Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Last week, Ethan was away in Tauranga (about 4 hours drive from here) competing at the annual AIMS (Association of Middle and Intermediate Schools) tournament. This is a huge sporting event involving hundreds of schools, in 17 different sports. This year there were over 7,500 competitors! That’s bigger than the Commonwealth Games, by quite a lot.

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Anyway, he left last Sunday (on Father’s Day, of all days) and was away for the whole week. He got home at 7:30pm on Friday night, and I was so glad to see him. I missed him hugely while he was away. Although he took his phone with him, he was … shall we say … erratic … with his contact! No text to say they had arrived safely, and no replies to my messages on Sunday night/Monday morning. Finally received a text after his first game. No answers to my questions, but informative (telling me the score and the team they played, which I already knew thanks to the awesome AIMS website which was updated regularly during the tournament). I didn’t hear from him again until Wednesday! He called me, and said “Gabby (team manager) says that I’m not contacting you”. “You’re not” I pointed out. “Oh yeah”. Anyway, we had a nice long chat (which probably cost me about $10 since he only has a cheap prepay phone) and it was lovely to talk to him and find out that he WAS eating properly, sleeping okay, and having fun! Imagine my surprise when I received another phone call later that day. I hadn’t been expecting that, but he was so excited about scoring the only goal against the TOP team, and he wanted to tell me. Aww.

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I had a few more texts and phone calls from him over the following days. His water polo team didn’t finish in the place they had been hoping, but they had some really awesome experiences. They got to play against the NZ rep team, and Ethan scored a backhand goal in that game! The whole journey of raising money and travelling far from home and competing in a sporting event of this size was just incredible, and I know each and every one of them thoroughly enjoyed it! Ethan is captain of the water polo team so he learned a great deal about how to be a good leader, and how to encourage and motivate the team, even after losses. I think he did a great job, from what the coach told me!

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The week went by S L O W L Y for me, as I really did miss my boy a lot. I also wished I could be down there, watching him play and cheering his team on. It was great to get updates from the parents who were there, but I would have loved to have been there myself. I’m proud of how well my boy did and I know he learned so much from the experience. Finally, it was Friday. And finally, he was home. Looking older and more handsome than ever.

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And all was right in my world again.
I even took him out on a date the next day. This was something that he had been asking to do with me for ages (go to a movie with me) but it just hadn’t worked out. We had such a nice afternoon together.

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It wasn’t just me who missed Ethan. Rob missed him too, I think (he didn’t express those “I miss my baby!” feelings quite the same way as me). His brother missed him a LOT. And although Ethan didn’t get homesick, I know he missed us. As annoying as a younger brother can be, I am certain that he missed Tyler. And today proved it.

After church, Ethan had to deliver his pamphlets. He asked Tyler if he would like to tag along. Not so he could help deliver them (I admit, that was my first thought when I heard him ask … there is often an ulterior motive to things when it comes to 12-year-old boys). But to “walk next to me, so we can talk”. Bless! I was so glad that Tyler agreed to go, as he longs to spend more time with his big brother. Ethan, who is almost a teenager and is growing up, doesn’t always want to do that. I get that. But it was so nice to see the shoe on the other foot. Ethan obviously missed Tyler, and wanted to spend time with him. After the pamphlet round was finished, Ethan asked Tyler if he wanted to go and play rugby down at the school. It’s usually Tyler asking Ethan to do that, and lately it’s 50/50 as to whether he will get a yes. So for Ethan to ask was really cool. Tyler’s love language is definitely quality time, and that was proven by the card he made for his brother this afternoon:

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My heart could burst about now.

My boys are NOT perfect. They are NOT angels. They do NOT always get along, and they often argue and annoy each other! But sometimes, the planets align and they are truly stunning human beings. Today was one of those days, and I relished every single minute of it.

Anyone out there?

I’m not sure if anyone still reads this thing. But then again, I’m also not sure if anyone (aka ME) updates this thing! Yes, once again I have been AWOL. Forgive me readers, for I have been slack. It has been 3 weeks since my last blog post …

Lots of things have been happening – many worthy of a post – but alas, I still find myself time-poor and unmotivated when it comes to blogging. I can’t really blame Instagram, as some people have been doing. I’ve been decidedly slack on there as well. Part of me thinks it’s time to let this thing die, but when I do find time to jump on here and write, I remember that I enjoy it. And when I manage to find time to read all blogs I (supposedly) follow, I remember how much I love the blogging community. How many friends I have made through it. So then I decide that I won’t stop!

So. What’s been happening in my world? In no particular order …

1. Science Fair. Ethan did his Science Fair project on “Battery Life” and we discovered a few interesting things. Energizer batteries last the longest, and provide the best value for money (measured in hours of torchlight per dollar). Oh, and cheap $2 torches from the Warehouse are great! Our AA batteries lasted for AGES in them. Like, between 45-130 hours. So that’s good to know for the next power cut or camping trip! After some initial reluctance and a distinct lack of enthusiasm, Ethan really got stuck into his project and had a great attitude. At the end, he admitted that he actually enjoyed doing it. Great words for his Science graduate mama to hear.

2. Cross Country. Tyler ran his, and came 6th! He was so proud of himself, as his goal had been to get a place in the top ten. It was a very bittersweet moment for me, as I was not able to be there on the day to watch him run. The first primary school cross country I have missed since Ethan started school in 2007. And the best result either of my boys has achieved. But Tyler and I were both really glad that his Dad and Nana were there to cheer him on and watch him cross that finish line. So proud of my boy!

3. Speeches. As well as Science Fair season, it is currently Speech season at Ethan’s college. He is doing his speech today, actually. He chose to speak about why team sport is good for you and better than individual sport. He wrote the whole thing without any help from us, only asking for our opinions along the way. Although he wrote cue cards for himself, he did a great job of memorising the whole thing. I hope it went okay. He was hoping to do it yesterday with the first half of the class but, alas, he was in the second group. I always hated having to wait while everyone else did theirs; I would much rather go first and then relax!

4. Soccer. The season has just finished. It’s been a great one, with no injuries for my boys and only one game of Tyler’s cancelled due to bad weather. Ethan was the top goal scorer for his team (again) and Tyler was second in his team (mostly because they have a dedicated striker, so Tyler sets up most of the goals instead of scoring them). The official prizegiving is in a couple of weeks’ time, so we’ll have to wait until then to see if any trophies come home with us this year!

5. Water Polo. Ethan is off to the annual AIMS (Association of Intermediate and Middle Schools) Games in Tauranga this weekend with his water polo team. He is the team captain, an honour he was given a few months ago and one which he has taken very seriously. It has really helped increase his confidence and I’m so happy he’s had the opportunity to take on the extra responsibility. He leaves on Sunday (Father’s Day!) and will be away for 5 nights, and I am going to miss him a LOT! But he is excited about the tournament, and I know he will have a great time. His team has done a lot of fundraising this year, and several of my readers have supported them by buying lucky bonus number tickets. The support has been much appreciated. There are 3 teams going from Ethan’s school (water polo, netball and rugby league) and since April, they have raised almost $11,000. They also received a $6000 grant from pub charities, which means the cost per student was only $100 instead of the original $550. So awesome.

6. Work. My new job is going well, and I am enjoying it. I have just about finished my third project (manuscript). The first one is almost ready for publication after undergoing internal review, peer review and revisions. It will be exciting for me to have my very first journal article published, with my name on it!

7. Family Time. Movie nights, meals out, shopping trips, walks/bike rides, coffee dates, road trips, etc. Since I stopped working from home I have been making a conscious effort to do more things together as a family, to make the most of the time we have together. It’s true that quality is often better than quantity. I may have been home a lot more before, but I was often preoccupied with work, and I often felt stressed trying to juggle things and maintain a proper work/life balance. Work was ALWAYS there, whereas now I (literally) leave it at work when I go home! Such a good feeling. I never thought I’d say this, but I don’t think I would want to go back to working from home full time. Maybe 1-2 days a week, but not all the time. With my boys at the ages they are now, I think our current arrangement works better. When they were younger, it was definitely better for me (and them) to be at home more. Funny how things change, and not always when you expect it!

What has everyone else been up to lately? Leave me a comment and let me know!

What a Knight

We are pretty proud of Tyler right now (and he’s pretty proud of himself, too).

There are about 120 kids in Year 5 at his school, and all of them are involved in the Year 5 production (in some way, shape or form). Tyler has a small speaking role, which he was very excited to get. The show is called “What a Knight” and the kids have been working really hard on their lines, songs, costumes, props and stage sets. There’s just under a month until the performances.

ALL the kids in year 5 had to design a logo, and the best would be chosen to put on the front of the official production T-shirt. The shirts will be worn by all the kids in the chorus (and backstage, I think). Other kids can also buy a T-shirt as a memento.

Today the winner of the “design a logo” was announced … and it was Tyler! He had been told by a teacher that he was probably going to win, which actually annoyed me a little bit because I didn’t want him to get his hopes up in case it wasn’t him (but at the same time I didn’t want to discourage him or dampen his enthusiasm and excitement). But it WAS him, and he is very, very, very happy!

Here’s the winning design:

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I’m sure it will be ‘tweaked’ a little before it gets put on the T-shirt, so I’ll be sure to share a photo of the finished product once it’s ready. I was tempted to buy an extra one since Tyler’s design is on it, but one will just have to do (and he’ll have to look after it).

Proud mama, signing off.

Love your life

I write 3 posts in 3 days and then nothing for 2 weeks? That’s probably the new normal on this blog of mine.

Lately I have been thinking about a LOT of things. Family, priorities, contentment, happiness. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve read quite a few articles and quotes about finding happiness, challenging yourself, not letting anything stand in the way of your dreams.

I think having goals is a good thing. On a personal level, I thrive on having goals, targets and deadlines in my work environment. I guess I also do in other areas of my life, but not to the same extent.

Some people probably look at me and think I’m a boring person. I never did an OE, I never went flatting, I’ve only lived in 2 houses my whole life (this is the second!) and I’ve been working at the same company for 15 years. You could be forgiven for thinking that I don’t have ambitions, that I don’t like change, that I’m scared to try new things. People may look at my life and think that I have compromised or given up on my dreams, or that I’m living in a rut. That I couldn’t possibly be content or happy.

But guess what? I am. I am content and happy with my simple life, and I like it just the way it is! I feel beyond blessed to be married to an incredible man, and to be Mum to two of the most incredible human beings in the world. What a huge privilege! I love my job, I love my family, I love my friends, I love my country/city/neighbourhood, I love my church. I am fulfilled, content, satisfied.

This is not to say that I don’t have struggles. My life is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Sometimes I do feel unhappy. There are still things I would like to do in the future (travel being one of them). If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t actually change anything. I think my previous battles with depression and anxiety have taught me much more than I would have learned otherwise, and those lessons have been invaluable. They have helped me to appreciate the good times more, to count my blessings and to make a conscious effort to find silver linings.

I honestly don’t feel that I’ve ‘settled’ by choosing the life I have. Yes, I got married young and had children relatively young. Yes, my family comes first and that means I don’t necessarily have the time, money or even desire to do other things that I could possibly do if I didn’t have those commitments. But I have my priorities and I won’t apologise for them. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. My choices have led me to the place I am, and I am glad to be in this place.

No matter what curve balls are thrown my way in the future, I would like to think that I will always remain grateful for the experiences, the lessons and the growth that will eventually come as a result. Life hasn’t always been and won’t always be easy, but I love mine. My simple life. Warts and all.

Birthday boy

I know what you’re thinking. I’ve been AWOL for ages, then I write 3 posts in 3 days? Yup, that’s how I roll, people!

Today is a special day. It is my husband’s birthday. He is 41 today.

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He is also AMAZING. Like, totes amazeballs. (I literally cringed as I typed those words).

I feel extremely blessed to have Rob in my life. We’ve been best friends for nearly 20 years, “together” for 17 of them, husband & wife for just over 15 of them, and parents for 12 of them. He’s been a big part of my life for more than half of it, which I think is completely awesome. That proportion will continue to grow over the coming years, and I am unbelievably excited about that. I don’t particularly want to grow old, but if I have to do it, then I “wanna grow old with you” (and by “you”, I mean him. Not you. Ahem).

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Anyway, today is Rob’s birthday and I tiptoed out of the house just after 6am this morning, leaving all 3 of my boys soundly sleeping. I did give Rob a hug before I left, but there’s a good chance it was “Sleep Me” I was hugging and that he possibly won’t remember it! On the kitchen bench, I left a container of baking (ginger crunch and cookies) for him to take to work for his birthday morning tea shout, and a wee note saying “Happy Birthday”.

I’ll see Rob when he gets home from work, around 5pm. We’ll eat dinner together as a family, but then he he has to go out. To Youth Group. To watch a movie with a bunch of teenagers. But that’s just the kind of guy he is. He puts others first, ALWAYS. I’m sure he’d rather be at home, celebrating his birthday with family & friends. But instead he’ll be hanging out with an awesome group of kids, being a big kid himself, and making sure they have a great time.

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Because there isn’t a lot of room for celebrating today, we’re going to do it tomorrow! After the boys’ soccer games, we are going to spend the afternoon at Parakai hot pools. Rob’s choice. My family and some of Rob’s family are going to join us. I’ll make his favourite cake tonight (Queen Date Cake) and take a bunch of snacks and drinks. We’ll swim and soak and slide, and celebrate Rob’s 41 years “on this planet” (to quote Ethan’s card). I’m looking forward to at least another 41 more years with Rob “on this planet”, followed by forever-and-eternity with him as well.

So. Happy Birthday, babe! I love doing life with you, sharing all the big and the small moments together. I reckon turning 41 is a big moment! I’m so happy that I get to share it with you, along with all the other moments. As my blog header says, “Life is about moments. Create them.” Let’s create heaps more of them, together!

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Mid-Year Report

Tyler received his mid-year report last Friday, and we had a parent/teacher interview the other night. He’s having a fantastic time in Year 5, doing well and enjoying everything about school. In the past I have documented the boys’ reports here on my blog, just in case I lose the originals. It’s important to me to keep this kind of stuff!

READING
Above National Standards
Effort: A
Tyler reads fluently and accurately at an instructional level of 10.5-11.5 years (he is 9). At this level he is able to use important information to show understanding and find, select and retrieve information by reading quickly and skimming and scanning. Tyler is a capable reader who is able to research information for his topic studies.

WRITING
Above National Standards
Effort: A
Tyler is able to tell an indepth story and use a variety of language features carefully chosen to enhance mood and imagery. He shows good understanding of the purpose for writing and identifies writing processes appropriate for those purposes. Tyler organises and plans his writing logically and into paragraphs.

MATHS
At National Standards
Effort: A
Tyler is able to solve subtraction and division problems involving two digits. He is working on his addition and multiplication strategies. Tyler has a good working knowledge of the times tables and now needs to focus on speed. He can describe the properties of 3D shapes, using the terms faces, edges and corners.

ACHIEVEMENT OF KEY COMPETENCIES
Absorption (being able to lose yourself in learning, becoming absorbed in what you’re doing) – consistently
Managing Distractions (recognising and reducing distractions, creating your own best environment for learning) – consistently
Noticing (perceiving differences, patterns and details in your learning) – sometimes
Perseverance (keep going when things are difficult, positively facing your challenges, learning from your mistakes) – consistently

GENERAL COMMENTS
Tyler is an able student and displays great potential for continued progress in all areas. He has a positive attitude towards his learning and always tries his best. Tyler sets an excellent example of good behaviour and has a sensible attitude towards his work. He is a caring, understanding and supportive student who is a valuable and trustworthy member of our class. Tyler is a good friend to others and is a cheerful and willing helper in the classroom. It is a pleasure to have Tyler in B1 this year.

Ethan, being at college, doesn’t get a proper school report anymore. We received one A4 page which stated that he was Above National Standards in Reading, Writing and Maths. That’s it! But from talking with his teacher, I know that he is having a great year and doing really well.

We are really proud of them both. I think we shall take them to Fiji in a couple of months to celebrate. ;-)

Been AWOL

Apologies, my friends. I realise I have been AWOL on this old blog of mine. Indeed, posting has been slow for the past couple of months. Not surprisingly, the reduction in blogging frequency has coincided with starting my new job (and the multitude of changes that came along with that). My motivation for blogging has also been waning. I think that’s because I write ALL DAY, and the writing I do now is much more involved than it used to be. When I get home from work, I don’t always feel like writing on here. Plus, I want to spend time with my family.

To be honest, I just don’t have as much time to blog as I used to. Two months ago, I had an extra 10 or so hours every week that I am now spending commuting. Hmm, perhaps I should try and write blog posts in the car? That would be doable when I’m a passenger, but possibly not the safest idea when I’m the driver. But I am a passenger every other week, as my sister and I carpool and take turns driving to/from work. Interesting. Maybe I’ll work a bit more on that idea!

In the meantime, I have zero motivation to come up with an exciting blog post. I have TONS of photos on my camera that I can’t be bothered downloading and editing. But I can share a few little snippets of recent life based on Instagram photos. So here goes …

Recently, I’ve made triple chocolate brownie, pumpkin soup and beer bread.

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I bought buns for homemade burgers and they had holes in them!

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I finally received the funky lunch bag I ordered back in June. Yay, no more lunches in plastic bags.

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A bunch of teens and preteens from Ethan’s youth group came to our place for dessert as part of a progressive dinner, and I set up a “make your own banana split” station.

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Ethan went to his first school holiday camp, and had a total blast!

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I enjoyed a special coffee date with one of my boys. I really do love my one-on-one time with each of them.

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I did a photo shoot with Ethan’s water polo team. They’re busy fundraising to go to the AIMS Games in Tauranga in September, and they entered a competition run by Anchor (hence the milk bottle props).

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Next time I have the motivation to update my blog, I’ll try to set aside time to upload some recent photos from my proper camera, and maybe write a decent blog post to go with them! Until then, rest assured that I’m still alive and kicking, just not blogging much. Hopefully that will change, because I do miss it! Speaking of which, I must go and catch up on all the blogs I haven’t had time to read … there are only about 150 posts waiting for me on my feed reader!!

See ya.

Tuna Patties

Do you ever have those crazy/busy days when 5.30pm rolls around and you still have NO clue what you’re going to make for dinner? Not only that, you haven’t remembered to get any meat out of the freezer and you are faced with the prospect of eggs on toast unless you can think of something better at short notice. Maybe that doesn’t happen to you, but it happens to me, and on the off chance that it might happen to you in the future, I thought I’d share this recipe that I made up on one such night. Add some lettuce, quartered tomatoes and slices of capsicum and you have a very quick and easy meal. And they taste really good!

Tuna Patties

400g tinned tuna, drained
1 packet Uncle Ben’s Mexican Rice (we LOVE this flavour)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
salt & pepper
parsley, chopped
oil
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sweet chilli sauce

Cook the rice according to packet instructions (2 minutes in the microwave). Allow to cool.
Mix together tuna, rice, eggs, seasoning, parsley and breadcrumbs. Shape into balls and then flatten with the palm of your hand. Heat oil in a frying pan and cook patties on both sides until golden brown. Place on paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
Mix together mayonnaise and sweet chilli sauce. Serve with the tuna patties.

Makes 8 patties

Puzzle time!

So we just told the kids that we are going to Fiji by giving them this puzzle …

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We’re not going until October, but just the thought that we will be on a tropical island sipping cocktails by the pool in a little over 3 months’ time may be the only thing that will get me through the rest of this miserable winter. We’re currently 4 days into a hideous winter storm, with gale force winds and constant rain. In the school holidays, no less. It’s only been a month since the last bad storm, and apparently there are more to come. NOT COOL.

But now there is this to look forward to. And oh my word, I am looking forward to it. I. CANNOT. WAIT. Fiji, baby!

Learning hero

At the start of this year, Tyler came home and announced that he had been chosen to be the very first “Learning Hero” of his class. A note came home explaining what was involved:

You have been selected to be our “Learning Hero” this week. This is quite an honour. During this week all the other students in the class will write a short description telling us what they like about you and what they think you are good at.
I would like you to bring in a number of your favourite things to share with the class on Friday. These might include:
*3 interesting facts about yourself
*favourite books
*collections
*photographs
*best artwork
*certificates
Good luck and congratulations on being chosen as our “Learning Hero”.
All of B1 looks forward to you sharing your favourite things.
Mrs O’Brien

He went along to school that week with his box of special/favourite things to share with the class.

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The teacher made up a poster with Tyler’s photo in the middle, and all the notes from his classmates were stuck around the outside. The poster has been hanging on the wall in his classroom for the past few months, but today he brought it home. I decided to put it up on the wall in the kitchen for a little while.

His classmates described him as kind, friendly, funny, helpful, “absorbed in his work”, and 15 different variations of “GOOD AT SPORT”. Oh, and apparently somebody thinks his smile is “very beautiful”. I have to agree! :-)

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