Sunday 18 September 2016

Fitzroy Falls

We'd gone for a weekend with friends in Bundanoon, and on the way home I detoured past the spectacular Fitzroy Falls. As the weather was changing, I only did the walk to the second look out (Jersey?), which is an easy walk and worth the view.

The highlight, however, was seeing an echidna in the wild, not a metre away from me!

With magic moments like that, it's hard not to love life!

What are you loving this week?

Linking with #DND

Our favourite family meal

We are very busy during the school term and there is often two or three sittings for dinner at our house. The family meal is a rare occasion, usually managed only once a week, and now seems to be lunch out on the weekend when the 5 of us are together - though even that is hard to manage as the teen is often out with their crew.

It is something I'm mindful of, and something I try to lock in at least once a week. I think it's one reason I love travelling - we get huge blocks of time together, without other friends or extended family stealing our attention away from each other. Even breakfast is a shared and lingered event. These moments are important to sibling dynamics as well as parent-child conversation.

So the current family favourite meal is not something I've made at home, which with a vegetarian and a particularly fussy eater would be hard to find a common dish marked as favourite. A meal at Din Tai Fung is the current fav, as all 5 of us like it, and there's something for everyone beyond chips...For those that don't know, it's a lauded Michelin starred (in Hong Kong, not here) Taiwanese dumpling and noodle joint, famous for it's super tasty Xiao Long Bao.

Meals are a very social event for us, and if we have a blank space in the diary, we'll organise lunch or dinner with friends. There's something so easy and satisfying about relaxing over food. However, I need to try and make sure the five of us get a few more times a tavola each week.

“We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink.” – Epicurus

Linking with Denyse for #LifeThisWeek - as no one eats the same food, I don't have a go to meal. It has to be at least 3 go to meals....argh!

Wednesday 14 September 2016

Earth laughs in flowers. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I had to race into the city to pick up my new sunnies (I know, it's all action and adventure here). I walked past David Jones to see their Spring Flower Show had begun. I was lured inside by the massive display of pink orchids. The towers of flowers are delightfully overwhelming and as I explored the floor, taking photos to the tinkling tunes from the Grand Piano, smiles were exchanged with fellow admirers. It was like we were in a secret club. There was a sense of community that is normally lacking from the busy mercantile frenzy.

It was genuinely uplifting, and I left with a joyousness that hadn't been there when I walked in.

As simple as that, I was loving life.

What are you loving this week?

Linking with #Allseasons as I hope the flower show makes a return.

Monday 12 September 2016

In defence of public educators

I foolishly got caught up reading a stupid 'public or private' school debate on Facebook (never read the comments, people). I was offended on behalf of the excellent educators at my child's school when I read someone's comment that because the private schools teachers were paid more, they were more dedicated.

I went to a private school. I opted for public but had some fears, which quickly proved unfounded. Here is what I have found. Once you hit year 9 (some of you may know the homework becomes an issue in year 9 for some kids who grow too big for their teenage boots), I had a number of teachers ringing me every few days so that an issue in April was resolved by parent teacher interviews in June. The marks that had dropped to an all time low in April were back up in 80%+ in that short time and back in the 90's by the end of the year.

Last year I made a passing comment at the parent cocktail party to a teacher who my child had for Science in Year 7 and had again in Year 10, mentioning there'd been a lack of handing in homework the previous year and she should feel free to call me should it appear to happen again. An assignment was due the day my child was off competing in a Regional, and due to a technical error, the teacher hadn't received the assignment. She rang me at 9.40 to ask me about it - a brief discussion later she worked out it had gone into the junk folder, however, I was impressed that 7 months later she'd remembered our brief conversation and acted on it in such a timely fashion.

When the children perform in plays or concerts, there are many teachers there, even though they aren't required to be there as it isn't their subject. They clearly like these children, and have a genuine interest in them and their achievements.

At parent teacher last year, I was ticked off quite sternly by a Maths teacher for trying to push my child into a level of maths that would not suit them. The fact that she felt the need to put my child's best interest ahead of pleasing the parent meant a lot to me. And she was right. She knew my child's ability better than I did.

The teachers knew my child well enough to ask questions on their subject selection like "You know that class is at 7.30 am. Will you be able to make that work?" (even though my child arrives on time, mornings are not their strong suit) and "You know you'll have to give a lot of speeches. Will you be okay doing that?" At one point in the queue for an interview, a teacher came over and chatted to my child then handed them a usb. Curious, I questioned it. The teacher was the careers advisor, the usb was music that he thought my child would like to play in their garage band - it had stemmed from a conversation they had when organising the work experience. These things are all small, but reflect how engaged they are with my child.

After the Year 9 parent teacher, I wrote a letter to the school about how impressed I was at the dedication of the educators. Very few even needed to look up my child's marks to know their progress. They challenged my child to improve. They were open and frank and in the class where the homework had been lacking, the teacher focused solely on the rapidly improved mark and how there was still plenty of room for improvement now that the work was being done.

The school offers amazing sport opportunities, overseas trips and ski camps. It offers all the normal debate, photography, orchestra as extra curricular but so much more. You as a student are encouraged to decide what you want to do and get the clubs in motion. Facilities are made available and teachers, of their own good will, commit themselves to help make it happen.

As we head into the HSC, I'll get a figure that gives my child a score on their education. However, I believe a lot of schooling is up to the child and what they choose to do with the opportunities offered. Regardless of the mark we get, I have no regrets for the choice I struggled with all those years ago, I think it's been a successful education. I can't fault the teachers and for my child, it's been an excellent place for those formative years. I don't believe they would have got a better mark elsewhere and I'll never know if they would have been happier elsewhere with other teachers and students, however, I think school has been a good experience for them, they've always happily attended and they've been stretched and given responsibilities that have helped them grow.

I agree with the comment that public school teachers are underpaid and public schools are underfunded. It is a disgrace what the government has done to the educational system. However I strongly disagree that the teachers at public school aren't dedicated. From what I've seen, and my own personal experience, these teachers are dedicated despite the lack of pay, and perhaps that makes them focus on the child as an individual all the more. I'm not saying public school teachers are better than private school teachers. I'm sure private school teachers go the extra mile too. I'm merely defending the faultless dedication of the educators in the public system, based on my personal experience.

To the public educators that have to put their hand in their own pocket for chalk, that stay longer hours to help at the homework club or study help, who listen and engage with the kid going off the track, who watch the performances, who give up their free time to help with an extra curricular club, who make public school a better place for all, I salute you. You tireless effort does not go unnoticed.

Thank you.

Linking with #MummyMondays

Analysis of a life

I was asked to summarize a friendship. I had to write in unemotional terms how we had interacted over a decade. Not describe her as a great friend or a caring, generous, thoughtful person. Instead I had to talk about how we met and all the things we did together over that period. This task is harder than it sounds, If you are good friends, you do a lot together and it all blurs.

I found the upside to my lazy email system that results in my never deleting emails. I had plenty of emails to date stamp events. Weekends away, dinners and parties. Shared school and kids sport experiences. Obviously photos are a clue, but you do so much more together than you bother to photograph.

It was also odd the things you remember - not the event so much but the kooky conversation that took place, or an event that you weren't at but were told about excitedly after the fact. I knew her overseas holidays but had no timeline to them, as I was remembering our excited conversations in the lead up to the trip or looking at photos on her return. Our memories are not the clear history book we think it is, but as vague as poetry, an anthology jumbled together.

It amazed me how entwined our lives had been, and over such a long time. She's not even someone I would consider one of my oldest friends. In our heads we think we are living our own lives, but with a lot of our friendships, we are constantly sharing experiences. 

Friendship marks a life..."friendship is never anything but sharing." 

It made me realise how lucky I was to have such wonderful people in my life, people who've been walking beside me for a long time.

Have you ever had to analyze a friendship?

Friday 9 September 2016

Run away to the circus

I've had a busy week with not much action to mention, but last week we went to Kooza! the Cirque de Soleil show that's currently in Sydney. As always, it's fabulous, and the best bit, it entertains the youngest through to the oldest in our crew, and that can be a tricky task indeed.

So lovin' what brings smiles to all five faces!

What are you loving this week?

Linking with #FridayPhoto

Monday 5 September 2016

Failure or success?

I read a blog last week where someone wrote that sometimes you had to take a step backwards to go forwards, referring to quitting her job to be with her kids. Another person was telling me about their friends' child who quit his fancy private school post trials, just weeks away from the HSC for mental health reasons. Sometimes we make unexpected choices. Sometimes we need to try something out before choosing the path we really wish to take.

Maybe we explore a dead end. Maybe we think we're on the right path, only to discover we need to start again. I don't see this as failure.

I read this article with interest, as I've children heading into those HSC years and we're already discussing alternative routes into the University of choice - starting elsewhere, doing the lacking subject at TAFE then moving credits into the desired Uni course. I keep hearing myself say "There are ways around everything".

I honestly believe that. There are ways around every obstacle if you look hard enough. We may not be on the trajectory that we grew up believing was the proper way to do things. As I've reached this ripe old age, all around me marriages are breaking down, people are battling cancer, others are losing their jobs. The conventional path we were on shifts overnight. Does it mean we've failed? We may not be where we thought we'd be. We may not be enjoying our life that much at the moment. What we need to remember is at any moment that can change again, just as it changed before. We need to remember it's a temporary shift and we can find a new path to navigate.

We need to re-evaluate what we see as failure. The landscape is a constantly shifting sand dune. We may lose our footing but there is nothing stopping us from dusting ourselves off and climbing to the top again.

One of the best ways to change how we think about failure is to re-evaluate what we judge as success. If we redefine our meaning of success, we won't be quite as hung up on failure.Sharon Jaynes wrote 'Successful mothers are not the ones that have never struggled. They are the ones that never give up, despite the struggles.' The woman who considered quitting her job to be with her kids, I would call a success, as she had the luxury to make that choice. The choice she thought was best. To the kid that quit just before the HSC, maybe he avoided a complete breakdown? Now he can work out what he wants to do and achieves that in a more manageable way, or at a more accommodating and supportive school.

While we travel down limitless paths, narrowing down choices and making plans, some will bring happiness, some won't. But none are permanent. We can alter the path at any point. If one path doesn't work out, we try another. That may fail too, but hopefully we learn to fail better. Success is not a destination, and it is not permanent. We need to remember that whatever we are going through now won't last. Things will change. We have that power.

Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley 

Linking with #MummyMondays#KCAKOLS 

Sunday 4 September 2016


I had an aha moment on the weekend, that nearly made my head explode - it was a good thing it didn't as I was in the car and that would have been a mess. We were listening to Bill Burr's Monday Morning Podcast (from the 1.9.16) and he was rambling on about a great vodka over ice or something, and he was saying that you had it on the porch like you were in the 1800's and then he said 'We won't dwell on that because unless you were white, that was a really bad time for you'. It hit me. I furnish every mention of history completely differently to others. In my head it was all white crinolines and Jane Austen/Southern Belle/Days of the Raj with gin and tonics on the verandah but 1800's doesn't just mean that. It means slavery, oppression and a myriad of other things depending on the colour of your skin.

I have talked about how we can never really walk a mile in someone else's shoes before, but this was such a clear and succinct example. And something I'd never thought about. We are taught history in 'bits'. This happened and then this happened. However, it's all happening all the same time. I was taught 'White' history. However that was not the only side to history. When you visit Vietnam, you get a very clear idea of the different versions of 'history'.

When we talk about something, we think everyone understands it the same as us but everyone is furnishing it with their understanding. There truly is no reality, only perception. It's worth remembering that when dealing with children, especially teens. Their reality is completely different to ours. What they hear us say is not necessarily what we are trying to tell them. In the movie 2 Guns, there's a throw away comment "If you're hearing something, it's only because you're hearing it, not because I'm saying it". I think that's more profound than I realised at the time. What I'm saying and what you're hearing can be two different things, depending on your experience, as was the case with the casual Burr comment. Hugely different things.

I guess all we can do is try to check ourselves. When talking to our children, especially teens, try and speak their language a little better, so that what we're saying is also what they're hearing.

Linking with #OpenSlather

Thursday 1 September 2016

'Don't let people drive you crazy when you know it's in walking distance.' Unknown


With the stairs finished, and the long walks looming, I've begun ducking into town on foot early Saturday mornings. This moment of peace and freedom, and a chance to enjoy our beautiful city is a great way to start the day, and I can be home by 9am as the walk is a little over an hour, then a short train ride back.

I've also taken to walking with one of the kids to hunt Pokemon. It's our time alone, to talk and laugh and catch up. When you have three or more kids, you know only too well that the squeaky wheel gets the oil, and sometimes things can be missed, as there are so many places to be and things to attend in the day to day rush of school and family life.

I love seeing different parts of the city with new eyes on these walks. Things I never had the time to notice while running errands or getting from A to B.

As the pictures show, it's not hard to love life when you're enveloped in beauty.

What are you loving this week?

Linking with #Sundayinmycity