Sunday, December 31, 2006

What does a stick insect do on New Year’s Day?

...Turns over a new leaf!

Festivities have continued here, for days and days, as they are wont to do at this time of year.

On Boxing Day, it was just the four of us. We had thought of a country walk, but the weather didn’t cooperate, so we had a lazy day at home. Quite harmonious, I think, though I can’t now remember much about it.

Allie’s dad and his wife came for lunch on Wednesday, after doing a grand tour of all the local family. We exchanged presents and played cards, and all was jolly.

While Allie and the kids popped round to play with their cousin B. on Thursday morning, I popped out for food and a new printer (still in its box, as the Christmas tree is taking up the computer table’s space). After lunch, we went to the pictures, to see A Night at the Museum. The film was good fun, but the twelve year old girls talking continually in the row behind us were quite irritating.

We had a big day out in London on Friday, where we met my parents, my sister and her family at the Science Museum. This went very well. We met in the basement where we swapped presents and the kids had several goes on the thing where you have to evade a laser alarm system, before venturing briefly into the chaotic Launch Pad. We all listened to an entertaining little talk by “Amy Johnson” about her solo flight to Australia, then went to see Deep Sea 3D at the Imax. Some people went on the simulator machines in the Flight gallery, then we wandered about in the materials bit for a while until it was time to go to Pizza Express for a lovely tea. After that, we hopped on a bus and rode into the centre of London to see the lights before going our separate ways. It was about 11pm when we got home and we were all exhausted.

Saturday was another family gathering – a birthday celebration for Allie’s brother. More rampaging about with cousins, and a round of the fiendish Yes/No game.

Nobody knew what to do with themselves today, as we didn’t have anything planned. The kids entertained themselves by bickering, and Allie and I retreated into our books and knitting. She has been absorbed for the last couple of days in ‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’, which is fascinating and thought-provoking. There were some games played too – Club Penguin, Monopoly, Uno - and peace was brought to the evening by a triple bill of Fawlty Towers on DVD.

Happy New Year to everyone!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Clocks, Rocking, and the Doc

We’ve had a lovely day today. Both kids were thrilled with their presents, which included Heelys, a cuddly tapir, and a Sylvanian Father Christmas and tree set for Pearlie, a remote controlled Dalek Sek, a werewolf action figure, and a set of artists’ pens and pencils for Leo. We ate loads of roast potatoes and other lovely things at lunchtime, then we went round to the cousins’ house where the kids played and compared presents, and the grownups ate cheese and watched Monsters Inc. The day was completed with a nice helping of Doctor Who (loved the spiders being washed down the giant plughole) and trifle.

Yesterday was equally festive – we had our traditional family gathering at Allie’s mum’s house, where we all picked up a jolly good crop of presents, including some beautiful little dragons, a ferocious dragon t-shirt, and a box set of Horrible Geography for Leo, a silver locket, a set of endless landscape cards, and the 2007 book of Guinness World Records for Pearlie.

Saturday had the big Christmas food shop in it, but otherwise was not nearly as interesting as…

Squeezebox Rocks on Friday night. Pearlie was a total star, and her band were great. She enjoyed the whole experience, and stayed to watch all her home ed friends in other bands. Leo and his cousin B. also really got into it. We were so pleased that Pearlie really enjoyed the gig – she said it was scary but it felt good to have done it. My parents were able to come, which was great.

Thursday was the 21st, so we went to the wonderful ‘Burning the Clocks’. This is an annual event in Brighton, now in its twelfth year. People make lanterns of withy and tissue paper and parade through town with them. There are always some fantastic big pieces too – a dragon, an octopus and a collection of penguins this year. It is a solstice celebration and ends with a massive fire to burn the lanterns, a firework display and music – all on the beach. This year there was a giant burning star shaped structure that looked more and more like the sun as it burned. The fireworks were huge – bursting in the sky right above our heads. The kids really enjoy the event but it is quite tiring as it starts with a two hour wait in a hall, where everyone has to get their lanterns safety checked. It was a really chilly night this year but we all enjoyed it and got some chips from a seafront chippy to eat on the way home.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Counting down

We have been…

Playing out, and in: Leo had another Dr. Who themed playdate with an MMs friend last Tuesday, while Pearlie spent happy hours at home arranging her Sylvanians into a busy townscape.

They’ve both been keeping up with their Club Penguin habit too.

Tidying up: Somehow we’ve made enough space for a lovely, plump Christmas tree in the corner of our kitchen.

Going out: The kids and I (and lots of other HE friends) had a great time at The Bigger Bang show, where we enjoyed onstage high jinks with flaming methane, frozen flowers, and exploding balloons. We also had a fun family outing to see Eragon (slated by the critics, but Leo loved it).

Partying: Pearlie feasted at Kids Club on Thursday, Allie went to her work’s Christmas bash and colleague’s leaving do on Friday, and Pearlie and I popped in at the big home ed party yesterday. All were lovely.

Taking to the stage: P. put in an unplanned appearance as part of her Woodcraft Folk group’s end of term sketch show. This was a rather surreal and hysterical experience, with plenty of fake fighting and messy props. Preparation for the gig continues apace.

Decking the halls: Well, we haven’t decked much apart from the tree, but we’ve put lights in the window, and P. created a snowy window scene today, with cuddly reindeer and snowmen.

Scooting: Leo is bringing his scooter with him to local shops and park at every opportunity, and his technique improves with every outing.

Cooking: Leo invented and made (with my help) a delicious pasta sauce, then wrote the recipe down, entitling it “Leo’s famous veggie slurp”. Plus we’ve made lots of cheesy biscuits, mince pies and bread rolls for aforementioned feasts.

Making: An exhausting number of Christmas cards, only just in time for tomorrow’s last posting date. Plus some lovely watercolour paintings by the kids, and some secret Christmassy crafts.

Dismantling: Leo’s broken alarm clock was taken thoroughly to pieces today, and upgraded to a ‘cyber-clock’ by the removal of its ‘emotional inhibitor’.

Staying up too late: Now the cards are done, we’re starting on the wrapping. Meanwhile, both kids are already having trouble getting to sleep…

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Whiz through the week

Pearlie has been doing a good job here keeping the blog alive while we have been failing to post anything. Here is an update:

Monday 4th
Pearlie went to Kids’ Club and the grandmothers’ house, as usual. Leo and I went to MMs where people had a go at threading popcorn onto string to make decorations – it looked very fiddly. Other people made snowflakes and I made a rather rough paper chain. Most of this was sprayed silver and looked fab!

Tuesday 5th
Was Dani’s birthday so she had a day off. Pearlie had made her some stitch markers – an entirely independent project. Leo had drawn her a picture of a sunset on a desert island – quite a change from his usual subject matter. We went to visit my dad and his wife, who entertained us wonderfully with delicious lunch and home made cake for Dani. The kids had a lovely time and particularly enjoyed playing with the kitten who lives there.

Wednesday 6th
The kids and I had a productive morning making birthday presents for my mum. The kids went to capoeira in the afternoon – the last one before Christmas.

Thursday 7th
I went and did a couple of hours cleaning in the morning and then on to my real job in the afternoon. Kids’ Club was cancelled as the play worker was ill, so Pearlie and Dani had a bit of time together shopping while Leo was at the grandmothers’. Pearlie did drum practice – she’s getting really excited about the gig. Then Dani and the kids went up to the junior school to the rather terrifying Christmas Fete, which involves hundreds of people pushing and screaming around in a packed school hall. Cousin S was running a stall, which was useful as a place to dump bags. My mum was not very impressed at being made to stand in a long queue in the piss pouring rain while everyone filed slowly past an entrance table to ensure that no-one entered without being relieved of 50p. But the kids made some purchases and seemed to have fun.

Friday 8th
Leo had an invite to play with his friend J. After getting all the way to the bottom of the hill I realised I’d forgotten the slip of paper on which I had written J’s address. Once we finally got there (in the heavy rain –again!) I thought they were out as I had written down the wrong flat number. We finally got sorted out, dropped off Leo and then Pearlie and I went off to return some library books. Once we’d done that we had to make a brief tour of shoe shops in search of something that was comfortable for P to wear while she plays the drums. In the end we found her a pair of baseball boots which she says are just the thing. They also happen to be Converse ones, which is very ‘cool’ apparently.
P had a Squeezebox session in the afternoon and L and I waited there for her. This meant we got to hear them play and it sounded good.

Saturday 9th
A sunny day so a trip to the park with scooters. Leo very enthusiastic and making great strides. I reckon the balance involved will help with bike riding later – it certainly seemed to for P. He was very stoical and determined as P whizzed past him. She really enjoyed the chance to bomb about a bit and especially to whiz down the hills in the park.
In the evening we went to see cousin S in a carol concert. Her choir were very impressive. P and L thoroughly enjoyed the event. L had never really been to anything similar before but he took to the singing from a hymn sheet like a star! Pearlie declared that she would like to join the choir but this needs serious thought as we are somewhat over committed with group things already. Cousin S’s brother D slept through the whole concert and was not happy when woken for ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’. My brother had to carry him home on the bus and we left them searching for a taxi to get their heavy, sleeping five year old up the steep hill.

Sunday 10th

The kids did more scooting in the street in the morning. Leo fell off and grazed his side but got straight back on.
In the afternoon (while I was at work) Dani took the kids across town (walking all the way) to a ghost tour at a local manor in a park. This was a treat for all the cousins, arranged by my mum, and it was very popular with everyone. Leo has been recounting tales to anyone who will listen. Pearlie got a round of applause (?!) for knowing who Anne of Cleves was. The tour guide ( in historical dress and meant to be a maid from the mid 19th century) made the point that this showed the value of schooling…

Monday 11th
P had a very quiet session at Kids’ Club today where she made a Christmas card for a prisoner – as part of the crime and punishment theme they’ve been doing. The young playworker who runs the Monday sessions is an Anarchist who writes to ‘political’ prisoners and she asked if I minded if P made a card for one. P read some information about them and chose to make a card for someone. I can’t say I’d have backed all those people politically but it doesn’t hurt to make a card for anyone who’s locked up at Christmas.

The Children guard my morals and health
The kids are getting very clued up on all sorts of issues at the moment. One of my secret ( no more) vices is Coca Cola. I drink maybe a dozen cans in a year, but I do like it and the kids know I have it at Christmas and so on. The other day Pearlie told me I shouldn’t drink it as Coca Cola ‘take water from people in India, turn it into coke and sell it back to them.’ Well, I’d read about that and had been trying not to think about it – looks like I’ve been challenged to do the right thing there. So, I was telling Dani that I’d have to give up coke but that I could still have some other fizzy drink at Christmas. Leo chipped in then to tell me that I really shouldn’t drink those fizzy drinks because he’s watched a science clips programme and it showed that ‘they make holes in the coating on your teeth’.

Magical Mondays Christmas bash
We had a fun time at MMs Christmas get together today. I took along a parachute and we played a bit. This was fun, if a bit more anarchic than I hoped. Parachute games are something that work best when the people involved really get the idea that if you work together it is more fun for everyone. I guess we could do it again and maybe build up to some of the more complicated stuff.

Much food was consumed and presents were unwrapped. Thanks to everyone reading who came along and contributed – all the input was really appreciated. A from Where the Days Go brought ice lanterns that were wonderful and have inspired me to make some with the kids next week.

After MMS Dani took Leo home and I went off to get a haircut. After a couple of years of farting about with my hair I went back to the barbers where I’ve been going since I was seventeen and got a short back and sides again. When the guy had finished cutting my hair he said, ‘there, back to your usual self’, and I was! I felt so relived and have decided that I shall just have to face middle age as a sad old dyke with an 80s haircut as nothing else makes me feel at ease.

As well as blogging on this blog and her own, P has been writing a book. Leo is also writing one. I have been allowed to read Leo’s but not much of Pearlie’s. Leo’s is apparently ‘American’ so includes liberal use of the word ‘guy’. It also has quite horribly violent parents in it who cane and ground their children. It is very well written but a bit upsetting to see him express how much he knows of the violence some children live with. Pearlie is including a glossary in hers – she’s been using a dictionary for brief definitions to include.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

the mouse

the mouse i saw was a yellow necked mouse


Yesterday I saw a mouse! Just poking its head out in different places in the wall made of stones.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Penguin spies and mince pies

Oops – another blogless week. Here’s a quick round-up:

Leo has been playing the keyboard quite a bit. He wanted to take it with him to Woodcraft Folk on Monday, but was persuaded it wouldn’t really go well with the planned activity, which was making lanterns for this year’s Burning the Clocks parade. This he accomplished very efficiently and with no need of adult help. He came home with a lovely lantern and another new badge.

He’s been drawing loads, as always, and is exploring new techniques and styles, and taking a renewed interest in art programmes like Smart. He was very pleased with the Jackanory version of Muddle Earth (Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell being an author/illustrator combination he is passionately, almost proprietorially, enthusiastic about).

There’s been a bit of a Doctor Who revival as well – he’s watched the whole Christopher Eccleston series on DVD this week. This was perhaps prompted by an excellent story from the Tom Baker era which we all enjoyed watching on BBC4.

He is becoming a confident capoeirista, and chose to go to his class on Wednesday even though cousins S and D (and P, as it turned out) decided to give it a miss. They both took the chance to do a bit of capoeira at the home ed group on Friday as well.

Pearlie is working hard on her drumming – her band has a slot in the Christmas gig and she is practising every day. She’s been putting in a lot of time on Club Penguin – today was the day she became a secret agent, and she completed her first mission.

As well as skipping capoeira this week, her Woodcraft Folk group was cancelled, so she was two groups down on her usual weekly total of six. Yoga was the last session of term, and Leo and I went to watch the second half. All the kids were impressively serene and competent, and the teacher was very pleased. P. and her cousin S. are both enjoying it and looking forward to it starting again next term.

In a rare moment at home and not on the computer, she did a bit of maths in a workbook aimed at 11-14 year olds. She seized the EO newsletter when it came in the post and immediately filled in the children’s questionnaire. Allie and I are being a bit slower to complete the adults’ one.

She’s watched a couple of interesting programmes with us this week: How Music Works, looking at harmony in western music, and a DVD borrowed from Allie’s work - Pramface, a Cutting Edge film about young single mothers.

Both kids had a lovely time at their cousin B’s birthday party on Friday. They also enjoyed a ‘just because it’s on’ trip to the cinema yesterday to see Happy Feet. Leo came out asking if we could look for tap dancing classes.

Allie completed our Christmas shopping by spending all day in town on Friday, some of it with her mum. They both enjoyed this and intend to make it a tradition. She is now busy making lovely Christmas cards.

I have been doing some cool (but secret) knitting. I had a day off work on Friday (to enable Allie’s shopping day) and went to the big home ed group with the kids, where I did a bit of origami and chatting. Today, I made the first mince pies of the season.

The house creeps closer to some kind of order. We spent a couple of exhausting hours rearranging furniture last night, to make more space and seating in our new living room, and came up with a solution to our annual problem of where to put the Christmas tree.