Monday, December 29, 2014

Around Canberra - A tale of two lookouts!

Over Christmas, my Mum came to visit! One of the reasons I like having visitors is that (apart from suddenly having a clean house in preparation) you get to "play tourist" in your home town. Which is now Canberra! So let's go on a little tour, shall we? And maybe learn a bit about Australia's capital too :-)

Canberra is a planned city. Unlike Sydney or Melbourne which sprawled from humble beginnings, Canberra was always destined to be great! Once Federation occurred in 1901, Australia needed a capital city and so a location was decided upon and a competition announced in 1911 to design it and Walter Burley Griffin of Chicago, Illinois, USA was declared the winner. To be fair, the paintings of his wife, Marion Mahoney Griffin, helped a fair bit.


It is from the top of Mt Ainslie, that you can get a sense of their vision and how it played out on the Canberra landscape.

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Kind of amazing how all that planning transformed into real life!!!

For those unfamiliar with Canberra you are looking out over (from the foreground to the background) the Remembrance Nature Park, the Australian War Memorial, Anzac Parade (the big avenue), Lake Burley Griffin (named after you know who), Reconciliation Place, Old Parliament House (now Museum of Australian Democracy), New Parliament House and the southern part of Canberra. The hills in the background are the Brindabella Ranges.

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Now apparently, we were always taught that  the word "Canberra" meant "meeting place" (derived from Kambera or Canberry, in Ngunnawal language of the indigenous owners of the land). That would make sense, to have our nation's capital in a place that meant "meeting place". But no! According to Ngunnawal elder, Don Bell, the correct interpretation is "woman's breasts" as a result of it being nestled between Mount Ainslie and Black Mountain, "nganbra" or the hollow between a woman's breasts. Makes sense too.

And so to Black Mountain (the other breast!). It is now an iconic part of Canberra, which even locals use to orientate ourselves, because perched on top is the commercially named Telstra Tower. It is a telecommunications tower (owned by Telstra, duh) which rises 195.2 metres (640 feet) above the summit of Black Mountain. You can see it from everywhere in Canberra (except my house, because it's hidden by another hill, but nearly the whole of Canberra).

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Needless to say, the view from the top is nothing short of spectacular (if a little windy, up on the open observation deck!)

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Now cast your minds back to the mid-eighties (if, indeed, you were around back then!) and a young Ingi on a trip to Canberra with her family. We may have taken a similar photo!!!

Canberra from Black Mountain

There is a little more development (most notably Australian National University, Civic the city centre, New Acton and the completed Parliament House), but basically the same.

There you are! A bit of Canberra's geography and history for you! I have uncovered a treasure trove of those mid-eighties photos, so stay tuned for some "before and after" pics of Canberra (and if you're good, me!).

What's your capital city?

Do you have a favourite lookout (share a pic!)?


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ho, ho (belated) ho (hum)

Happy holidays to you all!

I managed to snag a whole 5 days off in a row, but Hubby's new job (and impending cruise) means that he only had two days off. And so we were tied to Canberra. Which after 10 years of being tied to the South Coast, I wasn't too sad about! But it also meant any ideas I had of visiting family (and just quietly, letting someone else do all the Christmas stuff) were abandoned. So we did Christmas here. And my mum came to visit :-)

I may have expressed before how exhausted Christmas can make me feel. Especially if you are the Mum. And especially because it's been a very busy year around here, and I don't know about you, but I could not justify a huge Christmas this year. Again, and maybe especially this year working in a shopping centre, the Christmas fervour seems to have gone mad. Decorations up in October (what???), 5 weeks of Santa's flash going off in my eyes at work, posts on social media about whether they've finished/started shopping (in November). I mean, really!!!

I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels a bit "meh" about the whole thing. As I get older (grumpier more hormonal?) I question the emphasis society puts on Christmas. It just seems like so much PRESSURE.

I copped a bit of flak on social media about my supposed lack of Christmas effort. In my defence, most all of my decorations are in boxes in the garage down the coast and I couldn't be assed buying a whole heap of new ones. There's a tree (of sorts), there's a nutcracker, I bought some pretty tealights from Dusk. What more do you want, people? Plus, now we are on the flipside of Christmas, I can't tell you how happy I am that there aren't a ton of decorations to be taken down.

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Everyone got presents. The kids got excited (yanno, in that way that only teenagers can). The dog enjoyed his annual destroying of the wrapping paper:

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I also cooked lunch! Oh yes I did!!!

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So in the end, we did alright. I did BETTER than alright! I just avoided the stress that goes with it. Christmas was still special and noone got migraines in the process and that's what counts, right???

Did you manage a special Christmas?

Tired of seeing decorations in September too? (see how it just gets earlier and earlier?)

Did it snow where you are??? I'm sure that would make me less grumpy :-)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

End of an era...

And here we are. Four years after we started, finishing up homeschooling.

We are ending more with a whimper, than a bang, but that is also one of the reasons we are going to back to school. Yet, there are still signs around the house that we were, at least for a bit, homeschoolers:

[caption id="attachment_2111" align="aligncenter" width="640"]IMG_8039 We did craft once...felties![/caption]

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I feel a little bit sad, because there was so much I wanted to do, but we never quite got there. There are quite a few unfinished and never started projects hanging around the house and ideas hanging around my head.

But you know what? As I said to the kids, I don't regret what we did - not for one second. Look at just some of the lovely memories we have to look back on:



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Oh, that made me a bit teary, looking back at all the cool things we did, together. TOGETHER! And how much they've grown! They've journeyed from children to young adults. Oh sure, we've had our difficult moments and sure, there aren't as many lovely pics from this year, but I'm so glad we did it.

And you know, I met so many lovely people! In real life and online, through this blog and Facebook and the Home Education Association. A real community! I thank every one of you for the support and tidbits and joy in our journey together.

In a few short weeks, I'll be posting pics of kids starting school in their shiny new uniforms. At one stage, I was very convinced we'd never do that ever again. But never say never. It's just a new phase in our lives, but as I look back on the last four years, I'll always look back with fondbness at our homeschooling era.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Transitioning - homeschool to actual school

Wow. So this is really happening! My homeschooled kids are headed back to bricks and mortar school.

Last week, I sent Video Boy and Wombat Girl back into the "real world" - well, transition days into Year 10 (I think that would be the equivalent of Freshman year in US high schools - someone correct me if I'm wrong?). I had to go to work (a recurring them around here), so Hubby dropped them at the front office. They found the group and went into the gym for the compulsory Catholic school intro and prayer. Wombat Girl wanted to know if she had to learn anything for that, because there hasn't been a lot of prayers in the last four years, but I assured her that she would be fine just listening. In fact, the Principal made a point of saying that all faiths and even(!) atheists were welcome at the school, as long as they were respectful.

And then Wombat Girl got lost. Now, I must preface this paragraph with a reminder of her last transition/orientation day where she found herself separated from her class and, not knowing what to do, took herself off to hide in the toilets. When I went to hand over her bag which she had left with us at recess, her teacher had NO IDEA that she was missing. A frantic search finally found her in the toilets and I'm not ashamed to say I might have shed a tear of relief. Anyhoo, with this emotional baggage in tow, fast forward 5 years and this time she had not been allocated a roll call class, and when she had, a teacher accompanied her (and another non-allocated student) to where her class should have been. And then walked around the school with her until they found where they had moved to. All good. But school bureaucracy....don't get me started!

Practical upshot of the two days? Kids enjoyed themselves (even P.E.), met friends (homeschoolers socialising? Who'da thunk it???) and enjoyed trying out a few Elective subjects.

Warning - proud homeschooling mumma moments!

In Video Boy's maths class, teacher shows pictures of fractals and asks if anyone knows what they are. VB waits a while, noone else answers, so he pipes up "a fractal". Yay for the homeschooler!

In Wombat Girl's class, they were asked if something cost $4 plus half its cost, how much is it? Lots of people yelling out 6, but WG pipes up 8 (which is the right answer). Yay for the homeschooler!

And yay for my clever kids!

And so they decided that they were very happy with the Catholic school option and that going to the other option was only going to confuse the issue. Decision made.

Tonight I have sent off enrollment acceptance forms and elective choices. WHO AM I???

But the kids are excited and happy and that is a good thing. And I will continue to add more good, bad and ugly stories of the transition from homeschooling back to to school - hopefully lots more of the good than anything else! In a perfect world, they will go back and SMASH IT and make lots of friends and wow the teachers who will say "well, who'da thunk homeschoolers could make the transition so well?" But, I'll let you know all the tricky bits too, because this is the real world, after all.

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I might also post about cruises, my coffee addiction and other random goings on in our lives - that would be OK too, wouldn't it?

Have your kids moved back to school after homeschool?

Did they smash it?

What's your best story of losing a child?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Back to school?

Hi y'all my loyal readers! I do realise I've kind of stopped mid-way into my holiday blogging. I do realise I'm leaving you hanging. I'm so sorry. I will continue the journey...

Life has just got in the way, you know? Like I get up at 7am, am at work by 8:20am, finish anywhere between 5:30pm and 8pm, come home (usually via the grocery store and more often than not via Beer, Wine and Spirits, where if you are friends with me on Facebook, you will have been following the Mrs BWS saga of bad service - I should post those status updates here - apparently they are hilarious), cook dinner, check Facebook (and update on Mrs BWS because there is NOTHING on TV) and am in beddy-byes by 9:30pm, where I toss and turn until about 1am because HORMONES.


So, I rarely have enough "oomph" left in me to sit up and miniaturise photos (which I never had to do on Blogger!) and blog about a long forgotten about holiday. But it's a good memory for me, so I will finish the holiday posts eventually.

And so, here we are. I wanted to touch base with you, because we are in the process of trying to decide which school to send Wombat Girl and Video Boy to next year! Decisions, decisions...

They need something else better than a half-assed attempt at homeschooling from me. I wish financially I could stay and home and do amazing stuff with them and join in all the homeschool groups, but :-( I can't. So I think, on balance, they will be better off at school. We just need to find the right fit.

So we have been to see two schools nearby, had interviews, shown documentation and have been accepted by both schools. One a public senior school (Years 10, 11 and 12) who have a specialist Science/Maths program (which about 10 local kids take up) - the rest of the year is made up of a specialist sports program, which means many big, boofy football types wandering around the corridors. The other is a Catholic school, who have Japanese and a Learning Support teacher who actually does individual learning plans for the kids. Next week, the kids will spend a day in each school on "transition day" and will get to get a feel for each.

But you know what? Sitting in interview rooms, talking to teachers, is DOING MY HEAD IN. I can't get past that overwhelming feeling they don't "get" kids like mine. I have some ish-shues with some of the words that are coming out mouths:

  • a vice-principal confusing ADHD and Aspergers (I mean, really?)

  • a campus head asking Video Boy what he will do if he forgets his Ritalin (well, duh, he will follow procedure - he doesn't have to make the procedure up, dickhead)

  • a Learning Support teacher who states that the research shows that acceleration of gifted kids leads to poor outcomes (what, like Miraca Gross' longitudinal study showing that for exceptionally and profoundly gifted kids NOT accelerating actually harms the kids socially and emotionally?)

  • to the Head Teacher who wants to stretch them "sideways" because it's important they are well-rounded. (why is this? Show me the research!)

I dunno. Just a few alarm bells ringing.


But we also KNOW it's an imperfect system. We know there are opportunities (an actual real science lab, chess tournaments, actual read other children) which we aren't accessing through homeschooling currently. There are pros and there are cons. I'm just hoping that the cons don't away the pros...

I'll try to be back next week to let you know how the kids got on and if we are any closer to making a decision!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The hottest day of my life - Chan May, Vietnam

I was very much looking forward to Vietnam - I've only heard good things from those who had been there. And so it was with eager anticipation that we awoke to this:


And we weren't the only ones up and about to see our new port:


It was already a humid 28C, and my camera steamed up as I went from air-conditioned comfort to step outside and take pics. The ship had docked in Chan May, a container terminal port, and judging by the scenery, as pretty as it was, there wasn't too much around, except the odd resort.

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As is our wont, though, we hadn't booked a tour. There was a shuttle bus that took us to a nearby resort, Lang Co, so we hopped on that. The resort was a bit run-down, if I'm going to be honest. We were warned that the taxis at the wharf were illegal and that you could possibly end up being taken up into the hills and never being heard of again. There were taxis at the resort, but to get to Da Nang (the nearest city) was going to take 1.5 hours and it was already 11am.


Did I mention it was hot? It was soooooo hot. 34C, blazing hot sun and over 90% humidity. So hot. And that kind of made us all a bit cranky with each other. So after some cranky discussion, we decided NOT to catch a dodgy cab, and to make the best of the resort. Except they wanted US$5 per person to sit by the pool and we didn't have US$5 per person on us. Why? Because someone (um, me!) got hassled down the beach.


IMG_7604Now I am going to admit straight up that I am the worlds worst haggler. We wandered down to the beach and were immediately greeted by Vietnamese ladies selling all sorts of pretties. I had not really acclimatised to that yet and started having a chat with them. They were wearing long-sleeved shirts, socks, hats and face masks. I asked them if they were hot, and they said no, but the reason they covered up was because fair skin is highly valued in Vietnam. Anyways, a bit of a haggle back and forth and I got my silver elephant bracelet for roughly $15 Aussie dollars and I was happy with that. But Wombat Girl had also picked out a bracelet, so I paid for that too. And that pretty much left us with about $10. Enough for a couple of beers. Or to be able to sit by the pool (because the beach was too freaking hot). But no. They insisted on $5 EACH and so, the pool was out of the question, because I had spent nearly all our Vietnamese money.

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So Hubby and Wombat Girl decided to get changed and go for a swim in the South China Sea. I contemplated it, but to be honest, getting my fat ass out of my sweaty clothes and trying to wiggle it into a swimming costume made me feel exhausted and Video Boy doesn't much like the beach, so we sat and watched from the best vantage point - the set of stairs leading down to the beach, in the shade, with the odd breeze to cool us off.

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IMG_7618OODid you notice how red my face was? Kids kept asking me if I was OK. Yes! I'm OK - just ridiculously hot! The cool of the ship beckoned and we decided to head back.

I just Googled Lang Co to put the link in this post and apparently, there are Elephant Springs just 15km away. With shade shelters and cool, clear water and ice-cold beers for sale. I'm a tad cranky at myself now. Always Google before you travel, people! Far out, brussel sprout:

Let's pretend I never saw that, shall we? If I ever find myself back in Chan May, though, I know where to head. Either that or actually take the damn tour.

We headed back to the ship. It was a sight for sore eyes and sweaty bodies:

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I nearly had to perform first aid on a very unwell looking elderly man who was in the queue in front of us. He looked DREADFUL, people! All sweaty and gray and yuck. Got him a chair. Personally, I would have been calling the docs, but his wife just took him back to their room, along with her HUGE haul of purchases from the little stalls in front of the ship. Poor man is nearly dying because she shopped til he dropped! Hope they enjoy their tea-towels. (PS: I know he was OK, because I spotted him later on during the cruise).

A quiet lunch at the buffet and a swim was in order.





And onto the next port, because I can pretty much say that one was a bust. Except I have a really lovely silver elephant bracelet that I wear at work now :-)

And for those of you who enjoyed the Ingi-sweat-o-meter so much in Port Douglas last year (scroll right down to the bottom), I think Chan May, Vietnam was right up there with reasons to show off my girls. You're welcome!


52 Ancestors - Unusual Name

In this week's post, we have been asked to look behind an "unusual name" and I've chosen my great-aunt's husband, Fred...