Friday, November 28, 2008

One down, four to go

Well A has embarked on the year 10 exams this week. It has been put in the context of more a case of gaining experience in doing exams in readiness for year 11 and 12, rather than it being the be all and end all of their success in year 10.

Yesterday was Italian. No aural component for the exam this year, that comes next year. Instead they had to look at a picture and write a dialogue for the two characters in the picture. A had spent a lot of time studying, but he looked so nervous before he went in, poor little bugger. I told him being nervous was a good sign, it meant that it was important to him and he wanted to do well. I also told him, he had studied hard and done all he could do, whatever happened now, would just happen and there was nothing more he could do.

He came out of the exam feeling like he had done pretty well.

Next up is English. Which is kind of good really, gets the two subjects he feels are most challenging out of the way first, then it is on to PE, Maths and Science.

Friday, November 21, 2008


A good friend of mine sent me this piece, and it was so brilliant I have to share it here.

It is written by by Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph.D., who is a physical therapist and has taught yoga around the world since 1971. Her latest book is 30 Essential Yoga Poses, and her Web site is

Whilst I am not a yoga person I love what this article says to me; it really makes you think about things in a whole different perspective after you have read it...enjoy....

After the Laundry, the Laundry

Impermanence is the truth of life. Embracing it in our most basic daily activities can be the key to everyday ease.

Living with a busy family, I often feel just like one of the Tibetan monks I once saw making an intricately designed sand mandala. For months, they bent over the ground, arranging the sand grain by grain, and once their beautiful creation was complete, they cheerfully destroyed it in the ultimate celebration of impermanence.

While I don't create ceremonial mandalas, I do wash the dishes. And when I come back to the sink later, dirty dishes have appeared again. I fold and put away a basketful of laundry, and in no time, the basket is full again. Even my yoga mat is a reminder of impermanence. Just this morning, it was stretched out on the floor, filled up with my movements, and now it leans against the wall, empty and forlorn.

As the Buddha said, impermanence is the nature of the human condition. This is a truth we know in our minds but tend to resist in our hearts. Change happens all around us, all the time, yet we long for the predictable, the consistent. We want the reassurance that comes from things remaining the same. We find ourselves shocked when people die, even though death is the most predictable part of life.

We can even look to our yoga mat to watch this pattern play itself out. We often find ourselves attached to a never-ending process of "improvement" in our asanas. They do improve quickly at first—in the beginning, we are on a honeymoon of discovery; we grow by leaps and bounds in ability and understanding. After a couple of decades, however, our poses change much less. As our practice matures, it becomes more about consistency, deeper understanding, and smaller breakthroughs. This is not to say we won't continue to improve, but the improvement may be subtler. Oftentimes, we can no longer practice certain poses because of age or injury, yet we feel agitated because we assume that the poses of our youth should be the poses of our middle and old age. We are surprised when familiar asanas become difficult and formerly difficult ones become impossible.

What's the lesson here? Experiencing remarkable improvement on a continual basis, it turns out, is a temporary stage. Realizing this puts us in touch with the truth of impermanence; remaining attached to the practice of our past creates suffering in us. In India, the home of yoga, there is a traditional Hindu social model that underscores the change we continuously experience. Called the Ashramas, or Stages of Life, it defines four distinct periods in life, during which people can and should do certain things. The first, brahmacharya (brahmic conduct), is the student stage, during which one learns about oneself and the world; the second, grihastha (householder), is the stage of family and societal obligations. The last two stages focus on renunciation. During the third, vanaprastha (forest dweller), one is freer to begin a contemplative life. And during stage four, samnyasa (renunciation), one goes deeper, surrendering all worldly things and living as a simple mendicant.

The beauty of this model is its inherent acknowledgement of the impermanence of each stage of life. There is wisdom in this awareness—not just because our lives do obviously and unavoidably change but, more important, because when we accept this fact as truth, we suffer so much less.

Without having an awareness of impermanence, we typically fall into one of two patterns: denial or depression. Although we cannot escape the impermanence of life and the fact that we are going to die, we desperately deny these truths; we cling to our youth or surround ourselves with material comforts. We color our hair, Botox our foreheads, and touch our toes. Or, if denial isn't a good fit with our personality, we may unconsciously turn away from the truth by feeling depressed or withdrawn from life.

Yoga philosophy offers an alternative to these tendencies. It is to embrace the powerful truth spoken by all great teachers: the power of living in the unchanging eternal present. The first verse of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra states, "Atha yoga anushasanam," which translates as, "Now is an exposition on yoga." The power of this verse is often lost on readers who interpret the words as an introduction of little value. But in my view, Patanjali does not use unnecessary words. That first word is the key. The verse is intended to underscore the importance of the study of yoga right now. It encourages us to focus on what is happening to the body, mind, breath, and emotions in this moment. Now is a word that is powerful and sufficient enough by itself to be used as a life study, a sort of mantra. The ability to respond to now, to live in now, to enjoy each precious moment without clinging to it or pushing it away is the essence of spiritual practice.

Yoga philosophy as a whole is predicated on the notion that identification with the temporary, changing aspect of reality leads to suffering, while recognition of the eternal, changeless Self leads to peace. In day-to-day life, these concepts seem interesting at best and esoteric at worst. But remembering the eternal in daily conversations, tasks, and actions is really the key to transforming our lives. Unless we are able to return to the "big picture" of our lives, we will be caught up in the minutiae of being late for an appointment or losing a favorite earring. What gives life its juice is the ability to mourn the lost earring fully and simultaneously know it doesn't ultimately matter.

In other words, we can live to the fullest when we recognize that our suffering is based not on the fact of impermanence but rather on our reaction to that impermanence. When we forget the truth of impermanence, we forget the truth of life. Spiritual practice is about remembering that truth and then embracing it. In the past, I kept doing the laundry so it would finally be "done." Of course, it never gets done. Now when I look into the laundry basket, whether it is full or empty, I try to see it as an expression of what life is all about: moving through the different stages, surrendering to impermanence, and remembering to embrace it all.

When doing too well becomes an issue

Feeling a little frustrated this week....

Granted I am probably not the most tolerant, missing B like crazy - 2 more sleeps til he is home *smile*

Now I have told you before A is studying Italian this year and is doing simply amazing things. However when he has to listen to a pre-recorded piece of someone speaking in Italian, he finds that by the time he has interpreted what he thought he heard, he has missed the next bit.

So we had discussed the notion of having someone read from a transcript then he could hear and lip read to help make the listening part easier and give him equal access to that of his hearing peers.

I spoke to the person who liaises with the external examination people and he didn't think it was an issue as we were not giving A an unfair advantage over his hearing peers, simply ensuring that he had the best chance to hear and understand what was being said.
I saw A's Italian teacher the other day and raised it with him. I was a little non-plussed I have to say. His feeling was that A was doing so well, within the top 2 in his class on the last test, that we shouldn't be making changes just yet, lets just see how he goes. Well he hadn't really read and understood what we were even asking for, as he was talking about it becoming a written comprehension test when it was still going to be oral/aural anyway!!! I kind of felt like he was just saying that because maybe doing things differently was going to be an issue.
My first reaction was to bolt down to the special ed teacher's office and talk to her BUT I didn't. I waited until I could speak to A about it. I asked him his thoughts, and he wants a transcript and a person to read it to him.
I went home and spoke to hubby about it, I was actually quite steamed! This kid has made it to senior school with virtually no accomodations apart from teachers wearing his FM. He isn't looking for an easy ride here, his teachers know him and know he works hard and puts his best effort in ALWAYS!! Yet when he actually asks for something, there is this resistance because "he is doing so well".
YEAH but how about how damn hard he is having to work compared to his hearing peers on that one!! How about the fact he works extra hard all day every day listening in his daily environment to such a brilliant level that his teachers mostly forget he even has a hearing loss. BUT when it comes to one of his teachers having to do something a bit differently, I get, hmm lets not rush into making changes???? I think not!
So today I went to have a chat with the special ed teacher and voiced my concerns. End result we will plan a meeting at the beginning of the new year with everyone involved and get what A needs on the table and in place for him for the start of his school year next year.
Honestly I am still a little surprised that doing too well can work against you - but it seems like sometimes it does - unless of course you happen to have a mum that is a pushy b*tch! *smile*

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The world at his feet

In amongst my missing my baby like crazy his older brother has provided a moment or two.

He is of course studying Italian for the first time. He recently had to listen to a tape of someone speaking and then answer questions about it. He commented afterwards to me that he found it difficult because the person speaking spoke too quickly and by the time he had worked out what he had heard, he missed the next part. I remember Rachel telling me that when she did her French, they had someone read a transcript so they could read a little slower and more clearly so that she could hear what was being said and not be disadvantaged by her hearing loss.

So I have raised that with the folk at school and they are all happy to oblige but of course A had one of these coming up on Friday and time wasn't going to permit the transcription by then so we would just see how he went.

A was pretty happy afterwards telling me that his teacher was generous when he marked it. Further investigation found that he wasn't so much generous as marking the paper based on whether A had understood what was said and what the question asked. For example one was a street name, he knew it was the name of the street it was asking for but only got half the street name when he heard it - but the teacher marked it correct since he knew what was said, and what was being asked of him and gave the correct answer as he had heard it. We will get the transcription happening before the next one.

The most amazing part though came with A's later story on the Italian test. He has always been exceptionally good at "gap filling" in English - if he doesn't quite hear the word the first time, he can usually guess what it is based on the rest of the sentence he heard and putting it into context. We have talked to him about that in terms of his booth results for sentence testing versus individual word testing, so he is aware of his abilities in "gap filling".

So he tells me later that day "I realised just what an awesome gap filler I am today".

"oh really A and how is that?"

"well I head the one word but not the other in the statement in Italian. The comprehension question asked for which 2 words ask the question.... I heard the second, I knew the rule that goes with that type of question, so I knew which word had to go with the second one in order to be the correct question. So I put that one down and got it right, even though I didn't hear it all, I just guessed it with my awesome gap filling skills"

At which point, I am trying to collect my bottom jaw from the scraping on the laces of my shoes. OK I get gap filling in English - but now in the midst of hearing on a tape, in another language, having to remember the grammatical rules of that language - he gap fills to work out the answer to the question?????? What the????

Not a day goes by that he doesn't astound me with his capacity for adapting and just going out there grabbing that ball and running with it!

This kid with his nothing is impossible attitude, sure does have the world at his feet.
oh and for the record, scored 12/15 in the Italian test!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

One week and counting

one week down, one more to go....

When you are in the rush, rush of here and there in life, it is amazing just how much your kids fill your thoughts and life isn't it? Master B has been gone a week, well actually not quite a week, just 5 days but it seems like so much longer....
I miss his crazy arguments and reasons why he can't start his homework until after he has chatted on msn with his school friends, whose company he left not half an hour before.

I miss his mop of blonde hair that all too frequently I have to address with "you need a hair cut!"

I miss the attempt at rational conversation around "school is gay, teachers are gay, what a waste of the last 10 years of my life".

I miss the fact that even though he is a know it all teen, he still likes the fact that his mum comes upstairs each night to kiss him good night and give him a cuddle (or her cold hands under quilt if the mischevious mood strikes).

I miss having to navigate the chicanes of the meals area in the morning, me with 2 dogs in hot pursuit waiting for breakfast, Jimmi Hendrix junior strumming away on his electric guitar, squeezing in 10 minutes of playing time before we leave for school - his 2 guitars sitting side by side unmoved for the last 5 days are such a reminder he isn't here right now.
Bella, my gorgeous mutt, is also at a loss. Sure I'm here, hubby is here and A is here too - but not her beloved B!! The one who on arriving home every afternoon without fail, drops to the floor to smother her with pats and kisses on the top of her head. She laying there tail beating out that steady drum of pure heaven as she gets that special moment of attention. Then when the cuddles are over, she starts annoying him with the ball at his feet, til he throws it for her - yeah in the house, we are a doggy household - no apologies.

Instead I now find my quiet TV time interrupted with the continual arrival of a slightly soggy, split tennis ball in my lap and a big pair of pathetic brown eyes willing me to just pick it up and throw it for her.
It is an ironic and yet beautifully moving thing - this dear sweet boy who has at times been in the shadow of his older brother's hearing loss, sure leaves a big old hole when he isn't here.

Nine more sleeps to go and counting......

Friday, November 7, 2008

Oh the pampering

Well there is much that I could be doing - karate stuff like writing the newsletter or typing the feedbacks from the recent grading - but I am finding it hard to settle this weekend.

My baby is off on the experience of a life time Quest Camp!

Quest is a 2 week program run by his school (his brother did it last year) where they are away interstate for 2 weeks, abseiling, mountain bike riding, canoeing, rock climbing and finish with a 4 day hike out of the area. The reason they go for 2 weeks is because the fundamental ideal of the camp is perseverance, resilience, community spirit etc. Time for them to be away from home long enough to realise they can be self-reliant and they can manage by themselves.

It is sooooo going to be the best thing for my baby - we all know how amazing he is and what he is capable of - but he hasn't "got it!" yet. This time away hopefully will help him see that.

He like his brother did last year has gone into that "hmmm I'm going to be away for 2 whole weeks" phase where spontaneous cuddles with mum are a frequent affair, suddenly the other chair in the lounge room isn't anywhere near as good as plopping down onto the chair that mum is on and squishing in next to her. Or if Dad is lying on the bed watching something on TV that is enough of an excuse to stretch out alongside him for awhile to see what he is watching. Dont' get me wrong - loving it! but it is kind of cute to see these big grown up teen boys go through that phase of wanting that bit of reassurance before they go.

And mum??? Well I am not worried about him going away, I know he will be well looked after and will have an awesome time - but well he is going to be away for 2 weeks!!! My baby, the youngest of the nest, gone for 2 weeks.

Sooo what is there to do but pamper him stupid before he goes. Making him yummy special home cooked meals this weekend, his choice of favourites of course. Off to do the food shopping and of course all his favourite snacks landed in the trolley so he may eat like a king before he goes off to rough it in the bush.

Get this I even bought him a Whizz Fizz Christmas stocking today. He looked at it smiled and headed off upstairs to do his thing. I didn't realise he thought he had to wait til Christmas for it lol!! I told him I bought it for him to eat over the weekend - hey is off to the lolly free zone for 2 weeks, he might as well gorge himself now right??? You should have seen his face when I said he could have it now - it was a classic.

Ah yup sometimes it is nice to have an excuse to pamper them and even pander to them a bit - most of the time we are stuck in the responsible grown up parent role where we have to be sensible and make sensible decisions. Not this weekend - we will be in pamper city so he heads off next week full of reassurance on how much we love, how much we will miss him (knowing he will have a great time) and what a special part of this family he is.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A crazy life

Oh boy life sure is crazy sometimes isn't it?

All those plans and preconceived ideas on how things are going to be? Huh or so ya thought!

When A lost his hearing and life went topsy turvy for awhile, his younger brother was a godsend. He was my very own little language model and of course if I needed to infuse some extra effort, I will admit to playing on the sibling rivalry every now and then to up the ante. That and M & Ms anyways.

Those early years B was the easy one, A was the one that had additional needs, school requirements, AVT, audiology appointments.

Soooo fast forward now to A being 16 and B being 15 - and well lets just say it is not my deaf child that is going to give me grey hairs!!!

A is on his way, confident, determined, organised, putting all his efforts into ensuring his academic success - with the social life mixed in there of course - I need a pre-recorded message "get of msn chat, you have been on long enough!". That said tonight he tells he has some Italian to practice, a group role play they have to do and starts talking Italian at me. Then he goes on to say they think they will play it like they are in a cafe and slouch in their chairs and perhaps do it "Fonzie style" as in Fonzie from Happy Days! They plan to undo a top button, turn up the collars and put lots of thumbs up signs and eehhhhhsss in between their Italian lines - what a crack up! You can just see it now, a bunch of Aussie kids, one fair haired to boot, talking it up in Italian whilst acting so cool like The Fonz - trying not to laugh so hard I can type here. Watch out Italia when these guys go on exchange next year!

And my dearest, sweetest little angel B - well he is the one that keeps me up at night with mummy worry and the real risk of grey hair. He is the exact opposite, trying to find his place in the world, loving the social aspects of school but not much else "school is gay, teachers are gay, what a total waste of my time the last 10 years have been, I could have so much better used my time" UGH!!! How do you get through that testerone infused aura to try to instill the big picture??? If you know, message me now!!! He reminds me a lot of my brother who has gone to be very successful and lead a very happy and fulfilling life. So I don't worry that B will get there, I just worry about these in between years.

Organisation - are you freakin kidding me? Yesterday we were trying to journal what we did 10 weeks ago because we haven't done it in real time. Had no homework for so many nights, then surprise surprise "oh mum I hate school I have like 8 assignments to do this week" Further examination reveals some of them he has for several weeks but has just chosen not to do them "because they were not due then" At which point I look to the nearest wall on which to bash my head because frustration overwhelms me. Do I ignore him say hard luck kid you are on your own?? Of course I don't he is my angel, I am his mum, that is what we do! BUT he hasn't escaped the lecture about getting organised and not giving his mother grey hair before her time!!!

Next week he is off on school camp for 2 weeks. A did it last year, it is 2 weeks to look at self sufficiency, self reliance and lots of mountain bike riding, rock climbing and abseiling. Here's hoping 2 weeks away brings a new perspective, a better sense of self and a much more confident little guy that doesn't have to try so hard to fit in. A guy that is starting to find his own place in the world and be proud of his place in it. Fingers crossed anyways!