Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Cause for Celebration!

It's not every day that your son get's baptised and for us this is a major celebration :D

Yesterday evening Taz (and 4 of his friends + one of mine) made this committment ~ I am one happy Mumma!

Congratulation son ~ I am so proud of you!! You make my heart sing. You make my eyes cry!! Love you lots .
May God go with you every step of the way: every path you travel, every bridge you cross, every trial you face ~ may you know His loving hand of Grace on your life.

Happy Easter Everyone!!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Non-Conventional Route to College!

Many of my HE friends out there have been asking me to blog our route through secondary and into tertiary education. So, now's as good a time as any! Although Bugs does not actually start college until September, and things are still not 100 % settled yet, I can at least blog our journey thus far!

Part I

If you've followed my blog for any number of years you will know that Bugs is my only child that has EVER been to school. He was a difficult small-boy and HE'dding him became a constant source of stress to the whole family. So, at the age of 9 he went to a small C-of-E primary school, where he spent almost 3 happy years. He actually loved school, but by nature he is an avoider and so, although he had a lovely time and made a group of friends (some of whom I  think he still chats to on FB), he avoided learning a great deal! I won't say he didn't learn anything ~ he did ~ but he didn't exactly reach his full potential!     

At the end of Year 6, Bugs very much wanted to carry on into Secondary School - with his friends.  But, I looked at him as a whole person, and didn't really like some of the other changes that school had brought about in him. He had become more of a crowd-follower (a worrying thing going into Secondary School), thought less about his own opinions on issues, had even less respect for his Dad and I, and had all but lost his faith - where so many seeds of doubt had been sown and we'd not had so much time to build him up. This, to us, was a major issue. It wasn't that he was saying he didn't believe in God any-more,  but rather that he didn't know what he believed any-more. He was on-the-fence. To us is was important that he be in a safe, loving environment to make the most important decision he ever would, and that it wasn't made 'by default' or under peer-pressure. Of course, we wanted him to be a Christian, but we wouldn't reject him if he chose another path. However ~ I don't think the same could be said of his school friends who had made his chosen path thus far a real struggle for him! 

So, against his wishes, but after a lot of loving explanation, he didn't go to Secondary school, but stayed home with us again. By this stage, he was a much more manageable little boy with a better attitude to his work (although still not driven to work hard!). He settled back into HE quite happily and I have never regretted the decision Paul & I made. 

Being at home with us may not have provided him with as varied an education as being at school might have (although when I wrote him a 'report' for college I was able to talk about 10 different subject areas he has studied, so not that much narrower), but it has allowed him to follow his passions. It has meant we have got through his high-school years with minimal stress & minimal 'home-work'. He's been able to be as sociable as he wishes without the thought of early morning rises, or exams & tests the next day ~ so MORE sociable than most of his at-school friends, who've been putting their lives on hold to get school work done, for a year or more now! It's meant he hasn't had to strive to pass subjects at which he felt doomed to fail (like Science, which would have been essential at school), but has been able to study them at his own pace and within his own ability. I've still stretched him, but I've not 'tested' him ~ that's different!. 

Being at home has ultimately meant no exams & no bits of paper! No GSCE certificates ~ plain and simply because we could not afford them and because I am not a great believer in pieces of paper to prove your worth, or your knowledge!

BUT ~ the world at large likes to see those pretty certificates, that show you can regurgitate prescribed information in a given length of time: the world at large considers them a passport to your future. Without them you are lost! 

EXCEPT, I refused to accept that way of thinking and sought to find another way for Bugs to move into his chosen future...

Part II

My first move was to Bugs up to the college when they had an open evening. He had hoped originally to go a year early, but they point blank don't take anyone under age 16, so that was not even worth fighting for. He just had to suffer another year at home ~ and it's not been that bad for him really ;). We had a good look around and chatted to the photography lecturers. The facilities are excellent - and new! Now to find out what hoops to jump through. I tried to speak to the vice-principle that evening, but he was no-where to be found, so I ended up trying to speak to him on the phone. This was quite a challenge (not made better by faulty phones at home), but eventually I did so and we came up with a plan. He was obviously not really sure what to do with a HE kid who wanted to come to college with no GCSE - understandably really. I'm sure it's not every day this problem would arise for him! I put to him the idea of allowing him to take the test that would be taken by an adult wanting to come to college as a mature student. I know that this is often a 'way around' the required 5 GCSE's for adults, whose old GCSE's/O'levels are now obsolete. He seemed to think that was a good idea and told me to contact the person concerned with adult entry around October time ~ after the current academic year was up and running smoothly. We did so, and around November time Bugs went and sat the test at the college.

On the test Bugs passed the English element with flying colours and even did an extra bit of 'free writing' to be handed on to the relevant department ~ he wrote on photography (clever kid!). The maths element he didn't do so well on, and knew he hadn't. He omitted to answer questions and made silly mistakes. In the car on the way home he was telling us the answers he should have given! That's how he is under pressure ~ brain freeze ~ and why exams would not be the best way to see what he's made of! Fortunately he'd done the Maths first and by the time he got to the English he'd relaxed and could flow ~ save the best till last is often a good policy for him! At the end of the test, the guy said that he had done well and he couldn't see why Bugs shouldn't get on to the course he wanted to do with the results he had. 

The next step was to fill in an application form for the course ~ and wait! Bugs sent the application in with a covering letter from me, explaining that he had sat the adult entrance test and that the college held the results of that (although we have a copy too). Just after Christmas, Bugs received an interview date, which he had at the beginning of March ~ blogged yesterday. And now we sit and wait to see what happens next. He has a letter offering him a 'provisional place' ~ although I suspect in his case it's not really provisional because he's already done all the tests he's going to!

And there you have it ~ Bug's painless, exam-less, not-quite testless, route into college! The most difficult part was getting to have a proper conversation with the vice-principle in the first place!! He was initially rather dismissive, but I think he realised I wasn't going down without a fight, and in the end was quite helpful. I still haven't met the man face-to-face, although I would have pushed to do so should I have needed to. ;). 

Next year we will be a known entity when I come to do it all again for Taz! He wants to study Music and Biology. Music might not be so much of an issue (although he has no graded instruments), but Biology might be more difficult to convince them to let him in on, as it's a more academic subject. I just hope that his knowledge of the subject, his 'files' of work and his charisma will be enough to carry him in!

Mostly about Bugs ~ and other stuff!!

I don't even know where I'm up to with blogging! I really should keep up to speed better, but I don't and I'm not sure I can either, so it is what it is these days ~ sorry!

Where shall I start..?

I don't think I've blogged Bug's college interview yet, which was back on TP's birthday at the end of Feb! We weren't quite sure what to expect, but parents were invited to attend, so I did. I asked Bugs if he wanted me to disappear for the actual 'interview' part, but most parents seemed to be sticking around and I was surprised (but pleased) when he said he wanted me to also. I don't think he was lacking confidence, but I think he wasn't really sure what HE needed to know about the course etc..., so I was there to help prompt his questions. I was glad I did stay though because his interviewer was not terribly chatty or forth coming about anything really. He sort of talked Bugs through his tick sheet and made assumptions that Bugs knew about stuff on the course he would have had no way of knowing before! He was not a great conversationalist and seemed to be more interested in making sure his form was filled in than whether Bugs was right for the course. I prompted the fact that Bugs had brought a portfolio (it cost us enough money and time..!) and when he saw it he did seem quite impressed and asked Bugs a few questions about certain images. And that was that really. Lastly, he gave Bugs an assignment to complete within 3 weeks. He had to analyse 5 of another photographer's images, take a series of 15 shots of his own on a theme ("A day in the life...") and post 15 images to Flickr (which he already had so that wasn't an issue). I guess this gives them an idea of where each of the students is starting from and also an idea of how they work. Bugs enjoyed it and has now submitted ~ just in time! I think he's going to be a scrape-the-deadline kind of person all the way through, but I think he'll get used to it. The next we should hear will be an invitation to a summer 'tea party' in June ~ a kind of get to know the tutors kinds of thing I guess. And then there may be another assignment to do over the summer break too. It feels all very 'full steam ahead' and Bugs (and I) are really excited about it all. 

The one thing that is still a little niggling worry is that the interviewer had no record of the entrance tests Bug's had done! I think it was really just a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, as he agreed, it would be unlikely that they would have offered Bugs an interview for a course they were not willing to accept him onto. However, the next letter that came in the post was a provisional offer based on grades ~ which of course was a standard letter, but not at all relevant to Bugs. I said to him we'd sit on it and wait to see what comes next before we chase anything else.  I personally think he's in :D

The following week, at the beginning of March, Bugs and I took off to Birmingham NEC for the day to attend 'Focus on Imaging'. We had a really fun day together; handling cameras and lenses we can only dream of! Bugs took off a couple times when I was interested in business-y type things (like websites and album prints...) and took a couple of shots of one of the models (braver than me!).

I, on the other hand, quite by chance got to go have an impromtu coffee with Steve Gosling ~ one of the top UK landscape photographers! He was really friendly and down to earth, and even though landscapes are not my forte, he was really encouraging and had some good tips for Bugs (who came and found us), who loves to shoot landscapes.

When we were almost done for the day, and considering heading home, a guy came up to us and asked if we'd like to win a tripod. Even though I'd recently replaced the one Bugs broke with a better one, I knew anything we won here would be WAY better, so of course we said we would (who wouldn't!). We had to hunt for a little bit of 'lost' card called Leonard! We were told there were about 100 people looking for him. We truly did not expect to find him ~ the exhibition was HUGE. BUT... we did find him! Well, I didn't - Bugs did! And it took us all of about 3 mins! Seriously... we stopped to look at a Fuji camera Bugs fancies and then set off to look. We turned a corner - Bugs looked up into the corner of a stand - and there was Leonard! And just like that he won himself neigh on £500 worth of kit (tripod (named 'Eric') & all the accessories for the tripod - which, by the way, is also a monopod, a rock bag & a T-shirt for each of us)!!
So thank-you 3LeggedThing for making my son VERY happy that day, and believe me, he has become best friends with that tripod!

We'd both like to go back next year ~ maybe with some money in our pockets!! ;D

The rest of March has ticked along pretty 'normally' with schooling etc... Nothing miraculous to report!  DD completed Reading Eggs and moved into the Comprehension part and I know Stitch is pretty close to completing Reading Eggs too. He's not ready for the Comprehension yet though, so I'm going to have to think on my feet a little :D. I'm hoping our subscription to Sumdog will fill the Reading Eggs gap with computer-based English for a bit and I'll add in a bit of paper English when I feel he's more ready for it.

Somewhere near the beginning of March I also took delivery of our very first set of FIAR books (which I got from Conquest Books - who btw, also now stock All About Spelling - Yeah!!). Those books are GORGEOUS!! The short, fun lessons are right up Stitch's street and he LOVES the books too! DD & Lilo also enjoy it. I had feared it would be too young for them, especially Lilo, but it isn't at all and I am definitely glad I took the plunge. I can't fit it in every day, or even every week, but we've done two books so far and it's been fun for all of us ~ no stress! :D

On the subject of All About Spelling... which I wasn't, but I am now... We are now on Level 3. I can see MASSIVE improvements in Lilo's spelling. She still struggles, but what this is doing is giving her the tools & rules she needs to be able to build words successfully. DD is right up there with her, so his spelling is excellent for a 7yo boy! I think come September I will start again with Stitch, back at Level 1. He's quite capable of doing it, but he needs to be able to attend for a decent amount of time, which is where he has issues atm ~ and not just in school! He has about a 20 second attention span it seems at times! 

A week ago last Friday, I took a shopping trip my girls and my M-I-L in Chester we had fun and the pics are blogged HERE. We shopped till we dropped and the girls did fantastically well with their money. If you read their own blogs (links on the right) they made lists of what they bought!!

What else to say..?

Well, I guess the other big news concerns me and my photography...

This last six months I have been taking an online course and that ends in just a few days time :(. It's been great. I've learnt loads and I have the course on-file to keep for reference in the future. The last assignment was to do something out of our ordinary. SO, I reluctantly (I mean kicking and screaming) obeyed and hunted for some inspiration. There are SO many photographers who inspire me, but they mostly shoot outdoors (as I like to) and right now it is simply TOOOO cold to head outside with my crowd. SO I needed some indoor inspiration that was doable in my rather busy house!! I fell upon Sue Bryce and instantly knew I could do something like this with my girls. The upshot of it all was this shoot. When I look at these pictures I struggle with two things... first - believing that those two beautiful young ladies are MY little girls!, secondly - believing that I actually TOOK those shots! It's so confidence boosting to have the knowledge that I really did!

Now, the story doesn't end there! Having seen what I was capable of, coupled with some other spiritual inspiration that weekend (see HERE if you're interested), I felt led to do something new. I still believe what I do for my business is right ~ I am definitely a family lifestyle photographer ~ I shoot on the fly and I love it! But I have wanted for a LONG time to 'give something back'. I've wanted to give the gift of photography just because I can, but not at the expense of my business ~ so how and to whom?

A friend of mine (J) runs a charity. She is a professional beautician & masseur. Her charity gifts 100% free treatments to women refereed to her as needing some TLC!! Many of her clients are cancer suffers, or survivors. Many are struggling with bereavement  Many simply are struggling with incredibly low self-esteem, for whatever reasons (she won't always know why). She gives each of them 7 free treatments (of their choosing) and, in that time, aims to build them up and help them feel valuable and valued again. She is amazing at what she does and I love her! 

As I was editing my pictures of my girls I was just thinking about, and praying for J (as God prompted me), and then it came to me! I shared my idea with J on the Sunday and we have since shared the idea with J's support prayer- network. They have unanimously said we should go for it!

Currently, when J's clients finish their sessions with her, she gives them a bunch of flowers as a gift. The idea that came to me was that we could offer them a make-over and photo-shoot instead! J would do the make-up and I would take the pictures. Our aim would be to make these ladies feel like a million dollars for the day, and then to give them a portrait of themselves that they could cherish & enjoy. We envisage this being all the more valuable for those that are terminally ill. The image of themselves that they will leave behind for their loved ones to treasure, will be one them looking beautiful!

J and I are SOOOO excited about this. I can't wait to get started! I need to scout out a location and then I am going to start with J herself! We figure I need to put together a little 'flyer' so that the ladies can see what's on offer ~ so I need some models in order to do that. We don't imagine that all the clients will want the photo-shoot, but we hope lots of them will and it will be a whole lot of fun for them.

If you are a Christian, I would ask you to pray for our new venture. Pray that I will find the right venue to do this in (light and d├ęcor being the main issues) and then that I'll be able get the images I envisage. Pray that we will be able to bless these women with beautiful pictures to build them up and make them feel incredible. Please also pray for the financial side of this. We are doing this at NO CHARGE. Everything will be a gift ~ the make-up, the time, the disk of images, the print - EVERYTHING! We are stepping out in faith for God to provide for this, and trusting Him to be faithful. We both believe the idea has come from & been guided by Him, so please just pray for J & I going forward ~ that we would keep listening and get it right for J's clients and for God!

And on that note I'll leave you with some Sunday afternoon snapshot cuteness...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Shaving Foam Marbling

Just a quick post because this is SOOO much fun

A must do if you have little ones,

or bigger ones even!!

When these were dry, the children cut the paper into creative shapes ~ boats, butterflies, hearts and flowers :D.  Chip did have a go ~ they all did!

Now go have fun!

Friday, March 08, 2013

A Morning Glimpse

I'm hopeless at 'real' blogging these days, 
but I thought I'd share a little snippet of Wednesday morning with you...

Chip decided it was a puzzle day. 

He hasn't done too many puzzles up until now, but has suddenly got the right idea

And today it was hard to get him to move on to anything else!

Above was an attempt to do so, he did it for a short while, then back to the puzzles.

Problem with puzzles and Chip ~ he still requires an assistant and if there isn't one available launching ensues!

In other parts of the room TP was reading, & DD was reading to me.

A little after this Minnie took over with Chip and I did "All About Spelling" with DD and Lilo

Spelling is still a constant struggle for Lilo, but at least we have phonetically correct spelling now and she is making good progress. Most days she gets more spellings right than wrong now :D In the end, on this test they both got 20/25 with only a couple that they both spelt wrong ('oyster' being one of them, 'while' being another!). At the moment we are just running over a few of the more difficult-to-spell words, but when we are done we will be already on Level 3. 

In the study, Bugs was working on some editing of shots he took whilst at Focus On Imaging on Tuesday ~ which is really another post in itself...

Most of this time Stitch had been working on the laptop (probably on Reading Eggs) and at this point something required a LOT of attention... (there are a good many of these moments in our days!)

And all that before snack-break @11am, when I put my camera down and it disappeared for some time!!

Probably after snack I did some maths with DD & Stitch, DD worked on Explode the Code (Online) and before lunch we did Geography  all together. We were looking at 'Geomorphological Processes' this week ~ they all loved learning that word :D!  For Bugs and Taz it was a quick revision of material they have already covered (in more depth) in their Science this last year, but not for the others. I often get groans when it's time for Geography, but in reality they all find it quite interesting, so I ignore the groans!

I've no idea what happened the rest of the day, but there'd have been some older kid's maths and English going on, and Taz did some Science I think.  He did his end of module test today (Thurs) and got 100%, so now he's moving onto the next level course ~ he's chosen Biology, which I must admit surprised me rather. When I chose Biology at school it was because it was the only science I really understood, but I know he's chosen it because it genuinely interests him ~ which is a much better reason! Scarily like his dad, who did Maths, Music and Biology at college, Taz would like to do Music and Biology too (and said so before his Dad told him that's what he did!). Actually Taz could probably also manage Maths if he wanted to, but I'm almost certain that won't be a choice he makes!

So there it is, a bit of a morning here - in pictures.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Happy 11th Birthday TP

TP is my other February girl.

My two big girls are so close in age,
so far apart in many other ways.

They are the best of friends -
They need each other.

I love that!

Non-identical twins -
Born a year apart!

TP - petite


Pink & girly -

With an edge of tom-boy!

A go-gettter -
Who started out shy.

Wacky, Crazy,
Graceful and Strong

She's a brilliant second Mum -
The one Chip chooses over all the others.

My beautiful mystery.

I love that she is still so much my little girl -
I can cherish her childhood for just a little while longer.

In a blink my eye this year too, will be gone -
This year that will change her:

Leaving nothing more than the remnants of the girl she is now.

I hold her future in my closely guarded breath.
Her adventurous spirit will carry her far - I fear -

I pray she stays close until she's ready to fly!

Happy Birthday my Princess! :D