Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ten Years - Long and Morose

Ten years ago on the 28th December, I was admitted to hospital, pregnant with Emily and with very high blood pressure. Ten years ago yesterday, I was having steroid injections to boost her lungs in the womb. Ten years ago today, I was a nervous wreck and so was Jon. Ten years ago tomorrow, New Year's Eve 1998, we sat and listened, late at night, to the baby's heart rate dropping on the monitor and it looked as if we were going to have the first baby of 1999. We spent New Year's Day 1999 in a state of fear as the baby's heart rate deteriorated, before finally, in the early hours of the 2nd January 1999, I had the emergency caesarian and tiny, premature Emily was born.

We can't quite believe that ten years have now passed. The last thing Emily's Newborn Intensive Care nurse said to us when we were finally able to take Emily home was "Enjoy her."

Ten years down the line, those words ring in my ears like some kind of siren of guilt. I spent the first four or five years of Emily's life in a deep depression, even though I didn't realise it at the time. Assorted reasons, including my only brother's spiteful and deliberate rejection of my only daughter and his only niece, plus the shock and trauma of Emily's early birth, kept me in a state of anger for years and far too many of my memories of Emily's early childhood are of me being angry for one reason or another. I was a virtual hermit, not even taking turns with Jon to take her to playgroups.

I remember shouting and shouting at a tiny two year old who couldn't get to sleep - why didn't I just pick her up and cuddle her to sleep? I remember exhaustion and pure resentment when a tiny baby, a few months old, wouldn't be put down for even a few moments without crying. Why did I want to put her down in the first place? What I'd give now to get another shot at those moments. Jon was exhausted too when Emily was tiny....but he never lost his temper. My memories are of him as the best father I could ever have hoped for for my child ... my memories of me are of screaming, shouting, walking out of the house and a sinking feeling when my baby woke up.

Of course these are isolated memories - I wasn't a total harridan - but it was an awful time. I loved Emily with all my heart; I wasn't a bad or neglectful parent in that sense, but I was detached and too wrapped up in my own feelings. I now recognise I was ill. So I didn't "enjoy" her (or at least, looking back, I don't seem to remember much of the good times) - and of course, I can never get that time back again.

Things got a lot better once Emily was four or so, and particularly once she was out of school and these days we, all three of us, have a wonderfully close relationship. But this is a very poignant time, as Emily grows out of being a little girl and grows into being a young woman, and large parts of me yearn for the little girl back again so I can have a second chance. I didn't expect to feel this sad or this guilty, so these feelings, largely coming around since Christmas, have hit me quite hard. Jon reassures me that everything was in fact pretty much fine when Emily was little....but even if that's true (and I guess he would have made sure that was the case and would have sought help for me if it wasn't the case)...even if that's true, it's not my memory. What can I do? I'll just have to learn to live with it.

The anger and hatred I still feel towards my brother isn't going to go away - I haven't seen him since Emily was a few months old and I hope I never have to see him again - but ultimately, that's an excuse. I chose to react badly to his spite and crassness and the associated family fall out from it - I could have chosen a different route, but I didn't. I've come to realise that I can't blame anyone else for the way those first few years went, much as I'd like to. I did what I did and I can't undo it or shift the responsibility on to anyone else.

So. As Emily approaches her 10th birthday, I'm filled with very mixed feelings, in common I'm sure with many other parents of growing kids. I'm hoping to shake off my moroseness and guilt by the end of 2008. My one resolution for 2009 is to stop looking backwards, let go of the guilt for mistakes I made and to look ahead to the future. To "enjoy" our beautiful, growing up daughter for every minute from now on and to stop wasting time weeping over things I cannot change.

Wish me luck!

[added]This blog was taken off the Home Ed ring as I hadn't posted.... I can't work out how to put it back on again. It won't let me re-add it at the ring hub; does anyone know what I need to do?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Days

We had a laughter filled Christmas Day :-))

I went to wake Emily up at 6am because I couldn't wait any longer, rofl! On previous years she's brought her stocking into us anywhere between 3am (!!!) and 5am, but I guess she's growing up....anyway, she had a lovely stocking with grown up bits and bobs like perfume samples in it and was extremely chuffed. We had croissants for breakfast and then Emily got to open her main presents from us.

There were considerably fewer presents than in previous years, but Emily loved them all, the main three being a stereo system for the blue room, some stunning goth dolls (move over Barbie...these are very different, to put it mildly, lol) and..... for all of us.... a Nintendo Wii :-))
"Hmm, Mum and Dad said this is my main present, I wonder what it could be?"

"It can't be...can it?"

"Ooooh! It is!!"
We took it downstairs to see Nana, Gramps and Grandad and set up the Wii down there. I was very impressed with how quick and simple it was to set up and within minutes, Emily and Nana were playing bowling, lol. We all had a go at all kinds of things and we also set up the Mario Kart game with two steering wheels, which has proven to be an absolutely huge hit (can't get Emily off it!).

After playing all together with that for a while, Emily opened her presents from Nana, Gramps and Grandad and we grown ups handed out pressies too. Nana and Gramps had put Emily's presents in a big straw filled box like last year, which was extremely popular! In addition to money for a clothes shopping spree, N&G bought Emily lots of little bits and bobs for cooking such as knives, her own mixing bowl, moulds, cake sprinkles, a mouli grater, little electric mixer and so on, so the budding chef was delighted with all that and had a whale of a time chucking the straw around. Grandad gave Emily a Jacqueline Wilson board game which looks like lots of fun.

Can't believe how many orbs there are in these photographs; it's not dust from the straw or anything like that, as I have ones with straw flying around with no orbs in too. Weird.

Grandad also gave Emily three audio tapes..... last year, we gave all three grandparents boxes of questions about their lives, with a request that they either recorded or wrote the answers and gave them back to us this year. Grandad did his on tape, hence the audio tapes. Nana's not quite finished hers yet (saving it for Easter!) but Gramps had gone one better and done a huge book for Emily complete with dozens of old photographs and appendices of information about places he worked and so on, all absolutely beautifully bound up and presented in a handmade slipcase; absolutely stunning heirloom.

Christmas dinner was beautifully cooked by Jon as always; after dinner we, N&G sat down and watched Mamma Mia on DVD, which was lovely (even if the "Slipping Through My Fingers" bit when Mum helps her get ready for the wedding did have me in floods of tears again...) After that we played charades for a while and then last thing at night we all played some more Wii games. Nana was the champion at bowling and did pretty well at golf too!

All in all, it was a lovely, lovely day. Lots of laughter. Grandad was in a bit of a mood and wouldn't join in anything - but then that's what he does and I've given up expecting any different. Nana and Gramps had a great time, I think, and so did we. I'm really glad we bought the Wii - some people I know tend to turn their noses up a that sort of thing, but it's such huge fun and gets everyone involved together.

Today we got up really, really late ........ played more Wii games, including trying to figure out NiGHTS, which is extremely hard ........... ate leftovers, watched another DVD with Nana and Gramps ..... played more Wii and um, played some Wii. And why not? Hope everyone reading had a wonderful, fun-filled day too.

Gulp. Next stop 10th birthday!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Three Months

Not sure how I managed to go exactly three months without posting here, but I regret now that I did. I was looking back over the blog the other day and I was sad that there'll be no record to look back on in October, November and December 2009. Oh well. Must try harder!

It's been an eventful time. We went back to St Bees again in October, and Jon went on two more mediumship courses. Emily grew up overnight into a young lady who'll be ten in ten days time - ten going on fifteen, that is; we've had teenage moods in all their glory, but we've also had the most wonderful company you could ask for. Strange, this growing up lark. Emily had her ears pierced recently and is contemplating dying her hair. She's suffering from a type of alopecia areata which is making her eyebrows and eyelashes fall out and her hair is slightly thinning at the temples, bless her, which is affecting her self-confidence and self-esteem quite a lot, and she's also being bothered by early spots. We're focusing a lot on celebrating differences right now. Emily has a interest in all things goth related, but I think she's a bit taken aback that Mum and Dad are more than happy for her to die her hair, experiment with heavy make up and learn about all things "dark", lol - what's she supposed to rebel against?? First photo of pierced ears below :-)

All five cats are happy and healthy, although Cassie-cat is showing her age and looking increasingly frail. She still loves to go out though and is very affectionate. Looking at this picture reminds me that we need to redecorate Emily's bedroom next year. I did say, having done our bedroom and Emily's "blue room" this year that I would never, ever, ever again redecorate anything....but my resolve is weak, so Emily's bedroom, our office and our sitting room next year it is then!

In early January we will be welcoming the pitter patter of two tiny new feet. No, not that kind. Our menagerie will be joined by a baby Congo African Grey Parrot :-)) We have a huge cage and toys waiting and assorted play stands etc as the parrot (tentatively named Lulu, at this stage, but we'll have to see) will spend much of the day out of his/her cage and keeping us company around the house. We need to go right up to North Northumberland to collect him/her but we're so excited! I say him/her because apparently the only way of reliably sexing a parrot is via DNA testing, which we're not having done.

Over the last three months I've worked very hard at Best of the Web, in addition to my normal writing commitments - the new UK & Ireland Directory has finally launched, which I'm very pleased and proud to have been around for. Jon has also been working very hard at his end and we have some very definite career/business plans for the New Year to look forward to. Emily's education has been.... "interesting", especially with the hormone swings factored in. But we're doing OK and we'll be doing even better in the New Year since we've had time recently to discuss together what we're doing and why, and how we want to proceed home-ed wise. One thing that has been going on a huge amount is cooking - Emily now cooks a full meal for us at least once a week and regularly disappears downstairs where she throws together a cake or cookies - without recipe - in minutes. She has a real knack for this kind of thing. Yum, yum!

Other than that brief round up it seems pointless to try catching up on everything I've missed posting, so I'll just pop in some photos from recent months.

Halloween tree and our glorious collection of home grown pumpkins, plus Severus looking like a truly Halloween cat:

Emily experimenting with the knex set and learning about levers by building and working with a set of scales. She also built a grand piano. As you do.

Beautiful kibbies sharing a basket:

In terms of more recent life, last Saturday was the annual Christmas party at Emily's karate club, which she loved. Jon was Father Christmas for the third year running.... even one of the grown ups wanted to sit on his knee, rofl!

We've spent some time recently out in the garden in the dark with lots of hot chocolate and the Christmas lights.

On Sunday, Emily passed a karate grading with flying colours and moved up to purple belt. She's moving into the adult class from January onwards, so she's very excited about that. Yesterday we went to the cinema with Hazel and Romy to see Inkheart; very entertaining, but I gather very different to the book, especially in the ending - perhaps they're not planning to film Inkspell and Inkdeath. We also braved Tesco which was ridiculously busy; we wanted a frozen turkey, but they'd removed all the frozen ones and replaced them with fresh turkeys - for up to £50 a throw. Yes, ladies and gents, that's fifty pounds for a turkey. OK. Refused to pay that and went away without one. Jon later found on in the Co-op for a fifth of the price. What happens to people at Christmas time? It's insane. Today, Emily's made Kirsch truffles as a gift for someone and has also made marzipan biscuits for Christmas day and used quilling to make three beautiful Christmas cards for Nana, Gramps and Grandad.

And that's that, news wise. Christmas Eve tomorrow :-)) Wishing everyone a very Merry and Peaceful Christmas with family and loved ones.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Yay - Education!

We're finally back into a stable (ish) routine of home ed and so far it's going really well, with Emily keen and enthusiastic and me feeling like we're getting somewhere.

The sleepover Emily had the other week went very well, although neither Emily nor Mei Lin slept for a single minute, apparently, lol. Jasmine did rather better, so how she slept through the chaos the other two were creating is beyond me. Here's the three girls about to have their midnight feast in the new sofa bed :-)

We then had several days of chaos while Jon and I struggled against deadlines and I tried to get some home education in order, getting a vague plan for where we're heading. Mind you, Emily was busy occupying herself throughout that time. One morning she photographed various Barbies in her room and then came and spent a couple of hours on the PC - she created, entirely without assistance, a fabulous powerpoint slide show, complete with captions, sound and special effects, telling an X-Files story she had made up, for which the dolls had posed various scenes. We were extremely impressed :-)

Education aside, Emily has also been having fun recently playing out in the garden in the dark, especially balancing on her beam and trampoline - the fact that the garden is *covered* in huge spider webs doesn't seem to bother her at all. I was heartily told off the other night for insisting on fetching Jon to deal with a spider on the bedroom wall. An exasperated Emily thought I should just leave it be. My child has clearly been kidnapped and replaced with some alien life form.

Over the last week or so we've been gradually decorating our festival tree; we didn't have time to celebrate Mabon as such, but we're doing an Autumn theme for the tree in any case, to cover both Mabon and Samhain. We've embroidered leaves and mushrooms and this morning we spent an enjoyable hour or two decorating the god and goddess figures for the altar and making some of these pentagrams from twigs. All good stuff. We're going away to St Bees again on the 5th October for ten days or a fortnight, but we'll be back in time for Halloween, when we're planning a big family dinner with the dining room all decorated and an evening of spooky games by candlelight. Emily's pumpkins in the vegetable patch are *massive* already!

Now then, since this is supposed to be a home education blog, let me record for posterity what I've finally decided we'll use as our core texts for the next year or so. I'm putting this here in case anyone finds the recommendations useful; I should point out, yadda yadda, that in amongst this lot Emily still has time to do plenty of art, tons of crafts and a whole raft load of self-directed and inspired projects, activities and all round child stuff. When we let her out of the broom cupboard we keep her locked in.

Galore Park So You Really Want To Learn Science Book 2

Kingfisher Science Encyclopaedia

Lots of experiments: rather than the little "done in five minutes" type experiments you get so many of, we're going for something a little bit more indepth now. The "science fair" projects they have in Janice Van Cleave's books are quite good, I think - a little bit of a step up from where we were, and they're extended projects that take quite a while to complete. We have the physics, chemistry and biology ones of those, and I also found this fantabulous website: Science Buddies, which details over 700 extended science project ideas across all the branches of science you can think of. Certainly didn't have when I was at school. Anyway, I'm very pleased to have "discovered" these resources.
At the moment in science, we're looking at space. Of course, because it ties in with the X-Files obsession, lol.


Letts KS3 Geography Classbook - I like this one. It has double page spreads which are just enough to get the key points across and which you can then use for further investigation/experiments/whatever. This mostly covers physical geography.

Trail Guide to World Geography - this one's very US centric, obviously, but it does give a good overview of world geography and I like the activity ideas, such as making a dictionary of geography definitions as you go along etc. Lots of mapping too.


Well, I've got to admit, I'm still all over the place on history. We're fine for now, working on the Middle Ages, but we're using books from all over the show and I'd really like to find a decent spine we can stick with, but none have quite worked - although lots have "nearly" worked. At the moment, we're using:

Medieval Minds - which is cute, but a bit simplistic even though it's meant for KS3

Medieval Realms for Common Entrance and KS3 - which has the opposite problem; it's *very* thorough and rigorous, but a bit too much so.

Plus of course lots of reading books, King Arthur, Robin Hood, castle books, fun bits and bobs and all that malarkey.


I think Emily's way ahead of where she "should" be in most spheres of English, but she asked to do some structured English work, so I looked for "a book". We found one, the title of which escapes me, but it's "OK" so far, I suppose. It's the best of a bunch and boy, have I seen a bunch of English teaching books this last couple of years. I still think we'll end up doing without any kind of textbook in the long run for English. It's not as if we're short of ideas for ways to do all the various different kinds of writing one is supposed to learn how to do. The other day the book asked for a paragraph of writing about what makes a good book. Emily looked at it, and me, blankly. She knows what makes a good book, she's read a ton of them, and she knows what makes a howler, but the way the question was phrased was enough to kill all inspiration stone dead.

So instead, she pretended to be a publisher and wrote me a long letter about the book I had submitted, pointing out all of its faults and offering some extremely well crafted humorous advice. What goes on in the English curriculum they have in schools these days? Why is it all so....alternately ridiculously simple or mind-bogglingly boring? Not all home ed children love to write as much as Emily does - it's her "thing" - but in my experience most home ed children love to write when they can see a point to it and find fun and enjoyment in their writing. I can't help but think that none of the English textbooks I've seen do anything other than kill that natural enthusiasm. Guys, you're supposed to be teaching children to **love** using their native language. If they look at you blankly, you've failed so drastically that I can barely find the words for it. Sigh.


Emily has apparently discovered a love of algebra and has genuinely *begged* for a maths book entirely on algebra, for Christmas??????? See previous remarks about my child having been kidnapped.

We're working through Galore Park So You Really Want To Learn Maths Book 1, which contained an introduction to algebra, among many other things. It's a good text book; I do like this one and we will definitely be sticking with it through books 2 and 3, which apparently will take us up to the end of Year 8 maths; Emily would be in Year 5 at the moment, so we have that about right then.

One thing I *have* discovered is that when I buy book 2, I'll be buying the answer book to go with it. I'm not "bad" at maths - I got a B at O level (my lowest grade) and would have had an A, no doubt, if I could have been bothered - but I was struggling with some of the final algebra questions, especially the ones where the problem is given in words and you have to figure out what the algebraic expression is before you can solve it. (Jon was excellent at these, lol, so it must just be me!)

I know some people who would throw their hands up in horror at that admission, and point out that this is exactly why parents should not be "allowed" to home educate their children. I happen to disagree. I actually, genuinely, believe it's very healthy for a child to realise that grown ups do NOT always (or even ever) have all the answers and that grown ups CAN find it interesting and fun to have to work things out, even when it's tough. I think it points out to children that while all of us shine somewhere, nobody shines everywhere; also that all of can improve at something if we try hard enough. I'll take that as a role model for my child, any day, over the "how dare you question me?" attitude of most teachers I ever met.

Which brings us back to the point of education. It's about learning to learn and learning to love to learn. It's not about proving who's smartest and it most definitely is not about domination and "I'm right, so shut up and listen to me". If that's what we wanted, we'd send her to school......

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Thanks for the kind comments on Emily's new room. She's been using it for just over a week now and it's - gasp - still tidy (almost)! However, within two days of being in there, Emily came down with a horrible bug which has plagued her, and us, ever since and won't seem to shift. We've been coughing, spluttering and retching with the best of them.

Which means that the planned return to education for this last week hasn't happened; not in any formal sense, anyway. We've watched lots of TV, including numerous X-files episodes, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and a good cry over E.T., played board games in The Blue Room, and Emily has done lots of fashion designing and X-files episode writing. She also designed a range of X-files merchandise, including an alarm clock which plays the theme tune and has the words "I want to wake up" on it as a parody of the I want to believe tagline, lol. So I suppose her brain hasn't completely turned to mush after all, although mine somewhat feels as though it has.

Tomorrow Jacki is bringing Mei Lin and Jasmine over to us for the normal Friday routine, but the girls are staying for an extended sleepover too, which is causing much excitement. Emily's still struggling valiantly against her persistent cold and has found it difficult to sleep with coughing recently, but hell, high water and highly infectious diseases are insufficient to prevent The Sleepover from taking place, apparently. Kids.

We'll be off back to St Bees at the beginning of October (assuming any of us have stopped feeling like poo by then), which gives us a couple of weeks to get back to "normal" routines......just long enough to get into said routine and then have to get out of it again. Sigh. We're so disorganised. Not that the lack of formal schooling seems to be doing Madam any harm whatsoever, mind you - but I'd really like some routine for me!

And even though everyone must be heartily sick of photos of this room by now, here are a couple more of the completed Blue Room showing off Emily's silver curtains, beauty counter, painted ornament shelves and desk etc. We were going to paint all the wooden stuff that's still unpainted......but I lost the will to live somewhere along the line after the umpteenth day of painting things, so the other cupboards will be done gradually. Oh, and Romeo - who's bagged the corner sofabed as his own new bed. Ignore the patchiness of the walls - it really doesn't look like that in real life, there's something weird going on with the flash photography! And a random fashion thingy Emily drew the other afternoon while I was on the phone - gotta love the "normal sized woman" in the middle, rofl!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Starry, Starry Night Part II

We're very happy :-))

Today was spent finishing painting all the bookcases, desk etc for Emily's new room, while Gramps did all the electrics and laid the new carpet. So, at about 8pm, we were able to bring up the sofa bed and coffee table, with everything else going to move in tomorrow. Tomorrow we'll put up the curtains, install the beauty counter, bring up the desk, fix the mirror on the wall and hang the door. Well, we = Gramps :-))

So here she is, the proud owner of a new room that we will have to stop calling The Dollshouse Room! The colour scheme fits together beautifully - Emily had far better vision than we did.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Starry, Starry Night

So thrilled with how Emily's new room is coming along. Woke up yesterday morning about 8.30 to find that Jon had been up since six and had already painted half the room in the beautiful deep, rich blue that Emily chose :-))

During the rest of yesterday he painted the rest of the walls, and Gramps put in the door frame, and this morning Jon painted the skirting board and radiator, while Emily stamped stars on the walls and Gramps started work in her beauty counter. The stars look stunning now they're done in silver glitter paint. They're scattered around the room, vaguely following the lines of where the furniture will go, so they look like constellations across a midnight blue sky. Together with silver curtains, the blue sofa bed with big silver cushions, Emily's desk painted silver, blue carpet, silver lamps, and her assorted bookcases and cupboards in shades of blue and silver, it's going to look fantastic.

We're getting close to done now. We need to install the new lights, move some plugs around, lay the carpet and paint some bookcases, but then it's action stations to move Emily into her new room :-))

Here's where we are. The paint is a much deeper blue than it looks in most of these photos. It's called Lapis Blue on the pot and it's a match for the deep blue in Tutankhamun's mask (which I believe had a lot to do with why it was chosen, lol). I'm so glad we went with Emily's vision instead of trying to talk her out of it - despite having been told several times over the last few weeks by well meaning people that we shouldn't have "let" her have total say and that it would be much too dark and look awful. Rolls eyes. The paint looks a little patchy in some of the photos, but that's more the way the flash catches it; it looks great in the flesh :-))

And as you can see from the last photograph, even Juliet was impressed!

Work-wise it has been a hectic weekend. Jon has worked his socks off with putting up lining paper and painting, I've been mostly stuck on boring old deadlines, and we've both been trying not to think about the state of our bank account once the first of September rolls round tomorrow. I've also been working on a plan for getting back to Emily's education with some degree of sense and structure. Mind you, we'll be going away at the beginning of October, so it's not as if there's long between then and now to get back into a routine!