Tuesday, 29 December 2015
We have a new addition to our family: a little pixie-sized car. This arrived on Christmas Day, along with my parents and our newest baby adult, Miss Mischief, was very excited! She has always wanted a cute little tiny car and it just so happened my parents were in a car replacing phase just as Miss Mischief turned 18. It was kind of like getting a really fun Christmas present, until Miss Mischief watched me write the cheque and realised that what she had actually received was a debt to her parents! Ahh the joys of adulthood.
So this cute little baby car is sitting in the backyard, out of the way of the three that zip in and out of the driveway on a constant basis. Four is going to be quite the juggle. I suspect my sacred position under the carport is about to be challenged in favour of easy early-morning exits.
For anyone who thinks cars should have names (I am not this person, btw), her name is Misty. Named by my mother and happily adopted by Miss Mischief. Miss Sunshine's car is named Chelsea. Dh and I have heavily resisted having our cars named. We are, however, known to call out to Mr Busy around bedtime "Where's Henrey?" Henrey the iPod should never be allowed in the same room as Mr Busy when it is time to sleep. Henrey weaves a spell to play games over Mr Busy that he finds impossible to ignore. Yes, that IS how Mr Busy spells Henrey - clearly we have problems here.
Monday, 28 December 2015
One of the jobs I like to do once a year is clear out my pantry and get it back to tidy and organised. A year's worth of other people scrummaging about in there seems to take its toll on my pantry's tidiness.
I've taken everything out and put things together on the bench that seemed similar. Then I cleaned the shelves and worked on putting everything back in. Mostly things that are similar are near each other. And then I had to work with shelf heights, so sometimes my little baskets of bits and pieces have gone on a shelf where they fit best. Still. It feels much better. With some inspiration from The Organised Housewife I suspect a trip to Big W is in my near future, for the sake of gathering up some of the loose things that still have no real home.
There we go - Job 1 from the "things I want to get done around home" is complete. For the sake of my sieve-like brain some other things I need to get done around here include:
- Clean the oven (this may take a few goes...)
- Dust the entire house
- Vacuum everywhere - a grown-up vac, not a kid version
- Clean the windows
- Clean the skirting boards
If I'm very brave I might even have a go at washing the sheer lace curtains. That would take a great deal of bravery though. Perhaps it might be the thing to do when I get paid again. If they shred I'll need to replace them!
On my Big Dream Wish List: Kitchen make-over. White cabinets, replace cupboards with drawers where possible, caesar stone bench tops in something lighter - black is NOT my favourite bench top colour. The oven and fridge are probably in line for replacement, given they are 18yo and 22yo respectively.
What big cleaning tasks do you put off, and then feel much better when they are done? And, while I'm asking questions I'd love to know how you go about keeping your house clean on a regular basis. What system works for you when you're super busy? This my area of epic failure with full time work. Epic, I tell you. We stay uncluttered, but the kids don't do the best version of cleaning things. Am seriously considering having someone do floors and bathrooms every fortnight as a gift to myself.
Thursday, 24 December 2015
We are in "calm before the storm" mode here. The shopping is complete. The wrapping is done. The fridge is stocked with everything we need. It is my favourite way to spend Christmas Eve. Quietly. No rushing about. After dinner tonight I'll make our pavlova - Nigella's Cappuccino Pavlova. No Christmas with my family is even permitted without a pavlova. My Granny was the ultimate pav chef and the mantle has passed to me. She didn't feel she could attend any family function without a pavlova in hand. I'm not quite that sensitive, but I use Granny's recipe still, because cornflour in a pav just doesn't make sense to me. Not when Granny's recipe works so well.
Beyond My Picket Fence
~ Christmas Menu ~
(apple sauce & cranberry sauce)
Plum Pudding & Custard
In all honesty, I suspect this may very well be our tradition. As much as I'd love a traditional roast it just doesn't work on a hot, hot day. We always check the weather a week out to see what we want to do, and salads always seem to be the way we head.
I pray that your celebrations are filled to the brim with precious moments
and the people you love most in your world. Most of all I pray
that the miraculous wonder of Christ coming into this world as a human baby,
because of our need for his overwhelming love and grace, fills your soul.
Tuesday, 22 December 2015
We are almost all set for Christmas around here. A little present wrapping is all that's really left to do. For me, though, Christmas came early. My job was a short-term maternity-leave contract which finished up at the end of the school year. On my last day of work I was driving home, when I got a phone call. Literally - as I was driving home (I love that my new car has blue-tooth!). It was my old boss offering me a new job! I will be teaching a Year 3 and 4 class next year in the school I used to work at, where Mr Busy still attends. I say "still" because both the girls have finished school now. Only God himself knows how on earth that happened, but there you go. Two kids who are adults and have finished school. I'm sure I'll blink and Mr Busy will be done as well.
I can't wait. I feel like I've been wandering like a stranger in the land for a year and now I get to go home. I decided, during this past term, that I am not a suburban type of person. I don't know how to dress for their weather, which is up to 8C different than where I live. I don't enjoy the traffic that well, after years of whizzing about country roads and enjoying the most spectacular views and a five minute drive. I can't wait to be a little closer to Mr Busy as well. He's flown under the radar in the last little while, which has ended with a crash-and-burn finish to the year.
And the funniest part: I will be teaching my niece, who already knows how this will go down.
Miss G: Soooo....my teacher for next year is going to be.... Aunty Tracy (with excitement and then deep sigh and slumped shoulders)
My Brother: You're not getting away with anything next year then?
Miss G: Nope (deep sigh again)
Out of the mouths of babes.
Thursday, 17 December 2015
It is the way of things, come the end of the school year. I crash, and I crash hard. It happens every year, beginning with the weekends leading up to me finishing up. What this means is that daily naps are not-negotiable necessities. And I am playing fast and loose with the term 'nap'. Is it really a nap when it lasts 2-3 hours? Every. Day.
The best possible place to do such end-of-year crashing is surely in Hobart, Tasmania. When Dh suggested we go away for our wedding anniversary he raised Queensland as a possibility. Unfortunately I am not much of a summer-loving person so the heat and humidity of the summer months was a huge deterrent to me. No.....let's head south, I countered. To Tasmania. It is one of my favourite places in the world. Small, quiet, unhurried. Cool. Dh has an aunt & uncle, and one of his cousins around Hobart so that's where we headed.
We ate at the Ball & Chain Grill a couple of times because the steaks were soooooo good! Fish and chips on Constitution Dock and a meal with family were our food highlights. We had a morning at Salamanca Market, with a cunning plan to get free parking fairly close. The evening before, we found a little lane-sized street in Battery Point, just behind Salamanca Place with free street parking. We decided that if we arrived early enough in the morning we should be able to get parking there again, before the market crowds began to arrive. And we were right! We took a short stroll through Princes Park and down into Salamanca Market. Perfect! We ate breakfast and then wandered through the market and were done by the time it started to get crowded.
Because I have a bit of a thing for Aussie history we also went through the Mawson's Hut Replica Museum and The Tench convict penitentiary. I would have loved to have visited the Female Factory as well, but you can't spend hours and hours of your time napping and get through all the things you might want to do. We'll just have to go back.
As always, we came home with a suitcase full of jam from The Richmond Jam Maker, who also happens to be Dh's cousin. A double joy - visiting with family AND bringing home jars and jars of the best jam you'll ever taste. The whiskey marmalade is particularly good for breakfast!
All that in between crashing hard and sleeping lots. Tasmania is the very best of places to do so. It really wouldn't be a chore to live down there. Frequent visits will have to do us. After a 25 year drought we've managed two trips in 12 months!
Wednesday, 9 December 2015
Dh came home yesterday with these flowers for our 25th Wedding Anniversary. I simply do not know where 25 years went. I certainly don't feel old enough to have been married that long. Or have two adult children and one not too far off.
We'll be heading off for a few days in Tasmania and leaving the adult and nearly-adult children behind with the adult-er cousins who are great sibling-circuit-breakers. They love hanging out together so I'm sure there will be much cousin partying in the best possible way.
There are probably beautiful words to be said about having a husband who is steadfast, faithful and enduring. But let's face it, it's the end of the year and my brain cells have all been used up. What I do know is that whilst we've had many circumstances I wouldn't have chosen or wish to repeat, I wouldn't change marrying my husband. It feels good to stand back, together, and be able to say "we are doing good!"
Tuesday, 29 September 2015
I've been doing a lot of thinking over the past week about the little teensy steps along my own parenting journey, that have resulted in having great teens. I said last week, that we need to begin with the end in mind. That was certainly the first step for me, but it was only the first. There have been a lot of steps and seasons and years, since then. Once we've decided what kind of people we want our children to be, how do we get them to the goal?
The second thing that we have been determined about is staying connected. This will look different in every season of parenting your children. When our children we teeny we began the day with snuggles in our bed. Our parenting style was (and is!) to have everyone sleeping in their own bed so having the kids come in to us first thing in the morning was a really special way to begin the day. Our days ended with tucking our kids into their beds and praying with them. Dh seems to remember bedtime stories. I remember being so desperate to not be needed by little people who needed me for everything that I got them into bed in the most efficient way possible. In any case, between the tantrums and the correction and the boundaries and the discipline there were cuddles and kisses and "I love you's" and laughter and playing together.
Every family will stay connected in ways that make sense to them and their family culture and their personalities. I have been saying to my kids, since they were the tiniest little things, that they are never allowed to be so big or so grown up that they can't kiss and hug their mum. A good-bye kiss is mandatory in our house, whenever someone is headed out the door.
We talk a lot in our house. When I was taking my kids to and from school (up until this year) we would have a little check in conversation in the car. I would ask them what the best thing in their day was, something that wasn't so great and who they hung out with at recess and lunch time. Our trip to and from school is only a handful of minutes, but it's enough time to get the highlights. I don't do that daily school trip anymore, but those check-in conversations still happen when I get home. And now they ask me about my day and want to hear my highlights. I often come back to those check-in conversations after we've gotten home too. They are often where the rubber of our faith hits the road and we can wrestle together with things that we struggle with and think about what God might want from us, or how he would have us respond.
We eat dinner around the table together every night. When our children were small it meant double-time shovelling for me: one bite for me, one for the child I was feeding, in alternating forkfuls as quick as I could. Those meals felt frantic to me, but we ate together around the table. It really began when Miss Sunshine was about 12 months old. I would give her dinner and then we'd eat. But she was never satisfied that she'd just eaten and we would have to fight to keep our meals out of her mouth. We decided eating together would work better. These days we don't always have everyone at home, and Friday nights are a complete disaster with people headed in all directions, often before I even get home. But whoever is here at dinner time sits down to a meal at the table. Together.
There are a ton of other things that we do as a family: we take a holiday every year - usually camping, we watch movies together, we go out and do stuff together. This past month, for example, we have headed out to Warburton for afternoon tea and had a walk along the river. We trekked down to Sorrento for afternoon tea and walked along the beach there and had fish and chips with the seagulls for dinner. We hang out with other families and our extended family. Sometimes we do jigsaw puzzles. We go and stay with my parents for a few days at a time. If Dh needs to go up to country areas for work he plans it so we can all go together during school holidays. We still sit together in church, although we wouldn't mind a bit if the kids sat with friends. Still...they choose to sit with us. I've taught the kids to bake and cook meals and they are required to do things that contribute to our household running smoothly. My kids are almost always seated on the other side of the bench while I'm cooking, just to watch and chat, and have been since they were tall enough to see over the bench. And now I do the same to them when they're cooking.
All of those things that we do, the conversations we have, the things we do, the memories we create, help us stay connected. We have always done things together over the weekends. We deliberately choose to live a quiet, unhurried life without too many commitments and I think this has helped us too.
You don't have to do big expensive things to stay connected. Just make the most of all the small moments and try and find those small moments in the rhythm of your family's daily life.
Friday, 25 September 2015
I have discovered a new hobby to add to the ways I enjoy relaxing.
There is something so productive and satisfying about putting pieces together, one by one, to create a picture. There is nothing rushed or hurried, and the puzzle doesn't mind a bit if you end up letting it sit a day or two in between working on it. There are no deadlines or pressure to work hard or fast or with frantic desperation. As I discovered, when I sprained my hand a few weeks back, you can do this one handed and feel like there is one small thing that is normal in your world.
I generally get my puzzles from the local Op Shop for no more than $2. Cheapest entertainment ever. Inevitably there is a piece or two missing, but I find that oddly part of the charm. Finding out which piece is missing is part of the puzzle.
This week I have been going between my jigsaw puzzle and completing some PD hours so I could renew my teaching registration. I have discovered the best puzzles are the ones where there is a lot of detail that is different and unique. Puzzles with lots of sky are hard. Puzzles with lots of uniform detail are hard (think lots of lizards with similar patterns, or repeated terracotta pots. I don't like hard and frustrating. I like to feel productive and successful!
And I can talk to whichever family member happens to stop by for a chat without feeling like I need to stop, or like I am being taken completely out of what I am doing.
Thursday, 24 September 2015
Always, when talking to parents of Littles, my best words of wisdom are: Begin with the end in mind. This was instinctive to me, as a parent. In our church this is articulated very clearly, and I was so excited to hear my instincts put into words! When Miss Sunshine hit her Terrible Three's she became stubborn and independent and she was reluctant to be parented. You can imagine what that looked like on a 3yo. In fact, I remember her telling me things like "You can't tell me what to do" and "You're not the boss of me". Oh that poor child...she was so incredibly wrong, and I was more than up to that challenge! At that time I sat down and started to really think about the kinds of people I wanted my children to grow up to be. What character traits did I want them to possess? What values did I want them to embody? What kind of people did I want them to be in community? I felt like I was always on the back foot, reacting to her behaviour, instead of knowing where we were headed.
So I made a list of the character and value and faith goals I had for my kids and I thought about how I was going to get them there. I read books about parenting and kids. To be honest, there wasn't a lot around, back then, about disciplining very young children. But I had this three year old that needed my guidance, and despite all the books seeming to say this was too young I knew that if I didn't figure it out very quickly it would be too late. So "Boundaries with Kids" and "The Five Love Languages of Children" were my two go-to books in those early days. I learnt about setting and keeping positive boundaries and I learnt how to fill up their love-tank to help reduce the negative toddler behaviours.
Then I found some more books that helped me navigate being the kind of family I knew I wanted and that would support my kids growing up to be the very best people they could be:
Raising them Right (published by Focus on the Family)
Family Fragrance by J Otis and Gail Ledbetter
The Family Compass by Kurt and Olivia Bruner
Extending Your Heritage by J Otis Ledbetter and Randy Scott
For Parents Only by Shaunti Feldham and Lisa Rice
I've learnt to look at our family backgrounds and really think about the things our parents did well and the things we felt they hadn't done so well, and to decide intentionally what we would take into our parenting style. We have set our not-negotiable family rules and we have strong justification for each of them. We are clear about the purposes they have and the outcomes we intend for them to achieve.
In short we (or maybe I!) decided with deliberate intention how we were going to do this parenting-of-little-people with the end in mind. This is not to say we haven't had some major kerfuffles to deal with. We have these really good kids and at least two of them have done some pretty majorly, seriously dumb stuff. It won't all be smooth sailing, because people are messy and sinful and get it wrong with reasonable consistency. But we can build into our children a belief that they are amazing human beings, that they are loved unconditionally even when they stuff up. And when they stuff up we have some important moments where we get to say to them "This is not who I believe you are. I believe you are funny, witty, intelligent, kind, generous, helpful and amazing and you need to decide if those things are true. And then you need to behave you way into being those things. You do not need to be defined by your mistakes, but by how you come out of them". Yes, actual conversation that happened in our house.
I feel like we have gotten plenty of stuff wrong with our kids. They will certainly tell you all about those things! I wish we'd done some things differently or handled certain situations better and more carefully. But here we are. We've managed to get some stuff right. Because we have these awesome teens and teenaged young adults who are magnificent to hang out with. We constantly hear heartwarming feedback about how they serve in community and their cheerful attitudes and their beautiful personalities.
Got some words of wisdom to share, or questions to ask? Post a comment!
I'm going to post some more on this topic in the coming days, but let's share our wisdom and experience and help one another bring up our children to be beautiful teens who grow into incredible adults.
Wednesday, 23 September 2015
I've been reading Shauna Niequist's "Bread and Wine" this week (not done yet!), and as I suspected I am loving the book. This is the first book of hers that I've read, and it is dense with descriptive language in a way that just immerses me in her stories. Those stories are real and raw and true and honest and I feel like we've become best friends. Of course, we've never met and she doesn't know I exist, so really we're not friends at all. But this book is about what it is to share community and food and how the two are so intertwined. And because it's Shauna, there are recipes scattered throughout. My experience is that Shauna's recipes are always worth trying, even though there are no pictures. Ordinarily that would be enough to stop me from trying a recipe, but sometimes experience trumps little things like that.
Last night I tried her recipe for risotto. I'm telling you here and now, not only is this Shauna's "go to" risotto recipe, but it will be ours, now, as well. You will find the recipe, or rather general instructions, here. You'll need to scroll down to the Mushroom Risotto. Last night I roasted cubes of pumpkin sprinkled with thyme, and some mushrooms cut into chunks. It was perfect. Full of flavour, oozy, rich, just the right amount of salty without adding any, because of the stock powder and the parmesan cheese.
And here's my tip for those of you who fear risotto because of all the stirring: After you've added the cup of wine and the first cup of stock dump in all the liquid at once.
I know, I know. The Italians are shouting things at their screens right now, but it just works. Whenever I've made risotto with all the stirring, one cup of liquid at a time, it takes forever and I'm never satisfied the rice is cooked. I don't like it crunchy. Sorry. I'm a rice and pasta neanderthal. I like them both well cooked. So I do the first two cups of liquid how you should and then I add all the rest of the liquid at once. And then I cover the pot to cook. I stir the rice every now and then, and when the liquid is nearly all absorbed, but not quite, I take it off the heat, add a big knob of butter and the cheese and....YUM. Perfect for this neanderthal.
Tuesday, 22 September 2015
It's been so long now since I became an adult that I don't really think of things as always being hard. In fact, there's plenty about a life that is fun and fulfilling and precious and wonderful. In fact, I don't remember coming to adulthood with a perception that the shift from childhood lack of responsibility to personal responsibility was overwhelming. I got my first full-time job at 18 and I married at 19. My husband and I have been navigating my adult life together ever since - nearly 25 years.
Things haven't been so straightforward for Miss Sunshine, and neither will be for Miss Mischief, it seems. We've had to teach Miss Sunshine about the questions she needs to ask and the steps required for the things she needs to do and accomplish and complete. Getting her enrolled in University was a major achievement. I didn't think it was so hard - fill in the form, wait to hear, figure out the enrolment process and off we go. Not so with her. There were trips to the campus. There were trips to the bookshop with questions about booklists because things weren't clear from the websites. We've navigated choosing a car and we're about to do tax for the first time. I thought you just got online, downloaded the form and got on with it. Apparently I have to sit with her to fill it out. And let's not talk about dealing with Centrelink, because that's on a whole other planet of pain. It's taken nine months to get to the point where I can let Miss Sunshine walk into one of their offices without complete and utter terror.
We're about to get ourselves another baby adult in the house in less than two weeks. Last night I sat with her to fill out her University preferences. Oh the pain! This is the child who doesn't know what she really wants to do, beyond interning at church for a year. But these VTAC preferences have to be submitted in order for offers to be forthcoming and deferences to be possible. It was painful to watch her read every. single. word. of the online form. Meanwhile I was skimming through beside her saying "Click no". Click yes. Come on...it shouldn't be this hard". And it shouldn't. But somehow it is.
When we were in Malaysia recently I was telling a friend there how we've had to hand-hold our baby adult into what it means to do all the adult things. Their response? Let them sink or swim. These are people who have no choice but to send their children overseas for a University education. So they send them to England and their children have to figure it out for themselves. Because they have no choice. Because Mum and Dad are half a world away and can't actually come and save them. I simply can't imagine it. Miss Sunshine would have been curled, in a foetal position, murmuring to herself on the floor if we'd let her sink or swim.
And then there are those statistics around young adults and depression.
So we're walking our baby adults through the transition from being a kid, where Mum and Dad take care of everything, to being an adult where they have to make all the things happen. We're dog-paddling our way to an all-out freestyle stroke that feels strong and smooth and confident.
It's hard being the parent of young adults who are sensible, amazing people in every way, but seem paralysed by the responsibility and freedoms that are theirs. Harder than it was in my family, in my generation. We all left home at 19.
Monday, 21 September 2015
I wonder what your family does when the Spring sunshine begins to show itself and warm the Earth up a little? We're getting a little of that now that winter is officially over. I say "officially" because the weather can't really decide if that's true. Yesterday was one of those early-spring warm sunshiny days that you long for all winter long, so we spent the afternoon down at Sorrento.
It's a long drive from here and we had to convince Miss Sunshine that she'd rather be with us than shopping on her own. But we managed all of that, even with Miss Mischief clocking up her learner-driver hours on the way down.
We had afternoon tea at the famous Vanilla Slice place - affectionately called a "snot block" by many Aussies. I never understood that reference, but their vanilla slices were particularly good. My warmed pear and almond cake was oh so delicious. I realised afterwards I didn't get a photo of it!
We wandered down to the foreshore area and watched the Queenscliffe Ferry arrive, unload and head back out again. Everyone headed out along a little teensy pier. I did not. I do not like piers so much that I would risk myself along a rickety-looking version, the floor of which is full of gaps and sea can be seen between the boards. I like my piers solid, large and preferably with bitumen over the base! Like the pier used for the ferry! Dh came back and said this pier was barely standing and the railings wonky. Miss Sunshine thought as long as it wasn't acting like a swinging bridge (her greatest fear) everything was fine.
Whenever country folk like us head down to the beach there is a mandatory fish-and-chips-by-the-beach dinner involved. We had no picnic rugs so we put the back of the Land Cruiser down and sat there to enjoy the beachy view, and our dinner
And then we had some dinner guests arrive. They were pretty determined too. Not quite to the point of flying past us and into the car, but close. They were certainly excited by the eventuality that we could not eat all of it!
After a long drive home we watched an episode of "The Newsroom" (we're into the final season, *sigh*) and headed to bed.
Thursday, 3 September 2015
I am just loving having another read through Nehemiah with 'IF Equip'. I am constantly amazed at what we can take away from the Word, even when it looks like there's nothing to learn. Like lists of people who were counted in a census after the walls were completed.
Nehemiah is my constant companion for my class devotions at the moment; he and Abraham. These two guys are two of my favourite characters in the Bible. Their stories always speak anew in whatever circumstance I find myself. And I've been sharing their stories and what I'm learning with my students.
- God goes ahead of us and smoothes the way before us.
- We all have a task to do.
- We might feel like we're just working on our own bit of the wall....but when we do our bit and the person next to us does theirs, the job gets done. We work shoulder-to-shoulder and we need each other to get it done.
- We will always have opposition....stay on your wall!
- We are so important to God he names us in His Book of Life individually, just like he named people specifically in the Bible.
- When we obey God's laws we experience far greater joy in our lives.
- Speaking out the Word of the Lord in public is powerful.
We love sharing stories, in our classroom. I share mine - my kids share theirs. And I ask them to think about how they can apply what the hear with questions like: "What would it look like in our classroom/playground/friendships/behaviour?"
I adore being in a school where we get to share what we're learning about God and how we put skin on that. The most exciting part of my day!
Saturday, 29 August 2015
I have been making school lunches for 15 years. Fifteen years of getting up before the kids and getting their sandwiches made in the peace of a silent early-morning house. When Miss Sunshine was in Prep (first year of school here) I remember getting six months and thinking "I'm going to be making school lunches for the rest of my life". Well...15 years down the track I only have another three to go before they're all finished school. That just seems a little bit wrong!
I was making lunches this week for the two still at school. There are so many days when I really wish this wasn't part of the every-day deal, yet this week I found a small measure of comfort that there is in something that is constant in your life when everything else is changing. Even when your lunch-making routines change slowly, they are still there.
Our lunches right now consist of wholegrain wraps (from Aldi) topped with Chipotle aioli (from Costco), grated cheese, sliced chicken and mixed salad leaves. They get rolled, chopped in half and boxed in Tupperware sandwiches boxes. I have a stack of these and the kids have two colours each to claim as theirs. They know which one to pick up when they pack their bags. I put the grated cheese directly on whatever the mayo is at the time, because the cheese sticks and doesn't fall out. It was a whole thing! Cheese falling out just doesn't work that great.
On the days when there is nothing left to make wraps with, or I lose the plot and refuse to make another wrap for the week I head down to the bakery and buy Hawaiian pizza rolls or some other savoury scroll thing.
Monday, 17 August 2015
I have learnt to slow down in the text and use my critical literacy skills to think more deeply about what I am reading. I journal often. I never used to do that. I can dive into the comments and read others' thoughts. Or not. I was doing that, but I feel like my time is so limited at the moment that I've been skipping it. Also, because I'm doing this about 12 hours after its posted I come in on the tail end when the conversation is kind of over. Time zone issues!
I have always really struggled to figure out this daily quiet time thing. Yet my Dad was always such a great role model. I have found that I am a breakfast-time reader. I will read pretty much anything in front of me during breakfast. Because I'm a slow learner on some things I finally figured out that breakfast time was a perfect time for me to sit with the Word and ponder it. Right now there is no one else up and about when I'm having breakfast so the house is beautifully quiet.
The study on the Book of Nehemiah ... A Call to Restore... starts on Monday. Well. It's Monday here now, so it starts tomorrow. I don't know, you'll have to figure it out for your time zone. But for me, tomorrow morning it'll be waiting in my inbox.
Tuesday, 11 August 2015
Miss Sunshine was recently invited to accept an Early Entry into her target degree from the Associate Degree she began in February. After a flurry of early-semester withdrawals and re-enrollments she's now all settled into the big-girl version of University study and is well on her way to becoming a Prep-Year 10 teacher. This is the result of complete indecision on her part. Rather than choosing now, whether she wants to teach in Primary or Secondary, she's studying to be qualified in both. She can choose where she ends up later. I was never so uncertain. The younger the better!
To that end she is taking up Health as one of her Secondary methods and the timing of it all is just completely brilliant. Her semester-long assignment requires her to identify a habit that could be healthier and enacting a plan to change the habit for the better. She decided on eating healthier. So she has to plan our menu, help me shop (that's my two cents worth!) and then sort out who's doing what on which nights. I just show up at the supermarket with the money and she makes the rest of it all happen. She planned on fruit salad for some of her breakfasts, so I suggested she just make a huge container to keep in the fridge - everyone got to sneak a bit here and there through the week. She had also planned on a roasted vegetable salad for some of her lunches - again, she made more than enough so we shared that too.
You know what? I can't go ahead and plan or shop for this week till she's available. Am I sad about this? Nooooo. Someone else planning something for me? Yes please!
Now, if I could get her interested in sourcing some more healthy baking recipes Mr Busy would be all set and we could enjoy something sweet without adding to our winter insulation!!
Saturday, 8 August 2015
We had parent-teacher interviews for Miss Mischief the other night. Year 12's have them earlier than everyone else, because they're nearly finished with their coursework for the year. And as we sat with each of her teachers I realised how much I miss my tribe. We had to catch up with each other before we could catch up about Miss Mischief. I've missed that I can't just pop into the Library and chat with my very dear friend, who is the Library Tech. And I can just have a spur-of-the-moment cuppa with my friend up the road, or have a quick five-minute chat in the car park after school. And a weekday breakfast with my book club gals is now off the table. I just feel a bit disconnected, and I'm not sure how to go about getting that back. I desperately need my tribe. They are my go-to people when things are great, and not great and everything in between. They are the people we pop in on spontaneously when we have a couple of hours to kill. The people we have dinner with. The people we camp with. The people we celebrate our family accomplishments with. We all need a tribe to belong to. We have had a period of time when we were practically tribe-less and it was a pretty lonely kind of place to be.
But how does one keep connected to their tribe when their days are full in a place that is away from their tribe?
Tuesday, 28 July 2015
Don't get me wrong, my students are amazing young people, and I adore them. I just don't adore all of the behaviours I'm seeing. Like calling out across the room, cutting up erasers and throwing them about, interrupting and not listening to others. See? My list of complaints is relatively mild. But they do need to be handled.
On the positive side I have the most delightfully, hilarious conversation with one of my cherubs straight after lunch today:
Student: Can I please go to the toilet?
Me: We just came in from lunch. Shouldn't you go at lunch time?
Me: So, tell me why I should let you go?
Student: Well, actually I left my lunch box outside and I need to get it, but I thought you would think that was a silly reason. I thought going to the toilet was more sensible.
Me: Next time how about you just tell me the truth? Tomorrow, you need to go to the toilet during lunch time, and if you need to get something you left outside, let me know and we'll deal with that?
Student: OK. Thank you Mrs --
I'm still giggling to myself. Which is just as well, because tomorrow morning will begin with a very serious conversation about behaviour.
And tonight dinner occurred without my input, and there were smiles involved. Lots of smiles. Mine.
Sunday, 26 July 2015
Week One of the term has come and gone and we have all managed to survive successfully. Me, my students and my family. We're all still alive!
Best thing? My students are completely awesome. My most challenging student gifted me with a two-day honeymoon to get me settled before he began letting me see his real self. I've managed to get them coming into class in the morning much more quietly and more settled. They are learning to control their in-class chatter and they have mostly decided I'm not as mean as I tell them I am. Until I keep them in for talking when they shouldn't. Then they kinda believe me. I still can't get them to leave the room in a hurry though. They want to hang about and chat!
Hardest thing? Getting all that planning done. And cooking dinner when I get home. Miss Sunshine cooked three nights last week. A beautiful, precious gift for this acts-of-service gal. We went out the other two. Bad! Not sustainable. I've talked with the kids and explained how hard this full time thing is when it comes to cooking and they are content to be on board with making meals throughout the week. I get the weekend :) And I've suggested to Dh that perhaps he needs to learn to cook. He offered...but when I asked him how many questions I would need to answer he just looked at me. I was too tired to answer questions!
I'm all set for the coming week. Hopefully the tech guy will come and sort out things like showing me how the interactive pen for my data projector works, and showing me why I can't print...and getting some of my kids' iPads back on the internet. And fixing my email signature, which I broke. Note to self: trust that it's working and don't fiddle!!!
Sunday, 19 July 2015
A friend at church handed me a big brown paper last week.
A stack of second hand magazines....all tied in a pretty bow
A note telling me to put my feet up
It made me think: this is exactly 100% how second hand magazines should be handed on. I was completely blown away by her thoughtfulness and the special added little things that made reading these so much more special.
Especially after my first week of working full time in over 19 years. There weren't even any students yet and I was completely laid-out-exhausted by Thursday! In a good kind of way.
Saturday, 11 July 2015
Miss Mischief has been planning a High Tea for her VCE Food & Technology subject for weeks. And weeks. And maybe a few more weeks. There have been production plans coming out of her ears, and searching for recipes all over the place. She had to have six complex processes (whatever that means), which had her making things from scratch that you would normally just buy.
After weeks of planning she had days of cooking. Things that required freezing to 'preserve' them were done in advance. Lots of things happened yesterday morning. In the process we learnt about fixing runny and split mayonnaise, and how to repair split, oily caramel. That was my job - googling how to fix stuff....
Finally, after all the cooking, and repairing, and mixing and stirring and photo-taking of every. single. step. (thank you Mr Busy, oh photographer extraordinaire!) we got to eat.
Cupcakes, and sponge cakes and profiteroles and sandwiches with all the complex things that went with them. And tea. Miss Mischief outdid herself. Her high tea was a smashing success.
And we left the dishes till this morning. Because none of us could look at it!
Thursday, 9 July 2015
I walked out my front door the other day and found my otherwise bare trees adorned with these precious little beauties. Between three trees I counted 11 king parrots just resting and squawking a little. A nice petite kind of squawk compared to the obnoxious sound that cockatoos make. It was like they were saying "welcome to the day". They just made me stop and marvel at how vivid their colours were, especially against the grey skies. And then I had to take photos!
Wednesday, 8 July 2015
Bread and Butter Pudding anyone? Even if you're not a fan (I have one of those in our house) you might just appreciate this one. Made with chocolate chip brioches, from Aldi, rather than bread and butter. No butter, no dried fruit, just the brioche all sliced up, laid in a baking dish in layers, and covered with a custard of:
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups milk
cinnamon to taste (about half a tsp)
Whisk the first three ingredients together and then whisk in the milk and cinnamon. Pour half over the brioche and sit for 10 minutes. Then pour in the rest and bake for 50 minutes in a water bath in an oven set on 150C.
So, so, so yum. Not too unhealthy as far as desserts go. Every time one of the kids comes to Aldi with me we seem to come home with a packet of these little brioche buns along with the promise of dessert.
Tuesday, 7 July 2015
I've tried very hard not to follow in those particular footsteps.
There have been doctors who have doubted my mother's intuition, over the years. For instance, Mr Busy's chest infections. As a small babe his cold would turn from snotty to infection in mere hours, and I could tell the difference. It happens with loads of experience, and he spent his first five winters going from one chest infection to the next. I remember taking him to the doctor one day, the conversation going something like this:
Dr: Why didn't you bring him in before now. He's very sick.
Me: Because yesterday it was just a cold, it changed overnight. And now here I am. Yesterday you would have sent me away and said he'll be fine.
Eventually this Dr trusted my instincts so well she was happy to give me prescriptions for antibiotics before we needed them. If we were going away and he was on the cusp of another infection she would hand over the script and say "I know you'll know when to use it".
On the flip side I have taken Miss Mischief to the doctor because she stopped eating. Actually I've done that with all of our kids, because these kids are Eaters. It's genetic. The whole of Dh's family are Eaters. I know they're sick when they stop Eating. And on this day Miss Mischief had no other symptoms except that she'd stopped eating. The doctor (different to the one above) looked at me like I was neurotic. I know he wanted to say "Lady, babies stop eating all the time for unexplained reasons". But he checked her out and lo and behold she had an ear infection.
Dr: Are you sure she has no other symptoms? Pain? Fever?
Me: Nope. She just stopped eating. That's it. My kids are very sick when they don't eat.
He was dumbfounded, because she should have had pain AND fever, and been very miserable. And who ever heard of taking their kids to a doctor "because they stopped eating"?
Unlike my MIL I did manage to take Miss Sunshine to the doctor when she broke a toe. I knew buddy-strapping was the only treatment, but I wasn't going to be reputed with the family "our mother's don't take us to the doctor for broken bones" line. Yessireee, I put a stop to that one!
Which brings me to our most recent medical event. This past week Miss Mischief (actually, last Monday) got herself into a spot of bother, due to walking on our gravel driveway, barefooted. We won't go into the gravel driveway issues and the rubble that spreads everywhere.... She got a stone in her foot and had to dig a little to get it out. Somehow she was adamant, after a great deal of digging about, that there was still something in there and I was less convinced. She'd dug pretty deep and nothing could be felt. I told her our bodies are designed to push foreign objects to the surface and we'd just see what happened. On Wednesday, after having my mother (who is far more persistent with these things, and who has a magnifying glass lamp thing) dig about they got a bit more out. While Mum and Miss Mischief were digging about I told her I would take her to a doctor when we got home, if it wasn't out by Sunday. You know, give the thing a good week to come out on its own, and all that crunchy-mum kinda stuff. And then on Saturday morning I got a text with the image above. "In case you're wondering what it is..that's what came out of my foot..." she said.
Maybe I should have taken her before?
But at least it wasn't a broken bone. And I was right...our bodies push foreign objects out.
Saturday, 4 July 2015
This afternoon? More crocheting. Perhaps some planning for school. Both while sitting under my fleecy blanket.
An afternoon tea cheese platter.
All after a lunch of my very most favourite Greenwell Salad (today's version: cashews instead of walnuts and apple instead of pear). Cold salads might be counterintuitive on a cold day, but it feels alive and perhaps it has some illness-fighting qualities. It feels like that.
Off to the couch with the blanket. I'm sorry Step Counter App. It's too cold and wet to walk outside today.
Friday, 3 July 2015
We have just returned from a few days with my parents, who live a couple of hours' drive away. It was the loveliest couple of days. Lots of yummy food, because despite popular opinion my mother can cook. She just doesn't enjoy it as much as others seem to. Feeding my family is entirely satisfying though - they eat everything and tell her how wonderful it was. You wouldn't think iced chocolate cake was that amazing. Maybe they're just deprived?
In any case, Mr Busy got apple and rhubarb pie, and lots of boys-only trips of secret-men's-businness with his Dad and Grandpa. I think they included coffee and cake. Us girls went Geo Cache-ing. My aunty got Mum into it, and then Miss Sunshine downloaded an app and we got into it. And then Miss Sunshine told a couple of friends and now they're into it. So much fun at no cost. Glorified orienteering with a GPS that tells you exactly where you should find the cache.
I got back into crocheting. My mother is the kind of crafter who has all of the paraphernalia required for every craft under the sun. She was the perfect person to ask about crocheting patterns. "What do you want to make?" she asked me. I didn't know, just something. So she dragged out her pile of pattern magazines and such and I looked through every single one. The pile was nearly a foot high, but that's half the fun - choosing something. I found something I loved, went to Spotlight and got my wool and in less than 24 hours I have something significant to show for my time. I love crocheting - so satisfying! In between choosing the pattern and getting started, my precious mother figured out the pattern so I could just get on with it. Because reading the pattern is often the biggest obstacle to crocheting (and knitting). She had to write DC = TR for me at the top of it so my British-oriented brain could cope with a US pattern. I guess I just don't speak US when it comes to crochet patterns. I haven't crocheted for a very long time, but my brain is firmly imprinted with the way I was taught!
At the end of it I will have this vest:
And because crocheting grows so quickly I am already well on my way. All this since 5pm yesterday - a mere 4 hours of work.
Tuesday, 30 June 2015
I have plans in the works to spend a day with my sister-in-law (also a teacher, also works full time, also a mum) to get our freezers all stocked up and prepared for the school term ahead. But being the driven, overachieving type I've already begun my quest for a well-stocked, family-protecting freezer.
My biggest issues around meals and motivation is the preparation. Well, besides coming up with the ideas, and shopping, and putting everything away, and then figuring out that the meal I had planned needs to be switched a bit and getting it done. I just still don't get it - these unreasonable people need to be fed every day. Every. Day. On my worst days I think just once a day would be fine, but no. Mr Busy has even told me it's illegal not to feed children, to which I responded that the law only tells me I have to (not neglect them, you know), not how often. Our GP laughed at that and agreed that I was right. There was no stipulation for how often. So once a day then, right? Secretly though? I get hungry too. Darn!
The other night when I went to buy chicken thighs for dinner I did something brilliant. I bought three bags of thighs (from Aldi) and did the preparation - we ate one meal and I froze two more. All prepared and in the marinade. All that is left to be done is defrost and throw in the oven. My kind of busy-day cooking! Last night I was bread crumbing chicken fillets. I made four fillets go two meals for the five of us by slicing off the tenderloin and then placing the fillet flat on the bench and slicing horizontally - two full-sized half fillets just like that. Once prepared, those were flash frozen and bagged. Again, nothing to do but defrost and cook.
Kicking goals all over the place! So far I have two Forbidden City Chicken's, one chicken schnitzel, one homemade pizza dough and sauce and....I think that's it. But I'm on my way!
Wednesday, 24 June 2015
There is a child in my house who does some very strange things. The said child also loves to bake biscuits (cookies). Today was end-of-term class party day, a couple of days early, and so last night was baking night. He was quite intent on ensuring that the girls in his class would have their favourite bikkies, made by his very own hand. He's so sweet!
But tonight, when I went looking for butter, the picture above is what I found. On Sunday afternoon there were four 250g blocks of butter. Now there are three half blocks. I shook my head, more than a little bemused, and called out for Mr Busy to come and have a chat with me about this. It began with first, middle and last name.
Mr Busy: What have I done now?
Me: Come and look at this? (to which I slowly pointed to each. half. block)
Mr Busy: Uhhhh … yeeeaaahhhh.
Me: What is this? Why are there three half blocks? What did you do? Need 125g, cut half and put half away. Next time you need butter, grab a whole block, cut in half, put half away. How many times did you do this? What were you thinking? This is what scales are for!! You get out the bits of butter and weigh some bits until you get to the weight you need, so that you don't use Every. Single. Block. (with tone of voice escalating as to the absurdity of the whole scene)
There may or may not have been girly slapping at a big strapping young lad at this point.
Mr Busy: (laughing) OK, Mum. I get it. I'm sorry…..as he wandered off to his room again.
And then we were both laughing. Him louder than me. Because I still have three half blocks of butter.
Tuesday, 23 June 2015
If you're a mum and you feel like you're losing your mind, it's probably because you are. But not because there's something wrong with you. Yesterday during my it's-breakfast-time-and-the-only-way-to-block-out-the-noise-is-to-read reading time I was reading Glennon Melton's Facebook page. I think I woke everyone up as I killed myself laughing. Do yourself a favour. Read the post, and then read all the comments. Make sure you've got tissues and whatever else you need for a good laugh.
If I had Facebook I could have posted about how it's not just littles that make you crazy. No, it's 19yo's as well. My 19yo has decided I owe her a MacBook. I can't figure this one out. I have given up explaining and just roll my eyes at her now. And remind her often: "I gave you life, I owe you nothing". And then I remind myself that when I am away from these people that make my house crazy I am a really nice person. I don't get cranky or frustrated or yell at anyone to tell anyone off. No! I am perfectly reasonable and calm and sweet and caring. I'm telling you - it's not me. It's them!! If you feel like you need some solidarity today then read the post and comments.
As I was reading yesterday morning and sharing tidbits with Mr Busy, who just laughed politely, he was putting his hoody on while standing just behind me. All of a sudden I hear a muffled "this isn't going to work". I look up and there's a hood over his face. He had put the thing on back to front. And I killed myself laughing even harder. It's been a while since the boy has come out with something funny. It's like he got to upper Primary and all his funny left him. But it's still there. Hiding
Solidarity Mums! You're NOT crazy. It's all the them's living in your house being crazy around you. It's them. All them!
Sunday, 21 June 2015
Not the best photo, I'll grant you, but this will be the best lasagna! I am beginning my mission to protect our family from a life of pretend meat, take away and other unhealthy meals for the sake of lack of time and energy. Tonight I'm feeling a little smug. Homemade lagasne noodles and two full dishes of lasagne to boot.
Sunday's are slow days in our house and slow days sometimes means slow food. The kind that takes time but tastes so good. And feels a little bit like love on your plate. With any lasagne the time it takes to make means I want to make two because all that time should could for more than one meal. But today I gifted myself a glassware baking dish that can also go in the freezer. This is going to be a kitchen game-changer! Oven to freezer to microwave or oven again? I think this stuff is going to be my best friend!
I pulled out my "Chicken Plan" (by Kim Tilley) yesterday and perused recipes I haven't made in quite some time. This is my school holiday job; stocking the freezer with pre-prepared meals that the kids can pull out and cook on days when I won't be home til tea time.
So far: pizza dough and sauce, lasagna….I wonder what else I can get stocked away this week?
What are your crockpot and cook-ahead favourite meals?
Friday, 19 June 2015
It took quite some searching and frustration to find suit-style trousers. No one seems to sell classic trousers suitable for a business (or more formal education) environment. And when I did find them they were simply NOT cut for my shape. No amount of being a different size was ever going to fix that problem! Success eventually came from a corporate work-wear supplier. Who you know sometimes just works better than what you know, and in this case a friend who works in a work-wear and embroidery place that supplies uniforms and the like was my clothing hero. I walked in, tried on the pants I had found online (pictured above) that gave a description that sang my song, and I walked out with something that fit perfectly. PERFECTLY! Do you hear me? This happens to me exactly NO TIMES! Ever. At the very least I have to make a little tuck in the back to deal with the gaping. They were so perfect that I have a second pair and a skirt on order. So, so happy. And it was just so easy. Not like retail shopping at all.
My little wardrobe capsule now consists of:
4 knit tops
1 dress shoes
1 pair knee-high boots
The knit tops are in the same colours as one of the blouses so I'm all set. I'm about to go pick up some boots I needed to have re-soled.
And then no more shopping for a long time. Happy dance anyone?
Tuesday, 16 June 2015
It's a very long time since I've posted a menu plan. Partly because I didn't feel like they were particularly popular posts. More recently because my plans have been embarrassingly underwhelming and were filled with pretend food and take away. Not my finest plans.
This week's however, has begun well and I have no reason to imagine we won't finish strong. Confidence and enthusiasm are wonderful ingredients when it comes to implementing a plan that feels good! Here we go.
Monday: Slow roasted lamb and salad
Tuesday: Vegetable curry and rice
Wednesday: Jamaican-spiced chicken thighs, veggies
Thursday: Veggie Noodle Stir Fry
Friday: Lamb Souvlakis
Saturday: Homemade pasta (lasagna - freeze half)
Sunday: Chicken noodle soup
We had the slow-roasted lamb tonight and it was absolutely and completely perfect. I prepared the glaze and had it sitting in its baking dish around lunch time. I turned the oven on to 140C as I walked out the door at 2pm. When I arrived home at 5.45pm it was done. It was tender and moist and oh-my-goodness. There are no words. Except next time I need to do a bigger one than the 1.5kg boneless roast I did tonight.
I will be spending Wednesday and Thursday in my new classroom getting to know my students and the routines and procedures that are already in place there. I think Tuesday afternoon might require some planning. Getting home at 5.30pm is not conducive to implementing even the best of plans!
I believe some serious OAMC will be a school holiday job. Otherwise we might never eat real food again once I start work next term. This is my biggest fear about working full time!