Fizzy caffeinated beverage for the win…or moving on.

So look at the fabulous gift my old Branch got me – a whole case of my very favourite fizzy caffeinated beverage! They also got me other stuff and a lovely lovely card with lovely lovely messages.

Anyway, after two years in the Skills Quality Branch, including 4 months or so of leading it,  I am moving. It has been a good two years and I have worked with fabulous people. I have had some involvement with the creation of a new Australian Qualifications Framework but my main achievement has been the establishment of the Australian Skills Quality Authority – the first ever national regulator for the vocational education sector, established under a referral of powers of which there have been fewer than 10 in post-Federation Australia. Naturally, I am quite proud of this – and, even though it has been stressful at times, it has been fun – because I felt I was achieving something; because I worked with terrific people – bosses, staff, even many of the external stakeholders. Oh, and we also established the National Skills Standards Council which sets the standards against which the regulator will regulate.

So the Branch knew me well – fizzy caffeinated beverages, beer and chocolate to say goodbye at a dumpling lunch. I am going to miss them…but fortunate they are only one floor up from my new home.  I am now acting Branch Manager for the Technology, Infrastructure and Connections Branch in the Skills Group. I am now responsible for Apprenticeship Incentive payments to employers and apprentices, the management of the contract for Apprenticeship Centres, (the national register for training providers and qualifications), the Australian Training Awards and a range of other programs. Despite having been doing vocational education policy for six years now, there are some new acronyms, a lot of new staff and a range of new subject matter. After three days, so far, so good – but we’ll check back in a month!

But here is to new adventures!

Very quiet, a little squirmy

Friday was the day for Jude’s learning journey. Jude’s assessment of what he is like in class – very quiet, a little squirmy. The squirmy I can imagine – the quiet? Not quite so much…

We did a few things together before James arrived – Jude demonstrated his skills with a word-sort.

We also played some maths games – including one with time and closks.

We went outside and kicked the soccer ball about for a bit – I tell you, when the rest of the day involves a long meeting with state and territory government representatives, spending a bit of time in the sunshine kicking a ball about it rather a pleasure. Should be compulsory.

Jude also showed us his wonderful “persuasive text’ where he argues for JK Rowling as the best children’s author. I am hoping he has a big future ahead of him in writing convincing arguments.

Once James had arrived we looked at Jude’s work. Recently he has really gotten into his maths and enjoys it a lot, along with his drawing. He is also quite good at story-tellin, he just needs to improve his hand0writing and spelling!

So a lovely learning journey time. It is always great to see the pride that the boys have in their achievements.

Distracted, slowly, creatively, disorganised

Today was Sebastian’s Learning Journey at school. One of the pre-arrival tasks was for the students to circle words which describe their work habits at school – well, at least Sebastian was being honest! I liked the creatively part – and perhaps the other things can sometimes be seen as going along with creativity!

I got to see Sebastian’s work and again get to see how much his skills have improved. He still has some way to go with the spelling though. He has done some fabulous art work.

The picture below copied from one in Dust, almost certainly the saddest book I have ever read – about children’s deaths in Africa from starvation. Great drawing  though.

Here are some more.

We also got to play some games. I beat Sebastian at the dot-square game, but he beat me at this Indonesian game (very maths-based).

Once again, always nice to see them at school in their native environment and to engage with what they are learning.

Thoughts for today.

Andrew Knox: I remember you always had a sparkle in your eye and a ready smile. Today I’m thinking of you and all those who died with you.

I am also thinking of those many thousands of people who have died in the subsequent wars which you would not have wanted in your name.

I am also thinking of the loss of rights, the torture and the unlawful incarcerations you would have fought against if you’d been alive.

I am also thinking of those who didn’t die, whose grief was greater than mine – more intimate, closer, more personal.

And I am thinking, with love and gratitude, of my friends who were in NY and didn’t die, who I feared for, and spent all day trying to call.

When the unthinkable happens, try to look on the world with love, not with hate. That is my thought for the day.


Who says cleaning up can’t be fun?

Jude and yet more art

Jude is very keen on his creativity at the moment – drawings, craft, telling stories and he has expressed a desire to do some drama. He is ever creating. Here is his most recent work from the school holiday program – a tree with a face and animals in its hair. He is looking forward to making more.

10 years on…

So today we finally bought a house. Anyone who knows us knows how much of a saga this has been. Fortunately, and almost unexpectedly – because I so loathe auctions nowadays – it is over as of about 11.30am this morning.

James reminded me that it is almost exactly 10 years ago that we bought us first property. It is easy to remember that date: we made the offer on the morning of September 12 2001, between finding out that some friends in New York were alive (when finally able to reach them) and that another had been trapped at the top of the World Trade Centre. It was a very odd day – listening to the radio, talking to friends, being happy that we had bought the apartment but devastated by everything else. And then two weeks later I found out I was pregnant with Sebastian. The world transformed that month in both a very personal way as well as in the broader geo-political changes. I also remember that I was sitting in an office when making these calls – my first time up acting as an EL2  – a manager/director for non public servants – in a job which I had won on merit. And here we are, 10 years later, new house bought and I am embarking onto my second series stint as a Branch Manager – the next level up.

In between there have been three small boys, a PhD (and James finishing his), a number of different jobs, a different department, travel, three different houses and a world that keeps changing. We have been living in our current house for nearly five years, in a complicated arrangement that first saw us buy half and rent, then sell back our half and keep renting. But now, in just over a month, we will again be living in a house which is all our own. Well, ours and the bank’s.

It has been an amazing ten years and I feel so happy and fortunate to be where I am right now – a wonderful family, a new job with new opportunities and a new house. I also have fabulous friends and family and it is spring and the weather is beautiful. I guess I am just lucky to be me.

It is sad to think that the last ten years can be bounded by such a horrible tragedy, which has been the excuse for more suffering and death, and I feel immensely sad for those who have had their families and lives destroyed. But this makes me all the more determined to be happy and to embrace the opportunities that my life has brought me.

Of course, we have failed to buy houses at auctions any number of times over the past six years or so, so I was not holding my breath. We hadn’t even told many people we were thinking of bidding – perhaps not to jinx it. And then to get the house, and at a price $50k less than we were willing to pay – well, I burst into tears.

The house needs some work to be perfect – but it is a big big block in a perfect location. We can still ride our bikes everywhere, the boys don’t need to change schools and I can still walk to work if I want to. It is big enough for us to live in, but there will be ample opportunities to expand and improve. And because we are spending $100k less than we had been planning to pay, the opportunities to extend may come sooner rather than later.

When we move into this house in a month or so, we may not move again for a long time. I can see the next 10 years being in our little (but expanded) cottage in Ainslie. And here’s to that!

Dick and Harry at Book Week

Here is Sebastian in full Dick Callum Winter Holiday mode – home made fur hat and all. Sebastian decided this year to go to Book Week as Dick because he identifies with him – in Winter Holiday Dick is really interested in astronomy and does some heroic and practical engineering things.  In the previous books I think john has been Sebastian’s point of identification, but for the moment it has switched to Dick. We were aiming for a 1930s small boy casual look – I had trouble finding long socks though.

Jude’s favourite character at the moment is Harry Potter as he embarks on the odyssey of those books (two down so far), so naturally this was his choice of dress up for the day. I was lucky to find that the pre-arranged Harry Potter costume made it easier than I expected. We didn’t quite manage the Hogwarts uniform underneath for total authenticity though.

I headed to school to see the Parade – sadly I missed it: it had originally been meant to be on Thursday at 12 noon, but they had to change to day due to industrial action. Apparently when they changed the day, they also changed the time, and it was all over by the time I got there. I got to see a lot of the kids in their constumes playing outside – other than the plethora of Harry Potters, it was slightly disappointing to see how many of the kids were dressed in Star Wars gear or other television characters. Sure, those characters do appear in books, but, maybe I am a grumpy old purist, but I think that for Book Week the characters should be literary in origin, rather than televisual. I’ll even pay comic book superheroes on that basis – comics are a literary form – but not Star Wars!

Anyway, it is nice to know my boys care enough about books to want to dress up as their favourite characters from them.

Zac loses his first tooth

Zac was pleased and delighted to have lost his first tooth last night. And the tooth fairy even came! Of course, it did make me feel slightly sad – my smallest one is growing up.

Everyone Zac encouters for the next week will probably get to see the gap in his mouth as he is very poud of it.