Sunday, October 30, 2005

Guess Who Forgot....

...that the clocks went back an hour last night?

There's me hurrying Emily along cos she's still having breakfast at "10 o clock" and we've got so much to do today.... meanwhile, Jon's dashed off out to Tesco...which of course doesn't open on a Sunday until 10 o clock, and it's actually only 9 o clock...and we don't "do" mobile phones, so I can't phone him and tell he'll have to waste an hour either waiting outside or coming back here and then going back to the shop again.

Grrrrmmmph. So much to do today, can't see how it's all going to fit in, even given the apparently extra hour. Double grrrrmmph.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Getting Ready go away for a few days. Why is it that everyone else seems to swan off on holiday at the drop of a hat, but with us it takes a full 3-4 days to get work up to date, last minute orders packed, accounts ready to go (VAT due again soon), find the stuff we need to take, work out how to get there...blah blah. We need a holiday to get over preparing for a holiday, lol. That's the trouble with being self-employed. It has soooooo many good points, but the stress and loss of income that results from a short holiday has to be seen to be believed!

Yesterday, while Jon and I rushed around like headless self employed people, Emily yet again amazed us with her ability to amuse herself. She did several 250 piece jigsaws completely unaided, enjoyed a long and involved made up game of Tudors-meet-Egyptians, tidied up (!), drew, read and was generally a superstar. During a breather all three of us enjoyed doing this Usborne Map of the World jigsaw (why doesn't mention its jigsaws???) which was extremely big and pretty hard!!

Nana & Gramps also came back from their latest stay in the caravan yesterday, laden with goodies for Emily, so we had a good old chat about the area and what to see/do when we get there.

Off to ballet in a bit. I thought there was a witchy potion making activity on at 20/21 today, but I got the dates completely fuddled - for some reason, that's not until mid November. So, um, we'd better not go to that today, then. Halloween this year is going to be a bit of a non-event, as we're going to be driving up to Cumbria on the day. We would have done a spooky dinner for family tomorrow, like we did last year, and done the whole pumpkin carving/dressing up/games/spooky stories malarky, but we're just not going to have time. Really wanted to do some background work about the pagan origins of Halloween and how pagans celebrate Samhain (could do with some help from Kris there!)....but again, just ran out of time. Maybe next year. We'll try to do some background work about Yule, though, definitely.

This morning, though, Emily's been doing some Halloween 3-D pictures, which are very impressive. I had bought lots of itty bitty sissix ghost/witchy/bat/pumpkin/haunted house/spooky tree type shapes from Ebay (before I realised Halloween was going to cease to be) - she found them earlier on, and has been using double sided sticky tabs to build up 3-D scenes with them on black card with chalk and gel pens too. Verrry nice!

Meanwhile, a piccie of Friends & Allies - Merlin and Romeo have finally stopped hitting each other, and look like they're ready to co-operate on being the Boy Cats of the household. (Can't say the same about Juliet and Cassie-cat, though....)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Romeo settled down for a nap at the top of the verrrrry tall kitty haven. Posted by Picasa

Juliet practising her leopard pose, half asleep. Posted by Picasa

Leopards, Wasps and the Tooth Fairy

It's been a very giggly day, which has been healthy and healing all round. The Tooth Fairy is due to flutter by tonight, at last. Emily's two top front teeth have been wobbly since about May, but one of them has been literally hanging off since Monday. She was hysterical on Tuesday when it moved to its final stage of wobbliness, as a) she was terrified of there being a lot of blood (to be fair, there was an astonishing amount last time, but that's probably because it came out too early) and b) she'd got it into her head that she was going to look silly with a gap. That bit she was really panicky about, even to the extent of worrying that Kris' children wouldn't like her yesterday if her tooth came out before they arrived. Okkkayy. Finally, this morning during breakfast, it popped out so easily and with so little fuss that she didn't even notice until a few minutes later. Broad beams all round. Like all children, she looks beautiful and extremely cute with her gap, and we told her so.

Don't know why she has hang ups about how she looks. I think it must be a throw back to school where she was teased about her glasses and about the strawberry birth mark on her back. Can't think what else it would be. Sometimes, Emily seems to have all the emotional angst of a teenager, but with only a six year old mind to process it all. Can be tough. But she's happy as larry now the tooth incident is all over, so fingers crossed the run up to the next one (due any day now..) won't be so traumatic for her.

We ventured up into the loft today, for a bit of an adventure. The aim was to find my old dolls and dolls clothes, but it turned out to be rather more "thrilling" than we'd anticipated. Somehow we managed to disturb a wasp's nest, and the most enormous wasp you have ever seen decided to repeatedly dive bomb me and Emily. Not a lot of fun in a very cramped space with no easy exit - due to the layout of our loft access, I couldn't get Emily down without Jon underneath to help, and he was in another part of the house and couldn't hear us yelling. By the time he came to see how we were getting on about ten minutes later, Emily was petrified and I wasn't having a ball either. On the plus side, though, I did manage to find my old dolls pram, so we got that down. Lovely thing, I'd forgotten how big it is, Emily can only just manage it. It's got enormous twin fold down hoods and a beautiful embroidered panel all around the edge of it.

Meanwhile, in cat land - we'd found the kittens playing chase up the shower curtain this morning. Bathroom bottle and pot plants everywhere. Having decided now definitely we're not letting them out alone until January, we figured we'd better find them some new entertainment before they wreck the place. Some pets at home vouchers arrived this morning, and clinched the deal - after an hour or so moving furniture and clearing space, off we went to get a 'normous three storey play area for them. Horribly expensive, but I reckon it's worth it if it keeps them happy and saves our sanity. And they love it. After a full hour playing on it once it was assembled, they both feel asleep on it. They looked like leopards up a tree, bless 'em. Especially since they're almost camouflaged in it, lol. It's very tall, considerably taller than Emily, and we've put it in the window of our upstairs sitting room, so they have a fab view outside.

Here's Romeo and Juliet having fallen asleep before we moved it to the window:

Hmm, blogger seems to be sulking, so I'll add the other two pictures seperately.

It's been confirmed that Jon has to attend the McKenna court case during w/c 7th November. Damn, damn, treble damn. That's stressed us out somewhat, and put a bit of a damper on an otherwise amusing and productive day. Boy do we need a break next week!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Dreaming of the Future

Had a houseful this afternoon when Kris and her delightful brood came to play. All four girls seemed to have very girly fun with dressing up, playing barbies, and lots of polly pockets. Was tempted to sell Kris half of our stock, but she was very self-controlled and resisted the urge ;-)

It was lovely to have lots of laughter and voices in the house. We've no imminent plans to expand our family (just as well, as Emily is incredibly adamant that she doesn't want any siblings, lol) but it would be nice to help Emily forge a wider circle of friends than she has at the moment. And it's good for us to meet new faces too. Being a naturally shy person, it's not always easy for me to have the get up and go to arrange to get to know new people, but I'm getting there.

Kris' visit was a very pleasant antidote to what has become an incredibly stressful day and a half. It's been an emotional, deeply hurtful time, having been accused, out of the blue, of all kinds of unpleasant stuff by someone we loved and trusted. Sadly the rumpus that has caused in my head has left me just about as world weary as I've ever felt. I've never so much wished to just up sticks and walk away. If moving was a practical option right now, I'd be at the estate agents before dawn.

But it's not a practical option. Not just yet. Been window shopping on the fish homes site, though, and I've loved what I've seen in Wales and Scotland. Hey, we can all dream. Never say never. After all, Jon and I did both chuck in well paid jobs "down south" to come up here on a wing and a prayer seven years ago. We've done it before, who's to say we can't do it again, when the time is right?

We'll be going away to the caravan for a few days next week; couldn't have come at a better time. Some peace and quiet to get our heads around recent personal events, and also to chill out before the stress of Jon's McKenna court case attendance and the traditional November/December business explosion. Bring it on!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I Can See The Floor!

Not all over the house, you understand, but at least in the playroom bit. Had booked today in as a major tidy up day since we were falling over things as soon as we moved, and Emily was getting majorly frustrated by not being able to find the right crafty bits for whatever arty thing she was working on.

So. Today has been sleeves rolled up and get on with it. Have dumped three large bin bags full of junk in our biffa bin and reorganised everything into clear storage boxes of various sizes. Feeling v.v.v.v organised, lol. Reckon it'll be at least, oooh, three or four days before it descends into chaos again.

Meanwhile, Emily's been playing with various bits of stock which were discovered in odd places during The Tidy Up and were no longer in saleable state, including this, this and this - she likes it when we have a clear out as there's invariably goodies at the end of it, lol.

We had to dash out at lunchtime as we'd managed to completely run out of cat litter without noticing. Got two enormous bags in the trolley at Pets At Home...and of course one split completely as I was lifting it up to be scanned at the till. Cat litter everywhere. Still, we did get some more toys for the cats (can never resist) and seriously eyed up - again - the enormous cat play centre thingies they had. Now the playroom is clearer, we could move a chest of drawers from the sitting room and might just have room for one in front of the's very tempting....especially with Juliet doing her caged lion impresson again and both kittens still knocking over piles of books and climbing over piles of stock. Found Romeo chewing the end of a very expensive wand yesterday, grrrrr.

In other news, we've signed up for various courses in Lincoln for home educated kids, starting with five weeks of a computer course. Emily's extremely computer literate already, but I gather they're going to tailor the lessons to people's abilities, so, we shall see. Evidently after Christmas there will also be courses in meditation, Spanish (might give that one a miss though - I really don't like the spanish language, I feel it's the ugliest of all the ones I speak, and might just serve to confuse Emily's grasp of Italian), and history (yay! right up our street) among other things, so it will be interesting to see how that goes. Have also booked Emily and Jonathan into a "finds processing" day in December at Scunthorpe museum, where they get to clean up and help catalogue some of the finds from the summer's fieldwalking activities.

Still have a fair bit of tidying up to do (why is that tidying always makes the place look worse before it looks better???) but we've taken a break to play a few rounds of Hnefatafl - won a lovely set from ebay months ago, with carved wooden pieces and linen playing mat, but forgot all about it. Something else unearthed during today's tidy up! It's proving very addictive, and Emily's got a real knack for the strategy of it. It's somewhat embarrassing when you're consistently beaten by a six year old...

Monday, October 24, 2005

There's A Viking In My Bed!

Love that story. Emily's been listening to the tapes in the car today - I'd never heard it properly before, although I do remember it being on TV a few years back - when Emily was too young to care, typical! Come to think of it, there are lots of programmes I remember either from when I was a child, or from when Emily was younger, which don't seem to be on anymore and that I do wish they'd repeat instead of some of the, um, questionable entertainment that's on "these days". Sigh. I'm starting to sound old now!! Why, in my day....

Had a lovely afternoon today visiting another home ed family. We'd met them briefly at a party nearly a year ago, but it was good to see them again. Emily enjoyed playing with their two utterly charming children S & E; hopefully we can meet up again sometime soon.

Have come home to a mountain of queries from customers whose parcels royal mail have managed to (surprise, surprise!) lose - not good - and an extremely tidy house :-)))) - now that bit's good. Whenever we "pop out" for a couple of hours, Jon seems to step into a tardis and accomplishes three day's worth of "stuff" in that short space of time, lol. Wish I had that skill! Now all we need to do is not breathe, play, cook, change clothes or unpack any stock, ever again, and the house might actually stay looking like this!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Strange Tale of Romeo, The Sultana & The Caged Lion

Romeo has a friend. Or, to be more precise, had a friend. He made friends with a stray sultana on the kitchen floor this lunchtime (yes, we do have that kind of kitchen floor - Kim & Aggie would not approve). He made lots of his special mouse noises at it, played with it, and carried it around for ages, giving it a guided tour. He protected it from Juliet, Merlin and we big owners by growling like mad whenever we went near. He would have probably protected it from Cassie-cat too, but she was asleep elsewhere. Besides, she's bigger than him. Much. And she growls louder too.

Anyway, I digress. There he was, mid love affair. But suddenly, without warning, the sultana fought back with a vicious attack on his tastebuds. He backed away with the hurt and disbelieving look of one who's been truly scorned. That one slip of the tooth had ended a beautiful friendship. Romeo discovered he didn't like sultanas. In fact, he discovered that sultanas, when angered, can be fearsome enemies. He spent a long time after that prowling warily around the kitchen, arching his back sideways on whenever he got to the spot, just to show the sultana he wasn't frightened after all. But he never got too close, you understand. Just in case.

Eventually, having managed to stop howling with laughter, we rescued him from the sultana, and took both kittens out into the garden. Emily invented the best game the kittens had ever known with a broken hoop, lots of spinning in circles and an impressive display of aerobatic leaping. From the kittens, not from Emily. Although she was jumping about with laughter so much, she came a close second.

Back indoors, it was Juliet's turn to be centre of attention. Immediately we got back in she jumped up onto the windowsill overlooking the garden, and spent a full fifteen minutes prowling back and forth along it, standing on her hind legs at each end against the glass, and miaowing. Juliet doesn't do miaowing. Usually. Hardly ever. Except when she's really upset. She really did look like a caged lion prowling behind its bars in distress :-((( She desperately wants to go out on her own. But she's sooo tiny still. The size difference between her and Romeo is really showing now. And there's been a lot in the papers recently about the horrific cruelty to animals some people are capable of inflicting. And it's nearly Halloween - we never allow our cats out at Halloween since, when I was still little, a local cat was tortured by some "youths" at that time of year. And people round these parts are already starting to get daft with fireworks. It's really not a good time of year to let small furry kittens out on their own. Especially one with a weak heart.

Sigh. It's getting difficult, since they clearly want to be let loose. We didn't have this problem with Merlin and Cassie when they were kittens - just let them go after their vaccinations. But then again, that was when we lived in Bracknell, a long way from a main road. And we didn't have to worry about the emotional impact on a six year old if a kitten fails to come home. Can't remember what happened with first letting out the kittens I had as a young child - we were right on the main road then, but one of them was killed by a car a few years old. Think we'll hang on in there at least until they're neutered. But it's hard. Cruel to be kind, anyone?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Good Old Barbie

Went to see Magic of Pegasus today. Not many people there; I thought it would be packed. Cute film. Good old fashioned fairy tale stuff. Went on about half an hour too long for adult tastes, but Emily loved it, especially as we got to see it in 3D.

We also went to the 20/21 Visual Arts Centre for their Big Draw events. Ummm. That was not so good. I don't know what was going on there, but the place was in total choas when we arrived, with police restraining drunks, gangs of menacing teenagers everywhere and not a hint of the enormous maze or clay witch making session that was advertised. Just some kids drawing witches on bits of scrap paper. Okkkkaaay. We can do that at home, thanks. Maybe we just picked a bad moment to go; sure hope they got their act sorted out for anyone going later in the day.

So, we had a good old nose around the market instead and bought lots of bits, before heading home for a mammoth baking session. We now have plenty of scones :-))

Nanny McPhee opens at the cinema today, I think, and there were also posters up for Oliver. According to Emily, then, we have rather a packed week ahead, as we need to fit in a viewing of Nanny McPhee (Jon's just finished reading her the book, which was fantastic), a viewing of Oliver, two lots of swimming "at least", two visits to friends, ballet, next weekend's event at the 20/21 centre and a trip to the museum. So far. Hmmmm. Given the amount of work I can view out of the corner of my eye, some of those may have to be - ahem - "flexible"!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Yoga & Painting The Blues

Very good day today. We've bounced happily from one thing to the next, can't believe it's half four already.

Started off bright and early with some more of the Just Write book - more story writing. Emily abandoned writing it on their page, lol, and decided to use two pieces of A4 instead. She produced an interesting two chapter story about the kittens in the garden (yes, a recurring theme, although each story is very different) with lots of detailed description and good spelling. She's starting to pay more attention to spelling and grammar on the original now, all of her own accord. We had been just letting her write it, and then having her go back through and edit it herself for mistakes in grammar and spelling, but this latest one didn't really need that. All good stuff.

Then we had a fun hour with the Vicious Vikings sticker puzzle book. The Vikings project hasn't really taken off like the Egyptian and Tudor ones did, although to be fair I think that's because we just haven't spent much time on it. Between going out and doing other things, we've hardly touched it recently. Anyway, Emily had fun with the sticker book and wasn't keen when I suggested we could just leave the topic for a must carve out some more time for Viking things.

Maths followed, and Emily breezed through some division and multiplication work. Can't say that bit was entirely grumble free, but the practice is paying off as she's getting much quicker with mental arithmetic and since she's finding it easier and gaining more confidence in her abilities, the fuss is lessening every day.

Good long play in the garden with the kittens after lunch. Jon mowed the lawn yesterday, and grass cuttings are quite this season's mouse, apparently. We had been intending to go swimming again this afternoon, but I really, really didn't fancy it (bad Mummy) and Emily has earache, so we gave it a miss. We'll start again after half term week. Instead, we spent an hour with Barbara Currie's Fun Yoga for Kids DVD which was fantastic. I've never tried yoga before, but it felt really good. There were a lot of giggles during the balances! Emily found most of it quite straightforward, and it helped that she was familiar with some of the poses from her ballet class - needless to say Mum didn't quite manage some of it, lol. So that was a good exercise session, and one that we now plan to do at least once or twice a week.

Then we got stuck back into our famous artists project, which, like the Vikings, had been suffering from lack of time. Today we read Pablo Picasso: Breaking All The Rules from the Smart About the Arts series, and discussed a couple of practical art tasks Emily might do in Picasso's style. To begin with, she chose to paint in various shades of blue as he did in his blue period. She was supposed to paint something that made her sad, but she couldn't think of anything that made her sad (good!) so she decided to paint a cold, wintery, snowy scene in shades of blue instead. Other pieces of work to follow are: an attempt at cubism (should be interesting!), a mixed up portrait, and a sculpture made of junk. Watch this space!

Meanwhile, in business news, we've had a request to supply props for the forthcoming Living TV "Top 50 Most Haunted Moments" programme, spin off from the much loved Most Haunted series. In the past we've supplied a lot of stuff to the various Famous & Frightened shows on the same channel, but this is our first contact with the Most Haunted team...who knows, could lead to other things. The only problem is they only got in touch mid afternoon, and want the stuff by Monday! I'll just put my wings on and fly over.....

We're off to the cinema tomorrow to see the Barbie Magic of Pegasus film. It might be next week that we go off to visit the new caravan in the Lake District, or we might leave on Halloween instead, depending how it goes. On Monday we're off to meet some new home ed friends for a play and a chat (*waves at Jill if she's reading*) so there's lots to look forward too. And there are soooo many things we want to get round to doing!! Read on a forum today someone saying that she thought home ed was ridiculous as her child goes to school but still gets to do ALL the things home educated children do, in his spare time. Ok....she must have more hours in her day than we do....

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Emotional Memories

This isn't of much interest to anyone who doesn't know us personally, but I'm putting it up here for family.

After Emily's traumatic birth, Jon wrote a birth story for the UK parents website, where I was at the time providing astrology services. They published it, and kept it in their archives until very recently when the site was redesigned. A few months after it was published, a London teaching hospital asked for permission to use it as a case history for midwife training, which were were pleased to give - but it only jsut occurred to me a week ago, when looking at the new UK parents site, that we didn't have a copy of the original text. Very kindly, the team at UK parents tracked it down for me, and sent me a copy. I've published it in the private part of here

Emotional and traumatic memories indeed. But look how far Emily's come! :-)))

A Growing Independence

We've had a day off HE as such today, and I've spent all day trying to get stock listed in the shop and on ebay.

Have hardly seen Emily since breakfast. She's been very busy arting and crafting, putting things in sticker albums, playing with old toys that have come to light behind the piles of "stuff" (!), reading, drawing, playing with the kittens, listening to tapes, searching the internet for particular audiobooks she wants, writing stories, popping in to see us for the odd chat and then skipping off again chuntering happily....

I'm amazed (and very proud) at how self-sufficient Emily has become over the last couple of months in particular. She's now more than capable of organising her days, planning out what she wants to do, making lists of ideas she wants to "get round to" and generally sorting herself out and amusing herself in a very, very grown up way. And even when I think she's bored, she somewhat indignantly tells me she's not - and reminds me that she has so much to do, and just not enough time to fit it all in! It's a very, very far cry from the "amuse-me" mentality she had when she was at school, and indeed when she first came out of it.

Someone's growing up :-)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Long Time No Blog

Keep forgetting to blog. Bad Nikki. Must do better. Now then, let me see: catching up with the last three days.

On Monday Emily did lots of recorder practice in the morning, and helped with a big tidy up. That afternoon Romy and Hazel came to play; Hazel showed me the first steps in crochet and (with a lot of help!) I managed to make.....wait for it.... a Barbie Bonnet (or a basket, depending which way up you hold it). Which naturally quickly became a cat toy. Oh well, Barbie's loss is Juliet's gain.

Merlin was feeling rather sorry for himself all day; a bit jealous of the attention the kit-bits were getting, I think, so Emily made up for it by giving him an enormously long huggle.

Yesterday morning we did more recorder practice (boy is she keen!) and Emily wrote a looonnnng story about being lost in an Egyptian temple and meeting Bastet. She gets very indignant with the Just Write book now, because it only ever gives a page of widely spaced lines to write the stories on, and of course she wants to write reams, so she ends up squashing it all onto the page and fuming about it. "If they want to teach children to write you'd think they'd give you enough room to write a proper story," she says. Quite. LOL. Maths passed like a breeze - can't remember what we actually did, but I know it proved pretty easy for her and was accomplished without a hint of a moan, groan or strop. I think we've moved on from maths being a hurdle now. Can't say as she's exactly enthusiastic about practising her skills in that department, but at least she's resigned to doing it and doing it properly. And nobody's enthusiastic about everything, after all.

Denise and her daughter Katie very kindly sent us a ticket to the Barbie Pegasus movie in yesterday's post, so Emily wrote a thank you letter in time for it to go in the post. So, we'll be going after all!

Later yesterday afternoon, Emily spent ages playing with her Ello sets, and built what is quite possibly the biggest Ello shop scene in the known universe. On the floor Then the kittens came into the room. Yes folks, you can guess the rest.

Speaking of kittens, we had a good long play with them in the garden yesterday afternoon, of which here are some piccies, since we've been short of kitten pics recently.
Firstly, Juliet practising camouflage skills - so useful when mousing, don't you know:

Romeo surveying his kingdom from the bottom of Emily's baby slide (on which, incidently, he does impressive belly slides):

Juliet looking ever so grown up and alert in the middle of a weed patch:

and finally Romeo being carried away from trouble....he thinks wasps nests are fun, fun, fun:

Also managed to fit in some swimming too. At this rate it might yet be worth taking out membership at the pool - Emily's enthusiasm certainly isn't waning.

And so to today, Wednesday. Emily spent a few hours playing on her Dazzle art software, after which we went to pick up Hazel and Romy for a visit to The Deep in Hull. They've finished the new Deep Sea section now, which was very good, with giant Japanese crabs, a very shy octopus and all kinds of jellyfish. The girls had a good time and got to touch some crabs, sea anenomes and starfish. You could stand for hours watching the sharks, rays and sawfish in the huge central tank. Fascinating. Here are Emily and Romy in front of the tropical coral reef tank:

and here's Emily with nose pressed against one the biggest shark tank:

Unfortunately I managed to drive completely on autopilot on the way home, and missed the Humber Bridge turn off altogether, going some 15 miles in the wrong direction before turning round. Ahem. That's twice in a row now I've got lost on the way back from a day out. Hazel and Romy will be having second thoughts about coming next time ;-) Getting lost did mean we didn't have time to visit the park on the way home, which probably didn't make me very popular, but then again there was a massive cloudburst on the way, so we'd only have been drenched and miserable if we had made it to the park. That's my excuse, anyway!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Would You Like A Little Musical Accompaniment With That?

It has certainly been musical "round these parts" today. Loaded the Black Cat Compose software this morning, and Emily absolutely loves it. She's spent hours on it composing stuff, and was thrilled to discover that she can print out her composition in real musical notation (she's been composing using symbols since we can only read two notes so far!) and save it for playing on the recorder when she's fully adept at it. Which she confidently predicts will be sometime next week :-)

So, whatever we've been doing, we've had music to match. Excellent stuff. Piccie of the composer at work (and yes, she was too busy to have her picture taken, so we have to make do with the back of her head):

Yesterday Emily and Daddy went off to ballet, where a good time was evidently had by all. As soon as they got back, we baked Crunchy Seed Biscuits with dried apricots, raisins, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and poppy seeds. Delicious. All gone.

Bad Mummy Moment of the week came yesterday when I realised that there is no ballet lesson next Saturday due to half term. Now, I had fondly imagined that they'd be missing the following Saturday, at the end of half term, not the beginning of it. So, I didn't bother getting free tickets for the Barbie Pegasus film showing at our local UCI next Saturday, because it clashed with ballet and I guessed (correctly, as it turns out) that she would rather go to her lesson. But there, we could have gone after all. Poo. Never mind; we shall think of something suitably mind bogglingly exciting to do next Saturday instead. I don't suppose Emily will mind that much, to be honest - she hates crowded cinemas, and we had already ordered the DVD as an Xmas/Birthday pressie in any case. But it was definitely a kick-self moment.

Have spent the day frantically listing new stock in the shop and on ebay, and have sold several new items within minutes of listing them, which always makes me feel awful....must carve out more time to do this, otherwise we have money just sat on the shelves. Also sold another £50 worth of personal items on the other account, mostly Jolly Phonics stuff, Puddle Lane reading scheme books and the like. If we can manage to list a box a week, we might actually get somewhere, space-wise. At the moment we would seriously struggle to find storage for anything good old Santa might bring, let alone birthday pressies the week after!

Quick kitten update, since I haven't mentioned them much recently: well, they're growing :-) although Juliet is still a lot smaller than Romeo. They have waaaaayyyy too much energy and a scant disregard for the welfare of the stock they're busy moutaineering all over. Romeo has developed a very cute habit of finding his favourite mouse toy, wherever it happens to be, carrying it in his mouth to wherever we are (right up the stairs and across the other end of the house if needsbe), dropping it in Jon's shoe and then doing a very peculiar "aren't I clever?" miaowing repertoire. Juliet's miaow has disappeared again (well, it only ever appeared that once in the vets), which made it quite hard to discover she was locked in the corridoor last night. They love to watch the TV, and they love to watch the PC screensavers too, especially Juliet who pats at them whenever she gets the chance. They adore going out in the garden and enthusiastically get into their harnesses (well, with our help, you know). They have a great time out there each day. It's obvious they'd love to be let loose, but well, they're just so small still, and so young, and so close to the damn road. We shall see.

Well, off for a manic evening of packing orders now - have two desks covered in items and can only just get to the PC on this one, and we haven't even pulled them all out yet. Plus Hazel and Romy are coming over to play tomorrow and it would be nice if they had somewhere to actually sit, so I feel a tidy up coming on....

Friday, October 14, 2005

Friday Already?

I really don't know where this week has gone. We haven't got round to half the things I had planned! I'm not sure whether that's an indication of my hopeless organisational/planning skills, but I prefer to think it must at least also be an indication of how effortlessly Emily amuses herself these days. She has so much stuff she wants to do; at least she's never bored, even if the things she wants to do don't necessarily correspond to the things I want her to do, at any given moment!

We did lots of work this morning; more sequenced writing to begin with. A few pages of division exercises next. Emily breezed through those when they were phrased 12 divided by 3, 15 divided by 5, or how many 3s in 9 etc etc. When we turned to a prettified Yr 2 workbook, however, and discovered them phrased as '12 leaves shared between 3 groups of caterpillars, how many does each caterpillar get?' it completely boggled her. She does have a thing about using the "proper" terminology, and gets quite upset (and confused!) when things are phrased in a supposedly more helpful and child friendly way. Gawd knows how she'd be coping in school with colouring groups of teddies and things.

Next Emily did a test at the back of one of the Yr2 science workbooks. I'd left her to her own devices with that for a bit, and was amused when I came back to discover that she's been through illustrating plant anatomy complete with bird poo spots, naming animal classification families like crustaceans and arachnids when it asked for a list of things which were alive (?????? Are they supposed to find this hard at 7???), correcting their terminology (her favourite is correcting "seeing" to sight and "feeling" to touch) and inventing the most off the wall possible answers to 'name seven things which can be recycled'. She has professed herself thoroughly bored with KS1 level science, and frankly I don't blame her. Think we'll skip ahead a bit there.

This afternoon we went swimming again (seem to be living in that pool at the moment) and Emily had a ball practising her straight leg kicks using floats, more actual swimming (gasp!) and more jumping in. The little pool was closed today, though, which did knock her confidence a bit, but she must have enjoyed it 'cos as usual she didn't want to get out after an hour and a half.

Meanwhile, I've been rejecting commissions from US magazines whose idea of a decent rate of pay would be laughable if it wasn't so annoying, frantically trying to ebay more, watching in wonder as Jon steams ahead and somehow manages to get everything done, and wondering how we're going to fit in all the looming deadlines over the weekend. Pretty much as normal, then.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

100th Blog Post!

Hmmm, so I've sat here typing this kind of thing ~(instead of working like I should be!) 100 times. Wonder how much more I'd have got done this last few months if I didn't have a blog!

We had a very good music session this afternoon. Emily did the first two lessons in Recorder Magic Book 1, which she seems to have really taken to well. Spent lots of time clapping rhythms, learning about crotchets and quavers, mastring the finger positions for notes A and B and learning to read/recognise the same notes on the stave. Emily's very keen. Only problem is that I'm not sure her fingers are long enough to quite get the stretch for some of the other notes. Guess we'll see. We do have an electric organ downstairs that was mine when I was about 10; if the recorder doensn't work out then I'll have to look into teaching Emily on that instead.

Also, Black Cat Compose arrived the other day. Haven't loaded it yet, but it looks good. With that and some kind of practical music option, I guess we'll have music covered, in case any LEA bods were wondering!

What else today? Ah yes; we went on a rekky to Toys R Us to get some inspiration for Christmas/Birthday. Bless her, Emily didn't find much she actually liked! I was wondering around the shop going "oooh, look at this!" and she was looking at me as if I was slightly barmy before gently pointing out that she wasn't keen on whatever it was. Couldn't even interest her in a new baby doll to replace "Eddie" (as in the baby Prince Edward, son of Henry VIII). Or rather, to complement Eddie, since we're lacking a baby Elizabeth and a baby Mary. But nope, she didn't like/want any of them.

The tie dye clothes came out wonderfully well, so were very pleased with them. Spent a happy half hour this morning playing servants - Emily had written out various Tudor type servant jobs last night and made a lucky dip of them, so we got to pretend to be two maids fighting over who got the yuckiest jobs and bargaining over who could do the cushiest ones. She's also spent ages on arts and crafts today, making some lovely shiny butterflies among other things.

Jon's been off for a very encouraging doctor's appointment this evening; his blood results are steadily going down, his cholesterol and blood pressure are perfect, so that's all good news :-)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Midweek Update

Blimey, I can't believe it's Wednesday already. Where's all the time gone?? We have so many plans and so much to fit in....really makes we wonder sometimes how people with kids in school manage to do anything much with then when they get home. We have all day, every day, and still can't fit everything in!

Yesterday passed in a bit of a blur; I know there was some maths and English done, but I'm not quite sure what happened next - but Emily seemed to have fun, whatever it was! [ADDED (on Thursday!!) Just remembered what we did on Tuesday afternoon. Went swimming again and Emily managed to swim, yes, really swim a whole half width of the learner pool!!!! Was fantastically proud. :-)) ]

This morning we spent hours tie dyeing using a kit Hazel recommended from ebay. We'll await the results tomorrow with bated breath! Spent unfeasibly large amounts of money at Brigg Garden Centre this afternoon, on crafty bits and bobs and four Christmas decorations. £3.99 per bauble???? Huh? If you had to kit out a tree from scratch you'd end up spending a fortune. It really has gone a bit potty. Still, they have trampolines there, so we ticked the PE box as well as the "learning to spot value for money (or lack of it)" box. When we got home Emily made a lovely card for Romy to say she's missing her while Romy's on holiday, so that was art/crafts covered for the day too.

I've been searching for an interesting fiction series for Emily to read. She adores non-fiction, but is less keen on reading stories; it has to be something special to really grab her interest. And a series, preferably, to sustain her enthusiasm. The Terry Deary Egyptian Tales and Tudor Tales were right up Emily's street, but I can't find much else that hooks her. Uncle David & Aunty Barbara brought her a box set of Secrets of Droon titles from Canada at Christmas, which were good. Jon found out about The Magic Treehouse series, which looks fantastic, full of historical tales and even King Arthur type tales too. Unfortunately, it's an American series and not available from our wholesalers; some of them (not all) are available on Amazon, but they're not cheap :-(. Oh well, we have Viking Ships at Sunrise (no. 15, evidently) as a taster, so we'll see how she gets on. I've searched the major UK publishers for something similar, but no luck. Much of the fiction Emily would like is either too young for her or slightly too old for her to read alone - Jon reads to her every night, but it's something to make her want to sit down herself and curl up with a *fiction* book I'm searching for, as opposed to the non-fiction she currently devours at a rate of knots. Any recommendations most welcome!

Tomorrow we're starting recorder lessons, apparently. Should be interesting.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Busy Weekend

There were lots of things I wanted to blog about this weekend, and I've pretty much forgotten most of them! Let's see:

Saturday, Emily went off to ballet, and had an enormous play with Daddy all afternoon while I tried to get some work done - they spent hours playing with Emily's marble run, polly pockets and a gorgeous Eygptian Mummy jigsaw they'd picked up from a charity shop on the way home. Jon also got Emily two beautiful coats from said shop at £1 a throw. Can't be bad. Yesterday, Emily and Daddy went worm hunting in the garden, and founds lots to add to our compost heap. Emily dug up lots of interesting looking pottery too:

They plan to stick any "archaeology" they find from now on onto part of the garden wall, so over time it'll end up as a mosaic effect.

We were up by 7 this morning, so we've managed to fit quite a lot in today. First up we did some maths - among other bits and pieces, Emily completed the "test" in the back of one of her Yr 2 books, supposedly equivalent to a maths SAT (oh the horror!). She breezed through it and ended up with 17/20 questions completely correct. The ones she got wrong were mainly due to daft phrasing of the question if you ask me - for instance, it gave a string of double digit numbers and asked her to complete the (blank) - (blank) = 19 equation underneath. Even I had to stop and think about that one for a moment. If they'd just asked "what's 34-15?" she'd have been fine. Anyway, considering it's not yet even (ahem) "half term", we're very pleased to see that she did so well with stuff that she technically has until July to master. It gave her a boost of confidence too, since she's managed to get it into her head that she's "not good" at maths.

Next we breezed through some English in the Just Write book, which today was all about story sequencing and didn't exactly present a challenge since she's been doing that kind of stuff since she was about 2..... slightly more interesting were the exercises about sequencing words, so lots of practice in stringing together a narrative with then/next/later/finally/first/once blah blah. Onto science; we're working on light at the moment, so we spent some time looking at the different position of the sun in the sky at sunrise, midday and sunset, and some work on shadows. And then we had lunch :)

Kittens had a good long play in the garden after lunch, although there was a moment of gasps and high drama when Juliet pounced into a clump of holly leaves, obviously got nastily prickled and went beserk, running so fast that Emily accidentally dropped her lead and we lost sight of her. Emily was very worried but managed to stay calm and not attempt to chase her - we eventually found her sat near the back door wondering what the fuss was about. Must be nearly time to be brave and let them go - although all the websites I've read say not to allow kittens out unsupervised until at least 6 if we go by that, we've got at least another 8 weeks to go!

This afternoon we finally got back to doing some Italian - it's ages since we last did any, but I was very impressed with Emily's recall. Found lots of lovely Italian printouts on the enchanted learning site, so she did a few of those, working mainly on colours today. Her imagination has been totally captured this last few days by the Latin for Beginners book, and she spent a long time this afternoon comparing the Latin and Italian words for things. We've had many interesting conversations about latin roots in Italian, French and English words. That's mostly why I wanted to learn Latin when I was at school - I was fascinated by the links between languages and the history of the English language too (I'm sure there's a word for that, but it escapes me). Emily likes writing latin tests for me and Jon - she'll write down some vocabulary words in latin and ask us to guess what they are. Often, of course, we CAN guess because of the familiar roots etc, which has been what prompted the discussions in the first place.

Finally (so far) we made time to do some more of our Vikings project. The British Museum Vikings Activity Book is excellent; we love that series. In fact, we love ALL of the British Museum's Children's Shop. They've got the balance just right for kids, I think. Anyway, today we were concentrating on the lands the Vikings discovered and conquered (other than the UK), and what kinds of items they traded where. Question of the day from our six year old before we even started: "Mummy, did they start calling Eric the Red "Eric the Lucky" before he discovered America, or was it because they thought he was lucky for discovering America?" Ummm. Excuse me while I go and look up who the heck Eric the Red even WAS.... it's very disconcerting (in SUCH a nice way) when your little one knows more about something than you do!

Oh, and here's Emily being very grown up on the phone to Nana, Gramps and Grandad (first two in Cumbria, latter in Canada).

Friday, October 07, 2005

Sculpting & Swimming

It's been a hectic few days. Rather stressful too. Our main source of stress at the moment has been the news that Jon is likely to have to appear as a witness for Paul McKenna in his high court action against his current record label. Apparently several hour long conversations on the phone with McKenna's solicitors, and hours spent retrieving and preparing information for them, just won't do. Nope, looks like it'll require a week in London come mid November, with all the attendant stresses, strains and loss of income that'll cause. Sigh. Here's hoping they settle out of court before it comes to that.

On a more pleasant note, it's been a very successful couple of days for Emily's home ed. Yesterday we spent a long time working with money, and she also started using webs to plan her writing. I was impressed with the factual piece she wrote about looking after the cats. Very well thought out and interestingly phrased. Yesterday afternoon we went off to Normanby Hall and spent ages identifying different trees, taking bark rubbings and collecting bits and bobs.

Back at home, I asked Emily to think about making a natural sculpture using the materials she'd collected, and set her the task that she should design something on the theme of Normanby Hall, something which reminded her of the many hours we've spent there. She spent a while pressing the leaves we'd collected, and laying our her treasures, experimenting with different ideas.

This morning Emily announced that she'd come up with her sculpture plan - it was to be inspired by the shape and beauty of a peacock's tail, which I think was an exceptionally good idea. She'd really thought hard about how to make best use of what materials there were, and about what kind of things are symbolic of Normanby Hall. So, there followed a happy three hours making the sculpture - she had an absolute ball doing this, it was even more fun than I thought it would be. I did nothing towards the sculpture except keep her company while she worked - she did all the drilling, hot glue gunning, wiring, beading etc totally by herself. Right at the end we did enlist Gramps' help with his power drill, as the hand drill Emily had been using didn't have a bit big enough to cope with the largest holes needed to attach some of the 'feathers' to the base, but other than that it was a completely independent piece of work.

You can't really see in the photo, but each 'feather' has different embellishments on it, including some fairly intricate beading. Each of the feathers is a large twig bending in roughly the right direction, and they're all fixed into a heavy log she found on her travels. Very proud of her efforts on this, right from the conception and design to the final creation. Only thing is, it's extremely large, lol. We should have thought about where to put it before she started, but it's ended up on the sideboard downstairs for the time being. Daresay it'll find its way into the garden soon. She did a very good critical analysis of it too, explaining what she thought she might have improved (she wanted the feathers at a better angle to create a more fan like shape) and what she might have done if she'd had more time. Sadly even in HE world time is not unlimited. Had she had more time, Emily says she would have liked to create a voile background between the feathers, and beading chains to link them together.

We also made some fairy wands with left over twigs. Some wooden fairy wands arrived from our wholesalers yesterday - they're very pretty, but basically they're just twigs with beads on and pretty craft wire attachments. We can do something like that, I thought - and so we did. That's a lot of fun, I can see us getting quite a collection together.

This afternoon we went swimming, and Emily made more good progress. She's getting very confident now! She's spent the rest of the evening looking at an Usborne Beginner's Guide to Latin and coming out with all kinds of stuff from it. I wasn't allowed to take Latin at school (not enough interest from the other teenagers - brilliant system, school, huh?) so I've no clue what she was saying most of the time, but she seemed to be having fun!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Poorly, Just For A Change

Poor Emily's got yet another cold/sore throat going on - she'd barely recovered from the last one, bless her. She's got quite a high temperature tonight, so it's not looking good.

We went off to Sundown Adventure Land today, regardless of not feeling well, with Romy and Hazel. Don't think either of the girls was feeling quite their usual self, but they seemed to have a good time nonetheless. Place was absolutely deserted! Here they are driving a wild west wagon and posing in Lollipop Land:

Managed to get totally lost on the way home, as the exit from the car park now comes out onto an entirely different road than the entrance. Ended up in flippin' Retford, so it took twice as long to get back. Took Romeo and Juliet out in the garden when we did get back. They weren't all that enthusiastic, but to be fair I think that's probably 'cos they'd been woken from a peaceful slumber and it was rather damp and chilly!

Emily's had a laid back evening. She was thrilled to discover the brand new, just released Worst Witch Saves The Day book and tape on her bed as a surprise from Daddy, so she spent a happy hour listening to the tape and playing with Barbies. She sooooo loves audio books. Must get some more for Xmas.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Kitty Freedom! (Well, kind of....)

Yes folks, today was Garden Day. Emily, me and Jon in the garden plus two kittens on harnesses and leads :-)))

Unfortunately, the grass was soaking wet, which didn't go down at all well to begin with. Even more unfortunately, somebody nearby was using some kind of power tool, which also didn't go down well. So the episode began with Juliet frantically climbing up people's legs in terror, and Romeo refusing to move in case he got his paws wet.

They soon settled, though, and an entertaining hour was had by all once they'd found their feet and started to explore. Cassandra, who was sleeping near the shed, was possibily less delighted than the rest of us when she realised that her last remaining bit of kitten free territory was about to be breached. But at least she only walked off slowly and disdainfully instead of dashing out into the road in a panic, as she would have done a few weeks ago. So, from now on we'll take them out for an hour or so each day until.....well, I don't know until when, really. Until such time as we're brave enough to let 'em go. Have no idea when that will be!! Here's Romeo (top) and Juliet getting their first tastes (and smells) of Garden:

Kitten/garden excitment aside, we have managed some work today. Fractions and story planning. Oh yes, and we talked about the circulatory system and made red water spurt (everywhere....) out of a plastic four chambered heart thingy. Emily also did a 300 piece Brilliant Bodies jigsaw showing the organs and circulation. At the moment, she and Jon are finishing watching the Horrible Histories DVD. Emily also had great fun this morning browsing through the site. The wish list thingy there is a hell of a faff, having to fill in email addresses every time, so I said she could just put stuff in the basket for fun. Ahem. Last time I looked at it, our basket stood at £778....and she hasn't even started looking at the arts/crafts section yet. Okkaaay.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Where Did The Weekend Go?

I don't know what happened, I blinked and suddenly it was Monday. Probably as well, since Jon and I have both coughed, sneezed, ached, groaned, crawled and whimpered our way through the weekend. I'm finally starting to feel a little better, but Jon's several days behind.

Let's see; Saturday morning Emily and I sat for a while making tie on Barbie clothes using some patterns she got last Christmas. Then it was off to ballet which she seemed to enjoy. Back at home she and Jon had a mammoth baking session, producing chocolate brownies and banana cake for everyone's delectation, while I desperately tried to stay upright in my seat long enough to produce some work to deadlines.

Sunday morning Emily played with her styling head thingy for a while, and plaited everything in sight, then designed some themed hairstyles. She spent most of the afternoon playing on Civilisation - she was the Vikings, lol, and she made a great point of becoming allies with Elizabeth I of the English.

This morning I, um, can't remember. And then we had lunch. And then we went swimming with Hazel and Romy. Emily's sooooo close to breakthrough point with swimming now. Today she mastered floating unaided (albeit only for a couple of seconds, but it's a start!), ducking her head right under water, going down the slide (which she's been terrified of since we first went there and she went under water at the end of it) and doing a few swimming strokes *away* from me instead of towards me. She's come along so far since we started. She's needed a lot of patience and perserverance to ge this far, so we're very proud of her for her efforts. :-))

Right, I'm off to try listing some more stuff on ebay. Sold some things on the weekend for waaaayyy more than expected....which of course makes me feel guilty for not having listed more, and ages ago.....