Sunday, March 28, 2010

A picture paints a thousand words, but it also makes a house a home!

One of the things that really excited both Dave and myself about the new house was that every single wall (nearly) is adorned with a picture rail! Picture rails are a renter's best friend!!! For the past 5.5 years many of our prints (ok, they're mostly Dave's prints), had stood forelornly in a corner of the study like so many naughty little boys.

Today we hung a couple up.

As you enter our house, you are immediately met by the glowering gaze of one towering Orson Wells. I love this print, it kind of reminds me of my dad. I thought this would be the perfect place to hang it in case of burgulars - imagine breaking into this house at night and being greeted by that gaze!


Then as you close the door behind you and turn to your right to enter the loungeroom, Miles Davis greets you blowing his horn. Dave had this print mounted many years ago now, but never had anywhere to hang it in the old house. It's perfect in the loungeroom as the blue in the print compliments our blue lounge!


Next, Dave wanted to hang his "The Untouchables" print in the hallway on the wall adjacent to Orson, but I had to say no. It was going to be way too much masculine energy all at once - the moment guests walked in the door. Even though I'm the only female energy in the house, and as yet, I don't have any real prints of my own (a situation I plan to remedy as soon as possible, never you fear), I thought we needed a slightly softer energy to balance out all the machismo...

So, I've create a bit of rogue's gallery (yes, I know that's not the right term, but my boys can be rogues and this wall will exhibit their art)...

It's been so nice to walk through the house this afternoon and not just see bare walls! These really are the small touches that make a house a home!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Oh, that's right, I'm writing a novel!

The house is a bit chaotic at the moment. With me being out most of the day, every day during the week, but three of the menfolk being here, piles of papers and toys and flotsom and jetsom has magically appeared all over the house.

While the bedroom, bathroom, laundry and kitchen are all bigger than our last house, the main living area is smaller, so it take hardly any mess for it to look like a bomb site.

So, this afternoon, I was tidying the bomb site and I came across a large format white envelope with my name and new address handwritten on the front of it. Not expecting any such mail, and not knowing when exactly it arrived this week, I opened the surprise package with great anticipation.

Inside I found a few photocopies of what looked like reading, and a handwritten note from my Thesis supervisor.

Ye Gads! I'd completely forgotten I'm supposed to be finishing my manuscript this year! All my energies for the first quarter have gone into preparing for the start of school and my course, then moving house, then working my placement hours. No time, or thought, has gone into my Thesis AT ALL!

The note told me there was a new discussion forum for students doing my degree online, and that I was expected to participate there regularly and to begin by submitting 1000 words or so of my manuscript for review and discussion by THE END OF THE MONTH...

Oh, I thought, that's not too bad, wonder how long that gives me...

Yes, well, turns out it gives me a whole (not including today) four days. Three of which I'll be working 8 hours each day...

Four days to reaquaint myself with my neglect manuscript which is... here... somewhere... maybe in those boxes we need to unpack in the study... Four days to decide which part to actually work on, then work on it, and then submit it.

I can do that! I think??? Maybe...

Ruminations about full time work, under twos and long day childcare.

I've never been a fan of childcare for under twos. None of my children have ever been in childcare, really. Bryn went into creche once a week for three hours when he was 2yrs and 3 months because a friend had started working in this creche and took her daughter with her, so he already had two "almost family" as company. I completely trusted this friend to be emotionally responsive to him and to report back to me honestly how his session had gone. Bryn thrived, partly because he felt safe, and partly because he was, even at 2, very socially confident.

So, for the past two weeks I've been doing workplacement in a babies' room of a long day care facility. The children are FANTASTIC and most of them seem really well adjusted and comfortable in the centre. The staff have been for the most part emotionally responsive, cheerful and engaging with the children.

And yet...

And yet, I've seen things that have made my blood run cold (or alternately boil!), and that I couldn't bear being done to one of my own children.

Uneccessary chiding. Forceful handing of children. Children being left to cry themself to sleep, or being told to "Stop that!" when upset over one thing or another.

These aren't things I haven't done to my children from time to time, it's just that my children have an ongoing loving connection with me that builds their resilience to our off days. In a childcare facility, even long day care (which all the babies were in, some for 4-5 days each week), is never going to be the same as the relationship a child has with their parent (nor should it be, imo).

Something else I saw, that unsettled me was the ability of the carers to "put on a show" when parents or strangers were around, that would immediately stop the second they were not feeling watched.

I sensed that my presence was viewed as an intrusion by a couple of staff, which might reflected their knowing that not all their interactions with the children were to the high standards parents would expect.

And then there was this one child. I will call him Peter, but that isn't his name. He's around 1 year of age, and is usually in long day care from 7am until 5-6pm four days a week. I'm not sure how long he's been in care, but would guess it's been several months. This poor baby is sensitive and doesn't cope too well with all the noise and bustle of half a dozen or more under two in one room. He also resists sleep and is regularly left to cry until he is quite upset - which surprises me because I rocked him to sleep several times and it never took more than 10 minutes for him to drop off.

This child showed me something about childcare that has been playing on my mind all fortnight.

There is much talk about the problem with childcare in Australia being the ratios. Currently, for a babies room (and toddlers I think) the ratio is 5:1. This is changing, and in the next couple of years it'll become 4:1. Many believe it should be 3:1. The argument is that by increasing the ratio of qualified staff to babies, the children will experience greater likelihood of their needs being met more quickly.

I believe this is mostly true, EXCEPT in the case of children like Peter. Peter doesn't enjoy childcare, and even though he is a lovely baby - despite all the grizzling - who just needs a lot of physical contact (and when he recieves it he grizzles a LOT less and even ventures to play independantly for extended periods of time), the staff don't like him.

Because they don't connect with him, they don't respond to him as quickly as they do to the other babies. They don't interact with him positively nearly as often as they do with the other babies. I heard him being told he was horrible. I heard him being told, "Go away, I don't want you!". I heard his name being distorted so it became an insult. Occassionally they did seem sympathetic of him. If he was obviously sick, they softened their approach him, but all the same when his family picked him us early they joked about how much better their day had just gotten. The one day of the week he wasn't in care was anticipated greatly and called the "No Peter" day...

Having a great number of carers (that is with me being in the room and interacting with him most of the time a) to lighten their load and b) to shield him from a lot of their rejection), didn't make them more responsive to him (or if it did, I would HATE to see what they were like with him before I came along on workplacement).

Another child was very much a favourite. Always recieved smiles and compliments. Was carried even when that child didn't express a need for being held or carried. So, for some babies childcare can be a very positive experience.

But no, I don't think improving ratios will necessarily improve the experience of some children in care.

As well as this, I've been keenly aware of being away from my own baby. He's showing some mild signs of stress which I'm monitoring very closely - and he spends his days with his dad and Bryn! Being away from him is heartwrenching and if it was ABSOLUTELY necessary, I just couldn't keep doing it. From that perspective, I can see that some parents have no choice about putting their children in care. It's not just a matter of saying, "Well, if they can't afford to be home with them, they shouldn't have children," because circumstances change. Beofre we had Ari, Dave had a job and our rent was $350 a month less than it is now. Then things change and right now we have $11.40 to last us until Thursday (if the bond money, which isn't actually ours, doesn't come through before then), and next to no food in the house :(. This past week we've lived of packet soup and baked beans and 2minute noodles. And then we received a $700 phone/internet bill (due to moving and being charge too much for apparently cancelling our contract and reconnecting the net in a new house).

Luckily for us this temporary. Soon we'll be back on track, and while things will still be tight, they won't be dire. But for us it's imperative that I am able to get even 1-2 days work a week, if Dave can't get work, that is... So, I HAVE to complete this course, and that means being away from my baby.

Anyway, I'm really struggling being away from him, and wonder how other people can do it every day with their child in care. And then, now having seen what can happen to some children in even good centres, my heart aches for the russian roulette the children in childcare centres are thrust into involuntarily. Ratios aren't the only thing that needs to change. Carers REALLY need to understand that every child has something wonderful about them and it's the DUTY of the childcare worker to find that something wonderful and focus on it so every child can feel safe and cared for and appreciated.

This workplacement is exhausting me, I have to say, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Next week I start work in the toddler room. I won't see Peter anymore, except maybe early in the morning or late in the evening when all the children in the centre are grouped together for arriving and dispatching. I dread finding out how might be the Peter in this the new room. I really hope there isn't one...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

MIA

Forgive me blog readers, for I have been neglectful. It has been two weeks since my last blog post.

This is actually my second attempt at posting. Tried yesterday but my computer froze up (probably as punishment for my having been absent for so long!), and then someone needed something and I just couldn't get back into the study before exhaustion set in and I blobbed out in front of "Bruce Almighty" (which was funnier than I expected it to be - or maybe my brain has become so much cottage cheese from sleep deprivation that no longer require as higher quality of comedy, who knows?)...

We handed in the keys to our old house yesterday, and in doing so, ended a very long and happy chapter of our lives. That's not to say this next chapter won't be happy, mind you - I have very high hopes for this house despites some early bumps in the road...

Take a look at our current laundry set up, will you!

Do you see that pipe sticking out of the floor under the taps on the wall? That's supposed to be the drain to the gully trap outside. Can't connect a hose to it those, and the sink is on the opposite side of the laundry to the taps - who thought up that set up, honestly??? Apparently, according to the plumber who came out last Monday, the pipe in the floor was jerry-rigged (probably by William, the old owner - he seems to have been a bit of a weekend DIYer by the looks of a number of elements in this house), and needs to be replaced. Also the pipes to the shower in the bathroom were not installed by a proper plumber either, were galvinised steel and have rusted internally to a point where only a trickle of water is running through them and they need replacing by copper pipes. We've been without proper cold water in the shower since we moved in, so I've been having to take baths and I'm here to tell you that's VERY INEFFICIENT when you're a busy mum of four! So, we're currently waiting to hear back from said plumber who had to put in a quote with the owners and then get back here to change all the piping in the laundry and bathroom (bet that's going to cost a mint!)... Dave is going to call our agent tomorrow to find out how things are going because a month without proper clothes and body washing facilities in a family our size is a tad stressful!

But other than those two issues, living here is delightful!

I promised people photos of our back yard. The above only shows about half of it, it's HUGE! The boys have their own playground out there, and yesterday Erik told me he feels so "free" in our new back yard because he has room to roll on the grass!

And this is my absolute favourite part of the house, and on the weekend you can find me sitting out here for hours (mostly avoiding work!), soaking in the outdoors! I'm suddenly understanding why people love weekends so much (seriously have never understood the appeal of weekends when everything slows down so much, but am realising that was simply because my weeks weren't exactly high paced).

We discovered a nest in the tree right next to the back patio. Have a feeling it's old and unused, but couldn't see properly because the mamabird had cleverly tilted it away from the view! Still nice to know birds are comfortable nesting right next to the house! There used to be a next on top of our aircon unit at the old house and listening to the chicks cheeping was always life-affirming!

That same tree bears this kind of fruit, not ripe yet (I think), but I don't know what it is... Anyone in the know care to share?

This is what it looks like inside...

Ah yes, the back patio is a sanctuary in a crazy life!

The above photo is from the old back yard. I took the boys to the old house yesterday to say good bye before we locked up. There was some old toys still in the garage so they were excited to reacquaint themselves with those, too.

The old yard is looking quite lush after the rains but mostly it was quite a dust bowl each summer...

Our neighbours over there are into all sorts of home grown stuff. They have chooks and veggies and solar panels and are living examples of how to live a very green life in middle suburbia. This lovely pumpkin and made it's way to our side of the fence, and what a beauty it is! Too bad it wasn't quite ripe enough for us to take home, mmmmm, fresh organic pumpkin soup would have been lovely!

The boys checking out what else was growing on the other side of the fence. These neighbours were lovely, and we let them know they had a pumpkin growing on our side of the fence (well, it's not "our" side anymore, but they knew what we meant). When we were leaving they shook our hands and thanks us for being good neighbours - how lovely is that?

Ari



This is my attempt to take a photo of Ari sitting in the spot where he was born nearly 17 months ago. The boy didn't want a bar of my wander down memory lane, so this is best of several photos of him running out the room in increasing annoyance of my inability to accept that he's moved on from that point in his life!~ Anyway, that is the exact place where he entered the world!

It's hard to get four children to all look at the camera at the same time...

And when they eventually do, the odds of them all smiling at the same time are pretty small!

Yes, I MADE the boys hug a tree! Erik is obviously super enthused to be depicted in this compromising position - when he becoming minister for urban development, I'm gonna send this picture to the press!

Seriously though, this maple is THE REASON I applied for this house in the first place. She's so beautiful! She's been a lovely shady place to sit and play under for many hot summers and has provided a gorgeous red-gold carpet in our yard every autumn, and because of her I'm completely in love with the idea of having a maple in my front yard in whatever house we eventually buy! I'll seriously miss this tree!

Had to get at least one shot of this boy up against that old brown fence before we left.

Dave doing the final lock up. As always, he had to hold the barrel of the screen door lock to prevent it sliding out of place...


Luey playing with an old faithful today (Luey got this xylophone for his first Christmas and 8 years on it still look as new! Despite many, many hours of ear drum splitting play)...

One last photo of Erik against the fence. Such a contrast to the first photo of him standing there (which is still packed somewhere) where he was grinning from ear to ear with outstretched arms... He was such a clown when he was 5, and he tends to be so introspective now, at nearly 11...

Ari making sure we don't forget to take the ball home with us to the new house. I doubt he'll even remember number 12, but this is where he was born and that is only ONE of the many wonderful memories from that home we lived in for 5.5 years!

So, now we just have to unpack a few more boxes here (the study, essentially) and our BIG MOVE OF 2010 will be all done!

I have so much more to post about; my childcare prac and my thoughts on childcare, finding the local writers group (which I haven't had the guts to go to yet, but am trying to muster some up), our current financial desperation, our washing machine in the last throws of life (we absolutely cannot afford to replace it, but since the move it's been all but flooding the laundry with every wash, eek!). But alas, I'm once again out of time!

Please stay tuned! I promise I'll be back very soon!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Do you want to see my new house?

Some photos of the house in a "mostly set up" state...

This is the view into the boys' rooms (from the door). That door in the background with the hoodie hanging on leads to Erik's room. This is the first time Erik has his own room, and this set up is perfect because it's his own room, but it can still be part of the "boys' room" if he leaves his door open. So, it's a soft transition from communal sleeping to seperate sleeping and he can control the level of "seperateness".


Luey and Bryn's room as seen from Erik's bedroom doorway. The book shelf contains a row of containers for each boy; Erik's in black and yellow, Luey's in red and Bryn's at the bottom in black. The tower of drawers on top of the bookcase is Luey's lego storage and is kept up there to keep Bryn's sticky fingers at bay!



Erik's room. It's looking a little austere atm, but he has big plans to hang framed posters in there. Inside the wardrobe is a full length mirror, just perfect for the self-preening pre-teen!

Erik was delighted to find THREE electrical outlets in his room. Now all he needs is a TV, Stereo and computer - or so he tells us... Dream on little buddy.


The master bedroom. Ok, first let me tell you the great big HUGE tv in there is not my choice. There wasn't anywhere else in the house it could go and we really didn't want to get rid of the option of setting the kids up seperately if we needed to. So, there is stands, but it doesn't go on while I'm in the room! Don't you love the ceiling rose? I just LOVE it! I also just LOVE having books in my room (more books to come once Dave has unpacked his books).

The living room taken from the main entrance near the front door. It's not big, but it's fine for us with the uses we make for it. I love the soothing green on the walls. Not too fond of the curtains but have seen worse. We bought a HUGE off-cut of carpet and had it overlocked to cover the appalling excuse for carpet that was visible before (thanks for the idea, Michelle, brilliant!). The day after we moved in Ari (not supervised at the time) tipped an entire bag of defrosted crushed raspberries onto the carpet right about where that patterned Ikea chair is (he poured part of it onto the chair cover as well). I TOTALLY lost the plot (not at Ari, but at the bigger boys who were supposed to be keeping an eye on him for me - something they're more than capable of doing). I did manage to get the raspberry juice out though (as you can see)...


Dining table at one end of the lounge room - Ari's toys on the shelf there, of course.


In the far corner of the room there is a basket containing more of Ari's toy, his wagon, and three floor cushions (though there isn't much floor to sit on!)... The glass doors behind the couch lead to the dining room which we're using as a study. It's FANTASTIC! The only entrance to the study now, is through the kitchen, and so we can close the kitchen door and the door from the kitchen to the study, so the study is this quiet little hidden room in the middle of the house. Luey said to me today, "This is like your secret room, isn't it, mum?" Too right it is! If I want I can open the glass doors and be part of the living space, or just keep them closed and be all by myself - like right now! Bliss!!!


From the tv corner of the room. It's small, but I don't think it's too crowded even with all of us in there.

The kitchen - which feels HUMONGOUS even though the one at the last place wasn't small. There isn't a lot of bench space here so I'm planning on getting a kitchen island to use for bench space and more storage and somewhere to sit and drink coffee in the morning...


I'm loving using the old tv stand as open shelving in the kitchen, I really like the electic, casual look of it with baking pans and paper files and large food storage on it...


We had a glass door crockery cabinet in our last house and at first I hated it, but over the years I really grew to like seeing all the crockery stacked up. So, when I saw the glass door cabinets in this place I was very excited!


Just one more glamour shot of those cabinets, aren't they lovely (ok, not everyone's thing, but I just love this look!)...


Overall impression of the house.

Now that we've been here a few days, I have to admit, it's already feeling like home.

I went back to the old place yesterday pick up the vacuum cleaner and it didn't feel like home anymore. This kind of surprised me because I loved living there and we had many good times there. Not to mention Ari being born there! And yet, without our stuff cluttering the place it just felt like a house, not like our house at all.

This house has a very homey feel about it and we're all settling in really well here already. Dave loves the layout of this place and the fact all the rooms shut off from one another (he's not a fan of open plan living). Of course, it's perfectly situated, being on the same street as the boy's school and close to transport and amenities.

One of the rooms of the house (added on after the original building was built) is a dark room leading off from the laundry. The fact that someone lived here who love photography enough to build a dark room makes this house feel like home! The couple who owned the house before the current owners were named William and Claudene. Many of you don't know this, but nearly 6 years ago now, I changed my name by deed poll from Claudette to Sif. So, there is yet another coincidence that makes this place feel so comfortable to me!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Mormons should heed our "Beware of the Dave" sign on our front gate.

Late this morning Dave was in the midst of setting up two computers while single handedly also being the parent on duty of our two youngest while I was at school. The Telstra guy was coming around to install a cable connection into our new house and was due any time between 1pm and 6pm.

So, when there was a knock on the door at just before midday, Dave was very surprised (and knowing him, probably also annoyed) that the Telstra guy was arriving early.

However, when Dave answered the door, he was further surprise to see tow pretty, young Asian girls standing there smiling at him. Momentarily, it occurred to him that perhaps our landlords had decided to come and meet us, maybe welcome us to the house, or something (why he thought that is beyond me!).

Then one of the girls spoke,

"Hi, we're Korean and we have come today to ask you if you believe in God?"

Dave was a little taken aback, and not having a smart comment on hand to sling back at them he replied something along the lines of,

"I adhear to the philosophy of Joseph Campbell, that whether you believe in God or Buddha or fairies at the bottom of the garden, it's all an expression of the same thing."

One of the girls then said to him,

"But do you know why God is bringing about the distruction of the Earth in the end times?"

To which Dave replied, "Is he? I thought we were doing a pretty good job of that all by ourselves!"

Gotta love him! Who needs a dog when we have a Dave!

Anyway, they wanted to keep talking by he politely told them while he'd love to stand there chatting all day, he now had to go give his little man Bryn some lunch and bade them a lovely day.

Teenagers and the failing parent...