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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.

This entry was originally posted at http://madelinekelly.dreamwidth.org/157513.html.

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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.


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River at nearly 4-and-a-half

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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.

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.

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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.

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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!

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!

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.

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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.