Dec 19, 2009

pik n mix

I thought I'd do a quick catch up on the last month's events - how the baby is doing, happenings in the land of home education, what actually happened to our Jesse tree...

Okay, so, the previous post was all about how I was going to be super-mum and bake cinnamon ornaments every week for our Jesse tree. Yeah, well. It turns out that super mum doesn't actually live here after all! Who'd a thunk it?

So instead I printed off the ornaments and readings from this site, laminated them for future use, drew an outline on a big bit of paper and voila - this year's Jesse tree. Not too shabby, and a whole lot less stressful. The plan is that by next year I'll have a fabric tree with velcro dots all ready and waiting. But we'll just see how that goes, won't we?

Here's our wee fella. Just too cute for words. I'm starting to wean him off sleeping in the front pack. My body is too decrepit to carry him around 24/7 and my knees have been protesting for a week or so, and now my left hip is giving me gyp about it, so it's time that he learnt to sleep in the bassinet during the day and not just at night. Sadly, he doesn't think so! Yesterday worked out well, with him even resettling himself for one sleep - an hour and a half! But today he thinks he should be asleep on ME and is very indignant about being put down in another room. He'll get over it. I'm surprised at how much more energy I have from not carrying 6.5kg of baby around all the time. But I'm also a bit sad that our snuggly newborn has moved onto his next phase already.

Here are his big sisters reading him stories while he couldn't care less cos he's in his Jolly Jumper! I must remember to pack it for when we are up north these holidays. Miss5-and-almost-6 had the idea to read to him first, and deliberately chose a babies' story about animals so that he would find the experience educational. Miss2-and-almost-3 is 'reading' aloud her favourite Hairy McLary book for him, because anything her sister can do, she can do too!

Which brings me to the next photo. Miss5-and-almost-6 found that the grapes we had bought at the supermarket had seeds in them, and wanted to plant them. So she carefully spat out the seeds, got some potting mix and little pottles and planted them all nicely somewhere outside. Miss2-and-almost-3 clearly couldn't see the point in messing around with potting mix and little pottles... or even in removing the seeds from the grapes. And she figured she'd try it with tomatoes too.

Our last stop on our photo tour of the month is the not-class photo of the home educators group that I belong to. We got together at one of the local parks for a picnic and mess-around, and to take a photo of everyone who made it that day.

If they look a little droopy and bedraggled it's because they are. It poured with rain the whole time, just clearing for about 2 minutes during the photo-taking before bucketing down again. It wasn't terribly cold - just very very wet. Thankfully there are little shelters with roofs and seats for us mums to sit in and keep ourselves, the food, the bags, jackets and shoes, and MrBaby dry. The kids loved it. It's not often they get to play outside and get soaked to the skin, warmish rain being very unusual here.


Nov 27, 2009

jesse tree

Advent is nearly upon us and in place of the standard store-bought Disney-branded advent calendar we're going to do a Jesse tree again.

We did this last year too, but it would appear that I completely didn't blog about it! How about that.

From one of the numerous sites about Jesse trees
The Jesse Tree is a centuries-old family Advent devotion that has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in recent years. It has particular value since it helps both kids and adults alike to locate Jesus, the Messiah, within the lineage of the shepherd boy who became King of Israel--David, son of Jesse.

The whole idea of the Jesse Tree comes right out of a classic Advent passage from the prophet Isaiah: "A shoot will sprout from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit" (Isaiah 11:1). The Jesse Tree is hung with ornaments representing Old Testament people and events and lead up to Jesus. The traditional symbols hung on the tree are based on the genealogy of Jesus as reccounted by the first chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew.
A selection of sites about Jesse trees, including some where you can just download and print out the various symbols:
Jesse Tree-an Advent Tradition
Download Jesse Tree Ornaments
Jesse Tree Advent Custom
Jesse Tree Instructions
Making a Jesse Tree

We're planning to bake our ornaments out of gingerbread-man dough and hang them on a branch. Only time will tell if we're actually organised enough to do this! :) The first baking day will be tomorrow, and we'll do a week's worth each Saturday. Worth a shot.


Nov 21, 2009

Interview with John Taylor Gatto

Break out your tinfoil hats, people!

This interview with John Taylor Gatto is fabulous. If you've never come across this perspective on schooling before, you will be rolling your eyes at his breathtakingly nutty conspiracy-theorist ravings.

And then you will begin to wonder if perhaps he has a point afterall...

An interview with John Taylor Gatto

A couple of things you may like to keep in mind:
1. Until the end of WWII, eugenics was not a dirty word - it was considered a noble and patriotic pursuit throughout Europe and the US
2. Even though NZ's schooling history is different to that of the US, the current trends, goals and ideals of schooling and educational theory are often American in origin.


Nov 14, 2009

Heads in the sand

This protest action tickled my fancy


Nov 8, 2009

Elephant on a trampoline

We have a new favourite video clip in our house

Resulting comments from various members of the family;
"Careful, Mr Elephant!"
"Don't believe this, Mum, it isn't a true video"
"Hmmm, they've got the physics a bit wrong there..."


Nov 1, 2009

Night feeding

This baby seems to be the one for trying out new stuff. I never got the hang of feeding lying down with either of the girls, but its working out this time. Yay. Especially "yay" for the first thing in the morning feed...

My big discovery was a way to keep my shoulders and arms warm and snuggly, while not completely covering the baby with the duvet. The solution is simple, once you think of it - I wear my dressing gown to bed! ta-daa. The duvet only gets pulled up to my waist, thus keeping the baby's head well clear of a soft, downy smothering, and I stay super-snuggly warm.

Image (and nice position instructions) from ParentingWeb

So that is what I do first thing in the morning - or if MrBaby doesn't re-settle after his normal night feed, which I still get up and do on the couch while listening to National Radio.

I know some people successfully bed-share with their babies all night, which theoretically makes feeding during the night a cinch. All good if it works for you (and if you never attempt it after consuming drugs or alcohol, don't smoke, and don't have too-soft, fluffy bedding - all of which dramatically increase the chance of SIDS when combined with bed-sharing). But, as Merl will tell you, I am a world-class fidget in my sleep.

I cannot stand to stay in the same position, or even facing the same side for much longer than about an hour and a half. But moving the baby wakes him up. And I don't want to turn my back to him. So total bed-sharing is out. When MrBaby was very very little he slept with us most nights, so I know of what I speak.

So we 'co-sleep' - he's in a bassinet in our room, which allows me to respond to him before he gets majorly distressed, and most nights he ends up in our bed sometime around 5.30am. Then he feeds, I doze off, and generally we have a good cozy start to the day/end of the night.

The 3am-ish feed is a different kettle of fish. If I feed him in bed at 3am then I fall quite deeply asleep while he's feeding and then he, quite naturally, doesn't want to go back to his bassinet - and who can blame him? But then I have the 'aargh, I can't fidget and roll over' problem I described before. Instead, I get up and feed him in the dark in the living-room while listening to the radio. He's much happier to go back into the bassinet this way, though I'm not entirely sure why.

The radio is great - it keeps me from falling asleep on the couch and waking up horribly stiff and sore, and there are some really interesting programs on - mostly repeats of interviews and documentaries from during the day when I don't have the radio going. Yay for National Radio. An added bonus is that our radio is also a flashlight, so I can briefly switch it on to get MrBaby properly latched without needing to turn the main lights on.

Our torch-radio (flashlight) (except ours is yellow)

After 2 months, it's nice to see that we're getting to know our little guy and working out how he's different from either of the girls, and learning the kinds of things that will work for both him and us.

Oct 31, 2009

Wearing my baby

We have found a better way!

MrBaby has settled into a cosy new routine. He'll happily sleep in his bassinet (in our room) at night for 3 or 4 hours, from about 10 or 11 pm until about 3am. Then he'll have a long lazy feed (he doesn't feed any other way) and about an hour and a half later will usually settle back into the bassinet for another couple of hours sleep.

That bit of his 'routine' is unchanged - the new and better bit concerns what happens for the rest of the day...

The first feed of the day is followed by an extended wakey time - he's very happy to lie with his pants off and kick for a while on the change-mat - or the babygym for variety - or being held (with pants on) by his sisters, while Merl and I buzz around getting dressed, dressing children, eating breakfast and generally getting started on the day.

I used to then put him back in the bassinet (following the exalted 'feed, wake, sleep' rhythm that worked so well for Miss2). Cue much unsettled crying, which stopped when I picked him up, and started as soon as I put him down, and continued in this pattern until he was obviously out the other side of 'tired' and was now also 'hungry'. This continued for much of the day, while I completely failed to get anything else done as I spent most of the day either on the couch feeding, or standing beside the bassinet trying to get him to sleep.

Now I might have a go at settling him in the bassinet, but if he doesn't settle fairly happily (i.e. still not happy after a couple of attempts to resettle him) I give up, give him another feed and pop him into the baby wrap.

Baby wraps are magic!

If I get the position right, he can feed whenever he wants to have a wee top-up, and he sleeps very happily tucked up on my chest. Instant quiet, instant peace, and I am able to read stories and play games with the other children without continually yo-yoing into the bedroom. And at the end of the day, he still cluster-feeds himself into a coma and I can pop him into bed. Bliss.

Now the girls have got their own babywraps for their own babies...

...and their elephants too. (Miss2 has got a little pink elephant tucked into her wrap in this photo). She then proceeded to jump around like a kangaroo with a baby in its pouch. Extremely cute.

My first foray into baby-slinging involved a 4m length of fabric which I had in my fabric stash. This was long enough to wrap over one shoulder, and around my middle, but not both shoulders. It was okay, but not very comfortable for more than an hour or so, and I felt a bit lop-sided. So I looked for improvements, and found a couple of great websites showing lots of different ways to wear your baby (links at the end of the post). I'm borrowing wraps from a couple of different friends to see what works for us, before getting my own.

This was the first 2-shoulder wrap I tried. A friend made this wrap using a 6 or 7 metre length of muslin. I can see this being a good one for summer, being a lovely open-weave cotton. It is comfortable, but not very stretchy/flexible, so I found I needed to tie it just right or it pulled quite tightly in places.

This one is the Moby wrap, borrowed from another friend. It is awesome. Its a soft, tight-knit cotton which is not very stretchy at all, but is stretchy enough to easily adjust around the baby and myself. Folks, we have a winner. Now I just need to decide whether I can be bothered making one myself or if I'll just buy one (they seem awfully expensive for what they are).

I know, I know 'making' one only involves going to the fabric shop, choosing some fabric, slicing it in half lengthwise and overlocking the edges - but that's possibly more hassle than I can be bothered with just right now. And by the time I have enough headspace or time to do something like that, the baby won't be a baby anymore!

Babywearing sites:
Wrap Your Baby - Very clear step-by-step instructions, with photos, for lots and lots of different ways to tie the wrap.
The Mamatoto Project - Includes instructions for using different types of cloth, including shorter scarves and traditional wraps from baby-wearing cultures. The videos are particularly helpful.
La Leche League NZ - Articles on all things baby, including babywearing
Make a Babysling - instructions for making your own.


Oct 21, 2009

visual catchup

Some photos from the last few weeks. No, Merl and I aren't in them, because we are usually behind the camera - or are too exhausted-looking to be fit for public viewing.

Look below the jump for the pics.

Grandma (Merl's Mum) and the girls. I am very lucky to have my MIL. We get on very well and she is brilliant with the kids. She came to stay for just over 2 weeks when the little guy was born and was just generally brilliant.

Grandad (my Dad) with MrBaby and Miss2. It's great to be living so close to Dad. And I think he's much more involved with the kids than he would have been were Mum still alive. He used to back off and leave the child stuff to her, but he's been really great - he looks after Miss2 every week while I take Miss5 to her swimming lesson, and tomorrow he's going with Miss5 to the fracture clinic - hopefully to get her cast removed. Yay.

Miss2. Really getting the hang of hide and seek.

Who says the baby gym is just for the baby?

Oh, yes. Remember I mentioned Miss5's cast? Here's the x-ray...

And here's the cast. She fell off the top bunk at 4am. When Ben was still only a few weeks old. Yeah, that was fun. Thankfully she was only in a lot of pain for that first day, and now she even has a super-duper water-proof cast on that she can go swimming in! Very cool.


Oct 16, 2009

Aisling Symes update

At the very time that I was blogging on Monday evening, the Symes family were informed that their little girl's body had been found in a storm drain near where she went missing a week earlier.

There was no foul play, and no abduction - she had fallen in the fast flowing water drain and drowned (there had been heavy rain recently). Searchers had not found her because her body was swept over 20 metres down the drain.

You may think me heartless, but my first thought was "Thank God". The wee poppet was not being tortured by some sick weirdo, frightened and desperate for her Mum. Her parents are now spared the waking nightmare of other parents who never find out what happened to their babies. There is no prowling child abductor stalking suburban Auckland.

All of which is cold comfort for Alan and Angela Symes, who will never hold their small one in their arms again.

My spirit weeps.


Oct 12, 2009

Aisling Symes

This week I've been deeply affected by the disappearance of Auckland toddler Aisling Symes.

Aisling's family were tidying up a relative's house, to get it ready for sale, last Monday afternoon. Both parents were there. Both kids playing happily. Aisling's Mum was doing something with the washing machine, saw Aisling watching her, turned back to turn the tap off, turned around again and Aisling was gone. She hasn't been seen since.

Every parent's worst nightmare.

Police searched the neighbourhood for 2 days, including nearby waterways, but have since concluded that she must have been abducted. But there are no leads, and no ransom request, and absolutely no clue as to where she might be.

They are hoping that she has been taken by someone who has a desperate urge to have and care for a child, and that she is alive.

We can only pray that this is the case, and that this person will have a fit of remorse and drop Aisling off somewhere safe to be returned to her family.

This has struck particularly close to home as we have children the same age as the Symes' kids. Miss2 even looks kinda like Aisling - blonde, cute, round-faced.

We even know what it's like to have a child vanish (as do most parents, at some point). Miss5 wandered out of church one Sunday when my back was turned for a minute or two (she was three at the time). We found her half an hour later in the pet shop at the corner.

That was without a doubt the most frightening half hour of my life.

I spent the whole time telling myself it was OK, she'd be just around the corner, or inside playing with the bigger kids and then I'd feel silly for being so scared. Trying not to think of all the terrible things that could have happened. Trying to walk, not run, to stay calm and not to panic because that might actually make it real.

I simply cannot imagine living for a whole week with that icy cold terror settling into a certainty. It would drive me absolutely over the edge and into the abyss. To know that even if she is now found 'safe and well', that the scars of this experience will never leave the family. That I would never really know everything that had happened to her while she was away.

That sometimes, monsters do exist, and our fears are fully justified.

If you, or anyone you know, is in the North Island of New Zealand, this little poppet may be near you.

Do you know anyone who has had a young 'cousin' come to stay 'for a while'?
Any new toddlers in the neighbourhood?
Anything just not gel, or that feels wrong?
Keep an eye out for wandering kids - if she was snatched that way, she may be released that way too.

And, of course, pray.

'cause only a miracle will give this story a happy ending.

Note:Update post here

Sep 28, 2009

Sensible policies for a happier Britain

Just stumbled on this. Just what our country needs to bring us out of the recession.

(Please don't)

Sep 11, 2009

Ideas worth spreading

We've spent alot of time recently (exhausting our 5GB per month datacap) looking at seminars from TED, an invitation only conference that puts the presentations online for free.

From "five dangerous things for kids" to "why we do what we do" and "social innovation", these seminars make for excellent and thought provoking viewing.

Miss5 has even sat through a 'magic' presentation, wanting to watch it multiple times.

Now to watch a presentation about wireless electricity.

Please don't

Sep 7, 2009

more photos

More photos from the last week - this time, you can even see his little face!

sunbathing to help with some slight jaundice

Miss2 gets a chance to be a 'BIG sister'!

Our three children - aren't they beautiful?

Just to prove it hasn't been all baby all the time :)


Aug 30, 2009

He's arrived!

Mum a bub are both doing well. Mr0 was 10lb (4.53kg) when he got weighed. We don't know yet how long he is but he's already out of the 00 size stuff.

Now to survive night feeding...

Aug 26, 2009

keeping on keeping on

Yep. Still pregnant.

For a general pregnancy/quilting obsession update, see after the cut...

The final few days of pregnancy suck. (Oh please let it only be "days"!) I feel like I've been in the early stages of labour for about 3 weeks now - I get a couple of hours of proper contractions here and there - strong enough to stop me in my tracks and get the wheat-sacks out - but just when I'm thinking it might actually be ready to roll it all dies down and goes away. Very frustrating!

I'm not sure what's worse - worrying that when I finally decide that I am in labour I'll be 10 minutes away from pushing it out and have to give birth in the carpark - or the other nightmare scenario of turning up at the hospital thinking that I've been labouring well for a while and must have made some progress to find that I'm only 2cm and have hours and hours of work still to go! My midwife plans to do a 'stretch and sweep' on Friday (the 40 week mark) so I guess I'll find out then a little more about the state of play.

As far as 'schooling' goes, we've gone ultra-unstructured the closer we get to the baby's due date, so the kids' 'work' has mostly been colouring in, role-playing with dolls and puppets, reading, chasing the chickens around the yard, helping Daddy cook tea... just generally living life.

As far as 'what do you do all day?' goes, I've discovered hand-piecing patchwork and am now subject to a whole new craft addiction I had been carrying on with piecing a quilt that my Mum had only just started (having finished the other one), but found the paper-piecing technique to be tedious, and the colour-scheme she chose to be dull and boring. So I checked some quilting books out of the library for inspiration and found one which has step-wise instructions for hand-piecing using a running stitch (instructions are great - Jinny Beyer doesn't even assume that you've threaded a needle before). This is much much much faster, so I've set Mum's 'boring quilt' aside and am making a bright scrap-quilt using random bits and pieces from my fabric stash. I plan to use the 'Squares and Triangles' pattern from this book by Lynne Edwards (also from the library), but have just started by making the random-fabric four-patch blocks so there's room to be flexible with my final pattern if I change my mind!

I never thought I'd enjoy hand-piecing. But it really is more convenient than machine piecing. I'm sure the machine would be tons faster - but I just never get around to sitting down in front of it. Hand-piecing is easy to do on the couch in the evenings, and in odd moments here and there, so it actually gets done.

Other than that, we're just hanging around waiting for the baby to be born. It all feels a bit surreal, really. I've been organised and ready for almost too long now - I'm starting to un-organised again (taking things out of the hospital bag because I need them for something else, the bassinet is somehow not made up properly anymore, the 'baby' corner of our room has had a few piles of non-baby stuff stashed there 'out of the way'...)

Aug 10, 2009

still hanging in there

Just a short note to say that I haven't forgotten about my blog, but nothing has happened around here that has struck me as particularly bloggable lately.

So I'll just give you the boring update...

The baby and I are now past the 37 week mark, and my midwife says that 37-42 weeks is 'full term' so if I go into labour now then that is a good thing.

Bring it on, I say.

The quilt is finished - I sewed the binding on last night, and it got washed this morning. I was a bit worried about this as the quilt had some rust stains in it from when my Mum stored it - she'd (very uncharacteristically) left the needle stuck into the fabric. 25 years in a not-always-dry cupboard does horrible things to needles. But, wonderfully, most of the marks came out with a very ordinary warm wash on the delicate cycle in the machine. There's a brownish shadow where the worst mark was, but it's not very obvious, and I'm now confident that it will come out with a gentle spot remover. So that's brilliant.

I'd post a photo but the camera is packed away in the 'going into labour, get me to the hospital' bag, and I just know that if I take the camera out of the bag, it won't make it back in, and the poor child will the first one without newborn-birth photos. So you'll just have to use your imaginations. It's a 'Grandmother's flower garden' single-bed sized bedspread - slightly shorter than a proper single blanket, but wide enough to sleep under without gaps at the side. Mum used calico as the background colour, with the 'flowers' being navy blue centres, with bluey floral then green gingham surrounds.

I finished it with a straight binding, no border, since this was the easiest thing to do. Before she died, I did ask Mum how she'd intended to edge it, but with the combination of a 25 year time-lapse and chemotherapy induced exhaustion, she (understandably) couldn't remember. There were a couple of half-hexagons missing from one edge, too, so I compromised as best I could, and I'm pretty happy with the result.

That's about all that's been happening here - hopefully there will be news of the happy variety in the near future. I tell ya, if this baby goes over the 40 week mark, I will cry.

Jul 22, 2009


Remember this post about rocks?

Barb-Harmony Art Mom (of Outdoor Hour fame) suggested in the comments that a rock that we thought was just a pretty painted rock, might be a rock with shell fossils embedded in it.

And she was right!

I finally got around to having a closer look at the rock, and you can clearly see that those white circles are little shells - like pipi or cockle shells.

I found a good New Zealand shellfish identification guide, here. It's hard to tell what sort of shellfish these are, since the outer surface isn't really visible - the ones which would have been on the outside have broken, leaving only the outline shape of the shell. We are not going to break it open to see more!

So that's pretty cool. We now officially have fossils in our rock collection!

The only downside is that we found this rock in our garden, quite clearly placed there by the previous owners of the house (now both deceased), so we have absolutely no idea where it was collected from. It would have been nice to be able to 'complete the paperwork' for this specimen, but we're pretty happy just to have seen it and to know that it is possible to find them ourselves.


Jul 17, 2009

And it will get bigger...

Just took another belly photo.

I'll be 34 weeks tomorrow.

That leaves another 6 weeks for this baby to get bigger.

And then it has to get OUT.


Jul 13, 2009

bed rest

Well, almost bed rest.

Self-imposed couch rest, really.

At 33wks of this pregnancy I've been having braxton hicks contractions on and off for over a week now. So far they've tapered off after about an hour and half, and they stay about 8 minutes apart and never last longer than about 30-45secs, but each time I get them they either last for a little longer, or they are a little stronger, or they take longer to settle down.

Last night was the first time they've woken me in the night.

So, in an effort to stay pregnant for at least another 3 weeks, I'm self-imposing as much 'bed-rest' as I can manage. The more time I spend upright, the more frequently I have contractions, so my goal is to keep horizontal as much as possible. Merl has dropped down to half days and I'll be using DVDs to babysit the children in the mornings!

Meanwhile, I doubt there'll be much internet browsing or blogging happening. So if I'm not around for a few days or so, that is why!

On the plus side, I'm getting some quilting done on a quilt that my mother started for me for when I moved into my big girl bed. Yes, you read that right - it's a UFO (unfinished fabric object) from 30 years ago. Mum passed it onto me to finish about 6 years ago, when I made my first quilt - by machine. I've never really had the patience for hand-quilting (and this is an entirely hand-pieced, hand-quilted beastie), but now I've got little else I can do, and the sewing is very therapeutic and rhythmic and I can even read stories while I do it, so long as the kids hold the books up for me!

I'm hoping to get it at least mostly finished before the baby arrives, or it may well spend the next 30 years in a cupboard. And I'd really rather sleep under it myself. A precious joint-project with my Mum, whom I'm missing horribly at the moment.

Jul 8, 2009

Honest Scrap award

I am still making up my mind about the whole blog 'award' thing. Part of me thinks of them as chain-letters (albeit fairly benign ones), or thinly veiled self-promotion (hey everyone - I've given you an award and now you have to link to my blog on your blog!). But on the other hand, it's an award. And it is nice to know that someone out there, who doesn't actually know me in real life, is interested in my aimless ramblings. And I like her blog too, so I don't mind promoting it here :)

Alecat at Serenades and Solace has awarded me the Honest Scrap award.

To keep this award, there are some rules by which I (and future recipients) must abide:
1) Say thanks and give a link to the presenter of the award.
2) Share "ten honest things" about myself.
3) Present this award to 7 others whose blogs I find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged me.
4) Tell those 7 people that they've been awarded HONEST SCRAP and inform them of these guidelines in receiving it.

So, here are 10 "honest things" about myself (warning, I am tired and unimaginative - these are not the 10 wittiest honest things, or the 10 most interesting honest things... they are just things)

1. we have ugly carpet in our living room
2. the mouse infestation continues unabated
3. I am 32 1/2 weeks pregnant
4. I love the Princess Bride
5. both Merl and I need to refer to the commemorative cross-stitch to double-check the date of our wedding anniversary (thank goodness my sister-in-law gave us one!)
6. I read a lot of mystery novels and am ecstatic that our local library has just stopped charging rental for them
7. We are at the library almost weekly
8. We have fish and chips for dinner every Friday night
9. We don't have a television, but do use the computer for movies and other media
10. Star Trek - the Wrath of Khan gave me nightmares for weeks and weeks when I saw it as a kid. The thought of little grubs crawling into those poor men's ears...

As for passing the award on, these are a few places that I visit...

Rhonda Jean at Down to Earth no longer accepts awards because she gets so many, so I won't pass it on to her - but I'll keep her on my list of 7. Lots and lots of old-fashioned cooking and gardening and soap making and philosophising on the wonders of simplicity and greenness.

Kris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers is one of my must-visits. There's always something new on her site, and its always thought-provoking, informative or just plain helpful. And frankly, she should win an award just for the name of her blog.

Missy at Caffeinated Jive is a good read. I first came across her as a contributing author to some no-longer active unschoolers combo-blog thing that I can't remember the name of now. Refreshingly non-republican (has anyone else noticed how few non-republican american homeschool bloggers there are in the world? I found Missy's blog about the time of the last US election and was utterly ecstatic to find someone who didn't view Obama as the antichrist - who in fact thought he'd be a good thing - yay!)

Katherine at No Fighting, No Biting is a homeschooling US Navy-wife convert to devout catholicism. I like reading her blog because she is quite different to either myself or anyone I know around here, which is also refreshing.

OK, I know that's only 4, but I really really need to go to lie down now. My belly is aching and it needs to be horizontal. I haven't finished - but I may do so later. Or not. We'll just have to see.


Jul 7, 2009

Quick hits: Panda Style

Miss 5 was in the process of getting ready for bed and ran into the living room naked and holding a book.

Miss 5: Daddy, listen to this about Pandas!

Me: Why are you naked? Finish getting into your PJs

Miss 5 (in a superior tone): THIS is about NATURE



Jul 3, 2009

I'm back!

2 year olds should not repeatedly press the power button of the computer!

It leads to the family not being able to even boot up said computer. Which means, in this household, that there is no internet, no email, and (most importantly perhaps) no DVDs.

Fortunately we could still play the Wii, so all was not lost. But it has been an odd week.

It started with the death of the computer (long live the computer!). Fortunately we have a wonderful friend who potters around with the actual hardware of such things for fun. So it has been returned to us in full working order, and luckily, with no memory loss! Yay! No catastrophic data loss! It even remembers my log-ins for things - which is more than I can usually do. It only needed a new motherboard, CPU, power thingie... (no, I don't really know what they do - Merl has tried to explain it, but I confess that my eyes glaze over a little).

Then Merl went to Wellington for more work stuff. Inconvenient. He'd only been back for a week, and was requested back at 'head office' again - at short notice (like, a phone call on Friday to say 'be here Monday morning'). Usually we have at least a couple of weeks notice. Anyhow, it was only a couple of days this time - not a full week like it normally is. And I have friends who are raising children all by themselves all the time, so I should just suck it up. But I do miss him when he's gone. Especially at the end of a long day. AND there was no computer to play DVDs for the children at the witching hour, either.

But all was well, as he returned home Tuesday evening.

Wednesday was great - I felt full of energy and pottered happily around the place. We visited my aunt in the morning and had a good natter over coffee while Miss5 hung out with my uncle outside, setting up their bird-feeder. Then we came home to a freshly cleaned house (I am the only full-time Mum I know with a cleaner - but I just can't quite seem to feel guilty about it!) and got stuck into some actual school work! (I know! shock! actual lessons!). Miss2 had found a CD in my 'teacher box' with a fire safety song on it, so I followed their interest by producing the Teachers Manual for a fire safety unit (provided by the Fire Service) and we made a big poster about fire, and discussed safe and unsafe fires, and how important it is to 'Get Out, Stay Out' if the smoke alarms go off, etc, etc. And then after lunch we made bird feeders ourselves, and I re-hung the auto-feeder for the chickens at a better height for them (I will post more about this in a chicken post later in the weekend I think). I even cooked a real dinner! Wednesday was great.

Thursday was a bit different. I woke in a bit of pain - sore lower back, a bit achy, hadn't slept well, that sort of thing. Then the ligaments in my belly were agonisingly sore for most of the morning - not easing up when I lay down or anything. So I spent the morning on the couch with a couple of wheat-sacks, while the kids engaged in 'self-directed learning' with colouring and reading and finger puppets and all sorts of things. I noticed that I was having Braxton-Hicks contractions. On and off. No real pattern. Nothing to worry about. Probably. I'm only not-quite 32 weeks pregnant, so it can't be... It'll be fine... sweetheart, can you go through to Mummy's bedside and bring me the pregnancy books from the bedside table please?

Hmmm. Symptoms of pre-term labour are - lower back pain, contractions (usually falling into a pattern and getting stronger), lower abdominal pain. Hmmmm. I'm probably fine, I say to myself. There's no pattern there.

Later in the morning I notice that I'm having a 30second contraction about every 10 minutes. But after about 5 of them they go away. So that's okay, I say to myself. They've stopped now.

I have lunch and return to the couch. I end up by having contractions on and off the rest of the afternoon - but still no pattern to them - but I'm starting to get a little more concerned - so when talking to a friend in the early evening on the phone I ask her what she thinks.

She, very sensibly, thinks I should have phoned my midwife hours ago. So I apologetically phone my wonderful midwife (who is flying out of the country on her holiday the very next morning). All her back-up people are busy. She sighs and says "you really don't want to be in labour now - they'll ship you out because NICU is full". I say "I know I don't want to be in labour now - how can I make sure that I'm not?" And she says "well, you'd better meet me at the hospital right now."

The upshot being that, I was hooked up to the monitors for long enough for her to decide that I might be in pre-term labour, and go and get authorisation to do a swab-test for it. I never knew there was a swab-test for pre-term labour, but there is. It's really expensive so they don't do it unless they think there's good reason. It's a check for some sort of fetal factor which, if present, indicates that labour is likely within the next couple of weeks. Cool, huh?

And I was 99.4% likely to NOT be in pre-term labour. Which was absolutely wonderful and my midwife and I happily went home at 11pm. (She to do the suitcase packing that I'd interrupted). But she did warn me to take it very easy over the next few weeks because the test does have a small margin of error, and I didn't want to risk anything.

So today was another day on the couch. And, thankfully, we have a computer again and the girls spent the afternoon reacquainting themselves with Asterix and the Berenstain Bears before we tottered out to the library about 4pm.

So that was my week - how was yours?

Jun 22, 2009

Mathematician's Lament

This is a wonderful article about the beauty and art of mathematics. It's a 25 page PDF document, so go grab a cuppa and prepare to have your concept of 'maths' turned on its head.

This is an absolute must-read if you're planning on conveying any sort of 'maths-learning' to anyone else, and an important read even if you're not!

The Mathematician's Lament, by Paul Lockhart, 2002

Short bio of Paul Lockhart here

Don't

Jun 17, 2009


It would seem that mice like nice warm houses as much as we do. Go figure.

It would seem we are a trifle over-run. (Apologies to all those who have already heard me go on at length about our mouse issue - there's nothing new here, but I still have a need to get it off my chest!)

I knew we had a small mouse problem - the odd dropping here and there, the occasional full trap, that sort of thing. I figured this level of rodentry was acceptable, given that we have active compost heaps, chicken food, and a lots of hiding spaces in the garden. And no cats or dogs. Some mouse encroachment was inevitable, I figured, so long as it didn't get out of hand! About a month ago I made sure all the food was in mouse-proof containers, found one open box of cornmeal that was well-moused (which I got rid of), and figured that would keep their numbers down, or at least, easily managed by the one trap in the kitchen.

How wrong I was.

Our living area is semi-open plan. There are double french-type doors between the living room and the dining room, and an open doorway from the dining room to the kitchen. The french doors are usually kept open, except in really cold weather when we shut them to keep the heat (from the heatpump) in the living room - usually in the evenings and overnight. Yesterday these doors were closed pretty much all day as I and the girls kept the living room toasty warm. They stayed shut overnight too.

I have once seen a mouse run from the kitchen, through the dining room, into the living room and along the living room wall behind the sofa. I have no idea where it went after that - I couldn't find it. I didn't think much of it (except to go re-load the trap) - just "gosh the mice are getting brazen, time to step up the trapping". It never occurred to me that I had just seen a mouse using one of their super-highways.

This morning while sitting in the dining room with my morning coffee I noticed a large amount of carpet-fluff in the doorway to the living room. "That's odd," I thought, and went closer to inspect. Mixed in with the fluff was a considerable amount of mouse droppings. And on closer inspection I found that the little blighters have chewed the carpet bare along where the french doors close - apparently in an attempt to dig through and re-open their super-highway. I then noticed a similar, but much smaller, bare patch with associated carpet fluff at the other door out of the living room.

"How big is my mouse problem?!" I muttered to myself, and stalked through to the kitchen to investigate. One clean and empty trap. The mice have (once more) successfully removed the bait from the trap without springing it. Great. What about the bottom cupboard where the cornmeal box used to be? Oh. Oh dear.

There was a whole layer of mouse droppings in this cupboard (despite there being no available food in it), and in the adjacent cupboard (which has never had any food in it).

With brush and shovel in hand and droppings and carpet fluff cleaned away, I went on a further investigation of the super-highway.

The rubbish bin and paper-recycling area yielded further copious quantities of mouse droppings, and some nibbled cardboard.


I turned to the internet for advice. It is not comforting. A house mouse can have a litter of up to 6 pups, each month. One mouse usually means a nest. They don't usually range far from their nests, so if you see a mouse the problem is likely to be yours - not your neighbours (not that I thought for a second that my neighbours, all of whom have large dogs, and are more obsessive about their sections than us, were the source of our infestation!). The advice boils down to: seal up all holes larger then 1.8cm (a U.S. dime was the 'measurement' given - so then I had to look up how big a dime was - annoying), trap, trap, trap the highways, poison in the roof and floor cavities, get rid of clutter (which is a nesting place haven) and if that fails, call in the professionals.

So we went out. I needed to run away from the problem for a little while.

And then we came back and the day continued along its happy course. We had dinner, we said goodnight, we put the kids to bed. I availed myself of the bathroom...

A mouse ran into the bathroom.

I could do nothing except lift my feet off the floor and squeek "eeek mouse! go away!" (I didn't want the kids to leap out of bed to investigate). It ran behind me, and I couldn't see it! And I am now hugely pregnant and can't twist around at all, so I was just stuck there with my feet in the air hoping the mouse would get back where I could see it, because I knew there was no exit at ground level behind me and I sure as heck did not want it climbing...

Fortunately it ran out to behind the door.

I made my escape with all due haste, leaving it an escape route into the laundry (and thence out the back door, I hope!).

I have since set all the traps we have - 4 of them - mostly in the kitchen and one in the living room.

I do not know the exact route the super-highway takes - it concerns me that there were scratchings at both living room doors - trying to get out of the living room. I have no idea where an entrance point in that room might be - unless there is a largish gap in the floorboards somewhere behind the couch or piano, or possibly through our disused fireplace. At 30 weeks pregnant, however, I am not shifting the piano to find out! (Merl can do that this weekend).

There is no earthly way of effectively sealing the underside of this house. We know one entrance point for the mice is in the kitchen, where the sink and dishwasher pipes exit the house, but there are nooks and crannies everywhere for them to come in.

Properly ridding the cellar of clutter is on our 'list of things to do'. The underneath of our house is packed to the brim with hoarded building, gardening, painting, you name it supplies from the previous owner. Loads of stuff that is just junk - it might have 'come in handy one day' if it hadn't been stuck in a damp mouldy cellar for 40 years. Now it's all just a rusted, rotted pile of junk. Which we bought with the house. At some point we will get around to hiring a skip and clearing it out, but thus far that has fallen into the 'not this weekend' category. This provides nesting-sites aplenty for mice - right beneath our floorboards.

And that's pretty much where our mouse situation is at. I heard one of the traps go "sproing" while I was typing this, and I'm in two minds as to whether to go investigate it this evening - giving the trap the chance to trap another mouse overnight - or to wait until morning and check all the traps at once.

I'm also not that keen on actually handling dead rodents. I don't know what diseases they commonly have in this country, but I doubt that they can be good for unborn babies (given that we're not supposed to deal with cat faeces, I can't see that dead mice is any better).

I'll need to find my disposable vinyl gloves.


Jun 16, 2009


Some photos of last night's snow at our place. I took some at 7.30 this morning while it was still dark (and the kids were miraculously still sleeping!).

And of course, there's the compulsory "children enjoying snow" photo...


Jun 14, 2009

Outdoor Hour #6 - Collections

Okay, so we did this nature walk a few weeks ago. It turns out I'm even slacker about blogging them than I am about doing them!

I've decided to relax about our 'chosen subject' of rocks and minerals, and just keep it to being a simple walk while keeping our eyes and ears open to the world around us. I was starting to 'over-plan' and then not go out for even a simple walk, because I didn't have time or energy to execute 'the plan'.

Typical perfectionism. Which I am learning to recognise and roll my eyes at.

We are still using the Outdoor Hour framework as a guideline, so I'll give you the short and sweet summary for week #6

Read with your child something about your chosen area of study
Take your walk
Note in your notebook anything you saw that is related to the study topic
Give an opportunity to draw or make some other notebook entry
Start a collection, if appropriate

Well, we really just needed an outing in the fresh air. We had had endless days of rain and grey skies and suddenly were blessed with a fine, clear, breezy, crisp winter's day. I suggested a stroll around the neighbourhood to keep an eye out for interesting rocks, and Miss5 asked if she could bring her kite.

So, after a very brief internal struggle ("if we fly kites, we won't be looking at rocks... oh who cares? So long as they are outside and enjoying it!"), we popped the kite into the pushchair, wrapped up warmly and ventured up to the playground.

Let's go fly a kite...
It was wonderful!

We didn't open the nature journal at all once we got home - just snuggled in the warm indoors with chamomile tea and bikkies. (Since reading that Madeline had chamomile tea after falling in the water, Miss5 has taken a liking to it. And whatever Miss5 does, Miss2 will copy, so I've got two little herbal tea drinkers!). And that was the end of our 6th Outdoor Hour.

However, since this is the 'collections' post for the Outdoor Hour, it is a good time to show you our rock collection
Miss5's rock collection
We use an egg tray to keep each rock separate and cushioned a little from its neighbour. Under each rock is a slip of paper giving the date and location we found it, and its identity, if we know it.

The rock on the far right is there because Miss5 likes the white circles on it. They are paint or glue or something like that, but since collecting is as much an aesthetic exercise as a scientific one, the painted rock has its place here.

Jun 9, 2009

Why Jesus never married

I'm sure this has been a burning question for you. Certainly Miss5 was pondering it on our way home from church on Sunday.

Here is the dialogue that ensued...

Miss5: Jesus never married

parent (can't remember which of us said what, but its immaterial): that's right

Miss5: 'cos Jews never married

parent: Ah, no. Jews get married. It's just that Jesus spent all his time telling people about God.

Miss5: Yeah. Instead of getting married and getting his wife to do it.


So now you know.

As I recall, we were both laughing too hard to set her properly straight on this one, although I think we did make an attempt...


Jun 6, 2009

Found it!

Or rather, the internet has told me where to look for it, and I will do so as soon as the weather stops being truly awful.

Found what? you ask... The dipstick! Of course.

It's in the most logical place imaginable.

Under the front passenger seat.

How silly of me. Of course I should have looked there.

Apparently the Toyota Estima/Previa/Tarago (depending on which country it is sold in) is a "mid-engine car". So the engine is mounted under the front seats, not all out the front under the bonnet. Which makes sense when you actually look at the vehicle - there isn't enough room out the front for an engine.

But does make it an exercise in lateral thinking when looking for things you would normally find under the hood!

On the plus side, my Owner's Manual should arrive this coming week, so hopefully it will hold the answers to all future questions of this nature.

Jun 4, 2009

Go greased lightning!

Or, perhaps not quite greased lightning. I somehow can't see John Travolta and his greasy crew getting very excited about our new people-mover. But I'm pretty excited. And off the top of my head, that song from Grease was the only car-pride anthem I could think of.

We are now the owners of a 1999 Toyota Estima Emina. Yep. We decided that a station wagon just wasn't going to be big enough for our growing family. (Well, not when relatives come to stay or we want to take a friend somewhere). As an aside, try saying "Toyota Emina" 5 times fast. Do you hear it? Worlds worst marketing decision.

But this post is not just about showing a photo of our new vehicle to our out of town relatives. It is also a book-review in praise of Auto Repair for Dummies, by Deanna Sclar.

Not that our car needed repairing at all - it survived the trip back from the Lakes District (where we bought it from) very well.

No, what I like about this book is that it starts with you as an absolute beginner (it explains, with diagrams, the difference between a standard and Philip's screwdriver, for instance), and walks you step by step through the whole shebang of car maintenance and repair.

I bought this book about 10 years ago when I got sick of suspecting I was being ripped off by my mechanic but having absolutely no idea whether I was or not. Being completely and utterly ignorant of the workings of my car meant that I couldn't tell the difference between a good mechanic and a bad one, or between a necessary repair and a waste of money.

With the help of this book I became quite proficient at the (very very) basic level of DIY car maintenance. Although I never got around to doing an actual oil change, I did replace the fuel and air filters and just generally took better care of my machine - making sure the tyres were properly inflated, being able to replace windscreen wipers, that sort of thing.

Once our first child came along and we replaced my old faithful hatchback with a sensible stationwagon I stopped doing the car repairs. For one thing, I was heavily pregnant at the time and just couldn't face getting down on my hands and knees in the garage. For another, the newer car had more stuff under the bonnet to get my head around - and everything just looked different. And once the baby was born I simply didn't have a couple of hours at a stretch to potter under the hood of the 'new' car to work out where everything was. So it just became easier to just rely on the mechanic again. We knew we had a good one, so that was alright.

When Merl drove our new beastie home, however, I was itching to get under the hood. You see, we bought this car via TradeMe (New Zealand's version of ebay), and didn't get it mechanically inspected or anything first (though we did get a VIR to check it was free from finance claims etc etc). I know. I know. Madness. But it was a very very good buy and even if it needs a couple of serious things done to it, we'll still be paying less than we would if we'd bought it through a dealer.

To set my mind at rest, I turned once again to my trusty Auto Repair for Dummies and performed the Monthly Under-the Hood Check. To see what I could see. Basically, all was more or less well, but there were a few things that I noted. Despite the car having been 'serviced' 2 weeks ago, the air filter was utterly filthy - so I can conclude that the 'service' was probably just an oil and filter change, and she's probably due a proper tune up. The hoses and wiring all looked in good nick, but the battery housing is quite corroded and the battery looks like it might even be leaking a little (despite it being new last year). So I think their mechanic was crap. The tyres were also horribly under-inflated - instead of being at 2.3kg per cm3 (approx 230kPa) - as specified on the little door decal, it looks like they were at 23 psi - not at all the same thing!

The one thing that completely stumped me was the search for the dipstick! I have no idea. I looked and looked and looked, and couldn't even see where I might add the oil itself, let alone find the dipstick. So if you know where to find such a thing on this model vehicle, I would be very grateful for the information!

By the end of yesterday, I'd inflated the tyres to their correct pressure, replaced the air filter and worked out how to use the CD changer (very important). I feel quite chuffed with myself. I'm sure it's driving better already, but she's still making the occasional funny noise. I'm now thinking that we might take it in for one of those 'pre-purchase inspections' just so we know what we're looking at. And then book her in for a full service and tune up, because I am, of course, heavily pregnant once more and am not going to do it myself.

One last word in praise of the Monthly Under the Hood Check-up. These things are really easy to do, and the very action of looking and seeing how your car is doing means you are far more likely to take her to a mechanic when something starts to go wrong, rather than waiting until it is very expensive and inconvenient.
  • Check the air filter
  • Poke all the belts to see if they're frayed or loose
  • Inspect the battery for corrosion/leaking
  • Check the levels of all the fluids - coolant, brake fluid, transmission fluid, windscreen washer fluid etc - in new cars these mostly have see-through reservoirs that you can just look at and see if its between 'max' and 'min' level
  • Squeeze the hoses to make sure they're neither spongy and bulgy nor brittle
  • Check the oil
  • Inspect the wiring to see if anything is loose
  • Check the windscreen wipers
  • Check the tyre pressure
  • ta daa!
Deanna Sclar of course gives detailed instructions on how to do each of these things (including how to open the bonnet of the car...), and although the first time I did it on my first car it took me a good hour, once I knew how to do everything it only took 15 minutes. Not a bad time investment when you consider that "taking care of these things can prevent 70% of the problems that can cause highway breakdowns".

All good.

May 15, 2009

Tree grows inside man's lung

This article caught my eye a couple of weeks ago and has been waiting for an opportunity to be blogged. There's actually a picture of the wee fir tree inside the lung, if you follow the link to the news story.

Tree grows inside man's lung
A Russian man who was being operated on for a suspected tumour ended up having a fir tree removed from one of his lungs.

The 5cm tree, was discovered by surgeons when they opened up Artyom Sidorkin, 28, according to Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Gazeta.

It is believed Mr Sidorkin inhaled a seed, which then sprouted into a small fir tree inside his lung...

The article continues...
He went to doctors complaining of extreme chest pain and coughing up blood.

Surgeon Vladimir Kamashev told the newspaper he was sure it was cancer.

"We did X-rays and found what looked exactly like a tumour. I had seen hundreds before, so we decided on surgery."

The tree was discovered when surgeons took a biopsy before removing the major part of the man's lung.

"I thought I was hallucinating," said Dr Kamashev.

"I blinked three times as I was sure I was seeing things."

"It was very painful. But to be honest I did not feel any foreign object inside me," a relieved Mr Sidorkin told the paper.

Craziness. And I always thought that those stories of not eating seeds because they'd sprout inside you were utter wives' tales. Turns out that, if you're a bit woolly on the difference between swallowing and inhaling, the old wives might not be so wrong after all.

May 11, 2009

Outdoor Hour #5 - making a list

As I was sitting down to read over the suggestions for our next Nature Study, I remembered that I hadn't as yet shared our previous Outdoor Hour. About a week and a half ago we looked at the Outdoor Hour #5 - making a list.

You may recall that our focus topic is 'rocks'. The task for this session is, briefly;
Pick one item in your focus area to study, turn to those pages (in the Handbook of Nature Study, by Anna B Comstock), and read to your child about that subject. At the end of each section, there are observation ideas for each subject and these observation suggestions will be the parent’s reading assignment this week.(see below) As you find things in your focus area, keep a running list in the front or back of your nature journal of those items.
Then, during the walk, to quietly observe anything we came across, but paying special attention to items in the focus area.

On this occasion, we went for a walk around the block. Miss5 requested a visit to the playground but the wind was bitterly cold so I restricted our outing to once around the block.

According to Miss5, we heard "chickens bok bok", "trees rustling", "a tiny sparrow chirping in a tree", and "noisy cars".

We found a lovely white stone with orange markings through it, just over the road from our house. Miss5 coloured in an outline of this once we got back home, and discovered the joy of coloured-pencils (which allow a much closer colour match than felt pens).

Passing one house, which is under construction, we saw a trench cut in the ground, which allowed us to see the layer of topsoil, and the layer of clay beneath. And we saw many retaining walls made out of igneous rocks.

Miss5 also collected a handful of different leaves and a couple of flowers for our nature journal.

For the readings, instead of using the Handbook, I read out a short passage about igneous rocks from the book Geology Rocks by Cindy Blobaum. I borrowed this one from the library for its "50 Hands-on Experiments!", and have been very impressed with it. We'll be more likely to use the Handbook when we come to study some of the more 'alive' bits of nature, as Comstock's treatment of Geology is quite cursory.

The Geology Rocks! experiments associated with 'igneous rocks' seem worth doing too - looking at the effect that cooling rate has on the formation of crystals in a substance (using molten sugar). This will (hopefully) demonstrate why some igneous rocks are shiny and glass-like, while others are coarse and grainy, when they both started out as magma. I plan to do this with Miss5 tomorrow, and (weather permitting) go on an igneous-finding walk later in the week - but we shall see how the week pans out!

May 8, 2009

catch-up on the week that was

My goodness! Has it been a week already since I last posted?! How time flies when the whole family has a tummy bug...

But we're all better now. The bug only lasted 2 days for me, and even less time for the rest of the family, although I have stayed fairly wiped-out for the rest of the week. Thank goodness for the 'self-directed learning' approach to home educating! It's enabled me to notice all the learning that Miss5 (and Miss2) are doing, even on the days when we don't do all (or any) of my planned learning activities.

For instance...

Today Miss5 spent a good 10 to 15 minutes reading poetry aloud to Miss2 - noticing for herself some of the different ways that words can be used, and some of the different layers of meaning in the poems. Her favourite is called "The Chameleon" by Roger Stevens (from the Poetry Alive! Footprints in the Butter anthology), which you really have to see to appreciate, and I can't find a copy on the 'net. But essentially it is the word "tree" repeated many many times, as a 'shape poem' in the shape of a tree - and the words "you can search all day but you'll never see the chameleon hiding in the" hidden within the myriad "tree"s. This appeals to her on many levels and it's neat to see her enjoying poetry all on her own initiative.

She has completely devoured a book on Cleopatra which I got out of the library. I had decided it was possibly a little old for her and put it aside to just take back to the library,but she found it and read it before I'd realised. So we have had a couple of discussions about how even grown ups can make bad choices, and just because famous and royal people did things, doesn't mean they were good things to have done (like... extra marital affairs, suicide, murder, that sort of thing). Which are good discussions to be having, I just wasn't really anticipating having them with my five year old. I've heard her announcing "Hey (Miss2)! Let's read our History Books! Here, I'll read this one, and you read that one." Then she gives Miss2 a less-favoured book on Egypt from the library, and they both lie on the floor with their books in front of them, reading away (or, in Miss2's case, just doing whatever her big sister is doing). Miss2 will occasionally announce "Hissty book!"

Lots of colouring in. This is all colour experimentation ("hey Mum, when I mix orange and purple, I get brown!"), social studies (various costumes being appropriate for different roles), realism vs interpretation ("I'm just going to do MY birds like this, even if God does his differently"), and narrative composition (she makes up stories that attempt to unify the different pages of the colouring book into some storyline that makes sense).

Playing with her sister. This is big for things like negotiation of personal boundaries, sharing, being considerate, self-defence, thinking ahead (putting delicate things out of reach), a sense of perspective (Miss2 pulling a bookmark out of a book is not the end of the world - we will find the chapter again), forgiveness, graciousness, and other important life skills. I am really impressed at how well they play together, given that Miss2 is definitely in 'toddler mode'.

Playing outside. This week she has brought in lots of leaves and flowers and is starting to notice which trees the different leaves come from. She found a small branch with some dead leaves on it this week and was able to tell me which tree it must have come from, based on the type of bark. So her observation and problem-solving skills are improving. Also lots and lots of trampolining and some tree climbing has got to be good 'physical education'.

Playing games. The maths skills acquired when playing card and dice games are fairly obvious - but its the sort of thing we do for fun on our family nights, rather than as a formal schooly lesson.

So there you go - all that on top of: learning how to write the letters 'c' and 'o';reviewing the other letters she already knows (i,l,t,u,w,j,y,n,m,r,h,b,p,k - we learn them in 'families' of similarly shaped letters); learning about 'odd' and 'even' numbers, and why they are called odds and evens; acquiring cultural capital through our read-alouds of Black Beauty and various Fables and Fairy Tales; and generally running around and having a good time with the other kids at our local weekly home educator's get together (which we don't get to weekly, but really enjoy it when we do!).

The only thing I'm a little disappointed about this week is that we didn't get a Nature Study done (we did do one last week, I just haven't blogged it yet!). The weather has been okay - I just have forgotten to take my iron tablets more often than not this week and my brain has largely been out to lunch and my body has been lying down and falling asleep whenever it thinks it can get away with it.

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