Tuesday, January 30, 2018

January in Review

January was a mixed month - plenty of periods of quiet, relaxed summer living, interspersed with periods of busyness, including lots of coming and going on the kids' part - and multiple trips to and from the airport in one week as a result on my part.

Mr 20 was the first to leave, but he drove so no airport duty for me! He spent just over a week volunteering as an abseiling instructor at a Scout jamboree. By all accounts he had a great time but one story he told made me especially proud. One girl (Scouting is mixed gender here) had apparently not brought suitable trousers with her and as a result was going to have to miss out on an activity the following day and was pretty upset by this fact. So that evening Mr 20 hopped into his car, drove 45 minutes to the nearest town, bought her a pair of trousers with his own cash, and then drove back to camp. In many ways that typifies him - he likes to solve problems, help out and is happy to take decisive action. Now that he's back home he is auditing a summer school course at university. One of the courses he is going to take this year has a reputation for being really hard with a high failure rate. He heard parts of this summer course would be  good preparation he so arranged to sit in on it - or at least the relevant sections. You have no idea how surprised I am by this - although if you read here a few years ago when  I was still homeschooling him and fretting about his motivation (or lack thereof) perhaps you will!

On the day he returned  Miss 23 and her boyfriend departed on a trip up north to see his parents and then enjoy a bit of a road trip. I drove them to the airport. The next  day it was Miss 17's turn to depart. She also flew north to spend a few days with a friend. Plenty of birding was on their agenda and she saw about 30 new species for the year, including a couple she'd never seen before, which pleased her greatly. The day she arrived home was also the day Mr 25 flew in for a quick visit. While he was here .... he got married! It was a very small, low key registry office affair and we only found out a few days before. They are planning a church wedding (which they'll consider their real wedding) in a few months, but wanted to get started on the long process of obtaining a visa for his wife to join him overseas. And to do that they needed a marriage certificate - so they made the  decision to get one while he was in town.

In less exciting news Miss 17 finally got the results of the trampoline judging course she attended at the beginning of December. She hoped to move up a level and qualify as a Junior judge, but instead did well enough that she skipped a level and is now a Junior Advanced judge. She was nervous about how she had done so I'm especially pleased for her.

In the latter part of the month many elements of our regular routine started returning. Miss 17 got busy getting the local birding newsletter ready for publication, and also drafting a couple of items for the national magazine. Plus she received the proofs of her scientific paper to check-over prior to publication. We had the first bird banding session of the year and we've done plenty of birding at our favourite local spots as well.

This Muscovy duck was keen to make our acquaintance.

At the end of the month Miss 17 and I took a birding road trip across to the other side of the country - we are on a skinny island so the drive only takes a few hours. We were in search of Blue Duck or Whio, yet another of our endangered species. We'd never seen one in the wild before - our two previous trips to a likely spot had been without without success. This time however we were in luck and found them a pair just 100 metres from where we parked the car. We bumped into a conservation worker who told us if we walked another 30 minutes we would likely find another couple of pairs. However, it was just too hot for us to muster the energy - the country is in the grips of a heat wave at the moment. We'd expected to have to put much more effort into finding these ducks and had been prepared to stay the night but instead made it there and back in the one day  - and added nine new birds to our year lists which was a very good day's birding for us.

Seeing our first ever Whio was definitely one of the highlight of this month.

At the end of last year I was confident Miss 17 had reached a decision about her university studies and we'd found the best way for her to gain admission to the university of her choice. Less than a month later those decisions were all up-in-the air again, for a mix of positive and not-so-positive reasons. Sigh! Earlier in the month Miss 17 was approached by a guy we sort-of -know through birding circles. He mentioned that he might have some work for her. Later in the month we went out with him and he showed us what would be involved. And it is exactly Miss 17's dream work - bird monitoring. As she said she'd volunteer to do it for free - and he is offering to pay her! It's not yet guaranteed but is part-time, summer only and flexible hours so could relatively easily be combined with university study - but only if she studied at the local university, which wasn't her university of choice. But the potential job opportunity had her rethinking her plans.

Miss 17's possible job later this year will require her to drive a manual. So Mr 20 went out and bought a manual car (he already owns a car - it's an automatic like ours) just so he can teach her. That's brotherly love in action - I was planning on just sending her to a driving instructor for a lesson or two!
The following day she had an interview at the local university regarding her application to do a short sub-degree level course there, the course that is needed for her to gain admission to the university of her choice the following year. And it was one ridiculous thing after another. They didn't have her transcript, she said it had been uploaded on-line, they said they didn't do that anymore, except that is exactly what the online application required and when she suggested they actually look, of course her transcript was there. Then the course advisor couldn't give her any actual advice, didn't know whether it was possible to do two of the classes she had selected, and mentioned that one class wasn't being offered this year despite its and location being on the website. And they kept pressuring Miss 17 to declare the work she had done was equivalent to the state qualifications. As she said she had no idea since she'd never looked at the state qualifications and isn't an educational expert so has no basis to make such a declaration. There was other stuff too that really made us question the value of this course. Especially when the other arm of the university offered to admit her straight into their degree programme - which is the route her three older siblings took. I find it ridiculous that it is easier to gain full admission to the university degree programme, than it is to be accepted into a short course designed to prepare students for university study.  Anyway, enough of my rant.

So Miss 17 spent some time plotting out - class by class - what a degree in what was her first choice university would look like, compared to what a degree at the local university would look like. And there wasn't a huge difference. So the the upshot is that she's now enrolled at the local university. Classes start in less than three weeks. She never wanted to enrol early (by rights 2019 should be her first year) but we'd just have been killing time if we home schooled for another year. So she's going to spread her first year courses out over two years which will give her time to ease into university life and give her plenty of time to continue with her bird bander training, finish up the Cornell Ornithology course she's started, fit in other bird events (she's hoping to attend another camp plus the conference later in the year) not to mention the potential job. And, importantly for her, she'll start the second year of her degree at the same time as her age peers. I'm very relived the whole saga now seems to be sorted - think it is fair to say that my chocolate stash from Christmas is considerably reduced as a result of all this!

Despite a few airport trips, a wedding and upheavals to study plans much of January was quite relaxed for me. I've done a ton of reading - twenty books so far - which is just as well since I've signed up for about six different reading challenges. Many books will be able to count for more than one challenge though so the total number of books I'll need to read is merely aspirational, rather than deluded and unattainable!  My favourites of the month were  Exit West, Before We Were Yours and  The Course of Love. I also completed a 30 day yoga challenge from Yoga with Adriene. I've been doing yoga pretty consistently (5-6 days per week) for the last year but it was great to push myself to do 30 days in a row - even those days when I didn't necessarily feel like it, like following a 12 hour road trip in a heat wave! One of my January goals was to visit a careers advisor to get some help putting my CV in order before starting to look for work. However, I put that on hold for a couple of weeks until Miss 17's plans firmed up. Now that they have it'll be one of the first things I tackle in February.

Linking to the Weekly Wrap-Up and Homeschool Highlights