2018 is done...

…so it is time to check out what we have been doing for the past six months!

We have to show you this little guy. I am not a dog person, I don’t think I have ever been very interested in dogs, but Basil is very cool. Also, he likes me so I know he is a good judge of character. He doesn’t like everyone though and he makes his opinions known. The chickens however, just look like dinner to him. Oh and yes, that is a live web cam in the chicken coup. We have fascinating television viewing in our home!

He is also a great singer! I have been looking through our photos for the year and found more than half of them are of Basil! He is rather cute…

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In August we made a trip over to Stradbroke Island. The beach looked very similar to Fraser but the driving was more hazardous as the sand was so soft. None of us enjoyed the beach driving and the rest of the island is mostly paved so I wouldn’t put it in the category of good for 4WDing. We went on a couple of really beautiful hikes and found a nice place to swim, even though the water was still very cold. Poor Lily fell over on the rocks (she wasn’t even doing anything silly, the rocks just came up to meet her!) so our day ended in tears and lots of bandaids. Luckily it wasn’t too long before the barge took us home and she was able to rest in the car ride home. Straddie is a lot closer than Fraser Island and we were hoping for a similar island experience but we found it to be just a barge ride to another mainland. It doesn’t have the remoteness of Fraser and the barge ride, while quite pretty and cold in the early morning hours, is very long. It is certainly an easy day trip from our home but not a place we will be trekking back to any time soon.

Our boy Henry turned nine in September. Yes, I am just as surprised as you are to realise he is no longer a little boy! This is the final year he will receive a birthday gift for every year he has been on earth. Good thing too as I found it really difficult to buy him nine gifts this year. From the age of ten on, the birthday child receives something to read, something to wear, something to play with and something to share. We have used this formula for a few years now, for Christmas as well, and it seems the children get so much more out of their gifts when there are only four. It also means our house is no longer groaning under the strain of enough toys to sink the set of a Wiggles movie. The Boy enjoyed his birthday as he was able to do whatever he wanted all day, which (surprise surprise) was to play Minecraft and eat junk food.
He also began playing tennis in the final term. Nine seems to be the magic age for him to do things on his own. I realised as I walked away from his first tennis lesson at UQ Tennis Centre, that is was the first time since our failed kindy attempt (nearly six years ago) that I have left him with anyone but family. And he loves playing tennis! He loves his tennis coach, Alejandro, and loves hanging out with the ‘strange school kids’. He and I caught the bus over the river every Tuesday together which only took a few minutes but it was a special time that I really enjoyed spending with Henry, even though he talked incessantly about computer games and the elements of the periodic table. The former I have very little interest in but the latter, gee, he taught me quite a bit about chemistry! Especially when he was comparing a bolder made of uranium and a bolder made of hydrogen and what would happen if one or the other dropped on my head. We will continue tennis in 2019 and the girls will be doing swimming at the same time at UQ’s pool.

We had some great excursions towards the end of the year. George’s Marvellous Medicine at QPAC was quite short, as is the story by Roald Dahl, but the stage production was excellent. The set changes were so imaginative and non-human characters such as the chicken were very clever! We took NannyO and her sister, Aunty Sue, and we all enjoyed our time together and the show. At the end of the year we also took NannyO to A Christmas Carol and it was by far the best show we have ever seen. The music was performed mostly live by a young woman and her violin. She played a few other instruments that we couldn’t name but her playing made the show just wonderful. It had a few of the same actors from George’s, and one from the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s performance we saw earlier in the year. It was nice for the children to recognise them and get excited about the music.

I took the children to the Ancient Egyptian exhibition at the QLD museum because it had so many exhibits not usually put on display in Brisbane. I found it all quite fascinating but the children were a bit put off by the security guards watching them so closely and telling them not to touch anything, even when they wen’t touching anything. I taught them from a very young age to use their ‘gallery walk’ which is to keep their hands behind their back and to look just with their eyes. The X-rays shown under the unopened mummys were amazing as where the dozens of scrolls and carvings. There were lots to read about all of the exhibits and I really could have wandered around in there all day if the children felt more comfortable.

During the colder days this year, (there were many more than previous years) we had a small fire in the back yard with marshmallows. We also snuggled up on the couch during the day and listened to audiobooks while we drew. However, most days the children spread out in the play room and did their own thing. When it is not time for lessons, there is always an audiobook on and surprisingly, they always agree on the story. Our wonderful Vuly trampoline usually gets a daily workout and even Basil gets a jump when the children promise to be careful. I find it amazing how much noise three children can make on a trampoline and how much our poor neighbours have to endure! Sorry neighbours, the noise won’t last too many more years! I hope… Towards the middle of October it was finally warm enough to go swimming at Southbank. As it was still rather cold, for the first few Wednesday mornings we had the entire pool to ourselves! Then word got out again that Southbank has an amazing free pool and we had to share.

Lessons this year included Kumihimo, though I think I enjoy this craft way more than any of the children. I made a couple of commissioned sageo this year and have begun making some dog leads for something different. The children made some lovely key rings that were given to only a few special people at Christmas time. Something new for the children are typing lessons because this is probably going to be the most used skill they will use in the future. Also, I told them they won’t have to hand write out their writing drafts if they can type them fast on the computer, making daily practice much easier to complete. We just use a free online app that includes short videos and progress badges. Monkeys love progress badges for some reason. As you can see, book work is done wherever is comfortable though I prefer a table. Zoe likes the back deck when the air is cold and the sunshine is warm. NannyO gave some great embroidery lessons and even though the frustration levels of the children were high at times, they all produced a pretty decent sampler.

At the end of November and for Lily’s 11th birthday, we spent three nights at Q1, the tallest residential building in Australia - on the 60th floor! The first day was one of the windiest I have ever experienced and our apartment sounded like an experimental wind tunnel until the gale died down after sunrise. Surprisingly, the tower didn’t sway as much as I thought it would at that height though the outdoor balcony furniture did some windy dancing for a while. We spent the days swimming in the pool and at the beach, and Lily said the best part was having her own bedroom for the first time. Though I suspect that she would be very lonely if she was alone in her bedroom at home. We had a great time and I am already looking at the calendar for 2019 to see when we can go again. I can say it was as fun as Fraser Island without the long drive and with air con. The nearby Japanese restaurant has excellent sashimi, curry and sushi. What else do you need on holidays?

For the second year, we went to the Brickman Lego exhibition. It was very good and the highlight may have been the life size Stradivarius violin. I didn’t take as many photos this year as I was too busy enjoying each exhibit. We spent quite a bit of time checking out the full scale Toyota complete with flaming lights. There were lots of exhibits that we could touch and a few Lego building stations. This year we were again drawn to the single block building station where we could build with tiny single blocks on a small panel before our backs began to ache from bending over the low tables provided.

For something different leading up to Christmas this year, I bought Nana and the children an advent calendar of different flavoured French jams. Every morning the monkeys would spend the first hour or so after waking, setting the table, eating toast made by Papa and sampling a different jam each day. Once Nana put on Christmas carols, the three of them would chat happily and munch through the better part of a loaf of bread before packing up their mess and heading upstairs for a day of play. It was a lovely month and I think the children were quite disappointed when all the tiny jam bottles were licked clean.

This is a video of the children practicing their end of year performance piece. They did get better and on the day, we were all very proud. Our amazing violin teacher hosted a Christmas performance at her house with all of her students and their families. Our three were the only siblings and they practiced hard to make their trio piece sound good. Theirs was the final song and while the parents were staring around chatting, I was asked how I got the children to play the same instrument. It was totally their choice, but they had to commit to at least a year of lessons and must play at least five days a week for 17 minutes at a time. Sure were get a bit of whinging, but when all three have to play it actually makes things a bit easier. They either play at the same time in different parts of the house (again, sorry neighbours!) or they play at different times during the day always using a timer so they don’t do one minute more! Playing is a part of their daily lessons and must be done before any free time on the computers. Since they began playing we have worked slowly up to 17 minutes and I think we began with five minutes during the first few months of playing. In 2019, their daily practice time increases to 20 minutes which is not that much more than 17 minutes so I don’t expect a huge increase in whinging. When we have guests visit our home, we encourage the children to get out their violins and play for us. I think all three are finally seeing the results of all those lessons and daily playing. I love listening to them play and hope they will continue playing for years. Sure I tell them they have a choice, but for now (while I am in charge of their education and welfare), they really don’t… they either play violin or some other instrument and as we only have violins, that is their only choice. Pretty much the same for all of their lessons actually. They can either choose to do what I tell them, or they can whinge about it and still have to do it. Yep, that’s how I roll. Homeschool parenting - nailed it.

We hope you all had a great Christmas spent with the people you love and pray you have a happy and safe 2019.