Metamorphosis

How do you respond to changing seasons? We are experiencing change in many seasons right now; the weather in SA  is shifting from summer to autumn, our family is preparing to return to life in Canada and our children are changing and growing in so many ways. I have to admit, I’m not always good at change. I love going new places, meeting new people and having new experiences… within a controlled, predictable and generally reliable context. For example going on a holiday to the beach, staying in a nice hotel and eating great food is always a fun change. However, I know I will come back to my known life at the end of the holiday. As we begin our transition out of SA back to CA, I am faced with the great  unknown again. I have to say good-bye to the wonderful friends we’ve made, the beautiful country and the warm sunny climate. I am excited to return to family and friends but also nervous about re-entry into our life there. The kid’s friends will have new social dynamics, my friends will have their own routines and we will be coming back to rainy days and a big house to clean. First world problems entirely, but this blog is where I share our joys and struggles and we are at a bittersweet time right now caught between changing worlds.

We are always ready to go out and enjoy the local fauna and flora. This is a local Cheetah breeding project. We went on a tour of the Cheetah enclosures and listened to the tour guide tell us about Cheetah breeding habits and what factors most seem to determine their survival and ability to thrive in the wild.IMG_0300 The beautiful King Cheetah is a  rare recessive genetic colour pattern. We found out that the reason they are so rare is twofold; first of all they only occur when a mating pair each carry the recessive gene, and secondly this pattern does not actually camouflage as well with the landscape so consequently they are usually unable to hunt as well or are more easily spotted by other predators such as hyaenas.IMG_0292To compare the two here is a typical cheetah colour pattern.IMG_0305D has been taking tennis lessons much to his delight.IMG_0278He loves the activity and even more, loves his friends K and C who are in the same class.IMG_0282 We made our monthly rounds of the zoo for E’s honey badgers program. It was a cold rainy day this week so we spent a bit of time hiding under the umbrellas at the cafe…IMG_0359 …with hot chocolate of course!IMG_0332Despite the rain the animals were out and about and we had some great viewing of animals we don’t always see on sunny days.IMG_0382E’s s group stayed mostly indoors learning about bats and doing more paper-based tasks.IMG_0391E practised her reading aloud with some story time for the younger kids.IMG_0412Our beautiful sweet potato vine is finally living outdoors in a pot.IMG_0442This is the jungle gym  at our house and in all this rain we have to get out and play whenever the sun comes out for a few minutes.IMG_0452

We have been so blessed in our time here in SA. We’ve connected with a vibrant and diverse homeschooling community with many social learning opportunities as well as just making great friends. We did an art co-op with another family this week.IMG_0518 Who doesn’t love to play with finger paint??IMG_0525 IMG_0529 Tying into our pioneer/voortrekker theme we have been working on an multidicipinary project; a paper quilt using symmetry, geometry colour, pattern and line. I explained to the children that pioneers were very frugal and because they couldn’t always buy new things they learned to make most items for themselves. They used small scraps of fabric to make quilts out of whatever they had. The use of pattern was a way to beautify their simple, rustic homes and express their own creativity. It also gave them an activity to fill their time during long evenings or days indoors during winter. IMG_0533 We went to our last homeschool skating time 😦 IMG_0543 One of the highlights at skating is hot chips with lots of tomato sauce or as we would say in Canada; fries smothered in ketchup!IMG_0547 Ending our week we had a joint dinner with two families who have been dear friends to us here. Between our families we represent, British SA, Afrikaans SA, Italy, England and of course Canada.IMG_0557 The 3 musketeers!IMG_0578 And what dinner party would be complete without Kareoke? C rocked out the Afrikaans alt/country beat!IMG_0592 Sweet A singing a beautiful rendition of Norah JonesIMG_0614 Me pretending to a be an 80s rock star with Summer of 69, LOL!IMG_0615A mother-daughter moment with Abba!IMG_0621 These times together have been rich. full of laughter, heart sharing, growing and simply sharing our lives together. This morning we slept in after the late night last night and I watched E and her dad cuddle at the breakfast table  with a full heart. This life I have is so good! How can I measure the value of these days? The answer is that I simply can’t, these moments are priceless. Today is Sunday and I am counting the 1000+ gifts in my life and feeling profoundly grateful. IMG_0639Change will happen and we will adjust and choose gratitude wherever we find ourselves.

Holidays, Holy Days and Resolutions

Happy New Year! What brave new worlds lie ahead for you in 2014?IMG_8206

We have just come back from a fabulous holiday around the central and east part of SA. December was a whirlwind of activities and explorations. We enjoyed a mini-week at a reserve called the Pilanesberg where game sightings were abundant and our family was able to spend some quality time together. IMG_7692 IMG_7762 IMG_7770 IMG_7772 IMG_7805 IMG_7832Then Christmas was spent braaiing (outdoor BBQ meals), playing in pools and visiting with friends. It was a blur as we returned from the Pilanesberg on the 22 and then had to finish getting ready for Christmas. We began a new tradition this year with the children making their gifts for each other. E found and printed  pictures of characters from a game D likes on the internet. She then painstakingly glued them to cardboard, cut them out and decoupaged them into action figures D could play with. D browsed the internet with me and selected the idea of creating a Horse sock puppet for E. He helped sew buttons on for the eyes and yarn for the hair. It was great practise for his fine motor skills and creativity!IMG_8992 On Christmas Eve the children all acted out the Christmas Story for the adults. They did a very good job with E and her friend C actually creating a script from their bibles that included a portion of the magnificat. E was the angel Gabriel and took her role very seriously. IMG_8109 IMG_8106The boys were sheep and shepherds and although a bit silly they managed to do their part. Boxing day we packed our car and after a delay waiting for AAA to come and give us a boost, we were off to explore the beautiful Drakensberg Mountains. IMG_8214We enjoyed some lovely hiking, gourmet meals, swimming in the Cascades which is a series of natural pools and low waterfalls and capping it off with a night at an historic site from the Anglo-Boer War called Spionkop. This battle is of particular interest as it was a phenomenal failure of the British and a false victory for the Boers. There were also several prominent historical figures present such as; Winston Churchill who was there as a courier and war correspondent, Robert Baden-Powell, a commander, and Mahandas Ghandi who was a stretcher-bearer! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Spionkop)IMG_8307IMG_8342

We spent our last morning in the mountains at the Kwa Cheetah Breeding Project on the Nambiti Private Game Reserve.(http://www.cheetahinteraction.com) The program director explained that Cheetahs are actually more endangered than rhinos. Sadly they are killed for their beautiful fur and are suffering from encroachment on their natural habitats.IMG_8422

There was also a tame meerkat on the property that named Zulu. She was very friendly (especially to girls) and spent quite a bit of time cuddled up with E and I.IMG_8471

The really funny thing about Zulu though, is that she helped foster a wounded cub in the breeding program. The cub, named Yakira, had been stepped on by her mother when she was 4 days old which broke her shoulder. As Cheetahs rely on their speed and agility to hunt, she could never survive in the wild so the program hand-raised her and she is now their tame mascot. I don’t know if there has or ever will be again a cheetah that behaves like a meerkat but this was definitely a sight to behold! 🙂IMG_8477

She was a very calm animal and although we didn’t let little S wander about on his own, she was purring and enjoyed being petted by the visitors. IMG_8480

From the rainy, cool mountain heights in the “Berg”as it is affectionately called, we drove around the edge of Lesotho and descended 1600m to the Indian Ocean. IMG_8519We spent 4 wonderful days with dear friends in Ballito playing at the beach, trying local cuisine and most importantly reconnecting with these special people. We celebrated the New Year with them, eating, laughing, swimming and dancing the night and the old year away. IMG_8546It was a poignant moment at midnight to be with these treasured friends from our past singing Auld Lang Syne together and welcoming the promise of a new year.IMG_8545We reluctantly repacked our car to head out on the final leg of our journey. Our destination was Hluehluwe/ St. Lucia, the oldest game reserve in SA, located in the northern Natal, also called Zululand. Unfortunately, Hluehluwe was a bit of a bust with mediocre accommodation, expensive park fees, and difficult terrain for game spotting. Our final day at St. Lucia, however, was incredible. We signed up for an all- day safari that included game drive through the wetlands, snorkelling at Cape Vidal and finished with a Hippo and Croc boat cruise in the estuary. It was a truly epic day and redeemed our frustrating time at Hluehluwe. St. Lucia is a laid back holiday village filled with B&Bs, self-catering cottages/ apartments and restaurants. It is also a world heritage site with an estuary and inland lake that stretches for 350km and is home to literally thousands of Nile Crocodiles and Hippos. (http://www.isimangaliso.com/index.php) The governments of  SA, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe(?) have agreed to create a new protected corridor by 2020 extending from ISimangaliso Park north to Mozambique and Zimbabwe which will allow indigenous animals to migrate from the dry savannah to the coastal regions and back again. It’s inspiring to hear the pride in the rangers voices as they talk about this ambitious project and I can’t help but be proud of the African people for showing this commitment to protecting their beautiful land and animals!

Painted Reed Frogs:IMG_8614 Giant KingfisherIMG_8685  SnorkelingIMG_8646 IMG_8672 Can you spot the crocs?IMG_8987IMG_8828These are hippo teeth!IMG_8824A gorgeous tropical sunset.IMG_8906My final day in St. Lucia started with a walking bird safari at the crack of dawn. We have all developed an interest in birding since being here and are amazed at the diversity and beauty of the birds we have seen. This is a Southern Red Bishop Weaver:IMG_8239Blue-Cheeked Bee-EaterIMG_8978Brimstone CanaryIMG_8990We are now settling back into our house and routine and are moving boldly forward into whatever the new year brings. We have resolved as a family to keeping better track of our working time and to be more mindful of the way we speak to each other. We also intend to be more disciplined in our health routines and achieve a better lifestyle in the coming year.

Do you make resolutions? What is your greatest success story?

Time-travel and the quick Summer Highlights Reel

Exciting adventures await in a mere 24 hours so before we start sharing the new we’ll spend a few minutes catching up with y’all  and showing you what our summer looked like.

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We went to visit our dear great aunt and uncle and attend a family reunion. One of the many highlights of this visit is always a chance to drive the big machines connected to the family gravel business!

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Coming home it was time to harvest our yellow plums again and this year they became jam! Yummy!

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Another long awaited project, spreading sand over our yard to improve drainage and prep the ground for our small swimming pool.

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A walk in the canopy

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discovering the inside of a red cedar.Image

rock climbing at family camp!

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Pirate festival

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Hanging out watching the blacksmith at a local historic site.ImageImageImage

surprise rain at the zoo = fun new ponchos all around!Image

A few days with mom’s grandparents up north at the farm.Image

Haying season

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Stepping back in time to the Fraser River Goldrush in the historic community of Barkerville.ImageImageImageImageImage

Learning how a rocker box works to sluice gravel for gold.Image

Gold panning in the trough!

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A moment of repose with the cast from the local variety show.Image

new friends

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Learning about a Cornish waterwheel and how to sluice for gold! IMG_4909Ahhhh summer, you went by too fast. But stay tuned, there are some unexpected twists ahead in the road for this homeschooling family.

Random Acts of Kindness

In our part of the world we have a long weekend in May to celebrate the birthday of England’s Queen Victoria. This is always a holiday that kicks off summer but due to the unpredictable climate in our region summer sometimes looks pretty grey and overcast! Not to be deterred we headed off to do some local exploring along the coast, however, to our surprise, the water was warm and the rain was more of a gentle mist and our kids decided that it qualified as swimming weather! IMG_2274IMG_2304 It turned out to be a beautiful day with outdoor adventure, cultural exploration (their first Korean barbeque) and family connecting! Bring on summer!

IMG_2338 The next day we attended a parade in a nearby historic community and enjoyed seeing the tangible development of modes of transportation. From the pioneer days of covered wagons and horses,

IMG_2375 to huge steam powered tractors…

IMG_2370 … to trucks and cars!

IMG_2358 The marching bands were in good supply as well and we talked about the different instruments and how important it is for the band to keep the correct tempo in order to march and play in unison.

IMG_2372 Following the parade we joined some friends to participate in another nearby community celebration of kindness. 10 years ago a local church started doing small renovation projects for families in need. Over the years this has developed into an Extreme Home Makeover program that is supported by the local churches and community to help one family in need each year improve their home and by extension their lives.

IMG_2397  This single mom and her two boys were living in a mould-infested bungalow with no way of dealing with the problems. The A-OK team completely stripped their house down to the studs and rebuilt it from the inside out! What a thrill to watch this family see their new home for the first time and to join with this community in showing support and love to one another!

IMG_2396 For the kids there were hot-dogs, cake, fire trucks to clamber about in…

IMG_2416 and most importantly, friends to share it with.

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The greatest commandment is this, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbour as yourself. – Matthew 22:38-39

October 14-27

When we went to the clinic to get E’s stitches out we found out that her toe is infected and she has been ordered to complete bed rest for 3 days and a course of antibiotics. Consequently we are taking things slow with lots of book reading and some seat work. Continuing with  Time and Money and our Reading Skills workbooks. Our bible verses are Hebrews 4:12 , Ephesians 5:16-18. Following our quiet week E finally felt herself again and was able to  get out and about.

We headed north to Barrie for a couple of days with good friends and some outdoor exploring. We were able to visit a provincial park that had a collection of rescued/ injured Canadian wildlife. E and her brothers were enraptured with the friendly deer and had fun honking back at a territorial Trumpeter swan (from a distance of course :).

After that we headed south to downtown Toronto on a rainy day to see friends and spent some time at the public library reading books and doing puzzles. E discovered the Scaredy Squirrel books and thoroughly enjoyed the humour.

One day to rest then on the road eastward to the Toronto Zoo to see White Lions, Orangutans, Gorillas, Elephants, Giraffes, penguins and so many more animals than we have time to list here!

Pretending to be on safari on the African Savannah!

Finding out how penguins communicate:

Practising kindness in helping the smaller kids with us look through the view finder:

This is Hudson the one year old Polar Bear that was born at the zoo. He’s much bigger than the one year old in our family! We talked about the different growth rates between humans and animals like Polar Bears. 

At the end of a full day at the zoo we hopped in the van and drove a couple of hours  further east to Kingston to see our cousins at University. We spent a warm sunny day seeing the sights and had an impromptu history lesson on the border wars of Lake Ontario. This is a view of Fort Henry from the Wolfe Island ferry:

In an historically rich area like eastern Ontario one finds history lessons all around. This gentleman is a local musician (Sheesham & Lotus), who specializes in traditional instruments and we were the privileged first row audience during a spontaneous concert on the ferry that included a banjo, gourd banjo and a mouth bow. The man explained and demonstrated each instrument and told us about some of the interesting artefacts he collects. One of which is a penny farthing bicycle!We went on to go through a corn maze and enjoy a picnic and playtime in the park with the big cousins!