Wednesday, July 23, 2014

He's a good kid...

He really is.

He's 15 and he can be quite moody, but on the whole, he's a good kid. That is to say, as far as we know, he doesn't smoke, drink, or do drugs. He's never had sex. He doesn't roam the streets or hang out with troubled kids. He doesn't do any of the things that most parents fear their teenagers might get up to - or that they didn't themselves as teenagers.

He's a good kid.

That said, the Grumpy Old Man and I are still feeling it, the teen thing, that stage everyone tells you to dread.

The good kid is really not doing very well at school. He just doesn't care. Or as he likes to put it, he doesn't think about it. Doesn't think about what failing school might mean for him in the future.

We've tried the usual house rules. A regular bedtime so he gets plenty of rest. Homework time to make sure he does his home work. He has work to do around the house as well. And we've also made sure he has fun; he goes to friends housees and parties, he goes to the movies, not often, but sometimes. He has enough gadgets to be keeping up with the Jones, and he chooses he own clothing and style.

But there was no cooperation from him.

He stayed up all night playing computer games or chatting with friends.

So, we made the rule that he could only have his computer at the dining room table and at bed time he had to put it in a custom made charging station. He decided to sneak out after we'd gone to bed (sometimes at 2, 3 or 4am!) to get his computer to play games.

He would play with lego in his room, which was fine, except he'd put on the overhead light, so his brother wasn't getting enough quality sleep.

He picked on his second youngest brother all. the. time.

He told his grandmother he was going to 'wear mum down'.

He never answered his phone when he was out, and would came home later than agreed on because he decided to see a later movie and not tell us.

His grades just kept dropping.

We found out he had plans to wander around the city unattended during an upcoming excursion. We found this out because he insisted he needed his mobile for the excursion so the teacher could call him back after lunch. Then we found out that was just a story because he wanted his phone. No doubt he was going to tell us he'd lost it in the city so we wouldn't ask for it back. Not having devices is apparently killing him.

So, we locked up all the devices, or so we thought, he managed to find one I'd stowed away months ago. We knew he had it, but he said he didn't know where it was. The Grumpy Old Man had to get very, very grumpy, before he finally gave it up.

Now he says we're going to guarantee he fails school. He believes us moving him from his old room to share a room with his younger brother is going to prevent him from sleeping (you know, because he was sleeping so well when he was staying up all night watching movies, or playing games). He believes the sleep deprivation with affect his marks negatively (because, they've been so brilliant thus far).

He asked what would happen if he smashed windows and doors. I told I would call the police.

There are children dying every minute on this planet from starvation, from war fare, from neglect, but all he cares about is having his devices.

I guess this is what they warned us about having teenagers.

Friday, July 18, 2014

At It Again...

School's back.

We started the week with a car in the shop (again, sigh, fifteen year old cars are a bit like that. But brake pads are important. It's especially important to have non-shredded break pads on a car that carries four children every day).

I didn't get in to Uni until Wednesday, and then because it's orientation week and the club I'm secretary for had a stall, I really go no work done, only a bit of printing.

Yesterday we had to do grocery shopping, so didn't get any work done then at all.

Back in the office today and determined to get back into it.

The recumbent bike arrived on Tuesday, and I had fun assembling it - I've discovered assembling stuff takes me to my zen place (when I'm doing it on my own, not so much if I'm doing it with another person, LOL).

So, on Wednesday, Thursday and this morning, I've done an hour of cycling. I get up at 6am and set the timer on my iPad, and I have a playlist I've put together on my iPhone which I play on shuffle. The middle twenty minutes is the hardest. I don't really need to do an hour, and I might only do half an hour on weekend days, but it gets my steps up on my fitbit program, so that I've been clocking 10 000 steps easily the past three days. It's 9.30am at the moment and I've already clocked 6750 steps. I like getting it done first thing, that way it takes the pressure off for the rest of the day and I know I've done what I need to do.

The bento lunchbox arrived yesterday so today I've brought a pack lunch, which is kind of exciting (yes, my life is that dull, ha!).

Today's lunch

I'm not sleeping well at all though. I've been average about 5.5 hours a 24 hour cycle for the past week. Last night I slept 4 hours and 27 minutes. It's just not enough. I was hoping the exercise would lead to more solid sleep, but it doesn't seem to be working like that - though it's only been a couple of days, so I guess I need to give it at least a week.

The goal is to feel better. These are just the first few steps.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


Gosh, I'm feeling so sad today, I can't even put it into words.

I'm taking myself off to the movies this afternoon. It'll be the first time I see a movie of my own choosing in a couple of years, and the first actual break I get from either studying or parenting in months.

We've had a tough few days here at home. The older boys brought home very concerning reports at the end of last term. Despite the work we've done, and the tutoring at the school, the boys marks have steadily declined all year.

As well as this, there have been issues with helping around the house, following house rules, and making seemingly endless demands on our finances because they either have been irresponsible or simply have an expectation of a parent funded social life.

Bryn's school report was excellent but we've been dealing with behavioural issues from him this year as well.

And Ari, I barely know where to start. That child is doing my head in with hyperactivity and devil-may-care attitude.

So, a few days ago, after having to go in and take Erik and Lukas' laptops off them at 2.15am (after banning laptops in their room a week earlier and repeatedly having that ban ignored), I lost the plot. I wasn't able to sleep at all after that.

So, at 6am I woke them up, marched them out to the dining room table - and Bryn as well - and said, 'Enough is enough'. I told Bryn that I would pay his summer camp deposit on Monday, but if he was caught nicking food or money from us again, or if he complained about dinner or refused to eat anything again, he would not be going. Then I sent him back to bed.

For Erik and Luey, I told them I would be buying a lockable box for the devices, as they obviously could not be trusted. I said they would only have their laptops for doing homework at the dining room table and once that time for that had elapsed they'd be locked up again.

I told them they would no longer be taking the bus to and from school. No more 'shopper enterprise' for Erik (where he buys things for kids at school on his way to school, and takes commission for the service), no more hanging with friends at the shopping centre in the afternoons between bus connections. No more phones at all - as they don't seem to be able to keep track of them half the time and the other half of the time, they don't bother to answer their phones.

This means that after school, they have to hang out in the resource centre until we pick them up between 4-4.15pm.

I also told them I would be buying maths and english workbooks for them to use at home on days they did not have homework from school - this is because they constantly claim not to have homework, but then their grades at dropping because they don't hand in their homework.

I told them they would be having hair cuts that day. Short haircuts. They love their long, floppy, in their eyes, bad comb-over hair. I don't like that look at all. For years I've tolerated them keeping their hair like that out of respect for their individuality. Well, no more. If they cannot show their family or school any kind of respect, they cannot expect to be shown respect either.

I told them that every four weeks when their GPAs come out, I'll be checking. If the GPA has risen or stayed above 2.0 (which is only a pass level), they could keep their hair, and let it grow out. If the GPA had dropped or was below 2.0, then they would receive another haircut.

Finally, I told them that Erik would be moving in with Bryn and Ari would be moving in with Luey. This is to put a stop to night time carry on. Bryn goes to bed two hours before Erik and Ari two hours before Lukas, so it is unlikely either boy would have anyone to chat to or be silly with. Also, Erik really doesn't like Bryn (for no good reason that any of us can fathom). So he is unlikely to engage Bryn. However, it might actually give them an opportunity to learn to get along.

I told Erik that as he was not showing any sign of looking for part time work, I would no longer be financing any of his social life. No more movies, sleepovers, birthday parties, etc. If he wants those things he needs to get a job - so today he is missing out on movies with his friends.

Once I had finished, I sent Erik off to clean the toilet, bath and shower, and Luey off to clean the kitchen.

Yesterday was spent moving the rooms around, and engaged in heated discussion with Erik where he promised to do all the things I wanted if I let him go to the movies with his friends. I told him he's said all of this before, but not followed through so now he gets nothing until he shows me with his actions that he is serious. He has to walk the walk now.

Lukas seems to get it, though, and Bryn as well.

Ari? Well, he's a whole other kettle of fish.

So, today I'm tired. I feel sad because I hate having to be the enforcer. Erik said I was making everyone's life miserable, especially the Grumpy Old Man, and that I just needed to 'let it go'. Let it go? Let them fail high school? Let them spend all day playing computer games? Let them go out as often as they liked with their friends? Yes, apparently, this is how he'll parent...

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Looks like I took a break, after all...

I wasn't going to take that break my supervisor implored me to take, but then I woke up on Monday feeling all drained, and Tuesday I had braille, and Wednesday I had to be home for some other reason (which I just cannot remember right now). Thursday I needed to run errands at Centrelink and Friday we went to the school uniform shop. And then it was the weekend, of course, which was full on with birthday activities and sleep overs and lots and lots and lots of driving. So, on Monday, I couldn't face leaving the house, which really needed to be cleaned anyway. Yesterday was braille - and Friday will be braille as well.

Today, I've been a sloth. Though, as an excuse, I'll say we had some fierce winds here last night and our side gate was BANGING every couple of minutes the entire night, so I didn't get much sleep and that lead to a significant sleep in today.

The day hasn't been wholly unproductive...

I taught myself to rice paper rolls!

I know they're simple to make, but I'm no cook, so they intimidated me. These were very plain, just some iceberg lettuce, carrot and triple smoked ham. I plan to get some more interesting fillings happening. This is all part of a plan I have going at the moment to save money and eat a bit better than I have been recently. I bought myself a bento lunch box, like this one:


I'm going to take lunch to work each day, and the spring rolls will be part of that - not every day, of course, because I'd quickly get bored, but some days. I'm going to mix it up with fruit, and veg, dips etc.

As well as this, I have bought a recumbent bike. I have been considering getting one for a long time, and this tax time has allowed me to make it happen (don't get your knickers in a not, I've put a bundle of money into the high school account, and have another lump sum set aside in a savings account for school fees, car rego/insurance etc).


The recumbent bike is something the Grumpy Old Man's doctor recommended - all but pleaded with - us to get. You see the Grumpy Old Man went to the doctor over a year ago about the excruciating pain in his legs. The doctor said then that if the Grumpy Old Man didn't lose some weight and strengthen the muscles in his legs, he would be in a wheelchair in five years. Well, in the year since, the GOM has actually put on weight. This is not good.

A recumbent bike allows him to build the muscles in his legs with low impact exercise.

And I'm going to use the bike, too. Since my sight has started to deteriorate further this year, I've found walking around outside more and more challenging. I'm never sure of where I'm putting my feet and I have a lot of anxiety about rolling my ankles or falling over. So, I haven't been getting much exercise. I've put on weight as well, which is uncomfortable. So, I'm going to use the bike to get some exercise.

I also got an exercise and sleep so I can see just how much exercise and sleep I'm actually getting (I don't think I'm getting enough of either, and the result is a very tired, anxious me).

So, I'm looking forward to feeling a bit more energetic and getting better sleep, soon!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

My PhD baby...

When I started my Masters of Education I was five months pregnant with Erik. By the time I finished it four years later, Lukas was 18 months old. I took a five year break from study and during that time had Bryn, but then when I started my Master of Creative Writing I was five months pregnant with Ari.

So, this PhD is the first time in 15 years I do a degree and am not pregnant.

I suspect my body/brain isn't coping too well with this anomaly.

You see in early May I started having dreams about babies. Vivid dreams about being pregnant or giving birth. So vivid, in fact, I started to wonder if I could be pregnant. The thing is, if I was pregnant I would have had to have been at least 20 weeks pregnant in early May, and I had not skipped a period all year.

Obviously, this does happen, women do get pregnant and still experience regular bleeding - often called deciduous bleeding (yes, I have researched this, thus was my paranoia). And there was an entire television series dedicated to women who gave birth without even knowing they were pregnant - all sorts of women; young women who had never had babies before and very overweight women who never looked pregnant even to their partners and close family, but also mothers with several children and very skinny women who had photos of themselves in bikinis at 7 months of pregnancy. It does happen.

What also happens is phantom pregnancy. There are sites and Facebook pages dedicated to women who have been pregnant for almost a year, and no one will believe they're pregnant despite their rounded bellies, because home pregnancy tests, blood tests and ultrasounds all come back negative. Yes, I laughed too.

Then I read two or three stories about women who had negative pregnancy tests, negative ultrasounds and lo and behold gave birth to full term, healthy bouncing babes anyway. One women is suing because she was treated with contempt by medical professionals even in early labour.

I did a test.

I know, I know, paranoid much... It was negative.

I pushed the thought of pregnancy to the back of my mind as best I could, but at least once a week I had the vivid dreams.

I put it down to stress, I have been very stressed leading up to the colloquium.

That's right, I haven't told you how the colloquium went!

I was confirmed on the day, which is, I was told, a rare thing, indeed. I am ecstatic to have this behind me. I raring to get on with more work. My supervisor implored me to take a couple of weeks off now, but I'm on a high and I want to just keep going. I can't do anything on the exegesis as I have been asked to read up on literary philosophers and theorists and to pick someone to underpin my own work, I was given some names to look up, but I don't remember anything specific from the meeting and have to wait for notes to be send from the convenor of the meeting. But yes, it went very well...

Yesterday was a very busy day after the stress of Friday. I was in bed by 9pm and did not wake up for 13 hours. When I did wake, I still had the headache I'd gone to bed with, but more disturbingly I had had vivid dreams about a baby rolling around in my belly. I could feel its spine and the distinct shape of its round little head as I lay in bed. When I woke up I was relieved to realise it was only a dream. Then I must have dosed off again because suddenly I felt the baby roll again and I was thinking, this is not a dream, how am I going to tell the Grumpy Old Man? How am I going to manage a newborn and going to the conference in November? Will this ruin my chance of completing my PhD?

And then I woke a second time, dazed and confused, but eventually relieved when I, again, realised it was only a dream!

I am being haunted by a PhD baby. My body has realised I'm doing a PhD and as I'm not physically pregnant it is compensating by creating a dream baby.

They say doing a PhD drives most candidates a little crazy - I guess this is how crazy has decided to materialise for me.

I wish it would quit though, it's very disturbing and I really do need my sleep!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

On the eve of my colloquium...

This week has been interesting. Our car's alternator died on Saturday - after 15.5 years of service, so we can't really complain about that. The car went into the shop on Monday and we got her back yesterday afternoon - she purrs now!

This meant mum has almost been living at our house for three days, ferrying us all around, which has been completely brilliant - I don't know what we would have done, otherwise, particularly with the horrid weather Melbourne has had this week!

I haven't gotten into the office like I had hoped this week though. As for 'thinking about nothing but the colloquium' as I was advised by my supervisor, yes, well, that was never really on the cards, but it's been even more challenging that usual this week.

Yesterday Lukas entered teen hood, and to celebrate we got him a couple of t-shirts and a box of Nutri-grain…

Well, that is what he thought, anyway…

We had a bit of fun with him because he'd asked for an amp, or a new base guitar (he's been playing my brother's old guitar which is a regular guitar modified to play base, but not a 'real base'). I hate it when kids ask for something for their birthday and then just get it and there becomes an expectation that they will always get whatever they demand for their birthday, Christmas etc. One day we might not be able to scrape together what is needed for a present and then they'll be horribly disappointed and feel let down, so I like to keep them practiced in grace in the reception of gifts.

Lukas did very well, I was proud of him. He managed to be gracious even when he believe he was only getting a couple of tees and a box of Nutrigrain for his birthday.

So, then we brought out the amp and he was SO excited!!!

Then I sent him into the master bedroom and told him there was another accessory waiting for him there. When he saw the guitar, he was beside himself!

Oh look, I published this before I finished writing!

Okay, so one boy's dream come true - for the time being anyway!

Besides the car breaking down, and Lukas' birthday, I also attended the lunch hosted by the Mature Age Student Club on Monday. It was well-attended, which was awesome! I met and spoke with another research student who - shock horror - is actually doing Creative Writing! It was fantastic to actually speak to someone else who is doing something similar to me! We're both hoping to round up some more Creative Writing researchers at Deakin and maybe get some sort of supportive community going (hey, it's important to have dreams, right!).

Bryn and Ari received their reports (last Friday, I think?) and they were both wonderful to read! Both boys received Bs - yes, even Ari (I was pretty impressed with that, and in numeracy as well - we have no idea where that comes from, ha!). It was really nice to read reports and not cringe. I know reports aren't that important, but so often they read like a complaint that we (the parents) are somehow "doin' it 'rong" because our kids are restless in class. Nice to see acknowledgement that our kids are actually doing okay!

It's been a big week, but the biggest day is yet to come. I hope I get some sleep tonight!!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The weather outside is frightful...

As you can tell it's a bit windy and rainy in Melbourne today. I have it on good authority though that this is EXACTLY like Iceland in the middle of summer - so, Melbournians, drink your cocoa which a chaser of cement and as they say, 'Harden the f@$K up!'

Today, I don't feel particularly Icelandic. I don't relish sideways rain.

I have been working on the speech I have to give on Friday at the start of my colloquium meeting. I need to practice, practice, practice what I'm going to say. I can't talk for shorter than ten minutes - which won't be a problem as I have so much to cover. I also need to cover everything in such a way as to not confuse everyone with disjointed garble.

I'm nervous. When I think about it, I'm very, very nervous. So, I try not to think about it too much. Only in the wee, dark hours, when I can't to a single thing about all my angsty angst.

I imagine you will all sigh a sigh of relief on Friday afternoon when I'm finish and you can stop reading endless update on my current state of anxiety of the chapter, or the abstract or the speech… I'm looking forward to then as well. 

For now, the weather is perfectly mirroring my inner turmoil - the weather inside is frightful, too!
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