Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Look What We Got for Christmas!

Hoping You all had a Great Christmas.

With five children in the house this is the usual picture here on Chrismas morning;

Gifts galore!

And I always wonder where it's all going to go!

Here's some of the contents of those parcels;

Girl Power!

Sir Jacob strikes again!

But best of all - we got this on Christmas day too and it didn't go away for two whole days! I can't remember my last white Christmas - it was FAB!!

Snow on Chrsitmas Day

Another snowy pic

In fact there have been a number of fantastic things about this Christmas. One of them being that Abbie has suddenly become dry at night. One wet bed in more than a week. And WE didn't do a thing - it was all her doing. The best gift she could have given us! :) Another thing was that Phoebe, on Christmas day, said "I love you Daddy" as a sentence - for the first time - another great gift! :)

Now, of course there is the after-marth of Christmas to deal with - which I have not yet even attempted to tackle. It took us all afternoon on Christmas day, plus a couple of hours on Boxing day afternoon to get to end of unwrapping the presents. So yesterday and today have been spent playing with them all and making LOTS of mess!! The boys have been learning the rules to new games (like Junior Cluedo & Battleships) and that has involved us grown-ups playing too, of course :) The girls have been spreading feathers all over the house and generally spreading all the little 'bits' that seem to come with girlie toys everywhere. Tomorrow it is my intent to begin to bring some idea of order to the chaos. I have in mind that Paul is going away for 3 weeks on January 10th and I REALLY want to have the house straight and clean before he goes becasue I'm VERY sure I won't being doing much housekeeping when he's gone, He normally does all the cooking here and as that is going to fall to me while he's away that would be my cleaning time (not that I ever do much of that either) AND we will be back to school and playgroup routine - and he won't be here for drop offs at 9am, so I'm going to have to get 5 children out of the house by 8.30am two morning each of the three weeks - something I have NEVER done, or wanted to do!! At least it is only for 3 weeks and not more than that!

Anyway I digress! As far as storing all the new toys; every now and then I buy new storage places (bookcases, and fabric covered cuboards, IVAR, etc...), plus we have massive double wardrobes in both children's rooms, BUT they are all FULL of either clothes, or toys, or both already! I have been trying to think about what could be feasibly got rid of - what is not played with anymore? What could be stored somewhere outside the house until it's needed again? Problem is, with children ranging from 1 - 7 there is not much that falls into either of those catagories. Maybe I could put away the really BABY toys (outgrown by a 1yr old!) - for the next 6 months!! Even the garage has gained new occupants in the form of a new bike and a set of skateboard ramps, so that's pretty overcrowded too! We have 9 bikes (Jacob's old one and a big pink one waiting for Abbie to grow into (that I got cheap)being surplus), four scooters, 5 skateboards (Jacob has a full-size and a 'trick' board), plus boxes of balls and out-door games (cricket, swingball, etc...) - and three disused wardrobes (of the landlords) full of boxes of clothes & shoes that are not currently being worn, camping equipment (long since used :( ), - I could continue, but I think you get the picture!! We don't have a loft and the cellar floods - as some of you may remember from the summer postings. BUT, when all is said and done - I WILL find room for it all and once all the boxes are got rid of it doesn't look nearly so much!!

Tonight we all sat together after bath time and watched Home Alone 2 on telly. The boys loved it and it was a great way to spend the evening. :) I just love having lots of children and it really has made for a fantastic Christmas this year. They all seemed to grasp the wonder (both spiritual and 'fantastical') of it all and were really gripped with excitement for the first time I think. When Abbie opened her stocking gifts on Christmas morning (before church they just have few small gifts to keep them going until the afternoon) I think she would have been quite content if that was all she had - bless her! (maybe I'll remember that another year! ;) ) I asked her, "So is that lovely. Have you got what you wanted?" Her answer was, "yes, they're lovely. I'm very happy ... except for a ballet barr" (with a little wistful shrug). She didn't know, at this point, about the mountain under the tree, or that the 'Bella Balerina ballet barr' was amongst the gifts. In fact she didn't open the barr until Boxing Day (it was the very last gift to be opened) and she never mentioned it again - but she danced around the room when she eventually opened it!!

Oh, the beauty of childhood innocence and the lack of expectation (although not lack of hope) that it holds. My prayer is that, despite the fact that my children seem to get their every dream each Christmas (thanks to a large extended family on both sides), they will not take their blessings for granted and will always be willing to be generous with what they have and remember to think, pray and give to those who have so much less than themselves. This year Paul and I have decided we will, as a family, sponsor a child. It is something we (Paul & I) have done before and we believe that, now the boys can write too, it would be good for them to get involved in this kind of project. It will help them all see and understand more clearly, we hope, just how less fortunate children live and yet, their faith is not dependent on what they own.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

All Good Plans...

Well with all my carefully laid plans you might well know that something would go wrong! Early hours (well 6.30am, but that's early to me!) Abbie came in saying "feel sick" and promptly was - fortunately for once she made it to the loo, but on inspection of her bed it would seem she was a little bit sick in her sleep too and had stayed in it!! So she didn't get to go to the Library with Daddy on Friday morning, or to the Christmas Social. In fact I only took Phoebe to that in the end as Ellie was sleeping and as Boo wasn't well that meant the boys had to stay home too, so that Paul could look after the girls :( I had a nice quiet lunch with my friends anyway!! :) And in the afternoon all of the girls went to bed (Ellie still sleeps twice a day if I can fit it in), I napped on the sofa and Paul took the boys to the sports hall at the college for a game of footy. It was too cold for the skate park in the end :(
Christmas cards remained unwritten (nap took priority!!) and then just as we were getting ready to go out for the evening Jacob was sick! The babysitter arrived and was promptly sent home again, while we deliberated over what to do. Options were take out, or I still take Mum out and Paul stay home with sick kids (although Boo by now was fine!) We opted for the latter, as I felt it was a shame to spoil Mum's evening and I REALLY didn't fancy take out.
Mum and I had a LOVELY meal out, although actually it was quite expensive and 3 people would have been a little steep! I've promised to take Paul there for our birthdays this year - with a new baby in tow (I hope)!

Saturday saw Jacob and Paul both curled in listless heaps on the sofa - feeling pretty rough :( Jacob therefore missed his dress rehearsal, but Abbie and Joel trotted off to that. Abbie then went to Ballet (which I didn't think was on, but was). Mum took Phoebe to Aldi and picked up Boo and then took her and Phoebe out to lunch - at Safeway!! I began to feel a little sick during the morning and there were errands to be run. Paul said he needed to get some fresh air, so he took a very slow walk into town to get the few bits we needed before coming home and crashing out for the rest of the day. I took the girls out to the party, which was actually at 2pm, still feeling a bit iffy, and just sat quietly for most of it while they all played.
Sadly we didn't get to the landlord's for drinks in the evening - I wonder why! :(

Today - so far - we have been to church and the children's Christmas play was gorgeous and very well done. There was also Christmas lunch at church afterwards and happily we are all feeling better today, so it was very pleasant to be fed and to not have to cook :)
Tonight we are back at church for the Christmas cabaret evening. The boys are going to READ their poems in the end., but at least they are taking part. Maybe next year they we might be able to be a little more organized!! (ha-ha!!)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Last Day of School!

Well, Wednesday we decided was to be our last day of school for this term. We did a bit of Maths and English in the morning, which, by the way, went VERY well! The aeroplane idea seemed to have 'stuck' with Joel and the blackboard was a definite help. No frustration today at all :)

Had lunch when Daddy and the girls came home for their various morning activities (exams and Christmas parties!!) and then Daddy announced that we'd spend the afternoon putting up these;

The garland

The Tree

That was that then - no school in the afternoon - not that I had anything planned anyway ;)

I've decided the last few days of the run up to Christmas are going to be (as much as time allows) a messy craft festival in this house! Lots of 'making Christmas things'. In reality the kids have done loads at various places already (playgroups and clubs), but they are eager to do more. I'm awaiting a delivery of Hama from Merry. Most of it is for Phoebe's present, but not all. My aim is try to make some tree dec's with that, although as you might be able to see, there's not a great deal more room left on our tree! We need a bigger tree next year - we have too many creations to hang these days!! Alternatively I might copy Merry's idea and get the children to make some cards for family with the Hama.

BUT, I do also have a few more pressies to buy, a food shop to do and various 'events' to attend.

Tomorrow holds this schedule;
10am - Take girls to Story time at the Library (Daddy's job). Take a trip to Aldi to buy something to take to next appointment (boys in tow - groan!!)
11.30 - Lunch at a friends (with three girls) for our Mum's Bible Study group Christmas Social, while Daddy takes boys to the Barony Skateboard Park and out for Lunch.
Also fit in children making my Mum birthday cards and going out to buy one for her from us. Wrap her present.
Try to write my Christmas card list at some point and maybe even some cards and get them posted.
5.30 - teatime
7pm - kids bedtime
8pm - Taking my Mum out for a meal for her Birthday

10am - Boys & Abbie dress rehearsal for Christmas play down at the church (Daddy to take)
Go shopping for a birthday present for Abbie's friend.
Have Lunch. Squeeze in Ellie's rest
4pm - Got to Birthday party with all the children in tow.
6pm - Get home, rush kids into bed & go out to a 'drinks' evening at our landlords across the road (starts at 6pm!). This will be a 'wealthy' affair, so requires more than the usual casuals!

10.30 - Kid's Christmas play at church, followed by Christmas lunch at Church too
Kids nap when we eventually get home (they'll be wiped out I think!!)
6pm - Christmas Cabaret & mince pies (by Candlelight) at church - this is a really fun evening not to be missed. We are supposed to be trying to get the children to perform something, though quite where I'm going to find the time for the Boys to learn anything between then & now I'm not sure!! Perhaps when they should be napping in the afternoon ?!

Monday - no plans yet, but I'm sure there will be!! If not I'm going out shopping :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

A more productive day :)

Well I told myself today that we really had to DO something! So this morning we did Maths as usual - definitely something not even worth attempting in the afternoon! Joel was on a revision exercise and it glared at me those concepts he has fully grasped and those he has not. He gets number order, forwards and backwards, position and place (eg 1st, 4th, etc...), greater and lesser, the fact that addition and subtraction are opposites (1 + 3 = 4 & 4 - 1 = 3) - but only just, some number 'facts' he has off pat, including most of the '10 bonds' eventually, he gets the idea of making 10 first, but seems to really be struggling with the HOW still! Over the weekend I managed to buy a little desk-top sized blackboard for next to nothing in The Works. So today we did giant sized calculations on it! He had to do the sum 6 + 7. Initially he wrote the answer 11 :( SO... we got out the blackboard. He wrote the sum out. Then we chatted;

Me -"what do you have to do first?"
J - "make 10."
Me - "OK. Which number are we going to make into 10?"
J - "the 7."
M - "good! How many more do we need?"
J- " 3." (so far so good)
M - "Where do we get the 3 from?"
J - "the 7." (sigh!!)
M - "no"
J- "no, no the 6." (no, no really meaning whoops, must be the other one then!)
M - "OK then. Fly in 3 - that's how many we need remember - from the 6."
Joel draws a nice big arrow, representing an aeroplane flying 3 (people) over from the 6 to the 7 and writes a 3 next to the 7. [we have used frogs on lily pads before, people on aeroplanes was a new idea today!!]
M - "OK good, so now how many are left where there were 6?"
J - looking blankly "6."
M - feeling slightly irritated "no there were only 6 to start with and 3 just flew over to the 7, so how can there be 6 left still?"
J - "oh, oh, oh,....4"
M - "try again..."
J - this time actually saying "6 take away 3... 3."
M - "Great! So now we have 3 people over here (writing and circling a 3, whilst crossing through the 6) and how many over here (pointing to the 7 & 3)?"
J - "7."
M - Now with a little MORE irritation in her voice at the fact that he simply does not seem to be looking at the board, or is he really not SEEING what HE has actually worked out!? "No Joel, the 7 people isn't 7 anymore because 3 more people flew over. How many people are there now?"
J - (looking to his left) "6!"
M - (RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!) "NO!! You have 7 & 3, how can you have 6!!"
J - "oh, oh, oh....10!!"
M - "hooray!! (I cross through the 7 & 3 and write 10 - BIG). SO, what do we do now? Look at the sum, what KIND of sum is it?"
J - "a plus."
M - "which means we have to..."
J - "add."
M - "OK. Go on then."
J - " 3 add 10...13!" (that bit was easy!!)

On to the next one 8 + 8! By the time we had done three more like this I think he had just a little more idea of what to do, but who knows!!

Splitting numbers I THOUGHT he understood until today, when he wrote that 16 consists of 16 & 6!! He was given the initial 16 and the part 16, he just had to fill in the 0!!

So after all that was over we 'played' with coloured rods and blobs on blackboards for a while, writing numbers in the colours that the rods represent & colour mixing to represent added together bonds (eg orange + pink = a mucky browny colour (12)!

Then we drew some circles and shuffled about some single cubes (one rods) to represent part and whole numbers moving along subtraction and addition lines.

This was relatively fun and he SEEMED to SEE what we were doing, I just don't know if he will be able to translate it all back into actual numbers come tomorrow. BIG SIGH!! He has another revision exercise to do tomorrow, so I'll keep you posted how it goes - if you're not too bored of reading all this that is!!

Anyway, this afternoon I decided we needed to do something a little less brain numbing! So we learnt all about the various 'Disasters of London', as Jacob entitled it. We read about the Plague, The Great Fire, The use and misuse of The Thames and how London spread out (and why) over the last 1000 yrs. The boys did seem genuinely interested and liked all the pictures and quiz questions in the book. Joel had apparently been reading it on the quiet!! Afterwards, as an English task, I got Jacob to write a short paragraph about what he had learned today. I got him to make himself a spider plan first and then to order and write whatever he wanted. I was SO pleased with what he wrote. He had obviously taken in loads. :)

Jacob's writing piece (click if you can't see it well)

While Jake did that Joel did a little bit of his "Write about Me" and produced this;

Joel's Lion

Writing about a lion (click to see bigger)

Monday, December 13, 2004

A Nothing kind of day!

Oh why is it that I simply can't get going at the moment? We did Bible study and Maths today and that was it. After a hearty lunch for all of soup and poached eggs on Marmite-toast, in various combinations, I simply wanted to sleep! Joel and Abbie engrossed themselves in an elaborate and lengthy game with Boo's playmobil palace and I felt like the baddy intruding on that one - so I didn't! Jacob was busy doing a puzzle and in the peace of the room I dozed off. The two little ones were already in bed asleep. Phoebe takes herself off after lunch these days (I think it's simply because she knows she can only have her dummy if she goes to bed!) and Ellie only just lasted to the other side of lunch-time today (she's teething and definitely under par). At 3.30pm Joel asked to watch some telly - and there they still sit 2 hours later. Most of the afternoon I have drifted in and out of consciousness and feel very guilty (not) about the lack of schooling that's happened here today!

But happily Joel managed to finish of the exercises we had left undone due to frustration on Thursday - with absolutely NO trouble today - here's smiling hopefully that I was stressing over nothing, but somehow I wonder if the problem might rear it's head again in the not too distant future ;)

All in all a pleasant and happy day and Paul has decided that after an exam and an afternoon of study his brain is fuzzed so he's not studying tonight :) He's got videos, so we get to spend the evening together :)) He has another exam on Wednesday and he's done for the Semester - phew - glad that one is over at last!!

Saturday, December 11, 2004

I had some business!!

Well, you haven't heard form me this week purely because I had my first customer on editmypics!! It has taken me every available bit of time I have had at the PC to get the work done as the man would like the picture for his wife's Christmas present. It has been a real challenge, but I think I have made a good job of it, so I'm pleased. Let's hope he agrees with me!! :)

School-wise, I can really feel it is the end of term. The children are dragging their heals and to be honest I have struggled to get up steam after having had a few 'lazy' weeks with nausea and tiredness. I am feeling fine in myself now, but I really need to get motivated about school again. Hopefully the Christmas break will do the bizz!

We spent the whole day on Thursday looking at London and actually that was quite enjoyable. The boys seemed thoroughly delighted by their capital city. Then Blue Peter on Friday had the story of Dick Whittington - both the true and the fictional versions, so that was great as I was struggling to find a good copy of it. I used to have a Ladybird book of it as a kid, but that one doesn't seem to have found it's way onto my bookshelves yet! I want to have a brief look at the 'Fire of London', 'The Great Plague' and how much the ecology (pollution & clean-up) of The Thames has changed over the years, before we move on to looking at Scotland. I had hoped to finish of the UK this term, but I think Scotland, Wales and Ireland are going to hang over into next term, but it doesn't really matter that much. We'll probably, in reality, spend most of next term looking at those three countries before we move onto maybe France, or Spain in the summer.

Maths this week was a little frustrating. After Joel getting off to a good start to a difficult concept, we seem to have hit a block. Adding & subtracting numbers over 10 and under 20! 'Making 10 first' So for example; 4 + 7 = ? Now with Singapore the child has to decide which number to make 10 with (the 7), work out that they need 3 more, which they 'move' away from the 4. 4 is made up of 3 & 1. As the 3 is now with the 7 (to make 10) there is only 1 left of the 4. They have basically rearranged 4 + 7 into 1 + 10 - a much simpler sum to do. It sounds REALLY complicated explained like this, but with blocks it is easy to demonstrate and actually in reality quite easy to do - I think!! For a sum like 12 + 6 they have to split the 12 into 10 & 2 (make 10 first), add the 2 onto the 6 (making 8) and add the result back onto the 10, therefore 12 + 6 becomes 10 + 8 - easy!! When it comes to subtraction you kind of work in reverse. 15 - 7 = ? You can't take 7 from 5, so make 10 first. Split the 15 into 10 & 5, take the 7 from the 10 (leaving 3) and add the result back onto the other units (5). 3 + 5 = 8. I do remember hitting the same block with Jacob. He simply couldn't seem to remember what steps he was supposed to take to reach the answer, would get half way correctly and then stop and write down any wild number! Joel is doing EXACTLY the same - it is SO annoying. I am again in a quandary whether to flog it until he 'gets' it, or move on and come back in the hope that with fresh eyes he will see it differently. With Jake I flogged it and he did eventually get it but not without sweat and tears (too many). Having said that, in hind-sight it was worth it, as maths is breeze to him now and he hardly ever struggles with it. The strong foundation was laid and he is able to build solidly upon it. Hmmmn!!!
I'm wondering though if it might be a worn-out brain thing and that with the new term and a breather Joel might just get it and that will be that - here's hoping!!
How did C. do with this concept Jan?

My friend came to do Art again last Thursday and finished up the 'Self-Portrait' theme with a collage portrait. The boys did great (although neither is really a SELF portrait!!). Next term they will be looking at building and architecture - interesting!

Joel's Collage portrait

Jake's collage portrait

Last night was our annual College Christmas Bash. The theme this year was "The Wild West", with a live band, Barn-dancing and a real hog roast (yes, a whole roasted Pig complete with tail (but not head!), which was a fascination to the boys!!)

Cowboy Joel

Cowboy Jake

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Not sure about the 'creative bit'!

You are a Book of Kells bird.
The forest is your home. You are creative, and only
show your true nature to those you trust.

What Celtic Bird Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

well maybe....

Girly Mama 2
You're a girl power mommy! You love to be girly,
but you're no pushover. Your kids are learning
that gender differences don't have to mean
gender inequality. You've taken back pink, and
you don't care who knows it!

What kind of a freaky mother are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Ellie's Birthday and Other Pics.

"Everybody's singing to me!!"

Yummy Chocolate cake!!

All cleaned up and opening pressies - "This is a good book!"

"Me looking cute"

Jacob's self-portrait

Joel's self portrait

Angels - top left going clockwise; mine, Phoebe's, Jacob's, Abbie's, Joel's.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Another Week Goes By!

I really must get back in the swing of this, although to be honest I haven't had much chance this week to be on the computer. Paul was preaching on Sunday and is again on Thursday (at college), plus he's doing a 'scouts' talk on Thursday too, so he has been busy on here most nights this week. Oh, to have the luxury of two computers!!

Anyway, what have we been up to..? Well, nothing exceptional really I don't think.

Joel has been working hard on addition with numbers up to 20 and started on subtraction today. He seems to have got a fairly good grasp of the idea, although I don't think he would quite manage so well without the pictures and being able to circle '10', but as he is not required to be able to just yet that isn't a problem :) He seemed to get the subtraction OK today too.
Jacob has been doing 'money' which he apparently loves and definitely 'gets', so that's cool, I'll be able to send him shopping for me soon ;) !

Started looking at ancient civilizations today - REALLY ancient - like UR!! Interesting - as always :)

At LAST I am beginning to see my eldest son able to formulate ideas and put them together in some semblance of a sensible order to create writing that is at least a little bit interesting to read! :) Just Write is working really well for him.
Joel today (in Write about Me) had to draw a picture of his favourite part in a film and write about it . He drew a great picture of Medussa hanging onto a pipe at the end of 'The Rescuers' and then wrote. "Medussa got stuck on a pipe and the alligaters tride to get her." (spellings his) I thought this was excellent for a boy only 1 term into 'Yr 1' (just turned 6). His imagination and visual memory are SO much more vivid than Jacob's and it really shows because his creative writing now is almost reaching a level with Jacob's. He simply has more grasp of vocabulary and language usage and yet I cannot think that he has had any more exposure than Jake. It's not that Jacob is 'slow', he just doesn't seem retain what he has previously learned very well and almost has to re-learn things over and over! I'm not particularly worried any more - I just see it as difference in personality more than anything else and I don't think English is ever going to be Jacob's strong point, but we can't all be fantastic at everything we turn our hand to can we? You watch him prove me Oh so wrong now, and get and a 1st Class degree in English some day!!!

hmm - well that has taken a bit of a back seat, must get back on track with that one! But Jacob and I did finish off the first section on 'Classification' the other day (i.e. what it means to 'classify' things/beings), next we will look more specifically at how ANIMALS are classified and the main classification groups.

GEOGRAPHY: haven't done it yet this week - probably one for tomorrow.

Made some 'angels' for the Christmas tree today with lots of glitter glue, paint and red glitter. The girls have this great Advent calendar with an activity to do most days. Today's happened to fit with Joel's bible reading about 'hosts of angels', so we made angels. The kids loved it - I hated it - I just can't bear the mess that that kind of art brings with it, and with carpets everywhere it's not easy to clean up, but I showed brave, happy face and praised the children for their beautiful efforts :) There's still red glitter in the carpet mind!!

Went to lunch on Friday at a friends - she has 5 children too, three of whom she is currently schooling. They all played fantastically together :) Plus all their usual clubs and activities that they do (which cover P.E. too). They are not lacking in this department for certain!!

Well that's kind of dropped out of my curriculum this term. There just doesn't seem to be the time to take it as a separate topic and to be honest we are covering so much RE in other subjects (particularly History and Geography, as well as Bible study every morning) that it seems almost superfluous. It is a shame though, because I was looking forward to having a good delve into Judaism with the boys. I guess there's plenty more time this year yet though (and in years to come) and I think at some point it will simply 'slip' into place anyhow.

Well my sickness is all but gone and my headaches - well I haven't had one for over a week now :) But I have learned in recent days that I really cannot travel long distances in cars! I went to a meal in The Wirral at a friend's house, with 11 other home-schooling Mum's on Monday night. We had a fantastic evening - great food, lovely conversation and nice putting faces to names I have known for a while and never met the people, as well as making new contacts. The Wirral is about an hour's drive away from me and going there I felt just a little queasy, but returning home on a full stomach was another matter! I literally dived into the bathroom as soon as my friends dropped me at my door (at 1.30am) and .... (I'll leave the rest to your imagination!) This completely wiped me out for a whole 24 hours. My poor children must think I am permanantly sick at the moment!! My fabulous friend a few doors down took all four of my 'noisy' ones on Tuesday morning, Ellie slept and I crawled back into bed until Helen returned the children - all fed - at 1pm. I then plonked myself on the sofa with pillows and blankets and allowed the children to overdose on TV and Playstation time! Then sent them to their rooms for a 'quiet hour' while a dozed again on the sofa (with one ear on Ellie who was playing in the room). When they emerged - more telly!! Well actually I did try to encourage them to find a game to play together. The boys got out Top-trumps, but ended up throwing them at each other! Joel then took himself back to his bed and slept til tea-time!! Jacob was then bored and consequently could think of nothing better to do than watch more TV (The girls were still resting at this point). I was too ill to persist with the 'go play something' tac, so more TV it was!!

Paul is doing fantastically well so far this year with his course - upped his grades significantly on last year's average. So all this time on the computer is paying off for him :)

Abbie had a podiatry appointment on Monday because she is quite pigeon toed - I think. The podiatrist said that she has one leg slightly longer than the other (mm's, but it makes a difference) and yes, her right foot does turn in. So we are awaiting shoe inserts to help 'correct' the problems. We'll see if they help...

Ellie celebrated her first birthday on Saturday!! We had friends and family over for tea and she had a fabulous time with the chocolate cake I made her!! :)

Pics to follow shortly!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Back in the Land of the Living!

I have about 10 minutes to blog, so I'll see how much I can post in that time!! I am just about emerging back into the land of the living - at last :) some days I still have crushing migrains (like yesterday when I stayed in my darkened bedroom and gave out instructions for the boys to do this and that bit of schoolwork), but the sickness is lifting and when I don't have a headache I can function almost normally.

Today was a pretty good day. We began with Bible study (sadly neglected of late), then maths - both boys are progressing nicely :) Joel has just completed Part One of SingaporeMaths 1A. Then we stopped for lunch and spent all afternoon doing Geography in various shapes and forms. Jacob actually said to me that Geography was more like History sometimes - which with 'Galloping the Globe' it is, because we look at famous people related to each country, and literature, etc... We are currently studying The U.K. (more specifically England at the moment). Today we read a children's version of 'A Midsummer Nights Dream' (Shakespeare), A story of George & The Dragon, by Geraldine McCaughrean, which was quite enthralling!, looked a little bit at Florence Nightingale (who she was and what she achieved), read about C.T. Studd - Missionary to China, India & Africa and then looked at major rivers and landmarks in England and plotted them on a map of England. The boys then filled in their 'passports' to Britain with bits of information they had learned today and on other days. Previously we have looked at transport-networks, major industries, traditional foods (like the 'Traditional English Breakfast' & 'Friday Fish & Chips'), population numbers, and other famous Authors (like Charles Dickens). Next we move on to look more specifically at London and then Scotland, Wales and N.Ireland (and maybe S.Ireland too, but that's not part of the UK apparently!!). That covers the rest of the month (once a week) before we move into a new country in Europe. The U.K. is taking ages to study purely because is consists of four countries, each with their own individual cultures and characteristics, but it is great fun and the boys are hopefully learning things they didn't know before about their homeland ;)

Of late swimming lessons have been my saving grace, because the boys now have their lessons an hour apart, which means we are at the pool for more than 2 hours!! This has meant that I have had an allotted time each week when I HAD to give the boys something constructive to do - school work!! They have been able to do bits of English, spelling and Maths down there without too much trouble and seem to (strangely) respond well to the environment!! I am still very aware though that Joel is so much more able to attend to whatever task is set him until it is completed (get the job done) than Jacob is. He just seems to wander off task at the slightest little nudge in the wrong direction!!

Other than that there have been dribs and drabs of school happening. My friend Cath has been coming in to do Art with them as usual and this week they are making collage faces - should be interesting!! You should see the self-portraits they drew :) I might photo them for you... Another friend of mine also took them on for a couple of hours last week to do some card-making. Joel made Ellie a birthday card (she is 1 this Saturday) and Jacob made me a Christmas card which he couldn't resist giving me!!

They have also managed to keep up with their Maths and English with a little minimal input from me - which is great and reassures me that they are heading towards being able to study more independently - not that I want to be totally hands-off, just to know that I can be if I need to be and that they know how to carry on without me. Afterall, I figure that at some stage their knowledge will supersede mine and then they will have to be able to carry on alone! Now there's a scary thought!!

So now I'm looking forward to getting back to more of a sensmblance of normality. But amongst all the 'uuugh'ness we have had all our lighting re-wired and our cooker (well our landlord's actually) is now fusing out the power every time we use the rings!! The washing naturally has piled up on a regular basis and as soon as I hit the bottom of the wash-bin a child is sick in the night and I get behind again!! Cleaning, well....I have re-enlisted a cleaner!! And there are piles of clothes 'to be put away' from at least a week ago still hanging around!! My sort-out of a few weeks back never quite reached completion and I still have two baskets of clothes to 'file' into their appropriate boxes when I eventually find a few spare moments.
Ellie started walking a couple of weeks ago and is now a constantly following bleating sheep - demanding to be held far too much!!

I guess that's about all for now folks. Paul is home and tea is cooked. Baby is bleating and kids are squabbling...get the picture... got to go!! I'll try to do some reading-round another night, Hope you are all OK. :)

Monday, November 15, 2004

If You Were Wondering...

I am still alive!! BUT I am suffering terribly with constant headaches. Yesterday I felt like someone had my head in a vice and I spent the entire afternoon & evening in a darkened room! Staring at a computer screen only makes it 10 x worse so I'm not on here much at the moment. It's a normal thing with me in early pregnancy, so any medics out there don't go worrying!! I suffer migrains with P's and this is basically an almost constant migrain - related to pregnancy. As I can take nothing but Paracetamol, which barely touches it, I just have to get on with it... :( But I'm afraid it means I won't be around here too much until it all goes away. I'm having to keep my eyes down to type this!! Catch you all later.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Sorry Folks

Hi! I'm still feeling pretty green most of the time, hence not much blogging of late. Currently typing whilst giving my baby a cuddle (quite an art to master!!), but there's really not too much to report and I just hope blogger doesn't eat my post as I don't have the where-with-all to type stuff twice at the moment (as happened the other night)! We're just plodding along... doing about an hour of school most days, occasionally two on a good day! But I just tell myself it's not for long and they are fairly well ahead of their peers anyway (in most areas), so it's not going to hurt them any. Made a Giant Panda and a pigeon from the Canon Papercraft site today - great - took most of the afternoon - fiddly, fun and mind-easy!! These are to add to our 'Noah's Ark' mobile - when we eventually decide to put it together. Need to find some simpler, smaller animal makes first though :) And that was about it today - oh, and we coloured a map of where the mountains of Arrarat are/where, which the boys made a nice job of.

Nothing else today - except kids TV!!

Baby has fallen asleep here now, so I think I might go do the same for a bit!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

A Little Bit Here and There.

We are not doing much around here at the moment, but I'm trying to do at least a little something each day. So for the last two days we have been doing 'looking at Great Britain' - I made a list of about a dozen questions that I wanted the boys to find the answers to from our collection of Library books (I gave them page numbers to help a little). They started answering them yesterday and finished off today. Then we sat down and looked at some other 'facts' together - analysing graphs and pie-charts (so I guess that was a bit of maths thrown in there too). Other than that we've finished off our Europe puzzle (at last!!)

Europe Puzzle

and we rounded off today with a little 'regular maths'. And that's it, but it's seemed like loads!!

I've also been trying to get on top of a mountain of washing that's just building up and tidy the house (very unsuccessfully) a little/lot ready for Saturday, when a friend of ours is going to take on our cleaning for us - only at the moment she couldn't see many surfaces or much floor to clean it!!

Friday, October 29, 2004

Just a Little HE

I thought I'd blog just a little of our Pre-school home-ed! It seems that at half-terms (when the boys are not doing school) the girls get their turn.

At Tea-time yesterday Boo stunned me by doing 'take-aways' with her Smarties!! She is only 3 8/12 and I didn't even realise she knew what 'take-away' meant, but there she was... She counted her Smarties (17) and with each one she put in her mouth she said "take away one." When she got down to 10 left she then started saying "10" (starting number), put one in her mouth "take away one leaves..." (recount) "9!" And she did this all the way down to "none." I was astounded!! Joel only really began to do this kind of thing 6 months ago maybe and she's just absorbing it. Bear in mind though, that she is only really around for Maths maybe 1 or 2 days a week because she is out three mornings and we tend to try to get Maths done early on. I can't believe it's come from playgroup - they're not that good!!

Other learning that came from the mini-Smartie boxes; Boo recognised the letters 'S' 'M' and 'A' (although she had know 'A' for some time now - both upper and lower case are in her name) on the backs of the boxes.

Then at bedtime we were looking at one of our library books and Boo was successfully able to identify the numbers 1-5 without error.

At various points over the last few weeks I have also noticed how many opposites Abbie knows, even some more obscure ones; young/old, black/white/, under/over/, go around/go through, loud/quiet, noisy/ sssh! :)

When did my baby get to be so smart?! :)

Phoebe (2 8/12) is really making a concerted effort to learn her colours at the moment. She has Pink and Blue off pat - but not much else yet. We're getting there. Considering she only really started talking about 6 months ago she is doing really well I think.

I really love Home-Ed - especially when it shouts at me that it's working!! :)

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Still Here...

Just in case you're all wondering, I am still alive - just! I'm feeling lousy and not doing much. The kids are having to amuse themselves for the large part. I'm needing to sleep +++ and walking around with a hazey headache (as is my thing in early pregnancy) that leaves me grumpy and no fun to be around. I can't face food of many descriptions, but thankfully it is staying down OK! I'm lurking around - reading blogs and commenting here and there, but there's not much to report of note in the Wellyboots household - and may not be for the next few weeks - so you're pre-warned!! :)

Monday, October 25, 2004

Catching Up - again!!

School trips and birthdays - it's all been happening here!!

Not sure really where I'm up to, put save to say - all the best laid plans have been laid to waste!! I'm feeling too ill in the mornings (well until about 2pm really) to do much and Ellie has been up in the night, stuffed up with cold, for a few nights too. So despite planning to work last week we really didn't do much and all my fabulous library books lay unopened on the bookshelves :( Still the children didn't seem to mind too much having a few extra days off!!

Tuesday afternoon we went to play at my Swedish friend's house (she must be crazy!) and it was good to see how well her little girl (5) is doing with learning English. they have only been here a couple of months and she was managing to communicate really well with my children. They had a great time playing 'Peter-Pan' together and dressing up (well the girls did!). Very educational - 'Cross-Cultural studies' !

On Wednesday I spent the morning sorting through the remainder of the girls wardrobe - filtering out the summer clothes and the things that have been out-grown - while the boys hung around asking "are we doing any school today Mummy?" - I think they were struggling to think of anything to do, but I was struggling enough to get my job finished, let alone have to occupy/school them too. I handed them a pile of games from the cupboard that they could play with the girls too (Tumbling Monkeys, Pair-Bears &, Funny Faces) and that kept them occupied until lunch time and had a little education value (well PSE - "getting along together" - if nothing else!!) .

Thursday I helped out at our church 'Clothes Sale' - where we sell off loads of clothes (another reason for my finishing my sort out on Wednesday) and other 'odds & ends' at 20p a piece in aid of a charity called 'Lifelink' that supports Elim Missionaries (and in turn developing world projects). We managed to raise £71 this time - which is the most we have raised for a long time. Anything we don't sell goes on to the Women's refuge as emergancy clothing, so it gets put to good use whatever.

Friday - no school day anyway and end of half-term!! :)

Saturday - no tennis - ballet as usual - no swimming this week. Then in the eveing we took 7 children (together with 6 adults) bowling & to MD's for Joel's birthday party. We all had a "ball" !! Ellie and Phoeb's went to Helen's so that kept them happy too.


'spare' 2

Spare celebrations!

team work!


Bro's chatting

The Pro Bro's

Two wise Monkey!! (Joel & Dom)

The rest of the gang

Sunday was Joel's birthday - 6 already!! So the day began at 7am with cards and presents and a very excitedly happy little boy :) Then off to church wearing his new England Kit (this is exceptional as I usually like them to dress smart, but I couldn't be that mean today!) Home to his favourite lunch of Jacket Potatos with fried chicken in (nice and easy that one) and a 'Formula One' birthday cake. Normally I try to make their cakes, but I confess I wasn't up to it this time ;)

Today - lots of playing with new toys and getting cross at anyone else who wanted to join in - especially when it came to shariing his new Magnetix set - oooh - major stroppiness there - even when I wanted to play!! In fact the children spent most of the day bickering (usual holidays style), while I hid at the PC and installed Windows SP2 (which took a while!!) and Office SP2 (another while!!) and Mum cleaned my bathrooms for me (which took her all day - they weren't that bad - she just is not a very efficient person and always takes an age to do everything!! But I couldn't face the job, so better her take all day at it than me not do it at all :) ).

Then swimming; Jacob has gone up to Level 7 already - WOW!! Joel is staying put at Level 3 for now, but has made a good improvement according to his teacher.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

So Now you know Why!!

I guess I can't keep it secret forever. I'm guessing this is the reason I've been so volatile of late, so I'm coming clean before you all guess anyway! Yes, Number 6 is on the way!! Even my 3 yr old suspects something so I shall tell the children this week I think. Not too many people know just now, but I guess I shall have to spread the news fast now that I've blogged it!! By the way - the counter is blue as I'm almost certain it will be a boy - timing was too good!!

Had a good morning so far though :)

Monday, October 18, 2004

Feeling like I'm on a See-Saw!!

Well the last couple of days have been really up and down. Friday was up, the weekend was OK, today was definitely down again!!

Friday started out lovely with Jacob bringing me toast in bed (on a tray!) and Joel making breakfast for himself and Abbie of his own initiative. He then had to make Phoebe's too because she refused to let anyone else!! The boys then went off for a bike ride and a walk along the canal with their Dad while I had my Mum's group here. Afterwards I took four children (via the shoe shop for the boys) to the library where we ended up borrowing a grand sum of about 35 books!!Jacob chose to take out 8 readers (yellow and red bananas - click the link and put 'banana books' in the category box - these are about the right reading level for him, but with colour pictures and great titles like "Dragon Boy" & "Fire Cat" so they are encouraging too. Some of them even link up with History topics in the yellow books). Joel chose a 'care for you Guinea Pig' book (hmmm- maybe he might like to clean her out now he knows how!!), a reader (which he read cover to cover last night - all 21 pages!!), and a read-to-me book - nice variety young man :) Abbie got lots of sparkly starry books, a princess book (!!), and a couple counting books (she's really into 'numbers at the minute). Phoebe got a Thomas book, a touchy feely (she still loves those) and a twinkly star book. And I got out masses of books to use for our "U.K." study in Geography - books about Shakespeare (one with some 'child friendly' Shakespeare plays), Florence Nightingale, The gunpowder-plot (that's a reader actually), one of Jake's was about the Fire of London, then some on famous Britons, London and the 'British Isles' generally. We're going to do a bit of cookery & history, all tied up in our geography (cooking different dishes from each of the UK countries and some from different times in history maybe too). I'm really trying to 'spark a flame' for learning in the boys, but all I seem to get back at the moment is "schools boring...I hate school!!" - it's very dishearteningly. Especially when you ask them exactly what they hate and they can't tell you because in actual fact, when they think about it, it's really not! It seems to be just the idea of school that makes them say these things!

Saturday was swimming, ballet and tennis as usual, followed by a shopping trip into Chester for shoes for Jacob (ended up costing me £50!! - he has terribly 'strange' & wide feet), a 'Sunday dress' for Boo, tights for both girls and other various 'bits & bobs'. Tiring, but pleasant enough. Rounded off in the evening by a family quiz night at the church - which our team won!! :)

Sunday - nothing to say really!

Today - another "RRRR" day! Begun the day well. The boys did their PBS (Postal Bible School) work well and then went on to do some Maths. Jacob had his usual application problem and quickly got sent to work at his desk. Joel had no trouble with the maths in itself, but moaned and moaned about having to actually write the answers down! I actually needed to prepare something for the afternoon and could already feel my patience wearing thin (it seems to be rather flimsy of late). Anyway, they got that finished and played for a little while til it was time to collect the girls from playgroup. When I got home my friend rang and asked if I could have her 18 month old for an hour or so, as she had to go and meet someone and her Mum had been unable to have her little girl today as had been planned. I agreed to that, but it meant in effect that school just simply didn't happen this afternoon at all. The children played well until about 3.30. Then they started nagging for the playstation (which I simply couldn't face today). I asked them to tidy their toys away first - cue tantrum and an hour in their room NOT tidying up. So then it was time for swimming. The boys took 45 minutes in the changing rooms after swimming (!!) which was totally unacceptable and then Joel came out saying that Jake had thrown his trunks up onto the ceiling and they'd got stuck on a ledge right up high (rrrrrrrr). An attendant had to get a ladder to fetch them down and was not best pleased with him - as neither was I of course! Joel then had the cheek to ask for chocolate!!

Once home, after tea, I gave the boys 15 minutes to clear up their room (bearing in mind there are two of them). Well, Jacob sat on the bed giving orders while Joel did a bit, but at the "5 minutes left" warning there was mass panic! They were warned that whatever was left at the end of the time was going in a black bag until the end of the week and I shall do the same for the rest of the week - I am SO sick of tidy-up battles! I'm hoping this might work as a motivator. A few bits went in the bag tonight - we'll see what happens tomorrow!

Anyway - I hope to post something more cheery tomorrow. Sorry folks.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Crash and Burn-out!!

Its been a tough week this week and I don't know if that's because of the children or me. I'm still feeling really tired and hence ratty and irritable. Why is it these things seem to rub off on the children? They too have been arguing with each other and me almost endlessly these last few days. School has been a struggle to motivate both myself and the boys. One of those weeks when you wonder "Why am I doing this?" So today I threw the schedule out of the window and did next to nothing. Started the day with wordsearches and a little science. Then did spellings (both boys got full marks again!), handwriting for Jake and a little bit of reading for both and called it quits. All this interspersed with very long breaks!! The boys at one point decided to pretend their bedroom was the park and scattered conkers all over the floor and then played a game that involved collecting them all up again - very sweet, and I couldn't possibly disturb them. At another point both boys decided to dress up in the girls' fairy outfits which was quite amusing, if a little worrying! - that didn't last long though. They also started to build an aeroplane with some conrtuction mecchano type stuff that we have, but Ellie woke up so they unfortunately had to put that away because of all the small bits.

Generally today the boys' behaviour did improve, perhaps for two reasons; one - their Dad had a 'word' with them this morning before he left and two - I took the pressure off schoolwise. Maybe one day I'll learn to take the lid off before the pan boils over!!

It seems my blog is taking a twice-weekly turn, that might have to suffice for now due to my weariness come the evenings.

Sorry this is not such a cheery post, we all have our bad days!

If you're wondering what the 'crash' bit in the heading is about, Joel has managed to break probably my only valuable possession, which started the day off on a rather negative note, especially when he told me he did it a couple of days ago and hadn't told me. I was saddened and disappointed that he hadn't been honest enough, so after my initial rage and when I'd had time to calm down, we sat and chatted about honesty and why rules are important (like not playing ball in the lounge!!). I think lesson learned for now. I told him he has to think of a way to show me he is sorry, as I feel that sometimes its too easy to say sorry and there be little consequence. It's not that he's not forgiven (and he knows he is) I'd just like to see him go the extra mile because it was something that was precious to me.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Must Try harder...!

Well another week has sailed on by, but my excuse this week is that Paul has a deadline tomorrow and has been 'hogging' the computer all week to get his essay written. Normally working on Sunday's is a "no, no" here, but he was really struggling with this one and it actually became unavoidable in the end. Still he has it finished now and will be handing it in in the morning. Blogging this week might be a tad scarce too as I am out at least 3 nights this week! Monday - Ikea with two friends to buy Christmas presents and goodies for a 'Swedish' girly night coming up soon, Wednesday - Pizza Hut with a bunch of Paul's friends and their partners, Friday night - Sunday School meeting! Yes, busy, busy, busy as usual!

I've been feeling exceptionally tired these last two weeks, so this week we really did have that 'take it easy week' I was planning :)

Tuesday - nightmare day that seemed to go nowhere! Plan - Maths, History and a little bit of English.

The day began by my friend S (the one I was 'advising' last Friday) offering to take the girls to their usual Tuesday Toddler group, as my other friend was away in Italy and S goes anyway with her two boys. So I accepted gratefully. Good start :) She came and collected them and me and the boys knuckled down to school.

Maths was a bit of a slog, so we took a long-ish break after it and then got down to some fun History. We talked about the fact that Tubal Cain was a worker with Bronze & Iron. (5th generation from Adam, descendent of Adam's first Son Cain - about 500/600 years into history & while Adam was still alive - Adam lived to be 900 odd!!) . This means that early man was clever! Cain (Adam's son) built a city - he was not a cave-dweller!! We compared this to the fact that standard history books state that it was 'thousands' of years before man discovered Bronze (and do you realise how difficult it is to make bronze? - just follow this link and read the first two posts!!) and it's interesting because the 'order' of discovery stated in the history books is probably not that dissimilar to what I believe actually happened (and what the Bible seems to say) - it's just the time-scale that is so different. Anyway, so then we followed up by making some nice 'bracelets' with half toilet rolls, silver foil and little bits of colour-dyed pasta (they were meant to look like jewels) , which are to remind the boys that early-man was clever and that "Tubal Cain was a worker of Bronze & Iron." It was fun and they look good. :)

'Tubal Cain' bracelet

Just as we were making the bracelets, and were rather sticky with glue, S arrived back with the girls, but instead of just bringing the girls in she took her boys out of the car too. They of course trotted in with my girls and S proceeded to tell me all about a course she is starting. I was only half listening as I was trying to finish off with the boys.

So then S went off into town with her boys and left her car in my drive, which was fine, and Me and the children had lunch. We usually take a long lunch break and as we had a full morning all the more so. Just as I was telling the boys to get out their books to do some English S arrived back. I had fully expected her to just pick up her car and go, but no! She came in again and asked for a drink. I said she'd have to make it herself as we were just about to start school again, but she proceeded to take out all the books she had just bought in Oxfam to show me, by which time her boys had run into the house and were totally distracting mine from doing as they had been told. P (her 5 yo) was throwing his Action Man around and saying 'look at this Joel, look Jake..." Next thing I hear ..."SMASH....!" Me; "What was that you've broken?" storming into the hall to find a very meek and tearful looking Jacob saying , "sorry, I'm really sorry Mummy!" He had thrown an Action Man so high (we have very high ceilings) as to smash the glass light shade in the hallway and send large & tiny shards of glass everywhere within a 2m radius!! I was rather livid - especially when P said "Jacob is so naughty Mummy" to S!! I'm afraid I laid into him a bit verbally for that - but no more than I did to Jacob for copying the foolishness of a 5yo when he knew better. Well, after I had hoovered the hallway, and living room and girls room doorways I was really in no mood for school, my stress levels were in the roof and it was 3pm! I was so worried about having missed bits and the children's feet and Ellie's little hands and knees, but what more could I do? S went sheepishly away - without her drink!!

Just so Jake didn't get away with school we did some light English and I called it quits.

In the evening when Paul tried to take down the remainder of the shattered shade the wiring to the light just disintegrated in his hands - so that's another light down!! We now only have lights in the lounge, the bathrooms and the children's rooms!!

Wednesday - never really got off the ground! We were late getting started because Jacob had a lay in. The girls were home so I had promised we would do some cookery in the morning. Having some seriously over-ripe bananas in the fruit bowl I decided we would make Banana Loaf. The kids had a ball, mashing bananas and weighing ingredients- and loved licking out the bowl at the end (always the best bit!), but sadly I burnt the cake! Our 'oven' knob's temperature markings washed off one time and so now it is total guess work. I only needed 350F and had no idea where that was - I guessed wrong and the cake was undercooked inside and burnt on the outside - such a shame!! :( However I compensated by us then making 'quick breakfast rolls' which turned out great and were very tasty! :)

After the kids had had their hands in dough they of course wanted to play with dough, so out came the play-dough until lunch time. After lunch I deemed everyone was tired (well actually all except Jacob were and we so rarely have naps these days...) and so they all went to bed for a rest - boys too - and woke up about 5pm!!

I was out in the evening at a Lady's meeting - day over!!

Oh, except Wednesday has been designated our 'family home-church night' and the children were eager to do it in spite of my absence, so Daddy carried on without me. Apparently Jacob, who had been listening to 'Runrig' singing in Gaelic, asked Paul this; "When Alison (one of our Pastors, who is Scottish) prays quietly to herself she talks in Scottish doesn't she?" The answer was "Actually no, she prays in a language called 'Tongues" - so hence-forth a discussion about Pentecost and the Holy Spirit and the language of Tongues. Great stuff - sad I missed it, but thrilled it took place. :)

Thursday - I can't even remember Thursday! Can't have been too impressive. I know we did try to get a bit more school done, but I think even then it wasn't too heavy. Oh - I do remember Jacob taking an age over his Maths again though - story of my life - but he eventually 35/40 questions right. They weren't particularly easy & they were all 'mental maths', so I guess it was quite tough, but at the same time with a little bit of application and attention I know he could do it as well in half the time - it's just getting him to realise that too...Ho, Hum...!!

Friday - NO SCHOOL! Free play day for all of us :) The children were on their computer doing 'Jump Ahead Yr2' for a lot of it I think, and then 'Guess Who?' (which is all about problem solving), so I guess they self-instigated school!! I just kept out of the way :)

Saturday - the usual Tennis, swimming, Ballet routine and then Boo went off to her friend Rosie's to play for the day and Jacob had a friend to play in the afternoon while the other two girls rested. The boys were so occupied together I even managed to doze lightly on the sofa too - great!

Sunday - feeling a little less tired today (probably all those naps this weeks), but still unusually tired for me. And going to bed at quarter past one won't help that I'm sure, but when else am I going to blog!! Anyway off to bed I go :)

Monday, October 04, 2004

Funny Tomorrow!!

Ok so three days later is hardly 'tomorrow' but hey ho!! :)

SO, Friday...In the morning I had our usual Mum's Bible Study meet here together with a whole swarm of 12-18 month old girls (strangely no boys). Sometimes they were playing well together, often they were bickering over who had what doll. We have LOADS of dolls, but they always want what the other has at that age don't they!!

Afterwards one of the ladies stayed behind to 'chat' a little. She too is homeschooling her little boy (5), but he had been refusing to 'do school' over the last couple of weeks. She only really does 2-3 half days with him and doesn't want to go down the 'unschooling' route. She, like me, is the sort of person who feels she needs to at least have a rough guide and a 'fall back' structure, even if it isn't the be-all and end-all of everything. She would like to use Sonlight, but her husband would like her to not use anything at all! Sticky situation. She is the one doing the 'schooling' as he works full-time, but she doesn't want to go against him. I hope I helped her! I told her she needed to go home and 'talk straight/discuss' with both her hubby and her little boy about what they want and how they can best meet the needs of the 'whole' family. I also suggested to her that she needed to vary her 'subjects' more as she has only been doing letters and numbers until now and her boy is very bright. He might be bored. I suggested she introduce some geography, or music, or something such like, for more variety and 'spice'. I know that's where I went wrong to begin with and school is so much more fun now. :) Tough one!!

As she was leaving another friend arrived from Whitchurch with her three youngest children to play for the afternoon. Which was lovely. A chance to chat about all-sorts of things schooly and non-schooly. The boys decided to play marbles and as our back garden has no grass they had to play at the front. Of course then the little ones wanted to join in, so the boys were put on 'careful watch' duty. Boo and Beef were out there in their fairly dresses and it certainly wasn't warm, but they refused to change! They were getting plenty of looks from passers-by, but I know they are very reliable as far as the road is concerned and they were more interested in the marbles and acorns (we have a big Turkish Oak in our front garden) than in getting run over!! :)

The house was a bombsite in the evening having been raided by two sets of children that day, but a good fun time was had by all I think. :)

Saturday was a stay home morning - for me anyway!! No swimming as my friend we usually go with is on Holiday in Italy for a week with her sisters. But the boys still had tennis and Boo still had ballet, so Paul was in and out ferrying kids about on bikes all morning (bless him).Then in the afternoon my friend MS came round and we went out for coffee and to but a few bits I needed to get at the market. And of course, as I was child free (having left the girls all sleeping and the boys playing with M's little boy on the PC) and she only had her toddler with her, we hit Oxfam bookshop. I spent another £20 - and justified it by adding in some 'stocking fillers' and 'books for someone else'!! But I got some goodies - as always :)

Children Just Like Me (DK) - for my HSing friend as we already have it
Allsorts 6 - collection of poems and stories. I like these kinds of books.
Sophie's Lucky (Dick King-Smith)
The Last Cowboys (Harry Horse)
Let's get out of here! - collection of poems by Quentin Blake and Michael Rosen - VERY funny!! We read some tonight (Monday) and Jacob loved them. Just a little 'crude' in places without being crass. Very appealing to a 7yr old lad's sense of humour :)
Attack of the Tentacled Terror (Susan gates) - otherwise Known as Sea Hags, Suckers and Cobra Sharks! - sounds interesting :) I am trying to inspire my rather reluctant reader.
The Worlds Best Fairly Tales - in 2 volumes (Readers Digest). M said she had these as a child and read them over and over and they do look wonderful. For a family who disallow 'magic' we do have rather a comprehensive collection of fairy tale books now. While I'm doing the reading we shall avoid the magic laden ones, and I hope that by the time the children are ready to read them alone they will better understand why we avoid it and will choose to do so for themselves to a large extent. Of course there are no guarantees and I know that inquisitive minds are apt to want to find out what all the 'worry' is about, so I guess that will be the time to read and chat through them. Until then, we'll just read the ones without magic and there are plenty of them after all.
3 Beatrix Potter books - we don't have any at the moment, so maybe these will 'test the waters'. I always felt they would be an expensive collection to have if they weren't to get read because the children didn't take to them.
Joshua Conqueror of Canaan - Mark Healy (a history/factual book, with great pictures)
The Silk Route - for when we look at China
My First Look at Honeybees - a gorgeous text with great 'real-life' pictures
Cinderella and The Pied Piper of Hamlyn - Ladybird Fairy Tales (I'm collecting these)
And four little stories about woodland animals for the girls (stocking fillers) that I thought were nice because they depicted the animals in their natural habitats.

Sunday was Harvest festival 'fellowship lunch' at church (we stay and eat together) which was lovely, and then Abbie had her Ballet photos at 2.30pm. She pulled a terrible grimacing smile, but we'll see..! Crashed out for an hour at home then back to church in the evening (just me and I met my boys there - they had both been to play at Dom's again!!).

Today some of us Mums decided to hit the soft play centre this morning. The girls were packaged off to playgroup and me and the boys & Ellie went to 'Funsters'. When we got there we were told the boys weren't allowed to play because the session was only for under 5's (good in some ways I can see, but how do you contain a 5 & a 7 yr old for a whole hour?) . It was a shame though because I had hoped it would be a treat for them for working so hard & well the last few weeks :( I fed them chocolate and they had a drink (which cheered them a little!) and then gave them charge to 'look after the little ones' - they rose to the challenge and did a good job - in between playing!! Jacob even managed to sneak onto the big frame for a few minutes - afterall none of the tinies were on there so why not? And the staff didn't say anything, so I guess they just decided to turn a blind eye :)

When we got home, we rushed to pick up the girls and then bimbled home collecting numerous acorns and conkers (can get a bit wearing that, but the kids can't get enough of it and, as it was warm, not raining and for once we were in no hurry, I didn't mind. Phoebe's word for conkers is "con-conks" - which I think is too cute. "Acorns" is pretty much the same!!

After a long lunch we sat down to do just a little school, but I didn't want to get heavy at all today (just to fill some time really), so we did PBS (Postal Bible School - which we do every Monday) and Geography (favorite subject of the moment - closely followed by History!!). Joel protested a little, but cheered up when he realised this was all I was asking of him today! We looked at the 7 continents and the 4 oceans. Talked about them, related them to NSEW and discussed what that meant in terms of climate. Then they filled in their own little map, labeling the continents and oceans and colouring each continent a different colour - being careful to include the right countries in the right continent. They enjoyed that. Jacob really gets confused with Continents and Countries, but I think it's soaking in slowly :)

At 5pm the boys had swimming and this week I had to troop everyone down as Paul had a meeting, but it was a good opportunity to sit a read stories to the girls while the boys were changing afterwards - lots of Percy the Park Keeper stories - nice :)

Then tea, stories and bed. Now peace reigns and I get chance to blog, while Paul is once again out at music practice. He's a busy man!!! (Ah, I hear the door...)

Friday, October 01, 2004

Mad & Busy Day

I'll blog properly tommorrow! Lot's to do tonight and want to watch a friends DVD with Paul. :)

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Reading around

The problem with not blogging regularly is that it takes all evening for me to read around everyone's blogs and catch up (I am a very slow reader & I like details!!), but I'm done now!

On Wednesday we did our first Geography lesson. We learnt the compass points, the difference between a map and a globe and made (well folded together really) this little hexagonal 3D globe which came with the bundle. Then I got the kids to label a floor map of our house, which they really enjoyed and it meant working out which way to hold the map to figure out which room was which. After that they each drew a map of our walk into town, which is a very simple straight line route, but they had to fill in the land-marks, like the railway line & the job-centre, any roads we cross and a roundabout, etc.. That was fun too. Next week we'll talk about continents and countries (although they do already have a vague idea of the difference between those from playing 'globe trotting' - the ELC version of Twister with the seven continents and the main oceans marked on) and then perhaps onto looking at China. I did consider starting closer to home (and still am actually). I need to look closer at the materials and visit the library. What is distinctive about the UK...? I wish we could have made that meet up in London! We have also some made some Swedish friends recently - maybe we should start there...? On second thoughts, I think I will start in Europe, especially as we are 2/3 through completing a jigsaw map of Europe. We could use that as a reference point and I could let the children 'pick a country' to look at. Yes, I think that might work! :) The good thing about the GTG curriculum is that it is a framework and not overly prescriptive. It encourages a continent by continent approach, but it doesn't matter which continent you start at. And it is also 'unit study' style, so there's lots of ideas in there to use.

No art today, but Cath has promised me a double helping in the next two weeks (she had double booked herself for today :( ). The boys have done some nice pieces in the 'art-notebooks' though. I think she'll be impressed. They did them completely unassisted and I was certainly impressed - better than I could do for sure and in just one lesson!!

The boys were dragging their heals a bit by the end of today - but then so was I, so I guess it showed!! They really do work well though on the whole and we do pack an awful lot in sometimes. I was ready to jack it in before them today though. They requested to do some 'Treks' (which is health-ed), but ran out of steam half way through the topic (cleanliness) and as I didn't have much left to start with I struggled too! Still we did it and it wasn't with tears or anything so that was good. Next time I think I will say when I've had enough, even if it's before them!! Children are not always the best judges of what they are capable of are they?!. I was very pleased with them both today though, when they both got full marks in their spellings (10/10 for Joel & 24/24 for Jacob). Admittedly Jacob's were 'easy' for him, but I thought we'd start the term off with a high success rate to encourage him. Joel's I thought were quite tough (words like 'thinking'), but apparently he thought not!! I've been using wordsearches for spelling practice midweek (thanks Merry for that idea) and it seems to be paying off as well as being enjoyable for the boys. :)

Going to bed now. I'm feeling very tired of late. Feel like I wish it was half term already!! Dunno quite what happened to my 'take it easy' week? Somehow I'm just not too good at that and I feel like I need to keep the children busy to keep them out of trouble, or from bickering all the time. Not sure which is more wearing - squabbling kids or having to constantly think about what we're doing next. I think the former in the long run actually!

Night Folks.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Not too good at this Lately...

I just never seem to get two minutes to sit and blog of late and why is that when I think I'm going to get a couple one of the children brings Ellie to me - whether or not she is crying. It really is quite wearing - they just don't seem to be able to leave the poor child alone. Every time she cries - they pick her up. Every time she goes anywhere near the one step we have in our house they lift her down it so she can crawl to me (even though she has realised quite quickly that she cannot get down by herself and just hovers near the edge). Ya, yah, yah,...moan, moan, moan!!

In all though everything is good here. I never seem to see much of Paul of late because either he or I are out most evenings with one thing and another. Speaking of whom... he just got home. Going to say HI! Back in a mo...

Well, while my fab hubby cooks tea...I'll carry on.

No real point filling you in too much on days gone by as nothing special really happened. A usual weekend really. But yesterday we did some cooking again in the afternoon girls had brought home harvest boxes from playgroup, containing various vegetables. So yesterday we made "Abbie & Phoebe Harvest soup!!" (winter vegetable by any other name!). The children did nearly all the work. I helped a little with the pealing, but Joel managed a whole carrot and Jacob a huge spud & an apple by themselves. Then they did ALL the chopping by themselves - took ages, but was very worthwhile. Jacob fried the onions off and they all helped add the water, stock and herbs. They all gave it a mix - which scared me, having them all standing up next to the stove, but it has to be done I guess - in the name of education! It was keeping their hands off the cooker that was worrying, as being electric it does not look obviously hot. I much prefer gas if for no other reason than at least you can SEE the fire and that is usually a good deterrent to small hands!!

A team effort

Joel carefully chopping spuds

Joel chopping more spuds

Jacob pealing apple

Today has been busy, and fun too. We started the day with a puppet show of the story of Queen Esther and Mordecai (from the Bible), just a fresh approach to bible-study for today. Then we got maths out of the way as quick as a flash so that we could get onto 'History' (favourite subject of the moment!) We spent absolutely AGES talking about Adam & Eve eating the apple, and why, and what it meant for the whole of creation. We played a game which illustrated how the world could not have happened 'by chance' which was fun and produced lots of giggles at the thought of animals being created before the land for them to live on & man being around before there was any Sun & Moon in the sky, or even before GOD!(sorry all you folks out there who don't hold to this view and I'm not intending to open a debate on this one, it's just that we are starting our history lessons at the very Beginning and teaching what we believe!!) After we put things in their proper order we sang a song to the tune of 'This old man' about the days of creation. We followed that with another game - all pretending to be different animals and 'Adam' naming each one! To mellow things a little I read a 'story' account of the Garden of Eden and the Fall (we did the Creation chapter the other week) from "Adam & His Kin" while the boys quietly listened and did some colouring of a creation picture. Lots of fun for a history lesson. I really love this Diana Waring curriculum. Although today was combined with some resources from "Considering God's Creation" which came yesterday in an M-bag with my Galloping the Globe Geography curriculum (which looks FAB by the way!!)

Finished the day off with a little English at which point Ellie was a complete distraction;

Elisheva under table!!

Must go help Paul put the kids to bed now. I fell asleep on the sofa at 6pm last night and he did it solo. I didn't wake up til' midnight and went straight to bed, but of course then I couldn't sleep, so I had to get an empty the tumble drier at 1am!! Then I was so bored sleep was not a problem!! Best not leave him to do it all himself again tonight poor man.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Very Quick Update

Sunday - Church as usual. Nice day! :)

Monday - Did some maths with the boys then felt VERY sick. Crawled up the road to collect Abbie from playgroup then went straight to bed when I got home. Jacob & Joel were ACE!! They teamed up and made lunch for all the children (and couldn't understand why Ellie wouldn't eat hers, but as she had been ill on Saturday - VERY sick, I wasn't surprised), put Ellie to bed with her cloth, dummy and music and then settled the other two girls down for a rest too. Played on the PS1 for a while themselves then went and had a nap too until their Dad got home - who I had been unable to contact because he had his phone off!! I promptly was ill myself and floated in and out of sleep all afternoon and night.

Tuesday - arose far too early for someone not too well to got the hospital (for 8am)to have a sebaceous cyst removed from the top of my head. I didn't go down to theatre until 4pm!! WHY was I there at 8am?? Don't answer that one...! Anyway, the job is done and now I have a sore head!

Wednesday - still not feeling too hot, but muddled through school. Boys were very good indeed

Thursday - ditto! I'm amazed how much we did this week considering the amount of time we didn't do school! I've decided we're going to have a 'cool it' week next week because the boys are zipping away with everything and just 'getting' stuff I was expecting to be a struggle. I'm so pleased with the choices I have made for this year. Everything seems to be 'bang on' the mark for them both.

Friday - nothing much. Jacob went out with Paul this morning and collected about a million conkers. Joel had to stay in because he deliberately cut a whole in his T-shirt yesterday with his scissors - right under my nose! I was a little mad to say the least!!

Saturday, September 18, 2004

We're In!

I forgot to blog that Paul has been accepted for Minister in Training status! A-men!! We are so relieved, excited, happy. Now to wait and see what the future holds come next May... I only hate the thought of moving again, both for myself and for the children, particularly the boys. I really love it here and we have all made so many fabulous friends, but we never came with the intention of staying. :( Oh well - not to worry about that yet and I'm sure whatever happens we will be happy ... :)

Hopping Mad!!

I have loads I should be doing, but I have just spent 3 hours cruising round the blog-ring!!

We went swimming this morning, as is our Saturday custom after the boys finish tennis. Jacob spotted a frog at the bottom of the pool! (you have to realise this is not a public swimming pool, it is the one that belongs to Paul's College, that we use for free). He thought it was dead, so I told him to swim down ant lift it out. He re-emerged a little freaked and anounced that it wasn't dead and had wriggled in his hand! I then had the pleasent job of collecting this frog from the bottom of the deep end of the pool. I ushered it to the top of the water and scooped it onto the side, where it sat panting for air, while I struggled out of the pool (the ladder at the deep end is at the menders). By the time I was out he had re-cooped a bit and was a tad 'jumpy'! There I was crawling along the side of the pool trying to catch a frog, whilst also trying to prevent it hopping straight back in! Not a sight for sore eyes I can tell you, but it caused a giggle from everyone!! I eventually caught it, but then of course all of the numerous children we had with us wanted to see the little fellow, who was all too keen to get out of my hands! My friend Helen (after a very careful transfer of hands) then took him to the college fountain, where we thought he would be quite happy!! A little bit of fun anyway!!

The boys have been at Dom's all afternoon and the girls asleep, while I have 'wasted' precious no-kids, no hubby (he's been at college studying) time on here reading all your blogs!! But I'm happy and chilled now:)
The girls are now up ! Ho-humm, best go start tea.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Getting Arty!

Today has been another very pleasant day. It started out with my friend Cath' coming to do Art with the boys. They were so thrilled - and she did so much with them! First they looked at some paintings (in a book) and discussed together the difference between 'realistic' and 'stylised' paintings. They were looking mainly at portraits, but did look at some other things too. There was one painting that Joel said looked like "eyes in space" - cool! It was a painting by Kadinski (if that's how you spell it - I am no coniseur on art at all!) Then She got them to experiment with different mediums and played around with 'smudging' & seeing how each type of implement felt to work with. Joel liked the soft pastels best and Jacob the chalks - although Jacob did something very nice with the oil pastels. They have 'homework' too - collect cut out pictures of faces - all different sorts of faces and draw any picture they like in their art note-book using one of today's mediums. I'm looking forward to seeing what they produce. They really did have fun.

Jacob's smudging!

close up of Jacob's oil pastel shapes & soft pastel names

Joel's smudging

close up of Joel's soft pastel shapes

After Cath' had gone we did spelling tests and both boys got full marks :) !

Then Joel did a little Maths while Jacob did his Handwriting. Joel went off to play at Dom's for a couple of hours and Jacob started playing with Music composition on the PC (got the 'Compose World Junior' demo which I downloaded and it's great fun), so that was his IT . Thursday is a Maths free day for Jacob provided he has finished his work in the week, so that pleased him too. :)

Then Trailblazers club and tea and bed - all very pleasent. Paul even managed to get to footy. I managed to hoover the entire house and get a couple of hours sleep this arvo when Paul came home to do some internet research for his dicitation at the end of the year. Unfortunately Ellie woke up, so Paul didn't do the surfing, but he sat and read instead while she played around his feet. He woke me when tea was ready (fantastic man!!). I also managed to do three loads of washing, which included changing our bed & remaking it. I am impressed with myself!! ;)

Dom' didn't come in the end today because he had a major nose bleed this morning and had to have the day of school. He looked pretty wiped when I saw him so today wouldn't have been the ideal day to start doing 'extra' lessons with him. So Joel went to play at his instead. Michelle said she hoped it would cheer Dom up a little. Joel is pretty good at that! :)

Ellie seems to be getting the hang of crawling without bawling! To begin she seemed to think the two had to go together which was little wearing for a few days, but now she is getting quicker, and it's easier for her, the crying seems to be dropping off - phew!! :)

Forgot to mention - Phoebe started at playgroup last week. Just Thursday mornings. She came out really chatty and happy today and obviously had a lovely time. "nice morning - abbie - play sand...." she's getting there with her talking at last!


Sorry I haven't been blogging much. Paul needs the computer a lot at the mo as his studies are significantly MORE this year, so I get less PC time. :( We need a lap-top - honestly - we really do!! Paul would like one so that he can takes notes in lectures and then work in the lounge of an evening - sounds ideal to me, but we shall have to see what money comes through...

Good things that happened this week;

We got given a car - a Ford Mondeo. Not big enough for all of us at any one time, but a real bless ing all the same - will be very useful for Paul next year. One hitch - neither of us can drive, so now that is WAY up there on the list of priorities!! Paul has been practicing 3 point turns in the yard (yes, our yard is that big even with my Mums Astra in it!!), which is braver than I have been. It's diesel too - so low fuel costs - big boon - :)

Ellie is crawling - have I already told you that one?

Abbie had her first Ballet lesson on Saturday and adored it. :) I'm hoping it will help her with her pigeon toed-ness and improve her 'way of moving' (she is not the daintiest of girls!), but if nothing else I want it for her (and believe me, she really wants it too) because I never had it!! Here's a pic of her dressed and ready to go. She looked a lot less neat when she got home!!

Prima Ballerina!

serious about this

Another good week of school and it definitely seems to be getting a whole lot more fun this year. Joel is so applied for a nearly 6 year old and really understands the concept of reward. "Get this done quick and you can..." Jacob does understand the idea, but struggles with the application and with attention. He also still wants to check he is going to write the right thing before he rights it ALL the time - which is very infuriating! We had a chat today about it and I explained that I actually would like him to pick his own brain a little more often and 'have a go' and then we can talk over what he has written afterwards. I think it got through - tomorrow will tell...! That said we have only a couple of head-on battles this week (which is not just a school thing, it happens about all sorts of things and is more about personality than school - gladly!) which is a major improvement and today he did his Maths in 20 minutes which meant he had time on 'Rainbow Rock' ( a maths CDRom that compliments Singapore Maths) to help cement this weeks lessons in his brain. Joel, on the other hand, is really struggling to commit number bonds to memory. He is normally fabulous with 'memory' stuff, but the numbers thing has got him stumped. So we played with the 'rods' for about 30 minutes (he gets those fine) in the hope of helping him to remember colours (d.green + l.green = blue) if not numbers initially, because he can then translate the colours to numbers with no problem. I'm not stressed about it though - we were here with Jacob a year further down the line. I know that if we stick at it he WILL get it in the end. I just don't want to bore him in the process. I think we will keep at it until the end of next week and then move on. We can always come back - and I know we will anyway. And we always have Rainbow Rock to help us!!

I went to Ikea on Monday morning with a friend, and bought 3 bookcases (my friend has new Vectra estate)!! Then stayed up until 2am sorting books. One bookcase has boxes of toys on, but the other two are 2/3rds full already. It was nice to clear some space in my other overcrowded bookcases, so that I could actually pull just one book out at a time instead of four! My house is looking more and more like a library - though not to same extent as maybe Jan's does ;) ! We are now up to 5 bookcases and a cupboard almost full of books - not bad for someone who does not have a love of reading!! I feel so much more organized now. A shelf for this and a shelf for that...and the children seem to be able to lay their hands on books easier too. I did try to make it 'child mind' friendly when I was sorting them all.

My friend Cath is coming over to do 'Art' with the boys at 10 in the morning - looking forward to that and I haven't told the boys yet, so that will be a nice surprise for them. They both love Cath and she is so imaginative - I know they will have a great hour with her. :) The girls will be out at Playgroup, so they won't be missing out and maybe I can catch up on some cleaning that seems to have gone sadly amiss for a few weeks. :(

my little pre-schooler!

Had the CIS insurance man over tonight and bought Life/Critical Illness cover and a Savings Plan (we asked them to come) - neither of which we have had for a number of years and were well over due. Tick that one off my list! :)

And on the subject of my title...My friend has asked me to teach/help her little boy with his reading. He is in the same school year as Joel, but whereas Joel is 6 next month, he only just turned 5 last month. His school have used the Jolly Phonics reading scheme, but although Dom' can read a little he is struggling (or at least the school say he is. His Mum is not so sure...). The school have said they are thinking about giving him remedial reading lessons! I just think they have no brains - he is only just 5!!! His parents and I think this is crazy and it's just that he was too young when he started to really take it all on board. So... Dom' is going to come round here once a week (Joel is his best friend) and I will re-teach him from the start, doing about 20-30 minutes of work. I may have to do two letters at a time (but hopefully as it will be a kind of 'refresher' that will be OK) and set his Mum 'homework' to go over with him in the week. She has said she will buy the JP workbooks and I will say what I want him to cover. I'm hoping Joel will join in a little to make it more fun and less 'chore-like' for Dom'. When we have reviewed the basic letter sounds, and he can read to a reasonable level (like where Joel is at now), Joel and him can do a bit of stuff together. What we are really aiming for is him not getting too far behind his classmates because Michelle (Dom's Mum) can already see that it has made a dent in his self esteem and she is sure he has heard people tell him, or he has overheard them say, he can't read. So now he thinks he can't and we need to show him that he really CAN. Poor little lad - 5 and already the system is failing him. :( It's weird though, but I have always thought it would be lovely to have a small group of children in my front room all learning together in a friendly, self-paced, unthreatening way... Maybe this is the start of things to come - a little earlier than I had anticipated. Michelle has offered to pay me too (I've not decided on that one - I like to help out my friends and I just want to see the little boy thrive, but the money could be useful!!).

Still waiting to hear about the MIT - let you all know as soon as!!