Friday, August 30, 2013


I went to a meeting in Junee, yesterday. We had lunch at the Railway Station Café. It's from a bygone era. I'm so glad they have kept it and use it.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Just the girls

If working right through the weekend is necessary, I highly recommend doing it with an Australasian Mobile Library Network Conference. I was on the committee to organise it and it all came together beautifully. I learnt a lot, met some great people and had lots of fun. Stig Wemyss is a fabulous narrator of kids' books and has been doing a tour of the Riverina for Book Week, firing the kids up about reading. I also met author, Susanne Gervay, whose infectious passion for reading and dealing with big issues in her books has seen her awarded an Order of Australia. We insisted she wear one of the medals for the first time.
Here I am with Stig
Toby played his first two pieces for the Wagga Eisteddfod. As he, and all the years 5 and 6 kids from his school, were heading away on excursions on the actual eisteddfod day, they all played their pieces a day early. He did his usual duet with Stephanie. We don't see much of Stephanie except at eisteddfod time. Let's just say that Toby is due a growth spurt!

He played one solo as well. Three more pieces on Sunday and that is third grade piano finished.

The next morning, Wednesday, we were at school by 6.15am to wave year 6 off to Canberra. He doesn't look it, but he was very excited! That's not vegemite on his face, by the way, he had a little accident on (off) the bike.

Andrew went to Melbourne at the same time, so it's just the girls for two nights! We should be doing girly stuff, but instead we did soccer practice followed by cycling last night, and I am off to a church women's social tonight. Next time we'll watch something from the BBC..... Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Dickens, too many to choose from.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Book Week tips

Book Week can be very difficult to prepare for, especially wen you have several children. There have been many years when I cursed Book Week! This is what I have learnt:

  1. Prepare early! There is nothing more frustrating (for you and the child concerned) to be scrounging around at the last minute, ending up with something no-one is happy with.
  2. Work backwards. If you have a good costume, a nurse's outfit or cowboy hat, go to the library and ask for a book to go with it.
  3. Sport uniforms work. If your child plays a sport outside of school, send them in the uniform. Writers try to tempt reluctant readers with books about subjects they feel passionate about. There are AFL series, soccer series, tennis series.....Writers also try to tempt reluctant readers with toilet humour, but I have never seen a child go as Captain Underpants or a psycho bum.
  4. Remember the weather and their mode of transport, they don't want to find that their outfit is ruined or ridiculed before they even get to school.
  5. If you have the time and inclination, head online where all the crafty mothers are!
It was such a joy for me, this year, to only have Bethany to dress. She wanted to be Rapunzel so I decided to devote a little time to it. I went to Pinterest and searched for a Rapunzel wig tutorail. A trip to Spotlight followed by much wool cutting and a little hand sewing and Bethany and I were both very pleased with ourselves.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Money out, money in?

Well there have been some achievements of late, and it's probably worth pointing them out. Toby ended up getting an A in his piano exam, which he was pretty happy with - that's 3rd grade done. Both Joss and Tobes rode in the Wagga Cycling Club championships and did well. We think Toby won the time trial, but won't be sure until the presentation in a few weeks. He came 2nd in the road race (feeling a bit robbed as he did most of the work at the front), and Joss rode out of her skin, also spending most of the time at the front of her race - we think she came 2nd - once again we'll have to wait to find out. Bethany has really started to come along with her violin, and I think she is showing promise. Amy of course ran her 1/4 marathon recently with everything she had - and we couldn't have been more proud.

Unfortunately all this comes at a cost (by choice of course), but I think I have a plan.

Amy is doing so well. that I'm going to have to buy her some cool gear. Joss and Tobes are now getting to the end of road season, and track season is now around the corner. They are both disturbingly dedicated, so I made the decision to purchase track bikes for them - Joss' came today, Toby's is being built and arrives tomorrow. Then there is all the clothing etc... Bethany... well... she's probably the least expensive one of the lot...

Here's my plan though...

Joss becomes a track champion and earns millions in endorsements. Toby becomes a concert pianist and travels the world buying holiday homes in exotic places with his recording royalties. Bethany carves some artwork into the back of the violin and sells it for a fortune in the name of contemporary art, and Amy completes a marathon and wins a free water bottle (she doesn't need to exceed to excess as the kids have already done that).

So - it'll all even out in the end.
All very achievable and not at all wishful thinking.

Training Tobes

Joss and the as yet unnamed new track bike


I have been having so much fun watching Bethany's soccer games that I am honestly sorry that I'll be at a conference this weekend and will miss one. Her success as goalie has continued and she tends to do half of each game in the goals and puts her body on the line for the team. Last week, another parent, whose son's enthusiasm for life rather exceeds his soccer skills, offered him $10 for every goal he gets between now and the end of the season. This was a safe bet for him, not only because his son hasn't scored a goal before, but because he was taking over from Bethany as goalie for the last half of the game. Bethany hasn't ever scored a goal either, so I made her the same offer.

The result was extraordinary! The other parents and I were crying with laughter and cheering her on, as she put in a powerful effort. She nearly got three goals and was almost unstoppable! At one stage, she had been brought to the ground in a pile of limbs and she was still kicking, trying to get it in. Such fun! I really hope she gets a goal this Saturday, she deserves it and I will consider it money well spent.

I love this sketch she did of me. She doesn't like it and has since scrunched it up. Artistic temperament!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


I have been putting off writing about the marathon as I am very disappointed in my run. It had not occurred to me that there wouldn't be an abundance of people new to running at the starting line with me. As it happens, anyone who felt they would need longer than usual to run the marathon, all 42 kilometers, left an hour earlier, and all those doing the half marathon, left at the same time, but from the halfway point. So, it was me and an awful lot of fit young men and women and seasoned runners.

When I dragged myself to the top of the hill to hand the 'baton' (wristband) to my team mate, the other two said that there was someone behind me, walking. I didn't lay eyes on such a person, so they may have been making him up. The thing I feel bad about, though, is not really that I came last in my leg, if I had run my best, I wouldn't have minded that so much. What really upset me was that it was the hardest run I have ever done. Whether it was the nerves, what I did or didn't eat and drink or trying to keep up with people early on, I felt awful for most of the 10.5 kilometers. I never got into a rhythm where I am just running without thinking, every step was a struggle. At the end of my leg was a long, steady incline with a steep, dirt track hill at the top. I really thought that I might not be able to walk up that hill. Crying, fainting, throwing up, all were possibilities!

My kids and the Mills kids were all cheering me on and I made it, which is the main thing, I suppose. The relief was extraordinary and the rest of the day was fun. We all piled into Narelle's car and drove to each changeover point and then, at the end, the three of us who had finished, ran a kilometer back down the track and waited for Narelle, then we all ran the last kilometer together. We were the only all women relay team. We finished in just under four and a half hours.

As Narelle drove me home, I said that I was going to quit running all together, but I was only joking! In the end, I think it was motivation to try to do better. Last night, after Bible study, I headed out and ran five kilometers. Up hills and down, despite a slight headache and it being after 10pm, I ran my best time and felt great. After worrying that I had broken something, it's going to be OK. Which is lucky, because I am going in the Lake to Lagoon in three weeks! It's an annual 10k race, that serious people enter and race properly, but that is also a 'fun run' - lots of walkers, people in costumes etc. Hopefully, I can do a bit better then....

Sunday, August 18, 2013


I'm heading off soon for my first ever 10.5k race. I didn't sleep very well and I'm a bit nervous. I'll leave you with a couple of the photos I found on my phone the other day - not from Joss this time!

At least it isn't a duck face....

We were at Toby's soccer training while these were taken. I know this because she silently took this photo of me. Reading time, the best thing about soccer training.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


The blossoms are out everywhere, and while it is still cold, I know that winter is slipping away. There seem to be more people who prefer the heat, but I am definitely in winter's camp. Having a house with ducted heating helps, but I don't even mind running on a dark morning when it is zero degrees, or standing on the sidelines at soccer, feeling the cold ground through my shoes. I'm so much more of a whinger when it is hot.

Still, there are plenty of advantages to the passing of winter and I think the first one will be time. Cycling is all year round, but soccer is not. No more soccer training, that's two afternoons a week, and no games on Saturday! I don't think road season for cycling has Saturday competition either, so we could have a whole day off! That's worth looking forward to.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Back to school

When your children either catch the bus, walk or ride their bike to school, it can be quite long between visits. This week we have been to both schools, thankfully, for fun things. Joss had a Year 9 subject information night. When I was at school (I love being the old person who starts sentences like that), I chose two electives, in Year 7, that I did for all of Year 8 to Year 10. I chose French and German. Joss had compulsory subjects for all of Year 8 as well, and now has had to choose three electives.

Andrew and Joss had spent some time going through all the options, so Joss was pretty sure which subjects she wanted to choose, but I was surprised at what was on offer, and why. It seems like they provide, along with more academic courses like commerce or French, options that students will enjoy and, spread over their timetable, will keep them interested in school. There are subjects where you go hiking and complete Duke of Edinburgh, there are extra PE subjects (PE is a compulsory subject as well) and all sorts of fun things like textiles, photography, dance and food technology. You could choose all physical subjects and end up playing sport for something like twelve lessons a week!

We were told, very clearly, to let the students choose subjects they want to do; to let them give things a go. The only two subjects where choice at this stage affects the HSC, are French and music. Obviously, if you want to do French or music for the HSC, you need to include those now. Joss has given up on French, so the 2015 school trip to France is definitely off! Joss chose journalism, food technology and child studies. I told her that she can make dinner at least once a week as part of her food technology study, and that if she has to bring one of those dolls that cries all night and needs its nappy changed, that she is on her own!

I also went to Bethany's assembly, as her class was doing the item. They had each made a papier maché puppet and written little plays for them. Bethany's was about a very naughty puppet named Claudia (yes, this was Bethany's puppet), whose friends taught her not to play pranks. It was a very familiar story...

Taking photos with my phone proved difficult. That's her fuzzy, pink puppet.

I tried to make it less fuzzy by not zooming in, so this is a shot of parents' heads and a pink dot.

Each team had to come out and bow. Bethany is the one with the white shirt.

Thankfully, we can get close when it is all over.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Coffee meetings

Ah, meetings. Sometimes they are a great thing to have when you want to avoid actually doing stuff, other times they are really productive. My team has meetings every fortnight and we have always had them in my office, which has three less-comfy-than-they-look tub chairs and a coffee table. We decided last week, however, that we would have our meetings in cafes, as a way of doing something a bit social as well.
For our first cafe, I chose the Old Empire Tea Rooms, given my lovely experience there last week. We had a very good meeting with coffee, minty hot chocolate, passion fruit melting moment and tomato and basil muffin. I like this plan a lot. Especially as, after some serious rearranging last week, my office looks like this.

Hipstamatic makes it look better....

I took this photo for Tim, as his little people love a good 'chino'. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Running update

Everyone hates a smug, fit person. I don't want to be one of those, but I do want to share where I am up to with my running because it still astounds me that I can do it! I am hourglass shaped, not remotely sporty, came last in every race I ever went in. It started at the end of January when I decided to stop flirting with fitness, now that I am well and truly over forty, and make a real effort to get some of the many health benefits of being properly fit. I began running in sixty second bursts and have built it up by running three times a week, without fail, ever since.

I have given up on the 'runners' high' I have heard about, I find running hard, but it is a lot easier than it was. When we lived in Central, I ran around the completely flat streets. Moving to hilly Estella was a shock and it took me a while to work back up to running for thirty minutes straight, the uphills really took it out of me!

When I finished the couch to 5k app, Shep said that I needed a new goal, but I was happy just doing a half hour run (with five minutes walking either side to warm up and cool down) three times a week, which is easy to fit in before work. Then, in a weak moment, my friend Narelle and I agreed to form part of a relay team to run a marathon - a real marathon! There are four of us in a team and we each run 10.5k. I bought a new app to get me from five to ten kilometers, and am now in the final week. Just in time because the marathon is this Sunday.

This app is a bit different. It is still three runs a week, the first being a shorter, steady paced run, the second involved jogging then bursts of fast runs and then jogs, or a sustained faster run, and then, for the last run of the week, the time was increased by five minutes each week. On Saturday I was supposed to run for 60 minutes, with five minutes walking either side. As I can't walk for the first five minutes of the marathon, I decided to run through both walking sections, going for seventy minutes! It wasn't easy and I spent a lot of time thinking about calling Andrew to come and get me, but I ran the route of my marathon leg and ended up doing 10.5 kilometers. I started at Wagga Beach, ran past the school , over the very nasty hill on Red Hill Rd (Red Hill perhaps?) and dow to Jubilee Oval.  I'm not fast, and coming last is a real possibility, but at least I know I can run the whole way.
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Monday, August 12, 2013

Old Empire Tea Rooms

People used to say that Toby was Andrew's 'mini-me' and I would reply that he was so much like Andrew that it was as if I wasn't there. It isn't just his face, either. Toby is a perfectionist (about some things, homework isn't one of them), so when piano exam time comes around, our biggest worry is dealing with the nerves. Before every exam I can remember sitting, I was praying that despite the fact that I left the study to the last minute/didn't do enough work, I would do well anyway. There would be tears because I had done it again and would I ever learn? With Toby, we pray that he gets what he deserves, because he practices every day.

On Friday, Toby went to school as usual and I left work and picked him up just after ten. At six past eleven he went into his exam and in the following twenty minutes, went from a trembling, close to tears bundle of nerves, to a relieved grinner! We won't know his results for a while, but he is happy with his performance and, therefore, so am I.

There is a McCafé between the Conservatorium and his school. We have been there before around exam or eisteddfod time, but I felt that this celebration required more ceremony and a little less grime. I decided we would go to the evocatively named Old Empire Tea Rooms, up the Paris end of town. It was a brilliant idea. I have blogged about this café before, when it was just a hole in the wall. Now they have several rooms and Toby and I perched ourselves in front of the window, to watch Wagga go by. I told the friendly, dapper fellow that we were celebrating and would require hot chocolate and something sweet. He overwhelmed Toby with a list of all the things he might like, including three types of hot chocolate, so I helped him choose, and ordered a flat white for myself.

While my phone and the photo booth on my computer are full of selfies of Joss and funny videos of Bethany, Toby is not a man who likes the camera. This is the best shot I got of him enjoying his minty hot chocolate and chocolate shortbread sandwich, which he declared 'the best bikkie ever'. When we could no longer avoid returning to school and work, I went to pay for our lovely refreshments and experience, only to be told that my coffee was all I was to pay for. They made Toby a congratulatory present and he felt very special.

Bethany has started to have private violin lessons. All children at her school learn the violin in Year 3 and a few keep going with it. There is a family at church with three beautiful-in-every-way girls who are pretty much grown up now. The youngest, Rhiannon, finished school last year and Bethany was in awe of her. Rhiannon plays the violin, so Bethany wants to play too. Andrew had the brilliant idea of asking Rhiannon to teach her, so now we go to Rhiannon's house once a week and Bethany is in raptures. She, too, is practicing every day.

Last night, just before bed, she and Andrew gave me a one song concert. At the beginning of anyone's violin journey, I think one song is a very good concert. Keep it up, Bethany!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Good morning, Sunshine

The view from our house never fails to make me thankful. Today, Toby has his piano exam. I might wake him up now so we can marvel at the sunrise together.

Monday, August 5, 2013


How lamentably easy it is to break good habits and form bad ones. We have been busy, but you make time for the things that are true priorities, and blogging has managed to get dropped from the break away and then from the peloton (I do hope you understand my cycling references!), but, with concerted effort, I'm sure I can bring it back. We have done plenty of things worthy to be recorded here, but I have managed not to take a photo of any of them. Alice, Andrej and the kids visited from Melbourne last weekend and we had a lovely catch up over lunch. It wasn't until long after they had left that it occurred to me, we had taken no photos at all. We could have recreated the famous shot of Bethany and Andrew...

The response...

We must remember to do that next time.

I suppose I ought to attempt some sort of catch up. Well, our three weeks of visitors and the Tour de France ended with a mix of disappointment and relief. We enjoyed having everyone so much, were so pleased with how well the house coped with extra people, and the Tour was thrilling, I love it more every year. Staying up late every night, along with all the added cooking, can lead to fatigue, hence the tiny bit of relief, but we are looking forward to many years of holidays with a full house.

I do need to wake the kids up and get going for the day, so the last update I shall give is on sport. Bethany has had a brilliant season with soccer. They haven't won a lot of games, but they have played so well as a team and Bethany has really gotten into it and played well. She isn't afraid of the ball, or the ground! On Saturday, she was goalie for one half and she made three saves, two of which were spectacular. She was even winded by one of them! Connor, her fifteen year old coach, told her that it was a professional standard save, better than any he had seen on TV for ages, and he gave her the sports award for the week. She was so thrilled, as was I in watching it.

I must confess that, usually, children's sport is one of those aspects of parenthood that I tolerate, rather than revel in. Standing on a soggy oval, listening to everyone moan about the cold (I save my moaning for the heat), making small talk with other parents you don't know very well, it isn't an exciting proposition for me. This year, however, something has changed with Bethany's game. As Bethany's, and the whole team's, skills have increased, so has my interest in the actual game, and we are all at the side cheering and calling out the children's names. They don't all know each other off the field, Bethany is the only girl and there are no other children from her school, but they all enjoy playing together and the parents are at the stage where we have learned all their names. We even had a barbeque at the coach's house on Saturday and it was a lot of fun. It was extraordinary to see a fifteen year old boy (who knows all the parents' names and always uses them, asking how we are) playing with the year three kids.

Joss and Tobes are having a fabulous season at cycling, with big races coming up, and even I have a sporty update - I am on track to share a marathon as part of a relay team, each running 10.5k, the week after next. More on that later.....