Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Bringing Up Boys. Call Me If You Know How.

Conversation at the sink. Small Boy is nonchalantly washing the dishes.

Me: Here's a clean pair of jeans for you. Which drawer are jeans in?Small Boy: I can't remember.Me: Shall I make some labels for you?
Small Boy: Nah, that's OK. There's a weird code. I just have to break it and I'll be like Superman.
Me: ???????????

With the recent (and unexpected) news that we will be having a French exchange student after all, we turned our attention today to the Small Boy's room where 'Frog Boy', as Himself has already affectionately named him, will be staying.

Now Small Boy is not known for his organisational or hygienic qualities. The clothes that he leaves here are stored in two (out of 4) supersized deep drawers that came with the bunks. Because they are so long and deep, they are hard to open and difficult to find things in. At one point I bought some drawer dividers from IKEA and even labelled the inside of the sides of the drawers to indicate which category of clothing went in which divider. Before long, they too were buried at the bottom of the drawers. The question 'how can you find anything' was easily answered by looking at the floor of the room. Small Boy's patented search method was to turf everything he came to out of the drawer and onto the floor until he reached the desired article. He then put it on and left the room.

To add insult to injury, when asked to tidy his room, he scooped up everything on the floor and put it into the washing basket! I found I was washing huge piles of his clothing....and most of it was clean!

Toys are another issue. You can just see, in the photo above, the large white melamine shelves containing the plastic tubs I carefully labelled some years ago. After a few years, I gave up trying to encourage him to put things into the appropriate tubs and just focused on getting him to put them into any tub. After another year or so I gave up altogether. When I nag his father into getting him to 'tidy up', everything is thrown onto the shelves willy nilly. Sometimes it lands in a tub, sometimes not. I have adjusted my mindset to grasp the fact that it is not my problem.Now with the impending arrival of a guest, it has become my problem.

With Mum and Dad's departure, there has been a lot of furniture rearrangement and, in the mix, we found ourselves with a 5 drawer tallboy which I thought might solve the problem. My plan was to remove the large, white (and now very tatty) melamine shelves, sort and rationalise the dated toy collection and put it into the deep drawers. Clothes would then go into the tallboy where there would be a drawer for each category and things would be easier to find (I also hold out a lame hope that the shallower drawers may encourage folding!!!????).

Needless to say my plans were not met with raging approval. Quite the contrary. Now Himself would say that Small Boy has a right to have an opinion about his room and the way it's organised however, Himself does nothing about trying to teach the child to organise himself and merely roars with displeasure when said child cannot find some essential item, particularly at a time when we are due to leave the house in a hurry. Just recently the Small Boy and I had a conversation about this.

Scene: In the kitchen

Me: taking a 'washed' plate, thick with grease and detergent, out of the drying rack:
Small Boy, this one isn't really rinsed properly. Has anyone ever shown you how to rinse the

SB: No! And that's the problem. Everyone is always yelling at me to do things better and no-one
ever shows me how to do it!!!!

Me: I imagine that would be very frustrating. Let me show you what this small half sink here is

The BA, in her excitement over the exchange student, forgets to demonstrate the niceties of detergent application to the Small Boy.

So, in my defence, although the reorganisation of the bedroom has been motivated by the coming exchange student, it is not as if I am simply kicking Small Boy out with no thought to his long term welfare. His room had deteriorated to such a state that he wasn't even playing with any of his toys because he couldn't find any game or set in a complete state. It was overwhelming.

Nevertheless, his passive aggressive resistance to the whole thing was impressive.

Firstly he sat on the bed telling me loudly that the room was fine and didn't need to be organised. He protested repeatedly that he knew where everything was and that not everyone had to be a clean freak like me (hah! you should see my desk!). As I started to take things off the shelves he lounged on the bed picking up random items and playing with them. I asked him to take things out of his drawers. At least 10 times. Finally, as the level of voices rose, his father came in and ordered him to 'get on with it'.

Oh the dragging limbs, the whining complaints, the slow motion removal of items from the drawer, punctuated by 'Oh look THERE's my nerf gun' and the inevitable 5 minute play with it.....

The BA lovingly encourages the Small Boy to stop procrastinating and get on with the dishes.

After I had finally cleared the shelves I turned to the outside door his room enjoys, intending to prop it open for ease of furniture removal. The door opened but the screen was locked.

Me: Small Boy, where are the keys to the screen. Actually, who locked the screen? It wasn't
locked before.....
(secretly I blamed mum for this......she is always locking everything up)
SB:sullenly, I dunno.

Deep breaths.

I went to the key rack whereupon hangs the inevitable collection of keys you get when you move into a house, three quarters of which seem to have no functional purpose. I went through them systematically. The screen would not open.

Me: Small Boy, are you sure you don't know where the keys are?
SB: Well, they used to be on the window ledge next to the door but I don't know where they

Oh great.
Faced with having to take the furniture out through the house (and around some pretty tight corners I might say), I started to clear a path to the door. In the process I also started to remove junk from the other smaller set of shelves; the one that contains pens, pencils, solidified silly putty and, interestingly, 8 tissue paper parcels containing a variety of seeds from a long ago experiment or school fete. I'm not sure which. They went into the trash bag after a short debate over the liklihood of their ever being planted in the next 4 years and I proceeded to the reach to the very back of the bottom shelf where drawings and secret messages were scrunched into a wad up against the wall. As I pulled out the last piece I heard a jangle and felt the cool hard surface of, you guessed it, the missing keys.

After that no-one was game to take me on over the issue of whether the room needed re-organising or not. I moved the furniture and went to scrap booking leaving Himself with the unenviable, but genetically approriate task of getting his son to sort his clothes into the new set of drawers.
Come to think of it, I haven't checked the drawers yet.
Ten bucks says they just threw anything in anywhere.
Anyone game?

This may or may not be the best way to bring up a boy.

Monday, 24 May 2010

SOOC Monday: Because Time Is Relative

Time is relative. Sometimes it's even illusory. So even though Melody hosts Straight Out Of Camera Saturday on a Saturday, I'm joining in today. Heck, I only managed Team Up Thursday on Saturday.

I'm coming to you from the bottom of a black hole today. Don't ask me why. If I had any hormones left I'd say it was hormonal but maybe I'm just caught in the seasonal slump that seems to be affecting so many of my blogmates nowadays. The temperature is dropping, we're sourcing firewood, it's freezing cold in the mornings as we get up and, unlike you northern hemisphere types, South Australians do not generally have central heating. I have a tickly cough, sore ears and a sour outlook on life.

But look, there is my baby up there. Last weekend we attended a fundraiser for Ugandan orphans, organised by a girl at our church for her personal school project. I had offered to face paint (after a long absence) and the Baby Angel had a little stall selling off some of her stuffed toys and other extraneous items. My face paints kind of got taken over by teenagers but that's ok; and these are the only two butterflies I managed. The BA chose to wear hers into her netball match later that afternoon. It was a bit like a Maori tattoo. Intimidating. Well, it must have been, cause they won :-)

I really enjoyed the face painting. I'd like to have more opportunities to practice. It's so different to what I do everyday. So relaxing and rewarding.

But I digress. My black hole. Same old same old. I'm so sick of teaching kids who don't want to learn. They almost feel as if they come in determined NOT to learn. It is pretty soul destroying and I wonder why I turned down that full time job in primary that was offered to me at the end of last year.

On top of that, we had been getting very excited about the possibility of a French exchange student. For reasons I can't fathom, the BA loves learning French. She had two years of appalling French instruction at her last school, I knew something was amiss when she counted for me
'un, dux, troys....' Unfortunately there were insufficient students interested in the language in her class and, I suspect, her poor teacher was feeling rather like me and clawing her way through each teaching day. Nevertheless, the BA maintained her desire to learn the language and has entered into it with gusto in her new school. I am filled with admiration for her attempts because she is miles behind her cohort but she gets onto Babelfish and talks to Grandad (a fluent French speaker) on the phone and generally wants to learn.

One of things she had her heart set upon was the French exchange. When we heard the cost at the outset, we knew it was a long bow; but we thought that with support from various family members, maybe she could do it. Well as life sometimes plays out, the $5500 trip to France was out of the question and so the BA's lessons in life's disappointments began. To her credit, after her initial devastation, she rallied and said she would still like to host a student here. Given the weird nature of our adopted family, I was somewhat taken aback; but after some thought we decided it was possible and we sent our forms in.

We had all been getting quite excited about the prospect of a foreign student and were only minorly shaken by a suggestion yesterday morning by email, that the student might not be a girl but a boy!! Apparently they had more girls than boys offer to host students and they were looking for a suitable family (with boys) that might be able to cope with a male student. The BA was game (disconcerting perhaps?) and we replied immediately in the affirmative.

Himself and I discussed the issues of hosting a male student and even came up with some activities we could undertake with him to introduce him to Australian life and culture (hem hem). Everyone was quite excited.

So imagine the crush as we read the email this afternoon, explaining that it would probably be unwise for us to have the male student as he wouldn't spend much time with us since he'd be at another school and thank you for your interest etc etc etc........


I'm not sure who was more disappointed, the BA or I.

It's my 'black hole' I know but I feel like we have been rejected and I feel bitterly disappointed for the BA. Priority was given to girls who were able to make the exchange trip to France and so we were way down the list. It's even more irritating when I know there were other girls who could afford the trip but who 'chickened out'.

At the end of the day I've got to admire the BA's response. "God really didn't want me to get involved in this exchange, did He?" she said tonight.

She made me think. Maybe we would have been the wrong family. After all, the Lord is looking after those exchange students as well as us. Maybe we're the family in reserve? Sometimes families don't get on with students and a change is called for. Maybe we're the back up plan? The one thing I know is, it's ok. Its all playing out exactly the way it should.

The BA and I salved our disappointment by practising flicking teatowels at each other's legs in the kitchen tonight. The BA mastered her first ever whip like crack. Wooooow it stung!

May we all count our blessings and trust that the universe is unfolding...as it should.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure, click over to Slurping Life and see the magnificent Wil as he prepares for his swim in the Special Olympics Summer Games. From there you can check out many other quality blogs on Straight Out Of Camera Saturday.

Image credit tattoo

Image credit Joan

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Team Up Thursday/Saturday: Trouble

JoLyn has already told the story of how we switched out theme this week over at her site when she posted our Team Up double almost on time. It's Saturday here now and I have only just managed to get myself into gear to get my side up.
The shot on the right is JoLyn's toddler terrorist grandson. Beware! He has drool and he knows how to use it! I just thought of this medallion the BA was given when she was a wee kid and a bit of a terror herself! Here she is wearing it and giving me a bit of attitude about all the photos!

The other day when she was clearing out her room and getting rid of some of her 'kidstuff', she put the medallion in the 'junk' pile; but I couldn't let it go and rescued it for my memory box. As soon as we decided on 'trouble' I knew I wanted to use a shot of it. I had quite a lot of trouble getting a good macro shot of it I'm afraid and I am having to acknowledge that mt DSLR, although an improvement on my PAS, is pretty limited.

If you want to see the limits stretched however, click over to Team Up Thursday at Megan or Melody's place and check out what's on offer.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

I Am The Pencil Nazi


First you have to understand NAPLAN.

The National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy, aka NAPLAN, aka Basic Skills testing, was introduced in Australia in 2008. Pupils are tested in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 in: Reading, Writing, Language Conventions (spelling and grammar) and Numeracy (with and without calculators). The tests take place over the same
3 days, in a prescribed order, across the entire country. As of this year, results are posted on the controversial My Schools website. Rightly or wrongly, they are a big deal.

So, in each school you have to have a NAPLAN coordinator and, for my sins, at our school it happens to be me. There's a lot of receiving, counting and securing test papers; briefing test supervisors, arranging timetables and rooms and, most importantly, dealing with the pencils.
When we were first introduced to the running of the tests, the powers that be recommended providing all writing materials for the pupils so that none were disadvantaged (or able to avoid the test) through lack of writing materials. Therefore, I duly purchased 90+ plastic bags, pencils and rubbers and numbered the whole lot of them, making up packs to supply to each classroom during testing.

At the end of the first year I was approximately 10 pencils down. This included bags coming back with missing pencils or simply, bags missing altogether! What were they doing? Eating them??? I sighed the sigh of inevitability and went about topping up my losses. At the end of last year, I put the whole lot into a cupboard with the intention of checking them later. Of course, later turned out to be the beginning of the week of the 2010 testing . Imagine my horror then as the morning before the start of the tests I counted everything and realised there were over THIRTY missing!!!!!!!! And not just pencils! Thirty bags in pretty much sequential order!! Well, it was obvious. SOME teacher had simply not returned the materials from last year.

I sent out a polite but desperate email. Please check your cupboards, drawers, wherever! I know this was not intentional but I really need those missing pencils!!

Muttering grimly about lackadaisical teachers and gritting my teeth I bought new bags, pencils and rubbers and stayed back until 7pm that night ensuring they were ready to go for the big tests the next day. I spent an hour the next night going through the bags, counting every pencil and rubber and sharpening where needed (btw: thanks to those two willing Year 12s who helped me out because of course they had no study to do, did they? Right.).
All was well.

The next day however, was a different story. Firstly someone suggested that the year 7s had sharpened their pencils away to such an extent that they needed replacing!!!!!!!!! What the heck was that about? they were meant to be doing a test not beating a path to the rubbish bin for pencil sharpening purposes. (Later, when I checked their classroom for something I happily realised they had not been beating a path. The shavings were all over the floor.) Well anyway, pencil replacement was not going to happen!!!! They could learn the hard way about the hard heart of the Pencil Nazi.

Secondly, when I checked the year 9 boxes, I discovered that not one but two bags and a pencil sharpener were missing!
(cue dramatic music: duh duh daaaaaaaaaaah!)

(I ask you...does this look like an organised box to you?)

I immediately set about on a campaign to name and shame the irresponsible test supervisors who had LOST MY PENCILS!!!!!!!!

Email announcements went out, congratulating the one supervisor who had managed to return everything correctly. Lists of missing items were posted, although in my mercy I did not at this point reveal the names of the sloppy teachers who had allowed my stationery to be snaffled!

The following morning I found an apologetic note and two replacement pencil sharpeners in my pigeon hole. At least someone was feeling guilty. As it transpired, more than one person must have been feeling guilty because when that box came back at the end of the third day it contained, not one, but three pencil sharpeners! Not quite sure how that happened.

I supervised a test myself on the final day and pupils cowered in fear as I ruled the exam room with a fist of steel and the temper of a recently woken dragon:


All my items were returned correctly.

Later the next day, as I headed to the supermarket and bottlo for my Friday night essential supplies, I rummaged about in the boot of my car looking for a recycled shopping bag. There's still a bit of junk from mum and dad's move lurking in my car and it was hard to find a decent bag in the dark and, hello, what's this? This bag feels heavier than the others........

I found the missing thirty pencils. But noone needs to know that right? Just between you, me and the internet.....

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Team Up Thursday: Looking Up

JoLyn and I decided on 'Looking Up' as our theme this week and she surprised me with an early delivery of this amazing shot taken on the beach in Nicaragua. It's a good job I am not easily intimidated :-D

JoLyn has had an amazing time visiting Nicaragua recently and she has lots of photos and stories to share over at A Year of Happy.

My rather soft focus, but emotive, carousel horses were taken at the Adelaide Fringe Festival some years ago. I thought they looked like they'd seen a ghost but as it turns out it was just a rainbow :-D.

I've got so much to do but I'm going to take a few moments to check out the other Team Up Teams this Thursday. Why don't you have a look too? The hosts are The Hipmomma and Megan at Mental Inventory but you can see all the diptychs on the flickrpool.

Have a great Thursday!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Everyone's OK!!!! We're Just Busy

For those of you who thought we may have slipped off the face of the Earth, I just wanted to let you know that we are OK and will be returning to normal broadcasting soon. I hope.

The Baby Angel had her 15th birthday on the weekend and I haven't even uploaded a picture yet.
She was a little disappointed as she didn't have a party ( due to work commitments..hem hem) but we hope to remedy that in the next few weekends.
She did get to see Vampire Weekend at the Entertainment Centre...unsupervised!!!
She has also asked me to tell you that she did not get a cake. It's true. I failed. But I have assured her that she will get one when she has her sleepover party. Sheesh. The pressure.

Anyway, isn't 15 the age at which birthdays start to be kind of non-eventful? No? I'm ahead of myself aren't I.

Well, I'll get pictures up when I can. This week is NAPLAN, which I co-ordinate, so I have been busy sharpening 100 pencils, sorting 100 test papers into class sets (they come individually named) and teaching teachers how to read a script and supervise the tests in a standardised manner; which does not include giving them assistance or letting them sit next to each other, as I suspect happened last year.

I have also been to another Maths course (lots of fun problem solving) and created havoc directing runners during the Cross Country on Thursday. I have watched netball games, run the termly Kids Service at church (including steering the Youth as their leader was ill with pneumonia) attended birthday parties, been a taxi service and accompanied my daughter to see 'Iron Man 2' on her birthday (meh.....not as good as the first).

This morning I got up at 4.30am to get some school work done.

I'm not sure how long we can keep up this pace.......

Friday, 7 May 2010

Team Up Thursday: Peaceful

For Team Up Thursday this week the theme was Peaceful. JoLyn snapped a peaceful holidaymaker catching a few zzzzs in a hammock in Nicaragua last week. My peace was of a different variety. Last year, the Baby Angel did The 40 Hour Famine for World Vision and rather than give up food, she gave up talking!

She carried that notepad around with her for the whole 40 hours and wrote us messages! It was very funny. I told her she should keep the book as a reminder of the time.

Many of the kids at school do 40 Hour famine each year. They don't just give up food nowadays; there's technology, furniture, shoes and transport, all of which serve to remind them how it feels to live in a society where none of these things are taken for granted. JoLyn's post the other day about her time in Nicaragua gives a tiny glimpse of how the rest of the world lives.

So on this Team Up Thursday, I hope you're all feeling peaceful, grateful and blessed! Click on over to Megan or Melody to see what everyone else has to offer or just click on the button on my sidebar. (I hope it works.....)

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The Heartbreak Cat: A Story in Four Felines.

A non-animal loving man....and his cat. (Himself and Morticia)

A bad tempered cat who hates everyone but does a good impression of 'pilchards wouldn't melt in my mouth' for the camera (Pippin).

A new addition to the family (Lily......as in Munster).

Now given that we came home one night to discover Pippin baling up Lil in the stairwell, and given that Lil was SO terrified she ripped a chunk out of Himself's mouse finger, you would think that she'd learned her place in the pecking order. Apparently not.

When Morticia was brought face to face with the interloper just recently, contrary to our expectations her blood pressure skyrocketed and she emitted that low menacing growl which goes with invaded territory. Lily of course was blissfully unaware and followed Morticia around the house attacking her periodically until Tish turned, swiped her and then sat by the door pointedly until we let her out.
That was Friday.

On Sunday afternoon I found this message on the kitchen blackboard.

Tish had not put a paw near the place since Friday and Himself was gutted. I mean, we were all devastated but Himself was hardest hit.

"This is why I don't like pets!" he announced after having got up at 3am to walk the streets and look for her.

Even Pippin was affected. This most stand-offish and psychotic of cats (Himself calls him The Anti-Pet) whined horribly and, shock of shocks, on Sunday morning, came and sat on my lap!
I considered this anomaly with the BA.

Me: You know the last time Pippin went all sooky was when Merry disappeared.

(Merry, the suck face ie incredibly affectionate, cat that Lily is replacing. 2005-2005)

BA: Yeah that's right! He kept whining and carrying on. But you know, he used to fight with Merry all the time.

Me: Yes, and he was hissing at Tish again the morning before she disappeared!

(Silence while we contemplate this anomaly)

Me: Maybe he's 'doing them in'??????

By Monday night we had started to look for a body. We poked around under trees and we'd stopped calling for her. A cloud of foreboding hung over the family.

This morning at 6am, No2 Son was awoken by a small, bedraggled, hungry black cat at his window. Her familiar bell, a sound we had resigned ourselves to never hearing again, awakened him and he was able to let her in. Where has she been? We have no idea but we are awfully glad she's back! None more so than Himself who has given me strict orders never to let her outside again! I wonder how long that will last?!