Archive | New Zealand RSS for this section

Tropical Storm Arthur and the New Brunswick lack of preparedness

New Zealand has a lot of natural events, and a lot of “promises” of natural events. New Zealand has the “promise” of volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, cyclones, tropical storms, and droughts.

And Kiwis are mostly ready for those things.  Citizens are told to have their civil defense kits ready. People know where their closest “emergency safe zone” is (usually schools). When something happens, people know what to do, generally speaking.

New Brunswick has a different sort of natural events. Here there is no direct volcano “promise”. No major earthquake faults nearby. They’ve never experienced a tsunami threat. Wind/rain/twister events are few and far between, and mostly benign. New Brunswick does get major winter storms.  New Brunswickers are people who would empty grocery stores, gas stations, and the local hardware store at the mere hint of a winter storm. They understand winter storms and the danger of no electricity/gas/food in winter, but summer weather is considered mild and not something to worry over.

So when the media started talking about Hurricane Arthur (later downgraded to Cyclone and then to Tropical Storm) everyone here in our town ignored it.  “When they talk about Maritime weather, they mean Halifax.  It doesn’t come here.”  That’s what we heard from many people.  “Don’t worry about the reported storm. It’s not coming here. We don’t have to prepare.”

Then Tropical Storm Arthur hit.  And it didn’t just hit Halifax, like the locals thought it would. It hit New Brunswick, and hard. The wind knocked over so many trees onto power lines that most of New Brunswick was without power in the middle of a heat wave.  NB Power had been slack and done no tree maintenance for over 5 years, we were told.  They were forced into doing the maintenance! For some people, that meant no power for over a week.

The grocery stores were closed.  They moved all their perishables to reefers (refrigerated trucks) and waited it out.  Gas stations can’t pump gas without electricity.  The one gas station with a generator had line ups for kms down the road.

Our family (used to civil defense warnings and summer weather storms) had two cars with full tanks of gas, and enough non-perishable food for 3 days.  The only thing we didn’t have (and should have had) was cash on hand.

We watched the storm from the safety of our house, and called the fire station when some wires came crashing down on the road in front of our house.  We played board games, read books, and even played some word games that the children enjoyed.  When all else failed, we did go onto our devices (that were fully charged up before the storm).

We also watched in confusion as all these people were driving up and down our street in the middle of the storm.  All the stores were closed (no power!).  There was no where to go.  It wasn’t really safe to drive – there were trees falling everywhere, wires down, and high rivers. And yet all of these people were driving.

The same people that would have stayed home if this were a winter snowstorm.

It was an interesting few days. We were lucky in that our power was back on within 48 hours. Others weren’t.  And I wonder if they will learn from this and plan for summer storms just as well as they do for winter storms from now on.

 

 

Keeping children’s schoolwork and art

boxes

boxes (Photo credit: ejhogbin)

Could you fit your life into 10 boxes or less?

I’m trying.

It’s interesting to recall what I thought were so important the last time I moved overseas, and notice that those things aren’t coming with me for the most part this time around.

The number of things I consider my extra special treasures are diminishing.

And it makes me question why we keep some things.

My mother recently sent me a parcel that contained a lot of my school work and report cards from elementary school.  I read them and was amused, but for the most part, I neither remembered much about them nor felt that the re-addition of them into my life added value.

So then why am I keeping my children’s art and schoolwork?  Is it because I will want to look at it years from now? Is it because I want to give them back to my children eventually?  Will the reintroduction of the work add value to our lives many years later?

Or will I feel better if they’re all gone and forgotten?  It will definitely be one less box to transport and pay for!

And as if moving wasn’t enough…

English: The flag of Fredericton, New Brunswic...

English: The flag of Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, flying in downtown St. John Français : Le drapeau du Fredericton, Nouveau-Brunswick, Canada, vol au centre-ville du Fredericton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Moving overseas is a big deal.  Sure, I’ve already moved overseas once: from Vancouver (ish), BC, Canada to Tauranga (ish), New Zealand.  But now it’s an even longer move: from Tauranga(ish), New Zealand to Fredericton (ish), New Brunswick, Canada.

It’s stressful.  We have stuff to sell (we’re trying to go from a 3 bedroom house full of stuff to 10 boxes.  TEN!), utilities to cancel, stuff to ship, a house to sell, things to arrange.

My mother reminded me of the Holmes and Rahe stress scale. Currently I’m at about 202 on there.  We’re moving, we’re changing work, changing our family situation, etc etc etc AND … as if that wasn’t enough …  a change of eating habits rates on that scale too.

I got fed up with feeling sick all the time and took myself off to a registered dietician.  I told her that the healthier I eat, the sicker I get.  And she asked me which foods cause me trouble.

I was prepared for that, and told her everything.

And the lovely lady just said “Well, that all makes a lot of sense to me.  Have you heard of FODMAPs?”

Would you look at that.  Someone who didn’t just say “Don’t be silly, of course you should be eating healthy food!”

Next thing I’m on the low FODMAPs food elimination stage and within a few days I’m already feeling much better.  Six weeks on, I feel better, I look better, I’ve lost 6 kgs, and I feel vindicated.  I knew all those “healthy” vegetables and fruits were making me sick!

Unfortunately, that means I’m trying to maintain this elimination stage AND start up the challenge stage of this wellness diet while I’m also trying to find accommodation in our new city.

It’s no wonder I’m under a moderate amount of stress at the moment!

Haiku: reactions

New Brunswick

New Brunswick (Photo credit: Smulan77)

Blogs are great when you’re supposed to be doing something.

I’m supposed to be doing a lot of things.

Instead, I wrote some haiku:

Playcentre Journal
Who will edit it next year?
I don’t know at all.

And

Going to N B
Lacking in Playcentre Folks
What am I to do?

I wrote them for my Facebook friends and then realised I should post them here because over at Jenn’s You Know…that blog? it’s Haiku day. So here’s my contribution. Her theme was reaction – and well, both of these are related to that.

You see, we’re moving.  We’re leaving New Zealand and going to New Brunswick.  Nearly the complete opposite ends of the world.

Right now, I’m supposed to be packing, getting rid of stuff, calling people.

My reaction is to procrastinate and write haiku.

And here we are. 😉

 

Do you live in NZ and miss American food?

Do you wish you could buy those food products that you miss?

perhaps you should check out Uncle Sam’s – NZ’s online grocery specialist.

I did.  Now I’m happily chomping some strawberry twizzlers and looking forward to some sweet mixed pickles.

I have it on good authority that they have a limited supply of nutter butters.

Perhaps you should check it out!!

Http://www.unclesams.co.nz

**Disclaimer: I know the people who run the store and I may have been bribed with food to make this post. I am unapologetic. 😉

What’s on your birthday list?

English: yamaha upright piano

English: yamaha upright piano (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Birthday lists are a huge problem for me. And yet, every year the Hubby insists that I make one … probably to make sure whatever he thinks he’s going to get me isn’t on it.

It’s that time of year again, and I’ve been asked for the list.

As per usual, a piano tops the list.  We still don’t have another room for one. So I’ve been told it’s not allowed on my list.

I’ve been pondering and pondering, and I think I know what I shall do for my list this year.

I’m going to list all the intangibles I want. You never know, I might get lucky.

Without further ado… here it is:

1) All the outside garden beds deweeded, re-matted, and re-rocked so that the weeds can’t take over quite so much.

2) A series of appointments to a nutritionist so I can get my food issues (IBS/allergies) sorted.

3) The time and energy to take everything out of my house, remove everything we don’t need/use/want, and then put everything back neat, tidy and decluttered.

4) Guitar/ukulele lessons

5) For our house to sell so we can get a place big enough for a piano! 😉

Not thinking much of my odds, though. 🙂

What I learned from the Chess Tournament

An example of early-style Staunton Chess Set

An example of early-style Staunton Chess Set (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I went as the Parent Supervisor with The Boy and 3 of his schoolmates to the local Chess Championships.

I’m not a chess player, so I knew nothing about what to expect or what was going to happen.

Here’s what I learned:

10) Parents who go to help at a Chess Championship should know how to play chess. I had no idea if our children were being treated fairly or not in their games, and I couldn’t help when they’d ask why certain strategies in the game happened.  I’m really glad the teacher had already taught them the 4 move checkmate though – other children got caught by that!

9) When you’re playing in a championship, the same hand that moves the piece must touch the clock to end your turn.

8) If you touch a piece, you have to move that piece. If you touch someone else’s piece, you must remove it from the game (unless that’s an illegal move.)  If you touch a piece and let go before you move it, your turn is done.

7) A lower rank team has the luxury of playing for fun.  They’re playing to improve and learn, not necessarily playing to win.  Much more fun, less stress. My team came in 14th out of 17 teams and they had a lot of fun!

6) A highly ranked team has stress over keeping their ranking.  Not as much fun, and way more pressure. I was watching the highest ranked teams and there were tears, nerves, complaints, and some poor sportsmanship. Not sure how much learning or improving happened there.

5) Parents need to get over themselves and let their children play and learn.  I’m certain a lot of the stress from #6 actually came from all the parents that stood around the table silently watching and communicating frustration through their non-verbal communications. I did that for the first game, realised how much trouble I was causing, and then purposefully stepped back and away from the tables for the rest of the games.  Less stress for me, and less stress for my team!

4) If you’re setting up a chess championship, it’s better to make it so the toilets, kitchen, and exit are not on the other side of the room, with the only way there is a path through the competition tables.  Talk about interference and distraction!

3) It is impossible to keep a room full of 50-75 adults and children quiet through a full round, waiting after their game has been decided, while other people are still playing. Especially considering point #4.

2) Practice is everything. That’s how a 7 year old (who has been playing since he was three with his parents, since he was 5 with his school and with an after school chess club, and been in the championships 3 years running) beats an 11 year old  (who has only been playing for a year and had never been in a championship).

1) If you walk around one of these events with a clipboard, everyone will assume you’re in charge, even if you’re not. If I had been a bit more on my toes, I could have had a lot of fun! (I was keeping track of my team’s scores!)

What I actually did

You’ll need to read this post first.

I wasn’t comfortable with what happened, at all.  I mentioned it in passing to the Vice Principal, by saying that I wasn’t complaining, and that I had thought about it for a long time, but that I was concerned that the children saw what they did. That had it just been nudes, that was one thing, but a woman playing with herself was inappropriate for the age group. Wouldn’t have bothered me for older kids, but for pre-pubescent children, I was uncomfortable.

I followed that up with an email:

Just further to our conversation – I just looked at The Boy’s art assignment from the Art gallery – his person has one hand picking his nose and the other one putting up a middle finger. I haven’t said anything to judge his picture to him, but frankly, for an 8 year old to think it’s okay to do that in art, that’s just not right. I’m really uncomfortable with it. He’s not allowed to pull the finger at home or at school, so we’re giving him a mixed message by saying it’s okay in art. I am very relieved that the other pictures seemed to go completely over his head – but what if it hadn’t?
I just want to make it clear I’m not trying to lay blame on the school or the teachers. I am thinking that the Art Gallery should have notified the school of the content of their art show for the date the children attended. Surely they didn’t think that was appropriate for 7-9 year olds. Not all parents allow their children to watch inappropriate things on television or listen to inappropriate music!

I am wholly in favour of the children going to the art gallery.  And I think sometimes displays at the art gallery are not appropriate for primary school children. So in future I think it would be a good idea to be aware of the content before they go, and maybe delay the trip where necessary. I also think, in future, the school needs guidelines in place to check the appropriateness of the content before a similar trip is scheduled.

If the Art Gallery doesn’t agree with that, then perhaps we need to find art elsewhere – like, perhaps, the art gallery right here in our town? Or even invite more artists to visit the school. I know both of my children thoroughly enjoyed the artist that visited and drew funny pictures of the teachers!

I understand that art should be controversial and get people to ask questions. And I’d also like to preserve my children’s childhood for as long as possible. Those two things should not be incompatible!

Thank you all of you who took time to comment. It was greatly appreciated!

Learning from a walking bus

Recently, our little cul-de-sac started up a walking bus.

A walking bus is where a group of school-aged children walk to school with an adult or two accompanying them as the “bus driver.”

Our local council pays for the “bus tickets” (laminated punch cards), rain ponchos, hi-vis vests and jackets for the adults, umbrellas, first aid kit, and little keychains that are the rewards for walking to school a set amount of times.

I was skeptical of the benefits of a walking bus at first. Surely the older children would think it was “uncool?”  Possibly the parents might think it’s a waste of time.  Would anybody show up when it was raining?

But I was pleasantly surprised.  Even the two oldest girls in our cul-de-sac like the walking bus.  And I think I can tell you why, using the Te Whaariki learning strands.

  1. Well-being.  When we all walk together, we can talk and laugh and share stories.  Only one adult has to be with our group, as there’s only 9 children. And yet, the other parents walk with us often, just because it is a good time to share.  All of us (adults and children) arrive at school happy.  There’s also the health aspect of it – we walk even when it’s pouring with rain.  Finally (but I think most importantly to the older children), our path to school goes through an alleyway, past a dairy and past a highschool. I think all the children feel safer as part of the group and with an adult around. Teenagers can be a bit scary to everyone!
  2. Belonging.  We’re part of a group, and we all know each other.  We all know the rules of the walking bus, and each one of us (children included) enforce them. The children also keep tabs on who is about to get a new reward keychain. This feeling of belonging has even extended to the adults on the street. We talk and visit each other more.
  3. Contribution. We take care of each other. The children like to make sure everybody is on the bus, to the extent that they will knock on the doors of the missing, or go to the classrooms of the children who aren’t there. In the cul-de-sac, our Neighbourhood Watch is stronger because it’s not just the adults watching now, the children watch too. They know all the people on our street, and they know which people shouldn’t be there. And they tell us! Plus we all watch out for each other, offering to help out when we see people gardening, doing some DIY, or anything else that may need some neighbourly help.
  4. Communication.  Making sure each of us knows who has netball after school, who’s going home with their Dad instead, who’s sick.  Who’s having a hard day/week. Who’s going on vacation and needs us to keep an eye on their property. Who is making a presentation at school today! Who got the taonga* for doing something special at school today.  Celebrations and Sadness. Funny stories. Also, learning how families are different through our stories.  There are 3 families not from New Zealand, one Tangata Whenua family, one family that moved to Australia and then came back, one family from a single parent home, two families that have extended family living with them.  We learn from each others similarities and differences.
  5. Exploration. We gain confidence from walking together.  We jump in puddles and notice differences in the trees, plants and flowers as we walk. We look for Monarch chrysalis and monitor their changes as we go by every day, and once we even got to stop and watch a butterfly hatch. We find sticks, and interesting rubbish. Sometimes we find interesting graffiti and talk about why it’s there.  Even our walk to school is an opportunity for learning.

Our walking bus has brought our little neighbourhood closer together, and brought positive changes in our outlook towards each other and our environment.  Our children have gained confidence, and all of us have gained friends. We’ve all learned something.

My skepticism is all gone. Clearly even the bigger kids saw something that I originally didn’t!

Change the beginning and you change the whole story

I saw that phrase in a TEDx talk that I was recently pointed to.  It was an excellent video.  If you’d like, you can watch it, too…

I don’t think it’s possible to agree more than I do with this video. I have seen the differences myself at Playcentre, depending on when the parent decided to join.

Today, this video made me think that we market Playcentre in completely the wrong way.  We post ourselves in the Early Childhood Education section of the Yellow Pages.  When people ask what we do, the easiest answer is “Early Childhood Education.”

But Early Childhood Education is actually Playcentre’s happy by-product. It’s not what we do.

What do we do? I’m glad you asked.

We take new parents and tell them that Yes, they CAN teach their preschool children confidently and competently, and that, in fact, they are their child’s first, and best, teacher.

Then we support them along a journey that gives them the skills, knowledge, confidence and competence to do so.

We do this with hands on experience, at our Playcentre sessions (where parents stay and play with their children – yes, there are drop offs, but not until later!). The parents set up the sessions and activities and are actively involved as the children play.  (See the above video for why that’s important!)

We do this with a tailor-made Parent Education Program that is created especially with busy parents in mind – you learn as you go, in your own time, at your own pace.  Those courses include everything from how to make Playdough, to how to encourage creativity in your children, to behaviour management, to communicating with your child, to the development of children, and beyond.

Why do we do this?  For exactly the reasons you see in the video above.  We believe that children do their best learning through play – not through the television. Because we know that parents don’t get an instruction manual.  We don’t have ALL the answers either, but we’ve got a pretty good idea – and we’re happy to share what we know.

One of the best things about Playcentre is the range of experience and knowledge all the different parents bring to a session. You hear a lot of “I tried this, and it didn’t work.”  “Oh?  Well maybe try this, instead.  What you did didn’t work for me, either, but this did.”  Adults on session learn very quickly that there isn’t just one right way to do things – and each child and each adult will respond differently!

And what’s the result?

Confident and competent learners – Adults and children.

Because the best way to change the beginning of a story is to give the parents the knowledge and skills on how to change it in a hands-on environment, supported by friendly faces.