climbed the curtains...they can get past our very best attempts at blocking off the most awkward places in the house...and I swear they move faster than motorbikes at top speed. They're also very vocal and let you know in no uncertain terms when they want attention. Oh yes, and they have a passion for playing underneath the desk swivel chair, whilst someone's sat on it trying to work. We're frightened to move now without checking underneath, lol, and we've all taken to walking around with strange shuffling movements so as to avoid squashing a small and indignant creature that's trying to chase your feet. This was Romeo this morning, obligingly looking cute in the mirror for me to take the photo:

This morning Emily and I went to the museum to look around their WW2 exhibtion, and to make some butterfly windchimes and a tissue paper stained glass window shape. By an odd coincidence we were also making stained glass window shapes (but with those coloured transparent sweet wrappers instead of tissue paper) at home a year ago today, or so it says in our home ed diary which I found this afternoon (it's been missing in action since April, lol). Here are the results of Emily's museum visit:

The WW2 exhibition was very interesting. Emily liked looking at the children's gas masks and the anderson shelter. She's seen photos of my Mum as a schoolgirl carrying her gas mask, and has been intruiged by them. And we have an old anderson shelter in our back garden, albeit now filled in and planted over. All three of Emily's surviving grandparents have memories of WW2: my Mum was a schoolgirl in London and stayed there throughout, as her parents opted not to evacuate her - her father was in charge of finding shelter and provisions for people who had been bombed out of their homes and she remembers many of them temporarily staying at their home, as well as the nightly air raids, seeing the ruins, being carried on a soldier's shoulders outside Buckingham Palace on VE day, and lots of other stuff too; my Dad was a schoolboy in Yorkshire, and Jon's Dad, slightly older, was working on a farm in the rural south, so they all have very different sides of the story to tell.

On the way back from the museum we stopped to pick up more cat litter (I've never known cats go to the loo so much!!!) and oohed and aahhed over some very posh cat play centres. The one we really, really liked was £99.99 (!) though, and we'd probably have needed an extension to put it in, so there it stayed. Shame - it was rather impressive.

It's my Dad's birthday today, so before we went out to the museum Emily spent ages making a card for him with a quilled dragonfly on it. She adores quilling, and she's got really quite talented at it, in my not so humble opinion! We use this Klutz book for ideas and inspiration. The dragonfly on the card she made is similar to the one on the cover of the book. Gramps was very chuffed, and we've just come back from having a pressie opening and chocolate cake session. Yum!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Meanwhile...While I Was Blogging

Whilst I was writing the post below, I thought it had gone quiet. Discovered Jon and Emily in the garden busily making boats out of bits of old junk and floating them in the paddling pool!

Getting Back on Track

Emily's feeling much better now. She was still very poorly all day Saturday, but much improved yesterday and today is nearly back to her old self again, save for a sore throat. Took the kittens to the vets (again) on Saturday morning; the vet thinks it was colitis. The recommendation was to starve them for the rest of Saturday (oh, the anguish!) and to start a course of what appears to be the
animal equivalent of kaolin & morphine, to line the intestines and hopefully give everything a chance to settle and heal.
We're six doses down the line now, and they seem absolutely fine. Three doses each to go. I've only just today perfected the art of getting the stuff out of the syringe/plunger thingy and down their mouths, mind you. Most of the other doses I'm sure have ended up more over me than in the kitties' tummies! Although Juliet, bless her, will lick hers off the syringe. More than can be said for Romeo who hisses, spits and generally goes rather psycho. Fortunately he seems to forgive us seconds later!

So, Saturday was spent with Emily and Daddy doing jigsaws, and snuggled up watching the telly, whilst I tried to crack on with the Press Association and BBC deadlines. Sunday Emily spent some time on ebay bidding for collars for the kittens for when they eventually go out, and a clicker. Found this book: Clicker Training Your Cat which looks very interesting.
They're too teeny for it at the moment, but we'll give it a go in a few months time, I reckon. It was nice and hot yesterday afternoon, so we also spent some time in the garden and Emily was back in her paddling pool - it's amazing how that always helps with a miraculous recovery, lol.
Emily's Jackie Chan fascination continues. She and Jon have been watching a documentary DVD about how he works, which has been fascinating. She's getting very knowledgeable about the various martial arts, the history of them, and filmaking stunts - even though she expresses that "no way!!!!!!!" does she want to actually learn any of them, lol.

Oooh yes, Emily just reminded me that I must say about the suckling, rofl. Both kittens keep following Emily about purring like mad and wanting to suckle. It's soooo sweet! When they're in that mood they just burrow down, down, down into your clothes and knead with their paws and schnuffle, lick and mouth like mad. Little sweeties were too young to have left their Mummy really, I think, but I hope we're being reasonable substitutes - they're certainly getting masses of love and attention!
This morning I took Grandad to the GP whilst Jon got absolutely soaked to the skin in several trips to the post office, and Emily made some more Tudor bitty dolls and created some lovely designs on her Hama Bead design software. Must. Get. Work. Back. On. Track. And. "Education". Too.

Photos from top to bottom: kittens asleep in their now-favourite sleepy place, the arm of the settee; Emily sharing a moment with Juliet up on her bed over the weekend; Romeo asks "How am I supposed to get that??"; But it didn't take them long to figure out that the "Toy Tree" was a fun place to be; Juliet asks "But WHY can't I sleep in the litter tray somtimes?"

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Anyone NOT Poorly?

We are not a well household this morning. Emily has an extremely high temperature, has been semi-delirious throughout the night, and also has a very hurty tummy :-( meanwhile both kittens, as of late yesterday afternoon, have lumps of blood in their poo :-(

It was not a good night.

Yesterday Romy and Hazel came to play and to meet the kittens, which was fun, although Emily's tummy ache was coming and going even then. As of this morning, Emily's temperature is down ever so slightly but she's still very poorly. Kittens are lively and happy, but I've got a vets appointment this morning to have it checked out. It sounds like some kind of worm problem, although I treated them for worms a couple of days ago. Just in case it's something more sinister, we don't want to wait until Monday to have them seen. Just like tiny babies, I guess, tiny kittens can go downhill very rapidly, so off to the vets we go, before settling in for a day of snuggles and telly with our small poorly person.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Kitty Chaos!

Well, our new arrivals have certainly turned life upside down, that's for sure. I've never seen such wonderful, irresistible time wasters! Getting things done has definitely taken a turn for the worst!

Yesterday morning when I looked at the weather forecast, the headline was "Last Heat of the Summer", and the month ahead forecast suggested that yesterday was our last chance for sunshine before Autumn sets in. Now, I'm a big fan of Autumn, it's probably my favourite season - but we couldn't miss the last chance for a paddling pool day now could we? So, Jon dropped everything to rush out and get the paddling pool set up and filling....only to come back in and discover he had to drop everything again for a trip to Casualty for his Dad, who reckoned he had something in his eye. Well, actually Grandad wanted to go to his GP, and elderly person type tantrums ensued when we pointed out that we already knew (due to other appointments this week) that two of the GPS were away, they were struggling with locums, and very unlikely to fit him in, and that casualty was a better bet. Still. GP was dutifully phoned. Told to go to casualty - where we could have gone half an hour earlier if it wasn't for the fuss. Never mind.

With Jon therefore looking likely to be out for several hours, Emily and I left my Mum and Dad kitten sitting while we went out to make the most of this last minute heatwave. Hmmmppph. Wasn't all that warm at all, actually. Emily, though, has the hide of a rhinoceros when it comes to water, so she didn't feel the chill and spent a merry afternoon getting exceptionally wet, followed by well over an hour lying on her trampoline with her legs in the pool reading the latest DK Find Out magazine from cover to cover and doing all the puzzles. Whilst I kept falling asleep, until Jon came back. There was nothing wrong with Grandad's eye.

Rest of the day was spent cooing over our Romeo & Juliet, who are becoming more adorable every day. Panicky few minutes yesterday afternoon when we'd left them sleeping, only to come back 20 minutes later to find Romeo missing. Eventually we found him asleep behind the settee - it's the tiniest of spaces, he barely fits in it. Tried blocking up his access to it, for our own peace of mind...only to find him there again this morning. He's a Houdini, that one. When I found him this morning, he looked up at me with the biggest purr yet! Problem is we have to pull the whole corner of the room apart to get him out. Grrr. Their separate personalities are starting to emerge, and they're starting to nuzzle and be very affectionate too. Emily's in sole charge of feeding them, which she enjoys, and the kitten diary is going well. Now, if only we could walk past a room, headed somewhere, and actually make it to the destination without half an hour of kitten cooing inbetween.....then we might be back on track, business wise!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Juliet in mid miaow! Posted by Picasa

Jonathan cuddling a very sleepy Romeo Posted by Picasa

Miaows & The V.E.T.

We've been on kitten-moon all day, naturally. Romeo & Juliet have well and truly settled in now, and have been bright as buttons all day, and extremely playful, much to Emily's delight. They've found their purrs too!

We took them to the V.E.T. this afternoon for a checkup. The good news was that Romeo's ear mites were of course easily treatable. The bad news, totally unexpected, was that Juliet has a heart murmur :-((( The poor vet was trying to explain this to me but bless him, being very careful what he said in front of Emily. The upshot is that she *may* grow out of it over the next few weeks. If it's still present when she has her second lot of vaccinations in about six weeks time, it'll need urgent investigation to find out how serious it is, what's causing it, and what can be done. That means referral to a specialist animal cardiologist for ecgs, ultrasound and stuff, potentially even for heart surgery on our tiny bundle of purrs :-((

They won't spay Juliet without that investigation first, because anaesthetic could potentially be fatal, depending how bad it is/what's causing it. Apparently the cost could run into thousands, he pointed out gently, whilst tactfully enquiring if we had them insured. I insured both kittens on the phone this morning. Of course, they're not covered for anything that's "diagnosed" within the first 14 days, but when I told the vet we only had them yesterday and only insured them this morning, he didn't seem worried and didn't seem to think that would be a problem. I assume that because it may yet go away it hasn't officially been "diagnosed" yet, or at least not for treatment purposes.

Anyway. She's seems very fit and healthy at the moment, full of life. I did a fair bit of research on the net when we got home, and found all kinds of inconclusive evidence, some pointing out that congential heart murmurs often cause no problems at all, and that far more serious is when an adult cat suddenly develops one...and other evidence to say that congential heart defects are the major cause of kitten death under a year. Gulp. Guess we'll just have to hope, and to see. Although the vet was careful with his words, Emily was obviously worried :-( As are we all.

Pictures above (or will it turn out to be below?) in separate post, since blogger doesn't seem to want to upload them this evening.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Welcome Home Kittens!

Delighted to announce two new family members: 6 week old tabby kittens Romeo & Juliet!

We drove all the way to East Hull this morning to collect these two, and fell instantly in love :-)))

Needless to say, our day has been somewhat kitten dominated. Emily's thrilled to bits. Romeo & Juliet were a little shy for the first few hours, but have settled nicely now, eaten loads, used their litter tray and started to take an interest in their toys. They've "met" Merlin, who was on Emily's bed when she was showing them round upstairs (their territory will be upstairs for the moment, whereas the big cats live mostly downstairs). Much interested staring to and from kittens and Merlin, before he legged it!

Some pictures: Romeo (left) and Juliet falling asleep on the settee.

Emily dishing out cuddles:

Getting to know Juliet:

Romeo making himself at home in the cushions:

Sorry if the photos are blurry; it's not easy capturing an excited child and active kittens at the same time!

Had a fab day yesterday; went to Julian's Bower turf maze with Romy and Hazel. Beautiful views, and so peaceful. The girls played for hours! We went to Normanby Hall afterwards for a bit, and they enjoyed playing in the branches of the old "tree that sat down" and collecting bits and bobs of nature. Hazel and Romy have some photos on their blog of our afternoon :)

Off to kitten watch now.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Jackie Chan, Sogginess, Jigsaws & VAT

Such have been the interests (or preoccupations, in the case of the VAT) of the day.

Emily spent all morning playing a long and involved Barbie game in her bedroom. I've no idea what on earth was going on, except that it involved the dolls having lots of baths, swimming, showering, washing clothes and, um, other water-dependent things. She had a ball. The floor is soaked. Not, however, as soaked as her windowsill was this morning - she'd left a loo roll tube (as you do) and a duster (also as you do) on it overnight. This morning, the loo roll tube had disintegrated into a soggy mess and the duster was as wet as if it had been left to soak in the sink overnight :-( Guess we have a condensation problem, then. Well, we've known that for a loooonnng time, but this morning was particularly bad. I'd also left a library book there overnight - thank goodness it was a hardback and escaped fairly unscathed.

This afternoon Emily and Daddy baked some gorgeously scrummy blueberry muffins, and spent ages on this rather cute 350 piece cat jigsaw:

Meanwhile, there's been lots of watching of Jackie Chan films over the last couple of days. Emily seems to be a fan. Started with her watching him in Around the World in 80 Days and seems to have progressed from there.

Finally remembered to fill in our VAT return today, and was less than impressed to discover that yet again we "owe" them nearly a thousand quid. OK, I could rant for hours about the VAT system and how unfair it is on small businesses like ourselves, but I don't have time just now. :-) Suffice it to say that that's 4 grand a year that would otherwise have been in our pockets. Colour me not a happy bunny.

We're still on kitten alert, although when I spoke to the RSPCA woman on Thursday last week I got the impression that we could be waiting weeks yet. Nothing firm, mind you. I don't think she "does" facts. Despite having originally been told that these kittens would be "ready" about three days after my first phone call, here we are a couple of weeks later and apparently they have "no idea" when they will be ready. Or even how old they are. Or what colour they are. Yet still she promises that we'll be the first to hear when they're ready to leave. I'm beginning to wonder whether I'm dreaming the whole darn thing. The lack of information is rather bizarre. Anyway, Jon came back from Tesco this morning with an extremely cute kitten notebook for Emily, so she can use it for all things kitten related when they finally arrive. She wants to keep a record of their weight and things, write some kitten stories, do a daily diary for them, and so on.

Emily did actually complete the Cats Protection League Kitten Badge back in January when she was doing her cats project. Hmmm; the Cool Cats kids club seems to have disappeared off their website... Anyway, the Cat Badge involves keeping a cat care diary for 20 days, so she's going to do that when the littlies arrive too.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Catching Up

Forgot to blog the last few days. It's been very busy, and still is.

Thursday: went to the museum with Hazel and Romy, to make masks and fans. Emily was a bit disappointed to find it was just plastic masks with felt tips and had been billed as 'Venetian Masks' so she was all set for designing fancy shapes over the eyes only, complete with wings, feathers and heaven knows what. Instead of which it was absolutely packed out and there was hardly anything left to put on the masks by the time we got a place. Those horrible plastic full face ones always remind me of Hannibal Lecter. But anyway. She made a goldy Hannibal one and we had an interesting discussion that evening about why full face masks always look rather sinister, because you can't see the expression behind it, so it's hard to tell whether someone is friend or foe. Tied in nicely with some discussions we've been having about emotions in famous paintings.

We also got a proper look round the Medieval Machines exhibition, this time with no TV cameras present. Bits of it seemed to be missing, but Emily enjoyed having a go on things, and loved having Romy there too. After which we went to a newly opened park for a play, and a bit of a meltdown from Emily when she stubbed her toe and saw blood. Bless her. I can't see her going into the medical profession, somehow. Park had a lovely cycle lane section. Must go back once the kids are back at school and get past the stabiliser stage on Emily's bike.

Yesterday: lots of maths and English in the morning, and Emily and I played for hours on the Zoombinis pc game in the afternoon. I LOVE Zoombinis. I think it's a really clever concept. Parts of it are challenging for me, lol, so I'm sure it must do kids the world of good in stretching their logic and mathematical concept skills. After which we made some fairy cakes with strawberry butter cream filling. Yummy!

Today: this morning Emily's spent ages tracing things from a costumes through history book, and designing her own extensions to those costumes. Since it's weekend again, I'm stuck at the PC trying to work to deadlines, but she and Jon have just gone out for a long ramble in the woods, in the pouring rain, lol.

We've been spending a lot of time thinking about how to approach "education" in the year to come. Need to spark Emily's interest in things that aren't history related (in the interests of a "balanced" education!) but that's proving tough at the moment. Also, the whole workbooks issue.....increasingly coming to the conclusion that they're pretty pointless. We have tons, and Emily will work through them, if asked to (which is far from every day), with more or less resistance depending on her mood...but recently she's coined a catchprhase which just about sums it up, I reckon. Once she's finished whatever I've asked her to do in the workbooks she says with a long suffering sigh "NOW can I get on with my life?" She had me in fits the first time she said it, it was really funny, especially with the tone and facial expressions to go with it. But she certainly has a point!

She's not learning anything new from maths or English workbooks. OK, she's practising what she knows...but once she knows it, she knows it, and I don't think kids need endless practice once they've got the idea. The workbooks are boring for me, boring for her, and achieving....I don't know what. They are handy, though, for giving you an idea of roughly what she "should" be able to do at any given time. We would like Emily to be roughly at the same stage as her schooled peers, simply because we personally would feel irresponsible if she was not. That's not a slight on any families who do things a different way, it's just our personal feelings about our own daughter. So, we'll have to find a way of making sure we're progressing with basic skills but without the workbooks. Dunno what that way is, at the moment, but I'm sure it'll come to us eventually.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Waiting Game

Well, here we are mid-week, and still kitten-less. I don't do patience! Well, it's not so much the waiting I mind, it's the total lack of information that's been forthcoming from the RSPCA. To be honest, I'm starting to get rather annoyed. Their refusal to give ANY kind of timescale indication seems rather, well, unnecessary. Surely they must be able to hazard a guess as to whether these kittens will be "ready" in a the-day-after-tomorrow type window or a the-week-after-next type window?? Nope, all we get is "we'll phone you when they're ready". I don't even know how old the kittens are. Could be fully grown by the time we get them, hmppphhh. I'm sure they have their reasons for being so, um, cautious....but it does make life rather difficult when you need to make plans for the day ahead, and tell a six year old for the 7th morning running that "I don't know if it will be today, we'll have to wait and see if the phone rings".

So. What have we been up to whilst awaiting the imminent (or not) pitter patter of eight small paws? Yesterday we had a tidy up blitz in our living room to make room for the kitten basket, scratching post etc. We can actually see the floor now. Trust me, in our home, that's an achievement. It was fairly pleasant as tidy-ups go, since it also involved clearing out the tall unit we keep all our photo albums on, so Emily spent several hours poring over our wedding photos, her baby photos, photos of us as kids, etc. She's seen them before, but they've been "inaccessible" for a while, so it was fun all over again.

In between helping clear up, Emily's been amusing herself with her Princess and the Pauper PC game, writing an Anne Boleyn diary (very, very funny!) and generally being a little superstar. This morning we did some maths and English worksheets whilst waiting to see if the phone would ring....sigh....and having established that it wasn't going to (at least not with the right people on the line) we decided to do some baking instead. Made these Apricot Oatmeal Squares 'cos we needed to use up some over-ripe fresh apricots. I must admit I thought they were supposed to turn out flapjack like. They've actually turned out very much more cake-like, but they're tasty. Extremely high in fat, mind you, but well, it would have been a shame to let the fruit go to waste :-)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Colours of the Rainbow & "The Socialisation Thing"

Yesterday was extremely hectic on the work front. Started packing orders at about 2pm and was still going at 11.30pm. Ummm. Mind you, Emily kept me company for hours whilst I was packing, having rediscovered her love of Civilization II on the PC. Last time she was enthralled by this, she always played as Cleopatra. Yesterday, it may come as no suprise that she was playing either as Elizabeth I or as Anne Boleyn....

Today; well - no kittens yet. Got an update this morning from the RSPCA, who say that the kittens are still not entirely happy eating solids, and they need to keep them in until they're sure there won't be any problems. But they're much improved, and we're still promised to be the first to know when they're ready to go. Guess it's looking like the end of this week or even the beginning of next at this rate. Ho hum. They say patience is a virtue, don't they?

This morning Emily impressed us both by making a big cat mask completely unaided, right from the finding the instructions in a craft book through gathering the materials, all they way through. The only thing she needed help with was tying the elastic right at the end. It's a lovely ginger cat, complete with tissue paper stripes of shades or orange, yellow and brown.

Things had been a bit up in the air whilst we waited to hear whether today was K-Day or not, and I think Emily was rather disappointed that today wasn't the day (although probably not as disappointed as I was, lol). She cheered up this afternoon though getting very messy in the garden doing this: Kitchen Roll Dyeing. We forgot the "wear rubber gloves" bit, so hands are an interesting colour even as I type! The one thing they don't mention, though, is that it uses a LOT of food colouring. Guess who's all out of every colour now?

Some pics:

This rather handsome cardinal beetle kept us company out there while Jon was up to his neck in more orders and booking tickets for Emily for Thursday for a Charlie & Choc Factory event at our local library, as well as sorting out a digital camera for Grandad.

Although Emily's been having a lot of fun recently, it's been a worrying couple of days with regard to her self-esteem :-(( Last night out of the blue she was in tears wondering whether her best friend still likes her - no particular reason, as far as I could see, except that Emily apparently felt she wasn't "interesting" enough and that her friend must be bored of her. Okkkaay. A pep talk about how friends love you for just how you are and are always keen to enjoy your company seemed to put that to rest for the moment, but we can't really tell whether that fear has gone or just temporarily been banished. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that both of the close friends she had pre-HE moved away, both times leaving Emily very insecure and isolated. It took a lot of explaining at the time that it was the parents' circumstances that meant they had to move, not anything she had done wrong. She does tend to form very deep attachments; I think she's frightened that she may lose this friend too :-((

Concerned that Emily doesn't know all that many other children at the moment, we'd been talking about a range of clubs, groups etc she could join. The other day, though, she had a bit of a meltdown about starting a new club. More tears, with Emily explaining that she didn't want to go because she didn't know if anyone would like her and that besides she's "got enough friends". Breaks your heart. She's such a loving, giving child, but that 12 months of school totally destroyed her confidence. I thought we'd made big steps in getting it back during this year of HE, but clearly there's still a way to go. The "socialisation" she endured at school seems to have given her a deep mistrust of most other children.

Mind you, it's made us question why we wanted her to attend these acitivities in the first place - supposedly for socialisation, since she's not desperate to actually DO any of the activities. If Emily's personality is going to be a bit like mine - I went from being a very quiet and shy child to a very quiet adult - is that necessarily a problem? I'm happy the way I am. I've never wished I was more sociable - in fact, I find most social events a chore, and am far happiest with family or one or two friends. I never understood why people used to tell me I should have more of a social life. Why? Why does society place such importance on being "popular"? If Emily seemed lonely, that would be a different matter, but she seems perfectly happy with the couple of friends she has, and us.

We're inclined to just leave well alone for the moment, and give her more time for her confidence to grow and her self-esteem to mend in safe environments she's happy with. Of course it's too early to tell whether she's going to be a happy loner, lol, or whether as she grows more confident she will want to branch out more. So long as we keep offering social opportunities, I think it's right and proper to follow her lead in accepting or rejecting those opportunities. I think we can tell the difference between when Emily's genuinely happy as she is and doesn't WANT to join in with something, as opposed to when she would LIKE to join in but daren't. The first is fine, and I feel quite strongly that we'd be wrong to push her into something she really doesn't want. We'll learn to get better at handling the second situation on the rare occasions it seems to arise. Guess we're all still learning this stuff as a family.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Thoroughly Nice Day

Well, so far, anyway.

Got all the stock cleared out of Emily's "work" room this morning bright and early. It's actually a large square landing type area at the top of the front stairs, but for years it's doubled as both a playroom and a stock room. Means that when we're in "work" mode HE-wise we have to shift a load of boxes out every morning and back in every evening, but hey, it's exercise.

Emily settled down to some more Tudor work, and looked at the reasons behind Elizabeth I's execution of Mary Queen of Scots. Then she completed little cards for each of Henry's wives, with a portait of each and facts about them. Think that definitely wraps up the work part of this Tudor project now. It's been going on for months!! The problem with the project approach to HE, for us at least, is that once something captures Emily's interest, there seems no end to it. So far this year we've done three projects - Cats, Ancient Egypt and now Tudors. And sort-of Sea Life in Autumn last year when we first started, but not the extent of the other three. We do a lot of other non-project related bits and bobs, but we're never organised enough to go for the sort of 'one week mini project' idea. Personally I'd love to, but it takes us that long to get a handle on what we're doing, lol. If it bores Emily she'd never stand for a week of it anyway, and if it interests her a week is never long enough. Think we'll definitely try and make the next one slightly shorter than 3 months, though....!

Mind you, she has kind of been doing a mini cakes project all on her own this last couple of days, as she's been busy writing fact cards about different types of cakes (fruit, chocolate, wedding, fairy etc) and drawing them. Emily and Jon were going to have a mammoth baking session this afternoon, except that we're woefully short of ingredients! Instead they've spent ages playing in the garden, doing charcoal pictures with charcoal left over from the barbecue, and filling the bubble machine with food colouring to make red bubbles. Emily's also rediscovered her bike, and has spent a long time cycling round stopping to pick herbs, flowers and bits for yet more grinding and potion-making. Her bike's actually much too small for her now. Wonder if we can bribe her to get the stabilisers off if we promise a brand new shiny one for when she learns?

Friday, August 05, 2005

Major PC Meltdown!

Woke this morning to find that our internet connection had packed up. No web, no email, no network, no nothing. Out of the blue. After half an hour of panic and another half an hour of swearing, to-no-avail-tinkering and cold sweats, we figured out we'd better bite the bullet and get help. Without the broadband connection our business crumbles to a standstill. To say nothing of the indignation of a 6 year old internet wiz when she discovers she can't get to google.

So, after many calls to many different helplines, each of which helpfully pointed out that it wasn't their problem guv but give these people a try, we finally found one who was willing to own the problem. Unfortunately, it was a premium rate number. How on earth BT can justify premium rate helplines for their own broadband service is beyond me, but there you go. After a full and expensive 20 minutes on the phone, it transpired that a third party firewall was faffing about with the IP (can you tell I'm a technical person??). The reason it took so long to work that out is that we were adamant nothing had changed in our carefully honed settings, held dear to our hearts after many previous hours of stress, and about which we had got used to gingerly stepping, frightened to touch anything in case it upset the delicate balance. Turns out that when we renewed our Panda antivirus subscription yesterday, it took it upon itself to download, unbeknown to us, an entirely new update which had reset lots of stuff and jigged around its firewall. Thanks for nothing, Panda. You cost us a fortune in phone bills and even more in stress.

Anyway. Whilst Jon and I took turns pretending to understand the instructions we were being given down the phone, Emily was busy making perfume in the garden. I must admit it does smell quite's just the brown muddy colour that puts you off! Once the network was finally fixed, we needed some therapy, so Emily and I headed out to Pets At Home and rather overspent on a load of kitten related items. We're now the proud owners of a beautifully comfy kitten bed, a very fancy play centre, treats, toys and a posh pink litter tray. All we need now is the kittens! RSPCA are looking hopeful for Monday, so fingers crossed.

Back home Jon discovered this monster of a caterpillar in the garden. It really was enormous.

We've identified it as an Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar, so this large beauty is what it'll turn into after burying itself in the soil until next May. Looks rather pretty, although with a 7cm wing span I'd probably not be saying that if it was in the bedroom....

Inspired by this, Emily's decided she wants to do an insects project next. They "did" minibeasts in her reception year at school, but apparently they didn't actually learn anything interesting. Figures. She also wants to do a cakes project...???? that sounds like my kind of thing! In fact, Emily's keen to get "back to work" in general. She's had the last couple of weeks pretty much to do as she pleases, and I think she's enjoyed just playing, but she says she wants to start working again now, so who are we to disagree?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Pottering Along Nicely

Had a fun, fairy relaxed day yesterday. We all went off to the garden centre to get more bird food, and investigated signing Emily up to a weekly art club held in the next village along. Followed by a long wander through Twigmoor Woods - Emily loved showing Daddy all the fairy dens and hiding places, and the lake where she paddles. Back at home we pottered about, thinking up names for the hopefully-soon-to-be kittens - the lady at the RSPCA apparently remembers us from when we rescued some orphan hedgehogs last autumn, and has promised that we'll be first to know when the kittens they're currently looking after are ready to go, which will probably not be until after the weekend. We've decided to have two so they're company for each other (and so if necessary they can defend themselves better against our existing two, lol!)

Today we've hardly seen Emily at all, as she's transformed her bedroom into a large tent and has been happily playing with barbies, ponies, angelina clothes and goodness knows what else. Which has given us a chance to press on with some work. It was our financial year end on 31st July, and we've got lots of ideas for refining the business over the coming months. Just need time to put them into practice now! The Press Assocation have now taken us on for a 12 month contract for the foreign magazine. She sent me a copy of what they said about the copy we provided, which was very complimentary. It's a big thing to have a foot in the door with the PA, so hopefully this will lead to more writing work to complement the retail side of the business.

Off to browse for a kitten basket and toys now!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Beaming From Ear to Ear

This evening Emily mastered her beam, well and truly. My Dad made it for her about a year ago, about adult hip height, but until today she's never wanted to go on it without holding onto someone's hands. This evening though, she was off! Not only walking across unaided but doing half and full turns, that fancy toe-dipping beam walk (no idea what that's called, but I remember being taught it as a child doing gymnastics!), posh star jump dismounts and gymnast style mount from sitting astride it. She was very chuffed with herself, and rightly so I reckon! Emily's not the most physically confident of children, but she's getting more and more confident as time passes, now she's away from the dreaded ritual humiliation known as school PE lessons.

Earlier on today Romy and Hazel came to play, and the girls had fun concocting play food for us "posh ladies". I have no idea what went in it, but it seemed to have been an appetising and somewhat mischevious mixture of toothpaste, handwash, shredded newspaper, loo roll and bucketloads of water. Having misheard my instructions to not put the resulting gooey stuff down the loo.....down the loo it went. Fortunately, Daddy was on hand to save us from flooding and overflow!

Hazel did some Reiki on my back, and it really does feel a lot more settled now. Jon fell asleep on the Reiki table as usual!

On the kitten front there is good news. Possibly. The local RSPCA apparently do have some kittens, but they're not ready to leave yet. I have to phone back at the end of the week. Which of course I shall. And I shall be muttering blue murder if someone's turned up in person and adopted all the little cuties before then, too.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Kitty Gone Home :(

Oh well, it wasn't to be. The kitten has gone back to its rightful home, finally found after much door-knocking effort. We were right, it wasn't old enough to be out, it had escaped through an open window (and apparently is always escaping, so we may see it again soon). It had made itself completely at home here, sleeping on Emily's bed, wolfing down food and playing with absolutely everything, so Emily was very upset to see it go, and I must admit I was quite sad too - but I guess it's been an object lesson in how it's important to "do the right thing" even if it hurts sometimes :-(

We're definitely on the lookout for someone nearby that sells/homes kittens now. Trouble is we searched back at Easter time and drew a complete blank. Plenty of places rehoming older cats, yes, but with our two existing quite elderly cats I'm not sure an older cat would be fair on them or it. We thought a kitten would be more readily accepted (and they were very accepting of this little one today) and besides, Emily wants a kitten that's small enough for her to handle - our two are quite "long" and heavy, she struggles with picking them up.

So. Kittenless, we are. But hopefully only temporarily!


Well, we seem to have acquired a kitten. It arrived in our kitchen this morning, in a bit of a state, and was reluctant to leave. Since we'd seen it earlier playing in the road, we decided to keep it in the house for the moment and knock on doors around here to see who it belongs to. Nobody answered in any of the houses I went to, but I did leave notes in them all. Mind you, it looks as if it's been out in the rough for at least a couple of nights, so I think it must have come from further afield. Jon's checked the post office noticeboards and stuff - nothing. If nobody comes to claim it, we've promised Emily we can keep it.

"It" - henceforth to be known as either a) Chocolate, b) Scruffles or c)Panther (tbc) is a bit on the wild side - keeps flinging itself at people and clinging to their legs (ouch) and goes a bit manic every 20 minutes or so, but the rest of the time it's gorgeous. Very sweet and soft, very purry. Personally I more than half hope it stays. We had been wanting a kitten, after all.

Before the kitten arrived and threw the day into chaos, we had been going to have a T-shirt crafts day. Emily made a Tudor montage of pictures in Word this morning, and we printed it out onto transfer paper and it's made a lovely t-shirt. Then we boiled up some grated beetroot from the garden and tried tie-dying another one. It's gone a lovely deep pink colour.....all over. Despite knotting and scrunching and tying and whatever, there's no pattern, just all over colour. Ahem. Obviously we didn't do that quite right!! We were going to do another dye from tea leaves too, but that boiled dry whilst we were being enchanted by "it", so....

I have absolutely no idea what Jon and Emily got up to yesterday, as I spent the entire day in absolute agony with lower back pain. I'd had niggling pain for about a week, but suddenly yesterday it was absolute paralysis - even got stuck on the toilet, to my embarrassement!! Getting into or out of a chair was impossible, let alone walking up and down stairs. Anyway. Emily was extremely patient with her invalid mother, and she and Jon seemed to have fun pottering away all day. My back's a fair bit better now, much to my relief - I had thought at one point I was going to be damaged for life!