Monday, 9 December 2013

Slowing down

Things are quietening down here a little as our activities wind up for the year. We've got a few final sessions this week, and by next Monday everything will be over for the year. I'm looking forward to 6 weeks or so with much less of a schedule. Time to focus on the things we really enjoy doing without having to cut them short to be somewhere else, and time to think about what activities felt worthwhile and that we'd like to continue next year.

I think we'll try to do a lot more swimming over the next few months. We've been 3 times in the last month and everyone's skills have improved greatly. Millie was still clinging on to me a month ago, and last week swam for nearly an hour just using a noodle, I didn't hold her at all. Liam can now swim several metres without any aids and his confidence has sky-rocketed. He did his Level 1 swimming badge at Cubs a couple of weeks ago - if he had tried that even 2 weeks earlier I don't think he would have been willing to get in the pool and try. I'm hoping that if we swim a lot over the summer then I'll keep it up during the colder months next year as well - we all enjoy it so much, and its really only that we have so many other things on that it falls down the priority list, I'd love to continue to make it a priority and possibly work other things around swimming instead.

I'm hoping to get back to Melbourne Zoo soon, we haven't been for well over a year - maybe even 2 (we've been to Werribee Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary several times this year, so our membership has still been worthwhile). I offered a trip to the zoo a couple of weeks ago when we didn't have many other plans. Caitlin was keen but Liam was surprisingly reluctant. In part that was because he was sick - he had a virus for several weeks which sapped his energy, and a trip to the zoo was just too much. He's also not enjoying long car trips at the moment, so wants to save them for something worthwhile. Lemur Island will soon be opening at the zoo and he wanted to wait and go once it was available to see - lemurs are his favourite animal so this should be his ultimate zoo experience. I was quite pleased that he was able to say no and delay his trip to the zoo - it shows that he trusts that we will get to do fun things and he doesn't need to grasp at every excursion opportunity that is offered - and it also alleviated my worry that I hadn't been offering enough trip options lately - if he can say no, then he's not feeling like he wants to be going more places. Lemur Island opens on December 21 - I haven't decided yet whether we will brave the school holiday crowds and go and see it as soon as we can, or wait a bit and take advantage of being able to go on quieter days...

I think we'll also have the chance to spend more time hanging out with friends and/or at the playground.  Those days tend to be the ones we enjoy the most, so it will be nice to have less time constraints on our social activities.

And once activities start up again next year, we'll be relaxed enough to be able to find a non-stressful balance between Caitlin's need for activities and groups, and everyone else's preference for non time specific activities.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Rest day

We've had a lot of time at home lately and it's been lovely. Exactly what we all needed after a very crazy Term 3 and the first half of Term 4.

Yesterday we had nothing planned except resting at home and we had a varied and interesting and overall restful day. Some of the things we did

- Jigsaw puzzles
- dominoes
- lego
- watching and caring for the chickens, collecting eggs, observing the evolving pecking order now that we have so many new chickens
- gardening - watering, weeding, mulching
- planning a cubby house, drawing up plans using a drawing app on the iPad, and starting work on clearing the area
- drawing pictures on the iPad
- playing on the trampoline and swings
- Millie pretending to be a kitten and eating and playing like one
- packing picnic lunches and eating outside
- reading books (the bear books by Nick Bland, and others)
- playing games on ABC3 website - the 5th Boy, and Huebrix (this is a great puzzle game, Liam and Caitlin and I all had a go and between us were able to solve a lot of the puzzles. Liam really grasped the concept and quickly solved some that I struggled with)
- maths games on the computer
- playing Red Fish/Poisson Rouge on the computer - this is the best kids website I've come across and Millie can spend hours exploring it, while the older kids and I still enjoy it as well
- playing with MAB blocks
- Movies - The Incredibles, Cats & Dogs - the Revenge of Kitty Galore, Winx
- lots of discussions about all of the above as they were happening

It was interesting too, when I said on Monday night that we'd be having a rest day on Tuesday, the kids all said 'cool, we can watch movies all day!' I wouldn't have minded if they did, but they were so busy playing games and exploring other things that the movies didn't get put on until 5.30. And while there was a fair bit of computer and iPad use, it was all collaborative and very social

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Best Halloween Ever

(I wrote this post the day after Halloween but was having internet problems and didn't get it past draft stage - then remembered this morning that I hadn't published it yet)

As fun as last year's Halloween celebrations were, the kids have been saying since then that this year they would like to go trick-or-treating in town. I knew that some of their friends had done it in the past, and I'd seen kids in costumes going from door to door in our local town on Halloween over the last couple of years, so I knew that some households at least wouldn't be overly surprised by a knock on the door by costumed kids.

As the day drew closer they talked about it on and off and were definitely keen to go. We were all sick in the week leading up to Halloween so I did wonder if the idea would fizzle out. Liam realised early in the day that it was Halloween (he must have seen ads on TV saying that it would be on Thursday, and was counting down in his head) so we watched some Halloween themed TV shows and Caitlin started thinking about her costume.

Caitlin went with a similar outfit to last year, although by this time I had found the cool witches hat (it had been hiding under my bed) and she had a great black dress and black boots to round off the costume. Liam was a dragon again and Millie a ghost again. Tony came with us into town as I wasn't feeling well enough to manage it by myself. Caitlin had gone to a friend's house for the afternoon so we picked her up, she got changed in the car and we were ready to go.

Caitlin and Liam were quite confident knocking on doors and saying 'Trick or Treat' (although next year they are going to say 'Happy Halloween') and most people who were home had a basket of lollies for them to choose from. Millie was a bit slower (and after a couple of houses Tony modified her costume so she could get her arms out and the eye holes didn't slip away from her eyes, and tied the front of it up so she could walk up steps) - if she didn't make it to a front door Caitlin always let the person know that her sister was coming and could she have something for her too.

We saw about 6 other groups of kids out in costume as well, and there was quite a party feel to the evening. We just did a couple of local streets, and it was much more fun than I'd expected. The kids went to the doors and we stood back where we could see them, lots of other parents were doing the same thing and it felt like a community experience.

Millie was the only ghost that we saw and Liam the only dragon - and one lady pointed out that Caitlin was the only witch with gold hair - so they came home feeling that their costumes were pretty special.

Each of them received a decent haul of lollies and on the way home Liam said that it was the 'Best Halloween Ever'. They've been slowly working through their stash, there's still a bit left, and they've traded things they don't like with the others, or kept some to give to friends.

We also looked up the history of Trick-or-treating and quite liked the idea that originally kids were given sweets or cakes in return for singing songs or saying prayers for the dead. We've been thinking about the dead this week with the anniversary of Tony's Mum's death, and we sent our thoughts out for the loved ones of the people we approached on Halloween, so it feels like we are tapping in to that old tradition.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Still busy, feeling calmer

Once again its been a while since I've written a post. I feel like there hasn't been much time to breathe, let alone sit down and write, over the past few months. We've had all our regular activities, time with friends, medical appointments, some extra volunteer activities on my part - there hasn't been a lot of quiet time at home, or time to go to the zoo or anywhere new. I feel like things are quietening down a little bit now - or perhaps i'm looking at things differently - I feel like I'm breathing again anyway, and I've even found time to write.

Over the weekend Caitlin went to a regional Girl Guides Camp. There were over 100 girls there from the various Guide units around the Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne. Caitlin was in a group that slept in tents, and had their meals prepared and eaten outdoors. She had a wonderful time and made several new friends.

When I went to pick her up yesterday Liam and Millie reluctantly came along too. They had wanted to stay home all day (we'd had a busy day on Saturday - Liam went to a birthday party and then the 3 of us went to Healesville Sanctuary on the way home - it was easier for them to leave the party house as they were going somewhere else fun). Tony however was still on his way back from his uncle's place in Camperdown - he'd gone over on Saturday to pick up our new (to us) dishwasher - ours had died a couple of weeks ago so it was a good opportunity for him to spend some time with his uncle and see his Nanna, and get a working dishwasher as well. So the kids came with me and picked up Caitlin from the camp, and I said we'd try to find something fun to do on the way home so it was worth their while coming for the drive. As it was so hot (around 30 degrees - crazy, since 2 days before it was cold enough in the morning for potential frost, and we had the fire going) I thought we'd see if the Seville Water Park was operational yet (I thought it might be too early in the season). Happily it was turned on, and the kids were happy to play in it in their regular clothes, so they spent a very happy hour or so running around through the water jets, clambering over the dry rocks and through the tunnels, playing water pistol fights with some other kids (Caitlin even found one of her new friends from camp to play with!) We came home tired but happier than if we'd just driven straight to camp and back.

So I'm thinking that even though we are often busy, popping in those extra little fun activities is definitely worthwhile. A play at the park on the way home or dropping in to a friend's house, an hour at the sanctuary or stopping for ice cream - these things enrich our lives and stop us from feeling like we're constantly running on a schedule. These are the things that I want to focus on, not getting to gymnastics on time or making sure we've got everything we need for Cubs... We can still do all our activities, but they don't need to be the priority. My priority is spending fun and connected time with my kids, grabbing learning and playing opportunities as they pop up (and being open to creating them).

I think the reason that our busyness has felt so overwhelming lately is because I'd stopped having the fun times as well, it felt like there wasn't enough time. My days were more about 'having' to be where we needed to be, instead of thinking 'right, these are the things we'd like to get to today, how can we work this out so that everyone is happy'. So balancing Caitlin's need for activity and social contact, with  Liam and my need for downtime and Millie's need to hang out at each place for long enough to feel comfortable - we can do all of that, if I prioritise our relationships, fun and learning, over sticking to a schedule and meeting external expectations.

Thursday, 15 August 2013


I've been wanting to write this post for over a month now. Its a difficult post to write because its about loss and grief - so I've been putting it off, then whenever I tried to write a more upbeat post it didn't seem as important as this one so nothing has been written for a while.

About 7 weeks ago we let Stripey the kitten outside in the morning, and we haven't seen him since. I didn't notice on that first day that he wasn't around - he was often out for several hours at a time or sleeping somewhere inside or out for many many hours, so it just didn't click that I hadn't seen him at all. That night, and for the next several days, we called and searched everywhere we could think of. I did night time walks around the dam and through the vines, I tried to get Buckley to sniff him out (he had a lovely time chasing rabbits on our night time wanderings) and we looked through all the sheds and in the trees...

I was worried from the moment I realised he was missing and worry soon turned to devastation. The kids were a bit worried but were sure he was coming back. Caitlin and some friends of mine who had had cats disappear then turn up later kept my hopes up for about a week, but I was still grieving pretty hard during that time and for the week or 2 afterwards. Now I feel more of a dull ache when I think about him and what a wonderful kitten he was - one of the best cats I've ever met and it feels so unfair that we had him for such a short time.

Its been interesting to watch the different ways the kids have managed compared to myself. I was in a fog of grief and cried everytime I thought about him. The kids all had a brief moment of tears because they missed him, then went back to assuming that he's off having fun somewhere else and he may come back one day. Well, the girls assume that, Liam started packing his things away after his tears because 'we don't have a cat anymore'.
They do still miss him and will sometimes wish he was here, but they seemed to process their grief more effectively and it hasn't impacted on their lives negatively. One more emotion that they are experiencing among many, rather than the overwhelming way in which I seem to experience grief.

I wonder if this is because they have always been free to express their emotions, both positive and negative, so they are so much more present with how they are feeling and don't feel any need to pretend - so feelings are processed as they occur. As adults I think we can sometimes spend more energy pretending to be fine and so the emotions come out later in other ways and need to keep coming out until they have been fully expressed. I hope that the 3 of them continue to feel comfortable enough with their emotions that they are always able to be present with and true to what they are feeling. And I hope I continue to learn from them how to do the same.

I think that the fact that Stripey is not the first loss they have faced also helped them put it in perspective. They know that animals and people do not live forever and sometimes we find ourselves saying goodbye before we are ready. Since Caitlin was born we have lost animals, (this is the first beloved pet though, the others were goats and chickens - although the loss of our baby chick and her mum was pretty upsetting), family members, unborn babies and of course lived through the loss and devastation of the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009. Sometimes it hurts me to think of how much these kids have taken on in terms of loss and grief - but then I look at how they handle it and it has given them a very real perspective and understanding of death and as it has always been part of their lives they aren't frightened of the idea of people dying. They are not insensitive about it, they still have moments of being very upset about Tony's Mum and Stripey and the babies... but they also talk about them very matter-of-factly and accept the deaths/disappearances as part of their life.

I think that's the key. They don't 'move on' as if these things didn't happen, they seem more to absorb them into their lives, cry about them when they need to, talk about them when they want to, and its now all part of who they are. I know that last year when I really took the time to grieve about my lost baby I processed it so much better than other times when I have tried to pretend I was fine, and now although I am still sad every day that he's not with us, the grief doesn't consume me and I can be around other babies, other pregnancies, and not feel like I'm missing out on something.

I hope I can continue to remember that. That the baby, and Stripey, and the other people we know who have died were an important part of our lives and have enriched us, and we can grieve for them for as long as we need to, without having to become bitter or resentful or depressed, and we can continue to live joyful, content lives even while experiencing grief.

And Caitlin and Millie still talk about Stripey in the present tense and are patiently waiting for him to return. And who knows. They might be right.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Wild Nights at Werribee Zoo

These school holidays, Werribee Open Range Zoo were open of a evening (they normally close at 5pm). I'd seen information about it and thought it looked cool, then forgot all about it. On Friday morning my Zoo Membership newsletter had a reminder about it, and I realised if we wanted to do it there were only 2 nights left. I mentioned it to Tony and he was keen to go, and suggested we go along after baseball on Saturday afternoon.

So we met after baseball (around 5.30pm) at a Red Rooster near the Western Ring Road, grabbed some  dinner and left Tony's car there, and drove through the rain (finally some rain! Its been many weeks since we've had rain like this) to the Zoo, arriving just before 6.30. I was wondering if there'd be many people there, being a cold wet night and the last night-time session - the carpark was full and we could only find a creative parking spot over on the edge...

The zoo looked quite exciting in the dark, with just enough lights on for us to find our way to the entrance (although Liam and I did both step into a deep, water-filled pothole). Inside was even more exciting, there were lots of glittery lights, and triangle frames with fairy lights wrapped around them (to show the way down the paths) and in some areas there were tin cans with holes punched in them, and lights inside, which gave a speckled look to the light on the ground - it was like walking through a forest in the daytime, with the speckled filtered light coming through the trees.

We sat on wet hay bales in the rain and watched a Fire Show - some quite impressive fire twirling coupled with a lot of gymnastics, entertaining to watch (although a bit scary when one of the sparklers flew out of his hand towards the crowd).

From there we hurried to the cheetah exhibit to see them being fed - there were so many people there by the time we arrived we couldn't see through the glass so tried to see from another vantage point but only got a faint glimpse of them - when we got back to the glass most people had left so we were easily able to see both cheetahs eating, and then one came right up to the glass and walked past us all for a while, he wandered off and came back another 2 times - the kids were face to face with him (he was between Millie and Liam's height so they in particular were looking him right in the eye) and it was completely worth driving all that way just to experience this (especially since the cheetah is one of Liam's favourite animals). They were bigger than I expected, and their tails were long and seemed much firmer than a small cat's tail. One of them had his hackles up on the back of his neck and look quite threatening.

From there we saw some hippos asleep in the water, then went and roasted marshmallows over a fire. All 3 kids are getting quite good at roasting their marshmallows to the level of meltiness and crispness that they each prefer.

We wandered past the African Wild Dogs but they were hiding, then saw one of the lions sitting up in his shelter - then he lay back down again and snuggled up with his brother. The vervet monkeys had gone to bed and we saw a couple of groups of them all huddled together.

The last stop was in one of the African huts where there was flouro light (it felt like being in a nightclub. Kind of) and lots of flouro hoops, plates to balance on sticks, scarves to wave and balls in bags to twirl around. They all looked quite spectacular and we all had a go at everything. Liam's boots looked phosphorescent in the light, it was like he had alien feet. The girls both had a good go with the hula hoops, I had no idea they were so proficient.

When we finally tore ourselves away from there it was time for the zoo to close. We took off wet clothes and snuggled up in the car and drove home listening to 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' on Audio CD.

A very enjoyable spontaneous family night out, even in the rain. I'm exceptionally pleased that we went and will try to make it over there for one of their summer night events in January.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Birthday Party Week

We've been home from Tasmania just over a week now and its been a rather busy week - although on the whole we're all still quite relaxed from our holiday.

We arrived home early on the Friday morning before Liam's birthday, which was on the Sunday. Friday we spent relaxing, unpacking a bit, and some friends came over for the afternoon and brought Stripey back. Saturday I spent fixing the washing machine and dishwasher which had both decided to have their own holiday, and then getting organised for Liam's party.

Sunday we woke up and did Liam's present giving in the lounge room. Caitlin gave him a wooden cat (to match Millie's) and a ceramic dragon. Tony and I gave him a Tasmanian Devil puzzle, a toy lemur (not Schleich, but a similar brand) and an iPod Touch - exactly what he wanted. I'd loaded his favourite games on it so he was entertained for the morning while we finished party preparations.

Liam and his Lemur
Liam and his iPod
At midday we met his friends at Healesville Sanctuary, as well as Fi and James and Mum and Dad. Everyone had a picnic lunch, then I put out party food and the kids played in a large grassed area near the dingo enclosure. We played Pass the Parcel (Tony and I played the drums for music) and Liam (without us looking) won the main prize so he was pretty happy. Liam's presents included lego, a craft kit, a magician figurine, animal books, a vial of gold, and a Schleich dinosaur (velociraptor).
Liam's birthday cake

Eventually we packed up and went for a walk around part of the Sanctuary - we had 13 adults and 13 children there so we were quite a group. We did the wetland walk, the lyrebirds (a couple of us saw the male lyrebird singing), the reptiles and the parrots. We'd invited everyone back to our house because Liam had a piñata waiting - most of his friends came back (actually all our homeschooling friends). The kids played outside for a while then the piñata called - it was shaped like a crocodile and very cool. The tail soon came off and everyone was able to whack it and get a few lollies - and the rest of the body survived so Liam was able to keep it! Everyone stayed and played for a few hours and one the guests provided some dinner so it was a very relaxing afternoon and evening.
Liam's turn
Liam and the piñata

We were back into our usual routine through the week, with ABA, gymnastics, joey scouts, homeschool gymnastics and guides to go along to. In between Liam did a lot of the craft from his birthday kit, we watched tv and read a lot of books, played games, played with the animals (real and toy and imaginary), went to the library a couple of times and went to friends' houses.

On Friday we had Millie's birthday party. It was almost exactly the same group of people as we'd had here on Sunday - Fi and James couldn't make it and we had one other local family come along - otherwise it was Mum and Dad and 4 other homeschooling families. It was a very casual party, the kids (aged from 2 to 10 and an even mix of boys and girls) played inside and outside, with lego, craft, toys animals, on the trampoline and swings, listening to music, looking for our real animals in the yard etc. We had a beautiful cake and Millie's presents included art and craft supplies, a game, books and a felt board with a pet shop scene. Tony had finished work early, it being a Friday, so he was able to be here for most of it. A few of the families stayed for dinner and by this stage some of the kids were playing Minecraft on the computer and they kept us up to date with their new discoveries - playing as a social group they can explore and discover much more quickly than on their own, they really work well together.

In the midst of the evening part of the party Tony took Liam to Chirnside Park for him to go to the movies with his Joey Scout group - they saw Monsters University and Liam was very excited to go without any other family members, and to be able to buy his own snack to eat and drink there. There were still people here when he got back so he also didn't feel like he'd missed out on the party.

The other mothers (and one dad for a while) and I had a great chat sitting in the kitchen, it was a very easy party to get ready for and a very relaxing one while it was taking place.

Yesterday we had a visit from Pete and Cynthia who are staying at Mum and Dad's for the weekend - great to see them and Liam was thrilled because he'd wanted his uncle Pete to come to his birthday party but we'd left it too late to organise. They'd just visited the chocolate factory and came with gifts - giant chocolate freckles for the kids and a chocolate making kit and fondue set for the family. The kids enjoyed showing Pete all their lego (he was the first one to buy us any lego so he kind of has a vested interest) and the animals and their tree climbing skills, and I loved having a casual chat - we haven't had many opportunities to just visit each other over the last 20 years or so - hopefully we can do it more often.

Today Caitlin is going to an archery day with guides, and we have some friends coming over this afternoon while their mother has something else on.  So another social day coming up and looks like this coming week will be quite busy as well - although its the last week of term so then there will be a change in our rhythm for a couple of weeks after that.
The view out my window this morning as I wrote this blog post on a chilly morning of -5 C

Saturday, 1 June 2013


I've been very busy this week getting ready for our trip to Tasmania, so I haven't had a lot of time for blogging. We leave in just over an hour and there's still a bit to do - having a quick breather now then I'll get back into it. 

You can follow our travelling adventures at, I'm hoping the kids will contribute their impressions of our days as well

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Climbing Trees

There has been a lot of tree climbing happening for us lately. Well, not for me so much, I prefer to stay on the ground, but the kids have been climbing and I've been watching, helping, discussing, taking photos and generally been involved in the activity while not actually taking part in the bit that involves heights.

There's been wonderful fig trees to climb at the Botanic Gardens and at Collingwood Childrens Farm. 

We watched Stripey go up an oak tree and then walk across a beautiful horizontal branch to end up on top of the chicken shed, so Liam tried it and has found a wonderful place to hang out and be alone. There were trees to explore in the bush near our tent at the Eco Festival in Yarra Junction.

 Yesterday while I was pushing each of the kids in turn on our big swing, the others climbed the tree that the swing is hung from. Stripey went up as well, then Buckley came to the bottom and barked incessantly at him (he was so intent on barking at the cat that he wasn't interested in chasing his ball -  those of you who know Buckley know how hard it is to distract him from ball chasing, so this cat-up-a-tree business was obviously extremely engaging). Anyway, Caitlin was worried that Stripey wouldn't be able to get down, so decided to go up after him. She tried to follow him the way he went, but the branches were a bit steep. So she came down and went up one of the smaller trees underneath the big one, and was nearly able to pull herself up onto a big branch. Liam tried it as well but found the distances between small tree and big branch a bit much. Caitlin ended up with a lot of scratches but seemed to have a lot of fun.

In the Botanic Gardens last week Caitlin pushed herself quite hard and climbed out on some very long branches with challenging forks in them. She said she was stuck a few times, and it can seem that she's scared - but I think really she's just not sure which way to go next/where to put her hands and feet in order to keep moving. She stops and asks for help, and can seem to resist suggestions for a little while, but she processes it all, listens and thinks and looks, and then she's able to move on. When she really gets scared she stops and comes back down.

Its been interesting to watch my reactions to each of the three of them climbing, and also the different ways that they react to tricky bits or when they reach their limit. They are all quite adept at recognising their limits, and while Caitlin's limits are WAY beyond where I would be comfortable myself, I know that she will stop and calm down before trying to come back down, and also that she can be talked through it if she does get stuck or too scared. Liam's limits are more within my own comfort range, and he likes to have help to navigate back if he's become scared. Often just putting my hand on his body somewhere, or even standing right underneath him, is enough to calm him down and he'll be able to get back. Millie's limits are, I think, way beyond Caitlin's. She's normally stopped by physical limitations way before she gets scared. I'm a bit more nervous watching her, simply because I don't know if I'd be able to talk her down, she often wants physical help when she gets stuck/scared - and often that happens at a point where I'd be too scared to go myself. 

A couple of weeks ago the kids were climbing up an irresistable wall that looked a lot like a ladder. We were with some friends and all the children were climbing as high as they felt comfortable. Millie went right to the top, then headed out across the roof part, which was constructed in the same way. As soon as she started to go across, my anxiety levels sky-rocketed - not because I was worried that she would fall (I was confident she wouldn't) but because if she got scared or stuck, I didn't know if I would be be able to talk her down, and I knew for sure I wouldn't be able to go up there and get her down... Luckily one of my friends who was there is quite a good climber and quite comfortable with heights, so I asked her to look after Millie and I wandered away a little bit and watched from a distance. L was able to talk her through climbing most of the way across the roof and then turning around and coming back, and she had a wonderful time. L said that Millie was fine as long as they maintained eye-contact, so maybe that's something I can use next time.

In the past I used to not want to help them get up tricky bits in the tree - I would say something like 'If you can't get up yourself then you won't be able to get down' - which is something I heard myself as a child and have heard other adults say. Now I think about it very differently - often the first bit of the tree is quite high, with wonderful, more easily accessible branches once you get past that first bit. Its not fair to stop the smaller children climbing in that part, just because they can't get up the first step. And if I'm there to help them up, then I can be there to help them down as well. So I've given lots of legs up and lifted people down from branches and trunks and I'm looking forward to exploring many many more trees in our adventures together.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

2 months in one quick summary

Its been a while since I posted - we've had very slow internet combined with a very slow, about to die laptop and internet time was very limited. Now however we have a Macbook, the internet is back to - well, not fast, but less slow - so blog posts and other non-essential internet use can happen again.

So a bit of a summary of what we've been up to over the last couple of months
- a day at Collingwood Childrens Farm - the kids got to milk a cow, we saw some gorgeous week old piglets (I could have watched them all day), Liam took to the microphone and led a group in singing Baa Baa Black Sheep at the book launch of Alanah Campbell's 'Under the Persimmon Tree', there was a tractor ride and lots of tree climbing, and Fi and James joined us for a while
- an afternoon at Healesville Sanctuary with some friends
- lots of mornings, afternoons, days and even sleepovers at friends' houses
- activities at homeschool group in Yarra Glen and Yarra Junction
- exploring Op Shops
- a train ride to the city and hanging out in the Botanic Gardens with friends (and more tree climbing)
- watching the vineyard slowly turn yellow and then the leaves all falling off - they are nearly completely gone now

- playing with Stripey (the cat) and Buckley (the dog)
- Guides, Scouts and Gymnastics
- returning to ABA meetings
- having Tony around a lot again after the end of Vintage
- playing the piano, recorder and violin - oh, and buying a violin for Caitlin at the Healesville Markets
- busking in Healesville and Yarra Glen - Caitlin playing the recorder, and Liam occasionally whistling or playing the drums in accompaniment
- playing Minecraft lots - individually and connected on the ipad, and now on the new computer as well
- playing lots of other ipad games
- lots of lego
- horse riding
- trip to Maroondah Dam
- reading books of all descriptions
- drawing and writing and inventing
- a day at an Eco-festival in Yarra Junction - I was helping at an ABA Feed and Change Tent, and the kids helped there as well as going on donkey rides, doing wet felting, playing hopscotch, hanging out in the women's Red Tent, tree climbing, exploring the forest, trying to buy a guinea pig, eating ice cream etc
- trips to the library
- watching movies
- birthday parties - including a wonderful day at the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie for my birthday - we were there from 11-5 and lots of friends and family joined us at different points through the day, we sat in the sun and ate chocolate and ice creams and other food and drank milkshakes and the kids played in the grounds and it was a beautiful day all round

- -conversations about all of the above
- puzzles, board games, card games
- magic tricks
- and LOTS more

If you want to know more about any of our activities, let me know in the comments and I will expand

Monday, 1 April 2013


We have a piano!!!!!!!!!!!

On a very busy Wednesday a week and a half ago, we went to a piano showroom not too far from where the kids do homeschool gymnastics, to 'start to have a look'. I initially wanted a smallish piano because we don't have a lot of spare room in our house, but Caitlin was drawn to one that was somewhat bigger than I had in mind. It was beautiful - and when I had a good look I realised that while it was taller than the others, it was the same length and depth, so would take up the same amount of floor space as any of the others. The woman showing us the pianos also pointed out that a taller piano has longer strings - so a better sound. And it did feel and sound so much better than the others when we played it - it reminded me of my Grandma's piano, so was certainly my nostalgic choice, and Caitlin wasn't interested in any of the others once she'd tried this one. I tentatively asked the price - she had to go and check - and it was in our price range!!!! (The piano is a gift from one of my wonderful uncles). It felt a bit weird to buy such an expensive item on our first outing to look at them - but this piano really felt perfect and we've been talking about it for over a year, I'd looked at this showroom online several times - and I have played a bit of piano over the years so know what I like and don't like. So we said we'd take it, and then had 5 very excited days to wait until delivery.

Last Monday the truck pulled up in our driveway to the sound of 5 very excited kids squealing (we had friends over). The delivery guys moved Buckley's balls out of the way before they got their trolley out, and happily chatted to the kids and us about pianos in general and ours in particular. The piano was wheeled into place (I still haven't reallocated all the stuff I moved out of the way to make room for it - that's a job for this week!) and after a bit more discussion (in which the guys told us that they guess it was made around 1925 - and it was definitely manufactured in Melbourne which is exciting (Its a Wertheim)) they left us to it. 

The kids all had a bit of play straight away (with only slight drama about who was going to go first) and the highlight for Liam and Millie in particular was being able to open up the top and watch the hammers and strings move as it was played. This led to lots of dicussion about how a piano works, what type of instrument it is (percussion apparently), how you can make it louder and softer, how the pedals work etc. (The delivery guy had also talked to us about how the strings were set out, and I'd learnt lots of new information).

In the last week the piano has been played by everyone, multiple times a day. Caitlin has worked through both of her beginner piano books and is going back and improving her skills and starting to try music from other books. Liam and Millie are playing improvised music - Millie loves to play a 'cat song' which really does sound like a cat walking gently on the keys. She also still loves to watch in the top of the piano as other people play. I find it hard to walk past the door of the playroom without popping in to play (and I rarely resist) - I'm loving being able to sit down and play (or try) a piece, then get up and go on with what I was doing, knowing I can come back and play again any time. Tony hasn't played music before but has started to learn about reading music and playing a few simple tunes. Caitlin and I also tried a duet with me on the recorder and her on the piano - something I'd love to be able to do more of!

I love that our lifestyle has allowed us to really focus on music as much as we liked since the piano arrived, and that we can use it as much or as little as we like now that it is here - there's no pressure on anyone to play, and everyone is welcome to play how and when they want to.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Dioramas and library

Well I did get a lot done on Wednesday when I was here alone, cleaned out a lot of those corners that get filled with stuff, and cleared out the hallway so now its full of nothing but space! It was tiring and it also felt good to really get stuck into one task for several hours.

The kids were disappointed that they missed the nets going on the vines. However they also had a lot of fun at Grandma's, watching the renovations happening, playing games and reading books with Grandma and Grandad, and Caitlin learned how to read music and play the piano! Mum had bought a book at the 2nd hand bookstore where she volunteers, and it set the whole process out very simply so that Caitlin was able to follow the steps and learn each of the notes and then play some simple tunes. She was very excited and its spurred me on to start researching (and then get on with purchasing) our piano.

We tried to have a quiet day at home on Thursday as a bit of a chance to rest - its been a busy week with more busy days coming up over the weekend and the next few weeks. Caitlin got out the glue gun and began making a diorama to represent Millie and her friend getting married, and she started planning the 'wedding' and invitations. She's put a lot of work into it and its very pretty and clever. I love the way she plans things and can picture a whole event and everything that needs to be organised.

Yesterday we went to visit a friend who is shortly moving to New Zealand (quite sad for us) and then went to the Homeschool Library Activity in Yarra Junction. We had 4 families there and we all know each other well, it was a wonderfully relaxing afternoon hanging out in the children's section of the library, doing the craft activity, reading lots of books, some of the kids played Monopoly, some played on the ipad, the big girls (Caitlin and S) and Millie went out and used the internet for a while on the library computers, the parents chatted in between reading stories. Caitlin borrowed a HUGE pile of books about animals - she went through the shelves and picked all the covers she liked - it was funny, it pushed my buttons about how many books it was 'OK' to borrow, but I did get them all for her, especially because I realised *I* didn't care how many she got, I was simply worried (quite worried) about what everyone else would think.... I'm still feeling the desire to justify it here, but really, I was happy to be able to say yes to her borrowing wishes.  

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

All quiet

Its very quiet here today. The kids are at Mum's - Tony and I both had commitments last night (he had Masters Baseball, transferred from Monday night as that was a Public Holiday) and I had a Regional Meeting for ABA (Australian Breastfeeding Association). So Mum came and picked up the kids yesterday afternoon and Tony and I will go up after he finishes work this afternoon and have tea up there tonight and come home hopefully late enough for some of them to fall asleep on the way home.

I am appreciating the time here by myself to get a lot of cleaning/tidying/organising done before Tony's 40th Birthday Party in 2 1/2 weeks. I figure if I can get most of the background cleaning and tidying done today while there are few interruptions, then I can easily do a surface clean in the days before the party and it won't be too stressful. We've got lots on over both the next 2 weekends so there's little weekend time to get organised - great that I can get a good chunk done today.

I'm missing the kids though - the vineyard guys are putting nets on the vines to protect them from the birds now that the grapes are ripe, and I keep wanting to call the kids out to look at where they are up to. Lots of little things have happened this morning that I would normally have commented on and it reminded me of how much interaction we all have, even when they are playing on their own and I'm doing something else. I like sharing my thoughts and experiences with them and having them share theirs with me. 

I know they'll be having a great time at Grandma's, and I am grateful for some time to myself (and being able to listen to music of my own choice), and I'll also be very glad to see them again and have a noisy, busy house again tomorrow.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Social days then rest

The end of last week was very busy for us socially. Wednesday we had a park day - our regular Homeschool park day, as well as organising to meet some of Caitlin's other friends there - and other families we know were at the park as well, so we probably played/chatted with 6 or 7 families we already knew, and met a few more. Liam made friends with a girl from Diamond Creek and they played together for hours, mainly in the sandpit. Caitlin spent most of her time on her scooter and/or bike, and Millie played in the sandpit, on the roundabout or climbing on the equipment, and had a big swing at the end. We had a quick visit to the library then went up to R's for more of a play and came home very tired.

Thursday we went in to North Melbourne to see Caitlin's friend N, and my friend B (N's Mum) and were there all day - all 6 kids played together so well and B and I had a great catch up. The big girls played dress ups for about 5 hours and produced some beautiful costumes and stories to go with them. Liam made 2 magnificent cars from a construction set they had - if I can figure out how to get photos off my phone I'll post a photo here. After dragging ourselves away in the very late afternoon, we got some fish and chips (eventually - I took a while to find the place I was looking for) and met Fi and James and Fi's friend Jacq for a picnic in the park near Fi's place. It was still warm but not too hot by that point, perfect for having tea then a play on the playground, and some races around the oval on scooters and bikes. Millie has got the hang of her scooter although she does a lot of foot action for not a lot of rolling so it takes her a while to get anywhere. She loves having it though and can go long distances.

We took it very easy on Friday morning although I was feeling a tad anxious again with the hot northerly winds and high temperature. We went to The Full Pantry to stock up on our bulk foods (and lots and lots of lollies) then to my friend S's place for Liam to meet her son N and for the boys to have a game of chess. It was great to hear a 5 and 6 year old earnestly discussing strategy and taking the game very seriously. Caitlin was again worshipped by D, who is 2, and insisted on dragging her around the house to play with him. A swim was most welcomed by all and Liam in flippers and snorkel was able to swim even in the deep end without any anxiety. There were a lot of games played, some more dress ups and then everyone wound down a little in front of a Batman cartoon. The temperature had dropped by the time we headed home and we had a quiet evening, the kids and Tony watched Avatar on TV.

Yesterday we really needed to do as little as possible as we were all exhausted from 3 big days in a row. Avatar was watched again, and some more TV, a few word and number games, playing with animals, lots of resting. Everyone seems more level and calm today, and energy seems to have been restored. Tony has been to get our replacement iPad after the smashed screen got progressively worse so I'm currently trying to restore the backup and everyone is looking forward to being able to play with it again. Off to the park with Liam's friend J later this afternoon then Mum and Dad are coming for tea as a late birthday celebration for Dad.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Hot hot hot

Its hot again today, althought I think the temperature is dropping now, below 30 degrees, and our area is actually due to have a coolish day tomorrow. A lot of places are staying hot for several more days though and the fire danger is pretty high everywhere. I've been keeping an eye on the fire news which sometimes makes me feel calmer because there's nothing nearby here, and other times causes me to feel quite anxious because it brings back all the memories of how it felt in 2009. 

I know I was very anxious leading up to last Friday when we had Extreme fire danger, and thought I'd calmed down since then. I'm very weary though and today I've been a little less patient with the kids than I'd like - especially getting everyone in the car to take the kitten to get his vaccinations (something about doctors (vet) appointments that make me get cranky rather than fun as I'm trying to coax everyone out the door. Maybe I should make the appointments at times when Millie doesn't have to come). So perhaps the heat and the threat of fire danger is keeping me on edge a bit more than I had realised.

I'm pleased I took Liam with me to the vet though, he got to see what she was doing. Stripes (the kitten) had 4 people holding him down while the vet did his checkup, not sure if that made it more or less stressful for him!

On the way home we stopped at a fruit and veg place that I love and the kids selected a lot of fruit - they've been eating fruit salad all afternoon. I replenished my veggie drawer as well, and Liam bought me some beautiful yellow and orange roses.