Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Birds, a story by Princess (aged 6)

The Birds

One day there was some friendly little birds that got captured in a cage each and taken away.

Some got took to the circus, some got took to the wild, some got took the zoo.

They all missed each other so much that they wanted to go and find all their other friends, but they never got out of their cages, even if they tried biting them or slipping through them- they still couldn;t get through to find their friends.

But, lucky for one of the circus parrots, he got out every single night for a show, and one night he got free and flew away as fast as he could to get to the others.

First, he went to the zoo and couldn;t find his friends. He got lost in the zoo, so flew out to see where he was going. He flew as high as he could, just under the clouds, he flew and flew and finally found his bird friends in cages but he couldn't see them because they were high up in the corners.

He called, "Friends, friends- where are you? Come out, come out wherever you are!"

They came down, and said, "Let us out please, please".

"But I don;t know where the key is."

"I know", said one parrot, and the other one flew and got it and put it in the lock.

"And now I think that we should fly away and find the others in the wild."

They called out, "Where are you my friends- I've found the others". He said to his friends, "Come on guys let's split up in to teams- you three go that was, and we'll go this way and meet back at the tallest tree..see ya later, bye!"

The ones on the left couldn't seem to find any parrots, then suddenly they did see one, but he was trapped, "Help me!", he called, "A lion is trying to catch me". His friends said, "Fly up here", and he did, and said, "Thanks Guys".

The others said, "Come up to this big tree, and nothing will get you there.

The ones on the right found some parrots too, and helped each other carry the injured ones, because two leopards were trying to catch them. They took the parrots back to the tree so they couldn't get caught by the leopards.

They were all so happy to be with each other that flew back and around and round together,and decided to make that tall tree their home. Since it was the biggest tree, it could fit all of them. Those ten parrots got some sticks and berries and things to make that big tree their home. One of the girl parrots knitted sweaters, so they could keep warm while they sleep and when it was cold and snowed at Christmas time of course.

That's how the parrots got back together, and they never let anyone catch them again because they were too high to catch them unless a plane came, or maybe a hawk or something- but they could scare them away with their enormous squawks, or bite their fingers of course. So from that day forward they were forever together.

The End.


We've been having a really cool conversation on our local unschooling list about timestables.

It's been wonderful to hear of grown-up unschooled children never bothering with them, and yet able to work out the calculations in their own way.

It's also been good to consider why one would want a child to learn them if they weren't coming up in their ordinary lives anyway. I've always enjoyed reading on Sandra Dodd's website about timestables...because it was one thing I wondered how it would work. Mine had been learned by rote, and I did very well at timestables. Plenty of others didn't.

We used to have a Timestables ladder in our class. I never thought what it must be like to have your name at the bottom of that ladder for all to see (all day every day- it was in a very prominent place), beyond being glad it wasn't me.

The idea was that in front of the whole class, a child would challenge someone higher up than themselves, and the teacher would fire timestables at the children, and the winner was the one that answered (correctly) first. I was always at the top, but it stressed me out enormously...I remember lying awake at night imagining how embarrassing it would be if someone beat me- how much the other children would laugh and make a fuss. I had been told I was stupid in school, and to me that stupid ladder kinda proved I wasn't...but the pressure (from myself) to stay on top was horrible. Funny though, that now I can see that was a paltry worry compared to what it must have been like to be at the bottom.

Anyway...I was discussing these recent conversations with my best friend J, when Princess who had been listening in asked, "What are timestables anyway?"

I tried to give a simple definition, then thought it was better to show her. I made a grid, and we filled in the obvious timestables, with Princess noting that it was very boring.

This made J laugh, and said, "Yeah- but the silly thing is- at school you have to do them every day for years, and you've worked out more than half of them in a few minutes."

She lost interest pretty quickly, and maybe I should have thought of a more interesting way to describe them...but really a timestable grid is not interesting (unless you like to notice patterns).

It would be far more interesting to say something like ,"Gaia Cash is $10 ($20 actually in $NZ), if you wanted to buy 3 lots it would cost $30 ($NZ60).

J-Man used to like a particular type of Lego that was $7 a was easy for him to work out how many boxes he could get for the amount of money he could get, because it was interesting and important to him. Not so with 7x4.


I'm always hopeless at spotting "connections' as people like to talk about on unschooling lists, but had a beauty yesterday.

It started with Tombliboo (2 years 2 months) watching Little Einsteins (repeatedly) for several hours...this boy watches more dvd's than any 2 year old I have ever heard of. I do have moemnts of worry, but mostly I can see he is developing veyr well, and I'm perfectly content watchign him choose how he will spend each day.

So, it got to a bit where one of the little people said in a very cutesy voice, "Can you say 'metamorphosis'."

I was trying to be involved, so repeated back, "Metamorphosis", with my toddler chiming in.

J-Man (just turned 10) looked shocked, and asked, 'Don't you know what metamorphosis means Mum?"

Lol, "Yes, Darling- I know what it you?"

"Yeah- of course I do", he answered. I was surprised at this- I donlt think I came across the term until at least intermediate (11, 12 years), or maybe even high school...I was pretty sure i had never used the term, or remembered it coming up in our day-to-day lives.

I was intrigued, so I asked him if he remembered how he leanred it.

"Sure- it was on World of Warcraft...Metamorphosis in one of the abilities of Warlocks" there you have it- yet asnother random thing learned byu plaing an online game.

Later that night, as I read The Witches to Princess (surely one of the bonuses of being a your favourite childhood books), the second chapter we read was entitled "Metamorphosis"...see the connection? (I'm not's just that I normally miss them, but this one was so glaring!).

She asked what it meant, and had a good idea by the end of hte chapter...then commented, "Of course a bowl can have metamorphosis".

OK, that's a stretch, but I listened...

"Yes", she continued," A bowl can turn in to a hat...and a pretty good one if you like that sort of hat."

I love watching my children learn...can you tell?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Picnic for the Planet

I really wanted to get along to the Picnic for the Planet, but it wasn't looking likely since we had a visitor staying...but I ended up taking Tombliboo and going with J, M and J2. They were heading out to see some friends afterward, so I needed to get my own way home (or wait for dh to come get us after he had dropped off J12).

We got there too late to hear the address, but i got a print-out of it (just haven't read it yet!).

We had a delicious organic sausage, and some even better organic ice cream (must look up wher to buy that, or better still- make my own!).

The toddlers had a lot of fun, and our time was up very quickly...I decided to take Tombliboo on a train, but once we got ot he station we discovered they were doing maintenance work on the lines. We took a bus from Henderson to the city, which was seriously the longest bus ride of our lives.

Tombliboo was veyr sick of it after a time, and I couldn't seem to keep him amused very long at all. At every stop, he said, "We get off", adn when the answer was ,"No, not yet" he looked set to burst every time.

Still, we got there in the end, and decided to go to Burger King (after our organic sausage and ice cream, lol) for somethign to eat. The staff gave him a corwn, and he thouight he was the Bee's Knees.

Next we went to Whotcoulls to look for a new book for him. He looked through several that I selected, adn that he foudn himslef, and eventually chose Maisy, Charley and the Wobbly Tooth (which was a big fave when he was 15-18 months old). He sepnt time playing wiht their train tracks, and we looked through the shop for a veyr long time.

We paid for the books- one for Princess too, and some new plastic no-mess crayons (which are not no-snap-in-half), then walked to Britomart to catch a train home.

Tombliboo had a ball in these reallty cool fountains I didn't know existed.

He got his first lot of clothes soaked, then when he seemed "done", I dressed him again and he got those soaked as well ("I get all wet!"), so dressed him in my extra top, which he guessed it...proceeded to soak as well.

I took him to the train station starkers, much to the amusement of all and sunder.

I eventually managed to get a pair of shorts on him, and we caught the next train. It was a great trip, though he did want to get off at every stop. He was amusing all the other passengers, and being very un-shy (usually) util one pair of girls came near him (to exit the train) and he did his usual- puts his hand up ot his face so you can't see him.

We arrived at the train station closet to home not long before dh, picked up some things to make dinner, and went home.

It was a great day, slightly harrowing in parts, but such a lot of fun to be just me and Tombliboo...I see now (I think) what all my (older) friends meant when they used to say "You've got so much energy", when I was the mum of just one toddler...I didn't see it then, but I'm sure I had a tonne more energy back when I was 24!

We've been having hourly-breastfeeding the last few nights, and I'm I guess that doesn't help. Maybe tonight will be a good one.

J-Man is 10!

Our gorgeous boy is now 10 years old...where did that time disappear?

He said he had the "best day ever...well, apart from one of course"...that's the day he was born, nothing compares to that :0)

It started quite late, which was good- gave me some time to go to the shop for last-minute supplies, and blow up the balloons.

He had been very specific about how his present was to be...a large box, wrapped and filled with polystyrene balls (removed from a beanbag!).

He had chosen the psp games he wanted for his birthday, and tried hard to forget which ones he had picked.

We added a few other edible goodies for him, and he loved it.

J-Man helped us all tidy the (bomb-site) house, while we ate hash browns, and we were rushing like crazy because J12 was due over at 3pm, and J-Man and I had decided to see a movie together (just us) before that.

His request this year was for a cheesecake, and had considered the possibility of edible icing, but decided he would rather have the money spent on other things.

I made that cheesecake in the biggest hurry ever, but it turned out beautifully...we went to see Bolt 3D- very enjoyable, though I fell asleep...I don't think I have ever been to an afternoon movie and *not* fallen asleep. It was lovely to be alone together, and I tried hard to think of when the last time we went to a movie *just us* was...and I rather think there was only one other time...we saw Monsters Inc together just before J-Man turned 3!

We ate his favourite things...natural licorice, non-msg sour cream and chives chips and drank frozen Coke. Meanwhile, dh was off getting a WoW picture laminated to put on the cake, and picking up J and M's x-box.

Tombliboo went to sleep, so they went home, leaving J-Man and I to catch a bus home...that was even more time together, and utter bliss :0)

We got home about 10 minutes before J12 arrived. The boys got busy on x-box, and Gamemaker Pro, and stayed at that all night. They went out with dh to choose more games, and get pizza for dinner.

We didn't get to the cake until around 10pm, and J-Man hugged me so hard because he thought it was amazing! (Woot!...oh, apparently I don't sound good saying "Woot", and should say "yippee"'s more me, according to J-Man).

I went to bed with Tombliboo not long after that, and when I came out to the study in the morning, here was J-Man...

Happy Birthday J-Man!

Our week

Photo Note...This is Princess, aged 6...she is holding a screw J-Man found on the beach, with a piece of fruit inside, and calling herself the Statue of Liberty (lol).

I had an epiphany this week...that maybe I am not helping my children get along well...maybe I've been contributing to their fights recently...and it seems I have- everything changed when I apologised to my gorgeous boy- and I saw (a bit late really) just how annoying it can be sometimes to be "the eldest", the one that is supposed to be perfect always.

The message that jumped at me so suddenly was from a fellow usnchoolign Mum, in an unschooling (ponline) hang-out I havne;t been frequenting for ages...maybe it will help someone reaidng here.

Always assume good intent.

Days are whizzing by, but we're just having fun being together, and loving each other.

This week we were concentrating on planning J-Man's birthday (my baby is 10!), and the plan just wouldn't sort itself out.

His original one was to have his two favourite people- best friend J12, and favourite cousin M11 over to go to the wave pools, then home for (bought) pizza, and a sleepover...but we didn't count on M11 needing to go away for the weekend. Then, J12 got an ear infection, so couldn't swim.

Anyway, we spent a lot of time talking over different possibilibities, and (procrastinating about) getting invitations done...well, it was hard to create invites when we didn't really know what was happening.

We also had a fun night at J, M and J2's, quite began with a playtime in their pool, and went on to be Thai takeaways (good for points, though probably not with the quantity I ate), and lots of chatting and some tv.

We're going to really miss them when we go, and are very glad to be seeing a lot more of them atm.

We took buses to Papakura for Princess to see an ear specilaist (all fine), and that ended up being a neat adventure, with a lot of time spent at a cool park. It was also a tonne of walking for Tombliboo, and resulted in his first ever 7 hour sleep! I don't think he snuck in a breastfeed without me looking at the clock...I always look at the clock, as daft as that is, lol.

We made icecream in a bag, watched lots of movies, read books, chased each other, planted some container-seedlings in to the ground, played Singstar, dug up my first ever batch of potatoes (man they were *good*!), went for walks to the shop and library, played Packrat (on Facebook), Gaia, drew pictures, played with trains. Princess had a real puzzle day where she did as many puzzles as she could fit in the lounge...then Tombliboo came along and spread them roudn the house.

Gradnma and Poppy visitedbriefly, and Poppy (very kindly) sat through an entire dvd of Curious George with his littlest grandson...

J-Man started making a computer game with some free software, and fiddled aroudn with Photoshop (changing the colour of his eyes, and removing a mark from where Tombliboo hit him with a stick!).

We also tidied the mess that just keeps growing...why aren't people working harder on the self-cleaning house??

Sunday, January 18, 2009

ThiNk GoOd ThoUghTs

It's about time I lost some weight...fairly very grossed out by my flabby tummy (and arms, and legs, and everything).

Maybe grossed out enough (at last) to actually try to get rid of it, and have that resolve last more than 3 days?

I hope so.

To kick start things, I'm going to be quite tough and try to eat practically nothing "naughty" today (all week, hopefully)...that is, I will be eating a lot of vegetables today (without cheese, lol).

I began "wogging" this week...that's a mixture between jogging and walking, but for me it's mostly walking. I've never been in to running- sprinting is fun, but running...boooooooring.

My first jaunt was quite fun- I don't get a lot of time by myself, and I enjoyed the quiet. I ran as far as I could, which sadly- was not veyr far (maybe 500m??). I could have run further, but I was bored- that's the problem, it seems so pointless.

Then I mostly walked, but landed at a beach neaar our home, which was quite wonderful actually.

But the next outing, J-Man came with me! That was infinitely better- not boring at all, bliss.

He looked set to not be able to keep up, and was wheezing and moaning very early into it...but then totally pulled through. We didn;t run as much as I might have liked, but it was so sopecial just to have that time alone with him, both getting the exercise we desperately need.

The last (and only) time I lsot a lot of weight (19kg), J-Man was a year old...I ate well, but also exercised plenty- we went for a walk every day (him in the buggy), and I also did aquarobics 2-3 times a week ,and went for 2 1hr+ walks with friends. Thigns are *very* different now, but I am still hoping to pull something out of the bag.

I'm also booked to do a duathlon on March 1st...why???

I'm going to need lots of encouragement!


We love Motat...we've bought an annual pass the last few years- they're fabulous value...not much more than the cost of a family visit, and you can go any time you like for the year. This gives you entrance to Motat, a ride on the tram, a ride on the spaceship (4D experieince), and they have a new theme every school holidays. It really is a very cool place.

J-Man has felt tired of it recently, but mostly because he prefers to stay home. Our pass runs out this week, and since we are moving in a matter of weeks, we will not renew it. We wanted to go one last time, which didn't really suit J-Man.

Still, the rest of us were keen, so he came too...and we all had a blast!

They were doing a spy theme, and the older children attempted to complete the mission. We realised we were going to be short of time, so I took Tombliboo and Princess on the tram to the other site for Princess to complete an obstacle course, leaving dh and J-Man to unravel some codes and puzzles.

Pricness was fabulous on the obstacle course- accomplished it very easily, and quickly. I was really proud of her, because I think she would have preferred to stay and do puzzles, but J-Man wasn't keen on anything physical.

I managed to guess a computer password at one activity, which was a lot of fun. I had almost run out of ideas, when I did it and was very excited...probably little chidlren were able to guess it quicker, but it was still a buzz for me :0)

Tombliboo (26 months) was dry all day, as is usual now, but I turned around toward the end of our visit, and foudn him struggling to pull his undies down. He dripped in them, as he peed on the train tracks!

"I pee train tracks", he announced with a massive grin, 'I wet these pants."

I don't think anyone noticed, but it was a tad embarrassing for me...when you gotta, you gotta go, I guess.

Gingerbread Men

Photos to follow (when the batteries are charged, lol).

Today the kiddos decorated gingerbread men. What a lot of fun they all had, and the eating was pretty good too.

I'm going to aim this year to do something "crafty" every day with them...I doubt I'll pull it off- but you have to have goals, right?

Well, really I'm not a goals;s just that I think I got a bit complacent last year...everyone ticking along relatively nicely, and I think we need a bit more excitement in our lives.

I also think I need to invite J-Man in a bit more...and it needs to be something interesting for him...even better if all three children can participate. That's not overly easy with such a big age range (10, 6 and 2), but I'll get ideas from books and the internet.

My best friend does some really cool things with her (just turned 2 year old) which is a tiny bit embarrassing really, when I think of how many things I still haven't tried with a 10 year old...I'm not in to New Year's Resolutions...but if I had to make one, it would be to add more excitement to our lives.

So, if you have any ideas for things to do at home that don't cost a lot (we're also saving up for our move...oh, and we have never saved for anything before!), then feel free to add them in the comments section :0)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Choosing School, Part 2

I have been busy trying to think through the logistics of having a school-child in an unschooling family. The speed at which Tombliboo walks (or rather "makes stops") will practically make it so that by the time we get home from walkign J-Man to school, it will be time to start wakling back!

Well, not quite...but it isn't a very thrilling prospect. I can see me suggesting he takes his bike fairly quickly, though I doubt it would be safe.

So, I tried to phone the Ministry of Education to let them know I have a child who wants to try school...and I got struck by how silly it is that this isntitution has any say at all in what my son can and can't, should and shouldn't do.

I could only speak to three different people's asnwering machines, so decided to wait until tomorrow to try again. Meanwhile the dental nurse from the closest primary school phoned about appointments for the kids, and I was able to discover from her when school goes back, and that they open the Friday before for enrolments.

Meanwhile J-Man was happily plaing with his cousin M11. When his mum arrived to collect him, I asked if M had mentioned J-Man was going to try school. She said "no", and did J know what time school started? (lol)

I was really surprised that in all their time together J-Man hadn't told his cousin about this momentous step.

He said, "Yeah, about that.."

"I've been rignign aroudn and finding out when school starts, and what we need to do to enrol you adn so on," I said.

"Yeah...I don't think so Mum- I don;t really want to go now", he replied.

"But you said you did...I thought you wanted to, so Im organising it for you."

"Yeah, but I've been thinking about it...and I think I might lsoe my best friends if I started school."

"Why? You'd never lose J12, no way", I insisted.

"Well maybe not- we're going to be Friends for Life you know...but you know, Mum, that everyone changes when they go to school, adn not in a good way...I just don't want to take that chance."

"I can understand that," I said, "But most kids start school when they're 5. You'll be 10- don't you think who you are is a bit more stable?"

"I just don't want to go...I might in the future, but for now I'm happy as I am".
Can I do my happy dance now?

I was sure J-Man would go to school, and enjoy the experience, but realise quickly he would rather be his own bod. I didn't want to influence him in any way, feeling reasonably certain he would not go if he thoguth I didn't want him to...but what would be the use in that? I kind of still think he *should* go, just so he knows, and his curiosity cna be alleviated once and for all...but for now, I'm happy :0)

Choosing School, Part 1

J-Man dropped a bomb on me a few days before Christmas...he wants to try school.

I panicked inwardly, but hope I remained calm outwardly.

We discussed it a little, but I knew I would support this choice just as I have supported his desire to learn karate or guitar (both very short-lived).

There was little to do about it so close to school holidays, so it became something at the back of my mind.

His major reason for wanting to try school was a lack of friends, which I understood. He really only has 2 friends in Auckland that he enjoys...J12, a schooled-at-home respectfully-parented, very cool kid, and his cousin M11.

J-Man had erroneously supposed that since all the people he plays online games with go to school, if he goes to he will meet lots more ir friends to play online with. I remonstrated with him on that point, but could tell there was no way my saying it wasn't so would change it for him...he has to find out for himself, and I understand that too.

The difficulties really, for me, come with choosing which school...choices are limited around here, and with no car we are left really with the only option being a school within walking distance. I hate the idea of getting up early for a trek to school with the masses.

J-Man also, laughably, thought a private school would be better, since he wasn't sure about school in South Auckland. I explained that for trial purposes, I would not be purchasing a uniform, etc, and he seemed ok with that.

I was also concerned Princess might want to try school at the same time...and saw our happy unschooling lives going up in smoke. DH was helpful there, in reminding me that we want our children making their own decisions- she woudl be welcome to try school as well (though I think Iwould rather they did so seperately, for J-Man's sake).

I talked it over briefly with 2 more experienced unschooling mums, and they were not bothered at all- after all, unschooling is not the goal, it's the journey...autonomy means sometimes our children choose thigngs we wouldn't choose for them.

That helped me relax, but I still spent a lot of time wondering what I could have done better...what is missing in our lives that my son doesn't want to stay home?

I realised he has been crying out for alone time with each of his parents, which has not been acted on as swiftly as it might have been.

I thought we ought to rush out and buy a car, and maybe (just maybe) if we hadn't been car-less for 5 months, he might not be wanting to try school. It was his idea to go withoutthe car, and it seemed to be working well...but something has changed in the last couple of months- his desire to connect with friends in person has increased dramatically- well, it wasn't really there before.

But, upon thinking logically, I can see that I have offered many, many opportunites to see existing friends and make new ones- J-Man has not been keen to meet new friends, so blaming the car is nutty.

Next, is the realisation after more discussions with J-Man, that this is a *trial*...he doesn't mean it to be forever, he doesn't even mean it to be for a month...he just *has* to know what it is like, and I sooo understand that.

I also see that for J-Man, school is different to the kids next door, and his cousins, and most every other child around...he knows he can go and check it out, and he is welcome home any time. It changes things so much, that he is free to choose.

So, I will facilitate this desire, like I would any other, and we will where it leads.

Happy New Year!

Wishing you all the best year ever :0)

We had a dejavu type New Year's Eve...the same people, same place, same basic way to spend the evening...with J, M and J (nearly 2), at their place with J's sister D, all playing Singstar and eating too much.

Princess managed to score quadruple D's score no the April Lavigne song, Long, Cold Night, which is her absolute Singstar favourite. She does it very well :0)

Tombliboo crashed around 11:50pm, but the rest of us saw the new year in with a glass of bubbly, and watched fireworks goign off all around.

Christmas 2008

We had Christmas in Kerikeri at Grandma and Poppy's, with 21 family sitting down to (the earliest ever) Christmas lunch at 1:30pm.

Prior to that, the kids had opened presents from Nanny, Nan and Grandad, each other and us. They also had a stocking each, which took forever to get through with Tombliboo exclaiming over every little thing (and then wanting to test it out).

It felt like Christmas had already come and gone, and then they got another big stash in the afternoon.

It was a lovely day, and the children and adults all had a wonderful time. The went in the spa when they weren't playing with new things, and even went kayaking on the dam!

Photos to follow...still on usb keys somewhere.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

We're Baa-aack!

I'm really hoping to write a truckload in here about our last few weeks (2 of which were spent away from a computer), but things are too busy just at the moment.

Suffice it to say we are all well and happy, had a fabulous Christmas (as usual) and are enjoying having Ben (dh/Dad) home for the longest time ever.

Oh, darn it- now I've started it...I can't stop!

Or perhaps I will just add a mention here that I am growing vegetables! I planted them, and they should have grown and all- but still it seems surprising :0)

The look on Tomy's face the first time he pulled up (what he probably thought was a weed, and turned out to be) a carrot was simply camera on-hand unfortunately, but I wonder if he will be just as incredulous the next time.

I've learned a fair bit one courgette seed makes a tonne of courgettes, whereas one beetroot seed only makes one beetroot.

Last night we ate beetroot, courgettes and carrots from my garden- hooray! But it also gave me a hint as to how much we will need to be growing to actually feed our family...all the beetroot I grew will probably only do two nights. Still, there was a lot of wastage since Princess planted the seeds, and wasn't worried about how close together they were.

I've got some potatoes which seem to be doign everything right...the plant next to this one looked great so I pulled it up to find the world's teeniest potatoes. I think I'll pull the other one up for J-Man's birthday this month...he's turning 10...I can't believe it!

He's still trying to decide what he wants to do on the day, but picked his presents yesterday (3 PSP games)...I am to wrap them in a huge box filled with polystyrene balls (lol).