madelinekelly: freaky bug-eyed alien fractal (Default)
2015-09-14 12:20 am

(no subject)

We took the girls to a friend's son's 4th birthday party today. River doesn't often get to go to parties. This may be the 2nd or 3rd ever for her. Anyway, she was excited to go because she anticipated being able to make new friends and play with everyone. So unlike me.

However, very much like me and Matt, it took her a long time to warm up once we were there. Lots of leg-clinging and quiet mumbling and hiding behind us and asking to be carried and not joining in the second go of pass-the-parcel because the first round had "quite tired her out". Then she kind of lurked on the edge of a boisterous game the more confident children were playing (the ones in masks were superheroes and were putting the others in prison). River decided to join in with her Leopard Girl persona (a role she's returned to many times over the last year) and instantly made a new friend by the simple method of showing her special claws and magic leaping skills.

We were the last to leave (always my habit at parties -- I dread going to them and then overstay my welcome) and by then River was totally at ease. She had invited every adult to our house, telling them our address and describing the street. She invented new games to play with the birthday boy. She advised Gary, birthday boy's father, on how to handle the balloon game correctly.

We were told repeatedly how confident and lovely she is.

Willow was at ease earlier than River -- she embraced the idea of wearing a mask and obviously loved having hers on. She happily ran all over the garden kind if alongside the other children (2 years old is a bit too young for genuine interaction). But the game of Musical Bumps was a failure for her. She loved the dancing bit but she didn't understand what was happening when the music stopped and all the other children sat down. After a moment of stunned confusion, she walked out of the room and sat down in embarrassment and distress on the stairs. So I stayed with her until she'd rebuilt her ego. By the end of the party she was running around with a huge balloon and smiling at everyone.

At times like that I think we're doing okay as parents. And then we get the times where I just shout or refuse simple requests or shout or ignore or shout. Need to find some way to prevent the shouting. It never helps.

Home-schooling: we're not taking it very seriously as River is only 4. But she's been doing a lot of writing this week, trying to sound out words herself. And she's been playing counting and adding games with Matt. Tonight, Willow requested a robot video while we were having tea, so we watched a robot spider then a robot dragon then a scene from Wall-E. River asked what a cartoon was, so I made a flip-book and Matt drew a sequence in it of someone bouncing a ball. Then River pestered and pestered until I made her a new flip-book (she wouldn't use the reverse of Matt's) and drew a sequence of a feather landing in a boy's hand and a bird coming down to get it back and then flying up to the sun -- remarkably complex story-telling and really unexpected.
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2015-08-15 07:11 pm
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(no subject)

This week we learnt that Matt's dad's cancer is incurable. Well, I've deleted several sentences here. There's not much else to say about it.

I've had the rest of this post written for a few weeks and was planning on adding to it. But I'll post it now and be done with it.


Read more... )
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2015-05-05 04:27 pm

(no subject)

a little test
madelinekelly: freaky bug-eyed alien fractal (Default)
2015-05-02 03:57 pm
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River at nearly 4-and-a-half

Post that I wrote last year and never uploaded. )

Update from the last couple of months. )

She's still very sensitive to bright light and loud noise. She still cries when she sees or hears someone else crying, or when she's too caught up in a sad game (oh the tears we had when she and Matt burnt the big paper snowflake after Xmas; she was being a fairy and the burning signified the end of her snow magic). She still wants to be a ballerina and a sea scientist.

She's still quick to show affection.

I love her.
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2015-03-24 03:08 pm

Willow at 20 months

I've had a half-written post on my desktop for many months. It's called "River at 3-and-a-half". She is now nearly 4-and-a-quarter. Oops. I could spend the rest of her life updating that post and never actually putting it up here, which would just be silly. I'm also horribly out of practice with writing. So, new year, new attempt at more regularly maintaining my... no, I really need to learn the lesson that I shouldn't make any resolutions about posting here more: I'll only end up feeling guilty when months fly by without a post again.

Cut for length )
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2014-09-16 03:51 pm
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my hols, final part

The plan this summer was to try and do something every day.It didn't have to be vastly exciting or different, but we didn't want to regret wasting all the free time. I think we managed it, anyway. It feels like months and months since last term -- a huge contrast to the way the first half of the year zipped by a lightning speed for me. The best decision we made was purchasing season passes to all the Manx National Heritage sites. We have now visited them all, and I've really enjoyed re-discovering them through River's eyes.

So in the final week of our holiday we managed to cram a fair few fun things.

More photos etc under the cut. )

I'm back at work full-time now, and so glad that I prioritised family time over house/craft projects this summer. It's the first time I've ever felt like I didn't waste my long holiday. Hurray!
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2014-08-25 03:32 pm
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what I did on my holiday: part 2

Another full fortnight of summer busy-ness.

More photos under the cut. )
madelinekelly: freaky bug-eyed alien fractal (Default)
2014-08-10 09:25 pm

what I did on my holiday

We managed to do lots of things in the past two weeks:

Cut for length, and there are a few photos in there too. )

It's been a great summer so far.
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2014-07-25 11:10 pm
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I'm off work for the summer!

Oh free time, how I love you!

I only have a handful of pupils continuing piano lessons through the summer so as a family we can look forward to lots of joyfully unstructured days. I feel like a cow that's finally back in the pasture after a long dark winter stuck in the barn.

So this week has been amazing, as far as I'm concerned.

I've made chocolate tiffin, sunflower seed pesto, moussaka, raspberry trifle, cream crackers. I've re-organised and de-cluttered and thoroughly cleaned the kitchen. Except for the oven. The weather's too hot for that level of exertion.

River and I dusted the living-room furniture and cleaned the stairs; Matt hoovered the carpet; we all re-organised the big bookshelf; I cleared the piles of rubbish that always accumulate on top of the piano.

Matt finished putting down the floorboards in the attic. We ordered the parts for the attic handrail, and the wood cladding for the ceiling.

We harvested raspberries, chard, courgettes and lettuce from the allotment. And, even better, ate them all!

We all went to Silverdale on Tuesday and had a great time on the water-powered roundabout.

Willow learnt to crawl!

I taught Matt and River how to play Disney's Winnie the Pooh theme on the piano.

We all walked down to the river and spent an hour playing in the glorious cool shade.

The girls and I spent a morning and lunch with good friends.

Last night, incredibly, I did not have insomnia and Willow only woke up twice!

The weather has been amazing -- so hot, so sunny, so holiday-ish.

And Matt and I have even managed to have actual grown-up conversations!
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2014-07-10 03:48 pm
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raspberries and salmon

The nice thing about my recurrent mastitis is that it is relatively mild. One day of feeling like I have flu, and then I'm back to normal except for having a sore boob. And it forces me to spend a day resting in bed, which presumably my body really needs. I certainly feel ten million times better just for having some rest.

Cut for length. )

It's all looking great, actually. Last year they had a "fayre" around this time and our plot was the best on the site. This year they held the fayre back in May when ours was one of the worst. I think we'd be up with the best again if they'd held it around the same time. The raspberry harvest in particular has been phenomenal. We've already had some rhubarb, gooseberries, currants, courgettes, lettuce, chard and beetroot. Beans, peas, cabbage, kale, carrots, turnips, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, sweetcorn, tomatoes, peppers -- all to come. It's so exciting! The only setbacks so far have been rabbits attacking the beans and brassicas (so Matt and his brother erected a fence around that part of the plot), and rabbits and slugs eating the ripe strawberries (so I covered the bed with fleece and scattered a few slug pellets in there).

And this year we've made a space on the plot for picnics when we bring the girls with us. River has a little paddling pool and her own folding chair. We have two parasols to keep the sun off (the Isle of Man is enjoying an amazing spell of hot weather -- only a few days of rain altogether in the last two months).

I love my allotment. I don't think it's saving us much money, except with the soft fruit (but even there, I think without the allotment we would simply not have bought any soft fruit from the supermarket. I prefer to think that it's making us happier in the summer months, having free access to so many delicious berries). But it's wonderful outdoor exercise. And a garden spot of our very own -- somewhere that the girls can consider their territory as they grow up.

Okay. What else happened? River and I made some little cornflake/white choc/peanut butter cakie things as a treat (which she completely forgot about eating once I'd put them in the fridge to go hard). Then off I went teaching. It was only a shortish session -- people away on holiday etc -- so I was back in time to have tea with everyone. We ate all the fishcakes with a salad of beetroot, toasted walnuts, lettuce and grilled halloumi in a balsamic dressing. Really delicious. Everyone wanted more fishcakes. I'll have to remember to make them next time we have a party. We had homemade vanilla ice-cream with fresh fruit and a raspberry sauce (it'd been hanging around in the fridge for ages -- in fact, most of the day's food was because I wanted to make some space in the fridge).

Matt took Willow up for a bath while River finished off her meal with a slice of toast (!) and I started the washing up. We played a game where I was Tom Kitten and she was inviting me and lots of other Beatrix Potter characters to a picnic at the playground in Douglas, where we were having delicious food made from leftovers of the tea we'd had last night. Except she couldn't work out how to say it -- she knew "yesterday" wasn't quite right because you have tea in the evening time, not the day, and she'd never heard us say "yesternight" (I saw her mouthing it and rejecting it). So I helped her out by suggesting that "last night" might be the phrase she needed. She immediately brightened up and used it. And then made a point of using it again a few minutes later.

Then off she trotted to join in the bath, while I finished off the dishes and laughed at I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue on iPlayer.

A happy day, on the whole.
madelinekelly: freaky bug-eyed alien fractal (Default)
2014-07-08 08:29 pm
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mastitis again

Well, the run of good days had to end eventually. Yesterday was pretty good -- fun lessons in the morning, picnic at the allotment for dinner (I got to spend some time with just River, which was lovely -- watching her explain to our allotment neighbour how blackcurrants grow, searching for ripe berries together, all just wonderful), fun lessons in the evening, and a tasty tea of ratatouille (with our first courgettes from the allotment), cucumber salad, cous cous and chicken drumsticks. Everyone was happy all day long.

Until just after bathtime when Willow, demonstrating that uncanny knack for speed and danger that all newly mobile babies possess, rolled right off our bed onto the hard wooden floor. River came running downstairs, shouting about it in her excitement; Matt was beside himself with guilt; and poor Willow was sobbing and sobbing. I think she became afraid of the bed after that. Certainly, when it came time to put her in bed at the end of the day she freaked out quite badly. And she wouldn't stay asleep during the night unless I was holding her, which meant I was awake for 6 hours straight.

And all that wakefulness and stress meant that today I had yet another bout of mild recurrent mastitis. I say "mild" but it does feel an awful lot like flu. At least I know it doesn't normally last longer than a day. I spent most of today in bed, feeling sorry for myself. Matt had a whole day with the girls, which left him a little crazy. River missed her nap so teatime was full of tears. I had to postpone my evening lessons, which means I'll have to schedule lessons during the holidays. Oh well.

River is having an early night. Willow is exploring all her noisy toys on the living-room floor. I'm hoping that tomorrow will be a better day. I had plans to make sorbet today! And smoked salmon fishcakes! I'm already feeling better, anyway, and it's not the end of the day yet, so I now I'll be okay tomorrow. If Willow lets me sleep...
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2014-07-06 07:30 pm
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Another good day! We're doing well at the moment.

Cut for length. )
madelinekelly: freaky bug-eyed alien fractal (Default)
2014-07-05 10:38 am

day off!

Friday is my day off and it can be a mixed bag. Sometimes I'm just cross all day because of No Sleep and Messy House and People Visiting Us. But sometimes it's just a lovely day. Today was a lovely day.

We had a gentle start to the day, with everyone waking up around the same time -- Willow generally wakes up smiling so the mornings are usually a happy time. Before having breakfast River persuaded us to have an impromptu quartet on the piano -- me thumping out a boogie bassline in F# major, Willow bashing everything, River smashing the black keys, and Matt improvising a black-key melody on top. It wasn't what you'd call a nice sound, but I think it was a joyful one.

We had some leftover Sag Aloo in the fridge (I made too much on purpose the other day) so I had a go at making pasties with rough puff pastry. It was easy and fun to make! I don't know why I thought it'd be difficult. I took the pasties and the girls round to a friend's house. Her daughter was born a week before River and they only live a few minutes' walk away. I realised last night that I'm kind of living my ideal life, at least in this regard -- I have a friend within walking distance. Growing up, my nearest friend was 4-and-a-half miles away, and I really disliked the isolation (while at other times the isolation was exactly what I wanted, of course). These days we fantasise about removing ourselves from society: there are too many pressures to conform to things that don't seem that great when you examine them.

So, anyway, my friend had made banana cake so we had a little feast and the girls played together! without arguing or hitting! no crying! sometimes even laughing together! It's been wonderful over the last 2 years -- since we moved here -- to watch them gradually figure out how to get on with another little person. We all made collages out of glue and dried lentils, rice, pasta, etc. I did an elephant, my friend did a sparrow eating a flower, her daughter did their garden with all the flowers and the sun in the corner, and River did "a special kind of swan" which was also "a puddle that I like to splash in" which was also "the arboretum!" She had fun, anyway.

Matt worked on the attic while we were out -- another floorboard down, yay! And had a pasty all of his own for dinner. I got River to sleep for a very late nap and... what did I do then? I honestly can't remember. I think I just held Willow on my knee and stared vacantly at the internet. I woke River up just after 4 o'clock (which is why she's still not asleep now at 10.30pm) and read her a few stories, cuddled up together on her bed.

Matt brought Willow up too as she was crying. I surmised she might need a nap so while Matt and River made hot chocolate, I breastfed Willow lying down on our bed. I haven't done this for naptime before, but part of me was thinking I might have a little nap too. River came charging upstairs several times, however -- keeping me apprised of the hot chocolate progress -- so I didn't drop off.

Normally Willow's naps are spent either in the car or on my lap so today was a bit of a novelty for me -- I was able to move around and do stuff! For a few minutes I was just overwhelmed and frozen -- where to start? In the end I sorted through the bag of 12-18 months clothes to see what there was and whether we really needed it all. Matt and River played Lego -- making pirate ships, police cars, and having races with little tricycles.

Once Willow had woken from her nap (and miraculously not rolled off the bed) I got on with making tea: a chicken stew with mandarin and paprika (much nicer than it sounds) with mashed potato. Since there was some beaten egg left over from the pasties, I decided to bake a pudding: orange & walnut brownies! (I've been craving chocolate orange all week.) And since the oven was going to be on anyway, and I had to defrost a whole box of chicken legs, I also cooked four drumsticks in a mustard and marmalade sauce -- a snack for all over us to enjoy tomorrow.

While I was cooking, River developed an elaborate game where she made a donkey-horse-boat out of her little rocking horse and Willow's high-chair. She put her treasure chest underneath it ("in the boot") and withdrew treasure to pay for the Lego police car she wanted to play with ("I have 5 treasures!").

Everyone enjoyed the meal. I've noticed that little children really love eating meat on the bone. And of course we all loved the brownies!

After tea Matt took Willow upstairs for a bath while I tidied up and River played with her new dress-up toys. We have a few baskets in the living-room for small books, big pictures books, and Willow's toys. Inevitably they get stuffed with all the toys and books that River brings downstairs every day so I spent a few minutes re-stocking them. I cut a hole in a sturdy cardboard box, because Willow rather likes posting things into boxes. Then River and I worked together to fix one of her pop-up books, which morphed into a game of stuffing as many soft toys as possible into the box and then putting them on her booster seat (which was temporarily a fire engine) to go on a journey. This game got cut short by Matt calling that he was taking Willow out of the bath. River ran up, expressing crossness that the bath was nearly over without her.

I took Willow downstairs while River had her bath. Willow refused to go to sleep (the dangers of a late nap) so I let her have a play on the floor with a couple of new birthday toys. Then she got really excited about the stacking cups. I had the privilege of watching her work out the correct order to fit them inside each other. Then she tried putting them in my glass of water. Then she tried dabbling her fingers in my glass of water (this has had a fascination for her all week long). Then she had a happy time pretending to drink out of my (empty) mug.

Finally, at nearly 11pm, River fell asleep and Matt came downstairs (again, the dangers of a late nap). We had a brief chat before I took Willow upstairs to bed. Ships that pass in the night, etc. At least we had a really good, long conversation before going to bed on Thursday night.
madelinekelly: freaky bug-eyed alien fractal (Default)
2014-07-02 11:32 pm
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Willow's 1st birthday

Cut for length. )

Oh the days are long and full. We never stop moving and on my teaching days we barely see each other. And yet every day it feels like everything is slipping further into chaos. Oh well. No wonder we're tired!

 video DSCF3245.mp4

(click image to see adorable video, if it actually works)

* mum gave me a subscription for Christmas. It mostly depresses me as the recipes are aspirational -- complicated and expensive and not designed for families -- and there are a lot of gastro-holiday reviews to remind me of how it'll be years before we can afford a holiday.

** sometimes she gets upset because she missed or refused an opportunity, so we'll retrace her steps and offer the chance again. It normally works pretty well.
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2014-07-01 11:21 pm
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I'm not even going to sum up, there's too much

...but perhaps if I start from today I can get back into more regular posting here. My memory is so bad these days that I can't recall events of the previous week. Not good! I want to remember this part of my life!

Right. So today, while I was teaching, Matt took the girls to Glen Auldyn and Mooragh Park. I stopped by our allotment* on the way home to pick soft fruit* and water everything. We all arrived back at home at the same time and had sandwiches and raspberry muffins* for dinner.

While River napped, I sorted the fruit (1 lb of raspberries in the freezer, 8 oz of strawberries macerated with sugar for tea, currants all de-stemmed), made sag aloo and washed up. Willow* sat in her high chair and kept me company, babbling happily about her red cup and occasionally signing for more fruit to eat.

Matt brought River into the kitchen once she'd woken up*, and took Willow away for a nappy change. We chatted about pirate ships and how a child could be useful onboard, then she wandered off to "fix the hole in the galley."

I made currant scones and, while they were baking, River and I watered the herb pots on the kitchen roof. She had to wear wellies and "special watering leggings with flowers on them" to do this, despite the roasting hot sunshine.

Matt put the rubbish out and chatted with the neighbour while I hung out the laundry, then we all had scones and jam in the kitchen. Then I went out teaching again, while Matt and the girls had sag aloo with naan bread, and strawberries with whipped cream. There was a mix-up with my pupils so I got to practise the piano in peace for 20 minutes -- a wonderful chance! Played a lot of Gershwin.

Sneaked back into house at 8pm, had my tea and washed up, while Matt was upstairs doing the girls' bath. (We have learnt that if Willow sees me at bath time she will cry until I breastfeed her so I always try to have a stealthy tea before showing her I'm home.) River dressed up as a butterfly (socks and ballet shoes, starry blanket tied around shoulders, green ribbon in her wet hair) and carried a book with her wings -- "butterflies can do the same things as real people!" I read one page of her Detective's Handbook then sent her upstairs with Matt while I breastfed Willow to sleep.

Not an exciting day, but a golden one nevertheless: no-one cried or sighed or got stressed or grumpy, and the sun shone on all of us.

* normally I'd be thinking "I should write an lj entry about this" and then not do it and then feel guilty and burdened and then feel unable to write anything at all because of the huge and growing backlog of unwritten entries. How silly.
madelinekelly: freaky bug-eyed alien fractal (Default)
2014-06-14 03:25 pm
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This is an odd thing to be writing but I feel it's important to make a record of it: Matt has developed a Grand Unified Theory. It brings gravity and quantum physics together, explains dark matter, describes the beginning and ending of the universe, and fits neatly with all known, proven physics theories. And it does it all in a way that even I -- someone who dropped physics at 14 because it was too incomprehensible -- can understand.

How has he managed this? Ever since I first came to know him I have been amused by his hobby of "thinking". He will sit and have a quiet think in the same way that I might do a bit of knitting. It's such an alien concept to me: my thoughts slip and slide and inevitably settle on mundane lists of chores and projects and What To Make For Dinner etc. He is able to ponder something abstract and follow it along to sometimes surprising places.

In the final stages of my first pregnancy, and during River's first year, Matt spent a lot of time alone, working on the house in poor lighting, with nowhere comfy to sit, and no decent radio signal. He started thinking about elementary particles and the universe, using the image of a chessboard to visualise everything. Then he started using pieces of string. Recently he's used a piece of dowelling with pen lines winding around it.

I realise how strange this all sounds.

There have been long spells where he's not thought about his theory at all -- hard to find opportunities to sit and think when there are so many things to be done all the time. I've tried to encourage him with it. I think he needs something cerebral like that to keep sane, really. Personally, I need to keep myself moving and busy. We all work in different ways.

Anyway, he made a handful of breakthroughs a couple of months ago so I decided to move things along a little. I made a post on AskPhysics (on Reddit) to find out what he should do next. They were mostly really helpful, and one person offered to look over his work to see if it was worth passing on to more important physicists.

I showed Matt what I'd done and, after he'd stopped panicking at the thought of showing his work to trained professionals (Matt's education stopped a 18 so he has no useful qualifications). he started writing his theory up.

It's been a few weeks now and he's nearly completed the first part, which is describing the "mote" -- a sub-sub-atomic particle. He's finding it very frustrating, trying to put into words the things he can see so clearly in his mind. But he's persevering.

I am so proud of him.
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2014-05-27 11:50 pm
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Willow at nearly 11 months old

Lots of words and another photo under the cut. )

It's so wonderful to watch her become her own little person.
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2014-04-09 12:14 pm


So far it feels just like 39.
madelinekelly: freaky bug-eyed alien fractal (Default)
2014-03-22 12:00 pm
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Willow at 8-and-a-half months

She is a happy little soul. New faces, new places, new things -- they all delight her. She wakes up smiling every morning. When we go to bed at the end of the day she gets all excited and flails around on her back with a huge grin on her face; she's clearly thinking "Bed! Yay! This is ace!"

A couple of weeks ago she got the hang of pincer grip (picking things up using only thumb and one finger instead of her whole fist) so mealtimes are even more fun. We've introduced peas and beans and other small things, and stopped cutting vegetables into long sticks.

She can now sign "more" and "drink", and is clearly thrilled that we understand her. I love this bit -- the blossoming of communication. Although I suppose she's been communicating for a while now with different kinds of cry: a "mamamama" when she's at the end of her tether and really needs me, a high-pitched keening when she's tired, a gentle hoot when she wants milk. Still, signing opens up all kinds of possibilities. She understands "milk" and "change the nappy" too. And yesterday she started doing enthusiastic two-handed waving. We'll have to start signing more now that she's getting the idea.

Sadly for me, she has a tendency to nip. Only two bottom teeth so far so it's not excruciating. I'm dreading the top ones coming through (which should be very soon, based on all the teething pain last week)...

She can sit up unaided, but no crawling or proper rolling. (Can roll onto side but not all the way over.)

Favourite things to "play" with (although at this age it's more a case of scientifically exploring everything with all her senses): food, paper, a bell, anything smooth that she can hold against her mouth and go "labalabalaba" on, a crinkly woolly book thing that my dad gave her, long sticks or tubes, stacking cups, the piano, River.

My girls get on so well together. I'm sure at some point there'll be rivalry and fighting etc but these days it's just a huge love-fest. If River sees Willow in the bath she strips off and climbs in so she can "help wash her hair". Willow still loves nothing so much as watching River dance and prat about. I feel very lucky to have such a lovely little family.