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]



[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...