Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Theme Thursday: Pretty

Wow. What a tough theme this week. I tried to be witty and lateral and look for unusual juxtapositions etc but when it comes down to it, nothing leaves me breathless like a field of wild flowers. This one is through our back gate and over the road. It was taken last Spring before I started looking at different ways to take photographs so it was simply a happy snap of the amazing abundance and variety of colours and patterns. En masse as they were it was stunning.

Of course, no post would be complete without a few glimpses of other things that went through my overactive mind when confronted with 'Pretty'.This is my human version. It was the first digital photo my Dad ever took of Bee the day he brought his new camera home. It is so low quality when I look at it now but at the time it was mind blowing. He was able to email it to her dad in Australia the next day, who reported opening the attachment, having his breath taken away and then bursting into tears. And so the era of digital sharing began.

I still marvel at how I produced such a pretty girl.

And finally, sliding far, far back into time, we had a fashion parade 'fund raiser' today at school where the teachers dressed up in the clothes we wore as teenagers. I dragged out my very first 'ball dress' which I wore aged 14. I don't have an original picture from the era but here is a photo of me today, remembering what it felt like to feel 'pretty'.
For a pretty amazing theme, visit Tracey's and be captivated by 'pretty'.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Horses**t! I mean, sorry, Equine Flu.

On the good ole ABC tonight they had a talk back session on the current Equine Flu epidemic which has ravaged the Australian Horse Racing, Jumping, Betting and Breeding industry over the past week.

Vets and trainers spoke; people irate at Quarantine failure; people confined to Horse Stables for the next 50 days as the ban on horse movement across Australia hits home; people bemoaning the loss of income from their valuable stud animals or even their simple trail riding business. One could sympathise.

Then there was an interview with a bookmaker who pointed out that through a well managed campaign, as soon as they realised the extent of the epidemic , the Totalizator Agency had managed to redirect a large portion of the money usually reserved for horse races onto the greyhounds and overseas race meetings.
"So," queried the announcer, " No great losses at the TAB then?"
"No, not really," the chirpy parasite quipped,"Our contingency plans worked very well. We had record betting on the greyhounds last Saturday night."

Good grief.

At this point, as I was beginning to develop a sharpened and nasty cynical edge, another listener called and asked why there was all this fuss about Equine Flu.
"After all," he mused, "It doesn't kill them."

I did a double take. It doesn't kill them? Then what on earth are they making all this fuss about?

"Ah," the resident veterinary spokesperson piped up," But it restricts what they can do. I mean people keep horses to ride them and if they're sick they can't ride them. No, we need to keep this dreaded thing contained and eliminated or we will lose valuable time from the racing circuit."

Let me get this straight. This disease does not kill horses. It puts them out of action (as it does us) for a few weeks after which, true, they may need to regain form. It does not affect their DNA or their reproductive capabilities over any long term period and while it may interfere with a training schedule, it is non-transmissable to humans and totally treatable.

So at the end of the day, the real reason we are upset by this disease is that it inconveniences the racing world?

One listener asked why we don't simply let it run its course in the racing community and allow the horses to gain some immunity through building up antibodies. After all, in other countries, such as the US, it is endemic and they seem to manage to maintain an equestrian industry.

"Ah," the resident expert on the radio laughed, rather patronisingly I thought," Yes, well, but think of the time we would lose. No, no, we couldn't do that at all. That situation would not be acceptable."(or words to that effect)

Get over yourselves people!!! These horses are not out ploughing fields to feed the nation, they are running around a track for our amusement for Pete's sake!!!! And speaking of lost time, just what exactly is this total shutdown costing in terms of income for a whole range of people? The NSW Spring Racing Carnival has been cancelled. What about the jockeys, farriers and other specialists who don't have another string to their mortgage paying bow?

I would be interested to know how this disease is treated in other countries. Is everything quarantined and shutdown or do the sick horses just get withdrawn from the race and rested for a month or so? I may be being incredibly naive but it seems to me that this preciousness about our clean (previously) quarantine status is linked directly to how the disease would inconvenience horse trainers, should it become a part of life, and as a result is costing everybody ELSE dearly now.


Since I wrote this I have heard more (hard to avoid it really as it is the only thing being discussed on the news/current affair shows etc) and it seems that mares in foal may miscarry if they catch it. OK, that's not a good thing. Also, it can kill young foals, also not a good thing.

I don't know. Perhaps I was a bit harsh. What do you think?

Monday, 27 August 2007

Best Shot Monday: Dinosaur Tree

Now this is an interesting photo from the weekend. I feel a bit funny putting it up as my Best Shot because it probably isn't, but the subject matter is the amazing thing.

Baby Angel (Bee) and her friend are standing next to a piece of prehistory, the Wollemi Pine.

This weird and rather seedy looking sapling is one of a genus which once populated our continent, way before our ubiquitous eucalypts (gum trees) reared their straggly heads. As I read it, before one of the ice ages, this species was the predominant vegetation as far south as Antarctica. Its pollen is all OVER our fossil records and up until 1994 it was thought to be extinct. At that time a young 'Parks' employee and keen bushwalker stumbled across a stand of these trees at the bottom of a deep gorge. It was like stepping back into a prehistoric landscape.

Since then a second and third stand have been discovered, all within a small radius and in the same gorge system. The depth of the gorge has protected them from climate change over time but there are less than 100 trees growing in the wild, the tallest being up to 40 meters in height.

A propagation program has been set up with specimens being donated to many Botanical Parks and seedlings now available on the open market. I believe they are even available in the USA! What is remarkable is how hardy the trees are proving to be, outside their natural setting. For a species on the edge of extinction they are doing very well as parlour palms :-)

The part I find even MORE remarkable is that in DNA testing it has been identified that every tree has identical DNA. Not simply similar, something which was predicted given their localised environment and therefore the genetic bottleneck, but identical. There are a number of theories relating to this. Firstly, there is the suggestion that all the trees are part of one root system which is essentially one organism. The other idea is that there is some small genetic difference which we are, as yet, unable to measure. Either way it is fascinating!!

So to find one in our own Botanical Gardens filled me with awe. I was a little disturbed to see how seedy this one looked although the top looks green and there is obviously new growth. Perhaps the lower branch die off is part of its natural habit? On the other hand, maybe last Summer's drought did it no favours.

I am not sure the girls were as struck with the mystery and marvel of this living fossil as I was. I think they were more intent upon the promised ice cream, just around the corner. Oh well, by the time they are aware of how special this tree is, I hope it will be a towering giant in our park. Something akin to the trees dinosaurs may have rubbed up against or grazed upon way back in the time before 'us'.........................................wow...............................

For other awesome pictures, be sure to have a look at Best Shot Monday over at Picture This.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

See, There Really IS a Musical Called Pilgrim

I know, I know, I was supposed to be looking for costumes today (and I'm supposed to be marking essays tonight) but it was a beautiful 22C and it felt like Spring! The BabyAngel, who wishes to be renamed Bee (is for Beautiful apparently: see her My Space page) took this photo of me with the Spires of St Peter's Cathedral in the background. We had just walked from Memorial Drive ( I know this will mean v little to my O/S friends...but me Mam will know what I'm on about) to the Botanic Gardens and back again.

Bee and her friend accompanied me and we had a lovely time. I can't wait til the weather settles back into this pattern.

Anyway, the point of this post is my T shirt!!! It is a production shirt for the school musical and it was designed by my talented husband from an idea by the students. They hit the school on Friday. This is the only part of my job as costume director that I have actually achieved. I think it looks pretty cool, although perhaps not with me in it :-)

It was an idyllic afternoon. I knew it was Spring when I saw these.
There was a very conscientious father duck who was squawking indignantly at anyone who ventured too near to his brood. He's not in the picture as he was accosting a cyclist at the time.
I'm not sure about the pigeon there at the back. I think he has cuckoo tendencies.

In the Botanic Gardens there is a fantastic old Victorian Palm House with a gloss painted bannister out the front so the girls simply had to slide down it.

There were also Moreton Bay figs which HAD to be climbed.

And of course we couldn't leave the ducklings alone.What a wonderful afternoon. Roll on Spring I say!!!! Oh, and here is a tree in the lake that I shot in May and another shot of the same tree today. I'm looking forward to the Spring shot!!!!

The Musical: Part 1

I woke up yesterday and realised there are 5 weeks until our school musical 'goes on' and we currently have costumes for, oh, maybe ONE character!

I am in charge of costumes. What was I thinking?????

Now, I have done musicals before. I have directed, designed and painted sets, choreographed, acted, danced, sung, stage managed and worked in lighting BUT I have never been solely in charge of costumes before. I may be out of my depth.

Today I must go op shopping and look for 'stuff'. Our musical (being a good Christian school) is 'Pilgrim: The Musical'. Yes, dear reader it is the story of 'Pilgrim's Progress' set to modern music and modified to include a cast of thousands of dancing girls. Do try NOT to laugh. I wonder how many Quaker's hats I'll find at the local Goodwill?

Wish me luck :-D

Eds Note: The above atmospheric but totally unrelated photo is the 'Peartree Players' 2002 production of "Robinson Crusoe and the Pirates" directed by yours truly, sets painted by yours truly, yours truly in title role (they INSISTED) and standing third from the right. A lavish production by our local Church, this annual Christmas entertainment extravaganza made up in enthusiasm what we lacked in talent. Which was quite a lot. Of both.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Theme Thursday: Fade

After a big dinner and lively, intelligent, entertaining conversation, my sister and brother-in-law have a tendency to 'fade'. Or maybe the conversation wasn't that entertaining???

For a variety of 'fade outs' slip on over and visit Tracey at Picture This.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

The Rolling Stones Got It Right

On Radio National this morning they were talking about debt. A learned gent was expressing concern for the levels of debt in our community and proposing Financial Counselors to be provided by the Govt. He also advocated having lenders be much more stringent about their credit checks and more realistic in telling people that they could not afford the debt they are seeking.

"That would be difficult, mused the journalist. "After all you would have to tell people that they couldn't have, or they couldn't afford to have something that somebody else could have."


Am I hearing correctly?

We are worried or feeling precious about telling people they can't have something..........(doesn't even finish the sentence in disgust)

HELLO!!! Welcome to real life!
This may come as an incredible eye opener in this day and age (and obviously does to the millions of idiotic parents providing 5 years olds with X Boxes and mobile phones) but since when do we live in a society where everyone gets what everyone else has? Wake up people! Inequity is rife and you had better get used to it.

Not only that but not everyone NEEDS what everyone else has!! Just because everyone else has one does not make it RIGHT!!!!! (see note re mobile phones and 5 year olds and I stretch that even further to include any child who cannot afford to pay the bill).)

It is about time our society pulled its head in and started to live within its means. Cut your coat according to your cloth my mother used to say. In other words, if you don't have it....don't spend it!!!! Especially when the things we spend it on are so meaningless. A better car, an overseas holiday, a jet ski.

Now please don't get me wrong. I enjoy a bit of materialism the same as everyone else but it all comes back to the Rolling Stones and that saying that every parent should have carved in stone and hung over the kitchen sink (or in whatever other prominent place nagging "I want" transactions occur in your house) 'you can't always get what you want!'

Say it to them now parents and don't let them get into that pit of debt which our radio journalist would have us believe is a matter of course, even a matter of right!


Monday, 20 August 2007

A Note on The Truth

I thought I'd experiment with embedding a video from my bebo site on here and it worked. This was a little film made for me by the Baby Angel and her friend on my birthday last December. The pink tailcoat I made for a Revue and I think I had it out considering it for a Fancy Dress. Honest!!!

Best Shot Monday: Creative Frenzy

This weekend has been a creative frenzy. Baby Angel had a school project to 'make a model or puppet or dress a stuffed toy' to represent post school 'options' ie jobs!

Now it must be said that the BA has never been much of a 'maker'. For years we were given beautiful craft sets as birthday presents, cos that's what you give girls right? I am sad to say many of them still sit in our cupboard and still others were given away to other little girls who really DID like that sort of thing.

Many times I would try to instill my love of all things crafty on my daughter by sitting with her and helping her complete some craft task. She usually quite enjoyed the experience and was sometimes pleased with her results but mainly I think she did it to humour me. Certainly she never came to me with a box of bead making or paint by numbers or design your own T Shirt and asked to do it. I think she lacked confidence. Anyway, of course it was a bit of a disappointment to me but on the other hand.....I can't play netball. We're all different.

(On another occasion at age 3 she flatly refused to be involved in the ballet school concert.
"What do you mean sweetheart, I've already made the costume!!!"
"Well, I'm not doing it. I don't want all those eyes looking at me."
...........whose child IS she???????????????? I would have LOVED all those eyes looking etc etc)

But once more I digress!

Today she announced that she had to make this puppet/model/thing and of course its due tomorrow and she had no idea what she wanted to make. After a bit of discussion which left me crabby and frustrated I announced that I couldn't be doing this for her as I had my own school work to get on with and anyway she should have discussed it with me earlier etc etc etc (grr)

"Don't worry Mum," she chirped,"I'll do it myself.....just show me where the needles/thread/scrap material/buttons etc etc etc are."

She decided she would make a 'dress designer' and, once we had sorted out how you sew on buttons, she proceeded to use her initiative and make a jolly good job of it too! The photo above shows how proud she was of her achievement and as she said, she made it herself which is more than can be said for many kids who will come to school with exquisite models made mostly by....Mum. And now, a more detailed picture of her work of art!
Her big step brother was, of course, quick to point out the relative ugliness of the model! We informed him that dress designers did not have to be attractive, just make good dresses. This one seems to be of African origin and has obviously been working out. BA found the jewellery in her old dress-up box, used bangles for ear-rings and even created the 'new design' dress that the model is holding.

I am sure with more time we could have refined a few of the elements but it is all her own work and it productively filled a Sunday afternoon and left a young girl feeling on top of the world. That's worth an A in my book!!!!

Of course, having ignored all of us for most of the day by playing the X Box with his big brother, (except for an altercation over finding his muddy football gear and bringing it in to get washed) Small Boy inexplicably decided, 45 minutes before his Mum was due to pick him up, that he wanted to do some sewing too. I found him some scraps and let him get on with it. I think the BA threaded the needle for him but after about 25 minutes he came back into the kitchen to show me his handiwork. Since this was the most communication I'd had with him all day, that didn't involve a pout or a scowl, I thought it was worth a photo.When he'd seen the picture in the viewfinder he looked at me and said,
"Can you put it on your blog?"

Maybe this is my best shot after all...................................................

For the best of last week visit Picture This!

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Finals Fever

Remember how popular I said netball is in Australia? Well, I don't know if you can actually see from this photo but that line across the middle is the crowds of parents at Saturday's semi finals in at Adelaide's Central Courts. And this is just the Church competitions. There are also school leagues and district competitions!! Our team is one of 22 at our club!!!!
So here is my 'Baby' in action in the centre of the photo. She's not actually doing a particularly good job at this point as she is too far away from the player with the ball to be defending effectively but that was a rare occurrence in the match. She played pretty well, making some fantastic interceptions and putting great pressure on the opposing attackers but to no avail. I'm afraid the season is over for her team this year.

Here she is again, this time 'making a lead' as they say. That is breaking away so her team mate can pass the ball to her undefended. Mind you, looking closely, I think her team mate has dropped the ball, which may say a lot about why they lost :-D Nah, seriously, they have some good players and next year they'll all be that bit older and have had more experience together.

To her credit she wasn't too worried by the loss and just enjoyed the game. There's always Summer season! Additionally, the coach told me that she had won 'Best and Fairest' for the team, as voted across the season. Her score will be entered into the whole club Best and Fairest competition. Last year she was Runner-up across the whole club but we don't think she'll do that this year. Nevertheless it was a wonderful surprise and a great honour! She is a great team player, always encouraging the others and setting an example in determination and pluck.

I am very proud of her.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

What is Netball?

In Australia this question would never arise. Netball is one of the most popular sports in the country and part of most young girls' 'schooldays' experience. Not mine of course; I am completely incompetent when it comes to team games and only ever managed volleyball because you stood in one place on the court and had a net between you and the other team! One of my most vivid, and traumatic, memories of high school involves training up in all the skills of
basketball, relatively successfully, only to be faced in the first match with all these people running around me and at me and all appearing to have some purpose that was completely outside my sphere of understanding. Being used to understanding things quickly and easily, I did the only sensible thing. I ran off the court crying.

But back to netball. Most girls play netball at school. The Saturday family routine for many includes Dad taking the boys to football and Mum taking the girls to netball, except my parents of course who took me to ballet and drama classes (did I mention I was no good at team sports?). Girls start as young as 7 and, knees permitting, many play well into adult life.

So how does it work?

Netball started life as Women's Basketball in the United States but really came to prominence after it was exported to the UK.

There are seven players on each team and the aim of the game is to get the ball in the opposing goal hoop as many times as possible throughout a 60 minute match.

The netball court is 100 ft long by 50 ft wide, approximately the size of a tennis court. The court is split by two lines that divide the court into thirds. At both ends of the court there is a shooting semicircle and a ten ft goal post with no back board.

There are 3 dedicated attack positions, Goal Shooter, Goal Attack and Wing Attack.
These play in the opposing team's goal third and the centre third.

There are 3 dedicated defence positions, Goal Keeper, Goal Defence and Wing Defence.
They play in their goal third and the centre third.

The Centre player plays over the whole court except the semicircle.
Only the players with Goal in their title are allowed into the semicircle.

Some of the main rules are

· Once the player has caught the ball a player may not move her 'grounded' foot.

· A player can only hold the ball for three seconds.

· A defending player must be three feet away from an attacking player with the ball.

· Only two positions on the court can shoot

· Shots can only be taken from within the semicircle

The game consists of 4 x 15 minutes quarters with breaks of 3,5 and 3 minutes.

Although primarily a girl's sport, more and more boys are playing and teams can be mixed up to about the age of 12. After that there seem to be insufficient boys to make up a league so they all drift off to basketball.

So that is netball. Any questions? There will be a short quiz!

Today, Baby Angel is off to play in her semi finals although we don't hold out much hope that they'll win. I think they're lucky to have made it this far but it is only their first year in the Under 13 division and only the first season the team has played together. I will try and get some better photos but it is hard as it all moves so quickly.

Wish her luck!!!!!!

Friday, 17 August 2007

Weekend Clean Slate

He's back, my sweet boy is back!

The evening did not start off in promising fashion as he greeted me with "Mrs Meanie" but I quickly said , in a non threatening manner :-), "I'm not being mean to you...why are you being mean to me?"

Suddenly, from the most unlikely quarter a knight rode to my defence. It was No 2 Son, our salesman, ex dreadlock boy and skate park deadbeat!!!!! "SB," he admonished, "If you're mean to anyone in this house tonight our deal is off." My interest was piqued.

Apparently, SB has brought over a Playstation game and the Playstation is downstairs in 'The Pit'. Big Bro had agreed that if Small Boy was nice to him (aaand everybody else it transpires), he would bring the Playstation upstairs so that SB can join him and play on it. This seems to be working a treat!

All bribery aside, it is my darling husband's birthday today and as we made preparations for a family meal and handed over presents...it seemed the Little Un' thawed somewhat. The baby voice vanished, the dagger looks eased and he responded quickly to a number of things he was asked to do. He also went to his bedroom unprompted and brought out a box of toys to play with in front of the fire. This in itself was amazing because he rarely does imaginary play without adult or other child input.

(A small aside here. My daughter spent most of her early years building dens/cubbies...don't know the US equivalent....so I was shocked to hear SB, when prompted to build one last summer, exclaim that he didn't know HOW to build a cubby. I had to take old blankets outside and pull patio chairs together and demonstrate. I blame the X Box)

Over dinner (which he ate) he was subdued but civil and when I suggested a game of cards afterwards he agreed. We play a form of multi handed patience called 'Racing Demons' where there are several packs in use all at once and there are no 'turns'. Its great fun and SB is very good at it! I have been trying to teach the same game to my year 8 support maths class and they are finding it very hard to pick up!

We giggled all through the game, sang snatches of Monty Python songs and used funny voices to 'put the other players off'. Everyone won a hand except Dad (who is pathetic when he loses) and SB agreed to bedtime with no fuss. We did prayers and had hugs and hopefully, re-established a bit of our relationship.

I am so relieved.

The test will come again when he doesn't co-operate. I had a small taste this morning. He took his cereal bowl through to the kitchen and put it on the bench top. "Dishwasher," I sang through from the other room. Well, you would think I had asked him to chop off his right hand.
"Noooooooo," in high pitched, whiney squeal, underpinned with tears.

I let it go because it was 7.45am and he was on his way to football, reluctantly. I'm not going to put it in though. He can do that when he gets back.

Things My Mother Taught Me

Got these off an email from a friend but had to share them. Not all fall into the Flaming Sword category....but some MIGHT!! :-)

1. My mother taught me TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE.
"If you're going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning."

2. My mother taught me RELIGION .
"You better pray that this will come out of the carpet."

3. My mother taught me about TIME TRAVEL .
"If you don't straighten up, I'm going to knock you into the middle of next week!"

4. My mother taught me LOGIC .
" Because I said so, that's why."

5. My mother taught me MORE LOGIC .
"If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you're not going to the store with me."

6. My mother taught me FORESIGHT.
"Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you're in an accident."

7. My mother taught me IRONY.
"Keep crying, and I'll give you something to cry about."

8. My mother taught me about the science of OSMOSIS.
"Shut your mouth and eat your supper."

9. My mother taught me about CONTORTIONISM .
"Will you look at that dirt on the back of your neck!"

10. My mother taught me about STAMINA
"You'll sit there until all that spinach is gone."

11. My mother taught me about WEATHER .
"This room of yours looks as if a tornado went through it."

12. My mother taught me about HYPOCRISY
"If I told you once, I've told you a million times. Don't exaggerate!"

13. My mother taught me the CIRCLE OF LIFE .
"I brought you into this world, and I can take you out."

14. My mother taught me about BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION.
"Stop acting like your father!"

15. My mother taught me about ENVY.
"There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don't have wonderful parents like you do."

16. My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION.
"Just wait until we get home."

17. My mother taught me about RECEIVING .
"You are going to get it when you get home!"

18. My mother taught me MEDICAL SCIENCE.
"If you don't stop crossing your eyes, they are going to get stuck that way."

19. My mother taught me ESP .
"Put your sweater on; don't you think I know when you are cold?"

20. My mother taught me HUMOR .
"When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don't come running to me."

21. My mother taught me HOW TO BECOME AN ADULT .
"If you don't eat your vegetables, you'll never grow up."

22. My mother taught me GENETICS.
"You're just like your father."

23. My mother taught me about my ROOTS.
"Shut that door behind you. Do you think you were born in a barn?"

24. My mother taught me WISDOM.
"When you get to be my age, you'll understand."

25. And my favorite: My mother taught me about JUSTICE
"One day you'll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you "

And for the record my Mum was great and never said any of these, except 4, 7, 10 (except it was celery and onion), and maybe 16, 17 and 18.

Right of Reply Mum? (mwah...big sloppy kiss)

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Theme Thursday: Fly! My pretties...fly!!! AhHahahahahahaha

Quote: Wizard of OzOnce more for Theme Thursday I have trawled the archives as my brilliant ideas failed to materialise.

Firstly I thought of the Australian obvious...the housefly. Now the weather must be taking a Spring turn as I saw a fly in the bathroom the other day. 'That would be a great capture,' I thought to myself. But of course, when I got there the cupboard was bare.

Then I thought of the constant stream of planes flying over my classroom at shockingly regular and decibel stretching intervals every day. "That's it!" I beamed to myself and took my camera into school today. Of course at 3.03pm (yes...03 not 30....its all about the train service) the kids bolted, the day was over and I had not caught one of the irritating sky juggernauts with my lens.

"Why do they call men's trouser openings 'flies'?" I mused of my husband as I washed dishes this evening. "And do you think I could make a picture around it?" He looked at me with an expression that said, "Darling, I love you dearly but you are QUITE literally insane".

So rather than shock all and sundry with up close and personal pictures of men's trousers, here is a picture of my daughter 'flying' through the air on the 'swing' or 'shuggy' boats (depending on which part of Britain you hail from). This was the Winchester 'Hat Fair' of 2002, one of the many fantastic outdoor festivals held in the UK during the Summer. Mind you, I think they have more important things on their minds this year with all the flooding.

Oh, by the way, we found the fly tonight.....in the milkshake maker. Eeeewwww.
It was dead though. :-D

And now, fly over to Picture This for more Theme Thursday!

Wednesday, 15 August 2007


I am so disappointed.

I have installed a site meter and was getting very excited as I passed the 1000 hits mark. Then I started looking at other blogs and popping back to my page to go to the next one when suddenly, horror! I realised that every time I clicked back and forth, the site meter chugged up another 'hit'. I have been artificially inflating my own score!!!!!

Curses. Oh well, I have at least got onto del.icio.us and managed to start tagging all my fave blogs. Hopefully this will mean that any hits from now on are from the blogosphere!

I feel so foolish.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Best Shot Monday: Feisty

Not many photos to show for this week, I've been busy and sick! I managed to drag myself out for Baby Angel's netball match on Sat however. This was my best action shot.

BA's team has played this mob before and been beaten. This tall and aggressive Goal Attack had BA rattled last time. She's only a few cm taller but seems more mature and really just psyched her out at last meeting.

Now, I don't know what the difference was but BA really had the measure of her this time around. She was so feisty that the GA was making mistakes left, right and centre. Like this time, as she defends way too early and BA was effectively able to lob it over her head as she landed.

I was so proud of her. They still lost but she worked her butt off and kept the margin down as much as possible. She got the vote for player of the match :-D I just wish I could have caught her in some of her spectacular leaps. She's just too quick.

Happy Monday everyone. See you at Tracey's.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Description of Reality

Right! After my last very negative post I am determined to be more upbeat.

Natalie, this one's for YOU!!

Today I tried out some of the ideas and strategies of Mr Bill Rogers, behaviour management consultant extraordinaire. The most effective one was the DOR (Description of Reality).

As teachers most of us find ourselves using language like
"Will you please be quiet?"
"What are you meant to be doing?"
"Why are you talking?" or just
"Will you please stop talking?"

Have you spotted the error in these common expressions? They're all questions! they invite an answer!!! Now this is precisely what we don't actually want. If they answer it invariably descends into an argument or at best a discussion which takes time away from what the class is meant to be doing. Bill suggests using instead a 'description of reality' such as
"You're talking at the same time as I am"
"You're not on task"
"You're out of your seat"
"You are talking across the classroom"
or, my favourite and the most useful today
"You're interfering".

This simple change in communication made an enormous difference in my classroom today. Chiefly, even though I still had to send the same two people 'out', I did not come out feeling exhausted!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A miracle.

The two who got sent out are part of a statistic Bill describes. He maintains that 60-70% of your class will actually co-operate and want to learn. The remaining 30% comprise an element which can be managed through the strategies he describes (25%) and another group who will not respond to anything. (5%) These guys are the persistent behaviour problems and require individual behaviour programs.

My two are part of that small group. The rest of the class are glad when they are sent out. :-) in fact I have to be careful the class don't victimise them from the word go
"Just send them both out now Miss and do us all a favour."

The other tip from the maestro was the repetitive DOR without allowing them to get a word in.
"You're out of your seat..uh..you're out of..uh..you're out of your...uh...you're out of your seat" etc etc Each 'uh' represents an attempt by the recalcitrant to butt in and make some excuse or engage you in discussion. Basically you keep it up and eventually they give up! It works!! One had to be escorted outside as I kept up the "You're shouting across the class..." but she left and I was able to re-enter and regain the class's attention quite quickly. Yessssss!

So stay tuned to see if I can 'keep it up' and to see if we get an overall improvement in class behaviour.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Seatbelt Update

Its Sunday afternoon now and we've only had one 'incident'.

I kept out of the way yesterday by staying in bed with my cold and a good book! I've been taking these 3000mg Vit C tablets and I don't know whether I can attribute it to them but I feel MUCH better!! The feverishness has passed, likewise the tiredness; the stuffy nose is just that...not a running tap like Fri and the throat has stopped burning. Rest is a wonderful thing!

Anyway, being 'out of the way' was a good thing. Father and son watched a movie together and played with some toys apparently. There was a fair bit of nagging and one whingy, crying moment but Himself managed to avoid taking him to the football. He did come in and ask me about it at one point. "Surely if I rug him up....its not like you move around much......" I just shook my head and looked at him. I think the reminder that SB had already thrown up twice that morning might have cemented his resolve. I know my husband and, lovely and loving as he is, he doesn't want to be dealing with vomit at the football!!! :-D

I dragged myself out of bed to take Baby Angel to netball, and, dosed up with Codral, I coped quite well. On our return SB spoke to me briefly for the first time this weekend so I wondered if things were going to be ok. Over dinner he ate........a teaspoon of mashed potato.........but was reasonably chatty. His big brother then did a typical mean big brother trick by giving him one of those unsolvable lateral thinking puzzles and promising him $5.00 if he could crack it in 5 minutes. Needless to say he didn't and rapidly began to descend into hysterics "I'm stupid, I guess I just won't do it then, give me one more minute, its not fair...." Resilience is not his long suit.

I managed to calm him by explaining that of course he couldn't do it, adults can't do it, that's why his rotten brother (18y/o) had offered him the money in the first place because he knew he couldn't do it. It was touch and go for a minute but he calmed down enough to start demanding things off his father. I beat a hasty retreat.

This morning I lost my cool though.

He was coughing incessantly and I asked if he would like some cough medicine. Now naturally, SB is the kid who doesn't like the taste of cough medicine. While other 9 year olds have balanced the 30secs of unpleasantness associated with the bad taste against the calming of the cough and the soothing of the throat, SB has not. He informed me he didn't need any cough medicine.

I foolishly decided to try and reason with him. I asked him why he didn't need any medicine as he was obviously coughing a lot.
"I just don't need any"
"Well, you are coughing a lot, is it the taste?"
" Shutup, I don't want to listen to you!!!"
"So it IS the taste!?"
I tried to point out that the benefits outweighed the minor unpleasantness but by this stage he had lost it and ran out of the room screaming that I "couldn't force him to do anything he didn't want to do" and to "be quiet because he DIDN'T CARE".
At which point I completely lost all adult perspective and shrieked after him that we were EVEN because I DIDN'T CARE EITHER!!!!!!

(seethe seethe seethe)
Now at this point in my reflection I have to ask myself why I lost it and why I am seething.
Is it the frustration of knowing that you're trying to help and resentment at being treated like Public Enemy No 1? Is it the powerlessness of knowing he's not my kid and therefore I have no control over things like this, even if they ARE good for him? Is it the knowledge that his parents will say "Oh, don't force him....."
Is it just dislike of a spoiled, obnoxious child?

Anyway, shortly he stomped back in and flung himself on the sofa and I was petty enough to let fly with
"Don't think you're going to spend your life not doing things you don't want to do. Even as an adult I am constantly being forced to do things I don't want to do! So put that in your pipe and smoke it mate."
Then I stormed out.

Later he came and asked his father if he could have some cough medicine. Himself innocently asked me if we had any. My icy reply that 'we had several varieties' was the most I was going to get involved in that conversation. I still don't know whether he had any.

I went to church to do some major praying for patience, forgiveness and maturity!!!!

Back at the ranch everything is calm. Mainly because I let him have popcorn for lunch. For lunch >:-( ,with nothing else. Father thought it best he eat something rather than nothing. My daughter asked me what had happened to my Flaming Sword!

He did put his toys away when I asked him though.
mutter mutter mutter

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Fasten Your Seatbelts

Small Boy is back from his two week holiday in Queensland with his Mum and siblings,Uncle, Aunt and cousins, who were over from the UK, and grandparents. We haven't had him here for three weeks now and when I staggered in full of cold this evening he was ensconced on the sofa under a quilt because he has the flu.

He wouldn't speak to me, fine with me as I was too tired anyway, and didn't have any dinner. I went to bed and left his father to deal with him but I have an uneasy feeling about all this. He's been out of our sphere for a while now and I suspect we are going to have the usual boundary challenging behaviour coupled with 'you have to let me cause I'm sick, poor me etc etc'. His father will melt like an icecube in the bathtub.

Example. Playing football for his school has obviously been cancelled for tomorrow but I was nearly able to get some cheap tickets for a big league match in the afternoon. I expressed relief that I hadn't got them as he is obviously too sick to go and he whimpered from the sofa "But I want to go to the football daddy, please will you buy me some tickets??" There was no response from his dad. I just KNOW he'll take that kid to the football where they will sit in the freezing cold stands and Small Boy will demand junk food and complain bitterly about everything cos he's sick and his father will come home furious that he can't behave himself.

And I am too sick to enter into it all. I haven't got the energy.

In a way its good if I absent myself as father and son need some time together and I know when we're all together father's attention is often on me and interaction is also left to me. SB said to me on one tantrum occasion "Daddy doesn't love me, he loves YOU." Ouch.

I really hope I am over reacting due to my current unwellness. I am sure I probably am. Either way its going to be a bumpy weekend. Now, having slept from 8.30pm til 2am last night. I will retire again to me sickbed and go back to sleep.

Feed A Cold: Sort out a Challenging Class

Yed. I hab a cold and I'b not habby.

That is why I'm up at this ridiculous hour of the night/morning reading blogs and feeling sorry for myself. Well, actually, not that sorry, mostly hungry......just a moment.............

Mmmm, that's better.....cashews.
Anyway, where was I? oh yes, up in the middle of the night.

I have been keeping this cold at bay for about 3 days now and Thursday night it all came to a head. Literally. MY head. Maybe because I knew Friday was a seminar and I wouldn't have to be holding it all together for the classroom? In fact, had I not been booked into the seminar I would have stayed at home and in truth it would have been kinder to the 100 or so other people I probably breathed on although I did try and sit by myself and not network too much.

The seminar was entitled 'Cracking the Hard Class' and the presenter was Bill Rogers. The man is a legend. I bought his book, 'You Know the Fair Rule', years ago when I first started teaching and lent it to my brother-in-law when he retrained as a primary teacher (in fact I think he's still got it!!). As a Learning Support teacher my classes are composed of many disenfranchised learners and generally dysfunctional kids and having moved from primary to secondary teaching (I am STILL not sure how that happened) I have had my work cut out for me in maintaining my idea of a productive working environment. I say 'my' idea because I have become aware of a general 'chill out, let em go' mentality amongst secondary teachers. I understand it of course. It's survival. At the end of lesson 7/8 History with Year 9 (13-14 year olds) I am physically exhausted!!!!! Holding on too tight eventually saps your health and confidence and I can see why many teachers lower their expectations in favour of sanity.

So the noise levels are a little high. So 20% of them aren't actually on task. So the smart arse in the third row (who is actually incredibly bright) keeps butting in with an inappropriate joke. No one is actually climbing the walls and after all 'kids will be kids'.

Well, I've never been comfortable with that. I know, I know, I'm a control freak but I've been in classes where the atmosphere is relaxed, the teacher doesn't have to raise his voice and 98% of the kids are working productively. That's the classroom I want.

Although I know my classes are not a disaster (well, there is the occasional disaster) I also know I have a reputation for being strict and that I am exhausted a lot of the time. To keep tabs on things I make 26 teenage boys (well 23, there are 3 girls in the class) file past me at hometime to make sure they have filled in their diaries. I mark endlessly and give feedback so they know they are accountable. I plan for three levels of activity to ensure everyone has something to go on with and no-one can whinge: 'I don't know what to do' (of course they still do....). In short, I work really hard to keep the kids on a leash and if I relax for a moment they take off like a bolting horse. With hormone issues. And a pair of scissors.

With that background I attended Bill's seminar. Full of cold and mindful of 'keeping it to myself' I made for the front row where no-one ever sits, thus assuring I would not breathe on too many people. Of course I was also late and they were the only seats that were left but that's another post....

Well, I have never laughed so much at something that wasn't a stand-up routine. If you ever have a chance to watch his DVDs or see him in action I highly recommend it. In fact I think he has an alternate career in 'stand-up comedy' if the education work dries up, which, judging by the full auditorium, is not likely. His impersonations of 'Nicky, Callum, Jacqui and Scott' were hysterical. His impersonations of the ineffectual teacher were also hysterical although somewhat conscience-pricking from time to time.

He gave us the full gamut from
"Oh, please class, would you please be quiet" ( in pleading apologetic tones with hands on hips)to
"If you don't all shut up you will be dealing with me and then you won't know what's hit you!!!"
(with accusing finger outstretched and the aspect of a publican about to climb the bar to forcibly eject you).

I know which end of the spectrum I lean towards.

His main message was that of conveying 'confident calmness'. Address issues, don't just 'accept that kids are like that', address issues but do it in a calm, assertive manner. At the same time he would then break into the 'subtitle' which is going on in your head as you are addressing things 'calmly'. I think this is the thing which makes him great. He doesn't pretend that we don't want to say those things. He doesn't make you feel inadequate with his mastery of his own demeanour. He isn't the perfect teacher we need to aspire to emulating. He thinks and feels all the frustrations, irritation and outrage that we do. He just doesn't say it to the kids.

I bought his book of course. And got him to sign it! I just hope I can implement some of what he advocates when I have five lessons of the same Year 9 History class, that some sadistic bastard timetabled for me, on a Monday. With all the Special Ed kids in it. And the clown in row three with the 95% grade average.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Theme Thursday: Pick a Key any Key!!

So, the 'key' to learning the piano is "practice"! Yes, Baby Angel, this means YOU! And practice does not mean stumbling through a piece once with your eyes fixed on the 'keys', totally ignoring the piece of music in front of you. Nor does it mean thumping the 'keys' in frustration every time you hit a bum note. Furthermore it does not include breaking into 'Have Mercy On the Criminal' or 'Heart and Soul' every time the Minuet you are murdering fails to retain your attention.

No, the 'key' to practice is perseverance and repetition to the point of insanity; that of those around you I mean. Seriously though, I love listening to 'Carefree Boogie' played as if it were being churned through a mincer. Or 'That Song' being hammered to within an inch of a Year 8 Shop(Woodwork) class project. However, I think my favourite is a rendition of the Mazurka as performed by a group of 'berserkers' whilst impaling themselves on their own swords.

No, no darling, its lovely ....really!

No, the 'key' is just more practice.

To unlock some great shots.....be sure to check out Theme Thursday:Key at Picture This.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Launching Kidzone.

I know, I know, not very good pictures......but what can you do? I was up to my eyeballs in glitter, icing, smoothies and kids!

Today was the launch of our new, rebranded 'Kidzone' (aka Sunday School). It wasn't until it was all over that I realised I had not taken
any pictures. The committee had already started to set up for Sunday Lunch (once a month...did it have to be THIS Sunday?) and the old furniture with flowery tablecloths did not do justice to our new 'look' so this is a just a taster. Besides, we have only really started the makeover. We still have to get new floor covering, tables and chairs and get a bit of art and craft up on the walls. The metal strips you can see are an IKEA invention. They are display rails complete with magnets for holding up art works :-D.

So how did it go? Well, in church the kids opened boxes loaded with craft goodies which they then brought down to the new 'sealed' room. There was the grand unveiling amongst many 'oos' and 'aahs' and a few 'where are my sunglasses?'. The whole congregation was brought down to have a look and then we gathered the kids in the middle and prayed for them and for blessings on the work of the children's ministry.

After the congregation left we had a riotous game of 'Ship to Shore' rebranded as 'Surfs Up'. They had to 'paddle out', wait for a wave (without moving or you're OUT!), Hang Ten, scrunch up on their imaginary 'surfboards' for "Shark" and race back to the beach on a big wave. Last ones to do anything were out! We also had a big dice which was the 'dumper' wave and as each child had a number, when the dice was rolled...that number was 'dumped'!! It went very well. No great Biblical message but a lot of fun :-D

We followed this up with the story of Peter, Andrew, James and John leaving their nets to follow Jesus and become 'fishers of men'. We then broke into groups to do various craft activities including, icing biscuits and adding scales (smarties) and tails (spearmint leaves) to make fish; making 'summer' drinks like banana and peach smoothies; decorating starfish for the pinupboard and decorating the letters of the words "Come and follow me" to take back into church.

Of course we ran out of time and although we managed to hand around the 'fishy' biscuits, we totally failed to get our glittery sentence together out the front. I think it said
CME AND FOLW ME........ reminds me of Owl in Winnie the Pooh.
Afterwards I had wanted to pin it on the pinboard.....but half of them wanted to take their letters home! So that bit was a bit of a disaster!! Never mind. They all seemed happy and positive and, God willing, it will a be a foundation to build on.

The clean up factor was mega.

Now I promise if I get my hands on any photos of the time with the kids inaction...I will post them. Meanwhile, that was Sunday!! I slept for a good deal of the rest of it .

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Theme Thursday: Trip

Once we went on a bus trip. It was London, 2005, New Year's Day. It was freezing. Someone thought it was a good idea.

"The old Routemaster Buses are being phased out," she said, " this may be our last chance to ride on one."

Routemasters are the iconic red London double decker buses with the entrance at the rear. They still have conductors who hang off the rear platform and ring the bell to signal the driver that it's safe to leave the stop. At the time, people still chased them down the street and leaped perilously from crowded footpath to moving platform, swinging off the handrail and risking life and limb in doing so. This of course is why they were being phased out! Mighty expensive for the London Dept of Transport public liability section.

Oh and there was the disabled access issue.

Anyway, bear in mind that it was New Year's Day. Several of the adult members of our group were feeling mighty fragile thank you very much. Oh well, alright it was just me and Drew who had stayed up til 3am watching movies and drinking champagne.......but I had jetlag!! I swear!

It was freezing cold. Everyone rugged up and we ventured out with 3 nine year olds, 5 adults and a hangover. We missed the first bus. It was 3.30pmish. Now I don't know if you have the same problem in areas of the US but in the UK in January it is dark by 4pm or thereabouts. Temperatures are plummeting. Children are unaffected and continue to run amok. Busy roads exude amazing appeal for over excited, sugar laden boys- in particular. Buses are always late in this situation. More than once we had to retrieve a child from the path of an oncoming vehicle as they cavorted around their frozen parents in the excitement of the moment.

Oh, may I just say at this moment that one of the children was our dear friend Sir Slice up my Gardenalot
(see Best Shot Monday) whose self control is well renowned, not.

By the time the next bus came we were in pain with the cold. Gratefully we piled on via the ubiquitous rear platform, reining in children as best we could. ("We're going up stairs...come on Baby A, come on T and S ...lets sit right at the FRONT" this spoken at 4000 decibels and at a pitch designed to test the ears of a greyhound)

It was not an empty bus. Our children were over excited. The conductor was less than patient. And have you ever been upstairs in a double decker bus? It is a very mobile ride!! (Remember the hangover).

By the time we disembarked (and dragged children from out of the path of the 'about to move off' bus) we were having to remind ourselves of the historic nature of our trip. We were having to remind ourselves a LOT!

Are we having fun yet??? (Check out parental faces)

A quick look at the Christmas lights and we were in the market for toilets, hot drinks and food.
This was the day I discovered Starbucks. We don't have them in Adelaide. After the thaw out we had to go back out and wait for another bus to take us home. Fabulous.

Suffice to say I take great pleasure in the fact that I made the effort and personal sacrifice to take a TRIP in one of the last of the famous Routemaster buses in London. That was until I found out that they were not retired until nearly 11 months later!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bad Trip >:-(

See what's Trippin over at Picture This

So, Mr and Mrs X, How Do You Feel Johnny Is Going?

Have just returned from Parent Teacher interview evening.........exhausted. What struck me were the recurring themes.

He/she doesn't see the relevance of History/Geography/Maths (insert subject here).
He/she is not motivated.
He/she never shows me their diary.
They have always 'done their homework at school'.
They have not written in their diary.
They are mainly interested in their social networks.

(Slightly worrying that on my return home when I asked BabyAngel whether she had done her homework she told me she had 'Done it at school!'.)

It's Middle School (sigh). Truly, children between the ages of 13 and 15 should be sent to a training camp in the bush. They should be taught to canoe, abseil, climb trees and cook on a campfire. They should sing songs, learn bush dances and how to survive for 8 hours on one canteen of water....between 3 of them. There's a school in Victoria called Geelong Grammar which does something like this. The kids are sent off for one year to the country campus called Timbertop. They board and they deal with all the issues surrounding the 'Getting of Wisdom'.
Great idea. Just don't ask me to teach there :-D

I heard it said somewhere recently that in most societies the ritual initiation of children into adulthood occurs with the support of the entire community. Witness the indigenous Americans and the sweathouse rituals; the aboriginal boys who are taken away by the men of the tribe and subjected to all sorts of hardships; the Masai warriors; the Inuits. Similar rituals accompany the advent of womanhood. Western society is the only group which does not do this. For some reason we think we can handle the rites of passage, which other whole communities support, in the closeted environment of the nuclear family. Now this may be a generalisation but it may also explain why there is so much depression, addiction and teenage suicide running riot in our youth communities.

It may also be why so many parents reach out via the web or community support groups-baby groups etc-to other like minded parents, for support and advice in this complex privilege we call parenting.

God Bless Us and All Who Sail In Us!!!!

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

View from our Balcony Tonight

Supermarket Follies

They're at it again on the radio. Should we allow manufacturers to promote foods by putting cartoon characters on the packets? It makes supermarket trips hard work. After all it is not fair on parents that they have to say 'No' to their kids.

What? NOT FAIR? What's fair got to do with it? Its our b****y JOB!!!!!

No, you can't touch the hot plate. No, you can't get in the deep end without an adult. No you can't go to bed without brushing your teeth. No you can't hit the little boy who has your toy. No, you can't stay out til midnight when you have school tomorrow. No you can't date the a**hole with the tattoos. (OK sorry, got carried away with the last one)

Too many parents are frightened of
a) their children not loving them
b) other parents judging them as they deal with a tantrum.

Just quietly, the second is more likely to occur than the first and those 'judgers' are usually either people who've never had children or .........no, that's it. How many times have I smiled empathetically at other parents in the supermarket queue as they restrained their squirming, squealing toddler/child/teenager. Well, ok not many on the last count! Real parents know and understand. We have all been there.

People who 'tut' in supermarkets and mutter things about 'discipline' under their breath, have got the wrong end of the stick. What do they think the tactical ignoring and removal of a child from a situation is? That is discipline!! Unfortunately for them, since the removal of thumbscrews, the rack and the wooden spoon, discipline occurs in public. Not giving in, saying what you mean and maintaining boundaries by delivering consequences are the strongest forms of discipline necessary for most children. They are however, at times, the most difficult to implement.

The whole cartoon characters debate is a flawed one. Children have always nagged parents for the 'sweet' option. Some of the better quality yoghurts and cheeses here have 'names' selling them: The Wiggles, Thomas the Tank Engine, Teletubbies. The issue is not what is on the packet but whether parents are consistently discerning purchasers. If you cannot bear the fight, buy the good food and top up the 'guilt' factor at the counter with a comic or Shrek colouring book. At least they will be reading or being creative and their teeth and fitness will thank you.

Better still, don't give in to guilt at all. What have you got to be guilty about? Your child is loved, fed, clothed, housed, educated and kept healthy. If you still feel bad, there is an underlying issue which needs resolving and best you do that rather than buy them a 'Pot O' Chocolate'!!