Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Only A Hippopotamus Will Do


Along with all the good cheer, peace on earth and general cosiness, there is a nasty, prickly side to this, arguably our favourite, western holiday.

The expectations built up by Christmas consumerism are immense and destructive. For the last three years I have battled with Himself, carving a trail of misery through our lives with his anger at the guilt and inadequacy spawned by his inability to buy everything he perceives is expected of him. It is a rod made for his own back but fueled by the behaviour of his father decades ago, who filled the parenting hole left by his frequent business absences with large gifts of cash every Christmas. And I mean large.

For three years now I have tried to reason with him on the subject of moderation at Christmas; living within our means; the true meaning of the season and the general ill advisedness of always getting the kids exactly what they want ( the possibility of this resulting in spoiled, ungrateful children was not a link he had made himself). I have described to him some of my most memorable Christmases where, for one reason or another, there was not as much to go around as usual. I described the joy of making things, of making do, to no avail.

"I understand everything you are saying logically," he explained,"but it doesn't change how I feel. I feel that I am unable to provide for my family. I feel like a failure."

I have tried to point out the values lessons which are imparted at Christmas: the joy of giving as well as receiving; value for money; the messages we send in the types of presents we give: personal, educational, things that stimulate family interaction. I have tried to explain to him that sometimes it isn't the cost of the present which is key but rather knowing what it is that your kids want, demonstrating an understanding of their interests and showing that you have listened (this is especially true in the case of older kids).

I have discussed the issue of quality replacing quantity as children get older.

But I am a hypocrite. When I looked at this photo I felt we hadn't done enough.

This Christmas, I watched my 14 year old search in vain for something she had specifically requested which wasn't there.

I didn't 'approve' of it. She didn't cry, she is too old for that, but the disappointment was palpable. Most of the things she received she already knew about

and the 'surprises' were things I valued, not things she values.

Her step brother received just about everything he had put on his list and if he didn't get it from dad then he got it from mum.

But she didn't say a thing and when I hugged her and asked if she was ok she just smiled and said 'of course'. I guess I've taught her to be gracious? Why then did I still feel so bad that I went on ebay and found the rotten 'Gossip Girl' Season 1 dvd set and won it at auction for $19.50?????? She will get it late but she will get it. At least I didn't pay $69.00 for the rubbishy thing!

We are imperfect but we are together.

And these pictures were taken before she knew I'd caved in!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Carols By Candlelight or Babysitting 4 Teenagers

A quilt, a novel, a reindeer songbook and two 'safelight' candles. What do these four items have in common I ask you? Well, here in beautiful Adelaide we have a 65 year old tradition called 'Carols By Candlelight'; held on the banks of the River Torrens, in the shadow of our Festival Theatre, in the heart of the city.

Many years ago there was a permanent 'Sound Shell' on the site and every year the local choirs would mass together to perform parts of Handel's Messiah as well as beautiful renditions of traditional carols. My own mother was part of the Philharmonic Choir which performed annually for several years when I was a pre-schooler. I remember carefully holding the thick white candle inside its wax paper cup as the crowd sang along to 'Oh Little Town of Bethlehem' on the hot December nights.

I haven't been to a Carols evening for many, many years; early 1980s I'd guess! The tradition decrees you get there early and park your blanket to reserve a spot on the riverbank, in view of the stage. Although the show starts at 8pm, we got there at 4.30pm. This is why.You can just see the stage there in the upper right hand corner.

This one is taken looking to my right.

And this is the reason I was there at all.

Yes, I was once more chaperoning the teenagers! This was one of the first outings to a public gathering that the gang had undertaken and two of the other mothers were very glad I was going to sit on my own blanket a metre away from the kids and be thoroughly ignored by them :-) As for the lad's parents....who knows. There seem to be different rules for boys.

The sun was blazing down when we arrived and apart from insisting on (and facilitating in) the wearing of sunscreen by all parties, I had 3 hours to kill virtually on my own. What to do for entertainment?

Don't worry mum, I had a MUCH bigger hat on but the Baby Angel decided I needed a festive hat for the photos.

Gradually the sun sank.
The safeflame candles were lit.

The concert commenced.

And a good time was had by all.

Retail Cheer

How about this?

Himself goes to buy a basketball at a well known sports retail store. He carefully selects a mid range ball suitable to our needs and reasonably priced at $36.99. At the checkout the cashier announces that the ball is $90.00!
"There seems to be a mistake," says Himself, "this ball was marked at $36.99."
"Oh, no," says an arrogant young man behind the counter, "this is a $90.00 ball."

Himself took the young man to the shelf and pointed out the 4 identical balls still in the rack, fronted by a card that read G534 $36.99 (or some such number.. I don't know...it's a basketball!). He pointed out the matchnig serial number on the balls.

"I'm sorry sir, I'm afraid this is a $90.00 ball."

"Look," says my incredibly patient husband (hahahahahahahahahha), "these balls are clearly marked at this price, if you have made a mistake, that's really your problem. It says $36.99 and that's what I'm going to pay for it!"

At this point the young man snatched, you read me right, snatched the ball out of Himself's hands and announced,
"Oh no you're not!"

Himself told him in typically colourful language where he could put his ball and what he could go and do with himself in the meantime and left.

He got a perfectly good ball from K Mart for $20.00. And everyone smiled at him!

Now, I like to ensure that youngsters are aware and educated in the art of life. I think someone needs to have a word with this young man, for his own edification of course. Therefore I went to the internet to try and find a way to send a message to the company. On the webpage I tried 'customer service' and went down several links before reaching a dead end. Then I tried' contact us', which only gave me the option 'orders@....', in frustration I typed 'complaints' into the site's search box.

This is the message I received:

Unfortunately an error has occured on the site. The Rebel Sport technical team are aware of this and are working to fix the problem. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

Do you think there is a programmer somewhere having a bit of a laugh???????

Saturday, 19 December 2009

It's All About A Glass Of Water

You wanna see something funny? Scroll down.


This is me about to prove my undying love for my husband by crewing for him in today's race since Small Boy has completely piked out. Do you like my life jacket? That was before Himself realised it was still on the tightest setting as determined by Small Boy. I was relieved when he found a buckle on the back to 'let out' otherwise I may have passed out before we even got into the water.

The morning forecasts were for fresh breezes, 13-15 knots.
"Hmm, that might be a bit lively for a first time out," Himself mused.
Cheerfully, I put away my Volley sandshoes. (You know that only three types of people wear Volleys don't you? Sailors, roof tilers and tennis players and I suspect tennis players have moved on.)

Later that morning, thinking I had dodged a bullet, I was quietly procrastinating with the Rubik's cube. There are levels of procrastination you know. The Rubik's cube is pretty high order time wasting! Himself peered out the window and hurrumphed that it was a 'perfect day' for sailing. "Would sailing be a good form of procrastination?" he enquired, obviously deciding the wind would not be as forceful as it had been forecast. Suddenly, writing an accountability report was starting to look good. But I am nothing if not a woman of my word and so I attired myself (as seen above) and prepared myself for the ordeal.

A word on the attire of sailing. Now, I am sure there are tall, tanned, athletic, blonde haired, great looking girls who look stunning in sailing gear. I am equally sure that most of us look RIDICULOUS!!!!! For a fair skinned, delicate flower like myself whose chief allure lies in make-up and a good hair dryer, sailing and its attendant practical wear is anathema.

By the time we got down to the beach, the wind was up. And I mean up. All the seasoned sailors viewed me with guffaws of delight and disbelief as they realised what I was about to undertake. First there were the comments re couples sailing together: 'on-site divorce lawyers', draw a line in texta through the middle of the boat, learn to say Yes Sir!!!. But then they moved on to the more serious issue: 'how many times have you sailed before?', 'do you know how strong the wind is going to be?', 'are you sure you know what you're doing?'

This photo was NOT taken yesterday. Note the relatively calm seas! I was too busy worrying about a number of things to be taking photos.

So, how did it go? Well, I have never spent a longer 2 and a half hours in my life.
I dunno....as we were going round the course I thought to myself, 'childbirth or sailing?, childbirth or sailing?' I still haven't decided which was worse. Both seemed endless and after each one my first words were, 'I'm never doing that again!'

"Did the size of the waves freak you out?" asked the concerned onlookers as I stood on the beach shivering violently with the trauma of it all.
"No, the ROPES freaked me out!!!!!"

The main problem, apart from me having NO idea of what I was supposed to be doing; being totally unaware of anything other than the boat I was in and the water directly in front of me; and hyperventilating constantly; was that I was technically blind. Unwilling to risk my expensive vari-focal glasses, I set sail with nothing but Himself's sunnies. The combination of the darker tint, my lack of optical focus and a frequent face full of salt water meant that when Himself screamed at me to 'let off the purple and black rope', I screamed back at him,"THEY'RE ALL BLACK!!!!!!!!!!' (This was not strictly true as there was a red one and a yellow one which I could see, but they didn't need adjusting! Well, not yesterday they didn't anyway. )

I managed to stuff up every tack by either: failing to let the jib off, failing to pull the jib on fast enough, failing to rotate the mast, hitting my head on the boom, slipping and falling down the face of the boat as we heeled to 20 degrees off vertical, forgetting to let off the barberhauler (I know..I know...WTF is a barberhauler????) or .....no, maybe that's just about it....

The best part of the day came when we finished. The finishing line was out to sea and afterwards we still had to tack (Oh God NO, Not again!!!) and sail back to the beach. But my ordeal was not over. Our boat has a fixed rudder and our beach has a sand bar which means to get back over the sandbar without ripping your rudder off, you have to put the boat up on quite an angle (higher than this at right). At this point the centreboard, or balancing point of the boat has also been raised to prevent the same ripping off scenario and so the boat becomes very unstable. About 10m from the beach, with me too tired to do anything to help, we lost it and put her over. Now in theory this is not a huge drama; I am supposed to swim to the front of the boat, hold the hose and form a kind of human anchor, the boat will turn herself around into the wind (or something...don't ask me) and Himself then hops onto the protruding centreboard and levers her back into upright position. Theoretically.

The first problem was that I went in next to the mast and sail and got myself tangled in all the ropes (see what I mean about ropes?????). I began to swim over the sail towards the front of the boat and heard Himself shouting from behind the boat. Thinking I was making matters worse by going over the sail I reversed and went around to the back of the boat and swam up next to Himself who was not at ALL impressed by my logic. "Get to the front and GRAB THE NOSE," he bellowed, somewhat unreasonably I thought until I swam past him and suddenly realised I had nothing to hang on to and was being swept further and further away from the boat. I swam harder. I kicked harder. I called out to Himself in distress as he shrieked something undistinguishable at me. Eventually I stopped swimming and just shouted 'Help, help' at the top of my lungs. With incredible relief I saw two friends streaking along the beach to help us. With tears in my eyes I rolled onto my back sobbing with exertion as Himself's furious screaming started to take shape in my brain.


We were in waist deep water.

He's still speaking to me. Just. My damaged physical state has rendered it inadvisable to scold.

That's 'boat burn' a combination of grazes and sunburn where my constant resting on my knees wore off my sunscreen. I have spared you the two multi coloured bruises on either side of my upper thigh where I rested against the side stay track... (metal and sharp!)

So will I ever do it again? I don't know. Like childbirth, the memory fades so quickly. When he asked me why I didn't enjoy it all I could think of was a recent email describing stress. Holding a glass of water in the air is easy for a minute; but try doing it for two and half hours. That's what sailing was like for me.

Oh. And we came third. Out of seven!

Levels of Procrastination

You know when you don't want to do something? You find something else that needs to be done right? I've just washed the dishes and made extra toast and coffee....

I have an accountability report to write and my procrastination has reached new levels. Not only have I completed things which need to be done, I have moved on to something which not only doesn't NEED to be done, it probably is nearly impossible to DO!

I have been doing the Rubik's cube this morning.
I did cheat and use a book though.

Himself has just asked if sailing is a good form of procrastination for me. I had promised I would sail with him today and we have been on and off several times this morning. I now wonder if writing the report is a good form of procrastination from sailing?


Friday, 18 December 2009

This Would Be Why

I've got so much to tell you about.

I have got the most beautiful picture of one of my students and I SO want to post it and show you what an exceptional young man he is and I am frustrated because I know I can't. I even played with puttin' the pic up here but as soon as I saw him there, so vunerable and open, smiling at the camera, I knew I had to take it down.

With all its frustrations and failures, 2009 has been a year of Grace. They take you right up to the wire, these kids. Just when you think there is no point, no hope; the Lord lifts your heart with a glimpse of what they will become. And there's not that many of them. We struggle and fight for them but in each season it is only one or two who turn back to you and smile and let you know it was worth it.

As you may know, this season has been a hard one for me. But then again...it's not about me.

'Gene' came to us in Year 9, out of Africa. He was 14. One of 6 children, he had arrived in Australia with an older sister two years earlier. The rest of his family were scattered across the Ivory Coast where they had fled to escape the war in their own country. No mother, no father, no idea where most of his family were. A ward of the State he arrived in our school with a scowl and an anger deeper and more justified than most of us could fathom.

My first encounter with him was from a distance. I watched him on the basketball courts, testosterone rich, aggressive, laughing maliciously as he commandeered the ball. I remember thinking, 'wow, that is one damaged kid.' To be honest, in that first glance I wondered what we could do for him; what anyone could do for him; to heal the wounds, pierce the armour of mistrust and anger.

Last year he was in my Year 10 Maths class. He came in with attitude.

I don't know what it was about him. Kids come to us all the time with issues, with anger, with attitude; it doesn't necessarily mean you will make a connection with them, most times it means you won't. There was this one lesson I remember............

Gene came in angry. I knew it was nothing to do with maths, with me...it was easy to say to him
'what's up mate? you don't seem yourself.'
He made it quickly apparent that he was not goig to discuss it, especially with ME. I don't know why it felt right but I suddenly felt the need to do something.
"You might not like this and I'm sorry about that but I'd really like to pray for you now."
I didn't give him a chance to object, put my hand on his arm, hunkered down beside him and said what I felt. "Lord there's stuff Gene can't share with anyone now and it's causing him pain and I just pray that you'll ease his pain and fill him with your peace and ......"

To be honest I can't even remember the words and it doesn't really matter. I didn't labour it and when I'd finished, before I stood up and moved off, he said, without looking at me, 'thanks for that.'

Over the year he gave me hell and I gave it back in spades. On one occasion when I'd kept him in to complete work he hadn't done in class he shook his head and said "I don't know, I used to be good at maths, before the war came."

We have no idea what these kids have been through.

Towards the end of the year there was a miracle in Gene's life. Most of his brothers and sister had been located and reunited here in Australia but in the middle of last year, after 6 years, the family finally found their mother. She was flown out here to be reunited weth her family and Gene left school early one day to meet her at the airport. The excitement was impossible to quantify. You have never seen a grin like the one on the face of that cheeky young man as he waited in the foyer for the taxi from Social Services to come and pick him up.

Months later when things had deteriorated and that beaming face had shut down completely I challenged him,
"How's things going with Mum?"
"Oh she just treats me like kid," he spat with contempt.

This young man, who had been spending most week nights in 'dance' battles at the mall with crews of other teens, was being asked to account for his whereabouts; it did not sit well and yet the guilt, over feeling anger with his mother, was enormous. Other members of the family had similar problems. His 24 year old sister moved out and ceased communications with her mother when she disapproved of her boyfriend. Mother felt ashamed in the face of the community's judgement. Gene was caught in the middle.

Once mother came in to school to sign something. Her English was rudimentary and her accent thick. Gene guided her through the procedure and protocol minefield with a tenderness that was overwhelming to behold. Where was the brash, arrogant teen, beating his chest and calling himself 'The Gene'? Was this the same lad who favours hip-hop music with language so raw it would make your eyes water!!!??

Another time he came to me and asked if he could do Year 10 Maths again. He hated it when I offered to help him in class but he wanted to negotiate a time for private lessons because he could see how desperately he needed to pick up his skills. The lessons never eventuated, I suspect they would have clashed with his after school work at KFC, but it was a sign of growing maturity.

So what do I say about Gene? He was an infrequent attendant at Care Group? He never handed up any work? He failed most of the subjects he had enrolled in this year? He sacrificed his place in the Dance performance because he would not give up his allocated shifts at KFC to come in to school for rehearsals in the holidays? He had so many lunch-time detentions for lateness that the powers that be had to negotiate some kind of community service alternative with him? All of this is true. But, the ladies in the Office who had 'use' of him during his 3 days of Community Service, at the end of the year when every other Year 11 had gone on holidays, couldn't speak highly enough of him.

He was helpful, co-operative, friendly, nothing was too much trouble. He came in correctly attired (unlike another, more privileged young man who refused to comply with uniform requirements and eventually chose to end his time at our school), he worked with initiative and he made life for the office staff just that much easier at a very busy and trying time of year.

Once, during the year, as I watched him impatiently sitting through assembly but responding to my requests to listen respectfully, I wondered what would become of him. What could I see him becoming? Truthfully I had no idea and yet, I saw as if in a blinding flash, that whatever he became he would primarily be a loving husband and father.

He's coming back to school next year for his final year. Many of the staff are amazed that he's even bothering but as I keep pointing out, the SACE (South Australian Certificate of Education) is basically an attendence certificate. We should be able to drag him through the hoops; a VET course here, a Community Study there, a practical course perhaps? Carpentry? (or Shop as it is known in some primary settings)....

I don't think it's going to be an easy year; I suspect the all night 'dance battles' will continue and the work will not get handed in.

But he has come such a long way.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Crafty Tuesday (Slightly Late): The Nativity Edition

Greetings on this belated Crafty Tuesday.
This is my first, very rushed and very basic, attempt at making things with my new overlocker. The Kidzone Nativity was scheduled for Sunday morning but horror of horrors, the previous Sunday I had a mere 4 attendees at Kidzone! During the week I rang around and ensured we had sufficient cast members and suggested they dig out some form of costume. I did mention however that there would be a selection of things there to choose from if they couldn't find anything.

Well, with the exception of Mary, a sheep, 2 angels and a shepherd....NONE of the 15 participants had any costumes so it was just as well I'd read up the first few pages of the instruction manual and stayed up until 2am flinging these rudimentary efforts together.

We are lucky to have a family attend the church whose business is making school uniforms and other casual wear. As a result our back room is full of rolls of stretch knit fabric and it was simply a matter of picking a few stripy materials and chopping off what I needed.

I ran up a few sleeveless gowns, a couple with sleeves and a few open coats. Off cuts served as the shepherds headdresses and the long grey gown was eventually worn by Mary. We struggled for Kings on the day but one of the trusty volunteers quickly found some gold cardboard and cut out some crowns whilst another found three small black satin poncho style outfits hanging somewhere. They had been used for a play about space and the planets but they served perfectly well as 'robes' for the astrological Wise Men.

I am so sad I didn't get any pictures.

I think I might add a few King outfits and a Mary shawl to the collection. I am also tempted to have a crack at creating some padded angel wings. In my spare time ;-). The good thing is once you have these things you can reuse them for all sorts of things. Gotta love Bible dress-ups!!!

If you're after some crafty inspiration, click over to Carrie's place and check out Crafty Tuesday.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The Last of The Roaring Forties

My friend sent me a birthday greeting on facebook this morning, reminding me that this birthday is the last of my 5th decade. Sheesh.

Happy birthday to me :-(

And how will I spend this birthday, this tenth day before Christmas? Well so far I have loaded the dishwasher; taken No 2 Son in to work; received phonecalls; placed a Nutrimetics order. Now I'm off to work, then to the hairdressers with the BA and finally I have a Sunday School meeting tonight.

About as exciting as befits the end of the forties.

Tomorrow it will be 39C and I'm having some friends over to swim and play boardgames. Himself will be forced to play 'because it's my birthday'! That kind of makes up for today :-)

Sunday, 13 December 2009



I finally bought one! And NOT off stinking ebay! >:-(

A lady from school knew someone who knew someone....anyway they were selling this for $200.00 and from my research on ebay I know they are fetching over $300.00 so, you see? Good things come to those who wait. Even if they do voice their frustration on facebook :-)

And look!!These are some of the nativity costumes I made last night with my new overlocker! I say some because I ended up making seven items!! I am loving this machine :-D

I would have had a nativity picture for you but I took my camera without its memory card in the rush this morning :-( Suffice to say it went off very well and the final tableaux was wonderful.

And now......I'm on holidays!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Over A Week? Wow. Imagine What It Will Be LIke When I Am Fulltime

I knew I hadn't posted for a while but WOW. Over a week. Life is freeway-like at the moment. I can't really even afford to be posting this as I am meant to be marking..but it is so mind numbing.
"Hah," remarked a colleague,"marking maths? Isn't that just tick, tick, tick?"
"Yes. If the children you teach get everything right. In my case it's sort of 'search for a mark'."
Having said that I am excited by the fact that only one of my year 8 babies failed his exam and that may be partly because he didn't take a calculator! I have been working on him all semester (he joined us late) to come to class with a pen and his maths book. Time after time he arrives empty handed. We agreed to have a text book which we keep in the classroom for him and that has helped. I gave him a chocolate every time he remembered his pen. I reminded ALL of them about having calculators and fresh batteries available for the exams. *sigh* I don't know what else I could have done. Perhaps this will teach him something?

In another exam, Y10 Science, I was supporting two girls with mild learning difficulties. The topic was Human Reproduction and the question asked them to describe the journey of the sperm once it entered the vagina. With some prompting it became evident that one of them thought sperm came from women and the other didn't know what it was at all. What had they been doing in class? What will happen to them in the world????? I dread to think.

Last Wednesday was the BA's Graduation from Middle School. Middle School is a new concept here in Australia. It's really just High School but they keep the kids with one form teacher and gradually introduce the concept of moving around classes. Next year in Year 10 they are into full on' find your own room and subject teacher' mode.

It was an emotional night as she leaves her dear friends to start at a new school next year. I do hope we've made the right decision. *sigh*

Isn't it terrible how you don't realise your kid needs a haircut until she's up on stage in her uniform!?

On the weekend we put up the Christmas tree. Well, I kind of left it to the kids.As you can see, Small Boy is a great boon in the process.He got minorly excited about putting up his own mini-tree. This tree is the sort of thing one has to deal with in second marriages. It is a left over from Himself's bachelor days. One year it will quietly disappear. Like that sofa.
Here Small Boy helpfully shoots baskets with ornaments whilst the BA does the whole elder sister thing. She is so mature. See?
I mean, don't we all try on the ornaments as earrings? Of course we do.

And do Madonna impersonations with Christmas wreaths.