Saturday, 22 November 2014

Out of the Cocoon

I feel a bit like a caterpillar who has been in a cocoon for a few weeks and have finally emerged!

I realised, this morning, that I've been in blogging hibernation for quite a long time.  Not for any difficulty going on.  Quite the opposite.  My days have been completely filled in good and beautiful ways.

Teaching rounds.

Five weeks of working full time.
Five weeks of getting to know, and operating in, a new environment.
Three of those weeks, teaching full time.
Lots of planning (that's an understatement, by the way).
Lots of late nights searching the interwebs for activities and ideas (how did people teach without the internet anyway?).

I have had a complete and utter blast.  As well as the class I was invited to teach in, I got to teach across the senior primary classes with a streamed maths program and a three-week rotating program on Friday mornings.  All of the kids were completely delightful.  Of course every class has their 'characters' and those that find classrooms difficult when they'd rather be outside doing stuff.  But those kids seem to be the ones who endear themselves the most!  I've learnt a lot about managing a class when they hit the mid-term, end-of-year feral week.  We overcame that challenge and the kids went back to being their amazingly wonderful selves again.  It was a bit like someone took over their bodies for a day or two.  Yesterday one of the girls said "oh yeah, we were just helping you learn".  We all laughed, and I thanked her for caring enough about me to want me to learn everything I could.

The staff were incredibly affirming and encouraging.  Such a beautiful working environment!

There is always the bittersweet return to normal life that comes next.  I can't wait to see my school babies.  I can't wait to catch up with my colleagues.  I can't for life to get back to normal.  But it means I don't get to be the teacher.

In this past week I have had all my final grades released.  I have passed everything.

I am now a teacher.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Book Review: Veiled at Midnight, by Christine Lindsay

Author’s Synopsis: 

As the British Empire comes to an end, millions flee to the roads. Caught up in the turbulent wake is Captain Cam Fraser, his sister Miriam, and the beautiful Indian Dassah.

Cam has never been able to put Dassah from his mind, ever since the days when he played with the orphans at the mission as a boy. But a British officer and the aide to the last viceroy cannot marry a poor Indian woman, can he?  As this becomes clear to Dassah, she has no option but to run. Cam may hold her heart—but she cannot let him break it again.

Miriam rails against the separation of the land of her birth, but is Lieutenant Colonel Jack Sunderland her soul mate or a distraction from what God has called her to do?

The 1947 Partition has separated the country these three love…but can they find their true homes before it separates them forever?

What I thought:

Christine Lindsay brings her “Twilight of the British Raj” series to its gratifying conclusion with a flourish, in “Veiled at Midnight”.  This final instalment continues the now grown Cam Fraser’s story and brings to a climax the final separation of India from British rule.  Told in Christine Lindsay’s gentle, yet captivating style “Veiled at Midnight” is the perfect ending for this truly magnificent series.

Having been introduced to Cam when he was an infant, in Lindsay’s first “British Raj” book, it took me a few moments to realise that I was now being privileged with being reacquainted with Cam as an adult.  It is rare, as a reader, that we are given the opportunity to follow our book friends across the seasons of their life and so I was delighted to follow this part of Cam’s story.  Cam is an endearing character whose struggles challenged my mother-heart.  I watched him wrestle with the desire to follow his heart with truth and integrity in relationship with his childhood friend, Hadassah, yet be influenced by the thoughts and actions of others.  Lindsay dips into the topic of generational sin and influence and the hard work required to overcome and become free of both.  I liked that this thread of the story was written with a realistic authenticity.  Lindsay clearly shows that changing the impact of previous generations takes commitment and hard work, but that it is possible to be free of these wounds in our lives.

As Cam deals with his alcoholism, Dassah struggles with her feelings about Cam and wanting to protect herself from the effects of Indian and British separation on her relationship with him.  Again, Tikah becomes an insidious influence as she sets out to undermine members of the Fraser family.  Meanwhile, Cam’s sister Miriam is facing challenges of her own, trying to discern the right direction for her future.  Should she stay in India?  Should she pursue a relationship with the charming Jack?  I’ll not spoil the story by revealing the outcome here.  Suffice it to say the outcome of all these threads was entirely satisfying and true to the characters themselves.

I will miss these characters immensely, yet I will take with me a number of truths from their stories.  They remind me that even when all seems lost or uncertain God has a plan for each of his children.  Cam and Dassah’s story reminds me that we should hold true to that which is right in God’s eyes, even when the world around us tells us a different story.  God’s way is always the better story to live out.

With thanks to Christine Lindsay for my review copy.  
It has been my absolute privilege to be invited, by Christine, to review her books.  My review is my own opinion, for which I have received no financial incentive, nor been coerced in any way.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Planning, Planning....more Planning

The last few weeks have zipped by.  I'm sure I blinked too many times because I didn't notice.  Since I last posted Miss Sunshine has had her last day of school.  A fantastic affair with a "Disney Classics" theme.  She was dressed up as Mini Mouse with a cute not-too-expensive outfit we found online.  Our School has a beautiful tradition of the Year 12 class setting up all kinds of things in the day's theme for the rest of the school to enjoy.  We had a Cave of Wonders, Sleeping Beauty's bedroom, Cinderella's carriage and Beauty and Beast's ... well I don't know, but we got to see the tea set and enter the Beast's cave.  Children and staff dressed up in their allocated characters and the Year 12's escorted the younger classes through the different areas.  After a whole-school assembly, a lunch with parents and staff and a whole-school guard of honour to say farewell I had cried a bucket of tears.  And I forgot to bring tissues, because I'm really dumb with that kind of stuff.

Since then it feels like I have been planning my little heart out.  I've had two weeks (and a bit) of my final teaching rounds and so far all is going very well.  The kids are delightful and my colleague teacher is fantastic to work with.  So far my feedback has been wonderfully affirming and I am remembering how much I just love teaching.  It will be so hard to go back to being an aide after yet another taste of being the Queen Bee! 

But the planning.  Oh my word it is slow to begin with.  It's far more enjoyable than writing assignments and listening to lectures....as useful and helpful as those were.  I can sit in front of the TV with my computer now and surf my way to some wonderful things.  It just takes time. It's a long weekend here in Melbourne and I have spent more than a work day just planning.  I can't wait until I just know in my head what to do, and can just do it on the fly.  Right now I'm thinking carefully about my questions, and setting up meaningful, engaging activities and finding little YouTube clips to support my teaching, because that's the world we live in right now.  Last Friday I taught a lesson on volcanoes, and got to blow up a bottle of coke.  And show a little video of the Mt St Helens eruption.  So much fun in two hours!  None of these precious people, or their teacher, was alive when Mt St Helens blew.  I, however, remember it with great clarity.  It was spectacular!  And my students now know that too, all these years later, thanks to YouTube.

Planning may be time consuming, but I love it.  I'm one of those geeky teachers that just loves the planning process....and then seeing it come to life.  Best fun ever.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Under the Carpet....or Sheet

Recently we enjoyed the lovely surprise of a family member driving from Queensland to Melbourne (a very long way!!) to have some time with extended family.  One thing Dh's family does well is rally to get together at the last minute.  I was the lucky one to get the call:

Dh:  How do you feel if I tell Dad we can have dinner at our place on Wednesday night.
Me:  Um, errr, wha..., hah, wh..., how.... I need some time to process before I can answer.
Dh:  Do we have something else on?
Me:  Ummm, assignments.  You're asking me to stop working and clean the house and organise dinner.  I can't do it all....because, assignments.
Dh:  I was just gonna.....

And here the plot needed some sorting out and everyone ended up contributing to what ended up being a beautiful meal.  Miss Sunshine made dessert and I made my popular Asian Salad.  I would have loved to have done it all....but ... assignments!

In the midst of the kids being assigned jobs (remember my GREAT blessing list - still works a treat!) I discovered something very, very funny.  Rather than actually tidy things up and put them away (a very strange concept, apparently, I discovered this:
This chair houses a chopping board a kid made, the sandwich toaster, calendar and an assortment of other odds and ends I never know where to put.  Whoever decided on this solution clearly couldn't figure out where to put things either.  However, with the arrival of a horde of people being imminent it was time to figure it out.  And we did. 

The chair has since reclaimed its previous partners in crime.  But for a day or two it was clear.

And people sat on it. 

It was a beautiful sight.

Got any funny creative stories to solving your little hot spots?

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


It is finished. 

Four long years and about eleventy million assignments later and I have just submitted my very last ever assignment.  Actually it's more like about 63 assignments but it feels like millions.

I still need to get results back and commence five weeks of teaching rounds (I begin this Friday), but I don't expect any road bumps at this point. 

I kind of don't know how to feel now.  Empty?  Elated?  Excited?  Relieved?  Lost?  Maybe a little of all of those things.  This study thing has consumed almost my entire life for four whole years so it will take some time to remember what "normal" people do with themselves when they can just come home from work and do....nothing.  Oh, wait.  That's when people do housework and spend time with their families.  I think I remember something about that!

Miss Sunshine had a major "Done" moment last week as well, when she submitted her Studio Arts finals and journal.  What an incredible amount of work has gone into those amazing pieces, and the journaling.  And that focus statement.  Four thousand words.  The girl is amazing.

I'm off to do....I don't know what.  Work.  Read.  I guess I'll figure it out.  I might even get back to being inspired to cook again.


Saturday, 4 October 2014

Happy Birthday Miss Mischief!

Miss Mischief turned 17 yesterday.  Seventeen.  That just cannot be right.  I'm sure she was a babe in my arms just five minutes ago.  She took some of her friends out for Yum Cha on Thursday to celebrate and today she's going to see a movie with a friend, as her birthday gift.

We have this tradition in our home where the birthday child gets to choose what we do for dinner.  I will cook whatever they want, or they can choose to go out.  Since she went out Thursday Miss Mischief chose a home-cooked meal for us last night.  This girl really knows how to put a menu together.  So glad she is dropping Maths and taking up Food Technology via distance education next year.  I have told her and the one other girl taking the course that they have to do all the practical folio work at our house. 

~ Miss Mischief's Birthday Menu ~

Bacon Wrapped Chicken
Hassle Back Potatoes
Pavlova with strawberries

Oh my goodness, the meal was absolutely delicious.  The pavlova, of course, was homemade from my Granny's handwritten recipe.  Miss Mischief wanted Asian salad with the main course, which I didn't feel went with the meat and potatoes, so I offered to make something with avocado instead.  And as I gush about our meal, I realise I have never posted a recipe for my version of a Caesar salad, upon which the salad we had last night was based.  You will surely die if you never get to have this salad!

~ Tracy's Caesar-style Salad ~

Salad leaves (see notes)
1 spring onion, finely sliced
4 rashers bacon, diced and fried (see notes)
semi-dried tomatoes (in oil, not vinegar), cut in half
1 avocado, diced
a handful of croutons
Your favourite Caesar dressing (see notes)

 Combine all the ingredients in a salad bowl and toss gently.

  • Normally I use a cos lettuce for this salad, but last night I had a bag of designer leaves and julienned carrots, so that's what I used.  Any lettuce you like will work, but maybe not iceberg.
  • I used 5 rashers of bacon last night, but I NEED to tell you - they were American-style streaky rashers and I think they were on the short side of normal length.  If you're using regular Aussie middle bacon rashers one to two is plenty.
  • I like a light, thin Caesar dressing and once upon a yesteryear Weight Watchers did a beautiful one that has long since been withdrawn from the market.  Last night I used Nigella's Golden Honey Mustard Dressing, with olive oil, and it was perfectly amazing.
Happy Birthday Miss Mischief.  Thanks for planning a beautiful meal and for just being so amazingly wonderful.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

A Leibster Award!

Yesterday I received a comment from Danica at Danica's Thoughts blog to let me know she had bestowed upon me a Leibster Award.  Somewhere along the line Danica has found my little corner of the blogosphere  and decided it worthy of recognition, despite a small following of less than 200.  Thank you, Danica, for your vote of confidence and support.

When I began my blog I think I intended to write about things domestic...parenting, organising and running a home, menu planning, recipes, maybe some crafty stitching type stuff.  And initially that's what I did.  Then I started working and my children are much older now, and I've been studying for what seems like forever.  Things have changed.  I have changed.  As a result the things I blog about has changed a bit too.  I've often thought perhaps I need to be more deliberate and planned about blogging, and then my life gets in the way, assignments need to be written (which is what I should be doing right now) and children need to be whatever-it-is-they-need in the moment.

Anyway....apparently I need to answer some questions Danica has set for me and I need to pass this award on to 11 other people whose blogs, like mine, are special and have only a small following.  I'm going to need to do the passing on after my assignments are done but I'll answer the questions now...a two-part award response :)

1)  Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
I have pondered this question from time to time, because wow...anyone in the world!  I think in this season of my life it would be Jen Hatmaker.  Jen is hilarious, incredibly real, wise, and asks hard questions about how faith in our culture could and should work.  That's a seasonal response because of my current journey.  Outside of my current season I'm going to say my dear friend Frances.  We have shared so much of our lives through our blogs and she is just the most amazing woman.  She is also an incredibly real person, quiet, thoughtful, wise and she is a writer.  Seriously....a writer!  She's my kind of people! 
2)  Would you like to be famous? In what way?
I don't think so.  Big fame comes with people pestering you and commenting on how you live your life and the mistakes you make and everything you do is public domain.  I'm an introvert.  That would be so stressful!  Small fame that comes from doing your ordinary life, which contributes to making the world a better place?  Maybe.  Maybe one day I will be the most amazing teacher and some precious small person will grow up and say "She's the one who changed my life".
3)  Before making a phone call, do you ever rehearse what you're going to say? Why?
Sometimes.  More likely I make a list of the things I need to remember to ask or convey.  If I'm phoning someone I know well I don't.  I don't pick up the phone "just because"...there's always a reason behind the call.
4)  When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
I sing to myself all the time.  Often in the car.  I don't sing to other people.  Really, you gotta be able to sing and not scare someone off to be willing to do that!
5)  If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I have no quibbles with the way I was raised.  How we, as a whole family, coped with reverse culture shock is a whole other story though.  I would want to get us all some help with that so we could have recovered better and quicker.
6)  If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one quality or ability, what would it be?
I don't know.  The ability not to become frustrated when my family do things that bug me?
7)  Is there something that you've dreamt of doing for a long time? Why haven't you done it?
It seems like I've been dreaming about being a teacher for a long time.  Completing the darned degree to get to do that takes about eleventy billion years.  Well, when you're impatient that's how it feels.  Maybe I need patience?
8)  What does friendship mean to you?
Friendship is the glue that keeps me from falling apart.  My most dear and precious friends are the ones to whom I can say anything I need to vent and they will just love me through it, pray me through it and support me with wisdom, care and a advice to see me into a better place.  They're the people who walk the hardest, darkest paths of you life with you, and celebrate the most joyous seasons of life.
9)  When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
This week.  Both.  Assignments will be the death of me!  Miss Mischief was the poor soul who caught the last "in front of another person".
10)  Would you be willing to have horrible nightmares for a year if you would be rewarded with extraordinary wealth?
Nope.  Wealth isn't all it's cracked up to be, apparently.  So if that's true I'm going to value my sleep.  Good sleep is priceless.
11)  Complete this sentence "I wish I had someone with whom I could share..."
I can't answer this question.  I have an amazing husband, incredible kids and the most precious friends.  Between them there's nothing I can't share.

Alright, I've procrastined enough.  Two assignments (hopefully for the rest of my life!!) to go and I need to get on with it.