Friday, October 07, 2011

Frogmum Doesn't Blog Much Anymore...

Sorry to all who might have been waiting on a post ~ I never seem to have the inclination much these days...and the truth of it is my photography has very much become my blog these days. If it's happening I shoot it, edit it, upload it. But I somehow feel that people who read here are not SO interested in the pictures ~ and I am not so interested in the words, which leaves blogging in a slump really! And hence I haven't blogged since July ~ a whole summer ago!!

Summer 2011 in brief;

Lots of time at home playing.

TP went to stay at her Nan & Grandad's with her Cousin B ~ she had a brilliant time and amused us greatly by arriving home with a diary folder of 'what we did', together with a list of all the 'funny people we saw', which was basically a list of people that, had she been a little younger, she would have laughed at for one reason or another. It pleased me that they had the tact to just jot it all down instead of pointing and giggling. In it was listed "a lady man" ~ I don't think she has ever seen a person who she could not determine the gender of before, but Portsmouth being a multicultural, jam-packed, diverse city (as opposed to her sheltered little country existence), and travelling about on buses for a week, she saw some more 'colourful' sites!

The following week Taz went up to Scotland with his friend for the week ~ and had a ball driving ride-on mowers and caring for ponies.

Having STILL not sold our 9 seater (because Paul actually hasn't even tried yet...sigh!) and so, still being one seat short of seating all of us, with Taz away we made the most of the opportunity for some days out with the other children:

Day 1 ~ an attempted trip to the Cinema and Pizza Hut for lunch, but the Cinema was sold out for ALL suitable films, so we came home and booked! In the evening we were at a party so all was not lost!

Day 2 ~ an attempted trip to the beach @ Kirby, but as the skies turned grey and threatening by the time we got as far as Chester (half way) we opted for the indoor alternative of Blue Planet instead . Rounded off with tea @ Frankie & Benny's this actually was an expensive, but lovely day :)

Day 3 ~ a day-trip to Birmingham to have a day with the cousins! Paul's other sister & nephew were staying there too. It's fabulous when the cousins get together, they are SUCH good friends all of them!

Day 4 ~ a successful Cinema (Cars2) & Pizza Hut trip, rounded off by an afternoon in the village park, where they were celebrating the 'grand opening' of the new play equipment and almost the whole village was there, so that was good fun too!

That weekend our good friends J&T came to stay which was a lovely way to finish of our 'Staycation' :-)

Over the summer I also did some photo-shoots for friends, which led to canvases on walls and the final push toward launching as a professional photographer. SO, as of Sept 1st 'Ten Minutes From Home' came into being. I have yet to do a shoot under that name, but I do know that people are already finding me on the web and by word of mouth, so only time will tell... I've invested a little money (and a lot of time) into getting it up and running, but if at the end of the day nothing comes of it, I have lost only a little money, and at least I tried! I do not want to ever regret not having tried. And if it takes off, then great, the little extra income will be lovely!

As summer came to a close I also took a little time to think about how home-education might look this year. By the end of last year I have to admit I was spent and felt I wasn't enjoying it anymore, so I'm pretty certain the kids weren't much either! I had lost my passion & drive for it. If I am 100% honest I am not totally sure I have re-found that either, but I have found a way to make it work, make it more interesting for the children and make myself more available to them all without over-stretching myself. It has meant a return to a slightly less autonomous approach, but it's not a full U-turn! 
I have stuck with my mini-skool approach, because actually it really works for us. But I have had to help the children arrange it more this year. Essentially I have assigned the mornings to the youngest three, alternating who I am working with and that being no more than two at a time on a shared subject. The third child works independently, usually on a computer task (e.g. ETC online), while I work with the other two. During the morning I cover maths, Science and reading/writing/spelling with the youngest three. Then just before lunch we all come together to work on a 'family' activity. This is where we do Geography, History, Art / Cooking (2 weeks of each alternately),  or a Lapbooking project (currently Astronomy). After lunch the youngest two go off and play, Lilo has a couple of independent tasks to do and I make myself available to the older children. During the morning the older 4 are told that if there is anything they are struggling with they should mark the place and then do as much as they can. In the afternoon they can ask me about anything they needed help and we will work on it together. 
As regards to it being more prescriptive this year, this is only because there are some things that need to be worked around and so the other activities have to be slotted in the right places to make it work, but there is still autonomy within that. The children and I arranged the charts together at the beginning of term, so it didn't all come from me. Also they often have more than one book to fit an activity. For example when Minnie sees the 'S&S Science' token she has 6 topic books to choose from and so can do what she most fancies that day! Also Bugs has been encouraged to add in some additional subjects this year, and so he is doing 'business studies' and IT. I was so pleased to get such a generous HEdders discount with Lonsdale (paying teachers prices). 

So far everything seems to be working really well. My biggest challenge is getting Stitch to take part ~ but I am insisting that he engage with learning in the mornings, as much as possible, because he is so bright and really needs to be kept busy to stay out of mischief!! I have also arranged a raiding-shelf for Baby as he is very much on the move and into raiding mode now! Fortunately he does sleep a portion of the morning and afternoon still :).

What else to tell... Minnie took her Grade 2 ballet exam, but unfortunately didn't pass. However it seems the examiner was quite harsh and a number of girls failed this time. Their teacher was so fed up (this is not the first time this lady has marked harshly) that she has decided to change syllabus, so I don't think it was all down to lack of skill! TP and Lilo have decided to give up Ballet, but I didn't want them to do no sport at all. Admittedly Lilo does swimming lessons, but this is not a thrill to her and I know she will stop as soon as she's finished. They both asked if they could do gymnastics. So I figured why not, and while I was at it thought it might be nice for the younger boys to do something to. They both agreed to give it a go too and it has been an all round hit :-). The girls are loving it and TP is practising things in her spare time (more than Lilo). She would love to be really good I think. And DD has been picked out after just three weeks of going to try out for the boys squad!! So on Tuesday he did a 2 hour session and came out chuffed as punch, still jumping and really pleased with himself because he had managed to hang the longest from the bars with his knees in tuck position, with a 'brick' on his lap (against two other boys I think ~ both older than him)! I am really pleased for him ~ I'm just dreading how this is going to affect our pocket!! If he is picked for squad he jumps from 1 hour on a Saturday (when the others are there), to 2 hours (Tues) + 1 hour (Sat, but later). It's also going to mean a lot of too-ing and fro-ing, which Paul will not be so happy about as he does all the driving around everyday. I don't think I expected any of them to get picked so soon (although I did think if any did it would likely be DD)!

This week of course the sun came out again, so with not having got the tent out this summer we felt it need an airing. So we pitched it in the garden and the children have lived out there most of the week, doing school & sleep! Unfortunately we didn't get it down in time before the bad weather set in again (Paul was at work) and now we need to wait for it to dry again and pray that it hold with the pretty strong winds that are out there right now!! It's a tough tent ~ we are pretty certain it will be OK ;)

Baby milestones @ almost 10 months ~ chuntering; "dadadadada", "babababa", etc.... Crawling properly (just beginning to abandon the commando style he has been doing for weeks now), pulling to stand and beginning to cruise the furniture, also beginning to try and use the brick truck and chairs to move around! Firmly attached to me still, but mostly only taking a full breastfeed in the morning, the rest of the time he's just wetting his whistle on me! Eats like a trouper :)

Is that me all caught up? I think so...

Monday, July 18, 2011

TOO Long..!

What more can I say than ~ my goodness, where did that month go?
I'll try to catch up with a little help from my old friend flickr.
I guess the over-riding theme of it has been sadness though :-(

June is a month of birthdays for us (as I already blogged) and I decided my gift to myself this year would be a 'new look', so I enlisted the help of my good friend (who was once a professional hairdresser) on the day before, and hey-presto;

TP joined in and decided she'd like a drastic chop too. I've always resisted her pleas before, but couldn't really in the light of my own change! So off came hers too...

The day of my birthday was tinged with sadness and worry. I woke to a bazillion lovely wishes on Facebook and my family gifted me with many lovely camera accessories from my Amazon wish list. It couldn't have started better! But later in the morning I was rung by my Nan to say my Aunty was extremely poorly and nearing the end of her battle. Later my Mum called me (when she arrived there) and we discussed my travelling down after I put the kids to bed (leaving a friend to babysit until morning) ~ to say my final farewell to Debbie. I really wanted to say I loved her just once more ~ before she left this life. It had been too difficult to phone her in recent weeks as her sleeping patterns were so erratic and prolonged. Mum, however, felt she would make it to morning and thought I should book an early train, as to arrive late at night might be too disruptive ~ so that's what I did. Due to arrive at lunchtime next day (it's a 3hr trip). I went to bed with a heavy heart. I woke to a text that said my Aunty Debbie had passed away at just before 5am ~ when the stay-awake nurse nipped to the loo and everyone else was sleeping :-(.
I still can't believe I didn't go by my instincts ~ or that I didn't get to hold her hand and say goodbye ~ or kiss her goodnight :-(. I still feel a little cheated. BUT I know she knew I loved her, I was praying for her everyday and I love her still. I hope she knew I tried!
Her loss is deeply felt. Ours is a very small family ~ just my Nan, my mum, Aunty Debbie, Alan (her husband), Sam (her son ~ only just 16) and me. We are close. Debs was the one who always brought the laughter with her ~ she was so creative, so artistic and SO witty! She was only 14 years older than me and I shared a room with her whenever we stayed at my nan's when I was small. She was the closest thing I will ever have to a sister really. I loved her immensely and it's really crap that she's gone (s'cuse my choice of words, but that's what a blog is for...)!!
I stayed with my family for a couple of days and while we were there Baby cut his first tooth! Paul came to pick us up on the Sunday morning. The funeral was on the following Thursday ~ just a week after she died, so we travelled down again for that (taking only Bugs, TP and Baby). Paul's Mum was kind and came up on the train, to look after the other children for a couple of days for us. 
The funeral was hard ~ so many people I knew from years ago when I was small came (school friends of Debbie's) . Our extended family came ~ the last time I had seen them we were celebrating Debbie's 50th Birthday together ~ just 3 years ago :( and I had a different babe-in-arms then! But it was also a lovely celebration of who Debs was and what her life had meant to so many people. I miss her...
RiP my beautiful Aunty.

Then it was back to normal ~ home-ed carried on. The children and I all needed to keep things 'normal'. We've enjoyed some lovely family times during these warmer evenings ~ water fights and family football being some of the highlights.

Baby cut his 2nd tooth and is thoroughly enjoying the feel of them, showing everyone his toothy grin (taken 30th June)...

and then he learnt to sit (he's really stable now, but still likes to launch himself backwards) ~ this was taken the first day he did it (20th June)...

About 10 days ago he learnt to drink from a cup, but he prefers us to hold it still...

Yes ~ there have been definate UPs, but then... 
as if this month wasn't sad enough... we woke one morning to find Mr Rosie (pet rabbit) dead in the run and minutes later Beth (his sister) laid down and died too. Cause unknown. They had their nails clipped at the vets just the week before and a 'once over'. They appeared healthy and well. It remains a mystery. They were about 5 years old.
The children were amazing. TP and Taz dug a hole at the back of the fern field (less visible from the house in the event of a fox...), put them together in a cardboard box and buried them. Paul made a little plaque for them and engraved their names. So sweet. So sad :-(

RiP Beth (black) & Mr Rosie (grey).

On Thursday last week we finished up 'school' for the year with a games day ~ always good fun...

Friday, Paul was away at a church leader's conference for a couple of days, so I dutifully trooped 7 kids on the bus with me into town for the Toddler group, end of term, 'Teddy Bear's Picnic' (that cost a mint!). The buses in both directions were late of course. They only run once and hour to our village (and we missed one by 7 minutes so had to play hide-'n'-seek for an hour in the church grounds while we waited) and then it's a mile walk to (and from) the bus stop home ~ we were all a little weary by the time we got in, but it was fun!! Stitch especially enjoyed the 'bumpy bus', but not so much the walk home at the end of the day!

On Saturday it poured with rain, so we stayed in and made pizza - from scratch! It was delicious and fun!!

And yesterday ~ we had a fabulous day in church...

  • Paul was 'promoted' to Associate Pastor (from Assistant ~ small title change, big impact on position we hope).
  • Sunday School prizes were given out for the year and the Youth Band led the whole service (they were brilliant).
  • And 'we' (the church as a whole) moved into our OWN premises!

Other thing of note ~ Taz has begun having 'proper' drum lessons. We found a good teacher (someone who used to work with Paul in fact) and he is doing well, although the teacher says he still hasn't quite got a handle on what Joel is capable of ~ I think Taz is better than the teacher thinks he is!! But he is learning to read drum music and a few 'polishing' things so that is great too :-)

It's been a month of so many ups and downs...maybe the summer will be a bit more stable. I don't anticipate being bored though ~ I have tonnes of 'stuff' to get done, for 'school', home, church and maybe even me. There's some photography tutorials I want to read, as well as catching up on my magazines and I also want to do some more of my genealogy work I started last summer)! I think we are holidaying in September, so at least I don't have to fit that in just yet..!

If you got this far, well done!!
Catch you later :-)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Happy Birthday DD ~ 6 Years Young!

Stitch made one too....

In fact, they all felt compelled to spend their pennies!!
Lilo made a rabbit, Minnie - a bear and TP bought some sparkly sandals ~ she already has a 'Bear Factory' bear. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Birthday Come ~ and Go!

Can you believe May sees two birthdays in our house and I haven't blogged either one? ~ slap wrists!

Bugs turned 14...

Those of you with sharp eyes will notice I can't count!!!  ~ check the bottom of the blog...
 'Strawberry & Chocolate Oreo Cheesecake'!! (home-made I might add, and super scrummy!!)

A couple of weeks later (last weekend) he had his party ~ a houseful of teenagers over for a BBQ/Wii evening. It was great fun :-) I've decided I really like teenagers, or at least I really like all the ones I know! 

 (that's Bug's GF on the Guitar Hero btw)

Then we did a few more weeks school ~ a day of which I blogged here;
There's been some sewing (Minnie's been doing this x-stitch forever!), earing and necklace making (Minnie is wearing hers in the picture) & some shrinky-dink making ~ everyone really enjoyed that. We watched them curl, flip & shrink on the sandwich pan and talked a little about polymers (although I must confess not a lot, as I'm not very knowledgeable myself about such things - anyone want to offer me a science lesson on this?!)

The younger three also had a 'Wild Things' week :~ read the book a couple of times and made masks, told the story back - which DD is getting really good at, wrote about our own imaginary 'wild thing', drew monsters, made monster puppets with empty toilet rolls and topped off the week by watching the film ~ which is good, but a little serious I thought, compared to the book.

The boys had a trip to Manchester Velodrome with scouts and very much enjoyed that ~ came back asking to go again!

And then Stitch turned 4 on Friday ~ where did those four years go??

10 points to the person who spots the theme in most of the birthday pictures ;-)

This time last year we spent the week with him like this ~ with Pneumonia!

Aside from birthdays and fun stuff there's been all the 'normals' around here too. DD & Lilo are both doing really well on Explode the Code Online. Lilo has zipping through the lower levels already, as I had hoped she would. DD is also progressing steadily and is surprised to discover 'I can read' :-) He really can too! There are a couple of letters he consistently forgets the sound of still - 'd' & 'w' being the main ones, but essentially he is sounding out and beginning to read short sentences. It's all seemed very effortless with him and I believe it will be with Stitch too, when he decides to give it a shot. Atm, he's pretty much refusing to do anything schooly unless it's on a computer, or he can work with me ~ fair enough I guess, but I'm feeling really stretched & tired right now and can't always give him what he needs/wants from me :-(. I'm hoping September will be a little easier with Baby able to sit and play more. Just now I am feeling a bit burnt out and creativity is almost non-existent in regards to school. I am just so grateful for all the online resources that serve me up ideas so readily and take so little adapting to make them work for all three of the youngest. In that respect, it makes it simpler that Lilo has been such a slow-to-learn reader because her 'literacy' work is not that far behind the boys! That said, she is gaining speed at quite a pace now and the other morning, presented me  with a book which she has been apparently reading in her spare time & has now finished..!  

This week the oldest four are off on 'Energi' camp again ~ it comes around quickly. Paul is taking the week off and we are planning to spend some time doing 'fun-stuff' with the littlest four. A trip on a 'real train' is planned to either Liverpool or the beach, depending on the weather. I got a free 2 month family railcard (online from the Daily Mail ), so that makes it affordable and a treat for the littlies, who don't remember the days when we went everywhere by train as a family!

So that's me caught up for now. I'm missing not being Off The Path this weekend though, it just wasn't possible in the end :-(

Observation answers; ~ 1. Bugs had an extra candle on his cake, 2. All pictures involve chocolate cake!