Friday, 22 July 2016

Why I love Le Tour!

Those of you who know me well know that I love watching sport and for the last few years I have looked forward to the July school holidays which are timed perfectly to coincide with the first 2 weeks of the Tour de France. I love to stay up late to watch, and usually manage to see a few stages all the way through, drinking tea and keeping warm snuggled on the couch in front of the heater until 2 or 3 in the morning. A few years ago I borrowed an exercise bike and rode along with Le Tour in my lounge room. Funnily enough I didn't get very far - a little more training is needed, but it was great fun!

I discovered the tour in 2010, the year before Cadel Evans won the race and I was instantly intrigued by the beauty and the complexity of the tour. It took me a few tours to work out the rules and to begin to understand the tactics and team work.

I know there is controversy and drug taking in the world of cycling, but for me this is well and truly overshadowed by the many wonderful aspects of the sport. Tonight is a time trial - stage 18, and as I watch I thought I'd list all the things that I love about Le Tour!

* The names of the riders. There are so many wonderful names that I love to say as often as possible during Le Tour - Alberto Contador! Fabian Cancellara! Alejandro Valverde! Cyclists have long careers so I have been hearing some of these names for 7 years and I just love hearing them. A new favourite this year is Julian Alaphilippe!

* The teamwork. It took me a while to understand the way that teams work for their lead rider or for their sprinter or climber. The idea of a 'domestique' doing all the hard work and then dropping back exhausted for their leader to win is intriguing to me and something I've never seen in another sport. The strength and resilience of these athletes is awesome.

* The scenery of course! Words not necessary here ...

* The roundabouts and the descents - I love how the peleton split as they ride through a roundabout. It is just so satisfying to watch, and the descents down mountains in a long line at great speed are breathtaking.

* The commentary - there is something so relaxing about listening to the commentators who know the race so well and share so much knowledge about the riders, the latest news and the towns and areas they ride through. Phil Liggett is a legend - he's been commentating Le Tour for 43 years!

* The rules and the tactics. The complicated rules, the different competitions within the tour and the team tactics are fascinating. I'm sure I don't really understand it properly but I really enjoy trying to work it all out.

*The crowds of spectators. I would love to be on the summit of a climb along with all the crazy spectators one day, with my campervan nearby ready to take me to the next stage. The atmosphere looks amazing as the crowds urge the riders on, cheering each and every one as they whoosh past.

* The colours. The yellow, green, polka dot and white jersey. The flags, the team colours, and the patterns in the peleton.

* The drama!  Crashes, attacks, sprints, the stage wins.

and finally ...

* The champagne.  What other sporting event ends with the athletes drinking champagne and congratulating each other as they ride together? Perfect.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Turkish apple tea

Last week I went to a local turkish restaurant for our end of term work dinner. At the end of a delicious meal we had tea and coffee and yummy sweets kindly gifted to us by one of our beautiful preschool families. I ordered an apple tea and when it arrived it looked so pretty alongside my friend's coffee that I had to take a photo to share.

The tea was sweet, warm and just perfect for a cold Winter's night. I expect it is full of sugar or honey but it is worth it! It reminded me of Ella's discovery of hot apple cider in New York when the temperature was below zero. We all enjoyed a few cups over our time there - it warms up both your body and your soul.

Mmmm - time for a cup of tea now, and then I'm going out to buy some apple tea, or maybe find out how to make some of my own.

Stay warm,
Vanna xx

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Tea in the cupboard

I found this beautiful little package of tea in my cupboard yesterday. 

I bought it when we were in Tokyo which was around 2 years ago so I wasn't sure how fresh it would be. I think I've resisted opening it because of the gorgeous packaging. 

I love the quote  - tea always makes me slow down a little and I do enjoy a wonderful time! I can't imagine my day without the ritual of tea even when it's usually just a tea bag in the cup. I enjoy choosing the cup depending on my mood, and the opportunity to stop whatever I'm doing for a few minutes as I prepare the tea. I try to be mindful as I drink and be thankful for another moment to reflect and take a breath. 

The tea was a lovely peach flavour, and to my surprise there were 3 teabags inside so I have two more to look forward to. 

Vanna xxx

Monday, 28 March 2016

An extrovert goes grocery shopping!

This weekend I went to my local shopping centre on Saturday - the day between the two Easter public holidays. Rather than dreading the inevitable madness as people shop like there's no tomorrow, I kind of looked forward to being there on this busier than normal Saturday. 

After my shopping was done and as I walked out into the car-park, energetically pushing my trolley, smiling and singing to myself, I had a bit of a self awareness light-bulb moment. I really love the buzz of being with so many people in this mundane environment. Does this make me weird or a bit sad? Many of my friends can't stand grocery shopping, and avoid our daggy supermarket whenever possible, whereas I've noticed that I actually get an adrenaline buzz from the interactions I have with people as I buy my groceries! 

When I shop at my local I enjoy chatting to the shop assistants - at the fruit shop, at Woollies, at Bakers Delight, and to the woman who runs the florist. I've been shopping here for years, so I feel connected to these people and we know a little about each other and our lives. I teach at a local preschool so I also run into lots of current and past children and families as I shop, and once again I love the ongoing connection that this contact gives me. It's great to briefly catch up, to reminisce, and to watch children grow and see the changes that time brings. 

I often run into friends while I shop, and I also enjoy the interactions with people I don't know at all as we drive our trolleys around the aisles, or wait in lines at counters, We share a smile, a laugh, an offer of help, or a roll of the eyes when its appropriate. 

This realisation confirms that I am more of an extrovert than an introvert - I am energised by interactions with groups of people. I love going to see bands and big concerts, and I work with lots of people, so this is no surprise to me. However I think the shopping thing goes a little bit deeper - I think that being a part of this routine reminds me that we are all connected and are all just doing what we need to do to get by. Obviously shopping for food is a lot easier than trying to hunt for it, or grow it, and I am among the privileged few in the world who can just go down the road and get everything I need and more. However when I shop at my local supermarket I feel that I belong and that I am part of a community. 

My happiness comes from my sense of good fortune as I shop, and the reminder that what really matters is how we turn everyday moments into opportunities to connect, to be kind, and to be grateful.

                                                                    I just had fun drawing this on Paint! Vanna xxx

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Busy Work.

It was International Women's Day yesterday and perhaps because of this my feminist radar was working well when a four year old girl at the preschool where I teach said to me:

"My Mum picks me up because my Dad is too busy". 

I acknowledged this statement, then said that I was pretty sure her Mum was also busy and that picking her up and looking after her was something that made her busy too.

She thought about this but then told me once more about how busy her Dad was.

What messages are we still (unbelievably) giving our children, especially girls, about the value of the work that women do? I happen to know that this Mother's 'work' is typical of so many women with young children and involves juggling unpaid and paid work, 'busily' moving between 'jobs'.

Is caring for and raising children not important enough to be considered busy work? Why not? I know people have been discussing this in much more academic terms for years, but it really bothers me! It also relates to my work as an early childhood teacher as I have struggled my entire career to have my 'professional work' valued fairly.

The power of the words we use with children must not be underestimated. If we hear something often enough we start to believe it. If a child hears that what their Mum (or Dad or whoever cares for them) does isn't seen as being as 'busy', we can translate this to being unimportant or of less value, since 'busyness' is regrettably seen as an achievement or a 'badge of honour'. (I just googled 'busyness as a badge of honour' and there are loads of articles about this as well - interesting stuff.)

I think its really important that we continue to challenge the way that our children think about the work we do, and to acknowledge the significance and hard work involved in being a parent (or carer). We can advocate for women and women's rights by valuing the complexity of what women do each day as we work to raise our children and work in our paid jobs, and somehow manage to usually do a pretty good job at both!


Friday, 19 February 2016

Milestones and Letting Go

I began this post in September last year, and finished it today ...

I love milestones, and they also send me a little bit crazy.
Last month was a biggie! My son turned 18 and graduated from high school - ON THE SAME DAY!!

When something big like this is approaching I whip myself up into an emotional frenzy and share this heightened state with everyone around me. Leading up to the 'big day' I couldn't stop talking about how I was feeling, and about how much I was going to cry, actually crying, and generally over-sharing to whoever would listen.  I apologise to not only my family and friends, but also to my neighbours, to the lovely people who work at the local fruit shop, and to my workmates!

The Graduation was fantastic, and I cried of course. I drank champagne with my friend whose daughter started Kindy on the same day as my son and we cried happy tears as we watched them enjoy their graduation together 13 years later.The 18th was wonderful too - and we survived the birthday party in better shape than some of the guests!

I've always thought that being a parent is in so many ways about letting go. At each stage of your child's life you need to let go that little bit more. You let go when you send them to preschool, to school, on sleepovers and to camp. You let them make their own choices and mistakes, and hope that when they return to you they will be ok. They will be a little changed from each new experience, and so will you.

When my son turned 18 and finished school I celebrated the beautiful man that he had become and grieved for the gorgeous boy that he was. I celebrated that I was with him to share in this important day and my heart burst with pride and love as I watched him share this special day with his friends and with our family.

Now, 5 months later as I finally finish this post I'm feeling a lot calmer and accepting of this next stage in my life as a mother. He is away with friends for a week and I'm missing him, but I know that he's having a great time and I want nothing more than for him to be happy, peaceful, and surrounded by people who he loves, enjoying this exciting time in his life, when so much is possible. I know that the letting go will continue, and more tears will be shed, however a little rest for the moment feels sweet and I will savour it.

Vanna xxx

12 Things To Know Before Letting Go

I love the sense of freedom and exhilaration in this image - letting go can be difficult but once you've done it, it feels pretty good!

(I found this photo on google images).

Friday, 16 October 2015

Climbing in the city.

I spent a lot of my time at work today watching the children climb our two lovely maple trees. They have grown to just the right height for 3, 4 and 5 year old legs and arms to reach and explore.

I am so impressed with the children's ability to manoeuvre their way around the tree as they climb.  Some children  seem to work it out one move at a time - reaching for a branch with one hand, placing a foot in just the right place to balance, and then pulling themselves up or swinging back down to the ground. Some children talk as they climb - planning their next  move, or calling out to friends. Others move swiftly and quietly - in seconds they are up in the tree, leaning comfortably onto the branches, trusting the tree for support. 'I'm going to stay here all day" said one of the girls to me.

For a few children climbing is a real challenge, but they persist. Other more accomplished climbers offer help - a hand to hold, or suggestions such as:  "Put your foot there", "Pull up now!", or the less helpful "My muscles are stronger than this branch!". I am nearby and happy to provide a push up, although I'm more often needed when it's time to get down. I love the sense of pride and excitement when a child climbs up into the tree by themselves for the first time.

I love that I work in an environment where children are encouraged to take safe risks. Where climbing a tree in the city is part of the everyday, and where we trust that children inherently know their abilities - their limits, and more importantly their wondrous and enormous potential.