Friday, November 30, 2007

My day off.

Ha! Didn't I tell you that I was suspicious of Connor's sudden illness? Turns out I was right. (Thank goodness he wasn't deathly ill, because he did all the housework except for some of the folding.) Turns out that he had a "How to..." project due yesterday, and due to circumstances beyond his control he didn't do it. (I'm guessing the urgent need to beat Brennan on some PlayStation game or other was probably to blame.)

But get this.... he had the whole day off to get it done... Does he? My answer to that (non)rhetorical question is NO. We were lounging around in front of the television after dinner, and he pipes up with an "Oh no. I forgot to do my project."

After a few pithy words from me about the pitfalls of lying about being sick (he confessed) and then the stupidity of not doing the task that you took a sickie to do in the first place, he worked on it till 9.15. He'll be woken up in about 20 minutes to keep going on it. Ah well, it's how we learn. The information on the project will be the least of it.

But guess what??? My big news is that I have the day off!!!! Yay! I went into the boss's office and asked for the Correction Day I didn't take due to interviews to be transferred to Friday. Which is today. Why I still woke up at 5.45 is a mystery, though it might be because last night it was warm, so I left the front door open. Those birds sound like they are using megaphones this morning.

So what are my plans? I'm thinking first up I'll do some knitting. I've nearly finished one of next year's balls of wool on the afghan (mmmm yes, that thing), so I'll finish it. The ball, I mean, not the afghan. There's still 3 more 200g balls to go. I was knitting on it yesterday during Brennan's guitar lesson, and it got too hot to have on my knee. This means that summer is just about here. So I'll finish that ball, and then I might start on something else. Something smaller, so my knees remain cool and ladylike. The package from Bendigo Knitting mills arrived yesterday. I was delighted. I tore apart the packaging to reveal this!

I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but these balls of wool are bigger than my head. I was a little disappointed in the colour, as there's a touch more yellow in it than I thought. I was worried it wouldn't suit me, but when I held one up against my face in the mirror it was ok. I looked hideous, but no more than usual, and I've made my peace with that.

But the best thing was the colour charts they included free of charge. (My wool shop charges $17 for one of those, which is why I don't have one.) Connor's already picked out the wool he likes and I can see I'll be making a few more orders. It took 4 days for them to deliver, which is fine by me. Some of the wool shades are lovely. I chose a very plain pattern, as you can probably see. There's a cable detail in the bands and neck, so one of today's jobs is to buy a cable needle. I may have one, but I've only ever tried cabling when I was a wee slip of a girl, so I don't know if one is hiding at the bottom of the box I keep my knitting needles in or not. So maybe over the course of the weekend I might cast on for a new jumper.
But what I'm thinking of doing sometime today is to go and have a look at a quilting shop. I think there's one on Burke road in Malvern, and the yellow pages listed one in Camberwell somewhere. Should I go? I don't know what I'll do in a place like that. (I'm a bit nervous. I'm going to look like a goose as soon as I open my mouth. I'll probably call fabric 'material' and they'll throw me out.) I'm determined to learn how to quilt, so I have to go sometime. I'm a quarter of the way through 'Quilting for Dummies', so I guess that means I'm slightly less stupid than I was a week ago. (I'm not kidding about being nervous. I know next to nothing about sewing. My sister sews for a living, and mum has sewed (sewn? sewered? ooo, maybe not that last one!) ever since I can remember, but I stuck to knitting. The only thing I ever made that I was proud of was a calico doll for year 8 needlework. I embroidered a face on her and everything. But that's a far cry from doing a quilt.)
I've actually got a slight feeling of butterflies. How ridiculous. I can raise four boys on my own, tame a lawn mower and paint a house, teach masses of kids taller than me, take four kids overseas on my own not once but twice; yet I'm scared of going into a place where they'll use words like 'thimble', 'selvage' and 'mercerized'. (I don't know what the last two mean. I pulled them from the back of the 'Quilting for Dummies' book.) I'll let you know if I face my fear or if I chicken out and wait for Mum to come back from Queensland so she can hold my hand while I whimper.
One last thing.
Jordan's piano teacher is finishing her uni course this year, and she's said that she might not be able to teach him next year. She'll be working, and of course she doesn't know what when or where at this stage. Panic stations!! I don't know if the school can fit him in to the piano course next year or not. He'll be doing grade 5. Widget, if you read this before I get a chance to call you, can you ask if Jordan can be fitted in? Otherwise I don't know where we'll go. Why do kids want to do interesting hobbies that enrich their lives? All it does is create panic when their parent least expects it.
Panic notwithstanding, I'm off to enjoy my day off.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lunchtime with the YMTs.

Connor is home alone today. An upset tummy, so he says. I have my doubts... it just seems funny that every time he says he's thrown up it's always when I'm in the shower or in the loo. I come out into the hallway and he's mopping up a patch on the floor where he says he splattered on the way to the toilet, or I hear the sound of a flush and he totters out to tell me the news. I never actually see the event.

So when I left today I gave him a list of things that he had to have done around the house when I arrive home. Run the dishwasher and then unstack it, do the folding (the clean washing pile is looking horrendously large), hang out the load of washing in the washing machine, etc. If he's there, he can spend a bit of time being useful. He'll need a break from the Playstation anyway. The rules for kids at home is that everything has to be locked. No phone calls and definitely no leaving the house. I'm only two minutes drive away if anything goes wrong, and my work number and mobile number are by the phone.

I was in the staff common room at lunchtime and remembered that he was home, so I picked up the phone in there and gave him a quick call. I was near a group of teachers, most of them young males, who were sitting having their lunch.

Phone rings. Connor picks up, says "Hello?" warily.

"Hi Ugly, it's me! How are you feeling? Have you been sick again?"


"Yuck! Did you make it to the toilet?"
(Young Male Teachers (YMTs) start laughing. Connor can't hear them.)

Yes, I did."

"Good! Have you eaten anything today?"
(YMT start saying things like "Well, by the looks of it I had carrots, some corn, some curry"... "I had a Big Mac, some cheesecake"... "Do you want to hear about my diarrhoea?" etc. I start laughing, and can't hear what Connor's saying.)

"Look, Connor, just cook yourself some 2 minute noodles without the flavouring. You'll be fine. Now, have you done the housework I asked you to do?"
(YMT's fall about in disbelief. "But he's sick!!" )

Connor says "Ummm... no." It's obvious he's been playing the Playstation and completely forgotten.
(YMTs say things like "Great mother you are..." and "Have you thought of hiring a maid?")

Mainly for their benefit, I say, "OK. Do this bit by bit. Run the dishwasher. Hang out the washing. Make sure shirts and Tshirts are on hangers. Do the folding. Now honey, you know I'm only getting you to do this so you don't get bored."
(YMTs start killing themselves laughing. "Gee, thanks Mum."... "Thanks Mum, cos the Playstation and the telley just weren't cutting it..." Then they crank it up a bit further. "Mum, you're breaking up..." ..."Mum, I'm driving into a tunnel. I can't hear you...."))

Connor, a little mystified as to why I'm laughing so much, says "Ummm, thanks Mum."

We hang up and the whole staffroom is laughing.

"Well, I'm bringing up my kids to be independent," I say defensively to the room at large. I go and sit down at my usual table.

"How can he hang the washing out if he's got to keep the whole house locked up? asked a Maths teacher. (Trust one of them to have a diabolical eye for detail.)

I got a mental picture of Connor at home with this list of things to do, and the rules he has to follow. I started laughing.

"Wouldn't this be funny?" I ask them. "I get home and he's done all the housework, and he's expecting to be told what a good boy he is. Instead I rip into him. "You fell into my trap! You know you're not allowed to leave the house!!! Just how did this washing get hung out???" Can you imagine his face?"

The kinder hearted among them say things like, "You can't do that to him!" while the others who know me better just laugh. They know I'm not going to do it. It'd be funny though. But I couldn't do it.

He'd never do any housework for me again....

Apologies for the Boring post to follow...

Phew! I was a bit worried that Scott might be a little perturbed about my post yesterday, but thankfully he appears to be fine. I'm enjoying blogging, but sometimes I think the dialogue that goes on in the comments section is even more fun. He left another very funny comment ysterday, which begged for an answer....

Interviews at work are just about over. Today we're just mopping up the remnants of the kids who are left, (those who were too vague and disorganised to come to their first interview and so they've been threatened with death on the phone by me yesterday, and one very sad case of a Chinese boy who's been here a year, and his English is still so bad that he can barely make any sense out of what's being said to him. We've strongly recommended that he stay down in Year 10 for another year to give his English time to kick in. His parents are very reluctant, but there's no other way. He wants to do medicine, so his results have to be among the best in the state. He's failing or scraping by with a bare pass in everything at the moment.)

I am so looking forward to the weekend. My partner in the student manager job has been away riding in the Great Victorian Bike Ride with a group of our students, so I've been left with everything. (The Great Vic is a ride where hundreds of people take off for about 8 or 9 days and ride over a course that takes them over much of the countryside. They ride roughly 80 or 90 kms a day, ending up back in Melbourne on Sunday. Our school always sends a team of kids, and a couple of teachers to supervise. It's fantastic that he wants to give up his time so that the kids can experience this. It's just my bad luck that it falls when we're doing interviews.) The house will be quiet. My first totally free weekend for over a month! No kids here on my child-free weekend. Yay!

Jack's already gone. His Dad picked him up yesterday to work in the shop for a few days, and he'll come back with the other boys on Sunday night. (I haven't heard an apology from Tony about his insinuation that I was ripping him off about the braces, just a text message that he received the letter with all the bills in it, and thanking me for sending them.) Last night was so peaceful with one of them gone. We had dinner, watched tv for a while, and then Connor wanted me to lie on my bed while he gave me a neck massage. (I've strained my neck a bit. It's sore.) The others came too, so we ended up lolling on my bed watching Dr Phil with some losers who were "judgemental". What a pack of geese. (Oh no. I think that judgemental thing is catching...) Then they went to bed, and I watched Oprah who had Suze Orman on. They talked about financial rescues for people who have been spendthifts to the max. My frugality kick was beaming. I love this stuff.

Well, it's time to wake the kids up and get off to work. Only two days to go until the weekend. Whoopee!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Our Books.

Connor took this shot a while back of the books that we have on the dining room bureau. There's one for each person. In them we write nice things about that person, as a record they can keep.

I'd like to take credit for the idea, but it's one I saw when I was teaching at a primary school in Clarinda for the day, before I got the job I have now. They'd been having trouble with bullying, so they called in a team of youth workers, and this was one of the things they did with the kids.

We've been doing it since April '04. (This isn't something I know off by heart. I just had a look at the first entry in my book.) They don't get entries every day.... sometimes a couple of months might go by... but gradually gradually the pages are being filled. Connor is the one who especially loves them. He writes in mine a lot, and gets downcast if his book stays untouched for a while. He wrote in mine last night. All spelling mistakes are his:

"Mum. You are the best mother anyone could wish for, and even if they don't wish for you they will still want you as a mother anyway. But there are some things that are bad about you.

1. You could kill someone by making them laugh and run out of breath.

2. Does their need to be a number two?

3. Same as number 1.

4. I can't say anything bad about you. that's why your really bad I can't put you down.

By the way congradulations on your blog. You should open a bottle of shampagne when you beat

Scott's total viewership.

Sorry Scott. I laughed my head off when I read it, but now I'm a bit worried that the friendly competition Scott and I have between each other is starting to rub off on the next generation. And any 'shampagne' about bloggishness will be opened in Scott's company. Or maybe we should make that a nice bottle of red instead?

His last entry was much shorter.
"Mum how can I say enough to thank you with all the help and support you have given us. I thank you for that."

How great is that? I don't remember what prompted it. Maybe I cooked something he particularly likes for dinner or something. But there it is for me to read when I'm an old lady and he's left home and forgotten all about me.

The rules of the books are simple, if anyone out there wants to try it. Each person has their own book. Only positive things must be written in another person's book. Things about what that person has achieved, great things about their personality, acknowledgements about funny or nice things they might've done with/for someone else... the list goes on.

When I took the three younger boys away to Mt Buller for a holiday while Jack was at Central Australia with the school, we took the books up with us. The kids read them in the car going up, and they had so much fun. They were laughing at the spellings their younger selves used, remembering things that happened and generally having a real 'warm and fuzzy' family time.

Well worth the effort of the initial set up.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Purple beans and Breadcrumb patties.

Look at my harvest! Enough beans to feed five people, and there are plenty left on the plants. Brennan and I ate a couple while we were picking them. Bright green inside. I made some breadcrumb patties for dinner with mashed potato and steamed carrots and beans. Look at how the beans turned out...

Green! Isn't nature an amazing thing? Who would've thought that simple beans would evolve over thousands of years into something that can change colour with the simple application of microwaves. How did the beans know that microwaves were going to be invented? Imagine if humans slipped up and missed how to use microwave technology. There all the purple beans would be... hanging from the vines, really cross that no one would be able to appreciate the amazing colour change they were capable of. "All that trouble manipulating our dna for nothing", they'd fume. How lucky that some science guy tinkering with stuff in a laboratory discovered the key that now lets them mystify and delight my family instead. Ahh, the fun you can get from simple veggies!

The bread crumb patties are something I make very rarely, but the kids love them. Mum used to make them when she was flour/egg and breadcrumbing schnitzels in the olden days. Any of the coating left over she'd mix together and fry along with the actual dinner. Absolutely gorgeous. Last night I came home at about 5 so I thought I'd use the beans and have a meat and 3 veg meal. Just like Mum used to make! I was a bit tired so I wanted to do something easy.

Breadcrumb Patties.

All I use are packaged breadcrumbs, eggs, parsley (my parsley plant went to seed, so I threw it out. I used the leaves from the top of a celery instead), salt, pepper and a bit of milk. Mix until it gets to a nice consistency, drop into a frypan in pattie sized portions, and there you go! Great with tomato sauce. (Don't make them too thick, or they might not cook in the middle. Then they're not so nice, as you can imagine.)

We're into the last stages of interviews now. The difficult ones. These are mainly the kids who wouldn't work for an ipod with $1000 strapped to it. Of course by this stage of the game they can't rely on natural ability to get good marks like they may (or sadly, may not) have been able to do in the past, so these interviews are a wake up call for some. Most end up getting a bit of a shock and walk out a bit shaken. Others walk into the room with their head so firmly buried in the sand that you can practically see the bucket full of the stuff they have on their shoulders.

There are only three kids who we simply can't promote to year 11. They are totally different, except for the fact that they've failed just about every subject. One is lazy and hasn't done a stroke of work since year 7, one just doesn't have the wattage but she's a lovely girl who tries reasonably hard, and one covers those two bases but is also covering a world of other problems. I'm dreading her interview. She is a head burier. In fact I think she's buried everything but the tip of her nose. She hung up on me yesterday when I told her it was pointless to have an interview with just her, and I rescheduled it to tomorrow so her Dad could be there "to talk about her future". She'll have to either repeat year 10 or maybe go to TAFE. Trouble is, I don't think she's mature enough to handle TAFE. But she's not mature enough or bright enough to handle the work at year 11 either. It's an awful situation. I really feel for her parents. When I called her Dad at work to organise the new interview time, the weariness that came into his voice when I said who I was and why I was calling was sad.

The other girl is a totally different story. She and her parents opened up the interview by saying that they all feel that she should repeat the year. She's new to the school anyway and she's one of the youngest in her year level, so they don't see a social problem with it. She's happy, so are they and I can't tell you how relieved I was! Problem solved before I even had to bring it up. I love clear sighted parents.

Heigh ho! With a bit of luck these interviews should be over by the end of the week. Then I just have to write student managers reports on the front of 130 kids reports (bleuch!) and then the rest of the year will be a smooth ride down to Christmas. I'll be preparing for next year's classes, moving back into staffroom 1 (I've hopefully got a desk right near some of my friends) and looking forward to the holidays. Only 4 weeks to go till Christmas!!!

My squandered day off......

A photo from Phuket. It's a lump of an island.

I could have today off. I should have today off. It's report writing day and I've finished my reports already. But I put my hand up and volunteered to come in with the careers teacher to get more year 10 interviews done. I need my head read. Damn these students and their irrational thirst for knowledge and their ridiculous desperation to be placed into their chosen subjects for next year! Except for Jack. His thirst and need are totally understandable.

Just as an aside from my whinge about voluntarily giving up a holiday (I can assure you that this has never ever happened before), on Friday we had Jack's second interview for his subjects for Year 11 next year. He wants to do a year 12 subject next year, and we have guidelines about the study score average (8.5) and behaviour/conscientious/maturity levels that each kid has to reach. He has been a real twit over years 8 and 9, and it's only been this year that he's started to pull his head in and knuckle down. (With some inevitable slips back. He's a boy, after all.) He's improved a lot, but it's hard to reach egghead levels in one year from a standing start, so he was a bit short of where he needed to be.

In his first interview he was told that he had to get a certain level for his exams, to prove himself. He'd already started studying, but after that he was galvanised into study activity. He even gave up going to his Dad's on the weekend before the exams to study. (Like me with today, this has never happened before.)

Anyway, the exam results showed that in 3 subjects, he'd made it, and in 2 subjects he was only 1 mark short. In his second interview we had the other year 10 student manager, the careers teacher, and myself. For this interview (as opposed to his first) I had the Mum hat on. I went and sat on the other side of the table next to Jack, because even though I'm his student manager, in this interview I was going to fight for Jack.

(In his first one, I was on the other side of the table helping the others stick the boot into him. Well, he deserved it. He had to prove to me as well as the others that he was prepared to fight and work to get this subject.)

He really wants to do Year 12 Further Maths and he's more than capable of doing extremely well at it. He's into statistics (it's amazing that this kid has any personality at all considering the subjects he loves!) and this subject apparently has statistics all through it. After a lot of discussion, and Jack putting his case very eloquently (maybe he has inherited something from me after all!!) he ended up getting the course he wanted. He also dropped accounting to take up physics. He's thinking he might become a pilot, so he needs physics more than bean counting.

On the way back to the car he asked ,"Did I only get Further Maths because you work here?"

I was honest. "You showed that you've lifted your game, which was good. I think that they gave you more of a chance to show what you can do because I was here. But I wouldn't have gone in to bat for you if I didn't know you could do it. Now your job next year is not to make us look like idiots."

He's so excited about next year. He can't wait to have a course that's totally chosen by himself. His course is truly revolting. English (well, that's the only good subject. It's compulsory), Year 12 Further Maths, Maths Methods, Physics and Economics.

I know. Hideous, isn't it? If I was enrolled in a course like that, they'd find my body swinging from a tree with a noose around my neck. But he's a strange child. He can't wait for next year.

And as a teacher and as his parent, that's something I'm so very pleased to see.....

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Gifts for the street.

Here are the books I've ordered from the UK. I took them along to the Simple Savings meet up in Melbourne today, as a bit of a show and tell. It was nice to catch up with people from the Simple Savings forum, and put faces to names. Seeing as I log on every day to see what the discussions are covering, these women were like old friends. Actually... four of them are. We've met at previous get-togethers.

These books are great. I ordered 'The Gentle Art of Domesticity' after I discovered yarnstorm soon after I started blogging. (Look! I think I've learned how to link!!!! If it works... thanks lightening!)

I got hooked on the colours that she captures in her photography. Vivid, in your face colours. The book is lovely, the kind of book you should really dip in and out of. (Unlike me, who has to read a book cover to cover immediately.) It's fascinating to see the effect that the photos have on different people. Connor adores them, and he's been inspired to take the camera and experiment with all sorts of shots. Jordan, on the other hand, flipped through a few pages, then closed the book and said, "It's too bright. It's doing my head in. I think I prefer pastels..."

I've been inspired to take up quilting by seeing the things she's made, which leads me onto the other books. I've already whipped through the encyclopedia one, which has colour photos. 'Quilting for Dummies', on the other hand, is more my speed. It talks about needles, and thread, and how to thread a needle, etc. God help me when I finally get started. I doubt I'm going to set the quilting world on fire. Judith and Sylvia at the Simple Savings meet up were saying that I should start by quilting a knitting bag. I've had the same bag that Sally Went, the bully who made my life a misery in primary school for years, gave me when I was seven. She came to my party, proceeded to ignore me and made horrible comments to the other kids there. Mum told me years later that she wanted to throttle her. Still, at least I've made good use of the knitting bag. It looks a bit moth eaten and battered now. It has holes and bits are hanging off it, but my frugality kick is just about satisfied. Time for a new bag. But is a quilted knitting bag a bit weird?? (I don't want any other knitters to point their fingers and snicker at me. I don't know if my self-esteem is strong enough to take it....)

Look at this. Lovely, isn't it? It's sticking through my front fence. Last year I renovated the outside of the house by ripping off the hideous fake brick cladding, painting the weatherboards underneath and pulling down the brown brick front fence and putting up a tall picket fence. (Shutting out the world and making a haven for the boys and I after too many disappointing dates. I think by that stage I was up to about 80 or so.) There's 3 rose bushes on the fence line that were part of the original garden. Today I saw the flowers when I was waiting to pull into the driveway when I was coming home from the city. I should cut them and bring them inside, but I won't. They're my present of beauty to the street. They're close to the fence, so they're not likely to take the eyes from some unfortunate pedestrian who happens to walk past the house. They're just a simple thing of beauty.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Lovely day.

What a fantastic day!! I spent all of it with a definite bubble of happiness inside me. Everything went well, even when I had to bellow at the boys for being lazy little so-and-sos for not doing any housework. I kept the bubble because they went and did all the work while I made 4 meals of leek and potato soup, 2 meals of tuna pasta sauce and 80 cupcakes/muffins with green and red icing.

I guess it began on Friday, when I got some quilting books in the mail from England. Yes, I'm putting in the research. It was all going well until it dawned on me that when you're quilting, not only do you have to sew all of the patches together, then sew the wadding and the backing onto it as well... you THEN have to sew all over it in a million different directions to keep them all together. That just doesn't seem fair. I don't have a sewing machine, so that's a world full of hand sewing to make a quilt to keep me warm at night. (Not having a man and all.... what's a girl to do? Apart from have an electric blanket.... oh how I love my blanket....)

I was almost about to give the whole idea away... resign myself to cranking up the electric blanket for 10 months of the year... (I'm a bit of a reptile)... when my friend Sandy called. I mentioned in the course of the conversation about the inordinate amount of sewing that quilting demands, and she said that she had an old sewing machine she'd lend me. Can you believe it? I'm so rapt. So the quilting/doona cover thing is all set to go. I was flicking through the quilting books today, and I'm looking forward to giving it a burl. Honestly, how hard can it be? One of my books is 'Quilting for Dummies', so if they can do it, then so can I!!

Then, after my whinge at my technological ineptitude about links yesterday, Lightening posted a comment explaining how to do them. How fantastic is that? I haven't had a chance today to get near the computer to try and follow her directions, but now I know they're there when I need them. I don't need to rush out and order 'HTML For Dummies.' I'm a happy technophobe.

Then there was the meme...

I tagged Suze from Peasoup. She was apparently pleased by this (thank goodness. You never know if people are going to like you or loathe you when you tag.) Then later in her post, she mentioned buying wool on line from the Bendigo Knitting mills. She included a link. (Obviously she's more savvy than I am.) I was beside myself with glee. I've been wanting to buy some more wool for ages, but the wool shop near me is a bit limited in range, and Marta's, while gorgeous, is a bit exxy. All of the online shops I've seen have been in the UK or the US, which made me reluctant to buy online. It seemed a bit silly to fly wool into the country when we've got a gazillion sheep here. Suddenly, there was the answer. I chortled happily and tapped the link. Fifteen minutes later, I'd ordered a pattern and some soft green wool. I can't tell you how pleased I was. I've saved the site in my favourites, so now I'm set! How lucky is that?

Then I wandered out and glanced at the veggie garden, and guess what I saw? Purple beans. No, I'm not kidding. I was pretty darned pleased, because they said on the packet that these things are purple, and then when you cook them they go green. "Get out!" I said as I looked at them in the shop. I had to plant them and see.
See? How bizarre does that look? I think it's fantastic. We haven't cooked any yet, but when we do I'll have my head jammed half way in the saucepan to follow the colour change. I'll let you know how it goes.
Sandy reminded me to update about the afghan. I should apologise to all those who have been on the point of emailing me demanding to know how it's progressing. I realise that for many of you, knowledge of the progress of my acrylic basket weave afghan is the only thing getting you out of bed each morning. Well... on Friday night I officially passed the half way mark. (I can hear a round of applause... ). I'm very pleased about it, because when I started with it a while ago, I knew I wouldn't get it finished before summer came. So in my head, I thought that if I . .. (I've just realised what a stupid thing that was to type. Where else apart from my head would I be thinking? I don't think my spleen has had any good ideas lately. What an idiot.)
Anyway, I had an idea that if I made it to the half way point this year, that'd be good. Well, now I'm at least 10 rows past that. (At 253 stitches per row, that's not bad going.) I really love the feeling that now I'm doing next year's knitting!!! I'm time travelling! Already this thing is as tall as a toddler. I'm starting to look forward to when it's finished, because it's big enough now to spread over my knees when I'm knitting, and I have to say that it's rather cosy. I have visions of curling up on the couch in the dead of night watching all new episodes of 'Boston Legal' all snuggled up in my afghan. What care I if the temperature is a bit nippy??? Under the afghan it'll be tropical.
I've got more to say but it's getting late. Before I go I'll just quickly mention a comment Scott made on the post I wrote yesterday on the 7 weird things meme. It was very funny, but he will not suck me in to his twisted plot to make the world read shockingly bad authors.
I realise I said that once I start a book I have to finish it. It's absolutely true.
However... nothing... I repeat.... NOTHING will make me read another Isabel Allende book again. (Unless it's on the booklist for work and I have to teach it.) Scott is a cruel, evil sort of person, who will stop at nothing to torment me. He's devoted to the woman and knows my views. Honestly I can't see why anyone would want to plough through one of her books unless it was superglued to your hands and someone had a gun to your head forcing you to read it. Even then, I think that death by gunshot would be a preferable fate.
So nice try, oh so-called friend of mine, but I'll resist. (It's a shame, because the opening sentence sounds interesting, but I know all too well the agony that will come.....)

Friday, November 23, 2007

7 Weird Things.

I've been tagged for a meme by Phoebe at
It's a tell 7 weird things about yourself meme, and then I have to link back to the person who tagged me, and then tag 7 others. I hope this link works, because I've never linked by myself before....

Ok. Seven things about me.

1. My pantry has to be organised. Everything is lined up, labels out, and I rotate them so I put the newest things at the back, and the oldest things at the front, so nothing gets stale. I get agitated if the kids mess things up in there.

2. Once I start a book or watch a movie, I HAVE to see it through till the end. I could probably count on one hand the books I've put down and not finished. Maybe it's the gossip in me... I have to know how a story pans out. (Now that I'm getting 'War and Peace' emailed to me each day, I think I'll regret this. The translation is a bit old and clunky and so far I've read a fortnight's worth and the only interesting thing that's happpened is the tale of a policeman who was tied to a bear's back, and then the bear was thrown in the river. I've got over 600 installments to go. The peace part is pretty dull. I'm hoping the war bit is more interesting. Bring on the tragedy!!)

3. When I was a child I was scared of dogs. Mum said I was bitten by one when I was two, and I was petrified of them since then. Mum and Dad weren't too happy about this, so when I was seven they brought home a puppy. I was beside myself with fear for a day, until it dawned on my mighty intellect that this wiggly little pup was no threat.
When I left home I bought a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and fell into breeding and showing. Before I had children and gave up the dog showing, I had up to 20 dogs at some stages, including puppies. Does this mean I have an all or nothing personality??

4. I'm nervous around chickens. They have very sharp pointy beaks that look as if they'd put a nasty hole in your calf if one decided to attack. And anything that can still run around after you after its head is chopped off is obviously a force to be reckoned with. I like their eggs, though.

5. I love certain types of lollies so much that I can't have them in the house. I have absolutely no self control when it comes to lollies. It's like a shark feeding frenzy when there's a packet of Skittles, Wine Gums or Cadbury Caramello. It's not pretty. There's bits of wrapping strewn all over the room, snarling, slurpy gobbling noises and terrified kids backing away, in danger of losing limbs if they creep too close. That's why the only treats I buy for the kids are yucky lollies that I don't like. (But when they go to their Dad's place, I indulge. Sssshhhh. Don't tell them.)

6. I love stationery. A trip to Officeworks is delirious joy for me. All those wonderfully blank noebooks full of possibility. I love a fresh new notebook. Pure delight.

7. I love to breathe in the smell of my youngest child. Connor has a spot on his temples where I can breathe him in. I guess it's the smell of 'baby', and even though he's 11 he's still the youngest. (And always will be.... thank God for the speying I had done when he was born!) It's not kinky or strange, but maybe it is a little bit weird, so it's on the list.

Besides, it's nearly lunchtime, so I want to post this, go and have lunch, and then duck up the road to Brennan's school to pick him up to bring him back to our uniform shop to get him all kitted up for next year. I need to get his shopping done early before all of the second hand things are gone. (With 4 sons to outfit, I'm not proud. It's hand-me-down town at our place.)

I'll come back and tag people later. The bell has just gone.

I'm back!

Scott at
Stuntmother at
Kelley at
Widget at
Darce at
Maybaby at
Suze at

I can't link!!!! I'm so embarrassed....
When I learn how to put a proper link in, I'll come back and make this look professional.
If anyone else wants to do this, feel free. It's a little time consuming, because unlike most posts, you have to put some thought into what you put down. But it's interesting, all the same.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bloggable Scandal!

Isn't life wonderful? It always delivers just what you need.

I didn't blog before work this morning because I woke up with a completely vacant brain. I had nothing to say. It was awful. I was walking around bumping into things, probably drooling slightly, with a blank look on my face. So I went to work, because I can still educate while I'm in a state like this. I know, because I do it frequently.

Then something bloggable happened!!!

You may recall that I was elevated to the high and mighty rank of ESL coordinator last week. In that capacity, I was stopped in the hall by a year 9 teacher who asked if I'd heard about the year 9 ESL kids who were caught cheating in their exams. I had a look at a dictionary that was confiscated from one of the boys. I don't know his name, but by gum! he'd put a lot of work into his cheating. (If he'd channelled all of that effort into study, he would've earned an A+.) He had lists of grammar definitions pasted into the dictionary, along with introductory paragraphs for the text responses, scientific equations and chemical formulas. Yes, he'd spread his endeavours across most of the curriculum. It was the most amazingly blatant thing I've ever seen. So I hastened over to the hall to have a quiet word with these kids after their last exam. It was beautiful.

These kids are in the junior school, so I don't know them from Adam. And they don't know me. But we got acquainted during the little chat I had with the class after all the year 9s had gone, and we were left in the huge dark echoey assembly hall for me to bellow at them.

I was operatic. I harnessed the inner witch. It scared the bejeebers out of them.

They gathered around me. I brandished the dictionary at them.

"WHO OWNS THIS?" I asked.

Everyone froze. One kid slowly raised his hand.

"That belongs to my friend..." I didn't allow him to go any further. One thing I hate more than anything else is when a kid doesn't take responsibility for his actions. (Just ask my kids..)

"Don't you dare try and run that sort of garbage by me! Everything in this book is related to this year's course. Unless your friend is in this class with you, you're telling me a lie. Now did you take this dictionary into this exam???"

He nodded. I let rip. I had the pointy finger, the narrowed eyes, the shrieks of rage happening. I told them all that anyone caught cheating gets zero for the exam. They blenched, (particularly the Asian students. Asian parents are famous for putting their kids under immense pressure to perform well.)

"If I had my way I'd recommend not just zero for the exam, but zero for the whole year. I'd like to see you go home and explain that to your parents!" There was a horrified silence after that remark. "I'm cancelling the excursion to the movies that your teacher has organised." Which I was going to do anyway, but they didn't need to know that. Then I threw in the killer. The one to bring them nightmares.

"I will be teaching you next year, and I'm not impressed!!!!"

I could see that they were appalled. They obviously think I'm a harridan who'll make their lives a misery. I'm delighted. I had that audience in the palm of my hand. I've got the dictionary on my desk, and I've been showing it to everyone. I'm hoping that the kid doesn't want it back because I want to keep it as a souvenir. The most elaborately inept piece of cheating I've yet seen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bad things come in threes.

It's true. Have you ever noticed that? So now my third bad thing has happened, I'm hereby notifying the universe that it's time to back off! I prefer to lead my normal comfy cosy life, and
that's what's going to happen. After this rant at the ex husband.

Bad things list:
1. Mr Bleep being nasty about my perfect little boy.
2. The job rearrangement. I'm ok with it now, but it was a hard decision at the time.
3. Tony (ex husband... thank God for that!) insinuating that I was trying to rip him off financially about orthodontics.

Pardon? You don't know about this drama? Hardly surprising, because it erupted yesterday. That man just doesn't learn. I may be many nasty things (I truly don't think so, that was just me being modest) but dishonest is NOT one of them.

When I left my then husband 11 years ago, we had $120 in the bank. Even though I was the one with the kids, I gave him half. For years during the first half of our lives apart, he was on the dole or he worked for cash, so he only paid $20/month child support for 4 kids.
(Those years were very hard financially. I couldn't go back to work because the child care fees for 4 kids would've been more than my wage, and I didn't want to work then anyway. I wanted to give the boys a stable home base to recover from the upheaval of the divorce and to be nice normal kids. There was no point going through the drama and heartache of breaking up a family to remove an unhealthy model for a marriage from the boys' lives if they were then left to drift rudderless while I raced back to work. So I was a SAHM until Connor went to school. I got very sick of watching 'Playschool' and listening to 'The Wiggles', but the boys are fantastic kids now, so the struggle was worth it. Plus I've got some great stories that happened during that time. But I digress.)

Dad said to me once during those days, "Tony's a worker. Don't worry, he'll get back into another business because he can't stand to sit around and do nothing. You've just got to ride out this time and then you'll be right."

That's what happened. As soon as I started cleaning houses ( Bleuch! One day I'll tell you about the Cat People and the Filthy Nurse) and then doing CRT work (emergency teaching) and wasn't dependent on the child support, he started working again.
But money has always been a big issue with him when it comes to child support. He treats child support as if it's a business deal, and he has to win. So I've always taken less than he should be giving, because he owns a cash business (a food type shop) so he doesn't have a 'wage ' that the child support agency could simply take the proper amount from. When he was establishing his current business he asked me to be patient while he built it up, and then he'd pay a decent amount. That's what's happened. As of this year he currently pays 1k a month, which I put aside to pay for school fees and music lessons. I know he should be paying more, but he and his new wife have just bought a house, and anyway I'm happy with a thousand a month. That's a sum that I can do things with and so we're both happy with it. We've been getting along beautifully for the past couple of years.

Until now. We have four children, and three of them need braces. (The fourth needed his ears pinned back, which I did when he was in grade 4, with no financial help from Tony. All of this means that the whole lot of them are genetically ugly hideous beasts who need cosmetic help. They get it from their father's side.) The orthodontist I went to is also a single parent. He looked at the motley collection of misshapen smiles I was presenting to him, heard me when I said there may be a problem with payment from the father's side and gave me an excellent deal on the prices.

Tony and I talked about it, I showed him the quotes, and we agreed that he should pay for Brennan's braces ($3850) , I should pay for Jack's (also $3850) and I would also pay for Connor ($350 for a mouth guard thing which hopefully will stop him wearing braces in the future.) I said I'd pay for all of the dentist bills (check ups, cleaning, x-rays etc) because that's what child support payments are for. Naturally as soon as that arrangement was made Jack felt an agonising pain in his jaw and have to have a root canal done. I paid. Around another thousand dollars for that little exercise. (Well, I had to. He was rampaging around like a demented wildebeest.) All up I've paid nearly $2K in root canal and other assorted dental work, without taking into account Jack and Brennan's braces.

Sorry for the essay, but I wanted to be clear that I'm not some grasping harridan out to extract every last dollar from the ex. I think I've been extremely fair to him.

So to be told on the phone that he wants... no, he demands to see every bill for the braces, because he wants to make sure that he's paying only what is fair..... well it fairly sent me into orbit.

Selected orbit-sending bits follow:

"All I saw was a hand written quote. Is that all you've got? "

"Yes, I showed you the same thing I got."

"Well that's not very professional. (*sarcastic tone in next sentence* ) That's a real educated guy you've got doing their teeth."

(What the hell are you talking about??? How is that relevant? Besides, he's the one with a degree, I'm the one with a degree, and you're the one who did one term of engineering, decided it was all too hard and went into business as a fruiterer with your brother. How can you possibly try and take the high moral ground on the (non relevant anyway) education issue? )

I hadn't worked out yet that he thought I was lying about the quotes. I was honestly bewildered that he was objecting about the legitimate paperwork that I'd already shown him, and left with him.

"I want to see every single receipt you've said you've paid for their braces."
I still thought he was asking because he wanted to see if he could claim them on his tax or something, so I went through how I'd already shown him what they looked like.

He sighed, and said very clearly and slowly, " We're not communicating. I want to see every quote and every bill from that orthodontist. I want to make sure I'm only paying what's fair."

I went cold. Then I went hot. The room seemed to go a little hazy.

"So are you trying to get out of paying then?" I asked. I probably had a slight edge in my voice.

"No, no. I just want what's fair."

That was it. I was bobbing somewhere up near the roof by this stage. "Great! " I said. "I guess that means you owe me money. A lot of money. You haven't paid a cent towards Jack's root canal work which was about a thousand dollars, you haven't paid for their x rays, check ups, mouth moulds... do I need to go on?"

He stupidly said with a tone of almost derision, "Ohhh. You've got a bit of an attitude...." (I think he thought that he had me... that I was worried that I was going to be found out in my scheme to rip him off.)

I was at work so I had to be cool. I hissed into the receiver, " Yeah, I DO get an attitude when I'm accused of stealing. Ring the dentist, get the forms and if they won't give you my bills get them to call me."

I was boiling. I jumped into the car and got the forms from the dentist/orthodontist myself. They've obviously seen this situation before. They knew everything I needed, handed them over, and I went back home, stalked past the kids and picked up the phone.

"Which address do you want me to send these things to? I've got them all. And after you've read them I demand one hell of a big apology."

Again he made a comment about my attitude. He tries to take the high moral road when he's in the wrong. It used to drive me crazy when we were married. Apparently it still does. I have the address, I told him that they'd be in tomorrow's mail and hung up.

After 11 years.... actually, he's known me since I was 17... surely he's have twigged by now that I'm not out to get him? One thing's for sure. I'm so glad that divorce was invented, because at least now I only have to deal with his Persecution Dramas every once in a while. It's his new wife that has to deal with them every day. That used to be my job, and I'm so very glad I'm not in that position any more.

(Plus, when he reads the bills and realises that he's pissed me off for no good reason, he'll be kicking himself... )

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I hate Primary schools.

You know, just between you and me, I'm slightly regretting the suggestion I made to Jack about baking biscuits (cookies) for his business venture at school. (I posted about it in one of my first posts. I don't know how to link to it. Quick summary.... he had to do a stall and sell things at lunchtime as part of Business Studies. He wanted to sell fish n chips. I could see that turning into a logistical nightmare plus not being cost effective, so like the good little frugality kick girl that I am I suggested we make biscuits. I included the recipe on the post. We made over 200. He sold the lot for a VERY tidy profit. He had Phuket spending money. All was good.)
Then Brennan came home from school last term (he tends to do that... I think because home is where I keep the food) and he had a 'Healthy Snack Project.' I hate projects with a passion. Why do primary schools continually inflict them upon us? He wanted to do some hideously complicated and expensive snack. I suggested the biscuits. At first he objected.
"They've got chocolate in them. The snacks are supposed to be healthy. I can't run a selling campaign like that."
I pulled out all my cunning and persuasive wiles as a Drama teacher, a woman and a frugality kicker. "We put wheatgerm in them. You can run a slogan like 'The kids will see the chocolate. YOU"LL see the natural wheatgerm goodness!' "
He was sold. So were all the biscuits when he took them to school. He passed with a glowing report from his teacher. All was good.
Until he came home (I know... again!!) and proudly informed me that the school was holding a stall at lunchtime to sell healthy snacks to raise money for wildlife rangers. The grade 6ers voted for the four best snacks. Guess who won? He was over the moon. As for me...
Now I'm all for success at school and feeling good about your work and all that. I have to be. I signed up for promoting all of that when I became a teacher. It's clause 2.45, right after the vow of poverty. But this recipe uses 6 eggs and nearly 2 kilos of flour. The mixture is hard to mix because there's so much of it, and baking nearly 100 biscuits takes a fair chunk of time, because you can't wander far from the oven in case they burn.
Brennan looked up at me with his big brown eyes blinking trustfully at me behind his glasses.
"The teacher said you don't have to do it if you don't want to...."
Shit. "Alright, I'll do it," I idiotically said. "But I won't do it again."
The stall is today. The biscuits are made. I gave him around 60 to sell at 50c each. I made them last night after dinner. For those of you not currently living in Melbourne, yesterday was so hot you could've fried an egg on your forehead. It was 37 degrees Celcius. (I don't know what the American equivalent is... I converted biscuits to cookies for you guys, so now you can do the maths. Ok, I'll give a rough estimate. In American degrees, it was probably a billion.)
I had the aircon on, but it's evaporative. It was gently puffing out of the ceiling vents keeping Jack in his room cool (Maths and Science exams are today. Crucial for him (maths nerd) so fingers crossed), but in the kitchen it was no match for the might of the oven. In and out went tray after tray of biscuits. Every time the oven door opened it belched blistering burps of 220 degree (celcius) air into the room. (Did you notice the discreet use of alliteration? ) I'd take two trays out, another two would be loaded up and in they'd go. While they were cooking I grab a spatula and pile the biscuits on cooling trays, then put balls of dough on the trays ready for the oven. Connor was M&M guy, putting them on the tops of each ball of dough. When the cooking biscuits were done, out they'd come! In went the next two trays! Spatula waving! Biscuit piling! Balls of dough plopping on trays! Helping Brennan with his other homework! M&Ms being stolen by Jack! Chasing Jack out of the kitchen and back to his room, waving the spatula and shrieking! Back to the oven! Again! and again....... !
I don't know about you, but I know that this isn't high on my list of fun ways to spend a hot night. Connor took some photos for the blog and when he took this one...
... he said "Action Mum!" I don't want to be moving this fast on a hot night. It's not relaxing. I was in the kitchen from 8pm till 10 pm. Do I look happy? That light near my face is NOT a twinkle in my eye.
Still, it's done. I have biscuits already bagged up and frozen for kids' lunches, and an ice cream container full of them for after school today, so that's good. Brennan also brought home a notice from school asking for cakes to be donated to the school to sell on election day as voters are queueing.
It's in the bin.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A peaceful Sunday.

Look at what I made yesterday!! Along with everything else, I thought I'd try my hand at playing with food colourings. I made aqua icing. (4 drops blue, 2 drops red.) It sounds like a better idea than it turned out. It's not terrible, and it looks effective, but it reminds me of the aqua colour in toothpaste/gel combinations. (It could be a subtle reminder of what you should do after eating these. There's so much icing sugar in the icing that it turned my teeth on edge. But the kids are excited.) I had some white chocolate buds so I whacked one in the middle of each cake. They needed an extra something for pizzazz. So instead of biscuits, the kids get these for lunches and after school tomorrow. They're happy. Everyone loves a cupcake.

Then I went and picked the last cauliflower for dinner. Not a moment too soon. It had tall stalky lumpy bits growing out of the top of it. If it was in a shop you wouldn't go anywhere near the obviously mutant love-child of a caulie and a snail. But unfortunately this vegetable wasn't from a shop. I've nurtured that cauliflower. I've fertilised, watered and gotten (is that a word? getten? gooten?) up early to water it for too many times to let a few hideous growths stop me from eating it now. I remember the time Brennan and I realised that it was actually sprouting something we could eat. We jumped up and down. We squealed with joy. (Well... I did. He's nearly 13. He's too gruff and manly.) I've invested a lot in that bloody caulie. Hopes, dreams.... dare I say.... love.....

Plus the fact that it's sometimes a big pain in the proverbial to have a veggie garden. How many times have I dragged myself out of bed at 6am to water the damned thing? I wouldn't do it for flowers, that's for sure. Do you know how uncomfortable it is to have the water-logged hem of your bathrobe flapping around your ankles at that hour of the morning? Ankles aren't the most insulated part of the anatomy, and it's bloody nippy at that hour of the day. And sunburn. You go out to throw a spare cup of water on the leeks and you see weeds. An hour later you realise that yes it is a bit sunny and you're getting a beautiful cancerous glow. Nothing like a melanoma on the face to set off that gorgeous smile.

So that cauliflower was going to be ingested no matter what it looked like. Actually, here is what it looked like..

Yum Yum! The stalky things swivelled around to watch me as I walked up to it, but I didn't let that bother me. It's organic, so that means that everything about it is good. I yanked it up out of the ground and ignored the shriek as it twisted and writhed in my hands. I sprinkled salt on it and laughed as bubbles came out of it. The stalks waved frantically... I knew I couldn't let the torment continue. I am a pacifist, after all. So I banged its head against the ground until the tortured movements subsided. Oh the mighty hunter!

(Ok.... I'm going a bit mental here. I walked over, pulled it out of the ground and brought it inside. But imagine if all that stuff DID happen??? It'd be freaky as!)

I made the thickest cheese sauce you've ever seen, to disguise its lack of comeliness from the kids.

It went down a treat.

One really nice thing happened to end the weekend. Normally my boys travel round as a pack. They're here with me all together, they go to their Dad's all together, so they rarely have time apart. The Virgos were at Tony's this weekend, (that's boy 2 and boy 4 for the Astrologically uninitiated), while the Capricorns were with me. (I have 4 boys. You work out who the Cappies are.) When the boys came home after 'boys' weekend', it was lovely to see how pleased they were to see each other. Jack and Connor went out to play a game of cricket in the backyard, while the other two sat in the lounge room and chatted about stuff. I wonder sometimes how often the boys will choose to see each other once they've grown up and moved out (OH happy day!!!!) When little things like this happen it makes me optimistic. They like each other, and that's a good start.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Yesterday and Today.

Did my washing yesterday! I've been making the boys use these for their lunches. The theory is that over time we'll save money on Glad wrap by reusing these. Plus we're saving the planet, which is an agreeable bonus.

Every time I hang these out on the line I have a chuckle about a conversation I had with my friend Ian. He was visiting, and I brought him outside to see the veggie garden. He saw the bags on the line, stopped dead and asked in a horrified tone, "My God Frogdancer, what are you doing?"

"They're for the kids' lunches," I said. "I just wash them out and reuse them."

"Thank God for that," he said. "I thought you were selling drugs!!!"

Something I'm SO not into, let me hasten to add.

Yesterday went pretty much according to plan. Brennan waited patiently until I'd finished making the breakfast pancakes (he ate 5) and then asked me if now was a good time for me to teach him to knit. He got the hang of it surprisingly quickly, and he's knitted about 12 rows of his North Melbourne footie scarf. We went through the stages of knitting so tightly that he couldn't get the needle through the loop, to knitting so loosely that the stitches slipped off the end of the needle if you looked at it sideways, dropping stitches and looping extra loops to create unintended extra stitches, but by the end of a couple of hours of work he was garter stitching away as happily as you'd like to see. He'd keep coming back to it and knitting more. Even at this early stage he's discovering knitting's uncanny ability to be addictive.

Until the phone rang at 1.30. It was James, one of Brennan's friends, wanting to know if he was still coming to the party (Luna Park and a sleepover) that started half an hour before. Oops. The knitting gone thrown aside, and he was packed and out the door (though we had to go back for his sleeping bag that he left on the kitchen bench). James' mother works at the same school I do, and she's lovely. She opened the door with the words, "So, English teachers can't read numbers on an invitation?" If she was a Maths teacher that would mean war, ("Them's fightin' words!!!") but she's also English. I had a quick look at the new reno they've done (upper storey, new kitchen and rumpus room.... really gorgeous) and then I was back to keep an eye on young Study Guy, previously known as Jack.

He's done a lot of work this weekend. He started off yesterday with 'Romeo and Juliet'. His teacher told me what she'd told the class to do to prepare, so we talked about the play and I helped him look for short snappy quotes and I showed him how to embed them in his sentences. I was really pleased by his depth of understanding of the play. His teacher has really taught them well (or maybe it's just pure natural ability.... she starts laughing hysterically... the kid loves numbers and only reads a book if its stapled into his hands). He wrote quite a good essay, with me standing over him and reminding him to expand on his points. He doesn't show enough detail, and that's been his downfall in English this year.

His Science cheat sheet was the afternoon's work, and I think he also did some work on History. His English and History exams are tomorrow, and Maths and Science are on Tuesday. Then he's a free man. Until Year 11 Orientation week in December. (I wonder how much housework I can get him to do when he's at home all day? Hmmmm....)
I finally mowed the lawn yesterday. The whipper snippering didn't get done, so some parts of the garden look as if they're growing a fringe around the outskirts, but at least the long wavy grass is a thing of the past. My Roma tomato plant that I put in 2 weeks ago is growing a couple of tiny tomatoes, so that was all very exciting. I went and bought some salad things for dinner, and the cucumber was really spongy. Edible, but nothing like the ones we were eating last year from the garden. I can't wait until we're eating our own again. (I went out and put some extra shower water run off on the cucumber plants, just to give them a bit of encouragement.)
This morning was very pleasant. It was raining, so I didn't have to get up at the crack of dawn to water. I sat up in bed knitting the afghan (mmmm, the afghan) and getting enthused about it again. I'm just a few rows off being half way through. 4 balls down, 4 to go. It's already looking large, so who knows how many tv watching Frogdancers it'll be able to shelter next year when it's finished? Twenty seven or so is my guess.
So far today I've made 4 cakes, hung out 2 loads of washing, picked up Brennan and had a coffee with James' Mum, knitted 13 rows of the afghan and started mixing up a huge batch of biscuit mix. The dogs are NOT smelling deodorised and homogenised, so I'll be hurling them into the laundry trough soon and ruining their day. I want to make some more leek and potato soup, because the leeks are looking thick and yummy, and I'll freeze them. We have one more caulie that needs eating, so tonight will be macaroni cheese and cauliflower cheese night. Come to think of it, I'd better go out and feed the budgies. I'm sure they'll appreciate it. It's been two days since my last visit. (Don't worry, I'm fairly sure they're both still alive. I saw them from the kitchen window this morning. They were on a perch, not lying down on the bottom of the cage with their pathetic little feet stuck imploringly in the air, so I think that's a good sign.)
Molly and Murphy are having a very different morning. I gave them both a bone yesterday, and I think the strain of guarding their bones from both the cats and each other has told. That's Murphy on his back. If I could include the oceanic rumbling of Molly's snoring, I would.

Just when you think you're settled....

Well, things at work are certainly happening!

The list for the extra jobs that teachers have to do came out yesterday. I am now running the ESL faculty. It's not a large faculty, but it is certainly looking a bit shabby around the edges, so I (reluctantly) put up my hand for it. The downside is that I have to kiss the student manager job goodbye.

Annoying in one way, because I've been doing it for 18 months and I feel like I've just got a handle on it all, but in other ways it'll be good. I don't have to be at work at 8am and leave at 5pm, reports are FAR easier when I just have to write my own and not also collate and write comments on the front of the whole year level (do you realise how time consuming that is???) and I no longer will have to deal with parents. Most are nice, but occasionally there's the odd one who can be a bit of a fruitcake. (And I don't eat fruitcake. It's yuck.... the devil's food. Like bananas.)

The best reason, though, is the house and kids. They've been running on autopilot for a year and a half, and they're looking shabby around the edges too. Well, the house is. So next year it'll all run on an even keel again, which will be a good thing. I find that if things get cluttered and too dust-bunnyish at home then I feel like I'm not coping and I get snappy at them. It'll be nice to get back to creating the kind of home environment that the kids and I will look forward to coming home to. (I'm coming over all nesty. Don't be concerned. There's no possible way I could be pregnant. The speying and the 18 month (so far) break from dating make sure of that!!)

The funny thing will be watching how the two people who will be doing the job next year will share the office space. The woman who is taking over from me is incredible efficient and anal. Everything is lined up, colour coded, filed to within an inch of its life and regimented. The guy who shares the job makes the office look like a tip. His desk is a glorified pile of paper and there's absolutely no space for him to sit and work at it. As days go by a wave of paper comes from it and advances towards the desk where she'll be working. It really started to do my head in, so every time he was out of the office for the day I'd do an emergency paper throw. I'd put important things in a box by his desk, and the rest I'd chuck. I used to find stuff dating back to 1995. I'm not exaggerating. It might be entertaining to step back and watch the fireworks. The mess drove me crazy, but I'm not as neat or as up-front about things that bother me as she is.

Scott and I have come to a civilised agreement about the NaNoWriMo challenge. We're not doing it. Technically I beat him, because I reached 20,000 words, (yay!) but I've reached the conclusion that with these interviews happening in year 10 at the same time, I will definitely not finish my novel in a month. So we agreed to be merciful to each other and desist. (I've just realised.... maybe next year I could do it. Unless I decide to mark VCE exam papers to get some $$$. All may not be lost....)

Today will be a teaching Brennan to knit day, a tutor Jack in Romeo and Juliet day and a BARF day. I have to make biscuits and cakes, and sometime this weekend I want to go out to Diacos nurseries in Dingley and get some tomato plant cages. The stakes I bought last year didn't work so well. (Got to stop those damned tomato plants from roaming all over the backyard!!) I've got Brennan in my ear asking about when I'm going to make pancakes for breakfast, so I'd better get off here and start the day. Hope everyone has a lovely weekend.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Happy again!

Sorry for my rant yesterday, everyone. Here's a flower for all of you who waded through the venom and invective. I am now all unruffled and ready to go forth and conquer the day. And weekend. I will rise above the petty vexations of day to day life, and glide (ruffledless) serenely through.

Actually, I don't have time to do anything else. The year 10 interviews are sucking the life out of me. Seriously, it's as if the little darlings are psychic vampires who come into the room and one by one extract all the energy and will to live from me, so by the end of the day I stagger home and fall, lifeless but for one small spark, on the bed.

Truth in that last statement? Well, I am having a 15 minute nanna nap when I get home, before I get up and make dinner, etc. These interviews do take a lot of energy. But they're interesting, and it's good to catch up with the little vampires/students and see what they've picked for next year, and whether or not we can help them with better subject choices to get them into the courses they want to do. We`allow 15 minutes per interview. Some (usually the good kids) are over either a little earlier or on time, but some go longer. They're the ones who have chosen subjects that either they shouldn't have if they want to fulfill their stated goal of becoming a doctor/engineer/rocket scientist/whatever; or the ones who want to do the real egghead subjects that they clearly shouldn't attempt because their marks so far have been ... well.... not flash. So we have to design new courses. Ho Hum! There's a couple of weeks yet of this. A sushi train of students every day.

An update. Remember when I was caught on camera 'kicking' a student on the news? I was in the background of a news report while our assistant principal was talking about the VCE exams being the culmination of 13 years of study, etc. Anyway, I was talking to the assistant principal a couple of days later and decided to tell her about it. I'm a big believer in admitting up front when you've mucked up. I'd rather do that than have trouble lurk around and leap on me all unexpected. She laughed like mad and said, "There's the difference between theory and practice!" So that's ok. I live to teach another day.

This weekend is supposed to be child free, but I'll have half the kids with me. Brennan has a sleepover party to go to on Saturday night. Jack, on the other hand, is one of those problematic students I was talking about. Exams are on Monday and Tuesday, and unless he blitzes them he won't get the Year 12 Maths subject he wants to do. He was one of the kids who left the interview very quiet and somewhat shaken. So he's elected to stay at home and study. I'm (cautiously) a very happy mother. I never thought the day would come. Tony's happy for Jack to do it. He and Viv are having the kids for a full week between Christmas and New Year (but not New Year's Eve), so he knows he'll catch up with Jack then. Plus Jack wants to work at the fruit shop over the summer to get $$$$.

(I wonder if Viv is aware of what it's going to be like to have 4 lumpy lolloping teenagers around for a full week? All she'll hear is Playstation, Wii, Evanescence and other assorted music blaring from their rooms all week, and she'll be constantly having to insert food into their mouths. I'm used to it, but she doesn't have kids. Hmmmm.... I wonder if there's a cruise leaving Melbourne for a week on those dates??? I'm looking forward to a few consecutive days of peace and quiet.)
So this weekend I'm looking at yet another sophisticated social whirl of veggie gardening, study buddying, housework, writing, exam marking (year 11 ESL) and knitting. I know, people, I know. Curb that envy you're undoubtedly feeling. Jealousy's a curse.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ruffled feathers.

My friend Widget had this quiz on her blog. She's Hermione (explains a lot) and to my complete surprise (and joy) I'm Harry. No wonder I love the books so much. It's all about MEEEEE!
Something happened yesterday that has me a bit ruffled. I'll preface it by saying that I'm not a sooky-la-la about my kids. I see them pretty clearly, and I have no hesitation in admitting their flaws. (It's easy for me, as I don't have any flaws myself. Naturally.)
I'll be the first to say that Jack was a hideous beast when he was in years 7 and 8. He was very immature, loud and didn't fit in with the other kids in his classes. He had a very lonely two years until he started to grow up a bit towards the end of year 8 and met some mates. He's thriving now. Thankfully, the alchemy that occurs in year 10... the alchemy that instead of turning lead to gold turns revolting adolescent kids with raging out of control hormones into reasonably human-like people by the end of the year has occurred with him. He has turned into a funny, creative kid who is good to be around. (He still has his moments, but he confines them to home, a gift of love to his nearest and dearest.) Other teachers who have known him over the last four years are also very complimentary about how he's turning out (though they'd still like him to do more homework with greater detail), so it's not just me. He's turning out ok.
Unlike some other teachers' kids who also go to the school. Who are in the same year level. Who are female. Whose parents don't have the same degree of clarity when it comes to their offspring. Whose parents have no hesitation while talking to another parent in insulting said parent's child while insinuating that their own female child is vastly superior.
Am I speaking in vast generalities??? Or do you get the impression that this is probably not a very large group of students I'm referring to?
We're doing interviews with the year 10s at the moment, which I've referred to in an earlier post. This particular girl had her interview yesterday. She wanted to do an enhancement subject (a year 12 subject) and after a lot of see-sawing and humming and harring we let her. Her behaviour and attitude (she's a real little 'miss') and her marks were borderline, and during her interview she talked as if she was one of the teachers instead of a student, which got up our noses a bit. She loathes Jack and ignores him totally, so he finds it amusing every so often to greet her with a cheery "Hi Bleep! How are you?", just to watch her turn her face away.
(She's not really called Bleep. That was my subtle way of disguising her identity. I don't care that they're not fond of each other. That's none of my business. As long as they're not being openly nasty to each other, bullying or beating the living daylights out of each other, then I'm keeping out of it. I think they've got a delicate balance and routine worked out, so good on them.)
After school I was tutoring a year 9 girl, and I saw...(lets call him Mr Bleep) walk past the door. I'd heard another teacher say something nice about the daughter he has in a junior level of the school (I'm not giving that kid a pseudonym), so I ducked out into the hallway to tell him. We all like to hear nice things about our kids.
"Yes, my child who doesn't have a pseudonym is very different to Bleep," he said. "Bleep and I are very similar; almost too much alike."
I smiled, because he evidently thought that was a good thing, and then I told him about something that was said in the interview before he got there. Bleep had said something that absolutely sounded like something Jack would say. I knew she'd hate that, (who likes to hear that they're similar to someone they don't like? ) so as a joke I said, "You really shouldn't hate Jack so much, Bleep. In some ways you think alike. He'd say the exact same thing that you just said." She shuddered and laughed, I laughed and we moved on.
I told that to Mr Bleep, expecting that he'd have a chuckle. Instead I get a genuine shudder and a remark that was delivered in a way that implied that I would totally understand where he was coming from.
"Oh dear. That'd be terrible if it was true.... Bleep's nothing like Jack."
Umm... pardon?
Would it have been impolite to say "Thank Goodness, it's such a relief to me. Jack doesn't have teachers handing me written complaints about his attitude and his inability to shut up in class. He doesn't walk around the place with his chin jutted up at a very slight but discernable angle that shows that he thinks he's a cut above the rest. He doesn't go up to you and make bitchy sly comments about what a pain Bleep is. (yes, she does this occasionally. The next time she does it I won't be very polite.) It makes me wonder what Bleep says about Jack to you, because you've never even taught him, unlike me with your daughter. Jack never mentions Bleep. She's not even on his radar. Yes, Mr Bleep, I'm very fortunate that Bleep's nothing like Jack. How glad I am that you can see the difference between the two."
(Don't get me wrong. I actually don't mind Bleep in a lot of ways. She's a nice enough kid when she wants to be, and she has a good sense of humour. But she's certainly not vastly superior to Jack. Or anyone else in year 10, come to think of it. It's just that I'm a bit miffed at Mr Bleep at the moment.)
Fortunately for the sake of good working relations I have manners. I smiled politely and we kept talking, then I ducked back in to my tutoring kid to see if she'd finished her story.
I know it was only an off the cuff comment, and he meant it as a joke..... well, half meant it as a joke...we get along really well and I like him a lot.....
but there was something in the delivery that I really don't like.
I don't think I make comments about other people's kids to them with an undercurrent of criticism and dislike. I've discovered that I really don't appreciate being the recipient of remarks like that. As I said, my feathers are a bit ruffled. I understand that Bleep is probably the president of the "I Hate Jack " club, and that her dad is probably an honorary member. That's fine. I approve of family loyalty. But don't expect me to join in with jokes that cut him down. I'm not a card carrying member of that club. Never will be.
Now I wish I didn't duck out into the hall to make his day brighter with a remark about his other kid, the one with no pseudonym. Next time I think I'll keep it to myself.
Whinge over. And out.

I was going to live forever...

I went on a site this morning and did a life expectancy test. My ambition/goal has always been to live to 120 with all my brains (such as they are) and body intact.
Imagine my distress when it said I was only going to live to 89.
What a gyp! In the title it already promises me 100 years. What's going on?

Apparently exercise is fairly important, and I don't do any. That may be why Molly's rump is looking a bit matronly. (I'm too scared to look at mine now, after doing this test. But hey! I'm sure it's delightful.....)

I drink a glass of wine too many on some nights. I already knew that, so I'll cop that one on the chin.

But coffee. Coffee. I have 3 cups in the morning before work, 1 when I get there and then that's it. Except sometimes I have one at recess if I want to. I'll cut that one out. Then I drink water for the rest of the day. I used to drink about 12 cups of coffee a day when I was at home with little kids. (I was jazzed, baby!) Do I get credit for cutting down? Oh I don't think so. I get the cyber finger waved at me and get told the benefits of switching to green tea. Now I don't mind the odd cup of green tea. I prefer it to normal tea. But I don't think that waking up to the insipid aroma of a cup of tea is going to feel anywhere near as good as smelling the full blooded richness of that first cup of coffee in the morning. Or second. And I'm only drinking instant coffee. I'd probably be even more outraged at the prospect if I was a coffee bean pers

I'm back. There's something screwy going on here. I think that the computer doctor guy has installed something on my computer to make me smarten myself up. I just spilled my second cup of coffee all over the table next to the computer. I'm not making this up. There was coffee under the modem, all around the phone and dripping down the back among the power cords. I've got towels everywhere, mopping it up. I have my coffee black, no sugar, and it's making the towels a yucky smelling brown colour. How come it smells so lovely when you're about to drink it, and so horrible when you're frantically trying to mop it up before you electrocute yourself?

Should I be freaked out? Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something. Maybe I shouldn't have bought the coasters from Phuket that have a lip on them. (That's what caused it. I put the cup down on it without making sure that it was centred.) Or maybe that doctor guy who is at the top of each page of the test isn't just a simple picture. Maybe he was looking at me, watching me slurp down my morning cuppa with evident enjoyment and decided to make an example of me. I didn't think to check to see if his eyes moved when I did....

I'm still not giving up coffee. The cup's empty now, so what else can he do? Except give me a heart attack or something, but I'm prepared to risk that......

He should cut me some slack. I don't do drugs, eat (much) crappy food or have risky sex. (Who knew being celibate was good for me? I guess millions of nuns and priests over the centuries were on to a good thing after all. Who knew? This break from dating could add YEARS to my life.)

Take the test. I dare you. It's actually pretty detailed and it's got a lot of good stuff in it. It doesn't take long to do. Take the test, pop back and we'll compare ages that we're going to cark it. It'll be fun. Maybe we could start planning our funerals. The kids have already told me that if I get run over by a bus or something they're going to have the theme music from 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' playing as my coffin glides out of sight towards the crematorium fires. I thought that was a brilliant idea. Go on! Do it! Just make sure you remove your drug of choice from where the computer is before you start.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Out for blood.

The house is up early this morning. It's all my fault.

I was chipping away at the old novel because I woke at 5am and couldn't submerge back down into sleep. At 6 I decided that it was time to feed the animals, so I passed the chicken wings out to the dogs and put the chicken necks on plates and served the cats in the laundry. So far so good.

I always leave the back door shut until the cats have finished, otherwise the dogs will come in and demolish the lot. So when the cats saunter out into the lounge, I get up from the computer, switch the kettle on for another cup of coffee and go to the back door and open it. The dogs surge in. There isn't much room because I've got a huge pile of clean washing that has to be folded near the back door, so I step politely back to let Molly and Murphy through, and in doing so step squarely on Daphne's foot.

She lets out a blood curdling sound the like of which I've rarely heard, and as soon as I realise and step off her foot, she shoots past Maris and into the lounge room. Maris, meanwhile, assumes that the dogs are attacking, and goes in for the kill.
The poor dogs, intent on reaching the laundry to clean up any minuscule scraps of chicken neck the cats might've left, suddenly realise they're heading straight into a full blooded attack, and start yelping and trying to retreat. I'm in the way. Maris herds them towards me, spitting and clawing. The sound is incredible.

I react like the pacifist I am and kick out at Maris, yelling, "Stop it! It was me, you idiot!" which didn't seem to defuse the situation much, even though it was true. Murphy is terrified and tries to crawl up my leg. Maris bypasses Molly and keeps coming, batting at Murphy and hissing until my foot connects with her and she shoots around the other side of the island bench.
The dogs come for comfort and I pat them. Maris, meanwhile, emerges from the other side of the bench and balefully regards them. It's clear who she blames for the upset. I try talking to her but she goes outside. All puffed up and in a huff. Daphne is nowhere visible. I follow Maris outside, but when the dogs come too Maris slinks under the steps. She lets Molly go down, but when Murphy follows she sticks her paw out from between the steps and has another go at him.

It's clear she's a Scorpio. She'll get her revenge.

When I go back inside, Molly follows, but Murphy is too scared to come back up the steps. Finally he makes a run for it. They curl up together in their basket in the lounge.

As I was typing this, Maris came inside, smooching and asking for pats. She'd shrunk back to her normal size. She looked at the dogs in the basket, and walked over to them. I could see Murphy, at the front, tense up. Molly just opened and closed her eyes again. Maris touched noses with Murph, then turned and walked away. What an idiot. (In the photo Maris is the one with the glowing eyes. )

Monday, November 12, 2007

Crime in our quiet suburbs.

This palm was right near our apartment in Phuket. I liked it because of the square ends on the fronds. I've never seen this before. It looks as if someone has snuck out in the dead of night with pinking shears and done some creative gardening, doesn't it? (Or maybe that's just me who thinks like that....)
Big news last night. My Dad caught a burglar!!! Seriously.
(I mean... seriously... I'm not joking. Not that he caught her without a smile on his face. Though now that I come to think about it, that's probably true as well. )
She broke into the house next door, and was coming out of the front door as the owners arrived home. How lucky was that? The old guy grappled with her, but she fought him off and raced down the street. The guy came running next door to Mum and Dad's place. Dad, being a bit of an impetuous Aries, jumped in his car and went off looking for her while Mum rang the police with a description. Of her, not him.
Dad drove around, couldn't see her, and was on his way home when there she was, trying to hitch a lift. He pulled up, she started to walk over, then a police car pulled up behind him. Dad leaped out, pointed to her and yelled, "She's the one you're looking for!"
She started to protest, but the cop wasn't going to have a bar of it, so away she went in the divvy van. Now Mum and Dad are a bit worried that she'll target their place. The police said that she was so off her face with drugs that she probably wouldn't remember which street she was in, so let's hope that's true. But what a bit of excitement! They came around here to tell us, so I broke out the champagne and we all got tipsy. Just what I needed after all of that spinach chopping.
Now I'm going to take Brennan down to Spotlight for some wool. He's been wanting to learn how to knit for ages, so I'll give him a surprise and let him start. He'll be rapt.