Thursday, 29 March 2007

My first day at work

Today was my first official day at work! Yes it was. Ok, its not that exciting. I was just working in Dan's shop. But it's my official new part time job. And I loved it. It was so nice to be away from the hassles of every day home life, just for a break. And I know that Dan enjoyed being at home with the kids. He even baked cupcakes with Barney! When I got home from work he had made a four course almost raw meal! Go boy! I think I might go full time. When I say four courses, well, course one was raspberry smoothie, course two was salad with sprouts and baked potato, course three was Barneys cupcakes, and course four was chocolate fondue with lots of fruits. I couldn't eat that bit, but I enjoyed watching the kids enjoy it.

The kids enjoying fondue with Daddy.

Luke took this photo of me this evening.

This is a silly pic of me talking on web cam to Dan! I took a photo of myself. One of those silly moments.

I had a slight worry today. Dan phoned me to say that my friend on death row in America had tried to phone me. He only phones once a year, when its pre-arranged, because it costs me £60 ($120) to accept a collect call from him. So when he phoned unexpectedly it got me worried. Dan didn't accept the call because I wasn't at home anyway. My mind started racing when he told me. I thought that something could be wrong. The panic made me realise how awful it is going to be if or when he receives his execution date.

I mustered up enough courage to phone the prison in Georgia. I phoned once before and got a horrible woman who was no help at all. But this time I explained the situation, that I was phoning from Ireland and it costs me $120 to receive his calls, and the lovely girl put me through to E's councilor. He was a lovely guy and he wrote a message down for me and promised to take it straight to my friend. I was impressed by the amount of respect he had for my death row pal. He assured me that he is not unwell and that he has not received his date yet, so that relieved me. I am glad to know that E will get a message from me and that all is well. Funnily enough I was writing a letter to him at the time he phoned.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Annie's first day of school

Annabelle's first day of school was a huge success. She wasn't even nervous going in this morning. She just loved it. Still, it's early days and everything can seem exciting when it's new. She came home with all sorts of stories. She made friends with the naughtiest girl in the school (heck!) and did PE, and had a tour of the school with three girls, and played in the playground. Last night I had to type up a letter about all the books she's read and subjects she has covered this year. I gathered up her most important books and sent them in with her this morning. The teacher put her into the lowest reading group, just as she wasn't sure where to put her, LOL. So I sent in her literature books with a note saying I was pretty sure it was way ahead of her age group. The book she's been sent home with it very basic. I thought it was funny that they'd put the home schooled child into the lowest groups, thinking that she's probably missed out on a lot. Hopefully they will re-evaluate the situation today when they see her work.

Last night we went to the local Italian restaurant as a family (plus my Mum) as a kind of little celebration for Jude. That was nice, the kids love getting out.

Monday, 26 March 2007

A new day

Today was Annabelle's first day at school. She was a bundle of nerves this morning when she got up and put her new school uniform on. The whole morning rush is something I haven't missed at all whilst home educating. "Have you done this? Have you got that? Have you brushed your teeth? Washed your face? Come on you're going to be late." Ergh, hate all that.
Anyway, here's a pic of my darling girl in her uniform...

We took Jimmie to school first and then Annabelle. Annabelle's school have a kind of 'turn up when you feel like it' policy. Children can arrive any time between 8.45 and 9.10am . Needless to say we'll be as late as possible most mornings. I took her into the school, we met with the principle, and she and I (and little Barney) took Annie to her classroom. The Principle had picked out a buddy for her. She was all clued up and prepared for Annabelle's arrival, bless her. This little girl was chosen to help Annabelle settle in, because she loves reading and is reading at a very high level, like Annie, and also because her Dad died unexpectedly last year, and she has had a difficult time. They must have felt that paring her with Annie would give her something new to focus on at school. The poor girl, how sad.
I felt quite sad walking away from the classroom. I have so enjoyed home educating the children. I don't know if this is the right thing for us, and for Annabelle, or not. I do hope she is happy there, and that she enjoys herself and makes lots of friends. I hope so much that I'm not letting her down, making a bad decision for her. I have told her, a million times, that she can change her mind and come back home at any time. She has a month to try the place out and think about it. After that we will review the situation and make a firm choice one way or the other.

Today I have to sift through all Annie's home school work. The new school wish to see it to assess what level she is at. They are going to keep her reading the same literature that she is reading at home, because she is so much further on with that. I feel a bit nervous about taking in her maths work, science books etc in case they don't think much of it. I'd hate to home education a bad reputation!
I'll post again when I find out how her first day went. Now onto other things. It's been a busy week, a fun week, and a sad week. This weekend we had J's kids sleeping over for 2 nights (you remember she had my kids the weekend that Dan gave me the ring? - well this was payback). It wasn't too bad actually. All the kids were very well behaved and the weather was beautiful so they were out in the garden a lot. We spent all day Saturday in the garden... Dan mowing the lawn, Barney and I planting seeds, and all the kids playing on the trampoline. Here are some photos...

Here's Annabelle and her cousin B, wearing matching t-shirts. They spent the entire weekend joined at the hip (not literally!) Whilst the others were out in the garden, screaming and shouting, these two were always quietly hidden away in a room somewhere, playing together.

The other 4 kids spent a lot of time on the hammock or in the trampoline.

Barney spent Saturday morning helping his Dad tidy the garden, and Saturday afternoon helping me plant seeds. Here he is having a lift across the patio!
Barney has always been a great help in the vegetable garden. Here he is helping me to plant garlic. We managed to plant garlic bulbs, as well as calendula, spinach, 3 types of lettuce and radishes. There is still a lot more work to be done in the garden.
This is what our neglected veg patch looks like at the moment. It's basically been left all winter. We found a pile of carrots still growing, which Barney dug up for me. The herb garden is still there, but all the other beds need a little weeding and then some more planting. I quite enjoyed getting back into it again.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Mothers Day

So today was mothers day. Dan is away in England visiting with his sick grandfather, so Mothers Day was left to the kids. Barney crawled into bed with me at 7.20am this morning, and I made him a bottle. He was too excited to drink it all, and ran off to find his big brother Jimmie. Jimmie managed to contain his little brother until 7.50, when I was awoken with a chorus of "Happy Mothers Day to you" (sung to the tune of happy birthday!) I was presented with a nice hot cup of tea, and a tray full of prezzies! Barney helped me open them all. Annabelle got a bit annoyed with him, because he was letting slip what the presents were before I opened them. But I explained to her that his excitement was just a lovely mother day memory for me, and that it was just as special as the presents.

Barney had made me (with the help of his brother) a paper heart pendant. A big red paper heart, with lots of sequins and sparkles stuck to it, and put on a string necklace. It's just the cutest thing. I also got 4 new cups! Each specially picked by the kids for one reason or another, some chocolate, a yummy mummy cooking apron, a new vase (to replace the one that got broken last week), and a few other things as well. The hand made things are the nicest. Bless.

My sister and I took our Mum out for a mothers day lunch. We went to an American restaurant in Lisburn, which caters very well for kids (provides DVD's and Nintendos to entertain them!)
We had a lovely meal, and then headed back to my sister H's house. My kids each decorated a Peter Rabbit plant pot thingy (see pic below) for my Mum. I thought they did a really good job with them. Annabelle painted the goose, Barney painted the frog, and Jimmie blended a heap of paints to get just the right colours for the Rabbit.

When we got home we were delighted to find it had snowed at our place! The kids all wrapped up and played in it before it got dark. Now I have 3 wet cold children needing my attention. No school tomorrow, off for St Paddy's day.

The kids enjoying their food at Ed's Bar n Grill in Lisburn.

Barney just wanted ice cream. And was oh so happy when he finally got one!

Here you can see the 3 plant pot characters that the kids painted. They went nicely with the basket of flowers that J gave Mum.

Mum and her prezzies, with my sister H.

Here is Mum, my littles sister H, and my next littlest sister M. J was there too, although not in the photo.

Our r house in the snow, when we arrived home this evening.

Friday, 16 March 2007

A change of pace

Well, well, how life can suddenly change so unexpectedly.

During the week Jimmie was involved in a school production, celebrating 25 years of integrated education in Northern Ireland. The 40 minute performance was very good (even though Barney insisted on yawning very loudly at every opportunity, causing ripples of laughter across the assembly hall, from Jimmies amused school mates!) They put on a very educational and enlightening slide show, with photos and captions from the last 25 years. Photos of all the bombs that had gone off in Northern Ireland, photos of protestant wall murals from Belfast, and newspaper articles from various conflicts from across Ulster over the last 25 years. It celebrated the integration of children from all communities in its school. To do this they presented another slide show, tracing the personal family lines, journeys and ancestry of some of the pupils. The whole presentation was quite moving, and I felt sure that Jimmie is in a great school, compared to the place that he went to before. It was wonderful to see diversity being celebrated, rather than shunned and hidden.

Anyway, Annabelle quite enjoyed her 40 minutes in Jimmies school. I could see her eyes lighting up. Any time I have mentioned the possibility of her going back to school she has burst into tears. This time I asked her, that if she could find a school like Jimmies, would she be interested in having a look around it, with no pressure to join it. She said yes, and got excited about it. I looked into some of the local schools. I was obviously determined not to send her back to her old school, and she was also adamant that she would never go back there.

I phoned the local Integrated primary school and spoke to the secretary. Places at this school are like gold dust, just as they are in Jimmies school. We were unable to get a primary place for them there when they were starting school age. The secretary told me that it was very unlikely that I would get a space in P6 for Annabelle, but that she would check with the principal for me. The next day the principal phoned me. She said that they had triplets leave P6 this week, to move to Spain. There were 2 children on the waiting list for P6 who had been offered places, and had just started at the school, but they still had one place left which they offered to Annabelle. To top it off, that evening was the school open night, for parents to come and visit, and wander around. So she invited us to pop in for a nosey, which we did. This morning we went back for a meeting with the principal. It turns out that her daughter is in Jimmie's class at the college, and she has heard all about him! She even told us about his Mika video on the blog !!!!!

The principal was lovely. I talked to her about how terrible life was in P6 for Jimmie at the old school. I explained how he often had up to 3 hours of homework, studying for the 11 plus. She relayed my fears and stated that P6 had not even begun their 11plus work yet. (I'm pretty sure that the 11plus horror started the first day of school in September at Jimmies old school.) She was very accommodating of Annabelle's home education. She asked that we bring her books in for the teacher to see, so that they would know what level she is at. When I explained what she was currently reading the principal said that it sounded as if she was way ahead of the average P6. She also offered that Annabelle could break into school slowly if she wished to, staying for a few hours a day at the start until she felt comfortable. I don't think that will be necessary, but was impressed that she offered.

When we came out from the meeting Annabelle said "I really want to go there!" I felt a bit sad about it, but also pleased for her. If she is as happy there as Jimmie is at his school, then it will be a good thing. I have told her to give it a 1 month trial, which is what we did for Jimmie. At the end of a month she can come back home if she wants to. We will see how it goes. So, from Monday 26th March I won't know what to do with myself. It will be just myself and Barney in the house. I hope to spend a lot more time doing things with him, instead of concentrating on Annabelle. A change of pace is certainly on its way for myself, Annabelle, and Barney.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Photos - gardening and sprouting

Here are just some photos of things we've been busy with this week.

Dan very kindly took this fetching photo of me, digging in the garden, sporting a beautiful pair of pink welly boots, and all my designer gardening apparel. Little Barney helped me feed the plants and dig the holes.

This week I sprouted a ton of wheat, to make Essene bread with. I made the bread this evening and it is now dehydrating for about 16 hours. Sprouted wheat berries taste very sweet. Dan has been eating them in the morning for breakfast, either in milk or yogurt.

Here is Barney playing in the garage with my 4 large barrels of grains. They contain wheat, rye, oats and barley.

Today I started chitting the potatoes that I ordered. There are 4 varieties, and they are all organic. I have no idea where I'm going to plant them yet. For a while they will sit in the garage growing some roots for planting. Dan had to make me a make-shift table on top of his cds to put these on.

I am growing sunflower greens for the first time. If we like them I hope to grow them constantly. They are basically mini sunflowers, grown in a tray. When they grow to a few inches tall they will be harvested, and eaten raw like spinach leaves, in salads. It costs about 12p to grow a tray of these.

A few weeks back Barney and Annabelle planted some tomato seeds. Here they are, growing in our utility room at present.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

No kids, lots of romance, and a surprise

We have had a lovely weekend without any kids. My sis J took them for 2 whole nights (poor girl, did she know what she was doing?) I was determined to relax, despite the fact that I have so much that needs to be done in the garden. I drove them to J's house on Friday. Barney was very excited about his first official sleepover, and barely looked back to say good bye to me. When I got home on Friday night Dan had a big bubble bath waiting for me! He's so romantic, lol, not at all like me. While I was in the bath he cooked a gorgeous 3 course meal. He had changed the kitchen around so that there was a table for two all laid out in the middle of it, complete with candles and music. He cooked me a steak. Apart from the steak pie I had with my Caroline the other days its probably the first meat I've eaten in months.

After we had eaten he said he had something to tell me, and I immediately got nervous, thinking he was going to come out with some life changing decision he'd made - a new job, moving countries, that sort of thing. Instead he produced a ring. A beautiful diamond ring. When we first got engaged, 14 years ago, we had no money. We were very happy to be together and didn't care about expensive rings. But over the years I've hinted occasionally that I would like a nice ring. Dan has been on the look out for the perfect ring for months. He knows exactly what I like, something simple, nothing too big (I have very skinny fingers and big rings look daft on me). He had scowered the shops for months looking for my ring. He gave it to me, on one knee (!!!!!) and asked me to spend another 13 years married to me. Isn't he a love? Needless to say I was a blubbering mess.

Dan had to work on Saturday and I made sure that I kept to my promise of doing nothing. I lounged around, spent time on the computer, watched videos and ate junk food. It was heavenly. I haven't done that since I was a teenager. Then when Dan got home from work he cooked me another meal (he likes to cook - for relaxation - I'm not a slave driver!) This time it was curry, rive, poppadoms, the whole caboodle. (My guts are going to pay for all this meat, I just know it). We lit a fire and watched TV, without the constant interruption of kids requiring things.

I feel very relaxed now. Ready to take on the world with the new week. In minute we are going out for lunch, then for a walk, before we collect our darling children. Here's a big thank you to little sis J and her 3 gorgeous daughters, for entertaining, feeding, and caring for our brood for the weekend. We shall soon return the favour. We promise. There, you have it in writing!
Here's a pic of the ring, taken on the web cam, hence the bad quality and focus.

Friday, 9 March 2007


I thought I'd post a few photos of some of the raw vegan foods I have made this week. For anyone who may be interested, and for my own records.

These are the foods I made yesterday.

Onion bread / crackers or pizza base.
Dried stuffed mushrooms.
Dates and almond balls.
Various sprouts.
Oat granola.
Pizza sauce.
Tomato sauce.

This is the onion bread, that is more like a cracker, but can also be used as a pizza base. It's made from onions, sunflower seeds, tahini, linseeds... all un-cooked to crispness in a dehydrator for about 24 hours. This is actually really nice.

Here we have stuffed mushrooms. I stuffed them with a paste made from green olives, pine nuts, tahini, chives and garlic. Dehydrated them for about 18 hours. They are very crisp and could be eaten much sooner than that. But they will keep a long time now.
Underneath in the photos is the almond and date balls. Which are delicious and take no time at all to make.
Then you can see some aduki sprouts, mung bean sprouts, and broccoli sprouts.

And here is my oat granola, made with oats, honey, raisins and goji berries. Everyone liked this one. My last one (sprouted buckwheat granola) wasn't sweet enough for the kids, although Dan loved it. But this one is just gorgeous.
I also made some blueberry cereal bars which I forgot to photograph.
Then there is marinara, pizza sauce, made from fresh tomato, sundried tomato, garlic, lemon juice and onion. It's very tasty.
And lastly real raw tomato sauce, which is much healthier and tastier than the Heinz stuff. Its made from fresh tomato, sundried tomato, agave nectar, and other things which I can't remember off hand.

On a slighly less healthy note, Dan and Barney made these chocolate covered marshmallows last night while I was at belly dancing.

Right, well, my sis J is taking the kids for the weekend so we will officially be a child free home! Woo hoo. Dan is going to cook me a nice meal tonight (none of this raw malarky - proper food, like steak or curry!) Roll on the weekend.

My MRI appointment is set for the 12th April. I went to the docs this morning about the pain in my head and she thinks its inflammation, so has given me some pills for it.

Oh yes, I must just say - we are holding our end of year Belly Dancing performance evening at the Radison Hotel on June 30th. The tickets are selling fast, and I know some people showed an interest in coming. Tickets are £20 for an adult, £5 for a child. If anyone else wants to come to it please let me know as I will need to pay for your ticket asap. I think my sisters are coming. Dan, Annabelle and Jimmie are coming to support us. Mum and I will be in a couple of dances, one involving fans and twirls, and one with sagats (cymbals!), plus another simpler one. I may even go completely crazy and enter the Golden Camel Award competition! Not sure about that yet. If you want to come, let me know asap. It's a whole evening of entertainment, with a real male Egyptian belly dancer, and lots of food. Please, don't feel obliged! The more people that come the more nervous I will be!

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Emmeline Pankhurst and the Suffragettes

Written by Annabelle, age 10

At homeschool today I learnt about Emmeline Pankhurst She is the lady who got the right for women to vote. In 1912 some women where called suffragettes they are lady's who want the right to vote. There leader was called Emmelinne Pankhurst she said that suffragettes have to act violently to make people listen to them. Emmeline Pankhurst became the most famous suffragette of all. She married a man called Richard she had tree girls Christabal, Sylvia and Adela. she also had I son (I don't know his name). When emmeline was thirty she went to see some people who worked in an unhealthy place they where match makers. They didn't get paid enough so Emmeline helped them to get more. Emmelines husband richerd died. Emmeline and her oldest girl Christabel wanted to fight for votes and they did. Emmeline and Christabel got arrested and they would not eat. They got weak. So the goverment made a new law called The cat and mouse act where they let them out until they where better. so then they got freed. But then eight months later she came back! world war two came along and the women stayed at home and did the mens jobs until they came back from the war. They did such a good job that they got the right to vote.

The Secret Garden

This term Annabelle has been reading The Secret Garden. I remember that my Grandma bought me this book as a child, and it captivated me. So Annabelle was keen to read it too. Today she finished it. I thought I'd put this piece of work about the characters onto the blog, as I haven't posted much about home school work lately.

We also started a study today about Emmeline Pankhurst and the Suffragettes. I remember learning about that at school, when I was a child. With it being voting week this week, it seemed quite in keeping. We plan to develop this into a study about women's rights, across the globe. Annabelle is currently preparing a blog post about Emmeline Pankhurst which will be on here later.

Here is today's little bit of character study from the Secret Garden.

Click on the image for a larger version if you wish to read it.

Monday, 5 March 2007

The Mourne Mountains, and waffle

Well, life has been hectic as always and I've hardly gotten round to posting anything on the blog. Dan has a week off of work, so this week we plan to chill a bit and spend some family time together. I'm not holding my breath. I'm so used to our busy life getting the better of our free time. And after 13 years of marriage I've yet to see Dan relax.

Today Dan went for a hike up Slieve Donard, in the Mourne Mountains. He has taken to doing that lately on his days off. He also had to take some photos up there for his coursework. I think its 'natural forms' that they are doing this time... rocks, stones, flowers, that sort of thing.

Here are some photos of the views that Dan saw today. Northern Ireland is such a beautiful country. It's the best kept secret of the UK.
I found this other photo of Annabelle and Barney, when Dan madly decided to take them for a drive up the Mournes in the snow, a few weeks ago! (Notice Barney doesn't even have a coat on!)

Last weekend I took Annabelle to the wedding show in the Kings Hall, Belfast, with my sister H (who is getting married) and my sister J. Last time we went I thought Annabelle would love the catwalk shows, so this time I made a point of taking her with me. Needless to say, she took her camera with her, and took millions of photos. Here are two of the best...

The pulsing in my ears is still very bad. One day, about 3 weeks ago, the pulsing suddenly doubled in volume, which it has done many times before, but this time it hasn't ebbed at all. As well as that I've developed a pain in the back of my neck, going up into my head. It's been there every day for 2 weeks and is driving me insane. Its on the right side of my spine, going into my skull. Seen as it's my right ear that is affected by the pulsing, I can't help wondering if the two are connected. Theres still no word from my MRI scan yet. I booked an appointment with the doctor but she's not free till Friday, so I'll have to wait.

I finally managed to sort out the money for Tinkhani, that people donated. I sent it to a church in County Cork. They have a preist working in T's prison. They are putting the money into his account and he will in turn pass it on to T. I know this will make a HUGE difference to his life. He will be able to buy food, and hopefully put on some weight, as well as sanitary items, clothes, blankets and maybe even a little luxury. Not to mention stamps and paper! I would to send out a HUGE THANK YOU to the people who donated money for Tinkhani. I was very touched with the generosity that wsa show, and so was he. You know wh oyou are.