Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Flags & Footie Fun

Doesn't "preparing to go away for a week" involve an inordinate amount of work?? We're busy trying to get the business ready for abandonment on Thursday, which is proving tricky.

Emily meanwhile has been having some flag related fun this last couple of days. On Sunday she did this fab flags of the world jigsaw all by herself and spent ages working out which were her favourites.

She's also been designing numerous flags for countries both real and imagined. Oh, and Hogwarts, naturally :-))

On Sunday morning Emily's karate lesson went very well; she's really getting to grips with it now. When we get back from holiday she'll be getting her uniform and "passport" to record her progress - apparently we got the wrong end of the stick, it wasn't that George kept forgetting her uniform, it was that he doesn't give them out until the child has attended for a month as so many kids start and then give up again.

Yesterday Emily did lots of English in the morning. She wrote a thoughtful piece about the chapter we'd just finished reading in Half Blood Prince, where Harry first uses the old potions book with spectacular results. She wrote about who she thought the Half Blood Prince was (she thinks it's Slughorn; I'm positively bursting with trying not to give away the plot!!) and what she thought might happen if Harry continues to use the advice in the potions book. We also worked on spellings, specifically adding -ing to words and whether or not the last letter is doubled or the -e dropped. Think we've finally got that one now. Thought she had it cracked a long time ago but just recently Emily's been writing a lot of -ing words quite, um, imaginatively ;-) so hopefully this bit of revision will have helped!

Yesterday afternoon Emily played on Zoombinis all afternoon. She loves that game; I'm fairly taken with it myself. She's on the "oh so hard" level now (Which is only the second level up, after all) and even I'm struggling with some of it, so it was nice to spend time figuring some of it out together. We were supposed to be working on tornados in a bid to finish up the weather project before we leave, but hey ho, we'll get round to it, I'm sure.

After the major Zoombinis faff it was time for football practice. Emily came back exceedingly muddy and pretty soggy as it had drizzled the whole time, but very happy. Apparently she scored a goal and also did so much tackling that the coaches named her "tackler" instead of calling her name :-) She's really, really loving football. It's *such* a shame there's only one Monday left (apart from next week, which we'll miss) and then she can't go to the Saturday ones because of flippin' ballet. I'm sure she's getting a lot more out of football than ballet, personally.

Today Emily went off to play at Romy's for the afternoon. While she was having a great time playing, I got stuck into clearing out our bedroom. Contrary to popular belief, I discovered that we do actually have a bedrooom floor!!! Result! Got rid of two great big bin bags full of assorted stuff. Feel better now. Once I picked Emily up from Romy's we went straight off to yoga where the yoga teacher made me glow by telling someone who'd come in to see her all about how marvellous Emily was, polite, grown up and talented :-))

Poor Jon's foot is still giving him merry hell, which doesn't bode all that well for all the walking I've got planned for this holiday :-// Romeo's chin is getting worse, Ju-Ju's found her miaow again, Merlin is eating us out of house and home and STILL losing weight and Cassie Cat's being adorable. So at least someone's in good health.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Very Brief Mabon!

Was woefully unprepared for today's festivities; there were loads of crafts and activities we wanted to do, but they'll have to wait - we'll either incorporate them into Samhain or fit them in between now and then.

Once Emily was back from ballet this afternoon, though, we had a brief look at Mabon and its traditions. While I read the myths of Persephone and of Mabon, son of Modron to her, Emily worked on a piece of art representing the perfect balance between light and darkness. I rather like it :-)
After that, Emily made apple crumble - she wanted to make something seasonal with apples and whilst we found all kinds of wonderful mabon recipes we were a bit thin on ingredients (rolls eyes) so apple crumble it was. She was very independent with this - all I did was peel the apples. And decidedly yummy it was too.

And that was the extent of Mabon, lol. Never mind, we'll make up for it with an extended Samhain. Emily and Jon are now watching Reading v Man United on the telly while I get on with some work!

Later this evening, Emily wants to start work on an angel story for this Angel Stars competition. I really like those dolls, but at £30 each they're way too pricey. Would be nice to win one :-)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Autumnal Moods

It's been lovely and windy and rainy. Autumn has decided to put in appearance, and not before time!

Emily's been getting in the mood for Mabon/Autumn Equinox tomorrow - we've got some crafts and cooking to do and we're looking forward to Autumn immensely.

On Wednesday afternoon Romy came to play and she and Emily did some autumn tree collages using a small fraction of our overflowing craft resources...how did we accumulate so much stuff?? Emily's added bits to hers yesterday and today too.After Hazel and Colin came to pick Romy up, Emily and Jon hotfooted it out to watch Scunthorpe v Aston Villa in the cup match. It was live on Sky too so I got to watch snippets of it and I'm sure I saw them at one point :-)) Mind you, the local police force didn't endear themselves to me very much as they'd closed the road AGAIN when I went to pick them up late on Wednesday, and even once I'd found them we had to sit in Tescos carpark for half an hour before anyone could get out as the police were blocking off the roundabout for no apparent reason other than the fact that they *could*.

Yesterday morning Emily and Jon had tai chi; they've nearly finished this particular form now. In the afternoon, Emily did some wonderful poetry work on the theme of colours. She was working on what moods different colours evoke/represent and came up with some brilliant imagery. She also wrote a series of poems describing various colours in the style "Green is.... Green says.... Green asks us.....Green warns..." and so on. Very thought provoking, I was impressed with her turn of phrase and grasp of abstract concepts like what a colour might ask of the world. Then it was off to ballet. While Emily was pirouetting and tapping away, I sat in the car trying to get my article written for the journalism course. Came up with some great outlines...but didn't actually get time to see any of them through. Had a nice time cloud watching in the very heavy wind, though. Very relaxing :-))

This morning after dashing off to deal with Grandad's prescription, I sat with Emily while she wrote the covering letter for the batch of artwork she's sending off to be assessed. This afternoon we covered lots of spelling and studied some extracts from a book about the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, looking at the various language devices used, pinpointing what mood the author was trying to set and how you could tell whether or not she was sympathetic to Mary or Elizabeth. It seems like a lifetime ago since we did our massive Tudors project (well, it is about 14 months) but the subject still fascinates our little historian. Harry Potter continues to be a great fascination, natch. We finished Order of the Phoenix a few days ago and have now started on Half Blood Prince. My voice was wavering at various points during the last few chapters of OOTP, especially Sirius' death and Dumbledore's explanations to Harry of what was really going on. Daft moo. It is rather engaging, though. I do find myself caring what happens, which is far more than you can say for many kids books.

We're set for a busy weekend between Mabon celebrations, the usual round of deadlines for me, ballet and karate. Early next week we need to get the weather project wrapped up in between a load of running around to do to try to get Grandad's umpteen health appointments sorted out before we can finally go away for a week on Thursday. Can't wait. Not a moment too soon, especially for Jon, who's been suffering from a great deal of pressure recently, what with business issues and family issues alike, and the fact that we're surrounded by a lot of negativity - even to the point of being made to feel guilty that we're going on holiday :-(( He's pretty depressed at the moment, having been so indoctrinated by various people constantly telling him that everything is his fault - even Emily notices it now, and told him off the other day for taking the blame, bless her. We really need to get him out of this atmosphere for a short while.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hurricane Emily

Someone seems to have amassed a great deal of energy recently. Emily can't sit still for five minutes at the moment, lol, so the title seems apt. [Added: forgot to mention that Emily went to SUFC training last night and came back filthy, muddy but very happy having made two new friends and met up with an existing friend from ballet. She was cross that it only lasts an hour, though. Sadly, it's only running on Monday nights for another couple of weeks, then they're only doing Saturday mornings during the winter, which Emily can't got to because it clashes with flippin ballet. Personally, I'd rather she did football than ballet, but hey, it's her choice. Perhaps they'll have something on during half term and the Xmas holidays that she can go to at least, before going back to Monday evenings in the spring when the lighter evenings arrive.]

Today we've been back to the weather project, focusing on hurricanes. This morning, Emily used books and CD encyclopedias to research how hurricanes form. She wrote a report about it, including information about where they form, hurricane season and diastrous hurricanes from the past. She was fascinated with the hurricane names system and we spent a long time researching past incidences of Hurricane Emily, including a particularly destructive one from 2005. For some reason, although storms which reach category 5 usually have their names retired, Emily wasn't retired and will be used again in 2011.

Emily also found out about the differences between hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons and plotted on a world map the oceans which fuel each type. We also read various newspapers reporting that the tail end of Hurricane Gordon is due to hit the UK at the end of this week, and I reminisced about the Great Storm of 1987 which did a lot of damage in Berkshire, where we were at the time. I remember going to school the next day and finding all kinds of damage there and trees uprooted on the edge of the fields and so on. I think there's still some debate about whether or not that was the tail end of Hurricane Floyd, but anyway, it was an interesting discussion.

This afternoon, we did some experiments to prove how warm air rises, and got very wet swirling water around to find out why the eye of a hurricane is calm and to establish where abouts in the spiral the forces might be strongest.

Then we hot footed it off to yoga. Emily's knowledge of sanskrit is coming on really well, but rather worryingly she still hasn't been given the sheets detailing what she needs to know for her level 4 test and she'll be tested the week after we come back from holiday, so they need to get a move on!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Weekend Round Up

Now then, as both Jon's and my ex-employer used to say. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. I'll try and remember what's been happening.

Friday morning is a blur, but I'm sure it was frightfully constructive, whatever it was. Friday afternoon Emily and I spent hours painting. Emily's working on a great big canvas to produce a "four seasons" acrylics painting; I'm doing the same on a considerably smaller one. Emily's completed winter and summer so far. I was really impressed with her patience on it and the way she built up colours, shades and textures.

Saturday was another blur but I know that in the morning I took Emily off to ballet, where she played with Kayleigh and drew eyes on her knees. Something to do with checking whether her alignment is "turned out" correctly, apparently. They've all been given strict instructions to practise all kinds of stuff at home....the only thing is that there are 24 different "elements" to this exam and since parents are banned from the lessons and have no clue what's going on the kids have to rely on their own memories not only for what to do but as to whether they're doing it vaguely right or not. And we don't have the music to practise to. Oh well.

Saturday afternoon Jon and Emily went off to watch Scunthorpe v. Cheltenham. I can't remember what on earth I did when they were out, although I know I was hugely cross with myself for not getting more done. I do, however, remember one thing with crystal clarity: when I drove to pick them up, I found the road that the stadium is on blocked off by police cars in my direction, jammed solid in the other direction and full of flashing lights and a general air of something having happened. I had to skirt around the back of the town to find the other end of the road, but I had the most dreadful thoughts as I was crawling along there (everyone else trying to do the same). I don't normally panic like that but images of a collapsed stadium or a burnt out stadium or a bombed out stadium or any one of numerous other disasters just wouldn't go away. Drove the whole way round in tears :-(( Still don't know what the problem that closed the road was - but it was apparently nothing to do with the football, so I discovered in the end. Still, not a fifteen minutes I wish to repeat any time soon.

On Sunday morning Emily went to her karate lesson. George still hasn't remembered to bring her uniform, but this is a bit of a running joke with him anyway, bless him. Emily's still loving it and picking up lots of Japanese too. Apart from the actual physical aspects of karate, George is very big on the spiritual and moral aspects to it too. They were discussing character building and responsibility this week and Emily answered George's question about what responsiblity means: she said it meant doing what is expected of you and not letting someone down when they're relying on you, an answer which apparently went down very well indeed. Jon says Emily's always really keen to join in the discussions they have and keeps shooting her hand up for just about everything, lol. Bit of a change from the girl who not that long ago would have never dreamed of volunteering an answer "in class", let alone in front of a load of older boys.

Sunday afternoon, Emily made a fab collage using all kinds of different art techniques - she called it "Crafter's Dream".

Today we've been on a manic tidy up, as my Mum and Dad are due back from the caravan any minute now and we'd somewhat trashed their living space by using it as an extra stock room/laundry room :-/// Order is now restored and the place looks half decent.

In between helping us tidy, Emily's done a lot of Harry Potter related English today. She started off by creating her own version of a word cloud on Word on the PC, choosing the words and sizes to use instead of having it automated. It looks very effective, although it is conspicuous for its complete lack of the one word you'd have thought would be biggest of all: Harry!! I'm not quite sure what was going on in her brain there, although she did comment to me last night as we read the last but one chapter of Order of the Phoenix (where Harry has a major tantrum in Dumbledore's Office when he's told the truth about the prophecy etc) that Harry has acted like a spoilt brat through most of this book. Think she prefers Draco ;-) After that, Emily went on to write two pieces, one answering the question I'd set her about "If you were Professor Dumbledore, would you have chosen to reveal the truth to Harry any earlier than this? If so, When, and how do you think that would have affected his behaviour and the plot?" and one analysis of whether she thinks Professor Snape is good, evil or a bit of both (playing Dumbledore and Voldermort against each other for his own aims) and why. Mind you, Emily hasn't read Half Blood Prince yet; she therefore has no idea of the, um, rather dramatic actions of Snape at the end of that one, so it'll be interesting to see how her opinions change when she does read it.

This afternoon, Emily baked some cat cakes as a surprise treat for Nana and Gramps when they get back. Apart from making sure she could reach the ingredients and putting the cakes into the oven, she had no help from me whatsoever, I wasn't even on the same floor of the house. She did a magnificent job! Emily's done LOTS of baking before but this is the first time she's done some completely alone, so she was very chuffed with herself indeed.
Meanwhile, cat-wise, we've got more problems. The fleas are back. Flippin heck. I've lived with cats, plural, since I was about 7 and I've never experienced this before. Usually a quick flea spray at the first sign of a problem has dealt with it completely. Nope, not now. Meanwhile, Romeo has helpfully developed feline acne, bless his little heart :-(( And I gave Merlin another dose of frontline, once we knew the fleas were back, so his dermatitis wouldn't get any worse. He promptly chewed a great big piece of fur off the back of his neck to try to get rid of the treatment - and is now balder than ever. May as well camp in the vets driveway at this rate.

[edit: couldn't post this until Tuesday morning due to blogger problems....adding this bit now:]
Late last night we had a big power cut for about an hour. Emerged out of the darkness, eventually, to find Juliet mewing about her latest capture on the sitting room floor. Thought it was a big moth or a daddy long legs. Nope. HUGE spider, which she was trying to eat. More legs on the floor as I backed away rapidly. I'm torn between being freaked out, disgusted with the eating bit.....eeeeeuuuugghg....grateful she's hunting the damn things so successfully but desperate to know where they're coming out from so we can do something about it!!!! Then again.....do I really want to know?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Note To Self: If It Sounds Too Good To Be True.....

I'm far too trusting. Must work on that. Especially when it comes to ebay.

I've just waved goodbye to £35 paid to a certain little scumbag name of "triumphvitty" on ebay. Bought two Harry Potter audio book CD sets from him. He had 100% feedback of 50 odd, so - even though his feedback is "private" and I couldn't read the comments - I figured that would be fine. Paid by cheque immediately. Next thing I know, he's no longer registered on ebay. So I wrote to him asking what was going on stating that if we didn't receive a reply straight away I'd be stopping the cheque. Received an immediate reply assuring me that all was fine and that he'd be sending out goods to everyone who had bought so far once the cheque had cleared. Okkaaay. So the cheque cleared ten days ago. Surprise - no CDs. And since his feedback is private, I can't contact anyone else who's bought from him to see if they'd had more luck. And since one of my transactions was £15 and the other £12 (plus his exorbitant postage rates, natch) I can't even claim via ebay's rather pathetic protection scheme. His CD sets were selling like mad. Guess I'm not the only who's now furious.

Still. Couldn't resist a bargain, could I. And with those CD sets retailing at upwards of £50 each, what a bargain it was too. Not. One of these days I'll learn.

Problem is, I think, that we're too damn honest to be in business. We fall over ourselves backwards for our customers, even the rude ones. We ALWAYS send replacements for the trillions of items royal mail manage to lose, with no quibbles. We don't refuse to replace unless they opted for recorded delivery and all that malarky. I'm sure we must have been scammed dozens of times by people lying about not receiving items, but in my view that's the risk you take if you want to run an honest business. You absorb the knocks. If we send someone the wrong thing by mistake we let them keep it and then send the right thing rather than make them jump through hoops of returning it. If something arrives damaged we normally just tell them to dispose of it whilst refunding their money without insisting they send it back. We charge postage at cost, always. None of this ridiculous £5 for a CD in a jewel case. Nope. We believe in good faith. Treat our customers as we'd hope to be treated ourselves, for instance. What a pity nobody *WE* ever buy from seems to share that vision.

Oh well. In other news: Emily hasn't done any work today as we've all been in and out like mad. This morning she and Jon went off to tai chi whilst I struggled to get newly arrived stock out to people who'd been waiting a while and spent ages matching up each customer to which freebie music cassette I thought they'd like (yep, too soft to be in business). Then I had to dash out with Grandad to his eye clinic - not good news, cataract operations imminent. Meanwhile Jon took Emily off to ballet, which they're still not back from. Spoke to Emily's drama teacher yesterday who said all kinds of lovely things about her :-)) We've arranged that she'll go back to drama in the older class in December once these flippin dance exams are over.

Meanwhile, Emily's cold seems almost gone.....except for the violent coughing fits at night. Here we go again. Bronchitis mark 2, probably. We've bought Jon a contraption for his plantar fascilitiis which looks remarkably like a roller skate without wheel; he has to wear it all night. Too early to say whether it's having any effect. Oh, and I've been told off by Emily for not mentioning that she got a hug from the mascot Scunny Bunny at the last football match and that he gave her a load of SFC balloons. So now you know. And there are more spiders. Everywhere. I shall so NOT be going outside to do weather readings this evening.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

More Weather

Emily's still got a heavy cold but so far, touch wood, it hasn't developed into the chest infection that normally follows whenever she gets a cold.

We've been working away on the weather still this week and we've covered loads in the last few days. Emily has, at various points:
  • Colour coded a world map to show climate zones
  • Used her PC atlas to find two places in each of the climate zones, research the weather in those places and write it up
  • Done a lot of work on air pressure including experiments to see whether air takes up space, whether air weighs anything, and what happens when air heats and cools (bottle with a balloon over it in hot vs cold water etc)
  • Researched and written about what causes high and low pressure and what effects each has on the weather
  • Found out what isobars on weather maps are/show
  • Done her daily weather recordings
  • Found out about thunder and lightning, drawn a fab diagram to show what happens during a thunderstorm and why, and tried various experiments to produce her own lightning....these latter, unfortunately, without success despite following the instructions to the letter. Will have to look for some different ones. We did one a long time ago with a battery connected to a steel file which when you stroked it with a wire produced sparks and affected a radio, but I'm looking for something a bit more dramatic than that this time.

Today in the post we received this free interactive weather presentation disk from the met office. Haven't had time to try it out yet, but it's looking promising.

Emily was too poorly to go to football practice on Monday evening, but she did go with Jon yesterday evening to watch Scunthorpe at home to Port Vale (3-0!) and they've also got tickets for Saturday's game against Cheltenham and the big cup game against Aston Villa next Wednesday.

Yesterday afternoon Emily went to yoga, first lesson back after the summer, and was really pleased to get her level 3 certificate. She also had her photo taken for the centre's publicity leaflets and website.

We're planning to go off to the caravan for a week at the end of the month, so it's all systems go at the moment to try to get things up to date, business wise. I sent off my first journalism assignment; I'm already stuck on the second one, lol. A bit of application and dedication required, I think - won't be able to wing this one with five minutes here and there. Jon hasn't had time to do any of his art course for weeks :-(( Outside pressures are really getting to us at the moment so it will be wonderful to have a break.

Tonight we're promised big thunderstorms - good timing, as Emily's work today was focused on thunder/lightning. I rather wimpishly refused to go outside this afternoon when she was collecting her weather data - I'm afraid the garden has turned into my vision of a nightmare with massive spiders and webs **everywhere** and a plague of daddy long legs or crane flies to boot. Just stood at the back door I counted 18 webs complete with large inhabitants and that was only within immediate view, let alone the other dozens and dozens further up the garden. It's revolting. I don't remember it being like this any other September :-// We seem to hosting a spider ball indoors too, they're popping up every flippin where. Late last night I woke up to find Juliet pawing at something on the floor by the bed. Through my sleepy haze I left her to it but was vaguely aware of her eating something, with difficulty. Looked an hour or so later when I let them out and there were three HUGE spiders legs left where she'd been :-///

Speaking of cats, I've also just spoken to the vet about Merlin. Good news is that they can't find any evidence of liver, kidney or blood problems, nor of a thyroid issue or diabetes. Bad news is that it's therefore a bit of a mystery why he's losing so much weight and generally losing condition. His bald patches have improved now we're finally flea free though (rolls eyes - that was a lot of fun) so that bit looks to have been just simple dermatitis. We've got to keep an eye on his weight weekly and get back to them if there's any further deterioration but she said that generally, for a cat of his age, he seems to be in pretty good shape. Bizarre.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

"Citizenship" & Spirit Children

Emily had a dreadful night last night with a raging temperature and lots of semi-delirious whimpering. In true Emily style, however, this morning she made a miraculous recovery and set off to karate with Daddy as if she was perfectly fine, lol. She always suffers much worse in the evenings and nights, though. Suppose most people do.

Anyway, she enjoyed karate very much, although George had forgotton to bring her uniform. This afternoon Emily and I went off to a Cats Protection League open day, which was very nice indeed, and Emily couldn't wait to part with some of her cash for a cause close to her heart.

This afternoon while I've been working Jon and Emily have been watching two DVDs about the life and death of Princess Diana, and Emily's been reading this DK Biography of Diana. She started being interested in this a couple of weeks ago when she was watching one of the conspiracy theory it-was-definitely-murder type documentaries with me one evening as I sat doing the packing. Mind you, she's firmly of the opinion that Diana's death was purely an accident. I'm glad to see she's not susceptible to media hype.

Anyway, the whole Diana thing has prompted much discussion recently about morals and the choices people make, for instance the way Diana courted the media when it suited her and then complained bitterly about it later or the way in which she married into a lifestyle most of us could never dream of but half the time seemed rather fed up with the publicity that position brought. This also linked in with various things Emily's been told, heard or read recently - for instance, someone mentioned to her that they didn't buy such and such because it was made by a particular company. She asked us about it and we gave her a fair and unbiased answer, explaining why some people choose to boycott that company's products and why we choose not to. We also looked at lots of websites giving BOTH sides of the argument and left Emily to make up her own mind. Various other multinationals, tuna, car drivers, soya, AIDS, the US government, farming, rainforests and taxes also came into the discussions at various along the line, so it was quite interesting ;-))

Speaking entirely personally, we don't tend to get worked up about most of the anti-this, that and the other issues floating around. In my opinion, things in life are rarely that cut and dried, that black and white; issues where I can see a firm, definite, absolutely has to be right conclusion, no-questions-asked, no possibility of the other side having any merit at all...these things are few and far between. It infuriates me beyond measure, though, that if you're not anti-whatever and the person you're talking is, they all too often assume that you're either a) ignorant, b) stupid, c) don't care or d) couldn't possibly have looked into it. The fact that you may be just as well informed as they are but have come to a different conclusion is apparently simply not possible. Sigh. Or maybe I'm just unlucky in my meetings. Mind you, I'm blessed with a husband who can convincingly argue the case both for and against any viewpoint on the planet (would have made a wonderful lawyer if he hadn't turned his back on that particular avenue) so I think his eloquence and fair-mindedness tends to rub off on me too. I do tend to steer clear of most controversial topics in casual conversation, anyway - mainly because I have absolutely no intention of having to justify my own stance but I also don't need the other person to justify theirs. Each to their own. Apparently the national curriculum's citizenship scheme is supposed to teach the ability to look into both sides of an argument before reaching a conclusion and to respect the other person's point of view. Surely any reasonable parent would be doing this in any case?? The fact that this needs teaching at all seems to me to be...well...rather alarming.

Anyway; that particular mini rant over, I'm off to look up the history of the local village school. Jon and Emily came back from tai chi on Thursday with some very interesting reports. The village hall (where tai chi is held) is on the site of the old school. Emily was very "tingly" all the way through and Jon was aware of spirit children running in and out of the lines of people, laughing at the movements and the music; he came back with their descriptions, their names and ages and also the names of two teachers they'd spoken about and details about the heating system in the school. Absolutely kicking myself now that I got him the art course instead of the mediumship course!!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Sneezes & Tears

It's been a bit of a mixed bag, the rest of this week.

Wednesday we had some bad news from the vets. Took Romeo & Juliet for their booster injections and to have JuJu's heart murmur checked. It's barely audible now and definitely nearly gone, which was fantastic - but then the vet gave Romeo the once over and told us the shock news that he has now developed a "very significant" heart murmur himself, which apparently is much worse than JuJu's ever was. :-((( Didn't really want to hear that. And still no news about Merlin's blood tests, that really is dragging on. And we're still not really any the wiser about Jon's foot and white blood cells either, despite an update from the doctors.

Thursday, on the other hand, was a good day. Thursday afternoon I took Emily and Romy to a soft play area for the first time in ages and they had a great play there for a couple of hours. While they tore around wearing themselves out I wrote eight pages of my first course assignments, so that was good all round. In the morning, Emily had been working hard on various English tasks and she also did a great job of typing up her research into various cloud types in Word, complete with pictures. At various times during the week she's also done lots more weather experiments, including making ice crystals, making frost and making a mirror nephoscope (which was hugely fun and basically involves watching clouds in a mirror.....could do that for hours!) She's also researched and written up how rain, hail and snow form and what the differences between them are, and we've finished watching the rather wonderful Wild Weather DVD.

Friday morning was horrible. Emily woke up in a foul mood and didn't want to get up; she was sad, she was tired, she was generally miserable and she wouldn't/couldn't tell us why. By the time we got downstairs she was in tears and still not explaining why; this coupled with Grandad demanding to know what the matter was and why Emily was crying "again" - according to him she's "always crying".... - just about broke my patience and I ended up in tears too. Turns out Emily was just having a sad morning, about nothing in particular. We all have those, I guess. I know I do - but when it's Emily I somehow think there HAS to be an explanation, there HAS to be an underlying problem....it's really hard to be told that she doesn't know what's wrong, she's just sad. As a parent that makes you feel pretty lousy, useless and powerless to help. Think it's a combination of still feeling a little bit lonely at times and probably hearing far too much about our own adult issues and problems, which worries her. Anyway, an hour or so later Jon had smoothed over the cracks and we were both OK again - but at times like that you can't help wondering "would she be happier in school?" In my head I know she's generally extremely happy and thriving here at home....but this HE route we've chosen is never free of doubts in its darker moments, and Friday was definitely one of those.

With hindsight, Emily was probably also just feeling under the weather because sure enough yesterday evening the sneezes arrived....then she had a very, very sleepless night with a very sore throat and high temperature. Yep, it's cold season again. This morning she could hardly speak, bless her heart. She still wanted to go to ballet, though, especially as it was the first lesson back at the new studio with the new teacher, so off we trundled. She seems to have enjoyed it, although the new teacher is VERY strict - but then that's probably a good thing if they're actually going to make enough progress to be ready for these exams in November. K's still coming to the Saturday lessons after all, although not to the Thursday ones, so she and Emily were delighted to see each other and had a good play and a run around afterwards as we looked after K for a while until her Mum could get back from the other studio where she had to pick up K's little sister.

This afternoon we've just snuggled up and played a few Harry Potter board games, and read oodles more of the Order of the Phoenix - just got the part where Harry has to have Occlumency lessons with Snape, much to Emily's delight. Hopefully Emily will be feeling a bit better tomorrow morning as she doesn't want to miss Karate and then we're going to a cats protection league thingy in the afternoon. Not quite sure where work and deadlines this weekend are going to fit in, but I'm sure we'll think of something!

Anyway, here's Romeo, our latest heart patient, showing his patriotic nature asleep on the coal bunker under our England flags ;-)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Karate, Clouds & Busy Days

Emily went to her first karate lesson on Sunday and absolutely adored it. This despite having previously said she definitely didn't want to learn a martial art, lol. I think it has a lot to do with the teacher; last time she went to a martial arts thing she hated it but this time round because she knows, likes and trusts George she really took to it. Held her own among the classful of boys too, and made a new friend into the bargain. She'll be getting her uniform next week, so she's very excited about that.

Sunday afternoon Jon and Emily went out to the little village stream to do some sketching; the last part of the perspective section on Emily's art course required her to sketch a landscape view showing perspective. Boy are we glad to get that section of the course over and done with! It's been a bit of a struggle, not nearly as much fun as the observation drawing section was, so we'll be glad to get these four pieces of work sent off. The next section is close up & patterns which sounds much more to Emily's liking.

I had a call from Emily's ballet teacher over the weekend. She had moved Emily up a class - which is good - but that does mean she will now have two ballet lessons a week instead of just the one; she now has to go on Thursday afternoons as well as Saturdays, which means she'll have to drop drama. That's a great shame, she was really enjoying the drama, but I guess it's only sheer luck so far that none of her activity choices have clashed with one another, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Anyway, it was up to Emily to make the decision about whether to keep drama or keep ballet, and she chose ballet. The drama teacher doesn't have any other classes local enough to us at the moment, but she's going to get back in touch with us when she does have. Emily now has ballet exams in November, then, so that'll be....interesting.

Meanwhile, Emily's friend K from ballet cannot now make it to the Thursday afternoon classes and is therefore probably going to give up :-(( Had a long chat with her Mum and we're hoping to still keep the girls' friendship going, but as K doesn't live very nearby and is at school all week, and they're away most weekends, and nearly every night "after school" as it were, Emily has an activity on.....it's not going to be all that easy. :-(( Poor Emily, I do feel for her. All too often she makes a lovely friend and then circumstances intervene and things end up fizzling out.

Yesterday Emily and I took Merlin back to the vets for another blood test, to replace the one they lost. In the afternoon, Emily went for a lovely play at Romy's, while I tried to catch up with deadlines that are spinning before my eyes. This morning I've taken Grandad to the doctors, and Jon's now at the docs getting results about his painful foot and his white blood cell count. Tomorrow we're off to the vets again in the morning with the kittens, then I'm taking Grandad to the hospital in the afternoon. We seem to be spending very little time at home at the moment but none of it for particularly pleasant reasons :-//

Emily has managed a fair bit of work today though, in between Daddy and I bustling in and out again. This morning she did a lot of fractions, still getting to grips with equivalent fractions, simplifying and adding. This afternoon she's been working on her weather project, focusing on clouds. She's made a cloud in a jar, done various water condensing experiments, made it rain in a jar (I liked that one!) and printed out and used a cloud wheel to identify the clouds outside just now. She's read a lot about the various cloud types and what kind of weather they indicate, learnt how clouds form and what makes it rain and drawn great diagrams/explanations of the above experiments, as well as doing her normal daily weather recording stuff.

What is with garden spiders at the moment? Our garden is just a MASS of giant webs with equally giant spiders sat in the middle of them. They seem to be attached to just about everything; it's very creepy walking out there even just trying to get from the backdoor to the middle of the garden. Guess it must be the mating season or something? It's only been like this since the weekend. Eeeeeeuuuugggggh.

It's back to school day for the village kids today; Emily's classmates will now officially be juniors, starting year 3. Their teacher this year is a man whose main claim to fame, so we gather from talking to other parents, is being frequently observed (even by the children) getting rather too up close and personal with his young teaching assistant. Somehow I don't think Emily's going to miss out much by not having his "guidance" for a year. Strange to think though that we've now been outside the system for two full years. It's been quite a journey.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Wonderful Weather

No, not an opinion on the day's meteorological conditions, although the wind and rain are much to my taste. Title refers to the weather project Emily's started and which she seems to be thoroughly enjoying.

The lovely Cambridge weather kit I mentioned a while ago is turning out to be brilliant. Emily spent Thursday assembling/making various weather recording instruments from it and she's recording the weather each afternoon around 3pm - we'll use the data after a while for some graphs and "stuff". We've got a rain gauge, an anemometer (didn't know what that was before we started - if you're similarly uninitiated it's a wind speed recorder!), thermometers, compasses, barometer, a light meter and a wind direction streamery thing Emily made, so each day she can record the rainfall, wind direction, wind speed, temperature, pressure, light etc. Emily had investigated the Beaufort Scale and is also assessing the wind contitions each day based on that, as the anemometer only gives a broad range. Here she is this afternoon with her wind compass:
We've got quite a few plans for this project and some fab resources so we're looking forward to loads of experiments, watching a wild weather DVD and generally getting stuck in.

In other work this week, Emily's been busy with more fractions and has done a lot of English, especially stopwatch timed five minute fictions on "An Item of Clothing", "The Wind" and "The Friend". We've tried working on spelling too, but I'm going to have to think of a new strategy for that. If we do a spelling "test" she can spell exceptionally well, but when she writes she tends to write really quickly and doesn't bother too much with the spelling. Constantly correcting the spelling would be hugely tedious for me and very demoralising for her, so I don't tend to do that, but there must be a middle way in which we can encourage her to take care over the spelling without intimidating or shutting down her love of just writing for fun.

We've also done lots of logic puzzles of the type where you're given a situation and lots of clues and you have to work out (using a grid, for instance) who lives where or who's favourite food is what, etc etc. On Wednesday morning Emily used fabric paints and stencils to decorate some material for a cushion cover, although we've yet to get round to the actual sewing bit. Emily's also spent a long time on Word and Publisher making and printing posters of various Harry Potter characters to put up over her bed and she's also begun a Potions Book, typing up potion ingredients and methods in Word and decorating them with clipart. This afternoon we've also installed Story Wizard software which looks very interesting. [Edit: I'm also going for the world record attempt at how many times one can include the word also into a sloppily written paragraph...]

On Wednesday afternoon Romy came with me and Emily to Normanby Hall for a run around a play - well, they did the running around and playing, I did the nice quiet sit down reading the first part of my journalist course. The day before Emily and I went on our own; hadn't been for yonks and yonks and yonks. We had a lovely close up view of the extremely cute baby peacocks they've finally managed to breed.

Harry Potter mania continues in all its myriad forms. We're up to chapter 19 of the Order of the Phoenix now. The other night I was unable to sleep for various reasons and spent most of the night up "working" (or playing on ebay, depending on your point of view) - it was then that I found these rather fantastic Snape drawings from a very talented artist. If anyone wants to put me on their Christmas list I wouldn't mind a complete set (and the wall space to display them on, natch) ;-))

Yesterday Jon took Emily and Romy to the last Friday football training. Emily will be going to the Monday evening ones during term time which she's really looking forward to. Karate begins tomorrow, so that's cause for excitement too.

Healthwise we're a bit of a mixed bag at the moment. I did manage to lose my stone in time for my birthday, so I'm now aiming to lose another by Halloween. Emily went to the docs on Wednesday morning and had to give a urine sample (which she found hilarious!); they're busy testing it to see what kind of infection she has, although it seems to have pretty much cleared up now. Jon on the other hand isn't doing so well. His foot has become agonising at times and he's been called back to the doctors to discuss the results of his latest white blood cell count as well as his foot xray. Hopefully we'll know a lot more about both conditions after Tuesday than we know now! His diabetes results are excellent, though. He's consistently getting readings below 4. We think it may be the cinammon supplements he's taking.

Merlin still seems to be going downhill :-((( Had a call from the vets on Friday to say the lab had managed to lose his blood sample so we've got to go back again on Monday so they can take some more blood. Wish they'd just hurry up and diagnose the problem properly so we can start some kind - any kind - of treatment. He seems very depressed and if he gets any thinner he'll fall over in the wind. Kit bits are due their annual vaccinations so I need to get them to the vets this week too. They're both suffering heavily with fleas at the moment :-(( I've tried two different treatments and neither has had the slightest effect, so I'll get something stronger from the vets. Mind you, at least one of the four cats has some good news to report - Cassie-cat is definitely losing weight and looking much more streamlined recently, her coat is in tip top condition and she generally seems very purry and content. You'd never think she was Merlin's sister :-//