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!