Tag Archives: school

Weekend Coffee Share…3rd February, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, you’re in luck. You can have a slice of piping hot Peach Upside Down Cake with a scoop of creamy Vanilla ice cream with your choice of tea, coffee or whatever. I don’t know what possessed me to go baking tonight when the kitchen was already a bomb zone and the dishwasher is broken and the teenage substitutes are unreliable at best. Indeed, I suspect they have a few faulty circuits. However, being Sunday night, I felt the call of the Sunday roast, which thanks to still going through the Christmas ham, I decided to make a special dessert instead.

Peach Cake

Peach Upside Down Cake…Yum!

Last week was momentous. One by one, the rest of the family fell like dominoes returning to the real world. Tuesday, Geoff was back to work. Wednesday, our son was back to school and is now in Year 10. Our daughter had the longest reprieve. She went back to school for only one day on Friday and then she was off for the weekend again. It’s a tough life.

Jonathon & Amelia

Back to school 2019.kwr

By the way, it was funny seeing photo after photo of kids of all ages, shapes and sizes heading back to school. Themes and variations. Parents should warn their kids that if they don’t smile at the camera or worse still, they frown, cry, snarl or make a stupid face, it’s going to spread like gastro all around the world wide web and haunt them forever. Facebook never forgets. It bringing these things back from the deepest depths of its memory and no parent can resist clicking share and making the bad photo do the rounds again.

Zac & Amelia reading

Even the poor dog has homework. However, he soon nodded off and went to sleep.

Anyway, we got through the first week of term one. I can tick that one off. How many to go? Can I stick my head in the sand now? Or, do I really have to face another school year.

Last night, I revisited my parents’ old holiday house at Sydney’s Palm Beach going through masses of photos and posted two of them:

Girl on the Sand

Above: Footprints Running Through Sand

Driving Through the Clouds

Making Tracks.

Meanwhile, I participated in Friday Fictioneers again. This week’s photo prompt featured a tee pee, and took me into the realms of Native Americans, which was right out of my league as an Australian who has never been to America and has a healthy respect for Indigenous cultures. I wanted to show respect and came very close to skipping this week. My piece was called: Natural Justice and also raised some interesting issues about how to view historic literature through our modern day concepts of equality and social justice.

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Gosford Sailing Club.

For Thursday Doors, I featured Gosford Sailing Club. Both my husband and son are sailing members and I am hoping to be able to start sailing soon myself.

Well, how was your week? I hope you’ve had a great one.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

The Red Tree of Bangalow, NSW.

“There is a shade of red for every woman.”

-Audrey Hepburn

Please don’t mention red trees to my husband. Once when we were driving around Byron Bay, I kept pointing out red trees and wondering out loud what type of tree it was, which resulted in years of stirring and him or the kids pointing to every red tree we came across and calling out: “Red tree!!” I would’ve thought a bit of passion and enthusiasm was a good thing, but clearly you’re supposed to hide your love away. Be more contained.

“Red has guts …. deep, strong, dramatic. A geranium red. A Goya red … to be used like gold for furnishing a house … for clothes, it is strong, like black or white.”

–Valentino

Anyway, as soon as I drove into Bangalow on our recent holiday, I spotted the beautiful bright red tree in the grounds of Bangalow Public School. Indeed, I’m lucky I didn’t drive off the road. Red trees have that kind of effect on me, not unlike Chris de Burgh and his Lady in Red:

“Trees do not preach learning and precepts. They preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.” 
―  Herman Hesse

 

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The Red tree viewed through the school gates. 

For those of you for whom the name “red tree” is woefully insufficient, and you need to know the official scientific names of trees, this is an Illawarra Flame Tree or Currajong.

It grows up to 35 m in the wild but only about 10m in gardens. The bright red bell-shaped flowers grow in clusters at the end of branches, often after the leaves have dropped, giving the plant a distinctive look. It is a deciduous tree that is often found growing alongside the Red Cedar in lowland rainforest habitat.

A few months after the jettisoning of the leaves, the tree produces masses of bell-shaped vivid scarlet flowers. They do not always flower annually and put on their best display maybe only once every five years, especially after a hot dry summer. In between these times, they may only produce one or two branches of flowers on the whole tree.

It produces a tough leathery dark-brown seed pod, containing rows of corn-like seeds that are surrounded by hairs that will irritate the skin and nose and throat if inhaled. They are toxic to many native animals and birds.

Backyard Buddies

 

red tree flowers

The twists and turns of these dazzling red flowers is so intriguing. I could stare at them for hours grappling with their idiosyncrasies. 

“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky. ”
―   Kahlil Gibran

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“Put on your red shoes, and dance the blues away322222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666.”

David Bowie

 

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“Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing. You are just talking.” 
― 
Wangari Maathai

 

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

-Abraham Lincoln

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These root protuberances reminded me of chicken feet. 

“I am old enough to know that a red carpet is just a rug.”

Al Gore

Dead…Not Buried…Friday Fictioneers.

All Deborah had ever wanted, was to hear her mother say: “I love you”. Yet, the words had never come, and now it was too late. She could only forgive. After her father shot through, Debbie was always branded “a mistake” and became her mother’s scapegoat. Indeed, when she was five, Debbie was surprised her mother didn’t drown her along with the unwanted litter of kittens. However, she was now a successful crown prosecutor, married with a family of her own. Yet, she never let go of Sally… the precious friend who shared her Vegemite sandwiches, and opened her heart.

….

100 words exactly.

Goodness knows what prompted this tale of desperate hardship after spending a wonderful Christmas with my family. By the way, by “family”, I mean a group of about 20-30 of aunts, uncles, cousins etc and that was after a chaotic few hours at home  with mad present openings and the kids and pups chasing balloons around the kitchen. However, it is also a time of year when you do become aware of those who are doing it tough and didn’t have their lives served up on a silver platter.

We hope you and yours had a Merry and Blessed Christmas. “Happy Holidays” is more of an American saying, and not something we say in Australia and yet I acknowledge there is a place for it. It just feels a bit weird for me to use it myself. However, we all come together when it comes to wishing each other a Happy New Year. I am still working on my resolutions but they’re coming and I’ll be waiting until school goers back in February to implement them.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields, where we write up to 100 words to a provided photo prompt. PHOTO PROMPT © Randy Mazie

Best wishes,

Rowena

Speech Day 1928: The Life Lessons My Grandfather Heard.

As a woman, it’s already difficult to put myself in my grandfather’s shoes and know what it’s like to be a man. Moreover, not having a contraption like the Tardis to travel back in time, it’s also hard to rewind the clock back to 1928 when my grandfather left school as an 18 year old.My grandfather was also Catholic and attending Waverley College in Sydney, which is run by the Christian Brothers. Back at this point in time, there was a great divide between protestants and Catholics which I find hard to imagine these days, although its still rippling away under the surface.

Papa Curtin with Rowena 1969

My grandfather and I. 

Yet, almost 60 years later, I was also sitting at the back of the school assembly hall not paying much attention to what was being said. So, despite all these glaring differences, we were probably not all that different and had very much in common. The transition from the cloister of school into the next chapter has always been a big step.Yet, generation after generation, has gone before us. We were not alone. We have never been the first generation stepping out there trying to find out way, which I now find largely reassuring.  and I guess you just have to hope that most of them eventually found their way and as George Bernard Shaw said:

Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful.”

Being a by-product of my own generation, these attempts to walk in my grandfather’s shoes, have taken me back to one of the greatest movies of all time: Dead Poet’s Society, (Indeed, it would be my favourite if Casablanca hadn’t got there first!)  For those of you already replaying the movie in your heads, I’m reminded of that scene where English teacher John Keating played by our very much loved friend and mentor, Robin Williams, is looking at the portraits of ex-students on the wall and says:

“They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because you see, gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen. You hear it?… Carpe… Hear it?… Carpe. Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

-Dead Poet’s Society

As it turns out, I have been able to read the words my grandfather would have heard courtesy of the old newspapers which are now online. Eerily enough, these words actually have a Dead Poet’s Society feel about them, as most of these end of school speeches do. By the way, my grandfather had attended Waverley College, Sydney run by the Christian Brothers and the Address was given by Archbishop Sheehan:

Archbishop Michael Sheehan.

“Your years of youth, my dear boys, are very precious. It is the time in which you build for the future. The opportunities which are now close to your hands will, if neglected, never come within your reach again. Your greatest enemy is the spirit of ill-will and idleness; your best friend is the spirit of obedience and industry.

Your whole life from childhood to death is a warfare, a struggle against temptation. Every victory you gain over yourselves and over the powers of darkness brings with it a strengthening of your will, a strengthening of your character. 

The process of building therefore of which I spoke a moment ago means more than piecing together the divers kinds of knowledge. Let us put it in this way: your task is not only to build for your-selves the house of knowledge, but also and much more to build firm and strong the fortress of the will.

‘How will you take these few words from me? I know boys too well not be be conscious that they listen to old people like myself with a certain amount of patronage, and with a secret feeling that we are out of date and possibly suffering from a touch of dotage, and that therefore any advice of ours is to be taken with a good grain of salt.

Well, it may shake you a bit to hear that the boys of every generation have had exactly the same thoughts, and that when they grew up they found their mistake. One of the chief temptations of your time of life comes from a kind of pride, from a tendency to underrate the advice of the more experienced.’ His Grace concluded by again congratulating the Brothers and the boys on a most successful year, and wished all present the blessings of the Christmas season.” Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW : 1895 – 1942), Thursday 5 January 1928, page 25

Whether you agree with the Catholic ethos or not, I found good wisdom in there. The Archbishop, who’d been born on the 17th December, 1870 at Waterford in Ireland, did a pretty good job of crawling into the boys’ shoes, seeing himself through their eyes and hopefully captured their attention. In his roundabout way, he first encouraged the boys to listen to their elders and hopefully thus avoid some of life’s predictable potholes. He also wanted them to have a heart, a love of God and be living breathing humans. He didn’t want them to be walking encyclopaedias, robots or money-making machines.  He wanted each and every one of those boys to have a rich and complex life. Catholic or not, there’s a lot of good advice to hold onto there and you can adjust it to suit your personal creed.

There’s one thing I’d particularly like add.

That is the importance of family, close friends and having meaningful relationships, which you carry with you throughout your life. Having lived overseas and travelled, I know what it’s like to be that random atom drifting through space where no one knows you, your history, or your family. Moreover, as an Australian living in Germany, there was only the odd person who knew what an Australian was either and I got away with a bit under that heading too.

While there can be real freedom and liberation in flying away from all those ties, I felt quite lost without them too. There’s a lot to be said for having shared memories within a close community where you can bump into an old friend down the street and have those shared experiences, insights and memories. We have been living in our home for something like 18 years. That’s really crept up on us and initially, it took a long time to get established. However, I now have a genuine, informed interest in the people around me. This has nothing to do with career, paying off the mortgage or even putting food on the table. However, there’s food we don’t eat and we also have to cater for our souls.

What would your advice be to a young person leaving school at the end of 2018? Any regrets? Anything you did or observed that worked well and you’d like to pass on? We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I thought I’d better point out that these young men left school the year before the 1929 Fall of Wall Street. The Wall Street Crash of 1929, also known as the Stock Market Crash of 1929 or the Great Crash, started on October 24 (“Black Thursday”) and continued until October 29, 1929 (“Black Tuesday”), when share prices on the New York Stock Exchange collapsed. The crash, which followed the London Stock Exchange’s crash of September, signalled the beginning of the 12-year Great Depression that affected all Western industrialized countries. Wikipaedia These same men could well have fought or enlisted in WWII having had their own fathers serve in WWI. They didn’t have it easy.

 

Belated Weekend Coffee Share… 25th June, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s now Monday night here, so I hope you’ve have a great weekend . Although I’m turning up rather late this week, hopefully a few stragglers would still like to join me and keep the coffee and conversation flowing.

How was your week? Do you have any stories you’d like to share?

Well, I had a busy week and much of it was rather annoying because it involved medical appointments. I had one in Sydney, one locally with my GP and was back to the GP for an iron infusion on Friday, which will hopefully turn me into Popeye the Sailor Woman in a few weeks’ time once it’s take effect. These medical appointments weren’t such a big deal, and it was more a case of one appointment generating another and then they seem to breed like rabbits for a bit. However, fortunately they largely retreat back into their hidey holes much of the time these days and only reach this kind of frequency very occasionally.

After my doctor’s appointment on Monday, I headed down to Kirribilli for a coffee and set myself up with my notebook and started randomly writing. I love downloading my soul in pen on paper like this in a rustic old cafe, and it also feels so good for the soul to get all that stuff out as well.

Last week, the kids’ school held their annual Variety Concert over two nights. Our daughter danced on Tuesday night and our son was on lights the first night and backstage the next. What with having to drop him back and forth, my daughter and I also decided to watch the second concert as well. I’m really glad we did, not only because the acts were so good and we enjoyed some incredible entertainment, but also because I hope by being there, we might’ve encouraged some young performers. It’s very rare that you ever hear anything about being a “talented audience”. I’ve personally put in many years learning the piano, ballet and the violin, but no one even sat me down and encouraged me to learn how to be a productive member of the audience and be more than just a bum on a seat. Of course, my mother taught me not to crinkle lolly wrappers and not to cough, go to the toilet or talk during a performance and these days we also need to ensure we switch our omnipresent phones to silent. However, these things are more about the etiquette of being in the audience, rather than really getting into it. You can applaud with gusto and enthusiasm. Smile. Better still, you can compliment the performer afterwards, ideally pointing to something specific so they know you mean it and you payed attention. You see, while the performer’s talent might seem very obvious to you and that you might expect them to be egotistical and full of themselves, quite often I find the reverse is quite true. That many highly talented performers are perfectionists. Perfectionism is a state which can never be reached, and so far too many live with an agonising sense of their weaknesses and mistakes, rather than their incredible abilities to take everyone around them on a magical flight to someplace else, or even deeper within their soul.

Anyway, I digress. I am rather prone to philosophizing, and I guess sharing philosophical ideas over coffee is nothing new.

While I don’t really see getting around my local area as “travelling” per se, the beauty about blogging with people from all around the world, is that my own backyard become exotic. My backyard to travelling to you.

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Our local Beach during Winter.

Anyway, last Saturday Geoff’s sister from Queensland came down for a visit along with her son who has been living in Canada or the US for over 15 years. So, we met up with them at a local cafe and then decided he should see more of his own country before he heads back and took him for a drive to Patonga, which is located on the Hawkesbury River about 15 minutes drive away through the bush and round some fairly twisty bends. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to Patonga, and I’ve really get to ask myself why I don’t get out and see more of the local environment when I’m surrounded by glorious beaches, stunning coastal views and the great Aussie bush. I guess, like for most of us, life gets in the way. There always seems to be so much to get done and so much of that really isn’t exciting either. It’s little more than crossing stuff off the list, but I know from past experience that ignoring it only makes it worse.

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Fishing Boats at Patonga.

Well, I guess it’s time to wrap things up here. I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit and I look forward to popping round and touching base with you as well.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Back to the Real World…a new school year.

It was the massive jolt that had to happen. The kids went back to school this week and the dreaded inevitable hit me like a Mac truck, as we switched from Holiday Mode to School Time looking and feeling like the zombie apocalyse.

Waking up at 7.00AM again was brutal. We’ve mastered the sleep-in over the break and while the kids went off on a few camps, I stayed put often staggering out of bed at lunch time, making the most of an empty diary.

While I’m sounding like a human sloth, I’ve actually spent much of the holidays trying to get the kids, house, bedrooms ready for the new school year. In keeping with my belief that we are reborn on January 1st each year, I knew it was entirely possible that we could pull off the seemingly miraculous. That can all be encapsulated in one simple word…ORGANIZED.

Unfortunately, being organized for school isn’t as easy as it seems. It’s not as simple as making sure they have their uniforms, shoes and socks all set out. Of course, they also need the laptop, pen, paper, books, backpack. But that’s not the end of the list either.

“Wait. There’s more!” Since we’re going back to school, I can’t throw in a set of steak knives. That said, school wouldn’t be school without a metaphorical knife in the back, more likely from a friend you’ve loved and trusted, rather than the proverbial bully. Most of us are also pretty good at shooting ourselves in the foot too.

Going back to school is also about a place for everything and everything in it’s place, which means a clean, neat and tidy bedroom…and kitchen table for many of us and some way of making sure the dog doesn’t eat the kids’ homework as well.

That’s just the stuff you need to get sorted before the kids have walked through the gate.

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It’s only been a couple of days and all the gumph hasn’t come home yet. This has given me the chance to do what I fully intended to do two years ago when our son started high school. That is, draw up a grid showing the weeks of term on one side and the subjects on the other side. When I’d finished, I printed it out and suddenly my mind went blank. What was I supposed to do with it now? How were the kids supposed to use it? I had no idea. My mind went blank…an empty whiteboard with all of it’s circuits removed.

It was time to phone a friend.

I don’t know about you but how often to you come up with these wizz bang systems but don’t know how to implement them? How to convert dreams/plans into action?

I’m the master. A frequent visitor to organizing stationery shop Kiki K, I have all the tools to plan my week, menu, set goals, and even fly to the moon. Well, that is, if only I could ever get started.

Anyway, the subject grid is now sorted and we’ll write the big assignments and tests in there so we can trouble shoot and plan ahead instead of falling in a screaming heap, which has been our usual modus operandi. With both the kids in high school now, this planning will also help us identify times when they’re both going to be hitting the panic button and we can hopefully prevent a monumental meltdown x 2. After all, each of the kids isn’t living in isolation, but as part of a family and by getting the family machine well greased and in peak fitness, hopefully it will support them. Bring out their best. I feel it’s been holding them back in the past with four individuals coming and going and all sorts of unexpected hazards side swiping us while absorbed in something else.

Clock Sculpture Paris

This brings me onto what is a bit of a swear word around here…time management. How do you help them complete tasks in a timely manner? This has been a real struggle for me and this is what inevitable takes me into Kiki K.pomodoro timer

 

Recently, I was put onto a time management system called the Pomodoro Technique. This uses a tomato-shaped timer which you set for 22 minutes and then you focus on one task during this time. If you have an idea about soemthing else during this time, you jot it down on a post it note and keep going on the original task. When the time’s up, you can take a 5 minutes break. After four consecutive sessions, you can take a 20 minutes break. I spoke to my son’s teacher and she said that they basically do this and they call these 5 minutes breaks: “Brain breaks”. I also use a device called a Time Timer, which is a visual clock and shows how much time you have left in red and you can immediately see how much time you have left and can plan accordingly.

Yet, along with all this organization and the home study machine, we still need to have fun. We still need chaos, antics, laughter because we’re not machines.

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For better or worse, our dogs are very good distractors, comedy and stress relief while also adding fuel to the fire. Today, Rosie one of our 6 month of Border Collie x Kelpie pups, helped herself to a fluoro pink highlighter out of the pen jar on the kitchen table and chewed the thing to death. There was literally a pool of pink ink on the kitchen floor and splashes of ink on her paws. She was a very naughty girl, but she looked so funny that I had to laugh and photograph the proof.

I also went for a swim at the beach this week and it was so therapeutic just to feel the stress fall off my shoulders and drift far out to sea. Phew! What a relief.

A relief and a reminder that it’s all too easy to get too wound up and perfectionistic about all of this. Being organized is good, but it needs to serve a purpose and there comes a point where you have done enough and it’s time to let go. Step back. How far back, I guess depends on how the kids respond. However, experience to date, has shown the need to keep checking back in and knowing when those deadlines are coming up, even if it;s only to prevent a serious bout of gastro, asthma or the like leading to extended absences and avoidance.

It could also be helpful to reflect on our own less than perfect school days and give the kids a breather. They’re not 40 or 50 something and tackling their high school days for the second time. Rather, they’re teenagers on their first way through who also need to learn from their mistaks and find their own way through. By doing everything for them, it removes responsibility, and doesn’t allow them to think for themselves, which could well have greater long term consequences than a few late assignments.

So, as you can see navigating your way through the whole parent teen study thing is riddled with contradictions, but defintiely worth thinking about and not simply going with the flow to give your children the best chance of doing their best.

I would love to hear any tips you might have as either a parent, teacher or student which may be beneficial.

xx Rowena

 

Starting High School’s Eve

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

Tomorrow morning, our “baby girl” starts high school. While this is something we’ve been working towards for some time, I still have this sense of impending doom. That we’ve forgotten something. That we’ve forgotten something of earth-shattering significance. The sort of thing that crippling anxious nightmares are made of. Sleeping through the alarm. No uniform. No shoes. What about what’s for lunch, packing and actually eating it?

High school is going to be a piece of cake compared to getting out our front door and as much as I’ve hoped for the best and prepared for the worst, I have this awful sinking feeling, that we’re doomed. To quote someone very dear to me: “That we were born under an unlucky star”.

Indeed, perhaps there’s no point even getting out of bed, and we can try again next year.

Thank goodness my alter-ego pushed that anxious sod off her perch and confiscated her scrapbook of memories as well.

Of course, you can’t turn up at the high school gate with a swag of baby photos and snaps of firsts to share with the other parents…Mum’s Bragbook. OMG! Talk about taking uncool to such unprecedented heights, that even I who is eternally impervious to embarrassment, would be cringing in my boots forever more.

I could never show my face again.

That’s if I was still alive after such an escapade. If my daughter didn’t kill me, I’d have to kill myself…or lock myself up in a crate addressed to deepest darkest Africa, or even post myself to Mars.

I guess this also reminds me that Mummy’s not allowed to cry. Mum has to be strong. Smile, wave and not cling onto my little girl like a limpet trying to stop her from growing up and stepping out the front door without me.

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Our Son’s Starts High School Two Years Ago in 2016.

Really, tomorrow’s just another day and it’s not like we don’t know the place. No, her big brother’s paved the way and for better or worse, we’re known at the school. Our daughter hasn’t been going to school locally for the last two years, so hasn’t really been round the traps but she’ll know a lot of the kids from her last school and round about. She’s also in a selective dance class within the performing arts and will automaticlly land on her feet with a few extra moves thrown in just because she can.

So, of course, tomorrow is going to be fine.

 

This is the broken record that I should be playing over and over in my head instead of feeling crippled by this shapeless, formless, sense of impeding doom.

After all, we’ve crossed the i’s dotted the t’s and like a airline pilot, double-checked that the hatches are shut. (See I told you things were a bit skewiff around here.)

How hard can it be to get one kid around the corner?

Or should I say, how easy!

After all:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Lao Tzu

footprints on the beach

I’ll be back tomorrow to let you know how it all went.

Fingers and toes crossed!

xx Rowena