Sunday, July 16, 2017

Fortnight Ending 16 July 2017

When I last posted our move back home had been delayed for the third time. Originally we were meant to be moving back on Friday 2 July but that was then put back until Monday 5. We'd just arranged to stay in our temporary accommodation for the extra time and rescheduled the movers when we heard back from the contractors to say there had been a mistake and we now couldn't get back until the Wednesday. So more phone calls and rescheduling were required. Monday 5 arrived and I'd just begun to plan the packing when Dh messaged me with news of yet another delay - to Friday this time. Then we discovered the movers couldn't come until the following Monday and since all our furniture and most of our possessions were in storage that meant we couldn't really move back until Monday 12. (As it turned put the contractors delayed again  - luckily only until Monday 12). Despite various claims and appeals the powers that be refused to cover the extra accommodation costs and a few calculations showed paying to remain in our temporary accommodation wasn't financially viable for us. So late Tuesday saw us madly packing and cleaning so we could move out the following day. Most of us moved in with my mother-in-law (crowded doesn't begin to describe it; poor Mr 19 got stuck on the couch - luckily his exams were over - while Miss 22 ended up staying with friends) for five days. It was a pretty frustrating week.Monday and Tuesday were spent in limbo wondering whether we'd have to move out of our temporary accommodation. Wednesday we were busy packing up and splitting the stuff we had with us between my mother-in-law's and brother-in-law's but the rest of the time was basically just waiting. It turned out my mother-in-law had surgery scheduled while we were there which made it easy to take her to and from the hospital plus help her out for a day or two.

Miss 16, Mr 19 and I amused ourselves with a newly found app while killing time before we could move back into our house.
This week has been all about unpacking. Dh has had to work, Miss 22 is still with friends and Mr 19 has picked up extra work shifts so the unpacking has largely fallen on me and Miss 16. So it's been a lot slower than I would have liked, and so many things have gone wrong which has slowed the job down even more. The contractors flooded the kitchen and some cupboards are still damp and mouldy so can't be used, the movers damaged several bookshelves so we've had to repair some and throw out others, they didn't remove the curtains and rails properly so rehanging them was a lengthy nightmare (they are up but not properly - we had snow so needed them up quickly, more than we needed them up prettily), the extractor fan in the kitchen no longer works so cooking results in steam - not ideal when you are trying to dry out the kitchen cupboards, the washing machine refused to operate so I thought it may have been reconnected improperly but it later started working so I think the problem was just air in the pipes after the water had been turned off....the list goes on. But the end is nearly in sight. At least I can actually see our nice new flooring now - it's no longer totally covered by boxes that need to be unpacked!
I'll be glad to see the back of boxes and packing paper!

As I've unpacked I've also been purging and so far have more than a dozen boxes of homeschooling supplies to sell. We've also been moving plenty of kids books into storage in our garage. We don't want to ditch them but we don't need them taking up shelf space - especially now we have fewer shelves than we used to! It's been a slow process as we debate whether we really need to keep each book - plus we've had to pause and reread some old favourites!

We didn't get very much snow on the ground so Mr 19 drove inland to find some more.

Another thing that slowed the unpacking down was stopping to read various gems the kids had written when they were younger. One child (who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons) had been asked to write about an experience they'd had that related to a story's theme. The theme was self-control. My child wrote "R was pestering. She kept at it, and despite what I did, it annoyed me. I got thoroughly fed up so I hit her on the nose - and it bled." I'm sure nobody enjoyed the incident at the time but reading about it many years later  sure gave us a good laugh. Then there was a letter to Santa telling him to help himself - there were buckets in the shed which he could fill with water from the outside tap  - and apologizing for not having put everything out for him "but I haven't had time what with the earthquakes and all". Yes, we had experienced a couple of large shakes the day before Christmas Eve which had everyone on edge, since we were thinking/hoping that the aftershock sequence was tapering off. However, I'm pretty sure the letter writer was onto the truth about Santa - not quite ready to give it up, but clearly not willing to put much energy into the rituals either!


I love this winter scene Mr 19 captured.

In between the never-ending unpacking Miss 16 and I attended open days at both the local university and the closest out-of-town university.  Unfortunately, I think it made her decision more complicated. The local university has just started offering an environmental studies major which could be perfect for her (the local university is very welcoming to homeschoolers and we would be free to homeschool how we want in our final year, plus she could live at home making it the most affordable option for her) but their presentation was neither informative nor inspiring. She initially wasn't keen on the out-of-town university but their presentations convinced her to add it to her list of possibilities. It's just a short commute away so she could continue to live at home  and just travel there and back daily. So I need to investigate their enrollment requirements and see if or how we can meet them. I think I might also get her to plan out a full course of study at all three universities she's considering. I know their offerings might change as may her plans but it will hopefully give her something else concrete to base her decision on. No sense going to one if you have to take too many papers you will endure rather than enjoy. Neither Mr 24, Miss 22 nor Mr 19 considered anything other than the local university (it was as good as any other for their respective majors, being able to live at home made it affordable, and since Mr 24 started young we wouldn't have considered sending him away anyway) so helping guide her to make this decision is a new and challenging experience. Not to mention frustrating - I wish we could rustle up the money to pay for her accommodation at what I think is her first choice university but we can't, and she, sensibly and understandably, isn't keen to take on extra debt.

University Open Days sadly didn't help Miss 16's decision making  as I'd hoped they might.
Of course the rest of life carried on around all the unpacking. Mr 19 received his first semester exam results and he did great - as well as he expected in his strongest subjects and better than expected in the others. He was really pleased to be accepted into an internship for the second semester. The practical/applied nature of it should play to his strengths. And he won an award which allows him to take an extra paper outside of his degree requirements free of charge. If you told me that one of my kids would take an extra paper at the university level he would have been the last one I would have picked. I'm equal parts pleased and relieved that the kid who would not apply himself at home, could and did when he he had to. I was pretty sure he could and would but sometimes I wondered if I was just deluding myself. Reassured to know I wasn't! And Miss 22 landed a new job -  one that ties in with her eventual career goals rather than just being a source of income. It's good news for her but she'll be busy for the next week or two as she starts her new job while working out her notice period at her current job while continuing to work on her PhD.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Week Ending 2 July 2017

So much of this week has revolved around one of Miss 16's main passions - birding. On Monday night it was the evening meeting of our birding group. The speaker did a great job presenting the results of long term research into Black Petrels, a seabird species that breeds only on a couple of our offshore islands. She also mentioned that they often have opportunities for volunteer field research assistants. Needless to say Miss 16 was very interested and will definitely be following this opportunity up!

Tuesday saw us making a journey across town to the sewage ponds. Unfortunately, the bird we were hoping to spot wasn't to be found. Not to be deterred we made a return trip on Saturday and were rewarded by good views of the bird - a White-winged black tern - hawking for insects over one of the oxidation ponds.

Wednesday's mail saw the arrival of the national birding magazine and journal, so lots of time was spent on bird-related reading.


Miss 16 has three pieces in this edition of the magazine and is busy drafting an article for publication in the journal.
On Thursday we attended a full day workshop on braided rivers. Lots of great bird related presentations, since many of our most endangered species only breed in braided river habitat. But also lots of work focusing on other creatures that live in braided rivers - fish, grasshoppers -  as well as papers focusing on the ecosystem as a whole. Given that Miss 16 is inching closer to needing to make some decisions about her future, it's interesting to see what areas especially grab her attention. Hopefully a clue that will help make it easier to decide what and where to study at the university level.




The goal of the workshop was to share knowledge which will help increase the survival of species like this Kaki, which rely on the braided river habitat.

We realized that time was running out to participate in this year's garden bird survey, on Friday. Our temporary accommodation basically lacks a garden,  and therefore there aren't a lot of birds to be seen, unless we lean out a window and peer over a neighbours' fence. Instead we took the opportunity to walk to a homestead and public gardens just a few blocks away, where we found a sheltered spot and counted birds for an hour. Far more species than we see at home, but we did miss being able to count from the warmth of indoors! 

Part of the garden where we sat for an hour doing our bird survey. It also featured a lovely little gazebo with stained glass windows. We thought we might have had to take shelter in it if the wind increased or it started to rain. Thankfully shelter wasn't required.




I allowed Miss 16 to take a break from most of her normally scheduled schoolwork this week, so that she could focus on one particular project. She has been asked to submit a short paper on the Cox's Sandpiper to Notornis, the national ornithological journal. That bird was first seen in New Zealand late last year and Miss 16 played a role in it being officially recognized, which is I think why she was asked to write this paper. That, and right now people are conscious about fostering and encouraging young birders. But writing for a national, peer-reviewed scientific journal is a little intimidating and requires significant effort. So rather than try and squeeze it in between regular homeschooling and trampoline coaching and training (and trust me many days don't have any time left between those two things) I offered to clear her schedule so she'd have big chunks of time to work on the first draft.

The week wasn't totally bird focused though. Miss 16 continued with Animal Behaviour, since that is her longest course - the one that won't be finished when the rest of her planned work is scheduled to be complete. She also did a little grammar most days and we watched a movie since Dh somehow managed to find The Journey of August King for us. That was the one I thought we'd have to miss from her Movies as Literature course because I couldn't find it anywhere. And there was also trampolining, her regular coaching and training plus she volunteered to assess recreational athletes who were trying to earn incentive badges.

By rights I should be busy unpacking now, instead of writing a blog post. Sadly, our move back home has been delayed. It's only by a few days, but the delay is frustrating, not to mention financially costly to us. Despite some advantages to our temporary accommodation I'm definitely looking forward to getting back into our own place. Hopefully this week. The movers are booked so it had better happen! Just to add to the fun we had a call from the contractors to tell us they had damaged the carpet in our living room and it would need to be replaced. Of course that won't be done by the time we move back so we'll have to put up with concrete floors in the living room for a week or so, not to mention the hassle of moving the furniture back into the room, only to have to move it all back out again. Sigh...

Linking to the Weekly Wrap-Up and to Homeschool Highlights

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Week Ending 25 June 2017

Not a very exciting week at all. Once again I was out of the house more than I would have liked. My husband's class at the out-of-town university had their final exam, so he had to be out there several days so he could answer any last minute questions, then to collect the exam scripts for marking. Lots of reading time for me as I waited for him to be finished! Luckily Miss 16 doesn't really need me around and gets her school work done regardless.

Tossing coins to generate data (simulating the chances of two brown eyed parents producing a blue eyed child) for statistics. She was looking at binomial distributions this week

We finished reading The Odyssey for literature and then watched a Great Books video.

Typing up rare bird report. Ornithology isn't an official subject this year, but it is her passion. Real world writing is more meaningful than an artificial assignment.

I was geekily pleased to tie all of this week's poetry in to her other courses. We studied Langston Hughes's Harlem (Dream Deferred) mainly using the analysis from Schmoop. This obviously linked to last week's movie, A Raisin in the Sun. Then we looked at two poems about Helen of Troy, which linked back to The Odyssey. Just for fun I even found this little statistical gem!

The only thing that we didn't get to was her movies course. We couldn't find the movie in question in any video store or library, but did discover it on YouTube.  Except when we went to watch what we discovered instead was a link to a dodgy looking site. Sigh. So we resigned ourselves to having to skip that movie, which is a shame since it sounded interesting. It is based on a novel so if I can find the novel we might read that instead and discuss how we would turn it into a movie. Being unable to watch the movie left us with a few spare hours, so we decided to put them to good use, take advantage of our temporary accommodation and walk the couple of blocks to the mall to grab lunch.

Lunch at the mall was one of the things Miss 16 and I aimed to do while we are staying here. Walking to the weekly farmers market was another and we did that again this weekend. Another plan was to walk to a historic homestead and gardens which is just a few blocks from here. We haven't managed that yet so I hope the weather cooperates this coming week. If all goes according to schedule - and so far, amazingly enough, it seems to be - the repairs to our house should be finished by Friday, enabling us to move back over the weekend.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Week Ending 18 June 2017

We've spent most of this week trying to get back into routine since the previous three have been so disrupted. It hasn't been as easy as I'd hoped. Miss 16 has been struggling with a major decision which has affected her concentration and motivation. She's made a temporary decision but a permanent decision may be a few more weeks away. I think/hope that homeschooling will be better once she makes that final decision  - and makes peace with it, which may or may not turn out to be another thing entirely! 

The other factor that's affecting our routine is we are not actually at home and that seems to make so many simple things more complicated. I still don't know where everything lives in this house, the kitchen is small which makes meal prep tricky (most of the pantry items are stored in boxes outside the kitchen), I've never used gas before and the hob seems a little ... temperamental shall we say. It's not bad or impossible, just different and different takes adjusting too. Plus we've had to make trips to flooring stores, paint stores etc which has eaten into the amount of time I've actually been able to be involved in the homeschooling.

Still, we did manage to get a fair amount done. Not vocabulary since Miss 16 finished the first book before we left for the conference and guess where the next book is? That's right, in storage. But normal amounts of statistics (a return to the least understood topic so far, so that was challenging), grammar, poetry, history and animal behaviour were completed. We continued with The Odyssey (should wrap it up next week) for literature and added in a couple of online videos for extra interest. Plus we watched, discussed and analyzed A Raisin in the Sun for Miss 16's movies course.

A friend who travelled with us to the conference introduced us to Five Crowns. It's become our current favourite game. This week, if we were at home and not homeschooling we were most likely playing a round or two.
The week also had some good non-homeschool related things as well. One was the annual winter wader count. It was my job to organize it this year and we were very short on volunteers but it all worked out in the end. Miss 16 and I ended up doing two sections though which meant a lot of walking over uneven, wet boggy terrain and there weren't a lot of birds. But we thought our efforts were well rewarded when we spotted three Gull-billed terns, a rare species which neither of us had seen so far this year. The downside is Miss 16 now needs to submit a rare bird report for them, plus she was recently asked to submit one for a bird we saw way back in 2015, and she needs to start work on a short article she's been asked to a submit to the national ornithology journal. If only writing about birds was as much fun as going out looking at them!

Last night we ended up having a big family dinner. Mr 24 had flown back from Australia for the weekend for his girlfriend's birthday so they came around and joined us, along with Miss 22 (who is currently house sitting) and her boyfriend. The meal was a little more low key than I might have liked due to the limitations of our current kitchen (and the difficulties of trying to deal with all the different dietary restrictions - Miss 22 is vegetarian but there are lots of vegetables her boyfriend won't eat; apparently his family thinks it's hilarious he's dating a vegetarian) but it was great to catch up with Mr 24 and to spend more time with the partners of the oldest two. After a few years of contraction as the kids got older and left home/had other responsibilities it seems as if our family gatherings might have entered  a stage of expansion.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Fortnight Ending 11 June 2017

It's been a very busy fortnight. In many ways things are looking up at our temporary abode. The gas issues have been resolved meaning we have heat, hot water and a hob for cooking. Our cat has not yet fully accepted the move but is at least putting in an appearance every day for food. Yesterday she even came inside and slept for about six hours. I've no idea where she is hiding out the rest of the time but at least she knows where we are and is staying close. We even have Internet -  hooray, hooray. After I posted last time I went to do a load of washing ... and discovered the washing machine did not work properly. Something was wrong with the spin cycle and the clothes came out soaking wet. After 10 days the the repairers finally came to take it away and left us with a loan machine. It doesn't fit in the space the other one did so it sits in the middle of the laundry, making maneuvering in the room rather difficult. But it works and I now no longer have to spend a couple of hours a day at the laundromat. Amazing how much easier life is with these improvements.

Actually Miss 16 and I missed the worst of the no Internet/no washing machine deprivation because we've been out of town for nearly a week at an ornithology conference. She had a great time - found most of the papers interesting, took part in a banding workshop so got more hands-on experience with birds, and met up with a couple of friends from the young birders group. They even skipped out on one of the less interesting conference sessions and did a little birding by themselves.

Banding a Silvereye




My experience was a little less positive. As a regional rep I had a meeting to attend before the conference. It lasted over six hours! I wanted to go the banding workshop but there was another workshop at the same time that I thought would be of benefit to our group as a whole so I felt honour-bound to attend that instead - duty before personal pleasure and all that. The final day of the conference was field trip day. Miss 16 and I picked the same one and while there was some gorgeous scenery, none of the three rare species we were hoping to see cooperated. Frustratingly we heard one but the bus had to leave before anyone managed to track down the bird. We drove there and back with friends and - of course - did some birding along the way. Over the course of the trip I managed to spot seven new species for the year, while only three or four of them were new for Miss 16. We'd both hoped for more but I guess we now have a reason to go back.

Freezing fog rising above the lake.


Mirror Lake



The South Island Robin was one of the new species I added to my year list.

Somewhat surprisngly, May turned out to be a pretty good reading month for me. I completed fifteen books, almost half of which counted for my various reading challenges. My favorite titles were Fiona Davis's  The Dollhouse, Clare Mackintosh's I See You, Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham, The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion and Anna Pitoniak's The Futures: A New York Love Story.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Week Ending 28 May 2017

I remember reading that parenting is one of those jobs where the aim is to effectively make yourself redundant. I've also been know to joke that as my kids have got older my job mostly involves the 4 Cs - cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring and cash! And not everyone sees the point of the cleaning! Well on Monday I was officially made redundant from one of those jobs! On Monday morning our car looked like this



but by Monday afternoon it looked like this.




Yes, Miss 16 sat and passed her restricted drivers licence, meaning we can ditch the L plates and she can drive unaccompanied. (The restrictions are no passengers, except those legally permitted to supervise, and no driving unsupervised between 10 pm and 5 am - it's another year before she can sit the final test and become fully licensed). So I'm no longer employed as a chauffeur. For so many years my afternoons have been punctuated by gym drop-offs and pick-ups that it is rather strange to simply wave her off. I'm sure I'll get used to it!

At least there was no danger of my getting bored with all my spare time this week. We found out on Tuesday that our move was definitely happening but it had to be on Saturday, not the following Monday as we had expected. And by Saturday I mean the movers would arrive at 8 am and we had to have everything packed and ready to go. We had been led to believe the movers would be packing as well, but it appears that was misinformation. So I've been rather busy and a lot of my week looked like this.

I keep humming the song Little Boxes - even though not many of ours were little.



However, some homeschooling did happen - it was a great way to do something productive when we were sick of boxes!


I discovered Ian McKellan reading Robert Fagles translation of The Odyssey on YouTube so by using two devices we could read and listen at the same time. It helped me concentrate (I've been a little distracted all week) and let Miss 16 compare different versions as she has been reading from a different translation.

The movers came on Saturday and were very efficient at wrapping all the furniture and other big stuff and loading it all into the container, while I trundled back and forwards between home and our temporary home with things we wanted or needed to take with us, hoping all the while that we weren't forgetting anything important since we can't access our stuff while it's in storage.

Sadly the shift hasn't been without hiccups. The most frustrating is the failure of any of the gas appliances to work, despite us being assured that there was plenty of gas. No hot water and no hob for cooking is a bit limiting. At least there is electric heating as well as gas.  Currently we are driving back home  (15-20 minutes each way) for showers but once the repair crews start on Monday that option will be out.  Fingers crossed the gas issue will be sorted by then. Just in case I'm planning menus that don't need the hob. And to add to our woes our cat has disappeared - sadly from our new place,  not from home. Hopefully she is just sulking and lying low and will reappear when hunger gets the better of her.

That's all for for now. The new place doesn't have Internet either (actually that may be the most frustrating hiccup since I'm not sure it will be rectified, while I'm pretty sure the gas issue will be sorted - hopefully sooner rather than later) so I'm posting this from home while the rest of the family is grabbing a shower.

Hopefully everything is running more smoothly by next week.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Week Ending 21 May 2017

This has been an especially uneventful and routine week, which basically means I have nothing interesting to say.

* All the homeschooling proceeded as planned - one statistics lesson (on samples and surveys), half a chapter of animal behaviour, a history chapter (looking at the state of Maori society in the latter nineteenth century), some grammar, vocabulary and poetry, several books from The Odyssey,  one movie (The Music Man, which was much more appreciated than the previous week's selection), plus a meaty, belated paragraph relating to The Pearl.

* Trampoline coaching and training also proceeded as normal - except for Tuesday when Miss 16 texted me to pick her up early. Plain bouncing was okay but any attempts at twisting or somersaulting resulted in her feeling dizzy and nauseous. Obviously the lingering effects of the cold which affected her competition last weekend.

* We had planned to go birding today but the forecast was for very low temperature with cold, gale force winds. Driving over 90 minutes to explore a river mouth in such conditions sounded unpleasant at best, and likely to be a total waste of time (too windy to hold scopes steady and heavy rain in the high country means rivers are running high, forcing the birds to move away from the gravel islands they use for roosting and foraging). So I canceled the trip and we read and baked instead.

Red Velvet Cake


*In many ways I'm glad for this quiet week. It's the calm before the  coming storm. June is shaping up as a busy month (good busy, but busy is busy) and it's now virtually certain we are moving out of our house - in just over a week. So next week will be a whirlwind of sorting - what do we need to take with us to our temporary abode and what can go into storage for five weeks. It also means decisions need to be made about paint colours, floor coverings and the like. Unfortunately I missed the interior decorating gene and these decisions fill me with dread rather than excitement.