Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Oh Christchurch,

I'm so sorry for your losses.

We wish you peace soon.

We're thinking of you of we'll do what we can.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

If you know Aneil....

.... then you'll know why I find these photos so funny!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

He was....

.... an amazing man.
.... a respected leader.

He had...

.... an awesome wife.
.... two sweet girls, only 6 and 8.
.... a loving family.
.... a squadron of colleagues and friends.
.... an incredible life.

I remember...
.... that day like it was yesterday.
.... his smile.
.... Christmases at their house.

I learned....
.... to cherish those around me even more.
.... that you should never start a conversation with a work mates wife with "There's been an accident".
.... that sometimes there are just no words.

It's been 10 years I still....
.... think of them often; husband, wife, and girls.
.... imagine him flying that Skyhawk across the heavens with my baby girl.
.... have no words that do justice to honouring him.

Squadron Leader Murray 'Muz' Nielson, RNZAF 2 Squadron. 
18 February 1963 - 16 February 2001

First Day

8am Will has his (empty) back-pack on and is ready to go.
8:01am I have convinced Will that we are just doing the school run and Kindy doesn't start till lunch time.
8:40am Is it time to go to Kindy yet?
9am Can we make my lunch for Kindy now?
10am we look through his Kindy folder and read the guidelines and learn about the teachers. Minor melt down on learning that Panda is not really welcome at kindy.

11am We make lunch together. Get a drink. Put names on everything including clothes, hat and sandals. Pack bag.
11:15am It's too early to leave yet so I tell Will we have to have tidy-up time before we go to kindy! (Stroke of brilliance- not just house to self but TIDY house to self!!)
11:27 Sandals on.

11:28 Photos in the driveway.
11:29 Walk to Kindy
11:30 Arrive Kindy. "Oh my I want to paint! I want to do tools! I want to...."
11:31 "Actually I don't like lunch"
11:32 Sitting down eating lunch.

11:40 Take Will to show him the 'little' toilets hoping this will encourage toilet training. He washes his hands.
11:41 Show Will where to put his lunch box, sign in and put his name up.
11:44 Will is using the tools and paint.


12:00 "When are you going mum?"
12:17 Feeding the chickens and checking for eggs (none today)
12:20 "Are you going now mum?"

12:22 Painting a picture

12:26 Some water play.
12:29 Back at the tool table.
12:30 W:"You can go now mum!"
Me: Can I have a kiss?
W: No.
Me: Ok bye then
W: You can come back when you have had your lunch and get Will.
Me: Ok then thanks.

While I was away he continued with the sawing and the painting. I also heard that he spent some time in the sandpit, playing with some magnets and dressing up as a Doctor and using the stethoscope.

2:05 Tidy Up time. I helped a very smurf like son to wash his hands and felt paranoid as I had literally just walked in and still had camera in hand- luckily there were no kids in the loo!

2:15 Mat time. Will enjoyed the Elephant song and joined in with some time delayed type manner:
Kids: 4 little elephants balancing step by step
W: 4 little elephants
Kids: On a piece of string
W: Balancing step by step.
2:20 Teacher Trudi is reading a story. Will has crept from the back of the mat to the front and then onto the log with the teacher.
2:25 Over the log and into some dirt/mud and found a plastic ladle.
2:26 Banging the ladle on the shade sail pole.
2:27 Heading for worm farm. Redirected to mat by mum. Stops to look at Doves.
2:30 On the mat singing the good bye song... kindy finishes.
2:31 Putting on sandals and finding today's painting.
2:35 Heading out the gate unhappily with a list of things to do 'first' tomorrow.

2:40 On the grass outside of Kindy. "Will's legs are broken Mum."

2:50 Finally make it home having flown the painting like a kite, stopped to pick up a feather and various other stuff.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Yeah right!

Hey have you tried the Tui-mato sauce? It's super yum- way better than Watties!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Baby Made me do it!

I haven't had a hell of a lot in the way of cravings this pregnancy- I have been thinking a lot about Cherry Liqueur Chocolates but I think that I just didn't get enough of them at Christmas (1 box WTF??). I did buy some licorice last week as well which is an unusual purchase but maybe my body just knew there was a need. 
One of my vices though and one which I am able to indulge as I am being "normal*" this pregnancy is Shrimp Cocktails from St Pierre's. I will even confess that on a couple of occasions I brought 2 at the same time and ate them all myself. *(By normal I mean I am not bending over backwards to be super careful/paranoid about what I do or eat).

The other thing is beetroot and this (below) is one of the best meals I have had lately full stop. I love honey soy chicken nibbles and really crispy potato oven chips with garlic and herbs. And this salad was awesome due to the addition of cold boiled eggs, beetroot, snow peas, avocado, cashews, fresh asparagus and  blue cheese- YUM!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What a week!

This week has been pretty extreme! Both the good end and the bad end of extreme.

I am thinking of Nana B as she recovers from heart bypass surgery.

I am thinking of Macchi and her family particularly her Dad who has been diagnosed with some serious cancer which 1000% sucks when you are in the prime of grandparenting! The only bit of happiness in this story is the fact that Macchi, Mike and the kids have been down south for over a year now so are a least able to be close at this time- being up here while it's all happening down there would suck even worse. We love you guys heaps Harrison Family and I'm thinking of you everyday.

I am thinking of Shannon, Lisa and Ehren who had their home broken into this week. Which is one of the crappiest worst kind of violations that can happen to your life and leaves you feeling like a stranger has turned you out of your own skin.

On the home front Kieran seems to have settled into high school with ease. He says all his teachers are great and is managing to get himself home each day.

Merenia also has settled into school and has friends calling her up to talk afterschool. Still not sure she is in the right place but that will have to be left to time.

After thinking that Kindy wasn't going to start till next term we received the news on Thursday that Will can start next week!! I'm excited for Will because I know he's going to love it and I'm hoping we will find some local friends for him. But I am going to be sad to say goodbye to my boy each day especially as we have been having the most amazing week together and doing lots of fun stuff and having 'chats'. Will is into having 'chats'.

On the downside we made a decision last week that in hindsight was stupid. But I figured that seeing as our neighbour wouldn't mow her lawn if she had to change into sensible shoes that she wouldn't be putting the effort to light her fire when we all have heat pumps installed. So when they cut down the tree by the letter box on their side of the drive we took the firewood left behind.

The next day when I was home alone with Will the neighbour's husband knocked on the door and said he wanted to talk about the wood- I asked him if he could talk to Les after work. At which point he got loud and argumentative and what felt to me like aggressive and threatening. Including a threat to call Air Security (Military Police).

I'm home 90% of the time. Either on my own or with the kids. I like my house and I like being here. I enjoy raising my kids here and we like being outside and enjoying our yard front and back. I've lived here feeling safe and happy for 9 and a half years.

I've put up with a lot since the neighbours moved in I get to listen to their freaking dogs bark at every person or animal that dares to walk past our driveway or the driveway of the house that backs onto their house- that's a lot of barking. Not to mention the people (and there's a lot of them) who come to get 'fish stuff' from the neighbour.

I have to have the corner curtain in my lounge closed or I get filthy looks from the wife when she comes out to smoke on her front doorstep.

I have to listen to her verbally abuse her children (both under 4) in the worst possible way. I have to listen to her screaming and verbally abusing her husband. I have to modify Will's actions because she drives down the drive way too fast every time, because she leaves her lighter, half empty junk drinks on the front doorstep and throws her cigarette butts on her lawn all of which are accessible and interesting to my curious 3 year old.

I should be grateful for the dogs because they warn me when a stranger is coming up my driveway. But last Friday taught me it's not a stranger that I need to worry about. It's the guy I have to live next door to everyday. The one who seems to be led by the nose by his wife. The wife who is the sort of person to LOSE IT COMPLETELY over things like an imbalance of Kumara to Roast Potatoes in her Roast shop take away dinner her husband just went and brought her. I mean seriously what was he thinking getting so much Kumara- she doesn't like it what a "Fn' idiot"!

So now I feel uncomfortable in my own home, I feel threatened and insecure. I don't like to go in my front yard when my neighbours are home or in the back when they are outside.

But don't worry about me because I can tell I am just a silly emotional girl who has over reacted. I know that due to the rolling of the eye's, the "whatever" statement, being left at home alone most of the day Saturday when the wood that was supposed to be returned Friday was still on our back lawn, the reaction to my having put a curtain up in our kitchen so I don't have to see the neighbours. And the sigh that I got when I asked my husband to ask the neighbour not to talk to me at all and most particularly when he has a problem with us.

It obviously wasn't such a big deal.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Guest Blogger: Will: Kindy Visit

We went to kindy on Tuesday for a Kindy visit as we thought that Will would be starting in March- unfortunately for him though a couple of older kids have come along since we spoke to the admin secretary a couple of weeks ago and now he may not start till next term... gutted all round. Still Trish the kindy teacher said that they don't have many kids on Monday and Friday afternoons so we'll try and get over there for a visit at least one of those days most weeks. In the meantime here's Will story in mostly his own words (he uses a ghost writer) of his first Kindy Visit.

* * * * * * *
Will put on his sandals and then we went to Kindy by walking.

Will looked at the parrot and they have two parrots.

Will was playing with the gold watering can. Then Will played Sandpits. He played with the hose that the girl had finished playing with.

There was a digger. Will sat on the digger and used the controls that made the digger go up and down.

Then it was time to tidy up. Will put away the water stuff and the shovels and the spade.

We walked around Kindy. We saw the chickens, the garden. Kindy has a worm farm like Grandads. Will saw the water trough.

Will put on his sandals and we looked at the inside of Kindy and it has drums and instruments.

And then we walked home.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Will had a haircut yesterday and the hairdresser was telling us that he was a good speaker and that her older grandchild only had about 3 discernible words and she was concerned. Then I happened to read an article on language development later that day and it said that Will should have about 450 words and some 3 word sentences- I'm not particularly stressed about these things- children develop at their own rate and pace and what's right for one is not so for another- I also remember my sister being very quiet for a long time and then just exploding language wise in the course of about 2 weeks she went from single words to full sentence conversations. That said I still liked is this morning when we were walking in the house after the school run this morning and Will said:
"Will likes those roses their smell feels nice"

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I Love Sweet Little Baby Clothes

 If you think you can use those colours to guess what we're having- then you really are just guessing because we don't even know!


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Our year of Unschooling

I didn't talk about this when we started the year because I'm not big on judgement and I could see that there was a chance it would come at me from all quarters even from people I respected for their intelligence and ability to respect the choices of others and others who generally do their homework before bagging out someones choices. And what I was doing was brave and hard and a real shift from what I had known. And although I was supported in this decision by Les it was support that came from trust and faith in my ideals.... not a knowledge and belief of his own.

I knew from the start that when we decided to homeschool Merenia that we'd be unschooling. (Yes that is an actual term not one coined by me it's also called natural learning).

In the past I have done both schooling and unschooling- I've also done a hybrid of the two. :-) If you have children you've unschooled as well, unless you were the most incredibly anal parent that ever walked the face of this earth.

I never actually enjoyed teaching regular class. Admittedly I never did it for long, but I'm not sure I could have it's kind of in-congruent with joyful learning. And as someone who is absolutely passionate about learning and thinks it's way better than anything including sliced bread it's hard to encourage learning in a manner that doesn't really consistently inspire a passion for learning.

Les and I had a conversation when were first trying to figure out what Merenia needed where we decided that what was happening at school was 'good enough'. Neither of us thought that as parents it was ok to settle for 'good enough' for our kids. Hence the decision to homeschool.

In the first 5 years of his life Kieran learned to move, talk, walk, dress himself, read, write, use the computer (and various other gadgets and devices) and an exceptionally large amount of mathematical knowledge for his age. As well as that he had a huge general knowledge about wide number of subject matter from geography to history to science and so on. He read and was read to widely and often.

He had a 'laboratory' under his bed. (Which I discovered after being berated for cleaning it up).
And we had great conversations such as:
Me (having a blonde moment):  But there weren't any swimming dinosaurs.
Kieran: Oh Mum! Mosasaurus, Plesiosaurus, Nothosaurus, Liopleurodon.. sigh I need to say more!
His vocabulary was stunning:
Les: What flavour milkshake do you want?
Kieran: According to my research, Dad, I would like chocolate.

And you know what: WE did that. Me and Les we did that through the power of good parenting. I never sat down and 'taught' him to read. Les never gave him practice addition sums (unless he asked for them). None of it was planned or particularly intentional. We talked to him, all the time- so much so an hour in the supermarket with a non-verbal child was exhausting because the conversation is so one sided. We sang with him. We danced with him. We cooked with him. We read to him (and we read to him and we read to him). We shared and encouraged his passions. I knew the answer to that dinosaur question- I must have been having an off day. Of course I couldn't spell Liopleurodon (still can't) but he could.We went to the library, we brought books (a lot of books) we brought toys and models and we made stuff. If he wanted to write a story before he could actually write- he said it, I wrote it. If he wanted to learn to spell words I wrote them on cards and stuck them on the wall and so on. I don't remember talking about fractions or basic multiplication but we must of because he knew. And his foundations were so solid that taking on new information was easy for him because he had so much prior knowledge to build on.

We never had a plan. We never once did an assessment. We never once made him learn something. We didn't push, we didn't have expectations we just lived and parented the best we knew how. Fortunately we knew a lot more than some parents (and not as much as others). The latter being something I think comes with time and experience and the former being why Early Childhood education and schemes like Parents as First Teachers are so important- and where Plunket is failing dismally.

That's unschooling. (See I told you you did it too).

We unschooled our kids for the first five years and they loved learning and were really passionate about finding out about stuff and doing stuff and well just about everything.

Then we sent them to school, and now they aren't.


In my second year at Teacher's college I was the luckiest girl in my year. I got assigned to Mr Clayton's class at Arthur Street School. Neil Clayton had a Year 4-6 class that year which became a year 4-8 class the year after when he took the 'excess' (older kids) from the Montessori Satellite class which called Arthur Street home.

His style of teaching was eclectic and open. He is the best I ever saw at catering for individual needs and the most perceptive when it came to personality and such. He was incredibly respectful of children as human beings and allowed his class a huge amount of autonomy over their time and their learning. He is one of four truly amazing and inspiring teachers I have ever had the privilege to know*. After having spent 3 years in college intending not to teach but to use my degree to do something like guidance counselling in a school I came to the realisation I was going to teach and now I thought I knew how. *(In case anyone is wondering: Pamela Robertson (my year 1-3 teacher), Alva Kapa Standard 4/year 6, Pam Shand the Montessori teacher at Arthur Street and Neil- my top 4)

After a 3 week posting to his class at the end of my second year I came back once exams were over and hung out voluntarily. And then in my third year I begged, pleaded and cajoled my College of Ed. Deans to send me back to Neils Class for my 3rd year postings which would cover the whole year- Neil didn't normally have third years but he made an exception for me! And the double bonus was working alongside (across the hallway) from the Montessori class and learning a decent amount about a whole other theory of education that rocked as well as learning from Neil. Triple bonus was the kids- super amazing!

Off I went, the next year, into the world to do what Neil did with my own class of mollycoddled year 7 & 8's at a school in rural West Auckland where the bulk of parents were lifestylers who did the big commute to the city each day while the wife played tea parties with her friends darling- that's a gross generalisation. (But they were pretty gross kids, mostly). My senior teacher (the DP) hadn't any say in my being employed and was unhappy to say the least and when she saw the way I wanted to teach she was down right dismal I had zero support.

Of course young and naive I hadn't realised a whole bunch of stuff relating to Neil's style- and hadn't considered his gift for reading kids and the freaking years of teaching experience under his belt (probably at least 25 years by the time I met him). I gave my kids a mile and they took about 100km and I spent the rest of the year trying to claw control back inch by hard earned inch whilst still trying to hold true to my ideals. Dismal fucking failure.

And that's about the point where we found ourselves last year.

I headed into the year with great ideas and high hopes. I wanted to spend the first few months 'de-schooling' Merenia. Give her the chance to get out of the schooly mentality and gain back some of the self-esteem that had been decimated through the state school system. The generally accepted theory is that it takes a month for every year the child has been at school. Four and a half months in our case- we were pretty relaxed and laid back. Went to Choir and Ukulele to keep in contact with other people and do something she enjoyed (Choir) and learn something new (Uke). We signed up for the Mathletics website. I spent the time getting prepared- pulling all the cool resource-y stuff I had together in a big cupboard with pretty organisation.I had big plans and dreams. I remembered those heady days with Kieran writing stories and talking about different animals and our Olympic games study. I did more reading and research on the net and at the library. We sorted some international penpals for Merenia. We enjoyed the still warm Auckland days and got outside as much as we could.

In hindsight I should have seen it coming.

She wanted to garden but wasn't willing to do any reading to find out how or what.

She wanted to cook every day but I had a two year old and limited resources and limited patience for this high maintenance activity and neither did Les especially at dinner time when we really just wanted to get the night time routine streaming easily along to bed time.

She wanted to go out everyday to Kelly Tarltons, the Zoo, the museum, rainbows end, the tip top factory, the beach, homeschool camp, and gym, and art classes. And once again I had limited financial resources, still a 2 year old who couldn't do half that stuff, and I really liked my stay-at-home life.

So for the deschooling months we had our Wednesdays at Brown's Bay, Merenia took herself over to the library bus every second Thursday and the rest of the time was at home. She did what she wanted (within reason). And I got tired of her constant proximity and longed to be able to just pop out on my own (with Will). Or do something without being investigated. Or ask myself a question without her answering it. And I got sick of having to ask her constantly to let Will have some space to do his own thing.

When we were done with the deschooling. I found I had a girl who I wasn't enjoying all that much and who had no interest in anything much more than watching preschool television, reading Saddle Club and writing three line emails to her penpal. She didn't want to learn. She wasn't interested.

What? I don't get it. I don't understand. This doesn't compute. What do you mean not want to learn? What do you mean no passion for finding out stuff and how to do stuff. I don't understand that at all?

And I couldn't make her.

Especially if it involved reading for knowledge, writing or, god forbid, Maths she wouldn't have a bar of it. She simply wasn't willing to put in any effort no matter what the benefit.

We made her the head gardener at the start of the year giving her the responsibility for the garden design and planting. But she literally just wanted to plant pretty stuff she liked where she wanted with no thought of weeding, soil prep or seasonal planting and so on. We couldn't afford to throw money away so she could learn from her mistakes and she wasn't willing to learn how to avoid them.

I tried a bunch of different things I even tried going all teacher on her arse. No deal. No go. No way. And the relationship was deteriorating.

Once again I hadn't considered the nuances of the situation and hadn't really taken into account the kid when I was polishing my lovingly held ideals. I mean I thought it would be hard- it's not like we didn't have a total clash of personalities before our year started. But never in my wildest dreams could have imagined that I/we had raised a kid who didn't want to learn. DIDN'T. WANT. TO. LEARN.

I also see now that I still hadn't got past my teacher training as much as I had thought. Because really I should have spent a lot more time just doing stuff and having her work alongside or in the vicinity of me learning as we went- I was still trying to 'teach' her rather then just letting her learn.

We spent the rest of the year as we started doing nothing much more than reading Saddle Club, playing Uke, playing computer games and watching preschool TV. I grew increasingly frustrated, confused, disillusioned and also angry. Really really angry.

I'm not saying that there was no learning last year. There was a whole bunch of incidental stuff taught by both me and Les. And we had Merenia assessed and learnt a whole bunch more about her in the process- I don't think we would have done that if she had still been at school.But I do think Will learned less than if it had have been just the two of us. And he learned more stuff that I did NOT want him to learn and was NOT suitable for a two year old.

And there were the other benefits that I talked about in the other post. The lack of mean girls in her life (apart from me). The good health, the raised self esteem, the renewed belief in her ability to learn (maths in particular) and improved attitude towards life the universe and everything (except doing what she was asked and keeping her stuff tidy). These things are all gold that makes the year worth while.

But they don't make me feel all that much better about my failings as a home educator and as a patient and caring parent. And she still holds the belief that she is right and we are stupid and anything we say is negotiable. Like having a blue vivid in the bedroom your share with your 3 year old brother despite the fact you've been repeatedly told you may not have any such writing/crafting material (permanent or not) in said bedroom. And so really I just despair.

We need help. Expert help, because everyone else in our circle informs us that she is just sweetness and light and just the best person to have around. Which just seems to confirm Merenia's belief that we are idiots and she is pure genius. And seeing as they see her so seldom they are able and willing to treat her on all those occasions and let her do special stuff, confirming her further notion that we are the cruellest parents to walk the earth and she is a poor hard done by saint of a girl stuck in this awful family. But of course none of those people actually have to parent her every day of every year, heck they don't even have to get her to wear underwear.

Like I said we need help, real actual help: Now! We're working on it.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The other kid, you know the large scruffy blonde one

My boy, my first baby is going out there in the world of big kids. He's been chucked back down to the bottom of the school food chain. A turd-former as they used to say. Year 9 doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

At the same time he's being thrust into the world of independence and responsibility. He's even got to make his own way home each day.

He's going somewhere that it's generally expected that parents keep out of except of rare occasions of performance, reporting and (hopefully not) trouble. We'll be forced to glean information from a boy child entering adolecence. He already spends his spare time holed up in his room figuratively cuddled up to the computer. I'm struggling with how we will know what's going on at school and just how things are going.

We're incredibly proud of him. He was the dux of his school last year and has made it into the GaT class at High School and the Sports Academy. And we know he is a good kid. But what about the 350 odd kids that got suspended, stood down, and expelled from the school last year. What about the fact he is just one of 2500 pupils, one of 900+ year nines?

How will I get photos to scrapbook the experience?

How will he cope with the early starts. The increased pressure, the workload? How will we know if he's not coping. I mean hell he's going to find it hard enough just wearing 'school shoes' all day everyday.

Did we choose the 'right' school for him?

Has he made the right choices? I mean really, Spanish? I know Spain is his favourite soccer team but lets face it it's not like he's going to be called up as an international for Realmadrid anytime soon. I mean he plays hockey apart from any thing else!

Will we have fights over homework? How will I win the fights? Should I win the fights? Should he?

Have I asked the right questions? Are high schoolers tool cool for book covering? I voted Yes. Lunch boxes. No. Does he need coloring pencils? Was it ok that I wrote his name on his stuff?

Will his form teacher be nice?

Should I have ironed the creases out of his shorts?

What if he loses his bus ticket? Will he make new friends fast? Will he be ok? Will he enjoy it? Will he appreciate it? Will it be worth it?

Will he be happy?

It's Kieran's first day at High School. Seriously. Shit.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"Gypsy is like"

I found that link yesterday after I googled myself. You should try it like this.... "*insert your name here* is like" (Make sure you include the quotation marks).

Here are some of the more interesting/weird/funny ones I got....

gypsy is like calling an Eskimo an Eskimo 

Gypsy is like me

gypsy is like a person, but not quite.

Gypsy is like a rave or a high school kegger—you have to know somebody to get in

Gypsy is like finding hay in a haystack.   

Gypsy is like walking into a time warp where black and neon are still mile markers of style and class 

gypsy is like a lesson against civilization; it shows him that it is still possible to live, do as one likes, thrive

Gypsy is like stepping into a time machine... and it's great! The campiness contrasts with the musicianship so well

Gypsy is like that, too. Takes a while to load, think, etc. Mine has never really locked up, but it DOES stop for what seems a long time to think

Gypsy is like being handicapped. Nobody says it but it is still very obvious.

Gypsy is like my son. I like it. And it never failed or ditched me. If it develops snag during protests we will be all dead inside it,

gypsy is like a handheld design machine

This is my favourite.....

I swear that Gypsy is like ageless, i would never guess her age by these pics- she is a queen! and look at those muscles! 

So why did we send her back to school?

Friends: Her very besty got posted down to Woodbourne at the end of last year. Of the two remaining one I'm not all that keen on and the other is hard to catch up with. We did meet some kids she liked last year but never really managed to establish a working friendship. Merenia needs friends she's just one of those people that does.

Learning: Beyond Uke, reading and incidentals. Merenia didn't want to learn about stuff she didn't want to learn about. I tried a few different approaches but the fact of the matter is that while I can lead that particular horse to water I can't force it to drink and some days I think that if I had have required her to breath she would have stopped just to spite me. She didn't want to write, spell, read non horse related materials, research or anything else that she even vaguely considered schooly.

She's better: By the time we decided to pull Merenia out of school we had a lot of mysterious illness- the classic sore throat, sick tummy and head ache syndrome- she was requesting a lot of time off school and my suspicion was that it wasn't physical health days so much as mental health days. Her good health over the past 13 months confirms that I think- leaving school was an instant cure.

She is moving forward (or she has at least stalled): In general but particularly in relation to maths Merenia was going backwards to the point where she actually believed that she couldn't do Maths. Despite very little Maths being done last year she has regained an belief in her ability to do Maths- and has even proclaimed it on a couple of occasions.

She's forgotten what she hated about school: Hopefully the change of school the years worth of maturity and other changes will mean that she doesn't hate it again.

Her life was in danger: I was getting close to killing her- I'm half joking- I value my freedom to much to go down for homicide! But seriously we both have aspects of our personality that have a habit of coming together like charging bulls. She frustrates the crap out of me and I think the feeling is mutual.

I need some privacy and space: This isn't a Merenia reason but it is valid none the less. I was spending almost all my time in the company of Merenia with the exception of  St Johns, Uke and Choir she was always there. Always talking, being nosy, over sharing both information about herself and myself (with others) that she didn't need to share. (She outed one of her old teachers last year to a parent and pupil of the school where that teacher works) she has no idea of what is socially appropriate and what is not and that's actually a really hard thing to deal with.

Her mind moves in mysterious ways (and it was time to share the mystery): While Merenia seems to have no passion for anything but horses and ukulele and no desire to learn beyond those two things (oh ok maybe food/cooking as well) she thinks the weirdest stuff and asks the most insane and inane questions. I wouldn't mind that if there was a balance with regular questions, I wouldn't mind that if she also used her own brain to think as well but she doesn't. A weird thought comes up and is out her mouth before she's even taken a moment to consider it. "How would you get us places if you only had motorbikes?" "What if our last name was Jones?" What? wha? seriously? Someone else needs to hear this stuff because the extra 5+ hours a day of it was killing me.

I don't 'get' her: It's said that Dyslexia isn't a disability as such but just a different way of thinking. A way of thinking that is practiced by a small minority of the population. A bit like left handedness is only found in something like 10% of the population but it's normal for that 10%. Dyslexia is supposedly the same. And just like I find it hugely challenging to do stuff like writing with my left hand I find it hugely challenging to think like Merenia thinks or to even understand where she is coming from sometimes. That makes me a crap facilitator when it comes to her learning and thinking. In fact it appears that makes me crap when it comes to a lot of things with Merenia and this is a huge challenge that Les and I both need to work on in order to raise a successful happy child. If anyone can point me in the direction of where to start then please please please do that because honestly I'm failing dismally at this point.

She has self-esteem again: Merenia walked through life with an attitude of 'everyone hates me', 'the world is against me'. She could often be found storming off to her room screaming, wailing and slamming doors when told off in the most minor way. She still turns every issue into a major drama but it seems now that it's more about attention than a genuinely held belief that the world is against her. In fact with the exception of an incident over Christmas we actually haven't heard that particular line in months. It took the Christmas incident to make me realise that. Unfortunate though the incident was it was kind of nice because it made me realise that we had obviously been doing something right.

Will needed the space: As I write this on day one of school I have already had confirmation that Will needed the opportunity to take his own path. Rather than being forced down the one the Merenia was taking. He has played better alone today. Has been actually able to make his own choices on the direction of pretend play and quite literally has been able to sing and dance to his own tune when we were listening to some music. Big brothers and sisters are great but I don't think they were ever designed to be in the face of their younger siblings 24/7 and as Merenia never wanted to actually do her own independent learning she treated Will as a plaything. And if I'm honest I did less with Will last year for two reasons: Because I didn't want to have to do it with Merenia interfering as well. And because I didn't have to I let him default to playing with her and did my own thing more.... so not cool, I know. I am seriously looking forward to the time I get to spend with Will this year before the baby comes and after that when it is asleep. I remember 'three' with Kieran and it was an amazing time- probably 3 & 4 are the best of those pre school years from my point of view.

We chose the school that we did because it 'looked' the best. It looks well resourced. And the school looks cared for. Unlike Whenuapai they still have extra space where children can be withdrawn to to do cool stuff and essential stuff. It's on the way (to taking Kieran to school). She can catch the bus home (and to school as well if we want) this could be a big bonus once the baby is here and generally it's just nice for me to only have to go out once (Kieran is catching the bus home as well). We couldn't go back to Whenuapai. The huge feeling of relief that came over me when they released the kids on Kieran's last day was proof that I needed to be away from there. A year or so before I would have expected to be sad that our connection with the school had come to an end. But various issues that arose over the past 14 months relating to the senior management and just the service in general that our kids were getting had been so stressful and depressing that I was well over it. And while I still believe that there needs to be huge change for the teaching staff (people I counted as friends) to be treated fairly and reasonably I'm done trying to help with that fight. Les remains on the Board until his term is over because he believes in fighting so that our community gets the best it deserves and it seems he still has the energy to do it despite a fair few figurative kicks in the guts from the people he believes he is trying to help.

After reading this you are probably wondering what we did last year. For posterity I am writing a post on our year of unschooling because I need to remember what we did before the passage of time steals it away. Hopefully I can stop hanging with Will or stay awake long enough to get it done soon!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It makes me wonder.....

... what do people think when I am introduced for the first time?
Check out the comments- not to mention the vote!

Aaargggh School/School aaaahhhhhhh"?

I've just got home from dropping Merenia to school.

I find that as a parent what you think you will and won't do and your general philosophy changes often. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing or just a thing.

My current lotto fantasy (in other words my 'ideal world') would see us having enough money that Les could retire and we could go live in a big house of our own design somewhere other than here. We would hire 3 or 4 teachers to home educate all our kids. The 3 or 4 teachers would between them cover a range of subjects and passions and take turns at giving each kid one on one instruction. (Even one teacher between the 3 would be good).

Late last year we asked if Merenia could attend the little school we looked at late in 2009- but they were in the process of transition as they had a new principal starting this year and I get the impression had had some sort of upheaval. We never got a flat no but never got a yes either so in January we started talking about what we would do. We went and checked out four local schools- 3 of which we didn't know the enrolment schemes for and our zoned school. We went for a look on a Saturday- one we couldn't get into because of the security fencing and padlocked gates- from the outside it looked like an institution, a mental institution not an educational one.

The second had the same sort of fences but was open as some one was using the hall. It looked nice as you walked in the front but on further exploration it would appear this decile 2 school spent all their money on the office, staffroom, security fencing and lundia shelving because there was stuff all else of any value in the school. In their haste to get away someone had left their school bag in the playground filled with books, shoes and art work and there it sat for the next four or so weeks it didn't bode well.

The third school we looked at looked good the caretaker was there with his wife- both parents of the school and she was on the BOT and we had a quick chat. The school had the advantage of being just up the road from Kieran's high school, and a Kindy that had been recommended to me (our local one is supposed to close at the end of the year). meaning one drop off and pick up point for all three kids. It was on the 'possibles' list.

Then we looked at our in-zone school a decile 9- (how they get a nine when Whenuapai gets a 10 I don't know). I worked at this school as a long term reliver for a term when Kieran was a twinkle in his terrified soon-to-be a Dad's eye. I got the job 2 days before school started and didn't enjoy the atmosphere at all. It was, at the time, a bunch of female bullies and one down trodden male principal who seemed like a decent guy... he didn't stand a chance and left not long after I did. I was 'warned' about one of my pupils parents before school started- she was a bit of a crazy apparently. (She became a firm friend and lived 3 houses down when we got our first married quarter.) I was also 'warned' about a few of my kids as well. This is a practice that I absolutely despise in teaching, it makes it very hard for kids to get any sort of fresh start from year to year when they are being gossiped about by former teachers with a grudge- and I've most times found it to be poor advice because personality counts for a lot in teaching and I've always has the sort of personality that works well with the so called 'naughty kids'. I swore blind that my kids would NEVER go to this huge (pop 574) behemoth of a school. 

And that'd be the one I dropped Merenia off to this morning. And to be honest I still feel sick about it. The alarm bells have been ringing all week from the school secretary who takes grumpy, unpleasant and unwelcoming to new heights and her 'personality twin' in the uniform shop. The largest skort is too small and while they have a heap of polar fleece jerseys they have no polo tops. So the 'new kid' I dropped off today sticks out like a sore thumb. Getting a park is a bitch, the website is limited to say the least, and the 'new pupils pack' is a waste of time. It just feels wrong, wrong, wrong.

I know, I know I have a crap attitude to this going into it but until we are months down the track we won't know if this was the best thing to do.... and if it's not then I've messed up again.

It doesn't help that some of the reasons for choosing this school over home school or another school are relatively selfish. Things like the luxury of a school bus to drop her home meaning one trip out each day! Or just the general sense of sanity that comes from a 6 hour Merenia break each day.

Parenting well is hard, hard stuff and some kids are a lot harder than others and it's all very complicated and sometimes just downright revolting. And today is one of those days.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Round-Up~ January 2011

On our bookshelf this month....
Les: Modelling Magazines, The Blue Arena by RL Spurdle.
Kieran: Survivor (and a few of my library books)
Merenia: Saddle Club (lots of)
Will: Library Books: Helicopters and Happy Baby Sad Baby etc
Gypsy: The Thin Line by VR Joseph, Land of Milk and Honey by William Taylor, School for Dangerous Girls by Eliot Schrefer, The Dark Blue 100 Ride Bus Ticket, Alchemy, Other Side of Silence & Kaitangata Twitch by Margaret Mahy, Swap By Wendy Catran, War Zones By Helen Beaglehole. CK Tricks for Computers, Beautiful Basics, CK Solutions for Scrapbooking, Healthy Food Guide Mags, Next Jan, Little Treasures, Simple Scrapbooks Magazines.Plus I read back through a year of SouleMama, Rosy Little Things and am working my way through Hyperbole and a Half.
Loving on the box.... 
Survivor, Dr Who Christmas Special, King Kong, Heston's Feast.
For you...For me?
It was my sister Caitlins birthday and I sent her down a bunch of her own photos in albums with decorations and stories. Plus I did a huge 'granny lot' of photos.

Germs and bugs and botherations....
Cold Sores and Sciatic Nerve Pain.
Today was good today was fun, tomorrow is another one...

Coming Back home, New Years Feast, Day at Shakespeare with the Casbolt-Brinkmans, Weekend at home alone, L and the kids had a weekend in Te Aroha, Golf and flying for Les, Hanging with friends and a few sleep overs for the kids and a lot of visits to the base pool.

Yum, yum, yum....

New Years Feast: Punch, Ham and Les' Potato Salad, 14+ Fruit Salad. Pie day Pies.

'It was on sale'....

Photos 9 cent 6x4's and 2 for 1 enlargements- 600 prints later.... Hooray!
I wish that Kieran's School stuff was on sale but no such luck! $300+ for uniform $300+ School fees, course fees and stationery!!


We tried toilet training Will... it was a dismal failure- so we are back to nappies for a few months and we'll try again.


We have never known our cat be so happy to see us on our return home... we suspect our minder was a bit slack with the feeding but it made Ruby the most friendly and amorous we have ever known her.


We were on Air New Zealand First Domestic Flight for 2011 (at 5:40am New Years Day!)
There were huge floods in QLD and Victoria. And locally we had flooding in Northland and Auckland when a couple of big cyclone/weather bomb things passed by- we were find but lost a couple of huge branches off our tree.

You know who's good idea this was? Katie The Scrapbook Lady. Go check out her list of tasks to do at the end of each month as well.