Saturday, 29 December 2012

winter wonderland ...

All the family went to the Winter Wonderland at Cribbs Causeway on Thursday ~ Special Friends had booked a session before the rink was open to the public, and this time we didn't have to argue with the skating people to 'let' us have the wheelchairs on the ice!

Petal, as ever, went round and round, giving us regular updates as to how many circuits she'd done.  Spot the new gloves and scarf, and the sleeves of the new jumper that are longer than the sleeves of the not new coat!  She was having so much fun ~ right up until she fell over, bumped her rear end, and burst out crying.  By that time my ankles were killing me so she was the perfect excuse for me to have to leave the ice (don't tell anyone!). 
As I looked into her eyes and she relaxed and pulled faces at me it crossed my mind that this was one of the moments I hope I will always remember, when I could feel how much I loved her right down to my toes ~ all the way to the moon, and back again.

Noah struggled at first on the ice ~ I'm not sure if it's his balance or his confidence that was the bigger problem.  Fortunately, he has a strong  familial support system ... also known as a big brother and his handy wheelchair!  Teamwork!  Spot the new jumper/old coat combo going on again!  Poor Noah is battling  to coordinate his limbs right now ~ he's sprouted up so much over the last six months ~ all of a sudden his trousers were all three inches too short, which unfortunately showcased our collective family shortcoming of completely failing to ever match a pair of socks!

Mr Manley ~ well, maybe it's the big feet keeping him the right way up, kind of like a counterweight to his height.  Actually, that's not fair ~ and more importantly, not true.  We went ballroom/Latin dancing together each week for about four years, before I got sick, and he has the same genuine gentle grace on the ice that I used to see when we danced.  I said he looked grumpy in this picture, but he disagreed, and he was moving too fast for me to get a better photo, so he's stuck with this one!

I love seeing the three children together, getting on with something without needing any adult supervision or chastising!  It's a difficult balance to reach, for Noah, Petal and Smiler to interact as siblings ~ ordinary, bickering, irritating and irritated siblings. So here we have Smiler waving, Petal reminding him to wave and Noah in charge of steering ~ trust me when I say this level of cooperation does not happen often!

Everyone enjoyed themselves, even though we ended up with chilly fingers and soggy feet!  You know that bit where you have to carry your skates back to get your shoes, and the ground is all wet?  Every time I promise myself that next time I will remember to bring extra socks for everyone so we can finish up with dry feet, and every time I forget!  Maybe next time ...

Friday, 28 December 2012

the alternative Christmas message

Channel 4 have broadcast an alternative message (referring to an alternative to the Queen's Christmas message) since 1993 ~ plenty more wiki info if you're interested!  This year, the speech was given by Adam Hills (not much on his site, but here it is if you want to check it out), who presented a kind of round up programme each evening on channel 4 during the Paralympics this summer.  A comedian by trade, Adam also has first~hand experience of being different ~ he was born without a right foot.

If you didn't catch it at Christmas, it's available for another couple of days on 4oD, otherwise I'm sure you can track it down on YouTube or similar, and please do ~ it's a great reminderb that thing have shifted just that little bit, and disability is no longer (within the UK at least) quite such a taboo subject.  I don't know how long it will last, but by consolidating the fantastic events of the summer with such a positive message we can certainly keep our collective fingers crossed.  Some of the text of the programme can be read at sport site, and for me the resounding and memorable sound byte was 
"And right round the world new voices are boomin,
Don't call us disabled, we're now Superhuman."

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Bristol A+E ~ abstract to say the very least ...

I had an unexpected diversion to Frenchay A+E yesterday, and while waiting for bloods to come back and for Mr Manley to come and pick me up, I found myself accidentally eavesdropping on the patient in the next cubicle ~ they may provide a little privacy but those curtains do nothing to enhance confidentially!  For obvious reasons, the names in the following conversation have been changed.

(Young female doctor) ~ Hello there Mrs Williams, I'm Anne, one of the doctors here.  This is George, he's one of our very best nurses, and he's going to be helping me check how you're doing.  Can you tell me how you got hurt today?

(Elderly lady patient) ~ Oh, you are a dear, but just call me Doris. Mrs Williams makes me feel so old.

Okay Doris, so let's talk about what happened. Your son said something about a computer?

Oh no dear, I don't know anything about those, just used a pen and paper in my day.  Is yours broken?  You should talk to my grandson Liam, he's very good at all of those sorts of things.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt

Westonbirt Arboretum ~ go if you get the opportunity!  About three ~ quarters of an hour from Bristol, and time flies when you have Christmas CDs and mince pies in the car!

I'll add some more photos soon but for now, I hope you have a fantastic Christmas.  I've given my little people an extra squeeze tonight ~ I think this may be the last year Petal is able to convince herself to believe in the magic ~ Noah had become so streetwise the last couple of years we know he only goes along with it because he's worried that if he doesn't then his stocking may be empty in the morning, and Smiler ~ well, who's to say what he believes!  

Have fun, and make sure you take a moment to remember the things that genuinely matter this Christmas ~ no, not sprouts and  wine and chocolate and ribbons and fortune~telling fish ~ the people you love.

Happy Christmas.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Something New!

I was wondering around our local library last week and spotted this book ~ I know, it's a bit sugary sweet, but one of the projects was a baby hedgehog ~ perfect for the symbolic pet Petal added onto her Wish List.  

So, all I had to do was borrow the book, buy the equipment, and learn to needle felt!

Watch this space ...!

Don't~cha just love the way her red eyes match the tree behind her?!  They're not red in real life, I promise!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Anything planned for March 6th?

I just wanted to flag up for everyone that free tickets for the Bristol Parent Carers Participation event on March 6th next year can now be booked via this link.

Anyone who has attended one of these events before will be able to tell you what to expect, and as well as enjoying a free short therapy session (not sure what will be available yet, previous events have included reflexology and shiatsu massage among others), and finding out what changes might be coming in the future for our children, it's a fantastic chance to meet other parents and have a chat.

Speaking of chat, BPC run a monthly 'Parent Carers Support Group' at Barton Hill Settlement ~ the next one is on January 14th.  It might sound a little intimidating, but I promise it isn't!  Even if you are a brand new face, no one will throw wet sponges at you or force you to fill in a six page registration form!  It offers the chance to chat about any difficulties you are having (your child, their school, their doctor etc), get some tips from other parents on good places to visit with your child, nor even, shock horror, talk about something that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with your child!  Yes, its true, you are allowed encouraged to chat about whatever you want.  There's tea, there's biscuits ~ give it a go! (Is it only me that has that 'doctor pepper, what's the worst that can happen' song in their heads from the adverts?)

Click to read the rest...

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Nativity plays ~ how many have you seen?

I worked this out earlier, and between the three children I have seen (so far) 19 separate versions of the traditional nativity play.  You know, Mary, angel, donkey, shepherd's, kings/wise men, baby.  There's a level of tolerance relating to how many times I can remain relatively sane sitting through the whole thing, and to be perfectly honest, I reached that number a couple of years ago.  

Surely I can't be the only parent who attends this (alleged) highlight of the school calendar experiencing not the utter joy and frenzied excitement that we seem expected to feel at the opportunity to see our offspring perform, but more a weary resignation to the fact that there are few legitimate reasons to escape the situation, and just a teeny tiny amount of fear that I might fall asleep and be elbowed back into consciousness by a disapproving parent seated next to me when I begin to snore. Or dribble. Or both.

Click here to read the rest ...

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Follow the finger ...

Petal, trying really hard to make herself go cross-eyed...

No Petal, this is how you do it ...

That's right, keep both eyes on that finger ...

Move it slowly ...

Oops! Try again ...

Yep, well done ~ in case you weren't sure what it would look like to go cross~eyed in just the one eye ~ now you know!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Eli, you dirty dirty dog!

Eli, enjoying a hug with Smiler before he had a close personal encounter with the scissors (Eli and the scissors I mean, not Smiler ~ that's a whole other story!)

Apparently, the two~tone dip~dyed look is in this season.

I know, a bit blurry, but still ~ so so grubby!

I'm starting to think a cream coloured dog was not one of my better ideas ...

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

A land of possibilities ...

We went to Westonbirt a couple of weeks ago, before it got so cold!  It's gorgeous ~ so many colours, from the most vivid scarlet to the deepest brown, with a rich palette of yellows, oranges and umbers in between.

It's about a forty~five minute drive from Bristol, and so long  as you're wrapped up, you can easily spend the whole day there.  Huge mounds of leaves for the kids to kick their way through, and plenty of leaves still on the trees to cast the most amazing shadows on the ground.
Petal found a secret doorway... can you see it?

She's so responsible and mature most of the time these days, due to my health in some ways I guess, I love it when she ignores the path and runs around in the mud ~ I love to see the eight year old in her.
How about now?  Can you spot that magical portal into childhood that Petal found?  I found my own portal ~ the cafe!  We stopped off  for some fantastic hot chocolate ~ complete with marshmallows and cream!  
Yum ...


Made of wood, hidden within the trees, an entrance to an ethereal land full of possibilities...
Shoemakers elves, woodland pixies, forest nymphs, tree fairies ~ they all featured highly in the mystical tales whispered into Petal's ear as she ran amongst the leaves.  That kind of innocence is like mist in the morning ~ it burns off fast and you can never get it back, so take time to enjoy the view while it lasts.

* * * * * 

Monday, 10 December 2012

About that last list ...

Our 'proper' computer seems to have decided to take a break, so I can't post any photos.  In case you aren't aware, I thought I'd offer some info about the items on that last list, so here goes.

Bagga T

Originally a series of books, Rastamouse and friends now have their very own programme on cbeebies.  Rastamouse lives in Mouseland, plays in a reggae band and also solves crimes with the help of his band mates. Cheese features highly, and once each criminal is shown the error of their ways, they apologise and put things right.  Bagga T starts off as a rapper on the wrong side of the law, and once reformed only uses his musical talents for good, such as rapping the 'ickle orphans' to sleep.

Bagga T  and the other characters use Jamaican slang throughout, which I think is fantastic ~ so many children in the UK grow up hearing  their parents or extended family members using words and phrases that they never hear repeated in school or through other media such as literature or TV shows.  Some may have the opportunity to hear reggae music, but might still feel isolated ... different.   By presenting strong Jamaican accents and using words and phrases specific to this culture mainstream BBC children's programming has acknowledged the diversity represented in the UK, and also given those children who can convincingly imitate something to show off in the school playground!


Kwasi, I am reliably informed, is a cat who is a member of the crew in (yet another) Cbeebies programme ~ the Octonauts  As far as I can work out, they live under the sea in a cartoon version of the underwater drilling platform in the The Abyss, and spend their time  exploring, helping fish, sharks and other marine life, and researching the underwater world they live in.  Each character has its own speciality ~ Peso (a penguin, in case you were wondering) is a medic ~ he bandages up sore fins and rubs cream on cuts.  Kwasi  seems to be a pirate with his eye patch and spyglass.  Always conscious of the importance of educating their audience as well as entertaining them, each programme also includes a couple of simple marine facts ~ that it is the male seahorse that gives birth for example.

So an educational wish list from Smiler, just a shame his imagination seems to have out~imagined those who hold the power in commissioning!

Just as well Smiler loves books ~ Rastamouse and Octonauts do both perform in this area at least!

Friday, 7 December 2012

The final abstract Christmas Wish List

Two down, one to go.  Each child put together a Christmas Wish List, with varying degrees of detail.  This one was just a tad shorter than the others...

  1. Talking Bagga T
  2. Talking Kwasi

That's it.

On the plus side, these are the same two things that he asked for for his birthday, so he's consistent.  However, there was a very good reason he didn't get either of them then, and it is the same reason he won't be getting either of them for Christmas ~ they don't actually exist.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Life Unlimited

Up, down, in, out - all of us lead lives full of curves and ever changing focus.  This is an amazing piece of three dimensional art on display at the Science Museum in London.
I've been to seven funerals in the past ten years, five of which were for children.  A friend of mine, Amy, has a son with a medical condition which means he is 'life limited' ~ again, it's all about the words, as if by avoiding the word death we can somehow pretend it isn't actually happening.

Oliver's condition was diagnosed after his little sister had been born, when he started having seizures.  Some were worse than others, but he had one or another type of fit most days.  The family coped, as families tend to do, and his little sister, Erin, understood that this was simply a part of his life, and had been told that one day he would die.  I can't pretend to know what that is like, how heart breaking that must be ...

Anyway, although Oliver's condition deteriorated, he was still around for Erin's fourth birthday, and when her mum was tucking her into bed that night Erin asked if her seizures would start soon.  Not understanding, Amy asked what she meant ~ it turns out that because she knew Oliver had began to have seizures when he was four, Erin thought it was going to happen to her too.  She had thought all her life that she too was going to start having seizures and die during childhood.

Amy wept on the phone to me later that evening, torturing herself for not having explicitly told Erin she didn't have the condition Oliver had, for not having told her she wasn't going to die young.  Amy had made a purposeful choice to talk to Erin about the seriousness of Oliver's condition, but by doing so had inadvertantly  caused more heartbreak.

So maybe there is no right way, maybe there is no option that is going to cover everything you want your children to know without leading to assumptions that you don't want them to make, or to questions that you don't know the answers to.

Oliver is still with us, though probably not for much longer.  Erin is eight now, and loves her big brother to bits.  She is kind and compassionate, and will grow up to be a truly extraordinary young woman, who will cherish her memories of time spent with Oliver for the whole of her life.

As parents we try so hard to protect our children from the sharp corners and rough surfaces of life ~ is it possible that by sheltering them from how ugly and upsetting this world can be we are hugely underestimating them?  Are we preventing them from developing the skills necessary to live a fulfilling life themselves?

*all names changed for privacy 

Saturday, 1 December 2012

It was me. I was the one shouting at my child in the street.

Yep, that was me.

Why is it that my children seem to look particularly angelic when they've just done something I've asked them not to do?  

When they were little I was always really good at ignoring the temper tantrums.  We made a conscious decision that we wanted to be the ones in charge of the kids instead of the other way round, and we had a fairly close example of what we didn't want to do, which helped when I was gritting my teeth in the supermarket with a screaming red ~ faced runny nosed child rolling around at my feet.  I was calm and relaxed, and blanked them completely, and it worked ~ as toddlers they knew if we said no then we meant it.  

So what changed?

I really don't know.  

But these days, things between me and the gorgeous boy child hiding in the leaves are strained, to say the least.  

He's nine, and I'm already dreading what life will be like when he's a teenager.

And he's the only one that makes me feel like a cartoon character with stream coming out of my ears.

So, yesterday evening we went to the Christmas market in Bath.  We go every year ~ its the first proper Christmassy thing that we do ~ its like a signal that the season has started.  On the way back in the car we put the Christmas CD and it plays until the 25th, by which time we have all had enough and are more than happy to put it back in its case, ready for next December.

But yesterday at the market it was as if he was deliberately trying to push every single one of my buttons.  

As a treat, I bought pasties from the bakery.
It's not fair, she got a bigger piece than I did.

We went in a couple of shops, including Hawkins Bazaar, which they love.
But he got a longer turn fiddling with the sticky stuff than I did. 

We bought a slice of fudge from the fudge kitchen.
But I wanted a different flavour, you never get the one I want.

More after the jump...

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Dog Days

This is Eli.

Eli is eleven months old, and at this moment bombing round the house like a dog possessed.  Full pelt, around the living room, down the hall, into the kitchen, round the table, back into the hall, then back into the living room and around again.  Three circuits later, he's jumped up on the sofa next to me, laid down on top of my feet, panting away!

* * * * * 

He's a cross between a shih tzu and a llasa apso, and I'm still not sure whether we should call him a shih apso or a llasa tzu ~ seriously, try saying each aloud and see what you think!

* * * * * 

He's a complete softie, and spends his time following me around the house like a toddler ~ whenever I settle down he sits on my feet, or as close as he can.  It's very handy, now the weather has turned a little chilly ~ he's like an everlasting hot water bottle to keep my feet toasty when I'm sat on the sofa or snuggling in bed.

I think dogs are a little like children ~ once you've acquired one (through whatever route), and he/she/it has spent a couple weeks getting to know you and vice versa, it becomes very difficult to remember a time when they weren't around!

* * * * *

At the top of tomorrow's to do list is trim the hair around his eyes and face ~ he's starting to look a bit like the  Dulux dog!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Next Abstract Christmas List

I briefly explained why we write wish lists for Christmas here, and I have to say it does make it easier ~ my mother~in~law phoned earlier and asked what sorts of things they wanted for Christmas, and I managed to sound like a reasonable coherent human being for once!  I think as long as the people writing the lists realise they are what they would particularly like for Christmas, and not necessarily what they will get, you're fine.  And don't restrict yourself ~ if you have a fantastic idea you think they would love ~ maybe it isn't on their list because they don't know it exists!

So here's the next list ~ written by Petal ~ my gorgeous eight year old girly.  And a pic of her when she must have been about four.  They really do grow up fast.

  1. Books ( Tracy Beaker)
  2. Arty things
  3. Lego
  4. Sewing box (a box or bag for my sewing things)
  5. Some gloves and a scarf
  6. Matiryel to make Eli a stocking
  7. Animal rubbers
  8. Miny aquarium
  9. Nighty
  10. Pgs
  11. Jumpers
  12. Pensals

Points to note:

~ #6 ~ It seems she's definitely my daughter.  Material (AKA matiryel) to make a stocking for the dog ~ I can't help wondering if she's realised by the time she's made it Christmas would be over.  Maybe she's planning early for next year...

~ #8 ~ I have no idea what she has in mind with the mini aquarium (yep, that's what that word is!).  The best bit is that she spelled aquarium correctly!

~ #9 / #10 / #5 ~ She knows it would drive me mad to buy things I can make, so  she's managed to extend my already pretty lengthy to do list to include sewing pyjamas and a nightie, and crocheting gloves/scarf/hat...

~ #12 ~ Pencils. How much do I love phonics, let me count the ways...

Sunday, 25 November 2012

I'm Lucas, how do you do?

So, about time for introductions I suppose!

I'm Lucas.  I grew up in Sussex, and moved to Bristol to go to university ~ literally did not know a single person here, and that was pretty scary.  It also felt like freedom, and a perfect opportunity to start over ~ new city, new people, new me.  You've heard 'fake it til you make it'?  Well, that was me.  I pretended I was confident, and knew what was going on, and over time, it kind of worked!  I was hugely insecure though, and had real problems with my self~esteem, or more accurately, the lack of it.  Which is why I put so much energy into pushing away anyone who seemed even slightly interested in being anything more than friends.  

But one guy persisted.  Every time I hung up on him, he rang back.  Even though I told him to leave me alone, I'd find him waiting outside after a lecture.  Okay, putting it like that makes him sound like a stalker!  Anyway, he somehow managed to convince me it was worth a try, and it turns out he was right.

We moved in together, and I fell pregnant.  I had pretty bad morning sickness, which unfortunately coincided with my finals, so I had to keep leaving the exam room to throw up ~ not a lot of fun.  But this was another new start ~ a new beginning for both of us.

But this baby did not like keeping to a schedule, and although I was due to give birth on September 4th, I was still waddling around very bored with the whole thing when I watched a plane flying into a building on September 11th.  Morbid fascination I guess ~ I kept watching.  Part of me wondered if it was like War of the Worlds ~ you know, the radio broadcast that everyone thought was real?  It seemed too out of the blue to be true, but of course it was.  

Baby boy made an appearance on the 24th, and that was when the fun really began.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Christmas Wish Lists in the Abstract household

We've started writing Christmas wish lists over the last couple of years, partly due to the fact that one of my son's ended up buying his father a tin of baked beans one year because I got so sick of doing the rounds of the shops with him and that was all he could think of.  Oh wait, that's not true ~ his first idea was to give him a monkey.  So now everyone writes a wish list, so the little people can get a headstart on ideas for us and each other, without driving me round the bend!

So, here's the first one (nine year old boy child):

  1. Pensal case
  2. Lego (ninjago or star wars)
  3. Batugan
  4. Footballs
  5. Football cards
  6. Sweets
  7. Socks
  8. Jumpers
  9. Money
  10. Cheesecake 
  11. Cool pensals
  12. Cool pens
  13. Cool rubbers
  14. Crystals or fossols
  15. Skylanders
  16. Alex rider or worrier cat books
  17. Lego harry potter (Wii game)
  18. Pgamas
  19. Dressing gown
  20. Slippers
  21. Tourch

Points to note:

~ the spelling is his, I promise, not mine!  I'm not entirely convinced about phonics being the best way to learnt to read ~ mainly because it doesn't work when you try and spell!

~ I'm a mum. How am I supposed to know the difference between a pen that's cool and a pen that isn't?

~ he's asked for books ~ that has to be a good thing!

~ I know, he wants socks.  He does have socks, honestly! 

#10 ~ what can I say?

I make really good cheesecake.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Spots and Dots for Children In Need

Oh yes, it's that time again ... oh joy.  Surely it isn't only me?  I don't mean the whole Children In Need  ideology, I'm all in favour of such things, it's just the school bit of it ...

{My house, three hours ago ...}
'Muuuuuuuum ...'
'Yes dear?'
'You know tomorrow?'
(In general terms, or actually tomorrow tomorrow?) 'Yes dear?'
'Do I have any t~shirts or jumpers with spots on?'
'Well my darling, I'm not sure ~ are there any in your drawers?'
'Then probably not.'
'How about trousers ~ have I got any spotty trousers?'
(Good god I hope not) 'Don't think so love'
'What can I wear to school tomorrow then?'
'Ummm ... school uniform?'

Yes, it's that day again. Once again I have proven myself to be a complete failure of a mother and a human being by managing not to have found each child an entire outfit of clothes covered in multi coloured spots. Oops.

But I did make these ...

(Don't worry, that isn't all of them!  Each child has a proper cake~tin full of 'em.  Spotty tins too ~ check them out in the background!)

According to a nine year old boy child I know, biscuits with spots and dots are better than clothes.

So ner.

I'll post the recipe when I get a chance ~ Lucas~proof, look like they took time, effort and patience of a saint (actually 10 minutes, a food processor and an icing nozzle), and yummy ~ it's a win~win~win!

Still I Rise

Over the past few days there have been a couple of lines of poetry floating around inside my head, and while I was trying to work out where they were from ( turns out a~level Eng Lit ~ I'll share another time!), this caught my attention ...

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness upset you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that wonderously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

                            ~Maya Angelou

I love the imagery within this poem, and even more, I've fallen for the spirit ~ the absolute confidence, the complete defiance of another's expectations.  Maya Angelou grew up in a different time, a different world even, but the message of complete self belief in the face of another's judgement hold just as true today as it did when she wrote it.  Instead of using her (undoubtedly hugely traumatic) past as an excuse for giving up, or a reason for self pity, she instead rose above it to lead a life packed with international literary acclaim as well as personal fulfillment.

The concept of truly regaining control over an aspect of one's own life is, and should always be, incredibly powerful.  Similar to that well trodden path of television teenage angst where the clever kid uses their brain to beat the bully into submission by using the very attribute which was picked upon in order to gain the upper hand is trul poetic justice.  To not only take back your sexuality but to positively glory in it demonstrates immense strength.

Language ~ so simple, so straightforward, and yet potentially holding so much power over each and every one of us.  Words lined up, one after another, like soldiers marching in rows or a solitary brush stroke in an old master stripped entirely of context.  Imbued with precious little meaning ... until you take two steps backwards.   Once you can see the majesty of the whole,  you can begin to appreciate how well each plays its part, how these individual soldiers contribute to the overarching objective.  Maya Angelou uses both language and rhythm to elicit an emotional response in the reader, particularly effective when you hear the words spoken aloud.  Even the punctuation contributes to the sense of grace, with well placed pauses highlighting the vivid imagery, and by facing the quasi~questioning within the verse the reader is invited (and encouraged) to join in that joyous sense of triumphant victory over violence and domination.

I love poetry, but rarely think to sit and read it ~ perhaps that's something I should try and get in the habit of doing, to give myself a little time and space to journey with some of the incredible writers who have chosen to use the medium of the written word along with  the fluid beauty of poetry to express themselves, and inspire all of us.  Any recommendations on where to start?

Friday, 16 November 2012

Easy Peasy Biscuits

Okay, I'm waiting to use the laptop to upload the photos, so I'll and them once the small people have finished on Mathletics  (great website by the way, definitely motivating for the nine year old boy child!).


225g plain flour
150g marg (I use supermarket own brand 'soft spread - perfect for baking' (poor man's Stork)
125g sugar (granulated is fine, just use whatever you have to hand)
2 tsp (teaspoon) vanilla (use 1tbsp (tablespoon) if you're using vanilla flavour or flavouring, teaspoons if essence or extract)

Here's the way I find easiest:

Get the food processor out, put the dough blade in (the blunt plastic one), then put the main container bit (technical name anyone?) on the scales.

Zero the scales, add flour sugar and marg, zero~ing between each ingredient if you're lazy like me and see no need for unnecessary mathematics in the middle of baking.

Put the processor together, blitz til it looks like damp sand.

With the motor going, splash in the vanilla then go til its kind of formed into a couple of main lumps and some little bits.

Tip out, squish (technical term that) together, then lightly flour your surface, and roll out to about 1 1/2 cm thick, cut out, and put them on the tray.

Gather all the off~cuts together, re~squish (even more technical that one), re~roll and go again.  Any more off~cuts ~ well, it's up to our but if you ask me any bits of biscuit dough that have managed to stay on the outside of the cutters for two rounds must be really scared of the big intimidating oven, so it seems unkind to put them in ~ if you aren't hungry, I'm sure you can find a small child or two that can think of a less frightening alternative.

Into the oven for between ten and twelve minutes.  Once they've started going pale golden round the edges, take them out and swap them to a wire rack to cool.

Try to resist eating them for a couple of minutes ~ you'll burn your fingers if you start straightaway!

I'll post the variations to turn these into the Spotty Dotty Children In NeedChildren In Need ones tomorrow, along with (hopefully) the photos!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

how to explain death to a child ~ any bright ideas?

I found out yesterday that our elderly neighbour died last week.  Her husband of over fifty five years died two summers ago, and her health had been declining fast since.

It got me thinking ~ how do people tell their children about death?  Is it an issue that is simplified by religious belief, or complicated by it?  Do the notions of heaven or re-incarnation or other denominational continuation provide some level of closure, or do they extend the period of grief by neglecting to include an end point?

The first time we spoke to the children about death it was because our cat had died.  We explained she was dead, she wouldn't eat or move around any more, we were going to bury her in the garden, and they could see her first or watch us putting her in the ground if they wanted. They were only three, four and five, but we wanted to demystify the process as much as we could.  I cried, they cried, we all cried.  But in the way children do, they moved on pretty quickly.

Some of this I want to come back to another day, but first I'd like to ponder the problems of language associated with death.  Why do we all have such difficulty with the phrasing?  So many euphemisms ~ we lost our dog (are you expecting to find him again?); the hamster passed on (a particularly tragic round of scrabble perhaps?; the rabbit was put down (put down what? Down the hole? Isn't that after the dying bit?).

I'm sure I inspired a few interesting staffroom conversations when our next pet death occurred ~ "the hamster died yesterday.  He isn't sleeping, he isn't in heaven, he's dead.  It wasn't for the best, he isn't better off now, he isn't looking down on us, he's dead.  He isn't coming back, he isn't happier now, he's dead.". Yep, I'm sure I came across as a really sensitive kind hearted parent that day!