Saturday, January 31, 2009

Nature Lessons..

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This is our little patch of beach. Of course we don't own it, we just use it--daily. We're having a major heat wave here and what better way to cool off then lots of swimming? I'm not entirely sure the wildlife down there is as equally impressed, but you never know.. Our neighborly stingray is still hanging out. It's very large, but we've yet to capture him on "film". They are amazingly graceful to watch them while they swim, but really I prefer to know they are far out of the way before I get in the water. We spotted a small school of fish yesterday too, as well as an orange salt water fish. His coloring (orange) was the same as a clown fish, but his markings weren't right. Not all of us spotted the little fellow, so it may make identifying him a bit harder.

Today, the beach was infested with lots of jellies again. Not all of these were just the "jelly" either. While waiting for the tide to recede a little (the beach was covered with debris due to high tide)  we were walking the shore line. The boys called out and I looked up and kept walking and managed to squash a jelly. Yes, it was as GROSS as it sounds. I heard and felt a small pop and then squish. I proceeded to jump up and down squealing, run in the water to rinse my foot off, only to realize I was surrounded by jellies, so I ran back to the towel and attempted to scrub my foot clean. The boys were highly amused.

Of course, we didn't take the camera today and we spotted two blue tongued lizards. Now, I'm not exactly on the friendly side of reptiles. In fact, I prefer they stay as far away from me as is possible. However, in the interest of nature I like to put on a brave face. So, when my husband pointed it out to me I did my best not to scream loud enough that the birds on the mainland would take flight. Rather, I squealed and jumped behind him and called the boys back to take a peek.

They were both highly impressed with him, all though slightly disappointed that he didn't leave his tongue out for them to have a good gander at. On our way back up the path coming home we spotted the second one, and a bit smaller then the first. The boys got quite close to it instructing it to go find it's Mommy Lizard so it wouldn't be all alone. They weren't impressed to hear that many reptiles and amphibians are born knowing what they need to do in life to survive. We've spent a lot of time studying mammals, it might be time to start learning about some of God's other creatures...


Friday, January 30, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Homemade Icecream

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Apparently, the ice cream mixer is too cold for bare hands, but it's not cold enough to deter him from licking it clean.. Isn't he a laugh a minute?? Now imagine the same looks with homemade cherry ice cream smeared all over his face.. 


Oh Happy Day..

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The resident photographer took many pictures on Australia Day, so here you go:


The Burgers: no we didn't buy them from Woolies, we made them.. No, the candles were not for singing, only for reminding us which ones were wheat free.. 


Adrienne's Trifle, is that not cool?!


a round of Duck-Duck-Bruce while the burgers cooked


practicing surf's club rescue techniques


Somehow, I suspect there's a photo just like that on Nana's camera of the other photographer..


Jayden's wistful glances .. it was rocky on this segment of beach there was a sting-ray, so no one wanted to go too far out, except him..


Morgan in his Jet Engine Rocket, complete with boosters (not pictured) that his convinced his Aunty to help him dig ..


What are they building.... 


It's Grug!!


Who's that sketchy looking fellow??


silly shadows..


Bob loves Grug..


Mr Grumpy:  a work of art.. 




Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Australia Day..

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We're preparing for a family bbq, completely with Australia shaped burgers and melon. (Pictures later.) Cherry ice cream and a chocolate raspberry cake for desert. I think a trip to the beach for cricket and a swim might be in order afterwards.. So, from our family to your's.. Happy Australia Day Mate!









Friday, January 23, 2009

Two Wheeler Bikes..

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Biking is a big sport in Australia. I wake up just before 5:30 each day, and when I peek out my window I watch an entire gaggle of bikers go by chattering up a storm. This is a daily occurence, and it's not unusual. No matter where we go, I usually have to pass several bikers. We live in a fairly calm road so we often have bikers up and down our road. At our last place we actually had a bike race happen right past the house! Yes, biking is a big thing here.

It's also something the boys have decided they are ready to embark on. Now, don't get me wrong. Our kids have been riding bikes since Morgan was 1. He was given his first bike and hasn't stopped since. In fact, we were just discussing how Jayden wore the tires of that poor bike out! 

After watching a movie, and I honestly can't remember which one, Jayden asked if I'd buy him a two wheeler bike. I told him no way, his bike was two wheeler he just had to be brave enough to take the training wheels off. He was 100% set to do it, and ran to fetch the wrench for me. I wasn't 100% sold. Morgan has an aversion to heights. It's been this way since he was a baby. If I put him on a changing table he'd SCREAM and thrash until I picked him up and changed him on the floor. He's not as bad as he use to be, but he's still not sold on heights.

Despite all of that Daddy helped them both take their training wheels off and we went into the driveway. Now, something you need to understand here... Our driveway, the flat space you see in that photo, that's all the flat there is. Yes, it's flat under the carport, but the car is in there. Other then that, it's all downhill. And no, Uncle Stephen, we will not ride our scooters, skateboard, and bikes down that hill! 

So, this was a slow progress, and I think we'll need to go down to the beach, which has a beautiful walk track that we walk on daily anyway. It will give the kids more of a running start. I had great fun sitting in the grass (despite the allergy attack it was giving me on my legs) watching these biking lessons we classified as PE for the day.

Daddy didn't just take off the wheels, he was out there explaining all sorts of physics and other such things in order to help Morgan find his balance. (Yes, I so video taped it, and I'll have to upload it because it was so amusing!!) Morgan really did well, and actually managed a bit on his own (unbeknown to him). Jayden, not so much. He's still gung-ho, but he's struggling to find his balance. All in good time, he won't be left behind for long!

Here's a few more pictures:


Morgan, getting a lesson on balance..


Morgan, getting himself ready before take-off


Very technichal stuff being discussed.. I couldn't resist taking the photo!


nearly had it..


that was SO fun!


Did I do it, Daddy? 

They were hoping it would be easier then it was, but I suspect it won't be long before they see it is just as easy as they thought it was. Then they'll be asking for bike rides all the time. Jayden is all ready convinced that each person who passes our home is an olympian! Must be the outfits they wear.. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Baby of Mine..

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Every mother has one.. you know, that song you sing your children. The same one you find yourself humming for years. The one song that can squelch their fear within a matter of minutes. For all of my babies it has been Baby Mine. I found myself humming it when I was only a few months pregnant with Morgan, and I don't think I've ever stopped.. It's just one of those special songs that I share with each of them.. 

So, today, when we were reading our school book and we came across the sentence "so he sang them a lullaby he'd heard long ago about moonbeams...." it reminded me, once again, of the song I spent many sleepless nights singing. The same song I spent many pregnant months singing. The same song I sang to some sleepy toddlers while sharing Eskimo kisses with them.

The moment I pulled up a music video with the song in it, the boys came running. Oddly enough, Jayden, who moments before had been bouncing off the wall, sat calmly in my lap and made me play it twice and sing it a handful of times as well.

After we finally stopped all of our singing the boys wrote some lullabies for a dog, a cat, and a bird. This was just a simple exercise that they thought was very fun. Morgan's were cute and represented each animal. For example, he sang about a bone to the dog. Jayden's, however were all about the same: "I love you, I love you, I really love you. Don't be afraid, I'm right here with you..." 

So, without further ado, here's {our} song:







Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I'm such a snob...

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A crayola snob anyway.. Seriously! We picked up some back to school supplies recently, and as I was putting them in the kids boxes I realized everything was crayola brand. I love crayola! They are reliable. We trust them. Okay, some how that's sounding a wee bit greeting card"ish", but seriously.. 

When I took the boys with me, Jayden picked up a pack of markers that were animal shaped. You popped off the head (sounds creepy) and then you could color with the marker inside. He asked me if they were for Big Boys or Babies. I purchased them for him. He pulled them out on our first day and they were so dried out that when he colored on his paper it gave me the chills!

I ditched them. I bought him crayola. I've been dubbed a crayola snob. I think that deserves a t-shirt!  The downside is that in Australia crayola isn't nearly as cheap as it is in America. In fact, they are so much more expensive (and difficult to find the old fashioned crayons) that I stocked up on crayons when we were in America last year. We have their awesome twistable crayons, the kids think those are awesome, especially the rainbow ones!  We have their classic and bold color markers. We have the pipsqueak markers and the fine point markers (which came with a bonus of 5 fun smell markers). We have colored pencils, regular and gel effect. Okay, so we might be on a crayola overload, but! if I find a few of the 64 back crayons when I'm at K-mart next, I'll pick them up and stash them for a rainy day. After all, we'll be doing Harold & The Purple Crayon soon and some of our old crayons will be melted into new crayons. So, you think crayola can make kids pants that won't get holes in the knees??

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A New School Year

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And so beings a new school year.. We don't start at the same time as the district schools, and we don't keep their schedule either. Which means we school from January through November, with the majority of December "off" so we can truly celebrate the season. While all of our new school books aren't here, we're off and moving today anyway.

Jayden is an eager beaver to join in school, shockingly enough he wasn't too upset that his new math book isn't here yet. Instead we did a lot of hands on fun to be sure he was "up to speed" for the level of math I intend to start him at. Which means he counted to 20 for me, counted to 100 by 10's, counted backwards from 10, wrote the date (with a bit of help), sang a song about the days of the week (or at least a few). Then I sent him off on a treasure hunt where he had to seek out a circle, triangle, and square. It took him a while to find the triangle, but he did it. We also practiced a few A,B and AA, BB patterns. We might pull out the tangrams and dominos tomorrow.

He was equally eager to jump into his phonics lesson of the day, which wasn't a huge surprise for him as he started this program just before our brake. He's as proud as can be that he knows the song, nearly in it's entirety. And, despite only learning to write the letters and the sounds at this point, he's sounding out a few basic words. 

Morgan was eager to be back to the books as well. I know, I have strange kids, what can I say? It's been a while, and considering the gap of time we had off (we didn't keep up with as much of our math as we normally would have in December) he didn't do too badly. All though he did have a minor melt down when he was counting by 2's today. Nothing a few rounds of Rack-o can't cure, I'm sure.

He's really progressed with his reading, which is an awesome thing to behold. Considering the beginning of last year it was a struggle from start to finish for a meager 10 minute, or less, lesson. Today, despite not having done any formal reading, he picked up his reading book and managed six pages with very little trouble. He was slightly distracted by his brother, but once we took care of that all was well. We have a few common words we need to work on, but other then that I was very pleased!

Last year we intended to row our way across the entire world, but fell a bit short. We've opted to pick up right where we left off, which puts us back in Europe with Italy.  Our main book is Papa Piccolo, which is really cute, if not slightly difficult to read due to the Italian in it. The book on the right with the four boys on it is a library book, but is part of a series of books entitled Letters Around The World. It's an EXCELLENT series of books for kids on a variety of different countries. We own a few of them. Inside the book is written as though your child is pen-pals with the child from the chosen country. There's always a recipe, pictures of the money, flag, etc. My kids really enjoy them.

We wont' be staying long in Italy before moving on to Spain, but while we're in Italy the boys will be learning about:

  • Marco Polo
  • Sight (5 senses will be new for Jayden, review for Morgan)
  • Italy
  • Gondolas
  • a variety of art forms
  • drama 
To tie in with our study of Italy we'll be listening to The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke. It's a terrific book with so much description about the streets in Venice, and Italy in general. We've seen the movie a couple of times, and while it's good, it has nothing on the book. I suspect the boys will be playing this book for weeks to come.

We'll be adding in some artist and musician studies this year too. The boys are excited to start learning to play piano (lessons start when the books arrive...) and I thought it would be a great opportunity to start studying a few of the great composers. Mind you, Morgan's true passion is guitar, and we figure once he has a basic knowledge of note reading down we'll progress to guitar. Jayden's passion is most certainly drums and horns. Oddly enough each of them has been drawn to a certain type of instrument from the time they were babies. Morgan has always been in awe by guitars (in fact Murray Wiggle was his favorite due to the guitar!) or any other stringed instrument. Where as Jayden has always been fascinated by drums and brass.

Morgan LOVES art, and I don't feel we do as much with it as we should. We're hoping to start a new art program this year too. What I had really hoped to do was find him some lessons locally, specifically with someone who would be very willing to take the time and teach him how to use water colors. After studying GrandFather's Journey last year, Morgan truly fell in love with water colors and is dying to learn to use them properly.

It took a bit of searching to find a program that we thought would work for us, but we have finally (or so we think) done so. The program is called How Great Thou Art. We'll be using the I can Do All Things book with video. You can actually purchase the book as a downloadable book, but we want the videos as well. We may end up purchasing the downloadable one and then the videos separately to save on shipping, we'll see what happens there.. I've heard some wonderful things about this curriculum and I can't wait to try our hands at it.

For our artists study we'll be using one simple book entitled: Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art in the Styles Of The Great Masters. How's that for a mouthful? This will be a once a month thing, all though we'll probably discuss our artist through-out the month, we'll have one day where we'll sit down and do the hands on approach. Yup, we're looking forward to another fun fill school year...


The Dog Ate My Blog Post

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Our dog ate my last blog post. Seriously. I'm not kidding! You can stop laughing now.. The dog ATE the blog post!! Let me explain, it might make more sense...

We take our dog out for a daily walk, he needs it, we need it. We happen to live right across the street from the ocean. This part of the ocean has a walk track next to it, and dogs are permitted, off their leashes, to walk there as well. So, that's where we walk. It's a peaceful walk, aside from the occasional crazed dog, whose owner has no idea that his dog isn't nearly as funny, cute, or obedient as they may think..

In fact the other day, while walking Buster, we ran into a dog, about twice the size of ours, that looked EXACTLY like our dog. It was so funny. Here comes this dog and our dog runs, all excited (he loves other dogs) up to greet it. They start sniffing each other out and suddenly you can't tell where one starts and the other ends. I'm thinking, is that my dog's tail or... Wait, surely that's his head, no wait.. I'll grab a paw. Mmm.. Anyway, our dog is fairly well behaved on the path and will return to us when called. So we allow him off the leash on our walks.

We had a cousin sleepover on Wednesday, and she wanted to know if we could go crabbing on the beach. Since we normally stop at a playground, we said sure. We let the kids run on the playground, and then went down to the beach. We lifted up countless rocks and had a lot of fun listening to the crabs as the skittered and waddled out of view. We spotted a variety of starfish as well. Mind you, nothing was harmed (except perhaps the stroller which flipped over!) and the boys had a blast counting the crabs (no we didn't keep them to eat..).

While on the beach we spotted a blue crab. He was an incredibly blue crab, but all ready dead. So we scooped him up to bring home. The markings on his shell were just FANTASTIC, and I couldn't wait for a picture of him. However, our resident photographer had a bit of work to catch up, so the kids enjoyed checking the crab out with our bionic eye. After an initial glance I left the room to get out some books (yes, to look up crabs) and once the kids were done we moved on to other areas of school. Needless to say the crab lay upstairs in a plastic dish forgotten.

Buster, our four legged terror, waited for the right moment.. Which came the following day (Friday) while everyone was sleepily eating breakfast he was contentedly chewing away on our fabulous blue crab. He would have gotten away with it had I not gone up to put some laundry away and noticed how "fishy" (seriously it was a gross sea-food smell) in the rumpus room. I thought "how odd" and noticed the moon jelly in a covered dish on the floor. Which reminded me that the crab must still be there too rather then up on a shelf in the school room where we could admire it. 

Then I saw the long bright blue claw on the floor... I had a mini confrence with the principle/photographer of the house and he'd not had a chance to take that photo. Our four legged terror, also known as Buster, was snoozing away (with one eye open mind you) on his bed in the living room. Upon seeing his guilty open eye I told him that I hoped the crab claw pinched him on the way down! 

So, now that you're done laughing at our pesky pooch, you'll surely see how the dog ate my last blog post! The most annoying thing about it, is that we hadn't identified the crab yet!  He doesn't look like the Blue Swimmer Crab, and the markings on his shell were very unique.  Too bad the crab didn't smell like banana, Buster would have never eaten it then!


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Jellies..

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Summer weather has FINALLY reached Tasmania. We were hot and sweaty and despite it being tea time (dinner time) we decided to go to the beach instead. The kids were all for this, and the dog was equally excited about it. When we hit the beach we jumped right into the water and after cooling down we realized we were surrounded by jellies. Tons of them. Everywhere you looked there they were. It was one big bloom! Mind you, none of them were alive, so it was fascinating and weird all at the same time. The kids didn't hesitate to start collecting them in their sand pail, check out the one in the picture there! The entire beach was littered with them, both yesterday and today. We can't wait to look at one under our bionic eye.

While it's not advised to mess with jellies, alive or otherwise, these fellows were completely tentacle free and we double checked by scooping them up with our net first. So, be sure to check before scooping any up!

As for our jelly covered beach, we came home and did a bit of research on them. From the best that we can gather it looks like we might have had a bloom of moonjellies. A total pity we couldn't have seen them in all their glowing glory. The boys are now super excited to row Night Of The Moonjellies for school too.


they look squishy, and while they are, they are also very firm to the touch. 


Can you see the shape of them? Some of them were more rounded, with the pronounced outer rim/lip, while others were just the rounded center part. 


the sizes varied greatly, look at the two in my hand compared to the single one Morgan had!

Yet another impromptu nature lesson, which involved a few other great finds.. Like sea
urchins, a variety of seaweed, and some amazing shells (sorry no pictures yet..) We discovered a book which will be speeding towards us very soon on sea life entitled One Small Square: Seashore. We can't wait for this one. We've currently checked out a book from our library called Exploring Australian Seashores, which has opened up some great finds for us as well. I'll share those finds another day though...


Impromptu Nature Lessons..

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While out checking on my lettuce plants I started noticing the tell tale signs of snails.. you know, that bit of slime they leave behind, the holes in my lettuce leaves.  Morgan and I did a quick check on them yesterday and came up with one VERY large snail. He wasn't shy either and came right out. Morgan was quick to ask questions and poke at it. Much to his delight the snail would suck the bit Morgan touched in, and then stick it back out again. Unfortunately we were on our way out and Jayden was all ready buckled in the car. So I chucked the snail over my neighbor's fence (no one currently lives there) and went on my way. Today, we did another quick scan of the lettuce and found 4 snails. We plucked each one off and set them on the sidewalk as we kept searching.

Jayden was present for this and would reach out his hand to touch it then pull his hand back and cry. Seriously, cry. I asked what was wrong and he said, "I want to be brave enough to touch him, but I can't be!" You see, we'd checked a book out of the library called What Lives on A Shell, (It's one of those awesome Let's-Read-And-Find-Out science books!), and discovered that Morgan had been poking our snail invader in the eye! 

Don't ask me why the silly snail was willing to let him poke, and poke, and poke, but it did. Morgan was gleeful with his poking and the snail encouraged him with the constant eye popping back out at us. These snails aren't small. I'm talking big massive things. In fact, when we studied France last year we discussed a snail race, but the snails at that time weren't as friendly.

After much persuasion, and some hand holding Jayden became brave enough to poke a snail's eye. I know this sounds really weird and gross, and possibly even cruel, and yet it was truly amazing to watch these snails not hide in their shells or pull away. Instead, they'd come back over and over again. We took a bit of video of the process, and I'll see if I can upload it in the morning.

As for more information on snails.. May I start by saying the Aussie snails I've seen could easily eat two American snails-- for breakfast. No joke!  These things are BIG. Turns out that while they may all look the same to us, they aren't. There's well over a thousand different kind of snails, wonder if there's a kind that doesn't like my lettuce...  

Despite the part the boys were poking being straight on top of the head, it was the eyeball.. the antenna is down low, check it out in this picture:


Notice the large bits coming out of the top of his head, those are his eyes, the smaller ones underneath, one bent towards the ground, are his antenna which he's using to sniff things out.



here's three, the one up front is obviously the biggest, the smallest one was still bigger then a normal American pond type snail though..


Mind you, while the snails were fascinating we still discussed many ways of keeping our garden free of them. Honestly, I don't mind the snails, as long as they stay out of my vegetables, but they seem to have a total disregard for this one particular rule.. Mmm.. We've borrowed a book from the library entitled Stamp, Stomp, Whomp. Which has many natural ways of getting rid of unwanted pests. Several great ideas for snails as well, and while the Snail Soup is suppose to be the most effective, I'm not into stomping on snails to make it.

The boys informed me that Nana has a great snail trap, and the afore mentioned big actually has instructions for making one. Maybe I'll turn the kids loose with the recycling and see what they can come up with, but the idea was that you use your trapped snails for the snail soup..

I think for now I'll just keep plucking our snails off the lettuce and chucking them over the fence.. that is until someone moves in. In the mean time, I think I may need to move our lettuce in an attempt to deter our unwanted veggie nibbles. Jayden just might be brave enough to help chuck them over the fence by the end of the summer.. for now, he'll stick with poking them instead..