Friday, 29 September 2006

Who is that masked man?

Hello, hello, it seems I have so much to say since my last post, which wasn't that long ago. But I've only got 30 minutes to write this, then I have to go and pick Sam up from his guitar lesson, and Jude has already reserved the computer for the afternoon.

I'm just going to load on some photo's from our week. This one is a classic. This was taken on Sunday, when I pampered Steve for the day. Whilst he was on the trampoline with Luke, we snuck out with a clay mud mask and gave his skin a bit of a (long overdue) deep clean. Luke was a bit horrified. Sam wanted some too, but I only had enough to do his nose and chin. The next morning Sam woke up with a big spot on his nose! He was not happy and is sworn off of mud masks for the rest of his life.

Luke has had one of those weeks where he wants a constant companion. In between his helping me with the chores, Sam and Jude have been great at entertaining him. Here are Luke and Jude in Jude's room. They got all the carpet and furniture from Jude's dolls house and made a little play scene on the bedroom floor.

Here is a photo, taken today, of Jude doing her math work in the kitchen.

Yesterday was a glorious day, as is today, so I took the opportunity to work in the garden. It needed a lot of attention, and still does to some extent. I needed to do a lot of weeding and tidying up. The sunflowers were all dead (but one) so I cut them down and pulled out the old climbing sweet pea flowers. This has allowed more sunlight into the courgette and pumpkin patch, so hopefully they will grow faster now. I
harvested one marrow, a few courgettes, our first red cabbage, some french beans and some peas, along with the sunflowers (and a few small onions). We will eat some of the courgettes tonight for dinner, and I'll dry out those last few sunflower heads in the airing cupboard, with the ones that are already there.

In an attempt to further enhance our health I purchased a juicer. A good juicer, that actually works and juices whole fruits, not like the daft one we had before, which was so much hassle that we never used it. Today I went out at the crack of dawn to buy a ton of fruit. Jude and I made our first juice at lunch time.... carrots, apples, pears, grapes and ginger. It was really nice. We took some down for Steve to drink at work. I'm hoping it will be a big hit with the kids, although predictably Luke didn't like the healthy juice and opted for squash instead.

That's about all I've got time for at the moment, although I haven't had a chance to tell you about belly dancing, or that Steve is off work next week, but I have to go and pick Sam up.

Wednesday, 27 September 2006

We made the newspaper! Front page, no less!

Well, weren't we surprised today to see our lovely photo in full colour on the front of the local newspaper! The photographer came out last week to take a photo of the kids with their sunflowers. He took a photo of them with the tallest one, which was 9ft3 at the time. We hoped it would get into the paper somewhere, but didn't expect to see it on the front cover! How exciting for the children. Even Luke was chuffed to bits. We will have to buy a heap of copies to send to our family in England. Here is the photo from the front page...

(click on it to see the real size version). I was slightly disappointed that they didn't mention that growing the sunflowers was part of their home education project, but oh well.

Whilst talking about the newspaper, I read an article in it about the problem with dogs fouling the pavements. There is nothing that disgusts me more, than people who let their dogs poo all over the place. Would you believe that Sam found a doggy poo bag in our garden, opened it, to discover the dog muck inside! Someone had picked the mess up and put it in a bag, then lobbed it into our back garden!! (A garden which is clearly filled with childrens toys - swings, slides, trampoline etc) What sort of person would do that? Anyway, there is a dog in our cul-de-sac that is allowed to roam the street from time to time, and it has taken a liking to our front garden. Currently there are 3 piles of dogs mess in our driveway, and today Luke trod in some. I shouldn't have to worry about the kids in our own garden, especially when we live in a quiet little cul-de-sac, not even on a main road. I'm trying to get Steve to go and politely talk to the neighbours about it, but he is reluctant, so it looks like I will have to do it myself. I'm thinking of trying a sort of "a dog keeps fouling in our garden, and we would be grateful if you could keep your dog out of our yard, so that we can pin point the offending dog and deal with it" approach... Sam thinks we should get photographic evidence, and Steve thinks we should leave a note at their house. Anyone got any suggestions? I really don't want a fight with the neighbours, but I can't stand that they let their dog foul in our garden, while their own garden is all neat and clean.

Monday, 25 September 2006

Three quality hours with three quality kids.

I went out of my way, yesterday, to give Steve a relaxing day. He slept all morning after the exhaustion of the fair, and then I ran him a big bubble bath, and tried to make the room as calming as possible, with incense, candles and music. Then I bundled the kids into the kitchen and tried to keep them quiet, so Steve could unwind. Our bathroom is downstairs and Luke was very interested in the music and smells coming from the bathroom. Steve was so relaxed at the end of the day that he decided to cook a curry. He kindly cooked enough for two nights so that I didn't have to prepare dinner tonight. (Monday nights are always hectic as Jude has to be at brownies by 6.30, and I'm always trying to squeeze dinner into that half an hour slot when Steve gets home at 6).

In the evening (Sunday) we all watched half of a DVD about Esther, from the Bible. We will watch the other half next weekend. It was some fun trying to explain to the kids exactly what a harem is, and why the king was 'interviewing' prospective wives, but they seemed to enjoy it. It was nice just to sit with them and watch something like that. We have a few of the DVD's from that series, (Samson, Jesus, Paul, Moses, Abraham etc). Sam and Jude watched the Jesus film a few months back.

Today was a pretty good day. Nothing amazing happened, but we have all been happy. I spent an hour doing some maths with Jude. I can give her more help with maths this year, since Sam has gone back to school. He had the bulk usage of the mathematical side of my brain last year (it's not a very big section of my brain and is quite spongy). I found out that she had been working out answers to division by drawing lots of lines, eg 25 divided by 5 would be IIIII, IIIII, IIIII, IIIII, IIIII, answer 5. Could I explain to her how to work it out any other way? She started to get upset, as she tends to do if she doesn't understand something. As usual, I told her not to get upset. I explained that it doesn't matter if she doesn't know how to do it, as she hasn't learnt it yet. I said that I wouldn't be cross, even if she got it wrong every time. I told her that I'm bad at maths so I understand how confusing it can be. She was welling up, as usual. But this time she managed to keep it in, and actually enjoyed learning with me. I tried to explain that she could work out division if she knew her times tables. It was hard going, but eventually the penny dropped. She was answering those questions that everyone hates. The first one was along the lines of "there are 30 chairs in 6 rows, how many chairs are in each row?" (of course it wasn't written simply like that, it was written as a riddle!) I managed to show her that the question was 30 divided by 6 equals what? But she couldn't divide in her head. So I asked her if she knew how to do 6 X ? = 30. She knew the answer to that was 5. But I couldn't get her to see that it had anything to do with the original division question. We got there in the end but sometimes I wonder if I'm making the learning process harder because I don't really know what I'm talking about. I will need to spend a lot of time with her this week to make sure she really understands the concept.

After all that maths I spent another hour playing with Luke. I got down onto his bedroom floor and played cars with him. I find it fascinating to watch him play. You can see so much of his little personality by watching him in his little fantasy world. I picked a car, and he picked a car, and our cars went to the cinema together. Then we picked another car each, and these cars went to the beach, where they encountered a crocodile that tried to attack them. Then Luke got all the cars out of his car box and we lined them up in neat equal lines, which he loves to do. I tried to take a photo but couldn't find the camera. He put certain cars together, buses went next to each other, tractors went in front of one another, then he arranged all the red cars together and got all excited about the colour red, showing me all the things in his room which were red. There is nothing he loves more than to share his special things with someone else, whether it's his favourite toy, place or movie, he loves to share it and share that specialness with someone else. I quite enjoyed myself!

This evening I spent another hour with Sam. He was all excited about his English homework and asked for my help. He had to research a flower and write notes about it. At school they will write a report about the flower. He told his entire class that his mum is a professional gardener! "Well, you are practically, aren't you Mum?" He chose the nasturtium for his study and we learnt all sorts of interesting facts about the plant. Then he spent 20 minutes telling me all about 'Troy". (Not the DVD!) In stageschool they are studying the Greek story of Troy for a play which they will be putting on at the end of term. The whole story obviously really sparked his imagination. I felt sad that he was no longer home educated, as we could have done a big study on Troy while he has the interest, to run along side his drama.

I went out into the garden with him to look at the nasturtiums, and realised that the garden requires some attention. Some of the sunflowers were blown down in the gales. The play house was blown on top of my parsnips which have been crushed, the peas have gone mouldy and died and need removing before they infect the red cabbages, which are now HUGE and ready to harvest, I think. I was delighted to see a huge marrow, lots of courgettes, and some tiny weeny (plum sized) baby butternut squash pumpkins. How exciting. The winter vegetables are now starting to thrive as the summer ones die off.

This afternoon I also watched the first in the new Jane Eyre drama series, which was on last night. I recorded it for Jude as she showed a real interest in the adverts for it. So we watched it together and she really liked it. I never did read Jane Eyre, but if I find it in my book shelf I might try to read it before watching the rest of it. Otherwise I'll never read it.

Well, I'm off now to relax a bit for the evening. Just going to tuck the kids in and then chill. Plus I plan on looking up a few bean and lentil recipes.

Sunday, 24 September 2006

Visiting Laura

Here are two photo's from our weekend. The first is little Luke looking adoringly at his big cousin J. The second is my sister Jenny (on right) with our cousin Laura, who I haven't seen since she was about 12 !
Yesterday Jude went to work at the Coleraine CD fair with her Dad. I took Sam to stage school and then Luke and I went round to Jenny's to see Laura, who was staying for the weekend. She has just moved over here to study at University. It was good to see her after such a long time, and she told all of the news of our other cousins (her brothers). I haven't seen them since they were little boys and I couldn't believe that they are now grown men. Even though I've grown up and had kids. It's funny how we forget that everyone else grows up too.
Today is Sunday and we are doing nothing really. Next week we will be going to Dublin for the Sunday meeting but this week Steve wasn't up to it. He worked a full week in the shop. Then yesterday morning he woke at 6am, loaded a van full of records and CD's (they weigh a ton) into the van, drove to pick up another dealer (cd dealer, not drug dealer!) and helped him load his stuff into the van. Then he drove a good few hours to Coleraine, unloaded the van, lugged everything into the fair, worked all day at the fair (made hardly any money) and then did the same thing, but in reverse, on the way home. He is absolutely shattered, and has gone back to bed for the day.

Wednesday, 20 September 2006

Hospital appointments and newspaper photos

What a busy day it's been. I'm not feeling at all well now. I feel like I need to sleep for a month. I've noticed I'm getting tired every day, just like I used to before I started making bread from home milled wheat. I'm going to get back into making a loaf every day again, as it's so beneficial to my energy levels.

Today Luke had an appointment at the Royal Children's Hospital in Belfast. Our appointment was for 10.30am but we weren't seen until after 12.30. It seems that they give everyone an appointment for 10.30 and then just let them all sit for 2 hours or more. Jude came with us, as she thinks that going to the Royal is a good exciting free day out. There are plenty of toys, and the whole place is like a kids museum - umbrellas hanging from the ceiling, display under glass floors, playdough to create with, dolls houses, castles, things hanging down from the ceiling. It's like an indoor adventure playground. When we got to the orthopaedics outpatient department there was a children's theatre group putting on a performance! How exciting! They were all dressed in ridiculous costumes, one was playing the guitar, one playing the accordion, and they had a flea circus with them. They perform various acts with performing fleas, which were quite enchanting. We had the camera with us, so Jude stood up to take a photo. The performers relished this photo opportunity and started posing for her. "One more", they kept saying, pulling different poses. She got some good shots. It seems that they go round the hospital performing in the various wards for the children, which is lovely. They were there for about 20 minutes after we arrived, but then the kids entertained themselves for another hour and a half while we waited to see the consultant.

Eventually we were seen. The consultant was lovely, and very good with Luke who hates people looking at his feet. He had already taken his socks and shoes off to show me that there was nothing wrong with his feet, and so he didn't need to see a doctor! The consultant asked him to walk up and down the room, and then played with his feet a bit. Once again they told me that he is unusually flexible and he should be enrolled in a dance or gymnastics class to help strengthen his ankles, and because he could have a natural talent because of his flexibility. I must look into that. This time the consultant decided it is time to do something about his feet. They are not improving on their own. So he now has an appointment in October to get a plaster cast taken of his feet. They will then use this cast to make him a special pair of insole type supports, moulded to the shape of his feet. He will need to get his feet cast every time they grow a size (which is very often, I can tell you!) It's going to be some fun trying to get him to wear them.

We were planning to go to W5 after the appointment but there was no time left. We did go to pizza hut and had the buffet while we waited for Uncle David to finish at Uni. (We had Aunty Hannah with us). Then we drove back home with them both. They are, at this moment, getting some portrait photography done, to celebrate their engagement. Then I drove to the school to pick Sam up, drove Jude to archery, drove Sam home, drove back to archery to get Jude. Then we had the photographer from the local newspaper out to take a photo of the children with their tallest sunflower, which is now 9ft 3.

The boy in Sam's class who thumped him, thumped him again yesterday. The boy tried to tell the teacher that Sam had kicked him, but a classroom assistant had seen Sam working away, minding his own business. So this boy was suspended for the day. His parents were called to collect him. He didn't go back to school today either. Sam was glad to see that the school are doing something about his behaviour. The violence is not just directed towards Sam, but anyone who happens to be within reach, it seems. After the surprise of Sam getting into the higher maths group, he came home today all pleased because he had received his first 'grade'. They grade work A to D for attainment, and 1 - 4 for effort (1 being the highest). For Sam's RE homework he was graded A+, 1. He was delighted! He seems to be doing really well at the school so far. A little praise really spurs Sam on to do better. Something which was sorely lacking at his old primary school, where he was constantly put down by his teacher.

Monday, 18 September 2006

I find it so hard to think of good titles!

I've got so much to blog about from the weekend that I'm sure I will forget most of it. We spent all day on Saturday at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, near Holywood. I quite often take Luke and Jude there on a Saturday whilst Sam is at stage school. It's Luke's all time favourite place. He dreams of taking various friends and family members there, to show them all his favourite trains. But this time we spent the whole day there, for the purposes of Steve's first photography project for his HND. We spent the first half of the day at the Folk park. Luke has never been there. It was a sunny day and we walked around the old Irish buildings, saw a man printing from an antique printing press, and another man weaving a rug using an old machine, then we had a picnic outside one of the thatched cottages. Steve spent the whole time taking photographs while we pleased ourselves. We didn't get many pics of us, just artsy fartsy things. After lunch I took Sam to stage school and then we went to the transport museum and had the usual Saturday fun there. Steve took a heap more photos.

On Saturday evening we went to Jenny's house warming party, which was a good evening for adults and kids alike. The food was lovely, and so was the company.

Sunday was spent relaxing. Well, that was the plan, although I spent most of the day tidying, so that I could eventually relax. Not much to report there. Jude stayed at Auntie Jenny's house for the weekend.

Today I had to pick Jude up after taking Sam to school. On the way home from Jenny's we stopped at B&Q, Homebase and M&S. I bought myself some sushi for lunch, which was such a treat! It was so so yummy.

Sam was upset when he came out of school today. There is a boy in his class who seems to have some behaviour problems. He keeps punching people, for no reason. Today it was Sam's turn to get punched. In the arm, during science. He was just sitting, doing his work, when this kid punched him. Sam has seen him do it to other children in the school. This child has no friends and will end up very lonely if he carries on this way. Fortunately the teacher saw what happened and sent the boy to sit on his own. Sam went to see the head of year at the end of the school day, whilst I was sitting alone in the school car park wondering why my child was the only child that didn't leave the building. She was very good to him, and listened to him. He explained how he had seen this boy hitting and punching several children. She told him that he had been reported 5 times today for the same thing! She told Sam that his parents were coming to the school this evening. She said that he had got away with it in his last school, and he thought he could get away with it here too. Sam said he wasn't too upset by it, but obviously the stress of having to report to the head of year took it's toll on him, and he had to let all that emotion out when he got into the car. He spent all evening running to the toilet with stomach cramps. I'm not sure if this was caused by the stress of the situation or not. His head of year told him to ask me to phone her tomorrow to discuss what had happened. She seems like a very nice lady. I tried to explain to Sam that perhaps this boy has issues that we are not aware of, and that he should try to understand that maybe his life is more complicated than we can see, or perhaps he is very unhappy. I hope that this boy leaves him alone from now on. Apart from that incident Sam seems to be enjoying this new school.

He came home with some surprising news! They did a maths test on the second day of school. Maths is the only subject that they stream the children in. I was worried about Sam's maths as I had taken him back a year when he left school, as his confidence was so badly knocked by his old P6 teacher. I was worried that he was still behind in maths. But today the classes were put into their new maths groups, based on the results of the test that they took, and Sam was put into the higher group! Well blow me down with a feather! We were both pleasantly surprised by that!

Anyway, here are a few photos from our week for you to enjoy...

Luke emptied an entire bottle of lavender sleepeasy fabric conditioner onto the utility room floor. He then attempted to clean it, by putting on a pair of wellies, and sliding about in it with an umberella and a few tea towels. The floor was like an ice rink, but the whole house (and Luke) smelt divine. (notice the purple shimmer to the floor)

Yes, here we have Luke all dressed up in half the contents of my underwear drawer!

Mummy and Luke having cuddles in my bed. I thought this was such a cute little picture (apart from the neck underwear)

And two photos from our trip to the folk museum.

Sunday, 17 September 2006

Slideshow of photos

Friday, 15 September 2006

Isis Belly Dance in Belfast

Well, well, well, whoever knew that belly dancing could be so difficult?! And so much fun! Last night me and Mum went to our first class, in Belfast. It was a good laugh. The lady gave us all Egyptian scarf type belt things, with jingles discs on, to wear whilst dancing. I think the idea was that if you were doing it right you'd hear the jingles. So we all donned our hip scarves and stood in a large circle around the room, with the instructor in the middle. There were about 25 women there, at a guess, and they were all new to belly dancing too. So that was a relief. After swinging our hips and doing our stuff in a large circle we got into 3 lines and tried a bit more. I'm sure we all looked a sight, and there were lots of giggles from various ladies. By the end of the lesson we were shimmying our hips in time to the music. We even managed a little dance forwards and backwards by the end of the session. Check out the Isis Belly Dancing site, and go to the link for the gallery to see photos of the type of thing we were up to.
Mum has downloaded a heap of belly dancing music for us to practice to, and we've both ordered our own scarf belts from Egypt. This is the one I ordered. I'm quite looking forward to the next class, although after practicing in the mirror briefly I am now quite sure that I looked like an elephant having a fit, but who cares when it's fun?

This morning I went out for breakfast with my friend C. Then we did an hour of shopping. I managed to pick up a bargain pair of black high heel shoes reduced from £25 to £5 in Dorothy Perkins (and shock, horror, they actually fitted me!) and a pair of trendy comfortable hush puppy shoes at a not so low price of £45. (You can see them by clicking here - in the olive colour.) I needed some comfy shoes as all I have is my trainers. I find it so hard to get anything to fit as my feet are so narrow.

Yesterday Jude, Luke and myself visited W5 in Belfast for a trip with some other home educating families. Jude found her friend and they went off round the building whilst I sat with Luke. He mostly played in the huge train section, but also had a go in the toy supermarket, and the play cafe, as well as a drive in the mini car. Then we all went to pizza hut for lunch. It was a good day, and the place was so quiet as everyone else was at school.

Tomorrow we will be spending the whole day at the folk and transport museum. Steve is going to take a heap of black and white film for the first part of his course, while we are there. Then we will take Sam off to his drama school for the afternoon. It will be an exhausting day because afterwards we are off to my sisters house warming party. Sunday will definitely be a day for relaxing. And maybe washing, and a little ironing, and possibly some vacuuming. I'll look forward to that.

Wednesday, 13 September 2006

Schools are pants.

I've had Sam on the phone from school twice today. Firstly, we agreed he could take guitar lessons. I gave him the form and cheque straight away, but he couldn't find the music teacher to give it to her, and the office wouldn't take it. He finally found the teacher today who told him he was too late, all the guitar lessons are fully booked, as are the piano and drums. All they had left was trombone. He has no interest in learning that. So he was a bit gutted, I think.

Secondly, the school has a system for lunches. Every child has a credit card type thing. You send your child in with coins, which they load into a machine. It puts the amount of money onto the card and they use this to pay for lunches. On the first day of school the machine wasn't working properly. Everyone put their money in (£4.50 for Sam) but the machine didn't register it. Sam later put another £10, and some more money this week. But he phoned me today to say that there was only 12p left on his card. I phoned the office to ask what has happened to all his money and they told me that on the first day any money put in didn't go onto the cards properly. Instead of telling the children this, so that we could rectify it, they just left it. It will get sorted if and when parents realise that the child has no money. How crazy. Half the parents won't realise it's happened and the catering company will have made a small fortune!

Edit - Steve has managed to organise guitar lessons with a friend of his who lives next to the school. This guy has offered to do them for free as he wants to start teaching guitar and will use Sam as a sort of guinea-pig to see how it goes. So that's good news! He's a nice guy too, and plays in a gospel band. Excellent news. Sam will be pleased.

News schools and new colleges

Steve left this morning at the crack of dawn to catch his bus to college. It is his first day on the 3 year HND Photography course. Right up until Sunday he wasn't sure if he was even going to do the course. Yesterday he made up his mind to give it a try. I hope it goes well for him. I really hope he enjoys it, and that it's a source of pleasure, rather than stress. I'm hoping that he really enjoys that time away from work and home every week, with something to concentrate on, other than making money and running errands.

Sam has left for school. He seems to be enjoying it so far. Now that all the 11plus passers have been taken off to the grammar school, Sam seems to be top of the class! Which he is really enjoying! His favourite subject is English (never was before - but it's amazing what difference a nice teacher can make to a subject) and from what he tells me, his English teacher uses his work all the time for examples to other kids. He decided yesterday to write an extra essay about literary genres to "impress the teacher". Well, blow me down! Sam? Taking on extra work? They must have drugged him or something.

This week the after school clubs start. Sam has signed up for drama (no surprises there!), choir, and cooking. In his first Home Economics lesson he impressed the teacher, all the kids, and himself, by being the only one who could cook. The fact that he could single handedly make a spaghetti bolognaise rocketed his popularity with the other kids and the teacher (at least that's the way he makes it sound). Thanks to his Dad, Sam is regarded as something of 'the cool kid'. This is a new experience to him. His Dad owns the coolest shop in the town - the CD shop - the coolest, hippest place for teenagers to hang out after school. From the day he started, teenage girls kept saying "oh there's the kid who's Dad owns the CD shop". This makes him automatically cool. Two teenage girls chose him as their 'pet year 8' for the year and they look out for him all the time. Yesterday at lunch time Sam was surrounded by a crowd of teenage girls, all wanting to talk to him and asking him about the shop. His class mates all watched in envy at his popularity with the girls! (Honestly, this is what he is telling me... ) In between lessons, travelling from class to class, Sam says that along the corridors big kids keep saying "hello Sam", "hi Sam", "how are you Sam?" and the kids from his class think he must be really cool because of it. So, so far he is enjoying it. Sam's never been one to shun a bit of attention from anyone!

OK, Luke's begging me for breakfast, so I better go and feed the poor little mite.

Saturday, 9 September 2006

A Saturday Trip To Gosford Forest Park

The sun was shining today, so we thought we should make the most of it. Steve was at work, but I decided to take the kids to Gosford Forest Park to run off some steam and enjoy some nice weather. But first off, we had to give Luke a bath. He got into Jude's makeover box, and came upstairs in his pyjama's, looking so proud and announcing "Mummy, I had a make over!"

I love Gosford Forest Park. We have only been once, but have meant to go back all summer. Today it was a glorious day, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and all the animals at the mini animal farm were in good form too! Jude took charge of the camera and took 122 photos of chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, lambs and trees. (I'll not post them all!) Luke was delighted to discover a turkey. I had been telling him the story of Henny Penny, this morning, and when he asked "what's a turkey lurkey?" I had told him that we'd find a picture of a turkey on the Internet. But when we saw the real thing, that was just great. All the birds came running straight to us. They must have been looking for food, now that the hoards have gone back to school, and stopped visiting them.

After walking round the animal farm, we stopped in to the little cafe, where the kids had ice creams. Then we headed up to the walled garden and forest area. Jude has just started reading 'The Secret Garden', so I think that this walled garden really appealed to her. Inside there is a pond, which was drained, so the kids were able to play in it. I sat by this empty pond for well over an hour, while the three kids ran about, played, explored and used their imaginations. There were trees that were shaped like huts, and the kids made homes in them. Sam spent an hour inside one, making a stick fire and swinging from the inside branches. Jude played with an empty water balloon and ran about all over the place, and Luke explored every nook and cranny, occasionally asking me to come and find him. It was nice to see them enjoying themselves so much. It really is quite a magical place.
We took a walk into the forest, outside of the walled garden. It has the most amazing trees from all across the globe. Honestly, it looks like Jurassic Park should have been filmed there! All the trees have a plaque at the bottom with their name on, and even though he can't read, Luke ran up to each one excitedly calling out "Mummy read this tree's name now!"

A lot of tree climbing fun was had by all (except me). Jude got stuck in one tree, and then landed in a swamp and got her feet covered in slosh. There was lots of screaming, laughing, calling and giggling, ringing through the forests, from our family. But we took a few minutes at one point to stop and use our senses. We listened for a minute to all the sounds of the forest, and then we took in the smells. We took time to look all around us and take in the scenery, and then used our fingers to feel the bark and moss.

We can't wait to go back there. Luke just loves being out of doors, and Sam and Jude seem to enjoy each others company more now that Sam is away at school during the day. Luke asked a million questions, told a million stories, and showed me a million things on our way round. His mind is just like a sponge, waiting to absorb as much as possible from the world around him.

This last photo is of a ring of mushrooms that we found on the forest floor! It looked quite amazing. The kids each jumped into the ring of mushrooms and was magically transported to another time or place. They could be gone for hours but it seemed like just a split second to any onlooker! Jude went to Australia, I think, and Sam went to India. You might have to click on the image to open the larger version to see the ring of mushrooms properly.

Friday, 8 September 2006

Our 10ft tall sunflowers

We just had to put a few photos of our 10ft tall sunflowers onto the blog. Steve took these pics today. This is the view of them from the road behind our house, not from inside our garden. Some of them aren't on view from the road, but these tall ones look fabulous! Luke planted these from little seeds way back in May. He is so pleased with how tall they have grown. It's been very educational for him.

Wedding dress-up time

While I'm able to post photos, he are a few from our day today...

Hannah was here and we got all my old wedding stuff out of the loft for a laugh. (She is planning her wedding). Here is a photo of Luke, who made a bed inside the box to my wedding dress, and then performed a little ditty from 'The Little Shop Of Horrors', whilsts asking me to take hundreds of photos for his blog! Every time he does anything unusual he says "I'm taking a photo for my blog!"

And he is gorgeous Jude in my wedding dress, vail and tiara. She's such a cutie!

Finally... flower photos on the blog

I was finally able to upload the flower photos onto the blog.

Thursday, 7 September 2006

The day from hell ... and belly dancing.

Do you ever have one of those days, when almost everything goes wrong? It started out as a bad day as soon as we stepped foot out of bed this morning. Steve was going to be off today, so that was exciting. He got up to get Sam ready for school, as he hasn't done it since he started. I thought a nice lie in was in order. But no, it seems that Sam went to bed too late last night and was not in good form this morning. Firstly, it is a PE day and he needed a towel for the showers. Easy, put a towel into the PE bag, right? No, a towel doesn't fit in a PE bad so he puts it in his school bag, then I suggest he may need a carrier bag to bring the wet towel home in. Anyway, there was all sorts of teenage moody grunts coming from his direction. I dragged myself out of bed to get him ready myself because I could see they were going to be late without my intervention. Bye bye beautiful lie in. When I came downstairs Sam was refusing to eat or drink and wanted to go to school on an empty stomach. Steve was agreeable to this, for some reason. He finally got out to school, in a bad mood. So of course I spent all day hoping that he was OK, and that he perked up when he got there.

I got back into bed. Steve told the remaining kids that he would take them out to breakfast and give me a break (for some reason I never get invited out to these breakfast dates). Anyway, they got ready, got all excited, when the lady working in Steve's shop phoned in sick. So Steve had to go to work and spend the day in the shop, despite it being his day off. That sucked. I had planned for us all to go to Gosford Forest Park or somewhere for a nice family walk. So the day started on a down note, and I was not in good form.

It got worse. Jude quietly started her studies and kept a low profile until she came and asked me about some work, and I realised that I hadn't yet printed it out. So I tried to. But our brand new Dell Printer has broken. Big time broken, and I think it will have to go back. So by this time I was steaming. Stupid damn printer, my life would be a whole lot better if I just threw the computer out of the window! I spend most of my life fixing things. I took a deep breath. Went downstairs. Had a bath. Luke was in good form and we had some cuddles and tickles. His little laughs and smiles soon had me feeling tip top again.

At midday there was a knock at the door (see post below) and there was a lady delivering me a huge beautiful bouquet of flowers! The day was starting to look up again. That really did cheer me up, big time. What a surprise! They were completely unexpected. They are now proudly displayed at the window in the living room. They are gorgeous and smell divine. I tried to put a photo of them on the blog, but this new beta blog very rarely lets anyone post any pictures. It's still not working now. You can see them on flickr in the post below if you want to though.

I picked Sam up from school at 3.20 and was greeted by a child who had discovered the horror of communal showers! Why on earth do they make young children, and adolescents, take showers together in one big shower. You'd think in today's society, that communal showers in schools would be a big no-no. But this is only a new school. All the kids were horrified beyond belief, and most of them managed to sneak in with their PE shorts still on (hence Sam coming home with a wet bum and trousers). I'm wondering whether I can send in a note saying I do not approve of communal showers, and won't let my son take part in that. I don't know if it would be any use. Why do they subject children to such things during a time of their lives when they are more self conscious about their bodies, than ever? It's crazy. As if kids don't have enough to cope with, worry about self image, peer pressure, studies etc.

Well, its 5.15pm and Sam is doing his homework. He says that he does miss all that free time. Jude finished her studies at 1pm and has been free to enjoy herself since then. Sam is still slogging away at 5pm. I must say, the homework he has been set every day so far, is reminiscent of work completed in P1! It's all been colouring! Seriously. On a good note, Sam's whole class were tested today in Music to see how musical they are. I think it was basically testing for a musical ear. "Is this note higher than this one?" Questions like that. Sam said when the teacher asked who plays an instrument, all but one child put their hands up! The test results were read out at the end of the test, from lowest score (an apparently harp playing lad) to the highest score. And guess who got the highest score? Yes, my Sam. He was glowing when he told me. Apparently he let out a big cheer and jumped up in the air when he found out. His teacher calmly said "well done Sam". It must be nice to be the best at something.

I asked Jude to take a shower. I was happily putting my flowers into a vase when I noticed a dripping sound. I went to investigate and discovered a huge crack along the hall way ceiling with water dripping through at rapid speed! I ran up stairs and burst into the shower room. Jude was already out, getting dried. The shower seemed fine, not blocked or overflowing. I raced back downstairs and dragged the huge heavy book case from under the drips, in case a whole torrent should come through. I can't believe it! We had the electrician out yesterday to fix our faulty electric box, and now it looks as if we need to get a plumber out. Thank goodness I had a bath this morning! Keeping a home is like putting your money into a bag of wholes. It cost £300 for Sam's uniform, but we already had a letter home this week requesting us all to purchase special black drama t-shirts from the school. Seemingly, a plain black t-shirt does not do the trick and we must purchase one with the school logo on. Today Sam brought home a letter about music tuition. Sam used to play the violin at primary school. That stopped when he left school. I promised him that he could have lessons on a new instrument when he started high school. I had imagined (perhaps foolishly) that the school lessons would be subsidized (as they were at the primary school). But no, they are more than Jude's private piano lessons. He wants to learn the guitar; at £10 a lesson that's going to cost another £300 a year. Oh boy.

Did I mention that I have signed up for belly dancing lessons?? Oh yes, I kid you not. My Mum wanted to do them and no one would go with her, so I agreed to give it a try. That'll make for some interesting blog photos!

I got an call today from the local newspaper asking if they can come out and take a photo of the kids with their 10ft tall sunflowers and their vegetable garden! So it looks like we'll be in the paper. Cool.

So, its been a bad day, with a nice surprise, which kept my sanity. We have a babysitter this evening so we'll be having a night out without the kids. What do you suppose could go wrong? Food poisoning perhaps? Wish me luck.

Flowers galore!

Guess what just turned up at the door? A HUGE bouquet of flowers! I think that's possibly the first time that's ever happened to me. Except for the ones delivered to the hospital after the birth of my babies.

I was shocked because it's not my birthday or anything special. I was feeling really miserable all day, and I thought Steve had finally latched on to a good way to cheer me up. But when I opened the card, they weren't from him. They were from my Mum! Thanks Mum! How lovely. Luke and Jude were so excited and Jude took a photo of me and Luke with the flowers. They couldn't have come at a better time. I was having a horrible day... printers broken, Steve supposed to be off work but wasnt, doubting myself as a mother, all that stuff, when they turned up and brightened up my day.

It's been a flowery week. The people in our fellowship also bought me some flowers to say thanks for everything. Luke actually arranged those in a vase for me...

Seen as this blasted Blogger wont let me upload photos (AGAIN!!!!!!!!!) you can see pictures of the flowers by clicking here.

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

Blogger Comments

A few people have had trouble posting comments on my blog since I switched to the new beta blogger version. If you have a standard blog account you will not be able to post a comment on my blog by signing through your blogger display name. Instead, you need to sign the comments by clicking the option 'other' and filling in your name (and your blog address if you have one). If you don't have a blogger account you should be able to leave comments by clicking 'other' and signing your name. Don't forget to fill in the word verification code.
If you've had problems leaving a comment could you please try it now, leaving a comment on this post, and seeing whether it works.

Monday, 4 September 2006

Fear of Failure

Half way though our first day back at home education. Sam, of course is away to real school. Jude has been quietly getting on with her reading. Today she has a piano lesson. She hasn't practiced all summer long. I don't mind really, she's been having fun. But today she sat at the piano and couldn't remember how the piece went. I played it to her on the flute, but explained that I didn't know how the piece went either, but I was reading the notes and playing what I read. I tried to get her to do the same. Jude has an immense fear of failure. Reading the book, How Children Fail, I now understand and see this more. She will not have a go at playing a piece by sight reading it. Instead, she memorizes each line of the music, and plays it from memory without looking at the book at all. What a difficult way to play the piano. I tried to encourage her to try to sight read it. I said to her, it doesn't matter how bad it sounds, how many mistakes you make, it can sound really dreadful, but at least try to look at the music and play what you read. Instead, she burst into tears and ran off to her room. Her fear of failing is so immense that she won't even try. I am at a loss as to what to do about it. Other than encouraging her to try, what else can I do? She can't complete all her grades in piano by memory. And she does love to play the piano, she is not forced to do it. I notice she is the same in maths. If you try to explain something, and she doesn't understand it, she cries and gets so terribly upset. No matter how much I explain to her that it doesn't matter if she can't do it, if she doesn't understand or if she makes a mistake, it doesn't change her behaviour. At school the teachers told me she was very bright, but she took so much longer than everyone else to complete her work, because she was so afraid of making a mistake. Ah, what am I to do?

Sunday, 3 September 2006

A silly carrot, I mean nut, and ramblings...

Well, I'm feeling the need to blog, but I'm not sure what about yet, so I'll just see what ramblings come to me. I'm loading some digital photos onto the computer, so they will remind me of all that's been happening over the last few days. It's 8pm on Sunday evening, Luke is asleep, Sam is taking a shower ready for school in the morning, and Jude is getting ready for bed. Steve is tidying the garden or something, I'm not sure. He never sits down.

Tomorrow is the start of Sam's first proper week of school. Friday was more of an induction day, but this week he will really get to see what high school is all about. He didn't seem overly enthusiastic about the place when he came home on Friday. The most exciting thing that happened was that the till in the cafeteria wasn't working so they all got a free lunch! I'm remembering today what it was like in the days when both Sam and Jude went to school. That Sunday evening check list of 'are the uniforms clean and ironed?', 'is the homework all done?', 'are there forms to be filled in?', 'do the kids need a shower or bath?' Sunday evenings in the home educating family are usually pretty laid back. Tomorrow Jude starts some more formal work. I haven't asked her to do anything over the summer holidays. She hasn't even practiced the piano. She is starting on some new books this year, and continuing with some old ones too. The new books are Madam How and Lady Why, It couldn't just happen: fascinating facts about Gods world and Kon Tiki, Across the Pacific by Raft. I have no idea yet if these new books are any good, but we'll soon find out. They were, of course, recommended on the Ambleside Online Curriculum, so I didn't just pluck them out of thin air!

I've just loaded on the photos and they have jogged my memory a bit about our weekend.Today Steve and Luke dug up the first carrot from our veggie plot. They aren't really ready to be harvested yet, as they have a bit more growing to do. But once Steve discovered that there were actually carrots growing under those 3ft tall green grassy carrot tops, he could not resist to pick one. Then he insisted, like a child, to have his photo taken with it, for the blog, as if he was the one who actually planted it, watered it, fed it, weeded it and cared for it. So here is his special photo of our first carrot.

And here is a cute photo of one of our glorious sunflowers, in bloom.

Steve took this photo of Sam, Jude and Luke on Friday morning, before Sam left for school. Doesn't he look smart in his uniform? Luke was so excited about it. He asked me "can i go to school too?" I explained that he couldn't, so he asked "why? Are they shooting there?" What a strange question, I thought. Then I realised he must have been thinking about archery, where he can't go because they shoot arrows. Then he told me that they read lots of books at school. He must have decided that from the amount of reading both kids did as part of their home education, when they would tell Luke "shhh, I'm doing my school work".

Sam took it upon himself on Saturday morning to draw a picture of our house. I thought he looked so studious and artistic sitting in a chair on the lawn, with his paper, pens and an umbrella to shield his artwork from the drizzle, that I had to take a photo. It was a very good picture and if I find it I will scan it to put on the blog tomorrow.

Oh yes, last night we were invited to Mum's friends house for a lovely dinner of curry and rice. They are the family who own the dog Diamond, that we cared for. The food was lovely, and Mum cooked a scrumptious apple and blackberry crumble for pudding. Oh boy. The kids were well behaved, and even Luke managed to be good natured and charming until almost 10pm when he decided he needed to go to bed.
I found a blogring devoted to International Adoption, and read some blogs that really pulled on my heart strings. Oh I better not start blogging about that now or I'll be here all night.
Well, I'm off to bed myself now. It is 10.15 pm, despite me starting this blog at 8pm. Blogger wouldn't upload my photos and I got cheesed off and left it. Then I came upstairs to do some yoga (that's another story for another time) and got lured into the computer room (the way Steve does when he goes past a Chinese restaurant) and low and behold, blogger was working again. So here I am. And now I've gone.