November 25th was the end of H’s adventure with us and the start of J’s time in Germany. Bob took the boys to the airport while the rest of us went to a small local school to run an Usborne book stall at their Christmas fair. In fact it was somewhat of an Usborne week, with a party on the Monday, a playgroup (thankfully passed on to a team member) on Tuesday, a Christmas fair on Wednesday, school book fairs on both Thursday and Friday and yet more Christmas fair stalls on both Friday and Saturday!

After all that, you’d have thought a quiet, restful Sunday would be in order, followed by a peaceful week, but instead we chose to spend Sunday helping at the Olde Melford Christmas event being organised by a Kentwell friend – dressed in Victorianesque with a smattering of Tudorish, we handed out fliers, told stories, sold fairy wands and generally added to the atmosphere of a very picturesque afternoon, complete with “snow” from numerous machines around the place, the Great Edmundo’s magic show and amazing fairy dresses with layers of tulle and fairy lights 🙂

From there we went on to Christmas camp, this year in Sheringham. Working on the basis that a change is as good as a rest, this was just what we all needed 😉 Five days chatting with friends, cooking together, playing board games both new and familiar, walking on the beach, enjoying the sea (including a paddle for some) and the sites – magic! The children and I managed to spend some time with my aunt and uncle too, and even a few minutes with one of my favourite cousins 🙂 Christmas day was lovely too, with a fair dinner, poor ovens and overzealous smoke alarms notwithstanding!

Somehow, while we were at Sheringham, we found ourselves arranging to adopt a puppy…

We got back from Sheringham just in time for choir and then yet another Usborne fair – and an early night for me because on Saturday I was to speak at a women’s breakfast meeting in full Tudor housewyfe mode 🙂 Besides that, the girls had music school, K and L had string orchestra and the afternoon held yet another Usborne stall at a fair – such a good chance to reduce my stock levels!

December 6th was a busy day too (thank goodness for that week away at camp to catch our breath somewhat!) as I was preaching in the morning and L had a fencing competition. K and the girls should also have been singing, but only two parents and three places to be meant something had to give, so they came with me instead. Since they then spent much of the afternoon and evening rehearsing and then singing in choir for the carol concert their day still held plenty of music 🙂

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After choir on Friday 13th November, J and I set off to Storrington for a NMYBB weekend. He could have taken the train as usual, but the church they were staying at just happened to be close to where a really good friend lives, of whom I see far too little, so I took advantage of that for a weekend with her 🙂 We chatted and caught up – but our plan to watch back-to-back vintage films was thwarted by the Paris terrorist attacks, which left us hanging on for news and trying to make sense of what had happened and what might be a reasonable response.
We also went to the band concert, which was excellent (we both bought CDs 🙂 ) and the service the next day, which was equally good – I can thoroughly recommend looking out for NMYBB next time they’re anywhere near you 😉

Belle et Sebastien on Tuesday was fab (yay for free films!) and was followed by a little light lunchtime opera (Mozart’s Bastien et Bastienne) before dashing across town to get L and K to Arts Award. Phew! WedEd on Wednesday and then Princess Bride and multisport on Thursday made for a busy week, but Friday was mostly given over to packing and travelling – to Centerparcs for a celebratory weekend with Bob’s parents, sister and family. We’ve been to Centerparcs many times now, but always in the cheapest possible way, so this was quite a different experience! Bob’s parents had decided to opt for rather posher accommodation than is our wont, including a games room, wine fridge, coffee machine, towels folded into elephants, daily cleaners and even a sauna (which I’m afraid we didn’t use)! It was lovely for the children to spend time with their cousins and for us all to eat together as one large family – a really special way to celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary 🙂

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L and K set off early on Friday morning for choir tour, which stretched from 23rd October to 26th and encompassed singing, sightseeing and even a service at the Menin Gate, where L was chosen to lay a wreath. While they were away the rest of us carried on much as normal. J and H volunteered at the cafe on Saturday and on Monday H joined a group of others to go to a non-Scaresville haunted house event (thanks for taking him galoka!) which he declared to be far less good 🙂

Once the tourers were back we headed off to Kentwell, this time with several tents (which we put up inside one another for extra warmth) where we spent the next few days taking part in Scaresville at night (H, J, K and me, while Bob stayed in the tent with the girls) and Hallowe’enies by day (L, A and me, with the boys joining in for some sessions – enough to get lunch at least 😉 ) and generally had lots of fun. The weather was unexpectedly mild, to the extent that we were, if anything, too warm rather than too cold, but lots of rain meant it was wet and muddy underfoot, which occasionally added a new level of difficulty to creeping up on people in the dark!

Hallowe’en safely navigated (and Scaresville hoodies, torches, beanies and similar goodies earned and chosen) normality was next enlivened by Bonfire Night. We had fires and fireworks at the Beans (complete with amazing pumpkins) and also a family evening with church which included fireworks, lanterns and fun activities.

Remembrance Sunday brought parades for the girls (L joined in with her old Brownie pack as a helper, rather than us having to be in two places at once by adding Guides in as well), which the rest of us supported too. Monday was rollerskating/soft play and then we were back to a Remembrance theme with The Sound of music at the cinema on Tuesday.

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On Saturday the girls had music school and then L gym, as usual, while the boys pottered and J and H packed for a week away and an immediate night of scaring on return. A, K and I went to a Re-enactors’ fair to help a friend choose wool for a future kirtle and to catch up with friends a little, then picked up L and took her with us to a family barn dance and dinner at our old church. It was fun, especially as we had the chance to meet up with old friends from Uni days, from church and also from Kentwell (over for the fair, then barn dancing on their way home).
At the same time, Bob was taking H and J down to London for a film festival as the start point of a youth camp promoting intercultural relations between Spain, Slovakia and England whilst looking at environmental issues. H stayed over afterwards for a bushcraft day on Sunday but J had to come back for a music day, then Bob drove him down to rejoin the other camp teens and young people for the rest of the week. They were staying in the South London Scout Centre so had proper beds (although apparently rather short?) with sleeping bags rather than having to actually camp, fortunately.
On Monday the day started for them with films and facts about the ocean and pollution, and some poetry writing, followed by a trip to the Horniman Museum. Tuesday was a watersports and activity day, including kayaking, swimming and orienteering round the Olympic Park. Wednesday should have been a press call at the Houses of Parliament, but since nobody turned up to answer or ask questions was a bit of a disappointment. They did still get the chance to take part in a gamelan session, though – less exciting for J than it might have been if he didn’t get to do it at Holiday Orchestra 😉 In the evening they filmed video diaries. Thursday was the last day the English young people were there so they had a celebratory meal at a Turkish restaurant then J and H caught the train to the station near Bob’s office, so that I could hand the girls over to Bob and go on with the boys to Scaresville for another night of scaring. It was a little bit of a surprise to see J crossing the bridge from the other platform with a white blond lad; H having decided to go along with the small crowd of boys who were bleaching their hair! How it survives the chlorine of his frequent swims remains to be seen, as does the school’s reaction when he goes back – I think he had forgotten that it is only a matter of weeks now, as he confidently told me it would be fine because it would grow out in three months!

Meanwhile, after a day of music on Sunday L, K and A had gym on Monday and then Guides for L. Tuesday was an introductory Bronze Arts Award session for L and K, where they began to decide what to do and got an outline sheet for how their work could be spread through the year, and then Brownies for A, but no fencing for L this week. On Wednesday they had a very gentle self-guided morning while I took an Usborne stall to a local toddler group (and booked a party – yay!) and then we headed off to choir. Thursday should have started early with History, but I couldn’t rouse any of the children so left them to sleep in peace while I had a quiet cup of tea 😉 They were all up and about in time for Multisport, then Bob and I juggled children so the boys and I could get to Scaresville. A shortage of scarers meant that J, K and I did the same scare as last time but H was needed elsewhere, so he got to dress as a clown (which had been one of his requests) and be a living painting. I think he enjoyed it less than he had expected, partly because it required a fair bit of sitting still and partly because he was utterly exhausted from staying up every night at camp to play cards – and then to play tricks on other campers in the wee small hours! He was asleep almost by the time we got to the end of the drive on the way home and still stayed in bed until noon the next day!
K, on the other hand, had to be up in time for cello on Friday, but at least had less of a backlog of sleep to make up! Choir was only for those going on tour, so A was excused and I left her with J and H while I took L to violin and K to the library, then dropped L at choir for Bob to pick up later. That meant I could take J to the station with his stuff for a NMYBB weekend – walking a mile with bags is not so bad, but with bags and trombone perhaps asking a little too much! Unfortunately he was clearly not quite himself as he discovered first that he had forgotten his sleeping bag and then that he was on a train in the wrong direction, both things he has never done before but fortunately both easily remedied with a little help from his NMYBB friends. On Saturday he went on to have a severe migraine, which may explain his unaccustomed discombobulation 🙁

L had her first ever fencing competition on Sunday, having been persuaded that it would be a good thing to start competing while she was still an under 11 (the age being based on the 1st of January of each year) and everything was informal and gentle. Then 2 weeks before the competition somebody decided that for this competition a different date would be used, which put her into the under 13s, with far more experienced opponents and less leeway for error! Under the circumstances, she did very well – she won one bout, lost six and came bottom of the board after the round robin, but only one point behind the next last. Then in the knockout round she faced the overall winner and took him to 10-8 😀 It was a good ending to the morning for her and gave her more confidence than the result might have done without that boost.
We dropped A at church for eucharist and K at his friend A’s house on the way, then stopped on our way back to pick them both up and somehow ended up staying for lunch and several hours of the afternoon – a lovely little oasis of friendship and chat and a chance for me to revisit both crochet and German as the girls wanted to learn and the book they had was a gift from Oma!
Meanwhile Bob and H went to our home church and then did a bit of helpful housework (it’s been sadly neglected of late) before H went swimming to try and catch another club session. J got home in the early evening and took himself pretty much straight to bed, to sleep off the remains of the migraine.

Today Bob was to have taken all five children to London for a workshop and tour of the Houses of Parliament, but given J’s poorliness over the weekend we decided to offer his place to the Beans’ Spanish daughter instead, so J and I have had a quiet day at home, punctuated only by a French lesosn this afternoon, while Bob does the HE and negotiates the Capital.

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More training on Monday morning – I’m in Elite for four months and want to make the most of every opportunity while I can, even if I don’t have time to put it all into practice right now!
Gym was good – and while the others got their exercise J helped me to get a bit more clued up on how to create and maintain an online presence for my Usborne business. I’m still not quite sure what I’m doing or how much it can help, but it’s exciting to be doing something and I’m hoping to get together with Jax at Live Otherwise and do more soon 😀
I took some books along with me which I’d sold via facebook to another HE mum I met years ago and hadn’t seen in person since, and she came along to gym with her boys to collect them. It was lovely to see her again and to catch up a bit – a definite bonus of having done a Not Back To School sale!
We had to hurry back because I was teaching a French lesson in the afternoon – the first for a few months so we did lots of revision and getting back into the swing of things.

Tuesday was the big day for J, K, H and me! I started everyone off with lapbook work in the morning, then popped off to visit a nursery and talk about Ready Steady Read, following that up with a charity shops trawl to find black clothes… Then we were off, leaving Bob to get the girls to fencing and Brownies as best he could. Scaresville Dress Rehearsal turned out to involve actually experiencing some of the scares ourselves, which was somewhat outwith J’s comfort zone (and mine too, if I’m honest) but was useful in letting us see how they work. We finished by having the opportunity to list three scares we’d most like to operate – although both J and I felt we’d rather have said which ones we’d like to avoid. He found three to list, but I ended up saying I didn’t mind which so long as no strobes or exceptionally loud noises were involved – the last thing I need at the end of a long night with a fair old drive home is a migraine.

After such a late finish, and with another late night to come, Wednesday was very quiet 😆 The boys and I made it back to Kentwell in time for food before briefing and found that we were to be followers on the gallows walk, which suited all of us quite nicely. We collected costumes (big black cloak and mask with attached hood) and emergency kit (whistle and torch) then made our way to the walk while it was still light enough to set up and work out who would be where. We had a fab night – I’d been very unsure about the whole thing, really, but it was much better than I’d feared it might be. Wearing a mask really helps, as does being in a place you already know well, and being there early enough to feel at home before it gets dark. Everyone coming round had chosen to be there and from all sides the fits of giggles and gales of laughter outweighed the screams by a long way. Not that there weren’t screams – there were plenty and it was a fantastic feeling to creep up round the side of a group of people and take someone by surprise by appearing as if from nowhere! My favourite trick was to make my way to the front of a group, gaining a scream on the way. The leaders of the group would turn to see what was going on, giving me just enough time to nip in front of them so that when they turned back, nonplussed, it was to come face-to-face with a hooded figure they had no idea was there. Surprisingly fun for a timid soul like me 😀

Sluggish Thursday, not surprisingly 😆 Everybody was on top form again for band though, fortunately 🙂 J stayed for senior band, but I didn’t manage my usual quick supermarket trip (and vulch ;)) whilst waiting for him because another band member had an accident as she was arriving and I ended up waiting with her for her car to be recovered – it was in the middle of the road and she 20 weeks pregnant so understandably feeling rather vulnerable.

On Friday we were up bright and early so that children could fit in music practices before we left for a visit to Sizewell B. This was because I was singularly unimpressed that not one of them had managed to get any done the day before… We had a two hour drive, including a rather dodgy bit at the end where the roads were unmarked and unclear. K’s superb map-reading and my bump of direction together saved the day, fortunately, and we arrived in plenty of time. There was only time for a quick scout through the interactive displays (and I must admit I spent that time catching up with friends so left the children to it) before the introductory talk began. J is now considering an apprenticeship with EDF – it’s nice to have options 😉 Then we donned protective gear (lots of it!), emptied our pockets into a locker and followed our guide through some serious security control to enter the site itself. It was a very interesting tour and our guide was informative and helpful, but it would have been nice to have seen a bit more of the processes involved, even if that was only possible via video links or a video and live expert. About twenty years ago I was lucky enough to go on a tour of the COGEMA facility near Cherbourg and it felt as though we saw much more and were able to be far more involved with what was going on. Perhaps that set my expectations too high.
I had hoped that we might be able to get to the beach and spend a little more time with friends whilst there, and the glorious weather made that a very tempting prospect indeed, but H was very keen to get back for his swimming session so we reluctantly left straight after the tour ended, only to get caught up in very bad traffic as a result of road closures, accidents and fires! In the end we arrived home at about the time he should have been at the pool, so he rushed in and grabbed his stuff and I gave him a lift down there instead of him walking as usual.

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SB has been trying very hard to sell air cadets to K, which wasn’t a hard task given that he was already interested anyway. On Saturday there was an open day, so he cut short his sleepover to go to that, with Bob taking him. It was very impressive and he’s even more interested now (as is Bob, I think!) but the major sticking point is still a major sticking point – he would have to cut his hair and he is simply not prepared to do that. He did have it cut a year or so ago, and sent off a 12″ length to the Little Princess Trust, but hated having it short and has been growing it back ever since. SB had rather optimistically suggested that he might be able to keep it long and still join, but staff at the open day gave an unequivocal no to that idea. So air cadets has been shelved as a plan, to be revisited later when perhaps length of hair will no longer be an issue to one or other of the affected parties.

While K and Bob were off finding out about opportunities with the RAF, I was collecting the girls in a rather more leisurely way, with tea and chat involved 😉 L had gym so we headed back in time for that, then enjoyed a quiet Saturday afternoon.

Sunday was a church sandwich: eucharist and mattins for the girls, evensong for the boys and an added special service in the afternoon at our home church, to celebrate and rededicate the refurbished church halls. L was reading at that, while K was singing at evensong, so we took him in early with the girls and left him with friends for the day – a happy solution in all ways other than the early morning, he felt 😉

J and H were due back from Oop North on Monday, by train to the same town where we do gym on Mondays, but a little too late to join in with the session, so we collected them afterwards, then stopped for food because they were as hungry as might have been expected for two teenaged lads who’d spent the morning travelling! They appear to have had a fantastic time, including visits to MOSI, Old Trafford and Alderley Edge, playing with Grandad’s remote controlled boat, watching the rugby and being well and truly stuffed in true grandmotherly style by Gran-gran!

On the way home we got stuck in terrible traffic, but fortunately Bob was working from home, thanks to office redecoration, so he was able to get everything ready and immediately take K and L to string orchestra (and fit in a bit of extra work whilst there) while I sent H off to the swimming pool (“I’ve been sitting down in a train or a car all day” not being a good enough excuse, after a week off, to get out of it in my eyes – we had words :roll:) and the rest of us pottered and got dinner ready.

Tuesday was a quiet catching up day (including some last minute work ready for WedEd the next day – nothing like a deadline to keep things moving!). I had a training call from my business support mentor at Usborne, which was really helpful in making some decisions clearer for me and Bob was still working from home, which I suspect is nicer for us than it is for him! A had Brownies in the evening, while L had fencing, which she is really enjoying.

Bonus WedEd on Wednesday 🙂 We went to TheBabs’ for a change, so swimming was added to the curriculum – or at least playing in water 😛 Science happened, as did Maths for those who wanted to do it, but lapbooks remained unopened since we were a little short of time and a new venue meant it was all just too exciting! We left J and H there and came back for choir, then HH kindly gave them a lift home. This could have meant extra time for maths, but I think actually led to extra computer gaming. Ah well.

On Thursday I was helping to test a new website for ICE, which involved using remote meeting software for video conferencing. I had to get J up to help me set it up – it’s so helpful to have a choice of computer whizz in the family 😉 It all took a little longer than expected (apparently I was the very first tester and there were a few issues to work through) so the children had to rush around and get themselves ready to go out while I finished off, then we dashed to multisport and made it in time to meet the others as they walked to the park. Phew! It was such a lovely day that the parents and hangers-on decided to sit in the park too, and we had a very interesting discussion about societal expectations and similar highbrow topics – it’s been a while since I did that and it was good 🙂 Trombone hasn’t got going yet, so we were able to stay and chat for a while at the end, unusually, but not as long as the children would have liked, I fear, before having to get A to gym and starting the quick turnaround of dinner and car-packing before collecting A again and going to band. K and H were both in junior band this week, rather than in lessons. They’re progressing well 🙂

Early cello on Friday, but no violin because L was getting more and more snuffly through the day and when I asked her teacher if he’d rather she didn’t come he said yes. Usual choirs and swimming to fill the evening and self-propelled work to fill the day. Saturday was another day of poddling along, with music school for the girls in the morning and gym for L in the afternoon, while Sunday was similarly quiet. The boys and I did start to get ready for Scaresville though, finding black clothes and dark shoes and working out what layers we could wear so I could see what gaps still needed filling.

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Kentwell Michaelmas was a little curtailed for us this year, partly because it threw me by being early so I’d booked the Have Your Say day without realising it clashed and partly because not enough schools booked for it be the several day long event it has usually been. We had fun though, despite the weather, and H learned about being a pedlar this time, including handling Tudor coinage and actually having to deal with the public rather than just being seen from a distance with a bow. In fact we were all pedlars except Bob, who was on the gate for the weekend days and back at work during the week, and L, who was making music in the house. K spent one day as a page and two as a pedlar and J went home with SB on Monday night so that he could get to an art class on Tuesday. We had signed up to do Tuesday morning, but more schools booked than first anticipated, then a couple moved their booking from Monday to Tuesday once they’d seen the weather forecast (Monday was not pretty!) so we ended up with two very long school days in a row. Since the market was the very last station before the exit there was nothing we could do but smile and carry on while others slipped away around us. We had got the tents down first thing so just needed to get the last bits and pieces into the car and go and had therefore hoped to make it back in time for A’s Brownies and L’s fencing but when 4 o’clock had been and gone and we still hadn’t seen the last two school groups anywhere near I hid away with my phone and asked Bob to meet us there with L’s kit. In the end we didn’t leave for another hour and a half after that, and arrived at fencing almost at the end of L’s session. She fitted in one fight before the others left, then the coach asked her if she’d mind staying and working with the next group for a few minutes as well so she gritted her teeth against the tiredness and did. One speed test and several fights later she finally gave in to extreme tiredness and burst into tears when a stray foil hurt more than she could cope with, which reminded the coach that she was only 11 and in the 13+ group! Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.

Bob’s parents asked a while ago if H and J would like to go and stay with them and for various reasons this week was the best choice, so on Wednesday Bob took them to the station and put them on a train North so they could experience the delights of Manchester 🙂 Meanwhile I was up and about early to get a lift with my mentor Sophie to a rather lovely hotel for two days of training with Usborne – a definite incentive to do well and get into the Elite/leadership academy group again! Bob worked from home and rearranged his days a little so that K, L and A could get to their usual activities (choir, gym, band) and keep themselves busy the rest of the time.

Training was excellent but tiring, so it was a relief to find that violin was not on (L’s teacher was preparing for a marathon!) although cello still meant an earlyish start. Between the two choirs we had the now-traditional birthday celebration of pizza in the graveyard for L’s friend A, then all three children went for a sleepover with A, A and Z, leaving Bob and me with a lovely quiet companionable night in by ourselves 🙂

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Sunday brought us a church sandwich, with preaching in the morning and singing in the evening. Between the two Bob and H went off to a WWII event while J, L and I did some delivering and K and A stayed at home and did ‘cello, amongst other things. Hopefully Bob will put pictures up on flickr so we can find out what the event was like 😉

On Monday we missed gym in order to get to the (nominally monthly) HE rollerskating meet up. This was preceded by a talk about engineering, at which we had arranged to meet up with another German lad who is staying with a family from our old church and was hoping to spend some time with other teens. The talk was good, but the audience rather younger than expected, on the whole (a surprise to the speaker as much as to us, but he did well to hold everything together) so J was very happy to be told he can contact them whenever he likes for more ideas and help with projects he has planned 🙂 We spent some time admiring and handling an array of mobile phones through the ages, seeing how their size has reduced and reduced and is now increasing again.
Our plan to picnic in the park between talk and skate was scuppered by a sudden shower just as we pulled up at the park. We abandoned the idea and instead drove to our destination and ate in the car – not nearly as exciting even if the girls and I did discover some nice hidden paths between the buildings to explore. The skating was good though, and A enjoyed soft play with Jax’s littler ones while Jax and I did some Usborne planning 🙂

Tuesday was a quiet recovery kind of day, with lots of pottering and catching up, Brownies for A and L’s second session of fencing, which went well enough that they’ve asked her to continue and she’s agreed.

Wednesday was WedEd, where we designed and then played a board game based on a TEFL activity to get the Beans’ Spanish daughter and H to talk lots of good English. We also did some more on the Shakespeare lapbook (starting with a reminder of what we know about Shakespeare’s life, writing epitaphs using his as an example, then looking at what life was like for an Elizabethan actor and comparing that to actors nowadays) and those who wanted to do Maths with theBabs had the chance to do that too (J and K did and I had hoped that H would in the time he had left after I’d taken the K, L and A to choir, but I think he opted out). SB led a rather lovely art activity, drawing and colouring owls, and HH worked through experiments and conclusions with two different groups of chemists. It felt like a very useful and productive session, even though I had to drag three of my children away early!
K is now spending Weds library time (while the girls have choir) teaching his friend A music theory, with the incentive of an offer of payment by results when A passes his grade 5. This seems to be working well and he’s setting goals and targets like a pro 😉

Multisport started again on Thursday, which made a second day of extra time with other teens this week 🙂 The coaches were late getting there, thanks to bad traffic, so the session ran late – fortunately no trombone lesson to rush to afterwards meant this wasn’t a problem. The church have started laying on a coffee morning type thing for parents, which is lovely; we all sit and chat while the children do their sport and it’s been great to get to know a few people better, as well as to have some interesting chats with the church ladies too 🙂 Plus there are usually good biscuits 😉 This week I spent a fair bit of time chatting about Usborne, so it’s been feeling like an Usborne-chat kind of week – you never know, perhaps I’ll end up with the HE team I’ve been daydreaming about!
We got back in good time for A to get to gym while the others rushed around getting ready for band. It’s always a bit stressful trying to fit everything in with the added factor of traffic, but we’ve warned people at band that we’ll usually be late and it’s still worth going, if only because there’s nowhere else they’d get the same experience. H’s teacher is happy with his progress; K has now joined him for lessons and both boys should be able to move into band in a few weeks 🙂 J had a bit of a headache on the way over and took painkillers but unfortunately by the end of junior band he was a very odd colour and having visual disturbances as well, with what was clearly a migraine developing. Senior band didn’t seem a good plan, all in all, so he went home with the others to get an early night in a nice quiet, dark room.

Fridays start just a little too early most weeks, given the late-ish finish on Thursdays, with ‘cello lessons for A and K. The others usually get to take their time more though, as there’s not really time for me to crack the whip before we go 😉 L has violin in the afternoon, then L and A have choir, with K’s choir after that. This means H and J have the choice of coming in with us and working in the library or staying at home to do their own thing. So far they’ve always opted for the latter. I hope this means they’re working… I left a to do list on the board, because there was packing and sorting to be done as well as the usual work. I think I need a board which shouts reminders at people as they walk past!

This week has mostly been about getting an HTML 101 course done, which H, J, K and L have all been working through online. Once it’s completed they can sign up for the next one, which moves on to rather more advanced programming, apparently.

One of the reasons packing needed to be done early was that on Saturday Bob headed over to Kentwell with tents and his Tudor stuff while I took the children to a Have Your Say day at Addenbrooke’s. They were invited because of the research stuff we did there some months ago, and H was welcome too. While they discussed, debated and learned I rushed back home and loaded the car up with everything Bob hadn’t taken. If I’d known T41 would be there I’d have done that the night before so I could have spent a day with her 🙁 We did manage a nice chat over a cuppa though. The day ended at 3:30 with presentations and goody bags (rather impressive ones really – they were all pleased 🙂 ) and then we drove to Kentwell, aiming to get there at flagdown ready for unpacking, tea and then Scare Academy. Mission accomplished, with success 🙂

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Actually, looking at the calendar, it’s not been as long since my last post as I had feared. This is almost regular blogging 😉 Nonetheless this will be a quick catch-up, not least because I have a borderline migraine…

The main focus last week was getting the first three activities for the Shakespeare laptops completed: a timeline, a biography and the outline of a vocabulary section. All five children now have that done ready for next WedEd when we’ll move on to looking at the context of Shakespeare’s plays and then to looking at some of the plays themselves. H, J, K and L have also all been working through an HTML 101 course online, with a view to moving on to doing more programming if they wish to, once they’ve finished that course. Music practices are getting back on track too, after a bit of a hiatus over the summer, and H is getting good value from his monthly pass by fitting in as many swims as he can.

Monday was the first HE gym session this academic year. H, K, L and A all took part, while J opted for IGCSE English work(if he’s to take it this year then he needs to cover pretty much all the work before he goes to Germany, which is quite a tall order) and I had a lovely chat with Merry 🙂 The coaches said that next time they’ll know to expect older boys and will have some equipment and ideas ready for them, rather than having to make it up on the spot. That won’t be for a couple of weeks (gym is on but we’ll be elsewhere) but should make the sessions well worthwhile 🙂

On Tuesday A had an appointment for a filling 🙁 The dentist again told me off and said it must be diet and I again pointed out that A’s diet is the same as the boys’ (who have no fillings), that we very rarely have fizzy drinks, fruit juice or sweets, that she cleans her teeth well (he has even commented on how clean her teeth are) and doesn’t eat between meals any more (since that was the only area we could see which could be improved). In the end he conceded that it probably wasn’t a problem with diet after all and has prescribed her a mouthwash to try, in hopes that it might help to protect her teeth a little more.
In the evening L had her first fencing session, having been talent-scouted from the beginner sessions we did over the summer 😉 This meant that I had to get J and H to take A to Brownies, since the timings exactly clashed. L loved it and is keen to go back, so I fear we may have found yet another way to use up time and money! We’ll give it a term, and then maybe a year, and then see where we’re at.

Wednesday started early for me, driving over to my mentor’s house to get a lift to Usborne Head Office for training. We had a fabulous day, including meeting various HO staff, getting our hands on some as-yet-unavailable books (there are some corkers coming up!) and gaining lots of motivation. I now have a 90 day plan and I’m not afraid to use it 😉
Meanwhile Bob worked from home while the children educated themselves (I think most of what they did was educational…)

We had planned to get to the HE multisport we don’t usually go to, to see if it was something we wanted to do this term, but although everybody else was up and working at a reasonable time H remained sound asleep until noon and none of us had the heart to wake him, so we missed it! Instead we did lots of concentrated work to make up for lost time 😉 Then in the evening A had gym, I cooked a quick tea, we scooped her up and headed off to band. K is starting on euphonium, as a stepping stone to tuba, so he joined H in his lesson while the others were in junior band. there was no senior band, as they had a gig, so J didn’t need to stay.

Cello first thing on Friday for A and K – Gill started them both on pieces for their next grades (7 for K, 2 for A) so they’ve plenty to get on with in practices 😉 We delivered an Usborne book on the way back, fortunately as it happens, since the detour that involved took us away from our usual route which was at a standstill due to an accident. Bob came home at lunchtime and worked from home for the afternoon so as to be ready to take the boys to London for an evening of science-based stand-up. A last minute change of plan on discovering that a) my sister was in London for the evening and b) K would still be needed in Fri choir and Thurs choir discontinued meant that his ticket went to her and K came with us to choir, via L’s violin lesson.

No chance to sleep in on Saturday! The girls had music school, H and J their first day of volunteering at the cafe, Bob and K were covering an Usborne event for me and I was sorting out and adapting Tudor clothes for the girls and me to be visitors at a heritage event featuring a visit from the Lord Protector himself, Oliver Cromwell! That’s how we spent the afternoon, giving out biscott and little cups of that new-fangled spiced drink chocolate, collecting in donations and playing with little R, who was finding his feet but not always reliably, so clung to fingers in a very endearing way, then had to be rescued from unexpected bicycles!

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First Wednesday of the month = WedEd, where it was especially nice to find that it was pretty much a full house 🙂
One side effect of this was a slow start as much chatting happened, but we still fitted in Chemistry, Maths, a few games (mostly Munchkin, I believe) and the first stage of setting up Shakespeare lapbooks, including a quick run-through of key events in Shakespeare’s life, as well as few other bits and pieces around the edges. No choir yet meant that we could stay a little longer than we usually can in term time, so we were late home for a very quick tea!

Thursday started early, so that we could drive to Leyton for a Geography workshop called Restless Earth. Since it was aimed at GCSE level this was just for the boys. They had to work as part of a team, each taking on a different role and using their skills and knowledge to make plans and draw maps to help deal with disaster scenarios involving earthquakes such as that in Japan in 2011. Apparently it was good, useful, interesting and worth the early start and fairly long journey – you can’t ask for much more 😉 While they were busy the girls and I wandered along the High Road investigating the shops. A bought herself a new scooter, since she is now too big for her Mini Micro but doesn’t like L’s scooter at all. This one has two wheels at the back so is more stable than a simple two-wheeled one, although not as easy to use as the mini micro. Hopefully it’ll keep her happy for a bit but not be so good that she continues to delay learning to ride a bike – she’s still adamant at the moment that she doesn’t want to! If all else fails, we may tackle this when we next go to Centerparcs and have safe roads to start her on again.
We got back in good time for some work to happen, A to get to gym and the rest of us to grab dinner, instruments and music and head out to band, scooping A up on the way. H’s teacher says he’s doing well on baritone – having heard him practising from time to time I was glad this is making a difference 🙂 J was asked to stay and play tuba in the senior band from now on, since they are desperate for more bass and are hoping to train him up in time for competitions next year 🙂

Friday was a relaxed day, with a list of suggested HE tasks on the board for everyone to work through at their own pace, with breaks when they felt they needed them. If that system works then we’ll use it for all our at-home days. If not then we’ll rethink. As ever HE is a work in progress! H went swimming again in the evening, and managed to join in with the club training session, which apparently is quiet enough on Fridays that he should usually be able to join in – an unexpected bonus 😀

Music school hasn’t started yet and K has been feeling distinctly short of time with his friend A, so when A’s mum offered to bring Z here to play with our A and take K away to play with her A it made all four of them very happy. K went off to play computer games and enjoy bonding with his friend again after six months away, while Z and A helped me do some cooking ready for the Beans’ party in the afternoon. We left J and H to sleep in, then H helped a bit, worked a bit and mooched a bit while J got the laptop as sorted as he could for the Sunday service. K was returned to us and Z collected in good time for collecting L from gym, but getting everybody else ready proved more difficult, as costumes were donned, discarded and altered (the party theme was Rebels). Finally everyone was happy, the food and drink contributions were safely in the car and we were off, via the gym, to the Beans’.

The weather was not as good as it might have been, so only the hardiest souls were swimming, but there was still plenty of fun to be had, playing games, chatting, eating and (re)connecting with friends. We stayed rather later than we should have done, really, given that J still had laptop things to finish (songs needed adding which weren’t sent until early Sunday morning!) – he ended up having to get up early to do it before the service, which was a struggle for a tired teen! It was a lovely evening, though, and worth a bit of tiredness the next day – thank you to all concerned and especially to the Beans 🙂

Today J managed to get up for church but I left the others to sleep, as they were dead to the world. Just as we were about to leave, A appeared, very keen to come along so she could see her friends, so we waited for her to grab some breakfast and throw on some clothes. Fortunately we were still early enough for J to iron out some last-minute issues – although were were still a few hiccups, mostly due to miscommunications. All good learning experiences, but stressful for him at the time.
We got home to find H mowing the lawn, a task which he says he enjoys a lot and would like to take on regularly while he’s here 🙂 A wanted to do some baking so we started some bread off and H came to help with that too. We made an enriched dough, for which he did most of the kneading, then rolled it up with cinnamon, butter and sugar to make cinnamon swirls – almost like Chelsea buns, but a little less sticky. While it was proving A and H stoned and chopped some plums then picked some apples from the garden to stew with them. H went off to research some more for his Shakespeare project and A and I made crumble, then L asked to cook too so she made a sosmix/falafel mix plait, which turned out very nicely. We had a high tea whilst watching a programme about what’s under the ground in Britain (secret fuel lines, the Underground, machines building the new Cross rail, supports for the Firth bridges, a canal tunnel through the Pennines, a water-powered electricity storage facility and more, it seems 😉 ) and then the girls went to bed while the boys all enjoyed a little free time on laptops.

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