Friday, December 29, 2006

There Are Two Types of People in the World....

....those who can successfully give their cat a tablet and those who cannot.

Guess which category not only I, but my entire family fall into?

So. Merlin had his stitches out this morning and I brought him back home with three seperate types of pills. One of them was a one off, one for 10 days twice a day and one for the foreseeable future and possibly for good, twice a day. That's an awful lot of pills.

At least, reading this funny piece, it seems I'm not alone in my total inability to get this stuff down Merlin's throat. Cats may be many things, but stupid isn't one of them. Forget putting it in the food. Forget putting it in butter or oil, blowing it down the throat, syringing it down with water, wrapping it in a bit of chicken (which he's now not allowed anyway) or any number of other strategies I've read about and tried today. Most certainly, absolutely, definitely forget the simple open-his-mouth-put-pill-in-stroke-throat-there-all-over malarky so ably demonstrated by all vets and vet nurses. I've occasionally been able to fool one or two of the cats into taking one tablet, say for worming. But several a day, twice a day???

So far, Merlin has had approximately half of one of the above tablets from his morning load. And now it's evening and time for the evening pilling session. At this rate, the backlog is going to mount up at a rather alarming rate :-//

Have ordered a "cat piller" device. Not holding out much hope, but we shall see!!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Merlin Update - VERY Good News!

Have already posted for today, but must just add this bit about Merlin. Vet rang late this afternoon with the results of his biopsy samples. He does NOT have lymphatic cancer, which we had thought it looked like after too much google research (sigh) and which the vet admitted today had been where she was headed too. There were no traces of anything cancerous in any of his samples. What he does have, apparently, is Feline Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which can be fatal if left untreated but which in Merlin's case, since he otherwise appears so healthy for his age, they're confident can be fully treated and kept under control. :-)))))))

I'm taking him to the vets tomorrow to have his stitches out and whilst there I have to pick up a whole load of "stuff" for him. The treatment initially is going to be a hypo allergenic prescription diet, steroids, a particular type of antibiotic (not quite sure why that one, she lost me a bit there, will have to ask again) and extra strength worming medication just to make doubly sure it's not a parasitic cause (although he has been wormed regularly). For the time being, he has to have the prescription food and absolutely NOTHING else at all, not even a bite of anything, while they try to isolate what's caused all the problems. The vet wants to see him again in a week's time to see how the prescription food is affecting him, and they'll take it from there with regular tests. Apparently - fingers crossed - the improvement should be fairly dramatic and with careful management Merlin should get rapidly back to his old self. It's going to be a real struggle, food-wise, to keep him away from everything else edible for a prolonged period of time - it's not easy in a house with three other cats!! - but we've got to do it, so do it we will.

Anyway. Fantastic news for Merlin, bless his heart. Emily's sooooo pleased!

Flowers & A Garden

Emily's had a very creative day today. She loves playing with her dolls house (which was mine when I was small) but it doesn't have a garden - so one of her Christmas presents was a DIY dolls house garden kit which she was very pleased with. This morning we dug out a big polystyrene square for the base, ordinary glue and the hot glue gun and away she went:

A couple of hours later she had created this beautiful garden complete with pond, very detailed rockery with waterfall, a fountain, fencing and hedges, dovecote and trees, a path to the shed etc. She's very proud of it and so are we!

Emily's extremely adept with the hot glue gun these days and can quite happily be left alone to use it. Her practical skills are coming on fast in all areas. She has loads of the garden kit left over so she thinks she might make another different garden sometime soon and swap them around as she feels like it, or she might keep the stuff and build a polystyrene dragon land to go with some of her little dragons.

Later on today a flower delivery arrived for Grandad from his other grandchildren; he very kindly asked if Emily would like to arrange the flowers for him, so she came up with these two lovely baskets of flowers, greenery and pine cones:
We've also had fun today playing with a finger chopper magic trick from Emily's stocking and with a Da Vinci Code number code game. Emily has also been playing with the Barbie/12 Dancing Princesses PC game and various other bits and bobs. As well as the completed dolls house garden, of course!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas Piccies

Had a lovely Christmas. Well, if truth be told a slightly over emotional one in places, especially at bedtime, but lovely everywhere else.

Emily heard sleigh bells again at bedtime on Christmas Eve, just like last year. Must have been the reindeer flying overhead on their way to Scotland. Unlike last year, however, Emily didn't wake up on Christmas morning until 5.30, lol, which was a distinct improvement on last year's 3.15. She opened her stocking in bed with us at 6am amid squeals of delight and alarmed looks from Romeo and Juliet who clearly hadn't worked out what was going on. Forever to be remembered as the "hair bow stocking" as Santa had gone a bit overboard with the hair accessories this year, lol. Must have been looking at those job lots on ebay that did it. There were lots of other lovely bits and bobs in her stocking too though, including a baby Hedwig and a cuddly Hippogriff!

After the Great Stocking Opening we went downstairs to get some breakfast and for Emily to pull Daddy's and my homemade presents from her out from under the dining room Christmas tree. Here she is waiting for us to open our loot:
and here are our lovely home made presents, including a serviette decoupage-d candle holder, bookmark, necklace, love tokens, fimo models of us both, all sorts of other things and beautiful cards with snowflakes on a chain for Daddy's first one and a bag of glitter on his second, a paper doll version of me on my first one and reindeer in the snow on my second one. In the run up to Christmas Emily spent *hours* down there doing secret craft stuff and it was sooooo touching to see how much effort she'd gone to. Our Star Girl.

Back upstairs to our little Christmas tree and Emily's main presents from us. She had a ball and loved everything, especially the guitar she'd been wanting for months and months. She was impressed with the personalised Harry Potter Christmas card too, lol.

Later on in the morning Emily showed off all her new pressies to Nana, Gramps and Grandad and had a long chat on the phone with Uncle David and Aunty Barbara. Christmas Dinner was superb and enjoyed by everyone. We had loads of crackers and Emily had made little angels to go on every plate. We normally keep back one present to give Emily after she's finished her dinner while everyone else is still eating - this year it was the Fashion Folder we made for her with the blank fashion croquis in it; I also found blank handbag and shoe templates and blank faces for her to design make up onto. That seemed to go down well :-)
After Christmas dinner, we had two competitions, entirely designed and thought up by Emily in the days before Christmas - a dance competition and a drawing competition. She'd thought it through and organised it really well, I was very impressed! Everyone had fun doing those. Daddy won the drawing competition which probably wasn't surprising, but Emily awarded me the prize for the dancing competition, rofl, so I think she may have been a teeny bit biased!

Then it was time to delve under the big Christmas tree for the grown ups' pressies to each other and for Emily's presents from Nana/Gramps/Grandad/Uncle D & Aunty B. Emily ably dished everything out and she was thrilled to bits with her little hoard which included lovely clothes, a home planetarium and some beautiful ornaments for her collections from Nana and Gramps, a beautiful lilac jumper from D&B and a big gothic dark knights/castle/battle set from Grandad. She'd "adopted" this set on numerous visits to Tesco because she thought some of the bits in it would do as Harry Potter characters/creatures - thestrals, voldermort etc. Who knows if she'll have some of the real characters to add to the play set come her birthday? ;-)

The rest of the day and the following two days have been spent playing with Emily's new bits and bobs. On Boxing Day she managed to spend FOUR HOURS lying on the floor downstairs engrossed in Ello whilst watching the first few episodes of W.i.t.c.h and the Narnia film on DVD. Four hours!!! Why doesn't this girl have a concentration span that long when it comes to maths??

This afternoon I took Gramps and Nana to Lincoln for Gramps' hospital appointment to look inside his bladder, which seems to have gone very smoothly. Can't believe how fast they were in and out; I wish Scunthorpe General would take some lessons from Lincoln. Merlin is still doing great as far as recovery from his surgery goes. It may be wishful thinking but we all think he's even put on a little bit of weight since then. Back to the vets for him on Friday to have his stitches out, then he'll finally be allowed to eat normally and go back out to play in his kingdom! Meanwhile, I'm finalising a plan in my head to make Emily's birthday really special for her. Five days now and counting!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas Eve

Emily and I have spent most of Christmas Eve in the kitchen - we were about half way through when this picture was taken....the flour covering got worse!

We made a scrummy looking orange/chocolate explosion sponge cake to be our main Christmas cake

and Emily's also made florentines, chocolate caramel slices and chocolate shortbread slices as gifts. We were going to make chocolate museli slices too, but that was pushing it a bit for one baking session!!

And so, it's now dark and we're heading into the evening. We'll be playing some games this evening and then it's off to bed for a certain someone still young and un-jaded enough, thank goodness, to want to listen for sleigh bells tonight :-)))

Merry Christmas to all who read this. I hope you have a wonderful, memory filled family day!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Nearly Christmas

Christmas Eve tomorrow, then. Where's the month gone?

Yesterday Emily and I wrapped up everyone else's Christmas presents and played various Harry Potter inspired pretends for, oooh, hours and hours. Good job I like Harry Potter or I'd have left home a long time ago ;-)

Today, Emily's friend Kayleigh has been round to play since lunchtime; her little sisters and brother came in for a brief play too before Trish took them off to brave the supermarket. Eeep. As I type this, the two big girls are constructing something complicated from Ello down at the other end of the hall. Such concentration!!

Last night, at about half one in the morning, I was sitting here working and I heard breaking glass; it sounded like it came from right outside this window, which is at the back of the house. I hadn't yet set the house alarm, so that was doubly worrying. I rushed off to set the alarm, pronto, and came back to see what was happening. You know when you're listening for something so intently you daren't move or even breathe in case you miss it? Must have stood stock still for about 20 minutes; I was half convinced someone was trying to get in downstairs and I kept hearing noises. I was really worried; not certain enough there was anything going on to warrant phoning the police or anything drastic, but far too concerned to go to sleep. It's a very old house that makes lots of noise at the best of times, but of course once something's set your imagination off, it's no longer the normal creaks and groans, it's bound to be a mad serial killer breaking his way in.....In the end, Jon gallantly volunteered to stay up so I could go to bed. And stay up he did - right through the night!

This meant that by the time I emerged, bleary eyed this morning, the Christmas Fairy had been and all of Emily's remaning presents and stocking stuff were beautifully wrapped up ;-)) Which was a huge weight off my mind and means I can now finally relax and enjoy the next couple of days. We never did find any broken glass anywhere. Decidedly strange.

We've decided against going to the carol service in Lincoln Cathedral tomorrow after all. We've just had enough of "doing things" now - it's been an extremely busy December, we've hardly stopped and now we just want to be at home together. Emily and I will be spending most of tomorrow up to our elbows in flour anyway, as we have three lots of last minute gifts to bake for family members. Every year until now we've been to the village carol service, but I think we'll even give that one a miss too. I'm looking forward to a peaceful (if busy) Christmas Eve without having to check the time and see where we're supposed to be and what we're supposed to be doing and with whom!

Oh, and Merlin's had a bit of a repreive from the vet. She had insisted that he could only have prescription mushy food until next Friday, but the poor thing has been so starving hungry! Yesterday we asked if it would be OK to give him some freshly cooked chicken mixed with plain rice and she relented and said yes (after we'd told her how he was so desperate he even clawed his way into a packet of scones when nobody was looking and had half eaten one!!). So he's a much more full-up chappy now and will even get a tiny portion of his usual festive turkey on Christmas Day :-))

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Yule!

At the moment, a very excited small person is jumping up and down, having just seen the breaking news on the BBC website that the title of the final Harry Potter book has just been released. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, eh? Well, my money was on HP & The Graveyard of Memories, but there you go. I daresay many children (and many grown ups who probably should know better but can't help but get sucked in!) will have worked themselves up into a frenzy of anticipation by the time the thing's published, speculating on what/where or even who the Deathly Hallows are or were! I reckon it's got something to do with that veil in the ministry of magic. We shall see.

Anyways. We had a wonderful day yesterday. Emily's friend Maisie came round for the day and the two girls made angels from gold/silver paper plates and doilies and they made secret Christmas sweetie holders in the shape of Xmas trees from loo roll holders, lol. Very Blue Peter. They also had lunch, tea, a wonderful play and completely trashed the place, but it was so nice to hear the laughter and giggles; it was worth the mess!!

Today we've been celebrating Yule and the winter solstice. Because we've still go so much to do for Christmas, we didn't get to look at this festival as indepth as we would have liked to, but we did read a lot about the pagan yule traditions and symbols and discussed how much of this has found its way into the Christian Christmas. Emily hadn't realised that nobody actually knows when Jesus was born, and that it's pretty unlikely to have been on December 25th, so she was surprised to learn that the only reason this date was adopted was because the "ruling classes" of the time wanted to convert the heathens without undue fuss and so chose a time of year when they were used to celebrating anyway. I think I remember reading somewhere that what little evidence there is suggests that Jesus was born in February sometime, but I can't quite put my finger on that bit of knowledge. May have to look it up again.

We're not having a real Christmas tree so we couldn't follow the tradition of bringing on in and decorating it today, but we did what we could to get plenty of greenery into the house, braving the extremely frosty and fog ridden garden complete with more spiders webs than I've ever seen in my life. Look at this bush, for instance - always knew there was a reason I didn't like this one!

Then we set about making some yule wreaths. Emily loved doing this, but it was an awful lot harder than it looks!

We had holly from our tree, loads of fir cones, evergeen bits and bobs, dried orange slices and cinammon stick bundles, some of which we left natural and some of which we sprayed gold, silver or snowy. Here's Emily's finished wreath with orange/cinammon. In the middle is another smaller wicker circle she made with an orange at the centre and cinammon at the top, all sprayed gold. I think she made an excellent job of arranging and wiring everything on.
And this one's mine, with holly and greenery sprayed gold. The snowy dried oranges in the middle are Emily's again.
We also read some yule stories and used a smudge stick in every room in the house to clear negative energy:

We spent the rest of the day finishing up some Christmas presents. Emily's made Boxes of Love for Nana/Gramps and for Grandad - beautifully decorated boxes and inside she's written dozens of reasons why she loves them, all rolled up into tiny little scrolls tied with gold ribbon :-))

Merlin has made an incredible recovery from his surgery. His appetite is back to being HUGE again and he's very disgruntled at only being allowed the mushy prescription food. He's also desperate to go out and survey his kingdom. Basically, if it wasn't for the large shaven areas you wouldn't know he'd been through the surgery at all. It's going to be a long week for him until next Friday when the stitches come out and he's allowed to eat what he likes again - and go out!

Meanwhile, Royal Mail are up to their usual standards of service this Christmas. Every time I walk past the PC there are another few frantic messages from customers, wanting to know why their items haven't arrived yet. Sigh. It really is a disgrace. Although I do wish people would order earlier too - everyone knows the postal system is utterly incapable, so why leave it to the last second?? We're looking forward to a few evenings with very few items to pack now - just as well, as Santa needs some help wrapping Emily's presents!

Off for a quick bath before watching "A Tudor Christmas Feast" documentary on BBC2 tonight. Oooh, and Emily saw a trailer yesterday for the 2nd series of Project Catwalk coming soon, so we're looking forward to that.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Merlin's Home!

Thanks for your kind thoughts, Elle. :-)

Merlin came home from the vets this afternoon. Had to ask my Mum and Dad to take Emily with them to fetch him, as I was out at the hospital with Grandad and Jon's old car (our "spare") is knackered, again.

Poor old Merlin has virtually all of his tummy shaved and a big long line of stitches. Added to the large shaven area on his flank from his last visit, plus half of one of his front legs shaven from the drip etc - he looks in a very sorry state, bless him. His film star looks may take a while to return ;-)

The really good news, though, is that he seems to be a lot better than he looks. He's very alert and active and was clearly delighted to be home, purring away at everyone and being licked by the other cats (well, except Romeo who's keeping a cautionary distance and has only got as far as sniffing Merlin's foot, lol). Merlin will be on a special prescription diet for the next fortnight and for the next few days he's only allowed a teaspoonful at a time, but he's eagerly eating it and he's been washing himself a lot too. He has to go back to have his stitches out on the 29th and isn't allowed out until then - which will be fun, trying to keep him in and allow the other three out!! He's also not allowed any "treats" for a while, so we'll have to save the ones in his cat stocking until the New Year. By which time we should finally know what's wrong with him and what can be done.

Emily's soooo pleased to have him home and has been writing him poems and drawing get well cards for him all afternoon :-)

In other news - Grandad's visit to the renal clinic was good news in that they don't really think there's anything wrong with his kidneys apart from old age. He had one blood test a while ago that showed a spike of something or other which is why he was referred, but more recent tests show everything back to a normal level. He's got an appointment for a kidney ultrasound on the day after Emily's birthday anyway, just to make absolutely sure.

Emily and I thoroughly enjoyed watching Hogfather over the last couple of nights. I've never ready any Terry Pratchett stuff, but I was really taken with this adaptation, so maybe we'll read some. This afternoon Emily turned some of her Barbies into Death, Death's Grandaughter, Mr Teatime and Violet the Tooth Fairy, lol. She made great costumes for them!

Meanwhile, business has been manic. We've worked our little socks off to get orders out by today, this being royal mail's last "guaranteed" (yeah, right, roll on the floor laughing hard enough to rupture something) date for Christmas delivery. Last minute orders are still coming in but it's starting to slow down now. The last parcel I was waiting for, Xmas/Birthday wise, finally turned up today so all presents apart from the handmade ones are now, well, present and accounted for. Which is a long way away from wrapped up, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Gulp. Major craft day with friends tomorrow, so Jon and I may be able to sneak some wrapping up time while the kids are busy.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dragons & Cats

Dragons and cats have been uppermost in our minds today. Well, one particular cat, our poor old Merlin. This is a picture I love of Merlin, with Emily, looking sleek and healthy, about a year ago or possibly 18 months ago.
Now though, Merlins's just skin and bones, you feel as if you're going to crush his ribs when you pick him up and as if you must surely be hurting him when you stroke him as all you can feel is bone :-(( Took him in to the vets this morning for his exploratory surgery. He knew what was coming having been starved last night for the third time in a couple of weeks and the poor thing was desperately trying to hide to avoid having to go in the carry basket :-(( He was not a happy chappy at all and I must admit to having shed a few tears as I handed him over to the vet nurse this morning.

We were on tenterhooks all day waiting to hear from the vets; when we finally did hear it was to tell us that they're keeping Merlin in over night so we can't go and fetch him until tomorrow. He recovered well from the anaesthetic but he has a drip in and they want him to have the whole lot of fluid before they let him go. Hate the thought of him being there overnight but there will be someone there with him and the vet said to Jon that they're all fond of him now, because of his sooo sweet nature.

The vet discovered that part of Merlin's intenstine has "hardened" - don't know what exactly that means, but that's what they said - and that his lymph nodes were enlarged too. They were either unable or unwilling to say what this was, exactly, but have taken three biopsy samples to send away, the results of which should be back at the end of this week but with it being Christmas, who knows, maybe not until the following week. At least it's not a tumour; they would have seen it if it was. It's all quite traumatic, but hopefully the results of these samples will clear up what exactly is going on. Whether it's something treatable or not remains to be seen, but at least we'll know. Merlin's sister Cassandra (Cassie-Cat) seems to be missing her brother already, and Romeo and Juliet have both been jumpy and skittish all day so I think all three remaining cats know something's up.

Anyway, on to the dragons part of the day - in order to take Emily's mind off Merlin having his operation, she and I went off the cinema this morning to see Eragon. It wasn't as magical as I'd hoped it would be, but it was reasonably engaging. Loved Robert Carlye's evil Durza and Edward Speleers was cute. In fact, he reminded me remarkably of someone - have been racking my brains to think who, but I can't put my finger on it. Anyway, I thought he was this other someone, a famous actor - I didn't realise this was his first film.

Emily enjoyed Eragon; I think she's getting quite an interest in dragons, and not only thanks to our friend Mr Potter either. This is just as well, given some of her Christmas presents!!

Once we'd heard from the vets this afternoon and could relax slightly, Emily went off downstairs to do yet more arty crafty Christmas stuff while Jon had a blazing row on the phone with one of our wholesalers. About time too, they've been treating us like dirt - which, considering we were well on course to spend 120k with them this year, and have now taken the vast majority of that business elsewhere, has been probably unwise of them.

After that, Jon and I had fun doing our traditional pressie sort out - pile everything on the bed and decide what's for Christmas and what's for birthday. In 14 day's time, we'll have an 8 year old!!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Friends, Fun & A New Belt!

Emily's had a really nice few days "socially speaking" which has been lovely to see. On Thursday morning she and Jon went off to tai chi and one of the ladies there asked Emily to give George his Christmas present (bottle of scotch, lol) and card on behalf of the whole group, so off she went to present them to him in front of everyone and gave a little speech, bless her. Until very recently you'd never have thought of Emily doing that. Her confidence is growing in leaps and bounds.

On Thursday afternoon I took Grandad to the hospital eye clinic and got back much sooner than expected in time to take Emily to ballet. She wore tinsel in her hair and had a ball playing with Kate and her other friends there and handing out/receiving Christmas cards.

On Friday Kate and her mum came round to play and have tea with us. The two girls had a wonderful time and put on a fashion show for us. Huge hugs at going home time, lol, even though they were going to see each other the next morning at ballet anyway. Margaret and I had a good chat too; we've all become quite close rather quickly, which is unusual for us as we normally take a while to "warm" to people (code for not being a very sociable lot, lol).

Yesterday was extremely busy - we were up at just gone 7 to start baking for Emily's karate Christmas party. Emily made chocolate chip Christmas tree and star cookies, all beautifully iced and decorated, and she also made snowman cakes. We just finished the baking in time to scoot out to the last ballet of term. Emily's class put on a little performance for the parents which was very impressive considering they'd only had an hour to learn it from scratch.

Back home and time to grab some lunch before making two lots of sandwiches and sausage rolls for the party. Emily got dressed up in her new red party dress with tinsel and glitter in her hair and off the three of us went. We arrived a bit early to help George and his wife with the food and Emily loved helping to lay the tables with party poppers and crackers. It was a **brilliant** party; I was so impressed! There were just under 50 children there, from all the classes George teaches, ranging from about 5-15. Emily was exhausted by the time it was over - they played loads of games and had dancing competitions too.....and of course, Santa came to visit. Thought Emily was going to burst with excitement when Daddy had to sneak off to get dressed up!! Jon did an amazing job as Santa. He was so nervous beforehand but you'd never know it - he was mobbed by the kids and talked to them non stop (including the teenagers, who seemed to love him, rofl!!). Some of the little ones definitely thought he was the real thing. Bless. The grown ups have booked him next year already ;-))

I was a bit upset though, because something weird happened just as Santa arrived - my camera, which was fully charged and had been working perfectly for hours, blacked out the second he walked through the door. It would turn on and off and would let you review photos, but when I tried to take pictures the screens were just black. Tried lots of different modes, flash on, flash off, everything. It had taken a perfect photo seconds before. It wasn't anything silly like the lends cap being on because of course I checked that, and anyway it warns you when that's the case. And....spoookily....after Santa had left and Daddy had returned, I gave him the camera....he turned it on and it worked perfectly :-(( So we have no pics of Daddy as Santa surrounded by the kids, but Jackie took some and is going to give us copies, thank goodness. Emily was so proud of her Daddy :-)))

Here's our star girl in party mode anyway. Will post pics of Santa when we get them. Musical Chairs to begin with....

Sharing Gossip....

Tea Time...

....and I loved this photo, blurry though it is, it sums up Emily's party mood -she never stopped!

As if all that wasn't enough excitement (!) this morning Emily had her first karate grading. She scored 63 out of 90 and is thefore now officially a yellow belt :-)))) Emily scored well above average considering the pass is 45/90 and George has stated frequently that he never gives 9s and 10s and only gives an 8 for exceptional work. She'll get her new belt when they go back after the Christmas break. They only do grading twice a year since making progress more rapidly than that goes against George's philosophy, so she'll have to wait until the summer to move on. She's as proud as punch and so are we!

And just to add to the spooky happenings around Jon lately: on top of the inexplicable camera failing yesterday and other things too numerous to mention.....last night, a pair of his black trousers went into the wash. Before going to bed my Mum took them out of the washing machine and spread them out on top of it to dry. They were fine and half dry already. This morning, they were covered in sand (????) and soaking wet. Okkkkaaaay. Something's going on here!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Busy Days

Well, Emily only has 19 days of being seven left - quite scary where this year's gone, really. December is turning into a bit of a blur - we're working so hard, business wise, and trying to fit a lot else in too. There hasn't been an awful lot of education going on here this last week (month!), hand on heart, but hey, we'll make up for it in the New Year. I'm consoling myself with the knowledge that when we DO work, Emily does far more than she would be doing in school, so we can afford to take it easy every now and then.

Today we've been out to York for the day. Came home exhausted, lol. Jon's barely getting any sleep at the moment and even though Emily and I are, we feel as if we're not. Anyway, we went for a return visit to York Dungeons, which was excellent and had changed a bit from when we were there earlier in the year. We particularly liked the Christmassy theme with "Satan's Grotto", featuring the big bloke in red and white himself....with horns and an attitude. We also LOVED the Labyrinth of the Lost which was a maze with completely mirrored walls - could have spent ages in there, it was fabulously well done. In other parts of the dungeon, Emily had to have her neck inspected for vampire bites and narrowly avoided becoming a resident of the torture chamber, while Jon had thumbscrews applied and was put in the dock in the courtroom, like Emily was last time we went.

After the Dungeons we had a fabulous lunch in pizza hut and then went to the extremely huge York Castle Museum - we spent hours in there! Emily being Emily, she adored "Kirkgate", the reconstruction of a Victorian street and immediately christened it Diagon Alley after......well, you can probably guess after what. It was very Diagon Alley-ish indeed, and great fun. Here's Emily with the horse and carriage: and the closest she's been to school for over 2 years, lol:
and with her nose eagerly pressed up against the front window of - what else - "Honeydukes"!
The Clifford Tower car park had an ice rink in it - we were going to go, since it was right outside the museum, but we spent so long in the museum it was very late and we were worn out by the time we got out. We finally got home even more worn out, thanks to my superb navigation skills which managed to get me half way back to the Humber Bridge, where I most definitely didn't want to be, instead of headed towards Selby and the M62. Ho hum.

So that was today. Yesterday was Emily's last yoga before the New Year. I was invited to the party too (none of the other parents stay to wait, so they missed out on cake, lol) and we all made some fabulous mandala Christmas cards and generally had fun.

Also yesterday was Merlin's return visit to the vet. They took a bladder sample and some x-rays. The x-rays show that parts of his intestines are enlarged, so he's going back again on Monday, bless him, for exploratory surgery to see exactly what's going on in there and for some biopsy samples to be taken if necessary. We were worried whether he'd be strong enough to cope with the surgery, but according to the vet he's not at any increased risk over and above the normal risk levels because despite being so desperately thin he's still very active and alert, eating well and they can't detect any issues with his heart, so they're assuring us he'll be fine. Feel rotten putting him through that, but it looks like it's the only chance we're going to get of *possibly* being able to make him a little better, or at least find out what we're facing. They're being very upbeat about it probably being something treatable. We'll be nervous wrecks on Monday, but have decided to go to the cinema to see Eragon straight from dropping Merlin off, to try and take Emily's mind off it a little.

Monday....what happened on Yes. Emily spent most of the day "crafting"; Jon and I spent most of the day working. Jon had his psychic circle on Monday night and spent time doing angel card readings. A lady he told to buy a lottery ticket after his last meeting did so, and won something, so that was interesting. Jon also had a long chat with George's wife about the way they're home educating their children - turns out they have much the same opinions and views as we do, which is refreshing.

The weekend was extremely manic; Jon and I between us listed well over 100 ebay items and I completed work for three different deadlines. Emily went to Karate and learnt something very complicated (!). It's her first grading on Sunday, so she's very excited about that. On Saturday Emily had been due to go to Flamingoland with my Mum and Dad, but Dad was really poorly so they didn't go. Emily and Nana had a right old day instead, baking cakes and playing trivial pursuit and catopoly for hours.

Friday, Jon and Emily went to the library and Emily took out the audio version of Northern Lights, the first one in the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pulman. Good grief it's complicated! Or maybe it's just me! She's also reading Diamond Girls and Cat Mummy by Jacqueline Wilson and has been sent a new book to review for the EO magazine. And she and Daddy bought Warriors: The New Prophecy Book 5 - Twilight and are busy devouring that. The news that Book 6, Sunset will be released at the end of December caused great excitement, and the news that a new series, Warriors: Power of Three, is coming next year, caused even more excitement. Meanwhile, Mr Potter and his assorted friends, allies and enemies are still reigning supreme in my dear daughter's affections. Emily's been busy writing lots of HP stories and plots and is in the middle of composing a Harry Potter version of the 12 Days of Christmas......

Tomorrow Emily's out at tai chi and ballet and I'm out taking Grandad to hospital. On Friday Kate is coming to play/tea, then it's Saturday and the last ballet before Christmas followed swiftly by the Christmas Karate party, then it's Sunday and the karate grading, then it's Monday and Merlin to the vets, then it's Tuesday and another Grandad hospital appointment, then it's Wednesday with a friend round all day for Xmas crafts, then it's Thursday and our Yule celebrations, then it's Friday with another friend round to play all day, then it's a brief rest on Saturday before Christmas Eve and the carol sevice at Lincoln Cathedral. And I may get time to breathe at some point, or even to write pieces for the next four deadlines looming next week. You never know.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas Crafting

As is the way during December, it's been a very crafty week so far. Emily has spent hours making various beautiful Christmas presents for friends and family and she's been busy making cards too. My favourite is a stunning quilled sleigh plus presents which she's made for her "cousin" Elise in Canada. We've also put up yet more Christmas decorations. The new tree arrived on Monday so we now have a tree upstairs too, although this one has had to be tied to the wall thanks to kittens' efforts to climb the flippin' thing. Rolls eyes.

Jon went to his psychic circle meeting again on Monday night. He did some very accurate readings for a couple of people, picking up on someone's theatrical background and interests and on someone else's recent run of extremely good luck. Next year we'll definitely have to look into some weekend courses for Jon here.

Yesterday the vet rang with the results of Merlin's blood and liver tests. Apparently the liver test showed slightly low albumen protein, but not sufficient to be a concern and not the cause of his deterioration. He has to go back next week for them to look at his bladder and take some survery x-rays but as yet it's still a mystery :-( If they don't find anything on the x-rays then we're looking at an intestine biopsy. Assuming he's strong enough to withstand that - he's so frail, poor thing :-((( The vet was quite upbeat, saying this loss of condition is fairly common in cats his age and that there are many things it *could* be, most of which are treatable - but of course, it could be a cancer of some kind, in which case it's just a matter of time. It's heartbreaking. At the moment Merlin's quality of life is still OK, we think. He doesn't seem to be in pain although he's not as affectionate as he always used to be. How long that quality of life will last though is something we're trying not to wonder about.

On a happier note, Emily and I had fun at yoga on Tuesday evening. For the last two lessons this term they decided to do Christmassy things; I was invited to join the lesson and we spent a happy hour making yoga wrapping paper, lol. Next week we're making mandala Christmas cards and having a bit of a party :-))

Yesterday was fun too; Emily went to play and have tea at her friend Kate's house. The two girls played beautifully and Margaret and I had a very interesting natter too. Emily and Jon have been to tai chi this morning and we're off to ballet shortly. Time's flying by. Our little girl is nearly 8!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Pure Magic

We've had a magical afternoon and evening at Sundown Adventureland today. Emily's been several times before but never at Christmas time and it really was rather special. Mind you, between us Janette and I managed to get lost both on the way there AND the way back, which is a new record, lol. Maisie brought a collection of drawings with her to give to Emily on which she'd written all about how much she misses Emily, awwww, bless her :-)

It was very, very busy when we first arrived at Sundown but by around 5pm the crowds had started to thin out and the place was looking very pretty indeed with all the lights twinkling and the festive entertainers wandering about. Emily and Maisie giggled non stop and exhausted themselves completely with all the excitement and running around. Little collection of photos:
The girls on the horses near the entrance....traditional photo this one, lol, we've got one of Emily on this horse for every time she's been there!

In one of the wild west wagons.....

....and Cinderella's Pumpkin Carriage.

Two very beautiful "Ugly Sisters" who were much amused by the fact that everyone thought they were sisters anyway!

Performing on the stage in Lollipop Castle.....

.....and eating up the Three Bears' Porridge......

....before being caught by not one but two wicked witches!

The ticket at this time of year includes a visit to various Christmas characters and a pressie - Emily was thrilled to little bits and pieces to find the Snow Queen was there so we visited her in her beautiful ice grotto and Emily chose to get her present from there. Later on we visited Father Christmas in his house, too, for Maisie to get her present and for both girls to tell him what they'd like. He rather rashly promised them both they'd get what they asked for if they were kind and nice....

It was lovely because by that time the park was almost emtpy so the extreeeeeemly long queue there had been when we arrived was down to nothing, and the Snow Queen had finished in her grotto and came out to wave at the girls as they waited to see Santa.

We finally left after raiding the shop for some of their delicious Jaffa Cake fudge and a few goodies from the gift shop. Think we were about the last to go, it certainly seemed deserted by then. We went on the train ride, tractor ride (with its infamous song) and sleigh ride (several times!) but unfortunately the water barrel ride was closed. Never mind - a fabulous time was had by all and the girls entertained themselves on the way home by having a sock competition, spotting Christmas lights and playing their own unique version of I-Spy. Brilliant fun, the perfect tonic!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Gentle Nudges in the Right Direction

Woooo, it's December!! Just as well, I think, since if Emily had had her way we'd have had the Christmas tree up since at least Halloween ;-) She's enjoying taking every possible opportunity to wear tinsel.

It seems that "something" is nudging us as a family in a particular direction just recently. Well, not that recently...since August, really. Various not very nice things have happened to us both on a business and personal level and it's been a more traumatic five months than I can remember for a very long time. But for all that's gone wrong and been horrible, we're starting to see reasons for it all, as if certain things were "meant" to happen. It's very comforting how things seem to be fitting into place now; how isolated, unconnected things seem to be leading us down the same path, probably for the same reason. There have been personal niggles and bumps, but in particular our business has been to the brink and (just about) back which has been an awful, dreadful experience, but we've got through it and we can see light at the end of the tunnel now and a new, fresh direction. Which probably doesn't mean anything to anyone not aware of the ins and outs of our circumstances, but it really is very noticeable how things are stacking up at the moment.

At karate last Sunday, George's wife asked Jon to join her pyschic circle every Monday evening. She spent ages talking to him, saying that she sensed a reason why he'd met George and why their paths had crossed and that he was being pushed to develop his talents further in that direction. He duly went along on Monday night (didn't get back until midnight, lol) and drew some psychic art, met both a negative entity and a spirit child and was even asked to do a tarot reading for one of the guests!! He found that part hard, since he's fairly sceptical about tarot and had never done a reading before, but his intuition seemed fairly spot on. There are another couple of meetings before the Christmas break and that's definitely an area of his life that Jon will be investigating a LOT further.

Oh, yes, and Jon's also going to be Father Christmas at the big martial arts Christmas party, ROFL!! Emily's sworn to secrecy ;-))

Had a proud Mummy moment at yoga on Tuesday night. Their next yoga test will be after Christmas when, since Emily will be 8 by then, she was going to stop doing Yoga Bugs (she's now level six of that) and start again on level one of the Yoga'd Up scheme, which you have to be 8 to do. Her teacher told us, though, that she thought Emily would be bored with just that and will find the first four or five levels of Yoga'd Up very easy as she's got such an aptitude for it, so she's going to carry on with Yoga Bugs AND do Yoga'd Up at the same time, taking two tests each time instead of just the one. This is fantastic, because it would be a shame for her to miss out on the rest of the Yoga Bugs levels where she gets to work on the more advanced poses and design her own vinyassas and so on. She was very chuffed at this vote of confidence, as were we :-))

Yesterday Emily and I braved the town centre since it was market day. We were looking for pressies to buy, but failed woefully on that score, although we did get lots of good pressies and treats for the cats' stockings, so at least they'll be alright! Whilst out though we were stopped by a truancy patrol. Had to happen sooner or later, I guess. Although it could have happened in a better place than the middle of the crowded market where people had to squeeze past us and the burly policeman. Even Emily, normally happily oblivious to such things, noticed that everyone was looking at us :-// The lady with the clipboard was fine when I said Emily was home educated, so it wasn't that it was handled badly or anything - just the embarrassment factor!

Yesterday was also the first of December, of course, so the advent fairy visited. so did the attic fairy (waves at Gramps). And naturally, once all the Christmas stuff was down from the attic.....well, temptation was too much. We now have a Christmas tree up in the dining room. Mind you, this morning I found it had been well and truly Ju-Ju'd with branches, tinsel and baubles all over the floor and little Juliet, presumably worn out, fast asleep under it. Sigh. It's going to be a long month. We normally have a tree in our upstairs sitting room too but we had to throw that one away last year as it had been catted to the point of no return, bless the little furry things. Bowed to the inevitable and ordered a new one from Argos, though. That's coming on Monday so someone will be busy decorating again. And certain small furry things will no doubt be interested to hear that.

My Mum and Dad took Merlin to the vets on Monday morning because I was out with Grandad; they had to bring him straight home again, mind you, because nobody had told us that he wasn't supposed to eat or drink for 12 hours before this liver test. Oh well. I took him back on Tuesday morning and picked him up in the afternoon looking rather bloodied and sorry for himself, but he's fine now. Well, as fine as Merlin gets these days, which isn't very. We await the results.

Work wise Emily's been very self directed this week. She's arty-crafted for England, making a huge mass of Christmas decorations and she's even made a set of 24 little presents which she's wrapped up, numbered and hung on her little white twig tree in her bedroom to be an advent calendar for me and Daddy :-)) She's designed, written and illustrated a complete "Dark Arts Christmas Catalogue" full of Voldemort mugs, Dark Mark t-shirts, books like "Famous Deatheaters Of Our Time" and Dark Mark jewellery. Oh yes, the grip of Mr Potter and friends shows absolutely no sign of lessening (bit of a relief considering half her Christmas/Birthday pressies are on that theme, lol!) After looking at and discussing the features of charity newspaper adverts, she's designed her own charity advert requesting funds to repair Hogwarts' North Tower which is apparently putting the students in grave peril ;-)

Emily has also done two maths tests (?? don't ask me why), lots of reading, lots of playing with friends at ballet and yoga and lots of tai chi practice.

More karate tomorrow morning then we're off to Sundown Adventureland with friends tomorrow afternoon and evening; can't wait. Weather forecast is for heavy rain and strong winds, mind you, so we may well be rather bedraggled by the time we get back! We were due to go to York next week but we've put that off as Emily's been invited out on that day; she is still going to Flamingoland with my Mum and Dad next week though. And it's so nice to feel positive again!