Saturday, 28 November 2015

Feeling Content

I've been feeling really good lately. Very happy with the way we're doing things, really thrilled that this is the lifestyle we are choosing every day. That's not to say that my anxiety doesn't pop up at all, or that I'm in a good mood all the time, but lately those lower moments have really only been moments, and even through them I know that overall I am feeling content on a very deep level, so the frustration/anxiety doesn't take over completely.

I realised last week that we weren't getting much consecutive time at home - little bits each day, but I wanted a bigger chunk of time so that we could all re-energise a bit. Last weekend we had Saturday at home, then Caitlin was working at the Girl Guides stall at the Lilydale Show - Tony took the 3 kids to the Show for the day, and I had a day at home by myself, which was lovely. I did a lot of housework and organising, and was pretty tired by the end of the day, but my restlessness and feeling of frustration at never being home was all gone, which meant I was able to be more present for my kids and Tony all week.

They had a great time at the Show too, LiAM came racing in the door to show me his Minecraft showbag, with 3 books, lots of Minecraft stickers and a few other bits and pieces. He loves going to the Show (or the Fair, as he calls it) so much, and it was beautiful to witness his excitement as he told me all about it. Millie got a Pokemon showbag, with a backpack, carry bag, temporary tattoos, a hat and sunglasses, and Caitlin got - oh I can't remember the name - it's a picture of a monkey face, and she got a backpack, a make up bag and lots of stationery. Tony got a Bertie Beetle showbag to share with me which was quite exciting - I LOVE Bertie Beetle chocolates, and the only place I can get them is in show bags, so it's a less-than-once-a-year treat. (And they were great!) They went on the dodgem cars (Caitlin and LiAM drove their own cars for the first time - very exciting) and saw lots of animals and played some Sideshow Alley games. Caitlin had a ball at the Guides stall, chatting to people about Guides and helping them make little catapults out of cups and balloons.

During the week we managed a fair amount of time at home, and I can tell LiAM is really exhausted and needs more, because he is watching a lot of television - he usually needs several days of TV when he's quite worn out, and then he suddenly turns it off and plays a heap of really creative games. I love chatting to him when he's watching TV though, he notices holes in the plot or weird assumptions that the characters make, and he thinks a lot about what he would do in the situations the characters find themselves in, and really ponders the decisions that the characters do make. The girls join in on a lot of those conversations too - we've re-written (verbally) a lot of TV shows and movies in lots of different ways.

On Tuesday we went to Healesville Sanctuary with my parents and my sister and her son. A very fun day - and great to have extra adults there, I was able to spend most of my time with Millie, letting her go at her pace (which is often quite slow in terms of moving through the zoo - she wants to look at things in detail, or go back and look at things again, and stop and touch things, and have a little talk or play at any spot she finds interesting - I love being able to go with her on her intricate journey through a place, which is sometimes too tricky when it's just me and the 3 kids, as the others want to move on more quickly).

At home this week we have played lots of games - the Penguin game (like Trouble or Headache, but with penguins, and you can drop your opponent's penguins into the ice which can be fun), Headbanz (like Celebrity Head), games with Millie's soft toys, Skylanders, Pokemon battles, lego, games under the hose, on the trampoline, Barbies, adding and subtracting games, Minecraft, and other iPad and computer games. We've been to the library and the op shop, and had a great afternoon at Homeschool Group, where Caitlin showed everyone how to make the catapults from the Show, 2 different types, and the kids were able to propel little fluffy pompoms all over the room. Caitlin has been practicing cursive writing, and we've been trying to clear out half of the dining room so we can convert it into a small bedroom for Caitlin - a work in progress, but we're slowly getting there.

Caitlin had her first acting performance for the season last night, Tony took her in and watched the show, she came home so pumped and excited, with her stage make up still on and so keen to get back there next Friday so I can see it as well. I'm looking forward to it - she's in a militia scene and has camouflage paint on her face, and is dressed in army gear - she loves it and I know it's a very powerful scene.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Caitlin's Confirmation

Caitlin made her Confirmation on Sunday, in Mum and Dad's church in Yea. (Although I'm not sure if I'm using the right terminology, I think it's better to say 'Caitlin was Confirmed'). Anyway, it was a great day, a beautiful ceremony (again, that's not the correct term anymore, it is supposed to be celebration or service, but to me it felt like a wonderful ceremony).

Caitlin had gone up to the Catholic school a few times over the past several weeks to take part in the preparation for Confirmation - she had an afternoon making the Stole (scarf) that she would wear on the day, and there was a parent/student night where the kids all shared with us the reason they had chosen their Saint's name, and which gift of the Holy Spirit they were choosing to focus on. The kids from the school prepared all their information in class and had their speeches written out - Caitlin only found out a few hours before the get together that she would be asked to speak, so she did it fairly impromptu and did a great job. She also spent a full day at the school when the Bishop came to visit - he talked to each of the kids in detail about their Saint and their gifts, and it really helped to give a lot more meaning to day, rather than just going through the motions.

Caitlin and I braved the new Eastland shopping centre last Thursday to find a new dress for her - it had only been open a week so it was pretty crazy in there, and it is SO big - I left with complete sensory overload and was exhausted for the rest of the day. We found a beautiful dress though and she was so happy with it, so it was worth the excursion. We got shoes on the way to acting on Friday night, also beautiful - and women's shoes, not girls. Her feet are at the top end of the girl's shoe range, and most styles don't go that high, so she got to browse the women's shoes which gave her a lot more choice.

Tone's sister is Caitlin's godmother and she came down from Brisbane to be Caitlin's sponsor. Tony picked her up from the airport on Saturday and we had a great day at home and then out at the cheese shop at De Bortoli. I was babysitting for my sister on Saturday night so the kids and Tone and his sister had a quiet night at home without me.

Caitlin and her sponsor needed to be at the church early on Sunday, so I took them, and Caitlin's friend S came with us for the day as well. Tony came up with LiAM and Millie in time for mass. Mum and Dad sat behind us in the church so we were all together which was nice. The mass was lovely, the Bishop again explained things well and made it all meaningful. There was a great sense of community and family throughout the whole service. The Bishop asked some of the kids to come up and explain about their Saints to the whole church, and Caitlin was one of the children picked to do that. She also read a Prayer of the Faithful, and was confident and clear in both cases.

After mass there was a morning tea with a great cake and some other nibblies. I'd made shortbread (using the Thermomix recipe) and it was delicious - the Bishop loved it and came and thanked me for it when he found out I'd made it! I met Mum's old neighbour, who used to live in Leeton - we don't think we knew each other from there but it was pretty cool to meet her. I also caught up with another friend of a friend whose son now goes to the Catholic School in Yea.

We went up to Mum's for a BBQ lunch which was very relaxed and tasty. Tony's sister hadn't been to Mum's property before, so she and I did a big tour and she loved the location and the view. It really is a beautiful spot and a great house. After lunch the big girls went in the spa and the kids played terraria and hide and seek and some board games. We had some dessert then Tony took his sister back to the airport. Caitlin and Dad went for a bike ride and Caitlin had an accident and hurt her toe. She iced it for a while and didn't think she could walk easily - but it did settle down and she was able to hobble around after some rest. The kids played for a while longer then I took S home and we arrived home in time to have leftover BBQ meat for tea and a quiet, relaxing evening after a very big weekend.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

New chicks and hanging out at home

Tony was still feeling quite unwell yesterday - as well as his sore back he's had a fever on and off and has been pretty miserable. He stayed in bed for most of the day yesterday, with the kids and I popping in and out to chat or play games, then around 4pm he got up and sat on the couch for a while, then as the evening progressed he felt better and better and was able to move around and do things much more easily. He's feeling quite relieved that things have improved!

The rest of the chicks have hatched - we've got 5 little balls of fluff and I could spend all day watching them pecking and cheeping and climbing on their mum. One is looking a bit fragile so I'll keep an eye on that one in particular - last night I went to check on them and it hadn't figured out how to get back into the box with it's mum and siblings, poor little thing was falling asleep standing up and kept jerking awake. I was able to distract it's mum by holding a piece of wood in front of her, which she attacked, and then I was free to pick up her chick and pop it in with her. There's no way she would have let me pick it up if she wasn't feeling attacked from another direction.

3 of the chicks (and the leg of a 4th one, under Darkness's feathers)
Millie watched all of her Winx DVDs yesterday, which the others weren't completely thrilled about - so they negotiated watching choices for today and then were happy to let her watch them (and watch some of it with her). I have the song stuck in my head which I really don't mind - the show is about believing in yourself and believing in magic and looking out for your friends, I'm happy to have those thoughts running through my head constantly for a few days.

Caitlin mowed more of the lawn and I planted the plants Mum had given me on Monday. LiAM helped tidy up the garden a bit. It was a warm, humid day, pleasant to be outside in the morning but progressively less pleasant as the day went on. The kids played with the hose a bit more and spent time jumping on the trampoline.

In the afternoon LiAM decided to make chocolate balls, so he and Millie did that by themselves. Caitlin did some more work on the car she's making out of a recycled milk carton. She also played lots of drawing and word games on her iPad, and visited our neighbour, and LiAM played Terraria for a while.

Caitlin, LiAM and I went to karate in the evening, it was a good night, going back through some of the basic moves. Great to have a reminder of how to do things properly and to slow down and really practice the technique. We only stayed for the first session, then chatted in the playground and carpark to our friends, and got home the same time as we would have if we'd stayed for the whole session.

When we got home Tony took the kids for a ride in the Kabota, then we watched the new episode of Big Bang Theory, and later the final two episodes of Two and a Half Men (which were funnier than I'd expected), and everyone went to bed pretty easily after that.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Hanging out with Grandparents

I had an appointment at 8.30 yesterday morning, so Mum and Dad came down to look after the kids for the morning. Tony ended up still being at home with his sore back, though we figured it would still be easier for Mum to be here to help get breakfast etc and Tony could still rest. It was a foggy, cold morning when I set out, which turned into a beautiful sunny warm day by late morning.

I went to my appointment then called in to see a friend on the way home. Her boys were initially disappointed that I had turned up without my kids - then they were excited that they could show me where they were up to in their games, and they sat next to me and showed me their progress in all their favourite iPad games - it was lovely, and I realised that I don't always have a lot of interaction with them when my kids are there - I might try to check in on their games each time I visit from now on.

When I got home everyone had had a lovely morning. Caitlin and Dad had been doing some multiplication, LiAM and Mum had cleaned up the kitchen and LiAM and Millie had made more patterns on the peg boards. The girls decided to get in their swimmers and go on the trampoline with the hose, and LiAM was meeting a friend at Maroondah Dam for a picnic and to do the Aussie Backyard Bird Count. We left Dad in charge of the hose and 2 happy girls on the trampoline, and Mum and I dropped LiAM with his friend and then went out for lunch at Mocha and Lime in Healesville - lunch was my christmas present to Mum from last year, and we hadn't managed to find a day that suited us both until now. We ate great food and had an enjoyable chat and it didn't matter that it had taken us 10 months to organise it. We had a little bit of a walk around Healesville afterwards, then went back to pick LiAM up.

Back at home, Millie and Dad were playing Skylanders Guess Who and Caitlin had been to visit our neighbour and done some practice on her cursive writing. Mum and Dad headed home and the kids went back outside with the hose and played in the water and the mud - Caitlin caked herself in mud and called herself the mud monster. Tony had been to the doctor and was told that his back pain is muscular so should get better over the next couple of weeks, and he is better to be up and about as much as he can be.

Once everyone was clean, Caitlin and I sewed the green stripes on our karate belts (and LiAM's), and LiAM played Terraria. Caitlin went back outside to practice her cartwheels for a while - she's getting really good. We watched Big Bang Theory and Auction Hunters and Top Gear. Everyone was tired and ready for bed by 10pm which is unusual in our house. Tone rubbed the big kids backs and everyone crashed pretty quickly.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Sunday at home

Tony was up and about a little bit yesterday but still spent most of the day lying down, his back is not recovering very quickly. He played Terraria with the kids and watched Saving Mr Banks and all of us spent some time in the bedroom chatting with him, so it was another relaxed family day.

When I went up to let the chickens out I discovered that our broody hen Darkness's chicks have started hatching! I had thought there was another week to go so it was a big surprise! The kids and I spent a bit of time setting the pen up, making sure they had food and water and could get in and out of the box when they are ready. (We've seen one, rather large, chick and could hear one or 2 more peeping from under their mum.)

Throughout the day Caitlin did some more logic puzzles, did a lot of drawing (she's recently figured out how to draw people and is practicing frequently), watched The Next Step, mowed the lawn, and went to visit our neighbour. LiAM watched Scooby Doo and The Day my Butt went Psycho, played Terraria, helped me chop more vegetable, made patterns on the peg boards and played with his toy animals. Millie watched a couple of The Winx DVDs (which she'd been waiting to watch for days), played Terraria, jumped on the trampoline, played with the peg boards and with the toy animals. I weeded and pruned while Caitlin mowed the lawn, baked a chocolate beetroot cake (which I like and don't think anyone else does. I did this one but with less maple syrup, the taste was a bit too beetrooty for the others, I will try a different recipe next time, and pottered around doing housework or chatting and playing with the others

When Caitlin got back from next door, she and LiAM and I went out the front to check out the fence where it looks like a car has crashed into it. We did a bit of detective work and figured out that the car must have left the road sideways and hit the fence sideways, it was fun for all of us and quite exciting to be solving a mystery. It was a gorgeous afternoon and I was wishing I had my camera with me. On the way back to the house we heard a steam whistle - the Healesville Heritage festival was on this weekend and this was one of the steam engines heading home. The kids ran back out the front to see it and I did go and get my camera while I told Millie it was coming (she decided not to run out - we'd heard 3 whistles on Friday before the festival started and every time she and LiAM went to see, and we missed them all, so she figured it wasn't worth another attempt). We waved to the steam roller as it went past, and played out the front for a little while and I took some photos.

Back inside Caitlin created some workbooks for herself and then all 3 kids spent most of the evening creating little cars and boats - using stuff out of the recycling box and cutting, pasting, painting, they made some cool stuff.

Tony watched Back to the Future 1 and 2 (on TV last night, as this is the week that Marty comes to when he goes to the future - October 21, 2015) and the kids and I were in and out to see bits of the movies - we all ended up on the bed watching the end of the 2nd one which was really lovely. Tony helped the kids get to bed - he rubs their back and they prefer they way he does it to the way I do it, and he felt well enough to get up and do that last night which they were thrilled about.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Back pain and movies

Tony has had a sore knee for the past couple of weeks, and this week his back also started to give him a lot of pain - possibly from limping on the sore knee, or possibly a separate cause (he'll probably go to the doctor today and see what's happening) - so much pain that he took Friday off work and spent all day Friday and Saturday in bed. Having Tony home but bedridden was not how I thought Saturday would turn out - and it ended up being a really lovely, fun and relaxing family day, and way better than I'd hoped for even before Tony was incapacitated.

Millie and LiAM and I started the day playing Harry Potter - Scene It. When the on screen questions involve unscrambling letters or filling in letters we skip to the next question, and I sometimes reword the written questions from the cards or make them more general for Millie, otherwise their knowledge of the movies is enough to play on equal terms. It was a fun game of Harry Potter trivia, and in there we also had a long discussion about odd and even numbers, leading to LiAM explaining that 1 is a more useful number than 2 because you can just keep adding 1 to numbers and get any number in the world, and you can't do that with 2, and Millie suddenly had a realisation that odd and even numbers 'are like stripes on a tiger' because as you count it always goes odd, even, odd, even. (It's so cool to watch her learning, because she has such a strong sense of patterns, and she applies it to most things that she learns - it's as if she converts everything she's presented with into a visual pattern in her head and then she can understand it). Millie also had a go at reading some of the instructions and was happy at being able to figure out some of the words.

The kids watched Scooby-Doo for a while and I tidied the kitchen and played on the iPad and Tony attempted to stay out of bed, but headed back pretty quickly. He decided to pass the time by watching movies, and started with Pitch Perfect, which he hadn't seen. I was going to go and do the washing or something, but decided to stay and hang out with him and watch the movie, and Caitlin joined us when she woke up. It was so great, watching a movie with Tony - we used to do it all the time and I'd really like to add it back in to our lives as a regular thing.

Tony then watched Australia, which neither of us have seen, and LiAM and I cut up some veggies to make chicken stock and some lunch. He is great with the sharp knife and loves to cut any vegetable I give him - he explores the texture and colour and shape and finds the best way to cut them, even though he very rarely eats them. It's funny, he's probably the most excited about our box of veggies arriving each fortnight, because he gets to play with a whole range of new cutting up options.

After the movie was finished LiAM and Millie and Tony played Terraria together for a while, and Caitlin and I did some logic puzzles. I also watched an episode of Green Lantern that I hadn't seen before and really wanted to see what happened - but it didn't resolve the story line I was interested in so am hoping the next episode is on today. Caitlin and I sorted out a lot of the hair and jewellery baskets that are around the house - she's getting her dressing table set up and wanted to find all her hair accessories, and it was great to go through the baskets and get rid of the things that are broken or no longer used. Millie was given all of the little metal bangles that Caitlin has collected over the years, so she is very happy.

Tony and LiAM put Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet on next - and I wanted to watch the start of it, then settled in to watch the rest of the movie as well - it's a long time since I'd seen it and I love it so much - the sound track, the actors, the cleverness modern adaptation. It was also the first time I'd ever seen it and not cried - unusual for me to not cry at a tragic ending, even if I know it's coming! LiAM watched bits and pieces of it, but the kissing scenes didn't interest him and he decided to go and play with Millie making patterns on the peg boards instead.

I cooked a late dinner - mince curry - while Tony watched Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, and the kids watched the Batman Lego Movie  (LiAM gravitated between the 2 tvs at first and ended up with Star Wars). While we ate tea, Caitlin skyped with Tony's sister, who is coming down to Victoria in a few weeks for Caitlin's Confirmation, which we're all very excited about. Millie and I had a good chat to her as well, and then Caitlin and I spent some time looking at saints names so that she can pick a Confirmation name.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Learning gymnastics

Caitlin continues to amaze and inspire me with her confidence and the way she learns new skills.

When we were in Sydney in August, she went to a dance class with her friends, and they were doing front walkovers (I think that's what they are called - a handstand, over into a bridge). She had never done one before, and tried it with everyone else, and landed flat on her back. She was unhurt and unfazed, and later told it as a very funny story.

About 3 weeks ago she decided that she really wanted to be able to do it. She started doing handstands everywhere she went, and realised that she wasn't usually getting her legs high enough to then get them to go over to the ground. So she asked me to help by holding my arm out and she tried to get her legs up to my arm. After a week or so of practising every day, she could fairly reliably get her legs up high enough that they hit my arm - from there she was able to link her knees over my arm, and then she asked me to take my arm away - and she found that she could then push her legs over on to the ground and land, with varying success, in a bridge.

We tried that for another week or so, and her consistency was improving every day. At her birthday party she was showing her friends where she was up to, and 2 of the girls (with a lot of gymnastics experience between them) gave her some more tips. One of them was able to catch her legs rather than just have her rest her legs against an arm, and that helped to give her better balance. The other girl gave her tips on how to spring up in the handstand more effectively, and helped her practice getting into a bridge the regular way (by bending over backwards and putting her hands on the ground).

She practiced a lot with her friends, and then a couple of hours after they had left she came running inside excitedly shouting 'I did it! I did it!' We had a big hug and a celebratory dance then went back outside to watch. She did several in a row - it was amazing to watch. To come from not being able to do it at all, to doing it easily, in under 3 weeks just astounded me.

I think the thing that inspires and impresses me most is that she is always completely confident that she will be able to learn the skill she wants to learn. There is no doubt or hesitation or inhibition getting in her way. So because she knows that she will get there, it's simply a matter of practicing enough until she can do it, and every bit of practice is a step towards her goal. This also helps her to not get frustrated when she has a set back or if it's taking a while, because it doesn't ever feel to her like 'this is never going to happen'.

I love the way she jumps straight in when she's trying something new, and figures out her own ways of learning the skills needed. She will listen to other people's suggestions and use them if she likes them, or say 'no thanks, I think I'll keep doing it this way' if not. And she's happy to put a lot of time in over the short term and that helps her to learn things quite quickly (my practice tends to be short amounts of time over a longer term, which does mean I take a lot longer to learn. There's doubt and hesitation and inhibition mixed up in that, as well as a different learning style - I think I tend to be more analytical and like to have it all well thought out in my mind, and only get to the physical once I've understood it all, Caitlin is a much more physical learner).

Oh, the other thing that helped her in this case (and most cases) was watching her friend do one. Being a very physical, kinaesthetic learner, she often finds that once she's got some basic skills, if she watches someone else do it, she can do it as well.

I don't know that my own basic learning styles will ever change, and I don't need them to, we all learn in different ways and it can all be effective. What I can learn from Caitlin though is the confidence in learning new skills, and also to question the way I've always done things and to try different ways of learning - and to keep doing the things that work for me and drop those things that don't.

It was also cool to see the other skills she improved along the way - her cartwheels are now straight, with straight legs, she can do a cartwheel to get off the trampoline, and all of her landings are a bit neater. Another great reminder that learning doesn't happen in isolation, and whatever we are doing we will also be learning other bits and pieces along the way. Sometimes the things we learn along the way are more useful or important than the skill we were working on, so no practice or playing or learning is ever a waste of time.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Caitlin's 11th birthday

Yesterday was Caitlin's 11th birthday!

She woke early (the sun is rising before 6 at the moment so it's easy for everyone to wake up by 6.30) and we all had a big birthday cuddle in our bed before getting up to do presents. LiAM and I quickly wrapped everything (we'd gotten home late and very tired the night before, from party food shopping, and had put off the wrapping until the morning). Caitlin was thrilled with her presents - from LiAM, a Minions Mega Blocks hot dog stand, from Millie, a Lego Friends dressing room, and from Tony and I - a horse calendar, a Billie B Brown diary for next year, a note book on a clipboard, and tickets to see Taylor Swift in December!

The kids got stuck into making all the lego and then playing with it. We had bacon for breakfast and a very relaxing morning.

At 11.30 Caitlin and I went into Yarra Glen to get some little prizes for games for her party, then we picked up her friend S and went up to Ponyland for the girls to go on a Trail Ride. They were joined by another friend from Caitlin's acting class. It was a magnificent spring day, perfect for a trail ride. Caitlin rode Charisma, her very favourite horse, and the other girls rode on Charlie and Happy. Caitlin was allowed to do some cantering, and Charisma started then dropped back into a trot - but she loved the ride and the experience and 3 very happy girls came back after an hour on the trail.

We went back to our place and they had lunch, then made friendship bracelets and played on the trampoline. We set up the camper trailer in the backyard, and then 3 other friends arrived for the sleepover. It was an amazing evening. They danced, played on the trampoline and swings, chased each other with the water gun Caitlin got as a present,  told jokes, played lots of games (storytelling and making people laugh etc) and put on a talent show. Those who didn't want to participate were the judges (along with LiAM) - Caitlin and Millie acted out a play created by Caitlin, one girl did gymnastics, one sang and one drew a picture - they were all quite impressive. We had pizza for dinner, and after Caitlin's cake we roasted marshmallows on the fire. It was warm enough for everyone to be outside, even for the meal, which made it all a bit exciting as well. We set up everyone's beds in the trailer - the 6 girls all managed to fit on the floor, and they played more games in there - once I made sure everyone was comfortable and would let me know if they needed anything, I left them to it and obviously they all fell asleep at some stage. It was one of the most fun parties I've been involved in, very relaxed and very enjoyable, and everyone seemed to be having a great time.

Caitlin at 11 is so much fun to be around. She's funny and generous and talkative and really loves people. She makes friends easily and loves to socialise, although is also becoming more comfortable being by herself or just with her family. She thinks deeply about things and asks a lot of questions, particularly about relationships and social and cultural norms. She loves performing and is doing 2 drama classes a week which lead to a big production each semester. She really really loves horses, and is working on ways to afford her own horse as soon as she can. She is creative and learns very quickly so picks up new skills seemingly effortlessly. She has big dreams and actively works towards making them all come true, I love her enthusiasm and her commitment to what she wants, it is quite inspiring. She's also not swayed by convention or fashion or and very much makes her own decisions about what is important to her. She has a great sense of style and always seems very comfortable in herself. This year she has learnt to crochet and made beanies and flowers and lots of other things, and continued to create loom band products and even had a couple of commissions to make things. She has helped Tony out a few times at baseball functions and is really confident and competent at whatever job she is given.

I am so looking forward to hanging out with her more and more as she grows into a young woman.

Happy Birthday Caitlin!

Monday, 13 July 2015

Mid year break

We've just had 2 weeks of school holidays, and while we don't take a holiday from our learning, the holidays do give us a break from a lot of our regular routine, and also give us a chance to catch up with some of the kids' schooled friends.

Caitlin went on a 5 night horse camp at Ponyland in the first week of the break. She's been a couple of times before on a 2 night/3 day camp, and had been keen to try out the longer format. She had a wonderful time and was so glad she'd been able to stay for the full camp, rather than leaving halfway through like last time. She rode lots of different horses, trotted and cantered and walked and learned how to jump and rode bareback, and groomed the horses, mucked out stables, did lots of theory about horses, helped feed them, and played lots of games with the other girls. We rang her each night and she appreciated that contact from home, but wasn't homesick while she was there.

While she was gone the rest of us had a fairly quiet week. We played with friends a couple of days, including Millie and me taking a trip to Alexandra to play with one of Millie's friends who has recently moved up there (LiAM went to another friend's house for the afternoon). Millie and I had a great time, and the other mum and I were really able to have a great chat while the girls played.

At the end of the week we picked Caitlin up and went to Healesville to see a play - The Very Cranky Bear, based on one of Millie's favourite books. She and Caitlin sat down on the floor in the very front row which they both loved. LiAM preferred to be less involved in the production and the crowd, so he and I sat up in the back row and he was able to enjoy the play safely from there.

We had several days hanging out quietly at home, watching movies, crocheting - I made Millie some mittens!!! - playing on the iPad, playing on the trampoline, looking after the dog and cat and chickens etc. Everyone has had a big surge in their reading interest and ability over the past couple of weeks too - LiAM now regularly reads words in ads on the tv, and Millie is asking more and more questions about words and letters. Caitlin is easily reading a chapter or more each night of her book in bed.

We went to Ivanhoe Pool with another homeschooling family - being school holidays they had a bit inflatable bouncy cushion up in the pool, which all the kids went on over and over. I tried it once - it was fun, but made me dizzy (bouncing and floating was a bit much for my head) so didn't go back - glad I did have one go though. Millie is now swimming small distances underwater without any help, she's improving quickly and calmly and naturally and it's very exciting to watch.

We played an epic game of Monopoly which is still not quite finished. LiAM took the strategy of only buying Park Lane and Mayfair and quickly getting hotels on them - worked pretty well although I managed to get hotels on a couple of other sets so we became fairly evenly matched. It was great watching the kids work on their mathematical concepts while they dealt with the money.

I had a minor medical procedure done on Thursday which will hopefully help with the gynaecological problems I've been having. The kids stayed overnight at a friend's place the night before, and Tony took Friday off work, and I've been looked after quite nicely while I've recovered. It's been lovely being able to sit and read or play games or use the computer and just get my strength back - I've been very very tired, I think being able to stop has given me the chance to really stop and rest and catch up after being exhausted for most of the year.

Friday, 26 June 2015

More birthdays and lots of activity

Sometimes when there's a lot going on, I find it a lot harder to write than when we are plodding along not doing anything out of the ordinary. The last couple of weeks have been a mix of big events and quieter days. Here's a bit of summary (in no particular order)

- LiAM turned 9. He had a lovely quiet day at home, playing with lego and playing Halo on the PS3, and playing with his Minecraft and Terraria figurines. He had a friend come over for a little while in the afternoon. For dinner we had a family meat pie and a family apple pie - his favourite tea, and some chocolate cake.
- We had a birthday party for LiAM. The kids played on the trampoline and with the lego and on their iPads and with soft toys (that was mainly Millie and her friends) and the adults chatted and relaxed - a very easy party to organise and to host.
- On a cold morning Millie and I saw hot air balloons taking off in the paddock next to our house. We walked down to watch them go from close up, and chatted to the ground crew. On the way back to the house we looked at the way the frost had formed on different types of leaves and blades of grass and the vines.
- We had an extremely cold morning, still below 0 at 10am (the morning of LiAM's party). There was ice everywhere outside which was lots of fun to explore.
- We have had 3 new chicks hatch. One of them died on the first day, the other two have survived that very cold night and morning and are being well looked after by their mother. One is black and one yellow and as always we can't believe how tiny and incredibly cute they are.
- The kids and I went to Bounce, finally, after talking about it since at least early last year. All four of us had a very fun time (I didn't jump, I wandered around watching and talking to the kids, and giving encouragement when they were trying something new and/or difficult (like Caitlin learning to jump up on to the wall in the performance trampoline area. She hasn't quite made it yet, but she made a lot of progress in this first session of trying)
- Caitlin had 2 performances with Victorian Youth Theatre. We all (And her friend S, and Grandma and Grandad) went and watched the first one, and F and I went to the 2nd one. As with last year, the productions were professional and very impressive, and Caitlin was great in her roles.
- We've been going to karate
- We've watched lots of movies
- We've started learning Auslan (Australian Sign Language)
- Caitlin and I have both (separately) learnt how to crochet a beanie, so we've been making those. I've also been crocheting head bands and I'm working on a scarf, Caitlin has been making beautiful flowers (she made one for each kid in her acting classes and took them in on the night of the last class)
- We've been to friend's houses and had friends visit here
- We've played with lego
- We've played big imaginary games with Millie's toys or LiAM's animals or the Skylanders or combinations of them all
- We've been to homeschool group
- We've been to the playground
- We've hung out at the library
- I've played the piano a lot
- I went to a rally, #bringbackasha, protesting against having babies sent back to offshore detention centres

It's the end of school term today so most of our regular activities will stop for a couple of weeks. As always at the end of term I am looking forward to some time with less scheduling and more going with the moment.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Millie is turning 6!

Today is Millie's 6th birthday!

She's currently watching 'Tinkerbell and the Secret of the Wings' which she received this morning - she's been wanting it desperately for weeks and is very excited to finally own it.

I'm trying to think of words to describe Millie as she turns 6 and nothing seems to do her justice. She is still tiny, like a little elf. She skips and runs as much as she walks. She loves cuddles and still enjoys being carried places, or going in the sling on someone's back. She has an amazing sense of humour and has recently started to get a lot more jokes, recognising word plays and abstract associations that make things funny.

Millie operates on her own time, and I have learnt a lot from her about living in the moment and assessing what is really important. She has strong interests and can focus on them for hours, and flits over things that don't interest her so much. She sees patterns everywhere and plays best when she can create a pattern or a system out of whatever she is doing. She currently loves My Little Pony (she got a box of ponies this morning!) and Tinkerbell and Littlest Pet Shop and Skylanders and Toy Story, as well as doing lots of pretend play where someone is usually an animal. She loves puzzles, listening to books, watching movies, going on the swing, jumping on the trampoline, playing with Winky the cat, playing on the iPad or her iPod or the computer, playing Minecraft and Terraria and a whole range of other games. Her favourite animal is the zebra. Her favourite song is Roar by Katy Perry. She loves to dance and often sings to herself while she is playing.

I really love her confidence in herself. She knows what she wants and asks for it. She is sensitive to noise and will do what she can to protect herself when she feels overwhelmed. It's great to see that while there are many things that make her feel uncomfortable, she is learning more ways to manage herself and her environment so that she is not impacted too much.

I feel so blessed every day to have Millie in our lives, she keeps us all grounded and creates so much happiness and I love everything about her.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Home and a concert

I wrote this last week and didn't get back to it to post it...

Tuesday was another day spent at home, although that wasn't originally the plan. We were going to meet some other unschoolers at a park day, however the weather was pretty wet and wild so the meet was cancelled and we decided to stay cozily at home. We watched some TV and played on the iPad and LiAM and Millie played more lego games. In the afternoon we had some friends come over. LiAM and A played on their iPads and Millie and J played lego and jumped on the trampoline. Caitlin skyped with friends and played Minecraft.

In the evening Caitlin and I headed in towards the city. I dropped her at a friend's house for a sleepover and I met my sister at RRR radio station for a Live to Air session by Tim Rogers and the Bamboos.  It was a great gig, fantastic music and wonderful as always to see Tim Rogers. I was astounded to realise he is only 2 years older than me - I hadn't realised he was so young when I used to go and see You Am I play at Newcastle Uni in the early 90s. After the show I went back to F's place, had a play and a cuddle with T - and watched him practice his new walking skill! - then had dinner and dessert with F & J.

The rest of the week was pretty busy and then last Sunday we went camping in the King Valley for 5 days. I will write all about our trip at - I didn't write anything while we were away, I spent the time hanging out by the river and enjoying having very little electronic communication.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Perfect start to the week

I was away at an ABA conference over the weekend, so yesterday the kids and I were all in need of some down time and reconnecting time. We had a really lovely day at home, all doing things together and individually as the mood took us, and it all flowed really well.

I spent time checking my email, reading my book (Blue Lily, Lily Blue, the 3rd book in the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater), learning Spanish, playing the piano, doing bits and pieces of housework, chatting on the phone, reading bits of LiAM's game for him, talking to the kids about the games they were playing & shows they were watching, painting with Millie, cleaning the blocked drain in the shower with Caitlin, playing Minecraft (Pixelmon) with Millie, and playing Titan on the iPad on my own and with Tony(Titan is a fantasy board game that Tony and I both played a lot in our younger years, and we get it out occasionally now. The kids and I have been playing and LiAM in particular was so excited about it and finding it frustrating to wait to play when either Caitlin or I were not available. So I found an iPad version and it is very accurate and means we can all have a play on our own even if the others are not available).

Caitlin visited our neighbours a couple of times, on her own and with the other 2 kids, rode her bike, skyped with friends, played Minecraft (with friends), made loom band present charms, watched a Disney version of A Christmas Carol, helped me unblock the shower drain, painted with Millie (we all did butterflies), played with the cat.

Millie played Minecraft, watched Liam play Plants v Zombies Garden Warfare, played with her stuffed toys, played duplo lego dinosaurs and horses, visited our neighbour, helped us play Titan, painted lots of butterflies.

LiAM played Titan, played Plants v Zombies Garden Warfare, helped Tony and I with our Titan game, discussed all the games and the strategies he was using in a lot of detail, played Duplo lego dinosaurs and horses with Millie, visited our neighbours and went for a run.

There was conversation flowing on and off all day, and everyone seemed to have enough downtime and time alone to feel recharged, and enough time playing with other people to feel connected. It was my favourite kind of day, a home day with everyone doing their own thing and interacting and co-operating without any pressure.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Fun Run

Yesterday we took part in a Fun Run/Walkathon to raise money for Hicci, a local inter-church community group, which took place at Maroondah Dam near Healesville.

Caitlin had seen flyers about it several weeks ago, and was very keen to take part in the run. I knew that I wasn't up to running 6km (or even a part of that), and she was happy to do it on her own. I had some concerns about what might happen if she hurt herself or something went wrong, and she talked through them all with me and we came up with solutions that we were both happy with. She wrote my mobile number on her arm so that someone could call me if necessary. I decided to do the walkathon with Millie and LiAM, so she figured that if she had enough, she could sit and wait until I got to her. We also didn't know if the organisers would let her run without an adult - when we arrived at the start we realised that several other kids were running alone, and that there would be officials along the way and a crowd of people running so it felt quite safe. LiAM had decided in the morning that he would run with Caitlin as well.

The kids set off in the group of runners, quite happily. Millie and I registered for the walk, and wandered around playing near the river until it was time for the walkers to leave. Millie walked with me all the way up the ramp to the top of the dam wall. It's quite a climb, and once at the top she asked to go in the sling. I popped her up and we walked the rest of the way to Donnelly's Weir, chatting all the way. It was great having that time with her, walking at my pace and observing and discussing all the things we saw - the dam and how reservoirs work, the trees and plants, the path we were walking on, the purpose of the fun run, lots of 'what if' conversations which Millie is great at. My shoes are not the greatest for walking in (they used to be, before they got old and started falling apart - time for new runners I think) and I had Millie sitting a bit too low on my back because she wanted me to put our water bottles in my pockets so the strap was below the pockets - and up and down those hills started to hurt before too long. It was a beautiful walk though and I did enjoy it despite the discomfort (and it was easier to walk with Millie on my back than to walk at her pace, given that I wanted to get to the end to see if the other kids were ok).

Millie walked to the top of this wall before she jumped up into the sling
Eventually I ran into Caitlin coming back the other way (it was a 3km run/walk to Donnelly's Weir, then back the same way). She seemed happy and still full of energy, and told me that LiAM had gotten bad blisters and couldn't walk anymore so had gotten a lift back in the Hicci car. I wanted to turn around straight away and head back, but it was very important to Caitlin to keep going by herself and she said I was nearly at the turn around point so I should keep going. I did keep going and argued with myself the whole way about whether it would be better to turn back. I was really worried that he would be upset and by himself, and I was close to an hour away even if I turned back straight away. In the end I decided it was better to get to the check point and talk to the officials there about how LiAM was. Once we reached the check point, Millie said she wanted to go home. There was a couple in their 80s who had decided not to walk back so the car was coming for them, and I decided Millie and I would also go back in the car. It took a while to arrive and I was getting a bit anxious - the lady at the check point though said that LiAM had been fine when he left.

We got back to the starting point and LiAM was happily sitting at the finish line with Caitlin, who had completed the run (she had run, walked and rested as needed throughout the 6km). He had received first aid (a bandaid on his large blister) and now could walk fine and wasn't upset at all - a big relief. He'd had his free sausage from the sausage sizzle, and went straight up to get 2 for me and Millie. He showed us where to get our show bags from, and was in a great mood. Caitlin was thrilled to have finished the course as well, it was a big achievement. We bought some drinks and a large cookie from the food van after we'd had our sausages, then headed into town.

I'm so glad that I was able to let the kids be independent in the race and push their own limits and that I was able to trust that they knew their own comfort levels. Even when things went wrong for LiAM he was able to speak up and work out a solution, and it didn't ruin his day or his fun. None of that could have happened if I had insisted that they walk with me, which is what the fearful part of me wanted to do. Caitlin is already planning how she can prepare for next year - and it was interesting to see that she approaches these things in a similar way to me - she was happy to go in with no preparation, and see what it was like, see where her weaknesses were, and then improve on those for next time.

We stopped to get a birthday present for LiAM's friend whose party is on Sunday, then went home and collapsed a bit, everyone was quite tired and starting to feel sore. I had a lovely long bath while the kids watched some movies and TV (Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy, and then ABC3). I finally finished reading 'The Book Thief' (which I really struggled through, I found the language hard to navigate, and it took me a long time to really care about the story) and then started 'Divergent' which I didn't want to stop reading, I am really loving it. When I got out of the bath, Caitlin trimmed my hair for me - lots of dead, dry ends after taking my dreadlocks out, and now it feels much healthier. The kids played on the computer and iPads through the afternoon, and then outside on the trampoline for a while.

Caitlin cooked dinner - spaghetti bolognese, and we watched Heartland and then Sword Art Online, both shows that we have been waiting all week to see, while Millie watched another Tinkerbell movie (loving having 2 TVs!!!). I read Eldest to the kids for a while, then finally headed to bed (where I read Divergent for a while longer....)

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Another busy week

One of the extra exciting things about seeing Cinderella at the movies on Monday was the 20 minute Frozen Fever film that showed beforehand. It was incredibly exciting to go back into the world of Frozen, and see all the characters again having a new little adventure.

It was a pretty big day all up. Before the movie we went and bought Caitlin's karate outfit - she's been training all of term 1 in casual clothes, so this was long anticipated. After the movie LiAM had a go at the claw machine to see if he could win a prize - and he snagged a plush Oh (from the movie Home). It was incredibly exciting. He and Caitlin had another turn each and got lollies this time, but the Oh doll is very much prized and loved. We with to the Pancake Factory and shared a Chocolate Chip Pancake which was delicious! From there we went to Costco and stocked up on some things we were low on, and bought some delicious gelato, and some lollies and chips in bulk - good to get the shopping done, although quite exhausting. By the time we got home everyone was quite knackered.

Tuesday we spent at home and for most of the morning we were all a bit cranky and restless - it happens when we haven't had enough quiet home time lately. We picked up in the afternoon though, it felt a lot calmer. Millie and I had a lot of fun playing with the bicarb and vinegar and food colouring again, and found new ways to make explosive painting work effectively (one of the things I did was to drip food colouring directly onto paper, then cover it in bicarb, then drip vinegar onto it (I'd found a dropper which meant we could control the amount of vinegar we were using). It was a very cool effect, with the bicarb bubbling and then the colour spreading through it.)]

Wednesday we had a quite morning at home then went to Yarra Junction pool in the afternoon, we hadn't been swimming for a while and we all enjoyed it. For most of the time we were there we had the centre to ourselves! We went to Yarra Glen library after the pool and hung out there and at the park, joined by S & V who were coming for a sleepover, until the big girls had Guides at 6. This was their first night in the senior guides, which was quiet exciting. We dropped them off and the other kids and I went home for an hour or so, then back to pick them up. They really loved it. Once home again the kids played Minecraft and went and lay on the trampoline with blankets and chatted and looked at the sky, then watched Dance Academy till they fell asleep.

Thursday the kids played more minecraft, and with kinetic sand, and went to visit our neighbour. We went to homeschool group in the afternoon, where we made Anzac Biscuits. It was a fun group, a few  families who've only come a few times were there, as well as lots of regulars, and it worked really well. Exciting to see the group growing and people starting to come more often. The kids also played Minecraft and Terraria and Lego and with some of the other toy library toys, and rode scooters and ripstiks etc in the park and played on the playground. Once most people had left the kids were hanging out in the library or at the skate park, and we were waiting at the park for karate to start - the kids decided not to come to karate so they went up to R's house with her kids, and I went to karate alone - it was my last training session before my grading, so I really wanted to go and practise, and it was fun and useful, I cleared up a lot of questions I had about the moves and practised effectively and felt much more prepared (although still incredibly nervous!)

Thursday, 16 April 2015


On Monday we went to see Cinderella at the movies. Caitlin and I were very excited, Millie happy to go and LiAM not sure - he didn't enjoy it overly but the girls and I loved it. I was impressed with the detail and the direction, and thought Cate Blanchett was a captivatingly nasty step-mother, and Helena Bonham-Carter a delightfully eccentric fairy godmother.

Over the past year we have watched many movies based on the Cinderella story. We started with the original Disney animation, and then have borrowed many live action movie versions which tell the story in different ways. I'm amazed at the number of Cinderella based movies there are, and the more I watch, the more I become captivated by the story, and the more I realise it's not just a nice rags-to-riches story.

Two things in particular really stand out to me about the story - Cinderella is downtrodden and treated badly, and then she starts to stand up for herself and is able to break free of that - usually with the help of friends, but I guess it's the prince character noticing her and falling in love with her that boosts her self-esteem and gives her the courage to stand up to her stepmother and make some changes. I think I had always thought of her as just luckily meeting someone rich who takes her out of her undesirable situation, but it's more that she finally fights for better treatment and is able to break free that way. The prince is really just a nice bonus after that - her freedom is even more important. She also spends a lot of the story feeling like she's not worthy of the prince, and at the end is so much more confident and does believe in herself enough to believe that he could love her.

The other thing is the incredible romance of the prince being so determined to find this girl. He is willing to be ridiculed by his friends, advisors and his family, in order to track her down and be with her. I'd not realised before how brave that is, how much he goes against everything he's been taught so far. And it is SO romantic. He really loves her (or trusts that he will love her) and he prioritises that over everything else.

Both of those aspects to the story are so inspirational and I think could really make a difference to people who are struggling with their own self-esteem or being prevented from following their dreams. I feel movies can make a big difference and remind people that we can do things that are scary and it's sometimes worth giving it a go.

It's been great watching so many versions of the tale - we've had lots of discussions about what things are always the same in each version, and which bits are changed - and how those changes alter the story. I'm also really loving the fact that by exploring the story a bit further, my opinion on it has changed completely and I'm seeing it much more deeply than I ever did. I used to dismiss it a bit as a light, frothy, Disney tale, and now I love it and it's brought us so much joy and learning.

(Our favourite modern Cinderella adaptations are A Cinderella Story with Hillary Duff, and Another Cinderella Story with Selena Gomez)

Monday, 13 April 2015

A weekend at home

LiAM and Millie were up reasonable early on Saturday and joined me at the computer. Tony was going to go and buy some chainsaw accessories so he could cut wood for our fire, and he took the 2 kids with him to have breakfast at McDonalds and then get his supplies. Caitlin, S & V were still asleep until the phone rang shortly before 9 - perfect timing, as we were leaving at 9.20 to take V to a hair cut appointment. The kids got up and quickly dressed and ate, and we were in Yarra Glen on time to meet R. The girls decided to walk back to S's house to watch some more Dance Academy, and I went to the post office then bought myself a Chai Latte and headed up to open the Toy Library for the morning.

As I was putting the sign out Tony and the other kids arrived. Millie and Tony played a great game with one of the sets of animals, and LiAM watched YouTube videos, while I did a bit more stocktake and chatted to the guy who came to return toys. Once our duty was over Tony took the other kids home and Caitlin arrived back from S's. We made a quick stop at the op shop - and found some kitchenware for our camper trailer, the full set of the Fifty Shades books, and a whoopee cushion (it gets me every time, we have definitely gotten our dollar's worth of value from it already!)

Tony played with Millie for a while, then went to cut wood. I had bought 'TinkerBell and the Lost Treasure' on DVD from the Op Shop, so we watched that (twice). Millie had a bath in the middle of the 2 movies, playing with a water toy (a boat and a water wheel and pump and some other blocks that fit neatly in the boat) that we'd borrowed from the toy library.

Caitlin played her fashion game on the iPad and the others played Minecraft and Terraria, and in the evening we watched Heartland - a new series about a horse ranch, this was the first time we'd watched it and Caitlin really loves it. Millie played with Lego for a while, and also a game where she was an ocelot and I was a human who adopted her. Millie and I went to bed before the others and read a big pile of books together.

Yesterday we had LiAM's friend A come over as his family was taking his sister to the airport and he wasn't keen on the long drive. The kids played Minecraft and Terraria and jumped on the trampoline and played on the swings all day, quietly and with no arguments. The girls joined in when they felt like it and did their own thing at other times. All the kids popped over next door to see our neighbour, they helped Tony unpack the wood from the trailer, then he took them for a ride in the trailer and in the Kabota, down around the dam. At one point when the kids were all occupied Tony and I had time to play a game of Letters and Numbers and just hang out together chatting for a while afterwards. Hasn't happened much in the last couple of months, it was great for him to have the whole weekend off work (and baseball starts next week so he will be away on Saturdays again from now on). In the afternoon Caitlin and I sorted my tea collection - I had 2 shelves of boxes and packets of tea, shoved in there when we moved in and not really touched since, except for the popular ones which were all over the place. So Caitlin labelled everything for me with her label maker, and I sorted and rearranged and put things in boxes that can slide in and out of the shelf - so I can access the stuff at the back and I actually know what is in there now. It was really fun working with Caitlin and made the job much easier - and it's exciting to feel not overwhelmed by my flavoured tea collection and actually feel like drinking some of it now - I think every time I thought about it before it felt too hard to find anything and so I didn't try.

LiAM and I took A home in the evening and the boys had a bit more of a play there while I had a cuppa with L, then home for a roast dinner, another episode of Heartland, then the movie Space Jam and some Star Wars Clone Wars.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

A double sleepover

Despite going to bed very late the night before the kids were all awake by about 9am (some much earlier). They continued to play Minecraft in S's world. Caitlin was feeling a bit tired and was getting emotional quite easily, so she had a shower and woke up a bit, then went to see if our neighbour was home. She came back to get S and they rode bikes over to visit. I got a call a while later to say Caitlin was feeling really dizzy and couldn't ride home, so I walked over and found her lying on the ground with the neighbours looking after her. I gave her some water and helped her take off the warmer parts of her clothes (it was 5 degrees when we woke up, but the sun warmed the day really quickly and it was getting hot) - she tends to over heat and get very dizzy so once she'd cooled off she felt a bit better and was able to slowly walk home.

She went to bed and had a good rest for a few hours while the others played Minecraft, watched The Lego Movie, and a Pokemon movie, and some Dance Academy, played on the trampoline, and had pokemon battles with their pokemon cards. Caitlin joined the others later in the afternoon and seemed much better. She worked on her loom bands for a while and they all continued to flit between Minecraft and playing outside.

Someone mentioned the Anzac biscuits the girls had had at our neighbours in the morning, and the others wanted to go over and get some. I suggested we make our own, which everyone was happy with. The boys and Millie helped. I had talked up the excitement of the bicarb bit, where it fizzes up when we add it to the butter - but it didn't fizz and it was very disappointing! I said we could do some painting with bicarb and vinegar to get our fizz fix once the biscuits were cooking.

I took bicarb, vinegar, water, trays, paper, food colouring, spoons, cups, jugs and straws outside, and started by spreading bicarb in the bottom of a tray, then mixing some food colouring and vinegar in a cup, and dripping a bit into the tray - it fizzed up beautifully, lots of blue coloured bubbles. From there the kids and I all experimented in our own way, the boys tipped large amounts of different coloured vinegar into the tray and got large bubbles and mixed colours, the girls used smaller amounts and created more specific pictures, we tried putting the bicarb on the paper in a pattern then fizzing it up with vinegar, or painting with a bicarb, water and food colouring paint and then fizzing that, or just mixing it all together in small and large containers - it was a lot of fun and everyone did their own thing for as long as they felt like.

A great afternoon to be playing outside
Painting with bicarb paint
R arrived with hot chips to share for tea, so we had a picnic in the back yard - throwing the ball constantly for Buckley so he wouldn't join us on the picnic rug, and the kids played on the trampoline and swings in between eating chips and then Anzac biscuits. As it got colder they moved blankets and pillows and iPads out to the trampoline and played and talked out there for a while. Both kids decided to stay overnight again, so R and I had a cuppa and a chat then she went home alone. The kids watched an episode of Dance Academy then Tony put the football on. We watched the football and talked about it and played Minecraft and I went and had a bath and read my book (The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater - like everything else she's written, I find it very hard to put down). After the football the kids put Dance Academy on again. LiAM had taken himself to bed earlier and the others watched a few episodes then fell asleep in their beds in the lounge room.

Friday, 10 April 2015

The week after Easter

On Tuesday we went to see 'Penguins of Madagascar' at the Memo Hall in Healesville. We'd planned to see it a few times before - we chose to see Paper Planes instead the first time, and then the next 2 times we were going to see it at Bayswater Outdoor Cinema - and there was a big electrical storm the first time, and too much rain the 2nd time, so it was cancelled (we did manage to see Big Hero 6 at the Outdoor Cinema - it rained lightly all the way through the screening, but it was still a very fun way to watch a movie). So we thought we'd missed our chance to see the Penguins at the movies, then Caitlin discovered that it was showing these holidays in Healesville. We'd never been to a movie at the Memo, so it was another exciting adventure, and great being able to see a movie so close to home!

I'd been thinking the movie was at 2pm, then when I checked the schedule for the day I discovered it was at 11.30am that day (2pm on some other days). Luckily there was still time to get ready and get there - we'd been watching videos on Youtube and Skyping with friends so we wrapped that up and headed for the movie. The cinema set up was great - felt like a real movie theatre, and we all loved the movie. Very funny.

Afterwards we had hot chips at Caitlin's favourite fish and chip shop, then went to the library. It was a cold rainy day and hanging out in the library was a perfect activity. I ran into another homeschooling mum who has come to our group a couple of times, so had a chat with her about how things are going. LiAM's new friend K (another homeschooler who has just moved to Healesville, although I've known his Mum for a while) met us at the library, the boys played on the playstation, I chatted with his parents and played lego with Millie, Caitlin flitted between us and played with her iPad mini. The boys also rearranged all the cushions which is a fairly irresistible activity at Healesville library. After K left LiAM watched some youtube videos and we selected our books and DVDs and left the library when it closed at 5. We did a quick shop at Coles then headed home.

Tony had started work at 6am so was home around tea time - nice to have him here in the evenings again. We watched Captain America - The Winter Soldier - I enjoyed it, although thought the violence level was more personal and less fantasy-world than some of the other Marvel movies (I like the villains to be supernatural or alien or mechanical, rather than evil humans pretending to be good), Caitlin didn't watch it, she skyped with friends instead, LiAM and Tony enjoyed most of it. We read another chapter of Eldest before everyone went to bed.

Wednesday we had friends come over who we usually only see in school holidays. The girls played dress ups and Caitlin set up a picnic and an adventure for them to go on where they had to defeat the queen's evil sister. The boys played minecraft and jumped on the trampoline. Their mum bought plantains to share - none of us had eaten them before so that was exciting. I helped cook them, and Caitlin and I loved them, Millie and LiAM tried them and weren't so keen.

After our friends left we went to Yarra Glen library, LiAM watched videos and the girls played in the park and I read my book. The girls went up the street to visit friends of Caitlin and had a bit of a play there. When they came back Millie was trying to ride her scooter and finding it very frustrating - it was a freebie given to us when her previous scooter disappeared at the park one day, and she's never really liked it and has always found it hard to steer. We had a free evening, with Tony at baseball training, so when we left the library we headed for the shops to get a new scooter which I've been promising her for ages. We stopped at Hungry Jacks first as I had a voucher for a family deal for $20, so we ate there and had a bit of a play in the playground, then over to Kmart. We got a very cool scooter with a cat on it (!), a new lamp for our lounge room so we don't have to spend another winter in the semi-darkness (no ceiling lights in our lounge, dining or bedrooms - I'm gradually adding more light options to the house as I really don't like dim lighting), and clothes for the kids to wear to our friend's wedding next week. Oh and a couple of new Skylanders which made the outing more bearable for LiAM (new dresses were exciting enough for the girls).

Yesterday we had a quite morning at home then went to the library (again) to meet S &V who were coming home with us for a sleepover. We hung out at the library and park for a while, Millie and I played a game with the space shuttle toys at the library, the boys watched videos and LiAM rode his scooter for a while, Caitlin rode her RipStik and chatted with S, and Millie tried out her new scooter - and she loves it. We went to the IGA - shopping with 5 kids was interesting! then home. The kids all connected to the same Terraria world for a while, S was the mayor and everyone had jobs and they worked together to get things done. They were in and out to the trampoline and swings and playing various games on iPads, it was a very peaceful afternoon and evening. They played hide and seek for a while after dark. After tea there was more minecraft and terraria and then they decided to watch a movie - took a while for all 5 kids to agree - they watched Happily N'ever After and all except Millie slept in the lounge room.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Easter Weekend

Tony has had all 4 days of the Easter long weekend off work, it has been so wonderful (and also a bit weird) having home, in the mornings, in the evenings, through the day. He seems much more relaxed now too.

On Friday we had a quiet morning at home then LiAM and I went to a friend's place in the afternoon, and I took my friend H for a driving lesson, then stayed for a cuppa while LiAM played with the boys. On Friday night Caitlin's friend S came for a sleepover. The girls watched a couple of Hillary Duff movies and everyone played their iPads until they went to bed.

Saturday the girls worked on a slide show of photos from S's birthday party last month. She went home about 11.30 then we all went to Donnelly's Weir to meet Mum and Dad for an Easter picnic, after stopping at Coles on the way for supplies. It was a lovely lunch, and the kids played and explored around the top of the weir and in the edge of the (very cold) water. We had an impromptu easter egg hunt, then once the eggs were found, the kids and Grandad took it in turns to hide them again for the other 3 to find. LiAM found a big fallen tree to climb along, and with his brown and green clothes was well camouflaged into the bush by the time he got to the other end.

LiAM is at the other end of that tree somewhere...
Easter Egg hunt with Grandad
After lunch Tony, Caitlin and Dad walked to Maroondah Dam, while Mum and I drove the 2 cars over, with LiAM and Millie. The main carpark was VERY busy, but we parked further around, near the end of the Donnellys Weir track. The kids briefly explored the edge of the river, and I ran into a friend who I see quite regularly in random places, then Mum set off along the walking track to meet the others on their way. LiAM & Millie and I headed back to the playground, playing with some of the very cool bark from the gum trees on the way. LiAM had a bit of play then had had enough, and my back was hurting, so we lay on the picnic mat and played cards for a while. The others arrived shortly afterwards and Caitlin played with Millie for a while on the playground.

Back home for a quiet evening, with Tony watching the football, then at 9.20 we went outside and got comfortable on the trampoline to watch the lunar eclipse. We stayed out there until the full eclipse (the Blood Moon - very exciting as a Blood Moon happens occasionally in Terraria) at 11pm. It was a little chilly but we had blankets and lots of great conversation and laughs. It was incredible to watch the shadow pass across the moon and at different stages it reminded us all of different objects which sparked a lot of connections and conversation.

Once the eclipse had happened I went in and went to bed, the kids were fired up though so stayed up for a while in their room, making loom band creations from a new book Caitlin had borrowed from the library.

Everyone slept until after 7 on Easter morning, and the kids all waited very patiently until everyone was up and dressed and ready before they went out to the kitchen to see what the Easter Bunny had delivered. Everyone was happy and excited with their gifts - they each received a chocolate bunny, Caitlin got an egg in a Barbie cup, LiAM 2 eggs in an Avengers cup, Millie an egg with a My Little Pony snack box and drink bottle - which (unknown to the Easter Bunny) was EXACTLY what she'd wanted. Outside then for the Easter Egg hunt, lots of fun finding little eggs all over our very large yard. Once again everyone was happy with what they found, and after all were collected they happily traded with each other so no one had any flavours or types they didn't like. Chocolate for breakfast, and Millie had her drink bottle and snack box filled up, then everyone wandered off to play or loom or watch tv. Caitlin and I started cleaning up the dining room later in the morning, and we managed to clear the table and the floor so that we could eat dinner in there that night. Millie spent most of the day playing with Lego. LiAM watched tv and chatted to us.

Millie very excited about the Easter Bunny's offerings
Caitlin and her presents from the Easter Bunny
Easter Egg Hunt
LiAM after having sorted his eggs after the hunt
In the afternoon we had friends come over for Easter dinner (the same friends we saw on Friday). It was a relaxed evening, the kids all played well, the boys made a car and a cat out of bottles, boxes, sticky tape and foam, Millie and J played Lego and dress ups, O played with the dinosaurs, Caitlin made more loom band bracelet/ring hand pieces, the adults chatted and sampled wine and Tony cooked a magnificent baked dinner which everyone ate quite a bit of, and a tasty pudding for dessert.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

A quick trip away and a fun week

Last week the kids and I went to Ballarat for 3 nights, staying in our camper trailer. It was a very fun trip - great to actually get away during Vintage like I always plan to do but never quite seem to make it. I've blogged about half of it at and will get to the rest in the next couple of days I hope.

Since we've been back we've had a couple of quiet days at home, Caitlin has been to acting and the rest of us to the library, we've been to the toy library, a friend's 8th birthday party, Caitlin has had a sleepover at S's house, S and V have come here for a play, I've taken Caitlin and S shopping so that Caitlin could get some jodphurs, Caitlin has been on a 3 day horse camp and is filled with happiness and horsey knowledge and memories, Millie has been to Grandma's for 2 nights, LiAM has had a sleepover at V's, he and I have watched The Hobbit - Battle of the Five Armies (first time for me to see it, 2nd for LiAM, and he was fantastic at NOT telling me what was going to happen even though he finds that really difficult - he's so pleased I've seen it now so we can discuss it), he's had a new friend come to visit, and we've watched other movies, playing Minecraft, Terraria, Village Life, and lots of other iPad and computer games. I think we're all feeling recharged after our time away - and Tony had a day off on Sunday so we all got some time with him which is great. He and I went out for breakfast on Tuesday morning when all the kids were at their various sleepovers/camps - exciting that we managed to squeeze in a bit of time alone together during Vintage.

Looking forward to Easter now and hopefully Tony will have a couple of days off work.

Friday, 20 March 2015

It's OK not to finish

Yesterday morning I was at the computer and Millie came out into the lounge room and started playing, and I heard her say 'Good, finally it's just me and Mummy again!' - a great reminder of how much she treasures that time when she and I play together. So when she came in to sit on my lap and use the computer, I was quite happy to hand it over to her and chat to her while she played Minecraft, and help her spell things she wanted to type. I really enjoy my time alone in the mornings when it happens, checking my email and Facebook and browsing the internet. It has sometimes bothered me then when one of the kids gets up early and I don't have as much time by myself - but lately I've been enjoying it, however it works out. It is lovely having that quiet one-on-one time with whoever comes out first (usually Millie, sometimes LiAM, very occasionally Caitlin). Sometimes we play together, other times they play on the computer or iPad or put a movie on and I do my own thing next to them, while we share the experience. And it doesn't bother me like it used to if I don't end up finishing reading all my emails, or doing all the things I was planning to do - I can come back to it later, or the next day, or whenever - it's usually more fun to change direction and do what the kids want to do. (Occasionally I'll be working on something that someone else is waiting for, so I don't want to stop, and in those cases the kids are usually happy if I put a movie on until I'm finished and then they can have their turn on the computer).

It's the same during the day when I'm doing housework or sorting things out or reading or whatever I'm doing - if someone asks me to come and watch or come and play, I really try to say yes as much os the time as I can. What I'm doing can usually wait - spending time learning and exploring and playing with the kids is way more important than just about anything else, and I can always come back to the other activities. When I stop and play with the kids I've found it works best if I really do commit to playing, and be in the moment with them - if I'm still thinking about what I was doing and wondering when I can get back to it, then I'm distracted and not as fun a playmate, and I don't enjoying the playing or watching as much either.

I'm getting much more comfortable with the idea of not finishing tasks too - I can start something and get as much done as I manage, and if I'm interrupted for whatever reason that's fine. If I get back to it, great, if not, I can move it aside and finish it later, or let it go completely. I watch the kids do it all the time - work on something until they have had enough, then move on to another activity, without that stressful 'I Should finish this' feeling hanging over their heads. They are comfortable in doing what is important at the time, and not hanging on to activities because they were once important, but letting things go as priorities change. I like this, and as I practice it more myself I'm finding it quite liberating. Insisting on finishing something because we started it can stifle learning and interest and joy, and I'm not interested in doing that. The important things do get finished because there is motivation to come back to them, and those where interest has waned can be left and it doesn't matter. The learning happens in the doing of tasks, not the completion of them, and I love that I'm really learning how to enjoy and prioritise the process, not the end product.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Tony's day off

Tony had the day off yesterday. It's so great having him at home. In some previous years his day off could end up being quite stressful - I think I would spend all week hanging out for his day off, and have massive expectations for what we might achieve on that day, and then we'd both be tired and none of what I'd planned or hope for would happen, and I'd end up cranky. But that doesn't happen anymore (which is great!). I just love having him around, and I think I'm much better at not building up expectations, for myself or anyone else, and instead going with what happens on the day and what we all feel like.

Tony got up when Millie woke up, so I had a very rare sleep in - it was wonderful. When I got up, LiAM, Tony and Millie were playing Terraria together, then Millie came and played Minecraft while LiAM played Village Life. I pottered around and chatted with the kids and Tony, then he went and had a nap. Once he woke up he and the girls went to pick up the trampoline we had bought on ebay - our mat had died, and we'd bought a new one but it didn't fit properly, so buying a cheap 2nd hand trampoline just like our old one seemed like the best way to go. They also did an Aldi grocery shop so we're nicely stocked up on food now too!!! LiAM stayed home with me - we watched Wolfblood together for a while, then I went into my room to read my book (the 2nd book in the Fifty Shades series - I didn't know whether I'd like them but I really really love them) and really enjoyed having the down time. It was funny, in the morning I kept thinking 'after I've done the dishes and put the washing on etc I can go and read my book). But the whole time I was trying to do housework I was distracted and edgy because I just wanted to read. Once I let myself go and relax and read I felt great - I finished my book (after stopping and getting lunch for LiAM and myself) and then felt nurtured and recharged, and happily came out and did the housework I'd wanted to do, quickly and with enjoyment. A lesson I hope I can remember in the future! Nurture myself first, the housework will be more fun when I'm feeling great, rather than slogging through it because I feel like I have to...

Once the girls and Tony came home Millie and I played with lego for a while. Caitlin started making labels with her new label maker, lots of fun for her discovering how to use it and all the options she could use. After another nap Tony and Caitlin and I set up the new trampoline (actually we used the new springs on our current trampoline and that worked perfectly) and the girls had a long awaited jump. Tony and I packed up the camper trailer - it had been up in our yard for a while - it kept getting wet before we had a chance to pack it up - and then I hooked it up to my car and reversed it into our carport!!! Felt very proud of myself, and more confident now that I could take the kids to a caravan park myself and get the camper trailer in position and set up.

Millie and I played a chasing hiding game while I got the washing in, then we all played iPad games, chatted, watched TV and hung out for a while while Tony cooked some butter chicken. I also talked to a friend on the phone. We all ate together at the table then had apple pie and cream for dessert. I went to bed and the others joined me shortly where I read a couple of chapters of Eldest (book 2 in the Inheritance series). The big kids stayed up for a while longer but were happy to let the rest of us go to sleep.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

A quiet Friday

I have been unwell lately and this has helped me cut back even further on my level of busyness (I never know how to spell that word - feels like it should be business, but that has a different meaning...). I'm paying more attention to how each of us are feeling and making more decisions on the day (or in the moment) than in advance, and it feels good. Scary sometimes, like I SHOULD be able to do more or plan ahead more - but that's just anxiety talking and most of the time I can sit back and realise that I'm feeling anxious, let it pass over me, then get on with doing what really does feel right.

Yesterday I was up early enough to have a bit of time on the computer alone, then Millie joined me. She played on one of her colouring in and printing out websites while I read a library book about the making of The Hobbit movies - I am constantly amazed at the level of thought, creativity and expertise that went into those movies. I still haven't seen the first one all the way through (that's on my list for trying to get done this week) and haven't seen the 3rd one, but reading these books has me all excited about watching all of them again. We played on the iPad for a while, Township and Village Life, then the other kids got up and played with us for a while too. Millie and LiAM then played Minecraft on the computer while Caitlin continued to set up her new iPad Mini (she lost hers late last year, and we purchased a replacement for her this week - very exciting for her to have her own device again!). She then put on Nim's Island and the kids watched it several times. I was in the middle of doing dishes when I felt like having a bath. Initially I thought 'no, I need to finish these dishes first', and then was feeling frustrated at the sink and no longer enjoying doing them. So I realised that having a bath was important, if that was what I felt like doing. The kids were happy with Minecraft and movies, I made sure they all had something to eat, then I went and jumped in a deep, warm bath with my book and had a wonderful relaxing soak. The kids came in and out when they had questions or just to reconnect, and I am so glad I listened to myself instead of sticking with what my anxiety felt like I should do. Afterwards I had a long chat on the phone with a local friend, and then a long chat with a friend who lives further away, a wonderful friend who I haven't spoken to in a while, so that was a lovely surprise and a very nurturing way to spend my early afternoon.

By this stage Tony was awake (he's on night shift at the moment) and he and I folded up some stuff we'd had hung up in the yard to dry. He and Caitlin went for a bike ride and visited our neighbour, who earlier in the week had cooked dinner for us when she heard that I wasn't well. Millie and I played a game which involved pirates and dragons and mothers and daughters which was fun. When Caitlin came back she and I continued watching the BBC series of Pride and Prejudice - I'm so excited to be introducing her to my favourite story ever, and she's enjoying it so far. Tony watched for a while with us too, I don't think he's seen it before so he also enjoyed starting to understand the story.

Suddenly I realised it was time to get ready so we all rushed around a bit then headed off - Tony to work and the rest of us to take Caitlin to acting. We got there only a tiny bit late, listening to our current audio CD on the way (Itch, by Simon Mayo. Very suspenseful and funny). We dropped her off then went down to the shops near Croydon library to get a milkshake - which we couldn't find, so we bought some snacks at the Reject Shop and some chocolate milk and yoghurt from Woolworths, and sat near the pond in front of the library to eat and drink. When we were done we went into the library and watched YouTube videos, played on the computer, read books (I read to Millie, and read my own book), borrowed books and DVDs, and had a very relaxing evening. Once the library closed at 8, we popped over to the pizza shop to get pizza for tea, then went back and picked Caitlin up. She's normally starving after acting, even with having a sandwich during her break, so she was thrilled to have pizza waiting for her in the car. We got home about 9.10, and I put all the animals to bed/fed them, cleared the kitchen table, gave LiAM his medicine, got toothbrushes for everyone, then went to lie down and read my book. The kids were playing one of the My Angela mini games on their iPads - a Tetris type game which is quite challenging and I helped them out a couple of times, but between the 3 of them they managed most levels. Eventually they all came into my room, and I read a couple of (very exciting, battle focussed) chapters of Eragon, until I was dozing while I read. Millie was asleep by then and the other 2 went to their beds where Caitlin read Garfield comics to LiAM and they talked and laughed until they went to sleep.