27 February 2007

Wanted: Eric's fun idea

Eric had a clever idea. He wanted to make "Wanted" posters like those you see in Westerns.
So he arranged for each of the children to wear their cowboy hat (Clare wore her pink one of course) and adopt the right expression of someone posing for a "Wanted" poster.
(This is Eric's photo.)
He then went into "Pages" (although any word processor would have worked fine) and had in a large, old style font "WANTED" across the top followed by the criminal photo.
Then he explained what they were wanted for: Complaining too much and not cleaning up, Not doing what she is told, etc.
At the bottom was the reward: One hug from Mum.
Then he printed all six posters on the black and white printer and placed them on my home office door.
"What about a poster from me or Mum?" I asked.
"Oh," replied Eric, "You are the Sheriff and Mum is your deputy."
Fair enough.

26 February 2007

A Rose among Corns

Rose has discovered her favourite food. Corn.
We are just finishing this season's corn harvest, which is more of a test plot than a full grown harvest. Yesterday we had the last corn. Rose happily munched into her first, second and third cobs. She noticed me using a knife on my corn cob and stared at me.
She moved her jaws up and down indicating I was supposed to chew it, not pick at it.
Then there was only one left. Rose realised and grabbed it before her third one was complete. You can see James' hand asking her for it, but Rose wasn't buying into that!

25 February 2007

Always read the label carefully

Yesterday I was out shopping with Ariel and we dropped into K-Mart to get some bits and pieces. Being the end of summer they were having a 30% off sale on bed linen and other bed and bathroom stuff.
They also had some "Large towels" on special.
"Beauty" I thought, "That would be nice for Lana, some special large towels just for her and me."
So without looking too closely I purchased them and thought what a clever boy was I.
When we were unpacking all of our purchases I proudly showed Lana the new towels.
"Umm. A bit big don't you think." was the best Lana could say as we both laughed at the HUGE towels.
Here is one of the towels held up by Ariel with her arms stretched to their maximum and Rose placed in the front for size comparison. Ariel is actually using one as a huge cape, providing lovely warmth all over.

Zap! The power of nature.

We have been having storms over the last few weeks, some of them occurring right in our village. You see the lightning and then hear the thunderclap at almost the same time and everyone ducks!
Yesterday I was trying to help the local store with their computerised accounts when the power flickered and the computer restarted twice. We deferred our session to next week.
Then the lightning and thunder clapped at the same time. As I drove home I saw bark and thin strips of wood all across the road about 75 metres (225 feet) from our house. This is what the tree looks like. If you click you can get a more detailed look.
The lightning hit the top of the tree and found earth the shortest way - straight down the outside of the tree. Our neighbours were having a barbeque when they saw the lightning hit the tree and they all ducked with the huge explosion. Bits of bark and slivers of wood about 6 feet long were scattered all over the place, up to 50 metres (150 feet) away.
The tree is out the front of our homeschooled friends and they were lucky that only an ADSL (DSL) splitter was fried and one telephone was destroyed. Last week Lana's dad attended a fire brigade callout to clear the remains of a tree which had exploded when it was split in two in a lightning strike and blocked one of the nearby roads. They also had to put out a fire started from another lightning strike.
But no-one is really complaining. We are just enjoying the rain too much.

24 February 2007

Fourarmed Lego Man

Over the years we have gathered quite a collection of Lego. A number of times we visited garage/yard sales held in the more affluent suburbs and obtained some great deals. These people had finished with their token boy child and no longer needed the Lego's. Great for us!
As part of the growth, and natural attrition caused by the littler children "helping", some of the Lego men have lost bits over time.
This is not all bad. James was feeling inventive and had found a spare Lego man torso. "Why not have a four armed man - like Stitch?"
So he modified the spare torso by using his pocket knife to drill two holes just the right size to fit two spare arms. The holes were spot on and the arms fit and move like proper ones.
The minor problem was the legs wouldnt really fit as the lower arms were too low. So he trimmed the legs and with a bit of Blue Tac ("HandiTac?" in the US) the legs fit fine.

23 February 2007

Tea Anyone

This is a photo of Rose and Clare's teapot from their little ceramic tea set. Count the cracks.
We have tiled floors and every piece of this teaset has multiple fractures and chips. Opa has used quite a lot of glue keeping the set together. So much in fact that we reckon the set has cost more in glue than the original purchase price.
Two days after this photo was taken Rose dropped the pot once more and it cracked into a dozen pieces, all on new fault lines.
The girls have a new plastic teaset they received at Christmas, but they still prefer the miniature set. But attrition is taking its toll.
Tea anyone?

17 February 2007

The Amazing Fly Gun

Outside a computer store in Sydney was a display of "The Amazing Flygun". It is basically a plastic gun with a spring-loaded flyswatter connected to the gun with string. Aim at the fly or mosquito and shoot! We have all been enjoying ourselves tracking down rogue flies and mosquitoes around the house and practicing our shooting skills.
More information is at their site but we have just found the gun fun to use and is probably better than insecticide. I don't know if it is more effective, but it is certainly more fun.

14 February 2007

Treated like a duck

Clare's duties include emptying the dishwasher. She rarely does this cheerfully or completely willingly but it is all part of training her in life skills.
One day last week she was avoiding doing her duty more stridently than usual by hiding in her bedroom. Ariel encouraged her by dragging her up the hallway.
"You treat me like a duck!" Clare declared.
"A duck?" Ariel asked, nonplussed.
"Yes!" Clare answered, as she was coerced back to the kitchen.
* * * * *
Today Lana's Dad shared lunch with the family. Afterwards the boys showed him the new board game they were playing whilst he read the rules. When they had finished, Rose helped putting the bits and pieces away. Clare and James helped too, until Rose elbowed and pushed them out of the way, saying "Need help! Need help!"
This actually means "I don't need any help thank you" but said very economically in 2.5 year old speech. It's pretty funny picturing little Rose pushing aside her older siblings with such a stern expression on her face.

13 February 2007

Neighbours in need

We live in a small village. Many of the houses are owned as "weekenders" and many others are empty during the day when the children are at school and both parents at work. Life is pretty quiet during the week. The local General Store always has someone there and occasional workers doing the never-ending railwork.
Today the Library Bus visited and Lana went with the children. The shop owner saw Lana and rushed towards her, "Do you know anything about burns?" Lana left the children in the bus looking at books and she went to the store to find out what was going on.
A local young lad, around 12 years old, was home alone with a slight cold and was cooking himself some chips (fries) for lunch. After the chips were cooked he wanted to clean up so he took the hot pan and put it in the sink and turned on the water. That's when disaster struck. The water hit the oil and exploded! Cold water and hot oil don't mix and he was severely burned from his fingers to his wrist with splatters further up his arm.
His first instinct was to find an adult so he immediately went to the store. The store owner asked him what was wrong and quickly realised that the poor boy had severe burns all up his arm, with skin peeling and boiling. He quickly put the boy's arms into cold water and called his dad who was at work about half an hour away.
Meanwhile, Lana came on the scene and confirmed the store owner's first aid - cold water on burns and nothing else. If the burn is bigger than a 20c piece (a quarter) seek medical help as soon as possible.
While they were waiting for the boy's father, Lana's dad came along and added his experience from the Fire Brigade. They tracked down the closest doctor/medical centre and once the father arrived they called the centre and arranged for quick support.
The father and boy then went off. We'll find out what happened over the next few days.
This incident did highlight one thing. Homeschooling benefits the community by having adults and families living in the neighbourhood and forming part of the local community. Many neighbourhoods are virtual ghost towns mid-week with school and work effectively turning the homes into temporary accomodation and meeting places.
A community is a collection of people. It's not the houses or buildings within which they live, they are just the framework, like a frame around a piece of artwork (like one of Lana's cross-stitches!). In a village or small community the real art is the wealth of characters and caring people. If they're not there, where is the community?
Today the community was centred around the shop, a homeschooling Mum, a retired man and a boy in need. At other times, the community hall, fire brigade and school form the the centre of attention. Life keeps on providing such good lessons.
I'm glad we're around to experience them.

12 February 2007

When push comes to shove

Over the last 24 hours we have had an additional 90mm of rain. This means we have had almost 20% of our annual average rainfall in two days!
As the rain is still falling steadily, this had to be the day Lana's Dad had to take their van in for a service. Therefore, it wouldn't start and needed a push start.
Luckily I had arranged to leave a little later (8:30am) and we all helped in pushing the van.
Lana's Dad provided some towing power (from a little car with a 1.3cc engine) and Ariel, Eric, Lana and myself pushed. Mum was in the driver's seat.
Somehow the van wouldn't turn properly until Dad came and realised Mum hadn't turned the key to disengage the steering lock. "I haven't driven this thing before!" Mum explained as we all pushed again.
Once we were at the street and the van rolled it started on the second atttempt and all is well.
Phew. What a way to start the day.

11 February 2007

It's Raining, it's pouring

We were all outside yesterday afternoon, playing cricket. Lana was batting very well (at least in comparison to the quality of bowling and fielding) but light started to fail. At 5:00pm on a Summer's day! The clouds were coming across so black that it seemed like 8:00pm.
Then Lana's Dad and Mum rushed out with tarpaulins to protect some of our vegetable plants as hail was coming. We quickly covered the plants and cleared away all the cricket gear and anything else that could be damaged by the rain and settled down to watch from the back deck.
In the next hour over 90mm (3.5 inches) rushed earthwards with winds that forced us back inside. Once more all our water tanks are full and all around us people and plants are rejoicing for the rain. Today saw another 30mm (over an inch) of rain fall in a lovely light rain - perfect for soaking into the ground.
This photo is of Eric watching the rain with me on the deck in the only dry spot.

8 February 2007

How much wood can a woodchopper chop?

Another of the events at the Berry show was the woodchopping. Basically a collection of blokes, young and old, use very, very sharp axes and saws to compete against each other and the clock. In the competition shown in the photo, each competitor has a handicap from 4 seconds to 33 seconds. Once the race begins, the announcer counts: 1..2..3..4 and then the fellow with a 4 second handicap begins. 5..6..7 and so on until 32..33 and the last guy starts whacking away with lightning speed.
The guy in this photo had a 31 second handicap. Despite the 27 second delay in starting, he won, chopping through the wood in 23 seconds. The log is about 50 to 60 cm (almost 2 feet) thick. There was a fellow to his right on 33 seconds who looked about 65, but tough as nails. He came second by about an axe swing!
Peter, Clare and Eric all had their own cameras (older digital cameras) and had a great time capturing events at the show. Sure, many of Clare's and Peter's shots were blurry or indistinct or missing heads, but being digital there is no cost. But they sometimes get the most interseting photos because they are in such different positions. Peter entered a photo in the children's photography section of a man concentrating very hard on a game at the games convention we attended.
I am sure the man didn't even realise he was being photographed and the angle would have been very difficult for an adult considering the cluttered nature of the area.
This photo of James was taken by Peter and isn't too bad. You can tell it was before the children bought their cowboy hats as those hats have rarely leave their heads since!

The Mowtivator!

Last Saturday we visited the Berry Show with Lana's parents. berry is about an hour's drive away over the mountains and along some very winding roads. Despite the gate guards not wanting to give us any type of family discount, unlike most other country shows, we enjoyed ourselves. The children and Lana won many prizes in the pavilion again, although Lana was beaten in most of the Cross stitch categories by her mum!
After wandering around the showgrounds, visiting the pavilion and traders and avoiding the overpriced rides(*), we watched the entertainment in the main grounds.
This photo is of the racers racing their hardest. The ride-on lawnmowers had names such as "The Mowtivator", "Mowna Lisa", "Mownaro" and so on. If you look carefully, you may be surprised that the rider on the left has no steering wheel. The bolts holding it on sheared off during the race but the fellow kept going using the pedals and the steering rod to turn the tight corners.
I interviewed him afterwards at his tent.
"Normally losing a steering wheel in a race would be considered a handicap, but you still won. How did you steer the thing?"
"I just know my vehicle really well," he replied with a straight face and twinkle in his eye. I waited patiently.
"Actually when the wheel came off I grabbed the post and used that with my feet on the pedals."

(*)"You can pay $6 for a ride if you want. From your money." The children thought about it and figured that four rides equals one cowboy hat. "No. We'll get a cowboy hat instead."

Financial Planning for Children

As children most of us rarely receive very good lessons about money. Either everything was provided when we asked (or nagged) or we received sporadic amounts of pocket money or just never thought about where money came from and where it went. I picked up some of my understanding only after I had made mistakes and thought back how my parents were able to feed, house and educate all of us on a small income. So we do something different with our children.
Each child from the age of five to fifteen receives a weekly allowance of 20 cents per year of age. (That is, the ten year old gets $2.00 and the 5 year old gets $1.00) Of this they are to save 1/3rd with 2/3rds left for spending. The amounts are small so I keep the details as a record on the computer. Birthday and special occasion monetary gifts are added to the spending account.
I have made this easier by using Quickbooks, although Quicken and Money would work equally well. I have memorised the transaction from the expense "Pocket Money" to the two loans per child, Savings and Spending, every four weeks. Whenever the child wants to spend their money we record it and they can see a running tally of money in and out.
This regular method allows us to restrict nagging. If they want something we don't want to buy, but it is OK for them to have, we tell them they can pay for it. At the Berry Show we attended last weekend they all wanted hats. Most of them had received prizes from their show entries and they had funds in their spending accounts so they bought their own hats for $25.00 each. You can probably see that they don't like spending their "spending" account. Clare had money from her birthday last year and quite a few weeks of accumulated spending money. (You can see her very happy with her Pink "cowboy" hat in the accompanying photo.) The boys had funds from special tasks such as mowing lawns and cleaning cars as well as accumulated spending accounts.
The boys also often combine their funds to buy common items such as a computer game or Lego kit they will all play with together.
It actually works out that this method probably costs less than an ad hoc approach. Also, the children are gaining an appreciation of saving and spending.