Sunday, November 29, 2015

Make Your Wish

Recently we bought the latest Jane Godwin book to add to our Christmas book collection. It's a sweet story about a little girl trying to think about what wish she wants to add to the Christmas tree that's decorated by all the children in her neighbourhood.

It's a story about thinking about what your own Christmas wish might be. 

In our front yard we have a giant Christmas tree. I usually refer to it as "The Big Ugly Tree" as in, you can easily find our house, it's the one with the big ugly tree. I've threatened to have it cut down but too many people seem to think it's a bit of a landmark now. Even the neighbours tell their friends, "We're across the road from the house with the massive big pine tree".

People in the street behind us called over the fence last week telling us we should put lights up the big tree...great idea if you had a gigantic ladder.

But, it's time this tree was made more useful, so this December, the big ugly tree is going to be a Christmas Wishing Tree.

Yesterday we invited some friends to start helping to cut out some stars and they were the first to add their wishes to our tree.

Over the next month we are going to invite anyone who visits, lives nearby, or who wants to, to add their wish to our tree.

The wishes are already heartwarming and I if they continue in this way, we might have a tree loaded with wishes for a better world.

The littlest kids have written wishes to Santa while the bigger types think more about what they wish in the year ahead or for the whole world.

Over the next month these wishes will be swinging on the breeze, baking in the sun, soaked in rain and faded by the weather until the wishes are all floating in this big wide world of ours. And who knows just how many of them might come true.

However  you celebrate and whatever your beliefs, there is always time for wishes at Christmas.

And - if you would like your wish to be added to our tree, the girls are happy to write it out on a star for you and climb to the top of the tree to put it up for you. You can leave a comment here, or email it to us - claireyhewitt @ gmail .com

Monday, November 23, 2015

Act like Cinders.

It takes a lot of effort, organising, borrowing of things, primping and preening for us to get out on a Saturday night.

The effort that's required usually defeats me.

But this one time...

In November 2015, with all my fairy godmothers assembled to assist with the dress, the shoes, the baby sitting.

Well, it all actually happened and of course it was totally worth it. I had a ball at the Ball.

We really must make the effort more often, because dancing never made anyone sad or lonely or boring. Beautiful bevvies and food cooked by someone else enjoyed in the company of good sorts should probably by included in the healthy diet pyramid, because it's good for the soul.

So here is your reminder, buy the ticket, borrow the outfit, and act like Cinders and get thyself to the Ball.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Breaking: School Teachers Prepare for Annual flurry of Unneeded Presents

During her first year of school I noticed Arabella's teacher receiving lots of gifts from students as the year was about to end. Gorgeous gifts, some handmade, many mugs filled with chocolates, lots of candles, hand creams, lotions and potions and the odd movie ticket.

I did something different and purchased a charity gift. I bought something to do with clean water and got a card that said something like: "I was going to buy you a drink, but instead I bought thousands and thousands of them."

I got the six year old Arabella to write in the card and she wrote:

Dear Teacher,
My Mum thinks this is a good present. I think it's the worst present ever. Sorry.
Merry Christmas.
Love Arabella.

It was one of the most embarrassing days of her life when she had to give that card over.

Her teacher loved it, because let's be real, there were 20 kids in the class, and Ms Teacher had been teaching for 20+ years. That's a collection of more than 400 cups, candles, hand creams, chocolates, handmade cards etc. I know every teacher is grateful, they work so hard and expect so little in return and it's wonderful to give them something.

And yes, your kids cute little drawing is so sweet in that CR frame, but remember that your prep/foundation teacher sees these pictures every single day for the whole year, they certainly don't want one at home.

Teachers care a whole lot about the power of education. They know that by the simple act of teaching anyone (no matter their age) to read, you are changing the future for an unknown number of people.

Which is why again this year, my kids will get to write in a card for their teachers, and at the same time be giving something to another kid around the world who deserves the same chance as them to learn to read.

I won't even have to pray for a car park to go and buy it. At that price I can probably even attach it to what every teacher really really needs...hand sanitiser, because little kids like to spread their snotty germs around and no teacher has time for that.

Get this one and you'll still be changing the world!

For us, Christmas is a time to say thank you, to remind people that we appreciate them and what they do. It's also a time to spread the love, to spread the cheer and to aim for miracles that children around the world can all have a safe life, with access to education. Every bit helps, so if it's not for a teacher, your KK gift will do - 50 bars of soap would be unreal.

Monday, November 2, 2015

My Top Three Favourite Facebook Pages

Facebook never shows me the stuff I want to see, so I have to make the effort to go to the pages I prefer and read the updates. At the moment there are three pages that I check more and more to ensure I don't miss things.

Facebook is no longer just about hearing what friends are up to - because really, I don't always care that you are checked in at a cafe and are having eggs on toast. I use it much more for current affairs, assisting me be organised and for decent comedy.

So these three pages are my current most clicked on.

Humans of New York often called HONY.

HONY is a page that simply shares a photo of someone and a little snippet of their story. Every single image makes you want to know more. You get to read about real people who for some reason always feel comfortable sharing very private things with the photographer.

HONY also now travels around the world and I find the posts educational, interesting, emotive, fascinating. I always want more than the page gives. I used to read the comments but I don't anymore, commenters are often able to really ruin a great facebook post. On HONY the community that reads it do pretty amazing things though. They have raised millions of dollars for charities and often help out strangers.

The owner of the page also puts out books each year due to the success of the page. Most of you probably already follow it, but if you aren't already, you won't regret it.

2) The Local Buy Swap Sell Page.

Technically, this is not a 'page' it's a group. You usually need to ask to join your local area Buy, Swap, Sell page. It's likely to be run by a few volunteers who kindly keep the group running, delete the adverts, remind people of rules and keep it all pretty nice.

These pages are more useful than any local phone directory. They are the welcome party for people moving to an area. They refer good businesses, share things happening in your local area and they are the best way to get rid of the stuff you don't need.

Personally, I hate waste, mainly I hate landfill waste. I once volunteered at a large op shop and the turn over in most of them needs to be quick, the amount of stuff coming in can be huge in some places, which means a lot of stuff is still sent to the tip, or clothes are used as rags and sold by the kilo. Old furniture is hard to move.

Our BSS page has allowed me to giveaway things like magazines and beds and sell the girls clothes when they grow out of them. The secret to the BSS page is that it has to be super cheap. If you want retail price, go sell it somewhere else. This also means you get to buy stuff really cheap too.

You will find people seeking help for lost dogs, needing their lawns mowed, and wanting a new hairdresser. You can ask about swim school prices and everyone in the area will just tell you.

If you are not in your local group yet, go and search for it and join in. Remember that Facebook won't show you the updates in your usual feed though, so you need to click over to the group and scroll through to keep up to date and get the best bargains. Summer time you can even get fruit super cheap from people's back yard trees.

3) WTF Renaissance 

Shortly after this incident, Tina would have her zoo membership revoked.

This page just makes me laugh.

It's put together by a group of Melbourne people. You can see the image and ask yourself what you would have captioned it with, but chances are it won't be as funny as them. They make paintings that are centuries old relate to modern day times.

I share them a bit because I just want to share the funny. It's smart funny. It's often political without being politically correct (mostly).

This page does nothing more than improve your facebook experience and for that it's totally worth it.

What are your favourite pages? What do you mostly use facebook for? 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Where it's at: October 2015.

When the blogging mojo has left the building, there is only one thing a girl can do.
Steal ideas from Woogsworld.
So here goes, for October 2015 this is the lay of the land at Casa Huey.

Making : Lunches for school every night and not once stressing about them in the morning as we do the run/dance/shuffle out the door to school.
Cooking : Whatever is on the menu from Hello Fresh. I keep meaning to tell you all about this. I don't meal plan or shop for our evening meal anymore. No mumma got time for that. Instead, all the fresh food and the recipe cards are delivered to me on a Monday and we eat what they tell us to cook for the rest of the week
Drinking : not enough water.
Reading:  'My Grammar and I (or is that and me)' because there will forever be things in the English language that I have to check, especially when I write for work projects.
Looking: forward to the future with happiness.
Playing: Itunes Radio and listening to random songs like Lenny Kravitz...cos it aint over til it's oooooveeeerrrrrr.
Deciding: That getting a cleaner is no longer to be discussed, it is to be organised.
Wishing: Probably for too much, but mainly for will power. 
Enjoying: The Sun. Some days I think I am like a plant that only survives in the tropics. I need sunshine 
Wondering: What will happen to all those people fleeing Syria. 
Loving: How happy Arabella has been after her Day Camps at school. 
Pondering: Blog writing, how I miss it, how it's a very selfish past time, but one I want to find time to do more of again and that perhaps I should do my write everyday in May again - but you know, not in May, but in November, or maybe December.
Considering: Getting Christmas shopping done before the end of November.
Buying: Not the dress I want, because it's still not available
Watching: SUITS - I even had to pay for Netflix as I am totally addicted. You all probably watched it years ago, but I am just catching up. So happy to have found this show.
Hoping: my family continue with good health. Always.
Cringing: At my white legs.
Questioning: If I can write a blog at work and then come home and write another one.
Smelling: Fresh sheets, dried in the sun. No dryer will ever beat that smell
Wearing: Not that dress.
Noticing: That I don't seem to care about kids messy bedrooms so much anymore.
Knowing: I am not going to have Christmas sorted by November.
Thinking: About the idea of swimming lessons for myself.
Admiring: The Doers. I always love those people, the ones who just get everything done.
Disliking: Like and Share to Win Posts on Facebook. 
Opening: Too many packets of chocolate
Giggling: At my kids stories. 
Feeling: Better
Snacking: Too often.
Hearing: Different podcasts. It's good to randomly listen to things that I would never usually hear. Apparently it makes me smarter. 
Needing: A cleaner

I cut a few out, no point leaving them in when I had nothing to really say. 
Have you watched Suits? Were you able to stop at just one episode per day? 

*Random photo of Marty the sheep, just because we love him. A lot. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Modern History Repeats

Back in the day, women were not treated as equals (Ha! As if they are now.) If you found yourself unmarried, widowed, single parenting, well, you didn't have a great future ahead. Times were going to be tough for you.

But of course women are a resourceful lot and they never just sat down and did nothing. They used the resources they had to provide products and services where there were gaps in the community. What does this mean? It means that they took in washing and ironing and sat at home with their babies at their feet and cleaned other peoples dirty undies. It means they cooked meals, looked after kids, and those that had a spare room would rent that room out. Often they provided cheap rooms for travellers or single people looking for work.

After WW2, it was more common for apartments and flats to be built so the boarding house was not needed so much. Women soon started to get a little bit of money until they could support themselves, both the supply and demand went down and it was rare when I grew up to know any women renting rooms out to travellers.

But here we are 60 years later.

And my Mum takes me to a function hosted by AirBnB. Mum has a house that's too big for just her and it needs people to share it's history. She listed it on AirBnB and was first to reply to an invitation to go and meet other hosts and speak with the AirBnB team. While I was there I chatted with a stack of people who were just so generous in nature. It's a whole new community of people who want to meet people from all over the world. People who want to share their homes and their lives and then shout out the benefits of what they are doing and encourage everyone else to join in too.

They had great ideas, they provided encouragement and so many of them were single women. Not particularly those in tough times, but women who had a home that had space to be shared. They talked about what they did to ensure they felt safe, they laughed about the oddities of some guests and the things that all guests were really looking for. Do you know what it was, the thing that guests from all over the world's a good mattress and good linen. They don't care so much about the size of the room or the size of the TV. It's all about a comfy bed, a place they can get a good sleep to ensure they are rested for whatever they want to do the next day.

Thousands of people are now using 'boarding houses' again. We just use them differently. We use them when we are the tourists and those that run them treat them like a micro business that provides them with more than just a little extra income, but also connections, community, fun and to learn about other cultures.

Last year we took a holiday to Singapore and made a great friend when we used AirBnb and now I see my Mum already meeting a whole new community of people too.

Yet, really, while we all think the whole AirBnb concept is so new, it's really not, it's just been made easier for us to go online, find a place that's perfect for us, and to book in.

Once again online technology is bringing people closer in real life.

I like it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What makes people go to a disaster?

It's been six months since the disaster in Nepal when the earthquakes hit. The team at Care Australia were already working in Nepal but had to provide substantial emergency assistance to care for the hundreds of thousands of people who were all of a sudden without a home. Or a school, or a workplace. Or shops to buy food...

But what is it that makes someone pack up their comfortable Australian lifestyle to go and live in an area where disease and harm could come their way? These are one of the things I think of when I see the helpers on the news stories. How does one find themselves there? 

Lucky for me I was able to just ask one of the CARE Team, which is exactly what I did. 

Dee works for CARE and was in Nepal to help, so I sent her a few questions.

How is it that you find yourself in Nepal? 

As an international NGO, CARE has a presence in many countries around the world so during an emergency the CARE family really works together to support each other to make sure that we’re reaching people affected by the disaster as quickly as possible. There are people with different sets of skills throughout the global CARE network and in an emergency such as the Nepal earthquake, we bring those people together to provide some additional support. We have a great emergency HR coordinator who sits with CARE International who has been working closely with CARE Nepal since the earthquake to bring these people together. So depending on who is needed, she’ll go out to the wider CARE network to ask whether they can be seconded for the emergency response. It really is a global response – we might come from CARE Australia, CARE Myanmar, CARE Afghanistan, CARE Canada, CARE Philippines, CARE USA (and that’s just to name a few).

Can you explain what a typical day in Nepal is like for you at the moment, what activities occupy your time?

Haha! I wouldn’t say there has been a typical day. Every day is new and different. I guess most recently, I was able to go out with our WASH team in Sindupalchowk (a district in Nepal) where we’ve been working with local partners to provide water, sanitation and hygiene and also emergency shelter. When I went out with the WASH team, we were able to talk to people in the community to see how they were feeling about the emergency toilets that were recently built and how people were going with that construction. It was a really interesting day and you know the Nepalese people are a really resilient people so I was just really inspired to see their smiles and their strength. We met with one older lady who was at home while her family were out farming and she said that if her family weren’t out at work, she would have loved to have offered us lunch. That was a great day because people are still so generous and thoughtful.

Is it difficult to leave at the end of your scheduled time there? 

Yea definitely! Of course!

What is your favourite thing about working with CARE

Well many things, I think I work with a really great team both in CARE Australia but also the team in Nepal and these guys are really passionate about what we do, you know? I love that! I guess one of my favourite things is our commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment. A disaster really impacts men, women, girls and boys very differently – this brings about different needs. So when we go in to an emergency response, we work with communities and local partners and local NGOs to address those different needs and we try to bring all those different voices to the table.

Would you recommend others volunteering to go and help out a country in crisis, what tips would you give those who want to be involved?

There are some really great organisations out there that provide training and opportunities to prep people who are interested in development work.
Especially for people who have a certain skill set, I would recommend getting that training and taking time out to think about how you can contribute effectively and also why you want to do it. You know, if you’re an engineer you might want to work with Engineers without Borders. If you’re a medical professional you might think about MSF (Medecin Sans Frontieres), Red R that take people from many different specialities, they also give you training about working in humanitarian emergency response and also provide safety and security training as well. CARE also has an emergency roster that you can apply for as do other NGOs because when you send someone into an emergency situation you want to make sure that you’re doing good by them as well and that they’re prepared and as experienced as they can be.
Working in a disaster response can be draining and it’s high intensity. Right now in Nepal there are people there who have had years of experience in emergency. When you get there, you hit the ground running. It might mean that in your first day you’re out looking at emergency shelter options because you’re a shelter advisor (and in your previous life experience you’re an architect or an engineer). You’re also working with people who have had to deal with a lot and it’s really important that we can be supporting them instead of being additional burdens.

I think if you want to volunteer think about organisations that provide those opportunities and also provide opportunities for professional growth as well in a non-disaster zone. Think about programs like AVID or AVI if you’ve never ever done development or emergency work before because it’s a good platform to for lack of a better phrase “test out the waters” and see if it’s for you.

I think it’s so great that people are passionate and want to contribute – I mean that’s why I work for CARE but I think we always just need to be mindful about how we contribute. I would never recommend that someone packs a first aid kit and a blanket and books a flight over to any disaster response, I think you need to back up passion and experience with the right support. That’s what I had, I work with an amazing team in CARE Australia who supported me and prepped me so that I could be an effective team member in country. There’s always so much going on and it’s just as much about looking after yourself as it is about being part of a response because if you don’t have the right tools to look after yourself then you can’t be of any assistance to anybody else.

I think any natural response for many people is to want to help. We’re humans, we’re relational beings and we care about other people and that is such an important trait to have through life but I think when we do it we need to be mindful about how we go about it. And you need people to support that process as well – people who are more experienced and can be there to say “hey, are you sure you’re ready for this?”

Six months down the track there is still so much work to do to rebuild communities in Nepal, but progress is being made, monsoon season will mean people have to work in muddy wet conditions and this is sure to slow things down. Life for people in the remote villages will remain very difficult for some time yet. Plastic sheets can be the only shelter people have from the weather. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

On our Bookshelf: October 2015

You've noticed haven't you? You've seen that I just barely make it back here to blog so much these days.

It kind of annoys me because I LOVE looking back on my posts and remembering our lives and the things the girls have said and done, the stuff we've done and places we've gone.

But the thing is, I just have so many books to read. This month I am doing something that I never usually do. As soon as I finished my book, I started reading it again, in the same night!

To be brutally honest, I never cry in books. Movies - all the time, I can even cry in advertising, but books not so much. Not this time.

My Grandma Sends her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman.

Order it, from the shop, the library or your family for Christmas, because this is one that I won't be lending to my friends.

The story is based around seven year old Elsa and her wonderful Grandma. Grandma has lived a life that most of us can only dream of, a doctor who has travelled the world by going to disasters and helping people when no one else did/could. But in her older years, Elsa, her only grandchild, becomes her everything. How Grandma makes a world far away from the bullies and the annoying adults in Elsa's life is intertwined with a story of mystery, history, sadness and laughter.

This is the second book by Fredrik Backman, a swedish author, the first is also a best seller and currently on my list of 'want to read'.

For Big Kids

Ruby Redfort

These are not new, but Miss 9 has enjoyed getting stuck into a book with a bit more depth than her usual favourites (Weirdo, 65th Storey Treehouse, Roald Dahl).

Written by Lauren Child, if your young reader has been through Charlie and Lola, then onto Clarice Bean and is now looking for something a little more gritty, grab Ruby and try and solve the mystery as you go.

For younger school kids

An Aussie Year

Miss 6 spent last term studying all about culture, family trees and where people arrive in Australia from. We even went to the Immigration Museum and learnt about how and why people move to different countries.

At the same time,  I noticed the book 'An Aussie Year' by Tania McCartney. It's a busy book following the year of a few Australian kids. The images are colourful and each page has lots of things for young readers to scan through, to read the bits they know and guess the rest. These are the types of books that I always tell Miss 9 to read too, because I really don't like it when people leave picture books behind too early.

There is also A Scottish Year and An English Year. These books also take you through lots of the things that happen in these countries, from the eyes of a few different kids.

For all kids

The Boy who Loved the Moon

The last book that has been added to the book shelf is, The Boy who Loved the Moon, by Rino Alaimo.

This is more art than story. My kids didn't really fully understand the story line. They read it a few times and loved looking at the images. The author is an award winning artist and it's clear why this is the case. The images reflect a time of darkness (night) but it feels as though the images are lit with a real flame. This is a quality book, it would be a beautiful gift for new babies, or small kids who you want to give a lovely book to. If it was bigger and I wasn't filled with book ripping quilt, I would be pulling out the pages and framing them, adding them to the walls and shelves of our home.

There are always new books we want on our book shelves, what have you added to yours lately?

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