Sunday, May 29, 2005

Flags, sharks, knickers, and tiger moths

We’re having a quiet but pretty productive weekend so far. P. decided not to go to trampolining yesterday – her class has been reduced to two lately, and the other girl has a very pushy mum, which makes the atmosphere more tense than she likes.

In the afternoon we had two local cousins round for a dressing up afternoon. This was lots of fun for them all – England Woman and Botswana Boy were joined by Estonia Girl and Union Jack to form the Europe Rabbits. This was slightly educational, as the atlas had to be consulted to find suitable flags.

The afternoon was rounded off with homemade orange juice, made in the cousins' juice machine. After some unseemly behaviour (on the part of our two) about whose turn it was to put the orange segments in, everyone enjoyed this too.

Sadly, P. and I managed to destroy the atmosphere by having a big row in the evening about tidying up the (predictably trashed) house. P. has been a mixture of impressively domestic (making delicious salad, incorporating herbs from her own herb garden; creating a pattern and cutting out pieces for knickers for her toy rabbit) and obnoxiously slovenly (rudely refusing to pick up dressing up clothes from every room in the house). Certainly, I could have handled it better, but we need to sort out how to stop feeling like we're the servants round here…

I'm feeling a bit ill today, so we did nothing much after going for a prearranged swim at the local pool with some friends. This was lovely – we stayed in the water over an hour, did lots of swimming, jumping in and fetching things from the bottom of the pool, and played a good game of sharks.

After lunch I sat on the sofa and did a bit of sewing – cutting down some old dungarees of Pearlie's so that she can wear them as short dungarees. Amazingly, they still fit her round the body, even though they are age 3-4! I offered some advice on the knickers design, and helped with the hemming later (read 'did all the hemming'). L. created many 'pets' out of aluminium foil and housed them in egg boxes, discovering on the way that three sets of 6 is 18.

P. and L also watched Discovery Kids all afternoon, until it started to repeat itself.

We were looking at our caterpillars this evening, and now think they are some kind of Tiger Moth, and not Large Whites at all. It's quite exciting to see what will happen when they emerge - hope we get to see it happen, but we may have to hand them over to someone else when we go away in a couple of weeks.

Looking forward to a day all together tomorrow. We have a big family picnic planned.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Visitors, sirens and paddling pool

On Thursday we looked after a couple of little HE friends for a couple of hours. P was a star (as usual when we have guests) and Leo was a bit prickly (equally predictable). He is very territorial about his stuff and his room and is very rude when small visitors want to play with his things. Luckily both D and I were around and between us we managed to divert him from meltdown. The little visitors (5 and 2) were great - the smaller one curled up in Dani's lap at one point and quizzed her about the contents of her shirt as she had started to miss 'booby'. Sadly the cupboard is bare in this house now!

In the afternoon Dani took Pearl and Leo to another festival fringe event – a tour of the old air raid shelters at a local primary school. This was very opportune as we are reading this to Pearl this week. Actually she keeps reading on at night so we are missing bits. The tour was small ( a party of only five) and the kids got to play with a stirrup pump and hear the taped sound of a siren.

Today was super hot and sunny so we abandoned our planned library trip. Poor old Dani was at work all day but the kids and I spent a happy three hours at the park down the hill, which has a paddling pool. This seems to be the year I have been waiting for since Leo was born. The kids played together beautifully and looked out for each other. P managed café and toilet trips alone and Leo actually enjoyed getting splashed by the big kids! I read quite a lot of a trashy Katherine V Forrest book and we all ate chips from the café. P did the (very high!) monkey bars and L invented a complex imaginary game involving a rock he found. This was apparently the remains of a five thousand year old creature which had the ability to exterminate people using an electrical device. We had to keep the rock wet at all times as
"electric things don't work if they get wet."

The kids also wrote messages on the paving stones with water.
"Pearl was here!" (Pearl, obviously)
"Bee of with you!" (Leo)

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Toothless and raging

Tuesday

Dani went to work and Pearl and I took Leo over to the grandmothers' house for his weekly visit. Pearl and I went to the Police Station museum. This was very interesting, especially the graffiti in the cells. The only minor drawback was the tour guide whose worldview was somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan. But it all added to the sense of menace and oppression in the underground cells!

After the museum we went swimming. Pearl did loads of wild underwater swimming and we played chasing games. After about an hour I was exhausted but Pearl looked like she could have gone on all day. Mind you, when we got home we had a stupid row with each other – which I think betrayed tiredness on both sides.

In the evening the kids finally had enough of the Education city site – which we have been using on a free five day trial. Leo is very taken with the certificates and prints out loads of copies. I think some of it is ok but some is rather grating. Pearl was playing a 'replace the adjective with a better one' game, which she criticised thoroughly!
"They want you to choose dangerous to describe the driver but he could be evil, or even yellow, it all depends…"

We all played a wonderful game suggested in a book that my dad gave us for Christmas. It is called the furniture game. You think of a number of descriptive headings such as: a colour, a season, a place, weather, a piece of clothing, a piece of furniture, a food, an animal etc. Then you think of a person and describe them using the categories you have chosen. Here is Pearl's description of my mum:
She is:
purple
summer
France and Spain
sunny
three quarter length trousers
a sofa
an apricot pie
a rabbit.

I know this won't mean much to readers who don't know my mum, but I hope you will be able to tell how lovely (and small!) she is.

Anyway, the game is fun and we heartily recommend it.

Wednesday

Dani and Leo made a dalek today. I think it is fabulous.


Exterminate!

They also watched 'Journey of Life' together and he drew a picture of a photograph of some old footsteps.

The kids went to capoeira this afternoon, which was good - though Pearl got in a slight altercation with the person she was playing with. She said she got trapped with him hitting her and I think her actions were all in self-defence. The boy involved is much younger than her and I think it was a misguided overture of friendship. Leo used to do similar things sometimes. Anyway, she was pretty upset.

I went to get my tooth fixed this morning. I was flossing it last week and a lump fell off, which made me feel pretty old and decrepit. I went on to work where I was on the enquiry desk with a frozen face, which felt enormous, and occasional dribbles - charming and very professional!

This evening I have been driven to email the Radio Times after watching the hideous 'House of Tiny Tearaways'. Tonight the 'expert' engineered a scene of conflict between parents and child so that the parents could test out her techniques! Aaargh, why do I watch the bloody programme?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Sunshine and a scarf

Just a quick one today. We had a lovely HE group meet in a park we hadn't been to together before. The kids all enjoyed each other's company – several of them had cemented their friendships at HesFes last week – and were pretty much self sufficient in the playpark and adjoining woods. We had a couple of dog scares, but overall it was a very happy day in the sunshine.

P. has mastered monkey bars this year.


P. and I went to Woodcraft – hard work but generally good, I think – and Leo played with great dedication on Education City.

And I have finally finished the scarf I have been knitting. My first effort with circular needles, with a design made up as I went along - an experiment in straight lines on curved surfaces.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Greatest Show on Earth

Some edited highlights of the weekend:

Leo made this lovely trapeze, all by himself.


We went to the Moscow State Circus, for a big festival treat. The trapeze artists and acrobats were spectacular and the strong man (who had a truck drive over him) was a bit worrying. Pearlie and I liked some people who twirled enormous cubes around. Leo liked the man who rode a unicycle along a high wire. Allie liked a woman who twisted about on a high rope. The kids were really great about not buying the ridiculously overpriced toys and sweets – P. even brought torches in her bag so they would have something to wave about instead of the flashing light things on sale!

Pearl and I took in a couple of artists' open houses on the way to the circus from trampolining. P. was particularly taken by these replica eggs, and the real rabbit in the garden of one of the houses.

We had a lie in this morning. Leo slept until 10am, which is pretty late, even by our standards. P. got me up to help her get the telly working, but then kindly let me go back to bed.

P. and L. further developed their England Woman and Botswana Boy costumes, adding frankly scary headgear. (The costumes are inspired by the colours of the relevant flags.)

Superheroes at the ready

With some difficulty, they were persuaded to wear more conventional clothes on our trip to Brighton Museum with cousins S. and G. Pearlie did bring her costume with her, in case she should be called upon to defend the city in an emergency. Everyone enjoyed the museum, despite a nasty graze to Leo's knee just before we went in.

He was particularly taken with the small display of Egyptian mummies, but also enjoyed a film about the Vespa club, with accompanying Mod music, and all four children danced gleefully to the punk tracks available in the costume gallery. We looked at everybody's favourite bits and discovered some new good ones – P. and D. had a nice time together with the mystery objects in the Brighton gallery, and I liked the display of town maps spanning the last 200 years. It is a really fantastic museum – must go there more often.

This evening, P. played a couple of maths games on the free trial of Education City, while L. measured the depth of his mummy tomb in centimetres and inches. I made a few more origami baskets, for collecting interesting things in the woods at our HE group tomorrow, and cut out some flexagon templates for Woodcraft Folk tomorrow evening.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Pearlie eco-warrior!

Difficult to catch up here as I am pretty tired and lots of the details are lost in my foggy brain.

Wednesday morning Dani went to work and I left the kids to their own devices for quite a while. They were playing very happily and silently upstairs so I started making a lap book about our caterpillars – which we think are large whites.

After an hour or two the kids appeared and we spent a happy hour dancing to various music. This included Pet Shop Boys, Clare Teal and Kate Bush. Pearl dragged Leo around in what she imagined was a tango! After that she wanted to know some other dance steps. I taught her a few line dance steps, a basic waltz and rock and roll. She found it pretty tough but she managed to get a rough idea of what to do. Dani and I used to go to weekly ballroom dance classes before we had the kids so I do know what I'm doing. But teaching it is hard – especially as I am only happy following and this meant poor Pearl had to lead! Leo bobbed about doing his own steps very happily. Anyway, that was certainly a hearty workout for all three of us.

Dani took the kids to capoeira in the afternoon. Pearl is suddenly the only girl in their group – which is a bit of a shame for her as she prefers a mixed group. We are thinking she probably needs to move up to the next age group after the summer break.

Wednesday evening was Dani's work AGM so my mum came to look after the kids until I got home. I think they had a good time together – eating plums, planting plum stones, having baths and reading Loathsome London- which was one of P's birthday presents. When I got home the kids and I curled up in P's bed and I read them a lovely Paddington story about bonfire night.

Thursday it poured with rain all day. Dani and Leo had a quiet day at home watching lots of tv – pursuing Leo's interest in mummification, death and burial. Leo wrote a list of things to do in the morning. The list is all crossed out because Leo crossed the things out as he did them. Leo wants and needs very few suggestions of things to do. I wonder if never having gone to school makes this so. He really enjoys a day at home and never seems bored.


Leo's list for the day

Pearl and I went to the grandmothers' house. My mum was planning to cover another room doing furniture vocab but somehow we started playing a French shop game where Pearl was the proprietor, selling her cuddly creatures to me and mum. This was a wonderful game. We made paper money as we needed it. Pearl tried to remember to keep it French (!) and enjoyed totting up the totals and working out the change.

We also had an exciting encounter with some tree surgeons, who came to work on a tree down the road which has a Tree Preservation Order on it. This is a long and complicated story but the best bit was Pearl offering to tie herself to the tree. Blimey she's her Mummy D's daughter that one! Dani is no stranger to a bit of direct action. Somewhere or other we have a wonderful photo of a young Dani, from the front page of a tabloid paper (late 1980s), under the immortal heading 'Blushing Di in gay girls demo scare!'

To stick with the theme Dani took the kids to a talk on radical Brighton in the evening. The kids had said they wanted to go to this but predictably it was a bit beyond them. Pearlie got very distracted by something out the window – apparently a 'house hypnotised' her. Leo confidently told me he had read a book about 'women's sick'! Dani told me there was a book with a similar title on the shelf but he was actually reading Anti-Fascist Action news. But anyway, they were reasonably polite and quiet and Dani enjoyed herself – so that's good.
Today it was pouring again. I have to say that any jealousy I had about not going to HESFES has evaporated in the face of all this rain. Dani was at work and the kids and I had a bit of tidying to do. Leo found his spy kit and wrote me a message with invisible ink. Pearl wrote herself some notes in a secret detective notebook. Then we had a Tintin DVD fest!

In the afternoon the sun finally came out and we met our friend O. (6yo boy) and his mum in the park. The kids all played very happily for an hour or so – hiding in the bushes and getting muddy and scratched. Then we came back to our house and the play continued. O's mum and I drank tea and chatted.

I am thinking a lot about HE at the moment, and about the world in general. Somehow I even found time to read the whole New Internationalist today.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Park life

Busy couple of days, including:

HE group on Monday. Our first outdoor meet of the year - severely depleted by HESFES and illness, but lovely for those of us who did manage to get there. The kids thoroughly explored the bushes and the playpark, played football and other ball games, and went on a successful children only expedition to buy lollies at the café.

Woodcraft Folk, where P. and her friends made puppets and learned a dance, amidst a fair amount of shouting and running about. Meanwhile, L. was at home enjoying the digital camera and recording lots of little video clips of things like his own feet walking round the house, me cooking the tea, and 'earthquakes' (spinning the camera round and round very fast).

A new bathroom floor, which necessitated A. and P. staying in this morning, while L got picked up for his weekly visit to the grandmothers. They did some long multiplication and investigation of factorial numbers and square roots on the calculator. Then P finished her Tin Tin book and found a Tin Tin website. Later she soundly defeated A. in a game of 'To Hell and back' (a version of knockout whist we play in our family).

An after school trip to the park to play with cousins B. and D. and assorted friends from B's school. L. did a lot of collapsing in a heap with other little boys, while P. and A. played bat and ball.

The caterpillars are growing well. Allie is planning to make a lapbook about them.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Kids discovering

We had a pretty quiet day yesterday. I took P. to trampolining, while Leo and Allie had some rare time at home together.

In the afternoon, we all watched a very interesting programme about Tutankhamun's father, the unusual pharaoh Akhenaten, which suggested he may have had Marfan's syndrome.

Even though it had stopped raining, the kids didn't feel like going to the second day of Streets of Brighton, so I went for a little while on my own as I'd missed it on Friday. While I was out, P. made some clothes for her Sylvanian horses and L. made a lovely lapbook about Egyptian mummies.

Today, the kids and I had places booked on a tour of Whitehawk Hill, led by Dave Bangs, a very knowledgeable member of the Friends of Whitehawk Hill and author of an excellent book about the hill, Where the Turf meets the Surf. After the rain and bitter winds of the last two days, today was beautiful, and we all had a lovely time being spies,


finding tiny flowers, snails and insects,


looking at ancient boundary stones


and enjoying the fantastic views.


We saw a kestrel, an Adonis blue, a dingy skipper and a small copper, and the remains of a big Neolithic camp. Dave showed us lots of things that had been found and seen on the hill – the skin of an adder, a purseweb spider and its web, giant puffballs, and lots of very tiny snails that are found only on chalk downland. Pearl spotted some of these minute snails, and learned the name of the strange flies we have seen up at Falmer lately – the St. Mark's fly (named, we assume, after St. Mark's day, 25th April). It was a fascinating morning.

We were all pretty whacked when we got in, and have spent the afternoon watching Discovery Kids, our new favourite channel. Leo loves Mystery Hunters in particular, but also happily watches Timeblazers, the Croc Files and Gross. He also played a bit more on the World Explorer CD and P. did something secret which she needs the computer for, so I'd better go.

Germs

By popular demand (Hi Heather, we've missed you), here's the full write up of our germs experiment. Most of this is straight out of Horrible Science magazine, issue 6.

We used the petri dish and agar agar powder they gave us with the Horrible Science magazine. We also found another little pot with a lid. We rinsed out both dishes with boiling water, then divided them into four quarters, marked with a permanent marker.

We used an old baby bottle we found in our cupboard to measure out 120 ml of boiling water, and mixed this in a measuring jug with a teaspoon of agar powder and a quarter of a teaspoon of vegetable stock powder. We poured the mixture into a saucepan, brought it to the boil and simmered it for three minutes (stirring constantly).

We put this hot mixture into the dishes and let it cool down. Now I read it again I see we should have had the lids on while it was cooling, but in fact we didn't. It took about two minutes to cool - might be longer if you had the lid on. We knew it was cool enough when it had set into a jelly which didn't fall out when we turned the dishes upside down.

We got some cotton buds and wiped them on various surfaces. If they were dry surfaces we had to put a drop of water on the cotton bud first. We then wiped the germy cotton buds gently on the surface of the jelly. In section 1 of each dish we put germs from the loo handle. Section 2 was from a coin, section 3 from the inside of Pearl's cheek and section 4 from the inside of Leo's cheek.

We left the petri dish upside down (to stop water dripping into it) on top of a shelf in our kitchen and put the other dish in the freezer. Three days later the petri dish looked like this:

Quarter 1:




Quarter 2:


Quarter 3:


Quarter 4:


The one that had been in the freezer just looked like it was covered with ice crystals. When it thawed out, a lot of the water had come out of the jelly and it looked very strange, but I didn't take any photos of it. That bit of the experiment wasn't very conclusive. They did it with gelatine power on Mystery Hunters, maybe that's different stuff.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Festival frolics

We are in the middle of the Brighton Festival so, in spite of not being able to get to HESFES, we are having a pretty jolly time.

Thursday

I took Pearl over to the grandmothers' house for her usual weekly visit. I stayed to do a bit of French with P. My mum had made a lot of labels for the kitchen furniture and appliances and we labelled the room. This is the third room we are working on and Pearl's great memory means her vocab is coming on a treat.

I went off to work from there and Pearl stayed and invented a 'mouth freshener' using different fresh herbs and water. She wrote down the recipe and brought it home with her. She always has such a lovely time there and we really appreciate the chance to give the kids a break from each other.

Meanwhile, Dani and Leo went to the new police museum, which has opened in the old police cells underneath the town hall. Apparently it was very interesting and Leo was the only child! Pearl and I are going to visit in a couple of weeks.

Friday

Dani went off to work and I took the kids to the branch library we like. It was something of a momentous occasion for me. Pearl curled up on a comfy chair with a new Tintin book and leo decided to look for a new 'series'. Leo likes to know that there is another book coming and he is especially drawn to books with numbers on the spine! Anyway he found this and said he was going to read it. I sat down on a chair beside him and he looked a bit sheepish and said:

"Erm, Allie, I want to read this on my own."

I was redundant and so went off to browse the spoken word tapes. When I returned they were both still reading! Leo eventually asked for a bookmark and told me he was on page 17 and would read the rest at home. We also borrowed a book about living with cerebral palsy for P and a new Paddington book for us to read L at bedtime. We also used the toy library for the first time and borrowed a board game and a jigsaw of the British Isles to do together.

Streets of Brighton

We went straight on to town with a box of sandwiches for lunch as it was the first day of the Streets of Brighton event. This is a two day extravaganza of street entertainment – usually pretty strange and wonderful.

We saw some angels who were doing synchronised flying.

There were three escaped convicts trying to pass unnoticed in the crowd.

The seagulls were cheeky as ever.

Two lovebirds were cooing in the Pavilion Gardens. Pearl was very keen to have a go at this! She is very acrobatic, skinny and strong and I have no doubt she could learn. Maybe we should try to find a circus skills workshop for her.

Sadly it was really cold here today and it kept spitting with rain. After about an hour we were just too cold to stand it any more and went off to find a bus.

There have been little bits of incidental maths today too. Pearl wrote down all our vital statistics! Pearl also mentioned that she had misread the game box, which said for ages 5-8 as 5 minus 8:
"which would be minus three of course…"
Leo was somewhat puzzled by this! So I reassured him by telling him that he knew what 8 minus 5 was and held up fingers to show him:
"three!"

The game itself was a bit boring but Pearlie learned a mnemonic to remind her of the order of the planets in the solar system, and Leo concentrated on all the reading needed to play the game.

During the evening I started to buckle under the migraine that has been threatening and had a quick sleep. The kids watched some TV and then played computer games. Leo was very taken with the World Explorer game that really belongs to Pearl, while she chose to play some bizarre Teen Titans game on the internet.

Pearl brought us a note this evening, which we were to open at 10.30pm. It said that she now knows a dinosaur for every letter of the alphabet. Dani has just discovered the proof of this left for us on the bathroom floor. The tired spelling is a bit bizarre but it's true!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Titty Tuesday and Wobbly Wednesday

Tuesday

Tuesday morning Dani went to work and the kids and I went to celebrate the 10th birthday of the Brighton Breast-feed drop-in. This is a wonderful mother-to-mother support group that both Dani and I used when we were breastfeeding. We thought it was so valuable we worked as volunteers for the drop-in for a couple of years and only stood down last year. I don't think I'd have made it through cracked nipples without the support of the drop-in. It was the first place I ever saw a four year old breastfeeding. I saw exhausted and worried women work out their own solutions. It is amazing that the drop-in has an ever changing pool of volunteers and has often been on the edge of closing – but it has gone on for ten years.

I guess there were about sixty women, babies and children in the community centre and spilling over into the garden – and one man from the Department of Public Health! We didn't stay long as it was fairly manic – but I was glad we showed our faces, and saw some nice women I haven't seen for a while. The kids enjoyed eating booby biscuits with icing nipples. It was a bit odd to see several women who have kids exactly Leo's age and of course they are at school now. I had that conversation about HE several times. I find it difficult at the moment as it seems impossible to sum up our lives in response to a casual question. I can't think of positive responses to questions like 'Oh, I couldn't do that – I do admire you' or 'what made you want to do that then?' It reminds me of when P was born and friends said 'what's it like now you've got a baby?'

Tuesday also included a visit to a local cousin's house for a play and some clay creation painting (Pearl) and treasure chest creation (Leo). In the evening we played rummy and Leo finally chose NOT to watch Power Rangers. P still watched it but I hope it may be that his obsession is waning. I don't really object to it on principle but I just hate the crap dialogue and the grunting noises. Leo did some more painting on his egg box treasure chest.

Oh, and I nearly forgot a lovely bit. I read the whole of this to Leo, Pearl and Dani. Everyone listened in silence and we were all very pleased with it. How can Michael Morpurgo evoke such a wonderful sense of place and character with such sparing language? I love it. I borrowed some books from work with suggested learning activities based on the book but most of them look like they'd kill the kids' enjoyment of the story. I think our main activity will probably be our up and coming holiday to the Isles of Scilly.

Pearl stayed up reading the whole of a book called the Sandbag Secret and this meant a late start to

Wednesday

This morning was HE disaster zone day. First we failed to make fog in a bottle as wedging an ice cube in the bottle neck is not possible if your ice cubes are shaped like dolphins. Then I couldn't get a new ink cartridge to load in the printer and Leo was thwarted in his desire to make an Ancient Egyptians lap book. Mind you, he did watch a fab documentary on the search for a lost pharaoh's tomb. He also read a frog and toad story with me – taking it turns to read. P was off in her room counting her money and then playing with her Sylvanians.

When Dani got home for lunch I vented all my worries. PMT and impending migraine were making me a bit apocalyptic and I was doubting that the kids (especially P) had enough interesting things to do. Of course at that moment P chose to finish her lunch and proceeded to measure the length of the kitchen and then write it down in metres, centimetres and then millimetres. This was a propos of nothing and a very happy Pearlie thing to do – so I shut up.

We all looked at the bacteria that have grown on the agar plates we started at the weekend. The toilet seat handle yielded a horrible crop of things that looked really sickening. The kids mouths also gave us some interesting things. I would have liked to look at some under a microscope but we don't have one – better put that on the wish list.

Anyway, I took my hormones to work and Dani took the kids to capoeira – which they enjoyed this week.

Dani and Leo are off to a new museum in the basement of the town hall tomorrow. It is the old police cells of the town and is apparently haunted by the ghost of a murdered chief constable. Leo is very excited!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Eat, Drink and be Merry

We've had a very busy couple of days…

Sunday

Allie went to work and the kids and I set to on our list for the day. This was:
1. Grow bacteria
2. Make cinnamon swirls and herby scones
3. visit art houses
4. make thank you cards

We did most of these things. We used the agar agar powder from the Horrible Science magazine to cultivate two little dishes of microbes gathered from the loo handle, a coin from my pocket, and the insides of P and L's cheeks. We put one dish on a shelf in the kitchen and the other in the freezer. We plan to look at them on Wednesday.

We made cinnamon swirls using a recipe from a kids cookery book we were given the other day. This was an unbelievably messy activity, involving rolling implausible amounts of sugar into some puff pastry, then adding yet more sugar and cinnamon and baking the lot in the oven. The results were tasty, but sweeter than any of us really like.

After the mammoth clearing up job necessitated by the experiment, cooking and lunch, we went out to look at some houses in the Hanover Art Trail – one of the many collections of private houses that are opened for weekends during the Brighton Festival to display work by local artists. We saw paintings, sculpture, photography, knitted dolls, anagram art, recycled plastic lampshades, and an installation based on the Jungle Book, and had a chance to meet the artists. Leo was quite shy, but enjoyed taking photos with the digital camera. Pearl chatted away and showed people her Sylvanian ponies.

We couldn't face any more cooking, and I offered to do the thank you cards (but still haven't done them!) so that was the list disposed of. P. and L. played lots of great Sylvanian Power Rangers games and watched some more Discovery Kids. Later on, they both played patience.

Monday

Today was a feast at our HE group. We're moving outdoors for the summer, so this was the last session at the community centre. It was lovely, with lots of delicious home made goodies, and plenty of time to play outside and in. Several complicated imaginary games evolved, involving swimming in shark-infested seas and hatching animal themed zords from eggs. The hatchlings had to be brought home in a bag of grass cuttings and installed in Tupperware nests all round our kitchen.

P. and L. posted updates on the progress of their zord babies on the children's email list of our group. This was done almost completely independently by both of them.

P. went to Woodcraft Folk this evening, while L. silently watched Mystery Hunters twice through. He was inspired to do another experiment, involving the creation of fog in a plastic bottle. We may try this tomorrow, when we have ice.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

All the world's a stage

Today was the annual children's parade, to launch the Brighton Festival. All the local schools take part and create spectacular tableaux on a broad theme – this year's was "All the World's a Stage". This resulted in quite a lot of Pirates of Penzance,


Jungle Books,


and Cats,



plus quite a few things that didn't really seem to fit the theme, like Where the Wild Things Are,


Alice in Wonderland



and Finding Nemo.


We didn't get it together to do a home educators' entry this year, so the kids and I went down to Pavilion Gardens to watch. It's actually very hard work being in the parade, so I was quite happy with this. Leo turned out to be allergic to the tree we were standing under, so he issued a lot of spectacular sneezes, and we had to give up in the end and go to the toyshop instead.

P. and L. handed over their pocket money in exchange for a Sylvanian foal and baby rabbit, and a Crimson Ninja Storm Power Ranger. They were both very happy with these purchases, and we walked home via the library where we swapped a Tintin video for a Tintin book.

They spent the afternoon watching Mona the Vampire, then various programmes on Discovery Kids, including one all about farts and Mystery Hunters, on ice mummies and cryogenics. Leo was inspired to grow some bacteria in a petri dish, so I had to dash out to buy cotton buds when Allie got home from work. By the time I got back, we were into the evening's telly watching (Doctor Who, then Power Rangers), so we've got the bacteria on the list for tomorrow.

Other things we are growing at the moment are triops – our third attempt, and no sign so far of it being any more successful than the first two. More successfully, we found some butterfly eggs on Leo's t-shirt the other day and they all hatched out yesterday into tiny caterpillars. We think they are large white caterpillars, but unfortunately there is nothing resembling cabbage growing in our garden, so they had to survive by eating their egg cases until I returned from this evening's shopping mission. They are now happily munching cabbage leaves.

Yesterday we had a lovely visit from some friends we hadn't seen for about four years. They live in Newcastle, in a family with two mummies, two daddies and two delightful little girls. We only managed to catch up with one of the mums and one of the dads – they're all very busy – but it was great to see them and their kids. We went to the park, had ice creams, climbed a tree, then went back to our house for tea. Leo did very well to cope with unfamiliar children in his house, and we were all instructed to arrange another meeting soon.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

05.05.05

We celebrated today's pleasing date with a picnic at Stanmer Park, and a walk through the wonderfull bluebell woods there.


We were looking after our niece today, as her school had been turned into a polling station. Allie came too and joined us for lunch, then went to work from there.

The park turned out to be full of horses, for some carriage driving trials event. This was quite interesting, but cut down on the running around space somewhat. But there was still plenty of scope for balancing on logs,


climbing trees,


and frolicking among the bluebells.


We also found rabbit fur,


earwigs, interesting fungus


and yummy ice lollies at the café.

After we got home, Pearl and Leo dressed up in identical and bizarre costumes involving scarves draped around the upper body, trousers held up with braces and tights worn completely over the face, topped off by sunhats. Thus clad, they settled down to their traditional evening telly-fest – Scooby Doo, Inspector Gadget, Power Rangers Dino Thunder, and (in Pearlie's case) Danger Mouse, Wacky Races and half of Hong Kong Phooey.

Leo looked at the street map with us, pointed out where Moley had taken his recent holiday (Bishopstone, near Newhaven, apparently), then typed a load of numbers on the computer and sent an email to the children's email list of our HE group. His current bedtime book is The Dark Knight archives Vol. 1, and P. has just started re-reading Lemony Snicket book 7.

They are finally in bed and we are preparing for a long night of election speculation.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

All the fun of the fair - and a bit of tidying...

We've been having a couple of quiet days to recover from all the frantic birthday activity that has been going on around here.

Tuesday Dani worked all day and the kids and I had a day at home. We spent a couple of hours in the morning tidying their bedrooms. Leo keeps his room tidy but he has lost a particular toy so he welcomed the chance to empty out boxes and drawers and have a good hunt. Pearl's room was a total tip and she needed quite a lot of help to get it organised.

The whole exercise was great fun actually. The kids kept finding toys they had forgotten they had! We stopped to look at some Ladybird flash cards and Leo read them all without trouble - 100 words. Pearlie told him what a good reader he was. Leo didn't find the particular toy he was seeking but he did find his long lost (and greatly missed) bronze scarab and Horus figurine. We have all been very interested in Ancient Egypt from time to time. Pearl found a missing Sylvanian slipper - a thing of about 1cm in length! I waved a duster about a bit and we all chatted.

In the afternoon we did crafty things. Pearl decorated two candles she was given for her birthday. Leo and I did some drawing with our ink pens (the sort you dip in a bottle of ink) and when we got sick of them smudging we used normal pens! Then we all watched Discovery Kids for a while – quite a good channel I reckon.

When Dani got home it was time to visit the fair that rolled in to town last week. It is a travelling fun fair and seems to be mostly the same motley collection of rides and stalls I used to enjoy when I was Pearl's age. We spent a hideous amount of money very fast but the kids loved it. They went on one of those bumpy slides where you ride with your feet in a mat. I wished we had taken the camera as they walked hand in hand up the long flight of steps and Pearl helped Leo into his sack. The look of terror on Leo's face was quite alarming and I was astonished when he immediately leapt up and they both rushed off to have their second go. Pearl let out a very satisfying scream when we were all on the ghost train together. We went home with happy kids with new shoddy teddy bears and sticky candy floss faces.

During the evening Leo asked to play the Tower Block game on Joe the Dragon. This is a fairly challenging game (even on the easy levels) but he really concentrated and enjoyed it. Pearl was instantly desperate to play a computer game (afraid we have only one pc) and I suddenly remembered that my phone has some games. Pearl fell in love with the 'Move the Box' game and was brilliant at it. She has one of those little plastic toys with numbers up to fifteen on it and she does that over and over again and I guess this involves similar skills. When Leo had had enough of the computer he wrote out some sums and hieroglyphs and marked them out in 'levels' like a computer game.

Wednesday was gloomy and I had a brainwave that the kids might want to make some new lap books. Needless to say they didn’t at all. Pearl wanted to go on playing 'Move the Box' on my phone (stopping for a brief play with our Tantrix puzzle) and Leo wanted to hunt for information on the Power Rangers on the internet. When he got sick of that he played games on the Dav Pilkey site.

In the afternoon I went to work and Dani took the kids to Capoeira. Pearl enjoyed herself but Leo was feeling a bit tired and only did half the class.

This evening Dani and I have been late night leafleting (in shifts) for the Green party. We are in Brighton Pavilion constituency and we are hoping that maybe we will elect the country's first Green MP. Seems so strange after all those 1980s/90s elections when we sat up praying for a Labour victory. Ho hum.

So, I leave you with a lovely picture Leo drew today. It is all about the creation of the White Power Ranger.

Leo's picture Posted by Hello

Monday, May 02, 2005

Perfect picnic

We had the most perfect weather for our picnic. We spent all day buying cakes, making popcorn, chopping carrots, filling up picnic baskets, and packing everything from balloons to umbrellas into rucksacks.

Pearl and Leo dressed in matching oufits.

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The grownups sat around and chatted.

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The kids made a fantastic sand creation.

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And a great time was had by all.

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Pearl got another good crop of presents, and we are all exhausted!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

May Day frolics

We're in the middle of an action packed weekend here, and praying for a sunny day tomorrow, as it's Pearl's birthday party part 2 – a picnic for friends in the local park.

Friday started with the usual library trip for Allie and the kids – they picked up some more Ricky Ricotta books, Tintin (Prisoners of the Sun) and the Horrible Histories Cruel Crime and Painful Punishments. Then they zoomed into town to buy birthday presents for some friends and made it home for lunch. In the afternoon they read books and made birthday cards.

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Pearlie and I went to trampolining on Saturday morning. Allie and Leo met us there, we did a Leo swap and A. went off to work. Leo and I then dropped P. off at a friend's birthday party and went exploring in a park we had never been to before. It was great - we walked through some woods,

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saw butterflies, found a half built adventure playground, came across some musicians practising, discovered a rusty old abandoned car

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and definite evidence of cute animals.

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We met some friends who were also waiting for the party to finish and had a nice chat and a play with them over ice lollies and a cup of tea.

P. had a lovely time at the party, and we all vegged out for the afternoon at home. Leo and I played with some beautiful 'jewels' he has recently discovered.

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In the evening, (after Doctor Who, of course) the kids and I went to the corner of the road to see the local Morris Men dancing. Leo went home very quickly, but P. and I stayed for ages, and even joined in one of the dances. We chatted with neighbours and had a great time.

At bedtime, Leo settled down reading Paddington to himself in bed. He was very proud to have got through two whole pages – quite a lot of words in a fairly dense book with few pictures.

Allie had to work again today, but the kids and I got a lift with friends to Rainbow Families, our local social group for families with lesbian, gay or bisexual parents. P. and L. had a pretty good time, sliding down a slope in a toy boat and climbing a tree. But Leo was also pretty fragile – he doesn't have a good friend at that group, and is reacting in quite an extreme way to little things that go wrong at the moment.

When we got home, I accidentally pulled Pearl's micro scooter off a high shelf onto the top of her head and made it bleed. I panicked at the sight of blood pulsing from her head and called 999. She screamed like a steam engine and declared that she was going to die. Leo stormed off to his room because I asked him to put his shoes on in case we had to go to hospital. Two very nice paramedics came and explained that it was a very small cut on her scalp which needed no treatment, so we didn't go to hospital and she was fine. I felt a bit foolish, but I would have spent the afternoon convincing myself she had a fractured skull if I hadn't got it checked out.

Instead we just had another quiet afternoon, with lots of telly, a walk to the sweet shop and a game of rummy.

This evening, we managed to escape Power Rangers for once, by sending the children to our room to watch it, while we watched House of Tiny Tearaways. This was not much of an improvement, and we only watched it to see if it was as terrible as we thought it would be. It was – did those children know they were being watched by secret cameras at all times? Does Dr. Tanya Byron really believe it is ethical or helpful to parade people on television as examples of problem parenting?

Allie's lovely sponge cake came into two bits when she took it out of the tin, so we ate it tonight and decided to buy cakes for the picnic instead.