Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Patients Are Home

So glad that's over! The kittens have now been neutered, and both are home safe and well. There were a few tears this morning getting them ready to go and dropping them off, though. It did feel almost as if we were taking Juliet to be executed, given the risks involved. Emily in particular has been worried sick all day, and was a bit alarmed to see poor Ju-Ju with lots of fur shaved off when we went to get her back. But now it's all done, and they're absolutely fine. Romeo wants to keep licking Juliet's stitches, though, so we'll have to keep an eye on that.

Emily went out for the day with Nana and Gramps today, in a bid to keep her mind off worrying about the kittens. She still worried, of course, but she had a wonderful time exploring Lincoln Cathedral with them, and apparently enchanted one of the guides :-)) She's come home full of tales of the Lincoln Imp and the beautiful architecture (and laden with the odd treat from the gift shop!!).

Jon's found a place in Gainsborough running a children's yoga class and children's tai chi as well, which sounds really interesting. They restrict the classes to 16 kids (which is a relief after the ballet class "as many as can fit in the room plus a few more for luck" ethos) so I don't know yet if we can get Emily a place - I'm waiting to hear back from them, but hopefully she'll be starting both yoga and tai chi after Christmas.

And I still haven't got my head around Christmas/Birthday presents. Eeep! Where did November go??

Monday, November 28, 2005

It's Snowing!

Quite heavily, actually. Enormous big flakes. The ground's very wet, though, so I daresay it won't settle on the roads, which is somewhat of a relif given how much driving around we've got to do this week.

Still, someone who doesn't have the jaded eyes of a world-weary grown up is absolutely thrilled to bits, and has spent the last half hour in the garden running about and shrieking with delight :-)))

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Kit Bit Pics

Here's Juliet in her new favourite sleeping place, half way up Emily's bookshelf unit:

and Romeo with a "mouse" (polystyrene packing bit, but hey, he has a good imagination):

Off to the vets for neutering on Tuesday. Can't shake off my nervousness about Juliet having the operation with her heart murmur, even though the vets assure us it will be absolutely fine....but her not having it, and having to remain an indoor cat for her whole life, is just not a viable option with our constant round of deliveries, open doors, etc. and wouldn't, we feel, be truly fair on her either. Shall be a nervous wreck all day Tuesday, but I do think we're doing the right thing.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Hectic Days

Blimey, where did the week go?

No point in me doing a day by day recap, since there's lots I can't remember - it's been an extremely busy time business-wise, and an even busier one with health appointments and errands and whatnot. Highlights of the week include:

  • Meeting all our article deadlines. Just.
  • Massive increase in ebay activity as well as amazon and shop sales.
  • Jon coming out in a rather scary rash as a reaction to new medication, which cleared up just before we decided on a dash to casualty, as advised in the leaflet, but was rather alarming just the same...
  • Emily mastering two new notes on the recorder.
  • Taking Nana swimming and Emily showing off her water skills.
  • Lovely play at Romy's on Tuesday.
  • Making a plaster of paris brain, which Emily's going to paint in different colours according to what goes on where.
  • Lots and lots of maths, including some tears when Emily realised that a) she needs to know the 2, 5 and 10 times tables in random order not just one after the other and b) that she can't yet do that.....followed by lots of smiles when I pointed out that (probably) nor can the kids in her school year, yet, and that it doesn't matter how long it takes her to learn, we'll get there in the end.
  • Tons of very impressive spelling. Emily now has all the various vowel combinations off pat, I think, so she can do spellings like the boil/soil, cloud/sound, could/would, bread/head, air/chair, boat/moat type groups without thinking now, as well as -le and wh- words and quite a few of the miscellaneous words like because, usually and so on. More to the point, she's starting to spell them correctly in her own writing too, rather than just when "tested". She asks to do spelling a lot, for some strange reason!
  • Suicidal kittens. Yes. Romeo has taken to tightrope walking along the very narrow bannister at the top of our front stairs. The one with a good 25 foot drop down at the furthest edge. He likes to wander along it, and then sit, poised to leap at a cobweb hanging across the stairs on the wall. Oh how we laugh. Not. It's been fun sitting in our "work" area in the open plan room at the top of the stairs watching him doing that and waiting with bated breath for him to fall to certain injury. Yes, I know cats are supposed to have a good sense of self preservation and won't do anything daft. Think Romeo was away when they handed out that particular skill, though. Oh and of course, Juliet now copies him. It's even more fun when you have two of them there, poised to fight and pushing past each other on this extremely narrow piece of wood.

There's been rather a lot of carol singing, too. Emily's found her Christmas CDs and has had them on, um, lots. She knows all the words and has been singing her heart out, lol. She can't wait for the carol service on Christmas Eve. I used to feel hypocritical taking her there, since I'm by no stretch of the imagination a Christian, but I've now come round to a different point of view: just as it's morally wrong to push a religion on a child, it's also, imo, morally wrong to push a child away from a religion if they've expressed an interest in it (which Emily frequently has, it's not just a once a year issue). It's very easy for me to pooh-pooh Christianity, but how is that any better, or any more right, than forcing her down a path of my own choosing? Jon is a little more Christian than me (but not much) - but it's funny, isn't it, how none of us would dream of pouring scorn on a different religion, yet it's OK to pour scorn on the one most familiar to you. I haven't found anything particularly meaningful in any of the religions I've investigated - but that doesn't mean that Emily can't, or won't, or shouldn't. If we had easy access to other places of worship, or knew people of other faiths and could join in their celebrations we'd jump at the chance for Emily to experience that....yet I balk at taking her to the one religious centre we do have ready access to. Odd - and worrying, too.

Emily definitely has an interest in God in the Christian sense, and it's not just what she was brainwashed with in that first year at school, either - it's lasted beyond that. We often talk about God and spirituality and religions. We've explained how, for instance, in our opinion, the Bible stories cannot be considered actual fact, but we've also been careful to point out that many people believe they are, and that it's up to her to make up her own mind about that and other aspects of Christianity as she grows and matures. I hate the thought that she should automatically take on our views and opinions on anything at all, including religion. She's not a Nikki'n'Jon clone, and we wouldn't want her to be. It's a fine line to tread between explaining your own point of view and not, on the other hand, crushing a child's emerging personal opinion. Now if only we could leave all that moral guidance malarky to school, lol.......

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Welcome Home Grandad!

It's been a busy week :-)

There was lots I wanted to blog, but as usual it's all vanished from my head now I'm actually looking at the screen. Oh well, brief recap here we go:

Tuesday was spent frantically trying to meet deadlines. Nuff said.

On Wednesday we went to Normanby Hall with Romy and Hazel for a play - and supposedly to collect nature stuff for making more fairy furniture, but the girls were having too much fun just playing so I think the collecting was a bit of an afterthought! Emily did find a great Nanny McPhee stick, though, and spent the rest of Wednesday evening and much of Thursday morning playing out scenes from the book and film with it.

Thursday was welcome home Grandad day as he arrived back from Canada with Uncle David and Aunty Barbara. Emily made chocolate shortbread in their honour and we all had a good old chat, spirits lightened by Jon discovering at a doctor's appointment that a health issue we'd been worrying about wasn't anything serious after all :-))More cooking on Friday - lemon cake this time, which was truly scrummy (and I should think so too, the amount of ingredients in it....five eggs and three lemons indeed). Having gone out for the day, David and Barbara came back to join us for a meal and a chinwag again, and Uncle David and Emily between them had fun doing a 200 piece glow in the dark skeleton jigsaw.

This morning Emily was enchanted to see such a heavy frost when she got up, so we piled out in the garden at an unfeasibly early time in the morning and spent a lovely hour wandering around taking in the beauty of it all. There were incredibly intricate little ice crystals covering our garden decorations, and the leaves of our red tree have finally started to fall, so the garden around the tree was covered in a carpet of leaves that looked as if they were wedding cake decorations frosted in sugar. Gorgeous. Whilst out there we remembered something we'd seen somewhere about making ice lanterns, so thought we'd have a go. Emily was in her element collecting lots of bits of nature to go in the bowls, then we taped smaller bowls inside the big ones, filled them water and popped them in the freezer. Here's the Frost Queen collecting her bits:

David and Barbara popped round to say goodbye just as we were giving the kittens a run in the frost, so Emily had lots of hugs since they've got to last until next year now!

Then it was off to ballet, and lots of arty crafty stuff this afternoon. The ice lanterns turned out quite well for a first attempt, although they could have done with an overnight freeze and a slightly bigger candle. They really do look magical in the dark with the candle shining through the ice and lighting up all the leaves and berries. I did take pictures of them in the dark but none came out well enough to use, so here's one taken with the flash:

Today we've had the dubious pleasure of discovering we need to pay nearly another grand to the VAT man by the end of the month, which given that our cashflow is a bit wonky at the moment should be interesting. Hmmm. Better get back to work, then! There are three article deadlines approaching on Monday, and I haven't started on any of them yet. Ahem. Bye bye for now!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sneaking Ten Minutes....

....to blog today before I have to knuckle down to some serious deadline meeting for the press agency.

Took Merlin and Cassie to the vets this morning for their boosters. Merlin, apparently, is underweight (despite the fact that he never stops eating). Cassie is massively overweight (well, we knew that) and needs to urgently lose some. Easier said than done when we rarely see her eating in the first place, and she's often sick straight after she's eaten anyway. I suspect there's rather more to her obesity than 'cat who eats too much', but for now we'll follow the vet's instructions (like we weren't already) and see how it goes.

Back from the vets we decided to make the most of our last day of freedom for some time - between pending health appointments for various members of the family (dozens of 'em!!....well, seems so anyway), work deadlines, the seasonal business rush and the dire need to fit in some education, it's going to be a busy run up to Christmas from this week on. So Emily and I took ourselves off to the cinema to see Nanny Mcphee - yes, probably the last people in the country to do so. It was absolutely brilliant, we both loved it to bits and it is, in Emily's words, "miles better than Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus" (you don't say??). Emily has been chunnering away ever since about the differences between the book and the film (of which there are, um, very, very many). She's read up to chapter six of the book this last couple of days. Jon has already read it to her once, but she wanted to re-read it herself, which is pretty good going, I reckon. She can't decide now whether she likes the book or the film version best!

Straight from the cinema we went swimming for a bit, which was OK if you like freezing to bits. Wish they'd do something about the temperature in there!!

And so home, and it's deadline time for me. That should take care of tonight and tomorrow, then Wednesday we need to clear out the stockroom - ahem, I mean Grandad's bedroom :-))) - ready for his return from Canada. And Emily will have lots of baking and cooking to do to feed our (hopefully hungry) guests!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Running Fast But Standing Still

We've been exceptionally busy - and that's an understatement so large I'd better move before it falls over and squashes me. Jon and I haven't stopped to draw breath this past couple of days - but no matter how hard we work, there's always more to do, lol. Oh the joys of self-employment. Sometimes we just don't seem to be getting anywhere. Probably because the goals we set ourselves are too high. If I put my un-jaded glasses on, I can see that we're making progress in our business goals - but sometimes it's hard to see that from the middle of the chaos!!

Emily has been wonderful company recently. Only seven weeks until our baby girl is 7 years old - where on earth have the years gone???

On Friday afternoon we had fun in Twigmoor woods with Romy and Hazel. Despite strict instructions to not paddle in the lake any higher up than the heels or their welly boots....well, need I say more? Paddling in November, collecting mud from the lake to make fairy cakes, while the school kids were sat poring over their 400th SATS practice paper of the term. Hmmm. I know which I'd rather for my daughter.

Saturday and today have passed in a blur of activity. Emily had a fab time at ballet, she's done yet more loads of arty crafty things, we've played lots of a great hieroglyphs board game (Emily's back in Egyptian crazy mode again), she's read lots of DK Find Out magazines, played lots of neopets, written lots of stories and generally been a superstar. And lots.

Better get back to work before the world stops spinning. Sooooo much to do. Must just post these two photos of our beautiful golden tabbies. Took them this morning when we found the kit-bits asleep on this gold organza (bought to make a curtain under Emily's bed). Just love the colours :-))

Have a crack of dawn appointment tomorrow morning for the two big cats to have their booster injections. Brought the cat carrier in from the shed this evening and they both moved faster than they have for a long time....straight out into the night, lol. They're not keen......the kittens, though, have yet to develop a fear of the vets (give it time....neutering soon...) and wanted to get in it!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Pottering Along

It's been a very free flowing couple of days. Kind of loose and warm and sleepy. Nice.

Although Tuesday evening wasn't quite so nice. The second of Emily's teeth that had been wobbly since May was at the hanging by a thread stage and was merrily swinging at a very odd angle, but she refused to touch it or have it removed. She was munching a carrot whilst watching The Herbs and it suddenly started streaming blood. Cue much hysteria and panic, poor thing. The tooth had suddenly gone very grey for some reason, and we really didn't fancy the prospect of Emily trying to sleep with a steady trickle of blood (it wouldn't stop) and a grey half out tooth, so I wanted to remove it. Ahem. Poor Emily was terrified. It was not a good hour or so.

Thankfully, once it was over it was, well, over and beaming smiles soon returned once Emily realised she could now talk properly and eat, lol.

Yesterday we did lots of work - times tables squares, more about teeth and healthy eating, and Emily pottered away at arty crafty things under her own steam most of the afternoon. She and Daddy made "Jam Explosions" (jam tarts gone rather odd, rofl), sausage rolls and cheesy squares, and we all enjoyed a rare sit down meal of roast chicken, veggies and oodles of white wine together (it's usually either me or Jon eating while the other one works). (Well, Emily didn't have the white wine).

The characterisation and description detail work for "English" is going very well. We played a fun game yesterday where Emily and I drew and coloured a "monster" each in secret, and then wrote down details of its description, after which the other person had to draw from the written description and see if it matched the original picture. Liked that. Good way of exloring how words create a mental image which, unless chosen very carefully, may or may not be what the writer had in mind.

Today maths was a bit of a struggle, but more work on balanced diets and more English characterisation went well. This afternoon, Emily attempted to follow the instructions for this 3D Picasso Faces thingy from Art Attack, which she had seen a little while ago. Needless to say, as always happens with us and Art Attacks (is it just us???) the instructions were woefully inadequate and the whole 'cover it with kitchen paper' malarky just did not work. We abandoned that and painted it white instead. Tomorrow she'll paint it cubist style. Still on the Picasso theme, Emily spent a while filling pages of a book with abstract style facial features - a page for face shapes, one for eyes, one for nose, one for eyebrows, one for mouth, one for hair and one for ears. She seemed to enjoy drawing really quickly, without thinking too much, and did well at capturing different emotions using jagged shapes, fluid shapes and so on. Using these ideas, she then created a Picasso style forward/profile mixed up face in about three minutes flat, which I think has a certain spontaneous charm :-))

She was very keen on that, and wants to do more on an on-going basis.

Another very civilised family dinner of Lasagne and oodles of red wine. Now if only I could grab a snooze as easily as the kittens do.....

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Having spent the whole flippin' day collating exhibits, reprinting pertinent emails, going over Jon's statement etc and waiting anxiously for The Email telling us when exactly he was required to appear in the High Court, and expecting to have to drop everything to rush a train station at any minute.......we finally get an email at nearly half past five telling us that the case has been settled, and he's no longer required after all. Yay!!!!!!! That's an enormous relief (although the whole thing has left us pretty irritated, and has swallowed up huge amounts of our time and nervous energy over the last month or so).

Jon even had to go out and by a mobile phone this morning. We don't "do" mobiles, but wanted him to have one to keep in touch while he was down there, as we didn't even know how many days he'd be gone. We do possess an old one but it hasn't been used for 18 months, and when we found it the other day we no longer remembered the security code, nor how to top it up, and the instruction manual had long since been consigned to who knows where. So, we're now the proud owners of a new and very smart little Virgin mobile thingy. Haven't a clue how to use it, and now have very little use for it - but I daresay now we've got it we might actally switch it on once in a while. Just for a giggle.

Education? Er, well, no, not really. Read a bit more of Magician's Nephew, and Emily did the 5 and 10 times tables picture puzzles. Other than that, she's played all day whilst Jon and I have fussed and fretted. Now this court malarky is settled, normal service will be resumed shortly. We hope.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Dangling in Mid Air

No, not the kittens. Although they do their best. Us.

The Paul McKenna court case begins in the High Court tomorrow, and Jon's been told he definitely has to appear. Only trouble is, given the nature of these things, they can't tell him whether they need him tomorrow, Wednesday or Thursday, or how long they'll need him for, and they've been uncharacteristically (for lawyers) vague about all the details, including tiny little insignificant pieces of information like the name of the hotel he's been booked into. Verrrry helpful. Especially if you're 200 miles away from London and need to work out train journeys, times, arrange for someone to be here to sign for deliveries whilst we're out taking Jon to the station, and all the rest of it. It's getting rather fraught at this end, and very nerve-racking even for me, so heaven knows how bad Jon's feeling.

Other than the horrible dangling in mid air sensation, it's been quite a productive day. I started reading the Magician's Nephew to Emily this morning. She adores the BBC Lion Witch & Wardrobe dramatisation, and has watched that DVD to death. She can't wait for the film to come out, but we've never actually read the rest of the saga, so thought we'd better get started. I read it all as a child, but can't really remember that much of it (must have made an awesome impression then....) so it's an adventure for me too.

After what seems like weeks without much actual "work", we also took a gentle step back into the world of maths, with Emily doing the 2 times table hidden picture puzzle from The Multiplication Tables Colouring Book. That was painless enough. She then did quite a few pages from the Just Write book, all about characterisation. Finally - and very topically, with yet another tooth now hanging by a thread - we did lots of looking in mouths, drawing different types of teeth and working through the second half of the CGP Teeth and Eating Workbook.

Major meltdown at lunchtime when said tooth came even closer to coming out. That particular perfomance featured screams, hysterical tears and full blown tantrums for a full half an hour, at which point I became Bad Mummy and totally lost patience, but eventually Emily calmed down sufficiently for us to go swimming with Hazel and Romy. The pool was absolutely FREEZING!!! The two girls had a nice long play. Not sure much actual swimming took place, mind you, but they seemed to have fun, whilst Hazel and I watched and slowly turned into icecubes.

Right then. I'm off to look up train timetables and wonder why life is never as simple as it should be :-//

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Settling Back Into A Routine

That's not what we're doing, but it's what we need to do.

The last few weeks have been ever so bitty really, in terms of "education". Emily's played loads, but our routine has gone right out of the window whilst we struggled to get some more business work done. I'd like to get us back on track with some proper work, especially on the Vikings and Art projects which have stalled not through lack of interest on Emily's part, but lack of time. Ho hum. Why are there never enough hours in the day?

This morning before ballet Emily spent a while doing crafty stuff, and made some lovely miniature things for her dolls house, including a very detailed cat climbing tree/scratching post/toy tree thing from wire, beads, polystyrene and felt. Then it was off to ballet, where they had great fun doing firework dances. Afterwards, Emily proudly introduced me to a new friend she's made. I was very impressed with her sociability this morning - she'd never seen this little girl before, but by the end of the lesson she'd found out her name, how old she was, where she lived, chatted to her about wobbly teeth (as you do) and made friends to the huggy-hand-holdy stage. I complimented her on nicely she'd got to know this little one, and she told me "Yes, I like making friends now. I know that if I see someone looking a bit on their own like me, all I have to do is go to them and smile and start to talk and then I can make friends with them." Yay! Progress! Things we've been encouraging Emily to do are beginning to sink in, it seems. A while ago she wouldn't have dared speak to a new person, let alone initiate a friendship.

This afternoon we had fun looking through Ecology Crafts for Kids which arrived from the wholesalers this morning. Yet more dozens and dozens of ideas for things we want to do if only we could carve out the flippin' time!!!!

After dark, Romy, Hazel and Colin popped round to share our garden fireworks display and sparklers. High tech it certainly wasn't, but it was quite pretty and made up for not having time (again) to go to an organised display this year. Especially for Grandad (still in Canada) here are some pics of the vegetable patch being put to good use!

And - breaking news - Juliet has miaowed at us not once but three times in the last hour! Looks like she's deciding to make her voice known after all :-)))

Friday, November 04, 2005

Utterly Magical

Got back yesterday from a wonderful break in St Bees, Cumbria where my Mum & Dad have bought a caravan holiday home in Seacote Park. Now, anyone who knows me knows that of all the places in England and Wales I've lived in, worked in or spent extensive holidays in, my heart belongs to Snowdonia....but a rival to my affections has seriously emerged here.

We had an utterly magical time. The caravan is gorgeous. The weather was perfect....well, for me at least. The wind screamed at gale force or just under, the rain boiled down from the skies so hard that at times you couldn't hear yourself speak over it, the caravan at times gently rocked under the force of the elements - I loved it. I've always had, ever since I can remember, a "fantasy" if you like, a kind of imagined sequence of events which can send me off to sleep in seconds when I'm feeling troubled - of being safe and cosy in a tent cuddling up with loved ones while the rain and wind lash down furiously outside. I don't know what it is about wild weather but I adore it, it leaves me energised and alive - unlike plain old sunshine which I find boring and at times depressing. Everyone thinks I'm odd, but I rather like it that way :-))

We didn't have time to really get to know St Bees and that little corner of the Lake District, but as tasters go, it was fabulous. We're really looking forward to returning in the spring for a longer holiday, and we've got so many places we want to go and things we want to do there!

OK, so it's a long drive - 4.5 hours each way - but it was worth it. Emily was enchanted with the beach from the minute we got there, and it really is perfect for a child - it has miles of sand which, when the tide is out, turn into a heaven of tiny paddling pools, sand islands and fortresses; it has a huge stony/pebbly/rocky shelf expoosed at low tide; it has a stream running into the sea; it has massive rock pools and climbing rocks at the foot of St Bees Head - everything you could possibly want from a beach, all mixed in together.

Tuesday morning, despite the extremely strong wind, we ventured up onto the first couple of miles of Wainright's famous Coast to Coast Walk which starts from the cliffs at the edge of the beach. It was absolutely glorious - if a little iffy in the wind, which was strong enough at some moments to make us adults lose our balance, let alone Emily. Here's Emily and Jon cuddled up against the wind:

and climbing a cliff top stile which, although you can't tell from the photo, seemed to have a pretty sheer drop at one edge (gulp!)

Despite a few anxious moments, the views and the exhiliration were well worth it. We made it as far as St Bees Lighthouse, but decided against descending to Fleswick Bay due to the weather, which was taking a turn for the worse, safety wise. We will definitely get down to the bay in the spring though. It can only be reached from the cliff path or by boat, and is apparently famous for its semi-precious gemstones.

Tuesday afternoon we spent hours on the beach, playing, rockpooling, getting extremely wet and muddy and generally having a ball. Here's a photo of the pink fisher girl:

Wednesday we were spoilt for choice of where to go, but eventually decided to visit Trotters World of Animals/ which turned out to be be a very, very good decision. Despite being nearly the only visitors there, we were treated to a fantastic Birds of Prey flying display (which included Emily being nearly knocked off her feet by a lovesick vulture called Fred, lol) and a close up touchy-feely encounter with several snakes. Here's me and Emily getting up close and personal with a Beauty Snake called Lucy:

I love snakes, I think they're some of the most beautiful creatures. Spiders - uck. But snakes, now that's me. Back to the caravan for more beachcombing, despite the driving rain and howling wind - I don't know if some of the clothes we've brought back will ever be clean again!

Thursday it was time to leave after an all too short stay. It was a long drive home, but we had a wonderfully warm welcome from the kit-bits, who had been kitty-sat by Nana & Gramps while we were away.......and we came came back to nearly 400 orders demanding immediate attention. Sigh. Guess what we've been doing all last night and all day today. Still, mustn't grumble - it would have been far more alarming if we'd come back to none, lol! We're kind of caught up now, just about, which is great - but it's a shame to look out of the windows and not see the sea and the raging elements in all their glory. These waves were just breaking onto shore near the stream, and I'm sure they were taller than me! Certainly freaked Emily out when Jon went to the waters edge to get the photo, anyway...
Never mind - all good things must eventually come to an end, but we've got our next visit in early spring to look forward to!

Must just add this photo of Romeo chasing rainbows on Emily's bed this morning. He spent ages rushing to and fro, bless him.
Juliet was up there too....but had rather more sense than her brother, and idled away the time between paw-washes looking on in a faintly amused must-humour-him kind of way....