Thursday, August 30, 2007

Haw's Syndrome

Looks like our baby kits have Haw's Syndrome. At least that's what I think it is (and am hoping it is). Over the last week we've noticed that their third eyelids are very prominent, often covering half their eyes. Of course Voldemort's were when he was very ill because it's a major symptom of cat illness, but even now they're both very fine and perfectly well and happy, the eyelid thing is still there. Took a picture yesterday of the kits playing together at the top of the tall climbing tree, which shows it very clearly:
I say we're hoping it's Haw's Syndrome because according to the research I've done this morning (here for instance) it appears that this doesn't cause the cat any pain or other problems, and will resolve itself without treatment, even though it may take several months to go away. It also doesn't appear to be causing them any pain or distress, so that's something to be thankful for. We'll mention it to the vet when we go back for the second vaccinations, but hopefully, other than looking a bit odd, it's not going to be a problem for the babies. It does say it can be associated with tapeworms, but they've been wormed and are not showing any of the symptoms for that.

Emily's friend Maisie is round for the day today, so they're busy kitten-sitting as I type. The kits have played with them non stop for the last two hours, so I think they like all the attention!

Yesterday was a bit of a funny day; thought we had to go out, then we didn't, then we did, then we didn't - extremely disorganised, lol. We did accomplish some bits and pieces, though. Emily wrote up the results of her chromatography experiment:We also had great fun role playing running an Egyptian city, inspired by Emily's recent doings on the Pharaoh PC game.

Emily completed the egg tempera painting work we were supposed to be doing the other day; she painted this lovely version of one of Giotto's angels:The original angel is a detail from the Dream of Joachim. She also added a page to her artists book all about Giotto, with printouts of some of his works.

While Emily was doing that, I read the first three chapters of Tales from Ancient China to her, and we made notes of the names of the Gods/Goddesses/Spirits we'd come across. She was very intrigued to discover that the sacred symbols given to man by Fu-Hsi were the origin of the feng shui Pa Kua, which relates back to the magic squares work she did with Jackie several weeks back. I love the way things tie together!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Birthday Doings & Back to Work

Had a super birthday yesterday. I was very moved by how much trouble Jon and Emily went to in finding me some fantastic pressies, and by the work my Mum and Dad put into making a scrummy birthday lunch too.

Emily spent much of last weekend doing secret arty crafty stuff, and I can see why now! She made me two beautiful encuastic art pictures, some fabulous cards including one covered in fake clay sweeties, lol, an amazing scratch art tiger and a lovely abstract painting which repeats words like happy and birthday over and over amid the swirls and also contains cut outs of the sort of things she'd like to give me if we had lots of money, bless her heart. The encuastic picture on the left is called Mystic Mountains and on the right is Doorway to your Dreams.

Present wise I was completely spoilt, with books, DVDs, perfume, body sprays, slippers (I LOVE slippers), buddhas, incense sticks, a beautiful pagan mug and all sorts of other things from Jon and Emily, as well as Emily's beautiful handmade presents; Mum and Dad bought me six bottles of wine and some champagne, a silver necklace and some black satin sheets and duvet, rofl!! And Grandad gave me some lovely, lovely Lush bath bubble bars and shampoos. I was an extremely lucky girl, to put it mildly! Oh, and you can tell you're a keen home educator when you're thrilled to bits to get, for *your* birthday, a big chemistry set you'd been wanting to do with your child ;-))

I'm delighted to say that Voldemort made a full recovery from having been at death's door on Sunday and both kitties are fit and well. Yesterday we started giving them the ear drops the vet had prescribed - that's a messy job and no mistake. And for such wee little things, they can't half put up a fight when they really don't like something :-// Despite being administered correctly the ear drops, however, manage to make their way from kitten ears to all over kitten heads, necks, chests and front paws, so by the time they'd had their second dose, they looked like little alien kitties. I must admit I though the original back of the neck thing had cured the ear mites. But the incompetent woman vet we saw told us not to clean the existing muck out of their ears. I don't know whether she thought it would spontaneously vanish. Sigh. So when the new vet looked in Voldemort's ears and saw all the muck, he had no way of telling whether it was old or new. I reckon they no longer have mites. So today we've cleaned their ears, which will make it easy to tell whether there's any fresh granules appearing or not, and we'll stop the ear drops unless and until there are.

Today Emily and I have got back to some work since it's only today and tomorrow free this week. After a quick times table practice and some English, Emily worked on a "timeline timeout" from the history course. This involved looking back at the separate civilisations studied so far (Sumerians, Assyrians, Hittites, Babylonians, Ancient Egyptians, Ancient Africans) and getting an idea of the bigger picture, who was around when, who was more advanced than who at the same time. That was a really useful exercise and I think she enjoyed doing it. As we progress with this course we'll have ancient China, Ancient India, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans etc to add to the picture too, so there are several more of the timeline timeouts spread about later on.

This afternoon we worked on chemistry, looking at paper chromatography and doing an experiment to separate the colours in various ball point pen inks, and learning about the differences between filtration and evaporation and when each can be useful for separating mixtures.

After that, we started looking at English from the Roots Up which Emily liked a lot; I think she's going to find it fun being able to decode long words or make up new ones using the right roots.

And so September is nearly here. The year's gone scarily fast, yet again! Emily's birthday isn't until January, but we're already throwing around ideas. She'll have a party this year, since we didn't have one last year and our original plan was to have a birthday party every other year. No idea what the theme will be, though. So far Emily's come up with ideas for a Fashion Designer Party, Ancient Egypt Party, Medieval or Tudor Party, King Arthur Party, Goddess Party or Cat Party. Hmmmm. Food for thought indeed.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Poorly Voldemort

The kitten, that is, not the character formerly known as the Dark Lord. Last night Voldemort was sleepy at our meal time, even while Severus was playing; very unlike him. When we got up this morning it was clear he was very poorly. He was incredibly hot, extremely sleepy and shaking violently on and off. He hadn't eaten or drunk anything since yesterday afternoon and his eyes were half covered with his third eyelid. Poor little love could hardly lift his head up and just collapsed wherever he was put back into sleep again.

Thought this might be like when he came back from his first injections and was shaky for an hour or two - but as the day wore on he got no better at all, and when he did wake up to do a wee he staggered to his tray, half falling over and limping. It was the shaking/trembling which was worse - not only could you feel him shaking, you could see it, even from a distance, it was horrible.

Called the emergency vet, who agreed to meet us at the clinic in fifteen minutes, so Jon rushed him off down there. Turns out Voldemort seems to have a viral infection of some kind. He had a raging temperature (106 F, normal for a cat being 100-101 F), which is why he was shaking so badly and could barely wake up. The vet gave him something to bring his temperature down and an antibiotic jab, as well a very thorough examination. He came home with some antibiotic drops to start tomorrow and some more stuff for ear mites which haven't cleared up. Fortunately this vet was a lovely Scottish bloke and knew how to handle kittens, unlike the woman we saw last week.

Anyway; within ten minutes of Voldemort getting home, he was scoffing down food, drinking his water, playing with his toys, purring and climbing to the highest point on the cat tree. Bringing the temperature down gave him a fantastic recovery, we could hardly believe it!! He's remained perky all evening, much to Severus' delight - think Sev has been a bit lonely all day with his playmate fast asleep and poorly. Voldy's gone back to sleep now but he's reasonably cool and not shaking and has had plenty to eat and drink, so it's looking hopeful :-) Cost us £80 at the vets, mind, because of the emergency/out of hours consultation fee, but I don't think we could have waited until Tuesday to take him - he would have been worse tomorrow without help and baby kittens go downhill so quickly.

Oh, and we finally fixed the email issue, after more hours of attempts this morning. Finally managed to log on to the web based email and delete all 40K emails waiting there - that did the trick, eventually, although why the hell the emails were sent through in the first place is still a mystery!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

BT Yahoo & The 160,000 Emails

Today was supposed to have been a relaxing day for me and Emily and a chance for Jon to catch up on some work, which he doesn't normally get to do on a Saturday as I'm usually busy with writing deadlines. Instead, BT Yahoo have sent us the curse from hell. This morning's first email check resulted in Outlook Express downloading, over the course of a couple of hours, non stop, over 42,000 emails. Dozens and dozens of copies of emails long since deleted stretching right back months and months. Nothing could be sent, because it was too busy downloading. If we exited the program without it finishing, it just started from the beginning again next time it was opened. And once it had finished....drumroll, please..... it started over again. And again. Three lots of of 42k+ emails downloaded taking all day. Meanwhile, BT Yahoo's online mail site is down. But of course.

Frantic googling to find a solution to the problem - and problem it is, because not only does it take hours and hours to download, it then takes more hours to delete the lot, which has to be done otherwise it runs out of memory and stalls the whole damn computer; and we have to let it finish each downloading session before we can send anything. I have copy to send to various places to meet deadline, and I can't get any of it sent. We did what we could according to the hints we found, unchecking the "keep mail on server" boxes and tracking down and deleting a particular .dbx file, both of which were supposed to fix it. Nothing did.

In desperation, Jon downloaded Thunderbird, a new email program and set that up. Worked perfectly.....and started to download the 42,000 emails. So that's over 160,000 today. So far. And we still haven't found a solution. I love technology. Am fighting very hard to stay calm. Am also mystified as to why no internet searches reveal anyone else having the problem on this scale - I've found a few forum posts of people complaining they received approx 40 duplicate emails. Heh. Not quite the same, methinks. So, if anyone has any bright ideas, please do yell. Says she, calmly.

Anyway, upshot is that Jon has managed to get hardly any work done, and we've both spent hours trying to fix the bloody mess. Hardly what we had planned for the day.

Trying to turn a blind eye to the crisis upstairs, today is my Dad's birthday, so bright and early this morning Emily and I baked him a big tray of chocolate flapjacks iced for his birthday, which were rather scrummy indeed. No cake as such, because he and I are sharing a "birthday tea" on Monday :-))

Yesterday Jackie and her girls came round for the day; much ooohing and aaahing over kittens and comparing them to their siblings still at Jackie's. Lots of productive work done too, with the girls getting to grips with genetics (both human and feline, lol) and having lots of fun with our encaustic wax art set in the afternoon.

Voldemort and Severus continue to be astonishingly cute. Only problem is that they do like to climb all over us while we're trying to eat at night. Voldemort ended up with his paws in my gravy the other night, which he naturally thought was hugely wonderful. I was less impressed. Ewwwww. I did surpass myself in my efforts to distract them during our meal, though. They love ping pong balls but of course two minutes after they have one, they've lost it. Jon found an old tray with a deep rim on it, and I loaded it up with lots of ping pong balls - they spent well over an hour chasing them around and around the tray, rofl. They've been playing with it on and off ever since too, although Voldemort didn't take long to work out how to scoop the balls out with a paw, so he can still manage to lose them. Here's Severus getting in on the action:
The kittens' characters do reflect their literary personalities somewhat, actually. Voldemort is very much the boss, can be quite psycho when he gets going (!!) but deep down is a bit of a scaredy cat despite all the bravado. Severus is outwardly much more a "watch and wait" type cat, content to let his brother get into mischief before sweeping in to save the day. He gives the impression that there's a lot going on in his head, very thoughtful cat, very measured in what he does. He's much braver than Voldemort when it comes to the crunch. We've rebuilt the huge cat climbing tree we had for Romeo and Juliet, which is almost my head height (we had to take it down when Pome and JuJu got too heavy for it and it was constantly under threat of collapse!). Voldemort was straight in there climbing right up to the very top, where he likes to sleep. Fine - but he hasn't figured out how to get down, rofl, and stands there mewing a bit pathetically when he needs rescuing! Sev Sev doesn't bother going up to the top, but sleeps half way up. When he's watching his brother mewing at the top, you can almost hear him thinking "Silly sod. Ego too big for his paws again!" On the other hand, Severus is much more adventurous on the stairs than Voldy is and much braver when it comes to exploring the unknown, but he's sensible enough to know his limits! But they're both astonishingly affectionate and snuggly :-))

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Our Three Boys

Romeo, Voldemort and Severus are friends now :-)) Quite good friends, in fact. Romeo gives the babies a good wash whenever they get together, which is very, very cute. JuJu's getting more tolerant of them too, although I think there's a long way to go before those relationships get to face washing stage! Oh, and because the babies plus Romeo and JuJu have had quite a few pictures on here recently, here's one I finally managed to get of the lady Cassandra, for once not looking like a black blob:
Took the babies to the vet first thing this morning, for the first of their vaccinations, since they're now nine weeks old, and for a general check up as we thought they had ear mites. Wasn't very pleased with the vet, to put it mildly. She wasn't our normal vet, never seen her before, but she clearly didn't know how to inject tiny kitties. She must have stabbed Voldemort six or seven times for the two injections before she finally managed it, and poor Severus ended up howling because she kept pricking him and couldn't get the injection in :-((( Felt awful about it, but cat flu and feline leukemia are too serious to not give them the vaccinations, imo. They'll have to go back in three weeks for the second ones, but hopefully a) they'll be a little big bigger then and b) we'll get to see a proper vet! She was very apologetic and seemed very nervous, and I know everyone has to start somewhere, but really!

Severus and Voldemort were OK once we got home and they had a nap, but around lunchtime I had a real panic. Jon and Emily were out birthday shopping for me, and I went to check on the babies. Picked Voldemort up and he couldn't stop trembling and shaking really quite badly; even once I'd soothed him to sleep he was still shaking in his sleep :-( Cuddled him tight, fast asleep and still trembling, until Jon and Emily came home, whilst frantically googling to try and find out what could be wrong. Fortunately, an hour or so later he woke up, perked up completely and was back to his normal self eating like mad and playing happily. It wore off too quickly for it to have been an adverse reaction to the injections; I think maybe he was just traumatised, poor baby :-/

Meanwhile, Romeo is having a complete sulk with me because I tried to put some Stronghold spot on treatment on the back of his neck, since I think he's caught ear mites from the littlies. I don't know why they reckon this stuff is easy on the cat - Romeo and JuJu are both terrified of having it and react as if it's burning them. I only managed to get a tiny drop onto the back of his head, amid much hissing and spitting, before I had to admit defeat. He's a big and powerful cat and I'm bearing the scars as I type. If anyone knows any tips and tricks for cats that hate the spot treatment stuff, I'd love to know! He probably won't come near me for days now :-/ The vet gave me (well, I say gave...£105 later, all told) some kitten strength stronghold stuff for the babies' ear mites, which I haven't dared try yet. Figured they're probably sore enough from multiple puncture wounds, rolls eyes, so I don't want to add that to it as well. Will have to try tomorrow, though. Hope they don't hate it quite as much as the older two do, since those ear mites have got to go before they cause complications.

Anyway. Enough feline stuff. In other news, we waved goodbye to the butterflies the other day - all five cocoons produced beautiful butterflies, thank goodness. We set them free and most of them fluttered off happily, although one had to be picked up and put on our butterfly bush, high up enough so that JuJu, resident butterfly specialist, who was watching with interest, couldn't reach.

Yesterday Emily and I did some history work on the Assyrians and their hysterically funnily named kings (amazing what an eight year old fertile imagination can turn those into).....two more sessions to go before Ancient China. We also did some more maths and started So You Really Want to Learn English Book 1 from Galore Park, which Emily pronounced brilliant and about which she complained that we only had time to do the first exercise. So I guess that one's going to go down OK.

Meanwhile, when Jon and Emily were out this morning (pre-Voldemort terrifying shaking session, that is) I got to list a ton of stuff on ebay, so I'm happy. Things are going well again. Last time I said that, life did indeed take objection and bite me on the bum. This time, however, I'm only whispering it and I'm fairly confident that Lady Fate is busy being mysterious and beguiling elsewhere and won't actually have heard me ;-) Ssssssh!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Emily's First Few Weeks in Reception Year - Sep 2003

Looking for something else, have just come across some paperwork from Emily's first few weeks at the local school. There's a bundle of the "fell over, hit head" notes - yeah, right. Pushed over, you mean. There's also a page of notes we scribbled to confront the "teacher" with.

Dated 8/9th September, so she'd only been there for about a week. Concerns already included: cried all lunchtime, dinner ladies ignored her; classroom assistant reported that she didn't know the words in her book, Emily very upset because she read it perfectly to us at home but just didn't like the woman (present day note: she obviously had good instincts even then!) and didn't want to read to her; Hattie pushed her over so she had to see the nurse for a cut but we weren't told until Emiy told us herself; a child tore up the leaves Emily had spent all playtime collecting, nothing was done about it; cried about the leaves at lunchtime, dinner lady told her to be quiet and sit still; still only has one book and no new words, Emily's bored with this book; can't eat her lunch because she doesn't eat fast and is frightened that she'll be sent to sit on the "naughty" table if she hasn't finished it so she doesn't eat anything at all to avoid that; told teacher she had tummy ache but teacher ignored it...........

My God. And this was from just two days, right at the beginning. It got worse, a lot worse, but part of me had forgotten just how awful it was. Makes me cry with shame that we left her there for a whole academic year, in the "care" of a bunch of people who had already shown they weren't fit to look after potted plants, let alone shy and afraid four and a half year old children. Feel a bit wobbly now, looking back. And yet we really didn't know. We thought that's the way it was. We did all the right things, spoke to the teacher (often, but politely, because that's the way we are - not forthright enough, obviously) - if I ever see her again, well, words fail me with what I'd like to say to her now - we also spoke to the headmistress and were fobbed off with promises to do xyz, none of which, of course, actually got done. We tried to arm Emily with strategies for what to do and say to fit every horrible occasion, but as I've reported previously on this blog, on the rare occasions when Emily did pluck up courage to stand up for herself, the "adults" in charge ripped her to shreds.

If only we'd known then what we know now - that not only is home education perfectly legal and entirely possible, but that Emily would thrive on it, and so would we. My only comfort is that Emily now doesn't remember most of that year at school. But as September draws closer and we see the little ones trot off to their first days at school, mostly all eager and excited (as Emily was, in her innocence); makes my heart sink because I know full well that at least one or two of them will turn out to be not a good fit to the school education system (because of course it's their fault, not the inadequacy of the system and the adults in that and every other school), and those children are destined to go through what Emily went through. And this at a "good" school. Why?

Human Kitty Play Centre

Emily has become one of Voldermort and Severus' favourite toys, rofl. They love playing with her hair and anything dangly on her clothes. Here's Voldemort a few days ago showing off his growing skills:

While he was busy being a loon, Severus had fallen asleep in Buddha pose being cuddled by Jon, then he snuggled up on one of Daddy's shirts:
I've had to fiddle about turning up the brightness and turning down the contrast in these photos, so if the tones look a little odd, that's why. Only way I can find at the moment of avoiding the black blob syndrome!

The big cats are settling down now. Romeo's very partial to eating the kittens' food. I think he wants to "mother" them actually. He gets right up nose to nose with them as in this not very clear picture: Romeo is also condescending to sit on "his" bed even in company with the babies now. Although they do keep a respectful distance - probably wise given how big he is and how weeny they are!
Juliet hasn't quite plucked up the courage to go nose to nose with the babies yet, but she did come and sit with me and Emily in the dining room (Emily's "work" room) all afternoon yesterday, even though the kits were there too. She even went to sleep on the rug just a couple of feet away from them, so that's a big improvement. Cassie-cat doesn't see much of them as she's busy doing her own thing, but this morning she went nose to nose with Voldy without incident, so I guess she's fine.

We're letting the babies go more or less wherever they want in the house now. In theory. In practice, even though we've got all the doors open, they have yet to go downstairs of their own accord, and when taken downstairs all they want to do is follow me and Emily into the dining room and play there. Bless them, they really do seem to love being around people. They're extremely cuddly and you only have to sit down to have them both climbing up onto you. Emily has made a book about Burmese cats, researched from the net, and she found out that they're sometimes called Velcro Cats because of their desire to be held and to be close to you. Awwww! It does seem that way so far. When they get restless, the two of them come up to us miaowing just wanting to be picked up and cuddled to sleep. Extremely endearing.

The other big news of the last couple of days has been our butterflies. The first one emerged late on Thursday night, although we missed the actual emergence and only spotted it several hours later when it already flying about. Here he or she is:
Two more emerged yesterday and one more this morning, leaving only one to go. We didn't actually see the chrysalis breaking open for any of them, but we did catch this one only just as it had crawled out of the broken chrysalis, with its wings still crumpled up:
It's been really interesting, although I have to say I wasn't expecting the emerging butterflies bit to be quite such a blood bath. It said in the instructions that you *might* notice a few drops of red liquid coming from the butterfly's tail initially - our netting thing has huge red stains all the way up the sides and from one butterfly the meconium was literally running down the side in droplets as you watched. They don't seem to be eating at all, so I think we'll let them go as soon as the last one has come out and his wings have hardened. Although it's cold and rainy outside, not exactly butterfly weather :-(

Meanwhile, we've had the pleasure this week of waving goodbye to Royal Bank of Scotland, after all our hassles with them this last year. They unceremoniously withdrew our overdraft facility a week or two ago, without even giving any notice, which I'm sure must be against every banking code there is. They refused to give a reason why or reconsider the decision. We've now moved banks however, to Alliance & Leicester Commercial Banking who (so far) have fallen over themselves backwards to welcome the account and without a single quibble gave us an overdraft twice the size of the one RBS had had a paddy over. So - sticks out tongue and waggles fingers - goodbye and good riddance Bank of Scotland. You very nearly drove us to despair, you know. It wasn't funny at all. When I think back to how many hundreds of hours of tears and anguish that place caused us, I almost want to spit with fury, quite frankly. Not to mention how many thousands of pounds they stole from us in the end, between their exorbitantly illegal fees and everything else, and the harm they did to our business reputation by bouncing items and then apologising far too little, far too late.

We've also booked Jon into a week long mediumship seminar early in September, so hopefully he'll get some more good experience there. It's not that easy to keep the positive momentum going regarding his spiritual development - there's no much negativity in the atmosphere in this house, and so much spite and belittlment from some quarters, it's sometimes hard to move past that, so I'm hoping this course will be a real boost :-))

On the education front, Emily has been working mostly on history this last few days, finishing up some bits and bobs about Egypt while I've been reading Egyptian tales to her. We're just about all set now to start on Ancient China, which she's really looking forward to. After lots of recommendations on a newsgroup, I bought Suzanne Strauss Art's "Story of Ancient China" - much cheaper to get from the US - and I'm really impressed with it. Every chapter ends with dozens of discussion questions and loads of really interesting and engaging activity ideas too. If Emily gets on well with this one I think I'll invest in the others in the series too.

Oh, and we've both been watching a lot of Teachers TV Channel - for anyone having doubts about home education, I hugely recommend this! Every programme we watch does nothing but reinforce why home education is a hundred times better than anything school can offer. It's really interesting to see how the other half lives, though, and they do have some good ideas for resources etc. What really gets me, though, is the plethora of programmes about school efforts to "involve parents". I know some kids aren't fortunate enough to have parents who give a monkeys about their education - but the way the teachers on this channel prattle on, you'd think they were the only ones on earth who have the faintest idea how to educate a child. It's so patronising and condescending towards parents and families, not to mention towards the kids themselves. Has me shouting at the TV a lot....but it's fun ;-)

One of Emily's home ed friends, slightly older than her, is thinking of going to senior school next September, and will be taking the 11+ next year to see if she can get into the Queen Elizabeth High School in Gainsborough (just about the only even half way decent school within miles, so far as I can tell). Emily did mention at one point that she hasn't ruled out secondary school completely for herself. Eeep. Obviously we'd respect her wishes in letting her attend and see what it was like, when the time comes, should she still feel that way. Long time to go yet. However, you see, I have an ulterior motive with the Teachers TV stuff. I defy any sensible child to watch that channel and then think they actually WANT to be in one of those classrooms ;-)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Nearly 14 Months

That's how long ago Emily made the modroc Tutankhamun mask she finally got round to painting today - we're nothing if not organised! Looking back on the blog I can see she made it on July 2nd 2006 and it's been hanging unpainted on our wall ever since. Recently, someone mistook it for a cast of one of my, so we decided it was time it got painted! (For the benefit of anyone wondering...I may be a "large lady" but it's taken from a big balloon and even I'm not *that* large so I wasn't quite sure how to take that case of mistaken identity!!)
We had a lovely afternoon yesterday, as Romy, Hazel and Tansy came to play and to meet the new kittens. Emily and Romy played on the balance beam in the garden and made potions out in the rain, as you do, while I got to indulge in the highly recommended pastime of Tansy-cuddling.

Think we've had a bit of a breakthrough in tiny kits-big cats relations. Having finally pushed me to the brink of despair last night, JuJu then decided to come upstairs and see Severus and Voldemort. She sat and ate very calmly, albeit not in the same room as them, but in sight of them. She wandered around with her tail up, nuzzling and looking serene, then she jumped up on a chair and stayed there for ages, just watching them. When one of the babies came too close she hissed and growled for a bit, but stood her ground and he stood his. Today she's slept on Emily's bed and eaten up here again :-))) Romeo had his little breakthrough the night before when he came up here and started rolling around on the floor under a step the kittens were sitting on. He's not bothered in the least now, and just stalks right up to them, nose to nose, for a bit of a sniff. This evening he came strolling upstairs and the next thing I knew he was in the sitting room eating from the kittens' bowls - think he learnt that from Merlin, as that's exactly what Merlin used to do when Romeo and JuJu were baby kits :-)

Cassie-cat, the elder matriach of the house, has seen this all before. She's not hugely impressed still, but she's dealing with it in her own inimitable style, mainly by ignoring the babies. Now we have a new pair of kits in the house, though, it does underline to us how much we miss Merlin. We have Sev and Voldy in a pair, Romeo and JuJu, but Cassie-cat's lost her brother and it's very noticeable now. We miss you, Merly :-( As it happens, all three of the bigger cats had taken to curling up and sleeping next to Merlin's grave just before the kittens arrived. Maybe he was handing out advice on how to deal with them!

The babies are getting more adventurous now. Today, we left the connecting door downstairs open so they could go downstairs and into the room where the back door is if they wanted to, which meant we had the keep the cat flap locked all day and the big three had to ask to go in and out. Typically, Severus and Voldemort weren't remotely interested in going downstairs. So I opened the cat flap again about half an hour ago and shut the downstairs door. **Now** they want to go down and are being very vocal about it too. Double trouble indeed.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Finding Their Paws

It's Kitty Day 4 - well, three and a half, really, since we didn't get home with them until late on Friday. Severus and Voldemort are settling in really well and they've finally found their purrs - really loud ones, too. Their miaows are very loud too, especially considering the tiny bundle of fur the noises of coming from! They're part Burmese so the breed is very vocal in any case - looks like Romeo, the talkative one of the household, will have some competition.It's hard to get photos of them, though. Being all black, we have the same problem we have taking pictures of Cassie-cat - most of the time they just look like black blobs! Took some with the flash on and that's even worse, they look like freaky alien skinny kits, the way the flash reflects off their fur!! This is Severus on Saturday morning sat in my hand:
..and Voldemort having an early morning cuddle from Emily.
And a very, very, very cross Juliet on one of her extremely rare upstairs visits.
Think I may have spoken too soon when I said the three big cats would settle down in a few day's time. Cassie-cat's not that fussed, so she's OK - but the other two, well. Neither of them will come upstairs unless physically taken upstairs now. Romeo runs straight back down again as soon as he sees a kit-bit. JuJu is surprisingly aggressive towards them - hissing, spitting, arching back, fluffing up tail, the full works. And of course then the babies hiss and spit back at her, which doesn't help. She's even attacked me, Jon and Emily when she thinks we're going to take her upstairs :-(( I've been quite upset about that today, but we WILL get there in the end, we'll have to. Since we live mostly upstairs (grandparents downstairs) it's distressing if the big cats decide not to come up here any more. We shall see.

Anyway. The kittens' personalities are starting to emerge. Voldemort is, not to put too fine a point on it, a nutcase. Very brave and bold but very nuzzly and affectionate too. Severus is quieter and lets Voldy be the boss, but Severus was the first to snuggle up and purr and he also nibbles your fingers a lot.

Have made an appointment with the vet for their first vaccinations next week. She didn't understand the names, lol. Mind you, when Jackie asked Emily what she was going to call the kittens, she wasn't too keen on Voldemort either. Reminds me of when I was pregnant with Emily. If she'd been a boy, we wanted to call her Damien - but so many people were horrified by that and the name's associations with The Omen. It's a bit daft, really - a name's what you make it, and in this household, thanks to hundreds if not thousands of hours of delightful play and make believe, Voldemort is a very much loved name (and character). He's not real, folks. It's not like naming your cat after a serial killer in the hope he'll turn out to be a mass murderer. *Shrugs* Anyway, we like it :-)) Good job Severus turned out to be "a goodie" in the end, otherwise I expect we'd have raised eyebrows about that one too.

We did attempt some education today, but got rather sidetracked since I had to go out and fetch Grandad's latest prescription from the doctors. Turns out they missed something off it, which couldn't possibly wait a few days until I have to go back again (oh yes, it could have done) so Jon had to go straight back out all the way back there to fetch the other item. By the time we'd dealt with all that and the laptop downstairs had had a hissy fit and so had the downstairs printer, I was in a foul mood and it was nearly three o clock. So bye bye education.

We *were* going to look at the life and work of Giotto, and Emily was going to do some egg tempera painting with ground up coloured chalk, but we got stuck on the printing off some of his paintings, I say, which were going to go in her notebook. I'm sure we'll get round to it one day when her education is allowed to be our top priority. Rolls eyes again, and shuts up.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Welcome Home Kitties!

Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome our the two newest members of our family: Voldemort is on the left as you look at the pictures, and Severus is on the right. In between is a rather over the moon Emily :-))

The kittens are a lot smaller than I remember from last time I saw them at Jackie's. Tiny, in fact, even though they're eight weeks old now, which is two weeks older than Romeo and Juliet when we got them. They're quite confident and very playful. They're also very hard to tell apart, so in this next picture I'm really not sure who's who!! This one is a bit clearer, it's Voldemort on the left as you look at it and Severus on the right. The only way we can distinguish them at the moment is that Voldy (!!) has more white flecks on his legs than Severus does.
New tenants of the leopard pattern kitty igloo Emily and I bought last week.
And alseep in it, at last - although they only stayed alseep for about ten minutes.
We haven't introduced Cassie-cat to them yet, but we have introduced Juliet and Romeo. Neither were very impressed, and there was quite a bit of hissing and spitting from Ju-Ju in particular, although she did condescend to spend five minutes sitting at the back of the settee glaring at them:
Romeo went and hid at the side of the TV (don't look at the dust if you're of a nervous disposition) but he did come out once they'd gone to sleep and went for a nuzzle with us in his favourite spot on our bed. They'll be alright in a few days time, I should think.

Oooh, and - breaking news - Voldemort's just done a poo (in the right place)!!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Kitten Day Minus One :-)

Picking up the new kittens tomorrow. Eeeep. I'm a bit worried about how the three existing cats are going to take to this, given how badly Cassie-Cat in particular took to Romeo and Juliet when they arrived. It took absolutely AGES for her to settle down with them, so perhaps she's passed that onto them now that it's their turn, and hers again, to greet new arrivals!

Our caterpillars finally became chrysalides - three of them days ago, then the fourth the day before yesterday and finally "slowcoach" made his move, so we now have five chrysalides which we've moved from the "pot" to the rather more upmarket residence of the mesh thingamijig.

Education has been haphazard again all week, but we did squeeze in some maths yesterday, with Emily eventually getting to grips with word problems along the lines of "Voldy spent 84.20 sickles on an elder wand and a holly wand. The elder wand was 9.50 sickles more expensive than the holly wand. How much did each wand cost?" which I guess covers a bit of logic and some basic algebraic thinking in terms of understanding that you can't just do 84.20 - 9.50, and why that doesn't work, and how to actually do it. Emily also finished up her work on Ancient Africa, so we're nearly ready to move onto the much anticipated Ancient China section of History Odyssey.

Took Grandad to the doctor on Tuesday morning. Oh yes, the saga continues. Hull cardiology unit hadn't been in touch with his GP at all. The GP states that his kidney function is better than it has been for ages, and that he can't understand why the angioplasty didn't take place. He also states that in any case there isn't a drug he can give to improve the kidney function, and that it needs someone to go through Grandad's 418 existing tablets step by step either varying the dosage or finding alternatives. He also states, very firmly and categorically, that this isn't the GP's job and that it needs to be one under a specialist consultant's supervision. I can quite see his point. Needless to say, my father in law can't and is not remotely happy. As far as I can see, the reason the hospital haven't been in touch is because *they* aren't expecting the GP to do anything, they're dealing with it themselves and he's just got to wait to hear form them as to how they're going to proceed. He wasn't asked/told to see his GP, he just decided he wanted to. Anyway, GP dictated a strongly worded letter to the hospital asking for clarification of what's going on, and stating that the patient is anxious, which is probably doctor's code for something entirely less tactful.

Anyway, Grandad insisted he wanted another blood test done even though the GP said it wasn't needed. He got his way, and we went back first thing yesterday morning for a blood test. The nurse told him that he should make an appointment to see the doctor immediately the results come through, which would be tomorrow. So, good girl that I am, as soon as we got home and I'd checked the calendar, I rang to make an appointment with the doctor for Monday. Hurry down to tell Grandad, to put his mind at rest that it's been dealt with. Wrong. Turns out Grandad doesn't want to see that doctor, having figured out that he's not saying what Grandad wants to hear. He wants to wait and see a different doctor when that doctor gets back from holiday.

It would appear that there's very little I can do right these days.

So, I've cancelled the appointment I made and will have to try and get one with his doctor of choice ASAP. Honestly, I could scream. If I hadn't immediately made an appointment, he would have been chasing up to ask why it hadn't been made yet. Hello wit's end.

I shall refrain from writing anything else on this subject for the moment, since it really winds me up so much and I'm sure I come across as as not very nice person to boot. Actually, I am a very nice person who cares a great deal, as does my husband. We're just rather battle weary.

Emily went out to a friend's birthday party today and apparently spent most of the day in their huge pool. I'm sure that child would live in a paddling pool, given half a chance. I shall now go and attempt to tidy up the sitting room. I'm not sure why on earth I'm tidying up for the sake of two bundles of fluff who will no doubt have wrecked the place within minutes of arrival, but somehow it seems appropriate! Expect kittie pics over the weekend :-))

Monday, August 06, 2007

Lovely Lammas

When I got back from the Hull hospital on Friday with Grandad, Emily had made me a beautiful Lucius/Draco/Severus card to cheer me up, together with a rather splendid and fully usable version of Lucius Malfoy's cane :-)) Bless her heart, I was rather chuffed with these!
Today we finally got round to celebrating Lammas. Emily baked some rather scrummy cheese rolls to honour the first harvest:
This afternoon, we spent a while in the garden making patterns with a huge variety of seeds, for tree decorations:
We also lit a little fire in Emily's cauldron; she wrote down her fears and worries on slips of paper and dropped them into the fire to burn away. We'll bury the ashes in the garden so that symbolically, new confidence can grow from the ashes of old fears. Or something like that ;-) Worked last year anyway, according to Emily!

Finally it was back inside to decorate our festival tree, this time round with the seed designs and some ears of wheat and barley.

I'm very pleased we've managed to establish a tradition of celebrating the pagan festivals. Well, it's early days yet - started with midsummer last year, and we've had the festival tree since Imbolc this year - but Emily really looks forward to each festival and the decorating and the activities and the stories and the lore. Since we're not religious in any other sense of the word, it also provides some much needed structure to the year, and forces us to take a break approximately every six weeks or so and reflect on what's going on in the seasons and the natural world.

We were accompanied all afternoon in the garden by this lovely dragonfly, which rarely moved from its spot at the tip of a bamboo cane. I'm not sure what type it was, since we've temporarily lost our insect book and it's not like any of the ones on this dragonfly identification page (although granted we're nowhere near Milton Keynes!) but anyway, it was interesting :-)

Tomorrow I'm off to the doctors with Grandad, just for a change, then Emily and I will go out for some retail therapy in the shape of choosing a cosy kitten basket and new scratching tree thingy for the two new arrivals, who we'll be picking up from Jackie's on Friday. I'm not at all convinced that Romeo, Juliet and Cassie-Cat are going to be very impressed!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Just Drifting

Emily's been drifting around in her pool most of yesterday and today, deep in thought about who knows what. I think she's got a lot on her mind at the moment. She's happy enough but very....thoughtful. We've missed out on a lot of time together recently and I don't think she's taken her semi-abandonment very well!! There've been more than a few cross words in all directions as she's obviously frustrated at our time being taken up elsewhere, and we're feeling guilty about that but also hassled and harrassed to the extreme trying to take care of stuff. Patience is wearing thin in all departments, sad to say :-( Hopefully things will improve soon if we can get back into a routine after an awful week.

Jon's father has now announced that he wants it fixed up for him to be admitted to hospital to sort out his diabetes readings. He "wants something done about it" but seems oblivious to the fact that his diabetes control is in his own hands. After living with diabetes for god knows how long now, you'd think he'd have a handle on it, but it seems not. When he was in hospital for most of May, his blood sugar readings were practically perfect apart from ocassionally being too low at night. That's because they clearly knew what they were doing in there, and fed him properly and controlled his insulin properly. But he did nothing but complain about the way they handled it. He comes out of hospital, his control goes back to being crap again (readings of 22 at night and 14 in the morning, for instance). The diabetic specialist sat with us for 40 minutes last week trying to explain to him what he needs to do. But he's now dismissed all that, and claims that he needs to go back to hospital in order to have it sorted out. The hospital and the sorting out that he complained about so bitterly previously, presumably. So now it's up to me to sort out a hospital admission, with all the crap that entails.

I'm getting to my wits end about this, to be honest. He won't listen, he won't be told. Anyone, specialist or not, who says anything that doesn't match what he wants to hear, is dismissed as not knowing what they're talking about. He automatically dismisses anything and everything Jon says to him, to the point that Jon's given up even trying to reason with him. He's more polite to me to my face, but still ignores my advice. He lies to the medical professionals about how much he eats and how much exercise he does - claims he eats practically nothing, when in reality he eats huge portions and often adds ice cream, biscuits etc. Without the truth and without any effort on his part to co-operate, I'm at a loss to see how they're supposed to help him, or indeed how we are.

It's good here.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Hospital Week

With three hospital appointments for Jon's Dad in the last week, we always knew it was going to be stressful. It was.

We've done next to no home ed work and next to no business work and poor Emily's been largely left to fend for herself. Let's call it her feral child week. Raises eyebrows. We didn't even get time to celebrate Litha on the 1st August, which is a little upsetting, but we'll try to fit something in next week, albeit very late.

First appointment this week was for a heart scan, which has to be the fastest appointment in the history of the world ever, in that we were in and out before the half hour free parking elapsed. Needless to say, the rest of the week made up for this little oasis of joy. The following appointment was for the diabetic clinic, yet again, where we spent a solid three hours waiting for the appointment and a further 40 minutes in with the actual doctor. He was a lovely man and tried his best to sort Grandad out, but Grandad, needless to say, doesn't want to do what he was told to do. So that was a productive use of everyone's time.

Then yesterday I got up at 4.30 am to get Grandad up at 4.45 am to leave the house at 6am for an 8am admission in Hull Castle Hospital for angioplasty. No, we're not that far from Hull, but he wanted to go at that time. We were there by 7am. We then spent the next three hours sat in their waiting room because they didn't have a bed. Finally he got a bed at just gone 10 and I came home again. I'd been home for a whole half hour when the phone rang. Grandad needed picking up again immediately, because his blood test from that morning had shown a kidney problem, so he wasn't going to have the angioplasty after all. By the time that was all sorted out, well bye bye Friday. Grandad is, understandably enough, very peed off, and so are we, probably for entirely different reasons.

I'm at a loss to explain how come the diabetic clinic hadn't picked up this kidney problem from the blood tests they perused earlier in the week. That is kind of their job, after all. I'm also at a loss to explain how it was only a month or two again that we were back and forwards to the kidney clinic at the hospital, who pronounced everything absolutely fine. Whatever. Anyway, Grandad has to go to the GP again next week to get tablets for his kidneys (nobody seems to be telling us exactly what the problem is, so that will be fun) and then he'll get another appointment in a few weeks' time to repeat the Hull hospital saga.

The one bright point of the week was that we did get to see our Polish friends who came over on Thursday afternoon; Emily was very happy to see Kate again. Oh, and our caterpillars arrived from Insect Lore too, and are now huge. Four separate deadlines on Monday mean this weekend is yet another round of manic typing on my part, which hasn't improved my mood one jot. Jon put Emily's paddling pool up today and she's spent nearly all day in it, although punctuated with rather too many hysterical screams when a bee or wasp ventured near. Thought she'd grown out of that. Apparently not, although I can't help thinking that the lack of attention she's had from us recently, due to circumstances, isn't helping. So add that to my list of woes/grievances/complaints/moans/irritations.

Next week Emily has an all day birthday party to go to at her friend Kayleigh's house, and on Friday we'll be picking up our new kittens, so I'm fervently hoping for a better week than this one. Just call me Mrs Fed Up from Lincolnshire. ---grump---