Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Birthday parties and days at home

I definitely think this year is going to be easier than last year - I seem to have a better handle on an active/resting balance, and we're not rushing around much at all. I also think I'll be better at saying no when new opportunities come up, if those opportunities are going to have a high energy cost. Or saying yes, while reorganising some other things so that we can do the new thing and not be worn out by still trying to do everything else.

Last week we seemed to find a good balance of being out and being at home. Monday I had an appointment in Healesville, so we met some friends at the library and the kids played with them while I did my thing, then we all went to Queens Park, rode scooters and Ripstik and had a paddle in the creek. Once our friends left we called in to Healesville Pool - I didn't feel up to swimming so I put Millie's backpack on her and the 3 kids had a fun swim while I watched. I had felt too tired to go but by not swimming myself it was actually quite manageable, and we managed grocery shopping afterwards without any stress.

Tuesday we spent at home, watching movies, playing Minecraft, playing lego, playing the piano, playing snakes and ladders and ludo and chinese checkers (by the usual rules and by Millie's made up on the go rules - both were really fun). It was an unexpected day at home, we did originally have plans to visit a friend, which didn't work out, and I'm glad in the end that we had the down time.

Wednesday was my nephew's 1st birthday. We went to Lilydale to buy his birthday present (a helmet to wear when he uses the Balance Bike his parents gave him, and a book each from the kids) and to get pokemon card starter kits for my kids - they had saved up half the money each and I happily provided the other half so that they each got a kit and their games can be more meaningful. Then into my sister's place to hang out for a bit and give T his presents, had birthday cake, then we all (including Mum and Dad) went to a Greek restaurant for dinner. I've been meaning to show F how to wrap T on her back, so I put him on my back for the walk to the restaurant (I love having a baby on my back, and he was quite happy as long as he could see his mummy) and she wore him home. The meal was delicious and it was great having some family time all together (minus Tony though cos he was at work). Back to F's where we chatted and the kids played Pokemon and then home once T went to bed.

Thursday we had Homeschool Group in Yarra Glen. Quite a few families there again, and we did water activities on a hot sunny day. We transferred water between 2 glasses using nothing but paper towel, and then experimented with how it was different if we put food dye in the water (it seemed to go at slightly different speeds). We filled glasses with water and put cardboard on top and flipped them over - and the cardboard stayed on! And we made the water life cycle in a bag - coloured water in ziplock bags which then got taped to a window and you can see evaporation, condensation and precipitation. The kids also played board games, did some craft, rode scooters, played on the swings, played on their iPads and chatted a lot. (The parents chatted a lot too). My kids and I had chicken bread rolls in the park for dinner, then went to karate. Millie wasn't keen to go this week then changed her mind at the last minute, and joined in for a few minutes. I was going to sit out with her but a friend stayed to watch so I was able to participate which was great because I enjoy it so much.

Friday we had a very restful day at home, playing iPad games and watching movies, then we took Caitlin to her first acting class of the year. We dropped her off, where she was very excited to see all her friends again, then the other 2 and I went to Croydon to get dim sims, spring rolls, yoghurt and M&Ms for dinner. We did a little bit of shopping - including at The Full Pantry, my favourite whole foods shop, which was unexpectedly still open so I was able to stock up on things I'd run out of - then went to Croydon library. We finished our food in the park out the front, then spent an hour and a half in the library, watching youtube videos, reading, playing on the computer, borrowing books etc. Picked Caitlin up - she had a wonderful time and enjoyed being in the Intermediate Training group this year instead of Juniors - and home to read some more of Eragon and eventually go to sleep.

Saturday I had a doctor's appointment and a friend came over to be with the kids while I went - she and her kids stayed all day and it was lovely, we hadn't had much time to chat lately and it was great to really catch up, and the kids all played well all day - Terraria, Minecraft, Lego, on the swings, Pokemon, with soft toys etc. Tony actually was home before dark - the first time in 2 weeks, it was a very pleasant surprise to have him around for some of the evening.

Sunday we had a birthday party to go to and for various reasons I hadn't bought presents or organised costumes for the Minecraft theme yet - so we went to Lilydale (Tony had a day off for the first time in 2 weeks and Millie stayed home with him) and got LiAM a Diamond Sword (made of foam) and light blue top/dark blue pants so that he could be Steve from Minecraft. Caitlin bought cat's ears and tail so she could be an ocelot, and we got a dragon costume for Millie. Home and then quickly into costume - Millie was way too hot in her costume on a 36 degree day (I thought she would be, but felt much happier in providing her the costume and letting her make the choice rather than making it for her) so she changed into a skirt with flowers on it and decided she could be a Minecraft Rose. The party was at Hedge End Maze and theire were lots of organised, Minecraft themed, activities for the kids to do, and a great Minecraft cake (made by the birthday boy's dad) and despite the heat everyone had a great time. After the party we stayed at the venue for a while and did some of the mazes and puzzles ourselves, then headed home for a very quiet evening

Monday, 16 February 2015

A weekend at home

We've had a few quiet days at home over the weekend and Friday, and it's been lovely. Interesting though how different those days can feel, even though they might look the same on the surface (just hanging out at home playing and reading and talking).

Friday felt like the perfect home day to me. There was nowhere else I'd rather be and nothing that I'd rather be doing than whatever I was doing at any given time. Really being able to go with what the kids and I want to do makes a massive difference to how I feel about my day - when I get caught up in (my) anxiety about whether we 'should' be doing something or not, it impacts greatly on how happy and content I feel about the day (Saturday was more like that).

On Friday I was up early and went for a walk, watered my plants etc. Tony has been starting work at 7, so it's easy for me to get up at 6 when his alarm goes off, rather than waking myself and lying there for a while wondering if I should try to get more sleep or get up and get going. I had a bit of time to myself in the morning, then the kids got up and we were all in a good mood. We played lego - the kids built and played games with their creations, I played a bit and spent a lot of time sorting the lego table (everything had become all mixed up, and we'd been storing other things on the table as well - that's all cleared now). We watched movies - Barbie as the Island Princess, and Mumma Mia (I hadn't seen it before and realised I knew NOTHING about it other than the fact that it contained ABBA songs. I quite enjoyed it, although I think it would be much better as a stage show than a movie). We played Minecraft and Terraria - individually and together throughout the day. We played other iPad games, again sometimes as a group, sometimes alone. We read books - I'm reading Eragon to LiAM, and the girls listen when they feel like it. I read other library books as well. I tidied things up in between playing with the kids, we had lots of great conversations, everything went smoothly. In the evening we were planning to go and see the Penguins of Madagascar at Bayswater Outdoor Cinema, but there was a thunderstorm so the event was cancelled. We were all disappointed, although I was happy to stay home. I suggested we invite our friends over who we were planning to meet there - they also mainly felt like staying home, except for Caitlin's friend S, who came for a sleepover. The girls chatted and played on the swings and played Terraria and watched Mumma Mia again, LiAM joined them for a while. They went to bed after I did, but I don't think they stayed up as late as they sometimes do.

A lot of rain came with the thunderstorm on Friday night (yay, rain! We have had very little this summer) and it was still raining on Saturday morning. Caitlin had wanted to take her friend to meet our neighbour, E - she lives next door by herself and loves having the kids come to visit. They can easily walk or ride there through the front of our property. The rain made this trip more difficult, and S was going home early as she had things on that day, so Caitlin started the day feeling a bit disappointed. I was feeling anxious as well, not about anything in particular, just a general all round anxiety, so even though we did many of the same things we'd done the day before, it didn't run as smoothly. I think I was trying too hard to make things better for Caitlin because she was disappointed, but also wanted to have an easy day, and it got a bit tense. It was still a pretty good day though. We played and sorted more lego, played Minecraft, played cards (Go Fish, and Up and Down the River), Millie watched more Barbie movies on the computer. LiAM played Pacman 2 on the Playstation.  The kids went next door to see E after it stopped raining, and they decided to write letters to her grandkids who live in America. They came home and wrote the letters and Caitlin rode back over to drop them off, and fell off her bike on the way back. She has a sore wrist and ankle and hip but no bad injuries. Tony came home late in the evening from work and watched the cricket, while Caitlin and LiAM and I took one of our broody chickens (and her eggs and nesting box) to a friend's house, as they would like more chickens and we have quite a few at the moment!

Yesterday was calmer again. I was able to say yes more easily to things the kids asked me to do (playing games, food they'd like me to prepare for them etc) - when I'm anxious I find it harder to say yes, even if I'm happy to do it. I am just more distracted and can't concentrate as easily - so I'm hoping to work on that, staying focussed on our home life when I'm anxious, instead of resenting the fact that I can't hide away in a corner somewhere which is what I feel like doing. I also find it helps to do lots of nurturing things like reading a book, playing on the iPad, sorting my photos - really doing what I WANT to be doing instead of running around doing housework when I'm anxious - and from there it's also much easier to say YES when the kids want me to do something with them. So yesterday, Tony was at work again (these 7 day work weeks are tough!), and we stayed home and watching movies (Island Princess again), played horses, read Batman comics, read Eragon, played on the iPad - lots of Township yesterday, me playing with the kids watching, read other library books, a bit of lego, the kids visited E again. Oh and we buried one of our little chicks who died yesterday - that was sad for all of us, one of the aspects of having animals that is less enjoyable, but also a useful way to increase understanding about life and death and impermanence and so on.

It was a hot day and we planned to go to the dam for a swim, but with no shade down there I prefer to leave it until the sun is low in the sky. We wanted to pull our camper trailer out to see if any rain had gotten through the cover (it's been damp after rain before) so Caitlin and I had a go at it while Tony was at work. It was hard going with just the 2 of us, and it was SO hot in the tent and I got a bit flustered a couple of times (and even a bit panicky when it kind of collapsed on me while I was in there) but we got it up properly - great to know we can do it without Tony, so I know I can take the kids away by myself if we want to go away during Vintage. After that we had a good rest, watched Phineas and Ferb for a while, then went to the dam for a lovely swim as the sun was setting. The water was a beautiful temperature (mainly) and Tony came home from work and joined us for a while. Back home once it was dark, for showers and getting ready for bed. The kids downloaded a new game onto the computer and played it for a while. I found a frog on the driveway when I took the bin out so we all went back out and looked at it for a while, and it surprised us by jumping quite a distance every time we stopped shining the torch on it. Then to bed, where I read more Batman comics (I'm enjoying them too, especially the chapters with Green Arrow - he's funny, and I love his relationship with Batman) and more of Eragon. I went back outside after that to find the cat who'd been out all day, I eventually enticed her in (well actually I pounced on her and carried her in by the scruff of her neck) and finally got to bed just before midnight.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Movies, doctor and library

One of the advantages (there aren't many so I am grateful for the few that exist) of Tony working long hours (or playing baseball on a Monday evening during the summer months) is that the kids and I have less time pressure. It's not that during the regular hours part of the year I rush home every afternoon to be here when he gets home from work, more that if Tony is at home we'd like to be there with him, and we usually eat dinner together so it makes sense to actually be at home and get it ready and eat and so on. But when he's not going to be at home throughout the evening at all, we can stay out if we are enjoying something, we can pick up dinner wherever we are, or come home late and eat then if we're not too hungry.

On Monday we didn't get home until 8.30 after a very long day out - it was nice not to feel like I wanted to rush the kids in the evening to leave Croydon library where we were hanging out, we stayed until it closed then it was a fairly easy transition, to the car then home and had leftovers for tea. We all love going to the library and spending hours there, usually though I feel like we've got somewhere to be afterwards and I spend a chunk of the time there trying to get everyone ready to leave. On Monday the kids watched YouTube videos, browsed the books and DVDs and CDs and borrowed what they liked the look of, and played games on the computers set up in the kids' section of the library. They hadn't been to Croydon before - I've been a few times while Caitlin is at acting - it might even be my favourite of the Eastern Regional Libraries. Before and after we were in the building the kids watched the ducks in the pond, and Caitlin rode her Ripstik.

The reason we were out on Monday is that LiAM had his 6 month check up with the Paediatrician in Ringwood. I hadn't organised anyone to look after the girls, so seeing as we were all going anyway we decided to go to the movies first. We saw Paper Planes - and we were the only people in the theatre, which meant that Millie and LiAM could wander around when they had sat for long enough, and could try different seats, and we could chat about what was happening if we wanted to. I enjoyed the movie, although it wasn't as great as I'd thought it might be. I liked the themes of love, family, perseverance, making sacrifices and facing fears to reach a goal that's truly important to you. The kids all loved it.

After the movie we went down to the food court and shared a honey chicken and rice for a late lunch, the headed over to the hospital. We found a parking space fairly close to the hospital - a pleasant change to not have to walk for 10 minutes from our car. The appointment was for 3.15 and we arrived around 3.10. The kids watched Frozen, drew pictures, read books, played on the iPad, played with my Rubiks Cube and were becoming more and more bored by the time we finally went in around 4.25. The appointment was our basic check up, all going well, get a new script, see you in 6 months. Although it can feel like a waste of time sometimes, I am actually grateful that he does have a doctor who knows his history and is regularly checking on his health (and seeming to care about his health) - if things do get worse again I know I will appreciate having that connection, rather than when he was younger and we felt like no one was bothered with helping us help him be healthier.

From the hospital we went to McDonalds for soft serve cones and then on to the library for about 3 hours. I finished my book while I was there - 'Goodbye for Now' by Laurie Frankel, a very thought provoking book about death and love - which was a very pleasing way to spend an evening. After we'd had dinner at home the kids were winding down to go to bed when LiAM said he'd been watching Mineplex Minecraft videos, and Caitlin said she knew how to get to that server, so the 3 of them jumped on the computer and played Mineplex for an hour or so - I was reading in bed when Tony came home from baseball and he stayed up with them for a bit longer and they all went to bed very happy.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Homeschool Group, karate, movies, dinner

When the kids woke up on Thursday morning they lay in the new bunk beds and listened to Caitlin reading to them - she was reading a book about a cupcake fairy and they were all fascinated.

Once everyone was up, Millie and I played a game where she was my pet puppy and she kept turning into a statue, and when she came back to life she could walk on her back legs and talk. Caitlin spent some time sorting out her photos on the computer, and messaging with a friend. LiAM played with his skylanders (not using the PS3, just using the figures to act out stories).

In the afternoon we had Yarra Glen homeschool group. We had 11 families there so it was very busy. The family we visited on Tuesday were there, as well as most of our regular homeschool friends and several new families. The kids played in the sandpit, on the play equipment, did craft with glue and glitter and straws, read books, played Minecraft and Terraria and on DSs, rode scooters and the Ripstik and ran around a lot. The parents chatted lots and played with the kids and helped with craft and it was a very social day.

After everyone else left we wandered up the street and bought some fish and chips for dinner. We were eating in the park but were visited by a wasp and Millie was very scared so we moved into the hall. Once we'd eaten LiAM got changed and we all got ready for karate - Caitlin returning after a break for the 2nd half of last year, and Millie attending for the 1st time (she has been waiting to start for about 6 months, she was very excited). It was great to be back - I had been a bit worried about my knee but it held up fine, not really even a twinge (I made sure I stretched REALLY well at the start). LiAM and I started working on our gradings which are coming up in April (I'm nervous already, although a term of working on the moves and combinations should help me feel more confident). Caitlin had some one on one help and the trainers were impressed at how quickly she picked everything up. Millie received an introduction to karate with another boy who is just starting, and after a while it became a bit overwhelming and she took a break. She came and copied me for a while but mainly sat at the side and watched - she'll try again next week. I liked that at the end of the session the guys called her back in to line up for the last bit and weren't worried at all that she had sat out half of the lesson.

Yesterday Caitlin woke me at 6am because the hot air balloons were taking off outside our house. There were 3 of them, one fairly close to our yard. Even though I've seen it lots of times now, it is still exciting to watch the balloons inflate and then slowly take off and drift over the vines. While we were watching I watered the plants, then Caitlin joined me on my walk.

We spent a quiet day watching movies and playing games. We watched Despicable Me, Racing Stripes, The Grinch, the Tale of Desperaux, and How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Millie and I curled up on my bed to watch that one). Millie and I played vets, she was the vet and I brought her soft toys to her for check ups. LiAM and I played cards and then the girls joined in as well. We played some more with the counters and LiAM with his Skylanders.

In the evening we went to Tony's work for a pre-Vintage dinner. The kids played tennis on the tennis court (Tony and one of his workmates joined them for a while) and rode their scooters/rip stik in the carpark, while Tony and I chatted and ate. The kids joined us for some food then played in the yard, danced to the music, chatted to people, climbed trees. Millie played her iPod when she'd had enough and fell asleep on my lap. We were there until almost 11pm, it was a pleasant evening and nice to touch base with everyone before work gets really crazy.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Back into our activities

We've had a busy start to February, now that school holidays are over and all our activities are starting up again. Monday we attended Yarra Junction homeschool group at the Yarra Junction library - the kids all played with a large train set, and I talked to the other mums - there was one other regular, long-term homeschooler there, and 5 families who were just beginning, so we had lots of chats about how it can work, things to make it easier, how to manage common anxieties and questions about it all.

Tuesday we spent visiting another unschooling family - I had met the mum at the Sandra Dodd conference last year, and we've met the kids at a couple of unschooling meets. Caitlin and the daughter have been skyping and playing Minecraft together over the summer. This is the first time we'd been to their house - and all the kids (there are 4 of them) had a great day, playing on the slip n slide, trampoline, riding scooters, dancing, playing the keyboard, playing tiggy, playing monopoly, talking and laughing. We were there until 6, then reluctantly left with lots of promises to do it again soon. On the way home we stopped at McDonalds for tea, and after eating the kids played for over an hour in the playground - it was a useful transition from being with friends to going home.

Yesterday Caitlin started cleaning out the kids' bedroom, ready to install the girls' new bunk beds. Millie and I played a game with counters, egg cartons and skylanders - we sorted the counters in to the egg cartons, then the egg cartons flew into Skylanders territory and the Skylanders came to investigate the strangers, there were battles between Skylanders and some made friends with the counters... LiAM joined in too and the game became quite complex and lots of fun.

In the afternoon we went to Yarra Glen library - LiAM was relieved to finally be somewhere where he could watch YouTube videos again. Millie played with her toys and the library toys on the floor, Caitlin rode her RipStik in the park. The girls went to Guides, and were joined by Caitlin's friend S who is thinking of joining Guides this year. S's brother joined LiAM at the library and they watched videos together while I chatted with their mum. After Guides the kids and I went to the IGA to buy food to make tacos, we came home and Tony cooked (his hours haven't increased a lot just yet so he was still around and happy to cook) while I finished sorting out the craft tub for Yarra Glen Homeschool Group - I wanted it to be neat and uncluttered for our first meeting today. It had collected a lot of scraps and half made items over the past year and it was getting hard to find anything. It's lovely and organised now!

The girls were very keen to sleep in their new bunk beds, so at about 8pm we decided we would put them up (rather than risk Tony being at work every evening from now on and missing a good chance to install them). We finished clearing stuff out of the room, then had an extended search for our Allen Keys so that we could take Caitlin's loft bed apart. We eventually found them, as well as a lot of other stuff while we were searching. Everyone helped put the new bed together then 2 very excited girls got ready for bed and happily jumped in. Millie slept in her lower bunk for about half the night before coming in to us - I don't mind if she doesn't sleep in it all the time, having an extra bed available is going to make night times a lot easier all round.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Our last relaxing weekend day for the summer?

Originally Tony was supposed to work yesterday, so it was a pleasant change of plans that meant we had him with us for the whole day! It's great starting vintage with the whole family well connected and communicating well, although we'll miss him a lot once his hours start to go up.

The kids played together a lot yesterday, on the iPad or playing imaginary games - last night there was a long involved (and loud) game that started as a family going on a picnic and ended up being a spy type adventure. It was fun to watch while I was getting ready for bed.

LiAM watched the final collection of episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh 5Ds and the rest of us watched bits and pieces as we were interested (I stayed for the final battle, it was exciting and down to the wire and wrapped up the series quite nicely). Millie watched a couple of Barbie movies in my room, and I stayed with her and watched Mermaidia Fairytopia. Tony and LiAM and Millie played Terraria on and off, and LiAM tried to watch more YouTube videos but our internet allowance has been reached so the speed is too slow - very frustrating. While everyone was watching movies Tony and I had a round of Letters and Numbers (like the tv show, I have one of the books and we play infrequently, when we get 20 minutes or so quietly together during the day). It's very challenging and lots of fun to play against each other. We each have our strengths, and after each round we work together to find the best solution to each question. It's also helping me learn my multiples of 75...

Tony took the 3 kids to Yarra Glen park in the afternoon for a play with some friends, and I spent a few hours tidying up and organising things, and also made a very yummy chocolate tart. The kids and Tony had hot chips while they were out, so we all grabbed bits and pieces to eat as we felt like it through the evening, rather than having a sit down dinner (I had some yummy cheese and tuna toasted wraps). We all played cards (the 5 of us) while we watched the men's Australian Open tennis final, then I went and lay down (while the kids were playing their game) and once they'd calmed down read the Bear books to Millie (and the others) again.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Movies and fashion and bears

Yesterday was a fairly quiet day at home. Tony was at work (on a Saturday) and Caitlin had a friend over who had stayed the night on Friday. The girls were up talking quite late, so had a bit of a sleep in, and woke up in good moods. Once they were awake LiAM put Plants v Zombies Garden Warfare on - he hadn't played it in a over a week and was very keen to have another go, and the girls were sleeping in the lounge room so he waited fairly patiently for them to be up. As always he had an audience for much of his playing - either me or one or more of the girls. It's an entertaining game to watch, and he is learning so much about the strategy of the game as he plays, and is levelling up fairly quickly.

After a while the bigger kids went outside to play on the swings. Millie and I played a game of Snap using Donkey cards, and then Go Fish with the same cards - it was a hilarious game, as Millie kept changing the rules to make sure she got the cards she wanted, and the rules would then change back to what they were, and then something different, and she was so matter of fact and sweet about it - it was a lot of fun. I love how she is exploring patterns and boundaries and language in all the games she plays.

After Caitlin's friend left the kids played Minecraft on the computer for a while. LiAM is naming a lot of his equipment and I've been helping him with the spelling - he's starting to have a go at some of the names himself, and he can read the names of things he finds when they are familiar items. It's very exciting watching that skill develop.

Caitlin and I did some fashion designing, using a book of clothes outlines she got for christmas. It was fun, each starting with the same outline and designing different patterns and colourings.

I put on a CD of 80s music that I'd borrowed from the library, and listening to 'Flashdance: What a Feeling' reminded me that I'd borrowed that movie for Caitlin to watch. It was in a double pack with the original Footloose, and she'd seen the remade Footloose at a friend's party last year, so she decided to watch that (she didn't really like the remake). I watched it with her, mainly curled up on the couch together so she could hide under my arm for any of the violent scenes. I'd forgotten how many songs I knew of the soundtrack, and even though I remembered little of the movie I very much enjoyed watching it again. Cat enjoyed it too. Millie had been playing Minecraft in my room and LiAM watching YouTube videos in his room, then Millie joined us on the couch and went to sleep in my lap. Once she woke up the girls and I watched another Barbie movie (we'd watched Swan Lake the day before) - Barbie and the Pink Shoes, which referenced several ballets and had me googling lots of information about the ones I didn't know (Giselle and the Snow Queen).

Millie took the computer back to my room to rewatch Barbie and Swan Lake, and Caitlin started to watch the first Barbie and the Mermaid's Tale. Tony arrived home from work, with one of the Vintage workers who had arrived from Argentina in the morning. We had a BBQ dinner and watched some of the Australian Open Women's Final and then the Final of the Asian Cup (soccer) - an exciting game which Australia won in the end! The girls and I watched the 2nd Barbie Mermaid movie in my room while LiAM watched more YouTube videos in between watching bits of the movie with us. I took Tony's friend home after the soccer then Tony read books to Millie until she was ready to go to sleep (a bit later than usual thanks to her afternoon nap). We gave her the Nick Bland bear books as a starting school present on Friday, and we've read them countless times already - she loves them. And she knows them off by heart and will correct any error in the reading, even very tiny words. She is so involved in the pictures and the stories - and they are fun books to read.