January to April 2013

After the Christmas holiday we eased slowly back into the routine of the kids activities.  We decided that we’d take one week off a month from the kids music lessons.  The plan is for them to start working on their own more.  Hazel has increased her sight reading skills by working on more music on her own.  Kieran plays the guitar by ear, but has refused to read tabs.  It has been a slow process, and one that by now he is much more enthused about doing.  That was pretty much how he taught himself ‘Monkey Wrench’ and he started and finished it in a week.

When the kids started piano lessons Kieran didn’t read music.  This past autumn I instructed the teacher not to show Kieran how to play anything. I realized it only took that one time for Kieran to know how to play the songs—so he was still playing by ear & not reading the notes.  Our new system is working and he has worked his way almost completely through the Grade 2 books we bought.  He should start Grade 3 in a couple of months.  Kieran doesn’t want to do exams, but we’ll follow the ‘syllabus’ just so that we know he is capable of the technical stuff & sight reading.

In January we had snow—enough for the kids to build a huge fort in the front garden.  They made a smaller one in the field with some other kids-but this one they did on their own.  They used the recycling boxes to make an igloo style fort.  Took all day 7 many changes of outer layers—but the effort paid off and they had tons of fun with it.

We also managed to get to one of the proper really big StarGazing live shows.  Our local astronomy group was manning some of the telescopes there & they had a few extra tickets that they gave us.   We mostly went to the talks, talked to the rover experts from Rutherford & the kids even helped to manoeuvre some they brought for people to try. 

In March the Intech Science centre in Winchester started a series of Wednesday night lectures on space, so we’ve added that to our monthly list of events.  So far all the talks have been good—but I don’t like sitting in the planetarium for them.  The chairs recline to far back for my liking.  The kids love going because we can get there up to a 1 ½ hrs earlier than the talk starts so that they can have access to the exhibits.  We like it too as then we don’t have to pay to go to the exhibits.

This year seems to be the year of baking.  Hazel has decided to branch out and wants to try more things.  My favourite so far were her Chelsea Buns—delicious.  She also mastered biscuits & cupcakes.  I even made some buttercream icing for her-something I had never done before.  I would still only use a quarter of the sugar the recipes call for if I had my own way—they are very sweet.  Her piping improved with each one she made, and they were tasty and very sweet.  She also practiced icing biscuits, and she always gave some to Kieran to do.  Her baking rubbed off on Kieran who decided the one day that he was baking a cake.  I was in the middle of things, but he just ploughed on so instead of making him wait we guided him through it.  Was a really good first attempt.

As we don’t do birthday parties we always let the kids pick an outing that they would like to go on.  December is usually such a busy month for us so we always go in the new year.  Due to the weather & some more appointments for me we didn’t manage to get to the first one till February.  Cadbury World had been high on their list for ages so we thought Valentine’s Day would be the perfect time for a visit to the home of chocolate.  The kids really enjoyed the factory-especially the free chocolate and being able to pick out a couple of treats in the shop. 

A year ago when I had my surgery I decided to try to make a granny square blanket for Hazel.  With six weeks of limited activity I thought it the perfect time.  Well, I managed to crochet all the squares, but I never put it together.  That is until this March.  I finally decided to face my fears of trying to sew all the squares together and finish it.  It really needed a trim, but Hazel wasn’t waiting any longer for it and declared it was finished.  Such a patient soul!

I had some extra wool so as Hazel had been saying she’d like an old fashioned shawl—I made her one.  It took me longer to figure out how to start it than it took to finish it.  I’m not good at reading patterns, but once I got the hang of it, it was very easy.  She uses it daily.

In March Hazel performed at a Musical Society recital.  She played a short piece, but it was her first ever solo.  She was very excited about the whole thing, even the thought of going shopping to buy an outfit.  We aren’t the best shoppers, and as she is slim and tall for her age, it’s hard to find things that fit her nicely.  We managed to find a lovely dress & even luckier to find shoes she liked.  A friend had to alter the top of the dress for us, but other than that it was perfect for her.  Hazel also can’t wear tights/pantyhose as they are all either way to big in the waist or in the length—so she decided as it was March we wouldn’t buy any.  Lo and behold—it snowed that morning.  Poor kid had to walk into the hall in a pair of pumps and no tights!  But she made, she played her piece perfectly & we all enjoyed the outing.

Kieran finally got his first brand new electric guitar.  His Epiphone is at least third hand that we know of, could even have had more owners.  Our plan was to get a Fender Squire for practice & a Fender Strat for shows.  The Squire isn’t as good as the Strat—but they look similar and it’s good if he could have a back-up.  Just as we were ordering a company called EMG Pick-ups decided to send the kids in the band free pick-ups for the guitars.  The new pick-up makes his Squire sound as good as a Strat—saving us hundreds of pounds!  But the important thing is it is the style he likes and he loves it.

Over the Easter weekend Michael’s brother, his wife & their two little ones came down for the weekend.  We had a great trip on Easter to the Living Rainforest—the perfect activity for their 5 year old.  The baby was adorable & we all were thinking of ways to kidnap him!  Hazel baked loads for the weekend and kept us all revved up with sugar.

Hazel’s flute choir actually went Busking on Easter Monday.  She thought this was hysterical & had a great time.  I think they got about £100—so not a bad 2 hours.

The biggest event of this time was The Camping Trip!!  Hazel & Kieran have been talking about this for months—and I mean MONTHS!  Their local Rangers group (Like an SPB Society) have been planning an overnight camp for the Easter Holidays since last autumn.  To say my two were excited about this one night away is an understatement.  When the long awaited day came we dropped them off.  They barely waited for the car to stop before they jumped out shouting good-bye.  This is two kids who had never been away from home for a single night in their lives without at least one of us with them.  Their confidence has always made me so proud of them.

From the way Hazel, the ‘quieter’ child, chatted on and on and on about all that they did in 24 hours I can only assume it was, as she said a zillion times, BRILLIANT.  They are already asking the leaders to plan another one.

Not only was it their first night away from home, it was also our first night without them.  My only worry was it was barely 5degC in the daytimes—so I was hoping they’d be able to stay warm over-night.  We had no other worries.

Michael took the day off and we had a walk along the Thames in Pangbourne, and then visited a tea shop for refreshments.  We went out to dinner, which as lovely as it is to go out, we’d have made something much tastier at home.  But it was a nice pub & it had a warm log fire.

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