Wednesday, July 28, 2010

CSIRO Total Well-being diet

Pete needs to lose weight and get his cholesterol down, and I still need to lose about 5kgs as well, so we're going back on the CSIRO diet.  It has really good principles, I just tend to get lazy when I'm cooking and load up on carbs instead of cooking vegetables.

The first time we followed it to the letter and had really great results BUT it cost an arm and a leg to buy everything.  This time we'll substitute what we've got and follow the principles more than the exact suggested menu plan in the book.  I think it will be easier this time around too, with Pete working from home - lunches can be a bit more varied than just meat & salad.

I'll add extra carbs in for Billy (and try not to eat them myself!)
I wonder if there's a way to write in the shower?  I come up with wonderful scenes while I'm in the shower, but as soon as I get out, I'm slapped in the face with reality.  Usually in the form of "Mummy, can you..."

*sigh*  Off to do my BAS...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Natural learning: time zones

Billy has quite a good grasp of the idea of world time zones.  He knows that different parts of the world are at different times and can tell you facts like when it's midnight in London and America (I'm not sure which part of America).  We've never done a "lesson" on time zones - it's come about mainly due to him "needing" to know. Partly its due to sites such as Club Penguin and Webkinz.  Since they are American sites, the competitions etc close at American times, so for us Aussies, we have to translate.  So there's been lots of discussions & demonstrations about that as he initially tried to wrap his mind around it. 

We have friends in London & America, so it makes it far more real to him to be able to say things like "It's night time in London, D will be in bed now; A will just be getting up now" etc. 

Sites like these have been handy as well:

At the observatory we also got to watch mechanised models of the earth, moon & sun, so that also added to his understanding of it all.

Relevant & useful - natural learning at its finest.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Very pleased with my last Flash Fiction entry (first one in the 300 word section).  I've received two 5 out of 5 reviews for it so far!

Our week of learning - 25th July - Space, Mail and Orange Belt

Ah, back to routine! 


Current Readaloud: "Wind in the Willows"

Audio books: Roald Dahl & Enid Blyton.

Independent Reading: - "Victor's Challenge" by Pamela Freeman, "My Gran the Gorilla" by Jackie French

OtherBilly wrote up a report of his trip to the observatory as part of his Cub's space badge.  The process included discussions about paragraphs, capitalisation and sentence structure.

Maths: He spent time using Timez Attack.

Science & Technology: Billy fulfilled the requirements for his Space Badge for cubs.  He typed up a report about his trip to the observatory, wrote some facts about Mars & Saturn (two planets that he saw through the telescope on the trip), wrote up how to find the Southern cross and we made two pinhole planetariums (Southern Cross & Ursa Major).

We watched the 2nd episode of Richard Hammond's Invisible Worlds - it's a fascinating series with incredible photography.  This episode was about the invisible light spectrums - xrays, ultraviolet, infrared etc. 

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): We went on a visit to the Hunter Region Mail Centre with some other homeschoolers to see how the mail is sorted.  It was interesting to see the machines - ones that turned all of the envelopes the same way around and checked that they had a stamp, others that sorted read the address and sorted them into the right area slot.

We also watched another 2 episodes of Horrible Histories - Groovy Greeks and Challenging China.

Creative & Practical Arts: Drama lessons started back.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): Martial arts - he had his karate grading and received his orange belt.  Archery & Auskick also started back, and Billy played squash with his dad.

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): Usual chores but we need to get back into the cooking instructions.

Other fun stuff: 10 pin bowling with family, playing with friends.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Plot vs theme

This week's course was on plot & structure.  I've realised that's why I keep stalling with my book - it's boring!  It has a great theme, but not a strong plot as yet.

We're having to analyse the plot points in To Kill a Mockingbird for the next assignment.  It's funny, the parts I remembered of the book from reading it at school were the parts about getting Boo Radley to come out.  When you think about it, that's just a minor plot and while it adds to the theme, it doesn't advance the main plot along at all.  Interesting.

I'm finding I'm reading books more critically now with learning so much from the course.  I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not though - it's harder to lose yourself in a book while you're analysing it :)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Back to routine - please!

I'm ready for term to start back again.  The school holidays have been packed with activities and play dates, and I need to get back to routine to have a rest :)

The holidays started with the trip to Sydney I blogged about before.  A couple of days after we got back from that, we headed back down to Sydney so Billy could attend a Sydney Swans AFL Coaching Clinic. There were about 500-600 kids there!  They split them into 6 groups by age and for a couple of hours, they rotated them around different skills stations.  They got to do things like kicking, tackling, handballs etc - with the actual Swans players!  Very cool :)   Afterwards they had about half an hour for an autograph session where they could get things signed by the Swans players.  It was supposed to be longer but it started raining - a very cold rain!  At least the kids got a free pie or sausage roll and a drink afterwards!

Considering the amount of kids they had, it was all very well organised - and so amazing that it was all free because he was a Swans Jnr member!  A wonderful PR exercise for the club.

This was the group of 7-9 year olds (I think that was the age) - they split them into 2 separate groups for the activities.

Ball skills.

On the Saturday his martial arts club organised a group trip to the movies to see The Karate Kid.  Pete & I went as well and we all thoroughly enjoyed the movie!

This week we had my niece's BP presentation (top awards in Girl Guides) on Monday.   Billy attended an all-day (10am-3pm) CSIRO Science workshop on Tue & Wed - he loved it.  This was his 3rd time going and he was so much more comfortable because friends he'd made last time were there again.  Last time he wanted me to stay until it started, this time I was lucky to even get a "bye" as he rushed off :)  I can't remember all of the things they did - but I know they made slime, runny poo (chocolate pudding), instant ice-cream using liquid nitrogen, a balloon powered rocket car, a lava lamp and played with light sensing robots.  Both days, he didn't stop talking for the whole hour trip home!

On Thursday we went to see a play at the Civic Theatre - a musical production of The Gruffalo.  It was brilliant!  You can see a trailer of the show - we had different actors but its the same songs and script by the look of it.

He's also been going to karate twice a week over the holidays.  We've had lots of playdates - mainly catching up with friends that go to school, but some homeschoolers as well.  Plus of course, multiple trips to the hospital and my inlaw's place to see my MIL.

I need a rest :)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I did a 2nd 1000 word story yesterday on I think my work is improving each time and thanks to some really nicely put constructive criticism of my last story, I have more ways to improve.  I'm really loving the feedback, even though I struggle with feeling a bit defensive when I first read it.  The most pleasing thing about yesterday's story was that it only took me an hour to write initially (the first one took 2 hours), and then back & forth over a few hours to polish.  I sat down - while Billy was watching something on TV - put the headphones on, turned the music up so I couldn't hear anything and just wrote!  So it can be done!

I need to keep moving ahead with my book.  At the moment I'm feeling like its a waste of time writing anything because I'm learning so much and will have to go back and rewrite.  But then, that will always happen.  I will always be improving and changing as an author, so I need to just write the best I can at this moment in time.  There's always plenty of time for a rewrite later anyway :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Something I read in a Jackie French book has stuck in my mind.  She said something about it takes 3 years to become a plumber, so why expect to become a writer overnight.  You need to practice every day. 

I've joined as a way to get reviews on my writing.  One of the threads has a daily prompt with a competition to write a short story (less than 1000 words) on the prompt topic.  It's a great way to get some impetus to do something each day. 

I wrote my first 1000 word story today - it's nothing special but I was pleased with it because I managed to actually finish something!!  I have a great deal of trouble making my stories "fat" (as Jackie French puts it) so it'll be good practice.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Thank you!

I have been overwhelmed with the support & offers of help I have received about my MIL - in the comments, privately and in person.  THANK YOU!!!

She has her first consultation today with the radiation specialist.  We think its just a consultation rather than an actual treatment, so once again everything is day by day until we find out more.

I'm coping ok - I'm good at compartmentalizing and distracting myself.  It helps that we've been busy with Billy's school holiday activities. 

So thank you!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bad news

A couple of days ago we got the results from my MIL's biopsy.  It's not good.  It's an aggressive brain tumour - they couldn't get it all with surgery so she'll start radiation and then chemo.  The average life expectancy with this type of cancer is 12 months.  As you can imagine, everyone is pretty shell-shocked.  We've told Billy that Ma is still sick and needs more treatment, but I haven't told him anything else yet.  I don't know when or how..

She is out of hospital now and staying at my SIL's house.  We went up to see her last night.  Physically she looks fine, just very tired.  Emotionally, understandably, she's down.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The cat woke me up about 6 this morning, so as I was lying there trying to go back to sleep I started thinking about the next assignment.  It's about writing dialogue - we have to write a 2 paragraph monologue in our character's voice.  I worked out what I wanted to say but I knew as soon as I got up to use the computer, Billy would probably be up and he'd start talking to me, so I'd lose what was in my head.  I grabbed the notebook beside my bed and started trying to scribble it down - it was practically dark and the cat was trying to chew on the end of the pen as I wrote..  Ah the trials!

Anyway I got it written down and then transcribed when I got up.  I think if / when I buy that netbook I'll put it next to my bed for when inspiration strikes!

I was reading something about Ruth Park last night, about how she used to jot down story lines while doing the ironing with umpteen kids at her feet.  It seems that wonderful novels can be written under any conditions - you don't need the solitude and space.  Gee it would be nice though!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Our week of learning - 4th July - Submarines, Silliness and Stars

We went to Sydney for 4 days this week which was just chock full of fun, hands-on learning. 


Current Readaloud: "Misery guts" by Morris Gleitzman (finally finished!), and "How the aliens from Alpha Centauri invaded my maths class and turned me into a writer and how you can be one too" by Jackie French.

How the Aliens from Alpha Cent  Misery Guts

Audio books:  "Sam Hawkins: Pirate Detective" by Ian Billings

Independent Reading: - "Crackle" by Margaret Clark, "Psycho Gran" by Christine Harris.

OtherBilly spent time on Spellodrome and earnt a weekly certificate.

Maths: He also spent an hour on Mathletics and earnt a weekly certificate.  He watched a couple of videos I found online about "borrowing or regrouping" in subtraction.  Hopefully those couple of explanations will make it easier for him to understand than just my explanation!

Science & Technology: Our trip to Sydney included a trip to the Sydney Observatory.  We got to look through 2 telescopes and see Mars, Saturn & Venus, as well as the binary star Alpha Centauri.  We also were shown how to identify constellations like the Southern Cross, and watched 2 3D short films about space.  On another trip, we'll have to take a daytime visit so we can spend more time in the museum part - we barely scraped the surface in the 15 mins before the night tour.   (Photo from the Sydney Observatory website).

We also went for a quick trip to the Powerhouse museum where once again, we barely made it out of the science section!

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): One of the highlights of our trip to Sydney was a trip to the Australian National Maritime Museum.  Our visit included a tour of the submarine HMAS Onslow, and a tour of the replica of Captain Cook's Endeavour.

Creative & Practical Arts: We also went to see 'Just Macbeth' at the Sydney Opera House.  It's a version of Macbeth by Andy Griffiths, aimed at introducing kids to Shakespeare.  It was hilarious and we all loved it. I knew Billy would because we'd listened to the audio book together, but I didn't expect to enjoy it so much myself! Check out the promo below:

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): Martial arts and lots of walking!

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): We weren't home long enough!

Other fun stuff: Playing with friends at the natural learner's picnic.

I'll be giving the recording a break for a couple of weeks while we have "school holidays" here in NSW.

Update on MIL

Thanks for the well-wishes.  She's out of surgery and my sister in law has spoken with her.  I guess we'll know more in the days ahead, but for now, we can relax that that hurdle has been jumped.
The first week of the course consisted of about 1.5 hrs of MP3s to listen to and some handouts to read.  I liked the format - I was able to download them to my mp3 player and listen to them while waiting for Billy at karate and drama.  The topic was Point of view (POV) and voice.  We had to write an opening paragraph to draw the reader in to read more.  Mine is quite silly and would suit a chick-lit or sassy romance type novel - no idea why it sprang to mind, but I enjoyed it.  I actually went on over the weekend and wrote the rest of the scene.

I really need to stop writing scenes and just finish something :) 

So far in the course, the disappointing thing has been not much interaction between the course participants.  Also other than the initial introduction, I haven't "seen" the teacher.  I'm hoping that changes from now on - we get feedback on the first assignment this week.  I don't envy her that job - there is quite a variation of styles and lengths!

I bought Stephen King's book "On Writing" over the weekend and read it pretty much in one go.  Excellent book!

The current plan is to buy myself one of those little netbooks and set it up in the sewing room so I can lock myself away in there to write.  I was trying to write in the loungeroom before Billy gets up - but if he gets up early that blows all the plans.  I need to be consistent about doing it every day.  I'm too tired at night by the time I get him to bed.  With the netbook at least I could write in the car while he's at drama etc.

Its hard to find the time when I have so many other things I feel I *should* be doing.  So much work to do, "schooling", cooking, housekeeping etc.  Writing seems like an indulgence that I shouldn't be doing.  I'm really down and on edge today and need some 'me time'..


We got back yesterday from 4 days in Sydney doing the 'touristy' thing - separate post to follow.  It was a great time, but quite exhausting.  We caught the train down rather than drive - it was much more restful but also took a lot longer and several train changes.  We saw a play, went to the Observatory, 2 museums, walked for miles and ate out far too much.  It was well worth it though.

KMart have their big toy sale on at the moment.  We're buying a Nintendo DS Lite for Billy for his b'day - it wasn't a surprise, it was something we'd negotiated that he'd put some money into buying as well.  Well, the front page of the KMart catalog had the DS lite with the exact game he wanted and a bunch of other stuff for a really good price, so I ducked in before we left on Thursday morning and bought it.  We gave it to him on Thursday morning as an early b'day present - he was stoked.  And it was a great sanity saver while we were away!!!

After we got back yesterday, we drove down to see my MIL in hospital.  It was thought initially last week that she'd had a mild stroke, but tests through the week have found a tumour pressing against the brain causing stroke like symptoms, mainly in her speech.  She goes into surgery today to have it removed.  We won't know much more than that until after the surgery so I don't know what needs to happen.  At this stage, we're just taking things one day at a time.  She seemed well enough last night, but was really struggling to find words for things, people and places.  It led to some amusing and confusing conversations :)  We had a 2hr game of charades going on!

So if you have any positive thoughts to send out into the universe, or if you pray to your god of choice, please spare a thought or prayer for her.  Thanks.

I did my first assignment with the writing course.  The notes & audio for the first week were really good, but there hasn't been a lot in the way of feedback yet.  I guess that starts today since our assignment was due in last night.  I've started a new blog if anyone is interested in finding out more about the course or how my writing is going.