Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Come on Spring!

Well it's been a week or so since I last posted an entry. This has been partly because I'm not working evenings at the moment (my workplace provides the ideal peace and quiet to blog) and also because we had a family funeral last week, the run up to which has left us all feeling rather drained.

There's been little progress on the allotment as the weather has been rather cold and wet. We managed to get an hour or two there at the weekend before the rain and mud finally drove us to take shelter and go home. There are lots of jobs to be done. Firstly we need to clear the ground where the kids' third raised bed is to go. two beds are already completed, but need to be filled with soil. All 3 allotment plots need to be edged (we have some boards, but nowhere near enough to do all the perimeters). We need to measure and order some enviromesh and assemble a protective 'cloche' for the carrots (made of blue water pipe). And very importantly, there is still lots of ground yet to be cleared which hasn't been dug for years.

Blue water pipe to be used as a framework for the cloches

Today I'd planned to get to the allotment, but ended up using the time to transplant the tomato seedlings which were starting to look crowded and pale. As always I've planted far too many and we now probably have around 40 pots of individual seedlings! And I don't even like raw tomatoes! Ah well, I'm sure someone will find a use for them...

The chilli seeds haven't germinated too well so I might have to plant some more, but the sweet chocolate peppers (long brown peppers) have come up well, so we should be amply supplied with these. The carrots I started off in some guttering have been slow, probably because of the cold weather (even in the greenhouse the nights are cold), but there is some sign of growth, so we'll see.

I planted a few more garlic cloves in the raised beds at home today. I've also got more onion sets to plant, but running out of space in the raised beds. Looks like a few might have to be planted at the allotment after all. I also sowed some more onion and leek seeds in seed trays yesterday. I'm hoping these will germinate better than the last ones I planted.

The germination of leek seeds has been slow

Monday, 10 March 2008

That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind...

..into ethical shopping

Recently I've been reading the book 'Shopped:the Shocking Power of British Supermarkets' by Joanna Blythman, which is all about how the big supermarkets are taking over the world, destroying communities, encouraging eating of processed food and decline in cooking skills, and basically ripping everyone off for their own gains. It makes very interesting - but depressing - reading and has really spurred me on to find some kind of alternative to my shopping experience.

Doing the fortnightly shop in Tescos (used to be weekly, but I kept putting it off) seems to me to be the most spiritually and emotionally disatisfying way of buying food. I'm not saying that going shopping should necessarily be the highlight of the week, but the experience of traipsing round aisle after predictable aisle of unappealing, packaged, processed stuff, trying to get even vaguely inspired to buy and cook food is really enough to make the most cheerful person selfharm. I've always been a bit of a hopeless cook, but after years of being a Tesco customer I think I've become even more deskilled when it comes to choosing and cooking food.

Anyway, today was the first day of our attempt to change our buying habits. No car trip to Tesco today. Instead we got out the wooden hand trailer which the kids sometimes play with in Summer and walked to our local shopping centre. I figured the Co-op would be a good place to start for fair trade, organic and ethical products. Ok, so it's still a supermarket, but we had to start somewhere. We managed to find fairtrade organic hot chocolate and fair trade coffee (Coop's own brand coffees are all fair trade now). They had fairtrade wine (not needed today) and we picked up fairtrade bananas. There were no local products (well, not that I could see) which was disappointing, and the cheese was all the usual pre-packed dreary cheddar. Ds2 found some British Cheddar 'that's good isn't it?' he said.

A few things that I had on my list weren't there at all (I'd planned the next few days menus to try and be more organised) such as sour cream and much of what we did buy was much more expensive than our usual penny-pinching trip to Tesco. Ds1 asked in a concerned voice (obviously worried that I was planning some new home education project) 'is this going to be our homework?'.

Then we went to the greengrocer, which had much of what we wanted. A lot of the produce had obviously been flown/shipped in as much of it was out of season (peppers, courgettes and aubergines for instance), and they had some rather exotic asian vegetables displayed on a central stand - mooli, yam etc. After that there seemed few other shops that could provide what we wanted and there was no sign of any little independent food shops/suppliers.

We came back having got rather wet in the downpour on the walk home. The kids were grumpy and fed up because it had taken me so long to find what I wanted in Co-op and dd1 was grumpy because I hadnt' let her ride in the wooden trailer on the way back 'you'll squash the tomatoes and they cost me a fortune!'. I unpacked. We didn't seem to have much food. Probably about a third of our usual shop. And it had cost me about a third more than my usual shop!

I think next we'll have to investigate farmer's markets. There are several that are held nearby, fairly regularly, but when I've been previously the stalls have mostly sold meat (not much good for a predominantly vegetarian family!). Perhaps I should look at organic veg boxes again, though with some of our veg supply coming from our allotment it can be quite wasteful to double up on certain veg in the veg box each week. Farm shops are also worth looking into, though in my previous experience they have always been very expensive. I guess I just need to look around.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

How does your garden grow?

Hmmm, quite well I think.

Today I spent some time catching up with gardening while the weather was reasonable. The tomato and pepper seeds that dd1 and I planted (see a previous blog entry) have mostly come up and are doing fine. There are a few pots showing poor germination, but as the seed has come from all sorts of sources (some home-saved, some from HDRA*, some from seed swaps, and some shop/catalogue bought) and is of varying age/quality I expected there to be some failures. Inevitably because I can't resist growing a bit of everything, we always end up with too many tomato plants and have to give some away to friends and family.

Tomato plants, showing their
first 'true' leaves and due for
transplanting soon

As we are still having occasional frosts it's too cold to risk putting the tomatoes and pepper plants in the greenhouse without some form of heating at night. Our 2 small paraffin heaters aren't reliable or powerful enough to ensure the survival of tender plants. Hence the tomato and pepper pots have been in a tray on top of the art cupboard since we planted them. It's not ideal as they can get quite lanky leaning towards the light from the main window, but with a home made 'reflector'
(cardboard covered in aluminium foil) they aren't doing too badly .

Tomato plants with home-made
reflector (reflector is on the right)

The broad beans have started coming up. This photo (on the right) was taken about 4 days ago and since then they have grown considerably more, now having several sets of leaves on them. Broad beans are fairly cold tolerant, so although I've put the pots in the greenhouse to give them a head start, they would be equally fine being planted straight in the ground at this time of year. It also gives me some more time to dig more of our allotment plot before deciding where they are going to go (It's important that I plan how we are going to use the available space, otherwise we may run out of suitable planting space later in the year for essential crops).

Dh is the only one in our family who will eat broad beans, so I'm not convinced they are really worth growing. But they do have an advantage of being easy to grow and one of the earliest crops. If picked young they'll be edible enough to freeze and disguise in a stew or curry at some later date, adding a bit of protein to our mostly vegetarian diet.

The garlic we planted in the Autumn has survived the winter dampness and is looking quite leafy. Last year's garlic gave only a poor crop: we had very wet weather throughout the Summer which hit us worst at a time when the garlic bulbs should have been ripening and drying. We were fortunate in that our allotment (and our house) didn't flood, unlike some other poor souls around here, but it still had a substantial impact on our crops. The garlic cloves were small, many rotted, and they haven't stored very well at all. Onions were similarly affected and tomatoes (and potatoes) suffered terribly from blight, a common fungal disease, that pretty much wiped out the plants and left us with hardly any edible tomatoes. It's been the first year when the crop of tomatoes was so bad that I've had to buy supermarket tomatoes over Summer.

We also had our first recognised case of Onion White Rot on plot 1 of our allotment. White Rot is a fungal disease which affects the roots of the allium family (onions, shallots, leeks, garlic etc), leads to poor growth and usually death of the plant. Its spores can stay in the soil for 7 years or more, ready to spring into life just as soon as the weather conditions are right for growth. Once you've got it in your soil it's near impossible to get rid of.

Apparently onions grown from seed tend to fare better against White Rot than those grown from sets, so this year I've planted our onion sets in raised beds in our garden at home (where there has been no sign of the dreaded White Rot) rather than at the allotment. I'd planned to plant onions grown from seed on the allotment plot, but the ones we planted weeks ago in seed trays have shown no sign of germination. I suspect it may be that the seed is just rather old. The germination of leek seed has been slow too, so perhaps it has just been too cold at night in the greenhouse for either of these seeds to grow. It will set us back a few weeks, but if I can buy some new onion seed next week it shouldn't take too long to catch up. The onions grown from seed will take longer to grow to ripeness than those grown from sets, but it will mean that we spread out the potential risk from weather damage over the Summer and are ensured of something worth cropping (we hope!).
Our leek crop was relatively unscathed by the white rot, so I'm hopeful that we'll be able to grow that on the same plot again. We have lots yet to pull up at the allotment, and it will need to be used soon before it bolts and starts to flower (usually triggered by warmer weather and longer daylight hours). Looks like we'll be having leek and potato soup for the next few weeks then!
Despite the wet summer we managed to salvage and dry enough onions to see us through the winter. As you can see from the photo on the right there is still quite a good supply in the baskets in the greenhouse, the coolest place to keep them overwinter. However, some are starting to show signs of sprouting and they have not stored as well as previous years' onion crops. I may have to slice and freeze the remainder if I wish to salvage what remains of them.

I've been using up the last of the winter squash from our allotment plot. They are at the end of their keeping life about now, so today I turned three of them into squash soup. I used to be able to make quite a decent soup, but today's one was rather tasteless. Perhaps it is the squash themselves - nothing seems to have stored well this winter. Still, I saved some seed and maybe I'll grow some more this year.

<--Winter Squash

Squash seeds, ready to
be washed and then left to
dry on paper --->

There's still a huge amount of work to be done at the allotment. Last time we were there I started clearing some ground for this year's first early potatoes. The ground hasn't been dug for several years (it's a new plot that we took on last year) and has been covered with black plastic for a year to give us a fighting chance against the perennial weeds. The soil needs to dry out a bit, then I'll mattock it (large pit-axe-type tool) to break up the worst of the roots and clods of soil and then it'll be ok for digging over and basic weeding. The great thing about potato plants is that they are so vigorous that they will usually smother smaller weeds and provide a half-decent crop even on poorly well-prepared soil. It's difficult to do much at the allotment with the children - if it's too hot, too cold or too wet then they complain bitterly, and even a pack of chocolate biscuits doesn't appease them for long!

Our first plot, however, isn't looking too bad at all. It was kept well tended last year because we'd been encouraged to enter the allotment competition and I felt duty-bound - obsessively compelled perhaps! - to keep the plot at its best. I'm not sure I'll enter again this year as all the finnicky cosmetic work, such as taking off dead leaves, trimming grass verges etc, required for the competition takes valuable time away from the actual planting and growing necessities. The kids got really fed up going to the allotment nearly every day during Summer and to be honest, so did I. Besides, growing organically means that my crops never look quite as 'perfect' as the insecticide-blasted entries of the other competitors, so unless I put lots of time, effort and expense into spraying with soft soap (organic equivalent of insecticide), covering with fleece and enviromesh and using other organic methods to keep the beasties off my plants, it will always be difficult to compete on cosmetic terms with non-organic growers. Our priority is to grow enough food to feed 5 of us throughout the Summer and Autumn, although the financial incentive of a competition prize is still rather tempting.

<-- Allotment plot 1, July/August 2007

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Childrearing for Fun (a guide for amateur parents)

Managed to get some child-free time today and spent a few hours at an annual secondhand booksale. It's always huge, with loads of books on all subjects and at cheap prices. I filled up several carrier bags of books and hauled them home on the bus in my granny shopping trolley (fondly known as 'the cow' because the bag has a cow print design all over it).

It's always a bit demoralising when I see other people choosing really nice fiction books for their kids (and their kids are choosing books for themselves) that they are confident will be read. I sometimes wonder if I just buy fiction books to make the bookshelves look pretty {g}. Ok, so perhaps that's an overexaggeration, but ds1 isn't yet at a reading level where he could read most of what we have in the house, and most of what he is able to read he doesn't want to because the subject matter/design is too young for him.This isn't really the place to publicly air my anxieties over children's reading abilities, and I'm sure at some point there'll be a match between ability and desire, but it's difficult sometimes to keep the faith... Atonomous education often seems to be a mixture of experimentation and anxious hope - or is that just me? :)

Ds1 seemed pleased with the Usborne book of real life spy stories that I'd bought him ('I love being a spy!' ), but looked a bit crestfallen when he opened it and realised it wasn't as easy reading as he'd hoped. Ah well, maybe it will motivate him, who knows. Ds2 liked the other non-fiction books I brought home, particularly the 'cutaway cars' book and a book on how cars work (oh joy, can't wait to read those - not!). I wonder if when dd1 is older she will choose to read books that are more to my taste or whether she'll follow in the footsteps of the boys and take to reading about machines and engines. Surely I can't be filling those shelves with non-fiction books for no reason at all?!

I managed to get a few books for myself, which makes a change. Normally everything I do revolves around the kids and their needs, but recently I've been doing more reading for myself. Admittedly most of the books are about educational psychology (!) and similar themes, but it's a start. I did notice a couple of strange books as I browsed. One was titled: Childrearing for Fun (and the word fun was in large letters), with a subtitle across the top saying something like 'a guide for amateur parents'. Yikes! What a scary title! Does anyone actually rear children for FUN?!! That's news to me. Perhaps that's where I've been going wrong all these years {g}. Also if there's such a thing as an amateur parent, I wonder how one becomes a professional parent? One of the other books I saw was titled: 501 ways to be a good parent. Was I tempted? Nah, that one didn't come home with me!

Friday, 7 March 2008

Happy talk, keep talking happy talk, talk about things we like to do...

(I'm thinking the Captain Sensible version which if you're as ancient as me you'll know what I'm talking about...)

I've been spending the past few days adding various bits and pieces to the blog layout, including a visitor counter and some home education web ring links. I'm yet to hear whether I'm accepted into the rings and not entirely sure what their criteria are. Are the ramblings of a slightly demented home educating mother worthy enough I wonder? I guess I'll find out sometime soon. I'm not entirely satisfied with the layout, but not being knowledgeable about html code and not having the time or inclination to learn, I'm limited by the basic framework provided by blogger.com.

After ds1 has been to his Capoeira* class tonight the boys are being taken to a science talk on Science and Music. It's advertised as being aimed at age 11+ I think, but having 2 scientists (well, one practising scientist and one ex-scientist) as parents, the boys are probably quite advanced in science compared with their primary school peers. Anyway, as dh is taking them I don't really care whether they'll be bored or not as for once it wont be me having to put up with their fidgeting . At least they'll be out the house and I wont have to cook a proper tea tonight. If I ever get to be rich the first thing I'm going to do is hire myself a cook. Oh the luxury of not having to think about what to cook, buy the food, cook the food, negotiate the eating of it with 3 fussy eaters and clear up after the food!

Dd1 is currently emptying out her money boxes on my bed (oh joy!) and talk talk talking. If there was ever a good reason to send a child to school it is probably to stop a parent going mad from the constant talking that small children do. I know it is all very educational and very important for their language development (and of course educated middle class parents aren't meant to say these sorts of things),but oh for a bit of peace some time! When books mention mothers' abilities to multi-task they forget the most important example of multi-tasking - the ability to concentrate on or do anything while small children witter inanely 2 inches from your ankles ALL DAY.

And of course there is the 'look at me' phase. For those who don't have children I can best explain this as follows: at a certain age young children develop the concept that they are the centre of the known universe. Therefore in their mind everything they do has universal importance and must be viewed and commented on (usually with overenthusiastic praise) by any adult in the viccinity. If the required adult is not paying the child their full and total attention person the child has a foolproof way of attracting this attention. The phrase they use to get this attention is 'Look at me'. While this might sound innocuous at first listening, or even on first repetition, it has a stealth approach. After any adult has heard 'Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! Loook at me! Look at me! Look at ME! Look at ME! Look at ME! LOOK at ME! LOOK at ME! LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT MEEEEEE! ' over a hundred times, they will have no choice but to acknowledge whatever event the child wishes them to notice.

<-- Look at me!!!

'What a lovely drawing/model/mess, aren't you clever?' followed by intermittent approving sounds 'mmm' or 'oh yes mmm' is normally suffice to satisfy even the most egocentric toddler. BUT...The adult has to be careful to slightly alter these textbook phrases during the day, otherwise the authenticity of the adult's response will be questioned by the child. This will elicit this type of retort, 'But Mummy, you're NOT looking' , and in my experience is usually followed by a long piercing wail that can only be appeased by giving the child some item that the adult wouldn't normally allow the child to have. If this was a war of two opposing armies the adult army would be guaranteed to hold up the white flag every single time.

Call me crazy, but I've developed a theory about why parents are not very good at listening to their teenagers. My theory is that these parents have spent so many years filtering out the natter natter natter stream of mostly irrelevant talk that children produce, that by the time their child reaches his teen years and actually has something relevant and interesting to say, then the parent no longer has the ability to listen to them. I'm not sure what the excuse is for teenagers who don't listen to their parents, but I'm guessing that will have to be a completely different and very silly theory too.

Anyway, now my brain hurts and my mattress is covered in coins.

*Capoeira (IPA: [ka.pu.ˈej.ɾɐ]) is an Afro-Brazilian blend of martial art, game, and dance created by enslaved Africans in Brazil during the 16th Century.[1] Participants form a roda (circle) and take turns playing instruments, singing, and sparring in pairs in the center of the circle. The game is marked by fluid acrobatic play, feints, and extensive use of groundwork, as well as sweeps, kicks, and headbutts. Throughout the game, a player must avoid a sweep, trip, kick, or head butt that may knock him or her on the floor. Less frequently-used techniques include elbow-strikes, slaps, punches, and body-throws. Capoeira has evolved from one main form, now referred to as capoeira angola, into two other forms known as capoeira regional, and the ever-evolving capoeira contemporânea.

Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capoeira which also has lots of information about the history of Capoeira and even some links to videos of the various Capoeira movements.

[by the way, the little picture of the man up there is meant to move - it's a flash animation of one of the Capoeira moves, but no matter what I do, it isn't doing what it's supposed to. Ah if only I was a bit more IT literate]

There's some videos of Capoeira on the internet, this being a good example: http://www.abolicao.co.uk/video/promo2005 (takes a while to load, so be patient), which shows just how fast paced it can be!

Ds1 has been doing Capoeira for over 3 years now (he has been to 3 Batizados - see Wiki for explanation) and has received 3 belts. Ds2 started Capoeira more recently and is in his first year, but has done really well.

Ds1 receiving his Capoeira belt at the 2007 Batizado

Thursday, 6 March 2008

It's ok, I'm calm now (honest)

And so to today...

Well we've been to the Scrapstore again.
Oh dear! As if we don't have enough scrap in the house! The teetering tower of potentially creative materials has reached crisis point and now a hard hat is required just to open the filing cabinet.
<--Filing cabinet, to be opened at your own risk (worryingly this photo actually makes it look tidy in comparison to real life)
I like to think I give my kids free rein to save junk, make mess and be creative. However there there comes a time when enough is enough and my tyrannical minimalist alter ego bursts out and demands that I have a clear dining table so we can actually eat a meal without having to contend with polystyrene packing chips, empty pringle tins and glitter. Admittedly the dog is doing a good job of working his way through the packing chips, but even he struggles to keep up with the influx of stuff.
Anyway back to the scrapstore. As usual the kids were there to do voluntary work, though I wonder if they make more mess and trouble than they actually help solve. This time, the kids were given the job of coming up with some interesting uses for the various items of scrap that were in the scrapstore so they could be displayed for inspiration to passing customers. Ds1 was in his element! So we all joined in, making masks, castles, a star wars light sabre and even a dalek (yes, that was my contribution, not quite finished yet). Unfortunately I'd forgotten to take my camera, but maybe on our visit next week I'll be able to take some photos of their imaginative creations.
This morning (before the scrapstore visit) they'd already warmed up their imaginations by making 'aquariums'. Tying fish-shaped beads onto pieces of cotton and suspending them from the lids of plastic bottles was entirely their own idea and a rather good one I thought. Shell-shaped beads and - yes you've guessed it - split peas were used on the bottom for sand/rocks/shells. Ds2 made a shallower version in an old plastic humous tub.
They might not win any prizes for beauty, but it's a wonderful example of children's imaginations working without - or despite - parental input.

The storm after the calm

Well I added a few photos to yesterday's blog entry and then realised how pathetically sad my life must be if I actually use my time and effort to take photos of the insides of our loft and balls of wool. Perhaps I would have made better use of my time supervising the children...

I suppose I only have myself to blame having spent yesterday morning hiding in the loft (see previous blog entry). I knew that when I finally came down I would have to face the carnage of those few hours' unsupervised play.


It was like a scene out of Lord of the Flies, but with fewer boys, more split peas and no blood (well as far as I could see).

The first thing I noticed was that there was a saucepan of water mixed with dried split peas, which had swelled to a sodden mass, on my bathroom floor. Apparently (as I was later informed) this was dinosaur food. Clumps of wet toilet roll adorned the bath, sink and toilet lid. Perhaps the dinosaurs had used the toilet after eating their dinosaur food? [note for future reference: need to train the dinosaurs to tidy up after themselves]

All - and I mean ALL - the soft toys were having a 'tea party' on the floor of dd1's bedroom, a room where even if I wanted to swing a cat I would have great difficulty doing so. I could barely open the door so I had no idea how we were going to get her into her bed that evening.

The trail of split peas (most, thankfully still in their original dried form) led across the landing and down the stairs through the hall and into to the lounge where there were further piles of them on the rug. In the middle of the floor the boys had set up a train track using all the wooden Brio trains. The carriages were loaded up with split pea 'cargos'. I was pleased that my 9-year-old felt comfortable playing with toys most people would consider only for younger children, but the lounge looked like a firework had been thrown into a lentil factory.[And when will my children realise that the reason I put cushions ON my sofa is because I like them ON my sofa, NOT all over the floor. If I wanted cushions on the floor then I would have bought floor cushions...obvious really.]

And then to the conservatory where every possible item of scrap had been emptied on to the table and floor and several half-finished creative masterpieces - i.e. some scrap that had been glued together - were precariously balanced on top. The dog had made some effort to tidy up judging by the chewed remains of plastic straws and something I can only assume was once a cork.

Continuing back through the house the available evidence indicated that several small elephants had tried to make themselves strawberry milkshake in the kitchen: there were showers of milkshake powder across the surfaces, splodges of milk on the floor and a trail of footprints, none of which looked human, from the fridge to the cupboard and back again. A half-eaten banana, 6 used cups, an empty packet of Jacobs Cream Crackers and a pile of satsuma peelings confirmed my elephant suspicions. If there's one thing that home education has taught me it is that unsupervised small elephants just can't resist Jacobs Cream Crackers and strawberry milkshake.

The dog had peed in the hall. Well to be precise he had peed along the hall. He'd probably peed on the lounge rug as well judging by the smell, but amongst the split pea carnage it would have been difficult to tell. While on the 'dog' theme, my clean pile of washing looked suspiciously like it had been home to a small lazy Spaniel for several hours. Tell-tale white hairs and a dog shaped crater in the middle was a dead givaway. A half-chewed lego tree and a sprinkling of dog-slobbered cardboard (possibly once containing dd1's pack of playing cards) was further indication of dog rebellion. I shouted at the dog and tried to put him out in the garden. He was clearly bemused by my feeble effort at discipline.

As I went back into the lounge I noticed all the children had moved to the sofa and were glued to the tv.

Ds1 turned to greet me as I entered the lounge.

'Oh hi mummy. Where've you been?'

A friend once warned me about the changes in children's behaviour when there was a power vacuum in the house. At the time I probably thought she was talking about hoovers, but now I understand exactly what she means.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

..9998.....9999......10000..coming, ready or not!

Do you think it's normal to hide from your children?

I only ask because that's what I've been trying to do all day.

In Summer I tend to hide from my children by going as far down the end of the garden as I can. I can still hear them there, but we have a pretty long garden so the sound from the house is quite muffled, particularly if I stick my fingers in my ears and sing 'la la la' very loudly.

Being at the end of the garden does have its disadvantages though. It does leave me vulnerable to encountering next door's children over the fence. Not that there's anything wrong with next door's children, it's just that at those times when you don't want to be with your own children, you generally don't want to be with anyone else's either.

The greenhouse provides a fairly good hiding place too and I can be there under whatever greenfingered pretence I might like to make up. A little too hot in Summer (I can last about 8 minutes at a push), but Spring time just after I've painted the glass with white sloppy 'shading' is the perfect time for me to hide there. At this time of year it's no good though. The glass has been cleaned of all shading and any pretence of being 'busy' inside the greenhouse is quickly revealed (as is my hand stuffing a large chocolate bar into my mouth - darn!).

[This has reminded me though to see if I can squeeze a comfy chair into the greenhouse in preparation for later in the year - I might even get to read a little while I'm hiding in there]

The toilet - sorry Bathroom - is a desperate 'last measure' place for me to hide. One of the pluses - probably it's only one - is that it has a lock. On the downside it has a door. Now I hear you ask, why should this be a downside? Well unfortunately there is an alarm attached to the bathroom door. This alarm triggers a signal in my children's brains just as soon as that door is closed. Perhaps it completes some kind of electrical circuit the moment the metal slotty thing slots into the thing that it slots into [don't you just hate it when your knowledge of door vocabulary lets you down?]. Perhaps it interrupts whatever thoughts are going through my children's heads at the time with a sudden 'need'. Anyway, however it works it seems that everytime I close the bathroom door then the calls start.
'Mum! Mum! Where's my...'
'Mummy, he did this to me...'
'Mum! Can you help me with...'
'Mummy! Where are you?!'
The day in my life when I finally accepted that I was never again ever EVER going to be able to have a pee without an audience was a very bleak day indeed. Alas, the entry into true Motherhood and the slippery slope down towards losing the need for a hairbrush and the sight of my feet.

So where did I hide today?

Well not in the garden (too darn cold).
Not the greenhouse (too revealing - I needed to eat chocolate and lots of it).
And definitely NOT the bathroom (for the reasons stated before).

I hid in the loft.

Yes I know that's the sort of things that dodgy fugitives do (apparently, though I don't have firsthand experience of this), but it seemed the best available option today.

Of course I had lots of excuses - I mean reasons - to be up there. The loft is in dire need of a clearout and as I had mountains of wool (from the Scrapstore) to sort out and store, it was a perfect opportunity to hulk it all up there and do some - well - sorting. And yes I did do some sorting. But I also ate chocolate and found all sorts of things to sidetrack me from actually doing anything very useful. And although I could hear the children bickering - in a muffled through 2 floors sort of way- the fact that I wasn't actually next to them while they were bickering was almost restful.

[Ha! Bet they wont find me in here!]

So, with my 'busyness' I managed to while away the morning sorting (or not) and enjoying a relatively peaceful few hours. I even discovered several knitting projects - blankets, half-finished jumper arms, weird knitted oddities - from previous years which I proceded to unpick and wind into wobbly balls of wool. A few of the projects I didn't actually recognise as being mine, so it's quite possible that I spent the morning unpicking someone else's knitting? Even more therapeutic.

One can never have too much wool you know...

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

You call THAT snow??!!

I've just noticed that I haven't posted any photos on the blog recently. Does that mean we haven't done anything worth photographing? Perhaps.

It did snow today, however. Did I take a photo of it? No.

We were sat watching rubbish morning tv in the lounge when ds1 tore down the stairs and shrieked 'it's snowing it's snowing!'. So we all rushed out the front door into the freezing cold front garden and stood there looking hopefully into the sky. And yes, with a bit of imagination, there were incy wincy teeny little dandruff flakes of something cold and icy. Not exactly snow, but near enough. A few schoolkids trudging past our house to school gave us a rather strange look. I suppose our ragged half-dressed bunch stood in their socks on the garden path running around trying to eat the non-existent snow flakes falling down, was probably a rather bizarre sight. At least it's a bizarre sight if you don't belong to our family. If you belong to our family then bizarre is relative.

A short while later on the way to get in the car for preschool, poor dd1 let out a sigh of disappointment, ' but I thought there'd be heaps and heaps of snow, where's it all gone?'.
Ah well. Life is full of little disappointments and snow in southern England is definitely one of them. The sky is grey, the wind is biting, we are all freezing our little wotsits off, and the only demonstration we have of exciting - or even slightly interesting - weather is a few pathetic flakes of vaguely cold stuff that disappear as quick as bubbles blown from a cheap pot of bubble mixture.

I suppose being a home educator I could have used it as the start of a discussion on the water cycle or global warming. In fact I should be full of guilt that we didn't go on to perform some scientific experiment freezing and thawing water, or look through an atlas at places in the world that have proper snow. But we were late, it was cold and I was grumpy (probably because we were late and it was cold). Besides, if I turn every conversation into an educational example my children will stop listening to me altogether. Methinks perhaps it's already too late.


Anyway there has been progress in the household of a sort. Ds1 and 2 have been making a stopframe animation using their playmobil and an animation package that we've hooked up via my laptop to a basic webcam. We've had the package for some time, but only really used the drawing aspect of it. It took a bit of getting used to, and the kids had an annoying habit of keep clicking buttons and copying over frames that they'd already done (grrr), but I think the result was pretty good for a first attempt. Unfortunately it's meant that my laptop, my nice shiny all-for-me laptop, has now been touched by small people from the planet child. I'm not sure this is a path I wish to go down.

I suggested to the kids that they should send in their animation(s) to Blue Peter, with an accompanying film about how they made it, in an attempt to get a blue peter badge each. I'd like to say that this suggestion is entirely altruistic, but it isn't because there would be some rather good financial benefits for moi. Free entry for the kids to places like Legoland would be just one of the bonuses of being a Blue Peter Badge holder and seeing as last year I used up loads of Tesco vouchers to pay for their year's passes, I have an incentive to make sure that I don't have to do the same again this year. I might even be able to use the Tesco vouchers for something for me (whoa now that would be a novelty).

So, did they like my suggestion? Well, not much. It was met with what I can only describe as 'lukewarm' enthusiasm. In fact even the word enthusiasm is probably a bit strong. But, hey, I'm a mother and ve have vays of making zee little people do what ve vant them to.
So plan A is that I'll nag them in the hope that they might eventually they might give in (possibility it might work, but it might just make them even more resistant).
Plan B I could just send it in myself pretending that it was from them, but that would probably be morally wrong (if I had any morals left).
Or for plan C I could go for the non-coercive method , i.e. give in and just blow all my Tesco vouchers on this year's passes.

Ah, the difficult decisions forced upon us poor parents.