Sunday, December 27, 2015

Week Ending 27 December 2015

This was definitely a week of two halves. During the first part of the week we were busy with Christmas preparations. The most exciting was delivering our food hamper and gifts to the organisation which will then deliver it to the family we sponsored. I'm so mad with myself for forgetting to take a photo so you'll just have to imagine a large, festively decorated box filled with all sorts of Christmas food  - ham, cake, berries, chocolates etc - plus a large Santa sack overflowing with presents (two of the children were hoping for a ball and two balls went a long way towards filling our sack!). After Christmas I said to Miss 15 that perhaps we would only sponsor a family every second year since it was a costly exercise which limited what we could spend on our own Christmas. She said she wanted to sponsor a family again next year and didn't mind not getting many gifts since she didn't really need anything anyway. So proud of her.

Apart from that we visited a Christmas grotto with some great displays - some animated and some static. Much as I enjoyed looking at the displays I think I enjoyed looking at all the excited young children more. Christmas with older teens and adult children is a very different beast from a Christmas with young kids.

One night everyone, including Mr 23 (although he doesn't live at home anymore he is close by so can easily join us for activities when he wants to),  drove around town checking out the houses that were festooned with Christmas lights. Badly sung Christmas carols may have been featured on the trip!

Miss 21 (almost forgot that the week actually began with her birthday), Miss 15 and I engaged in some adult colouring. Miss 15 gave me an odd look when I first suggested it. I think she was imagining something akin to an "adult" movie or an "adult" book!

Plus there was plenty of cooking, wrapping and the obligatory Christmas movie viewing - although we didn't watch as many this year since it was almost impossible to find a time when everyone was at home. Supermarkets get busy in the week before Christmas (who would have thought?) so both Miss 21 and Mr 18 were working a lot. Still Christmas Eve would not be complete without Miracle on 34th Street.

The last two days have been a welcome change from the pre-Christmas busyness. Long, lazy days (well not for Miss 21 and Mr 18 - I was happily reading in bed one morning just before 8am and Miss 21 was getting ready to head to work and Mr 18 had already been there for three hours!) filled with gardening, dog walking, a large crossword puzzle (a family endeavour),


personalising my diary/journal/planner, including adding copies of some of my favourite art works,

plus video watching. We won a copy of Inside Out just before Christmas and everyone enjoyed it - even, perhaps especially, the 23 year old!

Looking forward to plenty more relaxation. It's more than a week before dh resumes teaching, three weeks until Miss 15 starts training again, and over a month before we are scheduled to hit the homeschooling books again.

ETA; Forgot to mention that I'm not totally ignoring homeschooling though. One of my plans for next week is to get reinspired. And one way I'll be doing that is rewatching some of my favourite Periscopes from Julie Bogart of Bravewriter fame. If you've got teens I highly recommend The Enchanted Education for Teens.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Fortnight Ending 20 December 2015

It's been another whirlwind couple of weeks. I'm so looking forward to the week after Christmas, which is traditionally calm and peaceful with nothing that has to be done. It's typically my favourite week of the year.

Some of the things we've been busy with in the past two weeks.

* Miss 15 and I made a quick trip to my favourite birding spot, a small estuary north of where we live. A New Zealand Dotterel, rare in these parts, had been reported there and we were thrilled to track it down without any difficulty. Such a level of ease seems to be rare for us!

* An early 21st party for Miss 20 at our house. It was a small affair - her choice - and by all accounts a good time was had by all.

* Mr 18 finally finished his schoolwork for the year. I was beginning to think it would never happen. Thank goodness for deadlines in the form of university applications. Since we have avoided the state exam system he had to apply for special admission and I had to fill in a form attesting to his readiness for university study. I made it clear I would not sign the form if his homeschooling was not complete. He made the deadline - with barely an hour to spare!

* Mr 18 had a successful first game with his new adult cricket team, taking a wicket and scoring more runs in one game than he had all season for his youth team. He seems to do best when he feels the need to prove himself.

* We've worked on Mr 18's university application. It was a source of much hilarity as we helped him brainstorm his application letter - "Please admit me so my mother doesn't have to put up with me for another year!" - but eventually a more suitable and serious tone was reached and the application is in. Now we just hope he's accepted. His application should be more straightforward than his older siblings (he earned a high grade in the course he did this year as a high school student so there is some impartial evidence of his abilities) but it is unclear exactly what grounds they use to determine the acceptance or otherwise of special applicants.

* Miss 15 and I took a quick road trip to the West Coast. It was a belated birthday present for her. She's never seen a Weka before and really wanted to see one. They are rare in our part of the country but very common on the West Coast. It was a trip of two halves. There were some good birding experiences. There were plenty of Riflemen (our smallest bird) seen and heard in one of our national parks. They all seemed to be feeding chicks and we thought we observed at least two females going to the same nest. Some research revealed it isn't at all uncommon for Riflemen to have one or more helpers to raise the chicks. We also saw plenty of Kea along the way including several that were probably banded by a friend of ours who did some research on them last year. We know he'll be pleased to hear which birds were still around. Once we reached the West Coast there were plenty of Weka for Miss 15 to see and photograph. We even took a guided visit to a Westland Petrel colony. These birds only breed in burrows in the foothills in a small area near where we stayed. Most of the birds had finished breeding and left and just a few juveniles remained but we had really close up views, watching them stretch and flap their wings in preparation for their maiden flights, which will see them leave for South America and not return until they are ready to breed in five years time. It was quite an adventure, walking through the bush and up a steep cliff at night in the rain (it's not known as the Wet Coast for nothing!) to get to the colony. Overall though there was a lot of driving involved on the trip, too much rain, not as many birds as we'd hoped for, and we were especially frustrated by our inability to track down a Blue Duck, despite two visits to  the perfect location where a pair have been regularly seen. Such is a birder's lot!

A Kea adult grooming a juvenile.

Two of the many Wekas we saw on our trip.

Pancake Rocks - it's easy to see how they got their name!

Devils Punchbowl Waterfall

* Miss 20, Miss 15 and I went to the Christmas Tree farm to select a tree. Picking the tree was fairly simple this year, but then we got distracted - bird watching of course! One of the trees had a 'not for sale' sign attached to it since there was a nest it it. So Miss 20 looked on, amused, as Miss 15 and I observed the Redpoll parents feeding their young and one chick testing his wings, hovering above his nest for several seconds at a time. Getting the tree set up in the house was more of a struggle this year for some reason but  I do love the smell of pine. It never feels like Christmas until we have the live tree.

* I purchased a gorgeous blank notebook to turn into my diary/planner/journal for next year. I've never been able to find exactly what I wanted in a store so this year, inspired by the bullet journal phenomenon, I made my own. My version looks nothing like a bullet journal but it works for me. I love the notebook I bought for 2016 - lovely pink and silver embossed cover, metal clasps to fasten it shut, and an old fashioned design printed on the edges of the pages. I'm now starting to personalise it which is a fun process.

* Miss 15 and I baked some delicious chocolate candy cane cookies.

* All of the family except me went to see the final Hunger Games movie. I'm not a big fan of the dystopian genre, especially not on the large screen. They all seemed to enjoy it though,

Linking up with the Weekly Wrap-Up over at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Week Ending 6 December 2015

I've felt all off-kilter this week since all the kids have had changes to their schedules. Miss 15 has been training on different days while her coach is at the World Trampoline Championship in Denmark,  Miss 20 has just had a promotion to checkout supervisor at work which means a change to her shifts plus she is picking up extra shifts in the lead-up to Christmas, and Mr 18 has been filling in for one of the bakers who is on leave and working more than full-time hours as a result. Obviously I'm used to knowing what day of the week it is by what the kids are doing since I haven't really known what day it is all week!

Despite my not being totally with-it all week we've made a start on Christmas preparations. Miss 15 and Miss 20 spent a morning making our Christmas cards. 

We are sponsoring a family this Christmas through a local charity group. We've been given some non-identifying details and we'll buy gifts for the family plus a hamper of Christmas food for them. This week we bought most of the gifts. I really enjoyed buying things for people who need it. While we are very modest in our Christmas celebrations I hate the feeling of having to buy gifts for people who don't really need or want anything and having no idea what to give them as a result. I would love to prune the list of people we give presents to, but have yet to get others on board. Speaking of gifts we  bought an early Christmas gift  for Basil - a replacement for his much loved blue frisbee that he destroyed a while ago.

We also started to decorate the house. After buying a few new decorations  the girls decorated the small trees (they've each got one in their room plus one in the living room). We'll get the large live tree up after Miss 20's party this coming weekend. She turns 21 just before Christmas but is having a party early before everyone leaves town for the holidays. There won't be enough room in the living room for all the guests if we put the tree up now!

I love these handcrafted decorations. And our purchase helped support fair trade in developing countries.

Miss 15 and I have had a couple of late nights staying up to watch the live stream from the World Trampoline Champs. supporting her clubmates and the rest of the national tea.

University exam results were released and both Miss 20 and Mr 18 were really pleased with their results. I'm delighted for them both.

My mum has been released from hospital again. Doctors have now concluded that her two"strokes" were not strokes at all. But they don't know exactly what the problem is so she's awaiting further appointments. She has a history of being difficult to diagnose so I doubt we'll get a definitive answer anytime soon.

Miss 15 and I made a couple of birding trips hunting for specific species. One trip to the estuary to spot a Chestnut - breasted Shelduck (a vagrant that has just shown up in the area) was successful. 

Chestnut-breasted Shelducks.

A Spotted Shag on top and a family of Canada Geese below were also at the estuary.

The other trip, an early morning visit to a park in the hills to search of an uncommon introduced parrot that is sometimes seen in this area, was not.

Miss 15 has just got involved in a recently established national network for young birders. They're aiming to promote birdwatching to 8-18 year olds. She's not sure yet if the group is a good fit for her yet  but she's giving it a try.

Linking up with the Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.