Diabetes, The Shopping Ban, TV & New Hair!

So things are going as well as can be expected here. The diabetes stuff has taken over my life and with that and everything else going on I have little to no brain power left for anything else. But I need to keep making blogging a priority as it makes me feel better. It has been such a great way of getting out all my horrible thoughts (as well as my good ones) and has made such a positive impact on my life. So on to todays thoughts…

I have done surprisingly well at changing my eating habits in just ten days. I am an all or nothing sort of girl so when I got the diagnosis I didn’t go and have “one last…” I switched straight on to doing what I thought was right from the tiny bits of information my doctor gave me. Unfortunately the diabetes educator I saw was useless and gave me little to no information and spent 90 minutes calling his computer a turd, saying that runners are idiots and people should only walk (after I mentioned I wanted to get back into running) and laughing hysterically at himself every 30 seconds. About the only piece of advice that was useful was that I needed to use my new blood sugar monitor to see how different foods effected my levels. My GP said I could still have carbs, but to stick to low gi and small portion sizes.

Unfortunately I have discovered carbs, no matter how low gi and no matter how small a portion size sky rocket my blood sugars. I find I can have a piece of toast in the morning and some low gi carbs at lunch – but if I have any at dinner my bloods are still sky high the next morning. So I have made the decision to stick to under 2 super small servings of low gi carbs a day (eaten in the morning or for lunch) and very little carbs after lunch. Those that know me in person may know how big a weakness I have for cabs and always have. I went on one of those super low carb diets one time and by day 3 I was hysterical and begging the girls father to make me a potato. But at that point my life didn’t depend on it. In 10 days I have more than halved my fasting blood glucose levels which is pretty awesome, but I still have a while to go before I can call it well managed. Hopefully the carb thing will help improve my numbers.

With the change in diet, the increase in exercise (I don’t want to loose any limbs!), lowering my seroquel and starting the diabetes medication I am losing weight. Just over a kilo a week for the last 4-5 weesk (I am actually 94kgs….meaning I have lost 10kgs since November!). My first goal was 95kg…which is past already, the next is 90kgs. With this rapid decrease in weight I have decided to stop buying new clothes. With the exception of a pair of jeans I need for spring/winter and underwear and any changes in bra size. I have plenty of stuff in sizes 16-24 (currently around a 22) so I really don’t need anything. I may want lots of stuff, but seeing as how I have more than enough to wear I have decided I will hold off buying clothes until I either a) Need them because I am smaller than almost everything I have or b) reached a stable weight. This doesn’t stop me from buying nail polish or make up or shoes though… (speaking of shoes these Kaiser Flats from Wittner are now mine!)

Now onto TV. If you have been reading longer than a few minutes you will know I love vintage. I grew up watching musicals from the 40’s and 50’s and I love any period movie or tv show that does justice to it’s era. Enter Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. OMG I am totally in love. Set in Melbourne in the 20’s it is a visual feast. The clothes, the cars, the locations (Hello Melbourne, gosh I love you) are all total eye candy. But not only that it is watchable, funny and brilliantly acted. You can watch the first episode online HERE. It’s a 13 part series and I can’t wait for the rest of it.

Along similar vintage lines I decided to get an authentic vintage hair cut – the Middy. I decided on this style as it would make it easier for me to pin curl my hair in the authentic setting patterns. I had been growing my hair out thinking it would be easier to do vintage styles but no such luck. I ended up with too much hair to do anything effectively.

Unfortunately I printed out the hair diagram from the Middy Plus and not the Middy Long so I know have super short hair (4.5in all over) and I can’t pin curl it at all! Of course I would be mortified – except see above pic…that was about 8 months after I cut my hair to just below my ears…my hair grows ridiculously fast. I have also discovered that it doesn’t dry as poufy as I thought and looks freakin adorable with a headband (of which I own about 40).

One of the things I have discovered since becoming aware of my own mental health patterns is that if I allow myself to wallow more than 3 days I get into dangerous territory of slipping rapidly from bummed to depressed. One of the things that always cheers me up is doing something for my appearance (putting make up on, buying a new dress, having my hair cut and coloured) so this was just what the doctor ordered after getting the diabetes blow and having an exhausting two days in Sydney.

I know I still owe two more Aussie NBTS blog hop posts – our “school” area and a day in the life…but those will have to wait as my house is currently a disaster area and our daily schedules are too crazy. Those will come later in the week. Until then…

project:girl

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Sydney

When our eldest daughter found out there was going to be a Harry Potter exhibition in Sydney she knew she had to go. But there was no way we could afford a trip just because. So she agreed to not have a birthday party this year or get presents so we said if we could manage it we would.

Fortunately flights between Sydney and Melbourne can be quite cheap and hotels in Sydney can also be quite cheap. So before we knew it we were all booked in. Then my Mum asked if she could meet us there (she lives in northern NSW). Then my nan asked if we would like to do the Picasso exhibit with her. Then my Aunt and one of my Uncles wanted to meet us there for lunch. All of a sudden we had a jam packed 36 odd hours.

On Tuesday morning we were out the door at a quarter to seven. We caught the sita bus to Avalon and our Jetstar flight arrived on time. By 9am we were on the plane and ready to go. Our eldest daughter flew to visit my mum once solo (when she was about 7…and before we removed those privileges from my mum) so she remembered flying, but Miss 10 was just under three years old when she last flew. Miss 10 happens to be a bit of a daredevil (loves roller coasters and rock climbing) but I have never seen her grin as much as she did when the plane took off. Our flight was great and the girls took much delight in purchasing hot chocolate & m&m’s (then combining the two). They had their spending money – which was $54.50 each. Miss 10 had won $100 in a competition a few weeks ago and as her sister had chosen her to take to Sydney she split the money with her. Miss 11 had $9 left over from pocket money and she thought it only fair to split that right back.While I was worried about flying jetstar after reading some reviews I was pleasantly surprised. Our flight arrived on time, we boarded promptly, the staff were friendly and I didn’t notice any difference in comfort from flying other budget carriers.

We were in Sydney early and I have to admit, I tend to feel quite happy coming home…after all I was born and raised in Sydney. We ended up jumping in a cab to the art gallery as it was almost as much to catch the train out of the airport (until I discovered that on City Rail you only pay for the first child *sigh*). Sydney didn’t fail to live up to my expectations with us sitting happily in our cab when some chick walked up to a sign and kicked it while ranting and muttering. I may be weird, but I smiled at this, knowing Sydney hadn’t changed.

We popped our stuff in the cloak room at the art gallery, used the bathrooms and then I took the girls across to the gardens to get some energy out. Then we headed back to meet my family. It was so nice to see my Nana again as well as my Aunty…but I have to admit I was most happy to see my Uncle.

My uncle has schizophrenia and has been on medication since he was quite young. He is only about 12 years older than me and we spent A LOT of time together when I was young. He taught me to play chess and then monopoly. By the time I was 5 I was beating him at monopoly…I may or may not have been a bad loose, and an even more terrible winner. About 6 years ago he went off all his medication and it didn’t go well. After he recovered he moved out of my nans (after living at home his whole life) and stopped seeing everyone. As someone who kind of gets the mental illness thing I never pressed to see him…I was just glad that he was safe, happy and for the first time living on his own. When I saw him at my pops funeral last year we hit it off again. This time we talked endlessly about psychs and drugs and side effects. He has been sending the kids stuff ever since (he is an avid op shopper and has been finding tonnes of goodies for them) so I was very glad he got to meet the big girls.

We all had lunch and I broke the news to everyone about the diabetes. My nan was really upset about it and vowed to find her low gi cookbooks and send them to me (gosh I love my nana). We talked about homeschooling, why someone would choose not to register to homeschool, child psychology, aspergers in girls (my Aunt has aspergers and my nan thinks she might also), medication, eating, sports and art. Then we headed back to the park for a chat and so the kids could run around and it was then that we ran into my mum. She was suppose to arrive after we saw Picasso…but when she saw my Aunt she went nuts. My Aunt used to be good friends with her big sister, long before mum married my dad and they became in laws. My Nana has always remained friendly and up until a few years ago sent my younger two brothers birthday and xmas presents (even though they are not her grandkids) and mum & my Uncle used to spend tonnes of time together as he didn’t work and she was raising kids and at home.

We all caught up for awhile before mum headed off to the hotel to check in and My Aunt & Uncle went home. The Picasso exhibit was amazing. While my little brother seemed incredibly bored and so was Miss 10…Miss 11 loved it. She had studied Picasso at school and found it amazing up close. My Nan actually doesn’t like Picasso at all (my nan is a gifted artist herself) as when she looks at his depictions of women she feels as though he hates them. I was moved to tears, however, by the piece below. I explained to my nan that one of the reasons his work appeals for me is that I have felt like that – disjointed and taken apart and put back together as people try to “fix” me. She found that incredibly sad, but she may have softened on Picasso at that point LOL.

After Picasso we said goodbye to my nan and headed to the hotel for a much needed rest. The kids watched a movie and after my feet had recovered I took them out for dinner (mum was sick so she stayed at the hotel and slept). We found a thai restraunt not far from the hotel and I made a few mistakes…

  1. I took them here instead of maccas or pizza
  2. Let them each order a whole dish
  3. spent too much money

I spent a fortune only for 2 out of 3 to refuse to eat what they ordered. Miss 10 ate some of her meal, before my brother had some. He had ordered salmon and then decided he didn’t want it. Miss 11 ordered larb (which we have at home all the time) but refused to eat it because it didn’t look the same. But she then decided she wanted the salmon. *sigh*

Once we were back in the hotel the kids convinced me to use my iphone as a wifi hotspot so they could check their email and play games. I spent the rest of the night adding books to my mums new kindle. At some point during the evening Miss 11 wandered over to look out the window followed a few seconds later by a scream “fireworks!”. Sure enough, from our budget hotel with the view of the Harbour Bridge & Opera house we were now watching Sydney put on a fireworks display. We couldn’t believe our luck. It was just perfect. Once it was finished we got ready for bed and tried to get some sleep.

Apart from waking up at 1:30am and discovering Miss 10 on the floor (she decided she didn’t want to sleep with her sister any more) I managed to get an ok night sleep. Before we knew it we were dressed, packed, checked out and eating Maccas for breakfast (well everyone else did – I had a tin of tuna and a banana). Then we jumped on the Monorail (kids thought that was amazing) and headed to the Powerhouse Museum for the main event – The Harry Potter Exhibit.

The exhibit itself was amazing…the detail was extraordinary and even though I haven’t read a single book or seen a single movie I really enjoyed it. The staff were AMAZING really engaging and played their parts well. But most importantly Miss 11 was so incredibly happy. My favourite part was seeing some of Harrys clothes in the first Movie vs. the last…he was so little! After we went through the gift shop and my girls were appalled with how much stuff cost and refused to spend any of their money at all. I agree it was a total rip off ($30 for a house colour scarf…no logo, just plain knitted scarf, $8 for a bookmark, $30 for a printed library bag) but I knew she would regret not buying something later so I gave her the program ($25) and the photo they took at the start ($20 on a green screen with the Hall thing in the background).

Again my congratulations go out to the amazing Powerhouse staff when we were wandering around trying to find the tour in the Space section. We were the only ones there so a tour guide accompanied us through the Space section answering all our questions and giving information. The kids didn’t seem too pay too much attention but Mum & I were fascinated. We then had morning tea at the cafe and let the kids play at the playground before heading down to Chinatown for lunch. We went straight to the Dixton House Food Court where I remember many a weekend trip with my parents and their friends. Once again the kids weren’t terribly impressed and barely touched their food. I have to admit, while holding fond memories, I wasn’t terribly impressed either. I ordered a thai beef salad and not only was the beef tough, but there was almost no salad and a huge serving of rice.

With the girls money burning a hole in their pocket we ended up at Paddy’s market and before I knew it they had gone through almost all of their money buying everything from watches to a backpack to ipod cases. Miss 10 bought her first punk accessory (a leather cuff with chains and a large skull on it) but someone must of said something because 10 minutes later she was in tears and refusing to wear it. Once the money was gone and presents were bought for their little sisters we headed back to central station to put mum & my brother on a train home. Then we followed suit and headed to the airport.

A quick maccas dinner for the girls (I had learnt my lesson) and a salad for me and then we were at the gate and our plane was there. Unfortunately boarding was really slow as they have this new SMS boarding pass system and it wasn’t working properly. Of course this meant we missed our take off slot and had to sit on the runway for awhile and while we were there the captain informed us that we were about to be passed by the Airbus A380 … followed by a giant shadow over us and then a massive plane. The girls were blown away by the size and the captain sounded more than a little wanting when talking about it. Once in the air we made good time and were home early. From the flight we transferred back to the airport transfer bus, back to Werribee then a taxi home.

I am still completely exhausted but the main thing is the girls had an absolute blast. Miss 11 thought it was the best birthday ever and she still has a month to go before it is her actual birthday. I instagrammed the whole trip making it easy for their dad and sisters to see what we were up to (GOD BLESS TECHNOLOGY!).

project:girl

 

Why Me?

Is what I have found myself muttering over and over the last 24 hours. I just feel like I can never catch a break. So what happened yesterday to make me feel like I am still walking uphill?

Diabetes Type 2

Just as I am coming to terms with one illness, Bipolar, I am having to adjust to another. Yesterday my dr. informed me that I had diabetes. I had a blood test on that shitty doctor day and a few days ago a letter arrived in the mail saying they couldn’t contact us and could we call the surgery immediately to make an appointment to get my blood test results. Of course I stressed over that letter for three days waiting for my appointment. Of course I worried it was something that was going to kill me (I have a fantastic imagination!). But I suspected it could be diabetes purely because I knew that the medication I was on had recently started to be linked with diabetes (probably because of the massive weight gains associated with it). But I thought it was more likely to be cholesterol as I don’t have a huge sweet tooth, but I love my cheese and bacon and creamy curries.

After waiting 1.5 hours in the waiting room he finally saw me. He was cranky because the reason he was so anxious to talk to me was because he wanted to know what I ate before the test…when I reminded him I fasted (around 12 hours) he choked on his sandwich. My blood glucose levels were more than double the high end of normal….when I was fasting. Great.

Lots of talking at me for about 40 minutes (any wonder I wait for hours when he can easily spend that much time with each patient) and I was told what I shouldn’t eat, that I will need to take care of my feet, that I need to see someone to make sure I don’t go blind, that I need to see a nurse and a dietician. Next week I get a blood sugar monitor which apparently I will need to use daily, I will be put on cholesterol lowering medication and also insulin tablets (I think they are insulin…not sure what else they could be). I am dropping (with no change to diet/exercise) about 1kg a week since lowering my medication a second time. Apparently with my diet and the pills I am going to be shedding the weight. I need to do 30 minutes of cardio each day. I can’t help but think there won’t be anything left of me soon (Being hippy and booby I look anorexic under 65kgs and my doctor wants me between 56 and 68kgs).

OVERWHELMED!

After my appointment (where I was alone as the girls were on an excursion with their dad learning all about land and energy) I was a bit numb. I was trying to read all the pamphlets on the bus and I felt like I was going to cry…so I put them away and blasted some Motion City Soundtrack songs. I caught up with the girls quickly in the city and was able to fill him in on what happened while being all sunny about it – of course they were all eating maccas *sigh* – as the girls were there and I wasn’t about to have a melt down in maccas with the kids. Then I met up with my friend (we have been having dumplings followed by Burlesque classes for a few weeks) and I had to tell her I couldn’t eat dumplings any more. Which made me upset as I know she has massive anxiety eating at new places and I didn’t want to upset her. But we settled on nandos – where I had a salad and some chicken tenders…but given how oily they seemed I don’t think I can eat that again. We then headed off for some bump and grind and our weekly “feel our self up” session (Our instructor always says “If you forget a move, if all else fails…just feel yourself up and its all good” LOL). I was exhuasted by the time I got home at 10pm and I totally fell apart. I started bawling my eyes out. I was so hungry but there was nothing in the house I could eat. I didn’t even know what I could eat. I bawled and bawled. After he researched it a bit and went to coles and I ate I felt a bit better and was able to sleep. Today…I am just trying to adjust. I’m not sad…just overwhelmed. And a tad angry….

Now one of the reasons I wanted to come off these stupid meds, beyond the fact that I had no quality of life, was that it could end up with diabetes. I spent 6 months umming and ahhing and weighing the risks – mainly that some studies show up to 25% of bipolar patients who come off their medication attempt suicide (vs. something like 10% of bipolar patients who never take medication). That was scary. In those 6 months I developed diabetes. Had I been more decisive I might have avoided it.

coulda. shoulda. woulda.

Then there is the frustration with why me and not their dad. That sounds harsh BUT he is almost double his ideal weight, his granddad lost both legs thanks to diabetes, his biological father has type 2…as does his two aunts, his uncle and all his cousins. Why me with not a single family member having it. More anger towards the stupid medication.

But (back to the rational me) as the girls and their dad have promised to try to eat the same foods as me at home I can only hope that the change in lifestyle will help extend his life and maybe changing now will mean he won’t end up with it. He also has colon cancer on both sides of the family so it is VERY important that he changes his lifestyle.

So there you have it … life it changing again. I have already reduced my portion size by almost half (while I didn’t eat a lot of junk, I ate quite large meals), am slowly figuring out this low gi thing and until I know what else I can eat I am eating a tin of tuna with one slice of low gi bread, sandwich with protein and salad for lunch and salad for dinner (with 100g of protein – which is apparently all I am allowed) – I have yet to snack as I know I can’t have all fruits.

So there is my jumbled thoughts on the last 24 hours. Blarg. Anyone out there living with diabetes and have any advice?

project:girl

OMG I love COLD CREAM!

Yup I am still totally on the cold cream bandwagon. I got a few spots and read that an extra swipe of witch hazel should dry it up…and it did! So I delved a little deeper into cold cream uses and here is what I have found….

As A Make Up Remover

I used to use coconut oil to remove my make up, but now it is cold cream all the way. It removes everything including the supper stubborn Max Factor – False Lash Effect Mascara! I am seriously in love – even coconut oil found my mascara tough to remove.

As An Exfoliator

It seems some smart little cookie tried adding some brown sugar to their cold cream to exfoliate. So I tried it. DIVINE! Totally gentle as most of the brown sugar almost melts into the cold cream, and because the cold cream is so rich your skin is still left perfectly soft and no need to moisturise afterwards!

All Over!

SO I read that someone smothered themselves all over with cold cream, jumped in the shower, scrubbed all over with exfoliating gloves and then dried off and jumped into bed. I wasn’t so sure about this one, but I have issues with dry legs, elbows and knees and HATE using body creams. But I gave it a go so I could let you all know and OH. MY. GOD! I have never had skin so smooth. I didn’t need any moisturiser and when I slipped beneath the sheets my skin felt like silk. I have started doing it once or twice a week and love the results.

Shaving Cream

After the success with using it all over I decided to give it a whirl as I have used coconut oil for shaving before, but it wasn’t thick enough IMO. But I had total success with cold cream…especially as my legs weren’t all dry afterwards. The water in the shower does need to be quite hot to be able to rise the cream out of your razor…so it may not suit everyone, but for me it worked fine.

It has turned out to be a surprisingly versatile product. If anyone has any other uses please shout them out!

project:girl

The Darling Sisters, Customer Service Win & Seamed Stockings

I can’t tell you how often I am left massively disappointed by customer service. Emails that go unreturned, phones that ring out, staff that either ignore you when you walk and terrible returns policies. But I have to rave about the customer service I received from The Darling Sisters when I contacted them recently about their sizing for the Fully Fashioned beautiful seamed nylon stockings.

I have been searching for beautiful vintage stockings for a long time. Everywhere I turned it seemed plus sized girls missed out. I might be able to find a pair of stay ups, but I love the look of seamed stockings and Fully Fashioned Cuban Heeled stockings make my little vintage loving heart sing. Not to mention I have a beautiful Rago all in one corsolette that has been sitting in my cupboard looking sad as I can’t wear it without stockings (otherwise it has nothing to tether it down and rolls up around my waist….trust me on this one!). The only problem with FF Nylons is that they don’t have much stretch…so I needed to find a pair that would actually fit my thigh. I must have sent dozens of emails to companies just trying to get a rough idea of the top circumference of their stockings to no avail. When I sent off my email to the Darling Sisters I have to admit I didn’t hold out much hope.

(note: I choose to wear underwear with my stockings…but that’s just a personal choice *wink wink*)

But of course these two have impeccable customer service. My email was returned promptly along with information that they only open their boutique on the weekends and as soon as she was in the shop she would measure them for me. Emails continued back and forth and she let me know she thought she had found the right pair for me. I paid and a few days later my stockings arrived. I was so incredibly nervous as I desperately wanted them to fit. But the lovelies at the Darling Boutique said if they don’t fit, send them back and we will keep going til we find the right pair. But they were PERFECT.

If you haven’t had a pair of nylons before..watch out. These are silky smooth and just scream of lady like glamour when you are wearing them. I am so excited that I found them, that they are sold in Australia and that the company that is selling them has the most divine customer service.

After I sent a thank you email this morning, which was also responded to promptly she mentioned she was placing and order (gave me a link to the company) and asked me to have a look to see if there was anything I wanted as she knew I was in the market for some girdles. Not only was it helpful, but she remembered what I wanted.

If you are in Canberra go check out their store for me, but if not you can buy online in the safe knowledge that their customer service is impeccable, my item was shipped out the day I paid and they accept returns (while AusPost isn’t the cheapest, it certainly is more affordable to return locally than overseas).

Now to save up to buy myself an Esther Williams bathing suit from them!

project:girl

Urg…Valentines Day

That has been my response since I was a teen. Unlike what seemed like most girls I didn’t have a boyfriend through high school. In fact besides poor old Ben, I didn’t have a boyfriend at all until I met the girls. I say “poor old Ben” because I wasn’t interested in him at all, but at some point he had told a friend of mine he was interested and I thought once and for all it would dispel the lesbian rumours that ran rife when a girl chose not to have anything to do with the neanderthals at school and spoke her mind.

Then I met him. I was starting to think maybe the kids at school were right…maybe I was gay….after all boys didn’t do anything for me. We had spoke on the phone before we met. My room mate had met him at a party and she was talking to him on the phone and decided to introduce us. Unfortunately she didn’t get the phone back for 45 minutes. A week later he came to visit with a friend and the second I saw him in the driveway I swooned. Unfortunately it seemed he was more interested in my blonde friend (as it turned out she was more into him and bullied him into “going out”). But 6 months later after all that had ended and calmed down we ended up together.

Our first valentines together was AWFUL and unfortunately we never got out of that slump. We had just moved into our first flat and were expecting a baby 6 weeks later. We were totally broke so I knew valentines wasn’t going to involve huge bouquets or chocolates or teddy bears. But to be honest, I am more of a simple girl. I prefer a gesture to a hastily purchased gift. A friend of our was selling these discount voucher books door to door and as we needed money he headed out with him. He had a pretty fruitful day and came home with a decent commission. Money in his hand rather than bring me home something to surprise me he came home and said let’s go out. Again I thought maybe a surprise dinner or something was in store (I would have gladly had $2 worth of hot chips on the beach with him).

Of course it didn’t turn out like that. Instead I was taken to coles and he said I could get whatever valentines gifts I wanted. I could pick a teddy bear or flowers or chocolates. I don’t know that I had ever been so disappointed. We came home and of course I was upset. He didn’t get it and no matter how I tried to explain it he thought I was being silly. Telling a pregnant woman, who is already upset that she is being silly is like waving a red flag to a bull. I spent the next three hours screaming at him and calling him every name under the sun (I grew up in a woman centred family who use the word cunt affectionately so trust me when I say I have an extensive vocabulary). I wasn’t very proud of myself but not only was I hurt, I was then ridiculed for that hurt. Things went downhill rapidly til I told him for the first time in our relationship that it was over. He cried and begged me not to go and so I calmed down and we tried to move on. Not long after that my gran died. Then we had to visit Sydney for the funeral. Then we had a baby. Then we had a niece and life rolled on.

Unfortunately valentines never got much better. I was bitter and snarky in the lead up and remind him what happened last time. SO he would buy me flowers and chocolates and teddy bears….but there was no real heart to any  of it. As I said, I am more a gesture girl than a gift person. Here was the person I laid out all my insecurities before, all my hopes and dreams and wishes for the future and he didn’t seem to get how insignificant it made me feel.

Of course it all seems so silly now. But I never recovered. I loathe valentines day so much. I hate that I hate it. Even if it sucks for me I would love to be happy for the rest of the world …but I am not.

So Imagine my surprise last night when he walked into the bedroom at midnight and said “happy valentines day” and presented me with a card and chocolates. I was a biit taken aback, because while I said he could stay here after our conversation it seemed pretty clear where we stood. It was a nice card but the simple line “I’m not ready to walk away” is what made my valentines day.

No matter how bitter I have been those that know me know all I wanted was for my marriage to work. I would have done anything to hold it together and I did try…but it takes two.

Of course I am not naive. If a simple note could save our marriage we would both be deliriously happy. This doesn’t mean we are back together. All it means is there is still hope and today, that’s all I need.

Happy Valentines Day

project:girl

Aussie NBTS Bloghop: Week 2

This weeks post is all about curriculum – what we use, what are our plans for the year and how we go about it.

Our Worldwide Classroom

For those of you who may have read the negative news articles floating around about homeschooling at the moment – one of the issues raised about parents not registering to homeschool (we do register FYI) was the fact that they then could use any curriculum…the article specifically mentioned using American curriculum. Most homeschoolers that I know use at least one US curriculum and the main reason for this is that Americans have more people homeschooling, have been doing it openly for longer and have more available than within Australia.That’s it. Very few of us are using curriculum that are heavily American…as in it is stuff that can and would be used universally – an Ancient History curriculum that was written in America is not all that different than than one written here.

Another point worth mentioning is we take our children out of school for a reason. One of those reasons, for many families, is they aren’t happy with what their children are being taught and how they are being taught. There are also numerous ways of teaching the same thing…which when we get to our maths curriculum you will see why sticking with what the schools teach isn’t the only way.

For the most part I teach the twins together and the big girls together. The twins are more or less capable or roughly the same things. Our eldest is a little behind for her age, while Miss 10 is quite advanced for her age…so I also teach them together, however I do find that while they work at the same level for most things I need to work with my eldest at a more remedial level, that is lots of hand holding and repetition, where as sour 10yo needs extending in a lot of areas.

So here we go….

Language Arts (English)

  • First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind Level 1 & 2 (an oral grammar program that uses repetition, narration (telling back) and memorisation for the twins. First langage Lessons 4 & Advanced Language Lessons 1
  • All About Spelling – a mastery (mastery means mastering each step before moving on to the next one) phonics based program that has a mult-isensory approach
  • Reading – just filling their little brains with as much literature as they can handle including the childrens version of classics like Beautiful Stories From Shakespeare and The Iliad as well as fables and fairy tales for the twins. The big girls will delve more into the classics with Miss 11 preferring more girly titles like Pride & Prejudice and Little Women with Miss 10 preferring adventure stories so things like Treasure Island. Miss 11 will continue with her love of Shakespeare (she has already read the full versions of Romeo & Juliet, A Midsummer Nights Dream and Julius Cesear) by moving on to some harder ones and Miss 10 will read the 3 her big sister has read using Shakespeare Made Easy (which has original text on one side of the page and modern on the other side). We will also be reading lots of poetry this year and the big girls will also be reading some of the great speeches. They have 30 minutes quiet reading before bed and are expected to read at least 1 additional hour per day. Some of their own choosing as well as some chosen by us.
  • Writing – at this stage for the twins we aren’t using a formal writing program, instead they write lists, emails and letters to penpals. They also write in their homeschool journal and diaries. For the big girls we are finishing up with Writing With Ease 4/Writing with Skill 1(we didn’t have much luck with it) and moving onto The Institute for Excellence In Writing. It gets great reviews and again I have had the chance to see it working first hand.

Maths

  • Math-U-See – MUS is a mastery program. This is probably where we differ most from what they learnt in school. In school they use a more spiral approach for maths meaning you learn a little addition, subtraction and multiplication and then build on it each year. MUS instead makes sure you completely understand all addition problems before you move on to the next level. You start at basic 1+1 and move all the way up to adding multiple numbers of numerous lengths. We LOVE LOVE LOVE this program. It comes with a teachers manual (filled with tips and ideas), a DVD which covers each lesson with Steve teaching a homeschool class (meaning you can watch it and learn how to teach, let your kids watch it to learn or watch it together), a student book (with each lesson having 3 worksheets on that lesson and 3 systematic review sheets – everything up until that lesson) and a test book. They also include plenty of work problems and the other bits generally taught in maths – time, measurement, area ect. I should also mention this is a US program, but we use the Australian (metric) edition.
  • Singapore Maths 70 Must Know Word Problems – we supplement our MUS with these word problem books as we are big believers in being able to apply the maths to everyday situations and feel word problems are one of the best ways to teach this (beyond using maths in actual everyday situations)
  • Math Drills – each morning our girls do timed math drills. Currently the twins are doing single digit addition and subtraction (100 of each) and they have 5 minutes to complete them. We have found this is best way for our girls to increase their mental arithmetic. Each day they look forward to beating the number they completed, their times and their accuracy.

We work mainly to the “classical method” of homeschooling meaning we have a heavy focus on english, maths, science and history. It also means we go in roughly 4 year cycles. For science this means we cover biology one year, then chemistry, physics and astronomy. For History we break it down into Ancients (6000BC – 500AD), Middle Ages (500-1600), Early Modern (1600-1850) and Modern (1850 – present). We have yet to find a history program that starts earlier than that – so we will fill in the gaps with studies into creation myths (culture/religious studies), Big bang theory (science) and unit studies on dinosaurs ect. Each year brings a different study and when the last one is finished we build upon it (spiral) by starting all over again, but in more depth than last time. A really interesting read on the classical method is The Well Trained Mind. But we don’t follow it to the letter – we adapt it to suit our family and our ideas on what we want the girls to learn.

Science

  • NOEO Biology Level 1 – The best part about this science curriculum is the fact that in one box comes the instructors manual, reproducible pages for a science notebook, all experiments and every resource book you need for it. The downside is the $75+ in postage you pay to get it from the states to your door.
  • Story of Science – a series of books that starts with the big bang/creation myths that is in story format. We read aloud about a chapter or two a week.
  • Excursions to CERES for land & energy, Scienceworks, the zoo and the Shark & Ray centre
  • The big girls also got places in Monash Universities science club – Lab Rats. They will attend one Saturday a month for the first half of the year and if it goes well will finish up the year.

History

  • History Odyssey – Ancients Level 1 for the twins and Ancients Level 2 for the big girls (a literature based history program). This is also another new program – we were using “Story of the World” and the accompanying work books. While we loved the book, the workbook was a bit juvenile. Our girls all love history so they demanded a better, more in depth program.
  • Junior historical fiction , Magic Treehouse books, My Story books and horrible histories and Fair Dinkum Histories (An Australian Spin off of the Horrible Histories written by Jackie French) as well as watching documentaries and the Horrible Histories TV Series.
  • We will also be exploring world war II a bit as we have excursions to both the RAAF museum and HMAS Castlemaine in the first quarter of the year. For the twins it will mostly be just talking about WWII and some picture books and junior historical fiction as well as the talks that will be put on by vetrans at the excursions.
  • We have also covered a little bit of Australian history around Australia Day

Geography

  • Trail Guide to World Geography Beginner level for the twins and Intermediate for the big girls – this is a new program for us that I am still gathering resources for. It is generally separated into continents and we go through each country in a little bit of depth and then the kids have map work to do and they have to use their atlases and almanacs to answer a few questions on each country. Each year going into more depth than the year before.

Art/Music

  • Artistic Pursuits K-3 Book 1 for all the girls, with the big girls also working independently from Artistic Pursuits 4-6 Book 1 – also a new program, but a few of the homeschool families I know use them and I am quite impressed by the program.
  • Visits to the Art Gallery
  • After school art class – Miss 10 only. She loves art and she asked to do this class as well as soccer this year. She actually wants to attend their adult portrait and landscaping classes, but the teacher won’t let her until she proves she can do the junior class.
  • f free time using craft, paints ect.
  • We are also trying to source a Piano as all the girls are interested in learning (not sure where we would fit Piano lessons into our already crammed week….). I do dream of transporting my Nans piano from Sydney and having it refurbished (my nan taught my dad, aunts & uncles to play on it, followed by my brother, cousin & I learning on it) as it’s currently sitting in the garage rotting away.
  • We will probably look to explore classical music in line with history so most of it will be in a few years when we get to modern history.

PDHPE

  • If you have read my sports & recreations post you will know that we have sport covered with all the girls participating in at least one team sport as well as all 4 doing swimming and taekwondo. The girls are also quite active and ride their bikes/scooters/skateboards, go to the park, play outside and we don’t drive so we walk everywhere.
  • We are also quite open with our kids so sex talks, taking care of your body, getting boobs (which my eldest two are currently experiencing) ect. are all talked about when the situation arrives. In our house sex is first talked about in a clinical “where do babies come from” way. We have also now explained the basics of birth control to our two oldest…which will eventually lead to the question – why have sex if you aren’t making babies…which will lead into a sex for pleasure topic along with how to prevent STD’s. Everything is at an age appropriate level and answered either in line with questions being asked or things that are happening to them. We also plan on making sure they get a well rounded education on drugs and alcohol as well as anything else that crops up.

LOTE

  • The big girls have expressed an interest in Latin so we are currently looking at Latin curriculums to be added toward the middle of the year. In the meantime they have both downloaded latin apps for their iPods and are learning a fair bit on their own.
  • Our eldest daughter also wants to study French and has asked to attend the Victorian School of Languages but they hold classes on Saturdays and she doesn’t want to give up netball. They also have a distance ed program (that also includes free additional one on one tuition where needed) so we may look into that for the second semester or next year. It is me that is pushing this to be done later as she struggles with writing/reading/spelling and I think a full on distance ed program will be too hard and I don’t want her anxiety to start rearing its ugly head again.

ReligiousStudies

We are secular so religious studies are covered more in line with history and geography as cultural studies.

  • We are currently learning about different creation stories from around the world using books like “In The Beginning” as well as individual books from the library (bible for kids ect.) and a wonderful friend who is from the states and was a teacher there, but now homeschools her kids in Australia has lent us some amazing native American books with different native stories and creation stories.
  • We would love to spend the next few years with the girls visiting various churches, mosques and temples and let them sit down with various religious leaders and let them ask their questions. Of course this is a fantasy as I am not sure how many would welcome the girls given that they see creation myths in the same line as fairy stories and I would hate to offend someone.
  • We also plan to visit some of the different cultural museums around where possible in line with what we are learning about.

Information technology

Our kids were born after youtube, google, msn and the iPod. They were born into technology. Not to mention their father and I are also immersed in technology. He is a web designer – self taught. Their uncle in Canberra is an IT person for the ATO coding all their programs. I use the computer for email, research (mainly on homeschooling) and have an intimate knowledge of Microsoft office and adobe suite….and still our kids crap all over us in this department. There isn’t a lot that we can “teach” them as it all seems almost something they were born with. I have seen them use spreadsheets to catalogue their toys and books, write stories in Microsoft word, use photoshop to design covers for said stories and even work hacks around free versions of apps on their iPods. They email and use the homeschool chat room for everything from the weekly tween chats (complete with webcams) to the online bookclub. They can buy stuff online (when we let them) and watched over my shoulder as I booked a hotel and flights for our Sydney trip. They have watched us upgrade our pc’s with extra ram and bigger hard drives. They know how to work the computer that is hooked up to our tv and how to find the movies or shows they want on the hard drives that are attached.

Eventually if they show more interest I will get their father to show them how to use basic HTML and if they are really interested we will follow their lead. For the most part though IT is learned indecently along the way.

Design & Technology/Home Ec.

  • The girls can already use the sewing machine competently and follow basic toy patterns. Our eldest is currently starting out in embroidery and is enjoying that as well. Thanks to a lovely blog reader (now friend) we are also going to learn how to use clothing patterns starting with pj’s and eventually work out way up from there. They all can fix buttons, raise and lower hems and pop patches over holes. We have a large sewing box filled with materials they can experiment with as well.
  • Miss 10 asked for tools for xmas so we obliged. She now has a box full of hand tools and some power tools as well. We also supplied her with some childrens wood working books and need to take her to bunnings to get supplies for her first project. The main problem we are having is she doesn’t want to build what is in the books…so it looks like she will also be learning tech drawing. I have yet to find a solid homeschool program in this area or even a local tafe course…so at the suggestion of another homeschooler (who studied tech drawing) we are probably going to purchase a text book that was put out in the 50’s that she recommended.
  • The girls are all a big part of the running of the general house. Before my brother and his girlfriend moved out there was 8 of us in the house. To make a household this size run efficiently everyone has to pitch in. From a young age the girls have been able to tidy their rooms and make their beds. Now that they are older they also clean their bathroom once a week, take out the bins and recycling and empty the dishwasher in the morning. The big girls also recently decided to do their own laundry as they got frustrated waiting for it to be done.
  • Cooking – everyone in the house loves to cook and the kids are allowed to help or make what they want most of the time. Our eldest is now confident enough to use the over and is fine to not only put stuff in, but take hot trays out safely. They are always around when we cook so again, no curriculum needed here, just lots of hands on trial and error.

On top of all of that the girls read everything they can get their hands on. We generally visit the library once a week and borrow around 60 books each time….all are read when they go back the following week. Their father also does trivia from today with them each morning. We also play games – chess (strategy), monopoly (money handling & strategy), scrabble (vocab) ect. We talk with them constantly. If they ask us a question we answer them, or help them find the answer. We visit museums and art galleries and go on tonnes of excursions with other homeschoolers.

I think the hardest thing to do is write down all we do…I would be here forever if I tried that. While we have a solid book work approach to the basics, we also learn so much incidentally. When a friend came back from overseas with money and a postcard from where she had been the globe came out. The atlas came out. We talked about language and culture. Food and dress. We learned right along with them.

Their father finished high school but went no further initially. Since then he got a diploma in hospitality and got accepted into a degree in graphic arts (but pulled out due to my illness) and is self taught in front end web development…competent enough that he was employed as a web developer by a company who designed websites. I never finished year 11 and yet by the time I was 23 I was running my own business, supporting my family and running a national charity that I started. All self taught. While I learnt photography I was also learning about business and taxes and websites and marketing. We are both life long learners. If we don’t know something we research and read until we figure it out. I say this because I don’t want people to think that you need to have a teaching degree to homeschool and also because I want to defence the position of neither of us having degrees…it hasn’t made us less capable, if anything it has shown us that while school and university are great places to learn, they aren’t the only place or the only way to learn.

With that in mind I still have dreams of going back to finish my degree in history/philosophy for fun. Maybe once I have all my brain back I will.

It’s also interesting to note how many things we do that overlap into different subjects. So much of what we learn falls into more than one category and yet we are suppose to learn them separately. I  personally find that a bit bizarre.

But there you are, a very basic (and yet it is so long…you should see the word documents I make of the plans for our year!) over view of the curriculum we use and our rough plans for the year. It may seem like a lot – but the girls are pretty efficient workers and so we generally only do a few hours of formal study approximately 4 days a week. Some weeks we may do book work every day and then we may go a week or two without for a holiday, a break or just because things get busy.I should also note this is just our approach, ask 100 homeschoolers to explain their style/curriculum/plans and there will be 100 different answers. Probably because we all do what works for our families, our lifestyles and of course our childrens unique abilities.

Week 3 – Learning Spaces….see where we actually do this homeschool thing. Now I will spend the rest of the week cleaning so it looks half decent LOL.

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