Monday, June 13, 2011

Wishing you a healthy and happy winter

Here's a story of synchronicity (or simply coincidence). On the second day of our current cold snap, I noticed how foolish many people are about keeping warm.  There seems to be some unwritten understanding that because we live in Queensland, the weather is warm.  Most of the time this is true, but when the temperature is 12 degrees celsius, clearly it is reasonably cold. And one should dress appropriately.  But this is how the townsfolk of my regional centre were dressing: jeans with T-shirt and thongs (that's flip-flops for the Americans, and jandals for the New Zealanders); shorts and singlets; bare feet.  And everyone was exclaiming about how cold it was! Madness!  And the same day, our local paper's lead story was about our hospitals' emergency departments having treated over 64,000 people in the past year.  Many of them for simple colds and coughs.

  I saw red. I was fuming. I almost wrote a smarmy letter to the editor. Our health system is overstretched as it is. A popular sport around here is telling horror stories about waiting times at the hospital, and the poor treatment people receive there. Maybe if people looked after themselves, all through the year, but especially in winter, the peak of the cold and flu season, the figures would not be so high, and the overworked, underpaid doctors and nurses at the hospital would be able to give better and more efficient help to those who genuinely need it.

I know I'm probably preaching to the converted. But it won't hurt any of us to do a quick mental check that we are doing our best to keep ourselves and our families healthy and happy this winter. I have had a quick surf to find some sites which may help:

And since cabin fever can sometimes be just as bad as real fever....
  • Christie Burnett, at Childhood 101 has come up with a great list of ideas for keeping kids active when it is too cold to go outside.
  • Here are some craft ideas for entertaining tweens and some other rainy day ideas for kids of all ages.
  • Lists of the best books for teenage boys and girls
  • American Library Association's (ALA) list of best contemporary young adult fiction (some of which looks great - I will have to have a closer look at this list!) And here is the list of the ALA's award winners including the Newbery and Caldecott medals.

What do you do to stay happy and healthy in winter? Have you found any gems or germs online?

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    625 - My favourite number!

    Today I'm celebrating 625 visits to my blog. 625 is my lucky number, because it is 25 squared. My favourite numbers (for no reason) have always been 6,2 and 5. This has nothing to do with any sort of astrological or numerological system, I just like these numbers. I'm not advertising this post on facebook, I just wanted to share that little bit of trivia with my loyal readers or anyone who might come here by accident. Hello out there! I wish I could make you a virtual cuppa and bikkie to say thanks.

    I recently took part in a survey about language use. It was being carried out as part of some PhD research. It was very interesting, looking at language acquisition and use of people from hearing and non-hearing households.  I had never really taken the time before to think about what it would be like to be a hearing person to have two deaf parents, and to have a sign language be one's first language, rather than a spoken language.  Some of the questions related to how much time one spends speaking to various people each day, and it struck me that so much of our 'conversation' these days is done by written words - texting, chatting online, email etc. In the past we would not have been able to contact people that way, or communicate with them so readily, but on the other hand we would have spent more time talking to the people who were actually near us. So here I am talking to you, when my children are in the next room, and I should perhaps be talking to them!

    I think I'll sign off now.....

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    Procrastination -the explanation

    After weeks and months of hibernation, a springlike quickening is innervating (enervating? there is a distinct difference), my blog. This is fuelled by:

    1. My husband's amused and amusingly repetitive asking "So, how is your blog going? How long since your last post" (or perhaps he is saying Last Post - with capitals...).  I am notorious at starting things and not finishing them, which is good for something like a marriage, or a block of chocolate, but not so great for things like Masters degrees and law degrees.

    2.  My husband's absence.  He is overseas at a conference at the moment, and I am missing him a lot.  I love him ridiculously much, and love just spending time with him when he is here, and tend to put off all but the most pressing (or most loudly whinging) tasks. Soppy I know!

    3. What I should be doing: I have been on leave from teaching for so long now that in order to maintain my registration, I have to complete a Restart teaching course.  It is not difficult or onerous.  In fact, I am really enjoying it.  It is great to be talking to teachers about teaching again.  The course is really worthwhile, and I am learning a lot, because it has a strong emphasis on digital learning, and developing my skills with technology, as well as exploring all the systemic and curricular changes that have happened while I've been away.  Th problem is, the facilitators are extremely understanding about how busy the participants' lives can be, and so are very flexible with deadlines. This is not good for me.  I am a totally last minute person. This has a spontaneous upside, but is not very helpful in Real Life.

    So there you have it.  I'm procrastinating. But I am really excited about how many people, maybe even some of them new, are visiting my blog.  It feels great to be writing for fun for a change.  I just need to go and finish this course and then I can write for fun without the nagging guilt! 

    P.S. Another way I can tell I'm in procrstination mode: My house is presentable, and the ironing is almost up to about you?

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Momma Said What......?!

    I came across this fanastic blog last night through Lenore Skenazy's  Free Range Kids blog. I have to say is the most entertaining blog I have seen for a very, very long time.  And I think it's because her children are a little bit older than those of early childhood bloggers.  Early childhood bloggers, while very well-meaning, and full of fantastic creative ideas for stimulating and worthy activities for the under fives, can be a little earnest.

    Momma Said's Jen Singer writes amusing, wise and thought provoking posts.  She sounds like a genuinely fun and friendly person; someone I'd like to have a wine with.

    Who's on your "I'd love to have a wine with...." list?

    Celebrating 50 years of James and the Giant Peach

    Can you believe it? Roald Dahl's juicy tale of the boy who escapes the clutches of his snozzgusting aunts with the help of his gloriously ginormous and groobly friends is 50 years old! (Have you read it to your kids yet? Or to someone else's?) This is an official site which enables fans to create and name a virtual peach which is emailed to a friend, who passes it on etc etc. The aim is to see if it can go to 50 people. You can track your peach's journey on the site, and the miles it travels are tallied as well.  My 6 year old son and I are having a race to see whose peach will travel the furthest.  So far my peach is in Townsville, whilst his is wreaking havoc in Sydney. Will you join us in our quest?

    You can also print out a paper peach and send it to a friend by snail mail (which is probably possible in giant peachland)

    Sunday, June 5, 2011

    Knowledge per se....

    Recently my husband and I had a fascinating conversation about music.  He loves music, and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of popular music from about the last 50 years.  He is one of those people who can "name the song and band" after hearing just a bar or two of a song.  He can also tell who is singing a cover version.  On the other hand, I am often surprised to discover that music from an advertisement is actually from a real song....I really am hopeless when it comes to contemporary music.  I enjoy listening to it when he turns on the stereo, but I wouldn't think to do it myself.

    I love listening to classical music, and foreign and indigenous singers whose lyrics I know I can't understand, so there's no need trying.  I played the french horn in our school orchestra - I am not naturally musical, but had a fabulous teacher. (French horn is a good instrument to play if you are not in fact very musical - you sit near the trumpets and trombones, who are usually quite musical or at least very confident and cocky, and they either drown you out or blend you in, so no one notices your mistakes). I loved playing in orchestras and bands.  Creating music with others is very fulfilling; a real pleasure.

    As I was saying, I love classical music.  I loved learning about musical theory, history and the lives of the great composers.  It is a source of great sadness to me that I am not actually musical. I was one of only three students banned from our primary school choir membership of which was compulsory!

    To cut a long story short, I know a lot about music, but can't actually 'do' music very well.  Nevertheless I am very grateful to all those who helped me learn, and who patiently covered for me in various bands and orchestras over the years.  And the fascinating conversation I had with my husband made it all worth while.

    He asked me about scales, and how you can tell if a piece of music is in a particular key, and what the difference is between major and minor keys, and why we need sharps and flats. In other words, about three years of music theory condensed into a half hour conversation.  So I sat him down at the keyboard of our (digital) piano and showed him.  It was a really special feeling, firstly to actually know more about something than he does, but also to be able to teach him a little more about something he loves.  It was so refreshing (and sadly, unusual) to be having an in depth conversation that didn't revolve aroung the children or the household or work or finances.  Eventually our discussion led us to the internet, where we found sites that got right into the maths and physics of music and harmony, where we both learnt something new together.  And while we'll never have to rely on our understanding of musical theory for a crust, that time spent talking and sharing was for me so precious.

    How often, at school or uni, have we sat in class thinking (or saying...) "Why do I have to do this? This is sooo totally irrelevant to me. I'm no good at this, why do I have to learn it?"  The fact is, we can never know when something we have learnt may come in handy, when we may be grateful to those who made us learn a language or an instrument or a sport or a skill. Even learning something at which we are hopeless gives us at least a greater appreciation of the efforts of those who excel.

    For which of education's 'irrelevancies' are you grateful?