Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Farewell 2008!

Wishing you all a "HAPPY NEW YEAR!"

We had a lovely afternoon out today - courtesy of the place itself when they gave us complimentary entry (we spend over £20 on a new garden broom and some rabbit bits) for 2 adults and 2 children. Two of ours are under 5, meaning we only had to pay for 3 kids, making the entrance fee only £8 - a REALLY cheap outing for us (although we bumped up the cost by buying lunch there, but hey-ho, we spent over £20 so they gave us another complimentary ticket to use by the end of Jan)! Happily enough, although we have been to Stapeley Water Gardens a tonne of times, the children never cease to enjoy it and it is an easy way to kill 2-3 hours. We could have spent longer if we read all the info, but with 7 it's more fun to just 'enjoy' the wildlife J. It was the first time that Nat' had really taken it all in too. He was enthralled by the birds and the fish - one of his first words is "berr" (bird). If you like pictures of snakes, spiders and lizards, photos are HERE

Stapeley - again!

Now drinking wine and eating Lindor - going to see 2009 in with my hubby J.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Antics...

So Christmas came and went in a whirl of madness.

Christmas Eve
- The day was a pleasant one. I had purposely got the busy stuff out of the way the day before in order to spend time with the kids today. P had to work a half day and so planned to be home around lunch time, but in the event ended up nipping into town for a couple of odd things he had not been able to get earlier and to a different supermarket than our usual, for things they had sold out of - and ended up spending another £70 in total!! Once he was home he had the job of amusing the little ones, while I cooked yummy stuff with the older ones. I decided that having a mammoth 'everyone cooking with Mum' session would be way to stressful, so they would have a turn each and make one thing each with me. This turned out well, as I had four recipes planed and J2 didn't want to cook with me ( :( ). So, E helped first to stop her nagging, and we made up the muffin mix ready for the morning. Easy! All I did was crack the egg, help her weigh stuff and tell her what to do :) Phoebe next and we made Baklava (a-la Nigella), for which we enlisted Boo to help shell all the pistachios - two packets worth!! This was a relatively easy dish too, but did require significantly more help from me, but that was nice to spend some time with just P - and she does love cooking :) Abbie next and we made Chocolate, maple and pecan pie - which was also quite easy to make, but there were lots of little 'bits' to do and then add together, so it was a tad complicated, but we had fun and licking the bowl was divine!! Both of the cooked dishes turned out really well and in the event were/are very tasty! I had planned to be in bed at midnight and made it by 10 past - the first time in over a week I had been to bed before the small hours! All the pressies were wrapped and sorted under the tree and in individual Christmas gift bags laid out ready for the early morning onslaught!

I went to bed leaving my Mum still wrapping in the front room and hoping that she would get done quickly and go to bed, but in my heart of hearts knowing that she wouldn't, because she never does! Year on year she stays up all night Christmas Eve wrapping and is then less than best (to say the least) the next day :( She had been wrapping since 8am and was less than 1/2 way through the task. Now that would make you think she gives way too much, but you would be mostly wrong. She does give a lot, but mostly cheap little
nic-knacks that she has picked up over the year, but the quantity is only half the issue here. To watch her would make you wince; She carefully folds and refolds every crease of paper, she seals every edge meticulously with sellotape (to the point the children get frustrated trying to open things) and re-enforces every corner in case the paper gives even the tiniest bit on the box edges! She encases every parcel (no matter how small) with gift ribbon and spends upto 10 mins arranging the curls and tag so precisely. She mostly uses second hand paper (all credit to her) and spends a while covering every mark with a 'sticker' (cut up card or something) and sealing the edges of that with tape also. Total wrapping time for ONE present 15 -30 mins!! It is slightly crazy!! I say year on year that it's all very lovely but she is pretty much wasting her time, because the children are more interested in what's inside and they might notice the paper, but really they just want to get it off!!

Christmas Day
- The reason I tell about my Mum is that is has knock on effect on Christmas every year, but this year was possibly worst than most, because it really affected the kids morning :( We have no rules about rising times on Christmas morning - it's too hard to police these days! So before they went to bed I had told them that whatever time they woke up they could go downstairs, open their boxes/bags, enjoy their new things quietly for a bit and then go back to bed until at least 7 - preferably back to sleep and don't disturb us before then. By 'whatever' time - I really do mean that, because once awake the excitement is too much and they can't go back to sleep anyway, so my theory is 'get it out of their system' and we might get more peace! Now, ordinarily this works really well and the earliest I have known them to be up before now was 4am (a couple of years back) - they didn't really disturb us that year, we just slightly heard them, and they jumped on us at 7 with their new possessions in hand - lovely!! This year I was woken by the sound of wailing and 'it's not fair' at 4am. Not exactly what you want to hear from your children on Christmas morning :( It turned out the oldest four had been down at 2.15 and sent back to bed because, of course, Mum was still up wrapping - lights all still on etc... and she was quite sharp with them I think (judging by her attitude about it later), they had laid awake chatting then for ages and tried to go down again at 4 - and been turned away again!! This time they were thoroughly upset by it because it was the complete opposite of what we had said they could do! I went and saw them and then went downstairs and told Mum I was sending them down in 1/2 an hour and she had better have cleared out of the lounge by then - I also told her how angry I was with her for spoiling the 'surprise and excitement' of Christmas early-hours opening! So at 4.30 I chivvied them all downstairs, and ordinarily I would have gone back to bed, but because Mum was still up and by now very grumpy, I didn't want to leave her to spoil things for them even more, so I stayed up for an hour with them. They were all thrilled with what they opened which redeemed the moment somewhat. P tried on her new outfit and the boys dived into their selection packs (yes, at 4.30am!) and then I ushered them all back to bed where they went back to sleep until 7. And actually the two youngest didn't get up at all till then, so we did their bags before breakfast. I then pottled into the kitchen to make our Cranberry muffins - which did as I intended - filled the house with yummy smells, but sadly the children didn't eat them at all, so chocolate pillows and sandwiches as normal for them! Next year I think I am going to do Chocolate Cinnamon muffins - if they are brown they might get eaten!! I then went to put the bird and the gammon in the oven and prep the veg. As soon as I opened the bag with the turkey in I knew it was not going to make it to our table - it was seriously off!! P had taken it out of the freezer too soon and the lack of space in the fridge... In hindsight we should have left it in the freezing cold garage, but hey-ho - I was glad we had the gammon to fall back on, and that it was big! Jake was a little disappointed because he loves turkey and we only have it once a year! To compensate, we have bought another one to have tomorrow (Sunday) instead :) We all had to be at church by 10, so no lazing around - and for me broken sleep is worse than no sleep, hence by the end of the day I was zombiefied, but in the middle I was OK! Church was lovely - with P doing the kiddie bit; getting them to show off all their new toys. He is so good with the little ones and they all talked to him except for Caleb & Phoebe! C had taken his bike to show off, but wouldn't do it when he had the chance & Phoebe passed off the opportunity to twirl in her new Pumpkin Patch skirt - funny kids are! Anyway, once home the children were then allowed to open some more presents for an hour or so whilst lunch got itself cooked through. The main present to the oldest 5 children this year was a Wii, and it was our intention to have them open it last, but when opening presents from other relatives they opened a parcel containing two Wii games, so that gave the game away and we had to then let them open the main thing. They were of course ecstatic :) Other main presents included an electric guitar (free second-hand) for Jake, with my old amp, new lead and new plectrums - we was very chuffed with the plectrums!! A new wooden indoor bike for natty, and water drums - he is SOOOO thrilled with the sticks!! A Sylvanian set each for the big girls (out of their own money actually), Brand new Thomas bike for Caleb (as mentioned) and The Dr & Nurse Sylvanian people to complete E's hospital set. The worst bit of the day was having E in tears when nothing came out from under the tree for her because, the Wii being from us, anything she was getting was coming from my Mum - and it hadn't been wrapped!! In the end I sent Mum to get it and give it to her unwrapped - it just wasn't fair, poor little thing :(. Lunch went well in the end and the deserts were yummy - well Mum, Abbie and I thought so! Only Abbie really tried anything new, but P had bought a chocolate trifle (he doesn't like nuts), so they had that mostly.

After then meal, we finished off the remains of what was currenty wrapped and then spent the rest of the evening
Wii-ing! It's going to be a challenge to keep it fair. I think I'm going to have to invest in more controllers - or they are! Mum of course was asleep in the chair by this point and tuned out to the rest of the happenings of the day :( Nasty person that I am though - I actually woke her to ask her to help wash up - she wouldn't have offered because she was too tired (her own fault) and I don't feel it is fair for her to treat our home like a hotel and us like her hand-maidens - which she would have done had I not asked! Went to bed at 1am (back to small hours) once some tidying up was done and we had had a little go on the Wii ourselves! Not sure why I went to bed so late though - I was dead at about 7! Stupidity I think - and the knowledge that I didn't have to get up for any reason at all the next day!! Mum was wrapping the rest of her presents when we went up - seems she stayed up till 5am again!

Boxing Day & today - Like I said - nothing to get up for - so we didn't! Mum was up anyway - mad woman!! P made bacon butties and fried potatoes, with the left over roasties, for breakfast - yummy! The rest of the day was spent hanging out and mostly playing on the Wii. Abs & I had a go with her new Paper FX and made a coaster, but it was VERY fiddly. J1, J2, A, P and I had a game of Carcassonne which J1 won at the very end - much to his delighted surprise :) Jake and I then escaped into the kitchen before lunch to make Chocolate Sauce Pudding (cake) - which had 250g of plain chocolate in and was like a cross between a steam sponge pudding and a souffle - it was divine! Surprise - everyone ate that :) It was the most difficult to make so I am glad it was Jake I made it with and I am glad we made it on boxing day. Definitely one for the traditions list :) Lunch itself was home-made carrot and coriander soup and chunky tiger bread - keeping it light to keep room for all the scrummy puddings that needed to get eaten! After lunch we did open the rest of Mum's pressies which included Ticket To Ride (Europe) for the older 3. So, when everyone else had gone to bed, P, myself and Jacob stayed up and played that until about 10pm. Jake then crawled up to bed, leaving P & I to play two games of Carcassonne until about 1.30am - P won all the games, he always does!! Mum had gone to a friend's for coffee - she came home as we were finishing the second game! She had, however, promised to do the tea-time washing up, so we had left it for her! Then she declared that she couldn't find her car keys (she had borrowed P's set for her car to go out), so I ended up staying up even later to help her look for them, but to no avail (they turned up this morning thankfully). So she went to bed, but I took one look around me and decided enough was enough. I didn't want to get up in the morning to a tip again, so I spent a while tidying - meaning I went to bed at 5am - again. I really must stop behaving like an owl, I know it's not good for me, but luckily I didn't have to get up again today and I didn't actually wake up until gone 10am, so I was ok today.

Today the kids have spent most of day
Wii-ing again - with varying degrees of loud, stroppiness. Boo has spent much of the day bursting into tears and screeching at people - a sure sign of over tiredness in her. She tried to do another FX coaster, but it was simply too frustrating for her today :( I sent her to bed to nap, but she couldn't get to sleep. She said the house was too noisy, which it probably was in all honesty and her MP3 player ran out of charge - typical, so she got up again and promised to try to count to 10 before she snapped at people or cried!! :( After lunch P took the explosive ones (J2, A, P, E & C) to the park for a run around. N was asleep & J1 had his mate over, so they were fine. The park did seem to do the trick for the most part and all were much calmer (and colder!) on return. I, in the meantime, had a lovely shower and got dressed!!

In regards to the
Wii - I can see I am going to have to come down hard next week on SASS time, but for now, ahhh - it's Christmas!! But it's so much harder to make it fair when the rules are not in place ;)

Mum has gone now - won't see her now until 2009. I have really struggled to have her here this year; she watches the children's every little move. She does it ordinarily anyway and it always irritates me, but at Christmas it annoys me even more. I somehow think that at Christmas, within reason, the kids set the rules. It is the only time of year when there aren't many really important things that have to happen; There are no bedtimes as such - that just happens when it happens, there is no set order for things to occur in - we just go with the flow and do what works best for the day, there are no 'only one thing out at a time' rules, there are no 'no excessive mess' rules, there are no rules about HOW toys should be played with, etc... Yet on all these counts my Mum had something to say. For example, N's new indoor trike
(from ELC) has a little 'wagon' on the back and on one instance C was taking a little ride in it around the lounge. C is the lightest little snip of a boy and would do it no harm, but Mum had to be on to him immediately - "don't do that, you're gonna break it, it's not made for that, it's not strong enough, get out of it..." - I was sat on the sofa watching him too, but she hadn't seemed to notice that fact!! I argued his corner and she got in a huff with me, saying I didn't care how they treated their toys etc... Now if only I didn't care as much as I do - maybe we would have a few less (and a few more would get tossed away), but this is simply NOT true - I could just see that he wasn't doing any harm and chose not to tell him to play differently. On so many occasions Mum was over-poweringly controlling of the kids this year - and it got on my nerves more than it might, maybe because she presumed to do it right under our noses, as if she was subconsciously criticising our parenting styles - which to be honest, at Christmas we do chose to relax right down, but that is our CHOICE, not our default status!! That said, even when we are in 'normal' mode we try not to control the childrens' normal childish ways, thoughts, play, etc, (well not tooo much anyway) in the way that she would - and this Christmas it really stood out - maybe because she hadn't hardly slept for 3 days and prior to that had shopped like a mad woman and hence was completely done-in and therefore not able to control herself very well. But all the same - it spoiled the atmosphere for me and set me on edge more than I'd have liked. P & I have decided we are going to ask her to spend Christmas at my Aunty's next year - we need a year off from her I think. She drives us both doo-lally!!

Oh look - it's already 1am - and I have washing up to do - sigh - when will I learn!! It has taken me over 2 hours to write all this - I hope it doesn't take you as long to read it - that's if you still are, which I doubt!! I have to remind myself that this is my diary-in-effect and, as such, my posts can be as long as I like. Reading it is optional -writing it is not!! :)

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Busy Busy 2!

It's mad here!
I was up till 4am yesterday wrapping all the presents.
I spent most of the afternoon (didn't emerge until about 10am!) cleaning (serious deep cleaning) the kitchen today and still only managed to have done 2/3rd of it, so have that to finish off and bathrooms to do tomorrow - plus hoover through if I can, or at least downstairs. BUT I am shopping with Mum in the afternoon, for things she hasn't bought yet and for something nice for my Nan (not that I have much money left now!), so need to do get finished early in the day - and it's already 2.30am so I'm going to be tired again (been out with a friend tonight).

My plan is to spend Christmas Eve baking with the kids and preparing things for Christmas Day. I am would like to make Cranberry muffins on Christmas morning, but as we have to be at church by 10.30am I need to have things ready-to-go when I get up and I hope to be up early enough to enjoy playing with the kids a bit too. P is horrified at the thought of sweet muffins for breakfast, but I am hoping that the smell might warm him to the idea and that the kids will love them - no guarantees there though :( This year, I have felt quite keenly, that our family is lacking in any of its own 'traditions'. I have always wanted to create and build them, but somehow it's never quite happened in the way always envisaged. P remembers Christmas as a time of over indulgence in various yummy cakes - a special thing in their family as they didn't have cake much the rest of the year, except on birthdays - and competing with his brother to see who could put away the most! For me, I remember snuggling into my Nan's bed with my stocking presents on Christmas morning, dinner piled so high on my plate and smelling delicious and a fry-up on Boxing day morning accompanied by my Nan's wonderful 'bubble & squeak'. All of the above would be a waste of time replicated in this house as, for example, the kids would no-way eat Bubble and Squeak and they are really not great fans of cake (of any description) at all. So... how to remedy this lack of traditions..? I decided that I would make a few 'special' things and see how they go down and if they work they will become our 'Christmas food'. So Christmas Eve we shall make 'Maple and Pecan Chocolate Pie' (not sure that all the kids will like this but some will - and I definitely will!), and Cranberry muffin mix ready for the morning. Then Christmas lunch time, whilst eating lunch I shall have cooking 'Chocolate Sauce Cake' - which apparently has the consistency of - yes, - chocolate sauce! I think this will almost certainly be a hit with the kids and much preferable to Christmas pudding or mince pies in their eyes! And to jump backwards - we have a starter with our Christmas meal and this year instead of having the children all fool about and get bored while we tuck into our Prawn cocktail, I have bought Tomato soup for them to have, which I shall try to make look pretty - maybe a swirl of cream to make it appear more special than usual.

Coupled with the food itself, I am hoping that the baking on Christmas Eve might become a bit of a tradition too. And I need to think more about what else we can do for next year... One thing we do do each year already is create a 'snowflake display' for the front window and a 'Hama display' for the side one. This has become something the children do look forward to, but I want there to be more. I really don't want Christmas to be all about the presents received on Christmas day - there is so much more value in Christmas than that, on so many levels :D

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chilled out week...

I decided to give the kids a break this week and do Christmassy stuff. So we have made many Hama decorations, snowflakes for the window (with added glitter) as has become an annual tradition here, a birthday cake for Mum (it was her birthday yesterday), and spent a couple of days making cards for family members. There's been board games too and lots of noise! Generally a relaxed happy week and just now the kids are all out at the Trailblazers (kids club) party - peace!
I have dance again tonight (I'll be losing weight at this rate - I wish), but my back started hurting again this morning. Tough though - I have to do the dance tomorrow, so I'll have to just grin and bear it (quite literally)!

I was rather proud of Mum's cake though - little pink handmade roses on it - but my camera has messed up the pictures, so this was taken with a bit missing!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Nativity Pictures

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Tot School Chez Frogs!

Favourite game - bead tipping :)

"My hat!"

"your hat!"

"ha ha ha!!"
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Christmas Newsletter 2008

For those of you who are not on my email list, but would still like to read our news, you can do so HERE :)
There may not be an awful lot that our regular readers don't already know, but it's up to you if you want to read it.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Lovely Busy Day

It has been a somewhat busy day, but great all the same. The children's nativity went well this morning. They actually did it twice (it was quite short) because the mics weren't set right first run through and we couldn't hear them very well. I have pictures and a video, but will upload tomorrow.

After the service we had a short(ish) choir and dance practice for Friday night.

Lunch with 13 around the table was a nice occasion. After which, we all played charades for most of the afternoon - great fun! It's hard to think of something that everyone of many ages can enjoy and see all at the same time in one room, so this worked well and we had a giggle :). While we were playing Charades, C & N played together on the piano for a bit - very cute to watch from the back! Later, A & E sat together and watched some animations from Illumina Gold which is something we bought years ago and have very under-used, but it is very interesting and they were glued for quite a while. Then tea-time, Jake out to Hydo-G (youth group) party and P went too (not that he's a wanna-be or anything, but he has been helping out a bit this term) and the rest of the tribe to bed. It was a pleasant, if a little noisy, easy day.

Once the kids were in bed I wrapped a couple of pressies for P's M&D to take back down south with them & then chatted with them until P came home. Now I'm pretty shattered and I am going to be in bed before midnight tonight - first time in I don't know how long!

So night folks :)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Operation Winter Clean!

Tuesday - Baby-sitting for a friend (home 11pm)
Wednesday - Band Practice (home 10pm)
Thursday - ladies night in Costa Coffee (home 10pm)
Friday - Choir Practice. (home 10pm)

Set to tidying the house today and yesterday. Yesterday - dusted and polished through and P hoovered while I was out with all kids in the morning (easier that way) - then home, lunch, more tidying, rearranging lounge ready for Christmas tree, sorting, washing, putting away clothes etc...
Today operation hallway, stairs, bathrooms and kitchen, turned into MAJOR wall washing in lounge (old pencil parks and red playdoh!) & stairway, and cleaning all the doors in the house! I did the bathrooms too, scrubbing all the grouting on the tiles too! Hand scrubbed the floors in both b'rooms. De-cobwebbed everywhere (made C very happy - now he will use the downstairs loo again!!). Melted 13 candles into their holders and burnt smelly oils everywhere to try and rid the smell of 'dust' from the air. BUT P's parents arrived just about lunch time (same time all the kids arrived home from Ballet and dress-rehearsals for nativity play) to find me still cleaning in my now-filthy dirty PJ's! Needless to say, the kitchen just never got done. No swimming on Monday so P has promised to help me hit it and do it thoroughly ready for 'the season of good cheer' (and sore throats & colds!). I must say I am really happy with the way the house looks and smells now - clean, tidy and sparkly - so long as you just don't go in our room, where I have dumped everything that needs to go up, out, or away still. I'm not really sure about my own thinking on this one, except that I can now work out of just one space - only space is really the wrong choice of word when speaking of our tiny room as we have the smallest room in the house, bar the downstairs loo!

J2 made his first semi-public drumming performance on Friday at choir and is going to be drumming with us from now on - officially! He makes his d├ębut on Friday night at our church 'Christmas Cracker' night - music & entertainment evening. I must admit, I was amazed at his stamina. Playing a full size drum kit for nigh on 2 hours. He was pretty tired though and he said the base drum pedal was a lot heavier than on his flat-pad kit (which of course it would be), so his leg ached, but he really was ace!
Jake has been practising hard for this Friday evening too with his dance group, and he has a solo piece in it (being the only boy!) with spins on the floor and somersault-flips off the stage - can't wait to see it! I think he will steal the show :) - that's my boy!!
I'm in the 'show' too - three dances with our adult dance group, and two choir pieces.
Tomorrow morning is the church nativity and E gets to be Mary with another diddy little 5yo boy as Joseph - should be really cute :) A is reading (of course) and P is a shepherd with her best friend - and amazingly, she has memorised her lines really well :) Glad P's parents get to be here to see it.

I'm exhausted now and am singing in the morning so need to get some shut eye and rest my dusty throat and sneezy nose - I hate cleaning, it's like a recipe for an instant cold for me, but needs must sometimes I guess! :(

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Today the kids set to with more Knex-ing and this is what they made. They played happily together (albeit a bit noisily) for most of the day in Jake's little room. I was impressed with their ability to work together, helping each other and encouraging each other. And I was also impressed (again) with A's ambitious build. There were no errors and it worked - as you will see :) Phoebe also managed to follow instructions well this time and made a ring toss game which she then invented rules for and they all played with together. Jake's own creation (no instructions) is a 'bus' for his Action Man, but I love that it is custom fitted! Joel made something good too, but smashed it down the stairs before I got the camera out!

Jake's Action Man Bus

Phoebe's Ring Toss game.

Abbie's swing boat ride.

In action :)

After this we wrote in our hand-made Christmas cards from the other week, ready for giving out to Grandparents at the weekend. This was a good exercise in 'layout' for the younger ones and handwriting too for E.

Jake also wrote a book review HERE. I figured this would be a good thing to get them all to do when they finish reading a book - and not too demanding of them :)

And that was our day. I had planned to do some reading aloud, but they were all a bit hyper and I was not in the mood to loose my rag with them, so I let time slip away! Besides that a BK from Asilon this morning kinda sucked me onto the computer and I struggled to leave it alone then whilst the kids were busy being so good!

My evening was spent rearranging and tidying J2's room (big improvement in space) and hoovering it and then I went out to a ladies meeting in Costa Coffee tonight - very nice. My third night out of four this week (tomorrow is choir practice) - such luxury! Normally I am the one who goes out less, but not this week :)

It all goes a bit mad over the weekend and next week, with Christmas parties & 'shows' of various descriptions, but I will try to keep up to date on here just so you can join in the fun!!

I'm a Bloggin' Mama - What are You?

"Congratulations! You're a bloggin' mama! Your blog is an important part of your life. Life without it would be a less sunny place—but you'd still have your children, and that's what makes it all worthwhile anyway, right?"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Made to Make Your Mouth Water!

This is today's batch of A's scones :) All I did was put them in and out of the oven. All else was done by her; even setting the oven, the clearing up and the buttering and filling with various lunchtime orders!
I think she is working on memorising the quantities of ingredients now so that she can make them without the book, but today's batch was a 'double' batch, so there was some maths involved :) I'm getting through a lot of flour atm!! I think I might teach her how to make cinnamon scones next, just for that seasonal flavour :)

Time Management Issues

What should have been an easy enough day was way too long and stressful. The difference between by girls and my boys becomes more and more apparent with each passing day! We began on time (which we mostly do do) but by lunch time we were already beginning to lag a bit. J2 , A & P were doing OK. E had done some number work, but J1 was supposed to have done 2 exercises of his maths, and had only done half of one! So the boys stayed back to finish off their maths while the girls and I went to get C, however, when I got back J2 had finished his book work, but surprise surprise J1 declared he had 'accidentally' taken half an hours break and he still hadn't finished that first exercise!! No - I wasn't mad!! I contained myself though - just sent him to work upstairs so he would be less distracted, but he can distract himself with nothing that boy! By the time the others had finished off their mornings work, played, A&P had made & cooked scones together, I'd fed everyone lunch (yummy fresh scones - Boo is getting quite expert now!) - you guessed it - he STILL hadn't finished just one exercise! Abbie had even done a whole MPH revision this morning - in one go, something I don't think the boys EVER have done in one sitting! I was amazed how many different methods she seemed to be employing to find the answers. The boys had always forgotten how by the time they got to a revision. I think the fact that she has taken it slow and steady has really been a plus for her - and she has a good memory :)

Anyway, I told Jake he would have to do his maths in his own time now (like after everyone else finished school) but to go & help E feed the bunnies - that only took him another 45 mins!! Meanwhile we waited... P did some, A did the lunch dishes, J drummed and E played. N whined on my knee and C was busy somewhere.

Eventually - at 3pm (should have been 1.30) we started on Geography, followed by Spanish. Tuesday should be a fun afternoon. We are learning about volcanoes in geography and it is pretty interesting, but with both of these lessons the kids all seem to get a bit silly and it's really hard to not loose my patience. I spend so much time waiting for them to stop fooling about so that I can teach them the next bit. I want to have fun, but not larking about - there is a difference! So when P arrived home at 5pm we were still doing Spanish! I was going to babysit at 6.30 so that made the evening very tight. I left Paul with the commission of Jake finishing another 3 exercises of maths (he is supposed to do 2 x 45 mins (broken up for concentration sake supposedly) and get 4 exercises done - I wish!! - PLUS anything that he needs to get finished ready for tomorrow. I returned home to find that he went to bed at 9.45 having just finished his 3rd exercise!! P has told him he has to get up at 7 to do the 4th one. He was supposed to be having an early night (8.30) due to having had a string of later ones.

Now some of you may be thinking that I am simply asking too much of Jake, but there are some things you must understand...he IS capable of this work - it is not too easy or too demanding, he can do it relatively easily and with very little help from anyone once he gets into his stride. Saturday night I got so fed up of his dawdling with his homework I went to bed and left him to it. I had sat and had a frank conversation with him about making the right choices and not drifting along with events and distractions. He had been asked to do his h/w earlier in the day but he had spent too much time allowing himself to do anything but and it had taken ALL DAY to do less than an exercise (
oooh - do I hear and echo here!!). I told him he had to do three exercises before he went to bed. He was on no.12 (of 30) on the first one when I left him downstairs at the table at 11pm! He tells me he went to bed at just gone twelve and he did the rest of that exercise and 2 more - in an hour - in a silent house!! Now we do NOT have a silent house at anytime unless everyone is sleeping, so this is not going to be possible to provide for him on a regular basis. He is not a morning person so suggesting he rises before anyone else is not going to happen. I have suggested he removes himself to the library for maths, but he was pretty adamant he did not want to do that, so somehow he is going to have to learn to work with how it is here. To be honest though, if he were not such a disruption himself, school time could be a lot quieter! But what the silent night work did prove to me is that he CAN produce the required amount of work in a reasonable amount of time IF he determines to do so. He was desperate to get to bed that night, but he KNEW he would be in deep if he did not get the work done first, so he did it, because he HAD to! I was hoping that it might show HIM that he can do it too and be an incentive to him to carry on working in that way and at that pace - but that seems to have fallen flat :( He is only part way through chapter 3 of his GP SYRWTL Maths 1 at the end of almost a term. If he were going to finish the book in a year (as he should) he would need to be on about chapter 9 or 10. The rate he is going he is going to have to work through his holidays too, which I was trying to avoid :( He does know all this - I made the expectations very clear at the beginning of the year and have reiterated many times since, but somehow knowing it makes no difference to him 'in the moment'. Same old, same old with him! I really thought he had changed from being at school, but tbh, I think he just got away with so much in his last 2 years there that he feels I am demanding too much of him. In all honesty though I do not believe I am - he is capable of what I ask and I am asking no more than would be expected of him were he at secondary school. I know his school pals got quite a shock when they got there at the amount of homework they have to do!

were a couple of good points though today - the scones being one. Abbie is really enjoying learning how to follow recipes and cook and feels she has all but mastered scones now, so that's good. In fact when I said I would whip up a batch for lunch she jumped in to offer to make them :) Admittedly she is much slower than I would be, but all the same I let her and P joined in, so she is learning too.
The other high point was that they all seem to be doing pretty well with their Spanish and generally seem to be enjoying it. I am wondering whether J2 will be up to
GCSE level at the same time as Jake - his memory is very good and they are working at the same level. I do set Jake more written work than J2, but at the end of the day it is the spoken word that matters most for them. P does not do any written work and tbh I am not sure how much she remembers, but I am hoping that 2nd time it will be so 'aha' to her and she will know it even though she didn't know she did - iyswim. Ab does a little writing - I just encourage her to 'have a go' and not worry if she gets it wrong or can't keep up. Sadly she is a bit perfectionist and does get a little frustrated at not being able to do as the big boys do, but she remembers a lot of words orally, so I encourage her with that. Mostly we all enjoy it. I did GCSE Spanish and I am amazed how much I never knew, or have deeply forgotten (either could be true), but the pronunciation is so easy and it is a joy to re-learn it all :) I highly recommend the GP book - great structure!

As the days go by I realise more and more how profoundly different my boys are from my girls. Teaching the girls is
SOOO much easier. They are much better at 'getting on with it' - Ab especially. P still needs a fair bit of help and is quite easily distracted, but she CAN work well when she chooses to (which she does most of the time). E on the other hand is a willing worker in 7-10 minute stints, any more than that and I've lost her attention and she makes lots of guesses after that. That is fine for a 5 yo and I can work with that, but it can be hard to remember to call her back to do something else when she is so absorbed in her world upstairs and leaving me in peace to stress over the others! I would still love to do FIAR with her, but in reality I do not know how I would fit it in. If I leave the dining room for more than 5 minutes all bedlam breaks loose, so how I would fit in reading to her and doing the activities with her I really don't know :( Perhaps I need to make Thursdays and Fridays 3-5's school days and the biguns can fend for themselves more - just not sure they would do anything worth calling 'school' work of any description by choice. And how can I do 5 in a row in 2 days? Hmmmm - need to think on that one. Does anyone know how much time (real time) a session of FIAR (inc. activities) would take each day? Perhaps I could make some after-school time for doing it with them (I'd include Caleb in it then) and pretend like it's not school at all!

Signed C up to Ed.City this week when I renewed A&P - he loves it and has done half of it already - no help from me!! He is very bright I think, despite his late speech :)

E eventually seems to be getting the hang of the numbers 6,7,8,9,10, but it is by no means mastered yet. does seem to be helping though :) AND she can sound out to write a few
CVC words. She wrote "it can pop." all by herself yesterday :)

Need to go do some marking now - and it's only midnight!!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Colours of Christmas

You Should Have a Gold Christmas Tree

For you, the holidays represent a time of optimism and wealth.

You definitely have a generous spirit, and you give a lot during the holiday season.

You really go over the top for Christmas. Everyone on your list gets a great gift.

Even if you don't have a lot of money during the holidays, it's the one time you pretend like you do.

Your gold tree would look great with: All kinds of metallic decorations

You should spend Christmas Eve watching: Miracle on 34th St

What you should bake for Santa: A ton of cookies, cupcakes, and candy. You would enjoy spoiling him.

Well - I don't have a gold tree, but all my decorations are red and gold, so there may be some truth in this - and we do own Miracle on 34th Street!!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Part Two - Schooly Stuff!

Not sure how far to go back really, but I think I'll just start at last week and head into this :)

Monday (a week ago) - started out with the kids deciding to play Knex. The mini-craze had begun on Sunday and as this was non-book week I decided to let it spill over. So they brought the Knex downstairs (normally not allowed because of the mess and the unsupervised playing of the tinies in the lounge) and we all stayed in there for a good deal of the day busy with it. I was amazed at some of the creations. Phoebe was busy making random, but symetrical shapes. E and I made an improvised house (flat 2D). Jake spent a long amount of time trying to make a motorised car - and ending the day with nothing because he didn't want to follow a pattern! J2 made several objects; a swing, a car and something else. Boo, however, was the one who impressed me the most. This was probably the first time she had really had a go with knex for more than a couple of minutes. She started off with a 2D ice-cream milkshake model, then something else 2D and then decided to have a go at something 3D and made this entirely without my help (I think I had to turn one cog round for her where the diagram was no clear enough and she couldn't get all the pieces on a particular rod).

The beauty of our non-book weeks is that there is more time to engage the smaller ones too. Titch involved himself in this activity by absorbing himself in a threading game for quite some time.

The afternoon was filled pretty much with EyeToy exercise. The intention was to play on the dance mat too, but our PS2 is dodgey and will only play a few disks, so it didn't work sadly :( Still they got plenty of exercise, hardly squabbled and had some good fun together - that's how I like it!

The afternoon was filled pretty much with EyeToy exercise. The intention was to play on the dance mat too, but our PS2 is dodgey and will only play a few disks, so it didn't work sadly :( Still they got plenty of exercise, hardly squabbled and had some good fun together - that's how I like it! Once they grew tired of that though they did decided to do some dancing just to music ont he stereo - and had an arguement about whose music should be used! can't be perfect I guess, even for one day!

Tuesday began with more Knex and EyeToy, but I decided that a precident was not about to be set and today had to be different to yesterday, so I let them do for a bit and then made them change to something different. Jake had done a 'guess that recipe' game as part of his English and so he did that with them all and then, after we collected Caleb, took them into the kitchen and together they made Chocolate Brownies - entirely unsupervised by me. I have to stay out or I interfere too much and I wanted to know if he could do it - and he did - very well in fact. The only mistake he made was to tell me they needed to be in the oven for 35 mins instead of 30-35 and they would have been perfect in 30. In 35 they were slightly caught, but all the same perfectly edible and they were all consumed but one. While they were busy doing that Caleb and I went off and did something else together which I know we both enjoyed, but I can't remember what it was!! NJ was asleep.
I planned to read to them later in the afternoon, but I fell asleep in the chair. When I opened my eyes they were all busy playing Uno together :)

Wednesday started the day off with our new Table Talk bible study. I had meant Paul to pick up one with a Christmas theme, but instead we ended up with Easter (kid's thought this very funny), but in reality it might be Easter by the time we finish it because we won't actually do it every day, what with PBS and church Sunday School sheets as well. I have said we will do it in school on the days when tea is a hurry (so Mon, Weds, Thurs) and the other days we will do it at Tea time all together - that might work, we'll have to see. Anyway - at the end of the talking, discussing what passover was and what it reminded the Jews of, they had to make a poster to depict the 'murder plot' and the 'rescue plan'. They all had some interesting ideas and spent some considerable time drawing and colouring these, but Ellie's was by far the most profound. I can't scan it because it's A3, but I will try to remember to take a picture of it, meanwhile I'll describe it for you. She drew a man outstretched surrounded by red hearts and kisses. Above his head was a thick strip of brown. This is her explanation of her picture (she didn't draw the two-fold poster, although what she did draw was sort of a 2-in-1);

"This is Jesus on the cross. There are hearts and kisses because God is very important and we love Him and He loves us and there is a path because God made a path for his people so that they could get free!"

The final bit of this statment was a reference to the path through the Red Sea on which Moses led the Hebrews to safety & freedom, but it was also highly relevant to her picture of Jesus and I think in her mind she actually had managed to make the link - astonishingly!

After lunch I got out my card making kit and set the kids to task making cards for relatives (N&G and Gt G'dad) and anyone else they liked to. They all made 2 or 3 and generally enjoyed it. The more they do it the more of an idea they will get I guess. JI hates glue though, so he did a colouring one and one craft one (he already made one last year too, that he forgot to give, so that made his life easier!) I think I might get them out again this week and do some more, but this time I might leave them a little more to it by themselves.

Thursday turned into a not-really-anything day tbh and I wasn't that bothered! It was afterall Ellie's 5th birthday and she did need to play with her new toys of course (two Sylvanian Family sets), plus the fact that I just never really got my act together enough to do anything else with them. They did, however, seem to keep quite busy somehow. I think they played Lego at some point in the day, so I guess that counts. And I think one or two of them went of Education City, so that definately does count. Other than that I can't remember - just lots of playing with new SF seemed to be order of the day mostly!! :) Oh - Boo helped (well pretty much did it all actaully) me make a caserole for our evening meal.

The weekend was filled by a party and visitors. I spent the morning making a cake 'with princesses and butterflies' and was still doing so when friends J&T (with JLS) arrived up from Oxford (photo looks more splodgey than it did in reality- honest!). In the late afternoon we took E to Funsters (soft play center) and MD's, with her two best freinds (S and A), her two big sisters and little brother C. It wasn't an official party but cake, candles, "Happy Birthday", friends and party clothes make anything a party - and she had a lovely time :)

Today (ah here at last!!) - back to the normal run of things and all went relatively smoothly today, except for JA getting in a stew over something simple in Science. I sometimes wish he was capable of thinking just a little more laterally - science is SO hard for him!

Two Part Catch Up...Part One - Scotland & The Future

I thought it was about time I brought you all up to spead properly on things in the FrogAcademy household.

As you know Paul and I took a weekend in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago, to view a potential pastorate there. This was a small church of under 20 people, who's pastor moved on earlier this year. It was suggested to us as a venture that we could take on, but we went knowing that they were at a crossroads of knowing whether or not it was right to continue the church with such a small number, or whether to call it a day. They had just been moved out of the local Next Generation Gym that they were using, when it was taken over by another company, and were meeting in a local community centre for the first time that weekend. We went with an open mind, but with no real sense of 'calling' to the place, just the knowledge that vision for us often comes when a sense of a place/people moves in our hearts.Not long after we arrived on Friday afternoon we went to view a couple of houses for rent - one was a strong potential. In the evening we went into central Glasgow (on the train) for a wander (city on a Friday night - didn't want to leave our van anywhere!) and a meal. It was suprisingly quiet, although the Italian Restaurant (my choice) was pretty busy. The food was delicious and the service very good. We then went for a wander along the river, to get a feel for the city. I rang home to my friend R to check Nat was OK - which of course he was - and we caught the train back to the Premier Inn where we were staying, in Milngavie. By this time I was not feeling very well at all and gradually got worse over the weekend, but had to muddle through all the same :(

Saturday morning P had his interview (or rather WE did, as for this kind of job I matter too). The leaders were really lovely - a pretty together bunch with a sense of unity that they really wanted to see their church into the future. We chatted about styles of ministry, vision, community, and other such stuff. But for us still no sparks from Heaven.

Saturday afternoon we decided to go for a drive to think, talk and pray (after we had viewed another potential property). Our original plan had be to wander around 'Anniesland' to get more of a feel for the place, but it soon became apparent that Anniesland was a bit of a non-community, too vague a location to have a set place to wander round. This for us was a minus point. We are the sort of people who need to get our hands dirtly in 'community' and one of the things the leaders had said at the interview was that there was very little sense of community where their church currently was. SO, we drove out to Loch Lomond instead and arrived just in time to watch the sun setting (beautiful, but REALLY hard to get good shots of when the battery in your camera is virtually dead - such bad timing!).

Saturday evening we went out for a nice meal with the leadership - again a really great time of being together, chatting and getting to know one another, but for us still no real sense of calling to be there. I think we made our decision that evening.

In essence we felt we could take on this little church, we could shape it and mould it and really make it our own. We could inject some vision and try to begin to build it into the community (which I might say we would have had a better chance of doing in the new community centre they had moved to, or the school opposite that most of the local children went to, than where they had been meeting previous to that) - we could do all those things and they were the pluses, BUT we just didn't get a sense of 'calling' to do it and so in the end we decided that without that essential ingrediant it was too big a risk to take, as it could just as easily fall flat if tried to do it all of ourselves and without God's backing. In reality I am sure God would bless our work even if we did decide for it, but it would not necessarily be His BEST for us - or for THEM, so we said "No". We don't actually know what their decision was in the end because we communicated our decision through the Regional Superintendent (the co-ordinator / overseer of the NorthWest regional Elim Churches) and so did they.

And so, we are staying put for now - again! Still praying over where God wants us to be next. If I am honest I cannot shrug off Windermere very easily. I have tried to, and for a few weeks I thought I had, but it just won't leave me alone. It comes in my dreams, in the early morning thoughts, in my falling asleep thoughts, just all the time really. Paul knows this, but for reasons I cannot talk of on here, this option is not open to us anymore right now. I STILL think it is where God wants us to be - somewhere along that lake (even though if I had my my pick of anywhere in The Lakes, I would be more up towards Borrowdale). I have not felt as spirtually alive in such a long time as I did in the time that we were seeking God over WCC, and I don't want to let that go again, but for now...

Paul is not taking his name off Stationing List, but he has got an action plan to prevent him from stagnating in the waiting. There is house-group that our church oversees in Winsford which P is going to take over for a while. It is actually the remains of a slightly bigger church that had difficulties, but we (our church) are hoping it may develop into a church plant. If P feels it is right and he is growing a vision/passion for the place/people he may stay on to help it grow, but meanwhile we will keep busy while we wait to see what plans God has for us.