Saturday, October 26, 2013

If Money Were No Object...

Today I signed up with ToTs 100 and they are hosting a little competition that I figure it's worth taking part in, so this is my entry post.

If money were no object and I could design the garden of my dreams, right now, as this point in my life, I wouldn't worry about landscaping or a perfect lawn! I just want a garden that is predominantly a fun, safe space for my children to hang-out and play: somewhere they don't have to worry about what they do, or the mess they make! For the first time really, we live in a home with a garden big enough to do plenty with, and adjacent we have a field (of ferns for half the year) that the children are allowed to play in freely. There is a LOT we could do with this space...if money were no object!

I am very grateful that we already have a few things that make our garden fun and usable, but they are all second-hand! 

We have a second-hand, well played on,  metal TP climbing frame. It's still perfectly serviceable & we've sort of combined it with a mini ELC climbing frame to extend the fun a little. At one end are two slides ~ the one that's part of TP set, and another that is free-standing, but tucks up to the frame nicely and creates a dual-slide effect. The kids enjoy racing each other down :D 

We have a second-hand, 10ft trampoline (after our first one split in the middle when Daddy jumped on it one day!!). It's OK, but the safety net doesn't do up and that worries a little bit. It lives on tarmac, in a gap between our grass and the garages. I like it there because it doesn't kill any grass or need moving for mowing, but it does take up a useful space. However, I can't put it on the grass even if I wanted too, because our garden is too sloped and uneven.

We have a second-hand playhouse, which we were kindly given 2 summers ago. It's great. It's in good condition actually and it's green, so it blends well with the garden, but I have dreams for that corner...

So IF I could have anything and DO anything with our garden, what would I do?...

There are things the children would like... 

They have asked for a swingset forever! Paul has always been reluctant, but as the grass here is mostly clover and seems to be amazingly resilient, perhaps I could persuade him with these...

I might even get one of these too, to attach to the tree in the field next to our garden

I know the kids would be THRILLED with all of that!!

I'm also thinking about my bigger boys & my boys getting bigger! We had a football goal WAY back in our very first house, when Bugs was not even 5! It got tangled and mangled and didn't make it as far as even house number 3 - sadly, so it's LONG overdue a replacement. I'm looking at these ...

...thinking I love how they can just be lifted out of the ground for mowing (or other garden activities), the net is not going to get tangled and they are 6ft tall ~ so still plenty big enough for the teenagers and Dad to have a kick around! Two of these, that could be moved aside for other purposes, but could live in the garden full-time, would be brilliant!

Next I would LOVE to replace our current trampoline with a sunken one. Admittedly this would be a permanent fixture, but ultimately it resolve my worries over safety nets and would be suitable for all the children to just use whenever they wish ~ from the oldest to the youngest. So, one of these then...

I'd need to tuck it away in a corner (so as to have room for the games of football!), but our sloped garden wouldn't matter so much with this design, as we would simply sink it in flat and it would be fine!

With all these wonderful big toys, I'm wondering about the youngest children...

We have a little sand and water table, that we've had for few years now, that's looking tired and old. I'd LOVE to have a big sit-in sand pit for Chip. I'm really liking the look of this one...

partly because I like the idea of turning into a garden-plot for him when he out-grows sand play. He could grow whatever he liked in there and it would just look 'right' in the garden.

Seating wise, with a family of ten, we don't really have enough, so to solve that we have just acquired a lovely-but-needs-a-bit-of-work table and chairs set, and we have a worn out old picnic table for the children. It would be lovely for the small children to have something more 'them' sized, and this looks lovely...

In the corner of the garden, I'd like to replace our green playhouse/shed with one of these, just because I think the children would love it and they could move things out there that currently live in the house (dolls, kitchen...).

On top of all of this I'd like a big framed paddling pool ...

and maybe some go-karts for the team to hare down the hill on ...

And lastly, I'd like to add a little something for us grown-ups! ... I'd like a summer house, so Paul & I can sit comfortably and enjoy the summer in the garden, whilst we read or watch the children play, so I'm thinking, on that hard-standing (where the trampoline is atm), THIS would be perfect...

Of course, IF I won the competition I couldn't have ALL of this, but one can dream!

And here's a little picture to help you visualise the whole cha-bang (not drawn to scale or with any artistic flare)!!

“This blog post is an entry into the Tots100/Activity Toys Direct garden makeover competition”

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Taz Turns 15!

A back-dated post (so the Blog isn't too out of order!)...

I find it hard to believe that my two oldest teenagers 
are already HALF WAY through their teens!!

Taz turned 15!

I remember him as a cheeky, single minded little imp of a toddler, 
always ready for a cuddle :D

I remember him as a sharp inquisitive, super-bouncy 8 year old!

I remember him as a 'tweenie' with a keen sense of right and wrong.

I embrace him now as a talented, faith-filled young man with a passion and a zeal for The Lord.

I see before me now the bright (and funny) young man he is becoming.

Happy Birthday 15th Son!


On Monday we took all the chids to Techniquest (Wrexham). They had some KS4 science workshops going on (which they actually do monthly), and I had booked the oldest three in for some. Sadly though I got the times mixed up and we missed the Biology one, which all three were going to do :( . In the end Bugs and Taz did the chemistry one and enjoyed it, but Taz was disappointed to miss the Biology one because it was on reflexes, which he has been studying recently at home. Bad Mummy moment!

All the same, we all had an interesting and fun day, with lots of hands on discovery for everyone and no-one was bored at all :D

Nothing more to say really... we rounded off the day with MD's for the chids and a curry for Paul & I. 

Tomorrow Taz turns 15!
Friday the four oldest & Paul disappear off to The Gathering 2013 for the weekend. It'll be quiet round here for almost 3 days!!!  If you scroll down and watch the video there's a few faces in there you might recognise!!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Blogging again!

Wow! Twice in a week must be a recent record ~ and this one might well be a blog without pictures! (shock horror)! 

In my Technical World...

You know how I was saying about my computer woes..? Well about a day after getting our new PC, I downloaded an update onto our perfectly functional 9 year old laptop and it effectively crashed it completely! :(

So I have spent several days trying to get that back up and running, and with not a LITTLE bit of frustration!

Eventually I've managed to get it running (thanks Tim M for your advise), but it took a complete system restore to get there. In the long run, this may not be a bad thing, as now it's running like new!! However, I do still have to try and get those updates onto the system without it crashing again ~ and when I have I think I will take it out of Vista up to Windows7 (which always seemed a much more stable & logical system than Vista). Vista is not even supported by Microsoft anymore without Service Pack 2 (which was the update that crashed everything), so I need to move it forward to keep it from dying a slow painful death anyway ~ that's if I even can!!

In my Home-Ed World...

The children started of this week in the 'normal' way and the first couple of days went well. Then, on Tuesday, I took TP, Lilo and DD for a swimming lesson (I'm teaching them now) and then swam my two miles. I got into the pool feeling absolutely fine and got out with a full-blown cold!! How does that work? Since then I've felt LOUSY. Just a cold, but an achy, heady kind of one. As a result I declared the rest of the week a 'games week' and next week is half term, so that gives me time to recover properly :D. I have spent these last two days marking their half a term's work (meaning I don't have to in the break) and sorting out the laptop. I can't tell you how relieved I was to hear that Windows start-up chime, but I don't think I've seen the last of my troubles yet! I tried to re-install just SP1 today and it failed, but thankfully didn't crash anything. Trying again tonight...

So, games week...

The children began yesterday by playing a great game of 'Settlers of Catan' (all but Chip, who was happily playing on PoissonRouge & Starfall on the new PC). To begin with all I could hear was Taz getting irritated with Stitch making too many mistakes, but being as Stitch is only 6, and hadn't played before other than on someone's 'team', I felt Taz was being quite unfair. I told Taz to treat Stitch with at least as much patience as he afforded my Mum (she's not great at games with lots of rules!) and things vastly improved! Stitch played the game really well once he got the hang of it :D. I think Taz won in the end, which would have pleased him too! 
Following the game, they sat and watched some old animated Horrible Histories DVD's until lunchtime. Then, after lunch, a few of them played 'Take 2' for a while (like Bananagrams, but played with scrabble tiles) - and then the 'school' day was pretty much done! 

I also managed to squeeze in a little photo-shoot to get some 'not-back2school' shots of Taz, and some better ones of Minnie (didn't like my first attempt with her). They can be seen over ... HERE...

I had said we would still do Art, but it just didn't happen. I fully intended to do it with them today instead, but again it didn't happen (mostly because I actually felt too rubbish to plan it properly).

Instead, today the children started the day by splitting up a bit: Lilo, Stitch and DD played Enchanted Forest and Labyrinth together, and then I believe Lilo played Junior Uno with Chip ~ she said he liked it :D.  The bigger three had a game of Carcassonne, followed by a game of Monopoly City (which they all agree is more 'fun' that original Monopoly, and is definitely quicker). The younger three wanted to join in with Monopoly, but the game had already started by the time they asked, so they dipped out and spent a good deal of time moping about not knowing what to do after that! 

Even Chip couldn't seem to settle to anything today. He played 'Paint', more PoissonRouge and a bit of Cebeebies on the PC, then came off and just got lots of things out, but didn't really play with any of them properly . I think he could have done with my company and attention tbh, but I was marking, restoring the laptop and generally trying to avoid being with anyone (feeling lousy). 

I was supposed to cook lunch today too, but didn't feel up to that even, so, for the first time EVER, Taz did it ~ and he did a really good job! It was an easy enough lunch, but I was still proud of him :D. While he was in the kitchen, busy chopping onions, the girls each made him a birthday card (involving watercolours, so they did some self-motivated art in the end). They've made a nice job of them too :D.

After lunch no-one seemed to really know what to do. I think in the end they all went and built towers with the Giant Jenga in the lounge ~ funny how they all enjoy that!! 

When Paul came home they all suddenly decided they'd like to go swimming! So, Paul dutifully dropped Taz, Minnie, TP and Lilo off at the pool, took DD to gym, collected Jake (Bugs) from college (after his residential) and came home. Stitch and Chip were disappointed not to go swimming too, but I was really not feeling up to it tonight (otherwise I would have been swimming my miles) and Paul didn't want to take them, because he had a couple of calls he needed to make. Chip went in the car for the ride (and a nap) though and Stitch just played on the Wii for an hour, which was probably better chill-out time for him in the end anyway.

Jake had a great time away in Wasdale, with college. Says they didn't do much walking, but what little they did do the other kids whined about! He's used to hiking up hills in the Lakes, so to him it was odd not to be. I asked whether he had lots of late nights and early mornings ~ he replied, "No, just early mornings ~ going to bed early mornings!!" He thinks he had about 10 hours sleep the whole week!! Glad he had fun though :D I'm looking forward to seeing the pictures he got, but I doubt I'll see him until sometime in the afternoon tomorrow!!!

OK ~ so just one picture...!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Finally Blogging...

It's taken an age for me to have five 'spare' minutes to put a blog post together. Once the old PC died life went a little nuts. While it was dead I did THREE photo-shoots (all unpaid), which resulted in such a 'back log' of work it has taken two solid weeks of catch up. I think I am finally there (pretty much). There are still a lot of things I need to spend time doing, but half term is coming soon... However, I do have the promise of 3 more PAID photo-shoots before Christmas so I need to keep on top of things now. Just need to pray they actually happen, because on the basis of them doing so we went out and bought I new PC. Needs must!

Anyway, some 'Home-Ed' updates...

Jake (Bugs) has now been in college for almost half a term. He loves it in many ways, but in other ways finds it frustrating/annoying and most definitely he is SHOCKED by the amount of work he has to do!! The enjoyment outweighs the rest atm, but he doesn't like having to write everything down and, because he already has a fair amount of 'ability' with a camera & with processing he doesn't feel he has learnt anything very new yet ~ apart from dark room skills, which is entirely new! He's not sure he likes all the analysis and 'how to's, but I think he realises that things will get more challenging as time goes on (at least we hope so). The biggest stretch for him is not in the actual work itself, but in managing his time and keeping on top of all he has to do. The work all has to be presented 'artistically', and him being such a perfectionist means this can take a VERY long time!! All the same, he'll be fine I think, when he gets better into the swing of it all :D. Next week they are off on a residential week to Wasdale YHA, shooting landscapes I think, so that should be a lot of fun for him.

Taz just continues on at home with most of the same work he was doing last year atm. I haven't done anything about contacting the college for him yet. REALLY MUST DO THAT ASAP!!!

All the others are settling well into a new 'school' year and working well. Even Stitch is managing to apply himself a little better this year and mostly gets his required work done each day. He is bright as a button and I have no worries about him ~ I just wish there were more hours in a day to make it all a bit more tailored to his needs.

Chip, well he is rising 3 and not one to be left out of ANYTHING! He needs an almost constant 'playmate', be that human or techno! He has mastered the computer mouse and now likes to commender a laptop for as much of the 'school day' as he can! When he's not at the computer he wants to have someone play a game with him, or to join in with whatever work they are doing! This works a large part of the time, but sometimes it's a challenge. However, he has an amazing ability to concentrate and is a whiz with a colouring pen, so that helps!

Lilo is doing really well with her reading and writing. All About Spelling has absolutely proved to be the right program for her (I somehow knew it would be) and she is coming on in leaps and bounds now. DD's spelling is still more natural to him, so he is slowly pulling away, but keeping him working alongside her motivates her to work hard at keeping up and thankfully is not holding him back, so for now that continues to work well. We started Level 4 this term and I hope to complete it and Level 5 this year. If we get to Level 6 that will be a bonus, but I don't think we will. The real issue I have now is that that Stitch has decided he would quite like to join in these lessons, but of course has missed 2 1/2 levels of work, so can't really just 'jump in'. His spelling is amazingly good though, for a 6 year old, so I don't think that taking him back to Level 1 is the right thing either. I think I'll just have to try and think of a way to catch him up quick, so he can take part. ATM he does Reading Express, or Explode the Code Online while we are doing AAS.

In other news, TP has decided that she REALLY likes taking pictures and is learning to use Lightroom. She's not ambitious with it, but just enjoying it, which is lovely. Her heart is still set on an animal career of some kind. The other day she talked about the RSPCA ...

The highlight of most weeks seems to now be 'art afternoon' on a Wednesday. The children now really look forward to this and to a large extent it is proving to be quite successful. Even Taz is enjoying it!! We've studied Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso (used an online program called 'Picassohead'), Romero Britto  & done some Word Art (sometimes the work has taken more than one session).

I have a couple of things I'd like to get time to look into at some point. One is seeing if organising a 'Forest School' group to run from my back garden might be an option. I wonder if there might be some H'Ed families locally who would like to take part. The Moss, where we live, is an very interesting place in terms of flora and fauna, and could provide a great base. We have a big back garden and an adjacent field which we are permitted to use (although I may need to check with the owner for this purpose) and can provide shelter on terrible-weather days, and hot cups of tea for grown-ups :D. It's a thought. I have a contact number. Watch this space...

I have also been contacted by someone interested in bettering 'music' provision to H'Ed families in the North West. I'm not sure where this might go, but hopefully somewhere...

As for me, I seem to be constantly in a whirlwind of never ending 'stuff to do'. I feel I wear a sign over my head, saying 'in house computer technician' much of the time and I often I knew just a touch more than I do. I know enough to wear that sign, but not enough to make things happen in a snap, so everything seems to take forever ~ from networking issues across the PC and laptops, to internet connection issues that drive me WILD!! Paul hasn't a clue, so it all falls to me. I enjoy it UP TO A POINT and then it's just a time drain and a stress. Currently I have on-hold three 'tech' jobs; build Paul a PC for down in his church office, build Jake a PC to use for college work & convert an OLD HP510 laptop (which is dead slow, but still works) to a Chromebook or Andriod laptop (either would be fine as it's just to get something working for Chip to use in the daytime when the others need the other laptops for schooly stuff). I tried to do the HP510 last night, but without success, so now that's going to be a more frustrating job than I had hoped :(. Doing the two computer builds MIGHT be easy, or not... It depends on how the two towers that I have redundant upstairs play along! But first I have to do a whole load of file backing-up and user data cloning, so as not to loose too much in the process, so it's a whole lot more complicated than it might actually otherwise be! Besides that I try to keep on top of home-ed, now with three secondary age children who need stretching and three primary age children who stretch me! I am trying to swim twice a week, for a couple of hours each time (to loose weight), and have just committed to swim 2 MILES in Windermere next summer, in the Great North Swim! I still need to decide a cause to do it for :D. And I am continually trying to push myself as a photographer and get my business to be some kind of success. That's not proving to be easy either, as most people actually don't want to pay very much for photography services, and I don't want to charge less than I consider I am worth! I really need to try and find a market outside of my immediate social sphere, but that is a challenge without being able to drive.

OK ~ that'll do for now I think, and if you got this far, WELL DONE!!