Thursday, 24 March 2016

Horse experience

Yesterday we had nothing planned except for Caitlin going to Guides at 6pm. We were having a relaxing morning - LiAM and Amelie were playing Lego Marvel Superheroes on the Playstation, Caitlin was getting ready to reorganise her room, I was chatting on the phone and folding washing, when Caitlin got a call in response to her ad for unpaid horse experience. This lady had rung a few days before, asking Caitlin to come and help out at her riding school, and at the time they couldn't work out a which day would suit them both. When she rang yesterday, she asked if Caitlin could come straight away - so Caitlin changed into clothes that were more suitable for working with horses, I gave everyone something to bring with them to eat in the car, and we headed up to Castella.

The women we met at the riding school were lovely, friendly and obviously very much into horses. They chatted to Caitlin about homeschooling and asked her about her experience with horses, then I left her there for a few hours to help them out. The other kids and I debated whether to go and do a forest walk while we were up there - LiAM wanted to go back home, Amelie wanted to walk, so we decided we could walk after we picked Caitlin up. Back home the kids continued playing on the PS3, and I pottered around and did some more tidying, a bit of research for our trip and so on.

A few hours later we headed back up the hill to get Caitlin. She was very happy, and so were the women she'd been working with. She'd spent the 3 hours helping them with their every day care of the horses, and they'd let her do everything that they were doing - it is exactly the type of experience she was looking for.

From there we drove around the to the Toolangi Forest Discovery Centre - I've been meaning to go there since I first heard of it, about 8 years ago, and we've never made it. The Discovery Centre was closed 'until further notice' but the bush walks were still available, so we meandered off on the Yea River Walk. It was beautiful - lots of tree ferns and tall gums, and quite cool walking in the forest even though it was a warm day. Amelie was a little frightened of the wolf spider holes in the ground, so she kept close to me except when she was exploring the ferns. The river was small and pretty when we reached it (on 2 occasions). The kids pretended to be horses and jumped over any logs or branches or dips in the path. LiAM made a crown of fern leaves for Amelie and put it in her hair - she happily became 'The Princess of the Jungle'. All the kids were very tired by the time we made it back to the end of the loop - Caitlin was nearly asleep on her feet.
Yea River

Princess of the Jungle
Taken by LiAM
Back home the younger kids kept playing their Superhero game, and Caitlin had a bit of a rest then sorted out her room, moving in some more drawers to store her hair and makeup equipment. It frees up some room in the other kids' room so I can reorganise things in there a bit.

At 6 I took her in to Guides and then came home and finally got to the dishes I'd been planning to wash all day. We had a quiet night - the kids watched some Kung Fu Panda and played a few games and I went to bed as soon as I could, I was quite tired myself after our fun and unexpectedly busy day.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Going away and feeling better

My energy returned slowly after my day of rest, and 5 days up at Mum and Dad's helped me restore my emotional energy a little. They were away, so we had the house to ourselves and shared with our friends who brought their caravan up and spent the days with us. The kids had a wonderful time, playing iPads, lego, zoo animals, the piano, swimming, watching movies, playing hide and seek and other games they made up that involved toys and stairs and upstairs and downstairs, bike and scooter riding, card games, talking and thinking and learning and laughing. The adults also had a great time, helping with all of the above, and doing puzzles and reading and chatting and relaxing. It was perfect timing for a low key trip away, and I felt much better once we got back.

Since then we've had a few quiet days at home, one of them with Tony here all day which was wonderful (he's still been working long hours, nearly every day). We had a really busy day yesterday, with all 3 kids visiting the dentist (teeth all doing well), then meeting friends at the museum for a very fun afternoon, then visiting my sister and her family before they go to England next Monday. The kids had a great time playing with their cousin - who calls Caitlin 'Cake', and the other 2 'more Cake' (possibly some combination of Caitlin and cousin?) - they love playing duplo and cars and trains with him, and being bossed around by a 2 year old. He is pretty cute. Once we left the kids all voted for Subway for dinner (I had been thinking we'd go to McDonalds, but without hesitation they all asked for Subway) - it takes us ages to order by the time 4 of us decided what we want and how many drinks etc, but it was tasty and fun and everyone was happy with their order.

Other things we've got up to in the last several days
- LiAM and I have played cards a lot - it was funny, a few times I started to suggest that he play a different card to the one he chose - then remembered that his strategic understanding of the game is as good (or probably better) than mine, so I kept quiet, and sure enough, he ended up winning doing things his way. He can think a long way ahead in a game and really understands what all the moves mean
-Tony took Amelie to McDonalds on his day off, she was so thrilled to have some time alone with him
-LiAM and I went for a walk around the dam and explored plants and animals and mud and animal tracks, and talked about all sorts of things
- we've watched lots of Heartland, which has sparked discussion about childcare, parenting practices, relationships, horses, jobs, responsibility, friendship, trust, script writing, decision making
- LiAM has played a lot with his Skylander figures, making up a game for them to play with each other and creating a score sheet for them
- More and more often LiAM is saying 'does this say '....'?' instead of asking 'what does this say?' when he sees text on screen or on a sign
- Caitlin has been helping Tony make some wine with some of the local grapes that weren't picked for use this year
- We've been reading random fact books and learning all sorts of interesting trivia
- lots of talk still about planets, dwarf planets and star constellation
- Caitlin had a sleepover with a friend, and the rest of us visited other friends for the afternoon, the girls played dress ups and did puzzles, the boys played playstation games, and the adults chatted
- we're going lots of planning for our big trip which is coming up rather fast

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Rest day

I was exhausted yesterday - maybe 6 weeks of Vintage catching up with me - and I only had short bursts of energy, and spent a lot of the day lying on the couch or sitting propped on my bed, and the kids brought their games, books and conversations to me.

- We looked at more of the Guinness World Records Gaming Edition book, flicking through to find random facts and records, and then going off on tangents from each of those, discussing the game and record and the people who attempted the record and things we knew about the game ourselves and what records we would be interested in and so on
- We did a heap of quizzes - geography, Disney movies and characters, mythical creatures
- From the mythical creature quiz we looked up Gorgons (one clue said that Medusa was a Gorgon, and we've come across Medusa in lots of places, and Gorgons in our Titan game, but didn't realise they were linked) So we read up on Gorgons, and Medusa, which took us to Perseus, and then looked up a heap of information about his story, discussed how it was similar and different to the Percy Jackson movies, then looked at his constellation in the sky, which lead to looking at heap of other constellations of mythical people and figuring out which ones we'd be able to see in the Southern Hemisphere
- We played cards, 2 player games and 1 player games with people watching. LiAM beat me three times in a row at his favourite game and decided to leave it at that (I love playing with him, his strategy is sound and I can only win if I play really well AND have good cards)
- the kids played with Duplo animals and blocks for ages
- Caitlin did some more painting
- Caitlin went to our neighbours and hung out there for a while, and rode her bike back (she'd left it there during the week)
- I had a bath and finished reading 'Ender in Exile' (the direct sequel (although written after the rest of the series) to  Enders Game - I'm very keen to read the rest of the series, I really love the way they explore responsibility (personal and collective), morals, whether the ends justify the means, and how different characters feel about that. And it's a great story.
- Tony came home from work mid afternoon and had a nap, once he was up he watched a bit of TV with us (one of the episodes of Australia's Got Talent that we'd all missed during the week)
- Tony and Caitlin went for a bike ride
- Tony and Caitlin went and picked some grapes and are going to make a small amount of wine from them
- Amelie and I played Hungry Babies, Disco Zoo and ABC Solitaire on the iPad
- LiAM and I watched Superman Returns - I'd seen the end of it before but couldn't remember the earlier bits. I really enjoyed it, even though I did pick apart some of the special effects that weren't realistic enough.
- LiAM and Amelie played with their Skylander figures (not on the playstation, just as figurines on the table)
- Caitlin played Coffee Shop and other games on
- Caitlin and I talked a lot about horses, the ones she is looking after, the ones in the other book I'm reading (Silk Route Adventure, where a lady is riding a horse across the central asian countries), the horses she'd like to have and those that she's met in other places
- I read a chapter of Brisingr to everyone - we've read it so infrequently so far and the story hadn't really got going so it was easy to forget to go back to it - but it's picking up now and we're all keen to keep reading regularly again

It was a pretty full day even though I spent most of it resting, and I'm hoping that it will have help me recharge and feel more energetic today.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

A very hot Friday

Yesterday was hot - exceedingly and unexpectedly so. The forecast was in the low 30s, although apparently that was revised up by about 9 degrees overnight! It got hot early and the temperature kept climbing. By the middle of the afternoon I didn't feel motivated to do anything, I lay on my bed playing Hungry Babies for a while which was fun and relaxing. I was frustrated though that I felt no motivation - until I went out and got in the car and the thermometer said 39 degrees - it means our house would have been sitting in the low 30s and I do find it hard to do much in those conditions - our house gets very stuffy with all the windows closed and usually on a day that was going to get that hot I'd plan to be out of there by 2 or 3pm at the latest.

As it was we left at 4 and it was much more pleasant in the car. I dropped LiAM off at K's house for a trip to the pool and then an evening playing video games, I dropped Amelie off at E's house for an afternoon of unicorn games, Wii games and a zombie apocalypse game (and a run under the sprinkler), and I took Caitlin to acting. While she was there I got a new screen protector on the iPad (I can stop hassling everyone about being careful with it now), did some grocery shopping and hung out in Ringwood library for a while, borrowing books and DVDs and reading my book for a lovely half an hour. While I was in the shopping centre apparently there was a storm - the ground was wet when I came out and I couldn't figure out why, since it was still hot and sunny, and I found out later there'd been a storm and then it had cleared to become more hot and humid.

After we all got home it was still warm outside but pleasant enough for Amelie and I to go and lie on the trampoline and look for patterns in the stars. She can recognise the Southern Cross now, and the Pointers, and we discussed the difference between planets and stars, and why our sun looks so much brighter than the planets, and why we share our sun with other planets, and how far away various stars might be, and what makes one star brighter than another, and whether the brightest of the pointers might be the Second Star from one of the Tinkerbell movies, and whether it's ok to share your wish when you wish on a shooting star, and whether the moving lights we could see in the sky were aeroplanes or satellites... It was a lot of fun.

Earlier in the day
- my sister came to visit and the kids showed T the chickens (he loved them and kept wanting to go out to see them again) and played lego and cars with him, Caitlin and F played the knock-Buzz-off-the-wall game, F and I had a good chat, and we took T over near the shed to look at the tractor and the grape picker (he was thrilled)
- Amelie and LiAM read the latest Guinness World Records book, which has a special section on gaming records
- Caitlin did some more painting - she drew a Manga style girl and painted her, I was impressed. She wasn't happy with how the mouth turned out - for her first attempt at painting a person it was amazing
- We did some Harry Potter quizzes, including a very tricky 'who said this quote' quiz, which was hard but we got most of them
- I did some more geography quizzes
- Caitlin fixed our little fan that sprays water and was able to help cool everyone down

The forecast for the next week is for every day to be 30 or above, with some high 30s later in the week. Normally I don't mind hot weather (although it is a challenge to keep our house cool enough to hang out it) but the fact that it's now March makes this seem really bizarre and a bit harder to cope with. The leaves on the vines are turning yellow and red - the weather is supposed to be getting cooler, not hotter... We're going up to Yea for a few days next week, I wonder if it will be cooler or hotter up there (could go either way).

Friday, 4 March 2016

Homeschool group and painting

Yesterday we had homeschool group in Yarra Glen, where Caitlin and a bunch of the other kids worked on a play that they are writing and hoping to perform next fortnight. There was a bit of disappointment as we'd been told we could use the stage but the hall was locked - they worked around though and sorted out the costumes and the stage directions and the script and all seemed to have fun. The kids also spent time playing with duplo and on their iPads, and out in the sandpit and on the other playground equipment.

After homeschool group was over we hung out in the library and playground for a while and had some hot chips, then Caitlin, LiAM and I went to karate. The kids all had a little practice tournament, while I worked on self-defence techniques (which pleased me, I'm get a bit anxious when I think about tournaments...).

Tony had gone to the pub for tea after finishing work slightly early (7pm) and had taken Amelie with him, the rest of us joined him after karate and had dessert. The kids played in the playground there - a huge group of kids all joined in playing tiggy and hide-and-seek, it was fun to watch. It was also cool to meet some of Tony's workmates.

Earlier in the day V had come over for the morning and he and LiAM played Lego Marvel Super Heroes for a couple of hours - they'd both been looking forward to playing together all week, so they were very excited.

Amelie saw something on tv that inspired her to get out the paints and some paper plates. She hasn't finished making it yet so I'm not sure what she's planning, she's got a very definite idea that she's working towards. Caitlin got out her paints that she received for christmas and painted a farm scene and then a dot painting - it's the first time she's used her good paints and she enjoyed it so much she said she's going to try to do it every day.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Busy and happy

In the last couple of cays

- Amelie and I played a game where she was a Persian Cat called Purry, who could sometimes turn into a tiger or a person, and sometimes talk even when she was a cat, and I was her owner (and sometimes her mother). She hasn't played games like this quite so frequently lately as she used to, and it was fun.
- LiAM and I have had a couple of late night talks as he's been going to bed (he likes someone to be close by as he settles down to sleep, I've been sitting on a little green chair next to his bed and he's been chatting to me). We've talked about Pokemon and movies and ways that world peace might be achieved and if it's actually possibly, and what would happen if one country took over the whole world, and what civil war means, and Wolverine and Magneto....
- Amelie made little dog treats for an imaginary dog, out of coloured straws
- Caitlin rang up and organised to go back and groom the ponies again, I dropped her off and the owner stayed inside (it was a hot day) and Caitlin did all the work (catching the ponies, grooming them, checking their feet, spraying a cut, feeding them, popping them back in the paddock) by herself - she was thrilled and loved every minute
- we went to the library and read books, played board games, watched youtube videos
- we met friends in the park and played for a couple of hours
- Caitlin found herself some great clothes at the op shop, and I bought a game and a heap of towels iand some DVDs and kitchen stuff
- we went to the bakery and got a yummy snack
- we had friends come and visit for the day, the boys played Minecraft and the Lego Movie video game, Amelie and J played pokemon (cards) and lego and My Little Ponies
- Amelie played a new board game (where you build a wall out of bricks and sit Buzz Lightyear on top, then use aliens to push bricks out and try not to collapse the wall)
- we watched Dragonnest (which reminded me a lot of Lord of the Rings) and Bridge to Terabithia - none of us had ever seen it, and we really loved it
- oh last week we watched an anime movie which is now one of my new favourites - The Wolf Children, it was incredible. People who are half wolf/ half people, motherhood, children growing up and finding their own way, friendship, accepting difference - a whole heap of my favourite topics, and very well mad
- Amelie watched more Pokemon and a Barbie movie (Barbie and Swan Lake)
- everyone has played Disco Zoo, and LiAM is getting more comfortable every day at reading the notifications himself
- Amelie and I played celebrity head, and she wrote some of the labels for my head herself (Zoo, Cat). It's such a fun game to play with her, she asks such interesting questions when guessing her own, and answers my questions in a really fascinating way when I'm guessing
- we practised lots more Auslan - I've been doing some every day and I feel like I'm retaining more of the signs than I was, and then I'm able to use them when talking to the kids and they are picking them up
- Tony came home early enough last night (just after 8) to eat dinner then play for a while with Amelie and her soft toys - she was so happy