Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What is an emo?

I was having a look on the Simple Savings site this morning as I normally do, and I came across this link. I had never heard of videojug before. It's incredible. It has all these short videos explaining how to do things. I downloaded instructions on how to get a podcast, how to take a shower, how to pitch a tent, how to be a good neighbour.... the list is endless. (And just so you know... I DID know how to take a shower before I saw the clip. I just wanted to see if I was doing it right.)
It's a handy site to know about.

Here's a helpful instructional video on how to identify an emo.

I've noticed at work that there's more and more of our students evolving into these creatures, particularly in the upper levels. I find it helps to stay alert to the newfangled trends of the young folk.
Now I'm off to water my veggies.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bamboo and wheatgerm.

Well that was a bit of fun. You should've seen Brennan's face when he saw the expression on 'his' face when he was dancing. What fun technology is!

I popped into Spotlight yesterday to buy a cushion insert for a silk cushion cover I bought in Thailand. (Incidentally, when I got home and took the cover out of the wrapping, I found that a seam had popped. I'm outraged. Do you think I should get on a plane and fly back to Phuket, go to the market and track the seller down and get a refund? It cost me all of $3..... or is that taking rationalisation to go on a new holiday too far?)

Anyway, while I was there I went to the wool section. I got wildly excited when I found some bamboo and cotton yarn. I love the idea of wearing something that would make me delicious to a panda. The question I have is... where would I find a pattern for yarn like this? I'm assuming that I couldn't adapt a pattern for wool, given that wool is stretchier and... well... woolier than a cottonish thread. I like the idea of knitting a simple jumper for summer days that get a little cool. For when the drought breaks. It has to soon, because I've planted my veggies. So I want to get cracking, while not forgetting the afghan (mmmm, the afghan.) So does anyone in internetland have any ideas? Spotlight didn't seem to have patterns for this type of yarn, though admittedly I only scanned the shelves briefly. I had a couple of cakes in the oven, and I knew I had to get back. I sound so domestic, don't I?

Yesterday turned into a bit of a baking day. Usually I bake about 4 cakes on the weekends, and the kids have one a day when they come home from school. It's easy to divide a cake into quarters. I also bake huge amounts of biscuits every fortnight or so, and freeze them for the kids lunches. But since coming home from Thailand (land of inadequately sewn cushion covers and elephants.... I still love the elephants) I've been knackered, to use an elegant phrase. The kids have been eating toast, popcorn and uncooked spaghetti (pasta) after school, and using shop bought (gasp!) biscuits in their lunchboxes. Obviously this shocking state of affairs cannot continue.

4 cakes, and 120 biscuits with wheatgerm and chocolate chips made. Wheatgerm for inner health because I am now a Good Mother again, and chocolate to get them to eat the darned things to get the wheatgerm in their colons. Especially Connor, the eat-no-vegetables-except-chips kid. I feel in control again. What a legend. Brennan has to take 60 of those biscuits (cookies to our American mates) to school for a project he's doing about healthy food, so I'll have to make more on the weekend, but now the snack situation is organised. I also made an impossible pie at the same time as making dinner, and now that's cut into portions and frozen for my lunches for the next week. It's amazing how much better I feel now that I've done this. I was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed with everything, but now I'm back on an even keel.

Ma Ingalls has nothing on me!

Saturday, October 27, 2007


After I uploaded this I realised that I should've made this a LAAAAARRGE photo. The afghan (look, the afghan!) would look far more impressive. I've been knitting feverishly, and according to the pattern I'm a quarter of the way there. Yes, gentle readers, I've done four rows of squares. With very few mistakes, considering I've been knitting in front of the tv and blogs on the computer screen. But here's the thing.... how come in all of the knitting blogs I've wandered through, the people start a major project and then five minutes later post a picture saying "oh look. I've finished. And by the way, here's some shots of the forty-seven hats and scarves I completed while I was doing this major project. Just so I didn't get bored." How do they do it??? Do they have an extra pair of arms, so they can casually keep knitting while they're cooking dinner or driving to music lessons or working in the garden? Are they insomniacs, knitting quietly away in the dead of night by the dim glow of a night light? I wish I knew their secret. They're making me feel very inadequate.

Speaking of works in progress, look at this life sized portrait of a cauliflower I grew. I'm so excited. I bought a punnet each of cauliflower and brussels sprouts plants, and bunged them in at the end of winter. It was supposed to be too late to get anything from them, but I thought I'd do an experiment and just see. I was planning to pull them up this weekend, but when I was watering on Wednesday I saw two golf-ball sized caulies. I squealed and jumped for joy. Brennan came out (he's the other cauliflower and brussels sprouts lover in the family), and he said that he found them a couple of days ago, but decided not to tell me because he didn't want to spoil the surprise. What a sweetie. So we squealed and jumped up and down together. Nothing's happening with the brussels sprouts as far as I can tell, so they're living on borrowed time.

After lunch I'm popping on a sunhat and planting the seedlings I bought last weekend. They've been sitting in the laundry trough all week. Heaps of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis and lettuce. Mum noticed two of the tomato plants were optimistically putting out flowers, blissfully unaware of the bee-less state of the great indoors, so before school yesterday I raced out and put them next to the pigface so they could live it up. Yummy little yellow cherry tomatoes.

Friday, October 26, 2007

I take my history in novel form.

I wonder who was the twit who saw this pretty plant and said, "Let's call it Pigface." I've planted some along the side of the main veggie patch with the thought of pollination in mind, and I was appalled when Mum said that's what it was called. I suppose if you squint, stand on your head and look sideways at it then the flowers might appear to be pigs' snouts, but honestly I think there'd also have to be a major amount of chemicals running through your system at the same time. I really likes this plant, but now I've gone off it a bit. Maybe this proves that a rose by any other name DOESN"T smell as sweet.

I'll be writing more about books, after a fabulous comment I received on the last post. She reminded me about Jean Plaidy. Every Saturday morning I used to walk up to Highett library with one of those old lady wheely shopping carts filled with books and spend a halcyon hour or so browsing the shelves for my fix for the next week. Jean Plaidy was one of my favourite authors. Prolific! My God the woman could churn them out. She also wrote gothic romantic fiction under the name Victoria Holt and I sampled a few of them, but my true love was for her historical 'faction'. I learned so much history from reading her work, and I'm sure that she's coloured how I regard historical figures even today. Catherine de Medici, for example. The woman was a queen of France and poisoned people left right and centre. Towards the end of her life people got nervous if she looked at them for too long. Yet I regard her with a tinge of fondness. She had it tough when she was a girl....

Am I the only one who learned history through reading fiction? At school the only interesting year of history we did was in Year 7. Egypt, Rome, etc. Then for the next 5 years it was set down that we had to do Australian history. For the first couple of years it wasn't so bad. There's Ned Kelly, the Eureka stockade, explorers trudging off into the deserts and carking it, the gold rushes....
But we've only got about 200 years of history. There's only so much sensational things you can learn about before the mundane and dreary take over. (And yes I know the Aborigines have about 40,000 more, but they didn't write any of it down, and so we poor school kids were forced to learn about squatters and Federation year after year.) In my last year of high school I rebelled and ended up learning European history by correspondence. Yes, that was probably the extent of my teenage rebellion that year. I lived life on the edge, baby...

European history, even by correspondence was more interesting than sheep farmers and explorers dying in the desert (again). It was this subject that introduced me to Renaissance art. I still remember being blown away by the sculpture, the paintings and the absolute attention to detail. But the lesson content was still a bit dry, full of legislation for this and negotiations for that. I wanted Henry the eighth striding down a hallway in Hampton Court with his retinue around him. I wanted colour, movement and passion. In short... I wanted my historical novels.

I'm still a sucker for them.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Addicted to reading.

I was blog-hopping during detention a couple of days ago, and I came across a book challenge. Young Adult novels reading challenge
Hopefully this link will work. It's my first try. Scott showed me how to use HTML ten minutes ago.

Basically, all you have to do is read 12 Young Adult novels over 2008. I really like this genre, and not because I'm an English teacher of Young Adults. (At least, that's what they say they are, but sometimes I take the liberty of doubting it.) I enjoy that these books tend to deal with some challenging themes, and they stick to the point, which can't be said for other genres. The plot has to grab, otherwise kids won't persevere, so it forces the author to be less self indulgent. I realise I'm speaking in massive generalisations here, so don't leave comments saying I'm an idiot. (But feel free to leave comments about anything else!!) Also, next year I'll be looking for new texts for our ESL kids, so doing this challenge will be like a tax deduction for the mind. Work + Fun = a happy me.

Another reason I'm happy to take part in this is that these books are going to be a part of our kids' lives. They'll be shaping their literary memories and forming part of their view of the world. I still have incredibly clear memories of the books I loved as a child.

The 'Little House' books still stay with me today. I even named one of my dogs Laura. When I'm being frugal I channel Ma Ingalls.... what would she do?

And what about 'Go Ask Alice'? My cousin and I read that book together over the summer holiday I spent at her house while Mum and Dad were in Europe. I read a page aloud, then she'd read a page.... I'm sure that book is one of the reasons why I steered clear of drugs. (Scared the bejeebers out of me!)

I read the 'Anne of Green Gables' books over and over again in my early teen years. Who wasn't captivated by the little red haired orphan and her imagination? Remember her walk through the haunted woods? Remember the reenactment of 'The Lady of Shallott'? The puffed sleeves she coveted?

Later on when I was 16 or so I graduated to Georgette Heyer. I own the complete set of her works. I have them parked on the bottom bookshelf in my lounge room, partially hidden behind a chair. (Well.... they're not exactly literary boasting material. But I love them nonetheless.) 'These Old Shades'... top read. I just loved Leonie. Sophie, Hero, Ancilla and all of the others were just fabulous. Heyer was also funny. Every now and then there's a dry line that's hysterical. And the interesting thing is that even though my literary tastes have moved on over the past twenty years, I find that if I'm particularly stressed, then I'll gravitate to reading one. I know what's going to happen after reading each one hundreds of times in my youth, so it must be somehow soothing to switch off and just let my eyes run over the pages full of muslin clad, high-spirited heroines and their cleft-chinned men who can control a team of highly strung horses with one flick of their wrists. (sigh! They don't make them like that anymore...)

The 'Silver Brumby' books by Elyne Mitchell are also fantastic. Following these horses through the bush, watching the generations grow and move on, watching Thowra become more and more of a legend the longer time went on... fabulous stuff. Although they are about horses, these are no Pony Club books with spoilt little missies whingeing about missing a jump at the last gymkhana. These horses are wild brumbies....

When I was a SAHM in the depths of nappies, poverty and a bad marriage, the kid next door introduced me to the 'Tomorrow When the War Began' series by John Marsden. Hands down one of the best series I've ever read, either for Young Adults or for those of us more Geriatrically Challenged. I gobbled down the books that were written, and then haunted the bookshops waiting for the next one to come out. By this stage I didn't classify as a 'Young Adult' type of reader. I was 33 and had three-and-a-half kids. These books have a wonderful plotline (what if Australia was invaded? What would happen? A group of teenagers from the bush escape the initial round-up of Aussies. What do they do now??) I love them. Even Jack has started reading them, and he's no reader.

So bring on the challenge!! I'm looking forward to it. It's taking my mind of the looming pressure of having to start my NaNoWriMo novel. Scott's upped the ante by bringing genre into it. (I'd be happy to have a singlecharacter, let alone a whole genre.)
Maybe I'll make mine a Young Adult one.....

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The early bird shouldn't knit.

(This photo was taken during the Christmas holidays, before I shaved my head. I look much more aerodynamic now.)

Woke up at 5am AGAIN this morning. I don't know why. Mum says that it's because we're all waiting for daylight savings to start. I wouldn't mind so much if an early start was all I got. It's lovely to quietly paddle around, read the computer, have breakfast, feed the animals in deathly peace and quiet. I talk to myself, and I don't mind saying to you all that I'm damned good company.

But it's the early night you need to have at the end of the day. By 8pm last night I was yawning my head off. I retreated to bed with my knitting (just how old am I again??) and The Simpsons. Soon all the kids were in there with me, lolling all over the place and watching the show with me. When it finished Connor brought his book and snuggled in beside me, then Jordan went and did his piano practise in the room next door. Jack and Brennan were doing homework and coming in and out to talk about it with me. Meanwhile my eyes were rolling around like a crazy woman's. I was looking at the inside of my skull more than looking at the kids, and my opinions about their homework had more vowel sounds in them than actual words.

Nobody seemed to notice. They continued on with blithe indifference to my pain. I tried to do the right thing and be A Good Mother and an engaged listener to my four favourite people, nodding and showing that I was awake by grimly knitting row after everlasting row (oh, the afghan!). This went on for a while, until I blearily checked my knitting. I'd made a mistake three rows back. Only one stitch, but in a basket weave pattern it's noticeable. And with 252 stitches in each row, I'm not about to unstitch. I may be a perfectionist Virgo, but there are limits.

"Alright, everyone out! I've hit the wall." (Not literally... you know what I mean).

I got up, put the cats away, got ready for bed, then snuggled back in under the doona with the electric blanket. At the very late time of 9.20pm. Even the eleven year old was still vertical. This is the life of the single woman in the suburbs. Woo Hoo baby!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Just a normal day.

Now that the year 12s have gone, my only 'official' teaching was a double period after lunch with my year 11 ESL class. I knew I'd be spending the first four periods wading through emailed essays that my year 12s would send, so I'd be slightly brain dead by the time my year 11s rolled in. I wandered in to work, vaguely thinking that maybe I'd get them to do individual work on their writing folios. I could help them if needed, and I could correct some more of the torrent of year 12 practise essays that are pouring in. It would be a quiet time, a civilised time, a time for quiet reflection, creativity and brotherly love....
Then I get asked if a student teacher could observe my class. Shit.
"Yes!" I say, big smile plastered all over my dial. "The more the merrier."

Shit. Now I have to come up with a lesson that is vibrantly exciting, something to whip up enthusiasm in both her and the kids for this magic thing called Education. In effect, I have to show her How it's Done. ( Well, that's not strictly true. I could run a really awful lesson to show her How it ISN"T Done... she'd probably learn a lot more if I did... I did think about it... but pride got in the way. I'll teach those kids something. Dammit.)
The paper. They're doing language analysis on their exam. A bit of ploughing through the opinion pages picking out persuasive techniques will be just the ticket. Done!

A flying trip to the common room, a purloined paper, scissors and glue and I'm set. Just have to photocopy a class set, hand them out, a bit of razzle-dazzle up the front to get them started and it'll be great. Good on me. And its only half way through lunch.

Just as I pick up my 3 master copies to take them to the photocopy room, Sarge mentions that a certain committee is meeting tonight after school. A committee that I need to have an important letter about class sizes for ESL in front of. A letter that I haven't written yet. Shit.
Why does procrastination always bite you in the bum?

Throw down the master copies. Start tapping away on the computer with feverish intensity. Shit. It's half way through lunch I have NO time!!!! Keep going. Finish it. Race up to the common room to find the other year 12 ESL teacher to run it by her. She makes a suggestion to add. Then we speak to another teacher who has the inside goss on class numbers for next year. It was worse than we knew. (Is it time to use the "f" expletive yet? Don't have time...) Back up the halls to my office. Keep typing. Bell goes. Shit. I haven't photocopied the opinion pieces.

Knock knock. There's the student teacher. Fine. Deep breath.
New plan. Teach her how to work on the bleeding edge of teaching. The 'make it up as you go along' lesson. (Actually, some of my best work has come from this. But it's not recommended as a usual thing.)

I breeze into the class "Hi Horror heads!" Mark the roll. Introduce the student teacher. Then start talking. I glance over. She's taking notes. Oh MY GOD!!! That's never happened before. Now the pressure's on.

My brain races. I can split them up into groups to work on the pieces. I was going to let them do it in pairs, but I only have three bits of paper. Three into 17 goes.... whatever. They can work it out. But I have to use up time....

I know! Spontaneous speeches!!! Yay! For thirty seconds each kid had to stand up and talk off the top of their head about a topic I gave them. This can be hard for ESL kids. It can be hard for anyone, if it comes to that. But... it was fantastic.

Jason the soccer nut had to talk about how much better AFL was than soccer.
Denis had to talk about soft toys.
Shwuang had to talk about the joys of owning a little sister....
Sun Li talked about why she sits by the window every lesson.
Michelle talked about why Australia was the best country in the world.
Dom talked about why Australia was the worst country in the world....

...and on it went. A good twenty minutes gone. Yay. Only an hour to go.
I talk about the task. I'm funny (the student teacher was laughing. She wasn't taking notes. Good.)

The kids split themselves up. I have a brainwave. When the bell goes for the break between periods 5 and 6, they all have to go outside and scamper around for 5 minutes while I go and photocopy. They agree.

While they're working I answer any questions and define any words they have trouble understanding while frantically working on the letter. Bell goes. Shovel them out. Student teacher and I race up to the photocopy room, me spouting jargon about the educational validity of the task as we go.

Back to the room. Let them in give out sets of the work answer more questions finish the letter.

Look around the room. The kids are really engaged with the task. All three groups are talking about the language, debating about how the writers are twisting the words for various effects..... there is actual learning going on!!! The student teacher is taking notes again. I don't care. This is turning into a great lesson.

Twenty minutes before the bell, the groups have to stand up and report what they've done. (Welding written and oral skills together.... write that one down, student teacher!!) They nailed it. I was rapt. They've really got a handle on how to analyse English. I love these kids.
Bell goes. "See you later, twit faces!" Quick chat to student teacher, go and hand in letter to committee head, go and cross mark year 12 essays with other year 12 English teachers, go home, go to doctor for medical so I can become a permanent teacher at the school (after today,... do I really want to? Yes of course, just kidding), back home make dinner, Mum and Dad come over to drop off the dog....
I love my life. It's not often dull.

By the way, Jack got a distinction in a big Maths competition run by Westpac. Top 4% in the state. Not bad, hey?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Treasure hunt in the dark.

Something happened tonight that was really gross, but also funny. Especially if you're a parent on a frugality kick, such as myself.

It was a quiet weekend in the Frogdancer household. The children were at their fathers, and I used the time for some gentle pottering around and some mild housecleaning. I threw out some raw pet meat that the animals weren't eating, knitted some more of the afghan (ahhh, the afghan), did the vacuuming and ate lollies. It was during this domesticity that I noticed to my annoyance that Connor had left his dental plate out of the case. I had an empty case, but no $350 plate. I tutt-tutted, and resolved to ask him to locate it when he arrived home.

My annoyance expressed itself in rather high decibels when he confessed that he had no idea where it could be. He searched high and low, somewhat more thoroughly when I told him that he'd be the one paying for the next one. Still nothing. I heard him say to Brennan, "I remember wrapping it in tissues...."

When he said that, I remembered that during my domesticity day I threw out a pile of tissues that were left on the bureau, while muttering about the slovenly, lazy kids I owned. I went up to him, and said, "If you think you might've wrapped it up, you've got to let me know now. The rubbish bin is out the front, and tomorrow it'll be too late."

The kid had no idea. He's not very bright.

So there we were, three of us out on the front lawn with a wheely bin, a torch and a dream. When I mention that it was over 30 degrees Celsius today, and there was raw meat in a garbage bag.... I don't think I have to elaborate on the smell. I ripped open two garbage bags. Nothing. It wasn't looking good. But underneath the pile of weeds I'd pulled from the veggie patch I could see another bag. Dry retching, I pulled it free, ripped it open with a flourish to reveal..... maggots. Hundreds of 'em. Writhing in maggotty delight in the torchlight, all over the pet meat. Brennan was nearly sick.

But I was not to be deterred. (I did think about it though.) I gingerly poked and prodded bits of rubbish that looked to be maggot free, and there it was! A lump of tissues. I picked it out, shook off anything that needed to be shaken off, and felt the outside. There was definitely something in there. "Oh no," said Connor. "Not from this bag..."

I was happy. I looked like this.

Connor looked like this.

Half an hour of vigorous disinfecting and scrubbing with toothpaste later, it was in his mouth.
I don't think he'll be so careless again.
And I saved $350!!!!

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Lightening tagged me for a meme a while ago, so naturally I thought "I'll get right onto that....."
Better late than never.

The Actor's Studio 10 Questions meme.

1. What is your favourite word?
Twitface, closely followed by Horrorhead and Idiot. (I can't help it if my students are hideous looking and a little slow.... )
2. What is your least favourite word?
"Should".... especially if it is immediately preceded by the word "You".
(Don't tell me what to do!!!!)

3. What turns you on? (creatively, spiritually or emotionally)
Oooo, babybaby!!!
A full bag of lollies. (Have I been single too long?)

4. What turns you off?
An empty bag of lollies that some selfish bastard didn't share with me.

5. What sound or noise do you love?
The end of day/end of year school bell.
The pop of a champagne cork.
My kids laughing.
"Ms Frogdancing... You've Won Tattslotto!!!!" (well, ok. This one hasn't happened, but I bet I'd REALLY REALLY like to hear it.)

6. What sound or noise do you hate?
The sound of one of my kids vomiting, and the splat! sound which means that said vomit has unfortunately hit the floor instead of the toilet. Add a 'hate the sound score' of x100 if heard in the middle of the night.
7. What is your favourite swear word?
Fuck. All out top favourite word, especially when I've lost my car keys. No other word will do.
Bugger. For more sedate, garden party situations when an expletive is called for.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to do?
Trophy wife.
Travelling minstrel.

9. What profession would you like not to do?
Food tester for a despot.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Well, first off, I'm not terribly religious. I've been known to describe myself as a godless heathen to people who are strange enough to ask about my spiritual standing with the Lord, but I guess that's not strictly true. I think that God and I are on pretty good terms. I don't bother him with tuneless hymn singing on Sundays, and he doesn't bother me. Besides, I always thought St Peter was at the Pearly gates. By gum! I MUST be important if God is there to greet me!
I'd like him to say....

"Welcome. We have a special come-straight-in-regardless-of-your-lack-of-churchgoing rule if you die in your 127th year while dancing the tango at your great granddaughters wedding with your much younger, madly in love with you, wealthy husband who makes you laugh. You qualify. Go right on through."

This was more fun to do than I thought it would be. Thanks Lightening!
I'd tag people, but I don't know how to link yet. It's Scott's fault. He hasn't shown me yet.
So I tag everyone in internetland who feels like doing this.

Child free Saturday morning.

Still no Daphne...

but in good news on the pet front, we took Molly back to the canine eye doctor and her eyes are SO much better. No operation needed, the ulcer is nearly gone. Yay. So there's different pills to shove down her neck, and the saga continues, but it's looking good.

The afghan... ahh, the afghan. I did quite a bit yesterday. I was exhausted when I got home, so I had a packet of potato chips for dinner, (they were chicken ones, so that's good for me, right?), and went to bed with my knitting, Oprah and Dr Phil. Sounds like it's lucky no-one got their eye poked out with the knitting needles doesn't it? I know that anyone married will probably be aghast and would think that spending a child free Friday night like this is a wanton waste of precious time. But trust me... it was bliss. I've found that after having a trip overseas (first Bali last year and now Phukhet) it takes me about three weeks to recover my bounce. It's still worth it though.

This weekend is earmarked for the usual pursuits. Veggie gardening, ( a trip to the local market for seedlings is happening tomorrow. Can't wait!), biscuit and cake making for lunches and after school, veggie soup making for lunches for me, mowing the lawn so the cat doesn't have an unfair advantage when stalking the pigeons, (I should've said cats. But I'm a bit pessimistic about Daph...), knitting, reading AND vacuuming. Some of the dust bunnies are bigger than Molly.

On a slightly different tangent... why are some house keeping jobs appealing, and others are blah? It's different for everyone. For instance; I could hang washing on the line till the cows come home. But as for folding it, yuck. You've heard of dumpster diving? We do jocks diving, otherwise known as Lucky Dip In The Clean Clothes Basket. It's no way to live, but I do it to us nearly every week. It's got to the stage where the spot in the walkway where I park the basket looks strangely empty if I've been organised and done the folding. The crazy thing is that it's not a big job. I fold the clothes into piles, and then each kid puts his clothes away.

Does anyone like vacuuming? I hate it. And yet, when it's finished I love the way the house looks. All dust free and shiny. (I have wooden floors.) Without fail I say to myself, "That wasn't so bad. The house looks great. I'm never going to leave it so long between vacuums again." Then I empty the bag into the bin, put it away in the hall cupboard and avoid it like the plague until we either
a) have guests or
b) we start giving names to the dust bunnies. We're at this stage now.
Open the door to my pantry and you'd be amazed and so impressed with the organisation. Everything is lined up, labels facing outward. Same with the fridge. Every time I shop I rotate everything, so nothing goes off. I have a list on the outside of the freezer so I know what's in there at any given time, (ok, it's little out of date, but it's easy to see how many tubs of ice cream we've got. 4 litre tubs are hard to miss, even in a freezer my size). My friend Sandy said once, "I know why we get along so well. You're as meticulous as I am. You just hide it better!"

My bookshelves are organised. I can lay my hand on any book I own at a moments notice. I actually love ironing. It just takes so long to get it all done, but I find it a pleasurable job to do around the house. Mowing the lawn is also good. I can go into the happy place inside my head and mechanically mow away.

OH MY GOD!!!!! Daphne has just walked through the door!!!!! Seriously!!!! Right now.

I've plonked a bowl of food in front of her for a reward and shut her in the laundry so she can eat it without Maris's help. I can't believe it. She just strolled in the lounge room behind Maris, nonchalantly miaowing "Hello, where's breakfast?"

Now I know she's safe, I want to kill her. I've got to go and text the boys to let them know she's back. They're at their Dad's this weekend. (Hence the chicken chips and farnarkling with Phil and Oprah.) Hooray! My family is all safe and accounted for again.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Where's Daphne?

I'm worried. Daphne, pictured with Brennan and Molly on the couch, didn't come home last night. I hate it when cats do this.

Maris was at home waiting for dinner when I got home at 6.30 after Jordan's piano lesson, but no Daph. This, of course, brings up everything that happened with poor little Daisy. She's the cat we had before the two girls we have now. I don't have a picture of her I can post. She was pre our digital camera.

She disappeared for a couple of days. In the end, Connor, who was 8 at the time, went looking for her next door in the empty house. He thought she might've got locked in the garage or something. He found her under the house. She'd been attacked by another cat or a car had hit her. The vet wasn't sure which. But the bones inside her hind leg weren't hidden anymore, and there were maggots writhing around on her. She was so glad to see us. I knew how to move her, because when I was a child I'd seen the neighbours move my dog Bonnie into a car after she'd been run over. I sent Connor racing back home for an old towel, and eased her across to it. Then we held it as rigid as we could underneath her and everyone jumped in the car.We had to have the windows down on the way to the vet. The smell was truly awful.

The first thing the vet did was give her a pain killer. She was so cold. We agreed that if she survived she'd have her leg amputated. She was only twelve months old. As I left the vets I could hear her calling for me. She died at ten that night. At least she was warm and comfortable.

So now, of course, I get antsy if the girls aren't home in time for dinner. When we first got them I said they'd be indoor cats, to avoid another Daisy episode, but they wanted to be outside. When I saw Maris trying to climb the curtains that was it! I don't want to live in a wrecked house, so they had their way. They sleep in the laundry at night, and everyone is happy.

Except me this morning. Yesterday, after a late night at the year 12 Valedictory dinner, I woke at 5.30. Sleepily I opened my eyes, only to be eyeball to eyeball with Daphne. Scared the bejeebers out of me. The kids had forgotten to put the cats away before they went to bed. I woke this morning wishing I could wake that way again today.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

My favourite class this year.

Yesterday.. last teaching day for year 12s. Hooray! I had my ESL class for a double, and the only constructive thing I got done was to hand out about 7 practise exams for them to do over swot vac. (Had to explain to them what swot vac means. Sometimes English slang goes over their heads.) For the rest of the lesson we took photos.... many of them. I was snapped with every kid individually, then in group shots, pairs... on and on it went. Then I had to sign everybodies dresses and shirts. I personalised most of them, but they all ran along the lines of
"Put down that calculator and pick up a book. It'll save you from losing your personality." (That was for a kid who wants to be an engineer.)
"English = Good.
Maths = Evil."
"A book a day keeps nerdiness at bay."

I'll miss my year 12 ESL class. It's ironic, because when I was given my teaching allotment at the end of last year I wasn't all that enthused about having to teach them. But fortunately, a lot of these kids are absolute idiots, which is always entertaining. ESL (English as a Second Language) kids are usually very good at Maths and Science, because numbers go across language boundaries and so they can understand what's going on more easily than in a more language based class. They catch up after a couple of years of being surrounded by English, but Maths is always their first love.

They caught on quickly that I'm allergic to all forms of Maths, (maybe because I told them so... see? I told you they were smart), and every now and then they'd co-ordinate themselves. I'd be writing something educational on the board, turn around and they'd all be waving calculators in the air. Of course I'd immediately put my index fingers together in the sign of the cross warding off evil and say "Back! Back! Put down those Devil's machines!!"
Or I'd be raving on about a novel we're studying, and I'd use a word like "estimate" or predict". Someone, usually Ali or Ilan, would point out that I'd used a Maths term, so obviously Maths was good for something.... I'd reply that they must've stolen it from English.
Or the time that I was waiting for some of the kids to arrive, and I was whingeing about having to wait for them. Where were they? Ilan replied that they were walking to class. "But you should see them RUN when it's spesh!!!" (Specialist maths... the hardest maths ever.)

It was a very small class, only 10 guys and 2 girls. There were three from Israel, one from India, one from Italy and the rest were from China. I don't know why I'm using the past tense. They're not dead. But they are now pretty much in the past, and they were a funny, very likeable group. They'll be in my list of the list teachers keep in their heads of memorable classes.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My mature response to a dare.

Big news, people!!!! My afghan has now doubled in length!!!! Yes, amazing as that may sound, it's now....wait for it ....... the length of my little finger. I can hear the sound of your rapturous applause now....

ok, it's not that impressive, but this wool is really thin. I took it to work, and during after school detention I took it out and was knitting away while staring disapprovingly at all the naughty kids. I felt like Madame DeFarge at the steps of the guillotine.

Imagine if every day I was able to post and say it had doubled in length,,,, it'd be finished in no time. Ahhhh.. the dizzy heights that my daydreams reach..... I really am impossibly suburban.

My friend Scott has written on his blog (Scott's Abode.... it's listed in the interesting blogs list on the right) about National Novel Writing Month. I haven't jumped onto the website yet, but apparently you sign up to start a 50,000 word (175 page) novel on the 1st November, and you have to finish by midnight on 30th November. It's all first draft/don't agonise over every word/just plonk them down and keep going until you finish kind of writing.
He's persuaded me to do it. Probably because he's evil. I'm kicking and screaming about it but I'm going to do it for three very good reasons.
The first one is that I haven't done anything creative with my writing since I started full time work. This is no good for me. It's making me weak and dull. So, in effect, doing this will put hairs on my chest. (In a purely metaphoric sense, of course.)
The second reason is that he dared me to. Maybe not in so many words, but I get the feeling that he's probably as competitive as me, so once the challenge has been put out there then there's no other option. This is why I said he was evil.
But then again, it'll be good for both of us. We'll egg each other on. The fact that I'll be frantically doing Year 10 interviews for their VCE courses during the day, whilst he lolls around in his office with PLENTY of time to spare for his novel is irrelevant. I'll still beat him. Maybe not in quality, but by gum! I'll beat him in quantity. (Is that a good thing for me to be aiming for? To bury my very good mate in a pile of illiterate crap? But then again.... how good will his novel be? He adores reading Isabel Allende, for God's sake! Maybe the bar won't be as high as I fear.)
The third reason is that he's a boy, and I can't let him saunter away believing that he's more creative than me. Even though he is. So I have to creative-ise my life, and make it appear as if this frenzied imaginative activity is perfectly normal for me. After all, I am a woman and a Virgo, and I can do everything perfectly.
After writing this, I think I want to kill him. But I'll get over it. (Connor's reading this over my shoulder as I'm typing, and he said, "If he dies on the first of December, will you be looked at?" My reply is.... "Only if I haven't finished this bloody novel.")
So that's my next challenge. Anyone else care to jump on board? Your stuff couldn't possibly be as bad as mine is going to be, so you'll be able to write with the comforting knowledge that your novel is scintillating next to mine.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rows on the throw.

My computer is running really slowly this morning. I'd tear my hair out if I had any, so this post will probably be brief.

I started my throw/afghan last night. I bought about 6 circular knitting needles at the op shop at the end of my street for $3 total, and luckily one of them was the correct size for this project, so my frugality kick is happy. The word 'project' was deliberately chosen. It's 254 stitches a row, knitted in 8 ply wool on 4mm needles. I estimate the finish date to be in the vicinity of winter 2010. I knitted during '50 First Dates' last night, and got a grand total of 9 rows done. It's half the length of my little finger. And no, I'm not a slow knitter. It's not a complicated pattern, just plains and pearls. But I will finish it. I'm channelling Scarlett O'Hara... "As God is my witness, I'll finish this damned rug...."

Have to say I'm loving the barefoot investor book. I'm half way through, just got up to the Mojo account part, which is the part I'm really interested in. So far, I'm already doing all of what he talks about, so of course that makes me feel good, but most of my enjoyment comes from the way he's written it. He has a conversational style that's funny and easy to read, so the information gets absorbed painlessly. Now how to get Jack to read it? If he thinks I'm desperate to put it into his hands he won't touch it. Whereas Brennan is absorbing investment like a sponge... weird how kids brought up the same way, with the same genetic heritage can be so different. Why can't all my children be just like me????

Monday, October 15, 2007

The environment and Aldi

Apparently it's Blog Action Day today. I just found out five minutes ago. I feel compelled to take part, in case people who know about B.A.D read what I was going to write about and think I'm an ignorant pig for not writing about the planet and putting it first.

Growing a veggie garden in the middle of a drought is a pain. I wish I'd started years ago, when you could water every day if you wanted... hell, you could switch a sprinkler on, get into your bathers and run giggling through the water.... how easy would that have been? (By the way, the picture is not an exotic vegetable I'm growing. It's just a random one from the holiday.)

Water restrictions where I live (Melbourne, Australia) are the biggest pain. I live in an odd numbered house, so I can only water my garden on two days a week, those being Wednesday and Sunday. The evens have a different two days. You can only water in the morning up until 10am (I think), and the hose has to be one of those trigger nozzle ones, so not a drop is wasted. Our dams are only about 30% full (give or take a couple of percentage points), and this is in the middle of Spring, when usually we get LOTS of rain. So the situation looks pretty dire. In the country they're even worse off.... in some places they can't water outside AT ALL, so the choice is either shower with buckets, trudge out and hand water, or let the garden die.

We've been doing the bucketing off and on, but do you know how heavy a bucket of water is? And I don't have time in the mornings when we have our showers to get everyone organised AND trundle in and out to the garden with ten buckets of water. But if the drought gets worse I'm going to have to. My front garden has been left to the elements.... whatever survives survives. It's looking surprisingly good. By good luck, most of the plants I put in seem to be drought tolerant. They weren't selected for that seven or eight years ago... but it's worked out pretty well so far. It's the veggies in the back I worry about.

At the moment I'm growing potatoes, pumpkin, leeks, onions, lettuce, silver beet, spinach, rainbow chard, and a few brussels sprouts and cauliflowers that were put in too late and are probably going to go straight to seed. This is the second year I've tackled growing our own food. It's fantastic... the taste! the crunchiness! the unchemicalliness! There's nothing like seeing your son devour a home grown cucumber in one sitting that is as big as your arm. But the drought is a big fat pain.

Global warming? I don't know. What I do know is I want some rain water tanks and some bloody big storms to fill them....

Now that my bloggish civic duty is done.... (hopefully a few photos of Thai plants and a whinge about water counts),

we finally did the big Aldi shop yesterday. Whoopee! I'm stating here for the record that I adore Aldi. I like to take the whole family, because if the boys help we get in and out of there in a little over an hour. If I'm by myself it takes forever. We went in yesterday, and got two trolleys. Brennan drove one, and Jordan had the other. We filled those suckers to the brim. I bought 18 packets of bacon/ham bits, 20 tubs of margarine, a case of spaghetti (Only 49c a tin, so I don't mind if the boys use this sometimes as an after school snack), 20 packs of pasta, enough mince to make 16 meals @ 500g a meal, 8 kgs of rice, 8 tubes of toothpaste, 3 packets of dishwasher tablets, 10 packets of skim milk powder.... etc etc. You get the picture. When I go to Aldi I buy BULK!

I save a lot of money on my food bills by doing this. Two massive trolley loads, with things piled under the trolley as well as in it so high that Brennan could barely see over the top cost me $618.

The first time I shopped like this it took 8 weeks before I had to go back to Aldi again. In the meantime I had to pop into my local supermarket a few times to top up on fresh items and things Aldi don't sell, but my visits there dramatically decreased and so did my spending. The next time was twelve weeks between shops, and for interest's sake I kept a record of everything I spent on food. My weekly food bill (including wine, pet food, toiletries.... everything) averaged out to $118/week. Before I did this my food bills were anywhere from $160 - $240, depending on whether I bought meat. I was flabbergasted. (Never has my flabber been more gasted!!)

This time around, what with the holiday and all, I've pushed it back to 15 weeks. I haven't done the figures yet, but in any case I know that I'm saving heaps. I love having my pantry, fridge and freezer full. I feel like Ma Ingalls with all my preparations done for winter. (Actually, she would've had to bucket to water her veggie garden, so I should stop complaining....)

The kids are pleased. Now that there's 10 kilos of self raising flour in the house, they'll get cakes to eat after school again. Just got to make them first....

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Culinary Delights

Every family needs to start the morning with bright green pancakes! Yum Yum.

On the weekends the boys are with me we have a tradition that we have pancakes for breakfast. At first I was the only cook, but over the past year they've all learned how to mix up the ingredients and wield the spatula. This morning Jordan decided he'd get things started. We'd run out of maple syrup, so while I made some more he made the batter and quietly tipped in the food colouring.

What a twit. Luckily it doesn't affect the taste.

Yesterday didn't end up anything like I had planned. At 9am, while I was happily blogging away, the phone rang. It was the lady from U3A reminding me that I said I'd do the cleaning for their hall that morning. Shit. I grabbed something to eat (no pancakes for anyone yesterday!), showered, dressed and I was out the door. Didn't get home till 12. It's an easy job, and well paid. $200 for a little over 2 hours work. It's just.... you know. Cleaning... I always feel glad I've done it when I'm driving home, but I whinge and complain all the way there. Still, it paid for Molly's eye appointment with the high-powered opthamologist, so that's a good thing.

Molly seems happier today. Her eyes are still looking like they're massively uncomfortable, but at least she's opening them more. Fingers crossed.

Anyway, back to yesterday. When I get home Jordan reminds me that he's arranged to meet a few mates at Southland to see a movie. Daniel's mum drops them off, and I'm down to pick them up when he texts me. I wave him off, then decide I'm up for a Nanna nap. Just then Mum and Dad drop in. Dad's bringing back some woodcarvings that got damaged in transit from Phukhet that he's glued together. He's done a fantastic job.... say what you like, the man is meticulous.
When I see Mum, I realise that although I've come back from Thailand with Christmas presents galore, I forgot to buy her a birthday present. Idiot! (Sorry Mum, if you read this.... I mean I'm the idiot, not you.) We had a big pineapple sitting on the bench, so guess what she got. She loved it. She's either a big pineapple freak or a magnificent actress.

After they left I didn't need to sleep anymore, so the boys hassled me to go to Southland as well. Connor had some birthday money from his Dad and he wanted to buy a Wii game. What is it with small boys and video games??? This child is delighted to spend $85 on yet ANOTHER game.
("But Mum, it's reduced from $99. It's a bargain!"
Maybe I should be proud that my canny shopping habits are rubbing off, instead of being horrified by the wanton waste of money. Still, it's Tony's money, not mine, so it's none of my business. The kids know by now never to ask me to finance their dirty little addiction.)

Naturally, being in a shopping centre means that I see things that I wouldn't otherwise know about, so I bought stuff. Well ok, the 3 fitted sheets were needed. Connor put his foot through two of them in a week, and there were no more spares. He's been sleeping on the other side of my bed for four nights, and I want my space back. Besides, he likes Molly to sleep with him and she snores like a drunken sailor. I thought I moved that out of my life when I got rid of the husband...

We were in Big W when I saw some wool. And patterns. And yes I know I said I had to use up the wool I had here before I began anything new, but the wool was so reasonably priced, and the throw that I'll knit is needed (I'm a reptile and I get cold...... ok I KNOW summer's nearly here, but .... um.... it'll go away again and I need it for next winter.... surely the drought will have broken by then.....), so I bought a book of patterns for throws, and 8 big balls of non-cat-hair-showing-wool that were only $3 each.

We had some time to kill while we waited for Jordan to ring, so we went into a bookshop. I was looking for the book that Jane from Yarnstorm has written, but it's not out in Australia till Dec 1. BUT I saw the new Barefoot Investor book. Those of you who know me know that I got interested in investing last year, after I realised that the $3.50c that I had in superannuation meant that the only travelling I'd be doing when I retired was from the kitchen to the lounge room. Last summer holidays I read 36 books on investing, started my portfolio and also started the kids portfolios. (Gotta love a bull market.... go BHP!!)

The barefoot investor: 5 steps to financial freedom. by Scott Pape (publisher: Pluto Press, Australia 2007.)
I paid $25.95. (Yes, I know. Shut up, oh voice of my frugality kick. This is an investment in my future. And Jack's. Truly!!!)

Apparently this is a revised edition, just out now. I really want Jack to read it. This guy is only young, and he writes in such an accessible way that I hope if Jack reads it he'll have a lightbulb moment. God knows it's a little boring when good old Mum talks to him about it. (Though maybe I'm being a bit harsh. He DID keep asking my advice on the stock market when his Business Studies class was doing the stock market game.) The other three kids have taken to saving and investing like ducks to water, but Jack still spends money as soon as he gets it.

By the time we got home it was 6pm, so dinner didn't get served till 7. How much productive work got done?
Did I go to Aldi? No.
Any housework get done? No.
Did I weed the veggie patches and put compost around the potatoes? No.
Any knitting get started.
The weeks clothes folding that is piled up almost to my waist in the kitchen.... still there? ....yes...

But I did finish the Stephen King book I began when I was away...............

(Jordan sampling his handiwork. Another successful breakfast.)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The last post on Phukhet.

Poor Molly has come back from the eye doctor with LOTS of antibiotics, ointments and drops to put in her eyes. Her right eye has an ulcer on the cornea (how does that happen?) and she's got dry eye, so if we're lucky we'll avoid a 1K operation on her eye if we can get medication to fix it up instead of surgery. The poor love is so sick of things being squirted in her eye. Every time I go near the bureau where I keep her medicines her ears droop, (in fact everything seems to droop) and she looks miserable.

My essays are all marked. I went through them like a threshing machine yesterday. I had no classes, so I sat and read read read, stopping only for lunch, yard duty at the canteen (what a joy that was) and two cups of coffee. Good on me. That leaves the weekend free for a big Aldi shop, as we're out of food, and I'm going to weed the veggie patches and start a new knitting project.

I want to go back to Marta's yarns in Caulfield, but my frugality kick is still going strong, and I've got wool for a jumper that I haven't made yet, and there's wool left over from an afghan that I made Jack for Christmas. So, frugality tells me that I must use up what I've got before I go and indulge in beautiful, but sinfully expensive wool. So I'd better get started.

Back to Phukhet. This is the last post, because I'm pretty sure I've nearly finished putting down what I wrote in my notebook. There's sure to be pictures coming for MONTHS though.... poor Delmar from work spent ages getting them to transfer to my computer, so they're not going to waste! I'm not sure if that's my frugality kick speaking again, or just plain old bloody-mindedness.

Fantasea was a place worth going to. It's not cheap, but it's the gaudiest place you're ever likely to see. I was a bit worried that it would be a cultural theme park and show that would be a little TOO Thai, and end up being boring for the kids, but they loved it. It's an odd mix of Las Vegas and traditional Thai... especially the show. It has to be seen to be believed.

As soon as we stepped off the bus we were surrounded by tourists, neon lights, people in costumes and muzak. It's full on... the kids loved it! There were tigers, deer, the biggest goldfish I've ever seen, market stalls, shops, carnival games, fire jugglers and elephants. Lots of elephants.

Jordan bought a necklace that has his name written on a piece of rice. Just in case he forgets who he is. He's obviously not very bright.

We went to the restaurant for dinner. Bec from work said that it was the most amazing place she's ever been to, and we had to see for ourselves. There were literally hundreds of diners, yet the place ran like clockwork. There were multiple buffet stations, so you just chose the one nearest you and joined the queue. Chandeliers hung from everything, huge statues of chicken-footed gods were looming over us, piles of food , drink, people, lights, camera action! Again... full on glitz, with hundreds of people all over everywhere. As the man sitting on the table with us said, "If this place was in Australia, we'd be waiting to get fed for a week!" Yet everything moved with electric efficiency.

After dinner we went out to find our friends amongst the crowd. While we were looking for them, we wandered into the 'Luxury Goods Shop' to have a gander. Again, lots of glitz and sparkle (why wasn't that a surprise by now??) but there were some lovely bags, shawls and pearls. As I came through the door I noticed the most delicious pearl necklace - just 3 small pearls in different colours. Simple, and beautiful. I assumed they were too expensive and left. However, once we caught up with our friends, I dared Pitsa to go in there and buy something. She's laughing and saying "No. I'm not buying!!" but we all went in and yes... when I found out the pearls were only 1000 baht (about $40) I laid down the cash. I was so rapt. I've already got a silver chain from Bali, so I'm set. That was going to be my major present to myself. (Little did I know that the emerald and diamond ring was lurking in my future. )

We hung around together for about an hour before the show began. My family were up near the back, which was good because we got to see everything without craning our necks every which way. The show opened with a row of elephants parading through the theatre. Have to say that I've never seen this before. And they held the tail of the one in front of them with their trunks, just like in Dumbo. I was enchanted.
The show itself was interesting. A mix of traditional Thai dance and culture with trapeze, fireworks, magic and clowns thrown in. The colours were gorgeous, and there were huge amounts of performers on stage at any one time. Simple economics in Australia means that we never get to see theatre on this scale back home. However, it was the animals that made the show really amazing. Trained chickens (I know!!!! Real chickens!!!), doves and goats, and of course the elephants.
They were doing tricks like we've seen in old fashioned movies: rearing up and balancing on each other, standing on tiny little platforms, sitting down... and two baby ones actually stood on their hind legs waving their front legs in the air. All very spectacular and SO not what we'll ever see back home. After the show, Connor told me that the elephants made him feel sad, and I knew what he meant. While I was watching it I was torn between feeling amazement at the skill and dedication it would have taken to train these huge animals to do things like this, and a tinge of sadness that they were doing things that were obviously so totally alien to their natural inclinations. I still enjoyed it though, I think because even though it's so foreign to us, working with elephants is an integral part of the Thai culture, so it seemed natural.

On our last full day we went shopping in O-Top market. The boys had pretty much run out of money, so I gave them 1500 baht each and told them that they were doing Christmas shopping. That's around $60 to buy presents for me, their Dad and Vivienne, Gran and Grandpa, and the other three brothers. They could club together to buy things, or go it alone... it was up to them.
O-Top was practically deserted so they made some excellent buys. It was slightly nerve-racking though. They'd split up to buy for a particular brother, I'd lose sight of them and start calling, market stall owners would join in, minutes would tick by before the errant kid/s would appear with a puzzled look, "What's the problem? I was just over there..." It was all good. I finished my Christmas shopping too, so the plan is to wrap all the presents as soon as we get back, and then we'll have the most trouble-free, painless Christmas ever! (It worked, too. All presents are wrapped, and waiting for the tree to be put up in December. It's a good feeling.)

We went home via a 7-11 where we bought noodle cups for the boys' dinner. I was happy just to eat steamed rice after the big lunch we had at the market. Actually, it was funny watching the guys eat the noodles. Obviously the Asian people like a touch of chili in their flavourings, which was a tad unexpected for my namby-pamby skips. A few mouthfuls downed, and then they were scoffing steamed rice and gulping water as if it was an Olympic sport. We then watched the last Harry Potter movie all curled up in the lounge room together, and then it was off to bed.
The last day was spent at the resort, where I had my 'free' massage paid for by listening to two hours of buy-into-the-Marriott-holiday-club, (it was worth it when I was having the massage...pure bliss), we ate at the deli for lunch and dinner because I didn't have access to the kitchen anymore, and we lounged by the pools, bought a couple of emerald and garnet rings, sipped a cocktail by the infinity pool and read. Well, one of us did. It was a lovely way to finish the holiday, relaxing and simply enjoying each others company. Then it was off to the airport, and home.

All in all, I think it's been a good holiday. Obviously, the hotel's location spoiled it in a few different ways, (and when I wrote this, I had no idea that my credit card had been skimmed), but once we got away from that then everything came together.We all loved the shopping and the tours were fantastic. Especially the elephants. Those big feet! Those flappy ears and twinkly little eyes! I want one.
And we've only had two bouts of vomiting, which if you take into account that I'm travelling with 4 kids in Asia isn't bad. Brennan lost his dinner in the gutter of the main drag in Patong the second night we were there, and Connor chucked his cookies in the taxi on the way to do Christmas shopping. Too much Gameboy playing in the car and not enough looking out of the window. No mess though, much to the relief of the driver. I learned from poor Brennan and I had a plastic bag in my handbag.

It's been the time with the kids that has been the best thing, though. I'm so lucky to have such fun, mature and loving kids who are such good company. At least most of the time...They've been so agreeable, enthusiastic, co-operative and appreciative of the whole experience. The younger three haven't put a foot wrong, and Jack comes into his own when haggling is involved. He has a mind like a calculator, so he's our resource when it comes to converting how much things cost. He loves doing it for anyone, not just himself, so that's come in very handy.

Getting away from the day to day routine has been wonderful for reconnecting to them as people. It's also been wonderful watching them interact amongst themselves. They'd disappear off to the pool for ages and play together and just hang out. They like each other, and that makes me feel hopeful for the future. I'd love them to have a tight bond with their brothers that lasts.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Molly and more Phuket.

Well, I got an answer. Apparently my name has changed....
"Dear Valued Customer..."
Don't you love the personal touch? How hard is it to type my name at the top?
They're going to get back to me in 7-10 business days, which leads me to believe that they're waiting for me to calm down over time. (Which, of course, I already have. But a Drama teacher can get back into the zone any time she wants. It's a gift.)

It's going to be a busy day today. I've been a bit tired after Phukhet, so I haven't been up to correcting the 136 or so essays that my two classes of year 12s have poured out during their practise exams for English. The due date to hand them back is Monday, so today and the weekend are earmarked for some serious reading. The light at the end of the tunnel is that once these are knocked over, then the work for the year 12s is virtually done. Yay. There'll be kids writing practise essays before the exam, but they come in ones and twos, not hundreds.
This afternoon I've got to take Miss Molly to a canine opthamologist. Mum and Dad were looking after her while we were gone, and her eyes really flared up again, to the point where she was walking around with her eyes closed looking utterly miserable, and putting her head on Dad's knee whenever he sat down, begging for eye ointment. The vet said that she has an ulcer on the cornea. Can you imagine how awful that must feel? This makes me officially a Bad Mother to my furry-faced daughter. I'd include a photo of how crusty looking her eyes are, but someone reading this might be eating, and I'd hate for anything untoward to happen...
Hopefully we can fix this up fairly easily, though judging by the vet's sombre face, we might be up for many $$$$ and lots of mucking around with her poor eye. She's certainly still not back to her happy little self.
Still, maybe Mum's vet is a big panic merchant, and she'll be fine. Fingers crossed for Mollicent's sake.

I want to keep going with writing about the holiday, because I want to remember it. I very intelligently packed my video camera in my suitcase when packing for the holiday, and when we got to Thailand found that it always thinks the lens cap is on, so there's no video recording. So photos and this blog are all I've got. For a supposedly intelligent woman I certainly do my share of stupid things.

Brennan grew while we were there. That tropical climate is amazing. Before we left he was shorter than me, and now we're eyeball to eyeball. He's so rapt. But that only leaves one child that I tower over. (By about 2 cms.) What happened to those gorgeous chubby-kneed infants I made, and then dandled on my knee? Jordan sat on my lap for a joke the other night and I nearly disappeared.

Following are extracts from a notebook that I wrote in while we were there. I used to get up, make a cup of coffee and then sit out on the balcony outside my room, looking out across the gardens to the little stream that ran through the property. The air was always warm, humid and filled with tiny sounds of birds and the distant sea. Utterly relaxing and beautiful. I'd write about the previous day and wait for the boys to wake up.

Here goes...

I'm sitting on the balcony outside my room. I'm in my very shabby pjs and look hideous, but who cares? I can hear birds twittering, the wind gently moving the palm trees, and low... so low that it's barely there... I can hear the sound of the sea.

I look across, and it's all green. Rank, brilliant green.The thing I love most about looking at palm trees is that when I'm doing it I know without a doubt that I'm not at home. I'm overseas - and I love that feeling.

Down by the little stream there's plantings of a wieird lacy lily type thing. It's beautiful, but in a strange way. I'm really taken with them. They have an eeriness that I find appealing.

The kids have fallen in love with the pools here. Brennan doesn't go in much; they have too much chlorine in them and he hates getting his eyes red. This doesn't seem to bother the others. They're going every night - even Jack! There's a kids pool with slides, (the first night we were there, they had a baby elephant there), and the other pool near us is more for adults. It's quiet, with guys quietly coming up to refill your water glasses with iced water, (about the only complimentary thing the resort offered!), while the patrons sleep and read under umbrellas. This is where we had lunch the first day. The staff gave us 4 beach balls for the kids when we arrived, and the kids play pool volleyball and have a fantastic time. I'm so lucky that they genuinely like each other and get along. Most times, anyway.

Just a short walk from the pool is the beach. The kids didn't go there all holiday, and I only went once. We're not big beach people. On the first day after lunch the kids went back to the room to sleep and I went for a wander. It was pretty magical.
The beach is a turtle reserve, so there's no vendors or people offering massages. It's empty.Considering how crowded and bustling the rest of the island is, this is amazing. I dropped my things and ran to the water. I waded in - I've now been in another sea... the Andaman sea. I'm now in the northern hemisphere too, which is another thrill. I was going to swim, but the current was strong and was trying to pull me out, and the last thing I wanted was to be caught in a rip when no one knew where I was. Especially on the first day of the holiday. So I waded thigh high, and I was really, really happy. I got us all here. We made it.

A couple of days later Jordan and I were walking down the path beside the lake when a familiar, yet exotic scent wafted across. At first we couldn't identify it, but when we looked across to the middle of the lake we saw a Buddhist shrine, where someone had lit incense. Everything was quiet, the shrine was painted in vivid colours of red, gold and white, the lake was dotted with pinky/purply waterlillies, and Jordan and I just looked at each other and smiled. The aroma of incense added the last touch. It was definitely a moment.

Seeing one of the pools near the lobby being lit with many little fires at sunset was another. A man waded through with a long handled fire lighter and as he went, the fires lit up. (A stupid sentence, I know.) It was dusk and we were on our way to dinner at the buffet. All through our meal I could see the glow of the fires behind Brennan. It was undeniably beautiful. I took photos, but they don't do it justice.

Wherever Brennan goes he's getting called 'Harry Potter' by the Thais. It amused, then annoyed him, and now he's resigned to it and has started counting. I think he's up to 29 or so. (When I showed photos of the elephant ride to my classes, without fail at least one person in each class made the same remark. Looks like this might be something the poor child has to live with.) He's still bemused by it... "I don't look anything like Harry Potter..."

I'll have to continue with this in another post. It's time to wake the boys and officially start another day.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Well, I just wrote an email of complaint to the Marriott group. I rang the Marriott in Melbourne, and talked to a really helpful manager who gave me the best email address to get the attention I deserve, so I was free to let rip.

Those of us who have suffered through teaching the year 12 analytical/persuasive writing will be pleased to know that I utilised every emotive trick in the book. By the time I was half way through I'd convinced even myself that we'd had the most horrific holiday since someone staying in London in 1666 through the Black Plague and the Great Fire. By the time I'd finished I'd written myself into good humour. I was so tickled by what I'd written that I was in fits of laughter. Everything I said was the absolute truth, but it was the spin I put on the language.... by gum it was fun. Now we'll wait and see if I hear anything back.

But back to Phukhet. ELEPHANTS!!!! Easily the high point of the trip for me. This was the thing I was looking forward to the most when I booked this trip. They didn't disappoint. They were so elephanty... it was delightful. They are covered with thick coarse hair that sticks out.... I always thought they were bald. (But then again, I also didn't know that Thailand was in the northern hemisphere until I saw the map of the flight on the plane. I got very excited. Maybe ignorance is bliss, because it's so cool when you get a surprise. And the Simpsons were right.... the toilet DOES flush in the opposite direction. It was the first thing we checked out when we got to the room.)

But I digress. Not unusual, but I usually connect back up to where I was heading for in the beginning. Just ask my long-suffering students. That's right.... Elephants. How chunky and ear-flappy are they? Lots.

We first saw a show with three baby elephants, where they played mouth organs (harmonicas to any Americans out there), wore hats, kissed the audience, and gave one person a massage. Naturally my hand was up like a shot. I had to lie down, and the elephant raised one leg and repeatedly pressed quite firmly on my behind and back. I was lying there, and it occurred to me that it was possibly quite stupid to do this... if the elephant was so inclined, he could keep pressing until his foot met the ground.... right through my middle. Actually, it felt ok, and I was glad I'd done it. Another experience. I cuddled the little one after she massaged me, and her trunk curled around and nuzzled my face. The skin is thick and ridged. It was a special moment.

After the show, Jack bought a basket of fruit to feed them. See the delighted grin on his face? It's moments like this that make everything worthwhile. But more was to come.
The elephant trek through the jungle was great. The three younger boys were on one elephant, and Jack and I followed. It was magical. The movement was a forward/back motion that at first seemed rough, but it was surprisingly quick to get used to. The vegetation was thick, lush and GREEN. Coming from such a drought-parched place, I can't describe how wonderful the green was. (I thought of my poor vegie garden... how sad and suburban am I?)
The boys' elephant was hungry. It kept stopping and tearing branches from trees and stuffing them into its mouth. And then it started to fart. There's nothing 'silent but deadly' about an elephant fart. It could deafen you if you were too close.
"Great, guys", I called to them. "We have to walk through that!"
That appealed to Connor's funny bone.

I was glad that I experienced this with Jack.He was obviously loving it - he even said so, which for Jack is amazing. (He's usually very chary about giving me positive reinforcement.) But his smile and his engagement with the whole thing said it all.
I loved looking at the ears. They hung like heavy folds of material just in front of my feet. When the elephant flapped them back they hit its sides with the same sound as fingers flicking an empty plastic cola bottle. Weird, but true.

We'd had torrential rain the day before, (we'd had a day at the resort in our room, watching dvds, reading and sleeping) and the ground was really gluggy and muddy.Sometimes the track headed sharply down, and I couldn't help wondering what would happen if our elephant slipped.It's quite an ask to keep one's balance on such slippery paths while balancing three people and a seat on one's back. Though it didn't seem as if we were all that high up, because the track was cut into the hillside for much of the way, so the foliage (or as my friend Ian would say... the foilage) rose up beside us. It was only when I looked down at the glug that I saw how high up we really were.
It was fantastic. If you ever get the chance, then grab it with both hands and don't let go. (That applies to both the chance, and the elephant!)