Saturday, 29 July 2017

And Week 1 Flew By

I accidentally went radio silent.  This is just what happens.  Over the term break I have time to think thoughts in my own head and then actually write them down and send them out into the big wide world.  Then the term begins and I forget where all the thoughts went...they get lost or overridden or something.  Or maybe my school babies just need all those thoughts?

I cannot believe that Week 1 is done and dusted.  It went so amazingly, stinking fast!  I began the week with a kind of teacher dread that is common to our breed.  The kind that says I spent too much time working and not enough time resting.  I never start the term thinking "Yes, I'm so ready for this, bring it on".  I usually have thoughts of "I'm still tired, I need another week to hang out with my own kids and read and watch YouTube and hang out with my friends".  The term calendar listens to my thoughts exactly zero times.  Our Youth Pastor bravely went to tread on the "teachers have so many holidays" comment....Miss Mischief intervened before he could hang himself.  "No...Stop.  You will die, this is not safe for you to say to a teacher."  To be fair, lots of my early morning work, on holidays, was done in my PJ's in bed.  So there's that.

By Monday afternoon, however, I was over myself and my dread had completely transformed into energy.  My class is just so ... I don't know ... there isn't a word that expresses how much I totally adore this group of kids.  I don't want my Year 4's to go to Year 5 (and I don't want to teach Year 5 again, yet!!).  I want to keep them forever.  They are just such a beautiful bunch of awesome, engaged, hilarious little people.

Best thing this week?  Introducing the first of my interactive notebook foldables.  My kids are really good at being engaged in their learning, but foldables take it up 10 notches.  They were engaged, interacting, on-task....learning!  They now know that not all words that start with 'dis' are a word with a prefix.  They know they can't just whack a prefix on any old word - it doesn't necessarily make a proper word if you do that.

Also, other best thing?  One of my boys has been a bit of a "fly under the radar" kid, and I didn't feel like I know him super well.  He's sitting at the front, closer to me, and already I'm getting to see little pieces of his personality that I hadn't been able to catch when he was further away.  Loving that I get to see who he really is, even though he's pretty quiet.  And no more avoiding AR quizzes Mr Young Man!  I'm onto you now!

Next week we're on camp for 3 days.  I love school camps.  I don't love that it involves a hill, down which exist all the activities.  I was not born to be a mountain goat.  But school camp.  All of the unstructured relationship building and none of the "sit down, be quiet, do your work, why are you walking around, are you meant to be talking right now, is that what you're supposed to be doing right now, what are you supposed to be doing right now, why are your scissors up your nose?" kinds of conversations I have all day.  Because 10yo boys!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Why we track each other

We are Channel 9 news people in our house.  We have a deep affection for Peter and Livinia.  Although not as prominent, we also have affectionate feelings for Allan Raskall.  He is lively and funny and his stories often come with flair and a special Allan version of dagginess-in-a-suit that we appreciate around here.  So last week, when Allan was doing a story that mentioned schools my ears pricked up.  He was talking about some app for schools to use to track their students (see story here).  Of course the civil libertarians weighed in, talking about children's right to privacy.  And then right at the end it was made clear parents had to agree and students had to download the app on their phone.  The app would allow for geographical tracking and for the camera to be turned off.

Not so much humour in that story, but still there was Allan.

My baby adults and older teen had interesting reactions to this story.  "But Mum, what if those kids are wagging school?"  Yes indeed.  I suspect this is exactly what this app is designed for.  Those students who like to disappear off school grounds during the day without permission or explanation.  In such cases I would be inclined to land on the side of the argument that says a school's responsibility to students (and their parents) would trump a student's right to privacy.  They are under 18 and us teachers get a little bit (actually, a LOT) worried when we can't find our precious people.  In the same way that I get a "little bit" worried when I lose my own children in foreign countries, in places like, say, Disneyland (looking at you Mr Busy).  Thankfully in my school this has never been an issue.  We are in the absolute middle of nowhere and anywhere interesting is far too hard to get to on foot.  Nature has provided the perfect deterrent to wagging.

The news story also raised another round of why we use "Find My iPhone" to track each other in our household.  It's not just us tracking the kids either - we all use it to find out where the other has gone. Many are the days when I get a text from my girls saying "Why are you at Mrs....'s house without meeeeee?"  You can imagine the emoji's inserted afterwards.  Because they discovered I've snuck of to see a friend that they also adore.

When the girls first started driving themselves around in their own cars Apple had just put "Find My iPhone" onto our phones with some update.  I don't know, you do these updates and new apps just appear.  Whatever!  But this one was actually useful to us. We asked the girls to turn it on, to which their immediate response was "What? Why?"  Parents of older kids, you know what that sounds like! So we had to lay it out for them.  These are our reasons for tracking each other:

  1. First and most obviously, so that we know where they are!  If anything were to ever happen to them we would be able to get to them quickly, or send emergency services directly to their exact location.
  2. Our second reason involves avoiding them being distracted drivers.  With an app like this one, we are able to check in when we suspect they might be driving.  That means we don't have to text or call.  They don't have to feel pressured to respond or pick up, but we know they're on their way.  Neither of the girls have blue tooth in their cars, or hands-free phone thingys so this is a big deal for us in keeping the as safe and undistracted as possible.
  3. They get to track us too.  Again, this means reduced texts of the "where are ya?" kind.  If they wake up in the morning and wonder where everyone is, they can find out before they go ahead and panic.  If we are out late at night they can see where we are.
Since all but one of us is an adult, in our house, this is far from being a "nanny state" arrangement.  Anywhere Mr Busy goes, someone in the house delivers him and retrieves him, so we always know where he is anyway.  This is the nature of where we live - transport is always provided by us.  For the rest of us, this is purely peace of mind.  We check the app before we worry or consider getting concerned.  The kids check and see if we're still at work.  We check and see if Miss Sunshine is on her way home from Uni.  We know if Miss Mischief is at "games night" after church on Sunday.  Initially the kids were dubious about the idea of being able to be tracked by us.  I suspect they do more tracking of us these days, and they have all agreed using this app makes perfect sense in our household.

PS  I am in no way related to Apple or this particular app.  It's just one that we use and have appreciated.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Eastland Daiso and other classroom fun

Eastland is one of the major shopping centres on my side of Melbourne.  As you would expect it's pretty big, and because of the distance from our home, we don't end up there very often.  As I mentioned the other day, the first time I went there, two years ago, it ended up in tears for me.  Seven hours since lunch and never finding the restaurant, and having to decide what to eat from the food court at 8pm was never a recipe for my success.  Especially on a Friday night after work!  When Miss Mischief found out her response to Miss Sunshine and her Dad was "What?  You took her shopping and didn't feed her?  Are you stupid?"  Yep.  We do "direct" in our house like nobody's business.

Last year Dh and I went there for buy a birthday gift for Miss Mischief.  We lost the car.  Turns out we needed to go through the shopping centre doors on the other side of the wall to where we actually exited.  We forgot we had come in through Woolworths and not the exit right next to that one.  Like, 50cm away with a wall in between. 😣

Today I won!  I went all the way to Eastland, found the store I wanted, and then also found the car again afterwards.  No tears!  Miss Mischief came along to be my voice of reason in all things Eastland and shopping.

We found our intended target, Daiso, fairly simply with the help of the touch-screen map thingys.  Above is what we came out with.  The storage boxes have all the eleventy million disposable cups stored in them.  The shelf liner has been cut to size to fit the top of my washing machine.  I need to clean off the feet of our kitchen chairs to protect them with those perfectly sized felt circles.  The other things are for my classroom.  The white basket and hooks are magnetic so they'll be able to attach to my whiteboard.

Now that I know what's at Daiso I'll be able to plan trips there with added discernment.  I have to say, it is teacher heaven!  Everything is $2.80, if there is no other price attached.  There were some things that were more than that, but they were all over on one side of the store.  Once my classroom has been put back together (painting should have been completed, and I think carpet was scheduled to be laid today) I will be able to decide what I'd really like to have things the way I want them.

This is one of my new storage units.  Miss Sunshine and I spent some time last Monday labelling the boxes.  It took me a little bit of fiddling to get the label size right, but then it was a breeze to print, laminate and stick them on the inside of each tub.  I am very happy with how they turned out.  Not bad for a little creative ingenuity!

What's your favourite bargain store?  So far I'm leaning towards Arthur Daley's, and then Daiso was a very close second.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

On the decluttering train

This week's little decluttering job is complete.  To look at the space, you'd think not, but I only ever intended to do a small portion of the job.

This week it was the front cupboard.  It's this monstrously sized cupboard in the front entry way.  When we moved in we thought we'd never fill up all that space.  Alas and alack, we did fill it and it was overflowing.  It seems to be a consistent phenomenon:  you fill whatever space you have.

The top shelf of that cupboard has been hoarding and collecting things since the very year we moved in here, a way back in 2005, as it turns out.  Twelve years.  Before I attacked this vortex of stuff it looked like this.

I spent an hour going through photos and kid's school work and baby cards and all sorts of things.  I threw almost all of it out.  I kept the catering/picnic stuff.  I kept a small box of photos and keepsakes.  I kept a couple of portfolios from when Mr Busy was in Prep/Year1, and Miss Mischief was in 3/4.  The 3/4 one is interesting to me, since I now teach that year level in the same school.  Mr Busy graduates next year, so I thought I'd stow that work in case it's wanted for graduation celebrations.  Can I just say, Mr Busy was awesomely cute way back in the day.  He's still cute, but he has such a long, lanky body now.  His cute little 6yo self was so compact!

Everything else?  Gone.  That Linak box?  Full of stuff we didn't need.  Up the other end?  Phone books.  Who on earth needs phone books anymore?  We don't even need them for loo paper (my mother says they all looked forward to phone book loo paper because it was softer than whatever else they used).

The new-look top of the cupboard looks like this:

Most interesting discovery?  A brass plumb line and eleventy million disposable cups.

My organising/cleaning/decluttering "done" list is looking pretty good:

  • pantry
  • oven
  • recycling bin
  • desk area
  • entry cupboard (top shelf)
I still need to work on the dining room.  And then I need some major storage overhauls to happen, in the form of shelving for the bottom section of that front cupboard.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

The Strangest School Holidays Ever

It has been a very strange school holiday so far.  This week may feel a little more like normal, but so far it has been anything but.

It began last Monday with an early morning drive to get Miss Mischief off on her road trip to Sydney, to attend a conference up there.  Since I was up in the wee dark hours, when I got home I just got stuck into some work....four days later I decided that was enough!  We missed Mischief coming home, since the rest of us headed up to my parent's home in country Victoria.  It was an odd feeling, having us there and Mischief here, when she finally got home.

To add to the oddness, Miss Sunshine has gone back to Uni, so while the rest of us are still on a break, she's back to the grind and none to happy about the idea!  By the end of this week she'll feel better.  I'll go back to school next week, and then a week later Mr Busy, and then the week after that Miss Mischief will be back.  By August maybe life will look like we expect it to!

Gone are the days where all the little people here spent the first week of holidays bickering and trying to figure out what to do with themselves and all their spare time.  Gone are the constant "what can I eat?" and "Can I watch a DVD?" and "Can I play on the computer?" questions I used to field and manage constantly.  I don't manage the logistics of getting kids to holiday activities any more either.  Well.  Except for Mr Busy.  His Wednesday mornings are spent at church doing the technical behind the scenes stuff of lighting and sound and CG for Movie Morning.  This week one of the girls will need to do that ferrying.  Once upon a time I found school holidays exhausting and had to work hard to ensure everyone settled into something of a routine that wouldn't send us all crazy.  Once upon a time I wouldn't have worked at all through the break.

This school holiday break has been the oddest for sure.  But as I ponder what has been and consider the season in which we find ourselves, I suspect this is our new normal.  Kids who start and stop their school breaks at inconsistent times.  Kids who get themselves about the place.  Peace in the house because everyone gravitates to their own space when they're home.

The tip of the oddness:  me suggesting a trip to Eastland.

You can't imagine the sideways look I got from Miss Mischief.  Eastland is not on my list of places to visit.  One previous trip ended in hungry tears after being lost.  It's a whole story.  Another trip ended with us losing the car, because the car park there is ridiculous.  But Eastland is home to Daiso.  And Daiso is my kind of shopping.  So the girls are going to guide me carefully and lead me gently.

What's your school holidays been like so far?

Monday, 10 July 2017

Monday Means Menus!

I had such grand plans for today.  Plans to clear out a cupboard that has been hoarding who-knows-what for about 10 or 11 years.  What I know about that cupboard is that I haven't actually touched anything on most of the top shelf, except the disposable places & cutlery, and picnic stuff.  So I was all excited about the idea of dealing with it.

But then I just slept instead.

In my defence, today is the first day I haven't worked since the school holidays began, and I need a break.  Apparently.  My body has decided it has no energy, so at 11am, when I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore I just wriggled down on the couch, pulled up my blankie (because there is nothing better than being all cosy when you're watching TV!), and slept for two hours.  It feels pitiful, but that's what this poor old body needed.  The sad thing is I slept so well last night.  My Dad sent me home with a clock radio that has red numbers.  What I now know, after a few clocks, is that red numbers don't glow like the sun at night.  Red numbers just keep the time in the clock, not all over the room.  Every time I woke, briefly, I looked over at the time and drifted back to sleep.  No green glow emanating from the clock.  YES!

The only productive thing I needed to do today was grocery shopping.  Which means list making, which means menu planning.  It was so nice to be the one asking "What's for dinner, Mum?" instead of having to find the answer!

So our Picket Fence Plan for the week is as follows:
Monday: Sloppy Joe's and potato wedges
Tuesday: Chinese simmering chicken, rice, stir fried veggies
Wednesday: Veggie plate (a plate full of roasted/steamed veggies)
Thursday:  Oven fried chicken, vegies
Friday:  Sheet pan tacos
Saturday: Chicken & corn soup
Sunday:  Maybe lasagne so I can make a double batch for the freezer?

Monday & Friday nights are new recipes for us from The Family Fudge.  This is on my list of Favourite YouTuber's, so if you have time take a look around.  Jennifer's recipes always look so delicious, so I'm willing to have a go.  The sheet pan taco things looks like a really good idea for putting it together.

What are you eating this week?

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Perfect Lunch Partners


There is only one thing better than the yummiest salad on earth, eaten at lunch time.

Pairing it with my other very favourite lunch thing - Mum's rhubarb relish on crackers with cheese.

At Mum's house.

This has been my weekend partnership, whilst at my parents' home in country Victoria.  In return, I made brownies.  My mother's delight over brownies was equal to mine over rhubarb relish.  Except I get to take a jar of relish home with me!

What are you eating for lunch this week?

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Productive Days (who needs a holiday, after all?)

Whoever said teachers get a lot of holidays speaks from blissful naivety, total ignorance or a combination of both.  Over the past four days of school "holidays" I have handed in an assignment, planned my Measurement & Geometry lessons, found video clips for each topic and spent a ton of time creating resources.

I'm going to be flap-booking my way through M&G this term.  Above is part of just one flap book I've created from scratch this week.  I'm growing a little bank of templates so I can use the basic shapes for other flap books as well.  That will save me heaps of time in the future.

Last year I used flap books and other interactive notebook type of activities a few times, and my kids loved them. I felt like shape, angles and lines just fit really well with the idea, so that's what we'll be doing.  What I love about interactive notebook activities, is that the kids are highly engaged, the vocabulary seems to stick with them better, and the information is in their books in a very organised fashion without taking up heaps and heaps of space.  The flap books give them an opportunity to draw examples and write their own definitions, so hopefully this information will be firmly embedded in their smart little brains.

And this idea gets the Mr Busy tick of approval.  I showed him the flap book I created for 2D shapes and he reckoned he wouldn't mind being in my class, because Yr11 Maths doesn't look quite like that much fun!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

What's Cooking Wednesday....a healthy lunch

I'm not much for lentils, or salads (especially in winter!).  What I know, however, is that it's good to have more plant based foods in one's diet, and legumes are meant to be really good for you, for many reasons.  So, last week I was pondering my favourite pasta salad and thinking about how to have that salad yumminess (now there's an oxymoron!) without the pasta.

Necessity is the mother of invention, they say, so I set about to include some necessary healthful foods into my weekday lunches in a palatable manner.

I love Bobby Flay's Greek Orzo Salad, and use his recipe all the time, without the prawns.  I think what I love most is the dill!  So with this as the basis, I switched out the pasta and use French Puy lentils and pearl couscous instead.  I cooked 1/4 cup of each and mixed them together.  Then I quartered some cherry Roma tomatoes and a small Lebanese cucumber and added that, imprecise measuring and all, until it looked like a good ratio to the lentils and couscous.  I added just one spring onion and a handful of chopped dill, and omitted the feta.

The recipe made enough for 3 lunches.  This salad made the Thursday grade.  Thursday is tuck shop day at our school, and sad lunches just do not stack up in a staffroom of sushi and filled fresh baguettes.  Amongst those delicious tuck shop offerings, my salad still felt like a great lunch.  The texture that I don't love, with the lentils, was softened with the pearl couscous.  I'll keep using that combo and over time may I'll back off the couscous bit by bit until I am content with just the lentils.

Now I need to make this again, so that the leftovers from Miss Sunshine's party don't call my name too loudly!

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Three reasons why I don't colour my hair

Image Credit
Disclaimer:  I shouldn't need to say this, but the internet being what it is, I thought I'd make it clear from the outset:  This topic is totally about people making a choice for themselves, based on what works for them.  There is no right or wrong, good or bad, or judgement to be made.  What I choose for myself is not a judgement about anyone else's choices.  
Now....back to our scheduled program.....

"You should think about colouring your hair," was the not so subtle suggestion I received from a hairdresser some 10+ years ago, now.

You see, grey hair runs in my mother's family the same way that male baldness runs in my Dad's.  Since I'm not a boy, I'm fairly safe with that one, but not so much they grey.   My maternal grandfather was absolutely white in his 50's.  My mother was not quite as white, but not far off in her 60's.  At any given age, she has been more grey than I have been.  I first noticed my own one or two greys in my early-mid twenties, and they've been gathering steam ever since (my mother noticed her own in her teens - I had a good 10 years on her!).  Right back then I knew I needed to make a decision.  To dye, or not to dye.

I chose not to dye my hair.  Ever.

Back then it was simple reasoning:  if I go grey one hair at a time, it won't be quite so obvious, compared to if I dyed my hair and then decided to stop.  That difference would be quite stark.  Since then I have developed a more considered reasoning.  So here are three reasons I don't dye my hair (or intend to start!).

1.  It's expensive
I am nothing if not practical, and I have experienced numerous times of financial stress in my life.  It was not long after that comment from the hairdresser that we had to buckle down and hold our financial breath.  Spending on anything that was not absolutely necessary just did not happen.  In fact, I think I had my Mum cut my hair a time or two during that season of our life (she had cut half the town's hair when we lived overseas - it was a safe, cheap option).

2.  It's a time commitment
Not only the sitting in the hairdresser's chair, but also how often you need to visit the hairdresser.  I have long hair, so I don't need to go any more often than once a quarter and can get away with longer if I cut my own fringe.  Again, the practical side of me is inclined to shun anything that requires upkeep more often.  It's also part of the reason I've never been able to have my hair in a short style for more than about a year.  Hair appointments every six weeks?  Nope.  Too much like hard work to my way of thinking.  I'm terrible at being a girl sometimes!  And again, the money.

3.  Sensitive Skin
Perhaps the most persuasive reason I don't dye my hair is because of my skin.  I am so sensitive to normal chemicals people use.  Things like dishwashing liquid, hand soap, household cleaners, perfumed hand creams.  You name it, I avoid it.  As an example, my current hand moisturiser is a non-frangrance one, and if you're read here for a while, you know I've had a major eye sensitivity to something in make-up this year.  Given all that, frankly I've been too scared to try dying my hair.  If I'm that sensitive to regular stuff I can only imagine I'd been on The Project or A Current Affair as an extreme examples of chemical burns and rashes and swelling everywhere.  If regular people get a little irritated, I don't want to think about what that would look like for me.

So I don't even consider dying my hair.  I think more than a choice, it's probably just not an option.  And I'm totally OK with that.

What about you?  Do you colour your hair?  Or not?  Do you wish you'd made a different choice at some point?

Monday, 3 July 2017

Weekly Menus

We made it.  We fell over the Term 2 finish line and crashed.  Almost.  I crashed.   And then had to pick myself up to welcome about 30 family and friends for Miss Sunshine's 21st birthday party.  A party that is two months late, because we were just not in a place to do it at the time.

Term 2 has been long.  Eleven weeks just feels exhausting!  I ended my term with reports being completed, portfolios being compiled, an assignment being written and my classroom being emptied out.  The past two weeks have definitely been a sprint.  It was a delight to see my students' faces when they looked through their portfolios.  Then they worked so hard to help move everything to the room where our classroom things are being stored for the holiday break.  I commandeered Mr Busy for move some bigger things with the trolley (he had study lesson), and Miss Sunshine came in to direct traffic and supervise the kids when they were taking things to the storage space.  I was so grateful.  My building, plus my previous building (4 classrooms altogether), are both being refurbished with lockers and cupboards being ripped out, carpet being replaced and walls being repainted.  Next term I will have moveable storage instead of lockers and cupboards, and my data projector will be changed over to an interactive projector.  My classroom will be reoriented so that the "front" of the room will be on a different wall.  It will be SO GOOD!  Right now, however, my hip is not happy due to all the bending - an old injury that flares in these types of circumstances.

So while my classroom is being tended to, I am rehoming resources into tubs that will then need to be labelled.  I will also need to do some planning.  Otherwise, lots of sleeping and reading and YouTube watching is my plan for now.  I'm very excited about the idea of the forecast rain and me being tucked up at home with a book.

Our menu for the week.... (sans Miss Mischief, who will be in Sydney this week)
Monday: Pasta Bolognese
Tuesday: Honey Soy Chicken, Vegies, Rice
Wednesday: Tuna & Rice
Thursday: Vegie Plate
Friday: liaise with Mum about the weekend

How has your Term 2 been?  What are you looking forward to for the holidays?