Sunday, April 30, 2006

Best day of Judes life so far!

I cant beleive that Luke has slept till 11.30am this morning! Mind you, he was shattered after yesterdays excitement. Jude went to work at the CD fair in Coleraine with her Dad. We told her it would be boring but she wanted to go anyway. Me, Sam and Luke went to the Transport museum for the morning. Luke loves all the steam engines. Then we took Sam to his saturday drama school and me and Luke went to W5 on our own. There is a play level there which is just perfect for Luke. It has a pretend supermarket and cafe, a huge wooden train set, toy kitchens, all sorts of things. So Luke did two exciting trips in one day - hence his tiredness.

Whilst all this was happening Jude was working in Steve's CD fair. She was selling CDs, and also spent some time looking after the desk at the door, charing people entry.

What we didnt realise was that it was the Lord Mayor's show in Coleraine yesterday. There were parades and shows. Jude and Steve were specially invited up the the Lord Mayors chambers to meet with him privately! wow. He was all dressed in his mayors costume. They went into a very posh room - like the oval room! Jude had her two visiting flat Stanleys from Syria and she told the mayor all about them. He was intrigued by it all and posed for photos with them. He then signed a postcard for Jude, and a postcard for each of the flats. Its a nice treat for the children from Syria who own them. Very unusual. Here is a photo of Jude signing his guestbook.

Jude spent some time in the town centre with daddy's camera - looking for photo opportunities for her flats. She saw a few different parads and shows. We didnt realise how talented she is with a camera. (Although it seems that all the photos I have posted here were taken by someone else!)

Whilst Daddy was working in the fair Jude was allowed to go into town on her own. She was watching a pair of buskers doing a sort of circus performance. They chose her out of the audience to help them with the bed of nails trick. So they gave Daddy's £800 camera to a complete stranger and asked them to photograph her whilst she helped!

Here is a photo of Jude with the two men before the bed of nails performance.
They wanted Jude to test the nails for sharpness I think. They were pretending to throw her onto the nails. She said she was shaking afterwards - from the excitement, not fear :)

She certainly enjoyed her day working with daddy anyway. It was a day to remember.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Carrots, Collies and Courgettes - the 3 C's

Today was a glorious day. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, the kids played in the garden. It was one of those days where I had so many plans and acheived very few of them. That's the story of my life really. We did get a bit done in the garden, even though Luke was very clingy today and we had two lots of visitors. Steve kindly set into the ground two pallets and filled them with soil, since he discovered that it wasnt an easy task and I had indeed worked hard on them. He felt guilty I think, so he was in the garden at 10pm last night fixing up 2 more pallets for me to fill with veggies and seeds. So today we planted our 3 delicate courgette plants under a plastic poly tunnel. We also planted 6 cauliflowers and 4 more broccoli. Luke helped me to sow two rows of carrot seeds, and Jude planted a gorgeous blueberry bush. Apparently blueberries love naff clay acid soil, within a cold windy climate, so we didnt bother improving the soil for it, and hopefully it will grow a treat. Next week we are taking a homeschooling trip with a few others to an organic farm, so hopefully we will get lots of tips! I have a bumper store of seeds to plant now. I ordered seeds from one company and they never delivered or answered my emails so I claimed my money back and re-ordered from another company. But then the first company decided to send me my seeds anyway (after refunding) and also sent me a load of extras as an appology, so I have plenty now! And I do love freebies. This evening we are having chips butties for dinner to save me cooking. Steve will be back with them in a minute. I received a very long deep letter from my friend on death row which I have to answer. All about God and what it is to be a Christian. It is the first time he has ever been deep about anything so its quite an unusual letter. Maybe he will more like that now that he's opened up. Although it wasnt really opening up as such, more like just thinking. Usually his letters are full of jokes and laughter and happy memories from his life before prison. So I may reply to that this evening if I can muster up enough energy after the kids are in bed. Or else I may just chill on the sofa and vegitate. That sounds good.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Encouragement from Above Rubies

"I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess."-Martin Luther

This evening I was feeling a bit dispondant about life and moaning about how I dont have any spare time and life is such a chore. The kids put on their musical of the Phantom Of the Opera and that cheered me up. But when I came online to check my emails I had an email from the Above Rubies magazine which was just what I needed to hear. I felt very encouraged by it. Above Rubies is a free magazine for Christian mothers and it is very inspiring. Here is the email...

Matthew 28:30, "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
When God told the Israelites about the new home He was taking them to, He said, "The land, into which you are entering to possess it, is not like the land of Egypt from which you came, where you used to sow your seed and water it with your foot like a vegetable garden. But the land into which you are about to cross to possess it, a land of hills and valleys, drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning even to the end of the year." (Deuteronomy 11:10-11 NAS)
They could not rely on the rain from heaven in the land of Egypt. They had to do all their irrigation by hand, or I should say, by foot, for this is how it was done. They dug man-made channels for the water which they forced along by wheels operated by their feet. It was hard laborious work. It was a daily grind. They didn't have to do this in the Promised Land. They relied totally upon God to send the rain to water the crops.
Egypt is a type of the world. It is a type of walking in the flesh and doing things by our own energy. This contrasts to our new life in the kingdom of God where we walk in the Spirit and trust God instead of our own resources.
How are you living each day? Are you still living back in Egypt, or are you basking in the rest of the Lord? Often mothers feel that their life is a daily grind, with no joy or hope. They are living like the Israelites were when they were slaves in Egypt. But we are no longer slaves. We are free people, saved by the suffering and shed blood of Jesus Christ upon the cross. He died to deliver us from relying upon the flesh.
"But don't you realize the financial difficulties that we are going through. I have to work this extra job to help my husband pay all our bills." Has God asked you to take on your husband's responsibility? Or are you taking on this yourself?
"But don't you realize how many things I have to do? I'm pregnant! I'm homeschooling my children. Plus I am involved in this Ladies' group at church and I'm also helping with the Sunday school." Who told you to get involved with these extra activities? Was it God, or was it pressure from people? Many times our life becomes a daily grind because we take on things that God hasn't told us to do. We cannot live our lives by what everyone else wants us to do. We must be led by the Holy Spirit.
God promises in Isaiah 40:11 that "He gently leads those who are with young." If you are pregnant or have little children, God does not expect you to be involved in anything else, apart from your mighty and divine calling of nurturing and raising your children for Him! He doesn't expect you to be involved in extra church and other activities (except for your commitment to meeting with the saints each week.)
"But don't you realize that I have to take Susie to ballet lessons, Grace to violin lessons, Johnny to soccer and Brian to baseball, as well as keep up with the home and everything else." Who told you that you have to take your children to all these lessons? Did God? Or are you trying to keep up with the Joneses who think that their children should be involved in everything that is going? We often think that our children will not make it in life unless we take them to all extra lessons and sports. That is not true. God is able to make a way for your children without putting extra pressure on your life and gadding about in the car everywhere.
"But don't you realize? I have to make my children finish the lessons I have given them for the day. I have to get this done and that done." Who said you have to do this? Is it what God has planned for the day or what you are setting? Are you teaching your children what God wants them to be taught, or what you think others expect of you?
Life is hard work, but it does not have to be a grind. It will seem drudgery when we do it in the energy of the flesh. God wants us to live according to the Spirit. The Israelites worked in the Promised Land, but they enjoyed their work, because they were cast upon God's resources, not their own energy. They no longer irrigated they way they did in Egypt. They had to rely on God to send their rain.
Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Photos to go with post below...

This is the salad garden.

Sam and Jude are busy planting marigolds in the herb bed for me. They like the planting, but not the digging!

The herb garden on the right, salad garden on left, which consists so far of Lettuce, Salad rocket, and 2 broccoli. Behind the herbs you can see som small mange tout plants and the the left of that is sams yellow climbing bush.

Here is Luke smelling the herbs in the herb garden with the salad garden in front.


At last our garden is starting to look more like a vegetable patch than a dump site. I've filled one of those crates with top soil and soil improver and it is now a gorgeous herb garden containing 3 types of mint (one for making mint tea), chamomile, thyme, lavender, rosemary, parsley, basil, oregano, fennel, French tarragon, and more. We have planted nasturtiums and marigolds in amongst it. According to the organic farming book that I've been reading, planting flowers in amongst a veggie patch can help to eliminate unwanted critters, such as aphids, greenfly, caterpillars etc. Flowers growing within the patch will attract beneficial wildlife to the garden - creatures such as butterflies, ladybirds, bees and wasps etc. They will then east the bad bugs and help to reduce the need for pesticides. I've yet to find out if that will work. I think the blustering wind that we get up here will be more of a problem to our little baby vegetables. I keep expecting them to have been blown away when I wake up every morning.

Yesterday Sam helped me to dig a trench along our old chicken wire pen. We planted some mange tout peas, and some nasturtiums. Sam dug his own whole and has planted a beautiful climbing plant with yellow flowers, and some marigolds beneath it. Luke helped, as usual, by replanting some herbs in the herb garden. He dug a whole and then buried some thyme under a mound of soil. Nice work. I don't discourage him though as its great for him to be outdoors and to develop a love of nature. Sometimes it takes me twice the time to do something with him around but its worth it. Sam enjoyed the hour we spent digging and planting. He barely stopped to take a breath and spent the whole time nattering away. Him and Jude are rehearsing their own version of the Phantom of the Opera which they will perform to us tomorrow night, with music! Sam puts on a performance every Thursday evening. He puts a lot of effort into it - making costumes, writing programs, drawing posters, teaching Luke his lines, recording music to sing along to.

Anyway, today we dug in another old crate. Steve helped to dig it into the ground. Afterwards he realized that I had in fact worked very hard on the herb garden! He thought I just threw a bit of soil in and hey presto! LOL. But no, this time he was helping, and he had to dig a trench the size of the crate to set it into the earth a bit. It looks much better than just sitting it on the lumpy bumpy clay that is there. He then realized how much digging I'd had to do already and why I had back ache! He helped me to fill the crate with the new soil and then he took the kids off to their archery lesson, and Luke to play at the soft play area. Steve has a day off today. While he has been gone I have planted 12 lettuces, 3 patches of salad rocket, and 2 broccoli (at least I think they are broccoli - cant be sure as the name stick had blown away! ) So we now have a nice salad bed too, with calendula flowers mixed into it.

There is still so much more to do but I really enjoy being out in the garden. This quite surprises me as I have never really been an outdoor person. In the summer if its nice I may sit in the garden for 5 minutes - but then I feel guilty for relaxing and go back to the ironing and cleaning. But being outside with a purpose is different. I get fresh air with out guilt! Fabulous!

When I find the camera I shall take a photo of the new veg beds and load them into the blog too. I bought some Aphids traps on ebay. They arrived a moment ago. Apparently the bright yellow sticky traps attract aphids etc and they get stuck on it - a bit like fly paper. Sounds good to me. It doesn't say on the packet whether other insects such as ladybirds will also fall fowl to the traps so I will have to put one out and experiment with it. Poor Jude would be ever so upset if we started killing bumble bees or ladybirds, or butterflies!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Arm Pain

I had my appointment at the Polyclinic this morning. For about 2 years Ive suffered bone pain in my right arm which comes and goes. It drives me crazy at night some times. I finally went to the doctors about it and saw a different doctor to usual. She was pretty useless. She told me I carpal tunnel syndrome. I told her that I dont have carpel tunnel syndrome. Anyway, she made me this appointment with the surgical clinic. I saw a nice doctor there who said my doctor had written to him and asked him to assure me that I had carpel tunnel syndrome. Well, he did a few tests, spent a long time taking my pulse with my hand bend backwards and forwards and told me that I definitely dont have carpel tunnel syndrome as I dont have the right symptoms or pain for that. Tell me something I dont know! But he took me seriously which I was pleased about as sometime doctors can treat their patients like hyperchondriacs. He is sending me an appointment to get an x-ray done. He thinks that the pain I'm experiencing sounds like I could have cysts in the bone. Im not sure if thats something they can treat or if like many cysts they would just leave them there. I will be glad to get the x-ray done and to find out for sure. I wonder how long I'll have to wait for that appointment.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Two days of hard work

Our garden now - covered in crates and bags of topsoil!

We spent the whole weekend in the garden. Yesterday it was beautiful weather and today wasnt that bad either. The plan was to get the veggie patch that we dug ready for final planting. However, when we tried to put a spade into it we realised that we have a clay soil which has turned into almost concrete! Aparently when clay soil is dug it gets very hard. It was going to take so much back breaking work to improve it so we decided that raised beds was going to be the answer. However, we are on a pretty tight budget so we couldnt afford to spend much on wood for raised beds. After much discussion we worked out that we could modify the crates that Steve gets his CDs delivered on to make the frame work for the raised beds. Steve set to work knocking peices of wood out of crats to make square frames. But we needed wood panels for the sides of the crates. Well, we pulled off some panels from our fence! The neighbours built a bigger and better fence than ours so our one is redundant now. Also, we nailed the chicken pen sides onto this fence and are going to grow climbing plants and veg up it anyway, so it wont be visible. Steve spent many hours over the weekend banging and sawing with these crates. We are very proud of our self-sufficient, recycled veggie beds!

In this photo you can see Steve making the raised beds from crates, but you can also see the missing fence panels and the chicken wire hen-pen sides for growing beans up.

At the end of the day there was a lot of wood scraps lying around so Steve decided to make a fire in a metal bin. The fire wasnt catching so he had the bright idea to throw a little petrol into it. In doing so he set fire to a big plastic bucket and the soil! By the time I got the camera the fire was almost out.

Two peas in a pod? Luke loves watching Daddy make a fire. That is in fact chocolate all over his face, not mud or ash!

Luke helped me to plant the seeds for growing his own sunflowers. We also planted a lot of other seeds too. We ran out of seed trays, but in true recycling style we managed to find something else to use. Steve bought a huge lot of Hannibal box sets. Not many people want a Hannibal box set. So he took the sets apart, sold the videos for 50p, sold the sounds tracks for a lot more and dumped the boxes. But we were left with about 200 plastic inserts from inside the box set. Steve kept them in the garage as he was certain they'd be useful for something. When I told him I'd run out of seed trays he was delighted and offered me the hannibal plastic inserts! So we used them.

Here is the days planting. We have 6 tomato plants, 4 strawberries. Then all the seed trays. The small black square trays on the left are the Hannibal box sets.

Here is Luke watering the seedlings.

Whilst all this was going on Jude finally grew tall enough to ride the bike we bought for her birthday 2 years ago! I had to take a photo to comemorate the occassion for her :)


As expected the easter hunt around the garden was a great success. We do it every year. This year we made it harder than normal for Jude and Sam - probably a little too hard as Steve kept finding eggs that we'd missed throughout the rest of the afternoon!

We made some obvious ones for Luke to find, although he also founf quite a few of the harder ones that Sam and Jude missed. That boy can sniff out chocolate from anywhere. He was so excited about the whole thing. Its lovely to see that excitement in a 2 year old. Its such a precious thing.

Luke had nothing but chocolate to eat all day. We let him just eat as much as he wanted so that its not lasting for weeks. He unwrapped everything and took one bit out of each egg! Sam and Jude stuffed themselves silly too. This year Sam and Jude also bought easter eggs for me and Steve which was lovely :)

Friday, April 21, 2006

The nicest day of the year so far

No doubt about it, today was the nicest weather we have had so far. I had to put sun cream on Sam and Luke! Imagine that... sometimes that doesn't happen even in the summer. We spent most of the day outdoors, although this morning we went round to the new neighbours house for a coffee and a snoop around her place. As I expected, it was much tidier than mine :)
This afternoon Sam and Jude helped me empty out Lukes sandpit which had turned into a swampy pond over the winter. We tidied the whole garden. It was full of rubbish, plant pots, and general mess. Anyone who drove passed must have thought we were right mingers! So now it is tidy, swept, and far more hygienic. I still need to weed all round the edges but that's not priority. Tomorrow if the weather is nice we will mow the lawn, remove the last bits of guantanamo bay from the garden, and dig the soil and rake it ready for planting the veg.

This evening we had dinner in the garden, which was just such a treat! I made spicy chicken fajitas with wraps. Jude put a table cloth on the table and some pink flowers and Luke helped take out the juice and salt. Jude took a photo of us all eating in the garden, feeling very Mediterranean. I'll post it later when I load the photos onto the computer.
Right now it is 6.30pm and we are just about to watch a play that Sam and Luke have been rehearsing all week - the little shop of horrors. Sam has been getting props ready all day and he has been teaching Luke the songs all week. We have to watch a play every week. Sam and Luke put on great performances!
Tomorrow we are having Easter, 1 week late. We will have an easter egg hunt around the garden in the morning and a mini egg hunt in their bedrooms. Steve enjoys it more than any of the kids!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Gosford Forest Park

Wow, what a beautiful day it was today. Sunshine, and no wind. Lovely. Maybe springtime is finally coming. Today we went to Gosford Park with our friend Caroline and her son Dominic. I've never been there before. Jude was staying over at a friends house so I only took Luke and Sam. Well, all 3 boys just had the best time. Sam and Dominic spent most of the time sword fighting with sticks on a long wall. Luke enjoyed being out in the sunshine and hiding under the big trees. He even tried to climb one or two. We visited the walled garden, the open farm and the castle - which was recently sold for £1 !!! Whilst Caroline and the boys were playing football outside of the castle Luke and I ventured off on our own. He found some tree stumps for us to sit on and he wanted "just Mummy and no-one else" time. We sat and chatted about the trees, the crunchy leaves underfoot, the insects and the birds. We picked some dandelions and left them on a tree stump for the bumble bees (although on the way home he decided that he wanted them back so I had to jump out of the car and quickly pick some more!)

We will definitely be going there again. The gardens are so beautiful. I think I'll go with a good book in the summer (before the school holidays) and let the kids run wild while I relax.

We picked Jude and Steve up on the way home. Steve made a quick dinner while I cuddled Luke who had fallen asleep in the car and woke up very upset. After dinner me and Luke spent some time in the garden planting our new herbs into some pots - 3 mints, camomile, fennel, marjoram. He loved helping to put the soil in and he planted the marjoram completely on his own. The kids have just gone to bed and Ive just milled some wheat and put a loaf of bread on to cook. Now we are going to chill and watch a video and eat some strawberries. So Ive gotta go...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Our Easter week

Well we have been having a ball here the last 2 weeks. The weather is perking up a bit (today it was gorgeous) and the kids have been off school. Today the kids got £20 each from their grandparents and great grandparents in England, for Easter. What a treat! Luke opened his letters and was so excited by the money. He announced that we were all going to the cinema with his money! Isn’t that cute. I had to go to Tesco first and do a big food shop, because all the cupboards and fridge were bare. He helped me put stuff in the trolley and convinced me to buy things I didn’t want – like stringy cheese. We spent £145 in Tesco !!! That’s way more than normal, although I had to buy everything – washing powder, shampoo, soaps, toothpaste, nappies, everything needed replacing. So it cost an arm and a leg. Then I raced home and put the cold stuff into the fridge. Jude was at her friends so me, Luke and Sam went to see the Little Polar Bear 2 at the cinema. We bought some cola and sweets in Tesco to save money in the cinema. Poor Sam. He was going to take a friend to see The Shaggy Dog Tale instead as the polar bear was a bit babyish for him. But none of his mates were free so he came with us and sat through Luke’s baby film. It wasn’t too bad. Luke enjoyed it. When we got home I put the rest of the shopping away and then went out to the garden to lime the soil. We have acid soil apparently and to grow most veg I need to de-acid it a bit, and the way to do that is by adding lime. So that’s what I did. Luke helped me to do that. I put Luke’s little Ladybird tent up in the garden and Sam made it into a huge clubhouse. He dragged things from all over the garden and made a great place with escape hatches, and emergency slide exits. He raised a flag made out of a bin liner. And camouflaged it with fir tree branches. Then he had two boys from the neighbourhood round and they used it as a club house. It looked like great fun.

Steve was doing a record fair in Newcastle on Monday and Tuesday. On Tuesday we went to the tropical butterfly farm in Seaforde. Poor Jude was terrified that a butterfly was going to land on her. So she spent most of the time in the next part where the parrots and terrapins were. Luke just loved the place. We worked out that if we put our fingers into the nectar that the butterflies were drinking then they would be attracted to us too. Luke managed to get one to crawl onto his hand this way and he was just so pleased about that. Sam got a big blue tropical one on his hand too. Luke managed to get one to crawl onto his hand this way and he was just so pleased about that. Sam got a big blue tropical one on his hand too. We took a picnic with us but it rained all day so we sat in the car and ate marmite sandwiches, bananas and biscuits. The peacocks all gathered around the car for some crumbs of food so the kids started throwing their sandwiches out to them. They were eating straight out of their hands. Afterwards we drove to Newcastle to see Daddy at the fair. Our friends Heather and Davey were there with their daughter Catherine. Heather took the kids on some dodgem rides and I took Luke on a few baby rides. Then they all came back to our house for an Indian take away.

Sam with a butterfly on his hand at Seaforde Topical Butterfly House.

Over the weekend we had my sister Jenny and her girls here. It was a good time. The kids enjoyed each others company. Although Steve and Sam weren’t here as they’d gone to a fellowship camp thing in Liverpool, England. On the Sunday morning we had a little Easter egg hunt around the garden. There were kinder eggs, foil wrapped eggs, chocolate bunny lollies and chocolate coins to be found all round the garden. Luke thought he was in heaven!

Jude, Luke and their cousins with the easter eggs that they found during the hunt in the garden.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Donegore Landscape Centre

Today we took a drive to the Lanscape Centre in Donegore. I've never been there before but it was a nice place and the weather was lovely today for a change. At the centre we followed the nature trail which takes you up to the top of Donegore moat. From there you can see a fantastic view across Northern Ireland. Of course, this photo doesnt do it justice.

We sat at the top and had a little picnic whilst we took in the view. Luke suprisingly managed to walk all the steps up to the top. He seemed to really enjoy sitting up there eating oranges and drinking left over coke. Sam wandered off on his own for a while to find out where else the nature trail went to.

After we had bought some fruit plants for the garden and visited the coffee shop we drove to our friends house. They lived sort of on the way home. Heather and Davey, and their daughter Catherine. Luke had a great time at their house. Catherine has a conservatory full of toys. So he spent the time playing with all her Barbie cars, and a postman pat van which he particularly liked. Heather gave Luke a ride on bike, a scooter and a pram. He was absolutely chuffed to bits with them although I had a hard time getting them in the car with all the plants.

This is Heather and Davey. Heather is trying to finish Davey off with a carrot. Davey made me take his photo because he is an entusiastic reader of my blog and he particularly wants to feature in it ;)

On the way home we had to pick Steve up from work because he had forgotten his house keys and couldnt get in until we got home. So I had to squeeze him into the car with all the plants and toys.

Here is the man himself waiting for us to pick him up, outisde of his CD shop.

Waxy Luke Photo

Isn't our sticky gunky waxy little boy just gorgeous? Absolutely adorable! And he knows it.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Luke got hold of the wax...

Luke loves nothing more than to sit in the drivers seat of our car and pretend to drive in the driveway to our house. Actually, sometimes we sit him on our knee at the end of the cul-de-sac and let him steer into our house. This evening he went out to the car as usual. We always leave the front door open to keep an eye on him. I was up tidying our bedroom. When I came down the stairs Luke called out "I've got spikey hair Mummy!" Sure enough, when I looked closer his hair was sticking right up. He had found a pot of Sams hair wax in the car. He looked real cute. But when I looked closer he had actually put the entire pot of wax into his hair. It was thick and gunky and caked into his scalp. We took a photo which I'll load on some time. Anyway, I was on my way out to Iceland to get some shopping so I asked Steve to take care of it. When I came home Steve was mowing the lawn and the wax had dried solid into Lukes hair, who was running round the garden in his new welly boots. I'd had a phone call and had to pop out quickly to visit a lady in the next estate. I asked Steve to sort Luke out with a bath. When I came home Steve had washed Lukes hair twice. But shampoo alone was not enough to remove the wax. Steve had blackmailed Luke into letting him wash his hair a second time by telling him he could have chocolate when he got out of the bath. So I got home at 9pm to find Luke wrapped up in a towel eating chocolate and watching Finding Nemo. He usually goes to bed at about 7.30pm. He is in bed now, with hair still caked in wax. In the morning Im going to have to wash it with Fairy Washing Up Liquid or something to really clean it.

Today we went to B&Q and bought some herbs for the garden. We got lavender, rosemary, thyme and lemon balm. That was all they had. But I bought some parsley and basil in Lidl which I'll plant out too. I also bought two climbing plants, one is a clematis and I forget the other one. They'll pretty up the veggie patch a bit. I also bought some marigold plants. Apparently planting flowers in amoungst the veggies is a natural way to keep nasty pests away from your crop. Instead of using pesticides you can encourage good wildlife into the garden by planting flowers alongside the greens. Butterflys, bees, ladybirds etc will visit the garden and they will eat the greenfly etc. Also, marigolds can be eaten in salads. I also bought a soil testing kit. It tells the ph of the soil. I did a test on the part of the garden that the chickens lived on and it seems to be acid. Although the colour that it turned isnt an exact match of anything on the chart that came with it. I cant tell whether it is slightly acidic, or very acidic. We bought some organic tomato plants in B&Q too. I will have to visit another garden centre to buy some fruit bushes. And I cant decide whether to plant straight into the ground or whether it is too water clogged and we may be better to go for raised beds. Its so hard to know what to do when youre such a novice. I havent got a clue what Im doing really.

Here is Jude posing on the toilet in a B&Q showroom!

Luke and Sam are also toilet posers.

The kids pose with our vising flats and a trolley full of plants.

My soil test. Can you tell me what colour the solution went? It looks like muddy water to me!

Easter Egg Decorating

My Mum bought me some flowers when she came round on Tuesday evening. Here they are with Flat Mum Bree from Desperate Housewives. She helped me arrange them! They go perfectly with her dress!

Last night the kids had some easter eggs from Nanny. Luke got a milky bar one with a horse inside. It was cute. He was so excited by the big box and all the packaging. He couldn't wait to eat it. Sam and Jude got 'decorate it yourself' eggs. They came plain in the box with lots of sweets and icing to use as glue. They had great fun decorating them. After Luke had half eaten his egg he wanted to decorate it. So Sam and Jude gave him some of their sweets and icing and he had a good go at decorating his egg too. We took some photos for the blog and for our flat stanleys. We are hosting 5 at the moment. 4 flat stanleys - from Maine, USA - Texas, USA - and 2 from Damascus in Syria. The other one is a flat Mum.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Busy busy day...

This is me having a go at tilling the ground. The smell of chicken poo was horrific!

Here is luke helping me to push the tiller. In his new Darth Vader welly boots!

Sam also did a great job with it. The machine is very heavy and awkward.

Well its 10.20am and so far nothing has been acheived. Luke is in the bath singing and splashing, Sam is in his room having a moody and Jude is on the playstation. This morning Steve hired a rotivator / tiller for me to spend the day digging up the large part of soil for our veggie garden. He also demolished the chicken pen (not the actual house but the guantanamo bay style pen which gave the chickens space to roam in the sunshine). He did a little bit of tilling with the machine to show me how to do it. Boy, the stink from all that chicken poo that has been absorbed into the soil! The neighbours are gonna love me! At least it will be fertile land. So once Luke is out of the bath and dressed I have till 8am tomorrow morning to till the land for the veg. I'm guessing that by 5 o'clock today Im gonna stink like a chicken farm. Nice.Will get the kids to take some photos later.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Shoe Shop Malarky!

It seems I have spent all day shoe shopping. Didnt pick a good day to do it. The first day of the Easter end of term school holidays. Everyone was out shoe shopping. I was in the shoe shop for an hour. Got shoes for the big lad, no problem. But shoes for Luke is just a nightmare. He has a problem with his feet. They are too bendy! Well, he had talipes feet when he was born and now his feet just bend all over the place and have no strength to them. He is seeing a specialist at the Royal in Belfast. So good fitting shoes are a priority for Luke. The man in charge always serves us as he knows what he is doing. Today they brought down a Clarkes specialist to take a look at him. And between him and the shoe fitting man they found a pair of shoes that were very sturdy and held his feet in place. So I paid for them and took them home. Luke hates shoe shopping. He hates people touching or looking at his feet. I wonder if its because of the amount of needles they put in his feet when he was born. Anyway, shoe shopping is always a nightmare as he cries and doesnt like the attention of someone looking at him so closely.

I brought him home with his new navy shoes. Actually we walked out of the shop wearing them and after a pain staking 5 minutes walk which covered about 20 steps I took the shoes off and put his old ones on so that we could get back to the car some time today. This afternoon I slipped the shoes onto him and left him in them to play in the house. It wasnt long before I heard him screaming and begging me to take them off. He couldnt walk in them. They were so sore. The tongue of the shoe came up so high at the front of his foot and was so tough and rigid that he couldnt move his feet properly and was getting bruised in the attempt.

So I drove him back down to the shoe shop and asked to exchange them. Well, they did exchange them but not until I'd had a good lecture about not giving in to him. The 'delightful' lady there told me it was just a cry for attention and I should just take him home and tell him he's wearing them whether he likes it or not. I tried to explain that the child was in PAIN, but she kindly explained to me that her son had been just the same. She'd be back and forth giving in to his every whim until she realised he was a spoilt brat. Oooohhh I was feeling so patronised. This woman didnt know anything about me or Luke. Luke hates the attention of shoe shopping so he certainly wasnt doing it for more attention. Anyway, Im hoping now that these new shoes I brought home will not hurt him because I'd hate to have to take them back again!

Now its 5.30pm and I need to cook dinner. Today is the first day that the kids were off school and I expected to get so much done. Hence, I got nothing done. Apart from new shoes. Aargh.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Tea Time

I discovered a fantastic new tea. There is a stall at St Patricks Market in Belfast that sells all varieties of tea. They are called Suki-Tea. They sell mail order too. Their lemon roiboos tea is divine, and I also love the nettle. I even bought a black forest gateux chocolate tea!

Northern Ireland Organics?

Why cant I find a producer of organic vegetables and fruit in Northern Ireland? Is there no-one here farming organically? I tried getting one of those veg boxes delivered to the door but the woman was charing a fortune as she was sourcing the produce from various farm around the Cork area and then delivering them to the North. Surely we must have an organic farm here in Northern Ireland? I found a great website for one in Donegal - but I doubt that they will deliver to us. Ideally I would love a wee farm shop selling all sorts of fruit, veg and meat, that we could just drop into and buy whatever we want. I guess the only hope is that the veg we are growing in the garden will be a success. We are taking a trip with the other home schoolers to an organic farm in Letterkenny, in May. Its miles away, but the trip should be good.
It really frustrates me. Northern Ireland seems to be so far behind the times. It is so hard to find out anything on the net pertaining to NI. No one seems to use the net for their businesses. There is almost nothing for sale on ebay from NI. Am I the only person here that has a computer?
I found a friends of the earth website that I havent looked at yet. And a few other good sites about organic farming etc But Im still no closer to being able to buy organic produce here. Maybe I should start off an organic farm of my own :)
The first website - donegal organic - has a 'sponsor a tree' feature. They are planting a new millenium forest in which every tree is sponsored by an individual or family. That sponsor then gets to visit the forest free of charge at any time. It is planted with only native trees. It started in 1999 so I have emailed to ask if they are still taking sponsors. I thought it would make a nice home school project for the kids. Im always looking for educational opportunities that are also life enriching.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Dig dig

Today Flat Mum Bree arrived just in time to do some gardening. I spent yesterday afternoon digging out the patch of lawn that the chickens had been pooping on all winter and we are using that to grow some onions and potatos. In another part of the garden we will grow tomatoes, sunflowers, carrots etc. Ive been waiting for Steve to dig and the weather to be nice for so long. So when it was sunny yesterday I just went out and started digging. Today we got the digging finished. We composted the ground with the compost we had made over the winter, and then the kids started planting. Sam planted onions and Jude planted nasturtians. Luke played with the worms and threw stones out of the mud for us. A little Robin was sitting nearby, stealing worms from the soil whenever he thought we werent looking. It was nice to get outdoors for a whiles - yesterday was the first sunny day of the year. Here are a few photos...

Jude planted some nastutiums and Sam planted some onions. We've got a lot more digging and planting to do yet though. The flat stanleys are helping in this photo.

This was us today out digging the new vegetable patch. Im not looking my best in it, I must admit, but Hey, I was gardening.
The weather here had been crazy. Spring is really late here this year. Its been just so odd. One minute its sunny – then next its pouring with rain. We have had so much rain that our garden is like a bog. And we’ve had hail stones a lot too. Today was the first nice day we have had this year. It was beautiful. The kids got their studies done by lunch time and we spent the rest of the day in the garden. Jude planted some pansies and violas in the flower bed that the ivy grow in. She also planted some sweet pea seeds and some nasturtium seeds to grow up the wall. Me and Sam spent a long time digging the new potato and onion patch. It seems we have pretty good soil in our garden as it was a field before our house was built (our old house garden was full of bits of the school that had been knocked down). So in the morning Sam is going to plant the onions and soon the potatoes will be ready to plant too. We made our own compost over the winter by recycling all our fruit and veg scraps. Its amazing stuff. There is steam coming out of it! And it smells like horse muck. Great for the veg though J It was so nice to spend some time out of doors. Luke sat next to us while we were digging collecting any worms that got turned up. He collected them all in a bowl but he put them back into the soil at the end. Then he gathered stones and washed them in my washing up bowl. Little boys are great fun in the garden! His favourite thing at the moment is to go outside on a wet day and splash in the puddles. A few days back I dressed him in his water proof clothes and put his welly boots on. It was pouring with rain but he been ill the week before and hadn’t been outside for ages. So me and Luke spent an hour outside in the street in the rain splashing in puddles! It was so much fun! I enjoyed myself as much as him. Sam and Jude were watching him through the window whilst they did their maths. Now any time it rains he wants to do it again. Sam put the hammock that I bought last summer back up in the garden. Then he brought down the duvet and pillows from his bed, and him and Jude sat all tucked up in the hammock reading books and tickling each other. By this time Luke wanted to pretend to drive our car so I had the front door open so that I could keep half an eye on Luke who was ‘driving’ in our driveway, and the back door was open for the other kids. I could hear Luke happily ‘brum brum’ing and Sam and Jude were giggling and laughing in the back garden. I sat in the hallway between the two just thinking ‘this is what life is all about’ – happy kids, laughing, carefree childhood days. Doesn’t the sun shine just make everything seem so much better?