Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Tale of Two Halloweens

We've had a fabulous few days with two very different Halloween celebrations. On Monday evening we had our "modern" spooky party which seemed to go very well, whilst today we've had a really interesting pagan celebration.

On Sunday, Emily and I decorated the big dining room with all kinds of spooky stuff and we carved a few pumpkins.
We were up at the crack of dawn on Monday getting things ready for the party. Emily made the tombstones, prepared the party "bags" (pumpkin buckets) and baked some scrummy vegan blood spattered fairy cakes with black and red icing, and she helped me prepare the bingo cards etc. Emily also had an absolute ball getting dressed up and we died her hair black and orange(it looks grey in the picture but it was jet black) and piled on the black lipstick and eyeliner. I have to say, black hair really suits her!
Everyone seemed to enjoy the party, which Emily said was "perfect", much to my relief! It was hard work both before and during but I had lots of help from Jon and from our friend Trish who capably supervised the little devils....um...guests...during tea preparation and loo visits and wholeheartedly joined in all the games ;-)

We played musical tombstones, Halloween Bingo, pin the nose on the pumpkin, guess the yukky stuff in the bag (eg cold spaghetti, cooked rice, jelly, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, breadsticks etc - was it monster's guts, maggots, swamp slime, witch's fingers....?), making Halloween pictures and Halloween charades. Of course, we had to play everything in near darkness for effect with just candelight or sometimes sitting around a lantern on the floor. The "winner" of each game got to pick an orange balloon from the bubbling cauldron and burst it to find a clue inside, each clue being just one word that would make up the first sentence of the treasure hunt to come. For "tea" we had zombie blood soup with witch's fingers, followed by the bloody cakes and "witch's blood dip" which was vegan dark chocolate melted in our fondue set with various fruit bits to dip into it.
After party tea we turned out every light in the house and sent the kids off on a treasure hunt. Armed with a lantern and a torch and the first clue, they had to find each item in turn (a spider, a witch, a black cat and a pumpkin) each of which gave them another clue to go on with, and so on. The final clue told them where to look for the pumpkin treat buckets. Got a bit chaotic in the end....seven excited children in a pitch black house possibly not the best of ideas....but hey, it was an experience! Oooh, yes, and during which Jon took this rather spooky orb filled photo...

Today has been very different - having done the whole modern, spooky, scary (but admittedly very fun) Halloween, today we got back to its roots and spent a lot of time looking at the pagan spiritual traditions behind Samhain. We read the Baba Yaga story and talked a lot about what Samhain represents in terms of New Year, how pagans view death, endings vs new beginnings and so on. Also a *lot* of discussion about how and why the Christian western world has demonised paganism, wicca and Halloween and how the welcoming lights for spirits became threatening jack-o-lanterns, how the offerings of food for ancestors became an excuse for kids to be naughty and unkind when trick or treating etc. Emily left food offerings for her and our ancestors and lit pumpkins and candles to welcome the spirits of the beloved dead. She also sewed a beautiful dream pillow by hand and filled it with a heady mixture of chamomile flowers, hops, hyssop, valerian root and lavender, having looked up the properties of each herb.
During the making of the dream pillow, both Juliet and Romeo made their feelings known about the herbs, especially the valerian, lol.
When the pillows were finished I gave mine to Merlin who went into absolute raptures, purring and rolling and drooling all over it, bless him. I've just realised, looking at this photo, he looks really ill, but he is actually doing a bit better recently.


After lunch today, we investigated the concept of totem animals. Emily immediately selected the cat as the animal she most identified with. Knew she would ;-) We did investigate lots of others though, and Emily also did a guided meditation to meet her totem animal....which was indeed a cat. On close inspection, though, she does share an awful lot of cat qualities such as independence, curiosity, playfulness, grace, dignity and a fascination with magic and mystery. She also shared some qualities with rabbit, such as shyness and some nervousness and fearfulness, and quite a lot with spider!! (creativity, imagination, resourcefulness) but we all felt that cat suited her most overall. We talked a lot about how a guardian animal can guide you through life being not only the qualities you already have but also helping you to identify qualities you need to work on. For instance, Emily needs to work on "fighting when cornered" in the way that a cat would, eg being more assertive and not letting herself be walked all over. Incidentally, we considered what guardian animals Jon and I might have too, and came up with moose or squirrel for me and owl or rabbit for Jon.

Emily also spent time this afternoon making her own runestones from some of her gems. She already has an amethtyst runes set we gave her some time ago, but the explanations and interpretations given are very "out there". Found some lovely child friendly explanations in the Celebrating Mother Earth book so Emily chose her favourite gemstones and wrote a symbol on each with a silver pen and then we practised some readings with them.
Identified that Emily is concerned about her friendships, but that new friends and new found confidence are on the way :-)

Interestingly, Emily also asked the question of the runes "Will I ever have to go back to school?" and got for an answer the "you" rune which indicated needing to get to know yourself better. We collectively thought this might mean a change in Emily's understanding as she grows up and that perhaps she might *choose* to return to school at some stage (she won't ever be *made* to). She found this fairly unbelievable just now, but I think she's becoming aware that most of her friends actually enjoy school. She knows she hated it when she was 5, but she's also become mature enough to acknowledge, in her more sensible moments, that she has no idea what school aged 8 or older would be like, so she's not in any position to say whether she'd enjoy it or not. We didn't choose to home educate with a "school is inherently crap" attitude; we chose to do it because it suited Emily, and us, at that time, more than school did. And it still does, and I personally don't see that changing. But we don't live in a school-is-crap culture here in this family and we're not interested in indoctrinating Emily down that route either. There are some things (like ready access to friends) that school can provide and we can't....just as there are some things that we can provide that school can't. We certainly have no immiment plans for Emily to return to school, but the choice will be entirely hers in a few year's time as she approaches secondary age......and who knows?

Anyway; it's been a very thought-provoking and enjoyable Halloween, both modern and traditional. And now it's only nine weeks until Emily's 8th birthday. I love this half of year - beautifullly wild autumn/winter weather, Halloween and Bonfire night, the run up to Yule and Christmas, then birthday, usually with at least a few magical days of snow thrown in and then Jon's and my anniversary as February begins. Summer? Bah! Give me autumn and winter any time!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Reasons to be Cheerful

Today has seen lots of little bits of positive news, which makes a pleasant change after a stressful October.

1. We now have an extra four guests coming to our Halloween do on Monday, making a total of seven children, which will be a nice number to have. Now I just have to worry about a) whether I've got enough "stuff" and b) whether and how to change some of the things I had planned which fitted perfectly for three children but may not fit for seven, lol. Yes, I know, I'm never satisfied ;-)

2. The BBC have finally paid us what was overdue plus paid the next one slightly in advance, which has been a huge help as far as cashflow is concerned.

3. The Press Agency has asked me to quote for a big new job which is highly likely to come to fruition :-)

4. Emily is agog with deight having visited the village library with Jon this afternoon and borrowed the cassettes of HP & Order of the Phoenix. She's been trying to get these and the Half Blood Prince audio ones for *ages* but they're never in. Since she definitely won't be getting either of them for Christmas or birthday (can't afford it having been defrauded on them both on ebay) I'm really pleased she at least gets to borrow this one for a while.

5. Having asked to practice ballet again this morning, Emily dissolved into tears mid routine sobbing that she "can't do any of it". Which is utter nonsense, but tbh we'd been waiting for the stress and pressure of it to get to her sooner or later, and it was a relief to get it out of the way. She's very, very good at the exam routines, but the teachers really are making a big deal of it which isn't helpful with children so young. When we had to pay the entry fee ages ago we gave Emily the choice of entering for the exam or not and she did want to and she does still want to do it, we certainly wouldn't make her if she didn't want to....this morning's episode was positive in that it gave us the chance to talk it through properly and put to rest some of her fears and worries about it.

So that's all right then. I think :-)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

More of the Same

It's been a very busy week so far, business wise, but we're still having a quiet time as far as education goes. There's a lot going on in our general lives which hasn't been very conducive to sit down education. Still, it is "half term" round these parts, so.....

Emily and Jon have been reading the The Demon Headmaster series this week, and loving it. Rooting through all of our old books we've come across several more books enjoyed by one or other of us in childhood and that we plan to read next: Witch's Daughter by Nina Bawden, Well Met By Witchlight by Nina Beachcroft (or maybe I just liked books by people called Nina!), Over Sea Under Stone and the rest of that series by Susan Cooper, the Borrowers series, and quite a few others whose names now escape me. And I'm still trying to get hold of a copy of The Stream That Stood Still by Beverley Nichols, sequel to the Tree That Sat Down.

At tai chi this morning Emily and Jon picked up a leaflet about the Lincolnshire Young People's Book Award 2006 although Emily was rather cross that you can't vote unless you're 9 or over. Well, not unless you lie ;-) Never read any of the books on that list apart from the Half Blood Prince, although I have to say that not many of the ones in the 9-11 age group sound very inspiring (and why is HBP in the 11-13 category?), but I suppose they're on the list for a reason so we may hunt down some of them to give them a go too.

Emily's been to more ballet lessons and rehearsals than I can shake a stick at. I sat in on the lesson on Tuesday morning and was very impressed with how she's doing. She was picked out to demonstrate several of the sequences and generally praised a great deal, although she does need to practice keeping her heels on the ground when landing from the sequences of saut├ęs. She says she "can't". Hmmm. We shall see.

This afternoon Emily went off for a play at Romy's house while I went to do some top secret shopping at Argos with our £70 worth of nectar points. You've gotta love Viking Direct. We're getting so many nectar points for orders we'd be placing anyway. It was a nice little shopping spree :-))

Once Monday and the Halloween party are "out of the way" (horrible to say it that way, but I'm sure you know what I mean) we really need to settle back into some structure. We've all been a bit up in the air since we came back from holiday at the beginning of October, then we were all ill, then we had to give the business 200% attention for a while....some back to normality would be nice. As far as home ed is concerned, I'd ideally like to settle into a structure whereby we start early and Emily does 15 mins quiet reading on her own while I get things together, then we do half an hour of yoga or something together, then a quick brainteaser type thing to get the brain working, then "work" proper. The few days we've attempted something like that it's worked very well. With the business to attend to as well, leaving everything to be "spontaneous and autonomous" usually means frayed tempers, not enough time or attention given to anything and not a great deal achieved. Nope, we really need a plan.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Everything Must Go!

Well, not exactly *everything* but Jon and I have been very busy this last week clearing out our stock and we now have lots and lots of bargains listed on our business ebay account. Many of our previous buy it now items have been moved to auction with low starting prices and we're also clearing out and discontinuing most of our pagan/wicca items too. So, if you want a crystal ball for 99p, go and have a look!! :-)) Some items have indeed gone for a penny or 99p but on the other hand, plenty have gone for more than we expected too, so on balance we're happy bunnies. We're taking the business in a new direction once our current cash crisis has passed, so as well as creating much needed space at home, this is a bit of a spring clean. Have been busy listing stuff on our personal account too. In places, we can now see the floor!

Weather's been a bit boring....where's my lovely autumnal lashing rain and wind??

Emily's been having a fairly quiet few days on the "work" front....think she deserves it after her mammoth Titanic efforts, lol. On Friday afternoon Romy came to play and I didn't see hide nor hair of either of them until it was time to go home. Think they spent most of the time playing with Barbies, which was nice as Emily hasn't really played with her large collection of B's for quite a while. No, she doesn't think all women have to be blonde and size 0 in order to be worthwhile, either. Guess she has a good role model in me....rofl. I was never quite going to fit into that category even in my slim days. It annoys me actually when people complain about children playing with Barbies/Cindys/whatever. I think it insults the intelligence of the children to assume that they'll all grow up with this distorted view of women. Think they're quite capable of understanding womanhood in all its diverse forms but ALSO enjoying playing with pretty sparkly doll clothes and indulging in a bit of good old fashioned make believe/escapism..... But then again, I seem to be out of kilter with most of the world in my views on that and other things, like thoroughly enjoying Harry Potter, encouraging Emily to love it too, and not feeling the need to be ashamed of so doing. Oh well, each to their own.

Yesterday morning Emily went off to ballet lesson number 457 and - big news! - her bun stayed put. Not only that, it stayed put ALL DAY until she actually had to take it out. Ha! Cracked that one. Says she, tentatively. We discovered yesterday that the ballet examiner will be a man...which didn't go down very well. Piano rehearsal tomorrow morning, then yet another lesson on Tuesday morning with more to be advised later in the week - good job we weren't going away for half term.

This morning it was off to karate, where Emily had a fab time. She's really taken to it. And I'm impressed with her Japanese :-)

This afternoon and at various points Emily's been busy listening to Horrible Histories CDs. She had quite a few, but has collected others from the Telegraph this last few weekends. Today's freebie was WW2. I must admit I didn't like that one, though. As something within living memory of our parents, it jarred somewhat to listen to an attempt to make it funny/sarcastic. It was also a bit short on actual facts. Emily's keen to read Carrie's War and Blitz from the My Story series shortly though, so her interest in WW2 is developing. I always feel emotional when talking about it with her, so I'm not sure I'm looking forward to a possibly imminent request to "do" it as a subject.

Have also spent a pleasant few hours recently window shopping (well, online windows) for Christmas and Emily's birthday. Spotted loads of fabulous stuff from The Bead shop, especially the fashion design kits and of course all the beading kits, but lots of it doesn't seem to be available in the UK...and the prices! Had a bit of a brainwave half stolen from their fashion design sets, though. Emily LOVES to design clothes, in fact she spends most evenings while I'm doing the packing designing item after item after item, but she does them all quite tiny. The kit I was looking at had lots of blank fashion croquis (blank model outlines) in it for the children to design clothes for, so I've found a load of blanks online and I'm going to print them out, in various different poses, sizes etc, and put them in a folder decorated to be Emily's Fashion Folder or somesuch - so she can design items on a bigger scale and keep them, without having to worry about getting the body proportions right etc. Think she'll love that :-)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Must Get Better

at doing "ballet buns". This was my first attempt for yesterday's ballet lesson. I've never done buns before, although I can do the Heidi style pinned up plaits and I do a mean french plait too - but no, for the exam it has to be a bun. Needless to say, Emily's fell out by the end of the lesson. Nobody else's did. Oh, the shame!

Meanwhile, Romeo has had one too many late nights out on the tiles ;-)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Titanic

Well, Emily's completed her little mini Titanic project. She's worked really hard on it. She has:

  • Produced a lovely timeline of events
  • Written letters from both first and third class passengers describing their experiences
  • Examined the arguments surrounding who was to blame and written pieces about to what extent she believes the disaster was or wasn't the fault of the following: Captain Smith, the shipbuilders in general, Bruce Ismay (MD of White Star Line), Thomas Andrews (MD of Harland & Wollf)
  • Examined the reasons why the lifeboats weren't filled to capacity
  • Looked into the class structure of the time and how it related to the Titanic (with far more third class passengers being left to die than first class etc)
  • Examined evidence to support - or not - White Star Line's assertion that they never claimed the ship was unsinkable, and looked into why people believed it to be unsinkable even if the builders/owners never said so
  • Learnt a great deal about using primary and secondary history sources and judging the reliability of evidence by what, if anything, the person speaking/writing had to gain from pushing their side of the story
  • Written about the lessons learned from the disaster and how various laws and regulations were changed afterwards
  • Considered the arguments for and against raising the Titanic wreck
  • Read about the heroes and heroines of the event including famous names like the Unsinkable Molly Brown and also considered the actions of the less brave...for instance discussing why most of the empty-ish lowered lifeboats didn't turn back to rescue those in the water and why the nearby Californian (if indeed it was the Californian, about which there seems to be some dispute) may not have come to the rescue
  • Read about and written about some of the premonitions of the disaster including the book Futility et al
  • Created some great collages in Word of images related to the Titanic
Think she covered quite a lot there in 2 days!

Meanwhile, we've also done lots of maths; perimeter, area and various assorted word problems as well as bits of maths involved in the Titanic. A friend of ours also made Emily's day today by sending her a link to an online Titanic game :-)

Last night Emily went to yoga and passed her level 4 test; she'll have her level 5 test just before Christmas and then it's onto the 8 years plus levels.

In other news, our business bank has won the award for least-helpful-financial-institution-of-all-time (and let's face it, the competition is fierce)....they chose to bounce a cheque to a major supplier yesterday even though they obviously knew full well that several thousand pounds was due to clear into that particular account of ours less than 24 hours later which would have amply covered it. Business wise, life is frantic. And the BBC are now five weeks late in paying me, due to a switch over to a new contract system, which has caused ample chaos of its own, cash flow wise. My lovely contacts are doing their best to get payment expedited to us, but alas to no avail. I'm seriously tempted to withold the work due on Monday to them unless they've paid by then, but that will only inconvenience the people whose fault it isn't....and the people who get to choose who gets the work in the first place....probably not a good move.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

This Week Emily Has Been Mostly Readin'

...things about the titanic. Blimey, three posts in one day, I must have rediscovered blogging enthusiasm.

This afternoon Emily and Jon watched Titanic (again) and after her sobs at the ending (Emily seems to have discovered the strange cathartic qualities of a weepy film rather early in life...) Emily declared herself determined to "do" a Titanic project for the rest of the week. (OK, get in the queue next to dragons, mythical beasts, weather (still), rocks/soils, Romans and Celts). She and Jon have been reading Voyage on the Great Titanic from the "My Story" diary series, and Emily has also been reading the DK Eyewitness Titanic book with great interest.

Since her request to "do" the Titanic was met with rather blank looks by a Mummy engrossed in romans, weather and other such delights, Emily came up with her own ideas of what to do. She wants to write some diary entries from both a first class and a third class passenger, do lots of drawings and artwork, write about who or what she thinks was to blame for the great loss of life and look up records of who died on the ship and what stories of bravery there were. Daddy's request to do a project on Kate Winslet were denied ;-)) Oh, and just in case she runs out of ideas, Mummy also found these lazy-Mummy's resources on historyonthenet.com.

Forgot to mention that we're also paying attention to Emily's writing at the moment. Eighteen months ago she had the most beautiful writing. Now, her writing style is, um, less easy to read if you're not used to it. I hadn't really noticed until she showed Uncle David and Aunty Barbara some of her work last week when they were here; when looking at it with objective eyes I can see that Emily's writing can be a little tricky to read sometimes. Which is a huge shame as she has such an interesting turn of phrase and she LOVES to write. It's a big dilemma, drawing the fine line between encouraging neater, more legible writing vs stifling the desire to write in the first place. Much the same as with spelling. I'm kinda pleased, in many ways, that Emily's handwriting has its own style instead of the identikit school handwriting....but obviously, it NEEDS to be legible to someone not used to it. A delicate balance. Thing is, she writes *really* quickly and she hates to be slowed down. Today I made some (constructive) comments about some of her letters, for instance that her T's and L's aren't always any taller than her a's and so on and that makes it hard to read....only to look at my own handwriting, which is also very fast, and note the same. Hmmmmmmmm. Yet I consider mine perfectly legible.

Also being read this week: Mirror Mirror, which has some fabulous things to say about "beauty" and, on a different level, about drug abuse. And Dear Mr Sprouts (yay, a comprehensive reviews page that isn't amazon!) which is the book Emily has been sent this month to review for the EO magazine. She's nearly finished it now and was at pains to point out that she thought many people might be offended by the use of a particular swear word in it. Guess she comes from a more, um, colourful background than some.

And Emily's started reading HP & Goblet of Fire, although admittedly the allure of that has somewhat diminished having read the next two books with me and having seen (oooh, about thirty times) the film of GOF...but she's very interested to see what's different in the book vs the film. And there's plenty of that. Oh, and speaking of Mr Potter, am I alone in finding it slightly ironic that this very British series of books has so much more merchandise available in the US than in the UK? Yeah, yeah, evils of merchandising apart...I have an eight year old's birthday coming up with a Harry Potter crazy child - it's vaguely irritating to have to buy things from the US...albeit probably cheaper in the long run. Now if only Emily's birthday coincided with the release of book 7, I'm fairly certain I wouldn't have to look so far afield for pressies......

Monday, October 16, 2006


On Sunday, Emily finally received her karate suit, having finished her month's induction. She's now officially a white belt and is extremely chuffed! Posted by Picasa

Ballet Strains & Party Pains

(Ok, ok, so blogger doesn't want to take pictures, again. Will post Emily's karate suit picture up above via Hello instead. Whilst throwing things at the screen.)

On Saturday morning Emily went to ballet and also on Sunday evening, likewise. We're up to three ballet lessons a week now as the exam approaches. Oh the stress! Seriously, there seems to be an awful lot to remember for this exam given that the children are still only variously 6, 7 and 8. Head up, chin level, make eye contact, smile, shoulders down, elbows loose, elbows forwards, skirt held wide and slightly forwards (but not too much, oh no), fingers graceful, ribs pulled in, bottom pushed down, legs tight, turnout complete, feet stretched, heel on your point turned and pointing upwards......and that's before they've moved a muscle, let alone started on the 21 different pieces they have to show. Teacher helpfully pointed out that the piano music played during the exam will be entirely different to the practice music they now all have on CD. To test whether they can immediately fit their steps, under exam pressure/conditions, to a brand new piece of music, albeit one (we assume) in the same rhythm. Because after all, Darcy flippin' Bussell never gets to rehearse to the *real* music before opening night at Coven Garden, obviously.......

Today Emily's done lots of English and maths and has started work on the next section of her art course.

I'm now beginning to wish I'd never had the brilliant idea of holding a Halloween Party; despite only asking a couple of children I seem to be having trouble finding a date and time that everyone can make. Guess that's one good point about school socialisation (currently the only one I can think of, mind) - if you have a class full of 30 kids on tap you can invite dozens of them and be assured that at least half of them will be able to make it. We don't know many people - well, we know plenty of people but we don't "know" them in the sense that I mean it, not well enough to invite to a party. I can't stand parties full of virtual strangers (never did do the "invite the whole class" malarky even when Emily was at school), but if you only invite a handful of friends and then one or two of them unfortunately can't come, it starts to look like a rather small little do :-//

At the time of writing we have Emily plus two guests, although with a bit of rearranging that may possibly go up to three. Or it may not. There are a couple of other people I haven't heard back from yet, but I'm assuming that means they won't be coming. Possibly the world's smallest Halloween Party, for three (lovely though our two guests are), but hey, let's spin it and focus on the personal attention our lucky guests will get! Not sure whether to laugh or cry on this one at the moment. I'm certainly dreading the birthday party invitations, although I have quite a few more people on my list for that one. I've done the massive guilt trip for not providing our daughter with a wider social circle (how, exactly?? it's not as if she isn't out doing something nearly every night of the flippin' week) and I've done the woe-is-me-my-poor-child-must-be-so-lonely floods of tears bit. Saturday in particular was a lot of fun on that score. But I think I've moved on from that now and I'm settling for a wry smile :-) After all, Emily doesn't seem to mind. She's sorry about those who can't come but she doesn't seem upset that we don't have another fifty to invite, and appears quite happy with the prospect of our - ahem - intimate little gathering. So I guess that's the main thing. Isn't it?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Harry vs Halloween

We've been very busy this week, but it's hard to tell with what, exactly. One of those weeks. Uncle David and Aunty Barbara arrived from Canada to pick up Grandad for a holiday, so we've spent a nice couple of days catching up with them. Emily's been to football practice, yoga, tai chi and ballet as normal. She also went to play at Romy's on Wednesday afternoon, and today we've been into town to look for a new winter coat for her as she's grown so much since last winter. Absolutely zero luck in that department. Hardly anyone had any, and we didn't like any of the ones we did see.

Emily's "work" has been little and far between this week as we've been rushing around a lot. She did some more work on her magical creatures project and has done front covers for both her human body and her weather projects. And she's done a lot of baking.

Plans for the Halloween party are coming on well. I'm also being super-organised and have half a Harry Potter birthday party planned already. Everyone thinks I'm nuts since Emily's birthday isn't until 2nd Jan....but I just want to avoid a repeat of last year's last minute madness! Mind you, decorating the room as Hogwarts is proving slightly more tricky than last year when we just had to conjure up a Snow Queen's Grotto. Of course, with a birthday in the New Year, getting winter themed stuff was a sinch, especially once everyone started selling off Christmas decorations in the week between Xmas and New Year. I had thought that this would be a good time to buy for the HP party as I thought lots of Halloween stuff would be suitable. Actually, though, it isn't. Not really. Harry Potter's not really spooky. Magical, yes. Spooky, no.

After much thought, we have settled on a black and gold colour scheme and Emily found some fabulous gold serving platters in pound stretcher today, down to £1 each, so we snapped up some of those. We've also got some lovely black baubles and some gold partyware and various other bits and bobs. I've seen some of those scene setter rolls in starry sky and castle wall styles, so maybe they'll do too. I've also got my Mum and Dad roped into experimenting with black plant pots to add handles to and turn into cauldrons ;-) and Dad's going to make some wands with his lathe. I've got tons of stuff in my head for games and activities. So at least I won't be spending New Year's Day 2007 in a panic ;-)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Manic Monday

Been rushing around all day today and boy my headache isn't letting me forget it. My eyes are hurting too, I think I need a lie down in a darkened room. Which so isn't going to happen.

Yesterday morning Emily was made captain of her group in karate for the day so she got to choose which exercises they should do and checked everyone was doing it right - she was as proud as punch :-) Once back from karate there was a short pause before we rushed off to ballet. This time, there were only 8 children and the parents were asked to stay and watch, to take notes of what needs working on for this exam. Brought home my notebook overflowing with stuff on 22 different exercises/pieces and Emily has finally got her copy of the music to practice to. She did very well yesterday, actually; watching her in the group put my mind at rest a lot.

This morning my Mum and I went to JTF Wholesale in Lincoln on a Christmas and birthday pressie/birthday party hunt. Came home loaded with bits and bobs :-)) While I was out, Emily had started work on her mythical creatures project and had drawn and coloured a fantastic phoenix and written about phoenixes including quotes from the HP books, and had also done a glitter unicorn for her window. We've given Emily a copy of The Element Encyclopedia of Mythical Creatures (massive great big hardback book it is; we've had it in stock for yonks but haven't sold it, so it's now hers - oh, the advantages of growing up in a household that retail books!) and she's thrilled with that. We're also winding down our stock of mythical creature sticker books so she's now the proud owner of one of those too, and then of course there's the Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts book she's had for yonks, various "how to draw" type books on this theme and the half hundredweight of myth/mythology general resources the shelves are groaning with...think I could probably leave her be for a week in her bedroom without further intervention or guidance, really!

As soon as Mum and I got back from JTF, Emily and I went out to Normanby Hall on a manic "nature collecting" trip - we had to rush in order to be back in time for football, but we did have time for a wonderful Harry Potter play in the "Forbidden Forest" - as you do. Then, as I say, it was hot foot it back home just in time for Emily to change into her football kit and Jon's now taken her out to the practice.

I'm worn out; disproportionately so, really. If only my headache would go I might get some energy back. Perhaps.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Here Be Dragons

The other night, Emily and Jon watched The Last Dragon on DVD (bought from Tesco for £1.97!!!!) and Emily was absolutely enthralled. Apparently this was originally shown on Channel 4 but we must have missed it. Basically, it's a spoof documentary about someone investigating dragons in the same way as they might investigate dinosaurs and finding all kinds of "evidence" to prove that dragons did exist, how they breathed fire, etc. Special effects done by those that worked on Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban, which kind of endeared it to us before it even began ;-)

So: despite the fact that we still haven't quite tied up the weather project, and that there are projects on Romans and on Rocks/Geology snapping at our heels to get started, we're apparently putting those on hold just a while longer to do a mini project on dragons and other mythical beasts. Should be fun.

Emily spent all day Thursday writing poetry, including a beautiful piece about the recipe for a green phoenix, which I guess wil fit nicely into this mythical beasts malarky. Poetry was appropriate since we later discovered, thanks to one of the fab calendar links provided by Elle, that either Thurs or Friday (I forget which now) was Poetry Day. Emily's art coursework came back on Thursday too, with a lovely letter from her tutor, very encouraging. She only has one more section to do in the course now, which is going to focus on abstract drawings, close up work and patterns. Hopefully it won't take as long to get through that final section as it did to get to grips with the perspective coursework!

On Friday we decided on the spur of the moment to have a Halloween Party on the 29th and shuffled off to The Range for some retail therapy in the form of buying some decorations and bits and bobs for it. No, we can't really afford it. But for one reason or another, life was getting all of us down on Friday, and planning a party had the desired cheering up effect. Emily also spent a lot of time doing random "stuff" on her computer - at least it looked random to me but it seems in the end to have been quite a lot of Harry Potter related research, some reading up about various subjects of interest and the unearthing of this website which is chockablock full of "dress up" type games for girlies everywhere. There's a particularly nice "create your own goddess" one on there somewhere too which explains the symbolism behind each part of various goddesses as you mix and match them.

Yesterday morning Emily went off to ballet. There was a new little girl starting, just arrived from Poland, who doesn't speak any English. I met her Mum in the corridor and Emily volunteered to look after Kate during the lesson. She took her in and introduced her to the teacher and some of the other girls, showed her what to do and where to put her things and generally made her feel welcome. The mum was really pleased and when I got back to pick Emily up Kate's mum told me that Emily had been wonderful to her little one and that she hoped the two girls could be good friends. Emily also learnt how to say hello and thank you in Polish ;-)

Emily and I brought Kayleigh home with us from ballet and after a quick lunch the girls spent hours creating a water gala for some of Emily's dolls, playing with the cats and building lego cities. They also baked a big batch of jam and marmalade tarts each, which they were very happy to polish off after their tea before Kayleigh took the rest of hers home for her brother and sisters to share.
This morning Emily's out at her karate lesson; this afternoon we've got an extra ballet lesson to go to and Emily also needs to get to grips with her latest yoga poses ahead of her level 5 test on Tuesday. Although everyone's recovered from the icky bug that brought us back from holiday early, Jon's caught a really bad cold from Grandad, so I guess it's only a matter of time. Emily's got a lot to do next week and she really can't afford to miss any of it, so we're holding out hope that she can stay well and either avoid this new lurgy or at least put it off a bit!

Last night I read Emily the final four chapters of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. She was stunned when Snape murdered Prof Dumbledore; she hadn't been expecting that at all. Last couple of chapters made me choke up a bit, tbh. I thought the parts about Draco Malfoy not being able to go through with the murder, despite being under threat of death from Voldermort, were well written, especially when Harry gradually begins to feel sorry for Draco. Emily's convinced that Snape is evil now. She's not buying into any of the theories about Dumbledore having arranged his own death and that he may have been pleading with Snape to keep his side of some pre-arranged thing, for Snape to go ahead and kill him rather than pleading for him NOT to kill him. I'm still erring on the side of Snape being working for good in the long run. I think it would be too simple for him just to turn out to be a cold blooded murderer after all the twists and turns his character has been through. Whether he murdered for his own aims or whether he was following Dumbledore's orders in some convoluted plan, it still looks like there's not many options left for poor old Snape now though, except a life on the run.

Guess we'll have to find something else to read now until the final book comes out! There's a huge pile of interesting looking books that Jon's been finding recently so I daresay story time will survive, Harry-less, until next summer....

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

An Early Return

Well, we were supposed to be away until tomorrow, but we came back on Tuesday in the end, as both Jon and Emily had come down with a yukky bug causing much vomiting and diarrhea :-(( Just in time too, as once we got back yesterday I too was sick four times and had to retire to bed early with a high temperature and chills. We're all feeling a bit better now though.

We had a great few days away, although Emily, bless her, was extremely sad to leave. It was a shame, but there wasn't any point in prolonging the agony as by Monday neither she nor Jon were really well enough to go anywhere and had we stayed I've had been in that position on Tuesday too.

Anyway; we left here last Thursday evening to drive up to St Bees straight after Emily's ballet lesson. Drive seemed to take **forever** in the dark!! On Friday we walked a few miles along the cliff top path to the completely deserted and exceptionally magical Fleswick Bay which is only accessible from the cliff path or by boat.
It's a long time since I've visited anywhere so atmospheric. We didn't see a single soul the whole time we were there. We did see lots of wildlife including oyster catchers and herons. Unfortunately it was the wrong time of year to see the major sea bird colonies, including puffins, that normally nest here. Many of the sandstone rocks had been sculpted into beautiful shapes by the waves and the rockpools were superb.
Exciting caves, jewelled shingle (yes, we did find some agate) and the mystery of shipwrecks just off the shore and smugglers very active here in the past.

Fantastic stuff. Jon was constantly hit by vivid oranges and purples in his mind; I'm sure there was some spiritual activity going on there.

It was a tough walk, mind. My thighs certainly felt the strain for the next couple of days.

Back at the caravan later that afternoon we strolled the two minutes to the beach. The tide was full in but undeterred Emily and Jon spent hours offering driftwood gifts to the sea (which it kept spitting back out again...make of that what you will), carving sandstone and cracking open pebbles. In fact, there was an awful lot of geology learnt on this trip, lol, between looking at the layers in the cliffs at Fleswick, learning to identify sandstone vs other types of rock, discussing why sandstone is so easily broken/crushed/carved and other types of rock aren't, and some very major pebble crushing. That became a popular pasttime each day at the beach. Emily and I found a "Potions Rock" that remains just (and only just) above the high tide level and is the perfect size for two people to sit on with lots of little dips and hollows for breaking up pebbles, grinding them and making potions :-)) She filled a plastic bottle with some of the ground up mixture - unfortunately it got wet in the rain but we'll dry it out and then she's going to put it in a glass bottle as a pretty ornament.

Anyway, Saturday was a lovely sunny day and we spent the morning at the beach at low tide this time.
Emily had a fab time rockpooling and found a butterfish, a starfish and a blenny as well as the normal crabs and shrimps. Jon got sand in his eye which **really** hurt!!! Saturday afternoon we went to St Bees Maize Maze just in time as it was closing on the Sunday. It was massive!!! Emily and I got hopelessly lost and didn't even make it through the first half of the maze let alone the second half.
There was at least one pig (possibly more) loose in the maze and since we were the only ones there and didn't know this in advance the noises coming from among the plants were rather spooky to begin with and Emily's face was a picture when this enormous grey and pink pig suddenly burst out from nowhere and tried eating her coat! Back from the maze having admitted defeat we went back to the beach for some bubblegum icecream and more potion making. In the evening Emily and Jon went to explore down on the beach by torchlight.

Unfortunately by then, Jon was starting to feel really poorly and the vomiting had begun in earnest :-// He missed out on some fabulous fresh fish and chips when they got back to the caravan...but then again, it's probably just as well! I have to say I didn't realise just how poorly he was until yesterday when I felt the same..so I was probably rather horrible to him at the time :-(( On Sunday we went to Maryport and visited the lovely Aquarium which, pound for pound, was more impressive than the Deep.
We also played mini golf there, before going up onto the cliffs to visit Senhouse Roman Museum which was a big hit; Emily left the building vowing to begin a Romans project immediately ;-) She has also now started a collection of roman coins. Back to the beach again in the evening - it's so nice to just wander there on a whim. By bedtime on Sunday Emily too was feeling very poorly, so we didn't get much sleep.

Emily was convinced she felt better on Monday morning and desperately wanted to go out somewhere, but Jon and I weren't so sure given her temperature. We decided to stay close by and just went a few miles into Whitehaven to visit The Beacon - well, that was the plan, but apparently it's closed on Mondays. Oh well. We went to The Rum Story instead. That was impressive and very interesting, detailing everything from how rum is made through slavery in the sugar plantations, rum in the navy and the history of the Jeffersons. Jon and I enjoyed that although poor Emily really wasn't well enough to take it in. Here she is in the rainforest section.
You can't tell from the picture but she was feeling awful! We left and made our way, through torrential rain, back to the caravan for an afternoon of snuggling up with a DVD and one last visit to the beach in the pouring rain where the little stream had become a raging torrent and carved a great gash through the sand. Last picture is of an extremely poorly and rather folorn little one who really didn't want to go home but who was losing the battle against whatever this bug was :-(
It was fairly clear by then that nobody was particularly getting any better, so we were more or less decided on going home the next day and after poor Emmy was sick twice more in the night and had the runs too, it was time to call it a day.

So after a fraught journey home that again seemed to take forever, here we are, back to a lovely welcome from the cats and the sight of hundreds upon hundreds of orders. Today we're all feeling slightly better so in among the tidying up, unpacking (holiday stuff) and packing (orders) Emily and I have been creating Fimo characters and reinstalling the replacement printer which finally arrived on warranty, our old one having given up the ghost about a fortnight before we went away. Busy week ahead with extra ballet lessons scheduled, friends coming to play and Uncle David & Aunty Barbara arriving from Canada to pick up Grandad. Normal service will be resumed...eventually!