Wednesday, November 28, 2012

WWCS; Package One has arrived

Today our first package arrived from Wisconsin, USA. It was so quick, we were all a bit surprised and just a tiny bit excited.

(The photo is a bit staged as they had already ripped into the package
when I suddenly though to get a photo ... der)

This lovely family included a small jug of homemade "maple syrup" and they explained how they sourced it which we all enjoyed reading about. The Fashionista absolutely loves maple syrup (she kept picking it up and looking at it) and despite it being expensive to purchase in NZ, I ensure she always has some in the house as she is not a sweet tooth by nature and it is about the one thing she loves that is sweet. The girls immediately suggested making pancakes for lunch ... gees I wonder why?

My girls simply adore babies and toddlers and so once they saw this beautiful families picture they kept ooohhhing and ahhhhing and wanted to make some things for the little girl and baby. I had to remind them that we had finished putting the packages together and wouldn't have time, but they went and found a larger poi that they had made at Guides, for me to pop in as the baby would be too young to use the pencils, pads and pens. I am not really sure the baby is going to be wanting to use a poi ... but you simply never know. Pois are generally used by Maori women which I didn't like to point out as I had visions of them rushing off to try and carve the little man some Maori war tools instead ... hehe

There were also lovely locally grown cranberries, some Starbucks hot chocolate sachets (dibs for The Mama!), coins (Agent Smelly loves collecting coins so thank you!), stickers and some great leaflets, brochures and a letter that we sat and read and looked through.

I am pretty sure I drove through Wisconsin on my way from Minnesota to Chicago many, many years ago when I spent a couple of months touring the States but I don't remember much about it if I am honest so even for me the package was quite interesting. It does make me want to head over to the States, buy an RV and travel around the country again this time with The Papa and my girls. Oh the beautiful places and wonders we would see.

Yeah Wisconsin Family, and thank you so much.

Culture Swapper

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Art with Anna Again

Another lovely couple of hours for the Mama wandering through the local shops, whilst the wee munchkins were with the lovely Anna finishing their masterpieces.

Here's The Fashionista's completed painting. Anna showed them how to paint the rocks. They are fantastically detailed which you can't see in my very poor photograph. Then she had them add other things that they could remember seeing whilst at the ocean. Anna commented that The Fashionista held her brush well and was making some really nice strokes. I was thoroughly impressed with her hand glider which she painted in a couple of minutes whilst I watched and waited by the door. 

Here's Agent Smelly's finished painting. It is really cute. That's Sebastian the crab from The Little Mermaid, right there on the beach. I asked her on the way home if she was going to keep it or give it away and she said she couldn't give it away and then mumbled in a very resigned voice, the reason why. As I was the front of the car driving, and she was in the back, I asked her to repeat what she had said and I couldn't hear her. After a bit of pressing, she finally admitted that she had said "her mermaid was very fat and that she had forgotten to paint an arm". We all ended up in giggles.

Thank you Anna, my girls have so enjoyed their time with you and are looking forward to next weeks session.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

World Wide Culture Swap the Final Countdown

Today I took a photo of one of our packages ready to go off to our WWCS families.

You are supposed to send a photo to each family so that they know what is headed their way and to confirm that you have actually put a package together. Then all packages are sent off to their destinations.

Unfortunately, I ran out of printer ink so will have to wait to go into a major town to get some to print off the personal letters and letters that we have put together to accompany the packages.

As soon I can print off those pages, 1 package will be sent to England, 1 to South Africa, 1 to Texas, USA and 1 to Winsconsin, USA and we will receive 1 from each of them ... big yeah! 

Culture Swapper

Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday Funnies

The Fashionista suggested making breakfast in bed for her dad.

I said that's "nice sweety but he'll be up shortly. It's his last shift day so he wont have time to lay in bed to eat".

She said "Awww but I thought that would make him happy".

I was thinking she was SOOOOO sweet until she followed up with "and we really need him in a good mood if we are going to ask him for that puppy we saw yesterday".

Wrapping up ...

I love that the girls are getting older and finally I am getting some use out of the little toads ... seriously though, they asked me this afternoon if they could wrap some of the Christmas gifts we had purchased for their cousins in Australia. I agreed that they could do one each.

I have often had to give them a hand in the past but they declined any help from me, in fact the little terrors point blank, told me they did not want me to help them ... thank you very much.

When I realised that they were doing such a good job, I went and got more of my Christmas presents out and had them wrap them all. They were enjoying themselves, so I suppose I wasn't contravening any child labour laws. I'll put it down as a "good deed". They spent the next couple of hours wrapping lots of different gifts whilst listening to one of their Glee Christmas albums (which between us I may accidentally lose for a while). It was quite a nice way to spend a quiet Friday afternoon.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Homeschool Swimming

This term we have been heading off to have swimming lessons with some fellow homeschoolers once a week at the Fulton Swim School. This centre was awarded Swim School of the Year in 2012, so we are in good hands.

Both girls are in the same class but are not at the same level. Unfortunately we don't quite have enough students for 3 classes so they have simply divided the kids by ages; i.e. a 5-7 group and 8 and up. The Fashionista (in aqua togs) was a little bored at the first couple of lessons but since then the teacher has sort of split them up a bit and is challenging her and two of her group too some harder sessions. Agent Smelly (black togs) is probably right in the middle of her class, and considering, her another lad are the youngest by a coupe of years, I think she is doing pretty well.

The swim school is situated in a primary school and they have some of kind of arrangement with the school and provide them with lessons, so a couple of lanes are taken up by them whilst we are there.

It is quite amusing to my girls to be mixing with school children in the change rooms, etc. although they do prefer to wait until the girls all leave before going in to change. Apparently it is a bit of a mad house in there. Last week they were all in a panic because one girl had lost her knickers and school skirt. The Fashionista kindly pointed them out where they had been left in the change rooms. Then they are hurried along by their teacher and you see them leaving with their wet hair dripping down their backs, and leaving various articles of clothing behind.

Another little school girl went up and told The Fashionista that she liked her top. She was a bit chuffed with the compliment. Agent Smelly is her typical quiet self amongst strangers but I have been teaching her to smile at new children even if she isn't yet brave enough to speak up, which she is at least doing now. She is quite pleased when someone smiles back.

If they are able to split up the classes a bit more based on their level then we'll be back, but if not, then we may have to look elsewhere.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Classic Kids Books

For the past few months we have been giving the girls a cent for every page they read of a book, on completion of said book. The money goes into a jar and can be used to purchase another book that they want. By the way this is not my idea, but one I purloined from my friend Kat, whose children are always reading without any prompting!

Sometimes I felt like the only homeschooling family that's children weren't into reading 

I am happy to say that this system has been working; they have been reading more. The only problem I have now, is that I have noticed that the books they have been choosing to read are what I would call "fluff". You know fairies, puppies, etc, Now whilst I don't have an issue with their choices, as I  myself like a good fluffy novel now and then, I would like for them to also incorporate some classical stories into their reading.

This is part of one of five of my FULL bookcases, unlike my girls I was a total bookworm and many of these were mine as a wee girl.

I have been thinking about what I can do to get them to read some good classics and came up with an idea which I shared with them today. They were so very excited at this prospect, that they had me making up the "envelopes" straight away.

I have listed a pile of books that I would like them to read, i.e. Heidi, Little Women, Stuart Little, Little House in the Big Woods, etc and written them each onto a piece of paper (I was planning to use and prettily decorate envelopes but the angels were a little desperate for me to get a move on! I may still do that though). Before folding and taping the paper closed I wrote a financial figure on the inside of the paper. Once they finish a book, they get to open the corresponding envelope and are "awarded" the amount of money listed inside. As a bigger incentive I even told them one envelope would have $5 on the inside so they are super keen to get that one.

I know it sounds a bit awful, I am really buying them off, but I am desperate for them to read some "good" books. I myself didn't always like the recommended "good/classic" books, but I still read them and I am really wanting them to stretch their reading skills. Please don't condemn me by appealing to their love of money. My little girls are saving for Lego ... which are also great for their creativity and fine motor skills and so on, so really it is a win, win situation ... anyone buy that? Nah, I am just buying them off but if they develop a love of fine literature it will be worth it!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Art at Anna's

The girls started an art course today, along with some other homeschoolers, with an artist in Pukekohe.

The course runs for 4 weeks and each session runs for 2 hours in Anna's studio. You drop the kids off and leave. WHAT! I did not realise it was a drop and run.

As the studio is just a couple of blocks away from the main shopping centre in Pukekohe, I went shopping for 2 hours all by myself. That is 2 whole hours by myself. Homeschooling parents will know what I am saying here ... that is actual real time, 2 hours, that's 120 minutes all by my self!

Oh yeah and the kids started painting these and apparently had a great time.

Agent Smelly painted this whilst I was spending 2 whole hours by myself! She was pretty pleased with it because she doesn't think she is any good at art. She's the youngest in the group and I thought she did really well.

Here's the The Fashionista with hers. Did I mention I spent two whole hours by myself just wandering through shops whilst she was doing this.

A week now can't go fast enough for me ... bring on week 2 and another 2 hours of me time!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Christmas Rally

The girls have their final session of Girls Rally for the year this evening.

Being their break up they have another theme night and this one is Winter Christmas.

The girls kindly reminded me of this at about 11 o'clock today just as we were about to start their history lesson. So once we'd finished history and had lunch we frantically rushed about trying to work out something that they could wear. I still had to get something ready for my Pippins to work on at Guides so it was all a bit of a rush this afternoon.

My little Mary. The blanket baby Jesus is wrapped in was one of her baby ones ... big awwww! She actually wanted to go as a wise man but I didn't have the time to whip her up one of those costumes, especially as I was out of cotton wool for a beard.

Agent Smelly was so excited with going as a gift. It was the easiest costume I could think of and she just loves it bless her little cotton socks. Don't you love her curly ribbon headband?

When I dropped them off, I had to head inside for a look (it is possible that the girls have obtained their mad dressing up habits from moi now that I think about it) and there were a few santa's, angels, elves, another couple of Mary's, reindeers, a snowman and even a plum pudding. They all looked so darn cute!

And just because this made me giggle ... check out Mary's addidas shoes.  I do hope she shows better mothering skills with my grandchild one day!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Another Pinterest Project

I saw yet another activity on pinterest that I thought we could have a go at trying. I really need to stay away from that site.

All you need to do is write on some ceramics with a sharpie or permanent marker and then bake it in the oven at approximately150 degrees Celsius (300 Fahrenheit) for 30 minutes.

I have a white dinner set which I am soooo over so I pulled out some of the side plates and let the girls have fun making designs on them.

Agent Smelly did some holly around the outside of hers and then tried to do some in the middle. When she did the ones in the middle she decided she didn't like them so we went to wipe them off with some nail polish remover (which works if wiped away properly).  She decided that she quite liked the pinkish colour that it was making,. So rather than wipe it completely off, she drew on some more red squiggles and added some nail polish remover to a cotton ball and squished it all over the middle for a mottled look. It looks quite effective.

The Fashionista went for a fruit design. Some of the colours change slightly when you bake them.

Then she quickly made an "All Blacks" rugby plate for her Papa for Christmas.

I have placed these through the dishwasher (after baking) and the markings are all still there so a successful pinterest activity ... YEAH!

Friday, November 16, 2012

My Little Shutterbug

The Fashionista has decided that she would like to be a photographer rather than a fashion designer now. She has decided that because she still loves fashion so much, that she would actually like to be a fashion photographer and take photos of models. It should suit her as she is artistic, loves beautiful things and likes bossing people around ...

I found a pile of photos on her camera today that she has been taking of her little sister. She even goes so far as to tell her sister what she needs to wear for the shoot! I asked her about this shot and she said she was going for modern funk ... good heavens. Agent Smelly's "model" pose cracks me up. I think she is rahter enjoying all the attention.

I wonder what The Fashionista will be when she grows up.

I wanted to be a lawyer when I was quite little (I wonder if I knew what one actually was!), then a journalist as a teen and then when I realised how invasive you had to be, I decided I'd be a writer. Nope, did none of them, ended up in shipping of all things. Funny thing is that I can see myself still doing any of those things, except for the study required. What did you want to be when you were little? Did you end up doing it?

I do hope my girls end up doing whatever it is, that makes their hearts soar.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Butterfly Hail

Today we joined the LAF (Learning as Families) Homeschool Group on a trip to the Butterfly and Orchid Garden in Thames.

It's not a huge place but there were plenty of butterflies around us.

Here Agent Smelly is holding a couple of fabric flowers to help lure the butterflies onto her hands. They very kind have some of these at the front so that you can borrow them. If you look closely there is a orange butterfly just about to land on the red flower in her hand. Both girls had quite a few land on them.

These butterflies are a rather boring brown until they open their wings and then you are hit with most brilliant blue. I was thrilled that I was able to catch that split second when this one opened it's wings on this stunning flower.

I am clueless as to what the flower was. If anyone does know, please let me know.

The Fashionista was more taken with Little Miss R than the butterflies, whom she fussed over like an old mother hen. Granted Little Miss R is really cute so I can sort of understand her fascination.

Another beautiful butterfly. I would like to be extremely clever here and tell you it's name but I have no idea although they did have a board in the butterfly house with pictures and their names. I looked but remember zilch!

This one I call the Purple Orchid ...impressive how I came up with that name ey?

The Monarch butterfly. I am pretty happy with some of my shots today.

These butterflies were huge but they cannot eat and they die in six days ... bizarre!

Once we'd finished at the butterfly house we all moved back into town and had lunch in a park, whilst all the kids had fun on the playground equipment.

We spent a lovely afternoon with the group. The girls got to say hi to some friends and make some new ones and I got to talk to some real live adults who also homeschool. Although we didn't really discuss any homeschooling to be honest.

Despite the prediction of some rain, the day was just lovely. We three even got a little sun-kissed. Then on the drive home it was a different story. I said to the girls that I thought I could see rain ahead of us in the direction of our home. About 30 mins later we started noticing some lightning around us.

I then thought I saw something that looked like snow flakes and thought my eyes were deceiving me and that it may have been some blossom blowing across the car. There were a few rain drops, nothing much to worry about and then kapow, it came down so heavy and loud that the girls and I were literally yelling to be heard and the window just fogged over. It still didn't seem too bad, then I turned onto State Highway 2 ...

and we noticed it had started to hail ...

appears we had driven into a  hail storm!!!! So much for my blossom theory.

This happens to be a very busy state highway in New Zealand ... can you believe it?

It got a little worse but we kept going, very, very carefully and very, very slowly.

There were a lot of cars that had pulled over but with the thunder and lightening and the hailstorm the girls were starting to panic. So whilst it still seemed relatively safe we kept going. A few other people did the same as us and we all kept our distance and nicely motored along on both sides of the road. This lasted for over 10 minutes of our trip, which seemed like forever! 

Just a minute or two from home the rain stopped, I passed a couple of local farms and could see all the water still lying in their fields but when I drove onto our property I could see that our land was still dry.

We could still see and hear the thunder and lightening for a while longer but we must have just been on the edge of the storm as we didn't get the rain or hail here. If we looked to the left towards the lake it was black and to the rice it was nice and blue. The temperature has plummeted here so we all grabbed out our winter pj's again.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Walk In Another Girl's Shoes

We have been working on a badge, called Walk in another Girl's Shoes at Guides. It is a badge that requires the girls to think of how and what it is like to have an obviously disability (like blind, paralysis, etc) or simply to be a little different. We try to get them to realise how hard it for people and also how to show some compassion and thoughtfulness towards them.

This week we had a visitor who is a double amputee, who brought along some his wheelchairs for the girls to try out. He had them wheel across the floor and then pick themselves up without putting their feet on the floor, and sitting on a bench or chair. Agent Smelly just had a rather nasty cut around her toes (dry skin) which we had to keep covered in order to stop dirt getting into it.

We also had them go into the kitchen and see how hard it would be for them to try and bake or stir a pot on the stove top or even get to the sink in a wheelchair to get a glass of water. They realised how hard it would be to do so many things that they take for granted. We also had them go around the den and see if it was accommodating to people in wheelchairs and guess what, it isn't. We have a couple of steps into the toilets, so that could be quite difficult.

All ages and levels really enjoyed the session. They were very enthusiastic and did quite well in the tasks assigned to them.

It was sort of a special Guiding Day for me as I also resigned from being a Guide Leader today. I will hang around for another term but only in a helpers (or trainers) capacity. I have been a leader for nearly six years and during that time I have taken three different levels and also run a Guide Club and shifted Dens. Agent Smelly was only 2 when I took on the position. I simply feel that I am becoming very tired and that I really need a bit of a break before I start to resent the time it takes. It is a great organisation and you can really see how the Girls who have been in Guides for a while have blossomed, so in no way is my stepping back a reflection on the organisation as I wholeheartedly endorse it for young girls. It's just my time to do something else whilst the girls attend without me. I may actually have time for a haircut or to even read a book for pleasure ... ahhh bliss.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hieroglyphs and Cuneiform

Chapter 3 - The First Writing, Story of The World

Today we read chapter 3 which was a short chapter on the earliest people to use writings, i.e. the Egyptians and Sumerians.

The girls then cut out the relevant lapbooking piece from The Chronicles of the Earth blog.
They had to write something in both hieroglyphs and cuneiform into a little fold over matchbook.

I printed out the heiroglyph alphabet from here Heiroglyph Chart and each girl then wrote something for the other person to decipher into their lapbook insert. I hadn't set out for them to do that but they started to try and guess what each other was writing which turned into a bit of fun.

Then we logged onto Penn Museum's site where they could type in their name and see their monogram in cuneiform. It does say that it is Babylonian cuneiform and we were studying Mesopotamia, so am not sure how close this cuneiform (funnily enough it just doesn't happen to be an area of my expertise) is to being the right one for us but never the less we used it. The girls then copied their initials onto their lapbook insert. They loved this so much that they sat typing carious members of the family into it to work out who had the longest and hardest name to write.

Lastly I set them up outside (in the wind, hence the hoody!) to avoid a mess of clay everywhere, to carve some more hieroglyphs into clay.

They quite enjoyed this. The Fashionista told me that she has written the letter "L" in hieroglyphs so often, that she now knows it by heart. Of course both girls ended up writing about their GOATS!

As always anything to do with Egypt is such fun. Why wasn't history more fun when I was a girl? It was all about facts and dates which I could never remember or probably wanted to!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Fireworks at the Huntly Speedway

Tonight we went to the Huntly Speedway to watch the stock cars. We are not huge stock fans I confess but mostly went because they were having a huge fireworks display. The Pig is absolutely mad on fireworks ... we are talking obsessed! Each year around Guy Fawkes he is like a kid in a candy store when the fireworks come out in shops.

Here is a picture of one of the early races. I am not sure but it could be one of the youth races. I learnt that the "first time competing" youths have to hang ribbons out the back of their windows so that the more experienced cars can go around them. I laughed at one of the cars with a ribbon driving around the inside of the track like they were out for a Sunday drive. Their parents must have stomachs of steel as I was worried for them and I had no idea who they were. A bonnet flew up on one of the cars and the poor girls drove into a wall as she was just entering the bend! She was fine. I was surprised to hear a few girls names competing. My own girls were pretty stoked too and of course supported any girl drivers.

Here are the girls with The Fashionista's bestie (she moved when I clicked!) between them. Her family just happened to be there on the night too and so the girls kept going back and forth. Little Miss Dutchgirl is homeschooled too and they all get on  a treat.

We have been at the speedway before one New Years Eve (again to see a HUGE fireworks display ... lol) and it was freezing despite it being summer. Despite it being spring we had just had a cool change the day before, in fact showers showers were predicted on the day, so we made sure we were well rugged up. I am so glad we did as it was bitterly cold but we were all toastie.

The fireworks display went on for 15 minutes and it was pretty incredible.

They were over by 9pm which meant that quite a few families left, it is a very well supported event but we stayed on for the last few races. Despite us not going for the car races, we really do get into them and have fun watching. We'd even be willing to go if they didn't have fireworks on.

I did start to get a little worried when The Pig said if we won Lotto (you know one of those if I became a millionaire moments) he wouldn't mind buying a car and compete. The girls eyes lit up and said "could we too?"  I was happy to tell them they couldn't race til they were teens ... not my rules but the speedways.

They were a bit tuckered out on the drive back home. Ah the serenity ...

Friday, November 2, 2012

Worldwide Culture Swap Delay

Well sadly two of our families, one from Russia and one from Califonia, US) have had to pull out of our exchange. It is very sad and a bit disappointing for the remaining kids who were all looking forward to sending and receiving their packages soon.

Things do crop up in life sometimes though that stop us from continuing on a journey and so there are no hard feelings. I can only wish them both well and good health for the future.

We three remaining families (we from NZ, and one from Texas, USA and the other UK), had a wee email exchange and decided to approach the Worldwide organisers who very kindly gave us another couple of families to take the place of those who we lost. Our new families are from South Africa and Wisconsin, America.

If you decide to join up in a group be aware that you do usually receive two families from the USA as they have a huge waiting list of families wishing to participate in this activity. They are requested to just contribute things pertaining to their States to avoid double up of the same info. Considering how large and different the States can be (oh how I loved my three months trekking around the US, oh so many moons ago) it isn't an issue at all.
So now we wait to see when it suits our new families to have their packages ready to go. It would be a bit rude to expect them to do be able to do it too quickly considering how long we have had. In the meantime it will give me the time I need to replace the chocolates that I purchased and then ate ... oops. Ah Pixie Caramel, how I love thee!

Can I recommend that if you choose to give this a go with your family (and I do recommend that you do) the sooner you get your package ready to go the easier it will be on you. If you leave it til the last minute something will crop up, it's Murphy's Law. And because there are children involved it is not nice to have them disappointed by waiting or cancelling. I might add that in our case our two families had very valid reasons (health issues) so this is not because of them but just some advice I thought I'd pass along.

Culture Swapper
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