Friday, 14 December 2012

What Isla wants for Christmas

I was at the hairdresser's this morning when one of their customers (a professional Santa) came in ringing his bell yo ho hoing. He saw Isla waiting patiently for me.
Usual banter followed by, "What would you like me to bring you for Christmas?"
Isla, "A pink tractor and an elephant - not too small 'cos I want to be able to ride it but not too big 'cos then it won't fit in our back garden." 

They may not fit in her stocking and how would the elephant mix with our veg patch?

Nine Years Ago

Nine years ago I was sitting on a plane bound for Las Vegas with my husband of less than one day.

Yesterday was our ninth wedding anniversary and during those nine years I have learned so much:
what it is to be loved so deeply by someone even when you are annoying them;
how to love someone so deeply even when they are annoying you!;
the bond of a mother is immeasurably strong;
people will go to extraordinary lengths to support those they love
your heart can feel so big with pride and astonishment and love for your child;
a strong family can overcome many hurdles which alone would crush a person;
family can give you the courage to attempt things you wouldn't do alone;
some things that annoy you are more about areas in your own life where you need to become more tolerant and understanding and less obsessive;
some things that annoy others are areas where you need to be more malleable and prepared to change;
relationships work well with reflection and consideration for the needs of others and not pursuing your own happiness to the detriment of those you love;
I love, really love, having children;
it is amazing how happy you can feel watching those you love having fun.

The Thompsons - est 2003

Thank you for being wonderful, Ken.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

What I have left out of the blog this year.

There are many stories left untold in this blog this year. So, to keep you up to date, I have chosen a few photos to share with you over the next few blogs.

One cold evening in October, we completely rejected to notion of a healthy desert after dinner, and cooked marshmallows over the barbeque instead. Far more fun, if a little chilly!

Late in October we all went on Scout camp. Angus remembered what to expect from previous camps, Isla had not attended one before. Mind you, from her confidence and ability to work out what was going on and join in, you would never have guessed. I can only assume Scout camps are in her genes! I don't think it is difficult to tell where those genes came from...

Muddy, happy, smokey, sitting next to a fire, in the sun, freezing cold (literally - there was ice inside the tent in the morning!), out in the open air. What more could a child need? Oh yes, food and a lot of love. No problems there then.

Then add fun, big brothers and climbing into the mix and you have two tired but very happy children.

There, part 1. 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

He Did It!

Angus ran his 1.5km today accompanied by Ken, in about 10 minutes! He is so proud of himself and was wearing his medal for the rest of the day. I know he is not a natural runner and it was hard work for him, but he did run the whole way, without stopping, albeit at a steady pace. He has currently raised £137 with more pledged. The day was wonderful with the race running by the quayside in NewcastleGasteshead. The sun shone; Mo Farah was there along with Joseph Craig, 15 year old world record holding paralympic Gold Medal freestyle swimmer, who had his medal and started the races. I am not sure how many thousand youngsters were there, but they ranged from three year olds to sixteen year olds, able-bodied, wheelchair races, running with sighted guides and everything inbetween. The organisers were commenting on the renewed enthusiasm following the Olympic games and the buzz was tangible.

Sadly I didn't get any decent pictures of Angus and Ken in the race due to tall people and a stuck zoom button, but here is the day in pictures with a smiley Angus. Go on, give him more money!  Oh, and he got in the papers:  Not a very original title, but maybe more money raised.

Waiting before he had to line up at the start.  

Warm ups: stretch left and do a Bolt - now do a Mobot and move those shoulders - you get the idea. Charismatic and well muscled gym leader in front and you know what, they loved it and even the crowds joined in!

With his medal at the end. It helped that there was a sand pit nearby!
Crowds at the pasta party. Great atmosphere.
Okay, there should be more pictures, of Mo Farah for example and the friends who challenged Angus to run last year and who are staying again this year, but the internet is on a severe go-slow and this has already taken me an hour. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

September Roundup Part 3.

I love this time of year: it always reminds me of new beginnings. I think it must be the endlessly repetitive years of school, post-school education and teaching that have drilled into my mind that there is a new order in place come September. The end of the summer holidays is a time to set new goals and targets, the summer is fun but disruptive and September brings the chance to bring life back into order. That is probably why I am sitting here writing the third blog of the month already! Ken is out playing squash which has become a Wednesday pattern for him. It turns out that Angus's friend Jake's Dad was a lapsed squash player in need of a playing partner. Ken is happy and the boys love that their Dads go out on Wednesday evenings. I have lovely music playing on the radio, a mug of hot chocolate, low lights and am sitting in front of the first fire of the new season. I feel content.

London - School - Birthday - Party. That's the way it happened this year for Angus. Ken and I had talked through how to mark Angus's birthday. He loves celebrations and rituals. He loves parties. He's not that bothered by receiving presents but does enjoy the celebration, whether his own or somebody else's. Because of that, we decided that we would like to instigate a family tradition started by my parents that a child aged six is old enough to take to a formal restaurant for an evening meal. Just the child and the parents. No siblings. Out, to a proper grown up restaurant.

So, on Thursday, Angus's actual birthday, he patiently waited until Ken came home (early) from work and opened his presents followed by his choice of meal: fishcakes with trifle for desert. He loved it. Then on Friday Jake's Mum came and Isla-sat. She offered to make her dinner so we could get out earlier and then regretted her offer: "Help! What do I feed her? What can she eat? What will happen if I get it all wrong and give her the wrong thing? Do you have a Doctor's number?" "Don't worry, her allergies are not that bad! Anyway, ask Isla, she knows exactly what to do." Later. "Isla was great. She checked everything I gave her and watched me make her dinner. She knows exactly what is in your fridge but she kept asking if things had cows in them. Then I realised she meant the milk." "You should hear the story about Isla and the tomatoes Jo put on her plate in Scotland..." Actually, that's a story best told by Jo for another blog day.
The decorations make the day for Angus. He loves the balloons, the celebratory feel of it. He has insisted that the balloons need to be lower for Isla's birthday as she can't reach to hit them. Fine for them but really annoying for us tall people!
The German birthday train. 
The dinner out was a great success. Angus wanted pasta in tomato sauce which may sound mundane but he doesn't have it at home as Isla can't eat the tomatoes and I won't cook two meals. He loved the concept so much that he and Ken already have next year's planned. They want to do a pasta tour of Hexham to see which restaurant is best.

This is a GPS. All pirates have them.
First cache found. Party bags starting to get filled bit booty. 
Isla - GPS expert.
Compulsory group shot. Spot the sulking pirate in the background!
The big dig. 
The cake. Yes Becky, I stole (pirated?) the idea from yours. Thank you.
The party on Saturday was a lot of fun. The sun was shining, it was warm and Angus and Ken had planned a pirate-themed treasure hunt around Heddon (they had studied pirates in school last term so all the boys had outfits.) The boys arrived, the gps (high tech pirates!) was programmed and the boys set off at a run with Isla going as fast as she could dressed as pirate princess in a Kimono. There were comments of "We've been swashbuckled!" from various amused residents as the boys ran around the village with appropriate screams. They had lots of fun and returned home to dig up the last treasure chest from our front garden, carrying it through to the back to enjoy a picnic tea. Only, they weren't hungry: they drank loads, played on the swings and ate almost nothing. Oh well.

Monday, 10 September 2012

September Roundup Part 2

And then on the Tuesday after we got back from London, Angus started Year 1. He was so excited he didn't get to sleep until late the night before but at least it wasn't actually on his birthday this year.

Just in case you are wondering, the builders are coming at the end of the week to give a quote to rebuild the porch. As you can see, it really needs it! Those are the rotten window sills on the ground next to Angus's feet.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

September Roundup: Part 1

Yes, I know that with only nine days gone, I shouldn't be writing a summary of what has happened so far in September. Add to that the presence of "Part 1" in the title and you will have some idea that already a lot has happened.

August ended and September started with trip to London. My youngest brother lives in south London and loves having Angus and Isla to stay. We visited them last year at the same time as a treat for Angus. Last year we had a whole day in the Natural History Museum with Angus indulging his passion for all things dinosaur, animal and amber related. This year... we did the same thing.

Okay, that is not the complete truth! Angus, Isla and I went down on Thursday with Ken joining us on Friday after work.  On Thursday afternoon we took the underground to Paddington and I took the compulsory photos of Angus and Isla with Paddington Bear. He doesn't remember the first time he went with Denali and Kera when he was only 18 months old.

Exploring the bear: what is he made of? Who made him? Why is he here? Some things can be analysed too much; just enjoy!
On Friday we did spend most of the day in the NH museum. Angus wanted to visit the Victoria and Albert museum in the morning (right next door) to "see if he liked it" and made appropriately appreciative noises about the art and design. After an hour (well done Angus!) he conceded that this wasn't nearly as interesting as the NH museum. At least this time he was easily persuaded to see another part of the museum so I didn't get bored. Angus would move in there I suspect, especially now that one of the helpers has told him that David Attenborough visits on a regular basis. Oh, the joys of hero worship.

"That's a Pleiosaur. I have heard of Mary Anning (lady in the picture) - she found lots of the early dinosaurs...." etc.
On Saturday the highlight of the trip was a visit to the Paralympics. I could write a whole blog just about how wonderful that was: the atmosphere, the friendliness of all the staff and volunteers, the general feeling of camaraderie in London between all the visitors joining in each others' conversations and asking what they saw and who won; the lack of comment or weird looks when Angus had to walk back through London with his Union Flag wrapped around his legs as a sarong due  to an overly-enthusiastic encounter with water and a sand pit near the venue. He looked like a strangely patriotic Buddhist monk! I was also delighted that my children's first real experience of people with a disability has been so wonderful and positive. No hushed political-correctness but a brazen declaration of achievement despite their physical or intellectual limitations. Angus was staring at a poster of Ellie Simmons swimming. "What's wrong with her body?" I explained. "Wow, my body is maybe bigger than hers and I can't even swim. That's amazing!"   
The Olympic games has been heavily supported by a huge number of "Games Makers". They are all over the place: endlessly cheerful, helpful, fun and clearly loving every minute of it. They are all volunteers, have given up holidays, taken unpaid leave, come out of retirement or found people to look after the children. There are amazing. Well done for making our day possible. 
I have no idea how you ride a horse when you have no legs but clearly you do - well enough to take bronze. Incredible.

No don't laugh - we all did! The comments and looks of incredulity when this pair came on were predictable but we all had to retract our jokes when they came fourth. They were superb and only missed bronze by a few points. 
We won! Natasha Baker got gold but it was close with Germany coming silver and bronze. But a fantastic day and Angus finally got a big flag. He has wanted one since the Jubilee and waved it with enthusiasm. He is now trying to work out how to hang it in his room!
  Saturday afternoon was spent playing in a park near the venue with a bit of sight seeing on the way home. There was a super, large sand pit in the park and Angus got predictably wet and sandy. Never mind, clean pants and a make do sarong got him home with pictures to embarrass as well!

Sunday was spent playing: water, swings, climbing frames, tennis and just enjoying being.


Wednesday, 29 August 2012

I got me some Bling!

To mark her Golden Jubilee, the Queen has issued a medal to be awarded to certain volunteer groups and specifically to members who have worked for them for 10 years. Mountain Rescue England and Wales were one such group and I have been a voluntary (we all are!) member for 11 years. So I was awarded a medal!!!

Rubbish picture but I haven't taken a picture of myself in a mirror before and I was concentrating!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Angus and the Mini North Run

This blog is partly a news update and also shameless advertising.

Angus is going to be running in a short (1 mile) race later on September 15th.

This is his story:

When we moved to Newcastle we were introduced to Eleanor Brown, an experienced and talented cellist (try googling her). She offered to continue teaching Angus cello even though she wasn't used to teaching such young children. Angus was only 4 at the time but loves playing (even though he is rhythmically challenged!) Eleanor explained to me that she had a rare form of cancer and so her health was unpredictable. However, she was amazingly patient and creative with Angus and he loved her lessons which usually went on way beyond her allotted time. At first Eleanor came to our house saying that this gave her a good excuse to get out. We could see that some days she was well and others were a struggle and sometimes the lessons were moved or cancelled. I explained as best as I could to Angus about Eleanor's illness and he was understanding but had a lot of questions. Later, after a lengthy break for treatment, Eleanor's husband would drive her.  Eventually we had to go to Eleanor's house as even the trip out was too much.

Eleanor died earlier this year from her cancer. Telling Angus was difficult: he had been practising a piece of music that he had been too uncertain to play before. He kept saying, "I need to practice this to play for Eleanor for when she gets better." He has struggled with not being able to say "Goodbye" or play for her.

Last year friends came to stay over the GNR weekend, their children running the Mini and both parents running the GNR itself. Angus was challenged to enter this year and so has decided unprompted that this is what he wants to do: run the mini and be sponsored to raise money for people with cancer. St Clare's is a local hospice so this seamed appropriate.

He wants sponsorship. I want him to be sponsored too, not only because it will raise money for a good cause, but because it will help him to deal with his grief, and he is grieving. Just a couple of nights ago he again told me about needing to say goodbye, both to Eleanor and to Blue, our dog who died in March. If you can, visit his justgiving web page and encourage him.

Thank you. 

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Let's Have Another Go

The internet guy came this morning and confirmed what we all know - our internet connection really is pants. Apparently the only one who can make it any better at all is an anonymous politician in Whitehall who must sign some document to release money to upgrade rural cabling. No hope there then.

Let's try some more photos of our hols:

Some rare island sheep that graze near our holiday house. Jo knows what type they are. They are a very primitive breed brought in from a west coast island that do well eating seaweed.
A close up of the rare sheep. They were very nervy and I had to sit still for a while to get this one. The midgies had some fun but I didn't.

Another type of sheep but on the main street at Sheildaig (it's made from old car parts.)

We went out to dinner one evening in the local seafood bar and thought this looked amazing. Apparently it tasted amazing too! The Sheildaig Bar - highly recommended.

And after dinner, you get to look at this. Beautiful.

Angus finally worked out what climbing was all about. He was so proud of himself and so were we. Dad, spot the helmet he's wearing! Isla wants/needs one too.

Because Isla had no problems working out what to do whilst on a climbing rope! She was a natural, finding toe holds, finger holds and working out exactly how to change her centre of balance. Look, no hands! Confident or what!

And then we revisited the glass-bottomed boat trip that we did last year. Not unsurprisingly they remembered "The little blond boy who quoted David Attenborough" from last year! Angus and Isla loved the chance to steer the boat in. They were so good at it (Isla listened and then told Angus what to do - good team work) they even moored the boat. Angus was told he could have a job when he was 14 - I am not sure all the tourists would want entire David Attenborough documentaries quoted at them, but he would try!

There. All those pictures behaved very well and uploaded in 30 minutes, rather than the nearly two hours it took me to not finish the last lot.

In summary, we had a fabulous week and loved catching up with all the family: Ken walked mountains, Angus and Isla discovered climbing (phew), and we all feel rested and recharged with the most amazing sunshine. We are going back again next year.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Post Holiday Insomnia

I am experiencing post-holiday insomnia, probably brought on by the seven hour drive back from holiday followed by the frantic unpack. Consequently I slept for about two hours, woke at 2.00 am or something like that, and haven't been back to sleep since. I could probably sleep now, but then who would look after Angus and Isla, and I would become nocturnal. I will just have to slog it out until later. So, in my sleep deprived brain I have decided to make use of the early daylight and catch up on my blog. Forgive any literary mistakes please, excusing them to fatigue.

I haven't been writing much lately, as you have probably noticed. In the interim, Angus has finally left pre-school and is VERY EXCITED about starting year 1. He has loved school so far and came home with a glowing report on everything which didn't involve concentration. Lack of co-operation? Come on, Angus is a born conformist; any lack of co-operation is almost certainly due to him not having heard in the first place or assuming the instructions didn't apply to him. Or he is off in his own little planet: literally, as I have explained before that he is currently interested in space, his obsession with dinosaurs having morphed that way via the asteroid that may or may not have finished them off.

Isla is still adoring Angus, talking far too much, (or singing, or humming), still being charming but also quite defiant at times, smiling when told off. She can be wonderful and cooperative, but loves pushing her luck and seeing how far she can go before she oversteps the boundaries: a healthy two year old attitiude if trying at times.

Despite my backward body clock, we haven't been to a different time zone on holiday, we have been to Torridon in Scotland again. Mind you, with the weather we had, it could have been a different country. From the weeks of drizzle, rain, storms and clouds which left to many of us fantasizing about foreign climes, Scotland was amazing. It is not the most reliable of countries for weather, but we have had an wonderful week and I have actually come back with a tan having spent a day on the beach which even involved swimming (it was really cold if you let your feet go too low!)

Here are a few pics:

We were staying near Sheildaig: a beatiful coastal village, but it has mean midges. Mind you, doesn't most of Scotland? In daylight it llooks charming.
Isla developed an interesting technique which seemed to involve unhinging her jaw, enveloping the entire marshmallow and then pulling it off the stick. Sometimes it went wrong.

Cooking marshmallows on the stoney beach near our house became a favourite activity started by Grandma. Both Angus and Isla loved it. The main problem was obtaining decent marshmallows in North West Scotland. The best supply was Lochcarron which is 15 (?) miles from where we were! Angus became quite expert at toasting them to a golden brown, delighting in giving them to Grandma.

Okay, I am going to give up. These photos are driving me crazy - it has taken an hour to do these four. They keep doing weird things and I don't have the sleep quota to work out what I am doing. Combine that with a rediculously slow internet (currently 280kbs on the speed test) and I have had enough. Maybe more to follow.