Monday, July 31, 2006

Swimming Success

Went swimming with Emily at Gainsborough first thing this morning. After perfecting her back float in the paddling pool over the weekend she was raring to go. This morning she did fantastically well and was able to swim half a width on her own :-)) Mind you, I have to be standing at the wall in front of her so she can "aim" for me - she won't take her feet off the floor at all if I'm not there - but that's half a width more than she was managing on her own last time we went so we're very chuffed! She also swam two lengths non stop with her float and generally had a ball messing around. It was lovely and quiet for the first 3/4 hour before the world and his wife decided to arrive....

Had a lovely weekend; we had a big family barbeque on Saturday evening, despite the rain showers (obviously, after praying for rain for weeks, it HAS to rain during the tiny couple of hours I wanted it to stay dry).

This morning Jon went of to Scunthorpe FC to get his and Emily's club membership which means Emily goes free to any of the matches; she's very keen, lol! While he was there, Jon signed Emily up to some training with their junior coach every Friday for the rest of the summer. If she likes it, she can then carry on going on a Monday evening in September.

While I was out ferrying Grandad around to sort out yet another prescription saga Emily did some fab work on adaptable animals this afternoon, working out why camels are so suited to their desert life and so on. When I got back we had a go at some algebra.....blimey, that sounds very grown up....very simple stuff like if there are n chocolates with toffee centres in a box of 12, write a formula to work out how many there are without toffee centres. We also tried some simple equations of the 5a +12 = 37 variety and Emily seemed to understand the concept of re-writing it to have letters on one side and numbers on the others, making it a= 37-12/5 (or whatever....may have to brush up on algebra myself there!). According to Emily, this was "quite fun" but she did wonder what the POINT of it was. Errrm. Yes. I'll get back to you on that.

Yesterday morning Emily went off with my Mum and Dad to a big Maplins store in Doncaster. They were supposed to be buying a carbon monoxide detector for the caravan but *even better than that*....they came back with lots of science kits including a lovely Oxford University Weather Kit. We're now stuck deciding whether to "do" Romans or weather as Emily's next project - she can't choose, lol.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Bird Tables & Dragon's Blood!

Our week has continued pretty well since my last post. Emily had lots of fun on Wednesday playing at Romy's house. On Thursday she went off to tai chi in the morning and in the afternoon we pottered about and went on a trip to pick up the Gainsborough pool timetable (it's shut for most of the summer for refurbishment!) and to gather lots of travel brochures. We've decided on a holiday treat for Emily's 8th birthday in January. With an eye to future developments that may make it impossible to go later until she's much too old for it, we're seriously considering a trip to Florida and Disneyworld. It costs a fortune, natch and we can't possibly afford to be there ON her actual birthday as - being the 2nd Jan - it's still caught up in the exorbitant New Year's/School Holiday prices. The prices do drop considerably towards the end of Jan though. With a lot of financial juggling and more than a dash of "now or never" recklessness thrown in, we may just be able to make it work.

I went to Disneyworld with my best friend, just the two of us, for my 18th birthday and it was magical even at that age. Yes, I know, it's a massive commercial venture, the evils of multinationals, blah blah and we're supposed to be off tiptoeing barefoot through a rainforest or something instead, but I'm sorry, I like Disney and I'd like Emily to experience it. Towards the end of Jan I see they're doing a ticketed Princess/Pirate party extravaganza after the park is normally closed, so....I'm crossing my fingers we can track down a half way decent deal. Besides, if we go to the Kennedy Space Centre too it could even be called educational ;-)

Today we've had a fab day; Emily's learnt loads and had an absolute ball into the bargain. To begin with this morning, I set Emily the task of making a bird table structure using nothing but newspaper and sellotapte (inspired by Scholastic Junior topics magazine). It had to be sturdy enough to hold a dish of fruit/seeds and to withstand the fan on its highest setting. She very quickly worked out that tightly rolled up newspaper was much stronger than scrunched or folded and she problem-solved away as she went, working out her design on paper first, deciding how many rolls to use for the main stem, figuring out that a tripod design would keep it stable and so on. It took her all morning to make and she's very proud of the results :-))

And yes, although it's slightly, um, undulating, it did pass both tests; in fact it's been stood in front of the fan all afternoon with no ill effects! That was a lot of fun.

This afternoon, I presented Emily with a mystery liquid - hot, red and bubbling away nicely - and read her a story which explained that this mystery liquid was dragon's blood and that two brave adventurer's had collected it wondering if it was the liquid prophecized to cure the king's daughter. This magical liquid had to be sweet, acidic and lighter than water - it was Emily's job to work out whether it dragon's blood was indeed the magical liquid by devising a series of tests. Naturally, she wasn't allowed to taste the liquid as we don't taste or indeed touch uknown substances now do we??! That one was a lot of fun too. She worked out to test the PH to see if it was acidic and used Jon's blood tester to see how much sugar was present. She did need a bit of prompting on how to work out its density against water, but quickly got the idea. If anyone's interested, the liquid was in fact a quarter strength jelly with lemonade, lemon juice and glucose tablets in it.

Emily LOVED doing that, so next week I'm planning a follow up - I'll make up three different magical potions, only one of which is the real "Flying potion" (or something) and tell her that the real potion has various qualities (sweet/not, acidic/alkali, lighter/heavier than water, leaves residue or not when seived, contains water or not, has such and such a boiling point, etc etc) and she'll have to test all three to discover which one is right. The other two solutions will have some of the right qualities in varying combinations, but only one will have all. Admittedly my brain's gone blank so I've enlisted Gramps' help to devise the actual solutions, lol.

After the Dragon's Blood we did some maths problems where Emily had to work out how many combinations of football kit there were if there were three colours for each of tops and shorts, and then four colours and so on. She also had to work out what possible half time scores there could have been if a game finished 4:3 and how to make sure she didn't miss out any possible combinations (listing in a sensible order and so on).

Finally, we did some geography with a made up town plan and opinions from various locals about the area - problems parking, new school site needed, too much encroachment on green areas etc and Emily had to weigh up all the arguments and decide what should go where. She also devised a one way system to keep traffic moving.

Business wise Jon's been absolutely run off his feet!! I can't believe how busy things are. We've been packing approx 160-80 orders a night for the last few days, sometimes more....our non-weekend daily average is usually more like 100, so things must be looking up. One of the franking machine companies has finally got back to us in writing with the information we needed about the postage prices changes, so that's A Good Thing. We refuse to take sales calls or sales visits but these companies do tend to get their knickers in a twist when you insist you just want the information in writing and are quite capable of making up your own mind without a phone call or a visit. Bless.

I've also been discussing providing content for a new US client who wants humourous astrology stuff for teachers in Texas (????) which sounds fun and quite promising too, so fingers crossed on that one.

I've just been looking at the calendar to see when we can get back to the caravan at St Bees. For some reason, although the schools all go back w/c 4th Sep none of Emily's weekly classes start until the following week, so we should be good to go on the 4th for a week. Can't wait! Emily's especially keen to go to the St Bees Maize Maze which of course wasn't there last time we went in May. If the weather stays "nice" (as opposed to scorching) looks like we'll be able to enjoy a week by the glorious beach minus oodles of school kids. Yay!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Getting Lots Done

I'd forgotten I hadn't posted here since last Thursday. Well, over Friday and the weekend, Jon and I worked hard business wise and Emily had great fun in her pool, doing gymnastics in the garden, designing and colouring fashion outfits, doing shrinkles and scrapbooking her 7th birthday party. Emily also started work on the perspective section of her art course; she had to draw and shade lots of 3D shapes and letters to begin with, and will be moving onto a 3D view next.

Friday was a weird day; Grandad's surliness finally got to Jon who was seething by tthe time he got back from taking Grandad shopping early in the morning. After dropping Grandad back home and thinking Emily and I wouldn't realise he wasn't back yet, Jon drove straight off to the doctors to try to get his Dad an appointment - but we did realise he wasn't there and went into panic mode wondering where on earth he'd gone. I thought he'd driven off to hide somewhere because he was so upset over his Dad. Harsh words all round between Grandad and I and lots of tears from me and Emily while we waited for Jon to get back. Something's got to give in that relationship, as we and Jon especially are bending over ourselves backwards to try to please but just constantly being met with criticism, grumpiness and demands :-((

Yesterday morning Emily and I went to see Garfield 2 at the cinema. Emily loved it to bits; I don't particularly like Garfield or animated films in general but it was entertaining enough. Went to buy a large diet coke for us to share and a junior popcorn....was told that it would only be 10p more to have a large popcorn (not sure how that worked out, but there you go) and would I like that instead. Well, OK, why not? Why not indeed....the size of the popcorn bucket had to be seen to be believed, rofl!!! We've still got most of it left.

Back home yesterday afternoon and for all of today we've been pressing on with our body project which is....drumroll please....**finished**!!!! Not that Emily wanted to finish, mind you - she'd have been set to carry on for weeks yet, I think. Here she is with her life sized body which now has all its main bits apart from the reproductive system.

We still haven't looked at the endocrine system or hormones but we have done pretty well otherwise. Yesterday we covered the digestive and urinary systems with lots of experiments and diagrams; this morning we finished off a few oustanding experiments - testing the strenght of hairs from various family members (use them to suspend styrofoam cups and fill cups with certain no of coins), finding out why we sweat (two thermometers, one covered with dry kitchen towel and one with wet) - and we also spent ages looking at various hairs and skin tags under the microscope and comparing human hair with cat hair.

Oooh, I've remembered something we did on Friday, actually - we looked at the results of a tooth experiment; we had eggshells that had been sitting in various liquids (milk, water, coke, squash and fruit juice) for a few days to simulate the effect on teeth. That did a pretty graphic job of illustrating why plain water or milk are best for your teeth....the state of the others was ughghhh.

This afternoon we looked briefly at the female reproductive system (having covered it mostly previously) and we had an entertaining foray into genetics. Used red and yellow jelly diamonds as X and Y chromosones to illustrate the chances of conceiving a boy or a girl; Emily also did a family tree chart of blue/brown eyed genes after we'd discussed the brown gene being dominant; it was quite tricky to work backwards through the generations to establish whether the brown eyed among us were "pure" brown eyes or "hybrid" brown eyes, but she loved doing that. We also extended it forwards to find out what colour eyes Emily's future child might have with three different "Prince Charming"s, blue eyed, pure brown eyed and hybrid brown eyed. Really interesting.

So, the project's now finished and Emily's very, very pleased with it. Apparently she can't wait to start Romans next.....

Meanwhile, Romeo and Juliet are a year old! We can't be sure when they were born, but working backwards from when we got them, it must have been around about this past week. The little tiny balls of fluff we brought home mid August last year have turned into these handsome cats:
Hard to belive they looked like this a year ago (link to our August 2005 archive, can't remember how to link to individual posts, but kittens arrived half way down the page!)
Both are suffering in the heat at the moment, especially Romeo. Merlin and Cassie don't seem too bothered, perhaps they're more used to it. Both kit-bits (as I'm determined to still call them, year old or not) have been having a butterfly ball this last couple of days. The number of butterflies in the garden seems to have suddenly exploded and they've both spent hours sat under one of the two buddleia trees on butterfly watch, rofl. Juliet especailly rarely leaves it! Here they are side by side, on duty.
As well as the masses of butterflies of all different kinds, we've got lots of crickets/grasshoppers in the long grass under our holly tree, too.

Health appointments are mounting up at the moment; Jon's been for another blood test today, Grandad has to see the doctor tomorrow and also tomorrow my Dad has an appointment for a whole battery of tests for a prostrate problem :-(( Emily was booked in for extra ballet lessons over the summer but unfortunately they've decided to hold them on Wednesdays, which means we'll miss the first two (busy tomorrow and the next Weds) but she's excited about going to the rest.

Royal Mail's - ahem- overhaul of their system and move to Pricing in Proportion is pushing ever closer, which has been causing us concern. It's going to have a massive impact on the way we have to frank upwards of 300 packages a day yet astonishingly, none of the major franking machine companies really have their act in gear. With the new system starting on the 11th August, we're running out of time to get that particular hot potato sorted out :-/

This evening Emily and Jon went for a stroll to the river and back; Emily found an eggshell and tons of feathers she wants to identify, so that'll keep her busy tomorrow morning before she goes off to Romy's for a play tomorrow afternoon. [Well, tomorrow in now today - wrote all this on Tuesday but wasn't able to upload it**dy blogger]

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Looking Forward to a Peaceful Week

As of now we don't have to go anywhere for a whole week. Well, apart from tai chi for Jon and Emily and that's within walking distance. We seem to have been running around like mad this last couple of weeks, so I'm looking forward to getting up each morning not having to remember that we're going out later.

Emily went to her last drama lesson of term today and it was bring a friend day, so we took Romy along too. They had a party theme with some games and stuff, and they got to pretend to be cats.....which they do a lot of anyway, so no change there then!

Earlier this morning Jon and Emily went off to tai chi and I stayed here to do some work (or would have done but got distracted by ebay kicking me off to a sign in page every three minutes - very helpful). Their teacher George has asked if Emily would like to take up karate - he teaches on Sundays in Morton. She's not *that* enthusiastic about the prospect as she has in her head that she doesn't like martial arts, but she does like George so she's going to give it a go, starting in September.

Meanwhile, other bits and pieces....Jon's sent off his first batch of artwork for his course....which reminded me and Emily that she hasn't started the next section of hers yet.....I didn't go swimming this morning because I discovered my costume doesn't fit (sigh - you have to laugh. Trust me. Will start next week when new cozzie arrives) lots of information about various sporting days etc during the summer holidays that Emily's interested in booking into......practised Emily's yoga vinyassa with her.....Emily took great delight in teaching me how to do some of the more complicated poses......she also tried teaching me the first few steps in the first tai chi form they learnt but I got hopelessly confused......Emily's played on HP & Philosopher's Stone software quite a bit........just remembered the "don't have to go anywhere" thing next week doesn't include that Grandad wants a doctor's's been hot, humid and horribly sticky.

And that's about it. No "work" so to speak of today but Emily's desperate to do lots next week apparently. She doesn't want a summer holiday ;-)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock, Tick

Awoke from a daze earlier this week to a very loud and insistent noise, previously unheard - the ticking of my biological clock. Now it won't go away - you know what it's like when you get a tune in your head ;-)

We've been perfectly happy as a one child family; in fact, we've spent the last seven and a half years actively trying NOT to have another one. It's not that we didn't want another baby, as such, just that the time was never right and it was always something to consider "in a few years". Well, I'll be 35 in just over a month's time - the few years may well be running out.

Hugely inspired by Hazel's fantastic news we've decided the time has come to try for another baby. Well. Almost. As it happens, I'm in no physical shape to cope with a pregnancy at the moment. Given Emily's incredibly traumatic premature birth, I wouldn't want to be pregnant again until I'm at least the same weight as I was then, preferably a lot less - at the moment I'm even bigger, and we're talking stones, plural, in a number greater than 5. :-(((

So, I need to get fit. I'm taking out swim membership at Gainsborough sports centre and I plan to go to their early bird swimming as often as possible, at least 3-4 times a week. And to get serious with healthy eating. I don't do "dieting" as such - I've never seen it work for anyone, really. I don't eat that much anyway, eating's not my problem - lack of exercise is. In the year before Emily started school I was terrified of being the fattest mother at the school gates - through just eating properly and going on the exercise bike every day I lost six stone. OK, OK, so in the last two years it's all come back again :-((( but the point is that I've done it once and I can do it again. So there ;-)

Hopefully by spring-ish next year we'll be in a position to go ahead with Plan Pregnancy. Anyway, that's the idea. Although we still have mixed emotions over the thought of forcing a baby sibling onto Emily when she's always been so absolutely adamant that she has never wanted a sibling. I'm not entirely sure how ethical it is to plan a baby knowing full well that she won't be over the moon at the prospect. But well, I guess it's just one of those things where we as adults have to "know better" than she does at 7. We respect her strongly held views on the issue, but we'll just have to trust that it will all work out OK if and when it actually happens. When I fell pregnant with Emily I'd only just come off the pill, it seemed to happen straight away. I'm well aware we may not be as fortunate this time round. But hey, whether or not we ever do have another child, at least I've finally prioritised - I need to get healthy, baby or not - Emily and Jon deserve a fitter, healthier Mum and wife.

Anyway, enough rambling. I just want to say something to Hazel if she's reading this: thank you. You gave us the courage to home eduate two summers and a lifetime ago; now you've inspired us again and shaken us out of complacency. We owe you. :-))

Back to the matter at hand; oh yes, home education. Well, yesterday afternoon Romy came round to play and the girls spent a long time paddling and playing on Emily's beam before finally ecaping the heat to come indoors and play dressing up Tudors-Meets-Ancient Egypt. Or something like that. Emily then went to the last yoga of the term and came home with a really long Vinyassa she has to learn by September.

This morning we went to collect her new silver glasses and we've been out in the garden the rest of the time, doing some maths and English. Oh, this afternoon we did come in for a bit to do more body project - more on teeth. We've set up an experiment with eggshells in coke, milk, water, juice, squash and something else I can't remember - we'll check them in a few day's time and see what effect they have had. We also tried an experiment with chewing crackers, spitting them out (lovely) and leaving them for set amounts of time before testing with iodine to see if the saliva had affected the starch. Except that our iodine was in a tincture and, um, the experiment failed miserably. Oh well. Guess we learnt something from that, anyway!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Plague of Greenfly!

OK, I've had enough of summer now. Warm weather is all very well, if you like that kind of thing, but there's warm, there's hot and there's too hot, with today sliding sweatily into the last category by a mile.

Late this afternoon the garden suddenly errupted in a plague of greenfly, swarming everywhere. You couldn't breathe without swallowing some, it looked like a smokey snowstorm. EUUGGGGHHHHH.

Anyway, today has passed in a heatwave blur and I have a headache that will not go away. We have variously:

  • Got up far too early and assembled a big new paddling pool (Daddy)
  • Cursed the big new paddling pool when it failed to work, emptied out all the water and started again (Daddy)
  • Rustled up four garden chairs to prop up big new paddling pool so it could actually fill up properly (Daddy)
  • Looked on aghast as the city full of spiders living on said chairs went for a swim (Mummy & Emily)
  • Donned superhero cape and de-spidered paddling pool (Daddy)
  • Tried to find some shade to sit in that wasn't swarming with ants (Mummy)
  • Failed and ended up sunburnt because you never remember to put sun cream on yourself (Mummy)
  • Played non stop in new paddling pool and boat (Emily)
  • Been a pain in the posterior by disappearing all evening and having to be coaxed in from the garden at midnight and then promptly vanishing somewhere inside the house when we needed to know where she was so we could set the burglar alarm (Juliet)
  • Written Christmas astrology articles for US magazine (Mummy)
  • Ranted at ebay (Mummy)
  • Worked, worked, worked, worked, cooled off in pool, worked, worked, worked (Daddy)
  • Covered mouth and nose in horror and refused to set foot outside once greenfly arrived (Mummy)
  • Wondered what all the fuss about greenfly was for and carried on playing outside regardless (Emily)
  • Had a feast of greenfly (Spiders in webs all over the show)

And well, that's about it. It's been hot. Did I mention that? I really, really dislike this weather. If it's wet, you can splash about and listen to the rain; if it's windy you can fly kites and listen to the trees; if it's cold you can snuggle up warm together; if it's snowing you can have endless fun. The elements are moving, alive, entrancing. If it's boiling get to stay sticky and uncomfortable all day, you get heat rash, you get sunstroke, you get plagued by insects, the sky stays boringly blue every day, everywhere you want to go is full of other people and your fan just moves the warm air around a bit. Lovely. I don't do summer. I'd be perfectly content with an extended spring and autumn to replace it altogether. In fact, I think I shall write to my MP demanding this be seriously considered.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Busy & Happy

We're having a ball here at the moment. Everything seems to be going very smoothly, which is nice to see. I daresay now I've said that life will turn round and bite me on the bum, but so far, all's well.

Emily went off to her friend K's fancy dress birthday party today. She had a fantastic time and was absolutely exhausted by the time I picked her up. Bit of a turning point, that - previously one of us would have stayed with her or she might not have wanted to go at all, since the only child she knew there was K herself. But this new found confidence is really growing and she wasn't at all bothered at being dropped off and left. Here's the lilac fairy ready to go out this afternoon, complete with purple hair and enough glitter to cover the carpet, rofl.

Yesterday Emily went to the last ballet lesson of term, which she loved. We still haven't been told whether the seven year olds are going to be moved up a class next term - we have to wait to see if we're one of the ones contacted, sigh - but I must confess I'm getting rather fed up with the situation. Children in the ballet school down the road took their primary exams at age 5 - Emily's group will be 8 at this rate when they take the same thing. I don't personally care whether she takes any exams or not, but she badly wants to do them so it seems very silly to have the group three years behind where they could and should be! If we don't get a phone call saying she's moving up I think we'll be looking for a different ballet school come September. Maybe. She does love it and it has done wonders for her confidence, but how much longer can we keep on paying for her to learn the same stuff over and over again with no progress??

Also yesterday Emily had a lovely surprise when Hazel and Romy popped round to deliver a Friendship Day card - it's two years since we met and Romy had made Emily a lovely card to celebrate their two years of friendship. Meanwhile at this end, I'd forgotten to mark Friendship Day on the calendar... BAD MUMMY. So we didn't have a card to give to Romy but Emily sent her an ecard instead.

Education wise we've been really busy recently, especially with the body project. We've finished our work on the brain and moved on to cover senses. Lots of experiments there: visual illusions, identifying foods when blindfolded and holding nose; navigating blindfolded towards a strong smell; identifying mystery objects first with elbow then foot then fingers; identifying sounds; sound vibrations; cotton buds with various solutions on applied to different areas of the tongue...ooh and lots more I've forgotten. Emily also read tons in books and drew and/or labelled anatomy of the eyes, ears and nose.

That done, we also moved on to look at skin, hair and nails. Lots more experiments with testing the strength of hair etc and Emily drew, coloured and labelled a fantastically detailed skin diagram showing the various different layers, glands and nerves. We're looking at the digestive system next and we've made a start on that by making teeth impressions in styrofoam plates - euggh! Emily's life size skeleton on the wall is having bits added to it as we cover them so she now has bones, a huge patch of skin, hair, nails, teeth, tongue, brain, eyes, ears, nose, lungs and a heart. Looks incredibly scary, lol, but it's really motivated Emily and she seems to be loving this project. I'd like to get it finished in the next fortnight though, hence the rush.

Emily has also been reading lots in her spare time and has spent a long time playing on Kidspeak 6 in 1 language software which she adores. It does French, German, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew and Japanese and I'm very impressed with how she's picking up bits and also making very intelligent connections regarding the similarities between the latin languages.

Meanwhile, Jon and I have been working like hell; it's busy, busy, busy workwise. We've all enjoyed a bit of a shopping spree though - the latest educational catalogues have come through from our book wholesaler and under our terms we get a nice fat discount on bulk pre-orders. Bless Emily, she devoured the catalogues ticking tons of stuff she'd like ;-) It's nice to be able to buy the books, have a quick look and see if they're suitable, knowing that if they're not we can sell them on straight away. There aren't many advantages in the rather cut throat world of book retailing, but it's certainly fun when it comes to resources!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Drama Queen

Emily's drama show was this afternoon so Jon and I went along to watch as proud parents :-)) She was playing Freddie the Chickenhearted Fox in the play of the same name and she was soooo confident! Here are a couple of pictures; Freddie begging for some food from the farmer and Freddie having tripped over a sleeping farmworker ;-)

After the show the teacher came over and complimented Emily in front of everyone about her loud clear voice, not needing any prompting with any of her lines and her lovely smile throughout :-) As we were leaving I had to check the time of next week's party with her and she again brought up how much Emily's grown in confidence this last few weeks.

She really has; I'm not sure what it's down to, although I think the ballet show helped a lot. When I asked Emily earlier if she was nervous about the play she said that she wasn't the slightest bit nervous because after performing in front of 350 people she could do anything and this would be easy peasy ;-)

Yesterday we went off to the optician's first thing. They'd phoned when we were out on Tuesday afternoon to check whether we were still coming, so I was half expecting to turn up and find a truancy officer waiting for us,lol, but in the event I have to say it went very smoothly and they were all very nice to Emily and indeed to me. The optician put Emily's prescription up a notch so she chose some lovely new silver frames that we've got to pick up next week. With her glasses on and using both eyes she apparently now has well above average vision, so we're getting somewhere. Popped into the main library while we were there and chose far too many books. Sigh. We avoid going into town whenever possible so we've only got a week to read these in becuase they have to go back next week when we pick up her glasses, or else! With the village library just a stroll away that's much more convenient but unfortunately it and Scunthopre main library are in different local authorities so we can't mix and match, lol.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Quickie Update

Just back from yoga; Emily has passed her level three :-))

Other happenings today: lots of English this morning; Emily did a revision test thingy which covered all kinds of things - suffixes, prefixes, adding -er and -est to adjectives, plurals spelling rules, first/second/third person and other stuff I can't remember. She sailed through that so I think we're ready to move a bit, grammar and spelling wise.

We also recapped on addition and subtraction with borrowing and carry over, or "Faff Sums" as Emily somewhat memorably named them nearly two years ago, lol. She's been doing this on and off for those two years but this morning she had a bit of a blank moment over it. As they do. She was OK with the additions but completely stumped with the subtractions, so we went right back to basics with coloured dots in hundreds, tens and units columns and lots of moving them around to solve the sums. Seemed to do the trick for now, but isn't it funny how you think children have something off pat only for them to then suddenly lose it again, only to pick it up again later!!

Emily also tried on a lilac fairy outfit she was given a long time ago and has never worn - it's what she wants to wear to K's fancy dress disco party and fortunately, it fits a treat. I must say she's being rather braver than I would have been at her age about the party, since the only child there she'll know is K herself and also since Emily hates pop music, lol. She's adamant she wants to go, so her self-confidence must be increasing :-))

This afternoon we played around in the sunshine. Got Emily's beam out of the garage and she mastered climbing up onto it with perfect balance and without falling off (previously she's always had to be helped with the actual getting on bit) and spent ages twirling, prancing, twisting, doing yoga poses on it (???) and inventing posh dismounts. Think that covers PE, then. Emily also spent a long time lying on her lounger reading whilst I sat in the shade and plotted and planned, business-wise.

Am currently extremely narked with an ebay "customer" from the US who bought a cross stitch kit from the new Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady range last week and paid straight away. Great. Except that despite my explicit instructions to overseas buyers, she paid the UK rate of postage only. OK, no problem, I'm used to that, so I politely emailed her to explain and to request the balance. Silence for the whole week. Then suddenly today we get a flood of rude emails from her demanding to know why it hasn't yet been sent and complaining that we are unethical and dishonest in displaying one shipping price and then asking for more "just because you want to send it airmail instead of regular mail. I didn't ask for airmail." She demands that it be sent immediately "by the method I paid for". That would be first class post, then. Dozy so and so doesn't even realise we're in the UK. We refuse to send items surface mail because of the length of time and the constant customer complaints - to overseas buyers we offer airmail only. As it quite clearly stated. Short of transatlantic carrier pigeon or perhaps hot air balloon, I'm not sure how she expected it to get there at all, let alone for the princely sum of £1.25. My instructions specifically state that postage quoted is for delivery within the UK only and that overseas buyers should either contact us first to ask for shipping costs or, if they don't want to do that, at least wait for an invoice showing the correct amount. I don't have time to list overseas costs for all of our 500 odd items. It isn't much to ask. It annoys me when people stereotype whole nations but honestly. US ebayers, far too frequently, don't do their country's arrogant image many favours. :-((

Monday, July 10, 2006

Time Flies By

I'm not entirely sure where the days are disappearing to at the moment. It's rather alarming. But anyway - time to update with "stuff" that's been going on since last Weds.

Thursday morning Emily and Jon went off to tai chi and had a ball detecting auras and talking about psychic abilities as well as learning more of the next form. On Thursday afternoon they went to Kirton Lindsey for what we thought was Emily's dentist appointment. It turned out to be Jon's appointment instead but the dear dentist saw Emily too, which was very nice of him, and she got to watch Jon's hygenist appointment too. Saves them having to go back tomorrow which would have been Emily's appointment - muggins here wrote down the wrong names on the calendar. Back from the dentist it was a quick change into her drama costume and off to the dress rehearsal for that. Out she trotted and hour later with her face painted and all smiles.

On Friday Emily went to Romy's for a play; once she came home she spent a long time telling me and Jon about a very long and complicated pretend play they'd had which seemed to involve, to greater or lesser degrees, witches, princesses, poison and seperate but connected worlds. I think I lost the plot half way through, but from the way she was chattering it sounds like she had great fun.

While Emily was out I had hoped to start whittling down the massive pile of goods-in that has yet to be listed on either our shop or ebay. Unluckily, as it turned out, I chose to start with ebay. And discovered the "new and improved" HA HA HA listing form which takes forever to load, forever to refresh after you click anything and just generally forever, even for a relisting. Spent most of the afternoon huffing and puffing over that and listing about 3 items in nearly three hours, before abandoning all hope and opting to try Turbo Lister instead.

Saturday was ballet; surprise, surprise, the teacher was absent, yet again. The lesson was taken by her teenage helper plus sister plus a new, younger helper and despite finding it hard to control waayyy too many children they did rather well, teaching the class some of the choreography from Beauty and the Beast (the Be Our Guest song, Emily got to be one of the plates which she was pleased about) and also managing to fit in some tap which the class hasn't done for **months**. Emily loves tap. Anticipating that they might finally get back to it now the show's over, we had to buy her new tap shoes last week as she's outgrown the ones she had back in February, even though they were new in January :-// Half the class had no tap shoes on Saturday for exactly that reason. Anyway, so ballet was good, and Emily enjoyed messing around with K and came home with an invitation to K's birthday party next weekend.

Sunday morning Emily took virtually every Barbie item she possesses downstairs into the dining room and had a wall to wall faff session with it all, listening to the first Lemony Snicket CD, which she pronounced excellent-and-please-may-I-have-the-book-of-it - yes, dear, it's sat on your shelf with three thousand others awaiting your attention once you've finally finished or got fed up with HP & Azkaban AND Warrior Cats 1 AND Nurse Matilda (Nanny McPhee) and History of Fashion and whatever the others are that are "on the go" just now.

On Sunday afternoon while I worked Jon and Emily did a mammoth art session. Jon worked hard on his art course, finishing off this fabulous garden seat for the "textures" part and then painting a vivid alien landscape:

Emily wasn't really in the mood for spending hours on something, but she did two pieces of art, the first of which is her abstract take on the same alien city theme as Jon and the second of which is Blue Dolphins painted in about three minutes flat, lol.

And so to today. This morning we had a mammoth yoga session to begin with, as we suddenly realised that Emily's got her test for level three tomorrow and hadn't even looked at what she has to do (we're not normally that bad, just got out of synch with it this last week or two when she missed a lesson for the show). After that we pressed on with a morning of Body Project looking at the brain. Read lots of books, labelled a diagram or two, colour coded areas of the brain and what they control and did lots of experiments to test reaction time (catching a ruler), balance (up against a wall and not) and how to confuse the brain with optical illusions, trying to write while looking in mirror, that thing where you have the word red written in green (etc) and you have to say green instead of red (can't remember for the life of me what's that called), spinning blindfolded on a swivel chair and trying to tell which direction you're going, etc etc etc. Lots of chart making, stopwatch using and general giggling.

This afternoon we started some basic low budget scrapbooking - instead of a posh scrapbook we're just using white card put into clear wallets in a ring binder. Emily produced three sheets on the theme "The Big Cats" and I did four on her Egyptian project from last spring.

And well, that's about it. Apart from the annoying conversation I had this morning when trying to book Emily's appointment for her eyesight checkup at Specsavers. "I'd like an appointment for my daughter, please." "How old is she?" "Seven." "We have after-school appointments from 4pm any day this week." "No, she doesn't go to school - I'd prefer a morning appointment, please." **Cue long silence. And I mean long.** "We have to book children's appointments for after school so they don't have to take time off, you see." "She doesn't go to school. As early as possible would be good, please." **More long silence. I could almost picture her reaching for the phone book and looking under S for social services.** Eventually I got fed up with waiting for a response. "Emily's home educated. In the past we've always had appointments for about 9.30?" "Um, errr, right. I see. We have 9:10 on Wednesday if that's suitable?" "Perfect, thank you." And I can see I shall have to turn up (again, had this problem last time round) armed with a copy of the law, a big sign on my forehead saying "Yes, it's legal" and a big sign on Emily's forehead saying "No, I shouldn't be in school today. Should you?"

Friday, July 07, 2006

Tagged by EFT, Hazel & Kris

Well, erm, there's not much to say about the contents of any of these things, but here we go anyway:

5 Things in my fridge

Bottles of wine
Blueberries that really need something "doing" with them
Some camembert that has lost its sell by date label but is, shall we say, mature
Some wine
Did I mention the wine?

5 Things in my wardrobe

Clothes that are too small
A musty old box of miscellaneous shoes that have long since lost their soulmates
A rolled up duvet
Far too many coathangers (I'm with Hazel on the alien life form theory there)
A kite

5 Things in my handbag

Erm, I don't have one any more. Used to. Now I just make do with a wallet/car keys. Refuse to carry "stuff" around with me any more. But I'm sure there used to be really interesting stuff in there like hair bobbles, old till receipts and the odd sweetie. Now it's all in my pockets instead so I guess I haven't really gained much there....

5 Things in my car

Parking ticket from Emily's final dance performance last weekend
A lonely pound coin for the Asda trolleys
Emily's pull down drawing centre thingy
Bottles of water
Various books

5 People I'd Like To Do This Too

I think I'm the last person in the known universe to have done this, but, well, anyone who hasn't.

See? It's exciting round here.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot

Longing for a break in this weather. Did I mention any time that I don't do summer? Oh well, thunderstorms are still forecast but everywhere in the UK seems to be having them apart from us. *Sulk*

Yesterday morning Emily and I drove all the way to this PYO Fruit place as there isn't really anywhere else locally. Despite advertising being open from was deserted and most definitely shut. So that was an hour and three quarters in a steaming hot car for nowt. Loved it. Not.

In the afternoon Romy came over for a play and the girls spent a long time playing out in the paddling pool (of course) and selling various family members freshly picked peas and carrots. Emily and I then headed off for yoga.

Today we've been outside *all day* yet again....those who know just how much I love gardens, ants, bugs and being sweaty and sticky will understand why my stress levels are reaching epic proportions, lol. This morning we did some half hearted English and maths at the garden table and in the pool but were mostly entertained by looking at just about everything through magnifying glasses, me trying to catch a photo of Emily mid jump (failed) and watching Juliet display a hitherto hidden talent for tree climbing.

This afternoon, apart from a brief half an hour on the PC trying out her editing skills (jazzing up a document for me) it was yet more garden malarky with lots of very wet gymnastics and some soil experiments.

We are now indoors and I'm not going back out again until it's cooler and less insecty. Ever.

Yesterday Emily's first batch of artwork came back marked from her tutor. She did fantastically well and the tutor's letter to her was really lovely, full of tons of encouragement, constructive advice and ego boosts, lol. The next section of the course is about perspective so we'll get stuck into that soon.

I'll hardly see Emily tomorrow as she's out at tai chi with Jon in the morning, then they're off together for Emily's dentist appointment, then it's dress rehearsal for the drama show. Yay - means I get to stay indoors. Hurray! And do some work. Slightly less hurray!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Missing Merlin

Today has progressed in a slightly unreal atmosphere, with what gradually became an ever increasing veil of sadness. Merlin went missing late last night and hadn't been seen for 24 hours. Given how fond he is of both his food and attention, that didn't look too hopeful.

He is back now. *Shakes head in a bizarre mixture of utter releif and incredible irritation* Cats. Free spirits, I guess. If you love something, let it go free, and all that. But honestly!!! Where the hell had he been all this time??

We'd all been in tears, especially Emily, and I'd convinced myself that this time it really was IT and that he wasn't coming home. Even his sister Cassie-Cat was moping around and looking lost. I wish I could read Merlin's mind. I wish I knew where he'd been, what he's been up to. Was he perfectly happy out there somewhere, playing, hunting, snoozing, eating someone else's food? Or was he shut in somewhere, miserable and hungry, but someone found him and let him out? I know some cats make a habit of going wandering, but Merlin doesn't so it wasn't like him at all. He sauntered back in through the back gate at about 9.30 tonight with no apparent signs of distress and promptly headed upstairs to raid the kittens' food bowl - and pretty much ignored the poems Emily read to him, written earlier in tears. :-//

Oh well. As I say, he's back now.

Earlier this afternoon, before the Missing Merlin situation became completely dire, Emily and I spent some time out in the garden. Emily did lots of sun prints with sun sensitive paper and she also did a lot of mental maths which, as everyone knows, is of course much easier if you're floating in a paddling pool at the time.

I'm now emotionally worn out so I'm off for an early (for us) dinner and bed. Busy day tomorrow - we're going fruit picking in the morning, Romy's coming for the afternoon and Emily's got yoga too. And you never know, if we're lucky we might just come home to a full complement of two big cats and two little cats making a grand total of four cats with NONE MISSING. Or else.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Confident Smile That Says It All

What a week we've had. We're all still walking on air, Emily especially.

She has been performing at the Plowright all week and we are sooooooo proud we could burst :-))))

Last time her dance school did a show, Emily was five and exceedingly nervous. She did very well in her dances and enjoyed it, but was clearly anxious and overawed on stage (as were the rest of her group). Wow, what a difference this time round! Despite some inevitable pre-show nerves - although to be honest, I think Jon and I were more wound up than she was! - she completely beamed the whole way through it and seemed very relaxed and very, very confident in what she was doing. Emily was step and word perfect throughout and looked utterly gorgeous, but far more important than that was the wonderfully happy smile. All of the girls of course are taught to smile on stage, but for most of the younger ones there's not much smiling going on when it actually comes down to it as they're too nervous or too busy concentrating. Emily's smile was genuine, never faltered and shone out as brightly as the teenagers who've been performing for years :-))

That confidence means the world to us. She didn't even falter when things went a little awry in one show and the younger children got all mixed up at the front meaning she couldn't get into her proper place for a finale - she just moved along to a space somewhere else and got on with it - but that's just the kind of scenario that would have had her bursting into tears not so long ago. It was also significant that she stuck to her guns and performed the choreography she knew to be correct even when others in her group got slightly muddled - previously she would have assumed that she must have been doing it wrong and wouldn't have dared do something the others weren't doing, but this time she had the confidence to know she was right.

Emily absolutely loved doing this show and can't wait for the next one. Can't get over how much more confident she is than last time. Then, she clutched my hand tightly every time I had to drop her off. This time she strode off every evening to the stage door with barely a backwards glance, made her way to her group's dressing room on her own, sorted out her own hair and body glitter once there and helped some of the others get ready too.

Here she is made up and ready to leave the house on the first evening:
and here she is late last night after the final performance, with a congratulations cake:

Showbiz aside ;-) it's been a busy and eventful week. We had a powercut from 10am to 7pm on the Monday which was a complete and utter pain business-wise. Then once the power came back, our PC ended up corrupted and we couldn't send or receive any email for 48 hours. Despite two hours (I kid you not) on the phone to support, they finally washed their hands of it (naturally). We had to call out a PC repair guy finally on the Thursday, by which time we were so far behind with orders it just had to be seen to be believed. He spent an hour and half here and couldn't fix it either, so he took it away with him and brought it back on Friday, finally fixed - hurray!! Cue incredibly manic working frenzy to try to salvage what we could from nearly a week of lost business.

Emily had done lots of work this week. She enjoyed using her rhyming dictionary to write a beautiful poem about Warrior Cats; I was very impressed with that one. She also found a book called Fast Fiction on our shelves that I bought for me, years ago. It has a series of random prompts in it and you have to write a short story (or the opening to a short story) using a prompt and a five minute timer. She LOVED that and wrote half a dozen very thought provoking pieces from it including a wonderful one from "write a story about a church" in which she took on the church's personality and wrote about how it felt being used for weddings, funerals etc and how it had been destroyed during the war but then rebuilt.

Couldn't get to yoga on Tuesday because of the dress rehearsal, but we did make it to drama on Thursday afternoon, where Emily had one of the two dress rehearsals for her drama show; only one more lesson to go before the show now. We had to hot foot it back from there to get to the theatre in time, lol, I don't think I've ever applied make up so fast in my life! Mind you, the whole stage makeup thing is difficult for me as I don't wear makeup and never have (on principle). Trying to apply the distinctive eye makeup to a wriggly, excited small person when you've only got three minutes is FUN.

Emily also did some more work on her body project during the week and we looked at healthy eating again, something we've often touched on in the past. When making a chart of the fat and sugar content in some of the foods she found in the kitchen, Emily was interested to make several discoveries - for instance how misleading labelling can be. She found several things labelled low fat there were extremely high in sugar instead, and one soup that was labelled low fat and low sugar but had more fat and nearly five times as much sugar as one that didn't claim to be low in anything!! She was also highly amused to find out that coco pops were a healthier option (in terms of fat/sugar at least) than my museli :-//

Friday and yesterday we spent a lot of time in the garden. Emily made a Tutankhamun mask from modroc which turned out very nicely; I'll take a photo of it when it's painted. She also painted and varnished her sun images from midsummer solstice. Oh, and of course the obligatory paddling pool fun, although yesterday afternoon it was a relief when she wanted to come inside to watch the football as it was just simply TOO HOT. She's not too fussed that England lost, apparently (although she did make a point of going to ask someone backstage, once we'd dropped her off, what the result was, as they were still in extra time when we had to get out of the car). She wants Italy to win!