Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pretend Camping by the Beach

our tent!
To start the school holidays a friend from work and I spent the first 3 days "camping" at the top of the cliff overlooking the ocean in Bonny Hills (near Port Macquarie).
The amazing view! (at 7am)

our delicious dinner (except the veggies... they were realllllllly gross)
Of course this was camping in the loose-est sense of the word... yes we stayed in a tent. But in a caravan park with toilets & hot showers, and although we cooked a few meals on the camp bbq, we also spent some time in town eating amazing sundaes and pancakes.
the yummy sundae

mmmm iced chocolate with pancakes for breakfast!

How amazing are the clouds?!

It was absolutely beautiful! The weather was PERFECT and we had the most relaxing time. Such a fantastic way to unwind from term 3. On the first night the moon was incredible. It was massive and orange and reflected in the ocean & was 'right outside' our tent. We seriously sat on our air mattresses staring across the Pacific just in awe of God. (My camera did not do this justice! It was amazing! trust me!)

The incredible orange moon (use imagination when viewing this one)

Chilling on the beach
This bird kept us entertained for ages

Our adventures included walking the length of the beach (it took around 3 hours), a rainforest walk, art gallery, lots of crazy shops, a visit to the sick and injured koalas at the koala hospital, napping, and I read a whole book. I actually read 'The Shack'. It's been on my list of books to read for ages (and a lovely friend lent it to me months ago...).

Here are a few of the things I learnt from my camping adventure and reading The Shack...
  • Nature wakes up way earlier than I like to
  • You can't boil water on a barbeque
  • I don't spend enough time outside
  • I don't watch enough sunsets (or sunrises for that matter)
  • Not much matters when you're laying on a beach or looking out at the ocean from on top of a cliff
  • Rainforest plants are really violent (just in real slow motion)
  • The ocean never stops (ok duh! I know this is obvious, but it actually overwhelmed me to think how many billions of litres of water were constantly churning in waves at the bottom of our cliff, I can't even fathom keeping the waves and tides sorted for one beach let alone the crazy billion-gazillion (really big number) beaches and cliffs and coasts around the world.
  • Relaxing is possible
  • Who cares if someone steals your juice
  • God loves
  • God's love is not conditional, even though it's so easy in my humaness to see it as conditional
  • God's love is not hierarchical
  • 'Truth' as seen by us is biased, flawed and too often ego-centric. What is true to me can change. God's truth does not change.
  • It's not my job to judge
  • Jesus' death changed everything
  • We have been designed to live in community with God and each other
  • Sometimes even the 'good stuff' in our lives needs to be removed for God to purpose something better
  • God is 'especially fond of me'

Friday, September 24, 2010

To market, to market to buy... pretty much everything!

Well yesterday was Year 4 Market Day. I LOVE Market day!
Each kid had to create a stall & advertise and sell their product or service to the K-4 kids and teachers.

The kids (& their parents) came up with such amazing ideas! Everything from slime, cupcakes, catapults, to 'pay $1 and you can hold my rabbit' (such an ingenious idea!). Two girls made a 2 metre wide, almost as tall as me cardboard castle as their stand for their "playdough palace". I spent so much money! (I wanted one of everything...)

Well here are some photos of some of their exciting stalls and products...  

 It was such a great day! In less than 2 hours our 40 Year 4 kids raised almost $1000  for their graduation (which we'll divide between charity, a gift to the school & a whole stack of fun)! such a great effort!

My kids are amazing!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Well eight of my kids' paintings didn't sell at the fair. Five of them were gracious enough to let me buy theirs YAY! :)
I can't wait to stick them up in my house (I'm still deciding on the best location).

I love this one!
That's David Attenborough on the left...

The thing I love most about these paintings, and about doing art with my kids (and teaching in general), is that every one of these kids were given the same stimulus - they were shown the same pictures of toucans, they all saw the same demonstration and techniques, they were all given the same materials to work with... yet every single picture is so different!

I love that God has designed each one of us so differently, that even when we're given the same situation or opportunity or task, our response is going to be unique! Of course this means there's conflict and challenges, but also colour and creativity!

PS I did steal the idea for this art lesson from Deep Space Sparkle which is an amazing site!

Tomorrow is MARKET DAY! Each year (well every year since last year) our Year 4's have had to make a product to sell to raise money for their graduation activities. They get so excited about it! Each kid has their own little stall and sell to other Junior School kids and teachers. Last year we made over $1000 in an hour and a half! I can't wait!

In other news:
- 3 more of my kids have chicken pox :(    (they are so disappointed that they're going to miss Market Day)
- There's only 2 more days till the holidays!
- This week has been so much fun!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The fun night, the fair, the funeral & friends!

As I sit here printing the program I was meant to hand in 7 weeks ago, I will describe the events of my weekend.

Friday night was 'Beautiful Women' which is a girly night run by a church in Newcastle at Wests Leagues club. There were hundreds of women there, good food, great entertainment & many challenging and inspiring stories (I love stories). My amazing friend Ann-Marie performed her song Princess & also sang with her brother Tim who was in the top 9 on Australian Idol last year. It was a real lovely night of hanging out with friends, colleagues and my "little" sister.

Saturday was our College's fair! It was amazing! There was so much going on, and sooooo many people there! There was such a great community feel! My class painted "toucans" (some were not so toucan-ish) to sell. I so wish I took photos of them. My kids are talented artists! I was hoping that they wouldn't sell, so I could decorate a wall of my house with toucan artworks.

I didn't have an official fair job, so I helped out on the tennis ball into sock holder throwing game... um... basically people had to verse a friend to throw the most tennis balls into one of these things...
It was a hit!

I had to leave the fair early because it was my next-door neighbour's funeral (he died last week when he fell off a ladder, breaking his ribs & piercing his internal organs). My dad came to the grave-site with me. This was the first funeral I've ever been to at the actual grave-site. It was a nice service. They started it with the song "True Blue" (because he was known as 'Blue'). Family shared stories about the man they knew. I am amazed at all the things he did - cleared a lot of the land in our area, built roads and highways and major dams, mined, protected the country, built his own house bit by bit. Imagine being able to say "yeh I built that dam" or house or highway. wow!  The thing I found most interesting about Blue's life is that he lived the life of the11 times tables... he was born in 1933, was married for 55 years from the time he was 22 and died at 77. hmm are you meant to think about such things at funerals...

Last night I hung out with my lovely friend Karen from work, her husband and their super cute baby. He has grown soooooooooooo much in the past 2 weeks since I last saw him. Way too cute.

This morning church was run by the kids. It was so noisy and crazy and fun! there were balloons everywhere. How often do you get to play with balloons in the middle of church and get away with it? The closing song included a band of 30ish kids on plastic tambourines, whistles, drums and cymbals. At one point the (actual) band cut out and the congregation sang along with the kids. It was so cute!

Hmm anyway, that's my weekend that was. Back to work tomorrow (a gala day, an excursion & a market day this week! So fun!)! 1 more week till holidays! I'm so looking forward to having a break, catching up with fun friends, spending more time with God, reading and getting my life (and house) back into some sort of order.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The sun is a mass of incandescent gas (but apparently not really)

Today I started teaching my kids this song for a performance we're doing next term...
It's called "why does the sun shine?" & is lots of fun! (you should be able to watch it by clicking on the picture)
Of course it was met with groans and "why can't we do Katy Perry or Lady Gaga instead?" (oh it worries me so much that this is what my 9 year old girls are watching and listening to!) but by the end of the day they were so proud of themselves for mastering the words "incandescent" & "gigantic nuclear furnace" & were begging "just one more time!!!" hehehe I love my job!

Of course, since making this song it's apparently been proven that the sun is not gas, but plasma & 'they might be giants' have created a newer song correcting this... but it's just not catchy like the original. So in my class, the sun is a mass of incandescent gas, high school science teachers can fix that one day (by then it might not be plasma anymore anyway...)!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Last Saturday was fundraiser day in my world. I spent the day at our church's soccer gala day, it was to raise money for cancer research in memory of a man who used to help out with our soccer team. I forgot how much I love playing soccer, since I haven't played this year. It was a fantastic day, there was easily 200 people there (and only one serious injury requiring surgery - our pastor broke his leg!).

Saturday night was the annual fundraiser night for KSLC (King Solomon Learning Centre). This is my school's sister school in Manila, The Philippines. The school was started for the kids in the slum area & now has over 500 kids, who come to school in shifts because there is not enough room to accommodate them all.  One of my friends and her family lived over there for a year in 2008 (& I spent 2 weeks there with them - so amazing). It's her church that hosts the annual fundraiser. 

The purpose of this year's fundraiser was to raise money for the 2nd school they are wanting to start right near the garbage dump. Sounds a bit crazy... but I've been there. There is a village literally built on the side of the dump. It stinks. The kids there are so sick & don't know what it's like to breathe fresh air and drink water that is not contaminated. The aim of the new school is to get the kids out of the dump each day, take them to a nearby town & feed, get them medicine & vitamins, & educate them (as education is the only way out of the poverty cycle).

The fundraiser was really well done! (they always are!) and they raised almost $15,000! Throughout the night many photos & videos were shown to make it more real (or remind our stupid forgetful brains). The images of the beautiful kids broke my heart. But the thing that challenged me was the most was when Cherie spoke of the kids from the slums (at the original school) who constantly brought in their money to school to support the kids from the dump and buy them vitamins. These kids are living in absolute poverty, but are so aware of people who are not as well off as they are. Wow! It's like the widow's coins...
1 As Jesus looked up, he saw rich people putting their gifts into the temple offering boxes. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.
 3 "What I'm about to tell you is true," Jesus said. "That poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All of those other people gave a lot because they are rich. But even though she is poor, she put in everything. She had nothing left to live on."- Luke 21:1-5
Though... do we (who are rich) give a lot because we are rich? I think often/always I am guilty of not only not (not only not...hmm good use of words) giving 'everything', but not even giving 'a lot'!

I tried to communicate this sentiment to my class this afternoon. We had a great discussion about poverty and looked at the "world as a village" website. My kids were really somber when they realised they were in the 8% of the world's richest, the 20% who had houses, the 33% who could read, the 7% who had internet (I think this one shocked some of them the most). Most of them really seemed to take this on-board & started discussing ways they could help others less fortunate than themselves (apart from one little girl, who just said "well that's why I save my money so I don't end up poor like them!" hmm kinda missed the point.). But of course, whenever you get kids into that amazing state of thinking about someone other than themselves, there is an interruption.

Today's interruption came in the form of an advertisement for our College Fair (which is this Saturday). Where the children were encouraged to spend up big on the entertainment, showbags & rides that will be there. hmm. Thus ended the lesson...& the selfless thinking...

Anyway, I was challenged. As I sit here on my laptop, watching TV on my T-box (which finally came last week - 6 weeks telstra! 6 weeks!)... I'm pondering how can I simplify my life to help others. Thinking about going without is hard, but what's going to matter in the end? Whether I lived comfortably or whether I helped others to live? hmm I could easily push this to the back of my mind and not let it affect me, but I think I need it to.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Camp was sooooooo much fun! We took 70 kids - Year 3 & 4 (aged 8-10) on a 1 night camp.We spent 2 days flat-out with back-to-back activites of fun! There were so many highlights...

The giant swing was a favourite for most of the kids. You get pulled up 18 metres into the air and then briefly free-fall before the swinging action starts. It was so cool to watch kids overcome fears (and interesting to see the 'tough kids' crumble as the rope took them higher). Even though I've done this twice before, the initial drop still freaks me out! It was funny though, as I swung back and forwards the things kids yelled out, my favourite was "Miss F, can you take us back to the cabin now?" (and she was fully serious) no, I'm sort of busy at the moment... maybe in a few minutes.

Our impromtu Cabin I Sock Bowling Championship was a big hit too. I love that little kids are willing to go along with crazy wet-weather ideas I have, to fill in the half an hour before dinner. Within two minutes we had 14 competitors armed with socks, 2 judges, a shampoo bottle target and prizes for the winner. The girls thought it was hilarious and made up great back stories of how they got into the sport and which country they were representing.

There are way too many other things I could write about. We canoed, climbed, archered (um...), rode, ate (& ate & ate & ate), swung, jumped, minute-to-win-it-ed (um the past tense of minute to win it - the tv show...) and laughed alot.

Apart from being kept up till 2am by a sobbing, homesick girl, the whole 2 days were fantastic! It was one of those life moments where my heart felt full.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

helmets and regret

Today went fast. Tomorrow is our Year 3/4 camp, so we spent the day sewing camp head-bands & answering six million questions about: the food, the cabins, free-time activities, when is a good time to read books at camp (my kids are such nerds :) ), lollies and... "when you said that we aren't allowed to bring DSes (plural of nintendo DS) to camp, can we bring them for the bus ride there and then put them away when we get there?"

Both of my favourite stories of the day relate to one of my little boys with Asperger's. He is a tad anxious about camp. This morning he handed me 5 envelopes, each labelled "About Camp" and included the following messages:

Miss F, I think camp is dangerous. from C
Miss F, The quad bikes are dangerous. From C
Miss F, Camp is very dangerous and I am worried about camp. From C
Miss F, Please help me! From C
Miss F, I think I might be able to go to camp. From C

Too cute! We looked at the pictures of camp again & talked about all the safety features of the high ropes and quad bikes.

As he was leaving class this afternoon he was still anxious about tomorrow & asked for my phone number. Thinking his mum might want to chat to me tonight I gave him my numbers which I don't normally do. By the time I got to the staffroom after school I had already missed 2 calls from him.

I called him back & our conversation went something like this...
C: I have decided that I am not going to come to camp.
Me: Why's that? It's going to be so fun! You don't want to miss out...
C: Well the high-ropes is very dangerous, I might bump my head on a pole or a tree or I could crash onto the ground.
Me: Remember when we looked at the pictures of the high ropes? You have to wear a helmet and you'll have a special harness so you won't fall! It's very safe!
C: Well the quad bikes might flip's very dangerous
Me: You are good at riding a motor bike! A quad bike is just like that, but has 4 wheels so it's even safer! And you wear a helmet...

His mum interrupted, took the phone & told me that he would definitely be coming to camp, he is actually very confident with heights & rides a motor bike often.  She's convinced that he is going to be fine.

He took the phone back...
C: Well I'm just getting ready for my afternoon nap, I usually have a nap in the afternoon...
His mum (in the background): You do not! Stop making up stories! Say goodbye to Miss F!
C: Oh I need to go now. bye.

I'm sure I'll have some great stories from camp! My kids are so fun!

After school I had lovely afternoon tea with 2 amazing friends. I love catch ups and also iced chocolates.

My day changed at 6pm. Just as I was leaving my house to go to band practice, my neighbour R, who I haven't seen in at least 6 months, popped in. He had just been to my other neighbour's house (they are technically on either side of my house, but their properties meet behind mine). This visit was VERY out of character because they have been enemies since 1968. Well... he had gone to visit to pay his condolences. Blue died today. Lovely old Blue who mows my lawns, cuts down my dead trees & brings in my garbage bins is dead. R told me that he had been climbing a ladder down near his chook pen and fell... to his death.

I don't know how I feel. Mostly I am regretting not spending more time with them, Blue & his wife. There's always something else to do. The last time I saw him was last Saturday as I was hanging out my washing, he was walking through his yard. He didn't notice me. I should've called out & said hi & taken a moment to chat about how things were on their side of the fence (and listened as he told me what I should do to neaten up my back yard as he usually would). But I didn't. I just hung out my clothes and went back into my house.

I wonder if you ever feel like you've done enough when someone dies.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The classroom with the water-feature

Today was exhausting. It was a mufti (out of uniform) day, it was a wet day & it was also the last day in a SUPER busy week. However, (my boss would be so proud of my 'full-stop capital h however comma') there was an amusing situation which made up for at least a portion of the craziness... yet also added to it.

When Katrina and I were walking down to class this morning we noticed that every other class was lined up on their verandah except ours (which was highly unusual, since we have the super good kids)... we just assumed that being out of uniform had turned them feral & prepared to lecture them about being in the right place as so on.

It wasn't till we got really close that one of our boys ran up and said "there's water!" We then saw that the bark-chip pile next to our classroom had sprung a leak...  the grounds-keeper had hit a pipe while he was trying to move the bark-chip. The water was not just trickling down the hill to kindy, it was arching up at least 2 metres, over the railing and onto our verandah, preventing the kids from getting close to the door. Since the water was spurting from underneath a bark-chip pile it was also "hailing" bark-chip on our doorstep. We had a layer of bark-chip covering almost 2 square metres outside our room, which of course got trekked into the classroom once I managed to brave the fountain & usher the kids inside.

Crazy start to the day, but makes for a good story.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Everyone Else Strategy

Today we had a few minutes to spare after maths so I was going through some times table flash-cards with my kids. When we came to hard ones I got kids to explain the strategies they used to figure it out. I was really impressed with the strategies they explained  (like "if it's 12x3 I know 11x3=33 so I just add 3 more").

My favourite was the 'everyone else strategy' that one of my Year 4 boys explained..."If I don't know the answer I use the 'everyone else strategy'... I just wait till everyone else has answered the question then I just join in."  He soon gave us a demonstration when I flashed "4x7" at them. He sat with a deep look of concentration on his face, thumb and first finger on his chin and repeated "Using the everyone else strategy..." until the rest of the class chimed in with "28", he then quickly added his "28" on the end. My aide and I cracked! I couldn't keep a straight face, there ended the lesson! I love the original explanation of a tactic so many kids use! (I may just need to work on developing a few more strategies that don't involve cheating :) ).

How often do we, even as 'grown ups' use the "everybody else strategy" to gauge what we're meant to say and do? To make sure we've got the "correct answer"... hmm. This morning in our staff devotions we discussed how real fulfillment, energy and even rest comes when we are doing what God has called us & equipped us to do. If we spend too much time trying to fit in with what works for everyone else, we might miss our own calling, or spend our time being jealous of people who have what we think we should have, rather than using what we have to glorify God where we are. This has been on my mind for a while, but I love the reminder. (I'm also loving reading Deuteronomy, but that's another story)  My kids teach me so much!