Wednesday, May 31, 2006

More Haiku & Another Certificate

Emily passed her level two in yoga last night, so she's a very happy bunny about that. Her homework this week is to write/design a Vinyasa, which is apparently a flowing sequence of moves that make sense together. She's very keen on that and has already spent ages working on it!

Yesterday Emily wrote more haiku, this time three on yoga which she added to her yoga journal:

Stretched, flexible joints
Dog, cat, tree, warrior now
Mind body spirit soon calm

Anger turns to peace
Sleepily meditating
Dancing to the Sun

Relaxing music
Interesting sanskrit words
Yoga destroys stress

Rachel loved those. The rest of the class wanted to know how come Emily had learnt about haiku as they hadn't (??? even though some of them are 12??) and what year of school was she in........Rachel pointed out at some considerable length (!) that Emily's home educated (she's a big fan) which led to lots of girls asking what that meant which eventually led to lots more girls whining that they don't want to be stuck in school, lol. Emily had a good time with Rhiannon practising partner work while some of the others were being tested, and had a somewhat less good time when someone decided to laugh at her for wearing "boy's shoes" because her slip on shoes had footballs on. Okkaaay. Girls, obviously, are not allowed to like football. Not even with world cup fever approaching. The local schools are clearly doing a very good job of breaking down gender stereotypes and encouraging tolerance, kindness and manners all round. *Rolls eyes* I'm tempted to suggest that she goes to the next dozen yoga lessons wearing her ever expanding collection of football shirts ;-)

Also yesterday we did lots of French practice and yet more trivial pursuit. This morning has been maths and history, with Emily revising things from her Ancient Egypt project which we did in Jan-March 2005 (blimey, that sounds like yonks ago!!! Hard to believe we've been home educating now for nearly two years).

This afternoon she and Jon have gone off on a mystery shopping mission :-))

Whilst typing, I'm going to add the rest of Emily's haiku from the other day, purely because I rather like them!

The Waterfall
The water rushes
Sparkling in the bright sunlight
Swimming in peacefulness

Wind whistles in the clouds
Rapidly changing colours
Leaves float in the wind

Snowflakes land softly
Ice fairies settle in bare trees
Grass bathing in snow

A Cat's Life
Shake, stalk, leap on prey
Tail tucked under in a ball
Scratching, kicking toys

Beginning of Spring
A spring shower falls
Butterflies finding nectar
Buds blink in the sun

It is surprisingly difficult to convey what you want to say whilst sticking to the 5-7-5 syllable rule. Very good language practice I reckon, especially helpful for practising the differences between active and passive voice, and experimenting with changing tenses without changing meaning. Well, we found it fun, anyway!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Pursuits That Aren't Trivial

Played a lovely long game of Trivial Pursuit with Emily and Jon this afternoon. Took hours, but Emily won in the end - needless to say she was exceedingly chuffed about that, lol.

Other than that little interlude, Emily's had a very busy work day. Bank Holidays? Don't do 'em. I guess since we're both normally at home all day long anyway, the only thing that's different about bank holidays in this house is that Jon doesn't have to go to the post office. Other than that, it's business as usual!

First thing this morning Emily spent an hour working on Black Cat Logo which is computer logo language software we got in a special offer a while back. Hadn't loaded it before this morning, but it seemed to go down quite well. If nothing else, it was good practice on angles and the like as Emily had to work out how many degrees she wanted the turtle to turn.

After that there was lots of yoga practice ready for tomorrow's lesson which may (or may not) include Emily's next test - we're not quite sure about that. Practice was interrupted by much squawking - Romeo had brought in a baby blackbird (well, a fledgeling) and taken it upstairs to show off to his Daddy.....and promptly let it go in our sitting room. It didn't seem to be injured but it was apparently a hell of a job to coax it back out through the window as Romeo and Merlin "helped"!!!

This afternoon Emily wanted to work on poetry, so we started to look at haiku. She took to that like a duck to water and wrote five gorgeous little haikus entitled "The Waterfall", "Autumn", "A Cat's Life", "The Arrival of Spring" and "Winter". She would have written more had we not run out of time, lol. Whilst working on the haiku she kept coming up with lines that didn't quite fit the format but were great nonetheless, so she's started to keep a poetry notebook now to jot down random lines ready to use in a poem when she gets round to it.

We also worked on "time" a little more, revising the "Bingo" moment last week when it all suddenly clicked. I was pleased to see that she still knows what she's doing with digital and analogue conversions.....sometimes it's in one ear and out of the other, but that does seem to have stuck now. Finally, Emily found a competition to design a Winx Club outfit so she spent some time designing an outfit for Bloom, ready to send off tomorrow just in time to meet the closing date.

Things are jogging along really rather nicely indeed. Or is it tempting fate to say so?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Beautiful Birthday Butterflies

I mentioned at the end of my last post that we'd likely spend all day Friday on arty crafty things - and indeed we did. Emily worked her socks off for hours and came up with some really beautiful bits and pieces for my Mum's birthday tea. Emily's asked me to put the pictures on here "so that Nana won't forget her decorations" (not that there's much chance of that!)

Altogether on Friday, Emily made two different types of hanging butterfly chains to hang up over the table: One type was transparent film with shreds and sparkles sandwiched in between, but into butterfly shapes and threaded together with beads; the others were six stained glass butterflies hanging each on their own threads. The picture's not very good, but it looked fantastic when it all the bits were hanging over the table at birthday tea time :-))

Emily also made six butterfly/dragonfly plate decorations, one for each of us, which she set out on the plates at birthday tea:
Also on the craft menu on Friday was this lovely balloon butterfly
and a pretty heart/butterfly bag filled with peanut brittle: and of course a beautiful butterfly birthday card, my photo of which has decided to be incredibly blurry.

Phew. Well, that took care of Friday. Saturday morning we got up really early to make Nana's birthday cake before Emily had to go out to ballet. She's getting so good at baking. We had a recipe for a chocolate/orange marble cake and apart from reaching down ingredients and handling the oven, Emily did the lot from start to finish. She had a fabulous idea for decorating it as a butterfly flower garden, so when she got back from ballet this was the result:
Nana was overwhelmed with everything and very touched by how much effort Emily had put into it all :-))

Today I've been hard at work on boring old BBC stuff while Jon and Emily have been painting rocks. We've also been playing an excellent Egytpian board game which they picked up for the princely sum of a pound from the charity shop on Saturday. It's quite old but in fabulous condition, called Piramid (yes, that is the spelling). You have to trade slaves and gain protection from the Gods against various things that befall you on your way to the Valley of the Kings to build your pyramid. Good stuff. Which reminds me, Scunthorpe Museum's Egypt exhibition is on now, with stuff on loan from the British Museum. Emily doesn't want to go to any of the half term activities on next week as she's done them all before (writing in hieroglyphs, wrapping Mummies and the like) but she's very keen to visit the exhibition itself "once the kids have gone back to school" ROFL. The Tutankhamun Exhibition at the Millennium Dome is creeping closer (well, November 07 - that's close in my head) and we're being pestered not to forget that we've *promised* that we'll spend a week in London at that time. I didn't know the Millennium Dome was now called O2 - ??? Oooh, I just read the site and discovered that you're advised to reserve ticketing certificates as they expect it to sell out. OK, reserved ours.

Meanwhile, Emily's enrolled on the Young Artist's Course at London Art College, so she's very excited about that. Oooh and of course Springwatch starts tomorrow, which is the cause of even more excitement. I think Bill Oddie is now rivally Tony Robinson in Emily's Heroes List. She's been watching some of his How To Watch Wildlife DVDs.......and was extremely surprised when she watched some episodes of the Goodies recently!

Thought I was seeing things earlier this morning. Went out in the garden to call Romeo as I'd just put some food down for the kits bits and whilst his sister was chomping away, he was nowhere to be seen. Saw this:
Couldn't see the rest of him apart from a few bits of black blob inbetween the leaves - he was stretched out in the branches of next door's apple tree with his paw hanging down like a leopard, bless him. Here's His Royal Pink Nosed-ness on his way down!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Busy Day

Emily's been on the go all day today. We got up late, which didn't help the manic rushing-about-ness of the day in general. She and Jon went off to tai chi first thing and had an interesting chat with someone who wants to set up a history club at the community centre and another set of art classes with a different teacher.

While Emily was out, I "recycled" her stuff - by which I mean moving all the Barbie stuff out of her room (with her consent, I hasten to add) so that there was room for the dollshouse and all of her lego and Ello in her room instead. It's such a tiny bedroom that not all her bits and bobs fit in there - most of it has to live in what we laughably call the playroom, which is a room at the top of the stairs usually filled to the brim with stock boxes. So stuff in the playroom is hardly ever played with. Hence the recycling. She's very pleased with it now as she hasn't had much of a chance to play with the dolls house since Christmas (when she had a load of new bits for it) and both the Ello and the Belleville lego have been gathering dust for yonks. Brought all the Harry Potter lego up from downstairs too, so that's a hit.

When Emily got back in from tai chi we threw lunch at her before dashing off to pick up Romy for a play. Back here the girls had fun with a picnic in the garden followed by some very complicated pretend game that somehow mixed a queen with Harry Potter and various other entities too.
Next it was off to drama, although I managed to drastically miscalcuate the driving time from here back to Romy's and then on to drama so we were a bit late dropping Romy back home and rather late to drama too. Teacher didn't seem to mind, though and Emily had a good time practising the play. Scripts are apparently being sent out in the post next week.

It's Nana's birthday on Saturday and we still haven't made any of the things we were going to make..........guess tomorrow's going to be a very arty crafty day!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Lincolnshire Farmers...

....should not be allowed out unsupervised. **Frown** With apologies on the offchance that anyone reading this is or knows a Lincolnshire farmer, but, well really!

We had our happy afternoon out today planned, so off we went to Wragby Maze. It's about an hour's drive from here but hey, Emily's never been to a real hedge maze (as opposed to a labyrinth) and was really excited to go. It sounded good, what with the giant outdoor board games too.

Got there. It's a tiny little shed, basically, at the entrance, but undeterred we went in all smiles and announced that we'd come to play in the maze. "Ave you?" asked the farmer. "Yes." "Ohh, now, well, I don't know about that. It's ever so wet. It's the rain, you see." It wasn't raining at this point, although it had been earlier. Now regular readers may have noted that we actually quite like the rain and certainly aren't deterred from being out and about in it. We were perfectly happy to pay our entrance fee and go and get wet. But nope. He was having none of it. He wouldn't want Emily to get her shoes (trainers!!!!) wet, apparently. And he wouldn't want one of us slipping. "I been out in the fields this morning and look at my boots!" he offered, gesturing towards a pair of wellies with a slight smidge of mud on the bottom. Er, no, that's OK, we understand it's wet and could be slippy. Doesn't matter. We don't mind. We'd like to come in and play in the maze. It does, after all, say "open" on the sign, and the website doesn't mention anything about it being a health hazard second only to nuclear waste if it's been raining a bit. We'd really like to come in.


At this point, we were ready to start backing away, sloooowwwly, but Jon was brave enough to ask about the giant games instead. "Ah well, now it's much to wet to put any of those out," he answered flatly. Hellooo?? You're supposed to be running this place as a "tourist attraction" (heaven help us, and I think to be frank it says something about Lincolnshire when the best they can rustle up is a shed with a maze at the back of it and a couple of farm parks - but I digress). We're willing to PAY you to go in your flippin' maze and we're not bothered about getting wet in the non-existent rain (it was blue skies at this point). We've come quite a long way. "Well, it's the rain, you see."


Finally admitting defeat, we feigned smiles and stepped outside to pretend to look around the "garden centre". Which consisted of approximately fifteen conifer trees for sales, half of which were cordoned off. As we left, another carload of five people arrived to see the maze. One poor woman was in high heeled shoes. I almost wish we'd stayed to hear the conversation that must surely have resulted.

Now, fair enough, it's his land and his maze and he doesn't have to take people's money if he doesn't feel like it. But why not sign that it's closed, then? More to the point, why not mention on the website that it won't be open after rain? Why not provide online disclaimer forms for people to fill in if they really, really, really want to see the maze and are willing to submit to the massive risk of getting a muddy ankle? After travelling an hour to get there, the word "unimpressed" doesn't really cut it as to how we felt.


Nearby was Rand Farm, but that didn't appeal and we didn't fancy fighting out way through Lincoln town centre either, so in the end we travelled all the way back again to Hemswell instead. Considering that's about 8 miles from our front door, if that, a 2 hour trip to get there was unamusing in the extreme. Emily though, bless her, took it all in her stride. At Hemswell we had a good old mooch round the crafts and antiques. Jon was greeted like a long lost friend by the women on the till in the main craft centre, who remember him from when he used to go there nearly every week on book hunts - and they let him have a big selection of painbrushes at half price too, so he was a happy bunny. Emily got a big slice of Black Forest Gateau in the tea shop and also bought herself three Gladiator annuals (!!!) and a complete set of seven little figurines of Henry VIII and his wives. When she took them to the desk to pay, the guy asked her if she knew who they were, clearly expecting her to mumble something about just liking the pretty costumes or something. Think he was a little taken aback when she knew exactly who they were including which wife was which based purely on the headdresses and distinctive jewellery they were wearing ;-)) So she was a happy bunny too. And me? I spotted some beautiful antique gemstone rings - one of which I've been promised for my birthday. Which makes a Happy Bunny Hatrick, not a bad result for such a wasted journey!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Lungs & Language

Today's been A Very Good Day. Officially. Emily has done masses of work and it's all been fun, too.

We started off this morning with a real lightbulb moment in maths, more specifically telling the time. When we first sat down at just gone 9, Emily was struggling to tell me even half past the hour on an analogue clock. We made a clock face out of card and paper fastener and stuck with it - half an hour later and she's confidently telling the time to five minutes on analogue clocks and instantly grasping the concept of writing it digitally. Hallelujah! That one's been a long time coming, she seemed to have a bit of a mental block about telling the time properly, but it's lovely to witness when suddenly it all clicks!

We carried on to history next, and Emily read me a few chapters of a book about a Celtic girl falling in love with the son of an important Roman, then we worked on some stuff about Hadrian's Wall and the conditions there. It's not as far from St Bees to Carlisle and onwards as I thought it was, apparently, so Emily's keen to visit the wall next time we go to the caravan.

More work on the HP project followed; still in Diagon Alley Emily wrote about Ollivander's Wand Shop and designed an advertising poster for it.

After lunch, we got started on French. Emily's never done French before - Italian is my principle language and the one I translate and interpret to and from (although I'm also fluent in German and French, with some Japanese, Arabic and Spanish), so until now we've always worked on Italian. We've really struggled with finding interesting resources for it which were appropriate to her age, though. I guess because so few schools teach Italian, so most of the material available is for teenagers-adults rather than primary level. We did find some bits and bobs like the Berlitz for Kids series and the Adventures with Nicholas books, but Emily didn't get on with any of them. Sure, I could devise my own, but hey, I barely have time to breathe let alone develop language courses. Anyway, to cut a long story short, we're going for French for the moment, given the wealth of age appropriate resources around for it. Hopefully if Emily picks up speed in French we can come back to Italian when she's a little bit older and the more interesting resources aren't way beyond her.

So, French it was, beginning with various greetings etc. She loved that.

Next, we went back to the human body project, this time to work on lungs and the respiratory system. Emily read lots in our various books, drew a diagram of the respiratory system and labelled it, drew another diagram of inside a lung, and another of the transfer of oxygen to the blood and waste gases back to the lungs by the alveoli.

We made a model lung using a balloon and an empty bottle - didn't have any balloon big enough to fit over the bottom end, though, so had to improvise with cling film instead. This illustrated the function of the diaphragm and how the lungs inflate/deflate:
We also did a fabulous experiment to measure everyone's lung capacity - Emily measured a 500ml scale up the side of the big bottle and then we all took it in turns to blow through the tubing to see how much air was in our lungs.Emily made a chart of the results, and then tried running on the spot for a minute before blowing, to see what would happen after exercise. Although she predicted (wrongly) that she'd be able to blow out *less* air after exercise, when she discovered that her lungs were holding nearly twice as much air after exercise as before she was able to make a very intelligent deduction as to why that might be - explaining to me that her muscles were working hard, so the blood needed to take in more oxygen to convert to sugars for energy for the muscles, which was why her lungs were taking in more and also why her heart was beating faster.

We've also spent a long time today looking through various craft books to get ideas for Nana's birthday on Saturday. No yoga this afternoon as the teacher's away. Jon went off for another glandular fever blood test this morning, so it will be "interesting" to see what's happening there. We're having a family afternoon out tomorrow, so can't wait for that!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Back To Work

So, after a couple of weeks of dreaming about being on holiday, planning being on holiday, being on holiday and the aftermath of being on holiday, Emily has today been "back to work" as she puts it.

We really do need to get more organised on the education front. I loathe living from day to day with no clue about what we're going to do next. We're very untidy so we can never find the right resources on the spur of the moment anyway. Think I've finally given in and admitted that autonomous education, much as I can see the appeal, simply doesn't work for us. There's no such thing as free time for the adults in this household - which means that if we're not "with Emily", we're "working". When left entirely to her own devices, Emily will do the usual mixture of playing and having fabulous ideas for things to do - but she either needs or wants help and/or company with a lot of them, and while she's doing her own thing, we're working....and it's impossible to suddenly drop the grown-up work to facilitate the idea she's come up with that minute, on the spot. That leads to frustration and disappointment for Emily and massive guilt trips for us. So, the penny has finally dropped that we do indeed need some structure. Quite a bit of structure, in fact. For all of our sakes.

Anyway: today. This morning Emily did some extremely basic year 2 level subtraction. Under extreme protest. 2 pages of which took the best part of an hour. Why is it that stuff she can whizz through without thinking one day becomes a major source of trauma a few weeks later?? Eventually, tears dried and tantrums calmed (and Emily was feeling better too!) we moved onto history and spent a long time looking at the Celts and Boudicca. Emily did that home educated "thing" again and stunned me with how much she already knew about the topic at hand despite our total lack of formal attention to it so far. After our historical detour, we boarded the train back to Hogwarts with some English, Harry Potter style. Emily wrote some character descriptions from HP & Stone and started working on the Diagon Alley chapter for her project, specifically writing about Gringotts Bank and its goblins and designing an advertising poster for the bank.

This afternoon, Jon and Emily went off to the library and community centre for a local history seminar. The librarian had specifically asked Jon a few weeks ago if Emily would like to come as she felt it would be right up her street. Yet again Emily was the only child present, obviously enough, I suppose, as she's the "Only HE Child in the Village" (add your own welsh accents) and she thoroughly enjoyed it. The focus was on finding resources and materials for local history research and Emily came home beaming with pages of notes she'd made along with ISBN and catalogue numbers of books she wants to go back to at a later date.

I've just dragged myself away from the Hope Catalogue site having firmly convinced myself that we don't actually need any more "stuff". Only went there to look at clay. Sigh. Shoes, handbags, clothes, make up? Nah, not interested. Give me a good old education supplies catalogue any time! Having pooled ideas with Emily and Jon, we're bubbling over with "things we want to do" - but where's the time going to come from??

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The View from Sygun Copper Mine painted by first Jon and then Emily :-))

We visited Sygun this time last year on our holiday to Snowdonia and Jon and Emily's acrylic paintings are based on this photo we took of the beautiful view at the mine exit.

This morning hubby and daughter made some scrumptious lemon muffins with green icing :-)) and then this afternoon my artists in residence had a ball while I was finishing off some work. Yesterday Gramps finished framing about twenty of Emily's most recent paintings and a couple of Jon's (he won't allow the rest to be done...) so both staircases are now definitely art galleries supreme!

Meanwhile, just wanted to post a couple of cute kit bit picces, firstly Juliet biting off more than she can chew and sleepily defending her favourite toy - speaking of sleepy, Romeo barely managed to open his eyes for the last photo!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Playing Catchup

Time is running away fast again and no matter how quickly we run we only ever catch a glimpse of its backside sashaying out through the door :-/

Last couple of days have involved:

  • Emily playing some extremely involved Harry Potter lego/Barbie/Polly Pocket thing in her bedroom for *hours* and then some more *hours*, listening to more HP cds and chunnering away, lost in her own little world.
  • Breakdown of our sky system; calls to the maintenance contract people; visit by the engineer; discovery that it still wasn't working; more calls to the maintenance people; half an hour on hold; discovery that they'd booked the call to Jon's Dad's sky account (which is completely seperate to ours) instead of the right account and had re-programmed his stuff instead of ours........despite being repeatedly told, when booking the call, that it referred to our account not his.
  • Emily's drama lesson which covered a lot of speech work and more practice for the play.
  • Emily's ballet lesson which the teacher chose to be absent from (again) leaving it as utter chaos with her well-meaning but not exactly well organised teenage assistants. Came home armed with oodles of dates for show rehearsals, photo calls for the programme, details of hairstyles and make up required, blah blah.
  • Catching up (finally) with all outstanding orders including the very healthy uptake of orders in the new shop.
  • Celebratory dance on finding that google has picked up our new shop URL and that our rankings have in fact further improved - we're now either number one or in the first half a dozen for every single one of our major keywords and phrases :-))
  • Taking Jon's Dad to Grimsby Hospital for a "complete waste of bl**dy time" (his words, not mine). Emily came with me and was utterly adorable. She sat for the entire two hours reading Harry Potter Azkaban and playing Harry Potter hangman with me. An elderly couple opposite were incredibly impressed with her behaviour and decided to test her spelling and arithmetic. I hate it when people do that, but they were very encouraging and complimentary and nice about it, so I let it go. They were very positive about home ed too. I think they were just surprised to find a child who sat quietly and patiently and played something half way intelligible instead of running around annoying everyone.
  • Listened to alarm bells ringing in our heads as both my Mum and my Dad now have urgent hospital appointments pending for serious issues. Coupled with Jon's Dad's state of health the picture is far from rosy :-((
  • Quoted for three new big freelance jobs. Hopeful that at least one of them will go for it. Keep reminding myself that we ought to go and *look* for clients - so far every client we've ever had has found us, lol, instead of the other way round!
  • Filled in VAT return and marvelled at how we can "owe" inland revenue such a large amount of money. Someone remind me of the point of VAT, again, other than to penalise small businesses?
  • Dramatically re-thought our educational philosophy (not as in a document for the LEA, but as in really re-thinking where we're going and why)
  • Watched the first half hour of the big brother launch show before completely giving up. When they put normal people back in there, I'll go back to being interested. The first two or at a push three shows were fun, imnsho, but I'm no longer remotely interested in watching a bunch of rather odd extremely up-themselves people. The beauty of the first few series was that each contestant was "get onn-able with" if you see what I mean, in isolation, so the chemistry and interaction between them was interesting. When you have a bunch of people who seem obnoxious/annoying in isolation, they simply become more obnoxious in a group. Or maybe I'm just geting old.......
  • Watched lots of David Attenborough videos and DVDs with Emily.
  • Attempted to explain the Da Vinci Code to Emily.......which is one instance of the blind leading the blind as I've never read the flippin' thing nor read much about it either. We do a roaring trade in all kinds of biblical intrigue stuff, though, so I suppose I ought to get up to speed. Besides, ever since falling in love (??) with Leonardo on this DVD and seeing part of the set at Lincoln Cathedral, Emily's been itching to know what it's all about. She wants to know about the Mayan Calendar and 2012 too. Sigh. I'm not sure how someone who used to have nightmares about black holes and the sun burning up will take to the end of the world!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Just The Three Of Us

Got back from holiday on Tuesday :-)) The first complete week Jon and I have been away on since our honeymoon and Emily's first ever whole week away (previously the most we've managed has been 4 days, and even that was only in the last year). We've had a marvellous week, it's been absolute heaven. Emily has been amazing company, despite having a heavy cold all week. It was rather stressful abandoning the business for a whole week (and boy are we paying for it now) but as Emily kept pointing out to us both before we left, "It's all about the family being together". Bless her, given our domestic set up she doesn't often get to spend time with both of us together, with no work distractions.

Tuesday 9th
Manic all day, packing holiday things, packing last minute orders, trying to set things up business wise to run as smoothly as possible in our absence. All packed and ready to go just in time - we left straight from Emily's yoga lesson and hot-footed it to our exotic stop over location at Scotch Corner. Emily's never stayed in a hotel before, so was as excited as an extremely excitable excited thing, lol. Ate in the Little Chef, read Warrior Cats, played games, giggled, finally got to sleep.

Wednesday 10th
Up for breakfast in the Little Chef, then a leisurely drive to St Bees. Gloriously hot sunshine. Emily rampaged through the caravan like an extremely excitable excited thing again and then we all headed for the beach which is approximately, oooh, two minutes walk.
Much playing, laughing, paddling (is that what you call it when you're in so deep your t-shirt is soaked up to your chest?), rock-pooling and beach darts.
Emily found some live sea anenomes and lots of shrimpy things. Back to caravan for scrummy pasta tea, back to beach for more fun. Back to caravan for lots of games of Dungeons and Dragons (bought from The Works just before we left).

Thursday 11th
Went to Muncaster Castle for the day - hugely recommended. It was boiling hot again, the scenery was beautiful and the castle was fascinating.
As well as touring the castle, enjoying the haunted room and the stories of Tom Fool, we had lunch in the little cafe bit outside surrounded by incredibly friendly swallows and chaffinches. We also spent a long time in the Owl Centre and Emily got to hold a Barn Owl which she was exceedingly thrilled about.
Back from there it was beach time again. Absolutely loved being able to just wander to the beach at a minute's notice whenever the mood took us (which was most of the time, to be fair!) although trying to keep the caravan both dry and free of sand was an adventure in itself.

Friday 12th
Overcast and drizzly on Friday, but that didn't matter. Spent the morning (surprise!) at the beach. The tide was right in (and I mean *right* in) but Emily and Jon gamely went off rock-pooling right round the base of the cliff a *very* long way from the beach. I sat on the one foot strip of beach that wasn't covered with sea and quietly had kittens watching them. I kept wanting to yell "don't go any FURTHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" as the sea (pretty deep at that point I assume, as they were a long way out) menacingly lapped at the rocks, but Miss Mermaid was having a ball so I left it in Jon's capable hands and tried not to look, lol. Love that beach. The tide comes right in as far as it can go, but it also goes so far out that it exposes absolutely miles of sand and rocks as you can see here on a slightly sunnier day:
Friday afternoon we spent a long time lazing in the caravan, playing board games and watching a Catweazle DVD - before my time, that one, but Jon remembered it from his childhood and Emily loves it. We could hear the beach calling, though, so later on that afternoon it was back for more seaside fun. That evening we found lots of live crabs under the rocks in the part of the beach where the stream flows to the sea.

Saturday 13th
On Saturday it poured with rain ;-)) which was a delight to listen to on the caravan roof. We headed off out to the Sellafield Visitor Centre which was only about five minutes away from us. Fabulous! (And Free!!) I was really impressed with that and found it a very balanced and upfront presentation of all kinds of energy, including all the problems associated with nuclear energy. Emily learnt masses about energy and the difficult energy choices facing us in the future, and she had an absolute ball. She enjoyed all the hands on stuff and loved the children's science show. Here she is making an energy pledege on the pledge tree.
Their interactive cinema was an enormous hit with us all. We saw two shows there, the first being about the ocean food chain where you had to play a game on your individual touchscreens to work your way up the foodchain (it was shark weekend, apparently, but don't ask me what sharks have to do with nuclear power...) and the second was all about making energy choices, siting and building power stations, wind farms, recycling energy and related stuff. Emily can't wait to go back next time!

On the way back from Sellafield we did a slight detour to visit the extremely beautiful Ennerdale Water which is our "local" lake, being only a few miles from St Bees. It was still pouring with rain, but undeterred we had a good stroll and played lots of Harry Potter pretends. Being the only souls there helped :-))
We also scouted out the location of this riding centre - next time we visit, at the end of the summer, we'll be booking Emily into several riding lessons and treks there, which she's very excited about.

The rain eased off a little by the time we'd had tea back at the caravan, so Jon and Emily went off back to the beach while I stayed to do some tidying up. They found dozens and dozens of sea urchin shells which I'd never seen before, and a very, very large crab!

Sunday 14th
Another fabulous day, despite the pouring rain. We headed off to Keswick where Emily and I loved a boat tour of Derwent Water on a practically empty boat - where was everyone?? By the time we got back, Jon had got us a picnic lunch which we ate sat at the head of the lake with just ravens, sheep and a few hardy canoe people for company.
After lunch we ventured into Keswick proper and had a good old mooch around the shops and watched an acrobatic street performer with a real line in patter. From there, we went to the Cumberland Pencil Musuem - thought this might end up being the type of museum that's actually someone's sitting room but in fact it was very interesting and quite busy too. Emily was fascinated with the story of the secret WW2 pencils issued to bomber pilots, which contained hidden maps and compasses.
Had a ball in the attached art shop and we splashed out on lots of sketching bits and pieces for Jon and Emily. Jon has done three beautiful sketches while we were away and once I can find them (!) I'll photo them.

From there (yes, it was a busy day) we went to the Whinlatter Pass Visitor Centre to view the live video feed of the Bassenthwaite Ospreys on their nest at the nearby lake. It was extremely busy there, to say the least. We thought about going to the open air viewing platform at Bassenthwaite instead, but the weather had taken another turn for the worst so we decided against it and will go back to visit there later in the summer when the chicks are hatched (and most definitely NOT on a Sunday or school holiday day!).

Back at the caravan in the evening it was time for more beach still in the pouring rain. I'm sure everyone thought we were nuts, but by then we'd got used to being the only souls on the miles of beach, lol. Found a beautiful star fish stranded on the beach, so Emily rescued it.

Monday 15th
Set off on Monday morning (in the pouring rain...... sensing a pattern here?) to go on a walk to a waterfall located somewhere off the Whinlatter Pass. Except we got there to discover a sign saying Waterfall Closed (how do you close a waterfall?) and no sign of the carpark. Ventured further up the road, ever hopeful....and found ourselves deep in the middle of a plantation with felled trees all over the place, an extremely narrow, winding, precipitious road and no way of turning round. Ahem.

Never mind, having finally backed out of there (few nail biting moments I can tell you) we carried on through Keswick and out to the starkly beautiful Honister Pass. Parked up there "somewhere" to eat our picnic lunch and then Emily had a fabulous play scrambling on the rocks and little flowing streams.
Back at the caravan we spent the afternoon relaxing, listening to the rain, playing cards and more relaxing before heading off out in the evening for our last goodbye to the deserted and sodden beach.
It had rained so much that the little stream had broken through the banks of shingle and created a stunning waterfall, and where it carves it way through the beach it kept breaking the sand banks and rushing towards us in a torrent. Beautiful. Emily found the largest live crab yet at the edge of the river bit. Unfortunately when we put it back in the river it must have lost its footing and got swept up in the torrent - bit of a rollercoaster ride to the sea, lol. It finally came to a rest upside down waving its legs on a bank of sand. We went to rescue it, but it had sorted itself out by the time we got there and scuttled off.

Tuesday 16th
Boooo! Hissss! Time to go home. There was so much more we wanted to do and didn't get round to, but never mind, there's always next time. In particular, we didn't get to go on the cliff top walk from the beach to the hidden Fleswick Bay and the bird sanctuary, mainly because Emily was a bit too poorly to cope with that, it's quite strenuous. Definitley next time. Tuesday morning, Jon was up at 6 packing things up for us ready to leave at 9.30. Made it back here by 2.30 but oh I do hate the drive home. It's OK until Scotch corner, but by then you've left the beautiful scenery far behind and you just face the drudge of the flippin A1 for two hours. Emily was sad to leave St Bees and in a hurry to go back. If we'd had the four cats with us, I think she would have been perfectly content to stay for good.

Anyway, back at home we had a wonderful welcome from the kit-bits who, I gather from Nana and Gramps, had refused to purr all week while we were gone and were off their food. Just had time to start unpacking before it was time to go out again to Emily's yoga lesson. They did lots more partner work and Emily had fun playing with her new friend R and telling everyone about her holiday.

Wednesday 17th
Hundreds of orders. Good thing and not such a good thing, depending on your point of view. Jon and I are rushed off our feet and feeling terribly guilty at having to leave Emily to her own devices after such a lovely week. Price you pay for the freedom of being self-employed, I guess. Mind you, Emily's been keeping busy with her efforts for the Doodle for Google Competition which she found out about in the First News newspaper, which is proving a real hit here. Tomorrow is tai chi and drama; Friday I'm unfortunately out at the hospital with Grandad and the weekend will be the usual manic round of deadlines BUT come Monday we have plans to get back to normal (whatever that is) with a whole new attitude and memories of the way last week showed us how things can be and should be with just the three of us in our own little world :-))

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Hectic Weekend

Can't believe it's Sunday evening already.

Well now, what happened this weekend? Saturday morning Emily and I dashed off to ballet. Told her teacher we'd be away next Saturday and she surprised me (she's not normally very communicative) by saying some lovely things about Emily - about how hard she works and how quickly she picks up the choreography, and how I was to tell her not to panic when she comes back the following Saturday because although she will have missed most of the choreography for their second show dance, the teacher knows she'll be able to work it out immediately and she just needs to have the confidence to get stuck in instead of worrying about doing it wrong.

Rushed back home to get Emily a quick bite of lunch and a costume change ready for Romy's Wizard of Oz 7th birthday party. Here's Emily as the Wicked Witch of the West:
She had a wonderful time at the party and came home with a fab party bag, full of excitement to tell me all about it.

While Jon and Emily were out at the party, I set to work on the first of my four writing deadlines for the weekend. As I write, at 6pm on Sunday, I've finally finished three out of the four; the final one isn't going to get done until tomorrow now as I'm just all out of time and there are mountains of sales waiting to be packed tonight.

This morning we were all up at 7am so Jon and Emily could go to the big car boot sale at Hemswell. It was *pouring* with rain, but they didn't seem to mind, lol. They came back at lunchtime with various bits and bobs, some more china cats for Emily, a new bandana for Emily, some pens for Emily (are you spotting a theme here yet?) and some stamps for Emily.

Ah yes, stamps: forgot to mention that Emily's new hobby is stamp collecting. Jon had a big stamp collection as a child and although all of his completed albums seem to have vanished, he did have a huge great bag of spares that he's passed onto Emily. She spent nearly two hours this afternoon carefully going through them and sorting them into categories and piles.
Because of his Mum's links with India there are a *load* of old Indian stamps there as well as tons of pre-decimalisation English ones, some Australian and some Canadian. This afternoon, Emily bid on and won 100 Italian stamps on ebay (75p! Love this new's cheap!) and she's also waiting for a Stanley Morgan Stamp Collecting Starter Kit to arrive which will have a big album and 500 assorted stamps. She's full of ideas on different categories of stamps she wants to collect and is very excited about it!

As well as writing to deadlines, I've spent most of today in a very long and very frustrating email dance with our website bod. But, I have good news. At the end of all that, may I present, ladies and gentlemen

Yep, it's up and it's running. It's still only about a quarter populated, and the switch card detail capture isn't working properly and nor are the gift vouchers, but hey, it's there, which is more than I'd realistically hoped for this weekend. In between getting it live we somehow managed to lose the whole of the original astrology site.......which gave me a few tense hours.....but even that is now back and live and kicking, and champing at the bit for its turn at a major revamp.

So. Progress is being made all round. And it's nearly Holiday Tuesday!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Swifts & Sun Tans

Felt like mid summer today - did I blink and miss spring?

The least said about Thursday the better, although Emily did have a great time at drama. As for the rest of the day - well, it wasn't one of my finer parenting hours. One the plus side, Emily did get an awful lot of reading done.

Moving rapidly on, we've made up for yesterday's traumas today with a really pleasant Friday. Glorious sunshine, of course. Yesterday was warm-ish but today was a scorcher. I'm not a sunshine person, but even I have managed to spend nearly the whole day outside. First thing this morning, Emily and I stretched out on our new loungers and worked on some telling the time stuff. Think she has a bit of a mental block about that one!

Emily then popped into town with Nana and Gramps to get some more shoes (since half the ones we bought earlier in the week didn't actually fit.....she's a size 13, 1 or 2 depending which shop you buy from.......) and came back laden. While she was out, the wardrobe fairy (well, chest of drawers fairy in our case) visited and swapped her winter clothes over to summer ones - we don't have enough space to have the clothes out all at once. She was very pleased when she got back to find that her summer dresses and shorts had miraculously re-appeared, lol.

This afternoon we were back out in the garden again, this time for some English, Harry Potter style. Emily answered some comprehension questions about chapeters 3 and 4 of HP & Stone, and then set about writing her own version of the letter Harry receives to tell him he has a place at Hogwart's. That was followed by an HP wordsearch and much chuntering and pretending. I got to sit back, relax and rejoice that the swifts have finally arrived. Think we must be weeks later than the rest of the country, judging by the springwatch website, but today's the first time I'd seen any this year. Spectacular aerobatics; enjoyed that.

We had to use sun tan lotion for the first time this year - good job I got Emily covered in it as I wasn't wearning any and now have a burnt neck for my sins.

After Harry Potter-ing, we made a brief return indoors to finish off some birthday things for a certain special someone who has a birthday coming up, then hot footed it back out again for me to have yet more chill out time while Emily created castles and palaces in her sandpit.

The new shop is finally making progress - better late then never - and Jon's blood sugar has gone back to single digits for the first time in several weeks, so things are looking up. Next Tuesday still can't come a minute too soon though!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Behind Schedule

Hmmm, things are not going according to my carefully laid plan this week. Not good.

We're sadly lacking in the education department: Emily's done some work on speech marks, some more maths problems and some more handwriting and, er, that's about it. She's done lots of reading (nearly finished Chamber of Secrets now), lots of playing Pharaoh and lots of drawing, but we're struggling to get back into the swing of all the hedufacational things we had planned. Sigh. After the holiday.

The new shop was supposed to go live today. It hasn't, naturally. Due to circumstances beyond our control there has been, ladies and gentlemen, a "slight delay". Not a happy bunny over that one.

Jon went off to the doctor's yesterday morning. They think he has glandular fever....although the test for glandular fever, apparently, said he didn't have, but they think he has anyway. For the moment. Although they want him back in a fortnight's time for more tests. He also has a fungal throat infection - hence the loss of voice - and is being taken off metformin for the diabetes and put onto something else, the name of which escapes me, but it's metformin mixed with "something". He still feels absolutely lousy :-( Hopefully the holiday will refresh his spirits.

Yesterday afternoon, Emily and I went out shopping. Bought two sun loungers for the garden from Homebase, cat litter (yet again) and then ventured into the town centre as we couldn't find what we were looking for anywhere else. Didn't find it in the town centre either, mind you, but we did at least find some beach shoes (is that what they're called? slip on polyester type ones with strong soles) which we'd been trying to find for ages. Then it was off to yoga. Emily got her certificate for level one and handed over her mandala for a display on the wall.

This morning we had an urgent appointment at the vets for Juliet - she'd had a swelling on her chin/lower lip area for a couple of days, but yesterday it seemed to be much bigger. Poor little thing trembled so hard in the waiting room that she made her carrier shake! Romeo was bereft without her and apparently yowled and prowled all the time she was gone, bless him. Vet thinks it was a bee sting and that she'd had an allergic reaction to it. Good job it was only there rather than actually in her mouth. Both kittens have been going potty chasing bumble bees and wasps this last ten days or so......kinda saw this one coming, I suppose. Anyway, Ju-Ju had a steroid injection and some painkillers and we have to take her back if it hasn't subsided within a week. Back at home, she was straight out into the garden and has spent the rest of the day.....chasing bumble bees. *rolls eyes*

The good news about Ju-Ju though is that her heart murmur has been downgraded to a level 1 and is now apparently barely audible. Looks like she may be growing out of it after all :-))

This afternoon Emily went to Romy's house for a play, while Jon and I got on with some more work. Jon's making fabulous progress with ebay stuff, but I haven't yet achieved half the things I need to have sorted out before going away. And it's Thursday tomorrow. Eeek.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Therapy: Retail & Art!

Am attempting to move on past Saturday's emotional shock to the system. Thank you to those who left supportive comments for my last post; it was very comforting.

The rest of the weekend passed with a large bout of therapy of both the retail and the art kind. Emily and Jon spent most of Sunday out shopping for both food and holiday bits and bobs. At other times over the weekend and this afternoon they were busy with arty stuff. Emily painted this lovely abstract piece which she's called "Flight of a Butterfly":
She also spent a long time making clay cats - this is Yellow Fang, Thunderclan's Medicine Cat (yes, we still have Warrior Cat fever):

This morning, Emily worked on some tricky money maths problems, and did lots more handwriting practice (her choice). After that, she wrote a nonsense poem about her ballet class, swapping around verbs and adjectives to best effect.

This afternoon, it was more arty stuff with Jon. Emily painted rocks we found in Cumbria and Jon did some beautiful miniature landscapes.

Meanwhile, I've been hard at work (still) on the new shop which will hopefully be launching on Wednesday. It's just dawned on me that this weekend, due to our being away the following week, I need to write two weeks worth of BBC stuff, the big long monthly press agency piece and an Aspire magazine article. Hmmm. Considering I normally struggle to get one set of BBC work done each weekend, I think I may have to re-plan the weekend and actually - gasp! - do some of the work in advance instead of leaving it to the last minute!