Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Days like this...

Today, I wished

  • My children slept in
  • My children didn't squabble
  • For sunshine
  • For money to go out and do something fun
  • Dave had his license so we could get out of the house with less effort
  • It wasn't school holidays
  • I had more patience
  • I had earmuffs
  • It was warmer
  • We'd had a couple more numbers on our lotto ticket from last night
  • My children would LISTEN!
Today, I was grateful for

  • A friends visit
  • A short walk to the park
  • Laughs on Youtube
  • The fact that today is just one day in amongst many many days that aren't like this...
Days that are like this... Take it away Van!

Tomorrow is a NEW day, full of great possibilities!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Littlest person love...

20 months is such an amazing age!

There are many things I'm loving about him at this point:

  • He has a number of relatively clear words, not a lot (not as many as I might have expected after his initial burst of language many months ago), but it's actually his baby babble that I'm loving right now. The way someone might ask him a question and he'll respond confidently in baby babble - he understands pretty much everything we say to him, and he's responding to us with words, we just haven't learned his language - which puts us at a disadvantage, really!
  • He has his finger on the pulse of how this household works. When dinner is ready, he races up to his chair, ready to be hoisted into his seat, and when it's done, he gathers up the placemats and toddles them out the the kitchen while the rest of us clear the plates - the placemats are his job, and he knows it!
  • He hardly ever feeds to sleep anymore and is just as happy to lay next to me quietly to doze of, as with his dad (has taken many months for him to settle like this for me, which was frustrating because he also wouldn't settle at the boob, my "secret weapons" were basically redundant when it came to going to sleep.
  • He loves so cuddle up on our laps like a cat and just sit and watch tv, or listen to a conversation - this is a new thing amongst our children.
  • He has perfect table manners - if by perfect table manners you're supposed to hold your utensil in one hand and shovel the food into your mouth with your free hand!
  • He's a champion burper, too! Somehow, at the tender age of 20 months, he's already discovered that burping is a fantastic way to gross mum out and he's guaranteed to accomplish one loud, extended burp per nighttime meal, often more, and if subsequent burps are not forthcoming, he's more than happy to *fake* a burp. Burping is always followed by copious giggling - which I think is his innate self-preservation skills kicking in to disarm mama from losing her cool!
  • Whenever his nappy is changed, he clambers for the discarded nappy bag and is keen to chuck it out on the front porch (yes, we leave them there until someone is prepared to take them around the side of the house to the bin, no they don't sit there for hours and days). This, of course, is just a ploy to get the front door open so he can try and escape out the front gate...
  • Many times a day, he comes and hugs my legs or lays his cheek on my knee before running off again.
  • He's already mad-keen to be part of whatever the other boys are doing whether it is an impromptu conga line through the house or playing hide and seek.
  • The way his likes to lay on top of me in bed at night, particulary laying his head on my head like a pillow, or on the hollow of my waist as I lay on my side.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Having completed the Cert III and had a couple of days "off", my mind has turned toward the Thesis novel that I've been working on - or rather procrastinating over - for the past 3 years.

We will probably need me to work in the coming months, unless Dave gets a call VERY SOON offering stable (aka reliable) work, and to this end, I don't think I should plan to use my days for writing.

To be perfectly honest, daytime household noise isn't conducive to writing. I feel you all rolling your eyes and nodding at the screen. Yes, well, that statement probably seems obvious to most people, but I honestly thought I was different... I thought I had some sort of "tune it all out" superpower. This has turned out not to be the case.

So, this is what I'm thinking now. Get to bed around 9-10pm and get up at 4am before the others get up, and write in the dark silence of the house. If it turns out those two hours in the morning arent enough, I might have to start earlier. That way, if I do get called to work, or Dave has to work, and I can't write during the day, then I might have to go to bed even earlier and get up even earlier...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

It's not an iPod, it's a trannie...

For Luey's birthday, he'd asked for an iPod shuffe on more than one occasion. My boys don't have all the toys that go "blip", you know, DS's (Lite or otherwise), PlayStations, Wii's, iPod's, iPad's, or iPhones... I have my reasons which most people don't agree with and that's fine :).

However, when he asked for a Shuffle, I was inclined to get him one. I used to be a MASSIVE fan of "personal music" when I was a little older than him, and remember well the first time I got a walkman! So, I investigated and fully planned to get him a Shuffle.

Then, the night before I planned to shop for this birthday present (the only one our budget would stretch to), he told me he'd rather have a certain lego pack and some Faber-Castell textas. I explained this would mean we couldn't afford the Shuffle he'd asked for, and he was ok with that...

Anyway, when we'd bought the lego and the textas there was some money left over from the "present budget". I remembered Dave had often talked about the transistor radio he got when he was 11 and how he'd loved listening to music in bed. Obviously, back then a mini trannie was the equivalent to an Mp3 player these days (we are talking the 60s, you know, the dark ages of technology). So, we went to Dick Smith and bought the rather groovy radio you see above... The guy behind the counter looked at us like we were NUTS when we explained it was a 9 year for his birthday. He suggested we could get an Mp3 player for just a few more dollars. We stuck with our transistor radio.

I was a bit nervous that Luey might not be at all impressed, but he LOVES it! We love it too because he's loving checking out all the channels and listening to music and he can always find something he likes and we don't have to buy or download ANYTHING! It's a simple pleasure! I really think, with a radio, he'll be exposed to more variety of music and he'll be able to discern his own taste! There's time enough for iPods down the track...

Friday, June 25, 2010

My 9 year old...

Is a red head! He's very good at maths and socially popular. He's a lover of ball sports. He reads veraciously, but not aloud. He's a perfectionist, you see. When he can read perfectly aloud, he will, until then don't ask because he WON'T. He loves performance, but you'd never know it until you saw him on stage! He's not someone who says, "Look at me!", but given the opportunity to perform up in front of a crowd, to be part of a production, or just teaching other people the ins and outs of an activity (like how to cook Chilli con Carne), he quivers with delight! In his own words, "It's scary, but SO FUN!". That's my 9 year old!

He likes to know the "rules" in any given situation. This doesn't mean he'll follow them, but he likes to know what they are, and he likes to be sure they're "fair" to everyone. He HATES losing, and won't play if he doesn't believe he has at least an even chance of winning, but he's happy to lose as long as everyone adhered to the rules on the level playing field.

He knows how to manage people. He can diffuse a tense situation with such grace that you don't even realise he's doing it until it's done.

His temper is a raging inferno that he is aware of and tries to contain - to the point of warning you when containment breach is imminent - once unleashed, his temper explodes and burns at temperatures that may take some time to cool.

When troubled he seeks his own company. He's learning to go to other people for help, but still tends towards self-isolation. Even when he does go to others to talk things out, he always needs time alone to process his thoughts and feelings.

My 9 year old loves music and musicals and movement. He's interested in teaching himself to play the guitar. He has perfect pitch when he sings and amazing musical recall.

My 9 year old is mature beyond his years and so sometimes we forget he's still a little boy - and often he forgets he's still a little boy (and can be quite demanding and hard on himself).

My 9 year old is the essence of the meaning of his name, Lukas, he brings light into my life, he is my little star!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Conversation with my 10 year old about the political events in Australia today...

E: We have a female Australian Prime Minister mum!
Me: Is it important that she's a woman or that she's the right person for the job?
E: That she's the right person for the job!
Me: Is she the right person for the job?
E: Yes!
Me: Why?
E: Well, I'm assuming she is...
Me: Why?
E: Because of what Rudd did.
Me: Is she going to be different?
E: Yes!
Me: How do you know?
E: I'm assuming she's going to be different...
Me: Has she said she's going to be different?
E: No.
Me: So, how will we know? When Rudd became Prime Minister it was because he told us what he would do if he became Prime Minister, and we liked what we heard, but Gillard has become Prime Minister because people didn't like what Rudd did. So, how will we know if Gillard is right for the job and will do things differently?
E: We'll have to wait and see...
Me: And what happens when you ASSUME?
E: You make and ASS out of you and me...
Me: Which means?
E: You don't think about it, you just guess what you think could be right and you make everyone look idiotic...

That's my boy!

Honestly, I think my 10 year old has more sense than a lot of the commentary I've seen on Facebook and Twitter in the past 18 hours. Gillard might actually be EXACTLY what Australia needs right now, but she has yet to reveal HER PLAN for Australia, so let's just wait and see...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take a bus from an outlying Melbourne suburb back to my house. I had once lived in that outer suburb, in fact, I lived there when I met my husband, and new the station and the local shopping centre well (despite it's many attempts to change!)...

As the bus drove along the roads, I recognised the road I'd lived on. It was funny riding along that road again, it brought back many memories of happy and sad times. In only a few minutes, the bus passed the place Dave had worked at in his last permanent position, and I thought of the many times he'd taken Bryn with him to work, and of the people we'd known from there who had all dispersed to other places now.

Soon we came to a train station I used to travel to on Friday's to meet a friend and watch her children while she went to a regular appointment.

Then we passed my husbands parents place, where his mother now lives on her own, but where Dave and his family have owned the same home for 40 years.

A little while later, we rounded a very familiar corner and passed a bus stop where Dave and I and the boys had all waited on countless occassions to catch busses to school, or for shopping or appointments or fun days out, just down the street was the house where Ari had been born and where we had met the nicest neighbours we'd ever known, up the street was the house of old friends where we'll soon go for lunch to meet up with even older friends as well for the first time in years.

The bus then passed the Child Care centre where I'd recently done work placement for a couple of months, where I'd gotten to know children and parents in our community, and where I occassionally still go to work odd shifts.

It passed the street that holds the neighbourhood house where I'd spent many house teaching English to new immigrants and talking all things birth and babies.

And soon we were at the transport hub that has been the centre of my travels for the past 13.5 years (with and 18 month break in there a few years back now), and where, I realised, my mother and brother had called "home" many years before I did, when they last emigrated to Australia 20 years ago.

When you're used to travelling all your life, and you're used to not putting down roots, it takes a long time to feel at "home" in one place, but after many, many years, I've realised that this area, of this city, is my neighbourhood, my home!

This is where I know people, where my children know people, where we have a shared history of experiences. It is, indeed, comforting to have finally found that sensation of "home".

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Discussing Choices with the big boys...

We talk alot about making choices in our house, and about living with choices, and yet another discussion came up about this today regarding school and homework.

Let me preface this by saying I personally believe homework is a load of CROCK designed to make teachers and parents feel better about the whole "academic" push of school.

Ok, so being in grades 3-4, there is now a homework grid the boys get sent home with at the beginning of each term. Our school is pretty good about home, actually, compared to what I've heard about from other school. There is only reading homework for the first three grades, and thereafter there is this homework grid that I believe many schools have adopted where students are give 16-20 homework assignments on a grid, three of which are compulsory and three others they can choose from the remainder, and then if they want to do more homework, that's their choice (or their parents choice, as I believe the case may be for some poor unfortunates out there). They didn't even hand out a grid for first term this year because it was so short.

My boys (possibly because they're MY boys), tend to attack the homework grid with enthusiasm in the first month of weekends, but then lose interest. Often this simply means they don't do the extra work. This time, however, they're both "behind" in their homework. It was all due last Monday and both boys still had three of the six "minimum" tasks left to do.

Luey's teacher (he's in grade three, so first term of real homework) hasn't said anything. However, Erik's teacher has apparently told him he HAS to have the remaining tasks done by tomorrow, because it's all about learning "independence in all environments"(remember what I said about it being such a CROCK!) and if he doesn't do it by tomorrow, he has to sit in at lunch time until he does get it done.

Erik's solution was to just not go to school this week.

I said to him that if he didn't want to do homework, I wasn't going to make him do it. He wanted me to tell the teacher that homework isn't important. I said that I could tell her that I wasn't interested in being a homework "enforcer", he said he didn't want it to turn into an argument like the school fees debacle of February.

So, then we had the choices discussion again.

I said he chose to go to school, and as stupid as I might think it is to do homework, it was something the teachers felt was important for learning. Now that didn't mean he had to do it, but it did mean that if he didn't do it, he was going to meet considerable resistance from them, and they might even say that if he doesn't want to do homework, he should go to another school that doesn't do homework. I said he could always choose to homeschool.

He said he doesn't go to school to learn. He goes to school to make (and he spelled) F R I E N D S... I told him he could make friends without going to school. He said he wouldn't get to see them every day like he does at school. I said that was probably true. Then I said that choices usually have stuff we love and stuff we don't like so much all mixed up together. As an example, I told him that for a long while I've chosen to eat a lot of chips, chocolate and coke, and I've really enjoyed that choice because those things taste great and I feel great while I'm eating them. The not so great part of that choice is that I've stacked on a lot of extra weight which causes me to feel tried, and causes my body to ache when I move. So, I've been making other choices recently which mean not eating and drinking those sugary foods, but feeling a bit better.

So, he chooses to go to school, which means getting to see his friends everyday and having a lot of fun, but it also means being asked to do homework and choosing to either do it, which can be boring and time consuming but keeps the teachers off his back, or not do and stand up for his right not to do, but which means probably creating a lot of fear and anger in the teachers.

Choices are such a complex issue for children to grasp. Many adults don't grasp the equation of making choices and being responsible for your own choices and living with the consequences of your choices. I want my boys to learn to be comfortable with making choices and acknowledging the role they play in how their lives flow.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Nice things from today...

I have a headcold and feel a bit fluey, and yet today, more than in recent times, I've felt a lightness and a "easy flow of the Universe" - maybe I'm delirious!

Today Dave got a call from the graphic artist agency he signed up with in March. They asked what days he might be available next week! We honestly thought they'd filed his details in the bin because we hadn't heard hide nor hair from them in three months! So, maybe he'll get some work soon!

I handed in all my assessment tasks, permission slips and timesheets for my course. I'm hoping I haven't missed anything, and assuming I haven't forgotten anything this means I have one class to attend with an in class assessment and I'm DONE with this course, finally! PHEW!!!

Today a good friend had a mid-pregnancy scan. Not only is her baby growing and developing well, but she discover she is have a little girl! I had felt she was having a boy, but I was secretly hoping I was wrong about that! So nice she can round her little family off with a girl to go with her big boy, big girl and little boy, yayness!

As I was leaving school after handing in my assessments I saw my bus at the bus stop 50 metres away. I broke into a run but when I was about 20 metres from the stop, the bus pulled out, I stopped running and the bus passed me but seemed to be slowing I turned to look at it as it stopped in the traffick stream behind me, I wasn't sure if the driver had stopped for me or the lights a little further down the road. Then the doors opened! Like the gates to heaven, I tell you! So, I ran, through one lane of traffic, and jumped on the bus! What a random act of kindness.

As I was getting home a mum of a boy in Luey's class from last year collared me outside our house, she was on the way to school, just up the street. She asked if it was ok for Luey to come for a playdate. I said of course it was, and she headed off. An hour later the boys came home from school and minutes later we heard a friend of Luey's standing at the front gate. He went out then came in asking if he could go and play. I went out to find two school mums at the gate, one being the one I talked to earlier, the other was one of Luey's bff's mums (the girl who had been calling him from the gate)... Turns out the old classmate lives just up the street, so Luey walked up to his friends house with the others and came home an hour later! This is what makes me so happy about having moved to this area!

Oh, and the sun shone today...

Monday, June 14, 2010

What's on my mind these days...

The things I think a lot about that I just don't blog about...

  • Fruitarianism - or strict veganism as it is sometimes called, though I suspect some fruitarians might take issue with that. I want to go raw fruitarian. I keep planning to do it, but then I let my addict to SAD (Standard Australian Diet) override what I believe would, personally, be the best thing for me physically and spiritually. I have absolutely NO interest in even trying to convince anyone else to adopt this lifestyle, but it speaks to me loudly and often, if only I could overcome my self-soothing ways...
  • Angryism - it is my nature to pick up on other people's emotions and the overwhelming emotion in society right now is anger. All sorts of anger. Being angry is seen as a sign of strength or consciousness. If you're not angry, then you must be doped up high on capitalism and/or the patriarchy. I definitely feel anger, but I'm very conscious of the fact that for me anger is a symptom of fear - more distinctly of feeling powerless - and that that in itself is self-defeating.
  • How to raise self-aware, compassionate, optimistic young men in a world that believes men should be aggressive, but then should feel bad about being aggressive and should become self-loathing and deferring to the angry women in their lives.
  • The plight of elderly people in our society. Our society is rapidly getting older but is focused on staying young and so if you're not able to maintain a youngful glow and verve, there is nothing provided for you. You are packed off into homes that seem to be about making a profit for their proprietors and by the these bastards get a slap on the wrist you may or may not be dead. Extended family situations are common and for people who choose this option, there is virtually no support from society.
  • I desperately want to take my family for a holiday - this is, of course, a pipe dream... I want to fly us all up north somewhere, to an all-encompassing resort with a children's entertainment club for the boys (Ari might be old enough by then), and a spa bath and facilities for Dave and I. I know this is decadent and not at all environmentally friendly, but camping wouldn't be a holiday for us, not even for a minute, and I want us all to go on a holiday where we actually come home having had fun and maybe even feeling refreshed.
  • Owning our own home. There was a time not so long ago when the thought of a big mortgage made me feel physically ill. Now the thought of being at the whim of rental property owners - who seem to think it's a sport to see how much lying and corner cutting they can possibly get away with - makes me feel sick. So, I try to figure out how we would manage to buy, and where that might happen...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Galifreyans, one and all...

A couple of days ago I saw a post on a forum, a post I've seen so many times, one I've posted myself on this blog at least once, if not twice... It was one of those, "I wish I could find my tribe" posts. Some poor individual feeling unconnected in society because there was no one else around her that she could really connect with.

We've all felt like this, I know!

I'm actually thinking it's a stage of development, I will call it the Galifreyan stage. Those of you who are Dr Who-philes like myself may understand this reference, for the rest of you, let me explain.

Dr Who is a Galifreyan. He is a Time Lord from Galifrey, a planet that no longer exists. A civilisation that was obliterated by war, leaving only one known survivor, The Doctor. So, Dr Who is the very essence of UNIQUE. Being unique can be extremely lonely. No one seems to be just like you, or think just like you. You can feel terribly isolated in this stage of development.

After asserting our independants of our parents and their culture in our teens and early twenties, we cast about for somewhere where we fit in. At first we wholesale buy the beliefs and lifestyle of a favoured sub-culture, but as we have more experiences and question our adopted culture further, we often find we don't agree with *everything* even if we do agree with a lot of it. Or we develop our own interpretations of the consensus about reality which then differentiates us from other in that subculture.

Then we enter the Galifreyan stage where we wonder why we can't seem to fit in anywhere. Life was a lot easier when we were children and people told us what to think, but we're glad we can think for ourselves now, if only we could find other people who thought the same way about everything as we do...

After a while, sometimes a very long while, we start to feel comfortable with our uniqueness. We may even embrace it - which makes it so much each to embrace other people's uniqueness as well because we realise what courage it takes to actually be happy being singular!

It has only been very recently that I came to embrace my uniqueness. I stopped judging myself through other people's lives and I stopped needing other people to agree with me to validate my understanding of things. I've stopped hoping to find my tribe because I've realised there isn't ever going to be a group of people just like me. I feel much freer to drift between the many tribes of people I know who share common beliefs because I've realised they are all drifted between their own tribes. Most people are tribe travellers like this. Those who don't travel, who just wait for people to come to them, they only get to see a very, very small part of the universe...

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Lateral Thinking Four Year Old.

In the past three or four weeks, we've had a few incidents of Bryn going from being happy as Larry to straight out refusing to go to kinder - usually just as we're approaching kinder. The kinder teacher had mentioned last week that Bryn was having trouble settling down to do anything in the room. So, part of the problem might be that all the little boys there are right into Ben 10 and Bakugan and the teacher has asked parents not to let children bring toys to kinder because it becomes distracting... I don't wholly agree with this approach (in my view, it would be better to use this interest to create a few explorations and help the children to move on to other things rather than creating a taboo of it), but we've been doing our best to prevent Bryn from bringing toys. This has involved a bag search, pocket search and then body search as Bryn became more clever about concealing the forbidden items. Seriously, these searchs have often ended in tears and tantrums, and I can't see the point when some inventive and imaginative approaches on the teacher's part would have the same end result without creating a battle of wills.

So, anyway, we told Bryn he doesn't have to go to kinder if he doesn't want to, but he said he wanted to. Dave did the obligatory search of the bag and clothing and felt up and down Bryn's arms for evidence of a concealed Ben 10 mini watch. He found a Bakugan in Bryn's pocket which Bryn sheepishly handed over and then they set off for kinder.

At the bus exchange, after the first bus, it looked like there might be a bit of a wait for the connecting bus but then Bryn spotted a bus we used to take home and said to Dave that if they took that bus they could just walk to kinder for a different direction. Dave was pretty impressed with both Bryn's memory, three digit number recognition AND the fact that he had considered an alternative route to kinder even though he'd never been to kinder using that route before.

So, they got to kinder with time to spare. Bryn hooked up with one of his besties and they ran off to play. After a few moments Dave saw them stop, speak to one another and then carefully, the other boys pulled up the leg of his pants to reveal a hidden Ben 10 watch, and in turn Bryn lifted his own pant leg to reveal HIS hidden Ben 10 watch!

We've been laughing about this all afternoon!

Dave sidled over to the kinder teacher and told her about the body search and then about what he'd just seen, the mother of the other boy was standing nearby and overheard the conversation and gasped in horror because her son had also evaded a body search! Even the kinder teacher had to laugh! The othe boys' watch was confiscated by his mother, but Bryn was allowed to keep his watch for this class.

Got to love those lateral thinking (and forward planning!) four year olds!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

My first ever tattoo!

For many years I've thought about getting a tattoo done. Probably since just after Erik was born. Something to mark his coming into my life, transformation etc. Two things have stopped me.

  1. I have an irrational phobia of needles.
  2. Tattoo parlours look like scary dens of evil with all those biker types and drug addicts and, you know, really scary people.
Then about 18 months ago my brother got an apprenticeship to work in a tattoo parlour. Michael is a talent artist who hadn't found a way to unite his artistic talent and pre-occupation with earning enough income to sustain himself. Then one day someone suggested maybe he could do art in a tattoo parlour and sent him along to try out for an apprenticeship.

Some months later he came for a visit and showed us what he'd done on his own arms and legs and I was quite impressed. He said he could do tattooing on me if I wanted something done, and the thought of not having to step into a parlour and feel intimidated was really appealing.

There was still the issue of the great long needle and the pain of getting a tattoo, but he told me that many people used Emla gel to numb the skin before getting tattoos done. I'd heard this was maybe not a good idea, but he seemed to feel it didn't make any difference to the outcome for anyone he'd seen use it at his workplace.

So, a few weeks ago, I decided to get a tattoo done. I showed him a very simple symbol I wanted and then we discussed other tattoos I wanted down the track to tie in with this first one. We had a couple of false starts with him forgetting a transformer the first time he came over to do the tattoo, and then being sick the second time we planned to do it, but today everything came together and it finally happened!

My friend Jayne came to have a looksee and took some pictures of the process for me...

I'm not nervous! Much!!!

The two emla patches I had in place for an hour before we got started.

Transferring the trace of the symbol...

Ooops, backwards...

After a quick re-sketch, try, try again!


And the process begins! See the sleeve tattoos on Mike's arms? He did those himself!

First layer of outline nearly done. The blackness around the design isn't bruising, it's ink that has been wiped away. This part of the tattooing process didn't hurt at all, it was like someone holding a vibrating phone on my skin.

Lovely photo there, Jayne! Thanks! The emla was starting to wear off a bit because we'd had to stop mid-way to set up a lamp as we were quickly losing light from outside, it still didn't hurt, felt a bit like clippers lightly scraping the skin as I had a buzz cut (have done that twice, so know what that feels like).

Outline has now been done twice to make it dark and thick so it won't fade or break up...

And the colouring in begins. This I felt a bit more, partly because the emla was wearing off and partly because the grade of the needle was bigger to allow more ink to be injected faster. Still didn't hurt a lot, a bit like lightly scratching sunburnt skin.

Nearly done! That last top bit tickled a bit, actually and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up so I had to resist laughing because that would make it harder for Mike to get a nice clean finish!

All done! Took 30 minutes all up. The emla was fantastic, but even when it wore off, the pain wasn't bad at all! Mike tells me this was also because he didn't apply much pressure. This means the tattoo might fade a little faster (but I'm lucky because he can just touch it up for me if that happens), but he feels that sometimes going too deep into the skin can make a tattoo blurry and with a small and simple design like this, he didn't want to take that risk. Also, I'm his sister and he wanted to be gentle - awww!

A little closer up! This symbol is a nepalese numeral 1, and symbolises "Unity of all things". It's often seen in paintings of Buddha Eyes, or Wisdom Eyes (also known as Peace Eyes) on Tibetan temples. I love the concept of Unity of All Things - this underpins my life philosophy and faith. Also, though, I love that it also looks a bit like a question mark, which for me personally symbolises my never-ending questioning of all things, my constant search for knowledge...

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Maintaining Children's Equilibrium.

A while ago, I wrote about blogging about children, and questions regarding their privacy. Since then I've been trying not to blog about my children as much, not in the sense of evaluating them or their actions.

The other thing I've been trying not to blog about is my course. Mostly because those blogs are never particularly positive.

Today, I'll be blogging both about my children and about the negativity in our household at this point in time. Rather than whinging about it (which is, honestly, what I want to do!), I'm want to ruminate on the effects of home stressors on children, and what can be done to alleviate this stress when the adults in the house are feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

The boys, and where they're at (yes, terrible grammar, so sue me!).

Erik: I've been aware of Erik's anxiety behaviours being present, and have been dealing with discrete incidents of these symptoms, but have not had the personal resources to get to the root of his anxiety. At the same time, Erik is currently experiencing a rise in self-esteem related to people's reactions to his drawing. Erik didn't start drawing until relatively late in the piece. He was 3.5 before he drew anything recognisable - a face - and that drawing was very shaky and rudimentary. Over the years, he's developed a keen interest in drawing. When he was 8 we had him assessed at the Royal Children's due to concerns about his behaviour at school (impulsiveness, mainly), and that assessment revealed him to be well advanced in comparison with his peers for spatial understanding (about three years ahead of his peers at the time). This was evidenced in his visual memory and drawing ability, they told us. So, anyway, like many children his age, he's enjoyed drawing cartoon character and monster/mythical creatures for the past two and a bit years, but just recently he's turned his attention to drawings of birds and animals. He's been greatly influenced by Graham Base illustrations (he thinks Graham Base walks on water and has said he wants write and illustrate books just like GB).

So, we've poured significantly more attention into Erik's drawing than into the antisocial behaviours that are symptomatic of his anxieties (of which he has more than his fair share). I am aware that he needs much more support to deal with his anxieties, but at this point in time, I just don't have anything more to give, and it is easier to just enjoy his enjoyment of drawing.

Luey: Again, I'm aware there is negative stuff going on with Luey. He has anger he feels he has no control over. We've talked about it, but right now he feels there are no strategies that help him to feel less angry and to curb his expression of anger, particularly at school. At the same time, he is absolutely obsessed with music and movement, and yet this obsessions seems to be about watching music and movement. He has a couple of recording of "So You Think You Can Dance" that he watches over and over again. He's specifically asked if we could buy "Footloose" and "Hairspray" on DVD, as well. For his birthday (coming up in 20 days), he has asked for a guitar. We can't afford to pay for lessons, either in dance or guitar playing, but he has said he wants to teach himself the guitar. There is something there, under the surface, that is bubbling away and wanting to come out. I'm not sure if he just needs more time to think about it and process it before he acts on it, or if he's keenly aware of our dire financial situation and doesn't want to hear us say no to his requests for dance or music lessons, or what it is.

I do feel he really needs some sort of release though. I sense he sees Erik's drawing being appreciated and while Luey also draws, he feels he isn't as accomplished as Erik and so he wants to find something that's just his. We try not to compare the boys drawings, or anything else they do, but I guess it's very difficult to disguise the instant reaction of awe for Erik's drawing when we see it, and Luey is a sensitive child who can pick up on subtleties like that.

I don't understand parents who claim to treat their children all exactly the same way. How do you control yourself enough to not have more of an instant reaction to one child's ability in a particular area than another child's ability in the same area? If other's can achieve this self-control, then I'll have to admit, I'm not that talented.

So, it seems (at this moment) that Luey might be moving to claim music and movement as his special ability in this family. This has come as a bit of a surprise to Dave and I because when they were younger, Erik was always more of a performer than Luey, always getting us to watch him dance or perform in some way. Then a year or so ago, we got the opportunity to see Luey on stage and he glowed! Literally glowed! Our boy who didn't ever want people to look at him, loves to perform on stage. He's confident and exudes thorough pleasure in the performance, while Erik seems very self-conscious and tentative in comparison.

Bryn: Our happy little boy seems so sad at them moment. Bryn has always been so easy-going, and smiley. Hence his nickname Buddha. Just in the last month, or less even, he's become tense, anxious, sad and angry. On a few occassions he's said he didn't want to go to kindergarten. These always happen if something goes awry on the way to kindergarten. At most other times, he can't seem to wait to get there. His kinder teacher said to Dave on Friday that she's noticed he doesn't seem to want to engage in anything while there, in the past few sessions, and when he does engage it's half-heartedly.

At home, he's had a few evenings when he's said he's scared of the dark, or of his dreams.

At the same time, he has been sick in the past week, and during that illness (a bad cold, or a mild flu), he had febrile dileria, so perhaps those are the dreams he's referring to?

He's also been angry and reactive. Screaming at people for looking at him the wrong way (usually Luey) and throwing toys and slamming doors. It's really hard to see, because even as a toddler he didn't do this sort of thing when frustrated except once or twice. In a way, I feel like Bryn has the least power in our house. He is the second youngest, so everyone else's stress is taken out on him with the "leave me alone and let me brood" approach we all seem to engage in, and yet, when he reacts we don't give him the understanding we give Ari, because he's not the baby and so he's not shielded as much.

It could be that it's the middle of the year and it's cold and grey outside and he's just tired and maybe even suffering a little Seasonal Adjustment difficulty, but I'm concerned that all the stress in our house is just finally getting to him through all those insulating layers of inner joy. I'm trying to deal with this through lots of cuddles and encouraging people to be gentle with him, but this feels a little like mopping up a flooded laundry with a tissue.

Ari: Yes, even Ari is showing symptoms of stress. When the rest of us argue (and we do argue, all of us). When we yell out frustrations at one another, because we feel stretched and misunderstood or ignored, Ari yells too, and goes over and pummels the person who is being yelled at by the other person. Even just writing this makes my heart ache.

Us grown ups

Dave and I are definitely stressed.

Dave has been out of regular work since April last year, and in that time he's had to deal with the loss of a parent and moving house (two of the top three stressors known to man). Since the beginning of this year, besides moving house and cleaning the old house, he's also been the main SAHP. He's done the getting up and getting everyone ready for school and kindergarten, the making sure everyone has clean clothes each day, and the cooking of dinner each night. He's cared for Bryn and Ari while I've been studying and on work placement.

As well as these practical things, he's had to deal with my ever increasing stress about the courses I'm doing (or not doing, as the case is with my degree), the lack of money (many times we've had to borrow money from his mum to buy food or pay bills), me constantly pressuring him to look for work (which he has, for the most part resisted), and doing lessons to get his lisence. He also had the responsibility of doing grocery shopping for his mum on public transport, which takes many hours out of each week.

For my part, I've had to deal with the demands of the Certificate III course in Children's Services. Something that ended up being far more demanding that I'd foreseen - assurances from the course provider not withstanding. I've ended up doing 10s of more hours work placement than was required by the Government because the course providers didn't cross their Ts and doing their Is. I ended up putting us in financial difficulty because I believed I would get a pensioner education supplement, which turned out to be not available to students who had completed a Masters degree. I've paid for books I never recieved from the course provider and although they gave a $50 anaphylaxis course for free in lieu of the books, the books were actually valued at $130, so I've essentially paid $80 for nothing.

I've stressed about being away from Bryn and Ari (in particular).

I've stressed about not having the energy or headspace to work on my degree.

While attempting to do both degrees, it's also being my responsibility to do the grocery shopping on the weekend. Being with the boys while Dave did his lessons or grocery shopping for his mum. Make sure all the bills got paid off before our utilities got cut off. My income has paid for all our rent, all our bills and half our food. Which is why I've been pressuring Dave to get some work, but at the same time, I've needed him to be the SAHP in case he just couldn't get work, so I could qualify to get some work.

I've felt isolated and at the same time I've caused friction with friends, all due to this stress.

So, there is no wonder our children have been impacted by all of this, and no wonder it has been extremely difficult to mitigate that impact either.

Maintaining Children's Equilibrium.

What do children need to feel on an even keel?

  • to feel secure
Our children have not had a lot of opportunity to feel secure in the past year or so. They seen a loved one die. They've moved house. They've started going to kinder (Bryn), they've lost their mum from the home environment for many hours 4-5 days a week (Bryn and Ari). They've known there was only noodles or baked beans for dinner all week, or that they couldn't go on an excursion because we didn't have enough money.

How can we cause them to feel secure. We can hug them a lot and tell them that no matter what we'll be there with them and we'll make sure they get the essentials until we can get them more. We tell them they are loved and we're working as hard as we can to make things better for them and this is a short part of our lives and we can still have fun and be together. We can be understanding of their feelings of sadness, anger, powerlessness, fear.

  • to feel safe
There have been times when our children have not felt safe. Either because Dave and I have been yelling at each other, or at them, or because we've blamed them for our stress (yes, I know how bad that is, hindsight is 20/20).

How can we cause them to feel safe. We can stop loosing control of our own emotions. This is so much easier said than done! When you are afraid, which is basically the emotion that underpins every other negative emotion, it is difficult to be rational and reasonable. It takes a lot of self-awareness IN THE MOMENT to take a breath, maybe even walk away to take a bit of time to take quite a few deep breathes to relieve the blood pressure and combat the adrenalin that causes you to raise your voice and say things that feel true but aren't necessarily true on reflection. Also, yelling can feel good. It can be a habit for releasing some pressure, so recognising the build up of pressure that might lead to yelling is important. And how to prevent the rise in pressure when you feel unable to cope with the demands of life and the anxiety over everything coming apart at the seams... But somehow, the yelling has to stop, so the children can feel safe.

More than that, blaming the child for the stress has to stop. Yes, you want to do well for your child, you don't want them to feel left out at school, or to feel deprived, but blaming them for being the reason you've put yourself under so much stress does so much more damage than any excursion or cool school lunch could ever make up for in the long run.

  • to feel valued.
We haven't told our children we don't value them. However, children need to feel valued and hearing that mum and dad are too tired to talk, or just want to be left alone does not cause a child to feel valued. So we need to find the energy to listen, or show them we enjoy their company and WANT their company, that they are important to us NOW - not when the course is finish, or when dad gets a job and a lisence, or when mum can be at home more, but RIGHT NOW when life is stressful and life is hard and we are tired and wrung out. Now more than ever, we need to be present for our children.

What do we, the parents, need to ensure we have the resources to meet our children's needs for security, safety and feeling valued?

  • we need a plan!
We most definitely need a plan for the next three weeks. The next three weeks are going to be the hardest so far this year. On Thursday, we get paid. Our combined income will be $1780 for the fortnight. Out of that we need to pay $1651 in rent and $50 to the electricity company (this is a negotiated pay for which there is no wriggle room). That will leave us $79 to pay for food and travel for a fortnight. The next payday is the day before Luey's 9th birthday and in the same fortnight, Erik will have his 11th birthday. So, financially it's going to be hard three weeks.

As well as this, Dave is having his second interview for a casual position at Tobin Bros. We're very hopeful he'll get the job. We don't know what that will mean with regard to when he'll start work or training or get measured for a suit or have a medical (required for the position) etc.

Also, the coming three weeks are my last three weeks in this course. The first two weeks will be a blur of kinder work placement and work placement tasks and assessment. Already we have a time conflict on Monday when Dave has his second job interview with TB at the same time as my first day at workplacement (for a kinder who is already not impressed with me because of scheduling confusions regarding the placement).

Luckily, the wonderful Leah is going come and play with Bryn and Ari (Bryn will miss kinder on Monday, I wonder if Dave told his teacher's that?).

So, we need a plan to create a feeling of safety and security and feeling valued for the boys in the next three weeks while Dave and I try to cope with the stresses that are coming our way.

  • we need to take care of ourselves.
Whether this means trying to get to bed earlier, taking time out each evening to debrief about our day and comfort each other, making a concerted effort NOT to complain to one another about this or that which is irritating us about one another, finding the time to just be kind to each other, we need to do whatever it takes to make sure we have enough resources to support the boys through this time.

I think something we have going for us is a commitment to get through this together. That commitment has gotten us through a lot over the years. It's just the level of dignity for each family member with which we do get through that we need to be conscious of. Surviving is good. Surviving with minimal emotional or psychological damage to everyone is better!