Thursday, July 18, 2013

home sweet home

Well, it's officially been just over a week since we got home from the land down under. 

We are jet-lag free (finally), temperature acclimated, and thankful.

Thankful because we love our life in Texas, but a little sad because we loved our "life" in Australia. After we talked about it, we realized that we miss it so much because it was somewhere we could see ourselves. We made a life, a routine there. We knew the local shops, the baristas, and the things tourists don't have time to find out. Colin will be going back and forth over this next year, and I'm thankful that I got the chance to see where he will be doing life for a few months. 

Our flight home was, well, l-o-n-g. Coming home always takes "longer" doesn't it?! 26 hours of flying brought on some serious cankles. Like to the point that the shoes I wore ON the airplane wouldn't fit when we got OFF the airplane. The shoes were tennis shoes people; those are like to go-to shoes for swollen feet. Convinced pregnancy will not be a pretty thing. Maxi dresses and barefoot? We will have to time this correctly.

I'm also kind of disappointed my large consumption of sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pumpkin, and other orange winter veggies didn't produce a tan orange glow like I had when I was a baby. That's right, I had jaundice. So did Col. Future Baby Dismuke, get excited. You'll look great in orange. 

Oh my gosh, I am so thankful for ice water! It's like the restaurants in Australia have some vendetta against ice. Really, guys, it's pretty fantastic. It gets people to drink more water. Straws aren't a bad idea either. Lukewarm tap water was always available, but no ice. Or straws. Especially crushed ice! Is it odd I'm crunching on some now? Mmmmmmm

After a week home, a few exercise, ice cream, and coffee dates later, I decided that I should buck up and clean the house. But I don't wantttt toooooooo! I mean it's not like we were here dirtying it up. False. You know who was? Spiders. 17 cobwebs I vacuumed up. ONE-SEVEN. I mean how long have we been gone? Cobwebs happen in haunted houses with dead bodies under the floorboards. Couple that with dog hair summer shedding. You get the picture. Picking out the hair from the vacuum bristles almost sent me to the place of no return. 

I won't blame you if you just gagged. In fact, I probably gagged enough for every single person who will read this. Translation: this should never happen when you're vacuuming your own house. Be more diligent about cleaning the floors. Point taken. Exterminator called.

And then One's all like "let me bark and try to eat the vacuum while your trying to clean up my hair." Perfect. Thanks pup. 

The Dismukes are happy to be HOME! 

Monday, July 8, 2013


Tonight we are leaving on a jet plane bound for the humidity and summer of Texas. 
And our family, puppy, friends, and littles.

We are excited to get home, but I also quietly cried when I first woke up this morning, because this place, this journey, will always hold such a special place in our hearts.

Words just cannot express how grateful we are that this opportunity was ours. Further proof of Colin's dedicated work ethic, his intentional nature, his loyalty to his company, and his trustworthiness to be their "hands and feet" in a country they are trying to expand into. And further confirmation that being his wife is the greatest privilege in this world. 


his: margaret river
hers: primary classrooms

his: boranup forest cafe scones with jam and cream
hers: greenhouse's chickpea, okra, and sweet potato tagine (or just anything at greenhouse)

his: espresso at elixir coffee specialists
hers: soy cappuccino at chalky's

his: being with you weather
hers: being with you laid back-ness 

his: van's sidewalk cafe in cottesloe 
hers: greenhouse in perth 

his: these days by jack cheng
hers: graduate school textbooks the shame of the nation:the restoration of apartheid schooling in america by jonathan kozol (riveting, I know...)

more please:
his: bike rides
hers: running and reading with aussie littles


rhubarb is one of my new favorite things. compote will be made frequently in our house now to top our muesli. 

still water is NOT the same as tap water. yes, you'll have to pay for it and feel like you need to drink the whole bottle so that $6 will be worth it.

wine headaches are the worst.

count the moments, not the places.

colin smiles and laughs when he listens to podcasts when he runs. 

kangaroos are the most intriguing, odd animal i've ever meet. t-rex rabbit deer at it's finest.

you should definitely marry your best friend. one month of almost zero separation makes sure that you stay friends and not just married. 

you become extremely resourceful when you are not working in your own kitchen and really only have fine china, a few knives, no bowls, and an oven in degrees celsius. 

there's something magical about running alongside a beach in the crisp, salty air that makes you never want to stop. 

we cannot wait to come back. leaving part of our heart in this special, wonderful, magical place.

Monday, July 1, 2013

primary school chronicles

It has come to my attention that stellar primary schools here are quite the norm. 

I'm very much a "show me" person, so the opportunities that I have had here to sit in, participate, and just breathe the same air in these schools have sparked ideas that I cannot wait to bring back to my own littles.

For one of my graduate school classes, I was asked to write my personal philosophy of education. "Easy," I thought, "I did that as part of my entrance requirements. I dug it out of Dropbox, read through it, and realized how much it had changed. Part of the beauty of teaching is that you are constantly being refined through reflections and meaningful interactions with others and experiences. 

And each time I visit a school here, I feel like I need to add a little bit more to my philosophy.

I would be nowhere if it weren't for the outpouring of things shared from other teachers, so I hope that my blogs during my time here about a few exceptional schools can be shared to encourage you.

Here are a few little peeks from my time at Lance Holt Primary School serving 120 littles pre-primer to year seven.

Our morning started early with a kindy through year two morning meeting. A kid led the meeting first opening it by "declaring this meeting in session", asking about any "business" anyone might have to share, and "declaring this meeting adjourned." All with a lisp. Precious. How neat that multiple grade levels (or just a whole grade level) meet together a few times a week? What a sense of family that promotes, not only in the classroom, but throughout the school.

I floated through some kindy-year two classrooms for the day, just soaking up how the teachers interacted with their littles. Voices were calm and learning was stimulated. 

The kindy kids had an hour of "free play" that they could choose centers, travel inside and outside freely, and meet with the teacher. Children had dinosaur tails strapped to their bodies, a sweet boy put on a pink princess dress and began reading, Alessandra grabbed a book and began making words on the light box, and the teacher sat criss-cross meeting students where they were at. 

Then I ventured into the year one and two combined class, which was one basically one large area with two teachers and an aid. 

Did I mention that in their studies of sizes they are building a life-size giraffe our of newspaper and PVC? Yeah, that was happening too. 

Love their math work. Love that classroom library.

(What is 1,000? bulletin board)

(Easy access to manipulatives)

Such a wonderful day in a wonderful school.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

day trip

Even though we have a bit of time left here in the land down under, we are getting a little stir crazy making sure that we see everything that we can and want to while we are here. 

Late last night we decided to make a day trip north (remember, we went south to the wine country last time?) to visit a quaint little town, Lancelin, for lunch, and then drove further north to visit The Pinnacles in Nambung National Park.

Lancelin. Some of the whitest sand dunes we have ever seen.

We headed north, jamming to the rotation of, oh, about 10 songs on the radio that are continuously. on. REPEAT. 

Hell-oooo amazingness.

The Pinnacles are limestone formations in Nambung National Park. Different theories have emerged as to the formation of these beauties, but bottom line, a 4km hike will walk you through this wonder.

It was almost like being on another planet. The sand was the consistency of cornmeal and sesame seeds. ((We were starting to get a bit hungry...))

Aaaaannnddd the obligatory selfie because there weren't many options for picture-takers.

How thankful were we that we didn't come during the Australian summer? It got quite toasty in this dessert and we can only imagine how hot it would be when it's actually supposed to be hot in the summer?

Return trip. Repeat of those 10 radio songs. Fist pumping. Life chats. Carsickness.

We're glad we are home. Celebrated with homemade burritos and fresh salsa from the local market. If you're wondering if our withdrawals from tex-mex have set in the answer is YES.

Thankful for opportunities to see pretty things like these.
Even more thankful that 8 bananas don't cost $11 at home.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

kanga visit

We took a little day trip to Caversham Wildlife Park.

We wanted to see the fluffy t-rex deer rabbits kangaroos.

I got us lost. Twice.

But we finally made it.

I might have been a little too excited, but I've wanted to do this for like... EVER.

It was like a dream land. Kangas everywhere.

Lots of them had little joeys in their pouches! One of the neatest things we have ever seen.

This little one took an extreme liking to Colin. Let's be honest, who wouldn't?

...and then he tried to hop up on me. Wasn't prepared. I've heard stories about punching kangas.

I know a 135 pound dog who frequently sleeps like this.

Another little one hiding in a pouch.

Hope this puts a little spring in your step today!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

it takes a village.

I did not plan to blog about my experiences in the Australian schools, but after one particular visit, I just can't help myself.

I really believe in my heart that the success of a school is not solely the responsibility of the people inside of it. Sure, we trust that our teachers love, instruct, and discipline the kids just as they would their own. Of course, we encourage our kids who attend the school to work their hardest and never give less than their best. However, it has been demonstrated in numerous studies that authentic transformation in a school hinges on the community growth, opportunities, and support in which it is situated. This is why we see urban schools and schools trapped in poverty struggle year after year. Many of the social ails from the community infiltrate the schools. Don't get me wrong, there are pockets of excellence. We can and should learn from those.

This is not a post about standardized testing.
That is an entirely different battle.
I honestly have no clue about the governmental testing imposed here.
That's not what matters to me.
What I am writing about is what I see that works. Teaching practices that inspire creativity and that spur students on to think and reason beyond the a, b, c, d choices on a worksheet.

Teaching is not characterized by incessant talking. Learning is not submissive listening.

I will call this school the "it takes a village" primary school. From the moment I arrived, I was impressed at how this mentality is put into action.

Point from earlier. Schools are often a reflection of the community in which it is situated. What it boils down to is not a responsibility or reflection on the teachers, students, or schools. It is a reflection and evaluation of the community. Kids or no kids, let's do something about this. Colin often reminds me that people are the best investment. We have bought socks, jeans, shoes, weekend meals, gift cards, and even underwear for some of my littles. My precious in-loves have donated ipads to my sweet ones. My mom has donated many books and things that she finds from her notorious closet clean-outs.

All of that is great.
All of that meets a need.
But they will grow out of those jeans. Those socks will get holes in them.
They will never forget the people that invested in them. I expect all of my littles to make changes in their world.

I arrived about 15 minutes early to just observe the school. I like people watching. Teachers were outside mingling with parents. Parents were bringing in plants and shopping bags. When the kids began to file into their classrooms I went to the school office, where the secretary informed me that the principal I had been emailing with couldn't be found and usually she mingled with the parents every morning. About 5 minutes later, she went to find her.

((cheerful office space))

She was in the garden. Wearing an apron. Helping a mother unload some plants for their veggie patch.

She brushed her hands off, and took me around the school introducing me to the staff members, which was 1 teacher per grade level - a relatively small school of about 130 students, giving me the freedom to mingle in and out of classrooms. 

I settled for a year two (second grade) classroom starting spelling. Using Words Their Way, she called each group individually, introducing their spelling pattern and then sending them on their way to complete a sort while she pulled a different group.

While the classrooms were tidy and cheerful, children's work adorned the walls. There wasn't a theme in each classroom and things didn't always match. But it was beautiful and genuine. It was a classroom the children were clearly proud of. 

Within the first two minutes of me sitting down in this classroom, the art teacher I met earlier came in, checked on a few littles who needed some extra grace, agreed to get the work together for a child who was absent, circled the classroom again, and left. Another aid came in and got right to work with those extra-grace-required littles while the teacher conducted small groups. It was seamless. The art teacher didn't feel like she was stepping on the classroom teacher's toes. The aid didn't tiptoe around what the teacher was doing, or stop to ask permission about what she could or couldn't do.They were everyone's kids. Everyone in the school acted like it.

More great experiences in the kindy (kinder) and art classroom. Parents were pulling kids out of classrooms to plant. Oh, and the principal, she had her apron back on planting and popping in and out of classrooms.

((how cool are these "puppets?)) 

It takes a village, remember?

Monday, June 24, 2013


The word "community" has come to mind quite a few times over the weeks that we have been here. 

Being here with each other has strengthened the community that exists in our marriage.

But it has also made us miss the community that we have at home. 
Across the state. Across the nation.

Strangely we have found community here and we cannot help but be reminded of how the Lord looks after us.

Coincidental meetings with friends of friends, random run-ins with Aggies (yes, AGGIES) at church, sweet time in kindy ((kinder)) and primary classrooms full of laughs, and encouragement from the home front have reminded us that the Lord has created the Body of Christ to be in community.

And that is the sermon series at our church here, Subiaco Church - community. This past week we talked about the loyalty of Ruth and what genuine commitment and community looks like. Coincidence? Don't think so. I really encourage you to listen to some of the sermons if you are out for a long drive, run, or with your morning coffee. 

Thankful for the encouragement from this sweet couple. We will miss them as they head back to the states to get their visas worked out. 

Speaking of sweet times with primary littles, I had quite the day at one of the local schools. My thoughts are all over the place as I look over my notes and photos from the day.

Still processing the experience and throwing around ideas of how to best put it into words. I'll write more tomorrow.

Now, it's time for our nightly viewing of Master Chef. Because we don't have any sort of cable. And there's really nothing on Australian tv to begin with aside from footy, Sabrina the Teenage Witch (stop laughing, I'm serious), and The Brady Bunch.