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A cappella, unseasonal attire and chocolate brownies

Littlest has an Easter holiday project to complete. For an English exam next term. She's nine. She coped with her recent piano exam (scoring 135) thanks to her "spiders," so perhaps she can draw on a bit of that calmness-under-pressure, when delivering her prepared presentation. Which is about 'a cappella' - her choice, influenced by her position as smallest fan of her brother's university group and encouraged by her teacher, who won't have to endure another talk titled 'My Pet.' Perhaps we can 'sell' it to her as a performance rather than English homework ...

Parents (we have a homework sheet, too) are to encourage, assist, film (!), supervise, but absolutely not to do their children's projects for them. Hmm ... only once to my knowledge have I been accused of doing my child's project and when I heard second hand what had apparently been said, I wanted to march up to the silly, little man in question and point out to him that, apart from buying the raw materials, I was not involved at all in the project's manufacture. Except, that I don't do confrontation. Without embarrassing myself. So I didn't. Although, I do still get to call him a 'silly, little man.'

Coffee at hand, Littlest and I tackle her to do list. Obviously, however, I'm a dinosaur and times have moved on: 'to do lists' are things of the past. 'Mind maps' are the way to organise your work, now.

A mind map comprises lots of cloud shaped bubbles with writing inside, joined by lines that skewer several clouds, linking them into a web that grows increasingly complex until it bursts off the page. Next, the page is calmly folded, then crumpled, then angrily twisted and thrown onto the floor, where it is seized by Bertie Baggins, who promptly runs off with it and another mind map is started, on another piece of paper ... I go off to find the sellotape, as A4 is clearly too small.

I tentatively interrupt the drawing of clouds, "Your talk will need a beginning, a middle and an end." Littlest is motionless - still concentrating on the clouds? Mind drifted off on another cloud to somewhere entirely else? Or still deaf because she has a temperature, her ears hurt and she is wearing ear muffs?

"You need a summary. At the end," I add, loudly. Nothing. I note that she is writing, so the day dream scenario is wrong.

"What can you put in your summary?" I half shout. Ah! Eye-contact! At last. But she is frowning. She is disconcertingly accomplished at the 'poor mother, what are you on about now' tone of face. "Your summary," I say. "No, I'm not," she replies. "These clothes aren't summery at all. They're pyjamas!"

We move on - still dressed in pyjamas, but with the addition of a coat - from mind maps, to the greenhouse and some paint-brush-aided-pollination of the apricot blossom.

Littlest gets to play at being a bee -

And later, I get to nudge, cajole and promise to do the washing up if middle daughter will bake some of her famous gluten free chocolate brownies - the ones that we ate on the tube into London last week, on our way to an end of term a cappella concert; the same ones that were later enjoyed by the singers; and exactly the ones that I want to enjoy with some rich vanilla ice cream later.

I can but hope. And dream.

Maybe, if I prepared a chocolate brownie mind map .... ?


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