Monday, March 31, 2008

How we got to where we're going.

Click here for more on home education week.

I came in late so I am actually going to backtrack here & do what everyone else did on Sunday. Seeing as my time zoning means I never know which day anyone is on anyway I figure it is probably still Sunday somewhere ~ & if it's not yet then it will be soon.

I used to have another blog before this one. I crashed it it in rather spectacular fashion but therein I posted about how we ended up homeschooling. I have no idea what I waffled about there so I will assume no~one knows anything about me & start from there. Oh, well, I guess you figured I'm a, shall we say... eccentric?

I have 5 children. My oldest is 25 & we homschooled him for his last 2 years of school. Long story; strange child. He used to be a twin. Well, I guess he's still a twin but we lost his sibling in utero & he has always seemed as if he's only half there. Like I said.

Then there's the actual twins who declared to their flabbergasted teachers they only came to school to play sport & socialize. Their teachers complained to me but, hey, they had them in school, not me.

Liddy is my Queen Bee. After 3 boys she was spoilt abominably by everyone but having a sweet & biddable disposition she survived quite well. She begged to come home & did so in grade 9.

Then there's Ditz, the surprise baby. By the time Ditz came along I'd had it with the school system. I never liked it but couldn't talk Dearest into considering Homeschool. My boys all have dyslexia, some are just worse than others. The twins were tactile, kinesthetic learners. They did just great in school! Yeah right. They were also ADHD ~ but not behavioural problems. Liddy is also kinesthetic/auditory & Jossie was gifted. School was a circus. School stressed me out. I spent half my life up at the school sorting teachers out with my kids. The kids were hardly ever in school anyway. The middle 3 excelled at sport & were always away at carnivals & trials & long distance cross country runs.

Ditz was due to start primary school the year her big sister moved to high school. She seemed at least as bright as her oldest brother but what would I know? I think all my kids are gifted. Anyway, this was the baby I was never allowed to discipline. If she cried 5 other people rushed to rescue her. Cries of, 'Mum! You've made her cry! How could you?' were not uncommon. She began talking at just 5 months. That's right, 5 months. He first words were, 'Ryuke, where are you?' Yep, she spoke in sentences right from the beginning. A month later her siblings were bribing her to walk by holding strawberries just out of her reach. She was one motivated baby I can tell you.

Now I'd watched my older kiddies struggle with reading & as a BA in language & literature, who has a bigger children's library than our actual library, I was less than impressed with this state of affairs. I decided Ditz didn't need pre~school half as much as she needed plenty of pre~reading skills so I kept her home, made up a set of lower case letters, bought a super large bag of choc chips & proceeded to teach my four year old to read. There's nothing like chocolate for that feel good feeling! I don't know why I was surprised the child actually learnt to read but she did & I was.

I then had a huge dilemma. What was she supposed to do for the first 6 months of grade one while the rest of her class caught up? And we all know what happens to a bored child in a regular classroom. Been there, done that. Hat in humble hand I approached Dearest & told him my sad & sorry tale. By this stage he was fed up with the teachers complaining about our kids too & the amount of stress I was under so he agreed a year of homeschool would be best & she could start school a year late in grade two. Any reprieve was a bonus in my book so I took what was offered gratefully & proceeded as we'd begun. You all know how this goes, don't you? A year later Ditz was even further ahead so we got another year's reprieve...& another until Dearest just accepted we were homeschooling & he connived to bring Liddy home. Now he loves homeschooling & Ditz thinks she's been done like a dog's dinner.

Given Ditz has the attention span of a gnat, the social instincts of a party girl, & the academic interest of said gnat, what was my bright, musical, artistically gifted Ditz to do in a school situation that offered one 1/2 hour of music a week & no art? It doesn't even bear thinking about. Oh, she'd have survived...but at what cost? Instead we battle the academics together & she has time & then some for her art & music & no put downs either for being good at both. I hope one day she will rise up & call me blessed...but if she doesn't I'm pretty sure God's good with the road we chose for her.


with Ditz.

As part of Education week Principled Discovery wants to know what homeschooling looks like in our house. This is really embarrassing. I do not have a child with a learning disability; quite the contrary. I do not have a child with any sort of disorder; I have Ditz; she just has attitude. Plenty of attitude.

Take today for example. Today was fairly typical. Ditz knows she has reading & math always, her grammar & bible or science or history. She has stopped fussing about the reading. The books must have improved in her opinion. Math is a whole other kettle of fish. I have been saying for a week, 'Are you sure you understand? There's a lot of mistakes in here.' Yeah, yeah, yeah ~ get a life, mum. I believe in letting the big ones sort it out for themselves so I backed off but today I handed her her test paper & said less than 90% & she would have to redo it because 90% is 20% carelessness on Ditz's part.

Ditz is doing fractions. I can't do fractions but that's what Dearest ~ or Liddy or Dino ~ is for. It was on. Obviously the child had no idea how to add two fractions together. (OK, nor do I but I don't have too anymore.) I sent child to her father with her bottom lip dragging so far along the floor she was in danger of putting her foot through it & we began. Ditz is a visual /spatial learner. I know we are going nowhere until she gets the picture & I know that this is sequential learning unless Ditz has one of her blinding flashes of 'whole picture' intuition. Obviously today was not my lucky day. Frankly, as a visual learner myself, this is just confusing so I do empathise with my small daughter but daughter has been blessed with more brains than I've got & a far better grasp of mathamatical concepts.

Round & round the mulberry bush we went with me coaxing Ditz through each step. Three sums = 1 hour. Then I saw the word problems hadn't been done either!!! This is even worse because it looks like English, it sounds like English & it makes no sense whatever! Four sums - another hour. Ditz was dragging her feet, whinging & whining about how she was being tortured in the name of an education & it was as if we'd never done any of it. I had to coax her through each step for three problems. Just as I was starting to get really antsy she barely glanced at the last problem & said airily, 'Oh, that's 2.5.' OK, she needed to write it as 2/5 but she was right! At that point I burst into tears. I hate math; I really do.

I was exhausted but we still had grammar to do. Ditz polished off two worksheets in 15 minutes. I have never used a textbook for grammar. We'd never done much grammar at all until we started with Sonlight but grammar has never fazed Ditz. Maybe it works like a jig~saw for her. We broke for lunch, both Ditz & I with a raging headache, so Ditz cut her flute practise short & violin just wasn't on at all.

OK, today was really bad. Normally though Ditz fusses (she enjoys fussing) she works without reducing both of us to tears & tantrums. On a good day her math is done in 1/2 an hour & it's all right. We get heaps done with science & history. We have time for the art & craft projects that delight Ditz's arty little heart. And she does her solid hour on both flute & violin.
In other words a typical day here never finds that illusionary happy medium. Days are either really, really good or really, really bad. There is no middle ground. My prima donna drama queen likes them that way. I think I'm getting old.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A little incentive...

It's not a big area but using permaculture an awful lot can be crammed into a fairly small area ~ as Dino knows. After my little excursion he decided I really needed to do the thing properly & had me back down the nursery this morning picking through the punnets.
To what I've already planted he added coriander (because I said he had to; I like to cook with it), tomatoes, silverbeet, zucchini, capsicum, climbing beans & celery. Six weeks & we should be starting to pick the first fruits. I adore my silverbeet small & sweet & lashed with lemon & cracked black pepper. Actually I'll eat pretty much anything that way bar anything that comes out of the ocean. That stuff is totally inedible no matter what you do to it.

This is pretty much Ditz's first excursion into a home veggie garden as when we had free ranging chooks they pretty much put an end to the vegetables. Nothing could get above 2'' above the ground. I miss running chooks & Ditz totally adored them but I have never met a doey~er animal than a chook & ours were particularly idiotic. They'd been battery hens & came 'pre~plucked'. While waiting on their feathers growing back they would flop all over the brick walkway, basking in the sun & moving for nothing & no~one. Issi spent ages trying to work out how to stalk & catch one but they were considerably bigger than he was & he never did manage to work it out.

We began with a half dozen fruit trees as well but the mulberry & peach developed rot & keeled over, the bananas didn't do well in the drought & the lemonade & orange trees took a battering one cyclone season & never recovered. That leaves us with a monged mandarin (it was grafted onto a bush lemon & now 1/2 the tree produces mandarins & the other 1/2 produces 2'' long spikes & huge lemons), a tropical nectarine that is prone to fruit fly, bush apples (yuck!) & a bush plum that neither flowers nor fruits. No~one in their right senses eats lilly~pillies though I'm told they make nice jam.

We do really well given that our ground was solid clay when we moved here & set like cement. I brought some soil in & mulched like crazy & now we can grow pretty much anything we like ~ except those things that prefer a cold climate.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

First winter planting.

Last spring Dino made a raised garden bed & planted veggies. Given he gardened with me every year when he was little he should have known better than to mass plant anything & not mulch. He should have known to check the companion planting guide & plant his tomatos with his basil, & his herbs as barriers. Anyway, he went to sea leaving Ditz in charge of watering. Ditz's idea of watering was to make sure the surface was wet ~ which took a whole two seconds. Needless to say given the strange summer weather we had the veggies went to seed & the weeds took over, there were bugs galore & the only thing that survived was the basil.
Summer is not the time to plant anything in Queensland, certainly not anything on the west side of the house, so I ignored the whole shermozzle. As the weather cooled off I began the mammoth task of clearing out the weeds. I don't have a lot of time to garden anymore so it took weeks of picking away at it in the stray 5 minutes that come my way. Eventually I got down to soil & basil. Dino was thrilled & talked about planting it again so I did no more. Well, Dino is broke. His course has caused *temporary financial embarrasment*. I think that's how you put it. Now is the time to plant, before the winter rains so I decided if I waited on Dino I would be waiting a long time. When the kids decided they wanted a DVD I decided that would be a good time to wander into the nursery & see what was in stock. No sooner had I detoured than I found every child I own hot on my heels, all with their own ideas of what I should grow this season! Why do I even bother?
I had no intention of getting a lot to start with. I wanted parsley for winter soups, some beans, because they always give such a good crop & some dill just because I like it. I also got snow peas for the trellis, though Dino swears they wont do well. Just because he couldn't grow them... Honestly, my kids think I came down with the last shower of rain.
Meanwhile Ditz was wandering round with a pot of chocolate mint begging me to buy it, Liddy kept waving sweet peas under my nose & Dino was enviously eyeing off all the things he couldn't afford to buy. I got the beans for him though I would have got them anyway. I am considering celery even thugh I hate fiddling round with it to get it to grow bunched & will get tomatoes & maybe some zucchini as well as silverbeet; lots & lots of silverbeet. The kids are thrilled & happily stood round telling me how great the garden would be while I did all the planting out...ok, Dino did the beans. I know what it is. They all adore wandering past, eating as they go. Oh, well. At least I know they're not consuming pesticides along with their beans.

Dork's Saturday.

I am a dork. I mean really, what was I thinking?

For the first time in a month Ditz & I managed a soccer game ~ one wherein we played rather than merely watched Liddy play. As hardly anyone turned up we played a 6~a~side game. I should have walked off then & there. For starters both Liddy & Dino were also playing ~ on the other side! Oops! Secondly, all the good players were on their side & thirdly we had Ditz in goal. What were we thinking?

Both Liddy & Dino can run rings around me. Come to think of it everyone can run rings around me except Ditz. So there I was hurtling up the sideline after a stray ball & serious exercise is not my thing at all so I always take the shortcut if it's offered. In this instance the shortcut was to backheel the ball before it crossed the line. At least that was the idea. What I actually did was step right on the ball. This was not a good idea. I am not a seal & my sense of balance is not that good. I went down like a pack of cards with Liddy giggling like a maniac as she helped me up again. Ooh, ah, ouch! Why do I do these things to myself. Oh, yeah, right; I'm a dork.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Show & Tell Friday.

Visit Kelli's blog for everyone else's show & tell.
Nothing delights the senses as much as shells. They are beautiful to look at & a delight to hold.

I have a large collection: cowries and cones, eagles wings, bonnet shells, china men's hats, cat's eyes, angle's wings; smooth & not so smooth, dull, shiny, spiky. God has created an enormous variety. These are like magnets to any child who spots them. Instinctively they reach out to touch, feeling the rich textured surfaces, arranging & rearranging them in beautiful & intricate pattens.
Where have we got them all from? Well most of my family are 'boaties'. They live aboard a yatch for at least part of their year & cruise the Australian coastline. Sometimes we join them for a while though in all honesty I dislike salt water. It itches. Others of us live along the coastline. Whichever we do we are inveterate beachcombers, walking vast stretches of beach with our eyes glued to the sand under our feet looking for a perfect unbroken shell. Some of my more unusual shells are courtesy of my middle son who worked the W.A trawlers & brought home some of the stranger things that came up in the nets.
My Ditz & I did a bit of a homeschool study on shells to learn about how they are formed ~ which is disgusting really. Sluggy mollusks secrete a calcium slime (I told you it was disgusting) around themselves & this grows into the beautiful shells that are found all over the world. You didn't need to know that, did you?

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Four~thirty in the morning is not when I expect incoming e~mails to pop up on my screen. Normally I can clutch my first cuppa of the day & peaceably read through my bloggy friends news free of interuptions or distractions. As it was from Ditz's flute teacher I promptly opened it to find our lesson times had been changed & I was going to have to wake my child & harrass her out the door by eight o'clock. This is never a good way to start our day.

Predictably enough Ditz came to snapping & snarling, having had a late night after choir & in need of far more sleep. She was so not happy to find she also had an early lesson & that it was drizzling down rain.

Now if I'd been the one working with her after all that I would have suffered from a bout of serious procrastionation, whinging & whining, & other unsavouray habits my child likes to indulge in when she is not at her best & feeling hard done by. But because it was music & flute & Jan (who has the happy knack of terrifying my small daughter, in the nicest possible way) she only muttered unhappily to me on the boat.

Jan has extraordinarily high expectations & I am always amazed at how much he can get out of Ditz because he makes her work very, very hard until the moment he can see she's flagging & the mistakes are mounting up & only then does he call it quits. However he has managed to get through to Ditz that not only does she need to practise, she needs to practise in a particular way. He has carefully shown her over & over what she needs to do with any passage that is giving her trouble & though I rarely stay in the same room when Ditz is practising (anyone who has suffered through flute practises will understand why) I can hear her all over the house, so I know that she has actually been practising as instructed. It is paying off, & Ditz can see it's paying off. Jan is very happy with her.

I breathed a small prayer of thanks. Ditz has only been learning for barely 2 years & then with a school band, so I was slightly worried when Jan announced Ditz was perfectly capable of attempting the grade three work, though it would be a bit of a stretch for her initially. Seems he was right. The piece that was giving her untold difficulties at the beginning of term is now almost ready ~ without tears. She is still struggling with one of her scales (A major I think) as there are 3 new notes & fingering that she is not using anywhere else yet so is struggling to remember both notes & fingerings.

I stand amazed at how much Ditz seems to absorb by a process of osmosis. No~one has actually ever explained to her what a tonic or a fifth or any number of other things are; certainly not me because I have no idea, but Ditz obviously knows. I wish I could teach her math by osmosis. Come to that, I wish I could learn math by osmosis. All I know is we learn easily what we love best & I really wonder what would have become of Ditz if she'd been in a regular classroom getting her regulation 1/2 hour music lesson a week & expected to sit quietly for long periods of time because Ditz has never been a quiet child.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

So you want to be a writer? You might like to reconsider.

I do not like to write. I write because, as C.S. Lewis once said, no~one writes the kind of books I want to read. My problem is I want someone else to write my books & save me the maddening headache of plots gone awry & characters thumbing their noses at the plot because they have their own ideas about the life you've given them. Please, do not tell me that being invented characters you can make them do anything you like. Anyone who writes will tell you that's just not true. Characters take on a life of their own. They do things you never expected, say things they shouldn't, mangle carefully crafted plots, end up in predicaments they then expect you to extricate them from. They are worse than pets ~ or children. They are an intoxicating addiction.

And it gets worse. Being a visual I only write what I can *see*. So to immerse myself in writing is to live with double vision, seeing things that just aren't there, & once turned on it's not like a tap you can just turn off again & it is, unfortunately, far more alluring than the real world. This is a frustrating predicament when you are a committed homeschooling mama with the sort of schedule we have. I do not know of any greater frustration than the ache to write & a lack of time to indulge it ~ especially when to write is to meet up with long time *friends* who have been hanging round happily doing their own thing inside your head & are now begging for some overdue attention.

I can remember thinking, when my kiddies were tiny & I wrote my first novel amidst a plethora of temper tantrums, diapers, & massive bedlam, that I would have time to write when my children were older...well, no~one explained to me it doesn't work quite like that so I was happily ignorant for years. Now I am rusty & my confidence is low but Ari & co., are still hanging round & Ari, being Ari, is running out of patience. I like Ari; I really do. She is fun, but I am extremely aware that this is the character who soaked her Ollamhs' white silk shirts in beet soup turning them a charming pink, put tadpoles in his soup & ferrets in his bed. Really, she's perfectly lovely; She just has a small problem with her Ollamh. And now she has one with me. No I'm not mad ~ not yet anyway. I just need to write so that, maybe, Ari will leave me alone. I will miss her when she's gone.

Mamaolive ~ this is for you.


I said I could sail ~ & so I can though I haven't in years. I sailed as a kid, Manly Juniors. They are a little 8', snub nosed dinghy & as much fun as most little kids can handle. What I wanted was a moth & for a while I was the only moth sailor in the club. You know the T~shirts that read Does Not Play Well With Others, well that was me. Moths are for solo sailors though I spent most of my first season swimming round the course. Moths were a speedy little craft that needed more weight than I normally carried. A little bit of a breeze & over I went. I got pretty good at the whole capsize thing. She'd go over & as she went I climbed on to the centreboard; as she came up I sat on the gunwale. Wasn't even getting my shoes went in the end. That's my boat against the far wall. You can just make out the moth insignia.
In the centre there is a boat with a red ball on its mainsail. That, friends, is a fireball, 16' of pure speed. I used to crew on this for a friend because the fireball comes with a trapeze & there are few things in this world as much fun as being trapeze man on a fast boat in a bit of a blow. My brother & I sailed this in the Jibbon regatta one year. I think between us we might, just, have scaped together 16 stone. It was blowing 25 knots from the south & on the reachs we had that boat dead flat in the water on a perfect plane, both of us hanging off the stern & generating so much spray we had no visibility!!! We couldn't have put the spinnaker up to save our lives. We just didn't have the weight between us to hold her but we got brave sailing home as we came into the more sheltered waters of the Port Hacking River & put her up. I think we lasted all of 3 seconds but oh! what a glorious 3 seconds!

Monday, March 24, 2008


Violin woes.

Of all the instruments Ditz does violin has proved the most difficult. It doesn't help that she just won't practise but any time I suggest she may want to give this instrument up she protests vehemently. I might insist except I can see how even the little bit she does do helps everything else so we are persevering.

We have been nearly three weeks without a lesson. Between the car & the teacher's rehearsal schedule it just didn't happen ~ & nor did any practise. Somewhere else I bury my head in a book while Ditz makes extraordinary noises.

Anyway, at the back of my mind I must have been paying subconcious attention because it suddenly struck me that Ditz was actually improving. It wasn't that Ditz was actually playing the right notes; she's always managed that ~ more or less; she does tend to be a little sharp on occasions. Nor was it that she was playing Greensleeves at time. She has been playing Greensleeves at time for some It wasn't that she was reading her music; Ditz has no problems with her reading. No, rather she was playing with a measure of confidence that has been sadly lacking with the violin. She has tended to play over carefully, clutching the violin like a drowing man instead of holding it in the relaxed caress necessary for good technique.

Now this might seem like a small thing but Ditz does not normally lack for confidence & consequentially has rarely had to struggle to learn anything she really puts her mind to. Violin has been the exception. She has struggled. I have heard, 'I'm dumb', more than once. Over & over I've had to remind her what happened when she first began to learn the piano. Every time Sian gave her a new piece Ditz went into meltdown & we got the 'I can'ts, it's too hard's. She refrained from this morbid monologue with violin & has always enjoyed her lessons. Her teacher is a sweet, gentle lady who always plays one part while Ditz does the other & during holiday periods forms impromptu ensembles of all her island students, which is heaps of fun & good experience.

Part of the problem I suspect was Ditz's own expectations. Piano, & especially flute, she made progress really fast & got a lot of positive feedback. Violin has not been like that. Progress has been achingly slow. Now there are at least 16 things a violin player needs to remember before they begin to play: stance, bow hold, bow position, violin position, violin hold, fingers. Then there is reading the music, deciding which string a note is on, remembering the correct fingering for that note, hearing the note correctly in your head, hearing if you have played the right note, hearing if you need to be sharper or flatter in comparison to other players, 1st position, 2nd position, 3rd position.....yadda, yadda,yadda. It makes my head spin just thinking about it & Ditz is not my most co~ordinated child.

Any time Ditz is asked to comment on her violin she clams up or gapes like a stunned mullet leaving her teacher helplessly trying to 2nd guess her so I nearly fell over when I heard Ditz explaining a problem clearly & sensibly. She has been working on her dynamics too & it seems everything is finally coming together. Maybe it is just her age. She's moving out of childhood fairly confidently. Maybe this is just the little boost she needs to get a grip on this instrument too. I guess time will tell.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Rejoice & be glad!

Easter is the holiday of holidays for me. Ok, so I adore chocolate ~ so long as it is dark & bitter ~ but there are more important reasons. It is still not as commercialized as Christmas. I'm not as fraught with a long list of to do's. It isn't so stinking hot. And to the point, this is the whole reason that we have Christmas anyway.
This is the season of joy for me. Even Good Friday looks towards Resurrection Sunday. This is the seaon when Christ put his foot on Satan's head. This is the day a bridge was built between God & man. This is the day death was defeated. Rejoice & be glad for Christ is risen. The tomb is empty! He lives! And if this is true then He will return as He has promised. Wrongs will be made right. And because He lives we too shall live. He has gone to prepare a place for us. He will take us home to live with him forever. No Easter, none of these promises. Easter makes Heaven possible. Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

School craft.

And this is why our unit on marine biology kept getting classified under *Art*. Some very clever people put this craft project on~line & as you can see it actually comes up very nicely indeed. The shape of the coral is cut out of cardboard & torn pieces of tissue paper are glued to the back to give the illusion of living coral. Taped in a window with the sun behind it looks quite real & Ditz had heaps of fun making these. Each coral we did does have a little tag saying what it is, where it can be found & at what depth etc but we had to at least pretend we were doing science, right?

This is the Great Wall of China watchtower Ditz made, having discarded the instructions as pretty useless, which they were. It came up ok in the end but was the butt of lots of jokes thanks to an internet add out here which has an internet clueless father telling his son the Great Wall was built to keep rabbits out of China!!! Yes, well we have a rabbit plague & they built fences across the desert to try & keep them under control so it's actually quite a clever add. Just the same you will notice there are no rabbits around Ditz's watchtower. I am just waiting on one of the boys getting clever & deciding this would be greatly improved by the addition of a rabbit or two. lol.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

More Music.

I own the world's weirdest child, I swear. Music dictation...they've done 2/4 time, 3/4 time, & 4/4 time; the easy ones & Ditz has flubbed them all. Goodness knows where her brain goes; I'm not game to ask & I can see Alison shaking her head there are sooo many mistakes. This week they do 6/8 (one of the hard ones) & Ditz doesn't put a note wrong!!! And she was the only one to get the 6/8 completely right. Alison was shocked. I was sniggering into my paperback. Like, 'Welcome to my World!' Yep, Ditz has done this forever. Like most visual/spatial learners she's a whole picture learner, never sequential, & the hard stuff is what she finds easy. The easy stuff I suspect spaces her out. She just gets bored & takes a little mental vacation. It throws people. It threw Alison tonight.

It's the same with the hand movements. There is a hand movement to go with each note of a scale ~ absolutely brilliant in my book but Ditz is completely unco~ordinated at this level (like her mama) & flounders round with her hands all over the place. It does not matter; she can hit the right note without the hand movements.

I get it, I truely do. I either get something in one blinding flash or you're wasting your time trying to instruct me, but try explaining that to a sequential thinker. They can't grasp how you can arrive at D correctly if you have missed steps A,B, & C. Wht bother with A,B & C if you've got D? And this is why my child doesn't show her working in math, draws beautifully, & happily wallows in musical terms that no~one has ever bothered to actually explain to her. On the other hand teaching her is a teacher's nightmare.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Connie has tagged me for a meme so, 8 things you don't know about me:

1. My first pregnancy was a twin pregnancy. I lost the 2nd baby in utero early on but delivered 2 placentas. Weird, huh? My second pregnancy was also twins & both twin pregnancies were boys.

2. I have travelled in Europe.

3. I used to work as a Children's librarian.

4. My ancestry is Scots/English. On these grounds alone I should have a split personality! lol. To say nothing of the supossed descent from Kenneth Macalpine, last king of the Picts, first of the Scots.

5. I am a B.A in Language & Literature.

6. I am a published author. OK, so I haven't managed a published novel yet but I have managed the odd article.

7. I couldn't drive a car until I was over 21.

8. I can both sail & abseil.

I don't know 8 other bloggers to tag so I will just do MamaOlive, Molytail, Kimba, Elizasinterests & CJay, do you want to play?

We've lost our sense of...

... SHAME.

I was travelling home on the boats one night last week, both girls with me. It's something we do regularly; have done for 2o odd years. It was late & we were tired & the boat was late but we settled gratefully in our seats, tickets at the ready, just happy to be going home.

Eventually the deckie started making his rounds of the packed boat. Most of us are regulars & we have multi~tickets that get clicked off but a few people were handing over coins & the deckie was apologising as he went because there had been a mechanical breakdown & that had thrown all the boats off schedule. It happens. The boats run constantly during the day, seven days a week & the occasional breakdown is inevitable. Most of us understand that & accept it as just another quirk of island life. At least a boat eventually arrived.

What we didn't expect was the man in front of us who belligerently refused to pay his fare ~ or his family's fare ~because the boat they wanted to come home on hadn't run! ??? Pardon? He gave the poor deckie an absolute earful. It wasn't the deckie's fault & there was nothing the deckie could do about any of it. The man still refused to pay. He was getting more & more irate as he listed the injustice of having to wait for a boat. Eventually the deckie referred the matter to the driver. The driver slowed the boat & announced loudly to all & sundry that this man up the front was refusing to pay his fare when all the rest of us had paid ours. How embarrassing! I was mortified for the man. Surely he would pay his fare now? Not a bit of it! He stood up & took a bow, flexed his muscles, terribly proud of himself for taking on the big, bad boat company & winning. I'm sorry, I know I'm old fashioned, but that is stealing. What has happened to us that there is no sense of shame when we are caught doing wrong? The worst thing is, I'm told that this form of theft happens a lot!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Weekend.

What A weekend! Of the last 5 days I have spent 4 away from home & now I'm just exhausted. Band & choir are a given but Saturday I took Liddy into town for her first game of the season. Not only did we miss the boat we should have come home on, the next one broke down & was running 20 minutes late. Bad enough but we got home to find Ditz still awake, too excited about getting her choir uniform & first performance to sleep properly. Knowing we had an early start & a big day I was less than impressed!

We were up by 6am Sunday for an 8am boat. I drove us into town from where we were going to catch a train into the city. Train terminated 1/2way & we changed to buses. I hate buses. They make me sick. So we weren't put out where we were expected to be & had no idea where we were. I took pot luck on remembering vaguely where we needed to be & we set off. Mall found without trouble, a small mirical in itself. We then began looking for the Chiefly. Naturally it was way down the other end. We read the notice informing us which level we needed to be on, hopped in the lift & Ditz, who had read only the first part of the notice, shot us up to the 21st floor. At this point we discovered the floor we actually wanted wasn't listed. Ditz shot us back down, laughing hysterically at the look on my face as I left my stomach bedind! We clambered out, found the right lot of lifts & eventually ended up where we were meant to be.

The rehearsal went for an hour, mostly practising walking Ditz complained, then lunch & a uniform handout all for 10 minutes of suspect glory. Ditz was mightily put out! We left halfway through the presentations as as I knew the trains still weren't up & running so we would be travelling for hours ~ & so we were. More than 12 hours after we began we walked back in our own front door. I headed straight for bed.
The older I get the less I like big cities. I am used to a fair amount of personal space & having to sit for an hour squeezed between two strangers nearly had me ready to commit violence. I missed my trees, the smell of fresh, clean air, being able to gaze peacably into the distance without seeing interminable concrete. I hate the sound of traffic. The best sound all day was the willy~wagtail chirruping happily around the marina.
As for Ditz's performance ~ this is a pretty professional choir. They looked & sounded great, & manage an almost unearthly other~world sound when they sing their older pieces. The audience was made up of music buffs: more than 500 of them, but as the opening bars of Christas Natas Est began an electrified ripple ran through the audience. Yep, they did good.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Todays Rant.

This is a tawny frogmouth. Technically they are a nightjar not an owl but they are one of nature's master disguisers. They perch on a branch during daylight hours as if petrified looking for all the world like a bit of broken old branch. Not only are they cute (well, I think they're cute) they mate for life, are excellent parents & even when the chicks have left the nest will roost in close proximity to each other. Why is it that all too often animals get it together so much better than humans do?

Yes, we have quite a few of them round here. I have to watch if I'm driving round at night as they sometimes huddle in the middle of the road, no doubt having just feasted on some stray tit~bit. They have a distinctive oom~oom like call but in flight are practically soundless.

These are another bird that need big old trees for roosting & nesting & I get wild because there has been a push in the last decade or so for people to plant natives rather than exotics in their gardens & that is a good thing but it has it's limitations. We see plenty of the pretty bushy things: grevillias, hakias, the smaller tea trees & bronias which bring the honeyeaters &

Image by Niall Stanton

parrots who are all nectar feeders. No~one wants to plant the thorny spikey grevillas or similar plants. Weeding round them is a pain ~ literally~ but these are exactly the plants the small song birds need for protection. Lantana, that introduced bane of the bush, is actually an excellent habitat for the fairy wrens & many of our tiny birds who find sanctuary in it's spikey depths. Similarly no~one wants the dirty great gum trees shedding a ton of leaves a day in the swimming pool. My issues with swimming pools in a water starved country are another issue entirely. We need the big gum trees (as oppossed to the boring old palms & smaller trees). The number of our bird species that nest in the cracks & hollows only age can bring is large.

We have left most of our block untouched. As the clearing & building goes on around us more & more species are competing for a share of what we can provide. The bigger, stronger birds almost always dispose of the tiny ones. Already the robins & flycatchers are gone. The quail still survive in the bracken (despite me having always owned a cat) & for now there are still frogmouths silently hunting the nights.

Musical beds.

While my northern neighbours are preparing for the advent of spring we are feeling the first twinges of autumn. The mornings are definitely nippier but I have a far more reliable temperature gauge than the cold air against my skin. I own a cat.
As soon as the temperature drops below broiling Issi moves into bed with me. I happen to think there is nothing more comforting than a contented kitty purring happily so I admit I never initially discouraged this habit; quite the contrary. Unfortunately Issi's idea of moving in with me is not the same as mine. I had visions of Issi behaving like most of my cats have & sleeping curled about my feet. Issi is like no other cat we have ever owned. My feet are not for him.
Issi's idea of a good night is to start sprawled across my chest with his head over my heart where he will develop a deep slow~rumbling purr guarrenteed to keep the tiredest person wide awake, with his claws faintly unsheathed to just clutch any exposed skin. Just as I am about to drift off he will leap to his feet, turn round & round on my stomach then collapse into the crook of my arm with his head on my pillow unless he can convince me my shoulder is a better option. From there wafts of contented fishy breath & twitching whiskers assail my nostrils. At least now, being as comfortable as my cat, I can drop into slumber until Dearest comes to bed.
Dearest is a restless sleeper & his threshing about prompts Issi to move to a safer location ~ across my thighs, where he begins to sink slowly between my legs until he has created an exceedingly snug nest for himself. At this point I surface stiff & uncomfortable, extricate my legs from my cat & finally curl into the foetal position I prefer. Issi then draps one large paw over my leg & proceeds to pat me reassuringly. I'm not sure who Issi thinks needs reassuring. I do know the nights it is cold enough for a hot water bottle Issi knows the exact moment when it is cool enough to be it's most comfortable & from that moment on hogs it without a qualm.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Parcel Has Landed.

Way back last year I started chatting on~line to Molytail (she posts here sometimes lol) & we both have homeschooling daughters the same age & as mothers do we said how nice it would be if the girls could have an international pen friend so we dutifully exchanged addresses & Ditz sent of a pretty postcard from Springbrook that had very little on it besides her address. And we waited...& waited...& waited. I know this is a busy homeschool family & the internationl post is unreliable at the best of times & round Christmas is not the best of times.

Then I had a very embarrassed e~mail (sorry Moly, I can't tell the story without adding in this bit) to say mum had forgotten to mail daughter's letter but it was now on its way. I figured roughly 10 days ~ give or take a few. (Yes, that's right, we waited...& waited.) We'd pretty much forgotten all about it then yesterday a parcel arrived for Ditz. Parcels for Ditz are a wonderment for the whole family so we clustered round saying intelligent things like, 'Who's that from? Where's it from? Are there any stamps on it? While Ditz beamed from ear to ear. (I'm sorry there are no pictures to go with this; the camera needs new batteries.)

'Christmas is still going!' exclaimed Ditz as she pulled out a swag of items & four cards! We are just stunned by your bridge. We have nowhere near as much water to negotiate & people are quibbling about the cost. Ditz says the lighthouse was in the Anne movies. She was soooo thrilled & carried her smiling sunflower on it's very long bright green stalk to ch0ir with her. (And she wore one of the blue bands in her ponytail.)

The parcel has landed!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Books, glorious books!

As you know I spend a lot of time sitting round waiting on Ditz & without the car a trip to the library to stock up on reading supplies is out of the question; I have no self control in a library & always borrow more than I could possibly carry. Sooo, I have resorted to Ditz's reading list. There are one or two books there I haven't read. Jean Craighead George's Water Sky is an absolute winner ~ & I'm no fan of books where things get killed. I know, I'm just a woos. I love books that teach without effort & without even seeming to & as we have watched (ok, I haven't but the rest of the house has) all the episodes of the crabbers on the Bering Sea my visual/spatial learner has plenty of pictures to go with the descriptions of life in the Arctic circle. I've suggested Dino read it when I'm done. I think he'd really enjoy it too.

The last book, the Cat Who Looked at the Sky, was one I thought I wasn't going to enjoy & ended up thoroughly loving. Odd writing style but it grew on me. Helps that I adore cats, so thanks, Siano.

I am also wading through Tracy Chevalier's ShiningBright; it's tough going. I should have learnt from her other books. Once she moves out of the medieval period she is never as engaging as when she stays within that time frame ~ & she is much, much better when discussing art than literature, or anything else for that matter. This has been mostly a terribly dull read ~ & about Blake too, of all people. Maybe it's because she tries too hard to be historically accurate ~ in which case she should take a leaf out of Phillipa Gregory's book ( the Other Bolyn Girl), write a rollicking good story & don't fuss over much about the history? Say I, who can't stand Stephen Lawhead for taking such huge liberties with the Arthurian period & will happily tell any unfortunate enough to mention they like him just how awful he is & all the things he's got so terribly wrong! Drives me wild, but then I know more about Pre~Christian Britain than I do about Elizabethan England. Did I mention I'm a fantasy reader who doesn't read much fantasy because it's all so terrible?! Fussy is my other name.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


"we alone, out of all the beings that God has ever fashioned, dishonour Him by unbelief and tarnish His honour by mistrust" Spurgeon. Sermon 363.
I love this, which is leisamd's siggie, & which I have borrowed from her. I really wish I'd found it myself but since I didn't ~ credit where credit is due.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Days like that...

The cat is sleeping on the couch behind me & every so often he pushes his feet into my back to let me know he's still there & expects a pat without having to open his eyes. I should like to be a pampered cat.
Yes, the past few days have just been like that. Days when I can't wait on the new heaven & the new earth. Jesus can't get here fast enough for me! I seem to be getting more than my fair share of people behaving like morons, inanimate objects taking on a life of their own, a shortage of any sort of energy & a world that seems determined to go to Hell just as fast as it can get there. For 2 days the search & rescue helicopter has been going round & round looking for bodies, survivors, bits of wreckage from the plane that crashed into the ocean near here so we are all on edge any way. Day's like that I just want to crawl under my harrow & pull a rock over the whole thing. And this week, even if I wanted to, I have no car to get to church. I have no church. Liddy is not being helpful I told her she would leave all the research to me & just criticise whatever I came up with. She agreed that this was so with a big grin. Why is that funny? I think I have lost my sense of humour on top of everything else. Yikes! I think I'd better get a grip.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Where the rubber meets the road...

This is where the rubber meets the road & I get to spin. Sunday week both band & choir have performances. We can only make one of them so it will have to be choir, which is all the way in town. The chief examiner from the UK is confering the award this choir won at the Trinity College Guildhall competition last year (before we were involved so I feel like a fraud!) I hate going into Brisbane. I hate Brisbane . In the 20 years I've lived in this part of Queensland I've been into Brisbane exactly twice. It is just an incredibly boring place to be; not a cosmoploitian city, not particularly beautiful & the pollution levels are something else. Brisbanites would disagree with me & I admit it's improved enormously but basically it is still an overgrown country town. So I don't know where anything is & can't find my way round. I won't drive in; my driving is shonky at the best of times & downright scary when I don't know where I am or how to get anywhere. If it wasn't for the time constraints I'd have a go but suspect we are safer busing or training in. I have far less chance of getting us completely lost. I tentatively asked Liddy to navigate but she has her first game of the season that day sooooo....
While I am still in meltdown we get the date for TTT ~ May 16th, which is Mother's Day; concert also right in town. OK, so that one's no surprise & I can see I'm going to get to know Brisbane much, much better! It is times like this I start envying the Catholics. I could do with a St Jude's help about now (patron saint of lost causes! lol!) Instead I have this mad rush of adrenaline & a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that looks like taking up permanent residence for the duration of this year.
Meanwhile the island car died last night just before we left for band. At least it died at home. The battery's as dead as a dodo but we suspect the alternator has gone & we are stony broke just at present. Just as well Ditz & I don't really mind walking though everything takes so much more time when we have to walk. And in the midst of this both boys arrived having missed their plane to W.A. for a wedding. I'm not game to ask how that happened but knowing Theo's dyslexia suspect he is responsible. No refunds either. Inanimate objects are not suspossed to break down. :) Life at our place is so much fun.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

On school.

One thing home visits seem to do for us is help us refocus. We finish things up so we can show of our work & Ditz almost always practises a piece on her flute so she can tootle effectively. We had a really (really, really) bad experience with the state Distance Ed., program. So many people were pulling their kids out of the state schools, a program that was initially started to meet the needs of kids on the big properties out west ended up with nearly all its students from the inner Brisbane suburbs when we pulled out & moved under a Christian umbrella. Naturally that created problems & we couldn't work the program as individually as we wanted to. Now we can & Ditz has really flourished with the more individual approach & being able to focus more on her music. I know some of the problems we have with her rushing her work just to get it done are left overs from having to return something every fortnight to DE, by which time we were so fed up & bored with it we both couldn't wait to be rid of it. Some days I think my attention span is no better than my daughter's & I can't abide being bored.

Anyway, I have been poking & tweaking & chatting on~line ever since to get the sort of program for Ditz that I think will work for both of us ~ me as teacher, her as student. It has taken a bit of time. I got badly burnt by DE & while not lacking in confidence was loath to rock any more boats so went with the LLATL recommended by the school even though I knew in my gut it was a bad fit for us ~ & so it was. Ditched it for Sonlight which works surprisingly well despite being a very academic program ~ well, the program as written is quite academic; I've made quite a few changes. lol. We do peculiar things to the history ~ but I adore history & teach it from my love of people & culture rather from timelines & politics ~ both of which tend to bore me (there's that word again.) I figure if you understand culture you get the political picture by default. Math, well we have a program that works for us but no~one round here gets too excited about math though we can all manage what needs to be done in a day to day sense.

So I was thrilled (no getting round it ~ I was thrilled) when Ditz finished up Star of Light (sorry Mrs D, Ditz never did get to like that book) & immediately reached for Rascal as her new reader. My little heart went pit~a~pat. Moved on, all on her own, to her math. Didn't get much done. Both of us are struggling to make sense of the math but she is starting to organize herself. This is huge for us. Ditz has always wanted me to organize her & hold her hand through all her work so any show of independence is HUGE! I mean, isn't the goal to have a self~motivated learner? Needed me for bible & her grammar but overall we got a lot of school done & I got my housework done as well.

Teaching is exhausting so I am always intrigued by how others do it & watching Alison teach music theory is an education all on it's own. Crotchets & dotted minums are now forever etched in my mind because the crotchet is mummy Alsion & the dot is her baby. Bubs gets in for half price. Ditz's face was priceless. She thought I was weird but I've got nothing on Alison! I'm learning though. Watch out Ditz! I have never seen such a kinesthetic teacher & boy, oh boy, does she manage to reach every child in the room! Twelve or so kiddies & every single one of them will have a different learning style but all of them are catching on pretty fast. It is a joy to watch.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


A ship in the harbour is safe ~ but that's not what a ship is built for.

Monday, March 3, 2008


Lovely visit. Ditz was complimented on her handwriting ~ which has come a long, long way from what it was but will probably never be copy book material. Our history, as always, got drooled over. Both of us enjoy the art work so her papers generally present well. Science, OK until Ditz was asked about her abbreviations ~ at which point she had no idea what it was she'd abreviated!!!! Duh! However her supervisor spent a lot of time looking at the Apologia text we use because the *science man* prefers it over other Christian texts on the market because it is *real science*. I like it because it makes Ditz think. She can't just parrot. Math ~ well not our strong subject but a lot of time spent giving Ditz *pictures* so her understanding will improve as well as her mechanics. We can do the mechanics but we don't always understand. Then there was the pile of music because her music is credited & the pile was bigger than all her academics put together. What can I say? Oh, & one of Ditz's stories got an edit. Very funny because Ditz is blunt & witty so leaps straight into the story & ends with a bang or a twist & everything is so tight it doesn't pay to fiddle over much. This I know & was amused to watch a trained teacher try to do the impossible in an effort to *improve* it. Now Ditz gets to have a go. :D Still she can do it on the computer so there is NO excuse for a lack of capitals & full stops. Breaths sigh of relief. It's always nice to know we're on track.

I needs must be brief this morning too. Ditz's supervisor is coming for her home visit this morning & I'm as disorganized as ever. She is a lovely Christian woman, very sweet, & we enjoy our time with her. It helps that we know she has other families on the islands to visit & is worried about missing boats & connections. We get to feel knowledgeable & competent. (Yeah, right!)

We weren't really expecting her this term as it is such a short term (something like 8 weeks) so really only have some history & math (& not much of that lol) to show for our efforts. The science is still only half done (Ditz is baulking at having to do so much thinking) & though Ditz is ploughing through her reader she hasn't enjoyed it & I don't want to move onto the new written work until she moves onto her new reader. Music is eating up such scads of time that academics is going to be a slow old process this year.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


I'm taking a break from reality.....
& looking for a new church. This sucks so much.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Boys of a certain age...

I used to think my children were very practical. I'm changing my mind. Boys of a certain age seem to be particularly brainless. Not bad, brainless.
Dino has known for over 6 months he was doing his course this year. OK, I can handle him leaving his application till the last minute; that's what last minutes are for but no income? He is applying for a grant but all his paperwork has gone missing & he has no clue what he has done with it. We are slowly taking the house apart in an effort to find it. Meanwhile Dino is scrabbling together a little income crabbing on his days off. Enough to get him to college & back home again. He has to come home so he can eat. He arrived on Friday morning & proceeded to eat the weeks supply of food! As he had told me he wouldn't be home I hadn't budgeted for his appetite. Ditz is threatening to hide the noodles. I haven't the heart to tell her she is far too late & they're all gone. Liddy has a game Tuesday night so I will pick up some more then & with luck they will last till Dino's next appearance. Oh, & pray we find his paperwork soon!