Sunday, May 3, 2015

Placement life ends

Three weeks of placement - done. As I mentioned two weeks ago, it's been amazing and immense and crazy and overwhelming and exhausting.

The last week seemed filled with even more of all of the above.
  • Taking over a hundred year nines to the Shrine of Remembrance;
  • Discovering connections to teenage terrorists;
  • Administering the year 12s SAC (School Assessed Coursework) - this would have been easy-peasy except it was their 'Issues' exam on persuasive writing techniques... and their issue was the Bali executions, and their SAC was first thing on the morning of the actual execution;
  • Adminstering the second SAC and watching a boy's hands shake for the full exam;
  • Doing a professional development course on mental illness and discovering just how many kids are self harming in the school;
  • Reading through the World War 1 trench diaries the year nines wrote as part of my class;
  • Handing out last term's reports;
  • Watching a year nine student, who had refused to write a single word in my English class, spend a French class on task, drawing the most incredibly beautiful pictures for the full period - and realising I just hadn't been speaking his language;
  • Getting a cheer from the other teachers for answering two of the questions in the daily lunchroom quiz (in competition with the other campus) - Rastamouse and cauliflower for the win.
  • Feeling disappointed in my mentor's report because she ticked 'developing' instead of 'NA' for things I had no opportunity to do. 
It'll be interesting to see how much has change, how much I've changed, when we all head back in September for round two. In the meantime there are papers to collate, observations to transcribe, research to be done, assignments to write, more HDs to earn.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Be peaceful. And remember.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
                                      Lawrence Binion
Do something better today than getting piss drunk and calling that honouring sacrifice. Do something that helps us prevent this from happening again. Be peaceful. And remember.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Placement life

I've just finished my first week of teaching placement. I'm observing and teaching year 9s and year 12s and the experience is amazing and immense and crazy and overwhelming and exhausting.

Dear Boy's just finished his first ever full week of childcare. Luckily, they do yoga on Fridays, so he got a little respite from all that playing.

Throw in working my regular job at night to make sure the various balls over there stay in the air and it's been a cray-cray week.

One week down. Two more weeks to go. 

Then it's assignment time. Six due in five weeks, half of which Lovely Husband is going to be overseas, circumnavigating the globe in a string of research visits and conferences that ends in Hawaii.

Yeah, Hawaii. That one hurts.

In the meantime, the dishes are undone and what clean laundry there is remains in a heap on the lounge chair, and sometimes it's cereal for dinner because I burnt the good thing with actual veggies in it. The rain is falling outside the window and Dear Boy asked me tonight to lay down on his bed while he fell asleep so the monsters don't eat his hair.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Crafting for a cause: Bunnies for Mirabel

A few weeks ago we packaged up a pile of long-eared and red-cheeked bunnies and sent them off to Meet Me At Mike's and The Mirabel Foundation. It was an Easter Bunanaza, in the same vein as Softies for Mirabel at Christmastime, delivering homemade softies to Mirabel kids who have been orphaned or abandoned because of parental drug and alcohol abuse. Each year (on top of all the other good things they do), the folks at The Mirabel Foundation throw the kids and their families an Easter party with egg hunts and good food and lots of bunnies.

We've made softies at Christmas for a few years now but this is our first Easter Bunanaza. This time, Dear Boy helped. It's not child-labour if it's for charity, right? He stuffed bunnies full of filler and love, then gave them all big cuddles once they were stitched up. Because softies made with love in this house are delivered preloaded with cuddles. That's what softies are for, after all.

And once they were chock full of love, softies just gotta dance.


Thanks to Meet Me at Mike's and The Mirabel Foundation for all the work you do. And thanks for giving me an opportunity to show Dear Boy that there's joy in giving and helping other people.

You can catch a glimpse of our bunnies in the final line-up. Can you spot them? How awesome are a clutch of bunny softies?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Outdoor adventures: Fire!

We did a day trip into the hills for a bushwalk and lunch over a fire. We walked along a dry riverbed and collected bundles of sticks. I'll admit it: I nearly had kittens the entire time Dear Boy was near the fire. Part of the idea of these outdoor adventures is to build his sense of curiosity, his confidence and introduce more risky play into his thoroughly (sub)urban life.

He thought it was great; I had visions of him faceplanting into the flames.

It was very hard not to hold his hand, put out a barring arm, or pull him back. But how else does he learn his own limits and his own ways of being safe other than getting close enough to feel his eyeballs dry out or his skin feel uncomfortably warm? How else will he learn a stick will catch alight and he'll need to let it go? I can tell him, but the experience of it is much more powerful. It's certainly a powerful lesson for me in trusting him and letting him learn in his own way.

If anyone has any advice on providing risky play that's not going to end up in third degree burns, I'd love to hear it.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Outdoor adventures: Moomba Festival

I'm not entirely certainly why, but every time we plan to go to one of these festivals I completely forget about the number of other people who are planning on doing the exact same thing at the same time. I stupidly think 'oh, we can get lunch there' or 'we could arrive at 11:20 and go to the 11:30 show'. Oh, the naivete.

Moomba is a great festival with so many kid-friendly things to do, most of which are free. It's just that hundreds of thousands of people want to take advantage of all those awesome events and rides too.

After hitting the festival yesterday with not much besides a vague plan and a few spare pull-ups, here's my survival guide for a day festival/fun-fair.

  1. Don't trust the Bureau of Meterology. It will always, always be hotter or colder or wetter or drier than they say it will be. Don't be one of the thousands of hot, sweaty people in long pants and jumpers that I saw yesterday. Have clothing layers and sun and rain protection handy.
  2. Bring your own lunch. The queues are always going to hectic and unless you have a spare person to entertain a small child, don't even try. Bring your own food and some change for icy-poles or sweet treats after. There were quite a few ice-cream vendors around the festival and it was much quicker to get sweets than savoury. 
  3. Look at a map before you arrive. If you've brought a pram you might want to figure out where the non-stair paths are.You might also like to make sure you take a route via the toilets, just in case your toilet-training son is wearing undies.
  4. Arrive around an hour before any timed events. There will be people already ahead of you, so jump in a queue and wait. If you have a spare adult, let them queue so you can explore with the kids. If not, that might even be the time and place to have lunch.
  5. Take public transport but allow extra time. Everyone else will be on public transport too, so be patient and if you can, place yourself in the carriage closest to the ramps/lifts at your station if you have a pram.
  6. Bring cash. Rides, games and icy-poles were all cash-only.
Have you taken the kids to a festival/fun-fair lately? How'd they do?

Monday, March 2, 2015

The cranky lecturer's tips for reading a unit guide

 Taking on full-time study this semester, I am knee deep in unit guides. Every university has them although they may be called something else: guide, outline, synopsis, document (hell, your units might be called something else: subject, course, program, block, etc). Most of them are pretty bog standard and once you've read a couple, and it's easy to make the mistake of glossing straight over it. Having written a few, I know there are sometimes a few tricksy variations that can really bugger up a student's semester.

So here's my rough and ready guide to what you want to check out in a unit guide.

Contact details
Yeah, hi. You really should know who your coordinator/lecturer and tutor are (and how they spell their name). Your tutor's your first port of call for most situations (unless you need to complain about your tutor, in which case, ouch... contact your lecturer).

Learning outcomes
This is, ideally, what you're going to know by the end of semester. It might seem like something the lecturer puts on there to tick a box (it is) but it's also a really good gauge of the semester and how much you're going to have to hustle to meet those goals. If you already know or can do all those things, have a think about whether you need to be in the unit at all. Is there a more advanced version?

Semester schedule
There's usually a table with the whole class laid out for you week by week. Ours include the weekly topics/themes, due dates for assignment and where the semester breaks or public holidays fit into the scheme of things. Yours might also have tutorial questions you need to prepare, presentation topics, exam dates or study periods, practical components or placements or things along those lines. For me, the handiest thing about this is seeing everything in a 12-13 week timescale for the first time with the important semester dates all laid out.

All the official details about the assignments - the what, where, when, how and how much - will be in this section. I can't tell you enough how important it is to read this whole section and not just the highlights. The number of emails I received asking for details about assignments that were in the unit guide was mind-boggling - it's in the unit guide so your lecturer and tutor don't have to tell every student individually. Don't be surprised if you get a shirty email in response or get marks deducted from a half-arsed assignment if you clearly haven't read this section.

Assessment marking criteria
Not all units, but most, include an idea of the criteria or rubric they'll use to mark your work. Look at it. What is most heavily weighted? The critical analysis? The review of the literature? The quality of the written expression? These are usually big clues for what your lecturer/tutor want.

Assessment related policies
Most universities will clearly articulate or link to the assessment related policies close by the assessment details. These usually include rules about submission and return of assessments, getting worked remarked and plagiarism (what it is, how to avoid it and what happens if you're silly enough to do it anyway). It's also where the you find out about the rules and procedures for getting extensions or special consideration. Our Faculty used to have a blanket two-day extension policy for any student who asked for one (no reasons needed). Sooooo many students were caught out for the whole year after they revoked it. It was in the policy section of their unit guides but by then they'd given up reading it.

Required texts/additional texts
Yep, textbooks. Holy cow. I was lucky enough to avoid the monster textbook lists in my undergrad degree as we used readers prepared by the lecturer and sold at the cost of printing. Most of my classes this semester use a required/prescribed text and supplement that with readings that are digitsed and listed with the library. Some of the unit guides also supply a list of reccomended texts, which is a great place to start for any essay or assignment where you're required to go beyond the set readings. 

Week by week (optional)
I used to include a week-by-week synopsis of my units at the end of my unit guides, but it seems to be an optional extra. Some lecturers will give you a tonne of extra info here: readings, related readings, guides to the readings, tutorial questions, things to look out for, or information about where the topic sits in the overall scheme of the unit. These are all incredibly handy, especially for students coming to the university from a different language or learning background.

Overall, unit guides are great indicators of what's expected of you and how to perform well according to the standards of the lecturer or tutor. Read them, and after you've read a few, keep an eye out for the seemingly standard sections that can change without any warning.

Is there anything you wish was included in a unit guide?

Friday, February 27, 2015

His favourite song


Because the video of him singing AC/DC's 'Thunderstruck' was just that little bit too long. His other 'favourites' at the moment?

  • I love rock and roll - Joan Jett
  • You might think - The Cars
  • Bad to the bone - George Thoroughgood and the Destroyers
  • Route 66 - the John Meyer version
  • Real gone - Sheryl Crow
  • Sh-boom - The Chords
  • Fly - Jon Stevens
  • Love machine - The Miracles
  • Still I Fly - Spencer Lee
  • Bad romance - Lady Gaga
  • Cry (if you want to) - Holly Cole
  • Here comes the sun - The Beatles
  • You got a friend in me - Randy Newman
Now most of these appear on the soundtracks of his favourite movies, but I'm itching to make him his first mix tape (*cough* playlist).

Do your kids have a mixtape/playlist of adult songs?

Monday, February 23, 2015

It's O-week: what I won't be doing but probably should

Ah, Orientation-week.

From an academic's perspective this is when the relative peace of summer is shattered - gone are the long days of research and grant-writing and here is weird cacophony of a million students in the quad, searching for freebies and friends amidst the noise and haste. It's the week of rushing to get the late subject outlines out, setting up the online class sites, writing and re-writing the first lecture, preparing handouts, double-checking your lecture hall hasn't been double-booked by the Engineering faculty. Again.

From a student's perspective, especially a first year student's perspective, it's the mad slide in a largely unfamiliar world with largely unfamiliar people and largely unfamiliar tasks to perform. It's crazy and fun and scary and overwhelming and holy shitballs somebody pass me a paper bag to breathe into.

It's my first week back in coursework study in a long while. In fact, I haven't done the lecturer-student-assignment relationship from this side of the fence in 10 years. I should probably brush up a little. 

If it's your first time at uni, or your first time back in a loong time, O-week is well worth attending. It's both a week long party and hand-holding session: the academics and administrators run formal welcomes, the student services let you know what they can and can't offer, and the student organisations vie for your membership (or, you know, whatever, only if you want to).

Here's what you're expected to do in O-week from the official point of view:

It's time to get your studentcard
O-week is usually when the student service centres have express lanes to get through the million or so students who need photos taken and student cards processed. Check a mirror before you enter the queue, because you'll be living with that photo for a few years (and it'll also be available to your lecturers on a photo-roll so they can figure out who you are). I had to renew my staff card a few weeks ago so managed to do the student card thing early and avoid the rush.

It's time to buy textbooks
Ideally, you would have had access to your reading list weeks ago, but in reality academics won't post these things till the last possible minute, which will force you to buy your textbooks on campus at huge mark-ups instead of online.

It's time to put together your class schedule and study timetable
Bahahaha... no, really.

It's time to scope out where everything is
Sometimes the maps are unreadable or the thoroughfares newly blocked. Taking a campus tour looks and feels a bit dorky but it's pretty handy for knowing where the cheap eats are and avoiding being late to your first class.

It's time to take a library tour
These are handy not just to know where the books are (books? huh?) but they're also an introduction on how to find things within the virtual library. Never used PubMed or Expanded Academic ASAP,? Get thee on a library tour!

It's time to find out about all the support services
If you know you'll need additional support, this is when all the student services are out flaunting their wares. It's okay to just know what's available in case you need it, but you are usually expected to register with the Disability Liaison Units in O-week to save hassles and delays later. 

It's time to brush up on your study skills or learn how the big boys do it
Think you learned how to write an essay in high school? Yeah... no. Learning and assessment tends to be a different beast at the undergraduate and then again at the postgraduate level. Language is different, standards are different, policies are different. Just trust me that it's different. Most libraries or learning centres have a whole suite of classes and online tutorials to help make the leap in this new learning environment. Having been the big meanie with the red pen for the last 10 years and published academic works in that time, I'm reasonably confident I don't have much to brush up here.

It's time to get to know your Faculty-specific information and expectations
Each faculty tends to have their own unique structure and standard practices. This might be in terms of what phone number you call, where you submit essays, what referencing system you use, how you get special consideration, and so on. This will probably be the only event I'll attend because of work and the fact that it's the only bit that's really new for me - new Faculty, new modes of assessment, eeep!

And the less official stuff? Hoo boy.

It's time to booze it up
Der. It's the first week of university life. Of course, you're meant to spend it pissed and yelling about the current government's poor record on environmental protection (for the record, in my typing haste I left the r off 'poor' in that sentence. Still works).

It's time to join
Clubs! Groups! Societies! There are heaps of them for every flavour of the student rainbow. Nationalities, cultures, sexual orientations, sports, fandoms, study help, games, dressing up, taking it all off... I may or may not have met my Lovely Husband in one of these. Just saying.

It's time to join in
So many events and shows and lunches and protests. 

It's time to explore
Never been to Melbourne Gaol and tried on Ned Kelly's helmet; never paddled boarded on a dead-flat bay; never played chicken with a tram? If you're new to the city or never bothered to look around, most unis organise tourist-type events or trips to show off their home turf.

It's time to talk to strangers and make friends
Mostly O-week is a chance to start finding your tribe. Chances are your old friends aren't on this crazy ride with you and you've forgotten how to make new ones. It's easy: just say 'hi' to the person sitting next to you... if they launch into a drunken tirade about the current government's poo record on environmental protection and that's not your scene, try the next person.

Have you ever survived O-week? Any war stories or recommendations?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Outdoor adventures: an introduction to camping with kids

Over the weekend we eased ourselves into camping (and when I say 'we' I mean 'me' because I seemed to be the only person worried about it). I've never been camping proper - I never made it past Brownies; we didn't do it as a family and there was an aborted attempt with Lovely Husband in the early days but there was a small issue of missing poles from the borrowed tent. Needless to see, I was feeling a mite anxious about camping with a three year old.

So we I enlisted the help of my brother and sister-in-law, who are seasoned campers (and parents to my super-fresh, squeezy-cheeked nephew), to hold our my hand the first time and we went all-in and kitted ourselves with tent, camp stove and self-inflating mattresses when they were on super-sale. Lovely Husband stocked up on gadgets and I started making lists in my head.

My bro picked the place (a caravan park on Phillip Island) and we headed south east for an overnighter. They were cruisy and chill and I was a mess after a last-minute dash with Dear Boy to the doctor. All my plans for a cruisy and chill couple of hours to finish packing disappeared, so we I ended up getting super snappy and stress-sweaty - lovely - and forgetting things. Namely pillows.

We I forgot to bring pillows. Forehead slap.

Here's what else we forgot or didn't think to bring but might have been handy to have around:
  • sponge/scourer for the washing up
  • dish washing liquid (luckily the seasoned campers had plenty to share)
  • plastic/garbage bags
  • dustpan and brush (to try to keep some of the grass and sound out of the beds)
  • rubber mallet for the tent pegs (some of those suckers just couldn't be banged in with a shoe; again, seasoned campers to the rescue)
  • big container of water (to save multiple trips to the taps; yup, seasoned campers to the rescue)
  • some kind of bright, fleuro ties or markers for the tent pegs and guy ropes (the small person seemed blind to all of these)
  • pegs (we had wet towels slung on the back of chairs and over guy ropes - they mostly stayed damp)
  • cards or other simple entertainment
  • nibblies (because sitting around in camp chairs needs nibblies) 
  • books for bedtime for Dear Boy (he can live without everything else from home; we ended up scrounging a tiny old Mr Men board book from the car, but it just didn't cut it)
The pillows were the real killer; our mattresses were super comfy and I could live with the stereo-snoring from Lovely Husband and the guy in the tent next door but no pillows was wretched for getting a good night's sleep. Dear Boy coped fine.

Here's what else was fine even though I had some concerns about it beforehand:

Safety: Dear Boy getting out of the tent and disappearing without us realising (haha, no ninja skills could mask the sound of those zippers opening); that something would happen so close to the water (he wandered off to the fence line quite a bit but the worst thing that happened was his foot slipping down a little hole and he banged his chin - he also got a splinter but who knows where from); he'd burn himself on the camp stove and Trangia (he was curious but steered cleared after we told him it was hot).

Toilet training: the progress on toilet training would fly out the window (we set the potty up in the tent and he used it several times, Dear Boy isn't keen on peeing al fresco); how the hell do you clean a potty when you're camping?! (I'd found a pack of potty liners last week and threw them in at the last minute; any plastic bag would probably do, but it was super simple to lift off the potty seat, tie up the bag and toss it, no cleaning necessary).

Boredom: how to entertain a three year old while camping (we took a few small wheeled toys but he pretty much entertained himself, throwing leaves and sticks and stones into the water, chatting with his cousin; the only real problem was when he woke at the crack of dawn and wanted out of the tent befor eeveryone else was awake - if we'd had a small supply of books, this would've been easier); how to entertain adults while camping (the seasoned campers were right on the money with this one - you're usually busy with the business of camping - cooking, washing, exploring, etc, that you need the downtime to just sit around and chat, maybe play some cards).

Weather: I am no good sleeping when it's hot (we kept an eye on the BOM and were prepared to cancel if the temps got too high - ended up perfect weather though with warm days and cool nights - it was super hot and sweaty when we were putting the temp up but cooled down in the afternoon); rain and thunderstorms (both were predicted and I didn't want a wash-out to marr our first camping experience - we got some sprinkles but no downpour, and some mighty black cloud cover but no storm); too cold at night (I brought lots of blankets and socks).

Here are some of the tips from the seasoned campers and others hacks I found online that are worth passing on:
  • Bring a pair of gumboots for the kids for hanging around the campsite - these are super easy for littlies to pull on and off so helped stop grass getting tracked through the tent - plus good for walking on campsite bathroom floors and great if it rains, and better protection than thongs if they're bashing through the bush.
  • Bring socks and at least one set of opposite weather clothes - I remembered this for everyone else but forgot to pack myself a pair of shorts and sweltered; also cold feet in a tent, not fun.
  • Do lots of the food prep at home - chop the veg, cut the meat, etc.
  • Let the kids get dirty and stay dirty - saves on the stress, just wash their hands before eating.
  • Wipes and hand santiser -because you don't want dirty to become an invitation for bugs (of the gut or creepy-crawly variety).
  • Spray or wipe the tent zips with insect repellent (of the human friendly variety) so bugs don't come flying in after you every time you open the door.
  • Pick a place with something to do - the seasoned campers like spots near water and walking tracks.
  • Invest in earplugs if you're a light sleeper - tents offer no sound protection whatsoever. Whatsoever.
  • Camp chairs are worth their weight in gold - avoids bugs, wet bums, spilling food, etc.
  • Invest in a lidded tub or two - this keeps all your gear together so you can just throw it in the car and go - cookware, crockery and cutlery, fire lighters or matches, batteries, head torches, small tool kit, first aid kit, hand santiser, wipes, paper towel, and small containers of basics like oil, S&P, tea, etc.
We still need to figure out the esky situation - what the ultimate cooling methods are for short and long trips - do you buy the bag of ice, use ice bricks, bottles of frozen water, etc? (Maybe there's a 'science of...' post there) - and a few other things that weren't really an issue at a caravan park with all the mod cons nearby (wildlife, al fresco toileting, no running water, etc)... but we had a good time. Pillows certainly would have helped, but we still had a good time.

We're going again soon.

Are you a n00b or seasoned camper? I'd love to hear any tip or hacks or excellent camping spots (in Victoria) you want to share with us me (especially if you've got the answer to the esky situation).

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Nine things I wish I knew before toilet training kicked my butt

I'm not sure toilet training is any one's idea of fun. It's certainly not mine, although there are moments of hilarity and crazy, crazy laughter because if you can't laugh about the amount of wee on the carpet and the poo you've got to scrub off the undies, well, you'd probably cry.

We've been very relaxed about it, led by him because he was entirely uninterested in it and then, once he showed an interest, entirely disconnected from sensing his own body's needs. Then one day, at child care, he refused to put his pull-up on. Refused and demanded his Thomas undies that had been languishing at the bottom of his bag for months (hey, if they ain't used/dirty, don't mess with them). I was completely unprepared for it.

Now he suddenly looks like he's joined the Romanian gymnastics team, a little boy in a much bigger boy's body.

We have days with no accidents and days when I carry four plastic bags of wet clothes out of the child care. We have days with him jumping up and running to the bathroom by himself and days when I ask him if he needs to go and he looks at me for a minute and then shakes his head and a puddle forms at his feet (and inside his shoes).

Here are some things I wish I'd known or considered before we started:

  1. Go straight for a kid-seat on a big toilet (or just get them to use the big one from the get go). Cleaning poo out of a potty is a horror show much worse than simply changing a nappy.
  2. Not all undies are created equal. The size and cut varies wildly between brands and sizing for a little bum no longer in bulky nappies is confusing. If they're not comfy, it's going to set you back. If they don't have the right picture on the front, they might be rejected out of hand. Also, while super cute, the little shorts style undies don't do such a great job of holding anything in that may have accidently come out. Just sayin'.
  3. Elastic waisted shorts or pants are much easier for little kids than zips and buttons when they're in a hurry.
  4. Think about what might motivate your child and what you're prepared to do (or not do) to encourage them; then be prepared to use it at any time. We hadn't given it any thought before hand and ended up jumping straight into simple games on the tablet while he sat on the potty. This, of course, turned into 'hey I want to play games and not pee'. After this we moved to a sticker/reward chart (it's a Lightning McQueen potty race and when he gets to the end of the race, he gets to pick from my Piston Cup prize bag, in which I've got a few little toys, some craft things, a drink bottle, etc that I picked up in the after Christmas sales). This has had varied success for us - sometimes he just couldn't give a rat's arse about getting another sticker. In hindsight, I suspect a non-reward approach would have worked just as well.  
  5. Think about technique. Wiping a child's bum is very different from changing a dirty nappy. Do you use toilet paper or wipes? Are they leaning forward on the potty or bending over and touching their toes? Are you going to teach them to pee standing up first or wait til they're older? How exactly are you going to clean the potty? How are you going to handle visiting other toilets? Will they pee on the grass? Figuring out all of this stuff on the go is both horrific and hilarious.
  6. One pack of undies isn't going to cut it. Unless you can wash and dry those babies in a day, get several packs.
  7. Don't push them to get toilet trained too early and try not to compare. Almost all the girls in Dear Boy's class were ready by about two. His best mate from mum's group decided he was ready at two and a half. Dear Boy's three and a bit. Some kids in his group are still in nappies, others are in pull-ups. Some are dry through the night. Pushing too early can have the opposite effect and lead to a long, drawn out power battle. We had enough of that with his eating and his sleep, so I want to skip it here if possible.
  8. Listen to their bodies and help them listen too. Think about their diet and activities and how these correlate to when they need to use the toilet. If they have a big drink or a meal, you can't put them in the car half an hour later and expect to keep the seat clean. Make opportunities to use the potty happen at the right time and get them to stop and think about what their body feels like. Is there pressure in the bladder? Are those farts trying to tell them something? These conversations are hilarious. Our son of a neuroscientist has gone straight to 'Mum, my brain says I feel fine' - technically correct but unhelpful.
  9. Make sure you're being consistent across the board. We've been wiping for him but childcare don't, which has led to a few surprises for everyone (and lots of washing). Some centres have toilet training policies you have to follow, others might go with whatever method you'd like. Just have the discussion.
What's your toilet training advice? Any tried and true methods?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Taking stock: the Early February edition

Making: Plans for camping (yay, first foray into camping; and by camping I mean sleeping in a tent rther than roughing it too hard).
Cooking: Haloumi and Chorizo for dinner.
Drinking: Dry Ginger Ale because I wanted a tumbler of Bailey's on ice and yeah, no, we don't have any of that round these parts.
Reading: Much more about American Football than I care to to get to the story I wanted.
Looking: forward (finally).
Playing: old DVDs (and by old, I mean 2004)
Wishing: it was going to be slightly cooler tomorrow for the kids party in a park we'll be going to.
Enjoying: laying in the grass with my boy.
Waiting: for the right time to fix myself (I know it's never the right time. The time is now, der).
Liking: the portable air conditioner.
Wondering: why I keep saying I need sleep but never make it to bed earlier than midnight.
Loving: little downloadables. (Yeah, I've just nominalised that sucker and there's nothing you can do about it).
Watching: real-life adventure movies and series.
Pondering: the busyness of a year that hasn't really started yet.
Hoping: the family business trip to Cairns in August ends up being a tiny holiday as well. I would at least like to swim in a lagoon like pool, although not so much if the entire work delegation is hanging out at the bar.
Needing: Dear Boy to get a better handle on the 'if you don't swim, you sink' thing before getting in said lagoon-like pool. 'I want to swim' is usually followed by wrestling himself out of my arms and blub, blub, blubbing straight down to the bottom.
Admiring: folks who blog every day, or even regularly.
Sorting: the couch-wardobe (yeah, it's time to put the clothes back into their drawers)
Buying: groceries without going insane with things for a very short camping trip (want to chuck all the bottled water into the trolley!)
Getting: antsy to start studying again. I know how long it takes for the unit guides to come out, but I still want them now, now, now so I can get revved up and go.
Bookmarking: quilts I'll never make, recipes I'll be making this week and kids concerts I'm still debating about.
Disliking: feeling cruddy but unmotivated.
Snacking: on the baklava we bought today. Yeah, gotta finish that quick so it's not hanging around anymore. (See how that works).
Coveting: a much younger, sportier lady's metabolism
Hearing: my mother's voice in my head (yeah, yeah, I know, Mama).

Linking in late with Pip from meet Me At Mike's

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Outdoor adentures: Playing pilots at the aviation museum

It's probably no surprise that Dear Boy is a little transport obsessed. Thanks to a fair number of flights in his first three years, Planes and Planes:Fire and Rescue, he's an out and out lover of aviation these days too. Cue the Australian National Aviation Museum (or the place where a bunch of enthusiasts get to play 'dream shed'), right next to Moorabbin airport (in South East Melbourne).

There are planes inside and planes outside, planes behind perspex and planes you can climb into. There are engines and uniforms, throttles and wingflaps. There is history and play. Dear Boy spent a lot of time naming planes - Dusty and Dipper and Cabbie and Skipper. Fighter plane, fighter jet, cargo plane and cropduster.

Our tips for visiting an Aviation Museum:
  • Watch a plane movie first (get some characters swirling around in the kids' heads);
  • Check for other local events first (there was a classic/hoon car gathering on in the field next door so parking was freaky);
  • Beware pointy corners of wings, propellers, missiles, etc (though usually well-padded they can still hurt);
  • Wear non-slip shoes (some of the stairs and railings were slick with the sodden day and hundreds of shoes tracking wet grass all over the place);
  • If you're heading to Moorabbin, then don't miss the playground right on the edge of the airport (kids can sit at the top of the slide and watch planes and helicopters take off and land all day). 

Most aviation museums are located close to the more regional airports or close to military bases. There are museums near Bankstown Airport, Sydney; Williamtown Airport, Newcastle (Fighterworld!); Port Adelaide; Bull Creek, Perth; Alice Springs; Darwin and quite a few more around the country. Anything with a Royal Flying Doctor Service exhibit is worthwhile - Dear Boy's mind nearly sploded with the joy of an 'air-ambulance'. Me? I'm wondering if The Flying Doctors is ever going to come out on DVD. 

Ed. I just googled that and apparently there's a 48 disc set of all 9 seasons. Holy Moley, bring on a TV-watching binge.

Do you dig a good/daggy museum? Did you watch The Flying Doctors?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The science of change: how long does it take to adapt?

There seems to be a lot of change in the air at the moment – kids going to child care or kindy or big school or high school for the first time; new jobs; new homes; new directions; new goals, etc.

I’ve never been particularly comfortable with change, in fact I’m a resister from way back. One of my high school reports even said so – something about a tendency to complain when scheduled activities change. Yeah, I’m that person. I complain, I resist and then I adapt but usually begrudgingly. And then eventually, the adaptation becomes the new norm and all moves along swimmingly until the next change.

But how long does it take to get used to change?

If you’re googling it, like I just did – you’ll find the story of Maxwell Maltz (who most people call Dr but because he’s a surgeon was probably a Mr but that’s a whole post of its own really). Dr/Mr Maltz was a plastic surgeon in the 50s who noticed that after an operation (face-lifts, nose jobs, amputations, etc) it would take a minimum of 21 days for the patient to get used to their new face, nose, leg. Even the phantom limb phenomena tended to subside around the 21 day mark.

Twenty-one days. What do you think? Is that all it takes to adjust to change?

A study published in 2009 tested the theory about how habits are formed. They looked at 96 people over 12 weeks and got them to do some pretty boring stuff on a daily basis (drinking water, doing sit-ups) and then assess how they felt about it. Had it become an automatic behaviour? On average, it took more than two months for the new behaviour to become a habit, to adapt to the change. By average, of course, this means it took the 96 people anywhere from 18 to 254 days to adjust - but 66 days was the mean.

Other interesting facts: a sub-group from the study took much longer than the others and threw up the possibility of habit resistance (hi!); missing a single day didn’t reduce the chance of forming a habit (so don’t give up even if you stumble); and some habits take longer than others (much easier to get into the habit of drinking a glass of water than doing sit-ups every day).

The point of all that is this: if you’re struggling with change, hang in there.

Be realistic about how long it’s going to take to get to your new normal. Maybe you’ll be an outlier and get there in 18 days; maybe you’re on the other end of the scale and two thirds of the year will have gone past by the time you get it. But the bigger the change, the more complex the habit you’re developing, the longer it will probably take.

One day at a time, and all that.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Outdoor adventures: Playing pirates at the Polly Woodside

During last week's adventure, we passed by The Australian Shakespeare Company's performance space in the Botanical Gardens. Later, while we lunched, a troupe of actors dressed as Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad wandered past after their matinee.

Some googling revealed a summer season of outdoor performances, some for kids and some for grown-ups, which tick boxes for my new year of outdoor adventures and at least one of my Before I Go goals. I had planned to take him to 'Wind and the Willows', to picnic at an evening performance, but the weather and life got in the way. But Lovely Husband saw 'Caribbean Pirates at the Polly Woodside' on the website and was keen for a weekend adventure.

The dock-side show was perfect for a three-year-old, with Pirates sweaty-faced in the sun, panto-screaming from the audience ('he's behind you!'), sea-shanties and a hunt for treasure on the Polly. And after, we walked back up the gangway and explored above and below decks. Lovely Husband got his naval geek on and Dear Boy touched all the do-not-touch things in the galley.

Have you been to any good outdoor shows?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


There is foot stomping and refusal and cries of "stop talking to me about it!" and "no, you use your manners, Mummy; I don't want to say please!". If he knew more colourful language, he'd be using it.

How does one deal with a threenager?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

When he leads

When he leads we catch the train into the city; we walk two strollers abreast across the bridge and crash into each other's wheels; we stand under the towering Art Centre spire and look at the collection of wooden houses and listen to a collection of interviews on the theme of 'home'; we throw coins into the fountain of the NGV and make wishes.

When he leads we splash our hands through the wall of water at the entrance to the NGV and get wet up to the elbows; we ride a golden carousel side by side, ticking slowly, slowly through a single rotation; we don't stay long at the Romance Was Born for Kids exhibition; we ride in a circular elevator and get lost in a maze of galleries; we find interactive exhibits tucked away behind rooms full of art we can't touch; we pin the words 'take' and 'back' to the pinboard because they are blue; we slog around the hanging rope thing-a-me over and over, flopping down on our backs in the tiny space at the back so other kids can pass by; we say 'cheese' for a blurry selfie and laugh when the whole edifice shakes and we fall down.

When he leads we wander through the Botanical Gardens on the gravelly tracks with the midday runners; we don't download the app to see fairies play in a field of sunflowers; we sit in the shade of a lone tree alongside a million mums with prams and babies and share a cheap baguette and an expensive bottle of fizzy water; we discover the Children's Garden and play in water and sand until we are sunburnt; we retreat to the tree and eat treats with a new friend who carries a plastic spider, wearing ice-cream across our faces; we wander back to the train station and kneel on the seats and watch the world slide by as we make our way home.

When he leads, we adventure.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Outdoor adventures

If 2014 was our year of intentional play, then 2015 is going to be our year of adventures big and small.

With new work and study commitments I want to make sure our time together is going to be as awesome and as ‘outdoorsy’ as I can make it. I’m not the greatest outdoors person – I’m a huge fan of comfortable couches and reading – but I want Dear Boy to get that outdoorsy childhood that I had in spades. You know, the river walks with improvised fishing poles and rock skimming; the long days spent at the beach, hiking sandy scrub tracks to get to the water and poking about in rockpools; the tree climbing and cubby building; the neighbourhood adventuring down unknown streets and around the foresty edges of parks.

So here are some of the adventures I’d like us to try out or do more of:
  1. Camping
  2. A long boat ride
  3. Horse-riding
  4. A long day at the beach
  5. Bushwalking
  6. Tubing or canoeing on a river
  7. Visiting a desert
  8. Going to a amusement park or outdoor museum
  9. A road trip
  10. See animals in ‘the wild'
  11. An outdoor class or organised activity
  12. Build a bush cubby
  13. Visit a waterfall
  14. Explore the creek and race homemade boats
  15. Ride steam train
  16. Go to an airshow
  17. Go for a night walk with a torch
  18. Try geocaching
  19. Rock skimming
  20. Go on a bug hunt
  21. Go to a drive-in (if we can find one)
  22. Play with glowsticks at night
  23. Do a toboggan run or a cardboard slide down a steep hill
  24. Go to an outdoor concert
Some of these are going to be harder than others – Dear Boy has only just turned three and his little legs do not carry him very far for very long, but I think now is the time to get him used to bushwalking, to normalise camping trips and long days at the beach if it’s something we want to do as a family in the future. 

Have you ever taken kids camping? Any tips? What other outdoor adventures do you love or want to try?


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