Monday, August 30, 2010

Bring Philosophy to the people...

The 60th Anniversary Weidenfeld
and Nicholson hardback edition
Many years ago, when I first moved to Australia, I found myself in a bookshop hunting for something to read.  This was back when I used to get to read a lot.  Back before my brain got all cluttered with studying and parenting and the interwebz.

I'd been in Australia for only a few months and I was feeling homesick for Norway.  This was during that period of my life when I felt more Norwegian than Australian (despite being born in Australia) or Icelandic (despite being of Icelandic decent and brought up with Icelandic cultural views).  So, when my eyes fell on a book by an author named Jostein Gaarder, I immediately recognized his name as Norwegian and snapped the book up.

The book was titled, Sophie's World.  It was about a girl who one day found a letter in her mailbox from a stranger asking her questions about the universe.  She and the stranger went on to have a discussion about philosophy through which she learned about philosophy from it's roots with Socrates and upwards.

I have to admit I didn't read the entire book.  This is because the first few chapters got me thinking, and that thinking led to more reading and more research and more thinking.  I had a lot of questions and questions about the answers I found for those questions and all that led me to the person I am today, in Australia, aged 38 (and a bit), and going to the Melbourne Writer's Festival to hear Jostein Gaarder and Lia Mills talk about philosophy and teenagers.

I call myself a philosopher.  I don't have a degree in philosophy, and I don't believe I need one.  Today, listening to Jostein and Lia, that belief was affirmed.  Philosophy is for everyone.  It is open to anyone who wants to think critically about everything from parenting, to politics, to the reality in perceptions.  Philosophy is not just for old men with white beards, or people who have read all the world's great thinkers from A to Z (though, of course, it's great to know what other people have thought, too, because that can build on your own thoughts or even create a springboard for new thinking), and have a string of letters behind their name.

I bought myself a second copy of Sophie's World (so I could get it signed - and gush like a teenage fan-girl about how his book had changed my whole thinking of the world and my place in it). I'm looking forward to reading it again (which, in itself, is remarkable for me because I don't like to read books more than once).  I don't know that I was at all blown away by HOW Gaarder wrote, but I greatly appreciated that he took the time to bring philosophy to me - an ordinary pleb - back in the early 90s, because it has enriched my world view ever since.

I also picked up a copy of Lia Hill's book, "The beginners Guide to Living" which is the story of a boy and his journey of questioning the meaning of life after his mother is killed in a car accident.  This book, like Sophie's World, walks the reader through the history of philosophy.

Hills and Gaarder both expressed the belief that children are all natural philosophers, but that sadly, by the time they reach adolescence, a period of conservatism - despite external appearances - they are quickly learning not to ask deeper, challenging questions about their world and the beliefs that are commonly held in their world.

It was so refreshing to hear someone encouraging children to think and question, even in the face of the commonly accepted holders of knowledge (teachers, doctors, scientists and religious leaders), and to prize their ability to philosophize.  The world needs more everyday philosophers!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Getting there...

I'm in an emotional hole.  What's new.  It's me, I suck, I know...  What's new.


In other news!

I'm going to do it!  I'm going to finish this degree THIS YEAR!

This week, so far I've written 23 500 words.  Tonight, I plan to write another 2.500 words, and then tomorrow I'll finish the final 3000 words.  That's only the second draft, and I'll hand that in early next week after a quick copy edit for a supervisor's review (x2), and hopefully get some feedback when I go to Adelaide the following week.  In the meantime, I'll get started on the exegesis (another 10 000 words), for which I need to do a bit of reading.  After I get back from Adelaide I'll do the final draft and finish the exegesis and hand everything in for the final review by my supervisors by the middle of October.  Assuming there aren't any big issues that need to be addressed.  Everything will then be passed onto my examiners.

A month ago, I was seriously considering dropping out of the degree and just going to work in Children's Services.  A week ago, I still wasn't sure I would get this done, though by then I knew I wanted to!

This morning, I thought I'd lost my entire 2nd draft into the interwebz ether, and for a frantic 20 minutes I wanted to slash my wrists in utter display (Dave was about ready to slash my wrists for me because I was making so much noise with my wailing and yammering at the Universe for being something I can't mention in front of the children)...

OMG!  I want to sign up for my PhD right now!

I think it's like giving birth.  While you're in labour you swear you don't know what you were thinking when you got pregnant and you are certainly NEVER going to do this again!  Then the baby comes out and you hold it and you're fill with the high of the achievement and you think, "I could do that again, right now!"...

This is why I keep going back - for babies and degrees...  There's a book in that...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's not good... (This is not an Election 2010 post)

It's not good when...

  • The Sun is actually shining and I still feel bad (the presence of the Sun always lifts my spirits, if it doesn't, that's not a good sign).
  • It's the 22nd of August and I need to have my 2nd draft finished by the 1st of September. (I should mention I've written 11 000 of 40 000 word so far)
  • I feel like I can only manage one thing at a time, and yet four million things seem to need doing RIGHT NOW!
  • The boxes are still out on the back patio a week after I asked them to be removed to the garage.
  • The house seems to fall into a distressing state if I don't clean it myself or nag others to do it.
  • The fridge needs to be cleaned or I swear it might walk out of here by itself.
  • These things seem to be playing on my mind MORE than my thesis.
  • It's so cold, even with the sun out, it's still soooo cold!
  • I want to crawl into bed and stay there.
I need to break this cycle.  I think I need to give myself permission to do whatever it takes until the middle of October to get this thesis done and submitted.  Graduating next Autumn is my greatest priority.  It's more important than a clean and tidy house, it really is.  I've spent far too long on this degree already.  There is a PhD with my name on it out there!  I want to get started on that PhD.  I saw someone else's transcript of qualifications today and she had done the same degree as me a few years ago, she'd now in the middle of her PhD...  I feel so far behind!  (Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous, I don't care!  This is my blog-tantrum!  Wah!)

Ok, time to suck it up!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Our Choices, Our Future...

Today is election day in Australia - my Aussie readers will be saying, "Well, DUH!", but I have a rather large readership from overseas, so in case it hasn't reached YOUR media device...  Today is election day.

It's a fairly big deal this time around because we recently - by way of a coup of sorts (though not violent, per se) - found ourselves with a woman Prime Minister for the first time ever.  Today, we'll see if Australia would actually vote for a woman, or so some people are saying...

I, personally, think that will not be foremost in voters mind, and in many ways I REALLY hope it won't be the deciding factor in this election, either for or against, because there are so many more pressing issues to address and we need the best person for the job, not a man or a woman.

They saying it's going to be a very close election, we might even end up with a hung Parliament.  As I'm not personally a fan of the policies of either of the big parties, I find myself wondering if a hung Parliament might not be a good thing?  For me the Labor Party and the Liberal Party don't represent me.  In fact, both parties are so far from representing me and my beliefs that it really is a case of the "lesser evil".  In my opinion, that is Labor.  Having said that I completely disagree with Labors stance on home birth, on education, on emissions trading and on and on.  Hardly the party I would vote for, given an alternative other than the Liberals.

Standing behind me in the waiting line at the polling station this morning were three brand new voters.  This was their first election and NONE of them wanted to vote.  NONE of them identified with the parties on offer, and yes, they did seem to have done some research from their conversation...

I'm voting completely differently to the rest of my family in primary votes, though some preferences will probably go to the same party anyway.  I wonder what my children will feel about their choices when they're old enough to vote.  For Erik that's probably only 3 elections from now.  Three elections ago Howard won his second term, eek!  Will there still only be a two party choice in three elections time?  What about 4 or 5 elections from now, when Luey and Bryn can vote as well.  In 6 elections time, will the choices be better?  Six elections ago, Hawke won his last election, that was the my first ever vote!  Since then we've had the recession we had to have, and Workchoices, we've seen student unions demolished and the GST introduced, we've apologized to the indigenous people, and voted no on a Republish, we've signed the Kyoto agreement, but failed to really tackle emissions...  What will transpire in the next five elections, and what choices will Ari have when he first enters a polling booth, and will he also wish he didn't have choose the lesser evil?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Some Doggerel for Fun...

Spring Hopes Spring by me (Sif)

Longing open exits
I sniff the air for Jasmine
Logic skims hope's bubble
Sweet scents come breezing in

Bare skin in prickling heat
A pulsing airconditioner
Five weeks is not so long
Still, it feels forever

Miserable today
Time is a fickle foe
Some weeks it moves too quick
Right now, it moves too slow

Come quick, dear Love, dear Sun
Your presence has been missed
Enough of icy cold
I'm really getting pissed!

This dogg'rel verse I write
In hopes to entertain
At least to pass some time
'Til warmth returns again!

A Profound Moment...

Last night I watched the final episode in the ABC series Making of Modern Australia.  This last episode dealt with Australia's religious history, and several religiously inclined Australian's related their progression over the years in their faith.  One couple were missionaries in Papua New Guinea for many years and while there, they had three children.  Their last child, David, sadly died at 7 days of age because he was born during a flood and the parents couldn't get to the medical assistance they needed for him, and the resident doctor couldn't reach them.  Even 50 odd years on, the pain of their loss was raw and close to the surface and brought tears to my eyes.

Several hours later I went to bed.  The thought of this couple's loss came back to me, and I went where no parent ever wants to go.  I started to think about how I would feel if any one of my boys were to die.  I was immediately overcome with deep, agonizing pain which made me quietly cry.  Then something very profound happened.  Ari, who had been sleeping at right angles to me in the bed, got up and crawled towards me.  He put his head on my pillow so his face was facing mine and he kissed my face several times.  Then he put his little arm around my shoulder and hugged me and drifted back off to sleep.  The way we were positioned, his head was slightly closer to the headboard than might, so it was as if I was the child and he was the comforting adult.  It blew me away!  He's only 21 months old and he was asleep - as far as I knew - and yet something in him prompted him to comfort me in my self-inflicted distress.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Under-stimulated Fox Terrier Syndrome...

We used to have this little black and white Foxy named Pete.  Boy was he cute!  Like most terriers, he was pretty bright, excitable and energetic.  Unfortunately for him, living with our family meant living in the back yard and occasionally having a couple of children to play with, but mostly just hanging out with a lethargic (possibly depressed) and certainly traumatized (before she came to us) Afghan Hound!!!
Orissa was magnificent, and had a gorgeous, gentle personality, and mostly we thought she was a dumb a she was beautiful, but in reality she was probably also very bright and like Pete, extremely under stimulated.

Anyway, getting distracted, which kind of leads me to my point.  I didn't realize when I was eight that the reason Pete would obsessively chase a tin can up and down our barren, drought ridden, back yard, was because he was terribly neglected and under-stimulated and his poor bright little mind was desperate for any kind of stimulation.  Back then, we would laugh at the blighter and call him "dumb" because he seemed completely taken with the cylinder of rusty metal...

Sometimes, like this morning, I can deeply relate to Pete.  This morning I participated in a Miscellaneous Mum's 4th Birthday Book Trivia Quiz.  I don't really want to admit to how many of the questions I had to Google, because as an aspiring writer it's downright embarrassing.  Having sought my answers, I then realized I probably could have just cut and pasted from the consensus of replies, but that's not the point.  The point it, the quest for answers was FUN and stimulating!  And interesting, and I learnt stuff completely unrelated to the quest itself.

This got me thinking.  I've just been participating in a discussion on my Facebook page about religion, and the definition of various religions.  It is hard to define religion in this day and age because, well, people tend to think in a post-modern, whatever you believe is the truth, turn-your-navel-inside-out-and-call-it-insight kind of way.  There is generally a consensus that there is no truth except personal truth and that is mutable, and even the truth about personal truth is questionable, as is the questionable nature of questioning, blah, blah, etc. ad nauseum...

But, yes, I've studied theology (not just Christian Theology), and so this is an area I really like to get to the nuts and bolts of, while it tends to bore other people beyond, well, this is what I believe...

And it was in thinking about this that I realized I'm very much like Pete the Foxy.  I LOVE puzzles, pretty much for puzzling sake.  I love to have my mind stimulated and woe behold the poor beggar who crosses my path when I haven't "eaten" in a few days or weeks (anyone been watching the grizzly tales of "Hyde" on the ABC?)...

This is most likely why I'm constantly looking for "the next course of study".  It's why I just can't relate to other stay at home mums content with caring for their families (which is completely admirable and which, I'm sure my own family would appreciate if I just could it a LITTLE more than I do!) - yes, I know they read books, and watch educational television and read newspapers and keep abreast of world events - but I guess I'm talking about systematic challenges to the intellect where there is danger of failure and thrill of achievement and such like.  Hmmm, I think I may be putting my foot in my mouth here.  I guess I find living by a recipe - do this, now add this, and voila! - not stimulating enough.  I much prefer, this is your outcome, now go and figure out how to get there...  Parenting is a bit like that with highs and lows, but I'm too impatient to wait 20 years to see if I got it right, I need something challenging with a much shorter time frame, in the mean time!

I think I need to be more mindful of this Under-stimulated Fox Terrier Syndrome (UFTS) and try to stimulate my mind a bit more often with NEW puzzles so as to save my friends from frenzied attacks brought on by boredom...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Photos from Bryn's 5th Birthday (16/08/10)

So, I'm pretty much just going to spam you guys with photos and comments on the photos - they're just snapshots, so nothing spesh, just good memories for us!

The tradition "Boy with stack of pressies at SHOCKHORROR o'clock in the A.M." These do not include the stack of pressies he got at his party the day before, can you see the delirious MORE PRESENTS look in his eyes?  Next year will be such a let down!

"Can I RIP it?" NB.  The half asleep older siblings in the background!  Littlest guy was still tucked up in bed at this point...

Erik just spotted the "kind" of Bakugan Bryn got, and is already planned to try and "swap" with Bryn at some point in the future...

Bakugan!  Little balls of plastic that unfurl into marvelous fighting machines, limited only by the imagination!

Okay, somehow, I totally managed to skip taking photos of the middle present which was a Toy Story 3 lego set called "Woody and Buzz to the Rescue" that Bryn had been asking for since it first hit the catologues several months back.  I had truthfully told Bryn that I'd looked in Big W and Target for it and they'd been sold out.  I had omitted telling him I then went to Toys'r'Us and looked and looked and *thought* they were sold out, too, before randomly pulling out another box to buy a different (less worthy) set, only to discover it was the VERY LAST box of the set I was looking for!  Miracles DO happen, afterall!

This is the boys, Oooohing and Aaaahing over the DELUXE, full scale, movie version of Woody.  With 50 different saying and two modes of interaction...  Bryn is in LOVE!

Being 5 is pretty cool!

Bryn then headed off to Kindergarten, followed by a playdate with two friends at one of the boys houses.  So, we didn't see him between 8.30am and 3.50pm!  So, the next few pictures are from our day with just Ari at home...

Ari looks just like a blonde, short haired version of Luey at this age, in this photo!  Exactly the same expression...  Right there, he's thinking, Oh NOES, she's spotted me with the TiVo remote!  A.K.A  Toddler contraband...

I can haz TiVo remote?

I CAN haz TiVo remote!

Came into the study to find Ari messing with Dave's DVDs (another Toddler contraband) with this toy bag on his head as a Canny Disguise!!!  Don't worry, it has safety breathing holes in it and is made plastic that can be sucked onto the face...

Dinner time.  Bryn back home.  [rare] Tender moment between brothers...

Uh...  Special, isn't he :)

Oh, did you see that?

Want to see it again???

OKAY!  I'll stop!

I'm a chicken!!!

I am pretty cute!

So am I!  In a gawky, preteen kind of way...

You can't take any photos of me!  I have my protective bucket to shield me!

Getting ready to blow out candles...

And then the cake EXPLODED!  No, not really, but it's kind of a cool effect without flash...

After dinner, Bryn got one last treat, just for fun.  We gave him four lucky dip boxes of Ben10 figurines.  He'd slowly been collecting two series, but had four left of the second series.  So, we gave him four chances to try and get one or more of the last four (you can't see from the outside what is inside the boxes, so he'd collected a few double ups as well)...  Well, out of the four boxes he got THREE of the figures he was missing, and one double up!!!  Pretty exciting stuff!

One last thing before bed.  Call his maternal grandmother because his birthday is also her birthday.

On the morning he was born, I rang my mum to say happy 55th birthday and to tell her she had a new grandson.  I'd been in labour the previous morning and told her he'd be born before her birthday (he'd been due on my Dad's birthday on the 4th, but even dad had predicted he'd probably wait to be born on mum's birthday).  Mum was privately a bit disappointed that she wouldn't share her birthday with her new grandson.  But then the labour had stalled and I'd rung her back to say it might be her birthday afterall.  Just after midnight that night I went back into labour...  I didn't call mum then because I wanted to be sure this was really it.  Bryn was born at 4.33am on the 16th of August, and three hours later I rang mum and said, "Happy Birthday, Mum, you have a new grandson!"

That day I mused to myself that for my mum's 60th birthday, the day my newborn son would be turning 5, he would be able to call her himself and wish her a happy birthday.  He did!

Monday, August 16, 2010

My body and birthing...

Hmmmm, forgot to post this last night - must be getting old!

On the eve of my third son's 5th birthday, I have a deep sense of love for my body!

By this society's measure, my body is downright UG-LY!  It's all lumpy and bumpy with more moles than an English lawn.  I have about half a square metre of W-I-D-E deep stretchmarks across my belly and hips from a good 10 centimetres above my belly button down to where the sun-don't-shine.  I'm a fertile ground for cellulite, too.  I could probably survive an artic winter on my excess fat stores.  My boobs, which were NEVER perky and now, kindly hiding the stretchmarks around the aforemention bellybutton.  To add insult to injury, I have a scar where my abs should be thanks to my obstinant gallbladder which needed to be evicted.

So, no, not a body that anyone would want to see in a Victoria's Secret catologue!

All that said, I have to say my body has been AMAZING to me.  In particular when it comes to birthing.  Ok, it's a bit of slow cooker, and for an impatient kind of person like myself, that has been almost unbearably frustrating at times, but when it comes to actually birthing a child, even a 4.5kg child with a 38.5cm head, my body has been sleek and athletic, and I just cannot fault it!

My longest labour was 8 hours long - that's what I get for having an induction, they're supposed to "push labour along", "ramp things up", "get things going", but in my case - and this should have been NO surprise - they seemed to slow things down...

Still and all, that was also my orgasmic birth.  Yes, the one where I gave birth on my back with my legs in stirrups, and an ineffective epidural...  Orgasmic!  Even with an epidural (which wasn't really working well, I'll give you), I was moving about on the bed throughout my labour, on my side, on my knees, somehow my body found the strength to support even with a heavy duty drug on board...

My second labour, induced by rupture of membranes.  My body ever. so. slowly. warmed me up for labour, with 15 minutely tremours for an hour and a half.  Then WHAM!  Full on labour, but still my contractions were 7 and then 5 minutes apart, and in 20 minutes I was pushing, and 10 minutes later he was born.  I had about 10 contractions in total to birth Luey, the last 4-5 HURT, but seriously, give the body KUDOS!

With Bryn, I had a couple of weeks of prelabour, nothing too strenuous, though after Luey's birth I was on tenderhooks anyway.  Then 3.5 hours of she-laughs-and-talks-through-labour.  I had to shut-up and concentrate for the last 20 minutes, and then he was born...

Ari, 5 weeks of prelabour, was NADA really.  Annoying, only because I was kind of hopeful that he'd come early because of all the contractions.  The last night before he was born I couldn't sleep, but contractions we're like with Bryn, never closer than 10 minutes apart (considered not established labour), and 90% of the time, they were more like 15-25 minutes apart.  Then at 8am, they got to 13 minutes apart.  By 8.30am they were 6 minutes apart.  I think in the end they got to about 3-4 minutes apart.  Then he was born in two pushes.

My body is an efficient machine when it comes to birthing babies.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Thoughts from this week...

It's going to be a super busy weekend, so I thought I'd take a moment to just reflect on this week a bit...

Kinder and School

  • As I've mentioned a million times, my kids go to school and kinder because they want to go, not because we make them go.  This week has really been a mixed bag with regards to this approach.  On the one hand, I've had a conversation with Erik and Lukas asking them, very seriously, why they want to go to school.  Frankly, Dave and I are finding the whole school situation hard to handle.  There is so much we're just not happy with.  The constant demands coupled with a lack of understanding or support in far too many areas, it's all take, take, take, and then the attitude of "you owe us because we're doing such amazing things for your kids"...  Dave isn't particularly impressed with what passes as curricula at the moment (me, I'm less concerned because I don't see the academic side of school as being particularly important anyway).  He feels that we're pretty much expected to do most of the educating ourselves, which we could do at home without half the fuss they impose on our family.  I'm most concerned about the messages the children are getting about their own family.  Erik was embarrassed the other day because, "there are so many of us, and we're poor".  "Huh?" So, what, they think we're Catholic?  (no offense to Catholics, but you know the whole stereotype that Catholics are poor with a buttload of children, right?).  Anyway, Erik's answer to the question about what he likes so much about school was, and I quote, "It's the socialization thing, mum.  You can't offer me the same opportunities here at home as I can get when I go to school.  That other stuff isn't important!" Yes, truly, this is what the child said.
  • On the other hand.  I attended kinder as a helper on Wednesday this week, and Bryn, who is usually happy at kinder (well, he gets stroppy if they won't let him bring out a toy from home, but that's not about kinder so much as about wanting to show stuff to his friends at kinder), COMPLETELY.  LOST.  THE.  PLOT!  The absolutely mammoth tantrum was triggered by not being allowed to have his Omnitrix in the playground.  It shocked his teachers who swore up and down that he's never done this before, I told him he's never done this at home before, either - you know, in case they thought this was something he was used to doing with me.  I'm torn about this because his Omnitrix is his "handle of attachment" and I feel separating a child from their handle of attachment is not really a good idea at this age.  On the other hand, I can see that in the Ben10 madness that goes on at kinder, it would be a massive distraction to all the boys there, which would be hard work for the teachers.  AND besides which, I was ACTUALLY right there, and THIS is when he chooses to lose the plot (strange child, most other children lose the plot when mum or dad LEAVE, not when they STAY)...  So, I got a bit hard nosed with him - I was gentle about it, but very firm - and said, "Here's the thing.  We COULD go home, but all choices have their good and bad sides and the bad side of this choice will be that you won't see your friends as often, or at all, because they live on the other side of our suburb.  That'll mean no playdates, and no one to share your love of Ben10 with for the rest of this year.  And next year, if you want to go to school, what are you going to do when you don't like a rule.  Just quit?  There are always going to be bits you don't like.  You don't have to put up with stuff you don't like, but you need to think about your choices, too, because you might not only be giving up a small thing you don't like, but also a lot of big things you do like!" This child of mine has always been very reasonable.  Friday, he was fine.  He has a playdate on Monday with a kinder friend.
Understanding people...

  • My journey of learning about people continues.  I often claim not to understand people, almost as if I'm on the outside looking in on humanity like some sort of researcher.  Yet, time and again, I find I do understand people very well, what I have a problem with is coming to terms with the why of humans.  I know what a person is likely to do and how they will react in a situation, but often don't get how they can't see how they come across.  So many things this week have had me in this kind of quandry.  The election and people's thinking on the three big parties, particularly the way people can't see how they are being manipulated here, there and everywhere, a thread on a forum that was like the living image of wolves encircling their prey, not wanting to spook it into running, but barely - and essentially not - able to keep from attacking prematurely, judgments that allow people to feel better about themselves and their choices while simultaneously blinding them to how they have been carefully guided through a Venn diagram that has caused them to reveal far more about their strengths and weakness than they ever could imagine by people they feel superior to, and how the company of a good friend, filled with laughter and silliness can make your week when you've felt put through the wringer by forces beyond your control (that being the indisputable autocracy of other individuals - particularly four year olds).
The gift of giving...

  • There really is nothing like it.  Particularly giving when you have every reason under the Sun not to!  Yesterday, I went birthday present shopping for Bryn.  I blew the budget a little bit, and really, this week Bryn has really been fighting hard for that "4 Year Old Brat of the Year Award, 2010", so buying him the super-whiz-bang-bells-and-whistles-included, most highly prized wishlist item of the year, especially when you had to traipse around to several different shops looking for it in your 1.5 inch heels that seemed like a good idea that morning but turned out to be hell-on-feet torture devices, seems like it might possibly be rewarding that kind of behaviour, but WOW!  The feeling is so good, knowing he's going to be absolutely thrilled to bits.  Remembering what it was like to get such a highly prized item, especially when gifts of this magnitude were few and far between due to circumstances beyond my parents control (which is also his experience, unfortunately - or maybe fortunately???).  Well, it's a wonderful, warm, bubbly, sparkly feeling and I'm fully prepared to deal with any "unrealistic expectations" fall out that might result...  
Ideals, reality and ownership...

  • I've wondered this week why my life doesn't reflect my ideals in so many big and small ways.  We've been very short on money this week, but recently came into a little bit of money thanks to tax time.  It's nearly all gone.  Bills were paid and accounts padded.  Essential clothing was bought to replace that which was clapped out and to prepare for events requiring more formal dress.  Birthdays were had.  A bit of furniture was bought to enable a smoother run in the house and more options for flexibility so we're not on top of each other every hour. And getting the two big boys off to camp later this year.  In other words, lots of consumption.  It's felt good, and at the same time I've wondered if it was the right thing when I'm trying to be responsible.  Working through it though, I've realized that all the outlay of monies have benefited us, as a family, in practical and emotional ways that have restored us all after a very rough beginning to the year.  Any reticence I've felt has been more about other people's judgments, which are irrelevant because they don't know the needs of our family intimately.  The school/kinder thing has been another.  With Dave and I feeling unsure about school, in particular, we've asked ourselves if we shouldn't take a more classical stance in homeschooling and simply pull our kids out, regardless of their feelings about the situation.  That just doesn't sit well with us, though.  In the end we're committed to supporting our children in their choice of education, which means, if they're happy, we need to support that.  It even occurred to me that, in Erik's case, it might be that he intuitively understands that he needs to overcome his social ineptitude by immersing himself in a situation where he can learn about how people in this society interact - which might not be pretty, but it's certainly real.  Giving my children lots of things is another contradiction of my ideals (surrounding things not making you happy).  Like so many parents, I want my children to have the things I didn't have, to feel that sense of plenty.  My children have felt the opposite for so long now, that I sometimes feel desperate to convince them it's just been a bad dream.  It's not just about things - stuff - it's about emotions.  I'd love to say they've been rich in a loving, carefree environment, but in all honesty, they've felt our stress, and sometimes it's been hard going for all of us in that respect.  So, basically it comes back to just accepting that I've made these choices for reasons good and somewhat dubious, that's how it is.
So, it's been a huge week.  I only managed to write about 3000 words, which is about 11 000 short of my goal for this week (oh dear), but it's truly been a hectic and emotionally draining week.  This weekend is full of fun. Today, I have a tupperware party, I do love tupperware, but moreso, it'll be fun to catch up with people.  Tomorrow is Bryn 5th birthday party - the first with friends who aren't just family friends!  I have yet to bake cupcakes for tomorrows party and for Bryn's kinder group on Monday (all 25 of them!) Monday is his actual birthday (and my mum's, too), with kinder and a playdate afterwards!.  

After that it'll be writing, writing, writing like a mad woman!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Politics, Education, Terrorism, and putting all our eggs in one digital basket.

Yesterday there was a lot of discussion about the two main party's education policies.  I'll say it out loud (and risk losing readers), I wouldn't vote Liberal if you paid me (well, maybe if you paid me a LOT, but then only if Tony Scabbott wasn't front and centre - or in Parliament at all, for that matter).

The Labor Party has put forth two main education policies.  One is the National Education Policy, which I think will certainly help unify Australia educationally and make it easier for students and teachers (and prinicpals) to know what's expected and to be able to move around the country without too much fuss and confusion.  The Labor party doesn't seem to be putting a lot of emphasis on this policy, but it is there...

Their second policy area is called the Digital Education Revolution, and it is this policy that has me thinking that as far as Education goes, the Liberals might actually have the more interesting and useful agenda...

The following outlines the Digital Education Revolution Policy:

Digital Education Revolution
The Labor Party claims the aim of their Digital Education Revolution (DER) is to contribute sustainable and meaningful change to teaching and learning in Australian schools that will prepare students for further education, training and to live and work in a digital world. Through the DER, the Government has pledged $2.2 billion over six years to:

• Provide for new Information and Communication Technology (ICT) equipment for all secondary schools with students in years 9-12 through the National Secondary School Computer Fund;

• Support the deployment of high speed broadband connections to Australian schools;

• Collaborate with states and territories and Deans of Education to ensure new and continuing teachers have access to training in the use of ICT that enables them to enrich student learning;

• Provide for online curriculum tools and resources that support the national curriculum and specialist subjects such as languages;

• Enable parents to participate in their child's education through online learning and access;

• Support mechanisms to provide vital assistance for schools in the deployment of ICT.

I have to say, when it comes to education, the Labor approaches have actually always been very "Keeping up with the, Joneses". Only problem is, they've never ACTUALLY kept up - neither have the Liberals for that matter.  The Australian Education system is a little, dusty old backwater on the global stage.  We're always accepting other country's cast offs, and it shows.

The Labor Party may think that "going digital" will solve all our problems, but they've thought this about many educational approaches that have been found lacking by other nations, usually BEFORE we took them up.

I suggest going digital might be a big mistake...

I'm a nobody, really, and these are just my thoughts, but many really good leaps of logic have come from nobody's, so I'll share if only to get these thoughts out of my head!

Educational problems with relying on technology to solve our education problems:

  • Julia has repeatedly said technology will open all door for Aussie students.  Our kids will be able to access the best thinkers, scientists and learning venues, just like kids in the rest of the world.  Now, besides suggesting that Australia is indeed a backwater and all the best minds and places are "out there", she's also suggested that a "virtual" tour of The Smithsonian will be just like being there!  Well, except that is won't, Julia, and do we really want to teach our children that a SYNTHESIS of reality is as good as reality itself?  If we teach our children that going somewhere virtually is as good as having been there in person, why would we expect they might be motivated to strive for REAL, FIRST HAND experience?
  • Another problem is that technology in the form of a computer screen and modem hook up to the world only further entrenches the visual-auditory teaching methods that have failed so many of our children in the past.  We had started to move away from this extremely narrow and ineffective mode of teaching, but a high reliance on net based technology is going to send us BACKWARDS all over again.
  • Furthermore, technology is impressive sounding because it's quasi-scientific - as in science fiction come to life - but computers and satellites and modems and wifi are all science END PRODUCTS.  They can not imbue a student with flexible intelligence any more than putting a pair of nylons on a child would (nylons being another science end product).  Technology is only as intelligent as the user employing it.  If our children can't read, no technology, no matter how whiz bang fantastic it is, is going to fix that problem.


Ok, that title might seem to be coming out of left field, and no, I'm not about to suggest that information technologies are going to turn our kids into terrorists...

What I'm going to suggest is that information technology while be the next big battle field of terrorism.  Back in June there was a big international fuss because some news media suggested an American senator had asked for the President to have an Internet Kill Switch in case America was ever under direct threat.  It turns out that under a US communications Act, the President already has the power to shut down all US media in case of a national threat.  The senator was asking for the internet to be formally identified as American national property and for the private sector to reassess their risk for technological terrorism, and for there to be a plan in writing about how to deal with such an event.

Now, even if there isn't an Internet Kill Switch (and the paranoid conspiracy theory believer in me questions why there wouldn't be if it is at all possible, we just wouldn't be told about it - for our own good), I'm willing to wager that terrorist groups are making future plans for exactly this form of terrorism.  They may well be biding their time until we're all so heavily reliant on technologies that it'll have the deepest and widest impact.

What happens to our children if their entire education is based on using computer programs to format and sort information for them.  I mean, and this reflects pretty poorly on me, the last time my internet connection died, it took me a few hours to remember I could actually just CALL Metlink to find out which buses would get me to my destination...  I have become so used to the net doing my work for me, I'd start to forget how to be resourceful without it.  I don't want my children to never have even known there was another way do things not involving super-speedy net connection!

If we put all our education eggs in one digital basket, what happens when that basic goes offline?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Thoughts on Breast feeding...

Last week was World Breastfeeding Week.  At some point during that week I took a photo on my phone of Ari having a feed.  I do this all the time because I want to capture how beautiful he is to me when he feeds, but then remembering it was breastfeeding week, too, I posted it to Facebook with the caption, "This is why I breastfeed". The caption meant, to me, that being able to see his beautiful, innocent face and gaze into his eyes means so much to me (especially now that he's a tearaway toddler).  On reflection, it could also have meant that I breastfeed my baby FOR my baby's sake, which is also true.

During World Breastfeeding Week, there was a furor over model Gisele Bundchen calling for a global law forcing women to breastfeeding for the first 6 months of their babies lives.  I don't think making breastfeeding compulsory for the first six months is any kind of solution for the abysmal breastfeeding rates around the world.  Breastfeeding should be done with love, not resentment.  There are so many benefits to breastfeeding but many of those benefits are negated once a woman begins resenting the process.

Barring four months in 2001 (Feb-Jun), between Erik temporary self-weaning at 19 months of age and Luey being born, I've been breastfeeding continuously for the past 11 years and 1 month.  I've tandem fed (feeding two children during the same period of time) for 3 years and 8 months of that time.  Consecutively, I've been breastfeeding for 14 years so far (Ari is 21 months and if he feeds for as long as his brothers, I expect I have another 2 years and 9 months to go feeding him)...  So, yeah, it's been a HUGE part of my life.  And yet, not.

Because it's something I've done every day, and countless nights as well, for over a decade, I really don't think about it that much.  I've breastfed EVERYWHERE.  The most public breastfeeding I've done was in 2002 on the steps of Parliament, Spring Street, Melbourne, with a channel 7 news camera directly on me (because I was tandem feeding Erik (3) and Luey (1) at the same time - which was, of course, ratings worthy).  That was protesting a Parliamentarian being escorted out of Parliament for breastfeeding her newborn daughter.

In 11 years, public views on breastfeeding don't seem to have changed all that much.  I hear a lot of people saying they can't believe there is still a public outcry over indiscreet breastfeeding in public, but let's face it - there is!  It's ridiculous, of course.  The photo at the top of this blog shows how ridiculous it is.  The next two photos show, in my experience, how much breast can usually be seen when a baby is attached - which begs the question why there is such an outcry for women to COVER UP when breastfeeding?  There's very little to see, anyway!

The thing is, I think people believe breastfeeding exposes women's breasts to the degree depicted in the Benetton ad below.  It simply doesn't!  But, seriously, so what if it did?

People argue that breasts are used for sexual pleasure and therefore they bring to mind the very acts of sex when women breastfeed in public.

Bunkum!  LIPS are also extensively used for sexual pleasure.  The very first act of sex almost always involves lips.  People KISS in public all the time.  Where are the LIP SHAWLS to hide our lips from provoking people into sexual thoughts?

I love the saying, "If breastfeeding offends you, put a blanket over your own head." If you look at the first three images I've posted, they all show a very imported part of breastfeeding - that is eye contact.  There have been studies that show eye contact between humans releases hormones that cause us to relax and feel happy.  This is very important for children, as during the first three years of brain development, babies and toddlers are creating all the neurons and synapses - the pathways in the brain - that will determine how they experience the world.  Children who experience a lot of love during those three years deal with stress better, and are more empathetic towards other humans.  So, when the public INSISTS women cover up (if they can't go and hide themselves in shame while breastfeeding), it concretely ROBS children of opportunities for brain development.  Formula fed babies who are held while feeding are not robbed of this opportunity, so why should breastfed babies be discriminated against?

Breastfeeding is not as easy as falling of a log, and certainly the many challenges of early breastfeeding that many women face contribute greatly to heartbreakingly low breastfeeding rate in Australia for babies 6 months and over.  If we are to encourage breastfeeding then we need more than just lactation consultants and eye catching ads.  We need PUBLIC SUPPORT, from the public, IN PUBLIC, so women don't have that obstacle to overcome as well as sleep deprivation, hormones, and nipple pain!

And just because this is my blog, I thought I'd post this picture; the cover of the Australian Breastfeeding Association book "Breastfeeding ...Naturally".  See on the right hand side of the main photo, the middle picture on the left, the two children breastfeeding at once?  The cute face looking at the camera is Luey aged about 18 months, and the dark haired child is Erik, aged 3.5 years.  I love that photo (and the other photos I still have from that photo shoot).  Precious moments!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Getting into a character's head is exhausting!

model - Ana Beatriz Barros
I just spent some time googling to try and find someone on the interwebz who looks something like my protagonist.  The model to left is about as close as I could get, though Lily's lips aren't as full as that and she has a proper fringe, not that swept aside look, but the eyes are very similar and the hair colour is right.

I spent a while this morning writing the second draft of chapter four (out of 31).  By the end of today, I want to be finished with chapter 8.  By the end of next weekend, I want to be finished with the second draft.

It doesn't take me very long to write.  I know this story so well now, and I know my characters as if they were family.  I wrote 1200 words in about an hour this morning but since then I've been wiped out!

It didn't help that I needed to lay down with Ari to get him off to sleep for his nap (he falls asleep when he believes you're falling asleep, which is basically when you ARE falling asleep, and that's usually Dave's job because he's very good at falling asleep!)...

I was thinking about it because, you know, I got a good night's sleep last night and was fairly awake before I started writing but after just one hour I was exhausted.  The only conclusion I could come to was that getting into someone else's head is exhausting!  I have to be inside their heads to feel their emotions and know how they would act or react in any situation, and get that down as honestly as possble.  Also, today, Lily was zipping right along the emotional pendulum, from sad to anxious to aroused to scared out of her wits!  So, in order to get this all down on paper (on screen), I had to ride that ride with her.

Right at the end of chapte four, she passes out and I was pretty much ready to do the same!

So, now I'd better get something to eat and hope that gives me the fortitude to write another four chapters before bed time!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Spot the difference

Here's a good, old fashioned "before and after" blog for you!

I've been feeling a bit down and washed out lately due to a range of things going on in my life, not least of all the weather (I'm sure I've probably mentioned that before, haven't I?).  So, yesterday, I decided I needed to take the bull(shit) by the horns and shake off my doldrums.  When I get down, I tend to become apathetic about stuff - including housework - and as um, helpful, as Dave is, there seems to be stuff that the male of the gender so often *just can't see* (I know there are exceptions, but seriously, they seem to be few and far between)...

So, I did a quick whip around with the camera before rousting the troops from their daydreams and getting some order back into the house...  These aren't in perfect order, and they not the best quality, and all the angles aren't exactly the same, but you get the picture...  Befores on the left, afters on the right (I'm hoping you'd be able to work that out yourself, but just incase it isn't obvious...).

Remember:  clicking on the photos enlarges them :)

Study:  Dave's desk

Study: my desk
Study.  Can I just say, HALLELUJAH for sharing the study
with Dave now and having indisputable right to just clean it
whenever I see the need!  NEVER AGAIN with I let him get away
with the disaster zone he created at our last place - none of that
floor/chair mess is mine.
Erik's room, left side
Erik's room, right side - on the whole, Erik is actually quite
a tidy boy, it never gets worse than these befores.
Luey and Bryn's room from doorway; quite frankly,
this before picture isn't bad, it get's MUCH worse than
this, I mean, you can actually still see the floor!  The
hoodie in the after picture was removed to it's proper home
after I took this photo...
I went back and fixed that fallen bunk rail after I took
the photo - it's just screwed into the wood but after several
dismantles and rebuilds the screw is loose and tends to
pop out.
The front entrance:  note all the stuff just piled on top of the
cabinet.  None of that is me!  This is my biggest bugbear!
Ari's toy corner, took this photo more for the LACK of toys
when they are pulled out and I ask people to do a pick up,
instead of putting them back on the shelf, they just pile
them into the toy boxes under the tv - leaving Ari with nothing
to play with...
The loungeroom mantal: another place with stuff gets piled -
admittedly the tape measure is mine *blush*
Why is there a cushion on the floor???  I DON'T KNOW,
I DIDN'T LEAVE IT THERE!  We definitely have a Mr Nobody
residing here, too bad he doesn't pay board!
The mess here is all about people getting stuff out and not
putting it back.  The margarine, in particular, shits me to tears!
Potatos and onions NEXT TO their containers is galling, too.
This before photo is fairly representative of the state of our
benches about 80% of the time.  I really hate doing the dishes
and Dave seems to love standing at the kitchen sink, but he
steadfastly refuses to dry or put away dishes (right now, both
sides of the sink are full of washes dishes that will just sit there
until I put them away, which pisses me off because when I DO
do the dishes I clean the kitchen to the standard of the after photo.
Part of the reason I hate doing dishes is because I always end up
doing more work than Dave would ever do when he does them...
Bathroom shower: we have a ventilation problem in the
bathroom, can you tell?  This mould is seriously only 2
weeks worth!  It's disgusting and frustrating.  There is
no vent in this room, surely that's contravenes some sort
of legislation???
Bathroom ceiling:  by no means a perfect after photo, but
it is better, and I couldn't reach well with the mop...

Bathroom cabinet:  has been worse.
Shower stall door.
Second laundry (yes, we have two, this one used to be a
dark room).  Also known as "Dave's magical Mt Foldmore",
magical because somehow he thinks if he leaves the washing
right there it'll just walk itself to our wardrobes.  I'll add here,
I DO do laundry (have done 3 loads today), but *I* fold and
put it away as well, grrr...  He came home last night and told
me the laundry felt naked because I stripped it bare!
First laundry

As you might have picked up, I have a fair bit of resentment sorrounding the house getting into this state.  That is because while Dave and the boys do do stuff around here it is often a half-arsed effort that still requires a fair bit of rousting from me (good thing I'm good at rousting).  I tend to get sick of rousting and then just let things slide, but then this happens and I seem to be the only person who minds living like this, so then I'm compelled to roust again.

It took 3.5 hours to clean this place.

I will pay credit where credit is due, though...

Toy pick-up; the three big boys
Dishes (including, upon my insistance, drying and putting away) Dave
Boys room: the three big boys
Some vacuuming:  Luey
Some folding:  Erik and Luey
Some putting away of clothes:  the three big boys
Carting out of rubbish: Erik and Luey

One room that was not included in the before and afters was the master bedroom, that also got tidied I just forgot to photograph it before...

Good Job!