My parents generously hosted a family holiday at a huge house in the country. Actually, it was only 40 minutes from our home, but in an area I've rarely been in. The house sleeps 24 people, but there were 16 of us, my parents, siblings, and all our children.
It was just what I needed after a frantic few months. I taught in my regular library job for 4 weeks this term then headed to another school to be a student teacher again for 6 weeks. When the holidays finally arrived, we did a big overhaul of our stuff for a week in anticipation of a new arrival.
So a change of scene and pace was much welcomed. We ate, walked, read, played sports, card games, piano, drew with chalk, and hung out by the firepit for 3 days and nights, and just generally enjoyed the serenity and being together.
We've just had a restful week away at Port Stephens, staying in an apartment, part of a big house right on the beach at Salamander Bay. It was so good to wake up, walk out of the bedroom and look straight through the apartment to a window full of water, and to sit on the deck and soak in the water views, the ever-changing sky, the boats, the birdlife, and the quiet surrounds. The gardens around the house were lovely too, and I enjoyed going for walks and looking for landscaping ideas in the gardens of the modern houses along the beach. The apartment had some lovely artworks, some by the owner. I'd like to go back there again one day ...
When not walking, I did some crochet, some watercolouring, a little shopping and cooking. We went out for dinner one night, and had movie nights at home the other nights, it was all pretty quiet and lazy. Things have changed since family holidays when the girls were young - there were no sandcastles, outings to the park, or boardgames. We all had our phones and books and activities, which in some ways was unsociable, but in other ways was just fine and kind of what we needed, we're a pretty quiet family. Steve and Laura began a difficult 1000-piece puzzle but didn't finish it, it turned out that sections of the puzzle were missing! I listened to some good podcasts while out walking, and continued reading Ann Voskamp's The Broken Way, (which is great and helpful but the content of which has temporarily left my memory after a day of uni readings today).
After a busy term with school and uni I was well and truly ready for a break. Actually this was our first proper holiday in a year, and the last holiday was shorter and I was sick. It's been a huge year with very few breaks from studying, and just a week at home in July when I didn't have school AND uni. This year I'm studying Teacher Librarianship, which is a much harder course, requiring hours and hours of reading. But the content is good and I'm excited about learning to excel at my job, which I continue to love.
The next few weeks will be very busy with school and uni, then mid-May I'm off to do a teaching prac at a local school to (hopefully) complete my primary teaching course, so it's a huge term ahead, I'm looking forward to July holidays when I'll really have a week off with no uni work hanging over me.
In January, Steve and I celebrated 25 years of marriage with a weekend away at the Crowne Plaza in Newcastle. We had never explored Newcastle before, despite it being so close to home.
It was a very hot weekend, but we still did lots of walking around the foreshore, which we loved; swimming, ship-watching and eating. We had a perfect dinner at the Paymaster's Cottage one night, to really celebrate our anniversary. We got a bit sunburnt and sore, and came home heavier than we left. Newcastle is full of interesting things to see and I look forward to going back some time, perhaps with the girls at a cooler time of year.
Our actual anniversary fell on the day of Steve's dad's funeral, and Steve was well and truly in need of a short break a couple of days later when we had booked to go away. The death was not unexpected, but was still hard for Steve and family. I was thankful that the timing worked so perfectly. We felt so refreshed after dealing with several hard things in recent months and much closer after such a busy year being pulled in all directions. This weekend pulled us together to cope with some difficulties since then.
Having said all that, I'm ready for another holiday ... looking forward to the April holidays in four weeks. Looking at these photos again was just what I needed to keep me going.
If you've stuck with me through this year of not blogging very much at all
you'll know that 2016 was a big year of change for me.
I started working full-time (something I hadn't planned at all).
I studied part-time - something I never expected to do again.
One daughter is now an adult, still living at home, but not needing us so much
(except to drive her sometimes). And the other daughter's almost grownup, also.
Family life is very different from even a couple of years ago.
So ... what have I learned?
Working full-time is easier than doing lots of activities part-time
Yep, it's true. 4-5 years ago I was leading bible study, teaching recorder at a school, teaching piano at home, teaching piano at a school, selling stamps, learning ballet, going to church and being a mum. Each of those activities took 2.5hrs or less, not including travel time, so in theory I still had lots of free time. This year I've worked in a school full-time, and taught piano two afternoons a week. The piano teaching turned out to be too much, but I needed to keep it on in case my job didn't last.
Instead of my mind being stretched in many different directions and locations, managing all my varied commitments and interests, and feeling guilty that I wasn't giving any of them enough attention, I enjoyed being at school and focusing on school only for 7+ hours a day. I'm looking forward to the day that I don't have to study anymore, when I can work and then come home and relax instead of hitting the books ;)
Maybe I'm not such an introvert after all
I've spent a few years thinking about my introvert nature, and using it to justify many quiet hours on the sofa, recovering from social gatherings, and quietly planning my life with noone else around.
This year changed all that, and it turns out I cope just fine interacting with 500 kids and 40 teachers every week, in fact, you might say I thrive on it. Looking back, I think my health and other issues were factors in my need to be still and quiet in the past, plus the busyness of doing all those activities. Plus it was a different stage of life with our girls being a bit younger. (Also, the girls are home so much now that alone time at home would rarely happen, even if I wasn't working).
Children's books are amazing
Ok, I already knew this one, but I love that my job as a teacher librarian lets me soak up all sorts of wonderful picture books and novels, just when my girls had grown out of them.
When I really have to want to do something, I can
All these years, I've given myself excuses, saying I was too busy to practise piano, read the bible, exercise, make phonecalls ... the list goes on. But it turns out that - even with full-time teaching - I have a few hours a day that I can (and do) put to studying, because I'm determined to be approved as a primary teacher, and then as a librarian. I do have some self-control, after all. Imagine what I will have time for once I finish studying!
It's important to keep learning
A year ago a friend said to me that he thinks it's important to keep learning. While I agreed with this in principle, having learnt two new instruments and taken up ballet in the last 8 or so years, I hadn't been learning then to the extent that I have this year. Now I can say even more wholeheartedly that I agree with him. This year I've learnt procedures, teaching philosophies, class and library management, and what feels like a whole new language with all the jargon in education. My brain feels stretched in a good way.
I can be brave
I think this has come with age. Instead of being fearful of new situations and expectations, I look at them as challenges, and embrace them.
God is good
Ok, I knew this one, as well. But in 2016 there have been many, many reminders of His goodness.
What has helped?
Thinking about how I've coped this year ...
I love Trello to manage my lists of things to do, and my ideas.
Eating healthily and sticking to a pretty simple eating routine has really helped. I eat almost the same foods every day, except dinner, and even our dinners usually all have some kind of meat with roast veges on the side, or are a mince dish. When I stick to it, my body thanks me.
I'm working on getting a good night's sleep every night, but I still love my late nights ...
Seeing a good chiropractor has helped, and I've started using some essential oils, which have often helped with pain or emotions.
Walking and listening to a good podcast has given me new ideas and brain breaks. My favourites are Feathers and Mud Stories.
Steve has helped, enormously, often picking up my slack with cooking and chores while I studied. He did the bulk of driving the girls around - somehow 2016 involved more of this than ever.
Bring on P-plates.
Getting to church every week, and bible study as often as I can, has helped - I need friends, and I need to be reminded what God has done. Seeing my extended family from time to time has helped, too.
I'm excited to see what 2017 holds. I don't expect so many changes next year, but that it will be a year of consolidation and growth and improvement in what I'm doing. I'll be studying a new course, and doing at least one block of professional experience.
I hope over time I can give more to other people, and, having done the whole learning curve thing this year ,I hope to be a bit more outward-looking as the year progesses.
How was your 2016? What did you learn? What did you love?