29 Apr 2006

Thomas turns 4!

Thomas was 4 years old today. He jumped into bed beside me this morning and we had a nice wee chat.
‘Happy Birthday darling’,
‘Is it really my birthday today? Am I 4 now?’
‘Yes’
But I liked being 3!’
‘Being 3 is great, but it’s lots of fun when you’re 4 too!’
Oh. OK then

Lady came in and I gave him his present then; a plastic castle with a few medieval characters. He was very pleased with it. They woke Duncan so he could play with them.

We had a party for him this afternoon. It was just so nice! We had a great gang of kids in and out of the house, making good use of the new trampoline, playing with each other and making their own fun. We adults enjoyed pizza and plenty of chat.

I’m driving to my brother’s house tomorrow for another birthday party. My niece was born 2 days before Thomas so we’re having a family get together at their place. It’s a 3 hour drive though! Ah well, it’ll be worth it.

28 Apr 2006

Birthday preparations

I wrote a long post last night in bed but I lost it when the laptop ran out of power and it wasn’t saved. Bummer.
It was only my usual waffle about what we’d been doing.

We had a tree-surgeon in to remove 2 big conifers from our garden. They were too close to the house and blocking out light. I took some tea out to the couple doing the work and we had a chat. I explained about Duncan (when he tried to lift the massive chainsaw) that he doesn’t understand much language as he’s autistic. I was surprised at the woman's reaction; she asked if I was able to cope and did I have family to help me out enough. I told her we managed fine and the children all get to see their grandparents quite often. A while later the man mentioned the shocking incident in England where a woman is said to have killed her son and then herself on the Humber Bridge. I was really pissed off at the way that story was reported at the time in a way that made it seem as though it was the boy’s autism (Fragile X really) that caused these 2 deaths and not the woman’s mental illness. I was glad they were able to see Duncan running around having loads of fun with their beautiful Husky dog, which they brought round in the afternoon. It might help change the false perception of autism that the media usually portrays.

We went to W5 on Wednesday and met up with another family. We all had a great time as usual. Duncan loved his lunch of unlimited ice-cream at Pizza Hut, while the rest of us had the more standard piles of pizza and salad. Soon after my friend’s 4 yo son fell and banged his head on a bench. He was bleeding quite a lot so she had to take him to the A&E. Thankfully he was OK. Two of her sons came back with me to our house while she was at the hospital. The children loved having a few extra friends to play with.

On Thursday they all played outside a lot. Lady told me they were playing a game called ‘Wild’. They were all in bare feet and were filthy by the end of the day.

Today I took Lady shopping for everything we need for the party tomorrow. Thomas is going to be 4! I bought a round, 8 foot trampoline with an enclosure. We all helped to put it up this evening. It is a big hit already!

Now, I need to start baking. I’ve a cake and buns to make and I want to make some pizza dough. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, it’ll be the first party we’ve had since moving to this house.

24 Apr 2006

not yet then

After all that transpired at the zoo, I was so tired when we got home and Duncan was so distressed that we snuggled up on the sofa for half an hour together under a blanket while Gordon cooked dinner. He made burgers using some bread dough I’d made earlier and as I told him, it was the tastiest burger I’d ever eaten. I know it was also his way of trying to patch things up and get good feeling back in the family. He went out to PC World next (I wrote that previous post then) and came home feeling much better about things, having had time to think.
I’m not sure why he often feels so ambivalent about home-education, for Lady in particular. When this has happened before (many times) we always talk it out and he always ends up staunchly pro-home-education. He doesn’t have the insights I do regarding the children nor sees what amazing steps they take every day. I tell him, but it’s not the same. He doesn’t spend time with other small children so doesn’t know what is age appropriate.

But he was telling me that when he was with Lady and Thomas at the zoo, he was so impressed with her reading ability as she read and understood the information signs about the animals to Thomas. We’ve decided that we should take the children out separately sometimes. He loves taking Lady to Ju-Jitsu most Saturdays and they usually visit his Mum afterwards and it’s a really nice outing for them both.

There are so many things I know, with a bit more planning, we can do as a family. I will list them, maybe time-table it because that’s how Gordon likes to do things.

23 Apr 2006

So close to giving this up

It’s been another bad day. We all went to the zoo and it didn’t work out so well. Perhaps I should have learnt my lesson at the aquarium last week, but when I saw it was a sunny day, I suggested we all go out again. We’ve visited the zoo before, and although it has involved lots of running after Duncan and some crying from him about buying ice-cream from the shop, it was OK. Not so today.

Firstly, it was very crowded and then there was a bloody ice-cream van right by the playground. We decided right away to split up, I was to stay with Duncan for half an hour while Gordon went with Lady and Thomas, then we were to swap. But it was all I could do to keep my boy away from the ice-cream van. I didn’t want to buy one right away (I didn’t have any money left either) but so many other people were eating ice-cream that he just couldn’t get it out of his mind. He wasn’t interested in the playground or the animals. When we all met up again, we walked about together for a bit. Duncan was unhappy and I had to carry him on my back most of the time. Then Thomas was in a really whiney mood too and I didn’t have the physical or emotional energy to help him while dealing with Duncan. So we split up again. I was going to just go back to the car with Duncan and let Gordon take the others around to see the animals. Then Duncan started to notice what was around him and was really enjoying the animals. We spent ages looking at the sea-lions and penguins. He kept running from one enclosure to the other; they’re adjacent and there’s quite a steep slope on the path between them. I marvelled at his energy as he raced up and down this path. He was singing a penguin song he’d heard on the computer. He splashed about for a bit in a mucky puddle (before I caught up with him) and was saying ‘Dr Foster went to Gloucester’! We saw the bears next; there was Daddy bear, Mummy bear and baby bear, so he was looking in the enclosure to find Goldilocks! After a while we went back to the car to wait for the others. I was exhausted as I was always either running after him or carrying him on my back and the zoo is very hilly, and he’s getting heavier. He’s skinny, but not that skinny!

Lady had a wonderful time and Gordon told me they’d seen so much together and he was really impressed at how much she knew about the different animals. Duncan cried and shouted the whole way home for ice-cream. Gordon was really fed up and wanted to ask about my ‘plans’ for Duncan, now that I’ve decided to educate him myself. He thinks I give in to Duncan’s crying requests too easily. I probably do. He said that I’ve become too accepting of Duncan’s condition and says I need to train him up somehow to cope better in more situations. He reckons that Duncan is a virtual prisoner and he’s just getting worse and he doesn’t know how to react to anyone but me- and the same for Thomas.

He suggested again that Lady and Thomas would be better off at school getting an ‘ordinary’ education. We have this same talk all the time. I have to talk about the benefits of what we’re doing for everyone so many times. He has always concluded by agreeing with me.
But perhaps ordinary will have to do.

21 Apr 2006

A bit of diversity

It’s been nearly a week since I last blogged. Gordon was off work so we’ve been hanging out together with the children and I’ve not been at the computer so much. It was a nice Easter week. Gordon has done most of the cooking so we’ve eaten well, and we’ve had a few outings, some more successful than others!

We had a really good day here on Easter Sunday. We sorted out the garden a bit in the morning and the children liked their presents of new mugs, windmills and a few mini chocolate eggs.

My Dad, Step Mum and Gordon’s Mum all came over for lunch. The food was delicious, and it was just a lovely, relaxing day. The children enjoyed the company too. Thomas told me at one stage, ‘I like visitors. Is this my party? Am I four now?’ My wee sweetie! He also demonstrated his ‘magic’ by repeatedly hiding things behind his back, them using his powers to make them reappear, to the astonishment (hmm) of his audience. Lady did a fair bit of showing off too and read out a story she’s written, ‘The Witch Tale’. Duncan loved all the attention and games and best of all, chocolate!

On Monday we went to Downpatrick to ride in a real steam train. It was magic. The journey lasted only 15 minutes, then we got out to watch the engine turn and re-couple. This was a most exciting endeavour involving lots of steam and whistle-blowing and men down on the tracks clanging bits of metal. Duncan’s little face was a picture of pure joy. We then chuffed back to the station, crossing a bridge and waving to the people in canoes and the man driving a tractor. Duncan was singing and smiling and calling ‘hello’ to anyone we saw. There was a little shop at the station selling, oh god no, ‘Daniel’s’ engines! That is one of the other types of trains that we’ve managed so far to do without buying because he’s never seen them in any shop before, just on the internet. Well, I bought him a ‘Percy’, I think he has 6 Percys now! Thomas got a ‘Thomas’ flag and Lady got a bunny necklace. All in, a good trip.

We didn’t do much on Tuesday or Wednesday but we did manage to sort out some household management stuff. Dad looked after the children for an hour in his apartment while Gordon and I went to the shops. On Thursday we went to the Aquarium. It’s a great place but it wasn’t such a successful outing. First of all, Duncan was disappointed that we weren’t going on a steam train again, (the train only goes 5 or so times a year). When we went in, he was running around all over the place. That was understandable since we’d been in the car for a long time so he was like a wound spring. They all liked touching the rays and sticking their hands in the touch pools. Lady liked the anemones and Thomas liked the giant crabs. I stuck right by Duncan, and he spent most of his time in a children’s section full of play tubes and dressing up clothes. Duncan dressed as a diver and wanted to jump into the water with the fish! At one stage Gordon was with him and he threw his shoe away and it hit some other poor child. Gordon was really embarrassed and upset and wanted to go home right then. But we stayed another while and before we left, they went to watch the seals for a while. The seal was right up against the glass beside Duncan who was loving it, especially when it started barking and he barked right back! They were rolling around together and just making friends! That made the trip worthwhile. Everyone was grumpy on the drive home though, pah.

Today we had some friends over. When they’ve been here before, Thomas has usually stayed near me and my friend and her 1 yo daughter. Today though, he spent the whole time playing with Lady and the other little boy. They were playing Harry Potter; there was a bit of an issue about the casting but Lady set some challenges and her friend K bagged the main role while Thomas had to accept the part of Ron. They said Duncan was Malfoy! Not that he was interested anyway.

Lady has suddenly started reading well which she’s happy about. Thomas was playing in the bath last night with some foam letters. He had an ‘N’ and was thinking of N words. Then he got an ‘O’, put them together and said NO. Pretty good, I thought. Both boys have enjoyed some maths stories I bought in the charity shop and do well with the little puzzles in them.

I’ve realised why I had to draw the same picture over and over for Duncan. He started producing his own rocket pictures, and they’re really good. He enjoyed watching the process of creating the pictures as well as the finished product. He likes to have these objects and characters to hold and I think that’s why he likes to dress up too. He likes to see himself in character. Lately, he has been wearing a knight costume, a Pocahontas dress (with pretty shoes and a pink hat), an angel dress with wedding veil and Lady’s yellow top under a ‘Big Chief’ waistcoat. We embrace all kinds of diversity here ;-)

15 Apr 2006

Jolly uncles

Thomas is playing ‘snakes and ladders’ on the computer and Duncan is digging holes in the garden. He likes ploughing his trains through the dirt. Earlier I was listening to him playing with a few toy men; ‘you NASTY man, you are so grumpy. I have a happy face. You have a grumpy face. You are HORRIBLE.’ I wonder what that was all about…?

I went for another run the other night. It was lovely. I went to the park, followed the burn (stream) to the sea and then walked along the beach alone listening to the wind and waves and birds. Gordon goes to the council gym and thought I might enjoy that too. But I much prefer to go away by myself somewhere quiet, instead of a gym with noisy machines and 5 big TV screens. I need some screen-free time!

My ‘little’ bother C came for a visit yesterday with his girlfriend and her 3 year old son. My Dad came with them. The boys had so much fun playing together. Uncle C is big and strong so is great at picking up small children and swinging them up over his head and generally tossing them about in a way that Duncan just adores! Lady wishes she wasn’t too big for all that. Duncan enjoyed lots of chase games and our little visitor was right at home, since he loved playing in the boys’ toy car outside. We all went to the beach for a while too and as expected my children had socks and shoes off and paddled in the cold sea. Thomas came to inform S, my brother’s girlfriend, that her little boy had fallen and needed help. He said ‘your son has fallen down’ in his formal little serious voice. Thomas fell himself too and bumped his forehead on our wooden bench. He got a huge bump and a little cut. When he saw it in the mirror, he was very pleased to have a scar on his forehead, just like, well who else, ‘Hairy Potter’!

Oh I have to describe what my crazy daughter is doing; she came in wearing a yellow bath towel over her head, and yellow rubber gloves on her hands and feet, while Thomas was wearing blue rubber gloves. She was pretending to be a duck and Thomas was the water!

11 Apr 2006

The king, the princess, the fairy, the prince and his horse

Yesterday was dry and sunny and in the morning, Duncan was sitting outside, dressed as the handsome prince and examining a collection of trains and drawings. He looked so content. I thought about how different it would be if he was still going to school. He’d have been forced into a school uniform and onto a bus at 8 am, and then made to engage in activities that held little or no interest or relevance to him. Oh, I’ve just remembered; on Sunday I was having a lie in and he came into my room, kissed my cheek and ran out saying ‘handsome prince!’ When he came back a while later I asked if I was the sleeping princess and he said yes, then I asked who everyone else was. He told me that Thomas was the fairy, Lady was the king and Gordon was the horse!

We had friends over to visit in the afternoon. I had a lovely time sitting around, drinking tea and chatting. Oh and I enjoyed watching a beautiful smiling baby, content in his Mummy’s arms. The children all enjoyed themselves too, even if Thomas was a bit judgemental about D’s hair! Duncan was happy when he saw the boys come to the front door and he wanted to cuddle D when she came in, though that may have been partly because she had a bag of food he wanted to investigate!

Later when Gordon came home from work, Thomas told him about his day, ‘my friends were here and A. (the baby) was here and you missed him,’ which was obviously the most important thing for him.

We had yummy roast chicken for dinner and after the children were in bed, we watched ‘Annie Hall’. I’d forgotten how utterly funny and sweet and wonderful it is!

We’re having another quiet day. Thomas has been doing what he calls his work, which is, playing CD ROMs. He spent ages playing a ‘learn to read with Clifford’ game, and was doing really well at sounding out the letters for 3 letter words. He also played ‘Jojo in number land’ and is now onto ‘Adiboo’ a strange but fun music game. Duncan has been focusing on rockets again today. He has asked me to draw pictures of ‘Barney’s rocket’ (it features in their ‘Barney in outer space’ video) over and over. I must have drawn 10 of these by now! I was getting a bit fed up drawing the same thing so many times, (though I’ve been instructed to make some alterations on the recent batch) but I figure he must need to do this right now. He can’t explain what benefit he derives from it, but there’s obviously something meaningful going on. Perhaps sometime later on, he’ll look back at this and tell me what it was. I also wonder what causes his great desire to acquire new Thomas the Tank Engine trains. He’s gone beyond needing the different characters so he can emulate the stories we read or that he watches. He now wants me to get the various types of each train produced by the different manufacturers. In this case, completing the collection seems to be his motivation. Thankfully he hasn’t discovered the Hornby collection yet. At a cost of £20 or more per engine, he can buy those for himself when he’s grown up, if he’s still interested!

Lady has been going through a BBC Spark Island Maths book and longingly reading a Disney World holiday brochure with Thomas. I sent off for the free DVD because I knew Duncan would enjoy the footage of roller coasters and other rides. Maybe we’ll go there some day, but not anytime soon!

10 Apr 2006

My favourite things

I woke up when Thomas jumped into our bed this morning for his start-the-day cuddle. A few minutes later, Duncan joined the throng. I heard him before I saw him; as usual, he woke up singing! I though to myself what a special child he is, that he just wants to sing for his own pleasure as soon as he’s awake.

It’s been a nice easy day. The children were out in the garden this morning while I did a few outside jobs. It was warm and sunny, then a big black cloud rolled overhead and suddenly, the hailstones were falling. For the rest of the day, the weather varied from sunshine to heavy rain to hail, with a bit of snow thrown in.

Gordon and I sat around this afternoon, listening to The Smiths and using our computers. We were two happy nerds! I had to break off many times to get one or more children a drink/ wipe someone’s bottom/ make some cakes/ draw some pictures/ play ‘chase me!’

Thomas wanted to sit beside me at lunchtime, as always. He looked deep into my eyes with his own big brown eyes and told me it was because ‘I really love you.’ Ah, what a wee Romeo!

I spend lots of time with Lady yesterday. We went shopping together for the groceries and her new shoes. Then in the evening we walked through the forest to the beach. It was lovely. We had a good old delve around in some rock pools and raced each other to the shore. She ran twice as far (at least) as I walked; she was constantly flitting over to examine something. We came home with our pockets full of pretty stones and shells. I picked a limpet shell from a rock pool for her collection, but it was still alive. We had a quick look at its big foot, mouth and tentacles before putting it back in the pool to finish its dinner. I’ve found a page on Enchanted Learning about them so we’ll read it together later. We had a big discussion about the Harry Potter characters and their motivations on the last leg of our walk. She’s such a great person to spend time with. I told her she was my favourite girl in the world (she asked if Auntie C. is my 2nd favourite; I was happy to say yes!).

8 Apr 2006

First this, then that

I’m at home with the boys. They’ve just had lunch; ‘muffles’ for Thomas (he meant potato waffles) and Duncan ate 4 chicken dipper things. We’ve been drawing pictures and colouring them together. I’ve just drawn Po from the Teletubbies and a dancing bear. All great stuff.

Duncan is dressed as Robin Hood. He cut his knee a little earlier and wanted a plaster on the little wound. A while later he was pulling the wrappers off a few more yellow plasters and sticking them onto his brown belt. I asked him not to rip open the plasters, but then I realised he was making a golden buckle on his belt so he looked even more like Robin Hood! Yesterday he was dressed as Fizz from the Tweenies for a while again, then as a ‘Narnia boy’. When he got dressed at first this morning, he was wearing Lady’s colourful stripy tights. She thought he looked like a little rainbow elf!

He is getting better at negotiating too. Last night he wanted his picture of Fizz to hold while I read their bedtime story. I said ‘first story, then paper Fizz.’ He came back with ‘first paper Fizz, then story!’ I had to laugh; he’s shown that he understands that one well enough! Oh and he got Fizz first, as requested!
Just now he wanted me to unlock the big kitchen cupboard to get the ‘wash’. I didn’t know what he meant but he fetched the mop and pretended it was a motorbike like on the ‘Aristocats’.

Gordon and Lady have just returned. Lady says she has her first Ju-Jitsu grading either next week or the one after but isn’t too sure! Ah well, we’ll find out soon enough!

4 Apr 2006

We love Hairy Potter

It’s funny how having a few days away knocked me off schedule. I had many days worth of washing and cleaning to catch up on. I think we’re sorted now!

Lady really liked looking through our Rome photos, and drew a great picture of Gordon and me beside the Colosseum.

On Saturday last I took Lady to see ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ performed by the village drama group in a local church hall. I was surprised at how good it was and we both really enjoyed it. I explained to Lady what was happening a few times as we watched. She understood well and asked lots of questions in the break and at the end. She wants to join the junior drama group now.

I bought the 1st 3 Harry Potter films recently; they were on special offer. Lady has watched them a few times. Currently, Daniel Radcliffe is her favorite actor. She has been playing Harry Potter games with the boys nearly all the time. She is Hermione, Thomas is Harry and Duncan is Ronald Weasley. They’re all walking round wearing cloaks and using chop-sticks as wands. Thomas has been wearing Lady’s pink, sparkly sun-glasses (the only ones they could find) with a zigzag scar drawn on his forehead with marker. Lady has been teaching Thomas various magic spells. This morning, the computer didn’t start properly for him and before I could come to help, he was waving his chop-stick wand at it saying ‘allo halora’, ‘cause that’s going to sort it out!
He calls himself ‘Hairy Potter’ and the 4th film is ‘the Goblic of Fire’. He asked me if he could have a ‘bomb stick’ for his birthday when he’s 4. I asked what that is and he explained that’s it’s ‘a bomb stick, like on Hairy Potter, you can fly in the sky on it’. Ah, he means broom-stick! He was a bit upset when I told him that I wouldn’t be able to get one that could fly as they’re imaginary.

I took Lady to her drama class and discovered they were having a show for the parents. Oh heck, I was going to have to sit through that with the 2 boys. Thankfully it was for the 2nd half of the class only as they had to rehearse 1st. I took the boys out to buy a train and a packet of sweets to keep them quiet. The show consisted of all the children showing how they could project their voices and act with their bodies before putting it together to do a short play about a hospital. I missed the play as Duncan decided just then that he needed the toilet. At one stage, the children were sort of chanting in a monotone ‘run, run as fast as you can, you can run faster than Mary and Dan’. Duncan, who had been sitting on the floor playing with his new train until then, pricked up his ears and as soon as the children had finished, he repeated the whole thing in the same monotone voice, really loudly! He also liked it when people clapped. He screws up his whole face, but in a happy way, and clapped and stamped his feet, with little fast steps. Thomas wanted to join the children and right at the end he slipped out of his seat and went to stand beside Lady.

The bothersome thing is, the head-lice beasties are back and this time they’ve taken up residence in Lady’s beautiful thick curls. Oh dear! I definitely underestimated their persistence! I had loads of great advice from the early years home-ed list yesterday and I’m on to them now. It’s Armageddon, you critters!

3 Apr 2006

Rome

I went to Rome a few days ago.

It was absolutely marvellous, the best holiday I’ve ever had and totally lived up to my expectations. I’d always thought that if I had just one place I could visit before I die, I’d choose Rome.

We took a taxi to Belfast International airport and stayed at the hotel there on Tuesday, Neither of us slept well. I suppose we were too excited and I was worried about sleeping in. But we didn’t and at 5.30 we were checked in and enjoying good coffee and croissants in the airport. It was funny to see how European we are in Belfast now. No-one was having the traditional fried breakfast; we were all sipping our lattes and cappuccinos instead! The flight was fine and we reached our hotel just after midday. It was wonderful; clean, modern, comfortable and just a few minutes walk from the Colosseum.

We had our 1st Italian meal at a cafĂ© near the hotel and it was lovely. Then we went exploring. We took the metro then walked and walked and walked. We wanted to go to St Peter’s Square but started off in the wrong direction and went a long way off course. I was wearing flat boots; I wear them all the time and never had any problems. But after a while, my feet were really hurting. We reached the Vatican eventually and it was amazing to find myself standing somewhere that was so familiar. It was beautiful. We were too late to go into the basilica or the Vatican museums though.

It’s impossible to describe Rome adequately. There are beautiful churches, monuments, statues, fountains and 2000 year old buildings scattered in a big, chaotic, messy city. I kept seeing things and saying ‘Oh, Lady would love this!’

I’d been told about driving in Rome but was still unprepared for the reality. It is crazy! There doesn’t seem to be any system in place. And cars are parked anywhere it seems. We saw a car parked perpendicular to the pavement on top of a pedestrian crossing!

We returned to the hotel and I soaked my poor feet and washed off the city dirt before collapsing, exhausted on the bed. Gordon said he was far too tired to go out and wanted room service. No way! We were in Rome and we were not staying in a hotel room all evening. We rested a while then dressed up and went out to a fantastic fish restaurant on the same street as our hotel. It was a really fancy place with well-healed customers and friendly, helpful waitresses. Our food was wonderful, the wine was excellent and it cost a lot less than we expected! I was totally tipsy as I tottered back to the hotel.

We’d planned to get up early on Wednesday but neither of us woke until 10.30. It was the day of our 10th anniversary! Thankfully, they were serving breakfast until 11.30. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that! Then we went straight to the Vatican Museum. This time, I wore trainers! We’d decided that the 2 things we most wanted to see that day were the Sistine Chapel and inside the Colosseum. I think we were so lucky in many ways. We had perfect spring weather, sunny and warm. We didn’t have to queue for the museum and were just in time to join a guided tour. Our guide was a lovely Italian woman who’d been giving tours for 30 years and who was keen to share her enthusiasm and knowledge with us. I had assumed that the museum would have only Christian paintings and artefacts. That is not the case. It is a wonderful collection containing many ancient Roman sculptures and artefacts. It was humbling to think we were looking at the work of people from nearly 2000 years ago. Before we entered the Sistine Chapel, our guide used posters to describe what we were about to see, since talking is forbidden in the Chapel. She explained that it took Michelangelo 4 years to paint the ceiling fresco and he virtually lived on the scaffolding he’d had erected for all that time. He stood up to paint and wouldn’t let anyone else see it, locking the chapel door whenever he did leave. He also painted ‘The Last Judgment’; a mighty fresco covering a complete wall in the chapel. She told us how one of the cardinals used to criticise him every day about the number of nudes in the painting. Unlike most people from Tuscany, Michelangelo never said a word back. But when the painting was complete, he had painted the charcter of Minos, the Judge of Souls, complete with ass’s ears and with the cardinal’s face. What a riposte! He was a tortured genius, living on a different plane from other ordinary people.

The Raphael Rooms were another highlight. Another interesting thing the guide pointed out; in Raphael’s fresco ‘The School of Athens’ he depicts Michelangelo (as Heraclitus) sitting wearing a pair of boots that he apparently insisted on always wearing.

The tour ended at the door of the Sistine Chapel. It was magical. We wandered around for half an hour drinking it in then sat on the cardinals' bench in awe. We went out again and back to St Peter’s Square where we hoped to go into the basilica. There was a huge queue by then though so we left it and went back to the Colosseum instead. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see the ‘Pieta’ but I probably would have cried if I had.

We joined the last guided tour of the evening in the Colosseum and again it was amazing, wonderful, and awesome. After, we returned to our hotel close by since I was feeling cold by then. We went out for a meal that evening in the piazza by the Pantheon. There were loads of people sitting outside the cafes enjoying themselves and there was a really lovely happy atmosphere. We ate in a nice place, with gorgeous well-dressed waiters and again, wonderful food and wine. We walked back to the hotel; we had plenty of time. It was a great way to see the city illuminated at night. The next day we only had time for a great breakfast before going to the airport. The drive out was totally crazy. Our driver, a dapper middle-aged man, drove like an egotistical maniac, cutting people up constantly and overtaking, even at junctions. Ah well, we got there safely (by magic or something) and flew home. My Dad had driven our car with all the children to meet us at the airport. It was so nice to see them again. Duncan immediately asked for ‘shiny Jack’, the train I’d bought (without his knowledge) before I left so I wouldn’t be searching in Rome for Thomas trains. Daddy told me that they had all been great and there hadn’t been a single problem. He had been so impressed with Duncan. The children were happy to see us too. It was the perfect way to end the perfect holiday.