Friday, April 27, 2007

Stuff and more stuff

Not sure of a catch-up is really feasible so this is likely to be random remembrances.

Pearlie has been writing thank-you notes (I found notelets for the purpose – a use I remembered from my childhood) using her cartridge pen.

On Monday Pearlie had a friend round to play after Kids’ Club. They played very happily for more than three hours, while I popped pills and sat with a hot pack on my head for a horrible migraine. They were playing with Pearlie’s huge collection of Sylvanians. When Leo got in from the grandmothers’ (where he’d beaten them at scrabble!) he was reminded of his Sylvanians and asked me to carry his house down. He’s spent the whole week playing long, elaborate imaginary games with all his little frogs and cats and so on.

Pearlie’s real birthday was a lovely sunny day and we spent a lot of time in the park – and a lot of money in the park café! Pearlie is keeping a spreadsheet of our summer expenditure in the café. I am terrified about what it will reveal. Both kids also went to Squeezebox – the gig approaches!

Kids went to the dentist on Wednesday. P had managed to get a second tooth that had come through with the milk tooth sitting on top of it like a little hat – but still quite firmly in the gum on one side. The dentist gave her an injection and yanked it out. P was very brave – she really hates people ‘doing things to her’ and no-one enjoys an injection in their gum. Leo had some sealant painted on a new molar.

The kids missed their sports session because of the dentist but P was keen to go across town afterwards to the post-sports gathering (in a park) where one of the kids was having a birthday do. L was not keen to go as he has been finding the pace of our social life a bit much at the moment. Somehow the resolution of this problem fell to me, on Wednesday morning, even though I would be at work in the afternoon and not involved at all! We spent a good hour discussing it, including some heated contributions to the debate, and eventually I remembered to call for family reinforcements! So, Leo was looked after by an aunt while D took Pearlie across town to the party gathering.

Both Pearlie and Leo had a brilliant time at Kids’ Club on Thursday – finishing off making bird boxes and then making boomerangs. They took their boomerangs to the next door school playing field to throw them. This evening Pearlie, Dani and I talked about flight – wings, air pressure and all that. I was sitting at the laptop – coming up with useful diagrams and snippets of text – all at the click of a mouse. Gawd bless the internet for the home educating mother!

The kids and I had a lovely time at home today. Pearlie has been wanting to ‘do something’ on the ancient Greeks, together. Leo decided, in the end, that he didn’t want to be involved and stuck with his Sylvanian play alongside us. He wants to ‘do something’ on the Egyptians – again!

I read aloud a short book with some ‘key facts’ in and this sparked lots of discussion. When we got to a bit about the Persian wars we sidestepped into Iraq (via Iran and a little friend we knew called Darius) – and the current situation. Back with the Greeks I skipped through the book and typed a simple chronology out. We talked a lot about how different civilisations rise and fall – and about how there are rarely clear dates for such processes. The internet was useful again – found a good timeline showing how the different ancient civilisations overlapped. Discussion also covered patriarchy and racism and language. Pearlie did a Greek gods word search and quiz. We also paid up for Enchanted Learning membership again so we could print out one of their little books about Greece.

Leo, meanwhile, had quietly got out a library book about rats and was busy drawing designs for machines that could catch rats in your home. He is very fond of rats at the moment. He asked me to print out some info from the internet on black rats – so I did.

Dani and Pearlie went to Critical Mass this evening. They rode five times round the big roundabout on the seafront! Pearlie was very keen to go on this (just in case anyone feels like accusing us of indoctrination again) and seemed to have a ball. She has no sympathy with car drivers - she's far more radical than us.

Leo and I went to the pool for the family swim session. L has got a lot more confident when out of his depth than I have seen before, and was jumping in to the deep end. We had a lot of splashy fun.

Must also mention that I finished reading ‘Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry’ to Pearlie tonight. I remembered it as an excellent, gripping read and it was. We’re in search of the sequel now. Leo and Dani are ploughing on with ‘Eldest’.

Pearlie is reading herself a Lady Grace mystery she got for her birthday – and Leo is having a dipping phase with fact and fiction. This evening he asked me to read him some of his own writing – his Moley stories.

Must get to sleep now. Dani and Leo are off on a Woodcraft weekend at a youth hostel early tomorrow – kayaking and den building are planned. I’ve wangled a weekend off work and Pearlie wants to go rollerblading on her new skates.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ten! Where did that go then?

Once upon a time a baby girl was born... Her mums called her Pearl - and they thought she was the most amazing baby ever born. This is what she looked like when she was seven months old.

Around her first birthday she loved a cuddly puffin called Emily. She ran everywhere by now...

By the time she was two she had broken an arm, had chicken pox and was talking lots. Quote from this holiday:
"Havin' an argamut (argument!) mummies?"
We were - over a bus timetable!

Just before she was three a brother appeared. This didn't slow her down during the following year - but it did her mums.

When she was four. Leo was good for rolling about on the floor with, but he did eat a lot of the cucumber...

This seems to show two sweet little creatures! Pearl is five and Leo two. We had a lot of trouble finding a photo where she was covered. Naked was her choice of clothes for a year or two!

Very springy - six years old.

Seven and a growth spurt! She made that waistcoat herself

The summer she was eight - lots of cartwheels.

Nine years old - our beautiful girl.

Ten today! Ten whole years since she was born. I can't believe it has gone so fast. Happy birthday to our Pearlie.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Awful TV

We didn't watch the 'Wifeswap' episode featuring an HE family - but I've seen lots of discussion about it on blogs and lists. I should really watch it before launching into this tirade but I'm not sure if I can bear to. Nothing on earth would make me take part in such a programme - they are just trashy rubbish. The whole premise of the show is to set up conflict and film it - and to show people at their worst for the entertainment of the viewers. I hope that this show serves as a warning to other HE families who are approached by the tv companies.

Back when P and L were little there was a lot of interest in gay people becoming parents. We were the contacts for the gay parents' group in this town and so we fielded many calls from tv companies looking for people to participate in programmes. We never agreed to take part in anything for TV. Our kids were too young to give their consent and we were very aware that the final product, whatever it might be, would be 'out there', beyond our control and able to be repeated at any time in the future.

We were somewhat torn, as we both believed that only by seeing that gay parents were just people, who loved and cared for their children in much the same way as other parents, would those who 'disapproved' be convinced. The same is true of home ed - it is only through increased awareness that people's fears and suspicions can be allayed. But the thing to remember is that as a participant in a TV programme it is not your intentions, or your agenda, that count. The programme will be what the makers want it to be. In the case of something as trashy as 'Wifeswap' this will be a conflict fest, that panders to stereotypes.

Just recently I have been feeling that it is time for a backlash against 'reality TV'. I am starting to feel vaguely sickened by it. I've never been a huge fan - never watched 'Big Brother' or 'The Apprentice' - but I have seen some other 'reality ' shows. But recently I've started to feel that this kind of TV just appeals to the least sophisticated part of our appetites for entertainment - like porn or sweets appeal to different appetites. And the price of this 'entertainment' is damage to the lives of the participants. Also, the sheer volume of this kind of TV must mean that we are being deprived of the work of good drama or comedy writers - and deprived of decent documentaries. Who knows what might be shown if it wasn't 'Celebrity dog diet up a mountain challenge.'

We've been watching some of the recent programmes about the Edwardians, on BBC Four. When I got home one evening last week I found D and the kids engrossed in a programme where extremely old people shared their memories of experiences they had as children in the Edwardian era. It was wonderful TV. It was also very moving, watching people of over 100 years old well up with tears at their memories of the harsh treatment that children endured in those days. I was particularly gripped by the experiences of two sisters, twins, who had been placed in an orphanage by their widowed mother. My grandmother was placed in a Doctor Barnardo's home by her father, when her mother died, in the Edwardian era. Tales of her childhood were part of mine - via my mum. She could remember queueing on a staircase to be issued with her weekly pair of clean drawers, being fostered by a woman who spent all the money on drink so she had to raid local allotments for food, being put 'into service' as a teenager to 'knock her corner's off'. The programme was not easy viewing but it felt like it was worth our time and attention - unlike so much of the dross that is aired these days.

I'm not a puritan when it comes to entertainment - I've been known to watch some total crap, read rubbish and listen to highly questionable music (think Lionel Ritchie...) - but I think it would be no bad thing if I never saw another 'reality' tv programme. Off-hand I can't think of anything I've ever learned from one - except not to trust 'reality' tv makers.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


We had a super pool and picnic party today - in honour of Pearl's tenth birthday. She isn't actually ten until next Tuesday but we had a day off today and lots of family could make it too.

The first part of the party was a fun session at the local swimming pool. You can get an exclusive booking for £35, which is pretty good value when compared to other party activities. There were fourteen kids in the pool - and assorted adults.

Luckily it was another beautiful sunny day so everyone went on down to the park for a picnic tea. A couple more kids joined us there.

I had been helped by my mum and partner to set up a big picnic for hungry post-swimming kids - and peckish adults. We had Sainsbury pakoras and bhajis (lazy), sandwiches, crisps, tomatoes, jaffa cakes, choccy mini-rolls, strawberries, grapes - and my mum's famous party cakes. These are fabby little fairy cakes, made in tiny cases, and iced and decorated with a selection of sweets. Pearlie chose to have vanilla cheesecake for her birthday cake.

Pretty much all the kids decided to play a football game. This was ably refereed by one of my brothers, and was very good humoured. The players ranged in age from 5 to 12 - both boys and girls. It was a draw and so had to be decided with golden goals. I was relieved that my brother took on the ref role as I can remember virtually none of the rules of football.

There was a minor worry when someone disappeared briefly - but he was found sitting happily up a tree, thank goodness.

Five of Pearl's six grandparents came along - and all her five cousins - which pleased her greatly. She got lovely, thoughtful presents and managed the whole occasion very calmly - even being given the bumps! Leo told me at bedtime that he'd enjoyed it as much as his own birthday party. So, all round a great day, thanks to the weather gods!

Can't put up any photos as they all include other people - so you'll just have to imagine it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Off my feet

hence, morning blogging.

I have a hundred things to do. I also feel like spending a day under a duvet watching the ‘True Movies’ channel, with IV tea and a huge bar of choc. I can’t give in to that desire but it seems I can avoid all the stuff I should be doing by blogging. Ho hum!

Yesterday was not a good one. I am feeling all round over-stretched. Got commitments everywhere and not meeting any of them properly. The busier I get the more mistakes I make – and that makes more work – and so on… It could just be a case of getting back in gear after our trip to Edinburgh. Got P’s birthday party at the weekend and after that I think I should be able to make a bit more time.

P had a good day. She went to Kids’ Club – where she is making a comic about characters called Stringy and Banana. Then she went on to the grandmothers’, where she is enjoying working through some French Magazines called C’est Facile. I don’t thank my mum enough for the work she does with P – note to self! She also played cards with both of them – something she loves to do.

Leo and I went to MMs, where I got stressed. Leo then managed to get Dani to take him into town afterwards to get the newly released DVD of Eragon. He is watching it for the third time this morning.

I went off to work to find a madly busy day in progress. It was a ‘well over 2000 bodies through the entrance’ day and stayed mad until we finished at 8pm. I came home and flopped.

I didn’t wake until 9.30am this morning. Got to get myself in gear. Leo is upstairs practising keyboard which involves ‘Patience’ by ‘Take That’ blaring round the house. I think it really makes you old when a band having a come back were after your time the first time around. IYSWIM!

Ok, this blogging in the morning doesn’t work. Been interrupted to assist with runny hayfever nose, phone doctor’s surgery to discuss repeat prescription for anti-histamine, look for missing watercolour paints (unsuccessful), help with a Tardis shaker maker kit and give my opinion on the spelling of the word especially. Still not even dressed and lunchtime approaches.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hot, hot, hot

Been having a scorching weekend here, with mostly sunny but a few hot’n’bothered moods.

On Friday, I had to work. Pearlie finished her cycling course and got a certificate. She was pleased with the course, and had received a real confidence boost. She’s now keen to take part in our local monthly critical mass bike rides – should be fun!

Allie and Leo had meanwhile met up with the rest of the local family at Allie’s mum’s house for a belated Easter gathering. When P’s course was finished and Allie had picked her up, they had an Easter Egg hunt in the garden, and some lovely tea. I got there in time to snaffle a lemon curd tart before it was time to go home.

Saturday was a working day for Allie, and the weather was glorious again. After some (ahem) heated debate, we finally settled on Allie’s brilliant plan of going to the garden centre for play sand, then pottering in the garden, to satisfy my need to be outside and the kids’ preference for staying close to home. This we eventually achieved, discovering a children’s treasure hunt and free sunflower seeds at the garden centre before staggering home with two bags of play sand in the old buggy.

Cousins S&D came round for a quick play in the sandpit, Allie brought shopping in and made roast dinner, and we all watched Doctor Who, which was excellent, I thought – a real return to form.

Today was even hotter. Allie had to work again :-(. After a lazy morning, the kids and I suddenly decided to catch the bus up to Devils Dyke. We worked together to pack a bag and make a picnic and were on the bus within an hour.

Devil’s Dyke was beautiful, as always.

There were lots of paragliders, but not much wind, so they were mostly on the ground. Our kites flew, briefly, and we went for a nice little walk.

Having sand in the garden means the kids are happily absorbed in elaborate constructions, and that the house is slowly filling with sand. Ho hum.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Schools and violence

I have been thinking a lot about how people experience school. I don’t tend to dwell on schools, because we don’t use them at the moment and that’s that. But reading a blog that Gill has linked to has stirred up some memories for me. The blog in question considers the violence that is going on in schools, and the fact that threats, assault, and so on, are directed at pupils and teachers.

I had a vile time at secondary school – a big comprehensive. In my day it was streamed and I was in the top stream – the X band. At the end of my second year in the school my sister was killed in a road accident. During my last two years at the school I realised that I was a lesbian. So, I guess you could say that I had particular issues to deal with. But, let’s just say that the school didn’t help! I had one great teacher, who became a friend in a way that most teachers wouldn’t dare to today – respected me and listened to me. But every day I went in to school I was struggling with the place – and my feelings about the place.

When I was at university (about four years after I’d left school) I wrote down some of my school memories. I think I realised that I was at a moment when I might start to forget them. Anyway, I dug out the bit of paper and found that violence was very much a theme. It is worth remembering that I was at secondary school more than twenty years ago now – between 1983 and 1987 – so maybe all this violence is no new thing.

Here’s a selection of the things I wrote back in 1990 when the memories weren’t so dusty.

School memories

Every pair of shoes, because of staring at my feet.
Morning registration – calculating the minutes left that day.
Anger, fury, rage – utter indignation.
The noise, never happy.
Shouting, always shouting.
The filthy floors and litter covered fields.
Spitting, hitting, being so tense I’d ache.
Fear of belonging, or becoming part of it.
Wanting to escape. Dreaming of, longing for, a quiet sunny place to cry in.
Feeling invisible, feeling inhuman, feeling abandoned.
So much ugliness.
Stupid, futile punishment for simple human error.
So much tyranny and behaviour they couldn’t justify.
Naked aggression – assertion of power from pupils and staff.
No respect.
My contempt for all of them – pupils and teachers.
How I stopped being kind – ridiculed people and wanted to hurt them.
Constant exhaustion and inertia.
Getting stoned at lunchtime – the relief of the haziness taking the edge off the afternoon.

I don’t think that it is ok that teachers are fearful or ground down by their work place. I think everyone should be able to go to work free from the fear of assault or ridicule. But when I read the complaints of teachers on blogs, or the TES staff room, I am taken back to the way I felt at school. This violence, these feelings of powerlessness and depression, are not new. I would suggest that many children have always felt that way in school – and I’m sure that they still do. Perhaps the difference now is that the teachers are feeling it too?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Three days in a rush

Catchily uppiting here:

Dani at work all day.
I did lots of washing and unpacking and stuff.
Kids both had Squeezebox sessions.
Played in park.
Went to supermarket.

Dani at work in the morning, rest of us pottering at home – drawing, painting, writing to pen pals.
Kids went to town to buy footballs.
Long play in the park with home edders and assorted other kids. Poor P got sworn at by a rude boy in big football game.
I went to work for the afternoon and evening.

Pearlie went to day one of a two day course on riding a bicycle on the road – declared it very good.
I went to do cleaning and then to my real job.
Dani and Leo spent some time at home. Leo got a letter from a friend and wrote and posted a reply.
Later in the day they went to the park again to play football with cousins.

Might write a more interesting post now!

Monday, April 09, 2007

We loved Edinburgh!

Here's a photo-based speedy account of our four day break in Edinburgh - a wonderful city we'd never visited before.

We started with the excitement of the Caledonian Sleeper train.

Pearlie reading in her bunk.

Leo writing in his diary - using the cute little table.


We got to Edinburgh at about 7am and went to drop off our bags at the hotel. After stocking up on info leaflets at the tourist info place, Dani and Pearlie went up Calton Hill.

Leo and I went to the Edinburgh Dungeon. This had some clever special effects but was frustratingly thin on good stories.

We all flaked out early after the short night we'd had on the train.


We got up slowly and ate as much as we could at the hotel breakfast buffet!

Then we set off to the castle.

After a quick lunch we went next door to the Camera Obscura - which was fantastic. As well as the thing itself, there were holograms aplenty and lots of illusions of other kinds.

We stayed in the city for tea and then went on the Ghosts and Ghouls tour run by the magnificent Mercat Tours. This was very well done - lots of good stories. One of the main reasons we went to Edinburgh was the kids' eagerness to visit the vaults below Edinburgh. This tour satisfied their appetites for scares and spookiness - though we were left wanting to know more about the history of the vaults.


On Saturday morning we went to the National Museum of Scotand and managed to catch a science show by Dr Bunhead. He did impressive things with liquid nitrogen and a hot water bottle - among other things!

Then we rushed off to catch a bus that took us to a little boat for a cruise on the Forth. It was a truly beautiful day - and we saw a seal.

We spent the evening in the hotel room watching Doctor Who.


We decided to go back to the museum to see some of the things we rushed past on our way to the science show the day before. We could have seen a lot more but started to flag a bit from all the walking around!

In the afternoon we took another tour with Mercat Tours, a history tour of the vaults. This was a brilliant chance to get some of the info that the ghost tour didn't cover. We felt braver in the vaults and managed to get some photos.


Today was a crowded train marathon to get home again.

We thought Edinburgh was a great place - so much to do. It also had a very particular feel that was unlike anywhere I've ever been before. I read the Terry Deary Edinburgh book to the kids while we were there. Dani read a history book about underground Edinburgh and I read a Rebus - so we all felt quite immersed in the place.

We think we need to go back. The kids are keen to see much more of Scotland.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

We're off

Just setting off for our little holiday - on an exciting overnight train journey!

While we're away, I thought you might like some thought-provoking reading, pointed out to us recently by my dad.

I thought this article contained some valuable insights, though it's not cheery reading for those of us contemplating a government consultation into the need to monitor and assess our way of life.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Doctor Who and Mr Bean

I am feeling quite a bit better – and we’ve been enjoying the weekend.

We have done all the groups, as usual. The kids both enjoyed a workshop making light-switch covers at Kids’ Club. These are supposed to remind us to switch off lights we aren’t using.

Pearlie has been:

Doing loads of Kakuro.
Showing me how you could work out a percentage from a fraction. This was just a snippet of conversation and a quick sum on a bit of paper.
Collecting up lots of cuddly chicks and rabbits to sit in our front window for Easter.
Doing a bit of touch typing practice – using a free bit of software off the internet called Kiran’s Typing Tutor.
Putting in work on Club Penguin – she’s saving for an igloo upgrade!
Keeping a close eye on the news. – reading the paper and watching tv news a lot. She took the TES up to bed to read the nonsense stories on home ed.
P has also suggested that we have a ‘Greeks day' – like we have for Romans and Vikings in the past. She came up to my work and found resources for us to use.

Leo has been:

Reading lots of the books he got for his birthday, and ones he bought with birthday book tokens. There are so many of these I can’t remember them all! I know he read the ‘Horrid Henry’ collection in a flash, and gobbled up the latest ‘Captain Underpants’. He has read most of ‘Ottoline and the Yellow Cat’ and started on ‘The World According to Humphrey’. He is dipping in and out of a book of Doctor Who scripts from the time of Tom Baker – he is very impressed with this book.

Writing a great deal. He has been very pleased with a birthday pressie diary with an ‘invisible’ pen and revealing light. Of course, I have no idea what he’s been writing!

Here’s some of the things he’s written and shared with the rest of us.

First, a political piece – typed on the pc .

"Poo poo ruler:tony blair.
tony blair is a poo poo ruler . he caries on with trident and all his other ideas . even a cocroach would be a better ruler. If he wants to stay being the prime minister then he should brighten his ideas up. Also think about that demo about trident. He ignored it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Here’s a job advert for some of his toys – also typed on the pc. Sancatphrax is his rock city, currently dangling from the banisters.

"Sanctaphrax jobs for action figures 5 inch to 12 inch action figures can not go to the upper level bigger ones are welcome to the upper stage. Ask leo the pay."

Here’s a handwritten piece:

"Once upon a time an elf was walking along and tripped over a paving stone and he discovered a thick boot. A thick leg extended out from it. And a strange evil looking man stared at him."

I’m itching to know what happens next but no more has appeared.

Last night we had a roast dinner to celebrate the return of Doctor Who. It is great to have that series back.

Today we went to town to get clothes (needed) and books (rather more wanted than needed!) and replace Dani’s phone (five years old, so not bad by today’s standards). I had the irritating experience of trying on jeans marked ‘ankle length’ and they still trailed on the floor! Anyway, we all got sorted.

Then we went to see ‘Mr Bean’s Holiday’ – which we all enjoyed.

We’ve got a lot to prepare in advance of our trip to Edinburgh next weekend, so blog may get even thinner…