More March

Sat 13th – Music School, then science festival – lots of chemistry (Bob) – and helping at church sale (Katy)

Sun 14th – church then fantastic afternoon at Upware: press printing (like lino printing but with polystyrene tiles), clay fossil imprint tiles, watercolour painting (still life), badge making, mask making, pebble painting, mosaic making, owl pellet dissection, treasure trail (ending with planting a sunflower seed).
Then dropped K off for a sleepover with his friend S 🙂

Mon 15th – girls danced in the morning then we collected K and went to chemistry lecture by Peter Wothers on Fire and Flame – excellent stuff,with lots of bangs and pops 🙂 We were early so sat right at the front, where K and L proceeded to answer so many questions (very politely, with hands up first) that Dr W. came over at the end to congratulate them 😆 Came back via playground and got home just in time for L to get to gym.

Tues 16th – music workshop – really very good – working through different types of instruments and how they produce their sound, with help from Pythagorus and some fun practical illustrations. Looked at different lengths/sizes of brass instruments and then string instruments and how length of string compares to pitch so double or half lengths sound good together. All joined in with voices, hands, feet etc to make a rainstorm soundscape, then given straws to play as reeds for an impromptu concert at the end 🙂 Afterwards went to see Imaginary at Maths dept – excellent video but hands-on stuff not so good when so many little ones wanting to join in! Rushed off to violin, but teacher didn’t arrive – turned out later she’d phoned us at home to cancel as she couldn’t drive, but of course we weren’t there. Must give her my mobile number! K had gymnastics – so nice not to have the huge rush of two lots of gym one after the other!

Wed 17th – thought about doing lots of science stuff, but decided to have a day at home instead, doing normals and gardening 🙂 Oh, and we scoured local town looking for things J had requested for his birthday. Baby Music and cello but no Cubs for K due to a weekend event he wasn’t going to anyway.

Thurs 18th – Tots plus Philosophy, first time in new building and it seemed to work well. Last Philosophy for a while though, and quite possibly the last at all unless there is more demand, which is a shame because those who do it are really enjoying it and getting lots out of it. Realised I had forgotten my purse so couldn’t go into town as planned without coming home first. Almost couldn’t be bothered and then decided we might as well, especially as still had to find J’s bits and pieces and bigger city a better bet. Quick lunch then back into car and back to city, via a very quaint display of molecules modelled at x2 million! The creator was there (retired professor) along with his wife, who was very taken with the children and kindly took us round the exhibition at child level rather than post degree level. It was helpful just to get a rough idea of scale, since the children have talked about molecules with Helen but the scale is very hard to get. She told us that she finds it quite mind-blowing herself – the model of E Coli is about 2 metres long, and opened up so that you can see all the protein molecules etc at work inside. Apparently the professor has been working on it for about 15 years and has had to change it several times as more and more was discovered during that time – she thought he should have kept each of the models so you could see the progression but he only wanted to have the most accurate one. There are 10000000 (that’s ten million!) E Coli in one cc of poo, she said, and then all these things inside each of the E Coli – that got the children’s attention! I think their favourite bit, though, was when she took them into her workspace (I think she does lymphatic drainage, as far as I could gather) and showed them first her collection of stars (hanging form the ceiling to give patients something to look at while she works on them) and then her amazing collection of eggs, which includes ones she has decorated herself (natural dyes with leaves to make patterns) and others she has bought or been given. One was a goose egg which had been carved so intricately it looked like filigree, another could be opened up to hold a small gift… we were all spellbound 🙂
Then we carried on into the centre, parked in an expensive short term car park because I couldn’t be bothered to walk 😳 (and figured the free events we were going to made up for paying for parking 😉 ) and popped to a shop I hoped would have stuff for J – and it did 😀 It also had a shop assistant who had been HE and an owner who thoroughly approved of us going against the system – it’s that kind of shop 😆 We finished up at the Arch and Anth Assembling Bodies exhibition which was pretty much the same as last year. I found that disappointing, but K and L wandered round rediscovering old friends and spotting things they had forgotten or missed last time. The ceramic hugs were there again, and also the Vox Theremin (?) which unfortunately freaked A out to such an extent that we had to go to the far side of the room to get away from it, and even then she kept asking to leave. We cut our visit short, therefore, which made the parking cheaper than I had feared 😉 K and L want to make body maps now – note to self in case I forget that!

Fri 19th – Quiet day at home, making up and posting a parcel for J, baking, normals, rest and relax…

Sat 20th – tightly scheduled day! Started with Music School, but only 2 out of 3 sessions, so that we could get to the Whipple for Sounds like Science. Billed as 5+ I found this very disappointing, as it was basically lots of straws and plasticine put out for the children to make panpipes, with no scientific explanation at all and no other input than a sheet saying you needed to block off one end with plasticine, cut the straws to different lengths and stick them to a piece of plastic. After the workshop we had done on Tues K and L at least knew to try making each straw twice or half as long as the one next to it, so we made it work for us as a science thing, but for such a good museum it was a disappointing activity 🙁 At least the Whipple itself is always worth a look, and they had helpful students showing how to make and use zootropes too, which K particularly enjoyed as he got one for Christmas which was not a design they had there, so he was able to discuss how his works and how it’s different to the ones they had on show.
Then we dashed off to the Maths dept for some hands-on puzzles and games, lunch in the car on the way. All three children enjoyed doing things at their own level, although I barely saw L because she did a great job of just attaching herself to any family with a more or less appropriately aged girl in it and having a lovely chatty time with them 😆 Having planned to meet up with the Babs and co at the Whipple, but ended up arriving just as they were leaving, we managed it again at Maths, since they arrived just as we were leaving, but we had to get K and L to a singing workshop…
I dropped Bob, K and L off to register and headed back to the Maths stuff, where I found Beans, Hollands and eventually also the Babs. I do like the Maths Dept cafe 😀
After a couple of hours of workshopping K and L’s group had a concert for us to watch, which was very good – apart from times when audience participation was required and we discovered that we were sitting just in front of a couple of loud operatic mothers 🙄 Even after the choirmistress had quite pointedly said that we would need to sing quietly so that the children we were there to hear weren’t drowned out the aforementioned mothers seemed to be unable not to show off their lovely voices; as a consequence I have no idea what that piece sounded like other than the part our section of the audience was singing 🙁 Glare. Grump. Anyway, the children had had lots of fun, and L now wants to join the girls choir as soon as she is old enough (8) which might even be feasible as that’s only a twice weekly commitment, unlike the boys’ choir J was interested in which demanded 3 and then 4 times a week and which K has decided sounds like too much because he wants to do lots of other things too 😉
Concert over and certificates given out we made our way to the Astronomy open evening, where we met up with a few people we knew and the children did varying amounts of craft, learning, running around like loons and so forth. A enjoyed the light bucket display (ping pong balls, a cup, a bucket and a paddling pool – the possibilities are endless!) and we all had our pictures taken with a thermal camera 8)

Sun 21st – church, Wandlebury, Rainedrops 😀

Clearing the blog blockage

I hadn’t realised that my lack of CenterParcs post was stopping Katy’s creative flow, so here’s a very belated CenterParcs post. As a result it will be a bit of a jumble.

7 of us in the car was a bit of a squeeze, and we didn’t arrive early enough for the cheeky swim before you can check in. But we got there early enough to not be too stressed. We had paid a bit extra for the chalet, which I think was worth it – I can’t remember exactly what we got for our money, but I remember Katy and me saying it was good.

I think that Sherwood Forest is better than Thetford Forest CP, other than it’s further away and in an area we’re not familiar with. We were weren’t in as close as last time, but I didn’t feel our lack of bikes was a problem. The playgrounds were excellent – a splendid set of musical things to jump about on, a decent rope bridge (actually over a bit of a lake) and other good things for A to play on. Also there was something that looked like a skate ramp, but was actually an enormous see-saw (for e.g. 10 adults at each end). And there were a couple of weird multi-armed see-saw things – so that 3 people could sit on a telegraph pole each and try to bounce each other up and down (the poles were roped together in a fiendish way).

It was still very cold, and one morning when walking to the main bit we saw a rabbit hop across a small lake over the ice. I’m glad I stopped to enjoy the moment rather than try to get my camera out and take a photo and probably miss it. J and M found an archimedian screw thing in a big sandy bit (actually a beach by the side of a lake), and had to force it loose of the ice that was jamming it up.

Generally the swimming was great – easier than last year. We didn’t have to battle J to get him swimming, which made things much more pleasant. (He occasionally took quite a bit of persuading, but definitely not what I’d call a battle.) K and L were as happy as last time, and better at swimming than last year so less hard work. M was in his element – he hadn’t been to a place like that before, and really enjoyed all the chutes and flumes. A liked it a bit, and I hope that next time she’ll be generally a bit bigger and capable and so get more out of it.

I was glad that all the various families going had managed to book so that we were at least in clumps if not all together. We had a DVD night at ours one evening (with rather delicious panettone bought as a post-Christmas bargain), but didn’t join in the late night board games sessions as I’m such a lightweight.

It was a bit weird getting a couple of phone calls from Newsround about the exchange in the middle of the holiday. Once I was in the middle of helping A across the big rope bridge and asked if he could phone back later – I gave the reason as I thought he’d understand. Possibly one of the strangest “I can’t talk to you right now” reasons they’ve had.

At the end of swimming on the last day M managed to lose his trunks and a pair of goggles, J and K had earned one of those big foam sausage things each, and K had found a disk from the laser clay pigeon shooting.

As well as a lightweight I’m also an old fogey. The only place I could get wireless reception was at the bowling alley / bar in the main bit. We met up there first for a birthday celebration for Big, which was during the afternoon. I went back one evening and the music was SO LOUD. I couldn’t see why people were sitting there voluntarily, in the name of enjoyment, shouting conversations to each other. Some couples had their babies with them in buggies. My laptop’s battery is so feeble that I had to plug into the mains, and the only place I could find a socket was next to the info kiosk thing – I did feel a bit weird, the only person there tapping away on a computer rather than chatting and drinking, but we needed to keep in email contact with Katy’s dad.

We cut it short a bit (but not much – just the cheeky, after you’ve checked out swim), so that we could get to Norwich in time (taking a slight detour to deposit M with Gina and co). Despite a stressful stretch or two where we thought we wouldn’t make it, we got there OK. and Katy has already blogged about all that.

Catching up again

and still leaving Centerparcs to Bob 😉

We dashed straight from CP to south of home to drop M off for a sleepover with Gina and co, then across to Norwich for Grandad’s funeral. We got there in time to go to the house first, where Mamgu had masses of food waiting for us and we had the chance to chat with Tadcu and my sister Polly before going to the church. The service was lovely, with lots of people who knew and loved him taking part. The usual minister was away (not such a bad thing actually) and the service was led by the super, who had known Grandad well and spoke about his Methodist background and his preaching life. Tadcu talked about the rest of his life – he was upset later at how stilted he had been but it came across well to the rest of us and the pauses just showed how much it meant – my oldest cousin did a reading, the oldest great-grandchild did another, my uncle Ron spoke very movingly about how Grandad had been very welcoming when they were all young and had become increasingly like a father to him after his own father died, then read the most amazing poem that they had found in Grandad’s papers after he died. I’m welling up just thinking about it – must get a copy from Daddy. And then I had to stand up, after that, and do prayers. I didn’t think I’d manage it, but somehow I did, and we all sang, almost raising the roof of the chapel – Grandad would have been very proud of us all, I think. After that we went to the crematorium for the committal, then back to the church for refreshments. Auntie Jill asked if we would go back to hers for the evening and since M was happily at Gina’s we decided that would be a good way to round off the day, even though it meant a long drive and a late night.

On Saturday Bob dropped the children off at music school then went to pick up M and got him back in time for the last session – his favourite. A quiet day of unpacking and washing followed. Sunday was a normal quiet Sunday, with church and lots of rest, especially for me as I was exhausted, then Monday another quiet day, with L’s gymnastics as the first organised activity. We did a bit of catching up on music and normals, and M did French night at the other Cubs pack – answering questions about life in France, which apparently he bot enjoyed and did very well.

On Tuesday Bob went off to work and then came home an hour later because he felt so unwell. He slept most of that day, while the children and I went on a HE group trip to P cathedral, looking out for Tudor things – it’s a good place for that! We went straight from there to violin, with lunch in the car, then back home with enough time for K to get changed into gym clothes. J decided he didn’t feel up to gym so only M had to do the quick shuffle at 5:25. On Wednesday Bob was still sleeping upstairs, while we Latinetced downstairs – fish dissection, which was actually nowhere near as difficult or unpleasant as I had feared I think it’s easiest to just send you here for more! Since the children were deeply involved in some fantastic game with the new market stall Helen and Michelle stayed for another cup of tea while I took K to cello and A to baby music, meaning I could leave J, M and L here without feeling bad about Bob 🙂 Cubs was French night again (different pack) and also K’s first trial session.

Thursday was Tots, again leaving Bob asleep. Lots of piano, and the usual French while M was busy 😉 After Tots was Multisports for M (J opted out) while the rest of us went to Gina’s and played with S (and E and J, who had also opted out of sport) while she taught. Came home and dashed round getting Tudor stuff ready for HE group on Friday, then got hopelessly lost on the way and nearly didn’t make it at all. We were there in time to talk about Tudor life and Kentwell, share pottage and frumenty and show accoutrements and costume, but we missed all the other talks so as an HE experience for mine it was a bit of a waste – although I guess it gave M a reminder of what we had done at the beginning of his stay with us. Dashed home for a busy afternoon.

Saturday was music school and sling shop, as usual. Bob came with me and slept on the settee at the shop until it was time to collect children. As it was K’s birthday we had made vast amounts of cake for him to take in and share, which apparently went down well 🙂 They came back to shop and had lunch then when they got too bouncy Bob dragged himself off the settee again and took them to the park while I finished up.

On Sunday M joined us at our local church, because we had been invited to lunch after the service – third attempt and the first one we’d been able to make, but we then realised that K needed to be elsewhere for a birthday concert and meal with a music school friend partway through so had to change plans a bit. Bob decided that driving one child would be easier than staying with the other four, so he and K had first course and then slipped quietly out. The idea behind the lunch was for newcomers to meet a few more people. It was slightly spoiled by the fact that our family took up most of a table by ourselves and nobody seemed to want to sit in the spare seats 🙁 It worked out nicely in the end though, as first one of the cooks and then the minister took pity on us, so even though we didn’t get to meet anybody new we did get to have pleasant chats with nice people 😉 Bob got back in time to save us a walk home – and to collect a bowl of trifle to bring back with him – and I did the collecting K run and so got to meet his friend and friend’s parents.


M went to the children’s midnight mass (at 5pm) with our Catholic friends, who then brought him back here for us and stayed for cups of tea and nibbles, with Carols from King’s playing in the background :tree: Oh and we quickly ran up some stockings from fleece in the fabric stash, having discovered that we only had one of the ones we made a few years ago left – we left that one for Big Alice and made new ones, each one different, for all the children, which they then proudly put in their rooms 🙂
Mince pie, card, drink of milk and small packet of sweets were left for Father Christmas, and a bowl of salad and carrot for the reindeer and we had a quick look at Norad tracking Santa to see where he was up to, then children went to bed, and eventually to sleep…

Christmas Day began slightly too early, given that Christmas Eve had ended a little too late (J couldn’t get to sleep) so children were told to unpack their stockings whenever they liked, do what they liked with the contents but not try to show us until rather later 😉 Leisurely breakfast, whilst admiring stocking contents and then looking at presents from us to children (mostly clothes, thanks to the SusuMama sale, and some white baseball boots to decorate) which were then donned ready to be shown off at church. It was a nice service, then we came back, ate mince pies and opened one more present before getting Christmas dinner going. M had chicken (deliberately left over from Christmas Eve meal with outlaws) and we had a Quorn roast, plus all the usual Christmas trimmings (except bread sauce – what is the point of it? Bleurgh!). We even watched the Queen’s Speech while we served up – how traditional can you get? Everyone was too full for pudding then, so we watched a film and opened more presents, then flamed and ate the pudding for supper. Various relatives were spoken to at various points in the day – M’s parents phoned in the morning, we phoned inlaws to sing “We wish you a merry Christmas” and to say thank you for presents and so on and apart from that it was just us and all was quiet and family and rather nice actually :mrgreen:

Boxing Day is usually when we see Auntie Norma and Uncle John, but this year they were celebrating their Ruby wedding anniversary on the 27th. We had thought of going to see Grandad, but my Dad said he had been unwell on Christmas Eve and was waiting for antibiotics to take effect, which meant he was confused and would possibly not even know we were there, so with that and a warning of very bad roads near to his nursing home we decided that 26th was better spent quietly at home, with presents and films to enjoy and not-quite-enough leftovers to eat (A had eaten all the roasties so I had to cook more potatoes to make bubble and squeak!) then on the Sunday the boys had their first morning of Holiday Orchestra. M was to have a sleepover with Gina and co, so that he could do the first New to Gamelan session rather than meet a bewildering number of random relatives at my aunt and uncle’s, so we dropped them all off at 9:30 for their first session then picked J and K up at 12 (missing choir) but left M there. Despite bad weather we made it in time to pop into the house before going to the church for the blessing service they had arranged to have, at which both J and I were to read. J coped well with a long reading (Matt. 2:1-12) and the children all sat nicely through a service which tbh had little for them until we got to the end and the blessing itself. K and L took the collection and their second cousin (I think!) J did a blessing at the end so family were well represented. My little sister Polly was expected but not there, which had us slightly worried until she appeared a few minutes into the post-service party, having had a nightmare journey (from Wales to Norfolk) including a puncture. It was so nice to see her again 😀

Since the boys had HO again the next morning we could not stay too late, but had to make our way back through snow and ice. Gina assured me that M was having a good time (and a late night) so all was well 🙂 Having taken the whole week off, Bob did the Monday morning HO run, so that I could sleep in (ha! A had other ideas!) then the girls and I picked them up, so that we could go for a play/chat date with Morag and family, since R and R had also been HO-ing. I was so tired I wasn’t sure I could face driving across town through bank holiday sales traffic, but it was such a pleasant afternoon that it was well worth it in the end, for lovely soup, great company and a chance to set the world to rights – or nearly, at least 😉

On Tuesday and Wednesday Bob did both HO runs, in his small car, and on Wednesday L, A and I went to Michelle’s for an extra small Latinetc which turned out to be mostly Music Theory, with a little French, no Latin but lots of chat and playing. We were late getting there, which was probably not a bad thing as it meant E and C were already playing well together and L just joined them, rather than E and L arriving at the same time and trying to fit C into a game. We stayed a little longer than Gina, so L and C played together too – it all worked out nicely really (and thank you for having us, Michelle, and Gina for doing so much Music stuff). Meanwhile Bob had three different Gamelan performances to go to, as the boys were each in different sessions, and then a quick dash home for rest and food before the evening concert – pics and videos on flickr.

Thursday, New Year’s Eve, was a flurry of hoovering and tidying, especially children’s rooms as we had two families to fit in overnight and another just for the evenings. The Rainedrops arrived at about 3:15, within 15 minutes of predicted time – very impressive 😉 – and were soon followed by Em and co. then Goddards at 6 o’clock (which sounds oddly like a film title!). We did potatoes and pizzas and similarly easy food so that people could eat as and when they wanted to, along with cheese and biscuits and similar goodies, including a huge box of baklava Barbara had found at Costco (I must get to a Costco some time!). LED balloons, glow-sticks, sparklers and indoor (cake) fireworks kept the children busy whenever they weren’t DS-ing, while the adults relaxed and enjoyed the peace! We tucked our children up at about 10, being mean parents who could see they were over-tired already, but all the others stayed up until the countdown and then watched the fireworks on the TV at midnight (in black and white, to the astonishment of some of our younger visitors 😆 ) before departing either for home or for beds. Oh, and I had a couple of unexpected birthday presents – some yummy fudge from Nic and a fleecy throw from Barbara (which she promptly annexed to snuggle under on the settee!) – thank you both 🙂 I think the last adults drifted to bed at about 3… and the first surfaced at about 8 (and that would be me, both times – whoops!) to put out massive quantities of brioche and pastries (good old Costco, did I say I really want to go there some time?) and fruit salad for breakfast.

Pillar to post

Our Tuesdays always seem to be busy and this one promised to be even more so when the lady who freecycled the CD/cassette player we collected last week apologised that her son had given us the wrong one and asked if we could swap it for the correct one today. Sooo, we had a huge detour to do on the way to swimming 🙁
Anyhoo, I managed to get lunch ready while children were still having breakfast, then J and L did some of the violin work they should have been doing all summer (oops!) while K and M did some drawing and writing. Piano came into it somewhere too, I think, and then we were off to swimming, via CD player swop. The swimming pool staff seemed unsure as to whether or not we would have a lesson, or a teacher, or anything really, but it all sorted itself out when the teacher arrived, by which time A had begged and pleaded enough to persuade me to go in as well. Actually, it was just as well that I had, as there was no lifeguard in the middle pool so my plan of letting the boys swim in the unused half of the pool while L had her lesson would not have worked anyway and I actually ended up with an extra tagalong child as it was. The water was pretty cold though, so when I suggested to A that we should get out as soon as L’s lesson was over she was happy to agree, which at least meant that we had a running start at getting changed in time for the violin lesson dash. The lessons looked good as far as I could tell, with M not so far ahead of the others that he couldn’t get anything out of the lesson, which had been my fear. I did feel bad rushing them out of the water with no time to chat or play, but the violin lessons we have fit into a tight slot and if it’s to work we have to stick to schedule! As it was we were nicely on time and pulled up just before the teacher 🙂
L went first and seemed to enjoy herself, despite not having done much violin at all over the summer – Kentwell brought us to a bit of a full stop and it was very hard to get going again after that. She has now promised the teacher that she will do some every day, so we’ll see… M went next and did really well for a first lesson (I think covering about as much as K and L did in their first 2 lessons) but then complained of a sore arm afterwards – we need to watch that he doesn’t tense up apparently. I haven’t had a chance yet to have a big chat with him about it and find out whether he wants to carry on or not but will try to fit that in tomorrow somewhere. J went last, and despite starting later and doing even less over the summer than L has just managed to overtake her in the book (only by one page though). He was not quite as willing to promise daily violin as L though, so we’ll see whether he can stay ahead 😉 The next pupil was late, so we stayed and chatted for a bit, by which time we had only a few minutes at home before needing to take K to gymnastics. J and M decided that they wanted to stay at home while I did the drop-off, so I left them with phone numbers and some maths and they seem to have been fine – no need to phone and some maths done 🙂
Quick snack for J and M and then they were off with Bob to collect K and see if there was room in J’s class for M. Meanwhile I expanded the snack for the rest of us. Apparently M’s face lit up when he saw the gym, so it was very lucky that there was a place for him, although only on a week by week basis for the moment. And now they’ve just got in again, and need feeding again…

Fighting entropy

I should be in bed as I was nearly asleep several times today, but wide awake now :(.

Err… what’s been happening? I took some time off and my Mum and Dad came down so that we could attack the fence at the bottom of the garden. Because our garden is higher than the land beyond, the soil is trying to flow downhill through the fence. The previous fence was buckled and in need of cuprinol, so when M+D asked what I’d like for my birthday I asked for help with the fence. We now have bright orange new wooden fence panels (not my choice of colour, but pre-treated by B&Q means less work for me). They now rest on new foot-high gravel boards, which should stop the buckling problem. Where the fence goes round the back of the workshop we have just put up chicken wire to mark our boundary as the workshop wall is a proper wall but about a foot inside the boundary.

This involved ripping out the old fence panels with a claw hammer 🙂 , chopping them up with a circular saw 🙂 , and wrestling several established brambles to the tip 🙁 . The gate still needs doing, but the rest is groovy. While Dad and I were being manly, Katy was attacking the clutter and Mum kindly weeded. I think the children did something or other … 😉 .

The downstairs of the house is now sorted largely due to Katy’s heroism, but we just need to fight untidiness fires mostly started by the children. (Constant vigilance!) The upstairs now has all the beds in the correct rooms, but only one of the chests of drawers. K was hiding a mother lode of clutter and junk under his bed, so dismantling it, moving it to another room and then mantling it exposed another job. Getting to the last boxes we moved with is a bit like being on the sea shore after a storm at sea – loads of random things wash up, mostly junk, but occasional treasures. Some treasures have been put back in new boxes of just treasure to sort at some point, as they now take up less room due to less junk.

Yesterday I took the youngest three out to Ely Museum, which is excellent. Small, friendly, enough hands-on stuff, covering woolly mammoths up to world war 2 (so it beats the Festival of History, then 😉 ). Well worth going again, particulary as the children were free.

Keeping on keeping on

Time seems to be rushing past in a haze of missed opportunities and unmet deadlines.

The house is now at that awful stage where everything is everywhere and even though we’ve got rid of loads of stuff and created lots of storage space we haven’t yet put all the remaining stuff into the storage and there are several boxes which have been emptied apart from an inch or so of detritus which may or may not be important and so skulks there waiting for us to get round to looking at it properly and making decisions about its fate. Tempting though it is to just throw it all out, I have found enough treasures in amongst the dross to not want to risk losing any vital parts of complicated games… If push comes to shove, and let’s face it, it usually does, then all the boxes can be tipped into one mega Box of Doom and it can wait until I have the mental energy either to face it or to nag Bob into dealing with it 😉

We have listed things on Freecycle and now have the usual dilemma of how to choose who gets the things everyone wants and how long to wait before throwing out the potentially useful things no-one has asked about – big bag of packaging and Jiffy bags anyone? If we can complete one cot-bed jigsaw then I know someone who wants one and we certainly need the space, but we’ve got 2 in bits, it doesn’t look like enough bits for both and we need to end up with a small-size bed for A if we’re to demonstrably have enough beds for our French child as well as our 4. The fact that they hardly ever use a bed each is immaterial 😆

Friday was meant to be a catching up with normals day, with the incentive of painting the Paper of Paris masks we made the other day. It turned into a nagging and grumping day with very little achieved at all until I gave up and went out to the workshop to just get on with chores and sorting 🙁 At least that meant that the children had something to do with Big Alice on Saturday morning while I was sling demo-ing and Bob was taking things to the tip and then collecting some shelves for the workshop loft 😉 The masks look great (shame the lovely pearlised paints they used are now ruined as nobody thought to put the lids on 🙄 ) and by the time we got back Alice and the children had been for a very long walk and were eating lunch 🙂 Except A, who had fallen asleep in a carrier and woke up as we walked in, just in time for Mummy milk.
Sling morning went well again, with the same lady back again to show me how much she’d practised and to learn a new carry. She bought another sling too – I think she’s hooked already and she barely has a bump! I talked to another lady who had just come in to drop off maternity clothes to sell and ended up thinking about which colourway to go for and when she could make time to come and learn a carry, then a couple of friends who thought they both wanted pouch slings, but changed their minds first to ring slings being better and then to wraps (which they had discounted because they knew someone who had one and loved it but it was all stripy and made her look like a hippy – I tucked my Bebina rainbow under the Costa Rica Hopp and showed them the plainest ones in the catalogue 😉 ) because they looked by far the most comfortable 🙂 By now my 2 hours was well and truly up but Bob was still collecting shelves so when a family came in looking for a ring sling I was still handy and able to talk the mum through how to use it most comfortably if she was sure that was what she wanted. 5 minutes later she went out with a Lima Hopp ringsling – green because with 3 boys already and another on the way she said she was tired of blue!

Alice stayed for the afternoon too, which gave us (me!) a chance to put up most of the shelves and sort through several boxes in the loft. Possibly not the best use of time, with the house still a tip, but at least I know they’re done, there’s now lots of space in the loft and it will stay tidy because the children don’t go up there! It wasn’t half hot up there though, and today I feel lousy – not sure whether a bug or the result of too much time doing hard physical work in a hot stuffy environment. So Bob’s in charge and I’m on cola and toast, with 10 minute bursts of activity before retiring back to bed again…

toddler conversations

Bob was talking on his mobile and when he’d finished A told him to put it away “inna pocket.”
“you’re going to grow up…” he began, but before he could finish, “to be very clever!” she interrupted with a very solemn, “No.” “Oh, but I’m afraid you are going to grow up, one day!” “No, I’m A!” “Yes but one day you’ll be grown up.” “No, I’m A!”

A: “I’m a girl.”
B: “Yes, and what is K?”
A: “He’s a boy.”
B: “Yes! And what about J?”
A: “He’s a girl, no he’s a boy!”
B: “Yes! And L?”
A: “L a Monday!”
B: “Oh!”
A: “And A a Tuesday!”

brass bands, big bangs, many hands…

After a fab science week the RI lecture “As if by magic” just seemed too good and too opportune to miss, especially once we knew that the Porticos, Monsterteenies and Manorborns were going to be there. Alison offered to keep A busy for me, which was a bonus – I know she can sit through such things without being loud or distracting to others, but it is still distracting to me and selfishly I wanted to enjoy the lecture too.

Gina works on a Monday so I knew they wouldn’t be able to make it, but offered to take J and Em with us; they’re so nearly a part of the family anyway that it’s hardly any more trouble to have them than not 🙂 Em had things on, but J was at a loose end so we decided a sleepover on Sunday was the best plan (and a treat for J’s birthday) and then we could catch the 9:00 train (earliest one we’re allowed with railcard) and fit something in before meeting the others for lunch. Bob took us to the station to save having to worry about parking and we arrived with what should have been plenty of time, only to find a huge queue at the ticket office because half of the automatic booths were out of order. The queue at the booth outside was much faster than that for the clerk, mostly thanks to a lady buying huge numbers of tickets for a group, so I got there first, Bob abandoned his place in the other queue and came out to join us and that was when we discovered that the machine didn’t offer tickets with Railcard discount. Frustrating, given that by now we really didn’t have much time left and I’ve bought tickets from there before with no problems. Back to the other queue, with just a few minutes to go… At last someone came and stood next to the queue with a handheld machine, so things went much faster from then on and the annoyed mutterings from those in the queue who now knew they were going to miss their train subsided somewhat. Sadly he was just not fast enough and the machine was still spitting out our tickets as the train pulled out of the station 🙁 Bob mentioned the trouble we’d had with the automatic booth to the station master and his theory was that the machines won’t print tickets before the earliest they can be used. We tried the machine again, as it was now 9:03 and lo and behold our ticket option came up this time – not much use though, to only be able to buy a ticket at the same time as your train leaves!

Bob dashed off to work and we sat and played I spy for the half an hour until the next train, which was of course late 🙄 On the train we started on lunch (of course; it must have been nearly 2 hours since breakfast!) and did some Maths Ad Libs, which turned out to be so engrossing that we very nearly missed our change and had to grab things together and scramble off the train while a helpful fellow passenger held the door for us 😳 While we were collecting ourselves again K managed to drop his ticket, which was instantly whipped away by the wind and carried across the platform, elusively just out of reach, and then whisked onto the tracks. L decided she could cope with being 4 again and nobly gave K her ticket 🙂
Finally made it to Finsbury Park, bought an Oyster card, negotiated the Tube and got to Green Park, where the children decided they would rather spend an hour or so playing in the park than go to the RI museum before the lecture. While they were running around we heard a band playing and saw crowds of people heading to the other end of the park so we followed suit, hoping to find out what was going on. It turned out that we were just in time to see both the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and the procession of the Queen’s Life Guard (mounted). According to the official website that means we saw the Blues and Royals, the 23 Engineer Regiment and the band of the Irish Guards – and very good they were too 🙂 By chance we ended up scrunched up against the railings right by the main entrance, which meant we couldn’t see much of the parade but had a fantastic view of everything once they were inside the grounds. The band were fab and really made the children’s day when they played the Thunderbirds theme tune 😆 Then just as we were about to head back to the park the horse guards appeared, in stunning red and gold, so we watched them too 🙂
changing guard
horse guards

Got back to the park just in time to meet up with Nic and co, established ourselves on a bench and got as much food into children as we could before they could contain themselves no longer and just had to charge round the park waving sticks and daffodils 😆 Other J was inclined to sit with his nose buried in a book, so I chivvied him off to play too 😉 Meeting up with Porticos was accomplished smoothly, then Manorborns joined us too, with another family I didn’t know, and we had a nice congenial lunch (L said today that she really missed her new friend, the big girl with the boots who was Buttercup’s big sister and had given her a hug when she went to have her lunch 🙂 ) and then made our way to the RI for the lecture. A fell asleep in the MT en route and I managed to transfer her to Alison still asleep, although I’m not sure how tied on she was – hopefully comfortable enough, as apparently she stayed asleep for a fair while longer and I wouldn’t want to have caused Alison any shoulder or back ache by my poor sling tying 😕

We got stuck behind a large school party on the way in, but as we reached the doors to the lecture theatre they were being sent up to the gallery, while we were given seats in the main hall. The lecturer was very enthusiastic, very French and great fun. He bounced in and launched immediately into his first experiment, telling it as part of a story of how he got interested in chemistry in the first place. Apparently he used to watch a quack who sold remedies and would turn people off traditional medicines because they are all based on acids and could cause a fire inside your tummy. This claim was backed up by a metal lid with a powder on it to which said quack would add an aspirin tablet and some cough medicine, finally sprinkling it all with water. Whilst describing this the lecturer was also doing it, and lo and behold the damp mixture began to smoke and then burst into flames! Intrigued, our hero took himself off to the library to find out what could possibly have caused such a reaction and how he could make it himself. He found a book called “The Magic of Chemistry” (this one?) and the rest, as they say, is history…

The magic of chemistry was further demonstrated by setting fire to some “volcanic powder” and then by pouring clear liquids from one flask to another, turning them first pink, then clear, then pink, then clear.
lecture 1
A second set of beakers with clear liquids gave a variety of bright and deep colours when mixed, including one which did not change at all when the contents of a large beaker were poured into a small one, only to change instantly from clear to coloured when poured back into the same beaker! He showed us changes which happened just with mixing, only with the addition of water and only when heated. The most incredible one, though, must have been the change which only happened when two clear liquids were mixed and then exposed to the key of D major (or minor – I wasn’t taking notes!) by having the violin played at the beaker. Clear liquid instantly turned dark!

Describing himself as something of a pyromaniac, our lecturer then took us on a headlong rush through a number of experiments to do with fire, showing for example how the discovery that oxygen helps things to burn better led to the development of nitrocellulose, which burns so much faster and more completely than cotton wool – yes he burned both just to show us 😉 – and how you can then use nitrocellulose strips to power a paper rocket… and then he got a bit carried away 😆

Another very simple experiment showed the difference between petrol burned as a liquid and as vapour; a very simple version of the combustion engine using a tin with a lid and a hole in the bottom – drizzle the petrol around the inside of the tin, put the lid on tightly, warm the tin by holding it for a few seconds, then light the petrol vapour thus created by putting a splint to the hole and whooomph! 😀 As the audience began to clap they were rapidly halted, with the exclamation “No! No! Your car does this thousands of times a second – do you clap every time?!” Oh, and we were told we must remember Boyle 😉

Then we got onto a series of experiments using liquid nitrogen 🙂 He poured liquid nitrogen over water in a beaker to show the change of state of the water (and was rather disappointed, I think, when the ice and the beaker creaked and crackled, but nothing broke; he poured on a bit more but to no avail!) and put a bendy rubber tube into liquid nitrogen to show that it became hard and brittle – with the fantastic bonus effect of creating a chimney which vented boiling nitrogen, warmed by the air in the tube and released as a great cloud of steam puffing out through the tube liquid nitrogen

Attention turned then to the amazing properties of air, in being able to be compressed. Liquid nitrogen was poured over a large balloon, filled just with air, and we watched as it shrivelled away almost to nothing. cold balloon shrivelled and then marvelled as the lecturer picked it up and bounced it gently around between his hands and into the air, warming the air molecules up again until he was once again holding a fully inflated balloon! A quick bit of drama, enacting the part of a very cold, very slow air molecule cold air molecules and we were off again, onto the next thing, which proved to be a balloon helicopter (that compressible air again!) and then a swift solo on the bugle (other J beside me was muttering “French horns are better!” 😆 ) Another name to remember: Lavoisier 🙂

By now, he was starting to look a little tired and to cough theatrically from time to time. As he began the next experiment, which involved burning something else – my mind blanks as to what – he asked plaintively for a cup of tea (“one milk, one sugar” – I knew it was fishy then, as no Frenchman I know drinks tea that way!) and a teapot and cup appeared in short order, but without milk. Feigning great distress he poured himself a cup, raised it to his lips and protested that it was far too hot. Brainwave! Liquid nitrogen would cool it down 😉 tea

Back to the experiment in hand – wish I could remember what he was burning, but whatever it was, it burned better with oxygen added 🙂
Then it was a quick romp through clear gases – oxygen, nitrogen or air? Use a lighted splint to find out 🙂 – a reminder (using large glass jars with molecule-beads in them) that air is a mixture rather than a pure substance and a look at the apparatus used to extract carbon dioxide, which was then used to extinguish a row of candles CO2

I’m sure you’ve noticed the balloon floating up from the bench… Oh yes! That one was hydrogen and it gave a moderate pop, some heat and a fairly bright light. Then he produced a rather larger one with hydrogen and oxygen, just to make sure we remembered the effect oxygen has on things…

After we had rescued Alison from A, or possibly the other way round, we did the usual toilet trips etc, filled in our lecture evaluation thingies – since they had gone to the trouble of doing special HE ones, we thought it was the least we could do 😉 – and looked at the weather, which was really not promising for the proposed trip to The Monument. Instead we opted to make our way to South Kensington, walk towards the museums and see which one we fancied when we got there. Natural History won, mostly by virtue of being slightly nearer than the other close contender, the Science Museum. We arrived at the hands-on part in the basement after all the school parties had left but with an hour or so before it closed, so had time for the children to wander and find plenty of things to do, from food web puzzles on the computer to measuring skulls and from weighing starfish to stroking a snakeskin. There’s still loads we didn’t even see, so plenty of scope for a return trip or ten 🙂 When we were thrown out of there the rest of the museum was still open so we travelled through fossils to volcanoes and then back to bugs – all very bright and appealing, with lots to see and do; I think each child (and adult!) picked up on different things.

Leaving there at about 6, we all walked to the tube station together, then said goodbye to Nic and co and got on a train with Manorborns. It was very busy so lots of head counting going on and no seats. When one did become free Michelle did a lovely job of loudly telling me I had to sit down, since I was carrying my baby, but the man behind her shoved past and took it anyway. Two nice young ladies stood up instead and offered us their seats, then a couple more were vacated at the next stop, until eventually we were all sitting 🙂 We said goodbye to Michelle and C at Holborn and then counted stations to Finsbury Park, where we found a chip shop whose large portions really were (we got three between the six of us and had to throw some away!) and made it to the platform with a few minutes to spare for the 18:58. Sadly no seats to be found, so we parked ourselves in the corridor, spread out a newspaper as a tablecloth and had a feast of chips, red pepper slices and smoothie – is that balanced? At the next stop enough people got off for us to bag 4 seats round a table, but I made what later proved to be the mistake of putting my coat up into the luggage rack out of the way, a thing I never normally do because I am paranoid I will forget it. It turns out I was right to be paranoid 🙁
J and J DSed (My French Coach) while K, L and A (kinda) coloured and I read an abandoned paper (1p a month mortgage anyone?) until we got to our station, where I safely got children and bags off the train but forgot my coat until just a split second too late. We were home and children on the way to bed just a few minutes later; we said they could read for 5 minutes, but I don’t think many of them lasted that long 🙂

Party weekend

Err… I realised that we haven’t blogged last weekend’s birthday extravaganza. A has been ill and hence very demanding for nearly a month, and Katy’s also been ill for about the same length of time, so we all got behind with the everyday things. Adding a children’s party on top was interesting! In the end part of me was glad that not everyone stayed over who might have done as it would have forced us to do even more emergency tidying / room clearing, although another part of me knows it would have been very nice to see you all!

I took all the children out on Saturday while Katy did things. The boys let me drop them at Astronomy for the first time – I usually get the joys of making fiendish paper models of things with them, but this time I had to get party shopping with the girls. Keeping SB company on her first visit helped sell the boys on the idea, and they seemed fine with it in the end.

The Babs and co arrived, so the adults consumed cups of tea, chatted and sorted things out. The children disappeared off to who knows where doing who knows what, but they seemed happy. Katy had a 4 cake marathon, with bowl-cleaning help from R, The Babs and A. See Flickr for their full glory.

We were introduced to Bohnanza (the bean game) by The Babs and Chris, and we stayed up till 2.30 playing it. Dirty stop-ins, eh? It was weird and nice to be staying up that late without poorly children being involved. Very good, and I much prefer it to the world-domination type of game such as Risk.

Katy very kindly let me sleep in on Sunday, but had been up herself with A since early. Somehow she lasted the day! The Goddards arrived in time for lunch, but a slow kitchen clock meant we were late leaving for the hall – sorry to those who arrived before us. Chris very kindly dropped me off with the first stuff and then the second wave came with all the rest.

The weather was very much better than the forecast at the start of the week, for which I was most grateful. I’m also very grateful for how much everyone pitched in with food, help and games – honourable mention to tea lady The Babs and Big Alice’s multi-layer jelly.

We started with a snowball fight with scrumpled up newspapers, where you had to clear your quarter of the floor (an idea I pinched from J’s cub pack). The adults and girls tied first place. Hurrah! Then skin the snake, which had to be done but led to some dodgy-looking photos. Big Alice organised a great treasure hunt out on the field. The Ha Ha! game was abandoned as no-one got the giggles. The Goddards’ parachute got properly played with, and the Taylors’ musical islands game went well despite the lack of music.

The rush to get to the hall meant we had left behind the dice needed for the Chocolate Dressing Up Game, so Katy did elephants / monkeys / mice outside while I zoomed back. (It’s rock / paper / scissors in 2 teams, with the winning team having to run after the losing team.)

After cake, we chucked the children out to the playground next to the hall while clearing up happened – more very kind help. Some people went home, and others came back to our for leftovers and cups of tea. Barbie was liberated from her cake and relaxed in a big bowl of jelly with some friends, the children disappeared, some very nice home-made presents were handed over and eventually everyone left and we collapsed.

Unfortunately not all the leftovers were consumed, so we have been forced to eat pizza, cake and other goodies for a few days. Thank you to everyone who came and made it a very nice weekend.