Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A different kind of normal



This blogging business is a bit hard sometimes. I have a bunch of stuff I'd like to tell you, share with you, but I have my teens' privacy to take into account.

So today I want to be a bit nerdy and talk about bell curves and IQ and levels of giftedness, because those things are impacting on my kids, and as a result, on us as a family. And I think we need to talk about these issues because sharing is caring, right? And I know that if I know someone else is going through the same sorts of things that we are, I feel a bit better. A bit more "normal". Whatever the hell that is!

And therein lies (today's) problem. Most of the population falls within the "average" range of intelligence. And most people think of "average" as "normal". Those people in the middle of the bell curve are not significantly different from each other. They find it relatively easy to find people to whom they relate, who are similar to them in their thinking.


If you are in the top 1% of the scores, the range of scores (from about 135 to over 200) is as broad a range of scores as is encompassed from the 2nd percentile (IQ 64) to the 98th (IQ 132). In terms of intellectual capacity, a profoundly gifted child of IQ 190, differs from moderately gifted classmates of IQ 130 to the same degree as the latter differs from intellectually disabled children of IQ 70 (Miraca Gross - Exceptionally Gifted Children 2004).

But IQ scores are no longer derived from a ratio, they are scored on a curve, so we don't get the fine detail of the upper end of the spectrum. For those that think in pictures, here's a close-up:



Now I'm not saying how far my kids are to the right or that curve. We don't really know HOW gifted they are because the newer IQ tests don't test that high - the waters start to get muddied around the 140-145 mark. Those scores of 160, 170, 180, 190, 200, 200+ plus are derived from an older IQ test that doesn't get used much now (the Stanford-Binet LM form - check out info on IQ tests and what they mean for highly gifted +  here). We do know that they are in that grey area from the top graph. Somewhere on that line that contains very few people on the bottom graph.

Huh.

My point is, they ARE different to the vast majority of the population. Maybe really, really different. And note I said DIFFERENT. Not better. Their brains are wired differently - their intellectual capacity lets them learn differently, faster, with a desire to think more complexly than the rest of us (probably myself included).

Is is any wonder they feel "abnormal"? Add the fact that they both experience Executive Functioning Issues. Also add in that with high intellectual capacity, usually comes high emotional intensity.

I feel sad that (at least) one of my kids considers themselves "abnormal". Because that means they think of themselves as something annoying or bad - the negative connotation usually associated with abnormal, whereas all they want to feel acceptable or good. What I want for them (both) is to consider themselves as part of the big normal, a different normal, but normal nonetheless. I want them to know I will do everything I can to nurture their potential and their intensity, but I also really want them to believe in themselves.

This teenage business is hard enough - finding your authentic self in a sea of hormones, peers, media and family. Tough times, people! Most of us would not go willingly back to those years! And here they are also dealing with being fundamentally different from those peers.

How do we deal with this? A LOT of patience, tea and tissues, I find helps. Knowing that this too shall pass. Talking about what being different means. That in this case, yes, it's different and not easy, but it's not a bad thing. Taking the pressure off - no expectations of cures for cancer here! But talking about what the differences are and why they are just different, not worse or better for that matter. Just different.

A different kind of normal.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Time for a change


A little while back, I wrote about wanting to change my job situation. I'd had enough of being a travel agent. I mean, we wanted to move to Canberra, I applied for lots of jobs and I got that one. Actually, I applied to work in Cruising, but ended up in a normal travel agency. And so (because I am a good girl), I said to myself "I will give this 6-9 months and see how it goes". Note to self: if you are already giving yourself a timeframe, be wary - trust your instincts - run now.

Anyway, I did give it 12 months, and I was successful at it. I could sell travel! I was in the top-20 sellers for P&O cruises for Australia. I was the top novice for our area (for novice travel agents in their first 12 months, I sold more than anyone else). I was top selling novice travel agent for the whole of our brand in the whole of Australia in March.

I was miserable.

I was mentally and physically very unhealthy.

I said to Hubby this morning (who noted what a good mood I was in and wanted to know what drugs I was taking) that I have been in a bad mood for the last 12 months! Just because I can sell travel, doesn't mean I want to.

The hours were long. The pay was CRAP (even if you do well). I was over trying to sell, sell, sell. I didn't fit in. I'm really not a details person - I can do it 90%, but the minute details? Don't care. And that's kind of not OK if you are trying to fly people all around the world.

So, I've been applying and applying and writing lengthy job applications addressing many, many selection criteria. And I've had interviews.

And I have a new job!

I'm going to be a Program Manager as part of Inspiring Australia! Their role is to ensure:

  • Australians are inspired by and value scientific endeavour
  • Australia attracts increasing national and international interest in its science
  • Australians critically engage with key scientific issues
  • Young Australians are encouraged to pursue scientific studies and careers

I will be working on:
  • National Science Week
  • Engaging young adults through live science and entrepreneurship events
  • Introducing students in Years 10-12 to the range of STEM careers and
  • Developing and coordinating science tourism in the ACT
Pretty cool, huh??

Bonus! It's only 3 days a week and I get paid a fair bit more than I was working (more than) full-time in travel!

Extra bonus! A while back I applied to CSIRO Discovery for a role and I came second (boo). But they rang me and would like to know if I'd be available for a bit of casual work, running workshops for schools! I do my first workshops next week.

I can't tell you how happy I am. Such exciting work to look forward. Work that I'm well suited to, work that is interesting, work that makes a difference.

And balance. Balance to look after me. Balance to look after my family. Time to do that self-care thing that everyone keeps banging on about...

So, another big change! I'm having a couple of weeks off to catch my breath, and do fun stuff like last year's tax, pap smears and take the dog to the vet to get the cyst on his neck fixed up. 

But also to enjoy the glory of Canberra in Autumn. We went for a walk the last weekend up Mount Taylor. Why my husband insists on dragging his very overweight wife up MOUNTAINS is beyond me. But I made it. And I suppose it was worth it ;-)














I feel like I can breath out again now. A change is in the air, and not before time.

Is autumn pretty where you live? We are loving the seasons in Canberra!
Need a hand with resume writing and job applications?
Got any good news to share?




Saturday, May 02, 2015

Homeschool to High School? Yes we can!

I know I wasn't alone when I was homeschooling, wondering if I was doing "enough". Especially "enough" if the kids ever wanted to go back to school. Because...what if...GAPS!!!!???

I know. Stress city!

Those days...

...where you learn mostly by discussing things

...you watch a stack of documentaries about <insert favourite topic here>

...it is all getting a bit too much, so you take the dog and the kids for a walk around the block/down the beach/to the park

...you worry about how late your teens are sleeping

...you have concerns about the lack of "written work" (aka "school work" or "book work")

...you spend the entire day reading novels (that aren't prescribed on some kind of list)

You know, those days!

Well, we ALL worry that "those days" and not doing "enough" are somehow going to ruin our kids education. Go on, admit it. You're a bit worried!

We had our first parent-teacher interviews this week, since going back to school. I have to warn you, I wasn't looking forward to them because back in the day, before homeschooling, they usually weren't pretty. There was a lot of "well, Video Boy is obviously smart...BUT..." and "well, Wombat Girl is obviously doing well in maths, BUT..." (so many BUTs).

So it was with a slightly wary air that I found myself in a school hall, searching for name tags that matched up with the names on the paper list. BUT I was pleasantly surprised!

"I love Video Boy's intelligence and I can't see why he wouldn't be getting A's in science"

"Wombat Girl is very diligent" (said nearly every teacher!)

"Video Boy's reading of Macbeth is just superb!"

"Wombat Girl came first in the class in chemistry test/short story task/history oral"

"Video Boy's knowledge base is amazing"

"I'm very impressed with your daughter - to be self-taught and be better at Japanese than all the kids in the class that I've taught for the last 3 years is very impressive"

And so on!

And you know what? That means I can breathe out. They HAVE settled well back into school. They are getting on well socially ("you can't even tell they've been homeschooled!"). They are doing well (great, even) academically.

You know what else? That means that homeschooling CAN work. And even though it doesn't "look" like school, they are still learning. Learning lots (more!) and setting themselves up well for future study (if they want to).

So, Aunty Ingi says:

  • keep reading
  • keep watching
  • keep talking
  • keep playing
  • keep loving those homeschooled kids of yours and know you are doing the best thing educationally FOR THEM.
No BUTs about it :-)




Sunday, April 26, 2015

Back to School - the bad bits


I can't believe it! Here we are, the day before Term 2 already! I've purchased (gah!!! the expense!), washed and ironed winter uniforms in readiness. Loaded up bus passes. Maybe I should check school bags for bananas in the bottom since last term? (a good reason I never send bananas for lunch!).

I wrote a while back about the good bits of sending the kids back to school, and there have been good bits, thank goodness, because otherwise, all the $$$ spent on school fees and uniforms are for naught.

But, as you might expect from a family who has seen the light (aka: homeschooling), re-entering the formal school system is not without it's downsides! So, before you go thinking we are traveling along swimmingly, here is my list of things I don't like about going back to school:

Assignments - without a doubt, for me (and I would think for them) the worst aspect of high school is the bloody assignments the teachers assign to assess the students. I used to be a teacher and I used to have to hand them out and mark the bastards too, so I'm not a big fan of the assignment methodology of working out what our kids know and can do. They are a MASSIVE drain on the family time. I have spent two weeks of school holidays nagging the shit out of my kids. I have spent massive amounts of MY free time (limited as it is) helping, prodding, encouraging, teaching the kids how to write essays, do powerpoints, etc. I have wiped up tears and snot, reminded, cajoled, and even out and out bribed them to sit and finish the *(&#. I want our kids to learn how to manage their time, but there are SO MANY of these out of class assignments it's a little overwhelming (for them and me).


Subjects you aren't interested in - sure, as a homeschooler you have to tick boxes to say you've covered all the compulsory curriculum. But we can be creative in how we achieve those outcomes and many of them are covered by life learning. In the school system, my kids spend many, many hours "learning" a bunch of subjects that they will drop like a hot potato once they have the opportunity (P.E. anyone?). Why Year 10 students need to spend half a term learning the intricacies of BADMINTON is beyond me!

Waiting for the class to catch up - balancing chemical equations, graphing parabolas, explaining what a metaphor is...one thing for sure is my kids learned a lot in our homeschool days! They learned it quickly and deeply and we were able to move as fast as they needed. In school...not so much. Very frustrating for them!

Dealing with the administration - before we started, I had a meeting with the Inclusive Learning director, who assured me that both the giftedness and learning difficulties would be managed. Why then, would you put Wombat Girl, who, fair dinkum, runs circles around me mathematically, in the "Intermediate" maths class??? Just as well we were paying attention! I've also had to chase up special provisions, so Video Boy gets a bit of extra time in exams. It's all a bit of a pain in backside...

Lunchboxes, uniforms and notes - good LORD! I'm working full-time and getting up early to make healthy lunches that don't go soggy, filling in notes for the next fun-filled activity at school and ironing uniforms. The relentless pull of everyday life. Meh.

I miss my kids! - I miss spending time with them (that doesn't involve nagging or late nights writing an essay comparing world religions). I miss knowing what they are studying. I miss finding ways to help them understand concepts and practice skills. I miss hot chocolates on the couch watching and discussing documentaries.

I miss the homeschool community - I've all but taken myself out of the online communities I spent so much time with. I miss visiting other homeschool families and watching the kids hit it off and talking about homeschooling with other mums.


Having whinged about all that though, I asked both the kids whether they thought we'd made the right decision in going back to school, and despite the downsides, both said "yes". So we work through assignments, we nag and we look to the bigger picture of why we are doing this :-)

What's the thing you hate/d most about the school system?




Sunday, March 22, 2015

I am woman, hear me SNORE!

I've imported all my old blog posts from my "health and fitness" blog into this one - you can go and check them out if you like indulging my ramblings. They detail my ongoing battle with my weight, and increasingly my health.

This week I've been tired. So very, very tired. The kind of tired that makes you a bit teary and the kind that makes you just want to crawl back into bed for a bit of a nap.

Apart from the insomnia caused by peri-menopausal hormones I experience periodically, this tiredness is also caused by my recently acquired snoring habit. I used to only snore when stuffed up with a cold or flu or if I'd hit the wine really hard. Now snoring is a night occurrence, which keeps waking me up with a start, and is keeping hubby awake (how the worm turns) and often sees me skulking off the spare bed.



I'm sure it is also a bit of sleep apnoea happening and the reason I'm tired is also because I'm not getting enough oxygen through the night.

Why the sudden onslaught of snoring? I'm too fat.

Now don't go trying to tell me I'm OK and I don't look fat. I am. The figures put me in the obese category. Me. Obese.

From this:


To this:

Yes, we all get a little bit stodgier as we get older, but my stodgy is starting to get out of hand! High blood pressure, marginal blood sugar levels, and snoring. Not pretty, my friends! It's not just the numbers on the scale which alarm me, it's also the numbers on the blood pressure machine and blood test results. And the snoring is really starting to impact on my daily life (and hubby's).

And so, I say to myself (yet again) time to really get serious about losing quite a few kilos. I know I can do it - I've done it before - I've just got to really commit!

Not if you excuse me, I've just to go have a little nanna nap, in which I will no doubt awaken myself with a start from snoring...



Do you have a snorer in your house?
Is it YOU?
Best snoring tips?
Feeling the years as the kilos pile on?



Monday, March 09, 2015

The importance of true peers

I read an article from the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Facebook page this week. It was about the importance of finding peers for your gifted child and adolescent, and how it can be hard for them to find true peers in the traditional school system. There is nothing super-unusual about this article. Miraca Gross has written about it in The Me Behind the Mask and about how important it is for our gifted kids to find "kindred spirits".

This week, I read those articles and I cry. I cry not for my two exceptionally gifted kids, but I cry for me. Because it's not just our kids searching for their tribe; those couple of people who "get you". Kindred spirits. It is gifted adults too.

I spent the weekend with work colleagues on a "reward trip". We are the top performing novice travel consultants who made our targets. They took us away for a weekend of socialising and fun on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Now, usually I can get along with most people and manage to have a pretty good time at these things. I don't mind a drink or two and I can chat to anyone. But I found myself this weekend feeling out of touch. Old. Fat. And with NOTHING in common with these (mostly) twentysomethings. Their topics of conversation mostly involved how smashed they were going to get that night. What tattoo they were going to get the next day. I listened to their music and my head hurt.

Partly it was an age thing. One of them mentioned that she didn't want to get married because once you get married and have kids your life is over. And although I can kind of relate, my first thought was "well, I've f*cked up the last 20 years of my life, then!"

But it was also a kindred spirit thing. Most of these people had no tertiary qualifications. Those that did were in marketing and design. There were decidedly anti-intellectual.

And so, for the first time in about 30 years, I found myself ostracised socially. I was with the group, but not included. People sat with their backs to me. I wasn't included in conversations. And the longer the weekend went on, the more out of place and the less inclined to make an effort socially I felt.

That's me at the back, behind the guy in the red hat. Pretending to have a good time.

And it came to me with a blinding flash of clarity. These people are not my peers. They are most definitely NOT my kindred spirits. I didn't fit in and I most certainly didn't belong. What the hell was I doing there???

I certainly missed my family. My husband annoys me at times, but damn, he's got my back and he GETS ME. I missed my kids. I would have had a MUCH better time if I was spending time with those gorgeous young people.

It is with a huge sense of dread I go back to work tomorrow. It is with a sense of desperation that I am spending most of my public holiday today searching for and applying for jobs that will fulfill me and more importantly, let me work with intelligent people who are into the same things as me (science and education) and who have the same values as me. People who are happy with the "me behind the mask".

Stay tuned for further developments.
Have you got kindred spirits?

Ever felt ostracized?

Still searching for people who you can be your authentic self with?

Sunday, March 01, 2015

What do I want to be when I grow up?

I will get to the bad bits of school, I promise. But first, it's all about me...and a bit of navel gazing.




You know those people who reckon that even if they won the lottery, they would still go to work? Nup. Not me! I might potter about doing some writing (blogging, novel writing) and maybe some volunteering, but paid employment? Especially full-time paid employment? I'd chuck that baby out with the bath water if I didn't financially have to do it. But financially, I'll be eating two-minute noodles in retirement if I don't work, so it was time to get back into the paid workforce full-time. Plus, I reckon I have some mad skillz, so I should be doing something "worthwhile" with my employment life.

Depending on how well you know me, you may or may not know I have an interesting resume. I've done all sorts of things, not counting my motherly/home duties. I'm talking paid employment. Through the years, I've been a:

  • production line worker in a chocolate factory

  • receptionist at a marina

  • river management officer

  • manager of natural resources management and education programs

  • environmental policy writer

  • wholesale travel agent

  • resort manager

  • electronics and music retailer

  • high school science, maths and dance teacher

  • national parks educational ranger

  • library assistant

  • retail travel agent
And so, with the children happily ensconced in school, I find myself asking one of life's big questions (again) - what do I want to do when I grow up?

You see, at the moment (and I'm not I'm not alone in feeling these feels), I feel as if my life is one big groundhog day of get up, ironing uniforms (mine, his and theirs), organise lunches, nag, yell, go to work, work 10-12 stressful hours a day with about 10 minutes for lunch and not much financial reward, come home (usually via the grocery store and if I'm being honest, Beer Wine and Spirits store), cook dinner, nag about homework, watch whatever Hubby has on the TV, try to go to sleep, lie awake for several hours due to ridiculous female hormones, wake up do it all again. On the weekends, I have laundry, more grocery shopping, and vacuuming to look forward to. If I'm really lucky, I get to clean the bathrooms too! Is this what I wanted when I grew up? No. It is not.





I don't know what it is I want to do with the 15-20 years left of my working life. I do know, John, that I'm not happy. I do know these things:

  • In the words of Sweet Charity, "there's gotta be something better than this"

  • I want enough money to be comfortable (not rich), to pay for a decent overseas holiday at least once a year (I've got the travel bug)

  • I want to do something that means something, not just something that makes money

  • I don't want to keep give, give, giving of myself and get not much in return

  • I want some time in my life to look after myself better (exercise, healthy food and just some "me" time to do things I enjoy)

  • I don't mind being a bit stressed/busy every now and then, but it's not how I want to spend all day every day

  • I'm good at lots of things, I'm interested in lots of things,

I need to find what makes ME happy and preferably get properly remunerated, so I can afford to retire. 


Would YOU work if you didn't have to financially?

What would be your dream job?

Do you find it hard to balance everything in your life too (or is that just me?)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Back to school - the good bits



It's been quite the big decision to stop homeschooling and send my kids back to "real" school. I had/have mixed feelings about it, but we are taking it one day, one week at a time and going in with very clear expectations of what it will be like - the good and the bad bits.

So do you want the good news or the bad news, I ask? And don't wait for an answer - because we all want the good news first.
  • No more prepping school work! As an ex-teacher, I didn't mind putting together "curriculum" and learning plans and getting resources and books that I thought would work for us. When I wasn't working, that is! Trying to work full-time AND keep the kids up to date with interesting engaging school work/learning activities AND trying to manage a household AND trying to look after me, really wasn't working. I managed, but I can't say I did a great job in the last year and the kids really just got the basics and lots of worksheets and textbooks. They may as well have been at school! So it is with some great sense of relief that someone else is doing all the planning and prep now.

  • Socialisation! Yes, we homeschooled and yes, we were able to meet other people, talk to them, catch up with friends and be social. But moving to Canberra meant a new start. Ideally, I would take the kids along to all the amazing homeschool-ey events and groups here and meet new people, but me working full-time made that a little difficult. And the although the kids get on amazingly well for two teens that spent and inordinate amount of time together, they were starting to get a bit over each other. So it has been lovely to hear other kids names mentioned at the dinner table, and nice to know they haven't had to hide away in the library at lunch. They have made friends and have a group of friends to talk to. Video Boy has all his friends Skype and Steam deets, so the interaction continues online into the evening.

  • The kids are fine academically! Even with my "lite" curriculum and minimal bookwork approach, they are so far ahead of the game. Video Boy is amused that basically no-one in his English class knows what irony is (let alone that there are different types of irony) or what a metaphor is. Both kids are realising that a lot (note: there is no such word as alot) of succeeding in school is being able to comprehend the written word; something they are both great at. They are not behind in maths or science or any of the subjects where you build on prior knowledge. They actually often complete their classwork much quicker than their classmates (wonders will never cease!) and they are reasonably diligent at getting as much work done in class, rather than bring it home as homework. I am going to claim just the tiniest bit of credit for all of the above. Go me!

  • We have routine! The kids actually know what day of the week it is now, and even what date - something that was embarrassingly lacking in our homeschool life! They are slowly getting into a pre-school and post-school day routine of getting ready and doing homework. I think this will be good for them heading into the senior years of study and (hopefully) university.

  • They are gaining independence and real life skills! Although most homeschoolers can claim they spend more time in the "real world" than their counterparts at school, I did find the kids kinda relying on me. Now they catch the bus to and from school, buy stuff from the canteen, and figure stuff out by "them-selfes". I'm working on the getting themselves organised by themselves every day - my plan is to become redundant (hey, I gotta have dreams!!).

  • The kids are really comfortable in their own skins and have their heads screwed on the right way! I am so happy though that we have had the chance to homeschool these last 4 years. They were important years in their physical, mental and emotional development and I think by being at home, with people who love them and experiencing a different way of learning, they have had the opportunity to feel really secure in themselves. They not only have had the chance to develop into their "authentic selves" and feel good about that, they also can see the faults in the school system and take them with a grain of salt. They aren't "sheeples", they can think for themselves and think critically, and for that I will take a lot of credit!

  • On my Rostered Days Off I have quiet, me time! You know, what all the mum's gloat about when school starts back. Admittedly, those days are filled with chores, errands, to do lists and washing, but I do sneak in a couple of coffees, some social media catch-up and if you're lucky, a blog post or two! All in the peace and quiet of home with no-one else here! I could walk around naked if I wanted (but even I don't want to see that). But I totally could if I wanted to! Ahh, the serenity...except the dog randomly barking at things I can hear - that just scares the shit out me!
So, mostly, it's going well and we are coping and getting there and even better than that, the kids are doing pretty well out there!

But there is a darker side to everything and so next post - the bad bits!

PS: the other good news is that the Peruvian flute band has been very absent this week, which is a good thing, because I've worked 10 days straight with the last three being 12 hour days - if I had to endure any more of that, I would have gone completely cray cray....




Saturday, February 14, 2015

Oh neato! Another Peruvian flute band!

"How's your week been?" asks the shop assistant at the  local BWS (Beer, Wine and Spirits).

"Oh fantastic, there has been a Peruvian flute band playing all week in the shopping centre I work in" I reply, enthusiastically.




"Oh neato! I love those Peruvian pan flute bands! What songs did they play?" she enquired.

"Great tracks, timeless classics, like Sounds of Silence, Unchained Melody and in a tip to greatness, ABBA's Chiquitita and Fernando" I reply, enthusiastically.

"I love that music, it all sounds so distinctive and not at all repetitive!" the BWS lady replied.

"Totally," I agree. "They could play that music all day, at loud volume, so I can't hear my clients or the phone ringing, but I wouldn't mind, because it's soulful, mindful music!"

"Yes!" she exclaimed!

"In fact, I could listen to it multiple times a day, over and over again, both live and pre-recorded, like on a CD!" I enthused.

"Have you purchased their CD yet? That way you could listen, like, all the time!" Mrs BWS asked.

"No", I answered, "I don't need the CD, because not only do they appear to have taken up residence just outside my workplace, the music is indelibly etched in my brain, forever."

"Oh, that's fantastic because tomorrow, you won't have Peruvian flute bands, their space will be filled with Miss Missy's School of Dance - including Tap Dancing Chipmunks!"

"Really?! Brilliant news - you certainly have your finger on the pulse, Mrs BWS! I can't wait for work tomorrow now! Plus I get to work 10 WHOLE DAYS without a day off! With entertainment! You gotta be happy about that!"

"As long as you come and visit me, and buy more wine, I'll be happy," say Mrs BWS, smiling (kind of).

"You can at least count on that part, Mrs BWS - cheers!"



PS: sorry it is sideways. I will try to remember that next time. But it about sums up my week.

PPS: sorry also about the pixels - but Wordpress is fussy about file sizes and I couldn't be assed learning about FTP and web-hosting videos and crap.

PPS: kids are doing well in school. More snot, but fewer tears - winning!!!

Have you experienced a Peruvian Flute band in YOUR local shopping centre?

Did you buy the CD?

Ever been IN a Peruvian pan flute band? (go on, you know you want to share!)

Did you have a better week at work than me? Have a day off? That would be better...

Monday, February 09, 2015

What's happening?

When in doubt, copy your neighbour's work - so I'm copying Mrs Woog's blog and letting you in on the Secret Life of Ingi:



Making: a new blog post!

Cooking: Slow cooked pork belly for extended family (recipe snaffled from here - I put the oven on about 140C and cook it even slower)

Drinking: coffee and believe it or not, significantly reduced wine

Reading: just about to start Cathy Kelly's It Started with Paris)

Wanting: another day off, please

Looking: for the next holiday option

Playing: Uno with Wombat Girl!!

Wasting: time on the computer (I call it "me" time!)

Sewing: bahahahaha!

Wishing: that the you-beaut iron I bought actually ironed the pile by itself

Enjoying: if I'm being really honest, quiet time today with the kids not at home

Waiting: for the kids to get home from school

Liking: my slow cooked pork belly - it was delicious!

Wondering: what I want to be when I grow up

Loving: Not being at work today

Hoping: the kids will be OK at school (today, this week, this term, for the next 3 years)

Marvelling: at Cosco - I went for the first time last week - it is an out-of-body consumer experience!

Needing: All. The. Things. at Costco :-)

Smelling: pork crackling - say no more

Wearing: size 18 clothes (WTF???)

Following: along with FMS Photo a Day on Instragram - liking the pretty

Noticing: how tired the kids are after school - it's an exhausting thing

Knowing: that we have options

Thinking: about way too much - I might have to do some mindfulness/meditation, but it feels like one more thing on the extensive "to do" list

Feeling: a bit overwhelmed

Bookmarking: nothing - if it's not worth/short enough to read straight away, ain't nobody got time for bookmarking!

Opening: belated extended family gifts

Giggling: at Video Boy's description of his science lessons...


Feeling: better now I've offloaded onto you!
What's happening with you?

Ever been to Costco? Did it blow your mind?

How good is pork belly?

Is this directly related to wearing size 18 clothing?

I ask all the important, probing questions!

Friday, February 06, 2015

First week back at school - a wrap-up!

 This was the week, people!! Our first day back at "school"!!!

The day dawned overcast and cool, in Australia's national capital. But the kids were up to the task. Alarms were set. Alarms went off. And a bunch of tired, weary, people staggered about the kitchen looking for breakfast. And that was just the parents! Having teens added to the mix was just more fun!

I had organised uniforms. Packed lunchboxes. Supervised packing of the school bags. Ordered bus passes. We were set!

But first, the dreaded "first day back at school photo shoot". The kids were less than impressed, but I haven't done this in 5 years, so they had to cut me a little slack :-)









Don't they look handsome??? Apart from the fact that Video Boy needs a shave?

Now we need to stop for a minute and think about the family member who this back to school business is going to impact most on - Max. Poor Maxie-doodles will be HOME ALONE all day! Poor bub doesn't know what's in store.





And their first day?




It went well!!!

Academically - no issues! Yay for the awesome homeschool Mum!! They weren't behind in anything (even Japanese) and were in front in a couple of subjects (maths and science - what a shock). Let's not talk about R.E. though, shall we??

Socially - they were not awkward homeschoolers! They have nice groups of friends and weren't left wandering around the library at lunchtime with noone to talk to.

Emotionally - they were weary, but happy.

Everybody breathe a sigh of relief - it's going to be OK.

 But as every Kindergarten mum will tell you, it's often after the first day that things start to unravel.

Both kids still need help with the organisational side of things. Learning to use a diary. Coming home from school and doing homework. Unpacking dirty lunchboxes. Coordinating lockers/books/bags. Catching the bus on time.

Wednesday night saw Video Boy in a sea of tears because:

a) the day goes by so fast - and he can't remember what lessons he had, let alone what homework he has to do and the diary has been left in the locker at school.

b) he kinda DOES suck at P.E. (despite his previous protests to the contrary). "Mum, I don't like ball sports, I never intend to play ball sports, I'm not good at ball sports - why do schools insist on the emphasis on ball sports?". Good question VB, good question.

c) free time is SEVERELY diminished - how will he keep up with the stream of new videos on the YouTube channels he follows? I ask myself the same question, VB!

He asked me sincerely "does it ever get any better, Mum?". How am I supposed to answer that? No? It gets harder because then you go to work 9-5 (or in my case on Tuesday 8:30am to 8:00pm), with only 4 weeks leave a year, and have to come home every night and cook dinner and wash and iron and clean and help with homework.....So no, it doesn't really get better. The best I could come up with was that the routine will get easier. He will find the days less stressful. Maybe not P.E., but the days more generally. And the goal of this is to do work you really enjoy and that the time flies in, so you don't resent the 9-5 (or whatever). But on the whole, a fairly stressful Wednesday evening!

And then on Thursday morning, he wakes up with "I don't feel very well". And I'm like "what? It's DAY FREAKING FOUR and I'm dealing with this?????"

But he really was sick...Snot. So. Much. Snot. So I did what any good mother would do and loaded him up with cold and flu tablets, nasal spray, tissues and vitamin C and sent him on his merry way! But when he came home, he was burning up with a fever and I was burning up with mother-guilt! So Day 5 of our new school adventure saw me receiving a text message at work from the school informing me that VB was absent and I needed to send a note on his return. Ahh, technology! And this is what comes of mixing with the great unwashed! Wombat Girl did well and managed the entire 5 days, despite rushing to finish her science homework this morning, even though I had previously spent the last 3 afternoons nagging her to get it done.



So at the end of our first week, I'm knackered. So are the kids. I'm sure I'll have more words to write on that, but on the whole it went OK. Except we missed homeschooling not-back-to-school party at the waterpark today. Really missing that...
Did you have a good back to "school"?

How foul are germs?

Does it ever get better?





Sunday, February 01, 2015

P&O Australian Open Tennis Cruise!

Hey Blogosphere!

I need to get this post out there because tomorrow is the BIG day. More on that later...but first! Cruising!

So, I have this new career in travel. I originally applied for a position in Cruiseabout, because I thought to myself "I could totally sell cruises all day long", but they filled that and asked "would you like to work for Escape Travel instead?" and I thought "um, no, but ok". So nearly a year later, I am working for Escape Travel. And I am DAMN GOOD at selling cruising, because, duh, I love to cruise and I love helping novice and experienced cruisers find their way out onto the open ocean.

I'm so good at selling cruising that little ol' me made it into the Top 20 sellers of P&O Australia!!! Mind you, I have about 74 ukelele players and their friends and family signed up for a big ukelele group cruise, which really got me over the line, but I sold them on the concept!

And so, P&O decided this year, for the first year, that they would offer a Reward Cruise to the Flagship Club - those top 20 agents throughout Australia - and reward them with a 5 night cruise on the Pacific Pearl to go and see the Australian Open Tennis (the Mens Final is on tonight)!!! For a few months there, I was number 21 on the list - and I kind of wrote it off. But lo and behold, I got the call and I made it!!!! To say I was excited is an understatement! I could take another person, and so I took Hubby, who is a tennis tragic (having played 1st grade tennis back in his youth).

So without further ado, here is a pictorial account of a FREE cruise, with lots of special, FREE shit thrown in!

[caption id="attachment_2247" align="aligncenter" width="640"]1888741_10153588842343712_1096095618317149013_n P&O flew us from Canberra to Sydney, and although the weather wasn't kind to us, we got to see this magnificent view of Sydney Harbour (our ship in the foreground to the left, Carnival Spirit tucked just to the right of the Bridge).[/caption]

 

[caption id="attachment_2205" align="aligncenter" width="714"]20150119_133608 View of the Pacific Pearl from our gangway at White Bay, Sydney[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2206" align="aligncenter" width="714"]20150119_162515 Every sailaway calls for bubbles![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2207" align="aligncenter" width="714"]20150119_162555 Well, cheers![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2249" align="aligncenter" width="720"]10615515_10153589097068712_3439209233980126406_n Winners are grinners![/caption]

 

[caption id="attachment_2213" align="aligncenter" width="1152"]IMG_8220 (Medium) Our Oceanview (porthole) cabin on Deck 4 - no, it wasn't underwater![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2214" align="aligncenter" width="1152"]IMG_8230 (Medium) Hello White Bay![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2215" align="aligncenter" width="1152"]IMG_8234 (Medium) It is quite an amazing experience to sail under the Sydney Harbour Bridge on a cruise ship! Only the "smaller" ones can fit under![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2216" align="aligncenter" width="1152"]IMG_8241 (Medium) Sailing by the Opera House is pretty nice too! Pity it wasn't a sunnier day...[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2217" align="aligncenter" width="1152"]IMG_8249 (Medium) They call this "the Gap" - and you can see why! We are out of Sydney Harbour and heading towards open ocean and our destination - Melbourne![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2218" align="aligncenter" width="1152"]IMG_8253 (Medium) A sunny sea day! What else is there to do but soak up the sun and watch a bit of tennis....?[/caption]

 

[caption id="attachment_2209" align="aligncenter" width="714"]20150120_231033 Note to self - sunscreen is a great invention. It works. But you have to put it on carefully, because the bits you miss get seriously sunburnt! (especially at sea - no pollution plus reflection off the ocean increases the sun's power).[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2219" align="aligncenter" width="512"]IMG_8254 (Medium) What is a cruise without towel animals left in your cabin by your steward?[/caption]

 

[caption id="attachment_2220" align="aligncenter" width="1152"]IMG_8258 (Medium) And the day dawns sunny, bright and warm in Melbourne (expected top temperature - 36C - 97F for my US friends!)[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2221" align="aligncenter" width="1152"]IMG_8261 (Medium) Yay! We are finally at the tennis![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2246" align="aligncenter" width="960"]1599664_10153593851523712_3120554246288318552_o Big day coming up![/caption]

 

[caption id="attachment_2223" align="aligncenter" width="768"]IMG_8317 (Medium) Hubbyy was actually coached for a bit by the legendary Tony Roach![/caption]

 

[caption id="attachment_2222" align="aligncenter" width="512"]IMG_8313 (Medium) We got to watch Martina Hingis warm up on the outer courts![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2224" align="aligncenter" width="1152"]IMG_8318 (Medium) We had a couple of hours hosted by P&O in one of the (air-conditioned!!!!) VIP tents!!! Feeling very special![/caption]

 

10945602_10153594015998712_6691497732598221723_n

[caption id="attachment_2211" align="aligncenter" width="767"]IMG_20150121_134041 #aoselfie! The Australian Open liked my pic on Instagram!!!! I'm famous!!!![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2226" align="aligncenter" width="768"]IMG_8355 (Medium) Maria Sharapova in full flight![/caption]

IMG_8428 (Medium)

[caption id="attachment_2230" align="aligncenter" width="1152"]IMG_8466 (Medium) We also got to watch Roger Federer play![/caption]

IMG_8471 (Medium) IMG_8511 (Medium) IMG_8577 (Medium)20150121_203505

[caption id="attachment_2248" align="aligncenter" width="720"]10387313_10153594705693712_4544515526622551962_n A fantastic day watching top-level tennis! But the heat got to me, I'm afraid! Puffy cankles and a nasty headache put paid to any plans I might have had to catch up with online friends in Melbourne :-([/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2237" align="aligncenter" width="1152"]IMG_8613 (Medium) Nurofen, water and a new day! I loved this as we were driving past on the coach - demolition of an old building reveals a slice of history...[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2238" align="aligncenter" width="1152"]IMG_8614 (Medium) Day 2, Round 2 - Rod Laver Arena! We had seats in the all-day sun, but I queued up to change them to the shade. Much better![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2240" align="aligncenter" width="1152"]IMG_8639 (Medium) The big names continue - Serena Williams - although I will admit I am NOT a fan...[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2242" align="aligncenter" width="1152"]IMG_8672 (Medium) But damn, the chick can play tennis![/caption]

IMG_8681 (Medium) IMG_8723 (Medium)

 

 

 

[caption id="attachment_2253" align="aligncenter" width="1152"]IMG_8766 (Medium)IMG_8777 (Medium) Next up...Novak Djokovic! Finesse at it's best![/caption]

 

IMG_8816 (Medium)IMG_8825 (Medium)IMG_8864 (Medium)

 

[caption id="attachment_2259" align="aligncenter" width="635"]IMG_20150122_193654 Watermelon martinis on the house![/caption]

 

 

[caption id="attachment_2263" align="aligncenter" width="714"]20150122_201615 007 martinis on the house![/caption]

 

[caption id="attachment_2210" align="aligncenter" width="714"]20150122_201656 Cucumber martinis on the house - the best kind! The rest of the night is kind of hazy....[/caption]

 

[caption id="attachment_2261" align="aligncenter" width="635"]IMG_20150122_215934 Although I do remember eating this - so light and fluffy and yummy![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2262" align="aligncenter" width="1428"]IMG_20150124_083232-EFFECTS Home! Is quite spectacular![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2266" align="aligncenter" width="1152"]IMG_8933 (Medium) Bright light![/caption]

I work really hard in this new job of mine. It takes me away from my family and means I don't homeschool. So it was really nice to get some reward for all those long hours and stress. It was a fabulous experience and I'm happy I got to do it. Plus now, I can sell more P&O confidently and with any luck make next years trip (11 nights to the South Pacific - if you would like to cruise P&O please email me!!!).

And now it is the night before the BIG day. The day my kids go back to school. Stay tuned for photos and a few tissues.

 

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...