Thursday, January 24, 2008

Greeks, Chemistry and an Unexpected Cake!

Yesterday lunchtime, it came up in conversation that we don't have very much food in the house at the moment - yet another self-employment induced cashflow crisis having contributed to the lack of shopping being done. Sigh. Emily disappeared off downstairs. Next thing we know, she's made a cake! Without even using a recipe! She'd got everything out, weighed out the ingredients and mixed it all up, and only called me to have a look because she was concerned she hadn't put enough liquid in. I had no idea what she was doing and was bowled over when I found out, lol.

Indeed she hadn't put quite enough liquid in, but after advice to add some milk she carried on, added some white chocolate chunks too, and dished it out into her already prepared cake tin. Twenty minutes later out of the oven came a rather nice looking cake indeed. Emily then iced it and decorated it. It was pretty yummy actually. A little bit on the heavy side, but she knows now how to fix that next time. Clever girl :-))
Emily was a busy bee on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. On Monday she did more experiments from her chemistry set, this time investigating dissolving rock salt chunks vs table salt, and whether temperature affects dissolving. We also began Ancient Greeks, which was good fun. Emily spent a while writing out names using the Greek alphabet and one of her real quill pens from gathered feathers. While she was doing that, I read her the first eleven myths from Atticus the Storyteller's 100 Greek Myths and we started to get to grips with the gods' family tree.

On Monday night, Emily went with Jon to Jackie's house; Jon to attend the normal psychic circle, Emily to play with the girls. She came back very late having spent a great evening designing fashions on her nintendo and swapping them with Mei Lin, lol.

On Tuesday morning we continued with Greeks; this time looking at the Greek origins/roots of lots of English words - Emily was fascinated looking at words like autobiography and analysing the literal meaning of each part. On Tuesday afternoon it was more chemistry experiments; some fun stuff like seperating icing sugar from flour by dissolving it and then filtering it, getting the salt back out of a saturated salt solution by heating it, and so on. We've done most of this before, but if it creates enthusiasm and smiles, why not do it again??

We then went out to yoga. I'm not sure that Emily's going to continue yoga past this half term. It's starting to annoy me now - she has fun there, but there's so little yoga involved now (as opposed to when it started out, which was brilliant). It's fairly expensive for what it is and she isn't always that enthusiastic about going. Anyway, we shall see.

On Wednesday morning, it was back to Ancient Greece again, looking at lyric poetry, reading some and writing some. Yesterday afternoon, apart from making the cake, Emily spent a lot of time working through a paintshop pro lesson from a book, refining some photo manipulation skills. She created a lovely image with a giant kitty leaning against a fantasty waterfall, lol.

And now she has a cold and a horrible sore throat. Emily didn't really feel like going out to tai chi this morning, so she stayed home and we watched episodes from The Ghosts of Motley Hall (which Jon remembers from his childhood) as well as half a Harry Potter film.

Speaking of health, I'm in a bit of a state at the moment, truth be told. I just don't want to go out of the house and I especially don't want to see anyone outside the family, out of the house or not. It was a real struggle getting to yoga. Various things have knocked my confidence a lot recently, and my levels of social anxiety are increasing quite alarmingly :( We were supposed to be going to Jackie's for the day tomorrow, but I've had to call it off as I just can't face going (well, plus the fact that Emily's poorly, anyway, and I can feel her very sore throat heading this way too). Seeing friends is turning into an ordeal, which is a terrible thing to say, but there you go. I hope anyone that we do normally see who reads this realises that it's not a personal thing against them; we do know some truly lovely friends whose company I've previously enjoyed a lot, but something's clearly going wrong in my head just now. Called off swimming too. I seem to spend my time constantly worrying about the next time I have to go somewhere or see someone, and my conversation skills with anyone outside the home have lapsed to an absolute zero. Can you tell I'm great company? It would be funny if it wasn't, well, not funny.

It's not that I physically can't make myself see people. I don't have panic attacks or physical symptoms. It's purely a mental/emotional thing. I can see people, but it's hugely emotionally uncomfortable at the moment and leaves me feeling anxious and bad tempered beforehand and depressed and upset afterwards. I've never really been a people person, but things have become much worse so far this year. Obviously I'm going to have to do something about it, as cancelling seeing friends isn't an option that's fair on Emily, and nor are things like not going swimming. I don't know what I'm going to do at the moment since the "just get on with it" option is clearly running out. I daresay a visit to the doctor may have to come into it at some point. Lol - which involves going out and seeing people. *rolls eyes rather sadly*

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Appeal of Trees

Severus and Voldemort have discovered trees. And have spent large parts of the last couple of days climbing them, which has been very cute. At least, it was cute once we (and they) realised that they could get down again. It wasn't quite so cute when Voldy made the perilous first ascent and then clung, miaowing and wobbling alarmingly, to a high branch, looking very lost. *Rolls eyes* They're going out a lot now that Voldemort has finally figured out how to come *in* using the catflap. We've been leaving them out for several hours at a time. Heck, they even went out in the pitch black when I had to get up at 6.30 on Friday morning. They loved that!

Can't remember what we did on Thursday, apart from Emily going to tai chi, but I'm sure it was tremendous. On Friday, Jackie came round for the day with Mei Lin and Jasmine, so the girls had a huge play all day, including much Barbie-ing, hide and seek, drawing, computering and kitten playing. In between all that they also learned a lot about probability, and had fun with dice and coins.

Yesterday Emily played with lego for much of the day, had a huge game of football in the garden with Daddy and started rounding up spare socks for making Barbie clothes out of, lol. She had this book for her birthday, so pretty much everything she can find around the house is fair game!

Today there's been more fashioning, plus Emily's karate lesson. I finished my deadlines early for once and have spent some time planning out the Ancient Greek project we're starting. Jon went to the village library on Friday and came back laden with fantastic books for that. Guess we'll have to get back to swimming tomorrow. I really don't like the hassle of going, but hey, Emily loves it, so swimming we shall go.

Assorted feline photos from the last few days, some in trees......, but starting with a rare photo of our elderly Cassandra aka Cassie-cat (she doesn't like being photographed!) to whom Severus bears the most striking resemblance. She looks exactly like his Mum! Voldemort looks a little different, but we have to keep doing double takes of Cassie and Sev, because apart from the size and Cassie's aged physique, they're identical!

Assorted ones of Voldy, Sev, Romeo and Juliet:

And finally, I love this action shot captured by Emily :-))

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Full Day's "Work" At Last!

For what seems like (and in fact, is) the first time in about eight weeks, we've had a full day of home education today, uninterrupted by any other committments or appointments or errands.

My New Year resolution to get up early has, um, yet to kick in, since we still didn't make it downstairs until gone 10am. Never mind. We'll get there. Just so tired at the moment.

We started off with ten minutes of maths; Emily did some long division sums without incident and was pleased with herself for remembering what to do. We also played a couple more games of the SET card game which Emily adores, and which I'm sure must be very good for your neural pathways or exotic mathematical/logical type-ish brain function thingumy. And it's great fun. Later on today Emily also discovered the SET website and entered all the puzzles there.

After SET, we finally broke open the University of Cambridge Chemistry Set that has been waiting to be opened since last August. Emily was very chuffed with its contents, and we decided she's going to work through all 100+ experiments, in order, making notes and diagrams, observations and predictions, etc, in her science notebook as she goes. This morning she did the first three, which invoved seperating iron filings from sand, mixing oil and water (or rather noting that they don't mix very well) and finding out about emulsions by creating an emulsion of oil and water. Having glanced through the handbook, I think we've already done quite a lot of the experiments, but she's keen to do them again and document them this time round.

Slight break at lunchtime - Jon had gone off to a diabetic eye screening test, but the letter hadn't mentioned the eye drops and not being able to drive. Because it hadn't mentioned it, we assumed they weren't doing that this time, so he'd driven himself. Gramps had to give me a lift to go and collect him in the end, and his pupils are still dilated some six hours later!

This afternoon Emily and I cracked on with some history; we had a brief look at the Persians under Cyrus the Great and Darius, which will lead us (finally) into the Greeks next lesson, which is going to be quite a lengthy project. Emily made notes of what she'd read, completed a map about the Persian empire and added dates to her timeline. We were then going to do lots of mineral tests with her new rock collection, but I couldn't find the sandpaper/steel file etc that I now we have lying around somewhere, so we put that off for a while (aka asking Gramps if he could round up the various bits and bobs for us). Instead, we played with Emily's page a day origami calendar, and we each made the origami from the first five days of January, namely a fox, a nightingale, a dog's head, a dog's body and something else I can't remember. I do find origami very tricky; I suppose I'm not very good with visual instructions - I always find that with assembly instructions of anything. I'd find it much easier if it was in written, text form, rather than diagram form.

At the moment Emily's watching a collection of animated Discworld DVDs with Jon, then later this evening she's planning on finishing her current book, Carbonel. She finally has a reading light attached to the rails of her bed now; she's very much enjoying reading in bed late into the night instead of having to get in and out and turn the light off all the time.

Voldemort and Severus are newsworthy today: their freedom levels increase. We had been taking them out into the garden and staying out with them for half an hour, before trying to "capture" them and bring them back in. Well, needless to say, they were proving increasingly hard to get back in. Yesterday afternoon we braved just letting them go and they played outside for over an hour, keeping Jon company as he was digging a hedge. This morning I let them out in the pouring rain and again they stayed out over an hour with no "supervision", lol. Severus came back in through the cat flap of his own accord (yay!!!!!) and while Voldy didn't, he did come to me in the garden as soon as I went out and called his name, which is a huge improvement. Some kibby pictures from the last couple of days:
Voldemort loves holes!
Severus wonders what on earth his brother is up to:
Both kittens love the trampoline (must take the Christmas/birthday lights down off it soon!) - in the rain they were pacing around it before hurtling into the middle for a fight - think they thought it was a gladiator arena!
Severus asking Romeo for some friendly advice whilst sat on top of Emily's gymnastics beam:
Voldy getting soggy in the rain:
Severus playing hide and seek:
Voldy still getting soggy in the rain and demonstrating why one of his many nicknames is "Fluffball":
Meanwhile, I've reprised an old "hobby" by going back to my post as a meta editor at the Open Directory Project. This is me, merlin1. If anyone else edits there, wave hello!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Drama Disgrace

Emily and Jon got home at just gone midnight last night.

Emily will not be setting foot anywhere near that drama "class" again and nor, I gather, will her three friends.

Jackie dropped them off at the church hall, introduced them to the teacher and stayed for ten minutes or so to make sure they were all settled. Which they seemed to be. Once she was gone, however, things evidently took a turn for the frankly unbelievable. All four children were made to feel awful and all four were picked on by the teenagers who made up the rest of the group. Apparently, Emily came off worse, since from the moment she opened her mouth in the "introduce yourselves" bit, she was sneered at, laughed at and bullied. Why? Evidently, according to what was being said both to her and about her, it was for being polite, for being softly spoken and for not having a northern accent. WTF????

During an extremely long break in the middle of the "lesson" both the teacher and his assistant vanished, leaving the pack of wild animals (sorry, "schooled and therefore appropriately socialised children") completely and utterly unsupervised. During this time, the little darlings amused themselves by further taunting the four new children, running riot in the church hall, throwing open cans of coke around and pulling at displays on the walls. One girl did make an effort to go and talk to Emily, Mei Lin, Jasmine and Alex. She was rewarded for this small act of kindness when the others deliberately poured coke down her dress.

The teacher made no effort to integrate his new (and considerably younger than the rest) charges into the group. He also showed no interest in the nastiness which was going on. During the second half of the lesson, they practised songs for an upcoming performance. No effort was made to help the four newcomers learn the songs. The "drama" part of the evening seemed to consist of a game of murder (the one where the murderer winks) and lots of aimless running about.

When George went to pick the children up at 9pm he was bowled over by four children desperate to leave and vowing never to return. He, Jackie, Jon and I are disgusted. George took the kids back to their house, where they did at least have a nice play with Emily until the psychic circle finished and she and Jon came home.

I'm just thankful Emily had older friends with her - at 9 she was by far the youngest there; I gather the three others were protective of her and outraged at the way she in particular was being treated. When she got home yesterday she seemed quite philosophical about the experience, albeit disappointed because she had been looking forward to making it a regular Monday thing. Today, though, she's been quite tearful and clingy. She didn't want to go to yoga tonight, saying she just didn't feel like going out, so we gave it a miss. Emily says she doesn't really know/can't put into words what she's upset about, and that it isn't particularly about what happened last night, but I can't help thinking that deep down it most likely is.

At least one good thing has come out of this. The teacher of this disgraceful little group is the full time drama teacher at our nearest grammar school, which supposedly has a fantastic reputation. I don't know whether the litle bitches in the group go to the grammar school or not, but that teacher's ability to supervise, ability to teach and level of pastoral care were all way below zero on the scale. Is he representative of that school? Who knows? More to the point - who cares? One useless teacher is one too many. We had on and off been wondering whether Emily should have a go at the 11+ in due course, just to see whether she would get a place at the grammar school or not, should she want one. After what I've heard about last night, hell will freeze over before my daughter attends that school or any other.

Perhaps all those who think school is so f-ing marvellous would prefer that our polite, respectful, kind and loving daughter turns herself into a rude, crass, abusive little cow so that she can "fit in" and "learn social lessons for life". After all, how will she cope with adult life otherwise? Except - if a group of adults behaved towards me like that, I wouldn't go back day after day, week after week and submit numbly to whatever was chucked my way. I'd walk away, make an official complaint, call the police or do any of the other dozens of options open to an adult depending on the scale of the abuse going on. But a child - oh yes, a defenceless child has to be subjected to this crap in order to become a rounded adult. Sure. How sick is that attitude, and how much more sickening is the belief that home education harms a child by somehow limiting their social skills? Twisted world.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Egyptian Party - Mammoth Post!

Well, we had Emily's Egyptian birthday party on Saturday from 3-6pm. It was (I think) a great success. Emily had a fabulous time and I think all the guests enjoyed it too. Maisie, bless her heart, told me on the way out that "Emily's parties are always fantastic!" :-)) We didn't know Jackie last time we had a children's party - in the run up to the big day, she thought I was completely mad, as she reckoned that two hours was the absolute maximum you could hold a children's party for without them being bored rigid. Think she's changed her mind now, lol, since she tells me her children have declared it the best party they've ever been to :-)) One of my New Year resolutions was to start giving myself credit where it's due - and I do do a good party if I say so myself.

Blogger has shrunk all my photos again, but they are clickable. We had the big dining room walls completely covered in our hand painted and stencilled sheets, jewelled swirly things hanging down from the ceiling, two lovely blow up Egyptian figures, some gold and blue helium balloons and masses and masses of ordinary blue and gold balloons, plus Egyptian music in the background.

Emily was dressed as Cleopatra and looked completely gorgeous. The guests were invited to come in fancy dress and they all did us proud - we had a harem girl, another Cleopatra, two noble Egyptian ladies, a mummy, a desert nomad and one guest not in costume (although to be fair that's because she didn't realise the date until 24 hours beforehand, lol). I really wish we'd taken a group photo when everyone arrived, but with so much going on we just didn't think of it until it was too late.

I'd set up a story to the party, that Cleopatra was desperate to find Tutankhamun's tomb and its hidden mysteries, but that she'd heard he'd buried seperate treasure (which turned out to be the party bags) outside the tomb and that the secret to that lay in a golden box of knowledge. Via various games and activities, the kids had to journey to the tomb of Tutankamun's chief advisor and from there to find the golden box.

We played a variation on "pin the tail" where the children had to mark the location of the pyramids on a whiteboard drawn map whilst blindfolded - that was to prove to the gods that they were worthy egyptians before the quest began. I told them the quest was top secret and they had to creep out through the village without waking anyone - which involved a game of "Cleopatra's Footsteps". But alas, they were too noisy and woke up half the village. The only way to get rid of the villagers was to pretend to be mummies and scare them away - cue the old favourite loo roll mummy wrapping game, lol. I was very keen to avoid the horrible, horrible "choose a partner" thing, so we devised a team choosing method by using different gemstones in a model sarcophagus - the children each picked a stone and were then teamed up with whoever else had the same stone. For the mummy wrapping we had two teams of three and a team of two plus me to help them.

Pretending to be mummies obviously did the trick as they were then able to proceed to the advisor's tomb - but because it was going to be so dark in there, they had a practice game first of Dark Drawing. Turned out all the lights and everyone was blindfolded too, and had to follow my drawing instructions on their bits of paper. Very funny results :-) Once "inside the tomb", they had to search really quickly for the golden box (which wasn't there, but they didn't know that). There was eerie music playing in the tomb and nobody wanted to move when it was silent (basically, musical statues). Finally, Cleo found a secret doorway guarded by a statue of Anubis (our very cute blow up Anubis). He demanded to see their sacred pyramid amulets - but oh dear, nobody had one. So the next activity was a craft-y one, where everyone decorated and assembled little miniature pryamids from templates we'd prepared.

Anubis was suitably fooled by the replia amulets and let them through the doorway. As he vanished, he dropped a package, and the children then played a dice and cocktail sticks game to see who won it. Inside the secret passageway they found hundreds of (imaginary) gold boxes and had to sort through them in a hurry by tossing them to one another. That was a fun game called Treasure Catch which involved throwing a beach ball to one another; if you missed you knelt down, if you missed again you sat down and so on. But alas, none of those gold boxes were THE gold box. Disheartened, they had to leave the tomb...but on the way out, Cleo stumbled over a strangely shaped and mysteriously wrapped gold package - yay, pass the parcel time!

Inside the pass the parcel, apart from a prize, were laminated sheets with the key to hieroglyphs on them, plus sealed egyptian envelopes, one each. A note explained that in order to find the golden box, the children must first each find a treasure stone, hidden in the Egyptian desert (i.e garden). Inside each envelope was a clue, written in hieroglyphs, about where a single stone was. The children got into pairs using the gemstone method again, got their coats and shoes on, grabbed torches and went outside to search, ably supervised by Jon while my Mum and I got the party feast ready. Once everyone had found their stones, they had sparklers and glow sticks to play with for a few minutes until tea was ready.

Party tea was by candlelight - lots of fun. We had the normal party type food, and on the table we'd put lots of Egyptian ornaments too. Emily's birthday cake was marbled chocolate and vanilla; she decorated it herself with edible gold glitter, with a sarcophagus ornament on top, surrounded by nine candle and two sparklers. We also made some scrummy vegan fairy cakes which turned out to be even nicer than the proper cake was, lol. Party tea was mostly ably supervised by Nana, since I had to rush out into the garden to find a missing stone and then upstairs to find a missing prize, lol. Pictures don't look dark because of the flash but it was *very* dark!

After party tea, it was time to find out what the deal was with these treasure stones they'd so eagerly collected. The gods instructed the children to break open the stones, which they very much enjoyed doing. Inside each was part of a rhyme which, when they worked together to assemble it, gave a clue as to where this gold box was. They rushed off to get it and brought it back. Inside the box were ten questions with a choice of four answers each (it was 40 matchboxes glued together and sprayed gold). Each child had a question to answer - if they chose the correct answer, they found the next question in that drawer. If they chose the wrong answer, they got a small gold stone instead, and they were allowed up to four gold stones between them. Finally, when the last question was answered correctly, it revealed a final poem giving the very last clue to the location of the treasure itself. They rushed off to get the party bags and I think everyone loved them too.

I was very pleased with myself over the timing of the party, lol, because despite some games taking longer than I thought and some not as long, we finished at exactly four minutes to six, just long enough for everyone to rush back downstairs with their bags and say their goodbyes before parents arrived to collect them all.


We had been due to attend an adult friend's birthday party at 8pm, but he cancelled it a couple of days beforehand as he wasn't feeling well. Instead, we stayed up until late on Saturday evening playing charades with Nana and Gramps, which Emily loved, yet again. Must make time for more games evenings, as the ones we've had since Christmas have been so lovely.

On Sunday morning, after all that excitement, Emily went to karate and received her green belt! Very proud of her :-))
Also on Sunday, Nana and Gramps did a fantastic job of clearing up after the party for us, and moved most of the furniture back into the room, just leaving one of the handpainted sheets up per Emily's request.

Today we've attempted to get "back to work" after what seems like a hugely extended break that lasted all of December and half of January. Ahem. Had to take Grandad to the doctors this morning first, though. Priorities.

This afternoon we did do some work. Emily asked (?) to do a KS2 Science Sats paper we had. She sat the first test in well under the 45 minutes allowed, and got 36 out of 40 (and that was with me marking very, very strictly and not giving her a mark for a couple of things that I *knew* she knew simply becuase she hadn't put it quite right). Scaled up to be out of 80, that put her well into the level 5 bracket, which considering the average at age *11* is level 4, was very chuffing indeed. Emily then asked to sit the second test paper straight away. I said no initially, but then gave in when she begged (strange idea of fun, this child). So she did the second one. As I knew it would, her concentration lapsed by then, and she did make several very silly mistakes in that one. She knew she had, and got very upset with herself, bless her. I marked it anyway, and even with very strict marking again she ended up with 29/40, giving her a total of 65/80, which *still* put her in the level 5 bracket age just 9 and a few days.

Guess we're doing OK with science then, which is a) a relief and b) quite amusing considering we'd long since abandoned the national curriculum science and have been doing our own thing for ages.

This evening Emily has gone out with Jon to his normal psychic circle. She's starting a new drama/theatre arts class with Mei Lin, Jasmine and Alex, so either Jon or Jackie will take all four children along to the class, come back to the psychic circle, go and pick them up again at 9pm and then to Emily's delight she gets a couple of hours of late night playing with the girls before Jon leaves to come home. Should work well :-)

Kibbies Severus and Voldemort are still desperate to gain their complete freedom. We're still taking them out for half an hour or so a day but then "catching" them and bringing them back in. They absolutely LOVE bubbles, so Emily takes her bubble mixture outside every day, lol. Emily has also been taking a lot of video of all five cats recently. Here's Voldy having a cuddle when Emily got back from karate (she's still got her pink hair extension in, lol, don't know how much longer it can possibly last!)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Heated Atmosphere - Must be Party Fever

We've all worked really, really hard this last couple of days getting ready for Emily's Egyptian party tomorrow. The room's all decorated now and just about everything else is done too, apart from some food preparation tomorrow. It's a theme party, with a narrative to follow and lots of games and activities, so there's been a great deal to do. Might be the last party for some considerable time - I'm shattered!

Unfortunately, not everybody is getting into the spirit of things :-( Today I've shouted, for only the second time in ten years, at Jon's father. You see, the house is in disarray at the moment, as we've had to move furniture out of the party room and the kitchen has been taken up with baking and so on. Everyone has taken it in good spirits and everyone has been really helpful to me - except for Jon's father, who has muttered, moaned, tutted and groaned non stop.

The final straw for me was when he came steaming into the utility room bit of our house, where some of the furniture from the party room has been put, huffing and puffing and looking annoyed. I asked him what he was looking for. He told me in an extremely whiny tone of voice that he wanted a frying pan and was fed up of not being able to move around (???) or get to anything (???). Getting to the frying pan involved leaning over a chair to unhook it from its hook instead of just unhooking it from its hook. Big deal. I handed him the frying pan, lost my temper, said a few choice words in a raised voice and stormed off. I'm sick to death of his attitude. The furniture move has been chaotic, yes, but no particular inconvenience to him personally. He's apparently annoyed that we're having a party in the first place because of "them bloody kids making a racket". Charming. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, given his attitude over Christmas and over Emily's real birthday, which he just couldn't be bothered with. He's annoyed every time one of Emily's friends comes round to play in any case, let alone all of them at once.

But this is a birthday party for Emily. It really isn't about him, it's about Emily. She's very hurt at being made to feel that she's an inconvenience, which makes me more furious than I can possibly explain. Everything in my father in law's world has to revolve around HIM. He's incapable of thinking of anyone else. He has got to be the most selfish person I ever hope to meet. Surely he can see that his attitude is hurtful to me and to Jon? Well, perhaps that's why he's doing it. But can't he see it's hurtful to Emily too? Does he really not care?

Anyway. I've had enough. So. He's now in a furious sulk, not speaking to anyone. I'm sure we'll all pay for my spoken-in-anger words of truth, a hundred times over. But for heaven's sake - WHAT is his problem???

I'm hoping for a happier day tomorrow and trying very hard not to let someone else's issues spoil Emily's day and waste all the effort we've put in. Sometimes, i just seethe.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Freedom for Voldemort and Severus. Well. A Bit.

On Friday last week, the 4th, we had planned to put Severus' and Voldemort's collars on and let them go free. When the morning dawned, though, they still looked so small and young and vulnerable. *sob* Also, they're more manic than Romeo and Juliet were as kittens (and back when Mr Pome and JuJu *were* kittens, I didn't think such a thing would be possible!) so we're worried about them chasing each other into the road. Yet they're desperate to go out.

In the end, we compromised. We put their collars on and took them out into the garden without harness/leads and let them go. BUT we stayed out with them for half an hour, and then took them back inside and re-shut the cat flap. We've been doing that each morning and I think we'll carry on doing that for a while, at least until it seems like spring and gets a bit lighter in the evenings. Sev and Voldy don't like being brought back in (and already are proving hard to "catch" when time's up) but we're concerned for them, so there you go. So far, they haven't gone out of the garden, although I dare say they will, and there will come a point where we lose sight of one or both or they leave the garden before we can prevent it - and then we'll just have to come back in and hope they remember how to use the catflap. *rolls eyes* Cats. Nothing but emotional trauma!!

Anyway. They are impossibly cute out in the garden with their collars on, so here are some piccies. There are more of Severus (green collar tag) than of Voldemort (blue collar tag) because Voldy was being a lot more psycho than Sev Sev was (although they both tear around like crazy things), so getting pictures of him was difficult!

In one of the pictures you can see Severus investigating Merlin's grave. I wonder what Merlin would have made of the babies. I bet he'd have loved them - he took very well to Romeo and Juliet when they were small. Speaking of which, I think Juliet's expression in these two pictures adequately conveys her horror that not only are there irritating small black things in her house and in her garden on leads, now they're even in her garden LOOSE!!

By contrast, Romeo seems to be ever more delighted with the kibbies. The first day we took them out he came running up miaowing with his tail in the air, wanting to join them, then gave Voldemort a lovely kiss. Horribly blurry pictures, but he's so wonderful with them. It was as if he was showing them his favourite places, and playing chase with them, and chasing after twigs with them. He joins us every day in the garden with them now, so I think he's enjoying being able to daddy them, lol!

Meanwhile, in between kibby sitting, Emily and I have been preparing for her Egyptian party on Saturday. I know have a plan in my head and have written and re-written endless lists, so that's all right. We're hand painting and stencilling on huge pieces of cream sheeting to line the walls. It's taking hours!!! Today we've also spray painted the party bags and hand painted each with a guest's name in hieroglyphs, prepared some treasure stones that we'll be needing and worked out templates for a craft activity. I have an absolute ton of stuff still on my lists to do. Who's bright idea was this, again?