Monday, 29 February 2016


Since Saturday morning Amelie had been wanting to watch The Wynx DVDs that she'd borrowed from the library - she wanted someone to watch them with her and it didn't work out on Saturday. As we went to sleep we talked about how we would remember to watch in the morning - my suggestion was that when we saw Winky the cat, I would say 'Hi Winks' (which is what I usually say) and that would remind us... As is often the case, having talked about it at length, we both remembered as soon as she woke up, without needing a reminder.

So we snuggled on the couch and watched a Wynx movie - she's borrowed them so many times that I thought I'd seen them all, but this one was new to me. Quite enjoyable too, lot's of 'believing in yourself even when others have given up' type messages.

After the movie we played her animal game where one person acts like an animal and the other has to guess what animal it is - we haven't played for a while and she's come up with a lot of new animals to act out, it's quite fun (hard to think of animal who I can convincingly act out, so I'm rehashing my old repertoire mainly, still fun though).

Caitlin and LiAM both slept in after a late night on Saturday, so when they woke up they had some breakfast and we got ready to go out. Caitlin made a drawstring bag to use as a bag for a birthday present - she did it slightly differently than the previous bags she has made and was confused for a while as to how to make it work - I made a suggestion and she was able to figure it out and make another beautiful, functional bag.

I dropped Amelie and LiAM off at our friend's house, and I took Caitlin and S rollerskating, part of our present to S for her birthday. I read my book while the girls skated, and I think they really appreciated having an outing without any younger siblings along.

When we got back to S's house all the kids wanted us to stay longer, so I had a cuppa with R and the kids played Minecraft and talked, and after a while went down to the park. Amelie wasn't having a good time so she and I went back to the house and curled up in the armchair and played Hungry Babies. When the others came back they played more Minecraft and then watched Ice Age 3, while we had some homemade pizza for dinner. The kids wanted to stay until dark because they had plans for a game down at the park, we all headed back down a bit after 8. They played for a while then everyone was getting tired (the mothers especially) so we wrapped it up and went to our respective homes. Tony was still at work when we got home - a very long Sunday shift.

He came home while I was feeding the animals and so on, great to see him briefly before we all went to bed after a surprisingly tiring day.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

A horsey day

A few weeks ago Caitlin made up a flyer asking for unpaid experience with horses, offering to help groom, feed, ride, whatever people needed. She designed and wrote it herself, then went in to the post office and asked if she could put it up, and walked over to the feed store and asked to put it up there as well.

On Friday a lady rang in response to her ad, saying that she had 2 Shetland ponies and was getting older and a bit fragile and so not able to handle them as much as she'd like, so would Caitlin like to come and help her. The answer of course was an extremely excited YES, so yesterday afternoon I took Caitlin over to meet the lady and her ponies.

The ponies are gorgeous, all black, and a little skittish from not being handled much lately. The lady brought them out into the garden, and Caitlin asked lots of well thought out questions about the ponies, as she walked them around on a lead rope for a while, and then started grooming them (she'd taken her own grooming kit). She was able to groom two of them to some extent (one wouldn't let her stand on its right side - but being a small pony, Caitlin was able to lean over and brush at least some of that side, while standing on the left). She picked up their feet (and had problems with one not wanting her to do it - then let it smell the hoof pick and then it was happy to oblige). She went out on the road and brought 2 of them back in after they had escaped down the driveway. The 3rd pony wasn't quite ready for someone new to groom her yet, although Caitlin did manage to rub it's coat a little. She worked with the horses for a bit over an hour, then helped to get them back into the barn (after she mucked it out). The owner was thrilled with Caitlin's competence and the fact that she's found someone to help her. Caitlin loved the ponies and could have stayed there all day - she talked about them all afternoon and evening and is keen to go back as soon as she can. She was very professional and confident and handled the horses easily, and when they were uncooperative she backed off and tried something different - I think they will get used to her quickly and it will become even easier.

It was an exciting experience for everyone involved (and she even earnt $10 - while I got a big bag full of tomatoes from the owner's garden - she can't eat them all and was happy that they won't be going to waste) and it looks like it will be an ongoing relationship which will benefit everybody involved. It's so cool too that it was organised almost entirely by Caitlin herself. The lady was very positive about homeschooled kids too, said that she's noticed that homeschoolers are more interested in learning and learn from everything they experience. And the bonus for her is that Caitlin can come at any time, rather than having to fit it in around the school day. As everyone gets more comfortable too I will be able to drop her off and not need to stay the whole time.

In the morning C had a riding lesson at her friend's house, so it was a very horsey day - there was also a swim in her friend's pool, and a shopping trip with her, so Caitlin came home very tired and very satisfied with her Saturday.

LiAM and I watched another X-Men movie while Caitlin was at her friend's house (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and the afternoon before we'd watched X-Men) which we both enjoyed, and which led to us doing some research on the relationships between everyone in the movies and trying to figure out the timeline (which I know is tricky with the X-Men stories, it doesn't all necessarily follow, but it was fun finding out some of the background information).

Tony had yesterday off work and slept until well into the afternoon - it's great that he has a chance to catch up a little bit after getting so little sleep through the week. He played a bit with the kids when he got up, and then we had Indian takeaway for dinner - butter chicken is everyone's favourite meal. We all sat at the table together to eat - doesn't happen very often and it's quite special when it does. Once we'd eaten we played Chinese Whispers - hilarious as usual.

It was a beautiful evening (had been a gorgeous day, although quite warm standing in the sun with the horses, it had cooled down a lot by dinner time) and we all went outside. Kids played on the trampoline, Tony and I watched, then the kids and I played hide and seek while Tony went to help a friend who had a flat tyre.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Sewing and karate

On Wednesday night Caitlin had found a library book called 'Made by Me', with lots of patterns and ideas for things to make and sew. She said that she'd start making some of them on Thursday, and she did. She made a doll, several drawstring bags, and some other little decorations. She worked really hard and spent hours sewing, asking for help or ideas when she was unsure, and taking a break when she was getting frustrated. I am always impressed with her sewing skill, and this was no exception, the things she made looked fantastic and she did them fairly easily.

LiAM played Lego Marvel Superheroes again and realised he was close to the end so was excited at the thought of completing the whole game. At one point something had happened in the game where he'd missed his chance to do a vital action in order to finish that level. He tried lots of things and I looked up the walkthrough, and in the end it looked like the only way to finish the level was to start that section again, which was a lot of work. He was pretty upset, feeling like all the work he'd done so far had been wasted. He stopped and had something to eat and eventually decided to go back and do it all again, and was able to calm down enough to enjoy it even though he hadn't wanted to do it. When he got back to the same spot I was able to read the walkthrough to him (he really didn't want to miss his chance again) and he defeated Rhino and Magneto and was thrilled. I'm impressed at his increasing ability to calm down and continue when he's upset or anxious. He still feels and expresses his disappointment, when he was younger though it could mean the end of the game, now he's more able to work through it and get some perspective.

Amelie watched and helped LiAM play, did some more pokemon and planet quizzes with me, watched some more Pokemon, played with her My Little Ponies.

After a while LiAM had enough of his playstation game, and spent time playing with the Titan characters.

When Caitlin had finished sewing she went to visit our neighbour next door and took her creations with her - everyone there was quite impressed too.

We went to karate in the evening. Amelie joined in and trained for the whole class this time. She was quite overwhelmed by the end of it, it's a lot to take in (and at the moment there are 7 kids who have just started, so the group she's training in is quite big which would make it much harder). Afterwards she had a quick play in the park, while LiAM talked Terraria with some of the older kids.

Back home and we had a bit more to eat, and watched Degrassi (far less full on than the previous night) then Heartland. Tony came home and went almost straight to bed. The kids put on a pokemon movie and I went to bed, they got themselves to bed once it was finished.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

A hot day at home, and Guides

LiAM had been looking forward to yesterday for a few days, as we had most of the day at home and he would have the chance to play Lego Marvel Superheroes for a nice long chunk of time, rather than squeezing in half an hour or an hour between other activities. When I got up around 7.30 he was already awake and playing, said he'd woken up at 7. He really enjoyed his long play, was able to really work at some of the difficult levels, get a heap of new characters, and really become immersed in the game. He chatted away the whole time he was playing, telling us what was happening, what he was thinking, talking about the characters and how they react to situations and whether he thought it was true to their character or not, or things he would have done differently if he'd made the game. The girls and I watched, commented, looked up walk throughs when he got really stuck (I love that I can read an instruction that makes no sense to me and he immediately says 'oh yeah, that would work!') and the girls both played with him on and off.

When Amelie woke up she curled up with me on the couch and we watched LiAM for a while then we did some quizzes - one on the Disney Princesses, (we got all of them except Merida from Brave), and one on the planets. Amelie is fascinated by the planets at the moment, we chat about them most days and we've talked about the difference between a moon and a sun and a planet, and the names of the planets in our solar system, and why Saturn has rings, and which planets are hotter, and why Pluto is now classified as a dwarf planet (I still need to look that up). She has a little model of the solar system with the sun and the planets revolving around that, and we play with it a few times a week - she grabbed it yesterday to help remember the names of all the planets - all the names are familiar to her now, and she's starting to associate more of them with the correct planet and remember some without looking at them. It's cool to see an interest develop that's completely hers, not something that has grown out of things the others were interested in.

We also all spent time looking at an alien book we'd picked up the day before, lots of great pictures and discussion starters about whether there really are aliens, what they might look like, what they'd think of us and so on.

Amelie watched some more pokemon and I watched with her for a while and played Hungry Babies, then Caitlin came and joined us. She played some Coolmath-games while she watched, and discovered one called Coffee Shop, where you have to buy supplies, set a recipe for your coffee, and sell it to make a profit over a fortnight, as well as get a good reputation for your store. She really loved it and asked me to play a round of it - it was fun and challenging (and I made a profit of $184, I was pretty happy). There were so many factors to think of, Caitlin was fascinated and it started a great discussion about all the decisions and planning involved in successfully selling products.

I spent a good chunk of the day catching up on some of the housework that had accumulated from us being out and about so much lately and me not having the energy when we got home to do much about it. I got quite a lot done and felt happy that it wasn't too much to handle.

It was another hot day and we had an unexpected power outage in the afternoon (which brought a stop to Lego Marvel Superheroes). We got ready to go out as there was no way we could stay in the house for very long without cooling. The girls had Thinking Day activities at Guides and were dressing up as someone from a country they'd chosen (out of the countries that have World Centres for Guides). Amelie was England and wore a pretty dress to be a princess, and Caitlin was Mexico, we found a flowery, swirly skirt and an embroidered top, and Tony's sombrero. Once the power dropped out the girls got into their costumes and I gathered up the library books and we left as quickly as we could. (Still not quick enough to avoid feeling hot and sweaty and cranky before we left, but once we got into the car and got it cooled down everything felt a bit better). The power came on just before we left but seeing as we were ready to go we kept going. The girls were asked to take food from their country as well, so we went to the IGA to buy supplies - and it was closed due to the power outage. We went to Coldstream IGA and Caitlin got corn chips and salsa, we couldn't find anything that Amelie wanted to take. We really wanted scones but I hadn't felt up to making some. We went back to the Yarra Glen bakery and the best I could do was a tea cake, so at least we were taking something. We dropped the girls at Guides then LiAM and I went to the library, he watched some youtube videos and I read my book and it was lovely and cool and relaxing.

Once the library closed we sat outside and read/watched for a while longer, then went to the bakery again for LiAM to buy an apple cake - they didn't have any so the girl helped him decide what else to get (the girls who work there on a Wed afternoon know and love him) and he got a French Vanilla Slice instead. I also bought some chocolate milk for Amelie as she'd been wanting some all day. We picked Amelie up and went home to a house where luckily the air con had worked enough to cool it back down again (enough to be inside anyway). The kids played some minecraft and some more Lego superheroes, until Big Bang Theory was on at 7.30. We taped it so that we could watch with Caitlin when she got home, and it was a relaxing hour after a bit of a full on afternoon out. When it finished we watched a bit of Degrassi, which had some full on issues being discussed, so we talked about that a bit - standing up for people who are being victimised, and how hard that can be, especially when the person in the wrong is someone you are close to - and then watched Heartland. Caitlin was also playing a game on her iPad which requires amazing dexterity and quick reflexes, I love watching her because she's so calm and so good at it. I had a try and I'm a lot clumsier. She was trying to get to 10000 gems to buy a new sub-game and worked hard at it for ages yesterday, and eventually got there - she was so happy and really enjoyed the new game.

Amelie and I went to bed and she was going to watch Pokemon but got distracted talking to me, then the others came in and they were playing a game on my bed, and massaging my feet while we all chatted. We'd been talking about starting to read Brisingr again as we hadn't done so for ages, with the big kids doing more things in the evening they hadn't been wanting to stop and listen when Amelie was ready for bed. So we read a couple of chapters and it was great to get back into the story - we could all remember different bits of what had happened so far, so we were able to keep going from where we were up to and piece together the story.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

A day with friends

(I forgot to publish yesterday's post until I came to write this one, which means there'll be 2 published today).

Yesterday Amelie was up early and continued watching Pokemon Diamond and Pearl while I checked my email, did some quizzes, blogged, did some work on my photos, did some Auslan learning. LiAM got up around 10am and wanted to play Lego Marvel Superheroes, so negotiated with Amelie to be able to do that for an hour before we went out. Caitlin got up and watched them for a while and played on her iPad.

We left a bit after 11 to go to the H's, on the way we played the car game we've been playing on all our trips lately - counting makes of car rather than colour. LiAM loves to be Mazda, Amelie is usually Toyota (although yesterday Caitlin was and she saw at least 5 times as many as the rest of us.) I usually agree to be whatever the next car that passes us is - on the way to Yea on Monday I therefore got Maserati as my car to count - the kids agreed to let me pick the next one instead, so that I didn't get stuck on 1 for the whole trip. When we arrived LiAM and A immediately started discussing Minecraft and things they'd done in their worlds recently, and then played on and off during the day. Amelie and J went into the front room to play duplo and Caitlin chatted with us and then went to play on her iPad and play with O.

I had a counselling appointment so headed off to that after a cup of tea. The session was helpful and exhausting as usual - the exhaustion will pass and the help will continue to become more beneficial. On the way home I stopped in Lilydale to buy a birthday present for our friend S, because it was her 11th birthday. I also found some swimmers for Caitlin (although I think I bought a size too small, she's growing so quickly I keep underestimating her size when she's not with me). I treated myself to an eclair from Donut King - haven't had one of those for many many years and it was exactly what I felt like - and I'll probably be happy now to not have another one for many many more years.

H had just finished work so I gave her a lift home. When we got back Amelie and J were still playing duplo, LiAM and A were having a sword fight and then went outside to the trampoline and the hose, Caitlin had helped L move furniture around and fill the shelves. I stayed for another cuppa and a long chat, while the kids played.

Eventually we went home, and it looked like it was going to start raining - would have been such a relief on a 41 degree day. It fizzled out pretty quickly where we were, although when we got home there had been enough rain to leave the roads wet, it had stopped by then though.

I cooked dinner (pasta alfredo) and we watched the new episode of Big Bang Theory. I did some surveys on the computer and Amelie came and snuggled with me and helped me answer some of the questions. Tony came home while we were watching 'Here Come the Habibs' and I took Amelie to bed to watch more Pokemon - this series has lots of Piplup in it, who is my favourite, so it's an extra fun one to watch.

Trip to Yea

I woke early yesterday after a restless night of moving between beds (we ended up with too many people in our bed) so I had a bit of time to myself in the morning on the computer. When Amelie woke up she joined me on the couch and we played Hungry Babies for a while, I love playing and she loves watching so it is fun, and we spend a lot of time looking at the pictures of the baby animals too and discussing their names, whether their pictures are accurate, what those type of animals really do in the wild and so on.

I woke LiAM and Caitlin at 10 as we were leaving at 11 to go to my Mum's to see my godmother. We have been in contact on an off, but hadn't seen each other since Caitlin's baptism at the end of 2004, so it's 11 years since we'd properly caught up. And she hadn't met any of my kids, apart from a 3 month old Caitlin (Caitlin is somewhat different now compared to then!).

While we were getting ready LiAM and Amelie played Lego Marvel Superheroes. Caitlin was out of the yoghurt she's been enjoying so I made her some homemade ice cream - frozen bananas, frozen raspberries and cream - a very tasty fruity breakfast. We left just after 11 and stopped for petrol and at the library and were in Yea by 12.10, I'd been aiming for 12 so was pretty happy with that.

Amelie went upstairs to play with the plastic zoo animals, LiAM and Grandad looked at a book of international coins and tried to identify the coins Dad had given LiAM (they found a few of them), Caitlin practiced her Manga drawing and I played the piano. My Godmother, A, and her husband, S, arrived in time for BBQ lunch and it was so great to see them. They chatted lots to the kids and everyone got along well. Caitlin and LiAM helped Mum and I get the table ready for lunch and we ate out on the back deck, with the 'million dollar views' as S kept saying (they hadn't visited Mum and Dad's place in Yea before).

After lunch Caitlin did manga drawings by request, and her style is developing quickly. She drew a girl with her hair in 2 buns then decided to do her hair that way herself, then Mum remembered she had hair chopsticks, and a kimono so Caitlin dressed up and looked fantastic.

We all looked at A's photo book of the Camino she did in Spain last year, and discussed the walk and some spanish words and the idea of pilgrimage etc.

After the guests left Dad and I (and the kids on and off) looked at maps and photos of Tasmania - discussing our previous trips and planning for Mum and Dad's upcoming trip (Dad's 70th birthday present). We also found some photos of seals and penguins in a book of Ken Duncans photos, which thrilled Amelie, and Dad brought up the photos of when we were in Venice, as we'd been talking about when LiAM took his first steps. He's pretty thrilled that he started to walk when he was in Italy. The kids had a swim in the spa and Mum and I sat and watched them and did some Pride and Prejudice quizzes on jetpunk. After her swim Amelie played some music on the keyboard upstairs, and LiAM watched some minecraft videos. Mum and I looked at the clothes she bought to take to Tasmania.

We left around 6 and listened to an audio book on the way home - The Dare Game by Jacqueline Wilson. I love the depth and flaws in her characters and the raw emotion that these kids express. We stopped at the IGA to get milk and a frozen pizza for dinner, then home to watch Australia's Got Talent. Tony came home before it was finished, it was nice to be able to sit and watch a bit of TV with him while we ate, and to catch up on our days before he showered and went to bed. Caitlin watched Farmer Wants a Wife and Amelie went into the bedroom to watch Pokemon, LiAM flitted between the 2. Caitlin then wanted to watch a movie and LiAM wanted to play Lego Marvel Superheroes, then decided he was too tired so went to bed and C stayed up and watched her movie, while the rest of us went to bed.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Dancing and swimming

I woke early to the sound of hot air balloons being inflated - there were 7 of them in the paddock next to our house, it was a particularly spectacular sight. They take off from here often enough that I don't bother waking the kids to see anymore - I've never seen 7 at once though, and there were 4 all in a row with their fabric pushing into each other as they inflated, it was a great wall of colour beyond our little pond.

The kids all had a bit of a sleep in, and when Amelie woke up she didn't really want to get out of bed and wasn't talking much. I was feeling tired and so I jumped back into bed with her and we played Hungry Babies and then Township on the iPad. It was really lovely, snuggling in bed and chatting about the games, working out our strategies, me relaxing my desire to 'just get on with the game' so that she could have fun just exploring and looking at things and talking and thinking about them. LiAM came in and watched for a while then the 2 of them went out to the lounge room to play Minecraft and I had a little nap, which set me up nicely for the rest of the day.

When Caitlin woke up she did some more manga drawing, she's now able to create her own characters rather than copy them, and she's really getting the hang of it. She and Amelie looked through a loom band creatures book and talked about which creatures Caitlin might make.

I'd borrowed a Just Dance game from the library so when the kids found that they cleared the lounge room floor and spent 3 hours dancing and singing. They took it in turns to be the main dancer and the rest of the time joined in as backing dancers or encouraged those who were dancing. LiAM was good at picking which moves gave good feedback so could help Caitlin maximise her points. He also figured out the points structure and how many points were needed to be awarded each star. Once they'd had enough dancing LiAM and Amelie played Lego Marvel Superheroes for a while and everyone had something to eat.

It was a surprisingly hot day after a whole string of milder days, and a few hours of dancing left everyone feeling pretty warm. We went down to the dam for a swim, the water level was much lower than last time we'd swum, and there was a lot of pond grass visible below the water which freaked everyone out a bit. The mud was very slimy too, so it took us a while to get comfortable with being in the water - but it was lovely once we were in, a perfect way to cool off. Amelie came out as far as she could stand up, and swam around a bit, that is by far the most confident she's been in the dam.

We didn't stay long as the sun was blaring down and not everyone had been that keen on going, so a quickish dip was all we needed. Well, it was probably 40 minutes or so, which is quick for us when it comes to swimming. LiAM and Caitlin lay in the mud and covered themselves in it a couple of times, then rinsed off and we headed home. On the way we chatted about the grapes, whether they were ready, why we can't eat them, whether 'the wine making company that Daddy works for will pick them one day' (Amelie), when they might be picked, how they pick them, why it's ok for us to walk on the roads around the vineyard but not between the vines, whether Buckley is safe wandering off through the vines and how he could get away if a tractor was coming.

Once home I cooked some dinner and we watched Australia's Got Talent, then Degrassi, then Heartland. Tony finally came home around 9 and it was great to see him briefly before he and Amelie and I went to bed, while LiAM and Caitlin stayed up for a bit longer and played Lego Marvel Superheroes again.

Sunday, 21 February 2016


LiAM was the first of the kids up yesterday, after having a great night's sleep, and he curled up next to me on the couch while I browsed the internet, and commented on what I was doing, read bits and pieces of the sites I was looking at, then after Amelie joined us we did some Minecraft quizzes on Jetpunk, and between the 2 of them they knew most of the answers.

I woke Caitlin at 8.30 and she got up to get ready to go abseiling with Girl Guides. I got breakfast for everyone and the other 2 played Minecraft. Tony got out of bed just before we left - he didn't have to go to work so was very grateful for a sleep in, and I was grateful that he could be home with L and A while I took Caitlin to her activity.

The abseiling was at Clifford Park Activity Scout Activity Centre, somewhere I didn't even know existed until this week. The setting was beautiful, in the foothills on the side of the Yarra River, lots of bush and some cleared areas and so many activities for campers or visitors to do. I started thinking about potential for homeschool camps and so on - will look into that at some stage. Caitlin was joining Mooroolbark Guides for the abseiling, so it was a group of girls and leaders she hadn't met before (they were there on camp, and opened this activity up and invited girls from all the other units in the area - Caitlin was the only one who joined them).

As soon as we got there 2 of the girls ran over and introduced themselves and took Caitlin off to play with them, while I chatted with the leaders. We made our way over to the abseiling tower and I read my book in the shade while they did the safety talk and showed them how to do it. When it was getting close to Caitlin's turn she wanted me to be closer, so I spent most of the rest of the morning near the tower watching her and the other girls, chatting to the leaders, and taking photos on various cameras (mine, the girls' cameras, and one of the leader's cameras when she went up the tower). Caitlin was quite scared when it was her turn, but she took it slowly and followed the instructions perfectly and went down fairly easily. She had 5 descents over the morning, and she got quicker and more competent each time, although she says it was still really hard and a bit scary each time. I was so impressed with the girls as a group, they were supportive and understanding of those who decided not to try it once they got to the top, and even those who tried and tried and after a long time of attempting to start decided not to go down. I was also impressed that all of the girls who didn't go down at first, went back up several times to try again, and each time got a little closer to abseiling down.

It was a fun morning and Caitlin and I were both pretty tired at the end of it (she was probably tireder, she'd done a lot of hard physical work, I had just stood in the sun for a few hours). We came home and the others had watched Ice Age 3 and were now playing Minecraft again. LiAM was helping Amelie write her signs and set up a zoo. We had some lunch then watched the rest of Heartland Series 5. I had a bit of a rest through the first episode, then started making some pumpkin soup, LiAM helped me chop all the vegetables. Tony had a big long nap on the couch which he found very helpful.

LiAM and Amelie spent ages looking through the pictures in the African Safari book I borrowed from the library, discussing the animals and what they were doing - there are some incredible pictures in the book. Caitlin played on her iPad, and messaged with friends, then once it got cooler outside we all went out and kids lay then played on the trampoline. We came back in one by one and watched the end of Night at the Museum 2, then an episode of Heartland Series 3, by which time Tony was in bed, and I wrapped things up pretty quickly and went to be myself.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Township, Ghostbusters, Pi

After having such a busy week it was a relief yesterday to have most of the day at home. The kids all slept in until mid morning, so I had some time on the computer, then tidied up a little and then had a much-anticipated bath and read my book for a while (Us by David Nicholls. An interesting style, but very readable). Amelie woke up and came and joined me in the bath until we were both hungry so we got out to have some breakfast.

Amelie played Township on the computer and we upgraded the Township app on the iPad, and everyone played throughout the morning. It was fun having the 4 of us involved, discussing strategy and deciding where to spend our money and so on. I haven't played for months and it was enjoyable having a go again.

Caitlin put Heartland Season 5 on so that I could catch up to where they'd watched the night before. I pottered around in the kitchen doing dishes while we watched, and Amelie and LiAM played some Minecraft. A friend called in to drop off my Norwex order, so we had a cuppa and a chat, and Caitlin played with her 2 little girls, taking them out to see the chickens (LiAM also helped let the chickens out), playing on the trampoline with them, painting their nails and showing them how to make loom band bracelets.

After they left I continued to sort out the fruit and veg from the day before and started a chicken stock and a zucchini slice. H arrived for the afternoon and she and Caitlin spent some time planning the decorations that H is going to do on Caitlin's new desk. Caitlin then started practicing her manga drawing and came up with some impressive results, especially for her first try. LiAM played with the Titan character pieces and Amelie played with her My Little Ponies and her Barbies.

AT 4.30 I left with Caitlin to go to acting, and the others stayed with H. I picked up Caitlin's friend and dropped the 2 girls off, both excited and a little nervous about the first class of the year - who would be in their class, and who would their teacher be? While they were there I went to Costco and got some groceries, and a really lovely-to-feel copy of Les Miserables (the book) for $17 - the cover is like rubber, and has words etched into it, I really love it. I also saw some diaries that I would love - the lines are not ruled, they are the text of various novels, in a really tiny font. There's Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Sherlock Holmes, some Dickens... And one with the digits of pi running all the way through the diary.... Definitely on my wish list!

From there I went to the library and borrowed a heap of books and DVDs covering everyone's current and regular interests - Manga drawing, foreign coin identification (Grandad and F both recently let LiAM look at their foreign coins and Grandad has asked him to figure out what country they are from), African animals, Ghostbusters (we watched it on Monday for the first time (well, first time for the kids, I've seen it many many times) and all week we've heard the music in other shows or heard references to it in unexpected places. So when I saw a book about the movie on the feature shelf at the library, it made sense to borrow it), Afghanistan and so on. When the library closed I raced down to k-mart to get more swimming tops for Caitlin and myself, and some shorts for LiAM, then back to pick Caitlin up at 8.30.

When we got home the kids were playing Toy Story 3 and H said they'd had a good evening. I unpacked my cold groceries (playing a bit of tetris to get everything into the freezer) and Caitlin and Tony and I watched Sia sing and then be interviewed on tv, then I took H home (she drove). Once I was back I got everyone a drink and then headed into bed, Amelie came soon after and the others weren't far behind.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Friends and homeschool group

I woke LiAM up around 9 yesterday morning as we had friends coming over and he likes to be awake before they get here. We chatted while he was waking up, about Minecraft and words and friends and movies, I love listening to his insights and following the way his mind works. He thinks so deeply about things and makes connections that I wouldn't have thought of.

He played Minecraft once he was awake enough, and Amelie got up and watched him, after being a Peregrine Falcon and then a pterodactyl for a while. She actually got out of bed because the pterodactyl needed some fish and I wasn't supplying them quickly enough out of my endless supply from my pocket... Caitlin got out of bed and put Heartland on - we have been watching the 1st series on DVD, and despite seeing it so often on TV, there were at least 4 episodes we hadn't seen. We've seen them now, and parts of the storyline make a lot more sense than they did before! While we were waiting for our friends to come LiAM let Amelie play minecraft for a while, and he helped her spell the words she needed to name her world.

L dropped her boys off just after 10, and LiAM showed A the Minecraft server he's been playing on - Mineplex. The boys watched him for a while, then J went outside with Amelie to jump on the trampoline and run around for a while. When they came back inside they played lego and with J's monster toy that he'd brought along. The older boys played Minecraft on the computer then Terraria on their iPads, and watched and commented on Heartland - what they'd do in the situations they were watching, what would have happened if the characters had said or done something different, when things looked or seemed unrealistic - I love the critical analysis skills that they are all developing when reading or watching anything.

While the kids were playing I started to sort out our leftover veggies to make way for our new box, and made a chicken casserole to put in the slow cooker for when we came home much later in the evening. After lunch (sandwiches and chocolate pudding) I got all the kids in the car and we went to homeschool group.

It was only a smallish group this time, 5 families I think, and there was still plenty of activity. LiAM and Amelie and some of the other kids played tag for ages inside (it was loud! and so much fun) then went outside to play in the playground. Amelie stayed in and played lego and cars. Caitlin and a lot of the other kids (and Amelie for a while) started to write and rehearse a play - we'd taken lots of props and costumes, and some other families had brought things as well, and the kids started working on a story which they are hoping to perform next fortnight. There was also lots of craft made, more slingshots and catapults and some pretty, glittery pictures and little people made from oddments in the craft box.

Once everyone had gone home except for us and L's kids, the 5 of them played charades for ages - each thinking of an item or a word and acting it out - the acting was great, and the guessing was thoughtful - it was fun to watch and looked like a lot of fun to play. I locked the hall up and they went outside to keep playing charades, then we had some fish and chips and afterwards they got their scooters and went up to the skate park. I had a brief toy library meeting and sorted out a bit of a plan for the rest of the term, then it was time to get ready for karate.

Amelie decided to try karate again, and did about half the training session - she was tired by then and it was quite overwhelming, there were 6 or 7 new kids, and the hall was very loud and echoey. I had been looking forward to karate all day, was very keen to get the exercise and push myself a bit, and it was fun, I really enjoyed it.

We got home around 8.15 and Tony was not far behind us, so we actually were able to eat dinner together. We finished watching the last episode of Heartland Series 1, and when the DVD finished and the tv came back on, and episode of Series 3 was on - but we turned that off and began to watch Series 5 which we'd just borrowed from the library. Tony and I both wanted to stay up and watch because we all love it - he went to bed though as soon as he could and I tidied up, fed the animals and so on then took Amelie to bed and left the big kids watching. Hopefully I'll be able to catch up sometime soon...

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Back from camp

We had a fantastic time at homeschool camp last week - and I didn't use the computer while I was there, so this week I've been blogging about camp at, and when I'm all caught up hopefully I'll be back to blogging here about about our day to day stuff. We've had a busy week since we got back - appointments, friends, homeschool meets, birthday parties, and Tony has been at work basically all the time (14 hours a day most days...) so we're missing him a lot.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Getting ready for camping

Up earlyish again yesterday, and Amelie woke not too long after me. She wanted to watch Tinkerbell (the original movie) in my room so I moved my computer in there and watched with her while I checked my email. By the time the movie was finished the other kids were up, and she asked to watch it again on the big TV and they all watched it together. LiAM also played Jetpack Joyride, and they all played games on the Cool-maths-games site.

I finished pickling my parsnip, and did dishes and washing and general tidying, with an eye to getting ready for homeschool camp today. I started making a pile of stuff to take, and checked things in the trailer, and did a lot of mental planning - I think most of the work of packing for me is deciding what to take and what to pack it in, and I do that best by letting it percolate around in my head while I'm doing other things. Then I end up with a pretty complete list and plan, and when it comes time to actually do the packing it doesn't take very long. My anxiety about getting ready kicks in when I don't let that process take place naturally - when I start trying to physically pack before I've done enough of the mental work.

After lunch we went over to the H's for the kids to have a play and me to have a cuppa and a chat with L. Amelie and J played with duplo, LiAM and A played in the hammock and on the trampoline and some Minecraft, Caitlin played with O and helped out where needed. I left the kids there and took H for a driving lesson - we went to Lilydale for me to get groceries for the camping trip, then she drove all the way to Greensborough for me to pay for and pick up some camping beds I'd bought, then she drove back to Healesville - a huge drive, in fairly heavy traffic at times, and she managed beautifully. L met me at karate with my kids and she took H home.

I'd considered skipping karate because we had such a busy afternoon, then decided to go anyway because I love it so much and feel so good when I'm there. I'm glad we did go, it was enjoyable and it's great exercise and I learnt some new things, and realised how much I have already learnt which is a fantastic feeling. The kids really enjoyed it too and they are improving all the time.

After karate we came home and the kids played a bit more of the Cool-math-games, I did a bit more organising for camping, we had an easy tea (toasted sandwiches), and watched Big Bang Theory and Auction Hunters and Here Come the Habibs. I didn't really want to watch it as I feel like it's playing into stereotypes, Caitlin was so keen to see it that I agreed to check it out. Some of my concerns were justified, but it was quite enjoyable....

Tony had come home from work completely exhausted so had a shower and a quick bite to eat then straight to bed. I went not long afterwards and the kids played maths games for a bit longer before heading off themselves.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

A day at home and Caitlin's solo trip

I woke up a bit earlier yesterday than I had been - around 7 instead of around 8 - and I think it makes a huge difference to my energy levels throughout the day, I feel so much better if I've woken earlier.

Yesterday was a quiet day at home, sandwiched in amongst lots of busy days. Millie and I played Hungry Babies on the iPad, and Caitlin helped for a while. Millie and LiAM played Toy Story 3 on the playstation (Mil asked me if she could play by spelling out Toy with her fingers) while Caitlin did sudokus on the computer, then LiAM and I played Halo for a while. I wasn't much help to him, unless I just stood around and acted as a re-spawn point for when he died - I was happy to do that. I have been amazed at the graphics in Halo ever since I first saw LiAM play it, and I was even more impressed when I was playing myself, they are so realistic, and beautifully created.

In the afternoon Caitlin caught the bus into Yarra Glen by herself, to get the library books and return the ones that were due. She also went over to the IGA to buy milk, then caught the bus home again. I walked her to the bus stop and sat across the road while she waited for the bus, and she texted me from her iPad when she arrived, and I sent her a reminder text when it was time for her to go back to the bus stop in town - we spent a lot of time planning the trip so that we were both comfortable with it, and it all worked seamlessly. She was very excited to successfully manage her first solo trip and I was impressed with how well she managed it. I knew she was capable of it, I think I was most pleased with the way she let me discuss the plan with her in so much detail, instead of brushing me off and saying 'I'll be fine.'

When she got back the kids watched one of the Tinkerbell movies we'd borrowed, and I continued clearing the kitchen table - and I got it all clear and put the new filing shelves on it and it looks fantastic! And we have a complete table to use, we could easily fit 5 people there for dinner, or more if we were happy to be a bit squished. Hoping I can keep it that way. I also made some spiced vinegar and prepared some parsnips for pickling - I usually end up giving parsnips to the chickens, so I am hoping that by pickling them I will eat them in time and they won't go to waste. It's my first attempt at pickling so a bit exciting.

LiAM played several maths and strategy games on the computer in the afternoon, and then spent a long time playing with the characters from Titan, lining them up and really examining the drawings and looking at differences between them.

In the evening we watched Australia's Got Talent and Farmer Wants a Wife. At the same time LiAM played Minecraft, Caitlin explored more on Pottermore and Amelie continued her My Little Pony game. She's made tables and cakes out of lids and bits of foil and the ponies all stood at their little tables and chatted and ate.

Amelie helped me put the chickens to bed - she's really taken this on as one of her tasks for the day; the night before she even went up there herself to put them to bed but had forgotten to take a torch so couldn't do it all. She also feeds Winky most nights.

Amelie moved into the bedroom while we were watching TV and watched another Tinkerbell movie, and I joined her there once I'd tidied everything up for the night. Tony was home from baseball by then and helped the other kids get ready for bed once they'd finished watching TV.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Terraria, horse riding, games

My tiredness continued into yesterday - I obviously pushed hard all last week and then collapsed a bit on the weekend. Tony had yesterday (Sunday) off work though and we had no big plans so I was able to take it fairly easy. It got hot early and I found it quite exhausting, especially when I was in the kitchen.

I was up early and had a bit of time to myself, then LiAM, Millie and Tony came out. LiAM was very excited that Tone was home for the day, and the three of them played Terraria for a while before breakfast.

Caitlin went to a friend's house in the morning, I took her over there and then stayed while she had a horse riding lesson - I hadn't seen her ride much and was impressed at how straight her back was and how comfortable and confident she looked in the saddle. Her friend then had a lesson and I left Caitlin there for the day, and I went to pick up V to bring him back to our place.

Once we got back Tony, LiAM, V and Amelie all played Terraria together and spent a lot of time negotiating with each other to swap armour and weapons, and coming up with team strategies for defeating the bosses. They played on and off all day and I loved listening to the conversations. I don't find Terraria easy (or very enjoyable) to play, but I do know a lot about it and enjoy hearing other people playing. LiAM was reading the attributes of the items that he found too, without any help - he doesn't realise he's reading when he does that, because the words just make sense to him, and he still thinks that reading is difficult. When he understands what something says without having to try hard, he says he wasn't reading, he just knew the words. Which at first was kind of true, he was recognising certain words that he already knew, whereas now he often reads things correctly with no context, and with words that he hasn't memorised - it's quite fascinating (and exciting) to watch his reading develop so naturally.

Amelie watched some more pokemon and finished the series she has been watching. She then watched 'Annie' (the new one from last year), while the boys played Halo on the xBox. I did a lot of work in the kitchen and cleared most of the kitchen table and all of the area under it, ready to reorganise things a bit with some new furniture I picked up from hard rubbish. Tony and I did a scout around the house and yard to see if there was anything we could put on our own hard rubbish pile, and did manage to find a goodly sized pile of broken chairs, a ripped mattress, broken ride on toy and a few other things. Glad that we remembered to do it before things start getting picked up today.

Tony and I did a couple of geography quizzes - we work well together, we remember different things - and were going to play 'Letters and Numbers' but I felt too fuzzy and didn't think I'd be able to think quickly enough. I hope we get another chance to play soon because we both really love playing and it's rare to have an opportunity when we're both home and the kids are happily occupied without us. Amelie spent a lot of time in the afternoon during her elephant puzzle, both as a full puzzle and just making up each elephant separately. LiAM also played with it for a while after V left. Amelie also spent hours playing with her My Little Ponies, they had a great time flying around the house rescuing each other and then having a party on the kitchen table. StarLily (the Magical Unicorn) joined them for a while too.

Amelie and I learnt some signs for colours in Auslan, and refreshed a few other words. Now she can ask for pink milk, chocolate milk and hot chocolate by signing, which is very handy for all of us.

Caitlin stayed at her friend's all day and had fish and chips in the park, then they brought her home and she showed her friend around the property, especially looking at the chicks. Tone met the parents and the guys had a beer and we all chatted for a while. After they left we ate dinner and watched 'Australia's Got Talent', then the kids played some puzzle games on the computer, and Caitlin cleaned up the lounge room a bit to play Just Dance on the playstation - but couldn't find the game so played Book of Spells instead, which then led her to joining the Pottermore site on the computer.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

The day after our big day out

I was surprised that I didn't feel more tired on Friday night after our big day - I saved it up for yesterday where I felt tired and kind of sleepy for most of the day. There wasn't a lot I needed a great deal of energy for though so it wasn't too bad.

Tony started work at 9 so we had a bit of time with him in the morning. It was surprisingly hot quite early in the day, I was really feeling the heat - a couple of weeks of lower temperatures has meant we're not used to the 30+ degree days anymore. When Amelie woke up I joined her in our room to watch some more Pokemon, and we talked about our favourite pokemon (Piplup for me, Maluetta (sp?) for her) - she gave me a great description of her favourite and I could picture who she meant, I just couldn't remember her name. I love hearing Amelie's descriptions of things, they are detailed and accurate, and the types of information she includes gives a great insight into how her mind works.

Once the other kids were up we sorted through a couple of bags of clothes that a friend had handed on to us, and found something for everyone to add to their wardrobe. Everyone was fairly quiet and subdued after our day out on Friday, so we just chatted and watched tv for the morning. In the afternoon we headed out - LiAM went to the movies with V to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens again (3rd time for LiAM), Amelie went to her friend E's house - she hasn't had many plays with friends where she was dropped off on her own, without siblings or parents staying, so she was quite excited to be going to her OWN friend's house, and Caitlin and I went to H's 19th birthday party. We had a lovely afternoon tea, all girls and chatted about lots of things, the younger girls played cards and went outside to play on the trampoline, the rest of us mainly stayed inside and talked. The boys came home later in the afternoon and Caitlin and S played with them for while and we kept talking. I played with H's hair and did some braids I'd been wanting to try, it was fun and it looked beautiful.

Around 6 we headed back to pick Amelie up and then dropped S and R off. LiAM wasn't back yet so S came home with us, to be picked up when LiAM came home. On the way home we picked up a desk from hard rubbish that will work under Caitlin's bed, much better than the one she has at the moment. We also got a new scratching post for Winky, and a little filing shelf that I'm hoping will work better for all my paper work than my current system (which is basically just a big pile on the kitchen table that keeps growing and falling over).

The girls played outside on the trampoline and in the paddling pool while I tidied up a bit and made toasted sandwiches for everyone. I did a bit of work on my photo sales - I was too tired to concentrate much so I didn't last long, I did some quizzes instead, much more fun. Tony does quizzes with me sometimes when he's around - we did a Summer Olympics host cities quiz recently and we got them all right - well, Tony did. We both used to know the whole order and I had forgotten chunks, but he remembered nearly all of them and I filled in a couple. I love knowing/remembering stuff like that, it provides so many little hooks for more knowledge to grab on to.

LiAM came home after 9 and all 5 kids had a bit more of a play while R and I chatted some more, then after they went home everyone went pretty much straight to bed. Caitlin is between books at the moment so was reading some French books and learning useful phrases and jokes in French.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Homeschool Group and Adventure Park

Thursday morning was a quiet one at home. Our new fruit and veg box arrived and the kids helped m fruit, and I made coleslaw with some of the left overs from the last box - I've never made it before, but Caitlin discovered she liked it at our friend's place last weekend, so I gave it a go. I made my own dressing as well which she didn't like as much, but she still ate it.

The kids watched a bit of TV and Amelie watched some more Pokemon, then after chicken sandwiches for lunch we got ready for Yarra Glen homeschool group. As I was putting the boxes in the car a Hunstman spider ran across one of the boxes - I quite like these spiders, I just don't enjoy being startled by them, so I screamed and dropped the box. It ran down between the driver's seat and the handbrake - Amelie was trying to figure out if she was safer staying right in the back in her seat, or scrambling past a bit closer to the spider and getting out of the car. I grabbed a big wad of paper towel to protect my fingers and attempted to grab one of his long, hairy legs - but he ran away from me and we haven't seen him since! I spent several minutes trying to find him before we all got in the car - and with my face right down looking under the seats LiAM kept saying 'You're going to get a Huntsman right in your face!!!' which he thought would be pretty funny. We named the spider Fred so that he'd be less scary - if he appears we can say 'Oh, there's Fred' - but so far he hasn't appeared. A couple of warm days with the car heating up a lot he is quite probably not alive anymore.

So spider drama over we made our way to homeschool group. There was no one there when we arrived (a little late) but we ended up with 10 or so families - some regulars, some who hadn't been for a while, some newer families, some long term homeschoolers who have never come but whose kids are older and are still interested in the group... Lots of good conversations, and the kids played with the toy library toys and did some craft and played on their iPads and played in the playground. Great to catch up with everyone after the break and to help everyone get back into the social aspect of homeschooling.

We headed home around 5pm and had a quiet evening, watched some tv and got ready for going to the Geelong Adventure Park the next day for Not Back to School Party. We had rice paper rolls with mashed potato and ham and veggies for tea - everyone ate quite a lot, it's handy being able to choose exactly which bits they want (Millie ate all the fillings without the rice paper, the others liked the rice paper and selected just some of the fillings). We got everyone off to bed reasonable early (around 10, which is early for us) and I had all the bags packed and everything organised before I went to bed as well.

So Friday were up very early. Tony is starting work at 6 at the moment so I got out of bed when he did, around 5.15. I woke Caitlin and she had a shower to wake herself up. LiAM got out of bed quite easel, Amelie took a little more convincing. Once she woke up though she was pretty alert, and spent a lot of the morning playing with numbers. For example I said 'We're leaving in 30 minutes' and she said 'Oh, you mean 3 tens of minutes? Or 20 plus 10 minutes' - little comments like that all morning. Everyone ate something and I packed the cold food, and we were in the car and on our way by 6.30am!!! We picked up Liam's friend K and his mum (my friend J) in Kilsyth on the way through, then off to the Adventure Park for the Not Back To School Party - an annual gathering of homeschooler to celebrate the start of the new year. This is the first time we have been though.

We arrived at 9.20, in plenty of time to get our names ticked off and line up for opening time at 10. We found some other friends, some from Yarra Glen group and some of J's friends, as well as other people we know from various places, and lined up with them. Once inside we put our stuff near the water play area, then Caitlin went to find her friends from Yarra Glen group, LiAM headed off with K, and Millie and I got in the water and ran through the water cannon and fountains and showers. LiAM's friends soon went off to float in the tubes in the 'Lazy River' and we saw Caitlin and her friends float by. LiAM, Millie and I went and waited til his friends came back around, and then joined them. Millie and I tried a double tube but couldn't get it to work, and she was happy just bobbing along without a tube for a while, then she discovered she could stand with the tube around her shoulders and bounce along while the water propelled her - I could look ahead and just see a little head bobbing up out of the tube every few seconds, it was pretty cute. I managed to get myself into a tube and float, and we went around 4 times, with Amelie climbing in and out of my tube and her own and swimming a bit, it was a lot of fun. Meanwhile L went on the Aqua Racer - a speed water slide, which he said was pretty scary, but he went on it 4 times in a row (and many more times throughout the day). Amelie and I had a bit more water play then went for a walk, and went on the Carousel (we sat in the swan) and then the little kids cars - Amelie drove and got the hang of it pretty quickly. We headed back to see what LiAM was doing and discovered L and C and all their friends on the swing ride. We watched them for a while and then Amelie wanted to go on the Ferris Wheel - I'd hoped to avoid it but figured she shouldn't have to miss out, so I gave it a go. I was nervous but not terrified - and it was pretty high and got quite windy up the top. I was apparently gripping the centre pole very hard - I thought I was acting pretty calm but she did ask me why I was so scared. She was comfortable with me being a bit scared of heights and it didn't worry her at all (neither the height nor my fear). We went around twice and as long as she didn't move around too much I was ok, and it was quite fun to be able to see so far.

We went back to our bags to have some lunch and reapply sunscreen. LiAM joined us, then he came with us to do some other activities. We did a few more laps on the Lazy River, then went to Mini Golf - lots of fun and LiAM did really well. We didn't have shoes on and the ground was pretty hot by this stage - a bit challenging to find somewhere to stand between holes that didn't burn our feet (well the kids were fine, I found it hard). We went down to the paddle boats but it was too windy for LiAM to go out on his own. I took Amelie out and LiAM went back to get K, the boys came back and had a go as well. It was hard work, although quite enjoyable to be out on the lake.

Back to our seats, more water play, and another couple of laps around the lazy river. Amelie liked to lie on top of me in the one tube, it was quite relaxing. I'd seen Caitlin on and off through the day and she said she'd had some lunch and she was getting to do all the things she wanted to do. LiAM had had several more goes on the Aqua Racer and the big water slides and the Ferris Wheel and Swing Ride. Amelie found an area with water spurting from huge mushrooms, with lots of pictures of dolphins, fish, and star fish on the ground, and a seal as well. She was pretty excited about the seal and we went back there a few times. L, A and I went over to the Archery and L and I had a go - I hit the target with all 3 arrows (one didn't stick) and it reminded me of how much I love archery - will definitely try to get back and do some with the kids soon. L hit the target with one of his arrows and we would have stayed for more except it was getting late and he wanted to go on the go carts. We met Caitlin on the way and she joined him in the go cart line - then we realised he wasn't tall enough and probably wouldn't be let on - seeing as time was tight (the rides were closing at 4.45 and it was now 4.30) it wasn't worth waiting to see if he would be able to ride. Caitlin wanted to race him on the Aqua Racer so they ran back there, and Amelie wanted one more Ferris Wheel ride so she and I headed there. This time were were stopped right at the top while others got on or off - a bit scary, then I noticed C and L at the top of the Aqua Racer and I was able to watch them race down from my high vantage point - pretty cool. We went around twice again, and could see that all the water rides had been turned off by the time we finished. Back to our bags, L went and got changed, the girls and I took our outer swimwear off and put t-shirts and pants/skirts on, and we packed up all our stuff and headed out.

An excellent day - the kids had been looking forward to it since November when we'd first discussed going, and it lived up to all expectations. I saw several homeschoolers who I hadn't seen for a while, and met a few new ones (some who I had met online or read articles by in magazines) - it was a great atmosphere and environment all day.

Everyone except Caitlin (and I) had a nap on the way home, so it was a quiet trip back. The traffic wasn't too bad, a couple of heavy patches on the Ring Road, but moving smoothly most of the way. I dropped K and J off at their place in Healesville around 7.30 - it was great to see them again after J being in England for 3 weeks, and we had a great chat in the car. LiAM was very happy to spend time with K again too. After we'd dropped them off we got fish and chips and burgers for tea and went home to Tony who had also just had a nap. We ate tea and told Tony all about our day, I had a shower and the kids watched tv. We watched Heartland (I was going to go to bed but it was a good episode...) then everyone got ready for bed, we were all exhausted. Tony and I were actually both still awake at the same time and had time to talk about our week before the kids came in and wanted him to rub their backs - we don't get a lot of time to chat during vintage so it was really lovely.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Karate, Guides, friends and car service

This is the first full week of school term and all our activities are back on. On Tuesday we mainly stayed at home. We played Titan, played Minecraft, watched TV, Millie and I watched some Pokemon, we did Sudokus, played cards, played with Barbies and pillow pets, jumped on the trampoline, Millie did some more drawing, we read books. In the evening we went to karate - Amelie came with as Tony was at work - she could have joined in, though chose not to yet. She watched from the side and played on the iPad. I really enjoyed being back - I was a little worried about my knee, but I'd warmed it up before we got there, and strapped it, and I was very careful doing kicks (it meant that I really concentrated on doing them correctly), and it was fine. There was one leg sweeping move that one of the black belts was teaching us that looked too risky for a questionable knee, so I sat that one out - one of the things I love about this dojo, that no one is expected to anything that they are not comfortable with. The kids played in the playground after karate which for Amelie especially made the evening much more fun.

After karate we popped into Coles for more chocolate milk and a snack, then home for a late dinner of potato wedges and dim sims. Tony came home after we did, and had some dinner then went to the shed to practice his darts for Wednesday night. He's trying to get to bed a bit earlier because he's working so much, so I'm doing more of the helping everyone get into bed part of the night, which means I'm going to bed later than I usually do, and then waking up later as well. I think I'm getting the same amount of sleep, just at a different part of the night, and it's taking me a little bit of time to adjust.

So Wednesday morning I didn't wake up until 8.10, and I was dropping the car off to be serviced at 9! I quickly cleaned everything out of the car and grabbed something quick to eat (raspberries and cream). H had come over to be with the kids so I took the car down, then walked to the bus stop in the rain which was quite pleasant. I thought the next bus was at 5 past 10, but there was one at 9.30, so I was home again within 40 minutes of leaving. All the kids were up once I got back and H was getting them breakfast.

H and Caitlin spent most of the day sewing, making a halter neck top for Caitlin. It was very cool to watch the process, as neither of them had done it before and they didn't have a pattern, and they worked together to figure it all out as they went, and tried different ideas and adjusted as necessary. The top is beautiful and looks well made, I was impressed and inspired by the way they just had a go and worked it out. H also helped Amelie make some clothes for her barbies, and they played with the dolls for a while. The kids played Minecraft with H and watched some TV. I was able to a heap of tidying up and cleared most of our kitchen table which was quite exciting, haven't seen that much of the table for a while!

In the afternoon V came over to play with LiAM, they tried to play Jetpack Joyride but we couldn't update our copy, so they played Minecraft and then went outside on the trampoline and swing. I had a cuppa with R, then she took Caitlin with her to get S from school and go to S's swimming lesson. I caught the bus back to Healesville to pick up the car (which now has a new battery, hurray! Hopefully we won't be stuck unable to start the car anymore for a long time now). H had got the kids ready and I piled everyone into the car on my way back through. I took V home and left my kids at his place, H and I took Caitlin to Guides then H drove home. I had a good chat to L while I watched her boys on the trampoline, then back to pick my kids up and a quick cuppa, then picked Caitlin and some friends up from Guides, dropped the friends off and then home. It felt like a complicated afternoon, but it worked quite easily and everyone got to be where they needed to be and had a good time.

We had a bit more food, Caitlin did some more puzzles, we watched Heartland (they are now showing Season 3 on ABC3, which we have seen on DVD but not on TV, so we were quite excited) then Amelie and I went into the bedroom to watch Pokemon until she was tired enough to sleep. I was in and out with the others while she was watching.  Caitlin watched a movie about horses. LiAM did an online survey that asked for a 6-11 year old boy - I was reading the questions for him and he was able to read about half of the answers, picking up a few new words along the way. Tony came home while were all still awake and was able to help LiAM get to bed and we all made it to sleep a bit earlier than the night before (although still quite late). Actually Caitlin has been reading a lot in bed too, so she's going to bed with the rest of us then reading for an hour or two, she's immersed in the sequel to The Princess Academy and she's really loving it.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Homeschool Group, swimming, stars

We all slept in a bit yesterday (except Tony who started work at 7). Millie was first awake after me and she curled up on the couch with me and chatted for a while, then played Slugterra on the ABC3 site. When the others got up they watched a little bit of TV then they all kept playing Titan - getting the hang of the battle rules and strategies and I'm amazed at how well they understand the game, it can be quite complicated.

After lunch we went to Yarra Junction library for the homeschool activity there. The girls joined in and made butterflies by scrunching up small pieces of crepe paper and sticking them on butterfly-shaped cardboard. They came up with some gorgeous designs and Amelie took a lot of time to get hers exactly the way she wanted it. LiAM played computer games with his friend, and I chatted to the other 2 mums who were there - so great to catch up with a good friend I haven't seen since before christmas, and the other family as well. Once the activity was over the kids got some books and DVDs together that they wanted to borrow, and then played Minecraft with their friends. LiAM tried to watch some videos after the others had left but the wifi wasn't strong enough and kept dropping out.

The girls really wanted to go for a swim across the road at Yarra Junction Aquatic Centre - Amelie had been asking to there instead of other pools for the last 6 weeks or so. LiAM was tired and didn't want to swim - I try to not insist that anyone does something they really don't want to do, and try to help the others have what they'd like at a different time or something. In this case it felt like a great opportunity to let Amelie have the swim she'd been wanting for so long, and I couldn't tell when we'd be back over this way again. So I did agree to go, and suggested that LiAM play on his iPod or my phone while we were swimming. He wasn't thrilled with this but did agree. Once we got to the pool he decided to go swimming with the girls as long as we didn't stay long, which was fair enough.

Amelie's confidence has increased again, even in the last week (and coming back to a familiar pool possibly helped as well). She walked down a few of the stairs of the middle pool (where she can easily stand, and it's deep enough to swim around in) and then launched herself off into the water. She was swimming a couple of metres at a time, either with her head above or below water, and happily on the ramp in the big pool just at the edge of where she can stand up - she's starting to confidently push her limits - while remaining careful not to go past her limits.

We swam for about an hour, the big kids mainly jumping and diving into the deep end, and occasionally coming back to Amelie and I. On the way home we stopped at several of the hard rubbish piles that have been left out the front of people's houses, and picked up some discarded items that are still in very good condition. Some toys, pillow pets, plush toys, buckets and crockery. LiAM has been looking forward to this time of year for months so he was very happy.

Tony had baseball so he wasn't home until late and we had the evening to ourselves. I cooked some omelettes while we watched Australia's Got Talent (and then Farmer Wants a Wife which was surprisingly compelling...). The girls and I went and put the chickens to bed (our wayward Mummy chicken now takes her chicks into the big shed to sleep, although she sleeps on the top shelf with the other chickens and the chicks sleep on the bottom shelf. We usually move them all into a laying box - partly to keep them used to being handled, which we did with the previous lot of chicks, and they are more tolerant of being touched than the older chickens. So we moved the little ones, patted the middle sized ones then locked them in (while I avoided a very large spider that was sitting on the door near the lock....) and then looked at the stars for a while, the sky was so clear and we could see more stars than we usually notice. We looked at Orion's belt and at Mars and looked for other patterns, such a great night be outside.

Tony came home while we were stargazing, then the girls spent time drawing and writing more letters to each other to put in the letter box (Millie drew a 3 headed hydra and a crab, so cool). I went to the bed and the kids played Pacman and headed off to bed shortly after.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Writing, drawing, board games, tv

LiAM woke up feeling much better yesterday which is a huge relief. While I don't like that he is on so much medication, the alternative is constantly struggling to breathe, so I am grateful that the medicine is available and affordable and helps him so effectively.

After our late night the night before and a big week just gone, and lots of things coming up this week, we decided to stay home for a rest day. Millie played Minecraft and experimented with different ways of spelling 'Rudolph' as she has a reindeer skin now and wanted to name it. LiAM watched TV and played his monster game and some Minecraft. Caitlin played dexterity games on her iPad mini and is getting really good. She got frustrated with one level on Pivvot and asked me to try - I couldn't last more than a couple of seconds, my brain doesn't work that quickly in terms of reacting to obstacles and figuring out which way to go. She also found an online Soduko site and between us we did several Sodukos throughout the day. Millie also helped me with my Spanish lesson.

In the afternoon the kids decided to play Titan, and Tony joined them. The 4 of them played on and off all afternoon - LiAM is getting a good understanding of the strategies involved, Caitlin enjoys growing her legions but doesn't really like battling, and Millie is learning the rules and understanding how it works quite well.

While Tony was cooking tea the girls made a letter box out of cardboard boxes and tubes, and went outside to paint it. The tubes got a bit wet and started to break, so Caitlin came up with a few great ideas to strengthen them - she talked about stuffing them full of paper or something heavier, using sticky tape for support on the outside, strengthening them with a stick inside - she kept working at it and ended up with a letter box that opens at each end and is supported by a pole, and has the little flag on top that lets you know if there is mail inside. She has set it up in the lounge room for us to post letters to each other - she and Millie spent a lot of the rest of the evening writing letters to each other and posting them. Millie also did some drawing and writing on the blackboard - doing a fantastic drawing of a fish and a dolphin and labelling them F and D respectively.

She also read the word dolphin when we were looking a photos later on. She and LiAM we were looking at the map of Australia to see where our friends are in their bus after leaving 2 days ago, and where they've been and where they are going. We then looked at some of the places we'll be going on our trip and how far they are from us, and then a more detailed look at some of them, including the photos on Google maps, particularly Shark Bay/Monkey Mia in Western Australia, where there are lots of dolphins and Millie cannot wait to get there. We also looked close up at some reefs of the west coast, they looked like sting rays from the wide view, but are actually areas of shallow water and rocks and look fascinating however close up or far away they are viewed from.

Caitlin and Tony did some gymnastics outside (they started in the kitchen where there wasn't quite enough room...) - mainly Tony flipping C over his shoulder, it was cool to watch how much easier and more graceful it became for both of them as they practised. Caitlin was then able to flip Millie over her shoulder as well which was pretty cool.

In the evening we watched Looney Tunes then Journey to the Centre of the Earth, which is entertaining but a little far fetched sometimes (apart from the premise, there were things that didn't quite make sense. I do like that the kids can notice these things and we can talk about them, while still really enjoying the movie. For example, it was getting hotter and hotter where they were, well over 40 degrees, but they weren't sweating or moving slower or seeming impacted by the heat in any way). Afterwards we watched a bit of cricket and tennis, then an old episode of Heartland, then Rage - they had the top 20 on so the kids were quite excited, and thanks to Caitlin listening to Nova radio these days, I actually knew most of the songs. Interesting to see some of the video clips and to talk to Caitlin about what she thought of them - again, being able to critically analyse them and think about why they make the videos like that means that she's not going to be influenced by the messages without thinking about them herself first.