Monday, July 18, 2016


There’s a metamorphosis happening at our place and I’m not expecting to see a butterfly emerge any time soon.

Having parented, (and survived) two teenage girls, I was fairly confident I had the whole puberty- mother thing under control and besides, everyone knows that boys are easier than girls, right? Well, Taine turns 13 today and I’m not quite so confident anymore.

My beautiful little, tousle haired boy is transforming, before my very eyes, into a man. Like a less verdant version of the Hulk, his body is morphing into its adult shape, long and lean with man hands sprouting from the ends of his arms. You can literally see his bones growing and stretching under the skin; the puppy fat falling away to reveal an angular and less awkward new shape. Every window in our house has become a mirror that measures the change in his abs and biceps! His feet are already bigger than his father’s, signaling a further growth spurt on the horizon and increasingly more expensive visits to the shoe shop.

The fridge and the pantry are often empty; despite my daily shopping they are devoid of proteins and carbohydrates- but that doesn’t stop him from endlessly opening their doors to window shop.

The eyes that used to look beseechingly at me to pick him up and carry him are suddenly at eye level with my own and more often defiant than compliant. He’s developed a passive resistance that leaves his bedroom chaos untouched and his homework wallowing in the bottom of his bag.

The timid creature who used to worry about his own safety has dissolved into a testosterone fuelled risk taker, full of bravado and c’est la vie. His voice has dropped an octave and his constant stream of conversation has been reduced to the odd grunt or a single letter text message.

His teddy, Lamby, lies abandoned in a corner of his room somewhere, smothered by the discarded dirty clothes and surrounded by other abandoned relics of his boyhood. That poor stuffed sheep has traveled the world with him and now it doesn’t even rate a spot on the bed! One night my little boy went to bed calling out his usual chorus of “Love you Mum, love you Dad”. The next morning he started calling me Anne and squirming when I tried to give him a hug.

I remember when I was pregnant with Taine, a miracle, conceived around my 45th birthday and born just before my 46th. I had so many fears about my own ability to cope with a baby, mostly fuelled by the asked, and unasked questions of everyone else.
"How will you manage the broken sleep at your age?" (Actually it was good training for the insomnia of menopause.)
"Won’t he miss out on doing stuff with you because you’re so old?" (So far we’ve walked the length and breadth of New York and London, cycled around Uluru and Paris and climbed the Old Man of Storr and the Sydney Harbour Bridge together. I think I’m doing OK ;-)
"What if people think you’re his grandmother?" (This hasn’t happened yet but I’ve since discovered that there’s nothing wrong with being a grandma!)
"How will you cope with a teenager when you’re 60?" (I’ll get back to you on this one).
"Aren’t you sad that you probably won’t see his grandchildren?" (Yes, I was actually asked this question and yes, I am. But my parents didn’t see their grandchildren either and they were in their 20s when I was born).

As a result of these questions, I spent a lot of Taine’s childhood willing him to grow up while I was still here to protect him. Now I regret my own foolishness at wishing that magical time away. Those long nights when nothing would calm him but a cuddle in our bed, the early mornings when he just wanted to get up and play, the endless questions of ‘why, Mummy?’

Because now, suddenly, here he is, an (almost) self sufficient adolescent and from my past experience I know how quickly the next few years will pass. When I blink a few more times he’ll be finished school and gone from home. My wonderful, extended twilight of hands on parenting will be over. Today, as I watch the last vestiges of ‘twelvie’ disappear, I have to remind myself that it’s ok to miss the little boy that he was but more important to celebrate the man he is becoming.

How grateful I am to have had the opportunity to experience the childhood of this amazing creature. Behind the nonchalant, know it all veil of the teenager, he is a kind, thoughtful and multi talented young man. I may not get to be around to see him grow old and grey and I may never know exactly what he will be but I do know who he will be. 

Happy Birthday Insano
(And just to test his resilience, here's a video of Taine's theory of the world from many years ago)


Friday, January 15, 2016

Photo 365 (366)

There’s something very special about the first month of the new year. It always feels like a blank slate, a chance to move on from whatever was holding you back last year, a promise of things to come, a whole year full of opportunities just waiting to happen.

It’s silly really because time is just a human construct and we could choose to start fresh on any given rotation of the sun but Jan 1st provides a marker point and the older I get, the faster those 365 (or 366 this year) rotations seems to disappear, so I really savour these first, ambitious days of January, when anything seems possible.

For the last few years I’ve completed a 365 photo project. The premise is simple; take a photo each and every day of the year and publish it.
I’ve read lots of blog pieces from the ‘put down your device’ naysayers who lament the way many of us view our lives through a lens. I actually find these quite amusing, especially the ones that bag social media and the internet – and yet the piece is published … on the internet! ‘Live in the moment’, ‘make memories, not videos’, etc, etc. But what is a photograph, if it’s not a memory? A memory that lives, not only in my rapidly deteriorating grey matter, but one that can be shared

My completed 365s are the ultimate photo album. Rather than taking you away from the moment, the discipline of taking at least one photo every day forces you to concentrate on the minutiae of daily life, to look for something memorable in every day, not just the ‘special’ occasions. For sure, my 365 shows me birthdays and victories and spectacular holiday moments but it also reminds me of the other glorious parts of my life; the first ripe plums on our trees, Spring heralding daffodils, sunsets, laughter, trivial, happy moments from the daily grind of teaching that would otherwise be lost. The 365 is like a gift to yourself because at the end you have a spectacular, chronicled, visual diary of your life.

I have tried posting my 365 projects in a few different places. Originally, I posted to the website. This is a great forum for photography because of the challenges they set and the support of other amateur photographers. The hard part is getting around to uploading your photos from the camera each week.

In 2015, I chose Instagram because it’s so easy to post on the run with my iPhone and because the phone saves Inta pics into one folder so they’re easy to see as a series.
Since my first go at this project, back in 2011, I’ve tried to up the challenge by applying a theme to each year’s photos. This makes it much harder. This year’s theme was #trysomethingnew and was more about me pushing my comfort zone than the actual photography. As a result, I’ve tried lots of new recipes and eaten things I’ve never tried before and I’ve pushed my own fear limits to climb to high places, including the Swiss Alps, the Eiffel Tower and the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Since I was holding my breath and closing my eyes for some of those experiences, it’s a good thing I have photographic evidence!
Instagram 2015 #trysomethingnew
One of my greatest regrets is that I didn’t start doing this earlier. I admire and envy the photographers who have chronicled their own or their children’s lives with daily or yearly photos. How amazing it must be to look back and reflect in that way. Still, regret is a wasted emotion so I’m determined to chronicle the back half of my life. Hopefully my grand children and great grand children will find it of historic amusement, if nothing else.

This year I’m going with Insta again (#thingsthatmakemehappy) but I’m also posting to a Flickr group (#2016 ) because they have very strict rules about posting on the same day as taking so it provides another level up in the challenge. I’m also hoping to integrate the 365 into my teaching with a #theresmoretomortlake tag for the kids to contribute to. From my dslr camera I’m going to put as much as possible onto as well. And then, I really want to do a portrait series because people are just so interesting!
Insta 2015 : #thingsthatmakemehappy

The hardest part is always choosing just one photo and that’s why I’m cheating by running different sites.

If you’ve never had a go at taking a photo a day, this is the year to try it.
Here are my top tips for a successful project:
- Take lots of photos and then edit each night on your phone/camera.
- Take a photo early in each day. You can always get a better one as the day progresses but there's nothing worse than getting to bed time and having nothing captured.
-Keep your originals in a 365 folder on your computer or a portable drive. Then if you want to print them at the end of the year, they're easy to find and in chronological order.
-Don't beat yourself up if you miss a day. With most sites you can cheat a bit by filling in the gaps with an extra from the day before or the day after - NB; not Flickr though - miss more than one day and you're out!
Flickr- 2016 one photo a day

- Choose a theme or go for a site that has weekly or monthly topic challenges. This definitely helps with motivation and inspiration. On 365 org you can even pair up with a mentor who will look at your photos and choose a challenge for you.

And if you do start a photo a day challenge this year, please add me on Instagram or wherever you post so that I can follow your adventures too.

365 org : Anne De Manser
Instagram: @kwaussies
Flickr : @Aannne

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Our poor, old dog, Jonah, didn't wake up this morning.
This was not unexpected, we've been expecting his demise for awhile now. He was heading for his 16th birthday and that's a long time for a labrador.

Jonah used to sleep downstairs in the porch with his best friend Nala, a mangy old moggy, (the by product of our promiscuous Maddy cat, who dropped a litter of kittens before she was old enough to be speyed). Nala was a crochety, wretch of a cat but she and Jonah had a wonderful companionship for their shared 15 years together. During the day they would sit on the front deck, guard the house and observe the world, then at night they would retire to their boudoir. A few weeks ago, Nala just disappeared and since then Jonah has been sleeping on the front lawn. I'm sure he's been looking for her and in the less scientific side of my mind, I like to think he's found her now.

We got Jonah around the same time we got married and in a sense he was a symbol and statement of hope for a relationship that most people (other than Geoff & I) didn't rate a chance to see the year out. What a shame no one was running a book on the odds on the long life of the dog and the marriage; we would have been rich!

We named the dog after the rugby great, Jonah Lomu. If he and Taine had been born the other way around, then I guess the dog's name would have been Taine.
Like most labs, Jonah had a pesky adolescence before becoming a calm, cool and gentle companion. He loved it when we moved to Waggs Lane because he was never chained up and never wandered. He was always happy to see us and liked nothing better than a walk around the block - although in recent years a stroll to the corner was enough to convince him he'd had enough exercise for the day.

We've been fretting about leaving Jonah to go on our annual beach holiday this year. Blessed with helpful friends, he has always been well looked after while we're away but for the past 3 or 4 holiday trips we've been worried he'd cark it while we were gone and he's a big dog. Geoff even thought about pre digging his grave but that seemed a bit presumptuous, even for an ancient creature like Jonah. This morning, he got to perform this last labour of love, with a little help from Taine who learnt a bit more about the cycle of life. It was a fitting tribute for a faithful companion.

In the end, Jonah's timing couldn't have been better. He got the last of the Christmas ham for lunch yesterday and when we got home late last night , his hopeful tail wagging told us he'd forgotten he'd already been fed, so Geoff gave him supper. As always, he waited patiently beside the bowl until he was told he could eat. And then he went back to the lawn to look for Nala.

And now he's gone.
Thanks for all your loving big fella.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Shuffle Time

Netball has always been my game. As a kid I played tennis and hockey and basketball (very badly) but netball was the sport that I loved and have continued to be involved with throughout my life. I love the camaraderie of netball and the strategy of moving the ball from one corridor and one third to another. I love that the boundaries of each position mean no one individual can dominate (although I’ve seen a few centres try). Because of the designated playing areas, there’s no room for ball hogs and clever team work out plays individual brilliance, almost every time.
I love the aerodynamic fitness required and the way the momentum, and therefore the score of the game can change in a heartbeat.

We were a step ahead of the pleated skirts at Caramut
I love netball because it’s a thinker’s game. As the great Joyce Brown often said, 80% of what goes on in netball happens above the shoulders and that suits me just fine because my brain has always worked better than my legs!

When I was a kid we used to play here in town in an ad hoc sort of competition, run, I suppose, by our mothers, on Saturday mornings. We designed and made our own team outfits that we then teamed with our gym boots or Dunlop volleys. Nobody strapped their ankles or their knees and surprisingly I don’t remember any serious injuries. Mind you, looking back at the photos I think glamour may have been more important to us than speed, so maybe we just ran slowly!  

Guess what this team was called - The Zippers! Ha ha ha

As a teacher you always get dobbed in to be the coach of things and so apart from my many years on court, I’ve also spent a lot of time on the sidelines trying to get the best out of other players, usually kids. To be honest I think I’m too dithery to be a great coach. I get way too caught up in the game and my desire to be kind always overwhelms my ability to make tough decisions but I love it and I really enjoy the chance to work with kids outside the classroom environment.

I started coaching kids when Woorndoo entered the Mininera League nearly 30 years ago. Having had no netball competition in our previous league, we started from scratch and I coached all 5 teams, from U/14 Reserves through to A Grade. They were long days and we didn’t win many games in any grade for the first few years. Gradually though, thanks to the netballing dynasties of Mahnckes, Leskes, Milwards, Muirs, Bourchiers and Barrs we built to be a pretty powerful netball force and even though I’m not out at Woorndoo anymore I love following their continued success.
2004 13/U Premiers
My own daughters were born playing netball.  From the time she could walk, Jaime refused to leave home on Saturdays without her netball bib on. Sophie, quite literally, was almost born on the court given that I was at netball training 12 hours before she was born and back on the court 3 weeks afterwards. I think they’ve both been at netball training every Thursday night of every winter of their lives. And, thanks to their skill at the game I’ve been fortunate enough to watch them play netball right up to national level. I still get a thrill every time I watch my girls play.
That's Jaime in the C
Soph's first game

I stopped playing netball at 47 when the length of time taken to get over a game started to overlap with the time needed to prepare for one and apart from a couple of coaching stints with Nth Warrnambool teams I thought I was ready to be a netball spectator rather than a participant. Then I had a delegation from the Mortlake Junior Sharks with a request that I take on some junior development work with them. Taine was ready to start playing junior footy and the request came accompanied with  wine by some lovely people, so I thought, why not?
When the Sharks win, we shuffle!
Getting a successful junior program running is never easy. The first few years are always hard and it takes a special sort of resilience to front up every week knowing that you’re going to get thrashed. When I had my first season with the Junior Sharks I jokingly referred to it as my netball penance; having had so many successful years at Woorndoo, it seemed only fair that I see the other side of the coaching coin again.  However, it has been no hardship to work with this club or these girls. The club is run brilliantly, by people who really care about providing sporting opportunities for kids in our town. The girls are good listeners. They work hard and (mostly) they, and their parents, are really nice to each other and to me. When I started coaching this group 3 years ago, they were tiny little 10 and 11 yr olds, much too small for the 13/U competition but full of eagerness to learn and the grit to manage being walloped every Saturday. We set short term goals in the first season – let’s get beaten by less in the 2nd round than we did in the first; longer term in the 2nd year – let’s win more games than we lose and then this year – let’s make the finals.

Remarkably, that’s just what they did. Now they’re the big girls of the comp, finishing 2nd on the ladder with just 2 losses for the season.
And tomorrow, the Mortlake Junior Sharks 13/U team will play in the Warrnambool and District Grand Final. This is a BIG deal because it’s the first time the Mortlake Junior Sharks have had a netball team in the finals.  
Saahhh exciting!!

I’m writing this blog piece to fill in the time before bed because I’m nearly as excited as the kids. I couldn’t care what the result is tomorrow (although OF COURSE I hope we win). The important thing is we made it to the very last game of the year. We set goals and ticked them all off.  Everyone is better at the game than they were at the start of the year. I've been overwhelmed by the number of well wishes we've received and the number of supporters willing to turn up so early to watch and cheer. Our club and our town has a team to be proud of and everyone is enjoying being part of it. 

And next Saturday I don’t have to get up at 7am to get to the netball!!!

Shuffle on Sharkies.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Goodbye my friend

My Dear Friend,

Today we stood rocking your great grandsons under the peppercorn tree outside the Woorndoo church while I listened to my girls deliver the eulogy at your funeral. I have never felt more connected to you than at that moment. In their words, your grand daughters captured beautifully the essence that was you and I felt comforted by the warmth of our shared pride in them.

The minister made a remark about a door being opened and remarkably the door of the church suddenly did just that. Some may have found that eerie but I wasn't surprised. I felt your presence keenly. You were just letting everyone know you're still in charge!

You were my oldest friend, a stable influence in my life since I was a little girl. Our relationship existed on many levels at different times. You were my mother's friend, my friend's mother, my mother in law, my ex mother in law, my children's grandmother but always, my friend.

I was a little bit scared of you as a child. It took me awhile to realise that your bark was worse than your bite. From my cosseted, only-child perspective, your rules were tough but I learnt to live with them because I loved being part of your big, rambunctious family. I loved the bickering and horse play and shared chores. I loved the routine of it; poached eggs for breakfast and a teaspoon of tea for each person and one for the pot.

When I married your son I became a bona fide member of the family and our relationship took a new turn. As a young farmer's wife I was in awe of your ability to manage a household, cook 3 meals a day and smoko for 6 or 8 or 10 or more without raising a sweat, all the while keeping the bench tops sparkling and the floors clean enough to eat off. In hindsight I can only imagine how difficult it was for you to put up with my messiness when I moved into your pristine former home.

We shared many cups of tea and the occasional glass of sherry during the long, lonely Summer harvests. I learnt how to keep the house cool in the heat, to be thrifty with water, how to cook mutton in 57 different ways and to never leave the fly wire open. I learned that the key to cleanliness is that shoes MUST ALWAYS be removed at the door and I discovered that if you really want something done, you should do it yourself. I watched you chop the heads off chickens, kill snakes and knock holes in the wall. We learnt to respect each other's strengths. We shared secrets and played cards and laughed a lot.

And then I became a mother myself and you, a doting but no nonsense grandmother. You never once tried to interfere with my bumbling parenting (though I'm sure you felt like it!) Instead you praised me and gave me the confidence I needed to do a good job. When my own mum died, you cleaned my house, cooked all the food for the wake, looked after Jaime and cradled me like a baby until I had the strength to look after myself again.

As your brother said to me today, "With Leila, you were either in, or out." I was lucky enough to be 'in' and stayed that way even when I broke your heart. Divorce may have seen me 'unfriended' by lots of people, but not by you. While you hated my decision, you understood it. Our family ties wavered but our friendship stood firm. Your decision to keep me 'in' allowed my new family and my old family to blend together. You gave my girls the gift of unity, never forcing them to choose between their parents. You were happy to 'rouse' my new husband and son just the way you roused your own. Today your new daughter in law took my hand at the cemetery and we said goodbye to you together. If that's not testament to your ability to bring people together, nothing is.

We disagreed about politics, religion, technology and feminism and whether or not lipstick was mandatory when leaving the house! You were black and white while I always live in the grey but we agreed on the things that count most; love and loyalty. I'm sad that we won't be able to share any more conversations, but I'm happy for you that you're no longer stuck in that little room waiting to move on. I know your energy still exists; I saw it today in the faces of all your gorgeous grown up grandchildren and your ever increasing brood of great grand children.

Thank you for being my friend.

Love, Ann(e) xxx

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

28 Days of Writing 3 - My ideal school

I'm cheating a bit today because it's been a very long day and I'm totally devoid of creativity so I'm basing this post on some multi media I already have saved.

Last year a couple of my colleagues and I participated in the Bastow course, Leading Schools in the Digital Age. I really enjoyed the course because, unlike a lot of the PD available these days, it concentrated on the pedagogy of 21st C teaching rather than the hardware.

We spent 13 weeks developing a school ICT change plan and spreading our own, individual digital wings to explore the possibilities of teaching and leading in this 'new' age. The program was run by a very slick team from @dk2_econfidence who provided us with mentoring and exposed us to the ideas of some amazing world experts, including a keynote from one of my 'internet heroes' +Alec Couros .

Anyway, one of the activities we had to complete was a 60 sec movie about our ideal school. There were several criteria that I won't bore you with but the concept really got me thinking about what is important in schools these days and when we were finished we were pretty confident that our school is well on the way to the 'ideals' we strive for.

Opportunities : Despite being out the back of beyond our kids have lots of opportunities that contribute to their success later on and probably the greatest opportunity we provide is the ability to be successful while remaining in our own, wonderful country community.

United: Our small size means we have to get along. Team work is imperative for staff and students.

Resourceful: By necessity! Our teachers, parents and students are incredibly resourceful in solving the tyrannies of distance and funding.

Interesting: Curiosity is a keystone of our curriculum. We want to grow thinkers, not followers.

Dramatic: Our Performing Arts program is second to none.

Exciting: There's certainly never a dull moment.

Adventurous: School trips to Japan and New Zealand, surf camps, cycling camps, historical re enactment camps, personal development programs, we have an adventure to suit everyone.

Leadership: At our school, it's an action, not just a badge.

Successful: The success of our students after school, in all walks of life, is testament to the success of our ideals.

Connected: We've been at the forefront of tech integration since the turn of the century. A BYOD program allows 1:1 access and connectedness for all. If we can't provide it in person we can source it online. Our school community is connected in person and via any number of social media and online programs.

Helpful: I hope so. Knowing our community so closely allows help to happen when and where it's needed.

Organised: Well, mostly!

Open Doors: Come, in, look around, join in.

Life long learners: We expect our staff to continue the learning journey with our students and we hope that our kids will leave school with a thirst for learning that will nourish them throughout their lives.

And so, that's OUR IDEAL SCHOOL - and yes, the old acrostic is still the primary teacher's best stand by activity ;-)