Am I going to survive if I have to spend one more day answering random questions?!!

Are we doing the right thing?

Are they learning anything?

Will they succeed in life without having gone through the education system?

Am I going to survive if I have to spend one more day answering random questions?!!

These are just some of the questions I ask myself on a regular basis. As much as I know that (in the current education climate) we are doing the best thing for our family, it is still a radical decision to go against the norm. I’m not saying we’re radical (and maybe that makes it a bit harder still), but to choose to do something different is definitely seen as a bit radical or alternative.

Today has been a tough day. Piccalilli was ill yesterday meaning we had to cancel yesterday and today’s plans (which I’d thankfully not told the big Ps about), meaning I have not had a chance to unwind and chat to adults! The Stinker was late home last night meaning I had to do the whole bedtime routine alone (I know lots of people do regularly!) and also had less time with him to relax.

I’m feeling the need for a bit of me time and the weekend can’t come round soon enough – I’m actually off into the city with a friend for lunch and a museum trip 🙂

The thing is I know my questions will probably not be answered anytime soon:

Are we doing the right thing? We hope and really believe we are but there are probably many ‘right’ ways of doing things on a spectrum. We’ve hopefully chosen the best-fit for us at the moment.

Are they learning anything? Well I like to think that they will learn through life and any extra little snippets I can provide them are a bonus!

Will they succeed in life having not gone through the education system? Again I like to think that there are many ways of succeeding and academically is not the only way. Saying that, many home educated young people go onto university and achieve much in their lives apart from academic qualifications.

Am I going to survive if I have to spend one more day answering random questions?!! Let’s hope so as the majority of them come from my own brain!

Wish me luck!

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5 reasons why having CHILDREN (not boys or girls!) will change your life…

I have been thinking about writing this for some time, but because I don’t like the idea of offending anyone I have held off. However, recently so many things have pushed my buttons in relation to this and I feel the need for a bit of a rant and as it’s International Women’s Day, I have linked up with the wonderful Lulastic and her International Women’s Day 2016 blog link up. 

I have three children, who just happen to be of the female variety. At the end of the day they are CHILDREN, and children to a point all behave the same. I get really annoyed when I read the posts about the things only mums of boys would know and wonder if the people who write these really believe these things to be exclusively male traits…

I am not writing this to compete (you won’t hear me saying that spending my days in and out of minor injuries is because I have boisterous girls – although I think it probably is because I have boisterous children!) rather to put another point of view across. I do feel strongly that the posts claiming ‘boys will be boys’ are just reinforcing gender stereotypes – I am fully aware that many are written in jest, but then so was the comment ‘a woman’s place is in the kitchen’ made by someone I know recently, in front of my three young, impressionable girls, who I am trying to bring up with the strong belief that they can be anyone/thing they want.

I am constantly reassuring the Ps that they (and their friends) can do/wear/be/play whatever they want and I struggle that they already have some of society’s beliefs ingrained, such as daddy needs to mow the lawn, boys can’t wear skirts, girls should have long hair, etc, etc. I think that their limited time in school and minimal television viewing both have had a negative impact on their perceptions of the world. I am also aware that it is impossible to shelter them completely, and they do need to understand the world that they are growing up in, but I do find myself questioning these viewpoints whenever I hear them!

 

Gender inequality is still a major issue in the UK, with women being paid, on average, 20% less than their male colleagues. Really?! The Stinker and I got talking about this and how society sadly still reinforces the idea that women can’t do the same as men, and this starts with people labelling their boys as loud and boisterous and girls as quiet and calm. I am not claiming that there are no differences between males and females (aside from the obvious few!) but it saddens me that people still talk about men’s jobs or needing a man for heavy work. It also saddens me that our government is so lacking in female members and we still have to have a minister for ‘Women and Equality’ in 2016 – surely by now equality should not be a problem!

There are even groups on Facebook trying to address these issues at the basic (children’s) level. Let Toys be Toys and Let Clothes be Clothes are both aiming to allow children to just be children, wearing what they like and playing with whatever makes them happy 🙂

Ok, this has ended up heavier than I planned on it being, but I guess I needed to rant more than I realised!

So to end on a lighter note!

To all the parents/relatives/family friends of young children,

Here are my top five things you should know:

  1. Wherever groups of children are there will be noise, whether it be laughter, screaming or shouting, be prepared for noise!
  2. Child-free spaces no longer exist! We often try to keep our lounge as a grown up room but they always manage to sneak a few toys in or leave random items of clothing lying around (Right now I am sitting on the sofa looking at one sock, a skirt, a pirate ship and a naked baby doll lying on the floor in front of me!)
  3. The clothes are lying around because they love to get naked – at the slightest opportunity children remove all of their clothes, even in the middle of winter!
  4. Your local Minor Injuries Unit nurses will know you very well! We have visited with all three of the Ps on more than one occasion – I was chatting with my cousin the other day about how the Ps are never ill, but she reminded me that we get our money’s worth out of the NHS with our frequent MIU visits!
  5. They will have you tearing your hair out in frustration  one minute and beaming with pride the next. Whatever their gender and personality children will give you all the emotions under the sun and that’s what makes being around them so great.

I hope it is clear that I am not being competitive in any way, nor am I angry with the parents who have written these posts. I think that, sadly, gender stereotypes are so ingrained in our society that many people don’t even realise they are doing it!

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Blood, Blogs and Brownies :)

This week is my chance to have a break as the Stinker is off work. But, of course, I’ve packed it almost completely with trips away and activities to keep the Ps busy!

After a fun-filled, hectic long weekend away with family and friends, I was quite glad when today brought minging weather and an excuse to just stay at home for the day.

I spent the morning painting (Our whole house needs an update so still loads to do!) while the Stinker amused the Ps with retro computer games! It all ended in tears when Poppet pushed a chair into Pickle and split her eyelid open – apparently blood everywhere but I was luckily in the shower so missed the whole event! Luckily it had stopped bleeding by the time I got downstairs (after being screamed at hysterically by Poppet that I was needed – cue end of relaxing shower!) so I still managed to get out of the house to do some shopping and sitting in our local cafe on my own…

… almost.

I knew I would see someone I knew, as that’s what happens when you live in a tiny town, but I was lucky that the person I bumped into was a good friend (and actually the friend who had given me the voucher for the cafe as a birthday present last month!) So we enjoyed a cuppa and catch up together and when she and her daughter left I had another cuppa and a yummy piece of gluten free raspberry chocolate brownie – yummy 🙂

I enjoyed just sitting quietly (while other people had to deal with their children), thinking about friends and family and our current journey in life. I doodled a bit and made a few notes relating to my plans to start another blog. But mainly I just drank tea, ate cake and relaxed.

I returned home to a very relaxed scene (all watching a film), so left them to it and made dinner. It’s been a very relaxed day, despite the ‘Attack of the Poppet’ incident, and I hope we can have a few more days like it before the Stinker goes back to work next week!

 

The internet, ice and irritability – a usual day!

Today has been a mixed day for us; I didn’t sleep well last night due to a snuffly nose so I was entirely to blame for the negative parts to our day!

The Ps are getting very excited about the week to come as it consists of the Stinker being home, a couple of sleepovers and lots of fun day trips and get togethers (if everything goes to plan that is!). I love that they are so happy about seeing family and special friends but, when you’re feeling a bit under the weather, the excitement of three small (but oh so loud) people can be difficult to cope with! I have tried to remain calm and find some moments of sanctuary in the sun today (My attempt to complete a Headspace meditation was however completely unrealistic!) but I did lose my temper with the big Ps a few times about silly things 😦 Poppet actually went off quietly at one point and came back about 45 minutes later with a little owl she had hand sown and a card apologising for being rough with Piccalilli! I of course then apologised to her for overreacting and, after a big hug, we moved on.

I’ve been asked by a few people what a typical day looks like for us. I think it’s changed since I last wrote about A Typical Day and today was more like our current ‘usual days’, without any real ‘structure’ but with a lot of natural learning happening. I guess this is because the big Ps are now much further away from the school way of thinking and I’m also much more relaxed as I have been reassured, by spending time with fellow home edders, that they WILL learn without being forced to do so (also with the fantastic resource known as the internet, which we use daily to answer at least one question – today it was “How do magnetic drawing boards work?” following our discovery learning a few days ago.)

Although I was slightly irritable, the good parts of today were fantastic (as shown in the following photos):

Pickle and Piccalilli spent a lot of time in the garden finding ice and crushing it, looking through it, seeing if it floated in our stream, watching it melt ~ generally learning through discovery again.

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They all enjoyed playing with the trundle wheel that the Stinker has borrowed from work! They competed with each other to see who could go the furthest distance and lots of maths talk came from this.

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When we were all feeling in need of some quiet time this afternoon (Should that say I?!) they all got out the tablets and played various different ‘learning’ games.

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Poppet also practised her recorder and did a little bit of music theory, while Pickle revisited magnets and used the magnetic drawing board some more.

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Oh, and Piccalilli tried to squeeze a baby doll into a backpack! She learnt that it is possible if you persevere!

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Snakes, rats, oxen, tigers and… ponies!

After a difficult day with Pickle yesterday (a common occurrence at the moment!) and a very reassuring and motivating chat with some fellow home edders (more experienced so full of wise words) I decided that we were all in need of a very different day today.

I have realised recently that I often try to do too much and please too many people. Yesterday we went to a home ed meet up and celebrated the Chinese New Year. While there, a warm-hearted tiger reminded this snake that I didn’t need to think so much about other people and unless I was happy then I had very little chance of making others happy. When we decided to home educate my aim was to be as autonomous* as possible (without losing our bedtime routine because I really need some time without my children around!) I know that I like to have some level of control in my life and have been guilty of trying to control the Ps (completely impossible with a stubborn rat, persistent ox and charming snake to contend with!) However I am also fully aware of our reasons for home educating (another post that I will write one day) and check myself regularly when I notice the ‘teacher’ in me coming out!

So today was all about me taking a complete step back and having NO expectations of myself or the Ps. I had to accept that I might not get all the laundry done and the Ps might not put their clothes away but I was adamant that we would have a different day…

And it really worked. When the big Ps awoke I calmly explained that we had visitors arriving in an hour and pony club this afternoon and I left it at that. Pickle didn’t want to get dressed before breakfast whereas Poppet got straight into her jodhpurs! Pickle disappeared downstairs while we were getting dressed and was very pleased when we arrived to announce that she had managed to spread butter and Nutella on a piece of bread for herself! While the rest of us ate breakfast Pickle got the drawing board and a magnet (they have been enjoying playing with magnets recently) and realised that she could use the magnet to draw with. They all proceeded to get very excited choosing different fridge magnets to see the different marks they made (“It must be filled with iron or steel filings” pronounced Poppet). I very quickly felt reassured that they are learning all the time and an autonomous approach is definitely the one for us.

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Following breakfast and science (!) I told the Ps that we were going to be joined by a couple of friends and their 2 year olds shortly. Pickle decided it was time to get dressed (no prompting or fussing which is our usual routine), Poppet joined her upstairs to put their clothes away (again no prompting), our friends arrived and we had a lovely morning playing playdough and chatting.

After our friends left Pickle and Piccalilli decided they wanted to play in the garden while Poppet wanted to finish her playdough model of a chair and to help make some lunch. Everyone was happy, including me 🙂

After lunch we started to get ready to go to the city farm for pony club. I allowed 45 minutes preparation time (more than double what I would usually allow!) during which time Pickle happily got changed into her jodhpurs, all three Ps hid from me and I didn’t once get stressed or raise my voice because I knew we had plenty of time to spare. Our drive was fun with lots of singing (more Annie!) and even the loss of my car keys when we arrived didn’t upset me (it did worry me slightly but we found them eventually so all was ok).

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No jodhpurs! (This is actually from last month – afraid I forgot to take pictures today cause I was so chilled!)

The big Ps did fantastic riding and all was calm, so when they requested hot chocolate and a film upon returning home the answer was a resounding yes. It gave me an hour to reflect and sort our dinner…

The conclusion… As much as we possibly can I’d like to continue with the autonomous approach to home education. Our children are bright, naturally inquisitive creatures who will flourish I am sure of it 🙂

 

*Autonomous education – A process of learning which when employed by home educators goes much further than schools using the same term. In short by autonomous education home educators mean that the child leads the education and the parents become the child’s facilitator. The child chooses the subject, method and context of any learning that is undertaken. It is believed by those who espouse it that this is a far more efficient, child centred method of education than any that coerces the child to learn by imposition. (Home Education UK)

Fun with frogs and fire…

… but not at the same time!

On Sunday Poppet, Piccalilli and I had a fun afternoon in the garden while Pickle had a quiet day helping the Stinker with cooking and chilling out in the house…

I’ve been gradually clearing the stream at the bottom of our garden over the past few weeks (a difficult task with all the rain but desperately needed doing to avoid flooding!) and the Ps have been showing increasing interest in it. While I excavated silt, mud and leaves Poppet decided to rescue the worms that were ‘drowning’… She said they would be happier in the wormery that we started a few weeks ago!

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Piccalilli sat happily cleaning toys and shells in the stream, occasionally falling in! She also went off to find some sticks to play ‘stick poo’ with! (She’s loving the Stickman story at the moment.)

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When we found a frog with a broken leg Poppet wondered what we could do to help. We decided that the only thing would be to put it somewhere sheltered in the hope that a predator wouldn’t find it.

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Both girls were intrigued with the fire lighting process and Poppet was keen to toast marshmallows but unfortunately we didn’t have any.  Instead I sent them up to the house to request hot chocolate from the Stinker. The message got slightly lost in translation and they stayed in the house meaning I never received my hot chocolate! At least I had the fire to warm me 🙂

Saying Goodbye – my tips for helping children deal with the death of a pet :(

The end of last week dealt us with the challenge of nursing a sick pet and finally having to say goodbye.  Of course when you get pets you are aware that at some point they will die (unless they are a tortoise, like our other pet Tiggy, who will probably survive us all!). But, I was still not prepared for how to deal with it.

One morning last week I discovered one of our chickens (actually my favourite, Blueberry) collapsed. I showed her the water and food in an attempt to get her to drink and eat but she was extremely weak and not at all interested. I decided to bring her up to the house where we fed her water and yoghurt with a calpol syringe (not calpol though!) for a few days. At times she seemed to be pepping up but on the second morning she was even more lethargic and we decided to take her to the vet. At this point I was pretty sure that she wouldn’t be coming home so I prepared the Ps for this outcome and we headed to the vet. Obviously when you home educate your children it’s impossible to do things like this without them, but it is also an important life lesson (and as Pickle is interested in working with animals when she grows up she was actually quite excited about her first visit to the vets!)

The inevitable happened and the vet and I concluded (with the 3 Ps listening on) that the fairest outcome would be to euthanize Blueberry and say goodbye 😦  The vet left us for a few minutes and we all had a cuddle; Poppet and I both had a little cry while Pickle held it together and Piccalilli just kept kissing Blueberry! Now I know some people will be reading this thinking “It’s just a chicken” and I even said to the vet that I didn’t know why I was getting upset over a chicken, but as she said: she’s a pet with her own personality who became a part of our family.

We returned home where Pickle disappeared off and I realised she’d gone off to have a cry – she is very private about her emotions and when I went to give her a cuddle she initially didn’t want me to see her crying but I explained that it’s ok to be sad because we all loved Blueberry. She then decided that Blueberry had gone to be with Great Gran Audrey because she had loved birds 🙂

I feel that learning to deal with death is an important life lesson and these are my top tips on how to cope with this tricky time:

Don’t hide your own feelings. If you feel sad don’t worry about showing your children. If you don’t feel sad, make sure you respect their grief and help them to express their feelings – they shouldn’t feel ashamed or guilty and should feel proud of themselves for their level of care and compassion.

Involve them. Where possible let them be a part of the process and give them a chance to say goodbye if you decide to euthanize your pet. Obviously not everyone would want to take their children to the vet with them, but it definitely helped the Ps to see the vet trying her best to help Blueberry.

Reassure them that they weren’t responsible in any way. They also might need reassurance about significant others in their lives. The evening after we said goodbye to Blueberry, Pickle had a big wobble at bedtime so we had a long chat about her feelings and worries.

It can also help to think about the developmental stage of the child involved as their comprehension of death changes as they grow up:

Birth to two years

  • no real understanding of death
  • can sense emotions of those around them
  • may show some signs of irritability
  • need reassurance and usual routines

Two to five years

  • do not understand that death is irreversible and struggle with abstract concepts such as ‘heaven’
  • pick up on emotions of those around them
  • may show irritability or regression
  • will usually ask lots of questions but only capable of showing sadness for short periods of time
  • need reassurance, usual routines and concrete words (avoid “Blueberry has gone to sleep”)

Five to ten years

  • begin to understand the finality of death
  • might be very fearful or fascinated
  • could display aggression or somatic symptoms
  • will need to talk and be able to ask questions
  • stick to concrete words

Ten plus

  • more aware of the finality of death
  • often less willing to open up
  • Somatic symptoms and anger or guilt
  • will need to be given time to discuss their concerns

We are all missing Blueberry but I think the Ps have dealt very well with the experience.

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Blueberry before she was ill.

Losing my cool…

So I’m usually writing about the fun aspects of home educating, with the odd traumatic day thrown in for good measure, but I don’t often write about the days where I lose my cool and wonder why on earth we are doing this!  Last week I had one of those days and have avoided thinking about it too much since. However, I kind of see writing as therapy and figured it was time to get it off my chest…

Our mornings are generally slow and steady as it’s rare that we have to rush out of the house before 10ish. This is one of the lovely aspects of home education (although on those occasional days when you really need to be up and out it’s definitely harder!). So the day I lost my cool was no different to usual; we didn’t have to be anywhere in a rush so the Ps played happily upstairs while I sorted things in the kitchen. Little Piccalilli came down as she wanted her breakfast, but the big Ps continued in their contented play.

As it neared 10 o’clock, and I remembered that we had to be out in half an hour, I called upstairs that it was time to get dressed. Well, you’d have thought I’d just thrown a grenade up there and declared war by the reaction that followed… Suddenly the calm, peaceful morning turned to chaos and the happy siblings turned instantly into enemies. The screaming started, followed by a lot of banging, followed by loud shrieking (which I think was meant to be crying in an attempt to get me to go up). I tried to ignore it initially – isn’t that the done thing? Let them sort it out themselves? Don’t get involved in every sibling battle? Well, after a few minutes of screeching and obvious physical fighting I thought I’d better check that nobody was truly hurt…

When I got to the top of the stairs, Poppet was standing in the middle of the room naked and screaming – Pickle was nowhere near her and I couldn’t work out what the fuss was all about! I lost my cool instantly… I screamed at her to get out. She screamed at me that Pickle had been sitting on her and hurting her (which seems to happen a lot!). I screamed at Pickle that that was inappropriate behaviour. She screamed at me that Poppet had taken her clothes away. I screamed, they screamed, we all screamed… and no ice cream was involved at any point!

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I completely lost it; I told them I was leaving; I told them they were going to school the next day; I really lost it…

Thankfully I had a tiny bit of self control left and on hearing Piccalilli downstairs calling for me “Mummy stop shouting”, I realised I had lost it and went downstairs. Piccalilli got me a tissue and we had a big cuddle.  When the big Ps came downstairs they were very remorseful, as was I, and we talked it through.  We discussed why getting dressed and other transition times always seem to be so difficult and we discussed the types of behaviour that we all displayed that was negative and how we should have behaved. We wrote and signed a new family contract and agreed to have another meeting in a week (tomorrow) to discuss how we were getting on.

I am not proud of losing it.  But I am proud of how we dealt with it and turned it around. We are all doing pretty well at sticking to the new family contract but transition times can still be tricky… we’re working on it though!

 

New Year, New Challenges…

I don’t often bother with resolutions as it feels like setting yourself up for a fall! I do like to set myself little challenges though so have given myself a few challenges for the next few months.

  1. Mindfulness – The lovely Stinker gave me a beautiful colouring book for Christmas. I plan on using this regularly and doing lots of colouring and relaxation with the 3Ps
  2. Meat-free – We have decided to avoid buying meat throughout January for a few reasons including the high cost of good quality meat. I’m not at all daunted by this as I’m not really bothered about meat, although I might miss bacon! I have a feeling this challenge will extend further than January…
  3. Dry January and February – I read recently that unless you’re an alcoholic it’s pointless having dry months, but I think this is a silly statement to make. We are doing it for health reasons (to lose a few excess kilograms!) and to save money.
  4. To write another blog – Don’t worry I plan on continuing to write this one on a personal level but I am thinking of writing one giving advice about different aspects of home education and healthy living… I’ll keep you posted as to how I get on!

Holiday Happiness…

So, for us Christmas was over on Sunday – the big girls went to the Panto with their Nanny and Daioo (Granddad) and while little Piccalilli slept, the Stinker and I took down the decorations and tree (which was practically bare by the time we’d pulled everything off, so it’s a good job Christmas is done for another year!). Since, Piccalilli occasionally disappears off and returns to tell me that the Reindeer had gone – this has bothered her more than anything else as he was filled with chocolate coins most days by our Elf! I love the Christmas break, but I’m also happy when the house gets back to some level of normality… Saying that, I don’t enjoy the holiday coming to an end!

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I love holidays mainly because we get to have the Stinker around more (the biggest bonus of him still working as a teacher!) and relax together. It’s definitely not all smiles and happiness though… So here is my roundup of the highs and lows of Christmas and New Year 2015-2016:

Highs

  • Piccalilli’s enjoyment of the whole Christmas period – she’s the perfect age for the magical moments and watching her little face light up every time she realised that more chocolate coins had been delivered really made my day many times!
  • Lazy mornings in bed – ok, so as we home ed we often have slow mornings but these are always missing the Stinker who leaves early for work. So lazy mornings with all of us present are lovely.
  • Quality time with extended family – we see some members of our family often but to spend quality time chatting, playing games, and just being together is great.
  • Three happy little girls – well, they weren’t happy all the time (see Lows below!!) but on the whole they enjoyed the excitement of Christmas and the lovely presents they received.
  • Feeling proud – Poppet made us very proud on a couple of occasions. Firstly she played her recorder and cornet (both of which she’s only been learning for a few months) in a concert with the home ed band she is a part of. Secondly she sewed us all Christmas presents – I became an emotional wreck and cried when I opened the pillow she’d made for me!! I’m expecting floods of tears next Christmas when she makes me something even more intricate with the sewing machine she got from Father Christmas 🙂
  • Laughing lots – Pickle is turning into a fantastic comedienne and often has us in stitches. Her little impromptu sketches can be hilarious and I particularly love watching Poppet and Piccalilli laughing uncontrollably at her!
  • Theatre trips – we were very lucky to be taken to see Annie (thank you Auntie Krusty and Uncle Big Dan!), which was amazing, although the constant singing of Annie songs since is starting to grate on me (and I can’t get them out of my head!). The big Ps also had their annual Panto trip with Nanny and Daioo which they always love 🙂

Lows

  • The weather! It would have been lovely if it had snowed, or even just stayed dry – the rain really does make things more difficult, although we did still get out as much as possible and the New Year’s Day walk was great fun, especially when the big Ps (who had not been getting on well for a few days!) decided to roll in the mud.
  • The bickering – I know it’s normal and I live with it daily but I do wish they’d stop during the holidays!
  • The trip to Hospital – luckily nothing major but of course I felt awful because it had been me who had opened the door and trapped Pickle’s finger in the hinge ripping her nail half off (but her fault really for standing behind the door to have a strop!)
  • The end – as I said earlier, I really don’t like it when holiday times come to an end 😦