Friday, 12 December 2014

Playstation and Homeschool Group

I had a very early morning yesterday, was awake at 4 and couldn't get back to sleep, so I got up and sent a few emails, organised a few things that had been on my to do list for a while. By the time the kids were up I was feeling quite tired, and LiAM wanted to play Toy Story 3 on the Playstation with me, so I happily stayed lying on the couch and played with him for an hour or more. We've been playing quite a lot lately and I'm enjoying it - and I'm improving! When I first played a few weeks ago, Amelie said she liked watching me play because I was much worse than her at it - I could never figure out which way I was facing or how to run in the direction I wanted to go, I couldn't jump or fire at a target, and I constantly forgot which buttons on the controller to press to do anything. LiAM has been quite patient with me, and I'm slowly improving. I can now navigate and jump and fire and run, and I usually remember what buttons to press, even if my reaction time is still a bit slow. The part of Toy Story 3 we usually play (Woody's Roundup) has a lot going on in it, and we've pretty much divided up the tasks and can each go about our business, and help each other out on the harder bits. The girls (and even Tony) sometimes sit and watch and comment so it can be an activity that the whole family is involved in, and I'm really enjoying the time doing something specific with LiAM. It's also been a handy reminder to me of how social and bonding playing a video game with someone can be, and how much the players can learn. And it's not sedentary either, we jump around a fair bit, and we talk and laugh about all sorts of things while we play.

After a while yesterday I left him to the game and got us all ready to go to Homeschool Group in Yarra Glen. We left a bit early because I hadn't yet bought all the equipment we needed for our activities. We went and got those then opened up the hall. We had 8 families come along, a couple with kids from other homeschooling families in tow, so there was a big group of kids. Most of them played outside, and at one point one of the mums saw ALL of them, from the 4 year old up to the 15 year old, on the roundabout together in the park. The kids came in and out throughout the afternoon and some of them made decorations when they were inside - we did snow globes in glass jars, and decorated oranges with cloves.

After Homeschool Group we hung around in the park and/or library for a short while, then headed home. I was exhausted and didn't feel well so the kids put a Barbie movie on and I lay on my bed with the iPad and recharged a bit. Amelie came in and played with me for a while, then Tony brought home fish and chips for tea. Caitlin and LiAM skyped and played Minecraft with a friend and I read my book (The Railway Man) until I was ready to go to sleep.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Wedding anniversary and finishing activities

I have finished writing about our trip to Sydney, at I still haven't added any photos for the first few days because they are on Dad's computer, not mine - hopefully I will get to that soon.

We've been fairly relaxed since we got back. Caitlin had her final acting performance for the year which was a pleasure to watch, and beforehand we had dinner on Lygon St with Mum and Dad and my sister and her family. The girls had their Guides Christmas Party and Caitlin had her last acting class for the year - both of which she was able to take her friend S along to, and both girls enjoyed being there together and sharing the experience. All our activities are finished for the year now except for one or 2 more homeschool gatherings, and Caitlin has a day and half more of school (next Friday and the one after).

This weekend was Tony and my 12th wedding anniversary. The kids went for a sleepover at a friend's house (all together) and Tony and I had some time alone at home, went out for dinner to the Thai restaurant in Yarra Glen - delicious food! - and then to the movies to use a voucher we received last christmas (thanks Mum). We saw 'Interstellar' which I knew NOTHING about going in, always a bit weird and also an enjoyable kind of anticipation. It was LONG although flowed pretty well, covered a lot of ground, and was interesting and thought provoking. Enjoyed Matthew McConaghy and Anne Hathaway - hadn't seen her in a role like that before. The only downside for me was that the music score kept the suspense level VERY high for nearly the entire movie - and although there were some shocks there was nothing terribly scary and nothing gross - so I spent nearly three hours all tensed up wondering what terrible things were going to happen. Could watch it again much more calmly, although don't know if I would bother. We did enjoy it though and talked a lot afterwards about the plot twists. We got home very late and had a bit of a sleep in this morning and a good chat about a lot of things. A very enjoyable anniversary celebration.

As promised here's some photos of Caitlin
Ready to go to dance concert

Dressed for Tap Dancing performance

In the School Play

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Performance Week

Things have been crazy here over the last week. Caitlin has had her dance concert and her first performance for Victorian Youth Theatre, and had 3 extra (evening) rehearsals last week. We're also trying to get ready to go away (we leave tomorrow) for our houseboat/my-brother's-wedding trip.

So a super quick summary before I forget - the dance concert went well, Caitlin danced beautifully and the whole concert was enjoyable to watch. We (Millie, Caitlin and I) went to the dance paschool's break up party at Ringwood Lake afterwards, the girls had fun feeding the ducks, hitting pinatas, playing pass the parcel and sack races. From there we went to party at a friend's house in Chum Creek, SO great to catch up with the hosts and lots of other people who we hadn't seen for ages. Home at midnight - so another late night!

Caitlin's performance last night was amazing - she delivered her lines clearly and with feeling (and got a laugh from the audience when appropriate) - and the whole production was incredible. I'm so excited that she's getting the opportunity to perform with a company like this. She performs again at the end of next week and I'm looking forward to going back and seeing her parts again plus an extra play of hers, and the other performances. And to sharing it with everyone else (Mil came with me last night, next week it's everyone plus Mum and Dad).

I'll blog about our trip to Sydney at although I may not have a chance to write much while we are there - we are back on Sunday night so I'll catch it all up early next week if I don't get to it before then. And I might find some photos of Caitlin before her performances when I have a bit more time...

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Steam Engines and a relaxing day.

Friday is normally our busy, out-all-day day. This week, however, everyone was exhausted, on the verge of a cold, LiAM had left karate early on Thursday night with a massive sinus headache - AND we'd been told that the steam engines heading to the Heritage Festival in Healesville  would be stopping at our place to water on their way from Yarra Glen to Healesville. So I decided we could all stay home, rest, and see the steam engines.

The only tricky bit was that I had an acupuncture appointment that I really didn't want to miss, so Mum very generously reorganised her Friday at very short notice to come and hang out with the kids while I went to my appointment.

I was so glad I'd decided to stay home when everyone got up and started playing happily and peacefully and there was none of our usual Friday morning running around and stress. LiAM and Millie played chess, then I took over from Millie, then Caitlin took over from me, then the kids had another game. Mum arrived at 10 and I went to acupuncture (which helped fix my sore wrist and shoulder, as well as upping my energy significantly) and when I returned at 1pm there were 14 steam engines parked across the front of our driveway!!!! I couldn't get into our drive, but with a bit of manoeuvring managed to park out the front in a spot that wasn't in the engine's way. Mum and the kids (and Buckley) were out the front watching, and once I arrived Mum and the younger two went inside.

It was very exciting, the sight of all these engines, and the SOUND - one of my favourite sounds is a steam engine whistle, and then the chuffing as they start to move... Thrilling. And great to watch the whole watering process, and the different ways that each engine needed to be filled. It's always great too to be around people who are really passionate about something, and that passion was flowing off all the drivers and crew. Caitlin knew one of the girls whose Mum was driving, so she got to see a bit more of the process as she chatted with her.

Eventually they all chuffed away. Hopefully we'll go and see them again at the festival over the weekend. We had a quiet afternoon, mainly watching Youtube videos. I was sitting reading my book next to LiAM who was watching Stampy and Squid Minecraft videos, and I was listening more than I tend to - those guys are really really funny. I understand a lot more now why the kids love to listen to/watch them so much.

Tony and the girls went to Healesville to get some lemons from a friend, and stayed at played at his place for a while. When they got home C and I headed straight off to Stage School. After I dropped her off I went to Costco to stock up on some bulk groceries, then to Ringwood library to return, borrow and to chill out. I found the sequel to Lament (the book I'd just finished and loved) so grabbed it and got some uninterrupted reading time before the library closed. A quick trip to Eastland shops to look for shoes to wear to my brother's wedding - I found some I loved but not in my size.

Picked Caitlin up then home and sat & read my book with the big kids while they watched videos until we all went to bed around 11pm

Friday, 7 November 2014

Halloween and School Performance

I seem to find it harder to write when something significant or important has happened - I can blog about our everyday days quite easily, then if something exciting happens the pressure to get it on the blog sometimes means I don't ever get to it. Which is fine really. It may make us seem really boring... although I like the variedness of our everyday days and it also helps me remember the little things we did, I guess the big things stick in my head so there's not so much personal reason to blog about them.

Anyway, today I feel like I could catch up on some of the more exciting stuff.

Last Friday was Halloween. The kids had been looking forward to Halloween for a long time - Amelie always includes it in her list of things when she's saying 'How long until.... (Easter, Christmas, birthdays etc)'. Costume planning has been going on for several weeks. All three kids greeting me with 'Happy Halloween' when they got out of bed on Friday morning. Millie was most disappointed to learn that trick-or-treating wasn't going to happen until late afternoon/evening and she needed to wait ALL day...

We spent the day at home and A&J came over to play. Caitlin didn't go to school as the rest of the Year 3-6s were away on camp, and she'd decided to go the following Monday instead to be there for the last rehearsal for the school production. It was a very relaxing day, lots of outside play on the trampoline and with our hose that we can finally use now that we have an outside tap! Some minecraft and Terraria and role playing and lego and kinetic sand as well.

Finally it was time to get into costumes and head into Yarra Glen.

We started in the estate at the top of town this year, and there were lots more trick-or-treaters than we saw last year. 6 or 7 other groups I'd say, maybe more. Some of the houses were decorated, and the kids had nothing but positive responses, even from the couple of houses where people said 'No, sorry, we don't celebrate Halloween'. We zigzagged up and down a few streets, trying to stay away from other groups so that each house wasn't hit with too many kids at once, and the kids had a wonderful time. After an hour or so we headed to S&V's house, and watched them cracking open their halloween pumpkins. Our kids went out and knocked at a few more houses in that area, then we went back to S&V's for creaming soda spiders and a bit of lolly eating and a bit of play. Home about 9pm and everyone was exhausted!

On Wednesday this week Caitlin performed in her school production. I still didn't have a car so T dropped her at S&V's place in the morning and they took her to school. I think the kids had one more practice at the hall in the morning and then the matinee at 1.30pm. Mum and Dad went to that performance and really enjoyed it. Caitlin went home with S&V and had dinner at their place (and she and S sold eggs door to door in the neighbourhood during the afternoon) then back to the hall for the night performance, we arrived in time to watch it. Caitlin was a scout and didn't have any solo speaking parts, and really got in to the singing and dancing and group lines that she had. She looked gorgeous and really comfortable on stage. The play was fun to watch (After a very slow start) and it was great to see some of the kids really loving performing. Some of them looked quite scared the whole way through and that bothered me a little, that it was a compulsory experience... I much prefer the experiences my kids are getting, which are of their own choice, and still pushing their own comfort zones, when they are ready. We all had a fun evening, Tony and I enjoyed chatting with the other parents at intermission and after the show, the kids enjoyed the show and playing in the playground afterwards.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Melbourne Cup Day

Yesterday was Melbourne Cup Day, so no work for Tony! (He had Monday off as well, a lovely 4 day long weekend).

On Monday night, Amelie and Caitlin went to a Girl Guides sleepover at the hall. This was Millie's first sleepover not with family - I was vaguely anxious all day Monday but did feel better knowing that Caitlin was going to be with her. I think the hardest part for me was that Tony took the girls on his way to baseball (I still don't have my car so couldn't take them myself) so I said good-bye to Millie at home, and that felt weird, I would have liked to safely deposit her there myself. Tony rang me to say the drop off had gone well though, so I was reassured a little.

LiAM and I had a lovely quiet evening at home by ourselves, watching Yu-Gi-Oh 5Ds DVDs (this is my favourite of the Yu-Gi-Oh series that I've seen - marginalised and disadvantaged kids fighting back against the system that is oppressing them) and playing iPad games and reading my book (Lament by Maggie Stiefvater - it was amazing, one of my favourite authors and possibly the my favourite of hers that I've read).

Yesterday morning was similarly quiet, with just me, Tony and LiAM, then we went and picked the girls up at 10am. They had had a great time, although Millie was a bit sad at bedtime and had wanted to come home. Caitlin helped her settle and she slept well. They had made fairy wings and other fairy related pictures and watched a few movies and enjoyed themselves a lot.

From there we drove up to Mum and Dad's, where F & J & T had been staying for a few days. Nice to play with the baby and catch up in person with F, we've spoken on the phone a bit lately but not seen each other much. We went for a walk to try to get T to sleep, and the kids played with the red train track. Caitlin and Dad wrote some books about trains and other subjects and pretended they were an old married couple - it got quite hilarious at times. We played the piano and the keyboard, LiAM watched youtube videos, Dad and J and I talked computer and iPhone stuff, Mum and I walked around and looked at her garden, J played with his drone with video camera - just a relaxing family day. F & J headed home around 2, and the girls and Dad and I went down to have a quick look at the Yea photography show before they closed for the weekend. Some great photos there and enough inspiration to think I could enter something next time. We raced back to be home in time for the Melbourne Cup - Tony had organised a sweep amongst us all so it was quite exciting - Dad, F and T won all the money. After the race Caitlin and Dad got out the bikes, C was able to ride Mum's bike easily, and they went down to the rail trail and did an 8km ride! Mum and I cooked dinner and we ate outside on the balcony, played some more piano and book games and with some of the toys that were there, and headed home about 8.30. The girls were asleep by the time we got home, LiAM watched a couple more youtube videos then everyone went to bed.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Gardening at Homeschool Group

Yesterday morning was a quiet one at home - playing with kinetic sand (I really love that stuff, and so do the kids), playing iPads and iPods - Pixel Gun, Reading Eggs, Minecraft, looking after the chickens, riding bikes, planning for Halloween, using glue and beads and fabric to make collages.

In the early afternoon we caught the bus into Yarra Glen, Amelie and LiAM sat in the backseat and were thrilled at how much more they could see from that height compared to in the car. We went to the IGA to grab some ham and bread rolls, and LiAM also was able to sample some Warrnambool cheese that was on special - he loved it so we bought some, then he was offered a sample of some Tasmanian Brie, which we will buy next time.

Over to the hall to Homeschool Group. We had 7 families turn up, so it was pretty busy. The kids (and parents) played with some of the new games we'd bought (Uno and Log Toss mainly), and played on iPads, chased each other, played the piano, played in the park, played with toy library toys, and sat and chatted. As a group we planted herbs and vegetables and flowers in the garden at the back of the hall which was a lot of fun and will be an ongoing project for the group. It was also great to see the  younger boys (Liam and A) joining in and playing with the older kids.

Tony met us at the park after he'd finished work, and he pushed the boys on the big bucket swing, very very high - lots of very excited and slightly scared screams... After everyone else had left we got fish and chips for tea and ate them in the park, then LiAM and I went to karate while Tony and the girls stayed playing in the park. Karate was hard work last night - we did lots of combinations and learnt some new defensive moves. It was fun, and there was another woman training which helped me feel a little less 'odd one out'. She and I teamed up for the new moves and it was reassuring to be training with someone who was about where I'm up to.

After karate the kids played in the park until it was almost too dark to see, then we headed home. Everyone was exhausted so we fed the animals and the kids went to bed, they were ALL asleep BEFORE 10pm, I can't remember the last time that happened! Tony and I were in bed by 10 as well, and I had a very refreshing nights sleep with no interruptions - also an unusual event for me, so I'm feeling pretty good this morning!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Les Miserables Exhibition

Yesterday was a rather busier day than the one before! I was scheduled to drop my car off in Ringwood to be repaired, so decided that seeing as I was halfway to the city, Caitlin and I could use the free tickets we won to see the Les Miserables From Page to Stage Exhibition at the State Library.

I met R in Coldstream and dropped LiAM and Amelie off to go home with her to spend the day playing with V, and Caitlin and I continued on to drop the car off. We got a courtesy taxi to Ringwood Station then caught the train into the city. We had a funny moment when I tried to eat the hard boiled eggs I'd bought with us and couldn't crack the shell... I decided to eat something else for then and try the eggs later (and they cracked easily when I tried them later in the afternoon).

Getting off the train at Melbourne Central, Caitlin and I both felt like tourists from the country - there were so many shops and people and things happening - we've been to the city lots in the last few years, but I think we just weren't expecting it to be that crazy right at the railway station, and it was a bit overwhelming.

Neither of us had been to the State Library before, and I would have like to see it without the scaffolding all over it - but it was very impressive inside and now I want to go back and hang around in the book areas.... The Exhibition was great, we both really loved it. It started with a history of Victor Hugo and pictures and descriptions of Paris in the time that he was alive and when Les Mis was set. They had a scanned copy of the original Les Mis manuscript and some pieces of parchment he'd scribbled notes on, and the quills he wrote it with - very exciting. Lots of history then of productions of the story in all forms and many countries, including one of the costumes that Russell Crowe wore in the most recent movie. I really really wanted to touch it (and Caitlin was the same with the costume worn by Helena Bonham Carter - as she'll always associate her with Bellatrix Lestrange from Harry Potter, so it felt like only a couple of degrees of separation from us to Harry...) but we restrained ourselves and took notice of the DO NOT TOUCH sign. It was cool to be standing that close. We laughed at seeing pictures of Hugh Jackman as Valjean, as Hugh is popping up all over the place for us at the moment, and Anne Hathaway as Fantine, since we'd watched Ella Enchanted 3 times the day before... We listened to a French version of 'On My Own' and looked at some of the original lyrics-in-progress of I Dreamed a Dream (in English) and the scene where Marius and Cosette meet (in French). Then we moved into the fun part of the exhibit (as we hadn't already had a lot of fun). This part was about the musical production and had lots of costumes, props, and interactive bits. My favourite was the 25th Anniversary Concert being shown on a massive screen above the stage, and especially Lea Salonga singing 'I Dreamed A Dream'. Caitlin's favourite was being able to dress up in real costumes from previous Australian productions of the musical. She spent about half an hour dressing up and could have stayed longer if we didn't have a train to catch...

Leaving the library the sun had come out (it had been cloudy and cold when we arrived) and there were people all over the lawn in front of the library, having lunch in the sun. Caitlin was quite overwhelmed with the number of people around, it was very very busy, even more so than when we'd arrived. On the way to the station we grabbed some sushi (for me) and Subway (for C), and a natural icy pole (just fruit and water and sugar) from a guy at a pop up store. Back on the train where we ate our lunch then looked at all the photos on Caitlin's camera, including lots of her in costume from the Exhibition (if I remember I'll add some here after she downloads them). It was a wonderful girls day out and I'm so glad we managed to squeeze the Exhibition into our very busy month.

Amelie and R met us at the bus stop in Yarra Glen, we had a snack, then R took us up to Guides. I went back to R's place where LiAM was still very happily playing with V - they were playing the Wii at this point and had had a great day together. They'd all spent time at the park and had a big walk and run into some friends - including Amelie's new best friend who she'd really been hoping to see this week. The girls went for a walk at Guides as well so Amelie was pretty exhausted by the time she got back.

Tony came and picked us up from R's and the girls from Guides, then finally home. We put on the DVD of the 10th Anniversary Les Miserables concert (which I bought at the gift shop) and watched that throughout the evening in between jumping on the trampoline, playing on iPad, cooking a roast for tea, doing some work on the computer. This version was quite remarkable and we all kept coming back into the lounge room to watch particular songs - I'm very happy that I bought it! It has Lea Salonga playing Eponine and doing the best version of 'On My Own' (my favourite) that I've ever heard - just blows me away every time.

Everyone was pretty tired after our big day and settled to bed pretty easily. I had a bath and felt much more relaxed and crashed pretty quickly myself.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Movie day at home (and Top Gear)

A whole day at home yesterday was lovely and exactly what I needed! LiAM was a bit disappointed that we had no plans to go out, so I made sure that we did interesting things all day so that staying home became the fun option.

He and Amelie have been playing with felt shapes and boards lately, and I knew I had a set in my present/bring out when needed box, so I grabbed it yesterday morning. It was a farm set and as well as the barn and farmer and horses and cows, it had little eggs and nests and hatching eggs and ducks and chickens and lots of very cool shapes, Liam and Amelie played with it for ages.

Once that had lost it's appeal I suggested we look at the Top Gear 100 Fastest Cars book I borrowed from the library. LiAM wasn't keen so I said I'd just look at it myself as I wanted to check out the Ferraris. Once I opened it he curled up on the couch next to me and we started to work through the book from number 1 - he'd read the number, I'd read the name of the car, we'd look at the shape and colour of it and talk about that, then I'd read the (very funny) description, then he'd read the stats about power, speed, cost and cool factor, and we'd discuss that. It was a lot of fun and we did probably the first 15 cars in detail, then flicked through and did some random ones, then just looked at the pictures and the stats. When we watched Top Gear later that evening, some of the cars we'd looked at were on the show, so it was very exciting to get the book back out and check out the details again while we actually watched them driving the cars. Hugh Jackman (who plays Wolverine) was the guest on the show which was quite exciting, and there was a very funny hovercraft experiment which Caitlin and I couldn't tear ourselves away from even though we both wanted to go to bed.

During the day we watched several movies and played on iPods and iPads and the computer, and chatted about what we were watching/playing. We watched Ella Enchanted, then Hannah Montana the Movie, then Ella Enchanted again, and put it on for a 3rd time after Tony came home from work. I enjoyed both of the movies more than I'd expected, and we also spent a lot of time looking up where we'd seen the actors in both movies, who was singing the songs, what other songs those people had seen, which fairy tales some of the characters were from, etc. We played Minecraft and some minecraft spinoff games (Pixel Gun was popular), Township, some dress up games, Candy Mania, and others.

Caitlin had a nap in the afternoon - her big performance and rehearsal schedule is tiring her out. Exciting to realise that she is starting to listen to her body and have extra sleep when she needs it.

LiAM helped Tony clean his car out and I cleared EVERYTHING out of mine before taking it to the smash repairers today. We get a free wash and vac after the damage (from a rear end collision last week - a 4WD ran into the back of my car) is fixed - will be nice to have it all fresh and clean!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Swimming, Dancing and Friends

Yesterday morning we had no plans which was a relief after being up and out of the house by 9.30 on both mornings of the weekend. Life runs so much more smoothly in our house when we don't have morning appointments (and it was funny yesterday when we got to Yarra Glen Library at midday, and the guy said he was surprised to see us so early in the day - he's used to us turning up much later in the afternoon...).

The kids played a lot of Minecraft throughout the morning, and for a large part of it all 3 were connected to the same world. They also played with kinetic sand and LiAM created a great ocean scene with the blue sand and his animals.

LiAM and his ocean scene

I played with the sand a bit, caught up on a few things around the house, and dug some new channels in the driveway to try to prevent the water from the torrential downpour all ending up in our carport and at our front door.

Our day got busy from 12 onwards, but everyone was feeling pretty rested by then so getting out the door was pretty easy. We went to the library, and I downloaded the photos from last week's Children's Day so that the council can display them, and the kids looked at books and DVDs and watched minecraft videos. We then drove through more very heavy rain to Yarra Junction for a swim, and I discovered I still have quite a lot of visits left on my 20 visit family pass, so we might to try get there once or twice a week once all Caitlin's performances are over and we have a bit more spare time.

We all had a fun time in the pool. LiAM is now confident even in the deep end of the big pool, and Millie is dog paddling short distances, which are getting longer each time we visit. She's comfortable with putting her head under the water and much more independent now. Caitlin tried a new technique for diving in and nearly nailed it.

On the way home we picked up our raw milk from the dairy, then came home and had an early snack/dinner (although I forgot to eat, just fed the kids) before I did Caitlin's hair and makeup for her dance school photos. The others watched Bambi 2 while they ate - Millie has been wanting to watch it ever since she discovered it existed, and I put it on hold at the library and on our Quickflix queue - and it arrived from both places yesterday, so we currently have 2 copies in the house!

I thought I was going to be able to calmly do Caitlin's makeup this year but I did get a bit stressed and cranky - I think my fear of getting into trouble kicks in and I want it to be perfect so that her dance teacher doesn't yell at me. Which is not even what would happen if I got it wrong, she would yell at Caitlin which would be even worse... Although C is not worried about it all and is happy for me to just do the best job I can and not worry about perfection. So once we'd worked through that little conflict the makeup and hair worked out quite well - both LiAM and Millie said she looked really pretty, and I think I did a better job than last year, it seemed to suit her better this year.

So back to Yarra Glen for photos, the other two sat out the back of the hall and played with iPad/iPod, while I helped Caitlin in and out of her costumes for her photo shoot. S & V came down to the park while we were there, so the others went out to play with them and a couple of other kids, and C and I joined them once we were done. We stayed at the park for nearly an hour, then all went back to S & V's house for another hour or so - everyone was playing well together and I enjoyed the chance to sit and chat to R & P and have a couple of cups of tea (and something to eat).

We got home around 9.30, just before Tony arrived home from baseball, and played a few iPad/iPod games, Caitlin had a shower and washed all her makeup and hair product out, and everyone went to bed fairly easily.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

More thoughts on life is good

A couple of mornings ago I was questioning my position on feeling that life is good at the moment. I was exhausted from being sick for so long, and from looking after the rest of my family who were also still sick. It felt like we were never going to get better. I kept coughing and was short of breath and woke up feeling teary about everything. I was cranky with Tony and managing JUST to not be snappy with the kids, but felt like everything they asked was too hard. And things that I had been coping ok with suddenly seemed like big disasters. Emails I'd been meaning to send that I'd put off because we were sick, felt urgent now and I felt like a failure for not getting them out earlier. The housework that I had left for later because we were sick was suddenly staring at me and telling me I was a terrible housewife. I hadn't been playing with the kids as much as I would have liked so thought perhaps I wasn't doing such a great job of homeschooling. A situation with a good friend which is currently far from ideal suddenly made me cry just thinking about it. I banged my head on the kitchen cupboard and cried for a good while. Everything made me cry.

I had a small moment of thinking that everything was terrible and life was not, in fact, good at the moment - then I thought a bit more and realised that I was simply tired and sick and that life was still great, but it was ok to have a down day when things weren't going so well. I could see that I would feel better sometime (soon, I hoped) and I would be able to get to the emails, housework and games with the kids once we all had more energy and I felt up to it. I could apologise to Tony for my cranky mood and we could keep working together to make our home a happy and mainly peaceful place. The  situation with my friend is sad, and I can feel that sadness and hope that things change, without it detracting from my general joy in the world and my life. And having a good cry helped me feel so much better, and stopped me spending the day in an anxious state (which is what often happens if I try to tell myself that I shouldn't be feeling upset and I need to just get on with my day).

I rested a lot that day (I was sick of resting, but figured I obviously needed more) and by the end of the day felt better physically and emotionally. In fact by dinner time I felt quite ecstatic emotionally, I was bouncy and happy and friendly and no longer felt like snapping at anyone. Stuff that had annoyed me no end the night before now seemed like just a normal part of our life and something that I could happily help out with (I can't even remember what it was, something that someone needed help with - grumpy me had thought 'wow, can't anyone do anything for themselves, why do I have to do everything?', happy me thought 'Sure, I know how to do that, I'm happy to help.'

2 days later I'm feeling much better physically. We were able to go out and do our usual Wednesday activities yesterday. I have caught up on a lot of the emails, bills, and housework that had been left to wait. I played with the kids yesterday when they wanted me to (on the iPad and building Lego). And I feel so grateful that I'm learning how to be more grateful for my life and the good things in it and I can now feel confident when I'm low, that things are definitely going to pick up, and probably soon.

Sunday, 31 August 2014


Life is good at the moment.

I've been feeling that for a couple of weeks now, as an undercurrent to everything else is going on and it's a great feeling. There are moments where I just feel completely happy and content with the way our life is going, and that feeling is staying as a base of happiness even when other stuff is going wrong in the moment (which makes it easier to recover from the lower moments).

I think I've managed to get back to a place where I am living true to my principles and beliefs and making positive choices, so that even when things aren't perfect I can accept that and keep making choices that head us in the direction we want to go, and life still feels good.

I've also started doing karate with the kids on on a Thursday night - and I LOVE it. I spend the whole 75 minutes just feeling so happy and excited to be there. It's not as hard as I thought it would be and I'm learning more and more each week - it's something I've wanted to do for as long as I can remember, but I thought I wouldn't be coordinated enough or be able to remember all the moves or it wasn't a suitable activity for a someone like me (what would people think?!).... lots and lots of excuses have helped me put it off over the years, and I'm so glad that I was able to push through all of that and give it a go. And apart from the self-esteem boost of being able to do it and the joy of doing something really fun, the physical exercise part is feeling physically amazing. I'm pleased too that all the yoga I've done over the past several years has helped with flexibility and fitness so some of the moves and stances are quite easy for my body rather than being brand new.

Caitlin is attending Victorian Youth Theatre classes on a Friday night - out of all the activities she's tried, this one feels like absolutely the right fit. She does 2 consecutive classes so she's there for 3 hours. The venue is in Croydon, about half an hours drive from here, so I usually drop her off and then go and do something by myself for the time she's there - a few times now I have gone swimming at Croydon Leisure Centre - it's been amazing to be back in the water swimming laps. The first week I did 10 (25m) laps and nearly fell over when I stopped, the second week I was able to do 20..... I love how quickly my body can fall back into swimming even after a long break. If I can do laps every couple of weeks or even a few times a term I think my physical and mental wellbeing will be boosted immensely. After swimming I normally do some grocery shopping - I like that there's kind of an allocated time now for me to get that done (and I have a choice of supermarkets in the area so I can vary where I go like I always have) rather than trying to fit it in around all our other activities.

We now have very few daytime commitments which I like, and hardly anything in the mornings, so we can have our slow, easy mornings at home and then head out in the afternoons if necessary. Caitlin has dancing on Monday evenings, the girls have Guides on Wednesday afternoons (Millie goes sometimes, when she feels willing to tie her hair back and wear shoes, and especially if they are doing something exciting like roasting marshmallows), Caitlin, Liam and I have karate on Thursday evenings, Caitlin has school on Friday and the rest of us go to L's house for her kids and mine to play all day (and for she and I to chat, or go out without kids if we have something on), and then Caitlin's Youth Theatre on Friday evening. We also have Homeschool Group in Yarra Glen fortnightly on a Thursday afternoon, and a couple of other monthly homeschool things that we sometimes go to. We do Toy Library duty a few times a term. Oh and while the girls (or just Caitlin) are at Guides, the rest of us go to the library and park in Yarra Glen. So I feel like we've got a lot on but it's at a manageable level and mainly at times that work for our family. The evening stuff is great because (except during vintage) whoever doesn't want to come along can stay at home with one parent.

I feel like I'm doing a much better job of meeting the kids where they are at and focussing on what they want to do at a particular time, offering more opportunities for fun activities at home and stopping whatever I'm doing when they ask me to come and play with them. I guess I'm feeling more focussed and determined to stay true to my priorities - the relationship with my kids and Tony being number one, and providing enriching, interesting and relevant learning opportunities for us all is next.

This last week we've all been quite sick, with a fluey/chest infection type thing. It's been pretty nasty, and everyone has had it (LiAM was last to come down with it, yesterday afternoon). There's been plenty of moments where I have felt exhausted and anxious and quite low - but when I think about it, I know that this is just passing, and underneath I have still felt happy and content with our current life.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Why am I writing?

I haven't written anything for a while - partly because our computer died and it's easier to type on the computer than the iPad, and then I got out of the habit of writing each day or even every few days - and partly because I started to wonder a lot about what I SHOULD be writing - and the more I thought about it, the less able to I was to write anything...

I kept thinking, on and off, that my blog should (there's that word again - I really try not to use it much, it's usually a warning sign of anxiety pending when it pops up) have an obvious purpose - am I using it to record what we do each day, or to report on themes that we're exploring, or to express my philosophical views on parenting or education or unschooling... And who is my audience - am I writing for myself, or my kids, or my friends and family, or for the general public... And so every time I decided to write something I would worry that it didn't fit with the purpose of my blog or my intended audience (and I still didn't know what either of those were...) so the blog post idea wouldn't make it out of my head. 

Oh and another thing that slowed me down a bit was that when I was writing every day, I found myself, whatever we were doing during the day, thinking about how I would blog about it. Which sometimes took me away from enjoying the fun in the moment.

So I've decided to stop thinking about it, and just to write. To write what feels most appropriate on the day. And to write for myself, mainly, and then to share it with whoever wants to read it. So my blog may look like a mish-mash of purposes - which it isn't really. It's purpose is for me to write and share my world, and that can be shared in lots and lots of ways. And to practice my writing which makes me happy! And to help me examine my self and my parenting and our unschooling family and find out ways I can improve and bring more joy into our lives every day. 

P.S. I have changed the comments setting so that you don't have to sign in to comment on a post (I think). I'd love for people to comment on my posts - let me know if you try anytime and it doesn't work....

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

A day in the snow!

On Monday we went to the the snow!!!

Mt Donna Buang is about and hours drive from our place and usually our closest place to play in the snow. I knew there had been snow over the weekend and there would be fresh snow on Monday morning, then it was turning to rain in the afternoon so we aimed to get there by late morning before it turned to slush. On days with enough snow cover they have toboggans for hire on top of the mountain, so it was exciting to see the 'Toboggans at Summit' signs as we drove towards our destination.

Seeing the first glimpses of snow on the ground is always exciting, then as we drove further up the snow was on the trees and quite deep on the ground - very very cool. We parked in the mushy carpark then spent about half an hour getting everyone into their snow gear. Caitlin was ready first and made a little snowman in the snow between the two sections of the carpark.

We hired two toboggans and trudged up the hill to the toboggan runs - its a longish walk in the snow but it looked so beautiful and magical all around, everyone was still excited for most of the walk, and a bit over it by the time we got to the top. I found it challenging to get down the path to the toboggan runs, it was icy and I did a little bit of it on my bottom... Caitlin and LiAM had a couple of runs each then Millie had a go, with Caitlin running along beside her, which she really enjoyed. I had one ride as well.

It had been raining on and off (lightly) the whole time, then suddenly the rain turned to snow - being in a snow covered forest with snow falling as well is pretty magical. I called out to the kids 'Hey, its snowing!' and we could here people calling out exactly the same thing all over the mountain. One lady near us had never experienced snow falling before, so she was very excited. It snowed on and off the whole time we were there, with rain in between and sleet at one stage - so it did change from exciting and beautiful to wet and miserable and back again...

We moved over then to a higher, slightly steeper, and bumpier run. The snow was thinner here as most people were using this run, and that actually made it easier for the toboggan to slide. The kids had a couple of goes then I went down - I was quite scared about the angle of the hill before I started, but found it wasn't scary (or even very fast) once I got going. The bumps weren't a problem either, just made it a bit more fun. I took Millie for a ride down this hill - it was faster with the extra weight, and lots of fun. We got stuck about 3/4 of the way down, then walked to the bottom of the hill, then up the snow drift at the end, and had a slide down that which was quick and exciting.

Walking back up the hill was hard work and LiAM found it particularly difficult with his toboggan. A couple of times people helped him out which was great. We all had a sandwich and a drink and by this stage LiAM and Millie were cold and wet and ready to go home. LiAM had one last ride and I went as well so I could bring his sled up. Caitlin built Olaf the snowman (I had carrot sticks with me so he did end up with a small carrot nose) and then went down for one last ride, and we packed up and headed back down the hill. I offered to pull Millie on a toboggan, she didn't want to do that and wanted me to carry her. I didn't have a sling with me so I had my backpack on my back and carried Millie in my arms - hard work when walking on icy snow! Once we reached the main path back down to the carpark Caitlin and LiAM sat on their toboggans and slid down. Millie fell asleep in my arms, it had been a short and exhausting afternoon! I saw a good friend on my way down, she was heading up to toboggan with her kids, great to have a very brief catch up.

The carpark had turned to muddy slush by now, so we waded through to the car, then spent about half an hour getting everyone out of wet clothes and into warm, dry clothes. Millie was miserable until I got her warm, and LiAM wasn't enjoying himself anymore either. We got rugged up and headed back down the mountain, and stopped at a cafe in Warburton for hot chocolate and some food. Between us we bought wedges, a pie, and 2 different types of chocolate mousse - the food was delicious and the hot drinks really warmed us up (although the cafe was cool because they were close to closing and had let the fire go out.) From there we drove down and had a look at the swollen river, I was surprised at how high it was - I guess we've had a fair bit of rain the last week or so.

We picked up our milk from the dairy and dropped R's share off at her place, then finally headed home. Tony had the fire raging, and I had soup in the slow cooker, so we were able to warm up fairly quickly. I dumped all the wet clothes in the laundry to deal with the next day, and collapsed on the couch - I was stiff and sore and tired all over. Tony suggested I ice my sore shoulder (an old injury, exacerbated by carrying Millie) and I tried that - by the end of the ice session my bad shoulder felt great and the other one was still stiff - so I might try that again next time I'm in pain. I usually use heat for pain - this was not as pleasant at the time but I think was more effective.

We watched TV and Caitlin played Minecraft then Tony and LiAM played Terraria when I went to bed. I was tired and very content with our day out - glad we made it to the snow early enough in the season for there to be a decent cover, and not miss out all together like we did the last couple of years. I think Caitlin and I will go back if there's another chance, while LiAM and Millie are probably content to wait until next year to go back at this stage...

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Piano playing

Caitlin and I had a really fun morning playing the piano on Thursday. She likes to play and learn her own way and doesn't want a lot of help (or sometimes any help) so often I tend to wander off and leave her to it, because it seems she wants to be alone. This time though she asked me to stay, and I realised she doesn't want to be alone when she plays, she wants company and someone to throw ideas around with and someone to help her if she has a questions, and someone who won't offer unsolicited suggestions, just be there and appreciate the music she is creating. So I stayed and it was really enjoyable hanging out with her.

She wanted to play 'When the Saints Go Marching In' but there were notes in it that she hadn't played before - it was the last song in one of her piano books, so she went back to the start and played one piece from each lesson to refresh her memory on where the notes were, and we did talk a little bit about timing, then she had a go at Saints, and played it several times, singing the real words and the St Kilda team song words - then we decided to see if we could find the Collingwood team song music - I found them online and she played and memorised the song so she could play it for Tony. We played chopsticks together - she has changed some bits of it to be the way she would like, and sometimes that annoys me - then I figured it was all music and fun and I could adjust the base to fit her own version of chopsticks, and it ended up being hilarious. We mucked around too with 'Do you want to build a snowman' from Frozen - she's able to pick it up from watching her friend play it, and knows the first verse or so. She was able to show me enough that I could play it too. I prefer to read the music (I don't usually remember things by heart) so I might see if I can buy the sheet music for the movie so we can both play it - and all the other songs.

I'm feeling inspired now to find her more YouTube videos of violin pieces - she doesn't like to read music to play the violin, she likes to watch people play, so that's easy to organise. She tried several new songs on the recorder recently too, with new notes, so her overall repertoire is increasing. She tends to do it in spurts like this - play all her instruments quite a lot for a week or two, then have a break. Although, like me, she usually plays at least a little on the piano every day - its easily accessible, easy to walk in, play a tune, then continue down the hall. I know I've said it before and its worth saying again because I think it every day - I LOVE having a piano in my house and I am so grateful to G for making it possible. Thank you again!!!!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Wild weather and shopping

My morning walk yesterday was pretty wild and woolly - I definitely rugged up, in a waterproof jacket and with hat, scarf and gloves to make sure as much of my skin was covered as possible. The rain was icy and with the strong wind it was coming down almost sideways again - it was an exhilarating walk and I'm really glad I braved the elements.

It wasn't quite so exhilarating driving in that same weather later in the morning - LiAM had a dentist appointment in Balwyn North which is about 45 minutes from here. With the bad weather it took us about 10 minutes longer which wasn't too bad - there were branches across the road in a few places and some traffic lights out, so it was a bit tricky although could have been much worse. We had some great conversations about 'What if...' situations - if one event had happened differently (in movies, books, real life) how might the end result have differed and would that have been better or worse...

LiAM's check up went well, then we went to Doncaster shopping centre for our post-dentist lunch - LiAM usually likes McDonalds after the dentist, and if we go to Doncaster he can get that at the food court and I can have something else - it's a great food court, lots of choices and most of it tasty and appealing. LiAM and Millie had Happy Meals - I used to be very anti McDonalds, and Happy Meals - I am glad that I have relaxed about that and let the children choose things that bring them joy. A Happy Meal does bring so much happiness, in the receiving, and the eating, and the toy... Caitlin used to like them too but they don't fill her up, so she usually chooses a regular meal and is happy to forego the toy. She also was very happy eating her burger and fries. I had a delicious baked sweet potato with bacon, cheese and sour cream - a perfect hot meal for a cold wet day. Oh and by that time I was a bit frazzled because I had driven round and round the carpark trying to find an undercover parking spot and in the end given up and parked as near as I could to the covered area. A hot tasty meal really helped calm me down.

We went to Medicare (actually that was before we ate, the kids were very tolerant and patient) to get back quite a bit of money from LiAM's dentist visit, and after lunch went to a couple of mobile phone accessory shops for Caitlin to buy Millie a cover for her iPod touch - she got a very cute Hello Kitty one. The main purpose of our trip to Doncaster was for LiAM to buy some Skylanders with his own money - we went to 3 shops to look at them and he was very discerning - looked at the ones that would pad out his collection in useful ways, and looked at the prices, and checked out what was on special - for a total of $47 he ended up with 6 new Skylanders, a new world and a Giants portal - he was stoked and I was impressed with his shopping skills. I think the highlight for him though was chatting to the guy in EB Games about their favourite characters and the reasons why they were good. The girls also bought one character to share.

I was exhausted by the time we were finished (I didn't have any water with us - I stopped to buy some and once we'd all had a bit of water we actually had the energy to go to the last of the 3 Skylanders shops - I had said I couldn't do it but some hydration really helped). When we got back to the car I couldn't find the parking ticket anywhere - I gave up and pressed the help button when I got to the gate - I had to pay $10.25 to get out which was a bit disappointing since if I'd had the ticket it would have been free - then I figured it didn't really matter, $10 wasn't worth getting stressed about and I was just tired and would feel better once we were home and I'd had a bit of a rest. I'm finding I can do that more often now - recognise that I feel more anxious when I'm tired and so not react to it, and try not to talke much (cos I tend to be cranky when I'm anxious), just take it easy for a while and then put things in perspective once I'm rested.

On the way home we listened to the Frozen soundtrack which I'd bought at one of the shops, and that helped me chill out quite a bit. LiAM played with his figures in the back of the car and when we got home they all played Skylanders to check out all the new guys. LiAM was very happy. Caitlin played Minecraft for a while as well, and I had a bath and then felt much happier. Tony cooked a delicious steak and potato meal for tea, and we watched House Rules then LiAM went back to Skylanders until he went to bed.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Morning walks

Since we've been back from our trip I've been getting back into my rhythm of going for a walk in the morning before Tony goes back to work. It clears my head and helps put things in perspective, and increases my energy for the whole day. Sometimes it feels like too much of a bother, when I'm cosy inside with a warm cup of tea - when I get out there though I never regret it. I usually walk down to the dam and do a lap of the dam and then back home - takes about 15 minutes.

Yesterday Buckley and I met a fox on our way down the hill. Buckley chased him happily through the vines, the 2 of them zig-zagged through the rows until I couldn't see them any more. It actually looked more like they were playing than seriously chasing/running away, although I can't be sure. From the dam wall I could see 2 beautiful rainbows to the south - beautiful. As I walked around the dam there were dark dark clouds over the mountains - the rain hit when I was about 3/4 of the way around and it was icy and coming in sideways! I got wet pretty quickly and the wind was making me colder so I came down the outside of the dam wall to get some shelter, and met 2 kangaroos who'd been in the top block of vines (I've never seen any in there before). One panicked and went back up into the vines, one hopped around behind me and went around the dam. The wind helped me get back up the hill pretty quickly and into the warm cosy house, feeling quite exhilerated.

One morning last week when I went out the air was cold and crisp and clear and the sun was rising through a mass of red clouds. There were 2 hot air balloons drifting over the dam as they headed to their landing place somewhere to the south. It was a beautiful morning and I had my camera with me so was able to get some great shots.
2 ballons over the vineyard

Sunrise over Mt St Leonards

2 balloons above the dam

Balloon reflected in the dam

Mist and reflections in the dam

Monday, 23 June 2014

Busy Lazy Sunday

I love Sundays - Tony is usually home, we usually don't make any big plans, so we can hang out at home or go out as we wish, and recharge a bit.

I was up early again and Millie joined me again before sunrise - we checked on the sun's progress several times and the best bit was when a mist came up and obscured the mountains and we could see the sun shining through behind it and over the top. Millie did some colouring and printing out from the computer, presents for Tony (a bird and some chicks, I helped her with the chicks) and once Caitlin got up the girls played Harry Potter - Scene It. When LiAM emerged the 3 of them played in the lounge room for a while, then LiAM sorted his Skylanders so that he could decide who he wanted to play with in what order.

Tony had a sleep in, then agreed to take Caitlin busking. She practiced her violin after checking it was in tune, then learnt some new notes and songs on the recorder, then practiced her old recorder songs. While they were gone, LiAM and Millie and I played another game I picked up at the op shop this week, a game of logic/puzzle cards. Some of them were pattern questions, or ones where you lay out the matches and move/remove a certain number to make a different pattern - LiAM and I had a lot of fun with those - or playing card arrangements, figure out the missing card (we did a hard one of those and figured out an answer although we weren't completely sure why that would be it - and we were right! Very exciting). While we were doing the harder questions Millie made her own very cool patterns with the other matches. We also talked then about whether it was safe to be using matches, and situations where it would or wouldn't be safe, the chances of a match accidentally lighting, what to do if it did light and so on. Having had wood fires for most of their lives, and several experiences of lighting outdoor fires, my kids know how to use matches safely and the consequences of not being careful - they are quite respectful and also comfortable around fire.

Caitlin came back with the remains of her haul of $53 from busking!!!! She had bought herself and the others a few treats, and also bought herself an iTunes card as she wants to buy the movie Frozen for her iPad mini. The kids had competitions then to see if anyone could eat a sour warhead without making a face - no one could.

The kids were playing sword fights with their swords from the circus showbags, and Caitlin made up a beautiful song about sword fighting and then walking away and keeping the peace.

Everyone played outside for a while - it was a beautiful sunny day, reasonably warm, perfect weather to be outside in. They played obstacle courses and races, and then Tony mowed the lawn with a bit of help from the girls.

In the meantime I had made up some cake mix to use for cake pops, so Millie and I put them in the cake pop maker. They didn't rise as much as I'd hoped - I think I didn't put enough mixture in each one. They looked like little mushrooms when we had them on their sticks once they were done. Oh - Millie did lots of number crunching figuring out how many sticks she needed, she had a tray with 3 rows of 4 spots and she asked me what was 4 lots of 3, then she had 3 sticks so counted all except 3 to see how many more she needed. Its so cool to see her having the mathematical concepts to figure out what to ask, and to start to figure out the answers she wants.
Millie with the cake pops before decoration

After the cakes were cooked I made vienna cream icing in green and blue and iced them, and Caitlin and Millie decorated them with the sprinkles Caitlin gave Millie for her birthday. They looked fantastic and most of us thought they tasted fantastic - Millie wasn't thrilled with the taste so we'll try some different cake recipes and/or decoration options.

Decorated cake pops
The kids watched Scooby Doo then we all watched House Rules, then Big Bang Theory until most of us drifted off to bed. Caitlin practiced her high leg kick while she was watching TV. LiAM and Tony connected on Terraria for a while before they went to bed.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

We went to the circus!

Millie and I were up before the sun and lay in bed playing on the iPad together. We wanted to watch the sunrise, but there were clouds on the horizon so we just saw the sun behind the clouds a bit - still interesting and pretty. Tony left for baseball and we moved to the lounge room to see if we could see the sun better, and Millie wanted to play Harry Potter - Scene It, so we had a game of it just me and her and it was fun, she had a good guess at all of the questions and we both had a lot of laughs. I remembered I'd also bought an interactive DVD game at the op shop so we checked it out - it is a Dreamworks Animation game, based on Madagascar, Shrek 2, Over the Hedge and Shark Tale. Millie was quite excited that we play it on the TV using the DVD remote. There are a range of games and each player can select the level they want to play at (based on age, which doesn't necessarily equate to skill or knowledge in our family, but we can just think of it as easy, medium and hard rather than follow the age ranges). Millie did really well at this game, knew the answers to the fairy tale questions and blitzed the physical challenge questions (especially the 'make 5 funny faces in 10 seconds' - she's a master at funny faces). The other kids wandered out while we were playing, so we played 4 player for a while until everyone lost interest.

The kids watched ABC2 and 3 for a while, and played Minecraft. I asked Caitlin questions from the cards in the Harry Potter game, and she knew most of the wizarding questions. Millie and I thought about making cake pops - we always seem to get distracted. I think if I made the mixture up and then suggested it then she'd be keen to pour it into the moulds and cook them (and decorating them will be the really fun part). We watched several episodes of Dragons: Defenders of Berk, which we've always loved, it felt more relevant having just seen the 2nd How to Train your Dragon movie, and we talked about the ways the characters were different in the movie, where they are so much older.

We went in to Yarra Glen and did a quick grocery shop, getting stuff we'd run out of and supplies for tea, then we went to the circus!!! Eroni's circus are performing in Yarra Glen and all week I'd promised we could go, so we decided to use our Saturday while Tony was at baseball to go and check it out. The kids had a play on the jumping castle before we went in, it had a part where they could climb up then a large and very fast slide - they all had a lot of fun and were knackered when they got off. We found seats in the raised section of seating, which meant Millie could see the ring. The last circus we'd been to had been rather sad and old so I wondered if this would be the same, and I was pleasantly surprised. It was professional and quite well run, and the performers were all impressive. Lots of trapeze/gymnastics type acts, some jugglers and magicians, a fire eater, clowns, a tiny pony, jack russell performing dogs, and palomino horses. Caitlin loved the trapeze and gymnastic acts, and the horses. LiAM liked the dogs and the clowns and didn't mind the jugglers. Millie liked the animals and the clowns - she was a bit bored in the 2nd half, it went for longer than she felt like staying. At interval they had show bags and toys and food for sale - I felt I'd spent enough money already, then remembered that the kids all had their own spending money left from our holiday (we'd been to fewer touristy places than usual so they hadn't spent money on souvenirs to the extent that they sometimes do). So with their holiday money they were each able to buy a show bag and a snack to eat during the 2nd half. The showbags were pretty good actually, quite a lot of items in them - a sticky hand, a clapping hand, a clown nose, a water pistol, a mask, a fake moustache and glasses, a windmill and maybe a couple of other things.

Back home to play with all the show bag goodies while I cooked tea - it was meant to be mexican meatballs but my meatballs fell apart so it was more like mexican stew - still quite tasty though, and Tony appreciated it as he hadn't eaten much at baseball and was starving when he got home. We started to watch National Lampoons Christmas Vacation but the risk of Chevy Chase's character injuring himself became too stressful for Caitlin so we turned it off and played Minecraft instead. Millie and I went to bed and played the iPad for a while then she went to sleep and I read my book while the others watched 'We Bought a Zoo'.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Friday games

Up early yesterday as Caitlin had school. I think we're finding the Friday morning rhythm easier than we did at the start of the year, although we all still find it hard getting up and going early. Millie discovered she could play music using her hands and arms (clapping, tapping her arm and so on) so she played songs for me to guess, and then we sang the songs (and made up funny words). She then played with adding numbers some more, and added 1+1, 1+2, 1+3, 1+4 by herself. She thinks its awesome that 1+4 and 4+1 give the same answer too!

We dropped Caitlin at school where the teachers were excited to see her back after our holiday, and the rest of us went to A&J's for the day. L and I had a cuppa and chatted and I played with baby O who is becoming more and more interactive and friendly and fun to be with. LiAM and A played Terraria and chatted - about the game they were playing, what they'd like to do with it in the future, other games, things they've done this week. They really didn't stop talking much all day. Millie and J played an elaborate super-hero role playing game and played with J's toys. They all also watched TV, jumped on the trampoline, played with autumn leaves. L and H went out for coffee and I stayed with the kids and checked my email as they were all immersed happily in their own games.

We picked Caitlin up from school and came straight home as everyone was tired. Caitlin had spent a lot  of time making Creeper loom bracelets for everyone else at school, and she has a long list of orders for next week. LiAM realised that he knew the way home from the school so he navigated for me all the way home. Tony was already here (he finishes early on Fridays) so we all hung out together for the rest of the day. We got the fire going, Caitlin and Tony tried to start the lawn mower but it wasn't up to it, played some iPad games, I had a bath. After tea we all played Harry Potter - Scene It, which was a lot of fun. LiAM impressed us with his detailed trivia knowledge of the movies. Everyone did well and it was a tight race between LiAM, Caitlin and I at the end. It's a game that we really all can play and have a chance at (we altered a few of the questions for the younger kids) and I'm very glad I picked it up at the Op Shop.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Meeting and Movies

Yesterday morning we spent mainly at home, the kids played Minecraft and Slugterra and watched ABC2 for a while, and I had a great phone conversation with my friend B, and made a very yummy loaf of raisin bread, which was half demolished by the time we went out.

I had a meeting at 11.30 at the hall in Yarra Glen, to discuss plans for a Children's Week activity day that will be run in October (I was there representing the YG Homeschool Group, YG Toy Library and ABA). While I was at the meeting LiAM watched YouTube videos and Millie played with toys from the toy library - a beading set and some Schleich animals. Caitlin played Minecraft, read some books, and joined in the meeting. Someone suggested that Caitlin busk at the activity, and we talked about other jobs she could help at and whether our homeschool group could put on a performance for the younger kids.

After the meeting we hung around in the library for a while, reading and watching videos, then walked up the street to order fish and chips for lunch. There was a cold wind which I hadn't expected, I'm glad I took my big jacket. We went to the post office and the op shop, and picked up some cool games (including Harry Potter Scene It), a princess carriage, a jewellery box,some earrings and a couple of DVDs. We took our hot food down to the park to eat, and had a quick play in the playground, then headed to Ringwood to the movies.

We bought our tickets to see How to Train Your Dragon 2, and ordered a popcorn/drink combo with a special How to Train Your Dragon cup. The guy said that lots of people had ordered the combo and not wanted the cup so he had spares - did I want one cup each for the kids? So they each had their own goblet cup full of lemonade which they very generously shared with me. The movie was great (a bit scary for Millie a couple of times), funny and emotional and uplifting and very well made. I'm so glad we went yesterday - I'd been thinking that maybe one day next week would be a 'better' day to go, but there's been plenty of times I've thought that and then we've missed out on going all together so I figured best to go when we all felt like it and did have the opportunity, and it was a great day out. We listened to Harry Potter 7 on the way home and came back happy and tired.

LiAM decided not to go to karate so we had a quiet evening at home, playing Slugterra, watching TV, having a bath, feeding the animals, hanging out all together (Tony was home too - nice to have an evening with all 5 of us here).

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Settling back in to home

We've had a couple of quiet days, mainly at home, which was exactly what we needed after our trip away and then birthday preparations and celebrations.

We made up some of the craft kits that the kids got for their birthdays - plaster of paris fairies for Millie and a glow in the dark T-Rex skeleton for LiAM. Caitlin and Millie also started on a make-your-own Angel doll - there was sewing involved so Caitlin is enjoying it more than I would. We've talked about making cake pops in Millie's new cake pop maker but as yet haven't gotten any further than wiping the surface down with a clean cloth before use. Maybe today...

The kids have been playing Minecraft again - I heard of a server run by an unschooled Australian teenager, so we have logged into that for the first time and they are enjoying playing with other kids and learning how to negotiate someone else's server. I've been impressed with the ease with which they ask questions when they aren't sure about something, and also with the speed that they are answered by more experienced players.

They also played Skylanders, and some new games on the MacBook, and games on the ABC2 and ABC3 websites. LiAM was thrilled to find a new SlugTerra game, which is based on his current favourite TV Show.

We've watched a bit of TV and talked about the shows, played with animal toys, played the piano and the ukelele, read books, looked after all our animals - our little chicks are now not so little - the roosters are now bigger than their dad and soon I'll be looking for options to move them on - I don't think we can easily keep 4 roosters with our flock!

We went to the library yesterday afternoon, nice to be back after a 4 week break. LiAM watched YouTube videos, the girls used the hall to dance, we read some books and borrowed some more, then the girls went to Girl Guides. Millie is 5 now so old enough to begin - I stayed as well in case she found it too much. She loved it and joined in all the activities - and looked so tiny compared to everyone else.

Millie has been practicing her addition facts, asking every day 'what's plus 1 plus 1' and 'what's plus 4 plus 3 plus 2 plus 1' or 'what's plus 68 plus 2'... and she's starting to notice patterns, like that if you add 1 to a number you get the next number! It's quite exciting to explore it with her and be reminded of the patterns ourselves!

I've had a couple of moments when I've been really pleased to back, too. I wasn't quite ready to come home from our holiday - I rarely am (actually the only time I've ever been pleased to finish a holiday was at the end of our 5 week trip to Europe with a 1yo and a 2yo...). And this time I didn't really miss anything while I was gone. But there's been a couple of little moments - like opening our cutlery drawer and seeing all of OUR spoons - where I've felt very content and happy to be back in our space, and grateful that we have such a wonderful space to come back to.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Birthday Party

LiAM's birthday day and birthday party were lots of fun.

We were all up early before Tony went to work so LiAM could open his presents. Millie gave him a packet of berry flavoured mentos (and a packet for herself as well (she wrapped them together)), Caitlin made (hand sewed) a tail warmer, blanket and hat for LiAM's toy lemur, and we gave him some Schleich animals (a red panda, a baby crocodile (which LiAM thinks might actually be a caiman - 'definitely a crocodilian of some type') and a baby hippo), a dream lights puppy pillow pet, and 3 skylanders figures, so he now has one of each element. He was thrilled with his presents and turned the playstation on straight away to play with his new figures. Tony made pancakes before he left which was a lovely birthday breakfast.
LiAM with hippo and crodolian

LiAM spotting his new skylander figures

The rest of the morning was spent playing with birthday presents, making loom bracelets and charms, tidying up the house (including putting away the rest of the stuff that had come out of the car after our trip), assembling the party bags and the pinata, and making the cake - half chocolate mud cake, half chocolate cake, in the shape of an 8, with green and blue icing to represent grass and water, with animals on it. It was a lot of fun to make, even working out how to manufacture a ring tin because I only had one, and then realising that there was too much mud cake mix for the subsequently smaller tin, and having to do a bit of a rescue operation in the middle of baking so that both cakes didn't end up smelling or tasting burnt. It all worked out beautifully.

The party started at 2pm, and LiAM had 4 friends come, along with their siblings, so there were 10 kids all together, plus 2 babies. Mum and Dad and my sister (with her baby) came as well, and all the parents stayed, and it was a fantastic afternoon spent with friends and family. The kids played with LiAM's birthday presents, with the marble run, with our other animal toys (soft and Schleich), on the piano, on their iPads (I think there were up to 4 people connected to the same Minecraft world at various points), and with Skylanders. LiAM also received anothe Skylander, some science kits, Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon, and a transformer type robot. We hung the pinata in the carport - a very cute dinosaur, who I think was a bit heavily full of lollies, because he kept breaking his string when he was hit, and then one big whack pulled the loop right out of him - so the kids took it in turns to shake the lollies out of the hole on to the ground. There was also a game of musical statues which everyone was so good at there was no winner - Caitlin had made some prizes so she worked out some other way to distribute the loom band prizes and everyone seemed happy.

Tony came home from work and was here for a little while before heading out to a baseball committee meeting - we had gone to the pub for birthday dinner the night before which worked quite well - Tony could still go to his meeting, and we didn't need to wrap up the party and then get ready to go out, I was quite pleased we'd done the evening meal the night before.

Once all the guests left we watched a movie (Finding Neverland) and some TV, had bacon and eggs for tea, LiAM watched some YouTube videos and we had a relaxing evening. I ended the day feeling so fortunate to have such a great group of friends, and feeling very relaxed and happy and content.

Monday, 16 June 2014

LiAM's 8th Birthday

LiAM is 8 today!!!

LiAM at 8 is delightful to be around. He is thoughtful, inquisitive, funny and generous. If anyone is feeling sad or angry he tells jokes or does a dance or finds a way to help them out and try to make them feel better. He freely shares his treats and his money. He can see the humour in situations and makes word jokes/puns often. He is starting to read and trying to write more. He likes his i's and his s's to be lower case and everything else to be capitals. He adds and multiplies and subtracts numbers easily and likes to come up with combinations of numbers that add up to a certain number. He is comfortable with 3 digit numbers and is starting to explore larger numbers. He likes to know why and how things work or happen, and he is not ever satisfied with an explanation that doesn't make sense to him (and certainly not a 'that's just the way it is' answer) - he will continue to ask questions and explore an issue and come up with ideas until he has come to a conclusion that makes sense to him. He still loves animals and has a huge mass of knowledge about a large range of animals. He thinks he will work with animals when he is older. He loves poring over non-fiction books and gains a huge amount of information from the pictures, and asks for more details when he wants them. He also loves listening to books being read to him - usually picture books although some chapter books interest him too. He loves The Avengers in particular and most super heroes in general. He enjoys playing with lego. He loves action movies and also family movies. Scooby Doo, the Buddy series, How to Train Your Dragon, all the Marvel movies have been favourites lately. His favourite TV show is Slug Terra. His favourite game at the moment is Terraria and he is really good at it. He also loves Clash of Clans, Shark Attack and Subway Surfers. He's not playing Minecraft as much lately although sometimes still watches Minecraft YouTube videos. He watches YouTube videos regularly and uses them to expand his own knowledge about games and to hone his skills. He gives his complete focus to whatever he is doing, whether he is playing on his iPod, doing art, reading, climbing, jumping on the trampoline, playing with his animals. He loves jumping on the trampoline and doing obstacle courses outside. He enjoys sweeping the floor. He is very honest, and very literal. His social skills have increased incredibly in the last year, he is quite comfortable around people and can chat to anyone, although large groups are still quite overwhelming and he'd usually prefer to be just with one or 2 friends. His asthma is under control with 2 preventative drugs and his health has been great this year. His teeth are doing well after his operation last year.

There's so much more to LiAM I could probably write for hours. He also gives great cuddles, and when he's feeling angry or frustrated is usually able to remove himself from the situation and go and be alone for a while. If he does upset someone he is usually quick to make amends. He's grown up a lot in this last year while he was 7, and I'm looking forward to journeying with him as he continues to grow into a young man

Happy Birthday LiAM!

Saturday, 24 May 2014


We're off to NSW for 3 weeks! All very much looking forward to a good break, as well as catching up with friends and family. You can keep up with our adventures at

Sunday, 27 April 2014

ANZAC weekend

After 2 1/2 weeks of break from our regular activities I'm feeling energised and ready to get back into things. It helps that Vintage is largely over and Tony is now home (and awake) in the mornings and evenings and on weekends. He had 3 1/2 days off over the Easter weekend and has had all 3 days of this ANZAC Day long weekend off work. He played and coached baseball yesterday but has been here the rest of the weekend and its lovely for us all to reconnect with him and for me to have a bit more conversation with an adult in my day.

On Thursday Caitlin went to her athletics carnival where she competed in the 100m, 400m, relay and triple jump. She was the only Under 10s girl from her school, so she spent the day with the girls from another school, its great that she can fit in easily with a new group of people and make friends so easily.  While she was there LiAM, Millie and I went to L's for the day, the kids played Terraria and watched Terraria videos, played Minecraft Mutants (a game they've all made up) on the trampoline, and played an imaginative role-playing game on and off all day.

Once we picked Caitlin up we took her straight to the Guides Hall where she was having a sleepover before the ANZAC Day March the next day. She and most of the other girls slept outside in tents - it was our first really cold night of the season - down to 1 degree! - but they all managed all right and I think enjoyed the experience.

After dropping her off, we went to the library to return books, borrow some more, and watch some more Terraria videos. Tony met us there and took Millie home while LiAM went to Karate for the first time. He really enjoyed it and fitted in with the 2 kids who were about his age. I was really impressed with the dojo. Its a multi-age class - kids and adults in together. Some of the training they do as a whole group, other times they break into smaller groups with older kids helping the younger ones, or those at the same ability level working together. LiAM was assigned to a 13 year old boy to be shown the basics over the next few weeks - and he learnt heaps. (The next day he showed Caitlin how to do one of the kicks he'd learnt. The next morning Millie (from watching them) showed ME how to do it). Caitlin is considered joining the Karate class as well - and so am I. It might be a good way to get fit again and learn something I've vaguely thought about for a long time... There's a few fears standing in my way as well that may stop me, but hopefully I'll be able to overcome them. The dojo encourages parents and kids to train together, so I would be welcome from their point of view...

On Friday morning, L and M elected to stay home with Tony while I went to Yarra Glen to watch the ANZAC Day parade and ceremony. Arriving there and walking down the street and settling in to the crowd I felt so grateful to live in a small community, where I know so many people and we all come out to join in community events. There were several hundred people watching the parade. The Guides were running a bit late and the parade started as soon as they arrived. The crowd moves along the street with the parade (which set a cracking pace this year, I found it hard to keep up) and we all end up at the Memorial Hall and the War Monument. The Guides stand around the Monument each year, and this year Caitlin was one of the four who stood guard on the four corners of the Monument, she was proud to have such a prominent part in the ceremony.

The ceremony was moving and thought provoking. A lot of focus on being grateful for the country we live in and for the fact that we are not living with war on a daily basis. Recognition too for those Australians who are on active service at the moment in other countries.

After the ceremony I caught up with a few friends I hadn't seen for a while, then went and picked Caitlin up from the Guides Hall. Home again for a quiet afternoon - I installed a new Minecraft mod for  the kids, which they played for a while, Tony had a nap then watched the ANZAC Day Collingwood v Essendon game (which fortunately Collingwood won!) and we pottered around, read books, tidied up a bit, oh, and I made Anzac Cookies. Millie and I popped into Yarra Glen later in the day and did a bit of grocery shopping and we came home and made nachos for tea.

Yesterday was also a quiet day at home. Tony left early for baseball, and we played Township and Candy Mania and Episode on the iPad, watched some DVDs (Season 2 of Full House, and the Ugly Duckling and Me), sorted through all our books to see if there are any we could donate to the stall I'm having for ABA next week (no kid's books were allowed to go, but I did find a handful of my books that I'm unlikely to read again) and then read a pile of the books that we'd pulled out, played the piano, made some rainbow loom bracelets, played Minecraft and Poisson Rouge, and the kids played a game where the girls are sisters called Sally and Rosey, and its their birthday today, so they spent hours getting ready for a party - they've made decorations and invitations and Caitlin is going to make a cake and toffee today and then we'll all go to the birthday party. It will be especially fun for Millie I think as she's really starting to hang out for her birthday which is still about 6 weeks away - this might ease the frustration of waiting a little. We also played a fun game of Chinese Whispers at tea time - most of the sentences made it fairly intact around the 5 of us, although a couple got mixed up in a hilarious way.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

School Holidays

We are often asked if we stop doing school work during the school holidays, or some version of 'Do you let the kids have a break in the holidays'/'Does Mum give you time off in the holidays?' and the answer is not really a simple one.

We don't do formal or structured lessons that look like what most people imagine when they think of school. We learn (myself, Tony and the kids) all day every day, doing things that interest us or are important at the time. So we don't stop that during the holidays. Every day we learn from what is going on around us and from the activities that we all choose to do.

On the other hand, we do get a bit of a break during the holidays, because most of our regular activities stop for that time. So our week can be a bit more relaxed, a lot less wanting to be somewhere at a particular time. We can spend more time at home, catching up on activities we've wanted to do, or watching movies or playing games - we do all this during the term as well, but I find that being able to do it for a few days in a row without interruptions to go out and do other things, gets us all to a point where the learning becomes deeper and more connections can flow. We can really explore whatever it is we're looking at, rather than doing it for a few hours then being called away and possibly not coming back to it. Or we can spend more time visiting friends - we often use this time to see the kids' schooled friends, who often don't have so much time for visiting during term. Or having longer visits with our homeschooled friends, without either family having other commitments on the day.

One thing we do do less of during school holidays is going to public venues - we'll still go to the park in Yarra Glen or Healesville, although they are usually much busier than during term (except for yesterday when it was raining and we were the only people there) - we do avoid places like the zoo, museum, indoor play centres, shopping centres and so on. We'd much prefer to go during the week once school has gone back, and not be overwhelmed by crowds. Occasionally we are enticed by some of the school holiday activities that are offered by places and we do go along, but it is a much more exhausting and overwhelming day than our usual mid-term outings - so the activity only appeals if it is a particularly special one or something that is highly relevant to our interests.

So yes, we do do things differently during the school holidays, although probably in a different way than most people are thinking when they ask the question.