Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mums at the Movies

A good friend suggested we take advantage of both our kids now being at school AND us having a day off work at the same time to book in a fortnightly movie date.


The cinema's are empty, there are no crowds, and because the kids are at school you can see whatever you want...not something rated PG.

Today we went to see The Imitation Game. Splendid. What a movie. Such a gem of a film. I really do love stories about real people who have kept going when everyone else doubted them. People who have believed in themselves when others did everything in their power to bully them, to stop them, to belittle them.

The Imitation Game tells the story of a man who I should have known about. A man who really did change the world but did it behind the scenes and quietly. He wanted so little, just to be left to work, to use his brilliant mind, but that was not to be. Humans are stupid and it is stories from our history that we need to be told about to remind us of how stupid we can be.

The Imitation Game is a story that has been hidden for over fifty years, but the details are now out and you won't regret going to see this movie or reading the book about Alan Turing.

I am sure the movie stretches the truth and is creative with many things, but the underlying story is there, and for me is was a fascinating introduction to a mind capable of so much, in a person that just doesn't 'fit' into 'normal'.

And if you are reading this on any form of computer (which you are unless someone printed it out for you) then you have Alan Turing to thank for it. It was him who invented the thinking machine, the idea of a digital mind, the computer.  Imagine that. Imagine having a mind so special that the work you did won a war and then you invented the machine to start changing the world everywhere.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Working Bee vs The Personal Trainer in Five Points.

If you have kids at school it is quite possible that there may be times when you are requested to attend the school working bee.

Personally I think parents should attend as many working bees as possible, it is an easy way to help your school save real dollars on grounds and classroom maintenance, which is less raffle tickets I have to sell later on and reduces the chance I may have to cook for a cake stall.

However, the school working bee is no easy feat. It some ways the Working Bee is very similar to going to a Personal Trainer. But which is better to attend, a Working Bee session or a PT Session?

Let's break it down into five points:

1: COST 

When it comes to cost, the working bee is free to attend AND it may save you money in fundraising for new school equipment.

The PT will cost you from $20 upwards, depending on how many of you are in the session.

Which means there is One point to the Working Bee for saving pennies.

2: Working as a team

When you attend the Working Bee, you might feel some pressure to work hard in front of the rest of the team. You don't want to look like the slacker, or the least interested and you can't be the first to leave when someone suggests digging trenches for the new watering system. You might also have to work with people you don't really know, or who don't sweep very well (sorry everyone, my sweeping needs attention).

At a PT session you may find working in a team a challenge. It can be scary when everyone has to do extra push ups because you dropped the ball. Or you might be the one giving eye rolls to the person constantly coming last up the hill.

However, I am giving a point to Personal Training, because you are likely to become great friends with your training buddies if you have the right group, the working bee people you may never cry with over torn lycra.

3) Time:

The Personal Trainer is just an hour, but it's every single week - or more!

The working bee is not going to be more then 8 hours long and you are pretty much guaranteed to get cake served at morning tea and lunch! (Unless you are me and you snuck off before lunch was served).

At only one Saturday a term, the Working Bee wins this one, much less dedication required.

4) Physical Benefits

At the working bee you will sweep, dig, carry weights, push wheelbarrows, walk all over the school yard, stand all day long, pretend you are a 1980s version of Karate Kid and wipe on/wipe off as you wash tables, chairs and windows.

At PT you might have to do dips, pull ropes and drag tyres, squats and if you are really unlucky, you may have to run.

Either way, you are going to be using all the muscles that DO NOT get used when sitting down relaxing with a wine.  But, it's another Point to the Working Bee, because you need hours of stamina not just one pissy hour long session.

5) Post Event Pain

After your first PT (and your second and third) session where you have attempted a  few squats it can hurt just to go to the toilet. After your first major working bee where you actually did some physical exercise for a change it can hurt just to sit down when you go to the toilet.

For post event pain, both the Working Bee and the PT get a point. There is pain after both

And the winner is...
It's official, you should save yourself the cash and just sign up to the school working bee. It will save you a fortune, get your school looking good and improve your fitness faster then anything else. Either that, or start doing the gardening for everyone you know, with a little window washing on the side. You will look fantastic. Just remember, if you are soon to attend your first working bee, grab some Radox on the way, for your bath when you get home.

Monday, February 23, 2015

It's handy having smalls

Half a decade ago when I started this blog it was to teach myself exactly what everyone was talking about. There were no courses telling you how to blog and what to do so I just taught myself.

Lately I have been using video much more at work and as I start to use it more and more and as I get even more ideas I feel restricted by having to rely on the skills of other people to get the work completed. I never like to feel reliant on other people actually getting the job done for me.

This week after school Immy came home all excited about her news of the day. Well, she said, "today, my teacher made an iMovie, AND, it actually wasn't too bad for a grown up." 

Because grown ups apparently just don't really know how to do these things. I don't think there was anything I knew when I was 6 that my parents didn't know. Except for where I hid all my sisters Little Blossom make up and got her in trouble for being so wasteful.

Miss 9 loves spending the afternoon dressing up, concocting a story, filming and editing her plays. Her friends get little choice most of the time and find themselves characters in her stories. When we go camping, or driving or out for dinner she likes to whip up a little movie along the way.

They both use the ready made templates a lot but also do their own thing. Immy loves to incorporate other apps, Little Moments and WordSwag are two of her favourites at the moment and they are really wonderful for teaching her spelling and writing skills. 

Which means the smalls are coming in very handy this weekend as I get them to show me the ropes of iMovie. Who knows, my skills might get so good that one day I might give up writing altogether and just upload videos. (Or not, but somedays I do think a highlights movie reel of the day would be fantastic). 

How are your iMovie skills? Have your smalls been teaching you anything useful lately?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Book Review: Laurinda, by Alice Pung

cover of Laurinda Book by alice pung

Laurinda is the latest book from my online book club.

It's written in the form of a letter, and I do really love a book written this way. The main character is Lucy Lam, an asian girl in Melbourne who wins a scholarship to the prestigious Ladies College, Laurinda.

The book then follows through the difficulties in being the scholarship student in a school where students generally have little understanding of what life might be like without the priviledge they were born to.

The story shows well the way that girls can be calculating and awful and undermining, but also how rich parents can have a great level of say in the marks their children receive at school.

Lucy navigates her year through the troubles of trying to fit in to a school that her parents and friends can not even imagine, and trying to hide her real life and family from her new friends.

I really enjoyed this book, it is written for Young Adults and would be appropriate for any teenager to read. It's far from a great book. Lucy seems a little too emotionally intelligent for me, she seems to be the one teenager that can see what all the else can't. Lucy's old school also seems to be seen through rose coloured glasses, a Catholic school in a poor area, Lucy seems to refer to it as a perfect way to spend your teenage years, as long as you were not after academic success of course, but all else seemed pretty good.

The ending rounds out the book in a fairly expected way, I am guessing this is because the audience for the book is younger readers. It wasn't disappointing to me as it seemed a nice way to finish up, but experienced readers who like a meaty ending may find it lacking.

If I was handing out stars, I would give this 4 out of 5.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The one where I admit to shonky parenting standards.

This post is sponsored by the Transport Accident Commission

Every Christmas we seem to need to make a purchase of something with wheels for a small person.

One bike we bought for Immy when she was two she still simply refers to as ‘My Christmas Bike’. It’s the wishbone bike, which I highly recommend if you have a toddler in need of a new set of wheels.

The following year Immy received the micro scooter. It then sat in the shed next to her second hand bike as she refused to go further then the driveway on either. Her preference was always ‘My Christmas bike’ or the Gator option on the back of Mr H. Mr H is a keen rider so they would go for miles and miles together, stopping at every park, grabbing ice cream and talking the whole way.

Now that Immy is a big schoolgirl, well, it’s really cool to ride your scooter with the other kids in the neighbourhood. It’s also really unreal when one of those Mums scoots past on my workdays and offers to take my girls with her.

It’s not so fun when Immy seems to fall off her scooter every second day.

The micro scooter is a bit banged up. The front is busted and her knees barely saw the sun for a month, instead band-aids were the fashion of choice.

Thingle Toodle TAC Post micro scooter

The scooter was being used to practise ballet moves, not always successfully.

The more she scootered and fell off the more I realised we really needed to address the helmet situation at our house. It seems we have bike helmets everywhere, always being left behind in rooms, doorways, sheds and driveways.  

But not always being worn.

Helmet wearing

None of the helmets seemed to fit Immy quite right.

Arabella had a helmet that was too small, so it became Immy’s, but it still didn’t really fit. Then there was another random one that did up, but was pretty floppy. When her birthday arrived mid December it was the perfect time to get new helmets, and when it came with the DIY decorating option, Immy was thrilled.

But the new helmet still looked wonky, Mr H raced back to the shop for the smaller size. It fits ok. But Arabella’s still fits better.

The TAC asked me to take a look at their information regarding small children and road safety, things like crossing roads, seat belts and wearing helmets. At first I just thought, surely everyone just knows these things. Are there kids not in seatbelts still? Apparently there are WAY too many. Crossing roads just takes lots of time and practice. I still don’t let my kids cross the road by themselves but I hope to loosen my road crossing panic by the time they are 21.

But the helmet thing.

I thought I had it covered. Hadn’t really thought much about it.

Thou must admit shonky parenting standards had started to slip in and there really is no excuse for it.

There are just three basic tips from the TAC regarding helmets.

  • the helmet should be the correct size for the child
  • it should cover the upper part of the forehead and
  • sit level on the head

See this image

One of these kids is not wearing a well-fitted helmet.

Immy’s helmet does NOT cover her forehead nor does it sit level and I feel a bad case of the parenting guilts coming on.

Because knees can be patched up and plastered but brains cannot! They just can not.

The benefits of wearing a helmet are not a surprise to me, it’s not new knowledge, but still I haven’t taken action on it sooner.

This little rap was made for toddlers and pre-schoolers, but could possibly work for fellow parents of mine who have been slack in the helmet wearing department!

We have some very important shopping to do this weekend, this time I am taking Immy with me to the bike shop to ensure we get a helmet that fits her properly.

Have you got your kids’ heads covered?

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Good Scissors

A house can run smoothly for days until the smallest of things begins to unravel.

Unravel is the word this week in more ways then one. Our new school transition has been going very well. The most difficult aspect so far has been the car parking, which seems to be common among all schools at pick up time and uniform.

In the past we had multiple options for uniform and it was super cheap so I had enough items to dress the entire class. This year the uniform is pricey. And must be strictly adhered to. Especially on photos day.  I have one outfit for each and that's it.

But on photo day there is one option only: Dresses, clean shoes, blazers. FOR ALL.

And so it was that moments before we were to leave for school Miss 9 tells me that when she was out with Dad last night her dress (Ok, so it is ridiculously oversized) got caught at tennis and the whole hem came down. Kind of funny really. One thread and whoosh, it all came loose. You can hear them giggling from here as they all watched it unravel.

With just two minutes to go I ran straight to the sewing box and started threading a needle.

When I noticed.


The one and only pair of scissors that must never be touched.

I had to use my teeth and sew like never before. Which is because I don't really sew, so there has not really ever been a before.

I returned from work this evening with the sewing box tipped all over the place where I had left it
and a child with a dress that had the hem up at the front, just, and hanging like a bad mullet hair cut at the back.

But the good scissors are still gone.

Praise the baby cheesus that tomorrow is sports day, for tomorrow I must go and buy this hemming tape that twitter tells me about.

And a new pair of good scissors.

Monday, February 9, 2015

On our Kids' Bookshelf: Feb 2015

How was your summer reading. You won't believe what I read.

I had a list of things I wanted to get through, a book club book to get stuck into. But I didn't read a single book. Not one.

I read lots of magazines. Old ones, new ones, good ones and bad ones. Frankie is my favourite these days. I just love it. Not the fashions though, they are so so alternate that I just don't quite 'get' it.

The kids have done the opposite and read ALL the books in the house. I can't keep up with the book requirements so I was super thankful for all the books that came our way as gifts this summer.

Arabella's top pick for Summer 15:

Don't Look Now - Paul Jennings Books 1-4.

I have read the first one. They are not bad. Funny, fast, interesting, entertaining.

These books would suit any level of reading for lower/middle primary school. The text is minimal on each page so readers needing extra support with their reading will not feel overwhelmed. Established readers will enjoy the comic style of the books and the funny tone.

The basic story is that Ricky is a kid with special powers. He can fly, but only if no one is looking. If anyone (including animals) looks at him while he is flying, he will fall to the ground and die. This causes lots of problems for Ricky. Think about it. Imagine you can fly and save people, but not if someone else is watching... so many dilemmas.

There are currently four books. All as good as each other.

Immy's Choice: Beginning Readers

The Big Book of Billie B Brown.

Billie is not new to our house, she has been around for a few years now. Billie B Brown is a great choice for little people just getting the hang of reading more words on a page.

There is a huge sense of achievement in a little person finishing their very first chapter book with no help. The Billie B Brown books allow newly independent readers to do this.

Immy has been happily reading the Big Book of Billie which is 12 books in one large volume.

Be warned, don't bother buying both The Big book of Billie One and Two, the second big book has about 8 of the same stories and is not a good deal. Just buy the books you might like to read.

Immy has also been reading Ella and Olivia and is keen to get a few more, I will be adding them to our library book list.

Have your kids been reading anything new this summer?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Harry Potter Birthday Party

This year Arabella turned nine and just like every other year she knew well in advance exactly what type of party she wanted to have. 

Turning nine was only ever going to be about a Harry Potter Party.

We all had such a good time getting ready for this party and while it looks like a huge amount of effort was required, most things were really basic, simple to arrange and cheap. 

Photos are probably the best way to share the fun of the day, so here goes.


Printed up in two sections. First the A5 owl and then the scroll. I simply used an embroidery needle and sting to attach the scroll to make it secure. 

The entrance. 

We focussed on the first three books/movies as they are the ones most of our guests would have watched/read. 

Remember when Harry receives lots and lots of mail to invite him to Hogwarts? Well we started with recreating that moment in the front lounge area of our home.  I simply added a couple of pictures of owls to the wall and then used invisible sting to hang the letters from the ceiling and the fire place. 

I had soaked the envelopes in tea leaves for a day earlier on to give them an oldish feel. 

Add a few candles to the mantlepiece and you have the look you are after to get things moving. 

Moving straight past that we had the entrance into the main party area. 

To get through to this area everyone knows that you need to walk through the  brick wall of Platform 9 3/4!

You could easily make your own entrance from an old sheet, some red paint and then draw on the bricks, however this backdrop was just blue tacked to our wall. We placed a split up the middle for people to sneak through.

Immy even grabbed her toy shopping trolley, an owl toy and ran through just like Harry.

Inside the party area we had Honey Duke's Store where the table was filled with all sorts of edible options.

Bertie Botts Beans were a big feature.

Other foodie items we had to feast on included Potter Pies, Blood Clot Sandwiches, Ghostly Cheeses and Cauldron Cupcakes.

We got crafty with some paper and crayons and had candles floating above the table.

We have a large mirror on the wall, so it was easy to grab a lipstick and write this on it. Afterwards it removes with plain old window cleaner.

Next up were the dementers hanging in the back room. 

These are just cheese cloth spray painted black over black balloons and hung with invisible string. 

We had four of them hanging about.

We played a game of pass the Potter Parcel. 

Our blackboard wall was perfect to use for a game of draw the scar on the Wizard. 

Mr H drew a basic image of Harry's face with a big scar. We then blindfolded each of the kids and gave them a piece of chalk. The child who drew a scar the closest to Harry's scar was the winner. 

You could use poster paper and texta's if you don't have a board.

For anyone who wanted to send a letter via the Owl Post I had a simple table with black paper and white pens set up. A covered box and an Owl Post Service poster finished it off. 

Anyone needing a trip to the bathroom also got to meet Moaning Myrtle. (She was a big hit)

Next we all headed outside to play a game of Quidditch. 
Mr H made our Quidditch goals, painted them gold and placed them in the yard. We had a medium sized ball to use and simply had two teams who needed to try and get the ball through one of the goals. 

While each team tried to get goals, the seeker from each team searched the garden for the snitch (a ferrero rocher chocolate). 

It was so much fun. Mr H and I had a team each. It's possible we became a bit competitive.

 After Quidditch, we needed cake, so out came the birthday cake.

A Quidditch cake of course.

To make this one I used sparklers. Burn the sparklers the day before and spray paint them gold and that is the hardest part of this cake.

I didn't make up lolly bags, instead, the trolley from the train to Hogwarts was wheeled out. The trolley is of course filled with lollies galore and we had a lolly box for everyone to fill with their favourite sweets.

Chocolate frogs were added to each box too.

Around the house and yard I had posters that I had printed out. I grabbed most of them from an etsy store for just a couple of dollars.

Removing a few things from a shelf and placing our Potter books around was a final decoration for the day.

The rest was the kids just playing, hanging out, having fun and being kids.

If you are having a Harry Potter Party, it's going to be heaps of fun. Enjoy!