Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Microraptors and other stuff

We're a dino house, at the moment.  Have been for some time now.  When Niamh gets "into" something, she really gets into it.

First, there was the balloon phase, in which our entire house was covered in balloons for much of the time.

Next came the ball phase.  Ditto, with some balloons thrown in for good measure.

Then ducks.  (This photo was of her standing with her "goose" stick.  Which we had to leave in NSW.  Causing much angst.)

Then penguins.
And now, of course, dinosaurs.  (Or as they are sometimes known here, "bloody dinosaurs."  Especially when stepped on in the dark.  Not that I don't fully support her expensive, loud and at times incredibly painful and annoying obsession...)

Masses of plastic dinosaur figurines are one thing.  But today, we decided to make one of Niamh's favourite dinosaurs, the microraptor.  This spiffy little dinosaur was a bit of an evolutionary experiment - a four-winged, feathered dinosaur who could glide from tree to tree.  It was a bit of an on-the-hop activity, hence the questionable quality of the final result.  Materials to hand consisted of 3 toilet rolls, some aluminium foil, some feathers and some popsicle sticks.  So - not much.  Not enough, in hindsight.  But we did have fun anyway.  Mine looked a bit like a robot and a chicken had somehow managed to produce a robot rainbow chicken child with locked-in syndrome...but that's a whole other story.

Colouring in the body with permanent markers (toilet roll wrapped in aluminium foil)

Final product (feathers on popsicle sticks for the wings and legs).  This one was Niamh's.

And mine.  Go on.  Laugh.  I dare you.  I choked half to death on feathers to make this thing.  I suffered.

Mama, make me an incisivosaurus.

Yeah, sorry, Niamh.  Mama just isn't very good at making dinosaurs.  But I can make you into a princess:

Well.  Almost.

Oh, and in case you're wondering if we sit around all day, making crafty things and drilling ourselves on dinosaur facts, I must ruin the illusion.  I spent at least twenty minutes today throwing cusions at Niamh's butt, which was pointed in my direction, trying to make one stick on top.  Okay, so apparently she was a Bruhathkayosaurus and I was supposed to be a Gorgosaurus, but aside from the semantics, it was basically a mother pegging cushions at a child for 20 minutes.  Yep.  That's just how classy we are.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Shocking, I Know...

Here I am, blogging for the second day in a row like some sort of blogging superwoman...  Sadly, I think this might actually be a record for me.  Which tells you a lot about the sort of things I usually get up to in life.  Living life on the razor's daring edge - that's me.

Anyway, since once again I have nothing meaningful to say, I will bombard you with pictures.

Firstly, today's activity.  Window stars...or rather, window star, because today's activity didn't actually take place until around 4pm, after the 3 hours spent earlier in the day at an indoor play centre...oh, and then there was that batch of blue play dough I made, which probably counts as an activity in that it required stirring and swearing.

But I digress.  The window star (singular)

Did Niamh have a hand in its creation, you ask?  No.  She did not.  Apparently, the 10 billionth re-run of an episode of Hana's Helpline that we have recorded was far more important.  Actually, this gave me time to figure out how to make the bloody thing, because paper-folding and me have one of those kind of hate-scrunch-swear-obliterate type relationships, so now I can help her make her own one tomorrow.  If the tv isn't more important...  Anyway, if you'd like to make one (or an entire universe) of these lovely little hangings, the tutorial can be found HERE.

Sadly, my solitary star pales in lame comparison to THIS incredible creation, which is on the cards for the Tassie house as soon as we move in.  But given the "house on the market" status of our current house, I thought it better not to get too over-excited in the sticking-paper-onto-the-window department just yet.  Though I am excited.  And I do have glue and tissue paper.  Just sayin...

Anyway, while rifling through all the dino island photos I snapped yesterday, I couldn't help but notice a few funny pics (well, I found them funny.  But then my sense of humour is both warped and easily entertained).

Firstly, this caught my eye.

I call it "Pteranodon's Bad Day," because, well, he's flying through lava.  He looks fairly surprised about it, too.  But not nearly as surprised as Deinonychus (orange guy, shocked expression) in the background.  I swear he's saying, "Whoa!"  Or maybe, "Holy crap!  That guy's flying through lava, man!  Check it!"  While in the foreground, we have Ceratosaurus, who has managed to pull off a simultaneous impression of Godzilla while also looking like he is on the receiving end of a sucker punch from the volcano.  Nice work, Cerato!

And just to prove how hot it was, flying through the volcano, I knocked up this little heat-map:

 Deinonychus still looks pretty surprised.

I call this one, "Hi Mum!"  Deinonychus, once again, in the background.  I think he's the kind of dino who would be in the background of those live news stories, giving the camera the dino peace sign...(easy for T-Rex, because he only has 2 fingers on each hand)

And as if to prove his status as serial photo gate-crasher, he's bloody done it again...

And one more from today...check it out...volcano, dead centre, doing a fabbo Joan of Arc impersonation.  Serves him bloody right, too.

You know, I think there's the potential for a "where's Deino" type game in all this.  Kind of like Murphy, the rubber chicken, who travelled around Scotland with me (don't ask), and who sneakily managed to appear in many a happy snap.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Play Dough

I love play dough.  Niamh - poor, neglected waif that she is, has been begging me to make her some for over a week now.  However, play dough + mess + house on the market = point where mama puts her foot down and acts like some sort of tyrannical nay-saying overlord of fun killing oppression.  (Have you ever tried to dig play dough out of floorboards?  It's crap.  That's all I'm saying.)

After a busy weekend of open house, however, today I decided to lift the ban.  Partly, because I was also bored from the distinct lack of fun around here, and partly because well, what the hell.  But mostly because I was wracked by mummy guilt every time my foot-dragging, down-trodden oppressario scuffed her way past me, flashing me looks to see what effect her obvious and abject misery were having on my heartlessness.  (None.  Cough.)  Also, well, I was inspired.  I have discovered Filth Wizardry.

Whoa.  Talk about uber-mum!  It's the kind of blog you read and then instantly wish you were a child in that house.  Or a mum with that kind of awesomeness.  In fact, I heartily recommend you stop reading my pointless blog immediately and link over there at once.  I am not worthy.

Anyway, (why are you still here?!) while perusing page after page of awesomeness on the weekend (hours spent sans offspring and dogs left me with WAY too much time on my hands), THIS particular post caught my attention.  Dinosaurs?  Play dough?  That sounds like something a certain dinosaur-obsessed child I know could enjoy!

Here is our effort, in photos.

The underlying structure (made from two boxes, some balled up paper and aluminium foil).

Layering on the play dough

Cellophane for erupting volcano, lake and waterfall (Niamh's stingy mother drew the line at adding a real water dough ingredients were in too short supply to risk ruining a batch with a real water feature!)

Adding a few pipecleaner trees and some dinosaurs (it was around this point that I was regretting my decision to put ALL my craft supplies in storage until we move...)

Life on dino island is a little crowded.  Like Ibiza in summer.  But with an erupting volcano and neighbours who eat each other.

Final version, Mark I, with rosemary and mint trees.  Oh, and some of the dinosaurs are wearing "coats" which is apparently why they have pipecleaners balanced on them.  (Think I might need to work on offspring's application of effort, though obviously not her imagination, cos really...coats??)  And don't even mention poor Pteranodon, who frankly is having a really bad day after flying slightly too low to check out the volcano just prior to its Vesuvius impersonation...  Don't feel too bad for him, though.  He had a swim in the water, which apparently washed the lava right off him...  Some of the other dinosaurs weren't so lucky, and got "dissolved" by the lava.  (Once again, Ibiza springs to mind, only it's a different kind of fire-water that does the dissolving there...)

The brilliant thing about layering the play dough over the top of an underlying structure is that when you're done playing, you can just peel it all off and put it in ziplock bags to build all over again next time (which we've done, twice).  And then you can wrap yourself in cellophane and dance like the sun:

This performance inspired the creation of a sun mask, which is still a work in progress since we ran out of sticky tape halfway through.  And also I just realised that my elastic, which would have affixed said mask to sun child's head, is now packed.  In storage.  Dagnabbit.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Black and White

Playing around with my camera lately.  Some black and white shots today.

Play time at the park.

Oh, okay.  A few with colour.  Just a bit of colour.

First pic again.  This time with saturated colour.

 (Please note:  No image from this blog may be copied or reproduced without my express written permission.)

Saturday, 15 September 2012

What We've Been Up To

Lots to say, but no time to say it.  So I'll just upload some pics of what we've been up to.

Making her own dinosaur book

Typing on the computer using Word (bit hard to see, but she has copied the word "Compsognathus" - a type of dinosaur).  This was all her own idea.

Making dinosaur scenes out of construction paper and dinosaur foam stickers (great activity thought up on the fly by mother desperately trying to get dinner ready for hungry child!)

Part of birthday haul (yes - now we are three!)

Sleeping (rare, so photographic evidence was required)

Doing some experiments with motors and colours (parts came from a kit we bought at Scitech, which will be explored in more detail once we have moved)

Playing at the park

Writing our first word (oviraptor - a type of dinosaur.  Surprise, surprise!)

Helping Daddy wash the deck and patio

It's so much fun being 3!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Winners and Losers

A bit of an apt title, given that the Olympic Games are currently taking place in London - and what a spectacle of incredible achievement it has been!  (And I use the word "spectacle" as tongue-in-cheek as any other viewer limited to the cattle-truck type tour of the games that has been offered by the local free-to-air television network...and no, I'm not ungrateful for what I'm given, for free, by said network, in case anyone wants to pounce on me as some sort of non-pay-per-view whinging bludger...but when event after event is cut-off mid-competition, with no results ever displayed, or hell, not even shown at starts to grate.)

But I digress.  To me, anyone and everyone who competes at the Olympics is a winner.  Except those caught cheating (or not caught, for that matter).  But what an incredible achievement even to make it to the Games and represent one's country at such an elite level!  The dedication and fortitude that goes into such an effort is, frankly, beyond my couch-potato level of comprehension (though if they do ever have a couch-potato event, I'm there!).

And yet, the question keeps arising in my mind - why do some people "win" silver, and others "lose" gold??

I don't think it's just semantics.  I can certainly empathise with the heart-ache that must come with missing out on 1st place by 10000000000ths of a second (or so time-keeping these days seems to be!) be so close, and to miss out by an atom of a whisker...!  Yes.  It must hurt like hell.  And in that awful moment, it probably does feel like one's world has ended.  To then have cameras shoved into one's face and to be asked questions along the lines of, "Where did you go wrong?" can only cement a moment of devastation which surely must rock an athlete to their core.  Small wonder some of them find it hard to speak positively about themselves and their experience of competition and their expectations to come!

But as a lay-person questioning this...I have only one thing to ask.  And it is thus:

How in the all the holy frigging mother-loving fires of hellish gall can someone, often themselves a non-athlete (or perhaps even a very successful, yet retired one), be so ignorant as to imply in that moment of questioning after a race that anyone who achieves the incredible honour of a SILVER MEDAL at an Olympic Games has somehow lost???  Lost what??!  2nd place out of 7 billion people on the planet aint a bad thing!  That's, what...better placed than 99.9999999999999999999999999999% of the population??

I did hear a sporting commentator try to explain the difference between someone winning silver and losing the gold - and his explanation made infinite sense to me: That to lose by an inch when you expect (or are expected) to win can only feel like failure, but to achieve second place when you expect (or are expected) to win nothing at all feels like a huge achievement.  I can agree with that sentiment.  I can even understand it, though personally I have never been in a position to compete at such a level.

But the distinction between "winning" and "losing" - notably at the Olympics, but one can extend the concept much, much further - concerns me, regardless of any attempt to rationalise it.  And here is my hypoethesis as to why.  I think we are conditioned, as a society, and in no small part, to see pretty much the whole of life as something in which we either win, or lose.  And moreso, I think we are conditioned to see ourselves as either winners, or losers.  And when I say "we" here, I am talking specifically about those of us living in a Western-style society, or similar.  But where does this very evil and ultimately limiting belief come from?  Why should we view life in such bitter terms?

I am going to pose two socially controversial answers to this.  Firstly, I believe conventional parenting practices are to blame.  And secondly, possibly most at fault - the conventional school system.  Well - now that I look at it, I guess I would have to say that perhaps a social system which not only accepts but encourages the concept of people who must then be categorised, by external and often arbritrary means, as either winners or losers (and nothing in between) is the godfather of all evil.  Each beast both feeds the others, which in turn feeds itself, sort of like the proverbial snake eating its own tail.

Now before you feel all defensive...I'm not blaming parents by any means, conventional or otherwise.  After all, they were, for the most part, themselves conventionally parented, and conventionally schooled, and as such are doing the best they can with the best of intentions, and the highest degree of love, based on what they have been taught to believe is the right and only way.  Nor do I blame individual schools, most of which - at least in this country - I believe to be striving continuously to improve the situation for the students in their care and absolutely genuine in their belief that the level - and type - of education they offer their students will benefit them.  It is the system of constant grading, of evaluating and punishing and praising and rewarding and failing that is evil...and more so yet, it is the unquestioned assumption that without these things being inflicted upon our children and our students, they cannot possibly become better human beings.  It is the system that perpetuates the myth that this sort of treatment creates better human beings!  It is the system which offers nothing but confusion - brilliant at maths, but keep failing science, and only got a C in history?  It is the system that believes that children are somehow born lesser creatures, incapable of intelligence or kindness or self-motivation, which must then be moulded and failed and graded and in some cases beaten into some ideal of socially-perfected adulthood.  (And at what age that mythical version of adulthood is meant to be attained, who knows?)  It is the system that creates arbritrary winners and losers every day - you get an A, you get an F; you must clean your room now because [insert reason why child must lose and parent must win here]; because I'm the mum, that's why!  You didn't win the silver - you lost the gold.

We are, almost all of us, creatures of this system.  For those of us who went through conventional schooling, and who were conventionally parented, our belief in ourselves has been forever changed.  Children today, however, seem to have it worse than we did.  The pressure is being heaped on them at a much earlier age - and the belief that they can only be either winners or losers is absolute.  Perpetuated in every corner of society, and hammered into us every minute by a media who fully subscribes to and participates in the moral demise of its consumers.  Didn't get exposed to a baby reading programme while in infancy?  Loser.  Didn't participate in an accelarated pre-school programme?  Loser.  Didn't know how to use scissors in kindergarten?  Loser.  Wasn't toilet-trained by 12 months of age?  Loser.

The weight of the word itself - loser - is enough to terrify parents!  And why wouldn't it?  The awful certainty that their child will end up a loser - and worse, that they could have prevented this from happening by subjecting their baby to flash cards for hours a day from birth - is a terror not worth contemplating.  I'm not being flippant.  It's the shocking and very sad truth.  I have even felt it myself, in my less lucid moments.  Fear and terror as only a loving parent can experience.  Unfortunately, the impact of all this parental terror lands squarely on those we want most to protect...our children, who are now learning almost from birth than they must win at all costs, or will be relegated to loserdom for all time.

Didn't win the silver but lost the gold.  What have we done to our children?  What have we done to our society?  It is wrong.  And yet why we are so socially conditioned to this way of thinking, so blindly accepting of this injustice?  Because we have been conditioned to believe that we are all, somehow, losers.  Whether through a teacher's ill-timed or undeserved judgement of our performance at school, or the constant reminders from our parents that we really aren't trying hard enough (to be winners, ergo, we must therefore already BE a loser), most of us don't even try to buck the system, because we know we have already lost.  And the system needs it to be this way - because god forbid we ended up with a society full of people who truly believed they could achieve anything they put themselves to.  Who would do all the menial jobs?  Not the winners, that's for sure.  (Incidentally, apparently the number one growing job in the USA is...wait for it...Walmart clerk, closely followed by well-known food chain burger flipper.)

School is the mechanism by which society keeps the overwhelming majority in our place...never winning the silver, always losing the gold.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Hatching A Dinosaur Egg

It appears penguins have taken...well...a bit of a backseat, since our visit to the Dinosaur puppet show the other day (which incidentally was amazingly good!).

Part of this is due to the painstakingly drawn-out excitement of hatching our very own dinosaur egg.

Please enjoy the following pictorial examination of the process:

Emerging the egg in water

(Note that the instructions then said to wait 12-24 hours for it to fully hatch.  With a 2 year old constantly hanging over it, asking "Is it hatching yet???")

The first crack appears (approximately 28 hours later)

It was at this point that the egg received the first of what can only be termed "invasive birth intervention" by the aforementioned 2 year old impatient dinosaur obstetrician:

Shortly thereafter:

One baby Muttaburrasaurus, a uniquely Australian dinosaur - although since Australia was nowhere near where it is today at the time when this lovely little vegetarian roamed the earth, perhaps our claim to him is a bit on the idealistic side.  Either way, he is a bit cute, and I'm happy he's ours.

Here was Muttaburrasaurus today, playing in some snow with his other dinosaur friends Stegosaurus, Velociraptor (don't ask), Spinosaurus and Baby Triceratops:

Note also at this point that the instructions required baby Muttaburra to stay submerged in his water bath for SEVEN DAYS to reach his full size. 

Niamh enjoyed the process so much - and the puppet show - that her daddy is taking her back tomorrow to see it all over again.  She has already announced her intentions to return with a blue egg this time...oh, and a green one...and the other egg the colour of which she has forgotten...

I love her new interest in dinosaurs.  And what a lovely unschooling week we've had, learning all about them!

If you'd like to learn more about Muttaburrasaurus, you can find out all about it HERE .

Saturday, 30 June 2012

July is Penguin Month!

In the spirit of keeping my child entertained, I have put a whole heap of new things on her shelves this month.  Most of them are Montessori-inspired - largely because she keeps telling me to make her "jobs like I used to do," and also because she likes to have a choice of things to do.  I do still very much enjoy the Montessori-style activities, especially when I can see how much Niamh loves to do them.  I suspect our learning style will end up a bit ecclectic, at least in the early years.

Anyway, here's what we have to play with:

Sticker number matching.  She loves these foam number stickers (and we also have letters and animals), and rather than just allowing her to plaster the house (which she was doing), I came up with this little number matching game.  It's not about number recognition (though she does ask and recognise the numbers) but more about making the correct match with the stickers provided.

And here's her trying it out (Mess?  What mess?):

 A spooning activity:

 A tonging and colour separation activity:

Very Montessori - introduction to decimal system golden beads:

Glass bead pattern and shape matching (this one is a big hit - especially when we made penguin shapes out of them!)

We also have play dough, stacking boxes, lego, wooden food and cutlery sets, wooden blocks and a whole heap of other things.  We also tried cutting an orange and squeezing our own juice today using a hand-juicer.  She barely ended up with a mouthful, but she had fun, so I'm sure it'll be something she'll ask to do again (in fact, she already has...but 3 oranges is probably enough for one day!).

Oh!  I nearly forgot about Penguin Month.  Each month, we are going to look at a specific topic (we even have a little box...I will take a photo and post it later).  This month is...surprise surprise...penguin month!  We have already made a world map showing where penguins live (I'll post a photo later), made penguin play dough shapes, and of course, there is this month's sensory tub:

In this tub are:

- White, black and yellow pompoms (looks a bit like a penguin colony on snow)
- 8 penguin buttons
- 3 ice blue and 1 glittery "snow flakes" (pompoms)
- penguin food (fish, squid and krill made out of clear plastic and silver pen)
- ice cubes and water droplets (glass beads)
- sticker spelling game - she needs to find, match and make the words "egg," "chick," and "penguin"
   using the foam stickers in the tub
- photos of a penguin egg, chick and adult penguin

Here's what it looks like all crammed in:

Doing the penguin sticker spelling:

We are heading off to the museum tomorrow to see a dinosaur puppet show, which I am hoping she will enjoy (even though it's not penguins).