Wibbly, Wobbly Weightloss – losing weight the wibbly, wobbly way: Week 11


Hello and welcome to week 11 of Wibbly Wobbly Weightloss.  As expected it really has been a wibbly wobbly, up and down kind of journey.  This week has been a vast improvement on last week.  I haven’t been asked if I’m pregnant for starters!

Something I didn’t share last week because quite frankly I was a bit incredulous at the sheer amount, was that I seemed to have put on six pounds!  Six pounds!  That’s like, almost 1/2 a stone.  I knew I hadn’t been great but I surely hadn’t been six pounds worth of naughty!  This week I have lost six pounds which makes me think it must have been water retention.  Or something.  Anyhow, all’s normal now in my world of scale readings.

This week has been a personal best for me.  I have only snacked once in the evening, and that was only on 140 calories worth of popcorn.  However, the area I have really excelled in is exercise.  I have walked for 50 minutes or so most days, played badminton for almost an hour on Wednesday, gone to the gym twice and played golf once.

Those of you who know me in real life might right now be a little surprised.  ‘Golf?’ I hear you say, ‘But you hate golf!’  Yes, there is that.  Actually I don’t hate it, as such, more despise how bad I am at it.  I mean it is a game played with a thin stick which has a (tiny) swelling at the bottom.  And somehow, with this end you are meant to hit an equally tiny ball and hit it so hard it travels not yards, not tens of yards but hundreds of yards.  I mean, the odds aren’t good, are they?  Anyway, thinking it might be a good wifely thing to do, I surprised Gary by asking him if he’d like to go to the driving range with me on our Monday date night.  His little face was worth the anticipated frustration of an hour of humiliation.

I’m really not skilled at golf.  At all.  In fact my last foray into the wonderful world of tiny sticks and balls was over ten years ago.  Back then, only very rarely did my stick make contact with the ball, and on the odd occasion they did happen to meet the ball more often than not traversed to some place behind me.  I remember one particular shot with crystal, clear clarity based on the embarrassment it caused.  Gary had taught me all about placement, about the whole wiggling of the bum, the seriousness of approaching the ball, caressing the ball.  With a not very straight face I truly did try to do everything he had shown me to do.  And thwack.  For once the stick met the ball with such power and finesse, I even surprised myself.  That was until said ball, instead of travelling in front of me several hundred yards, as I had seen Gary do every time he hit the ball, it went up.  Up!  I mean, how?  Not only did it go up, it went up vertically and hit the roof of the driving range and made such an enormous noise I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me.  I hid those feelings, of course, by nonchalantly crossing my ankles, looking around innocently whilst whistling in the most relaxed way I knew how.

So, on Monday, I clutched hold of Gary’s hand in fear for both his life and mine.  Would we make it out of the driving range in one piece?  Would we make it out alive, even?  I needn’t have worried.  I was surprising good.  Now, I should give you my own definition of the word good.  Good is when Claire brings the stick in contact with the ball.  And the ball then travels forward.  It can go just two inches if it wants.  It still meets my definition of good.  So long as the ball does not go behind me, hit the roof or end up in someone else’s driving range lane (yes really), it’s all good.

I think I must have matured somewhat in the intervening years because I really enjoyed it.  I was still laughingly bad at it, but I was much better than I remembered being 10 years previously.  I enjoyed the banter, the inevitable play on words and the innuendos with cheesy grins (I obviously haven’t matured that much!).  But the best thing of all was when I asked Gary if he was having a good time and he smiled.  It was a huge smile and his eyes were full of love and appreciation.  He replied that he loved being here with me.  That smile, that love, made me ask myself why I had waited ten years before braving the horrors of the stick and the ball.  Every Monday we have made plans to go to the driving range, followed by the gym.  And maybe, just maybe, one day I will be good enough to be let out safely onto a golf course to play a whole round.  Regardless, I can see us enjoying many years together, wandering over golf courses, chatting, being with each other  and enjoying each other.

Lorna and I also had a rematch, in which I soundly defeated her.  I’d had a rotten day with my two youngest crying at any opportunity.  I wasn’t sure I even wanted to play, let alone lose as I had the week before.  Lorna was late and came in doing some exaggerated version of warm up exercises.  I giggled.  We played.  I giggled.  I won more points than lost.  I giggled.  Sometimes in life, everyone needs a Lorna.  A friend who is able to lift you out of the stress and see that life isn’t as serious as it seems in that moment.  By the end I was ready for the next round of crying children.  Thank you Lorna, I appreciate your friendship more than you know.

And then there was the gym.  To be honest, saying I went to the gym twice would be like saying I am well on my way to being skinny.  An exaggeration of the highest order.  Gary and I went on Monday after golf.  My primary goal was to learn how one machine worked.  So we went in, I jumped on the cross trainer and learnt how to use it.  I then set myself a ten minute cross train on the easiest setting.  By eight minutes I was inwardly urging the clock forward.  Surely it was broken or something.  If it didn’t reach the ten minute mark soon the gym people were going to have a dead Claire on their hands.  At last it got to ten minutes and I prepared myself to disembark, so relieved it was over.  You can imagine my dismay when it flashed up with a two-minute cool down.  I’m guessing for anyone else the cool down period would be carried out at the lowest level to, y’know, make it easier and cool them down.  Thing was I had already done ten minutes on the lowest level and I was almost unconscious.  I wasn’t sure I could make the cooling off period.  In fact cooling off was a misnomer for me as I became even more out of breath during it.  At last I could get off, go home, bath and become a couch potato again for an hour or so.  But I had successfully reached my goal.  I knew how to operate one machine.

The next time I went to the gym I lithely jumped on the cross trainer.  Ha!  I had a plan.  I set the timer for eight minutes this time, which with the two-minute cool down would give this incredibly unfit girl a full ten minute work out.  I started strong, ever so slightly pleased with myself for bettering the machine.  I’d played it at its own game and won.  Except the eight minute workout was harder than the ten minute workout had been the day before.  By the end I left the gym gasping for breath, metaphoric tail between legs.  The machine had once again prevailed.

Over to you.   How has everyone else done this week?


Native American Unit Week 1- The Birchbark House: Neebin (Summer)



The Birchbark House is book one of a four series set of books about a young, Ojibwe girl called Omakayas:


This first book is separated into four sections – the four seasons of the year.  Each chapter we read we find much to talk about and learn about.  In addition there are many parts of the story we are able to attempt to replicate.  This post will cover all the activities we did from the very first section of the book: Neebin (Summer).

Choosing Ojibwe Names

The book begins by introducing Omakayas, explaining that Omakayas is Ojibwe for Little Frog.  She was called Little Frog because her first step was a hop.  I thought it might be fun to find an Ojibwe name for the children based on some trait they display.  In the Ojibwe culture, according to Erdrich in The Birchbark house, only a few people had the right to give names and only then when the names had come to them in a vision or dream.

We used this website which not only gave some Ojibwe name suggestions but also explained what the word meant in English and also what characteristics a person with that particular name might display.

T12: Bagwunagijik – Hole in the Sky

L11: Abequa - Stays at Home

C11: Ominotago – Beautiful Voice

A6: Namid – Star Dancer

B3: Keezheekoni – Burning Fire

I have copied and pasted the meanings of the names we chose and the characteristics the person so named displays and popped them in a pdf file should you wish to have a peak:  Ojibwe names chosen

Meeting Our Ojibwe Family

The Birchbark House is set around the goings on of one Ojibwe family.  We had planned that the main hands on part of our study would revolve around an Ojibwe doll family.  Omakayas’ family consisted of Nokomis (her grandmother); her mother and father; as well as an older sister called Angeline, a younger brother called Pinch and a baby brother who as yet had not been given his Ojibwe name.  Our family would be considerably smaller with just a mother, a father and a baby:


The very observant among you might notice that I have two female dolls.  They were the only ones available.  The only male doll in the shop had very blond hair and so did not look terribly Native American.  We are hoping with some masculine clothing, head-gear and hairstyles she may look a little more like a he.

Over the next few weeks we will be slowly transforming these three dolls to an Ojibwe family complete with clothes and their very own wigwam.

Making a Wigwam (or Birchbark house)

One of the first activities Omakayas and her family had to do was to make their summer home, a wigwam made from Birch bark.  Our plan was to make a small version of a wigwam, large enough to house our Non-American American dolls, using flexible new growth branches from our Laurel tree and huge sheets of butcher’s paper.   This is a project we will be doing over the next couple of weeks but T12 made a good start by stripping some Laurel branches of their leaves:

Ribbet collagewigwamthomas

I am hoping Gary will help the children build a frame on Saturday and then we will begin adding our ‘Birch Bark’.

Stone Dolls

The first chapter mentions stone dolls and contains a picture of what they look like.  We used the only vaguely flat stones available to us (white ones collected on one of our beach visits).  The children were happy to build their dolls, but for them there was no play value attached to them because they kept toppling over:

Ribbet collagerockdolls

Moose Stew with  Maize and Manomin

Otherwise known as Venison,  sweet corn and mushroom stew served with wild rice.  Moose stew and wild rice were mentioned a few times.  I was a bit puzzled as to what I might make.  As far as I knew Moose meat wasn’t widely available in the UK.  I did Google it on the off-chance I was wrong and many suppliers of venison came up.  Moose = type of deer / Venison = deer meat sold in UK.  Bingo!  Waitrose was selling venison fairly reasonably so I bought some to go with the wild rice we already had at home (we eat that every week).  I added mushroom (the book mentioned they grew wild) and sweet corn (I already knew maize was a major crop).  I kind of chucked it all in and hoped for the best, and here is the result:

DSC_0180venison meal

It was a huge hit with all but my youngest daughter.  Gary even took some for lunch the next day and thought it was lovely!

Bear Claw

When Omakayas comes face to face with a mother grisly bear, one of her first thoughts was centred around the bear claw she had hanging around her neck.  She was concerned it might anger the bear even more.  As one of my goals is to make our Native American dress more Ojibwean we decided to make our own bear claws to hang on a home-made Ojibwe necklace.

We used clay to form a large claw shape and drilled a hole through the fattest part using a sharp pencil.  These were put to one side for use when we came to make our necklaces:


Ribbet collagebearclaw

A6 decided one bear claw wasn’t enough for her and chose to make a bear paw full of claws!


Willow Bark Dolls/Drift Wood Dolls

Omakayas and her brother and sister made dolls from whatever materials were available to them.  I sent the children outside to find something available in our natural environment with which to make a doll from.  This was much more successful than the stone dolls they had made, with all three younger ones playing with them:



Ribbet collagedriftwooddolls



Towards the end of Summer, Omakayas’ father Deydey returns from selling his furs.  One of the first thing he notices is his crop of corn or maize being eaten by the crows.  He instructs his two daughters to bang sticks to wave them away.  In the end the girls set a trap and catch a huge feast of crows which they then pluck and serve for dinner.

Funnily enough I had few (read no) volunteers for crow killing so we settled on cooking up some corn for dinner, which was what Omakayas’ mother served up to go with the crow, saving the husks for doll making later on:

Ribbet collagecorncob

Story Telling

As Erdrich brings summer to an end, Deydey is telling a story from his memories of the past.  This type of story telling is incredibly important to the Ojibwe people to keep their culture and traditions alive for generations to come.  We would be studying the Oral Traditions of the Ojibwe people in the coming week, but as a taster I asked the children to write about one of the memories of their childhood, as if they were relaying it to their grandchildren.  Feel free to have a peek at two of them, one outlining our tradition of travelling to Ireland annually and the other telling of a yearly birthday tradition:  Traditions of Old

The whole Native American culture has gripped my children, and the twins have been busy writing stories in the small amount of spare time they have.  Once they finish them I’ll post them.

Posts relating to the Native American study we have done this week

Next week I will be posting about our introduction to the Ojibwe people.

Homegrown Learners photo 50ee37ee-4f60-43f2-83eb-bb7deb75fd49_zpsbacda61d.png All Things Beautiful Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

The First Native Americans: Presenting the Information



This term we will not be having a major presentation at the end of the term.  Christmas is one of our busiest times of the year so instead of attempting to fit a big presentation around lots of concerts, charity fairs and the like we have decided to have a series of mini presentations instead.  Each week the children will be presenting all they have learnt that week to my mum and Gary (and any other poor, unsuspecting soul I might be able to persuade to visit).

This week they have carried out a quick over view study of Native Americans, attempting to understand why there were so many tribes and why they were all so different.  After making the map, they used this as well as the extra flap (the map was made on a large unfolded box) to create a small presentation board.  And this was where everything from the past few days came together to create something quite special:


This was ideal as it displayed all they had learnt geographically speaking as well containing all their written work of the week and any hands on projects they had made.  Here are some close-ups:











Everything was on hand.  Unlike our other presentation the children did not write out what they would say and key word it.  This time I simply asked them to narrate to Granny everything they had learnt, using the display board and map as reference.  They were a bit nervous about this but I knew how hard they had worked during the week and how interesting they had found what they were studying.  I knew they would do a great job.  And they did.

The first photos are of C11:

Showing Granny her spirit masks

Showing Granny her spirit masks


Explaining about the Sundance

Explaining about the Sundance

Finishing off

Finishing off

Next was L11:

Introducing her topic

Introducing her topic

Demonstrating some hand signals

Demonstrating some hand signals

More hand signals

More hand signals

Explaining the meanings of one, two and three puffs of smoke

Explaining the meanings of one, two and three puffs of smoke with a PlayMobil smoke signal man

And finally T12:

Talking about how the Native Americans first came to live in America

Talking about how the Native Americans first came to live in America

Showing Granny each of the abodes he made

Showing Granny each of the abodes he made

Granny was then left in peace to read all their mini essays about all they had been learning:


To finish off our brief foray into Native Americans and before we moved onto studying the Ojibwe people the children watched the Disney Pocahontas Movie with some popcorn:

Ribbet collagepocahontis

Next week I’ll be posting about the beginnings of our Ojibwe studies.

All Things Beautiful

The First Native American People: Appreciating the Tribal Differences



We continued to use the same books as before:

Ribbet collagenatam1The children also had access to their laptops and therefore the internet for research purposes.  We used the map we had made previously, building on the knowledge we had gathered the day before: the painted map ready for labelling

The main reason for us doing such a large map was for the children to really see the vast difference in the different tribal areas.  I printed off a map of the Biomes of North America, which handily were divided very similarly to the tribal areas:

DSC_0179american tundras

We had a chat about why these different biomes would affect what their inhabitants lived in and wore, what gods they might have and their spirituality as well as the importance of being able to communicate between tribes who spoke different languages, not to mention different dialects within those languages.  As a note I did check my information on the map with how the biomes were likely to have been 500 years plus ago.  See here for information.  That said this was a quick one week study so I did not want to spend too much time on this particular part of the study and I could not find a simple depiction of how the land laid all those years ago.

T12 went to work on making a small, quick model of each type of house:


I always enjoy watching his imagination sparked and this was no exception.  Here are the abodes he chose to make:

Ribbet collagedifferences

Ribbet collagedifferences2

As he went along he popped them onto the map where they would have been mostly likely to have existed using the following map from the Make it! book:


And his houses on the map (prior to any labelling of map or homes):



He also wrote a lovely essay on the Native American homes:


Meanwhile L11 was researching communication between tribes.  She began at the beginning with cave paintings and pictographs.  She decided to make her own petroglyph copying some of the pictographs from the Chumash rock art:

Here she working on it, using some old brown envelope and paints:


And the final ‘petroglyph':


She also looked into hand signals which were understood universally throughout the different tribes, deciding to ask her sister to take photos of her doing the hand signals:


These were Polaroid type photos and printed immediately from the camera:



She also wrote an essay on communication between tribes but I didn’t get a photo of it before it was cut up and stuck  on the board (more on that later) as well as using a Play Mobil figure and felt to demonstrate how smoke signals are made:


C11 made a great start on her topic of spirituality by making some plaster cast masks of Native American spirit masks using this kit:


She mixed the plaster and let it set in the molds:



After which she began painting them according to the patterns and colours given on the poster which came with the kit:



And here they are finished.  Her models are on the right with the pictures on the left:




She also wrote a fabulous essay on the religious beliefs of the Native Americans, but again I forgot to take a photo of it before sticking it on the board.  This is a little preview of some of it:


With all these hands on projects and essays we made up a presentation board and using this and the map the children gave a short presentation to my mum and to Gary.  But more about that tomorrow!

All Things Beautiful

The First Native American People: Mapping the Area



I had already decided to carry out an overview study of the settlement and migration of the Native Americans.  I wanted to get rid of the idea that the first peoples to populate America all lived in tepees and wore feathers.  It was to be a one week study, so I wanted it to be large and vibrant and dealt with in such a way that they would never forget the wondrous variety of the Native American people.

On Monday I had the children read through the following books and then we met up to discuss the plan for the week:

Ribbet collagenatam1

We decided that we would read through the Native American History out loud.  It had 8 chapters which meant a little under two chapters per day.  We would also be reading The Birch Bark House:

Current read alouds

I often buy books of similar ilk  to the Native American History for many of our studies but I have never read them aloud to the children.  I’m so pleased I did, it was a brilliant book and gave much more information and references than any of the other books.  I read and the children narrated.  There were 21 activities included of which we did a few.  However, in terms of meeting the need for an over view of the history of the first people of America it more than met our goal.

In order to show their migration and settlement we decided upon making a large and colourful paper mache map.  Size matters, I think, when it comes to maps.  Somehow making a large map and building models and the like on them is so helpful to understanding and retention of the information displayed.  I love watching a humble piece of card board and some paper mache mix come to life under the very able hands of my children.

First I drew a very rough outline of America with the Bering Straight at the top:


T12 followed my outline with the paper mache:


close up

close up

outline finished

outline finished

L11 painted the seas around the map:


And then all three of them divided up the land into tribes using the following page from Make It Work! Native Americans:


Once divided they painted each section a different colour, thus highlighting the different tribal areas:

working together

working together


the painted map ready for labelling

the painted map ready for labelling

Once the map had been painted the children labelled it and drew arrows to show the direction of migration.

As I am particularly focusing on T12’s writing this year, I had him do a written narration about how the Native Americans came to be in America.  Each day I have given him a different writing assignment and he is coping well.  My logic for doing this is that practice makes perfect and therefore I am expecting to see improvements daily.  We go over each piece of work daily together and we discuss any changes he might need to make which he does there and then.  I have been pleased with the quantity he is producing and the quality really is improving slowly each day:


We then discussed a topic related to the Native American culture that each child might like to focus on to illustrate how differently the tribes lived.  T12 chose to explore what they lived in; L11 chose to look at how they communicated with different tribes and the European pilgrims whilst C12 was excited to be digging into their spirituality.

All Things Beautiful

How to Make Native American Dress Up



We are incapable of doing any kind of study without at least attempting to create some dress up.  I did keep it simple though and ordered five cheap t-shirts for just over £1 each.  I chose brown and a large size for all.  The older children could wear them as tops whilst the younger girls could wear them as dresses.  Ultimately I wanted to recreate the following Ojibwe dress I found on the Minnesota Historical Foundation:

Ojibwe beaded hide dress and belt by Minnesota Historical Society, via Flickr

We had t-shirts, large sharp scissors and beads:


We cut the hems off each of the t-shirts:


And cut thin strips upwards from the bottom:



We then threaded the beads onto each strip.  One bead per strip and then tied a knot to keep it from falling off.  This was a great activity because even my younger two could join in:


Here is a close up of the beaded hem:


And B3 modelling her half-finished one:


Next we cut off the sleeve hems, cut strips into the remaining hems and threaded beads, knotting each one to secure:


I used a scarf as a make-shift belt until we make one.  Here is the basic costume finished:



Over the next few weeks we will be adding bits and pieces to the costume to give it a more authentically Ojibwe look.  But even without these accessories this dress up has been a hit!

All Things Beautiful

Wibbly Wobbly Weightloss – Losing Weight the Wibbly Wobbly Way : Week 10


So…I’m in a charity shop en mass with five children and husband.  A6 runs up to me, having picked up a stethoscope, and held the stethoscope end to my tummy whilst trying to hear my heart beat.  I said jokingly ‘Are you listening to my tummy?’  She giggled and ran off to listen to Gary’s tummy.  Mean while a lady walked up and smiled and nodding towards my tummy she asked how many I had in there.  Eh?  I’m not sure who was more embarrassed when I answered ‘none!’.  Relaying the story to Gary minutes later outside the shop, I giggled whilst trying to explain that I wasn’t upset she thought I might be pregnant (after all I know I’m overweight and frankly I felt too sorry for her to be annoyed), but I was a little concerned she thought there might be more than one in there!  I mean, come on people, I’m not that big!!

That said, it has definitely seemed like I might be eating for three this week.  I have been particularly hungry, particularly busy with a hugely successful school week, and it is THAT time of the month.  Maybe I do look like I’m pregnant with twins.  Gary assures me I don’t, on the basis that he has seen me pregnant with twins and end of bus comes to mind.  That and the fact I am still able to lift myself out of the bath and put on my own knickers and shoes (which he had to do for me near the end)  I breathed a sigh of relief.  So long as I can still dress myself, all is right with my world.  Now could someone please pass my the chocolate.  Perleeeese?

No?  Oh, okay, I suppose this is the wrong post to be begging for chocolate.  Right, focus on weight loss and healthy eating Claire.  I’ve not done much of either I’m afraid this week.  I have been exercising lots, with my usual 50 minutes walk and a game of badminton with a friend of mine.  Now I don’t need much encouragement to laugh, but honestly more calories were burnt in hysterics marvelling at my own ineptitude than actually, y’know, playing badminton.  Rather stupidly, I told Lorna that whilst I could play fairly well, my lack of fitness prevented me from actually getting to the shuttlecock to hit it back.  It was her choice.  She could either be kind and hit it to me and we could have a nice rally or she could be a nasty, horrible friend and make me run.  In which case there would be no rallies on account of the shuttlecock and I never meeting.  She chose the latter.  Really?

She got off to a great start and must have won about 10 points and I was yet to score.  My problem now was that I couldn’t stop laughing.  Which of course started her off.  Thankfully this gave me the advantage I needed and I suddenly started winning a few rallies.  She won but not before I had plonked myself on the floor and refused to move one step more.  At which point my son came to the rescue, followed swiftly by her son.  Well, I couldn’t let them think I had flaked out completely.  I would absolutely never here the end of it from my son.  So I dragged myself up and let her win.

I was, at this point, sweating buckets.  No healthy glow for me.  I was red-faced, wet through and gasping for breath but still grinning with the enjoyment of it all.  And Lorna?  She looked like she had just sauntered in.  Not even slightly out of breath.  Gary did his best to get a serious photo of us, but neither of us could stop laughing.  Ah the joy of  deep in the belly laughs.  You just can’t beat it.  Much like I just couldn’t beat Lorna.  I will though.  I’ve been practicing in the living room.  Watch out, Lorna.  This week it will be you on the floor begging for mercy!!





Yes, I really am so very mature.

So how have you done this week?  I trust a whole heap better than me.  I mean, you probably haven’t lost all your dignity and social standing on a badminton court and I can almost guarantee you haven’t been asked if you are pregnant.  With twins.  Or triplets.

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